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Off-Grid Refrigeration: Creating an Icehouse in Winter February 21, 2017

icehouse
Those who plan to create ways for off-grid refrigeration usually plan to build when the snow thaws, but I’m doing something a little different – I’m planning on building one now.  The main problem for me right now is that I have four feet of snow on the ground, and it’s a little hard to do a layout or any kind of excavating for it.  But what of it?  That doesn’t mean I can’t plan now, nor undertake it before the winter months disappear.

Off-Grid Refrigeration

Icehouses were used extensively in the U.S., especially in “pioneer days,” where they would be the main way of keeping meats and vegetables cool and “refrigerated” in a manner to not require canning, smoking, or drying them.  These icehouses were combined with root cellars/canning cellars to be structures heavily-insulated with earth to keep everything cool and from spoiling in the spring and summer months.  I also mentioned an “icebox,” meaning a refrigerator that was not dependent upon electricity, but had a large block of ice inside of an insulated “box” that kept the food inside cool and from spoiling prematurely.

For those without enough property or in an urban/suburban area, an icebox might be a good thing to have, at least as a backup for the refrigerator.  If you have a little bit of ground, then you may be able to build an icehouse.  I plan on beginning mine about the end of March to the beginning of April.  See, living in Montana, where there are no building codes in rural areas, I’m not hindered by the need for permits or the usual parade of bloodsuckers from local or state governments or neighborhood (incarceration-hood, is more appropriate) associations.  Thus, the benefit of living in a remote state, I can build whatever I want and nobody can say anything to me.

Use This Easy Method to Make Large Blocks of Ice

If you don’t have this, then you’ll have to negotiate around whatever “primates” are blocking your path and secure whatever permits you believe necessary if you want it done.  I’m going to wait until the time I mentioned and then clear out the ground and the snow, use a “C” to dig (a miniature backhoe) the icehouse out, and then build it during the winter months.  The reason is that I will make about a dozen and a half “molds” to fill with water for my ice-blocks, using large bins.  When the water freezes and huge blocks of ice are made, I will then place them inside of my icehouse and cover them up with lots and lots of sawdust.  Each block will have about 20 gallons of water, and this will be (at 7.6 lbs. per gallon) about 150 lbs. apiece.  A lot easier to let the winter freeze up those blocks!

Building an Icehouse

I plan on placing in a drain into the floor (PVC drain tile) with a small slope, and then tamping the earth back into place.  Then I’ll separate the main chamber for the canned goodies from the ice chamber in the rear and slightly lower than the main room.  Stacking the blocks up and then covering them all with sawdust, it will adhere to the time-honored principle of the frontier days…it will keep all spring and summer, and have to be replaced in the fall (it’s below freezing here in September…we only have about 3 to 4 months without ice and snow).

I’m going to use the earth and rocks excavated and then mound it up, as most of the efficient designs I have seen are with rounded or semi-rounded forms/tops.  The only true modern “accoutrements” I plan on having are a good door and door-frame that is sturdy, and I’m considering some kind of interior flooring system.  Any suggestions or personal experiences?  We’d love to hear them, and perhaps you’ll be able to float me some information I can use.  I have a few not-so-near neighbors that are diabetics and use insulin…what could be better than being able to preserve their insulin for them in my icehouse if the SHTF and they lose electricity?

An icehouse or icebox for you and your family may be a good thing to do to enable that your refrigeration lasts…beyond the lifetime of the power plants and power stations…. if the SHTF.  Bottom line: do what you can with what you have.  Better to get into the batter’s box and take a swing then not to take a chance.  Keep fighting that good fight!

Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published February 21st, 2017
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6 Rules You Need To Follow When Dehydrating Foods February 9, 2017

6 rules of dehydrating
In the book, The Prepper’s Cookbook, I emphasize how easy it is to bulk up your emergency food pantry by dehydrating food you have around you. With a meager $50 investment into a food dehydrator, you can:

  • dry vegetables for soup mixes
  • dry fruits for snacking
  • make jerky
  • fruit or vegetable leather
  • noodles
  • and even make crafts

Before you go crazy dehydrating, keep in mind that there are a few rules to follow to ensure food longevity, freshness and prevention of discoloration.

6 Rules You Need To Follow When Dehydrating Foods

  1. You can dehydrate any fruit or vegetable, regardless of quality or ripeness. If something is too ripe and soft, you can always puree it and dry the puree. Although using the best quality fruits and veggies will result in the best quality dried goods, remember that the goal here is preservation, not perfection. So don’t be afraid to dehydrate the bruised, overripe, and slightly damaged goods. Just make sure not to put mold in the dehydrator as it can spread and infect the rest of the foods.
  2. Some food items can be air-dried. Herbs and other green leafy food sources, in particular, do not necessarily need a dehydrator. They can be set out of the way and air-dried.
  3. Some foods need to be blanched. Blanching certain foods like onions, mushrooms and tomatoes ahead of time will limit discoloration and the risk of food-borne illnesses. This isn’t necessary, but it certainly helps in the longevity of your dried foods.
  4. Cook potatoes thoroughly for further enjoyment. Potatoes, beans and other root vegetables should be cooked thoroughly and then dehydrated. I’ve made a pot of beans and dehydrated them for soups. I have also made dehydrated potato flakes to use in my prepper pantry.
  5. Don’t dehydrate foods from different families at the same time. If you are dehydrating foods from different family groups, the flavors can cross over. For instance, if you are dehydrating tomatoes and peppers, note that the tomatoes will end up being spicy. As well, any Brassica should be dehydrated on its own, otherwise the sulfur taste will permeate into the other foods. The only exception is dehydrating fruits. Fruits can be mixed together, but mixing them with strong-tasting or smelling vegetables is not recommended.
  6. Be consistent with your cut size and spacing. Try to keep the slices of food the same thickness to encourage even drying times. As well, try not to allow the food to touch one another or overlap (green leafy vegetables are ok though). Otherwise, it can block the airflow and prevent drying.

Rehydrating Your Dried Food Sources

Rehydrating your dehydrated foods requires nothing more than the food to be introduced to a liquid. Get creative with the liquid that you use like juices, canning liquids, etc. Many preppers have found that rehydrating foods in liquids other than water gives the food a richer taste. For instance, soaking fruit in fruit juice makes rehydrated fruit taste sweeter or soaking textured vegetable protien (TVP) in meat stock helps give it a richer flavor.

Dehydrating foods is an excellent way to make use of food you have around you. Typically, at my home when the fruit bowl is overlooked, I will dehydrate fruits and create a healthy snack that the kids can’t resist. I also have made dried soups with the extra vegetables in the refrigerator.

 

For more information read, Drying Fruits and Vegetables by the University of Georgia

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published February 9th, 2017
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Homesteading Basics: How To Dehydrate Herbs for Long-Term Storage January 30, 2017

dehydrating herbs for storage
Herbs are one of the first plants we put in our garden. There is nothing like fresh culinary herbs to intensify the flavors of food. As well, herbs are hardy garden plants that don’t have to be watered as much as vegetables and can serve more than one purpose by being used as natural medicine. For instance, did you know that a sage leaf can be used instead of a band-aid because it has natural healing qualities? Some of these popular culinary herbs are oregano, thymne and sage and can grow year-round in many parts of the country.

To enjoy these herbs year round, many choose to dehydrate them when they are at the peak in freshness and combine them to make their own spices and even homemade tea blends. Can you imagine how much money you could save at the grocery store by implementing this into your pantry?

How To Dehydrate Herbs for Long-Term Storage

Dehydrating herbs and other leafy greens is one of the easiest items to dry for long-term use. All you really need is a constant stream of air. You don’t necessary have to own a dehydrator because herbs can dry naturally from the air, but it does help with even drying.

Here are some steps to get started:

  1.  Prep herbs for drying. Wash and place herbs evenly on a drying rack and ensure that enough space is make for proper air flow.
  2. Set temperature and time according to the directions on your dehydrator.
  3. Ensure that herbs are 95% dehydrated for long-term storage.

Here are some great spice mixes to start adding to your pantry!

Cajun Seasoning

  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Chili Powder

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

French Herb Mix

  • 3 tablespoons marjoram
  • 3 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons savory
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed

Chili Powder

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Storing Dehydrated Herbs

Herbs can be dehydrated to store for longer periods, but storage is important for any preserved food, and dehydrated foods are no exception. Store either in heavy duty zippered bags in a metal container, or store in dry, sterile, glass jars. For long term storage, I recommend using Mylar bags.

As I stated previously, before storing, you want to ensure that your food is 95% or more dehydrated because the more moisture your food has the more likely molds and microorganisms can grow. Like all emergency food sources, ensure that you keep your dehydrated food away from natural elements.

“Best Used By” Guidelines for Dehydrated Food 

  • Spices – 1-2 years
  • Vegetables/Fruits – Up to 12 months
  • Meats – Best at 1-2 months, but can be stored for 6 months.

We are all looking for frugal ways to bulk up our preparedness pantries. Using herbs is a great way to do that. Some of our favorite herbs we love to grow in our garden can be utilized to make long-term herbal seasonings to use year round. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start dehydrating!

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published January 30th, 2017
Comments Off on Homesteading Basics: How To Dehydrate Herbs for Long-Term Storage