Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Sardine Warning

     This is a short post to share with you something that I discovered while at the grocery store. As a lover of sardines, I have a large quantity in our family's food storage. My favorite is the Beach Cliff Fish Steaks. The larger types are just as flavorful, but you just have to cut them up.

     When I was at Wal-Mart a few days ago, I stopped to check the best by dates of the current Beach Cliff products on the shelves. Sometimes those dates are found on the top of the can and sometimes the bottom. Since it's easier to read the date when it's on the bottom of the can because there's no other labeling there to make it difficult, I automatically look there first. I turned the can over and I was shocked by what I read!
"Partially produced with genetic engineering."

This particular can was processed in Canada.

 This particular can was processed in Poland.

     So no matter where it's processed, they have changed its composition and now it's come to this, that the lowly sardine is now contaminated by mankind!

     Since I have many dozens of cans of sardines in my family's food storage, when I got home I immediately checked all my cans in order to make sure no genetically modified sardines had slipped in there, and thankfully there weren't any.

     I, for one, won't be buying any more Beach Cliff Sardines for my family. You might want to check yours to be sure they aren't GMO. If I had found any, I would have returned them to the store and exchanged them for something else.

Have a safe prepping day!
Bob Hotaling

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Emergency Preparedness - Water Storage Containers

I'm one of those people that prefers to be prepared for interruptions in our daily life whether it is caused by something man-made or by Mother Nature. Water for drinking is the most important item we can have on hand no matter what.

Many people, myself included, re-use clear plastic juice containers for water storage after sanitizing them with an unscented chlorine bleach solution. Currently I have over 300 gallons of water stored in re-purposed containers and commercially produced bottled water. My preferred bottled water is Deer Park because it is not produced by reverse osmosis simply from another city's municipal water supply. It is advertised, at least, to actually come from natural springs in Pennsylvania.

I have been considering purchasing a 55 gallon blue barrel for additional water storage, however, if we had to leave, I could not take that water supply with us. It is simply too heavy. I decided that I currently have a sufficient quantity of water stored to carry me and my immediate family through the typical unexpected service interruptions. I still wanted something that gave me more quantity than what I have, and it needed to be relatively easily to transport in case we had to leave our home.

I could find five-gallon jugs with blue-tabbed pull-off tops that you removed to access the water, but I had watched a Sheriff's Disaster Preparation video that said it was better to have containers with screw tops on them to use for long term storage. After doing some searching for these screw top containers for a couple of months, I found five-gallon jugs available in a K-Mart retail store for $11.98 each. It did not appear that those tops were sealed on securely at the factory, so I didn't buy them. So I kept searching on and off and came upon some at, you guessed it, Walmart. They had four of the five-gallon jugs on the shelf in the water filter section, which is by the paint and light bulb aisles. I bought them all after reading the label and found that they were "Made in the USA" and were BPA-free! In addition to those great facts, they only cost $6.94 each, had built-in handles, and the tops were shrink-wrapped onto the containers at the factory.That was much better than the $11.98 unsealed K-Mart ones that would have ended up having to be ordered online by me and picked up in the store because the manager wouldn't order them for me.

Now the reason that I wanted those in addition to my stored water is that I am going to sanitize them and keep them stored empty. When a natural event is on the way, such as a winter storm, hurricane, nor'easter or snowstorm, I can fill them and have them ready just in case. When filled, they would sit out on the floor and not on a shelf, because by already having over 300 gallons of water stored, there is really no additional shelf space available. My water is stored on the second floor of our home in areas over top of the bearing walls of the first floor. I bought eleven of these, so now I can easily take the equivalent of a 55 gallon drum of water with us if we have to leave.

Here is a picture of some of the containers and the label information:

I compared the cost and ease of the use of these jugs against "water-boxes" that are available at many online preparedness stores. When comparing cost, they are within a few cents of each other. But when it comes to ease of use and confidence that it won't leak, these Walmart jugs beat the water-boxes hands down! Some of the sellers even say that when filling the containers, to be careful and not get water on the boxes. What does that tell you! When cardboard gets exposed to moisture, it soaks it up like a sponge. But the problem is that if one water box leaks, most of the surrounding water boxes will be exposed to the moisture, and the potential for losing the integrity of the cardboard of all of those boxes is very high. Who would want to have to be constantly wondering about the integrity of their stored water supply? If you have ever tried to pick up a water-soaked cardboard box, you will recall that it turns mushy, almost slimy, and then completely comes apart.  Then it would be like trying to pick up a five-gallon water-filled balloon, except the Mylar won't stretch. It will either tear at the points of contact with your fingers or just split at the seams when you end up dropping it. Either way, it isn't a good situation.

In summary, when contemplating storing water for emergencies, it is important to consider all the possibilities of what problems could arise from the choices you make. Think of the possibilities beforehand, and then you will make better decisions. Perhaps these water jugs would be the right thing for your water storage. It's up to you to weigh the facts and then make your decision.

Thanks for visiting, and have a great prepping day!
Bob Hotaling

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Acorn Bread For Thanksgiving

     Two years ago I made some acorn bread from the acorns I harvested from the large oak tree in my front yard. I made it so it could be a part of our family Thanksgiving dinner, and the bread was a great success. Making it was a tedious job since the acorns were so small that I could fit several of them into a single teaspoon. That year, I was able to supplement those with some slightly larger acorns from several large trees located at one of the local school's athletic grounds. Below is a comparison of the first size of acorns I used against what I used this time. You can imagine how happy I was to find my new source of large acorns!

     For my first acorn flour making experience, I used the boiling water method to leach out the tannin. I thought that turned out to be very labor intensive and I don’t plan to use that method again.

     Since that first acorn harvest, I have been searching for a better source of acorns for making the flour needed for breads and muffins. When I went back to that school for this year's acorns, I was surprised to find that none of those large trees bore acorns this year. As I was leaving empty handed, I rode through the school bus driveway in front of the school, and I saw what I thought were gumballs all over the lawn and in the driveway. When I got right up to them, I discovered that they were large acorns. There were probably thousands of them all over the lawn areas beneath the trees! I took a sample leaf and acorn to the local Co-operative Extension Office and they identified the sample for me. These oaks are actually called “saw tooth oaks”. The botanical name is “Quercus Acutissima”. There are eleven of these beautiful acorn trees planted along the entire driveway out in front of the school, and they are spaced apart in a way that seems to promote the growth of the size and quantity of the acorns. Here is what they look like with their caps on:

     At first, I picked up enough acorns to fill a five gallon bucket using a modified “Grabber” (as seen on TV) that I fitted with suction cups. I realized that if I wanted more acorns, I needed to obtain a device that would pick them up more productively. Doing it just one-by-one with the Grabber simply wasn't providing a sufficient enough quantity for what I needed to do. So I went to a nearby feed & seed store and bought a nut harvester for a little over $23 including tax.

     I wasn't sure if it would do the job for me, but boy did it ever! I ended up with well over one hundred pounds of acorns, but that included ones that needed to be culled out due to defects as well as some empty caps.

     Below is a picture of one tub of what the nut harvester collected in about 40 to 45 minutes or so.

     I saved all the empty caps and empty acorn shells for starting fires in our fire pit. The acorns that were split, blackened, or had worm exit holes in them were simply discarded after leaving them out for a week for the squirrels in our yard. They wouldn't have any part of them. Maybe the tannin was too strong for them, so into the trash can those culled acorns went.

     I used an inclined screen to help identify and remove the defective acorns and other debris. With the screen inclined, simply taking a flat hand and brushing them uphill would make them roll over and over back downhill so that the defective ones were very simple to see and pick out. That made it much easier to inspect each acorn and sort them for being used or discarded. I put the good ones in a bucket below the table and the defective ones in the flower pot that was on the table. That way, I didn't get the two groups mixed up. 

     Before processing these acorns, I searched You Tube thoroughly and came up with recommended guidelines for doing it from a You Tube channel by Arthur Haines. If you are serious about using acorns for a supplemental food source, I highly recommend watching this video. I studied what he was saying and I watched the video three different times before proceeding with my acorns. The part about not using a "recipe" was very accurate. As he stated in the video, "When it's done, it's done!", means just that. I tasted mine as he suggested and your taste buds really let you know when the tannin hasn’t been completely leached out. When the tannin isn’t gone, you will certainly pucker and spit it out!

Here is a link to his channel:

From Tree to Table: Gathering and Processing Acorns

    To make my acorn flour, I began with a colander filled with seven pounds of acorns in the shell. My plan was to crack them open using the small hammer and six pound tabletop anvil that I had available. As it turned out, that worked perfectly for the acorns that I had collected as they were already dried out sufficiently to cleanly shell them.

    Shelling the acorns was done by simply turning them cap side down on the anvil and giving a slight rap with the hammer on the very point that was sticking up. This produced a clean crack down the side of the shell, and then I just opened them up and the acorn meat fell out in a whole piece most of the time. Sometimes I was too eager and the gentle tap not only split the shell, but split the acorn meat down the center, but there was no harm to the acorn as they would be ground up anyway. After shelling the acorns, I put them back into the same colander to rinse them to get any debris off. You can hardly tell the difference between the volumes of a colander full of acorns in the shell, or a colander full of shelled acorns! That is a substantial amount of food from the wild.

     After shelling, I had to reduce them to a fine meal in order to efficiently process the tannin oil out of them. I had an old hand operated meat grinder that my mom used when I was a kid, but I decided against using that. Instead, I used a kitchen blender half filled with water set on grind for a period of three minutes for each load. That was troublesome due to the size of the acorn meats. It was like trying to grind a blender full of marbles. Look at the size of this shelled acorn! After removing an almost paper thin shell, it's all meat!

     Even when filled halfway with water, the blender had a very tough time grinding the acorns. I'm sure I have shortened the life of the blender. It would have been far better to run the acorns through the old meat grinder to chop them into a much more manageable size for the blender to grind up. When I make my next batch, I will use the hand cranked meat grinder first. It will make it so much easier!

     I wanted to share my acorn cold water processing experience, so I would take pictures of my jars of acorn slurry in various stages as it progressed. 

     I put the slurry into the half-gallon jars at 1:28 p.m. on October 22nd. As the picture below shows, there are different amounts of acorn meal in each jar. I should have made the amounts even, as the jars with less acorn meal would become ready sooner than the ones that were almost 3/4 full of acorn meal. I also didn't wait for a whole day to pour off the tannin. I did it every few hours, as many as three times a day.

     These are the jars during the water change at 9:25 p.m., still on October 22nd. Look at that tannin color that had leached out in only eight hours. 

     At 11:34 p.m. on the evening of October 22nd, I changed the water again. In just over two hours, look at that tannin color that has leached out. That was surprising! 

     The next morning, October 23rd at 7:44 a.m., you can see the benefit of not putting too much acorn meal into the jar to leach. The third jar from the left is progressing faster to be ready for use, because there's more water in it. I plan to only fill the containers half-full of ground acorn meal when I make my next batch.

     Now on October 23rd, at 2:48 p.m., you can readily see that with the more water you put in a container, the faster the tannin can leach out. 

     On October 23rd, at 11:31 p.m., the two outside jars are almost ready. The two inside still have quite a bit of tannin in them.

     After letting them sit overnight, there was a significant reduction in the dark color of the leachate in the two center jars. 

     On October 25th at 11:27 a.m., the jars look like they're all ready for making acorn flour. However, after pouring off the leachate and doing individual taste tests, the two jars on the right needed more soaking time.

     Finally, later that day at 4:47 p.m. all the acorn meal passed the taste test, and it was all ready for use as acorn flour.

     I took the acorn meal and poured it into a cloth-covered strainer to drain out the water. The cloth was simply a tee shirt that was doubled over. I decided to use that instead of cheesecloth, which I had on hand, because I felt that the cheesecloth is too porous and would allow too much of the acorn meal to be strained through. After letting it sit a few minutes, I took the corners of the cloth and brought them together and twisted the ball of acorn meal in my hands in order to get out all the water that I could.

     Then I used the following recipe and made Acorn Muffins and Acorn Bread, and I put the rest in the fridge for use in three or four days.

2 cups acorn flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 cup maple syrup or sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons olive oil

Bake in pan for 30 minutes or until done at 400 degrees
50% or less Acorn flour (if you use more than 50%, bread will be too crumbly)
50% or more wheat (preferably whole wheat) flour
a bit of fat (olive oil, bear grease, butter, or whatever you have)
1 teaspoon of baking powder for each cup of flour

Using the ingredients given above will produce a sweet, moist, nutty bread.

 If you don't grind the acorns well, it won’t be a problem because you will have nut bread. 

     Either the muffins or the bread are delicious warmed in the microwave for 10 seconds or so, then topped with homemade peach preserves, fig preserves. Crab-apple jelly, or even store-bought strawberry jam!


     I hope you have enjoyed this information I have shared with you about how to use this abundant and naturally available food resource. Give it a try and see how you like it. Pay attention to your area around where you live and see what wild food resources are available to you!

Have a wonderful prepping day!

Bob Hotaling

P.S. Please forgive the varying sizes of font. Blogger simply will not let it be uniform for ease of reading, even when using Google Chrome.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Longer Term Food Storage

This week I purchased some canned black beans from Walmart.  I know there are a lot of people that strongly push only dehydrated or freeze-dried foods for your long term storage. Usually that's because they're selling it and they're trying to make money off of you.  You don’t need ALL your prepping food storage to be that type of food. When you are financially able, you can mix it up and have some of each type, and stock up on whichever type you prefer, but be informed and track the best by dates of ALL of it!

Take a look at these Goya Low Sodium Black Bean cans that are found in the Latino food aisle of Walmart. Look at that best-by-date!

These beans are regular food that cost only $1.00 per can, but their best-by-date is April of 2020! Think of that! That is almost five years for food that you can buy from regular grocery stores.  This shows that you can buy normal foods that have very far out dates for your prepping food supply.  This is why I stress that it is so important to track the best-by-dates of your food storage.

This supports the fact that simply following the first in first out (FIFO) method of food storage or “rotation” is seriously flawed due to best-by-date spread. These best-by-dates on items on store shelves constantly go forward and backward, even by as much as a year or more. If you want the longest length of time available for storing the normal foods that you or your family will be eating, then you should be tracking the best-by-dates to accomplish that.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope this was helpful to you in considering the foods you choose to store for yourself and your family.

Happy Prepping!
Bob Hotaling

Monday, June 29, 2015

My Observations on YT Preparedness Videos.

Thanks for stopping by in order to see what I have to share with you today.

I’m always on the lookout for possible improvements to my food storage and emergency preparedness that I can utilize in order to better serve my family in any emergency. 

I’ve watched probably hundreds of You Tube (YT) videos in an effort to confirm the best methods to utilize for storing water.  I used that information that others have shared and I have purchased several Seven Gallon Aquatainers, one for each member of my family.  That way, right off the bat, each person has at least a week’s worth of water.  I also began saving and re-purposing two liter soda bottles and one gallon orange juice jugs (with the built in handle), as well as many cases of 16.9 ounce sized commercially bottled spring water.

I try to be the devil’s advocate on storing re-purposed containers.  In case any one of them ever springs a leak, I have all of them that are filled stored inside Rubbermaid bus trays that I bought from Sam’s Club for $12.98 for a bundle of two.  That way, I am covered for any leaks since the water won’t damage anything because it is contained within the Rubbermaid bus tray.  An upside to that is that not only do I not incur damage from the water, but the water itself would be saved within the bus tray because the trays have the same six gallon capacity as the total of the re-purposed containers stored within them.  

I have seen a large number of people on YT recommending that you store your re-purposed two liter soda bottles like they do, which happens to be on their side to accommodate available space.  I think that is asking for trouble.  The cap on these bottles is the weakest link and has the greatest potential for leakage.  The bottles really weren’t made for reusing, but everyone does it, including me.  Why would a person invite trouble by laying them on their side?  That just doesn’t sound like a safe way to me, but that’s just my opinion.  If the bottles repeatedly get very warm and then cool off, they could expand and contract and the caps could possibly become loose.  Remember, these aren’t like the caps at the bottling plant where originally there is a plastic part of the cap you have to break and twist off to get the soda out.  Once a two liter bottle is opened, that cap safety feature is gone forever.  That presents the potential, although admittedly a remote possibility, that a soda bottle on its side could have the top work loose and if unchecked, leak out about 2/3’s of its contents, until the water level reaches the lowest side of the bottle’s spout while it is stored in the horizontal position. 

I choose to store all my bottles and even the Aquatainers in an upright position.  This completely eliminates all possibilities of leaks around the threads or spigots.  My personal preference is to err on the side of caution, so that’s why I do mine this way.  Besides, the aggravation of water leaking onto the wood floor would be intense, so I would rather avoid it.

Another questionable area that I see frequently on YT is the storing of emergency water in opaque plastic milk jugs.  Snap top milk jugs or actual opaque one gallon water jugs are being recommended by some folks to be good for storing water.  That plastic is not designed for long term water storage.  If you drop a full one, it will pop the top off and splash everywhere, or just plain burst.  The older the jug is, the weaker it becomes.  Plastic milk jugs take 500 years to degrade when buried in a landfill, so they are not “biodegradable”.  The problem for using milk jugs as water containers is that they ARE “photodegradable”, which means that exposure to light eventually breaks down the plastic until it begins leaking and then ultimately fails.  See:  

When it comes to re-purposing containers, I believe that only the very clear plastic containers such as juice jugs or 2 liter soda bottles should be used for emergency water storage.  I will share with those reading this that while I have a very substantial amount of drinking water stored, I also have dozens of empty, clean, juice containers stacked and stored in large laundry baskets.  If a hurricane is coming, I will fill these containers at first notification of a probable landfall in my area.  However, I will have to store them out on the floor in an unused bedroom because my shelf space is currently filled to capacity.  That’s why I currently have them empty, stacked in laundry baskets, stored where I wouldn’t store my water.

Another action that I see frequently is the filling of 55 gallon blue plastic water storage barrels with a household garden hose.  There is a lot of bacteria contained within a garden hose.  That is one of the reasons that the water left sitting in a garden hose smells bad when you first use it.  The hose is used for everything from watering gardens to washing cars to washing the dog.  As the hose sits in the sun or hangs with some water in it on a hose rack, the bacteria within just multiplies.  People should be using special hoses like the ones used for RV’s for filling their water storage barrels.  Bad enough that there’s the bacteria in the garden hose, but watch how many people drape the hose into the water barrel and let the end of it become submerged in their stored drinking water.  Imagine the bird poop and bacteria that this hose connection has been dragged through on the ground.  It’s even worse if you have pets that use the yard for their toilet.  Now those germs are in your emergency water supply.  Who wants to drink that?

The next item subject to my observation is storing your emergency food supply in a hot, uninsulated attic or storage shed.  In my opinion, there is nothing that could make me store my foods in that type of area.  Temperature control is a major factor in the length of shelf life of your foods.  Rather than store my foods in a hot attic, I would find places within my climate controlled (or at least buffered from the heat by building materials) living space to store my food.  The temperature in your living space is exactly the temperature range that you should usually store your food in.  Even if you don’t have AC, your living space is nowhere near the attic temperature.  Basically, I think that if your attic temperature will kill you, it will kill the shelf life of your food storage.

Finally, I see people’s food storage videos graciously sharing with us what supplies they store in their preps.  Personally, I don’t store some of the food products that other folks do, because of the high fat content in those foods.  Fats can go rancid and are not suitable for long term storage.  Large quantities of cooking oils are one of the storage items I see very frequently in these YT videos.  Some folks have way over a dozen bottles of cooking oil in their storage.  Now in our home, we hardly use cooking oil except for an infrequent baking project.  So storing a large quantity of cooking oil seems illogical for us.  It is possible that some folks that store gallons and gallons of cooking oil might actually use it before it expires.  Maybe they deep fry a turkey for the holidays.  That’s good!  That would use a lot of the oil.  Storing gallons of cooking oil just doesn’t benefit our diet, so I only keep one or two bottles on hand. 

Something that that I recently became aware of is using the sun’s ultraviolet rays and several two liter soda bottles to make the water safe to drink.  I think this is pretty remarkable and these video links below should be watched by anyone who wants to really ensure their water supply.  I sincerely hope each visitor to this blog watches all three videos in their entirety. The longest one is only ten minutes and one second, but it shows you how well this works!

Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS)
SODIS is an alternative water treatment method designed for use at the household level. The technology is simple in terms of the procedure, yet effective in eliminating water borne related pathogens.  Please watch these short videos on the subject:

In light of the above identified YT videos, I have set aside two or three dozen two liter bottles as well as three or four large mirrors from bedroom dressers to assist me in disinfecting water when I need to do that.  The mirrors speed up the process.  Next time you see a bedroom dresser put out for bulk trash pickup, you may choose to stop and remove the mirror still in its frame, which is usually held to the back of the dresser by two screws on each upright post, and take it home for storage until you need it.  It doesn’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time.

In summary, store what types of food you normally eat or like, and make sure you have plenty of stored water, which is the most important item, for any emergencies that come your way.  You will be glad you did when the emergency happens, and it will happen. 

I hope what I have shared today provides some food for thought for ensuring the success of your emergency storage plan.

Happy Prepping!

Bob Hotaling