Friday, September 9, 2016

Watermelon Vines Cover the Desert Floor

Watermelon vines have taken hold in my backyard and I couldn't be more delighted. The fabulous fruit is a personal favorite and to have it growing live in my garden is a sweet event. I'll say this in the dear old southern granny voice, "It just makes ma heart swell!"

Last week's count of established and newly forming fruit numbered over two dozen. The monstrous patch of leaves is covering a former corn bed that is seven feet by seven feet and furrowed like real farm rows. The channels allow for deep watering and saturation to direct moisture to thirsty roots. These wonderful fruits require a lot of water, especially during the very hot months. The melon plants are hearty, cool leafy strings with bulging striped fruits. Their beginnings were just a few seeds in a couple of small pots. What I have now is the equivalent of a mini-jungle.

The flowers are tended neatly by bees and flying nectar loving things. The flowers on the vines are abuzz with bee activity early in the mornings just after sunrise. Attracting these important creatures is key for any successful planting. Once the bees know that you have these sweet flowers they will visit faithfully. Their presence means healthy fruit!

Watermelon Plants - Starter Pots

Recent Garden Tour

Allow me to introduce you to my backyard urban farm. 
Walk along with me and my chickens as we inspect a few things around the garden beds. 
The watermelon patch is highlighted for bragging rights. 

I believe these watermelons are Sugar Babies, but I may be wrong. They look more like the Crimson Sweet watermelons below. There are a wide variety of the fruit vines on the market. Plant them in late April in Nevada and watch the melon magic begin! Watermelons take up a lot of space so be careful where you plant them. The vines will need to stretch 15 to 20 feet all around the planting area. They will climb over and around everything in their path.

Order seeds for your next garden here at Direct Gardening. Most of them are under a dollar for the basics and quite affordable for more exotic varieties. Once these get going, collect the seeds from the melons and save for the future crops. The ideal seeds are the darker, mature ones. They are usually fatter than the rest of the seeds in the fruit. This is true of most seeds in fruit and vegetable varieties. Ask people to be considerate that are eating the fresh melon and spit the seeds in a pre-planned watermelon area so the yard doesn't end up with wandering vines. 

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

Saturday, August 6, 2016

How to Keep Chickens Cool in Blistering Summers

The temperatures in Las Vegas blow in at over 115 during the middle of summer. Keeping a flock of chickens cool and comfortable during these heat spells is an important task. My A-Frame Coop is set up just right now. After the Cornish Rock disaster in May, I made my chicken shelter a top priority.

Interior of A-Frame Chicken Coop - M Burgess - All Rights Reserved
A-Frame Chicken Coop Interior - The Chickens are right at home in their Gypsy camp coop.
I know my coop looks a little ghetto, but it works and below I have shared a few tips and techniques that seem to keep these birds comfortable. A rigid schedule has to be maintained or the hens will not lay eggs out of discomfort.  In the summer time, the coop needs to be cool enough to help the birds keep their body temperatures down. It also needs to be roomy enough for their grazing and pecking needs.

Video: A Visit to the Coop

First: Chickens Need Lots of Shade

The best coops and chicken shelters cast a wide shadow across the space a chicken has to graze in. Combine this with adequate scratch room, the hens will stay where they belong and be cool and cozy during heat waves. 
The shade in our coop area is achieved with a plywood roof, a bamboo screen, and an old dust ruffle with a white center sheet placed over areas that would be sun exposed. In cooler weather, the sheet will be removed. The more shade the better. The coop I managed to build is a bit ghetto and a little gypsy, but it works for the girl's needs.
Ghetto Coop

Ideally, a coop should be entirely secure and invasion proof. Where I live there are no animals that would threaten my chickens so they are able to roam in and out as they like. If you have predatory animals secure hardware mesh down at least a foot surrounding your coop.
In the first image, you can see the roosting bar, the water containers, and a plastic box containing the chicken's feed. The shaded area is large enough to give them room to wander without being right on top of each other. The plaid flannel blocks sun from the west end while the odd white sheet with the dust ruffle reflects the sun off of the top of the coop. Ideally, I would have painted the roof white for the same effect. I am developing this coop as I go and as I see the need to alter it for the health of the birds. 
There is a chicken wire fence running around the exterior of the structure, but I leave it open as of late because the hens climb up to the top of the a-frame roof and leap off into the garden. The roof section is about four feet tall. I'd rather not have them testing their wing capabilities. They only float down so there is a possibility for them to get hurt. Chickens do not fly very well.

Second: Chickens Need a Lot of Water

Water is essential to any living creature's survival. This goes without saying. It is the best way to keep an animal cool during extreme heat. Looking around the internet for ideas on keeping chickens cool, I found a few forum threads that suggested large tubs of water be set around coop areas. They mentioned ice and even mud for allowing the hens a place to cool their feet. 

Houston International 6090
18-Inch by 16-Inch by 9-Inch
Galvanized Oval Tub
[Amazon Affiliate Link]

I have all three conditions in the a-frame coop as you can see in the video. The large bins are dumped daily and the girls get a nice little mud puddle to scratch and wade in. They'll wander through it and cool their feet off and in turn cool their body temperatures. The purple tub is just a cool spot. They do not like it as much as they like their galvanized tub. 

Ice Therapy

I save half gallon milk jugs and rinse them as I use up the contents. They are then filled with water to about two inches from the lid area, sealed, and dropped in the deep freezer. They will be solid after about 5 hours. I rotate five or more of these in and out of the compartment as needed. I use four in the outdoor coop and two more large jugs in the small hutch I also keep. I use three five gallon buckets altogether. The ones in the A-Frame are kept with a lid on them so that I can reuse the water. It is usually cool and chills quickly when I change out the jugs. The idea here is to drop the interior temps by a few degrees and make the space more livable. The one in the hutch area is left open so the hens there can have an additional water source.  
Honeywell CO30XE 63 Pt.
Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative
Air Cooler with Remote Control, Grey
[Amazon Affiliate Link]

Opt for An Air Cooler

I have been told that there are chicken folks that have a real shed for their birds complete with a swamp cooler or an A/C wall unit built right into the shed. I just love that idea, but at this time I cannot build something like that. That is one of those someday projects. I have looked around at different solutions and will invest in a unit such as this Honeywell Evaporative Air Cooler. This is an affordable piece of equipment and can be brought camping or to a beach area. It is something I am considering investing in. 
The cooler will have to be placed in a box of some kind so that it does not collect bird droppings. It will be just the thing we need to deliver a cool area to these precious birds. The more comfortable a hen is the more likely they will produce eggs, even in the wretched months of summer.

Chicken Popsicles 

There was a meme going around Facebook that showed a confetti of fruits and veggies frozen in ice. It looks like a nice snack for keeping chickens cool and entertained. The mix looked like about two cups of goodies to about four cups of water then frozen in a large bowl and removed for pecking. I have not made one of those, yet, but I do offer the hens watermelon occasionally. They are skeptical at first but once they taste it - it disappears fairly quickly.
Keeping Chickens Cool During Summer Heat Waves - Image: M Burgess - All Rights Reservedposted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Product Review: Portable Rain Barrel

Collapsible Storage Container for Water

Portable Rain Barrel

Water is vital to human survival. We may last only a week without this valuable moisture. To ensure your family has a proper allotment of H2O, stash at least a gallon per person for the emergency storage plan. If you are planning on two weeks of backup water and you have four family members, you will need at least 56 gallons. Increase that by the amount of water needed for washing and that number doubles.
(See H2O - A few dozen healthy reasons to love water!)

Water storage is a high priority with a preparedness plan. While on the search for options on large capacity water storage containers, I ran across this lovely idea and immediately had it shipped. Imagine a portable rain barrel!  The price was affordable and I had to check it out. It was soon put to good use as we had storms moving through the area within the week that it had arrived.

The Portable Rain Barrel holds around 35 gallons of rainwater and it was simple to set up. The zippered top was smooth to close and the only issue I had was the water spigot assembly on the bottom of the unit. That issue was user error. It seems I had forgotten to close the gadget and all the rainwater that would have been held in the barrel freely ran out of the spout. Turn this to off when you assemble the hose attachment. 

The box size surprised me when it arrived. It was no more than a large poster box. I looked at it suspiciously when the postal worker dropped it off to me. No way will this thing hold 35 gallons. I did wait to put it together for about three days. Once I broke it out of the box I realized what a treasure I had found. The container was put to work under the crease on my roof since there are no rain gutters.

The first set up proved to be a little flimsy, but once it held water, the container sat on its own and has ever since. In time, I will empty it for fresh water addition, but for now, I am curious how long it will take to fill up. It has been about six weeks and the barrel is over half full. I am optimistic that the capacity would be overflowing had I thought to make sure the spigot valve was closed.  I can assure you, I will be buying another one in the near future

Read more about the Portable Rain Barrel on Amazon

The advertising links featured on these pages are products from various affiliate programs for the purposes of quality marketing. We feature them here because we recommend them as quality products and will not recommend something that will not meet your needs. By clicking on link and purchasing items you are contributing not only to your well being and needs but you are helping support the writer of this site with small residual income. This enables further research and time to keep working on these issues and topics. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Preparedness and the Reality of a Home Invasion and Burglary

There are certain thoughts and realities that come to light when one experiences a burglary like I did this week. The what if's pop up every other minute counting down the possibilities. 

Door damaged during home invasion
Door damaged during home invasion
What if I were home when this happened? What if they come back? What if they had harmed my pets? What if -- what if -- what if!?! The ricochet of these thoughts are what causes the worry and anxiety to surface until the mind can settle. It takes time. Just like the effects of a bad flu or a virus, a violation of our space is an effect on the nervous system and thought processes. In time, these flickering questions will fade, but the possibility of the next event keeps a person on alert for better home security and certain practices.

My Experience with a Burglary

I came home from work like I always do, unlocking the door and stepping in to greet my animals. I was tired, but happy that I had a good night. This time, I stopped in shock as my door crept open too easy and the frame fell in upon the unlocking of the deadbolt. I thought to myself the cats must have really wanted to get wait! Oh, dear God, no! I've been broken into. The robber had set the frame back in place slightly to mimic a complete closure. My animals were all staring at me, puzzled. Two cat faces and one canine told the story of something that had gone down within the past couple of hours - or was it minutes? They knew who it was. If only they could talk. 

I paced the home carefully knowing I needed to be cautious. I surveyed my rooms and cleared my home then assessed the missing objects and rooms violated. I called the police as soon as I made the round complete. "311 Operator, Hello! I've been robbed." She asked for my street address and told me that this was a report call so it might be awhile before I saw an officer.

I took an inventory and noticed my tv missing and the handful of change gone from my desk. The jewelry box that held sentimental items was taken. It held a few mementos of the past, but nothing of value. What a disappointment that is going to be when it is rifled. Too bad they had to take that. It had a ring my grandmother gave me that was Sarah Coventry. It was worthless to all but me.

I had to get the animals fed so I did the smart thing and put gloves on. The metro dispatcher had asked me not to touch anything until the investigators arrived. I obediently went about my business - dishing out cat and dog food then went to wait outside in  my car. Thanks, dear dirt bag, I thought. A twelve-hour shift in a busy, congested city and I get to come home to this. Ah, such is life in the world we have been given.

The premises had to be looked over and fingerprinted. The door to the tv cabinet may give a clue and so might the door itself. Black dust was carefully feathered over surfaces and my fingerprints were taken to rule out my set.

My conclusion is this. Mind your area. Check your doors before you leave and when you come back again. A checklist below will help cover the areas in the home that need attention before and after vacating the premises.

  • Doors Locked
  • Windows Locked and barred
  • Lights on somewhere in the home
  • Security lights in order
  • Security System Armed
  • Valuables: Serial numbers recorded, item photographed, and an itemized list kept in safe place (safe deposit box or cloud file)
  • Do not leave valuables in plain sight
  • Scan area and see that nothing is out of place when you get home.
  • Make a visual inspection of home to make sure there is no intruder

If you have had a break in the ability to itemize the situation quickly helps the information relay to the officers who will be handling the report.

What to do if your home has been burglarized 

  • Call police dispatch immediately. Use the non-emergency line Generally, 311
  • Do Not Touch ANYTHING!
  • Make a visual inspection of home to make sure there is no intruder
  • Get you and your pets in a safe area until the investigators can finish their reports
  • Make a quick survey and a list of things that are missing / damaged 
  • Let officers do their job so that the situation is handled efficiency.

After the report is made:
  • Assess what can be done at the moment and clean up / straighten up areas that need attention
  • Remove fingerprint dusting with a paper towel and cleaning agent.
  • Call your insurance company / landlord and report the break-in
  • Relax. Chances are the robbers may not be back.

Extra precautions:

  • Install metal frame doors
  • Security film on windows
  • Install lighting everywhere
  • Install peephole
  • Video camera surveillance recording off property
  • Flood lights activated by motion sensors
  • Heavy duty locks and extra secure interior chains and slider locks
  • Guard dog
  • Firearm

Police Department Video on Home Burglary Prevention 

The harder it is to get into your home, the more likely it will be to discourage a perpetrator from breaking in. They want a quick grab and go job. The longer it takes to get in the higher the likelihood of being caught.


While the temperature of those who do deeds of this sort are heating up, we need to be extremely cautious everywhere we go, not just home. We need to be alert everywhere. I'm going to be a jumpy mess for a few days, but I am determined to enjoy my home, go about my life, and put this invasion behind me. I will be placing in motion additional precautions to keep me and my fur family safe. This is just a rocky moment in a daily grind and this too shall pass into moments I look back on. It will be a space in time I am grateful that none of my family members or myself were harmed.

If you have anything to add to this list, please mention the tips below in comments. Thank you for visiting!

More on preventing home invasion and burglary:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fishing Camping Southern Nevada

Southern Nevada offers more to the visitor than the ritzy, glitzy Las Vegas Strip Corridor. There are amazing national parks surrounding the neon city. Fish, hike, camp, and relax in a variety of terrains and eye-catching natural beauty.

Fishing the dock at Eagle Valley Reservoir - Image: M Burgess
All Rights Reserved 2016
My exploration of the Southern Nevada camping areas began this past Fall (2015) when it was realized that there had not been an outing of this sort for more than 2 years. The equipment was there, sitting in wait and collecting dust. A fishing pole that had been purchased three years ago still had a tag on it and had never touched the water. This was not acceptable. An idea to hit the mountain was put into motion, the car was packed for a few days of supplies and the adventures began. The following parks are among the places I visited on my grand nature outing adventure.

Ideal Camp Schedules 

During the cooler months of winter, the camping areas of Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon (not shown below) are accessible. During the cool months, Mt. Charleston is a great place for winter sports and snow play, but not for camping. Spring and summer are a good time to visit the mountain. Waiting for the warmer days of   early spring is something this author looks forward to. Camping and fishing are the desired timeout whenever the time is available. Looking for a great place to take the kids? Any one of these areas is an ideal family adventure.

This basic list is just a handful of recommended places available for use during the more pleasant seasons of the year - Fall and Spring.

Eagle Valley / Echo Canyon - spring through late autumn

Lake Mead - early spring and late autumn

Mt. Charleston - spring through late autumn

Red Rock Canyon - early spring and late autumn

Valley of Fire - early spring and late autumn

Driving an hour or two from the Sin City will lead you to several wonderful camp and hike areas. 


Mount Charleston / Kyle Canyon Hill Top Campground

Picnic table and view - Hilltop Campground, Toiyabe National Forest, Kyle Canyon, Nevada Image: M Burgess
Picnic table and view - Hilltop Campground, Toiyabe National Forest, Kyle Canyon, Nevada - Image: M Burgess 
All Rights Reserved 2016
Basic Information: 

Open til October 10

Address: Las Vegas, NV 89166
Location and GPS Info: 36°18'35"N, 115°36'24"W

Phone:  (801) 226-3564

Take the 95 to the Mount Charleston Exit and follow that past the Mt. Charleston Resort. Make a right at Deer Creek Road. Drive about 5 - 6 miles up and look for a brown sign past Robber's Roost (great hike!) that reads "Campground 1/4 Mile." That is your marker. Slow down and turn right into that forked road. The fork to the left is the one you want to take.

Driving Time: about 1 hour

Campground rental fees and other services may be found here at the park's website

Our Mt. Charleston Adventure

Mount Charleston was our first stop on a six-weekend journey. The Hill Top Campground had one available area with a view of the valley. We got lucky, my dog and myself. The camp was full. There was a drawback on this visit. The water reserves had been tapped for a devastating wildfire two years ago and the mountain had received little rain in the time period. There would be no water on the mountain. The toilets were port-a-potties. Luckily we brought our own jugs, bottles, and containers. It is a wise choice to bring few days supply of water, especially when visiting a natural area. Water quality is always questionable. Having your own saves a few moments of grief. Mt. Charleston normally has spigots nearby, but they are dry. The water is potable only, which means it is only for washing, not for cooking or drinking.

Related blog link: Camping on Mt. Charleston with a Dog and a Dutch Oven


The Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire, Nevada - Atlatl Rock Campground Image: M Burgess
Valley of Fire, Nevada - Atlatl Rock Campground - Image: M Burgess  - All Rights Reserved 2016

Basic Information:

Open year round

Address: 29450 Valley of Fire Road Overton, Nevada 89040
GPS Info: 36.4303° N, 114.5143° W
Phone: 702-397-2088

From the I-15 N. Take exit 75 from I-15 N  - Merge onto Valley of Fire Hwy - follow road to Valley of Fire State Park 

Driving Time: about 1 hour 15 mins

Be advised there is a toll booth for entry into the park

Campground rental fees and other services may be found here at the park's website:

Visiting The Valley of Fire

Easter weekend (2016) warmed enough to consider a visit to Valley of Fire. The campground is located about 60 miles from the city of Las Vegas. The road is paved and the journey is a breathtaking ride into desert beauty. This time of year encourages the blooms of various cacti and desert flowers. The valley floor is dotted with lovely blossoms and colorful foliage. It is a striking contrast to the deadly heat of the summer months when the vista is dried and patiently waiting for the temperatures to cool once more. 

Again, we found the last campsite available. The Atlatl Rock camp provided a nice backdrop and a secluded area for pitching our tents and enjoying the area.

Related Article: Camping Early Spring in Valley of Fire


About an hour from the city

Lake Mead / Callville Bay Campground

Callville Bay Campground SignImage: M Burgess 
All Rights Reserved 2016
Basic Information:

Open year round

Address: 100 Callville Bay Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89120
Location and GPS Info: 
Latitude 36° 08.6401'
Longitude -114° -43.3200'

Phone: 702-293-8990

Take I-15 S, I-215 E, W Lake Mead Pkwy and Northshore Rd to Callville Bay Rd - Follow Callville Bay Rd to campground

Driving Time: about 1 hour

Be advised there is a toll booth for entry into the park

Visiting Lake Mead

Our visit in October to Callville Bay was a test run for camping near Lake Mead. The temperatures were still in the nineties and I have to admit that this trip was a bit uncomfortable during the daylight hours. The ideal expedition to the lake involves a boat if one really wants to experience the area in comfort. There are coves around the water areas that are available for camping.

The campground itself was clean and quiet. The air was sticky and hot during the day. The dog and I agreed to leave early as the mood was dampened by the heat and humidity. We set up camp late in the afternoon, had dinner, then slept overnight. The following morning we found a fishing cove further down the road and tried our best, but the fish were showing several yards from where the bait would reach. I did not enjoy this trip as I would have liked to. The checklist was complete after a failed fishing attempt, so we packed up and left. The cooler months of winter would be an ideal time to camp Lake Mead's campgrounds.

About three hours from Las Vegas is a beautiful area called The Spring Valley State Park. It holds a few great camping and fishing sites. These are my favorite places to camp out. I favor the Horsethief Gulch Camp near the Eagle Valley Reservoir over Echo Canyon, but both locations are beautiful and peaceful. 

Campground rental fees and other services may be found here at the park's website


Just a three hour drive from Las Vegas, Nevada you will find these gem locations

Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon camp side view. - Eagle Valley area Spring Valley 
State Park, Nevada. Image: M Burgess All Rights Reserved 2016 
Basic Information

Open until late October. Reopens late February - Early March

Location and GPS Info: 
37º54'27.81" N 114º16'4.89" W

Phone: (775) 962-5103

Directions: I-15 N to the 93 N exit. Travel north  US-93 N/Great Basin Hwy to the 322 near Pioche. A small sign will indicate Echo Canyon. Follow the road to the campground.

Driving Time: about 3 hours

Campground rental fees and other services may be found at the park's website

The camp was a wonderful experience. The shore was easy to get to, just drive the car to the edge near the water and set up the spot for fishing, The campground was clean and set comfortably up a hill with a marvelous view of the water. I found the water area too weedy for fishing, but it was a relaxing experience. Just being out in the great outdoors was reward enough. The dog was a bit reserved when it came to leaving the tent. He must have smelled something in the area he found threatening. There are wild animals around that might cause him harm, but I neither saw nor heard anything, Some guard dog he is... 

Read more about our visit here:
Camping with a Dog and a Dutch Oven - part two


Eagle Valley Reservoir - Horsethief Gulch Campground

Eagle Valley Reservoir - Fall 2015 - Image; M Burgess - All Rights Reserved 2016

Basic Information

Open until late October. Reopens late February - Early March

Address: Pioche, NV 89043
Location and GPS Info:
38º01'21.33" N 114º11'41.42" W

Phone: (775) 962-5102

I-15 N to the 93 N exit. Travel north  US-93 N/Great Basin Hwy to the 322 near Pioche. Follow the road to the end past the Eagle Valley Resort.

Driving Time: about 3 hours

Campground rental fees and other services may be found here at the park's website

Eagle Valley, by far, is my favorite camp site. The area is serene and surreal. The rolling hills and the assorted brush are appealing to the eye and the mind. The dock is a great place to fish early mornings and there are comfortable campgrounds within the park. Amenities include a fish cleaning station, modern restroom facilities, fire rings and covered picnic tables. 

Related Article: Camping with a Dog and a Dutch Oven - part two


About the Author:

Fish caught Eagle Valley Reservoir
Image: M Burgess  All Rights Reserved 2016

Camping and fishing are my very favorite time outs. I love cooking over the open fire and enjoying the scenery. The relaxing hours with a fishing pole are what a friend of mine calls tension relief. It certainly is that. The added thrill of a fish on and a tasty fish dinner makes these trips worthwhile. A visit to an area with wildlife and beautiful scenery is just the thing a restless heart and tired mind need after weeks on end of a busy work schedule. You may care for the hiking and exploration in these areas. As for me I will stick to the leisure of fishing, resting, cooking, and meditating on the views. 

It has been my pleasure sharing this passion with you and I thank you for visiting! 


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Civil Unrest - Events That We Should Have Prepared For

When chaos pulls up the reigns on a calm society, the events can produce a sense of disaster especially if our homes are near the target areas. In our news, just this week, are incidents that are heated with violence and angry mobs. There is a real cause for concern if this is in your city. Readiness basics need to be in place before these things happen. 

We can be fearful of the dangers that accompany the event. We may have to defend ourselves and our homes. We need to be prepared for any scenario. This is certainly a situation that should take everything we know about preparedness. Our skills, testing, and supplies need to be in order in these times. Are these things in our toolbox, so to speak?    

Protesting Crowds
Protesting Crowds

72-hour kits

Are your 72-hour kits in order? Does every member of the family have one of these supply bags? Three days of food, water, and hygiene supplies should be prepacked. A change of clothing, socks, and undergarments need to be ready to grab and go at a moment's notice. Keep one in the car for roadside emergencies. The better you plan ahead, the easier it will be to bug out or stay in place for #SHTF events. Include important medications for individuals and tailor fit each one to fit the family member. Do not forget to pack one for the beloved family pet. They may have to move with us quickly and there may be no time to pack the food dish and other supplies. 

Food Storage

Is there food storage enough for every one of our family members and pets for at least two weeks? Are the basics stored and all of the food groups covered? Does the family stash include multivitamins and other nutritional supplements? Canned goods, dried goods, and jars of necessary nutrients are a must for preparedness. It is the foundation of all we do to be prepared. Food storage is energy for the body. Without fuel, we are running on empty. A good food supply will aid in comforting our family in times of extreme stress. Read more.... 

Water Supply

Water supplies should cover more than that time period. The possibility of water shortage and the ability to leave one's home may come to pass. Plan for drinking water and potable or wash water. Potable may not be consumed, but is safe for bathing and clean up purposes. Do we have sanitizing tablets or bleach for killing bacteria if we have to process our drinking water? Is there a way to boil water to sterilize it? Do we have a life straw or another form of filtering tool for processing tainted water, if needs be? Read more....

Toilet and Hygiene Prep

Whether or not you shelter in or bug out toilet and hygiene preps are inevitable. In the home, if the water is shut off, using the commode can get a little messy. There needs to be a supply of water which will flush the discarded waste down the pipes. A five-gallon jug placed in the bathroom might last for a few flushes. Make sure to keep a container of bleach handy for sanitizing the bowl if needed. 

Bugging out to a wilderness location might require the digging of a latrine. Bringing a prepared sanitation bucket along packed with trash bags and bleach for a chemical toilet is a good alternative. The problem with a makeshift chemical toilet is disposing of that bag some place proper. 

First Aid Kits and Medical Supplies

A first aid kit is one of those things that is unappreciated until it is needed. Stocked well with the wound packing items and bandages it can turn a bad situation into a livable one. Be sure to stock this kit with medicines like ibuprofen, antihistamines, stomach remedies, anti-diarrhea meds, and antibacterial ointments. Buy one pre-packaged then stuff it full of additional goods. The better off this is set up the easier it is to treat wounds and common ailments.  

Safe Shelter and Evacuation Planning

If you are blocked into the home, there is no choice. You must stay safely indoors. There may be a chance of a break in or windows knocked out so stay somewhere you can be safe. A large closet or interior room without front facing windows is best. Go quietly about your business if possible. 

We may need to evacuate the home if crowds get too unruly, but what to do and where to go? If evacuation is possible staying at a shelter or a camp area are options. Shelters will not allow pets or certain preparedness tools, so be aware of those conditions before you start out to that location. A campground might be ideal if you have a good tent and the necessary items to set up your camp properly. There will be camp fees so be sure to have enough cash stashed n the emergency kits to cover a week or two outdoors. If you have done your research on the area surrounding your home, you may have already found a safe zone to camp in that does not have an entrance fee.

Remember that leaving the home may entail a traffic tie up as everyone in the area may be thinking and doing the same thing and heading in the same direction.

Defense Training

Do you have weapons training and proper permits? Let an intruder pass unless they confront you.
If confronted, there are a number of ways to handle that situation. Protect your family and yourself at all costs if this is the situation. By all means, do not make a situation worse than it already is by causing more harm. In a split second, things can get deadly. Make this a last resort, but by all means, be ready for it. Stay on the side of the upper hand.


Don't wish you had planned. Be thankful you did and keep adding to the stores and stock set aside. Grow a garden. Network with people who have this same mindset. Follow groups and newsletters of preparedness sites. Planning for a disaster and not using the supplies is better than the crushing, panicky feeling you'll get when you do really need prep items and are foolishly stuck without them.

Related links:
More from this blog:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer Heat and Animal Safety

Always Remember - Animals are Fragile!

The temperatures are rising outdoors and this means the additional danger of high heat comes with it. Our pet's health should be on the forefront of our concerns. I made a fatal mistake this week with my flock and this is something I am going to be upset about for quite some time. I feel the need to share it so that others do not make the same mistake I did. Prevent animal tragedies by studying the environment they will be sheltered in BEFORE you move them into that location.

Do not ever forget HEAT KILLS!

A Backyard Flock

I am already experienced with egg laying hens and this year I thought I should learn all I could about chickens. This included the butchering process. I brought home four birds including two Cornish Rock hens in March. I now know that I do not possess the mind or heart that can do what needs to be done for a fresh chicken dinner. I can catch, clean, and eat a fish, no problem, but chickens are not something I can kill. I'm ok with that. The thought about getting these birds ready for the table was looming over me like a bad dream. What happened yesterday proves I am not capable of dressing a bird unless it is of extreme necessity. It also taught me the value of planning completely to ensure the safety of my animals.

I have a small set of chickens in my backyard and I felt the birds needed a bit more space to run around and be comfortable. They have a good sized hutch on a shady side of the property, but I wanted to give them a play yard. I thought that giving them room to roam in a fenced in area would be doing them some good. Little did I know that it would be a tragic event for two of my birds. 

My backyard flock 2016 - Henry and Henrietta's last picture (The white birds) 

Cornish Rock Hens

The white chickens are a special breed specifically produced for meat. They are Cornish Rock hens. (Well, one is a hen the other is a rooster that crowed for the first time just this very morning.) The birds quickly put on weight. In a short time, they are too big to use their legs and will just sit and eat and drink until they are butchered. They have fragile hearts because of their fast growing bodies and are prone to heart attacks. 

The chickens were getting huge. They are only a few days shy of three months old and they are the size of small turkeys. The feed store told me they would grow fast, but this was crazy fast. At just two weeks old they had already doubled the size of their adopted sibling sisters. 

White and black baby chickens at their water bottle
Henry at two weeks

Free Ranging Chickens

Free ranging chickens are certainly happier birds, but I am told chickens don't really care where they are as long as they are fed, their water is clean and so is their coop. They just go about their chicken business fairly happy where ever they are. I have seen this with all of my flocks. They generally just mutter along through the day. They do get chattery around feeding time and that is all the fuss I have had from my birds. 

I let them out to run as often as possible, but I am very cautious about time outside. A free ranging flock with peck at everything laying in the area they have access to. My small flock last year destroyed my garden beds both flower and vegetable. Funny, they never bothered my herb bed. (Preseasoned chickens anyone?)

An issue arose that had me feeling guilty about keeping my birds hutch bound constantly. I wanted them to free range, but I also needed to protect my garden which had I had invested quite a bit of time and funds to establish. I want them to have a good life with me and I care for each of them as if they were little kids. The idea arose to give them a run so they could stretch their wings and legs and allow them roaming room. I designed a pen area with a small triangular shelter and went to work on the plan. Mind you this is still in beta test mode....

Outdoor Sheltering

As I thought about the new coop I would build I came up with a solution that would be multi-purpose. I built a lovely triangular shelter. The idea was to allow the birds to step up onto a small shelf in the unit and be protected from the sun. It would have hay on it for comfort and be easily accessible for a resting bird. I would add a box underneath to double as a nesting box and add roost bars and an extended roof later. They are not laying eggs yet, so the nesting box can wait. For now it would give the birds a yard to roam in. It would also double as a wintering shelter. The interior would have a small hook to attach a heat lamp. There would be a safe distance between heat source and animals and hay. I could use it as a brooder, too, if I needed. One would only have to set a plastic bin in the space under the lamp and the chicks would be comfortable and safe.

The yard area was about seven feet by seven. I drove in the fence posts last week. The coop was set inside the pen area and I strung up the chicken wire but I had not secured it completely. I still had a lot of work to do here. It was usable as is - fenced with four-foot high chicken wire and secured. I thought they were safe. Or so I believed. I did not account for the effect of the full sun on the shelter's full afternoon temperatures.

New Coop Run  (a work still in progress, but workable) - Day One 

A Tragic Move

I placed their water and their food out in the pen. I set a shade cloth up over the back end of the run so the shade would help protect the birds. I put them out in the chicken yard in the morning on Monday and the last I looked in on them it was around 9:30 am. I went to get my rest for the night and did not check back on them until 2:30 in the afternoon. They were delighted. Pecking grass and ground, they milled around exploring their new home.

When I woke back up, I went to see how the chickens were doing. To my horror, both the white birds were laying on the shelter shelf. Both of these beautiful birds had died. The other birds were sitting up around them unharmed. I am not sure if it was the heat or their hearts, but. I was crushed. What started off as an idea to help them cost these two sweet-faced birds their lives. I couldn't have done any worse if I had thrown these birds in my car and shut the door on them. I will carry this tragic accident with me for a lifetime. The Memorial Day weekend will always stick in my mind as this day, this sad moment. 

Prevent Animal Tragedies

Examine the area you want to shelter your animals. What is the high temperature during the hottest day of the year where you live? This day was still somewhat cool where I live and it still killed these birds. Put a lot of time and research into what you will be providing for your animals. Please, do what you can to explore every option before you put an animals life in danger unknowingly. Mistakes like this do not have to happen if you plan ahead and you plan well.

This situation may have been avoided if I had set a thermometer up in the shelter and observed it. It would have also been prevented if I had just brought the chickens back to their shady area before I went in for my day's sleep. This accident has left me grieving birds I was going to butcher. It just goes to show me how I would have felt had I wielded a hatchet on them. 

Be Prepared for Pets and Summer Heat

Prepare always to prevent harm to any animal you have. Keep an eye on your dog when you are opening the car doors. People I know in Florida has a puppy get in their car and they did not notice it there until it was too late. My dog constantly tries to get in my car when I return with groceries. His want for a ride may cost him his life. I double check my car before I lock it up. I make sure he is never in there with the windows up. I take him with me if I am going to be away from the car for any length of time or I leave him safely home.

During hot months, bring your animals inside or somewhere cool. Give them lots of water. Keep them safe and comfortable. Preparedness for your animals is as important as prep for your family. They are family whether they have fur or feathers...

Rest in peace Henry and Henrietta.

Chickens in the Backyard

The Cost Of Fresh Eggs

Please, check with your local ordinances before purchasing your chicks. The neighborhood I live in allows up to three in the yard without a rooster.

free range brown egg prices
Free Range Egg Prices
I talked about raising chickens a couple of years ago in an article and last season I bought and raised three fine hens. Unfortunately, they slipped through my fence and disappeared on me. I never did track them down. My current set of birds is under lock and key and an ever watchful eye. There are things you need to really understand about raising chickens and I will try to list the most important ideas here.

Raising these birds were challenging, but rewarding. They needed me to feed them twice a day, provide fresh water, and clean cage droppings on a regular basis. You must be ready to spend a few minutes several times a day to keep your flock healthy.

The times I check the prices on a dozen eggs at the store tells me I am doing the right thing. Free range, brown eggs are up to $4.62 a dozen. That is pricey protein and ridiculous when you realize you have space and dedication for raising your own egg laying birds.

When you figure the cost of eggs, it becomes clear that homegrown eggs are cost effective if you account for the cost of the eggs, the cost of storing them, the time it takes to shop, and the unknown factor of how these birds were raised.

The initial price of the chicks is under $3 for a basic laying hen. The feed runs around $17 and will last about a month. They take a twice a day routine to feed, water, and maintain. I feed mine when I wake and when I get home from work. Generally, 5 pm and 5 am are good times to tend the coop.

Build Your Own Coop

The birds are going to need a safe, comfortable environment. The floor needs to be secure and so do the walls and roof. The unit I built has a top that secures with a hook and eye catch so that my cats cannot lift it easily. They are up off the ground so that creepy things cannot easily enter the coop area. This chicken coop hutch cost me around $60 in materials to build. It took one afternoon and bit of cursing and elbow grease to build it.

Not that it makes a difference, but I should point out that I am a small female with no knowledge of wood working skills and I was able to build this easily. Moving it was the biggest issue I faced. Determination says a lot about getting things done. A screw gun, skill saw, and a few ideas on paper made this idea a reality. This is light enough that two people may move it easily for clean up under the coop occasionally. I will eventually share the plans for this coop. See my author site for occasional updates:

 Chickens Produce: Eggs, Fertilizer, Calcium 

The bird's droppings are high in nitrogen and can be used to feed your garden plants a necessary nutrient. I would let the waste compost for a week before adding to the garden bed. I do dump the water dish in different areas of the yard as I clean the feeding area for the birds. What is the cost of fertilizer and soil amendment? I pay $9.99 at the local nursery for a bag of dirt that contains 15% chicken manure. Chemical fertilizers can be cheap or very expensive depending on the brand and purpose.

Back to the real cost of eggs. Three hens yield an egg a day early in their laying career. That's a dozen eggs every four days. Tag that with the current cost of eggs and this is a $4.62 return on your investment. The feed is minimal and a bag lasts about a month with three birds.

I love animals so the idea of having these birds in my critter family made sense. The notion of fresh eggs also hit home for me. It is a deliberate plan of action for my preparedness lifestyle. Having necessary protein at ready access is worth all the effort. The sweet faces on the birds sealed the deal.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Recycling a Christmas Tree

Plant nurseries and other businesses are inviting people to mulch and recycle their Christmas tree instead of tossing it to the curb for the trash truck to collect. 

Christmas tree being reclaimed for fire kindling
Recycling a Christmas tree for kindling

I went one further with my tree this year. I chunked the branches and twigs off and set them aside for kindling and potpourri. 

I know it might be a little late for this year's tree to be reclaimed, but here is a great tip for next year. After I stripped my tree down, I set the small sized branches away in boxes and stored them out of the way so they do not get wet. They are an excellent way to start up a fire and the smoke from the burning needles and twigs is terrific. 

The smell of a live tree is amazing. The scent is earthy and sweet and picking one out is indeed a favorite moment of the season. Decorating them carefully and watching them twinkle in the twilight brings comfort and amazement. It is the reason I insist on not investing in an artificial tree for the holidays. This year was my first tree in almost a decade and I thoroughly enjoyed its presence. It was a joy to behold as I trimmed it with glittery things and sweet favors.

Recycling a Christmas Tree for Kindling

Fiskars Traditional Bypass Pruning Shears

This project requires a pair of gardening or work gloves and a small pair of pruning shears. A small saw or cutting tool that can handle the trunk cuts will be needed as well. 

I allowed my tree to rest and dry completely on the back patio before I trimmed it down. When the smaller twigs break away from the trunk easily it is time to remove all the branches from the tree trunk. I began trimming from the top section and wove down through the front side facing me until I had a good sized slot down the length of the tree. Once a large enough gap has been opened in the dried foliage the job gets easier and faster. 

Cut all twigs down to about 10" and place them in a holding container. A box or plastic tub will work fine. I may later set choice twigs away in storage bags for the scented potpourri, but for now the project is complete. I still need to cut the trunk down. I will do so when time allows. The cuts can be any length provided they fit neatly in the coal area of a fireplace or fire pit. Place about six to ten twigs in the fire staging area when beginning a fire. They should ignite easily and allow a log placed above to catch easily.

Save the bottom length of trunk for your next year's Yule Log. This piece would start the Christmas fire for the 12 days of Christmas as tradition states. You could also drill holes in it and use it as a decorative candle holder. Accent the log with trimmings taking care not to allow flame to touch the decor. 

Reclaim that tree and send it back to the earth in flame. Rekindle that tree's memory in a flickering fire and continue to enjoy it. When the fire dies down and the coals have all cooled the ashes may be placed back in the garden area as potash. 

Please, please, be cautious always when working around open fire.