"I fear that so many feel that a long-term supply is so far beyond their reach that they make no effort at all. Begin in a small way…gradually build toward a reasonable objective.” -President Gordon B. Hinckley,

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cooking- When the Power Goes Out

Any type of crisis creates a significant amount of stress. If you have spent time developing a variety of alternative energy cooking skills, you will have one less thing to worry about. So the power is out ... sounds like a great excuse to Dutch oven or barbeque. 

Develop a series of cooking options that will ensure you will be able to cook in several emergency situations. Consider evacuation, indoor, outdoor, sheltered, flameless, cold weather, and hot weather as you plan. Carefully plan how you will safely store the fuels that you need. Fuel conservation is a high priority. Storing enough fuel safely to last for a year is absolutely possible, if you practice conservation.  
Be wise (translated that means, "don't do stupid things!"). Please be safe! What an incredible tragedy it would be to survive an initial disaster only to harm your loved ones through a tragic mistake in judgment. Store fuel legally and very carefully. Never burn anything indoors that is intended for outdoor use. Be very careful with any open flame. Err on the side of caution.

Here are a few ways to cook for meals when the power goes out: 
   1. Dutch Oven- One of my favorite ways to cook.Here are a few tips-
*Protect your dutch oven from wind and rain, or add extra coals to compensate.
*Remember, it’s not an exact science, be ready to add or take away coals as needed (usually add).
*Cooking meat? Move coals to the bottom.
*Baking bread or desserts? Move coals to the top
*Meals that require more than 30-45 minutes to cook may need new coals added during cooking. If so, light new coals soon enough to allow them to get going before you need the.
*Keep the lid closed! Avoid peaking more than needed.

2. Camp Stove-  Most people who enjoy camping have some sort of propane or butane camping stove that they use. Don’t be afraid to pull out the stove at home even if you aren't camping. Experiment with cooking some regular family meals on it as opposed to just usual camping food. Pay attention to fuel usage and make a plan for how much to store. You can learn a lot by simply practicing.

3. Rocket Stove-  These types of stoves use minimal fuel and can burn twigs, leaves, pinecones, etc.  HERE is one of the rocket stoves I have. You can also make your own in a pinch from a #10 can.  Instructions for a DIY rocket stove can be found HERE

4. Wonder Oven- Basically, you bring food up to temperature, pop it in a wonder oven, and it continues to cook without any fuel. You still have to have a way to bring food up to temp before putting it in, but these are easy to make at home. Think the off-grid slow cooker. Food cooks all day while you go play!  I love this one and love that they donate one to a family in need in Africa every time you buy one. DIY instructions HERE.

5. Sun Oven- If you can cook with the sun, it is going to be best bet for conserving your fuel. Solar power is renewable and unlimited, as long as it’s a sunny day! Cook any of your regular foods outdoors using the power of the sun. I really like this one, but if you don’t have one there are a couple of plans online to be able to make your own. This one is a little more like a real sun oven, and this one is a simple pizza box oven that will not get too hot but can be used sort of like a slow cooker.

6. Open Fire-  This is the way many a pioneer cooked on their trips west or on the frontier. And if all you have is a cast iron skillet, it will get the job done. 

When it comes to cooking without power, you have to have a fuel source. That fuel source may be in the form of the sun, propane, butane, Insta-fire, charcoal or a variety of other fuels.
I recommend working on building, and using food storage in cases where you have power, then gradually start learning about, and implementing powerless cooking tools.
There are a variety of make-you-own cooking tools out there. They are good for short term emergencies, or to practice and get your feet wet if you have a smaller budget. As you're able to allocate more of your budget to powerless cooking tools, I recommend getting more durable tools.
One thing to consider is that while there are many options for cooking outdoors, it may not always be feasible to do so (i.e. a huge snow storm). So make sure you have some back-up plans in place to cook indoors or have some meals that do not require cooking at all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

6 Reasons to add egg shells to your Garden

The shell of a chicken egg is comprised of about 96% calcium carbonate (CaCO3) crystals which are bound together by proteins. Common commercial methods for disposing of eggshells include use as fertilizer or as a source of calcium in animal feed, but the average consumer typically drops them into the kitchen waste bin or down the garbage disposal. If you are among this group, please read on to discover six creative uses for eggshells that will benefit your garden.

1. Fertilizer 

Eggshells are a great way to add calcium to your compost. Because shells have a very high surface area to volume ratio, they decompose very quickly. Don’t even worry about sterilizing or grinding them up. Just toss your shells on the pile or into the barrel and turn them under.

Alternately, you can incorporate crumbled eggshell directly into the bottoms of your planting holes in the spring.

During the winter months, distribute your shells over the garden area where you will plant come springtime. Once the ground warms up, you can till the shells into the soil. If you are adverse to the idea of having eggshells on the ground all winter, you can also clean and store the shells until planting season rolls around.

While calcium is considered a secondary nutrient for plants, your garden will certainly appreciate the added minerals, especially if you grow tomatoes or peppers as these plants are the most easily affected by calcium-deficiency.

2. Pest Deterrent 

If you have problems with slugs and snails in your garden, try sprinkling coarsely-crumbled eggshells around the plants where these slimy little pests like to dine. The shells’ sharp edges deter snails and slugs that attempts to cross the barrier. Most snails and slugs will quickly leave your garden in search of easier pickings.

3. Seed Starter Pots

Because eggshells quickly biodegrade when introduced into soil in the garden, they also double as the perfect seed-starter pots. When you open your eggs to remove the contents, try to break just a small hole at the narrower end of the shell. Clean the inside of the eggshells (boiling water works well for this) and puncture a small drainage hole in the bottom of each empty shell. You can then place them back into the carton, fill each shell with moist potting soil, and add your seeds. Once the seedlings outgrow their “pots” you can transplant them, shell and all directly into bigger pots or out into the garden.

4. Feed the Birds

Both before and after laying eggs, mother birds need more calcium in their diets. Sterilize your eggshells by baking them at 250°F  for about ten minutes so the shells are dry, but not brown on the inside. Then crumble your eggshells well and place them outdoors (in a feeder or even just on the ground) during the spring and summer. You can also mix the eggshell crumbles with birdseed, suet, or mealworms in an existing birdfeeder. Either way, your healthy mama birds just might thank you by also dining on insect pests that may otherwise damage your garden.

5. Repel Deer

If you have deer visiting your garden as if were their own personal buffet every night, scatter some eggshells around the plants they’re munching on the most. Deer hate the smell of albumin and tend to stay away from an area that smells like raw eggs. Just be careful using this method as the smell may actually attract smaller vermin like rodents who like to eat eggs.

6. Aesthetic Value

Finely-ground eggshells can also be quite pretty. If you have a large family or simply eat a lot of eggs, boil your shells to sterilize them, crumble, then drop them into a large glass jar for storage. Once you’ve collected enough shell crumbles, sprinkle them around and in between your plants. Not only will the eggshells help control pests and eventually add calcium back to the soil, the white color can also be a beautiful accent to your garden. Add crumbled oyster shells for an even more interesting appearance with all of the same garden health benefits.

With these six tips under your belt, now both you and your garden can enjoy the health benefits of nature’s perfect food – the egg.