100-Year-Old Way to Filter Rainwater in a Barrel


100-Year-Old Way to Filter Rainwater in a Barrel

During our boiling, broiling, blistering summer of 2012 here in the Missouri Ozarks, water was a topic of conversation wherever we went. Creeks and ponds dried up (some never recovered) and the water table dropped, forcing a few neighbors to have their well pumps lowered or to even have deeper wells drilled. [Read more…]

Let’s Bring Back Victory Gardens

As the U.S. government begins scaling back its Food Stamp Program, I wonder how 48 million recipients (almost 1 of every 6 Americans) are being advised to make the transition to reduced or discontinued benefits. Cuts loom ahead, too, for Social Security and other programs.

Is home gardening ever encouraged as a way to offset the escalating cost of, well, just about everything?

Some say it would be cruel to ask people to grow some of their own food as Americans did during the first two world wars. Literature from those eras, however, indicates people felt good about contributing, they saved money, enjoyed better health and had fun gardening with their families and communities.

We can certainly attest to all those rewards. Also, we are assured our food is organic. How did gardens (and clotheslines!) ever become symbols of poverty anyway? We consider them icons of abundance, fitness and good stewardship.

One of my favorite gardening guides is a World War II booklet put out by International Harvester Company that covers everything from cold frames to compost, pest control and root cellars.

“Get at the garden in time. Make a plan for it. Hang it on the wall. Talk about it … Make up your mind when you will plant the different things — then plant them,” the booklet advises.

Now, here’s the part I really like:

“Take care of it; it won’t take care of itself. Anything worth having is worth working for. What isn’t worth working for isn’t worth anything. A good garden will make the home more homelike.”

I found the 80-page booklet among some old cookbooks. It had obviously been referred to many times through the years, and even has a carefully mended front cover. Although the photos are tiny, Page 3 compares a bountiful garden in North Dakota to another where people have lived for years “and still no sign of growing anything to eat.”

“Grow Your Living,” the booklet warns. “It May Not Be Available for You to Buy.”

school-garden-300x160When International Harvester composed the booklet, the food stamp program was new, initiated as a temporary benefit that was discontinued two years before the war ended.

EBT snafu

We hope last week’s Electronic Benefit Transfer system debacle in Louisiana does not reveal how people will behave if they fear their benefits might cease or food becomes scarce.

During a two-hour glitch that temporarily disabled EBT card limits in several states, Walmart shoppers in two Louisiana stores filled their carts to overflowing. Some customers reportedly pulled trains of 8 to 10 carts through the store or returned for more free groceries after bringing one load home, according to online reports.

When the system was restored, people abandoned their full carts in store aisles and checkout lines. One Springhill woman walked away from her $700 bill at the checkout as she had only 49 cents on her card.

Meanwhile, we wonder – what were people thinking? Did they fear the system was down for good and they needed to stockpile? (Hoarding food is never a sustainable solution.) Have people become utterly dependent on the system?


End of surpluses

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Stamp Program has been reworked a few times since it was created in May 1939. It was discontinued from 1943 to 1961 “since the conditions that brought the program into being—unmarketable food surpluses and widespread unemployment—no longer existed,” according to the USDA website. So, it is not unthinkable the program could disappear again.

Originally, recipients bought stamps that came in two colors: orange for any food product and blue for surplus. For every dollar of orange stamps bought, the buyer received 50 cents of blue stamps for free, which were exchanged for agricultural surplus items, such as milk, eggs or cheese.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy introduced a food stamp pilot program that no longer included surplus foods. The stamps still were purchased, although the cost was incrementally reduced. The USDA maintained that stamps should continue to be sold so as not to undermine the dignity of recipients. Three years later, Congress made the Food Stamp Program permanent.

5124984-P-59_large-194x300The next major change came in 1977 when food stamps were no longer required to be purchased. The move to stop selling stampsdisappointed many who had supported the program as a means to help the poor help themselves, not as a direct government handout.

Food Stamp budget cuts

Last month, the government announced a $4 billion food stamp budget cut that will affect everyone on the program now and for future applicants. An estimated 4 million people will be cut from the program in 2014. It is estimated that at least 1 to 3 million will be cut each consecutive year for the next decade.

FoodStamp.org posted some reconstruction solutions, which includes removing illegal immigrants from the program. Currently, children born to illegal immigrants in the United States are entitled to benefits, as are their illegal alien parents. Is it any wonder we can no longer support this program?

Proposed agricultural solutions include farmers markets, donations and co-ops where recipients work for their food. FoodStamp.org says these solutions “seem barbaric to some progressives and others.”

A few quick online searches revealed little practical preparation ideas for recipients to wean themselves from the program. FoodStamp.org suggests that single, able-bodied participants find work or create a nutrition plan such as vegetarianism or a sustainable and self-reliant food lifestyle.

Another option is to combine vegetables with meat, grains, dairy, or other foods to make them last longer throughout the week. FoodStamp.org goes on to recommend ways to make vegetables more interesting, especially for children, by smothering them in dips and sauces. Or, coat celery sticks with peanut butter and decorate with raisins. Also, exchange recipes with Facebook friends.

Some of this seems silly to me, but is actually more advice than I found on the USDA’s site. To its credit, FoodStamp.org also included a short blog about gardening as a suggestion. The food stamp program now allows recipients to buy seeds. Finally — an idea for sustainability.

Teaching people to grow food

The USDA was not initially keen on promoting home gardening. When First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a vegetable garden on the White House grounds, USDA leaders worried her example would hurt industrial agriculture.

Eventually, however, the government endorsed household and community food plots and supplied gardening literature. The USDA also issued a 20-minute film to promote and train people how to plant victory gardens.

good-garden-300x272The call to plant a Victory Garden was answered by nearly 20 million Americans during World War II.  Those backyard plots produced up to 40 percent of all that was consumed. When prosperity resumed, however, many gardens were abandoned.

Today, as food prices continue to climb and more people are unable to feed their households as before, it is time to relearn those skills. As they did in Cuba when their economy collapsed, we should be planting food anywhere we can – on rooftops, in window boxes, along the sidewalk, next to the garage – anywhere there is dirt. Even without soil, a couple big jars of sprouts growing on the kitchen counter are an excellent source of nutrition.

Modern gardening experts such as Marjory Wildcraft and John Jeavons say we don’t need to plow up the whole back 40 to feed our families. Marjory laughs how she made the mistake of tilling an entire acre for her first garden and ended up with an acre of weeds. Instead, she says now, start small – and keep growing.

Perhaps it is time to bring back Victory Gardens.









SOURCE : theprepperjournal.com

Frequent contributor, Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Productsa company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid, and invented the WaterBuck Pump. A former newspaper editor and reporter, Holliday blogs for Mother Earth News, sharing her skills in modern homesteading, organic gardening and human-powered devices.

1881 Cyclopedia Explains Composting Methods and Benefits



1881 Cyclopedia Explains Composting Methods and Benefits

When garden composting caught on in the early 1980s, I thought back to my mother sending us kids to the garden every night to bury the day’s apple cores, carrot tops and hickory nut shells. It seemed Mom was ahead of her time.

Or was she?

I’ve been reading in the “1881 Household Cyclopedia of General Information” about enriching soil. In the days before chemical fertilizers, making compost was vital for a successful harvest. Only a lazy farmer was not continually building up his soil. And to neglect the earth meant to have poor quality vegetables and crops. [Read more…]

Author Marjory Wildcraft Goes from Hong Kong Highrise to Texas Prepper

Last summer, when a friend presented me with a set of author Marjory Wildcraft’s gardening DVDs, I thought I already knew everything about growing vegetables. This winter, I finally started watching “Grow Your Own Groceries” and was amazed at how much I didn’t know about rabbits, chickens, compost and bugs.

The home video of Marjory, husband Dave and their kids demonstrates how the family created their self-sufficient homestead. Marjory shows how they made soil from Texas sand and clay, set up rainwater catchment systems, began raising livestock and how more than half their diet now is organic food they grow.

securedownload-300x270Ninety-five percent of food in mainstream grocery stores is toxic, says Marjory, adding that the United States is no longer food self-reliant as it imports 65 percent of its fuel to grow the major crops of corn, wheat and soy.

“Americans are incredibly under-nourished people,” Marjory said. “I believe it is why so many are so ill.”

After watching the video, I had to learn more about the plucky, humorous, down-to-earth woman who readily admitted her early gardening blunders and showed how to slaughter a rabbit with compassion. Incidentally, Marjory recommends fasting for 24 hours before butchering your first home-raised rabbit – not to combat nausea, but to appreciate why we cultivate animals for food.

Originally a Florida city girl, Marjory didn’t grow up plucking geese, composting grass, gathering wild herbs, harvesting turnips or eating bugs. None of that started until decades later when she “freaked out and panicked” over fear of potential U.S. economic collapse.

In the 1990s when Marjory was an ex-pat electrical engineer working for Motorola in China, an Australian couple mentioned their ideas of permaculture and self-reliance. Looking out from the 46th floor of her Hong Kong apartment, Marjory wondered, “Why would I ever need to know about that?”

Years passed and Marjory left Motorola to become an engineering consultant with clients all over Southeast Asia. She loved the travel, her work and enviable income.  Fascinated by money, she later created a successful real estate investing firm where she managed tremendous amounts of debt for millionaire real-estate investors.  Marjory did well for her investors and immersed herself in everything related to money, the world economy and markets.


Curious where all the money she was managing was coming from, Marjory traced it back to analyze the business models of U.S. government-backed mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Her research alarmed her. She saw a vulnerable interconnection of mortgage companies, banks, insurance giants and brokers in dire financial and legal trouble.  From her research, Marjory saw global economic collapse as inevitable.

“I said, ‘If they go under, we’ll all be in trouble.’ The dominoes would topple,” Marjory explained when I called to ask about her video inspiration.

In 2001-2002, Marjory began dismantling her consulting business, urging clients to get out of real estate investing before the bubble burst. Although skeptical, they trusted her instincts and later thanked her.

Meanwhile, Marjory continued traveling, this time talking with people who had survived disaster, whether caused by national economic collapse, weather or war. Their common message was that the ability to grow food was crucial to survival.

Dave and Marjory began searching for a homestead, a place where they could grow food year-round and work toward self-reliance. They settled in Dave’s native Texas, an hour’s drive from Austin. They attended forestry, permaculture, rainwater collection and gardening classes as they set up their own systems.

“Grow Your Own Groceries” chronicles what they learned along the way. I was particularly interested in their rainwater systems, intended to be their main water source, until persistent drought forced them to drill a well. Still, if you’ve got it, rainwater is best for growing plants, followed by pond water and well water, Marjory says.

“We started getting pretty good at growing things,” Marjory said, adding how they expanded into the whole gamut of skills needed for self-reliance; making and using herbal medicine, defense, treating water, making clothing with natural materials, bartering skills, food preservation, woodlot management and much more.

On their journey to self-sufficiency, Marjory and Dave saw how important it is to share skills and knowledge. “I realized that community is absolutely vital to survival,” she said.

Not only can neighbors trade vegetables and labor, they can pool resources to buy in bulk. Also, if one is especially gifted at cultivating bees, another might make cheese or build wooden barrels. As Marjory sought ways to strengthen her local community, she found herself being a teacher, bringing people to the farm for hands-on lessons.

“The demand got so big, we couldn’t keep up,” Marjory said.

In 2009, Marjory’s video, “Grow Your Own Groceries,” became a way to show people everywhere how to grow food anywhere, with special emphasis on backyard gardening and small livestock rearing. Today, 300,000 copies are used worldwide – by homesteaders, survivalists, missionary organizations and universities.

4023-rabbit-5-week-old-babies-8-in-a-cage-300x225“Diversity is key,” Marjory said, explaining that perennial plants should be mixed with annuals, wild edibles, livestock, wild game and insects (an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids). If one crop fails one year, another may flourish. Seeing a need for urban and suburban solutions, Marjory is now experimenting with aquaponics.

“We have got to shift and change and evolve,” she said.

Marjory loves the whole homesteading way of life. Her dream is for every family to enjoy the satisfaction and good health gained from eating food they grew themselves. The catalyzing statement for her organization is “Homegrown Food on Every Table.”

“In my journey, I’ve found that returning to a life where I produce most of my own basic needs has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done,” Marjory said. “The inner strength that comes from eating deeply nutritious food that I’ve grown myself, the confidence from knowing I can provide for my family no matter what, and the joy of independence from tyrannical systems, are all so worth it.









SOURCE : theprepperjournal.com

Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Productsa company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid, and invented theWaterBuck Pump. A former newspaper editor and reporter, Holliday blogs for Mother Earth News, sharing her skills in modern homesteading, organic gardening and human-powered devices.

Photos courtesy of Marjory Wildcraft in her Texas garden.

Grow Food All Year Long: Recycled Patio Door Greenhouse Project

In the 1960s, my father spit out the word “plastic” as if it were poison. To him, anything made of a substance other than real wood, metal or glass was junk. Now, I understand.

Our first greenhouse was entirely plastic, a snazzy do-it-yourself kit Darren ordered online for about $1,600. He eagerly awaited the day the UPS truck showed up with the soon-to-be mega-veggie-growing house. Like a kid at Christmas, Darren ran out to help the delivery man with the boxes, thinking they’d weigh a ton. His expectations were high.

greenhouse-building jpgAlthough he later called it a “toy”, Darren built a foundation for the 8’ by 12’ greenhouse and filled the north wall with black 55-gallon barrels to retain heat. The plastic shivered in the wind. Within two seasons, the windows were cloudy.

We’ve learned a thing or three since then.

Rather than building a stand-alone greenhouse of plastic, you can have a sturdier, less-expensive and warmer greenhouse of real wood, metal and glass by attaching it to a south-facing wall of your home or other building.

Using some scrap material, old sliding glass doors and windows, and as few purchased supplies as possible (cinder blocks, wire cloth, 2x4s and roof tin), we built such a greenhouse last fall for about $400. All winter long, it provided more than enough greens for our heaping, twice-daily salads, and cost a fraction of that plastic model.

The finished greenhouse measures 15-1/2 by 5-1/2 feet along the south side of our unheated porch. Attaching it to the house, we used less materials and the greenhouse needs no artificial heat. The temperature in our part of the Missouri Ozarks rarely gets below 0, but, on really cold nights, we set the pail of woodstove ashes in the greenhouse for extra warmth. A few 1-gallon jugs placed on the stepping stones absorb heat during the day. But, that’s it – no electric or propane heat required.

greenhouse_square-319x252So far, these no-cost methods have kept the greenhouse at a perfect temperature for spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, radishes and bok choy. The plants generate enough oxygen to compensate for that consumed by the glowing embers. I’ve heard, too, that a few candles will produce enough heat to keep the tender plants from freezing, although we haven’t needed to try that trick.

From the Ground Up

Our project began with a sketch, followed by marking the site and digging a level base. Shoveling by hand took almost two days. I thought we’d keep the excavated dirt for greenhouse soil, but it was mainly clay and rock, so was used elsewhere.

Once the ground was smooth and level, we built a foundation of cinder blocks topped with 5-inch x 5-inch beams. We banked the blocks on both sides with some of the excavated clay to keep them in place during construction.

greenhouse_dirtload-319x239To keep out moles and other dirt-digging rodents, Darren “sewed” together two pieces of quarter-inch hardware cloth by weaving a wire along the edges of two pieces. The wire-cloth base may not be necessary in all parts of the world, but, here it is absolutely the difference between us crunching on spinach or crying over our empty salad bowls. The wire covers the entire floor and extends about 8 inches up the walls. We know it works, as mole tunnels girdle the greenhouse, yet no varmints get inside.

We added plastic (oops, there’s that word again) landscape edging along the inside of the foundation at soil level, but only because the edging was given to us and will help keep wet soil away from the lumber. It is certainly not mandatory, though.


From Doors to Windows

Next, the 2×4 studs went up, followed by rafters. Darren put on the tin roof while I painted the interior walls glacier white, snow-blinding bright. With a roof overhead, we headed to the woods with a wheelbarrow for topsoil, which we mixed with some of last year’s compost. We shoveled it in about 8” deep, adding flat rocks from the yard for stepping stones. Then came the sparkling clean glass. Dad would be proud.

greenhouse_nearlydone-319x239We carted home our used sliding glass patio doors from a junk shop for $10 each and $5 for a window, although I have heard of people just giving them away. Check with glass shops, contractors or online (freecycle.net or freecycle.org) for used doors. Also, non-frosted shower doors make great entry doors.

Our used patio doors are about 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall, the perfect size for three along the south face and one on the west. The east side has a homemade wooden door and another used window, about 3-feet wide and 6-feet tall. The old porch window opening is now a very handy, narrow doorway leading from the porch into the greenhouse with only a scruffy wool blanket as a door.

Recently, we added a shelf, the wire kind used in closets, to hold trays of seedlings. It’s up high enough to not shadow the plants below. We also lined the wall behind the shelf with aluminum foil to reflect even more light onto the seedlings.

An old 70-gallon stock tank we found for $20 in the local thrift store sits under a downspout where, in winter, it stays full of nutritious rainwater. All I have to do is dip in my watering can. I let the water warm up to the greenhouse’s ambient temperature before watering so the plants aren’t shocked by ice water.

Year-Round Usefulness

greenhouse1_inside-319x425Our first glass greenhouse here, a lean-to Darren built along his shop in late 2011, supplied us with delicious, organic greens from mid-December until May. By the time it got too hot in the greenhouse to grow food, our raised beds outside started producing.  So, the greenhouse became a large and super-efficient compost bin. We kept it damp with rainwater, and in just 2-3 weeks our peelings and whatnot became compost – many weeks ahead of the outdoor compost pile, and without rodents.

Our new greenhouse has been staying cool enough, I think, for tomatoes.  Well, I’m giving it a try anyway.  I had enough leftover seedlings, so I planted five in the greenhouse this morning.  I’ll post an update this summer about that experiment.  If it works, we’ll have fresh tomatoes all winter.  I understand tomato plants will keep on growing until they freeze.  We’ll see.

Even if you hire someone for the actual construction project, round up some used windows or doors for a real greenhouse. They are inexpensive (sometimes even free) and surprisingly available. Our challenge was joining a square and level greenhouse onto a very un-square and out-of-level old porch. Perhaps you will have a less tetragonal starting point.

The best part of projects like this for us is being able to do all if it ourselves, keep recycled building materials out of landfills and put ourselves another leap toward self-reliance.

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SOURCE : theprepperjournal.com


Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Productsa company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid, and invented theWaterBuck Pump. A former newspaper editor and reporter, Holliday blogs for Mother Earth News, sharing her skills in modern homesteading, organic gardening and human-powered devices.