Category Archives: Survival

5 Reasons To Raise Your Own Chickens

Raising chickens is a lot of fun. I remember as a child, the excitement of new arrivals whether by incubation or a broody hen.
Although all the benefits are too numerous to mention in one post, I am going to give you my top 5 reasons to raise chickens.

chickens_thm

# 1 No more composting
Forget drudging out to the pile, dumping kitchen scraps onto it and turning it daily.
Let the chickens do the work.
Food scraps go in one end, and out the other end comes compost. What a great machine.

Chickens will eat just about any food. I’ve even given them leftover meat. Some people have suggested that there are some foods a chicken should not eat, like apple seeds, avocados and citrus. But to be honest, I’ve never really been too careful about that. I figured if my family can eat it, so can the chickens. But I understand if you have reservation about those things. If you’re concerned, I suggest doing your own research on that.

Just dump the scraps into a large feed pan and watch the annihilation begin. Using a pan is a good idea, as there tends to be a lot of juice in the mix and they just love it. No sense in it seeping into the ground where it’s wasted. The chickens will consume the waste, and out the back door comes fertilizer.

I’ve always laid chips or pine shavings in the run. They will scratch and pick, mixing the manure into the ground. Every 3 or 4 days, just scrape off the top surface (about 1/2”) and toss into a wheelbarrow. This then goes into the garden as a mulch. I just layer it on top of the soil where I plan to plant. This is the absolute best soil enrichment on the planet. It is suggested not to add it when you have established plants or where you are going to plant right away as the raw chicken manure can burn your plants. However, the amount of manure is about 1/1000.  This has never been a concern for me as I don’t add it in season. I add it in the fall and let it sit over the winter or add it in early spring and let it sit for a couple of months before planting.

# 2 Goodbye tics, fleas and all other creepy crawlies

If you let your chickens free range, they will seek and destroy anything smaller than a marble that crawls, walks or flies. This is good news for entomophobics (people afraid of insects). Chickens have unique eyes unlike humans. Our eyes work in tandem to focus on a certain object, then pass this information onto our brains. Chickens however have the ability to use one eye to scan for predators and the other to forage for food. They also track motion much better and can freeze frame better than any Nikon on the market.

# 3 They bring hours of enjoyment to your family

If you’ve never been around chickens, you are missing out on the pure enjoyment of just sitting and watching them. They never stop. All day long they are clucking, running, pecking and having a good time. Like humans, each chickens has his/her own personalities. Unless you have hundreds, you will get to know them personally and begin to predict their moves. They really are fascinating little creatures. Be aware though, once you start naming them and treating them like pets, you’ll never want to cull them for food or give them away once their egg production diminishes. We even had a Barred Rock rooster once that was so friendly, the moment you walked into the pen, he would come running over. And heaven forbid if you squatted down, he would hop right onto your lap expecting to be petted. Needless to say, he lived a ripe old age and never went into the soup pot. And since chicken viagra hadn’t been invented yet, we still could not get rid of him. And he didn’t even mind when we brought in a young Rhode Island Red rooster to take over his manly duties

# 4 You know where your food is coming from

eggsThis may sound like an obvious one.
But in my opinion, the words “natural” and “free range” mean nothing. They are only marketing ploys.
What does natural even mean? The word has become so common place and distorted that it could mean anything. Some people even consider genetically modified organisms natural, which escapes me.

And who knows what free range means. Even eggs and chickens marked “organic” do not mean they are treated humanely and given lots of love and plenty of space to run free. It just means they aren’t fed GMOs and chemicals. that’s it. And frankly, that’s not good enough for me.

When you raise your own chickens, you are in complete control. You know what goes into them, and what comes out. Even if you choose to medicate your hens (which I prefer not to), you still are aware of it and can make choices accordingly. I strongly support giving your birds all organic feed from day 1. And if you eat organic produce, your chickens will also be getting good, healthy chemical free table scraps.

# 5 Self Sustainability

Here at “Grow Your Heirlooms”, I promote gardening and independence through growing heirloom vegetables, harvesting and saving your seeds for future growing. Chickens are a great addition to this venture. From producing compost and fertilizer, to providing protein rich eggs and meat. You won’t find a better feed to meat ratio on the planet. Many cities even allow you to maintain a small flock in your backyard.

They are easy to care for, provide hours of enjoyment and put food on your table. Is there any reason not to own a few? They have never disappointed me.

Harbor Freight 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit Review

This is my first impressions of the Harbor Freight 45 watt Solar Kit. I needed a simple, yet inexpensive kit to test the waters. This system is very basic and should be a fun project.

Here is the kit

Instapark 10 watt Portable Solar Charger

I have found another great solar charger. I’ve been using this one for about a year now and I’m thoroughly impressed with it. This charger is my go-to now when I need instant portable solar energy

Dorcy Metal Gear XL-M Extreme LED Flashlight Review

Enerplex Jumpr Slate 5K Emergency Power Bank

The more I use this device, the more I fall in love with it.
It’s very thin, lightweight and durable.

Included in the Box:
Kickr Slate 5k Power Bank
USB to Micro USB cable
Instruction manual

First out of the box, you can’t help but notice how well thought out this design is.  The holes along the side will allow you to attach it to either a binder or carabiner. Anywhere you carry this, because of its design, you probably will forget you even have it with you.

Jumpr_SlateThe biggest plus that sets this device apart from all the others, is the built in micro SD cable. No need to carry (and lose) you own cable.

Specs:
1 – USB output port 5,100 mAH/2.4 amp
1 – Micro USB input for charging the device
9.8 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
12.5 ounces


My criteria when looking for emergency power is:

1. Charging my Galaxy S3
2. Charging my Black Diamond Rechargeable Headlamp
3. Being able to have reserve power from a power bank.

#1 Charging the Jumpr Slate

Charge Time:

I plugged the Jumpr into a wall socket to charge. Surprisingly it only took about 4 1/2 hours to fully charge.

#2 Charging the Black Diamond Headlamp

I ran the headlamp down to 0%, plugged it into the Jumpr. It fully charged in about 6 hours (the Black Diamond is notorious for slow charging so disregard the time).

#3 Charging the Galaxy S3

Without recharging the Jumpr SLate, I then plugged in my S3 after running it down to 10%. It brought the S3 up to 92%.

The Jumpr Slate 5K was able to charge the Headlamp fully and the S3 to 92% all from one charge of the Jumor.

Charging my Samsung Tab 7

I decided to see how well it did with charging my tablet. I ran the tablet down to 10%. I was able to charge it up to 90%.

Final Analysis

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Enerplex Jumpr Slate 5K Power Bank. If you’re looking for a lightweight, thin and dependable power supply, then look no further.

Pro

Small, thin and lightweight.
Plenty of power (5,000 mAH, 2.4 Amp out)
Holes along the side to secure it.
Built-in micro SD cable

Con

Plastic packaging

Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger Review

My continued quest to maintain independence during grid failure.

I’ve been in dozens of situations that make me uneasy. The last one being a five day outage at home due to a wind storm in Southern Oregon. From then on, I’ve been on a quest to provide my family with uninterrupted power when (not if) the grid goes down again.

For the last few years, I’ve reviewed multiple portable solar devices, however I only recommend ones that I deem worthy of our attention.

The Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger is one of those devices.

Although I believe my demands are not too unreasonable, there are a few requirements that need to be met.

#1. I need a solar charger that will keep my Galaxy S3 cell phone completely juiced during the duration of the outage.
#2. I need enough power to keep my Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp fully charged.
#3. I would like to have a fully charged external power pack like the Jumpr Slate Power Bank

The Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger Specs.

Kickr-IV

Product Dimensions:
Unfolded: 774mm(30.5″)/185mm(7.3″)/2mm(0.08) Folded: 225mm(8.8″)/185mm(7.3″)/2mm(0.08″)

 

Power:
6.5 Watts Unregulated/6.0 Watt, 5 Volt System Regulated

Solar Cell Type: CIGS

Output:
1.2 Amps (USB Port)

The built in USB Port will give you 1.2 amps of charging power. Although this will not be enough to charge an iPad or the Galaxy note 10, it’s certainly enough to charge most widely available portable power packs.

Charging my Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung S3

The first test was my cell phone.
I awoke at 7am, (in Alaska that’s late)
I let the phone run down to 10%, set the solar charger in full sun and plugged it in.

Total Charge Time:
Phone turned off – 2 hours 15 mins
Phone turned on – 3 hours 45 mins.

 

 

 
Charging the Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp

Revolt Headlamp

Next, I ran my headlamp down to about 10-20%. Plugged it into the solar charger in full sun.

Total Charge Time:
3 hours 20 mins

 

 

 

Charging the Jumpr Slate 5k

Jumpr Slate 5k

With about 25% juice left in the power bank, I plugged it into the solar charger under full sun.

Total Charge Time:
6 hours 10 mins

 

As you can see, I was able to charge all three devices in one full day. We do however have longer summer daylight here in Alaska. But if you’re in an area that can give you 11 hours of daylight, you should have the same results.


Pros:

Comes in recyclable packaging
Faster charging than other solar chargers I’ve tested in it’s price range and size
Foldable and lightweight, great for carry.
Grommets to secure while unattended or for hanging.
Able to charge multiple power banks

Cons:
Has trouble putting out a charge under low light conditions, like dawn, dusk and cloudy days.
USB port too close to the pad making it difficult to slide the cable in and out.

Final analysis
The fact that I’m able to charge multiple power banks, makes me glad to own this charger. For its size, it packs a wallop, folds nicely into a backpack, is lightweight and durable.

If you’re looking for a powerful portable solar charger for backpacking, camping or piece of mind when the grid goes down, you should take a serious look at the Ascent Solar Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger

GYH Rating 4.5/5 stars

4.5

 

 

 

Disclaimer:
While Ascent Solar sent me the product for review, The opinions on this charger are based on my own honest experiences and reflect my personal use of the product.

Ultrafire Cree XML T6 2000 Lumens Flashlight Review

If you’ve ever been in a power outage, I’ll bet the first thing you did was run to kitchen to grab the candles and matches. Because, I know that running to the nightstand for the flashlight is futile since it isn’t there. Who knows where it ended up. Besides, the last time I used it I had to shake it continuously just to make the contacts work enough to see little flickers of light out of it. Piece of junk. Candle will never fail you, except they burn down, smell horribly and make you stay up worrying about when the wick burns down will the house (and me) still be here in the morning.

Worry no more

The Ultrafire Cree XML T6 2000 Lumen Flashlight is perfect for emergencies.

It is powered by 3 AAA batteries or the 3.7 volt rechargeable 18650 battery.
There are 5 modes. Low, medium, high, strobe and SOS.
The casing is made of steel with a raised surface for easy grip.
Battery time on the AAA is about 1.5 hours of intermittent use.

I’ve also been told this flashlight can be mounted as a tactical light.
After field testing, my initial analysis is that I would guess the output to be somewhere around 800 lumens.
It is still the brightest mini flashlight I now own.

If you’re looking for a great flashlight for camping, hiking, survival or just general use, you will be happy with The Ultrafire Cree XML T6 2000 Lumen Flashlight.
For the money, it can’t be beat.

How To Store And Organize Your Seed Collection

It may not be as sophisticated as the svalbard seed vault, but it is certainly adequate for my needs. I finally broke down and built storage boxes for my seed collection.
Storing seeds, particularly heirlooms, is a great way to save money and preserve our food heritage.

I built these storage boxes inexpensively from 1×4 pine boards.

How To Make Your Own Home Made Butter

How To Make Your Own Home Made Butter
Did you ever want to know how to make butter? Well, it’s about the easiest thing to do. Starting with heavy whipping cream, I’ll show you how easy it is.

 

My Thoughts About The Mittleider Gardening Method

There is a lot of buzz on the internet about this gardening method. There are even a few debates going on over at youtube and it’s even getting hostile on the gardening forums.
So I thought it was my turn to give my opinions on it.