A Working Rain-Collection System

Recently, I received these pictures from Troy Cormier who built a working rain-collection system.  His system has a capacity of 10 barrels as well as a built-in water level gauge.

 This picture shows that main inspiration for the modified system below.
(Click any picture to enlarge) 

 A raised frame for the barrels.  

You can see the drilled holes for the PVC that will capture the water from the bottoms of the barrels.  Troy adds, "The main structure is 6x6 posts with 2x12 cross beams at the bottom and 2x10 cross beams at the tops.  There is no cement on the 6x6 posts, but they are at least 3 feet in the ground."

This is the rain capture system connected into the home's rain gutter.

Another angle.

All of the barrels and the water drains beneath. 

 A closer view of the pipes under the deck.

 A multipurpose hose spigot and larger drain.

 These two photos and diagram show the water gauge, built so the owner doesn't have to always open the barrels to find out how full they are.

Some answers from Troy:

How long does it take to fill all 10 buckets?   
A light rain can take 24 to 48 hours of rain to fill, a good heavy rain 12 to 24 hours.  That is with only about 12 to 14 feet of gutter.  I have plans to add 20 to 30 feet more of gutters to cut the time down even more..

What do you use the water for?
Gardening.  Where I live they charge for every $1 of water used, a $2 sewage charge - so a $100 water bill will be a $200 sewage bill with a total bill of $300.

How long could the water last if you start from full capacity?
I guess it depends on the size of the garden and what you want to use the water for.  I have a small garden, two 4x8 beds.  It went 2 to 2.5  weeks without raining this summer and i was just about out of water when it rained again.

Troy adds:  Remember one thing when building - water weighs a lot!   8.34 lbs a gallon.  My system is 550 gallons that makes a full system 4587lbs!!  

Thank you, Troy, for sharing your rain-collection system with us! 


Elder Bednar's Remarks on Food Storage

Not much was said during the October sessions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' General Conference on Food Storage.  But Elder Bednar made a quick comment that I thought I would share:

" For decades the Church has taught its membership the principle of setting aside additional food, fuel, and money to take care of emergencies that might arise. The Church as an institution simply follows the same principles that are taught repeatedly to the members."


Food Expiration Dates

This is a recent story that I've seen run by several news outlets on food expiration dates:

The bottom line is that most dates stamped on packages are just a guess of when products will be at their highest quality.  Most can be used far beyond the recommended date stamped on the package.  There are three exceptions to this.  Meat, dairy and formula have expiration dates that should be observed (they will say "exp." on the label).  Otherwise, in some cases, the products will be good for years beyond the "best by" or "sell by" dates.

A quote: "Broad Leib (lead author of the study from Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic) said food can be totally safe well past the date, from cereal to salad dressing, even eggs. She said "use by" or "sell by" dates on a product have "nothing to do with safety at all. It's just a manufacturer's best guess of when that food is going to be the freshest and at the best quality."

Another quote:  "According to countless food safety experts, the National Food Lab, there's not been a single instance of food-borne illness or food poisoning linked with people eating food after that date," Broad Leib said."


Storing Water

This is a great blog post by Misty that is worth sharing.  She and her family did a trial-run and used only her stored water for 48 hours.  She learned some great things!  Also read the comments below her post.  There are some great ideas there.

Link: http://www.yourownhomestore.com/living-without-running-water/


Finding Storage Items in your Current Menu

Ed and Myrna wanted to start working on their three-month supply.  They understood the basic concepts, but it just didn't seem like the food they ate could be stored easily.  They liked fresh green salads for dinner and fruit for breakfast.  They wanted to continue to eat this way, but were concerned that they couldn't store these foods. 

A challenge?  Yes!  But I haven't met a menu yet that didn't have options for easily-stored items once you broke it down.  A common misconception is that in order to rotate through storage items, you have to eat only the meals you have planned for in your storage.  This is definitely not the case!  You should eat normally and incorporate storage items into your diet as you would typically.  Your three-month supply plan does not become your new menu. 

Here are some examples from Ed and Myrna's situation:  Ed and Myrna are elderly with grandchildren that live locally.  For breakfast, they typically eat granola with fresh fruit and yogurt.  Once a week, their grandchildren come for breakfast and they share pancakes.  Ed and Myrna can store pancake mix, syrup, and granola in their breakfast plan.  They can store several gallons of milk in their freezer.  If the need arose for them to use their three-month supply, they would just continue eating granola and pancakes, both of which are part of their regular daily diet.  Ed regularly makes a great cobbler cake that calls for canned fruit so they store a little extra of that canned fruit to be used for breakfast fruit.  Even if Ed only makes that cake infrequently, they will be able to rotate through their supply of canned fruit before the cans reach their expiration dates.  They would prefer the fresh fruit, but if it isn't available, they'll have a rotatable option.  The pancake mix, granola, canned fruit, and syrup are all part of their regular diet and will be used and rotated before expiration dates.

For lunch, they like to have sandwiches.  They mostly use store-purchased bread and wraps.  Loaves of bread, tortillas and pita bread can easily be stored in their freezer.  Lettuce and tomatoes are not storage friendly and there really isn't a good alternative.  But both Ed & Myrna would be okay with cheese and meat.  Lunch meat and pre-sliced cheese can also be frozen and rotated.  Besides the frozen deli meat, they also keep canned chicken and tuna fish, which are types of sandwiches they sometimes have.  Myrna likes to bake, so they also store flour, sugar, salt, and yeast that can be make into bread or wraps.  They also store mayo, mustard, fruit juice, bags of chips and jars of pickles (all of which they already eat). 

As I mentioned earlier, they like to eat salads for dinner.  Storing salad greens is not an option.  A garden would provide some fresh greens, but they'll have to think beyond the salads.  Sometimes Ed & Myrna have soup and bread sticks with their salads.  Other nights they'll slice several breasts of chicken onto their salads.  On Sundays they usually have something different.  They'll eat a roast and potatoes, chicken burritos, or crock-pot chicken.  Their three-month supply dinner menu could include soups, chicken breasts, as well as their Sunday-evening rotations.  That would means storing chicken (frozen or canned), roasts (frozen or canned), soup supplies including beans and broth, spices, tortillas and salsa.  They can also store canned and frozen vegetables as well as salad garnishes like croutons.  In a situation where it is necessary to eat from their three-month supply, they might not be eating salads every night, but they will have food stored that they already regularly eat.  By incorporating these meals into their normal menu occasionally (like they were anyway), they'll be able to rotate through their food before hitting expiration dates.

Of course, one of the most important and easiest-to-store items is a cookie mix or ingredients to make cookies.  Ed stores these items as well as the supplies for his often-made cobbler cake. 

Ed & Myrna are actually fictional, but represent some of the typical issues that I've encountered.  Many of your personal menus are already very storage friendly.  Items like cereal, peanut butter & jelly, taco soup, burritos, pasta dishes (spaghetti, mac & cheese, alfredo), beans and rice, and chicken salad are items from my own menu rotations that are also extraordinarily easy to store.  If you think your menu can't be adapted, you might be surprised.  Ed & Myrna were.  :o)


Peach Juice

I've been processing food from my garden over the past month.  We've had an abundance of yummy food.  I finally figured out that boiling green beans on the stove-top is always superior to cooking them in the microwave (as demonstrated by my husband).  We've also been enjoying a bumper crop of cucumbers which I've served almost every night for dinner.  They are particularly good when chilled.

I tried an experiment this year.  We've had so many peaches.  So I tried juicing some in my steam juicer.  I followed the same process that I use when I juice grapes (link here: http://iprepared.blogspot.com/2010/10/canning-grape-juice.html).   The picture above shows the result.  I was so surprised to see the jars fill up with this candy-red colored juice.  It is NOT what I expected.  

Peach juice is interesting.  It has a rich peach smell mixed with a little bit of stinky feet.  I haven't tasted any out of these bottles, but after pulling all the juice I could, I did stir the peaches at the end and was able to pull one last quart.  It was pink and full of debris instead of red and clear like these jars.  I drank some and just couldn't get past the stinky-feet smell/taste.  As I discussed it with my husband, we realized that you don't often find peach juice on its own.  Usually it's in a blend or is spiced like a cider.  So we tried it with a little cinnamon and it made all the difference.  I think we're going to have some yummy spiced peach cider this fall!

Have you ever juiced peaches?  Did you drink it straight or blend it with another juice?  Have you tried a peach cider?


Home Canning

Here are some great sources to use as you do your home canning this fall:

Utah - Guide to Home Canning
Arizona - Home Canning (below 2000 ft.)
USDA - Complete Guide To Home Canning
National Center for Home Food Preservation  

And a great article on the benefits of home canning as well as a recap on updated best practices:


Great Utah ShakeOut

The Great Utah ShakeOut happens tomorrow at 10:15!

It would be great if we could all have warning that an earthquake is going to happen.  And for this practice, you do!  Sign up here if you haven't already.

From the site:
The ShakeOut Drill is scheduled for 10:15 AM on April 17, 2012. This means that wherever you are at that moment—at home, at work, at school, anywhere—you should Drop, Cover, and Hold On as if there were a major earthquake occurring at that very moment, and stay in this position for at least 60 seconds. There will not be any freeway closures, power outages, or other simulated effects of the hypothetical earthquake, unless your local government or utility company specifically notifies you about something of this nature. The ShakeOut is not something you need to leave work to participate in—in fact, participating at work is encouraged! Businesses, organizations, schools, and government agencies can register and have their employees practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On or have a more extensive emergency drill.

Go here for so many other resources including videos and instructions:


BYU studies on food storage

Did you know that researchers at BYU are actively studying the storage lives of dry food products? Recently, they determined that we can store certain food products for much longer than originally presumed.2 This is great news for those of us working on our longer-term storage. It means much less stress about quick rotation.

Here is a list of the recommended storage life1,3 for many common home storage products (stored in ideal conditions):

Wheat, hard red - 30+
Wheat, hard white - 30+
White rice - 30+
Corn - 30+
Oats, quick - 30
Oats, regular - 30
Rolled oats - 30
Pasta - 30
Macaroni - 30
Spaghetti - 30
Flour, white - 10+
Pancake mix - very limited

Black beans - 30
Pinto beans - 30
White beans - 30
Refried beans, powdered - 5+

Non-fat powdered milk - 20
Cocoa Mix - 2+
Fruit drink mix - 2+
Sugar -30+

Potato flakes - 30
Potato pearls - very limited
Apple slices - 30
Dehydrated carrots - 20 to 25
Onions, dry - 30

Remember that the long storage life of these products depended upon correct packing techniques. In almost every case, BYU researchers were testing food that had been stored in #10 cans with oxygen absorbers. Best tasting products resulted from storage in a cool, dark, dry place in #10 cans with adequate seams.

If you would like to explore these studies yourself, here is a link to all of the BYU research studies:

Additional Sources:
2 - Home storage lasts 30 years or more. (LDS Church News - 1/19/2008)

Photo Source:
Copyrighted by blog author. Please do not repost without permission.


Emergency Kits & Plans for Kids

This is a fabulous, well-worth-your-time read on Parents.com.  The post was written by Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician mother who describes her emergency kits and plans for her kids.  She has a lot of great ideas.

I thought her idea of writing a letter to her son (to keep on file at his school in case of an emergency), was particularly smart.  She included it on page three of the article.

Here is the direct link:  http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/emergency-preparedness/

More on kids & preparedness:
School Preparedness - http://iprepared.blogspot.com/2009/01/school-preparedness.html
Family Home Evening on Emergency Preparedness - http://iprepared.blogspot.com/2009/09/family-home-evening-earthquake-scenario.html