Reuse those peels!


Today was spent canning the last of my September-picked apples. Poor future husband (D) spent hours atop the car (we have no ladder – we’re young adults) picking apples from the tree in our backyard last month, and they’ve officially all been put to use.

Apple butter. Apple sauce. Sliced apples. Cinnamon apples. Whiskey apples (oh yes).

We were left with a ton of cores and peels – compost material for some, juice material for us! Like the pioneer woman I aim to be, there’s no such thing as tossing those peels and cores. No sir. Instead, I boil them up and strain for beautiful juice, which makes utterly delightful jelly.
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Magazine Special Offer

booksHere ya go, for just $12 you can get a year’s subscription of three magazines:

  • Better Homes and Gardens® (12 issues)
  • Every Day with Rachael Ray® (10 issues)
  • Allrecipes® (6 issues)
  • and as a gift, 3 cookbooks.

This appears to be on automatic renewal for the subscription but please read all of the details.
Visit for the offer popup.

Just in time for the cool days of fall!
Happy reading!

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Canning pears with Tattler’s EZ-Seal lids

I have been wanting to switch to a reusable canning lid for many years.

Why make the switch?
Tattler reusable lids have been around since 1976. Like many canners, I relied on the metal disposable lids (Ball & Kerr presently owned by Jarden Home Brands). They were available everywhere, cheap by the dozen, and easy to use. But things are changing. Some gardening seasons local stores limit the quantity on their shelves. Folks just do not can like they used too. Recently, the price of canning supplies in general has increased just like everything else we purchase. And I won’t even go into the quality and make up of the glue…I’ve not been happy with recent results and it’s left me quite skeptical.

I desire to:

  • be totally sustainable.
  • be fully aware of my purchases for additional uses or recycling.
  • go easy on my pocketbook.
  • have lids and bands for every jar in my canning closet!!!

Ok…I will have to admit, it’s an investment to have an economical way to cover this mother load of canning jars. How many is that? Hmm…let’s just say I decided to start with 100 each of the regular and wide mouth lids and rings.

Tattler EZ-Seal (regular)

Tattler EZ-Seal (regular lid)


Tattler EZ-Seal (regular lid & ring)









The savings?
The regular lid & ring comes to just 61 cents per set. The wide mouth lid and ring comes to just 68 cents per set.

I took the plunge and ordered in bulk the EZ-Seal lids & rings introduced in September directly from Tattler a.k.a. S&S Innovations, Corp. Then I couldn’t wait to try them out!

So to appease some fellow gardeners, here’s my first run at ditching the metal lids & going Tattler.

Canning Pears with Tattler EZ-Seal lids (YouTube)

The Sustainable Prepper Playlist

Overall, I love these lids & rings!
The first batch of 7 pint jars of pears canned beautifully. No blowups, no leakage, no problems sealing. Even though by morning noticed I accidentally over tightened and unsealed one jar after checking it once out of the canner, I love this alternative to throw away lids!

Off to plan the next batch of canned foods from my kitchen!


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Time for a trim

Winnie’s looking good after just a week and a half of taking her bolus of copper mineral to keep her in tip top shape.


Winnie showing off her new doo!

But that shaggy, tipped hair had to go!

Shaggy, dull, lighter colored fur is an early sign of copper deficiency.

Shaggy, dull, lighter colored fur is an early sign of copper deficiency.

The tips of the hair that was growing out was a bit shaggy and slightly bleached. That’s a sign she was a bit low on copper.

I bolus our goats twice a year and she was due a bit earlier than expected. Bolusing is pretty effective way of keeping their copper levels higher and offering more resistance to stomach and intestinal parasites. Feeding them the bolus later in the day helps the copper lodge into the digestion track without competition of being pushed along with the morning’s grain.

I found the best way to administer the bolus was opening up a capsule (I use Copasure), weighing out the right dosage per goat, then mixing the copper wire bits in a spoonful of molasses. The goats love it!

She was definitely due for a trim for the summer!

Winnie after being shaved.

Winnie after being shaved.

She was really good on the stand while being shaved. And afterwards, she may have liked going free as she didn’t seem to mind. Either way, she’s about ready for the show barn with her beautiful coloring!

I’m thinking Curry could use a trim too! “Hey Curry!”

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Nice morning for a river walk


Panoramic view of the beach line…it’s not actually curved. Pretty cool photo!


Monday morning was a nice time for Tootsie Roll and me to take a hike along the Mississippi.

Found several river rocks worthy for jewelry making.


A few fossilized rocks…



showing fish fins
















…and this beautiful baby copperhead snake we spooked out from along the ridge.

20140610-181414.jpg 20140610-184035.jpg


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Strawberry love: freeze-your-own fruit

Hello from the mini homestead! Since moving off the farm, I’ve been working on using many of the prepper skills I learned back home to make it on my own. And one of those? Buying on sale/in bulk and storing for later.

A few weeks ago, I was grocery shopping when I stumbled upon a strawberry special. Strawberries were priced at $1.25 a carton (limit three, ugh), which is fantastic for the Midwest in the wintertime. And, they were grown in the USA – a personal favorite of mine. So, why not stock up?

I was a bit hesitant at first. In our house, there’s only two of us and a cat. There’s no way we can (reasonably) consume all three packs before the strawberries went bad. But, it made sense to stock up on a fresh fruit product that was on sale. That’s when I thought – duh! Freezer!

So, I took my limit-three-packs of strawberries home, rinsed them and cut off the tops.

berries cut

Placed them on a wax-paper covered baking sheet, with no berries touching.

strawberries tray

And then packaged the frozen strawberries in quart-sized freezer bags.

packed berries

Viola! Finished! And, ready for easy defrosting at the hankering of a smoothie or dessert.

Sure, you can purchase frozen strawberries, but I always find them a little unfriendly on the budget. Also, they’re in horrible clumps that are difficult to defrost. But, this way, I’ve avoided all of those issues.

I’m sure that other fruits can be frozen this way – think blueberries, blackberries, etc. The key, I’ve discovered, is initially freezing them individually before packaging to avoid that dreaded lump.

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It’s seed starting time!

I am always excited about this time of the year! This is when seeds are started for spring planting. The winter days have become dreary and this garden chore helps prevent cabin fever.


January 1st is my 15 weeks out from last frost.

First I determine when to start specific plants and mark the dates on the calendar. My last average frost date is April 15th. I live in zone 5 but with climate change, I have found it’s best to treat the gardens as zone 5 & 6.

I like nice, strong plants for transplanting so some of the plants like tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage are started 15 weeks before frost.

It’s hard deciding what’s going to be grown in this season’s garden. First I figure which seeds I have on hand in the seed bank.


I keep a garden journal of my seed bank & garden planning.


If I’m short or out of a seed, I have time to make an order or find a fellow seed swapper who can come to the rescue. Once the list is made, I’m ready to get seeding…well almost.

My seed starter soil is a mix of organic peat moss and chicken/kitchen scrap compost. I sanitize the mix to prevent weed seeds & bad bacteria by heating it in a pan for about a half hour in a 180- 200 degree oven. It gets a good stir halfway through.

20140213-153824.jpgThe mix is cooled then sifted to make a nice, fine soil blend. I use a bucket covered with a towel and sift the mix using a recycled deep fryer basket. The large bits and woody stuff are used in the greenhouse.

I have used many kinds of containers over the years for seedlings but that’s a discussion for another post. ;) I have since moved to recycling foam food trays into seed starter trays. They hold up well for reuse and stay out of the trash dump.

A plastic soda bottle is recycled into a small scoop and is perfect for filling  seed trays (and especially those 4-6 pack pots).IMG_4025

A mini greenhouse indoors is placed near the window for sunlight and the wood stove for ample warmth.IMG_0510



I will repeat this process many times until the garden list is completed and the seeds are planted and labeled. If something doesn’t grow, there is still plenty of time to replant.

I make a very weak manure/compost tea for watering with a recycled jug with holes punched through its lid as a quick sprinkler.


These heirloom tomatoes are planted three each and 8-9 rows across. After a few weeks they are transplanted to single containers.

Phew! That was fun! Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the dormant seeds to spring up!

Happy Gardening!

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Let’s Celebrate New Beginnings Giveaway!


Thanks to all of those who participated & shared their gardening firsts!

The winner of this giveaway is Drew Wasserburger chosen by random generator. Please check your email for instructions to receive your copy of Crockett’s Flower Garden. Congratulations!

In honor of Nicole’s, move to her new place…with a starter seed bank in tow, I’ve sent her copies of my favorite gardening books: Crockett’s Flower Garden by James Crockett & The Victory Garden by his colleagues Wilson, Thomson, and Wirth.victorygarden1


Enter the giveaway for a copy of this great reference!

So, to celebrate, I’m giving away a print edition of Crockett’s Flower Garden. It’s a lightly used, previously owned book but it’s an oldie but goodie! Full of useful tips in a month to month planting style. I believe any true loving gardener & book lover will appreciate the reference and put it back to work.

Books shouldn’t get dusty unless they are in the garden!


  1. Please read the rules & disclaimers below.
  2. Briefly share with us in the comments below, “What’s the first thing you ever planted or will plant in your first garden?”
  3. Bookmark The Sustainable Prepper and follow our blog by subscribing for email updates or through RSS.

Thank you for sharing & sending off Nicole with some great garden planting ideas!



Giveaway Rules & Disclaimers:

  • This drawing & comments closed Thursday, January 16, 2014, at 8pm CST.
  • The giveaway book is NOT a new copy. It is an out-of-print copy and may show signs of light use by a previous owner(s). It may be a hardback or paperback edition.
  • Please do not enter this drawing if you do not wish to receive a previously owned book.
  • The winner will be chosen by random generation and notified via email & announced on the giveaway page.
  • The winner must respond to the winning email notification within 24 hours indicating their U.S. address for receiving the book or the prize will be forfeited. In the event of a forfeit, a runner-up will be drawn at random and notified per the same conditions.
  • This giveaway is open to United States residents only & one (1) prize will be mailed to a United States residence only.
  • No monetary value will be given in place of the giveaway item.
  • This giveaway may be canceled and/or rescheduled at any time by the owner in the unfortunate occurrence of website or internet malfunctions that prevent the giveaway to be conducted as noted. In such an occurrence, the giveaway may not retain entries and all who enter may be required to reenter a new giveaway.
  • Comments of vulgar or abusive nature will be deleted and posters of such comments will be blocked.


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Avoiding GMO Seeds

Not everyone is fully aware of how to avoid genetically modified seed (GMO).  GMOs  were not originally found in nature but altered in a laboratory. Because these organisms can live and produce in nature unlike originally believed, they threaten our seed purity and food security.

There is quite some confusion and anxiety out in the gardening world regarding GMOs b(C) 2014 LaDonna Garnerut there is no need to panic. Here are a few tips I follow to avoid bringing GMOs into my garden and seedbank:

  • I know that I will not likely find GMO seeds in the seed packet aisle. GMO seeds are contracted to commercial farmers and are considerably expensive for consumer based seed companies to sell out right. That would also impose a contract on your use of the seeds as well. No one has time for that!*
  • Avoid using the seeds and roots from supermarket produce unless it is labeled organic or heirloom. The supermarket produce aisle is the end result and primary purpose of GMOs for mass consumer purchases.
  • I’m aware of my local co-op’s seed stock. I’ve ask the co-op about their seed sources. I even contacted their sources directly to investigate if they were a licensed distributor of GMO seed. It’s well worth the effort and especially if you live in the headquarter states of GMO companies as I do.
  • I avoid growing crops in the garden that may be easily cross-contaminated. For instance, I live in a rural area where GMO crops are raised. A farm a few miles away grows commercial soybean and so that’s one crop I choose not to grow.
  • When it comes to seeds offered to me that are gathered from commercial farmers, I politely say, “No thank you.” Commercial farmers are the target of GMO seed companies.
  • I patronize and purchase seed from companies who promote open-pollinated seeds & seed sovereignty and farms that specialize in organic and heirloom produce. It’s a plus if they have signed the Safe Seed Pledge!
  •  And last but not least, I label the seeds from purchases  with their known seed sources and keep a journal of my swaps. No guesses & no assumptions, this assures I am trading only open-pollinated seeds. It also acts as an insurance if something is contaminated it can be traced and destroyed.

I hope you find these tips helpful & feel much better when starting and growing your own seedbank!
*Note: Many GMOs can cross-contaminate no matter how diligent the seed collection by companies or gardeners.

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Gardening Organically: Walnut & Peppermint Mosquito Spray

This version of my mosquito recipes was the ultimate favorite in the garden last season. It was used all over the farm for ourselves & our animals! Even Mr. SP loved it!Mosquito_gender_en public domain photo

Black Walnut & Peppermint Sprays #1 & #2

* Just click on the tag: organic insecticides to view all of the posted recipes. Each link will display a PDF sheet ready for printing & hole punching for your garden journal or binder.

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