Bottling lard

December 19, 2015

We are down to the last jar of lard and it is time to add some more jars of lard to the pantry.  I buy the Morrell Snow cap lard in 4 pound buckets when it is on sale.  This lard stores great in the cool dry basement and does not seem to go rancid very quickly. I have stored this fat for two years in the basement and it seems to do as good or better than most fats or oils for the length of storage time.  From what I have researched about storing lard it is the little bit of skin and meat left in home rendered lard that contributes to the fat turning rancid.  I can’t say this is true for me since I use a commercial product that is filtered. I would be very careful using this method if you render lard at home.  I suppose it comes down to how quickly you use lard and how clear you can get it cleaning off the “cracklins”.

The first step is starting with clean jars and lids.  I like the 1/2 pint wide mouth jars as they are easy to dip a paper towel or fork to add a bit of fat to a skillet or to season a cast iron pan. I preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. and place the clean jars in a pan and then set them into the oven until all of the jars are completely dry.  I slowly heat up a pan full of lard on the stove top and the canning lids are warmed up but not boiled. A 12 pack of the 1/2 pint jars will hold exactly 4 pounds of melted lard.

Once the lard is liquid, and canning jars are dry I get them out of the oven and fill them up, wipe any excess oil off the jar and set on the lids.  After some time most of the lids will seal and make a sort of popping sound.  Please note,  this is not a government approved method of storing lard or butter but it has worked well for me.  You do this process at your own risk!  Any jars that don’t “pop/seal” I use those jars first!

I use the same process if I want to bottle butter but I add a small marble to the jar  and shake it while the jar cools so the butter does not separate as much.  You could skim the milk fat solids off the melted butter and make clarified butter or ghee. With the fat solids removed, the butter should have a much longer storage life.  I have read that ghee/clarified butter stores much better in temps above 75 degrees F. and can last 5-7 years in storage. I have not tested the storage time for clarified butter but I have tested the bottle butter at 18-24 months and it was good to eat.

I like this method for storage because if you screw up the fats will go rancid and your sniffer will tell you if you have a bad product. I also think that the FDA is full of crap about how natural oils and fats are bad for a person, yet highly refined and chemical infused vegetable fats are great, simply because they are liquid at room temperature. Just look at the ingredient list on a package of margarine and vegetable/canola oils. If you have stored some of those oils and don’t want to use them in food prep, just add them to your oils for things like squeaky hinges, bicycle chains, rust preventive for garden tools and other jobs that need a light weight oil in the shop/garage or around the house.



Shopping today and snow!

December 17, 2015

Woohoo!  shopping at Harbor freight today and I had coupons for several good deals on stuff for the house.

With the first good snow coming in I added a 24 pack of AA batteries and a 6 pack of D batteries for all the flashlights and the Ds work in my shower water pump and the smokeless ashtrays.  I really like the new LED type flashlights,  even most of the cheaper ones have a great battery life. The big hand held spot light is great as it has it’s own battery and can be charge via house current of via 12 volt cigarette lighter.  I filled up two of the railroad type safety lanterns and both of them leaked oil, not good! So the lanterns are empty and in the shop to have the wicks and glass globes parted out. I have two large hurricane lamp, several windup and battery powered lanterns along with mirrors to help augment the light. Once you add in Mom’s candle gardens, I can say the lighting is still in good shape after losing the use of those two lanterns.

I got a couple of the small ammo boxes at Harbor Freight. These boxes are a good size for grabbing a couple to go to the range or plinking. You could use these boxes for storing ammo in several locations/cashes. I have not tested the boxes for water proofing but they do seem to have a good lid to box fit and the box has a spot for a padlock.  The real nice buy I got was on a 4 tool boxes for just $20.00. The largest box is huge at 22 inches long by 11 inches wide and deep. The next box is 20 inches by 8 inches wide and 9 inches deep. I want to make one of the larger size tool boxes, a shooting range box for my pistols. It would be nice to have all my range stuff in on easy to handle box rather than have to make several trips or try and juggle my shooting supplies. With the three leftover boxes I can finally get all of my small hand tools organized so I can find them without a lot of searching.

I got a couple of the solar yard light string/tubes to test out for the front yard.  I want to add these lights along the handrails of the front porch and if the are long enough to add a light border to some of the sidewalk.  I want lighting for security as well as some that adds a little curb appeal to the house. I don’t want to add to my electric bill so all outdoor lighting must be solar powered!  Actually any additional items that need electrical power I am going solar or some other renewable/off-grid power source.

Shopping at the local True Value store I got a small wireless weather station for only $20.00. It has a very nice setup for tracking temperatures and  humidity though it is lacking a barometer for measuring pressure.  I like it, as I can sit at the computer desk and get both indoor and outdoor temps and humidity levels.  My analog type thermometers tend to vary a lot because one is in shade and one is out in the south facing sun.  I don’t have a wind gauge but I have a couple of pinwheels in the yard and they give me a good idea on the wind and direction.  I picked up a small utility knife that uses plain safety razor blades and is lockable at several angles.  After several box cutter type blades this utility blade is a joy to add to my tool box.  Plus safety razor blades tend to be a lot less expensive to buy compared to most box cutter blades.

Snowed most of the day but it looks like we will only get a few inches.  I put salt on the front side walk last night and it did a good job of melting the snow until the afternoon. I like putting down a layer of salt before any winter snow as it makes shoveling the snow off the sidewalks much easier.  We tried out the “pet safe” salt on the backyard sidewalk. The pet safe salt did not do as well as the regular sno-melt salt but I think overall it was a good trade off between safety for the animals and a safe walkway.  Both Mom and I cleared the sidewalks but her metal shovel seem to skim off the snow leaving a layer behind and my plastic shovel did a better job clearing the sidewalks. Mom thinks it might have been the loose nut operating the metal shovel, but I think it might be the difference of how metal and plastic conduct cold. It might be best to have a couple of different types of snow shovels.  A lightweight plastic shovel for moisture heavy, but warm snowfalls and a solid metal snow shovel that can stand up to dry snow fall and chip away at any ice build up.  This is the first year I have used a plastic snow shovel but the difference in results seem significant to me.

I have a bit more food shopping left to do as Albertsons has a good sale on chicken thighs and legs for $.88 per pound and Fred Meyers has a New York roast for $4.99 per pound that I’d like to add one roast to the freezer. This a great time to stock up on those loss-leaders in the mega-marts especially if you can hold back a little cash to take advantage of sales.

Making extra pain relief and dry skin cream for winter.

December 16, 2015

Between the weather changes, and my body’s evidence of how slow I was to learn the laws of gravity and inertia. I am adding more jars of the pain relief cream to my medical pantry. After I shot the staple into my palm I found my middle finger was very sore and swollen. Using the pain cream helped relieve the pain but I was very surprised that is also reduced the swelling in the finger.  This not the first time I have had a foreign object puncture my skin but it is the first time I used the pain relief cream and noticed how it reduced swelling and seem to reduce the ordinary heat and redness you get from any sort of deep wound.  Plus it took less than two days for all of the swelling to go down and never had much redness or hot spot with this puncture wound once I used the pain relief salve on it.  In less than a week  the puncture wound from the staple is pain free and I have had no problems with any sort of infection.

The dry skin salve is similar to the pain salve but I use Rice bran oil (naturally high in vitamin E) rather than the Coconut oil. I avoid using most citrus essential oils as my Mom and sister have a sensitivity to vitamin C/ascorbic acid.  I think that using the natural beeswax adds a protective layer to the skin which helps the oil penetrate as well as keep the skin from drying out due to wind. Most commercial products seem to use petroleum based wax (paraffin) since it is relatively cheap, but I prefer the feel of beeswax on my skin. Another advantage of beeswax is I can buy it locally, rather than depend on store bought paraffin wax.

To make the salve rather than use just a carrier oil adding the 1-1.5 oz. of beeswax for every 8 oz. of oil is a good ratio that has worked well with Coconut, Grape seed and Rice Bran oils.  Beeswax can be flammable so it is best to melt it slowly.  To melt/blend all the oils and beeswax I use a small 1.5 qt. crock pot on low, but to make my comfrey salve I use one of the “little dipper” crock pots to keep from any cross contamination of medical salves. Crock pots are cheap at thrift stores and yard sales so I buy different sizes/colored crock pots for my different salves.

A jar of salve last me a couple of months and I use it daily on my multiple pain areas. I like using 1/2 pint wide mouth jars to hold the salves. If you use a regular pint jar it can be difficult to get to the salve in the bottom of the jar.  I don’t  seal the jars but wait for the salve to cool and solidify before I add the lid. What is great is the jars are reusable and you can leave a little salve in the jar you can just refill it!

If you can find a bee keeper willing to sell beeswax and you are willing to clean it, you will save a lot of money on your salves and you might even bring in a few dollars selling “clean” beeswax at the local farmer’s market. Cleaning beeswax is easy and all you need to do is setup the double boiler, keep the heat just high enough to melt the wax and keep an eye on it so the double boiler does not run out of water and the heat stays low enough not to ignite the wax.  Keeping an eye on the wax melting is sort of like keeping an eye on your pressure canner. You want to keep a close eye on it to start so the temp. is correct but after that you just need to check it every 3-5 minutes to make sure everything is staying in the safe zone for heat.  I use a single burner hot plate I set on low with a double boiler but a crock/slow cooker on low would probably work just as well.

I don’t use any chemicals to “bleach” or clean the wax other than the strainers. I pour the wax into silicone pans for candy size molds but small metal bread loaf pans work well if you want larger chunks of wax.  After the cleaning the beeswax will be a dull amber color and have very mild, sort of sweet floral aroma.  I get my beeswax for about $6.00-$8.00 per pound if I buy 10-20 pounds.  I often see natural beeswax go for $4.00-$8.00 per oz. so you can see how much money you can save if you are willing to clean the wax yourself.

Quite a few people want both a side project  of making some medicines via essential oils or herbs. Some are getting into beekeeping or need a way to use all that natural beeswax. It is amazing how people used beeswax before petroleum products became cheaply available.  Real beeswax candles last longer than most commercially produce candles and the are simple to make at home.  Do a search on the internet on the uses of beeswax and I bet you will be stunned that natural beeswax is a great multi-tasker.


The kitchen and laundry room is “Minty Fresh”.

December 14, 2015

Mice and spiders have been a major problem this fall. While the sticky traps are catching some of the mice, I know there is a much larger mouse population I’m not catching in traps.  Mom and I have smushed a couple of big spiders that seem intent on crossing into the house. With all the rain the DE barrier washes away and won’t stop insects entering the house.  I’m trying out peppermint essential oil in a couple of forms to get rid of the spiders and push the mice into traps. I hope the peppermint will encourage all vermin to stay out side of my house.

The two methods I am trying out:

  1. Cotton balls soak with several drops of peppermint oil.  The smell is pungent and the cotton balls can be placed in areas that are not easy spots to place traps.  My hope is the cotton balls will drive the vermin into traps or out in the open were the can be caught and or smushed.
  2. Peppermint spray: 1 cup of water, 20 drops of peppermint oil and a squeeze of dish soap to make it mix and that is easy to spray on walls/baseboards.

I don’t know if this will work but I have used crushed mint leaves to keep some insects out of the house.  The smell of peppermint is a bit over powering for a few minutes then it seems to dissipate quickly for my sniffer. I do not want to be cruel to mice or bugs. I would prefer to find methods that repel them rather than kill them. I won’t use poisons as Smokey the cat and Tucker the peke are mousers of a sort and I don’t want them poisoned if they catch a mouse.

Update on the rest of the critters: Diana the peke is finally responding to the steroid treatment. It would help if she would take it easy and heal up  before trying to keep up with the younger dogs. But Diana let me give her a bit brushing and did not growl when I picked her up. Early days yet on her healing but I think she is on the mend.  Sadie the schnauzer still is timid though we are trying to get her to interact with the pack and not be so sensitive.  I think Sadie was a bit neglected in a social way and never given any positive reinforcement nor was she encouraged to be part of a pack.  Dogs are social animals and it “breaks my heart” to see this little dog be so fearful.  Tucker the peke seems to have taken an interest in Sadie and Tucker loves life, so he should be a good doggie guide to bring Sadie out of her shell.

Speaking of Tucker the peke, he is finally getting the idea of chasing the cat is a bad thing.  It is a slow process but I hope we can break Tucker from chasing the cat and yet keep his love of chasing away the squirrels that attack my garden.  Tucker and Brodie were supposed to be Mom’s dogs but both have attached to me.


Finished up insulating the chicken shed.

December 11, 2015

I noticed some very significant drafts while installing the radiant insulating barrier.  One draft was along the bottom wall and close to the laying boxes and the other drafts were high, along where the roof/walls meet. It seems that the shed was water proof but not wind proof.  The shed seems a lot less damp feeling and drafty since we installed the radiant barrier.  My hope is the birds will be more comfortable and will lay more eggs as they are no longer fighting drafts and the shed is a snug place for the birds.  We left the high vent exposed as well as the chicken door open during daylight hours so the shed can breathe and not build up moisture.  It has been warm with lots of rain but next week it will get cold and we will have a good test on how well the radiant barrier works on keeping the chicken house warm this winter. Yes, we are that anal-retentive enough to put a thermometer and test our theories, even if we are talking about a chicken shed.

Lessons learned: It hurts a lot when you shoot a 5/16ths staple into the palm of your hand.  I encouraged bleeding , washed with soap & water for a minute and then rinsed the hand in antiseptic. I did not bandage the puncture wounds  but placed a medic type glove on so I could work and the glove would contain most excess bleeding.  I need to get a tetanus shot from the VA.  The pain relief salve did great relieving pain as well as most of the swelling from the staple. Being smart on how to treat small wounds should be a big deal for most preppers and survivalist types.  I was a bit surprised that after stapling in the middle of my palm, my middle finger from the 1st to 2nd knuckle got swollen and very sore, though not the palm.  I must have caught a nerve or tendon with the staple.  I’m fine now and finger is working good enough to cut up 5 buckets of mill ends and the last of the panels for the chicken house.

Having a good working staple gun makes installing any roll or bat insulation very quick.  Mom and I worked about 7-8 hours over 2 days on installing the radiant insulation and putting up underlayment  board.  Insulating a shed over a weekend should be doable for most people. Total cost around $200.00 we have left over radiant barrier and two new staple guns purchased, that can be used for other project.

I have learned a lot about adding insulation/ foam and caulk by just doing these jobs. The chicken house is the first time I did insulating and adding panels from start to finish.   The chickens haven’t complained about the the “house” walls having a bit of a rough finish, but I have learned the value of using molding and caulk to give a nice clean finish. I can’t say we are close to the professional type contractors but overall I think we are doing a good on most simple jobs.

Albertson’s is having a great sale on snacks. 16 oz. Planters peanuts $1.49.  I know that peanut butter is one of the prepper shelf stable proteins.  I don’t care for the taste commercial peanut butter. I love salted peanuts as a quick snack or to add flavor to meals and deserts.  This a great time to add snack cracker, popcorn, chocolate, hard candies and nuts to your stock pile. I know I really missed having those snacks when I lived off my pantry foods.  I like to store snacks in metal popcorn tins with just a dusting of DE in the bottom to keep the snacks fresh.

I think for December all we have left is putting up/replacing the tape and plastic on the house windows. I want to add a few Xmas lights to the house to feel a bit festive.

Oh my gosh!  We found a house for Mom!  Just under a .25 of an acre on the edge of Nampa and shelves that would make any prepper drool. It has a city hook up for water and sewer, plus a  working well and septic tank.  It would need a wood stove but otherwise it is a prepper’s dream home.  Darn it, Mom has another divorce court date  in March of next year and she can’t do anything until the Divorce is settled. The house is $104 grand and she must have at least 20% down, to have equity and not pay mortgage insurance.  I would love for Mom to have this home and I can’t help make it happen!  Just a bit frustrated, I have gained so much by having Mom around. While at times things seem a touch difficult, mostly it is a good thing for me.  I think Mom deserves a home of her own and I will admit I’m biased.  I want Mom to have her own place, not because I want to kick her out, but because I want her happy in a home that she can do her own thing that makes her happy.  It is not easy for Mom being in one bedroom for “her” stuff and sharing other parts of my house that we can fit in. Please excuse the whine as we are fortunate in life. Just needed to work it out of my system.




Started insulating the chicken house today.

December 8, 2015

The radiant insulation was very easy to push between the wall studs of the chicken shed/house. We did have a few problems getting the staplers to work correctly but if you have a good, light to medium weight stapler attaching the radiant barrier to the studs is very fast and simple. We did not use any of the glue to attach the the walls, though that may change on placing the radiant barrier on the ceiling.  There was much “wailing and cursing” dealing with the multi-purpose screws we used to attach some thin plywood underlayment to keep the hens away from pecking the new insulation.  Buy and stock up on self drilling screws if you use a battery drill and work primarily with wood. Trust me, any extra cost is mitigated by time savings and ease of installation. While Mom and I were installing the insulation along only 2 walls,  we saw over 4 degrees F. increase in temperature in the chicken house.  Mom placed a small temp. gauge in the chicken shed. We will be able to track how well the insulation affects the chickens and egg production.

I had to do a bit of cutting of the underlayment plywood we got from Home depot. I have a couple of cheap plastic saw horses, the best I can say is they are better than nothing. If you want something for working with lumber, invest in some heavy duty saw horses.  The small  18 volt battery powered B&D circular saw did very well cutting the thin underlayment  plywood. I FUBARed a couple of measurements not converting inside and outside dimensions of the shed. I screwed the pooch by not doing an internal measurement of the shed.  Those contractors and wood working guys know, always say measure twice and cut once. Those guys are smart!

If we can get all the staple guns working I think we should be able to finish off installing all the insulation and the basic barrier that will keep the hens from pecking at the insulation.  I may piss and moan about some of these jobs, but I am learning a lot about how to insulate, creating a vapor barrier as well as air circulation to prevent any sort of mold build up.  I can see using the radiant rolls of insulation might be a good solution to start insulating my shop.

I’m not knocking Practical Parsimony she is a smart gal, and she is in the deep south where things tend to be very humid and warm. That is a big setup for mold & mildew in her neck of the woods. S .Lynn is local to me and her birds are still roosting in trees and my aunt does not insulate her chicken coops. While I can’t these folks are wrong about chicken survival. My Mom’s chickens tend to have high egg production compared to most in the local area. It just makes sense, if a bird is cold it’s body will need to generate heat rather than egg production.

What is the worst that can happen?  Well, I have learned a bit about applying radiant insulation , also a vapor barrier to a structure. While it is warm for a couple of days it is forcasted to get all snowy/cold this weekend so we  can see if mold might be a problem.  If the birds are happy and lay eggs I’m happy!

I think we figured out the chicken house insulation setup

December 6, 2015

Mom has a 6’x8′ wood storage shed for the chicken house. So it is not what most people assume that we are insulating a small chicken coop. The “radiant insulation” that should reflect heat in winter and reflect heat out in summer. Mom will add a few sheets of plywood that should keep the birds from pecking at the insulation. Mom tells me that the chickens are sort of like “rednecks” and like shiny stuff. So we will be adding a 4′ wall of plywood to prevent any pecking of the insulation. If needed, I saved all of the light weight garden fencing we can tack up to keep the birds away from the insulation above the plywood.

Mom kept her birds in an insulated shed before she moved in with me and the winter egg production stayed much higher than most people’s chickens in this area. Speaking just for myself I think Mom is going a bit over board on insulating this winter, but I think the radiant barrier will make the chicken shed much cooler in summer.  Mom got a nice window to add to the shed in the spring so the shed should have a good air flow/ventilation for the birds next year. Even if we are wrong about how warm we need to keep chickens this winter, I’m positive the “radiant barrier” will help keep the chicken shed much cooler next summer.

Very nice day today here in SW Idaho and it looks like we may see a couple of 50 degree days next week though it maybe a bit damp.  I got the front yard all raked up and placed the outdoor furniture in a protected area along side of the house.  We had some pretty brisk winds last week that finally blew the remaining leaves of all of the trees.  The garlic is sending up little green shoots through the straw mulch and the decorative kale still looks great, though it is not putting on a lot of growth.

Diana the”peke” got a bit  hurt trying to keep up with the younger dogs again. She is on predisone and tramidol to try and get her healthy.  Good news is she is eating and drinking water. Bad news is she is taking longer to recover and is very cranky. As long as Diana keeps eating and drinking I will keep working meds and keep her comfortable.   Diana is be 13 years old and that is old age for most dogs.  I won’t let her suffer if I can give her a chance at recovery.  If it is time for her I will let her go!

I’m flat out, worn out this year.  I’m not giving up, but I may have to take a bit of a break from the madness and work on stuff around the house.  Brew some beer, make some bacon and really work on my preps rather than be in crisis management all the time.  I want to work on the simple things even though they won’t be easy.

Cold weather insulation and an update on the air purifiers.

December 2, 2015

Mom wants to start insulating the chicken house.While Mom was looking at some of the foam insulating panel at first. We are going to try out some reflective sort of insulation to start with on the chicken shed.  We want a bit of insulation, but what we are more interested in is eliminating any drafts. We bought a few rolls of a “radiant barrier” type product via Home depot.  The product is basically 2 layers of bubble wrap encased in a reflective cover and has about an R-6 rating on exposed walls.  We don’t expect the shed to become warm but we hope that the insulation will reflect out heat in summer and retain heat inside the shed in winter.  All of the reviews seem to think this insulated roll is great as a moisture barrier as well as a good insulator for summer and winter.  This is a small test project for on insulation, we can always add more insulation once  the basic barrier is up on the walls.

I added a new doggie door and caulked around the seams indoors and out. There is just a bit of cool air coming through if it is breezy but over all things are much better. I just bought a 4×6 throw rug with a rubberized type backing  on the back porch entry way, and I can’t believe how much difference that rug made cutting down the cold from the entry area.  I always thought it was the doggie door that caused the cold (draft) feeling, but it seems the tile floor laid almost directly on concrete acts like a huge stone radiating out the cold in winter. I don’t think the previous owners of the house spent a lot of money on insulation and making sure all those air gaps are filled or using caulk to finish up the add- on to the house.  Mom and I got the plastic up on windows but the dollar store plastic window tape sucks. I bought a roll of the Frost King tape $2.68 at Home Depot and we are going to re tape the windows. Now the dollar store window plastic seems to work very well and holds up to the heat of the hair dryer when the tape holds the plastic in place. My back up plan is to buy extras of the Frost King tape and the dollar store plastic for next year.  I really like the idea of  building interior storm windows, but that will take a bit of time as well as some trial and error, as my carpentry skills are rudimentary at best.

On how the Holmes  air purifiers and smokeless ashtrays are working out.  One of the three air purifiers seems to have a bit of rattle/noise. It is not bad I just move one of the quiet purifiers to Mom’s room and set the “noisy” air purifier in the computer room.  I don’t think even the  noisy air purifier is all that loud.  While I’m a smoker I have to say I think even my sniffer is coming back and my sinuses are starting to clear up.  A few small room air purifiers can make such a big difference in such a short time in my home that has a smoker.  Those little air purifiers seem to make a great difference  in “quality of life” for those that suffer from smoke, smog, asthma or allergies. I want to add a true HEPA filter around February or March of next year to see how well the air purifiers handle spring time allergens.

Firewood indoors: I have noticed the new firewood (fir) leaks sap when stacked close to the fireplace. The apple and elm did not leak out sap so I was not prepared for this bit about the new wood.  I bought a small log bin $19.95  from True Value that holds the logs and all sap and pitch will leak on the “bin” rather than stove’s  expensive stone pad.  I ran all of the out door grills through an oven cleaning cycle and it got a bit smokier than I anticipated.  Great news the air purifiers and the vent did a good job clearing out the smoke in the house , plus the oven and grills are all clean.