Darcy from the StumblingHomestead.com

I had the great pleasure to spend an hour with Darcy. Darcy has been a great contributor to Save Our Skills with such posts as his post on chest freezer organization and his great post on beef heart chilli

We discuss raising kids on the homestead, raw milk, raising cows, and also general philosophies on consumerism.

You will definitely want to get over to http://stumblinghomestead.com and listen to Darcy’s excellent podcast. I particularly enjoyed the most recent episode about raw milk.

Survival Gear Bags Giveaway Contest – SOS Style!

Kelly over at Survival Gear Bags has seriously hooked me up with some cool stuff to give away! Don’t forget to use the link to the right and use the code “sos5” to get 5% off your order!!

  1. A sweet black Ka-Bar utility knife with leather sheath
  3. A camouflage waterproof map case
  4. Signaling mirror – not just an ordinary mirror, has instructions written on it and a site hole… waiting for the sun to rise in Pittsburgh so I can test it out

So you want free stuff?

Here is the deal:

One lucky facebook fan on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/saveourskills is getting the map case and signaling mirror. In order to qualify you need to go over the the facebook page and hit “like”. If you “like” the SaveOurSkills.com facebook page by November 5th you qualify for the random drawing.

Contest rules for the Ka-Bar knife and Compass

Ok so I want you guys/girls out there in cyber space to decide which skill I should endeavor to undertake next.

If you want to win the knife or the compass please follow the following rules

  1. Send me an email to nick@saveourskills.com
  2. Make the subject of that email “Choose Nick’s Next Youtube Video”
  3. In this email please include a link or description of a practical project. Try to make it something feasible. For example you could explain to me how to use PHOSPHORESCENT LENSATIC COMPASS. Also I’m fine with spending money, but let’s keep the budget under $200 to complete the project. That should give you plenty of room to work. You can give as much detail or as little detail as you would like, or simply give me the link to the project online.
  4. I have the right to reject your entry, If I do I will email you and let you know why
  5. On November 7th I am going to post up all the skills each person suggested. If you want to participate you need to have your entry in by 11PM on November 6th. NO LATER
  6. Each post will have a facebook “thumbs up” icon below it
  7. On November 19th at 7PM the post with the most facebook “likes” wins the contest.
    1. First place gets to choose the compass or the knife
    2. Second place gets whatever first place does not

Q & A:

Q: What if I fail to read/understand/follow the instructions?
A: You’re fubar
Q: What if I refuse to join facebook, is there a way I can participate?
A: Sorry not at this time. Consider joining under a fake name if your worried about getting sucked in
Q: What if I send you a skill about how to stab yourself in the leg (or any other idiotic thing)?
A: I will delete your email

So this wouldn’t be a very good Save Our Skills blog post if I didn’t incorporate some awesome DIY project. I decided I needed some really top notch product photos so I built a light box. Check out the video below and then scroll down for some cool pictures of the giveaways.

Inspired by http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2006/03/pvc_light_box_light_tent.html

Note: In my version I drilled out the threaded area of the connectors… after I finished I checked out the picture again and noticed that they used a bunch of extra elbows to get around my problem… but mine was cheaper. A few points to make it cheap… the less parts you buy = cheaper. Second … for anything you use PVC for in project use electrical conduit instead. WAY cheaper… I get those 8 foot sections for 92 cents at lowes vs $3 or $4 for PVC.

How to make your very own PVC photo light box

p.s. I’m not even close to a pro photographer. I plan to graduate from auto this winter (yet another skillset to learn!) I think I needed to adjust my F-Stop or something… the focal area was too narrow on some of them.

Strategic Chest Freezer Organization for Power Outages

by Darcy Menard of stumblinghomestead.com. Stumbling Homestead is a blog and weekly podcast about family homesteading and the role of kids in raising cows and chickens, composting, gardening, and food production.

Note From Nick LaDieu: I just got a 15 cubic feet chest freezer, thanks for the timely article!

Our family stores a variety of foods in our chest freezer: our cow and pig shares, seafood, chicken, blanched vegetables, cheese, nuts, tortilla shells, etc. Up until recently, it’s been a jumbled pile of disorganization that often left us unsure about what was inside. Also, to get something out requires digging through a shifting pile of frozen items until our hands are numb. And, unless you want to lay out the contents of the freezer on the floor, you’re never sure if you don’t have the item, or just can’t find it.

But an even bigger problem for me was a potential power outage. Sure, we’ve got a generator standing by for that eventuality, but what if that fails for some reason? Or what if the freezer breaks down? Even if things started to only partially thaw, there’s the potential to have chicken or pork blood contaminate the other items. And I don’t relish the thought of overcooking my beef or veggies just to be safe from potential pathogens introduced by chicken and pork drippings. So, I’ve been wanting to segregate my frozen foods by type for a while now.

As if reading my thoughts, there was a similar listener question about chest freezer organization on a recent episode of The Survival Podcast. Jack’s answer of using baskets gave me the perfect solution to my problem of preventing drippings: the baskets allow me to stack my food in layers that puts the riskier items on the bottom.

As shown in the top of this post, all chicken is on the bottom layer of the freezer.

The second layer is two baskets of pork on the right. On the left, my larger beef cuts sit higher up on the shelf over the freezer motor. I also filled in the gaps with cold packs. No risk there.

Second Layer
The third layer is another 3 baskets of beef cuts, ground beef, and seafood. I used the remainder of the raised shelf space for cheese, and nuts, and put some frozen shrimp into the gap at the front. All of these items are safely above the potential drip zone.

Third Layer

Finally, the top layer is the removable tray, which holds miscellaneous items like tortilla shells. I also put vegetables, other seafood, and bread on this top layer.

Fourth Layer

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but this makes it much easier to get at things on the bottom. All I have to do is remove a basket or two. And not only do I now have a risk-free segregation of my food, but I now know where everything is, and how much of everything I have.

Thanks for the idea Jack.

Video Demonstration of the $10 Cheese Press

by Jason Akers from http://www.theselfsufficientgardener.com. The Self Sufficient Gardener is a blog and podcast about growing your own food and living off the land.

In my last post I took you through the process of making a cheese press. Today I take you through the process of filling said press with delicious cheddar cheese.

I will apologize beforehand about my lack of video skills.

Beef Heart Chili

by Darcy Menard of stumblinghomestead.com. Stumbling Homestead is a blog and weekly podcast about family homesteading and the role of kids in raising cows and chickens, composting, gardening, and food production.

This post could have just as easily been called, “how to get your family to eat organ meat.” I eat organ meat regularly, because it is even more nutrient dense than the muscle meat. I’ve read that Native Americans and Eskimos instinctively knew this, and ate the organs from freshly killed prey, while tossing much of the muscle meat to their dogs. But this argument holds little weight with family members conditioned to have a gag reflex at the sight of organ meat sizzling in the pan.

The solution: mix organ meat into spicy or otherwise flavorful dishes. Do so in a reasonable ratio to other traditional meats, and your eaters will be none the wiser.

An added benefit of this is cost: for families trying to stretch their protein budget, organ meats can often be obtained at a fraction of the price. I recently got twelve packages of liver and three beef hearts for free, because no one else wanted them! And as you’ll see by the following pictures, that’s an awful lot of free, nutritionally-dense protein.

Preparation Steps:

1) Thaw the heart in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature for a couple of hours prior to cooking. Rinse off any blood. Yep, looks just like a heart, doesn’t it?

Notice the innards, and ventricle structures. I let my toddler help me cut it up (holding the knife with him) and it becomes like a mini science class combined with a food preparation lesson. Instead of wrinkled noses, turn it into fun participation.

2) Cut it into small cubed chunks. With the exception of a little bit of tougher ventricle structures inside, most of the meat cuts very easily. I leave most of the fat on, because I’m a believer that we need all the good fat we can get in our diets.

3) Here’s how much meat you get from a single heart. I told you it was a lot of protein. Again, for free.

Meat on plate

4) I pan fry (med-high) the meat in butter, with sea salt, pepper, and paprika. Even though I drained the blood at several times during the cutting, I think that the heart tissue holds more blood than other tissue. Notice the good amount of liquid in the pan. This is not a bad thing, because you end up with a rich tasty sauce to add to the chili. But for those looking for a seared effect, you probably want to grill the meat.

Pan cooking

5) The final step is to put the cooked meat into the food processor, on low pulse, to grind it up a little before adding it to the chili. This will help disguise it, and let it absorb the spicy flavor of the chili, so that your family won’t even know. I added about a third of the meat, to the two pounds of ground turkey that was already in the chili. Use your favorite recipe for chili, and I suggest substituting about 1/3 of the meat with the ground heart.

You could probably grind the raw meat and throw it directly in the chili, but we don’t have a meat grinder, so this method works just fine. I freeze the remaining cooked chunks for addition to future dishes. Note: this sneaking in of organ meat doesn’t work so well for burger patties. Try it and you’ll most likely get busted!

An additional point: I put aside a small plate of the cooked heart chunks and sauce for myself to eat, outside of the chili. Very tasty. There’s a little bit of that wild organ taste going, but the texture is remarkably like a cut of steak. My toddler wanted to try a piece, and he liked it, and asked for more. I couldn’t convince my wife though–too reminiscent of science class for her, no matter what the taste or texture. Has to be hidden in the chili for her to eat it.

This is an important point for parents: if you want your kids to eat trickier foods like this, you’ve got to genuinely enjoy it yourself. If my wife had tried to feed it to him, I’m pretty sure he would have turned his nose up at it. But he sees me enjoying it, and opens his mind up to experience as well. So if you want your kids to eat better, you’ve got to eat better yourself first and mean it.

Episode 4: Natural Baby Care with the Martinez Family

Jon and Julia Martinez join me on the podcast to talk all about cloth diapers, making your own baby food, breast feeding, and more!

This episode is important to me since my wife and I are expecting a child this coming May. I hope some other young parents find this useful. If you have anything to add lets hear it in the comments.

Resources of the day:

Julia’s Reading List

Julia’s Resources and Recipes
Recipe for cloth wipe solution:
2 cups water
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp Aveeno Baby Wash
2 drops tea tree oil (optional)

Keep the solution in a resealable container. (we use a plastic container from disposable wipes) When you are ready to use a cloth wipe, dunk it in the solution and squeeze out the excess. Don’t double dip!

Where Julia buys her diapers:

Thirsties Diaper Covers:

“Chinese” Prefold Diapers:

Birdseye Flat Diapers:

Snappi (instead of safety pins):

Diaper Pail:

Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner:

Flannel Baby Wipes:

Articles and Cloth Diaper Reviews

Show Outline

  • Cloth Diapers
    • a bit more work than disposables
    • cheaper than disposables, even after all of the extra washing
    • better for baby
    • Less leakage (ok this one surprised me)
    • Better for potty training
    • How to get started
    • Don’t follow the advice of one guru, just do what works for you. If you want to use a disposable part of the time go ahead and do it.
    • Many brands were tried, learn what worked for them.
  • Baby food
    • Food + food processor = baby food
    • Freeze your food in ice cube trays for future use
    • Follow the doc’s advice about which food to use and when
  • Breast feeding – a natural immunity booster for your child
  • A few natural remedies for your child

Meat storage “pre-refridgeration”

This is another great article from John Daleske. John always provides top quality information and I am very grateful to have him as a contributor to this project. – Nick LaDieu

Meat Storage “pre-refridgeration” by John Daleske

My great Aunt Gladys published her memoir recently, sending a copy to my Mom. In it, she details a curious method for storing meat which I had not heard: packing meat into a crock with layers of lard above each layer of meat.

Here’s what she wrote:

We butchered beef and pork in the fall. We kids had to cut up the fat in small pieces so it could be rendered for lard. We cut our fingers sometimes, but oh, how good the meat was. Canned the pork chops in gallon crocks, put lard over each layer, then sat the crock on cement to keep it. When we wanted to use it, we dug them out of the lard, which was hard by then. We just heated them up in the skillet or oven.”

Now, great Aunt Gladys was born in 1915 in Iowa to parents both with ancestry from Kreis Schlawe in eastern Germany. This is the Kreis (county) east of the Oder river and south of the Baltic; a northern climate with a fair amount of cold. Iowa can also prove cold from October until March (and sometimes May).

She does not detail whether the meat was cooked prior to layering in the crock, but a possible hint is her use of “heated them up”. I would guess the meat was cooked, then layered in lard. Hog casings are a good option for storing them as well.

My food preservation guides don’t mention this approach to food preservation; it seems to have been mostly a lost skill when ice box and later refrigeration became available. One can understand why they would rapidly shift away from such a packing method with botulism and other possible nasties. Still, though, it seems important to at least document the process, step-by-step, especially including the rules for testing and use later. All of the preservation processes I’ve seen include a dose of salt, which does help control some of the nasties. Aunt Gladys does not mention salt.

If the pressure canner is available, I would highly recommend meat be canned using appropriate canning technique.

One interesting similar method for storage is the “confit”, a French term for “preserved”. The Ochef site documents a recipe from “The New Making of a Cook” by Madeleine Kamman. Still, even after all of the processing to make the confit, they recommend storing it in a refrigerator.


Donna from the SaveOurSkills.com facebook page added this useful tidbit.

Larding is when you cook pork and cover it with melted lard and allow it to harden, this was done in both jars and crocks and it was used for steaks and chops as well as bulk sausage. The crocks had a cloth tied over the end to keep it clean. The lard sealed the air from the meat. This was most often kept in the cool cellar. http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php?topic=34099.0