New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can you afford your House Lifestyle? Measuring Cubic Feet

Measuring Cubic Feet

Can you afford your House Lifestyle?

What is a house lifestyle? It isn’t your lifestyle per se, but the lifestyle you live in your home.

To find out what your House Lifestyle is do a Home Usage Audit and collect the following information:

List the following for each room on a separate piece of paper:

  • Square footage and ceiling height
  • List the closet space to each room, including ceiling height
  • How often do you use the room and much time do you spend in that room, doing what. For specialty rooms like bedrooms, baths, kitchen and laundry rooms do not count; sleeping, daily three SSS’s, actually doing the laundry or cooking the 3 squares a day.
  • What you like and dislike about each room.
  • How much time you spend cleaning and or maintaining each room.
  • Collect a year’s worth of heating and cooling bills. If you are really ambitious, also record a year’s worth of actual fuel usage for gas and electric and not just the dollar amounts.

Calculate each room’s square and cubic footage using these formulas:

  • Cubic Feet (or Volume): Volume=length x width x height
  • Square Feet: length x width

Note: Do not use the square footage listed on your deed or real estate brochure. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) suggests that residential property be measured using exterior measurements of the building at each level for real estate legal square footage. (For the purposes of figuring a home's square footage, room dimensions are irrelevant.) Keep in mind that ANSI standards (which are guidelines, not regulations) define finished spaces as any enclosed area that is used year around. It is this measurement that is usually listed on real estate documents.

Measuring rooms

There are a variety of good reasons to measure the rooms in your home. Buying enough paint, wallpaper, or flooring; arranging furniture; and calculating the type of home theater components are just a few.

A third dimension that often comes into play with rooms is ceiling height. Cubic area—that is, width x length x height—is used to calculate the size of air conditioning units and heat pumps.

Measuring cubic feet is the same as measuring square footage. A living room that is 15 x 14 x 8 feet is 1,680 cubic feet. For a room with a cathedral ceiling, the illustration in the next post may help.

Study your usage of each room and if you are like most folks you will undoubtedly find that you have a room or two that you rarely use and another room that you would use more often if it were larger or warmer or brighter, etc.

For instance when I did this with one of my homes I found that I rarely used my large master bedroom or bath (beyond sleeping, getting dressed and the daily 3 S’s) and often wanted more space in my kitchen/family room. Or maybe you don’t use those formal living and dining rooms more than 3-6 times per year when you need the space to seat your guests.

Now look at the time you spend each year cleaning and maintaining these rooms that are not used all that often. Then add in the cost each year to heat and cool these rooms.

To find out what it costs you to heat and cool each cubic foot of your home divide the annual cost of heating and cooling by the total cubic feet of the house. Be sure to include the cubic feet to any closets. This is your cost per cubic foot to heat and cool your house. To see what this averages out to per room just take this dollar amount and multiply by cubic feet to that particular room.

Some of the items that affect the cost and strain on heating and cooling units for your home are:

  • Number of: walls, halls, doors and archways. An archway here means one that is door to double door width and not the whole width of a room archway. In general this is anything that affects natural air circulation.
  • The building material used and insulation or thermal envelope of the home. The tighter the seal of the house to the outside the better the thermal envelope is.
  • Window types and their orientation to the elements. Are these deep seated or shallow; large or small; thermal glazed or thermal paned.

This Usage Audit is your Home Lifestyle. You may think of yourselves as sophisticated urbanites that do a lot of formal entertaining when in reality you are just people that do entertain and have cocktail parties but the formal part is a myth. Yet you pay in time and money to have those rooms to entertain in. Or you may feel you have really moved up in the world with that large master bedroom and spa bath yet rarely have the time to enjoy them while you have another room that is used much more frequently on a day to day basis that could use more space. On top of this wasted space you are paying to heat, cool and maintain it.

Be honest here and don’t get side tracked by the marketing and advertising on those “Home & Garden” shows. All those rooms, all that space and all those walls, halls, doors and archways cost money to heat and cool; time and money to clean and maintain. Sure they look great but that is just the décor NOT the size or number of rooms and that is the marketing hype to sell you on that style home. If you don’t or won’t use it, don’t buy it or build it.

Wow a lot of time and money goes into rooms in your home that are rarely used while other rooms would be used more often if “improved”. Today time and money are the two items that just about everyone could use more of!

If you are relocating due to your job or are looking to downsize because of the economy then I strongly suggest that you also take the time to do a Home Contents Audit.

To do a Home Contents Audit, perform the following:

  • Check every drawer and closet in the entire house and determine the last two times you used or wore that item.
  • If the item has not been used or worn in the last year and has no sentimental or monetary value, set it aside for a garage sale or give it away.
  • If the item has not been used or worn in the last year but does have some sentimental or monetary value, set it aside for box storage. Those vacuum shrink type plastic storage bags are perfect for clothing, bedspreads and other cloth items that you wish to keep but do not use.
  • Do the same with any garden shed, garage or attic items.
  • Clothing items that are too worn to be used again should be put in the scrap pile or thrown out. If the “gadget”, tool, toy or whatever is broken – throw it out. Items in good shape but no longer used, sell or give away.

Once you are down to what you use or need to keep for sentimental or monetary reason, you will probably find that your closets and drawers have tons of space. This is a good thing if you are moving because the resulting space is what you really need so you won’t be tempted to purchase a house that has large closets, attics or garages. Not only that but all these interior drawers, dressers and closets cost you money to heat and cool no matter what size house you are in!

The last thing to consider if you are going to relocate is to look at your front and back yards and decide what you like and don’t like, plus what it costs you in time and money to maintain.

If cost cutting is your ultimate goal take a look at alternative landscaping options. This is where your yard has native plants, edible plants and low maintenance grasses and plants. Look for items for your yards that you will use but will not require lots of fertilizers, maintenance or water. Reduce the time and money needed to mow, trim, prune, weed and nourish your yards and that is more money and time for other things (from savings to fun stuff). Keep in mind there is no such thing as a “no maintenance” yard unless your yard is the wilderness.

Now that the hard work is done with the Usage and Contents Audits it is time to think about what you will need for your Home Lifestyle in your new home.

If you need a place to put that family dining table and the space to seat your extended family around it, look for a home with a large kitchen/dining area that is all one room. You need the space not the separation.

Likewise if you only use the formal living room when you do your large entertaining but only because everyone can’t fit elsewhere, then look for a home that has a large enough kitchen/dining/family room without all the walls, halls, doors and archways that rob the house of air circulation and increase the heating and costs.

Don’t use those walk-in closets or huge bedrooms and baths, then look for a home with good sized closets, bedrooms and baths. Space is not needed to make a room look and feel luxurious, only the décor does that and the smaller spaces are cheaper to heat and cool.

Have young children? Think twice about a house that has the master bedroom on another floor or opposite side of the house. In an emergency do you really want to take the seconds needed to get up those stairs or to the other side of the house or yell through those walls?

Also remember that the square footage on that real estate handout is not the interior square footage and the amount of square footage does not mean that it is all usable square footage.

I once owned a home that was 1053 square feet of interior space and it was more usable, livable and comfortable than a house I had that was 2000 interior square feet. The smaller house was 1/3rd cheaper to heat and cool too!

My ideal home would have a Public and Private wing. The public wing would be one room where each corner had a purpose – kitchen, dining, living/family rooms with a laundry room off the kitchen side that was just large enough to wash, iron and sew. The private wing would house the 4 bedrooms with modest 6 foot wide standard depth closets and two full baths that are big enough for two adult males to stand side-by-side at the twin sinks with their elbows out but not touching. All through the house would be built-ins. My yard would be edible and low maintenance. I actually have plans for such a house that is about 1600 interior square feet all on one level, waiting for suitable land to build on.

You know have the basic tools and knowledge to make good use or remodel your existing home or purchase a new home. So go for it and enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why Homesteading and Self-Reliant Living Information?

To be honest I have wanted to live independent of at least utilities since the 1970’s. Mainly because I felt the utility companies were ripping us off and in some ways I still believe that today.

“… The more you depend on forces outside yourself, the more you are dominated by them.” Harold Sherman

As I continued living on this earth and traveled I matured and experienced more things which caused me to add even more reasons to this independence that I sought. What things? You name it. I backpacked around North America and really saw this land that the U.S., Canada and Mexico reside in. I saw several Hawaiian volcanoes, Mt. St. Helens, Glacier, Arches, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone parks. I traveled to South America and experienced the Cloud Forest and Chilean Coast. I remember sandbagging on the Mississippi and volunteering in Mexico City. I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan and my grandparent’s farm; I lived on a Co-op and became an adult in the Philly area.

Backpacking all over the place has given me a great appreciation of “Mother Nature” in all her beauty, glory and tantrums and above all, the mystery she is shrouded in.

I have been fascinated with history for a long time now. The why, where and how people lived and what humans have collectively learned over time. What I read, experienced, saw and felt was the worst and best that humans on this planet revel in and endure.

“History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.” General Douglas MacArthur

All of this got me to thinking and realizing that just about anything can happen at any time in any place. Add to this the influence of human civilizations and governments and this list of possible miracles, trials and tribulations increases exponentially.

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Chief Seattle, 1854

My career has had me living in urban or suburban areas most of my life and I have almost always had a vegetable and medicinal herb garden and sought other forms of energy. Throughout my life I have survived through many monetary tight spots too.

"At the bottom no one in life can help anyone else in life; this one experiences over and over in every conflict and every perplexity: that one is alone. That isn't as bad as it may first appear; and again it is the best thing in life that each should have everything in himself; his fate, his future, his whole expanse and world." Rainer Maria Rilke 1875-1926

Politically I became disillusioned way back in the 70’s. I have been a long time Independent voter for a number of reasons – from the “flip side of the same coin” Republican and Democrat platforms to the political propaganda I have personally witnessed over the years. Add in that great teaching tool of history where our founding fathers didn’t want our new government “restricted” by political “factions” (parties) and one can see why I politically distance myself from any political party. I do strongly believe in our Constitution and Bill of Rights and am extremely thankful to the founding fathers of this nation for fighting so hard for them. My immigrant grandparents believed in these documents so much they left their native country and crossed the Atlantic to get here. Politically I am neither a Conservative nor Progressive and don’t believe in any existing political party enough to support them. If I must be pigeon holed then I guess I am a Moderate Constitutionalist who believes in bio-diversity and freedom in all things.

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government." - Thomas Jefferson

So, over the years I have been called all kinds of things from a survivalist, to a wacko. No problem, people can call me whatever they want, I am what I am. However I do strongly suggest that people try to at least understand why I am this way before they believe whatever they want about me.

What this all boils down to is I see history repeating itself today. Spiraling towards human-made economic collapse with some environmental catastrophes all because of some kind of perverted greed for control, power and money over others; some God-like mentality that any one person or group of humans is better or more worthy than another. I see generations of humans who for some reason, no longer feel the need or know how, to take responsibility or care for themselves.

We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. Albert Einstein

We humans have disconnected ourselves from growing our own food, building our own homes or making our own clothes. Instead we rely on all these human-made infrastructures to do this and numerous other day-to-day things for us.

Depend not on another, but lean instead on thyself. True happiness is born of self-reliance. The Laws of Manu

Couple all of this with my personal living experiences and one can see why I am preparing for when these infrastructures are no longer readily available. Today I am what people call a “Prepper”, someone preparing for the worst that human civilization and nature can throw our way.

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For the last 30-40 years I have been working towards self-reliance and have finally reached a point where it is within my grasp. Because of the unpredictable reactions of humans in a crisis, I have contingency plans for almost all of the possible catastrophes that may occur. One can never stop preparing since we humans seem to have the uncanny knack to constantly come up with new ways to do ourselves harm.

Hence all the articles and information on various catastrophes and how to not only survive them, but live well during and after them. I think of people like myself as modern era Pioneers setting the foundation for future civilizations to grow on and passing this accumulated knowledge to future generations.

So Prep On and enjoy what I share.

Note: My apologies to any entity (individual or corporate) if I have infringed on a document by posting it here. I have been collecting information since the 70's and as a result may inadvertently post something that I should not. Just have it removed. I am only trying to share the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years and in no way am attempting to earn monies off this information or rip anyone off. Thank you one and all ;-}

“It's not a single idea, but many ideas and attitudes, including a reverence for nature and a preference for country life; a desire for maximum personal self-reliance and creative leisure; a concern for family nurture and community cohesion; a certain hostility toward luxury; a belief that the primary reward of work should be well-being rather than money; a certain nostalgia for the supposed simplicities of the past and an anxiety about the technological and bureaucratic complexities of the present and the future; and a taste for the plain and functional.” unknown

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bartering and the IRS

I often wondered how (not when or if) the IRS would handle Bartering. I mean they go after “black market” traders for tax evasion so I just kind of thought; they must do that with bartering as well.

So guess what? They do!!!!!

Humm, it appears (as of 2010) that nothing is sacred as far as our government is concerned except their own pockets.

Read’em and weep ;-{


Bartering is an exchange of property or services. You must include in your income, at the time received, the fair market value of property or services you receive in bartering. If you exchange services with another person and you both have agreed ahead of time on the value of the services, that value will be accepted as fair market value unless the value can be shown to be otherwise.

Generally, you report this income on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040). However, if the barter involves an exchange of something other than services, such as in Example 4 below, you may have to use another form or schedule instead.

Example 1.

You are a self-employed attorney who performs legal services for a client, a small corporation. The corporation gives you shares of its stock as payment for your services. You must include the fair market value of the shares in your income on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) in the year you receive them.

Example 2.

You are a self-employed accountant. You and a house painter are members of a barter club. Members get in touch with each other directly and bargain for the value of the services to be performed. In return for accounting services you provided, the house painter painted your home. You must report as your income on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) the fair market value of the house painting services you received. The house painter must include in income the fair market value of the accounting services you provided.

Example 3.

You are self-employed and a member of a barter club. The club uses credit units as a means of exchange. It adds credit units to your account for goods or services you provide to members, which you can use to purchase goods or services offered by other members of the barter club. The club subtracts credit units from your account when you receive goods or services from other members. You must include in your income the value of the credit units that are added to your account, even though you may not actually receive goods or services from other members until a later tax year.

Example 4.

You own a small apartment building. In return for 6 months rent-free use of an apartment, an artist gives you a work of art she created. You must report as rental income on Schedule E (Form 1040) the fair market value of the artwork, and the artist must report as income on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) the fair rental value of the apartment.

Form 1099-B from barter exchange. If you exchanged property or services through a barter exchange, Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, or a similar statement from the barter exchange should be sent to you by February 16, 2010. It should show the value of cash, property, services, credits, or scrip you received from exchanges during 2009. The IRS also will receive a copy of Form 1099-B.

Backup withholding. The income you receive from bartering generally is not subject to regular income tax withholding. However, backup withholding will apply in certain circumstances to ensure that income tax is collected on this income.

Under backup withholding, the barter exchange must withhold, as income tax, 28% of the income if:

  • • You do not give the barter exchange your taxpayer identification number (generally a social security number or an employer identification number), or
  • • The IRS notifies the barter exchange that you gave it an incorrect identification number.

If you join a barter exchange, you must certify under penalties of perjury that your taxpayer identification number is correct and that you are not subject to backup withholding. If you do not make this certification, backup withholding may begin immediately. The barter exchange will give you a Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, or a similar form, for you to make this certification. The barter exchange will withhold tax only up to the amount of any cash paid to you or deposited in your account and any scrip or credit issued to you (and converted to cash).

If tax is withheld from your barter income, the barter exchange will report the amount of tax withheld on Form 1099-B, or similar statement.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Online Chat Tue Feb 16th gathering- Back to the Basics

Tue Feb 16th gathering- Back to the Basics

Back To Basics Tuesday, February 16, 2010 from 7-8:30 PM EST, 6-7:30 PM CST, 5-6:30 PM MST, 4-530 PM PST

From Preparing For The Future:

We would like to invite all, or as many as possible, of our members to join us in chat on Tuesday evening from 7-8:30EST for a discussion on "Back to
the Basics", find more info here

This is a weekly get together to discuss different topics of interest to all. Hope you can join us.

Thanks, The Management

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Who Really Started the New Tea Party Movement?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who Started The Tea Party movement?

So, you want to know who "really" started the Tea Party movement? Well, it wasn't Sarah Palin. It wasn't Ron Paul either. It certainly wasn't the Republicans (although the socialist Democrats would have you believe there's some sort of GOP conspiracy), It wasn't Fox News and It wasn't even Alex Jones. It seems these days there are a lot of people claiming to be the first to have started the Tea Party movement. I'll tell you right now that none of those people were. You see, I actually do my homework. Now, I certainly do give credit to people like Ron Paul and Alex Jones as being major leaders in the Patriot and Tea Party movements. There's no way those movements would be what they are today without their efforts.

Now, if you want to get real specific, the Tea Party movement was actually started by those great patriots who lived in Boston, Massachusetts back in December 16 1773 at the original Tea Party

But in order to set the record straight, we're going to focus on this particular modern movement and where it stems from. Yes, for decades since the original Tea Party, patriots have been talking amongst themselves about having another Boston Tea Party, some people may have even pondered over mailing tea bags to our congressmen and Senators. But this current Tea Party movement can be traced back to one single persons post on one single thread on one single forum and I'm about to show you proof and evidence by tracing back.

Anyone who knows anything about the current Tea Party movement knows that it originated from sending Tea bags to the white house to protest TARP. Watch the following YouTube Video Dated April 15th 2009 (Obama Gets Tea Bagged at White House)

Here's a news report: MANCHESTER, N.H. Apr 02/2009-- An envelope with a suspicious substance in it was sent to U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter's Manchester office. Shea-Porter's staff notified Manchester police when they received the suspicious envelope. Officials were able to determine that the substance was green tea and had been sent as a protest.

Now Watch This video. Rachel Maddow makes fun of the Tea Party movement referencing "Teabagging" and gives credit to the Republicans. The Republicans weren't the first to take Credit. Credit was handed to them by the Socialist Democrats who made up a GOP Conspiracy. (The Rachel Maddow Show: Insani-…)

Now long before Fox News, the Republicans, and even Alex Jones mentioned anything about mailing Tea bags, we posted about it right here on American Preppers Network on January 24th 2009. Several people re-posted on other sites: Florida Preppers Network on the 24th, Mayberry Keep it simple Survival on the 25th, and many many more.

As a matter of fact, you can go to Google and search this exact phrase along with the quotes, the same phrase that begins the original article:

"So long as we have an inauguration drawing this sort of crowd and not a protest about our government blowing $700 billion of our dollars"

And then if you go to the bottom and click... "repeat the search with the omitted results included" you will see that over 795 sites re-posted that exact same article....Many of them were posted on extremely high traffic sites. Millions of people read that article. There is no doubt that that article going viral is what stemmed the current Tea party movement.

Now, where did that article come from? As much as it would be nice to take credit for it, and while we did beat Fox News, Glen Beck, and Alex Jones, we certainly weren't the first. So where did I receive the article from?

Back on the 23rd of January of 2009 I received an E-mail from John at saying that we should do this, "Mail our Tea bags to Obama before he takes his seat in the West Wing." I was all for it. One thing I did notice is that he failed to include the White House address, so I edited the article before posting it and mailing out. If you received the viral email "with" the White house address included, then the chances are you got it from my chain, if not, then you got it from the original thread.

So was John the originator of that first thread? Oh, that would be so cool wouldn't it? Well, as much as I'd like to give him credit as the originator of the idea, I can't. He and his wife certainly were amongst the very first few that made this all happen and it might not even be anything close to what it is today had they not jumped on it, as a matter of fact, it might not have happened at all. You see, they worked tirelessly sending out hundreds and hundreds of emails trying to get others to do the same. They emailed Big John, no response. Alex Jones, no response and many many others, with no response. Who responded? People in the blogging community, people like Mayberry, and mamma bear who was moderating the Florida Preppers Network at the time. Average bloggers like us.

Where did John and his wife get the article from?

Right here:

That original email that went viral was first posted on January 23rd 2009 on John and his wife immediately began sending out emails, as many as possible. You can see where they even left a comment on the 24th in that thread under the screen name Pioneer.

Where did Break The Matrix get the post? It was a feed from this site:

The original post that started the whole Current Tea Party Movement was posted by Karl Denniger From the Market Ticker on January 20th 2009. In the post, he states that he cannot take credit for the idea as it was floated around by others in their forum.

What forum? Right here:

What Thread? Right here:

Who started it all? The person who did that post, the one goes by the user name of Gmack. He posted on January, 19th 2009 an article with the title: Mail a Teabag to Congress and Senate. You can clearly see that he posts the idea, and the forum moderator then edits his post a bit and then everyone gets in the discussion and starts throwing the idea around.

Now prior to that thread being started, and during and after, there are other threads where people are discussing protests etc... Just as on many many other forums. But what makes this post unique is that this particular forum and this particular user who posted about it is who Karl Denniger is talking about in his article, the one that went viral, the one that stemmed the Current Tea Party Movement.

And now you can quote Paul Harvey's famous line.

Posted by Tom Martin
Feb 10th, 2010

If you've found this article of interest, you may republish it on your blog or website as long as you link back to APN.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Did You Know? – History of Food Preservation

I love history, it is chock full of information and gives many insights into how and why we do things the way we do. Take food preservation. Today we have a multitude of methods, most of which are new technology based techniques of eons ago to make them quick and easy.

According to Brian A. Nummer, Ph.D. of the National Center for Home Food Preservation; “food preservation has permeated every culture at nearly every moment in time” and in order for ancient man to survive he had to conquer nature and that included having food when and where we needed it. In the frozen climates humans froze the fish and seal meat on the ice; In the tropics humans dried foods in the sun.

We probably learned by accident what worked and what didn’t or what nourished and what poisoned. Then using oral and by example, we taught the next generation what we learned. As human’s matured and collective knowledge grew we devised other ways to pass information along to the next generation from wampum belts, drawings on animal hides and cliffs to symbolic writing to mechanical printing and movies.

Food by its nature begins to spoil the moment it is harvested. The accumulative knowledge of humans helped our ancestors to make roots, stay and live in one place and form communities. We no longer had to consume the kill or eat the harvest immediately but could save it for later use. Various methods to preserve food were dictated by environmental regions and relied on what nature could do to assist. Ancient humans were smart enough to see this, learn from it, take advantage of it and pass the knowledge on.

Some preserved foods probably became cultural, religious and or ceremonial “traditions” and not just for sustenance. Today more and more humans live in cities and procure foods commercially. We have been removed from the rural self-sufficient way and knowledge of life. Humans have shifted from preserving food because we have to, to the commercially preserved foods because we can. Since gardens seem to be almost everywhere, even in small city apartments, I have often wondered if some instinctual knowledge keeps us tied to plants and things that grow and if this is why we still have the passed on skills of preserving foods the old fashioned way.

The earliest technique of food preparation or preservation was probably cooking, which not only extended the range of edible matter but also increased the usable lifetime of the food item itself.

The multitude of traditional preservation techniques can be classified into the categories of chemical treatments, biological processes and the use of physical barriers.

  • Chemical treatments include salting, smoking, and adding sugar, vinegar, or saltpeter, together with drying.
  • Biological processes include fermentation or related techniques (used in making beer, wine, cheese, butter, yogurt, sauerkraut, and other products), and application of spices, many of which not only disguise spoilage but actually retard it.
  • Physical barriers include storage of the food in oil, fat, wax, brine, or vinegar, or in a tightly sealed pot.
  • Another effective technique, used since time immemorial (and not just by humans), is burial in soil. Food kept cool in a cellar, well, or stream lasts longer as well.
Some preservation techniques have become so intimately connected with culinary arts that their former purposes have been concealed by the latter.

  • The sharpest (and most actively antibacterial) spices have been used preferentially in warm climates from earliest times.
  • Bacon and ham are still consumed with their smoky, salty, nitrated flavors, independent of any fear of spoilage.
  • Did you know that carbonation was introduced into soft drinks principally for its preservative action on the sweet syrup that otherwise would rapidly sour or ferment?
  • Yeast, alcohol, carbonation and flavorings such as hops preserve the sweet solution of malted grain that becomes beer.
  • Even bread making can be considered a technique that extends the palatable lifetime of the grain pastes and porridges consumed in most traditional cultures.
Industrialization offered both new opportunities and new requirements for food technologies.

  • On the one hand, the greater efficiency of food distribution offered some insurance against the cycles of feast and famine that characterize traditional agricultural societies.
  • On the other hand, urbanization and faster means of transportation also meant that distances between the producers and consumers of foodstuffs gradually increased; foods had to survive the trip, as well as subsequent temporary storage in food shops.
In 1810, the French confectioner Nicolas Appert published a technique for sealing heated food in containers; his glass jars, soon replaced by handmade tinned-steel canisters, started the canning industry.

In 1869 Appert's countryman Hippolyte Mège Mouriès developed a manufacturing process for a butter substitute with good keeping properties, made from animal products and named “margarine.”

Both Appert and Mège Mouriès knew of the French army's interest in such inventions; Napoleon I promoted canning and Napoleon III margarine, explicitly for military purposes.

In the mid-nineteenth century, efforts to maximize profits from the large-scale agriculture of the Americas exercised the ingenuity of inventors.

  • Salt pork and whisky were regarded as complementary methods of “concentrating” the food value of American grain in a stably preserved fashion.
  • The Texas dairyman Gail Borden developed techniques to prepare evaporated and sweetened condensed milk, and then (in the 1850s) a powdered skimmed milk that could keep almost indefinitely.
  • The German chemist and entrepreneur Justus von Liegib invented a process for “extract of beef” that was industrialized in cities neighboring the Argentinian pampas.
  • Meat packers in Cincinnati and later Chicago developed efficient methods to butcher hogs and then cattle by a sort of mass-production dis-assembly line.
  • The huge yields of grain from the Great Plains increased still further under an aggressively inventive mechanization of plowing, planting, and harvesting and newly industrialized milling and distribution networks.
  • Roller milling of wheat and bleaching of flour dramatically lowered the price of white bread, which not only had higher status but also better keeping properties than whole-wheat bread.
The Union army in the American Civil War exploited all of these advances in food technology. After the war, accelerating urbanization and industrialization and the spread of railroads and steamboats, promoted the same advances throughout the world.

Refrigeration, first by use of natural ice and after about 1880 also by mechanical means, provided a means to expand further the distribution of fresh foodstuffs.

Food processors also increased their use of chemical additives, now supplied by a chemical industry developing rapidly in Europe.

Sulfites, borax, salicylic and benzoic acids all found application in nineteenth-century processing, increasingly from about 1870. Some of these chemical preservatives were suspected of being hazardous to human health. A controversy erupted over “embalmed meat” during the Spanish-American War—the highly poisonous formaldehyde had been used to stabilize military rations—and gave impetus to the movement to regulate additives and food adulteration.

The bacteriology of Louis Pasteur and others provided a rational basis for understanding food spoilage, previously dealt with on an empirical basis. It was now understood that most decay processes involved the action of microorganisms and that both traditional and later chemical techniques of preservation either destroyed these organisms or inhibited their growth. Pasteur's studies led to the heat treatment known as pasteurization, applied as early as the 1860s to beer and wine and by the turn of the century to milk as well.

Food can be preserved by low temperatures. There was a thriving frozen meat trade in the nineteenth century, but mass marketing of a broad range of frozen food awaited the innovations of Clarence Birdseye, who developed a quick-freezing system in the 1920s.

After home refrigerators became common in the following decade, consumers eagerly embraced frozen foods. Not all preservation techniques have been successful, however.

Gamma-ray irradiation of foods using radioactive sources, introduced in the 1960s, has never enjoyed commercial success. The procedure kills microorganisms that cause decay, but consumers associate the process with dangers of radioactivity.

The food processing and additives industries expanded explosively after World War II, partly owing to wartime innovations and partly as the result of commercial and social developments.

Processed foods—TV dinners, frozen vegetables, ready-to-eat products and other “convenience foods”—became increasingly popular; many of these required the heavy use of chemical additives and other processing techniques.

Large corporations mass marketed much of the world's food supply in the second half of the century.

Many consumers live in environments in which automobiles, suburban communities, supermarkets, home refrigerators and freezers and personal habits (of weekly rather than daily food shopping, for example) indirectly dictate the sort of foods required. The food processing industry has become an integral part of these patterns.

All of this inventiveness has led us away from the basic, tried and true, methods of food preservation. Add to this the social/economic trials of civilizations today and many of us are returning to these more traditional methods of not only obtaining food stuffs but preserving them as well.

Types of Food Preservation

The drying of foods is seen in the Middle East and oriental cultures that were actively using dried foods as early as 12,000 B.C. in their hot, dry environments. As time passed each culture left a myriad of other evidence of their methods and materials as well as their food supplies of the time; usually fish, wild game, domestic animals and the like.

Herbs, fruits and vegetables were dried from the early Romans to the Middle Ages where peoples purposely built “still houses” for the drying of foods in areas where they did not have enough strong sunlight for drying. A fire was used in these houses to create the heat they needed to dry the foods and in some cases smoking them.

Freezing caught on real quick in the northernmost cold climates or areas that had freezing temperatures for at least part of the year. History shows us that in less than freezing temperatures people prolonged stored food items in caves and cool streams and the invention of the root cellar or cold room.

As technology advanced United States estates often had icehouses built to store food on ice, as well as the ice. These turned into the icebox and in the 1800’s mechanical refrigeration was invented.

  • In the late 1800s Clarence Birdseye discovered that quick freezing at very low temperatures made for better tasting meats and vegetables and once he perfected his quick freeze process he virtually revolutionized the frozen food industry.
Like many inventions, fermentation was discovered by accident. History shows that people used their skill to observe, harness and encourage fermentations that resulted in food and drink items. So much so that some anthropologists believe that humans went from nomadic peoples and settled down once they discovered farmers who grew barley to make beer. Beer making can roughly be traced back to 10,000 B.C. and was nutritious as well as the euphoria of the alcohol. The various microorganisms responsible for fermentations can produce vitamins as they ferment producing a more nutritious end product.

Pickling was probably “invented” when food was placed in wine or beer to preserve it. The low pH and the taste of the food in the wine and beer, once it soured, was found to be rather appealing. Pickling is preserving foods in vinegar or other similar acid. Vinegar is produced from starches or sugars fermented first to alcohol and then when it oxidized or went sour by certain bacteria into an acetic acid. Wines, beers and ciders are routinely transformed into vinegars.

Our early ancestors used earthen, stoneware or glass pots for this. Metal was quickly discarded as a storage medium since the acid of the vinegar would dissolve the metal. Romans made a concentrated fish pickle sauce called garum. This was powerful stuff having a lot of fish taste to just a few drops.

The sixteenth century saw a great increase in food preservation as new foods entered Europe. Ketchup was an Oriental fish brine that traveled the spice route to Europe and on to America. It was here in the United States that someone finally added sugar to it to make the ketchup we know today.

People are inventive and soon started to add various spices to the pickling sauces and recipes. Resulting in chutneys, relishes, piccalillis, mustards and ketchups became common place.

  • Worchester sauce was an accident from a forgotten barrel of special relish that was found in the basement of Lea and Perrins Chemist shop after aging for many years.
The earliest curing was a form of dehydration. Early peoples used salt to help desiccate foods as salting was common and considered culinary by choosing raw salts from different sources (rock salt, sea salt, spiced salt, etc). In the 1800s people “discovered” that certain sources of salt gave meat a red color instead of the usual grey. Even then consumers preferred the red colored meat to grey. When salt is used on meat they were the nitrites or saltpeter. In the 1920s the science of microbiology realized that nitrites inhibited Clostridium botulinum organism.

During Medieval times when it was not economical to keep and feed animals during the winter, the animals were slaughtered in the autumn and then preserved or cured with salt. There were two methods for salt preservation of meats; Dry-salting where the meat or fish is buried in salt and Brine-curing where the meat was soaked in salt water.

Because this made everything taste of salt various methods to disguise this taste were developed with spices from the Orient. The most common of these spices included Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger, Saffron, Cardamom, Coriander, Cumin, Garlic, Turmeric, Mace, Anise, Caraway and Mustard. Food was also served with a variety of sauces which also disguised the salt taste. Salted meats and fish were generally rinsed in several changes of liquid before they were added to a dish and served.

Jam and Jelly with the use of honey or sugar and Gelatine for preservation was well known and common to the earliest cultures. Jelly or gelatine was used for preserving cooked meat or fresh fish. Food may be preserved by cooking in a material, such as gelatine, that solidifies to form a gel. Some foods naturally form a protein gel when cooked such as eels. Ancient Greece mixed quince with honey, dried somewhat and packed tightly into jars. The Romans improved on this method by cooking the quince and honey producing a solid texture. Fruits & nuts could be candied with sugar or honey in order to prolong their life

The same trading between India and the Orient which brought pickled foods to Europe also brought the sugar cane. Northern climates that did not have enough sunlight to dry fruits, learned to make preserves – the heating of fruit with sugar and jams and jellies were born.

One of the newer methods of food preservation is canning, which is the process of foods placed in jars or cans and then heated to a temperature that destroys the bad microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. This heating and subsequent cooling forms a vacuum seal which prevents other microorganisms from re-contaminating the food within the jar or can as long as the seal lasts.

French confectioner, Nicolas Appert discovered that the application of heat to food in sealed glass bottles preserved the food from deterioration. He theorized “if it works for wine, why not other foods?” Appert thought that the exclusion of air was responsible for the preservations. Somewhere around 1806 Appert’s principles were successfully trialed by the French Navy on foods from meat, vegetables, fruit and even milk. In 1810 Englishman, Peter Durand used this method with tin cans.

In 1864 Louis Pasteur discovered the relationship between microorganisms, food spoilage and the resulting illnesses. Just prior to this discovery by Pasteur, Raymond Chevalier-Appert patented the pressure retort or canner in 1851 to can at temperatures higher than 212F. Yet it still took until the 1920s to completely understand the cause and effect relationship between the temperatures, air tightness and Clostridium botulinum prevention.

In 1800 Napoleon offered a prize for food preparation and awarded the prize in 1810 for Vacuum Packing. Initially peas in champagne bottles were used as they were the only items that could fit in the existing champagne small mouthed glass bottles that were both airtight and strong enough to handle the process.

Wide mouthed glass jars soon replaced the bottles in commercial canneries, followed by cylindrical tin or wrought-iron canisters or cans as we now call them.

The basic process of freeze-drying food was known to the ancient Peruvian Incas of the Andes. Freeze-drying, or lyophilization, is the sublimation/removal of water content from frozen food. The dehydration occurs under a vacuum, with the plant/animal product solidly frozen during the process. Shrinkage is eliminated or minimized, and a near-perfect preservation results.

Freeze-dried food lasts longer than other preserved food and is very light, which makes it perfect for space travel. The Incas stored their potatoes and other food crops on the mountain heights above Machu Picchu. The cold mountain temperatures froze the food and the water inside slowly vaporized under the low air pressure of the high altitudes.

During World War II, the freeze-dried process was developed commercially when it was used to preserve blood plasma and penicillin.

Freeze-drying requires the use of a special machine called a freeze-dryer, which has a large chamber for freezing and a vacuum pump for removing moisture. Over 400 different types of freeze-dried foods have been commercially produced since the 1960s.

Freeze-dried coffee was first produced in 1938 and lead to the development of powdered food products. Freeze-dried coffee is the best-known freeze-dried product along with MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) which replaced the military canned rations (C Ration) in the early 1980s.

Two bad candidates for freeze-drying are lettuce and watermelon because they have too high a water content and freeze-dry poorly.

The Time Is Now

Ok, now you have the whys and wherefores of food preservation. As a homesteader in tough times you have an idea of which processes you can use for your own food storage situation. You also have the knowledge and confidence that these processes have passed the tests of time.

To learn more, select a process that you are unfamiliar with to try out every other month or so, starting with small batches of food product.

There are many books and resources on the internet on the best practices and recipes for each of these processes.

Talk to a relative, friend or neighbor who knows how to do a process you do not.

Throw a canning or pickling party where the most experienced person in your group teaches the rest of you how to perform the process.

Dehydrate or jerk some meat or dry some of your herbs and spices.

Yes Virginia, learning can be fun as well as functional !

From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading, Prepper.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Preparedness Probability Scenario # 1 - Americas Failing Infrastructure

In a previous article on How to be a Prepper, I stated that one had to evaluate their own individual concerns and that each of us would have a different set of those concerns and priorities. This is very true and knowing what to prepare for is a big step to actually being prepared.

“Preparedness is not just about stockpiling, it's about having an actual plan.” Mike Ryan

Today the History Channel replayed a program called “The Crumbling of America”. This program shows what I feel is our top probability of danger and disaster - our failing infrastructure. The summary of the show is as follows:

America's infrastructure is collapsing. Tens of thousands of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. A third of the nation's highways are in poor or mediocre shape. Massively leaking water and sewage systems are creating health hazards and contaminating rivers and streams. Weakened and under-maintained levees and dams tower over communities and schools. And the power grid is increasingly maxed out, disrupting millions of lives and putting entire cities in the dark. The Crumbling of America explores these problems using expert interviews, on location shooting and computer generated animation to illustrate the kinds of infrastructure disasters that could be just around the bend. – The History Channel web site.

What is even more disturbing is the side by side comparison of the 2001, 2005 and 2009 ASCE (The American Society of Civil Engineers) report card of America's infrastructure in fifteen categories found at:

Infrastructure Category 2001 2005 2009 Notes from 2009
Aviation D D+ D Outdated traffic control system.
Bridges C C C 26% of the nation's bridges are deficient or obsolete.
Dams D D D 4,000 deficient dams. 1,819 are high hazard.
Drinking Water D D- D- $11 billion needed to replace aging facilities.
Energy (National Power Grid) D+ D D+ $1.5 trillion needed investment by 2030. Physical
deterioration increasing rapidly.
Hazardous Waste D+ D D Superfund cleanup of the worst toxic waste sites has declined steadily.
Inland Navigable Waterways D+ D- D- $125 billion needed for replacement of locks.
Levees D- $100 billion needed to repair the nation's levees.(Not graded prior to Katrina)
Public Parks & Recreation C- C- $7 billion maintenance backlog.
Rail C- C- $200 billion needed for growth.
Roads D+ D D- 4.2 billion hours lost per year stuck in traffic cost $78.2 billion. $186 billion needed to improve the nation’s highways alone.
Schools D- D D $322 billion needed for repair.
Solid Waste C+ C+ C+ Public safety threatened by increasing disposal of electronic waste.
Transit C- D+ D $15.8 billion needed to maintain conditions, $21.6 billion needed to improve from current to good conditions.
Wastewater D D- D- $390 billion needed over the next 20 years.
Overall D+ D D Investment needed $2.2 trillion.

You will notice that these report cards are on the “Public Work Projects” that are controlled, supplied and paid for by city, state and federal government funding. Also note the categories that do not have any grades prior to 2005 or 2009 and then go and check news archives after 2001 on those categories. You will find that some kind of catastrophe occurred that resulted in injuries, illnesses or deaths in each of categories.

This is nothing new and is our highest probability threat in America today followed closely by an unfriendly attack on one or more of these systems by a threatening faction. On top of this a lot of these categories rely on each other at some point. Think about it – America is second to none in centralized production and mass distribution from energy, to food, to water, to waste. Sooo ...

If a road or bridge fails or is flooded it is of no use and nothing moves very easily in or out of that area. If electricity or the Grid fails (our worst case scenario); no power to pump gas or get cash from your bank or ATM and most urban water supplies become unreachable; planes cannot fly because radar is not working; trains cannot run because all the safety lights and switches are not working; food and supply lines literally stop dead in their tracks; oil and gas cannot be pumped or transported around the country so there goes heating and cooling and manufacturing; no power for cell phones , landlines or the internet so communication is halted; the economy of the United States is virtually at a standstill.

Where would you and your loved ones be? What would you do? Remember the “What If” game from the “Being Prepared” posting? Go back and play the game again and this time add at least one infrastructure category to each situation. If you use a GRID failure as your scenario, this will at least be regional in scope.

I’ve said it before and I will stress this again: In a disaster or wide spread emergency - You CANNOT count on any government or emergency agency to come to your rescue in a timely fashion. The only things you can count on are yourself (physical, emotional & spiritual), your knowledge and skills, supplies and tools you have on hand at that time!

For additional information on Americas Infrastructure Systems see the items below:

There was a very interesting article by Tom Black at in 1998 called “Salvaging our failing infrastructure: A public works challenge” that is well worth reading. Just ignore the politics and stick to the physical facts of the article. (

It stated that: “…but perhaps the most visible and immediately threatening decay is taking place on and below the country's roadways. Americans love their automobiles, gas prices are cheap, and the economy is humming, so roads and bridges --- many built decades ago when vehicles were lighter and fewer --- are taking a pounding. … Moreover, aging water and wastewater pipes, which often spring leaks or burst open beneath city streets, worsen the problem. In cities large and small, water mains have broken, sewers have overflowed, contaminants have crept into drinking water, and roads have caved in …. Earlier this year, the ASCE released its "report card" for America's public infrastructure, giving an average grade of "D" for the various components, which include schools (F), roads and hazardous waste (both Dem.), drinking water and dams (both D), wastewater (D+), bridges, solid waste and aviation (all C), and mass transit (C). The grades were determined by a panel of civil engineering experts whose criteria included the condition and performance of each category, needs vs. capacity, and needs vs. available funding."When 1,200 people die each year from drinking tap water, our school buildings are literally crumbling, more than half of our roadways are in substandard condition, and we will face gridlock at our airports by the year 2004, it is fair to say our infrastructure is in pretty bad shape," ASCE President Luther Graef said in a press release … Unglamorous spending Infrastructure problems often fester unnoticed until a major catastrophe occurs or public health is seriously jeopardized, making politicians, who generally prefer to spend money on visible, high-profile projects, reluctant to allocate money for repairs.”

It goes to cite the following examples and remember this was printed in 1998:

” Infrastructure maintenance, while sometimes the responsibility of state transportation or highway departments, often falls on cities and counties (particularly if it involves drinking water or wastewater facilities). And, even if it does not, local entities still can feel the effects. Numerous examples of casualties or widespread damage serve to illustrate the point:

* A 1993 cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee's drinking water is believed to be responsible for killing more than 100 people and for making 400,000 people sick. Although the exact cause has not been determined, suspicion centers on Milwaukee's old, outdated water treatment plant. Heavy rains in the spring of 1993 and the ensuing runoff from upstate dairy operations may have contributed to contamination of the plant's reservoir, according to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources study.

* In Midtown Atlanta five years ago, following several days of heavy rains, a giant sinkhole swallowed up an entire parking lot, claiming two lives. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a 78-year-old sewer line had collapsed, the effluent apparently loosening unstable soil underneath the parking lot. City workers labored furiously around the clock to dig a trench from an adjacent parking lot to the bottom of the sinkhole, then hastily poured concrete walls and laid a stone foundation. Heavy equipment was put into the trench to reach the base of the 200-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep pit.

* Chicago has experienced two infrastructure-related floods in the past six years. The worst was in 1992, when a contractor accidentally drove a piling through the Chicago River bottom, causing a leak in one of the city's underground freight tunnels. Water rushed into the 50-mile network of tunnels that was built at the turn of the century to provide underground freight service to stores and businesses. The water flooded sub-basements and disrupted utility service throughout the Loop business district.

* In Fort Worth, Texas, a 36-inch water main broke in the midst of July's searing heat wave, leaving two major hospitals without water or air conditioning for nearly 12 hours. High demand for water, extremely dry conditions and metal fatigue were blamed, according to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Flooding at a pumping station and water treatment plant saturated motors and forced the plant to close down temporarily. Two hospitals were forced to use bottled water and disposable plates and utensils, while firefighters pumped water onto the hospitals' coolant towers to keep air conditioning running. Less than 24 hours after that break was repaired, the same line ruptured again, further disrupting operations at hospitals and throughout the downtown area.”

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

CNN reported in January 2009:

Patrick Natale of ASCE stated: “The bottom line is that a failing infrastructure cannot support a thriving economy."

"Poor conditions cost motorists $67 billion a year in repairs and operating costs. One-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 45 percent of major urban highways are congested,"

"America's drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion to replace aging facilities," the report said. "Leaking pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water a day."

"With an increase in development behind these levees, the risk to public health and safety from failure has increased."

"More than a third (of solid waste) was recycled or recovered, presenting a 7 percent increase since 2000."

One in four of the country's bridges "are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete."

Natale says there's been a mentality in the United States of short-term fixes and hoping that they work -- "patch and pray," as he puts it. "By under investing, the price tag escalates,"

“It goes without saying that when survival is threatened, struggles erupt between peoples, and unfortunate wars between nations result.” Hideki Tojo

By far Popular Mechanics had one of the best articles ( also published in January 2009. In a series of articles in 2008 the offered some “fix” ideas in “REBUILDING AMERICA: How to Fix U.S. Infrastructure” (

For a true understanding of Drinking Water and Society see Where it states “…The U.S. drinking-water infrastructure (collection, holding, treatment, and distribution systems) is aging. Much of it has been in place for most of the twentieth century, and is becoming subject to frequent failures. Recent federal government studies indicate that repairs to, and replacement of, the drinking-water infrastructure will become a multibillion-dollar item in federal, state, and local budgets…. Moreover, competition for water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural needs can only be expected to accelerate in the years ahead…”

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

Another great article is “Failing Infrastructure by the Numbers” from 2007 centered on roads and bridges ( stated “…The Interstate Highway System turned 50 last year … The government at all levels consistently underfunds infrastructure projects, from dams, bridges, and highways to aviation, railroads, and water systems…. The tragic collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis was a wake up call … this bridge is the third wake up call for the United States to reevaluate how we treat critical infrastructure. The first was 9/11, which showed us that infrastructure is vulnerable to terrorism. Hurricane Katrina was a second wake up call, which showed us that infrastructure is vulnerable to natural disasters. This time, we know that infrastructure is vulnerable to use, age, and neglect….”

"What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expect generally happens." Benjamin Disraeli

From a 50 something, soon to be rural homesteading Prepper

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Lazy Gardener & Self Reliance Part 2

“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.” -Henry David Thoreau

If you live high in the mountains or up north, you will most likely want to have some kind of greenhouse to either start plantings early or for year round harvesting. I have one friend in Montana who has several small greenhouses. One is for tropical type plants and that greenhouse is heavily heated via geo-thermal heating and includes some citrus trees. He has another greenhouse for winter harvesting of produce and another smaller one for sprouting and seedlings. The latter two do have some heating but they are more temperate rather than an actual hot house type greenhouse. However in all three, (except for the trees) he utilizes the waffle garden method with raised sides. He also has the local bee keeper put a partial hive in his greenhouses to facilitate the pollination of his winter crop.

Another other aspect to self reliance gardening is the saving of seeds for the next season. Different plants require different methods for preserving their seeds and you want to make sure you utilize open-pollinated or heirloom plants and seeds in order to be able to save some seeds from your garden for the next season.

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” - Robert Brault

In short you do not want any hybrid or GM (genetically modified) seeds or plants, as these types will only pass on the plant genetics of one of the parents of the hybrid and not produce another hybrid. On top of that many GM plants are genetically male sterile so the plants don’t produce enough viable (fertilized) seeds for sprouting a new plant for the next season.

As with any garden, flower or vegetable, east, west, north or south, you will need to check what planting Zone you are in and adjust for altitude so the most likely first and last frost dates are more accurate. These Zones will for the most part take into consideration the length of the growing season. The Zones will also help you identify which plant varieties will do best in your location.

"Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God ." -- Thomas Jefferson

All kinds of things can be used as containers for your garden from old handbags, boots, cans, plastic tubs, to old kiddie pools and even an old chest of drawers. Let your imagination flow. Only things you need to worry about are drainage, if the item is deep enough for the plant you are going to grow or if it is too porous you will need to add some holes for drainage.

Used, but clean plastic soda bottles, milk and juice jugs can be used as mini-greenhouses to shield early plantings. Or you can make cheap hoop-houses or teepees out of PVC pipe, coat hangers and sheet plastic for individual plants or a whole row.

Got limited space? Grow vertical. Hang plants for strawberries, herbs, spices and the like. Make staggered ladder shelves and use the coat hangers to make a lattice for tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other vine plants. A friend of mine turned a chest of drawers into a progressive tiered container garden. His deep rooted plants were to the back as that had the deepest sections of soil. I have asked him to send me some pictures because it is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed and he says it was really easy, because even I could make it!

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." --Greek proverb

Now please understand that I am not some kind of expert gardener. Nope, shriveled tomatoes and exploding melons are proof of that. I also never expected to get all the know-how I needed from the back of a seed packet, especially since now days I would need a magnifying glass to read the thing. Instead I have accumulated several books over the years that I consider my “gardening bibles”, great teachers from family and friends to neighbors and a good dose of luck. All of which will come in handy when I move north and rural.

"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments." -- Janet Kilburn Phillips

Of the tons of books and such out there on gardening, I have a few that I strongly recommend as they are good for just about any type of food gardening, be it container, kitchen sized or a larger rural size. I have never attempted “hobby farm” sized gardening so I don’t have any recommendations for that large a scale. I also have not had the opportunity to grow a good nut or fruit orchard on a small, medium or large scale, so that kind of reference is missing. The references I do list do have chapters on these trees and scrubs which so far have been perfect for me.

  • Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte.
  • Four Season Harvest by Eliot ColemanTurner
  • Seed Sowing and Saving by Carole B.
  • Desert Gardening Fruits & Vegetables by George Brookbank
  • The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines by Charles W. Fetrow and Juan R. Avila
  • Herbal Remedy Gardens by Dorie Byers
  • The Medicine Wheel Garden by E. Barrie Kavasch

For a quick reference and a downloadable spreadsheet see “The Lazy Gardener's Automatic Seed Starting Chart” with notes at Her Notes PDF is at

For growing season, last and first frosts see any one of the following:

Hardiness and Zone Maps
Enter Zip code at for details

Planting Schedules

For some great downloadable PDFs:

Self Reliant Agriculture for Drylands- 3_02 at desertrestore.ORG
vegetable_gardening_containers_E-545 at aggi.horticulature.tamu.EDU
Straw Bale Method No Dig Garden-FS05 NDG at
Growing In Straw Bale-is1678 at msucares.COM
Garden Fall Freeze 32F at ncdc.noaa.GOV
Garden Fall Freeze 28F at ncdc.noaa.GOV
Garden Spring Freeze 32F at ncdc.noaa.GOV
Garden Spring Freeze 28F at ncdc.noaa.GOV
Garden Freeze free 32F at ncdc.noaa.GOV
Garden Freeze free 28F at ncdc.noaa.GOV

General Seed and Garden Information: Article on gardening Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Saving Seeds Homemade Greenhouse Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds & Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Open Pollinated Heirloom Seeds Survival Seeds to Sow - Heirloom, GMO or Non-GMO Seeds packed for long term storage Seeds packed for long term storage Seeds packed for long term storage

"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."-- Abraham Lincoln

From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading, Prepper.

The Lazy Gardener and Self Reliance

“All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.” - Helen Hayes

Ah gardening. That easy laid back relaxing past time – NOT! I’m a lazy gardener; I want the quickest, easiest, least amount of work and costs garden to produce the food I need. I have an advantage over most folks right now because it is just me and I. My children are grown and on their own and my daughter and grandson live in another state.

Although I am not an expert gardener I have gardened most of my life from the east coast to the west coast; arid lands to wet lands and I spent a good number of years on my grandparents farm in upper state New York. I have learned from others and made a ton of mistakes along the way and if I can help just one tentative gardener be successful then I will be happy and content.

When you garden for self reliance you must be vigilant and you must work for the harvest. There is nary a spare minute even if you are lazy like me. Let’s face it, self reliance is not a walk in the park, you have to want it enough to work for it and then reap the rewards. However that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy and have fun despite the work.

An advantage of self reliant gardening that quickly pops to mind is that you are not locked into huge plantings that would require machinery to harvest the produce. So that leaves you with the weeding and watering, along with the usual “frost patrol” responsibilities until harvest. You have the advantage of knowing what has gone into the soil of your plantings. You know the produce hasn’t been washed in some chemical bath or forced to ripen with some gas. I haven’t seen any scientific studies on this but, homegrown produce to me just plain tastes better too.

"Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow." - Unknown

I grew up back east and was always taught to do raised bed gardening. There was so much moisture that plant roots often got bogged down, hence the raised beds. When I moved to New Mexico I had to learn gardening all over again.

In the Southwest you need to protect the ground surface around your plants from arid, hot desert winds that suck the moisture right out of the soil very quickly when they blow by. Raised bed gardens are not the wisest things in the Southwest unless you create an elaborate wind break around them.

There are several ways to avoid the hot and dry winds. You can use sunken bed gardening or protected bed gardening. The Native Americans of the Southwest used “waffle” dry desert companion gardening. These were 1-2 foot sunken squares that were planted using the “3 Sisters” method of companion planting. The second method is to put a wind barrier around your garden, however if your garden is large, more than 6 feet along any side, you may still experience dried central areas of the garden and will need to water those areas more often. I prefer the waffle style of gardening. You plant in rows of waffles. Where each waffle is 1-2 feet square and these have raised sides of 6-8 inches.

I live at a rather high altitude in New Mexico so I had to also adapt to the temperature differences even though the growing season is not shortened like it is up north (east or west). Soon I will be moving to a semi-arid far north area and will have to adapt to a much shorter growing season.

I love the waffle companion method of gardening as it is the lazy person’s way to have a bountiful harvest without much work. I have a friend in Tennessee who uses a raised bed version of the desert waffle garden and she loves it.

The common trait between eastern and southwestern waffle gardening is really in the companion plantings per waffle. This type of gardening reduces the need to fertilize the soil or spray with any type (organic or poisonous) pesticides and crowds out most weeds, even the tenacious ones here in the desert. The companion plants of each waffle help ward off the insects, molds and diseases for each other while they draw and replace different nutrients from the soil. If the waffle is sunken or raised sided, in accordance to where you are located, you can reduce your water usage as well. In the Southwest the Native American’s rarely watered their waffle gardens after the plants neared their flowering stage.

For cheap easy gardening try straw bale, this is a type of raised bed gardening. If you live in the southwest place a straw bale in a large lawn and leaf bag; expose the top, then cut the baling wire; add your seeds and put some mulch or dirt on top; water and sit back and watch them grow. I have grown potato, corn, tomato, green beans, chili, cucumber, squash, melon, pumpkin and bell pepper. Many flowers grow in straw bale as well. If you live where it is humid, don’t put the bale in a trash bag and instead of cutting the bailing wire, just stab the top center a bit to loosen things up a bit and then plant.

One neighbor just got bags of planting soil, laid them in a nice boarder around his fence; slit the tops and planted. When he trimmed his trees and hedge he put the chipped trimmings over the plastic soil bags to hide them. Created a great garden with those but had to dispose of the plastic later on.

Soil preparation will need to be accomplished no matter where you are geographically, in a greenhouse, container style or out in a field and will vary from location to location, even on your own farm or backyard. This is where good information on composting will come in handy no matter if you are an experienced gardener or not.

If you are just starting and have tons of weeds or usually get a lot of weeds; dig down about 8-12 inches and then line that with a thick layer of newspaper, cardboard or paper bags and put the cleaned dirt back on top. These will decompose but in the meantime any weed roots/seeds will be exterminated.

"What is a weed? I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions. For me, a weed is a plant out of place." -- Donald Culross Peattie

Since I’m lazy I try to avoid tilling or double turning the garden as tilling the soil creates microscopic carnage. Things like earthworms, nematodes (yeah, they're beneficial), bacteria, protozoa and fungi can all die when you till. Did you know that every time you till you add oxygen to the soil. This creates a bloom of bacteria that digest your organic matter. So the organic matter you added when you tilled is consumed without being much use to your plants. To get around the destruction and work I use compost, my valley friend’s manure and newspaper.

Lay cardboard or eight sheets of newspaper down and add organic matter or leaves on top. You can also sprinkle a little cheap fertilizer around (6-8-6 or 10-10-10). The total depth should be at 6-8". Compost any remaining cardboard (the fertilizer will help this process) that hasn’t decomposed and sow the seeds or poke holes in the cardboard to plant. Make you organic matter from dirt, compost, aged manure, straw, shredded leaves or chipped tree trimmings. If you're short on dirt and compost, pile up the shredded leaves, straw, and any other big bulky material, then put the compost and topsoil in piles on the top. Use the little piles to plant in. This will reduce the amount of expensive topsoil or precious compost you would need. During the summer, the bulky matter will break down and compress, but you can add mulch on top to keep your plant roots covered.

Or you can dig a small hole, plant your plant and spread newspaper around the plant, right up to the stem. Then dump mulch and compost on top of the newspaper. The grass will die underneath and provide food for worms and other friendly life forms.

Newspaper appears to work best with the fertilizer ON TOP because it slowly filters down to the soil without harming the good bugs or the plants you want and it acts like a poor man’s timed release fertilizer or closer to the organic fertilizers, all while it helps break the paper down to make the compost.

Plus the fertilizer will jump start the soil and with constant feeding of compost and other fiber back into the soil it will continue to build it, not deplete it, as chemical fertilizer do over time.

The only drawback to this type of no-till planting is that root crops don’t seem to do very well the first year. I had carrots that divided when they hit large pieces of stuff, like shredded leaves and the potatoes grew sideways when they hit the newspapers.

Companion planting is also good for pest control but you can also purchase ladybugs and Praying Mantis at your local hardware store and they work wonders in the garden. Or use Diatomaceous earth on and around each plant. Diatomaceous earth is made of fossilized sea creatures and sharp - to bugs. Bird houses to attract wrens, pigeon doves, robins and the like that love to eat bugs are good to have around your garden. Hummingbirds are good too, but the feeders are just too much to me as they should be cleaned every other day or two, so I only keep the humming bird feeder out until the plants start to flower. This way the humming birds are already hooked on my yard by the time I stop filling the feeder and the flowers appear on the plants.

Worms are great for your garden too. Yep worms, the wonder bug. I currently live in a city and mostly container garden and since I started my small coffee can sized worm farm two years ago my plants haven’t been better. Not only that but when the “worm farm” got too crowded, I turned the worms loose on my small grass patch out back and the lawn is healthier than it has ever been. Yeah I do get a worm with wanderlust now and then, but it sure beats having to keep treating the soil in the containers every season!