How to Tan a Deer Hide

I have always had an interest in primitive survival techniques, and I enjoy teaching myself the lost arts of our ancestors.  These days I normally kill three or four deer per year to fill our freezer, and I do what I can to use every part of the animal.  However, I noticed that our deer camp throws out seven to ten deer hides every year.

I made the decision to find a way to use these hides.  The more I thought about it, the more I settled in on an idea.  Every winter I complete a survival challenge during which I spend three or four days in freezing temperatures to hone my winter survival skills.  However, I can never seem to find a warm and comfortable buffer between myself and the ground. Continue reading “How to Tan a Deer Hide”

Winter Onions

My Mother-in-law gave us a bag of a dozen small onion bulbs.  She called them winter onions.  We did not have any luck with our onions this past year, but that is another story.  We had never heard of winter onions before, so we set out researching these things on the internet. What I read about these little gems make them seem to be rather amazing little plants.

As it turns out, the little bulbs she gave us are called bulbets. They grow out from the top of the little green onion stalks that grow up out of the ground from the onion bulb.  From the looks of the ones we were given, you get one to four bulbets in little bunches.
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Where to Begin?

When we first began to seriously consider becoming more self-sufficient, it became obvious that it was going to be a huge undertaking.  The process of going from a typical suburban family to a self-sustaining, well prepared family seemed very daunting to say the least.

First of all, let me say that neither my wife or myself are what you would call patient people.  We do like to get things done right now and do not do very good at waiting.  I for one have been very bad at working long term plans.  So this little personality quirk could have easily ended our homesteading before it began.  Once we came to terms with the fact that this was going to be a very lengthy process, we determined to break it down into small, more manageable chunks.

When it comes to disaster prepping, there are three critical necessities that have to come into play.  Food, water, and shelter are the three basic necessities needed to sustain life.  Without these three things, there is no chance of surviving and sustaining through any disaster.

So there you have it.  You just need a plan with an unlimited supply of water, food, and a concrete bunker.  No problem at all.  Just go online, point and click, it will all show up UPS tomorrow, right?  If only it were that simple.

We determined that our house would suffice for shelter for the time being.  While it does need some modifications, those can come later.  Leaving us to focus on food and water.  For our family, the amount of food and water needed is a rather large amount,

To make this huge change happen, we had to break it down into smaller, more do-able chunks.  The wife created a spread sheet (she likes spread sheets) to track supplies we need for two weeks and the amount we have on hand.  Supplies such as food, water, candles, medical supplies, batteries, etc.  We basically made an educated guess about what we would need to survive reasonable well for two weeks with no electricity in case of an emergency.

We realized rather quickly that the cost to fill up even this small two week supply list was out of our budget.  Our easy answer?  Every time my wife would go grocery shopping she would buy a few extra things to fill out the list.  So given enough time we will get our two week list filled.  Once there, we will expand the list to a month and so on.

The necessary storage space to keep the amount of supplies needed to survive for long periods of time is rather large.  This makes it necessary to develople a plan for replenishment of the staples of life, food and water.  Water is still in the planning stage, but food was a simple fix, start a garden.  Starting a garden would give us a way of replenishing our food supplies and help lower our food budget.  A win-win situation.

The only problem was that this was more of a long term plan.  It would take a few months at the least to see any produce from our garden, and most likely a couple of growing seasons to get all the kinks worked out.  So starting the garden became one the most important things on the list.  We can’t make it to a point where we can grow enough food to provide for our family without getting it started.

We worked out a list of what we would need for a short term supply of two weeks and began filling it.  This would make us much more comfortable in any short term emergency, and give us something to build on.  Also, with our lack of patience, this gave us a goal we could achieve in a reasonable amount of time.  At the same time, we started our garden which will, hopefully, lead us to being much more self-sufficient.

Why prep?

There are a number of reasons people prepare for disaster, but all comes down to one thing. You know there’s only one person you can count on yourself.  Whether it be nuclear holocaust, zombie apocalypse, natural disaster, the downfall of civilization, or an economic collapse, the person best suited to keeping you alive is you.

The government has proven repeatedly that it is too inept to effectively protect citizens in case of a disaster.  Some would say recent events show it is even incapable of protecting itself from itself. You have a duty and responsibility to yourself and your family to protect and to provide for them.

Even if you do not subscribe to the doomsday prophesies that motivate a lot of people to do this, the rising price of food, gas, energy, and well everything should help get some people started on a road that will get them better prepared while saving some money on the family grocery bill.

Many of those same reasons motivated us. There are too many signs to impending economic hardship, if we are not in one already, too many natural disasters (hurricanes and earthquakes are occurring at rates we have never seen before), and too much uncertainty of the future for us not to do something to get our family a little more prepared.

It was for these reasons we began researching to develop our own disaster prep plan.  It turns out there is an abundance of information available if you just start looking for it.  We ordered a few books that looked like a good place to start.  Luckily there is a lot of individual feedback on books to help us make our decisions.  The books we found to be good sources of information are included in our recommended reading section.

And there is always the Internet.  I have spent uncounted hours searching and reading on the Internet.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of websites with great information about disaster prep online.  Now be warned, everything on the Internet is not true (duh).  But with a little common sense and cross-referencing, you can put together a lot of very useful information to help you get started on the path to being more self-reliable.

Location, Location, Location

Location is important not just in business, but also in gardening. Hopefully some of my mistakes will help someone.
It wasn’t until fall, after “the great harvest of 2012” did I test the pH of my soil. As it turns out, at least some of my problems stem from acidic soil, or a very low pH. Yes, if I would have followed the advice I had read I would have known this before I planted, but people only learn from their own mistakes, most of the time.
Pine trees, it seems, drop lots of pine needles. Pine needles are useful as mulch, and in compost, but do tend to be a little on the acidic side. So I guess, it wasn’t the best idea to plant a garden surrounded on two sides by very tall pine trees.
Why did we decide to put the garden there in the first place?
Before I explain that to you, I must go back to last year around Thanksgiving. We were trying to decide where to put the Christmas tree. After exhausting any option that did not require completely rearranging the living room (not even sure there was one) I suggested the front porch. Naturally, she didn’t find this as amusing as I did, but since then it has become an inside joke.
So, back to why we put our garden in a spot half surrounded by pine trees. Well, it was the most remote corner of the backyard, and we wanted to keep as much of our back yard as possible. When I suggested putting in the front yard (I am a bit of a smart-alack) the wife said that was too redneck. I suggested we could put a fridge on the front porch to make it match. “Right next to Christmas tree?” followed by something I will translate into, “We are not putting anything on the front porch but rocking chairs”.
So the garden went in the back yard. Surrounded on two sides by rather tall pine trees that make our soil rather acidic.

Pressure Canner From Outer Space

Our first rows of beans/peas we planted (pintos, dragon tongues, and crowder peas) we picked and dried.  This worked, but the drying process takes a while and I had cookie sheets with beans and peas all over the place.

I had already wanted to get a pressure canner, but originally thought I’d wait until next year.  This was our first year having a garden. I didn’t need a pressure cooker just yet, did I? But as our first round of beans were winding down, we decided to pull them up and plant a couple of rows of bush green beans.

The days following planting them we started talking about how we needed a canner of some sort, preferably a pressure canner for the green beans. Although we may cook some fresh out of the garden, we would need to either freeze or can the rest as they are not preferred dried.

Even though I had not canned anything since I was about 19 years old I had decided I wanted to go ahead and start looking for a pressure canner. I looked at Walmart, Kmart, Amazon, and Lehman’s. Pressure canners come in all sizes, quality, features (pressure gauge or not). Both of which impact the price of course.

The more I looked the more my heart got set on Lehman’s High Quality Pressure Canner. The quality was impeccable and the reviews were as well.  I must have this canner!  Then I had to decide what size did I need as it came in 5 different capacities from 10-1/2 Quart up to 41-1/2 Quart.

  • 10-1/2 Quart: Jar Capacity: 7 pt or 4 qt.
    Dimensions: 7-3/4″H x 10-1/2″ID (11-1/2″H with lid), 12 lb.
  • 15-1/2 Quart: Jar Capacity: 10 pt or 7 qt.
    Dimensions: 7-1/2″H x 12-3/4″ID (12-1/2″H with lid), 17 lb.
  • 21-1/2 Quart: Jar Capacity: 19 pt or 7 qt
    Dimensions: 10-3/8″H x 12-3/4″ID (15-3/4″H with lid), 18 lb.
  • 30 Quart: Jar Capacity: 19 pt or 14 qt
    Dimensions: 14″H x 12-3/8″ID (19″H with lid), 21 lb
  • 41-1/2 Quart:Jar Capacity: 32 pt or 19 qt
    Dimensions: 14″H x 15-1/4″ID (19″H with lid), 33 lb

I decided not to get the 41-1/2 Quart canner.  It was $419! That seemed excessive to me and I doubt I would need to can that much at one time. Then, I thought about how I would eventually want to be able to can half gallon jars for juice and thought I will definitely need a tall one.  I would not want to be limited. Obviously, I must have the 30 Quart capacity for $279! I love me some Lehman’s too by the way.

Wow, that is a lot of money, but it is an investment in our family’s future and I’ll never need to buy another one.  So, I rearranged the ole financial budget and found some room for this little gem of a purchase.  I would be able to get it mid August just in time for our green bean harvest!  I will have to can a lot of green beans to pay for this thing, but it was worth it. I was so proud of myself.

So just in time, this Gi-Normous box was delivered to the house. Yay, my canner has arrived. Wow, this thing was heavy. I proceeded to open the box and what I found inside looked like a pressure cooker from outer space! At a minimum, this thing should be in laboratory or something! I had never seen such a pressure cooker in all my life!  I thought my Mama’s was huge, but it was nothing compared to this thing.

It is gorgeous and pristine, but I think I may have been a little over zealous.

Bring on the beans!


This year we planted dragon tongue beans, pinto beans, and top-pick crowder peas. The seed packet for the dragon tongue beans said they could be picked early (green) and the shells are similar to a green bean or left to dry and pick after the bean is fully mature similar to the pinto bean. We opted to let them mature and dry and pick them like pintos.

This is what we got. It is just about enough for one good mess of beans. I am grateful as we did not even know if we would get any harvest.  The shells have purplish striping. Some shells are darker than others. We were curious to see how they taste.

Dragon Tongue Beans
Dragon Tongue Beans

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Zucchini, Laserdiscs, and Meat On Sale!

The kids may riot soon if we force them to eat any more zucchini! To be quite honest Jon and I are getting a bit tired of it too and I love fried zucchini! It blows my mind how much produce can come from 8 plants. So, now we are going to take a little break from the eating of the fresh zucchini and just freeze it.



Which brings us to our next dilemma. Where to put all of this frozen bounty? We decided that we needed a pantry, but where?
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Now, that’s a zucchini! It was so big that we named it Gigantor!

Gigantor is so big intentionally. We were trying to let it grow enormous so that we could get some good size seeds out of it to use for next year. When I cut it, the seeds were noticeably bigger, but amazingly still nowhere near the size we had expected. They were quite a bit smaller than the seeds we had purchased and planted.  So, we just decided to slice ole Gigantor up and freeze him. He even got his name on the freezer bag!
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“Harvest” of 2012 Has Begun

The “Harvest” of 2012 has officially begun! We are very proud of our first zucchini that we picked.

We planted only 10 seeds that have grown into 8 good-looking healthy plants. There are blossoms all over them and many have little zucchinis growing.  Right now, this is the only one big enough to pick.

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