WELCOME ALL SUBSCRIBERS to Volume 7 of Author Raymond Dean White's Newsletter.
Still more on the Name Book 3 Contest:
As many of you know I'm hard at work on Book 3 of the Dying Time Trilogy. My tentative working title is The Dying Time Reprised, but I'd like to change that to something better and that's where you come in.
I am holding a Name Book 3 Contest to get your suggestions for both the title and the cover art. The winner gets a character named after them in Book 3. You can choose if you want your character to be a good guy or bad guy. Due to a very limited response the contest winner will be announced either late this summer or early fall to allow for other entrantries.
I am also open to suggestion regarding plot development and in particular the best and most just way to get rid of Joseph Scarlatti.
One reader has suggested I start publishing shorter tales set in the world of The Dying Time, featuring characters from the first two books or even from the still in progress third book. It would be a way for you to stay engaged with The Dying Time while I build the third book. I'd like to know what you think. Would you like to learn more about Raoul and Sara Garcia's flight to freedom? Want more particulars about Otha and Dikeme's journey across post-Impact America? How about the time Michael Whitebear was treed by a bull moose? Want to learn more about characters on the ISS or who live under the sea in Aqua Nova?
These tales would probably run 40-60 pages and be priced at $.99 and I'm seriously hoping you will tell me if you like this idea or not.
Feel free to email me direct or use the contact link on my website.
New subscribers who have missed previous editions of my Newsletter can find the past volumes on my website www.RaymondDeanWhite.com by clicking the Newsletter link.
After The Dying Time (Book Two in The Dying Time Trilogy) is now available.
I've hit a snag with the CreateSpace (print versions) of the books but hope to have them resolved shortly.
And now for more of that Prepper content I've been delivering to you. This is an excerpt from a non-fiction book I'm working on titled:
BUGGING IN: WHAT TO DO WHEN TSHTF and YOU LIVE IN SUBURBIA by Raymond Dean White
Food: Part Two
What do I do when I run out of stored foods?
Hopefully, well before you exhaust your stored supplies you will have fresh foods coming in from growing your own in your house or your garden, from foraging, hunting, or fishing.
Yeah, I know. Hunting opportunities will be severely limited if you live in Suburbia as the neighbors will undoubtedly take a dim view of you eating their cats and dogs. But there are other resources, even in the city. Squirrels, some rabbits, rats and larger birds such as pigeons can be sources of protein. Uh-huh, I said rats and pigeons. They may sound pretty disgusting now but when your are starving…
The easiest way to get excellent nutrition quickly is Sprouts. I love alfalfa, broccoli, cabbage, radish, and clover sprouts on salads and sandwiches. I enjoy sprouts from mung beans, peas, adzuki beans, lentils, wheat, fenugreek and triticale on salads and sandwiches, but I also put the beans and peas in stir-fry.
The best part about sprouts is you can be eating them in as few as two to five days.
Just get a clean jar, some cheesecloth and a canning ring. Place from ½ teaspoon to ¼ cup of seeds in the jar (amount varies with type of seed and size of jar) and cover them with water overnight. In the morning cover the jar opening with cheesecloth and secure it with the canning ring, then drain the water out, rinse the seeds with fresh water and drain again. Sit the jar somewhere out of direct sunlight--a dark area like a closet or under a counter is best. Rinse the sprouts twice a day. In very little time you’ll have fresh, nutritious, vitamin and anti-oxidant packed food.
When doing alfalfa sprouts I will set them in sunlight on my kitchen counter for a few hours to finish them off by greening them up--that’s after they have grown long enough to eat. So far, my favorite seed mixes come from Life Sprouts or Sprout People, but I’ve started buying the seeds and mixing my own recipes.
Also, easy to grow, in a cool, dark place, are mushrooms. This is not something I’ve done since my wife refuses to eat mushrooms. But as a kid I used harvest morels from inside our huge lilac bushes. Mom would fry them in butter. I’m getting a craving just writing about it. If you’re interested, here’s a YouTube video.
Even in suburbia there are native edible plants--and note I said edible, not palatable. Dandelion, nettles and other “weeds” come to mind. If you live amid oak forests you can leach acorns and grind them up to make a sort of flour (nut meal is probably a more appropriate term). In the southern parts of the country pecan and walnut trees can be found. Berries of all types can be had for the picking.
There have been hundreds of books written on this subject. My favorites are:
Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Wild Edible Plants by Samuel Thayer
While it is possible, if you know what you are doing and have developed the required skills ahead of time, to forage successfully for food, I don’t put much stock in it being a long term survival strategy.
And as for the desert, I understand mesquite seeds can be ground into flour and prickly pear fruits are quite tasty once you get past thorns and glochids (practically microscopic thorns that produce an irritant--as if getting stuck wasn’t bad enough). The pads of prickly pear are edible as well. In fact, Nopal, means tuna in Spanish and both the fruits and pads are common in Mexican markets. And I know native people roasted yucca roots, but come on, trying to live off nature’s bounty in a desert is a quick way to get dead.
Developing foraging skills takes time and effort and will be of limited effectiveness in suburbia. This pretty much means you need to be able to grow your own food and that means gardening.
I’m going to keep this section simple. There have been hundreds if not thousands of entire books written on this subject and none of them are worth a damn unless you go out and get your hands dirty. Nothing teaches gardening like doing it. In fact, the best gardening quote I ever heard was, “The best time to learn gardening was thirty years ago.” That’s because it takes time to learn how to garden successfully, to discover the best varieties of seeds for your particular microclimate and to develop and maintain your soil.
Still, there are some basics. Hybrid crops do not breed true therefore you can’t save seeds from them for future crops. Heirloom varieties do breed true. So do open pollinated (OP) types (which are basically heirlooms that aren’t old enough to be classed as such). For the sake of brevity I will use the term heirloom to include open pollinated varieties.
All have their advantages. Hybrids are often resistant to diseases or insects that can decimate heirlooms. Hybrids can outperform heirlooms in terms of yield, especially in marginal weather. Hybrids will often store longer after harvest. Heirlooms often have superior flavor. Most, if not all, heirlooms are non-GMO, which I like since I don’t want frog or microbial DNA in my corn. Heirlooms breed true and are the only plants to have if you plan on having a long term, sustainable garden.
You need a seed bank. This isn’t complicated. Mine consists of ziplock baggies full of seed packets and old pill bottles full of saved seeds. Baggies and pill bottles are stored in the bottom drawer of my fridge. Some advocate keeping them in the freezer but the fridge has worked well for me for the past seven years. The baggies and bottles are labeled with the specific variety of seeds inside as well as the date they were saved or purchased.
I’d strongly suggest you have both hybrid and heirloom or open pollinated seeds in your survival seed bank. Why? Because if you aren’t an experienced gardener with intimate knowledge of your local growing conditions you may need hybrid vigor to get your first crop in.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong believer and practitioner of growing heirloom vegetables and saving seed for your next crop. It’s sustainable and cheap, since you don’t have to buy seed every year or depend upon a seed store for your supply.
The other advantage to heirlooms is you can shape them to your local environment. Right now, February 2, 2015, I have de Ciccio broccoli growing in one of my raised beds. Remember, this is NW Arizona at about 3,700 feet elevation. While we do occasionally get down into the teens our normal lows are in the high twenties during a bad winter. But I digress.
My broccoli is ready to harvest. Actually I’ve already had a few harvests off of it since de Ciccio is one of those types that if you cut off it’s head it develops lots of side shoots. Now one of those plants, the largest and healthiest, is going to bloom. I will let it go to seed, save the seed and next fall I will plant that seed. I will again let the largest and healthiest plant go to seed. Repeat ad infinitum. The result is that within a very few years I’ll have a strain of de Ciccio broccoli that is specifically bred for my microclimate.
On the other hand I’m still looking for an heirloom carrot that will produce a good crop so each year I try a few different varieties. This year it’s nantes, touchon, and muscade. All are growing but none are thriving. What is thriving is my old standby, that I plant every year. It’s a hybrid called Short n Sweet. Eventually I will find an heirloom carrot as good and healthy as Short n Sweet but it is a process of trial and error, which is why you need to start honing your gardening skills NOW!
Here are some links to great places to get heirloom seeds:
http://www.underwoodgardens.com Also known as Terrior Seeds. Good folks with many excellent varieties for SW Desert gardeners, but also others.
http://shop.nativeseeds.org/pages/seeds They also have info on seed saving--another skill that takes time to learn.
http://www.rareseeds.com Actually Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
There are numerous other quality seed suppliers out there. Try to find one in your locale as they are most likely to have the seeds that will do well in your garden.
Raised Beds Rule
Raised beds work especially well in desert climates or in areas where there is nothing to plant in but rock (also common in desert environments). A lot of books say you only need four inches of soil in a raised bed but I disagree. My raised beds are ten to twelve inches deep, filled with well-amended soil so they stay moist longer once watered. Of course mulch helps keep soil moist also but I’ve found that dense plantings of leafy crops shades the soil so well it inhibits evaporation and helps control weeds. Still, I use weed free straw mulch whenever I can get it as it does a great job of controlling weeds and holding moisture in the soil. When added to my compost pile along with kitchen scraps and fallen leaves it decomposes into excellent compost.
Warning, if you have gophers or moles or other burrowing critters you can keep them out of your raised beds by lining the sides of your frame and the bottom with two offset layers of 1” chicken wire.
I built my raised bed frames out of landscape timbers, lined the inside with six mil plastic to prevent rot from damp soil, installed the chicken wire gopher/pack rat barrier on the bottom and sides and then filled it with heavily amended soil.
To keep out rabbits I put up a three-foot tall chicken wire fence around each raised bed. Then to keep out the Gambrel Quail I built a hoop house out of ¾” Schedule 40 PVC and covered the whole garden with bird-netting. In the late fall when the temps threaten to drop below freezing I remove the netting and cover the hoops with six mil plastic.
As I write this it’s February 10, 2015, and I have four varieties of lettuce, two of kale, broccoli, carrots, turnips, beets, snap peas, onions, garlic and spinach growing in those hoop houses. The iceberg lettuce I planted last fall is supposed to be a head lettuce but only one plant formed a head. Following my homestead selective breeding plan I’m letting that one go to seed and saving it for next year.
Update. It’s now March 27, 2015, and the de Ciccio broccoli has gone to seed and from the looks of it I’ll have about a bazillion seeds so I’ll save some for re-planting this fall and use some as sprouts. All of the lettuce varieties I planted with the exception of Red Salad Bowl (an heirloom that often lasts until June) have also gone to seed. My Boule d’Or, Purple Top White Globe turnips and Detroit Dark Red beets have also been allowed to go to seed. Kale is still going strong, as are my carrots, snap peas, onions and garlic. On March 21, I planted a Mortgage Lifter tomato (I cheated and got this plant from a local nursery) and a few rows of Golden Improved Wax beans. I will plant Goldmine Wax beans in mid-April along with most other summer crops.
To date Scarlett Nantes is the clear winner in the heirloom carrot category, being by far the most reliable and productive of all the heirlooms I’ve planted. I’ll keep trying but this is the one I’ll let go to seed this year. I may have gotten a bad package of seed for the Touchon carrots. The package said they were fresh but the germination rate was terrible. Same for the Muscade.
Garden update: It is now May 30, 2015, and I’ve harvested my first crop of Golden Improved Wax beans, lots of carrots, more kale than I could use, a few Yukon Gold potato volunteers left over from last year and some onions.
I’ve planted cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, more beans, squash and corn.
For the first time in seven years we’ll be getting a bumper crop of white flesh nectarines and Santa Rosa plums. Our Anna apple, though only two years old has about a dozen fine big apples ripening on it and my Bonanza peach tree is as usual full of fruit that should be ripe in about two more weeks. Time to break out the canning supplies and get busy.
No matter how good or bad your soil is your crops can benefit from much. Here in the desert it’s almost a necessity as it helps hold moisture in the soil, saving water and placing less stress on plants. When plants are young it helps to shelter them from our harsh, drying winds.
My wife and I use three types of mulch. On our fruit trees and berry bushes we use tree bark mulch. It’s long lasting, doesn’t blow away in our winds and keeps the soil cooler in our fierce summers and warmer in our mild winters--though all decent mulches do that.
I use weed free straw I get from a local feed store for my strawberry beds and in most of my other raised beds. The straw decomposes over the long growing season and when I put the summer gardens to bed it goes into the compost pile and enriches the garden the following year. Sometimes we have to put bird netting over the straw to keep it from blowing away. I just cut holes in the netting when I plant crops.
We use a silvery mylar-type mulch in our tomato beds and I’m seriously thinking about expanding its use to other raised beds as well. The reflective mulch seems to confuse insect pests that normally like to hide on the underside of leaves. In our experience confused insect pests go elsewhere and leave our tomatoes alone. We still get an occasional hornworm but they are easily handpicked. This mulch keeps the ground even cooler than straw and is better at helping the soil retain moisture. The drawbacks are it’s a bit expensive and isn’t something I’ll be able to get hold of after TSHTF. Nonetheless, it works great and helps us improve our yields. It is also reuseable for more than one season if you clean it off--otherwise it gets dirty and loses its reflective quality. Here’s a link if you’re interested. The lady who runs the Sweet Tomato Test Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a fount of desert gardening wisdom, and it was from her we learned of this product.
It doesn’t matter how great your seeds are if your soil is bad. I’ve gardened in SE Kansas where you basically threw seeds out onto the deep black fertile ground, did a bit of weeding and insect control and harvest bounteous crops with little effort. No need for irrigation as it rained plenty. Most folks aren’t that lucky.
Gardening in Colorado was a real challenge, not because of the length of the growing season. That was fine. Heavy clay soils, however, suck. It took me three years of adding compost, sand and peat to my garden plot to get soil that was at all productive. After seven years the soil had changed from spade breaker (literally) to the ideal sandy loam all gardeners love. But man did it take work.
Next we moved to Arizona where I discovered the joys of gardening in rock. You may think I’m joking but I’m not. The soft rock is called caliche (pronounced kuh-lee-chee and which I am convinced is a Native American word meaning “good luck planting stuff in this crap”). The hard rock requires a rock bar (also required for the caliche) or a jackhammer or possibly nuclear weapons. And you wonder why I switched to raised beds? The only things I “dig” holes for now are fruit trees, and my wife’s shrubs and flowers, which she insists on planting in the ground.
To make matters even better the soils are far too alkaline--pH of 7.7 to 8.5 isn’t uncommon. Not even asparagus, which loves alkaline soils, can abide that. There is so little organic material in local soils it might as well not be there at all so far as gardening is concerned. The native plants somehow tolerate it and grow but I don’t know how.
I’ve learned over the years that gypsum will dissolve caliche, sulfur helps to acidify soils and that good, rich compost will, when mixed with your soil, support excellent plant growth while improving tilth.
Many gardeners have also turned to vermicomposting to get worm castings for fertilizer to improve their soils. I use worm castings myself whenever I start a new raised bed, but I have a friend I can get them from. I’ve found that my gardens now have a plentiful supply of earthworms--something I would have thought impossible a few years ago. By covering the beds with hoop houses it allows my earthworms to survive the winter in a raised bed.
There are different types of worms for different purposes. Earthworms feed on microbes in dirt and they are what you want in your garden. Red wrigglers feed on rotting plant material and they are what you would want in your compost pile. Hmm, improved soil AND fish bait.
And speaking of fish…
Aquaponics has to be one of the all time great ideas for homesteaders and preppers. Why? Because you can produce outstanding crops of vegetables while growing fish to eat, all in a relatively small space. In a nutshell, water from your fish tank is circulated through your growing beds where the plants latch onto the nutrients and purify the water for return to the fish. If you grow duckweed or certain algaes as one of your crops you can feed your fish and chickens without having to purchase special food for them.
As an added benefit for those of us in the desert, aquaponics requires less water to grow crops than regular gardening. It works best with leafy crops like lettuce, kale or spinach, or those that form fruits above ground--like tomatoes, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, melons or beans. Another advantage is, because of their relatively small size when compared to a garden, you grow much more food with much less work. That alone pretty much sells me on the benefits.
The only disadvantage is people are still working out how to grow roots crops like potatoes, carrots and turnips with this system. It apparently can be done but the old fashioned method of planting them in soil is more reliable for now. Also, as with any new (to you) system there will be a learning curve so allow yourself time to make a few mistakes and learn from them.
Because these systems take so little space and can be sized for any family or even a single person they are ideal for the suburbs. The pumps are so small it doesn’t take much of a solar system to keep it running, even if the power grid goes down. And if you have a spa or hot tub that no longer gets used you have the beginnings of a terrific system already. Here are some links for you to check out if you’re interested and being savvy why wouldn’t you be?
If you Google Aquaponics you’ll be buried in information on this subject. Even my not-so-Prepper-friendly wife is intrigued by these systems and I’m hoping we’ll have one before long.
Most suburban governments have wised up and are now allowing people to keep hens (note that I said hens, not roosters). Check with your local zoning agency or, God forbid, your HOA, about this and if they say no, you might be able to name your hens and call them pets. Or you could decide to ignore the officious busybodies and talk to your neighbors (especially the ones most likely to turn you in) and ask if they like fresh eggs. Remember, it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission and a bribed neighbor can be a good neighbor. In any event raising chickens gives you fresh eggs, an occasional chicken dinner, free fertilizer to compost and lots of entertainment. Chickens are the comedians of the livestock world. They are also the most common entry-level livestock drug. You know, you raise chickens, you like it. Before you know it you’ve got ducks and rabbits and those tiny little Nubian milk goats and your neighbors are thinking you’ve gone Dr. Doolittle on them.
Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a certain yuck factor when butchering is involved. You’ve watched them grow up. They’ve entertained you. You like them. Your kids probably did name them and treat them like pets. But eventually one will stop laying and TSHTF pioneer economics (produce or else) will dictate that bird becomes dinner. Note: an older bird, and most egg laying hens will stop laying after about two years, is best for the stew pot and not as fried chicken. Their meat is stronger and tougher than the twenty-six week old birds you raised for meat. Though, now that I think about it cooking one in a pressure cooker could keep it more moist and tender.
Lots of people who raise chickens do so primarily for the meat with eggs being a side benefit. The thing to remember is, especially in a long-term disaster where stores aren’t open and food isn’t being trucked in, these animals exist to provide your family with food so butcher away.
Select the breeds you want to raise carefully. If you live up North where this thing called winter comes howling around once a year you want rose combed breeds and those with feathers right down to their feet (less likelihood of frostbite). If you live in a hot climate you want thinner breeds as they do better in heat. Here in my part of Arizona folks tend to raise Dominiques, Buff Orpingtons, and Black Araucanas. These breeds are also known for their gentle disposition, which is important if you are a beginner.
There are innumerable how-to videos on YouTube about raising, caring for, and butchering chickens and I’ll post a few links for you. There are also a couple of great magazines--Backyard Poultry and Urban Farm. They are well worth a subscription, as the articles will teach you how to do everything regarding your birds.
Rabbits are cute, cuddly and I don’t know of any place that bans them. Lots of people have them as pets. But they are a terrific meat animal. They don’t take a lot of work to care for them properly, are inexpensive to house, breed quickly and without being noisy, and don’t smell. Their excrement (pellets) is good to compost for fertilizer. Their meat is tender and delicious and if you take care when butchering them their hides can be a source of income.
There is only one site I’m going to offer for information about raising and caring for rabbits. It’s called the Hostile Hare and they really know their stuff. Seriously, in a space smaller than a queen-sized bed you can grow enough meat for your family and probably to trade. Combining rabbit production with an aquaponics system and a few chickens could save your family from starvation. The Hostile Hare site will also teach you how to set up a fodder system with which you can raise the food your rabbits or chickens need to thrive.
Think about it. It’s been three weeks since the economy collapsed. Hyper-inflation or steep depression (who cares which) is raging. Grocery store shelves have been stripped bare and food deliveries by FEMA are not keeping up with demand. People are getting desperate. They have already hunted local game to near extinction. Gunfire is no longer confined to bad neighborhoods in inner cities.
Power may still be on and water may still be flowing out of your taps, but for how long? What are you going to do? How will you keep your family fed? If you wait until TSHTF it’s too late. You and yours will be among the victims.
But you didn’t wait until disaster struck. You prepared. You set up what Preppers call Live Food Storage Systems. Your family is raising rabbits and fish and growing a garden and even more veggies in your aquaponics system. You have fresh eggs every day, or almost every day, and an occasional hen for the pot. Now is when you wish you’d got a rooster since your hen population will not be sustainable. But in any event, between the food you stored when times were good and your current food production ability, you aren’t worried about food.
No, your main concern is how to keep others from taking what your have. But we’ll talk about security (OPSEC) next time.
See you next month--and I would definitely appreciate any feedback you can give me on either Bugging In or my Dying Time Trilogy or how to improve my website.
I AM NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ANY OF THESE BUSINESSES IN ANY CAPACITY OTHER THAN THAT OF CUSTOMER. I OFFER THESE RECOMMENDATIONS BASED EITHER ON MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE PRODUCTS OR MY HAVING RESEARCHED THEM EXHAUSTIVELY. USE MY RECOMMENDATIONS AT YOUR OWN RISK.