Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

April 28, 2022

I’m sure anyone starting to prep/get self reliant have read plenty of articles of you should do….    I try not to do that as this is my journey though other people might find a few things that work for them and their preping/self reliance journey.  There are always trade offs and the choices are not easy ones. Money and time are the two biggest considerations for me that crop up and try to bite me in the butt.  The other is do I take the time and money to do it right or do I make do and sort of half-ass the project but get it it done fast?  

The answer is it depends on your situation.  Almost every prep site I have been to recommends using 5 gallon food safe buckets for food storage. What if you are handicapped and you can only lift a 1-3 pound food bucket.  Or if you are like me and you want to store years worth of food?  Why not use a 55 gallon food safe barrel.  A 5 gallon food safe pail is a good compromise.  But it once again proves one size does not fit all! 

I’m not against homesteaders that have 10 plus acres and tractors, a well but I’m in a small city with .16 acres and using raised beds.  Should a person in a small apartment not prep and only be told get out of the city and buy land?  I don’t think that is a good answer. 

I have a small house 1200 square feet.  That may seem large to some people, but I’m starting plants on small kitchen table and some of the planter boxes are mini-green houses for year round growing.  Yes, I want to build a greenhouse for year round growing but I’m impressed how many veggies I can start and grow in the little mini-greenhouse that fit on a small 3 foot x 2 foot table. 

What I really recommend is to start and think “outside”  the box as preppers are people and tend to follow trends even if they might not be the best solution for all people.  There is nothing wrong with taking people’s advice and learning from their mistakes.  You also have to take action and make mistakes and learn from those mistake.  Be brave enough to fail and don’t beat yourself up about failing that is how you learn. 

One of the phrases I hate is I can’t…  Well I could never slam dunk a basketball but I was a good 3 point shooter,  plus I like playing basketball.  I wasn’t a homerun hitter in softball or baseball but I was a darn good catcher.  Don’t try to be perfect, the last perfect man they hung on a cross.  Just try for good enough and learn from your mistakes. 


Fire wood delivered and yard work

April 27, 2022

I had planned for the fire wood delivery to be stacked by the wood delivery folks but that did not work out.  It saves me $75.00 on the wood stacking cost and the wood was dropped in front of the carport.  So I have the wood close and an area to stack the wood.  The wood looks good and having it on site for the winter heating season is a big bonus!  The wood drop was great as I don’t have to clear my garage door to get my vehicle out of the garage.

The garden is the most critical thing but I had to do some yard work.  I have irrigation water now so I can water in the bug killer stuff and the weed and feed in the yard.  It was a rush job cutting the grass and weed wacking the yard.  Before the weather got rainy.  I’m not complaining about rain as we need the moisture.  It does make getting some jobs done a bit more difficult.

I think the most important thing you can do is have everything you have under your control. Will firewood be available in August or September if you rely on wood being delivered and cut? Will fresh veggies be available at your local mega-mart?  You can freeze, dry or can foods if you have the tools even if you don’t have a garden or animals to provide enough food year round.

I’m not against solar power at a small scale.  I don’t think storing water in rain barrels hurts any one as all that water goes into the ground just on a longer timeline.  We are saving water but that does not mean that water is not going into the ground.  It is about timing the release of water.  Water rights are protected and we release water after weather system move through.  People that save water are not stealing water as all that water is released via gardens and personal use.

We are seeing rising costs and shortages.  What are you willing to without?

Firewood area clean up finished, weed killing in the alley and adding more supplies…..

April 25, 2022

All of the the old wood has been restacked under the carport.  I did a quick measurement of the space and I have plenty of room for the the 3 cords of wood. I won’t get all of the wood under the carport but I have a large tarp that can cover any wood that needs top cover.  I cut out a few volunteer trees in the area and gave the stumps/root area a hefty spray of 30% vinegar.  Hopefully that spray will stop those trees from coming back.

Speaking of vinegar and unwanted plants I got started on the Alley way weed control program. With all the rain we have been having the weeds are growing up fast and it takes a bit of time to get them knock down with the weed wacker.  After knocking down the weeds I try and rake up as much of the stems and (seed) as possible to keep the weeds from spreading.  I hit about half of the weeds with the 30% Vinegar and while I do that spraying I look for what type of weeds are starting in the Alley way.  So far I have not found a single puncture vine in the area and I know those vines are growing as my mom has a lot of them starting to grow in her driveway.  My theory is the vinegar changes the Ph levels of the soil just enough that the puncture vines have a hard time growing.  I don’t think I can stop all puncture vines but the few that do grow are easy to dig out.

I know I can’t be 100% self reliant because I don’t have the land or the physical ability to make that happen. There is no way I can grow enough wheat, coffee or other items I use but can’t produce. I can’t raise cattle but I still want to eat beef and drink milk.  It’s okay I buy those items when I can afford the cost.  I’m focusing on adding more coffee as the price is going up and my supplies are getting low by my standards.  I topped off my White flour to have a 100+ pounds.  For me that means I can bake at least 2 bread loaves per week.  I’m starting to make new recipes like making crackers, English muffins and other flour based products.  The thing is it was actually cheaper the last 6-8 weeks to buy flour in 5-10 pound packages rather than buying 50 pounds in bulk.  Watch those prices especially the cost per pound and per ounce.  Buying in bulk is not always the best price.  Adding flavor enhancers, sauces, spices and herbs can make any food you stored less boring/redundant and make your meals much more palatable.

Don’t get locked into the idea of having a lot of bulk food items stored means you won’t get bored eating the same thing day after day. Think about how you will cook that food…. How will you cook all that rice and make a meal out of it.  Rice is great because with different spices you can make very different meals from a sweet rice pudding to a spicy tex-mex to an Indian curry if you have the knowledge. Get those recipes out and start practicing making those meals.  Don’t wait until things go sideways.

I have found I love roasted veggies and it is simple to make even with frozen veggies in a toaster oven.  Set the temp of the oven at 425 F. put the veggies in a shallow pan sprinkle with a little olive oil or butter add a spice mix like Mrs. Dash or plain salt and pepper and cook for 15-20 minutes. The heat cooks the veggies and releases the sugars and more a little more crunch from the browning of the veggies.  Much better tasting veggies compared to cooking and wilting those veggies in boiling water.

More work done on the wood pile and starting more seeds indoors.

April 22, 2022

The wood delivery and stacking is a bit up in the air as the family that cuts and delivers wood had a baby at the end of March and they are not sure they will have enough Red fir for delivery as the weather has been wonky.  Trucks hauling lumber are heavy and they don’t do well on muddy dirt logging roads.

I’m working on cleaning up my wood storage area and moving all the old wood so it it is easy to access and cut into woodstove size chunks.  I have about an hours worth of work moving the last bits of old wood and perhaps 30 minutes cleaning up for the new wood delivery.

I noticed I had a a very bad slope toward my my shop.  I’m raking the gravel to fill in and level that area so water does not flow into the shop.  I’m cutting down the weeds of Cheat grass and so far I’m not seeing any Goat heads or Puncture vines.  The vinegar spray is working killing the weeds and changing the soil composition that inhibits the bad puncture vines.  SW Idaho has a 70 degree F. day coming up this week so I can spray some vinegar on the weeds.

I forgot about starting the melon seeds and I’m a little late as I have only a bit over 2 weeks before the last frost date of May 8th and the starter plants should be in the ground.  It might be a bit late but I will learn how the fast the plants grow and how much “wiggle room” I have starting plants.

A neighbor has some free fence posts that would work great for my garden fence.  The want a few plants starts of mine for a small garden for themselves.  This is a perfect “barter economy” situation and should work out for both of us.  My plant starts are much better this year but I have had a few failures.  It is okay that is how I learn.  Failure is just the price of tuition learning new things.

I have set up the space for the greenhouse so that needs to be built by fall. I’m thinking about adding some chickens for eggs but also for them scratching and adding poo/fertilizer to the garden beds as well as mixing up the compost heap.  Nothing big just a coop of 4-6 chickens.

I know I can’t control everything in life.  That does not mean I should not control the things I can control.  Buying wood and having a wood stove means I control my heat in winter.  Growing my garden and preserving that food gives me “some” control of my food supply.  Buying and storing supplies when the price is low gives me the option of buying items when the price is high.

You know you best!  Unlike the government that has one size that fit nobody.

Moved the compost pile and another raised bed.

April 19, 2022

Moving the compost pile over a few feet is a job that needed to get done as I don’t really “work” the compost pile and it was a dumping ground for some yard waste but it did not break down yard waste very quickly.  Moving the walls of the compost pile was much easier than I anticipated. I just move the walls in sections via unscrewing the the walls and the brackets I used when making the pile.  I’m so glad I did not use nails!  I had a a bit of a blob of  organic material that did not break down and needed to be moved and re-start the composting process.  Moving the the pile I finally got to mix up all the layers of greens and browns so the pile could start breaking down all that organic material.  I don’t have irrigation water yet so I used water from a rain barrel to add some water along with the rainy weather to add water to the pile.  I’m going to give the pile a couple of days to work and then take a temperature to see if the pile is getting warm enough to actively start breaking down the organic material.

After I move the blob of material to the new compost pile there was a thick layer of material that looked a lot like peat moss and some black soil underneath that blob. While  not efficient the compost pile did break down the organic materials at the bottom levels.  Compost piles do work even if you ignore them for awhile.

I moved another raised bed but changed the spot I had originally planned in the area where the compost pole was as I don’t think it will get enough sun.  This bed is for root crops like parsnips, rutabagas and so on.. and will be direct sown this week.  My plan is to get a Spring crop and  get a Fall crop of the root veggies in this raised bed.  To fill up this raised bed I used the soil that was in the Compost bin area after I moved the the blob of material that had not broken down.  I added some new soil to the bed but I figure I saved at least $10.00 buying bags of compost from the local farm store by using the stuff that I found under my compost pile.

If you are gardening you have to replace the nutrients and minerals the plants take out of the soil.  It can be “cover crops”, let it lie fallow, add fertilizer, new soil and compost.  But you must replenish the soil if you want a productive garden.

I have had a few seeds not do so well starting seeds indoors but I have had some successes with my starts.  Most of the tomato and pepper plants look good though I had to reseed the mini-bell peppers.  Starting Cole crops indoors was a failure but I think I should move those plants off the heat mats after they start growing and just use lamps for artificial sunlight. My celery starts were an abject failure. while the plant germinated they got leggy quick and died.  Celery is not a cole crop and likes some heat so I’m not sure how I screwed up starting the seeds indoors.  I’ll try direct sow and buy celery plants in stores if that is what it takes to have celery in my pantry.

I got rid of a lot of trash during the spring cleaning free trash pickup though the trash guys left a small chunk of wood out of all the big stuff they picked up.  I’m very happy to get rid of a lot of junk and it did cost anything extra to have it hauled away.   I know I have a hard time throwing stuff away and can be a bit of a “pack rat”.  My rule of thumb is if you have not used something within 1-3 years you probably don’t need it.  I don’t watch TV much but I don’t feel the need to trash my flat screen TVs.  I sat out for trash pickup an old EU/German Digital TV that had great picture but I would never use that TV again, so why store it?

Perhaps it is my age 55 years old, or my up bringing at being at the bottom of the economic food chain or becoming 100% disabled and spending 3 months in an extended care unit that having a bath or putting on your socks and undies alone was a WIN.  I have been there and had great people help me become self-reliant and capable of making meals for myself in my home.  I won’t give up control of my life.

I will control my heat in winter.  I will control as much as my food supply as I can.  I will buy local and make a garden.  I will educate myself.  I will screw up and that is okay as that is the cost of learning.

Everything is simple. That does not mean everything is easy.

Direct sow planting and cutting kindling

April 11, 2022

Planted cole crops during the weekend and had snow on Monday!   Not that big of a deal as it is to early for seeds to be sprouting this week and I have put frost cloth covers over all of the planted beds.  Not all of my frost covers are working great as I thought I might be a little short and tried to make “do” with some of the leftover cloth.  My past “self” ordered more of the frost cloth last fall and I found another package of frost cloth in the shop.  I have plenty of frost cloth for all pf my raised beds and most of my smaller planter boxes.

I am very happy to see cooler weather along with rain and even snow this week.  I may not get irrigation water until the end of April. That is the latest irrigation start I have seen since moving into my house in 2003. Irrigation water was cut off in September of 2021 and that is the earliest cut off of irrigation water since 2003. Any moisture is welcomed but cooler weather  will help preserve the snow pack for summer irrigation for the farmers.  I have 2 full 50 gallon rain barrels and I saw one rain barrel spigot was left slightly open which is why it was not filling with rain water.  Spigot is now closed!  Another bonus of this wet weather is my front lawn is greening up and I have tulips and daffodils to look at now.  I’m hoping to hit the lawn with some “spring lawn food” between rains so it can “water into the lawn and soil.

I cut some kindling not only for this return to snow week but to start refilling the big kindling box.  The axe slipped a bit in my hands and it caught me on the side my shin and there was a bit of blood that I handled with a large band aid.  It was a small scrape if painful because shins are sensitive to getting hit but not a big deal with proper first aid.  I recommend you buy over size bandages, gauze and tape along with Antiseptics/saline for cleaning simple cuts and scrapes. While I don’t think you need to go to the Emergency Room for every little boo-boo.  I know if you can clean a wound stop the bleeding, even if it needs stitches you will have time to visit a “doc in the box” and waiting at home sure beats waiting in an Emergency room.

I started moving my old wood around for the delivery of this year’s fire wood and it is going much faster and better than I had expected.  I figure about 6-8 hours of work over the next week and moving/ stacking all the old seasoned wood will be complete.  What is nice about working on this wood pile area is with the new wood stack I’m protected from wind on 3 sides and have overhead cover from any rain or snow.  I still need to cut kindling and restack some wood in my kennel storage area for any over flow of wood but I will have in the worse winters 2-3 years worth of wood and up to 5 years worth based on the last five years of winter heating.

The biggest challenges I foresee in 2022-2023 is:

  1. Who controls your heat in winter?  The government, utilities or you?
  2. Who controls your water.  I can’t drill a well so I’m dependent on my stored water and whatever rain that might fills my rain barrels.  The local irrigation district will cut off fall water early and spring water irrigation is starting late.  Solution more water collection and solar/battery power pumps? Just because I don’t have a perfect solution it does not mean the solution has no merit.
  3. Food:  I don’t want to eat bugs!  I know I can’t grow everything I need/want in my garden.  I am expanding my garden beds and boxes as much as I can and I can grow some fresh veggies.  Get local and make relationships with your food providers.  I have a neighbor that does not want a garden but will help out in my garden for some of my fresh veggies.  My Mom does not have the space for starting seeds but I do.  I have failures but that is how you learn.

There is a lot of things you need if things go sideways in the economy.  It might be as simple as I can bake a loaf of bread every week for a year. I can do that can you? I can heat my home all winter.  I can do that can you? Think about the basics first and what you control.

Moved a raised garden bed

April 7, 2022

I moved one of the 10 ft. by 3 ft. raised garden beds to make room for the future green house.  Before I moved the garden bed I use a garden fork to break up the soil and removed most of the weeds and roots that were in the bed as I needed to move the dirt in the bed.  The move went well though moving the dirt took some effort. I moved most of the original soil into the bed and added the peat moss and Steer manure/compost then gave the bed a rototilling to mix everything together.

I’m very pleased with adding peat moss as it seems to make the soil much more loose and fluffy for planting. Sphagnum Peat moss does not change the PH level of your soil like real Peat moss but it is supposed to help break up hard soils and retain water.  With the addition of peat moss I confirm the soil seems looser.  We will have to see how much difference it makes for water retention this summer.

I got a few of my containers planted with some green onions, a sugar snap pea and I reseeded two containers of the red onion seed that have not sprouted after the first planting.  I don’t have irrigation water yet so I’m using collected rain water from a barrel. It looks like another drought year so using rain barrels to harvest water will help a little bit keeping the container gardens watered even if I can’t water the raised beds with the rain barrel water.  I bought fine mesh screen to put over the rain barrel opening to keep down the mosquito breeding areas.  You don’t want stagnant/standing water around your home as that is an insect breeding area.

I need to move one more raised bed to make room for the new 3 sisters garden and it will give me room to add another 50 gallon rain barrel on the backside of the house. But this garden area won’t be planted till the end of April so I have time to finish cleaning up the over grown grape vines, move the raised bed and install the rain barrel.

I planned my garden but I did not plan my garden to be in sections based on planting schedule of cool loving plants and hot loving plants but that is how things are working out this year.  I’ll be planting some chard, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, kale this week in two beds that are ready for seeds and starts. The moved bed is ready for warm weather plants like tomatoes, peppers and other warm weather plants in May after the last frost.  I’m not trying to get all of my garden beds prepped at one time and getting overwhelmed.  I’m planting the right plant at the right time and if the plant fails I go back and reseed.  This method is less stressful to me. I’m also using Ed Hume’s booklet 2022 Garden Almanac to have a plan for yard and garden care/planting.

Last but not least Mom stopped by and got some of her stored stuff out of my shop. She got some camping gear, some gas cans, some kerosene cans and a cage for Isolating a critter.  Mom also helped me cut some of the Agfabric frost protection to a usable size.  Not a hard job but it is a lot easier done with 2 people rather than just one.  I need to get another package of frost fabric for the new garden set up.  I don’t want Mama Nature to catch me off-guard this summer.

Every bit of food you can grow is on your property. That means you don’t have to go to a store to buy it at inflationary prices.  I think Biden and his cohort will try price fixing like Nixon rather than try and stop inflation brutally by raising interest rates up to 20% in some cases that happened under Reagan.  The best cure to high prices is high prices that people are unwilling to pay.  It sucks for us folks at the bottom of the economic food chain but it is true.

Perhaps people are suffering from some sort of Post-Pandemic/ Economic traumatic shock but I expected a run on fertilizer and gardening supplies and that is not happening in my area. I’m not seeing shelves emptied of basic goods though finding pet food is a chore.  I doubt everyone in the USA became frugal all of a sudden and I would feel better if more people were buying seeds rather than waiting/hoping things will get better.

Economic crashes tend to happen in the Spring and the Fall and if we make it through May. I expect to see a Stockmarket crash in the Fall.  I’m just guessing but wouldn’t you feel better if you have a garden, your winter heating needs and a backup of what you need to survive all on hand?

I’ve never seen anyone in a disaster complain they did not have enough supplies on hand.

Garden bed cleanup and prep

April 2, 2022

I got all of the garden bed plants pulled last fall and that helped a lot on the Spring garden prep. A couple weeks ago I covered some of the raised beds with Black plastic hoping to stop some early weed growth.  It helped a little bit but I think covering the beds with black plastic in the fall will do a better job controlling the weeds.

I used a garden fork to turn over the beds and picked out all of the weeds and root systems.  Some people find weeding relaxing. I am not one of those people.  Weeding is always a chore to me.  I have high hopes of cutting down any future weeding because of all the prep work I’m doing this year.  My raised beds don’t have a bottom.  While the soil is clay it is also rich in minerals plants need so I roto till mixing all my amendments with the natural soil.  I like using the garden fork to loosely break apart the soil, then add more soil and dirt to mix everything together with the tiller.

Each bed got a 1.5 cu.ft. bag of steer manure/compost, a 3 cu.ft. bag of garden soil and a 5 gallon pail of Sphagnum Peat moss. I’m adding the peat moss to help loosen the soil and help with water retention as it looks like another low water year for SW Idaho.  I still have to roto till the beds to get all that stuff mixed up and make sure all of the soil is nice and fluffy for plants and seeds but most of the major work is done.  I got the soil at Bi-mart 3 cu.ft. for $10.00. The soil looks good without a lot of debris like chunks of wood/mulch or scrapings from a construction site.

Speaking of water, I have new flat soaker hoses for the beds.  I don’t care for those black soaker hoses as they seem to break down quickly and don’t supply a consistent sprinkle of water to the garden. The local irrigation system will start filling up canals this week so I should have irrigation water for the garden by about the 10th of April.  I’m adding “frost” cloth over the beds even though I’m planting cole crops.  I like how the cloth contains any over spray from the soaker hoses and does a good job keeping most animals out of the garden.  I set out a few of the seedling out doors to get them used to the weather so lessen any transplant shock but I will be adding some more direct sown seeds of cabbage, bok choy, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, radishes and lettuce.

This is the first year I feel ready for the early planting of cole crops and not like I’m playing catchup getting seeds/plants in the ground.  most of my cole crop seedling are not looking great but I’m still learning what works best in my plant starting area. I will be starting seeds in the out door beds and see what works best for me.

Most of the tomato, peppers and other warm weather plant seedling are doing great though a few plants did not sprout.  No problem just add more seed to the non-producing pots and keep trying.  I think that was a big mistake I made with starting plants early as I would just give up rather than plant more seeds even if I ended up with a staggered planting in my garden.  Last year when it got so hot many of my plants got scorched and died but my Mom who planted “late” had a much better harvest using more mature transplants that could with stand the heat/recover from the heat wave.  Timing is everything but since you don’t know what mama nature will do you have to keep trying just in case it works and get a harvest.
I have a few more raised beds to move and prep but those beds are in the green house area and the 3 sister garden area where I have more cleanup up to finish up. I made the mistake of not starting garden plants until all of the garden beds were ready rather than prep a bed or two for early crops and keep working on the beds that needed a later planting.  It is the idea of succession planting were you get 2 or 3 crop harvests based on the plants needing cool spring weather, hot summer weather or cool fall weather or even a frost to set sugars in some crops. You can spread out the time of your garden planting and harvest work load if you plant the right crop at the optimal time.  So it is okay if you don’t have all of your garden beds ready at the same time.  Focus on the area of your garden bed you need right now for crops that need cool weather and can stand a light frost and get that garden spot planted right now.  You can keep on working on the rest of the garden area for plants that need warm weather/no frost  without stressing your self out.  If you are just starting a garden and cant make a garden this spring shoot for a fall garden that has squash, pumpkins a late crop of spinach, lettuce or other crops that do well in the fall.  Growing a garden takes a lot of prep work and learning so don’t get discouraged if things don’t go as planned.

I bought a bread machine hoping to do a mix and forget sort of bread loaf.  OMG what a disaster of a bread loaf. I don’t know what went wrong but according to the manual almost everything!  The dough was not cooked, I think it rose then collapsed and resembled a representation of a mountain range done in clay.  It was a total loss.  I can bake bread but baking bread in a bread machine is a bit different than I thought.  Mom uses a bread machine and has made good loaves.  I need her to give me a block of instruction.