SIGNALING FOR HELP

There are many ways in how you can signal for help in a survival situation…

GOT A WHISTLE, HORN or GUN?

Three short whistle tweets, three blasts from a horn or three shots fired from a gun and a pause means…HELP! And two short tweets. two horn blasts or two gunshot blasts back means “Hold on Buddy, I Hear Ya and I’m a Coming For You!”

GOT A MIRROR?

A small pocket or vehicle mirror? A flashlight or vehicle light mirror reflector? Some broken pieced of mirror, glass, a shiny tin can lid, aluminum foil, a CD, emergency thermal space blanket? If it’s a sunny day you can use all these items for signaling.

GOT SOME FIRE?

Something to ignite and start a fire with like a lighter, matches or some other type of fire starter? If you build three separate fires (100 feet or 30 meters apart) either in a perfect triangle or a straight line, internationally this means HELP! But if you can’t build them in a triangle or straight line because of the terrain, one signal fire is better than no signal fire at all. But try to build your fire(s) somewhere in an open area and as high up as possible so it can be seen better from the air and ground search parties too.

DID YOU KNOW…during daylight hours a signal fire can be seen a lot further away if you can produce the right color smoke? For example, if you’re in a green environment like a jungle or forest you should try to produce a “white smoke” which can be done by adding some green vegetation to your burning fire. And if you’re in snow white or desert environment you should try to produce “black smoke,” which won’t be easy unless you have some type of petrol like diesel, oil, plastic or rubber tire. 

GOT A STROBE or CAMERA w/FLASH?

You can use’em at night for signaling a long ways off. Ain’t got no strobe or camera but a flint & steel fire starter? Great! If you strike the flint once every 3 seconds the bright white flash from a distance will look like a small battery operated strobe light.

GOT A CELLULAR or TWO-WAY RADIO?

Never use it unless you have a good signal, keep it always turned off to conserve battery power. Turn it on only when you come to any high ground, but if there’s still no signal, again keep it turned off and put it on only when you arrive at some new high ground. If there’s no high ground in sight and it’s all flat, try climbing the tallest tree to pick up a signal. Repeat and keep trying.

GOT SOME BRIGHT COLOR CLOTH?

Though you can attach any piece of cloth to a stick and wave it, but the brighter the color the more visible it is.  It’s best to pack & carry something more compact & lighter like some bright orange duct tape, property marking tape or one of our emergency orange sleeping bag.

SIGNAL KITE

Now think about it, if you were in a remote desert, jungle or forest and you saw one of these flying in the sky what’s the first thing you would say to yourself? Like me you would probably say “..who in the hell would be flying a freakin kite way out here?” Get my drift, so to speak? Yep, I’ll bet you do, and I’ll bet that’s what you would say too, wouldn’t you? Makes finding a needle in a haystack a lot easier to find, don’t it? You can also make these signal kites out of those pocket aluminum thermal space blanket too. Which if the sun’s out it’ll be seen a lot further away than a regular old kite due to the reflection of the sun bouncing off of it like a giant signal mirror in the sky. And if you don’t know how to make a simple kite, no problem, just google “how to make a kite” and dozen websites will pop up. Now it’s entirely up to you if you want to write SOS or HELP on your kite, obviously if your kite is flown way too high up in the air no one is going to be able to read what it says on it. But should it come crashing down and lands in some trees and you can’t get it down, someone from the air or on the ground just might see it and it could still lead to your rescue. But make sure you use a magic marker and NO SPRAY PAINT or it will add too much weight to your kite and it won’t fly. IMPORTANT: Make sure you test fly your kit before packing it away, don’t assume it will fly without testing it first or you just might be carrying “dead weight.” Get it?

Don’t have any of these items with you?

But don’t worry you’re not screwed yet. What you can do to get a low flying aircraft/pilot’s attention is to use the letters S O S or H E L P. How? By constructing these letters out of some rocks, logs, tree branches, stomped down weeds, snow or sketched out in the sand. Preferably in a open areas or along a water shore, the bigger the letters the easier they will be seen from the air.Not enough room for all these letters? No problem, a large “X” is better than no letters at all and will still get a pilot’s attention and indicate someone down below might be needing some help.

When “lost” or “stranded” should you decide to try to find your way out or home, always leave some type of markings along your route of travel. Why? So in the event someone finally does realizes you’re missing and or someone comes across your markings, they will know which way you’re going. Or should you have to back track, it will be easier to find your last known position. Make sense?

 

How to Preserve Tomatoes and Apples With a Homemade Solar Food Dryer

I saw dried tomatoes selling for $10/pound at a food coop and thought that price was outrageous. Now that I make and eat my own dried tomatoes, I think they’re priceless.

You can pretty much eat year-round from our small Ohio homestead. Preserving the summer harvest is an important part of doing this, but when I can find a new way of processing food that results in more variety for winter meals, I’mdrying tomatoes especially pleased. Drying apples and preserving tomatoes with a homemade solar food dryer condenses their flavor into incredible winter treats.

We learned to both make and use the food dryer by following Eben Fodor’s excellent directions in his book, The Solar Food Dryer. The body is made from recycled cortec and the hardware bought locally. We ordered the polypropylene screen that the food sits on from the reference given in the book. We didn’t want to risk galvanized metal or aluminum screens interacting with the food.

One thinks of summertime as having long days and the sun high in the sky—perfect for a solar dryer. In reality, the days are getting shorter and the arc of the sun lower by August and September when most fruits ripen. Fortunately, the plans include a built-in light bulb that provides backup electric heat if the day becomes overcast or if the food needs drying into the evening.electric cord and themometer

The one design detail I would change for our latitude is to tilt the dryer a bit more to face the lower arc of the late summer sun. The original angle was calculated by taking our latitude and subtracting 15 degrees. So far, we’ve only use ours in late summer, and have increased the angle by elevating the back legs on two-by-fours. We may soon commit to that angle by shortening the front legs.

A thermometer tells us the internal temperature of the dryer as we rotate it during the day to face the sun. Our goal is to keep the temperature in the 120 to 150 degree range. If it gets too warm, an additional screened vent can be opened as much as necessary.

I make it sound as if we’re standing by the dryer monitoring and adjusting its progress throughout the day. In reality, the homestead’s too busy for that, but the dryer does well with two or three adjustments during the day as we’re walking through the backyard doing other projects. It wouldn’t work, however, to put it out in the morning and leave for work until late in the day. It needs help in following the sun.

Preparation of the food for drying is pretty fast and easy. I prepare the tomatoes by giving them a minute or two in boiling water so they’ll peel easily, and then slicing them as uniformly as possible. I’ve even dried paste tomatoes by just halving them. It’s amazing how small and intensely flavored they become when most of their water is gone.

Preparing the apples for drying is easy and fun if you have a manual apple peeler-slicer-corer. This even gives you slices of equal thickness. The apple slices require no treatment to keep them from discoloring—the drying results in a slightly darker color anyway.apple peeler-slicer-corer

I judge when it’s time to take the food out of the dryer by making sure it’s beyond the sticky stage, still a bit leathery (a good excuse to taste-test!) but not brittle. Then I put it immediately in a container where it won’t re-hydrate in the humid summer air. Glass jars with tight lids are a nice option, but need to be kept in a cool place. I sometimes freeze the fruit indried apples labeled plastic bags, though I’m trying to wean off plastics.

There are books that give recipes for making “fruit leathers” when drying, but I really dislike adding sugar to food that tastes so great with just its own fructose. I dry the apples and tomatoes plain, and I often savor them as “plain” winter treats. However, these dried tomatoes are great in pasta or soups, and the apples add incredible flavor to even vegetable dishes.

100-Year-Old Way to Filter Rainwater in a Barrel

During our boiling, broiling, blistering summer, water was a topic of conversation wherever we went. Creeks and ponds dried up (some never recovered) and the water table dropped, forcing a few neighbors to have their well pumps lowered or to even have deeper wells drilled.

Many folks shared memories of rain barrels, cisterns, hand pumps and drawing water with a well bucket as a child, usually on grandpa and grandma’s farm. Some said they’d never want to rely again on those old-time methods of getting water. But, at least they knew how it was done.

It seems we have lost much practical knowledge in the last 50 or so years because we thought we’d never need it again. Now we are scrambling to relearn those simple know-hows.

A tattered, 4-inch thick, 1909 book I happily secured for $8 in a thrift store reveals, among umpteen-thousand other every-day skills, how to make homemade water filters. The instructions in “Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cookbook” are quite basic as everyone had a rain barrel back then and presumably knew how to filter rainwater. Now, 104 years later, I am thankful the authors had the foresight to preserve their knowledge for us, and pointed out that rainwater collected in barrels from a roof is a necessity in some locations, but also is best for laundry and “often more wholesome for drinking purposes than hard water.”

The “wholesome” observation applies to plants, too. I noticed during our 6-week dry spell (not a drop of rain) that I was only able to keep my vegetables alive with the garden hose – until our well, too, began sucking air. The pitiful potato, tomato and bean plants actually seemed petrified, like faded plastic decorations. Then, after a 2-hour rain shower, the plants miraculously leapt to life – vibrant, green and THRIVING. I did, too.

In early June last year, my husband surprised me with a 425-gallon water tank so I could water with nutritious rainwater, although it was August before any measure of water was in the tank. When the elusive rains finally paused briefly overhead, I was out in it with my 2-gallon watering can, running and sloshing the water like a crazy woman onto our neglected trees far up the hill.

100-year-old instructions

For gardening, rainwater is, naturally, best unfiltered. But, for household use, the vintage book says the following instructions yield a cheap and easy way to make a filter just as good as a patent filter costing 10 times as much:

“Take a new vinegar barrel or an oak tub that has never been used, either a full cask or half size. Stand it on end raised on brick or stone from the ground. Insert a faucet near the bottom. Make a tight false bottom 3 or 4 inches from the bottom of the cask. Perforate this with small gimlet holes, and cover it with a piece of clean white canvas.


“Place on this false bottom a layer of clean pebbles 3 or 4 inches in thickness; next, a layer of clean washed sand and gravel; then coarsely granulated charcoal about the size of small peas. Charcoal made from hard maple is the best.

“After putting in a half bushel or so, pound it down firmly. Then put in more until the tub is filled within 1 foot of the top. Add a 3-inch layer of pebbles; and throw over the top a piece of canvas as a strainer. This canvas strainer can be removed and washed occasionally and the cask can be dumped out, pebbles cleansed and charcoal renewed every spring and fall, or once a year may be sufficient.

“This filter may be set in the cellar and used only for drinking water. Or it may be used in time of drought for filtering stagnant water, which would otherwise be unpalatable, for the use of stock. This also makes a good cider filter for the purpose of making vinegar. The cider should first be passed through cheese cloth to remove all coarser particles.

“Or a small cheap filter may be made from a flower pot. A fine sponge may be inserted in the hole and the pot filled about as directed for the above filter. It may be placed in the top of a jar, which will receive the filtered water.”

How to Create Your Own Personal Survival Seed Bank

You have probably heard of seed saving, where you save a plant’s seeds or tubers at the end of a growing season to serve as the seed source for the following year. This is great because choosing the proper plants and practicing proper seed-saving methods gives you to a free, self-perpetuating garden year after year. Saving seed also means you can share seeds with friends and neighbors, so everyone can start growing their own.

Many people, however, are not as familiar with the concept of a personal seed bank. A personal seed bank is like seed saving on steroids. You save seed for the coming season’s planting, but you also bank seed for longer storage, just in case.

What that “just in case” might be varies. Some people have created a personal seed bank as insurance against crop failures. Others believe a personal seed bank is necessary in the event of a partial (or total) societal collapse. Many people just like the idea of being sustainable and self sufficient. And, of course, seed saving can be a fun hobby.

PLANNING YOUR SEEDBANK

The most important thing to remember when planning your personal seed bank is that you can only save and store open-pollinated, non-hybridized, non-GMO seeds. Why? Because genetically modified and hybridized seeds have been dinked with by large corporations such as Monsanto, which doesn’t want you to be able to save your own seeds. Why? Because they want you to have to buy seeds from them year after year. Hybridized or GMO seeds frequently have sterile first generation offspring (F1 is a designation you might have seen). This means that while you’ll get viable plants from the seeds you buy, the seeds you save from those plants will likely be sterile. If they’re not sterile, they’ll produce offspring that are so unlike the parents with such a wide variety of characteristics that they will be a disappointment and not useful. Only buy heirloom, open-pollinated seeds from trusted sources.

The second thing to decide when planning a seed bank is what kinds of seed you want to save. The best seeds to save are from fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating the most, but experience comes into play, too. If you’re a beginning seed saver, to start it’s best to bank seeds that require the lowest skill set. This way you can focus your first growing season on learning seed saving techniques and still have viable, usable seed banked in preparation for the following growing season, at which time you’ll expand your skill. The easiest seeds to save and bank are self-pollinated seeds (see below for more info on this).

The third thing to decide when planning a seed bank is what seeds would be best to save. This can vary greatly depending upon the reason why you are choosing to create a personal seed bank. If you’re banking seed as insurance against a crop failure in your garden or to be more self-sufficient, then banking what you like is the best option. If you’re banking seed as insurance against a societal collapse, then you’ll need to bank a wider variety of seeds and include many types that you may not have ever grown before, including grains like wheat or barley. Be advised, though, that in these cases it is a good idea to get some experience growing these seeds before a collapse occurs; your seed bank will be useless if you don’t know how to grow the seeds you have.

SEED SOURCES

If you’ve never saved seed before, you’ll have to buy your first seeds from a commercial grower or be lucky enough to have seed-saving friends who are willing to help you with your first crop. Excellent commercial sources for heirloom, open-pollinated seeds include Seed Savers Exchange, Native Seed Search, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Sustainable Seed Company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Abundant Life Seeds, among others.

Another alternative is to buy a pre-made seed bank that is already packaged and set for storage. This is a great idea for those who want a head start on their seed bank and have some insurance on-hand until a self-made seed bank has been created (which can take several years). A good source for a seed bank such as this is sold by Camping Survival. They sell a 6-can set that is organized by use type. For instance, the “Culinary Herb” can includes a variety of common herbs from basil to thyme, and the “Ancient Grains” can includes barley, flax, amaranth, and others. The ‘Medicinal Herbs” can is especially beneficial to have and is often overlooked in seed banks.

SELF-POLLINATED SEEDS

The best and easiest seeds to save (and therefore bank) are self-pollinated seeds, which include tomatoes, beans, lettuce, peas, chicory, and endive. These plants have reliable seed set the same year they are planted, and they are self-pollinating. Self-pollinated seeds fertilize themselves, meaning the pollen from a plant’s flower fertilizes the stigma on that same flower. No muss, no fuss. There are few worries about cross-pollination or accidental hybridization. You get the same variety of tomato or bean year after year, though it is recommended to separate varieties by a row, just in case.

Self pollination is one way seeds of concern to home growers reproduce; the other two modes of reproduction are insects and wind pollination. This is where things can get tricky, because in these cases pollen from a plant up to a mile away can fertilize a plant in your garden. This increases the chance of hybridized plants, whose seeds will not breed true when planted. Because of this, insect and wind-pollinated plants such as corn or onions have to be manipulated by the grower to ensure that pollination is limited to same varieties.

WIND AND INSECT-POLLINATED SEEDS

More experienced seed savers can take on plants that require more intervention to insure that saved seed breeds true.  Crops such as corn, cucumber, radish, spinach, and squashes (among others) produce seed the same year they are planted, but require the grower to intervene to prevent unwanted hybridization. This intervention can come in the form of hand-pollinating the plants to prevent cross-pollination, or making sure there is considerable distance between the variety you are growing and other varieties (this distance can vary between 100 feet and a mile, depending upon the plant).

Biennial vegetable seeds set seed the year after they are planted, and as a result expert seed savers can take on the two-year commitment needed to save these seeds. Biennial vegetables include onions, carrots, cabbages, beets, swiss chard, turnips, celery, leeks, and others. Instead of harvesting at the end of the first growing season, the plants need to be successfully overwintered the same year they are planted (this can vary depending upon if you live in the north or south). The second growing season is when the plants will flower and set seed. These plants also need to be separated from other varieties to avoid cross-pollination.

ORTHODOX SEEDS

No, this has nothing to do with religion. What it does have to do with is how well a seed withstands the freezing and drying conditions that are necessary to maintain a seed bank. Orthodox seeds can be dried and frozen for storage and remain viable for a period of time, but some seeds take to this better than others. Some seeds can be stored up to 10 years or more, others begin to lose viability after one year. For most common vegetable plants, three to five years is about as long as they can be stored, though some plants (like parsnips) really need to be used within a year or two.

Ideally, seeds need to be dried to less than 7% moisture and, for maximum storage length, frozen to no warmer than zero degrees Farenheit (a home freezer may reach this temperature). The lower the temperature, however, the longer seeds will remain viable. Most vegetables known to the home gardener are orthodox seeds, such as peas, corn, and tomatoes. In fact, about 80% of plant species are orthodox seeds.

Recalcitrant seeds can’t be dried for storage and must be planted immediately. Tropical plants such as mangoes, coconuts, and tea are recalcitrant. Intermediate seeds can take some drying for short-term storage, but they are not viable options for a personal seed bank. Examples of intermediate seeds include coffee, papaya, and others.

SEED SAVING SPECIFICS

The best free online resource for learning how to save specific vegetable seeds can be found at the International Seed Saving Institute. They have a complete seed-saving guide, which includes how to address the pollination needs of individual plants and harvest the seeds to best advantage.

Vegetable Garden Planning for Beginners

Hopefully, you are already in full swing on your own garden, but if you have been putting it off, or are still conducting research on how to start your own garden, this article is for you. If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, here are basics on vegetable garden planning: site selection, plot size, which vegetables to grow, and other gardening tips.

Remember this: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one!

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic, plan carefully. Start small.

The Very Basics

First, here are some very basic concepts on topics you’ll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire:

  • Do you have enough sun exposure? Vegetables love the sun. They need at least 6 hours of full sun every day, and preferably 8.
  • Know your soil. Most soil can be enriched with compost and be fine for planting, but some soil needs more help. Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Check with your local nursery or local cooperative extension office about free soil test kits so that you can assess your soil type. See our article on preparing soil for planting.
  • Placement is everything. Avoid planting too near a tree, which will steal nutrients and shade the garden. In addition, a garden too close to the house will help to discourage wild animals from nibbling away your potential harvest.
  • Decide between tilling and a raised bed.  If you have poor soil or a bad back, a raised bed built with nonpressure-treated wood offers many benefits.
  • Vegetables need lots of water, at least 1 inch of water a week. See more about when to water vegetables.
  • You’ll need some basic planting tools.  These are the essentials: spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and wheelbarrow (or bucket) for moving around mulch or soil. It’s worth paying a bit extra for quality tools.
  • Study those seed catalogs and order early.
  • Check your frost dates. Find first and last frost dates in your area and be alert to your local conditions.

Deciding How Big

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16×10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away).

Make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.

Suggested Plants for 11 Rows

The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants but you’ll also want to contract your local cooperative extension to determine what plants grow best in your local area. Think about what you like to eat as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

(Note: Link from each vegetable to a free planting and growing guide.)

  • Tomatoes—5 plants staked
  • Zucchini squash—4 plants
  • Peppers—6 plants
  • Cabbage
  • Bush beans
  • Lettuce, leaf and/or Bibb
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Radishes
  • Marigolds to discourage rabbits!

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant all 11 rows, and you can also make the rows shorter. You can choose the veggies that you’d like to grow!)

When to Plant?

  • If you are planting seeds, consult our Best Planting Dates for Seeds chart. It’s customized to your frost dates as well as Moon-favorable dates.
  • If you’re putting plants in the ground from a nursery or transplanting from a greenhouse, see our Best Planting Dates for Transplants (by region).

Now Design Your Best Garden Ever!

Plan your perfect vegetable garden. Use our online Garden Planner to draw out your vegetable beds.

The best way to plan a successful veggie garden is to look at what similar gardeners have planned and see what works for them.

Prepper Fitness 101

Why do people prep? No matter how you spin it, it’s probably going to boil down to taking care of themselves and those they love. Where the real variable comes into play is how people prep. Some stockpile and fortify, some may pack light and bug out, or others may have their own unique plans. Ultimately there is no universal answer as to the “right way” to properly prepare for a massive disaster scenario due to the varying nature of personalities in individuals. There is, however, is a key aspect of how people prep that should be implemented to any prepper’s plan if they plan to survive: physical fitness.

Now before thinking this article is about having the best looking six-pack when things go south (trust me, it’s not), consider this question, “Am I in a condition where I feel confident to take care of loved ones and myself physically if disaster strikes?”. Apply this question to your scenario of choice, hell, apply it to your everyday life when things are going good. More than likely the answer to this question is “no”, and there is nothing wrong with that. In all honesty, even if you are active, working out regularly, and eating healthy, there is room for improvement – it’s the nature of self-betterment and making your body best survival tool in a disaster.

How Prepper Fitness could help you in a Doomsday Scenario?

SHTF (who knows how). It’s code red and your rushing around too initiating your own variation on surviving this disaster. You’re sweating, adrenaline is pumping through you, and the only thing on your mind is getting to your checkpoint. As you’re running around, your blood pressure becomes dangerously high and you have a heart attack. Congrats, you just lost at doomsday.

Of course this scenario is a hypothetical and has no scientific analysis to back it up. But for a lot of people, a doomsday scenario could be as simple as the consequences of poor maintenance to their body in terms of diet and exercise. Physical fitness should be one of the essential building blocks of preparing, yet it seems that this foundation work on many prepper guides/plans is overlooked or simply glazed over.

Prepper fitness doesn’t have to be something crazy like running a marathon through the desert without water or joining a gym. Fitness can be as simple as just getting out of your comfort zone for one hour of your day. Much like prepper plans, fitness plans can vary from person-to-person depending on goals, but ultimately doing fitness based activity that pushes the limits of your body consistently will make you a stronger and a physically more efficient survivalist.

So where should someone begin if they are not as fit as they would like to be? Much like learning a new skill or plan for prepping, go to the Internet for information and ideas. Honestly, you don’t even need a gym membership for a great cardio workout – or even weights to build muscle for that matter. Focusing on body weight exercises, light jogging/power walking, and functional lifts at first can make you healthier and stronger, but can also be fun to a degree.

A general introduction to Prepper Fitness

Depending on how serious you want to take this, I would suggest investing in a few things (although not necessary, can serve to be helpful): a heart monitor, pedometer, some of your prepping supplies, and a semi-truck/tractor tire.

Cardio – This does NOT mean running per se, cardio is simply training that gets your heart rate up. Ideally for fat loss/cardio training, you want your heart rate to be “in the zone” (Target Heart Rates by American Heart Association). Cardio training can be monitored with a heart rate monitor, which can also serve as a safety precaution while training, and can be accomplished in a number of ways such as: swimming, hiking, power walking, biking, jogging, or even HIIT workouts. The key to cardio training is consistency and always improving. It’s smart to keep a log of your workouts to monitor progress. Don’t get discouraged though, sometimes progress can come in the form of walking a mile faster than you ever have or sometimes progress can come in the form of showing up to exercise when your brain wants to make a million excuses not to.

“Weight” Training – as mentioned earlier, you really don’t need iron based weights to lift. Some of the best exercises you can do, can be done using only your body weight. One preface that must be mentioned in this portion is always consider your form first whenever lifting something or exercising – improper form can lead to potential injury in the short and long-term. Here is a quick list of some great body weight exercises that can be easily added to your workout circuit:

  • Air Squats – excellent for your quads, glutes, and hamstrings
  • Lunges – builds stamina and quads as well as works the calves, glutes, and hamstrings
  • Pushups – works your chest as well as your shoulders and triceps with many variations available
  • Pullups – great for your lats, back, and biceps.
  • Side Leg Raises – works your hips/adductors
  • Dips – adaptable workout for your triceps that also works your chest and shoulders

Functional Training – of course we are preppers, so a lot of the training done should be survival themed right? Try adding these exercises to your workout that can easily add purpose to your workout:

  • Sledgehammer swings on a tire – think you might need to split a lot of wood?
  • Tire Flips – for anytime you think you might have to lift something heavy off the ground…
  • Bucket Carries – water is necessary, not light, and probably inconveniently located
  • Rope Climbs – wonder if you may need to get somewhere when you don’t have a ladder?
  • Log Carries – Get good at carrying awkward things… do you honestly think everything you need will fit conveniently in your rucksack?
  • Running – this may come in handy at some point in life!

WRAP-UP

Although this is not designed to be a complete guide to prepper fitness, it is meant to get preppers thinking and give basic considerations on where to begin their journey into becoming the best survival instrument in their tool box. The best advice one can take away from this is to try to make fitness a fun and enjoyable part of your day/life, it will not only help make it a consistent part of your routine, but you may even have fun doing something that is physically great for your body!

Two final notes: 1. Remember to stretch before and after exercising, there are too many benefits to stretching and flexibility to list here. 2. Material in this article is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Not all exercises may be applicable to readers; always consult a physician before trying a new diet or exercise program. I am not responsible or liable for any injuries, damages, loss, or accidents.

7 Awesome Uses for Baking Soda

I have it on good authority that some people actually bake with baking soda. That’s not why it’s stocked like a mighty brick in my house. Baking soda is one of those items that has about a hundred and one uses, only some of them limited to the kitchen. It’s nice and cheap, and while I don’t think it’s one of the things that runs off the shelves in any crisis – snow storm, hurricane, or larger – it’s hugely beneficial to have plenty of it on hand. To me, the price and the usefulness put it way up on any must-have list for preppers (or pretty much any adult).

First we want to be sure of what we’re talking about. On store shelves, baking soda is most usually going to be a box, although it can be found in big bags for those of us who use it a lot. It’s the one with sodium bicarbonate listed as the active ingredient, not cornstarch and 4-6 other things in a little round carton. That other one is what you use for bannock bread and microwaved mug brownies – baking powder.

Shoe satchels

Those of us who have ever had a fridge or dishwasher that’s been turned off for a while have probably heard of sticking an opened box of baking soda in there. Arm & Hammer even creates packages with a mesh-lined side flap for just that purpose. That same deodorizing capability combines with a low-level desiccant, and can be used to dry out and kill the sweat or swamp funk in our boots and shoes. This is the stuff that gets added to kitty litter boxes, after all. Stomping out smells is one of its great claims to fame.

The satchels can be made out of cloth, old socks whose mates have gone missing, coffee filters, or used dryer sheets. The imagination is really the only limiting factor here. As long as it allows easy airflow between the footwear and the baking soda inside, it’ll work. Add at least a tablespoon and a half of baking soda, tie up, and drop inside.

If you want to jazz up the shoe satchels further you can add all kinds of things from dried flowers and herbs (lavender, rose, rosemary, mints, eucalyptus) to bath crystals or salts.

This one works not only on shoes, but also on things like old gym bags, the lunch bag from two years ago, a small cooler, a tool bucket or box that has a case of the funk, or a softball bag that’s being repurposed.

Foot Soak

If the smell from shoes is originating because of the feet in them, you can combine baking soda with any number of things to create a foot soak.

Mouthwash, herbal teas, various oils like lavender or eucalyptus or rosemary, lemon slices or juice, Epsom salts (excellent addition), apple cider vinegar, and dried herbs like rosemary, mints, or plantain all get added. A simple soak of 1-2 cups in a gallon or two of warm water for 15-30 minutes can soften and rejuvenate feet, and help control various fungus that want to live in warm, sweaty environments.

Surface Cleaner

We know that baking soda is one of the things we can stock to use as a toothpaste alternate, or to concoct our own toothpaste. It cleans more than mouths, though.

Just sprinkling it on carpets and wooden decks or porches, letting it sit, and then sweeping or vacuuming it up works wonders for some odors and fungi. We can also clean our cutting boards by rubbing with baking soda and-or salt and a lemon, or just scrubbing with a brush and the dry ingredients and then letting it sit for a bit. The powders create a habitat that discourages many microbes, like the kind that live in tiny scratched crevices and outlive even dish soap and the dishwasher.

We can use that trick on dog bowls, sinks and counters, as well, using fresh lemons or limes or bottled lemon juice, or just scrubbing and allowing it to sit, then sweeping it and wiping it up.

Pipe & Drain Cleaner

Getting rid of shower and tub mildew and *that* smell in any pipe uses basically the same ingredients as above: baking soda, salt in some cases, and lemon. Vinegar of pretty much any kind can be substituted for lemon juice if somebody likes that price enough for a different smell, or wants to go with apple cider vinegar.

I like the method where you boil 2-8 cups of water to pour down the drain, then throw a cup of baking soda in and let that sit for 5-60 minutes, and follow it up with 1 cup of vinegar or lemon juice mixed with a cup of water.

There are a few variations, so poke around a bit. Some say to cover it to direct the reaction downward (not so sure about that), and some to limit the fumes in the air (just don’t use white vinegar). Some say to give it 6-8 hours, and some say to just wait until the bubbles stop. Some suggest just rinsing with tap water, and some suggest boiling more water to flush the remnants away. Up to you.

It doesn’t always work, especially in the bathroom where *somebody* sheds 2’ hair with every shower. Sometimes a repeat or upgrade to/of vinegar to the stronger cousins works. Every once in a while, you have to go to a snake or “real” drain cleaner, but a lot of the time, whether it’s a slow drain, a for-real clog, or a smell, the baking soda does the trick.

There are apparently schools of thought where this is bad and degrades things, so research that too.

Fungicide (Outdoor)

One of the things that helps baking soda kill smells is that the sodium bicarbonate is an antacid, a highly reactive one. A lot of growing things prefer an acidic environment. Fungi – from mold to mildew – is one of those things. The beauty is that baking soda is a stabilizing antacid. It’ll react with anything in an extreme, and go through a severe reaction initially (which can also kill bad stuff) but then it’ll self-regulate and return its surroundings to a near-neutral state.

No wonder this stuff is called miracle powder, right?

That miracle powder can help us in a big way with some common crop and garden pests – mildews.

We can add one tablespoon of baking soda to one quart of water (4 tablespoons/1 quarter-cup per gallon) and use it to treat black spots in the yard, roses, and berry brambles suffering from the various black fungus illnesses.

Powdery mildew on any plants can be prevented and treated with the same, however, the addition of a teaspoon of dish detergent and a teaspoon of vegetable oil per half gallon will help it stick better. Once powdery mildew gets started, it’s a constant battle, so having the spray last longer on the plants can save us a lot of time and heartache.

Creepy-Crawly Pests

Fungus gnats aren’t usually harmful, but they are annoying, and there are times there are so many that the soil-dwelling larvae stage start stunting plant growth because they’re consuming the tiny root hairs of plants. A teaspoon of baking soda with a teaspoon of dish detergent in a full gallon of water can also help remove or reduce the populations, without changing soil pH so much that acid-loving veggie plants and perennials can’t handle it and die, too. As with mildews, all soils in the area need treated and the treatment will have to be repeated to break the infestation completely since there are multiple stages and locations in the gnats’ life cycles.

Mixing baking soda 1:1 with powdered sugar and surrounding an ant hill with a 1”x1” wall of the stuff can help reduce those garden pests, too. I’ve had it decrease the visible numbers, but they seem to pop back up. Still, it’s nicer working in beds and playing fetch or weed-eating with a few less ants getting aggravated with you. A ring of baking soda will also help deter slugs. (Grits and cornmeal help with ants and slugs, too.)

Pest Sting & Itch Relief

puppy's too

Baking soda recently got crowned the Most Prized Possession in my house. I was attacked by some sort of not-bee striped flyer, and ended up with welts roughly the sizes of eggs, from dainty little quail all the way up to jumbos, with 3-6” red raised areas around the big welts. Yay! A poultice of just baking soda and water reduced the swelling and pain.

That poultice is best applied with large Band-Aids already open and waiting, especially if you’re trying to doctor your own elbow and thigh.

If the poultice is allowed to dry, it will come off in big flakes or shingles, and can actually help extract a broken-off stinger, fang or tick head.

Like the satchels, the poultice can be improved on. Chamomile tea is awesome, but any kind of tea contains fabulous stuff that helps reduce swelling and pain more and faster. Let it cool and add it to the poultice, open a bag to mix in before the water, or open a used bag to add to the paste. Aloe can be stripped and chopped and added, as can commercially available gel. So can witch hazel, chamomile flowers, lavender oil or flowers, fresh or dried plantain, Echinacea (purple cone flower), chickweed or jewelweed, and lemon balm.

Some people also apparently make their poultice with milk. Not my thing. Likewise, I’m not adding to the mess or pains by using honey or honey crystals in there, but there are proponents of honey as well.

Go as crazy as you like with that one.

Maybe the sting or bite isn’t making you crazy enough to coat your wounds with paste and Band-Aids. Sometimes we’re just hot and itchy and can’t really identify a single place to treat, and a shower or bath isn’t really cutting it.

Baking soda in a tub with or without soothing additives like oatmeal can help.

You can also make a satchel similar to the first use listed, although you’ll want it to be bigger. Again, alone or with things like chipped aloe, oatmeal, chamomile flowers or oil, or tea leaves from a regular grocery-store brewing bag (Camellia sinensis species) can be added. You use the satchel to dab yourself while you’re in the shower.

Baking Soda

There are just so many uses for baking soda, with these the very tip of the iceberg. Run any google search for uses, and you’ll find dozens more, from killing weeds to repelling rabbits and silverfish. It goes in laundry and it gets used for facial masks. Use it to deodorize dogs, make Play Dough, or get gum/caulk out of your hair. The stuff is so cheap, so easy to find, and does so much, it’s worth filling a box or drawer and keeping handy, especially if we live well outside shopping areas.

It’s not one that I expect there to ever be massive runs on, not like generators, snow shovels, tarps and plywood, peanut butter, and toilet paper. However, in a long-term disaster, we could potentially run out. For me, it doesn’t replace a fire alarm and fire extinguisher, some extra batteries that fit that alarm, or having spare oil and coolant in the truck, but it’s right up there with the food and water supplies as a must-have item.

Camouflage and Concealment: The Art of Staying Hidden

Urban Camouflage and Concealment

It makes me laugh when I see a lot of SWAT Teams and PSD guys wearing Tactical Black and other colors that look cool but do nothing but make them stand out. In reality black is one of the worst colors to wear. Ask yourself, what is black in nature? Look around you and what in your surrounding’s are black? I expect very little… In urban areas most walls are white, gray or cream… Light colors! The colors you wear should blend in with your background whether its day or night.

At night dark colors stand out, especially when moving past light backgrounds and in urban areas most backgrounds are light colors. Even in rural dry areas when moving through low bush and fields the silhouettes of people in dark colors are easy to see at a distance.

You do not have to have expensive patterns to give you good camouflage and concealment, a gray dress shirt and a pair of light khaki pants is way more effective than tactical Tim dressed in SWAT black!

Movement and Rural Camouflage

Modern humans are positively disadvantaged when surviving in and moving on foot in rural and wilderness areas. Most people these days have never spent a night outside without any cover, let alone in bad weather. When you’re in the woods or bush you need to get comfortable in the environment. I remember one of my military instructors telling me that to be able to fight in an environment, you must first be able to live comfortably in that environment, and this is true. If you’re having difficulty living day-to-day how can you operate?


You should always consider camouflage and wear clothes that blend in with your environment, in urban areas wear light blues and grays in rural areas browns and greens. As I have said before there is no need for military camouflage clothing as this will just draw attention to yourself.You need to start using all your senses as the animals do, learn to identify sounds, smells, movements and what they mean. You need to especially be able to identify things associated with people, like foot prints, cigarette stumps, broken twigs or foliage, fences, straight lines, domestic animals, aircraft, vehicles, talking etc. Think about human smells like fires, food, fuel, human waste and tobacco; if your senses are sharp in bush or wooded areas you should be able to smell or hear people before you see them.  When moving you must do so quietly and regularly stop to look, listen and smell for any indication of people. If you identify people in your proximity are you going to take cover, evade or ambush?

Basic field craft, things are seen because of these reasons: Shape, Shadow, Silhouette, Shine, Spacing & Movement.

  • Shape: Disguise your shape; use foliage or rags to break up your outline.
  • Shadow: Keep in the shadows and always be aware that you are not casting a shadow that could be seen by your opposition.
  • Silhouette: Don’t stand out against skylines, lights, white walls, etc.
  • Shine: No chrome, shiny watches, mirrored glasses, sparkly jewelry and the like.
  • Spacing: If moving with others, remain spread out, but not too regularly and do not bunch together.
  • Movement: Move carefully, as sudden movement draws attention and is the main reason camouflaged personnel and animals are seen.

The basic guidelines for camouflage are

  • Learn to blend in with your surroundings.
  • If you are using foliage to conceal yourself or your position don’t use too much or too little.
  • If you are in a long-term hide remember to keep your camouflage fresh, dead foliage will alert people to your position.
  • When moving avoid skylines.
  • Don’t use isolated or obvious cover; it’s the first place others will look. Consider hiding in thorny bushes or nettles as most people will not expect anyone to hide there.
  • Camouflage your face, neck and any areas of the exposed flesh with mud, ash or charcoal from fires. Or use a balaclava or scarf to cover your face and wear gloves.
  • Take all noisy objects from your pockets, such as keys and coins and make sure nothing on your person rattles.
  • Make sure there are no shiny surfaces on your person, equipment or clothing.

Guidelines for Movement

You should always move quietly and cautiously and avoid stepping on dry twigs or breaking through foliage and undergrowth as this will make noise and leave an easy trail to follow. If you know you’re going to a rural area or possibly going to be in an escape and evasion situation avoid smelly foods, strong soaps and after shaves, as these will be easy to smell by those used to being in the bush. Always be careful not to leave signs you were in an area such as foot prints, broken foliage, human waste or trash.  Trash and human waste should be carried out of a hostile area and disposed of when safe to do so.

You should always move in “bounds” from one piece of cover to another. Your bounds should never be more than, say 50 yards, especially at night. When you stop at the end of each bound you should use your senses to try to detect any human presents then plan your next bound. Moving in short bounds is the safest way to move through populated areas or places there are unfriendly forces. Remember, always be prepared to take evasive action or defend yourself.

There are no set time periods for halts but you should try to take ten minutes in every hour on long journeys. Tracks, paths and roads make for fast, easy travel and can aid navigation but can also be very dangerous as your opponents will watch them closely. To be cautious walk a few meters off to the side of any roads or tracks.  Places to expect sentries are at the entrances to urban areas, on bridges, cross roads and on high prominent terrain.The speed at which you travel will depend on whether it’s day or night, the type of terrain you’re in, people or police patrols in the area. Never push yourself to your limit, you always need to have energy in reserve so you can run in an emergency; tired people are also rarely mentally alert. If you must run from your opposition try to do so only for a maximum of a few hundred yards, then slow down and move quietly, cautiously and cover your any signs of your direction of travel. Do not use obvious routes, which tend to be the easiest routes to use; head up hills and into thorny areas etc.

Avoid being silhouetted when crossing skylines and hills, go around them rather than over them where possible. If you need to cross an obstacle or skyline then keep low and crawl, if it’s a fence, crawl through it or under it. If you have to cut through a fence, cut through the lower strands and then disguise the hole with undergrowth or tie the wire strands back together, never cut through the top strands as this will be easily noticed.

Moving at night

You need to learn to treat the night and darkness as your friend, darkness affords you cover. Many people are afraid of being in the dark especially in rural areas or derelict buildings; you should use this to your advantage. If you are moving you should always try to stay in the shadows, if you get caught in a beam of light or car headlights you should freeze, the chances are that you will remain unnoticed. You must have your immediate reaction drills for encountering a person, being caught in light or hostile fire at the forefront of your mind. Being caught off guard will get you captured or killed.

There are both natural and man-made noises that are useful to you because they can cover up or disguise the sounds that you make when moving. The best time for moving covertly is during bad weather; rain will cover the noise of your movement and any ground sign you leave. Bad weather also keeps people under cover, lowers the moral of those standing guard, learn to love bad weather.

General guidelines for rural movement

  • Wear clothing that blends in with local people and the terrain.
  • Do everything possible to disguise evidence of your passage; cover foot prints, never break twigs or undergrowth and repair broken foliage.
  • Avoid contact with all people unless absolutely necessary.
  • Litter, food and human waste must be buried or carried with you.
  • Learn about tracking, then you’ll be aware of what anyone following you will be looking for.
  • If moving with others spread out and when crossing obstacles such as a rivers or roads etc. take up positions to be able to give warnings of any threats that might be approaching. Also stay low move fast and cross one by one.
  • Always be ready to take cover from gunfire or people you may encounter by surprise.
  • Remember certain smells indicate human activity; odors float downhill in cool air and rise on warm air.
  • Watch for stones, leaves or logs that have been moved, the undersides of these will be darker in color and damp environments, this can be an indicator of human activity or the location of hides.
  • Always look for straight lines as they are rare in nature and are usually man-made.
  • Learn to identify unnatural vegetation, such as green leaves among dead branches or areas of too much foliage as this could indicate human activity such as hides or ambushes.

These are some basic guidelines to get you thinking, these skills can’t be learn sat in a comfy chair, you need to get out and learn and practice them. Everything I have written about here is simple and the main thing required is situational awareness and common sense!

Back to Basics: How to Stockpile Food for Emergencies

Today I wanted to share tips for how to stockpile food for emergencies that anyone can use. I will focus on preppers who are just starting out, but I think some ideas in the topics below could be useful to anyone looking to ensure their family has food and does not go hungry. This article will also have dozens of links to other content on the subject for additional reading.

I believe there are 5 main components to survival that everyone needs to consider. They are simply Water, Food, Shelter, Security and Hygiene.  The need for water and how you can easily store water for emergencies that render your traditional methods of obtaining water impossible. Water is more important to life than food or at least you can live longer without food than you can water, but they are both important.

Why do you need to stockpile food for emergencies?

If you are new to prepping, you may have something that triggered your awareness of the subject. Preppers have many reasons for doing what they do and no two preppers are alike. Some are preparing for the end of the world, but most see situations in our daily lives that give a perfect reason to stock up supplies. You have only to look at the recent winter storm that affected large swaths of the Eastern Seaboard to have a perfect example of why you don’t want to be left without a means to feed your family.

It seems almost cliché at this point, but invariably it always happens when a winter storm is forecast. Everyone rushes out to the store and certain food supplies are wiped out. Images of empty shelves are shown on practically every newscast and eventually prepper websites. Food shortages during simple storms are common if not expected. We don’t really even blink anymore because we are so used to this practice of waiting until the last-minute and then hitting the local grocery store on the way home from work to grab some basic necessities or comfort food.

If you can’t live for more than 3 days without going to the store, it’s time to reevaluate your family’s readiness. The statistic we hear most of the time is that the average home has only 3 days’ worth of food in it. If this is true, where would you be on day three if you had not been able to make it to the grocery store before the storm? What if instead of a snow storm, a virus outbreak had occurred and everyone was told to stay indoors to prevent infection? Each of us should have more food on hand that our families and friends will eat than is absolutely necessary to prevent surprises from leaving you hungry.

How much food do you need to store?

In the example above I used a virus outbreak as the condition that would prevent you from getting to the store. There are others though and weather could certainly be one of them. Some storms where I live have left roads impassable for upwards of a week. Could we walk to the store? Sure, but what if the stores having already been cleared of just about all of the food were closed? What if power outages prevented them from conducting any transactions? These are things you should consider.

Prepping is not something I ever consider you can accomplish. By that I mean, you are never going to be fully prepared. You may be much better prepared than some or all of the people around you, but you will never be 100% self-sufficient. Prepping should be done incrementally even if you have more money than you know what to do with because as you start to stock up food you learn lessons.

A good rule of thumb for me is to start small when you are beginning to stockpile food for emergencies. You don’t need a year of freeze-dried foods to start with. Try just having a week or two of extra groceries that your family already eats. This is accomplished without any exotic storage needs usually or 5 gallon buckets of grains you have to figure out how to prepare.

What are the best types of food to stockpile?

My wife purchases the groceries and I started out by giving her extra money to simply buy more food. I did this in the beginning because she is a much better shopper than I am and will always save more money than me. This worked great because she was easily able to fill our pantry and had plenty of meals planned to last us well over 30 days. Sure, at the end of that 30 days of food we would be getting into more exotic cans of mushrooms and soups that are better left as part of a recipe as opposed to your entire meal, but we wouldn’t starve.

Once we had a month worth of food and water stored up, I started looking at other options. I think each person should have a layered approach to food storage. This gives you flexibility and more importantly variety that as you go out to 6 months or 1 year or 2 will be important. My own personal goal is 2 years’ worth of food stockpiled for my family but that isn’t made up of only food from our grocery store. That can certainly be done though with a very good rotation plan.

Food storage should ideally cover the following:

Short Term Food Storage – The best and simplest foods are like I said above, what your family eats every day. One thing to consider is that the bulk of this food should be non-perishable in case you lose power. Canned foods are great as well as pastas, drink mixes and staples. These usually last at least a year.

Medium Term Food Storage – For the 5 – 10 year range MRE’s are a great option although they are heavier and their convenience comes at a higher price. I have several boxes of these and I like MRE’s because they are self-contained and don’t really need any water. Freeze dried camping foods like Mountain House are another great option to just add hot water to. Rice and beans make great additions to this category because you don’t really have to do anything crazy to store them as long as they are kept cool and dry.

Long Term Food Storage – When you start to look at foods that will keep for many years you get into stored grains like Hard Red Winter Wheat that you store in sealed 5 gallon buckets. Freeze dried food from any one of many suppliers out there keep for 20 years usually and are individually wrapped Mylar packets. They require water to re-hydrate but the taste can be surprisingly good. Make sure you have seasonings though….

Renewable Food Storage – This is when you have to get your inner farmer working. Renewable foods are an intensive garden, small livestock like chickens or rabbits and the occasional wild game caught either through hunting or snares. In the worst disasters, your food will run out so having a plan for that ahead of time will help you prepare.

How do you plan for your food eventually running out?

I have a mix of the food storage options above. We eat on our grocery store items every day, but I also have MRE’s and a pretty large amount of freeze-dried foods stored. We also have the grains I mentioned and the all-important grain mill to grind them into flour. Several hundred pounds of rice and beans round out the equation.

Stockpiling food is only the start. We have a garden and small flock of chickens. The stored food is just to get us through the worst of the disaster. Hopefully before our food runs out whatever disaster has happened will be mitigated and life will have returned to some sense of normality. If not, we have a huge leg up that will allow us to further harvest our garden to put away food like the pioneers had to do. It is an approach that gives us some sense of security and prepares us to come out on the other side still alive.

What is your plan to stockpile food for emergencies?

Introduction to Building a Storage Shed – Part 2

In this part, we will look at some other things to consider before you install your storage shed.  And some general lessons learned to keep in mind through the process.

Storage Shed Kit Sources

Doing an online search seems to be an effective method.  Doing a search for “shed kit” on eBay gave me an idea of what was available.  Searching for the top brands found companies specializing in shed kits such as ShedsForLess.com.  Once I found the make and model I was looking for, more specific searches found the best price.  Prices seem fairly universal, although I did happen to find a sale on my choice.  A local source may be cheaper since delivery can be handled in house, but will be increased by sales tax, so the total price should be compared with companies which have to include freight in the cost but don’t have to charge tax.  It seems that shipping is usually “free” (more accurately, included in the cost) on some of the major brands.

Keep in mind that the floor is usually not part of the kit, although often can be ordered with the kit.  Often it is delivered first, from a local source, which means the quality might not be optimal.  On mine, most of the joists could be forced into place, but I had one beam which was warped at a knot, and attempting to force it straight caused the beam to snap.  Replacing it was not trivial, since the only receipt I had was the shipping order, and it took a long time for the local store to find it in their system, since it did not have my name on it or even the name of the company I ordered from.  It was under the name of the kit manufacturer.

There are kits which are material only, and those which are pre-cut.  The latter is easier to assemble and requires less equipment.

Also, when pricing a (wood) kit, keep in mind that hardware is often included, but paint and roofing are usually not, and these products are not cheap.  I could not believe they get over $30 a gallon for paint these days; fortunately Ace had a buy one gallon, get one gallon free sale.  For most (wood) sheds, the specified roofing is shingles, and those run about $1 a square foot.    Flooring, roofing and paint was about 1/4 of the total cost of my kit, and that did not include the roofing gun and scaffolding which will be used for other projects as well.

Options

Often a kit company will offer “options” such as additional or different doors, windows, a ramp, shelving/cabinets and various ventilation methods.  If offered by the kit company you pretty much have to order it with the kit.  Ventilation is good to prevent heat build-up; a “ridge vent” methodology is probably the best, but usually not available with the kit.  If you are going to use the shed strictly for storage, then windows would seem to be pretty silly since you lose wall space and reduce the security.  However, if you are going to be spending much time in there, a window or two will be quite helpful for light, ventilation and to reduce claustrophobia.

What to Have on Hand

The first thing to attempt to arrange is other people.  There are a couple of aspects of building the shed which will be very difficult for a single person to accomplish, without using “tricks” which need to be purchased or constructed.  More people not only allow completing these aspects in a “normal” manner, but will make things quicker and perhaps even “more fun”.  After all, if a single person needs to drive 1000 nails, two people only need to drive 500 each, and so on.  Plus, don’t discount the motivation having others involved provides.  If you can arrange for a person or group to help, that should be great.  If you don’t have people available or that you trust, it does not mean you are out of luck, just that you will need to approach the project differently.

There are certain basic tools you will need.  For a pre-cut wood building, that will be a hammer, drill (primarily for driving screws), tape measure (25′ may be adequate for medium sized buildings), level, framing square, carpenter’s pencil and a circular saw.  Having a cut-off saw was nice (more ergonomic and precise), but is not really needed by the pre-cut kit; the square and circular saw will suffice since there are not that many cuts left to be made.  A panel saw would have been handy, but for the one cut needed for the floor of my kit, a long straight edge, a pair of clamps, and the circular saw did just fine.  And you will need a ladder or two.  And, of course, don’t forget safety glasses and work gloves.  Plus arrange for the equipment for your preferred painting methodology.

Remember those 1000 nails?  I’ve used a nail gun for construction and it is very helpful indeed.  However, since the kit came with all the correct nails, I did not bother getting the pneumatic equivalents.  However, roofing nails were NOT included, and roofing is enough of a pain; I got a roofing nail gun and the nails for it.  Some kits say that “felt” under the shingles is “optional”.  I disagree.  Not only does it provide protection from a small leak in the shingles, but it protects the shingles from the roof panels and vice versa.  For the felt, you will need a hammer stapler and staples (no, a pneumatic stapler won’t do; it goes right through the felt, and your hands will hate you if you try using a standard squeeze stapler).  For the shingles, a utility knife and a bunch of hook blades for it, and a pair of tin snips (for the edging).  Be sure the hook blades fit your utility knife; my knife had a couple of extra pins which match up holes only in the same brand’s (much more expensive) blades.

This list assumes that everything goes perfectly, which it sometimes does not.  For instance, if there is a warped or twisted board, it can often be forced into position using a pipe wrench.  Or a twisted beam can be encouraged to stay in place with a long bolt and nut, tightened with a wrench and socket wrench.  Some places get rain, and getting raw wood wet is not wise.  A tarp big enough to completely cover the roof (and bungee cords to fasten it down with) can be a great help.  Things sometimes don’t fit quite right; I found a package of composite (not wood) shims (from Timberwolf) to be of great help in these cases.  If you end up with a crack or hole that insects can get through, some spray foam like “Great Stuff” can help.  Although roofing CAN be done with ladders, it is a tedious, slightly more dangerous process.  Buying or renting scaffolding can make it go quicker and is a bit safer to boot.  Of course, it might be easier and not much more expensive just to hire someone to do the roofing.

I used several other tools which I had on hand, to overcome problems and make “enhancements” to the shed.  These should not be normally needed.

Caveats

It is tempting to just order the kit and work on the site when the floor kit arrives.  This can be problematical; it took me over a month to get the floor flat and level (since the ground was very much neither).  Yet, the shed kit arrived only a few days after the floor kit.  Be aware of what the relative weather is between the source and your location.  My kit came from Pennsylvania when it was cold and wet, and arrived in Arizona where it was warm and dry, and sat in that wildly different environment for over a month.  It is not surprising that I had more warping and twisting than expected.  Two lessons learned.  Prepare site before ordering, and be aware of relative weather between source and destination.

The floor kit is often delivered by a local lumber outfit, who may have a trailer and fork-lift, and can put the pile in a relatively out of the way location.  The shed kit may be shipped by a standard shipper who has nothing other than pallet jacks to move things around with.  Pallet jacks require a smooth, solid surface, so they had to leave my kit in the road and I had to quickly and manually move it into my pickup.  The total kit weight is a bit over a ton, so to move it from curb to site will take more than one trip with a “1/2 ton” pickup.  When you get to the site, have something for the materials to sit on to keep them off the ground, sort the parts by size, and then stack them with the last needed pieces on the bottom and the first needed pieces on top.  I had two stacks, one of boards and one of sheets.  Cover with tarps if precipitation is expected.

Find the inventory list before you start unpacking and use it to verify the contents as you unpack.  I did a manual inventory, and matching it with the official one I found later was a bit of a challenge, since my descriptions did not match theirs.  There were a couple of pieces missing and a couple which were unusable; a call to the company got replacements sent right out.  Read the manual from cover to cover before you start, then follow it “exactly” (except for any typos) unless you are doing the build by yourself.

It was annoying that the 16′ shed floor kit came with 8′ runners; it was a challenge to keep them together and straight; I eventually gave up and used “StrongTie” connectors to hold them together end-to-end.

Standard felt is very easily torn.  It usually takes two people to install, and after we got one side up and took a break; the wind, more accurately a gentle breeze, ripped most of it off.  I finally had success with double thickness felt which is somewhat stronger, a “tool” I built which allowed me to put it up by myself, and putting on the edging as quickly as possible to prevent  wind from getting under the felt edges.  Yes, you need more rolls (being thicker, there is less length in each roll), but in climates such as ours, you generally put on two layers of standard felt anyway.

How to start

The first step is to figure out everything you want to accomplish with your shed, then find out any limitations on what you are “allowed” to put up and where you want to put it.  This includes finding out what is required by building codes.  Make sure you have plans for any alterations to be made to the shed; find the materials and figure out when in the build process you will need to diverge from the standard instructions.  Next, find the model or models of kits which you like, and get an idea of the pricing.  Arrange financing (cash or credit), prepare the site (marking and leveling for wood, forms. rebar and pouring for concrete), then order the kit.  Find out when it will be delivered and arrange to be available, with a truck or two to move the parts from where they deposit them to the construction site, and preferably people to help to load and unload.

 

John Hertig

Introduction to Building a Storage Shed – Part 1

Why would you want to do this?  Look at the name:  STORAGE Shed.  Most everybody “needs” more storage because they can’t bear to have less stuff.  And someone preparing for bad times probably has more stuff than a person who doesn’t believe anything bad can happen and expects their parents and/or government to take care of them no matter what.  Some of that extra stuff you really don’t have room for in your house, and some of your prepping supplies you REALLY don’t want to have IN your house.  Such as a generator and fuel, oil and vehicle parts, battery banks and so on so building a storage shed makes a lot of sense in some situations.  You can, of course, rent storage space; there is a large industry devoted to just that.

There are a few problems with that solution though.  One, you have to go there to get your stuff, and that assumes that you have a working transport AND that they can or will let you have access if they have no power or their computers don’t work or the people in charge are honesty challenged.  Two, you have signed your stuff over to them if they don’t receive payment for any reason (such as banks being closed).  Three, you are usually contractually obligated NOT to store some of the things you don’t want in your house.  And four, they can raise their rates whenever they please unless you have a long-term lease.  The place I am at currently is charging me TWICE what someone walking in off the street pays, and won’t reduce it.  I could rent another unit, move my stuff over, and cancel the first place, or move to another location, but I know the new price will just start moving up again.  The cost of a storage shed may seem large, but I did the math, and it will be paid off by two years of storage fees, and that is assuming they don’t raise the rate again, which is a very poor assumption.

Look at the other part of the name:  Storage SHED.  Do you have a “post Apocalypse” trade planned or set up; blacksmith, gunsmith, leather worker, seamstress/tailor, weaver, or the like?  This could be used for your business or the tools and supplies.  Plus, a shed looks like a shed, but it does not mean it must be ONLY a shed.  It could provide camouflage for an entrance or exit from an underground area.  It can be built with concealed areas.  Some sheds are designed as, or can be converted to, a green house, if you are interested in growing your own food and/or medicinal plants or setting up an aquaponics system.

Ok, let us assume you have decided you want a storage shed.   But can you have one?  Like it or not, there are a number of people or organizations who have control over what you put up.  Do you own the property?  If not, the owner has complete discretion over what you put up, if anything.  And if you don’t own the property, do you really want to make improvements to it?  An option in this case might be “portable” storage, like a trailer, or one of those transoceanic shipping containers.

Do you belong to a “Home Owners Association”?  If so, you have contractually agreed to give them complete control of the exterior of your property.  Read the bylaws to see what is currently allowed.  Figure out what you can do which abides by any restrictions.   And once you come to agreement on what they will accept “today”, get documentation which grandfathers your shed against any future changes to the bylaws.

How close are the neighbors, and are they reasonable?  If you follow all the legal requirements, they may not be able to prevent you from doing what you want, but if they get annoyed enough, they can still cause you plenty of grief.

Dealing with Governments

And then there is the city, town, township, parish and/or county.  Each level of government will have restrictions on what can be done, based on the “zoning” of the property in question.  The less remote the property is, the more stringent the restrictions are likely to be.  These include things like the percentage of the property which can be “covered”, height restrictions, required distances from property lines and other buildings, and many other things, collectively known as “Building Codes”.  Your safest bet is to get a “building permit”, but this has some downsides.  First of all, as a survivalist, you should attempt to stay “under the radar”.  You would be hard pressed to be more obvious than having your plans on public accessible file with the government, and having inspectors checking you out each step of the way.  Second of all, it will cost.  The building permit has a fee, often based on type of building and square feet.  I once wanted to put up a carport, and they told me I would have to pay $5 per square foot just for the permit.  For posts and an aluminum roof; the building permit would have cost more than the carport.  Not only that, but it is likely they will factor this “improvement” into your property value when computing future property taxes.

By all means, find out all the restrictions on what you can put up; violating restrictions has potential for serious annoyances if the government wants to raise a fuss (and they usually do if violations are brought to their attention).  However, if you can avoid getting a building permit, that might be a good path.  For instance, here, if the shed is less than 200 square feet, you don’t need a permit.  That means a 12′ by 16′ shed (192 square feet) can be put up without a permit being required.  Just because a permit is not required, does not mean the restrictions can be ignored; you just won’t have the public records and government monitoring.

Ways to Get a Storage Shed

The “easiest” way is to have someone build it for you.  This will not be the cheapest option, and a competent builder will likely insist on a building permit, meaning not only public records and government monitoring, but the builder and perhaps others will know all about your shed.  The incompetent builder will refuse the permit and perhaps build something which violates code, with potential for eventual legal challenges or structural problems.  For smaller sheds, you might be able to have it pre-built and delivered.  You could build it yourself, which means you have to come up with a viable design (not that hard) and get the materials, which may be a challenge.  I don’t know about your location, but the lumber here is crap; warped, twisted, split, insufficiently dried.  As my dad said when we were trying to get lumber to replace a rotted porch, “I wouldn’t use this stuff for firewood”.  The remaining option is a “kit”.  This has the advantage that the design, acquisition of materials and much of the cutting are already done for you.  A good kit will have better quality material than you may find locally and instructions which most everyone should be able to follow.

Types of Storage Sheds

There are a number of architectural shed types.  Chose what you like, and what fits your landscape and restrictions.  I’m partial to the “barn” style, because it gives you more height, and even “lofts” in some models.  Possible materials include wood, steel, aluminum and various “plastics”.  Plastic and aluminum tend to be the hallmark of cheap “department store” sheds, great for lawnmowers and garden tools, but not what you would call “durable” or “secure”, and usually limited in size.  For a substantial shed, wood or steel is usually the way to go.  I’m more comfortable working with wood, so that is the path I chose, although steel seems like it might have some advantages.

Modifications

Depending on what you will use the shed for, you may want to make modifications or additions.  For instance, wiring it for electricity may be useful.  But since there is no guarantee electricity will always be available, make sure you have the ability to plug-in a generator (via a transfer switch), or add solar or wind generation capability.  In some cases, you may want to add plumbing.  Note that no matter how much of the electrical or plumbing work you are willing and able to do yourself, you should consider getting a permit for this work and having it inspected.  Unlike the structure, which is hard to mess up (especially if professionally designed), a mistake in the design OR execution of electric or plumbing can cause fire, electrocution, leaks, odors or rot/rust.  And if not up to code, an insurance company may refuse to pay off on a claim.  Wherever practical, have the shed “completed” so it looks like you are “adding” the electrical or plumbing and follow all requirements for what must be visible to the inspector(s).  Of course, if you got the permit for the shed in the first place, follow their instructions on when in the process the various inspections should be scheduled.  If temperature control is a concern, you may want to add insulation, cooling or heating.

Flooring

This foundation (literally) of a shed is an important decision.  The common choices are concrete, or joists with flooring panels.  Concrete may be “better” and in some cases easier; pick your location, set up forms and rebar, and have it poured.  It may be more expensive, and less versatile (it is kind of hard to dig through concrete if you decide a partial “basement” would be handy), and “impossible” to move.  Joists are likely to be less expensive and more versatile, and if the ground is not even, may even be more practical.  There will be beams running the length of the building, with the joists running across the building between the beams.  Flooring panels are laid across the joists and fastened in place.  Note that the beams and joists are in contact with the ground and so are at risk for rotting and/or insects.  Thus pressure treated lumber or corrosion resistant metal is critical here.

Site preparation is highly important, since in order for the floor to be flat and level, and stay that way, the ground must be flat, level and stable.  If it is not, you may be able to compensate by having a variable thickness concrete floor, or building a foundation or partial foundation for your beams out of blocks and concrete.  A “better” floor system is to have runners the length of the building, on which the beams and joists sit.  As long as the runners are flat and level (and adequately supported), it does not matter if the ground is, plus it also allows ventilation below the shed, which can help with cooling and reduction of condensation inside.  It also puts the flooring higher, which may make entry more difficult, but on the other hand, gives more protection against minor flooding.  The runners, of course, must also be pressure treated wood, corrosion resistant metal, or even concrete and/or blocks, and a ramp can compensate for the step up.

 

John Hertig

Survival Skill: Unarmed Combat

In an ideal world when a SHTF scenario takes place you’d be wearing your bullet proof vest and have immediate access to your hand gun and assault rifle. Unfortunately this may not be the case because of several factors. The laws in your country might prohibit you from carrying any weapons or the place you are attending might not allow you to carry weapons, such as universities and hospitals. So how do you defend yourself using unarmed combat skills if you get stuck in such an unpleasant situation? This article will go through the steps involved in defending yourself from the initial assessment of the threat, how to avoid or eliminate the threat with your bare hands or with any improvised weapon that you’re likely to come across in everyday life.

Assess the threat

As with everything else, the first step is to assess the situation. The extent of your assessment will obviously depend on the prevailing circumstances. You can’t take out pen and paper and start drafting an action plan if there’s a hyped up guy slashing with a machete right in front of your face. Each situation warrants a different level of assessment. An imminent threat requires split second decisions that are mostly based on muscle memory acquired through hours of training whilst a hostage situation requires careful planning. Whatever the situation, the aim of your assessment is to identify any weaknesses of your opponent, availability of improvised weapons and escape routes. We’ll cover all these aspects in the sections below.

Basics of Self Defense

When faced with a threat you have two opposing options; fight or flight. Backing off from a confrontation might make you feel like a pussy but it’s better to feel that way for a few days rather than being killed or injured because of your pride. If you decide to run away from a confrontation/threat you have to be sure that you can run faster than your opponent, avoid any weapons he may attack you with whilst you are running (mostly applicable to firearms), and find adequate shelter before he catches up with you. If this is not possible then you’d better stand your ground and fight because once you turn your back on your opponent you’ll become much more vulnerable.

Once you’ve decided to fight, or are forced to fight your way out, there are some basics you have to keep in mind. The fundamental principle of self-defense is to reduce to the least extent possible the damage your body receives in the attack. Key areas to protect are your entire head and face and vital organs in your torso. However do not underestimate the importance of your limbs. You won’t be able to attack with enough force if your arm/s gets injured and you’ll have problems standing and moving about if your leg/s gets injured. How you protect yourself will depend on how you’re being attacked. We’ll go through these in the coming sections.

The next principle is to stop your assailant from what he is doing. This is achieved by hitting a delicate part of your opponent’s body with a tough part of your own body (or any hard object that comes to hand). Your attack should be vicious and aggressive. This is not the time to have sympathy. You want to cause intense pain and damage in as little time as possible in order to neutralize the assailant.

Tough Parts of the Body

  • Knuckles
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Sole of the foot
  • Forehead

Delicate Parts of the Body

  • Temple
  • Eyes
  • Nose
  • Jaw
  • Neck/throat
  • Solar plexus
  • Ribs
  • Kidneys
  • Groin
  • Knees (when hit from the sides)

Unarmed Assailant

When your assailant is unarmed it’s a fight on equal par and the outcome will depend on strength, stamina, technique, aggressiveness and as always a bit of luck. Although it’s important to be aggressive don’t forget about defending yourself and protecting your vitals. If you get injured, you drastically reduce your chance of winning that fight. Once into the fight do your utmost to knockout (make unconscious) your opponent or cause an injury that makes him harmless. Do not start throwing useless punches and kicks in the air like a drunkard. Instead aim all your shots and focus on making contact with most if not all your attacks. Hit with all your strength but make sure not to lose your balance. Do not opt for fancy spinning kicks and that stuff unless you’re a professional kick boxer. Aim your kicks to his knees to knock him off-balance and aim your punches to his face and ribs if you get the opportunity. Do not unnecessarily expose yourself whilst attacking and always be ready to block his attacks. Follow these basics and you’re likely to be the one standing next to an unconscious body.

Armed with a Knife

When faced with an opponent with a bladed weapon you must concentrate on that weapon and move in such a way that it never contacts your body. Keep at a distance and let your opponent slash and trust in vain. You have to wait for your opportunity to move in swiftly and grab hold of the hand holding the weapon. Do not grab the weapon from the blade. Your best chance of moving in is when he has swung the blade and is about to slash back. Once you gain hold of his weapon bearing hand hit him with all you’ve got but never let go off the hand. When you feel that he’s become weak enough, grab the weapon bearing hand with both your arms and twist it ferociously to break as many bones as possible. At this point he should drop the weapon or loosen enough his grip such that you can safely take it away from him. Once the weapon is in your hand, it’s up to you how to proceed but keep in mind there might be repercussions, both legal and psychological, if you decide to end his life.

Armed with a Firearm

An assailant with a firearm is much more difficult to disarm due to the extended range and deadliness of the weapon. Here your initial approach will be drastically different in that you want to come in physical contact with your assailant. You’ll have to do this gradually whilst distracting your assailant with conversation or a decoy. Once close enough your objective will be to grab the gun by the barrel and hold the gun pointing away from you and ideally away from other people. Movies and some martial arts experts demonstrate techniques to disarm an assailant with a gun pointing towards your head/torso. I am not judging the capabilities of these individuals but I strongly suggest you do not try this technique. All the assailant has to do is squeeze the trigger. This only takes a split second and your attempt to twist the gun might actually be what causes the trigger pull. The approach I suggest is much safer. Wait for a moment when your assailant points the gun in another direction. This is likely to happen whilst he is shouting instructions and uses the armed hand to point towards what he’s talking about. As soon as the gun is pointing in a safe direction, grab the gun by the barrel (obviously without any part of your hand obstructing the barrel’s end) and hit the assailant with all you’ve got. It’s interesting to note that if the firearm is a pistol it will shoot the loaded round when the trigger is pulled but it will not cycle another round since you will be hindering the slide’s motion. Be careful in the case of a revolver due to the hot gases escaping from around the cylinder. If it is a long firearm, grab the barrel with both hands so that you can exert more leverage. Obviously in the latter case you’ll have to attack with your lower limbs.

Arm Yourself – Improvised Weapons

This article is about unarmed combat in view of situations where you’re not carrying any weapons. This however doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to arm yourself with whatever might come handy. The following are a few ideas of easily obtainable weapons in everyday life.

Sticks such as a broom, billiard or long umbrella-You can swing such sticks to keep your assailant at bay but usually such sticks are fragile and immediately break upon impact dealing very little damage to the target. Instead use ‘weak’ sticks like you would use a lance. They will be less likely to break and will deal a lot of damage due to the low surface area which results in a lot of pressure.

Metal pen-This has a very short reach but you could easily incapacitate someone by stabbing him in the eyes or neck. You can also use a metal pen for pressure points techniques to subdue an assailant. This however requires training.

Stones or any other hard object such as a soda can (full)-These can be used as projectiles especially when you have an ample supply of them. If you’ve got only one it might be better to hold on to it and use it for battering your opponent.

Chair or stool-These can be used as a shield and to keep your assailant at bay as well as for striking. Obviously they can be thrown in the typical western movie style.

Fire extinguisher-You can direct the escaping gas (CO2 will be extremely cold), water, foam or powder in your assailants face. You can also use the cylinder as a battering device or throw it at him. You could even approach the assailant from above and simply drop the fire extinguisher on him.

Stiletto Shoes-If you or anyone accompanying you is wearing stiletto shoes, take them off. You’ll be able to move with more agility (be careful if there is glass or other sharp or hot objects on the ground) and you can use it for stabbing just like you would with a metal pen.

Conclusion

You never know when things are going to turn sour. We do our best to always be prepared to defend ourselves but we might end up in a threatening situation whilst we’re officially unarmed. That doesn’t mean we’re all gonna die. It means that we have to prepare for that scenario like we would for any other. Always be alert of your surroundings and book yourself for a few self-defense classes and keep practicing those techniques. You’ll be glad you have if the need ever arises.

Doctors Explain How Hiking Actually Changes Our Brains

hiiking

While it may seem obvious that a good hike through a forest or up a mountain can cleanse your mind, body, and soul, science is now discovering that hiking can actually change your brain… for the better!

Hiking In Nature Can Stop Negative, Obsessive Thoughts

Aside from the almost instant feeling of calm and contentment that accompanies time outdoors, hiking in nature can reduce rumination. Many of us often find ourselves consumed by negative thoughts, which takes us out of the enjoyment of the moment at best and leads us down a path to depression and anxiety at worst. But a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending time in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts by a significant margin.

To conduct this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through either an urban or a natural environment. They found those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and they also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain related to mental illness. Those who walked through the urban environment, however, did not report decreased rumination.

The researchers noted that increased urbanization closely correlates with increased instances of depression and other mental illness. Taking the time to regularly remove ourselves from urban settings and spend more time in nature can greatly benefit our psychological (and physical) well-being.

Hiking While Disconnected From Technology Boosts Creative Problem Solving

A study conducted by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found that creative problem solving can be drastically improved by both disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. Participants in this study went backpacking through nature for about 4 days, during which time they were not allowed to use any technology whatsoever. They were asked to perform tasks which required creative thinking and complex problem solving, and researchers found that performance on problem solving tasks improved by 50% for those who took part in this tech-free hiking excursion.

The researchers of this study noted that both technology and urban noise are incredibly disruptive, constantly demanding our attention and preventing us from focusing, all of which can be taxing to our cognitive functions. A nice long hike, sans technology, can reduce mental fatigue, soothe the mind, and boost creative thinking.

Hiking Outdoors Can Improve ADHD In Children

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is becoming more and more common among children. Children who have ADHD have a difficult time with impulse control and staying focused, they get distracted easily, and exhibit excessive hyperactivity.

Hiking In Nature Is Great Exercise And Therefore Boosts Brainpower

We already know that exercising is fantastic for our overall well-being. Hiking is an excellent way to burn between 400 – 700 calories per hour, depending on your size and the hike difficulty, and it is easier on the joints than other activities like running. It has also been proven that people who exercise outside are more likely to keep at it and stick to their programs, making hiking an excellent choice for those wishing to become more active on a regular basis.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume — the part of the brain associated with spatial and episodic memory — in women over the age of 70. Such exercise not only improves memory loss, but helps prevent it as well. Researchers also found that it can also reduce stress and anxiety, boost self esteem, and release endorphins. Many people take medication to solve each and every one of these issues, but the solution to these ills may be a lot simpler than you think!

How Can You Begin To Start Hiking?

Luckily, hiking is one of the easiest and least expensive sports to get involved in, and it can have great benefits for the whole family, including grandma! Start out small and test your abilities. Do what works for you — if that means just walking through trails in a park, that’s fine. Any exercise outdoors is better than none. You can easily find maps of trails around your home online, and there are plenty of smartphone apps to map them out, too. I recommend turning off your signal and your phone while hiking though, so you can reap the most benefits of the hike (though it may be wise to at least carry it with you in case of emergency).

Make sure you have some good sturdy hiking shoes, a hat, and a water bottle, and be sure to layer your clothing so you can take things on or off easily as you warm up and cool down. You may want to consider using trekking poles as well, which can increase your speed and take some of the pressure off your knees. Now, can you just do one thing for me?

Go take a hike!

Linked from: http://www.cosmicscientist.com/doctors-explain-how-hiking-actually-changes-our-brains/

Outdoor Ice Cache for Frozen Food Storage in Winter

The cold winter air has a remarkable power–the power to freeze things. This can be our nemesis if we are stuck out in the cold, but it can also be used to our advantage. Winter is nature’s fridge and freezer, and if you get caught without power, you can allow the cold to preserve your food through freezing. A simple way to do this is to place your frozen food in a cooler full of ice and set the cooler outside in a shady area or an unheated shed.

Or you can do what our ancestors did to store their food by freezing it in an outdoor ice cache. Here’s how.

1. Pick the Best Spot
The ideal spot for an ice cache is someplace near your dwelling, on the north side of a large structure. This northern orientation will keep the southerly sun from warming up that spot during the day, and in the shade. As a result, your ice will last much longer. The paleo Indians made their ice caches in pits dug on the north side of boulder outcroppings. This provided both shade to preserve the ice and a marker to find the spot again, even in a snow covered landscape.

2. Build Your Box
Once your site is picked, lay out some ice blocks to create a small ice platform. Your food will sit on top of this, rather than the bare ground. Then, using blocks of uniform thickness, build a wall around the foundation. Carve or saw the ice to make each block fit tightly. If you need something to act as “chinking” to fill any gaps, apply slush while the air is sub-freezing. The slush will freeze and fill the gap. Finally, make a slab of ice that will cover the entire structure like a lid. Check the lid for fit, load in your food, and seal the lid on there like some kind of frosty sarcophagus.

3. Have A Security Plan
The hungry scavengers of winter will be very interested in the “abandoned” food they’ve found. Yes, some critters can smell it through the ice. And while most creatures won’t be able to scratch or bite through your icy storage locker, it’s still a possibility. For extra security, bury the ice box in slushy snow and allow it to freeze into one solid block. Then, only humans with tools can break the ice and retrieve the food. If you find that certain creatures keep visiting the box, you could also set up traps to take advantage to the draw.

How you ever tried anything like this?

How to Prepare for a Life or Death Situation

I have no idea why, but fear seems to be a subject that is rarely discussed or addressed when it comes to self-defense training. In a real situation you are probably going to be absolutely scared witless. When it comes to addressing fear, you avoid the subject like the plague. Yet it plays a vital part in our survival.

When it comes to self-defense, the failure to acknowledge fear and its part in survival is preparing for failure. You must understand how fear works, how you react to it, and how you can make it work for you.

Fear is not only natural, but you can guarantee in the emotional pressure cooker of a real situation that you will experience it. Accepting that you will experience fear is an important step to trying to overcome it. The adrenal dump we experience in the fight-or-flight mode of our sympathetic nervous system is a natural part of the process of fear. While the experience of fear and the adrenal dump aren’t one and the same, they certainly show up hand in hand when things go south.

If your body is a loaded gun, then your mind is the trigger. If you can’t pull the trigger, you are in trouble. Teaching the mind to pull the trigger rather than to hit the power switch is a difficult skill to develop and especially hard to implement with a window of opportunity that lasts only a few seconds. Overcoming that fear and having the confidence to act decisively is the name of the game if we want to survive an assault.
Learning to confront fears in day-to-day life and learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable can help us develop our inner strength. Learning to work past your power switch. We are all creatures of convenience and comfort, but gravitating toward doing things that make us uncomfortable and facing other fears rather than putting them in the too hard basket can help us become more confident. It can highlight how we respond to and act in the presence of fear and what we can do about it.
Confidence is often defined as believing in yourself. I think this is absolute dribble. If confidence is a belief, then you could believe (without any swimming lessons) that you can swim, but when you jump in the pool and sink to the bottom, you may find believing in yourself doesn’t work. But if confidence is your actual capacity to employ some tactical, psychological, and physical skills even when you are scared, then I think confidence is one the most important attributes you can develop.
Remember the mind comes first. Techniques are useless unless they can be applied tactically and with intent. People survive deadly assaults every day with no physical self-defense training whatsoever. This is because of instincts, luck, and having some of the tactical, physical, and psychological skills necessary to survive. This indicates to me very much of survival is determined by mindset.

3 Steps in How to Use a Compass

 

Compass

Despite the fact that a compass is a basic tool for getting around, it can be an intimidating piece of equipment for those who’ve never held one before, much less used it to safely navigate an unfamiliar bit of wilderness.

The first step in figuring it all out is familiarizing yourself with the various parts of a compass. Once you’ve got at least a rough understanding of what the lines mean, of which part turns and why, you’re ready to get some basic training under your belt.

A starter compass is a good place to start. The simple instrument can serve as an excellent introduction to orienteering as a hobby, sport, and overall enjoyable activity. The best beginner’s tool comes with only the essentials, so new users from children experiencing their first taste of outdoor exploration to adults rekindling an appreciation for nature can confidently build a foundation on which to build a growing knowledge of navigation.

The Silva System is a straightforward method for learning how to properly combine a compass and topographic map. The system can be boiled down into three easy steps:

Step 1

You may not be able to get from where you are to your ultimate destination in one go. In that case, you should break the journey down into more manageable steps. Set the compass on the map so the edge of the base plate (remember what that is?) serves as a line connecting your current position to where you want to go. You should be able to draw a line along the edge, as if it were a ruler—which it basically is.

Step 2

Set the compass heading by rotating the dial until the letter “N”—for north—lines up with magnetic north indicated on the map. You should be able to find a compass rose indicating which way is which.

Step 3

Pick up the compass and hold it flat in front of you. Be sure that the direction of travel arrow points straight ahead. Then, rotate yourself, keeping an eye on the magnetic needle. When the red end lines up exactly with the orienting arrow, stop. The direction of travel arrow (it’s easy to keep the distinct arrows straight when you actually see them in action) will be pointing in precisely the direction you want to go. Look in the direction of the arrow and find a particular landmark that stands out. Hike to that landmark, at which point you can stop, regroup, and start steps one through three over again.

Even though this is a simplified navigation system, there is one other detail that should be noted: The magnetic needle will always point north, but north itself isn’t a fixed, immovable point. Well, magnetic north isn’t, anyway.

True north is a fixed point that never changes. Magnetic north wanders, due to the ever-shifting nature of the Earth’s magnetic field. The two different norths sit about 800 miles apart.

Mapmakers typically consider true north when creating their maps. Many topographic maps will, however, also include information on “declination,” which is the difference between true north and magnetic north from a given point.

The difference between true north and magnetic north can be so minimal as to not really matter, or it can be significant enough to prevent an unaware hiker from ever arriving at the intended destination.

5 Natural Ways to Fight a Cold or the Flu

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5 NATURAL WAYS TO FIGHT A COLD OR THE FLU

It is that time of year again, the beginning of cold and flu season. Yuck! Although many of us would love to stay inside and avoid all those nasty germs lurking about in public, it is not always feasible.
So, let’s look at a few ways to fight off and relieve the symptoms of a cold or the flu, Naturally:
1. Herbs:
One of the best herbs to stimulate immune supporting white blood cells, T cells, macrophage and interferon activity is Echinacea. This can be taken at the first signs of a cold and will help to ease the symptoms. Boneset is another herb that will help to stimulant the immune system and is one of the most effective herbs to fight a cold or the flu. It promotes sweating and helps your body to release toxins. Although you could steep it and drink as a tea it is best to take it in pill form if possible, as it can be quite bitter tasting. Yarrow leaf is another highly effective herb that helps to reduce fever and is also an antiseptic. It can be steeped and drank as a tea. Peppermint leaf has antiviral properties, promotes sweating to release toxins and is gentle enough to use on children. This is found in pill form or raw leaves for steeping and making a tea as well. Ginger root is a terrific herb that helps to warm chills and fight infection. It is known as the warming herb that helps to also alleviate stomach distress that is sometimes associated with a cold or the flu.
2. Vitamins:
When it comes to taking vitamins, there are two that are a must have. These include Vitamin C and Zinc. Taking 1000 mg three times a day will help to shorten the length of a cold. Zinc helps to stimulate T cell response and helps to prevent a cold virus from replicating. Note that it is not recommended to take more than 50 mg of Zinc daily.
3. Homeopathic Remedies:
Anas Barbariae also called Oscillococcinum, is a wonderful remedy used for onset symptoms of the flu. Some of these symptoms include ear pain, congestion, chills, frontal sinus pain and nasal discharge. It is recommended to take 3-4 pellets three times a day under the tongue.
4. Foods to Help:
If you find yourself fallen ill, many foods have beneficial affects. To break up congestion try chicken soup or miso vegetable soup with plenty of garlic and onion. Garlic and onions both have antimicrobial properties that will help fight infection. Another terrific antimicrobial item is cinnamon. Add cinnamon to applesauce, sweet potatoes, or tea. Foods that are rich in beta-carotene such as sweet potatoes, help to strengthen mucus membranes in the lungs. Other helpful antioxidant foods that help are carrots, cabbage, mustard greens, turnips and broccoli.  One always helpful favorite of mine, is hot tea with honey which helps to soothe a sore throat and helps to reduce coughing.
5. Essential Oils:

It is commonly known that essential oils have multiple health benefits. Using an essential oil diffuser can help prevent other family members from getting sick. Some of the best oils to use are juniper, tea tree, lavender, peppermint, and rosemary. A personal favorite and very effective essential oil for treating cold and flu symptoms is called thieves oil.  Thieves oil is generally a blend of Clove, Lemon, Rosemary, Cinnamon and Eucalyptus.  

Remember if you do come down with a cold or the flu, getting enough rest is vital. It is during this time that that your body heals itself. Also don’t forget to drink plenty of clear liquids to help flush out your system. Be sure to avoid caffeine and milk products as these can actually increase mucus production. This will only prolong your illness and make you feel worse.

Linked from: http://thetrailerparkhomesteader.blogspot.com/2016/10/5-natural-ways-to-fight-cold-or-flu.html

Wilderness and Emergency Survival Shelters

Shelter is one of the top priorities necessities in the wilderness, emergencies and survival situation. Knowing which shelter would be best for you depends on the situation or location you are in.

What you need to do is first ask yourself how quickly you need to build a shelter, and how long you plan on being in the local vicinity. In a true survival situation you will probably need to build a shelter rather quickly and preferably before night falls. Here is a few different types of shelters you can build, also you can pick up The Complete Survival Shelters Handbook which is A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Life-saving Structures for Every Climate and Wilderness Situation.

Squirrel Nest

The Squirrel Nest shelter is one of the most simplest of all woodland shelters. They are the quickest to put together since they are just a pile of leaves.

This type of shelter can be surprisingly warm and even effective at keeping you dry.

Mound up a huge dry pile of leaves and dig yourself a trough in the middle, lie down, and then pull the leaves over you.

Two or more feet of leaves on top will resist moderate rain for hours, but it’s necessary to lie very still to keep them in place.

To increase the stability of a squirrel nest shelter make the shelter between two fallen logs. This will prevent leaves from spreading out on the forest floor.

Debris Hut

The Debris Hut shelter provides a quick sleeping shelter for one to two people. However it is not possible to do anything else in it  such as cooking, working, etc.

To make a Debris Hut shelter cut a strong, straight branch at least 10′ (3m) long for the ridgepole. One end goes on the ground while the other is supported by a pair of sturdy sticks set into the ground and crossed and tied (using vine, paracord or even shoelace) near the top.

If you can find a naturally occurring support for the open end, such as a low tree limb, by all means use it! Lash the ridgepole to the support with cordage.

Cut a bunch of sticks at leave 1″ in diameter, and place them diagonally against both sides of the ridgepole, spacing them about 2″ apart. It is not necessary to tie them in place.

Now lay down inside and make sure it covers your entire body, with enough height for toes and at least 3″ extra width on  each side of your shoulders.

If you have a tarp or poncho place it over the ridgepole and secure the points of the tarp/poncho to the ground.

If you do not have a tarp or poncho, or would like more insulation then begin piling leaves over the sticks (or poncho)  and don’t stop until the pile is ridiculously high. The leaves will settle quickly, and the thicker the covering remains, the better it will protect you from rain and heat loss.

Lay more sticks or leafy branches over the leaves to hold them in place. Branches with pine needles are the best.

Now, if you haven’t followed the tip we have below, stuff the inside of the hut with leaves for insulation. Leave a good pile of leaves at the door. After you wiggle your way in feet-first for the night, pull the loose pile of leaves in after you to close the entrance and prevent heat loss around your head.

Tip: Build the debris hut over a huge pile of leaves to avoid having to stuff it later.

Shade Shelter

The Shade Shelter is primarily for those in desert environments but can also be adapted for colder weather locations as well.

This type of shelter is ideal for hot and arid climates where travelers or survivors need to be aware of the heat and sun which can lead to deadly heat stroke.

In winter environments travelers or survivors may need to protect themselves against sunburn or snow blindness.

If rain protection is not an objective then even a bare pile of sticks will suffice for a shade shelter that resembles a partial teepee.

Cut three long poles and last them not too tightly at least 1″ down from one end. Stand the assembly upright, then spread the legs into a tripod.

Take more long poles and align them between two of the poles, resting their tops in the crotch of the main poles at the top.

For protection from the sun from two directions, fill in two sides of the pyramid.

If long sticks are difficult to come by, last a couple of shorter sticks horizontally between two main uprights. You can then pile shorter sticks or even sagebrush against them.

For sun protection fro, dawn to dusk, use four poles for the main structure and cover three sides, leaving the open side facing north in the northern hemisphere, south in the southern.

Wind Block

While building a shelter to block just the wind seems like an awful lot of energy for a shelter tha

Lean-To

One of the most popular and well-known wilderness and survival emergency shelters is the Lean-To shelter.

Lean-tos are a class of shelter with a common configuration but no set structure.

They all consist of a flat slanted roof and, usually, two or more stout poles that serve as rafters.

Covering Your Lean-To

If you have a tarp or poncho use it! If not the below methods are great secondary coverings.

Large slabs of bark can be pulled off of down, rotten trees, and these make excellent roofing material.

Lay a curse across the bottom, then work your way up, overlapping each course like shingling a house.

Pile several feet of leaves over closely spaced roof poles and hold them in place with light branches, as for a debris hut.

The roof must be pitched steeply, at least 45 degree angle, if thatching is to be used.

Tip: For greater protection, sides can be added to a lean-to using the same methods. Ultimately, you can even enclose part or all of the front as well for a structure that will conserve heat as well as provide rain and wind protection.

In conclusion, there are various of types of shelters that we haven’t even covered. We will be doing a few more Shelter 101 write-ups that will include other types of shelters. Many of the above are excellent shelters for wilderness environments and for when you are in an emergency survival situation.

Excerpt from: The Complete Survival Shelters Handbook By Anthonio Akkermans

Homemade Dehydrated Chicken Strips – Shelf Life Report

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Two years ago I happened to make a particular batch of dehydrated chicken strips. The other day while defrosting one of the chest freezers we discovered a jar from this particular batch. Being two years old, I thought it would be helpful to be the ‘guinea pig’ and sample it, and report whether or not I survived…

Here’s my ‘shelf life’ report,
and the original article how I made these dehydrated chicken strips:

 

Here’s a picture of the newly discovered ‘canning jar’ of chicken strips:

dehydrated-chicken-shelf-life

We often store our various home dehydrated foods in canning jars and then vacuum seal them with this jar sealer tool. I’m sure that being vacuum sealed greatly enhances the shelf life…

In addition, since it is meat, and since we had room in the freezer – we kept it there.

Note: Obviously the freezer was key here. With that said, I was still curious after 2 years in the freezer which is generally not recommended for meat (lots of variability with that statement though).
The reason that we dehydrate chicken strips is actually for the dog – who loves to eat these as treats. He’s not spoiled or anything… 😉

dachshund-chicken-treats

 

Dehydrated Chicken Strips Shelf Life Report

I am happy to report that not only did I not keel over and that Mrs.J did not have to dial 911, the chicken strips were still damn good! The dog was eying me as I tried one, and he let me know that I better stop at ‘just one’… the rest are for him 😉
The Original Article:

How I Made Dehydrated Chicken Strips

It’s better to use chicken breast rather than dark meat because the dark meat has more fat in it and will spoil more quickly than the breast meat.

I used chicken breast that was still ‘on the bone’ (because it was on sale) and then simply sliced the meat off the bone with a sharp knife. Having a very sharp knife is important!
The next step is to trim away all skin and fat from the meat because the fat will go rancid if you leave it on. As you can see in the picture, I simply used a cutting board, a sharp knife, and kept a bowl nearby to throw in the fatty pieces of meat.

I discarded the skin but saved the fatty pieces of trimmed chicken to cook them separately for immediate consumption 😉 – less waste that way…

how-to-make-dehydrated-chicken-strips
I sliced the meat into strips about 1/4-inch thick. If you cut with the grain, the result will be a slightly more chewy meat. If you cut across the grain, the dehydrated result will snap easier into small pieces. It depends what you want…

Tip: If you partially freeze the chicken, it is easier to cut consistent width strips.
I then placed the chicken strips on my dehydrator trays and then set the dehydrator temperature to it’s max setting of 155-degrees F.

My Dehydrator: Excalibur.

chicken-strips-on-dehydrator-tray
Dehydrate the chicken strips until they at least reach a leathery consistency. Personally I like to dry them longer until they’re very crisp. This way they’re drier and they will last longer.

The dehydrate time will vary anywhere from 6 to 16 hours depending on your environmental conditions, how thick the chicken strips are, and how dry that you want them. Plan on starting this process in the morning so that you won’t run out of time during the process before having to call it a night and go to bed…

dehydrate-chicken

After the chicken strips have finished dehydrating, I broke them up into smaller pieces to keep them in canning jars sealed with a vacuum sealer ‘jar sealer’ attachment.

I also keep the jars in the fridge for an even longer shelf life. Home dehydrated chicken strips should last at least 1 to 2 months stored at room temperature (depending on storage conditions and environment), and much longer if refrigerated or frozen. The thing is, I can never test the actual shelf life because these things disappear sooner rather than later…

Linked from: http://modernsurvivalblog.com/survival-kitchen/dehydrate-chicken-strips/

NEW PREPPERS GUIDE TO WINTER VEHICLE PREPAREDNESS

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Many people new to prepping, or even those just setting out on their own for the first time find the thought of preparing for major winter storms overwhelming. I get this entirely. The key is to break it down into manageable chunks and deal with one chunk before you move onto the next. Today we lookout your vehicle and what you need to think about when travelling around in winter.

We cannot guarantee that a storm will come late Friday when we are all safely at home so any vehicle in use should have an emergency ‘extreme weather kit’ in the trunk and a few extra supplies inside the car so lets take a look at that first.

You need to make sure that should your car become your home for a couple of days that it’s up for the job. Your vehicle should be well maintained and have appropriate tires. You also need to be mentally prepared for spending time in the vehicle, not knowing when rescue will come?the traffic will start moving again.

A serious accident can see tail-backs miles and miles long and in heavy falling snow this can turn into a life threatening situation very quickly for those stuck in the traffic without out adequate fuel, clothing and food.  Knowing that you have the equipment and supplies to survive such a situation will make you calmer should disaster strike. You won’t be worrying about eating or freezing to death which means you can concentrate on the task in hand: Getting yourself out of the situation or sitting it out with relative ease.

So, what do you need to have with you? Some items are obvious, some not so obvious:

  • A shovel preferably a strong but lightweight folding one.
  • Windshield scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight with extra batteries or dynamo/wind up flashlight
  • Battery powered radio or dynamo/battery radio
  • Tow chains and/ropes
  • Tire chains if allowed in your area
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency reflective triangle or sign
  • Flares if your route uses back roads,/remote areas
  • Full first aid kit
  • Rock salt/grit/cat litter for putting under wheels to aid traction.
  • Distress flag/ bright bandana to attract attention.
  • Whistle to attract attention
  • A largish card with your name and cell number written on it. If you leave the vehicle add your direction of travel, the date and the time you left the vehicle. Leave this in the car
  • Matches, lighter and small tea light candles packed into a small wide necked jar. The candle can be put into the bottom of the jar and stood on the dashboard to give a gentle light that can be seen from a considerable distance. Have your window open just a crack to make sure no fumes build up. This also applies if you run the engine for even just a few minutes.
  • Keep the gas tank topped up.
  • Any daily required prescription medications.
  • Phone comparable power pack capable of at least 3 full charges of your phone.
  • Baby wipes for personal hygiene.
  • Half a dozen good quality heavy gauge plastic bags big enough to ‘go’ in if the call of nature can’t be stalled any longer.
  • A  dozen bright strips of fabric with your name and cell number written on them in permanent marker: If you are in a remote area and have to leave your vehicle there are decent markers and can be tied to tree branches alerting rescuers to the fact that you are there and your direction of travel.
  • A couple of thick fleece blankets and/or a sleeping bag.
  • Sweat top and pants big enough to go over your regular clothes.
  • Wool socks, boot type big enough to go on easily.
  • Hat preferably with ear flaps, mittens and scarf
  • Thick tread knee high rubber boots in case for any reason you end up having to walk out.
  • Water and pouch fruit juice drinks
  • Bag of your chosen trail mix
  • High energy snack bars
  • Couple of packs of cookies
  • Hard candy
  • Few individual bags of dried fruit and/or nuts
  • Couple of high calorie chocolate bars, Snickers, Mars bars or similar

The exhaust/tail pipe has to be kept free of snow otherwise fumes will back up into the vehicle every time you run the engine. A sure way to get carbon monoxide poisoning

Bonus tip: Pee contains urea and peeing or tipping your makeshift pee bag out under the exhaust/tailpipe of the vehicle after you’ve cleared it will not only melt the remaining snow but prevent more snow building in that area keeping the pipe snow free for a considerable time.

Packing most of the kit into a hiking style back pack is the best option because if for any reason you have to walk out of the situation you can take it with you. On your journey try to have it inside the vehicle, it can go in the trunk whilst you’re at work and get slipped back into the vehicle for the trip home.

The folding shovel should be able to attach to the pack via velcro or a lanyard in case you have to leave the vehicle. Should you have to leave your vehicle put on the spare clothes you have with you, you can always take them off if you are too hot and better that than get hypothermia and/or frostbite. The rubber boots will protect your feet and lower legs from the worst of the weather.

Mittens are better than gloves as your hands retain more heat. The scarf should be wrapped around your mouth and nose to reduce the cold air entering your body and to protect your nose from frostbite. Make sure your ears are covered as they are also susceptible to frost bite.

As soon as you become stuck you need to let someone know where you are. In remote areas, in cases of accident or of a breakdown this should be 911 (999 UK) first and then a family member. Tell them where you are and what the issue is and when you hang up turn off the phone to save the battery. Now is not the time to see if there is a Pokemon near the vehicle.

The standard advice is to stay with your vehicle, it gives you some protection from the weather but on occasions that’s just not possible. Remember if you leave the vehicle be sure to:

  • Leave the card with the date and time as well as direction of travel.
  • Wear as many of the clothes as you can without impeding your ability to move comfortably.
  • Take the food and drink with you.
  • Do not eat snow it will lower your core temperature and can speed up the onset of hypothermia.
  • Mark the route you take with the cloth strips.
  • In wooded areas walk in the centre of the road there will be less hazards than there are near the tree line. Think animals, hidden tree roots and uneven ground.

I hope you found this useful.

Linked from: http://undergroundmedic.com/2016/10/new-preppers-guide-to-winter-vehicle-preparedness/