Outdoors, Green Living, Homesteading, Sustainable living, Green Building

Homesteading

The fine art of Logistics and Orientation


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I thought the title I chose for this article was more interesting than “transporting, rigging and lifting.” In this context I’m not talking about business, commerce or military logistics. I’m simply talking about moving something. I don’t know what I wanted to write about in this article except that I wanted to give some food for thought on this matter.

This article will talk about moving an object or material from point a to point b. It will also talk about changing the position of an object or material. This means turning and rotating. Mainly this article is for objects and materials that are heavier than what a normal human can lift, carry and re-position. They say the amateur war general talks tactics and the experienced generals in war talk logistics.  Design is worth little if you can’t get the components into position.

Early Man… Bear with me as I recount here on the past up to the present to give some frame of reference as to where we are on the homestead.

Man Power.. One man carry, Two man carry, Four man carry, Eight man carry.  If we get enough manpower behind something we can lift and move quite a bit. 8 men could for example lift something weighing 400 to 800 lbs. I recall training as a combat engineer in the army reserve for bridge building. The bridge components could be put together by teams of men who carried the components in place as other men pinned them together. The whole bridge could be pushed on rollers across the river by all the men at once. A river could be bridged in a day with 50 to 100 men, depending on the length of bridging. The problem on the old homestead is that unless you are Ahmish you do not have that kind of manpower available. At most the average person could get 2 or 3 or even 4 or 5 buddies together to move something. And I doubt this could be done day in and day out with this many. It might be a once in a blue moon event.

So what did early man come up with to help him move something. It all depends on what it was and how it needed to be moved I suppose.  Moving horizontally is one thing and moving vertically is another. Lifting can be performed with leverage. It can be performed with ropes and pulley’s (called block and tackle).  After ropes came chains and then in the modern era wire ropes (cables) and synthetic fiber ropes (nylon). Other devices that came along were windlass and tread wheels. Then came gears and ratcheting devices. For lifting there was gin poles, shear poles and tripods.

Log rollers were made first. then that probably led to the wheel. A wheel needs a bearing, and an axle. Later this lead to rollers and conveyers (sets of rollers). A platform can then be built on the axle or axles.  As a side note lard was used for the first axle grease. This forms a cart or wagon. This cart or wagon can be human powered or animal powered. Stationary implementations needing power might use water or wind.

Modern man has something the ancients could not dreamed of. Engines and Motors. Now thanks to mechanics, electricity, and combustion engines, we can convert torque into motion. Instead of freewheeling, wheels can be turned with power and thereby using friction to move a cart or wagon along at a steady pace.

Steam engine came first. It powered trains, tractors, earth workers, ships. Steam was powerful and still is, yet it has had competition from the combustion engine. We also have pneumatic power. That is air pressure power or compressed air power. Electric motors came along about the same time as the combustion engine. Finally with oils and pumps and high pressure hoses and lines we have hydraulics. And of course all this lead to flight. However moving things by flight or boat is out of the question for most homesteaders I would think.

POWER Options

  • Man power
  • Horse Power
  • Wheel and Mechanical Power
  • Water and Wind Power
  • Steam Power
  • Compressed Air Power
  • Combustion Engine Power
  • Electric Motor Power
  • Hydraulic Power


The above just about totally covers any methods we have for moving, lifting, turning, rotating and flipping any object of any size, shape, density, weight. None of this comes without a price however. And that price can be more or less depending on the day and time or the person and situation. There is also a cost in safety related to using these methods. There is a cost in learning curve in using, maintaining, repairing. There are cost in fueling and there is simply cost in making things happen.

If you pick up an old military FM on “Rigging” much of this will be explained. The nice thing about military manuals is that they explain the way to do things in the absence of technology or with minimal technology available. Below I list items from this manual that
might be useful even today. Also much of this can be used with any type of powering method.

  • Natural Fiber Ropes
  • Synthetic Fiber Ropes
  • Wire Ropes (cables)
  • Chains
  • I’ll add nylon straps or webbing.
  • Pulleys
  • Block and Tackle
  • Hooks
  • Rings and Links
  • Ratcheting hoist
  • Chain hoist
  • Motorized Drum Hoist
  • Motorized Wench.
  • I’ll add Hand operated ratcheting wench.
  • Hydraulic Jacks
  • Ratcheting Jacks
  • Screw Jacks
  • Steamboat Ratchets.
  • Rollers
  • Roller Conveyer
  • Wheel Conveyer
  • Wheeled carts, trailers and motorized vehicles.
  • I’ll add Pry bars and pipe extensions
  • Poles
  • Gin Pole
  • Shear Pole
  • Tripod
  • Booms
  • Staked Anchors
  • Deadmen Anchors
  • Anchor plates
  • Natural Anchors
  • Derrick
  • Knots for ropes
  • Knots for cables
  • Splices in ropes and cables
  • Cable connectors
  • Jinniwink (type of Derrick)
  • Skids
  • Ladder Sraight
  • Ladder Push up
  • Ladder Extension
  • Rope Ladders
  • Cable Ladders
  • Scaffolding
  • Chairs or seats for lifting men with pulley and rope.
  • I’ll add Come-alongs (ratcheting cable device dad used on fencing and other stuff)
  • Spanish Windlass

That’s quit a list. All of that can be used with manpower alone. Much of it can be used with anything else you have to provide power such as a horse, oxen  or a vehicle.  You can setup block and tackle system for just about any mechanical advantage ratio you want. The rigging book shows methods for ratios of 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 6:1, 16:1.  For example a man can pull 100 lbs force on a 16:1 and lift 1600lbs which is about 1 1/2 tons.

The rigging book has some nice tables for things. An example of rope strength for manila and sisal rope might be 1/2″ 520 to 660lbs safe load. 1″ 1800 to 2250lbs 2″ 6200 to 7700lbs 3″ 12,000 to 16,000 lbs. breaking strength would be 4 times those amounts.

Breaking strength for 6×9 standard wire rope might be, 1/4″ 1.5 to 2.7 tons, 1/2″ 7 to 14 tons, 1″ 13 to 51 tons, 2″ 140 to 200 tons. When using cable for different purposes different safety factors are applied between 3.2 and 8. When using powered drums for pulling on the wire cables different sized drums are needed for different sized wire. Larger the cable the larger diameter the drum is.

Deadman is a log buried in the ground as an anchor.  A cable or chain or rope is attached to the log. Examples of deadmen might be 3 foot deep with cable at 45 degrees would be 1/2 ton. However 7 feet deep would be 2.5 tons. Lower angle increases. 14 degree angle and 7 feet deep would get you a little over 4 tons. You can combine multiple anchors of any kind for added strength.

Knot types

  • Overhand
  • Figure 8
  • Wall
  • Square
  • Single Sheet Bend
  • Double Sheet Bend
  • Carrick Bend
  • Bowline
  • Double Bowline
  • Running Bowline
  • Bowline on a bite
  • Spanish Bowline
  • French Bowline
  • Speir Knot
  • Cats paw
  • Figure 8 with extra turn
  • Half Hitch
  • Rolling Hitch
  • Telegraph Hitch
  • Mooring Hitch
  • Sheep Shank
  • Fishermens Bend
  • Butterfly Knot
  • Clove Hitch
  • Frapping Turns
  • Square Lashing
  • Shear Lashing
  • Block Lashing
  • Splices


There is a chart on the strength of chains. 1/4″ 512 to 1200 lbs, 1/2″ 2250 to 5250lbs, 1″ 9000 to 18000 lbs, 1 3/8″ 14K to 32Klbs Chain hoist are very strong as are chains. You can get those at the hardware store for 1/4 ton up to 3 ton fairly cheaply. There is a table for different sized hooks, 11/16s 1200 lbs, 1″ 3400 lbs, 2″ 13K lbs, 3″ 24K lbs.

There are different ways to do slings when lifting and different kinds of slings. Some strengths for manila rope slings might be, 1/4″ single sling 108lbs, 1″ double sling 1600 to 2800 lbs, 2″ double sling 5500 to 9600lbs, 3″ quadruple sling 23k lbs to 40k lbs. That’s 20 tons with large manila ropes. Not bad.

There are safe working loads for wire and chain slings also. An example might be 1″ single chain sling 17K lbs or a 2″ double cable sling at 62K to 107Klbs. Or max in the chart is 2 3/4″ quad cable sling 250K to 425K lbs. That’s 125 tons to 212 tons.

There are formulas for figuring guy line sizes and numbers for varying load situations. An example for what a log might handle used as a boom or gin pole might be, 6″ dia. 20′ 5000lbs, 12″ dia 40′ 10 tons, 6×6″ 30′ 1.5 tons, 8×8 50′ 2 tons, 12×12 60′ is only 6 tons but 12×12 shortened to 30′ is 20 tons. As you can see wood can do quit a lot of work for us.

Ratchet Jacks up to 15 tons. Screw Jacks up to 12 tons but hydraulic jacks up to 100 tons. A steam boat ratchet is for pulling things together or pushing them apart and is not rated in tons.

There is much to consider in all this such as angle of slings when you wrap something, If you wrap it too tight you can put double the load on each side of the sling, or half the load on each side if not so tight. Lots of stuff to know on care and maintenance and replacement of ropes and slings and chains. Or if something is somewhat worn increasing safety factor. Much of it is common sense but sometimes that is in short supply.

I think several power tools might be a must on the homestead. One would be a tractor. Another would be front end loader. The front end loader might be part of the tractor or a skid steer. And another is a backhoe. A four wheeler might come in handy in some limited situations. A good farm pickup would be nice as well, and maybe a flat bed pickup. A dump trailer or dump bed pickup would be handy. If you can afford a dump truck then that’s even better. That’s a lot of equipment with trailers to boot equipment is not cheap. And we can attach wenches and booms to some of these. Tractors and skid steers have endless attachments.

There are several kinds of fork lifts which could be handy on the homestead. You have the standard industrial fork lift that does ok on floors and roads and drives but not in dirt and mud. Then we have a reach fork lift used on large construction projects. A nice looking one is the 3 wheeled version you see hanging from flat beds used for unloading materials at construction sites. Then there is a heavier duty fork lift that looks like a converted tractor. And you can get fork lift attachments for tractors and front end loaders which is probably a better way to go because of cost. Unfortunately equipment like farm animals must pay their own way or they are expensive hobbies or pets.

Recommended Books
Army Field Manual on Rigging

Zai Square Foot Gardening 1


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The Survival Pod Cast
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This years gardening begins with this old Datson bed trailer I bought for $150. I have hauled 2 loads of rabbit manure 150 miles with it and 2 loads of yard waste compost 15 miles with it. It holds about a yard and I think the loads weighed over 1/2 ton. The rabbit manure cost $25 a pickup bed load or per yard. I had to do half the shoveling work in loading it. The compost cost $20 per pickup bed load. The guy with the compost loaded it with his loader. I next hope to use it to get some wood chips for mulch.

In this next group of photos I show a 5 gallon bucket/pond water/soaker hose experiment. It had a pretty good flow rate at first but gradually slowed to no or little flow. I think the pond water is not pure enough and stops it up. I may try to poke small holes in it where it lays in squares to improve water flow and see if we can make this work. We are attempting gravity flow with this.

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Next I test a $20 fountain pump I got from the hardware store. It said it will pump up to 120 gallons per minute(gpm). But that depends on how high it is above the source. We needed to go as high as possible. If you get above 4 feet it stops pumping all together. So I pumped water from the pond about 3.8 feet high into a 5 gallon bucket. It took 30 minutes. Not good. I think I will get the $200 pump that will supply two sprinklers instead to use for our purposes. This $20 pump would be good for aquaponics or hydroponics.

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Here I show 3 yards of rabbit manure Me and the rabbitry owner loaded in about 2 hours of shoveling. I had already got 2 yards of manure prior to this trip with the Datson bed trailer. So I acquired 5 yards this year, and his rabbits produce that every 6 months. I paid $75 for the 3 yards of rabbit manure that day. I also spent about $130 in fuel to go get the rabbit manure.


Zai is a form of gardening where holes are dug in a grid pattern and filled with manure then planted. This started in Africa for turning sand into soil and desert into plant life. I have chose to use this method because of time constraints. So I use a trenching spade I have to cut a 1’x1′ square in the grass. Then remove the surface grass and roots. I then dig and load 6″ to 8″ of top soil into a wheel barrel. I shovel in 3 shovels of rabbit manure and 3 shovels of compost then mix. I put 1/3 of that back in the hole and dump the other 2/3s at the end of the row for garden box fill.

Now we have pond photos. This is about a 1 acre pond. The water level drops quit a bit
in summer. We intend to water the garden from it, which is aquaculture I guess. We want to figure out a way to pump water up to 50 gallon or 200 gallon tanks. We will then gravity flow water from those. We may also try to catch rain water into those same tanks. In a couple of those photos I took pictures of dam erosion. Beavers were stopping up the overflows so that water flowed over the entire dam and almost ruined the pond. Gary the owner did some beaver hunting to fix the problem.

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Here is where we dumped the 3 yards of manure and 4.5 yards of compost. It had been raining a lot and the ground was very slick. I couldn’t get the trailer back far enough and we ended up dumping part of the load on the circle drive. Gary was not happy about the pile of rabbit manure in his drive. I told him we would all laugh about it later.

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Below shows the compost facility at London AR, Smiley Vincent is the compost guy. The compost I was getting was 2 years old and he had once every month or so turned the pile with his loader. I loaded 4.5 yards that day and I don’t know exactly how heavy it was. This was a 5 ton dump trailer that I had borrowed. It hauls about 10 yards. There were also piles of wood chip compost at this facility. I may get some of that for mulch later on. He charged me $60 for that 4.5 yards of compost that day.

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Next we have the rabbitry in Oklahoma where I bought the rabbit manure. The owner of this made the barn from cedars that he cut down on site. He has about 50 cages and about 50 rabbits. When they have bunnies he has up to 200 rabbits.

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Finally we have the start on the garden. I laid down 4′ mulch cloth in 20 and 30 foot rows 4 feet apart. I pinned them down with the U shaped pins you can buy. The plan is to cut 1’x1′ holes in the cloth then dig a zai hole. I will refill with soil mix then plant. I space the holes 2″ apart and have room in the 4′ wide cloth to do 3 rows of holes. This is for plants that require one square foot. For plants that require more than one square foot of space I will simply space the 1′ holes out further. For example plants that require 2’x2′ will have holes spaced 1’2″ apart. Plants that require 3×3 will be spaced 2’2″ apart. In this way the plant’s runners will lay on the mulch cloth. I will also only have to work on e 1’x1′ area of soil for that plant, not 9 square feet.

A 4×50′ piece of mulch cloth would hold 128 squares. I used a square foot garden stepping tile I bought as a cutting guide. A razor knife blade works great for cutting out the squares. The left over squares can still be used with gravel or mulch on top to keep down grass.

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Another thing I did for herb production and deer deterrent was to dig 30 5×5 holes in a circular pattern around the perimeter of the garden about 2′ out from fence and vegetation.
I then planted lavender every 16 feet or 4th hole. The holes were 4′ apart. I planted every kind of herb you can buy in the other holes 2 holes each. This included chives, rosemary, sage, ore3gano, tarragon, thyme, etc. We have other deer countermeasures to implement. One is an extra fence 4 feet out from the existing one. Another is stringing up fishing line a few feet out from the 2nd fence. Another is placing objects just inside the fence to eliminate landing pads. Hedge rows of holly bushes outside the fence or in between them might work well also but cost more. I poured human urine on tree trunks around the garden.

I was able to get 9 holes prepared in the mulch cloth row. I started 2 more by removing grass. I planted those 9 holes with spring type plants, some greens, peas, onions, beats, radishes etc. I had 3’x3′ x 6″ deep soil mix left over at the end of one row and planted half in one type of tomatoes by seed and half in a larger type of tomato by seed. I bought and setup a garden box that is 5″ high and about 42×42″ in size which will become the potato box next time I’m in. I will remove grass, loose up the soil to 6 to 8″ deep and then fill with extra soil mix as I make new zai holes next time I’m in.
I also planted 3 1’x1′ herb holes Each one had lavender in the mix. I planted one or two sun flowers in every herb hole.
I also need to plant some Marigolds which I here deter rabbits. So I was able to work and plant 33 square feet those 2 days off.


Critter Gitter Bag


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The Survival Pod Cast
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Below is a list of items for what in bushcraft is known as a Critter Gitter bag. Some of these items are illegal except in certain situations, such as in certain locations on your own private land etc. Snares are illegal almost everywhere because they catch dogs and cats as well as everything else. This is called an indiscriminate method of trapping. Gill nets are illegal in most cases but trot lines are not. Use of poisons and intoxicants for fishing is illegal in most cases. Why are some methods illegal? Because they work too well. However on your own land you may find that most if not all of this is legal at nearly any time. You may want to make this up without the illegal items for standard use and with them for SHTF use.

  • 3-3 piece arrows.
  • arrow tips
  • sling shot/sling bow
  • shot (.32 cal balls)
  • snare wire for snares and deadfalls
  • other cordage
  • large mouse traps
  • fishing yoyos
  • coon cuffs
  • gill net
  • trot line (18 feet with 12 1 foot drops) with small trebble hooks and dry bait. This will be the lighter catfish line and 8 lb mono line for drops.
  • large trebble hook to make 3 prong gig point
  • knife to make spear
  • clove oil (fish intoxicant)
  • polk weed berry juice (fish poison)
  • ground up green black walnut shells (fish poison)
  • other common fishing tackle for pan fishing (hooks, white grubs, silver spoons, fly’s, line, sinkers, floats)
  • fishing line (8 lb)
  • razor blade
  • flint knap kit sold here
  • very small fishing multi tool
  • small finger nail clippers
  • few small nails for bait anchors and setting up some types of deadfalls
  • binoculars or telescopic monocular for inspecting traps from distance to keep human sent away from traps.
  • copy of the 350 page brown cover trappers bible

If I added any kind of blow gun to this kit it would include the use of poison darts. Blow guns are not very effective without poisons. When you use blow gun with poisons you are playing the rattle snake game. This is the way he hunts. Though he has an advantage of heat sensing when tracking his prey. This may be one reason this method is illegal, because its hard to track prey after you poison it.

Making the 3 piece arrows shouldn’t be too difficult. If you are already an archer then you may have bent and broke arrows that you can use. Otherwise cut a standard arrow into 3 pieces. Get the end tip inserts with female threads(4 of them). Get two or 3 machine bolts that fit into these inserts. Screw a bolt into an insert and mark the threads next to the insert. This shows the center position. Then cut the bold head off equal distance from center. Use the bolt as a handle when gluing the insert into each end of the arrow piece. Use hot glue to glue in the insert. The arrow should be relatively aligned and straight because of the inserts. This will add weight and inflexibility to the arrow. And you may not want to shoot this arrow from high powered bows. It should work fine from the sling bow.

A sling bow is a sling shot that has or can be converted easily into a device for shooting full length archery arrows. There is an attachment for the sling shot for holding the arrow and the rubber bands are lengthened. Search the web for more info and videos. There is a video on you tube of a guy in Hawaii taking a hog with one. I have a friend that claims his son is almost good enough shot with one to take a deer, we will see.

Recommended Books
Trappers Bible

Self Sufficiency


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What is self sufficiency in the modern world? I hear all this talk about Bug Out Location, Bug Out Vehicle, Bug Out Bag. I can move into the woods with my BOB and live for weeks even months if necessary. I could camp beside and in my BOV indefinitely though I probably wouldn’t want too. In the 20’s we had HOBO’s which were homeless people or migratory workers who camped in the woods vs getting a hotel room. In an economic collapse do we all become HOBO’s? Hopefully that is not going to be the case for most of us self sufficient survivors. If I’m going to camp, I want my own land to camp on. If I’m going to forest bum it should be my forest and neighbors forest and national forest near my homestead.

The truth is that we all need and want things that the modern world gives us that we are poor without. Sure, much of it we could live without, but we wouldn’t want too. Should the economy fail and we fall on hard times then we want to be in the best position possible to make due until it comes back and then be more ready for the next time. The problem is that it’s possible it may not come back in a given person’s lifetime or not in time for that person to enjoy the new good times.

I think we get the order of importance of skills needed backwards sometimes. Here is the correct order. And I’m not saying that you can’t work on all these skills at the same time only noting order of importance.

#1 Personal Finance skills.
#2 Career skills.
#3 Selling and Trading skills.
#4 Homesteading skills.
#5 Wilderness and primitive living skills.

Personal finance is first because we are not yet in a state of economic collapse and there is still time to use the current economy to improve our positions. Also prepping requires money. And land is not cheap in case you haven’t noticed.

Career skills is closely related to the first. But also in that during an economic collapse some people will still be able to work. What career skills might be best to gain before an economic collapse? Its something to think about.

Why selling and trading? I have never thought of myself as a good salesman. Matter of fact the only things I’ve ever thought I’d be good at selling where things I knew a lot about and liked. I mean a good salesman should be able to sell ice to an Eskimo right? In a depressed economy selling and trading things that one produces from their own land would be important. Supplemental income or any income will be important. And bartering will be all too important when money is worthless.

So the first three are money/goods related. Next is living off of your land or homesteading. You might think this would be number one in self sufficiency but I’m betting you would be wrong. It is very difficult to be totally self sufficient, I mean are the Amish? No they rely on community. So did the first pioneers in America. Even if you organized a self sufficient community similar to the Amish or pioneers then you live at a reduced standard of living until the money system and all other systems come back online. Homesteading is important because it gives some measure of self sufficiency greater than most other situations. Its also important because it gives longer periods of complete self  sufficiency than camping and forest bumming alone.

Lastly wilderness and primitive living skills because you may need them on your own homestead. You may need to travel from your own homestead and live primitively for a day or two at a time. Or you may just choose too. There is something therapeutic about primitive living for a few days every now and then.

 


Types of Gardening


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In this article I plan on listing, defining and mentioning a few things that maybe you have not heard of or thought about.

Square Foot Gardening

Garden box style gardening where a grid is placed over the soil using wooden lattice or anything that might form a grid with 1 square foot of space in each grid cell. This style of gardening can make keeping stats on your production easy. Also its an attractive way to layout plants. Plants are laid out in a grid fashion within each square foot 2×2, 3×3, 4×4 and maybe 5×5 or greater in some cases for things like wheat that grow very close together. Its a matter of density. Some experimentation would be needed for the individual to determine exactly how densely each plant type may need to be planted. Some plants use more than one square foot per plant also. Large vines such as tomatoes and water melons might require 9 ft2. However you can get away with planting these in the corners and along sides to make the most use of the garden box. Some plants grow vertical as well and require a vertical grid, also square foot just to keep things pretty. Square foot gardening typically requires a soil mix of 6″ to 1′ deep. Some plants such as potatoes and carrots require deeper soil. This mix is generally 1:1:1 topsoil/manure/peat(or compost) For more information and other general gardening info look at my article titled Square Foot Gardening

Square Meter Gardening

This is the same thing as square foot gardening yet for scientific and non-American(English standard) style. Simply measure and adapt
spacing for metric. In this case you might actually have a half meter grid lattice.

Hugelkultur

This is a German word for Hill (mound) Culture. In this style of gardening you bury wood which over time rots and acts like a sponge for the holding of moisture. This can be made like mound or like a swale(hole, pit) or a combination. The wood/manure combined is covered in compost, soil and mulch. Over time (even up to 20 years) the wood is converted to Humas(Organic soil). This can in turn be dug up and mixed with other garden soils. The wood also absorbs nitrogen from the manure and later as it rots gives it back to plants.

Permaculture

Permanent Culture or Permanent Agriculture began in Australia and spread to hippies and environmentalist everywhere, and others with sustainability on their minds. I don’t fully understand this yet except to say a few things about it. Its supposed to be a system that never fails in that it returns to the soil that which was taken. Its a perpetual self sustaining way to produce food. Ideally the food should be produced very close to the residence. Even in greenhouses that are part of the residence itself.

Row (Cultivated Farrow)

This is conventional farming where fields are plowed. To be honest, we can’t all live on a homestead and produce our own food. There is simply too many people on this planet for that. This system is setup so that men and equipment can easily navigate the rows of plants for harvesting and other activities. I’m certainly not against this method of gardening or farming. However it depletes the soil over time. And what happens when we run out of soil? Billions will starve to death. Some solutions need to be found a soon as possible to solve this one looming problem. Soil conservation services has done much to slow down the problem yet not solve the problem. Please recall the Easter Island folks who died because they cut down all their trees.

Lasagna

This is a type of lazy way to mix the soil and build soil. On top of open ground you lay down alternating layers of compost, peat, topsoil, manure or whatever else you intend to mix. I’ve read that newspaper is placed between layers but I don’t have any idea why (maybe weed control). I’d guess you make your lasagna rows about 4 feet wide and any length desired. I’d also go with plastic and mulch on top myself. Mulch being wood bark or chips and or straw.

Field (Not cultivated)

I think this is like Forrest yet you plant basically in amongst the grass or weeds in a field. You simply let your plants compete with whatever is there. If you find something to harvest at harvest time then great. If you discover one plant type that does particularly well against its competitors then add it to a list of plants to replant this way the following year.

Fedge (Food Hedge)

I think this combines shrubs, and vines and ground plants to make a hedge that produces food. This may be in combination with other hedge type plants also.

Forest (Food Forest)

In this method a person will plant types of plants that do well among various types of taller shrubs and trees and along the edges of glades(open areas). Plants with varying needs for light and moisture will be worked together. This is a fairly dense form of gardening and was likely the first form. In this form you also try to locate natural growing food items from the area and seed or transplant them into your forest garden.

Botanical

These are gardens created for the study of certain types of plants. Its also for the preservation of certain types of plants. These are usually created by wealthy individuals or societies who dedicate the garden for use in the study. Monasteries for example are famous for having wonderful Botanical Gardens. Books are produced as a result of the gardens and usually they are landscaped beautifully open for tour. For example in Savannah Georgia there is a garden with 150 varieties of Bamboo, 45 varieties of blackberry vines and 35 varieties of palm trees. If you search your home area it is likely that you will find several botanical gardens that will be worth a visit.

Vegetable

This is too well known to talk about, but usually only entails low to the ground plants. I don’t know of any vegetable producing tree for example.

Fruit/Nuts

What can I say about this that you don’t know? This can be plants of many types and sizes. From ground covering plants, to vines, to shrubs to trees. And by the way we all know a Tomato is actually a fruit right? Its a huge Berry. A pumpkin is a fruit? actually its a squash, so a vegetable?

Orchard

Orchards are of course trees that bear fruits or nuts and are an integral part of forest gardening. Orchards may even be grown in green houses.

Herb

Herbs are for spices or medicines and can include any type of plants. A friend recently showed me lemon grass which can be used in place of lemon for flavor and a plant that has very sweet leaves which can be used as a sugar substitute. Herb gardens per pound of produce can be quit profitable. Or they can save you a lot of money. Recently I noticed there were half a dozen types of sage seeds I could buy. I love sage in sausage. I’ve found that many herbs do well in shady conditions.

Green house

A green house is a structure with many windows all the way around or at least on one side or part of it. Or it is made so that much of the roof and wall spaces are for letting sun light in. More than for letting light in its for keeping heat in. A non heated green house can grow plants from one USDA zone warmer than the green house is constructed in. This means earlier planting times and longer growing season. A green house can be constructed adjacent to a house to provide heat for a living space in winter as well as easy to access food. Wood or metal frames are used for construction for holding glass or plastic. The glass or plastic may be clear or translucent. Glass blocks radiant heat whereas plastic allows it to pass. Glass therefore helps to hold the heat in better. With plastic its better if you have 2 layers with dead air space. By plastic I mean plastic in rolls or hard sheets such as plexi glass. One interesting idea i heard about was in the use of boat(marine) shrink wrap over a frame. I think this comes in 9 and 11 mil thickness. Though it will degrade over time from UV exposure its possible you may get a couple of years out of one covering.

Cold Frame

A box with a glass or plastic lid. The lid can be either horizontal or at a slope facing the sun. This is used in same way as green house but for early starting of plant seedlings. In some cases some plants are left in the cold frame for their full life cycle. The frames usually can be lifted to allow for ventilation and watering. One version of this concept uses cold framed holes for better use of
ground temperatures. One version of that has straw bales for the sides of the cold frame box. A nice cold box for starting plants would be aquariums with lids. The Cold Frame can give you the same growing effect as a green house in that it would allow you to grow at 1 USDA zone to the south, if unheated (most if not all are unheated(except by composting below for example)).

Hoop House (poly tunnel)

This is a very cheap and easy to construct form of green house. Its in the shape of a Quonset hut. You make stakes from rebar so that they are in the ground about 1/2 to 1 foot at angles and stick up about 1/2 to 1 foot. Using 1″ PVC pipes bowed to half circle shape placed over the bars forming hoops. Metal conduit may be used as well. Using the same pipe you form diagonal bracing along the sides and one horizontal brace along the top. Then cover with some flexible covering such as clear or translucent plastic or shrink wrap. These can be made to about any size. These might require some vents. And they can be heated. The down side is that storm damage may occur mostly from wind.

Agra-dome (Geodesic or other)

This is green house in the shape of a dome. These are not simple to construct depending. If you want glass panes then I’d say they are the most difficult to construct. The best idea I’ve heard so far for an easy to build dome is to make your dome then shrink wrap it with marine boat wrap. You can get this is 9 to 11 mil thickness, clear or translucent. Note that the shrink wrap will degrade due to UV exposure over time and have to be replaced.

Atrium

This is a small planter in your house with a glass or plastic cover. Could be also inside of an aquarium. Instead of containing a single plant it usually contains many packed densely. This is for plants what the aquarium is for fish. Its usually not for food production. However on a larger scale could it be used in such a way?

Container Pots

I won’t say much about container gardens, there are plenty of good books on the subject. Basically you use any container you can find, by filling it with a custom made potting soil, gravel and sand. Addition of drain holes may be required. What are the advantages of container gardens? They can be moved around. Can be moved indoor to outdoor and back. Can be attractive landscape feature. Can be used on concrete, pavement and brick ways, stairs, patios, and balconies. Can be hung from structures and trees. Can be placed on shelving and tables.

Bucket

Same as container but uses cheap easy to find buckets. Such as 5 gal plastic painters buckets. Have handles for easy moving. Global Buckets is an interesting idea that uses 5 gal buckets.

Hydroponic

This is a form of gardening where soil is not in use. Sand and gravel may be used but doesn’t have to be used at all. In some cases roots grow and hang below a starting material. In the case of plants grown in gravel or sand mineral and nutrient rich water is pumped or flows through the gravel or sand and feeds the roots. In the case of hanging roots mineral and nutrient rich water is sprayed on the roots for flows around the roots. This setup requires pumping systems that’s are not cheap, prone to failure and use power.

Aquaponic

This combines aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the growing of fish and water plants that feed the fish together. This produces a nutrient rich water that can be feed to the hydroponics farm. Water can be filtered and circulated back to the fish pond. Shrimp or crayfish can be part of an aquaponics setup as well as fish. Though we normally hear of the African Tilapia being used.

Water Gardens

Water gardens are more for landscaping than for production of food however in the case of plants such as rice and in aquaponics they can be useful for production. Water gardens of course are for growing plants that like semi-wet to very-wet soil to underwater plants. One under(salt)water plant that is edible I’d say that we have all heard of is kelp. I’m sure there are more than we know of that grow in fresh water. How about Chestnuts? Try growing rice in 5 gallon buckets or plastic tubs.

Swale

A swale is a swamp or marsh or underground porous area near the surface that can hold water or moisture like a tank. A swale can be in the shape of a ditch or bowl or hole. Its simply a spongy low place in the terrain for collection of rain water and ground water or run-off. And its a sneaky place to store water in areas where the laws prohibit the collection of water in rain barrels. A swale can be natural or man made. For example a hole filled with stone and gravel or sand would hold quit a lot of water. An advantage of a swale or any underground storage is that the water is not evaporated by the sun. Your trees, shrubs and garden plants can then draw water from this swale.

Zai Desert Farming

This type of farming was invented in the African desert in order to reclaim the desert around towns. Basically a grid of holes are dug in the sand and they are filled with manure (probably from any source). I don’t know if sand is mixed with the manure or not. Or if other composted plant matter is mixed. The hole on top is left in a bowl shape to aid in water collection and retention. Rice and Wheat and other crops are planted in this manure hole. This prevents the soil/sand from eroding and makes good use of desert terrain. Larger plants then grow up in the same area and turn desert to oasis.

Organic

Organic farming is the attempt to produce food without the aid of commercial fertilizers and pesticides. I like having options myself so I see no harm in using organic fertilizers such as bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, cotton seed meal, fish meal etc. However I see no real reason myself for not using commercial fertilizer if its available except in the case where you want to advertise “Organically Grown”. There are also organic methods for deterring deer, rabbits and insects. In the case of insects what one must do is ensure plenty of predation, meaning attracting predator insects and birds or other critters. There is one problem I agree with when it comes to the use of chemical pesticides and that is that it is a “nuclear” attack. Meaning it kills all insects good or bad with extreme prejudice but without discrimination. In effect it could make great predator free romping ground for the bad insects.

Flower

Not much to say here. I think of typical landscaping when I think of this. However there are some really beneficial flowering plants to add to your other gardens. Lavender for example deters deer. Some may deter certain harmful insects. And of course sun flowers produce great edible seeds and oils.

Bonsai

This comes from the orient and is a form of the growing of trees as shrubs in containers. Basically if you took a large tree and planted it in a container, the small amount of soil restricts its growth so that it is very dwarf like. It would be possible for example to grow what would be a 379′ red wood tree in a flower pot in your house as a house plant. Also the gardeners tend to train(bend) limbs as they grow to form certain attractive shapes.

Vertical

Really a type of container garden where one container is suspended above another. Troughs are used a lot for this type. And this type is combined sometimes with hydroponics or aquaponics.

Hanging

Suspended container gardens.

Raised beds

Garden beds are build up with some kind of containing frame made of
any material imaginable. Wood is often used to form a box. Height can be anything from 1′ to 2.5′ on average or possibly higher. These do not have to be square and can be round or any shape. They are usually not wider than 4 feet if accessed from both sides. Soil for these boxes is prepared in much the same way as for container gardens. Something like 1:1:1 Manure/compost/peat or manure/compost/top soil. These type of gardens are not cultivated and are relatively weed and grass free if one is careful. The height means the gardener does not have to position himself as low to the ground to do the tending.

Window or Window Box

Google for ‘window farms’ to see some interesting ideas for making vertical hydroponic gardens from 2 liter coke bottles in your home windows. Outside and inside window boxes and plants in containers on window seals are common. Might be nice to have half shaped hexagon box widows for each window of the house. Herbs and greens would be easy to grow here.

Moss

Moss is not usually edible but for some reason people like moss
gardens. They are attractive. They would make a nice attractive addition to any of the other types of gardens. People usually search the local area for the moss and transplant it to their garden. Vines and ferns go well with moss, as well as rocks, water and dead wood. I’ve seen people collect the moss and rock together to have a more natural look.

Companion

Some plants love to be planted near other plants and some hate other plants apparently. People have come up with list of plants where some like each other others love one another. And some just make more sense when planted with others such as the Native American beans, corn and squash combination.

Inter-planted or Intensive

A friend of mine plants garden boxes in this manner. She has worked out certain combinations that seem to work best for her. Its somewhat like companion planting. It also means planting densely similar to square foot gardening. I have no real guidelines for this. Try different combinations for yourself to see what works best.

Straw Bale

In this method you lay down soil on top of straw bales(or hay) and then plant in that soil. The roots of the plants drop down into the straw. The straw is supposed to hold moisture. Though I’ve heard only when its a bit rotted. This method literally gets your garden off the ground quickly. One method is to buy soil in bags and lay them on top of the bales the first year. Just split the bags and plant. Poke holes in the bags below your plants. Next year remove the plastic completely. I might think certain plants would love this method more than others. Experimentation would be required.

Artificially Lighted

Some gardens can grow inside. Special lights or light bulbs can aid in plant growth because they put out all the same light frequencies as the sun. These are called full spectrum lights. There are different kinds and some use more power than others. There is a ton of information on the web about this, and stores are popping up here and there to cater to the medical weed business. Also it might be good to consider grow lights over plants in shady areas and in windows. Professional photographers use photo umbrellas to direct light. These can be useful in the growing situation as well.

Roof Garden

Usually these are on flat roofs in urban areas.

Terraced Gardens

In very steep terrain or yards. terraces provide a way to make flat land from steep land. Also water may flow from higher terrace to lower ones for easy irrigation.

Soil-less

Not like hydroponic. I’m not sure what this is.

Guerrilla Garden(Vigilante Garden)

This is where you garden on land you don’t own or have a right to use. For example Marijuana growers use government lands. Mostly this is talking about urban dwellers using vacant lots or highway land or other non used commercial or industrial lands. Though I might be inclined to spread native plants around on government lands if I were there harvesting. Such as Muscadine, Huckle Berry, Ginseing.


.177 Air Rifle AKA BB/Pellet Gun


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I just purchased a Chinese Spring Piston .177 cal Air Rifle for $40 and he threw in a box of 250 pellets. I owned one of these once almost 15 years ago. Currently I want this gun as a hunt near the BOV gun as its a bit heavy for packing. Back then I wanted it for target practice because I had been scoring only marksman on military M16 qualifications around 23 of 40 shots. I practiced my marksmanship fundamentals with this pellet gun in the back yard for a few months just prior to the next qualification. That next time I scored sharp shooter which I think was a score of 35 of 40 shots.  That was almost expert which was 36 to 40 of 40 shots.

I wanted this gun in particular because it comes with front adjusting sights and rear adjusting sights for both windage and elevation. On this gun I just purchased it appears that both front and rear sights adjust for windage and elevation though I know for sure the rear sight adjust that way. The rear sight also had 8 quick settings for varying distances which adjust its height.

The ballistics on a .177 varies quit a lot from the high powered .223 at 2500 fps. I believe the .177 exits the mussel at 900 to 1200 fps on most air guns of this caliber. I chronographed this gun and it shoots at 420fps. I’m not totally sure that it may not need servicing which might increase the fps. It doesn’t matter how many fps the gun shoots, marksmanship fundamentals remain the same. For rifle this is Position, Aim, Breathing and Trigger Squeeze. For pistols it is Stance, Grip, Aim and Trigger Squeeze.


The above clickable image is an Excel file that I wanted to share. This chart shows a silhouette size for targets 6′ tall(human size) for varying distances. 25 up to 500 yards. It gives you meters for comparison sake. It shows you in yards, feet and inches how tall and wide the target silhouette must be in order to simulate a sighting view size for targets at various distances. The only value you change on this is the yards to the real target. This example is set to 20 yards. So we see that at 20 yards your silhouette must be 5 12/16 tall by 2 14/16 wide to simulate a human at a distance of 250 yards. In other words in your sight view that silhouette will appear to be the same size as a human at 250 yards.

This is good, it gives us a way to practice for longer distances even though we only have 20 yards of back yard to shoot in. Of course the ballistics are not the same for higher powered rifles at longer distances, but we still get to practice all the fundamentals which include aiming and sighting. As we can see from the chart above we have a 2″dia. kill zone from 3yrds to 25yrds. The pellet will rise to roughly 1/2″ above line of sight at 13 to 14yrds. It also drops to 2″ below line of sight at 28yrds. Keeping this in mind after you have ranged your target(game) would be important.

On the spreadsheet above, you may however set that distance to 10 yards, 20 yard, 25 yards, 30 yards, 50 yards or whatever you like and it will give you appropriate silhouette sizes. How did I come up with the formulas? Ever hear of Angular Size Calculations? Angular Size Calculator And they have a formula (Angular size in degrees = (size * 57.29) / simulated distance). This is in column C on the spreadsheet. I then have to divide that by 2 (in other columns we multiply back by 2 to get full size) to figure 1/2 the tallness of the silhouette because the next math deals with trigonometry of right triangles. The formula is (Opposite side=tangent(angle)*Adjacent Side) which is in column E. Adjacent side in this case is the simulated distance. I believe I also had to covert degrees to radians in the formula as well with a spreadsheet function radians().

I made this for simulating rifle distances(ranges). However there is no reason it could not be made to work for pistol distances as well. So that you could emulate a pistol shot at 10 yards, 15 yards, 20 yards, 25 yards, 35 yards, up to whatever, 50 yards, 100 yards. Also It could be changed from 2 yard tall target to a smaller animal sized target other than a human, such as a rabbit or hog.I did this on page 2 and page 3 in the worksheet download above. Instead of 2 yards change the formulas to use 2/3 yard or 1/3 yard. Though the height to width ratio would be inverted meaning the animal is most likely twice as wide as tall instead of twice as tall as wide. Could also work up a tab for vehicular size objects such as trucks or armor.

I have mounted a good $50 BSA scope on this rifle now. It is 4 power by 32mm lens. 1″ tube. Has parallax adjustments from 7.5 to 100yrds. Has focus adjustments. Comes with metal threaded end caps. Also comes with a duplex reticle as such. Has elevation and windage turret adjustments with 1/4 MOA precision. The inner box is usually 30″x30″ at 100 yrds. So it can be used for ranging targets. You may also want to read my article Range Finding with mil dot, duplex reticle and using parallax and MOA

Have fun and I hope you enjoyed this article and the spreadsheet. I intend to update it when I buy more .177 rifles and pistols.


On my first hunt with the pellet gun I sit down almost at the top of a hill below some bluffs near the property where my camper is at now. I waited about 20 minutes being very still. I was mostly camouflaged except for my blue jeans which probably looked similar to the large rock I was sitting on anyway. My eye glasses were visible but that was about it.

In front of me I heard nothing but caught sight of some movement. It was a Grey Squirrel that moved onto a rock at ground level about 30 to 40 feet from me. As I lifted and moved the gun to get a bead on him He froze and look my direction. I thought “good squirrel hold very still while I shoot you”. I put the 4 power scope on him center mass and fired. He then moved very fast while chattering very loudly to a small tree in front of him. Then up that tree. And then did a frantic leap to a larger tree that was behind him. He went around to the back side opposite of me and dissipated. With a semi-auto 22 I have been able to get in another shot. But with this single shot pellet gun I didn’t have time to reload a pellet before he got behind the big tree.

I went over to the big tree and saw a split at the base large enough for a squirrel to get into. So I guess this was his den tree. I may have hit him or maybe only close. Even if I hit him it might not have hurt him much if any. I now think I’d had better chance of a kill if I aimed at his head instead of his body. With the pellet gun one must snipe the game.


Zeroing the new BSA scope. I began to shoot the gun to zero with the new scope. It was shooting all over the place, something was wrong. Sometimes groups would be together and sometimes not. Adjustments to windage or elevation didn’t seem to take effect or even moved the wrong direction. So I inspected the scope mount to see if it was not secure. I found it was secure but the scope rail was not. There was a rivet in the back of the scope rail that was loose. Gary suggested I have someone take a mig or tig rig and tack it. So I called my brother Mike who has shops with those rigs. In the photo’s below I show where we tacked it. The first tack weld on the rivet did not solve the problem. There was a ring the rivet was attached too that was moving around the housing. We added a tack to the ring and yet there was still a small bit of movement. Last we tacked the rail against the housing and then it was solid.


I began to zero it again and it was quite a ways off in both directions. Like 1.5 feet or so. Gary said we may be able to shim the scope mount rings with cardboard. Its my fault but when we welded it we eyeballed the alignment of the scope rail with the barrel. If we can’t get it zeroed then I may have to take a thin disk wheel and cut the welds and then find a better way to align it, then re-tack weld it.


Food Harvest Preservation


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  • Root Cellar
  • Zeer Pots
  • Pickling and Fermenting (alcohol, salt, acid, lime)
  • Salt and Sugar curing
  • Smoking
  • Canning in Jars
  • Vacuum packing in Mylar and Canning Jars
  • Retort Vacuum packing and Canning
  • Refrigeration
  • Freezing
  • Drying or Dehydration (Jerky, Pemmican, Biltong etc. as well)
  • O2 absorption and Desiccants(moisture absorption)
  • Freeze Drying

Root Cellars

I have heard of several methods for making ground temperature storage. Depending on where you live this ground temperature may vary from 70F degrees on the gulf of Mexico to 58F degrees in Arkansas where I live to 50F degrees in southern Canada. That’s quit a difference.  None the less using the ground for its year round constant temperature is a great thing to do.  Humidity plays some role as well.  Some sections of underground storage you may want to be more humid or other sections dryer yet. Containers may affect humidity as well. For example you could remove oxygen and humidity and seal the container then store in a humid, or not, underground location.

A root cellar may be a simple as a barrel or trash can that has been buried where any exposed parts such as a lid are well insulated. This might be buried horizontally in a mound or hill, vertically in flat area or at some angle in between on a slope. Other types of cellars might be a house basement, might be a storm cellar and may even be a bermed out building with earthen and insulated roof. One interesting potato cellar I saw while traveling in the Utah, Idaho, Washington and Oregon area was an A-Frame structure with roofs sloped at about 45degrees and earthen cover. All of these methods use some combination of earth(thermal mass), underground and insulation to keep the inside temperature near ground temperature year round.

Another method similar in root cellar concept is to store food items in water either stream, pond or lake. If pond or lake then deep enough to get down to the cold water layer. Could a root cellar be cooled artificially? Sure it could be cooled with typical A/C Unit. If so insulation may be required between inside space and the ground. Hey we could even make a highly efficient walk in freezer this way? Sure. Commercial freezers are above ground and are insulated to about R60 to R80 standards. As an example consider the typical house 2×4 walls at R11. Meaning you would need a wall about 7 times that thickness for your freezer. Or around 28″ thick, but that’s using fiberglass batt insulation. With styrofoam at 5R per inch we would only need 16″. Or with papercrete at 3R per inch we would need 25 inches or so. The cheapest insulation here would be by far papercrete. Straw and sawdust could also be used as insulation. Though both would have to be carefully protected from moisture. I would suggest those two used as moveable insulation kept in some kind of sealed containment. As in most insulating efforts shiny polished metallic surfaces are good for added heat reflection if possible.

By the way eggs may be pickled and raw eggs may be stored in a water and mineral oil or water and “water glass”  (sodium silicate) solutions for up to 6 months or longer in a cellar. They say if the big end is beginning to float the egg is near bad. And you may add ventilation for use in winter to achieve below ground temperatures in the root cellar to increase storage time.  Carrots and other roots may be kept as fresh as when harvested by keeping them in containers of damp sand. Leave the tops sticking up so you can pull them from the sand. Granddad always said to leave the dirt on the potatoes because if washed they would rot. Maybe the dirt functioned same as sand for carrots aye?

Zeer pots

Zeer pots are most likely only useful in arid climates. This method uses passive evaporation  cooling. Use two pots of different sizes, one that fits entirely inside the other. A layer of wet sand is placed inside the larger pot and separates the two. If the sand dries it is to be dampened again. It appears that one may extend the shelf life span from 2 days to about 20 days or 10 times using this method.

Pickling and Fermenting


Pickling is a procedure where food is preserved chemically by alcohol, salinity, alkalinity or acidity.  Fermenting is usually an initial procedure before chemical pickling where bacterial action works on the food item until a given alcohol content or acidity or alkalinity is reached.  This is a matter of creating an life barrier for bad bacteria which would otherwise feed on the food item. Salt and vinegar (high acid) is usually used along with other possible spices which stunt bacterial growth. Lemon juice or vinegar are usually added make sure the PH is low enough to keep the food safe.

Acid – Alkali: PH of 7 is neutral. Below 7 is acid and above 7 is alkali. In acid pickling PH needs to be below 4.5. There is a such a thing as pickling with lime and PH here needs to be above 8 or 9. Most microbes survive at PH 3 to  near 7.

Alcohol: I have not heard of anyone eating anything pickled with alcohol except uh alcohol(drinking). And we might call whiskey “pickled water”. I have made home made wine. I can tell you that alcohol content of 12 to 15% and kills the yeast which is used to ferment the products. Beer yeast are killed at lower %ages. 20% alcohol and higher is about right for killing any microbes.  Port wine is kept in open vats and is fortified with brandy to around 20%. Therefore Port wine is indeed pickled wine. Brandy is a product that is distilled from wine so that its alcohol content is higher than that of wine, say around 40 to 50%. Whiskey and Rums and Vodka’s are around 40 to 50% and could be used for pickling purposes. As a last note, a food item pickled with alcohol might be cooked to remove the alcohol though I’m not sure how good it may taste.

Salt: Salt creates an environment where there is more salt outside a bacterial cell wall than inside the cell. This kills the cell because it looses too much water. Brine water is >5% salt and will kill most life. Though its tough to say just how salty a liquid or food item must be to kill all bacteria that might live in it. After all there is life growing even in the saltiest seas. Great Salt Lake Utah Ecology(food web) As you can see by this though the number and kind of life is greatly reduced by salinity, life is not totally eliminated. For comparison consider the Ocean average salinity of 3.5% to Great salt lake Utah of 5%-27% depending on the season to the Dead sea at 33.7%


Just about anything we can think of can be pickled. Meats may be pickled and in fact salt and sugar curing is a form of pickling. But plant matter is fermented and not meats. Fermentation at different temperatures give different results. Vegetables and Fruits both are pickled. Once pickled a food may be left at room temperature, though I usually keep them in the frig after opening. Unlike canning pickled items are not completely sterilized, though they may be canned and sterilized as well. I’d have a difficult time with meat that was pickled but not canned properly. Though I do eat beef Jerkey and it is not canned, only pickled and dried.

An interesting last note is that your leather is pickled. The act of tanning is where tannin is used to pickle skin based on high acid.

Salt and Sugar curing

From what I understand meat is buried all the way around in salt for salt curing, and in sugar curing salt is also used but not as heavily. This salt pack or salt sugar pack dries the meat out so that there is little moisture (a key ingredient for life) and also kills bacteria. I know little about this method though I think the FoxFire series books talk about how old timers did this. But I do know that salt needs to be course not fine like table salt or the end result is very salty. The salt is for drawing away moisture. Also the black peppering was for keeping fly’s away. Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite’s are used in curing. Sea salts and natural salts contain amounts of each. This is responsible for the pinkish color in some cured meats.

Smoking


Smoking not only flavors meat’s it dries them out. Smoking is antibacterial but only protects the surface of the meat. Smoking should be used in combination with other methods of preservation. Liquid smoke while adding flavor does nothing for preservation. Smoking and drying or dehydrating in my opinion might go well together.

Canning in Jars

  • Steam Canning
  • Boiled Water Bath Canning
  • Pressure Canning

USDA Canning Guide PDF

The food industry can’s in “cans”, bags, bottles and jars. But we at home can in glass jars mostly (I talk about retort bags below). Equipment for this is a large pot with sealing lid called a caner. Note that some pressure pots you may see are only pressure cookers and not caners. A caner such as a “Presto” will come with a pressure gauge. In general 5, 10 and 15 psi are pressures needed. 20 is too high and will cause pressure to be released via a safety valve or else the pot might explode. The higher the pressure the higher the temperature that can be achieved when canning. PSI means pounds of pressure per square inch above atmospheric pressure. So 15 psi is really 30psi roughly, or double atmospheric pressure. The food boils in the jars within the caner at temperature above 212 degrees. At 15psi it will boil at 240 degrees or higher and kill all life period, not question about it. Meats are canned at 15psi (though I hear altitude alters this pressure) If meats are canned at lower pressures then lower temps will kill bacteria but not spores which are like bacteria seeds. Later if the meat is opened these seeds can cause the bacteria to grow quickly again and become very deadly fast. Lids for jars are made such that they sink in after cooled to show that a slight vacuum seal has been made and the food is indeed sealed and protected. If you set hot jars out and as they begin to cool you would hear popping sounds as the lids sink in. As the contents cool they also shrink and reduce in volume slightly causing a slight vacuum. Canned items can literally be good for decades if kept in cool dark locations. Though as they age they do loose nutritional value over time.  I would like to suggest the canning dates on store bought cans are set for this maximum nutritional drop off, not for spoilage. Though eat out dated canned items at your own risk, not because I told you it was OK.

Note on canning of fish or anything with small sharp bones. Pressure canning will soften bones and scales for that matter to the point where they may be safely chewed or eaten. Personally I wouldn’t want to can the scales however I have seen sardines canned with scales on them. One thing a person might do is first pressure cook the fish and then remove larger bones and scales. Can the remainder(mostly meat). I have read that one may cook up sausage patties the size of a jar, then fill the jar with patties finally fill the jar with melted lard which will solidify over the sausage. The lard actually protects the contents and If you throw on a lid it will vacuum seal as it cools. However it would be safest to go ahead and cook the sausage in a caner.  Other things to know is that wax poured on top is sometimes used to seal in some items such as jams and jelly’s. This is possibly as a secondary precaution in the case a jar seal is not made tight.  Finally, not all canned items have to be pressure canned. There is also hot water bath canning. And there is simply pouring something boiling hot (212F) into a jar and throwing a lid on it. This is how my uncle cans his dill pickles.


Steam canning and boiled water bath canning are virtually the same. Though I hear steam canning is not as safe. Why someone would want to steam can vs boiled water bath I don’t know. But you may find steam canners on the market. These are pans about 3″ deep with a grate where the jars may be set above the water and steam may flow upward around the jars. A large lid the height of the jars is sit on top. There is no seal and steam must leak around the lid as far as I can tell.

Vacuum packing in Mylar and Canning Jars.

I feel that vacuum packing in Mylar is expensive. Mylar is special kind of plastic that does not breath as other plastics do. Its a bit tougher and not cheap. Mylar bags might be reused however if washed and trimmed.  Though each re-use will reduce the volume of the packaging. Great advantage to vacuum packing this way is that you conserve space in storage.

I suppose “Food Saver” is a well known brand of home vacuum packing machines. Food Saver also sells an attachment so that a person may vacuum pack in a regular canning jar. I think this is a super idea. Jars may be re-used with ease. And its a good thing to do with dry goods and items you want to put under refrigeration for shorter term storage. Vacuum packing anything wet will help it to last longer simply by removing the oxygen. If it were something dry I think I’d also add a small bag of something that absorbs moisture or robs oxygen in the jar.

Retort Vacuum packing and canning

List of chamber sealers for sale. Note these chamber sealers are not cheap $600 to $2000. List of Retort pouches from the same site. Note these bags cost around $250 for 1000 depending on the volume.

A retort bag is a bag that was invented to contain food for the space program and for the military. Retort bags are now in use in your local grocery store. I have seen spam, tuna, salmon, sardines etc. canned in retort bags. Retort bags are a little more expensive than cans or bottles. Basically a special plastic is bonded to a given thickness of aluminum foil. This makes a tough bag that is puncture and tear resistant and keeps out light. You may buy a special machine for vacuum packing and sealing a retort bag. Then the canning process is identical to pressure canning in jars or cans. Food preserved in retort bags may be stored for decades. Though again may loose nutritional value over time. Retort bags may be washed and re-used. Though like the re-used Mylar bags become smaller in volume on each successive re-use. I think you may even re-use the bags from store bought retort bagged items.

Refrigeration

Keeping food items as far below ground temperature as you can and yet just above freezing will preserve them for weeks otherwise they would only last for only hours to days at atmospheric or room temps down to ground temps. Air and light here play the most important roles. Air is most important. Depriving any refrigerated item of oxygen is key. Sealed containers help with this greatly by reducing air flow and spread of microbes from one item to another, though vacuum packing would be better yet. Dryer items last longer than wetter items. Pickled items last longer than unpreserved items.

Freezing

Freezing will preserve most anything but not indefinitely. Freezing only slows down greatly bacterial growth. Freezing does not kill bacteria. Colder is better in freezing. Quick freezing and quick deep freezing is better than slow freezing. If frozen very quickly ice crystals will not form. This is what you may have seen in the grocery store as IQF or Individually Quick Frozen products. I used to work at a Tyson’s chicken processing plant. The meat industry first began using freezers that were made for quick freezing vegetables and fruits. These freezers have conveyers that circle through the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes at -60F.  The only thing I’ve seen wrong with IQF products is that it seemed to me that they were frost bitten quickly at home in the freezer. I think frost bite in food is something like a freeze drying effect on its surface. This toughens and disturbs the flavor of the food item as well as the cooking properties. Meat packaged in butchers wax paper seems to do well and not become freezer burnt quickly.

Blanching is a technique where you partially boil an item for a few seconds, then freeze. I think this works by coating the outside of the food item with a consistent layer of ice. Meaning no part of the food item is exposed directly to air. If food items are frozen in water then they are completely sealed off from air which prevents freezer burn and freezer taste from getting into the food item. Fish is normally frozen in water. Frozen items may last for a year or more.

Drying or Dehydration

Food dehydrators are commonly sold but are easy to make. Even an aluminum foil lined box with hot light bulbs can work. I’m sure you may see videos on Youtube for home made food dehydrators. Beef Jerky, Pemmican and Biltong are all basically the same thing’s, dried meats. They differ in cut’s and spices and processing procedures. Beef Jerky is well known here in the U.S.A and I have commonly seen deer(venison) jerky made by individuals. In stores beef is the main meat used however you might find chicken, turkey and pork as well. Even some smoked dried fish such as salmon. I would suggest that dried meats are also somewhat pickled but not usually fermented. However there is this notion of aged beef and venison. Aging is in essence slow fermentation of meat at very controlled cold temps and given moisture presence. Meats are usually dried from the raw state. However diced meats might be dried from a cooked state for addition into soup mixes.

Beef Jerky usually is somewhat sweet, whereas Biltong (African Jerky) is not. Pemmican is basically what was a nutrition bar for mountain men in the USA during the western migration period. Pemmican is pureed fruit, finely minced meat (possibly dried and ground into almost a powdery state) and solid animal fat such as lard (not liquid oils) combined and cooked into a bar form. You may find recipe’s with a quick web search for Jerky, Biltong or Pemmican.

Vegetables and Fruits are commonly dried in ovens, dehydrators and even by sun drying. Sun drying would be more effective in cold and dry climates. Dried veggies make great soup mix material. Dried fruits mixed with nuts make energetic snacks.

Once dried, food items again must be protected from the usual heat, air, light, water to be long lasting. I wouldn’t hesitate to vacuum pack and/or refrigerate or freeze dry items to even further increase their lifespan. Remember refrigeration can be as simple as storing in a root cellar. During the drying process anything that you may do to remove humidity will help as well. Refrigeration and Freezing usually remove humidity. A room dehumidifier might be a good idea as well. For example you put the room dehumidifier and the dehydrator in an enclosed space together. If you are under central heat and air or any a/c, then dehumidification is part of that cooling process as well.

O2 absorbers and Desiccants

Rock salt and even powdered milk(I heard) (in coffee filters tied up) can be used as a moisture absorber (desiccant). Both after use might have the moisture removed by cooking in oven. Rice and crackers has been used to absorb moisture from salt shakers. They might work for stored food items as well, again wrapped up in a coffee filter. Desiccants should go on bottom, and O2 absorbers on top. O2 absorbers can create a slight vacuum I hear on the container. O2 absorbers are usually made from iron powder and small amount of water. The type of container and sealing are very important in O2 absorption as any leak will ruin the process and effect.  O2 absorption is preferred in some cases to vacuum packing because it does not crush or compress the food product.

Freeze Drying

It appears that to freeze dry on the commercial scale one might need to buy a large freeze drier which will cost $4000 plus and require 3 phase electrical connection and probably 240 volts.  This might be doable for a group of families, but is most likely not practical for common home freeze drying for most people. This is a 2 step process. First the product must be quickly frozen to somewhere between -60 and -120. This prevents ice crystals from forming. Next a vacuum is drawn and the product is slowly warmed back up. As it is warmed moisture under a vacuum will vaporize from frozen to gas immediately skipping the liquid state. This is what happens to liquid water in space, instead of forming a ball it quickly vaporizes or boils away. One note about freeze drying is that the product is not deformed or compressed or crushed because the vacuum is put on it in a frozen state.

I have heard of a less expensive method of freeze drying which will work for certain foods or foods prepared a given way. I picked this up from the off-grid.net forum.  In this method you use a typical deep freeze to freeze items in canning jars. Next you take them out of the freezer and screw on canning lids which have an L shaped fitting to a 1/4″ vacuum hose. This line goes to a group of connections where other jars are connected into. A 6 millibar vacuum is kept on all the jars until complete. A vacuum can be purchased for $350 on Ebay which will do the job such as, “Robinair 15600 6 CFM 2 Stage Vacuum Pump”  This is a 2 stage, 120v, 1/2 horse vacuum weighting 27lbs. Once put on vacuum the food item is simply left to warm back up to room temps. When it  is warm it is usually  done. Some foods (those that are very wet) may require a 2nd treatment.

One way to go might be in using a Savant Vapor Trap which cools down to -50c or even -105c These cost between $600 and $2500 at the time of this writing. They have 120 and 240v models. Different models probably have different volumes which they handle.

Remember

Light,moisture , temperature and oxygen are key components in food preservation. If something is kept in a clear or translucent container it must be kept in dark or near dark storage. When it comes to temperature colder is usually better, but freezing some things can cause problems in taste or break containers. Remember when liquids freeze they expand. Expanding ice can crack steel even.

Final not of caution.

Some preservation methods and chemicals can render food toxic if too much is eaten over time. Such as salt and high blood pressure as well as other illnesses that need low salt diets. It would be wise to research illnesses related to preservatives.