Friday, May 30, 2014

Getting Prepared for Beginners #7 Basic Energy


Just for the record when I say basic energy, I actually mean it. We will not be talking about whole house generators. In fact I am not going to discuss generators at all or really anything very expensive. I am going to cover just the things that are needed to keep your family as comfortable as possible through a short term power outage. 

Around here there are really two times of year that we are most likely to have a power outage. Those are winter and spring, both because of storms. The power could be out for a couple hours or a few days. Your readiness for these types of situations will determine how well your family will come through. Most families can make it through a power outage that lasts say an hour, with very little if any, preparation. When it goes longer, then that is when you have to have an action plan. The three things you should consider when preparing for a short term power outage is Lights, Cooking, and Comfort. We are going to cover all of these and we are going to do so spending around $400 total. Ready? 

Lights

Now I am going to be honest. If the power goes off at night, it will be the next morning before I ever realize anything has happened and if it is back on the only way I will know something has happened is when I see the blinking lights of the oven clock. Well, kinda. My wife will wake up the moment the box fan in our bedroom stops turning. She needs the white noise to be able to sleep. 

When she wakes she will wake me and the first thing we do is go check on the children. In order to do that you need light. That is where you need to be ready. Now you can keep a flashlight by your bed, but if you don't keep a check on their batteries, you can bet when you need them they will be dead. That is why I like these bad boys. 
The reason I like these is because you can leave them plugged up and even set them so if the power goes out they come on automatically. Right now I have two of these, but I want three more. The two that I have right now, one is in our bedroom and the other is in the kids' bathroom. When I get the other three I will put one in each of the kids' bedrooms. Plain, simple, easy and total cost so far $44.85.

If the power is still off in the morning you may need a lantern. Since I bought this lantern they have come out with LED lighted lanterns. This one require 8 D size batteries and has been used countless times for several different applications. We have used it during power outages, checking on animals after dark, and even working on cars. Well worth the money. I put good quality batteries in and have not had to change the batteries in at least three years. I only have one of these and really do not plan on adding any more, but you may want two. Total cost with one lantern. $69.82.


Now, I have an oil lamp. Actually I have 3. One was given to me when my grandmother died. Yes, it is an antique and yes, it holds a place of honor, and even yes, I actually still use it. It produces great light and if you trim the wick produces little to no smoke.
I also have 2 inexpensive coach type lanterns. With these I can have light in both bathrooms and the family room while using the battery powered lantern for anything that requires movement. You may be able to find good quality lanterns at yard sales. I have never found one at a thrift store, but you might get lucky. If not, you can always buy one of these or try to find them locally. I have found that fewer and fewer places are actually carrying these. You will also want some lamp oil. 


In most of these lamps you can use Kerosene, but that puts out more smell than the extra refined lamp oil. Then again it is a TON cheaper. Total cost so far $108.52 and we have really done a good job on the lighting front. Remember, you may be able to find these items or similar at yard sales or thrift stores.

If used properly just what I have listed above will have lighting covered for several days.

Cooking

I read somewhere that the number one food bought before a big storm, especially a snow storm, is pop tarts. Hey, who can blame them? Pop tarts can be breakfast, dessert, or even a snack. Around here though the first whisper of a snow storm means all of the bread and milk are gone from the store. I understand, but I like my eggs, sausage, and coffee for breakfast. How am I going to get these with the power off? Easy. 

As I mentioned in the food storage post, I asked my wife for a camp stove for my birthday. Camp stoves offer a lot of flexibility. As long as I have fuel ahead of time it is ready and waiting no matter what. Add to the camp stove a percolator and you have breakfast. You can also use the percolator and camp stove to make tea and cook any number of things for lunch and supper. A one pound propane bottle or a gallon of white gas (depending on what type of stove you have) will cook quite a few meals. I would buy at least 2 one pound propane bottles that are dedicated to cooking.

Total cost so far? $187.49 You can cook on a camp stove with all of your regular pots and pans. You do not have to buy anything special for that.

Comfort

Comfort is actually a little easier in the winter here than in the summer. If you are farther north the opposite will be true. I am going to cover each separately. 

Keeping Warm

I do not think I need to mention good quality blankets and warm clothing. We are just going to jump into the heart of the matter. Now, here is the deal. Unless you have a wood heater or fireplace you are not going to be able to heat your entire home without getting into some major money and remember I am trying to do all of this for less than $400.00 total. The rule of thumb here is heat the person, not the space. We have a fireplace, but I also have a Mr. Heater Buddy. I love the flexibility that it gives. I have taken this little heater into shooting houses when deer hunting, I use it in my workshop and we have used it as an emergency heat source for a few years. I will be honest again, it was not this expensive when I bought mine. I like them because they will shut off if tipped over. A very good safety feature. These heaters will run on the one pound bottles, but only about 4 hours on high and about 8+ on low. If you will purchase the adapter hose I have listed below you can hook the heater to a 20# Bar B Que bottle and really extend the life of your heat. For this to work at its best you will need to close off most of your home and only heat a small section. You may be able to get the 20# propane bottle much cheaper locally if for no other reason than because it is considered hazardous material and must have special shipping.

Even though I love my Mr. Heater, it may not be the right product for you. Another option is the tank topper type heater. I have used these as well and like them a lot. Very adjustable and there are several types. The one I listed below works great and produces a lot of heat, but these come in several variations and can even be purchased for 1# tanks.

Keeping warm total with the most expensive options and not doing any price shopping so far? $401.29

Keeping Cool

The object once again is to cool the person not the space. If you are farther north than we are you might simple be able to open a window. I know that from time to time there are heatwaves, but trust me the heat down here is much worse because the humidity is 500000000% and we have had long stretches of 100 plus degree days.

Evaporation is your friend. When water evaporates it takes heat with it. Just wetting a towel and placing it over your head and shoulders will cool you a great deal add to that a light breeze and it is wonderful. Both Frogg Toggs and Mission have products that are designed to have water evaporate at an even rate providing and even amount of cooling. I have tried both and both work really well. I included a link to the Frogg Toggs item for two reasons. (1) It is less expensive than the missions item and (2) It was founded and headquarters are in my home state. Support them if you can and you will help support an Alabama company. The fan I included because it comes with an auto charger. That means you can recharge the fan even if the power stays out for a while. 

Grand total so far with the keeping cool items. (I am not including the keeping warm items) With 4 Frogg Toggs towels and 2 rechargeable fans $333.35.

Verdict

Keeping warm set really close and if you buy your propane locally you will be under budget.
Keeping cool under budget no problem.
The best part is you can do all of these things a little at a time. Every time you purchase something that goes into your blackout kit you are taking one more step to being more self reliant.

One Extra Step

If you want to take one extra step and help secure yourself even further consider getting an 800 watt inverter. The reason I suggest an 800 watt inverter? You can power a lot of things with this little bugger. Can you run an air condition unit? No. Your stove? No. Your coffee maker or toaster? No. So what can you run with an 800 watt inverter? You can power your fridge, your deep freeze, your television, and some lights. No not all at the same time, but you can rotate everything so that your food stays safe and you know what is going on in the world. For more information on powering your house with your car you can listen to a full podcast on it HERE. Scroll down to How to Power Your House with Your Car and an Inverter.

I hope you are enjoying these posts on Getting Prepared for Beginners and I hope they will help someone become more self reliant.

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes to you.

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. If you do the Facebook thing I have a poll going on right now and I would really love to have your input.

More Posts in this series:
#17 A Case for Long-Term Preparedness

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why did the chicken cross the road? Don’t know, don’t care, just give me your eggs!


One of my memories of childhood was my mom cooking. She was a pretty good cook, nothing fancy. Just  good soul food, which to me is the best anyway. She would fry leg quarters with the perfect crispy layers. However, there were some things that I refused to eat, which is normal for most kids. I don’t know if my reasons were justified. I guess my palette had to mature. I do remember my dad had been given some farm eggs and there was NO WAY I was eating those! They came from a chicken! And they weren't white and from the grocery store! How disgusting is that?!! My dad was expecting us to eat those? Forget it. No way!

Well let's forward it to 20 plus years later. My new hubby decides we need to get some chickens. I’m facing the dilemma that I escaped all those years ago again. But I was more open-minded this time because he’s so cute and smart and I like being able to impress him. I was all for it on the outside, but I had my doubts. Could I really do this? Could I eat those non-white shelled eggs that were coming from our backyard instead of the pretty grocery store? Not to mention on top of that, Gregg wanted us to kill some for meat! Oh Lord! There are only so very few meats I will eat. I do not like water critters, deer, rabbit, most things that are hunted.(I know, I know). I have always loved chicken though. It’s my favorite! But the thought of us killing them and throwing them in the pan after my daughter has named them kind of left me uneasy. But once again, I was going to give it a try.

Finally the day came when we got our first egg. Gregg was so excited! It was little and to be honest I think I probably used it for battering something…I honestly don’t remember. I do remember feeling kind of proud about it though. So after a week or two we started getting three eggs a day from our pretty girls. I loved it! They tasted awesome, we were saving a little bit of money by not having to buy them at the grocery store, and I knew where they were coming from so that made me feel better about what we were eating. I found myself never wanting to eat another grocery store egg again. I truly began to realize that it was better for you. According to www.motherearthnews.com. , farm fresh eggs have four times more omega fatty acids in them than store bought eggs, and half the cholesterol. They are also six times higher in beta carotene. Whoo hoo! Feeling healthy!

Now the meat part was still not my favorite .Perhaps that is because it was an older chicken and I know that those are best in stews and such, which is what we did. I watched as Gregg skinned the birds and cleaned them.(This part does not bother me. I am in healthcare and so it actually is fascinating to me.)The thing is it was not a broiler chicken so there wasn't as much meat. I was a not a fan. The meat was stringy and bland. I’m hoping in the future to get some broilers. Meanwhile our chickens came up missing. I was devastated. We never could figure out what happened. We have had to start over. We have more hens this time and  we have moved the chickens closer to the house. I am looking forward to collecting eggs again, but I miss those others. They were my first experience and they were sweet chickens. These are for some reason more timid. I spent time with them like I did the others, but they still are shy. Hoping they will get more comfortable with me, and anticipating the days of collecting eggs again.

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. You can also subscribe to The Rural Economist Youtube Channel.

Other Posts by Nicole: The Un-Country Country Wife, God Gave Me a Carter

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wild Edibles #2 Wild Strawberry and Woodberry


Disclaimer: Some wild plants are not only edible but delicious. Other wild plants will kill you if you eat them. Be absolutely certain what a plant is before you eat it. Plant varieties differ from region to region. When in doubt consult a local expert.

Before we jump in I would just like to say I do not know if it is cool that I am doing a series that requires a disclaimer or not, but we have to be safe.

I am including both wild strawberry and woodberry in the same post because there is very precious little information available about woodberry. Woodberry, as I have always known it is called by several other names as well. Wood strawberry, snake berry, and Indian strawberry being the most common. I have not found where wild strawberry is called any thing else.

Both wild strawberry and woodberry are completely edible. Woodberry has absolutely no flavor, but hey it is calories if you need them. Wild strawberry has a very subtle flavor and some even compair it to the taste of watermelon. Both have vitamin C, minerals, and quite a bit of water in them. They can not only be used as a survival food, but in a pinch they can be used to help keep you hydrated.

The leaves of both wild strawberry and woodberry look very much like tame strawberry only much smaller. The leaves of woodberry tend to be a little more pointed as well. Below you can see a photo comparing tame strawberry leaves to woodberry leaves. As you can see there is a major difference.












The blooms of the woodberry are yellow while the blooms of the wild strawberry are white. They are of the same configuration. Both blooms have 5 petals and form a sort of star shape.

Woodberry produces fruit all summer long. I have read that wild strawberry does as well. The fruit can be eaten raw or used in cooking. I have always eaten them raw, but I have heard that cooking the berries actually enhances the flavor.

In the south woodberry can only grow where it has some shade. The further north you go you could see woodberry and wild strawberry in meadows and grassy areas. Both of these plants grow almost everywhere in the northern hemisphere. The only exceptions I can find are the extreme northeastern US and the rocky mountain regions. These plants are purported to grown even fairly high up in Canada.

The plants can be propagated by runners and by seed. The seed must go through a fermentation process similar to tomatoes, if the seed is not ingested by wildlife and distributed that way.

If you see these around your place and you are sure that is what they are give them a try and tell me what you think.



You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. You can also subscribe to The Rural Economist Youtube Channel.

Other Posts in this Series: #1 Wood Sorrel

I wish you
Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Getting Prepared for Beginners #6 Food Storage


I have a confession to make. I have already written this post completely. When I reread it, I hated it so here goes another try.

It does not matter if you a hard core homesteader or a true blue apartment city dweller. The basics and first goals of food storage are the same. Let me explain. Homesteaders traditionally stored food to be able to make it from one harvest to the next and even a little beyond (you never knew if you would have a good growing year next year). For the city dweller, your first goal should be to have enough food stored that if something happened and you were not able to get to the store for a week and it was the day before you normally go grocery shopping you would be fine. So food storage at its most basic is to get you through the lean times. You do not have to be storing for for the end of the world. Oh I so wish I could put in sound effects and be screaming that like a madman.

My Wife's Reaction When I Said We Needed to Start Storing Food

I hope the TV show Doomsday Preppers has done someone some good, besides the producers and advertisers. It sure didn't help me at all. When Doomsday Preppers first came on I tried to watch an episode or two. I never made it through any of them. I hope the people who they had on that show are good, well meaning, levelheaded people. If they are that show made them look like fruitcakes.

When I told my wife I wanted to start storing some food she thought I was turning into one of those crazy people on TV. She only agreed if I was buying stuff that we eat anyway and I didn't go overboard buying stuff. I agreed of course.

When we would go to the grocery I would throw a can of beef stew or an extra box of macaroni and cheese in the buggy. She would ask when I was going to eat it and I would just tell her I didn't know, but it would not go bad in our house. Slowly, ever so slowly we built up a fair backup food supply. If I got sick and missed a day of work or if the children wanted something quick to eat, we would go to the pantry. (Buying multiple items when they are on sale is a great way to save money).

My Birthday Gift This Year

When my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday I told her I wanted a camp stove. She looked at me funny. I told her I was serious. She said are you doing this for that prepping stuff. I said partially, but I would really like to camp more this year. My birthday is in February. A week later a snow storm hit. We had about 6 inches of snow. I know for many of you who live up north six inches of snow is no big deal, but here in Alabama it is a HUGE deal.

The snow started about 2 am. Big nice fluffy flakes. I loved it. Checked the roads, yup they were closed. No work this day. The power went off about 6:30 am. My wife woke because the fan had stopped running. I get up and start a fire in the fireplace. About 8:30 still no power. I get the camp stove that I was just given and fire it up to make breakfast. We fixed breakfast and lunch on the camp stove and lunch came out of stored food. My wife looked at me and actually ask, "How did you know?"

No more questions about storing food.

How to Start Storing Food.

I have already mentioned the best method for most people to build up the food storage. It is loosely called copy canning. When you are buying something at the grocery buy one extra of something you are buying any way. I suggest either heat and serve items like soup, canned veggies, canned meats, and things like that or things you only have to add water to. I do suggest having powdered milk and powdered eggs as being part of you long term storage. Sometimes you just want to cook something.

Do not rely of frozen or refrigerated foods for storage. You are only one extended power outage away from being hungry.

Your first goal for food storage should be 7 days. This is a minimum. Just think. If everyone had just 7 days of food stored in their home they could make it through the majority of crises that they would face and be no worse for wear.

Next Step

After you have achieved 7 days of food storage I greatly encourage you to consider having a months worth of food stored. I do not want you to even think about a months worth of food till you have seven days covered.

I can hear some of you now thinking, Okay he is getting crazy. But I want you to think about it. First, you already have 7 days. You will only be adding 21 days more of food. Second, if you were to get ill and miss a full week of work wouldn't it be nice to not have to worry about going to the grocery or even having to worry about spending money that is needed somewhere else for something to eat. You already have it taken care of.

Long Term Food Storage

After you have achieved the 7 day minimum food storage you can start sprinkling in long term store-ables. Things like freeze dried meats or just add water deserts make things a lot easier. I know for me if things are stressful anyway a brownie makes things a lot better.You can buy individual items or some places have packages for a certain length of food storage. As an example at The Ready Store you can buy a big can of brownie mix or a years supply of food. My caution here is do not buy things you will not eat. Plain and Simple.

I hope you are enjoying these posts on Getting Prepared for Beginners and I hope they will help someone become more self reliant.

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes to you.

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. If you do the Facebook thing I have a poll going on right now and I would really love to have your input.

More Posts in this series:
#17 A Case for Long-Term Preparedness

Affiliate Link Disclosure: The post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation for links, endorsements, testimonials, or recommendations for any products mentioned on this blog.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Un-Country Country Wife


All of my life I have lived in the rural area of Blount County Alabama.I loved it so much that when I remarried I asked my husband if we could stay here instead.Of course he agreed and he has been diligent in making this county his home as well.

Now that being said,I may have lived in this area where there were cows raised right across the road from me and I knew a lot of the people who had grown their own veggies and placed them in competition at the county fair every year.My father grew up here as well.He was raised on a farm,hunted,and even grew his own vegetables.So that should mean I have experience right?

Guess Again.

I will not go into detail about my home life but I will say this.I had to learn to become self-sufficient at a young age.I learned to cook and clean,and even become a mom at the age of sixteen.However,I did not learn much about homesteading.Oh my dad did try when we were younger,but if I wasn't in the mood,I just told my mother and she would take care of that.How I regret this terribly.She was from the city and it was years after my father died that she realized that the country life was good.

Yet she almost had me believing this as well.There isn't much to do around the country when you’re a teen.And so I thought all the cows and chickens and farming was pretty lame.Why go through all this trouble?It’s  hard work and dirty and didn't seem enjoyable at all…

But then the strangest thing happened.I grew up.I started getting to know these people.I still was not completely convinced…


Then God gave me Gregg.

This man loves everything about dirt,and farm life and prepping (not the crazy kind that you see on television)
He was raised on a mountain and has done more than most people I know.And as a bonus,he loves to teach.So I have become his student (by choice!)


I have decided that I want to start sharing my adventures in homesteading since I may have come from the rural land but I truly am just now learning how to appreciate it. So everything is new and amazing and I hope that you will either learn something from it or have a new found love for it.

I am so excited having my wife write with me. For another post written by my wife you can read:

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. If you do the Facebook thing I have a poll going on right now and I would really love to have your input.

Hand in Hand Embracing the Homestead Life
If you can guess what classic American painting we are paying homage to please comment below.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Praying Mantis A Garden Hero?


I regularly run into people who honestly think that every insect in the garden is bad. They try to make it their mission in life to have their garden a bug free zone. Some you can reason with others you cannot. Many insects are not only allowable in the garden, some are extremely helpful.

At times the Praying Mantis could be considered one of the "Guardians of the Garden". At other times the mantis is just a transient visitor. It is a cool insect and freaky all at the same time. A lot of people are afraid of them because they look so "evil".

The praying mantis is an ambush predator and will feed on anything smaller than itself but large enough to get it's attention.

When I say anything I mean anything. Tomato worms? Check. Potato beetles? Check. But at the same time honeybees, lacewings, and really anything. In fact, some species in the tropics have been known to eat rodents, frogs, and small lizards.

If there are not enough insects for them to feed on they will simply go somewhere else. The praying mantis can be helpful when you have an infestation but are really never harmful.

The mantis has great camouflage and can hide in plain sight. It captures it's prey with two spiked front arms and just rips it apart and devours it.

Cool insect, hero at times, neutral at others. I hope you enjoy these posts on insects.

May you achieve your
Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wild Edibles #1 Wood Sorrel


Disclaimer: Some wild plants are not only edible but delicious. Other wild plants will kill you if you eat them. Be absolutely certain what a plant is before you eat it.

There is a short video at the bottom to help you identify wood sorrel.

Wood Sorrel also known as sourgrass has been eaten by Native Americans for hundreds if not thousands of years. Wood sorrel can be used for culinary as well as medicinal applications

Identification

Wood sorrel is characterized by heart shaped leaves, banana shaped seed pods. This plant has small yellow or white flowers. I have read they can also be pink. Wood sorrel grows to a maximum height of 15 inches. I have never seen it over 8 inches tall. 

One great thing about wood sorrel is there are no toxic look alikes. The plant most commonly mistakes for wood sorrel is clover and guess what not only is it nontoxic, it is edible also. Look for a post on it in the near future. Below are some photos to help you identify wood sorrel.

Heart shaped leaves, small yellow flower
Woody stem
Banana shaped seed pod


Culinary


Wood sorrel is high in vitamin C and has a slight to medium sore flavor. The flavor is very citrus like and close to that of a lemon. Has been used to help quench thirst and can be used to make tea.

This plant can be eaten fresh either alone or in a salad and goes great with fish especially if cooking on a campfire. There is very little information about using wood sorrel in cooking.

Medicinal

Wood sorrel has been used to treat mouth sores, upset stomach, fever, scurvy, to slow and/or stop bleeding and has even been used as an aphrodisiac. Some of these thoughts have been tested by modern medicine with mixed results. Either way this is a great plant to know.

Caution

This plant contains oxalic acid. Oxalic acid in large amounts is slightly toxic and can interfere with the bodies ability to absorb certain minerals, primarily calcium. Some people could be allergic to wood sorrel. Anyone who suffers from kidney problems, rheumatic disorders, or gout should not eat wood sorrel.

I hope you find this series interesting and informative. May you always be working toward your own

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. You can also subscribe to The Rural Economist Youtube Channel.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Getting Prepared for Beginners #5 The Backpack



Some people call it a Bug Out Bag (BOB), some call it a Get Home Bag. I just call it my backpack. Everyone has a different idea of what should be in this pack. I am going to cover what I have in my pack and a few pre made packs. I will discuss the benefits if both and why I think mine is best for me.

First, I must tell you what my backpack is not. It is not a 72 hour kit. As I said in the last post if I had to walk completely from work it would take me 10 hours. So my backpack is basically a 36 hour kit at most. With enough tools that can be used to last longer if needed.

What I Have in My Backpack

I keep a change of clothes, Two 20 oz bottles of water, snacks, a headlamp, matches, a lighter, a few tools, and some basic first aide supplies. I will go over everything I have in my backpack and everything I want to add. I will provide links for everything I can.

A change of clothes.

In the summer I keep 2 pairs of socks, a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt. In the winter I keep jeans, insulated socks, thermal shirt, flannel shirt and thermal pants. There is a short transitional period where I am changing over from season to season. You will have to determine what mix of clothing is best for your pack. Cost to you other than the backpack: $0.00.

Reason for the change of clothes is simple. Sometimes you just need them. These are not just for emergencies. I have had my pants rip before. Instead of having to go home from work or go buy something at the store, all I have to do is grab my backpack.

Snacks

The snacks that I have in my pack are always changing. Why? Because I eat them. I am not opposed to someone buying a MRE or two just to keep in their pack. I am also not saying that I might not do the same at some point, but right now it is not a priority.

Normal snacks that show up in my pack include, spam and crackers, granola bars, crackers and peanut butter, fruit cocktail, and snack cakes. Again my snacks are always changing because I eat them. This helps make sure everything is fresh. Consider it rotating stock.

FYI most good quality multitools have a can opener on them so don't shy away from canned goods for your pack.

Tools

There are a few tools that I consistently keep with or in my pack. I will go over each and why it is included.
Multitool
I use a multitool everyday. I am not kidding- everyday. I have used my tool when working with my beehives. I use my tool on the job almost daily. I used it today in fact. I have used it around the house to do minor repairs. If I am out and about, I have a multitool with me. Some of the more expensive tools are really nice, but if you are wanting to balance price with quality, the one above is very affordable and really good quality. If you are just going to keep it in your pack it is a great deal.

A folding pruning saw


If I need to start a fire or if a small tree falls across the road on my way home, I am ready. I have tried a couple of the pocket chainsaws and I just did not like the two that I tried. I am sure that there are some out there that are really good. I just haven't run across those yet.

Magnesium Fire Starter
Magnesium Fire Starter
Now I will be honest, I carry matches, a lighter, and a magnesium fire starter. The fire startertakes a little practice, but with that practice it is a consistent fire starter even when matches fail. The reason is you make a small pile of magnesium shavings, which when ignited burn very hot. I just like having it with me. 



Fixed Blade Knife
This is the one place where I would encourage you to spend a little extra money. A fixed blade knife is not the place where you want to go cheap. Believe me, I have tried the cheap knives and there is a reason they are so cheap. However, I still do not suggest people spend a ton of money. Again balance is the key here. Get as high a quality as you can for the price. 

There are thousands of uses for a fixed blade knife and in my opinion they are one of the most important tools you can own.

Compact Fishing Kit
These are fairly easy to build on your own. An Altoids can works great for this purpose. I may cover making one in the near future. If you would like me to cover this let me know.

Rope
At least 25 foot. I would not go over 100 foot and I would not go a very large diameter. Hundreds of uses including but not limited to building a shelter, securing food supplies where critters cannot get to them, and just tying things up.

Head Lamp

Boosting off a car, changing a flat, or really anything else at night. Use mine on a weekly basis.

Emergency Blanket
Emergency Blanket
Again, bunches of uses. Keeping you warm. Emergency shelter. Catching water. Using it as a carry bag. The picture above is a link to The Ready Store where you can buy 1 for $1.49, but you can pick up a  Emergency Mylar Blankets - 84" x 52" (4 Pack) for $5.19.

Basic First Aide

Once again I built my own first aid kit. My kit contains allergy pills, aspirin, ibuprofen, alcohol prep pads, hydrocortisone cream, basic bandages and vet wrap. I am going to cover the uses for vet wrap because I think the others are fairly self- explanatory. Vet wrap can be used as gauze bandage or even as just a wrap. About 6 months ago someone sprained their wrist at work. It wasn't bad, but their wrist needed a little extra support. I went to my backpack and pulled out the vet wrap. It is self-adhesive so it works easily as an ace bandage. You can look at several premade first aid kits HERE.

Water

Like I said I keep two 20 oz bottles of water with my pack. DIY of course. I use two soda bottles that I rinsed out well and filled with water. The reason I do not use the stainless steel bottles is they tend to get canteen funk. If you have ever been in the service or if you hike a lot you know what I mean. It is a bad taste. Using the plastic bottles, drinking the contents and refilling it never develops that bad flavor.

A word of caution for the ladies. There have been studies that link drinking water from plastic containers that have gotten hot with some types of cancer.

I have covered most of the basics. If you will do this you will have a better chance of getting home if you have to "hoof it". You can customize your pack to yourself. If you live 60 miles from where you work you will want a full 72 hour kit. If you only live 10 miles from where you work you may not need as much in your pack as I have in mine.

As promised here is a link to several backpacks that you can build on yourself and here is a link to several premade survival kits.

I hope you never have to use any of the things we cover here, but I would rather you have them and not need them than need them and not have them. I wish you all 

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

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Other posts in this series:
More Posts in this series:
#17 A Case for Long-Term Preparedness

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Make it at Home Gifts #1 (suitable for children)


This year my wife said that I shouldn't spend any money for Mother's Day. I agreed but could not let her celebrate the occasion without some type of gift to show how much I appreciate her. So what do I do? I got to the work shop.

I know it is too late to use these ideas for this year's Mother's Day, but I couldn't post them ahead of time or she would have known what I was doing. These ideas can be used as gifts for any occasion or just to show you care for someone. In all I am going to cover three projects. I will assign difficulty levels, list materials needed, cover costs and offer step by step instructions. I hope you enjoy these posts. I will make sure they are all linked.

All of these projects were made from reclaimed pallets. Despite what many people say on Pinterest I very rarely find pallets for free, but I can consistently buy pallets any where from 25¢ to $2.00 depending on size and shape of the pallet.

Also please also realize that difficulty levels I assign are based on use of hand tools only. I do not have a table saw or router or anything like that. Difficulty level will probably go down with more advanced tools. 

Project: Photo Zigzag Displayer

Difficulty Level: Beginner (if an adult cuts the pieces this is an excellent project for children)

Cost: $3.00 to $12.00 dependent on if you have any of the materials on hand before beginning.

Actual cost: Maybe $1.00 (you will have enough supplies leftover to do another project.)

Take a 6 inch wide board, normally the outside crossboards in a pallet and cut 3, 7 inch pieces. 
Sand each individual piece.


Nail the pieces together at right angles creating a zigzag pattern. Then paint. You can use any color you want, I chose black. Lowe's has a can of gloss black paint for $0.99 from Project Source. Small box of nails less than $2.00, you will only have to use 12 nails. There will be a lot left over for other projects.

Select the pictures you want to use. Remember if you use actual photos you will not be able to get them off later. I printed our photos from the computer. A good quality photo paper with a matte finish will work best. Allow your photos to completely dry before you continue.

Cut your photos to size and glue a photo to each section. I used wood glue because that is what I had on hand. Any white school glue will do nicely. Allow to dry completely. A small bottle of glue can be bought at the Dollar Store for, you guessed it $1.00.


After the glue has completely dried spray with high gloss varnish or lacquer. When it dries you are done. A spray can of gloss lacquer costs anywhere from $3.00 to $9.00 depending on name brand.


That is it.

I hope you enjoy these projects and I wish you...
Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. If you do the Facebook thing I have a poll going on right now and I would really love to have your input.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Quick, Easy, and Inexpensive Muscadine Trellis


Here at the Carter homestead we are always looking for ways to expand our food production and to do this as inexpensively as possible.

When a friend of mine offered me some muscadine vines I jumped at the opportunity. This opportunity only presented one challenge. I had no trellis. I thought about letting the vines run up a couple trees that we have on our place. After all that is what they do in the wild.

That wouldn't have cost us anything, but there would be a lot of fruit that we couldn't harvest. That's not good. Around here we look at production as well as cost. I decided against the truly natural route due to inability to harvest.

So I had to look for another way. I thought about just training them up the fence, but since the fence is maintained on one side by us and the other by our neighbors, my wife thought that this was not a good idea.
Back to the drawing board for an inexpensive trellis.

As I mentioned in Building a New Chicken Pen, I found several t-posts that had been returned and was able to get them for less than half price. So about $2.00 per t-post. I had galvanized wire here left over from another project. I bought a 8 foot 2x2 cost about $3.00. All that I needed were wedge locs. 

Below is the hardware that I used to make the crossbar. Basically I turned this into an H brace.
Two Universals

Sorry couldn't find a link for individual pieces. This is for a 100 count.



Total cost for this trellis was about $15.00.

I cut the 2x2 to six feet so I had two pieces. One was used for the crossbar and the other was used for the tension bar. I made a video of the process. The video quality isn't very good, but I think it is good enough that if you needed to see it being made you could do so after watching the video. You can see the video below.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you learned how to make a trellis that is fully functional and inexpensive. Being frugal while increasing you self sustainability will help you achieve your

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. If you do the Facebook thing I have a poll going on right now and I would really love to have your input.





Saturday, May 3, 2014

Building a New Chicken Pen



Our flock of laying chickens have grown. We now have too many to fit in our old portable pen. If you have been reading my posts for a while you will know that we moved out of an old run down house into a new double wide. I have taken part of the old house over as a workshop, one room has been turned into storage, and now we have taken in the old laundry room for the chickens.

This was actually kind of tough on me. I liked the portable pen. I liked the fact that every week or so we could move the chickens to a different place and they would graze, which would save us some money on feed. But the truth is that we really needed and wanted more eggs than the 3 hens could produce. We now have 6 hens and 3 roosters (one of the roosters will be going away soon). This will give us more than enough eggs for our family use and a dozen or two a week to either selling or giving away.

Our old hens vanished over the course of three nights. Not a feather was found. No sign of struggle, or violence. This is one reason that I believe that our chickens were stolen. With the new pen we have increased their covered room by about 4 times and their run room by at least that much as well. So we will still have room to grow our flock a little more.

My youngest daughter helped me build the chicken pen. She has enjoyed helping me with critters ever since I met her. She is my stepdaughter, but we both agree that she is my daughter. She helped me stretch the wire and she tied the wire to the t-posts. She was working while I was building the gate. My daughter helped name all of the chickens and she picked out the rooster that would be going to a new home very soon.


Tying off the chicken wire.


Playing with the young chickens after the pen is finished.
 Now I want to cover some ways to save money while building any animal pen.

  1. Plan Ahead. If you know you have a project coming up, make a list of the items that you think you will need. This will help you price shop.
  2. Look for items that are clearance. Companies change vendors fairly regularly. Sometimes when they change vendors the new company will not allow them to place the new items out for sale until all of the old items are gone. With items that you will be using several of some stores will actually give you a discount if you are willing to by all of the clearance items that they have.
  3. Look for Returns. I am not kidding. The t-posts that I purchased to build the chicken pen were returned. Why I have no idea. Two of them were actually bent a little. Here is the thing; most people will not buy an item that has been bought before from a retail store. I have seen people open a box, look at the item, then put the box back and get an item that is unopened. They do this even though they are the ones that opened the box in the first place. Below is the t-posts that were returned that I purchased for the chicken pen. Due to the fact that they were returned, had dirt on them and two of them were slightly bent, I was able to get them for a little less than half price.
  4. Price Match. Retail competition is stiff. Several companies will price match even on sale items. If the price of an item is cheaper and it is not on sale, several companies will beat that price. I have seen ads where companies will beat a regular price by anywhere from 5 - 10 %.
  5. Be aware of discounts. I know this example will not apply to everyone, but several of the home improvement stores give a 10% discount to veterans. They will give this discount on top of matching or beating the other stores price. Sometimes you can get this discount even if you have had the price reduced due to returns or damage. This alone could save you a good bit of money.

Returned t-posts work just as well as new ones.

If you take your time and think out what you are wanting to do, you can do a nice job and save some money. This alone will help you achieve your...

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

You can subscribe to The Rural Economist by email by simply filling out the form at the top right of the page. Your information will never be sold or given to anyone else. You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. Or you can even follow The Rural Economist on Pintrest. If you do the Facebook thing I have a poll going on right now and I would really love to have your input.