Notes from JWR:

Today we present the final entry for Round 43 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. Any entries received henceforth will be posted in Round 44. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795, and C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) a $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear, E.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $300 value), and F.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo. and G.) A $200 gift certificate, donated by Shelf Reliance.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training. Together, these have a retail value of $589. B.) A FloJak FP-50 stainless steel hand well pump (a $600 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim’s Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $300, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, E.) Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206, C.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, D.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and E.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 43 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Sourdough Bread Baking, by Sarah in California

You may have a years worth of wheat (or more) stored, but will you be able to make it into bread and other baked goods after TEOTWAWKI?  Sourdough is the solution for preppers.  No need to worry about expiration dates on your commercial yeast packets, a properly cared for sourdough starter can last indefinitely, providing an unlimited source of yeast.  There are several known sourdough starters in the United States that are over 100 years old.

Sourdough is a method of bread preparation that has been used for thousands of years.  It probably originated in Egypt around 1500 BC and was widely used until the Middle Ages.  Today, true sourdough is rare (store-bought “sourdough” bread is usually artificially flavored [with vinegar to make faux sourdough]) but making a comeback among artisan bread bakers. With modern conveniences of dry yeast and cheap store-bought bread, homemade sourdough bread has fallen out of favor with the general public, but mastering the sourdough technique is helpful for anyone choosing to decrease their dependence on commercial goods.

What is sourdough?

Sourdough bread products utilize wild yeasts and friendly bacteria to leaven the bread (i.e. cause it to rise).  A small amount of sourdough starter is added to a larger amount of flour and the dough is allowed to ferment for a time.  During the fermentation the dough is pre-digested, making it more palatable and nutritious, and the chemical process releases gases, causing the dough to rise.

Sourdough gets its name from its slightly tangy flavor caused by the production of lactic acid by the lactobacilli during fermentation. Though it is usually associated with bread, it can be used to make many different kinds of yeasted (for example, pizza dough) and unyeasted (for example, muffins) flour-based baked goods.  

Why sourdough?

Modern bread recipes require a continual dependence on dry yeast manufacturers.  On the other hand, sourdough is a self-generating, never ending supply of yeast.  Sourdough has many further benefits and advantages for the prepper as it is simple, versatile, and nutritious.

Sourdough may seem intimidating for a beginner, but the technique can be quickly mastered. Cultured yeast requires a specific temperature in order to activate and rise.  Sourdough is more forgiving, especially for flat breads. Many recipes call for just four ingredients (flour, water, salt and oil) in varying proportions.  For example pizza dough, crackers, bread, biscuits, tortillas, pita and rolls can all be made with just these four ingredients.  

Sourdough is also versatile.  With just a few more ingredients on hand, a myriad of other baked goods can be made including muffins, cinnamon rolls, noodles, cookies, english muffins, crepes, cake, pot pies, pocket pizza, pancakes and waffles.  An additional benefit of sourdough is that it pre-digests the flour in a way that gives the dough a lighter flavor and texture, making whole grain versions of baked goods like cinnamon rolls more appealing than their non-soured, whole grain counterparts.

Furthermore, utilizing the sourdough method increases the nutritional benefits of baked goods.  As previously mentioned, the souring process gives baked goods a lighter flavor and texture, making whole grain goods more palatable to picky eaters.  Whole grains are higher in B vitamins, fiber and minerals than refined grains.  Furthermore, souring breaks down phytates which are present in whole-wheat flour, anti-nutrients which inhibit the body’s absorption of minerals.  The souring process also makes whole grains easier to digest and breaks down some of the gluten.  In recent years, many people have developed sensitivities to gluten (possibly because of our modern bread-baking techniques) but many of these people can tolerate baked goods that have a long souring time, because the gluten is pre-digested for them.

How to make and care for a sourdough starter.

As previously mentioned, sourdough involves using a little sourdough starter mixed into a larger amount of flour.  Therefore, the first step to making sourdough baked goods is to make (or obtain) a sourdough starter.  If you plan to make sourdough goods on a regular basis, you will want to have a sourdough starter on hand at all times.  That means once you make or obtain a starter, you will want to continuously feed and maintain it, although you can take breaks by putting it in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks.

Sourdough starters can be purchased from various internet sites.  They come dehydrated, and you just add water to reactivate them.  If you know someone who makes sourdough goods, you can get some of their starter (I have given starter to at least four of my friends since beginning my sourdough journey a year and a half ago.) 

Another option (which is also a great skill to learn for future use) is to make a homemade starter.  There are as many opinions on how to make a starter as their are recipes for using your starter.  I will give you the method that I used, but feel free to research others.  Most people say that it is easier to start a sourdough starter when it is warm outside, but I was able to begin my starter pretty easily on the first try in the middle of a December. (Granted, I do live in a coastal area where winters aren’t too cold.)  Regardless, it is helpful to keep your starter in a warm area of the kitchen (such as next to the stove, crockpot or in the oven with the light on).

To make a starter from scratch, take a cup of water and a cup of flour, and mix together in a glass bowl, large mason jar or ceramic crock.  It is important to use non-chlorinated water, as the chorine can inhibit the growth of the helpful lactobacilli in your starter.  If you use unfiltered tap water, leave it on the counter for 24 hours before using it to allow the chlorine to evaporate.  Make sure to only use wooden or glass utensils to stir, as metal can react with the starter.  After stirring, scrape down the sides of the bowl or jar.  Cover with a cloth to keep out dust.

Let this mixture sit in a warm area of your kitchen for 12 hours.  Then remove half of your water/flour mixture, and add another half cup of flour and half cup of water.  Continue removing half of the mixture and adding more flour and water every 12 hours. (I aim to do it while making breakfast and after making dinner, which is about 12 hours and coincides with my time in the kitchen.)  After about 3-5 days you should start to see some bubbles forming around the side of the glass and/or on the surface of the starter.  This shows that wild yeasts and bacteria are starting to colonize the culture.  You will want to wait until your starter is very active before attempting to bake with it.  Bread shouldn’t be attempted until the starter is well established, as it requires the most yeast activity to turn out well.  Once your starter is established, you don’t need to throw out half of it every time you feed it, but plan to use it regularly so that your don’t have too much starter building up (you can use up extra starter by making pancakes, I share a  recipe for that below).

Caring for your sourdough starter is simple, but it must be faithful.  Keep in mind that your starter is full of living, active bacteria and yeasts.  It must be tended to and fed like any member of your family.  Keep your starter in the warmest part of your kitchen except for in the hottest parts of the summer, when you may want to keep it in a cool part of the kitchen (such as on a low shelf of a cabinet… but don’t forget about it!).  Your starter needs to be fed at least twice a day. (I shoot for first thing in the morning and then after dinner at night) with equal parts of water and flour.  You can rest your starter in the refrigerator, during which time it only needs to be fed once a week, but don’t let it go for more than a few weeks in the fridge without pulling it out and using it.  Store your starter in a glass bowl or mason jar, and stir it with a wooden spoon or other non-reactive utensil.  Your sourdough starter should never come in contact with metal (though I sometimes use a stainless steel spoon for a quick stir after feeding it, as stainless steel has low reactivity,)  After feeding your starter and stirring, make sure to scrape down the sides to discourage the growth of mold.  Always cover your starter when not in use to keep out bugs and dust.  Fruit flies are especially attracted to the scent of sourdough starter.

Depending on your rhythm of life and frequency of baking, you may choose to keep your sourdough starter on the counter continuously (during which times it needs to be fed at least twice per day), or you may choose to let it lay dormant in the refrigerator for periods of time (during which times you only need to feed it once a week.) I have used both methods in my year and a half of doing sourdough, because of varying life circumstances.  To give you an idea, I will provide some examples from my experiences with sourdough.

For my first six months of doing sourdough, I was feeding seven people three meals per day (my husband and I had four foster children plus my mother living with us) and my starter rarely went in the fridge.  I was making sourdough baked goods on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times per day.  I was continually taking from my starter and continually feeding it.  I rarely had too much starter and often faced the problem of not having enough due to poor planning or forgetfulness.

Then the four children went back to living with their birth mother, and my mother moved out, and I was down to cooking for two.  I was pregnant and trying to up my protein intake, and I decreased the amount of grains that I was preparing.  During this time, I kept the starter in the refrigerator and sometimes went for 2-3 weeks between uses (without feeding it for the whole time and it survived.  Sourdough can be very forgiving!)

Currently, we have a college student living with us, two babies and frequent guests over for meals.  I keep my starter out about half of the time, and in the refrigerator the other half of the time.  I usually lay out a meal plan at the beginning of each week, which helps me to know when I need to keep it out and build up the starter, and when I can leave it to rest in the refrigerator for a few days.  All this is to say that you can make sourdough fit with your lifestyle, and it will bring great benefit if you do.

Sourdough Recipe Tips

Few modern cookbooks include sourdough recipes, but there are an increasing number of recipes to be found on the internet.  It can be intimidating to know where to start for someone new to sourdough.  I have found the most reliable recipes come from sites that emphasize traditional foods and preparation methods.  Here are some terms and other things to be aware of when choosing recipes to try.

Souring time.  The longer the souring time (also called rising time), the more nutritious the end product will be.  Look for recipes that call for 8-12 hours of fermentation, which is enough time to break down most of the phytic acid.  If a recipe calls for a shorter time than this, it often requires supplemental commercial yeast.

Percentage of hydration.  In some recipes you will see terminology about the percentage of hydration.  This has to  do with the flour/water ratio of your starter.  For example, 100% hydration means that a starter is fed equal parts of water and flour.  I find that a starter fed equal parts water and flour works for most recipes, but to be safe, you can stick with recipes that call for 100% hydration until you are more familiar with sourdough baking.  If a recipe does not specify the percentage of hydration, it is usually safe to assume they are calling for a starter fed equal parts of flour and water.

Your flour. Store bought flour is more compacted than freshly ground flour.  So, depending on the type of flour you use, you might need slightly more or slightly less than a recipe calls for.  I have found that the more times that I make a recipe, the better the idea I get for how the dough should look and feel, and I can adjust accordingly.  If possible, use freshly ground flour.  Not only do whole wheat berries store longer than flour, but freshly ground is the most nutritious form of flour.  By some estimates, flour loses 90% of its vitamins within three days of being ground. (Although refrigerating or freezing freshly ground flour will slow down this micronutrient loss.)

Sourdough bread requires more skill and patience than other sourdough products.  Approach bread baking as a learning experience, and expect to make a brick from time to time, especially at the beginning. Instead of throwing out a dense loaf, grind it up into bread crumbs, store it in the freezer to use when you need bread crumbs for a recipe, or feed it to your chickens, ducks or pigs.  To ensure success with bread baking, make sure your starter is very active and that you allow the bread to rise in a warm place (I like to put it in my oven with the oven light turned on.)

I will leave you with a recipe for sourdough pancakes, which is probably the sourdough recipe that I use the most.  It is easy and forgiving, and a great recipe to start with as you learn sourdough. Even a weak starter that is just a few days old can be used for this recipe.  When you have an excess of starter, this is a good way to use the extra up quickly.  It is also a quick and easy breakfast for when I fail to plan ahead, as it only calls for starter and requires no souring time.

2 cups sourdough starter
2 tablespoons sweetener (honey, brown sugar, etc)
4 tablespoons of butter or coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda

Heat your seasoned griddle to a medium-high heat.  Mix together all ingredients except the baking soda.  Add the baking soda right before you are ready to pour the batter.  Cook the pancakes on the griddle until they are golden brown on both sides. 1/3 cup of batter per pancake makes about nine medium sized pancakes.  Enjoy! 

Letter Re: Bloomberg’s Gun-Grabbing Mayors–Not in The American Redoubt

James:
You linked to an article on Thursday about Bloomberg’s gun grabbing mayors: the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. I noticed on their list of member mayors that a few states were without any mayoral representation (A badge of honor!)

Missing from the list are:
• Alaska
• Idaho
• Montana
• Oklahoma
• Wyoming

Three of these are American Redoubt states. This is yet another reason to move to the Redoubt. Regards, – Adam G.

JWR Replies: It is also noteworthy that many of the "former" members on the roster (shown in bold in this 2008 list) are now serving felony prison sentences. Kwame Kilpatrick, for example, already a convicted felon, is presently standing trial under a new 38-charge felony indictment for additional corruption charges. The testimony thusfar does not bode well for him.

Economics and Investing:

Spain Now Faces a Systemic, Societal, and Sovereign Collapse

Warren Buffet: Fed has no more bullets left to stimulate US economy

Senator Blasts ‘Secret’ Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

Items from The Economatrix:

We Are About to Crush 15 Years of Resistance in Gold & Silver

The Giant Currency Superstorm that is Coming to the Shores of America

Feud At The Fed:  "Horrific Consequences" For Unlimited Easing

Odds ‘n Sods:

Joe K. recommended a piece in an Outdoor Life blog: Survival Skills: How To Make A Torch

   o o o

Rob L. pointed me to a video demonstration of a new sniper scope technology: TrackingPoint Demonstration.

   o o o

Regional update: Sudan, Iran, and Gaza

   o o o

November 30th is the Last Day of Safecastle’s Mountain House sale, with discounted prices on select canned favorites. Also, From November 26 to December 2, during Week 14 of our ongoing "Repel the Chaos" incentive program, Safecastle Buyers Club members who make any purchase of at least $600 in their e-store will receive a free bundle that includes a Firebox Folding Stove (uses any fuel), an Aurora Firestarter, and two ReadyFuel packets.

   o o o

The demonization begins: Kerosene Lamps Identified as Big Source of Black Carbon. The science behind this assertion are flaky, when seen in the proper conext. One good-sized volcanic eruption or a few forest fires generate far more more carbon than the entire amount of carbon produced by kerosene lamps in the U.S. each year. If the government wants to offset that impact, they should simply pony up to buy a couple of more fire retardant bombers. Oh, but wait, our government is instead spending its money kindling forest fires. (Thanks to Steven H. for the initial link.)

Notes from JWR:

Today is the birthday of C.S. Lewis. He was born in 1898 and died November 22, 1963. He is known for his Christian apologetics writings as well as for the Chronicles of Narnia book series.

Today we present another entry for Round 43 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The queue is now full for this round, so any entries received will be posted in Round 44. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A.) A gift certificate worth $1,000, courtesy of Spec Ops Brand, B.) A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795, and C.) Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources. (A $350 value.) D.) a $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear, E.) A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $300 value), and F.) A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo. and G.) A $200 gift certificate, donated by Shelf Reliance.

Second Prize: A.) A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training. Together, these have a retail value of $589. B.) A FloJak FP-50 stainless steel hand well pump (a $600 value), courtesy of FloJak.com. C.) A "grab bag" of preparedness gear and books from Jim’s Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR) with a retail value of at least $300, D.) A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials, E.) Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value) and F.) A Tactical Trauma Bag #3 from JRH Enterprises (a $200 value).

Third Prize: A.) A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21. (This filter system is a $275 value.), B.) A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206, C.) Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy. This is a $185 retail value, D.) A Commence Fire! emergency stove with three tinder refill kits. (A $160 value.), and E.) Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security.

Round 43 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical "how to" skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Two Letters Re: Advice on Disaster Pet Euthanasia

Hi Jim,

A couple of things worth considering for painless pet euthanasia.  This is never a pleasant subject, but:

1. Carbon monoxide poisoning.  People die of this painlessly all the time.   Prepare a setup now to connect to your vehicle exhaust (or any other gas engine exhaust) to an enclosure sized to hold your pet.

2. A person can be made unconscious simply by pressing two fingers against the juggler veins in the neck without any feeling of strangling or otherwise. It’s like going to sleep (the brain is deprived of oxygen and you black out).  A prolonged application of this will cause brain damage, of course, and eventually death.  I don’t know the specifics, but one might be able to find out by a medical person or veterinarian about application to a pet.

Sincerely, – Paul B.

JWR:
Responding to J.M.’s letter, Advice on Disaster Pet Euthanasia, I would like to say that even living on a hobby farm and dispatching chickens, turkeys, and sheep, if it came to putting one of my dogs down before a bugout it would still be difficult. Most good dog owners realize their dogs are not “just” animals, there is some degree of person-hood there that requires consideration and compassion. They’re not human beings, but they’re also not just inert, instinct-driven things either.

Trust me that euthanasia is only stressful up to the point where you actually do the deed. After that point it is a relief, and you know you did what had to be done. You move on to the next thing on the list and the grieving can wait until things settle down a bit, and it’s not an emergency any longer.

Speaking for myself, I find it enormously comforting to realize that God probably has a purpose for them beyond this life. Not sure why that’s so comforting, I guess it’s just realizing that God has a plan and He is good beyond my wildest imagination (and I can imagine a lot!).

Ponder the implications of these tantalizing Bible verses: Psalm 36:6, Psalm 50:10-11, Psalm 145:9, Proverbs 12:10, Ecclesiastes 3:21, Romans 8:21, Revelation 4 (mistranslated in most English versions as “living creature” the word is actually “animal” – the animal kingdom is represented before the very Throne of God!), and the inclusiveness of Revelation 5:13 – 14. I don’t believe that the “Lamb who was slain” will forget the lambs who were by their very being a picture of his character. I just don’t believe they will be left behind in the glory to come. And that’s an encouraging thought.

That said, for me it’s a matter of making a rational decision (usually old age or illness, so far) based on criteria that my wife and I decided on long in advance of the actual need. Make a list! And when the circumstances fit that list then decide! Follow through on that decision by doing what must now be done, suck it up, do not dwell on it or stew on it or stall – just set aside your emotions for a few minutes and focus on doing it right for your animal friend.

One thing that has been a big help for us in the past is to give our dog a dose of Acepromazine, an inexpensive, commonly-prescribed veterinary drug that we have on hand for sedating our animals during trips (and there was that one hyper dog who freaked out in thunderstorms…). If you crush the tablet (and give an overdose) then mix it with a little peanut butter you won’t have any problem getting your dog to take it, and when crushed it will take effect more quickly and more profoundly.

Being sedated, your dog will not pick up your agitation/stress/fear in the crisis situation and they’ll be easier to handle, you might even need to carry them or drag them on a rug or tarp if the sedative hits before you’re ready (might only be a minute or two). I wouldn’t try to smother a dog, it takes too long, is very hands-on, and even sedated the dog may reflexively struggle. Bleeding an animal out once deeply sedated is fairly quick (with presumably little perceived pain) with a deep cut to the neck jugular vein behind the jaw (shave off the hair, if you have time, to be able to see what you’re doing there).  

Using a firearm as James Rawles described is the quickest and most humane method, just bring enough gun – dog’s skulls can be very hard in the bigger breeds (I’d recommend being sure the bullet is entering perpendicular to their skull, or nearly so). Take your time and do it by the book. If your dog is sedated but still moving around you might need to tie them to something to safely hold their head still. (Once your dog is sedated you do not want to offer them anything else to eat or drink, so be sure you’ve got the sedative dose you want on the first try.) You do not want to botch your first shot. And make sure there’s no one downrange or anywhere a ricocheting shot might go!

If you have enough Acepromazine you may be able to give a massive overdose and they will just fall asleep and stop breathing on their own. Unless you have a stethoscope and are experienced with its use you can’t assume your dog has passed on, so once you think it’s dead you’ll need to take some additional step to guarantee that fact. They’re already dead, it’s just their dead body now, and you’re just making absolutely positive. Some paracord ought to do the trick… Our dogs depend on us, if we’re going to do it we need to get it right – they’re counting on a quick, humane death and we owe them that much.

Look, I know this is a hard, hard topic to discuss! People hate to talk about death, but we MUST! Working out the final details for your beloved companion dog will be a good conversation-starter for talking about our own deaths, and the deaths we may one day be forced into inflicting in self-defense. I’m sorry it’s so hard – ask God to help you through it with clarity and peace. Jesus, after all, knows all about death… and conquered it!

I fully expect to see my dogs around the Throne of God as well as redeemed humanity, angels, cherubs, seraphim, and however many other classes and species of sentient life God has chosen for the honor. It will be a big, noisy, slobbery reunion!

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed.” – Revelation 21:4 Amen!
 
Trust God. Be Prepared. We can do both! – ShepherdFarmerGeek in Spokane