April Giveaway: The MiniFarming Guide to Composting

Mini Farming Guide to Composting

Today I am announcing our April Giveaway:  The MiniFarming Guide to Composting by Brett L. Markham.

Book description:

Whether it’s your mini farm or flower garden that needs nourishment, Brett explains how to compost just about anything you can grow. In this handy guide you’ll find instructions that make composting simple, with checklists, extensive tables, measurements, and diagrams. Topics include:

 ·         The importance of soil microbiology

·         The nutrient cycle

·         Compost and sustainable nutrient cycles

·         Sustainability and a positive bottom line

·         Theory: the science of compost

·         Practice: the technique of compost

·         Other sustainability practices: biochar and more

·         Indoor composting: vermicomposting

·         Limits of composting, appropriate amendments

·         Easy composting bins you can make yourself

To enter, just leave a comment below on one of these topics:

  • Any experience you might have composting
  • Composting in a small space

The winner* will be chosen at random on Saturday, April 13 at 8 pm Central.  Good luck!  I look forward to reading your entries!

*Winner will be notified via email.  Winner must reply to email notification within 48 hours or another winner will be drawn.

 

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Review of Chicken Fajita MRE from Meal Kit Supply

Chicken Fajita MRE from Meal Kit Supply

I’ve been having a back log of product and book reviews, both on items I purchased on my own, and review samples sent by the company or publisher.  It takes me a while to get the reviews done, as I like to read/test each one individually before I post anything about it.  I usually post on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, so on Saturdays I will do product and books reviews.

Meal Kit Supply sent me their newest MRE, Chicken Fajita, for review.  I had tested their product in the past, and was curious how this one would turn out.  The MRE pack included the following:

  • chicken fajita entree
  • 2nd entree was fried rice
  • pack of tortillas
  • dessert consisted of a spice cake
  • 2 drink packets:  cocoa beverage powder and orange flavored electrolyte carbohydrate mix
  • salsa packet
  • eating utensils including salt and pepper
  • heater unit

Contents of MREI added water to the heating unit as directed and wrapped it around the two entrees.

Chicken Fajita entreeThe chicken fajita warmed up really well, but the rice was only slightly warm.  I decided to throw it in boiling water for a minute and it warmed up.  More on this later.

Here is the rice after it warmed up.

MRE Rice

The tortilla packet included 2 flour tortillas-they were ready to eat and did not need warming.  I made 2 tacos by filling the tortillas with chicken, rice and salsa Now for the taste test.

  • I was not expecting a lot from the tortillas but they turned out great- the texture and taste were on par with a brand name such as Mission.
  • The chicken had a stew type consistency, and was a bit more saucy to my taste, but added as a taco filling with the rice, it tasted good.
  • The rice also had a nice texture and flavor.
  • The spice cake was very sweet – I prefer a less sweet taste, but that is my preference.

A few days later, I emailed my contact at Meal Kit Supply to find out why the 2nd entree did not warm up as well.  As I suspected, I positioned it the wrong way, since I wrapped it around the 2 entrees like a blanket, but the correct way is:

“The flameless ration heater should be wrapped around the rations in a ‘z’ fashion — the rations should not touch each other and instead should be inserted on the inner parts of the ‘z.’ Once you’ve done this, quickly shove it back in a ration box before it starts billowing up with steam and let it sit for a few minutes.”

She also mentioned that this was common:  “We’ve received a few emails with confusion over flameless ration heater use, so it is something we are addressing (i.e. clear explanation on the site as well as the bag itself).”

As an emergency food, the chicken fajita is a good choice and passed the taste test.  With so much food included, and with the ability to make two tacos, I felt that two people can split this entree in an emergency.

 

Mother Earth Food Storage

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8 Ways to Protect Your Home or Apartment from Threat

8 Ways to Protect Your Home or Apartment from Threat is a Guest Post by Tracy Meyers*

It’s always important to be active in your own home security. There are plenty of ways we protect ourselves from the damages we incur after a tragedy, such as renter’s insurance or home insurance for fire or break in. Hiring a security company is another great way to be proactive and put your money where your mouth is when it comes to home safety. But not every security measure can be covered through a home security provider or backed up by an insurance provider. There are some things that we, as homeowners and renters, need to be doing on our own to protect our property, prevent theft, and ward off break-ins. Not only will this make you and your family more secure, but you will also have the peace of mind that comes without doing it yourself and knowing it’s been done right.

Here are some of the top ways to secure your domicile beyond the middle man:

1.  Install window locks.

Window locks are extremely important, yet many of us settle for the same shabby locks that have been on the windows for years. There are many different variations on interior window locks, so head to a home improvement store and ask about which types would be best for your windows. Take some photos of every window in your home beforehand.

2. Close blinds and curtains.

Never leave the house without fully closing your blinds and your curtains. It’s best to have both, so criminals are not tempted to peek through the slats on blinds or look for silhouettes or shadows through curtains. Get blinds that will close fully and curtains that are thick. The more a criminal can see inside your home, the more information they will be able to ascertain about how to break in.

3. Request security light installation.

If you own your home, install your own security lights. You may need to hire an electrician to wire them. Timed lights work well, as do movement sensors. If you rent, contact your landlord about installing more lights. Go so far as to suggest the exact brand and model of light you want installed. Offer to pay for part of the installation to get the best quality lighting.

4. Block sliding doors.

Sliding doors can be one of the biggest security breaches, and many homeowners forget about them. The tiny locks on sliding doors can be easily picked. The best thing to do is place a long piece of wood or a metal rod inside in the area where the door slides to block the door from opening.

5. Install deadbolts in all entrances.

Install deadbolts in every entrance to your home, including back doors and garage doors. This is an extra level of protection, and these locks are much less difficult to pick or break.

6. Keep a light on.

Never leave the house without some lights on. When you’re out of the house, you should never make it seem like your home is deserted. It should seem as though, even if it’s clear no one’s home, someone will be returning shortly. In fact, timed lights inside your home are a great way to make sure it always seems as though someone is home.

7. Never let your front door or exteriors look shabby.

Criminals will assess every part of your home before attempting a break in, even if the break in is spur-of-the-moment. If your front door and yard are in pristine condition, it will send a signal that your home may not be easy to break into. Keep your front door freshly painted and the locks rust-free. Keep any bushes or trees trimmed, the lawn maintained, and the driveway and sidewalk free from cracks. If you rent, get on your landlord about these things.

8. Buy front door alarms for nighttime.

There are many versions of travel door alarms that work well in a pinch. Connecting an alarm to your front door that will go off if the door is opened is a good line of defense. The same goes for the windows. If you do not have a home security provider or want extra protection, having some portable security items around is a good thing.

*Tracy Meyers is a regular contributor for www.homeinsurance.org among other home and insurance-related blogs and websites. She prides herself in writing for today’s audience and providing the most accurate and up-to-date information available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apartment Garden

Tomato plant in apartment garden

Tomatoes

I mentioned in a previous Monday Musings I started the apartment garden.  The day I started the garden our area had a cold front, and temperatures were down in the low 30s (that’s cold for Houston this time of year).  I had to keep the plants indoors at night, and took them out for sun during the day.  Now that it’s warming up again, I can leave them outside.

Herbs in apartment gardenOregano and thai basil

Peppermint and chocolate mintPeppermint and Chocolate Mint

   Green onions in apartment gardenScallions grown from trash

This year I am covering all the plants with netting to avoid caterpillars and birds from attacking them.  I also placed the plants in different spots from where I had them last year. I hope I have better luck this year than last year.

Get the real deal. Whether bugging out or sheltering in place, you can never have enough clean water for survival: For your water purifier needs, please visit:

 For beginning preppers

Good ideas for building a food storage plan can be found here:

Spooked about What Happened in Cyprus?

Everyday we hear about the banking developments in Cyprus, where bank holidays were declared and a “tax” on deposits is being instituted.  Depositors stand to lose a large amount of their accounts.

It seems preppers are not the only ones wondering about this – even at work, concerns about Cyprus are being discussed in conversations at the break room.   Seeing the long lines, reading accounts from residents makes you wonder if this can happen here, and whether your money is safe anywhere.

It’s not something to panic about, but certainly something to think about.   What can a regular person do to reduce your risk?  I don’t have any large savings to worry about, am not a financial expert, but a regular person observing what’s going on and looking at ideas.

Consider Where You Bank

Many people are thinking about moving to regional banks or credit unions.  They feel having a relationship with a smaller bank give them a bit more confidence in where they are keeping their cash.

Don’t Keep all your Eggs in One Basket

Don’t keep all your money and credit in one bank.  This is prudent to do even in “normal times.”  I learned this when my bank account got hacked and the bank froze all the accounts (savings, checking and credit cards) during a long weekend.  Now I have savings, checking and credit cards spread out among different banks.

Reduce Your Dependency on Debit and Credit Cards

Many people have ditched using cash for the convenience of debit or credit.  They just pull out a bank card for everything.  But what if you lose access to these accounts?  Even if you have direct deposit of your paycheck, get back in the habit of withdrawing the cash for your weekly needs:  grocery, gas, entertainment etc.  It seems inconvenient at first, but if you get into the habit, you will find out that you spend within your budgeted amount by using cash.  Lowering or eliminating your debt will benefit your finances and peace of mind in the long run.

Have Spare Cash Available

I’ve always recommended having a cash stash to tide you over in case you cannot get money out of the bank.  Even in “normal times” you should have enough cash to cover your needs for a few days.

Keep Hard Assets

Having emergency food storage, enough water, health and sanitation supplies for a few months will help you survive a bank holiday.  Imagine if you can’t get to your money using your debit or credit card for a time period, and think of all the items you need to survive.  Have a ready supply of these items on hand at all times.

Precious Metals

Keep a few gold and silver coins to diversify your financial portfolio.  Do some research before jumping in.  Save your nickels  or trade paper cash for nickels.  Buying coins minted pre-1965 is another place to start.  Don’t forget about your jewelry-they have value as well.  Jewelry is not as easily convertible to cash, but they can still be sold if you need cash.

Know Your Alternatives to Online Bill Paying

If you lose access to online bill paying, you may have to pay your utilities directly or through an authorized third party.  Many grocery stores have a customer service desk where you can cash checks for a small fee, and they accept payments for utilities and cell phone providers.

 

ReadyMade Resources is a trusted source for your preparedness supplies:

 

Find products that are equally functional for wilderness survival as well as urban preparedness:

Happy Easter to All

Bluebonnets

For God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16

I wish you and your families all the joys and blessings of Easter.

 

Emergency Essentials Baking Mix Issue

 

Emergency Essentials baking mix We were moving our food storage around to make room for supplies when we noticed these two cans of Emergency Essentials Provident Pantry Honey Cornbread Muffin Mix were looking odd.  The top and bottom of the cans had lifted and were puffy.  There are no dents in the cans.

I immediately called the 800 number posted on the Emergency Essentials website to find out what could cause this.  I have bought a lot of their products over the years and every one of them turned out great.  Before signing on as an affiliate, I taste tested their products and found them to be of great quality.  According to their website, they provide some guarantees:

30-Day Unconditional Satisfaction Guarantee

We want you to be happy with our products. If within 30 days anything in your purchase from us fails to meet your expectations, please call us. We will make it right with you!

One Year Warranty

All of our products carry a one-year warranty from the day of delivery on defects in material and workmanship. Many products have a manufacturer’s warranty to cover them; please call us to determine how to take advantage of these warranties when needed. If you need to return a product, please call us for a return authorization number.

Return Policy

You can return any product for any reason within 30 days. An RMA (Return Authorization Number) is required before you ship product back to us. Please call us at 1-800-999-1863.

In this case, I had bought these cans about 12-16 months ago, and therefore they are no longer covered by their posted guarantees.

20130330_103440

What caused the puffiness?

I described the appearance of the cans to the customer service rep.  I told her they were stored indoors at 73 degrees.

She said the cans puff up on some baking mixes if the can is exposed to a temperature change.  A change in temperature will cause the leavening agent to be activated, causing the cans to puff up.

She said the product is still edible but must be used within 12 months of the product puffing up.

The issue I have about this is, I do not know exactly when the cans puffed up.  Even though I rotate through my storage, I do not check these cans on a regular basis, so I have no way of knowing if they have been like that for 12 months or more.

I told her that puffy cans make me worry about botulism.  She said the mixes do not have any moisture and therefore have no risk of botulism.

But she did mention that you must be careful when you open the can, as it can potentially explode.  She said the cans they tested did spill all over the floor, but the cooked product tasted fine.  (I think it’s a good thing they test these products, however it does not give me confidence about opening these cans.  My family has indicated they will not eat these.)

What the company offered

I asked her if I can return these cans for a free replacement.  I was not asking for a refund, as I still wanted to have these for long term storage and had not intended to open them anytime soon.  She said I should use these up, and the only thing the company does to remedy this is to give a 50% off discount the next time I place an order for a baking mix.  FYI, each can is currently priced at $12.75.

While we continued to have a cordial chat, I told her I was not satisfied with their resolution of this issue.  I also mentioned I am obligated to share this with my readers, as I write about food storage issues.  To be fair, the items are beyond the guarantee period.  However, these products are intended for long term storage and something like cans lifting up will make people wonder whether they are still safe to eat.  The label indicates “Store in a cool, dry place” which I have done.  If the leavening agent could potentially activate causing the cans to lift, perhaps the label should have mentioned it.

I will follow up with Emergency Essentials again and see if they might improve their response to this issue.

Editor’s Note:  This issue has been resolved to our satisfaction — see the story here.

 

 

How to Make a Bacon Grease Emergency Lamp

BaconI couldn’t resist making this Bacon Grease Candle after I saw it on Willow Haven Outdoor.  

After all, bacon is my favorite breakfast food.  I wanted to find a use for all that bacon grease, and as tasty as it is, I never use much of it.  I’ve made other lamps before, and I wanted to see how if this one would work.  Though the original instructions are in Creek Stewart’s article, I made some variations.

Here’s what I did:

1.  Cook bacon as normal, either by frying or placing in the oven.  Remove the bacon and leave the grease alone for an hour or so.

2.  Wait until the bacon grease cools, and collect it in a container.  I kept collecting the grease over a few days until I had about half a cup (about 3 batches).  Refrigerate so it doesn’t smell rancid.  I did not strain the grease; the bacon bits do not interfere with the lamp.

Bacon Grease3.  Pour the grease into a candle holder or other heat resistant container.

Collect the grease4.  Clean around the edges.

5.  Make your wick.  The original article suggested using cotton twine, mop fibers or tampon string.  There are multiple ways to make a wick and I used the method I learned from making the emergency lamp from common household items:  I wrapped cotton around a wooden toothpick.

6.  Stick the toothpick upright in the solid bacon grease.  Moisten the tip of the cotton wrapped toothpick with a some nail polish remover, OR even bit of bacon grease.

7.  Light the lamp and enjoy the aroma.

Bacon Grease Lamp8.  Because the weather was cool, the grease stayed solid for a long time, allowing the toothpick to stay upright.  I did not see the grease melt all the way through-it stayed solid.  (Warning:  Your results may vary-do not leave this lamp or any other homemade lamp unattended; keep out of reach of children and pets etc..)

This was a really easy project.  If you don’t have bacon grease, lard, tallow or Crisco should work just as well.

 

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In an Emergency, Your Life Could Depend on It: Check your Water Filter

Berkey Water Filter

Our tap water has a heavily chlorinated taste.  Instead of buying bottled water, we use our Berkey Light Water Purifier on a daily basis.   Now that we use it all the time, I realized there is some maintenance that goes will using a water purifier, no matter what brand you use.

After using the filter for about three months, I noticed a reddish coating on the water filter elements, so we disassembled the unit.  I started reading about cleaning your water filter.  I also spoke to the “Berkey Guy” to get some information.  The reddish tinge around the water filter elements might be caused by iron in the water, and should be cleaned off.

How to Clean your Water Filter

  1. Take apart the unit and clean the black filter elements under running water will a scrub sponge such as Scotch Brite.  A stiff brush would work as well.  If it seems clogged, follow instructions that came with your individual unit to “prime” the filter.  (As a quick explanation, priming involves holding the filter against a faucet and allowing the water to flow through the filter.  Not all water filters require this-follow your own manufacturer’s instructions)
  2. Do not use very hot or very cold water as this may damage the filters.
  3. Clean the containers with soap and water.  Rinse thoroughly.

How to Tell if the Filter is No Longer Working

The best way to test the water filter is to add red food coloring to the water and allow it to run through the unit.

Berkey Water Filter test

If working properly, the filtered water will be completely clear.  If the red food coloring is not removed, then it is time to replace the filter.

Sport-Berkey-Water-Bottle

Portable Water Filters

The same thing applies to individual filters such as the Berkey Sport Bottle.  I’ve also used the Lifesaver filtration bottle., as well.   The parts should be cleaned and left to air dry completely between uses.  Reassemble only after it has dried thoroughly.  I’ve made the mistake of storing a portable water bottle and it developed mold.

The Berkey Guy also reminded me that the sport bottle filter should not be left out in an overheated car or allowed to freeze.  Extreme temperatures will warp the filter.

Whether you use your water filter on a daily basis or only on emergencies, taking proper care of it will help ensure it functions properly when you need it, for as long as possible.

Mother Earth Food Storage

Mother Earth Products

For beginning preppers

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Monday Musings: 3/25/2013 Gardening Time Edition

Welcome to another edition of Monday Musings, where we cover updates, pass along information and any interesting links.

First my update.  I started my apartment garden this past weekend.  March begins the growing season here in Texas.  Regular readers know I’ve had some ups and downs with the garden.  But spring brings fresh hope, and I am determined we will make some progress this year.  I will write a separate post about this very soon.

Now passing along some information…

Free shipping on the LifeStraw.  If you are in the market for the LifeStraw, please visit  Camping Survival  http://www.campingsurvival.com/lifestraw.html   They are selling it at the lowest price the manufacturer allows.  For a limited time, they will be offering free shipping on the LifeStraw, so now is a good time to pick it up.  Please visit   http://www.campingsurvival.com/lifestraw.html

Body armor giveaway  The Prepper Project will be giving away a level III body armor on Monday 4/1.  The body armor was donated to them by InfidelBodyArmor.com   It comes with a full front and back plate as well as a vest to hold it.  We are not affiliated with them just passing this along.  I am sure a few readers would be interested in a chance to win.  http://theprepperproject.com/win-infidel-level-iii-body-armor/

Free info for as long as he can maintain it   I received an email from Keith P. who runs the OneCancerCure.com website.  He has been ill of late and indicates:

“I would appreciate your help in continuing to share the www.OneCancerCure.com website with everyone you know. I will see to it that the website is paid for for at least another 3 years. However, if I am not around any more, you may be the only source of the information and protocol that may save somebody’s life. Remember that everything on the website is free for everybody.  In addition, I have been able to post a few more podcasts on www.FamilySurvivalRadio.com. Please make sure you listen to any of the podcasts that may be of interest to you and share the link with your family and friends as well. My sincere apology that I haven’t put up more. There have been a great many challenges in the past 2 months that I had not figured I would face.”

 Our prayers are with Keith for a good outcome to his condition.

Ebooks on sale.  Archer Garrett has just released his latest book, the Nine of the North (NotN).  It is the fourth book in the Western Front universe and picks up where Kratocracy left off.   Free chapters are available on his Blog.   In celebration of the release, he has dropped the prices on the following books to 99 cents for several days and extended the sale for Apartment Prepper readers until Tuesday night, 3/26:

The Western Front

Phases

Flashback

the Blighted

And now for the links…

Not a bad idea to stock up on a few bottles  From the Natural News website, 10 Reasons You Should Drink Beer  

Anyone who stores food should know about this  Read  A Killer Lurking in your Pantry  and take proper precautions.

Emails are not private   From Off-Grid Survival, see DHS to Scan Private Sector Business Emails   

Seed starting with recycled materials    Grow your seeds as cheaply and easily as possible as possible with this two part article from The Harried Homemaker Preps:

Indoor Seed Starting 101, Part One

Indoor Seed Starting 101, Part Two

Take care and have a great week everyone!

 

 

 

In case of shortages:

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