Raising Goats for Prep | The Perfect SHTF Livestock

In a situation where you are looking to prep for maximum self-sufficiency, you are probably considering adding livestock to your plans. Properly managed and raised, livestock can provide generations’ worth of value to your homestead. Raising goats, chickens and other livestock is an essential part of homesteading.

To get the very best ‘bang for your buck’ (no pun intended!), an animal which can provide meat and milk, and which has a relatively short gestational period, with multiple births common, is the ideal. An animal which can give both meat and milk provides all you need in the way of protein for essential survival. This is a good explanation of why your body needs protein: [Read more...]

How About Cooking Bacon & Eggs In A Paper Bag?

Tired of the same old camping food? Don’t you want to compliment the whole camping experience with some great grub? If you are going to hit the trails this weekend and will camp at some point, check out this [Read more...]

Can We Eat Grass?

timothygrass

Timothy Grass, a good food for horses and a sweet nibble for man.

That simple question has a complex answer: Yes, no, and maybe.  It’s a topic I explored in a recent Green Deane Newsletter and the basis for this article.

Strictly speaking we eat a lot of grass, but in the form of grain: Wheat, rice, rye, barley, millet, sprouts et cetera. What most folks want to know is can you eat the culms and blades (stems and leaves.) What you just read — culms and blades — is one of the impediments to learning about grasses; it has an argot all its own, a specific vocabulary worse than mushrooms. More so, often with grass key identifying characteristics can only be seen with a microscope. In fact I attended a grass seminar a few months ago in which the lecturing professor said if you want guaranteed employment become a grass taxonomist. He said they are very rare and very well paid.

crowfootgrass1

Crowfoot Grass

As for humans eating grass, we are not multi-gastric (or in theory large-gutted). We aren’t designed to break down the cellulose in grass to get out the nutriments. Cows have a four-chambered stomach for that purpose, horses have a huge large intestine, even the gorilla has a gut that can accommodate large amounts of vegetation. Humans don’t. However, what we can do is dry the grass, grind it into a powder and use it as a bulking agent in food, such as breads, soups and stews. We don’t get much nutrition from grass prepared that way but it does add to the sensation of satiety and reduces hunger. But there are even issues with that, such as how often. There is the problem of cyanide.

Barnyard Grass seed can be used like wheat.

Barnyard Grass seed can be used like wheat.

I have read and been told by those with Ph.D. after their name that all North American grasses are non-toxic. Many imported grasses, however, do have cyanide in some kind of chemical bond such as with hydrogen or sugar that gets separated on digestion. At the most basic level that means one has to know if the grass is native or not which also requires identification, and I’ve already mentioned grasses are a pain in the .. ah.. grass to identify. And while “natives” might not be toxic there are many grasses that seem to have very little edible value. The Andropogons come to mind which don’t seem to have any use beyond making crude brooms. As for common toxic non-natives Johnson Grass, a sorghum, is a good bad example. The large blades can be full of cyanide, depending upon the weather.  Crowfoot Grass is another. We eat the grain of Crowfoot Grass only after the plant has turned brown and the dry seeds are easily picked. Complicating the issue is that quite a few toxic grasses from Africa and Asia are naturalized in North America. Prime grain ones to look for are Sand Spurs, Barnyard Grass, and Panicums. Clover is not included here in that it is not a grass but in the pea family. Locally there is also sugar cane (non-native and native.) Sugar cane is easy to grow in warm areas but only for sugar which are empty calories but more energy than just the blades. Related native species are very fibrous and very low on sugar. Similar looking to sugar cane is Arundo donax , a controversial and wild-spread invasive in many areas of the United States. I have found only one reference to the plant’s rhizomes as edible (cooked) which makes me suspicious, and it definitely is not native, another reason to be cautious. While Arundo donax leaves and shoots are listed as edible practical experience says they are not.

Arundo donax is also called Oboe Grass because it's used to make reeds for woodwinds.

Arundo donax is also called Oboe Grass because it’s used to make reeds for woodwinds.

And now if you will permit, let me reminisce. I recently bought another book for my foraging library, A Guide to Florida Grasses, by Walter Kingsley Taylor, not the first book in my collection from this august author. I will say more about the book in newsletters to come. I spent an afternoon browsing through the guide and noted his entry on Timothy Grass. The picture alone erased more than 50 years and took me back to summers as a boy in Maine. That’s when I was impressed into service to harvest hay for our horses, most of it Timothy, Phleum pratense, a grass originally from Europe. Because of its high protein content and low dust factor it is preferred by horses. It is also good food for small rodents like Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas, as well as rabbits. We “hayed” every summer for some 20 years usually putting ten to 15 tons of loose hay into the barn. There is some irony in that most of the hay we got every year came from the Hayward Farm.

SOAC_031_728x90

The main machine for cutting this hay was a horse-drawn sickle mower. Instead of two horses the tongue was extended four feet and was pulled by a stripped-down WWII Jeep, which I got to drive. As soon as I was old enough to reach the pedals I drove and dad operated the mower.  By the time I was legally old enough to get a driver license I had already driven thousands of miles in hayfields and across country roads. Most of my annual summer “vacation” was spent haying and driving.

Sand burrs are are food that follow you home.

Sand burrs are are food that follow you home.

The problems of haying became common. The cutter bar would break a tooth, a triangle-shaped replaceable cutting edge held on by rivets, which we replaced red hot from our own forge. At least once a season, more depending upon how thick the grass was, the piston arm would break, as it was intended to do. It was a piece of ash, called a pitman — the tan wood in the picture lower right — that pushed the mower blade back and fourth being moved by gears turned by the wheels of the mower. It translated forward mower movement into horizontal sickle blade movement. When stresses got too much the wooden piston would break saving the rest of the machine from damage. Two other problems were common.

Sicklebar Cutter

Often the cut hay would wrap around each of the Jeep’s drive shafts, build up like a wad of cotton candy, get hot and catch on fire, not far from the gas tank. This required quick stopping, crawling under the hot vehicle, putting out the fire, then removing the tightly wound hay, often, ironically, with a blow torch. The other issue, beside unpredicted rain, was ground hornets. The Jeep, pulling the mower, would run over a ground hornets’ nest — at least one per field. They were never pleased about that. The hornets would instantly swarm under the Jeep, then emerge between the back of the jeep and the mower where they would find both of us and attack. It was an excuse to change gears and drive like hell… It must have been much worse when the mower was pulled by horses.

Father and son scything hay

In places where the terrain was too wet or hilly my step-father, who was built like a heavy-weight boxer and did box, would take out a scythe and cut it by hand. He had two grim reaper scythes. One with a long thin blade for hay and one with a short thick blade for brush. Once the hay was cut and sun dried we would winnow it with a Jeep-adapted horse-drawn rake. Then it was loaded loose onto a hay wagon I would drive home. The hay was lifted into the barn by a rope-operated hay fork pulled by the Jeep which my mother drove. My job on those oh-so-hot summer nights was to go up in the high rafters of the barn with 100 pounds of salt for each ton of hay. As each forkful of hay was dumped into the barn I salted it to absorb any moisture thus preventing it from rotting, getting hot and starting a fire. And then throughout the winter I had to shovel and cart the …recycled… hay to the manure pile. No wonder I was a skinny kid.

A modern “Ben Franklin”

And all the time — driving or shoveling — I had a stem of Timothy Grass in my mouth, chewing away enjoying the mild sweetness in the stem. It is a grass I would dry, powder, and use. Being a farm kid and chomping on Timothy was part of the same existence. It’s one grass that I know beyond any doubt. Timothy was unintentionally introduced to North America. In 1711 John Herd found the Eurasian native growing wild along the Piscataqua River near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He called it “herd grass.” That’s almost clever. He talked it up and it was grown in southern Canada, New England area and New York. In 1720 a Timothy Hanson moved from New England to Baltimore and began to cultivate the seed and sell it.  He was the first person in the new world who grew, bagged and sold hay seed. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were admirers of the grass and Franklin is credited with calling it “Timothy Seed” in a latter dated 16 July, 1747. The name was shortened to Timothy and it stuck. It is found nearly everywhere in North America and even in Greenland though here in Florida it is naturalized only in the Miami area. I sometimes wonder what my youth would have been like — and adulthood — had Messers Herd, Hanson, Washington and Franklin not known good grass when they saw and tasted it.

the-shape-of-things-to-comeWhile there is no shortage of people on the internet who say grass is edible and nutritious — one Indian claims to only eat grass — the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-49 shows otherwise. Folks were reduced to eating grass yet they died, often with grass stains still on their mouth. Another problem with a grass is that it contains a lot of silica, which wears down teeth. Silica is also not good for our digestive track with a history of causing oesophageal cancer. There is some molecular evidence that our very distant ancestors ate grass, or things that ate grass. It’s a debate but those who study the topic say humans did not begin to advance greatly until they good access to protein, meaning meat. These days grain, the other part of grass, is accused of contributing to bad health and obesity particularly in America. Lastly, in the for-what-it-worth department in Japan men who are not the expected Alpha Male type are called soushoku danshiliterally translated “grass-eating boys.” If you sprout wheat grass you might want to be careful just who your tell.

So, are grasses edible? As I said, yes, no, and maybe.

liberty2

 

Source : http://www.eattheweeds.com/

Zeer pots: Off Grid Refrigeration

q.jpgw640

Zeer pots have been used in areas without electricity to cool foods for generations. They are cheap, simple to construct and extend the life of perishable food in hot weather. They are not as convenient as having an electric refrigerator in the kitchen, but it’s definitely worth having a couple ready to go in case of power outages.

They can be as big as you like, just remember they are going to be heavy so if you are making a large one build it where you intend it to stay.

The principle is very simple, they work because of the cooling effects caused by water evaporating.

To make your Zeer pot:

Get a hold of two terracotta pots, a two to four inch difference in size is ideal. A saucer to fit the bigger pot makes keeping the sand wet easier.

Put enough sand in the bottom of the larger pot that when you sit the smaller pot inside the rims are at the same level.

Fill the gap between the pots with wet sand.

Put a damp cloth over the top and cover with a light coloured board. ( A dark one will soak up heat)

Tah dah…your done.

As the water evaporates, the inner pot is keep cool, several degrees below the ambient air temperature surrounding the pot. Site it in a shady place for even cooler temperatures.

You need to keep the sand wet to keep the cooling at it’s optimum level so wet the sand regularly to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Put some in the saucer and some on the top of the sand to ensure it’s wet through.

You can put your food in a plastic bag before putting it in the pot, it keeps the moisture off the produce and makes no difference to the cooling of the food.

Take care

liberty2

 

Source : http://undergroundmedic.com

How to Find, Identify and Cook Fiddleheads

Take a look around your local farmers market or health food store this time of year and you might find some strange looking, green quarter-sized, coiled vegetables known as fiddleheads.  They’re named for their resemblance to the ornamental ends of fiddles and other stringed instruments.

But don’t blink.  Because before you can say “fiddleheads” they’re gone!   And that’s why I’m writing this blog now.  Because NOW is the time to get them!

BL_069_728x90

What are fiddleheads?

Fiddleheads are ferns before they become ferns.  They are the furled up stage of a fern when they just start to shoot through the ground in spring.  As they emerge through the fertile, wet April soil, they grown and unfurl quickly, sometimes lasting just a few days in their furled up stage.

Though all ferns have a fiddlehead stage, it’s the Ostrich fern, a specific edible species, that has become synonymous with the word “fiddlehead.”  Their taste is often described somewhere between asparagus, broccoli and spinach.

Because these fiddleheads appear for such a brief period in early spring and can only be foraged by individuals, they are considered a delicacy and can be quite pricey.   I’ve heard of some specialty stores selling them for $20 a pound!

But you can harvest them yourself for free!  You just have to know where to look.

And that’s what makes fiddleheads so special.

Where do I find fiddleheads?

Fiddleheads grow prolifically throughout New England and eastern parts of Canada.  But unlike many wild edibles that grow seemingly everywhere, like dandelions, fiddleheads grow in wild and wet areas.  And that’s why I love searching for them.  They’re more apt to take you a bit off the beaten path into Nature, along the edges of rivers, stream banks and swampy areas.

Though they are not hard to find, many keep their locations secret so they will not be over harvested.  And I feel the same way!  Part of the joy is finding them yourself anyway.  There’s nothing quite like stumbling across a patch that no one else knows about.  If need be jot it down so you won’t forget for the future. I have a notebook with about six locations I’ve found in the past few years.

How do I recognize fiddleheads?

I would recommend an experienced guide the first time to be on the safe side.  Some fiddleheads look like the Ostrich fern varieties and are not only not edible but can be toxic.   I did a few wild edible walks with some experienced herbalists a few years ago and they were very helpful.

Once you see them for the first time, fiddleheads become very easy to recognize.   They are bright green and can easily be seen amidst the dark soil, twigs, and leaves from which they emerge.  They grow in clumps of about about six.  Here’s some pics of some clumps just starting to peek through the earth:

IMG_4914

IMG_4915

These are probably a little too early to pick.  But aren’t they beautiful?  I think they look like tiny green sleeping dragons.  But once they peek through, they start growing fast!  Here’s a

few that are primed and ready for harvesting:

IMG_4897

IMG_4921

They will remain tightly coiled until they reach a height of about four to six inches.  When you come across a good patch there will be hundreds if not thousands of them growing together and some will grow quicker than others.  All the pics in this blog were take from the same patch on the same day.  But after a few weeks they’ll all unfurl.  Here’s a pic of a clump that is just beyond being harvestable:

IMG_4910

As they grow a few inches from the earth, they have three defining features.  The first is the bright green stem which we’ve already seen.   The second is the feathery-brown, paper-like material that covers the sides of the coils.  Like so:

IMG_4920

That material either falls off on its own or you can pick it off yourself.

And the third defining feature is the deep groove on the inside of the stem.  Like so:

3

How do I pick fiddleheads?

Pick them before they unfurl, when they’re about one to four inches in height.  You can simply pinch and snap the stem about a half inch to an inch from the coiled head.   Look for the more tightly wound fiddleheads and don’t be afraid to brush away leaves, twigs and logs.  Sometimes you’ll find the bigger ones in more hidden, cool areas.  Never pick a clump clean.  Leave at least a few unpicked fiddleheads.  Otherwise, the fern will die.

You can easily blow or brush off the papery brown material as you pick them or just wait and rinse it off when you get home.

How do I cook fiddleheads?

First, make sure you do cook them!  You can get sick if you eat them raw or don’t cook them long enough.

Rinse the fiddleheads.  Make sure you cook them well but don’t overcook them.  Boil in water for about five to seven minutes or steam for ten to twelve minutes. Then sautee lightly in butter.  Voila!

You can use fiddleheads like you use any vegetable.  They work beautifully with egg dishes like omelettes and frittatas, go great with pasta dishes, soups and stir fries but also work alone as a side dish to accompany meats and fish.  I had them the other night with lamb and mash potatoes.

They are best to use soon after picking but they will last in your fridge for at least a week.  You can even have fiddleheads in the middle of winter as they can be frozen for up to a year.

Have you ever foraged for fiddleheads?  Share your experiences in the comments!

 

BL_004_620x100

 

By Craig Fear

Source : www.pvnutritionaltherapy.com

 

The Future of Food

By likes.com

The Future of Food: 25 Edible Insects

#1 Fried Hornworms

Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms may make you squirm but once fried, David George Gordon, author of ‘The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook’, claims their flavor resembles a combo of green tomatoes, shrimp, and crab! The plants they feed on are not good for people to eat, so the poor fellows need to be put on a “starvation” diet for a couple days until cooked. [Read more...]

5 Ways to Make Campfire Bread

 

breadThe experience of a woodsman can often be determined by the fire he makes and the meals  he cooks. One thing is cooking a freeze dried meal over a gas stove, but it is a matter all together different the ability to cook over an open fire meals made from scratch. [Read more...]

The Ultimate Urban Survival Food: Sprouts

The-Ultimate-Urban-Survival-Food-Source-SproutsSprouts have a number of qualities that make them especially useful as a part of a survival plan. One of their values is derived from the fact that the sprout stage of any plant is the time when it has the greatest concentration of vitamins and minerals, so they come in very handy when healthy food is scarce. [Read more...]