How to Start a Fire in the Wilderness?

This is a great blog written by Brandon Cox about how to start a fire in the wilderness. Check out his site stayhunting. He has some really cool articles and information. Thank you Brandon for letting us share your blog.

How to Start a Fire in the Wilderness?

By Brandon Cox / January 27, 2017

How to Start a Fire

Fire is so crucial for survival in the wild especially when lost or just taking an adventure. Ever wondered why almost every person starts a fire when in the wild whether camping or just taking an adventure? In a short while, I will show you exactly why fire is so important in the world and why you must know how to start one. You can agree with me that most people in the wild who find themselves in a situation where they need fire don’t have a lighter.

Well, I promise to show you exactly how you can start a fire in the wild with or without a lighter but first let’s see why fire is so important in the wild.

How to Start a Fire in the Wilderness?

Why is It Important to Start a Fire?​

Most people think of fire as a luxury only to realize of its crucial importance when in an outdoor visit or a survival situation. In a survival situation, fire can be lifesaving enabling you to do a lot and get through the danger of the wild. Most of the threats that people face in the wild when in a survival situation can easily be solved by fire going to show its importance.

Most common ways people die in the wildness and how fire can help?​

  • Hypothermia due to lack of body heat: Fire warms you.
  • Snake and spider bites: Fire scares them away.
  • Attack from predators: Fire keeps them away
  • Insect bites: Fire again keeps them away
  • Dehydration: Fire helps you melt water in ice regions
  • Hunger: Fire helps cook edible raw food
  • Think of committing suicide: Fire boosts your morale becoming your only friend

Those are just good examples to show you how fire is so important in the wild. In when in places with water sources, you will still need fire to boil the water and kill the pathogens and other bacteria in the water. Fire in the wild at night can be the only difference dying and seeing the light in the morning. It will warm you, give you light to accomplish tasks and scare away wild animals. The smoke from the fire can also act as a signal to the search team.

Do you see the importance of fire in a survival situation in the world?

I know you agree with me on this. Fire in the wild is very important to survival. The discovery of fire is what has changed humanity.​ Even before we learn how to start a fire in the wild, let first see how to prepare the ground for a well-built fire.​

​How to Build a Well-built Fire?

Well build fire

You don’t just gather wood and start the fire as most people think. Starting a fire in the wild requires you to prepare. Even in your home, you have the fireplace nicely set. The very first step in starting a fire in the wild is building a good fire pit.

1- ​Build a Fire Pit

There are no fire rings in the wild, so you have to prepare a fire pit. First, choose a good location as this is where you will most probably spend the night. Doing it under a huge tree or under some cliff will ideal. All the vegetation and grass on the chosen spot must be cleared for a distance of 8-10 feet. Once you have a cleared area, dig several inches into the soil to remove the top layer which is set aside for emergencies. You can even use the loose soil as firewall and mount it around the newly built fire pit. If in a place with rocks, mount rocks on the edge of the fire pit to insulate it.

2- Gather Materials​

What does your hunting backpack have that can help you gather as many materials as possible. You will need different materials that catch fire easily and others that burn for long periods. You can make it in the wild starting fire without enough materials to keep the fire going once it starts.

Scope the area and collect as much wood as you can to help you with the fire. If you’re in the camp where there is tinder, then use to start the fire.

​Tinder

Tinder is among the smallest and easiest materials to get a fire started in the campfire. The following are some of the tinder forms:

  • Wadded paper
  • Wax
  • Wood shavings
  • Cardboard strips
  • Fire starts and commercial fire sticks
  • Dryer lint
  • Dry leaves (works well in the case of wildfire where other materials are not easy to find)

Kindling

The next step is kindling the fire where you size it up by adding small branches and twigs that you collected earlier. Branches and twigs of about 1/8 and inches into the fire to size up slowly but ensure you don’t put it out.​

Tip: Add small twigs and branches and slowly increase their size as the fire grows.

Firewood

Lastly, you can add logs that burn for long to keep the fire going up to the next day. Whole logs or split ones can both work depending on how long you want the fire to burn. The logs and woods must be completely dry to burn and stay lit for long.

Tip: Splitting logs might be impossible in the wild so start by putting them near the edge of the fire and let them catch fire slowly.​

Water

Water is very necessary just in case you need to out the fire in the morning all when finished. Pour water on the fire when done to stop it spreading to other areas. Stir the ashes to ensure there is no fire left and then pour more water. You can always repeat this over and over until the ashes are cool to be held in your hand before you leave the scene. The worst mistake you can do is leave a campfire or a fire in the wild unattended as this can lead to a catastrophic widespread of fire burning the entire area.

Tip: The dirt or dug soil can be used to cover the fire area and prevent any chances of the fire starting on its own.​

Ignition Source

What is the easiest way to start a fire in the wild? If lucky to have a match or lighter in your hunting bag, then you’re good to start. However, what happens when you have nothing that can start fire fast? This is where your fire starting skills are tested. You have to go the old ways our ancestral used to start a fire with any available tools. Did you know your bow can be used to start a fire? If you go hunting with bows and arrows, then your bow can be used to start a fire, but we will get to that in a short while. There are several other ways to start a fire in the wild that will discuss in a little while as you look forward to improving your fire starting skills in the wild.​

3- Six Popular Ways You Can Build a Fire

​Before you build a fire, you need to understand all the six popular ways that people build a fire in the wild to suit specific reasons. The arrangement you choose to build your fire will determine how long it lasts and how fast it burns. You can see why it is important to know the way you will build your fire. I’ll show you some of the most popular ways that people build fires in the wild and the purpose each way serves.

​3.1- The Teepee Fire

The teepee is the most popular arrangement and one you need to know. Build a tepee by arranging the tinder and kindling it in the shape of a cone. Lit the center and let the logs burn from inside falling inward to feed the fire. Building a tepee is ideal when you have wet wood or green wood that does not burn well. The flame is usually hottest at the tip where there is oxygen. The heat generated from this arrangement is very intense and burns out wood quickly but ideal for warming you at night.

The teepee arrangement is probably the one you’ve seen in survival series where one needs to keep warm and have the fire burn until morning. The thicker end of a log or stick should always be placed at the top where the heat is intense so that it burns inward.

Video illustrating the teepee fire arrangement

​Pros

  • Gives intense heat
  • Starts fire faster
  • Can burn wet or green wood

Cons

  • Burns woods quickly

​3.2- The Lean-to Fire

The lean to fire is another great arrangement that does not need a lot of effort if you set it out correctly. Choose a medium sized log and place tinder next to it. The kindling is the leaned across the log as illustrated in the video below. Small dry branches and twigs can be placed after several layers of tinder. Once you light the tinder, you can add as much kindling as needed to grow the fire.

Video how lean fire is built

​Pros

  • Fire will size up without much trouble
  • Once set up, fire starts pretty fast without any additional task

Cons

  • More tinder and kindling are required.

3.3- The Cross-ditch Fire

The Cross-ditch fire is by far the most lasting arrangement for making any wildfires. On a tinder bed, put kindling in a crisscross fashion before you add woods and logs. Once everything is set, light the tinder and fire will slowly size up.

Video how cross-ditch fire is built

​Pros

  • Efficient consumption of fuel
  • Long lasting to see you through the night
  • Suitable for cooking

Cons

  • A bit tedious to build

3.4- The Log Cabin Fire

The log cabin fire simply means creating fire by having a cabin arrangement. This is achieved by first kindling twigs and branches into the shape of a cabin while leaving a space in the middle. Place two sticks in opposite directions 4-6 inches apart. Continue stacking more sticks across each other until a square cabin is created.

Create a reasonably sized box and add tinder into the box. Once tinder is filled in the box, place more sticks on top of the cabin to cover the tinder. When everything is set, go right ahead and light your tinder.

Video showing the log cabin fire

​Pros

  • Rarely collapses
  • Long lasting
  • Provides warmth on all sides

Cons

  • Burns out wood much faster

3.5- Upside Down (Pyramid)

The upside down fire is where your fire starts at the top and burns all the way down. It is quite simple to start. Place two small branches or logs on the ground in a parallel position. Have another solid log on top of the first layer in a perpendicular position. Keep on adding a few more layers alternating their direction each time. Each layer placed must be smaller than the previous layer.

When done, light the top of the layer and leave the flame to travel naturally down. This is another great way to light a fire in the wild without straining.

Video Upside down fire

​Pros

  • Long lasting
  • Fire burns downwards requiring no attention during the night
  • Quite fast to start

Cons

  • Requires several logs that might have to use some power tools like chainsaw to cut and split firewood
  • Does not produce intense heat

3.6- Create a Star

The star arrangement of fire is where you place log from different side meeting in the middle to form what appears like a star. I know woods in the wild can sometimes be in shortage especially if your hunting backpack does not have enough cutting items. Saving the few logs you find can get you through the cold of the night. This arrangement is quite effective at preserving wood where you pull them back a bit when you need to decrease the intensity if the fire.

Video How to build the Star Fire

​Pros

  • Quite effective and long lasting
  • Consumer wood well
  • Conserves fuel

Cons

  • You have to monitor and control the fire regularly

4- Bonus: Tips/Tricks When Building a Well-built Fire

4.1- ​Choosing the Fire Location

Choosing Fire Location

Fire in the wild does not have the comfort zones that come with building fires in the camp or at homes. There is no fire pit, and one has to set a good spot to create a fire pit. You can agree with me choosing a location is very important. You don’t have to be the one burning the forest down. Stay away from trees and bushes that may catch fire and spread it.

A clear area away from dry leaves and other dry twigs is an ideal one. You don’t want to wake up smelling smoke everywhere so carefully choose a location that does not bring smoke your way. Check for the breeze and if its steady, you will know which direction the smoke will be going. Start your tinder where you intend to build your fireplace. Many times I have seen people start a fire somewhere and carry the tinder to another place. If you start your tinder somewhere else, then create a temporary fire there before transferring the fire to your main location.

4.2- Choosing the Foundation​

Foundation

Choosing a good foundation is crucial as poor foundations will kiss fire that as just started. Avoid wet and cold areas if possible and build your fire on a dry foundation. In cases where every part is wet or cold, try and build a foundation for your fire using dry rocks. I REPEAT, DRY ROCKS as wet rocks can explode in your face. I will tell you later on why wet rocks are not ideal for starting a foundation especially those taken from the riverbed area.

The aim here is to elevate your foundation away from the water beneath. Dry dirt can also be used to raise the foundation higher. If possible, try and make air flow beneath the foundation. A good way to do this is have rocks on two sides with two opening instead of having rocks circle your foundation. A good spot with a good foundation and big rocks around it will make it easier for you to start a fire and maintain it. The big rocks act as the windbreaker creating a barrier around the fire pit preventing the wind from spreading the fire.

4.3- Best Time to Start a Fire in the Wild​

When is the best time to start the fire? Do you wait until dark falls to start the fire? When planning to start a fire, timing is very crucial. It is always important to start the fire a few hours before the sun goes down. This can be 2-3 hours earlier as you need the light of the sun to collect materials and observe what you’re doing.​

4.4- Safety Tips​

  • Never Leave Before Putting out the Fire​ – Fire might not seem dangerous especially when controlled but can turn ugly and destroy millions of properties and life. The first rule when leaving the spot of the wildfire is always to turn it off. I have said this before and will say again; ensure you extinguish the fire completely before leaving the scene. Poor water on the fire and cover it wet soil before pouring more water. You must be able to hold the wet ashes in your hand and confirm there is no slightest of burning wood that can start a wildfire once you’ve gone. Most of the fires seen around the world are mostly caused by human error, and you don’t want to be one causing it.
  • Never use Rocks from the River Beds​ – I talked about this earlier when building your foundation using rocks. Wet rocks from the river beds have water in them that will expand once heated. These rocks can explode on your face causing serious injuries when the water expands and breaks them apart. The water in the rocks boils and increases in size exploding the rocks into small pieces. It is simple science that you probably learned in high school that you must be aware of when using rocks to build a foundation.
  • Build Fires Away from Branches and Steep Slopes​ – To avoid the risk of the fire spreading, build it away from overhanging branches, rotten stumps, dry grass, leaves, logs and steep areas. Even the extra wood you set aside must be piled some distance away from the fire.
  • ​Never Leave a Wildfire Unattended – Even the smallest of breeze will spread the fire away and start a wildfire. This is why it is necessary to have every material ready before you starting the fire.​

Pro Tips to Start Fire in the Real Challenge Situations- Advice from the Famous Blogs

You probably have everything you need to start a fire in the wild but what if the situation is challenging? Can you start a fire in a rainy or windy condition? Advice from famous blogs written for the survival men and women out there will show you how to start a fire in the most challenging situations.

1 – Start a Fire When Wood is Wet – From EHow

It seems totally impossible to start a fire when the wood but when that is the only option, you have to do it to see the next day. You must put in some extra effort to overcome the challenges of damp wood. It might be a bit challenging, but the steps from the Ehow should help start the fire easily


2 – Start a Fire When It Raining – From ArtOfManliness

Starting fire is one thing and knowing how to start it in a rainy condition is a whole new thing. You can agree with me that learning the skill to start a fire in a raining place is important for avid campers and frequent hikers. Choosing a good location and collecting dry tinder are among the most important things to do. The ArtOfManliness blog clearly illustrate how to start a fire when it is raining.


3 – Start a Fire  When There is Snow – From OffTheGridNews

Starting fire when there is snow should not be difficult as long as you have a few dry limbs to set the base. The problem is when your wood is frozen. Frozen wood is even harder to start than wet wood as you have to thaw it first. Start by choosing wood from high up the branches where there is no snow. Lay the base of logs in the snow to act as your foundation. The melting snow should not worry you as it rarely melts and if it does it will not affect your fire. You can then pile your tinder and kindle it before lighting the tinder.

If there are rocks around, building a fire pit and raising your spot some levels above the ground is also a good idea. Follow this OffTheGridNews for step by step instructions on how to start a fire when there is snow.


4 – Start a Fire  When it’s Windy – From ModernSurvivalBlog

Well…, Windy conditions create a dangerous situation to start a fire in the wild. In fact, some states even have laws restricting fires in the wild or outdoor spaces when the atmosphere is windy. Windy spreads fire quite faster, and you can have the whole forest to fire in minutes. So, how do you get to start a fire in a windy situation?

The Dakota Fire Hole​

The Dakota fire hole is a method used to start a fire in a windy area and has several advantages over other methods.​

How to build a Dakota fire hole?

  • Dig a hole a foot long and a foot wide
  • Enlarge the bottom of the holes inches wide to accommodate more wood
  • The hole becomes the chamber of the fire pit
  • One foot away from the hole, dig an airway channel that will connect to your Dakota hole at the bottom
  • The diameter of the airflow must be a foot and angle down towards the bottom of the Dakota hole
  • Fill your fire pit with tinder and kindling before lighting it
  • Adds more materials to build the fire
  • The airflow acts as a suction drawing in air and resulting in a hot and efficient burning of wood.

​Pros of the Dakota hole

  • Burns very hot
  • Uses little fuel
  • Creates less smoke
  • Safe when there is the wind
  • The flame burns under the ground shielding it from being seen during the dark
  • Easily supports cookware
  • Easy to extinguish by filling the hole with soil
  • Avoids Detection

Cons

  • Might not be visible to the search team
  • A bit tedious to build

Top 20 Best Ways to Start a Fire Without a Match Lighter

Fire by Friction

1. Hand Drill

The hand drill is one of the simplest and old ways to make fire. Create a V-shaped notch on a board or piece of limb and drill it with a dry stick until the tip glows red and you have your ember collected. You must have your tinder nearby to blow and get a flame.​

2. Fire Plow

The fire plow is one of the simplest methods to start a fire in the wild if your hands ache from the hand drill method. It is simply rubbing two sticks together until heat is generated through friction. Create a groove on a piece of wood and use a stick and move a stick through the grove forth and back until ember is created. Once again, you must have your tinder nearby.​

3. Bow Drill

This is where your hunting tools come into play. In the bow drill, you don’t need your arrows but the bow to create heat on a piece of dry wood through friction. The string of your compound bow is used to tie to a dry wood that is then rotated on a dry board or piece wood to create an ember.​

The bow drill is easy on hands and requires less effort to drill. However, in a real life situation, it can be difficult to set up requiring a reliable cord.

4. Fire Saw

This method uses a piece of wood that is practically sewed into another wood on the ground to cause ignition.​ You can check this video on how fire saw works:

5. Fire Thong

The fire thing is a friction method that is quite fast and efficient. The method uses a split branch and a split rattan to create friction. The rattan thong is sawed forth and backward against the underside of the board to create an ember.

​6. Flint and Steel

In the flint and steel method, a spark is created from the steel when the two are put under pressure. You must have your tinder ready for the spark to land on it and start the fire. The ArtOfManliness giving you a full explanation of the flint and steel method

​7. With a Dead Lighter

You can start a fire using the dead lighter pretty simple using some deodorant and a piece of tissue. Spray the aerosols all over the tissue. You must have the tinder and kindling ready. Go ahead and flints the wheel on the lighter placing it closer to the tissue of paper. It may take several attempts, but eventually, the fire will start.

​If your lighter is dead, then don’t just throw it away, it can help you start a fire without straining a lot.

Using the Lens Based Methods

8. Lenses (Mirror/Glass/Magnifying)

You probably tried this when you were little children using lenses to focus light from the sun on the same spot for a few minutes. The concentrated watts from the lenses hitting your tinder will start a fire.

​Lenses can be quite effective in a real life situation. You just have to imagine of all the items in your hunting backpack that might be having lenses.

9. Fire from Ice

You will need a clear piece of ice to start a fire. Shape the ice with a knife to create the rough edges or grind it on stone. Use the heat of our body to finish shaping your ice by melting the rough edges. Hold the ice perpendicularly to the sky and move it to focus the brightest light on the tinder. The tinder will first smoke before igniting but be careful not to drip water on it.

​This is a good one if you’re lost in the wild, and there is ice. Make sure you start the fire before the sun disappears as we discussed earlier. 2-3 hours before the sun goes down is ideal.

10. Coke Can and Chocolate Bar

Any can with a bottom similar to a coke can also be used to start a fire. The bottom of the can is used to reflect light and focus it on the tinder, but first, you have to make it shiny enough using a chocolate bar. A chocolate piece can be used to brush the bottom of the can and make it polished.

​You can even try this on your own to know you can do it when in the survival situation. Who knows what comes your way in the wild.

11. A Flashlight

With your tinder and kindling set, break off the glass cover from the touch but don’t damage anything else. Take out the bulb and break it without damaging the filament. Put the remains of the bulb into the flashlight and screw it. Now you can place your tinder into the top of the flashlight and fill it up. Now turn the flashlight on. It has to ignite although sometimes it can fail if the process is not done correctly.

​Next time you get lost in the wild and need some fire, maybe is important to sacrifice that flashlight for warmth during the night.

12. With Water: Five Ways to Start Fire with Water

It a very unusual way but believes me water can start a fire. All the five ways use the same principle where water is used as the lens to focus light on the tinder and start a fire. The following are ways you can use water to start a fire:​

  • ​Water in an empty light bulb where the water in the bulbs acts as a magnifying lens.
  • Water in a plastic bottle
  • Water in a plastic wrap
  • Water and a picture frame
  • Using ice lens as discussed earlier

Using Chemical Combustion

13. Potassium Permanganate Crystals and Glycerin​

The use of chemicals is not the safest ways to start a fire and should only be attempted when it is the last solution. This is a chemical reaction with an explosive effect so ensure there are no kids around. When you mix these two compounds, a roaring fire explodes. Make sure you have your tinder nearby to start the fire.

14. Brake Fluid and Chlorine

Mixing a brake fluid and chlorine is a fun experiment that usually leads to an explosive reaction from which fire can be started. It is quite dangerous, and only a small amount can be used to start a fire.

​With Battery

15. Batteries and Steel Wool​

This one is quite simple and easy to perform. Just buy some batteries and some very fine steel wool. The finer the steel wool, the better it will spark. Rub the battery on the steel wool, and you will see sparks forming. However, you must be careful as the sparks can be quite dangerous.

​16. Gum Wrapper and Battery

The foil gum wrapper and battery does the trick helping you start fire quite fast. Make igniter strips using the wrapper. Shave small bit from the wrapper gum and create a 2mm bridge in the middle. Find a battery like the AAA batteries and hold the igniter to the ends of the battery. Sparks from the igniter will immediately start a fire.

​17. Jumper Cables and Car Battery

Get the jumper cables hooked to your car battery and try to let them touch. The Spark created can start a fire in the tinder.​

The jumper cables and the car battery is an essential one of you get stuck with your car in the cold and need some fire. It is an easier option that will not strain you.

18. Pencil and Car Battery

This is pretty similar to using the jumper cables, but here you don’t need sparks, the pencil connected to the jumper will become red hot and start burning your tinder.

Use Any Simplest Way to Start a Fire

19. Use the Fire Piston​

Fire pistons can also be used to start a fire. The fire piston compresses air rapidly heating it to the extent of igniting a fire. If you don’t have one, here is how you can build one using a few spare tools:

​The use of a fire piston is quite fast but one you might not have with you in the wild. However, it is always good to know what it can do.

20. Using Fire Steel

Fire steels produce molten sparks when scraped, and this can be used to ignite your tinder. A knife or scraper can be used to scrap it and get the ember.


Correcting Common Mistakes When Starting a Fire

​Smothering the Fire

​Most people in a rush end up throwing wood into the fire even when it is not ready. You have to know when to add wood to the fire. Smothering the fire will block the flow of air and eventually kill the fire. Take it slow and kindle it slowly until it is large enough to add small pieces of woods.

Starting Fire Without Enough Firewood Around​

How often have you found yourself looking for more firewood just as the fire starts to size up? You should not start a fire without accumulating enough firewood to see you through the night. This means leaving the fire unattended in search of more fuel. The fire can extinguish, and you start a fresh or even spread when you’re gone.

Leaving the Fire Unattended​

Never leave the fire unattended at any time as this can be the reason for a wildfire. Once the fire is set, you have to be around monitoring and controlling it at all times. There should be water close by or some wet soil in case it starts to spread.

Using Rocks from the River​

Rocks from the riverbed have water in them that boils turning into steam that can explode on your face. This is a common mistake that you should avoid when making a fire bed foundation. The explosion of the rocks can lead to serious injuries.​


Final Verdict

If you’ve gone through the entire article, then trust me you can start a fire anywhere no matter the conditions. Fire is crucial in pour lives and learning to start in any condition can mean the difference between death and life. Most of these techniques might not appear useful as you’re reading them from the comfort of your home but quite crucial in a survival situation.

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Survival Gardening Indoors

Survival gardening when the SHTF is problematic. Thefts from a backyard garden or small farm will be rampant, and with each theft, you lose food, there’s damage to the garden, and you’ve lost labor and other resources. One alternative is to move your survival gardening indoors.

Of course, indoor gardening cannot be a complete solution. The limited space and the need for light and nutrients makes indoor gardening expensive. And the amount of food you can produce will always be very limited. Even so, it can be a useful adjunct to stored food, outdoor gardening, and bartering for food.

What To Grow

Among the easiest indoor plants to grow are container herbs: thyme, basil, oregano, chives, cilantro, marjoram, mint, rosemary, dill, and parsley. Stevia leaves can be grown and used as a sweetener. Parsley is a
particularly good choice as it can be used in greater amounts than many other herbs. Meals prepared from stored food can be rather monotonous. Herbs and spices help make your meals more palatable.

Micro-greens, as they are called, are simply leafy vegetables, such as lettuces, spinach, radish, mustard, arugula, kale, turnip tops, beet greens, amaranth, and others, which are harvested when young. You can get a crop of micro-greens in only two to four weeks after planting. After cutting the greens down to the stem, you can sometimes get a second or third crop to springs up from the stems.

Micro-greens add flavor, fiber, and some nutrition to stored food. They add variety, color, and taste to otherwise boring meals. Today, you can go into any grocery store and choose from thousands of different foods. When the modern food production and distribution system fails, we will all be eating from a much small set of choices. The variety you can get from your own herbs and greens will make a difference to nutrition and taste.

Can you grow anything more substantial? Yes, you can. Certain varieties of tomato are designed for containers, even for small windowsill sized pots and hanging planters. These can be grown on a patio outdoors, or near a window inside that gets plenty of sun. Now you are not going to produce enough food, in this way, to provide a major amount of protein, fat, or carbohydrates for your diet. But take some stored rice and beans, and add tomatoes, herbs, and greens and then you have a much improved meal.

Peppers can also be grown in containers. The smaller containers can produce enough peppers to flavor many meals. A larger container might produce enough peppers to add to a salad or a stir-fry meal, once in a while. Colorful hot peppers can be grown in abundance. Some smaller sweet bell peppers will add to the bounty.

Where To Grow It

A sunny windowsill is perfect for small pots with different herbs. A bay window facing south is probably best for larger plants, such as greens, tomatoes, and peppers. Hanging pots give a plant more room, so that the stems and leaves can spread out and get more sun. Then, if you are a little more ambitious, you could enclose a porch or patio, to make, in effect, a little greenhouse attached to your home.

Another option is to use artificial lighting. On a small scale, the cost and amount of space and electricity is a modest investment. The most expensive thing is the lighting. LED lights are best, as they produce the most light from the least electricity. But they are pricey. I would suggest a few grow-lights used as an addition to light from a sunny window. Once you go whole hog with indoor growing, using hydroponics and lots of LED lights, the benefit-to-cost ratio falls dramatically.

I’ve heard that some people grow cannabis, surreptitiously, indoors. If the food economy collapses, growing food, even indoors, might need to be done in a similar stealthy manner. But again, costs, space, and resource use would be high. It will always be more economical to store food while it is cheap, than to try to grow it when food becomes scarce.

Tip on Preventing Blisters

First of all, remember that blisters require three conditions to occur: heat, moisture, and friction. Eliminate any one of those factors and you prevent blisters.

Buy boots that fits

Friction happens when your shoes or boots don’t fit your feet well. Buy them in a store where the staff knows how to measure your foot size. Try on a variety of brands because they all fit slightly differently; find the brand that fits your feet best. If the best boots you find still don’t fit perfectly, try after-market insoles to customize the fit.

Eliminate heat and moisture: Keep your feet dry

This may be the easiest and most effective strategy  employed: Whenever you stop for a break of five minutes or more,  take off your boots and socks and let them and your feet dry out, eliminating or at least minimizing heat and moisture. As simple as that.

Carry extra socks

If your feet get chronically sweaty, change into clean, dry socks midway through a day of hiking. Try to wash and cool your feet in a creek and dry them completely before putting on the clean socks.

Wear lightweight, non-waterproof footwear

Any footwear with a waterproof-breathable membrane is not as breathable as shoes or boots with mesh uppers and no membrane which also dry much faster if they do get wet. If you’re generally day hiking in dry weather, why do you need waterproof boots? It may seem counter intuitive, but non-waterproof shoes or boots may keep your feet drier because they won’t sweat as much.

Tape hot spots

Carry blister-treatment products like Moleskin—but also carry athletic tape, which sticks well even on damp skin. If you feel a hot spot developing,  stop immediately and apply two or three strips of athletic tape to the spot, overlapping the strips, and then check it periodically to make sure they’re still in place.

Tape preemptively

When you’re taking a really long day hike where you exponentially increasing the amount of friction that can occur, tape your heels before starting out, because you may have developed blisters on them on day hikes longer than 20 miles in the past. If you routinely get blisters in the same spots, tape them before your hike.

Use a skin lubricant

Distance runners have employed this trick for ages: Apply a lubricant to areas that tend to chafe or blister, like heels, toes, or even the inside of thighs, to eliminate the friction that causes that discomfort. Numerous products do the job, from the traditional Vaseline to roll-on sticks like BodyGlide.

Chapstick-Handy Uses

If you carry chapstick in your packet, like most people do, then here are some neat ideas you can use during your next outdoor adventure.

  • A DIY fire starter – Combine some chapstick with a cotton ball for an improvised and reliable fire starter.
  • An Improvised First Aid kit – Use the chapstick to cover and protect minor, topical injuries. It’ll keep it protected, clean and prevent minor bleeding. Make sure you use non-flavored for this!
  • A gear lubricant – Chapstick is petroleum based, so it can be used to stop squeaks in gear and lubricate sticky zippers.
  • A Temporary Water-proof tool– If you find a small leak in your gear, a temporary field repair can be done with chapstick. It’ll act as a temporary fix to prevent water seeping through the tent, jacket, pack or what have you.
  • An Emergency Candle – A surprisingly effective homemade, emergency candle lantern by twisting a cotton ball into a wick and coating it in the chapstick.

You Fall Through the Ice, Now What?

 

Even if you aren’t into snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, or other popular outdoor winter activities, it doesn’t hurt to know how to maximize your chances of surviving if you fall through ice.

First, be aware that as soon as your body hits icy cold water, it will experience something called cold shock phenomenon. This phase lasts between one to three minutes, and is characterized by an instinctive gasping response, which can lead to hyperventilation and a huge waste of energy.

As your body experiences cold shock phenomenon, your focus should be to consciously control your breathing. Try to slow your breathing down and know that you have more time than you think to survive. If it helps, remember that many top level athletes experience this scenario almost daily with ice baths following intense workouts.

Once you are relatively calm, try to swim to the point at which you fell into the water and use your arms to grab hold of a solid edge of ice.

For most of us, the natural instinct is to pull ourselves straight out, as we would do in hoisting ourselves out of a swimming pool. According to Dr. Giesbrecht, this is next to impossible.

The most efficient way to get yourself out of the water is to keep your legs as horizontal as possible and kick like you’re swimming, and try to get into a rhythm of kicking your legs and pulling your body forward onto the ice with your arms. Kick, pull, kick, pull, etc.

Once you have kicked and pulled your body out of the water, remember that the ice is probably weak, and that it’s best to roll your body away from this point to an area that looks more solid. Rolling can transition to crawling, and when you are relatively confident that you are on solid ground or ice, you can stand up and walk away.

What To Do If You Can’t Pull Yourself Out Of The Water

If there is no one to help you and you can’t get out on your own, don’t thrash around, as you’ll only lose more heat and get further exhausted.

Try to get as much of your body out of the water as possible to minimize heat loss. Specifically, get your arms up and onto the ice. Keep your arms there and don’t move them. Then relax as much as possible.

If you’re lucky, your arms will freeze to the ice before you become unconscious. If you become unconscious, you’ll stay there a bit longer because you are frozen there – you might get rescued in this state.

What To Do As A Bystander

If you come upon someone who has broken through ice, remember that the most important goal should be to preserve yourself.

We recommends calling for help immediately, be it through yelling at people within earshot, or with a cell phone.

Tell the victim to try to relax and slow down his breathing and emphasize that you are going to help him get out.

Try to talk her out of the water – tell her to get her legs horizontal in the water, her arms up on top of the ice, and to kick, pull, kick, pull.

If the victim can’t get out by himself, find something to throw to him, like a rope, tree branch, or even a ladder from a nearby home, if available. If you throw a rope, try to create a loop at the end of it so that the victim has something to grab onto. If he can, he should try to put the loop around his trunk and elbow.

Please consider sharing these thoughts with family and friends. Always best to be ultra cautious and stay away from frozen bodies of water, but good to know all of this just in case.

Traps and Snares

In a wilderness survival situation, it is imperative to know  your way around trapping and snaring animals and fish to use for food. With a few simple tools, a lot of patience, and a little bit of ingenuity, you can set up traps and snares to capture game animals, fish and birds with relative ease.

Traps and Snares for Game Animals:

Simple snare

To make a ground snare on a game trail, simply tie a “noose” from a line that slips easily, paracord works the best but fishing line also works, either using a slip knot or by feeding the line through a smooth ring. Tie off the end of the line to a tree or other sturdy object, and place twigs in the ground near the “noose” end of the snare. Then, suspend the “noose” from the twigs you placed in the ground, aiming to get it around the head height of the animal you are hoping to ensnare. The goal is to snare the head of the animal as it runs through the “noose,” so that it becomes trapped by its neck, and its attempts to free itself from the line tighten the snare further. Bait can be used to lure the animal to the snare.

Pit trapping


If you are in an area where larger game are plentiful and you have some time on your hands, you can also create a pit trap. Pit trapping can be used for deer or even elk, if you can dig deeply enough. Making pit traps is very time consuming and labor intensive, as you are essentially fashioning a grave from which the animal cannot escape. Begin by digging a hole in the ground wide enough to accommodate the body of the animal you wish to trap, and deep enough that the animal will not be able to escape once it falls in. If possible, shore up the “walls” of the pit with stones, creating a sort of makeshift masonry so that the integrity of the structure of the pit will not be compromised. Cover the pit carefully with thatch-work and leaves in order to disguise it, and wait. Note: be very aware of where you have placed the trap, lest you fall in yourself!

Deadfall

A deadfall trap is just what it sounds like: ideally, this trap makes the animal dead when it falls on top of it. In order to create a deadfall, find a large rock with a relatively flat surface on one side and use a tripod of sticks to hold it aloft. Bait should be placed at the center of the stick tripod. Make sure the sticks aren’t too solidly attached to one another, or the trap will not fall when the sticks are disturbed by the animal. Nor do you want them to be too weakly connected, lest the trap fall with a change of the wind!

Traps and Snares for Birds:

Net trapping

If you have a large net in your survival kit and feel like fowl, you may be in luck. By suspending a net between two trees in the flight path of a bird flock, you can ensnare one or more birds by trapping them in the netting. It is important that you leave a fold of netting down at ground level in case the bird should find its way downward—and since this method doesn’t involve any snaring of a specific body part, it is important to check it often if you are utilizing it just in case the bird should escape given time.

Perch snaring

Another method that can prove useful for bird-catching is a perch-style snare. Take a small stick and wedge it very loosely into the crotch of a tree branch, baiting the stick if desired. Then, tie a “noose” similar to that used in a ground snare, although very thin line is advised for bird snaring, such as fishing line and secure it to the tree, draping the “noose” end over the loosely-wedged stick. When the bird lights upon the stick, the stick should fall under its weight, thus trapping the bird by the feet.

Deadfall for ground birds

Just as you can use a deadfall trap for small game, you can use a similar trap for flightless birds. Using the same technique outlined for the small game deadfall, create a baited tripod of loosely-connected sticks holding aloft a large rock. When the bird disturbs the sticks in an attempt to reach the bait, the rock will fall and crush the bird or at least trap it in place.

Traps and Snares for Fish:

Trapping fish with a net


If you have a net, you can suspend it deep in the water of a river or creek by tying it off to poles place firmly in the ground, either at shore or further into the water. The net should be baited throughout, weighted at the bottom, and checked frequently to see if you have a catch. This is a simple, passive method for catching fish.

Bottle trapping

This method of fish-catching is painfully simple, but it does limit the size of fish you can catch. What you do is take a two-liter bottle such as those used for soda pop and clean it out, removing the label and the cap. Cut the bottle just below the neck, leaving a wide-mouthed container and a “funnel” that the neck has created. Cut off the threads of the bottle, leaving about a two-inch hole in the “funnel.” Place the “funnel” end backwards into the large portion of the bottle, so the neck of the funnel is facing inwards. Affix a line to the bottle, and add weights and bait—then sink your trap and wait for the fish to swim on in.

A line of lines

If you like, you can also make a line of multiple fishing lines in order to catch fish while you attend to other tasks. Here’s what you do: take a strong line such as sturdy rope or paracord and string it across a stream, tying it off securely to poles or trees on either bank, leaving it just above or partially submerged in water. Then, tie off weighted, baited hooks on fishing line to the cord and wait. When you return to your lines, you may find that your line of lines has taken all of the work out of your fishing.

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?