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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Favorite Bread Recipe

Nothing like a little nip of fall in the air to make homemade bread even better! Here's my favorite recipe. If you've never tried your hand at making bread you really should - you'll get hooked!

Long ago I used to make mine a loaf at a time, when I had the time, in a bread machine. Once I tried making bread by hand though, I was hooked! I now make bread 2-3 times a week and make about 3 loaves at a time. It really doesn't take that long once you get the hang of it. Here's our favorite recipe for Wheat Bread.

I mix my recipe around a bit, depending on what I have on hand. If I'm running low on grains, sometimes I'll make this as a white bread recipe. I usually make it with white and wheat flour at least and sometimes I'll also add spelt or kamut to the recipe to make a multigrain bread. Here's my basic recipe:

Handmade Wheat Bread

6 cups unbleached flour*
2 Tablespoons wheat gluten
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 cups water at approximately 105-110 degrees**
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons yeast
1/4 cup oil

* For the flour, I usually break it down to 3.5 cups of King Arthur Special with malted grains. It is an unbleached flour that makes wonderful bread. To this I add 2.5 cups of whatever grain I want to grind myself that day - usually wheat, but sometimes spelt or kamut. Sometimes I use a combination of any two or even all three different grains. The dough will rise best with at least 3.5 cups of the flour being the King Arthur or whatever your favorite unbleached flour is to use. You'll notice I add wheat gluten to help the dough rise when I use the wheat or spelt or kamut.

**For the water, I sometimes use 1 cup of water at the desired temperature and 1 cup of kefir whey.

In a 4 cup mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar and mix well. Allow to set approximately 10-15 minutes to activate the yeast.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour(s), salt, and wheat gluten. To the activated yeast mixture, add 1/4 cup of oil (I use organic canola oil or a light olive oil or sometimes a vegetable oil) and mix well. Stir into the flour mixture until well combined and then turn out the dough onto a well floured surface.

Knead the dough well by adding additional flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough becomes a soft, silky ball. This usually takes about 10 minutes or so.

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with a smooth cotton towel. Place in a warm place until the dough doubles in size. I put mine in my oven with the light on for about 2-3 hours.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, punch down and divide into half or thirds. If my dough has really risen well, I'll divide it into thirds and make 3 loaves. If it is not rising as well as I'd like, I divide it into half and make 2 loaves. Every day is different when you make bread - humidity, temperature, your flour, all play a part in how your bread turns out. Some days it will rise better than others.



Okay, here I don't knead the dough again, I just turn the corners and shape it into a nice little loaf. Put the loaves into lightly greased loaf pans and cover. Allow to rise until the dough is about 1/2 inch above the top of the pan.Heat your oven to 350 degrees and put the loaves in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. They will be nicely browned. Turn out immediately onto a wire rack to cool so the bread doesn't get soggy. Wait until they are completely cooled before wrapping. I keep mine wrapped in foil so they don't dry out too quickly. Usually, we can go through at least 1 loaf a day, so they don't last too long anyway!
Enjoy your bread!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Consider Beekeeping

Have you considered beekeeping as part of your preparedness goals? Believe it or not, you don't have to have a ton of land or crops to get started keeping bees. Many people raise bees in the city, the suburbs and in our urban and rural areas.

Perks are your very own delicious honey and honeycomb and knowing that you are helping out the bee populations that have been fighting in recent years to combat colony collapse disorder.

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I even make lip balms, skin creams, lotion bars and bow wax with the beeswax that we collect from our hives.

Going into fall is a great time to start your education about beekeeping if this is a hobby that has your interest. This will give you the whole fall and winter to do your homework and get prepared for the surge of beekeeping activity that the springtime brings.

We started beekeeping in September 2008. Our middle child had an interest in bees and so my husband started showing her online videos about bees every night before bedtime. She was hooked.

The next step - they attended a meeting of our local beekeepers association. As it happened a member of the association was relocating out of state and could not take his bees with him. It was a stroke of luck for us, because we were then able to purchase an established hive and set of equipment.

Normally, you do not start keeping bees in the fall. But since this was an established hive and they had plenty of honey already stored for winter, we took the plunge.

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We wanted bees primarily to help fertilize our pasture for our cows. Our bees are located in meadows adjacent to our cattle pastures and are doing a great job of fertilizing our clover and many other native plants.

Our hive survived the winter of 2008/2009 quite well. We were able to "split" our one main hive into 4 additional hives during this spring, which was quite a feat. The queens have survived in 3 of the 4; the 4th one we've re-combined with another hive for this winter and we'll see if we can split it back out next spring.

It pays to do your homework before you get started in your beekeeping adventures. Here are a few steps we recommend.

~ Take some time to browse online and watch some of the videos that are out there about beekeeping. This will introduce you to how different people handle their bees, what types of bees they raise, what types of hives they use, how they extract their honey, etc.

~ Find out if there is a local beekeeping club or association in your area. Start attending their meetings. Most beekeepers are very friendly and love to talk about their hobby, especially to new people wanting to learn. Just know that many of the "commercial" beekeepers do things very differently than you might want to as a small beekeeper. And this will also be a good time for you to learn from people who use medications on their bees vs those who opt for more natural beekeeping.

~ Do some reading. One of the best books we've read is "First Lessons In Beekeeping" - you can click on the link to see a copy. It is very basic, has good photos and illustrations and also discusses bee diseases and pests.

~ Once you decide you are ready for this hobby, you need to decide what type of hives you want to keep. The options are many - and you need to know before you start purchasing your hives which kind you want. Most main hive bodies use large frames. For your honey supers, you can use small, medium or large frames. Remember your back. There are 10 frames in each super - medium frames can generate a quart of honey per frame (times 10). Then there is the whole top-bar hive option, which basically lets the bees do their own thing. Know what your goals are, what your abilities are and then make your purchases. Also, there are tons of different ways to do your foundation wax. Some have to be wired in, some drop into the frames, some are plastic - your research will be well worth the effort.

~ In addition to the different styles of hives, there are different building materials for hives. Wooden hives are most common, but there is also a polystyrene option, which we've enjoyed using. Do your research and decide what will work best for you in your climate and environment.

~ You'll want to at a minimum purchase gloves and a veil and smoker equipment. You'll need a hive tool and a brush. If you are buying a beginners set, it usually comes with the minimum you need to get started.

~ If you want to work with your local beekeeping association to catch swarms, then you need to know what you always need to have on hand for a swarm call.

Here's a fantastic blog that has broken beekeeping down into many steps:

Basic Beekeeping

Here are the beekeeping supply houses that we've used in the past and would highly recommend:

Walter T. Kelley

Dadant

Better Bee

Brushy Mountain

Jester Bee

Glory Bee

We love beekeeping - if you have an interest, now is the time to get started!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prepping for the Winter Season

Things have been busy around the homestead of late; hubby was called up by the reserves at the first of the month to spend another year on active duty (stateside, thankfully) ~ we're in the middle of processing our fall cattle for our beef customers ~ we're winterizing our bees ~ planning for the holidays - the list of things that have kept me quite busy for several days goes on and on.

In all of that, I've also been reviewing our winter preps. At the first little cold nibble, I start to run everything through my mind to make sure I'm as prepared as I can be for the coming winter season. This is something we work on throughout the year, but I always do a check as winter approaches to make sure everything is in good order.

Granted, in West Tennessee we don't have a terribly severe winter season - no real snow to concern ourselves with most years; occasionally an ice storm will visit us - but since we never know exactly what's on the agenda for Mother Nature any given year, it's nice to be prepared for what might come our way.

I start by making sure my food preps are in order. We keep long term, intermediate, short term and current use food preps. My current use food preps for the most part are always the one being used plus 2 in the pantry. For example, if I have an open peanut butter - there should be 2 more unopened ones in the pantry (or fridge or freezer, depending on what it is). We work it this way for our most commonly used items - things like butter, oats, sugar, peanut butter, ketchup, spices, cooking oils, etc.

I know that if we have an ice storm, for example, I'm well set with my pantry and other storage foods to make it through for many weeks if necessary. Along with food preps I make sure I have cooking fuel, something to open my canned goods with that isn't electric, things to cook with over a fire if necessary, things like that.

I make sure we have plenty of stored water. We keep some 55 gallon barrels of water stored outside, as well as juice containers of water inside. We also have some Water Bobs on hand that we could use in the bathtubs to store an additional 100 gallons of water if necessary.

Next I think about heat. One reason I live in the South is because I really don't like to be cold. And I'm cold once it drops below 75 degrees! So I tend to think a LOT about heat and ways to stay warm. Several years ago we had the gas line to our fireplace capped and had it lined with firebricks so we could use it to burn wood instead. This has been nice, but this year we're going to step it up and put in a wood stove insert so that if necessary, we could heat our entire home from the fireplace.

We have a little over 3 cords of wood put up, another cord to split and access to plenty more wood should the need arise. I anticipate we'll have our wood stove in place in the next month. We're looking at a couple of models that also have a cook-top option, which would be another cooking alternative should the power be out for any reason.

Those are my big 3 areas that I try to make sure are in good order. There are tons of other little things too - like making sure the furnace is in good order and the filter is new before we switch over to the heat, making sure our outdoor faucets have covers to keep them from freezing, making sure our vehicles are appropriately winterized and have winter emergency gear in them, getting our winter bed coverings out and refreshed, switching out the fall and winter clothes for the children and adults, and other things specific to our family and our homestead.

Are you ready for this winter season? Is there anything special you do to prepare? Let us know if you've found a particular tip or trick that helps you along!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Civil or Uncivilized?

There's been an interesting little discussion going on at Survival Boards for the past few days - revolving around the question: "At what point will people stop being civilized?" In other words, in the event of a major societal disaster or breakdown, when will people lose it?

Hubby has the following opinion - as always, we welcome a hearty discussion and love to hear your individual opinions - so feel free to leave us some comments!

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Like many other questions about individuals, the answer will vary widely with the individual in question.

For some, possibly the earliest they will become uncivilized is when they realize that no one is watching - they are no longer constrained by law enforcement or held accountable. This crew turns savage sometime between the initial event and two days; they are your initial threat and may be present in riots or gangs. NOTE: Well disciplined gangs may conserve assets and gather information biding their time until much later.

Be prepared to deal with this group of people out of your Get Home Bag (GHB) and CCW.

Others will become uncivilized when their food, medicine or other goods they typically purchase run out; sometime between day two and one week after the initial event.

Be prepared to deal with this group of people out of a Bail Out Bag (BOB).

Yet others will become uncivilized when they realize no help is coming, there is no FEMA rescue, I'd say about one to two weeks after an initial event for this crowd.

Be prepared to deal with these people from your Bail Out Location (BOL). In some cases you could use these people to your advantage to recruit critical skills you need in your group. Perhaps something like Labor for Room and Board-type arrangements.

Finally, the organized predators, or road-gangs will come out; they will be equipped to take what they want from small groups of preppers, and will seek out sources of supply to raid or loot. They may be capable of overcoming small communities or fortified family groups. They will appear between three weeks to two months after the initial event. These people are actively looking for your Bail Out Location (BOL). Be aware, this group could also include well-trained former Law Enforcement Officers and Security Contractors.

So, in my opinion I think we should plan to expect multiple different waves of people to get uncivilized as each group reaches its trigger point.

Some people might see the first group as the biggest problem, I don't - they are easiest to dissuade by a threat of forceful response by an individual.

I see the last group as the greatest problem. They will not be dissuaded by the resistance of an individual - they have to be actually be stopped, and individual effort will not be sufficient. This is why many form "mutual assistance groups".

It is my opinion that any "mutual assistance group" with less than six operators will be ineffective or compromised as you move down the list of "uncivilized" people you will have to deal with.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Preparedness Cross-Training

Here's something to think about this fine fall weekend if you haven't already: Among your immediate prepper "family" or "mutual support group" - how much cross-training do you have?

Is this something you have thought much about? Not only how much cross-training do you have, but how much do you think you need? In what particular areas? If you had to be self-sufficient for a period of time, do you have enough people to do all the things that would need to be done in a day?

My mind has been thinking on this topic again recently, since my husband received mobilization orders and left this past week for a one-year assignment with the Army. He's stateside and will probably be able to come home for weekend visit every 2-3 months - so we're fortunate in that regard.

Given a lot of the things going on these days though - businesses still closing, unemployment still going up, homes still going into foreclosure, restlessness about the looming healthcare bill, concern about our economic stability, concerns about Iran, Iraq, terrorism in general, the swine flu, upcoming winter weather - there are lots of things to think about and pay attention to that could have an impact on your day-to-day life and survival.

Knowing that my husband won't be here on a day-to-day basis has made me spend some time thinking again about our preparedness plans and how they would (or would not!) work without him here to be a major participant in our plans.

We all tend to gravitate toward preparedness activities that we enjoy doing or know how to do well. And I'd venture to guess that in most families, Dad has his set of skills and areas he takes care of, Mom has hers and together they probably assign activities to any of the children that are around.

So if you take Dad or Mom out of the picture - how do your plans work? Where are the holes? Seems to me that cross-training would be a good idea to keep things going as smoothly as possible. Which means you have to think about what areas to cross-train, who to train, how frequently will you have them practice to learn and keep their skills, etc.

For example, I know how to build a great fire to heat our home and we've put in 3 new cords of wood this year (we're in West TN remember, it doesn't get super cold here for extended periods of time). We're narrowing down wood stove inserts and plan to purchase one in the next couple of weeks - it will have the ability to heat our entire home if necessary and also have a cooktop. So our ability to heat our home and have an alternative cooking method is in good shape. This year I'll be teaching our oldest child (age 10) how to start a fire and keep it going as good as I can.

Something I don't know a lot about though, is running the new generator we've purchased. I haven't seen it in operation yet. Also, we recently purchased a set of solar panels, 125 amp and 265 amp batteries, inverter - but this is another area that I don't know a lot about and need additional training if I want to make these useful to me. Hubby knows all about these items, but since we got them in place just before he left, he hasn't had the chance to cross-train me.

My oldest child at age 10 knows how to do quite a bit of cooking, laundry, basic cleaning, learned to mow the lawn this year, etc.

We take quite a bit of time to try to train our children how to do things that are part of our day-to-day lives and as they grow and mature, we add to these things like archery skills, shooting sports and safe gun handling, livestock care, etc.

Some preppers have taken the time to prepare elaborate notebooks with instructions so any member of their family can pick up the notebook and have detailed instructions about a variety of necessary tasks.

We haven't done this yet, but I know it is a great idea and one I'll be working on throughout this fall. Most of us have lots of information in our heads that we know intimately, but if we needed a spouse, child, friend or neighbor to pick up in our stead, there might be a few or many bumps along the way without a written plan.

I realize some personality types would see this level of detailed instruction as a nightmare. But there is probably someone in your immediate prepper group who would see the value of this level of preparedness and would take on the task of getting at least your most critical instructions in writing.

So now you know what's on my mind for the weekend and beyond - feel free to share any ideas or thoughts you have about cross-training - have you done it already? is it on your "to do" list? how will you accomplish it? have you set up a notebook of instructions? We'd love to hear your ideas.
Tennessee Preppers Network Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Tennessee Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.