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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lettuce and Fall Crops and Farmer's Market

I've planted black seed lettuce and salad bowl lettuce, plus some spinach and potatoes. All are doing well, with sprouts about one to inches out of the ground. I'm excited about the potential for salad throughout the year. We also just came back from the local certified farmer's market, where we got fantastic strawberries that never change in their great quality (and have been there for six months or more), some potatoes, peaches, eggs and more. I'm grateful for the choice to buy local this way instead of from the stores. Everything is sooo much better.

The two remaining tomato plants are barely producing. I was going to pull them out and plant more lettuce but instead forgot and left them at our daughter's in case she wanted to grow something. So now I'm considering going to the local store and buying a plant or two to put there. The bell pepper plant is doing well also, but I think it will have to go, and the zucchini will be allowed to stay probably until it no longer does anything, which I expect will happen in Mid October.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chinese Tallow Tree

Chinese Tallow Trees have been used anciently to make candle wax, soap and even edible oil. I am working on this to see what I can find out, especially these trees are very common and I have one in my front yard. If I can successfully collect wax/oil from these berries so I can make my own candles/soap, that will be awesome!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Piteba Oil Expeller

I haven't seen a better video than this for learning how to use the Piteba Oil expeller. I have no particular desire to make hemp oil, but the directions for setting up and cleaning after are invaluable!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Artichokes and New Fall Gdn

Here is another photo of the artichoke flowers now being seen on the wonderful plant! Also a photo of my garden being readied for fall/winter planting. There are lettuce seeds planted on either side of what's left of the zucchini. Next week I'll take out the remainder of the tomato and zucchini and plant peas and chard and spinach too. The potatoes are in the "ground" in two will be very exciting to see how they all do this year.

Cleaning Water Heater for Emergency Water

As usual, my friend Stephen put up an excellent article on his web page...

How and Why to Clean Your Hot Water Heater
by Jim Serre

You may have heard that in case of an emergency, your hot water heater is an excellent source of 40 to 50 gallons of fresh water. However, how many of you know how to get the water out, and is your hot water heater full of clean water?

Why Sediment is a Problem:

Over the years, sediment can form in the bottom of your hot water heater. This sediment consists of any solid material that does not get dissolved in the water. This can include sand or other grit from a well. Additionally, iron, magnesium and calcium may build up in the bottom of your hot water heater, causing discoloration or rust in the hot water taps.

Small accumulations of sediment are not considered a serious problem. However, too much sediment in the bottom of your heater can prevent the drain valve from working properly and even affect the operating efficiency of your hot water heater which costs you money. Also, since hot water can dissolve substances that will not dissolve in cold water, hot water drained from the heater may be overly contaminated with sediment impurities. To maintain the efficiency of your unit and ensure the highest water quality for you and your family you should flush your hot water tank occasionally. Make sure that when you decide to flush your hot water heater, you will not need hot water in your home for at least a couple of hours.

How to Flush Your Hot Water Tank:

There are two main types of water heaters, those powered by gas (natural or propane) and those running on electricity. The instructions below address both types.

1)Electric: If your hot water heater is electric, turn off the electricity to the water heater. You may need to turn off a breaker or remove a fuse in your electrical panel to ensure the unit is deactivated. Turning the electricity off is critical to ensure the electric heating element does not turn on when the heater is drained of water. This could cause the heating element to burn out and potentially require replacement of the entire water heater.

Gas: If your hot water heater is a gas powered unit, note the current temperature setting on the gas dial and then turn the gas dial to the lowest setting or “Pilot.”

2) Turn off the cold water supply valve to the heater which is generally located on top of the hot water heater.

3) Attach a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the heater. This drain valve typically looks like a regular outdoor hose bib and may be hidden under a removable cover. Run a hose from the drain valve to a convenient drain location. If you don't have a convenient drain available you will need to use a bucket to capture and remove drained water.

4) Open any hot water faucet in the house (generally one closest to the water heater).

5) Open the drain valve on the hot water heater and allow it to completely drain. If the drain valve is made of plastic and the heater is several years old, it may be difficult to open and may break easily if forced, so be gentle when opening the valve. If the drain valve clogs during the draining process, open the cold water supply valve and see if the water pressure will open the clog. If it does, close the cold water supply valve and fully drain the heater.

6) When the hot water heater is empty, close the drain valve and open the cold water supply valve. This may dislodge more sediment in the heater through the churning action of the cold water in the tank. Partially fill the heater with cold water, close the cold water supply valve and drain the heater again following Steps 2 through 5.

7) Look at the water being drained to see if it is clear or is there still some sediment in the drain water. If the water is clear continue to Step 9. If not, flush the hot water heater as described in Step 8.

8) Flush the hot water heater by opening the cold water supply valve while the drain valve is open and let the water run for 5 to 10 minutes. Close the cold water supply valve and repeat Step 7.

9) Close the drain valve, remove the hose and turn on the cold water supply valve and allow the hot water heater to fill with cold water.

10) Open all the hot water faucets in your home one-by-one to until any air in the line is purged and water flows smoothly. Note that the water will not be hot since you haven't turned the heating element on yet.

11) Electric: Turn the electricity to the water heater back on by turning the breaker on or replacing the fuse.

Gas: Turn the gas from “Pilot,” or the lowest setting, back to the current setting as noted in Step 1 above.

Your hot water heater is now clean and ready for continued use. Based on how long it had been since you previously flushed your hot water heater and the severity of the sediment you saw being drained, you can determine how often to flush your hot water heater. Most professionals recommend draining and flushing your hot water heater annually.

Getting Water for Emergency Use:

Should an emergency arise and you need access to the safe drinking water in your hot water heater, simply drain the water as described below.

If you only need a small amount of water, you can open the drain valve slowly and empty hot water into a suitable container. Keep in mind the water will be very hot so a metal or heat resistant glass container would work best. Remember also to protect your hands, arms and face from hot splashing water or the hot container.

Turn the electricity off to the hot water heater or the turn the gas valve to “Pilot” (as described in Step 1 above) if you intend to use all the water in your hot water heater. Also, turn off the cold water supply valve to isolate your hot water heater from potentially contaminated public piping systems (which can occur as the result of an earthquake). Allow several hours to pass before you attempt to drain large quantities of water from the hot water heater. Open any hot water faucet in the house and open the drain valve to capture clean drinking water. Still, the water may be hot so protect yourself accordingly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Changing Garden Part 2

I pulled out two tomato plants and half of the zucchini today to get room for the lettuce and peas. I may have to go out and pull more but the tomatoes are still producing a little bit as is the zucchini. I’ll try to keep them in the ground for another two weeks before I pull them, which is good because it will stagger the other plants. The wood I put in the box to prevent the cat next door from using it as a litter box seem to have termites or something in them, which is annoying, but just not sure what else to use next time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Changes in Garden - Beautiful

My artichoke plant is doing great...flowering that is. I allowed them to finish up the year with flowers in the hopes that next year the artichokes will be tender and large.

I also planted some potatoes in containers for the first time, but I won't show them yet until my garden is entirely ready for photos.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fall and Winter Gardening

The time is almost here to plant for the fall and winter in Sacramento area. I am not an expert my any stretch, as this is the first year I will attempt to do this. My goal is to be as self reliant in vegetables for an entire year, and that will include preserving vegetables and fruits throughout the year for those times when nothing will grow.

I'm excited to try this. So far I have avoided buying tomatoes for several months, although now my plants are unproducing, probably because I haven't fertilized them correctly. I will do better next year and as I go along for the rest of this year until next Spring.

I found a great article that might help


It dawned on me today that there is one method for acquring food that I haven't done since I was with my step dad in 3rd grade. Fishing. Like most people who live in cities, that's a skill I've never acquired. However, I will be looking into it more as time goes by.

The thing I appreciate so much about survival thinking is how much knowledge it takes. On EVERY level, from medical knowledge to baking bread, to gardening to preserving, to making clothing, to understanding propane use. It's never ending. To some that may seem "too much", or too complicated. To me, it's a joy to find myself continually improving my knowledge in things I love to do. It give such an incredible feeling of self reliance. I highly recommend anyone reading this to encourage your own quest for knowledge on how to fend for yourself at all levels. First and foremost, get out of debt as soon as you can. You can't be self sufficient if you can potentially lose important items that can be repossessed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Survival Group Class

This is from my friend Stephen.

Recently I was introduced to Doug Huffman and his survival school in the Placerville area. Doug is a survival expert who trains organizations like Special Forces, Navy Seals, Homeland Security, Search & Rescue, FBI Special Agents, and Sheriff Departments on how to survive all kinds of precarious scenarios. The demands of those organizations have progressively pushed many of his programs that he does with the public to the background. He has a few classes for the public coming up...neither of which I can make. I spoke with him and he told me that if I put together a group of a minimum of 7 people (myself included) that he would do a class for us. So I am putting together a class that will be on October 17th. We will have no more than 10-12 people in our group.

The class is an 8 hour intense training on skills to survive (from 8am-4pm). We will do one of two is on wilderness survival...and the other is on wild plants. See this to look at the class descriptions. I don't have all the details...but it should be a 4 mile hike on a path through the woods with lots of stops. It requires at least a moderate level of fitness. Tell me which class you would be interested in...and the majority will decide which one we do. These classes are generally $125 a person...but because of the poor economy Doug is trying to help people out by lowering the price to $95. That is a great value. This isn't some abstract...forgettable seminar or book...he is taking us out for 8 HOURS to teach us hands on skills and to have us practice to gain proficiency! It will be awesome!

To reserve your place please contact me at