Guest post by – Jerry Greenfield
There are no guarantees in this world we live in today. We can’t rest assured that the grocery store will always be there or that its shelves will always be stocked full of food. We can’t count on our local home supply store having rows and rows of different seed packets to choose from if we were to ever need to grow our own food. We need to face the reality that things may “go south”, and if they do, we’ll only be able to count on ourselves, and the skills and knowledge we have acquired, in order to survive.
In this, my first guest blog for TheSurvivalistBlog.net, I’d like to share with you a few tips on how to store your own seeds. These are tricks I’ve picked up from my mother and grandmother, other survivalist and organic gardeners I know or have known in my lifetime, or just simply by me learning the hard way and adapting my methods.
Well, to start with, I just need to say it, don’t use genetically modified seeds in your garden; use heirloom seeds. Humans have survived and flourished for thousands of years planting heirloom seeds, and why we decided to start messing with seeds 40 or 50 years ago is beyond me. If we are ever thrown into a world where we need to grow our own food to survive, trust me, you want plants that are grown naturally and contain the most nutrients. Hybrid seeds, and the plants they produce, have been shown to contain much less nutrition than organically grown plants, and often, they require much more maintenance to grow successfully.
In addition, hybrid seeds can’t be saved. The majority of them turn out to be duds, and when new plant life should be growing in your garden, you’ll be faced with a less than 20% growth rate. Yeah, you may survive that first year, but when year 2 comes along, you’ll be starving.
Now, after your harvest, be sure to save as many seeds as you can—it’s much better to have too many than not enough. Bring your seeds inside and lay them on paper bags in a cool, dry place to draw-out the moisture in the seeds. Okay, done. But here’s where people get stuck: What do you DO with all those seeds? How and where should you store them? How long will they keep?
How should you store them? The best way I’ve come up with is to store them in mason jars. I also have some old baby food jars I use, but those are difficult to find anymore. Either way, a water-tight jar with a secure lid will do the trick. You may even want to purchase some silica packets to throw in with the seeds to draw-out any extra moisture.
My best suggestion as the where to store them is a cool, dry place. Some people will store seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, some people have dry basements or cellars to store them in, and some people have sheds/garages they can store their seeds in. Regardless of where, cool and dry is key. If you choose to store them in your refrigerator or freezer, definitely use the silica packets.
And how long can you keep the seeds? How long will they be viable? It really just depends on the type of seed. What I do is date my seeds so that I know how long they’ve been in the jar. Then, each Spring I plant a handful of each kind from the oldest jars to see if they grow. What I’ve found is that most seeds will last 4-5 years but not much longer.
If you are not already saving seeds, I suggest you start. It does not take much time or energy, and these little seeds could save your life in the future, so it’s completely worth it. I would recommend researching your area to find out what kinds of plants grow best where you live and if the seeds of these plants require any special treatment. Knowledge is the best tool you can have when it comes to survival. Thanks for reading!
Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Juleigh
Mirrored flush-mounted bathroom medicine cabinets are easily one of the most non-upcycled objects out there. They are short and shallow. They don’t stand by themselves. And, frankly, they aren’t very nice to look at once they are out of their recessed wall enclosure.
But, the thing is, just about every house has one…sometimes two or more. You can pick them up for a song at garage sales, rebuilding centers or CraigsList. Sometimes they are free at all these places, because very few people actually want old medicine cabinets. New ones are cheap. Also, old ones are frequently….um….not as fastidiously clean as one would prefer.
All to the good, my friends.
You see, old medicine cabinets may seem useless if you look at them as cabinets, but if you look at them as hinged lid boxes….well….the possibilities to use them for are vastly improved.
One of the things they are great for, once you see them as a box, is as a seed starter box.
First, you must take all the shelves out. If you are lucky, they are clear glass shelves that you can tape together to make a nice glass sheet out of. Most medicine cabinets seem to have these sorts of shelves. If yours doesn’t, don’t despair, use a piece of window glass or clear plastic or even cling wrap instead of the taped glass sheet. Put the glass away for now.
Second, you have to re hang the door of the cabinet. The mirror needs to face into the opening. I’ll get to why this is so later in this article. Pull the pins out of the hinge, separate the two pieces. Take the mirror out of its housing, then mount a door hinge to the mirror housing, put the mirror back in, and mount the other side of the door hinge to the metal frame of the cabinet. It doesn’t have to shut like a lid or a door, it just has to move back and forth.
Third, take the wood and cut the middle out of it. Basically you are making a frame. Now, tape or glue the glass(or plastic) to this.
Line the interior of the cabinet with the aluminum foil. Top with the glass/wood frame.
Now, angle the mirrored door above the open part of the cabinet so that the most light possible enters the box. This is how the box will get warm enough to germinate seeds.
You can move this anywhere you want, because it is light and portable, making it a very handy sun catcher.
Put starter pots of seeds in it, water them. Set the glass frame in place. Then angle the mirror to catch the most light and there you have it. A seed starter you can use in any climate. We just used ours to germinate kale and cabbage seeds in early November.
And added bonus to this is that you can also use it to cook some foods. It’s a little small to be a powerful solar oven, and it is much slower, but it got a lentil dish cooked in time for dinner when we tried it out. (We used a sweet and sour lentil recipe adapted from Jay Solomon’s Lean Bean Cookbook)
- 1 Medicine cabinet
- 2 Old hinges (old door hinges work well)
- As many screws as needed for the hinges
- 1 Piece of wood the same size as the cabinet
- Packing tape (or a piece of glass/clear plastic smaller than the piece of wood above, or cling wrap)
- Aluminum foil
- Saw, hammer, screwdriver etc
- Seeds, seed starter pots, water
Prizes For This Round (Ends December 21 2015) In Our Non Fiction Writing Contest Include…
- First place winner will receive – A gift certificate for $150 off of any bulk ammo at Lucky Gunner, three bottles of Fish Cillin – Ampicillin 250mg (100 Count) courtesy of Camping Survival, and a WonderMill Electric Grain Mill courtesy of Chef Brad Revolution.
- Second Place Winner will receive – 30 Day Food Storage All-in-One Pail courtesy of Augason Farms.com.
- Third place winner will receive – A copy of my book “31 Days to Survival” and a copy of “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat“.
Please read the rules that are listed below BEFORE emailing me your entry… my email address can be found here – please include “writing contest entry” in the subject line.
Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – Brian F
Well I hope that I caught your attention! Yes I have discovered by watching and visiting friends and relatives that we all have great gardening tools that are not realized or used.
Before I list them, I have some questions, how much fertilizers of any kind do you buy in a seasons time. The main question really is how much do you spend on the fertilizers? How much mulch do you buy in a seasons time and how much do you pay for it? How much have you spent on expensive gas powered equipment, plus the cost of fuel and maintenance and upkeep on this equipment? How much do you order of anything online?
Thought provoking? Good, because I usually have a great garden every year, I don’t spend over 10 dollars U.S.! Because I think about what I’m going to do. Since getting married two years ago, I find that I explain a lot of what I do to Amanda. She is the big city girl from Illinois, and all of my lifestyle is new, interesting, different to her. Some of my more mundane daily actions were mind boggling to her.
The first was my compost bin on the counter, I put all my coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, ect in the bin. Each day I would dump it next to a plant in the garden. Almost every know knows of the benefits of composting, esp if you practice any chemical free gardening. Since we were married in March I had to wait a few months till the produce was ready to pick and eat. Fresh tomatoes and garlic won her over. Each year now she makes the family Marinara sauce, from scratch with ultra fresh produce from the garden.
She enjoys it so much that she has started seeds both years now. So while waiting for the produce to mature I explained composting, and all the benefits from it. One is that I reduce somewhat the amount of refuse that goes to the land fill. By using it in the garden it adds organic material, which draws the best tiller cultivator there is, the earthworm. I should say here I religiously practice raised bed no till gardening.
So if we count the waste/compost container as one tool, then we can move on to number two. The bagging mower, who ever invented the bagger for mowers does not get enough recognition, I really don’t like mowing, I certainly don’t want the grass fertilized in any fashion. It just makes the grass grow more. A lot of folks bag the clippings in plastic bags and set out on trash day! Really! What a waste to me. I use all my clippings as mulch, I spread the clippings no more than two inches thick per application.
I have found that it reduces weeds, gives earthworms a safe place when the soil gets waterlogged. As the clippings decompose they release nutrients right where the plants need then. Also the clippings will cover the daily compose dumps if you want to not see them. Why send them to the dump?
Also in the fall that bagging mower can be used to vacuum and shred fallen leaves, which can go to the garden or into a actual compose bin for the winter. Now what if you have more clippings than garden, you can use them to make hot water. Place a container inside the bin and pile the clippings in. In a few hours it will be cooking good! I have read that depending on the type of grass, one acre of clippings in a season will yield give five to fifty pounds of soluble nitrogen. WOW!
Garden tool number three, the vacuum cleaner, yes the Dyson, Hoover, dust buster, the house gets dirt and dust inside, we vacuum and then empty the vacuum in the trash can……no! Carry it out to the garden and return that to the soil, the plants and worms will love it. Seriously I visually examined the contents of our dirt devil when I emptied it the first time, oh its bag less, so there are no bags to deal with. What I found was cat and dog fur, people hair, dust, dirt, and all sorts of stuff. All which would be good for the plants. Great fertilizer that had been tossed out to go to the land fill.
Garden tool number four, the document shredder, really I think most folks know about this, again instead of bagging to go to the land fill, shred it and use it for mulch, put in the compost bin, use it for packing items with. You can never have to much mulch.
Even if you can’t put it on the garden mix it in the compost bin with the clippings and chopped leaves, maybe vacuum cleaner contents also. It will become good compost, or use it for worm bedding and start your own worm casting endeavor! Castings are super for the plants. A plus of shredding documents is that any thing you don’t want out in the world, oh like bank statements, are safely destroyed.
Remember at the beginning I asked about online shopping? I have bought a lot of bulk stuff like my favorite cereal from Amazon, generally it comes in large cardboard boxes. I learned as a kid worms love cardboard. So here is how I put it all together,
In the fall I start with new beds, I lay down sales papers first on about a 4 X 10 foot square. Then I cover with cardboard. Next is a layer of shredded paper followed by grass clippings. I will alternate shredded paper and grass clippings till I get about eight inches. With the grass on top. I’ll let it sit over winter adding daily kitchen waste and ash dustings from the wood furnace till spring planting comes. I scoop the mulch back make a small hole and drop in plants, push mulch back around and they literally seem to take off. At my last house I had twelve beds that I planted in, and I practiced Elliott Coleman’s year round harvesting. During spring, summer, and fall, I tend to my older beds. Occasionally I’ll borrow a tiller and throughly turn one.
What I have done is to drastically reduce what I send to the land fills. I turn it into garden soil that is basically chemical free. I can tell by the worm population if things are going bad or improving. Right now our weekly trash total is one plastic grocery bag. That is mostly glass, the metal gets dropped off at the recycle scrap yard in town. That one bag I usually drop in the trash can at the gas station during my weekly fill up. So I don’t pay 35 dollars a month trash pickup any more.
The mower, vacuum, shredder have more than paid for them selves. I don’t have to buy and maintain all that needless machinery. I have great tasting produce. I guess with the seed saving, worm bins, and all my garden expense is a negative each year. I can think that since I’m no longer a product of mass consumerism, indirectly quite a bit of diesel fuel is not being burnt in semi trucks to bring me fresh produce year round. Or in trash trucks going to land fills.
So this it, use what you have. I know everyone has a different “treasure” pile or stash and with a bit of out of the box thinking we can stretch our resources so much further. There are so many ways to cut expenses and reuse everyday stuff it is totally mind boggling. When I was in Ga. I had cut my expenses down to just under 150 dollars a month. Conversely my income went up almost a thousand dollars a month. Keep thinking out of the box, better yet compost that box!
Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First place winner will receive – Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
- Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping Survival.com, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms.com
- Third place winner will receive – $50 cash.
I first want to say I stumbled onto your site today when looking for info on raised beds. You answered in very good detail a question my wife had about pressure treated wood as the boarders. Thank you for that in advance.
Second your web is a treasure trove of info, which has got me reading and finding answers I have been try to have answered the last few months. Thank you again. The main question. House carpet as a weed barrier under a raised garden bed, With at least 2 feet of dirt on top. Is it safe any concerns I should worry about.
Thank you in advance Matt
M.D. Replies: I’ve never been asked this question before, and to be honest, without doing some research, I’m not sure about any contaminates if any reaching the plants or affecting the soil in a negative way. I don’t think it would last very long maybe a year or two before rotting. I would go with something like this it’s cheap, safe and light weight and will last for years.
Having 2 friends helping insured no buckling or ripples in the plastic – nice and tight. He used firring strips on the face of all four sides. The plastic was then stretched tight on the other side and stapled. Cut and trim. On to the next panel. The firring strip / plastic side went to the outside of the porch. This allows deck screws to be used on the inside of the frame inside of the porch when screwing into the 4 x 4 posts – he did not screw them right up to the head but left a little out.
If memory serves 3 per side (about 2 feet spaced) and 1 at the top and bottom centered. The 5′ by 8′ door opening took a bit more measuring and framing and a 2″ x 4 ” plastic covered door was made. These went up about October 1st and remained until May 1st. He got 5 years out of these panels. In the spring they went under the down stairs porch. This was a duplex on a resort island so neatness was more than important. The amount of solar heat was amazing.
Two windows were on the porch – one to the living room and one to the dining/ kitchen area. Except at night these remained open most of the time all winter long. A basic window box fan sucked in the heat. Parties could now accommodate 15 more people and the kegs stayed on the porch so as not to drip on the carpet inside. When he moved out so did the panels and they were fitted to the next porch.
If a porch does not exist building a basic frame and putting on a roof is not that hard especially if only 8 feet deep by 15 or so feet long. Tons of web sites out there for building a frame. The added space and FREE HEAT will return some if not all the money spent building it in no time at all.
For us SCROUNGERS getting 2″ X 4 ” s and nails or screws lessens the cost to build. For those out in the more rural areas getting a permit to build a solar porch may not be needed. For those in suburbia – I would check first.
Building on the south side of a garage should not require a permit. This makes that unheated garage (with a window) much more comfortable to work in during the cold months. What? No window in your garage? We made 4 panels for a friend that covered the door area. Now his garage was a more southern exposure. With the garage door up and the panels in place it took no time at all to warm up in there.
M.D. Adds : If you’re interested in growing food secretly (you should be) then I suggest that you order a copy of Secret Greenhouse of Survival: How to Build the Ultimate Homestead Prepper Greenhouse. It’s a great book that thoroughly covers the subject.
Today’s non-fiction writing contest entry written by Matilda
It also provides an opportunity for appreciation of God’s provision.
Most vegetables are beyond comparison for taste if you grow them yourself. However, some take up garden space for a very long time or, if the season is too short for heat loving plants, you may end up being disappointed with the crop.
Everyone can grow something, even if it is only sprouts on the kitchen bench.
Everything you grow yourself makes you more self reliant and can reduce your potential chemical exposure.
Those folk fortunate enough to have a green house (especially one with some form of warmth) can extend their growing season considerably in some cases.
I don’t have a green house so this is the criteria I use to determine what to plant in my garden.
Ponder these considerations within your own context and growing zone. I have included a few of my own examples.
- Does it grow well in my zone?
Only fast crops of tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, melons etc ripen or mature for me. Even then, the cool humidity puts them at greater risk of disease. I only put in a few plants for immediate blissful eating, not to store. I just don’t have the space to potentially waste. Of course, every now and then, you might get a bumper crop as a result of an extended period of lovely weather. In that case, thank God for the crop and preserve what you can.
For the most part, though, there seems little point trying and trying to grow something that just doesn’t thrive in your garden.
- What frozen, dried or tinned foods are cheaper to buy than grow?
For me, dried beans, grains and legumes are way cheaper to buy as well as frozen cauliflower, peas, corn, brussels sprouts. Tinned tomatoes, pineapple, beans, legumes and asparagus are better value for my time and space too. I have a couple of olive trees but they are unlikely to provide all our needs. Bottled olives are on my shopping list.
- It grows well here but how long does it take to grow?
Cauliflowers, large cabbages, storage onions all grow well in my district.
But I don’t give them priority because they take up space for a long time.
So do other plants, but they are better value, which brings me to the next point:
- Can the whole plant be eaten or used?
Of course you can compost any of your spent vegetable plants. However, I give priority growing space to those with the most edible parts – even the ones that take up space for a long time such as:Garlic:
My favourite cool climate vegetable is garlic. I plant it very close together in rows, thinning it out as it grows. First I use the shoots, then the slightly swollen bulbs as green garlic when it just starts to bulb up.
By the time the bulbs really start to swell as the weather warms, the remaining garlic is spaced well to encourage large bulbs. By that time we’ve been eating fresh garlic for months already!
Any garlic not eaten, dried or planted by the time it’s ready to sprout again in autumn, getsbrined and hot smoked in a makeshift smoker – thewok. I’ve only just started doing this and found that hot smoked garlic lasts a couple of months or so in the fridge.Sprouting Broccoli:
It makes little flowering side shoots for a long time. Additionally, you can eat the leaves as greens. Has anyone tried making little savoury rice rolls (similar to dolomades) out of broccoli or other brassica leaves?
Beetroot and Carrots:
Quite fast growing. The tops are also useful as steamed or salad greens and in soups. I make pesto out of carrot leaves and it’s not too bad.
Excellent value for space. It produces lush leaves until it flowers and goes to seed. The flowers are among the best beneficial insect attractors. Then you can collect the seeds. First green seeds to add to salads and soups, then after the seeds have dried on the plant, they can be used as a cooking spice. When I eventually pull the plant out, the root is scrubbed and used to flavour stock.
Other “cut and come again” greens:
Lettuce, Asian vegetables, spinach, chard, rocket, celery, kale and many others all keep producing leaves until they eventually go to seed. As a bonus, some seed is suitable for saving and sprouting after you’ve eaten all that leaf produce.
Fast growing veges:
Radish is a great value for everything vegetable. It grows very fast and there are winter varieties, that if planted at the right time, will over winter in your garden, to be used as you want until the warm weather arrives and they eventually bolt to seed. Collect the seed for sprouting before adding the spent plant to the compost heap. Young leaves are tasty in salads, as steamed greens and in soups.
Radish also has a surprisingly beneficial nutrient profile.
Asian greens and rocket are other examples of speedy vegetables.
Truly a survival food. Foraging is growing in popularity. There are many edible “weeds” that we like to include in our diet. There are also lots of books and websites to help identify edible and poisonous plants. One good thing about edible “weeds” is that most of them self seed. They will always be in your garden happily cohabitating with your fruit and vegetables.
Dandelion is my favourite “weed”. The young, tender, slightly bitter leaves are excellent steamed with other greens and in salads. They also have medicinal properties.
When the dandelion plant gets a bit old, especially after flowering, we chop off all the old bitter leaves and new tender ones emerge from the root again.
Eventually, the root can be dug up, scrubbed, roasted and ground as a coffee substitute. Caffeine free and delicious!
Other edible weeds in my garden are chickweed (for salads), sheep sorrel (adds a citrus tang to salads), milk or sow thistle, amaranth, nettle, fat hen, to name a few. Here’s some great ways to eat your weeds!
- Invest in perennials
Can be slow to establish but generally low maintenance. Just keep them fed and mulched in their “permanent” bed. . They stay in the same spot for some years and can share a bed with a few fast annuals like radish and lettuce that won’t interfere with their growth.. Asparagus, globe artichoke, bramble berries, rhubarb, horseradish are all examples of edible perennials.
- Do I have any “Volunteers”?
Edible weeds are in this category but also a few others. Potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, peas from pea straw, and anything that germinates from the compost bin. Tomatoes are some of best examples. They germinate from compost when they are ready, they usually grow very vigorously and yield a surprisingly good crop – especially the cherry and bush varieties.
We purchase spent mushroom compost in autumn and spread it on the garden. One year we had such a yield of volunteers that we had bottles and bottles of dried sliced and ground mushrooms for the pantry! Be careful with field mushrooms though. Make sure you can identify them and rule out any poisonous ones.
So – don’t be too hasty to weed out volunteers. Assess their potential worth first!
A few final points:
- Most people can eat a varied diet of fruit, vegetable and foraged foods without concern. Do your research about the nutrient profiles of the foods you eat in a balanced diet and plant to provide a variety of nutrients. Check with your doctor if there are any foods that may interfere with the medications you take.
- Ensure you have the resources and knowledge to identify edible wild foods. There are some that can kill you like certain mushrooms and others like this one: http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/poisonousplants/waterhemlock/index.html
- Don’t forage for food in places contaminated with chemicals, exhaust fumes, peeling lead paint or dog / cat droppings. Be careful what you put in your compost.
- You can make the most of any growing space you have from pots on a balcony or sunny window to a back yard patch by assessing the value for space, time and money of the edible plants you can grow.
- Share your experiences with others. Teach the little ones especially where food comes from, how to grow it and how to find it.
God bless your gardening efforts!
Prizes for this round (ends April 23 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include… Please send your articles now!
- First place winner will receive – A case of six (6) #10 cans of Freeze Dried Military Pork Chops a $300 value courtesy of MRE Depot, and a WonderMix Bread Mixer courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $300 value and five bottles of the new Berkey BioFilm Drops a $150 value courtesy of LPC Survival – total prize value of over $750.
- Second place winner will receive – A gift a gift certificate for $150 off of Federal Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo.
- Third Place winner will receive – A copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net and copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net.