Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide

I just finished reading The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide: The Smartest Money Moves to Prepare for Any Crisis by Sean Brodrick. Contrary to what the title suggests, this book does not focus solely on money and investing. Brodrick spends a great deal of time discussing all the facets of prepping, including stocking up, bug-out-bags, medical preparation, and home security, to name a few. 

The thing I liked most about this book was all the resources the author identified. He gives websites for almost every topic he covers, albeit frequently in tinyurl form (I prefer to just have the actual website). There is also a section entitled “Building a Survival Library” that includes six pages of recommended book titles, with a short synopsis of what each book covers.

Outside of the investing information (which is the field in which Brodrick works), most of the survivalist stuff could be classified as good knowledge for beginners. However, I did find a few good suggestions or different approach angles that I hadn’t considered before. Being a gardener, I especially enjoyed the list of common medicinal herbs and how to use them, as well as another list I’ve never seen before: 23 Home Remedies from the Spice Rack.  And the chapter on home security provided some useful information and new-to-me ideas about making it less easy for intruders to gain access to your house, how to choose a security system that’s right for you, and clever ways to hide valuables in your home, plus quite a few other topics. It was probably my favorite chapter, though I felt the author could have expounded more on gun ownership; but then, that’s a highly opinionated topic anyway.

Overall, the book was good. I borrowed it from the library, and I’m glad I read it. I will take some notes from it, but I don’t intend to buy it. It didn’t have enough information that I didn’t already know to justify the $27.95 price tag.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A New Dehydrator and DIY Dog Treats

With a job that takes up 50 or more hours of my week, I sometimes have difficulty finding time to blog. Add in the holidays, and the blog (and blog reading) have to take a back seat.

We have been "blowin' and goin'" around here as of late. Seems like there is always just one more chore to do, or one more errand to run, or one more function to attend. I'm ready for January and the slow-down that winter brings, although I wouldn't mind a bit if we didn't see any snow--but I think there's already some in the forecast.

So I bought a dehydrator. Haha, it wasn't that long ago that I sold a dehydrator on craigslist, because I didn't think I'd ever use it and I didn't want it taking up space in the kitchen. But that was before we started seriously getting in to prepping. Well, I'm still glad I sold it because I was able to buy a new, more modern unit. I've been eying the Excalibur dehydrators, but I just couldn't talk myself into spending that much money.

Then one day I was in Academy (an outdoor store) and came across this dehydrator. It has the things that I liked about the Excalibur: adjustable thermostat, and fan at the back instead of on the bottom. I tried to find some reviews online and could find only one, which was a 5-star review, but I was hoping for more than one review. So I continued to think about it, and in the meantime the dehydrator went on sale. I decided that for $79.99, it was worth a try.

Turns out that GameWinner™ is the Academy store brand. I talked to a sales associate about it before I bought it. He said that Academy has been actively soliciting more reputable companies to make their store brands for them, and he thought the GameWinner™ series had a good rep. He also said I could return it within 30 days if it sucked. :)

On first glance, I like it. It feels solid. The trays are not too wimpy. The thermostat goes up to about 165 degrees, which should be sufficient for most, if not all, the things I want to dehydrate.  It is a little loud when it’s running, but not unbearably loud. I thought it might get on the hubster’s nerves after a while, so since the dog treats I was making needed to dehydrate for 18-20 hours, I went ahead and put the unit in an empty room and closed the door.  

On to the dog treats! There are a lot of furbabies in my extended family, so I thought I would make some Christmas treats for them. I found this recipe on Bacon and Eggs. She had three recipes listed, and I decided to try the ground beef one. My protector wanted to “help.”

I picked up some 96% lean ground beef, since leaner cuts of meat dehydrate better, and the finished product stays good longer. 

I then rolled out the meat, a half-pound at a time, til it was about a quarter-inch thick. I don’t own a rolling pin, so I used a glass.  I rolled the first batch out directly on my cutting mat, but after trying to pick it up and lay it on some parchment paper, I got smart and rolled the rest out directly on the paper (on the mat). I then transferred the meat and parchment paper onto a dehydrator tray. I did all six trays. 

Per the user manual, I turned the dehydrator on and let it warm up for a few minutes before inserting the trays. Once I put the trays in, I made note of the time: 10 a.m. I then doublechecked the recipe, and it’s a good thing I did, because I thought I remembered that the meat needed to dehydrate for twelve hours. But when I read it again, I saw it was actually 18-20 hours. 

Like I said, I moved the dehydrator to an empty room, and I checked on it every hour or so until I went to bed, just to make sure no problems had occurred (i.e., my house wasn’t on fire). Other than that, I left it alone until about 5:45 the next morning, when I checked to see if the meat would break when I tried to bend it. It did, so I turned off the dehydrator while I got ready for work. Then I brought it back into the kitchen and took each tray out, one at a time. The pieces were a little greasier than I expected. It wasn't until later that I looked at the comments on the blog post where I got the recipe, and saw a suggestion to put paper towels under the meat after it had been dehydrating for a while, in order to soak up some of the grease. I'll have to remember that for next time.

I broke each large piece up into bite-size pieces. My dog sampled a few and enthusiastically approved. I might stop at the dollar store and see if I can find some cheap, cute, airtight containers to pretty them up with. Hopefully all the canines will be happy! And in case you're wondering, I haven't forgotten about the cats (and there are plenty of those in our family, too). I've got a goody planned for them also, but it doesn't involve the dehydrator.

So far, I love the dehydrator. Next up is celery, as I still have a few plants growing in the garden and I’ll have to harvest them soon. 

I probably won’t be around much more until after the holidays. I’ve got a couple things in mind to blog about then. Also, I got a new camera, and need to learn how to use it, so I might start participating in some of the photography round robins. 

I wish you all a great Christmas!