April 2023

Photo credit: Jim Cobb
Location: Spooner Park, Darien, WI

Focus of the Month – Gardening

Reading Recommendations:
Non-fiction book – The Mini Farming Bible by Brett Markham
Fiction book – Dissolution: The Wyoming Chronicles: Book One by W. Michael Gear

Spring is here, and with it comes gardening. I’m a firm believer that you can grow at least some amount of food, no matter where you live. If you don’t have a yard where you can put in a formal garden patch, you could at least grow plants in containers on a patio, driveway, or deck. In a pinch, you could even grow a few plants indoors. The point here is that rather than lament the fact that you don’t have acres of land available to you for gardening, look for ways to make use of what you do have.

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The non-fiction book this month is The Mini Farming Bible: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre by Brett Markham. It is an ideal guide for those who don’t have endless acres of cleared land just waiting for you to plunk down a barn, fencing, and goats. He packs a ton of information into this book, covering everything from how to prep your soil to plant selection and seed starting to harvesting best practices. Everything is focused on getting the most use out of limited space.

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Dissolution: The Wyoming Chronicles: Book One by W. Michael Gear is our novel this month. It is somewhat of a dense read. At nearly 400 pages, it might take you the full month to get through it. The gist here is that a cyberattack collapses the American banking system, throwing the country into chaos. The lead characters are a group of university students who have traveled to Wyoming to work on an archaeological dig. The collapse occurs while they’re there and they find themselves stuck. Fortunately, their hosts for the trip, a family of ranchers, know a thing or two about staying alive.

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April 24 – Making Homemade MREs

MRE stands for Meals, Ready to Eat and refers to a kind of military ration. While you can buy them, or at least reasonable imitations of them, online, they’re kind of expensive for what you’re getting.

While the configurations might change a bit depending upon the manufacturer, here’s what you’ll find in a typical MRE:

Entrée – this is a wet pack food, meaning that it is not dehydrated or freeze-dried. It merely needs to be heated up, though even that’s not technically necessary. Think like canned spaghetti, but in a pouch.

Side dish – this will be things like applesauce or mashed potatoes.

Crackers – there’s usually some sort of carbohydrate like crackers, sometimes with a spread of some kind like jelly or peanut butter.

Dessert – cookies or maybe some variety of granola type bar. There may also be candy included.

Many civilian MREs will also come with a utensil pack containing a spork and a wet nap. You might also find a seasoning packet. Depending on the brand and cost, you might also have a flameless heater. This is used to warm up the entrée.

All of these are individually packaged, then packed into a large sealed pouch. To sum up, an MRE is essentially a full meal, utensils and all, all wrapped up together and sealed up tight.

Now, the biggest difference between the storebought and homemade versions is that you’ll probably need to heat water to prepare at least some of the food you’ll be packing. But, the concept is still a great way to pack full meals into a small space.

It is recommended to use a vacuum sealer for these, but you can probably get away with using gallon-size Ziploc bags, squeezing as much air out as possible. Either way, you’re not looking at several years of shelf life. That’s not the point, though. This isn’t a long-term food storage plan. Rather, these are meals you can pack in your bug out bag or other larger kits, ensuring you have a good amount of portable calories ready to go.

Here are a couple of links to sites that have some great ideas for what to pack in your homemade MREs.

Homemade Rations: Making your Own MREs