Suburban Homesteading

I was talking with a group of friends, each of whom expressing a wish to buy land to homestead on.  I couldn’t figure out why my friends felt the need to wait until they had a bigger plot of land to begin their journey to self sufficiency.    Why not start homesteading in your own backyard?   Right now!  Suburban Homesteading. It really is a ‘thing’!

Let’s face it.  Not all of us are going to be able to move from suburbia into the wilds of Nowhere, USA.   Postponing self sufficiency until all conditions are deemed perfect, could result in being unprepared in an emergency situation.  I’m of the mindset where you do the best you can with what you have now, while following a well thought out plan of where you want to be.  My in between is suburban homesteading.

suburban homesteading

I live on your average 1/3 of an acre in your average suburban neighborhood.  There is a stream that runs through my back yard from April to October that provides irrigation to the farmers living further out.  It used to run heavy and deep, but we’re in a dry cycle right now and it’s been much more shallow the last several years.

My neighborhood consists of about 60 homes and we are surrounded on one side by a private golf course and on another by a fairly busy road.  Luckily we are tucked deeply enough into our neighborhood that we don’t see or hear the traffic.

A few of my neighbors garden.  A few have a fruit tree or two.  A few have chickens.  My next door neighbor has lots fruit trees and also gardens with an eye to feeding his family by canning and dehydrating his bounty.  Most garden for summer salad and October pumpkin kind of reasons.  I’m hoping to change this mind set around here.   I love the idea of lots of neighbors getting together to plan out who will grow what, and then sharing.  This makes even small space gardening more profitable.

People comment on how large my garden is.  But it couldn’t grow enough to keep my family in veggies or Parker in his blenderized diet.  I’d love to turn my entire back yard into a year round garden, but my husband has made his thoughts clear on that one.  sigh.


My Spring garden includes, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, beets and peas.  My summer garden  includes tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, beans, pumpkins, winter squash and peppers.

I was finally able to convince my husband to invest in both an apple an a cherry tree.  My next door neighbor has several of both so I know we’ll be fine pollination wise.  I also have raspberry bushes in diverse places and a large section for blackberries.   I have a half whiskey barrel that is home to a thriving black currant bush.  I have huge hopes in being able to score another dwarf fruit tree for the front yard.  Maybe an apricot tree.  We’ll see.

garden 2

Along one side of my lot I have my herb garden.  It’s also home to a few cabbage plants, lettuce, arugula and dikon radishes.  Herb wise I grow sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, chives, rosemary,  peppermint, spearmint, anise, heal all, horseradish, horehound, comfrey, vervain, and a second half whiskey barrel of chamomile.


Does this meet all of our needs?  Nope.  But I’m doing the best I can with what I have on my Suburban Homestead.  You know though, homesteaders are pretty creative and resourceful people.  Even the ones homesteading in suburbia.  As I drew up a plan of what I would need for a year’s supply of garden produce and fruit, I got to thinking.  You probably were able to smell the smoke as my brain cranked up to speed.  How could I increase my harvest?  And before I knew it, I was planning a Fall garden to go along with both my Spring and Summer Suburban Homesteading gardens.


It’s a win-win.  More time in the garden.  More fresh, organic food that I don’t have to worry if there is a recall with it’s name on it down the road.

Self sufficiency.  Homesteading.  Food security.    Part of the fun is in the journey that gets you to where you are going.

What goals have you set to become self sufficient?   Is suburban homesteading something you might try?



15 Minute Prepper: Black contractor bags

15 minute Prepper.  Yup, it’s a thing.  At least around here it is.   We believe in simply preparing.  You won’t find info on how to dig your own bunker here.  Or how to survive a zombie attack with just your toothbrush.  What you will find are solid, simple, tested by us, ways to get your family through an emergency.  Our 15 Minute Preps series will focus on things even the busiest of people can implement within their personal preparedness goals.

15 minute prepper

Today we are talking about why you’ll need  black  contractor bags an emergency as a 15 minute Prepper.  Not just regular trash bags, but contractor grade trash bags.    These bags are 4mils thick and are made to withstand uses normal trash bags would balk at.  Contractor bags take up very little space and have unlimited possibilities.

1.  Make a poncho.

2. Use as ground cover.

3. Seal windows, doors and vents. (You’ll need some duct tape too!)

4. Cut down to size for a make shift diaper cover.

5. Layer between clothing to help keep in body warmth.

6.  Barter item.

7. Dig a hole.  Put a bag in the hole, now you have a make shift sink.

8.  Using duct tape, tape the bags around your pants for snow pants.

9.  Water proof your shoes.  Cutting the bags down to size, cover your shoes with the plastic, using duct tape to secure them around your ankles.

10.   Use as an emergency potty.  Line a 5 gallon bucket with a bag, stick a toilet seat on top and viola! a place to do your business!

11.  Create a wind break, or a bit of privacy.

12.  Using a black contractor bag you can determine wind direction.

13.  Fill with air and tie off to create a simple flotation device.

14.  Use  black contractor bags in an emergency to cover broken or blown out windows from earthquakes, etc.

15.  Fill a black contractor bag up with water, sit it in the sun for a while and then hang it from a sturdy branch to use for a shower.

16.  Use a black contractor bag in an emergency to collect rain water.

17.  Cache your food scraps out of an animals reaching by putting them in a contractor bag and hanging it from a tree.

18. A black contractor bag can be used as a rucksack  to haul clothes, food or whatever else you need.

19. After bandaging a wound, cut out an appropriate size piece of a contractor bag and tape it over the bandage. This will keep it from getting dirty or wet.

20. Use as a ‘wet bag’ for dirty diapers.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe to Boost the Immune System

Elderberry Syrup is one of the  additions to my son’s blenderized diet. In case of an emergency I want to be able to continue creating a blenderized diet for him, so I decided I needed to learn how to make my own Elderberry Syrup.

Elderberries are naturally high in immune-boosting compounds that are shown to help stimulate the immune system and help you kick the cold and flu more quickly.

We are in the midst of flu season where I live, with the worst months being March and April.  It’s time to make sure we are well stocked up on Elderberry Syrup.  Since I needed to make a batch anyway, I thought I’d take the time to share the recipe with you and show you how easy it is to make.

Another point in favor of making your own Elderberry Syrup is the cost.  For the same price as a bottle of the store bought stuff, I was able to make about 16 ounces syrup, and I have enough Elderberries left over to make several more batches.

I’ve purchased Elderberry tinctures that nobody in my house would touch with a ten foot pole they tasted so bad.  This recipe not only tastes fantastic, it will make your house smell heavenly.

Elderberry syrup ingredients

Let’s get to it, shall we?

2/3 cups black elderberries
4 cups water
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
2T freshly grated ginger
1t cinnamon
1 cup raw honey  My parents rent out some of their land to a bee keeper in return for fresh honey.  It’s what I used.

Bring the water, black elderberries, ginger and cinnamon to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and allow contents to simmer until reduced by about half.  This will take about 30-45 minutes.

You do NOT want to add the honey while the other ingredients are still simmering.  You’ll destroy all the benefits of the honey.

Remove pan from heat and allow to cool until it is  lukewarm.  Strain the juice into a bowl.  Toss the used berries into the compost heap.

Elderberry syrup ingredients

Add the cup of honey and the lemon juice and stir until it has dissolved.  Store in the fridge in a lidded glass jar.  It should stay good for about 2 months.

Our family takes the standard daily dose which is 1/2-1 teaspoon for kids and 1/2-1 Tablespoon for adults.  If we do get sick then we up our dose to every 2-3 hours instead of just once a day until we are better.

Do you use Elderberries?  What do you no longer purchase from the store and make at home instead?



Preps to Look for Each Time You Go Shopping.

I have my long term goals for preparedness items.  These preps include  expensive stuff I’m  saving up for. Preps that will take time for me to reach my goals on, like freeze dried foods.  Then I have the preps that I look for  as good deal on  each time I go to the store.  Preps I wind up making my way through quickly, or want to make sure are as fresh as possible, or might have an extra few bucks to purchase that month.

Canning jars and lids.  About now I’ve used every single canning lid I owned putting up the latest season’s garden goodness.  Purchasing a few hundred canning lids at once isn’t going to fit the budget, so from now until I’m restocked, I’ll pick up a box or two of wide mouth canning jars.  Maybe it’s time to check out the reusable Tattler lids!

Matches, lighters, stuff to start a fire.  I have this fear, in the back of my mind, that I’ll have every prep known to man…….but I won’t be able to start a fire.  Hey.  We all have our weird.

Over the counter medication.  It may be aspirin, AlkaSeltzer, cold medication, or something else.   This helps make sure I’m not only well stocked, but things stay rotated as too.


Something First Aid.  BandagesAntiseptic Cream.  Coban. Boxes of surgical gloves.  Sterile guaze.  Butterfly strips.  Trauma scissorsMedical reference books.  Fish Antibiotics.  Travel Wipes.


Bottled Water.   Cause, seriously.

Toilet Paper

Crisco.  The three brick pack to be specific.  No, it’s not the cheapest way to procure the stuff.  *blush*  HOWEVER, I fill a half gallon canning jar up with the pricey little gems, vacuum seal it, and it lasts WAY longer than the cans of Crisco last on my shelves.  And while I’ve read can burn (even rancid) cans of Crisco in an emergency for light, I’d rather not.  Shoot me.

Flashlights and light sticks


Maps of your area.


Sewing supplies.  Needles.  Thread.  ElasticItems to make  repairs with, and items to create new products too. 

Baggies and Garbage Bags

During the year, I’ll switch things up.  If I’ve met my goal in one area, I’ll replace that with a new one.    None of these things are expensive and there’s always something from each category on sale.  You’ll list of things will look different from mine, as we each work to meet the needs of our families.

It really IS possible to prep SIMPLY and a little bit at a time.

*Affiliate Links have been added to this post. 

Renegade Survivalists

It seems as though one’s dedication to prepping is directly proportional to how far out in the boonies one is willing to hide themselves away.  You can’t reach the gold star level of prepping until you’ve removed yourself from a city setting and relocated to an area that is a few warm bodies short of being a  ghost town.  With a medically fragile son, our family will never be able to pack up our wagons and head into the final frontiers of Idaho, Wyoming, or Montana.   We’re adapting in place.  Suburban homesteaders that, if necessary, could put our son in his adaptive wheelchair and transport him on foot to the nearest medical center.  We’re renegade survivalists.

Where I live there a belief in a  ‘Call Out.’  A large group of people  believe that one morning there will be a knock at their door telling them to load up their go bags, foam clothing, white tents, cook stoves, water storage, medic bags, and  years of vittles, into  their trailers and follow the buses up the mountains where they will be hidden from the armies invading from the East and West.

Renegade Survivalists

Nope.  Our family of Renegade Survivalists are working on creating a bug in plan.   We’ll continue to pay off our debt while working to prepare for a variety of emergencies.  But we won’t do it alone.  We’ll do it within a community of like minded neighbors will also be bugging in.  Neighbors that will watch each others backs.  Friends that believe in prepping for a few extra that might not have had the opportunities to prep for themselves.  I’m fortunate to live in a community that has been taught the importance of being ready for the unexpected.

Each Wednesday I meet with a neighbor and  sweet friend,  to work together to build our food storage and other items of self reliance.   We’ve calendared out our year month by month by topic starting with our greatest needs.  We work independently during the week, then meet again to compare progress, go on purchasing trips, and encourage each other to keep going.  We help each other prepare bulk purchases for long term storage.  We run through possible scenarios and bounce ideas off of each other.

My married kids, and parents all live close.  We have our plans in place for what to do if the SHTF at a time that everyone is at work.  My parents have everything at their home that Parker would need during a long emergency.  They are also Renegade Survivalists.

When I read about WWII what stands out to me is that there wasn’t just one way families survived.  There were many individuals through their own ingenuity made survived the war.   Making use of what they had available and relying, if needed, on trusted family and friends, they were able to hold on and find themselves still alive when the war ended.

Interestingly, as I’ve read stories of survival within concentration camps during World War II, the survivors talk about the importance of community in keeping them alive.  Others that had their backs.  Networking.  Sharing.  Yup, even within the hell that was Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, community often meant the difference between life and death.

Not everyone will be able to bug out. Not everyone can simply put together an off grid utopia where no other man dare venture.  In the boonies, with no other support systems, means that you must be able to do it all by yourself.    This is why being prepared to hunker down in a home is not only an important, but viable option as well.

What are your plans for a SHTF situation?

Food Freedom

Food Freedom.  There is a growing movement by farmers and consumers in Utah that believes people should be able to buy and sell their foods freely.  I agree.   Especially as Michigan’s residents just lost the right to  keep chickens, bees and small animals.  Anyone else notice a theme with Michigan lately?  Holy cow.

I’ll admit that I’m not often found on the same side of an issue as  the Libertas Institute.  But this is one issue I support fully.

Protect Food Freedom
Image used with permission:

What does the Food Freedom Act do?

  • Restores your right to buy and sell local foods.
  • Provides greater access to fresh, local, healthy food.
  • Removes all state oversight for direct producer to informed end consumer food sales.
  • Any food may be sold as long as there is only a single transaction between a producer and an informed end consumer (except for meats as described below).
  • Producers must inform the end consumer that the products sold under the Utah Food Freedom Act are not licensed inspect or certified.
  • Raw milk, or any milk products are allowed.
  • Poultry is allowed, all other meats must follow existing laws and regulations.Food FreedomImage used with permission.  Libertas InstituteIf  you live in Utah PLEASE take the time to sign the petition, which will then take you to a link letting you know how to reach your local Representative and Senator to ask them to also support this proposed legislation being sponsored by Representative Marc Roberts.   It takes all of 2 minutes.What is it like in your state in regards to keeping chickens, bees and small animals.  Does it support your right to buy and sell local foods?

How to tell if your baking powder is still good.

You are right in the middle of creating a culinary master piece.  Your mouth is watering as you reach for the last ingredient your recipe requires.  In your hand is a container of baking powder, recovered from way in the back of your cupboard.  You wonder when you used this last.  Heck, you wonder when you bought this.  How long does baking powder last, anyway?  All you need is to put dead baking powder in what you are making and have the entire thing flop.

baking powder

You sniff the baking soda.  But what is baking soda supposed to smell like, anyway?   You taste a bit.  That’s didn’t help.  How do you know if baking soda is still good?

Well, lucky for you, Simply Preparing can help!   To find out if your baking powder is still good, simply drop a teaspoon of the stuff into a cup of hot water.  If it bubbles heavily, you are good to go!  If not, it’s time to get a new can of baking powder.

But, you’re in your favorite holey jammie pants and that messy bun of yours is hiding more than just a bad hair day?

We’ve got ya covered.  Here’s a simple replacement recipe:

Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons cream of tarter.  Ta-da!  Problem solved!

Want to make a big batch and store it?  Just stick to the ratio of 1 part baking soda to 2 parts cream of tarter.  But now you’ll want to add one part of corn starch or arrow root powder too.  The corn starch/arrow root powder will absorb any moisture and keep your new created baking powder from clumping.  Plus, there will be NO aluminum to worry about!

What culinary delights do you use baking powder in?  When was the last time you checked to see if yours was still good?

Freeze Dried Meals in a Jar: Sausage Potato Soup

Want to add  Freeze Dried foods to your food storage but have no idea what to do with it?  No time to cook?  Tired of wasting money going through the drive-thru again this week?  Hoping to add some shelf stable, long term, 90-100% of everything in one jar meals to your preps?  I’ve got you covered with our new feature here at Simply Preparing:  Freeze Dried Meals in a Jar .  Today’s offering?  Sausage Potato Soup   Folks, this one will keep ’em coming back for more.

Freeze Dried Meals in a Jar

What makes Freeze Dried Meals in a Jar so fantastic?  Imagine coming home too tired to cook, and the family wanting to eat…..NOW.  You boil water.  Dump in the contents of the jar.  Stir.  Viola.  It’s dinner baby.  It’s way healthier than fast food, AND at about $10.00 a jar for a family of 4, CHEAPER too.

You are learning to use your food storage, saving money, creating shelf stable, long lasting in a jar meals for your storage, and making your life easier.

We aim to please, here at Simply Preparing.

Learn to cook with food storage

Let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

Sausage Potato Soup

Bring three quarts of water to a boil.  Add in the jarred ingredients along with the garlic powder, parsley, salt and pepper.

Thrive Freeze Dried Ingredients:

1 C. Freeze Dried Sausage
1 C. Dehydrated Potato Chunks
1/3 C. Freeze Dried Sweet Corn
1/4 C. Freeze Dried Onions
1/3 C. Dehydrated Carrot Dices
1/3 C. Freeze Dried Peas
6 TBSP Chicken Bullion

Add from your pantry:

1 tsp garlic powder

1 TBSP Parsley
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp Pepper
4 TBLS Butter

Garnish with Freeze Dried Shredded Parmesan Cheese

While soup is simmering, make your thickening sauce.  Melt butter in a small pan over a low temperature.  Whisk 1/4  C. flour and allow to cook for a minute, whisking constantly.   Pour in 1 C. (reconstituted) Powdered Milk.  Stir until thick and bubbly.  Add to soup, stir well and cook for 2 more minutes. Serve.

When putting together your Meals in a Jar, you will want to add an oxygen absorber to each jar or vacuum seal each jar.

Do you cook with Freeze Dried foods?  Do you store Freeze Dried foods?

*Original Recipe by Amber Spackman   Modifications by me.
**Photo Credit:  Ladyheart

Water Storage and Flint, Michigan.

Water storage has been on my mind since the state of Michigan’s crisis with safe drinking water that began several months ago.  Flint’s tap water became contaminated with too much lead after the city switched it’s water supply in 2014 to save money while under state financial management.

Ensuring residents have safe water to drink has been a struggle. You can’t boil lead out of water.  People have been told to not drink the water until it has been determined to be safe.  Guard members have finally been called in to assist the police and volunteers to hand out bottled water, filters and water testing kits.

Then to really add insult to injury, the residents of Flint are still being required to pay their water bills.  You know, for water that is too dangerous to drink.  Think toxic waste dangerous.  Swell.  All I can say is thank goodness for celebrities.

I keep thinking of how much less stressful things might have been if residents would have had a supply of water storage instead of having to scramble and depend on the government.  As a matter of fact, it’s being reported that Michigan officials knew last year that Flint’s water might be poisoned, but chose to keep that possibility to themselves.  Sweet, eh?   The FDA is conduction a full review of the situation.

water storage

I’ve written about emergency water storage on the blog and Barb created this information filled post to help you calculate your family’s water storage needs.  It’s a good time to review both posts.

Here are a few more things to consider when storing water.

*Don’t use empty milk jugs for water storage.  The plastic is too thin and will break down within a few months.  Bacteria from the milk can become lodged in the plastic of the jug and then transferred to your water.

*Do not store your water near gasoline, kerosene, pesticides or similar substances.

*If you have a pool, you have water you have water for cleaning and bathing, but NOT for drinking.  While pool water has been chlorinated, it most likely has other chemical in it that are not safe for drinking.

*Properly stored water does NOT go bad. However, it may taste funky.  To solve this issue, just pour the water from one container to another several times, back and forth.  Or store things such as Kool-Aide, lemon or lime juice, to help with the taste of your water.
The time to prepare for an emergency is now.  Not after things fall apart.   Do your research.  Make your plan.  When you are prepared you don’t have to worry about any crisis down the road.

How is your water storage coming along?   What techniques work best for you when storing water?

Photo credit: rakerman via VisualHunt / CC BY

How to make goat milk yogurt.

My son, Parker, follows the SCD diet for his ulcerative colitis.  This diet calls for yogurt.  Goat milk yogurt is our yogurt of choice.   Either powdered goats milk or fresh goats milk will work just fine.  This recipe also works for cow’s milk.   It’s important to know you can replicate any foods required for a special diet when the shtf, in one of it’s many forms.  

goat milk for goat milk yogurt
It’s actually a pretty simple process.   I used a gallon and a half of fresh goat milk and put it into a a clean pot, allowing it to slowly warm up to 180 degrees.  Make you that when you check the temperature you stir the milk so that you get an overall reading.  You’ll want to keep the milk at 180 degrees for at least 2 minutes.

Next, take the your pot of milk off the hot burner and onto a cool one.   I often just place the entire pot into a sink of ice water to hurry the cooling process.  You want to let your milk cool to 100 degrees.

Once you milk has cooled to 100 degrees, pour a bit out into another container.    Add your yogurt ‘start’ to that small bit, stirring to make sure there are no lumps.  Then pour your newly mixed ‘start’ into the large pan and stir some more.  You want to make sure the starter and milk are well mixed.

cooking thermometerHeat your milk to 180 for at least 2 minutes and then allow it to cool to 100 degrees.

I used about 1/4 of a cup of yogurt starter.  What is a yogurt starter?  It’s simply a bit of yogurt I’ve saved back from my previous batch of goat milk yogurt.

goat milk yogurt start

Is this your first batch of yogurt?  No worries.  You can purchase a container of plain goat milk yogurt and use that.  OR you can use the packaged yogurt starter.    Simply follow the directions on the package.

Next  I poured the soon to be yogurt into clean half gallon mason jars.  We use a LOT of goat milk yogurt so I tend to make a lot at a time.   Feel free to start with a smaller amount!

Next I screw on the tops and rings and place each half gallon into my Excalibur dehydrator.  Yup.  You can make yogurt in the Excalibur.  Sweet, eh?

I keep my yogurt fermenting at about 100-115 degrees for at least 24 hours.   After the 24 hours have passed, I put the yogurt into the fridge to chill for about 24 hours.

What?  You don’t own an Excalibur?  Worry not.  You can use a yogurt maker, or even put your covered pot of milk and starter into the oven and use the oven light as a heat source.  Or how about using your crockpot?

Do you have someone on a special diet the likes of which you will need to replicate in case of a time of crisis?