Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blue Swirls

(Dec 24, 1968)
Earth rose over the lunar horizon as Apollo 8 completed the first manned trip behind the far side of the Moon.This is one of my favorite pictures taken from space...without a doubt.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Unrestricted water usage, six people

Without the backpacking group knowing, I was keeping tabs on the water levels. We brought in 2 seven gallon containers plus 2 cases of bottles water for a total of 19 gallons. From Thursday 3:00pm until Sunday 11:00 am, the group drank 16.5 gallons. This is non-rationed of water. It included drinking, cooking, and cleaning usage.
Total hours: 68 hours. 16.5 gallons by 2.8333 days = 5.8236 gallons per day.
This proves the old adage of 1 gallon per person per day. We did have a few other adult beverages with us too. 1.5 gallons would be a good rule if no other liquids were available.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Propane Vs. White Gas Fuels

I had the opportunity to test my white gas Coleman 425 stove against a propane canister stove. I noticed that both stoves are pretty much the same, and I was taking notes more about the fuel type rather than the stoves. I purchased the white gas stove because I use the same type of fuel for my MSR Whisperlite Intl.

I'll start with the white gas first because I have more of a history with this fuel type. The fuel tank is pressurized by a pump system...kinda like pumping air into a tire. The pressure pushes the liquid through a small pipe over the stove outlet, this turns the liquid into a gas once the stove is heated or "primed". Once the pipe is heated, the choke, is turned into a down position. The tank does have to be occasionally pumped to regulate the pressure inside the tank to keep the flame output consistent. A gallon of white gas last cost me $7.50.

The propane canister stove is much easier to work. Turn the dial and light the flame. The canister is already pressurized, so you don't have to do any stove maintenance while cooking. That's it. The cost for 2 canisters is around five bucks.

White gas Coleman on the left..... Propane canister on the right

I wasn't able to keep an accurate log on the minutes of use per stove, but the propane canister stove was used more often. Probably because of ease of use and familiarity to the equipment. During the 3.5 day trip, 5 canisters were used for cooking, one of the six crew members drank coffee all day and night and preferred the propane canister setup. I used 1.3 tanks ( which are not filled to the top ) of white gas and from my observations the white gas lasts longer. I would estimate that I might have used no more than a quarter of a gallon, or $1.87 worth of white gas fuel. I asked all five guys,"Where can I refill the canisters?", and no one had a clue. The canisters also have a problem in really cold ( below freezing ) temperatures with reaching the canisters full output potential...Charles Law.

In conclusion, I personally prefer the white gas stove because of the outside air temperature having less impact on the stove's efficiency, and the cost of the fuel. Becoming familiar with the stove operation is the hardest part of owning this type of fuel system. The continued pressure regulating of the tank is the biggest negative for this type of stove. The white gas is more fuel efficient, and works better in cold weather. I'd hate to have to rely on a propane canister to melt snow for water. Not knowing where to refill the canisters was also a big negative for the environmentalist in me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I'll be out camping this weekend to test some new gear and celebrate a birthday. I should have a lot of new posts to show and explain some gear. Recipes - yeah, we eat horribly. I'll also be loaded up on school tests when I get back, but hopefully between tests, I'll be able to drop a quick post. Also expect a few how-to posts too!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I was finishing up a few dishes at work today, and started thinking about "what ifs". What if I couldn't buy any more spices, what would I stockpile? If I could only have three. My first three would be the holy trinity of spices: salt, pepper, and garlic.Everyone should store salt. Where I live, I can grow garlic. So I need another two spices. I might try something exotic...nutmeg? The spice wars did revolve around these trees. Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, basil, oregano, chili powder, onion salt, cinnamon, vanilla, paprika,and cocoa are all some ideas. In a prolonged grid-down situation, I would not stockpile any of the spices that I could grow.
  • Salt : Everyone should store this bulk item.
  • Pepper : Definitely should store.
  • Cayenne Pepper : I can grow hot peppers, actually quite a few for different flavors.
  • Garlic : Easy to Grow.
  • Basil and Oregano : yet more easy to grow flavors.
  • Cinnamon : a winner here. I need to add this one.
  • Paprika : very mild flavor and I have an heirloom pepper that supposedly can be made into this spice.
Anyways, I hope that this has sparked a few ideas. No sense in eating bland food, now or in the future.

Monday, February 13, 2012

MRE Monday - Potato Cheddar Soup

My Second MRE is Potato Cheddar Soup flavored with bacon for $1.60.

Calories:130 for entire package
Total Fat: 9g or 14% Daily Value(DV)
Sat Fat:5g or 25% DV
Trans Fat:0g
Cholesterol:25mg or 8%
Sodium:490mg or 20% DV
Total Carbs : 8g or 3% DV
Fiber : 1g or 4% DV
Sugars: 2g
Protein : 5g
Vitamin A: 8%
Vitamin C: 4%
Calcium :80% DV
Iron : 2% DV

Expectations: I expected the soup to be fairly comparable to Campbell's Soup.

 Any packets will be heated using a pan of boiling water. I heated the soup up for about 15 minutes. The smell and consistency looked like it should. The potato chunks were a small diced size maybe 1/8". The flavor was a nice potato flavor with an bacon finish. I was disappointed to see that it was only half a cup of soup. My DW said that, "It's cheesy though". My oldest son said, "Doesn't taste bad at all". My oldest also enjoyed dipping his cheesesticks into it. The youngest, not so much. The kids didn't finish their soup.

Final Thoughts:
The frugal side says that I won't be buying any more of this MRE. It would be more cost effective to purchase a can of Campbell Potato Soup and place it in two ziplock bags. This would prevent moisture from becoming an issue with the integrity of the can. That being said, if you wanna blow your money go ahead. I'll buy two cans and get four times as much soup.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Proper Knife Care

This is primarily a primer for proper kitchen knife care.
  1. Thou shalt return thy knife in a clean manner.
  2. Thou shalt only use a knife steel to sharpen thy knife.
  3. Thy knife is only for slicing, dicing, and chopping. It is not a screwdriver.
  4. Thou shall not put thy knife in a sink with soapy water.
  5. Thou shall always use a plastic or wooden cutting board.
  6. Thou shall walk with thy knife at your side, with the tip pointing down, and edge facing away from you.
  7. Thou shall not put thy knife in a dishwasher - never.
  8. Thou shall  not loan out thy knife.
  9. Thou shall keep thy knife sharp for a dull knife will cut you quicker.
  10. Thou shall not run with thy knife.
Anyways, I thought I'd have fun with this list. If you can follow these rules, then your knife will last you a very long time. A few quick explanations though - #2: a few quick strokes each time will keep the edge sharp. I have seen the V-shaped handheld sharpeners ruin many a knife. #4: Hand + Sharp knife + soapy water = stitches. #5- Knife edge to metal will dull the edge horribly. #7: The chemicals will change the metal and make it softer and less likely to hold the edge. See Rule No. 1.  #9: A dull knife requires more pressure to cut..ergo more accidents when it slips.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Navajo Fry Bread Recipe

I was first introduced to Navajo Fry Bread during a mission trip to their reservation. We had stopped at a gas station to get some gas and an older Navajo woman was selling the fry bread with honey. Once we got to the reservation, I was told a brief history of the bread. The Navajo tribe was sent to a reservation an given only lard, flour, sugar, salt, and a few other minor ingredients. Many Indians died because they ate the flour without cooking it and many others refused to eat.

3 cups flour
1 TB salt
1.5 cups water
shortening/lard for cast iron skillet

1. Heat about a cup of lard/shortening in a cast iron skillet on medium heat.
2. Mix the salt in with the flour then slowly add the water.
3. Have some extra flour available to coat hands and bring the dough to a Play-do like consistency. The dough should not be tacky when you're flattening it out.
4. Pinch off a ball of dough and work into a flat bread - a rolling pen came in handy.
5. Place the dough into the skillet. (TIP: Make sure to start with the end closest and lay it away from you to keep from splashing grease on yourself.) Especially when drinking Tequila.

6. Fry until golden brown and turn it over.
7. Remove from grease and let it cool on a paper towel.

This bread is the foundation for the Navajo Taco. Garnish with your favorite taco items, fold over, and enjoy. A Navajo taco is shown below.

I have tried a few different versions of this...Garlic powder is great in this recipe ( 1 tsp ).

The basic recipe with added butter and dipped in honey is great!

Monday, February 6, 2012

MRE Monday - Wheat Snack Bread

I'll be doing a weekly post on a new MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) every Monday. Time and MREs permitting of course. My first MRE is the Wheat Snack Bread at $1.10 each.

Calories:180 for entire package
Total Fat: 6g or 9% Daily Value(DV)
Sat Fat:1.5g or 7% DV
Trans Fat:1.5g or 7%
Cholesterol:0mg or 0%
Sodium: 350mg or 15% DV
Total Carbs : 30g or 10% DV
Fiber : 2g or 6% DV
Protein : 4g
Calcium : 20% DV
Iron : 10% DV

I expected it to be like the brown bread that comes in the can. Wheat made me think of the color and I am kinda hoping that it had a sweet flavor. 

 The wheat snack bread had a nice strong smell of wheat when I opened the package, and I thought that was a good sign. I have had this package for about 7 months in the cabinet and it seems to have had no negative effects in the look or smell of the bread. The bread had a good texture, probably comparable to smashing some extra thick store bought bread. The dryness was about in the middle range of moisture but a little bit more dry than store bought. I wasn't surprised by this fact since moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria. During this test, my youngest ( 3 y/o ) had to "tell me something", a common delaying tactic for going to sleep around our house, and I enlisted his opinion. He took a bit and I asked him how he liked it, "Good, can I have another for the bed?". He came back out one more time chewing on the piece that I gave him. The bread would be durable enough to spread some peanut butter onto it without it falling apart.

Final Thoughts:
The bread would be good for an extended backpacking trip, cache, or Bug Out Bag (BOB). The advantages are no cooking, decent taste, and my youngest liked it. I would not buy it for everyday use if I was able to cook homemade bread or make fry bread ( future post ). The $1.10 price is on the high side for a snack size piece of bread about the size of a Pop tart. $1.10 will buy quite of bit of wheat berries for your homemade bread. Personally, I would wait for a sale and then stock up on the amount needed for your location/cache/BOB. Yes, I would buy them again.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pest Control - Mice and Rats

This is a continuation of my pest series - part 2 of 3. This series covers the most common pests in the house. Mice and Rats are best killed with d-con. Care should be taken with pets and children in the house. D-con in a nutshell is a blood thinner.  FYI - Rats and mice are incapable of vomiting or burping. The rodent eats the poison bait and bleeds out. Our pest control person had only one recommendation for killing mice and rats:
The placement needs to be different for mice vs rats. For combating mice, the bait needs to be placed were the droppings are evident. For fighting rats, the best location is along the perimeter of walls and also known feeding grounds. FYI - Rat urine is fluorescent under a black light. Be absolutely sure that the poison bait is out of reach of dogs and children. I have one bait cube under the shelving unit for our long term food storage. Under the sink, way back in the corner is also a good location to place a cube of d-con. The last of the series will be about ants.