Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cooking with Stored food

     One thing I have seen stated over and over, I will repeat here.  Store foods you are going to eat.  It doesn't do anyone any good to store 500 lbs. of pinto beans if no one will eat them.  Store what you will eat.  If you are doing it right, you are rotating your stored foods to keep it fresh.  So it must be foods you will cook.  If your family will only eat McDonald's cheeseburgers, you have a problem.  One thing you can do in this case is to start your family off slowly.  Introduce a new dish every week or so. 
     So what do you store?  And how do you cook it?  Beans are a great food, store for a long time and are not that hard to cook.  They can also be ground up to make a flour that is great to thicken soups and gravies, white beans being the best for this.  Pinto Beans are relatively cheap but they don't make the best tasting soup in my opinion.  They do however make great refried beans and Chili.  I love Great Northern beans, which are a white bean.  I will put a pot of them on a low fire all day long and cook them until they fall apart and loose their bean shape.  At that point they become a thick creamy soup like split pea soup.  Which by the way is another wonderful soup.  Both of them can be jazzed up by adding some spam, a much under appreciated food item. 
     A can of spam will last indefinitely as long as the can isn't damaged.  The same with other canned food such as Chile con Carne, Beef Stew, Chicken ala King, etc.   Another item that is a personal favorite, is Hormel's Dried Beef.  It comes in a jar and is extremely salty to preserve it.  Rinse it and dump the water, then I like to slice it into strips, saute it in a little butter (or any oil will do) and make a cream sauce.  This is the infamous "Shit on a shingle" when served over toast, I personally like it over mashed potatoes.   It's surprisingly tasty in spite of it's slang name.
     So there is a start to your meal.  Just add some canned vegetables and you have an easy meal.  The biggest issue with canned foods in my opinion, is the sodium content.  But now days thanks to consumer awareness, a lot of products come in a low sodium version. 
     If you have the time and the inclination, canning foods yourself is wonderful.  If you have a vegetable garden even better.  You can pick the produce at the peak of ripeness, free of pesticides and can it to get the most nutrients.  Another way to preserve your produce is dehydration.  Making Fruit leather is a wonderful way to use that excess fruit.  Dried Vegetables are great in a pot of soup.  Just throw them in at the beginning of the cooking time.
     Don't forget your flavor enhancers, you can dry all sorts of herbs, garlic and onions.  I like to throw a handful of parsley in my soups, it adds some color and is very healthy.  Parsley is a great source for vitamin B12, chlorophyll, calcium, more vitamin C than citrus fruits, and just about all other known nutrients.  Parsley is a multi-vitamin in every bite!
     If you have stored flour (or wheat and have a grinder to make flour which is the best way to store it), you will be wanting to make, breads, biscuits, etc.  Look up your favorite recipe's and see what you need to store.  In my opinion simple is better.  The less ingredients you need to make something the better off you will be in the long run.  Also look up old time recipes for tips.  Run out of yeast, make sour dough instead.  Sour dough takes longer initially, but once started and kept up it will last indefinitley and taste yummy! 
     Don't want to go through all the hours it takes to make homemade bread (without a bread machine), then make fry bread.  Basically just take the bread dough, flatten it out and fry it in a little lard, bacon grease, vegetable oil, etc.   Spread some butter on while it's still warm and enjoy!  For a breakfast idea, sprinkle cinnamon sugar on after the butter.  It's also a good way to get a bread item into your diet if you don't have access to an oven.
     A great idea is to make your own bisquick type of baking mix at home.  After it's made it will store about 3 months, so make sure you rotate it out regularly.  This recipe is simple and easy and comes from Hillbilly Housewife.
                             Biscuit Mix
•10 1/2 cups flour

•1/4 cup baking powder

•1 1/2 tablespoons salt

•1/2 cup sugar

•2 cups shortening

•1 cup buttermilk powder

•1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until particles are small and uniform in size. Store on a shelf in a tightly-covered container. Makes 13 cups mix. Storage life is approximately 3 months. Use it anywhere else you see Bisquick or Biscuit Mix called for. This gives your baking goods (like biscuits, pancakes and waffles) a richer flavor.

     Root vegetables (such as beets, carrots, potatoes, etc.), if stored properly, can last throughout the winter months.  Also winter squash and pumpkins are good storers and give a welcome additon to your canned foods.  Just remember to keep them cool and dry.  Summer squash's (such as zucchini and yellow crookneck) do not store well this way and will need to be canned. 
     Because salad greens like lettuce, spinach, etc. cannot really be stored (though spinach can be canned to use as a vegetable of course), a way to add fresh greens to your diet is to grow sprouts.  You will be amazed at the variety of sprouts you can grow.  A great site to get you started growing sprouts is The Sprout People.
     So whatever your family likes to eat, there is a way to store it (or a fair alternative).  Just set up a system to make it easy to rotate out your stored foods to keep them as fresh as you can.  And if you have a disaster of any kind, you and your family will enjoy the bounty that your good sense prompted you to store!
Easy Beans: Fast and Delicious Bean, Pea, and Lentil Recipes, Second Edition

SPROUTING SEED SAMPLER (9 Types - 100grams each) Brand: Sprout Master

Sprouting Seed Super Sampler- Organic- 2.5 Lbs of 10 Different Delicious Sprout Seeds: Alfalfa, Mung Bean, Broccoli, Green Lentil, Clover, Buckwheat, Radish, Bean Salad & More

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sensible Survival Region 1: American Deserts part 1: Sagebrush

This will be my first addition to Sensible Survival, so to make it a good one I thought I'd start with something close to home. The Western American Desert.

If you've never been to Northern Nevada, the part of the country I hail from, your first impulse would probably be to grimace at the landscape. I've had many friends and relatives come to Nevada for visits and their first thoughts of the environment are detailed using words like "boring", "bland", or "ugly". Now don't get me wrong, I'll fully admit that the Nevada outdoors is not exactly lush, green, or well...interesting at all. Most parts of the desert valley are just cardboard colored, dust-textured dirt and drab plant after drab plant after...yep, drab plant.

The majority of the drab plants you will see in this area are sagebrush, the Nevada State Flower. Sagebrush has many survival uses, most of which have been passed down from Native American lore. You will identify sagebrush by it's pale, silvery-green/grey leaves. The leaves appear as three separate lobes connected at the center, and are covered in silver-like hairs. The resemblance is closer to a small bush or shrub. Sagebrush can be found from California to as north as Western Canada, east as Nebraska, and south as Mexico for the North American Continent.

So how can this dull, mangled-looking shrubbery help you in a survival situation?

One of the first and most important steps in surviving without modern technologies or amenities is obtaining and sustaining fire. Sagebrush burns extremely well, and is one of the very few wood-types in the world that will also burn when wet. This becomes an invaluable survival tool for this desert region. It is not an unknown fact that while scorching hot during the late spring to early fall the desert can reach chilling drops in the evening many times of the year. There is also few fauna in the desert and desert valley that should be eaten raw, so having plentiful firewood for cooking is a great gift from the sturdy sagebrush. And trust me, there is PLENTY of it!

Another great use once you get a fire going, is using the leaves to make smoke in your fires. In the evenings, near any sort of shade or water source, the mosquitoes come buzzing abound. There are few things more irritating in this area than the mosquitoes. Even the heat, constant dust, and windstorms don't make one so enraged with irritation as the mosquitoes. However adding some nice green branches of sagebrush leaves to a roaring fire causes an aromatic smoke that discourages mosquito visitation. This will make you a much happier desert dweller!

Sagebrush leaves are also antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. When taken as a tea (or tincture added to water) it was used by Native Americans to expel parasites, such as different types of worms. The tea is also used to assist the body in fighting off pathogenic organisms like those responsible for food poisoning; or inhibiting harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. Coli. Drink cold for these types of treatments. Hot sagebrush tea is used to break fevers, and has been known to break very high ones when nothing else will work.

It has also been known to act as a treatment and expectorant for bronchial infections, rivaling the efficiency of even Eucalyptus and White sage for expectorant and soothing properties, when the leaves are boiled, steeped, and breathed in.

Topically it has analgesic properties. When made into a warm paste and applied to areas of pain caused from bruises, sprains, menstrual cramps, digestive pains, sports injuries, or arthritis, the pain and discomfort can be lessened considerably.

You can find more recommended uses and dosage information by checking into this book:

It is important to note, that even with the vast amounts of uses sagebrush has, it is in modern medicine considered to be poisonous. Most people are ignorant to dosing and preparing sagebrush as a medicine, and large amounts have been known to be quite toxic in human beings. It is not the intention of this blog to suggest that people interested in natural and homeopathic medicine seek out sagebrush and use it medicinally without the supervision of a CAM or Holistic physician, or other expert on desert flora or alternative medicines. Do your research or seek a professional!

Hopefully you are never actually having to survive off the land in a region like the dusty desert valley, but if you are, you'll have sagebrush by your side to light your way, cook your food, calm a cold, and ease your cramps. Now THAT'S sensible!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What about my pet?

     One thing that isn't really touched on by survivalists are our beloved pets.  Most survivalists concentrate on civilization coming to an end, so the assumption is that pets are expendable at that point.  And if that does happen, they may very well be.  But because I'm suggesting storage for a number of reasons, I will offer some suggestions for pet storage as well. Food is obvious and for pets fairly easy to store, it's usually dry.

     But don't forget pet meds.  Even if your pet isn't on medication now, think about what could happen and plan ahead.  There are veterinary supply catalogs that you can order meds out of, such as Lambriar Vet Supply.  Dog and Cat antibiotics etc. will need a prescription from a Vet.  Fish antibiotics however do not require one and they are the exact same thing as what we take.  You can buy everything from staples and pullers to hemostats, forceps and scalpels.

     One thing that is a very good idea to have on hand is a nursing drug guidebook such as, "Nursing 2008 Drug Handbook", which is highly recommended.  This book can help you to not mix medications that will cause lethal reactions, etc. 

     So what do you do in the worse case scenario.  Some kind of disaster has forced you to evacuate.  You grab what you can and run.  What about your pets?  If you are hopeful about coming back in the near future you can just put pans of food and water out.  Fill up the bathtub with water for the dogs and sinks with water for the cats.  I wouldn't recommend bowls for the water as they are usually fairly easy to tip over and then the water will be wasted.

     Also with cats don't forget to put out extra cat litter.  An easy quick way to make a temporary litter pan is to put a garbage bag in a cardboard box, tape the sides of the bag to the box if you have the tape.  Maybe fold it under the box if you don't.  They may or may not scratch through the plastic, but this should keep the mess and clean up under some kind of control.

     But what if you are never going to be able to come back to your home?  This is a heartbreaking decision that could very well happen to you.  If there is a natural disaster, the shelters may not be in operation.  The roads could have been destroyed so you are forced to walk out.  A dog is easy, just put him on the leash and away you go.   A cat on the other hand is harder.  Not very many cats are leashed trained and those that are, are used to a little stroll around the yard.  I don't know of any cat that will walk on a leash for miles by your side. 

     If you were able to bike out, you could possibly attach a carrier to the bike to carry your cat.  Or another way could be to backpack your cat out like this guy.      In order for this to work however you would have to start your cat out hiking with you quite awhile beforehand to get them used to it.   And not all cats may be up to the challenge.  Cats have different personalities just like humans and some could not handle the stress.

     And then we come to the heartbreaking decision.  If we are not able to take our pets with us (most likely a cat) what do we do if the shelters are not running, the whole town is evacuated?  Or heaven forbid, our government collapses into anarchy.  In a last case scenario, I would suggest leaving down all food and water you can, then leave a window open.   Cats are very self reliant and given the chance to hunt for their food, become very proficient in a short amount of time. 

     If in the worse case scenario social order has broken down, how do you justify saving your pet?  Cats are very efficient small game hunters.  I have had cats bring home mice, gophers and snakes to mention a few.   In a world without grocery stores, an animal that keeps the vermin population down, could be worth their weight in gold.  Dogs of course are the guards and can be trained to be a hunting partner.  When I lived out in the middle of nowhere we had a sweet little beagle cross dog named Brandy.  She loved everyone and everyone loved her.  One day my best friend came over while I was gone and knocked on the door.  She told me later that the most ferocious growling came from inside the house and Brandy slunk slowly out of the petdoor in attack mode.  Which promptly disappeared when she realized who it was. haha  But the point is, for the most part, the most loving of dogs takes his job as guard serious when the need arises.

     I will end this on a positve note.  Yes it can be more difficult to provide for a pet in an emergency situation.  But with a little (or a lot of) planning you can give your pet the best shot at surviving a disaster.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Why Prepare?

     So why prepare?  Why not?  You can prepare without being one of those crazy hermits living in the hills shouting the end is near.  You can prepare yourself for anything.  An earthquake, floods, loss of a job and yes anarchy in case social order breaks down.  Preparation is not crazy it's just smart planning. 

     So where do you start?  Food is the obvious choice.  Other things can most likely be fabricated or scrounged up.  But if the infrastructure of our society goes down, there will be no more food deliveries until it comes back up, if ever.  Almost none of our food comes from a local point.  Even in a farming community the food is shipped elsewhere and the food in our supermarkets is shipped in.  Does this make sense?  Not really, but that is the way our country works, bass ackward.  ;)  Short term bartering with local farmers can snag some fresh produce.  But all too soon those supplies will be used up, or they will start to hoard as they realize relief is not coming soon.

     So the first question is, how much food do you stock pile?  The Church of Latter Day Saints are pretty close to being the experts in this.  They recommend that you start out trying to store at least a 3 months supply of necessities.  Once you have your core stock pile for three months then you can add to it little by little as money and space allows. 

     I'm not going to get into a comprehensive list of different foods to store, but there are some things that will store for a long time, such as rice, wheat and beans.  Here is a link to an excellent food storage guide,

     One thing you need to do with stored food is trade it out.  Rotate the packages of food and use them up before they get too old.   Just replace them as you use them.  The rice, beans and wheat can store for years if done right.  But almost all other foods need to be rotated.

     Where do you store your supplies?  Where you store your survival supplies is important and easier than you might think.  Not all of us are blessed with a nice big basement with endless storage possibilities.  If you are lucky enough to have a nice big pantry in your kitchen, good for you.  For the rest of us, food should be kept in a dry, relatively cool environment.  Run down to your local Walmart and buy some cheap plastic bins.  I got a couple of three foot long, 18 inch wide and high, plastic bins for about 5 bucks each.  I am currently using one as a coffee table in the living room.  The other is in my bedroom.  Lower flat bins could possibly be slid under the beds, just think of the storage space under a queen-size bed!

     My next article will focus on pets, our fur kids, adopted babies, our best friends.  What do we do for or with them in an emergency?  Hurricane Katrina highlighted how our fine feathered/furred friends often get over looked in an emergency.  Preparation can help you to avoid the heartbreak of losing your pets.

Friday, July 2, 2010


     Hi! Welcome to my survival blog. Just a little bit about me. I have been fascinated by survival since I was in High School (many centuries ago ;)) I would check books out of the library (we had to do that in those days, no Google :p) about making snares to catch animals for food, making a fish trap in a stream, identify edible plants, etc. It continued after I married and became a mother, with a subscription to Mother Earth News learning more about living with the land, and becoming more self-sufficient. I tried my hand at living in the middle of nowhere for 13 years, with no running water, an outhouse and only homemade power. I raised rabbits for food and learned to butcher them myself (although I found out I didn't really like the way rabbit tasted unless it was made into Chinese dishes. lol  My sweet "n" sour rabbit was to die for!). We raised horses, goats, chickens, a calf and a pig. We also had fruit trees and a vegetable garden. With no running water! lol  Although I have to say most of that was thanks to my ex-husband and the four 55 gallon blue plastic barrels of water he hauled 5+ days a week.

      And speaking of the pig. We went down to the local auction to see what was for sale. An adorable bunch of baby pigs were run into the arena and the bidding was furious. At the end we were the proud owners of a baby pig. Now we live in a farming community and sorry to all the pig lovers out there, but our aim was to fatten him up and then make bacon (so to speak. hehe) out of him. I love animals and baby animals of any kind are adorable, but I am a country girl and if it's been bought to be food, food it's going to be. With that in mind we named him Pork Chops (rabid animal rights activists need not respond, lets just agree to disagree. I don't preach to you, please don't preach to me. :))

      So Pork Chops came to live on our little ranch (we called it the Half Ass Ranch). At first he was a dutiful little pig and stayed in his sty, but that soon changed. He was the hoodini of pigs. No matter how many times I fixed his sty, no matter how many different ways I fixed it, he would escape. Pigs are notoriously extremely smart animals. I would have just given up and let him run loose, but we have a bad coyote problem here and I didn't want to feed them a nice pork dinner.

     Finally in desperation, I threw him in the dog run with our dogs. This run was about 48 feet long, 8 feet wide with a shed made out of sheets of plywood (4 feet wide, 4 feet tall and 8 feet long). The fencing was welded wire, semi-rigid panels. Finally something he couldn't get out of! Soon the dogs and pig adjusted, he was just one of the guys. He grew bigger and then one day we realized that the pig thought he was a dog. How do we know that? The run was parallel to the road and whenever a car would go by, the dogs would bark their heads off as they ran up and down the run. 

     One day I was outside by the run when a car passed. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. The dogs were doing their usual bark and run routine, with a slight addition. You guessed it, the pig was running up the down the run with the dogs barking (Yes barking....he sounded just like a dog). It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. We had a barking pig. I thought about how funny it would be to turn him loose the next time a car went by to see what he would do. But I was afraid he would either get run over or someone would wreck at the sight of a pig chasing their car.

     Well as you can imagine, we didn't end up eating the pig. Instead we sold him (in the country it's not as easy to justify keeping an animal like that just as a pet, especially for the ex-husband). He would have grown up to be a huge pig and potentially dangerous animal. But I will never forget our barking, car-chasing pig. :)

     Back to the real subject. We learned to take showers using five 1-gallon jugs of water, heated up on either the propane or wood stove, depending on whether it was winter or not. Conservation is the key, we had to learn to not waste our resources. Everyone should spend a few months at least living in this manner, it is a real eye opener about what you actually need to survive, as opposed to what we "think" we need.

     And I learned that even in the High Desert the temperatures can drop to extremes. One winter (and only one thankfully) we woke up to about 18 inches of snow on the ground and temperatures during the day started to drop. By that night they were below zero and a freezing fog (known to the local natives here as Pogonip, which means something like white death in Paiute) had rolled in. The fog stayed for about two weeks with the temperature dropping lower and lower, the snow sticking around. Now in the Nevada desert it snows, but it's gone almost as soon as it stops snowing. Not this time. A neighbor came by a week or so after it started to check and see if we were all right. He said his thermometer had recorded a low of minus 27. It's like we were living in Alaska not Nevada.

     At that point in my life, I didn't work. I was a ranch wife, or as I like to say it. I played with animals all day long. Such a tough job! Well my days with the snow quickly developed into a routine. I had a teapot and an old style camp coffee pot. I filled them both up with water and set them on the wood stove which had two burners on it (I miss that old stove! Soup cooking on the front burner all day smelled so heavenly and tasted divine!), then when one was boiling hot I took it out and poured it on someones water dish so they could have a drink. No water tank heaters for us with no electricity. On the way back into the house, I would grab an armload of firewood which was stacked in the front yard. Rinse and repeat for the about two dozen chickens, assorted goats, rabbits and 5 horses. The horses I would have to make multiple trips to make sure they got enough to drink otherwise they can colic, which can kill them. 

     This was my life for at least 2 weeks (I don't remember exactly how long it lasted, but it seemed like an eternity at the time). We lived in a single wide trailer that had two bedrooms, one at each end. We had to take blankets and hang them at the beginning of the hallways to block them off and we moved into the front room and kitchen to live. Our only sources of heat were the aforementioned wood stove and a portable kerosene heater that is not really supposed to be run in the house or unattended. We would run the kerosene heater at night while we slept to supplement the coal we threw in the wood stove to keep it burning all night. Thankfully we didn't asphyxiate from carbon monoxide. We ended up sending my daughter into town to stay with grandma to make sure she stayed warm. Btw there is nothing quit like an outhouse in below zero weather. *shudder* But the temperature finally broke, we and all our animals survived and all was well.

     So those are a basic outline of my credentials such as they are. No I haven't survived a disaster, but I survived 13 years living in conditions that a lot of people cannot even imagine. So I want to share what I  have learned and I want to learn even more that I hope you all will share with me. :) I have a couple of friends who will be joining me on this blog, but I will let them speak for themselves.

     Thank you for reading and if you managed to reach the end here, great! Jewels