Editors’ Prepping Progress

To be prepared for a crisis, every Prepper must establish goals and make both 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 your e-mailed letters. We post many of those –or excerpts thereof — in the Odds ‘n Sods Column or in the Snippets column. Let’s keep busy and be ready!

Jim Reports:

We had several nice soaking rain showers in the past week. That rainfall should give our pastures a chance for one more spurt of growth before the fall cold weather arrives. Hopefully, that grass will minimize the amount of hay needed for our cattle, until October.

I wrapped up the annual firewood project this week. It feels good to have it all safely stacked and ready for winter.

With more rain in the forecast, I have tarped all of my slash piles, to make them easier to burn, come October.   Wet slash piles take a lot of dyed diesel or propane torch fuel to get them burning, and that is a needless expense. So, I’ve developed the habit of tarping slash piles. There is something gratifying about a “one-match touch-off”.

I’ve been busier than usual with consulting work, both on the phone and face-to-face. This has meant some extra driving for me in north Idaho and northwestern Montana.  Many of my clients are telling me the same thing: Recent events and public discourse at the national level have them feeling increasingly anxious about getting their preps squared away.  Three of them used the same phrase: “Time is short.”  Clearly, food, fuel, ammunition, and night vision gear are all high on their priority lists. My advice: Buy them now, while they are still relatively inexpensive and plentiful.  Long-term storage food, in particular, is at risk of selling out quickly, in the event of a crisis.  Presently, there are no significant shortages of storage foods. But that could change just about overnight, because it is a thin market. A rush of orders could quickly have them quoting a six-month or longer order backlog.

Early in the week, I helped my eldest son Jonathan with the final edit of his new relocation e-book. That is available as a free PDF download.  And Jonathan tells me that his SurvivalRealty.com business is picking up.  Higher interest rates have made fewer buyers qualify for mortgages, so rural retreat properties are staying on the market longer. I’ve also heard that the ongoing rollout of the Starlink satellite constellation is making very remote properties more viable as “work-from-home” retreats.  This is having a profound effect on the rural real estate market.

Now, on to Lily’s part of the report…

Avalanche Lily Reports:

Dear Readers,

This week has flown by! The weather was hot, then the rains came. Whoo hoo! and now it is very pleasant weather for working outdoors. Not that I have been outdoors much lately…Too much kitchen work.

Honestly, at the beginning of the week, I was struggling with the big job of preserving foods, feeling overwhelmed with the volume of work, but still thankful for the abundance.  I love preserving food!  But I don’t like that it sometimes takes ALL DAY! I have been doing it, but I needed some encouragement and help from Jim with the peaches.  Jim helped me wash, slice, and get in the dehydrator and freezer four-twenty pound cases of peaches in a very timely manner. The rest of the preserving listed below, I was able to get on, alone.  😉

I chopped and froze a lot of peppers that we picked in Spokane Valley, and from our garden.

I harvested the rest of the outdoor garden celery, chopped, froze, and dehydrated it.

I harvested many small cabbages, chopped those and made sauerkraut.  I had not eaten sauerkraut in a very long time, but super-awesome daughter-in-law made some last week and while I was visiting, I got brave and tried a little bit.  It was good and did not seem to give me any histamine reaction, so I came home, harvested cabbages, and made some, too.  I have yet to try it though, as of writing this.  It’s been fermenting about five days.  I am planning on making another batch early next week.  I’m also planning on fermenting carrots and beets in the future. Come to think of it, I made sauerkraut last year, but only Jim ate a few spoonfuls, so I ended up, eventually giving it to the chickens. I was still struggling with food sensitivities and did not dare to eat it.  But this year, my guts are doing better.

A few weeks ago when we were preserving our Transparent apples, I made apple vinegar.  I strained it this past week.  I tasted it and it was good!  I understand that one needs to let it stand for a few more weeks after straining so, I am doing that.  We have more apples ripening at the moment.  I plan on making more cider vinegar with those.

Miss Violet helped me harvest all of the tomatoes in the garden whether they were ripe or not.  The vines and some tomatoes were rotting from the watering, rain, less daylight,and a few 44 degree nights. So it was time to bring in the good ones.  They will be ripening slowly in our dark cold room.

Thank You Dear Readers for sending me your ideas on how to quickly reduce the tomatoes into sauce without boiling it to death. Folks basically sent me essentially three different ideas for getting this job done.

Let me post them:

JZ says:

“Run tomatoes through a blender, juicer, or similar.  Clean ice chest of adequate size with a drain.  Pour juice in ice chest and let sit still at least 6 hours, but the longer the better.  The water will separate from the juice, collecting in the bottom of the ice chest.  Open drain, let clear water run out.  When outflow starts turning red, close drain.  If juice not thick enough, let sit again and drain again.  Take thickened juice and cook.”

Cowboychemist wrote:

“Jackie Clay over at Backwoods Home talks about reducing tomatoes by putting them in an oven in a shallow pan at a low setting. Hope this helps”

S.S. says:

“Good morning 🤗 I like cooking down my tomato paste in a crockpot. It would work well for sauce. I don’t have to constantly watch it 😊. I use a wooden spoon to stir it occasionally and just leave it in the crockpot so it keeps the lid slightly open so the steam can come out. My tomatos are never bitter so far. 😊

KH says:

“When I process a lot of tomatoes, I like to core them, quarter and toss them in the pot – skins, seeds and all.

Once soft, I then use my Vitamix to make it all smooth.

Then into the turkey roaster – I put water between the roaster and the pan, and set it to a low temp. I let it go all night. As long as there is water between the pans, no scorching occurs.

It is a wonderful way to cook down a lot of tomatoes without a lot of fuss.”

Finally, C. says:

“I am writing to you about your question about how to reduce tomatoes rather than boiling on the stovetop. One method I have done is to bake the juice after running it through my hand-crank sieve to get the peelings and some of the seeds removed. I bake in the oven and you want to stir it occasionally. Some people bake the tomatoes after just quartering them but I like the juice way of doing it. Temps can vary but I did about 350 F in a shallow long pan. The longer you bake, the thicker the sauce. You can find all kinds of more ways to bake on-line.
Also another thing you might try is to sun bake it outside in the heat. I hope you write about these ideas if you try them or find another good way to reduce tomatoes that we grow ourselves.”

Again, I wish to thank you for your ideas. They quickened my mind and reminded me of what I have already here at the ranch to get the job done. Let me tell you how I think I will do it now that I have more information on how others do the job. I do not own a crockpot, a turkey roaster, nor a food mill. But, I do have an oven, a Vitamix blender, a Victorio strainer, and ice chests.  So I believe I will do a combination of the above methods when the time comes that the tomatoes are ripe and ready for processing.  I believe I will send thawed and raw tomatoes through the Victoria food mill to remove seeds and skin. I don’t want skin or seeds in the tomatoes, because I heard that they contribute to some food sensitivities issues. Then I will let them sit for a while in a cooler until the water separates, pour it off, then I will bake the sauce in the oven in our giant roaster pan. These methods are far better than boiling all of the water off on the stovetop for sure.  😉 I will let you know how it goes when I make barbecue sauce and ketchup.

Jim trimmed some saplings Balsam poplar and alder saplings in the orchard this week. I recently saw that we could feed the leaves to our cattle and sheep as food. So I did so.  The animals really enjoyed them.  We have a lot of saplings that we don’t want to grow into trees, therefore I will continue to supplement their feed with them.  It will save money on their hay bill and give them additional nutrients since leaves have a lot of nutrients and minerals. We need to think of other alternatives for feeding our beasties if a time comes when we cannot get hay or grains, etc.

Seguing from the saplings, I studied up on materials used for basketry weaving this week.  I’d like to weave some of my own baskets in the future. Alders and poplar saplings are used in basketry, so additionally, I also trimmed some of our hazelnut bushes that are also used in basketry and fed the leaves to the sheep. After they were finished, I collected all of the branches and will use them in the future. I also wish the collect cattails sometime soon.

This week I enlisted the guest bedroom with additional functions. It will again serve as a greenhouse room. This week Jim and I put back up the LED grow lights and brought in a plastic eight-foot table, thusfar.  I need to fill pots with soil and plant them under the lights.  Additionally, I will be bringing in some peppers, a tomato plant, cucumber, and herbs from the Greenhouse that will not survive the winter. Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme, and a small fig tree will all be brought indoors.  I have also decided that it will be my quiet time/prayer room.  I needed my “own” space for prayer and Bible study, away from all distractions. We moved more bookshelves into the room and put some of our homeschool Readers and Creation science books in there. I brought in my English and Hebrew Bibles.  I have my two Bibles, pens and pencils, notebook, and a Strong’s Concordance spread out on the king-size bed.  I have two pillows against the wall and a cozy comforter and a lamp stand next to the bed.  It is very cozy spot to study the Word and to pray.  The computer does not come in here. I now only look at my laptop in the Great Room.  I now only use the Ethernet cable with it.  We have shut the wi-fi off in our home and only turn it on when we have guests who want access to it.

So it is about time that I have created my own space.  Our house is fairly small. Jim occupies our bedroom with his office, at one end. Miss Violet has her room. The Great Room/kitchen living room has too much happening in there with all of my projects and work duties. I easily get distracted in there. In the past I’ve tried other areas in the house, the pantry hallway, the garage, or outside, the barn, a spot in our woods, the guest cabin, to have my study but they just weren’t cozy, warm, private, or easily accessible enough. This past week, I have been waking up at about 5:30 AM. I go out and feed the cats so that they don’t meow at me. Our dog must stay in Miss Violet’s room until she lets her out in the morning. Then I go right to that room for serious business with our Lord Jesus. It is so pleasant that I wish to linger in there.  I should have done this a long time ago.  But it was always designated as the guest room and at one time it was a storage room for the antique gun business (Elk Creek Company). So…I hadn’t used it. But now, it is doubling nicely as a study and prayer room.

This week, I studied the books of Revelation and Matthew, Ephesians, Isaiah 40-44.  I read Psalms 40-44, 50-51, 100 through 125.  I went back to Psalm 119 and began studying it in Hebrew.

Keep prepping!

May you all have a very blessed and safe week.

– Avalanche Lily, Rawles

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As always,  please share and send e-mails of your own successes and hard-earned wisdom and we will post them in the “Snippets” column this coming week.  We want to hear from you.