Thursday, April 28, 2011

Extra Storage Ideas for Food Storage and Other Stuff

I was reading a blog about storing food in a trundle bed and it got me to thinking about under-utilized places in my own house. Storing things under the bed is a terrific use of space not to mention the old clothing that I might "someday" be able to wear again takes up much needed space. I already utilized my kitchen knock-out ledge for hidden storage.

"Where else might I find some much needed space," I wonder as I sit here at work. Did I say work? I meant AT HOME, yeah, I'd never blog while on the clock. Yeah, so, anyway...I have a locker here at work. An EMPTY locker I might add. Why not use that to stock up on soup and other storable foods? I mean, I live here twelve hours a day, four days a week. I eat a minimum of one meal...usually two meals while I am here. I think I'll watch the store ads for soup sales in the coming weeks and start stocking my locker with Campbell's soups. They'll stack nicely, keep for a while, and be super easy to make when I get the munchies at 2am (gotta love working the night shift, right?)

There are actually quite a few lockers at my work. I'd say only about half the lockers are utilized by employees. I might be able to pick a few in different locations and stock more than one locker? Well, let's start with one and go from there. I also have locker space at our other "sister" hospital. Ooohhh. That one's a STAND UP locker. Lots of space there.

If I didn't live in the East Valley of Arizona, I'd consider storing some lightweight foods in the trunks of my cars. You wouldn't want anything too heavy or it would affect gas mileage and we CERTAINLY don't want that these days. The heat would also speed up the shelf life of canned meats, vegetables, etc. Maybe I can stash away some Ramen in the trunk? Ramen seems pretty indestructible and I already blogged about 30 ways to cook Ramen.

We store our large cookware on a hanging rack over our kitchen sink. This free's up a cabinet worth of space. A storage shed in the backyard allowed me to move lots of stuff out of the garage (we have dry food storage out there.) We have mylar bagged food in the top of all the kids' closets where it is too high for them to reach.

In other ideas out there?

Totally Secure Homestead Design

Found this over at SurvivalBlog. A house made of concrete that can be completely enclosed and only accessible via second story draw bridge. I have found my perfect retreat design!


Designers' website can be found here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Strawberry Gardening Tips and Information

Thanks to a post by Mindy over at Housman Farms, I was encouraged to do some research on strawberries. Since I'm growing some strawberries and don't know the first thing about them, this little research project was very fruitfull (pun intended!)

A nice pdf drawing found on google docs shows the parts of a strawberry plant. Now, instead of pointing at my plants (when talking to my wife) and saying "this one spread out and started another one!" I can intelligently say "we've got a runner with a daughter plant!"

This same document also recommends pulling off the blossoms during the first year to encourage the plant to redirect all the energy into plant growth instead of fruit production. This must mean that strawberries can stay in the garden for several years? Think I'll experiment and pick blossoms off of half the crowns and see who grows more fruit in the next couple of years.

Looks like Mindy uses straw to cover her strawberries in the winter. My pdf document says to cover them after the first hard frost, up to four inches. Covering them too early can reduce their "winter hardiness."

During the second season, when the berries are ready to pick, just pinch them off at the stem between your thumb and forefinger and give a little twist. Freeze what you don't eat within the first week of picking.

Do YOU like strawberries?

Going Off Grid: Lessons from Survivorman

I am always looking for more ways to educate myself on self sufficiency. Seems like the more time I spend at work, the more I think about how to stop working. Is that weird?

I was pleasantly shocked tonight to stumble across a mini-series of videos made by Les Stroud from Survivorman fame. The first series called Survivorman Off The Grid Movie documents how Les took his time scouting out wilderness in Canada and ended up claiming his own 150 acres of paradise for "half the price" of a house in the suburbs.

Episode by episode he shows how he uses solar and wind for his hydro (Canadian term for power?). He renovates an old cabin and builds a new one next to it. From what looks to be an almost two year project, he finally ends up with a cozy cabin in the woods where he will live with his wife and two children. They homeschool and are completely free from the grid. Les earns income from his tv work and a music band.

I can't believe I didn't find this 2009 series until today. While he does talk about building a paradise on little money, he does seem to have a little more than the average Joe...considering he used a helicopter in one clip to fly his cabin wood into his remote area. To each his own. At least he's not dependent on anyone else for his electricity, food or childrens' education.

Note: I also found an older series called Snowshoes and Solitude where he and his wife lived "primatively" immediately after being married. They spent one full year in a remote area with primative hand tools.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cheap Prep Item Alert: 40lb Mesquite Charcoal only $7.47

40 lb bag of Mesquite Charcoal
I don't know about you guys but 40 pounds of charcoal, and MESQUITE charcoal at that, for under $8 is a pretty darn good deal around here. I purchased it at my local Walmart Neighborhood Marketplace. Those are the Walmart grocery stores, not the big Walmarts that have everything under the sun. It is made by El Diablo.

This is an exerpt from their website: "Mesquite charcoal last longer because it is 100 % charred wood. This not only enhances the flavor of your food, it makes mesquite a healthier alternative than briquettes. Mesquite charcoal is an all natural fuel, while Briquettes contain waste material, petroleum additives and binders, all of which affect the flavor of your grilled meal."

I used it on Easter to cook a spiral ham in one of our dutch ovens. It is the large, chunk (aka lump) charcoal...not briquettes. I placed a few large chunks between a newspaper and hit it with my hammer to break it up into smaller pieces. Then I picked up the newspaper, using it as a tray, and dumped the smashed up charcoal into my chimney starter.

Using the same method as normal briquettes (wadded up newspaper crammed up under the chimney starter), I got this charcoal to light up just like normal charcoal.  I put about 3-4 medium size chunks under the dutch oven and 5-6 on the lid. The only size comparison (for the charcoal chunks) I can think of right now is about the size of an egg.

The ham was delicious and the charcoal worked great. Get it cheap while you can and stock up. I see it is also advertised online at CostCo. If you want to know more about lump charcoal, visit this link.

Update  5-22-11: This same bag is now $14.xx at the same Walmart. Hellooooo hyperinflation!

Lettuce, Mushrooms and Corn...Oh My!

Baby lettuce growing between the mature heads.
The stuff we planted in late March is coming along nicely. The lettuce was planted last season and we decided to let it stay. It has continued to bloom and provide well for our meals (condiment on hamburgers and salads mostly). We've planted newer crops between  the old ones and they are sprouting up nicely too.

The corn, as it did last season, it blazing a trail towards the sun. It is by far the fastest growing crop I've ever seen (and I've been gardening TWO whole seasons!) It has done so well that we will be buying more seed from the same company just to store it away (haven't learned how to save seeds yet).

Peas from last season on the left (producing nicely too).
The only problems we had last season with the corn was little larvae looking worms inside the ears. You couldn't really see where they had dug in from but once you peeled away all the layers, you could see the little boogers lounging in a dark whole on the ear.

Still not seeing much action on the potatoes and carrots. There is a possible sprout of potato but were not sure. I'll take a picture of it and post it. Maybe someone can identify it for us. Half of the block wall garden is stocked with potatoes, the other half is corn. We left two little pea plants from last season to see what they'd do (they're doing better now than last season).

The carrots are sprouting up but only ONE stem in each of the TWO 3x3' raised-box gardens dedicated entirely to carrots. Pretty disappointing. I still have hope that they're just still below the surface but I've seen plenty of cat pawing in the same boxes. I also wonder if seeds were washed away since they're planted just under the soil surface. I planted purple carrots and traditional orange from seed.

The third raised-box is nursing wounded strawberries. I planted five transplants from Home Depot. They were sporting berries when I bought them. I got them planted in the boxes and sure enough, the kids ate the berries within days. The berries were barely bigger than a chocolate chip! Argh!

"We're here for your water!"
 You can see in the picture how they are turning brown. There are some new buds coming out though so we'll keep our fingers crossed.  My gardening neighbor told me he planted the same thing and all the original leaves turned brown and fell off but were soon followed by healthy green ones.

I pulled some mushrooms up from the carrot beds. I was told it was possibly a sign that I was watering too much.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Netted Gardens for Pesky Pooping Cats

Can you see the bird net covering the garden?
Busy weekend with Easter and chores. Finished quite a few odd jobs. Our three raised-box gardens and block wall garden got framed and covered with bird net.

For the raised beds, I went to home depot and bought some wooden stakes (about $7) and bird netting (about $20). I simply drove the stakes into the corners and used my trusty staple gun to secure three sides. I hammered a few nails into the fourth side and slide the netting on and off the nails for easy access.

I had originally planned on building a pvc frame around the raised beds. I changed my mind and used the pvc on the block wall garden. I just draped the bird netting over the pipe and used stepping stones to secure the net.

Bird net here too. That's corn growing on the left.

This will hopefully keep the neighbor's cat from pooping and clawing in my garden. Yes, manure is fertilizer but he's also clawing up my seeds. Pesky cat. Neighbors that garden have also warned me to net my stuff to stop birds from picking at it.

So, for the most part, my gardens are covered. I still have a stretch of garden along my south wall but everything sewn into that was just put straight into the ground. No boxes built, no bags of manure hauled. We just ground-weasel'd it and planted seeds. I don't feel as obligated to protect that one, as dumb as that logic seems.

A friend from church told me he went to the local Starbucks and picked up a bag of used coffee grounds. Once mixed into his garden, he has had no more cat problems. That's next on my list.

Easter Jewelry Made By Mommy

Our girls were delighted with their Easter necklaces and happily wore them to church. Mom is getting VERY good at making things with her sewing machine AND by hand.

This post was originally sent from my Droid Incredible via SMS text but for some reason pictures are not going through. I'll have to dig through the Blogger instructions to find out why. Otherwise, I might start trying to blog via email from my Droid.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Orange Jeep Got Egged!

We spent last evening celebrating Easter with family. It was a terrific evening with lots of good conversation and delicious food. Today we'll be celebrating at  home and going to church this afternoon.

Gotta run, there's some chocolate with my name on it!

Eggs in the backyard

Six little girls get six little Easter baskets

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bartering Has Officially Started (For Our Family)

We were officially asked to barter tonight. After a very informative "Date Night" event, we stayed and talked with some neighbors. Turns out they have an abundance of pasta and toothpaste. We mentioned how we were swimming in deoderant and they offered to trade. Great!

I've read for a while how helpful bartering would become in our coming "great recession" but I guess I just wasn't quite thinking about putting it into action yet. We were stocking up on just about ANYTHING we could get for free for a while but recently we've only been going after the things we KNOW we'll use.

Date Night Topic: Top 5 Reasons for Divorce

We were blessed tonight with the invitation of a Date Night event at our church. I've never been to one so I had no idea what to expect. With six daughters, a "date night" is somewhat of a unicorn concept: I've heard of it but can't remember the last time I saw one :-)

After our teen/preteen aged children were set up with dinner and chores, we headed to our church. Upon arrival we found about ten tables set up with about four couples per table. We helped ourselves to a generous amount of homemade lasagna and salad. Someone snuck in Papa John's cheese breadsticks and they were wonderful too.

Towards the end of our dinner, our Bishop stood up and announced that he had a topic of discussion he wanted to share with us. As a divorce lawyer, he admitted that he never dreamed as a child that his field of expertise would end up being prenuptual agreements and he wondered how all this divorce experience would ever serve him and those around him.

For the next 45 minutes, he shared with us the top five reasons that he has personally seen destroy marriages. He hoped that by sharing his experience with us regarding what he has seen ruin so many other marriages would enable us to make our marriages more successful and avoid the many pitfalls in our society today.

He estimates he has mediated around 1000 divorces and these five problems are the majority of the causes for marriage failures.

#5 - Unmedicated mental illness. This is regarding people who have known mental issues but choose NOT to medicate properly. Some medicate improperly with alcohol or other drugs which causes problems. Some refuse to follow their presciption medication for whatever reason and it leads to problems. When asked which mental illness he saw most, he stated Depression.

#4 - "Hen-pecking" is what he called it. He also verbalized a disclaimer that he was not solely singling out women as the perpetrators. This is a catch phrase more popularly called "nagging." He said it leads to diminished self esteem and that can certainly lead to an unhappy marriage. He sees it in both men and women, where one spouse constantly "rides" the other about not doing things the "right" way. After years of trying to please the spouse, some people choose to give up and divorce.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thoughts on Home Security Upgrades & Armor Concepts

About six months ago, I decided it was time to beef up the security around the house. I researched many blogs and youtube videos for the many different options available today. The most detailed and helpful research, as usual, came from Rawles Survival Blog.

At that time, I chose to address the entry points. How could I reinforce my doors and windows? After much research, I ended up using Armor Concepts Door Jamb Armor. They provided several videos on the product showing several attempts to kick the door down AND using a police battering ram. They also provided videos for installation. I outfitted all pertinent outside doors with Door Jamb Armor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gasoline Will Be $6 per Gallon by 2012

I've been prepping for over a year now and have quite a few things squared away, as it were. The impass that I'm coming to now is: where do we go from here?

In a prior post, I mentioned my redundancy plan. We have most major bases covered. Of course, you could never have too much of anything so we'll continue to stock up on food and ammo.

I'm just wondering what we'll do when gas hits $6 a gallon. I'm not sure it will be viable to drive the kids to school.

Water Use Reality Check

I've read we can go weeks without food but not very many days without water. With that being said, water should be the number one priority for preparedness and survival during hard economic times. Adequate preparedness requires studying what is available in YOUR immediate area. If what YOU need isn't available within a reasonable distance, you might want to consider moving. This is something I am currently pondering given that I live in the desert and our water supply can be very limited in the event of a disaster.

A recent news story revealed that a local city wastewater treatment employee, angered that he didn't get a raise among other issues, was attempting to blow up a quarter city block along with the water treatment plant. The explosion wouldn't have reached my neighborhood but it would have surely affected our water supply.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mixed Results Among Our Garden

A quick update on the garden. The corn (pictured) is coming along VERY nicely. This is from a non-hybrid seed purchased from Seed For Security as advertised on

The carrots have sprouted ONE stem in each 3x3 foot raised-bed garden box. Bummer! The potatoes haven't grown at all. I dug up one purple and one regular potato and they looked exactly like they did when I planted them two months ago. (Update: potatoes are growing like crazy now in June!)

The strawberries are withering away and turning brown. I was warned they don't do well in our Arizona sun outdoors. The kids picked/ate the first few tiny strawberries and I haven't seen any since. (Update: 4 out of 5 crowns survived, one had a "run" and created a "sister" crown so we still have five growing. Not producing much but still green in June!)

The cucumbers and squash have sprouted 3-4 stems. We planted two rows of cucumbers and one row of squash so not TOO bad...I guess. (Update: these are growing well, especially the squash in June)

The lettuce is doing amazingly well again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Caching and Schnepf Farms

What a productively active day at Case de Orange Jeep Dad! I plowed through as much sheetrock as my 18 volt power tools would allow on one charge, took the family (plus two more girls) for a fun filled day at a local farm, and ended the night with a bonfire and peep-smores.

An on-going project has been trying to move our food storage from plain sight to out-of-sight. It involves cutting some drywall in strategic locations and placing our mylar bags inside a "knock-out" area. The knock-out was already being used as a ledge for the bags. Now I've placed the bags inside the to speak.

The technical school we both graduated Radiography from had a reunion/25 year anniversary today at Schnepf Farms. Along with free food, we enjoyed a train ride, roller coaster, swings, planes, and other assorted carnival-type rides. This is a working farm and we enjoyed a train ride through their numerous pastures.

Lastly, to wind down the kids and their sleepover friends, I tossed a few logs in the fire pit and lit a bonfire. Easter Peeps surfaced and before long those little marshmallow chicks were getting roasted over the fire.

Everyone had a great day today and it feels good getting back to life after working six 12 hour shifts a week for all of 2010.

Life is good.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Another Busy Day at the Orange Jeep Dad Household

Today was packed with several items of busy work. The morning started off as usual with the rushing home after my night shift in order to get some of my girls to school. Its some good quality time to chat as we ride 30 minutes to school.

The schools are having their annual AIMES testing so nobody is excited to attend school this week. However, today was a little's Macy's 12th birthday! I was happy to see a schoolmate come running up to our Jeep upon arrival yelling "Macy Macy Macy!" She was bouncing with joy and telling Macy "Happy Birthday" before she could even open the Jeep door. Of course I helped the situation by honking a few times in celebration. Macy LOVED that (insert sarcasm.)

I finally got to bed around noon-ish and was back up by 5pm. We had to take the whole family to the annual Cheer Team Banquet. I was fortunate enough to get a co-worker to cover the first few hours of my shift so I could attend (the cost of attending had been prepaid through our monthly cheer dues.)

A prompt return home following the banquet and we had a nice family celebration with Macy. She had picked out her own cake and was more than eager to open the presents she had waited ALL DAY to get. Several books and an Old Navy gift card later, all was well again...until...

Around 9pm Macy remembered she had a project due at school the very next day. This triggered another daughter to remember her project due the next day (which she had left at school). Before you know it, the house was back to normalcy with the sounds of doors slamming and feet stomping...

...and I, begrudgingly, went to work.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Posting from my Droid Incredible

Testing an entry sent from my Droid. Like it or not, I can now post from my Droid. Now if I could only figure out how to delete the post :-)

Sunless, Rainless...Indoor Farming Yields Plenty.

(image courtesy of yahoo news)
One of the thoughts I commonly have during gardening is "Why am I bothering with all this? Its not going to be a LARGE source of food for my family." So, I reassure myself that every little bit helps.

As the economy tanks and hyperinflation creeps inevitably closer, it is important to keep my eye on the ball. The game I must win is keeping expenses as low as possible in order to maximize any and all monies coming into my house. Gardening is one way to cut expenses.

I have three seperate gardens growing in my backyard. I have plans to put a few citrus trees in the SW corner but aside from that, I'm getting a little low on space. I live in a cookie cutter neighborhood with neighbors five feet from my block fence on either side.

I was given a little renewed hope towards increasing my growing capacity after reading an article today titled "Future Farm: a sunless, rainless room indoors." It seems a team of Dutch bioengineers have been experimenting for more than a decade with this "indoor farming" concept and claim to be able to produce more food with less resources (including NO sunlight).

Using LED lighting in specific colors, manipulated day cycle of less than 24 hours, and one-fourth the water used in traditional farming, the team was able to grow a variety of plants three times faster than a greenhouse environment.

It appears growing plants without sunlight isn't a new idea. NASA grew plants under LED lights on the space station MIR and in our space shuttle in the 1990's.

Well, its all news to me and I've got a 350 sq foot "game room" that we added on to our house a few years ago that's not being used much these days. I wonder where I put those christmas tree LED lights...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Survival Mindset Surfaces at Disneyland

It is interesting how perspectives can change as life moves along. It has been less than two years since I started learning about preparedness and survival. I've been somewhat of an empath long before attaining my bachelors degree in psychology but the barrage of people and varying circumstances this past weekend at Disneyland brought out a heightened sense of survivalism in my mind. Things I probably wouldn't have thought about had I not been studying preparedness and survivalism.

It started on the road trip to California. Some 200 miles west of Phoenix, we stopped for gas. I found myself waiting at a gas pump which could not reach my tank due to the limited length of the pump rope, the long length of my suburban, and the fact that the jackass in front of me pumping gas was too self-absorbed to pull-through to the farthest pump allowing someone to successfully follow behind him.

After securing my gas, I entered the gas station. Typical interstate gas station hustling with passersby. One lady, I noticed however, was only looking at the floor as she walked up and down the isles. She caught my puzzled look and asked if I had seen any car keys on the floor. Long story short, her keys were misplaced. Outside the store, frantically searching her car, was the woman's 30-something daughter (I'm guessing) and three toddlers.

Without going into all the details, turns out the keys were in the daughter's purse the entire time. My brain played out the survival lesson: always have spare keys. I thought to myself "What if that'd been me, with lost keys, 200 miles from home, and a suburban full of family?" I rationalized that with my wife's set of keys, we have a backup...if we are traveling together AND we don't lock BOTH of them in the car (six kids, it can happen).

So to be more prepared, I will put a hide-a-key box somewhere under the vehicle. It should be placed somewhere that isn't easily detected or jarred loose and checked frequently. Alternatives include a credit-card key for wallets, AAA membership for lock-outs, and checking with my car insurance company for lock-out coverage.

Next came parking in a stacked parking garage (on the third level) in order to get to our hotel room on the 9th floor. My survival brain quickly conjured up an earthquake scenario (have you seen how many small earthquakes Cali is having daily?) I'm pretty much screwed on this one. If the suburban gets pancaked in the garage, or the hotel for that matter, I have NO backup to that. I tried to focus on other things. Survival lesson: you can't control or prepare for everything.

Lastly, I'll briefly mention being somewhere underground on the Indiana Jones ride when the announcement could barely be heard that the ride was stopped for an indefinite period of time. I stood in that narrow stairwell with my daughters (age 12, 10 and 5) wondering what I would do if the power went out (thanks to the flickering, dimly lit lamps overhead). My darn droid battery was hovering around 5%, as usual. So much for the flashlight app. One daughter had her phone and it was low battery as well. I have no doubts I could have navigated back out of that underground catacomb but not without a light source. My backup source (to my cell phone flash light app) would be my LED lit house key. After that would be my very dimly lit wrist watch light. I have used both to navigate my house in the middle of the night to avoid stepping on Barbie dolls and hair clips (again, six daughters.) Perhaps a mini mag lite on my keychain wouldn't hurt.

Gone are the days of just walking blindly around Disneyland without a care in the world. Survival favors the prepared and this is one dad dedicated to family survival.

What do YOU carry when you go to a publicly crowded place like Disneyland?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Welcome to the Silver Liberation Army

We've got to stand up and fight somehow. This in ONE of the easiest ways to do it. Go out and get yourself some physical silver. I didn't start until October 2010. Silver was $18 per ounce and I was a little nervous buying something online that I knew nothing about. I can happily report that I received three purchases of silver from Gainsville Coins with no problems or delays and the price of silver is now hovering around $40 per ounce.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hiking the Treasure Loop of the Lost Dutchman State Park

One of the benefits to living in the Valley of Arizona is the numerous hiking trails available all year. This past weekend provided the perfect weather for a 4.8 mile scenic hike in the nearby Lost Dutchman State Park.

Folklore of the Lost Dutchman's buried treasure and ancient volcanoes wove in and out of our conversations. The Treasure Loop Trail was dotted with various cactus and an occasional gecko. What began as an entertaining hike with our local Job's Daughters bethel, ended with all the Kentucky Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and cantaloupe we could stand.

During our mealtime conversation, I mentioned how much we love to make fresh juice from the citrus of our neighbors' trees. We've been blessed with grapefruit, lemon and oranges to our west and tangelos to our east. This subject prompted another dad on our hike to offer his mini orchard. Seems his front yard is overburdened with grapefruit and oranges. He asked if we'd like to stop by his place on the way home and fill our newly acquired Job's hike backpacks with citrus.

We are always happy to oblige in the acquisition of fresh fuits, veggies, and citrus! We bagged enough to make four containers of juice for our fridge and one to freeze. My fingers were a little pruned from so much juicing but the bounty was well worth the effort.

Appearantly the girls thought so too. The juice was gone in less than 48 hours.