Monday, September 30, 2013

Cute, Cute, Cute!

I am sure you all know by now how much I love animals, particularly my Molly. I also love to see cute pictures of animals. I get sent a lot of them on Facebook. Here is the latest!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Apples, Apples, Everywhere!

Over on Facebook, my stepmother asked me for some yummy apple recipes. This post is for you Gloria! 

Here are some wonderful recipes that use apples. I have included some sugar free recipes as well.

Mini Apple Pies (This is an easy, quick recipe. The key to less work is cold ingredients.)
Apple Cinnamon Muffins (You can very easily make these with no sugar. Leave it out of the recipe and omit the topping. They are just as good without the topping!)
Apple Butter (This is a unique way of making apple butter and much faster that the traditional method.)
Applesauce (Use super sweet apples and you don't need sugar!)
Easy Apple Crisp (While in this post I use canned apple pie filling,  here is a really yummy one using fresh apples.)

These are on my list to try next:
Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings
Sauteed Apples

And of course, apples aren't just for desserts either!
Apple Cole Slaw
Grilled Cheese with Apples and Arugula
Apple and Oats Bread
Apple and Cranberry Stuffing
Thanksgiving muffins
Butternut Squash and Apple Casserole
Spiced Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

For those of you who can't or don't like to eat sugar:
Whole Wheat Apple Pie
Apple Pineapple Crisp, No Sugar, No Flour
Cranberry Applesauce
Apple Spice Cake
Gluten Free, Sugar Free Apple Cake

Just a few more that I found unique:
Apple Graham Dessert 
Fall Harvest Baked Apples (This recipe uses maple syrup instead of sugar.)
Vegetarian Macaroni and Cheese with Apples
Apple Cheddar Pizza with Toasted Pecans
Apple, Sauerkraut and Cheddar Quesadillas
Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

What do you do with all those apple peels? Try your hand at making vinegar!

I hope this gets you motivated to try some new apple recipes. Not only are apples delicious sweet treats to eat all by themselves, but with just a little effort you can make them into memorable treats the whole family will love!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

No Running Water! Emergency Preparedness to the Rescue!

We had a problem early last week. We didn't have any running water. Late Monday morning, I heard Molly barking so I look out the window to see what the problem is. I don't see anything that would require barking but what I do see is water bubbling up in my front yard!

So I go out front to look at it. Yup, it is bubbling up. I try to shut the water off at the meter by the road, but it was stuck so I shout for my husband to come do it. A few calls to some plumbing companies, and a few hours later, we had a team on their way. In the meantime, we don't have any water. Well, as I informed my husband, we do have water, we just don't have any coming from the tap. So I start to pull out some of the water that I store for emergencies. (You can see a post on how you can store water here.)  If our great-great-grandparents had to 'fetch' their water every time they needed it, it really wasn't going to hurt us to do the same for a while. 

Here's the water station I set up in the kitchen.

Here is water station for the bathroom sink. I put one of these bottles in each bathroom. I also store water for flushing the toilets and that container went into the bathroom as well.

Well, the final result was a break in the main water line to the house. I was afraid that it was going to require digging up the entire front yard but the leak was at a junction, the line itself was fine.

I was canning green beans that day and I forgot to take a picture of the hole in my front yard while the plumbers were working on the line. However, here is a picture of the spot now. (Unfortunately, they didn't do a good job of 'saving' the grass to put back on top of the dirt.) By the time they were finished, it was dark. I took this picture the next morning.

As you can see here, they added an 'access box' that will prevent the need to dig up the yard if something like this ever happens again. All in all, we went about 12 hours without water. Not a crisis, but an emergency nonetheless. 

The lesson here is that emergency preparedness isn't just for severe weather. It is for anytime 'normal' conditions are not present. When you prepare for emergencies, you can ride them out without missing a beat!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Countdown: 10 Things You Need to Know How To Do Before You Lose Electricity!

#1: Keep Your Family Safe From Harm

Since we are about to hit the active period during our hurricane season here in the US, I thought it would be beneficial to create a 'Top 10 List' of things you should know how to do without electricity. Most of these things will be extremely important if you had to go without electricity for a few weeks (or longer). However, many of them also apply to power outages of just a few days. So, every Friday, until we countdown to #1, I will highlight a necessary skill to keep your house running as 'normal' as possible. Once you learn about these 10 things, you should be able to keep your house running normally during any power outage from a few days to a few months or longer, if that becomes necessary.

I do want to mention, none of these things will include the use of a generator. While generators do work short term, IMHO, there is no way you can store enough gasoline to keep the generator running for a long term outage. My strategy is to use 18th and 19th century skills to keep my house running. I don't even own a generator. 

I created this 'Top 10 List' and the subject matter and countdown order are mine alone. You may not agree with my list. That is no problem! You are welcome to share your ideas in the comments section. We all learn when differing viewpoints are shared respectfully!


I don't like to think about this, but the world is full of evil. Pure evil. When we (as a society) eliminate God from our everyday world, Lucifer fills the void. I don't like it, but I accept it. And because I accept it, I am determined to protect my family from it if/when it becomes necessary. 

When the power is out, long term, because of a winter storm, hurricane, tornado, earthquake or any other disaster, evil can come knocking on your door. Don't think it will happen? How on earth did people turn into such monsters during hurricane Katrina? What about hurricane Sandy? When power goes out for a long time, looting happens. It is almost like we return to living in the wild west!  

In my opinion, the most important thing you must know how to do when you lose electricity is to protect your family from others. There are lots of ways you can do this. Research options you are comfortable with and learn how to use them. At our house, we choose to protect ourselves with guns. I went to the range earlier this week and took a picture of my target when I was done. I used a Glock 19 at 50 ft. The target is eight inches wide.

Your answer to personal protection may not be guns. I know some people who are proficient with a bow and arrow. (I think I am going to have to learn that skill!) Some people are skilled at karate. You will need to determine for yourself what is the best way to defend your family.

This is a really important issue everyone should think about. My concern is not about the 'things' in my house. They can all be replaced. My concern is keeping everyone in the house alive and unharmed. I had someone at church tell me once that they could not shoot a person for any reason. I have a different point of view. If the decision comes down to whether I live or the person coming to my house to harm me lives, the answer is obvious. However, I hope I never have to find out what it is like to shoot someone in my home. After all, we are all children of God and I really don't want to have to harm anyone to prevent them from harming me. Still, I will shoot if my life or the lives of others in my home are in jeopardy.

Before it gets to that point, there are some things you can do now to harden your house to prevent unwelcomed access. There is a product called The Door Sentinel that can be easily added to your door to prevent anyone from kicking it in. There is also a kind of film you can put on your windows that will prevent someone from breaking them and gaining access. You can learn about both here. You can also do things like plant thorny bushes under the windows and use motion sensors (on battery backup) on the outdoor lights. It really would be better for everyone involved if you could prevent unauthorized access in the first place!

Police are not always available in the aftermath of a disaster. In a situation like this, you are responsible for your own safety. Think about how you are going to protect your family from others who want to do you harm.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Avoiding Common Canning Errors

One of the blogs I follow is Jackie Clay's Homesteading blog on the Backwoods Home Magazine website. She is a true guru on home canning (among other things) and has even written books on how to do it! 

She has written an excellent article on things you can do to avoid common canning errors. Anyone interested in learning how to can should read this article  If you have experienced any kind of problem while canning, or know of someone else who has, this article has advice for you! If you want to learn how to can, but haven't tried your hand at it yet, read this article to learn how to avoid potential problems.

I think canning is fun! Made with fresh ingredients and free of artificial preservatives, food you can yourself tastes better and is better for you than anything canned commercially!   Take it from me, it is very rewarding to put up your own food for the winter. 

I hope you enjoy this article!

Avoiding Common Canning Errors

Monday, September 16, 2013

Garden Update

I haven't posted a garden update in awhile so I thought I would let you all know how my garden is doing in the final few weeks of summer. Well, to start with, it finally did stop raining. It stopped raining at the beginning of August. Now, it hasn't rained since. However, I really don't mind! I would rather water a dry garden, then spray for fungus. This year's garden can only be labeled as poor to mediocre at best because of all the rain we have had.

I will start with the good news. I picked lots and lots of tomatoes. More than I needed. All of it has been turned into sauce of some kind. Last week I made cocktail sauce. (I love cocktail sauce but it doesn't like me. I have to make my own to be able to eat it.) I am going to do one more batch of spaghetti sauce with meat and then I will pull up the tomatoes.

The squash plants are doing much better since it stopped raining. I got 35 squash during the month of August and they have continued to flower. I really need this space for the peas but I don't have the heart to pull them since they finally decided to produce. I need at least 120 to get one years' worth so this is not going to be a goal I make. I will shoot for the goal of 30 more before October 1st. Then, they must be removed to plant the peas.

The Green beans are still going strong. I need 52 quart jars to get one year's worth so I need the green beans to keep going! I am only at 33 jars right now. I spent some time picking them this morning. I only did about 1/3 of the plants and this is what I got. It was a lot more but my husband let Molly out to 'help' me and she ran right over to the basket and started eating them. When I go back out to do the rest this afternoon, I will make sure she stays inside to 'help' my husband work!

Strawberries are still producing well. I picked a bunch on Saturday but forgot to take a picture. I don't have any ready now to show you. Take it from me they are big, and quite sweet!

The peppers are still producing too. I stopped counting at 75 peppers currently on the plants. (I only have three plants total.)  I have dried 135 already. These are for next year's insecticide. This crop was hugely successful.

I don't know what the peanut crop will look like. I have been planting peanuts for years and this is the first time I ever had a fungus problem with them! I sprayed them, but the Spanish peanuts didn't bounce back. The Virginia Jumbo did!  I am guessing I will have mixed results. I won't know for sure until they come out of the ground in October.

I am sorry to say the tobacco was not successful. I had 14 plants this year and most of them drowned. Tobacco really likes well draining soil so the roots don't stay too wet. Well, I couldn't control the rain, so most died. I did manage to get two plants to thrive. I let them go to seed so I have plenty for next year. To make my insecticide next month, I am going to have to purchase some. 

Many of my herbs died too. I dug up the woad and lavender to try to save them. They are in pots but not happy about it. I think I will put them back into the ground this month. The savory, thyme, sage, soapwort, pennyroyal, St. John's wort and marjoram died. The rosemary, basil, oregano, chives, chamomile, and stevia did just fine so it wasn't a total loss. The second try at the parsley did well too. I planted them next to the squash to save them from the lawn man trying to eliminate the 'weeds' in my landscaping beds. I will leave them there and just plant the peas around them. Hopefully, next year I will get some seeds!

I am adding a new raised bed to my back yard. My plan is to have it completed by the end of the month so I can plant onions and garlic in it. I will post pictures as I build it!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Countdown: 10 Things You Need to Know How To Do Before You Lose Electricity!

#2: Obtain Safe Drinking Water

Since we are about to hit the active period during our hurricane season here in the US, I thought it would be beneficial to create a 'Top 10 List' of things you should know how to do without electricity. Most of these things will be extremely important if you had to go without electricity for a few weeks (or longer). However, many of them also apply to power outages of just a few days. So, every Friday, until we countdown to #1, I will highlight a necessary skill to keep your house running as 'normal' as possible. Once you learn about these 10 things, you should be able to keep your house running normally during any power outage from a few days to a few months or longer, if that becomes necessary.

I do want to mention, none of these things will include the use of a generator. While generators do work short term, IMHO, there is no way you can store enough gasoline to keep the generator running for a long term outage. My strategy is to use 18th and 19th century skills to keep my house running. I don't even own a generator. 

I created this 'Top 10 List' and the subject matter and countdown order are mine alone. You may not agree with my list. That is no problem! You are welcome to share your ideas in the comments section. We all learn when differing viewpoints are shared respectfully!


How do you get your drinking water? Are you on a well? Do you have city water? Answering these questions will determine if finding clean drinking water will be a problem or not in an emergency. If you are on a well and you lose power, you are going to lose the ability to get water. I know a lot of people with a well, have a hand pump to allow them access to their well water. People who have city water may not have an issue if the power outage is short term. Longer term, there may be a boil water order in effect or you may not have water at all.

I hope this post will get you thinking about what you would do if you turned on a faucet in your house and nothing happened. Not a drop of water came out.  Because this is such a serious issue, FEMA recommends to store some drinking water along with food to get you through an emergency. But, how much water should you store? FEMA recommends families store one gallon per person per day. Well, I know from experience this isn't enough. One gallon won't cover cooking, washing dishes, daily drinking needs, brushing teeth, washing hands, and all other hygiene needs. You will need a lot more than one gallon a day. The problem is water is heavy and takes up a lot of room. So, what do you do? My advice is to take a comprehensive approach. Sort of like a first line of defense, second line of defense and onward. That way, with a short power outage you may only need to use your first line of defense. If the outage lasts for a few weeks or longer (like in a hurricane) you may need to put into place your second and third line of defense, etc. 

Here are some things I have identified:

  • The first line of defense is to store water. Store as much as you can. Try to gather about 100 gallons. (You may want more if you have a big family.) You can do this in a few ways. Quite a few emergency preparedness stores sell 55 gallon drums for water storage that you can put in your garage or basement. Many are stackable. While they are quite heavy, the stackable ones don't have that large a footprint. Select the location wisely because you won't be able to move one of these drums once it is filled. If that idea won't work for you, you can store water in smaller containers. Here is a blog post about storing water in two liter soda bottles. In this blog post, the author discusses the challenges of where to put all those bottles in a small home. I store water in some of the closets of my home. I don't have the space for 55 gallon drums. I have shown this picture before, but here is how I store my water, five gallons at a time. As you can see from the picture below, I filled this box in August 2012. Stored water should be changed out each year. I need to add this to my 'to do' list because it is time to change the water in this container.
  • If needed, another thing you can do to get clean water is to empty out your hot water heater. Make sure you have a manual for your make/model so you know how to draw out the water safely. Be sure to cut the heater off first. You can also open up all the faucets on the second story (if you have a two story house) and then go downstairs and open up a faucet to access the water in your pipes. While this won't amount to a lot of water, it is still better than nothing. When the power comes back on, expect to run the faucets a while to get all the air out. While I wouldn't drink it, you also have access to water in the back of the toilets. This water can be used to wash clothes, clean the house, or just wash your hands if you don't have anything else.
  • The second line of defense should get you thinking about what you would do if you used up all your stored water. What comes to mind for me is a water filtration system. There are a lot of good ones on the market that will filter out the bacteria that cause dysentery. The two common bacteria in lake and river water are giardia and cryptosporidium. Filter systems from manufacturers such as Berkey, Sawyer, Katadyn and Doutlon will all produce safe drinking water. Many will filter out other impurities as well. Do some research to see what price range, filtering quality and filter capacity you will need for your family. Some of these filters can handle up to 30,000 gallons of water. This really should be plenty of water for most emergencies you will face.
  • All the filters mentioned above will eventually wear out. So, if you need a third line of defense, boiling all water is a good one. However, this requires fuel to do so. BTW - I don't list it as a second line of defense because boiling all your water before you use it is a lot of work! I would only do it if I had no other choice. Cody Lundin, in his book When All Hell Breaks Loose: The Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes, talks about using the sun to disinfect water using any clear plastic or glass container (page 177). Alternatively, you can pasteurize water in a Sun Oven. It is easy to do with a WAPI. You can also treat raw water with chlorine. A bottle of liquid bleach will do if the bottle is new - liquid bleach is only good for about six months. Another option is to store powdered chlorine.
  • Be sure to think about where are you going to find raw water to treat. Water is all around us if we look for it. Community swimming pools, rainwater collection systems, a lake or pond, a stream or river are all sources of raw water that you can treat to obtain safe drinking water. Next time you are running errands in the car, look around for bodies of water that are near to your home, preferably within walking distance. Think about how you would get that water back to your house so you could treat it. In his book, Cody Lundin has some great ideas on where to find water in the chapter Wonderfully Wet and Wanted Water.
It is really important that you do your own research on the best ways to treat water for your family. This is an issue that is critical to keeping your family healthy! Get it wrong, and your whole family could get sick! Once you are satisfied with your level of research, create a plan for treating water that you can implement, if needed, in the event of an emergency. 

Here are some website that give even more ideas:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Apples are everywhere this time of year in the USA! Now is the time to take advantage of all that produce and get them for less at an apple farm or maybe even off of your own tree!

With all those apples available, it's time to find some good apple recipes! And, I believe I found a tasty one! 

The original recipe came from You can see that here. I read a lot of the comments and incorporated some of them into my recipe below. Let me start by saying the original recipe as written has entirely too much sugar in it. I don't mind sugar, as long as it has a purpose for being in the recipe. You can't even taste the sugar in this recipe! That tells me that the full amount really isn't necessary and it can be greatly reduced. That is what I did. 

The original recipe is for 12 muffins. I wanted 24, so I doubled everything except the sugar. However, next time I make it, I will use half the amount again. To compensate somewhat, I increased the sugar in the topping/filling. This is where having sugar makes sense. It makes a nice coating on top of the muffin. Even though I doubled the muffin recipe, you don't need to double the amount of topping. The amount listed below is more than enough for 24 muffins.

Here is my recipe for the muffins:
4 cups of flour (The original recipe called for all purpose flour. Instead, I used 1 1/2 cups of hard white wheat, 1 cup of soft white wheat, 1 cup of white all purpose and 1/2 cup oat groats flour.)
3 tsps baking powder (doubling the recipe would have been 2 tsps but I added 3 tsps instead.)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp apple pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup butter (I used real butter I made myself. If you would like to see how to make your own butter, you can do that here.)
1/2 cup applesauce (I make my own.)
1/2 cup white sugar 
1/2 cup brown sugar (When I make these again, I will not add any brown sugar.) 
4 eggs
3 tsp vanilla (I make my own. You can see how to do that here.)
3 cups chopped apples (I didn't measure the apples. I had three baseball sized apples, chopped them up and used the entire amount.)

Here is my recipe for the topping/filling:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 TBS all purpose flour
1 TBS butter
1/8 tsp cinnamon

The first thing I did was to make the topping. Combine all ingredients together and mix well. If necessary, cut the butter in. I used room temperature butter so it was easy to mix.

Core, peel and slice the apples. This didn't take more than 1 minute with my apple corer/slicer!
I love mine (especially this time of year.) 

After I used my tool, then I chopped them up. I wanted big pieces that I could see so I didn't chop them too small.  Place in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 cup white sugar. Mix well and set aside.

Now mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together. Put this in a small/medium sized bowl. No need for a large bowl, the flour will be added to the liquids. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, applesauce, and sugar until smooth. I couldn't get mine to come together with a whisk so I used my hand crank beaters. Then, I added the eggs - one at a time and mixed it in. Here is a picture, before I mixed in the last egg.

Stir in the apples.

Then add the flour mixture a bit at a time. No need for beaters here, a spoon will do.

Here is the final product ready to go into the muffin tins. The batter is quite thick.

I incorporated a suggestion from one of the comments on the website to add the topping mixture inside the muffin. To do that, I measured one tablespoon full of batter and placed it in the muffin cup. Don't add too much here, just enough to cover the bottom. Then add a bit of the topping. I didn't measure, I just tapped the fork to sprinkle it on the batter. In the picture below, I had a heaping amount of topping on the fork. This was enough to do the three muffins tins in the row.

Switch to the half tablespoon to add the rest of the batter. I scooped a heaping amount on the measuring spoon and placed it over the topping. You can fill the muffin tin almost up to the top. Then add more of the topping mixture.

The original recipe says to bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. I didn't do that. I baked at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. I put half in the kitchen oven and half in the Sun Oven. (The ones in the Sun Oven had to bake longer.) Here is what they looked liked when they came out.

I tried to remove a few of them after they cooled for about five minutes, but the topping started to break off so I let them cool completely before I removed them from the tins. 

All I can say is wow!  Look at all those apple bits! The muffins came out moist, tender and full of flavor! They were delicious! 

If you are wondering what to have to eat on a cool, crisp fall morning, look no further than these muffins!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Email Q & A

Over this summer, I received quite a few questions about the blog in my email. I was commenting to my husband a few days ago about how much I really like answering these questions because it gives me ideas on where/how I could improve the information I put in the posts. My husband suggested that if one person wrote with a question, there were probably a lot more people who had the same question and I should post them on the blog for everyone to see. What a great idea! So, here are some of the questions I received in my email this summer, along with the answers I sent back to the sender.

This first question has to do with a post I wrote in late spring about how to repair a rag rug. You can see the original post here.

 Hi Kate - I found you online by searching repairing rag rugs. I have a couple rugs my mother made and the thread has broken in one spot on each rug so the rag strips are loose. Is this easy to repair? Are there people out there who do this kind of work? I would like to get them mended since they're sentimental.  

Rag Rugs are very easy to repair. Some repairs don't require extra fabric and can be repaired with just the fabric from the rug itself. If you don't want to tackle the repair yourself, look in the yellow pages for a fabric shop or quilt shop (not a big box store). Ask the owner if they know anyone who can repair rugs. 

Depending on the repair needed, you may need to purchase new fabric. The good news is new fabric can be purchased to match the era of the original fabrics in the rugs. There are a lot of good reproduction fabric choices available at a reputable quilt shop. That way, when you fix the rug, it will end up looking like it wasn't even repaired but had been that way all along!

Best of luck getting your rug fixed! I understand how important it is to save pieces of our personal family history. I hope the repairs of your mother's rugs give you many more years of joy!


This next question was sent in response to a post I wrote on making your own insecticide. The question also refers to one of the most popular gardening posts I wrote last year. You can see them here and here.

Kate, I have been overrun with bugs in my garden this year. I want to go organic but can't seem to keep the bugs away. I told my husband about how you talk about using aluminum foil to keep the bugs away and he just laughed and said that idea was crazy. Is there any advice you can give on how to go organic when you never have before?

There are a few things you can do to keep the bugs away. However, first I want to say that I am not an organic gardener. I would classify myself as a 'chemical free' gardener. I try very hard to not use any chemicals on the plants we eat. That doesn't mean I don't use chemicals. I do use chemicals that are considered organic on things we don't eat, like flowers and houseplants. Many of my houseplants go outside for the summer. To keep them bug free when they come back in during the colder months, I spray all of them with a tobacco 'tea'. This helps ensure that I don't bring in bugs along with the plants.

But, back to the vegetable garden. Yes, the aluminum foil works! Extremely well! The best I can say is try it yourself and see. It doesn't cost a lot of money if you buy the foil on sale with a coupon. What can you expect? Virtually no bugs when the plants are small. (Well, foil doesn't work on ants, slugs or cutworms.) It does work on anything that flies. Squash vine borer, squash bugs, stink bugs, Mexican bean beetle, and Colorado potato beetle - just to name a few. The foil will work as long as the sun can reach it. The moths/flying bugs see the sun on both sides of the leaves and get confused. They move on to another plant that has more 'normal' conditions. Late in the summer, when the plants have grown over the foil, the sun can no longer reach it. Then you will see some bugs. However, not as many as if you didn't use the foil! I have been extremely happy with the results of using aluminum foil on my garden.

Let me also add that adding compost to your garden soil is another way to help eliminate bugs in the garden. (Add quite a bit - most people don't add enough.) You can also turn the soil over in mid-to-late winter (if it isn't frozen) so you kill the larvae overwintering deep down in the soil. The goal is to reduce the number of bad bugs and encourage the number of good bugs so you can keep your garden in balance. Plant more flowers to help encourage the good bugs to visit! Then the good bugs can take care of the bad bugs for you. 

Good luck with your garden!


This next question came in after I posted about using my Victorio Food Strainer to make tomato puree. You can see that post here.

Good morning - I just saw your post about making tomato sauce without electricity. I'm curious what your recipe is for canned sauce with meat. I'd like to can my spaghetti sauce but I am not entirely sure how - as in length of time and making sure I have the right ingredients.
I am reading all I can and gleaning tidbits of wisdom where I can find them.

Here is my spaghetti sauce recipe. (Oh- by the way, I have a lot of digestion problems and can't eat spicy foods - this recipe is herb oriented, not spicy at all.)

20 - 24 lbs. tomatoes - processed into sauce/puree
1 cup Italian seasoning  (I make my own from oregano, rosemary, thyme, savory, sage and basil that I grow myself.)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup onion powder (I grow/make my own onion powder)
1/4 cup garlic powder (Ditto)

Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by 1/3. (If you were going to freeze it, you can reduce by half. If canning, I only reduce by 1/3 and then reduce more when I open a jar to use.) If the sauce still appears too 'runny' to you when you are getting ready to serve it, add a bit of tomato powder to the sauce while it is heating.

If you want to can it without the meat - I add 2 TBS of lemon juice to each quart jar. This is necessary if water bath canning, but not necessary if pressure canning, although I add it anyway. It doesn't affect the flavor and makes it more acidic.

If pressure canning with meat, (sometimes I use turkey and sometimes I use beef,) cook the beef and drain any fat. Then add the meat to the sauce. I usually add 1 - 1 1/2 lbs of meat. If I want more, then I will add it when I open the jar. I add the meat just before I get ready to can it.

Process in the pressure canner at 11 lbs pressure (I have a dial gauge canner) for 90 minutes. This is the official number for both ground beef and turkey where I live. It is based on the elevation at my location. Your county extension service can tell you what the proper canning pressure is for you.

Although 11 lbs pressure is the 'official' number where I live, I don't can at that pressure. I can at 12 1/2 lbs. pressure and I can it for 100 minutes, not 90 minutes. I have always had a rule to over process. I do it for everything - both water bath canning and pressure canning. My food still turns out great! Never once have we been disappointed and I know the food is safe. (I also make sure I listen for the vacuum seal when I open the jar.) And remember, all pressured canned food should be cooked at a roiling boil for 10 minutes before eating (or otherwise heated above 212 degrees for 10 minutes such as in the oven as part of a recipe.)

Unfortunately, I can't tell you what to use if you have a weight gauge pressure canner because I don't have one. However, all canners come with an instruction book, so follow the instructions with your particular canner for the correct pressure and time.

I hope I have helped!


If you have a question you would like to ask, click on the About Me tab to find my email address! 

I would be happy to help!

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Countdown: 10 Things You Need to Know How To Do Before You Lose Electricity!

#3: Handle Sanitation

Since we are about to hit the active period during our hurricane season here in the US, I thought it would be beneficial to create a 'Top 10 List' of things you should know how to do without electricity. Most of these things will be extremely important if you had to go without electricity for a few weeks (or longer). However, many of them also apply to power outages of just a few days. So, every Friday, until we countdown to #1, I will highlight a necessary skill to keep your house running as 'normal' as possible. Once you learn about these 10 things, you should be able to keep your house running normally during any power outage from a few days to a few months or longer, if that becomes necessary.

I do want to mention, none of these things will include the use of a generator. While generators do work short term, IMHO, there is no way you can store enough gasoline to keep the generator running for a long term outage. My strategy is to use 18th and 19th century skills to keep my house running. I don't even own a generator. 

I created this 'Top 10 List' and the subject matter and countdown order are mine alone. You may not agree with my list. That is no problem! You are welcome to share your ideas in the comments section. We all learn when differing viewpoints are shared respectfully!


This is one of the hardest post for me to write because it is the one I am least prepared for. I have planned for a lot of options, but I am not 100% satisfied with any of them. This is because this issue is deadly serious. Get it wrong, and you and your family will get very sick and can possibly die. In addition, it is also a topic that no one wants to talk about, me included! However, it must be dealt with during an emergency, and dealing with it safely is one of the most important things you can do to keep your family healthy. Hence, it warrants number three in the countdown.

How you handle this issue depends on how your house was built. Do you have a septic tank? Are you hooked up to a city sewer? If you have a septic tank, it will be much easier, less messy and less unpleasant to handle. You should be able to use your toilets throughout the emergency. However, if you don't have power, the toilet tank won't refill. You will need to provide an assist by filling the tank/toilet when you need to flush it. That means you need to have access to water. It doesn't have to be potable water, but it shouldn't be stagnant smelly water either (unless you have no choice). This is because your septic system requires bacteria to be effective. You want to be careful what you put down the toilets so you don't harm/kill the bacteria in your septic system. So, to all the homeowners/renters who have septic systems, you need to have access to water so you can assist your toilets in flushing.

If you aren't on a septic system, then you are probably hooked to the city/county sewer system. (Or, like me, you could be hooked to a private sewer system.) If you are hooked to a sewer system, you will encounter two problems if the power is out for any serious length of time. The first is the inability to use your toilets and the second is a potential back up of sewage into your home. I say potential, because it is determined by gravity. If your house is at the lowest level on the sewer line, the likelihood of a potential sewage backup into your home is greater than if you lived on a hill looking down on everyone else.

Now, if the power is only out a few days, neither of these will be an issue. That is because most cities/counties have planned for backup power via generators. Your toilets will probably work fine. If they don't, I am sure you will receive instructions on what to do. The problem is, if you don't have any backup materials available, you may not be able to follow the instructions your local government gives you. 

So, this post will give you some options you can think about implementing if/when you ever find yourself without the use of your sewer system.
  • For short term use, a water/sanitation system such as this one from Emergency Essentials may do the trick. I have a few of these, here is a picture of one of mine. It requires the use of a garbage bag, so be sure to stock up on plenty of those. You can add dirt, sawdust or cat litter to help control odors. 
  • For a more durable short term solution, you may want to exchange the cardboard box for a five gallon bucket. Emergency Essentials sells a toilet seat that will fit a five gallon bucket. This solution will also require garbage bags. You can also control odors with a product by Reliance called eco-fresh. It is a waste digester & deodorizer. You can get it in the camping section of your favorite store. I have quite a few boxes of this product in storage.
  • The two solutions above may work a longer period of time if you think outside the box and separate out solid matter from liquid matter. Set up more than one 'station' where you can better control what is deposited. Clean up will be easier and less messy that way. Here is a blog post I read awhile back that gives MUCH more information on this idea. 
  • If the power is out for any length of time, it may be time for you to consider constructing an outhouse. No need to get out the saw and hammer, Cody Lundin gives an excellent example of how to construct one, with simple things you have at home, in his book: When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes There is an excellent graphic that shows what to do on page 250, but the entire chapter entitled Savvy yet Simple Significant Substitute Sanitation is extremely informative. If you are really into emergency preparedness, go ahead and buy the book. I have it and found it an interesting read. However, if you are not into emergency preparedness (or you aren't sure if you are yet) I would suggest going to the library to find the book, no need to purchase it without trying it out first.
  • If you find that you are on the bottom of the sewer line, you may want to put some backflow valves in the sewer pipes that come out of your house. That way, you can prevent sewage backup from entering in the first place. Actually, this is a really good idea no matter where you are on your sewer line. No one wants sewage backup into their house. Unfortunately, if it does happen, you will be forced to evacuate until you can get it cleaned up. Here is a blog post that explains it better than I ever could.
  • If the power is out for an extended length of time, say months, you may want to consider composting your waste. While humanure should not be used on vegetable gardens, it is fine for flowers and trees. Here are some posts on how to compost human waste correctly:
  • Lots and lots of info has been written on this subject by other bloggers. You can find some helpful information about how to deal with sanitation in these posts:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pressure Canning the Summer Harvest

Whether you grow your own summer harvest, or just take advantage of the lower prices on fruit and vegetables in season, it makes sense this time of year to bring home fresh produce.

While you can eat some of it fresh, what are you going to do with the rest of it? Freezing comes to mind for most of us. But unless you have an extra large stand alone freezer, there is only so much that will fit in your refrigerator's freezer. I have heard people in the grocery store say, " I would get more if my freezer was bigger."  I just shake my head when I hear such things because, you can keep that produce (and buy a little extra) when you think outside the box and look to canning as as a solution to your food storage problem!

Last summer I wrote a post that provided an overview of water bath canning. This method of canning is used for high acid foods like fruits. You can see that post here. The method of canning needed for low acid foods like green beans, carrots, peas, or any kind of meat, is pressure canning.

Low acid foods require canning at a higher temperature than high acid foods. This is because bacteria is not destroyed at the temperature water boils (which is the temperature using in water bath canning). The bacteria clostridium botulinum lives in moist environments in the absence of air. This bacteria produces a spore that makes a poisonous toxin which causes botulism. You will need to heat the contents of a jar to 240 degrees to kill this bacteria. This can only be accomplished with a pressure canner.

So, If you have never pressure canned anything before, this post will provide an overview to give you an idea of how it is done. Please realize that what I am doing is providing an overview of pressure canning. I cannot possibly provide every detail you will need to do it correctly.  If, after reading this post, you decide that you are interested in trying it yourself, I recommend you get The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. It will walk you through each step necessary to correctly and safely pressure can foods for your family. My goal is to show you there isn't anything scary or magical about it. For this post, I will be canning green beans in a dial gauge pressure canner.

Green beans can be packed into jars raw or hot. I use the hot pack method because I believe you can get more into the jar. Let's start by preparing the beans. This year I grew Italian green beans. They are a flat bean that has a slightly sweeter flavor to them. Once picked and washed, I cut the ends off. Here is a picture.

Instead of 'snapping' these into pieces, I like to 'french' them. You should be able to find this tool anywhere. If not, you can buy one from Amazon.

They fit into the french cutter beautifully because they are so flat.

To hot pack them, add water to the pot to cover the beans and boil them for five minutes.

While the beans are heating up and boiling for five minutes, place clean jars into the canner. Add about three or four inches of water to the bottom of the canner, and turn the heat on high to boil. 

At this point, check the canner cover to make sure it is in good working order. I have a Presto Pressure Canner. The instructions state to inspect the sealing ring, vent pipe, overpressure plug, as well as the air vent cover lock seal before each canning session. 

Then attach the dial pressure gauge to the canner cover.

When both the jars and green beans are hot, pack the green beans into the jars leaving one inch headspace.

Then add the water you boiled the green beans in. If you pack raw green beans, you can just add boiling water here. Pack loosely so the interior of the jar can heat to the proper temperature. Run a bubble remover and headspace tool down the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles.  I forgot to take a picture of this when I was filling the jars so I grabbed a picture from last year when I water bath canned peaches so you can see what I mean.

Once you remove the air bubbles, you are probably going to need to add a bit more water to the jar. Measure headspace accurately, it can ruin the seals if the headspace is less than what is called for. You can always add more headspace but never less. For example, as I mentioned above, green beans require a one inch headspace. That means you need to leave one inch space between the green beans and the top of the jar. In my green bean jars I usually have slightly over one inch headspace. I haven't had a seal failure (yet) in all the years I have been canning! Be sure to wipe the rim of the jar with a clean wet towel before putting the lid on it.

As you fill each jar, place it back in the canner. When all jars are finished, put the cover on the canner and lock it down. The canner needs to vent for 10 minutes before you put the pressure regulator on. This is really important. Not venting the canner can make the water in the jars 'blow out' into the canner. If this happens, you run the risk of the jars not sealing. Now, don't just put the cover on and start the timer. The steam needs to be coming out the vent pipe in a strong and steady force before you start timing. Wave your hand over the vent pipe. If you cannot feel a strong exhaust from the canner, don't start the timing yet. If the water was boiling in the canner before you place the top on, this won't take long. When ready, turn the timer on 10 minutes and let the canner vent. Once the 10 minutes are up, put the pressure regulator on. 

At this point, I highly recommend that you never leave the canner until you have finished processing your jars of food. If you walk away and forget about it, you can cause serious damage to your stove and kitchen if the pressure in the canner get too high. Stay right next to the canner so you can adjust the heat and all will be fine!

Everyone's stove is different so you may have to adjust the heat on your own stove differently than I do. The goal is to raise the heat slowly so the liquid in the jars stays there and doesn't 'blow out' into the canner. Here is how I regulate the heat:

When I put the pressure regulator on - the heat is on its highest setting.
When the pressure starts rising  - I turn the heat down to medium high.
When the pressure gets to 10 lbs - I turn the heat down to medium.
When the pressure reaches 12 lbs  - I turn the heat down to slightly below medium.

Green beans in quart jars should be canned at 11 lbs pressure for 25 minutes where I live. (Depending on your elevation - this could be different.) I can at 12 1/2 lbs pressure for 30 minutes. (I have always believed in slightly over processing.) I find when I regulate the heat as I described above, I don't have to make too many adjustments during the processing time.

However, small adjustments will be necessary to keep the pressure constant. (Just like the small adjustments you make when driving to keep your car on the road, you will need to make small adjustments on the heat to keep the pressure in the canner constant. Quick and extreme moves in the heat will contribute to quick and sudden pressure changes in the canner. This will result in 'blow out'. So, if you are noticing the pressure drop (it should be a small and slow drop), make small adjustments to the heat so it stops. Small adjustments to the heat will result in small adjustments to the pressure gauge as well. This will ensure the liquid in the jars stays there!

I feel that I should remind you that you won't be able to constantly monitor the pressure gauge if you walk away from it. Let's say for example, your pressure hits 11 lbs and you turn the timer on to process for 25 minutes. Now, if you walk away from the canner, and the pressure drops to below 11 lbs (even for just a few minutes), you can't continue to process the food for the time remaining even if you turn the heat up to get the pressure back to 11 lbs. Instead, you will need to bring the pressure back up to 11 lbs first, and then start the timer over at 25 minutes. So, I am serious when I say don't leave the canner. I get a chair and sit right next to the canner so I can watch it. I may bring a book with me, or work on the computer while I can. However, I usually look up at the pressure gauge two to three times a minute. 

Once the 25 minutes (30 minutes for me) are up, turn the heat off. Now, you can walk away from the canner if you want to. It will need to cool on its own until the pressure in the canner is back to zero lbs. Don't try to cool the canner quickly, it will result in a 'blow out' (or worse - damage to the canner and/or your kitchen)! Let the canner cool on it's own. Mine takes about 45 minutes.

When the pressure shows at zero and the air vent cover lock drops, take the pressure regulator off. Set the timer for 10 minutes, once you take the pressure regulator off. The air in the canner needs to adjust to the temperature in your kitchen before you take the cover off. After 10 minutes, you can take the cover off and remove the jars. Place them on a towel. This is to keep them off of the counters. Place them somewhere where there isn't a draft as well. The reason both of these are important is because you don't want the jars to crack or burst while cooling. Coming right out of the canner, the jars are still extremely hot. And as everyone knows, very hot glass put in contact with a cool surface, will break.

When the jars have cooled,  wipe them down to remove any residue and label for storage.

 There you have it! Produce canned safely at home!

I also would like to mention here, that I am not happy with my canning process because to can in my kitchen requires the use of electricity. It also heats up my house. I don't want all that heat in my kitchen in the summer, so I have been researching how to take the canning process out to the back yard. After much research, I have purchased this.

It mentions right on the package that it is recommended for home canning. It has great reviews and I know someone who cans on one. However, my canner specifically states in the owners manual NOT to can outside on a propane stove. So, I have been hesitant to try it. Apple season is here, so I think I will try water bath canning apples first. I also am going to research other canners to see if they can be used on a propane stove. Although I do like my Presto Pressure Canner, because of this issue, I cannot recommend this item for purchase. I also won't recommend the Camp Chef Pro 90 until I try it myself! Look for a review on how it went with the apple canning soon.

However, I do recommend The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and The Ball Blue Book, Guide to Preserving. I own both and love them. I have used recipes out of each of them. Both cover the canning process in detail and tell you everything you need to know to both water bath can and pressure can. If you decide to purchase either of these books, or anything else I recommend, I ask that you use my links to do so. It doesn't cost you anything to do so and I get a few pennies to help support the blog.