Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Prepare: Chicken Soup

Knowing how to cook is a skill for everyone especially these days. Here is a fast chicken soup recipe I use.


One pound chicken
Bell pepper
2 cans chicken stock

My wife did not feel well the other night and longed for some chicken soup. Jewish culture calls chicken soup "Jewish penicillin" as it cures everything. It was after six and I did not have hours to labor over a stove so I whipped this one out fast.

Heat a large pot on the stove, medium heat.
Add some olive or vegetable oil (couple of table spoons).
Throw in about 4 or 5 diced cloves of garlic.
Throw in about one 1/2 cup of onions.
Let the garlic and onion cook for about two minutes stirring regularly.
Add the chicken, diced, to the pot.
Let cook for about four or five minutes stirring regularly.
Add the carrots and celery.
Let that cook another four or five minutes stirring regularly.
Add the bell pepper, stir.
Add the two cans of chicken stock and one can of water.
Stir and season. I add kosher salt, ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and some cajun seasoning.
Why the garlic? Russians call that "Russian penicillin" so its got to be good.
Reduce heat to low and stir. Let sit for about five minutes.

I ladled the finished soup over left over spaghetti noodles - instant chicken noodle soup. The kids and wife had two bowls each.

Plenty of vegetables in each serving and very good for a cold.

Lots of people, men and women, cannot cook. When I married, I could burn water and scramble an egg, that was about it. But since then, I have figured out enough in the kitchen to no only put down a good meal, but shop for groceries smarter too.

If you try and like it, let me know. If you don't like it, remember everything here is my opinion so try at your own risk. If you change it, and like it better, let me know.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prepare: Garden Time Is Just Around The Corner

There may be snow outside, but now is the time to plan your spring garden and get a jump on the competition. Growing your own food is fun, healthy, saves money and will probably save your life.

The weatherman is predicting snow again, tomorrow. Seems like the last batch just melted here, but it gave me time to scope out my planting area and start making plans. There amongst the brown grass and abandoned raised beds I can see overflowing tomato plants, corn shoots, green beans hiding in the leaves, bell peppers and fresh raspberries.

But this all means nothing if I don't get a start now on my spring garden plans. Most will get the "bug" to grow something sometime around April or May when the first warm days kick in. They wait until Saturday and then wander on down to the super garden center and find the best plants, seeds and supplies are long gone. They end up with two plastic pots and a couple of brown tomato plants for their summer bumper crop.

Don't let this happen to you.

It may be too early to start putting tender seedlings into the ground, but there is no reason not to start seed shopping right now. Seeds can be ordered online or at the retail store. There are hybrid (cross bred seeds which do not re-pollinate) or non-hybrid seeds (original or heirloom seeds which can be reclaimed from the fruit and reused the following season).

I generally pick up my seeds at the retail store and get a mix of hybrid and non-hybrid. I always get extra because they are available and I can save them for later. I keep my seeds in their original packets and store those in large coffee cans. They last well for me as I have used seeds I purchased three and four years ago without a problem.

Some advice - pick up extra "big seeds" like corn. There is generally only enough in one packet for a single planting. If you are shopping at the farm supply store and buying 100lb bags of seed, ignore this advice of course.

Lay out the garden on paper how you want it to look but don't plant anything until the danger of frost has passed. Too many gardeners take advantage of an "Indian summer" and plant too early and lose everything when that freak snow shows up.

Planting. Raised beds, pots, or tilling up the ground? What's best? I do all three. For most of my vegetables, I put together raised beds out of bricks, left over lumber and anything else around. I then tear them down at the end of the season. I use pots for herbs on the back patio. I have never had a great harvest growing tomatoes in pots, the ground works better.

I till up a large part of the yard for corn and have several growing areas which I move around.

The more growing space, the bigger the harvest. Take advantage of every corner to grow something edible. I make compost throughout the year. I throw yard and kitchen waste, old potting soil, grass, anything in the compost heap. And I turn it once a week for good effect. I don't water it much as it attracts ants, and even in a drought the heap stays fairly moist.

If rats or mice are a problem in the compost heap, get a couple of inexpensive trash cans with lids and throw the kitchen waste in those things until it breaks down then add them to the big pile.

Other than compost, I don't like to use fertilizers other than soil amendments like green sand, lava sand, earthworm castings. I don't use pesticides at all, but might have to chance that if the garden is life or death. Other than that, attracting birds and hand checking the plants is the natural and best way to get rid of pests.

Save rain water from the down spout. Get trashcans and rig them under the spouts as rain water is always better than hose water for plants. Water when needed but short duration, small waterings as it encourages the roots to grow shallow. Deep roots are the plants best friend.

Like buying food, only plant what you and the family will eat. While growing an Asian mustard plant is interesting, if you hate the taste, don't do it. Also, plant things which will produce a lot and are healthy - like tomatoes.

A garden is healthy for you, a way to save money and most likely will save you and your families' life if things keep going the way they are. Even if we hold the country together, the price of gas alone will make a garden pay for itself is lowered grocery costs and shopping trips.

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Food

Friday, February 19, 2010

SHTF:Bad News For Long Term Scavengers

I have been on a tear lately about things running out, breaking, wearing down, etc. Guns, food, machinery, etc. I think what caused this was going back and watching the Discovery Channel's series about the world without people. It showed hypothetical scenarios of how quickly man made structures and creations would fall apart and revert back to nature.

What also brought this about was the rash of recent winter storms across the country. Trees heavy with snow began collapsing on to cars and houses causing more damage. Who would have thought snow could take down a tree? But it happened all over the country and without an army of city workers, contractors and handy men, most of those homes would be unihabitable in short order. Add to that the floods, earthquakes and tsumamis on television every single night and the damage they do to our infrastructure.

Pile on top of that the glut of doomer fiction, in movies and online, which often include the protagonist's ability to locate long abandoned treasure troves of supplies like ammo, canned food  and toilet paper and all of it ready and safe to use. For some reason, finding a bomb shelter or untouched Walmart warehouse is the popular choice for fiction writers.

Put all this together and we have the clash of reality versus happy thoughts.

Take a real, widespread disaster. Asteroid hit, nuclear war, pole shift. There's a bunch of people who have survived. They are hungry, cold, desperate. Every building, house, store, office and structure is going to be overwhelmed with hoards of mobile survivors tearing apart anything they can get their hands on. Not going to be much left in any warehouses or stores after that day. That's part one.

Part two. As soon as the infrastructure breaks down, so does the constant human care and feeding our our fragile systems. Just leaving doors and windows open (or broken) will result in the elements ruining everything left inside. Fires will run unabated. Broken sewer and water mains will send water in every direction. Animals will move into homes and buildings. It gets better.

Part three. Time. Food in cans will begin to turn. Paper will mold, mildew and rot. Leather will break down. Fabrics will be overrun with moths and insects. Water will damage everything stored carefully in cardboard and paper containers. Nails rusting in boxes. Ammunition corroding in those plastic dividers. Even plastic buckets will eventually crack, leak and become infested. There won't be much of any value in those warehouses or basements ten years after.

Here's where it gets bad..

The long term scavenger will be forced to move to the most hospitable areas left and search out new food crops, domesticated animals and clean water supplies. They will search out communities that are making and repairing clothing, tools, and other necessities. They will end up taking them from those who had the foresight or luck to be better positioned after the fall. If that's you, don't think the scavengers will be satisfied wandering around the cities looking for a leftover Happy Meal. They will be coming your direction.

At the same time, the community which believes there is still "good stuff" in the cities or hidden away in some warehouse will be disappointed. Everything not destroyed by man will be ruined by time and the elements.

The solution: the old rule, one is none and two is one. Except times 100. Stockpile those things which can help make new things. Seeds for food. Tools, nails, metal, concrete, lumber, a power source (if you can get it) and so on. Remember that on the day of the end, the clock starts to tick for everything manufactured and man made. The deterioration has begun and time is the enemy. If you have the chance to "allocate and distribute" (loot) that which has been left behind, do it fast, before it falls prey to time and the elements.

The survivor living off the carcass of the old world is fiction. Don't make long term plans based upon that which will be gone.

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Food

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SHTF: Single Action | Single Shot - Gun of the Future

Guns. Things break down over time, guns included. The more complex the gun, the greater the chance it will cease to function (without replacement parts) over time.

I have been giving this a great deal of thought. Watch some of these doomer movies like "Book of Eli". Guys are pulling semi-auto .45's and nines, RPG's and machine guns and blazing away like there's no tomorrow. The movie takes place 30 years in the future. There's a real good chance the propellant on that RPB won't function and the explosive will be so unstable pulling the trigger will cause the whole thing to fizzle or blow up in the operator's face.

Same with semi autos and machine guns. The springs in the magazines and the firing pins would be the first to go out. Most semis have a maximum amount of ammo that can go through them before they have to have barrel replaced. The more rounds fired, the sooner that expiration date comes. And in a violent world, it's not going to last 30 years.

That's why I have been giving a great deal of thought to stockpiling the most simple firearms available. Things like single action shotguns, revolvers and bolt action rifles. 10 or 20 years from now, the only functioning weapons will be the ones with the fewest number of moving parts. Open the breech, put in a round, close breech, cock, aim, fire.

The slower rate of fire means the barrel and other parts will last longer. That includes the fasteners holding the barrel or trigger assembly to the stock or grip. I was once at the range where someone was using an original Thompson from WWII. With every magazine, he had to check every fastener as they had a habit of coming loose. Imagine the result if the stock slipped off the assembly while firing.

A bolt action 30.06 basically can fire even if the magazine spring is missing; just load one round at a time and fire. It's slow, but 20 years after, your attackers may be armed with wooden bows, spears and rocks. Who has the technological advantage then?

A single action revolver has one moving part - the trigger and hammer assembly. I guess if you slammed the hammer side down on a rock you could make the gun useless, but not much more would do it (Edit - the spring in the extractor might go out over time).

I think if I had to move up the food chain, a level action or slide action weapon may last a while, but sooner or later the springs would go out there as well.

Here's the other kicker: Cost. I was in a pawn shop recently and a buyer picked up a single action 12 guage shotgun, no name, for $85.00. That gun will literally last 100 years and can be left in the trunk for just in case. You could buy a dozen guns like that for the price of a single, stripped down M1A and still have some money left over for ammo.

I don't know about you, but guns like this are on my list for having on hand long after the AR is unusable and the .45 auto is nothing more than a fancy hammer.

Mountain House Freeze-Dried Food

Monday, February 08, 2010

Prepare: Shopping Basket

You have seen one of these. Your traditional hand shopping basket found in most grocery stores. Can't pack a lot in one of these, right? Not really.

Let's say you are on the road or nearby and you need to get some quick supplies before they are all gone. However, the grocery store has limited purchases to a single hand basket to keep the "hoarders" at bay.

So into the store you go with basket in hand. The goal is to get enough food or stuff for a few days. Let's say enough to fit into a backpack for instance.

If you are on the move, the most important things to have are water, protein and the ability stay energized and replace electrolytes. There is no way you are going to get three days worth of water into a hand basket, so instead concentrate on food.

Go to the packaged meat section. Get..
- foil wrapped single servings of Spam
- foil wrapped single servings of tuna
- small cans of vienna sausages or tuna

Go to the diet food section. Get..
- a handful of protein bars. Go for the most protein in a serving. Myplex have 27 grams per bar.
- get any packets of electrolyte mix if they have it. If not, go the drinks section and get envelopes of gatorade.

Go to the drug section and get..
- one 100 count bottle of aspirin
- one 100 count of multi vitamins

Go the bakery section and get carbs..
- three packs of tortillas or pita bread
(flat gets more in the basket)

Lot's of room left..

Go to the baking section and get..
- dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, etc)
- nuts (peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, etc)

Go to the grocery section and get..
- single serve packets of peanut butter or nutella
- Bags of M&M's

If there is any room left, grab a handful of small oranges or bananas and pile them in. Or maybe some quick energy drinks like 5 Hour Energy, which is small and takes up only a little room. Or a small bottle of bleach. Or some trash bags or ziplok storage bags, but only if you can take them out of the box in the store.

Only thing left to do now if find a water source and then hit the road.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Prepare: Things fall apart

We stock and store extras for a rainy day. We have plenty of food and seeds to grow more. We have guns and ammunition. We have batteries and toilet paper. But things don't last forever. Things fall apart.

Improperly stored ammunition will bulge, corrode, mold and could lose its potency.

Rechargeable batteries can be recharged only so long before they stop holding their charge. This includes car batteries and deep cycle batteries.

Springs fail. The springs in your magazines are most at risk. Even keeping spares unloaded is no guarantee the springs will last for ever.

Toilet paper, tissue, firewood, lamp wicks and petroleum products can only be used once. They can never be recycled and used again.

Bagged fertilizer only lasts so long in sitting in the garage.

Medications have a shelf life. Afterward, some go bad quickly, but most lose their effectiveness slowly over time. First by half, then another third and downward from there.

Some canned foods last five or more years, but most will be inedible in three years.

Only sugar and salt and a few other dry, processed foods last a long time. Most go rancid in a year or two.

Light bulbs break or burn out, fuses burn out, wiring corrodes, switches break. Most basic electrical equipment will cease functioning in a few years without replacement parts.

House foundations crack, sag and fail. Roof shingles need replacing every ten years or so. Once a window breaks, a new one cannot be made from the old. The average home has to have constant maintenance or it will rapidly fall apart.

Once the SHTF, things will start to age and if infrastructure is down or destroyed, then replacements are not coming. The clock will start to tick on everything and if ignored, will never function again.

That goes for people too. When that trained mechanic, or doctor or farmer dies, then all that knowledge goes with them and there will be no schools producing another to take their place.

For the long emergency, be prepared to do without sooner or later. Figure out what to do when gasoline is gone and batteries lose their charge. What will you power the home with? How will get from one place to another? What will you put on your feet?

It's mind boggling and troubling at the same time.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Prepare: Just In Time Preppers

You hear frequently about the problems with "Just In Time" inventory management practiced by American businesses the past 40 year of so. Critics say that JIT is the wrong way to go for our fragile society. They point out Hurricane Katrina and how easily food and supplies in surrounding areas were wiped out as evacuees fled New Orleans.

The problem critics have with JIT is that stores and companies no longer stock extra things in the back like they used to in the good old days. That the modern grocery store, for instance, only carries enough on hand for about three days of normal business.

This has been a big deal for those who like to be prepared for unknown scenarios like war, invasion, and societal collapse. "Preppers" like to have plenty of extra food, water and supplies on hand in the event the stores run out or simply cease functioning.

The problem is "prepping" takes years. Acquiring enough food to feed a family of four can cost a great deal of money and is not something that can be done in a single day. And there lies a big problem.

The Just In Time Prepper.

Many of us have prepared for this eventuality.

Scenario: After one too many disasters and financial misteps, the federal government goes belly up. Chaos reins. You are at home and decide to take this chance to get to the store and pick up "a few extra things".

When you get there, its a mob frenzy. People are grabbing anything they can get in their cart or hands and running pell mell through the store. Those coming out of the store are having their purchases commandeered by those trying to get in.

This is the scene of the Just In Time Prepper. That neighbor or friend who never kept more than a few cans on the shelves who thinks that magically they can obtain enough food to feed their family for an unlimted amount of time with one trip to the grocery store.

Here are some numbers which blow holes in that position.

A 2lb 10oz canister of Quaker oatmeal has about 30 normal sized servings in it. That would be enough for one person for a month. To feed a family of four, you would need four of those for a month and forty eight for a year.

A 50lb bag of rice has 454 servings. That would roughly be enough for one person for one year barring any spills or waste. To feed a family of four, you would need four of those bags.

The amount of food needed to feed a family or group of people for any appreciable length of time is staggering. Thinking a quick trip to a mobbed grocery store is going to make a dent in your long term food needs is ludicrous.

Start stocking now a little at a time and a one month, six month or one year supply of food can be built over time. Don't be a Just In Time Prepper.

On another note, here's a lesson learned the hard way. I used some cracked red winter wheat for bread this morning. Don't do it. Cut it at least three to one with regular flour or you will end up with a hard as a rock hockey puck. This is something to think about when you have to start using those fifty pound buckets of wheat - get a good grinder to make flour with.

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