Building Skills

This page contains ongoing updates about my goal of my skill building projects. My goals are in black and the updates are in red! You may want to read my original post or visit my PreppingMom profile a 13Skills. If you haven't already, you can get your own profile and set your goals at

Beekeeping — In Progress

Become proficient in my beekeeping abilities. I already have one Top Bar hive with an active colony. I took a beekeeping class in the spring of 2011, however, I got the colony this past spring, 2012, and since have not done anything with it. I feel like I need a mentor or perhaps need to take another class. Skills I want to develop: 1. Learn to inspect the hive. 2. Learn how to make a new queen. 3 Learn how to identify parasites. 4. Learn how to take honey. 5. Build 2 more top bar hives once I have done the other four things. Items 1 - 4 by June 2013. Item 5 done by the end of 2013 to populate in 2014.

December 24, 2012 - Checked on the bees. We have been getting a lot of rain and wind. The outside of the hive has really been challenged so I wanted to check the inner portion. I took off the outer lid and the inside was nice and dry. Bees were gathered around the entrance as if not really wanting to leave the hive even though it was a nice warmish sunny day. 

Bees coming out - is it spring yet?

January 17, 2013 - Checked on the bees today. We have had FREEZING weather for about 3 1/2 weeks. The bees have been stuck in their hive and so I have been a bit concerned if they are surviving. Today was warmish - 60s - and they were out! Yea! So far so good. Got on the internet and downloaded a PDF on a month by month chart on beekeeping. That was most helpful and I will be following it from now on. 

February 18, 2013 - Last sunny day before we get another couple of days of rain. The bees have been coming and going for a few weeks. Have seen them in the container "pond" getting a drink of water the last couple of days. 

A bee gets a drink!
This morning I observed them at the hive entrance as they were coming back in - with pollen on their legs! That means there is something "out there" blooming and so they are also gathering nectar. We are getting closer to a time when we can take some of their leftover winter honey supply!  

Bee with pollen!
They are just the most interesting creatures. I'm excited to get into the hive to take a look at what has been going on over the winter. I plan to call a fellow beekeeper to see if he will mentor me through the process. It is time to start thinking about expanding this hive or building a couple of others. Bee ordering time is just a month away!

April 2, 2013 - Blog update - Beautiful Buzzing Bees

Mushroom CultivationCompleted

Research how to safely forage for mushrooms. 1. Take the mushroom workshop. 2. Learn to identify 5 edible and 5 poisonous mushrooms. 3. Learn how to dry mushrooms and how to prepare them. 4. Learn how to grow mushrooms on my property from transplant or buy a kit.

December 9, 2012 - Attended the Nevada City Mushroom Exposition (which I blogged here and was actually a TSP community meet up) where they had workshops and lots of wild mushrooms on display. Purchased two types of mushroom plugs and an indoor mushroom growing kit. View lots of mushroom youtube videos and learned how to get spores from mushrooms from the grocery store, prepare a growing bed, and produce mushrooms! 

Oyster Mushrooms from purchased kit!
December 20, 2012 - Started saving our used coffee grounds for a mushroom growing medium. Purchased some regular white mushrooms at the grocery store to experiment with using the technique I saw on youtube. 

December 25, 2012 - Mushrooms are growing out of my purchased kit! My daughter cautioned that I not let them make spores as some people who have, later find mushrooms growing in cracks and crevices through their house. Well, then, we'll just have to eat them! =)

Edible Honey Mushrooms

January 2, 2013 - Found a cluster of mushrooms on our wooded lot while out gathering kindling. Took pictures and contacted Daniel at Dancing Pines Farms. He identified them as edible Honey Mushrooms. They act like okra when cooked. I'm thinking that drying them, powdering them up, and then using them as a thickener in cooking. Seems like if it works it would be a good substitute for corn starch. 


January 18, 2013 - Harvested the first flush of mushrooms from my Oyster cup and now I see another bunch coming on. I let the first ones put spores all over a colored piece of paper that I plan to put in some growing medium and see if I can get them to reproduce. Will be a good experiment at least!

January 26, 2013 - The second flush of Oyster mushrooms in the cup are getting big. I took another styrofoam cup, added coconut coir and coffee grounds and then cut up the colored paper with the spores and put them into the coir/coffee medium. Sealed all with the lid. Now to wait, hope there is no mold and the mushrooms will grow!

February 10, 2013 - Nothing growing in the cup with the colored paper and spores, but no mold either! Not sure what to do except just leave it and wait! 

February 26, 2013 - Have now harvested the second flush and dried both. I just let them air dry and that seemed to work. I'm thinking of getting some from the grocery store and slicing and dry them in my dehydrator for long term food storage.

April 2, 2013 - Nothing has come of the spores on the colored paper. Some mold like substance did grow around the rim but nothing in the medium. This leaves me to believe that the coffee grounds and coconut coir is an acceptable medium, just the spores on the paper were not viable. This concludes my mushroom skill for my 13Skills. It was fun and I learned alot! Next year I will do another project with mushrooms.


Food Storage — In Progress

A. Inventory current food stored. Assess what I have to determine what I need for six people for a year. Complete by end of December 2012. B. Organize current area for food storage to accommodate enough food for a year. Build shelves, rotating racks, etc. Complete by end of January 2013. C. Begin building toward a three month supply, then toward a six month, nine months, and finally twelve months for six people. Complete by end of December 2013.

December 17 & 18, 2012 - Got on the internet and searched for food storage forms and ideas. Came up with two and then I made my own worksheets. Went through the upstairs pantry and the downstairs storage area and inventoried all the food we currently had. Decided what we needed to bring it up to our projected three month supply.

December  20, 2012 - First shopping trip out to begin filling toward our three month target. Milk powder is expensive! $16.00 for a 4 pound box! Will really have to get on that trip to Chico and the LDS Family Food Storage Facility! Did get some canned fruit, ramen noodles, fruit drink pouches, bulk whole wheat, etc.

January 18, 2012 - Wow, not much progress on this goal. I have been buying extra every week, but haven't made any head way on getting the shelves up or making the rotating racks. Only have two weeks left to do that so this is a good head's up! =) 

January 24, 2012 - Bought 2 bags of white rice, twenty pounds each, for $10.99 a bag. LDS Home Storage Center (Cannery) has 25 pounds for $12.00 - but I would have to drive an hour and fifteen minutes to get there - so for the savings in time and gas this was a better deal. Suggested 3 month supply for one adult is 10 pounds and I'm storing for 4 so those two bags are enough. I actually have LOTS of rice already stored, but wanted to take advantage of this price. Yea!

Composting — In Progress

A. Set up a indoor worm composting continuous flow system to take care of kitchen waste. 1. Buy bin, pvc pipe, and coconut coir. 2. Complete "build" of the bin and install growing medium. 3. Buy and install worms. 4. Finish project by January 2013.

December 2012 - Decided on the composting system. Changed my idea on how to build it. Hubby said he would contact his "worm man" and purchase me a pound of worms for Christmas!

December 23, 2012 - While doing some last minute Christmas shopping I found "the worm bin". It's black with a swinging lid and is huge at 17.3 gallons! Yea! 

January 4, 2013 - Found a ton of worm stuff on the internet. Pinned much of what I found to my Pinterest board "Worms". Need to remind hubby to call the worm man again! 

Jaurary 11, 2013 - The worm man called and said the best thing to do was go to Kmart as he had just delivered 250 worms packaged 50 to a plastic cup - 99 cents each cup! BARGAIN! So I took them all. I have them in a larger container - not the actual bin I will be using as I don't have that done yet!

January 26, 2013 - Finally bought the PVC pipe to finish the worm bin. Hopefully will get it assembled tomorrow! The worms are doing just fine in their temporary home, but definitely need to get them into their permanent home soon.   

Completed Worm Bin
February 2, 2013 - Finally took the time to make the "flow through worm bin". I think it turned out well. It was easier to do than you might imagine. Hubby provided the spade bit so I could make the holes for the pvc pipes. I decided not to drill the small holes at the top of the bin, but will just keep the top ajar and that should provide enough ventilation. Checked the worms this morning (2-5-13) and they are doing fine!

February 10, 2013 - Fed the worms today. Everything looks great. Phase one of my composting goal completed!

February 19, 2013 - Tutorial posted on blog with photos and explanation on constructing a Flow Through Worm Bin!

B. Set up outdoor composting system using existing 3' x 3' bins using materials from our property,i.e. leaves, shredded tree trimmings, and horse manure from neighbor. 1. Set up three bins. 2. Get manure from neighbor. 3. Gather leaves and shredded trimmings. 4. Layer materials into first bin. Complete project by May 2013. 

Slingshot Shooting — In Progress

Get a good quality slingshot and learn to use it. Practice weekly and be able to hit a target accurately from 25 feet.

December 15, 2012 - Talked to hubby about getting me a good slingshot for Christmas. He thinks we may already have one, however it will need new elastics. If he doesn't come up with one soon, I pursue it again.

January 18, 2013 - Need to talk to hubby about the slingshot again! 

January 26, 2013 - Gave up on hubby's slingshot, and while at Big 5 today to get my son a new fishing license, bought one for myself. Also bought two bags of marbles at the $ store. Came up with a target system - PVC pipes made into a "goal post" configuration with the addition of a cross piece over the top as well as one in the middle. From the two cross pieces dangle aluminum pie pans (got 10 at the $ store) of different sizes and at different heights. That way WHEN I hit one I'll hear it and see it! I'll pound some rebar into the ground and slide the ends of the PVC over it so I can take it down and store it when not in use. I'm excited about getting started!

February 2, 2013 - A few years ago I watched Rufus Hussey, The Bean Shooter Man, on a Carolina Camera Youtube video. I was amazed. Last week I watched several other youtube videos on slingshots and decided that I wanted to perfect my abilities using the "long draw technique". I saw one that suggested a "catchment" to keep from losing my marbles and so made the "goal post" set up with the dangling pans backed by a tarp. After shooting for a while, it became evident that I just needed to have one target at the ground level and to shoot at it until I could get some accuracy going. It was really fun and I will keep practicing to improve.

Aquaponics —In Progress

Build an experimental/starter aquaponics system. 
1. Use existing fish tank, air pump, water pump, and tubing. 
2. Obtain growing bin, floating raft, grow baskets, plumbing parts, and goldfish. 
3. Complete project by March 2013.

February 10, 2013 - Gathered up all the aquarium parts and pieces from the 5 gallon tank the girls used to have set up. Cleaned everything up and moved them out to the greenhouse where I set it up on a wire three shelf plant stand. Filled the tank with water and started the filtration pump - and it still works! Found that one of the rectangular planters from the dollar store is just the right size to sit on top of the aquarium. Had a piece of styrofoam from a solar collector project that I cut down to fit inside the planter as the floating raft. Cut four holes into the styrofoam using a bulb planter - perfect size for the four recycled yogurt containers to sit into. Cut slits all around the containers for the "basket" effect so water can flow in and out and the roots can grow out into the water. Have to come up with a grow medium and buy the goldfish. Will be transplanting some of the lettuce and spinach I started in the "Seed Starting Station" I videoed. 


February 16, 2013 - Visited my local "hydroponics" store. I think they mostly "deal" in weed customers. =) But, the gal was helpful and I decided to get the expanded clay for growing medium along with a 15/45 on/off timer. Set up what I have, but decided to get a bigger bin and then will complete making the siphon and other parts to get water from the tank into the bin and back to the tank. Have the lettuce in the expanded clay in the smaller bin and am watering by hand. Put a florescent curley bulb in the light hood and it sits perfectly on the bin and the light covers all the plants. I will rig up something to move it higher as the plants grow.

Experimental Aquaponics Setup - To Date!
February 21, 2013 - Went to town today to purchase a bigger 12 x 18 inch bin and some goldfish for the tank. At the pet store I talked to the helpful fish attendant and explained my need of fish for my 5 gallon aquarium to do an aquaponics setup. He thought it would be best to start with a "sacrificial" ONE. So I have a very lonely ONE goldfish in my tank. (Can you see him bottom left?) If he lasts a week I can safely get a few more!

February 24, 2013 - Watched a few Youtube videos by Santa Cruz Survivors and visited Slow Down Farm, both doing 13Skills Aquaponics. SDF recommended Olomana Gardens videos. Whoa - a whole universe just opened up! OG pumps water using air! Wow! And, they have this system of doing worm casting tea that automatically gets added to the grow beds. Awesome! I love the tinkering aspect of permaculture. I'm glad I haven't totally built my system as now I'll be looking into adding some of these features to my mini system!

Fiber Arts — Planned

Make a space for quilting and textiles in the  outbuilding. 1. Set up space with sewing machine, quilt frame, spinning wheel, and weaving looms. 2. Organize storage of textile supplies including fabric, thread, yarn, etc. 3. Produce - Make one baby sized or lap sized quilt a month. Make Kelsey's wedding quilt. Spin and weave one project.

January 18, 2012 - Did a blog post about this. It is still too cold here to do anything in the outbuilding as it is not heated. I thought about using the kerosene heater, and may when it is warms up, but it would just not do a good enough job right now. I will be content to do other things - like get on the food storage goal! =)

Beer Making — Planned

A. Become more proficient in my beer making. 1. Make a new batch of beer at least once a month, April through October. 2. Research and make beer from the grain. 3. Plant, grow, and harvest hops during the 2013 growing season. B. Research and make at least one batch of mead fall 2013. C. Reactivate the wine yeast, learn how to use it to make hard apple cider, and make at least one batch fall 2013. D. Continue making Kombucha once a week. 

January 20, 2013 - Have continued to make Kombucha. I'm only doing a gallon at a time now (was doing 3 gallons) as that is about all I'm consuming. It takes a bit longer for it to finish off to the right amount of sweetness as it is cooler in the house - ranges from 63 to 67 degrees. 

Cooking —In Progress

Continue research and then build rocket stove/oven during the summer of 2013. Make bread at least twice a week using either the kitchen oven, solar oven, or outdoor oven.

May 3, 2013 - I've been doing research on different outdoor "rocket kitchens" for inspiration on what I would like to build. I did a blog post on what I've found so far. 

I've started baking bread again. I have found the easiest way to keep up with it is to do two loaves at once in my bread machine on the dough cycle. "All" I have to do is dump in all the ingredients, select dough cycle, and push start. An hour and forty minutes later I have the dough to put into the bread pans for a 30 to 40 minute rise and then bake in the oven of my choice. The solar oven is available again, but the kitchen oven is on the fritz. I've been using the portable electric oven/roaster and that works pretty well. Would love to have the outside rocket kitchen available, but alas, that is still a dream!

Curing/Smoking meats — Planned

Learn more about curing meats for long term storage including corned beef, naturally smoking ham and bacon, and naturally curing pepperoni and summer sausage.

Freeze Drying Food — Planned

Investigate how to freeze dry food. (Can this even be done at home?) If it can be done, learn how.

Herbal Remedies — Planned

Research 2 simple herbal remedies for common applications. Learn how to grow the herbs and plant them. Acquire ingredients and make them before the end of the year. Research 2 simple salves or balms for common applications.Acquire ingredients and make them before the end of the year.


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