Category: Gardening


20141007_6Green beans…these are so easy to grow and are often prolific producers. So how can you preserve them? Canning and freezing are our favorite ways.

Canning fresh green beans is easy…but VaCreepinOutdoors and myself, we love to can them like our grandmothers did. With BACON! Yes, you can safely can green beans with bacon. My grandmother died when I was 8 years old. One legacy she left was a TON of canned fruits and veggies. My family got some of them and some were pressure canned green beans with bacon. Sadly, I opened and ate the last remaining jar of these about 8 years ago. I am now 42 🙂 and they were still delicious!!! VaCreepin remembers his mom’s and grandmothers canned beans too..so this article is in their memory and we hope you will give this a try and make it a tradition in your family too!

What you will need:

1 quart mason jar (or 2 pints) per pound of green beans.
Green Beans
Diced Onions (I like to add raw onions for flavor, 1 medium sized one per 3 lbs)
Minced Garlic (again, for flavor, add to taste)
Bacon (I use 1lb per 3 lbs of green beans, use as little or as much as you wish)
Pressure Cooker
Colander and Large Pot or Bowl.
A little bit of vinegar and a small rag.

Getting your canning supplies ready to go as usual. With the new lids available now, all you need to do is wash them. No boiling necessary to get the gummy going (in fact, keeping them simmering will degrade the gummy part causing lid failure). Often I will just put the lids and rings into a pot of water, bring to a boil for just a minute or two and then turn down to barely warm just to keep the water warm enough that I can put a finger into the water without hurting myself.
A trick I learned with the jars…heat the oven to 250 degrees to keep them ‘hot/warm’. Put the jars onto a cookie sheet and put into the oven while prepping the beans and bacon mixture.
Get the pressure cooker water going too. I put 3 inches in and bring to a boil while prepping the beans and bacon mix.

Next, we prep the beans and bacon/onions/garlic.

Typically VaCreepinOutdoors will cut the beans up as I fry up the bacon/onion/garlic mixture. The beans should be cut into about 1 inch lengths. Then rinse.
We DO NOT parboil them because that causes the beans to become mushy after canning. Raw packing is the best method for green beans so they don’t overcook. Remember, you are cooking them when you pressure cook them and then cooking again after opening. No mushy beans here!
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Place the beans into a large bowl or stock pot.

For the bacon, I cut the strips into 1 inch or so pieces, put into a frying pan, add diced onions and the garlic and fry the bacon until its just done/cooked. Drain the fat and then add to the beans that are already in the pot.
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Mix the beans and bacon mixture WELL.
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Get your preheated jars out and STUFF THOSE JARS FULL of the bean/bacon mix. If you don’t pack them in tightly you will wind up with more water than beans. I use a pestle or something else to pack the beans/bacon down into the jars. Pack leaving ½ inch head space.
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Now for the best part: no hot water needed…I just take the packed jar over to the sink and fill with water up to the ½ inch mark.

Because we have used bacon in this canning recipe, you will need to put a small amount of vinegar onto the rag. Wipe the rim and where the ring screws down onto. Vinegar cuts the potential grease and cleans the rim very well.

Place the lids and rings on the jars as usual. Finger tight!
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Place into your pressure canner and follow the manufactures instructions from there.

You will can quartz at 10 lbs for 25 mintues and pints at 10 lbs for 15.

Yum! These are huge hit and a blast from the past that everyone loves!

Of course you could use ham or something else if you wish, add your own seasonings, whatever…I have canned green beans just using the regular seasonings I would use in cooking too.

Have fun and enjoy!
Survivingshtfmom and VaCreepinOutdoors

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Surviving off the land…fact or fiction?…do you believe, that in the event of an emergency situation that you could simply go out into the woods and survive? Or that in order to get food on the table that you will take that old .22 and go kill some meat in the woods or that simply dropping a fishing hook in the water everyday that you and yours could live? That foraging alone in the woods and fields will get you what you need on a daily basis? That all you have to do is throw some seeds out there and presto, within weeks you will have an abundant selection of veggies to eat daily? This is a myth…and the golden hordes (read that city dwellers) that may or may not come out if and when the supply chain or money dries up don’t know it is a myth.

Dream on and don’t come knocking on my door when you figure out that its all a lot harder than you thought it would be and you are starving because you failed to ‘get’ the fact that subsistence living or living ‘survival’ style in the woods just won’t get it no matter what the ‘professionals’ say. Remember that word ‘professional’ and what that means, it means THEY DO WHAT THEY DO FOR A LIVING AND DO IT WELL AND REGULARLY!!! And they always have back up…which you don’t see…just in case (hmm, 3 is 2, 2 is 1 and 1 is none).

Fact is that hunting, fishing, gardening and foraging are all SKILLS that must be developed and even then, it is HARD WORK that takes a lot time. And even if you have the skills do any hunting, fishing, foraging or gardening, there are no promises at the beginning or end of the day that you will get what you need for that day, let alone for future days when you get nothing on a particular day.

Case in point, I have for a few years tried my hand at gardening. All the knowledge in the world doesn’t mean diddly when it doesn’t ran or rains too much…or frost comes early or you get an attack of bugs (or critters!) that kills your plants or eats your hard won fruits and veggies before you can get to them. Have had it all happen plus other interesting things…such as some veggies and fruits just won’t grow on my property despite how much work I put into them. Some methods of gardening just don’t work in my area. It is has been and is still a process of learning my own land and area that has led to some successes and a lot of failures that teach me what not to do and sends me back to the drawing board to try something else/different the following year.

Another case in point that I have recently learned….hunting and fishing are hard work and frankly, start up costs are EXPENSIVE. Now you could argue that you don’t ‘need’ a lot to get going with either and I would agree with you, but you need the basics…A fishing pole, bait and that’s all right? Hmm, well, if you think so…depends on what you are after and if you are innately talented at fishing to get by with just any old fishing pole and bait. How are you gonna clean it? Do you know how to use that pole? Or even tie a fishing hook onto the pole? Yeah…are you getting the idea now? And by the way, there is skill involved, tricks to the trade if you will…last time I went fishing (see the bluegill video) my friend caught 5 in minutes and me, well, lets just say that once I could get a cast off those little suckers ATE THE BAIT and I got nothing.

Now we can go onto hunting…where do I start there. I was kinda one of those persons until recently that thought all you did was get the rifle and go out. First off, you better be able to hit what you are aiming at…so do you know your ‘weapon’? are you good with it? Because the last thing you want to do is take a shot and spook dinner down the hill or forbid this from happening, you don’t make a clean kill and the thing runs off and dies somewhere and you either don’t find it or have to go miles trying to track it (do you know how to do that?). Did you know that an animals senses are super sensitive? The can, in general see us, hear us and smell us long before we see or hear them. So can you sit still? Walk quietly in the woods? Do you know how to blend in smell wise or better yet, NOT SMELL? (try that one when you haven’t had a bath in days and its 90 degrees outside). Okay, now, do you know how to get up in a tree? Trust me when I tell you that if you think a climbing tree stand is EASY to use you got another thing coming and from what I am told, hunting from the ground is iffy at best, though doable if you can hide yourself well enough. Good luck sneaking up on a deer or rabbit or even a squirrel. Can you find a trail or the signs that an animal is a frequent visitor? If you can’t then you are relying on luck and stupidity of an animal that is used to being hunted one way or another. And lets not forget that there are most certainly others out there looking for the samething as you are.

I have spent the time, effort and energy to get my self set with gear for hunting and fishing. Archery season just started last weekend…I got the bruises and weary muscles to prove that I now know how to use a climbing tree stand. So up I went last Saturday after getting up at 4:30 am to get to a spot that my friend, who has hunted for years picked out for me beforehand. And I will tell you that just GETTING to that tree that I had to climb was interesting (lesson learned: make sure all gear is secure on the body otherwise you will be chasing it in the dark). Then up the tree I went right around dawn, get settled, get the gear up to me (do you know how to safely do that???) and there I sat, watching, waiting, just sure a deer or turkey would come through…okay, next thing is this, its hard to stay alert when you can’t move. Think I nodded off a couple of times. Then after a few hours of sitting in my ‘perfect’ spot I hear some people further down the trail yelling and then a dog barking, not to mention it was getting hot. (Did I forget to mention did you think about what you were going to do when nature called?? Haha! Yeah…) I sat there so long and still enough that the squirrels were paying me absolutely no mind. And those things are sensitive suckers (never did get one earlier in the season, but there they were this time, lots of them!). I could go on and on and on, but long and short of this story is that hunting IS NOT WHAT YOU READ ABOUT OR SEE ON TV. Its hard and iffy in good times, now imagine that if a good hunter can’t get a kill during the good times (such as my friends that I went with last weekend) then what will it be like when you are hungry, tired and stressed out to the max? Back to the drawing board and practice more and cross my fingers that next time providence is on my side. Oh, by the way, do you know how to clean that animal and field dress it? I think you get my point…And I will tell you this, when it hits the fan I am NOT stepping out into the woods for a few weeks, I want to live and with a lot of people thinking they will just go out and kill to eat all I can foresee is a lot of accidents happening and none of them ending well. Every year people are killed and maimed hunting by accident and this happens in the ‘good times’.

Lastly, foraging…forget depending upon it for long term survival. It’s a good fill in IF you know what you are looking for (and you had better be good at plant identification unless you want to get sick or die) and can then find it…but it is what it is…foraging for survival and again, it is a skill and takes time, practice and knowledge…if you think that just having a few books on hand will get you what and need without actually going out there and doing it…good luck…And did I mention that you will be out there with the critters competing for the same food?

There is a reason why humans gathered into groups and began establishing formalized agriculture and animal husbandry (raising animals). It created conditions in which civilization could be established and more reliable food sources. But even then, things happen and fail (look at the hippies for confirmation of this). Can you imagine the hundreds of people who ‘think they can’ only to finally conclude that they can’t? Then what? Failure happens more often that success, remember that.

I am not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but what I am doing is trying to point out some basic facts, that IF YOU FAIL to do something now, learn how to do something NOW and PRACTICE that NOW you will not just be able to go out and ‘do it’ and in fact, you may just get yourself killed in the process since you will be under stress and most likely tired and low on energy and most likely there will ALOT of others ‘trying’ to do the same thing, in the same place, at the same time as you are (and I won’t tell you the stories about idiots who will shoot at a noise in bushes…hmm…is that the bush you are picking berries from?)

And that brings up one last skill that we as a collective have laid by the wayside…situational awareness…basically that means you know what is going on around you and are alert to potential dangers and CONSCIOUS enough to identify them and take the appropriate action, at the appropriate time.

Instead of playing video games or going to the mall, start to practice growing a garden…go find someone who can hunt or fish and partner up with them to learn how to do this NOW. Do you really need that new iPhone? Or a ‘new’ car? Or that extra night out eating? Invest your money in the best equipment you can afford now or trade for it. Take the time to go out and actually do what you think will help you in the future to get by during the hard times. The learning curve is steep people, because trust me, its not as easy as you think and even those with the can do, do or die attitude will fail at some point in time. Learn skills now while you can, when it doesn’t count so much and when the time comes, you will have the advantage.

The Garden of Rain SHTF

Seems to be the only thing this year that is growing well is the grass and the weeds!
Since I have been out in the woods I have had my hand at gardening after many years of not doing so and dang, I don’t remember it being so hard! I grew up gardening the old fashion way out in the Midwest and frankly, we just dug up the earth and in the plants went and things just grew well, no separating crops, no each one having their own ‘place’ or anything of the sort. Yes, we had ‘rows’ but everything grew together (separating the plants as needed, some on one end others on the other if they didn’t play nice together) but we companion planted in a small ¼ acre and always had a LOT of fresh veggies.
So in the name of becoming less dependant (read that not wanting to spend more and more of my hard earned money on food from the store) I have been trying my hand at intensive, companion gardening…

Since I live where there is a lot of tree roots and the soil can become very compact about 6 inches down I have put in raised beds over the past 2 years, tried growing in small containers. Got the soil right (peat moss for now until composting gets going), have learned a few things about what plants do and don’t like…did everything ‘right’…even prepared for hot weather with no rain or little rain! What I didn’t count on was rain, lots and lots of rain!
Got potatoes in old tires and yes, they grew well, died back and when I went to unearth them…well, found mush, tiny potatoes and only a few large ones…the soil at the bottom tire was soaking wet…not good…am thinking I may fill half the first tire this go around with rock and then the dirt and finishing off with straw as the plants grow (yes, I am going to try again this year, there is still enough time for another early crop).

Typically I have had zero issues with growing strawberries and have several different varieties growing together so I get early, mid summer and late summer crops…hahaha…the new plants grew very little until about 2 weeks ago when they decided to take off and grow literally like weeds and now, finally, I have fruit coming on (I did get a small amount at the beginning of May before the rain started in earnest) so fingers crossed there.

Tomatoes anyone? 4 plants and well, they grew fast when the heat finally came to my neck of the woods but then came the RAIN!!! Took forever for the fruit to grow and ripen properly…and then, after that one harvest (not many and small) they decided to die off (too much rain again). Then we had a week of nice weather and they are now perking up and setting fruit again, but I am not expecting too much.

Lettuce? What lettuce? I planted seed and in the past I have had so much lettuce that I couldn’t eat it all….this year…only tiny seedlings and then poof! The rain came and they went away…the ONLY lettuce that I had was what was left from last year in the raised bed and it bolted very quickly this year.
Carrots, never have had a problem with growing carrots either, but they did the same as the lettuce and what did survive…well, lets just say I have about 12 tiny carrots this year, the rest drowned.

Squash…sigh…miserable…the plants did very well, blossomed well, and actually produced well, BUT, once it started raining…the yellow crockneck only got to be about 6 inches long with skins on them that were ¼ inch thick…acorn squash…they are the size of baseballs and ready to be picked, out of planting 4 plants I got one viable squash per plant…now, the zucchini on the other hand did very well this year, a lot of it…that is until the plants started to rot at the soil line from all the rain…

I had also put in an onion bed in early March…can’t mess up growing onions right? They grew great tops, and then the rain came again and next thing I know I go out and the bulbs are on TOP or half way out of the soil…seriously??? Yes, that is how much rain we had day after day with little time in between rainfall…

My hops plants which I have been growing successfully since I moved to my home took off well and then drowned…not sure if they will come back next year…so instead of having fresh hops to pick now I have some straggly looking vines that are trying to come back, but the season is over for this year for them.

Sheesh…last year I struggled with not enough rain and high temps and this year fairly cool weather and rains that drowned everything and before anyone makes the comment that my raised beds are not draining well enough, its not that, they DO drain, very well, but no garden can survive the kind of rain that we have had this year…everything looks like a drowned cat right now, soggy and dying…

Peaches were another interesting thing this year, bloomed early, set fruit slowly, matured slowly to the point where I was wondering if they would every be done, they finally did ripen enough to pick but one tree did no fruit and raccoons or something nailed the two trees in the back before we got other…

And usually by this time of year I have large bed full of lobelia in full bloom…not this year, the plants are just now getting ready to bloom.

Its been a strange year this year for gardening…definitely a learning experience and I am not too sure what I can do in the coming years to defend against too much rain…am playing with some ideas such as tenting the raised beds (like you do to protect against frost) to divert water away from the beds. Drought I can handle, heat I can deal with, but too much water?

I am just happy that at this moment in time I do have time to learn to how to handle too much rain, too little rain, etc.

So how have you done this year with gardening?
Any thoughts on how to deal with too much rain?