Planning Ahead for Preserving

It seems like it would be putting the cart before the horse to think about canning already.  Really, there is still some snow on the ground around here.  However, I want to be “putting food by” this year so I need to be planning ahead of planting.  If I put some thought into what we would like to be eating next winter and how we will preserve that food, I should plan what that food will be (and how much) so I can plant appropriately.

I expect to improve my skills at freezing and dehydrating this year.  As for canning, I have never canned, so I can’t really improve skills I don’t have.  But we will be canning this year.  I didn’t put up any tomatoes last year even though I had a huge crop – and by huge, I mean WAY more than we could consume.  I regret not canning all of those tomatoes, especially in the middle of winter.

If you haven’t thought about canning, you should.  I think it is an important part of self-sufficiency.  It should help you reduce your reliance on the grocery store and what you spend there.  It is also a dying art.  I recall both of my grandmothers and my mother canning every year.  My parents had an enormous garden and we ate its bounty throughout the year.  But my wife does not can, nor was she taught this art by her mother; something that previous generations had passed on.  In fact, most of the women I know do not can, nor do they know how.  And why should they?  Food is plentiful at the store.

But what happens when the day comes that food is not plentiful at the store, or money is tight, or both?  Should you be relying on outside systems for your daily nutritional needs?  I would argue that it is just plain foolhardy to put off learning any longer.

I will be picking up a copy of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, considered the Bible of preserving by some (or most?).  I was also considering a copy of Putting Food By by Janet Greene.

If you are looking for more information on preserving, canning, freezing, and dehydrating, definitely check out Ball’s site freshpreserving.com.  It has a lot of information, resources, recipes, ideas, and also some crafts.

And if you intend to can this year, start thinking about what you will be preserving.  You’ll need to plan your planting accordingly.

How to find cheap gas

Paramount to the agrarian lifestyle is frugality.  Avoid debt, don’t buy new when used will do, make what you can yourself.  In other words, be a good steward of your money.  This applies to gas as well.  But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to drive around town looking to save a nickel finding the cheapest gas since that in and of itself is using up gas.  That’s being penny wise but pound foolish.

That’s where Gas Buddy comes in (http://gasbuddy.com).  I’ve noted Gas Buddy before on one of my other blogs.  It’s a great network of sites that can help you find the lowest gas prices in your local area without driving around wasting gas doing it.

GasBuddy.com can help you find cheap gas prices in your city. It is a network of more than 181+ gas price information websites that help you find low gasoline prices. All web sites are operated by GasBuddy and has the most comprehensive listings of gas prices anywhere.

Gasoline prices change frequently and may vary by as much as 20 percent within only a few blocks. It’s important to be able find the service station with the lowest priced fuel. GasBuddy web sites allow motorists to share information about low priced fuel with others as well as target the lowest priced stations to save money when filling up at the pumps!

Since I wrote about Gas Buddy, they have added Gas Buddy Mobile.  This is a great tool!  If you are like me, you don’t really think about checking gas prices online before you go somewhere.  I tend to think about gas prices when I am already in the car and looking at the fuel gauge.  Now you can check local gas prices on your mobile phone using either a mobile web browser, text message, or email.  I have added this to my favorites and use it often.  (If you are an iPhone user, they have an app for that as well.)

Homemade Gas (Biodiesel and Ethanol)

When talking about self-sufficiency and zero inputs, the thoughts of most folks turn to organic farming, composting, natural growing methods, and raising your own food. But what about your energy inputs? If you run a vehicle or a tractor, what do you fuel it with.

The thought of fuel inputs has been on my mind as I think about how I can become more self-sufficient. This has been especially on my mind after last year’s run-up in gas prices. We have become so reliant on outside sources of energy that any disruption in that supply could threaten life as we know it.

Biodiesel

How about making your own fuel at home? Great!

For about 70c/gallon? Even better!

Freedom Fuel America is the place to shop for your own setup. I’ve also found these courses on making your own biodiesel fuel at home:

Also, check out biodiesel.org and journeytoforever.org.

Ethanol

Another consideration is Ethanol. I have been looking at the E85 fuels which are quite interesting. E85 is an 85% grain based ethanol blend. While cars and trucks that use the E85 don’t seem to get any better gas mileage, I believe the cost of operation coupled with the cleaner burning fuel make for a popular combination. Add in that mass implementation would make us more energy independent, and you might have a winner.

I know that Ethanol has gotten a bad rap in the media – mainly it has been painted out as a government boondoggle because of subsidies to producers.  While government intervention is not a good thing, the bad press given to ethanol has made people turn away from an otherwise good thing.

I don’t want to get into a debate on ethanol fuel here, but rather point out that brewing your own alcohol based fuel is real alternative for the homemade energy enthusiast. An E85 vehicle is already equipped for you to run an 85% blend of alcohol without modification. All you really need to do is brew the alcohol. This can be done with a home-based still, and as long as you license it accordingly with the BATFE, it is quite legal (Go to the BATFE web site to download form TTB F 5110.74 – Application for an Alcohol Fuel Producer Under 26 U.S.C. 5181). You may even qualify for a tax break on the fuel you produce.

If you would like to learn about making your own ethanol, here is a place to start.

Get additional information on E85 at www.e85fuel.com and the US DOE here.