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.

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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.

 

 

Make Your Own Moisturizing Salve

Make your Own Moisturizing Salve

I have been looking for a homemade moisturizer recipe in a long time when I came across the recipe for Miracle Healing Salve over at Backdoor Survival.

But I delayed in trying it out right away because I first had to gather up the ingredients (I’m on a budget) and I had a little mishap with essential oil that made me a bit shy about proceeding.

After reading up on the proper ways to use essential oil, I was finally ready to give it a try. A few notes:

  • I went the “bargain” route by using pure olive oil instead of extra virgin. I also skimped and did not pick up any glass droppers, although later I realized it would have made it easier than pouring straight from the bottle (live and learn!).
  • I planned to make a few different variations by following the instructions for Miracle Salve, Eczema Salve and plain salve.

Homemade Salve IngredientsMaterials and ingredients:

1 cup coconut oil
1 cup pure olive oil
5 tbsp organic beeswax pastilles

Essential oils that I used:
-lavender
-peppermint
-rosemary
-tea tree oil
-eucalyptus oil

Other:

2 ounce jars
large measuring cup
Cooking pot large enough to boil water and accommodate the cup
labels
sharpie pen

Directions:

Salve dissolving

1. Add water to the pot, and set it on stove to simmer.
2. In the large measuring cup, add 5 tbsp organic beeswax pastilles, 1 cup coconut oil, 1 cup olive oil. Set the measuring cup in the pot. Leave it alone until it starts to melt and stir it every once in a while. This will take around 20 minutes.
3. While you are waiting for the oils to dissolve, start labeling your jars.
4. For the Miracle Salve: add 5 drops of lavender, 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops rosemary oil.
5. For the Eczema Salve, I used 5 drops of lavender, 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops rosemary oil, 5 drops tea tree oil, as mentioned in Gaye’s article.
6. For Eucalyptus Salve, I just added 5 drops of eucalyptus oil.  I like eucalyptus oil because it helps with nasal congestion and it makes everything smell like a spa.
7. For plain salve, I just labeled the jar and added nothing.
8. Check the oils and if they are completely dissolved, they are ready to pour into the jars.  The glass cup will be extremely hot so use an oven mitt and carefully pour the melted oils into the jars.Salve ready to pour
9. Find something to cover the uncapped jars and leave them alone overnight. I just used recycled paper bags but you can use paper towels, or cloth if you prefer. The salve does solidify in an hour, but you should leave them alone overnight.Salve in containers

Salve coveredThe next morning, I checked the jars and the salves were ready for use.

Moisturizing salveResults:

Moisturizer:  I used the Miracle Salve as a moisturizer for my face.  Althout it felt a tad oilier than normal moisturizer, but it was absorbed quickly and felt great on my skin.
Lip Balm:  I first tried the Miracle Salve on my lips but because of the peppermint you get a tingly feeling.  I then tried using plain salve as a lip balm, and I liked it a lot.
Leg and Foot Moisturizer.  The Miracle Salve really works on softening rough heels and knees.
Pet Hot Spot Reliever:  I used Miracle Salve on the dog’s hot spot. Our dog is super obsessive and cannot stop licking once he gets started, the vet even put a cone on him. We have tried everything but after I used Miracle Salve on him, he does not seem to be licking the same spot.
Eczema Salve:  I gave the Eczema Salve to the family members who suffer from eczema.  So far I hear they are getting good results.

I am convinced the salve is very effective and will replace many skin products.  I just haven’t tried all the possible uses yet.  Even with the initial cost of the ingredients, using this homemade moisturizer will save a fair amount of money.  My thanks to Gaye Levy of Backdoor Survival for sharing her recipe!
I’m convinced essential oils really work, so I joined Spark Naturals, a trusted name in the field, as an affiliate.
Essential4Pack

Use coupon code APARTMENTPREPPER for a 10% discount.

 

 

 

 

Hydroponics – A Small Garden with Big Benefits

(Editor’s note:  Today’s post is about a subject that interests me greatly:  hydroponics, because it works well in small spaces.  The post is written by Chris Wimmer, who writes at Health Smart Living

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is generally translated from the Latin and Greek languages meaning “working water”.  The Greeks and Romans described this farming technique this way because the water was always in motion. A more modern way to explain hydroponics is growing plants without soil.  A variety of mediums are used in place of soil which is soaked in a nutrient rich water solution.

Benefits of hydroponics

I could probably list well over a dozen benefits but I’ll just list the most important:

  • Improved food independence
  • Shorter growing cycles
  • Improved yield
  • Less space required

The reason you are able to basically grow more food, faster, and in less space is due to the direct exposure of nutrients to the roots.  Traditional soil based gardening requires the plants to seek out the nutrients in the soil which actually takes a lot of effort which could be used to grow more vegetation, flowers and fruit.

The basic parts of a hydroponic system

Hydroponic systems come in many different ‘flavors’ but all have a few key common components. 

Grow Tray:  The plants grow in a tray that is filled with an inert media which acts as a soil substitute. Common media includes coconut fiber, gravel, and rockwool.  The media provides root stability and the right mix of oxygen and water.

Reservoir:   A holding tank for the nutrient rich water which is pumped onto the roots of the plants.

Pump:   A small pump to push the water from the reservoir to the grow tray

Timer:  The real beauty of hydroponics.  A timer can help automate your system which can make it virtually maintenance free.

Ideal crops for hydroponics

Almost anything can be grown hydroponically however some plants do better and are simply more practically.  Stick with compact plants that you harvest above the ground.

Some great examples include:

  • Herbs (Basil, oregano, Thyme, etc)
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach

 How hydroponics can be done in small and creative spaces

Hydroponic plants can be planted twice as close as compared to soil based planting as they will not compete for soil nutrients.  They only need enough vertical space to grow up.

hydroponics1

Another great way to maximize your plantable space is to be creative.  Do you have an outside empty wall?

wall hydroponics

Photo credit: Plants on Walls Blog http://plantsonwalls.blogspot.com/2010/06/aquaponic-garden-tower.html

  What about a sunny window?hydroponics2

  A few final tips to simplify getting started and ensuring success…

  • Start small.  You’ll learn a lot from your first experience and can apply that to your next planting.
  • Use seedlings from the local nursery if you have never germinated seeds.
  • Ensure the location you select will receive at least 12 hours of sunlight and maintain a temperature in the low 70’s.  If this isn’t possible than plan to have supplemental light and heat.

Now that you have heard the basics are you interested learning more?  You can read more at my personal blog Health Smart Living  http://healthsmartliving.com/hydroponics or I’d recommend checking out instructables (http://www.instructables.com/id/Hydroponic-Soda-Bottle-System/).  Both have some very detailed hands-on ways to set up a hydroponic garden.

About the Author: Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who grew up in the Oregon country side enjoying the open spaces. Chris shares how he uses hydroponics to maximize his small Chicago urban garden space on his blog:   http://healthsmartliving.com/hydroponics/

 

 

Update on Homemade Vanilla

Homemade Vanilla  3 months

Homemade Vanilla 3 months

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Back in November, I started my homemade vanilla project.  Now that it’s been three months, I wanted to let you know how it’s coming along.

Every couple of weeks, whenever I remember to do so, I swirl the mixture around a few times.

The mixture has now turned a much darker brown.  As far as smell, the vodka smell is still lingering, but the vanilla smell has gotten much stronger.   I don’t think it is ready though, I feel it needs to sit for another couple of months before the flavor is strong enough to add to baking mixes.

I’ll let you know what happens!

Quick reminder:  There is still time to enter the giveaway  for Prepper Pete Prepares.   

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Save Money! Make Soda at Home

Make Soda at Home

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Although I like an occasional glass of Coke, I prefer a glass of sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime.  La Croix Sparkling Water was a regular item on the grocery list. Until we spotted the Soda Stream and started to calculate whether it would save us money.  After adding up what we spend on sparkling water, we figured we’d recoup the cost of the Soda Stream in four months.   I won’t go into the calculation, as your mileage may vary depending on how much soda you buy in your household.  (This is not an ad for Soda Stream-we have no relationship or affiliation.)

For anyone who has wondered about this, here is how it works.  Soda Stream comes with a unit, proprietary C02 canister that fits within the unit, and bottle.  The starter pack also came with small flavoring samples.

Soda Stream and bottle

  1. Fill the bottle with plain water.  We like to chill the water before using.
  2. Remove the cap off the bottle and screw it on the Soda Stream unit.  The newer models no longer have to be screwed on, but we have the older model so that is what I will describe.
  3. Push the top button 4-5 times until you hear a buzz.  (The instructions say about 2-3 times but that did not make it fizzy enough.)

Adding CarbonationRemove the bottle and add your flavoring.  I like a squeeze of lime or lemon.  We tried out the sample flavors that came with it – I personally only liked the root beer flavor, but did not care for the cola or lemon lime.   We’ve also tried adding a bit of apple or orange juice and that worked well.

Advantages:

  • Less waste than buying soda or sparkling water weekly
  • You control how much sugar you are drinking.
  • Much cheaper than store bought soda
  • No need to run to the store!

Disadvantages:

  • The C02 canister refill runs about $15 if you return the old canister.   We’ve traded ours in at the Walmart Customer Service center.  We use the unit once a day, and one canister lasts us about 2-3 months.
  • You cannot carbonate anything besides water.  I’m fine with this, as I even like just plain fizzy water.

I know there are alternatives to the Soda Stream, but for the space that we have, and the rate of consumption, it suits us just fine for now.

But if you are interested in those alternatives, here are a couple:

Brew Better Soda at Home  I may try this one next.

How to Force Carbonate at Home  This sounds more cost effective, although it has a higher upfront cost, but I don’t have the space for a large unit like this yet.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Self Sufficiency Saturdays: Homemade Dog Biscuits

Dog Biscuits in a JarWe were looking for all-natural, made in the U.S. dog treats at the pet store.  The affordable brands had a long list of unpronounceable preservatives and additives, and were made in China.   (I haven’t forgotten about Deaths of 500 dogs blamed on jerky treats, FDA says  so we don’t buy pet food from China.)  I found some that fit the bill at the farmer’s market, and at specialty stores, but they were too expensive.

I decided the only way to know what ingredients are being used is to make it myself.  I searched for an easy recipe, with ingredients that are already in my storage, and found the recipe for basic dog treats on the Cesar Milan website.  I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand.

This is how I made the dog treats.

IngredientsdogbiscuitsIngredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you might prefer whole wheat)

1/2 cup hot water (you may use chicken broth instead)

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (omit if you are using chicken broth)

1 egg

bacon grease

Directions:

1.  Grease two cookie sheets generously with bacon fat.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

3.  In a large bowl, mix the hot water with the bouillon

4.  Add the egg, flour with the bouillon water and stir well.

5.  On a floured board, mix well and keep kneading until the dough is stretchy but no longer wet.  I’ve had to add 1-2 teaspoons of flour.

Rollingdough6.  Roll the dough flat.  I don’t own a rolling pin due to space issues so I used a bottle.  It worked fine.

DogBiscuitsCutouts

7.  Cut out the dough in your desired shapes.  I’ve used various cookie cutters before; this time I used bone shaped cookie cutters.

8.  Place dough pieces on the bacon greased cookie sheets and bake for 30 minutes.

DogBiscuitsReadyIt took me about 30 minutes to mix and shape the dough, and another 30 minutes is needed for baking.  The recipe is easy to make, and does not take long  at all.  Our dog loves them.  And now, I don’t have to run to the store to buy them.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Preparewise

Preparewise Lots of great tips for everyone: Bernie’s Book is Available in Amazon

 

 

 

 

Self-sufficiency Saturdays: Reusing Zipper Plastic Bags

Just a quick post for today’s self-sufficient Saturday.

Part of becoming self sufficient is learning to make things last as long as possible, so you don’t have to keep buying replacements.

I like the convenience of zippered plastic bags, but don’t like the expense.  I resisted rewashing them because they took so long to dry and there is a chance for mold during our humid summers.  So I figured a way to let them air dry the quickest way possible.

Here is a photo:

Washed ziploc bag

  1. Wash the zipper bags with soap and water.  Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Take a carabiner and attach it to a binder clip.  Hang by the carabiner to a wire hanger, nail or metal shelf.
  3. Hang the zipper bag by one bottom edge and leave it to try.  You can hang multiple bags at once.

I’ve washed gallon, pint, sandwich sizes, all with good results.  (Do not rewash bags that have come in contact with meats.)  If you have a different way of doing this, please share in the comments.

© Apartment Prepper 2013

 

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Self-Sufficient Saturdays: Homemade Vanilla

 

I’ve been wanting to try making vanilla for a long time.  I use a lot of vanilla for making muffins and desserts, but always found real vanilla to be expensive.  This is an ideal project for an apartment dweller:  it requires no special equipment and does not take up a lot of room.   And, it will save money in the long run.

Ingredients for homemade vanilla

Ingredients for homemade vanilla

Ingredients:

Vanilla beans – I chose organic vanilla beans that were grown in Hawaii.

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla Beans

Vodka – choose a decent brand; not the most expensive, but not the cheap stuff either.

Directions:

Slicing a vanilla bean

  1. With a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean across the middle.  The vanilla bean was surprising tough.
  2. The ratio is two vanilla beans to one cup of vodka.  Because this is my first attempt, I started with one cup of vodka.  Place vanilla beans in a clean glass jar, then pour the vodka.
  3. Leave the jar in a cool dark place.  I left it in an unused corner of the cupboard.
  4. Shake the jar occasionally.  It should be ready in about eight weeks, or longer if you want a stronger flavor.  After the eight weeks is up, strain the vanilla and transfer to a pourable container.   You can add more vodka and another vanilla bean to start a new batch.
Homemade Vanilla

Homemade Vanilla on the first day

Real vanilla beans smell very fragrant, almost like perfume.  After just a couple of days, the mixture was already turning a dark shade.  I am excited to see the result.  If this works out, I will make a larger batch next time.

 

 

 

 Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared