Survival Gardening: Squash Bugs and Borers

23 Jul

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

If you have a squash bug (SB) or squash vine borer (SVB) problem, it can be a big problem. Some areas have even greater trouble due to increased season length and mild winters.

Despite SB’s greater versatility, I hate SVB even more. It’s utterly devastating, and requires much more attention ahead of time, because once the plant wilts, it’s pretty much too late.

Even if you’re not growing yet and don’t have any problems, push through this one anyway, just in case. You’ll need the fixes and preventatives on hand ahead of time.

Recognize the Enemy

SVB is a moth larvae that chews into and then up through vines of susceptible cucurbits. The plant suddenly wilts, then dies. It limits its destruction to cucurbits and doesn’t usually bother thin-stemmed melons or thin-stemmed gourds.

The SB is a beetle, and spawns freakish little spidery babies that go through green and gray stages. In addition to munching all kinds of plants, they spread disease. There are similar-looking pests with very similar control and prevention difficulties.

The eggs are the best identifier ahead of time. SB lay tight, regular patterns. SVB lay fewer, more irregularly.

SVB usually lay on stems, as close to the base of the plant as possible, but I’ve found them upwards of 1’ above the ground and some trailing up under leaves.

SB wants to lay on the underside of leaves, but I’ve found those diamond clusters on stems, too.

Check other plants, too – It’s not as frequent, but SB will lay on beans, peppers, sunflowers, okra, etc. SB adults will be found anywhere, too.

Conventional Traps, Spray & Powder

In their early stages, SB is somewhat vulnerable to Sevin spray. Powder isn’t super effective and it doesn’t bother the eggs. If SVB larvae aren’t crawling across it as they hatch, it doesn’t bother them, either. Spray can be more effective on more of the life-cycle stages, but it’s “more” – it’s not total wipe-out.

Some find neem oil effective, particularly in the early life stages.

All of them have to catch the bugs to be effective. SB are active enough to evade that spray by leaping away. SVB are inside, so you have to fill those stems to catch them.

Big Ag may be able to blanket enough dust and spray to do so, but most home growers even with a tow-behind disburser are going to struggle to blanket a big enough area fast enough.

!!! – Pesticides aren’t super effective on SB and SVB, but they are wicked effective against pretty much every single beneficial bug in our gardens, from worms and fireflies and their slug-hunting larvae, to pretty much every single pollinator, bees to butterflies to hoverflies and wasps, and can even affect the gut microbiology of hummingbirds and bats. – !!!

Traps work well, but require specific attractants and have to be replaced or rejuvenated.

Conventional Prevention’s

Squash vine borers can pop up after years of not growing squashes anywhere within 200-500 yards. Squash bugs are the same, with an added problem: They like squash. They don’t need it.

That means crop rotations aren’t super effective in breaking this particular pest cycle.

The smaller our spaces, the less effective it becomes.

The mobility of the moths and adaptability of the beetles means that for most home-consumption and small-plot growers with less than an acre (‘bout a football field) per crop butting into another half- or full acre of clean, bare earth, the advice to keep a “clean” garden and avoid mulches doesn’t actually help much.

Without that space, there are too many other options for them: tree and shrub windbreaks, perennial crops and ornamentals, wood piles, overgrown ditches and fence lines, woods, lawns and pastures, straw and hay piles, gaps under sheds.

Weigh that against the values of mulches before going the bare-earth road.

Unfortunately, control once they’re established is difficult, too. Enough to make you fantasize about spraying gas and lighting a match.

Tried & True: Squish ‘Em

Good luck catching the moth. (If you find something that doesn’t affect good bugs, please share.)

To help lower the load for the beetle, carry a jar to the garden to flick them into, and a board you can squash them against.

That board is handy for collecting SB’s – so is cardboard. Lay a chunk near the plants, flip it, stomp.

Tried & True: Pluck Eggs

Attentively checking stems and leaves for little red eggs is the most effective way to control damage.

You can scrape with a butter knife or thumbnail, or try wrapping good, sticky duct tape or packing tape around hands or fingers. You’ll have to press pretty firmly.

I do not just let the eggs fall to the surface under the belief stuff will eat them there (maybe, but maybe not). Nor do I deliver them to birds (some may escape). They get carted to the trash – the trash. In a world without trash, seal them in jars/pails.

Tried & True: Stick Juveniles

I like tape for snagging itty-bitty, speedy SB babies, although you have to really stick them or they can wiggle free.

There’s also the theory of stabbing the SVB by sticking pins/toothpicks in the stems and base of squash either as a preventative or as soon as frass is visible. It has merit, especially if a plant is months into growing but isn’t anywhere near harvest, particularly in a situation where we need this food.

Squashes develop really wide bases, though, and may have more than one larvae, so make sure you’re thoroughly stabbing to kill. They can easily crawl out and chew in elsewhere otherwise.

Foil – Fail

I have tried full-sheet widths of foil in a ring around squashes from the time they pop up. I have interwoven strips around as much of the base of the vines as possible.

The foil at the base in a wide collar akin to brassica collars might be helping, but it’s limited. I have no luck with other materials, either.

Again, I see SVB eggs way up on stems, not only at the base – mama lays on whatever’s exposed, and babies adapt.

Conditionally: Sacrificial Hubbard

Yes, SB-SVB do like Hubbard. I have ringed lots with it, with 20-yard gaps to the nearest other squash, and thrown it in right beside the other cucurbits. Sometimes it’s the only victim or the damage elsewhere is limited, but it’s at best 50-50 and it does nothing to lower the pest loads.

In Big Ag, the Hubbard goes out early and farmers kill the bugs on it to lower pest loads for direct-seeded cash crop squash.

Otherwise, once they’ve killed the Hubbards, SB/SVB have plenty of time to leap over to other cucurbits and kill them, too.

Yellow Traps – Fail

This is where you hang something fairly smooth and happy yellow (cups, frisbees, painted canning lids, yogurt tubs), lightly coat it in something semi-sticky or clogging (kitchen and garden oils, thinned-down glues), and hang it so that itty-bitty munchers get snagged and stuck or coated and suffocate. Wipe, re-coat, repeat.

I have never actually seen hoverflies, fireflies, brown wasps, or striped and fuzzy bees attached, no big butterflies or moths, just the teeny-tiny stuff, so it’s not really hurting. However, I’ve only nabbed juvenile SB on versions stuck down into the dense sections of foliage or laid out in a ring under foliage, and it’s few and far between and mostly a waste of time and resources.

(Again, it can take significant pressure to snag those SB babies – you need a serious level of sticky, and for them to willingly crawl onto it to get stuck, or to fall/jump onto it; they’re not flying or leaping to it on purpose like white-fly.)

Cup Collars – Fail

These guys are effective against some types of pests for other types of crops, just like foil and cardboard collars, but, again, SB lays mostly on leaves and is not restricted to cucurbits – it just likes them – and SVB will lay well up on the mature stem, with the wormy larvae crawling down as far as possible to enter but in no way restricted to entry right at the base of squash.

In the time when the plants are small enough to fit in the cups, their vines aren’t actually vulnerable to borer larvae, still too skinny.

Too, those cups only reach a couple inches up. Any SVB that come by later are going to have nice, exposed stems and leaves protruding to lay on, with their young readily able to slide down and chew in.

Squash are big plants with wide bases and sprawling vines by type – you only contain them in a cup for a little while. Then, there are months of season left for SVB to lay on exposed, viable vines.

So… once again, while effective against some pests, it’s a waste of time and resources for SVB/SB. 

Semi-Helpful: Bury Nodes

There’s the belief that once the adventitious root nodes of longer vines is buried, the adult SVB moth doesn’t know it’s there, and won’t lay her eggs there to burrow in. The idea that she can find a seed-started stem but not a buried node… I don’t know how that even gains traction.

Plus, again, she’ll lay way up on stems. Where they are doesn’t matter.

However, there is a benefit: It creates another feed point for the plant.

If you can kill the larvae in the original stretch(es), active nodes can keep the plant alive long enough to mature any fruits further down the vine.

Tried & True: Row Covers

They work, but there’s some issues that come up, because you have to seal the edges.

SB require really sealing the edges. They’ll crawl under any loose sections. It’s a definite time and resource suck to bury-unbury-rebury every time we need access.

Mesh is my choice control for the consistent SVB problems all over my area, though. They’re not quite as small and tough, so it doesn’t require sealing to the same degree. (I wouldn’t bother if we only had SB.)

Second Hitch: Pollinators can’t get in. That means hand pollinating more than seed stock. It’s also totally devastating for squash bees, so plant some melons for them.

Combatting SB/SVB

It takes some attention and it can be laborious, but we can mitigate SB/SVB infestations. There aren’t many critters that prey on SB/SVB, so it’s all on us. Since the most effective methods require time and in some cases materials, we have to make some preparations so we can act immediately when they show up.

Be Safe out there and be sure to check out The Prepper Journal Store and follow The Prepper Journal on Facebook!

The post Survival Gardening: Squash Bugs and Borers appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

DIY MRE Alternatives

1 May

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

MRE’s enjoy unending popularity within prepper folds, although sometimes the issues – weight, waste, size, and expense – lead us to looking for alternatives. Palatability is another common kicker for many, and the lack of fiber also gets some attention. Happily, we have plenty of options for DIY alternatives.

“Ready to Eat” = Water Weight

There’s a pro-con balance to everything. MRE’s are designed to sustain highly active 18-25-year-olds, so they’re typically jam-packed with calories. They’re also designed with some points like a variety of options and pocket-snacks in mind.

They’re heavy because almost all of those options are ready to eat. Much of the weight comes from water they already contain.

Trying to dodge the weight  isn’t new. Even the U.S. military continues to address it.

Homemade alternatives commonly lean heavily on reducing the water in foods, like many backpackers.

There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as water is available.

In many disasters and some bush conditions, water resupply is an enormous challenge.

The water weight adds up, especially in a pack, but rather than spend as much time sourcing and treating water as making headway, following the trend of military rations with ready-to-eat options – versus just-add-water meals that basically compete with our hydration – has a lot of value.

Supermarket Pricing, Supermarket Quality

Whether we’re more interested in replicating an MRE or an FSR for evac kits, walkout bags, or home kits, we can find options sitting in nearly any supermarket or budget shopper’s store.

While some will match the separate-entree prices available online, they’re nowhere near as expensive as fresh, full MREs with their full shelf lives, particularly if we also have to pay shipping. Buying by the box/case can make things even less painful on the pocket.

The tradeoff is the invariably shorter shelf life compared to an MRE.

Even so, it’s easy to find 1+ years left on best-by dates, and commonly 18-24 months. Those items are also easy to rotate into our daily meals or donate, and for people who don’t like MREs due to taste, consistency, nutrition, and preservatives, supermarket options can have even greater appeal.

Heat-and-Eat Pouches

Uncle Ben’s is the most prevalent in my markets, but there are some generics and other name brands out there that can be found in Mylar pouches or small tubs. They readily heat in a pan of water or dumped into a sierra cup. Or, like MREs, they can be eaten cold instead of heated.

There are a few that contain beans, but the portion is small and doesn’t appreciably affect the proteins contained in either the cup or pouch versions.

For a more complete balance, tote some of the pouched chicken, ham, or Spam, some generic Slim Jim’s or mini summer sausages, or make sure to boost the protein in other areas of the meal packs.

The Uncle Ben’s rices are also a little bland to my tastes, so pack some Old Bay or Tabasco or spare Taco Bell packets.

Much better on both those fronts are the Prego-Pace-Campbell’s Ready Meals.

The Pace pouches are right about fifty-fifty rice to “other” with a fair portion of beans and-or meat in there with veggies. They’re typically a little more saucy than the other rice pouches I’ve had, and are borderline too spicy for me (which makes them spot on for everyone else in my life).

I abhor pretty much all canned and MRE pastas and am unimpressed with even the French RCIR pastas, so use that as a baseline when I tell you: The Prego meals aren’t too bad.

There are some others out there on the internet or by market, to include some fairly nice oriental meal versions that range from having only little specks here and there in their noodles or rice, up to 50% meat and veggies.

The Homestyle Express beef teriyaki rice meals have enough sauce and goodies to spare that I do the same as the too-spicy Ready meals, and add a little extra rice to them.

Since I have dogs, even on the trail none of the extra rice is getting wasted, even though none of the supermarket pouches have zippy-close tops.

All of these supermarket pouches are gusseted on the bottoms for easy-standing and easy eating, and have readily finger-tear tabs and respond well to pocket knives as you work your way down. (Most MRE entrees still don’t.)

I tend to find all of them for just under $2 in my stores, and typically take that route, although the Prego-Campbell’s-Pace meals will jump as high as nearly $3 sometimes and I’ve found 6-pack boxes online that break out to be $1.25-$1.50 instead.

Price it out locally.

If you can get the MRE sides and entrees on sale, with decent shelf lives left on them, depending on shipping, they may work out better, especially compared to the $1.50 versions we’ll have to add a $0.75-$1.25 pouch/tub/can/roll of proteins to.

On the other hand, if you hate the chemical seasonings and textures of MREs, either the “complete” meals or augmenting with pouched meats may be a better option all the way around.

We’ve come a long way in what’s available on that front. Very little appeals to me daily, but enough others go for the flaked chicken, Spam, and pulled barbecue and all the crazy flavors we douse tuna and salmon in now that Walmart and other grocers have their own competing lines.

Most of the pouched rice and pasta meals and sides have enough room in them for the single-serve packets to be easily mixed in.

The meats are also viable for wrapping up in tortillas or topping crackers – which are also pretty compact and have nice shelf lives, and value all on their own for the ability to not eat another soft meal with a spoon.

Tub Solutions

Plenty of entrée-replacements are also available in poly trays, cups and bowls that can help expand our meal options without adding the weight of metal cans.

I don’t find a real difference in survivability in the back of a pickup with a black camper shell that lives where we hit teens and periodically single digits in winter and 110+ with 90+ humidity in summer versus the pouches.

Nor is there a big price difference in my area for the tub options that already include proteins versus the pouches. It’s a little higher to get the tray meals, but only a little and I can regularly find case sales or coupons that leave them in the $2-2.50 range instead of up into $3+.

I tend to find them a bit better in texture and taste than tinned and MRE versions. The Hormel egg versions are head and shoulders above MRE/IMP eggs, more akin to a frozen meal. If you’ve had poly-tray “t-rats” in UGRs, that’s about what you’re looking at for the rest.

They’re viable for heating in pans of water, and they tend to heat faster and more evenly that way compared to the little microwave tubs and cans.

They’re not homemade, but the options that provide larger pieces can be a welcome change to rice and meal-replacement bars, and the plate/bowl can be easier and nicer than dealing with a pouch in some circumstances.

Some like the eggs are viable for making wraps with, which appeals on a number of levels, and the actual (sorta-actual) chunks of meat make most of my family a lot happier.

None of the prepackaged solutions are going to fill my family up. Still, it’s a fairly similar serving size to MRE entrees.

And, just like MREs, augmenting with snacks allows us to boost calories, proteins, nutrients, and belly-filling satisfaction, and to spread our consumption out through the day.


Our local supermarket, Dollar Tree, Aldi’s or Walmart are loaded with calorie- and protein-boosting options for our DIY-ing our own MRE’s.

While many military rations do include a power bar and protein shakes, some of them also get their calories from snack cakes (muffin tops), for-real Pop-Tarts, snack crackers like Combos and Cheez-Its, and filled pastries.

MREs, FSRs, and the CCAR that’s due for field testing in 2020 are filled out with candies, nuts, applesauce, wet-pack and dehydrated fruits, pretzels, sandwich crackers, dry cookies, jerky, trail mixes, and shakes very similar to Carnation and Slim Fast.

Those are all options we, too, can replicate, at nearly any grocer. As with the entrees, buying by box/case even if we want individual packaging can lower the price, whether we’re Dollar Tree or Whole Foods shoppers.

We can also truly DIY similar components with homemade biscotti, ration bars, granola bars, fruit-nut-seed bites, jerky, pemmican, and dehydrated fruits.

Don’t Forget the Water Aspect

While DIY-ing MREs tends to come from trying to dodge the cost, taste, or weight, remember that the “Ready to Eat” part is a biggie. Whether we’re trying to pack a bag, a tote for evacuations, or an emergency pantry, make sure to include options that don’t require water.  

For some other ideas for MRE-like emergency meals, check out blogs and websites for ultralight and no-cook backpackers.

Many are water friendly, and by their nature, they’re as or even more compact and portable than U.S. MREs, and equally focused on fueling people who are burning lots of calories in austere environments. Some of them also include child-friendly, pet-friendly, and labor-saving tips that can be useful for preppers even at home.

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Productive & Easy Container Gardening

18 Apr

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Some of us are restricted entirely to small spaces, and some of us have either clay, rock, or sandy soils that are easier to avoid than to mitigate. Some of us keep container gardens going for convenience, enjoyment, and mitigating seasonal threats from pests to cold, high winds or thunderstorms to dry conditions, even when we have some elbow room and decent starting soil.

On a windowsill or a bookcase, up on a balcony or down on a patio, and even out in the yard or lining our driveway, there are some practices that can make our container gardens more productive, more efficient, and easier to maintain.

Mulch Containers

Even small containers can benefit from mulching. Indoors or out, it limits evaporation, and it prevents compaction from overhead watering and rain.

It also reduces the number of weeds with immediate access to soil for outdoor containers, both decreasing competition with plants we want and making them easier to pull and with less disturbance to our plants and the soil.

Mulching also has significant value in providing an insulating barrier. That insulation protects tender seedlings just starting roots from drying out, and can help mitigate both heat and cold.

That’s particularly valuable when it comes to containers, because they’re prone to drying out and vulnerable to weather extremes.

Go Big

We’re talking container size here, not leaping whole hog into a massive investment of time, energy, and resources by lining every possible vertical and horizontal inch with plants. 

Even when provided with nutrient-rich soils and liquid feeds, plants do better with some room to groove. In the ground or larger beds, roots are able to spread readily. Smaller containers limit not only the depth, but also the width roots can expand into.

(The really tiny tabletop strawberry planters are notorious for problems due to overcrowded roots.

The relationship between square- and cubic footage, total volume and surface area, all factor in when it comes to planters and beds.

The ability to access additional root space and water from the soil under each successive tier is what makes some types of herb spirals, stair-step planters, and pyramids so successful and efficient when square footage is limited.

We can get away with a little bit more for short-lifespan plants that are being harvested as baby leaves, but for perennials and larger plants, adequate root space greatly impacts success over the season.

When eyeballing planters, don’t forget to decrease the usable space by about an inch at the top – soil will settle, but containers that are filled right to the rim will overflow quickly and we’re likely to lose soil as we dig in there.

Pot Mods

When selecting a container, evaluate it on not just the soil volume and dimensions, but also the ability to add additional drainage holes.

Ideally, we’ll be able to put in those extra holes 1-4” up the sides of the pots, providing both adequate drainage that many pots lack, but also the ability to do a fill with rock, sand, mulch, flake animal bedding, pine cones, branches, or empty soda bottles peppered with holes.

The junk-filled space creates a reservoir area that limits how often we need to water, much akin to sub-irrigated planters and still-water hydroponics/aquaponics methods.

While we’re at it, we might also consider adding a PVC tube, soda bottle with holes drilled, small clay pots epoxied together, a small transplant pot buried to ground level, or similar to create ollas or a chute that will help us deliver water directly to the root zones. 

Doing so limits evaporation loss, some pests, and can make watering faster – we can dump and go, rather than slowly soak.

Watering & Washout

Water creates two of the biggest challenges to both raised beds and container gardens. Material selection can factor in, increasing evaporation like clay pots – which isn’t always a bad thing – or exasperating heat issues like many metal and dark containers – which, again, has benefits in some seasons and climates.

The greatest factor is usually just the soil-to-plant ratio. There’s just not much water-holding capacity in many planters.

That means we’ll typically have to water more often, versus plants that are in bigger beds or the ground.

In addition to creating reservoirs for our plants, if we can, try sinking containers in the ground – even partway. It can provide not only additional access to water and decreased water drainage, but also some temperature regulation.

Nutrients washing out of pots during heavy rains is also a common issue.

It can be combated by using plastic or poly covers, or by adding fertilizers in small increments to the top of planters, rather than mixed into the soils, whether that’s coffee grounds and Epsom salts sprinkled on top, feeder sticks, in-situ composting, or liquid fertilizers applied as we water.


Add Amendments

No matter how we combat things like irrigation needs and washout – or if they’re even factors that affect our containers – we have to revitalize the soil in our planters, just like in beds and in-ground plots.

Some containers are large enough for compost chutes/tubes or even “trench” composting methods.

Intensive Spacing

We can absolutely use individual planters to mimic the tight spacing we see in intensive gardening methods like square foot gardening and bio-intensive or bio-dynamic gardening.

Buckets, troughs with at least six-inch soil depths, and similar shapes make conversions easy and simple and can maximize the typically square worlds we inhabit. Storage totes and lined or plastic drawers share similar benefits, but even smaller containers like cut-down soda bottles can work.

However, it requires the same super-rich soil mixes we’d use in beds.

That means additional amendments and the ability to re-mix soils, which we need to plan for in our spaces.

Be Ruthless

While we can congestion plant our containers, we do have to give plants the space they need. Many gardeners both large and micro scale are prone to overcrowd or skip thinning, for a variety of reasons, to the detriment of their yields.

Finding the happy medium between wasted space and bare soil, and overcrowding plants – stunting them as they fight for root space, sunlight and nutrients – requires a little practice. Our exact soil mixes, feeding, irrigation, and the humidity, wind, and heat of our environments affect the exact spacing.

Ruthlessly selecting our “keepers” can start even earlier, particularly if all we have are small-space containers. We have to be realistic about not only what will grow – productively – in that space, but how many plants it takes to harvest usable amounts at a time.

While there is value in any growing – both mentally and the practice it provides – planning worthwhile plantings will help us better assess in the long run.

When we’re restricted, we might skip the large, long-growing plants that may offer only 1-2 harvests, such as ball cabbage, broccoli, corn, or some large winter melons.

Instead, we might focus on the indeterminate, cut-and-come-again, and staggered crops that give higher total yields at faster rates, such as smaller summer or acorn squash, lettuces, peas that offer greens as well as pods, and cherry or grape tomatoes.

Cover Crop

Container gardens benefit from cover crops just like raised beds and large plots. The fumigant, disease-cycle breaks, revitalization, soil loosening, aeration, and drainage benefits all apply even at micro-scale.

To get the most out of a container cover – especially with limited space – aim for those that also offer culinary or medicinal uses, or will provide small-animal feed or mulch for our planters.

Some can also provide early- and late-season flowering for beneficial insects, birds, and bats that are as useful on skyrise balconies as they are for rural gardens and orchards.

Companion Plant

In some cases, like inter-planting onions and lettuce, companions are possible even in small containers.

Other times, like keeping marigolds or basil near tomatoes instead of sharing a tote, we might not get the full benefits companion planting can produce, but their presence still offers some assistance.

Flowering culinary herbs, nasturtium, echinacea, and flowering wild edibles can commonly do double duty.

They aid pollinators early, late, and during flowering gulfs, encourage the predatory and parasitic insects that lower our pest loads, serve as camouflage and “bug breaks” between our edible crops, and help repel human-munching bugs and crop pests, while also providing a direct harvest for spicing, medicinals, or greens. 

Cluster Containers

Interspersing our veggies nets more than the benefits of essentially companion planting.

Keeping planters together instead of spread out can help shade the containers and any bare soil in summer, reducing heat and evaporative losses that lead to extra irrigation.

It also provides a larger mass, which aids in temperature regulation in both summer and on the cooler fringes of spring and autumn.

Ready, Set, Grow

Container gardening fits into almost any lifestyle. Whether we’re restricted to a windowsill or a shelf with a lamp, or have acres to play with, there are numerous benefits to adding some pots or trays to our production.

The local garden club or Master Gardener association and sometimes even our ag extensions can offer additional suggestions for improving yields and making our planters as productive and easy to maintain as possible. So can locals with blogs and YouTube channels, and sites like GrowVeg or seed suppliers.

Wherever we source our information, get started this season. However big or small our production, whatever our motivation for growing, the learning curve is too steep to put it off.

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Small Animal & Livestock Euthanasia on the Homestead – What You Need To Know

7 Mar

Written by Granny Miller on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes, when reading the archives of the site I find some amazing posts that merit exposure to the current generation of Preppers and followers. This from Granny Miller is one such article that is worth the read. The closing Editor’s Comments are from Pat Henry. Nothing but this introduction has been added and nothing has been changed.

Tibby is a young barn cat that will need to be euthanized within the next few days. She is less than a year old and is suffering from a very aggressive form of cancer.

Tibby The Barn Cat With A Very Aggressive Cancer
Tibby The Barn Cat With A Very Aggressive Cancer

For the past week I’ve been spending extra time with her and feeding her all the milk and cheap bologna she cares to eat.
She doesn’t seem to be in any pain just yet. I’m watching her carefully for the first signs of pain; or for a change in her behavior or for the tumor to begin to rupture. At the first hint of a change my husband or I will euthanize her quietly here on the farm.

Without a doubt one of the most unpleasant but vital self-reliance and agrarian skills is the ability to quickly and painlessly euthanize sick or suffering animals and livestock.

For most animals the preferred method on this farm is a well-placed bullet to the front or back of the head while the animal is eating or distracted in some way. That’s how Tibby will be released. She will be shot from behind while she is eating and her death will be instantaneous and she will never know any pain.

On our farm we use small-caliber bullets for small animals and a larger caliber for large livestock. Chickens, ducks and other poultry are not shot but instead quickly euthanized with a broomstick. We never use the services of a veterinarian for euthanasia due to cost, time considerations and because it is less stressful for the animal to be put down by someone they know and trust.

A Sick Ewe
A Sick Ewe

I prefer a .22 caliber bullet for cats, small dogs, goats and light pigs, and a .38 caliber hollow point for sheep, cattle, horses and heavy hogs. My husband prefers the .45 Long Colt for larger animals. It doesn’t matter if the shot is made from a rifle or a handgun. However a rifle produces a higher velocity bullet and that can be an important consideration in some situations. I almost always use a handgun when I have to destroy an animal because it’s what I’m comfortable with. But at times it can be safer for the shooter to use a rifle if the animal is very large and in pain. An animal in pain is unpredictable and can be dangerous.

Whenever possible I restrain and remove the animal from the other animals so that they don’t witness the killing. Some people say it doesn’t matter but I think that it does. Animals understand a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for.

When euthanizing an animal the most important thing to keep in mind is safety for the shooter and to any other creatures nearby. It is safest to have any bystanders stand behind the shooter and well back away from the animal.

If at all possible I try to move the animal out-of-doors and not take the shot in the barn if I can help it. A ricochet bullet is unlikely, but I do take care that nothing obviously hard or solid is in my way or in the line of fire. That said if it is too stressful or upsetting to the animal to be moved, I will shoot it in the barn.

Where To Place Bullet In Cattle
Where To Place Bullet In Cattle

Outdoors, I try to take the shot while standing behind the animal and facing downhill if I’m on a hill. That’s because an animal will often lunge forward when first shot and it is easier to back up.

Almost always animals will jerk, thrash and twitch when shot in the head and it is important to be able to step out-of-the-way so as not to be accidentally hurt.

The most effective head shot is a shot that is taken 3” -12” away from the back or front of the head and not with the muzzle of the gun placed directly on the head. A little extra distance allows the shooter to shift if the animal moves.

Photos are not 3 dimensional and have limitations. But in general, the shot should be aimed downward directly between the ears when standing behind the animal or between the eyes or mid-line on the forehead when in front of the animal. The angle of the shot and placement depends upon the species and where the shooter is positioned.

This is where it’s important to be aware of the basic physiological differences in livestock and small animals. Take the time ahead of time to learn how the animals you keep and are responsible for are put together.

Skull shape and exact brain location is not the same in all animals. The more precisely a bullet is placed into the center of the brain – the more catastrophic the tissue damage. Catastrophic damage results in a merciful and quicker kill. It’s a case of lights on – then lights off – and there is no pain for the animal. It’s a complete short circuit from the brain to the body.

Bullet Placement In A Pig
Bullet Placement In A Pig

If you are unsure about exact bullet placement a larger caliber bullet can reduce the margin of error. Two shots fired into the skull in rapid succession will kill or fatally stun most large farm animals.

With chickens, ducks and other poultry I believe the most merciful and quickest killing is by way of cervical dislocation with a broomstick.

I first restrain the chicken and hold its wings in place close to the body. I next place the chicken beak and breast side down on a very firm surface like a cement sidewalk. I then place a broomstick so that it directly spans across the back of the chicken or duck’s neck where the head meets the neck, and step quickly on the left side of the broom stick and then on the right side and pull the chicken’s body backwards by its feet towards me and away from the head and broom stick. By stepping on the broom stick while it spans the chicken’s neck and pulling the body backwards the spinal cord is severed from the brain and death is instantaneous.

The proper disposal of euthanized animals is an important consideration. On this farm all animals are either buried or taken to the woods and left exposed so that other animals can make good use of them.

My pet dogs have been either buried in my flower and rose garden or the hill behind my mother-in-law’s house.

If you know ahead of time that you will need to euthanize an animal it is helpful and practical to have the grave pre-dug or have a plan for the removal of the body.

If you’re going to bury an animal it’s important to be sure to bury it deep enough. Graves should be at least 3’ deep for most animals – deeper for large livestock – and plenty wide. A backhoe and a set of chains are real time savers for large farm animals. Keep the graves well away from wells and other water sources.

No conversation about animal euthanasia would be complete without a mention of the human emotions that are involved.

Speaking from personal experience, I have found that there’s a profound sense of regret, sadness and emptiness when any animal has to be destroyed. A feeling of interior hollowness and the stillness and absolute finality of death is always present. Often there is self-blame whether or not it is merited.

But sometimes euthanasia can be an easy choice with few regrets. I have found this to be especially true with large livestock. When an animal is obviously suffering and there’s no possible hope or remedy for the situation it is easy to take the shot. At those times courage is not needed – only mercy is required. Mercy is a gift that we as humans can bestow upon the animals that serve and depend upon us. Mercy is what helps me to find my target and to remain calm, detached and determined while I do what I must.

But when the animal is a pet or there is a strong emotional attachment, euthanasia can be very hard. It’s at that time that personal courage, bravery and faith is necessary. Because euthanizing a pet is so hard many people will elect to use the services of a veterinarian or call a trusted friend. There’s no shame in asking a friend to shoot your dog or horse. Many country people are glad to help and understand the heartache involved. We unfortunately live in a society that denies death and anthropomorphizes animals so there is bound to be problems when we’re face with the euthanasia of our pets and animals that we love. Often emotions will cloud good judgment and sadly many animals have been held onto way past the time when they should have been allowed to pass away.

I always say a prayer right before I take the life of any animal. I pray that God will steady my hand and give the animal a quick and painless death. I also pray for forgiveness. Never once have I killed an animal that I was not cognizant that death is the cost for this earthly life and that one day I too will be required to pay the price.

Read the original article:

Editors Note: Today’s post deals with a subject that most of us don’t want to think about. I was prompted to add this post for two reasons. The first reason is that with animals; I think that in some cases, suffering through a painful illness is not humane and the most human thing we can do for them is to release them from pain quickly. The second and more personal reason for me is that we just lost our family dog.

She has been a good and faithful friend for many years and just recently had to be put down by the vet. She suffered a series of seizures in one day after a few other incidents and was only able to stop having seizures while heavily sedated. I was out of town and my wife had to carry her to the emergency vet who did not have an optimistic opinion of her quality of health after so many seizures. She would never be the same dog we knew and loved. She was about 13 years old and had lived a good life.

Why didn’t I follow the advice in the article above and take care of this myself? For starters, because I wasn’t at home but even if I was, we live in the city and I could go to jail for firing a gun within the city limits even for this reason. If I am being honest though, even it we lived on a farm in the country, I am not sure I could easily pull the trigger on my old friend. Euthanizing an animal is hard enough when you have less of a connection. I don’t own livestock, so I may be wrong in this assumption and it could be that all farm animals are just as dear to the hearts of their owners as our family pet, but I doubt that a little. When you have a dog living in your home for 13 years that you have raised from a baby essentially, who accompanied you on family vacations, shared every birthday, cookout, slumber party and graduation, who protected your family, it is something more personal.

That being said, we may all have to be faced with this type of scenario in our lives and it is good information. Knowing how to do this quickly and humanely could be beneficial.

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How to Protect your Site against Intrusion from Squatters and Traveler’s

2 Mar

Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest contribution from Dakota Murphey on site security, something she has written about before in The Prepper Journal. Always interesting to see what others think about their security and options, Dakota resides in the United Kingdom and she supplied the feature picture so I had to find out if you can use deadly force on intruders in England. According to Quora  – “If someone trespasses on my property in the UK, do I have the right to shoot the intruder? There are very few jurisdictions on the planet where one can shoot somebody who is a trespasser. … However, in the UK, from what I understand, a person has to first be in fear of their life, and then can defend themselves.” So, not that different across the pond other than the availability of weapons.

If you have a vacant property or an area of land that is unoccupied then you need to be aware of the potential challenges and issues of intruders at your site. This could take the form of squatters looking for somewhere to stay or travelers pitching up on your land. Either of these scenarios can be very frustrating, and it can be difficult and time-consuming to get them evicted.

In any case it is best to prevent intruders from being able to use your property. There are many ways that you can do these – here are some of the most effective methods to protect your property against squatters and travelers.

Protect Entry Points

If you have an empty property this can be an extremely appealing target for squatters and trespassers, especially if getting in is as simple as walking through the door. It is essential that you should do everything you can to protect all of the obvious entry points to the property. You can do this by putting security doors or screens.

If squatters encounter any kind of physical barrier, they are likely to move on and try a different property. So, this first line of security can be hugely effective in preventing the majority of possible intrusions.

…That includes Windows

Of course, it is important to also note that if you are going to put physical barriers in place of doors, you need to do the same with your windows too. If you have windows that can easily be broken, then this will be a popular entry point for intruders. Any window that is reachable from floor level is a potential weak point in your defenses.

There are specific security barriers that are designed to cover low-level windows and make it impossible for potential squatters and trespassers to gain entry into the property. Have these installed at the same time as your door protection for full coverage.

Stop Vehicle Access

Of course, it’s not just empty properties that can attract potential intruders. If you have a large area of land that is currently not being used or is unoccupied for a long period of time, it could be targeted by traveler communities. Travelers often base themselves on used land and once they have established themselves it can be time consuming and challenging to have them evicted.

So, if you have an area of land that could potentially be used by travelers you need to stop vehicles from being able to access the area. This can be achieved with the positioning of concrete barriers as they can make it impossible to get onto the land. This will force the travelers to move on and try elsewhere.

Security Patrols

On some property or vacant land, it is not possible to put up physical barriers – if this is the case for you, it may be necessary to look into other options for security. One of the most effective ways to deter trespassers and intruders is to have a professional security patrol carried out at regular intervals.

These patrols not only work as a deterrent but can also help to uncover intruders as soon as possible. This can make it much easier for you to deal with the consequences of the intrusion.


It’s a great idea to have CCTV set up around your property. Once again, CCTV is so effective not only because it can alert you to the presence of intruders but also simply as a deterrent. If intruders are made aware that they are on camera, this can make them move on and choose an easier target.

It is important, then, not only to put CCTV in place, but also to clearly marked to make it easy for potential intruders to see.

Put Alarm Systems in Place

It can be also be very helpful to have an alarm system in place. This is another example of a form of security that is multifaceted – alerting you to the presence of intruders but also convincing intruders to leave. Alarm systems can be installed relatively cheaply, but they can save you an enormous amount of money in the potential costs of damages or legal services in getting intruders evicted.

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Raised Beds – Pro-Con Fact -check

19 Feb

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Before we get started, I want to say that I’m a huge fan of permanent and raised beds. They don’t need any exaggerations to be an incredible gardening method, but sometimes that’s exactly what we run into. People start touting the benefits of raised beds and end up airing overeager and possibly even unwitting exaggerations.

There’s actually only a couple benefits specific to raised beds, even versus till systems.

Reduced soil care & maintenance

It applies to any permanent bed: Less area is being as actively worked than a full plot even if we’re essentially tilling our soil. Too, even when we feel we must churn our beds with our rakes and clawed cultivators, that “tilling” is regularly just scuffing the top 2-4” (“shallow cultivation”).

Healthier soil structure and composition

It’s a biggie, although other no-till systems also reap the benefits that come from active, living soils. However, both raised beds and container gardens are still at risk of soil compaction depending on soil fill, planting, and mulching practices.

Throw Most Other Claims Out the Window

Some of them rely on specific types of bounded bed construction and specific soil fill. Some of them are actually a management practice, with no difference in that practice’s contribution between raised beds, other permanent beds, or tilled-plot systems.

“Raised beds limit bending.”

They do, but how much varies greatly. Beds that are only 4-9” tall aren’t saving backs all that much.

“It’s better for kids/pets and reduces pests.”

It depends on height again. It only takes 8-12” to discourage some critters. However, kids’ soccer balls, rodents and rodent-chasing terriers, and Labrador tails are still threats even at 16-24”, slugs don’t care how high you go, and unless it’s lined, mole/shrew invasions are still an issue.

“You only have to amend/fertilize the beds, not a whole plot.”

Fertilizing is based entirely on what we use for fertilizer – finished compost that gets spread across planting spaces or the whole bed/plot, permanent or seasonal/annual composting trenches or tubes, or granules and liquids (or coffee grounds) that are typically applied directly to or around plants, not broadcast.

Amending is only an advantage over tilled plots where the entire garden area is tilled, versus permanent ground-level beds or growers who only till strips with paths between them.

“Less water gets used irrigating because you’re not watering a whole plot, just the beds/plants.”

Nope. I can move around with a hose, fill ollas, or lay drip lines exactly where the plants are for tilled rows and in-ground beds, too, and I see as many people whose sprinklers waste water on pathways with raised beds as with tilled-row gardens.  

“Less water gets used with raised beds, because it doesn’t run off.”

Total nope. Cover crops, mulch, drip lines, and applying compost can negate the irrigation-runoff issues that get attributed to tilled gardens.  

True Con: Raised beds and containers are actually more likely to need watered if they have bottoms roots can’t penetrate, especially when they’re densely planted and aren’t mulched and-or olla-irrigated.

Beds and containers can be very efficient in water use, using specific construction like sub-irrigated planters and beds, and carbon-rich layers such as we see in hügelkultur and African keyholes. However, versus an in-ground plot of the same design, beds and containers dry out faster.

That doesn’t mean more water use, necessarily (although water conservation has as much to do with other practices than beds vs. tilled plots). Most raised beds just aren’t deep enough to keep dense plantings happy. The soil only holds so much at a time, so we have to water more often.

“There’s less weeding.”

It depends entirely on soil source and construction. If the bed doesn’t have a weed barrier at the bottom, weeds will readily grow through 6-12” of soil. Once weeds have started – blown-in, from below, or preexisting in the soil – it’s just as much work to remove them.

(Planting density and mulching practices have far greater effects on weeds and weed-pulling effort.)

 “It’s easier to put up trellises/row covers.”

Only if your raised bed was built with infrastructure for it. Otherwise, raised bed, permanent ground-level bed, or recently-tilled plot row, I’m doing the same work.

*There are some cheats/hacks that make it faster and easier for in-ground beds and tilled plots, too.

“It extends the season.” & “There’s better drainage.

Combo, because the answer is the same: It does, although height factors in there, too. Elevated soil beds warm up and dry out faster (which can admittedly be a draw or loss instead of a win). However, I can push a tiller or tow an ATV attachment that lets me mound beds to warm and drain earlier, too.  

*Fleece and plastic covers usually have equal or greater impact on season extension.

True Con: Raised beds and containers are more vulnerable to nutrient wash-out in heavy rains due to that increased drainage … Unless you have sandy base soil, in which case, raised beds are totally your “best of both worlds” fix for retention and drainage.

Psst … If you do deal with a lot of sand or have a high-heat environment, try a shallow plastic lining and-or use African keyhole, lasagna garden, or hügelkultur fill layers like tree limbs, cardboard, and leaves. They’ll all hold and slow water to give plants more chance at it, but let excess pass through.

“Raised beds grow more per square-foot.”

Nope. Big Ag to backyards, we can till and create the same 30-36” or 40-48” bed surface, fertilize that area just as heavily, and use the same congestion planting that produces more plants per square foot.

“Companion planting is possible with raised beds.”

Same deal: It’s also readily possible in ground-level beds and till systems.

I can even do it full mech … in a single pass down each bed, even, with the right equipment. It takes only an extra 2-15 minutes to fill each hopper with different seed and adjust the drill or drop seeder plates to plant them at their individual density and depths.

With planning, I can even do mid-season replanting around/through the companions, keeping those in place for the full run of my rotations, from beets and cabbage through tomatoes and squash and back to kale and spinach.

Raised Bed “Con” Myths

There’s also a couple of “cons” passed around as all-time gospel about raised beds, too, compared to digging a garden out of the backyard dirt. Usually it’s that “Raised beds are costly/time consuming to set up compared to tilled gardens”and “They’re costly to fill.”

They can be. They don’t have to be.

We can do an elevated raised bed that we mound up out of the surrounding soil, unbounded. (It’ll grow in elevation as we add mulches, compost, and mow/crimp cover crops.)

Bagging neighborhood leaves will produce leaf mold (compost) for us, to serve as either the primary planting media (to be added to annually with mulches and cover crops and more leaf mold) or to top our beds as a rich mulch that will perform a number of fabulous functions.

Construction and filling … Poof, done.

Setup Costs: Same as a tilled bed – Rake (stiff-tined gravel/hay/garden), gloves, & bags

Setup Time: Same as a tilled bed

Caveat: You have to wait for that leaf mold if it’s your planting base or a major amendment. It can take 3-12 months depending on temperature and the amount of microbial life and little critters that were in there to start.

Admittedly, unbounded beds slope at the sides, so we have to be careful as we plant/weed near edges and they’ll need periodic shaping, even a couple of times per season if we grow with high turnover or have lots of hard rains.

*If we want “pretty” or need the boundary, we can use free materials like pallets or even raw branches and logs for bounded beds. Time goes up. Costs don’t.

I am, actually, a fan of raised beds.

I even believe in raised and permanent beds for mid- and large-scale vegetables and some calorie-crop production. However, I also believe in honest assessments.

Too, when we inflate things, they’re easy to pop. Once popped, people are less likely to believe any of the “rest” about that thing or from that source. It’s human nature, and the healthy skepticism is justified at that point.

That’s particularly tragic in this case, because the results from healthy, living soils and the time/labor reductions in managing only the soil we need to work are huge.

They’re bigger yet if we’re interested in self-reliance.

This article wasn’t inspired by the fact that raised beds don’t need the exaggerations to be valuable and viable, though. All the ways we can reap the same benefits, with any production method, at any scale was.

Container gardens on balconies to tilled acreage, they save soil from compaction, provide microbe habitat, reduce irrigation and reduce water waste, help with pest control and nutrient deficiencies, increase disease resistance, and save time and labor.

Especially combined, those practices help us get the most out of our space and resources, regardless of whether we apply them to long, skinny boxes or mounds of elevated soil, or churn whole squares with a tiller or plow. End of Days or daily life, that’s huge, too.

The post Raised Beds – Pro-Con Fact -check appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Sprouts for Preppers

13 Feb

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Sprouts can be a great solution for preppers at all levels, as well as our animals. They can be had and done in a million and one ways, eliminate some of the climate issues we face in both hot and cold environments, require little space and little time, and are packed with nutrients. They also have some nice morale benefits, providing fresh green foods and sometimes even a crunch during times not much else will grow.

Wide Variety

If you don’t like sprouts, give them a second try. Just trying one or a few and giving up on them is missing out.

Personally, I’m not big on alfalfa or the “moo mixes”. They taste like grass to me, and I don’t dig the texture.

Flip around to radish. I love it, but it’s typically some hot and spicy stuff. If you packed a sandwich or wrap with radish, a lot of people would be unhappy, but it’s great for finger-picking snacks playing cards and flavoring anything from sandwiches and salads to soups and stir fry.

There’s a whole world to choose from, with a huge range of textures and flavors, from amaranth, brassicas and popcorn to pea shoots and sunflower.

Psst…Buy regular ol’ garden seed as often as possible – it’s the same stuff and will cost a lot less, especially while we’re in the sampling phase.

Once we’ve got them growing, we can use them in everything we would a lettuce or fresh vegetable – soups, stir fry, salads, sandwiches, stackers, omelets, and wraps.

Health Concerns

It’s never a good idea to eat one thing to excess, which is where a lot of problems come in with sprouts (and wild edibles). There are sprouts that pregnant women shouldn’t eat. Likewise, there are a few that will interact with preexisting medical conditions or herbal treatments. It’s not common or huge, but do a little research.

Types & Terms

As sprouts gain in popularity, culinary and botanical definitions are shifting, and it can be painful to keep track of the stage being discussed.

Most people neither need to know nor care if there should be a scientifically or government determined dividing line between the plant category and what we call it when we’re eating its leaves. Given what consensus conventions have repeatedly done to Pluto, I’d rather we all just live in peace with our immature edible greenery.

It’s not worth getting wrapped around the axle over. Many people and most specialists have foibles. I have my own knee-jerk at bullet-ammo and clip-mag mix-ups, and seeing an OP or heirloom seller proudly declare “Non-GMO!” like its particular OP or heirloom is special in that way, so I try to remember that some people care deeply about precise terms.

I’m using “sprouts” as an umbrella for the whole shebang anyway, cotyledons through baby leaves. Don’t be put out over it.


Seed Sucks

A major consideration for preppers, is that sprouts and microgreens are an absolute seed suck. We’re going to eat them long before they have a chance to make more seed for collection.

There’s a really incredible ratio between many sprouting seeds and their green yields, with anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon capable of filling a jar or 8×8” to 12×12” square, but it’s something to be aware of.

That seed use is one of the reasons we – as preppers especially – want to get the most bang for the buck out of our sprouts.

Growing Methods

When we grow wheat for a couple of days and then cook it as soon as it has “tails” from the roots, that’s sprouted grain (which hugely increases feed value for us, birds, and small ruminants, and can be cooked as-is for cereals, soups and “rice” side dishes, or ground for flour).

When we do sprouts in jars, that’s about the furthest stage we want to take them to. Leaves will start getting damaged (which leads to rot), and they’ll have more drainage problems if we let them go much longer.

Working in stackable trays we can grow a greater density for longer, due to the airflow.

Some types will grow to full-on baby leaves using just water and sunlight. Some may require a substrate of some kind to get there – paper towel, cloth towel, small pea gravel or aquarium stone that we keep lightly damp for them. Others will happily send roots through a mesh or grate into a drip-catch pan for the support and greater absorption they need.

Those can be a big boost for anyone with limited resources, whether it’s income or space now, or a prepper making the most out of their seed stash. It lets us get a lot more yield per seed and without added nutrients.

For others, we do need nutrients, and in some cases a soil or soil-substitute substrate. Sometimes, though, those nutrients can be as simple as sticking a used teabag or cheesecloth holding used coffee grounds in a gallon jug and using that for root-zone watering.

For the larger microgreens that need a little more help yet, I personally like good ol’ dirt, anywhere from a half-inch to an inch deep.

I’m not big into “needy” things, so I don’t always do sprouts the way others recommend.

I rinse jars 1-2x a day and angle them to drain. I sometimes use a gentle spray from a can or hose for bulk microgreens and sprouts, but for small amounts and delicate green sprouts at the cotyledon-leaf stage, I routinely just mist, and I routinely only water leafy sprouts once a day.

I also keep a damp cloth over my tray-grown sprouts if they’re in the house or arid conditions, with the lids over those, or I use clear “greenhouse” lids to help hold moisture.

In really humid conditions, I go with only the draped cloth so excess moisture can evaporate at will.

Play with it.

Especially small-scale, it’s a little like finding a sweet spot for sourdough starter. Where they are exactly on a counter changes their airflow and temperature. How densely we plant and how big we want our sprouts and microgreens will also affect how much attention they need and which methods work best.


We don’t need specialty jars or lids. We can poke tons of holes in a peanut butter tub or cover any ol’ jar with a sock, torn shirt, or garden mesh.

I do still use my original Sproutmaster trays at home. I gave up on the divider early on and went to a paper towel liner, but they’re way sturdier than I expected when I first unwrapped mine and they’re handy enough, stack well enough with thin dish towels between the tray and lids.

(DO NOT believe that the mini’s —or the jar versions – will work for packing. It requires rubber bands, bungees, and it either ends up not draining or you end with drips.)

When I expanded, I didn’t buy more. It’s too easy to wrap a dish towel or storm mesh around a baker’s drying rack if I want improved drainage and airflow, or line anything from a lasagna pan to a 1020 tray with the same, a paper towel, or soil, or just arrange a tilted bracer and put in drainage holes above seed height on one end.

It works, whether giving them gentle sprays or mists, dunking the whole tray real quick, or approximating a flood-drain hydroponics or aquaponics system where we pour on one side and let it trickle across and drain.

Sprouted Fodder

Just like sprouts offer us condensed nutrients and nice, fresh, and even crunchy foods to augment our diets, sprouted fodder has a ton of benefits for livestock –

Basically, it’s growing seed grains (and rarely beans) to the stage right before they develop true leaves, usually 7-9-12 days. It needs nothing more than water and some light in the last 3-5 days, and typically boosts proteins, minerals, and vitamins by 2-4 times as well as increasing the digestibility of the seed. Even non-grazing game birds like ducks can be fed sprouted fodder.

It, too, is a seed suck – but it has the same seed-to-mass conversion as human sprouts, too, 4-8 x the mass. And, remember, that mass is pound-for-pound 2-4x “better” in the common focus areas in livestock feed, as well as being more filling and covering more of the daily fiber/dry matter needs

The way some people grow, it’s also water needy. That can be reduced by reusing water from sprouted fodder in gardens, for larger livestock, and through the fodder system again after some base physical filtration (due to residues, it’s still going to need replacement after a few passes).

I have the best luck going with thin layers, not the “less than a half-inch thick” that others are able to make work. I tend to aim for 3-4 layers of seed in depth.

I also sprout more than barley, wheat and oats in my mats, everything from native pasture grasses and common hay seed mixes to millet, pigeon and partridge peas, vetch, and cow beans. As with fresh feeds, the latter get fed in much lower density due to richness, but I find it to be a nice boost.

I’ll also do mats of stockpiled bulk seed like forage turnips and beets when germination on those start to get lower than I prefer.

For some additional sprouted fodder information and setup ideas, check out:

I wouldn’t try to grow enough to truly feed livestock, especially large livestock, but even small amounts can see big boosts in production and health. (So can 2-4 day sprouting grains and beans, instead of feeding that grain dry or just-soaked.)

Sprouts for Preppers

Sprouts can check a lot of boxes for us and our livestock. We have to plan for the high seed use and additional drain on water supply, but it gives us an option for fresh foods and healthier foods even in very small spaces and commonly even without light.

Even if we’ve had some bad sprout experiences before, it’s worth giving them another go, from sprouted grains to microgreens and fodder mats.

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Practical Preps: Backyard Projects Big and Small

12 Feb

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Dead of winter or height of summer, there are some relatively quick, easy, and commonly inexpensive projects we can tackle right in our own backyards to improve our self-reliance and test our preps.

Train Prepper Pards

For many of us, our animals are beloved family members. Animals can also be incredible helpmates, even basic livestock like poultry and rabbits. Having those animals trained to respond and accept handling increases their usefulness as well as our ability to get them out of dangerous situations.

Both dogs and goats can be trained to wear packs and pull in harness.

That can decrease our loads not only in evacuations and hiking with them, but also increase their usefulness as we collect or distribute water, haul groceries to the kitchen, and maneuver about our daily lives.

They have to build up to their tasks, just like we do, both mentally and physically, so work in short periods and increase time and reps/weight regardless of task.

Animals also have to become accustomed to their gear. Many need some adjustment periods even for simple booties that protect them from roadside and forest or trail debris and surfaces.

Having well-behaved animals is always a plus. For preppers, especially, having animals that leash and load well, can be handled if they’re injured or sick, and that respond off-lead regardless of situation, and respond to voice, whistle pips, and silent hand signals is even more beneficial. Even the smallest backyard – or apartment interior – serves as a training ground for those abilities.

Since so many preppers recommend either headstrong or high-activity working dogs that need jobs to be contented companions, the concept “a tired puppy is a good puppy” also applies in the need for regularly working and training with our animals.

Rain Catchment

When it comes to preparedness, it really just does not get much easier or cheaper than some freebie buckets or curbside-pickup totes and trash cans, drilling 2-8 holes, and covering with old shirts or sheets, with $2-$5 in plumbing hardware optional.

Tagging onto gutters and roof lines is one of the most common – and efficient – methods of water catchment, but it’s far from the only way. We don’t have to stick with big kegs or drums for our catchment, either.

I actually prefer building tiers and pyramids of buckets because the smaller containers are easier to access for cleaning and lighter to move around.

Other options – especially for evacuating – include rolling trash cans we can fill with gear or livestock supplies, unpack, and use either for rainwater or fill larger amounts from water sources and be able to move (a bit) easier due to the wheels.

We can also create freestanding catchment out on our properties or as part of our bugout or camping plans, using tarps, damaged umbrellas, and kiddie pools to widen the catchment when able.

With an open mind for sizes and the ability to sheath them for looks, they’re applicable to vehicle bug-outs and even many condo/apartment flat dwellers.

Sub-Irrigated Planters

Done correctly, this is one of the few items even easier and cheaper than water catchment, and just as capable of greatly forwarding our productivity and efficiency.

The premise is that we stack or fill things to create a reservoir beneath a planter, with a tube running through that planter to the reservoir and a wick up to our soil.

We’re able to fill the reservoir quickly, and because the water stays “underground” for plants to access through soil wicks, there’s little or no surface area for evaporation. It also keeps water available for sensitive plants like tomatoes and lettuce, and gives squash the deep watering they prefer.

We can use those same trash cans, totes, and buckets we sourced for free. We can also use filing cabinets and deep plastic or plastic-lined drawers.

The reservoir space can be created or held/supported by milk jugs, peanut butter jars, or chunks of logs. Instead of the usual PVC/ABS pipe for filling that reservoir, we can use empty plastic bottles. With short containers, it may take only a single bottle to reach the surface. Otherwise, we can cut a hole and nest 2-4 together.

For really tight spaces yet, we can get many of the same benefits with planters made from 2 liter bottles.

We’re more limited in what we can grow, but they’re also fast and simple enough for anyone, can be constructed with a nail and scissors, and are plenty big enough for lettuces, spinach, herbs, and – if we feed them with coffee grounds or re-brew tea bags to use for watering – even strawberries and small oriental cabbages.

Garden Irrigation

Bottles are also handy in watering conventional gardens. They can have holes drilled or poked to deliver water to plants roots similar to olla irrigation. PVC gets used to much the same effect, and we can use yogurt cups and plant pots for essentially the same, although the volume is reduced.

As with SIP’s, it lessens “soaking” time and reduces surface water, so more of the water we’re pumping or hauling gets used by plants instead of running off or evaporating.

PVC/ABS can also be joined into a drip-irrigation grid that lets us water quickly and efficiently.

Our speed with watering can be increased further still with buckets or large jugs and some lines.

A little elevation is all that’s needed for gravity-driven drip irrigation in small plots. For longer rows and beds we can create T-posts or use hooked hangers for bird feeders to quickly hang reservoirs higher so they reach further.

We can leave them in place to fill from hoses, pails, or mobile water tanks, or create quick attach/detach points that let us just swap buckets between our catchment or fill area and the garden.

Collect & Organize Firewood

Even without a wood stove or fireplace, a lot of backup and alternative methods for cooking and heating rely on good ol’ trees for fuel. For some, like rocket stoves, a grill, or a small fire pit, it doesn’t require much room to keep a supply handy.

Keeping that supply neat and organized with a couple of CMU blocks, a stock tank or kiddie pool, or some freebie curbside-pickup bookcases can keep it from being an eyesore or rambling pile in a small yard. The same are handy for keeping kindling and stove wood handy by a door or work area. The same can be used to keep today’s wood out of weather even for those of us who use firewood regularly.

Solar Heat

We can use trash like soda and soup cans, scrap wood and split logs from downed limbs and trees, and salvaged freebie windows to capture solar heat for all sorts of projects – several types of dehydrators, solar ovens, window and greenhouse and tent heaters, or, combined with coils of hose and buckets/barrels, even hot water for cooking, bathing, or showers.

Pallet Sheds

Especially if we’re just getting our feet wet in construction and DIY, or pressed for time, pallets can be a godsend.

Small, simple sheds can be constructed from as few as 5-8 whole pallets and 1-2 extras that we cut apart for joint pieces. Additional pieces let us expand in size, fill in the gaps in boards, and build sturdier-yet structures.

It’s harder to get a hold of pallets in some areas, but many preppers can source them for free via trader websites or by developing contacts at nearby distribution hubs.

Those same pallets can be used for temporary or near-permanent fencing – and remember, both fences and buildings for expanding our space can be painted if that eyesore thing is a problem.

Predator Protection

Yeah, we’re protecting the predators. Mostly the bug-eating predators in this case, although I’m also a big personal fan of weasels, garter and king snakes, and small hawks and owls – big enough to get mice, shrews and rats, but not to menace adult poultry.

It’s easy enough to make and build space for the critters that eat mosquitoes and garden pests.

Bat houses, toad castles, dragonfly waterers, bug hotels, and birdhouses – especially those targeted at primary hunters like wrens and swallows – can be cobbled together from rough wood, scrap material, broken jars and pots, sticks and weeds, bottles and cans, old gourds and boots, and even homemade mud daub.

We can also leave small patches of yard with native weeds and shrubs or cultivate flowers, herbs, and shrubs that provide habitat and feed for our helpful predators.

Edible Backyards

People are sometimes surprised by just how much food can be had from the weeds in gardens and yards, the ornamental varieties we grow, and our nearby ditches and wild areas.

I’m a huge Samuel Thayer enthusiast (good for a read as well as information resource), but for beginners and ‘burbs, I’m also a fan of Ellen Zachos’ smaller “Backyard Foraging” guide.

It’s unlikely we’ll truly feed ourselves off foraged foods, but they can make great supplements to basic carb-protein diets, with a resilience to weather and climate our domestic crops just can’t claim. Cultivating them can also boost our ability to hide food production in plain sight.

Convert Hoards to Stockpiles & Work Space

I hesitate to even mention it, but …

One of the most effective things we might do is actually clear out our sheds, garages, and yards. If we can’t get to stuff – easily and readily and immediately – it’s not doing us any good, anyway.

Sorting through, organizing, discarding things that are mouse-eaten and rotting, and clearing out space to work can let us accomplish more going forward.

Setting aside 15-60 minutes specifically for cleaning out 1-2 times a week can help it from being overwhelming, both the loss aversion/shock of loss, and the seemingly impossible task some people’s piles have evolved into.

I know. Extreme. We won’t talk about that anymore.

Backyard Prepper Projects

There’s lots of other options for quick and easy projects that can have big impacts on our self-reliance and preparedness, without either breaking the bank or going anywhere, regardless of our property size.

Big or small, pick a project and get started on DIY today.

All the better if you can up-cycle to accomplish it – tapping into creativity and the ability to use whatever’s on hand is actually a really good life skill, period, but it’s especially handy if we expect supply lines to dry up at some point.

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The Case for Hybrid Seeds

7 Feb

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Once we join this prepper culture, we start getting pushed toward heirloom seed stockpiles. There’s definitely value in heirloom and open pollinated. There’s also a reason we developed hybrids.

They have some big benefits, see, especially for preppers in crunch time. There’s some considerations that can help us decide when those benefits outweigh heirlooms/OPs, when true-seed options are better, and when it really just doesn’t matter which we choose.

*Also consider foreign domestic crops and wild edibles for challenging conditions. This is “don’t hate on hybrids – they’re wicked helpful” not “hybrids are the one and only way”.

Quickie Snippets

One – The defining characteristic of heirloom/OP’s is that we can harvest their seed, replant it, and reliably get the exact same plant all over again. (OP’s are basically a younger version of heirlooms; like having a 1980’s pickup versus a 1920’s pickup.) Not so of hybrids – second-generation hybrids are a crap shoot.

Two – Not all hybrids are GMO. A hybrid is just a crossbreed – a labradoodle specifically created from a Labrador and a poodle. We were breeding hybrid plants long before we had the ability to genetically modify organisms for mass production and planting.

Before anybody goes there: Yes, breeding is genetic modification, but only by the loosest of definitions. By the same looseness of definition, chalk is Information Technology. However, we recognize IT as computer based. So… No, breeding isn’t genetic modification. Breeding is genetic selection – determined/intentional or artificial selection in this case, versus natural selection.

Three – “Hybrid” has NOTHING to do with growing methods. (Organic seed sourcing isn’t worth getting worked up over as health issue, either.)

Hybrid Vigor

There’s a handful of the challenge solutions behind the creation of most hybrid crops that particularly apply to us as survival growers.

Determinate yielding – produce consistent, uniform harvests within a fairly small time window (There are pro-con’s to weigh with indeterminate and determinate options – neither is always better.)

Climate Resistance – produce despite drought, heat, cold, wet soil, and humidity

Soil Resilience – produce across wider soil types and less-fertile soils

Pest & Disease Resistance – creating immunities, reducing symptoms of disease, and making crops less-attractive to various pests

Speed – bears harvest faster (Can be eliminating daylight-cued needs or streamlining plant form.)

Higher Yields – produce bigger fruits or more fruits, or both

Compact Forms – production at smaller sizes (Usually it’s to grow more in an area/volume or to eliminate the growing time a plant needs to reach the larger size, which shortens the season and allows that plant to be grown in more areas; sometimes it’s for easier maintenance and harvest or increased market, like specialty container veggies.)

There are heirlooms and OP’s that have been tailored for decades and centuries to certain climates, retaining or gaining resistance to diseases and resilience to conditions. Especially for raw-churned land, beginners, humid areas, preexisting-disease areas, and tight spaces, hybrids are typically higher-yielding plants.

*Again: Remember those foreign domestic crops and wild edibles. Don’t miss out on the benefits of hybrids, but they’re just one of many tools on our belts.

Mitigate Losses

Hybrids with quick turnaround can be lifesavers in avoiding the worst of summer’s heat and drought, and getting a crop in and harvested after a seed or plant loss from animals, waste or chemical contamination, floods, and early or late frosts. That limited time also applies to situations where we’re bucking out lawn by hand at the beginning of a season, with part or most of that season gone by the time we’re able to plant.

Hybrids are also big if we find ourselves trying to plant with limited season left because we evac’ed somewhere or were delayed by an injury.

Likewise, fast-moving Big Things (Cuba-like shortages, asteroid/volcano dust blocking heat/light or clogging preexisting crops, & “I’m done with lettuce being more dangerous than public roads” outbreaks) can make fast-turn crops enormously beneficial.

Yeah, there are heirloom fast crops. Especially when we need the most out of gardens, and especially when we’re time crunched, those differences of 5-15 days and 20-35 days can mean the difference between salad greens and squash, wheat and hay/silage, blanks on corn stalks or tiny baby ears – and, roasting ears or dry ears for storage.

If a hybrid can get an already-fast crop to plate, jar, and cellar even faster … why would we ignore that potential, especially for hard times?

Hybrids can be huge if we end up with a soil-borne or insect-vector disease, insect pests, or nutrient deficiencies. We have to make sure we’re getting that type of hybrid – it’s not universal – but they’re out there, especially for the crops that are most susceptible to things like the mosaic viruses, to the bacterial and fungal diseases that so commonly pass between fruit trees to our beans and tomatoes and berries or from infected lawns to our barley, and to the critters that like to munch a certain crop and either decimate the crop directly or transfer a disease that decimates them.

Seed Saving

This is the basis for a lot of arguments, but we don’t always need a breeds-true seed. We don’t need the seed-saving capability from things like sprouts we’re eating way before it would mature, and in some cases, the one-off root and leaf veggies that we’re following with other crops way before they could mature enough for seed. Go with the least-expensive and most-reliable option.

The biggest factors in deciding when we do want heirlooms, even if they’re more expensive or less productive, involve how long the plant is growing before it’s consumed (sprouts, microgreens, radish, beets, corn, green beans) weighed against how long it takes to produce seed (biennial carrot, turnips,  mustard – 21-60 days to harvest lettuce, 70-100 days to seed; 65-90 days for sweet corn, 95-120 to collect seed).

How many seeds we need to plant each year (tomatoes, summer squash; lettuce, carrot) is also a big influence. We also want to consider how much seed each particular plant produces (peas, vs. broccoli, vs. melon) and how easy/difficult it is to collect viable seed (biennials, tomatoes, spinach vs. beans, melon).

From those, we can determine if we’re able to provide the care plants need to reach seed-bearing maturity, which can involve a full two-year cycle or fermenting, and enough space for enough plants to replace seed.

That tells us if we can feasibly collect our own seed or if the primary reason for going with an heirloom/OP just went out the window.

With the more involved, longer growing, and larger space seed crops, for both people who plant pounds per crop and people who aren’t even planting whole packets at a time, it usually balances to get whatever’s most efficient and least expensive, regardless of hybrid-heirloom origin, and stock it deep.

It’s usually the ones in the middle who have both the storage and growing space and the labor/man-hours to make those seed crops worth it.

High-Value OP’s & Heirlooms

Anything that has produced a mature seed at the stage we harvest (dry beans, dry grains and cereals, autumn squash, pumpkins, most peppers and melons) are automatics, even on a small scale.

So are things that only need a couple extra weeks for a mature seed versus the immature “green” seed they carry at harvest (peas, sweet corn, summer squash).

Slightly behind those two sets are the seed crops that are easy, and although time consuming, don’t require that much extra space either to finish growing or in storage – which is enormously relative and situationally dependent.

True-to-seed lettuces and radish can be grown to bolting and seed-maturity stages even indoors. Spinach, too, can provide an early-season green, thinned or transplanted in sets. It’s dioecious, though, so you’ll need both female and male plants to do the job. Indoors, both need hand pollinated.

Outdoors, there’s even greater benefit because the tiny flowers are useful to a number of equally tiny insects that will parasitize some of our biggest pests: slugs, caterpillars, and squash bugs and their similar-shaped cousins.

High-Value Hybrids

First, repeat the heirloom/OP list. This time, it’s for the ability to get container-garden and hanging-basket options, faster production, and the disease, pest, and weather resistant cultivars.

The same reasons apply to getting short-season and container-friendly corn hybrids, and pest-resistant and less-nutrient-greedy grains.

Likewise, turnip and beet hybrids that can be harvested in 35-50 and -65 day ranges, and carrots that perform in those periods can help us hugely, especially if we have hot summers and not much “buffer” season for those cool crops in spring and autumn. The speed also helps us turn a crop as pantries run bare, and clear an early fast crop if we have short summers to take advantage of.

Best of Both Worlds

Ideally, we have both general categories of seed in our storage – OP’s (open pollinated)/heirlooms that breed true and hybrids with their one-off but powerhouse strengths. Even more ideally, we’ll have both categories for all of our crops, although that’s not always realistic.

Don’t let fear mongering, fear sales advertising, or what “everybody” does drive you. Actually weigh out what’s better – for each of us, as individuals in a whole range of climates and situations, condo or flat to ‘burbs to woods lots, with different draws on our time and different skill levels.

Mostly, when it comes to seeds, pick the least-expensive option that matches our skills, uses, the space and season length we have to work with, and our soil.

*One last time: “Don’t hate on hybrids – they’re wicked helpful” does not mean “exclude other helpful things”. We have whole worlds of food production and foraging to improve our yields.

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Canning Jars – Versatility Via Variety

30 Jan

Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editors Note: Another guest contribution from R. Ann Parris to The Prepper Journal. Size ultimately does matter. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share then enter into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies!

Canning jars come in a wide variety of sizes, and two common lid sizes. It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and snag at least some of that variety, because it can give us a lot of versatility. Factoring in our uses, the composition of people we’re feeding, likely situations, and costs can help decide what spread of sizes is most efficient and effective.

Lid sizes can sometimes make or break canning costs.

In some locations, the difference in price between regular and wide mouth lids isn’t significant, as little as $0.03-$0.05 USD per lid. Other times, though, inside the U.S. and around the world, wide mouth lids are as much as 2-3x a regular mouth lid.

Those lid costs can add up fast if we’re doing a lot of canning every year.

Bear in mind the total real costs of canning, including those lids, while contemplating jar investments.

The costs can influence some to dehydrate more foods – not only creating a more compact storage, but also one where it doesn’t matter if something won’t all be consumed quickly. It allows them to use larger jars and fewer lids.

Account for water availability if that’s the plan.

Other homesteaders skip half- and quarter-pint jars – and the extra lids required to can the same amounts of food using those smaller jars – sticking instead mostly to quarts and pints.

That’s fine now, when we have fridges and freezers that make leftovers easy and convenient. In a disaster, however, widespread or personal, our power sources or our appliances can go down. We need to consider if we have persistent snow cover and deep-cold periods, or double-backup power sources, and how many leftovers we’d be looking at dealing with without them.

Balancing the cost (and canning time) of preserving foods in reasonable, readily consumable portion sizes versus bigger jars takes a bit of experience, because “consumable” is situationally dependent. It’s not one size fits all.

Go Big or Go Home

(Personally, I like my home. Just saying.)

It can be tempting to snag half-gallon and gallon jars sometimes, especially if we’re storing dry goods in our jars until we want them for “real” canning.

Resist that temptation. If you can’t resist, go only up to half-gallon jars, and don’t sink the bank into getting a lot of them.

The max size most of us need is quarts.

Exceptions would be if we’re getting bigger jars for free and it’s just another storage container, or if we’re already fermenting and producing significant juice/booze/vinegar.

Many home canners just don’t safely preserve foods in larger jars, especially denser foods. Some won’t even hold more than a quart’s height.

We also usually don’t need bigger jars, even if we’re feeding 12-20 people or more.

Too, they’re fairly expensive. It’s a long-term investment (usually) but “saving” the cost of buying 2-6 lids for pints and quarts to hold the same amount will take several years to pay off.

Another consideration: The more sizes of jars we have to account for, the more “funtastic” our storage area planning will be.

Shelving may not seem like a major factor, but remember: just canning two cups a day per person requires 180+ quarts.

Winging it may be an option for 30 cases of pints so we can eat or share only those two cups a day. Aiming to can two-each of fruits, veggies, and proteins per day – still no carbs, syrups/honey, etc. – bumps that to nearly 550 quarts.

That’s 46 flats of quarts or 92 flats of pints we’re accounting for on our shelves, per person.

And THAT makes the spacing involved with storing those jars something worth actual thought.

Pints, both “slims”, and quarts work well on the same shelving. If there’s room to wiggle quart jars past each other, there’s also usually room to stack half-pints or half- and quarter-pints, in flats or as “loose” jars.

Once shelving is accounting for half-gallons and gallons, too, your choices are to break away from modular shelving, be stacking a lot more combinations, or waste 4+ inches on every shelf that won’t quite fit another layer.

Shorty Jars

Preserving small portions in quarter-pints and mini/sample jars lets us open useable amounts of foods. That can both limit leftovers/scraps and let us dole out specialty items instead of having to consume them all at once. It increases total space used, though, and takes 2-8x the lids versus pints and quarts.

Even so, we might want at least some small jars for spreads, herbs, reduced stock bases, juice concentrates, sauces, and high-value “treats” like low-yielding berries or meats.

Depending on family composition and tastes, they’re also handy for consumable portions of spicing onions, pickled beets, or even regular ol’ salsa and chutney.

Picking Sizes by Situation

Remember: How we can (and cook) now may very well change if we’re removed from or limiting our power draws and refrigeration. Some of us have 3-6 months or more when we could pack old-school ice chests and buckets, sink a bucket/cooler in a cold spring, or let an outdoor cooler be our fridge. For some of us, though, that’s impossible or unreliable.

Without refrigeration…

People anticipating infants/toddlers might stock more quarter-pints (4-5 oz.; 100-125-150 ml) and mini/sampler jars (1.5-3 oz.; 50-75 ml) so they can easily preserve baby food.

(Plan on ordering the teensy-tiny jars, and almost 100% the extra lids for them – they’re rarely in stores. Also, be sitting and try to avoid drinking/lollipops when you do the price check. It’s “eek” worthy.)

Singles and couples will probably lean more heavily on half-pints and pints, especially for meats and proteins, and use quarts mostly for canning heat-and-eat soups or stews, bulky items like potatoes, and some fruits.

For families and groups of 3-8, a mix of mostly quarts and pints is typically going to be most efficient, with some select half-pint jars for things like condiments and portable meals.

Larger families and groups in the 10-20+ person range would focus even more on quarts, although conditions might lend themselves to having some smaller jars available for individuals or pairs.

Totable Portions

Even with families and larger groups that can readily consume pints and quarts of each ingredient at a meal, we may want to snag a few flats of smaller jars. Those half-pints and quarter-pints can facilitate pack-able lunches and overnight-trip meals.

Remember: Modern humanity has been walking away from home and munching a midday meal for centuries, farm hands to loggers. We’ve been taking overnight trips – and eating prepared foods on them – for millennia.

Also remember: Not all disasters are equal.

We could very well have had life as we know it end within a family and be leaning on our food storage and preservation while the world continues around us. In Great Depression or Venezuela conditions, some work is available and we’ll still need to fuel that work.

Even being glass, canning jars are plenty tough enough for a rucksack or daily-carry bag.

They’re heavier than the MRE’s, tins, and pouches of just-add-water foods we commonly use now, but if we’re only carrying 1-2, it’s not an enormous weight suck, especially for “just” a daily lunch.

Right now, Ziploc-type bags and plastic storage containers are inexpensive and prevalent enough to make them more common for multi-day packers and daily lunches. That wasn’t always so, though, and canning jars do still see use for the latter.

In a personal or widespread disaster that limits our disposable income or disrupts normal supply chains either through pricing or availability, jars can easily return to being the more common container for daily and multi-day travel foods.

We can set them up a couple ways for our lunches and haversacks.

One, we can water-bath and pressure can small portions, providing a cup of soup, applesauce or fruit, a tub of fish or meat that can be consumed with some crackers or bread, or a bean dish to go with tortillas or bannock.

Two, we can set up simple mixes that we’ll add water to. That can be anything from bannock bread to instant potatoes, rice, couscous, or other small pastas.

Cooking options vary by what we packed and any given day. We can add water early and let them sit in the sun, use water we’re boiling fresh, or use a small pan or large mug as a double boiler to heat foods inside the jars.

Versatility Adds Resilience

Being able to adapt to situations increases our self-reliance. A variety of canning jar sizes can provide that in many ways.

Even so, start with the most economical and most common sizes. For many of us, that’s going to be pints and quarts, with only the odd smaller or larger jars mixed in.

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