Editors’ Prepping Progress

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 review their week’s prep activities. They also often 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 always welcome you to share your own successes and wisdom in the Comments. Let’s keep busy and be ready!


Dear SurvivalBlog Readers:

This week I was busy in our woodlot.  We had heavy snowfall this winter. This resulted in a large number of downed trees. These were most small Tamaracks, and few of other species–mostly firs. (we have a half dozen types of fir on the ranch.) In another week or two I should have all the rounds hauled to our woodshed. Some of the small diameter logs were cut 4.5′ long. That pile still needs to be crosscut to nominal 19″ lengths that will fit our wood stove’s firebox. I like to split everything over 6″ in diameter in advance of stacking it inside the wood shed. Anything under 6″ in diameter gets burned as full rounds.

I also rented some tractor time from my neighbor this week. I had few stumps and one large project saved up that required a back hoe. His larger machine with back hoe handled all of it, quite quickly. As my paternal grandfather was fond of saying: “There is nothing like power tools!”

Avalanche Lily Reports:

This week, for me, was all about weeding the gardens.  The children and I spent a good twenty hours weeding the main garden and another five hours in the Annex garden. While weeding the main garden, we found that the beets had a very poor germination rate, and I’ll be replanting those and also a carrot bed from which I took seeds from carrot flowers and tried to see if they were viable.  They weren’t.  I’ll have to pay better attention to when I harvest the carrot seed flowers from a two year old patch of carrots, this growing season.

This coming week, I expect it will take another twenty hours to finish weeding the whole Annex garden.  The Annex garden is full of bull thistle, which I pull by hand wearing heavy duty gloves.  We refuse to use chemicals.  I’m hoping that with dedication and perseverance in weed pulling this year, and next, that we should eradicate most of them.

In the Annex garden, I discovered that we lost about 40% of red potatoes that I planted in the first four rows (this area had not received as much manure when we had spread it last fall.  So, after weeding the mounds, we replanted the areas where we didn’t have germination.  Oh, also, I suspect we lost them because some of them, I had sliced before planting and had left only one eye on them.  Probably it wasn’t enough.  We’re always experimenting to see how we can multiply, etc.  Obviously, the whole potato is best unless it’s huge with many eyes.

I also weeded the cucumber and pepper bed in the greenhouse.

I also weed-whacked the main garden’s paths and a path through the orchard, and the paths around the Annex garden.  A few years back when we established the orchard, we planted grasses and three types of clover as ground cover, and as a potential grazing area, (we’ve now nixed that idea, for the most part, unless, the Equine and Bovine Delinquents grazing, are under strict human supervision while in there.  We’ve caught them nibbling the fruit tree’s leave and that behavior will just not do! Naughty!!!).  As, I am noticing fewer honey bees around, I decided to not mow the clover since it is going into flower and I wish to help the bees as much as possible. Currently, we have clover nearing two feet in height all around the orchard.  Later, when most of the flowering has finished, I’ll weed-whack the whole orchard once again.

I harvested our first strawberries today and our first Yellow Zuchinni!  Earlier this week I harvested our first-meal’s- worth of French green beans which were started in the greenhouse bedroom and then moved to the greenhouse.  Yay!  Yum! We are looking forward to the abundance that is yet to come.

This week, I took five beef soup bones, put them in a very large pot of water with a half of a cup of apple cider vinegar, garlic, green onions, carrots, celery, Himalayan salt, and simmered it for three days for beef broth.  At the end of three days, I strained the broth and jarred up six quarts and froze it.  With the rest of the broth, meat and carrots, I added sweet potatoes, zuchinni, white beans, diced tomatoes, cumin, oregano, basil and made a hearty soup.  It was also yummy!

Blessings, – Jim Rawles and Avalanche Lily, Rawles



The Latimer’s have their hands full with weed management after rains. This is important, too, as we will begin the first stage of our fencing project now that the land along one side had been cleared and smoothed. I’m always happy to get another tool and the thought of digging that many fence post holes was daunting. I initially considered pounding the posts into the ground, but eventually decided against it. Several neighbors have taken this approach and the fence just doesn’t look well after a couple of years as the posts begin to lean. Instead, we purchased an auger attachment for our tractor. While the purchase price was a bit painful, the fact that a hole can be dug in about 30 seconds sure is nice.

The garden is beginning to produce well and there are some harvests of radishes, beans, herbs, and potatoes coming in.

o o o

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


  1. Unfortunately weeds thrive in the same conditions that our veggies do. I’m trying heirloom Bloody Red Dent corn I purchased from Baker. It’s doing great. Hope to store the results in 55 gallon drums for possible future use. Big gardens = big work= lots of high quality food and the confidence that we can produce food. It’s well worth the effort. God Bless! Isiah 1:18.

  2. WEEDS! Just like everybody else. had lots of rain lately so they are really growing. Lots of grass mowing as well. I used to raise about 3/4 acre of Bloody Butcher corn. It finally got so polluted with surrounding GMO corn genetics I have given up on it. I used to pick it by hand then dump all the ears in my neighbors combine to shell it. Took days to pick it and only seconds to shell it! I took it to the local feed mill to have it ground into chicken feed. Pretty interesting feed, red instead of yellow…chickens didn’t seem to mind. Also used to raise and old Anasazi Indian corn too, multicolored flint corn. turned it into chicken feed too.

    Self teaching myself some gunsmithing skills lately. I have a Colt New Service in 44-40 (1904 mfg) that needs the hand stretched to index properly. I think I about got her whipped now. Good prepper skill to develop.

  3. Excitement this week was dispatching another poisonous snake. The dogs alerted on a 3 ft copperhead coiled inside an animal crate stored near the house. After moving crate away from the generator used a 9mm shotshell to mortally wound it, then chopped its head off for good measure. Last year one of my sons was bitten by a copperhead and received 6 vials of anti-venom and a $48,000 hospital bill. So we take no chances with snakes; we go into kill mode immediately. Maybe we should rename the farm Copperhead Alley.

    Got the usual chores done early before the rains came in the afternoon. Received a good amount of rain this week so the veges and fruits are jumping out of the ground. Spent one dry morning weeding the garden. Harvested some corn, tomatoes and peppers but we ate most of them this week. Made jalapeno hot sauce and got it bottled up and then dried several batches of kitchen herbs. The elderberry bushes are loaded this year so in another few weeks I’ll be making tinctures, syrups and tea blends. Have a great week.

  4. I’m having codling moth issues with my apple trees, so I have spent some time learning how to rid myself of them. This years apples are going to be few, But i’m hoping next years crop will make up for it.

  5. Weeding takes up so much time that it almost makes gardening not worth it. Over the the last several years we’ve been implementing a better technique. Heavy duty reusable woven poly fabric goes on the paths. Lightweight poly film goes on the rows. This method reduces weeding chores by over 90%. Add in low pressure drip tape under the film for automated watering, and garden labor is substantially reduced. Pests and disease are noticeably reduced as well. No harmful chemical pesticides/herbicides are needed or used in our organic garden. This method cannot be used on certain crops- see asparagus. We use this both in the field and greenhouses. This does add cost, however the increase in yield and quality coupled with the labor savings has made our gardening experience much more productive and enjoyable.
    I was unable to post pictures here.

  6. This is a little off-thread, but I sympathize with Animal House regarding the hospital bill for a copperhead bite. I’ve worked in hospitals for over 35 years, and have been amazed at the often casual use of the Cro-Fab antivenin (for pit vipers – not effective for coral snakes) in the case of copperhead bites. This product, which is highly purified antibody binding fraction from sheep origin, is MUCH better tolerated than the old equine antivenin, which often caused severe adverse reactions – so, there is little downside to over-using it. It is actually approved by the FDA for use in rattlesnake and moccasin bites, but works just as well for their little brother, the ubiquitous copperhead. In my experience, it’s usually billed by hospitals at around $5,000 per vial, and a big Eastern Diamondback envenomation can require up to 18 vials!!! Of course, copperheads are smaller, with less venom, and are almost uniformly non-fatal (except in small children), so the required vial count (if any) is usually considerably less.

    If the E.R. doc is familiar with snake bites and keeps a close eye on the patient, an initial 2-4 vials is often all that is needed to stop the progression of swelling in copperhead bites, which are usually on fingers, hands, toes, and feet. In an adult, antivenin should probably be held until the swelling passes 2 joints from the bite. Another important factor in deciding the need for antivenin is how your coagulation system is looking. Since pit viper venom is a hemotoxin, it will destroy red blood cells and damage your blood’s ability to clot, so severity will show up in “coag studies”. Having said that, I’ve never seen a copperhead bite cause significant problems here. Of course, when it’s your kid, all you can do is encourage the doc to take care of him! Sounds like your kid may have gotten an appropriate amount, notwithstanding the criminally high bill.

    Where it goes crazy is when small copperhead bites in adults are treated like large rattlesnake bites, and 12 vials are used, without close analysis of the risk:benefit (in this case, the risk is MONEY!). Even if your insurance pays 80%, this scenario can ruin your year!

    So…my point is this: if you, as an adult, are bitten by a copperhead, talk it over with the ER doc – tell him that you are concerned with the expense of antivenin, and would like for him/her to be conservative in its use, in light of the lower overall risk of copperhead bites. Also, keep in mind that “dry bites” occur as well, in which little, or no, venom is injected. In this case, patient observation by the ER staff over 1-2 hours will reveal that no antivenin is needed at all.
    Cheers from TX

    1. SH in TX. Thanks for the information on the anti-venom; if there is a next time I’ll follow your advice. The copperhead that bit my son was a juvenile but the swelling went from the finger up to his shoulder. The ER doc waited until the swelling was up to the elbow before starting the anti-venom. There were no people in the hospital that had ever treated a poisonous snake bite, so they were following the written standard procedure. Also there was a continuous stream of folks coming to see what it looked like as they were curious. He was in the hospital from 9 pm to 1:00pm the next day, less than 24 hours.

    2. Great comment with good information, thank you for sharing it! Here in rural north central TN copperheads seem like they’re everywhere (I’ve killed 2 in my barn just this year). I kinda take it as an inevitability that I’ll probably get bit by one one day, but it’s a fairly common injury in this area, and ER docs are quite familiar with treating them.

  7. Lots of weeding in the garden and adding supports for my sugar peas. Normally they are supported by my corn but this year the peas went in early and the corn was late so the corn is to small to support the 2+ foot snap peas. I was also pleased to discover both of my walk away hive splits successfully raised new queens on their own and are now laying eggs and producing new workers. In the past I bought the queens but I wanted to keep the genetics I have established for my area and this saved me $35-50 per queen from having to buy and ship overnight. Next year I plan on splitting more hives into nucs to sell and produce a little more money then just selling honey, in my area honey sells for $6/ lb and new nucs can go for $150-200. I might also raise queens to sell through the local bee clubs. My hives are heavy in the Saskatraz genetics which I have found to be more cold hardy and resistent to verroa mites compared to Italians and Carniolans.

    1. Would love to hear how you split your hives! I started up a new hive this spring with Russian Bred bee’s from Kelley’s bee’s in KY (my carni’s from last year got robbed out). They are quite different, but nonetheless interesting critters.

  8. finally got some rain, not enough but it helps. worked on new brooder. dug some red potatoes. they are doing a lot better than the white potatoes. split some firewood. finally some fresh cherry tomatoes. sweet potatoes appear to be rooting well

  9. Same here, rain. Our seasonal Creek usually dries up by the 4th of July. This year it may last till the 15th. Have 2 1100 gallon tanks filled for the stock to help span the dry time. No well yet.
    Hugh haven’t experienced it, but have been told that the tractor mounted post hole auger might drill a crooked hole if not carefull. Stationary tractor, 3pt up and down ,swivel on the auger. To much geometry for me. Not sure if it’s true, but just an FYI .

  10. Harvested and pickled several gallons of Habaneros this week. We’ve been steadily picking and freezing blueberries. Looks like our bunch grapes will finally produce, we’ve gotten really good growth but very little fruit since we planted them. Our pear trees are loaded down this year we should get a bushel or two from them if the deer and bears don’t get them first. Potatoes did good, not as good as last year but decent.the green beans started out great but faded quickly in the heat and our cucumbers were a total bust after losing the first planting to frost we replanted but if we get two dozen we’ll be lucky.
    Our latest hatching of RIRs is about ready to cull we’ll have about a dozen roosters to butcher as well as the hens we don’t add to the laying flock. We will have to spare one rooster as our long time rooster Dale decided to bite (or spur) the had the fed him… it was a fatal mistake.

  11. No herbicides for me, so weeding is always very painful, especially after a week away then a months worth of rain the next 1.5 weeks. I am trying something new this year: agricultural vinegar (Amazon has it). I did my first test spray on my huge thistles and had burn-down start within 20 minutes. A few weeks later, they are not dead but wherever the leaves were sprayed, the leaves were dead. So I will get out there again and spray more generously.

    I also had bad germination this year, did some soil testing and discovered that not only are NPK almost totally absent, but the ph was extremely alkaline – the vinegar should help acidify things.

  12. Persevere Lily. Currently working on year 3 of hand pulling yellow star thistle from our orchard and there is less and less to pull each year. Other thistle types are just too widespread in our pastures and that will be a longer term battle.
    Released 4 guinea fowl today that we raised from chicks. If they all survive that will make 7 total on the property. My mother grew up on a tea plantation in the jungles of Argentina and says, from first hand experience, that the guinea fowl’s reputation for killing snakes is well deserved. I’ve never seen our guineas attack a snake, but then again, I have never seen a snake on our property.

  13. Mr, Rawles, I’d love to see some specs/pics/layout of your preferred woodshed designs! Your lessons learned would be a great topic for new homesteaders!

  14. Mr. Rawles, I’d love to see some specs/pics/layout of your preferred woodshed designs. Your ‘lessons learned’ would be a great topic for new homesteaders!

  15. In this high and arid Montana climate, I have found that a thick layer of straw in my veggie garden has been invaluable. Without it, I had to water and pull weeds daily if I wanted to see any produce at all. Painful! Now that I use the straw? I spend only an hour or two on the weekends doing my weeding chores. Plus, I only have to water every 3rd day or so. (I can’t use drip irrigation because the mineral content of our well water clogs up the soaker hoses rather quickly.) My new motto is “have a garden AND have a life!” The straw is helping to make my new motto a reality!

    1. @GritsInMontana
      We had the same problem as you with drip irrigation. The mineral content of the water would rapidly clog any sort of soaker hose, miniature sprayer head or drip line that we purchased at one of the big box stores or a local hardware store. One of my farmer friends turned me on to netafim products though and they work like a charm. The drippers never clog and it’s easy to work with.
      The drip-line itself only last one year though. I’ve tried to reuse it from year to year, but the second year always ends up with lots of leaks. But that’s OK, because the drip line tape is dirt cheap and comes in rolls of 1000 feet. All of the connectors and supply lines do get used year after year. The supply lines are 3/4″ or 1″ poly and the connectors simply puncture the poly line to attach. The drip tape uses twist lock connectors that are easy to attach. I’ve been using it for 5 years now and am very pleased with it’s performance.

  16. I so enjoy this section! I too have had trouble with drip irrigation so I will look into the new idea…thanks! Our garden has had a bit of a rough start since we have had to travel several times at the beginning of the season and we have had record high temps and dry weather this year. I will continue to succession plant – things can always be redeemed and we are beginning to enjoy some produce already. I too mulch with straw and find it helps with weed control and I like the collineal hoe for those areas I don’t mulch (mine came from Johnny’s). There is always something to be thankful for……no snakes…haha!

  17. Just successfully accomplished the drive home to the American Redoubt! It’s good to be home…three more years and I’ll be here permanently. Before I left, I found that the current bushes I’d given up for dead revived with our East coast wet spring. I transplanted 3 of the 4 to a sunnier place. They should survive; however I have left one as a backup. These current bushes had been planted close to 40 years ago. Saplings have grown and leafed out blocking the sun. Something to think about when planting.

    Am busy setting up pots and seeing what I can grow in the containers at this late date. Hoping that the local nursery will have at least a few lettuce plants to get me started. I did buy some herbs and a couple reduced price kale already. Next spring I’ll have things all ready for my non-gardening husband to start.

    We have a new place and my summer goal is to locate, sort, and organize all our supplies. I am also going to ruthlessly rid ourselves of non-needed items.

    I left our camp covered with mouse poison, and I hope to have fewer rodent problems. The neighbor’s son will start the vehicles weekly blasting the heat.

  18. Mr. Latimer, we also made the decision to invest in a post hole digger attachment for our tractor. Unfortunately it does not yield the results we were promised. The proposed solution is a hydraulic down pressure kit. Either that or follow a local farmer’s advice to “wire 1 or 2 concrete blocks to the top to add some weight.” (One block has made no improvement.) I am curious to find out how your PHD worked for you.

    1. @kate114,
      I’ve been very pleased with the performance of the PHD. The tractor is only 24HP, but it has more than enough power for what I’m digging with both the 6″ and the 9″ augers. I’m told that the tooth design of the auger plays an important role in how well it digs in difficult earth. Dry colichi around here is the absolute death of most tools. About 10 years ago, I rented a small Kubota backhoe to dig a trench. When the blade hit the earth, it simply lifted the rear of the tractor up. I had to trade the rental in for a full size Case backhoe to get anywhere. To dig narrow trenches, the ditchwitch is the common tool here.

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