Discount Offer for Non GMO Seeds

Seeds of the Month ClubI’ve always recommended using non-GMO seeds for any planting that you do, whether you are starting an herb garden in your balcony, of planting seasonal vegetables.  Now’s your chance to get non-GMO seeds at a great discount from Seeds of the Month Club.  They are offering Apartment Prepper readers a 25% discount by joining through this link or our banner ad.

Seeds of the Month Club

What are non GMO seeds?

Non GMO means these seeds are NOT genetically modified seeds.  They do not modify their seeds and do not obtain seeds from suppliers that sell genetically modified seeds.  These seeds are open-pollinated, heirloom varieties.

The seeds obtained from plants grown during the season can be used in subsequent seasons.

How does Seeds of the Month Club work?

When you join Seeds of the Month Club, you pay a set amount according to the set amount of time your choose.  Each month you will receive a packet of non GMO seeds.

The first month, you get eight packets of seeds; then every month thereafter, you get four packets while you are a member.

In addition, members get free shipping and 25% off any gardening products in their online store.

These seeds would also make a nice Christmas gift for the gardener in your gift list.

Now is a great time to start your collection of non GMO seeds at a great discount.

Now go check out the Seeds of the Month Club!

 

Step into Herb Gardening

DSC_5236-300x182Written by Janet Garman

This post originally appeared in Timber Creek Farm

I have said it before but I am glad to say it again. Life is a journey, and no where is it more of a journey than on the path to better health and a more sustainable lifestyle. I have grown herbs before but as time has passed, I am finding more and more uses for fresh herbs. I enjoy growing them and have been surprised by their resilience to the weather conditions. Growing fresh herbs may not be a large step in the journey to fresher food and better eating, but it is a step in the right direction. While I am certainly no expert in growing herbs, I have learned a few things and wanted to share these with you.

Herb Gardening: garden plot or containers?

I have planted herbs in both a garden plot and in containers. For the most part, I prefer planting herbs in containers. This way I can bring them in easily, if the weather warrants it. Some of my herbs have successfully overwintered because I can keep them in a protected porch area.

Growing several types of herbs together actually helps the plants do better. Be careful with herbs that grow and spread quickly like mint, oregano, lemon balm and tea balm because they may crowd out the other herbs in the container.

Plant the herbs seedlings in your container with good drainage and soil, leaving a few inches between each plant. As they grow, cut the tops of taller plants to encourage growth.

Allow the soil to dry out between watering, to avoid rot. Water every few days as needed, adding water slowly until water seeps out the bottom drainage holes.
Harvesting-

Harvest your herbs early in the day as the dew is beginning to dry. The flavor will be better at this point.

Rinse in cool water, shake gently to release the water and lay on paper towel. Discard broken, bruised or dead leaves and stems.

Drying

Tie in small bundles and hang indoors for best flavor retention. Do not dry in the sun because the herbs will lose flavor and color.

Good choices for tying herb bundles: Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Summer Savory, Parsley

Tender Herbs can be hung to dry also, but using a paper bag with holes punched in it will help keep the herbs from dropping leaves and seeds. Hang upside down in the paper bag in a well ventilated area. Use small bunches to avoid molding.
Examples of tender herbs are: Basil, Oregano, Taragon, Lemon Balm, and Mints.

Oven Drying Herbs

Lay the clean leaves on paper towels, layer another paper towel on top making up to five layers of herbs. Use a cool oven temp. Leaves will dry flat.

Dehydrator

Lay herb leaves in a single layer and dry on a low setting.
Using Dried Herbs – Dried herbs are 3 to 4X stronger than fresh herbs so adjust recipes calling for fresh herbs accordingly when using dried.

Tea/Infusions

Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herbs per cup or 3 teaspoons fresh per pint of hot water for teas.  Steep 10 minutes.

Infusions are a deeper liquid. Steep for 20 minutes or more resulting in a much stronger brew. I was taught to fill a quart mason jar about 1/3 with dried herbs and the rest with the hot water. So, you can see how that will be a much stronger blend!

Basil

Examples of Herbs that can be used in teas

Basil, Chamomile flowers, Chives, Dill, Eucalyptus, Ginger Root, Lemon Balm, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Valerian root, Verbena.

Other Floral Botanicals that can be used in teas:
Alliums, Bee Balm, Carnation, Echinacea, Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, Honeysuckle (avoid the poisonous berries!) Lavender, Marshmallow root, Red Clover, Nasturtiums (flowers and hips) and Violets.
Decoctions-

Stronger than an extraction

Made by boiling or simmering the herbs/plants, using the woody parts, bark and the roots, versus the leaves.

Tincture

Very Concentrated. Made by soaking the plant or parts of the plant in alcohol and water. Strain out the plant material and store.

Extract

Soaking in a liquid that extracts certain chemical properties. Strain out the plant material and store. Used as flavorings.

Vinegars

Making herbal vinegars is easy and a great way to use your culinary herbs. Place clean dry herbs in a sterilized mason jar, One cup of herbs combined with three cups of vinegar. Pour the vinegar over the herbs. Cover with a non-reactive lid, and let sit in a cool, dark place for a few weeks. Strain off the herbs, pour the vinegar in to a clean jar and label. For even more flavor, try using real vinegars such as white wine, red wine, apple cider, or rice as opposed to white distilled vinegar.

Using herbs can be good for your health and beautiful for your garden. Always consult your doctor for possible drug interactions with herbs and your prescriptions. Make sure you are using the correct part of the plant when making teas. Some plants have toxic parts but the flowers or leaves are ok if prepared correctly.

Foxglove and Lily of the Valley are always toxic to people and animals. Plant these carefully and never ingest any parts of these plants.

About the Author:  Janet Garman writes the Timber Creek Farm blog.  Timber Creek Farm blog has a mission to encourage others seeking to be more self sufficient in their lifestyle and food choices. We farm our family farm in Central Maryland, raising livestock, garden vegetables, eggs from our chickens and ducks and we make yarn from our sheep and goat fleeces. Our family is always looking for ways to become more sustainable in the midst of suburbia.

Timber Creek Farm

Use Up that Mushy Watermelon – Watermelon Slushie

Watermelon Slushie 3This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I haven’t done a Self Sufficiency Saturday post in a while so I thought I’d feature something light and easy today.

Every time I buy a watermelon half of it gets mushy in the refrigerator before it gets eaten.  I end up throwing it away and I hate wasting food.   Learning how to use leftovers is a good self-sufficiency skill and also a wise use of resources.

One day I decided to experiment with the leftover watermelon.  I froze the mushy watermelon (seeds removed) chunks.

After they were frozen, I threw them in the blender (we use a Nutribullet) and made watermelon slushie.  It tasted great!  The whole family enjoyed it  We had a delicious treat and all the watermelon got used up.

Here is the recipe:  Please note these are estimates and you may have to adjust according to your blender capacity and to your taste.

Ingredients:

Watermelon Slushie 12 cups frozen watermelon (you can use fresh watermelon but add ice)

1 cup cold water

juice of 1-2 limes

1/2 cup of sugar

Watermelon Slushie 4Directions:

Add all ingredients into the blender.   Puree or blend at high speed for one to two minutes until well mixed.

That’s it!

Watermelon Slushie 2

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

4 Tips for Small Space Gardening

4 Tips for Small Space Gardeners

Just because you lack large amounts of space does not mean that you cannot grow a lot of the fresh fruits vegetables and herbs you consume. As long as you have an area that receives at least 4 hours of sunlight daily, is easy for you to water, you should be good to go.  Here are a few tips to help you get great results with small space gardening:

GROW UP

One of the best tips for gardeners that lack space is to grow vertically. This is just as true in the fall as it is in the summer. In the summer months you can easily use a trellis to grow vining plants that yield plenty of fruits and veggies. In the fall, while there are not too many vining plants that grow in cooler temps, you can easily build a few levels of stairs (or purchase such a structure), and place your potted plants on them. Herbs grow great in this type of growing environment. Google “vertical planting wall” for some really cool ideas.

GO DWARF

Apartments, condos and smaller living spaces are great for dwarf fruiting trees. Many types of trees grow great in large containers and can be moved inside when the temps get too cold outside. There are columnar apple trees and dwarf lemon that fit this description. Most of these trees can be purchased for under $30.

WINDOW BOX GARDEN

Maybe you do not have a balcony. Consider a window box. A window box, is simply a box about 12 inches deep and the length of your window. You would attach it to your property just under the window by either screwing the box to the building itself, or using hangers so it hands from the window ledge. These are great because you can grow just about anything in them. Strawberries, lettuce, spinach and herbs all make for excellent choices for window box gardens.

UTILIZE RAILINGS

Does your balcony have railings? Then by all means attach some garden boxes to them also. They are unused space with plenty of airflow around them, and if you get plenty of sun, are perfect locations to grow a lot great tasting fruits and veggies.

Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you use a good potting soil that is equal parts peat/coir and perlite and double the amount of compost. Also be sure to feed your plants once a week with compost tea or a good organic fertilizer to make sure they are well fed and have the nutrients they need to grow and thrive in a confined space.

About the Author

mypic
Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts.

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared




Grow Great Vegetables in Containers with these 4 Tips

Grow Great Vegetables in Containers with these 4 TipsBy Mike Podlesny

Do not let the lack of space keep you from growing some great tasting fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs at home. Regardless of whether you have a balcony at your apartment or a small backyard in the city, it is possible to reap a bountiful harvest every gardening season.

CHOOSE WISELY

The first thing to consider when growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in containers is choosing varieties that make sense for the amount of space that you have. You might think there is nothing out there that fits your need, but that would be the furthest from the truth. There are plenty of determinant vegetable varieties that will work.

For example, if you love fresh home grown beans like I do, go with some heirloom bush varieties such as royal burgundy or golden wax, as opposed to pole beans that would require trellising and take up a bit more space.

If cucumbers are your favorite, you are in luck, because the determinant heirloom bush crop variety is perfect for your space, and grows very well in small containers. I am growing bush crop cucumbers this year and have nine plants in a three foot by three foot raised garden bed. You can squeeze plenty of these varieties of cucumbers in a small space and still get prolific production.

THE CONTAINERonions_growing_in_container
After you have decided what to grow, you now need something to plant your vegetables, herbs and fruit in. A good container will have a diameter of at least sixteen inches and a depth of no less than twelve inches, although much deeper is always better. If you can afford a bigger container for both price and space, I would highly recommend it.thyme_growing_in_an_herb_box

Because you are growing vegetables, fruits and herbs in containers, there are some things you have to remember.

Use a good potting soil that is loaded with plenty of plant food. The key here is potting soil.  Do not use a garden soil. Garden soil is too dense for a container application. There are a lot of great organic choices available, or you can make your own by combining homemade compost, a little perlite and some coir.

You will need to water your plants more frequently. Your container will dry out quicker, so watering daily will be a part of your routine, and if you are in an area with extreme high temperatures, twice a day is not out of the question. Just keep an eye on them.
Your container should have plenty of drainage. I would highly recommend drilling a few more holes into the bottom of your containers. This allows excess water to drain better. The last thing you want is excess water sitting around the roots of your vegetable plants. That will cause a condition called root rot.

pumpkin_growing_in_a_pot

LOCATION

Your plants should receive at least 8 hours of sun although you can get away with less if you are growing leafy veggies such as kale, lettuce or spinach. The beauty about containers is that you can move them around. So if you are growing a container variety of tomato, which requires a full day’s worth of sun, and the sun hits 4 hours on one side of your balcony, and 4 on the other, simply pick the pot up and follow the sun. It really is not that much work once you get used to it.

You may also want to consider adding artificial light, such as grow lights, if your apartment, condo, house etc., sits on the side that receives more shade than sun. They are very inexpensive, available at any giant home center, and do not cost that much to operate.

bush_cucumbersFEED YOUR PLANTS
Finally, don’t forget to feed your plants. Because your vegetables, fruits and herbs are growing in confined quarters, they are going to use up the nutrients in the soil much faster. If you start with a good potting soil as mentioned earlier, you can easily get away with feeding your plants once per week after the first month.

I would recommend a good fertilizer like fish emulsion or even adding some compost to the top of your container and allowing it to work its way down, which it will eventually do. You can also use that compost to make compost tea, which makes a great elixir for your plants.

Just because you have a small space to work with does not mean you cannot be big on growing your own food. With a few tips and a little work, you will be well on your way to filling up those pantries with plenty of fresh beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and more.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts.

 

 

Self Sufficient Saturdays: Cookware You’ll Never Have to Replace

cast-iron-cookwareMy favorite survival cookware are cast iron pans.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with cast iron, they are the black heavy iron pans that have been around for hundreds of years.

My mother-in-law actually introduced me to cast iron pans.  Whenever I helped her cook anything in her kitchen, I marveled at how her cast iron pans cooked everything so well.

Why I like them so much:

  • They distribute heat evenly
  • When well seasoned, they work like a non-stick pan, or require very little oil.
  • The same plan will cook well with any type of stove:  electric, gas, you can even stick it in the oven and make bread in it.  In an emergency, it will work well over an open flame. 
  • The pan adds iron to your food, which helps avoid an iron deficiency.
  • Because they so sturdy, they will last a lifetime, and you won’t need to spend money for replacement pans.

In those days, I used Teflon pans, but once they get a scratch, they peel and shred after a while.  After I saw how much better the cast iron pans heated through, I tossed out all my Teflon pans and asked my mother-in-law to help me buy some.

She did not take me to a cookware store; instead she took me to Goodwill.  She said she found the best cast iron pans there.  People would toss them out thinking they were inferior to Calphalon or other name brand cookware.  Being of a frugal nature, she encouraged me to find second-hand deals instead of full priced items.

If you are in the market for one, try getting it used at stores like Goodwill, or shop online at Craigslist or Freecycle first.  If you are just starting out, I would recommend choosing a slightly rusted cast iron pan, to make it easier on yourself. 

The same process to salvage it, is the same process to season a brand new pan.

  • If you have a new pan, just wash and rinse, no scraping needed.  If you are working with a used, slightly rusted pan, wash with a strong dishwashing liquid and scrape out the rust with a steel wool.
  • Dry completely with a dish towel.
  • Coat the pan with cooking oil all over.  I have used vegetable oil, olive oil or peanut oil
  • Turn the oven on low heat, around 250 degrees and leave the pan in the oven for 4 hours.  Do not leave unattended.  It may get a bit smoky if the heat is too high.
  • Turn of the heat and leave the pan in while it cools.
  • Repeat the process over a few months until the pan turns black.  You now have a well-seasoned pan.

Cast iron pans are available pre-seasoned.  You don’t have to go through the process if you don’t feel like it.  Just remember the pan should not be left sitting in a sink-ful of water.  It should be rinsed and dried after use and coated with a thin layer of oil.  I’ve recently started coating my pans with coconut oil and it adds a nice flavor to the food.

They are still fairly inexpensive, around $10 for a non-seasoned pan, and about $20 for a pre-seasoned one.  Whether you buy it used or start out with a pre-seasoned skillet, you’ll be pleased with they way they cook, and it will last for generations.

 

Reminder:  Don’t forget to enter our latest giveaway for  Berkey Sport Bottle and Watersafe City Water Test Kit!

For details click here!

 

 Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Self-Sufficient Saturdays: How to Cook a Common Survival Food

Pinto BeansWelcome to another Self Sufficient Saturday post.  Today we’ll take a look at a prepper’s staple:  dried beans.  It is an inexpensive source of protein, tasty and filling.   Many people settle for canned beans, thinking it is too hard to make it yourself.  It is actually very easy.

How Much Dried Beans to Use

1 cup dried beans = 3 cups cooked beans

Since I like to make a large enough batch to last for a few meals, I use about three cups of beans.

Preparing Beans

Before you cook any type of beans sort through them to remove any pebbles or any foreign matter.  You should also give the beans a quick rinse.

There are two ways to prepare beans:

  • Soaking method
  • Fast boil

Soaking method:

1.  Just measure three cups of beans and soak in a pan of water overnight.  The beans puff up the next day.

2.  Throw out the soaking water, then rinse the beans.

3.  In a large pot, add the beans and enough water to cover the beans.  Cook on medium heat and let the pot simmer.  You can add a peeled piece of garlic if you like.

A couple of tips:

  • DO NOT ADD SALT.  The salt will toughen the beans and will not cook properly.
  • Old beans may take longer to cook.  For tips on how to properly store beans, please see Survival Food Storage.

Add more water as it boils down.  If the water runs out, the beans will start to burn.  Allow the mixture to boil for 1 1/2- 2 hours until the beans are tender.  Once the beans are soft, add salt to taste.

Fast boil method

1.  If you forget to soak the beans the night before, do the fast boil method.  Add enough water to cover the beans in a pot.  Let the mixture boil for about three minutes.  Turn off the fire and remove from heat.  Place the pot in the sink and add tap water.  Pour the beans into a colander and throw out the water.  Rinse the beans one more time under the faucet.

2.  Now you are ready to cook the beans.

Follow Step 3 above.

Plain cooked beans are great added to plain white rice.   With a bit of salt and pepper, beans and rice make a great comfort food.  Even picky kids like it.

Another thing you can easily make is refried beans.

Refried Beans

You will need:

5-7 cups of cooked pinto beans (following the steps above)

1/2 cup lard, butter or vegetable oil

1 cup grated monterey jack cheese or your favorite type of cheese like grated cheddar cheese

Melt the lard, butter or if using vegetable oil, add to the pan.

Drain the beans leaving around 1/2 cup of bean water and add the beans and water to the pan all at once.  Careful you don’t get splattered.

Mash the soft beans with a potato masher.  Mix the beans and the oil very well.  If the beans look too dry, add 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth to the mix and keep mashing to your desired consistency. Some cooks like the beans to be on the dry side, some like it a bit more watery.

Mashing beans

Once the beans are mashed, add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.  Allow the cheese to melt.  Serve with tortillas, tostada shells or tortilla chips.  You can even make breakfast burritos by mixing the refried beans with scrambled egg, more cheese in a large flour tortilla.

Refried beans

Refried beans with monterey jack cheese

 

 

How it all Started

The day before Hurricane Ike was predicted to reach Houston, I was talking to co-workers on what to expect, as this was going to be our first hurricane.  We had recently moved to Houston due to a job transfer.  Several people described the horrors they experienced trying to leave the city for Hurricane Rita, about getting stuck in freeways that turned into parking lots, so most people were staying put.  I left work early thinking I would stop by the grocery store to pick up water and toilet paper.  When I got to the market around noon, the place was packed with wall-to-wall shoppers; you could not even move the shopping cart.  I searched for water and found the shelves were bare.  Checked for toilet paper and managed to snag the last 12-pack.  Getting gas was also an ordeal, with lines snaking for a block.  This got me thinking I don’t want to experience this madness again.

A few weeks ago, I happened to notice my husband reading a book called One Second After by William R. Forstchen.  He got pretty engrossed in the book and finished it quickly.  He then told me the book was about how a family survived after an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that takes down the country’s power grid and the chaos that people had to go through.  While I normally do not read the same type of books as he does, I got curious about it.  I picked up the book and became involved in the story.  I started relating to the characters and worrying about their fates.  Most of all, I started to think, what would I do if the same situation were to occur right here, right now.

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read the book, so I will not go into a detailed description.  Just to give a small idea of the book’s premise, the characters wake up one day and find that an EMP has brought down the electric grid, and anything electrical would not work.  Cars with any typed of electrical system stop running, planes fell out of the sky, cells phones and computers stopped working and there was no means of communication.  The reactions by the characters portrayed in the book are quite realistic; their actions were where something I can see myself doing if something like that were to happen.

Now I would be the last person who would want a disaster like this to happen, in fact, the whole idea terrified me.  I like my comforts and conveniences, and would be sad if they were to go.  But the alternative of burying my head in the sand and not pay attention to what is going on in the world would be a mistake.  Instead of being afraid of not being able to cope during an emergency, I started to think about ways to prepare instead.  My husband and I had a discussion about what we can do.  As it turns out, he was also thinking the same thing:  how would we prepare our home and family, should a disaster occur and disrupt our way of life.

We started reading about emergency preparedness on the internet.  There is so much to learn, so many supplies to buy; it can be overwhelming.  We have limited funds, as we are trying to pay off debt and live within our means.  We also realized there is only so much we can do to become self-sufficient while living in a small apartment.  But there are SOME things we CAN do, and I am not doing to waste any more time worrying.   We will do what we can in the space and resources that we have.  This is how our journey started.

Welcome!

Welcome to the apartment prepper’s blog.  I am new to prepping AND new to blogging.  Watching the news lately I have started feeling a general sense of unease and helplessness–concerned about the state of the economy, with so many middle class Americans becoming unemployed and homeless; recent disasters such as the Haiti and Chile quakes; multiple perils such as the swine flu epidemic, tornadoes and floods have occurred “too close for comfort”

To feel more secure and in control, I feel the need to be more prepared for possible emergencies.  I started searching the internet for tips on preparedness, and found a wealth of information on “prepping.”  Reading these posts have made me feel like I am not alone, with many others sharing the same fears and need to be self-sufficient.  At the same time, reading about farmland retreats, and hidden caches of stored goods in the mountains makes me feel woefully unprepared, as we are a family living in the middle of a metropolitan area, in a large apartment complex with only one compact car.

From this vantage point we start our prepping adventure, as apartment dwellers, new to prepping, trying to be frugal and doing what we can to be more self-sufficient.