Sunday, February 22, 2009

Improved Lighter and Other Daily Carries

Every day I make sure I have three things with me when I leave the house.

The first is a Leatherman multi tool. It doesn't matter if you are a survivalist, a homesteader or a business man sitting at his desk, these always come in handy.

The second is a nice Gerber pocket knife. I have a sheath for it that is slightly larger than the knife. This allows me to put a small LED flashlight, some string (some extremely strong black type used for necklaces), a small fire starter cube, matches and a mini compass. All of these things are very small and light. I really don't even realize they are in the sheath.

The third thing I carry is a lighter. The key here is to buy the lighters with the little LED lights in the bottom of them. They have a button on the side to turn the light on when needed. They also have the push down tops to light them rather than the wheels. I like this in case it is very cold and your fingers are having a hard time turning the wheel.

I wrap these lighters with a bunch of duct tape between the button and the top. This allows me to have a lighter, a flashlight and duct tape. I always find myself using the LED on the lighter. Whether it is to look into a dark tank or to find my way along a trail after dark, it has come in very handy almost daily. And I don't have to mention how valuable it is to have a little duct tape on hand.

So there you have it. Three things that improve my life daily.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Three Sisters

"In late spring, we plant the corn and beans and squash. They're not just plants- we call them the three sisters. We plant them together, three kinds of seeds in one hole. They want to be together with each other, just as we Indians want to be together with each other. So long as the three sisters are with us we know we will never starve. The Creator sends them to us each year. We celebrate them now. We thank Him for the gift He gives us today and every day." - Chief Louis Farmer (Onondaga)

The "Three Sisters" method is a form of companion planting using corn, beans, and squash. Although this method originated with the Haudenosaunee, these three have been planted by many traditional Native American gardeners throughout North America.

The beauty of this method is that each vegetable benefits from the others. Corn gives the beans a place to climb, the beans provide nitrogen to the corn roots and the large squash leaves provide shade and living mulch which helped to deter weeds and hold moisture in the soil.

To begin, you need to make mounds to plant the corn in. They should be about 1 1/2 feet across on the top. The center of each mound should be 5 feet apart from the center of the next. The mounds should be staggered in adjacent rows, making up an area at least 10 ft. by 10 ft. This will ensure that the corn pollinates properly. First, plant four corn seeds in a diamond on top of the mounds. They should be about 6" apart.

When the corn is about 4" tall, you can plant the beans and squash. Plant the beans in a square shape in between the corn.

Build your squash mounds the same size as the corn/bean mounds. Build them in between each corn/bean mound. Plant 3 squash seeds, 4” apart in a triangle in the middle of each mound. Once these squash seedlings emerge, you can thin them to two plants per mound.

This diagram is from

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Raising Honey Bee's

My good friend surprised me this winter with some of my dad's old bee boxes that he had fixed up. It has me seriously considering raising some bee's for honey this year. We still have most of the equipment, so that won't be a problem. And honey just happens to be one of my favorite things.

Look for posts to come about this little adventure and about the uses of honey in food, first aid and to help with allergies.

In the mean time enjoy this web link page from Bad Beekeeping that has hundreds and hundreds of links about beekeeping.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Firewood Chart

Here is a great chart that gives information on the many types of wood for burning.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I have not had a chance to read the book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", but I've heard from several friends that it is a must read. I will let you know how it is when I am done. But if you can't wait, feel free to check it out.

"Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, this book (released May 2007) tells the story of how our family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where we live. Barbara wrote the central narrative; Steven's sidebars dig deeper into various aspects of food-production science and industry; Camille's brief essays offer a nineteen-year-old's perspective on the local-food project, plus nutritional information, meal plans and recipes. "

Homegrown Revolution

I wanted to share this short video, "A Homegrown Revolution". For those living in the city, this video should be an inspiration. There is no reason that we can't all have our little homesteads.

True freedom is the ability to grow what you eat. It's possible. I hope we can all make the effort.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Food You Can Feed To Your Chickens

Here is a list of food items that you can feed to your chickens. It also includes some things that should be avoided.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"The Art of Improvising" or "How To Convert a Manual Grain Mill Into an Electric One"

The art of self-sufficiency in many ways relies on the art of improvising. This is one of the handiest skills to have to survive and prosper. The following is just one of many examples of improvisation on a modern homestead.

My father had a hand grain mill from Retsel (an Idaho company that makes high quality grain mills). And as many of you know, hand cranking a grain mill can take a lot of work to get enough flour to make anything with. In a survival situation, it is imperative that you have the ability to hand turn your grain mill, but during other times it is nice to just flip a switch.

Many years ago, my father had turned this grain mill into an electric one. The only problem was that the only motor he had available at the time was way too fast. In order to bring the rpm's down, he had to use numerous pulleys and belts. It ended up being too large to be practical.

We first tried to attach an electric drill into the grain mill where the handle had been. Although I had high hopes, this approach ultimately failed. It was just too fast to work correctly, and when we used a slower setting, it didn't have the power.

We ended up using an electric juicer. This works well for us, as we had two juicers between us.
The juicer still needed to have it's rpm's reduced however. In order to accomplish this we had to buy a large pulley and a small pulley as well as the belt. Many homesteads may have old pulleys laying around, or on old machinery that you could scavenge for this.

After attaching the large pulley to the grain mill (in place of the handle), we attached the smaller one to the juicer. The grain mill was attached to a piece of plywood and the juicer was strapped down (see photo). We strapped the juicer down this way so we could keep the belt tight enough and still allow us to use the juicer for it's original purpose if we needed to. We strapped it down with an NRS river strap, which are one of the greatest tools to have around. They can do anything from holding gates shut to strapping stuff to your trailer or even holding a juicer down.

Once the pulleys were in place and everything was attached down, we had to fix a few problems. The first was that we now couldn't fit the hopper onto the top of the mill. The large pulley was in the way. This was easily remedied by adding a piece of plastic pipe to raise the hopper. We then added a large piece of cardboard to protect our hands from the pulleys and belt while they were spinning. And finally a folded piece of thick paper was added to funnel the flour a little better into a container.

There you have it. Now we have an electric grain mill that can also be used manually in case of emergency or long term power outages.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Photos of Chickens from

In an earlier post, I mentioned Henderson's Chicken Breed chart which can help you narrow down your choice of chickens. The following links can be very helpful in conjunction with the breed chart. They are a vast resource of chicken photos. There are multiple high quality photos of each of the breeds.
Just as an example, I was able to use the chicken breed chart to narrow down my choice of chicken to a Wyandotte. I was then able to see what all of the different types of Wyandottes looked like, using the following links.

Chicken Breeds A-C
Chicken Breeds D-O
Chicken Breeds P-Z

And just in case anyone is interested in seeing the types of Wyandottes I ended up getting, here they are

The Silver Laced Wyandottes look like this beauty.
The Golden Laced Wyandottes look like this.
And the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, which are the majority of mine, look like this.

Source of Quality Bulk and Natural Foods

While looking for the cheapest way to get bulk wheat, I came across a company out of Oregon called Azure Standard. They had the cheapest bulk hard red wheat I could find at the time. It is about $30 for a 50 pound bag. I soon learned that they were not only the cheapest place I could find bulk wheat, but they were an amazing source of all kinds of natural foods.

They specialize in natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products. And the best part is that they deliver directly to customers by semi truck and UPS. To have an order that weighed over 300 pounds delivered to a drop off point near me was a total of $8.

I know they have a Boise warehouse that they deliver out of. From the warehouse they have route #1A which makes deliveries through Meridian, Caldwell, Parma, Nampa, Eagle, Middleton and Star. Route #2A makes deliveries throughout Boise. And route #3A will deliver along a loop on Hwy 95, north through Fruitland all the way to New Meadows. Up Hwy 55 North to Riggins. Back South to McCall, and on to Emmett.

They also make truck deliveries along I-84 from Oregon down through Twin Falls. On I-90 between Ellensburg, WA and Missoula, MT. And on Hwy. 95 from Lewiston to Bonners Ferry.

They deliver to many other parts of the country as well, but I believe that covers the truck routes in Idaho. You could, of course, have them use UPS if you are not near one of these routes.

So, take a look at some of the great things they have. I highly recommend them. Their organic produce is a lot cheaper than we can get in our mountain town. Their grain was about the cheapest I could find without getting it straight from an elevator. And they have a huge variety of products.

Here is a link to the minimum orders required.

I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How a penny saved is 1.5 pennies earned!

I just wanted to post a cool video that does a great job explaining how important saving your money is. In fact, saving your money is 1.5 times as good as just earning it. Here is how....

I know that I don't need to explain just how important saving your money is to becoming as self sufficient as possible.

Average Last Frost Dates and the Safe Dates for Idaho Towns

Not sure when to start planting? This might help.
These are the Average Last Frost Dates and the Safe Dates for Idaho towns.

The first date is the Avg Last Frost and the second is the Safe Date.

American Falls -May 16 June 7
Anderson Dam- May 6 May 23
Arco- June 12 July 4
Arrowrock Dam -May 3 May 19
Ashton- June 15 July 7

Avery- May 21 June 14
Bayview Model Basin- May 29 June 18
Bliss -May 18 June 8
Boise -May 8 May 26
Bonners Ferry -May 16 May 29

Burley Airport -May 16 June 5
Caldwell -May 1 May 17
Cascade -June 19 July 12
Callis -May 28 June 24
Chilly Barton Flat -June 30 July 20

Couer D'Alene -May 11 May 26
Council -May 24 June 18
Deer Flat Dam -May 3 May 19
Driggs- June 18 July 7
Emmett -May 13 June 1

Fairfield Ranger Station -June 23 July 10
Fenn Ranger Station -May 1 May 18
Fort Hall Indian Agency -May 24 June 12
Garden Valley -June 2 June 27
Glenns Ferry -May 17 June 6

Grace -June 8 June 28
Grand View -May 8 May 26
Grangeville -May 25 June 12
Grouse -July 13 July 30
Hailey- Airport June 14 July 1

Hamer -June 13 July 7
Hazelton -May 13 May 28
Hill City -June 29 July 16
Hollister -May 28 June 15
Idaho City -June 25 July 15

Idaho Falls Airport -May 25 June 14
Island Park Dam- July 1 July 18
Jerome -May 14 June 1
Kellogg -May 16 June 9
Kooskia- May 12 June 3

Kuna -May 23 June 12
Lifton Pumping Station -May 18 June 5
Mackay Ranger Station -June 8 June 30
Malad- May 22 June 13
Malad City Airport -June 5 June 28

May Ranger Station- June 20 July 8
McCall -June 23 July 16
Minidoka Dam -May 15 June 7
Montpelier Ranger Station -June 16 July 5
Moscow -May 23 June 18

Mountain Home- May 20 June 9
New Meadows Ranger Station -July 2 July 23
NezPerce -May 24 June 16
Oakley -May 25 June 13
Ola -May 29 June 21

Orofino -May 1 May 17
Palisades Dam- June 2 June 24
Parma -May 12 June 2
Paul -May 19 June 9
Payette- May 10 May 31

Pocatello -May 20 June 12
Porthill -May 15 June 1
Potlatch -June 13 July 15
Priest River -June 3 June 30
Richfield -May 30 June 20

Riggins Ranger Station- April 23 May 14
St Anthony -June 4 June 29
Saint Maries -May 18 June 4
Salmon -June 2 June 26
Sand Point -May 20 June 5

Shoshone -May 18 June 7
Swann Falls Powerhouse -April 20 May 12
Wallace Woodland Park -May 25 June 13

Monday, February 2, 2009

Using Buckets for Long Term Storage

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to store food long term is with a food grade bucket. These are usually five gallons, but can come in four or six gallons as well as many other sizes.

You can find these buckets on many food storage or emergency preparedness site's. Of the the cheapest I have found were at Emergency Essentials. But, I beg you not to waste your money on a new bucket. There is a secret to getting as many buckets as you want for free (or very inexpensive). Just call around to some local bakeries. Their flour, spices, sugar, filling and many of their other ingredients usually come in these buckets. Because of this, they end up with a bunch of empty buckets laying around.

The first place I ever called gave me twenty for $1 a piece. Now, if we call around, we are sure to find someone that will give us them for free.

The Bucket - Make sure that when you get a bucket it is food grade. One trick is to look on the bottom of the bucket. It should have a triangle with the #2 in it. It should also have "HDPE", which stands for High Density Polyethylene. This is the only material food grade buckets are made from. If your buckets are not food grade, they can leach chemicals into your food over time.

The Lid - The lid should have a rubber gasket that goes around the inside of the lip. This will ensure an airtight fit.

The Process - There are several standard ways to seal the food in. The first is to use a mylar bag and an oxygen absorbing packet. Place the bag into the bucket and a oxygen absorber into the bag. Fill the bag with your grain or other food item. Fill to about 80% of volume. At this point, some people add bay leaves to deter little bugs. You can also toss in a moisture packet, but this isn't a must. Then seal the bag with an impulse heat sealer or an iron. Make sure the seal is a good one and air tight. Add your lid and store.

I do not use this method myself. This method is intended for storing food for 10 + years. I am a strong believer in using what you have and having what you use. This means using your food and replacing it. Because of this, I do not have a reason to store my food for more than 5 years. Therefor, for many of my buckets I do not do anything besides put the lids on. These are the buckets that I get into somewhat frequently (let me just add here that a nice bucket opener is a good thing to have). For the items that I won't be getting into any time soon, I use dry ice to seal the buckets.

Place one ounce of dry ice for every gallon (five gallon bucket = five ounces of dry ice) into the bottom of the bucket. Pour grain over the ice (you can also add a paper towel, or something similar, if you don't want the food to possibly get burned from the cold). Leave about an inch at the top. I add a few bay leaves. Then slide the bucket over the top, but don't seal it. When the bottom of the bucket starts to warm up, you can seal the lid. Watch it every 10-15 minutes to make sure the bucket doesn't start to bulge. If it does, burp it (open the lid to let the gasses out).
I add some packing tape to the lid and write with a sharpie the date I sealed it and what food item is inside. Now store and enjoy in a few years.

Keep in mind that the best place to store these buckets are in a cool, dark, dry location that is safe from bugs and rodents. For every 10 degree drop in temperature, they say that it doubles your storage life.

Good luck and enjoy.

Sprouting Wheat and Growing Wheat Grass

I will go more in depth in future posts about how useful these skills can be. For now, enjoy these two videos from Karen Knowler.

Sprouting Wheat

Growing Wheat Grass

Chicken Breed Chart

Not sure which breed of chicken you want? Here is a handy little chart to help narrow it down.

Complete Book of Self Sufficiency

This link is to a free online version of "Complete Book of Self Sufficiency". I encourage you to either print this out or at least download it to your computer.

Buying bulk wheat in Idaho

Here is a list of Idaho elevator’s that sell wheat for home use.

Burley – AgriSource 208-678-2286
6 gallon buckets – 46 lbs wheat type- HWW

Colfax, WA- Almota (509) 397-3456
Wheat type SW, HRW, DNW call for info

Arco – Arco Feed & Fertilizer (208) 527-8209
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRW

Meridian – Big D Ranch (208) 888-1710
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRW

Lewiston - CLD Pacific Grain (208) 746-0102
Wheat type SW, HRW DNS call for info

Genesee - PNW Farmers Coop (208) 285-1141
Wheat type SW, HRW, DNS, Barley call for info

Ririe - Johnson Grain (208) 538-5500
50 lb bags and 5 gallon buckets wheat type HWW, HRW

Pocatello - McNabb Grain (208) 233-6750
Wheat type HR, HWW call for info

Moreland - Moreland Grain (208) 684-5049
6 gallon buckets - 46 lbs wheat type HWW

Iona - Pasley Grain (208) 522-1910
Wheat type HWW call for info

Lewiston – Primeland (208) 743-8551
Wheat type SW call for info

Ririe - Ririe (208) 538-6712
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRW

Rupert - Snake River Seed (208) 436-9828
Wheat type Organic Flax call for info

Rexburg - Steiner Grain (208) 356-5531
6 gallon buckets - 46 lbs wheat type HWW, HRS

Montpelier - Walton Feed (208) 847-0465
50 lb bags wheat type HWW, HRS

Wendell- Wendell Elevator (208) 536-5661
Wheat type SW call for info

Easy Seed Saving for Beginners

This information is from

Beans, Lettuce, Peas, Peppers and Tomatos offer the beginning seed saver the best chance for successful seed saving. They produce seed the same season as planted and are mostly self-pollinating, minimizing the need to be mindful of preventing cross-pollination.


HARVEST: Allow pods to dry brown before harvesting, about six weeks after eating stage. If frost threatens, pull entire plant, root first, and hang in cool, dry location until pods are brown. PROCESS: Small amounts of pods can be opened by hand. Flail larger amounts. Remove large chaff by hand or fork. Winnow remaining particles.

HARVEST: Some outside leaves can be harvested for eating without harming seed production. Allow seed heads to dry 2-3 weeks after flowering. Individual heads will ripen at different times making the harvest of large amounts of seed at one time nearly impossible. Wait until half the flowers on each plant has gone to seed. Cut entire top of plant and allow to dry upside down in an open paper bag.
PROCESS: Small amounts of seed can be shaken daily from individual flowering heads. Rub with hands to remove remaining seeds. If necessary, separate seeds from chaff with screens.

HARVEST: Allow pods to dry brown before harvesting, about four weeks after eating stage. If frost threatens, pull entire plant, root first, and hang in cool, dry location until pods are brown. PROCESS: Small amounts of pods can be opened by hand. Flail larger amounts. Remove large chaff by hand or fork. Winnow remaining particles.

HARVEST: Harvest mature, fully-ripe peppers for seed. (Most bell peppers turn red when fully mature.) If frost threatens before peppers mature, pull entire plant and hang in cool, dry location until peppers mature.
PROCESS: There are two methods, dry and wet, to process pepper seeds. The dry method is adequate for small amounts. Cut the bottom off the fruit and carefully reach in to strip the seeds surrounding central cone. In many cases, seeds need no further cleaning. To process the seed from large amounts of peppers, cut off the tops just under the stem, fill a blender with peppers and water and carefully blend until good seeds are separated and sink to bottom. Pepper debris and immature seeds will float to the top where they can be rinsed away. Spread clean seeds on paper towel and dry in cool location until seed is dry enough to break when folded.

HARVEST: If possible, allow tomatoes to completely ripen before harvesting for seed production. Unripe fruits, saved from the first frost, will ripen slowly if kept in a cool, dry location. Seeds from green, unripe fruits will be most viable if extracted after allowing the fruits to turn color.
PROCESS: Cut the tomato into halves at its equator, opening the vertical cavities that contain the seeds. Gently squeeze out from the cavities the jelly-like substance that contains the seeds. If done carefully, the tomato itself can still be eaten or saved for canning, sun-drying or dehydrating. Place the jelly and seeds into a small jar or glass. (Add a little water if you are processing only one or two small tomatoes.) Loosely cover the container and place in a warm location, 60-75° F. for about three days. Stir once a day. A layer of fungus will begin to appear on the top of the mixture after a couple of days. This fungus not only eats the gelatinous coat that surrounds each seed and prevents germination, it also produces antibiotics that help to control seed-borne diseases like bacterial spot, canker and speck. After three days fill the seed container with warm water. Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of tomato pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Note: Viable seeds are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the strainer onto paper towel or piece of newspaper. Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two). Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label and store in a packet or plastic bag.

High Altitude Vegetable Seeds

If you live at a higher elevation, you understand how difficult it can be to grow an abundent vegetable garden in a short, harsh season. This year I discovered the Seeds Trust, a seed company that specializes in high altitude seeds. They travel all over the globe in search of the hardiest varieties of vegetables they can find. And because they test their seeds in high elevation (6,000 ft.) Idaho gardens, I can trust they will work for me, as I am also in Idaho (4,000 ft.). Although I have not had the chance to test anything yet, as soon as spring arrives, I will be in the garden and will let you know how everything works out.

If you are looking for some seeds for this years crops, and you are in a harsh climate, I encourage you to check out the vegetable varieties they have on this site.

They are especially fond of their tomatos. We all know how hard the frosts can be on our tomato plants. Luckily Seed Trust has, I believe, thirty-two varieties. Seven of these are their cold weather tomatos. These are the tomato varieties most likely to produce fruit in sketchy weather .

I went with the Sub Arctic Plenty Early Tomato and the Gem State Early Tomato. I'll let you know how well they do.