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Here in the wilderness, food preservation is on the top of the list.
As most of you know, we live off-grid with 100% solar in the northern Idaho wilderness. We utilize age old techniques and traditions in all we do and preserving our food for our pantry and canning shelves is no different. We do own a small propane freezer, but because my men are very BIG eaters I need to have my shelves heavily stocked for winter.
Did I mention that my men are BIG eaters (ha)? We make absolutely EVERYTHING from scratch here on our homestead in an effort to be more self sufficient, to accommodate the Mountain Boy’s gluten free and dairy free diet and to provide us with a much healthier lifestyle and diet. Another reason we use varying forms of food preservation is so we have the skills, so we can practice them and have the knowledge under our belts in the event that modern forms are no longer usable.
Not only do we make everything from scratch, but we forage a lot of our ingredients such as berries, teas, etc and we grow as much as we possibly can. We also raise chickens for fresh eggs, rabbits for meat, goats for milk and we harvest all our meats from the wild each hunting season.
Here are the many ways we preserve our food:
Drying and Dehydrating
Canning, Picking and Fermenting
Salting, Curing, Jerking and Smoking
Drying and Dehydrating
Knowing how to dry and dehydrate things is important and thinking out of the box to do so is also important. You do not need fancy modern day gadgets to always get the job done. These are not new skills and there are many ways to do this. I like drying my teas, hung upside down on my wash line to dry. To keep them dust free and to allow the leaves to fall into a save place I secure them with either a brown paper bag or cheese cloth around them which will still allow air around them for proper drying. This is a great way to save seeds from your garden as well when your plants have gone to flower. Additionally, you can use your vehicle for a form of a Sun Oven for both cooking, rising your breads and dehydrating things as well.
I just dehydrated celery and blueberries in my Sun Oven by placing parchment paper on drying racks (you could even use cooling racks for cookies – anything that will allow air to circulate around whatever you are trying to dry). We have also created our own solar cooking devices to which we will be sharing the how-to very soon. You can use the heat from your wood stove in the winter to dehydrate things as well as an outdoor wood fire or smokehouse.
There are some GREAT dehydrators on the market, but we have not had the additional finances to purchase one such as the Excalibur. We are very frugal and have learned to utilize what we have and use a little ingenuity to create things for ourselves when finances won’t permit us to have the modern day conveniences. We feel this is a great mindset and really gets you thinking out of the box.
One of the great things about drying and dehydrating foods is that you can place your dried materials in canning jars, place lids and rings on them and place them in an oven on low heat just enough to heat the seals. Remove the jars and your jars will now seal which will give them a much longer shelf life.
Canning, Pickling and Fermenting
I grew up with a family that canned EVERYTHING and for this I feel very blessed. Being able to harvest your bounty from your garden, cleaning and slicing, processing your fruits and vegetables in your water bath canner or in your pressure canner is such an amazing process, one that I hold near and dear and find to be very very rewarding. Every time I can I think of my mother and my grandparents. Those times in my life helping my family process our summer bounty created amazing memories for me and now I do the same thing with my family and mainly my son.
Who would have thought that something like canning could provide you with some major quality time with your children, right? In the past, this is how families and communities came together and I am blessed to have some of the most amazing conversations with my son while we spend the entire day processing our food. I do not have to drag him to the project, he comes willingly and with much excitement of his own. He enjoys chopping and honestly I think he gets as much out of it as I do when you pull a jar from the shelf during the winter months and know that it was the labor of your love that put that food on our shelves. These are good skills and traditions to instill in our children. This will also enable them to know how to preserve food for their families as well.
It is possible to can your food on your modern day stove top, on an outdoor propane burner and also over a wood fire. If you are new to canning be sure to start in your kitchen and below you will find several of our canning videos and some of the items I feel are essential.
I also use Re-Usable Tattler Seals which are a great tool and will allow me to can moving forward no matter what. The ability to continue reusing these seals allows my canning ventures to be endless.
Now I know that I mentioned being frugal and not spending more than necessary, but when I am passionate about a product or feel it is absolutely necessary or worthy of your time, I will be sure to share it with you.
Fermenting and pickling is something else I believe my family holds near and dear for our sauerkraut, dill pickles and our lime pickles. My men LOVE pickles and they get used on and in EVERYTHING. Our Friday night pizza is not complete without a jar of lime pickles being added to the many pizzas. Not only are they tasty, but fermented and pickled items are good for your digestive system and useful for many things. Vinegar is a HUGE staple in our home.
Be sure to subscribe to our channel because there will be a LOT more videos on the subject and also on salting, curing, jerking and smoking as well as many others.
Salting, Curing, Jerking and Smoking
Now before we even dive into this topic, let me share a bit with you. We raise or harvest our own meats and do all of our own butchering. We utilize everything we possibly can from the animals and render down the fat for lard and even brain tan and smoke the hides for shoes and clothing. We enjoy doing all these things as a family and have taught our son the processes so he too can utilize these skills with his family. Being able to get hormone and GMO free meats is very important to us and there is nothing better than a deer or elk roast on the wood stove in the winter months. We utilize our wood stove for all our cooking and you will not find tastier game meat than of that cooked on the wood stove all day long simmering on a lower heat.
A little side note as well. Last year the Mountain Man shot his moose here in Idaho and it filled our freezer so when we each shot our buck and our cousin and my father-in-law shot his we needed a place for 5 deer. We canned 113 quarts of venison burger which was out of this world and extremely handy for making meals all year long.
Now, we grew up with families that smoked their own meats. We were in an area that butcher shops were every where and good meats were readily available. We were spoiled because when we moved to Idaho that was not the case. In 4 years, I have found one butcher shop and it is a great distance from us. We love our fresh, home raised, and smoked meats. As soon as we finished building our home, we quickly went to work building our smoke house. This is a fantastic way to preserve meats if refrigeration or freezing is no longer an option. Knowing how to smoke your meats and traditionally cure your meats is a skill that appeared to be getting lost. We couldn’t live with that… 🙂 So we used recipes and brines from our grandparents and great grandparents to make bacon, hams, etc. Jerking your meat is also another great way to preserve meat and provide your family with healthy snacks.
We have sadly been doing our smoking, salting, and curing on the fly since we are here, but over the winter months this year we will be heavily educating on this so please do stay tuned for our videos and posts. We will also take you through the steps with us on brain tanning the hides.
We do have several videos that you may be interested in below:
We started all this as a hobby and had several YouTube channels to which we merged this year into one. So if you are liking our videos and would like to subscribe you can do so here.
Thank you for joining me today and I hope you have gotten something from this post. Below you will find additional posts on how some of my friends are preserving their food.
Leave me comment below – What is your favorite form of food preservation? I would LOVE to know….
Join us as we share different reasons and methods of how we preserve food to create a long-term storage plan for our families. Click on each link to be taken to a new blog with helpful information and tips.
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What’s Your Threat? What’s the biggest threat to you and your family? Check out some amazing blogs and how they attack their biggest threats to being more prepared and more self-reliant!
I was very excited to opt-in with a bunch of my wonderful peers to write about “What’s Your Threat?” and I have to say it took me a while to wrap my head around this. What really is my threat?
I feel this can vary a LOT based on your perspective! Fear can play a big role, negative media, naysayers, our economy and so much more, but I feel that as long as there is evil in this world there will be a threat of one kind or another not to mention the possibility of natural disasters.
My view on this subject may appear to be from behind the “Pink Shady Glasses”, but I also take my faith very strongly so I feel that if we have faith, trust and take it upon ourselves to prepare as much as we possibly can for all of our threats and as much as is humanly possible, that is all we can do and is the best preparation! Stay with me a while longer while I explain a bit further on this…
For those of you that are new to my page, my family and I have lived in the middle of the wilderness in Idaho, very traditionally off-grid for the last 4 years. We started this venture in a canvas wall tent to which we lived for 8 1/2 months from spring to winter while we built our home on raw untouched wilderness land. There was a foot of snow on the ground when we were able to move into our home. It was the absolute BEST time of my life. Why? Because it could not have been simpler and we depended on our skills and knowledge to achieve our daily projects.
All our belongings were in a storage unit while we lived in the tent, we each had a tote with a few articles of clothing and our necessities. The more I was in the tent the less I needed what was in the storage unit. Today, as each day goes by – I eliminate more and more of our belongings because they really aren’t necessary.
I saw a quote yesterday that really seemed fitting of this post.
The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less. – Socrates
Now I know that quote says the secret to happiness, but I feel this is also the secret to survival and the two can go hand in hand. So I am going to make up my own quote…
The secret to survival, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to need less. – Tammy Trayer
Less of the things you don’t need and more of the things that are important, including skills. Don’t get me wrong, there are important things you will need to have and some in abundance, but the focus to me is learning to live simpler and to begin to practice this now. I also feel that in addition to living simpler, knowing traditional and primitive skills could save you in most natural and man-made disasters, if not all of them. We live this way day to day currently, using traditional and often times primitive skills on our homestead and each day learning new things and increasing both our knowledge and the necessities that we will need to have on hand.
Our vacations as a family is heading into the wilds with our packs on our backs, setting up camp and living off the land for 3 or more days. During this time we enjoy each other’s company, fine tune our skills, learn new skills and thoroughly love our surroundings.
Here in Idaho, a big threat is forest fires. We have a plan in place in the event that a fire would be heading in our direction. Being prepared and having a plan is half the battle. If our plan were to fail and we were to lose everything, I know my family would be ok. It would be devastating, but we do not put a lot of value on personal physical possessions and we live currently with less.
Our move here was in an effort to be more prepared and in a good location and in doing so, this has provided us with a freedom that nearly eliminates the worry.
Let’s talk about some of the things we do here on our homestead and the things we have put a lot of thought into.
If anything were to ever happen to our well, we live close to water. Knowing how to filter and sterilize water is an important skill to which everyone should know. You can only go without water for 3 days.
Foraging, Raising, Growing and Harvesting
We currently forage, harvest, raise and grow all our own produce and meats. We feel it is an important skill to know how to identify plants in the wild, how to hunt and trap your own meats, how to raise your own animals, how to grow your own garden and save the seeds. When there is no longer food available to you, where will you turn?
Food and Alternative Methods of Food Storage
We hunt as a family and put up as much food as we possibly can each year. We butcher and process all our own meats. We utilize everything from the animal – lard, sinew for cordage, bone broth, heart, liver, bones for tools and arrows, brains and the hides. This past year we canned 113 quarts of venison for our canning shelves and had a moose in the freezer. We built a log smoke house to cure our meats in the event that we would no longer have a freezer accessible to us and also for the taste. Knowing alternative methods of preserving your food is important, from curing, dehydrating, canning, pickling and even storing some foods in a root cellar. In addition, we purchase all our food in bulk and we no longer eat any processed food. Everything we eat we make, including our condiments and therefore we purchase large bulk quantities of raw ingredients to which we continue to keep replenished and well stocked.
My survival pack includes heirloom seeds as does my food supply. If you have heirloom seeds you can grow food for yourself and save the seeds each year.
In addition to growing produce we also grow and forage our herbs for teas, tinctures and other medicinal purposes which we also incorporate with essential oils.
As I mentioned above we utilize the hides from the animals we harvest by brain tanning them and making bags, shoes, clothing and varying other projects. We know how to make traditional and primitive tools for all purposes and the Mountain Man is a blacksmith which is a great skill to have in making all sorts of things that may be necessary for our survival. He currently makes our knives, tomohawks, gardening tools, etc. I make our soaps, personal hygiene products and cleaning products.
As a family, we have made a traditional log smoke house and a traditional log guest house by hand. We are very versed on varying types of shelters and when we are out in the wilds for a day of fun we work on fine tuning these skills and are continuously learning how to build different types.
Important Survival Skills
Knowing how to build a fire using primitive, traditional and modern methods is very important. You never know what situations you may be in and how limited your supplies may be. Even here on our homestead we have essentials in our pockets and on our person that would get us by if for some reason something happened. Those items would include a lighter, paracord, knives, a handgun, extra shells, etc. Having just those simple items we could do a lot.
Preparedness for us is a lifestyle to which I would not trade for anything. Our lifestyle allows me to see the threats, but also feel comfortable with our preparation and removes the worry. I encourage you to get rid of the fear and worry and just embrace your dreams and being more prepared. If you are waiting for the perfect time or waiting until you have a certain amount of money, good chance that just won’t happen. If you are new to this, you may be overwhelmed and not sure where to start. My suggestion is to start out slow. For example, take $5, $10, $20 a week (whatever you can afford) and start stocking up on bulk food items such as rice, dried beans and even canned goods to get you started. Look in the sales flyers each week to see where your money could best be spent.
Start looking in the thrift stores and antique shops for some of the equipment you may need. I found an antique hand crank meat slicer last week for $12.00 that is in perfect working order and will add to our butchering tools. Look for sales on items you are in need of, go to sales, auctions and look on craigslist.
If you need additional help, we are always an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to leave a comment below. We are always happy to help.
I am really glad that you joined me today here at Trayer Wilderness and my hope is that you have gotten something from the information that I have shared here.
On just a little side note, our son is high functioning autistic and has overcome 98% of his autism tendencies with our lifestyle. I share this because we love to share our success stories with those that may be in need. We homeschool and have helped our son with a 100% gluten free and casein free diet for the last 10 years as well as natural remedies such as essential oils, herbs and supplements. If this may apply to you, feel free to reach out to us. We would love to be able to help you in any way that we can.
Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter in the sidebar and if I might ask you a question or two before you leave…
What is holding you back? What is your biggest struggle or fear? Is there something you might be seeking help or more knowledge on?
If you have an answer to any of those questions, please either emails me personally or leave me a comment below. I would really love to hear from you!
Thank you again for joining me! Be sure to visit the other bloggers below for additional information!
Our family tries to do everything we possibly can for ourselves. We purchased 30 laying hens and ended up with 5 roosters out of the bunch. We didn’t want all those roosters in the coop so we fattened them up and decided they would do nicely in our freezer. When it comes to putting meat up, we like to freeze, can, smoke and jerk our meats.
Today’s post will include information on butchering your chickens. I will have a video upcoming on smoking a chicken and my wife, Tammy Trayer of Mountain Woman Journals, is working currently on two different e-books that will be ready soon that I think you will find informational. I grew up on one of the largest chicken farms in Central Pennsylvania, so I have been around this kind of stuff all my life.
We used what we called chicken cones for butcher which made the job very easy. Below you will find a direct link to my YouTube.com video and it is also below for your viewing. In addition, below the chicken cone video you will find a video on “How to butcher chickens”.
You can also find my wife, Tammy Trayer’s debut articles “How To Butcher Chickens” as well as her other article titled “What’s In My Pantry” in Issue #19 of Self Reliance Illustrated which can be purchased here.