My 2020 Garden: Day #1

As most of you know by now we’ve moved into our new home that I built. It is a modest home, small, functional, and perfect for us. I am behind schedule…as is normal when building. The house is by no means done…there remains a long list of smallish items to take care of. However, I wanted a garden.

My original plans called for a pretty substantial garden and some fruit trees. Ah, not going to happen this year…not even close. But, I felt the overwhelming “need” to put in some kind of, some size of garden. After a discussion with my wife we decided it had to be small enough to do quickly, only vegetables that we will eat each day, maybe some minor dehydrating, no canning. It had to be easy to care for, not time consuming. And it had to be “heirloom” based. If nothing else…we could/would harvest the seeds for next year.

The vegetables we decided on were tomatoes, peppers, squash, and an unnamed vegetable to be identified later. Tomatoes was a no brainer…we eat the heck out of tomatoes! We eat them on sandwiches, as a sandwich, on salads, by themselves…well, you get the idea. So we went with Beef Steak and Better Boy, plus a cherry tomato for salads.

For peppers we went with a serrano for spicy, then a sweet green and sweet red. And then some kind of squash that my wife likes…yeah, I am not a big squash fan.

We ended up with 8 plants total…7 pots, one had two plants in it. Yup…very small garden!

We have some problems to deal with here…mainly the sun, it is very, very intense in the summer. And the ground is dry, but we have a well so that is not a problem. For the sun, we planted on the east side of the house, shaded from about 1pm on. And then there are the dogs and rabbits. Our combination chain-link and electric fence keeps the dogs in and the rabbits out. A 2″x3″ mesh piece of leftover construction mesh keeps the rabbits and dogs out of the garden itself. But, there are also the mice and rats. Yup, the joys of living in the country. Some 1/2″ construction mesh from Lowe’s today will take care of that problem…hopefully.

And I mentioned our ground is dry…very dry and sandy…very little organic matter. So that had to be dealt with. But, I am not going to till up a large garden…actually, I am not tilling up anything. I am digging holes and improving the soil just in that specific area.

So here goes…

East side of the house to shade the plants in the afternoon. The house proximity might also deter the tougher rabbits that make it through the electric fence. And of course…a shorter walk to water, weed, and harvest.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I am digging holes for each individual plant. Saves work and reduces amount of soil amendments. Notice how dry and hard. Dug the hole approximately 14″ in diameter and a little over a foot deep.

 

For soil I mixed 1/3 native soil (sand), 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 steer manure/compost. I mixed it in the wheelbarrow. I used the soil from lower in the hole where it was less hard and a little more moist.
I didn’t use fancy stuff like pearlite or vermiculite…WAY too expensive and WAY too little return on the dollars spent.

 

Here is what I choose to use to improve the soil. No specific reason I choose this stuff. It’s just what they had, and would work for what I wanted it to do.

 

So there you go! Our small garden in a small space (5′ x 5′) all laid out, in the ground…now the finishing touches.

 

Put up the non-fancy fence and watered it all in.
Tomatoes tomorrow???

 

Not going to let anything go to waste! These are little sprigs of grass I dug up when digging my plant holes. I moved them to an area where I have the potential for soil erosion. Grass in this area is scarce, so why not use it constructively? Yes, I watered it in. No, I have no idea if it will make it or not.

So why am I sharing this with you? Thought you might be interested…yeah, right. Now the real reason…I want to show you that a small garden is still possible, even if you are starting a bit late like I am. And while it may not feed you 100%…it might feed you 15% or 5%…and that is better than nothing. Plus you learn to garden for when you may really need it. And at the very least you can harvest the seeds and save them for next year.

So I am suggesting -HIGHLY encouraging you- that you plant a garden. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy or pretty…or anything but some vegetables that you are growing yourself. You never know how much you may need it…or just appreciate the fresh tomatoes 🙂

I will keep you updated on how our garden does.

 

 

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Immediate Action Warning! (5/1/2020 – Food)

5/1/2020 – 1100

Food

With the recent alarming developments in the current and potential food distribution chain I am issuing an Immediate Action Warning – Food.

I am warning against the increasing scarcity of some foods in the US. Of current specific concern is meat (i.e. pork and poultry). I have personally confirmed that there are significant problem with major food producers getting meat to the retail markets.

As US fruit and vegetable crops become available for harvesting there could also develop a shortage of farm personnel to harvest those crops. And there is also a similar potential issue getting those crops into the food distribution chain as well.

Possible steps to take:

  • Plant a garden with heirloom seeds. It doesn’t matter how large a garden, just get something planted. Prepare to harvest the seeds from your garden. The seeds may be the most valuable part of this year’s crop.
  • Begin to acquire additional meat as you would pantry items. Don’t go crazy and spend 100’s or 1000’s of dollars buying meat. But, buy an additional couple of pounds of beef, pork, chicken, or bacon. Freeze it, can it, jerk it, dehydrate it, etc. Any way you wish to preserve it is OK with me. Just get moving on it!
  • Acquire additional pantry items. I recommend a minimum of 90 days supply of normal every-day use pantry food.
  • Be creative in acquiring your food. Join a co-op, use the LDS church distribution center, go through someone you know who owns a restaurant and buys through a wholesale supplier, go direct to a meat producer and buy 1/2 a pig or beef through them.
  • Make sure your food pantry is full.

Do not delay in implementing those things you know need to be done.

 

 

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How Fast Could You Leave?

note: article first appeared in March 2016

So here’s what I am thinking…Something happens, anything, doesn’t matter really. The question stands…How fast could you leave your house and be prepared to do whatever was required of you?

Yeah, I know, you want to ask me, “Prepared for what?” I am saying, it doesn’t matter. I am asking you, “How long would it take you to leave your house and be prepared to do whatever was required of you?”

Now, if you can’t answer the question, then you aren’t prepared enough…not even close. Yes, it is a fair question, and I believe it is a fair observation to say that if you can’t answer the question, or you have lots of trouble answering it directly, then you aren’t really prepared enough.

Here’s what I am getting at…If I had to leave the house “prepared” I could do it in about 3 – 5 minutes. I could handle all of the top threats/risks associated with emergencies, disasters, and grid-down incidents for 45 – 90 days minimum. Probably a lot more if I knew I had to stretch it out. Yes, I am serious about that!

We have two basic locations for those preparedness items we would take. They are grouped according to “perishable” and “non-perishable” stuff. While the food that is ready is really non-perishable, it is food and it lasts much longer in a more climate controlled environment so it is in the house. The “gear” I consider non-perishable so it is stored in the garage, with the exception of guns.

The food, including heirloom seed packets, is located in the kitchen right next to the door that goes into the garage. The gear that is located in the garage is next to the large double-car garage door. Both locations are easily accessed, nothing restricting access, and can be reached with minimal effort if you know what you are doing.

There are total of four cases of six #10 cans each can are all freeze dried foods, plus two 6gal plastic buckets of freeze dried food pouches. Then a single 2gal plastic bucket of seeds. In the garage there are four large totes and six small totes that make-up my primary GOOD BOB gear. All of that gear mitigates all, yes all, of the threats/risk categories for incidents. And I can have all of that loaded correctly in the bed of my pick-up or my wife’s SUV within a few minutes, 5 mins tops. If I had to just throw it in the vehicles I can do that too, so I could probably reduce it to 2 minutes if I really hustled or had my wife’s help and I wasn’t worried about it being neatly packed.

In the event that I had more time I could then go to my secondary totes and food boxes. And I won’t bore you to death on the details but the secondary totoes would significantly increase my survival time and comfort level.

But, why the heck am I even asking you this question and giving you my example?

Because I want to think about your situation and the time it would take for you to be mobile in a crisis situation.

Yes, of course you could shelter in place if needed and/or it was your only option, we all know that. But I was wanting to prompt you about “having” to leave in a hurry…could you do it and take your basic preps with you?

And this is really not about the time required, the vehicle, or anything along those lines. This “prompt” is about organization more than anything. Are you organized enough to get your food and gear out the door quickly if you needed to?

Here is one of the problems I see with preppers…mostly prepper organization is not properly thought out. Yeah, “properly” being the operative word here. They may be organized, however, the method they use may well not be a practical methodology for many situations.

I have seen incredibly organized preppers while visiting their homes. I have been seriously impressed many times by the sheer volume of food and gear. But, I have seldom, almost never, seen their preps organized in such a fashion to allow for graduated movement of their gear and food using a priority methodology.

Meaning, they can take a limited number of containers and still have a wide variety of what they need. Mostly I see box after box of wheat, then box after box of oats. And that goes on and on, even a whole box full of candles…but not a single match in the box of candles or a can opener in any case of food.

What I want to propose to you is a reorganizing of food and gear. Place a diet balanced variety of food in a couple of boxes or totes or buckets. That provides you with a decent quantity and variety of food…even if you can only grab that one or two boxes before you have to leave. Same is true for gear. Have a few primary containers with gear in each that provides for the most basic of needs should you have to leave your home.

Where I want you to end up, your goal, my leader’s intent, is the ability to leave your home in minimal time, under 10 minutes, and have enough of your food and gear to get by on. Sure, if you have plenty of advanced notice, and a large enough vehicle, you can take it all, and that is the ideal situation. But, emergency incidents are rarely “ideal.”

Please Read: Food Storage Methodology

 

 


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Food Storage Methodology

repacking food storage boxes - new food storage methodologynote: first appeared in May 2015

Pretty much my whole life has been figuring out scenarios and then planning and preparing for them. I was in military school during high school and then on to the military at the tail end of Vietnam. My professional life as a firefighter means a lot of my planning and preparing involved the potential for life & death. My side-line, security work, was a lot the same way to some degree. But whatever I’ve been doing for the last 40+ years has to do with the “what if” kinda of stuff. This reviewing and revamping of our food storage was no different.

Background –

Quite a while back I looked at our food storage and realized that I needed to have the ability to “grab & go” if the situation Leaving home in a hurrydemanded it. So I developed a series of scenarios that would cover a quick departure:

  1. If time was very very short, just a minute or less, I would grab our two buckets of freeze dried food that we bought at Sam’s Club.
  2. And if there is another two minutes to spare I would grab the 3 cases of MREs and a large case of Mountain House pouches.
  3. If I have another two minutes on top of that I would grab the Mountain House 45-day supply that is in four cases of #10 cans.

But then what?

Well, we had several stacks of food storage in #10 cans packed 6 cans to a case. They were all neatly stacked and grouped with similar items (wheat, rice, beans, etc.) in the same location. Looked great, nicely organized, but what happens if I have 10 – 15 minutes to load some more food? What would I take and how would I get to it easily? Or would I even know what to take?

The Problem –

I mean I could start grabbing boxes but I might end up with two cases of veggies and no milk; or five cases of wheat but no meat. And that made absolutely no sense to me at all. There had to be an answer, there had to be some kind of answer to resolve my grab & go problem.. So I did what makes the most sense, I forgot all about it and went back to daily issue and challenges…life set in.

Yeah, that worked for about two weeks; I just felt that I had to correct this situation and very, very soon. Then my wife started talking to me about it so I knew it was time to really do something and stop putting it off. For about two weeks we worked on a new method of food storage. A couple Family Home Evenings, some heart felt prayers, lots of discussion, pondering…well, you get the idea…Poof! We had a new food storage methodology.

The Solution –

The three scenarios I listed above haven’t changed at all, that is our “quick reaction” food storage. But we now have a new plan that builds on that old plan. And here it is:

We now have a “3-case month.” That means three cases of food are grouped together to make up a meal plan for two people for one month. The food is balanced, nutritional and meets a minimum calorie diet.

Each case in the group falls into one of three categories; A, B, or C. Also, each case of food is also “stand-alone” and can be used individually if needed. In other words…each case has a balanced set of contents.

P-51 Can Opener, P51 can opener, P-38 can opener, P38 can openerAll the “A” cases have the high value food that we would take first. Then the “B” cases have the next most high-value food. Then the “C” cases of food the lowest valued food (but still plenty good, it is just relative). All the cans in each case have their own plastic lid. Each case has a P-51 can opener in the case.

So that addresses the main concern – What food do we take first?

How we did it –

We made up a total of 12 “grab & go” groups of three case sets for a total of 36 cases We figured that would be a decent, well-balanced, nutritionally correct diet for a year.

Each “A Case” Contents –
ITEM           SERVINGS        CALORIES per SERVING       TOTAL CALORIES
Meat                     48                           110                                         5280
Vegetable             50                           110                                         5500
Fruit                      42                            25                                         1050
Rice                      54                           160                                         8640
Wheat                   58                           140                                         8120
Spices
TOTALS               252                                                                       28,590

Each “B Case” Contents –
ITEM           SERVINGS        CALORIES per SERVING       TOTAL CALORIES
TVP                    47                           80                                           3760
Potato                 41                           35                                           1435
Cheese               44                           140                                         6160
Milk                    69                           100                                          6900
Pasta                 27                           200                                          5400
Bean                  55                           150                                          8250
TOTALS           283                                                                         31,905

Each “C Case” Contents –
ITEM           SERVINGS        CALORIES per SERVING       TOTAL CALORIES
Drink                     94                           80                                         7520
Grits                      61                         130                                         7930
Biscuit Mix            30                         210                                          6300
Peanut Butter       81                           60                                          4860
Apple Slices         16                          110                                         1760
TVP                      43                          100                                         4300
TOTALS              325                                                                      32,670

Nutritional Needds from food storageOur “3-Case Set” provides us with 860 servings of food and a total of 93,165 calories. How does that stack up against our nutritional needs? We get a little over 3,100 calories of energy between the two of us each day. That means we are looking at a “minimal” diet. A woman my wife’s age will need about 1,200 – 1,300 calories a day with a “normal life-style.” That leaves me with about 1,800 calories a day. That is barely enough for a man my size, age, and life-style. If we have to accomplish hard work we would have to double that caloric intake to stay healthy.

Now, how to extend what you have in your 3-Case Sets can be a bit tricky, maybe confusing. But, I will take a stab at it. Remember that a 3-Case Set is designed to be food for two people for one month. But it is barely enough for a man and women as far as calories go. Now, it would be easy to increase calories by simply adding beans, wheat, rice or oats; and it would be very cost effective as well. But you could end up suffering from food fatigue if you aren’t careful. To avoid that situation and boost calories…there are a number of ways to accomplish that. You put together a case of “caloric extenders” while adding a little “taste” as well. Here are some ideas for both:Food Storage Extenders - grains, beans, rice

Caloric extender foods:

Wheat
Rice
Beans, pinto/black/white/refried
Oatmeal
Pasta
Potatoes, mashed

Food Storage Enhancers - Sugar Brownie mix Yogurt bits Cheese ButterTaste enhancer:

Sugar
Brownie mix
Yogurt bits
Cheese
Butter

You can mix and match them in any combination that you wish to get the desired foods, taste, caloric intake, bulk and nutritional content. And you can do all of that while keeping food fatigue away. Now, don’t think you have to run out and spend a fortune on freeze dried food or a long list of fancy canned food. If you have the extra money fine, then do so if it fits your budget. But if you are like most of us you don’t have that kind of money just sitting around. No problem, just add a single #10 can each payday if that is all you can do. Steady progress is what it is all about. This is a marathon not a sprint.

Summary –

All-in-all, we are really grateful that we undertook this change in food storage methodology. It was eye-opening to say the least. We both feel we are far better prepared now to meet the challenges that will come our way when we face a disaster, emergency or a “grid-down” event in the future.Lessons Learned

Here are some specific Lessons Learned from this significant change in the way we stored our food storage:

  1. We didn’t know before exactly how long our food would last. Now we have a firm estimate. Makes a big difference for planning purposes.
  2. Putting a can opener in each box really gives us a feeling of comfort. Talk about redundancy!!
  3. We found the bottom seams of many of the boxes (especially shipped boxes) had tape that no longer functioned. We took the time to re-tape each of the 3 seams on ALL the box bottoms; two shorter edges and the one long seam in the middle.
  4. With our computer printed, easy-to-read labels, we marked each box with the exact contents and the servings and calories.
  5. We rearranged how we physically stacked and placed it in the storage area. We can now easily see what we need to round-out our food storage. But more importantly, which cases of food should be loaded first in the event we need to bug-out.
  6. We feel confident, that should we be able to take it all, we will have well balanced and tasty meals. With well-balanced cases of food it will help ease the problem(s) that caused us grab & go our food storage to begin with.
  7. We realized that if we are to take all our food storage we will need a larger, sturdier truck. But, we’ve identified the most important 36 cases of food in case that is all we can take.
  8. If the grid goes down and we have to leave in a hurry we will very likely not be able to take all our food storage with us. But we will easily know what to take, and we will be able to do it quickly and efficiently.
  9. We really liked the idea that we put plastic lids on every can in the A/B/C and Support (caloric & tastes extender) cases. Once the food is used out of those cans, the cans will have more value because they will all have a lid.

Now…what kinda ofr methodology do you use for your “grab & go” food storage?

 

 

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