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The California Drought, Food Prices & How to Prepare

March 2nd, 2014

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You may be clear across the country, and have heard little discussion about the current drought California is facing. Yet there is a good likelihood it can and will affect your food prices. Read on to discover why this is, and how you can prepare for it.

Some background: Much of the drought began in 2013, when the state received well below normal rainfall that year. Coupled with this issue, the neighboring Sierra Nevada region had only 10% of it’s average snowfall in December, leaving the reservoir levels at 30% of normal.  Almost immediately, desperate lawmakers passed mandatory water conservation orders across California to cut water consumption. The situation is serious enough for the Sacramento City Council to pass a water restriction forcing residents and businesses to cut usage by 20% or pay a fine up to $1,000.

To give you an image about the severity of this drought, this is what one blogger found as she drove through the farms of Central California, “…the fields were mostly dormant and being “prepared” for planting, but that did not prepare me for their utter NAKEDNESS. Not only were there no weeds or wild plants (even at the edges) but there were no cover crops, no mulches, no PROTECTION for the soil, either. The soil was dry and barren—a dust bowl just waiting to happen!”

How does the California drought affect your food prices?

For one, California is one of the leading food producers in the nation. With over 80,000 farms and ranches spread across the state, there’s a good chance that some of the food in your refrigerator was grown in California. Even more likely is that your olives, almonds, figs, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, strawberries, walnuts, dates and raisins were grown in the state – since California grows 90-100% of these crops distributed world wide.

Unfortunately, when these big farms aren’t getting the water they need, crops aren’t producing and even more troubling – fruit and nut trees take up to two years to recover. Therefore, families must anticipate two years of nation-wide increased food prices and food shortages. So, this begs the question-What you can do now?

Carolyn Nicolaysen, a disaster preparedness expert suggests families do the following before food prices start rising:

-Plan and plant a garden

-Stock up and store produce that is in season now

-Save and store 100% fruit juices

-Store abundant supply of any fruit or vegetable grown in California or any product using these as an ingredient.

-Store foods that contain any California grown produce as ingredients.

-Can or freeze and store produce grown in your garden (find a mentor to help plant and can if needed, help is out there!)

***Friends, what will you do to prepare for the increase in food prices? 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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The Taste of Summer And How to Preserve It By Canning

September 4th, 2013

Olives

Oh, the taste of summer. Who doesn’t love dipping a crisp tortilla chip into fresh tomato salsa, or enjoying a bite of corn on the cob smothered in butter or sprinkled with lime? With memories like that, canning vegetables and fruit is becoming a popular way to preserve the taste of our favorite seasons all year long.

Interested in preserving the taste of summer, but have never canned before?

Essentially, canning the taste of summer requires placing the sweet taste of seasonal fruits and vegetables into prepared jars and heating them to a temperature that microorganisms are unable to survive in (and it’s easier than you think!).  If done effectively, canning vegetables and fruits can prevent unnecessary waste with tasting results, save money, and provide a summer bounty for your family all year long, as well as in an emergency situation.

There are two main options for home canning the taste of summer: one is water bath canning and the other is pressure cooker canning.  While both effective, this post details water bath canning as it is user-friendlier for first time canners. We’re covering everything you need to know in this post, from what you need to get started, to a step-by-step guide to effective canning.

Water Bath Canning

Selecting The Correct Jars Mason and Bell jars are the two safest and most effective jars to use for canning the taste of summer because they are designed to heat at high temperatures, and come with a two-piece self-sealing lid.  Do no use commercial mayonnaise, baby food or pickle jars, as these are not suitable for high temperatures.

Supplies Needed Much like with any hobby, the start up costs for canning the taste of summer can seem daunting.  Yet as each year passes, count on saving money as you can reuse jars, canning racks, and other food preserving tools through the years. There are also several canning kits that are available on the market, but you can also purchase these items separately:

*A large traditional cooking pot, specialized canning pot, or pressure cooker to place jars in. Whichever you choose, be sure it has a secure lid to prevent spills.  The pot should also be large enough to fit in each jar with room at the top for water to flow. Check that it is no more than 4 inches wider than the burner for an even temperature.

*A jar rack works well to guarantee water flow, and to space the jars properly; which will prevent cracking.  If a jar rack is unavailable, some choose to use sanitized cotton cloths to separate and cushion each jar.

*Jar funnels helps to easily ladle food in, and prevents fingers from touching the jar lid.

*Several Mason or Ball Jars with two-piece self-sealing lids.

*Other Useful Supplies: Mixing bowls, saucepans, clean towels, a timer, measuring cups, tongs, a ladle, and a cutting board will all help ensure a smooth canning process.

Basic Step-By-Step Water Bath Canning This process is ideal for canning the taste of summer: pickled carrots, a cucumber-turned-dill-pickle concept, unwashed berries, jams, preserves, jellies, pickles and tomato sauce, and can offer intense flavor even after many months.

1. Sanitize all jars and lids by dishwashing them first, and then adding them to a large pot of boiling water.  Allow all jars to soak for at least 5 minutes.  Remove each jar with sanitized tongs, and place them on a clean towel.

2. Using sanitized tongs for larger pieces of food, or a jar funnel for sauces and jams, gently ladle or funnel the food into each jar.  Leave approximately ¾ of an inch at the top for the lid. Be sure to use fresh and seasonal produce for optimum taste and expiration life.

3. Seal each jar by placing the small metal disc on the lid of the jar, and twisting the circular piece until securely fastened

4. Place the jar rack inside a large pot of boiling water, allowing the handles to come up from the top.  Carefully lower each filled jar into the boiling water, until all jars are set and carefully spaced. Using the jar rack handles, lower in the jars and fold the handles inside the cooking pot.  Allow the jars to soak for approximately 30 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the jars using tongs, and allow them time to cool off.  Jars should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place to preserve the jar’s contents.

Bonus tip: Looking for a great recipe to get your canning off to the right start? Tomato sauces are excellent choices for first time canners.  The Producer includes the Rose Tomato, an heirloom variety with a beautiful, deep rose pink color. Meaty and flavorful, these tomatoes are perfect for tomato sauces.

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

 

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How To Prep In An Apartment Or Small Living Space

September 25th, 2012

If you’ve ever watched the posted videos from the apartment dwellers who survived the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, you’ll understand the importance of prepping, even when in an apartment. Many of the dwellers had little to no food in their refrigerators (since they ate out much of the time), and found their water contaminated. Limited space in an apartment means you may have to be more selective and creative when prepping for a disaster. But remember, the steps you take now can mean all the difference in a survival situation. Here are a few tips to get your started:

How To Plan An Apartment Garden

Start by saving now for a small garden, and reserve money each week. Use recycled goods to keep costs at a minimum, and begin saving soda bottles, yogurt tubs, food jars, etc., for later use as containers. Garage sales and thrift stores may also have some useful items.

It’s wise to carefully plan out your space, and work with what you have. Most apartments have a balcony or patio – but also consider using the space near a sunny window, or on the rooftop if available. Need some guidance on how to garden in small spaces? Find websites or blogs that detail their successes with container gardening, and take notes on what practices they used. You’ll likely discover small tips, like growing plants vertically which can manage small spaces better, and yield a crop comparable to larger garden spaces.

Invest in seeds that are non-GMO and non-hybrid, and store them in waterproof and rodent proof re-sealable containers. This will ensure long-term food storage, leaving the option of growing seeds now or later.

How To Store Food When Space Is Tight

Getting creative is a must when storing food in an apartment. Consider any unused space as a potential place to store food – under the bed, linen closets, storage lockers, or shelving units can hold dozens of cans and survival items. If you truly have limited space, try living minimally (that is, without unneeded items or furniture that take up space). You may find it challenging to give up some possessions in your home, but remember that it may mean the difference between surviving and thriving if a disaster strikes.

When storing food, remember to:

1)    Keep dry food up high. Keep all dry food up high and away from the ground to prevent water damage or problems resulting from high trafficked areas.

2)    Keep food away from sunlight. Sunlight can destroy the nutrients in food and cause internal temperatures to rise and fall in a container.

3)    Keep food in a cool, dry location. Cool, dry places provide the optimal environment for food to stay well preserved.

How To Plan Emergency Gear In An Apartment

Since space is limited, it can get tricky finding ways to store different kinds of emergency gear. Instead, stick with gear that is necessary and has multiple uses, and check our list below.

A Multi-Tool - a multi-tool can provide a screwdriver, pliers and an assortment of knives all in one.

Can Opener(s)  – food is necessary for survival, store at least two of these.

Portable Water Filter – water must be filtered or boiled if you suspect it’s contaminated.

Solar Charger – small devices can become fully charged even in the absence of power.

Duct tape – with its dozens of uses, duct tape can repair tears, seal up windows, pack up boxes, and more.

Other useful items: flashlights, a weather radio, hiking shoes, USB flash drives, emergency preparedness books, first aid kit, rain gear, lighter or matches, self protection such as pepper spray, and small hygiene items.

To learn more, see our guide to canning, as well as our other emergency preparedness posts:

Canning 101

Five Tips For Prepping

Tips For Sustaining A Survival Garden

Survival Gardening: How To Boost Your Disaster Preparedness 

***Preppers and gardeners:  What are your favorite tips for prepping in a small space? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

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