Monday, April 25, 2016

Prepping Part #2 Foraging

Foraging for food

Over the last few weeks we have been foraging for food with friends and neighbours on road sides and down tracks and lanes.
Picking sweet plums and apples.
Most of what we picked was made into pies, cakes and slices and shared over a cuppa with friends, good conversations and lots of laughs.
The rest were made into oh so sweet jams.

This recipe is approved by Ball as a safe canning recipe.

Yellow Plum and Vanilla Jam

1.8 kg Plums pitted
1 1/2 cups Water
1/4 Lemon Juice
6 cups Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean Pod

Pit all the plums and add to a large stainless steel pot.
Add in the water, lemon juice and sugar.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to plums.

Bring to the boil slowly, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Turn down to a low simmer and cook 40 mins stirring till it is thick and sticks to the back of your spoon.

While the jam cooks, sterilize your jars and dont forget the lids.
Pour the hot jam into the hot jars. Wipe the jar rims and add the lids.
Check on the  National Centre for Food Preservation for your altitude canning times.
For me i water bath can for 15 mins at a rolling boil.

Happy Adventures Nicole, Andrew & Sally Girl

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Star Pickets

How to remove a star picket

I think of star pickets as temporary fencing, the reason being is they are so useful for soo many things its crazy to use them for anything permanent and at between $4 and $6 each they are way to expensive not to be a reusable item.

In the front paddock there were 20 or so pickets we wanted to remove and once hammered in can take a bit of doing to get them out of the ground.

The supplies you will need are a piece of chain, a metal bar or pipe and either a nut and bolt or as we used a U shackle.

The shackle goes through the bottom hole of the picket and the chain goes on the shackle forming a loop for the pipe to go through.

Then all you need to do is leaver the pipe and the picket will lift out of the ground.

Its not always easy as some are in further than others and if the ground is really hard like ours it can take a bit of work to get them out.
But saying that this is the easiest way of removing star pickets and you dont bend them in the process.

Happy Adventures Nicole, Andrew & Sally Girl

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Out Door Loo

Dunny, Thunder Box, Shitter, Crapper, Bog, Out House, Shit house what ever you like to call it, it all means the same.
From using a bucket in the paddock to something with 3 and a bit walls, its the ultimate luxury in the Aussie Bush.

Phillip popped over for a visit and helped out with building the frame and nailing on the floor.

At the end of day 1 we have a bucket on a platform way more fancier than just in the paddock.

We made it the extension of the shower so we already had one wall to work with.

Sometimes i actually do get photos of me working, cut and nailed all the end wall boards on.

I think Sally Girl was thinking this was her new house.

At the end of day 2 we had walls and a roof, not as draughty as the day before.

Day 3 and Andrew cut down our fire wood box that was broken in the move and now its our new dunny box, so very fancy dont ya think.

As for me i get to sand and varnish the seat so you don't get splinters in your bum.

A fancy plastic lid to keep out the flies, a plastic bucket is in the box to catch all the waste.

You must sprinkle saw dust in after you finish every time, this helps with the composting and also stops the smell. The saw dust is a by product from milling our timber.
When we remove the bucket, the lid goes on and they sit up the back in the sun to cook for about 3 months or so, they are emptied into a big hole and it is covered where it composts down even more.
There are no smells and the system works pretty good.
A peg on the loo paper stops it from unrolling in the breeze.

Added a side wall so a little less breezy and a curtain for privacy when people visit.

So here is our new just for now shower house and loo.

We upgraded our gas shower as we had a little problem over winter with ice in the water pipes.
This new system is from a company called  Joolca, Hot Tap gas hot water. This little beauty is so so easy to use and adjust and it came with easy clip on connections.
Gas in, cold water in and hot water out.
This year all the pipes will be lagged so we don't have to worry about frozen pipes and wonderful hot showers all winter long.

Happy Adventures Nicole, Andrew & Sally Girl

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Prepping Why? Part #1

The Pantry and Freezer.

Being prepared is more than just surviving a disaster- like a tornado, a financial crisis, TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) or a zombie apocalypse.

People who aren't preppers seem to think that people who are, are either a little bit nuts or a lot. Yes there are those who are quite extreme but who knows they may be the most enlightened people at the end of the day/world.

Prepping for me is about taking control of our life, if the something big happens or if it doesn't then either way i am looking after my family, friends and neighbours. I think that's worth being called nuts.

While you live week to week you are controlled by the whims of the supermarkets, as long as they control your food, you don't have control of your food security.

For example if there is a truck strike that means not deliveries to the supermarket, they only carry enough stock for 1 to 2 days so if there are no deliveries how long do you think there will be food on the shelves.....
Depending on how busy your supermarket is but generally by half way through the second day most of the shelves will be empty. What then? How long will they stay empty?

Today i would like to talk about building your pantry and stockpiling.
If you do nothing else other than stocking your pantry, then at least you will be able to eat if something does happen, even if it's just a power outage for a few days.

One of the first things about prepping is saving money. What? you might say stockpiling all that food must cost a fortune. Well if you buy it all at once it most certainly would.
However you don't buy it all at once, you start off with a little extra each week till you have built up a good stocked pantry.

Now that we have moved to Early Bird Farm i will also be starting my food storage again as some of it was lost in the truck crash and we could only store so much till the shipping containers arrived, so slowly back into it again.
Hopefully by the time my cook house is built i should have quite a bit stored to go into my walk in pantry.

The Grocery Book
The first thing you need to know is how much the regular things you buy cost.
I made up a small book listing all the items i buy each week/month.
With a section for each store that i buy from. Each page is like a spread sheet,
column 1 is the item
column 2 is the size/s i buy
column 3 is the price
column 4 is the sale price
you could also do a column for unit pricing if you like. Something like the picture below.

I made up my pages so the first page for each store corresponds to the first isle in the store and so on through out.
I then laminated the pages and put them onto a ring. I do suggest if you make one add a few extra pages so you can add on new items as the need arises. I use a sharpie to write in my prices and if they have to be changed then a little nail polish remover does the trick.

This next bit will take you some time but believe me it is well worth it.
The most important part of this next step is to give yourself plenty of time and leave the spouse and kids at home. They can be more of a hindrance than a help.
You can do this on a regular shopping day or just dedicate the trip to pricing everything.
Now write next to each item the regular price and if its on sale then write that price in as well.

From now on every time you go shopping take your book with you or leave it in your handbag so it is always handy.
Add in any sale prices that you don't have and change others if they become cheaper. As you are tracking everything you will know if it's really a sale price or if the store has put the price up and then marked it down to its before regular price. They are pretty sneaky when it comes to pricing but with your trusty book you wont be caught out.
This is also good for when manufactures change their packaging and labels, usually the only time they do this is when they down size their goods and try to distract you with fancy new labels all the while the goods are smaller and usually the price is marked up.
So less product for more money. Keep an eye out for the "New Look Packaging" and don't forget to let everyone know.

I only shop the sale items unless its an emergency. I really don't like buying items at full price and to be honest who can afford to.
My husband and kids use to say that we only eat when its on sale.......
When you have that full pantry then there is no need to pay full price.
Until you get to that stage you need to start out small. With your regular shopping add in a couple of sale items.
Now not just any sale items, it has to be things you eat or use. There is no point in stocking a case of tin green beans if no one in the house eats them, no matter how cheap they are.
This is where so many people go wrong with their stockpile. In a disaster no one is going to want to eat those green beans so why put them in your pantry.

Start by adding those things you eat every week. For example if you use spaghetti sauce once or twice a week and its on sale then add 2 more or however many you can afford that week.
This will be how you get your pantry stocked.

Now putting all this extra food into your pantry does not mean that you don't use it. You must rotate your stock just like the supermarket. Using and adding to the pantry as you go. This ins't about storing food in a basement or closet and forgetting about it.
This is your working food storage where every thing gets used and added to.

The saving money part now kicks in, as your pantry gets fuller, then your weekly shopping budget can get smaller or you can go from shopping weekly to fortnightly.

This book isn't just for food items, it's for everything- cleaning supplies, personal hygiene, medical needs, pet and livestock supplies. Anything you buy on a regular or semi regular basis's.
The butcher and green grocer should also have their own pages in your grocery book.

If you have a big enough deep freezer, then buying extra meat when its on sale is a very good idea.
If you don't have a big freezer then you might like to ask family or friends who do if you can use some of their space.
As for fresh fruit and veg only buy extra if you can store it in another way, like making pies with cheap apples and putting them in the freezer, using a dehydrator and canning are also options and i will cover some of these in future posts.

There are other ways of filling your pantry besides the supermarket-
growing your own fruit, veg and herbs.
Catching/killing your own meat, this is not for everyone but fresh caught fish is better than anything you will buy at the shops.
Then there is the gate way drug to all sustainability and prepping households- The Chicken.

The entertainment value alone is worth it, but when they lay your first fresh free range egg you will be hooked, not only on their antics but those fresh cackle berries on Home Made Bread for breakfast YUM!

Having all of this food in my pantry and freezer means security to me.

If we are flooded in and can't leave the farm or if we are without an income for some time or any number of other scenarios, then i know we will be able to survive for quite some time.

I hope that i have inspired at least one person to fill their pantry and freezer, not just in case the zombies come but to give them piece of mind.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Solar set up part #2

So the time had come it was the new year and time to get the free sun power hooked up.
Oh not to have to make the decision, food or drinks.... you know, one or the other when you only have a small camp fridge and the weather is in the high 30's. Eat something out of the fridge so we can put in some water. Oh how we miss cold drinks.......

Well it all seems to good to be true, unpacked all the solar gear, go through the stuff, look on line and go through all the stuff again and well you guessed it half the order was missing, who are these people who pack orders for shipping, it's ridiculous. Now Andrew's calling the company and trying to work out what's missing as there is no sheet listing what items were sent there isn't even a guide as to how it all goes together. Well there is quite a lot missing and you guessed it too big of a package to go to the PO Box so another trip to Sydney when the missing items are sent.
Back home again and we think we are all set but no, still missing some of the battery connectors and still no instructions.
We feel like this is a bad joke.....

With enough to connect up 4 of the batteries we arranged for our very good friend and neighbour Geert who is a wiz at pretty much every thing, to come and give Andrew a hand to put the solar into working gear.
Geert remind's me of my Dad, Dad could do anything he put his mind to and if it was something new to him he would work it out. His favourite thing to say was "its easy" and it was for him and he would share and help out any one who asked and even when they didn't ask he was there to lend a hand.

A couple of days before Andrew built the frame and added the solar panels, everything was ready to go.

There was no way this baby was going on the roof it weighed a tone, it took four of us to move it a few feet into place.

Friday morning rolled around and it was Hot real Hot, Geert was here bright and early and they got started.
We had already put the board up on the wall in the cabin and it was ready to go.

First up the earth wire was staked into the ground and wires were run.

The trench was dug from the battery house to the solar panels, the wires were put into piping and buried.

Everything was going great, the batteries were joined and the panels were hooked together.

Turned it on and the sun did its job and there was power going to the batteries it was Awesome.

The best part was i could plug in and turn on the fridge, oh my goodness cold drinks at last......

Two weeks later Geert was here again and they hooked up the other 4 batteries.
The small camp fridge is now our freezer until we have a kitchen house and somewhere for the big freezer to go.
Now it feels like our home in the country is taking shape.
It is so good being able to store more fresh foods and that means heaps less trips to town.
Oh the Country Life........

Our system is
8x 48V 220 AH Flooded Deep Cycle Batteries
4x Risen 250W Polycrystaline Panels
Later on we may add 4 more panels but for now it does what we need.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Solar Set up Part #1

We ordered our solar set up on line and it was a toss up between two companies, one was a bit cheaper and you had to wire the board yourself and the other came with a pre-wired board and was more expensive. 
We decided to go with the pre-wired and had 2 double power points added to the board.
4 x solar panels and 8 x Giant premium heavy duty sealed deep cycle batteries. 

As the order was too large to be delivered to the post office we had it delivered to Dads place in Sydney and that meant a trip to go and pick it up. 

It took months but they finally let us know it was ready to be shipped, so off to Sydney we went only to find out after being there for a week that they not only didnt ship it but they were still waiting for part of the order. Grrrr..... Home again and lots of phone calls later and we decided to council the order and get a refund but they surly didnt like that and made sure our order was ready a couple of weeks later and back to Sydney we went to pick up our power.
We were glad when it arrived but it just wasn't as exciting what with all the stuffing around and two trips to Sydney and all.

Home again and everything was put into the shipping container and thats where it stayed all of winter. It was just too wet and muddy to do anything.
In mid November we decided on where we were going to put the batteries, inside the cabin was not an option as we already had limited space so we decided to build a small cupboard to house them out side on the back wall of the cabin.
Andrew pretty much got to work, we cut a tree for the six stumps and put them in the ground.

Next Andrew had to mill some timber and then we were well on our way.

Levelled up and the barer's and joists were added, all hand nailed into hard wood and boy was it ever hard. As you can see we have a little bit of a slope but we just followed the beam at the bottom of the cabin.

Next up the flooring went on, i did most of the cutting and Andrew did all the nailing, i did nail on one board but my wrists , elbows and shoulders aren't what they use to be and again that wood is hard.

Took us about 4 days to get this far then the rain paid us a visit so we were at a stand still for a couple of weeks.

By this time we had purchased a nail gun so the frame went up pretty quick. 
A trip down the back and we found a few sheets of old iron for the roof.

I made the lunch and Andrew worked on the fold down doors.

A bit of silicon in the old nail holes on the tin, some handles and the cupboard is all finished.

Stay tuned for part #2