Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2004

There are several things I have learned through the years about operating your family freezer that helps cut the cost down a little. Rule number 1 is always label and date everything that goes into your freezer.

As your freezer starts getting empty replace the extra room with a milk jug full of water. Allowing an inch or two at the top of the jug for expansion. Keep adding these jugs as the freezer empties out. A freezer full of ice costs a whole lot less to operate then one that is half empty.

You also will have ice for the whole summer and will not have to buy ice each time you go fishing. Thoroughly wash out these jugs prior to using and in the event you are out camping you also can use these ice jugs as a water supply as they unthaw. In the event we have a power outage and no water you can also use these as a water supply around the house. They will also help keep your freezer contents cold in an event of an extended power outage.

You could easily add a week to keeping your freezer contents cold if you have more ice in your freezer then you have empty spaces. As you get close to salmon fishing season each year take all your left over salmon out of your freezer and either smoke it or can it to prevent it from freezer burn or getting lost in the bottom of your freezer for several years. Properly wrapped fish will easily last 1 year in your freezer without having any visible damage to it. Any left over meat after a year should also be canned as it gives you an excuse every spring to sort through your freezer and remove whatever is left over from the year before.

I have canned meat and fish of all kinds in both quarts and pints at 10-LB pressure for 90 minutes for over 20 years and never had any problems or any unhappy consumers. In the fall when you're putting in your vegetables be sure to keep them separate from the rest of your meat and fish to prevent them from getting beat up in the freezer and also to hopefully get them used up first. They seem to have a little less freezer life then other items, besides why not eat them as fresh as you can, you can always buy fresh stuff later after your freezer supply is gone.

After wrapping them, if you put the packages in a black garbage bag in your freezer they seem to freezer burn a whole lot less. Please don't ask me why because I'm really not sure what this does. I do know that I unwrapped different items that had been in Billy Spires freezer for 3 to 4 years and those packages that were placed in black garbage bags or simply had the packages wrapped in black plastic were not freezer burned at all! I am not advising you to wrap your food in black garbage bags where the food is touching the garbage bags. I'm urging you to try putting your freezer packages, whatever kind they might be, in black plastic.

Those of us who frequent the outdoors especially those who go on fly-in hunting or fishing trips know first hand how important it is to have all the needed equipment each time you venture out into the wilderness. In most cases after that plane leaves, you know you will not be seeing him often times from a week to two weeks later. Anything you forgot will simply not be with you on that trip and can make your stay in the wilderness very uncomfortable. One thing you can do to prevent this, is set up your camp in your garage several days prior to leaving to prevent taking a bunch of unneeded multiple items by you and your hunting partners. Once you are certain you have all the items you need then carefully pack them in something waterproof like a plastic camping tote. Some have the nice lock down lids and are 100% waterproof and even float.

As you're putting your gear in the boxes or canvas bags, write a number on each storage container and then make out an inventory list. Once you're out in the wilderness all you have to do to find certain items is glance at your inventory list and open up only the boxes you need to find the items you want. Place your inventory list in a zip lock or some other type of plastic that protects it and hopefully allows you to read it without having to remove it and expose it to the weather. As time goes on you will eventually remember which boxes contain what. This will save you a lot of time in camp and hopefully prevent you from having to open every box in a rainstorm. In my opinion my favorite and best fire-starting tool is a road flare. They burn hot, are easy to light, and even burn in the rain. If you're going to an area by canoe or boat with little firewood available, take a bag of dry firewood with you. Dry firewood weighs very little and a couple pieces of dry wood can really help in getting a campfire going quickly.

This is one of my favorite times of the year as I start putting together my ice fishing and winter camping gear. If you are an avid ice fisherman or woman you really need to stop in at Mike's Welding in Sterling and check out his Alaska Bush Sleds. These sleds are lightweight, durable and make even the most remote fishing trips possible. You can haul all your fishing gear, extra fuel, portable fishing shacks and enough extra camping gear to be able to make winter fishing adventure enjoyable in any conditions. I personally will have two of these sleds before spring which makes my Alaska winter adventures a whole lot easier for my family and I. This is one Alaska made item I highly recommend and is an absolute must for the winter fisherman in Alaska. Mike has traveled to Nome several times with these sleds and proven over and over again just how durable they really are. The only other gear I would recommend as highly as The Alaska Bush Sled is the good old bunny boot, the ultimate in keeping your feet warm for long periods of time in extreme cold weather. These two items are the best there is on the market in my opinion and I guarantee you will be happy with each of these selections or I will have Mike take you fishing if you're unhappy with either. See you next week!

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