2017 Utah Prepare Conference and Expo

If you’re like me, you like plenty of warning before events, especially one that lasts two days. That’s why we’re letting you know now that tickets seem to be on sale for this year’s Utah Prepare Conference and Expo.

The expo is from September 8 through 9, at the South Towne Exposition Center (9575 State Street, Sandy, UT 84070).

Early bird tickets are $8, until August 15. After that, tickets will be $10. Click here for the EventBrite event page, and tickets.

Santaquin Goshen Ready, June 2017

For those of you in the Santaquin/Goshen area, there is a preparedness workshop coming up on June 8. The topic will be Emergency Water Preparedness. Details can be found at http://santaquin-goshen-ready.org/.

Santaquin Goshen Ready workshops occur every second Thursday, except for July and December.

Keeping Informed on Twitter

In our day and age, communication is king. Whether it’s sharing stories on Facebook, family pictures on Instagram, kittens on YouTube, or reading fine web content such as this site, our lives are now all about communication.

In an emergency, communication is just that much more vital. We’ve posted about ham radio and such here, but there’s another resource that seems to be underrated as a communication medium: Twitter (and other social media).

When emergencies happen, people take to social media. It’s not uncommon to hear about a disaster from friends on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, long before the commercial news outlets (CNN, local TV/radio, etc) start reporting it.

A number of important agencies have Twitter accounts. Some even have multiple Twitter accounts, just to handle communication for various departments or divisions. And a number of these can be crucial in informing you as early as possible.

Now, I’m not a huge Twitter guy. I rarely post, and when I do, it’s rarely important. And I almost never read tweets. It’s just not my personality. But I do want to know, for instance, when FEMA has something important to say for my region. And I want to know as soon as they tell me.

FEMA is one of many Twitter users that makes use of alerts. When you open up one of these account in the Twitter app on your phone, you will see an icon that looks like a ringing bell.

FEMA Region 8 on Twitter

When you click this icon, turning it red, you will see a notification that, “You will receive mobile notifications when this account sends critical updates.” These are my favorite accounts to follow, because they are designed for critical alerts.

Other accounts allow you to receive instant notifications as well, without having to receive notifications from all of the accounts that you follow on Twitter. In the mobile Twitter app these also have a bell icon, but without the ringing part.

UHP on Twitter

I have notifications turned on for a number of these accounts too. Some can be annoying (@SantaquinPolice likes to tweet a thank you note every time they get a follower), but I think it’s worth it to be able to see alerts when they do get tweeted.

The following are a number of Twitter accounts that I follow, and have explicitly turned on mobile notifications for. This list will vary a little for you, depending on your location, but it will also give you a good starting point.

These accounts are less official, but still useful. Think of them like a Twitter version of a police scanner.

Canning Butter at Home

I’ve recently come across a lot of information and misinformation about canning butter at home. Because of the level of controversy, and the amount of unsafe advice out there, I wanted to set a few things straight.

If you’ve read any of the articles or blog posts out there, then you probably already know that the USDA does not recommend canning butter at home. The reasons stated are many, and there is an abundance of misinterpretation of the statements made by the USDA, even by those who directly quote it. Let’s clear this up first: the USDA does not have a recommended procedure for canning butter at home. This is not because they have ulterior motives. It is simply because they have not created and tested a procedure which they can reliably claim to be safe. And if they can’t reliably claim a procedure to be safe, then they won’t recommend it.

This may lead you to ask why the USDA has not done the legwork to create and test such a procedure. On this, I can only speculate. Perhaps it is because of a lack of funding to the department(s) responsible. Perhaps they have in fact spent countless hours in development and have discovered that with the equipment available to the home canner, such a procedure is not possible. Again, I can only speculate on their reasoning, and such speculation distracts us from actual facts.

Now that we have the USDA part out of the way, let’s talk about what butter actually is. Even though I know better, I still find myself constantly surprised at how little people know about butter. It’s constantly referred to as a fat, which is understandable, since fat does make up the bulk of butter’s composition. However, “whole butter” is not 100% fat. It is in fact an emulsion of fat, water, milk solids, and sometimes salt. Depending on who made the butter, usually butterfat makes up somewhere between 80-85% of “whole butter”. American butter tends to have less fat, European butter tends to have more. Milk solids and any salt usually comprises around 1-2%, while the rest is water.

When all of the water and milk solids have been removed, the resulting product is called “clarified butter”. Notice that I didn’t mention salt in this equation. This is just conjecture, but I’m not entirely convinced that clarfying butter will remove 100% of the salt content from salted whole butter. This is irrelevent to me, since I only buy unsalted whole butter (not counting butter spreads), but it may be relevant to you.

Now that we know more about the composition of butter, it’s time to talk about the methods presented for the preservation of butter at home, and why they should concern you.

When you can food at home, you should sanitize the jars that you use, as close as possible to the time that you use them. You should wash them in warm, soapy water and rinse them, at the absolute least. If I were you, I would take it one step further and run your jars through the dishwasher, and let them sit there, with the door closed, until you need them. There are other methods which are suitable, all of which involve steam, but the dishwasher is my preferred method.

What you should never do is heat your jars in the oven. Mason jars are not designed to be heated in the oven, and doing so increases their chance of breakage. The dry heat of the oven also does not adequately sanitize jars. I read one blog post that recommended oven heating jars, on the basis that water inside the jars is undesirable. Remember that butter already has water in it; the residual from sanitizing jars using a wet method will not suddenly contaminate the fat by being water.

With jar sanitation out of the way, we are free to contemplate the actual canning method. According to the USDA, there are plenty of sites that will recommend melted butter into jars and closing them, with no further processing. Somehow I managed to miss any of these sites. Nevertheless, as the USDA tells you, this method is completely unacceptable. Just storing something in a jar is not the same as canning it, and this method does not meet any definition of canning.

One might consider steam-canning as their method of preservation. According to the USDA, the only thing you should ever steam can is juice. Personally, I won’t even do that. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that steam canners are useful for is sanitizing jars. And as I’ve already said, I don’t even use them for that. If you have one, just throw it away.

Next up is boiling water canning. I did see a number of blogs recommend water bath canning, which is disconcerting to me. Let’s be clear: boiling water canning is only acceptable for high-acid foods. This means that any food with a pH above 4.6 should never be processed in a boiling water canner. Since butter is in the 6.1 to 6.4 range, it should never be processed in a boiling water canner.

Now, wait. What’s the deal with acidity? There are a number of factors which affect the safety of food. It’s easy to remember them with the abbreviation FAT TOM: fat, acidity, time, temperature, oxygen, moisture. These all play a role in canning, though fat is actually the one that I’m the least concerned with.

There are a number of food-borne illnesses that plague our society, but by far the worse one in relation to canning is a bacteria called clostridium botulinum, which is responsible for an illness known as botulism. These bacteria love moist, low-oxygen, low-acidity environments. They are also very heat stable: when they encounter environments that are too hot, they protect themselves with an outer layer called a spore, which can withstand temperatures up to 240F. Because water boils at 212F at sea level (and less above sea level), a boiling water canner cannot destroy these spores.

This is also disconcerting since one of the important functions of canning is to remove oxygen (though not all of it) from the jars. Because clostridium botulinum loves low-oxygen environments, and it loves moisture (which is always present in canned foods), canned food would normally be a haven for this bacteria! But it cannot thrive in acidic environments. The higher the acidity (meaning the lower the pH), the less comfortable this bacteria is. A pH as low as 4.6 is enough to disable it. This is why pickles, jams, jellies, and fruits can be canned using boiling water: they all involve an environment where the acidity is high enough to disable the growth of clostridium botulinum.

Our last option for canning is a pressure canner, which as you’ve probably guessed by now, is the only acceptable method of canning low-acid foods. Meats and vegetables are all considered low-acid foods, as is butter. This tells you that if you ever come across a procedure for canning butter that does not involve a pressure canner, it cannot be considered safe, and you should move along.

However, just because a procedure involves a pressure canner, doesn’t mean it is safe. Let’s talk about how pressure canners work, and how this relates to butter.

As I said before, water boils at 212F. It also freezes at 32F. Going back to junior high chemistry, we know that matter has three states of being: solid, liquid, gas. Well, okay, technically there are four, the last being plasma. Water below 32F is in a solid state, water between 32F and 212F (at sea level) is in a liquid state, and water above 212F (at sea level) is in a gaseous state. And for those interested, water enters a plasma state at around 12,000 degrees K.

Low-acid, low-oxygen foods are a perfect breeding ground for clostridium botulinum. Our only defense against this bacteria is heating it above 240F, which means we need to use water that is in a gaseous state (steam). A pressure canner filled to the brim with water doesn’t allow enough room for steam to grow, which is why we only add around 3 inches of water. Water inside the canning jars is also important, because as the water on the outside turns to steam, the pressure will also cause the water on the inside of the jars to turn to steam.

Once the steam inside the canner, and subsequently inside the jars, reaches 240F, the mass genocide of clostridium botulinum spores has begun. Temperature isn’t enough to kill those bacteria though; it also takes time. And just because the steam inside the canner has reached 240F, doesn’t mean all of the food inside the jar has reached that temperature. The thicker food is, the longer it takes to heat it thoroughly.

How does this relate to butter? Whole butter has moisture in it (close to 20%), which creates an environment inside the jar that can be used to heat the food with it to 240F. This should tell you that clarified butter is probably not a safe candidate for canning. I say probably, because I don’t know for sure.

In fact, this is where fact begins to fail us, because we don’t yet have all of the facts. Whole butter is likely a better candidate for canning than clarified, because of the moisture content, but there’s still a matter of time to be considered. Does it require 25 minutes like beef broth? 90 minutes as with chicken? 100 minutes like for certain fish? Perhaps the number is lower than 25 minutes, or higher than 100 minutes? This is the thing that we don’t know. Perhaps it needs to be canned at a pressure that is unsafe or impossible using a home pressure canner.

Now of course you could run a number of tests yourself. You will need a lot of butter, a lot of time (months, as you continue to test the long-term safety of the canned butter), and of course some very expensive equipment to perform the testing.

In the end, it’s entirely up to you whether you decide to can your own butter. It’s also up to you whether you want to do any number of things which involve questionable safety. Are you willing to trust your life, and your family’s life to your procedure? Plenty of preppers are happy to do exactly that. Until I hear further word, I think I’ll just go without canned butter.

Trained EMT and Radio Volunteers need on Mount Timpanogos

TERT the Timpanogos Emergency Response Team will be having their first of two training days at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (UVRMC) Training Area (NW Plaza – Clark Auditorium) (500 W 1230 N, Provo) on Saturday, March 26, 2016.
For new members it will start at 0800 and for experienced members, it will start at 0900 to 2:00 p.m.
The second training day (Outdoor Training) will be on Saturday May 21, 2016 at Aspen Grove theater in the pines.

New members are specifically need who are:
-EMT’s and above medically certified; or
-Licensed Amateur Radio Operators.

To be on the TERT team you must be reliable, come to the training days, and commit to two weekends (Friday evening to Saturday night or Sunday morning).

TERT is a volunteer organization dedicated to keeping small things small on Mount Timpanogos during the summer hiking season. They provide first aid and communications high on the mountain at Emerald Lake and at the Aspen Grove and Timpanokee Trailheads.

Visit http://tert.org/ for more details.

Ben Christensen

Wild Edibles in Utah Training

Utah is abundant with wild edible plants, often referred to as weeds in our yard or garden and also more nutritional than what we have in the grocery store. Many of the wild edibles available to us are not native but were brought here by pioneers from Europe and the mediterranean. Of course many of the wild edibles are native to the area as well. The Sego Lily was used by natives for centuries as a staple food and helped save the lives of the pioneers when they came to this state starving in 1848 and 1849. The bulbs they harvested were plentiful and generally larger than we see today. This is likely because the native peoples harvested the plants often and that action helped the plants continue to produce just are caring for our gardens helps our vegetables grow. Now that we leave the native plants alone and don’t know how to use them they often show very little fruit.

Proper foraging is something that we must understand in order to continue to use these plants wisely and for us and the plants to benefit. Learning about these wild edibles and how and when to harvest them will make us better stewards of the land around us and will also prepare us for tough times or simply allow us to live more healthy now. You would be surprised how many things are readily available to us in the wilderness of Utah, even in the desert. Some of the great spring edibles include, Mariposa lily, Yellow bells, Wild onion, Storksbill, Dune Evening primrose, Indian potato, Curly dock, Blue mustard and Wild spinach often known as Lamb’s quarter.

Come learn with Mike Wood from WildUtahEdibles.com and supplement your diet. Learn how to use the plants that grow easily around you and learn what weeds you can throw in your salad. You will be amazed and thrilled by the many edible and indeed delicious plants there are around you.

Our next wild edibles tour is April 26th at 12:00 noon. Exact location and details will be made available through our facebook page closer to the actual date but this tour will be in the Utah desert either in Saratoga Springs or in Eagle Mountain. Bring your friends and bring the family. This is an event you don’t want to miss.

Mike Wood
www.WildUtahEdibles.com
https://www.facebook.com/wildutahedibles

HAM Radio Class, December 21, 2013

A HAM class is being offered on December 21, 2013.

Here are the details from the instructor:

I must limit the size to 40 people so sign up early to reserve a spot. If you must cancel please let me know immediately so I can free up a slot for someone else. If you must cancel please do it as soon as you know you will not be coming to make room for someone else!!

-. …- –… …-

One Day Ham Radio Class for the Technician (entry level) license.

Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 7:30am to 5pm Continue reading “HAM Radio Class, December 21, 2013”

Food for Health Sale

For those looking for a deal, food for health is having an amazing sale today only. They are located at 800 east and 800 North in Orem, and have quite a lot of supplies at a great discount.

I stopped by and went through their stuff. They are doing some inventory switching, and most of the food is manufactured between end of 2011 and 2012, so it’s recent enough to be worth getting.

The foods are your common freeze dried, and dried soup type foods. They seem to have put good thought into staying vegetarian, with smart oils so they have a long shelf life.

They have the nice smaller Mylar bagged items in 6 packs, or in the large bulk sealed buckets at pretty amazing prices. Worth checking out.

Book Review: The Unoffical Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide

interior-pages-unofficial-hunger-games-survival-guide-1
Our regular readers will remember that last year we reviewed Creek Stuart’s Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag. Today Creek’s latest book, The Unoffical Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide is being released and we were lucky enough to receive a review copy just in time for this review. Like Creek’s other book, this one is also full of useful information (see the page sample to the right). Let’s dive in and see what we have in store this time.

Creek uses details from the Hunger Game book series to illustrate specific preparedness concepts, such as specific situations with individual characters like Katniss or Peeta to relate the skills represented in that fictional scenario with a real world survival or wood craft example. I found this to be a fun and engaging approach for someone who is familiar with the books. This approach may have limited impact for someone who has no knowledge of the characters and why that skill was critical to their survival, or even for someone who only watched the first movie. However, given the title and the suspected audience, I think this has the chance to pull non-preppers in and give them their first exposure to these concepts.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Unoffical Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide”

Blacksmithing as a prepping skill

AvilI’ve always been interested in Blacksmithing, both as a link to past skills and as a possibly useful prepping skill. Early in 2012 I began looking into how I might be able to start learning this craft.

I quickly found ABANA, the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America. As the organization’s name might imply, most people doing blacksmithing today are doing it as an art or for ornamentation purposes. Through ABANA, I was pointed to our local Utah ABANA chapter, the Bonnevile Forge Council.

This local chapter has meetings on odd numbered months for its members and those interested in learning about the club and blacksmithing. These meetings are often centered around demonstrations of hands on projects. The club members try to make it less intimidating for newcomers who have never heated metal to 2000 degrees before.

I was able to attend the March 2012 meeting and meet many of the club members. I haven’t missed a meeting since. The next meeting for the club will be this coming Saturday in Provo and focuses on teaching forge welding. I hope any of you who are interested will be able to make it out. Please see the meetings link above for details.

If you are not able to make it to the meeting this weekend, the club president is hosting a short class on making flint strikers which will teach several basic blacksmithing skills. This three hour class will take place the evening of Wednesday, May 15, 2013. More information is here.

We recently posted about an all day introductory blacksmithing class taught by the club President and Mark Henderson, both accomplished blacksmiths. I was informed that the class filled up quickly, mainly due to interest from those who heard about the class through this site. I’d like to hear any feedback any attendees have on the class as well as gauge interest in additional introductory classes and other courses of instruction.

4 Questions to Ask When Prioritizing Emergency Preparedness Goals

photo by john.shultz
photo by john.shultz

Originally posted on my blog last January.

A new year is starting and that means the traditional time of making new goals for yourself. Hopefully you’ll add a few goals to be better prepared this year.

I keep an ongoing list of things I want to learn, do, and purchase for preparedness. I call it the “Big List” and keep it in a notebook in my purse. It keeps me working toward a goal and learning and preparing. But sometimes looking at the “Big List” is daunting. There is a lot on there! And it seems like every time I cross something off the list, I add two more things. How will I ever accomplish it all? And for sure how will I ever purchase it all on our little income?

This could be a cause of great anxiety and even bring on “preparedness panic shut-down” where you decide that rather than tackle that huge list, you’ll just put your rose colored happy glasses back on and do nothing. Because really, there’s no way you can get it all done and it’s causing stress just thinking about it.

Know anybody like that? Yeah, it happens.

So here are 4 questions to ask yourself to make prioritizing your goals easier when your preparedness to-do list seems a bit overwhelming. Continue reading “4 Questions to Ask When Prioritizing Emergency Preparedness Goals”

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag – Book Give Away

Back in May, I pre-ordered the book “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit”. When it arrived a short time later I read through it and was immediately impressed with the job the author Creek Stewart had done. As I was reading it the thought kept emerging that this book was exactly the sort of detailed how-to that we like to do here at Utah Preppers, but on a larger scale. As it turns out, the book initially started out as a blog post on the art of manliness blog. After receiving a good response, Creek decided to work on expanding the concept into a comprehensive how to guide.
Continue reading “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag – Book Give Away”