Product Review: What’s Better, Beef Jerky or Biltong?

When it comes to dried meat, jerky is an American stable. But how does it compare to biltong, the favorite snack food of South Africans?

This is not a review of a specific brand or flavor of dried meat, but more of a comparison between the two: Traditional jerky, often made from beef, and Biltong, a thinly sliced dried beef that is South African in origin.

Let’s look at them both:


Who among us has not enjoyed a chewy strip of beef jerky?  And I bet many of you have made your own, possibly with venison or another game. 

Ripping off a piece of beef jerky when on the trail makes me think back to our forefathers who probably did the same thing, possibly even on the same trail.  It seems to me to be a very traditional American trail food, but apparently the native Americans in both North and South America made jerky and it was adopted by both the Spanish Conquistidors and the early North American fur traders and settlers.

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Prepper Diary December 30: I Finally Buy a New Truck

We finally reached the point where it was getting tough to live without a pickup truck. They are just so useful around rural property.

It has been a long time since I talked about buying a pickup truck, but the big news around here is that yesterday I used check from our insurance and some money from the sale of our house and bought a 2021 Chevy Colorado. 

My “free” rental provided by the insurance company expired some weeks ago.  I didn’t worry about it over the holidays, but we are already running into situation where having a truck would be useful.  I’ve driven a pickup truck for 24 years and it became one of those things where we didn’t appreciate its utility until it was no longer there.

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Prepper Diary December 29: We Repair our Water System

Disasters never seem to happen when the weather is nice. We have to climb the mountain to repair our water system on a cold, wet, foggy day.

We ran out of water on Monday.

The water coming out of our faucets literally slowed down and then fell to a trickle.

I noticed while washing up after breakfast.  My wife had been doing laundry all morning, so I suggested she stop and we wait an hour to see if the water pressure recovered.

Nope.  An hour later and the water had stopped entirely.

All our water comes out of a spring, runs down a black polyethylene (PE) pipe to a storage tank.  A buried pipe brings the water from the tank down the 160 vertical feet to our house, giving us fresh, clean mountain spring water.  Something had clearly gone wrong with this system.

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COVID Threat Grows in the Media, If Not in Statistics

2020 was the year of the mask. No one is sad to see it go. Data shows COVID-19 growth slowed last week, even as media panic grows.

Christmas is only three days behind us yet a doctor from UCLA is saying that the holidays are – not could but are – creating a “viral wildfire.”  But let’s face it, COVID-19 was already pretty bad in Los Angeles. 

Meanwhile, Dr Fauci says we could see a “surge upon a surge.”  We just have to ask, where are the 9.5 million doses of vaccine that have been distributed? And why have only 2 million been given to patients? Could it be because many refuse to take it?  That seems to be a problem in Europe, where hospital staff members are refusing to take the vaccine.

 How quickly could we reduce the spread of the coronavirus if these unused doses were being administered more quickly?  Or if their use was focused in those counties with the highest infection rates? 

As you can imagine, cases continue to grow across the United States and to a lesser extent around the world but as you can see below, the growth is slowing, possibly as Christmas reduce the number of people tested.

Globally, we are approaching 81 million cases.  The U.S. represents close to a quarter of that global total with 19.1 million cases.  Globally, there have been approximately 1.77 million deaths, of which the U.S. accounts for approximately 19 percent, or in excess of 333,000.

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Prepper Diary December 27: Our Focus on the Temperature and the Wood Stove Continues

Our wood stove is cranking out the heat, keeping the cold at bay. The pile of red-hot coals generate the most heat while the logs that are burning brightly will soon be coals themselves.

I woke up at 3:56 a.m. Saturday, which is very unusual for me as I usually sleep straight through the night.  I figured I was worried about frozen pipes, so I padded into the bathroom flushed the toilet and ran some water in the sink.  It was 48 degrees in there.  Brrr!

I remembered years back when I lived in an apartment I rented for $150 a month while I was a junior in college. It was so cold inside you could see your breath in the bathroom.  When you bathed, you had to run the water on hot long enough that the steam would fill the room.  Only then could you dare to undress.  This wasn’t quite so bad in our bathroom, but it sure wasn’t good. 

I went to college close enough to Canada that you could drive there to buy beer.  That year, it snowed every day in January.  We don’t expect that kind of weather here, but both my wife and I have plenty of experience living in cold weather.  It’s just not recent experience. Still, we wanted to move somewhere it wasn’t so hot.  Looks like we can check off that box.

At 4 a.m. the upstairs fireplace was still burning merrily, so I added two more logs, ran downstairs, popped more wood in the stove, and went back to bed.  Thankfully, the covers were still warm, and I quickly fell back to sleep. 

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Prepper Diary December 26: Bitterly Cold Weather Brings Frozen Pipe Concerns

Wind chills drop to the negative teens and we work on keeping the house warm and preventing our pipes from freezing.

It’s c-c-c-cold out there!  Snow continued through Christmas Day as the wind increased and temperatures dropped.

As I write this late on Christmas night, our thermometer says it is 8 degrees F.  The local weather predicts an overnight low of 2 degrees with a wind chill in the negative teens.  Its a good time to be indoors by the fire!

In our unheated garage, which is attached to the house, it is 46 degrees.  In the spare bedroom, which we had closed off, it is almost 50 degrees.   (We opened the door to let it warm up.)  In the master bath, which has two outide walls, its 54.

In the main part of the house, the fireplace insert is struggling to keep the temperature at 68 degrees.  I have to keep reminding myself that in our old house, 68 was what we turned the thermometer to when we wanted it to warm up, and we slept with our bedroom at 62. 

In the basement, home of my man cave and the wood stove, the stove pipe thermometer read 350 degrees, but it is just 70 degrees in the room.  Still, when you come down stairs, you can feel the warm air rising up the stairwell. 

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May you have a Very Prepper Christmas

We are enjoyed a white Christmas, which is both a blessing and a little but of a curse when you live on a steep mountain. This is the time of year when you wish you owned a snow machine.

We are enjoying a white Christmas, as yesterday’s rain turned into snow late in the evening and has been blowing around every since.  Well, “enjoying” may be a bit of an exaggeration, as we woke to 12 degrees outside and 59 in the bedroom. It was definitely a morning to snuggle under the down comforter and stay in be a while longer.

Our plans for Christmas dinner with some of our new neighbors are postponed over concerns that some of the neighbors at the bottom of the mountain will not be able to make it up and down.  The Christmas gathering has been rescheduled for Saturday, but it would not surprise me if it gets pushed back to Sunday.

We celebrated Christmas early when my daughter was visiting, and now we are celebrating late with neighbors.  Today, I expect we will continue to eat leftovers and perhaps spend some quality time together in front of the crackling fire. 

However and with whomever you are celebrating, we wish you the best of holidays and encourage you to take a respite from the year that was 2020 and enjoy the day.  Turn off the news, log out of twitter and Facebook.  Spend time with the people who are present.

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This Christmas, Give a Gift to Someone You Don’t Know

On Christmas, even more than other days, we are thankful that we have so much when others have so little. Give a gift so someone you don’t know. Support a foodbank or other charity.

It is sad to think that on Christmas Eve that there are people out there without presents to give to their loved ones.  No way to tell someone how special they are other than with a hug and a kiss or a pat on the shoulder.  Just as sad to realize many do not even have enough food to enjoy Christmas dinner with their family.

Thankfully, there are charities that provide gifts for children when their parents cannot.  It is re-affirming when you see the relief a parent feels when they realize they can give their child a gift, thanks to your kindness. It is one less burden then have to face during a tough time of year.

There are also places that serve Christmas dinner and foodbanks that pass along groceries to the needy.  Tens of millions are taking advantage of their services this year, many for the first time.  But the problem goes beyond Christmas and Thanksgiving.  More than 27 million households in the U.S. “sometimes or often” do not have enough food to feed the family. 

Times like this remind us of two things: How lucky we are that we not only have enough food to feed ourselves today but have supplies put aside for months or even years, and how slippery the slope is.  The line between most of us who have enough and those of us who do not is getting thinner and thinner.

If you can afford to do so, join my wife and I in giving to support your local foodbank.  They will always accept food, but they can do even more good with cash.

If you cannot afford to do so, keep reading.

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Prepper Diary December 23: Adventures in Heating with Wood and Christmas Comes Early

We continue to learn while heating our house with wood, We also do some exploring of local general stores and other resources.

The winds were so brisk yesterday that it was difficult to keep the fires warm.  The wood was burning, but the wind must have been sucking all the heat up the chimney.  That was a new phenomenon for us.  Later, the wind died down and the stove got so hot, I added three new logs and the temp shot up as it started to burn.  I usually use oak, but there must have been some poplar or another lighter wood in there.  I had to close the flu and dial back the damper to cut off the oxygen supply.  I’ve never got the stove above 600 degrees before, but it was in the red zone on the stove pipe thermometer.

I’ve read that 500 degrees is a hot stove, 600 degrees is a very hot stove, and 700 degrees is over heated, something you want to avoid.  I avoided it by maybe 10 or 20 degrees, as you can see in the image.  Luckily I was working in the room next door and noticed in time.  A good reminder not to load your stove up and leave the area.  Also a demonstration of the value of a good stove thermometer.

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India Surpasses 10 Million Cases, UK Fears New Strain as COVID Advances Across the Globe

COVID-19 is setting records across the globe as countries battle just to hold heir ground against the encroaching virus. The UK is reportedly facing a new strain and we have to wonder where else it will spread.

The United States is closing in on 18 million cases of COVID-19 and has surpassed 318,700 deaths attributed to the coronavirus while global numbers are 77.1 million cases and 1.7 million deaths.  Globally, we are seeing Europe hold relatively steady while South and Central America seem to be seeing their infection rate climb. 

In the past week, India became the second country to pass the 10 million case mark.  Turkey surpassed 2 million and Italy is likely to do so this coming week.  Here’s a look at COVID-19 cases week over week:

COVID-19 case data for the week ending 12/21/20.  Data from Johns Hopkins.
COVID-19 case data for the week ending 12/21/20. Data from Johns Hopkins.
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