When is canned food unsafe to eat?

When buying stocks from the grocery, avoid dented and rusted cans. You won’t be able to store them for long. However, if the cans are in good condition, the food inside should be safe for storage indefinitely. Canned food gone bad – Do you know all 8 signs? Continue Reading

Don’t have time to can? Try the refrigerator pickle method

If you don't have time to get into canning, try the refrigerator pickle method. I've made some nice atchara, pickled peppers and pickled onions this way. In my experience, they last much longer than a month and get sweeter as they age. I usually do this whenever we get more veggies than we can finish. It's a good way to quickly preserve food that would otherwise spoil. Here are a few starter guides:
  • http://misswish.com/pickle-recipe
  • http://www.marthastewart.com/317530/refrigerator-pickles
  • http://www.organicgardening.com/cook/refrigerator-pickles
After you've tried it a few times, do a web search for some recipes and start experimenting. The great thing about refrigerator pickles is that special canning equipment isn't necessary. You can boil the brine in a small pan and reuse old leftover jars from supermarket-bought items. Continue Reading

Rainwater catchment techniques used in Hawaii

With so many techniques and case-studies for building rainwater catchment systems available, it's a wonder why we have to suffer water shortages in the Philippines. The University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources has detailed guidelines on building a rainwater catchment system. Since the Philippines faces similar environmental challenges, many of the recommendations can apply to us. The document covers practical areas such as:
  • Design and building materials to be used
  • Types of water tanks
  • Placement of water runoff to avoid undermining foundations
  • Dealing with water contamination from dead animals, organic decomposition and acid rain
  • Water treatment and testing
You can download the document from their website.
Image of homestead in Hawaii with rainwater catchment system

Preventing mosquito infestation

Mosquito breeding and infestation is a major concern in tropical climates like the Philippines. Nonoy Oplas commented on our Prepare Manila Facebook group, "Some [Philippine] households use the basic tech--which are huge drums storing rain water. Problem is that after just a few days, mosquitoes invade these drums, and thousands of new mosquitoes will come out a few days after, and malaria, dengue, other mosquito-borne diseases can expand." The first-flush diverters, screens and gutter guards detailed in the document are supposed to help prevent mosquito infestation. Philippine versions are probably prone to mosquito breeding because they rarely use these additions. Also, local maintainers may lack basic education and housekeeping practices. In almost any city, town and village, I see many sources of standing water where people don't bother to clear up buckets and junk like tires, old plastic containers and boxes. According to my research, there are some simple practices for preventing mosquitoes from breeding:
  1. Emptying any water holding containers
  2. Regularly cleaning gutters
  3. Fitting rain heads, flap valves and mesh gutter guards
  4. Installing a first flush water diverter to help prevent particles, eggs and larvae from reaching the main system
  5. Using mesh screens and ensuring they're in good repair
  6. Using mosquito repellants such as citronella grass
This video from Rainharvesting.com gives an overview of these practices. Continue Reading

Water storage for condo dwellers

Water is always at the top of any disaster preparedness list as it's essential for survival. The generally accepted guideline is to set side 4 liters (1 gallon) of water per person, per day, for drinking and sanitation. Keep in mind that in a tropical country like the Philippines, even the slightest physical exertion is going to leave you dripping with perspiration, thereby causing your body to lose valuable water reserves. While water storage options are readily available, the biggest problem is that they tend to be bulky and need cycling to prevent a build up of harmful bacteria. This can be especially problematic in condo units where space is a premium. Being a condo dweller in Metro Manila with a wife and water-intensive baby, I know first-hand how difficult this can be. The solution I've found is to keep water caches in locations where they have practical every-day use. For example, a plastic jerry can with tap kept by the kitchen sink acts as water storage. Once in a while, we use it for washing dishes before topping up the jerry can with fresh tap water. Plastic jerry cans for water storage The clear plastic jerry can in the picture above holds 20 liters, which is enough to last one person for around 5 days. The blue plastic jerry cans hold just over 6 liters each. These can be purchased from hardware stores like Ace Hardware and True Value. (The 20 liter can was approximately Php300 and the blue 6 liter cans are Php49.) We also keep additional jerry cans in a cupboard and bottled mineral water in the fridge and pantry, as well as a balde (water bucket) in the shower. In total, I estimate that my wife, baby and I can go almost two weeks just using the stored water in our one-bedroom condo unit.

Note: be sure to store as much of your water as possible at floor level. If stored high up, such as on shelving, movement during an earthquake could cause them to fall. This not only risks injuring someone but also means you lose some of your water reserves. Continue Reading