To be prepared for a crisis, every prepper must establish goals and make long-term and short-term plans. Steadily, we work on meeting our prepping goals. In this column, the SurvivalBlog editors share their planned prep activities for the coming week. These range from healthcare and gear purchases  to gardening, property improvements, and food storage. This is something akin to our Retreat Owner Profiles , but written incrementally and in detail, throughout the year. We also welcome you to share your planned activities for increasing personal preparedness in the coming week. (Leave a Comment with your project details.) Let’s keep busy and be ready!
This week has been a lovely, and quite interesting week here in the northern half of the American Redoubt.
In the Garden
We are harvesting some Strawberries, Red Raspberries, Mesculin Lettuce, and Walking Onion bulbs. While weeding near one of my volunteer potatoes, I uncovered a two inch diameter Red Potato. This is good news, because we are now just about out of last year’s stored potatoes. This means I can start harvesting the new crop, as we need them. I always harvest the volunteer potatoes first, since they’re scattered all around the garden. These almost always get an earlier start from the specifically planted potato patch.
The assorted beans look as though they’ll be flowering in the next two or so weeks.
We’ve been doing the usual weeding and watering, daily. When the heat arrived everything had a major growth spurt, weeds included. Therefore, we’ve been waging war against them. Unfortunately, currently, they have the upper hand.
In the Greenhouse
Everything looks very good in the greenhouse this week. We harvested our first three Zucchinis this week and ate them immediately, cooking them with a roast from one of our retired cows. They were very, very yummy. The greenhouse zucchinis, only appear to be one week ahead of the outside garden ones. If I remember correctly, I planted both by seed within a week of each other. Interesting!
We are also harvesting broccoli heads. There are enough in there, currently, for two meals. In another two weeks, I’ll have enough heads to begin freezing them. The broccoli in the greenhouse is maturing far ahead of the broccoli outside.
A Livestock Adventure: Cows and Horses Versus a Black Bear
We had a bit of excitement on Saturday morning. As you know we live in an area surrounded by National Forest. This happened while Number One Daughter and I were bathing our horses in the parking lot. Our poor horses had been tortured by mosquitos. We were sponging them down with warm water and lathering them with a solution of Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Castile Soap , and scrubbing their very itchy spots. They were loving us for this special attention. Afterwards, we rinsed and sprayed them with a cold water hose. The weather was very hot, nearly 98 degrees F. We then applied homemade bug spray made from White vinegar, Citronella oil, Tea Tree oil, Eucalyptus oil, liquid dish soap, and some Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap .
Just as we finished rinsing and spraying our next to last horse and were about to collect the last, the other horses who’d already been washed and sprayed went into high alert mode and were staring intently into the woods. All the horses had been milling around the parking lot with their friends, waiting for the one being washed to be finished and to rejoin them. (They’re herd-bound, which is typical for horses.) Number One Daughter and I stopped what we were doing and looked in the same direction that our specific “watchdog” horse was gazing. We asked it, “Whatcha seein’, girl?” At that very moment, we saw movement through the trees.
We all looked intently and saw a large black animal lumbering through the trees on all fours. Next, we saw the cows fanned out, walking behind it. Number One Daughter and I were about 200 feet away. We began to slowly walk parallel to the animals, to get a better look. As we walked across the parking lot, all of the horses beelined it down through the trees towards the cows and the mystery visitor animal.
Then It Got More Exciting
The animals then all emerged from the trees and into our meadow. We then clearly saw that it was a bear–a very large bear. We looked closely, and saw that it didn’t have a humped shoulder, so it was definitely a very large Black Bear, rather than a Grizzly. It had to be a boar. By this time we were by the house. So thinking that I could get a picture with my camera, I dashed into the garage and raced through the house to the living room to retrieve the camera and my Glock .45, just in case. As we walked out onto the back porch, we saw all the cows and horses converge into one large group and chase the bear up against our orchard fence. That fence is 10 feet tall. There, the cows and horses surrounded Mr. Bear and the cows began bawling at it.
Mr. Bear freaked out and leaped up against the orchard fence couple of times–not so good for the fence–and then he ran alongside the fence. It charged right through the small herd of cows. This got the bovines worked up, so then they then chased him. Mr. Bear hopped our east meadow fence–which is only four feet tall. Then he headed south through our meadow and then presumably off our property. The cows and horses mingled around down there for a while, still acting as though the bear was still in the vicinity.
Our livestock left the orchard area a while later, still quite alert and slightly agitated. I should mention: our stock are largely their own guardians against predators. They don’t like any strange animals on “their” land in their territory, and as a group they are nearly fearless in ganging up and chasing off a predator or two.
We love our beasties. There is seldom a dull moment with them. They’re always giving us plenty of chuckles and bring us much joy, daily.
Outdoor Skills Acquisition – Wildflowers
The Children and Lily continued with their plant identification hikes this week. (Edible, medicinal, and “other.”) As a family, we really enjoy identifying wild vegetation together. Two hikes were taken in the in the garden and orchard, and two hikes were taken off the ranch.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of what we’ve found on the Rawles Ranch so far. Note: not every plant that I mention is safe for use. Nor have I yet used most of the edible plants, except for the very common safe ones. Here is some of what is found on our ranch: Lamb’s Quarter, Tansy, Shepherd’s Purse, Dandelion, Red Clover, Mullein, Curly Dock, Buttercup, Rough-Fruited Cinqfoil, Yarrow, Pine drops, Johnny Jump Ups, St. John’s Wort, Blue and Yellow Violets, Pussy Toes, Queen’s Cup, Wild Strawberries, Bunchberries, Wild Raspberries, Pineapple Weed, Plantain, Pearly Everlasting, Wild Ginger, Bladder Campion, Bearberry, Wild Ginger, and Touch-Me-Nots.
And of course there are many trees: Pines, Spruces, various Firs, Cedar, Birch, Maples, Alders, Hemlock, Western Larch, et cetera.
A recent off-ranch, low elevation, deep woods hike, revealed much to us. This included: Wild Ginger, Foam Flower (also known as Miterwort), Sarsparilla, Devil’s Club, Queen’s Cup, and Horsetails. On the drive there, we also observed Bird’s Foot Trefoil.
On Friday morning, Lily and the children drove up a nearby mountain on a numbered National Forest road and identified lots of flowers, plants and trees on the way up. We did a whole lot of stopping and jumping out of the rig and looking. We then jumped back in and opened up our stack of plant books. Those include the two books that I mentioned last week. Also in the stack of books in the rig: the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Wildflowers  (Western and Eastern editions), Alpine Wildflowers , by Dr. Dee Strickler, and Rocky Mountain Flora Field Guide , written by James Eels of the Colorado Mountain Club. The goal of course was to identify the names of the new species that we had spotted.
Near The Summit
We reached the top of the road at about 5,500 foot elevation and then hiked up a trail for about two miles. At that elevation there wasn’t much new to us so we spent more time enjoying the views. All in all, we identified well over 40 species of plants. About five of them were brand new to Lily, such as Towering Lousewort, Mountain Mallow, Monkshood, Ocean Sprays, Mountain Spirea, and Golden Aster. It’s very exciting to see something you’ve never seen before and to be able to identify it’s name and to tuck it into your memory.
Most of the plants we saw were like renewing acquaintances with an old friend and introducing that friend to the children, such as the False Hellebore, Meadow Rue, Foam Flower, Bunch Berry, Thimbleberry, Mountain Ash, Elderberries, Orange and Yellow Hawkweeds, Twin Flower, Yarrow, Cow Parsnip, Twisted Stalk, and Fireweed. The western flowers that I now know and claim as friends, are the Bear Grass, the Avalanche Lily (my namesake, and pictured today), the Indian Paintbrush, the delicious Huckleberry, and the Wild Rose. Other plants and bushes observed were Serviceberry, Baneberry, and Daisies.
Some Are Poisonous!
Again, not all of the plants that I’ve mentioned are edible. Some of these are seriously poisonous! It’s very important for me that our children are able to identify nearly everything they see in our forests. They need to be versed in their uses and whether they’re edible or poisonous. We wish to encourage you all to acquire some good flower and plant books and get yourselves outside and begin identifying the plants around your local area. It is very valuable to know what is growing nearby!
Jim’s Outdoor Activities
Jim was busy this week hauling and stacking slash to burn this fall. He has reached the roughly 80% point on firewood that has been felled, bucked, and hauled. Jim is now nearly ready to split the rounds for next winter’s firewood. He hauled more rock, culvert pipe, and gravel to create a couple of gully crossings to level out our utility ATV trails. He also assisted our kids with their own dedicated slash hauling and stacking projects. (We cut all of our firewood on our own property, so that means we burn at least six or seven slash piles each fall. Just the slash hauling and stacking is a substantial project, in and of itself. For the sake of long term fire safety, this step cannot be skipped!)
Next week is sure to be busy. July is always a buzz of activity here at the Rawles Ranch. More, later! – Avalanche Lily Rawles
This week we were able to make some great progress on weeding in the gardens of the Latimer Homestead as well as take action to further protect our food storage from the heat. Insulation was hung and secured to provide insulation on the two bay doors that had merely been closed in. We were shocked that the thermostat registered a temperature reduction of nine degrees within an hour of completing the project in mid-day heat with no other modifications except for the insulation being added. It is in an air conditioned area, but against the bay doors with the sun shining on them it gets warm. I had anticipated that it would help, particularly right up against them, but I didn’t expect that much difference in such a short amount of time.
We also further tackled some of the storage clean up and organization issues. Sarah even went through some boxes and purged old records and such that we no longer needed to keep in order to make room for necessities. There is still more to do on this in the weeks ahead, but we made great progress. However, in shifting our efforts to organizing and cleaning, some of the repotting plans and chicken pen work is now postponed until next week.
With a new batch of chicks hatching next week, we can’t put it off any longer. Early in the week, we will need to finish our chicken coop and run cleaning and make everything ready for the new chick arrival. We are hopeful that they will arrive healthy and strong. Our grandchildren are looking forward to playing with them, too! So, we have a lot of preparations to make to get the homestead ready for a variety of young ones, and this will be our focus along with maintaining the gardens and animals in the summer heat, not to mention processing the produce that is beginning to come out of our gardens in mass and continue cleaning and organizing.
This week, Sarah will be smoking another batch of beef bacon that has been curing for five days already. We are excited about this batch. It is almost nine pounds of yumminess. This time we used a brisket cut. We have just about finished the last bit that has been carefully rationed and are looking forward to more. Every time we open the refrigerator, we anticipate that bacon!
Daily salads out of the garden or stir-fry dinners are the norm now, but we are also beginning to run the freeze dryer fairly heavily with herbs, eggs, and a few vegetables and expect that we will soon be running two freeze dryers full time.
By the way, the chickens are doing great on their new homemade chicken feed. They are gaining their feathers again, though they don’t have all of them in yet, but they have half grown back. They’re eating well, getting along better than ever, and the egg production is outstanding.