Prepare Every Needful Thing

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear"

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Home Production and Gardening–April 2015

Using Dehydrated Foodssweet potatoes

Dehydrated foods are lightweight, long-lasting and require no refrigeration, but if it came down to it, would you know how to use them? Below are some basic instructions and tips to help you on your way. Be sure to note, there is a difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated items!

Vegetables: When you are making soups and stews or other long-cooked or brothy items, using dried vegetables can be as easy as tossing in a handful or two along with the broth. Freeze-dried and dehydrated vegetables generally reconstitute at 2-3 times their dry volume. If you are using vegetables in a casserole or another “plate and fork” recipe, reconstitute freeze-dried foods with 3 parts water and one part vegetables and allow 20 minutes to rehydrate before combining with other foods. For dehydrated foods, simmer 3-5 minutes, let sit in boiling hot water 5-15 minutes or let sit in cold water for 1-2 hours. Always drain off excess liquid before using.

Fruits: If you have any left to use in cooking (you have excellent self-control and possibly no children at home 😉 ) use the same instructions as for vegetables, unless you are rehydrating apples which require only about half the times listed.

Eggs: Mix 2 Tablespoons of powdered egg with 3 Tablespoons of water for the equivalent of one large egg. If you are using eggs in a baked goods recipe, simply add the powdered egg to the dry ingredients and the water to the wet ingredients. There is no need to pre-mix.

Instant Dry Milk: Mix 3 Tablespoons powdered milk into 1 cup water to make one cup of milk.

Freeze-Dried Meats: To reconstitute diced chicken, ham, beef or turkey, mix ½ cup of meat with 1 cup boiling water, cover, wait 5-7 minutes, then pour off excess liquid. For ground beef, mix ½ cup meat with ½ cup boiling water and follow above instructions. Yield is about ¾ cup.

These are general guidelines and may vary somewhat product to product.


For more information and some handy charts see:


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Home Production and Gardening–March 2015

How to Can Tomatoes

tomatoesAlthough the basic process of canning has been relatively unchanged since it was developed during the Napoleonic Wars (no kidding!), over time, guidelines and recommendations have and will change as our understanding of microorganisms and food spoilage expand. Tomatoes are one food where the recommendations have recently changed. Although your grandma may have canned her tomatoes in a water-bath canner straight from the garden, this is no longer recommended. Water-bath canning requires food to be high-acid (a pH of 4.6 or lower) and tomatoes fall too near the line to guarantee safety. Small variations such as degree of ripeness, a break in the skin that allowed a little mold growth or the use of an extra-sweet variety could raise the pH past that threshold. Fortunately, all’s not lost! See below for instructions on how to lower the pH to safely water-bath can tomatoes, as well as how to pressure can them.

To water-bath can tomatoes: Use ripe, firm, well-washed tomatoes. Remove stems, blanch (dip in boiling water 30-60 seconds, until skins split), peel and prepare as desired (whole, sliced, diced or crushed). Place tomatoes into freshly washed canning jars and fill with liquid (typically water or tomato juice) reserving ½” headspace (the distance between the top of the jar and the top of the liquid) for contents’ expansion. Acidify by adding commercially bottled lemon juice (2 Tablespoons per quart or 1 Tablespoon per pint) or powdered citric acid (1 teaspoon per quart or ½ teaspoon per pint). You may also add salt or a little sugar to adjust the flavor at this time. Adjust lids. Place jars into canner when water boils. Water should cover jar tops by at least one inch. Quarts are processed for 45 minutes, pints for 35. Timing begins after water returns to a full boil.

To pressure can tomatoes: Prepare as directed above, omitting the lemon juice or citric acid. Arrange jars, vent canner and process as directed in your pressure canner’s instructions. Tomatoes are pressure canned for 15 minutes at 10 lbs pressure at sea level.

For more detailed instructions, altitude adjustments, etc, see:

Further instructions and a number of acidity-adjusted tomato recipes:


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Home Production and Gardening–February 2015

Homemade Hand Sanitizers

hand sanitizer

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a cheap and effective way to kill germs when you do not have access to running water, but some times sensitivity to fragrances or other ingredients may necessitate finding an alternative. Below are a couple of recipes so you can make your own.

 Spray Hand Sanitizer

4 ounces distilled water

2 teaspoons aloe vera gel

1/8 teaspoon vitamin E oil

15 drops tea tree oil

5 drops lavender, clary sage or rosemary essential oil

Place all ingredients in a small spray bottle and shake well. Shake before each use.

Gel Hand Sanitizer

10 drops lavender, clary sage or rosemary essential oil

30 drops tea tree oil

¼ teaspoon vitamin E oil

1 Tablespoon witch hazel

8 ounces aloe vera gel

Mix all oils into witch hazel. Add aloe vera and mix thoroughly


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Home Production and Gardening–January 2015

Making Basic Apronsaprons

Back in the days before easy clothing manufacturing and laundering, aprons were a regular part of most peoples’ lives. Aprons were used by craftspeople in all lines of business to keep their other clothes clean, to reduce wear and tear on more expensive fabrics and to keep needed tools close at hand. They can serve the same purpose today. I read somewhere recently where a woman determined that the cause of the pinholes on the front waist-area of her t-shirts was due to her leaning against the counter while she worked. As soon as she started consistently wearing an apron, no new holes!


The following three aprons are constructed using only:

  • 1 middle- to heavy-weight cotton dishtowel, about 27” x 20”
  • 2 ½ yards of wide, sturdy ribbon (1 ½”-2” grosgrain is a good choice)


Dishtowel Apron I

Fold dishtowel in half width-wise, and ribbon length-wise to find centers. Pin centers together with ribbon covering top ½” of towel. Finish pinning along length of towel and then sew towel to ribbon, by hand or with a sewing machine.

Dishtowel Apron II (with pockets)

Lay out dishtowel length-wise and fold up bottom to 4” from the top edge. Pin in place and then stitch edges in place to form one long pocket. Subdivide pocket into two or more smaller pockets by marking (with pins or a washable fabric pencil) and then sewing additional vertical lines into the large pocket. Fold apron and ribbon in half to find centers, pin and sew apron to ribbon, with ribbon covering top ½” of towel.

Dishtowel Apron III (gathered)

Lay out dishtowel widthwise and run a row of long stitches (by hand or machine) about ¼” from the top edge without tying off ends. Pull end of thread to gather (ruffle) edge until top edge measures about 17”. Tie off threads to maintain length, find and match centers by folding towel and ribbon in half and adjust gathers evenly across edge. Pin with ribbon covering top ½” of towel and sew in place.


For further ideas and inspiration—

Pleated dishtowel apron

Gathering apron

Utility apron

Ruffled full apron


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Home Production and Gardening–December 2014

How to Use Wheat Without a Grinder

PrintIt is a staple in most peoples’ food storage, but how would we eat all that wheat it if we suddenly had to rely on our stores? Below are a few ways to use it without having to break out your grinder.

Hot cereal. I remember my grandfather telling about how he and his fellow construction workers had to get through long mornings on just an early breakfast, how they kept ending up hungry until they started eating whole wheat cereal. It definitely is hearty! Put 1 cup wheat, 3 cups water and ¼-½ teaspoon salt in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-12 hours. Serve with honey and milk to taste.

Pancakes. Combine 1 ½ cups water, 1 cup wheat and ½ cup powdered milk in your blender and blend on high for 3 minutes. Add 1 egg, 2 Tablespoons oil, 1Tablespoon honey and ¼ teaspoon salt and blend 1 more minute. Add 1 Tablespoon baking powder and pulse 3 times. Cook on a hot griddle. Makes 12.

Pilaf. Combine 1 cup wheat, 1 Tablespoon dried onion, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons honey, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for about 1 hour until wheat is softened. Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley. Serves 4.

Popped. Soak 1 cup wheat in cold water for 24 hours—make sure that it remains covered by water. Drain, rinse and blot dry. Heat about 3” of oil in a saucepan to 450F. Pour 2/3 cup wheat into a wire mesh strainer and lower into oil. Cook for 30 seconds after bubbling stops. Remove from oil, drain on paper towels and season to taste. Repeat with remaining wheat.

Sprouts. Rinse ½ cup wheat and place in a wide-mouth quart jar. Add 2 cups tepid water and cover jar with a clean cloth. Tie or rubber-band to secure. Soak 12 hours. Drain thoroughly and place re-covered jar in a dark location. Rinse wheat every 12 hours. Wheat will germinate after 1 ½-2 days and sprout around day 4. Wheat sprouts can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.


For more ideas see:

Bread without a grinder:

Wheat desserts:

Wheat salads and main dishes:


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Home Production and Gardening–November 2014

Make a Wrap Carrierfront wrap cross2

Little ones generally have a greater need for comfort during challenging times. With a good carrier you can prevent their being underfoot or in harm’s way, all the while still having both hands available to do what needs to be done.

This is a simple way to make a wrap carrier for a baby or a small child. I have tried most of the carriers out there with my heavy babies and this is by far my favorite as it keeps the little one’s weight very close and it is very versatile. It has the added benefit of being inexpensive, so I can feasibly keep one in the house, one in the car and one in my emergency kit.

Selecting your fabric: You will want to choose a “top weight” fabric for your carrier (rub the fabric of your blouse between your fingers and compare that to the fabric of your trousers). I try to avoid printed patterns as the inside of the wrap is almost sure to peek through, and I’ll look for either a solid that is the same on both sides or a woven-in pattern, like a plaid or stripe. These tend to be higher quality fabrics. If you would like a stretchy knit wrap, select a fabric that has a one-way stretch (across the width, not down the length). Make sure it is fairly substantial (not a “tissue paper” knit) and recovers well when stretched. As far as fiber content, I prefer 100% cotton in a woven wrap and a poly/cotton blend in a knit, but you can choose what you like best. I do not hem my wraps, so I will also look at the fabric’s cut edge—if it is fraying a lot, I may end up with more “fringe” than I wish. Have them cut you a 5 yard length.

Cutting your wrap: You will want your finished wrap to be 21” wide so most fabrics will yield enough for two wraps. Measure 21” from the selvage (finished) edge and fold your fabric lengthwise along this line. Cut along the fold.

Finishing: If you wish, you may hem or serge your raw edges. It is helpful to sew a small patch or piece of ribbon in the center to guide you when using the wrap.

Using: Referring to the illustration above*, hold the center of your wrap over your breastbone. With your other hand, take the top edge of the wrap and wrap it around your back and over your opposite shoulder without twisting the fabric. Repeat on the opposite side so that you have a “pocket” over your chest and the two ends hanging down over your shoulders. Lower your child into the “pocket” until it is sitting in the wrap with its feet and legs protruding. Pull on the ends while lifting your child slightly to snug the wrap. Now pull the end on your left shoulder across your child’s back and tuck it under its opposite leg—so that the child is again sitting on the wrap. Repeat on the other side. Grab both ends, pull them up behind your back and tie securely. Adjust shoulder straps.

For videos and further instructions on using wraps see the left sidebar at:

*I would love to credit the person who put together the great set of photos but I could not find where it originated.  Whoever it was, thanks and kudos!


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Home Production and Gardening–October 2014

Uses for Vinegar

white vinegarAs we work to build our year’s supply, it makes good sense to store products that have multiple and varied uses. Vinegar covers the spectrum from food to medicine to cleaning to a mild pesticide, all the while being safe, stable and cheap. Back in pioneer days vinegar was even used as a lemon substitute, leading to the invention Vinegar Pie, which is surprisingly delicious…

  • Use in place of normal salad dressings. Some vinegars are tasty enough to be used as is, others benefit from being seasoned.
  • Part of the reason meals begin with a salad is that the combination of bitter greens and acidic vinegar make an excellent digestive stimulant which can prevent heartburn and indigestion. If you prefer sweet or creamy dressings, vinegar can also be taken separately—just add a capful to as small a glass of water as you can stand. Zingy, yet effective!
  • Add a little to your meat marinades and broths. Your meat will be tenderer and your broths more calcium-rich.
  • Healthy skin is protected by an acid mantle. After exposure to alkaline soaps, detergents and even garden soils, it can take some time for your skin to regain its proper pH, leading to dryness, irritation and damage. You can help things along by rubbing on a little vinegar. You may even find that your need for lotions is decreased. And the odor does rapidly dissipate after drying.
  • Remove mineral deposits from shower heads by unscrewing and placing to soak overnight in a bowl of straight white vinegar. If you cannot remove it, you can fill a bag with vinegar, and attach it around the fixture with a rubber band or zip tie.
  • Us as a rinse aid for spot-prone utensils and glasses. Add to your dishwasher’s compartment or add generously to your rinse water when hand-washing.
  • Make a simple furniture polish using equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Rub into wood with the grain and then polish with a soft dry cloth to hide small scratches and remove water rings.
  • Remove water rings from leather by dabbing with a sponge soaked in full-strength vinegar.
  • Mix equal parts vinegar and water in an empty spray bottle to make an excellent window cleaner.
  • A little straight vinegar will often remove ballpoint pen from hard surfaces.
  • Remove soap scum and water spots from ceramic tiles by mixing 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup ammonia, and 1/4 cup borax into 1 gallon warm water. Rinse well with cool water and let air-dry.
  • My experience has been that when deodorizing laundry, if baking soda doesn’t help, then vinegar will. Add a cup or so either to the wash or rinse cycle. Vinegar may also eliminate the need for fabric softener, depending on the chemistry of your water supply.
  • Make a simple and effective fruit fly trap by punching a hole with a nail in the center of the lid of an old jam jar, pouring in an inch or so of apple cider vinegar and replacing the lid. Flies will be drawn to the fragrance and crawl in, but be unable to find the hole again to exit.


Note: Do not use vinegar on granite countertops, computer or device screens, unglazed iron or aluminum and never mix with bleach-containing products as you will create chlorine gas!