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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Prepper's Home Defense - BOOK REVIEW

I recently had a unique opportunity to review a copy of Prepper's Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary, by Jim Cobb. Being an avid reader of homesteading and preparedness topics, I am not always too sure what to expect from any book on the subject. Some authors on these topics are spot on while others are very off. I am happy to say that Jim Cobb was spot on. The basic concepts of Prepper's Home Defense are laid out in a practical, easy to read and digest manner. Additionally, the amount of information that is contained in the book is varied and well rounded.

The book begins with the premise that some of the information that is contained may be against the law in our current society, but continues that if there is a breakdown in the structure of law that one must take whatever measures that are necessary in order to protect your family.

Mr. Cobb's writing style is such that someone who is a beginner at prepping can easy understand. Topics like Operational Security (OpSec), commonly known as "loose lips sink ships" aptly begin the book. The author then covers the basics, moving to physical security, then on to weapons, and finally to other, often overlooked areas such as "Children and Security."

While reading this, I quickly learned that there were numerous areas and topics that I hadn't even considered. I found myself frequently taking notes and highlighting areas for further investigation. Although there are some topics that I wish that the author would've gone into additional detail as the topical areas are not very deep, the framework that was laid by the author gives you a great starting place in areas that are often overlooked in other works. These points should be looked at so as to serve to pique one's curiosity to probe further into the topics, rather than to be an encyclopedic tome on the areas covered.

This book provides a wide range of information and when it comes to prepping, it's not what you have, it's what you know that matters. This book gives you a great places to start you on your way. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wood Kitchen Cook Stoves, part 3 - What are warming ovens? How do they work?

USE OF THE WARMING OVEN
Plates may be kept warm in the warming oven, but this is not all that may be done in it. Dried fruit, such as prunes, figs, and raisins, may be put to soak in water in the warming oven, left there for hours and hours, developing a richness and sweetness that cannot be otherwise produced.

One of the attributes of a good cook is a knack of serving hot dishes hot. This is not always easy when· there is considerable variety in the "menu." Here is where the warming oven may play an important part and cause the guests to wonder, "How she does it."

For example, a thick sirloin. If properly timed, it may be broiled just short of completion. Then while the accompanying dishes are made ready to serve, put the steak on a platter with plenty of butter in the warming oven. The heat contained in the meat with the heat contributed by the warming oven completes the cooking and your steak is done to a turn, juicy and delicious, on a platter that will keep it hot. This is one 6f the secrets of the expert broiler of steaks.

Puddings, such as creamy rice pudding, Indian pudding, apple tapioca, steamed fruit pudding and others, may be much improved by placing in the warming oven for an hour after baking or steaming.

Stale bread may be dried out in the warming oven for rolling and sifting, and pulled bread and croutons for soups may be put into the warming oven and they will cook of their own accord, without looking after them.

Jelly that has not jelled will sometimes jell after a day or a half-day in the warming oven, and even fruit that is half-ripe will ripen after a time in this convenient place, with a dish of water set beside the fruit to keep it from drying out.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mini Indoor Greenhouse

 This is an article on how to build a mini  indoor greenhouse inexpensively that will help increase your growing season.

I originally found this idea over at The Survival Podcast . It is such a great idea in order to get a jump start on your planting.





You will need:
  • 1 - An under-the-bed storage container from Wal-Mart (or any where)
  • 4 - threaded rods
  • 12 - nuts (same diameter as the threaded rods)
  • 8 - fender washers
  • 1 - piece of scrap wood
  • 4 - 2" lid bolts (size depends on how thick the scrap wood is)
  • 4 - lid nuts (to match the bolts above)
  • 4 - plastic acorn nuts (for the bottom of the threaded rods)
  • A drill and drill bit that is a little bigger than the diameter of the threaded rods
  • 2 - 2' grow lights

Lid Instructions
  1. Cut the scrap wood to fit the width of the lid. You will need two pieces, one for each end of the lid.
  2. Use two of the 2" lid bolts to attach the scrap wood to each end of the lid, being careful to leave room so the lid can snap when not in use.
  3. Install the nuts that match the (scrap wood/lid) bolts so as to leave a 1/2" sticking up. These will be used to attach the lights later.
  4. Install the wood to the lid, securing the bolts to the lid with the other lid nuts. Cut of any remaining bolts from the top of the lid.
  5. Attach the lights to the lid, by sliding them over the bolt heads, locking them in place.
Body Instructions

  1. Carefully drill a hole towards each corner of the body (lower part of the storage container), making sure that the holes will align with the wood cross pieces attached to the lid.
  2. Insert the threaded rods through the holes in the bottom of the storage tote, making sure that there is a washer and nut on each side of the body. The washers will make sure that the body of the mini-greenhouse won't crack. Still, when tightening the nuts, do not over tighten.
  3. Attach the acorn nuts to the bottom of the threaded rods. This will keep the greenhouse from scratching any table that it is placed on.
  4. Install four nuts midway down the threaded rods and follow then with the last four of the fender washers. These will support the lid.
  5. Match the threaded rods with the wood on the lid, marking them to drill
  6. Drill a hole through each marked spot on the wood. Drill through the wood and lid.
  7. Adjust the height as needed by moving the nuts (and washers) up or down the threaded walls.
  8. Plug in the lights and you are ready to go!







Wood Kitchen Cook Stove, part 2 - Operating Ovens and Broiler

Here is part two in the series on cooking on a wood stove. I hope that you like it.

USING THE RANGE
The first question that enters the mind in regard to any range is “How well does it bake?” The range does many equally important things all at the same time. Broiling may be going on at the fire box end, boiling or frying in the center, simmering along the outskirts, baking in the oven, keeping dishes hot in the warming oven, heating adjoining rooms, and supplying a tank full of hot water. Understanding all the functions of the range permits the thrifty housewife to get the most out of it with the least effort.

COOKING ON TOP OF THE STOVE
Fill the teakettle before lighting the fire and get all the advantage of the first flames. When a new fire is built, the strong direct draft up the chimney tends to draw the hot flames close under the center of the stove. Over a fresh wood fire the breakfast coffee sometimes boils quicker in the center of the stove than on the less heated lids directly over the firebox. Perhaps the dish of water for the four-minute egg refuses to come to a boil. Why? -Because the cook has not learned that water will boil quicker if a cover is put on the dish. A cover on the spider has the same effect and also keeps the stove cleaner. A little later, when the fire is well going, the whole top of the range is hot enough for boiling in large kettles or heating the flats for ironing, where electric ironing is not practicable.
 
BROILING
Broiling should be prepared for in advance. The fire should be built up high and show an even surface of clear red-hot coals. Good broiling requires intense heat for a short time, over coals that are past the flaming and gas producing stage.

Open the oven damper so the smoke will go directly up the chimney; also give the fire some draft underneath. Take off the two lids over the fire and sear over your sirloin, chop or fish as quickly as possible, with frequent turning. This quick searing of the surface tends to prevent the escape of the juices and rewards the cook with a toothsome article of food impossible to produce in any other way. (A little olive oil on the steak before or after broiling gives a wonderful flavor.) A coal or charcoal fire is the selection of the world's finest chefs for broiling. Anything broiled should be served as soon as it comes off the fire. If that is impracticable, put it on a platter and keep hot in the oven.

USING THE OVEN FOR BAKING AND COOKING
The real test of the range is in the baking. Nothing but individual experience is a safe guide in the handling any particular range, but the general principle is the same.

When the fire is first started, the flames rush over the top of the oven and thence directly to the chimney. This heats the top of the oven, while the bottom remains comparatively cool.

The entire oven must be heated and the body of fire must be sufficient to maintain an even heat for a considerable length of time. The oven becomes evenly heated by closing the oven damper, forcing the flames and smoke down one side and under the oven, entirely around and up again to reach the chimney. Foods prepared for baking or roasting differs widely in the time and temperature required for cooking. A little practice will determine the correct temperature and best location in the oven for different bakes.

In a coal range, baking is done directly on the bottom of the oven or on the raised rack. Never attempt to bake with the rack placed on the bottom of the oven.

HOW TO COOK ON YOUR RANGE
A little foresight and planning ahead will save you many dollars in fuel and permit you to get greater service out of your range. So long as there is a fire going it should be cooking something or keeping cooked food warm. The old-fashioned stockpot is an example. It remained on top of the stove all the time, taking anything that would contribute to wholesome soups and stews. The stockpot could be used to advantage, where canned soups are not easily obtained. The breakfast cereal, cooked the night before, will be improved if kept warm on the back of the stove.

Coffee, tea, soups and stews-anything that should be served hot-will keep hot much longer after serving if the oven has been used for a few moments to heat the dishes.

USE OF THE WARMING OVEN
Plates may be kept warm in the warming oven, but this is not all that may be done in it. Dried fruit, such as prunes, figs, and raisins, may be put to soak in water in the warming oven, left there for hours and hours, developing a richness and sweetness that cannot be otherwise produced.

One of the attributes of a good cook is a knack of serving hot dishes hot. This is not always easy when· there is considerable variety in the "menu." Here is where the warming oven may play an important part and cause the guests to wonder, "How she does it."

For example, a thick sirloin. If properly timed, it may be broiled just short of completion. Then while the accompanying dishes are made ready to serve, put the steak on a platter with plenty of butter in the warming oven. The heat contained in the meat with the heat contributed by the warming oven completes the cooking and your steak is done to a turn, juicy and delicious, on a platter that will keep it hot. This is one 6f the secrets of the expert broiler of steaks.

Puddings, such as creamy rice pudding, Indian pudding, apple tapioca, steamed fruit pudding and others,
may be much improved by placing in the warming oven for an hour after baking or steaming.

Stale bread may be dried out in the warming oven for rolling and sifting, and pulled bread and croutons for soups may be put into the warming oven and they will cook of their own accord, without looking after them.
Jelly that has not jelled will sometimes jell after a day or a half-day in the warming oven, and even fruit that is half-ripe will ripen after a time in this convenient place, with a dish of water set beside the fruit to keep it from drying out.

USE OF THE BAKING OVEN
We all know the New England Boiled Dinner. Not everyone knows the “Atlantic” Baked Dinner. About an hour and a half before dinner time, put into "the oven, heated as for bread baking, a four to five pound chicken, or a cut from the leg of veal or lamb, and a dish of scalloped potatoes. Keep the temperature even.

Three quarters of an hour later add three large carrots, scraped, and cut in halves lengthwise, placing them on the rack of the pan that holds the meat. In another fifteen minutes put in six tomatoes, in an earthen baking dish. By the time the tomatoes are done-fifteen or twenty minutes-a baked dinner for six persons will be ready to serve. After removing the meat and vegetables from the oven, if you place in it six fruit patties, or six cup custards in a pan with an inch or more of water, these will be ready to serve for dessert.

BAKING WITH GRADUALLY INCREASING HEAT
Popovers, cream puffs, and ├ęclairs, angel cake and sponge cakes are easier to bake successfully if put into a quite cool oven and the temperature gradually increased.

BAKING WITH GRADUALLY DECREASING HEAT
Four mixtures that are of a special shape which should be preserved, like the fancy braided loaves, and Parker House rolls, ought to go into a very hot oven, so that a crust will immediately form, to preserve the shape, and then the baking may proceed at quite a low temperature.

All meats, fish, and poultry are also better cooked at a high temperature to begin with to hold in the juices-then a gradual reduction of heat. Baste frequently.

BAKING WITH UNIFORM TEMPERATURE
Bread, cakes, pies, and vegetable may be baked at uniform temperature, or with a slight gradual increase or decrease.

All good cooks know the most important secret of all: WHILE THE BAKE IS ON, MAKE A JOB OF IT

No two conditions of range and draft are exactly alike-in fact they will differ in your own home, depending on the weather or the direction of the wind. There is a wide difference in the quality of coal. Some coal ignites easily and bums out quickly -other kinds hold the heat much longer. A set of exact rules for one situation would not fit another. In any case there must be a good body of fire to hold the oven at a cooking temperature. The articles that are being baked or roasted may do better on the rack than on the bottom of the oven, or vice versa. No definite rules made for one situation would be at all valuable as compared with the stored-up knowledge gained from EXPERIENCE-remembering how the oven acted before under similar conditions and making it serve you better and better with every day's acquaintance.

OTHER HIGH OR LOW STARTING TEMPERATURES
In many cases, cooking started at a low temperature, gradually increasing, will develop a quite different taste from the same food started at high heat. Boiled custards, if made with cold milk, are more delicate than if the milk is added very hot.

Scrambled eggs or omelets cooked on a fiercely hot pan from the start take on a richer flavor than when started on a rather cool pan. It is necessary to work fast, however, as overcooking on a very hot pan produces a result that resembles rubber in texture.

Those who enjoy a really good cup of coffee will agree that there is a surprising difference in taste. A cup of real coffee has much more in it than hot water and dark brown color. It should be good if you start with a good blend (ground at home just before using) and are not too economical of the quantity used. For some reason, coffee made in one-cup portions lacks the character of the larger brew. Adding the shells of fresh eggs or a raw egg beaten up with the coffee before boiling, both enriches the flavor and produces a much clearer beverage.

Coffee tastes quite differently when started with cold or hot water. It is the general opinion that a better result is obtained by mixing with a little cold water and bringing to a boil-then add boiling water and set back a few minutes to settle.

Cereals take on a different flavor, depending on whether they are started in cold or hot water. Which is the better flavor is a matter of taste.

WHAT HAPPENS IN COOKING PHYSICAL CHANGES
Wonderful things happen in cooking, and we do not yet know all of them, or the reasons for them-though the reasons for physical changes are better understood than those for chemical changes. Nearly every thing loses weight in cooking. Meat, even when it is boiled in water, loses weight from its shrinkage through heat, which squeezes out much of its water content. Melting of the fat, too, results in loss of weight. More weight in proportion is lost in cooking a small piece of meat than in cooking a large piece, but an allowance of 25% loss in weight is a fair average.

Bread and cakes swell, but though they increase in volume, they lose in weight through evaporation of water. It requires two extra ounces of dough to produce a one-pound loaf of bread. Cereals, also macaroni and other Italian pastes, increase greatly in both weight and volume, through absorption of water. So do dried vegetables and fruits. Though other physical changes occur, those in weight and volume are the most important in cooking.

CHEMICAL CHANGES
The change in color of red meat to gray is one of the physical changes that indicate a chemical change. Heat causes a breaking up of the chemical substance to which meat owes its red tint. The brown crust on the loaf, or on the outside of the cake or pie, means that starch has been changed to dextrin, and sugar caramelized.

In boiling fruit and sugar together, as in making cranberry or apple sauce, a chemical change is brought about in the sugar, which is transformed into another kind of sugar not so sweet as the granulated cane that was originally used. This new sugar is only three-fifths as sweet. Here then is a hint for economy of sugar, by cooking the fruit sauce without sugar, and adding sugar when the fruit is done. In this last way, theoretically, three pounds of sugar will sweeten as much as five pounds that were cooked in with the fruit-provided it was cooked long enough to change it completely into the form of glucose that is only three-fifths as sweet as cane. In any case there will be considerable saving of sugar when it is added last.
Many other important and interesting chemical changes occur in cooking, but a review of them here would not add a great deal of practical value in everyday use of the range.
The foregoing hints are confined largely to the mechanical operation and care of the range. So much depends on the preparation of foods for cooking that the temptation to add several pages of palatable recipes is very strong.

If the range "works well" all the time, both the stove and the draft are all right. If the range has "off days," the chimney draft needs attention. A cleaning out may help or perhaps an extension of the chimney to a point where the air currents will improve the draft.

If you are getting good results only part of the time, you should get much better results the rest of the time, by making a study of the conditions of fire and draft, when the stove is at its best. If the range fails to give satisfaction the greater part of the time, look for serious defects in the range itself or in the conditions of its installation or operation. No range could do satisfactory work any of the time if it had serious defects. If it is racked or broken or worn out, it is past its usefulness. Its operation becomes rapidly more wasteful and irritating and the early installation of a new range will be good economy and good sense.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Wood Kitchen Cook Stove, part 1 - Building and Maintaining a Fire

Cooking on a wood stove. Nothing quite conjures up images of a serene country life and great country cooking like the though of one.

This is part of a series that I came across that I thought would help others. We don't have a wood stove yet (but plan on it in the future). I have heard similar advice before, so I wanted to pass it on. This is part one of a series that I'll be posting. I hope that it's of help. 

BUILDING THE FIRE
A good modern range is designed to get the greatest cooking and heating value out of the flue used. When the range and chimney draft are right, a properly controlled fire will do all the work required, without wasting fuel.

It is therefore necessary to bear in mind that the first problem of better baking is an understanding of the fire. If a match is lighted, the flame shoots upward. The hot blaze causes a DRAFT, drawing fresh air from below and supplying the oxygen necessary for combustion. The range simply makes use of this basic principle on a large scale.

To start the fire, then, have on hand plenty of free-burning fuel-dry paper and wood that is cut small. A folded newspaper will not burn freely, but a few sheets lightly twisted make a good first layer. Then a moderate supply of kindling wood, lay in loosely.

Before lighting, open the door or slide under the fire, also the direct draft to the chimney (over the oven) and the check slide at the base of smoke pipe and also the damper in the smoke pipe. The purpose is to promote a free passage of air up through the firebox to the chimney by the most direct route.

Remember that no stove has a draft of itself. The draft is furnished by the chimney through the stovepipe, which obviously must be tight in all its joints. Light the fire from below and allow it to get a good start. If it burns too slowly, it needs more oxygen, supplied by opening the door wide under the fire. If it burns too fast, it will produce more smoke than the chimney can draw off and the excess will be thrown out into the room. Partly closing the door under the fire will retard it. (The first fire in a new range usually causes a little surface smoke and oily odor. This is harmless and soon passes off).

If using coal...

Before applying coal, add a little more kindling. The grate should be well covered with a brisk fire, both to support and ignite the coal evenly and to prevent waste through the grate.

Never use kerosene to quicken a slow fire.

When the coal fire has a good start the oven damper may be closed.

The process of keeping up a good coal fire is merely one of adding more fuel, and occasionally "shaking down” to remove the ashes under the coal.

Do not allow ashes to collect close up under the grate. In fact, this is about the only way a grate is damaged in ordinary use.

Some housekeepers, who depend upon the kitchen heating adjoining rooms or for continuous hot water, maintain the same coal fire for months at a time.

When not in use for cooking, the oven door may to help heat the adjoining rooms.

CHECKING THE FIRE
If the draft of air through the firebox continues unchecked, the fuel soon burns out, and the top of the range gets red hot-a bad thing for the stove.

This may be accomplished in various ways-by closing tight the door and slide under the fire-by partially closing the damper in the stovepipe or pushing in the slide near the stove pipe collar on top of the range-by opening the slide in the broiler door at the end of the range over the fire- or by tipping the lids or covers over the fire. The chimney keeps pulling for air and reducing the amount of chimney allowing the air to rush in over the fire, instead of through it checks the fire.

Closing the damper over the oven also checks the degree, but the real purpose of this damper is to send the heat around the oven on its way to the chimney.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Game Trails, part 1

People search out game trails for multiple reasons. You could be scouting the area for hunting or trapping or for setting up a stand for hunting. Whatever your reason, I hope that this post is informative and helpful.

Some trails are easier to find than others. They seem to stick out to us. Others may be easy to see, but hard to follow as they seem to go all over the place. My goal for this and subsequent posts along similar lines is to provide some understanding of game trails, how to find them and what they are used for.

The first post will cover what they are and what to look for.

What are game trails?

Game trails are simply trails that game, both small and large use frequently. Game use trails such as these as pathways to and from food plots, water sources and bedding areas.




If you know where these trails are, you know areas where the game frequent, which in turn makes you a better hunter.

Where do you find game trails?

In my opinion, one of the easiest ways to find game trails is to start where they start, at the edge of where a field and woods or thicket meet.

This area is a transitional area as they game move from open ground to the relative protection of reasonable cover.

 
What do I look for?


I've taken several pictures of entrances to game trails that I've found this week.

In order to find game trails, look for areas where there is trampled down vegetation surrounded by area of high (or higher) growth.

When looking at an area to determine if it is a game trail, you can look for several signs, such as dropped food. Are there acorns in the trail?

Another sign to look for is scat (game poop). That is a sign that this trail is being regularly used.

A third sign to look for to determine if the path that your looking at is a game trail is tracks.

Finding a trail of trampled vegetation, scat and tracks are sure fire signs that you've tracked down a game trail.

Whether you like exploring the woods or are scouting out some hunting or trapping areas, I hope that this post was helpful.





Friday, February 1, 2013

Around our homestead...

Today, it's pretty cold. It's currently 14° outside, with a light dusting of snow. What a beautiful sight God has given us to wake up to!


Here are some pictures to start the day...




 
I went outside to check on the chickens and they are fine. They are out and about and all fluffed up, staying warm. 

I love the change in seasons and the look of snow covered trees, etc. Here is a shot of the back of our hen house and part of the chicken run.





I forgot to mention earlier that our chickens started to lay eggs again. Well, at least some of them have as we get a few eggs now and then. They must've heard us talking about what to do with hens that don't lay... lol


I took one of the eggs and made a poached egg on toast for breakfast. I absolutely love the taste of fresh, non-store bought eggs!

Well, that's it for now!

What's happening around your place this morning?