Monday, May 31, 2010

In Honor of Veterans and Patriots

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
--- Joseph Campbell ---

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
--- John F. Kennedy ---

"...we remember today that all our gentle heroes of Vietnam have given us a lesson in something more: a lesson in living love. Yes, for all of them, those who came back and those who did not, their love for their families lives. Their love for their buddies on the battlefields and friends back home lives. Their love of their country lives."
--- Ronald Regan ---

"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
--- Thomas Payne ---

"The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.
--- John Quincy Adams ---

"A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest Man without the fear of God. Is it possible that he whom no moral obligations bind, can have any real Good Will towards Men? Can he be a patriot who, by an openly vicious conduct, is undermining the very bonds of Society?....The Scriptures tell us "righteousness exalteth a Nation."
--- Abigail Adams ---

"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world."
--- Daniel Webster ---

"The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them.
--- George Washington ---

"The said constitution shall never be construed to authorize congress to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms."
--- Samuel Adams ---

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
--- Patrick Henry ---

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cooking - Tips and Substitutions

Have you ever gotten half-way through making a recipe, only to open the fridge to get an egg and discover that there are none? Ever needed some buttermilk and didn't have any? Or over-salted a pot of soup and are afraid you'll have to dump it out? Believe it or not, there are solutions to those problems! I love solutions. :-)  They can help you save time and money, save you in a crisis, and maybe relive a little stress. Here's a few tips and resources I keep on hand...

Egg Substitute - (for use in baking) Combine 1 tsp of unflavored gelatin with 3 Tbl of cold water and then another 2 Tbl plus 1 tsp of boiling water. This will take the place of one egg in recipes for cookies, cakes, etc.

Meat Substitutes and Extenders - You can use cooked wheat, cracked or whole, in spaghetti sauces, pizza, Sloppy Joes, soups, etc. You can also add it to your ground beef for meat loaf, taco filling or hamburger patties when you don't have quite enough. Whole grain wheat berries are about 15% protein, on the average. Wheat germ can also be added to recipes, and contains about 23% protein. Millet is another grain that is high in protein, like wheat, and can be used as a substitute or extender with meat recipes.We like cooked millet with milk and honey for a hot breakfast cereal.

Boiled Eggs - To keep the shells from cracking while boiling, add a dash of salt to the water before you start.

Tupperware Stains - Spray your Tupperware or other plastic containers with cooking oil before you put tomato sauces in them and they won't stain.

Over-Salted Soup - If you give your pot of soup the taste-test and find it's way over-salted, peel a potato and drop it in the soup raw. It will absorb salt into itself. Leave it in until you're left with just the right amount of flavor.

Stained Fingers - Speaking of potatoes - I'm told that rubbing a slice of raw potato on your fingers will usually take stains off them.

Sprouting Potatoes - When you have a large amount of potatoes in the cupboard that you know might start to sprout before you get them all eaten, put an apple in the bag with them. It will keep them from sprouting.

Buttermilk - Buttermilk isn't something I use very often, so every now and then when I get a hankerin' to make buttermilk pancakes or something, I don't usually have any. Well, I discovered you can make your own. 1 Tbl of vinegar or lemon juice added to enough milk to make 1 cup, let it stand for 5 minutes, and whalaa! You have buttermilk.

Powdered Sugar/Confectioners Sugar - Put 1 cup of sugar in the blender and blend it up. Commercial products usually have corn starch added. If you want to more closely imitate that taste and consistency, add 1 Tbl of corn starch to the sugar when blending.

"Dusting" the Cake Pan - I never liked that look of gooey white flour on the sides of my cake or brownies. That's easily remedied by dusting the cake pan with a little bit of the dry cake mix instead. Or, if you're making a chocolate cake or brownies, you can dust the pan with some cocoa powder.

Measuring Sticky Stuff - Run your measuring spoons or cups under hot water before measuring molasses, honey or syrups, and the sticky stuff will all come off clean. Or, coat them with oil first.

Separating Eggs - If you have trouble separating eggs, use a small funnel. Crack the egg into it - the white will run through and the yolk will stay in the funnel.

Maple Syrup - I don't buy imitation maple syrup because it's basically High Fructose Corn Syrup with flavoring. HFCS is REALLY not good for you. Real maple syrup is extremely expensive. When I can't spare the money to buy it, I buy Mapleine at the grocery store. It's a natural maple extract mixed with some of the usual not-so-natural things. The little 2 oz. bottle will make 24 pints of syrup and costs about $4. You make the syrup with boiling water, sugar, and the Mapleine. I wouldn't call it a healthy "food" but this is one of those times when I'm happy to use good ole' regular sugar, because it's much preferable to the alternative. It has a real good maple flavor, is very inexpensive to buy, and is a great storage item.(Hint - make small batches that will get used right away. It tends to "sugar" on the bottom of the jar as it sits in the fridge.)

Some of these tips I've used, and some I haven't yet. They're all taken from various sources of information I keep on hand for food storage, cooking and other things. One of my favorite sources is a book my mother gave me a couple years ago, called Jumbo Jack's Helpful Hints Almanac. It's only $4.99 on Amazon, and worth every penny! I hope some of these ideas can make your life a little easier.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Self-Reliant Health - Comfrey

Comfrey is one of the first herbs I ever used, and another one that I would highly recommend everyone keeping on hand. It is an amazing herb for healing wounds and injuries. It is known as a "cell proliferant". In other words, it promotes cell growth in the repair process. The Blackfoot Indians from this area refer to comfrey as "bone knit." It can be used topically as a poultice or in a healing salve - or "green" salve. Most "green" healing salves you buy will have comfrey as the main ingredient.

Comfrey Healing Salve
I've made my own healing salves over the years and always keep some "green salve" on hand. It is also easy to find in health stores and not very expensive. Comfrey is easy to grow and will spread if not kept under control. A couple of plants were added to my parent's garden area and left to grow freely, and now they have about 1/4 acre of fresh, organic comfrey!

In our home we use a comfrey salve on any cuts or open wounds. With 3 boys, we've had plenty of injuries over the years. If comfrey is kept on the wound until healing is complete, there is usually no scar left behind.

A friend of ours used a homemade comfrey salve on her son's finger when he accidentally cut the tip off. He had severed the entire pad on the end of one finger, leaving only the skin attached on one side. They laid the pad back on and covered the entire end of the finger with the salve and wrapped it up. It healed with no visible scar and complete feeling.

Comfrey Poultice
We've also had a lot of experience in our family using comfrey poultices. To make a poultice, you either blend the fresh comfrey plant in the blender, or use a dried comfrey powder. Both the plant and the roots are used for healing. You can mix other healing herbs with it, or use just the comfrey. Make a paste out of it by mixing it with Wheat Germ Oil or some other oil. Honey also has healing properties and can be added to the mixture.

On one occasion, a friend of ours who is a fiddle player dislocated his elbow in a biking accident. The elbow was moved completely out of it's socket and the ligaments pulled. Since it was the "bowing" (right) arm that was injured, the one that gets the most movement, the doctor told him he would not be able to play the fiddle for several months. We made a poultice with comfrey powder and Wheat Germ oil and covered his entire elbow with it. Plastic was laid over the comfrey mixture and then wrapped in flannel. Within 2 weeks he was playing again just fine.

My brother has used comfrey poultices with great success. When his daughter broke her wrist, they had it x-rayed and found she had a buckle fracture. He put a comfrey poultice over the fractured area, covered it with gauze and then loosely wrapped it with Saran Wrap so she could sleep without getting it on the bedding. The aching stopped and she had no more pain. The fracture had been completely healed when it was checked again at 5 weeks.

My aunt had a horse who was badly injured when a barn collapsed. A large hole was gouged in it's rump area. My brother made a poultice from comfrey, lobelia, plantain, dandelion root, carrot juice, honey and Wheat Germ oil. He harvested all the herbs fresh except for the lobelia, which he had some dried plant on hand that he had bought. He blended it all together in the blender, and they packed the hole, which was big enough to put your fist into, with the mixture. Puss oozed out when they packed it in. They covered it with gauze and taped it in place. After a few weeks it was completely healed. Even the hair grew back completely and in it's natural color. Often, with horses, if the hair regrows over a wound, it will grow back white, without the normal pigment.

When my aunt took her horse to the veterinarian initially, she was told that it should be put down (killed) because it would not be able to heal well enough to ever function normally. Well, since her horses are like her kids, she took him home and called my brother. A few weeks later, she took the horse back to the vet who was shocked. He had never seen anything heal like that and wanted to know what she had done. She just told him that her nephew had "filled it with some weeds"!

Another horse was badly injured on his front shoulder. We think he'd been chased by a mountain lion since another horse with him had claw marks down his rump. The horse ran into a fence or the end of a log or something that tore a large hole, almost the size of a dinner plate, and a couple inches deep. Like the first horse, the wound was packed full of a very similar mixture. Within a few weeks, new flesh had grown in to fill the hole, natural brown colored hair grew back over the area, and there was almost no scar. She also fed the horse 2 to 5 lbs of carrots a day to help in the healing process.

You can also take comfrey internally, but like all substances, it's wise to only use what your body needs. If you don't have an injury for your body to use it on, I would not recommend consuming it. If comfrey is growing around livestock, they will only eat it when they are wounded. We can learn a lot about how to heal ourselves, by observing what animals do naturally.

So put on your list to make a quick stop at a health food store and pick up some comfrey powder. Then you'll have it, and the next time you or someone else is injured, mix a little comfrey with some honey or oil and try it out. If you really want to be self-sufficient, get a few comfrey starts and grow your own. You can have enough to help a lot of people in a crisis. And without spending hardly anything!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Photos of the Flathead

This amazing view is in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. This 1,000 foot high outcropping is known as "The Chinese Wall". It's virtually unbroken for about 20 miles. Only a lucky few get to see it, and even less ever stand on top of it, because it's a few days hike in from any roads. My husband and sons took this picture while on a week-long 50 mile hike (turned out to be 64!) with their Boy Scout troop. Those little green dots at the bottom are huge trees.

Since you all liked the photos so well, I thought I'd just give a few quick links to some more. Our valley is unique. Other than the old-timers who were already here, it has attracted several specific groups of people: celebrities, retired seniors, families wanting to get their kids out of the cities to a place where there is very little crime, and "survivalists" or preparedness minded folks. My family has been here for about 75 years, so I guess I fall into the "old-timers" category. Oh, and don't forget around 2,000,000 visitors each year - but they aren't permanent. There are still only around 80,000 residents in the entire valley, which encompasses 5 small towns, Kalispell being the main one. Like so many other names around here, "Flathead" and "Kalispell" are both named after native Indian tribes.

This Bighorn came to get a closer look. My sister took this picture in Glacier Park.

Here are a few links with more info and pictures:

Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort - If you look at the archive photos, there are many of the surrounding mountains and valley, from a bird's eye view! Click on "Shot of the Day" and then "View More". Or click on the "Photography" link at the top of the home page for more photos.

Flathead Beacon - A small local publication. Click on the link to "Montana Photo Gallery" on the right.

Google images for Glacier National Park - or change the search to "Flathead Lake" or "Flathead valley". The park is only 30 miles away. I used to work there when I was younger.


In Repair

Hi! I haven't skipped the country! I have just been unable to upload photos to my post. Hmmm... Working on it with blogger. It sounds like I'm not the only one having this problem. Hopefully, we'll be back up and running soon! And I hope you are all having a great week!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beautiful Montana Weather!

After showing you all what winter can be like here, it seems only fair to give you a little glimpse of some other weather! This valley is a resort destination. For being so far north (about 60 miles from Canada), and inland, it has exceptionally mild weather. The elevation is low, the mountains around it are high, and Flathead Lake is so large that it creates a thermal effect. Huge cherry crops are shipped out of this valley every summer.

The rainbows in the picture above are in front of a "wall" of weather rolling in. That "wall" is hiding a tall mountain range behind it. This evening photo was taken from Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort (Used to be Big Mountain).

Flathead Lake is one of the crowning jewels of the area. It's the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi at 26 miles long. The next 3 are all of Flathead Lake. I only have a point-and-shoot, so if you want to see endless professional quality photos of this area, google the Flathead Valley, Glacier National Park, Montana, or Kalispell, Whitefish or Bigfork Photo studios. It really is a photographer's dream destination (Did you hear that Nikon Sniper Steve? :)).

I love this little barn. I just snapped this shot a few weeks ago and the grass wasn't green yet. The lake is long, and this picture is looking across it from side to side with one of it's many islands in the background. With over 2000 bodies of water - lakes, rivers and streams - we live in a sportsman's paradise, and a vacationer's dream!

My little Cub Scout.

Crazy boys at the lake.

A late summer hay cutting.

After a forest fire. This is an 8 year-old burn. Most of the black has been washed off the trees by weather.

This is the same view from my deck that was in the Crazy Weather post with my husband and son shoveling snow.

My summertime yard, with fire pit.

The yard again, and woodshed when it's empty.

Me, on a bike ride with my son to Cliff Lake.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heirloom Seeds - Sustainable Living

Anyone can grow food! Everywhere I look, I'm confronted with articles and information urging everyone to get and store food, food, food! Political, spiritual and economical sources are all saying the same thing. Everyone who is "in the know", or who is watching the trends in our nation and world, are warning and urging everyone else to get ready. So let's do it!

I just want everyone to know that they CAN grow food for themselves - no matter where you live. If you are in a city apartment, you can grow vegies on your balcony, in your living room, in your kitchen, or in your bedroom! Maybe you can use a spot on the roof! Even if you just start with one package of seeds in one yogurt container -
ANYthing you do, is better than nothing at all! Please start. And once you do, you'll be hooked. Plants are "infectious", in a good way! Something about dirt and growing things has a healthy nurturing, even healing effect on us. Indoor plants also purify and recycle our air into good oxygen. So this is my best shot to inspire you all to grow something.

If you are already a gardener, many of you probably already have seeds in the dirt, especially if you live farther south than I do. But whether you've started or not, I want to pass on what I've learned about where to get the best seeds for the smallest price.

The goal is to grow "SUSTAINABLE" PRODUCE. That means you can collect some of your own seeds every year and continue to propagate your own garden from one year to the next without having to buy new seeds. Not all seeds will grow plants that can reproduce, and not all seeds will grow healthy, natural plants. But it's really simple if you are just aware of a couple of basic things to look for.

Non-Hybrid - HYBRID SEEDS DO NOT REPRODUCE. They are specially cultivated from "genetically dissimilar parents or stock" (dictionary). The plants will not produce seed that can be germinated, and they are genetically manipulated plants. I prefer to eat food that I know has grown naturally, just the way God made it to grow.

Hybrid plants are developed for a number of commercial reasons. They could be more insect or disease resistant, have brighter color, grow larger than normal, need less water so they can be grown in harsher climates, produce more "fruit", or many other reasons. Some of them are good reasons, maybe to help people in developing or third-world countries have food that they wouldn't have otherwise.  Never-the-less, I want real food that I can propagate and continue to live on.

Non-GMO - GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. I'd suggest that we all take the time to learn a little about it. It was an "experiment" started 40 or 50 years ago. More and more books are being written to warn us of the dangers of eating GMO foods. Our grocery shelves are full of them. They affect us, insects (like bees), the soil, and everything in nature adversely. The scientists do unnatural things like cross genes of a plant with a fish, or a goat with a spider. The results are ruining once-good soil content, killing important insects, creating devastating bacterias and other organisms, and even altering human DNA. That's all I'll say here, but the books will shock you with scientific study and evidence. Some of what is happening is like something from a horror movie. Here are a few of the most touted books, and I'm sure there are plenty of others. None of these are very expensive and would be well worth the education.

 Seeds of Deception

Genetic Roulette

The World according to Monsanto

Your Right to Know - Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food

When you are choosing your produce in the grocery store, you can watch the numbers on the little stickers that you find on each piece of fruit or vegetable. They tell you a little about the food's origin, based on the number of digits and what the first digit is:
  •  Organic - 5 digits, starts with the number 9
  •  Conventional - 4 digits, starts with a 3 or 4
  •  GMO - 5 digits, starts with an 8
I carry a little paper in my wallet, with that info for reference when I am shopping. 

Heirloom - This is the term used for seeds that come from original, natural, unmodified in any way plants. Many heirloom seed growers can trace their seeds back to the pilgrims and early settlers. Sort of like seed genealogy, I guess! Heirloom seeds are not GMO, or genetically modified. However, if the vendor doesn't say they are Non-Hybrid, they may not be. They could be from plants with mixed breeds, like a Crenshaw Melon with a Honeydew Melon. They could be cross-pollinated or grafted from original heirloom plants and still be sold as "Heirloom". I think that's wrong. Natural is natural. Nature never mixed an apple and a pear together. Man did. However, if you can find out what kind of "tampering" has gone on, and you are OK with it - that's fine. Just know what you are getting.

Where to buy - I buy all my heirloom seeds on E-Bay. Last year I spent days searching every heirloom seed seller I could find on the internet, only to discover that many of them also sell on E-Bay - for a much smaller price. On E-Bay, do a search for "heirloom seeds". You will find individual seed packets for a certain plant, herb, vegetable, etc., or "seed kits" or package deals with a huge variety of seeds for a bulk price. Just watch for "Non-GMO" and "Non-Hybrid" labeling. Many of them are also certified organic. If you collect a few seeds each year from your home-grown produce, you will only have to buy seeds once, and will be set with good healthy food for life!

If you've never sold or bought anything on E-Bay, here's how it works: The buyers rate (and can comment on) the sellers after they buy something. They rate quality of product and the service they received. The sellers who are not one-time and want to continue to sell on E-Bay, will have good products, send them out quickly, and have great prices. It's a great system that self-perpetuates quality assurance. I looked up a few of the current deals to give you a place to start:
  • 70,000 seeds,  $69.99,  seller is Mozybeau Auctions, and they are a Top Rated Seller on E-Bay.
  • 50,000 seeds, $59.99, Mozybeau Auctions
  • 30,000 seeds, $19.50, Seller is twinoak12, Top Rated Seller
  • 1900 seeds, $12.50,  twinoak12
  • Seller: Ohioheirloomseeds, Top Rated Seller - They have a lot of individual packets for sale. Like: 200 cabbage seeds for $1.99
That's only a very few. There are MANY more to shop from. The individual prices and number of seeds in a packet varies depending on what the produce is. You might only get 7 miniature banana tree seeds in a packet, but 1,500 carrot seeds. Most of the vendors also have links to info on the best way to plant your seeds, take care of them, and collect your own seeds for next year. Be sure and copy off that information while it's easily accessible. It does not come with your seeds.

How to keep your seeds -  Fresh seeds don't stay good forever. At room temperature, most of them will need to be planted within a year or two, maybe more, but as they dry and age and their living enzymes die, they won't germinate anymore. Storing them in a cooler place makes them last longer. Many people keep them in the fridge. I keep mine in the freezer. In the freezer, the enzymes go dormant, and most seeds can still be warmed back up and will germinate 15-20 years later, or longer.

You've probably heard about the World Seed Bank in the frozen mountains of Norway. They are freezing and saving seeds due to the fear of pending catastrophic global disaster that many are anticipating. (That was a mouthful!) Well, you can have your own Family Food Bank right in your freezer. We've already pulled a few out this year to start some corn, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and a couple of others, in the house while we wait for our "crazy weather" outside to mellow out a little.

I hope you are all inspired to get on-line and order a few good seeds. It's quick. It's inexpensive, and it's a lot of fun to grow your own food! And that "fun" may just end up being a life-saver.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Crazy Montana Weather!

We have a saying here: "If you don't like the weather - wait 5 minutes."  I remember more than one occasion in this valley when it was 82 degrees one day and snow flakes falling the next! I love the Spring because it's very common to be in a torrential downpour while the sun is shining brightly! One big isolated cloud will be gushing it's contents while the rest of the sky is clear and blue. It's beautiful!

Last week we had a sunny snow storm. Snowflakes falling in the sun is a surreal sight. These flakes were "falling" horizontally! They painted the south side of all the trees, then the wind stopped and left everything as bright and calm as before against the backdrop of a bright blue sky.

Like most other places, we used to get a lot more snow on the average than we do these days. But last winter we got dumped on pretty hard.

This is my husband and oldest son shoveling off the garage and lean-to.

Our mailboxes.

Daniel with his prized icicle.

The road to my house.

A view from my deck.

Dad, finding his sidewalk.

A cold day on the ski slopes.

Here are a few more frosty day pictures:

And of course, where there is crazy weather - there are crazy people! This is the annual Polar Plunge held on New Year's Day on Flathead Lake. Some years, ice has to be broken up for the "crazies" to get in the water. The guy sitting in the water in the center of the second picture, is my husband. (We're only related by marriage. :-))

Now you know why I grew up preparedness-minded! The snow last winter typifies what every winter was like - and often we had a lot more than that. I knew to never get in the car and leave without having a pair of boots, warm hat, mittens and face scarf, a blanket, and basic first aid and emergency kits. It could be clear and mild when you left the house, but we knew the weather could change dramatically within a very short time. Living several miles out of town, up steep gravel roads with only our home and my grandparent's ranch at the end of it, I had to leave the car in the snow and walk the last mile on more than one occasion! Our road was not the county snowplow's top priority when a blizzard hit. And there were no cell phones. 

I'm grateful for having been taught to take responsibility for myself and others, and to be as prepared as possible for whatever situation I might find myself in. As I've traveled and lived in more populated areas, the matches and pocket knife I ALWAYS have in my purse, have been the topic of many good-natured chidings. But I, and many others, have sure been glad they were there on a whole lot of occasions! 

Most of us live where there is food, water and shelter always around us. It's so easy to take the convenience for granted and then be caught off guard when they are gone. The blizzards, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes and power-outages that have been happening around the globe, are prompting many more people to plan for the unexpected. And then there are the others - who watch the news in amazement, but don't think it will ever happen to them. Or maybe just haven't made it a high enough priority to take inventory and start stocking up yet. Please start preparing now, and if you've already begun - keep going! A lot of people around you will be in need if a disaster strikes. Preparedness is Peace of Mind!

It's better to have it and not need it - 
than need it and not have it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Aluminum Foil - Survival Cooking Essential

One of the nice aspects to blogging that I hadn't anticipated, is making friends. I had hoped to share useful information that would motivate and inspire others to become more self-reliant and able to take care of themselves in tougher times that are sure to come. But in the short time I've been posting, already I feel like you are my friends, and therefor feel an even greater interest in knowing that you will have the food and supplies you need to stay warm, fed, comfortable, or even alive, in the face of disaster. Planning doesn't have to be elaborate. "Simple" is the perfect place to start. You can always add to it from there.

We have to eat. Whether it's a hobo dinner, a reflector oven, or a make-shift griddle - If you have aluminum foil and sufficient heat, you can cook. This is "simple". I buy the large, restaurant supply rolls of aluminum foil at Costco Warehouse. You get a lot more for your money than in the smaller containers, and the heavy-duty foil will hold up much better than some of the very thin kitchen-use foil.

Hobo Dinners
Probably everyone knows what a Hobo Dinner is, but just in case: It's typically meat, onions, other vegetables and seasoning wrapped in foil and placed on a grate over a fire, or in the hot coals. You can really cook a whole lot of things this way - cobbler, cake, camp breads, stews, any vegetables or meats... Rather than completely wrapping the food, you can also form a "pot" shape to set over the heat source.

When cooking in a campfire, it's best to not have the foil right in the middle of the hottest part of the fire and glowing coals, or your food may burn. I learned that the hard way! Pulling some hot coals away into a pile and "burying" your foil dinner in them works great. Or set it on a grate of some kind, just above the heat. I've sat a foil dinner right at the edge of a good, hot fire and just turned it around a few times.

One of my favorite foil desserts is a Banana Boat.
~ Slice a banana from top to bottom on the inside of the curve. Cut clear through the banana without cutting into the peel on the back of the banana. Leave the banana in its peel.
~ Pull the banana open a little along the cut and stuff it with pieces of chocolate and marshmallows.
~ Set the banana on a sheet of foil and wrap it tightly around the banana, twisting and securing the ends.
~ Place it in the coals and let cook for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you have it in.
~Open the foil, grab a spoon and dig in!

Mmmmm! I love those!

Reflector Oven
There are several ways to make a reflector oven. A Solar Oven is a type of reflector oven made of reflective material that focuses the sun's rays onto the food. Or you can make a reflector to sit next to a fire and reflect its heat onto the food, like the one in the picture on the right.

A cardboard box can be lined with foil to set your dutch oven or other container inside with hot briquettes, like the picture on the left. I don't have any photos of my own, so I got these from Google Images to give you an idea of the different options.

The reflector oven I've used is a little different. I lined the inside of a box with foil. Then you set it upside down with one end propped up with rocks about an inch. Inside, you have hot briquettes, and 2 or 4 tin cans to set your cooking dish on top of. For now, you will have to get the idea from my not-so-professional sketches below. I have cooked a casserole and baked a cake this way. I've watched others bake bread  and cupcakes. They sat a cookie sheet on the tin cans and then put the bread pans on the cookie sheet. You would bake in this reflector oven the very same as you would in a conventional oven. I was really amazed at how simple and efficient it was.

When our weather turns nicer, I will do some reflector oven baking and take some good photos to show you how it works. Not that you need nice weather of course! This would be the perfect way to cook outside on the ground or a patio or apartment deck in the dead of winter. Just make sure your surface is heat safe. I'll also give more info on how many briquettes you need, depending on how hot you want your oven.

Makeshift foil griddle or pan
This is pretty basic. Lay foil flat over a fire grate, on top of a wood stove, or anywhere else that you can get sufficient heat. If you need to, you can shape the foil into a container to heat a small amount of water or soup or something else with liquid.

While we have easy access to the internet, is the time to search for and collect recipes that we like and other information that would be useful.

Aluminum Concerns
For many years, I have been leery of cooking with aluminum. The warnings came out long ago to throw out our aluminum cookware and replace them with steel or earthenware. We take in aluminum every day. It occurs naturally in the air, soil and water. It is sometimes used in pain killers and other medications, toothpaste, antiperspirant, baking powder, beer, bleached flour, grated cheese, table salt and a variety of other things. Municipal water can be one of our highest sources of aluminum intake.

I've done some research over the years and continue to find conflicting information. Some say that the minuscule amount of aluminum we would get from cooking is insignificant. But there is plenty of literature to warn of the dangers of Aluminum Toxicity. I continue to be cautious. The last time we made foil dinners (Hobo dinners), we wrapped the meat and vegetables in cabbage leaves and then wrapped that with the foil. The cabbage made the food taste even better but put something between it and the aluminum. We threw the leaves away.

In spite of my concerns, I have plenty of aluminum foil on hand for emergency cooking. It would be better to be able to cook with foil, than not cook at all. Also, you can fold a significant amount of foil into a flat shape that takes very little room for backpacking, or to put in an emergency 72-hour kit.

We would be wise to learn all we can and make educated decisions as we plan to provide for ourselves, families and others. I pray you are all taking steps to store necessities and gain needed skills, because  preparedness is peace of mind, not panic.


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