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Homeschooling The Well Prepared Child: July 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Oven Drying Zucchini

     One of our abundant garden items this year is zucchini. Only the kids and I eat it, and we just can't eat it as fast as it is growing. I thought about pickling it but we have also had a huge crop of cucumbers. Pickling at this time is out, but I might try that later on. What do you do with extra produce that can not be eaten fast enough? I thought of freezing it until I saw a post in one of my Facebook groups about drying vegetables. Excellent homesteading option for long term food storage! I do not have a dehydrator, and prefer to learn methods not requiring electricity. We are looking into making an outdoor dehydrator, but for now I decided to oven dry them. Lots of fruits and veggies can be dried this way. 
     Of course we started by researching Drying Zucchini in the Oven, and found a great article over at Real Food Mama that describes the process in clear and simple steps. Here is what we did with her info.

Oven Dried Zucchini

  1. We started by washing and drying our zucchini. We had 3 and a half large zucchinis we started out with. (I completely forgot to get photos of us washing, cutting and preparing our zucchini. :/ )
  2. Cut into 1/4 in slices. Any smaller than that, and it will dry too quickly. Any thicker, it might take too long. We did end up with some larger and smaller slices. My daughter (and I have to admit, myself as well) ended up making all sorts of sizes of slices by hand. This wold probably be easier with a veggie slicer of some sort. It is now on my wish list to get one. 
  3. Place slices on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Place in oven. 
  4. Set your oven to the lowest possible setting. My oven's lowest is 150 degrees. You are drying them, NOT cooking them! Think 'Low and Slow' while they are drying. Also, air flow is key in drying foods in your oven. I propped my oven open with a knife set on its edges in the door. You might have a better option and I would love to hear it if you do! 
  5. You must flip them over quite often to insure even drying on both sides and to prevent them from sticking to the cookie sheet. I figured this out the hard way. My second batch the next day dried a lot quicker since we sliced them all at the same time. I stored them in the fridge overnight and this might have caused them to dry a bit while they were in there. 
    This is what the look like as they
    are drying when you flip them.
  6. Dry your zucchini until they are no longer flexible. They will be crispy to touch. My first batch took 6 hours. The second batch took just 4 hours.

  7. Store your dried and cooled Zucchini in jars or baggies. Note a whole sheet of dried Zucchini did not fill up a pint jar. Extracting the water significantly reduces the size of the slice. Zucchini is 96% water. 
  8. Now what do you do with your dried zucchini? I hear it is good in soups and sauces. I have never tried them before and have never used them in cooking. (Right now, my daughter is preforming an experiment on re-hydrating a piece of our newly dried zucchini. I will let you know how that goes on another post.) I would actually like to try them in lasagna layers. We did try them just they way they are and we all kind of liked them. My last batch I seasoned them with a dill/onion seasoning packet I had up in my cabinet. They were yummy! But I tell you, a little seasoning goes a long way! 
Do you have a good recipe that uses dehydrated zucchini? We would love to hear about it! 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why We Prep As A Family

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'Do you really think something bad is going to happen? Come on, in this day and age, there is no way. And if it does, the government will help us!'  

   That whole statement/question really gets to me! There are various reasons why my family preps and not one is a conspiracy theory! Let me throw a few SHTF scenarios THAT HAVE ACTUALLY HAPPENED!

  • Hurricane Katrina 
  • Hurricane Sandy 
  • Mudslides in Colorado and California
  • Wild Fires ALL over the US
  • Tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma

     Google 'Natural Disasters in the USA' and you will come up with about 13,000,000 results. I could not even post them all. Every day someone, somewhere, is in a scenario they wish they had been prepared for. Do you save for retirement? That is you prepping for your future after you retire. Do you buy groceries for the whole week? That is you preparing to eat for the week. Do you buy clothing, bottles, diapers and wipes when you find out your are expecting? That is you preparing for a child! So why is it so crazy that my family is trying to be self sufficient and prepare for the future? I prepare for the 'Just in Case' of life's mishaps. What if one of us gets hurt? What if we loose a job? What if weather kept us from going to town to get supplies? And yes, what if the world changes as we know it? 

Let me tell you what personal SHTF situations our family has been through in just this past year alone.
  • My construction worker husband was out of work for nearly 8 months.  When my husband was out of work, we used nearly all of our savings. Luckily I had enough provisions in the house so we did not have issues with providing food.  My small paycheck helped to pay bills when needed and keep us a float. It was a trying time, but we made it. 
  • Winter storm blew through and froze everything. Everything was closed and half of the town did not have electricity for 3 days. I had my mom staying with us cause her house was not equipped for a power outage and temperatures as low as they were. While the power was out at my house we cooked meals on the wood burning stove and heated our house with it. I also had oil lamps and candles to help us see. Luckily, our power was not out as long as most. We were able to snuggle in and watch t.v. and play board and card games for the most part. 
  • My mother was in the hospital for weeks in an ICU and was sent to a hospital about an hour away from me. I missed a lot of work. Since my check pays for all of our food, we blew through all of my food preps again as well. Mom is fine now, but I can't imagine what I would have done if I had to worry about feeding my family at the same time I was worried about my mom. 
     I hate to think what would happen if I had not prepared ahead of time for these real life emergencies. Those extra bags of rice and sugar I picked up, along with all my other canned veggies, fruits, soups and munchies really came in handy. Did my kids think we were in dire need of money? Yes, they knew, but they knew mom and dad had prepared for the 'Just in Case.' 

     Prepping to me is not just about buying and storing, stockpiling items you might need just in case your world is toppled up side down. It is a whole state of mind and a way of life. Humans have not always been able to run to the store to buy a gallon of milk they forgot. Before grocery markets became so popular, people went to general stores and just bought big bulk necessities to make it though a certain amount of time. Everything else came from what they grew, raised and foraged. Summers were spent stockpiling for winter. Now don't get me wrong, I love being able to run to the grocery store after work cause I we ran out of milk! I am guilty of running in for just a few things just as much as the next guy. However, I am working towards not having to rely on the grocery stores to get basic daily supplies, and just use them to purchase my big bulk items. On my mind all the time is, "What if you couldn't go to the store for the items your forgot or ran out of? What if road conditions are too harsh? What if stores were closed?" My mind is not in panic mode, it is more that a strategy game for me. 
     Look around your kitchen, how long could your family go with out going to the store? Days? Weeks? Rarely does anyone ever have enough food to last months on end. We have fallen into the 'convenience' trap. 'I'll pick it up on the way home.' But if you think about it, prepping is not always about food storage that comes from a store. Let us play a little scenario game... 
     Let's say stores are gone, you have no elecricity and you only have enough food to feed your family for 2 months. Then what? How are you going to get more food? Most people would say, 'Oh, I'll hunt for my food.' or 'I can garden," but can you really? Unless you are an avid hunter, your hunt might not go as planned. What if you wait all day and you do not see a deer? What will you eat then?  Are you prepared to eat a squirrel, skunk or rabbit? If you do manage to get a kill, what if your prey takes off and runs away before it finally dies? Will you know how to track it? If you do find your deer, do you know how to skin and dress it? Now you can not possibly eat a whole deer in one day, so how do you preserve it? How do you keep it fresh enough to feed your family for a month? 
     Man can not live on meat alone, can you a garden? Do you have seeds? Do you know when to plant your seeds? Do you know how to fertilize your garden? Do you know how long compost must sit before it is ready? Do you even know how to make compost? Do you know what amending the soil means? Do you know what kind of manure you can put directly on plants? Which animal manures will burn a plant? What do yellow leaves on a plant mean? What if your plants do not grow? What if you end up having a great amazing wonderful green thumb? Will you do with the abundance of food to prepare it for winter? No electricity means no refrigerators. Do you know how to can? Do you water bath or pressure cook your bounty? Do you know about root cellars? Drying fruits and vegetables? If you do know about these things, do you know how to do them with out electricity? Gas? 
     These are just a few of the questions I ask myself all of the time. AND THAT is why I prep! I have not even touched medical, hygiene, livestock, mechanical, and school prepping! It seems a bit overwhelming at first. But baby steps are all that is needed! Just make sure if you are talking the talk, that you are also walking the walk! Get up and learn something! 

Disclosure: I am Amazon Affiliate and may receive a small compensation for including links on my blog. Buying through my links is not necessary, just appreciated. Amazon does not charge extra for linked items recommended by their affiliates.  I only recommend products that I use and trust OR plan on using in the future. Please buy responsibly and do your own product research before buying anything online. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wild Onions

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     One of our favorite wild foragables is wild onions. My family and I had a hard time NOT picking every wild onion we found on our property. If we had, we would not have any for next year. Wild onions go naturally in our yard. They are small, but they are very good! I have sauteed them as a side dish, added them chopped in soups and stews, but our favorite use for them is adding about 1/2 cup of sauteed onions to our meat loaf mixture. Now mind you, they are tiny and it is a bit of work, but so worth it! I am not a big fan of onions, but these I love! 

Benefits of adding onions to your diet:
(all onions, not just wild ones)
  • Increases your immunity
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • Helps fight cancer
  • Heart Healthy
  • Helps prevent ulcers
  • Helps with cataracts
  • Fights the growth of tumors
  • Strengthens the arteries
  • Helps to combat disease
   Here is some more information I have found on wild onions from Merriweather's Foraging Texas. This site is my 'Go To' site for wild foraging. If you are interested in wild foraging, especially in Texas, you will enjoy his site! (Highlighted pink information was taken directly from the above mentioned site.)

Onion - Wild

Scientific name: Allium species
Abundance: plentiful
What: bulbs and young stems/leaves
How: raw or cooked as seasoning
Where: open, sunny areas
When: all year, more common in cool weather.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin C plus small amounts of other vitamins, minerals, some carbohydrates.
Other Uses: juice acts as a weak insect repellent
Dangers: Toxic "Crows Poison" plants look just like wild onion but only wild onion smells like onion. If it smells like onion it is safe to eat, if it just smells like grass it is toxic Crow's Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve).

     There are also a poisonous plant that looks just like them called 'Crow's Poison.' Crow's Poison grows right along with it. We found several of the poisonous kind. We have noticed they smell like grass vs the lovely onion smell. They also seem rounder than wild onions. Even my 10 yr old could tell the difference. We are not too concerned with mistaking them for wild onions. Not only are they easy to spot, you would also have to eat quite a lot to feel the effects of the poison, which might be a slight stomach ache. 
Wild Onions Growing In My Yard Early Spring
     As with all wild foraging, do not take all of the plants you find. If you do, there might not be any for next year. Take a few from each cluster and leave the rest, pulling from a multitude of spots. We found a large area on our property and have named it the 'Wild Onion Patch.' It will be left alone until next year. They seem easier to find in the early spring time where I live. 

Spent Thanksgiving with my family. Why they were all inside, visiting, guess what Zoey and my nephew were doing? Foraging for wild onions! She taught him how to identify them by smell and looks. :)

We will be adding these to our meat loaf this week!

Disclosure: I am Amazon Affiliate and may receive a small compensation for including links on my blog. Buying through my links is not necessary, just appreciated. Amazon does not charge extra for linked items recommended by their affiliates.  I only recommend products that I use and trust OR plan on using in the future. Please buy responsibly and do your own product research before buying anything online. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Washing Clothes The Old Fashioned Way

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    There are so many pictures, it was hard to choose which ones to share with you all! We really had a good time doing this project. It was hard for me to keep my hands out of the washtub. So hard, that at one point my daughter told me, "Get your own laundry!" We are currently on the look out to get our own washboard

Here is why:
  • A typical top loading washing machine uses 40 gallons of water. That is roughly 20 cents a load.
  • Washing on a cold/cold setting costs about .26 cents a load in energy.
  • Laundry detergent per load is about .10 cents per load for a lower costing brand.
  • Total cost for washing a load of laundry is around .56 cents. 
That does not seem like much, but, my family of 4 washes about 10 loads a week. 

  • .56 cents per load
  • $5.60 for ten loads per week
  • $22.40 a month
  • $291.50 a year
What it cost us to hand wash a load: 

  • 6 gallons of water is about .03 cents total
  • no electricity used 
  • Fels-Naptha Bar was $1.49. I cut about a 1/5 of it off, melted the crumbles, and used part of the bar for scrubbing the stains. Most of it still on the 1/5 piece we used and I can't imagine we used more than .03 cents worth. 
  • Total cost for washing a load of laundry by hand is around .06 cents
That is a .50 cent difference PER LOAD! So how much would we save by doing all of our laundry by hand?
  • .06 cents per load
  • .60 cents per ten loads a week
  • $31.20 a year
     Now compare $291.50 per year vs $31.20 a year... WOW! Will we be doing all of our laundry by hand from now on? Well heck no! Nobody got time for that! But, a few loads a week by hand will still save a significant amount of money. I am not even factoring in the amount saved by hang drying clothes vs machine drying. At this time, we already hang dry our nicer 'leaving the house' clothes. If we started hanging most of them to dry, that would incur even more savings! (But, we will do that comparison at a later date!)

So no more wait! Here are our photos and 
steps to washing clothes the old fashioned way! Enjoy!


     Our Fels-Naptha bar. That is how much I cut, and how much was left when we were finished. Good possibility we used less than .03 cents. We put the crumbles into a small sauce pan with water and melted them down. This mixture was added to the wash tub.

Our Set Up 

She chose a nice shady spot under the tree in the front of our house. The tub is actually sitting up on top of an empty milk crate so she would not have to bend over as much. 

We needed a table for the soap dish and hangers. We never use a clothes line and clothes pins. It is easier to put clothes on hangers and then hang them up under our tree.

All Ready!

 Agitating The Wash

 Her First Shirt
(Yes, she is using her chin to hold the washboard while she is scrubbing. The board was not long enough to secure itself between the sides of the tub. If we get our own washboard, we will either buy a larger one, or have Dad help us rig something to it to keep it in place.)

 The concentration in her face is amazing!

     She is now finished with the washing portion. As she washed, we placed the clothes back into the clothes basket. If you couldn't tell, she really concentrated on getting the clothes as clean as possible. Scrubbing, using the bar soap, looking, turning, and scrubbing some more. She was completely serious! 

At one point, I told her to smile so it looked like she was enjoying herself. I got this look instead and a response of,              "Mom, are you serious?               I'm working here!"

On to rinsing her clothes! 

 Agitating The Rinse Water

 And Wringing Them Out

Hang Drying

 And She Is Finished!

     Why do we hang our clothes in a tree? 
     Well, we just do. When we moved here, we had a trailer house and I hung clothes in the laundry room or off of the front porch. (I am cheap and really don't want to spend the money on setting up a clothes line.) When we built our house, we put laundry room in the kitchen. There is no room to hang them in the kitchen/laundry room. (Big house with tiny living quarters and a large garage area. But that explanation is for another post.) 
     Instead I have hung them from a large cedar tree in the front yard. At first, I thought the sap and bugs would get all over the clean clothes, but we have never noticed any problems. If the weather will not let me hang them outside, I use the bathroom and inside of the garage. All options work great. But I have gotten off topic... Back to my daughter washing her clothes.

How did my daughter like washing her clothes 
the 'Old Fashioned Way?'

     Well, she is on the fence about it. I think she enjoyed it, but she does not want me to know. My theory is, she thinks if I know she liked it, I will have her do it regularly. I asked her if we did it together, would she want to do it again. Her eyes flashed gleeful and with a smirk she said, "Maybe..." I think someone is tricking me on how much she liked washing the clothes. 

What do you think?

Disclosure: I am Amazon Affiliate and may receive a small compensation for including links on my blog. Buying through my links is not necessary, just appreciated. Amazon does not charge extra for linked items recommended by their affiliates.  I only recommend products that I use and trust OR plan on using in the future. Please buy responsibly and do your own product research before buying anything online.