Pennsif’s Progress #569 – What resources do we have – cataloging our flora and fauna

We are blessed to live on 17 acres of Welsh mountainside.

Our property includes 2 streams, a lake, around a thousand standing mature trees and 10,000 younger trees that have been planted over the past 6 years.

We also have copious amounts of rock – welsh slate, granite and quartz to be precise.

Having not had chemicals used on the property for at least 20 years, and having not had any intensive grazing for 15 years, there is an amazingly rich and diverse ecology here.

I am not a permaculture expert, but I believe one of the principles is to make use of the resources you have on your own property first.

We have many resources. The obvious ones – wood, water, timber – are obvious and abundant. But at a more micro level I have little true knowledge of what we have here in terms of the massive treasure trove of flora and fauna.

I would like to remedy that.

So my plan is to commence a systematic documentation of all the flora and fauna on the property.

I will be starting with the plants. Partly because I have some small botantical experience, partly because they don’t move when you are trying to identify them, and partly because I am fascinated to know what potential medical and food resources lie forgotten and unrealised in our 17 acre organic floral haven.

Trees, plants and fungi will be included. The fungi particularly excite me.

We constantly find new fungi – and they are all so beautiful and tantalisingly tempted. I am sure there are riches unknown and untapped amongst our fungal friends.

I am hoping, with the help of @cryptocariad and the rest of the family, to make this a mixed media project with photographs, illustrations and possibly even video.

Our medicine chest and our pantry may never be the same.

Pennsif’s Progress #570 – I am how I buy – my quest for organics

Whenever and wherever possible we eat organic food.

A lot of it we can grow, but alas some of it we can’t.

What we can’t grow we have to buy.

There lies a problem and a dilemma. We live in a very rural part of Wales. Our nearest large towns are over an hour away by car. So our shopping choices are limited.

Especially for organic products.

There are a couple of small independent organic stocking shops in the area. But they are very expensive, have a small range and require the consumption of at least 6 litres of petrol to get there and back.

I chose organic both for health and for environmental reasons. So burning a lot of fossil fuel to obtain organic food seems rather nonsensical.

There is a local food bulk buying group that buys from Suma (a large national ethical food co-operative) that we participate in but it only orders every two months and there are other restrictions with it as well.

So we have reluctantly defaulted to online shopping for a number of organic products. We have dabbled with various online eco-store type sites but with heavy delivery charges the costs have been prohibitive.

The only easy-to-use and easy-on-the-wallet online source we have found for our organic needs has been Amazon.

But this grates badly with my purchasing ethics. Amazon is super efficient at what it does in terms of ecommerce mechanics – but that is where my admiration ends.

So I have constantly been on the look-out for new online sources.

Now I think I may have found one – PremCrest Ltd based in Bradford in the north of England. They are wholesalers of ethical and organic products. They sell in bulk so that helps bring the prices down considerably. And I have managed to sign up for an account.

I cannot find much about the company other than basic details of their directors and their recent financial accounts through a company checking service, but they do have an Ethics and Environment Policy :


That is rather run of the mill though – with no real mention of fair trade with suppliers etc. I suspect I would find something not too dissimilar if I searched on the Amazon site.

I would love to buy from local, independent, family-run type shops. As long as it doesn’t cost me too many arms and too many legs. Organic products are all at a premium as it is.

But the independent shops will buy from somewhere – so you can never be sure.

The only safe bet would be to buy from producers directly.  I did have a project called “Eat Who You Know“.

That was fun. More of that in another post…

For now I will try an order from PremCrest. Their prices are a good 40%+ cheaper than the nearest organic shops, and they tackle Amazon’s Subscribe & Save bulk prices head-on.

Maybe if I buy in bulk from PremCrest I can share round with other local organic eaters. Payment with steem or SBD would be cool. But alas the venn diagrams of organic eaters and active steemians don’t overlap round here.

More on PremCrest as the order unravels…


Pennsif’s Progress #573 – I go out to dine every day, and it doesn’t cost me a penny


One thing I like to do it each day is go out to dine.

But I don’t go far – usually just down our lane and into our fields.

I gorge myself on berries and leaves and buds and seeds.

Ever since I got a copy of the original edition of Richard Mabey’s excellent ‘Food for Free’ (now reprinted) I have been hooked on foraging.

I just love being able to graze on little bits of nature as I walk around our property.

Of course you have to be a bit careful of what you eat and where, but there are many excellent foraging books available as well as lots of great videos and articles online. And if you do have the opportunity to attend a local foraging course go for it.

My hit parade of favourite foragings varies with the seasons but three of my favourites at the moment are…

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)

As mentioned in yesterday’s blog me and the dog just love gobbling up the blackberries as we are out on our walks.

And we have lots of blackberries – wild and organic – all over our 17 acress, so we will never run out.

Nettles (Urtica dioica)

We have loads and loads and loads of nettles.

I started drinking nettle tea about three years ago. Then we started adding nettles to soaps. And then I got the idea from a @papa-pepper video of eating them raw as a green leaf. Tasty … and you will soon get the hang of picking them without getting stung.

Pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris)

This one I picked up on from a foraging course about 4 years ago.

This grows in good abundance along our rather shaded quarter mile long lane.

Pennywort is lovely and juicy and succulent. It tastes a bit like fresh peas.

It is definitely one of my favourites at the moment.

Foraging is a key skill…

For any prepper or would-be prepper.

Oddly they rarely seem to feature it in most post-apocalyptic / SHTF type movies. The main characters often seem to get close to starvation rather than grab any of the abundant free food all around them.

Learn to forage and you will never starve.

Pennsif’s Progress #577 – The Organic Goldmine and a three legged dog

Today we went for a trip to the seaside.

In fact to Aberaeron, a seaside town not so far from us.

We go there quite often as it is a nice little town with some nice little shops and an ice cream parlour that sells handmade honey ice-cream that used to be nice.

And today there was a three-legged dog.

Aberaeron is also a nice little town as it is so little that it doesn’t have a supermarket.

Instead it has a Costcutter – one of those small town convenience store chains that inhabit many towns around Britain.

We don’t normally do any shopping there as we have a couple of ‘proper’ supermarkets in our town that are considerably cheaper.

Today we thought we would pop in to check it out.

Wow, we were super surprised. They had a whole section dedicated to organic food, as well as various organic products scattered around the shop.

We are keen organic shoppers whenever we can afford organic and whenever we can find organic. Usually in our home town the pickings are quite sparse.

Who’d have thought it in little Aberaeron – this was definitely a case of judging by it its cover…

We grabbed and dashed and got a whole pile of organic goodies we hadn’t seen before.

I am particularly keen to try the Geo brand Thick Vegetable Stew.

Generally we would make our own but two of our daugthers are off to university in September so I am keen to find good quality, nutritious and ideally organic ‘ready meal’ type products we can stock them up with.

It has good ingredients, good nutrition ratings, is easy to prepare and it is not so expensive (£1.89 / US$2.40).

They might make good emergency uni-stocks for both.

Interestingly while looking online for more about this Geo product I found an interesting ethical wholesaler Premcrest. Maybe I can get an account with them to seriously cut down the costs on our organic purchases…


Another organic product that was particularly interesting was the organic bread. Thomas’s Bakery is a very traditional local business – not one I would have suspected of moving into making organic products.

On the way back from Aberaeron we popped into Blaencamel Organic Farm. They have a little shop in a shed selling surplus organic fruit and veg.

It was late in the day when we dropped by so there wasn’t much left but I was impressed by their polytunnels. They seem to sprout new ones every time we visit. Their business must be growing.

The future is bright. The future is organic…






Pennsif’s Progress #594 – My first day at the Food Bank

Today I started volunteering at the local Food Bank, or Banc Bwyd as it is known in Welsh.

From what I have seen of food banks in the big cities my local one is rather a low key affair.

The population of the town and surrounding catchment area is only about 3,000. There is certainly some unemployment and poverty in the area but it is quite well ‘contained’ so the ‘clients’ for the food bank are measured only in handfuls each week at most.

The foodbank is only open for business 3 days a week, staffed by a rota of volunteers mainly drawn from local churches.

I have just become one of the volunteers and today was my induction day. I will mainly be ‘on call’ for the food bank on Wednesdays.

When I am on call I will get a phone call when I client want to come to collect a supply of food. Then I have an hour to go to the supermarket to pick up sufficient bread, milk, spread, fresh fruit and vegetables according to the size of the client’s family and whether they have children or not.

Then I take the fresh goods back to the food bank HQ to make up the rest of the ‘food parcel’. The aim is to supply enough food for 3 meals for 3 days.

The food parcel is made up mainly of tinned and dried food, pasta, tinned meat meals, cereals, tea, coffee etc according to a prescribed menu structure. Parcels also include toilet rolls, toothpaste, soap, sanitary towels.

[This is not a photo of the current food bank supplies – it is about ten times more than this now.]

Clients (people needing food) are not allowed to contact the Food Bank directly – they have to be referred by one of the ‘agencies’ both third sector and local authority. Each agency is initially given 10 vouchers to use for people in need.

A client is only allowed a maximum of three food parcels in succession to cover any difficult, emergency situations. This is commonly when their benefit payments have been delayed. Then the agencies are supposed to have sorted out their situations.

The Food Bank has plenty of food. It is also has plenty of money from donations.

One of its biggest problems is ensuring the food stock gets rotated so the oldest is always used first. That is real prepper territory!

Alas no clients came today but it was fascinating to see how this food bank operates.

I see all things nowadays through steem-tinted spectacles – but I am so far struggling to see any steem angle on a food bank.

I suspect there is but I just need to think this through a bit harder.

Just for interest I saw this recent article in a leading British newspaper about food banks…

On the way home from the food bank I visited another local charity who are going to make use of a dozen leverarch files I no longer need.

Steem did slip into the conversation and they are keen to sign up.

That has given me a whole new idea.

But it is 3am now so that will have to wait for my next post…




Pennsif’s Progress #606 – Dreaming of nothing, or very little at least

I love organising. I love sorting out. I love getting rid of things.

I dream of a being a minimalist.

But I am a prepper. I have a wife and three children. I run a business. I accumulate things.

Lots of things.

Accumulate | Hoard. There is a dangerous line between those two words.

As I prepper I accumulate. You need to store as much as you can of most things.

The key I believe is good organisation.

Organisation helps you find things when you need them, and it stops you repeat buying when you don’t need to.

Two of my main areas of prepping storage are food and medical.

For food we have food ‘layers’ of food storage :

  • short life, perishable fresh food for current usage
  • longer shelf-life and dried goods for current and medium term usage
  • bulk canned and other long shelf life goods for medium and long term storage
  • freeze dried good and MREs for long term storage

We have a pantry but that is full to bursting. The overflow is currently rather scattered around the house which is not good.

That needs to improve and get sorted very, very soon. It is important to have it well organised so I know what we have and we keep on top of stock rotation.

I am going to cover what I have in my medical supplies in a more detailed post in my medical prepping series but we do have a growing inventory of medical preps. First aid supplies, vitamins, water purification tablets, and more ‘precious cargo’ like antibiotics.

Currently these are all stored in two separate locations in plastic storage boxes. Not too bad but some stock-taking is definitely needed.

What about everything else…?

Clothes, books, business records, tools, craft supplies…. and all those bits and pieces that you just don’t want to get rid of.

I am not big on clothes, and this is the one area I can probably reach minimalist nirvana quite quickly. I have specific targets of how many of each clothing item I need and I quite ruthlessly send any surplus that is worn out or doesn’t fit to recycling.

Books are a more difficult one for me. I have a pretty ample library. But it badly needs sorting.

Business records are currently getting heavily chopped. I have everything stored electronically so a lot is going now.

Because the shelf holding the business files was collapsing my youngest daughter helped me fix it today. To do so we had to remove all the files. As there were returned to their after the repair heavy culling took place – almost a half of got the recycling chop.

That felt good.

As well as the efficiency gains, organising, sorting out and throwing out makes me feel good and lifts my spirit.

It makes me feel a little bit more that I control life, and not the other way round.

This summer’s project, with my youngest daughter on the payroll, is to really go on an organising and minimalising purge.

You won’t recognise the place come September.

So much will be gone. So much will be better. And I will be feeling on top of the world.

You might also be interested in some of my other posts :

[ main graphic from // food tins photograph by @pennsif ]

Pennsif’s Progress #611 – Letting nature do its thing

I hadn’t visited the old orchard for two or severathree months now.

I moved the chickens from there to the new compound before Christmas.

We did some winter pruning in late February then I left it.

This old orchard has not been very productive for a more than a decade.

It was overcrowded, rather shaded, poorly situated, and suffered badly from a goat attack several years back when we were out one day.

We had rather abandoned it as fruit producing territory and been busily planting new fruit trees in more favourable locations around the homestead.

But there are still around 18 fruit trees in this old orchard – mainly apples but also a few plums, pears and greengages.

Two winters ago we began a program of restorative pruning. The big old holly tree that was blocking so much sunlight getting in was cut down to size.

Then we left this old orchard to its own devices.

This evening we happened to be walking with the puppy around the area and wow…

All the apple trees are heavily laden with fruit, there are greengages en masse, the plums look promising and only the pears have failed to prosper this year. But to compensate for the lack of pears we did find some blackcurrant bushes bursting with ripe and juicy blackcurrants.

Now we just dearly need some good rain to help swell up the fruits and we will have an orchard of true abundance.

The place looks abandoned and unkempt. I have not done my gardeners duty to keep it in good order.

But nature has done its job.

Nature is wonderful, nature is resilient, nature is what we need, nature is what we must respect.

You might also be interested in some of my other posts :

[ all images by @pennsif ]

Pennsif’s Progress #628 – food security – my three pronged approach

I am a prepper first and foremost.

Being a homesteader for me is a key part of my prepping strategy.

Growing my own food is frontline for my food security plans.

If the bad times come and the supermarkets are emptied, as long as the sun keeps shining, the rains keeping falling and the soil doesn’t blow away I will keep growing.

There were several other reasons why we moved to our homestead in Wales nearly 20 years ago but having land to grow was one great big part of that equation.

I know though growing our own food won’t always be enough. Although we are moving towards almost full independence on vegetables, there are food production areas such as grains and fruit that will always be more difficult with our land and our climate.

Of course we will always be at the mercy of the weather, and pests and… my health for example.

So we definitely need more than one layer for our food security.

Food stockpiling and long term food storage are areas we are continually developing.

I would really like to grow our skills and facilities for canning but that is still in its infancy for us.

We’ve been making sauerkraut successfully with our surplus cabbage, and we have done quite a bit of dehydrating.

Freezing is our default, fall-back quick and easy method for preserving surplus fruit and veg.  We did use that a lot last summer and we had frozen veg from our garden for several months into the winter.

But we are still not producing enough from the garden to build large stocks and relying on electricity consuming freezers is not ideal.

Food Stockpiling

I do therefore take the ‘commercial’ food stockpiling route. I regularly make trips to a nearby trade cash and carry that I

have got an account with.

The choice of what to stockpile is always an issue but I generally look for long shelf life ‘neutral’ products like tinned fruit, beans, soups etc.  I also look out for good offers as well.

Tinned fish (especially sardines, tuna and sild) used to be firm favourites as protein sources but since I have become vegetarian / almost vegan that needs a bit of a rethink.

I also keep an eye open for good bargains in supermarkets – buy one get one free type offers etc. Amazon’s Subscribe and Save scheme with 15% discounts can be worth checking out as well.

I have also added cheap vitamins to our stocks recently.

All this I would class as the near/medium term food stocking strategy.

Currently we hold around 6 months food supplies. Which combined with what we grow and produce on the homestead I think could see us through 2 or maybe 3 years of society breakdown type food shortages.

I would very much like to increase our stockpiles and continually improve our food production resilience to head towards a five year food security setup.

Should we plan for longer?

That is an interesting question… they never seem to in the movies.

But when I look at some of the more hardcore prepper videos online, particularly from the USA, I really think I need to get to my act together and prep on hard.

Alas long term freeze-dried food is more difficult, and I believe a lot more expensive, to obtain in the UK than in the USA.

However I have been dipping our toes in the water and bit by bit buying supplies from Mountain House, LDS, Wise Company etc.

We still though only have maybe 3 months of long term supplies at best.

This will need some more serious investigation, trialing and budgeting to build up.

With the cost of freeze-dried foods I have even thought of investing in freeze-drying equipment. But that is only a fanciful idea at present.

So this is where I have got to with our family’s food security program.

Further along than most of the population I suspect but still a long way short of where I want us to be.

PS – while writing this I thought of another valuable element of a food security policy – foraging. But that needs a post of its own.

And what about scavenging…

And what about security !!!   If we’ve got food and the others haven’t, what comes next… Too scary to think for the moment.

You might also be interested in some of my other posts :

[ all images by pennsif ]

Pennsif’s Sustainability Curation Digest for MSP – week ending 24 June 2018

Another week as Sustainability Curator for the Minnow Support Project and another great bunch of sustainability related posts.

Keep them coming, I’m learning loads.

And it is great fun too !

So here are five more most excellent posts…

My Five Picks of the Week

How To Make Cold Without A Fridge by @taliakerch

What do you do in a hot country with no fridge, and you have fresh food to keep cold?

Nigerian teacher Mohammed Bach Abbah came up with a very clever idea… and won $100,000 for doing so.

@taliakerch reveals all in her post…

Emergency repairs on one of our milk goats by @wwf

What do you when your milking goat tears her udder, and you can’t afford an expensive vet?

You use good hygiene, your personal medical skills, the resources you have to hand and some accumulated knowledge to fix it yourself.

White Walking Feather @wwf tells how he and @carey-page overcame their fears and successfully treated their wounded goat…

Creating a Guinea Fowl Alarm System by @brimwoodfarm

How can you protect your chickens from predators when you can’t be there to watch over them?

You set up a guinea fowl alarm system.

Geoff at @brimwoodfarm tells us how he is rearing guinea fowl as guardians for his chickens…

Original Pictorial details of how I do my own outstanding rabbit barbeque (Step by step) by @matthewthonyit

Rabbits are a compact, low maintenance popular meat animal amongst homesteaders.

Once you have dispatched them what do you do next?

Matthew @matthewthonyit gives step by step instructions on how he prepares his outstanding rabbit barbeque…

Hot Process Soap Making – How-To by @powellx5

As a homesteader making your own soap is a great skill to learn.

It it definitely on my short list of things to learn as soon as I have time.

@powellx5 provides an excellent step by step on how to get started…

I will be on the lookout now for posts to include in this weekly Sustainability Curation Digest.

I am also always seeking out new guests for the Alternative Lifestyle Show that I host on MSP Waves Radio every Friday.

If you haven’t listened to the show before you can hear last week’s episode here :

If you are interesting in coming on the show, or if you have suggestions for suitable posts for this digest, feel free to comment below, or contact me on Discord @Pennsif#9921.

I also run a charitable giving project called A Dollar A Day – you can read more about that here :

I am looking for more projects to support with that and I am particularly interested in finding some sustainability / renewables related projects.

The Minnow Support Project has multiple curators that pick five posts from under-valued minnows each week to highlight through MSP3k. This way MSP and PAL can promote new writers and content creators on Steemit, and in effect reward them for doing a superior job.

[ header graphic by @pennsif // images from @taliakerch, @wwf, @brimwoodfarm ]

Pennsif’s Sustainability Curation Digest for MSP – week ending 17 June 2018

Another week as Sustainability Curator for the Minnow Support Project and I am really enjoying this.

I am picking up so many fascinating and informative posts it really brings home to me the massive potential that steem has to educate, inform and promote sustainability in all its forms.

And it is giving me new ideas all the time. I just wish I had more time to put those ideas into practice !

So here are five more most excellent posts, and a couple of extra nearly-there’s for good measure…

The Five that made it … the Picks of the Week

Is Homesteading Right For You? by @awesomehomestead

A big topic to kick off.

People become homesteaders for all sorts of reasons. But there is usually a little bit of seeking the idyllic life in there somewhere.

@awesomehomestead brings it down with a bump when he looks at some of the harsh realities of homesteading. Check out his post to see if you have what it takes to make it as a homesteader…

The Annual Freezer Inventory by @goldenoakfarm

A big part of prepping and homesteading is being organised. Knowing what you have, where it is and it needs to be used by.

@goldenoakfarm has definitely nailed it when comes to keeping track of what is in her freezers. I am super impressed, and just a little bit envious. One day I’ll get there.

If you want to see how it should be done take a read [email protected]’s post…

DWC Hydroponics in the Greenhouse by @liberyworms

Hydroponics is something I really want to get to grips with at some point soon. But it always seems just a bit too complicated and a bit too fiddly to get right.

@liberyworms has got it sorted. Check out their post if you want to see their hydroponics setup …

My Visit to the University of Benin Fish Farm for my Training by @abiye

This is moving up a scale. Fish farming at a commercial level. @abiye is learniing how this is done.

His post will tell you more…

Laundry Liquid with Essential Oils – the Sunshine Recipe! by @buckaroo

Making your own domestic cleaning materials is definitely stepping up your game on the homesteading front.

It it definitely a good step to make. Who knows the cumulative effect of all the chemicals in the commercial products.

Learn to make your own laundry liquid with @buckaroo’s post…

The Three that didn’t quite … the Honorable Mentions

Aside from the five posts that made it into the top picks of the week, here are three that were close, but not quite close enough.

They are all definitely worth a read and a vote for good measure…

  • Soft & Wholesome Golden Carrot Bread – Disguising Veggies to Nourish Your Family! by @woman-onthe-wing
  • [email protected]
  • The Homestead Kitchen : Making Rhubarb Three Ways (Juice/Fruit Leather & Dried Pieces) by @walkerland

I will be on the lookout now for posts to include in this weekly Sustainability Curation Digest.

I am also always seeking out new guests for the Alternative Lifestyle Show that I host on MSP Waves Radio every Friday.

If you haven’t listened to the show before you can hear last week’s episode here :

If you are interesting in coming on the show, or if you have suggestions for suitable posts for this digest, feel free to comment below, or contact me on Discord @Pennsif#9921.

I also run a charitable giving project called A Dollar A Day – you can read more about that here :

I am looking for more projects to support with that and I am particularly interested in finding some sustainability / renewables related projects.

The Minnow Support Project has multiple curators that pick five posts from under-valued minnows each week to highlight through MSP3k. This way MSP and PAL can promote new writers and content creators on Steemit, and in effect reward them for doing a superior job.

[ images from @pennsif, @walkerland, @rakkasan84 ]

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