What I Did This Week To Prep

Last spring, working on our energy category, I bought a used Generac 5000 generator. My goal is to test it each quarter to ensure it still works properly. I especially wanted to be sure this time of year with the cold winter months approaching. So Ryan, his best friend Chanse, and I got it out. It took us a minute, but once we got the choke properly adjusted it fired up. I need to remember next time that the garage (even with the door open) isn’t the place to test it – it’s loud! Though we haven’t used it other than testing, so far I’ve been pleased with it – but I definitely need more experience using it.

Not long after buying the generator, continuing in the energy category, I bought four slightly used AGM deep cycle batteries and a refurbished Magnum inverter/charger. It took me a while to get all the appropriate knowledge and pieces together. But with the help of a couple TSP forum friends (thanks Dan and Rick), and their electrical/alternative energy knowledge, by early summer I had everything wired together and functional. This past week, after it had quietly sat in the garage for a couple months, I finally did my first test of the system. The test was to see how long our 14 cubic foot deep freezer would run (without opening the freezer) on the batteries. The battery bank, fully charged, started at 12.60 volts. I recorded the time and battery voltage several times a day. It ran for a about 100 hours, until the batteries were at 10.71 volts. A few days after my test I realized that the breaker from the batteries to the inverter had tripped and, after looking at the manual, I determined that the batteries probably should have discharged to 10.50 volts before the inverter tripped off; so add a few more hours to the total. I need to do more testing and develop a better understanding of my backup electric system, but it was a start. Next I’ll do a ‘lights out’ test and see how the battery bank does running some electrical appliances in the house. I also need to use the generator to recharge the discharged battery bank and see how long, and how much gas, that takes.

Ryan & Brynn with our combined order

Lastly, we went to the Mormon Family Home Storage Center (cannery) and canned food to add to our LTS. I previously posted about the Mormon canneries, and included a link to a video of the process, in Long Term Storage (Food Part 2). The staff (Mormon volunteers) were super friendly and helpful. The cannery is scheduled by groups; you can form your own group (Mormon or non-Mormon), or you can be added to a smaller group (we were added to a Mormon group from the Auburn area). A friend had planned to go with me but was unable to go that week, so I offered to do his order as well. Since it was going to be a large order (combined 91 cans) I brought Ryan and Brynn along to help. In addition to us, there were about eight other people in our group. We had each previously submitted our order forms, and all the bulk storage bags we would need had been pulled from the shelves and were ready to go. Start to finish, including orientation and cleanup, took just over two hours. We were assigned a task and, assembly line style, the process started: opening bulk bags, pouring into #10 cans, sealing the metal lid on the can, adding a label, and placing the can in a box for the appropriate order. When all the work was completed, we inventoried and paid for our order. We added 55 #10 cans to our LTS.

What did you do?

(Monday: Antibiotics In Your Preps?)

(10/23/11)

Long Term Storage (Food Part 2)

five basic needs: 1) FOOD, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) energy

Long Term Food Storage (LTS) is defined as food that can be stored 10 years or longer, some more than 30 years. Because of the long storage durations, things must be packaged correctly. To review, the biggest enemies of food storage are: light, heat, moisture, air, and rodents. LTS has to be packed in airtight, durable, sealed containers. This will require almost all store bought food to be repackaged, or you can buy prepackaged LTS items.

LTS is almost always packed in either #10 cans (coffee can size), or a combination of mylar bags and plastic buckets. Cans are the best; they are dark, sealed tight, very durable, impervious to rodents, easy to rotate/handle, and come in usable amounts that can be covered with a plastic lid once opened. But sealing cans requires special equipment that most of us don’t have at home.

The mylar/plastic bucket combination is the easiest for home packing. Mylar (a registered trademark of DuPont) is often used generically, it refers to a polyester film with high tensile strength and chemical stability, sometimes simply called a dry pack pouch. Mylar comes in a variety of pre-made sizes, most common are one and five gallon. The LTS item is placed in the mylar bag leaving room at the top, then put oxygen absorbers into the bag and seal using a hot iron (or a similar heat sealer). Another option is a vacuum sealer (this doesn’t require the oxygen absorbers). Exercise care when handling the mylar–it can be punctured–and store in a five gallon plastic bucket.

The advantage to packaging your own items is cost and flexibility. It’s much cheaper to buy mylar bags and buckets than it is to buy prepackaged items. Also you can package anything you want, including specialized or uncommon items.

But, the option of buying prepackaged LTS items also has definite advantages. When purchased this way, everything is done for you and done correctly, it’s nicely labeled and convenient – you order and pay for it, and it’s delivered to your porch ready to be stored away.

A hybrid LTS packaging option is to go to your local Mormon church cannery (they refer to them as Family Home Storage Centers). The Mormons have been involved in food storage since long before it was ‘cool’, and they have the system figured out. Best of all they are very nice, happy to share with non-Mormons alike, and essentially sell items at cost. You can buy the items in bulk (mostly 25 lbs bags) to take home and repackage yourself. But the best resource they offer is to allow you to volunteer to work on a canning crew where you all work together canning your own items (paying only the cost of the product and the cans). They have an extensive canning operation: starting with bulk size bags, you fill up the #10 cans, seal them with the metal lids, and place pre-printed labels on them. They provide boxes for each case of cans, also plastic lids. Obviously, it takes some coordination and time to get this done, but for the money involved and the finished product I believe this is the best way to do it. Here’s a YouTube video of the experience you can expect at the cannery.

Common LTS items are: black beans, pinto beans, nonfat dry milk, white rice, sugar, salt, wheat, dried apple slices, pasta, oats, dry onions, and potato flakes.

As always, look at your needs, resources (including space), and local availability to create the LTS strategy that works for you.

(Wednesday: But Water is Heavy!)