To be prepared for a crisis, every Prepper must establish goals and make long-term and short-term plans. In this column, the SurvivalBlog editors review their week’s prep activities and planned prep activities for the coming week. These range from healthcare and gear purchases to gardening, ranch improvements, bug out bag fine-tuning, and food storage. This is something akin to our Retreat Owner Profiles, but written incrementally and in detail, throughout the year. We always welcome you to share your own successes and wisdom in the Comments. Let’s keep busy and be ready!
We are always busy in the Fall, since homeschooling has resumed, and we are busy with food preservation and last-minute tasks to get ready for winter. For instance, I will soon be installing snow tires and attaching our pickup truck’s snow plow. Once hunting season begins, everything else takes lower priority.
The fall colors are now at their peak, and that means lots of “oohhs” and “ahhs”, as we round each bend in the highway on our trips to town. I really love the fall season.
I spent almost one full day using my neighbor’s borrowed backhoe to cut a trench out in our barnyard, and then installing a 90-foot long poor man’s French Drain, to cure a chronic large puddle in a low spot. That puddle looked like a small pond, after every long downpour. It was only three to five inches deep, but up to 35 feet long. With heavy clay soil beneath, this puddle often lingered for several days. Because we have plenty of rock on the ranch, and I have a tendency to pile them up when clearing areas (such as our gardens and orchard), so I had plenty of rocks stockpiled–ranging between golf ball size and pineapple size. Most of them were about the size of my fist. I also had a truck load of gravel stockpiled. I ended up using most of that, too! And since I didn’t have enough permeable underlayment on hand, I used the old homestead trick of laying down straw on top of the rock layer, before back-filling. Straw doesn’t fully decompose when buried for decades, so that should keep the soil above from clogging up the French Drain rocks. Hopefully, completing this long-delayed project will mean: Goodbye, megapuddle!
It feels good to be ready for winter, with hay and firewood stacked, a full larder, and logs crackling in the woodstove. There is some snow forecast within the next two weeks. Let it come.
Avalanche Lily Reports:
Well, this week up to the time of writing this, I have not pressure canned anything, but I will get back to it, soon. The girls and I, did water bath can 12 quarts of apple slices in medium syrup, made five pints of apple jelly, dehydrated a full gallon’s worth of apple cinnamon chips, and started three half-gallons of apple cider vinegar. I have never made vinegar before, so I am very excited about it! It is a lot easier than I ever expected it to be. All one needs is apples, organic sugar, filtered water, (not chlorinated, fluoridated tap water), a clean jar, glass follower or small glass jar, and cheese cloth. I am using the burping caps and glass followers from my fermenting package that we bought this summer. After three days, I checked on it and it is bubbling and is looking and smelling quite good… As you can imagine, it was a lot of apple washing, coring and slicing that we did this week. We still have about 50 more pounds of apples to preserve, in some manner. We have another 50 or so, pounds in the fridge for fresh eating. I forgot to mention last week that we yielded 14 gallons of cider which we froze,. This was from the apple pressing outing with our kids and grand-kids, two weekends ago.
I chopped and froze nearly a gallon of our own home grown green and purple/black sweet peppers.
In the bedroom green house–in two more of the dish bussing trays–I planted seeds of French beans and cucumbers. In a tray that had held a solo pepper plant, I planted celery and cilantro seeds around the pepper. I brought two large-ish pots of soil and two tomato trellis cages in from the outdoor greenhouse. I then planted yellow sweet tomatoes and a small red tomato from seeds that I had just saved. We’ll see if they will germinate, so soon after gathering. We shall see how they do. My peppers are doing well and are re-growing the leaves they lost while being in the bedroom briefly without the grow lights. I am thinking that, cucumbers and tomatoes may also do well in there. Perhaps we’ll have fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to eat come January, grown in the house?
I also moved the celery plant into the bedroom, since it didn’t look too happy on the windowsill it had been on, in our great room. I think it was too close to the wood stove. It looks much happier now under the grow lights.
The beets, mixed lettuce, and kale are already sprouting well. The spinach is just getting started with a few sprouts here and there… I’m quite excited about the bedroom greenhouse.
In the outdoor greenhouse: The consecutive hard frosts during the past two weeks killed the tomatoes and zucchinis that were in there. So I pulled them and turned over those beds. I am thinking about planting spinach and kale there, too, though at this date, they won’t do too well, until the end of February, or in March when the sun begins to come out a little more often. I do have established beets, kale, lettuce and spinach growing out there currently that I planted in August. Those, the frosts did not kill. They were under plastic hoops in the greenhouse– my “greenhouse within a greenhouse”. Those greens are what we’re using in our smoothies, at the moment.
In the garden, I harvested a second batch of carrots in the bed that had over-wintered carrot seeds and I had already harvested earlier this summer and then replanted. They were very small. Most of them went to the cows and horses. I still have another two main beds of carrots, that I planted in the spring and did not do well. There are also a mixture of fair-sized carrots and too small carrots that need to be harvested. These didn’t do well for perhaps four reasons: One, I planted way too many seeds all together/over crowding. Two, I didn’t thin them out. Three, the soil may not have been as fertile as it needed to be. It was an area that had not been manured in two years, because we ran out last fall and I was manuring other areas that seemed more important. And four, maybe the weather or sun wasn’t what it should have been for them.
I also harvested my experimental sweet potatoes. Two of the plants had one each of an enormous potato and lots of finger thin potatoes. A few other plants had just the finger thin potatoes. In the middle of August I put a small hoop house over some of the plants. Therefore, I suppose if I were to put them all under a hoop house 24/7 for the whole summer, then I might have a real sweet potato harvest, next year?
In the house, I reorganized, refilled and consolidated many of the jars in the baking goods cupboard. I cleaned out the refrigerator. We are slowly transitioning the refrigerator to having only a few condiments, a quart of milk, and very few left-overs. I’m trying to get to the point where we won’t need it, anyhow, when and if, we ever lose power long term. This transitioning does not yet include the electric freezers. (One of our chest freezers is propane.)
Part of the transitioning includes making smaller amounts of food per meal so that we do not have many left overs. I like eating left overs for a day or two for breakfast and lunch. But we don’t want to have too many that we forget them and waste food. My time limit for food in the refrigerator is three days. It either has to all be eaten by the third day, or on the second day be frozen. The food left over to the end of the third day is either for the chickens or gets composted. This also means in the future, preserving some food items in smaller jars so that they are eaten quickly before going bad, such as small jars of jams, relishes, ketchup, and salsa. I am also trying to transition us away from store bought condiments and foods. We are already well on our way in this goal. I just need to make that ketchup. I am waiting for my tomatoes to ripen well, before I attempt it again. I will probably will make it on Sunday.
Currently, what is in the refrigerator is: apples, carrots, milk, butter, eggs, block of cheddar cheese, lemons, tortillas, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, jelly, ketchup, mustard, relish, salsa, apple sauce, wheat germ, ground flax seeds, almonds and walnuts, lemon juice, chopped garlic, medicinal elderberry wine, Probiotics, livestock meds, coconut chips, and a few leftovers. Much of this doesn’t even need to be refrigerated. Some of it could be kept in a cool dark place in the summer and in a cooler on the porch in the winter and all would would be fine.
The girls and I helped Jim move rocks for the French Drain project this week. That puddle would get huge and quite deep. I canoed it once for grins, and another time, we were able to ice skate on it.
Our neighbor also moved some of the extra soil down to the orchard to level out eight low spots that we had in it. I then leveled out those areas with the rake. When we began the orchard, five or six years ago, the neighbor dug holes much larger than what we needed with his back hoe. When we planted the trees, the soil settled in and left deep holes and pits near some of the trees. When I would mow, sometimes the tall grass would hide a pit and I would step down hard into it not expecting it, especially when backing up with the mower. Now that we’ve filled in all of the pits and leveled them, it will make mowing the orchard next summer much easier and safer. I’m very happy to have this job completed.
What do I need to be doing in the coming weeks before the snow falls? These are some things that I have been putting off to concentrate on schooling and food preserving. Some of these things that I have been putting off will reveal to you, that I don’t have everything all together all of the time. I am human, and I forget to do things, sometimes, I avoid some chores that need to be done in order to do the other chores that appear more pressing, or more easier and enjoyable. Some jobs take more time and energy than I want to expend at a given time, or will interfere with school, etc.
I need to bring more manure down to the Annex garden. I need to weed whack it one more time and gather those weeds and burn them and rototill it.
I would like to plant some potatoes down there to over winter before the snow comes to stay like I did last fall for an experiment that worked fairly well. That way, I don’t have to plant in the spring.
I need to clean out the chicken coop. It has not been cleaned out since the big butchering that we did sometime this past summer. Currently we’re down to just two birds which is because we butchered most of them for meat this summer. We had kept four birds: three hens and a rooster, in case we wanted to incubate more eggs. However, the birds got out one day in the past two weeks. The person who caused the escape, by the main door in the morning, should have opened the gate to the chicken run, but forgot to do so. If so, when night came they could have gone in on their own. However on this day the gate wasn’t opened and come night time nobody remembered that the birds were loose and that they needed to be let back in to the hen house, until the next morning.
The next morning, I thought it was oddly quiet outside when I went to do the chores. Chores usually consist of feeding and watering the chickens and giving hay to the cows and horses. We have large water tanks for the horses and cows which Jim keeps filled for me. I noticed the gate was closed and peered inside the hen house and saw that nobody was inside, “Uh oh!” I then remembered seeing the birds out loose the day before. I looked around the hen house and saw the rooster dead next to it with chunks taken out of his body, “Eeyew”. And then I saw only one hen walking toward me. “Oh no!” I looked around and did my chicken call. I found the second hen a little while later. There was no trace of the third hen. Sadly, the rooster and hen were eaten by something, probably a raccoon.
The main reason why we had reduced our flock, besides for meat, and hadn’t yet replaced it, was that we also thought we might all be traveling this fall and winter, and wanted to lessen our caretaker’s load of animal care. But now, only Jim will be traveling to help his elderly mother. It is less stressful for mum to just to have Jim there with her. Jim and his siblings are taking alternating turns, caring for their mum in her own home. I support this whole-heartedly for two reasons: maybe, my parents will need me for a time in the future, and Jim will let me go to them, and, two, we are setting a precedence for our own children to see. Maybe someday if we need help in our own homes, they’ll come to us to help us?
Therefore, since we girls won’t be traveling this fall and winter, this week I ordered 50 more chicks. Because half of us in this family are intolerant to eggs, we ordered mostly males, to raise for meat. We give most of the eggs away and feed some to the cats. And sometimes make foods with egg in them for guests. All of this to say, I will be cleaning the hen house this week to prepare for the coming chicks.
I need to be wrapping up the main garden. There are still carrots and turnips to be harvested. I need to finish pruning out the spent canes in the red and gold raspberry patches. I need to burn all of the grass and weed seeds that dropped because I didn’t pull those weeds in time. Then I need to put composted manure on parts of the garden and then rototill the whole garden, and plant garlic and walking onions.
I want to develop the new area of the main garden, I guess we called it the “Expansion garden” here in the blog last spring, of which we haven’t yet done anything with, except take out some trees, last spring. It needs to be manured and minerals brought in and to be rototilled and have fencing put around it. The fencing part is Jim’s job, but the rest is my job.
I need to get back on the horses’ hooves. I haven’t done them since the last time I told you about it…I feel really bad about it. I need to clean out the cow stalls. The stalls have been open all summer so the cows and horses have access to them when they want shelter from rain and bugs. No one has cleaned them out in months. The animals, spend most of their time out in the meadows and under the trees, but they have spent some time in the stalls, too.
About our exercise: Unless I tell you what I did during a week, It didn’t happen. I feel bad about that, too. Last year, I did a lot of bike riding during the fall. This year, I haven’t. Life seems to be going much faster this year. There just doesn’t seem to be as much time as there used to be. Last year I found time to play. Exercising for me is in the “play” department, and this year I’m not exercising much. The days seem a lot more serious and busy with growing food and food preservation. Some of the time that I used to be exercising, is now being used as a prayer time. Some of it is walking very fast/pacing while in heavy intercession….and deep mourning and tears, for friends and family who cannot see what is coming…who won’t listen to me…concerning the truth of the word of God and the state of our country and this world, who are not repenting or preparing. And, I especially have a heavy heart for the tribe of Judah, Romans 9, 10 and 11.
May you all have a very blessed, productive and safe week.
– Avalanche Lily, Rawles
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As always, please share your own successes and hard-earned wisdom in the Comments.