gun safety for kids

How To Teach Kids About Gun Safety


gun safety for kids

When you own a firearm around kids, you NEED to take time to think about safety. There are no two ways about it, kids need to be kept safe. That doesn’t mean fear, however. And that doesn’t mean not owning a firearm. There are just a few things to teaching kids about gun safety that we will talk about.

1. Know the 4 rules of firearms

Rule #1 A firearm is always loaded.

“Always” means…ALWAYS. We taught our children to respect a firearm as loaded, even when we were cleaning it. Any firearm they look at is loaded and ready to shoot. So, it’s important they think on those terms and treat firearms with that respect.


gun safety kids

People like this give responsible gun owners a bad name.

Rule #2 Never let your barrel point at anything you are not willing to destroy and take responsibility for destroying.

That is just another reason for rule #1, really and shows the consequences of not taking that seriously. Remember, you are 100% responsible for all shots fired, including those “unintentional” ones. Even at the range, you don’t point the firearm at anything you aren’t wanting to shoot at.

Rule #3 Know what’s behind your target.

Simply put, what’s behind that deer, that duck, that target? That’s the main reason we wear orange or neon colors when hunting. It’s a signal that you are there to other hunters and to not shoot that deer you are standing behind. Imagine if the shot went through the animal, or just above or below it and hit the target BEHIND the intended target. That could be tragic. Know what’s behind what you are shooting at.


kids gun safety

In a well set up range there is no doubt that missed shots are not a problem

Rule #4 Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

This is very important, as accidents happen. If your finger isn’t on the trigger, the firearm isn’t going to go off. At the range, we teach our children that you don’t put your finger on the trigger until you have aimed, know what’s behind the target and taken a deep breath first. Taking a breath not only will steady the aim, it allows you to really see the target and have a better chance at hitting it the way you want to.



2. Keep it locked up and out of reach when not in use.

This is not only for their safety, it’s for those times when their friends are over. You can teach your kids to not touch a firearm without you present (as we have) but you can’t necessarily control how their friends will react. We use a trigger lock, store it in a locked cabinet and away from any ammunition.


3. Along those lines, we also chose not to make a firearm in the home a mysterious thing.

Our kids were part of our decision to own one, as well as part of the decision where to keep it stored. It made them less “curious” about the firearm, and less likely to want to play around with it. Of course, it’s still locked up when we are not at the range, and we go as a family often to practice.

Kids younger than 3 years old got ahold of guns and shot someone at least 59 times in 2015 according to The Washington Post

4. Practice with your kids at the range.

Often. We go at least bi-monthly to our local indoor range. Since we own a firearm, it’s not of any use to us unless we know how to use it properly. So, we practice. Our kids know how to load, aim and fire each firearm safely. My oldest son is actually a better shot than I am, and reminds me of that often, “An amateur will practice until they get it right, a professional will practice until they can’t get it wrong” is our mantra with firearms.


kids gun safety

Practice at the range can be a fun activity for the whole family

5. Allow your kids to help you clean the firearms after use.

They will garner a respect for them, as well as learn more about safe handling. It’s our kids’ job to clean all the firearms after the range, with my husband and I being there to guide and help them. If they are going to use it, know about it, they need to know how to care for it.  Check out the video below for some basic tips on cleaning firearms safely.

Conclusion

Keeping kids safe around firearms only requires you to use common sense and some basic standard measures. If you can’t follow them, then please don’t own one. Too many tragedies are caused by adults who didn’t follow the basic safety rules.

 

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any tips for parents who want to educate their kids on proper gun use and safety? How did your parents teach you to be a responsible gun owner? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!


 

About The Author

Heather Harris and her family live in Northern Indiana where they strive to raise 75% of their own food on their 1/5 acre. You can follow their crazy adventures at The Homesteading Hippy

Read More

how to barter

How To Barter When Money Fails In A Post-Collapse Society

how to barter

There’s little doubt that, once the dust settles, the post-collapse life is going to be tough. Most of the conveniences we take for granted today will be hard to acquire, regardless of whether or not money will still be worth anything. People who want them will say and do anything, people who sell them will come up with all sorts of strategies and you need to be prepared because, no matter how prepped you are, it’s still likely you’ll end up in desperate positions. That is why it is important to know how to barter.

how to barter
Without currency to set value, how will you get the things you need? Image via epSos .de on flickr.

In what follows I want to give you a few solid bartering and negotiation tactics and techniques that will help you get food, water or medicine when you’ll need them most. However, if you truly want them to work for you, you have to practice them. Reading them just isn’t enough, that’s why included a special section at the end where I suggest how you can do that.

Top 10 Barter Items To Stockpile

ItemWhy It's Great For Bartering
1. Bandages
First aid items are very valuable, especially care for larger wounds since they will require more dressing and frequent changes.
2. Batteries
AA and AAA are popular sizes for flashlights, headlamps, radios, and numerous other electronics. Batteries inevitably run out so these are a surefire need after SHTF.
3. MREs
Food. Need we say more? Keep in mind that someone desparate for food is very vulnerable and use caution when negotiating a deal.
4. Duct Tape
Infinite survival uses, including splinting a broken bone, repairing a tent, fletching an arrow, and marking a trail. An entire roll of duct tape should yield a high value in a trade.
5. Zip Ties
Versatile and strong, zip ties are great for hanging gear, securing shelter, fixing clothes and shoes, and more. It's easy to carry a large number of them and separate into smaller bundles to trade.
6. Fish Antibiotics
Fish antibiotics can be purchased OTC and contain the same ingredients as human antibiotics. For more information on types and dosages, check out Fish Antibiotics For Humans: A Safe Option For Your Survival Kit?
7. Condoms
In addition to contraception, condoms have many survival uses such as carrying water (up to 2 gallons!), waterproofing gear, even a slingshot for hunting small game. They are also lightweight and easy to carry.
8. Water Purification Tablets
Since each tablet treats 16 oz of water, one bottle contains many bartering opportunities. Or trade the whole bottle for a larger item you need.
9. Waterproof Matches
Fire is essential to survival so waterproof matches can be a great bartering tool. You can also carry extra capsule lighters, such as the Everstryke Pro to add long-term value to your trade.
10. Button Compasses
Small and inexpensive yet very useful, especially in the absence of GPS or cell phone navigation. They can be used to find the way back to camp, locate family and friends, or to migrate to a new area.
Click the images to view on Amazon.

How To Barter After Disaster

how to barter
Trade wisely to conserve your resources and obtain the things you need.

Forget About Meeting The Other Person In The Middle

For some reason, many negotiations end before they begin. One of the parties gives a number, the other gives another and they both know they’ll agree to the sum of their offers divided by 2.

how to barter
Don’t settle for less than your fair share.

You can do better than that. The reason this happens is because they’re not taking into consideration other factors such as how bad one party needs what the other has to offer. Another thing you can do is find out as much as you can about your opponent beforehand.

The more you know about them and their situation, the more leverage you’ll have. And if you can’t find out much about them, it’s best to avoid doing any kind of post-SHTF deals. Those could be dangerous, anyway.

Start With A Lowball Offer

If you can do this and your opponent doesn’t turn around and leave, you just saved yourself a lot of money (or whatever you are using for currency). Starting really low means that the other party will eventually have to settle for a much lower price than if you’d started with something more reasonable.

Don’t Be Afraid To Walk Away From A Deal

Everything is a number’s game. Just because you need what the other person has to offer, this doesn’t mean you have to take it. You might find 5 or 10 other guys out there that will gladly take your deal and give you what you need, you just need to have the guts to end the negotiations and look for them.

how to barter
Convenience is tempting but don’t be afraid to shop around for a better trade.

Most people don’t see it this way, though. They might say:

What? You mean I have to go through the pain of finding someone else, especially since I have this guy right here who can give me what I need?

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. The reason you don’t want to do it is because it’s painful to think you have to spend more energy to find other people. But that’s the thing. If you can train yourself to do it regularly, if you allow yourself to play the numbers’ game, walking away from bad deals will become second nature.

how to barter
It can be hard to walk away but your opponent is counting on that fact. Maintain the upper hand and avoid bad deals. Image via DieselDemon on flickr.

Throw In A Bonus

People love things they can get for free. If you feel you’re close to closing a deal but still not happy with it, how about giving away a small bonus? Maybe something from your get home bag that you already have plenty of at home. You never know what the other person needs besides your money or bartering items, this is why due diligence and talking to them are a must.

how to barter
If your opponent looks hesitant, try sweetening the deal with a bonus item. Image via Ino_Paap on flickr.

Say “No” To Lowball Offers

We talked about giving really low offers but what if someone does that to you? This puts you in a weak position so the best way to counteract it is to simply say:

No, this isn’t an offer I might consider. If you can come back with a more decent offer, I’m open to negotiation.

If they like it, fine. They’ll give you a more reasonable first offer. If they don’t, like I said, there’re plenty of other guys who might be interested in the deal.

The More You Tell, The More You Sell

What I’m trying to say is, the more arguments you bring in your favor, the better you can justify the price. Particularly in the absence of money (read: bartering), it’ll be hard to put value on things. This is why thinking and then stating every possible reason that works in your favor will bring you one step closer to what you want, how you want it.

how to barter
Be creative in how you talk up your item by explaining all of its uses and features in detail. Image via US Army Africa on flickr.

Make Small Concessions

If you started with a really low offer, there’s no better way to seal a deal than to give your opponent more than his new expectations. Of course, you shouldn’t do that if you think you can get a better deal but if you really want to wrap things up, making a small concession might bring the negotiations to a quick and happy ending.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Like any other survival skill, you shouldn’t wait for the end of the world to put into practice bartering and negotiations. You need to do it beforehand because when you’re desperate for food or water, your emotions will get in the way.

Some of ways to practice bartering and negotiations, include:

  • simulations with your family,
  • playing poker (it allows you to read people and develops your greed),
  • going to a flea market (you’ll find plenty of cheap things that you may need for your stockpile),
  • start a business (and negotiate every little thing with your supplies and partners)
  • …and, provided that you have something to offer that you yourself produce (honey, veggies etc.), try bartering them for other things.
how to barter
Going into a deal with confidence takes practice. Learn it now in the comfort of a flea market without the pressure of survival on the line!

Conclusion

Just keep in mind that everything in this world is negotiable, you just need to have the right mindset. Understand the value of your own items and give a detailed explanation when trading. Know how to barter for the things you need and don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. Teach it to your kids too, studies show that the sooner, the better.

Your Thoughts

Can you remember a time when you successfully negotiated or bartered and got a good deal? Use the Comment section below to share your story, thanks!

Read More

tactical fitness

How Tactical Fitness Prepares Your Body For Survival

tactical fitness

Note: This post was contributed by Garry Bowman, writer for 911gear.ca. Read more about him in the About The Author section below.

Fitness has a new category now-Tactical Fitness. The fitness programs for Military, Police, Fire Fighter, and Special Ops have all been clubbed under one category known as Tactical Fitness. This has become so popular that training associations like the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) have a certified program for Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC).  

So, this new category will see an upsurge unlike other concepts, such as boot camp workouts, which have lost their ground over time. The following article highlights this new genre of fitness along with a fine line difference between the tactical fitness and regular fitness.

tactical fitness

What Is Tactical Fitness?

tactical fitness

Tactical Fitness is more about work and not workouts. It is not designed for having a good workout but for facing real life situations like lifts, carries, crawls, runs, rucks, swims, and mobility, even situations which demand logical and innovative thinking.

It makes use of non-traditional tools and equipment for carrying up unbalanced loads. Tactical Fitness is more about handling life and death situations for you, your buddy, or anyone whom you are trying to help. And such situations not only demand physical fitness but mental alertness and readiness to act and not react in stressful situations.

tactical fitness

Tactical fitness demands you to be a team player as well. You need to coordinate not just between your body and mind but also with your buddies to handle the situation.

Better your workout, better you will be at the real-time situation.

Building Blocks Of Tactical Fitness

tactical fitness

Tactical fitness is not just about a healthy heart, blood pressure, sugar levels, and weight, but you need to be a master of the following elements of fitness as well:

  • Speed and Endurance – It includes running and gradually improving pace.
  • Vigor and Power – It includes lifting of various equipment, gear, and even people.
  • Flexibility and Mobility – It includes moving over uneven terrain and between the obstacles.
  • Muscle endurance – This includes moving yourself and gearing up, over, under, and through space.
  • Old Man Grip – This includes holding gear, climbing over the mountain or rope.
  • Other Skills – This includes learning to swim, river crossing etc.

Incorporating these elements into your daily workout routine will better prepare you for real situations. Systems like TACTFIT Commando and Girls Gone Strong offer structured workouts based on tactical fitness. Read on for more information on these programs and to find out how to get started now.

tactical fitness

Difference between Tactical Athletes and Traditional Athletes

tactical fitness

Although you will attain a level near to perfection with these fitness elements, it is natural to have weaknesses. So, you need to determine the weaknesses and work upon them to achieve an excellence in them.

Being a Tactical Athlete and getting trained for all of these elements is not going to land you among the strongest or fastest persons in the country, but you will develop a good level of strength, endurance and stamina- all of which come into play in survival situations.

tactical fitness

An advanced Tactical Athlete can easily do 20 pull-ups and dead lift twice his body weight of 200 pounds and still can run for several miles.  Even after such exceptional numbers, a Tactical Athlete may still be beatable by a cross country runner but maintains an upper hand in strength events.  

tactical fitness

There are many fitness elements that are not even in the dictionary of a normal athlete but a Tactical Athlete is a master of all those fitness points.

Training of a Tactical Athlete

tactical fitness

There are particular stages of training for a Tactical Athlete. The aspiring candidates have to be exceptionally good to grab a chance for these public service professions. The typical fitness tests includes: pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, 1.5 mile runs, and sprint or swim test.

Growth Cycles of Tactical Athletes

tactical fitness

Training and active-duty scenario are entirely different worlds in a career of a Tactical Athlete. The training years prepare you for jobs that demand running, swimming, diving, lifting, etc.

tactical fitness

Maintenance programs include conditioning programs that make you strong, fast, well-conditioned and flexible. Learning about periodization is the key to arrange workouts that can help you to cope with the demands of job -country, overseas or your community.

Therefore, tactical fitness is about winning real-life situations which can be a matter of life and death for someone.

Where To Get Started

Finding an effective tactical fitness regime that fits into your busy life can be challenging. Below are training options for men and women that maximize results in a manageable amount of time, so you can stick with it and achieve your goals.

TACFIT Commando

The TACFIT Commando system by Scott Sonnon packs a full body workout into just 20 minutes per day. Using only your body weight as resistance, you can improve your strength and agility without the need for expensive equipment or gym memberships. And because the workouts can be performed anywhere, it is easier to keep up your program even when you travel.

tactical fitness
Click to transform your workout into tactical training with TACFIT Commando TODAY!

The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training

Specifically designed for women, The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training by Girls Gone Strong is a step-by-step system to help you actualize your fitness goals. Develop a strong and healthy body without spending hours at the gym. The workouts are aligned with the Minimum Effective Dose approach and you progress at your own pace to keep yourself challenged.

tactical fitness
Click to get started with The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training TODAY!

About The Author

Garry Bowman is a blogger and content writer at 911gear.ca, the finest dealer of tactical gear in Canada. 911gear.ca also provides superior quality of tactical equipment for law enforcement, military, EMS, security professionals, corrections officers, and preppers.

Your Thoughts

Are you ready to motivate? What are your fitness goals? Share your prepper workout tips in the Comments section below, thanks!

Read More

canning safety guidelines

Safety Guidelines for Canning Your Own Food Supply

canning safety guidelines

Learning to preserve food through canning is a great step towards self-sufficiency. By canning your own food supply, you can prepare a stockpile of survival food for your pantry, develop your cooking skills, and use all of your harvested produce.

Canning is a great way to store healthy, homegrown food; here is a quick list of the benefits of home canning:

  • A simple, time-tested concept that has a wealth of how-to and recipe resources available
  • Less expensive than purchasing factory canned goods
  • Better for long-term storage than aluminum as glass decreases the risk of leaching chemicals
  • You can incorporate your own recipes, ingredients, and food to ensure your family will enjoy the meals and that there are no harmful additives – only the wholesome, organic ingredients you have selected
  • Preserves surplus from home garden harvests to reduce waste
  • Saves freezer space and is actually superior to freezing in that food will not spoil if the power goes out
canning safety guidelines
Imagine a pantry full of your favorite home-cooked foods! Image via thebittenword.com on flickr.

As with any food-related project, the key to success with canning lies in following the proper canning safety guidelines. By following the proper canning safety guidelines to keep your canned food safe, you will ensure that your hard work is not wasted and that your healthy, homemade food supply keeps for as long as possible.

In this article, we will cover the ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ of safe canning practices so that you can rest assured your canned food is safe for your family and can all enjoy the many benefits of home canning.

Why Canning Safety Is A Top Concern

Whether canning for survival or recreation, canning safety guidelines should be your top priority. If bacteria, even in small amounts, is present in canned goods, it can result in foodborne botulism, which is caused by consuming the toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The repercussions of foodborne botulism can be quite nasty with worst-case untreated cases resulting in paralysis of the arms, legs, torso, and even respiratory muscles.

Early symptoms include blurred vision, slurred speech, dry mouth, and muscle weakness; however, symptoms may take hours to appear, with most appearing 18-36 hours after consumption. By the time you realize canned goods are contaminated, your whole family may have already consumed the toxic food.

While the spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria are present on many foods, they remain dormant and harmless unless the right conditions exist – conditions that are precisely those present in canned goods – with the bacteria thriving in areas with moisture, low acidity, less than 2% oxygen, and a temperature between 40-120℉. This is why it is essential that you follow proper canning safety guidelines when canning for survival or recreation.  

For more information on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of botulism, please read this article from the CDC.

Quick Canning Safety Guidelines Reference

canning safety guidelines

Canning Safety Guidelines – Make Sure Your Food L.A.S.T.S.

To ensure your canned goods are safe, you’ll want to address the following areas: Lids, altitude, size, time, and storage.

Lids

A tightly sealed lid is a must for canning safety; in order to preserve freshness, food must remain vacuum sealed. To ensure a vacuum seal, process your filled jars in a hot water bath or pressure cooker/canner and then allow them to cool. Once the jars have cooled to room temperature, check the seal and examine the jars for any leakage.

Before canning, carefully inspect the rims of the jars you will be using for any chips or imperfections. Defective jars should not be used; however, they don’t have to go to waste – they can be repurposed as a vase for fresh herbs or as an LED lantern.

canning safety guidelines

Jar lids that come pre-treated with paraffin are for one-time use only; do not reuse the disks after they have already been heated. The heating process used in canning deforms the paraffin to create a seal, and once deformed, it will never be effective at sealing again. However, the metal rings or bands can most definitely be reused as long as you purchase extra paraffin-coated disks.

canning safety guidelines
The silicon gasket in this Tulid Mason Jar Lid is removable for ease of cleaning. Click the image to view on Amazon.

There are reusable lid kits available that consist of rubber or silicon gaskets to create a seal. Given proper care, they can be used many times; however, ensure they are BPA-free.

Canning Jar LidsKey Features
Ball Regular Canning or Mason Jar Lids, 8 dozen
• Single use lids work with standard mason jars and rings
• Value pack includes 96 BPA-free lids
Tattler Reusable Regular Size Canning Lids
• Gasket rings and lids are dishwasher safe and reusable
• BPA-free material also resists acid corrosion
Tulid Wide Mouth Mason Jar Lids (Pack of 3)
• Reusable lids fit wide-mouth Ball and Kerr mason jars
• BPA-free and dishwasher safe with writable surface for labeling
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Altitude

The altitude at which you are boiling your canned foods is important as altitude affects boiling time and temperature. At high altitudes, boiling temperature is lower and therefore more time is needed during the boiling phase as water will not exceed its boiling temperature no matter how high the burner is set; starting at 2,000 feet above sea level, adjustments will need to be made. For more information, please read this article from the United States Department of Agriculture.

canning safety guidelines
The pressure dial on the Presto Pressure Canner allows you to carefully monitor each batch. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Size

When choosing jars for canning, look for jars that are tall, thin, and hold a smaller volume. As it is extremely important that all of the contents in the jar reach the desired temperature, taller, thinner and less voluminous jars will ensure uniform heating. If your jars are too wide, the outer contents will overcook or the inner contents will not get properly sterilized, resulting in a loss of food and effort.

canning safety guidelines

Using smaller jars also helps reduce waste when you are ready to consume your canned goods as you can adjust portions. Once a can is opened, it will need to be consumed and any leftovers will need to be refrigerated. If the power goes out, throw away any leftovers. Well portioned jars will help avoid excessive leftovers and reduce waste.

Canning Jars 
Ball Canning Regular Mouth Half Pint Canning Jar 8 oz. 12-Count
Ball Regular Mouth Quart Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12
Kerr 1 Pint Canning Jar Regular Mouth 12-Count
Jarden Wide Mouth Ball Jar, 32-Ounce, Case of 12
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Time

The time involved in processing while canning will depend on the type of food you are canning as processing time is a function of the acidity of the food. Highly acidic foods (those with a pH of less than 4.6) will require a shorter processing period (anywhere from 5-85 minutes depending on the type of food) as they naturally inhibit bacteria.

canning safety guidelines
Once processed, carefully remove jars from the water and allow to cool. Image via thebittenword.com on flickr.

Conversely, low acid foods (those with a pH of more than 4.6) will require a longer processing time that can range from 7-11 hours and must be at a temperature of 240-250℉.

Always make sure that you carefully follow the instructions for your pressure cooker to ensure you have the correct time and pressure settings for your recipe, and make sure to set a timer to keep track of cooking times.

Pressure CannersKey FeaturesCapacity
Presto Pressure Canner and Cooker
• Extra large capacity fits bigger jars and batches
• Full range pressure meter allows for precise readings, especially helpful at high altitudes
• Heavy-gauge aluminum heats evenly and resists warping
23 quarts
All American Pressure Cooker/Canner
• Processes 19 pint jars or 7 quart jars at once
• Metal to metal sealing system using tightening screws with no gaskets to replace
• Processes at 5, 10, and 15 PSI with an automatic overpressure release
21.5 quarts
Granite Ware Pressure Canner and Cooker/Steamer
• Smaller size great for homes with limited storage space
• Durable hard anondized aluminum construction
• Secondary backup safety valve sounds whistle alarm while releasing excess pressure
12 quarts
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Storage

When it comes to storage, you’ll want to consider two factors: Storage conditions and shelf life.

Storage Conditions

After following proper canning safety guidelines while preparing your food, ensure the temperature of wherever you are storing your stockpile of canned foods is kept at a steady temperature, somewhere between 50-70℉. Avoid storing your canned food in areas that border heating vents, electronics, or any other devices that emit heat, as higher temperatures can affect the integrity of the seal, causing food to spoil.

You will also want to store your canned food in an area with low humidity and dark lighting. Low humidity is best for maintaining the metal lids as it prevents them from rusting and darkness is preferable as sunlight should be avoided completely – UV rays will degrade nutrients and can cause spoiling.

canning safety guidelines

Another consideration is the integrity of your storage shelving. It would be a shame to go through all the proper canning safety guidelines and properly preserve your food only to lose it due to faulty shelving or stacking. Always make sure that the shelf you are using is secure and that the weight of the cans is equally distributed. Rather than piling unsteady stacks, opt for single-layer storage and additional shelves to avoid the risk of your cans toppling over. For more ideas on storing your food preps, CLICK HERE.

Shelf Life

Generally, home-canned foods have a shelf life of one year. High-acid foods, such as tomatoes or vinegar, can typically last for 12-18 months while low-acid foods can last anywhere from 2-5 years (but this is typically for store bought versions).

When deciding whether or not food is safe to eat, always err on the side of caution. Look for things such as mold, discoloration, leakage, bulging lids, and putrid smells as an indication that the food has spoiled and should be discarded. If you find even one jar that has spoiled, make sure to check all the others from the same batch in case there was a problem with the canning process. When in doubt, throw it out – never taste food to determine whether or not it is safe to eat.

canning safety guidelines

To keep yourself organized, make sure you mark each lid with the canning date and organize your shelves so that the oldest canned food sits at the front and the newest at the back.

While it may be tempting to stockpile as much canned food as possible, a better strategy is to stockpile 1-2 months worth of food and then rotate out the older jars as you add new ones. By following this process, your family will become accustomed to eating the canned foods, but more importantly, you will prevent waste and ensure your supply stays fresh. If you want to build a supply that will last beyond several months, add more new cans than what you will consume.

Additional Canning Safety Tips

Choosing Food

When choosing food to can, always start with high quality, fresh ingredients. Ensure all foods to be canned are thoroughly washed and any seeds and stems are removed. For most recipes, you will be instructed to peel certain ingredients such as carrots, potatoes, and fruits.

canning safety guidelines

Timing

Always ensure you allow enough time for yourself to complete the canning process from start to finish. The less time your prepared foods spend exposed to air, the better. When filling your jars, make sure to fill them individually and close the lid before moving on to the next jar as this will minimize air exposure.

canning safety guidelines
The Presto 7 Function Canning Kit includes a timer for keeping track of cooking duration. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Air Bubbles and Heating

Get rid of any air bubbles by tapping the jar to move all air bubbles to the top – you do not want to trap air in the contents as this will rot the food. Before heating, make sure to leave about 1” of headspace at the top of the jar to allow for expansion during the heating process. Always keep a clean rag on hand to wipe the rim and threads of the jars so that no food can become trapped in the lid.

canning safety guidelines

Cooking Your Canned Foods

As an extra precaution, never consume your canned foods directly from the can. Boil your food for at least 10 minutes before consuming in order to kill any bacteria and destroy any toxins that may be present.

Helpful Canning Accessories

Canning AccessoriesKey Features
Bellemain 6 Piece Canning Tool Set
• Stainless steel tools have vinyl coating for improved grip
• Jar lifter allows you to safely remove jars from hot water
• Includes wrench for easily opening canned food lids
Presto 09995 7 Function Canning Kit
• Funnel fits in both regular and wide mouth jars
• Lid lifter is magnetized for removing lids from hot water
• Includes timer for keeping track of cook time
Norpro Small Canning Rack
• Keeps jars off of the direct heat and allows water to circulate for even cooking
• Vinyl grip handles fold flat for easy storage
• Holds 2 quart jars or 4 pint/halfpint jars
• Fits most pressure canners (8.25 inch diameter)
JarBox Canning Jar, Pint, Semi-Clear
• Stores and protects canned food
• Easily organize jars by contents, or plan a few day's meals
• Stackable and transportable for moving or sharing
Ball Jar Sure Tight Band Tool
• Be sure lids are tightened properly with less strain on wrists
• Also serves to unscrew rings, with integrated lid lifter for opening jars
Mirro 9605000B Stainless Steel Canning Accessories Food Press with Wooden Pestle Cookware, Silver
• Mash and strain fruits and vegetables, remove skins
• Stainless steel press seats in rack for convenience
• Pestle is shaped to fit for effectiveness
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Conclusion

There are myriad benefits to canning your own food, including the ability to enjoy fresh, healthy foods year round and moving yourself closer to self-sufficiency. Canning is a tried and tested process that reduces waste and costs less than store-bought canned goods. However, the importance of practising canning safety guidelines while preparing your canned foods cannot be understated. Safety is of utmost importance, but when canning safety guidelines are followed, you will be rewarded with healthy, delicious meals that you and your family can enjoy year round.

If you haven’t canned your own food before, why not give it a try? Now that you know how to can your own food safely, it is the perfect time to give it a go and see if canning will work for your family as a means to develop a more self-sufficient household.

Your Thoughts

Do you plan on making canning part of your prepping plan? Are there any aspects of the canning process that intimidate you? Have you had an experience canning food on your own? We look forward to hearing from you in the Comments section below, thanks!

Read More

home aquaponics

Introducing Home Aquaponics: A DIY Way To Build An Endless Food Supply

home aquaponics

Food is one of the must-have essentials for preppers, as without it, you will not survive for too long. Building stockpiles is a great way to ensure adequate food for short-term emergencies, but in the long-term, even the most robust stockpiles will run out. The best solution is to find a source of healthy food that will never run out – this requires growing your own food.

When contemplating growing their own food, most people imagine it requires lots of land, daily watering, laborious tending, and a constant battle with pests – generally, conditions and labor requirements most of us won’t have access to in a bug-out scenario.

There is an alternative to outdoor gardening and agriculture; it’s an option that can produce an endless supply of organic, chemical and GMO free food in any space with minimal labor requirements. This ‘magic’ system? It’s called aquaponics, and every prepper should ensure they are familiar with it.

What Is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is an innovative combination of aquafarming and hydroponics. It involves creating a simple, self-sustaining ecosystem of plants and fish that yields an indefinite source of both fresh, healthy vegetables and protein for you and your family.

How It Works

The process works by virtue of the nitrate cycle. The waste from the fish is broken down in the water by nitrogen fixing bacteria and converted into nitrates and nitrites; too much nitrogen in the water will kill fish, but these particular forms of nitrogen are usable by plants as food.

The water from the aquarium is pumped into the hydroponic plant bed where the plants remove the nitrogen from the water; the filtered water is then cycled back into the aquarium. The basic premise is that the fish fertilize the plants while the plants clean the water for the fish.

home aquaponics

The system is completely self-sustaining except for the requirement of adding food for the fish and the occasional water chemistry maintenance. The only other time you will need to interact with your aquaponic system is when it’s time to harvest all the ripened vegetables.

Benefits

The best part about a home aquaponics system is that it can be built to any size to suit your living space and consumption requirements, so even in a small space your survival plan can include an option for growing your own food source. Once it’s set up, you can essentially forget about it; there’s no need to water as the water is constantly being cycled.

This also makes it a highly efficient system as both water and fertilizer are cycled and not lost back into the ground. Despite its low maintenance, an aquaponic system provides a high yield crop as plants are constantly receiving needed water and nutrients. It’s the perfect system for those with busy lifestyles or working families.

The following is a quick list of some additional benefits of home aquaponics:

  • Easily alternate plants for added variety
  • No weeding – the bed is raised above the ground and does not contain soil
  • Produces organic, chemical-free, and non-GMO produce – much cheaper than buying organic at the supermarket
  • Helps decrease intake of preservatives, artificial coloring and flavoring, and refined sugar with fresh fruits and vegetables available daily
  • As a self-contained system, it is not susceptible to pollution, drought, or natural disaster, and does not affect or disrupt the natural ecosystem in the way that agriculture does
  • Easier and less hassle than a traditional outdoor garden with no bending required to weed or harvest, no digging, etc.
home aquaponics
Imagine having fresh organic produce every day without having to go to the market!

Getting Started

The Basics

When setting up a home aquaponic gardening system, you will need five basic elements: tank, grow bed, growth medium, plumbing, and power source.

Tank

The tank should be made from an opaque material, such as plastic, in order to block out the sun and prevent algae growth. For a small system, a deep Rubbermaid bin works well.

home aquaponics
You can see the algal growth in this tank due to its position in direct sun.

Grow Bed

The grow bed can be built out of wood for structure and lined with plastic for water tightness.

Growth Medium

The growth medium should be lightweight and have a good water-to-air ratio for water retention. The most commonly used growth medium is some form of clay formed into uniform pellets: Round pellets allow for air and water to circulate in the space between the pellets, with an 8-16mm diameter representing a good range.

Some brands come pre-rinsed and ready to use right out of the bag; look for those with a neutral pH as this will help prevent the growth of mold and fungus.

home aquaponics
Expanded clay pellets allow for optimal hydration and aeration in the growth bed.

Another option is to use crushed rock, but be cautious of rock containing limestone as it will leach minerals, affecting the pH of your system. A rock medium is much less expensive than clay pellets, but also heavier, something to consider if you plan on moving your system around.

A combination of the two can be used to save costs and still reap the benefits of clay; simply use a layer of rock at the bottom of the grow bed and top it with a layer of clay for planting.

Plumbing

The water in your aquaponics system will circulate via an electric pump, through either pvc or vinyl tubing. Regulators adjust the flow to meet the biological needs of the system.

Power Source

You will need a power source to power the plumbing system; this power can come from a traditional electrical connection or, for a completely self-sustaining system, from solar cells.

Setting Up Your Home Aquaponics System

The best part of any home aquaponics system is its versatility to fit any space requirement. If you start off small, you can always expand your system as your needs grow, or scale back if required.

When setting up your system, you will want the tank to sit lower than the grow bed, or directly below it, allowing water returning from the grow bed to be gravity-fed back into the fish tank. Rocks can be used as substrate, but stick to a large enough cobble that it will not interfere with the pump. Stay away from typical aquarium gravel, as it is usually too small and can clog your system.

home aquaponics
This aquaponic system circulates water from a single fish tank through two growth beds.

For the garden bed, ensure you locate your system in a place that receives adequate sunlight to support the plants. Remember, it is a drought-resistant system as the plants have constant access to water and nutrients, so full sunshine is fine.

As a contained ecosystem, you can set-up your aquaponic system anywhere that is convenient. If you live in a mild climate, it’s feasible to keep your system outside year-round on a deck, patio, or lawn. For colder climates, an outdoor system can survive winter in a climate-controlled greenhouse to continue food production through the colder months.

home aquaponics
Some fish, such as these tilapia, can thrive in high density tanks. This makes them ideal for smaller set-ups.

Small systems can function well indoors as long as they receive sufficient sunlight – either natural or using a grow light. There are even countertop systems available; these are great for growing herbs in the kitchen.

For a fantastic, informative video series on building and maintaining your own aquaponic system, click here.  

Customizing Your Aquaponic Garden

Choosing Your Fish

When first starting a system, you may want to use feeder fish, such as goldfish, to establish the water chemistry as they are inexpensive to replace. After establishing the correct water chemistry, you can then upgrade to edible varieties of fish.

The ideal fish should be a species that breeds well in captivity, grows to a decent size, is edible, and something your family will enjoy. Also, your chosen fish needs to be a freshwater fish as a marine environment is not suitable for plants and the water will be shared.

When stocking your tank, very young fish called ‘fry’ are cheapest but will take longer to nutrify the water as they produce so little waste; fingerlings, fish that have developed scales and working fins, are more expensive but will take less time to balance the water chemistry.   

Recommended species

There are many types of fish that will work well with a home aquaponic system. Goldfish and koi are hardy, ornamental, cold-water fish that breed well in captivity but are not particularly desirable to consume. It’s probably best to stick to species that are edible – and enjoyable – as this will provide maximum enjoyment for your family.

home aquaponics

Tilapia: A popular choice as they breed well in captivity, are large in size, and hardy in terms of water conditions. They typically prefer warm water, so you may need to set up a heat source in the tank. Tilapia eats plants and duckweed, which can be grown right in the tank, or high quality fish food can be used. Nile tilapia are commercially farmed and produce a white meat with a mild flavor that is low in fat; they typically reach plate size in four months.

home aquaponics

Crappies: These are good-tasting, smaller fish, that are hardy and easy to raise. However, it will take two years for them to mature to reproductive age and the tank cannot be stocked with larger fish as they will eat your crappies.

home aquaponics

Trout: These fish have a fast growth rate, are suited for cold water, and follow a carnivorous diet that includes insects, molluscs, worms, and feeder fish (you can choose to breed these yourself or purchase pelleted food). The downside for trout is that they are less hardy and require very pristine tank conditions.

home aquaponics

Catfish: The channel catfish (pictured above) and blue catfish are the most common varieties used for consumption, as they are fast-growing and a good source of vitamin D; however, catfish must be skinned before eating as they do not have scales. As they are bottom-feeders and large enough not to be prey, they typically cohabitate well with other species.

home aquaponics

Carp: These fish are adaptable to environmental changes and breed well in captivity. Typical species raised in fish farms for consumptions are the bighead carp, grass carp, mud carp, and crucian carp (pictured above).

home aquaponics

Largemouth Bass: These hardy, cold-water species are popular as gamefish. The flavor of the younger (smaller) fish is preferable to larger fish due to the difference in diet; this means that they can be consumed before they are fully grown. A carnivorous fish, the largemouth bass feeds on shrimp, insects, and small fish.

Compatibility / Multiple Varieties

When it comes to mixing the variety of species in your aquaponic system, be aware that some species of fish can co-habitate while others prefer a monospecies environment. When cohabiting, be sure to choose fish with the same requirements for temperature and water conditions.

Choosing Your Plants

You should choose the plants for your system based on their nutritional benefits and your family’s tastes, as well as their compatibility with your water conditions. Plants that require a pH much higher or lower than 7 are not suitable, as highly acidic or basic water does not support fish life.

home aquaponics
Some plants are naturally faster growing, such as beans. It is good to have a variety in your garden so you will always have ripe vegetables to eat.

Leafy plants, such as lettuces and herbs, do quite well in aquaponic systems and are the easiest to grow. Fruit-bearing plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and beans, will require a higher nutrient concentration and therefore do best with a well-stocked aquarium.

Subterranean plants can be grown, however, the hydroponic substrate makes it difficult for the root vegetable to achieve typical shape. The end result is that you can grow healthy potatoes and carrots but they may not look as you would expect them to!

Plant-to-Fish Ratio

Balancing the plant-to-fish ratio in your system is the biggest challenge; it is essential that you have the right amount of plants to filter the waste for your fish, as well as enough fish to supply adequate nutrients to your plants. The water ratio is 1:1 for water in the grow bed and water in the tank. The general ratio of plants-to-fish is four plants for every pound of fish, but this may need adjusting depending on the species of fish and types of plants.

In order to properly maintain the water chemistry and achieve a healthy system, a water testing kit is a must. Once you have it figured out, the system can be expanded to increase the food supply by simply adding another grow bed and adjusting your tank water volume. You can also add multiple tanks of fish for variety.

Different Types of Aquaponic Setups

There is no ‘right’ way to set up a home aquaponics system; in fact, a successful system can be set up in many different ways. The following are examples of different types of setups you can try yourself, or use for inspiration to create your own:

home aquaponics
This growth bed is made primarily from gutters and downspouts instead of a traditional bed.

 

home aquaponics
Separating plants into pots works well in this larger system. The turbulence of the gravity-fed water return system helps to keep the oxygen level up.
home aquaponics
A decorative approach to home aquaponics that requires more complex plumbing but also takes up very little room. The columns are filled with growth media and the plants grow out the slit toward the sunlight. The fish tank can be concealed or displayed next to the vertical growth bed.

Need Help Getting Started?

Aquaponic systems can be daunting for beginners; they sound complicated and many first-timers find it difficult to know where to begin. Setting up your own home system is actually quite easy if you start out with the right knowledge.

Click here for a complete guide on everything aquaponics – it will teach you how to get started, how to maintain your system, and how to make crucial improvements and adjustments to accommodate your family’s changing needs.

home aquaponics
Click the image to learn more about the home aquaponics video series.

Conclusion

A home aquaponic system is a viable, sustainable solution to an endless food supply and a positive step toward developing a self-sufficient home. The versatility of the system, along with its efficiency, make it a good choice for any household as it can provide a dependable source of food (both protein and vegetable) in almost any space and climate.

While the concept may seem daunting at first, many resources and studies exist to help get you started and maintain your system. Once it’s up and running, you’ll have a dependable, cost-effective source of food you can rely on.

Your Thoughts

Do you have experience growing food with an aquaponic system? Do you have any questions about home aquaponics gardening? Let us know in the Comments section below, thanks!

Read More