Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Survival Hunting - The Crossbow

This weekend I had the opportunity to try out the ultimate in quiet hunting equipment, the compound crossbow. My brother-in-law, Devin, gave my son and I the opportunity to do some target shooting with this awesome weapon. I was very impressed. The crossbow that we fired is powerful (150 lb. draw weight), but it makes less noise than clearing your throat. It is pin point accurate; and, most impressively, it requires very little skill to operate. My son and I both shoot primitive wooden bows, and after years of shooting we are pretty good with them. This was the first time that either of us has ever fired a crossbow, and we were both shooting 2” groups from 60 feet from the very first shot. Of course the crossbow will fire much farther than that with deer killing accuracy, but we just had a small high density foam target, so we were shooting at fairly short range. The aluminum arrows (called bolts) were penetrating a full 12 inches into the high density foam with no problem.

By now you know my philosophy of keeping a low profile as the cornerstone of home defense. This is the weapon to do it with. Easy to use, deer killing power, reusable ammo, and virtual silence. What more could you ask for? I guarantee you that this will be my next survival weapon purchase, and if hunting is part of your survival plan I would recommend that you do the same.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Food Storage - Onions

Onions are one of the plants that it makes a lot of sense to grow in your garden. They are so cheap and easy to grow, and they are so expensive in the grocery store that it’s really a no-brainer whether to plant them or not. An onion may cost as much as a dollar in the grocery store, and I can raise a couple of hundred of them for five dollars. My onions may not be quiet as big as the ones at the store; but they are a lot cheaper, and they don’t have any pesticides sprayed on them. I buy onion sets and the local hardware store and plant them in late February to early March. I plant them in a 3 foot wide bed about 6 inches apart in each direction, broadcast a little 8-8-8 fertilizer on them, and water them well. You will have to weed them a time or two as they are growing, and keep them watered if the rain is not regular. When the green tops begin to die and fall over in late May, they are ready to pick. Pictured below: Bed of garlic and onions early in the season and then later on about two weeks before harvest. Garlic is in the foreground, and onions are in the back.

After picking I brush the dirt off on the onions and lay them out on a table under my porch to cure for a week or two. When they are cured and the tops are pretty dry, I braid the onions into strand about a foot and a half long, tie the ends with string, and hang the braided strands from the beams in our living room (I know, it sounds weird, but it doesn’t look that strange in our country home). Pictured Below: Onion braids hanging from a livingroom beam.

Now we have a good supply of onions to use throughout the fall and winter. All we have to do is walk into the living room with a pair of scissors and snip an onion or two off of the braid. Easy, fun, and money saving. Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Food Storage - Homemade Pickles

I love the taste of home canned dill pickles, and they are really easy to make. I grow my own cucumbers. I always plant Boston Pickling cucumbers. They are an old heirloom variety that is specially suited to canning. I like to raise my cucs on a trellis to save space in the garden and to keep them up off of the ground. I use an old galvanized cattle panel and wire it up on metal T-posts. Then I plant my seed about 6 inches apart along the bottom of the panel. A little 8-8-8 fertilizer and careful watering will produce a good crop. Pictured below is my cucumber trellis before and after.

When the cucumbers start to get ripe you have to watch them like a hawk. One day they’ll be little bitty things, and the next day they’ll be six inches long. I pick them when they are about 5 or 6 inches long, wash them thoroughly, and store in the refrigerator until I have enough to make 4 quarts (nothing magic about this number, it’s just what my water bath canner will hold at one time). Pictured below: Garden fresh cucumbers.

Here’s my recipe for homemade dill pickles.

Dill Pickles (4 quarts)

4 quarts cucumbers cut in ¼ inch slices (I use Boston Pickling Cucumbers)
½ onion cut into slices ¼ inch wide
5 cups white vinegar
5 cups water
5 tbsp salt
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp celery seed
2 tsp dill seed
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cinnamon
4 whole cloves
¼ tsp ginger
½ tsp garlic
¼ tsp turmeric

To Prepare:
• Sterilize jars in boiling water
• Sterilize lids and rings in boiling water
• Heat water, vinegar, and salt in pot
• Place all spices in spice bag and suspend in boiling water, vinegar and salt.
• Reduce heat under spices and liquid, and boil at low temp. for 15 minutes
• Remove jars from boiing water and drain
• Pack sliced cucumbers and onions in sterilized quart jars
• Remove spice bag from boiling liquid
• Pour liquid and spices into jars leaving ½ inch head space
• Wipe jar rims and screw on lids and rings
• Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes making sure that water covers tops of jars by ½ inch
• Remove from water bath and allow to cool
• Make sure lids have pinged (lids should be bowed down after jars have cooled)
• Label and date jars
• Pickles will be ready to eat in approximately one week
• Discard any jars whose lids have bowed up while in storage as this is a sign that contents have gone bad.

If you have any of the pickling liquid left, you can store it in a closed jar in the refrigerator and use it on the next batch. Enjoy. Pictured below: the end product

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Survival Garden - Green Beans

I always plant a bed of Blue Lake green beans in the garden. They taste great fresh, and even better canned. The bed I planted this year was 3 ½ feet wide and 32 feet long. I plant my seed about an inch deep and four inches apart in each direction. I planted in mid-march. I have stated before that you can get an unbelievable amount of produce from a small garden by using the bed planting method, and Blue Lakes are a good example of what I am talking about. After I picked and snapped the beans I had 30 quarts; this is off of a little more that a hundred square feet. Also, because green beans are an early crop (I picked mine at the beginning of June) that same 100 square feet of garden is now available for a second crop. I planted the same bed with purple hull peas. Pictured below: Former Blue Lake bed has been replanted in Purple Hull Peas.

Don’t fertilize beans or peas. They produce their own nitrogen and actually improve the fertility of soil that they are planted in. After I have picked over my beans, I never pull up the vines. I cut them off at ground level. This leaves the roots and their nitrogen nodules in the ground.

Green beans can be stored in several different ways. One is to make Leather Britches, a type of dried bean. To make Leather Britches, take the whole green beans and string them on a piece of twine. Use a needle to string them. Push the needle through the side of each bean about in the middle, then hang the string of beans up to dry. By the way, tying a knot in the thread when you start will not work. The beans will slide off. I usually tie a button or a small stick on the end of the string, and this keeps the beans on the string. They will keep for months without refrigeration. Too prepare the beans just slip them off the string into a pot of boiling water. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for a couple of hours. They will not look like fresh or canned beans; they will have a kind of wrinkled leather-like appearance. Hence the name Leather Britches.

Greens beans can be frozen and stored in plastic freezer bags, but you really need to blanch them for a minute in boiling water before freezing them. Blanching stops the enzymes in the beans from working and helps protect the taste.

My personal favorite way to store green beans is by canning, but you must pressure can them. Don’t ever try to can green beans by using the water bath method. It will not work, and it is dangerous. If you have a pressure canner, follow the canning directions that came with it. If you don’t have directions, you can buy a USDA publication on home canning that will tell you everything you need to know.
Pictured below: Home canned Blue Lake Green Beans in the pantry.