Raising Meat Rabbits – The Easiest Way For Preppers to Put Meat on Their Table

by Kati D – this is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

Raising rabbits as a source of meat for your family is an excellent addition to any prepper’s homestead. I realize that this is not an original idea, people have been raising meat rabbits for years. In fact, rabbits were a common backyard food source during the Great Depression and during World War II Uncle Sam encouraged families to raise rabbits and chickens for protein to go along with their victory gardens. Even the poorest of families could provide a steady source of meat for their children because rabbits were relatively inexpensive to raise. Their diet is made up entirely of grass, vegetables (fresh from the garden or scraps from the table), and clean water. There are also numerous commercial feed options.

The rate of reproduction for rabbits is pretty astounding! Gestation is about 31 days and the does nurse the kits until they are about 5-6 weeks. Litters range from 4-12 kits. The kits will reach butcher weight between 8 to 12 weeks and, depending on the breed, can provide about 5lbs of meat each. A doe can be bred every 45 days to produce the maximum number of kits each year. So under optimal conditions, a single doe can easily produce 150lbs+ of meat in a year! Rabbit meat is lean and packed with protein.

If you’re not yet convinced that rabbits would be a great addition to your homestead think about this, they are a “no waste” animal. By this I mean they provide meat, furs, and their waste makes the perfect fertilizer for your garden. You can put rabbit manure directly on the plants and it works great. So you basically use everything they produce. Isn’t that what our goal is as preppers, homesteaders, etc. to use and reuse everything on our journey to being self-sufficient? They are also quiet, they take up little space, and most cities/HOAs consider them to be pets, not livestock. This makes them perfect for those urban preppers out there that want to provide a steady source of meat but are limited on space and regulated by city by-laws.

So now that I’ve explained why rabbits are a good addition to any homestead let me tell you about my rabbitry and why I decided to start raising rabbits. I have thought about adding rabbits to our homestead for some time but I always seem to talk myself out of it for one reason or another. That changed a few months back when I read William R. Forstchen’s “One Second After“. In the weeks after reading the book, all I could think about was how better off the main characters would have been if they had a steady source of meat. I realized that my family needed a way to produce a good supply of meat in a grid-down situation. I decided that it was time to get some rabbits.

So I did some research on cage setups and decided to build all wire cages so I bought the supplies and got to work. (PSA: be careful when working with wire! I looked like I had lost a fight with a wildcat by the time I finished the cages!) My cages are setup at the back of my chicken pen, next to my garden. They sit on a wood frame for support with a tarp for a roof. I plan to put up a tin roof once money and time permit.

While I was building the cages I searched online to see what breeds of rabbits were available in my area. After a few days, I found an ad for some American Chinchilla and New Zealand/Californian cross rabbits that were only about 30 minutes away. After touring the lady’s rabbitry I decided to purchase two Chinchilla does and a New Zealand/Californian buck. The lady also offered to breed both of my does to bucks of my choice at no extra charge so I bred one to a New Zealand Black and the other to a Silver Fox. All of my rabbits were proven (they had previous litters) so they were $25 each.

So I built the cages, bought and bred the rabbits, and 31 days later we had two litters with seven kits each. In the first week, we lost two runts and one of the does accidentally suffocated a third one. But here we are at week 3 and the remaining 11 kits are doing great. All of their eyes were opened by day 14 and they are hopping in and out of their nest boxes. They’ve started to nibble on grass, hay, and vegetables so they’ll be weaned in another week or two.

My plan is to keep 2 or 3 does for breeding stock and to sell/butcher the rest. Now I’ll be honest, I have never butchered an animal that I have raised! I’ve been hunting and fishing my whole life but it’s just different when it’s something you’ve raised. My dad and my fiance have offered to help me with the butchering process. This is something that I am determined to do even though I know it won’t be easy because I know it is one more step on the road to being self-sufficient. And that is my ultimate goal. Thanks for reading and God Bless.

Recommended Resources

Prizes For This Round (Ends on June 7, 2017) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

First Prize a $999 value:

  1. Numanna Organic Family Pack Bucket a $399 value from LPC Survival Ltd.
  2. CampingSurvival Gear Pack a $400 value from Camping Survival.com.
  3. A $200 gift certificate of prepper books from Prepper Press.

Second Prize a $650+ value:

  1. A case of .308 ammo or $300 off Ammo selection of your choice from LuckyGunner.
  2. A Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Mill with the Masa/Nut Butter Auger, Drill Bit Attachment, and Bicycle Sprocket Kit a $325 value from ChefBrad.com

Third Prize a $310+ value:

  1. $300 gift certificate from GunMag Warehouse.
  2. A copy of The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How

A Great Idea For Preppers – The Biogas Digester

by Brian F – this is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

The holidays are over, the traveling is done and life is settling back down, Nov and Dec makes me think about loss opportunities we have being self-reliant. For instance all the food prep, each month at different families houses I saw a large amount of recyclable materials hit the trash can! I thought back a few years ago with I had built a biogas digester.

A digester is a great homestead appliance. You put all sorts of refuse in it and get fuel from the other end. However, it requires some work. First, we have to decide whether we want a continuous flow system or a batch system, there are pros and cons to each. At this point, I want to impress to the readers this is an old technology, been in use for decades if not centuries. It has even been shown in post-apocalyptic movies like Mad Max. So when you see it on a social media site being trumped up as a new thing, it’s not.

A batch system is just that, you place all your materials in a container and seal it, keep it warm and in a couple of months, you will start getting methane gas. Once the charge is exhausted it has to have the sludge removed, refilled and stated over. A person can have several small batch systems running to maintain an uninterrupted supply of gas.

A continuous feed system is just that, each day, or every other day you add a small amount of compostables to the tank and drain an equal amount of sludge from the tank. The sludge makes a great liquid fertilizer, so you gain one more benefit.

Things to put in your digester, food scraps, ( no meat or dairy) at least not in large quantities. Coffee grounds, tea bags, litter from rabbits, chickens, pigs, goats, and so on. Do not put waste from cats and dogs in it. Wood sawdust, chips, bark, shavings and small amounts of paper can go in. Although I used the wood and paper waste first as a litter for my animals, then place it in the digester to make gas, afterward it goes on the garden as fertilizer. No waste at all!

Building either system requires research and problem-solving skills. But the batch system I think would be best for a first attempt. A suitable tank to hold the waste, let’s say you acquire a 200 hundred gallon tank, at most you will only want max 100 gallons of mix in the tank. Space is required for the gas to accumulate. The first gas though will be carbon dioxide, as the anaerobic bacterial that is doing all this work does not like oxygen. Once the Oxygen is gone methane is produced. Then we need a storage container. Most farms have basically a barrel inverted in water to hold the gas with a line running to its final application like a stove!

My initial experiments were a learning curve. I found it was best to mix the chicken litter in water to the consistency of a thin melted milkshake. Then pour in the tank. Also the bacteria like warm temps, idea is 98.6 degrees, the average human temp! I found using my rudimentary test equipment that the methane CO2 ratio was roughly 60-40%. Later I found a way to increase the methane value.

I ran the line to my old gas stove I rescued from the curb, then I found out that the orifices would have to be changed. I had access to every imaginable size of drill bits back then so I started with one burner enlarging the orifice till I had a good flame. Then I modified the rest.

Now to numbers, I found that one pound of chicken litter with one gallon of water produced approximately 200 cubic feet of low-grade methane. Basically equal to one gallon of 87 octane gas. 200 hundred CF of gas is a considerable volume. I ran with the thought of compressing the gas into a tank. Using a crude homemade vacuum pump I could move the gas into a 60-gallon propane tank, I even used an old hot water heater for low-pressure storage. So there are options for the more frugal among us. And the stored compressed gas can be used to run small 4 cycle engines or perhaps even a small auto mobile. Although a riding mower/tractor was as far as I went with that thought train.

A larger continuous feed system is even better, as the bacteria is heat sensitive, in other words, if the tank gets too hot the beasties die. One idea I’m considering is to cool the tank and use the warm water piped to a radiant floor heater for supplemental heat. A manifold would have to be designed, built, and installed. A Taco pump should work find in that application and it does not draw much power.

I found that bubbling the raw gas through a water column filled with lye water a considerable percentage of the CO2 is removed, thus “purifying” the methane. Now I know someone will ask where do you get the lye? From wood ashes. Leach the ash as though you will make soap, then fill the column. Periodically drain replace and then cook the water down to make soap. Or give it to a soap maker.

So all those scraps and waste can be used to make fuel, heat, and fertilizer, the cost of my old system was about a 150 dollars. I built it over a period of time and made small improvements as I went along. It should be in the same range for anyone today if you are good alley pickers or dumpster divers. One could even use an old computer to run the system if you can write basic code. Then you would only have to add and drain litter and fertilizer. You save money hand over fist.

People who were pioneers in this field, are Al Rutin. (USA) Ed Bates (England) and Louis Pain (France) each of these men were showcased in Mother Earth News and Readers Digest over the years. Mostly in the 70’s and 80’s, so that is where you can start your research. Also, keep a lab notebook. It will help you in the long run, keep up with what worked and what did not.
Als,o I notice at each house close to a gallon each day of grease just tossed away. Fowl, pork, and beef. So many things that could be done with that!

Prizes For This Round (Ends on June 7, 2017) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

First Prize a $999 value:

  1. Numanna Organic Family Pack Bucket a $399 value from LPC Survival Ltd.
  2. CampingSurvival Gear Pack a $400 value from Camping Survival.com.
  3. A $200 gift certificate of prepper books from Prepper Press.

Second Prize a $650+ value:

  1. A case of .308 ammo or $300 off Ammo selection of your choice from LuckyGunner.
  2. A Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Mill with the Masa/Nut Butter Auger, Drill Bit Attachment, and Bicycle Sprocket Kit a $325 value from ChefBrad.com

Third Prize a $310+ value:

  1. $300 gift certificate from GunMag Warehouse.
  2. A copy of The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How

EMERGENCY POWER ALTERNATIVES MADE SIMPLE Part I Solar Panels and Charge Controller

by Robert B – http://keepingupwiththepreppers.blogspot.com/

Building an off-grid power source for your home or “Bug Out” location is not as difficult as you may think. Having power can drastically improve the quality of life during a long or short term power outage. After losing all of our food during a three-day power outage after a severe storm, we learned quickly that taking the power grid for granted was not a good time.

Please keep in mind that we are not experts and there are always dangers when dealing with electricity.

HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel

The solar generator constructed at our home is basically the same as the generator constructed at our bug out location.

First, determine what it is you wish power and determine how many watts you’re going to need. As an example, I use eight 100 Watt panels and five large RV batteries to run my full sized Maytag refrigerator. My set up allows me to run the refrigerator throughout the night if I turn the ice maker off and settings down on the fridge and freezer sides. I turn them to setting “two.”

There are four major components to our 12 volt solar generator:

  • Solar Panels
  • Charge Controller
  • Battery Bank
  • Power Inverter

Solar Panels and Charge Controller will be discussed here.

Solar Panels:

Solar Panels generate power during daylight hours to charge your battery bank. I use eight 100 watt panels to provide up to 800 watts of power to my battery bank. Generally speaking, the power generated by the panels are less than the advertised or rated watt output meaning eight solar panels probably put out 10 percent less power than the full 800 watts as advertised.

While the panels do in fact still provide power on a cloudy day, they will not be quite as efficient as full sunlight.

The solar panels I used are found on Amazon for about $114.00 each seen above.

I have been impressed with them but keep in mind the technology improves almost daily so do your research and read reviews.

These panels are very easy to connect. The male and female connections are clearly marked (+) and (-) for positive and negative respectively. You will also need Y branch connection cables to connect more than one panel for your system. You will need a long set of cables run run power to the controller. I used a 100 foot cable with a male connection at one end and a female at the other end. Cut the cable in half and expose the wires. This will give you 50 feet of wire. Of course, depending on your situation, you may need a longer cable or shorter cable. The shorter the cable the better. The longer the wire, the more electricity you will lose in the transmission of the power going inside to your charge controller.

Look for part two of this article on Friday…

Choosing and Installing a Tankless Water Heater

by Patientmomma

When I purchased my country property several years back it was in dire need of updating.  Over the last few years I have gradually replaced many items which were hanging on at their end of life!  The conventional 50 gallon tank water heater was approximately 15 years old and while it worked, it took between 5 to 7 minutes to get hot water to the master bathroom, depending on outside temperature.  I knew it needed to be replaced so I began researching tankless water heaters.  I have no connection to any brand mentioned other than being a happy customer.  I had already decided to use propane gas as a fuel source as I did not want electric and I don’t have access to natural gas. This article describes my research and choice of a water heater.

I lived in Europe for five years and most of the housing had tankless water heaters so I gained some valuable experience with on-demand water heaters; both good and bad.  Fast forward a bunch of years and the on-demand heaters were becoming the rage in the USA because of the high utility costs of conventional tank water heaters.  But I stayed with my 50 gallon tank and paid the price of heating water 24/7/365.

About 8 years ago I was faced with replacing water heaters in a large house. I had a choice to replace three 50 gallon tank heaters with newer models or go tankless.  About that time a friend of mine had her 50 gallon tank water heater, located in her attic, fail and the water damage was significant.  She had to move out of her house for six weeks while ceilings, floors, carpet, dry wall, etc., were replaced.  Her experience was a motivator for me!  I did my due diligence and researched all types of water heaters; both tank and tankless.  The tank type was much cheaper to purchase and install but the utility bill is what made the difference.  The tankless heaters had higher upfront costs, but saved on the utility bill the rest of its useful life.

After going back and forth for months, I made the decision to go tankless.  While the research you must do is the same for any type of tankless water heater, your family life style, location, how long you think you will stay in the house, the availability of desired fuel, and maybe Home Owner Association (HOA) rules will influence your decisions.  I also considered the improved resale value of the home by having energy efficient tankless water heaters.

So what’s the difference?  Basically, the tank heaters hold the water at a constant temperature 24/7/365.  When you turn on your hot water faucet the hot water in the tank mixes with cold water from the house water system and gives you warm water. You pay your utility provider a fee to keep that water hot all the time.   In a tankless system the water heats only at your demand.  When you turn the hot faucet on, the heat exchanger in the tankless unit turns on and provides you hot water, then stops heating water when you turn the faucet off.  Below is a diagram I copied from the Navien website on the components of a tankless water heater.

Choice of Fuel Type:  One of the first decisions you have to make is the type of fuel for the water heater; the choices are electric, natural gas (NG) and propane gas (PG).  If your house is all electric that may influence a decision to install an electric heater; but there is always the possibility of running NG to your house if you are close to an existing line.  Some city/communities/HOA will not allow a propane tank in the yard; but you must ask the HOA and city ordinance folks.  They might allow a buried underground tank, but not an above ground tank. Do a cost comparison of fuel types (if all are available to you); cost of electric, NG or PG.

How big a tank do I need? Another research and decision to make is sizing; how large of a water heater do you need?  Basically, the larger the heater, the more expensive the heater, no matter what brand it is.  The following general information comes right off the internet and you can query “tankless water heaters” and find a lot of data. Now down to the details you need to know…

Maximum Flow Rate:  This is the measure of how much water passes through the water heater at a time, in gallons per minute (gpm). For NG/PG tankless water heaters, it averages between about 6 gpm and 10 gpm but some go higher.  I was told an average shower or faucet has about 2 gpm flow rate; so you can get an idea of how much water flow you use. If you have two adults, two teenagers and 2 younger children, think about the number of water fixtures that will be used simultaneously and how long the water will run if you have teenagers in the bathroom. Will you have people in the shower at the same time you are running the washing machine and your dishwasher?  If your family is two adults and some fur babies, your demand will be different.

The important point is not to confuse the flow rate value with the water heater’s heating capacity. Water flow capacity is NOT how hot the water will be if it’s flowing at 10 gpm. For example, a tankless water heater listed as providing 10 gpm will give you water at that rate, BUT how hot that water can be depends on the energy input of the unit. That is why when choosing a NG or PG tankless water heater you need to pay attention to its energy input per hour, or BTUs per hour.  Now here’s where the info gets more complicated.

Heating Power: There is a whole complex discussion of British Thermal Unit (BTU), joules and temperature explained on many different websites on the internet.  I am not an expert on this so I just used the common knowledge I read on several internet sites.   Basically, about 500 BTU/hr is enough to heat water flowing at 1 gpm by 1 °F. If you know what the incoming water temperature is, it is possible to estimate how many BTUs per hour you need from tankless water heater. You can ask your plumber to figure this out for you.  Water temperatures can vary by season and by location; e.g., New York is colder than Mississippi in the winter so the ground water temperatures will be different.  From my experience 120 °F is the maximum temperature I wanted, because higher temperatures create a scalding risk. You should also know that the BTU number in the product specification sheet is not the actual heating capacity. To calculate how many BTUs are actually used to heat the water, you need to use the energy factor.

Energy Factor: The energy factor for water heaters means the part of the heat energy actually applied to the water and to the total energy input which is delivered to the heater. I wanted an energy factor of at least .9.5.  If you have a four person family, you will need at least 160,000 BTU, higher would be better.  The energy factor needs to be about .9.   For natural gas and propane tankless water heaters, the energy factor varies between 0.8 and 0.95, depending on whether it is a condensing unit or not.  So what is the difference between condensing or non-condensing water heaters?

Condensing Water Heaters:   Simply put, a condensing water heater uses the heat of the expended gas, which would normally be expelled through a vent, as an additional heat source. The waste gas released from the exhaust vent of a condensing water heater is cooler and in the cooling process the water vapor often condenses back to liquid state, which is why it is called a condensing water heater.  Non-condensing tankless gas water heaters have an average energy factor of 0.82; condensing water heaters have an energy factor of up to 0.95. Guess what? Condensing units cost more money; but I think they are worth it.

Activation Flow Rate: One of the things you need to realize is tankless water heaters only start heating when their sensors confirm a certain amount of water is flowing through the system. If the water use does not reach that minimum flow rate, the unit will not be activated and you get cold water. This means if you don’t turn the faucet on full open, the water heater may not turn its heating element on.  Look for a water heater that has a .4 to .6 flow rate.  You do NOT want a 1 gpm flow rate.  Do your homework and check out the product specification sheets and make sure you get a unit with a LOW number minimum activation rate.

Brand and Build Quality: I am very opinionated on this topic so bear with me.  I like hot water; that is why I purchased tankless hot water heaters.  In a former house I had a whirlpool tub that I could not use because the tank water heaters could not provide enough hot water.  After I installed the tankless water heater, I was able to fill the big whirlpool tub and enjoy the experience with HOT WATER.  Sorry, I digressed.

The old saying “you get what you pay for” is true and especially with tankless water heaters. I won’t demean various brands, but I say, do your homework.  If you are on city water your brand choices are wide. Talk to people and quiz your plumber and friends on their opinions of different brands.  Check out websites which compare brands and prices but examine the specification sheets with detail.  Look at:

  • Energy factor: Over 160,000 BTU; Desired 180,000 to 199,000
  • Minimum flow rate: Desired: over 0.26 GPM
  • Minimum activation flow rate: Desired: 0.4 GPM
  • Maximum flow rate: 7.5 to 11.5 GPM/min — this depends on the model and your need

Other Things to Know:

  • Tankless water heaters can be indoor or outdoor, vented or non-vented; depends on what you want/need.
  • Outdoor units should have ALL pipes insulated; some indoor units should also be insulated, depends where you have it installed. I have had both indoor and outdoor units insulted, even though I live in the South. Northern folks MUST have insulation!
  • Tankless water heaters require minimum of ¾” pipes while conventional tank water heaters only have ½” pipes; this should be included in your install price; everything is negotiable.
  • Water heaters need some annual maintenance so put them where you can get to them.

Oh By the Ways:

  • It will take a minute for the hot water to get to your faucet, depending on where you place your water heater. I had to wait 6-7 minutes for my conventional tank electric water heater to get hot water to my master bath shower.  Now with the new tankless one it takes 1-2 minutes to get to my shower.
  • Before you turn on your dishwasher, turn your kitchen faucet hot water full open and let it get hot; then start your dishwasher.
  • It will take a few seconds for the tankless water heater to adjust temperatures from hot to warm or warm to hot. Depending on the type of faucet you have, once you get used to the tankless water heater, you’ll know where to turn the faucet the first time to get the temperature you want.

If you live in the country and are on well water your choices are more limited.  Unless filtered at the entry point, most well water contains a lot of minerals and will corrode any water heater.  Navien brand water heaters have stainless steel innards and will hold up better when connected to well water. Other brand heaters are less expensive; but they usually have cooper innards, which corrode more quickly.

At my place, the well pumps water to an underground holding tank. Occasionally, there is low water pressure between when the well pump kicks on and the pressure pushes the water to the faucets.  This causes a lower flow rate to my faucets, which delays the water heater kicking on.  To me, this is just part of having well water so it does not cause me any concern; I just patiently wait until the well pump does its thing. But it is something you should be aware of if you are on well water.

My Choice: 

Because I live in the country, have a set income and I really like hot water, I decided to purchase and install a propane tankless water heater.  It is an outdoor condensing unit.  I choose Navien because I use well water and Navien is the only brand (that I researched) which has stainless steel innards. The picture is of the installed tankless water heater on the exterior of my house. This is the largest residential unit Navien makes and the insulation is protected by the unit cover. Other brands will work but they will corrode faster from well water. With Navien’s 15-year heat exchanger warranty, the water heater may out last me. I am not affiliated with Navian, I am just a happy customer.

I have purchased three Navien tankless hot water heaters for various houses and I have had no problems with them providing hot water when I wanted it. That said, Navien requires a licensed plumber to install the unit to receive their 15 year warranty.  A good DIYer could probably install the unit, but again, Navien will not warrant it unless installed by a licensed plumber.

The only thing I am unhappy about is I cannot independently light the water heater because it has a closed, self-contained ignition.  That means I cannot take a match to a pilot flame like we could in the old days.  But, I have a propane generator so unless manufacturers stop making propane, I’m good!

The Cost:  Tankless water heaters will cost you more up front; there is no getting around that. But…your utility bill will go down.  In my former city house, the three conventional tank water heaters were NG.  After the Navien tankless NG heater was installed my gas bill reduced by 45% the first full month and after a year the bill was down by 52%.  Currently, my conventional electric 50-gallon water heater cost about $700/year to operate.  Since I have only had this tankless water heater a short while I don’t have statistics to give you; but I anticipate about 4.5 year return on investment (ROI) for the tankless water heater.

The cost will vary around the nation; your location makes a big difference in the price. Your cost reduction and ROI will be different depending on the brand, size of tankless water heater you choose and your family size and use.  You can see most of the retail prices on the internet but remember, your plumber can get a discount.  Installation charges could vary from $800 to $2000, depending on your location, codes and ordinances, how much ¾” piping is used and your plumber’s profit margin. One last plus for tankless water heaters: In 2016 the IRS is allowing a $300 tax credit for installation of energy efficient tankless water heaters.

I’m sure there are some really knowledgeable pack members that can talk technical specs better than I can, so please pitch in and clarify if you can.  My need was to have hot water and my desire was to save money so I decided to switch to a propane tankless water heater.  I cannot put a price on my peace of mind.  I hope this information is helpful.

Our experience introducing chickens to our homestead

by RW

Our first experience with raising chickens was very interesting…  we bought from a local who obviously knew more about chickens than we did at the time and took it as a chance to unload some “damaged” goods.  We started with 6 of the ugliest stinkiest chicks we had seen.  By 3 months it was obvious these were not normal chickens.  They were mixed breeds and mixed up.  Some were bantams, all but 2 were roosters and we had everything from deformed feet to hens that would not lay an egg.  At one year old we had one dominant, mean rooster that killed every other male in the flock in one afternoon.  The two hens remained free ranging with him because we didn’t know what to do with him.  Then he started charging my 2 yr old and the lawnmower and ended up pushing up daisies.  The other 2 hens never laid an egg and were killed by something a lot larger and hungrier than they were.  That experience taught us what we did not want.

We wanted chickens that were big enough to survive some hardship and not a flock of roosters, we wanted hens that laid eggs and we needed animals with enough aggression to be self preserving but not endanger our children.  Since then we have had rhode island reds which were excellent layers although the hens argue a great deal among themselves and can be aggressive towards small children.  We had two rhode island red roosters we were satisfied with, although one was not allowed around the kids, the other was happy to eat from a small hand anytime.  After a few more tries we purchased light brahma hens (sexed to be just that… hens.  AKA pullets) and buff orpingtons.  So far the buffs are my favorite.  They are docile and pleasant, they lay very well, they handle free ranging or confinement.  They are very “go with the flow” and enjoy strolling around eating ticks and all sorts of little creatures.

As far as intelligence chickens in general will never fall in the confines of a high IQ BUT buffs are ditzy in nature and tend to struggle with even the smallest changes, like a moved coop or new straw to step on.  On occasion they have forgotten the way home when the light in the coop was turned off. We have learned that living with chickens free ranging requires a rooster. His job is to protect, warn and if needed, lay down his life for the ladies.  All of ours have been willing to do that and some have lost their life doing it.  It is, however, easier to replace a rooster than half a flock.  In general we keep our hens for 2 years, we started with 6, when they turn a year old we got 6 more pullets, when the first 6 turn 2 yrs old we generally sale them cheap, process them for the freezer or if we are particularly attached they live out their lives teaching the other younger chicks the ropes.  Egg production generally
takes a nose dive when a hen reaches 2 yrs old, in my experience they are too expensive to feed if they are not producing eggs.

We have also acquired an insurance policy on our homestead for constant reproduction … silkies.  They are the incubator that requires no electricity or monitoring, nature at it’s best!  Silkie hens are so driving to reproduce they will sit on anything.  Our hens go broody about every 4-6 months.  We have one hen who is 3 years old who has hatched an raised countless chicks, very few of which are hers.  Like clock work every few months she lays an egg and doesn’t get up.  At that point she is there for 21 days.  We usually slip in other eggs under her so we always have new stock and she hatches out 50-80% of the eggs she sits on.  They make great mothers raising smarter chicks than if you would just allow the chicks to grow up on their own.  She first egg starts to crack and then usually gives the remaining eggs 2-3 more days before she gets up to care for her new chicks. We switch out roosters every few years to keep our gene pool from getting stagnant and that allows the silkies to reproduce as nature intended.  We sell the chicks easily if we don’t need any around at the time. Hens often go broody at the same time and may split a clutch of eggs if one hen has too many to keep warm.  Our two black silkie hen sisters usually go broody at the same time and sit in the same nesting box sharing a clutch of eggs and then sharing the responsibility of rearing chicks.

Silkies are not intended to be a dinner table bird though.  They are covered in hair type feathers and they have black bones, black skin and five toes plus they are pretty boney.  I suppose if you were hungry enough they would be delicious but for now I’d rather admire their mothering qualities.  Silkie roosters can usually be kept with the broody hens and then the hatched chicks without harming the chicks.  We have never had a silkie rooster harm a chick, they are usually very good with them and even help with teaching them how and what to eat and where the best bugs are..  Silkie roosters are a little like having a small male dog around though, they have no idea they are small and their attitude is HUGE!  Our silkie rooster is not allowed to free range with our children around for that reason.  Even though he is small he could still hurt little ones.

Raising chickens is not rocket science and is very rewarding.  We love to watch them chase bugs around the yard and scratch up dirt to take a dust bath.  As long as they have adequate shelter to keep them out of the rain and cold and provide an area to roost at night they are happy. We allow ours to free range but provide feed and scratch grain once a day, usually in the afternoon to remind them where the coop is.  We also turn all our “scraps” into chicken food.  All our eggs shells are oven dried along with any type of fruit or vegetable peel, left over rice, corn, etc.  Once dried and cool I dump it all in the food processor and then feed it to the chickens at their next feeding.  Chickens also need fresh water daily which they will drink from a variety of containers.  The eggs will come in abundance.  Beautiful, perfect eggs with deep yellow/orange yolks.  Eggs that are never dipped in some chemical or Clorox solution or pasteurized or zapped with radiation.  Just eggs as they were intended to be.  Free range eggs also make the richest cakes and breads!!  Chickens are worth a try, there is little about them not to love and they provide you with another food source which means one less thing to put on your grocery list.

Preparing for and Protecting you Home and or Retreat from Forest Fire

by Ron Melchiore

close-callI had another post in mind to submit to you folks but forest fires are a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve recently become aware of the fires burning in various areas particularly in the Southeastern United States. In fact, it finally made the National news tonight. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail many years ago and I can’t imagine the number of fires or amount of territory now burning through those areas.

As some of you know, we’ve had our share of forest fires out here. They’ve literally had us running for our lives. I can’t think of too many things that demand immediate attention more than walking out the door and seeing a billowing curtain of gray/black smoke rising skyward in the nearby forest.

The following paragraph is an excerpt from my book Off Grid and Free : My Path to the Wilderness.

“It was like being in a movie theater, the big screen showing a large-as-life fire burning right in front of us, with black smoke billowing upward and a dense veil of white-gray smoke hugging the ground so thickly that the bright orange flames were visible only when they leapt skyward above the fracas. A slight diminution in the smoke allowed just enough visibility to see an orange-red glow, much like opening the door to a furnace allows a view of the orange-red coals. And, like the furnace hungrily consuming its fuel, the intensity of the forest fire’s heat incinerated everything in its path. “

sprinklers-on-the-roofI have a full chapter devoted to our fire experiences. I am not a fire expert. Rather I’m a guy who has dealt with at least 4 different fires in our 17 years of wilderness living in northern Canada. Two of those fires have gotten to within 90 feet of our homestead. All totaled those fires burned at least ¾ million acres around us.

Here are some general tips anyone can do to prepare well ahead of time. They are not things to contemplate when the fire is ¼ mile away and working towards you. Have an escape plan having multiple paths of egress. If this road is blocked, where to now? Is there a lake to head to as a last resort?Is the vehicle fueled up? Is it pointed in the right direction?

Manifold Setup

Manifold Setup

The last thing you want to be doing is packing in a panic! Consider what items are of greatest importance. Purse/wallet, identification, important documents, medications, backup laptop computer, hard drive or USB with essential financial or other data? What is deemed essential will vary from person to person. In our case, in spring, since we are only one lightning strike away from disaster, we have a survival bag by the door as well as our survival suits. We have smoke masks and goggles. We pack some food and water in the boat and have the water pump and boat fully fueled and ready to roll. Remember, we have the added factor we are alone out here so we plan accordingly.

Rake all combustibles such as leaves and debris far from buildings. Be aware fires will create their own winds so those leaves you raked to the perimeter will be blown around again. If I had a chipper, tiller or some device to reduce and shred and /or bury leaves, I would use it. If you are in an evergreen forest, I would consider removing trees near buildings. At the very least, remove all lower branches in nearby trees which act as ladder fuels. (fuels that allow a ground fire to start climbing the trees)

The above are routine things we do every year to be prepared. Since we live on a lake, we have a sprinkler system set up preemptively. Forget trying to put the fire out. That’s not going to happen. All you can do is try to get combustibles away from any structures and take measures to bounce the fire around your property.

When we moved out here, we bought a water pump, fire hoses, garden sprinklers and garden hoses (which serve as sprinkler supply lines). Higher quality sprinklers and supply hoses are available and if I had to do it over again I would opt for those. Our spring ritual is to set up all our equipment long before the first thunder and lightning appear. By doing so, at the first sign of trouble, we’re ready.

The first step is to set up the fire pump on our beach. By means of a quick coupler, a 2.5 inch PVC suction line is connected to the pump and extends about 12 feet out into the lake. On the end of the pipe that is in the water, I have a foot valve which allows water to flow one way to the pump but prevents water from draining back into the lake. That’s important because you don’t want the water pump to drain of water and thereby lose its prime. The foot valve rests on a rock about 8 inches off the lake bottom so that sand and other debris isn’t sucked into the system.

On the output side of the water pump there is a threaded coupler which ultimately connects to standard 1.5 inch firehose. Several 100 foot sections of hose are connected together to make the run up the hill to the house. Mounted on a porch post is a manifold which takes the high-pressure water from the pump and redirects it out to smaller feed lines, the garden hoses I mentioned earlier. We have 5 outlets on this manifold which we can control via individual valves. We can shut off or engage each sprinkler with the turn of a valve. Sprinklers can be mounted singly or in series, so there are some instances where one valve may control two sprinkler heads.

Our manifold also has an adapter and valve that allows us to continue a run of standard firehose out to our homestead’s perimeter to tackle any smoldering areas and hot spots. We have two nozzles that can be attached to the end of this fire hose. The first is an adjustable spray nozzle capable of spraying water in a short, wide pattern or a jet of water that can shoot out one hundred feet if need be. Our second nozzle has a narrow opening that delivers a high-pressure jet of water capable of pulverizing the ground to reach fire that is smoldering in roots and moss.

Our home and outbuildings are top priority to protect so I head up to the roof of our two-story home and mount a sprinkler on a short pole at each end of the roof. A short hose connects them in series and then the feed line drops from the roof to the nearby manifold. Our house and outbuildings are now protected.

Forgive me for the cuts from the book but time is of the essence and I want to get this information out. The following is another excerpt from my book Off Grid and Free:My Path to the Wilderness and has more specific information.

What has saved our home twice?

Sprinklers! Both our own system and those of the provincial fire crews. Part of my spring ritual is to head to the house roof and install two sprinklers, one at each end. I also have full-length trees cut, approximately 20- to 25 feet long, and have a sprinkler head attached to the top of each of those trees. We pick locations around our house site where we can stand these trees back up, like big flag poles, and either wire each one to another smaller tree or attach a set of tripod legs to the pole, so that it can be free-standing. The higher these “flag poles,” the more coverage and the better the protection. The Honda water pump with a 1 1⁄2 ” firehose delivers pressurized water from our lake to the input side of a manifold, and all the sprinkler feed hoses come off the output of the manifold.

Once a fire gets into the crown of the trees, it’s hard to stop. So how do sprinklers prevent property from being incinerated?

The basic premise of sprinklers is to bring up the humidity in the protected area as high as possible, before a fire arrives. The dome of humidity has a tendency to bounce the fire around it, allowing the fire to bypass the protected areas. They most certainly will not extinguish a wildfire!

For anyone living in fire-prone areas, this concept will work for you as long as you have a reliable water source. A swimming pool, pond, stream, or even household tap gives you a chance at saving your home. At a minimum, a couple of sprinklers, proper water lines, and a water pump are all that are needed for some cheap insurance.”

When we first moved out here to build our homestead, we knew we would eventually have to deal with a forest fire. But we had no idea the scope and intensity a conflagration could possess. During construction, we flew in metal siding and roofing for our home’s exterior. It gives a great deal of fire resistance. For anybody doing new construction, especially in fire prone areas, consider metal or masonry exterior. And finally, never underestimate a fire. I have personally seen forest fires run 5 to 10 miles in a day! They will lob embers far in advance of themselves to start new fires. Good luck!

Ron and his wife currently live 100 miles in the Canadian wilderness on a remote lake. As part of the back to the land movement that originated in the 70’s, they have spent their adult years living the homestead dream. You can follow and contact Ron at https://www.facebook.com/offgridandfree.mypathtothewilderness or http://www.inthewilderness.net/

Off Grid and Free-My Path to The Wilderness 

by Ron – Author of “Off Grid and Free-My Path to The Wilderness

I want to thank MD and all the wonderful people who read my first post and made such thoughtful comments last week. All of you have made me feel welcome here. Thank you!

I had lots of questions which have given me good ideas on things I can write about for future posts. One of the questions dealt with fuel and it’s storage.

Long ago, I had questions myself in regards to fuel storage and did lots of research on the topic. I found a lot of confusing information and nothing really definitive. Depending on the source, there was a wide array of viewpoints on the subject.

What I will do is simply pass on to you what works for us. Because we are a fly in location only (via float plane) and we only shop and get supplied twice a year, we need to inventory a lot of things, including fuel. The three fuels we have here are diesel, gasoline and a small quantity of kerosene. The kerosene is for a small kerosene heater used in the greenhouse in spring.

Equipment we have here includes a small 6KW single cylinder diesel generator and gasoline powered chainsaw, brush cutter, rototiller, brush chipper, Honda water pump, ice auger, boat motor and snowmobile.

I hate to make this so simple but… we do very little special with our fuel as far as storage itself. I’ve heard and read the arguments that gasoline must be used within a certain period of time or it goes bad, gets stale, loses octane, won’t run equipment well etc.

set-upI have no problem taking one to three year old gasoline and using it in any piece of equipment I have. Every piece of equipment runs like a top. Same applies to the diesel. I’ve tried gasoline additives and have found them to be of no value. Please keep in mind, this is what works for us.

So let’s get to the finer points. All gasoline is stored in RED 5 gallon plastic jerry cans. All plastic cans are sealed tight and are stored in a shed out of sunlight. I think those are three important points. Airtight, out of the sun and plastic containers. We have some radical temperature extremes and I think the plastic containers help keep any condensation in check.

Diesel is shipped in in either a 55 gallon drum or YELLOW 5 gallon plastic jerry cans. The same air tight, out of the sun stored in the storage shed applies to the diesel. The exception to the diesel storage is I have built a stand where a 55 gallon drum rests on it’s side in a cradle. This setup is for diesel storage for more immediate use. The drum is positioned so the ¾” pipe bung is down and I have a filter housing with 10 micron filter and shut off valve. I favor a filtration unit that has a clear bowl so I can visually see any water accumulation. This unit should also have a small valve at the bottom of the bowl to be able to bleed that water out. All diesel is filtered through this setup before ever going into the generator. The generator also has it’s own 5 micron filtration as well. With any of our fuel storage, my biggest concern is fuel contamination, whether dirt or water.

It’s hard not to take note of the color specification for the storage containers. I’ve put the colors in capital letters as they are a very important component of proper fuel storage. I’ve worked in remote exploration camps where hundreds of drums of fuel are stored in berms along with many additional 5 gallon jerry cans of both diesel and gasoline. In theory, 55 gallon drums have a yellow or red band to signify what type of fuel it contains, or is marked appropriately, but many times, the drums are sent out to be refilled, flown back in and then at that point, it’s a guessing game. Is it really gas or diesel?

Save yourself some grief. You never want to take a stab at guessing what fuel you are putting into a gasoline powered piece of equipment or diesel engine. Yes, I have done the feel and sniff test and lit a little on a small wad of napkin to see how flammable it is. I’ve always been right, but all it takes is that one time to be wrong and it’s lights out. Ask the guy in camp how his diesel truck ran when he filled it with gas. Not terribly well.

A couple of final points. If you are storing significant quantities of fuel, regardless of whether it is legally required in your area or not, please consider storing it in a berm, something that will catch and contain any spill should it ever occur. Whenever possible, I fuel up equipment using a funnel with a fine paint filter to catch any course junk in the containers. I do randomly use a small quantity of gas line antifreeze (based on isopropyl alcohol) generally in the winter. Good luck!

Ron and his wife currently live 100 miles in the Canadian wilderness on a remote lake. As part of the back to the land movement that originated in the 70’s, they have spent their adult years living the homestead dream. You can follow and contact Ron at https://www.facebook.com/offgridandfree.mypathtothewilderness or http://www.inthewilderness.net/

Combatting Fungus Problems on Fruit trees

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Kate in GA

While this technique will work with all perennial plants, my focus for this article is really on the perennials in the garden. I will specifically talk about fruit trees. However, this will work on all perennial plants that may be giving you problems.

Let me start by saying that I have never seen this technique mentioned in any book or anywhere on the web. If you ask a master gardener in your county, they will probably say they never heard of it – and may even add that too much fertilizer can be harmful. However, I can honestly say this technique does work, and with more success than I ever imagined. This technique has come from my own personal experience and has managed to let my apple trees live less than 20 feet from my (and my neighbor’s) evergreen trees. All trees are playing well together and are happy.

Let’s start with a comparison in the human vitamin world. The government gives us minimum daily values for nearly all vitamins. However, manufacturing companies sell vitamins in much higher doses then the minimum recommend by the government because taking the higher amount makes people feel better. Vitamin E comes to mind for me. I take 400 mg every day because it helps me with pain but the government states the daily value needed is only 15 – 30 mg. (Not sure these numbers are correct, I looked up the daily value stat up on the web and found many different values. I combined them all in the range I displayed here.)

The same holds true for your plants. I first learned of this fact when we moved to our house 16 years ago. After the first year, I noticed that my grass always had fungus problems, but my neighbors didn’t. (Mostly I had dollar spot and fairy rings.) I just wanted my yard to look like my neighbors (also required by my HOA or I would have been fined). I put down all kinds of fungicide that I purchased in the home improvement centers. They worked for a short time, but the problem always came back. So I had my soil tested. I found out that I had no phosphorus and very little pot ash (potassium) in my soil. I did know that my neighborhood used to be a farm. I believe that my plot probably had the chicken house on it. Keeping chickens in one spot for many years will drain the phosphorus from the soil. I went to the local feed and seed store and purchased two fertilizers: one 50lb. bag of 0-45-0 and one 50lb. bag of 0-0-60. I spread both (in both the front and back yard) and two weeks later, my lot looked like the rest of the neighborhood! And it stayed that way for 2 years.

My neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the years I have lived here. We have quite a few Leyland Cyprus trees on our property, as well as Arborvitae Emerald Green trees. My neighbors have them as well. Both of these trees carry the Cedar Apple Rust fungus as well as many others. I got the evergreen trees long before I got the apple trees. Knowing that I might have problems with fungus on the apple trees, we planted three trees anyway. I thought that with a spray management program, I could make it work.

My apple trees are now in their 5th year at our house. We bought two year old trees, so I am guessing at the end of this summer, they will be 7 years old. It has not always been an easy co-existence for my apple trees & evergreens. The apple trees told me the second year they were here that they didn’t like living at my house and showed me that by picking up both Cedar Apple Rust and Fire Blight.

I thought, no problem, I will spray! Well, spraying didn’t work! It worked when sprayed right after a rain storm, but the dew is so heavy here in the summer, that each morning I got up I had more fire blight! That year, I cut off so many dead branches I thought I was going to lose the trees. We managed to scrape by that year, but I didn’t know if we should pull the trees and forget about growing apples or not. We decided to keep the trees and I thought I would try again in year number 3. I followed the spray recommendations from the University of Georgia and thought that would make the difference. Nope, it didn’t! After a lot of rain in April and May, I thought my trees would die.

While out and about one day in mid- May, I pulled into my driveway and noticed that I had dollar spot on my lawn. I looked at my neighbor’s yards and they did not have dollar spot. I thought, “Has it been 2 ears since I put down phosphorus?” I called up my feed and seed store to order more. Then I thought, if this works for grass, would it work for my apple trees as well? I ordered 100lbs. of 0-45-0 and 0-0-60 that year. I put 50lbs. out for the grass, (spread in both the front and back yard) and then put the other 50lbs. of each concentrating on the 1/6 acre were my trees were located (the trees are in my backyard and also got some of the initial 50lbs. that I put down for the grass.) I added it a bit heavy to the drip line but spread the rest evenly over the 1/6 acre. I watered it in immediately. I had to use a drip line because the sprinkler would have caused more fire blight on the trees. 1 week later, the episodes of fire blight and new evidence of cedar apple rust stopped!

This has now been made part of the routine care of my apple trees! I add one 50lb. bag of 0-45-0 and one 50lb. bag of 0-0-60 to the 1/6 acre were my trees are located each year. And, as I mentioned earlier, they are now almost 7 years old and much happier trees. I still used an integrated spray management program, but my emphasis concentrates on the early sprays needed in the spring. I only spray for fungus now about every 4 – 6 weeks during the summer months and apply the spray with a focus on the new growth. It is a bit of a challenge to know when to spray because the fungicide can damage the trees if it is over 90 degrees when you spray. (That is all summer long for me!) So I try to time it with a rain storm so the temps are lower. This is something I am willing to accept for the blessing of having my own apples.

I should also state that the phosphorus and pot ash fertilizers will not stop all incidences of fungus problems with the trees. However, it so greatly reduces the number of times fungus appears as well as greatly reducing the severity of the problem that I now find it completely manageable. I have only had to cut off a few small branches from fire blight on my apple trees this year. And, it has been over 3 years since I have even seen evidence of cedar apple rust. (I do understand that Cedar Apple Rust is a bi-annual problem, not an annual problem.)

Also, just so you know, I store this fertilizer so I always have 2 years’ worth on hand. When the world ends, I will still be able to manage my fungus problems with the apple trees for a while.

Now, if I can just get the squirrels to stop sampling the apples to see if they are ripe yet! I see covering those trees in netting in my future next year!

Prizes For This Round Include: (Ends July 29, 2016)

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How to make your own apple cider vineger

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Maddie

We all know the health benefits of real apple cider vinegar-and just how expensive it is. I decided to make some and used information from a couple of older books. It is easy to do and you don’t need a cider press, just patience as the fermenting and souring process take time.

CAUTION!! Remember that any vinegar you use in canning must be 5% acidic to be safe. Do not use city water because the chlorine will kill your bacteria and yeast. Do not use metal containers – only glass, plastic or ceramic crocks.

  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • 1/2 gallon water – well or purified
  • 1/2 cup each of honey and organic sugar
  • apple cores and peels – any variety will work, but I like to mix tart and sweet
  • 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 1 teaspoon dry bread yeast – if needed

PATIENCE

I started small on my first batch, using a gallon size glass sun tea jar with a spigot and lid. The spigot is handy for draining off some of your product to check (you don’t want to stir up your mix too much) and then to empty the jar when the vinegar is done. I boiled 1/2 gallon of well water and let it cool, then stirred in 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup organic sugar and poured the mix into the gallon jar. Add enough apple peels and cores to fill the jar to within 2″ of the top. If you have any apple cider vinegar (ACV) that is raw and unpasteurized, add 1/2 cup of that and stir to help get the fermentation process started. Put the lid on the jar loosely and set it to the side in a warm area of your kitchen. If your mix hasn’t started bubbling after a week, gently stir in 1 teaspoon of dry yeast. Mold on the surface is OK, just skim it off very carefully so you don’t stir up the mix. If there is a milky film in the mix, leave it – it’s the “Mother” and mean your ACV is alive.

After 4-6 weeks, it should stop fermenting and start souring – unless you decide to try the hard cider first. After 8-10 weeks, you should be able to use your own ACV in your cooking and recipes. If you want to use it in canning, try comparing the taste and tartness with commercially made vinegar that you know is 5% acidic. If it isn’t about the same, you need to let it sour longer. When it is done to your satisfaction, use the spigot to drain the ACV off into glass or plastic containers, add lids, and enjoy. You can filter it through a coffee filter if you wish, but I didn’t mind the cloudiness and didn’t bother. Compost the old peels and cores.

I got braver for my second batch because my apples were getting ripe. I used an old Coleman 5 gallon industrial water cooler with a spigot that I got for $2 and multiplied the ingredients. I ended up with a gallon of nice vinegar that I used in salad dressings.

Be sure you record what you used and the amounts so you can tweak your ACV flavor. I used a mix of tart and sweet apple peels and cores in the big batch and liked how it turned out better than the small batch made with just one type of apple parts. Or your ACV may not start doing anything and your notes will show you what may have caused it.

References: “The Little House Cookbook“, 1979 by Barbara M. Walker – Reader’s Digest “Back to Basics”, 1981

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

A guest post by Karen

A lot is written about the perfect retreat, that lovely cabin surrounded by the forest serenaded by a babbly creek with fresh cool water. A few chickens roam the securely fenced compound and a fence of screen wire keeps them out of the thriving vegetable patch, so verdant that it’s trying to creep underneath the fence.

For how many of us is that actually reality? If you can’t afford that dream, should you give up on prepping? Should all of your resources go towards getting out of the city? Should you give up a good job and relocate, hoping for the best?

Opinions differ, but I say “No.” Bloom where you’re planted is a phrase that I once cross-stitched on a pillow and it’s a phrase that has stuck in my head as I’ve moved around many times in my adult life. I look at that phrase a lot differently now that I’m a prepper, but it still holds true. Wherever you are, whatever your surroundings, you can still be more prepared that 95% of the sheeple around you.

I live in a medium-sized city. I have an apartment in the downtown residential area. While this is not ideal, it allows me to work at a profitable job and I am a quick walk from my office. My 10-year-old daughter is close enough to walk to school and can be home in 15 minutes if need be. It worries me that my 16-year-old attends a magnet school in another city but that is a risk that we have decided is worthwhile, as it will better prepare her for the future. I’m sure you can see the benefits of being very close to home should disaster strike. I’d much rather be able to jog home, abandoning my car and avoiding the snarl of traffic.

My second floor apartment is ideal for security purposes. There is only one entry on the main floor and that is a door that I have fortified to withstand all but the most determined invader. There are no ground floor windows to climb through, no glass to break – only one way to get in.

Getting out is a lot easier, because each bedroom and the kitchen are equipped with fire escape ladders – one way in, multiple ways out. We only have the stairway to defend if someone was to get in our house and we would have the advantage of being ready at the top of the stairs.

There are some lovely decorative items in the upstairs foyer that would greatly impede the ascent of someone determined to cause trouble. And don’t forget our large protective dog – she is very menacing in appearance and will be an excellent deterrent.

We have many preps set up for our apartment and have covered as many bases as possible. We have a month’s worth of drinking water stored in our attic in case the water was not working. I also have pool shock to purify water if need be. We have a small propane heater that does not have to be vented to the outside and a fire pit in the back yard for cooking. Another cooking option is a tiny little butane powered stove that can be used indoors.

Our pantry is stocked with enough food to last our family for three months without any additional trips to the store. We will NOT be the people out in the melee with the looters. We are also well stocked with candles, propane, crank flashlights and batteries.

In each room I have cut and duct taped heavy black plastic garbage bags to completely cover the windows, allowing no light whatsoever to be seen from the outside. Two people can quickly and easily run duct tape all the way around the perimeter of the window molding and it will look like the lights are out and nobody is home.

A curtain rod hangs at the ready to insulate the kitchen and living room from the rest of the house. I’ve sewn a rod pocket in the back of a heavy quilt so that in the event of a power outage we will only be heating those two rooms.

I have a well stocked medicine cabinet with 2 additional months of regular medications. The cabinet also contains 3 months of multivitamins for all of us, as well as analgesics, cold medicine and some veterinary antibiotics. In addition, I have a huge variety of herbal teas and dried herbs to help with whatever malady may occur.

If the SHTF in a more permanent way, heaven forbid, we have a small but productive garden in our fenced back yard. I am growing some sprouts in a sunny kitchen window and another window is host to fresh herbs. We have a rain barrel to harvest water from the roof and often take long walks with a field guide to help us learn to identify the edible plants in our area.

Is our situation ideal? Maybe not, but it’s the situation the good Lord has given us. We can either bury our heads in the sand or choose to make the best of it. We have chosen to bloom where we are planted and live happily and securely, knowing we are ready for whatever may come.

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