Prepper Garden Update

Growing your own food is hard work, but can be fun and rewarding at the same time.  You haven’t tasted fresh until you’ve eaten strawberries or blueberries you picked right from the garden and what’s more self-sufficient than growing your own food? So with that being said I thought I would give you a little update on how our first real go at gardening is progressing.

buckets 1

buckets 2

The strawberries continue to produce (slowly), but the blueberries have run their course for the year.

beans

The beans and peas are running; watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumbers are flowering and putting on babies.  The seedlings we started inside seem to be doing well in the containers we keep on the deck.

buckets 3

The crows once again decimated the corn that we planted, but who would have thought you could actually grow some in containers?!?!? That plot will be reseeded as a second crop of green beans.

corn

The apple and peach trees we planted last month seem to have rooted well and are putting on new growth, however it’s too early to know if we’ll actually get anything off them this year.

peaches

Our little patch of carrots and radishes in the past has always been little more than a buffet for the many rabbits in the area. However, this little girl prowling the yard seems to have put an end to this problem.

Boo

We have a second wave of seedlings we’ve started inside that we need to get planted by the end of the week and we’ve started broccoli and cauliflower in trays on the deck. We’re hoping that if we keep adding new seedlings as the season progresses we can extend our harvest further into the fall.

peppers

That’s all here; hope you’re all having a great summer!

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

Happy prepping!

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First Fruits of the Season

Maybe its just me, but I always get excited when the garden finally produces those first long-awaited fruits and veggies.

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We’ve had a few strawberries, some kale, lettuce and a few radishes so far, but we’ve never had success with blueberries before. Maybe, just maybe, this year will turn out ok after all.

Buckets 2017

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

Saving $$$ with Solar

Just a little update on our off-grid solar project: the electric bill arrived yesterday and…drum roll please…last month was $205, this month is $122. Now, with changes in the weather from April to May this isn’t a true comparison, so when looking at our bill for the same period last year (yes, I keep all that) it was $193. That’s $6.01 per day last year vs. $3.84 a day this year: a 36% reduction or a savings of $71.00. This was a result of switching to LED lights, unplugging unused devices and running some items on solar power only. If you’ve been following the blog you know that for this period of time we were still only running 2 100ah batteries and 4 100 watt solar panels compared to the 3 100ah batteries and 8 100 watt panels that make up our current configuration. We have now added our chest freezer and coffee pot to the list of ‘solar power only’ items so next month should give us a much clearer picture of how much we can save and how quickly we can recover our costs. In case you are new to the site, we set out to create an off-grid solar back up for emergencies, the cost savings is just a bonus.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

Spring Fever! Update

I know I’m not the only one excited that spring has finally arrived and we’re working to make the most of it. The ability to grow at least some of your own food, in my humble opinion, is a big part of being prepared. To be more self sufficient (and healthier) growing fruits and vegetables is as basic as you get; what’s more basic to survival than food?

One problem we’ve run into this year was ‘where to put all these seedlings?’ They were literally everywhere! So I did break down and finally complete a project I’ve been talking about for a couple of years – window shelves. A couple of 1×12’s from Home Depot as well as shelf brackets, drywall screws, anchors some stain and problem solved – at least for now.

 Shelves

Shelves 2

We did finally get some fruit trees planted, 2 apple and 4 peach of different varieties. Transplanted 3 blueberry bushes into buckets, more strawberries into containers, and began transplanting some of these seedlings! Whew! Hoping the garden spots will be dry enough to begin planting today.

Peach

What are you working on?

Oh, and as a side note, with a few supplies left over from the shelving project I was able to complete this little job, because it isn’t ALL about food.

AR

We were finally able to get into the garden spots for a day and were able to get 2 of them planted. Rows of green beans, peas, and hills of cucumbers, yellow squash, watermelon and cantaloupe hopefully are still resting where they were planted as the rain has once again moved into the area. We did get 15 containers of bell peppers and 5 more containers of strawberries transplanted as well as rooting a couple cuttings of grapes. Hope you all are enjoying a prosperous spring!

Have a great day and happy spring!

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

Cutting the Cord

Part of the journey to a more sustainable and self-reliant life is eliminating unnecessary expenses. Analyze your spending and eliminate the fat; we’ve gone through this exercise several times over the years and we always find something that can go. One of the biggest ‘luxury’ items people spend money on is cable TV. Remember when TV was free? The average American is now paying $64 a month just for basic cable, not to mention all the add-on movie channels, sports channels or just expanded basic; I personally know someone who pays $230 a month for cable they rarely watch!

Time to cut the cord folks; YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc., can replace most of your TV watching for a fraction of the cost. How many channels are you paying for that you never watch? If you’re ok with wasting money, fine, but literally hundreds of thousands of others have dumped cable with many more to come. I know, some of you will insist that you have to have that local TV news, but even if that’s a priority for you, are you paying for other services you aren’t using? Some folks have gone back to putting an antenna on their house to pick up free broadcast HD TV (you do need a special antenna and converter box or HD ready TV to watch).

Still have a land-line? Seriously? Even my elderly parents have moved on to cell phones. When was the last time you even used that thing?

We cut the cord 2 years ago and never looked back. Not only are we saving money, we actually spend less time watching movies and more time actually talking to each other. What a concept!

If you found this helpful you might also enjoy a few of my other articles:

Starting 2017 off broke? Try these 12 money saving tips

Financial Prepping

Prepping on a budget

Breaking a bad habit!

Credit, Credit, Credit: Too Much or Not Enough?

Growing Your Own Food

We all need to eat right? Why not at least supplement your diet with healthy homegrown fruits and veggies while reducing your grocery bill? How many of you have plants in your home or a flower garden in the yard? Why not use at least some of that space for growing edibles? My wife has a very green thumb when it comes to raising ornamentals both inside and out, but our gardening efforts have met with mixed results. This year, with better planning and execution, we hope will be more productive.

Gardens, raised beds, containers – yes, all of the above.

We built a new 8’ x 16’ raised bed last year that proved to be far more productive than our traditional garden spot as it was easier to care for – fewer weeds to pull and still accessible when the ground was wet. We plan on adding at least one more bed of the same size this year; one will be primarily melons while the other will be squash and cucumbers.  

Our container garden (52 buckets) was the most productive for us last year so we plan to expand that to at least 100 – crazy right? The great thing about container gardening is you don’t have to have good soil or even a lot of space; you can have a couple on your porch, deck or balcony. You can grow a tomato or two, or like us you can grow a whole crop of them. We primary grow tomatoes, blueberries and a variety of peppers in our buckets, but we did do some lettuce, kale and spinach all with some success. Note: buying that many buckets can get expensive, but sometimes you can get them from a local restaurant for free. The local donut shop I frequent sells them for $2 each and often times just gives them to me for free.

We have 3 other ‘traditional’ garden spots that we’ve been working for the last couple of years with mixed results. The soil is rocky and very acidic. We’ve been steadily working to improve the soil by adding organic material from our compost pile and spreading lime to balance out the Ph. Two of the spots will be primarily beans and peas while the other will be sweet corn; we’ve yet to have any success with corn, but try, try again.

Finally, we are attempting to grow strawberries in hanging baskets and blueberries, lettuce, kale and spinach in planters inside our home. Our past attempts at growing any kind of berries only led to a well fed bird population.

We hope you will share your gardening tips and tricks with us.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping.

Solar Power: The Elusive Goal

Lowering your bills, living off the grid, being more self-reliant; all require the ability to use less energy while possibly producing some of your own. As part of our prepper journey and desire to escape the rat race we have been researching solar and wind energy – to a frustrating end. Hundreds of sources, kits of all sizes, from small stand alone systems to recharge your laptop to whole house systems costing 10’s of thousands of dollars – confusing at best.

Setting the goal; our primary goal is to reduce our bills by lowering our use while having some energy backup other than gas/propane generators and heaters. Here in the South we get plenty of sun and wind, but finding the right way to harness it without going into the poor house is a completely different story. We are looking for stand alone power, as opposed to grid tied, which lowers the cost and complexity a great deal. We would like to be able to run a PC, wireless router, and a couple of small LED lights on a regular basis, while having the option of running a small heater in a power outage. If any of you are on this journey, your input would be greatly appreciated.

This video depicts what is probably the most basic low cost system (around $150), but its benefits are very limited. Note: this system also comes without a battery or inverter.

Here is another video installing this same unit: better use, but the installation seems a little sloppy.

 

We are currently debating between a couple of starter systems based on their reviews and cost. Every system we’ve looked at has something else you will need to purchase in addition to the system and of course the batteries.

Here’s another helpful video we found:

To be perfectly honest, the more I read and watch the more confused I become.

Home Depot offers several starter kits ranging from $235 to about $1300; Amazon offers several similar systems. At this point we’re leaning towards a Grape Solar 200 watt starter kit from Home Depot for $577. Amazon offers the same system for $461, but without the inverter. Batteries will obviously increase the initial cost depending on what you buy. We will update this post when the system is up and running. We will also be exploring some wind energy options in the future so stay tuned!

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

If any of you have useful links or advice we are certainly open to suggestions.