Monday, December 30, 2013

Life on Purpose (part one)...

Years ago I heard this story via e-mail. Before FaceBook, YouTube, Pinterest & Instagram...
For The Man Who Hated Christmas... from Giving101 on Vimeo.
This true story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman's Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine's "My Most Moving Holiday Tradition" contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it.

I sent the e-mail to my pastor and he did a sermon on it. I then nestled a white envelope in the Christmas tree at church & didn't say a word. He found and that led to another message. His hypothesis was that it was the women's group that placed the envelop in the tree, because of the many things listed. It made me smile. He never knew who placed that envelope in the tree.

This is just the beginning of trying to explain where I am going with "Life on Purpose". I want to start with a white envelope story shared by one of my readers. It really touched my heart... 
"I thought I would share an experience. I have been in prayer over my New Year's Resolution. God answered last night. I found out that my husband's friend tried to commit suicide. He is an elderly man and a veteran. His wife died around this time 3 years ago. He had to do a home repair in November. He used his food money to do the repair. He had no food and no one to celebrate Christmas with except his dog. The dog was out of food as well. He was too proud to ask for any help. He has taken eggs from my chickens before, some garden produce and some canned goods, but he always feels bad about it. I can tell. He always offers to pay, but I won't take any money. (of course)

We live in a very small area and we found out that the sheriff had done a welfare check, just when he was about to..... ya know. He doesn't know who called or when, neither do we. He says that when he answered the door, the police were so sad. They went and bought him and the dog food out of their own money. He was so embarrassed. I am heart broken. I didn't know and neither did my husband. He wouldn't ask for help. He hadn't talked to my husband in over a week, but we were too busy to notice. I'm so ashamed of that, honestly. I'm a solution person, so let's move on.

When he told the story, my thoughts went to my pantry. It's fully stocked and ready for anything. As a prepper, I have an abundance of resources. I have been shopping in my cabinets this morning for him. I'm not sure how I'm going to pull off my gift, but I'm going to give it and he's going to let me!

So I'm pledging to donate 3 homecooked meals a week to our elderly friend. We are going to check in on him. I'm going to share in my prepping skills and abundance. No one should go hungry in these times. We are in a rural area and elderly services are non existent. It will be the time spent as well that will become a valuable resource. I feel like the food is secondary
I know there are times when you share people's experiences, however in this case, if you decide to share, please leave my name anonymous. If not, I just wanted to share my experience with someone who would understand the way that God works. I do not want any recognition at all. I am actually saddened by my previous actions. I thought that it was a lesson in awareness, community and preparedness."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Testing cigarette storage...

Whether it is for personal use or barter; the topic of storing cigarettes (tobacco products, etc) came up this week.
Doing what I do, I have decided to test out storing cigarettes.

One pack was simply vacuum sealed, the other (2 plus packs) was vacuum sealed in a canning jar. Obviously there are no results to share at this point in time. The first test will be in 3 months.
The next test will be longer. I have also purchased tobacco seeds. Honestly, I don't even know if these seeds are for smoking. We will see how that goes later.
It will be interesting to see if others start posting about this topic. I think  have read about growing tobacco (or maybe I was searching for it), but I haven't seen someone in the circles I follow store the product. We will see.
If you have stored tobacco products, please share your observations.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Controlling technology

Technology is a fantastic tool. The demographics of the people in my life has determined what I use technology wise. Honestly, the greatest amount of people I interact with in my world are under the age of 40. A lot are under 30. At work, everyone is under 25. 
I learned to text, because it is how my sons and their wives communicate.
I was an early adapter of Facebook, because that is where people were communicating.
How much time does it take from real life?
I am trying to remember what year we got our first computer. It was early enough that a dot matrix printer was hot. What I do remember is that in the beginning I spent about 6 hours one day, playing Solitaire. I realized then that I didn't want to be caught in that web. So, I won't play games. I have never played Angry Birds or even Candy Crush. I don't have time.

Cynthia Wilcox shared about our technology challenge: “So Friday night, I was ready to take the 24 hour technology challenge. I got up Saturday morning and my children's father texted me that my son's student profile had been updated. He sent me a link via e-mail. That was important because he has a project due. BEFORE NOON I used my PHONE for the following purposes: an alarm clock, a calculator, checked email, sent a document to my printer, checked my son's student profile, checked my student profile, a camera, checked my online study group for updates, sent photos to Walgreens photo center for a class project, Facebook, recipe lookup for a friend (emailed her the link) texted my study group, watched a YouTube video about the pharmaceutical effects of diuretics on the heart, texted a study mate about an assignment, paid a bill online and finally a phone to talk to my mom and Jeremy's mom. BEFORE NOON! and I had class from 9am to 11:30.
Reflection? I really rely on my phone for day to day life. I never leave without it. It's always charged. I have other things I longed to do, like crochet, read, study out of a book....nap. Unfortunately that was just my phone. I used a bunch of other technology as well. If I'm going to go dark, I need to do it on break from school. I think I would find it very peaceful. So I didn't do very well at the challenge, but I realize life will be a lot slower if I don't have my technology any longer.”

I really appreciate her honesty. I think the biggest lesson I learned (knew); is that we should control technology, not allow it to control us. But for me, I admit the internet & t.v. is a “time suck”.
I am working towards putting technology back in it's place in my life.

Then the biggie, what would we do if technology ceased? Are all your family photos on your phone or in your computer, or still on a disc in your camera? Are all your phone numbers in your cell phone? Are all our addresses in your GPS? Is all your information in your computer? How would it change our life?

Are you controlling technology?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

“All Purple” Sweet Potato Ice Cream (from storage)

While this isn't “true” ice cream, it's a short cut type of dessert for us. Usually I make it from frozen blueberries.
So, my lovely purple sweet potatoes came from my dear friends at the farm. They participated in a program at Virginia StateUniversity that works with farmers, to show them how to be profitable with limited resources and using organic gardening practice. 
I used one pint of pressure canned purple sweet potatoes & pureed them in the blender with about 2/3 cups sugar.

I divided this into two zip lock baggies, since that is about the right amount for two people.
Threw the bags in the freezer.

Took it out later, and broke up the pieces & put the pieces back into the blender.
Added enough ½ & ½ to barely cover the pieces (this time I used heavy whipping cream that I have canned).

Blended until smooth.

Yummy! DH and I agreed, it had a very "interesting" taste. But, we both like it and agreed we would definitely like to make it again! SUCCESS!

For those of you who want more information on the added nutritional value of of sweet potatoes in general here is a link to "The World's Healthiest Foods"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Canning “All Purple” Sweet Potatoes

So, my lovely purple sweet potatoes came from a program at Virginia StateUniversity that works with farmers, to show them how to be profitable with limited resources and using organic gardening practice. 
They are actually called “All Purple” Sweet potatoes and I found a source, Sow True Seed (which is currently sold out) that sells the “slips”. I have not used them, but this link tells about their beliefs on non-GMO, non-hybrid, etc. Their slips are also organic. .SowTrue Seed 
Now, processing the sweet potatoes was pretty straight forward.
First, I had to wash them. These were straight from the ground. Funny thing, plants that come from the ground have a lot of dirt on them. :)
Then I boiled them until soft when pierced with a fork. They evidently need a little longer to cook. I had one orange sweet potato, that I am turning onto doggy treats.

I want you to note all the pictures. They are really very purple. The water was very purple. I was reading up on this particularly type of potato and there is some research being done to utilize the incredible purple color to be used a natural food dye coloring. I was thinking as I was working, that these could easily be used for dying. As careful as I was, my hands were slightly blue afterward.
Then I slipped the skins off. I had to do a little peeling, since they were new potatoes. Saved the skin to dehydrate into dog treats.

I simply cut them up into the sterilized canning jars (hot pack), adding boiling water with 1” headspace.
Wiped down the tops with a vinegar soaked paper towel, added sterilized lids and rings.
Processed them in the pressure canner (low acid food) at 10# pressure for 65 minutes.

There you have it. I am looking forward to using these and getting more. 
Then I made All Purple Sweet Potato ICE CREAM Yuminess!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sweet Potato Extravaganza...

This is the recipe I use to make my sweet potato pies...
I double the recipe. Then do it multiple times. As you can tell, I have used this for MANY years. I only use a recipe for the actual directions for the first time or two. Then I start adapting.
I actually make it by taste mostly.
Now remember, one year go, I was really a big time newbie at storage.

There is going to  be a lot of “how to's” & tips through out this article & at the end so keep reading. Check them all out. Most everything I do can be found on my blog site "Perky Prepping Gramma" or in the photo albums on my Facebook page.

I stored all the ingredients to make my pies.
Large cans of Bruce's sweet potatoes (12 large cans)
Brown sugar (8 lbs)
Eggs (ongoing storage)
Butter (10 lbs. stored in March)
Molasses (3 jars)
Spices - All have multiple containers, since I tend to use these spices a lot. (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, plus I add allspice. I no longer use nutmeg or the almond extract)
Milk (ongoing storage)

My ginormous bowl has gone missing. I have no clue where it went. So I used the next largest.
First I open the cans of sweet potatoes and drain them.
Then just add the ingredients.
Brown sugar
 Eggs: Since I store them I always open them in a seperate conainer and smell. Just to make sure they are still good.
 Molasses & spices...
Since this is really sweet potatoes, the mixture is lumpy. It is a very different consistency than using pumpkin puree in a can.
Well, my first set of pies are done (on the left), the second batch is in the oven and the third batch is in queue. Only a couple more batches to go...

Oh & why do I make so many sweet potato pies? Years ago, we liked them so very much & they have veggies, milk, butter & eggs; I decided that we could eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was better than a few other things I was feeding my then young son.
Now for some of the How To's:
Storing eggs with mineral oil: Eggs
Pressure Canning Butter: This is how I can butter.  Click into the album and then on each picture for details along the way.

Friday, November 22, 2013

If I was a fancy cook...

(Dehydrated chipped beef, canned milk, canned butter)

...I would call this Béchamel Bœuf.
I am sure that like me, you have seasonal foods. As the colder weather is arriving I find I turn to the same recipes often. Chicken & dumplings, chili, creamed tuna on toast (I know sounds terrible) and creamed chipped beef are on the top of our list. I really love that now I have stored all the items necessary to make these meals, I can easily prepare our favorites.
Last night was creamed chipped beef all from storage.
I have used white cream sauces for years for lot of recipes. Learned it has a fancy name “Béchamel sauce”. Fancy name for a not fancy cook. But, I don't use recipes. Here is an example recipe (for rough estimates).

Creamed Chipped Beef from storage items.
Dehydrated thinly sliced beef 
Flour (stored)
First a covered the dehydrated with hot water and cooked it on low, until the beef was rehydrated.

Drained remaining water and some butter. Added some flour to create the roux. (Equal parts of butter & flour). Then slowly added the ½ & ½ and cooked until it was thick. Add salt & pepper to taste.
The only thing I don't have stored was the English muffins. I now have a recipe to try. Toasted them and covered with the cream beef. Warm & filling.
Being a little lazy here & just posting the pictures in order. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Mining" for silver...

We are still converting the master bedroom closet into a controlled storage area.
This weekend we removed these two cabinets. I cleared everything out of them & will be selling them on a "re-use site" locally. 

This was a big task, considering that the item on the right was my mother-in-laws jewelry case. The older bother got his pick of jewelry when she passed away & some was given to the grandchildren & we got the left overs.
MIL spent a LOT of money on jewelry (clothing and shoes), but she had a preference for silver.
Anyway, this weekend-I went though and sorted all the remaining jewelry to see how much "silver" we had.
DH did some research and we decided to use a neodymium magnet to sort thought the jewelry.
Here is an article that will give you tips on how to test for silver.
3 Quick ways to tell if an item is made from silver
We also plan to get some bottled test kits to do a second verification. 

My guess was these were all silver & I was correct.
These are the two neodymium magnets, DH just happened to have on hand. It always amazes me what he has hanging around.
So, you hold the magnet close to the piece and if it is not silver, the magnet sticks to it. This earring isn't silver.
If the items is silver, the magnet will not stick. This necklace is silver.
You can also find "junk silver" in old coins. The value of the precious metals in the coins before these dates (below) is worth way more than the face value of the coins. 
Pennies minted in 1982 or earlier.
Nickels minted in 45 or earlier.
Dimes & quarters minted in 1964 or earlier.
Take the time to check your change. 
So, all of that to make more space in the closet to add another shelving unit. More on that later.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Elderberry Syrup...

One of my goals for this coming year is to start learning and practicing more homemade homeopathic remedies. So, it was time to make some elderberry syrup.

I bought my dried elderberries from Amazon. I ordered and used both kinds. Here is the link:
Perky Prepping Gramma's Store I actually bought both kinds listed in the store.

I used the recipe that Heidi Gossman Burrows has used and shared. It was so very simple.
The recipe is from Learning Herbs
1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries.
3 cups water
1 Cup honey (I now use a LOT less honey when making the recipe. Probably down to less than a 1/2 cup honey for one batch)
EDITED: (1/26/14) Now I add a couple of slices of dehydrated ginger to my recipe.

First, add 1 cup fresh or 1/2 dried elderberries to a pot and add 3 cups of water.
Bring to a boil & then reduce the heat and simmer for 1/2 hour.

 Smash the elderberries. I need to find my regular masher (and get 2 more)

Strain everything with a strainer. I also used cheesecloth to be able to squeeze as much as possible out. Actually the second batch I made I didn't used the cheesecloth, because my strainer was sufficient for the job. I did order more cheesecloth and more strainers.
CAUTION: Don't eat the seeds. There is some chance of toxicity. I just googled it & read about it. A couple won't hurt. just use caution.

Add 1 cup of honey. I may add less honey next time. Did you note I use local raw honey?
EDITED: I now will use a lot less honey. This was too sweet for my taste. On the second batch I only used 1/2 a cup of honey. I may use even less on my next batch.

Don't you just love this bottle? I got it at Ikea several months ago.
The syrup is so yummy. The hard part will be not to just drink it. 
Then I used a funnel and pour into a bottle of jar. You store the syrup in the fridge. It will last for several months.

So, yield about 3 cups of elderberries syrup & I vacuum sealed the rest of my dried elderberries. 

REMINDER: Don't use raw honey with young children

 you are able to use other sweeteners like raw sugar. 

Dosing: Straight from Learning Herbs:
"Elderberry syrup is one of the most popular herbal cold remedies in Europe. Elder has been used for centuries and is one of the most well documented herbal cold remedies. It’s also great for lots of other stuff, but we’ll keep it simple for now.

You can give the elderberry syrup by the teaspoon (kids love it) every 2-3 hours while sick, or even use it regularly in your food, such as on pancakes! Elder is VERY high in bioflavonoids and is a great antioxidant. 

For kids under 2, add the syrup to hot water to kill any microbes in the honey that might make them sick."

Monday, November 11, 2013

In the beginning (part 4)...

There were three things that really helped to establish how I approached my preparations. Budgeting, challenges and goal setting...
These things help me stay very focused on what I am doing. It allows me to be actually be doing stuff, working towards our goals every week. Not haphazardly, doing things here and there.
Very early on, I started working with a specific percentage of my income to be dedicated to my prep's.
My budgeting started out something like this, 10% for my tithe, then 10% for prepping & 10% for savings. The savings would be cash on hand for big purchases (i.e. Zaycon chicken or sales on canning jars, lids). Then I used the other 70% for everyday, monthly expenses. When that runs out, I am done. This extra 10% for saving quickly added up. We also have worked towards having a least two months cash on hand at all times in case there is some type of financial collapse (either the government, banks or loss of our jobs).
NOTE: If you have a belief system that doesn't believe in tithing, I still encourage you to develop the habit of giving to others. It is my opinion that whether it is tzedakah or mitzvah  (I hope I am getting the terms correct, if not please forgive me), or simply giving to charity; I think it changes your outlook in life.
Next, I like challenging myself (and others). I once took a challenge where I was only allowed to spend $250 for one month. It was a very eye opening experience. After pre-paying the monthly bills (which we were allowed to do),
What I learned from this challenge, was that there was a lot of extraneous spending in my life. For example, I ate out several times a week. Since then, I may still get take out or delivery, but it is only maybe once or twice a month max. What changed at that point, was I decided I could truly budget 20% of my income for prepping. I have learned something every time I take a challenge.
Next, I settled in on setting monthly goals.
I quickly decided to establish monthly goals. Each month there is a goal of “Meat (canning) & Something else”. Here are some examples from last year, when I was getting started.
November: “Meats & Thanksgiving items”, this would be all the items I use for our traditional Thanksgiving meal. Like right now, I am buying (and storing) various items like, pineapple, mandarin oranges, marshmallows, nuts, cranberry sauce, etc. Plus, this is my second year doing this, so I will be testing out what I stored last year.
December: “Meat & Christmas items”, this included our traditional Christmas Eve party of special foods. On Christmas Eve we each get to choose a couple items that we just don't get through out the year, either because they are generally too expensive or they don't fit into our lifestyle now.
January: “Meat & Water (storage containers & filtration)”
February: “Meat & canning butter”
March: “Meat (corned beef and cabbage, Zaycon chicken breasts) and waxing cheese”.
I plan based on seasonal sales & what I want to learn next (I have an ongoing list of things to learn).
It has been very helpful for me to post my goals at the beginning of the month & a review at the end of the month. Doing this keeps me accountable. I focus on posting the things that I am actually doing and don't post a lot cutesy stuff or re-posts of things I am not doing.
I think one of the biggest steps is actually deciding to make preparing a priority in your life and then doing something about it.
I am extremely dedicated to helping the newbie get started. Since we are on this journey together, I will throw this challenge out there: Are you ready to get dedicated to your preparations? How do you plan on doing that?

Here are links to the first three parts of how I got started: