Editors’ Prepping Progress

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. Note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. We always welcome you to share your own successes and wisdom in the Comments. Let’s keep busy and be ready!

Jim Reports:

Following a week of heavy snow, we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather. The result was inevitable: It turning our barnyard into an enormous un-flavored Slurpee. Well, it is actually barnyard flavored, but I don’t  wish to sound crude.

I’ve been incredibly busy, trying to get the web pages set up for my new biz. I intend to launch it on February 1st.  Because there is unique descriptive text for each individual gun, and an average of seven photos per gun, this has turned into a big project!  When guns are 122+ years old, there are no two that are exactly alike. So they need detailed descriptions.

I also a lot of snow shoveling and snowplowing. And I also a made a 100+ mile round-trip drive into town, running errands. A lot of this was tackling the ever-changing “Honey Do ” list.

Now, over to Lily, for her more thorough report.  She has a lot to say about her recent kitchen organizing.

Avalanche Lily Reports:

Dear Readers,
I hope you are all had a happy and productive week.  Weather-wise, here we are getting rain……:(  Just what I didn’t want…

So what did I do towards prepping this week?

Last week, while responding to a comment from Lt. Mike in Alaska, I was indicating a bit of envy at his success in growing tomatoes indoors, and mentioning that I needed to ponder a solution for ourselves to continue growing foods here during the winter. Then suddenly I had a brilliant idea, to help solve our indoor growing issues.

Just a little bit of background of what our issues have been: space. (We had used the guest bedroom, which now has become Miss Eloise’s bedroom. There isn’t another space in the house in which to put plants and a grow light.  The grow light is too powerful to look at on a regular basis in the main living area or in an occupied bedroom. We do have two other potential areas in the house in which we could grow indoors, but other problems arise with those areas, mentioned below).  We have had bug issues stemming from rich garden soil: Aphids and mites.  I do not wish to use any oil-based pesticide sprays to kill them. We have had moisture issues which caused mold to grow on the windowsills and if we were put plants in any other area of the house, the moisture generated would mess up wooden ceilings, or our antique gun inventory. You see, we do not own a large house.

Growing through the winter in the greenhouse has it’s own set of issues.  There isn’t enough warmth for anything to grow out there in the winter except for kales and spinach and some lettuces, if they were started growing in the fall and over-wintered.

So then, my brilliant idea:  As long as we have electric power, is to move the LED grow light units out into the greenhouse and to build wooden boxes over the beds and to put the lamps into the boxes.  The lamps will give off a lot of heat, the wood box will retain the heat in the box. And thus, with light and warmth, it will allow the plants to grow. The boxes will be four feet in height and are 4 feet deep by 8 feet wide.  We will use hinges to give us easy access to the garden beds, within. They will only be used during the winter and of course may be the best solution for now — as long as we still have grid power.  (These powerful lights–which we bought from Ready Made Resources–draw a lot of current!) So the growing experiments will continue, but now in another venue.  Also, It’s best to grow most things outside of the house. That way if the bugs want to come back for a time then they won’t affect our home, and the moisture won’t affect the home, etc.  I wonder if the lamps will generate too much heat in the box?  We’ll just have to try and find out.

Jim bought the lumber for this project on a trip to town, this week. We’ll get to the building of it this coming week.

Despite not wanting to grow a large amount of produce in the house for all of the aforementioned reasons.  I did buy 50 pounds of sterilized fertilized soil and started two small trays of lettuce in a window in our pantry hallway.  Those two trays will not significantly change the humidity in that room and with sterilized soil, there is less of a chance of having unwanted insect guests.  We need to have some lettuces growing. I only used about ten pounds of soil from one of the bags.  The rest will be available for future projects.

I also decided to get back into alfalfa and broccoli sprouting to put sprouts into our salads and smoothies.

This week, I cleaned the stalls every day and dumped manure into the manure pile.  Black gold!!!!

I cleaned the hen house.  Chickie brown gold!!!! 😉

In light of watching those Minimalist videos that I shared with you last week…  I am not a minimalist, but I do want more space in my kitchen cupboards and more orderliness and functionality.  I went though all of the kitchen drawers, cupboards and culled out any appliances. This included a juicer and waffle maker that I never use. They are earmarked to be given to our older son. There were also lots of bowls, inexpensive knives, cooking utensils, bake ware, cups, heirloom dishware, that I have not used, and will not use. Jim brought them to the thrift store.

I rearranged cupboards to be more efficient and practical.  For food storage containers, I gave all of the excess Tupperware style plastic containers to Jim to store his small items related to the new business.  I kept all glass bowls with lids and they are now stored nested together.  I will also be using more of my quart jars for food storage/leftovers, since I have so many of them already.  I have kept my stainless steel mixing bowls. And of course, I kept nearly every large bowl and all things pertaining to produce gathering and preparation for preserving, etc.

I bought a few organizer trays for our sharps drawer, a new dish drainer and washable dish drainer mat that soaks up water and is machine washable. They look so nice. In the past, I have washed most dishes with stainless steel scrubby pads. But they tend to rust and fall apart and leave pieces of stainless steel on dishes, etc.  I’ve never liked plastic scrubbies, or the green monster scrubbies.  I don’t like sponges, as they harbor too many bacteria. I recently saw someone in a video use a stainless steel chainmail scrubby on a pot.  I thought, “What a great idea!”  So I went to Amazon and looked for one.  I found it and a stainless steel chain link wash cloth which has much smaller chain links.  So we bought two of each.  I have been using the stainless steel washcloth now for two weeks.  I like it very much.  It does a great job scrubbing dishes and will not rot, rust, or fall apart.

The only drawback with it, is that it is a little bit hard to grip and it takes a bit of skill to get it to open flat and be used as a scrubby wash cloth.  I think if they had made it larger and put a couple of larger loops on it, like a third of the way into the washcloth to slip your fingers into it, it might be easier to use??  I’m working on my handling skill with it.  Miss Eloise really likes them, but also finds them a little bit hard to hold.  Miss Violet isn’t that excited about them.  Frankly, I’d rather have the one expense of it’s price and have something to use for a very long time rather than using a Fuller Brush Company stainless steel scrubby that eventually falls apart and leaves pieces of steel on dishes and plates. On rare occasions little bits of them have ended up in our food. Ick!  Therefore we will discontinue using them.  One word of caution: The larger-mesh chain link scrubby is rough on enamelware.  I scratched our large turkey-size enameled roasting pot a little bit with it.  But they are great to use with Cast iron cookware and even on glass bake dishes. Those are what I mainly use for cooking and dishware.

Update:  Since writing the preceding paragraph, I spent more time washing dishes and studying the chain link washcloth and holding it in different ways. The washcloth has a stainless steel tab attached to one corner with a circle link.  I decided to pinch the circle link between the washcloth and the tab, between my right index finger and middle finger, closest to the palm of my hand. That did the trick.  It caused the wash cloth to spread out around my hand and flop over the tips of my fingers which allowed me to have a better grip on it while washing dishes.   Yeah!

Now there is a place for everything that is used on a regular basis and a cupboard for all of my food preserving accoutrements which itself still needs to be organized.

Most of my kitchen counters except for one little area are now bare, except for a crock next to the stove filled with cooking utensils and one little section next to the stove with other cooking condiments: Olive oil, honey, Himalayan salt, etc.  It’s a nice feeling and my kitchen is more functional, now.

We bought a factory refurbished Vitamix blender that I can use for everything. I can use it for juicing fruits and veggies and then straining them through a nut bag for fruit and vegetable juices. I use it several days each week for my smoothies and cream soups.  It can also be used to make nut milks. My old Oster blender has not been discarded.  In the case of blenders, I’ll maintain the adage that “two is one and one is none.”  😉

This cleaning and culling out has also extended to our backpack/bag storage drawer.  It’s a large deep drawer originally designed as a potato bin that hold our day packs, shopping bags, canvas bags, fanny packs, small travel bags, et cetera.  I went through that and culled out some very used up bags, and those we didn’t need anymore.  Some were thrown away, some that were owned by our “up and out” grown sons were returned to them. Some that the girls owned were in non-OPSEC girl colors. So these were washed and sewed (one of them needed a repair) and were given to a family with little girls. The drawer was vacuumed and washed out and most of the bags and day packs, fanny packs that were kept were sent through the washer and were put back inside the drawer.  We cleared out about a fourth of the pile of them.

This week Miss Eloise moved to the guest bedroom.  During her move, we went through the closet she had shared with Miss Violet. Therein, we culled out clothes that were not used or needed.  Among the clothes were some really nice wool sweaters, that they don’t want to wear anymore, and I don’t want to send to the thrift store. Someone may come here someday and need them.  So they were put in totes and placed into storage.  I always like to keep extra clothes, blankets and sleeping bags around for other people, just in case.  These of course are extra and beyond the ones we have for our own use.   I do not feel we can have too many blankets, sleeping bags, or food.

The girls are helping Jim with his nascent Elk Creek Company antique gun business.  Miss Violet is the designated gun photographer and Miss Eloise is the one who will will pack up the gun to be mailed out.  Both received job instruction and practice this past week.

Some friends invited our family to the regional hot springs for a swim, soak, and a meal out this week.  So we all went and had a wonderful time.  I love swimming laps and did so for forty-five minutes. When I finished my workout,  I spent time just playing underwater, diving constantly and floating around on my back.  Water brings out the kid in me. 🙂  After I tired out, I went to the warmer pools and spent a lovely time soaking and chatting with our friends and some other patrons.

May you all have a very blessed and safe week.

– Avalanche Lily, Rawles

o o o

As always, please share your own successes and hard-earned wisdom in the Comments.


  1. “Someone may come here someday and need them. So they were put in totes and placed into storage. I always like to keep extra clothes, blankets and sleeping bags around for other people, just in case. I do not feel we can have too many blankets, sleeping bags, or food.”

    Lily, I’m with you. Ol’ Remus asks, “What if all you have is all you’ll ever have?” These are words to live by. This makes me store fabric items in crates in our shipping container for future times. We never know.

    1. I am reminded that the most time consuming task for women in times past was making clothing for their families. First they had to produce the cloth, yarn or tanned skins. Good choice storing extra clothing, bedding and fabrics I’m thinking!

    2. Your statement of it being important to always follow an ‘authoritative’ canning book surprises me. I’ve always put you down as one who questions authority. Since you don’t do Facebook you’re probably unaware that there is a group called “Rebel Canners”. They share all canning procedures that work and are safe, but not necessarily ‘approved’. Some really excellent recipes I’ll tell you.

      1. Hello Beth Y,

        Which day was the video which showed their boxes? Are you talking about their giant bed down the center, or something else? I do watch them from time to time.



  2. Lily, I also live in a small house so every nook and cranny is filled with something. I buy in bulk when items are on sale so I can only keep a small quantity of everyday use items in kitchen cabinets. I have wire shelving to store appliances and kitchen tools, bulk items purchases (like herbs and spices) which have been repackaged to smaller containers, multiple short term items and things that are only on sale at certain times of the year are in clear plastic containers sitting on the shelves. The containers allow more items to be stored than if I just placed single items on the shelving.

    We’ve had a streak of cold weather right when some of my rabbits are due to deliver their babies. I put shredded paper, lots of rags and straw in their birthing boxes to hopefully keep the newborns warm. One doe delivered her kits on the coldest day in 9 months, so I put hand warmers/heaters inside the birthing box underneath her fur and the shredded paper. I change them out every 10-12 hours. Last year I ordered a case of the hand warmers while they were on sale just for this purpose and it is working!

    We are experimenting with old seeds to see if we can help them germinate using various soaking methods. The larger seeds are doing well but the smaller seeds like carrots, cabbage, lettuce; not so much. So far, small older seeds have about a 40% germination rate while newer seeds we have about an 85% germination rate.

    Received a new vacuum pump for the freeze dryer; it was on sale and I got free shipping so that helped. When I have more time I’ll take the old one apart again. I keep the FD on my back porch because it is so noisy but I’ve let it set while the small bunnies are inside as the new moms are easily spooked by loud noises.

    I received the new book Profiles in Corruption by Schweizer; highly recommend it. Lots of previously unknown background info on how top Democrats have been hiding their illegal actions and money. I am sure many Republicans have been doing the same thing for years. It makes me angry that they have been allowed to get away with these crimes!

    Have a safe and productive week!

      1. Avalanche Lily! Any options for improving heat retention with thermal mass in your greenhouse? We’re doing this in several ways. I’m wondering about barrels filled with water heated with a passive solar hot water heater during the day that would release heat into your greenhouse at night? Just a thought. Winter growing options are important, and we think these will become increasingly so going forward. Always enjoy your updates and appreciate your inspiration!

        1. We already have about 20 barrels filled with water on one side of the greenhouse. 😉 What we need to do is put a second layer of clear Tuftex on the walls and or a greenhouse blanket over the greenhouse and then we can put in the grow lights and we’d have the use of the whole greenhouse all winter. Add three layers of plastic over the beds…We also have a wood stove in there. And if we put raw manure under the soil……;) Oh and if I was to put a thick layer of small woodchips on the floor of the greenhouse instead of the stones, there would be even more thermal mass…..

          1. How do you like the wood stove feature? We’ve been looking at this… So far not needed, but in a grid down scenario, we might need it in the case of truly extreme cold. We do have a wood stove in our home, and we use it substantially for home heat in the winter. It’s wonderful!

            Also related to the water barrels… Any benefit to using a passive solar hot water system to increase the temperature of these? Thinking about solutions, and it sounds like you’ve got some great ideas going!

        2. Hello Telesilla of Argos,

          The wood stove needs to be stoked every three hours or so, around the clock.
          The single layer of Tuftex releases the heat at an alarming rate. We need two layers to hold heat more efficiently.
          But then in the summer, if we had two layers of Tuftex, it would never cool down in there. It would bake all of our produce. As it is, the average temperature on a sunny 80 degree day can reach 120 degrees, even with both doors open, the fan running and the ceiling vents opened.

          Running out to the green house in the winter to stoke the stove every three hours around the clock is not my idea of fun, when the temperatures are very low 😉

          We cannot afford to run electric heaters or propane heaters in the greenhouse.

          We can afford to run a grow light in a box.

          Around here, a passive solar hot water system is not viable in our climate because of the very cold temperatures we can have. We’d have to run a propane or electric water heater with constant water circulation to keep the solar panel pipes from freezing. So we would be heating the great outdoors. Also we don’t have much sun at all in the winter. I have seen only two minutes of sun in the past three weeks. 🙁

          We may start to see more sunshine in February. But generally the sun doesn’t come out for an extended period of time until the third week in April.

          Winter in the north is not conducive to growing foods. 🙂 But we’ll keep trying.



          1. Thanks so much for sharing these insights… Looking forward to news (and praying for your success) in the next set of experiments! The knowledge and skills you are gaining now may turn out to be extremely important (and life-saving) given the coming GSM. God has a plan. Keep up the great work, and know that your sharing with all of us is greatly appreciated!

          2. Have you read any of Caleb Warnock’s material? He has been doing low tech winter gardening in Utah for a while and has some good info on passive greenhouse systems that work for colder climates. Just a suggestion.

  3. Here in the northern Appalachian tier, it is raining with occasional sleet. Funny weather this week. Another thaw on our little mountain.
    We are back on track with finishing up our basement walls. Mudding, sanding for most of this week and next week. Helping out neighbors between the sanding.
    After the walls are primed and painted we are planning to set up our long countertop radio desk with the overhead cabinets. We have a special set up for the radios and we were smart enough to take pictures of it before we dismantled it before we moved to our new location. We are looking forward to getting back into Amrron again.
    In my organization and unboxing things in the basement I found several bins of batteries. I sorted those together with others that we had and made a point of storing them so they were not loose in the containers. I had heard someone having their house burn down because of batteries in their closet were touching. Several of our batteries were swelling and acid particles in the containers. But we know what we have now and it is safely stored.
    So happy for you to have that organized Lily. Winter is a great time for those projects.
    Time for my second cup. Hope to read more posts this morning.
    Pray for our country folks and just remember Who is really in control.

  4. Did some research into a few projects that I’m planning for later this year. One being a rain water catchment system for our barn, two is an outdoor shower with solar water heater that uses some of the water from the rain catchment system and the third is building stalls for pig(s) and cow in the barn since there are none currently. Trying to keep up on the situation with the Coronavirus. Will be checking the stocks of N95 and surgical mask later today. Started to watch the Netflix’s series “Pandemic” it is a documentary. It is okay but like all the stuff coming out of Hollywood there is some underlining leftist propaganda built into it. (IMHO). But the meat and potatoes of the product are very good.

    Starting to put more fruit tree order together as well. I have to replace 3 trees that didn’t survive last year. Neighbor suggest a local vendor that he has tremendous luck with.

    Started using the home gym this week. With the weather outside the treadmill allows me to get some miles in safely. Will be transitioning the workout from evenings to mornings since my crazy work schedule usually interferes with getting a workout in.

    Will be heading to a local auction in a few minutes at a hardware store that has closed. Lots of stuff I see that I would like to get but priority will be on galvanized carriage bolts, washers and nuts and then the inventory of lap links, snap links, chain links and like hardware. Will all depend upon prices.

  5. It will be interesting to hear how your winter greenhouse growing experiment works; way too cold in my area to even contemplate that.

    When I was “downsizing” and preparing to sell the farm I got rid of(donated mostly) so much stuff; how did I ever end up with all of those casserole dishes, flatware, cookie sheets etc? I still had enough left over later on to give to a family that was starting over again with nothing. Now that I totally “downsized” by getting rid of everything in order to travel and live overseas, I’ll be thoughtfully obtaining what I need; enough but not too much.

    I finally got a sleeping bag that will handle cold weather better(the $39 Coleman mummy bag mentioned on a SB post recently). It looks pretty good. I’m sure it’s not the same quality as an expensive down bag would be but it’s got to be a lot warmer than my old summer weight rectangular bag is; have spent way too much time shivering in that thing while bundled up with a jacket and hat! It fits my budget too!

    I also ordered a couple of the Baofeng radios that are supposedly not allowed to be sold but still are. Communications is a (very)weak point in my preps so will start with this. Also ordered a manual for studying for a Ham license.

    I was pleased to find some freeze dried food that is actually vegan and kosher(Harmony House); I’m not a vegan but don’t eat meat. It’s not cheap but I think it’s handy for a BOB and for sure camping trips. I got the unseasoned backpacker food(soups and stews). Looking forward to trying it out soon(hopefully in a kitchen and not bugging out!). They’re also all gluten free for those needing that.

    Otherwise continuing to plan my garden and small orchard- to- be; house acquisition is moving forward nicely. 😉 It feels a bit weird to be doing this for a homeowner sized garden and orchard and not farm-scale. Part of me wishes I was going back to farming but the land costs are out of reach now for me. Still, I’ll be able to use all that I learned over the years of farming to only buy tools and materials that I know to be useful. I also get to grow what I want and not necessarily what the market demands so that’s a plus! So looking forward to having my own place and garden again!

    1. Costco used to sell a product called Tasty Bites that is an Indian style lentil stew. It’s vegetarian and ready to eat right out of the package. Can drop in hit water to heat, microwave, or in a pan. I’ve seen them at other stores in individual packets for around $3. Cheaper at Costco in a big box.

  6. We also have unseasonably warm weather here. I have some necessary travel for health reasons so am very happy with the unusual January Thaw. Praying it lasts 3 more weeks.

    As a result of driving into a city daily, I did go to the fabric store and bought some fabric for a 9 patch quilt, a project that I’m going to try that might give me an avenue for a side income, and some extra for later. The sales were very good! In addition, I bought batting on deep discount. I find it is usually cheaper to buy a used blanket at the thrift store to use as batting since the quilts are meant to keep us warm. This one will be a summer quilt for my son, so batting is best. I will buy a used top sheet for the backing. Top sheets wear less, so are more available. Just watch for quality and avoid sheets that pill.

    That said, I did find a used flannel duvet cover that I will be cutting apart to re-back a blanket that has worn out. Our local thrift shop often has used linens in great condition. One thing about thrift shops…it is worth it to try different ones and I find worth the drive to the ones with better quality goods. There is so much stuff being donated right now it is amazing; it stands to reason that this is the case as there is just so much in the stores (quantity; not necessarily quality). My daughter is setting up house and is using that which we have been putting away for her. For the few items that she still needs, she can find the goods easily and (relatively) cheaply. Totally different from my first house experience many moons ago.

    A note on storing in a small place (or one without storage as is my case…really, who builds a house without closets anymore?)…I buy similar colored pillow shams at the thrift shop for extra pillows and put them on the beds and daybed. Yes, I’m taking them on and off the bed daily, but just stack them on a chair. A good friend stores her extra sheet sets in pillow shams since she doesn’t have a linen closet either. She said it is lovely to have them all together and easily accessible for impromptu guests.

    Food wise, I’ve been adding canned proteins and a #10 can of butter powder to the storage. A while back I started printing out or copying food storage recipes to put in a notebook and do need to keep on that project. In times of stress, I might not be able to remember recipes or someone else might be cooking. We do keep adding useful cookbooks to our collection. The latest one is similar to this one https://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Field-Guide-Cooking-Cookbook/dp/B000L3QB0Y/ref=mp_s_a_1_14?keywords=dutch+oven+cast+iron+cookbook&qid=1579962532&sr=8-14. I love that it is spiral bound. It’s for our son whose Eagle Scout cooking project involved a blackberry cobbler in our Dutch oven.

    I did get a compliment about how well our dogs listen to me, so the training is working. I keep at it with our daily snowshoeing adventures.


    1. Might I also suggest this rollaway under the bed storage basket? I bought it when I thought I would be too ill to pull out a box (my regular under the bed storage container) and have found it to be wonderful. Easy to use and able to store lots! I’ll be getting more. https://www.amazon.com/Whitmor-Rolling-White-Wire-Underbed/dp/B078LVVN9C/ref=pd_bap_m_rp_73?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B078LVVN9C&pd_rd_r=eea84cf8-efe0-46cf-91ab-517d2d6a1804&pd_rd_w=tREmn&pd_rd_wg=ijgZp&pf_rd_p=b5d6be3e-b2ac-42d5-88b7-3ebe5660f038&pf_rd_r=JD7YA00DN7P24Y8G2TKQ&psc=1&refRID=982YKW21D2C5ZP6ETX48

    2. Re; who builds without closets, they generally don’t build closets in Israel. People have to buy storage cabinets to use for everything you’d put in a closet! Challenging as apartments are small and families tend to be large. The house I’m getting has 2 small open “closets “ in the 2 bedrooms and that’s that for storage space. No garage or barn either at present. Storage will definitely take some creativity there!

    3. I like your idea about a side income. We have searched for oversized king size bed comforters and quilts due to excessive shrinking on our store bought ones. More people are searching for oversized king blankets then you’d think. Might be a good opportunity for you.

  7. It has been a rainy mucky week in the Flathead. Mostly indoors working on an updated inventory of beans, bullets, and band aides. Its dumb to sit around wondering where you put something.
    We try to catch the early news and weather report on television which comes out of the
    “People’s Republic of Missoula”. I was really surprised to see a very well done segment on EMP/CME. I’m sure that very few in the audience had ever heard of the effect of loosing the grid. Hopefully some will be curious enough to learn more. There are so many with their heads in the sand if they dropped their pants we would have plenty of bicycle parking.

    In an attempt to stay up on the poop storm that we call the economy we closely watched the
    latest postings from Lynette Zang, Michael Snyder,and the folks at Kitco.

    Granny is full steam ahead on her latest knitting project. I think it’s socks. She will go to
    Bible study tonight if the fog isn’t to heavy.

  8. When it comes to indoor growing, we’ve decided to enclose a walkway on the south side of our house. We already have a clear overhang that keeps the rain off so it won’t be too much trouble to enclose it. It is not heated but being on the south side, it tends to be much warmer than any other location that I could find on the property. We will see how it goes and how much we can practically place into the area. I got the idea for the location from another blog that you have linked to (Thoughtsoffrankandfern.blog). They build a greenhouse attached to a building using the ribbed clear plastic sheets.

    I received my order of seeds from both Baker Seeds and Territorial Seeds. I sorted them by month so that it would be easy to see what to start, when and indoors or out. My property is still quite a mess after years of neglect but I managed to get out between rain storms and at least do a little bit. I need to keep working to get it in shape for the spring. This last week I was able to prune my fruit and nut trees. I still have the grape vines to do but that should not take long.

    Ani, I appreciate the tip on Harmony House FD foods. We are a gluten free family. It is hard to find good FD food without gluten and a bunch of chemicals. As a solution, we have been freeze drying our own food but it does take time and is noisy as Animal House mentioned. I’ve been trying to source a manual #10 cann sealer but have had limited luck. I know I can buy one from Amazon but at a premium price. I called the local LDS cannery this week but they have discontinued canning their own food and sent their canner/sealers back to Salt Lake. If anyone knows of a source, please let me know. I do have access to #10 cans locally.

    1. Dear JBH,

      Yes, I have tried a hot frame one year in March and it did work well. I had forgot about it.

      The reasons why I didn’t continue with it the next year, were that our glass window that I put over the bed is 4 by 8 and was too heavy to access on a regular basis. Also, that bed was in the middle of the garden and interfered with planting the rest of the garden come spring time.

      I also have done a hotbed in the greenhouse another year which was successful.

      But, they were experiments without long term planning and organizing. Something that I am getting better at.

      I did forget about this method of growing through the winter, this year.

      There is so much to think about around here. 😉

      I think I didn’t think about doing a hotbed in the green house this year because you need to have manure in fresh concentrated forms, like when cleaning it out of the barn every day. Fresh manure is the best. Our animals were not in the barn, this fall, so their manure has been scattered all about the ranch and usually has had significant breakdown by the time I clean it up.

      However, right now, I could do this experiment, again, in one of the beds in the greenhouse, since I am getting a large manure pile developed as we speak. But of course it would be just for greens.



  9. Extra bedding materials are just so important. A good night’s sleep is critical to our overall health, mood, and well-being. We have extended family and guests visit us fairly often and we anticipate some of them may be living with us should things become dire. If so, there are enough featherbeds, pillows, quilts and blankets to keep everyone warm and comfy, even if some of the kids end up having to sleep on the floor. (When I was a kid, we slept on “pallets” of quilts laid on the floor and thought it was fun!) I gradually acquired these items over years and while shopping sales. After use, I launder all bedding (including pillows), and store them in jumbo vacuum space-saver bags with a few cotton balls that have been sprinkled with lavender essential oil. Alternatively I have used dryer sheets. Both options keep the linens smelling nice until the next use, but I find that dryer sheets smell so strongly that they tend to give me headaches, so I prefer the lavender cotton ball option. I have placed those linen filled vacuum-pack storage bags inside plastic totes in our garage for over a year at a time and never had any mildew or other damage to our linens (but then again, our climate is very dry).

    For cleaning dishes, my daily routine is to pop one sponge in the dishwasher (where the high heat helps kill bacteria) and use the other sponge. I rotate the sponges with each load of dishes and find they last a long time. I also splash them with vinegar at least once a week. In an extended grid down situation, I realize that I wont have this option available (and I haven’t tried boiling sponges to sterilize them), so I haven’t put many sponges into my preps.

    My favorite cleaning preps include a couple bags of those 50 count 14 inch x 14 inch square white painter’s terry towels from Home Depot. After bringing them home, I wash the rags with laundry detergent and bleach, then toss into the dryer. Voila! They become big and fluffy and look so nice! It’s surprising because they are kind of ugly looking when you first purchase them. They are a joy sitting all folded nicely in my kitchen drawer. I can easily go through 3-5 of these rags daily in the process of cooking meals and cleaning up. They continue to be laundered (with a bit of bleach) and used in my kitchen until they get stained, thin, and ugly. At that point they go to the rag basket where they sit folded and ready for cleaning mirrors, floors, and a myriad of messy projects before eventually being tossed out. They are SO inexpensive (you can pick up a bag of 50 towels on sale for less than $11 bucks), and last a long time. I like them far better than paper towels or regular kitchen towels. I find that many people don’t exchange their kitchen towels often and I prefer (for hygiene reasons) to have clean dry towels to use daily. Once these towels are relegated to the rag basket they continue to get a work-out. For instance, last spring we had a calf inside our home for an evening while we got her warmed up. She was a little, uh, “messy”. Cotton terry cloth rags were used to get everything sparkling clean and were then just tossed into the trash. I have used these successfully for cleaning chores in the chicken coop, too, before tossing them out. With these rags and some stored jugs of vinegar and Fabuloso, big boxes of baking soda, and a squirt bottle containing water and a few drops of essential oils of tea tree and lemon, I am pretty convinced I can single-handedly clean up a toxic waste site! 😉

    I also recently cleaned out and organized my kitchen. I find that as I move away from plastics and our diet becomes healthier and simpler, I don’t need or want all the gadgets. A cast iron dutch oven and my Vitamix are my go-to items. I never had fancy china and find that my simple white plates have functioned both simply and elegantly through many years of entertaining.

    I have been saving up glass apple juice and “jug-wine” jugs over the past fall/winter. My project for February is to purchase a decent glass cutter and cut the bottoms off all those glass jugs, thereby converting each one into a garden cloche. This method of covering each plant with a glass cloche is a bit intensive (but I don’t mind that), and has been used successfully in Europe for generations. Good Lord willing, I will be trying out my new cloches this spring to see if I can get a jump start on my garden. I am very excited about it and will report back on how it works!

    1. Hello GritsInMontana! Love the idea of the lavender essential oil stored with the linens — a neat idea, and the scent is delightful. This is something to consider for quality of life every day and as well in a time of difficulty or crisis when comforting scents may be especially important. The painters terry towels are terrific. We have also purchased washcloth bundles and “cheap” terry towels at Walmart that have been very useful (absorbent and durable) for a very long time — definitely not stylish, but very, very functional. Can’t wait to hear about the garden cloches. Wishing you every success!

  10. Lily, did the book by Jo Robinson that I ordered for you arrive yet?

    When we were ordering all our berry and fruit trees we paid close attention to the varietal recommendations from it.

    1. Dear Wheatley Fisher,

      Yes, I did receive the book two days ago. Thank You very much. I will be looking at it very soon. We were just away from the ranch overnight visiting Number 1 Son and his family, visiting a gun show, and doing a major stock up at Costco. It might be time, soon, to self-quarantine???? The book is in my hands right now and I will put it on my end of the table that I use for studying. I need to field these comments and put groceries away, this evening. I will get back to you, soon. Thank You so much!



    2. Dear Wheatley Fisher,

      I am reading the book. I just jumped to the the part on apples, first. Wow! What a fascinating read on the history of the apple.

      “Warmongering Alexander (the Great) the original Johnny Appleseed”! 🙂 The apple seeds and grafts were taken from Kazakhstan by Alexander, brought to Greece and studied by Aristotle!!! I love it.

      Interesting that one of the more nutritious apples of today are the Gala’s which are my favorite. The least favorites of mine also happen to be the least nutritious which I never buy because I don’t like their flavor!!!

      I’m jumping around and have read about raspberries. I grow Black Raspberries. They have definite cancer fighting properties. I read up on broccoli and Asparagus, other foods that I love to eat. What a fascinating book. I will recommend it in this week’s “Recommendations of the Week” Thank you so much for sending it to me.

      Now I have a question for you. do you grow any of the really old varieties of heirloom apples, the one from Rhode Island, Rhode Island Greening? Any others? I would be interested in growing a few really old ones, if we could get them?

      Again, thank you for this book, I will be dipping into it to read up on the other fruits and veggies as I can.

      Blessings to you and yours,


      1. I’m just grateful you are reading it. Of all the gardening books I’ve read in 40 years, this had the most impact for our family choices.

        Yes, I’m in a club 2 counties away in Bremerton,WA that I travel to for both the fall fruit show with over 400 varieties of fruits, berries, etc. to sample.

        Our Spring Grafting Show is where we usually have 400 to 500 varieties of fruits (mostly apples and pears), to graft onto root stock. Held the first Saturday in March.

        Nearly all the varieties there are NOT what are in big box stores or grocery stores now, although Gala, Fuji, and several others are among the scions we bring.

        Reputable source for grafted trees I like are:

        Big Horse Creek Nursery in North Carolina. They take orders to graft what you want. and when you order one variety you can ask them for a different variety to make sure the two heirlooms will blossom and pollinate each other at the same time.

        Burnt Ridge Nursery and Rain Tree Nursery(where we heard Robinson lecture) both in western Washington.

        Both nurseries have staff you can call and get specific recommendations for your specific growing area, once you have a list of what you’re interested in.

        Both have good catalogues and give you good starting information.

        Back to club sources, we have somemembers that go to a huge show in Oregon where thousands of varieties are available for scions.

        You want to get the specific root stock for your soils and growing condition. I think Antonovka would work well for you but 15 years from now the trees might be getting pretty tall.

        I would be willing to email further info direct.

        Best wishes and God Bless

      2. Sorry. I don’t grow RI Greenling among the 35 varieties at my place here. But it usually is among the scions we usually have for grafting in March and sampling in October at our club shows.

  11. In regards to scrubbing dirty pots I buy onions in mesh bags and use the mesh as a pot scrubber. On stubborn pots I soak n water and a bit of dawn and they have always came clean. When they get to gunky to clean I just toast and get the next one! John

  12. Oh man, is January almost over? I had sewn about 22+ blankets for family members for Christmas, but I had started in October. Everyone was thrilled with the doubled up fleece. I did a lot of cooking for a sick family and was glad that I could just reach into the pantry and freezers to get what I needed. I did my “year end inventory” and realized the one thing I never seem to have enough of is toilet paper. LOL. There was one gap in my food storage – dried beans. I have watched various videos about food shortages in relationship to the solar minima, so I jumped on walmart.com and purchased 40 lbs of various beans at a good price and had them delivered for “free”. No problem with price or quantities. I will purchase more. I have not gone to the trouble of oxygen absorbers and mylar bags, just a food grade bucket with a lid, and I toss in Bay leaves which apparently repels bugs. I’ve also heard that if you freeze the dried beans for 24 hours before storing them, that also can kill bugs, but I think it introduces moisture, which is not a good thing. Canning the various beans is on my To Do list. I also, surprisingly, found canning jars and lids on a good sale at Walmart.com, so I snagged a couple cases and a couple dozen boxes of lids. I have plenty of jars for the long haul now, so I appreciated the article on reusable lids. I bought lots of seeds and many are various beans for drying that I’m going to try and grow. I *might* try a little indoor gardening, but the plants I pulled in from the summer garden are doing very poorly, and there’s little flying gnats everywhere. The air is too dry, and there’s not enough light. I really hate bugs. I finally made a successful loaf of whole wheat sourdough, albeit 1/2 white wheat and 1/2 whole wheat. Regular sourdough is easy, it was incorporating the whole wheat flour that had me stumped because the bran is so heavy it weighs down the loaf. Tips appreciated. I’ve been quilting with the supplies I purchased over the summer. I’m not nearly the kind of expert quilter who can sell gorgeous quilts, but I do love to sew and try to improve. For now, everyone in my family gets nice handmade gifts. I will continue to stock up on fabrics and batting as things go on sale. Thrift stores… I bought a designer sweater jacket for $5-7 and it has 9% wool in it. It washed well. It’s so incredibly warm that I’ve turned the heat in the house down. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more. We got TONS of snow in December and early January, and now it’s rain-snowing… yuck. So far, no power outages, the plows keep going, and the propane trucks, as well as delivery trucks, are still truckin’ through the valley. Our greenhouse experiment is still in progress. Some plants transplanted well, some died, some went to flower/seed early without producing fruit. We plan to start seeding again in March. Right now we are just working out the kinks to winter growing. It turns out that GETTING TO the greenhouse has been a huge challenge with what seemed like iterations of 4 feet of snow the past couple of months. We are not discouraged, just learning a lot.
    May the Lord bless and keep you all.

  13. Lily, lots of fond memories of Sunday morning waffles when I was growing up. On mine I wrote the recipe in Sharpie right on the lid of the waffle iron so I never have to look for it and I can whip a batch up in five minutes. I also took your tupperware idea one step further and got rid of every single kind of storage container with a lid. They were taking up an entire drawer and it always took time to find the matching lid. Since I have all these mason jars anyway, why not use those? That was two years ago and I’ve never looked back. They also are more efficient in the fridge since they are more upright.

    An excellent TEOTWAWKI sponge is the wonderful luffa plant. I keep three luffa sponges at my kitchen sink, they’re nearly indestructible. The wet ones are great for washing dishes and when I get to a pan that needs scrubbing, I grab a dry one and use that quickly before it softens up. One luffa plant will produce enough luffas for the whole neighborhood. The secret to success is, you have to pinch the plants because the luffas are produced on side branches. If you don’t pinch, by the time the plant self pinches, the luffas won’t ripen in time to harvest in many areas.

    Spent the week finishing up all my beekeeping blueprints and getting them put into a notebook for quick reference in my wood shop. Drew everything in Excel using 1 square = ⅛” and each square 15 x 15 pixels. Walked the orchard this afternoon getting a rough idea of how many spreaders I need to make to have on hand while pruning this next week.

  14. What little snow we got is almost gone in NW Montana. All winter, temperatures by my rough guage are 10-15 degrees higher than historical averages. Current high daytime high is near 40F. Forecast for next week includes a high at 47F. We should be no warmer than 30 degrees and usually colder during this time of the year.
    I believe the Gulf Stream is at a historically weak point in the North Alantic near Labrador, and is not regulating the Jet Stream as it has for over last 1,000 years. This could mean that we might see unseasonably high temperatures, and unseasonably low temperatures. This is apart of the extremes being experienced in New Hampshire and Canada, and the rest of the planet. I could speculate that the Gulf Stream was weaken by lower solar radiation, but I do not know that. There is a reason that the Gulf Stream is almost non existent in North Atlantic, and appears it to be indicative of a long term cycle, as the cooling in that part of the Atlantic is well documented over the last 10 years or so. It is now considered by even Global Warming advocates to be at this lowest temperature in over a 1,000 years, and glaringly evident on their maps.

    1. Sending more snow your way Brother. Today’s forecast is for 14 consecutive days of rain and snow mix. Enjoy.

      I siphoned out, then excavated out, our little reservoir last October, tripling its capacity. It’s been filled and overflowing for two weeks already, and frozen over, then thawed.

      I’m pretty sure our Emporer/ Governor will declare another drought emergency from his Olympia throne in another four weeks, despite the rivers flooding across the state. To highlight his claim of global warming requiring two billion dollars of new taxes and remind all of us about his failed laughable presidential bid.

  15. A comment on hot beds. We tried them once. The plants were doing wonderful! Then it got real cold. Still no problem until our outside dogs decided that the old sleeping bags that we covered them with at night made great sleeping bags. Then they decided that sleeping on top was even better . We had used the rippled plastic in a frame for the top. They laid on it and broke it. So, make sure it’s in a protected area. I may have mentioned it before but we had a small home and 5 children. My husband raised up our bed a bit and I stored lots of banana boxes with my canned jars underneath. I made a map of where each box was and what kind food was in it. It worked quite well. You might want to place a loose cloth over each box as they do get a bit dusty. The empty jars were stored in an outside shed. Where there’s a will there’s usually a way

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