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Sour Cherries

Hey! I was lucky enough to find a sour cherry tree in my neighbourhood. So I took the kids and we loaded up. 

We got a good amount in a short amount of time. The trees are almost always full of fruit because people try one, thinking they’re regular cherries and don’t like them due to the sourness. 

I had enough to make jam so I tried a new recipe. It didn’t set for me but next time I’ll either add pectin or boil longer. It’s still delicious and is being used in drinks and on ice cream. 
I took 12 cups of pitted sour cherries and 5 cups of white sugar. Bring to a boil and left it boiling heavily for about an hour while my jars (8 250ml jars) were in a hot water bath. 


At this point I’d recommend testing for viscosity by taking out a bit and doing the wrinkle test. 

I was impatient I guess and just canned it at that point. I left 1″ headspace in my jars and then boiled the jars for 10 minutes. They then sat on the counter for 24 hours while they sealed and cooled. 
If you didn’t want to go this route, sour cherries are also good dehydrated with a bit of sugar, or frozen and added to baked goods. 

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Making Money From Home

This is one of the most popular questions I get. How to make money from home so you can homestead or prep more or just feel safer in general. There are several ways, some of which I use myself, some that make minimal money and some that can make exponentially more. Let’s get started.

-Start a home business. I personally own a soap business (www.alchemysoapworks.com). In this day in age, just about anyone can start an online business from selling products like I do, to providing consulting, making websites or writing.

-Sell on ebay, etsy or craigslist. Many people have things laying around that they no longer need but don’t necessarily want to get rid of. Why not make a little bit of extra money for your clutter? I have a friend that sells her children’s outgrown clothes by the bag online and she makes a killing.

-Maintenance. mow lawns, shovel snow, paint houses, whatever you can. This may seem juvenile but you can really make quite a bit of money helping out elderly neighbors or people with young kids that don’t have the time themselves.

-Pet sitting. Like animals? You can offer your services as a pet sitter on websites such as craigslist but it will look much more professional to design a website. Put up signs in pet stores, at your vet and in grocery stores in your area.

-Metal scrapping. In my city, several people drive around on garbage days, taking metal objects out of the trash, this may or may not be legal where you are so be careful, and please don’t steal, but scrap metal can pull in quite a bit of extra funds. Don’t want to drive around? Place a free ad online or in your local paper for free junk metal removal

-Online surveys. This is something I’ve been doing for years. You do have to be careful as some survey companies are pretty shifty but once you find the good ones, stick with them and build up your points. Most survey companies pay out via cheque or PayPal. I generally make a couple hundred dollars a year and cash out around the winter holidays. Not much, I know, but if you’re online anyways, its not a bad way to kill some time.

Have something that works for you? Be sure to share it in the comments!

 

Reusing your own soap

A lot of us have soap in our stocks, its a great thing to have around. In a SHTF situation, hygiene is paramount. Soap is generally cheap, but here’s a way you can save a bit of money.

I personally own a soap business (www.alchemysoapworks.com) so I have a lot of soap scraps around but you can do this using the little slivers that are left at the end of the bar.

Grate or break down your soap into smaller pieces and place them in a bowl.

soap scraps in bowl ready for our next step

Put your bowl over a pot of warm water (double boiler). Do not let the water boil, as this gets your soap too hot. If you are using all bar soap (not glycerine soap) you may have to add a little bit of water to your bowl.

Be careful, the bowl and the soap will get hot. Melt the soap down and mix it together.  When it is all melted, its time to take it off the heat.

Bowl of melted soap

Carefully pour your soap into molds. I have professional molds but this isn’t necessary at all. You can use milk cartons, silicone muffin tins, just about anything. (tip: if you want to make soap for barter or giving away PSHTF, pour your soap into ice cube trays.)

Once your soap is hardened (this can take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple of days), take it out of your mold and cut it into desired shapes and sizes. If you’re having trouble getting the soap out, you can pop it into the freezer for ten minutes and let it get cold, it should come out easily after that.

“poc” soap, ready to be wrapped.

It may not be pretty and it may be a blend of a lot of scents, but its soap, its functional and it was free.

To keep your soap for long periods, consider using shrink wrap or putting it into zipper plastic bags. If you used glycerin soap, it may develop a ‘dew’ or ‘sweat’, this is normal and does not affect the function of the soap.

 

Dehydrating Your Own Milk

Let me just say, this isn’t necessarily a recommended practise, do your reseach (as always) and decide if its for you.

I recently got 6 litres of milk for $1 each and decided to dehydrate them to make my own powdered milk. Most preppers order their powdered milk in #10 cans from various food suppliers in the US, however this is out of my price range and the tariffs Canadians have to pay on dairy are ridiculous.

To dehydrate my milk, first I had to make parchment paper containers to cover the screens in my Excalibur. I did this by cutting a square and folding up all the edges so they folded over themselves and then I stapled it just to be sure. Put the parchment on your screen and pour a small thin layer of 1% milk onto it. (I used 1% aka non fat milk because the more fat, the more likely it is to go rancid.

I cranked my dehydrator to 135′ F and left it over night. About 10 hours later it was ready. The milk turns into a crackly sheet in a sort of yellow color. At this point all you have to do it toss it in a blender or food processor and buzz it up until its a fine powder. Store it in a jar or mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.

To rehydrate, mix it with cold water and shake it until you get all the chunks out.

 

The Ugly Side of Prepping

Prepping isn’t just about gear, food, water or ammo. It’s not even about knowledge (which of course is vital). You have to be mentally prepared.  A lot of people think they are. I’m not so sure of that though.

In New York after Sandy, people were eating out of dumpsters. Gross? Get used to the idea. Even if you’re prepped with years and years of food, it could still happen that you might need to eat garbage. If you accept that possibility now, it won’t be so hard when it comes down to it.

What about self-defense? Most preppers have guns or other various weapons that they would use for self-defense. But most people have never killed someone. It’s a lot more than point a gun and shoot. Could you look someone in the eye and kill them? Can you handle the after effects? Even if you kill in self-defense, there is that lingering guilt. PTSD is not just a soldiers disease and it is not just from being in danger. Taking another human’s life is a big deal and takes a long time to get over. If it comes down to it, you need to be prepared to make that decision and defend yourself and your family.

Sooner or later, you may have to come to terms with the fact that even though you’ve spent hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours prepping, stocking, reading etc, it may not be there when you need it. Sh-t happens. You may have to unexpectedly bug out, leaving your stuff behind, someone may steal it, it may run out. Be sure to have more than one or two plans. You should have plans A through Z.

Bad people will be out there when the SHTF. Good people will turn desperate and do bad things. You need to be able to deal with them and avoid them when you can. Are you ready to loot a store to feed your family? Would you steal for them? Would you kill the guy down the street whose basement is full of MREs? These are things we need to consider. The ugly side of prepping.

Last Minute Preps

So the storm is knocking at our doors and a lot of people have been asking me what they should buy TODAY because they have nothing stored.

Here’s a short list to get you started::

Bottled water – you can also fill your bath tub and any containers in case the water gets shut off or contaminated. You need 4 L per person per day. Don’t forget your animals!!

Easy food – get stuff that doesn’t need to be cooked or requires minimal preparation. Crackers, peanut butter, ready to serve soups. Try and keep away from anything that needs to be refrigerated since we never know if the power is going to go out. Again, don’t forget your pets.

Flashlights – most people have one stuck somewhere in a drawer. Get it out and get extra batteries. Keep in mind candles are not safe if there is a gas leak.

Make sure you have on hand: first aid supplies, warm clothes, basic hygiene needs, books and entertainment (especially those with children).

 

Bug Out Bags 101

A bug out bag is a bag that you keep full of supplies ready to go at a minutes notice in case of an emergency where you leave your home. It is also known as a GOOD bag (Get out of dodge) or a 72 hour bag. There is a few different types depending on what your plan is (covered in later posts). Be sure to use a heavy duty bag with good supports (such as a waist band and thick straps, possibly with metal framing).

A basic bug out bag contains everything you would need to survive for 72 hours away from home including:

shelter (such as a tent and sleeping bag)

food (usually light weight such as dehydrated or freeze-dried and a way to cook said food ie: pot, mini camp stove or fire making implements)

water or a way to purify water

First aid requirements (bandages, alcohol swabs, gloves, gauze etc)

Any medications you or your family requires

small amount of cash

hygiene needs (toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, shampoo, fem care etc)

self defense

It’s also a good idea to have a survival manual of some sort and a copy of any important documents (birth certificates, deeds etc which you can scan and put on a thumb drive)

Many people carry an EDC (everyday carry bag) which includes a lot of the stuff already mentioned but it is said in the prepper/survival universe: “two is one, one is none.” or as I say “rather too much than too little”. Your bug out bag should be as individual as you are. No one can tell you exactly what to put in your bag because we don’t know where you are or where you are going. I do recommend the above list as a starting point and that every family member have their own bag in case someone gets separated from the group. It is a good idea to keep your bug out bag readily accessible (in the front hall closet etc) so you always know where it is. Keep in mind this is a very basic list to get you started on thinking about what you might need. Just remember, you will have to carry this at least part of the time so make sure it doesn’t weigh you down so much that you can’t function. A good exercise is to strap on your bug out bag and go for a hike, see how far you can make it with the weight and adjust as necessary.

Lavender Essential Oil, a Prepper’s best friend

Lavender essential oil is indispensable to a prepper.

You can use lavender oil on just about any skin irritation. Burns, scalds, rashes, bug bites (especially spider and mosquitoes I find), cuts, acne, seriously just about anything. All you do is put the lavender oil straight on the area of irritation, you don’t have to mix it with anything and you just need a tiny drop to cover a good area.  It doesn’t sting like some modern medicines, it soothes and reduces scarring. In a household with two chefs, we use it a lot and don’t have nearly as many scars as we should!

It can also be used as a bug repellent, an antiseptic, an antidepressant. The scent is used in aromatherapy to relax and calm the client. It makes a good treatment for head lice, sunburns, helps to treat clinical shock and muscle pain.

Its edible and can be used in cooking (although I usually stick to using it in desserts, it apparently goes well with rice or fish).

Basically this is a natural wonder drug that is so much cheaper than buying all the seperate medications needed to treat the above issues. If you had enough of the flowers you can make your own essential oil (you’d need a distiller, I’ll blog about that another day). But its easily found in health food stores or larger grocery stores and pharmacies. So let’s hear it for lavender!!

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Water Ban!

On Tuesday this week, a water main broke at one of the biggest reservoirs serving our area. We were originally on a water restriction that has now been replaced with a ban. Our city still has tap water but a lot of the smaller towns right around us don’t even have that.

According to our local media, our city uses on average 140 million liters of water per day (about 40 million gallons) but yesterday, our city used 200 million liters (about 53 million gallons). People were seen watering their lawns, washing their driveways and running sprinklers for their children.

Most people in my area do not have a water storage and now a lot of grocery stores are low or out of bottled water.  We haven’t had a water ban since 1998.We are surrounded by the Great Lakes so who would think you would need it, I guess is what most people think. BUT:

– this past weekend was Victoria Day, a long weekend that has long been the ‘safe point’ to start your gardening in our area. Many people that participated in the water ban now have dead plants because they don’t have a rain barrel or don’t use their grey water.

– the next town over has no tap water so no showers, no drinking water, no dishwasher and so on. Do you have enough water stored for at least three days of drinking, watering your veggie garden and  giving to your pets?

The weather was 30*C  (86 F ) yesterday and muggy, I can understand people want to cool down. Here’s a few ideas (based on what I saw in my neighborhood and on social media) for water conservation.

Instead of filling the pool or running the sprinkler for the kids, give them a popsicle, they’ll love you for it!

Stay indoors between the hours of 11-3 when the sun is at its hottest.

As a lesser evil, turn on your air conditioning unit rather than leaving water running.

Take a shorter shower (or use the dry shampoo recipe I gave a few posts ago)

Use paper plates or eat out of the pots that you cook in.

When you shower, leave the plug in and collect the water for use in your garden (grey water)

Buy (or make) a rain barrel

Don’t water your lawn, it will make it grow and then you have to cut it!

Moral of the story: you should probably have some cases of bottled water put aside for drinking and a rain barrel or grey water system (or both!) for your veggies.