Survival Skills you should know or learn

Disasters and emergency situations are an inevitable part of our life. It is how we respond to such situations that plays a major factor on our survival. You may have all the knowledge about prepping but as we all know a disaster can change everything in an instant and you may be forced to survive without your emergency survival kits. Without the right skills for survival your chances of surviving a disaster or emergency situation will be greatly affected. It is important to understand that because of modern commodities our knowledge for basic survival has greatly diminished.  This will basically have a negative effect to us in an extended disaster survival situation and can mean the difference between life and death. Here are the basic survival skills that you need to know or learn in order to ensure you and your family’s chances of survival:

Learn how to grow food and or find it.

Disasters can change everything in an instant. You may be well prepared to survive indoors but what if you are forced to survive outdoors without any supplies? This is where self sufficiency with acquiring food becomes a necessity. Growing food for your family as well as the hunting and gathering approach are the best skills to learn to keep you and your family from starving when surviving outdoors.

  • Grow your own survival food.
  • Know what wild plants and insects are edible.
  • Ways to fish without the tradition equipment.
  • Hunting with trap and snares.

How to find water and purify it.

This is the most important skill everyone should learn in order to survive. As we all know it is impossible for us to survive without water so it is important to understand the importance of knowing how to get and purify water. You need to realize that unless your water source is a spring chances are your water supply will run out and you need to find an alternative source. Knowing how to purify your drinking water is also very important to ensure that it is clean and potable.

Learn about clothing repair.

You need to master this skill as clothing is one of the most important elements when surviving. From basic sewing to making clothes from bolts of cloths or leather it is important to master this skill to help ensure your chances of survival.

Learn basic grooming skills.

Basic grooming skills are very important to learn to keep your family clean and healthy in a survival situation. Keep in mind that being healthy is one of the most important factors in ensuring you and your family’s survival.

Learn first aid.

During a disaster situation you cannot expect to get medical professional help so it is important to know how to treat yourself and others as it will be your only chance in a emergency situation. Every household or group should have a good first aid manual and kit before and during a disaster situation.

How to start and maintain a fire.

This is one of the most essential skills you need to learn in order to ensure your survival either indoors or outdoors. Learning how to start a fire and have it going when you need it can mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation. Fire can be used to cook food and purify water not to mention keep you and your family warm ensuring your chances of survival.

Learn how to defend yourself and be willing to do it.

Owning a firearm and knowing how to use it is one of the most basic things to learn to ensure that you are able to protect yourself and your family in a emergency situation. It is important to understand that during a disaster or emergency situation there will be a lot of desperate people who will not think twice in harming you and your family just to get to your supplies. Defending yourselves with clubs, knives, and basic hand to hand combat are also necessary skills to learn.

Learn and train your mind to expect the totally unexpected.

Disaster situations can change everything in an instant, but no matter how much we know this actual disaster and survival events will surely freak us out. Training ourselves to prepare and practice all sorts of drills for various horrors is great way to prepare us for such situations. You also have to keep in mind that there will always be a big possibility of something strange, weird, and frightening things to happen when in a survival situation. By doing this you will eventually condition your mind to accept such scenarios.

Understand the world and potential disasters that await.

Keep in mind that timing is everything and knowing how to react and respond properly to disaster or pending disasters can mean the difference between life and death. This can be done by monitoring world and local news and be informed and aware to see a situation developing and act on it before it actually occurs. It is important to understand that knowledge plays a vital part in ensuring your survival.

Learn and condition yourself into a survival mentality.

Everyone has to learn the skill of scrounging around and finding what they need. You must learn to see in your mind that certain items can be very useful for your survival. Having a survival mentality will greatly increase your chances in finding solutions to problems that will surely occur in a survival situation.

Can you Survive a Critical Situation with a Negative Attitude?

A wilderness emergency could possibly happen to anyone, anywhere. When confronted with an unexpected survival situation man has the potential to overcome many challenges, beat incredible odds, and come out a survivor. But just what is survival anyway? Survival is the art of surviving beyond any event. To survive means to remain alive; to live. Survival is taking any given circumstance, accepting it, and trying to improve it, while sustaining your life until you can get out of the situation. Most important thing to remember is survival is a state of mind.

Survival depends a great deal on a person’s ability to withstand stress in emergency situations. Your brain is without doubt your best survival tool. It is your most valuable asset in a survival situation. It isn’t always the physically strong who are the most effective or better at handling fear in emergency situations. Survival more often depends on the individual’s reactions to stress than upon the danger, terrain, or nature of the emergency. To adapt is to live. Mental skills are much more important than physical skills in survival situations. A person’s psychological reactions to the stress of survival can often make them unable to utilize their available resources. You most likely won’t use your physical skills if you don’t have a positive mental attitude.

One definitely must be in the proper frame of mind to survive an unplanned survival situation. Attitude or psychological state is most certainly number one. It is undoubtedly the most important ingredient of survival. With the proper attitude almost anything is possible. To make it through the worst a strong will or determination to live is needed. A powerful desire to continue living is a must. The mind has the power to will the body to extraordinary feats. Records have shown that will alone has often been the major factor for surviving wilderness emergencies. Without the will to live survival is impossible. Survival is possible in most situations but it demands a lot of a person. Humans can be very brave and resourceful when in emergency situations. The mind is a very powerful force. It has control of the body, its actions, and its reasoning. What affects you mentally affects you physically. If you think that you can’t survive, then you won’t try to survive. A commitment or goal to live, refusal to give up, and positive mental attitude greatly increase chances for survival.

Set goals give motivation and attitude necessary to survive pressures. When placed in an unexpected survival situation you will be forced to rely upon your own resources; improvising needs and solving problems for yourself. If you want to survive then you must ultimately decide to take care of yourself and to not count on others to help you. You must continually strive towards a goal of survival. Picture your goal in your mind and visualize yourself reaching it. A person with a stubborn strong will power can conquer many obstacles. Never give up your goal to live, because without any will to live those lost in the wilderness will likely despair and die.

While in your survival situation you will be confronted with many problems that you will need to overcome. Your brain will be your best asset but it could also be your most dangerous enemy. You will have to defeat negative thoughts and imaginations, and also control and master your fears. You will need to shift mental processes and adopt that positive and optimistic “can do attitude”. You will need to be creative and use your ability to improvise to adapt to the situation. Work with nature instead of against it. You will have the crucial task of solving the problems of staying alive. Your problem solving must be based on recognizing threats to your life, knowing their priority of influence, knowing their severity of threat to your life, and taking actions that will keep you alive. It is important to consider your safety at all times. If you sum up and analyze what you need to combat it will be easier to fight known enemies than if you were fighting something unknown. Loneliness, fatigue, pain, cold/heat, hunger, thirst, and fear are your major enemies in emergency survival situations.

To keep your body alive you must react to your body’s problem indicators and defend yourself against the major enemies of survival. Always remember to keep your positive mental attitude. Don’t add any extra burden to yourself by falling into a destructive mental state like feeling self-pity or hopelessness. Remember the important aspects of your life and don’t let the image fade. Think of being lost as an opportunity to explore a new area. With the proper attitude your experience could be interesting. Enjoy the challenge. You might as well enjoy the outdoors while you’re there and grow stronger as an individual as a product of your survival experience. Your positive mental attitude will help you combat your survival enemies. Most people have more than likely experienced loneliness, fatigue, pain, cold/heat, hunger, thirst, and fear before, but have not had to combat them all at once, and to the extent that they have been a threat to their lives. Any one or a combination of them can diminish your self-confidence or reduce your desire to struggle for life. All of these feelings are perfectly normal but are more severe and dangerous in wilderness survival situations. By learning to identify them you will be able to control them instead of letting them control you.

Loneliness is a survival enemy that can hit you without warning. It will strike you when you realize you are the only person around who you can depend on while in your situation. Nowadays modern society barely gives us a chance to test our ability to adapt to silence, loss of support, and separation from others. Don’t let loneliness gnaw at your positive attitude. Fight it by keeping busy by singing, whistling, daydreaming, gathering food, or doing anything else that will take your mind off the fact that you are alone. Also while in your survival situation, boredom or lack of interest might strike you. It must be cured to maintain a healthy survival attitude. Once again keep busy to keep your mind occupied.

Fatigue is the overuse of the muscles and the mind and is a serious threat. It can cause you to lower your defenses and become less aware and alert to danger. It causes inattention, carelessness, and loss of judgment and reasoning. Take time to refresh and rest your brain and body. Conserve your energy. Rest, sleep, and calmness are essential. Pain is natures signal that something is wrong. When in moments of excitement you may not feel any pain. Don’t let it get the best of you; it can weaken your desire to go on.

Fear is a completely normal reaction for anyone faced with an out of ordinary situation that threatens his important needs. People fear a lot of things. People have fear of death, getting lost, animals, suffering, ridicule, and of their own weaknesses. The thing most feared by people going into the wilderness is getting lost. There is no way to tell how someone will react to fear. Fear usually depends entirely on the individual rather than on the situation at hand. Fear could lead a person to panic or stimulate a greater effort to survive. Fear negatively influences a man’s behavior and reduces his chances for successful survival. The worst feelings that magnify fear are hopelessness and helplessness. Don’t let the idea of a complete disaster cross your mind. There is no benefit in trying to avoid fear by denying the existence of a dangerous survival situation. You need to accept that fear is a natural reaction to a hazardous situation and try to make the best of your predicament.

A more dangerous enemy than fear is panic. Panic is an uncontrolled urge to run or hurry from the situation. Panic is triggered by the mind and imagination under stress. It results from fear of the unknown, lack of confidence, not knowing what to do next, and a vivid imagination. Fear can build up to panic and cause a person to make a bad situation worse. In a panic a person’s rational thinking disappears and can produce a situation that results in tragedy. A panic state could lead to exhaustion, injury, or death. A positive mental attitude is still the best remedy. To combat fear and panic keep your cool, relax, see the brighter side of things, and stay in control. Keep up your positive self-talk and remember your goal of survival.

While in a survival situation you will practice self-reliance. You will only be able to depend on yourself and your abilities. You will have to overcome many challenges that you are not accustomed to. Modern society is conditioned to instant relief from discomforts such as darkness, hunger, pain, thirst, boredom, cold, and heat. Adapt yourself and tolerate it, it’s only temporary. When you first realize that you’re in a survival situation stop and regain your composure. Control your fears. Recognize dangers to your life. Relax and think; don’t make any hasty judgments. Observe the resources around you. Analyze your situation and plan a course of action only after considering all of the aspects of your predicament. Be sure to keep cool and collected. It is important to make the right decision at all times. Set your goal of survival and always keep it fresh in your mind. Never give up. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

http://www.backcountryattitude.com/

Wild Edible And Medicinal Plants in Wisconsin and Surrounding Areas

We get a lot of questions about what wild plants are there in Wisconsin that are edible to eat or use for medical uses. I did some research and found that are many out there in the wild. I am going to list a few and there uses.

1. Purslane

Also called pigweed. Grows everywhere. Very commonly seen in cracks in the sidewalk. Also grows among woodchips. Comes out in June. Best to harvest in the fall. This is when the plants are large. Has small dark seeds that fall out. Harvest in the morning. Nutritional content varies, depending on what time of the day it was harvested. Cultivated and eaten in Greece. Good in tabbouleh, on gyros and eaten with feta. Tastes like green beans. Very important – purslane is reported to be the highest plant source of Omega 3.

2. Chamomile

Also known as pineapple weed, wild chamomile grows in rocky soil and is seen commonly in driveways. It’s very aromatic. I can smell it when the wind picks up and follow the smell to the chamomile. It’s commonly made into tea and it’s good for digestion, nervousness, anxiety, irritability; it helps to calm and soothe you and it helps you sleep. Chamomile is so safe and mild it is used on children and babies.

3. Mint (Catnip)

Emerges in spring. By June the plants are quite large. If there is an extended growing season, (warm weather into the fall and winter) there can be a second resurgence. This plant is more of a medicinal herb than food, although it can be used in place of traditional mint in any recipe. It’s very aromatic. The smell is dissimilar to mint found in grocery stores and distinctive. Use its smell to identify it. It grows in shady areas, under trees and other large plant growth. In cats, catnip is a stimulant and in humans it’s a sedative. Catnip tea can be good for allergies and the respiratory system. Some studies say catnip repels fleas and ticks better than DEET. This plant can help induce menstruation. Pregnant women should be cautious. In large quantities catnip can be an abortifacient.

4. Woodsorrel

Woodsorrel has a sour and lemonly flavor. It can make a good substitute for lemon in dishes. Looks like clover but is brighter and has small, yellow flowers. I see it growing a lot among woodchips, but I don’t think it’s particularly picky about where it grows. A naturopath once told me it was good for the liver, but only when fresh. Not when dried.

5.  Plantain (Plantago Major)

As common as it comes. Brought here by Europeans. Edible and medicinal. The most nutritious thing I have ever heard of. Fights inflammation in the intestine – from carrageenan for example. Detoxifies. Purifies blood. If you have a bee sting, take a piece of plantain, chew it and then place it on your wound. Good for blisters. Speeds healing. Natural Awakenings named them (and dandelion) in a piece about herbs that fight cancer. It can also help with psoriasis.

6. Watercress

Similar to a radish. Spicy and clean flavor. Grows near streams, creeks, pure running water and can grow in mud. Watercress is only as clean as the water it grows in. Boil or sanitize if at all questionable. High in vitamin C. Good for soups, salads, you name it. The wild variety is the same as the kind you can buy at the grocery store, except it is free.

7. Ginkgo Biloba

There are male and female trees. Only the female trees make the fruit and the ginkgo nut, which can be eaten. The fruit is not eaten. The popular ginkgo biloba supplement is made out of the leaves. When harvesting ginkgo nuts, gather the fruit. Remove the fruit using gloves (some people get a rash when touching the fruit, some do not) Wash and then cook the nut. Boil, fry, saute. Whatever you like. When cooked, the shell will remove easily. The cooked ginkgo nut looks an awful lot like a pistachio and you can put it in your mouth and between your teeth to crack then remove the shell, just as you would with a pistachio. The inside is green and reminiscent of a jelly bean. Ginkgo biloba is very nutritious, but also has toxin. They must be eaten in moderation. Taking vitamin B6 with ginkgo cancels out the toxin. (Still – eat in moderation!!!) Do not eat ginkgo nuts raw. Eating the nuts raw is unheard of. It is hoped the cooking process will eliminate toxins, but there is little evidence to suggest it does. In spite of this, cooking them is still your safest bet.

8. Chicory

Young leaves and roots are edible. Found very often on roadsides and in open fields. Comes out in the height of summer, along with echinacea. The root can be made into a coffee substitute and leaves can be enjoyed as a salad green. (There is a variety of chicory grown for its leaves.) The small blue flowers are beautiful, delicate and rare.

9. Sweet Pea

Usually toxic and inedible. The toxin makes you starve to death / waste away. One you’ll want to avoid. Some kinds are edible and can be enjoyed but it’s hard to distinguish the edible from inedible varieties. It’s just as hard to distinguish edible from inedible sweet peas as when foraging for mushrooms. So this is one that should only be undertaken if you’re an absolutely amazing forager and you really love peas and want free ones. Vetch is a look alike.

10. Creeping Charlie

Related to mint. Can be eaten in salads and used to make tea. Abundant. Creeping charlie can be bad for other plants because it can wrap around the plants and choke them. Has purple flowers. Contains a toxin. Nutritious, but eat in moderation. Very commonly seen as wild ground cover.

11. Garlic Mustard

One of the first plants to come out in the spring. Frost, snow and cold weather doesn’t seem to bother it. Invasive, originally from Eurasia. Bad for the environment (in Wisconsin). Grows everywhere. There are volunteers devoted to destroying and pulling this plant up. Take as much as you want. Edible raw but if you boil and change the water several times / eat garlic mustard this way, it will have a milder flavor. Also good when dried. It smells and tastes very strong. Reminiscent of garlic.

12. Stinging Nettle

Emerges in spring. By June the plants are quite large. If there is an extended growing season, (warm weather into the fall and winter) there can be a second resurgence. Used for food as well as herbal medicine. Very stingy. Harvest with gloves, or you may get welts. Some say these are good for your immune system but many things are. No need to get stung in my opinion. Boil stinging nettle then serve. Nettles are nutritious and a good source of calcium as well as many other vitamins and minerals. There is a contest in the UK where contestants eat as much stinging nettle as they can. Whoever survives is the winner and the toughest / manliest. It’s very entertaining to watch.

13. Cattail

Edible shoots and pollen. The pollen can be used to make pancakes. Very good in survival situations. The brown top can be used to carry an ember. The white, inner spear tastes faintly of watermelon and is the most fibrous food I have ever eaten. The fiber content makes them very good at cleaning teeth.

14. Lambsquarters

Used as food and as medicine by Native Americans. Very mild and tasty. Almost buttery. Wonderful taste for a green vegetable. Not bitter at all. Called wild spinach and by many other names. Contains oxalates, as do spinach. A nutritional powerhouse, but the nutritional content depends on where you harvest it from. It can soak up nitrates from the soil it grows in. Quinoa is closely related to the seed of lambsquarters. The seed of lambsquarters is edible, but hard to harvest. Many people say it’s not worth the trouble. Don’t let that deter you from trying the seed at least once.

15. Rose

There is the wild rose and the cultivated variety. Rose hips are an easy find for the urban forager. There is scarcely a park or garden without rose bushes. The fruit of the rose, the rose hip, ripens in October. The rose hip is edible throughout the winter. This is intentional. Some plants are edible throughout the winter so hungry animals have something to eat. Rose hips are high in vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. They boost the immune system and fight off colds. The outer hull of the rose hip is what is eaten. Some guides say the seeds are edible, some say they are not. I eat the entire rose hip, seeds and all. I grind and chew it very well, but they are prickly and hairy. They can cause irritation. I think it’s too much work to remove the seed, but the best / tastiest experience is to remove the seeds and eat only the outer hull. Miranda Kerr uses rose hip seed oil for beautiful skin. Rose petals are also edible, but strong tasting and for lack of a better word, bitter. Rose petals are often used to make rose water.

16. Violet

Comes out in spring, usually in March but can be April or May if there is an extended cold period / winter. Violets can be violet, magenta, white and yellow colored. The leaves, stems and flowers are all edible. Use in place of spinach in your favorite creamed spinach recipe. Delicious! The roots are used to induce vomiting. Violets are commonly topped with sugar. Candied violets are used in baking sweets, treats, and to top pastries. Violets are common, beautiful and grow low to the ground. They grow along with grass, dandelion and garlic mustard, which also grow close to the ground.

17. Echinacea

It is found in prairie and grassland. It flowers in July along with chicory, during the height of summer. If you look for it late, you can find the cones without flower petals. These should be left because they contain the seeds, which create the next generation of echinacea. This is more of a medicinal herb than food. It is good for the immune system. The leaves, flower petals and root are used for herbal tea and tincture. A mild tingling feeling is experienced when drinking echinacea tea. It is unique and reminds me of being electrocuted.

18. Milkweed

Milkweed is of immense importance to monarch butterflies. Many plant it to attract butterflies to their garden. The shoots, flowers, green, unopened pods can all be eaten, but they must be boiled first. Milkweed is poisonous in its natural state. Discard the cooking water. The silk inside the young pods has a texture reminiscent of cheese. Once the growing season has passed, the dead stalks and seed pods still remain. These can be used to identify where new milkweed will appear. Note: The pods must be harvested when they are less than 1.5 inches long. If you harvest them late, they are too fibrous to be eaten.

19. Chickweed

Chickweed is edible and medicinal. It is found all over the world, even in the Article Circle. Its blossoms open in the late morning. Its leaves fold up at night and before rain. Chickweed’s stems, leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible. Mouse-ear chickweed must be cooked. Other kinds can be eaten raw. It contains nitrates. Do not ingest any kind of chickweed preparation if pregnant or nursing. This could potentially harm an unborn or nursing child due to the nitrates it contains. One should consider the nitrate levels in the leaves. Upon consuming chickweed, if one feels dizzy, weak, or faint, if you have a headache, see a doctor immediately. You may have nitrate poisoning from consuming too many nitrates. Avoid chickweed if allergic to daises. Good when young as a salad green. Rumored to taste like corn silk raw. Tastes like spinach when cooked. Can be added to soups or stews. Do this in the last five minutes to prevent overcooking. Chickweed contains ascorbic-acid, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, zinc, copper, and gamma-Linoleic acid. In addition, chickens love to eat chickweed. This is where chickweed got its name. Chickweed can be used in topical form to calm rashes and eczema, too. It alleviates irritation and swelling from insect bites. Chickweed is not recommended for children in oral form. It can be used to treat an insect bite on a child so long as they do not put chickweed in their mouth.

Some of the fruit plants are Elderflower & Elderberry. Flowers and berries are the only parts edible. Boil or cook them first. Good for the immune system. Grape – fruit, leaves, seeds, young vines shoots are all edible.In fall it has bright red leaves and similar looking berries, they are not edible and very spicy. Black raspberry – leaves can be made into herbal tea, spring time makes the best tea. Mulberry- comes in black, purple,red, pink and white. Black/Purple are rip, Red are unrip, Pink/White are the sweetest.

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?

 

Raising Livestock in SHTF Situation: What You Should Raise and Why

In the case of a SHTF event, we could live without internet, cars and gadgets. We could survive without electricity, air conditioning, heating systems and hot water. But we couldn’t make it without enough food supplies. Canned tuna, frozen beans and boiled potatoes can only last so far. All these supplies are bound to end sooner or later, leaving us exposed to starvation. So how can preppers improve on this aspect and ensure their food supply doesn’t run out after three days? The answer is raising livestock. Our ancestors didn’t have supermarkets, had never heard about take-away, fast-food, processed food or preservatives.

Their survival depended on livestock, fruits, vegetables, plants and seeds. Nowadays you can learn about all of these by getting an agriculture degree. But back then, knowledge was passed down from generation to generation and people had to learn from trial and error rather than from a YouTube tutorial. If you want to make sure you are truly ready for anything read all about the livestock you should raise and why. It’s never too late to start researching livestock and becoming an expert in the field.

Chickens

If we would have to advise you what livestock you should raise and why, based on rate of growth criteria, chicken would win by far. They manage to double their number with every year and they don’t require a complicated set up or high maintenance. They are great because they yield plentiful supplies of meat and eggs in relation to how much food they require. For example, a hen could supply you with 10 to 12 eggs for each five pounds of food. Another great benefit of raising chicken is that the birds are not picky about what they eat. They will happily peck on anything that they can find, from insects and weeds to leftovers from your dinner. The only drawback with this is that they can easily damage your garden, so you might want to fence them in to keep that from happening. Another pro for raising chicken is that they don’t need a lot of space or sturdy fences. However, you should keep in mind that these fowls will learn how to fly, so you might want to build a six-foot fence or add a top to their pen. You should also watch out for predators: foxes, owls, rats and opossums will all try to take a swing at your chicken if they’re not protected enough.

Pigs

Also dubbed the best garbage disposers, pigs will munch anything you put in front of them: kitchen leftovers, greens, roots and grains, just to name a few. In exchange for these, in return, they will give you bacon, ham and plenty of meat. Not only unpretentious eaters, pigs don’t need too much room either, despite their great size. The best time to buy a piglet is in the spring in order to give it time to grow and develop to more than 220 pounds over the summer. All the maintenance pigs require is feeding and watering two times a day as well as cleaning their pens every few days. Butchering a hog that weighs over 200 pounds is no easy task. But you’ll only be reaping the benefits. Almost every part of the pig is edible and ready to be turned into steaks, broths, aspic, bacon, ribs, sausages, pork loins and trotters. Even the skin is edible, although most people are reticent to eat it because pigs are not among the cleanest animals. Bear in mind that they might test your olfactory tolerance before you manage to fatten them up and transform them into pork chops.

Rabbits

Not only pretty faces, rabbits are clean, quiet and prolific. Ideal for small spaces, rabbits will thrive in modest sized cages and as long as their manure is cleaned out regularly, they will remain odor-free. These furry animals are extremely rewarding for the amount of care and food they require. Rabbits feed on hay, which should be cut in three-inch lengths and stacked into the hay-racks that must be kept full at all times. They will also eat dried bread or crusts and, as it may be expected, they enjoy nibbling on carrots and roots. A buck and two does will yield as much as 50 rabbits per year, which translates into roughly 170 pounds of meat. Not too shabby for the effort you have to put in every day. Rabbits can be consumed as soon as they are seven or eight months old, but you can wait and make a more consistent stew from a three-year old buck. While they can withstand harsh cold weather, they are not big fans of wet or hot conditions. Keep in mind that they will need a cool place in the summer that has plenty of ventilation and fresh water supplies.

Goats

Most people would prefer to have cows’ milk rather than goats’ milk. However, there are many reasons that goats make a better survival animal. They are much less expensive to purchase, they eat a lot less and will happily eat brush instead of pasture, and they take up a lot less space than a cow. A good doe will give birth to 2 or 3 kids and will go on to produce milk for up to two years. A dairy cow will give milk for up to a year and normally has one calf. Plus, keeping a bull around is not a fun prospect. A buck is much easier to handle. When your goat wears out, it will provide you with a more manageable amount of meat, whereas a butchered cow will take a lot of work to can or dehydrate. In addition, goats produce milk that can be used to feed orphaned foals, pigs, rabbits, dogs, cats, and baby humans. Cow’s milk is not as easy to digest for these youngsters.

Keeping livestock is not a decision to be taken lightly. These animals will depend on you for their food, water, and shelter. During drought conditions it will be difficult, if not impossible, to care for your animals. In that case you will need to butcher or trade them. Do you have what it takes to chop off a chicken’s head, or slit the throat of a pig? You may be surprised what you can do when put to the test.

If you can handle the responsibility of caring for animals, they will make your life much easier when there’s an economic collapse or worldwide disaster. Any animals that you do not need for food can be used to barter for other supplies. There will be a huge demand for eggs, milk, and meat after the stores close. So consider keeping a few easy care animals now, for survival in the future.

Prepping 101 – Food Preps: 30 Days Worth Of Food

When you start to consider prepping, one of the first things you need to start prepping for is food. Simply put, food is one essential you need to live and your family must have a supply of food on hand regardless what the day or your situation is. Because of our just in time supply chain model, most grocery stores do not have more than 3 days’ worth of food stocked. In any type of emergency or disaster situation, the store shelves are cleaned quickly. You do not want to be one of those people who realize you have nothing in the house for dinner and a major snow storm, hurricane or  other event is imminent. You will go to the grocery store and find bare shelves like they did during hurricane Sandy. This happens in every instance where people could face the possibility of going hungry. The stores are cleaned out and the larger your city, the quicker the shelves are bare.

Not only will there be no food on the shelves, but the shelves could stay that way for a long time. What if the roads are impassable? What if there is some supply disruption. You could be out of food for a long time and this should never happen. You eat every day and so does everyone else. Running out of food should not be an option for your family at least for a reasonable amount of time.

FEMA recommends 3 days’ worth of food and water to last most common emergencies and I would say 30 days is a better goal to shoot for. If you have a month of food stored in your house you can worry about other things like getting back to your family if you are away from home or not going out in the first place to fight the lines of panicked people who waited until the last-minute.

Storing food can be complicated and costly but it is possible to start with a very simple list of items that you can purchase from your local grocery store or big-box chain like Wal-Mart, Pick N Save, or Sam’s Club. I have compiled a simple list of common foods that you can go get today that will allow you to feed a family of 4 for 30 days. If you have more or less people or giants in your family tree then you would need to adjust accordingly.

Basic Foods

I shop at Pick N’ Save or Sam’s, but you can get all of these at your friendly neighborhood grocery store. You may have to adjust the quantities. I like Pick N’ Save and Sam’s because I can buy larger containers and have to worry about fewer items, but you can also use Amazon or our website. At a store, you can also throw these into your cart and nobody is going to look at you like you are a deviant. If anyone does ask you what you are doing, just tell them you are having a big Chicken Stew or some other neighborhood type of event.

  • Rice – First off, buy a 50lb. bag of rice. These contain 504 servings and I don’t know too many people who won’t eat rice. It is simple to cook and stores for years if you keep it cool and dry. This bag at Sam’s costs about $19 now.
  • Beans – Next buy a bag of dry beans. This will check off the Beans part of your Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids list. A good size bag is about $5 and makes 126 servings. Buy two if you think your family would like them.
  • Canned meat – Cans are great for fruits and vegetables and anyone can find something they will eat. For canned meat, I recommend tuna or chicken because it tastes a heck of a lot better than Spam and you can easily mix that into your rice. For the meat you will need approximately 35 cans. Each can has about 3 servings and this will be the most costly, but they last over a year usually and your family probably eats chicken or tuna on a semi-regular basis anyway so restocking this should be simple.
  • Canned Vegetables – you will need about 40 cans of vegetables and again this can be whatever your family will eat. Expect to pay around a dollar each so $40 for veggies to last your family a month.
  • Canned Fruit – again, simple fruits that your family will eat. These can even be fruit cocktail if that is the safest thing. At Costco they have the #10 cans of fruit like pears or apple slices and each of these has 25 servings. 5 of these will cost about $25 and give your family their daily dose of fruit.
  • Oatmeal – Good old-fashioned oatmeal is simple to cook and store. A normal container has 30 servings each so purchase about 4 of these and your family won’t starve for breakfast. At $2 each that is about $8 for breakfast for a month for a family of four. Could you exchange Pop-tarts? Maybe, but I find oatmeal more filling and less likely to be snacked on.
  • HoneyHoney is a miracle food really as it will never go bad if you keep it dry and cool. Honey will last you forever and Sam’s has large containers that hold 108 servings. You can use this in place of sugar to satisfy the sweet tooth. Honey even has medicinal properties and you can use this to add some flavor to your oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Salt – Same as honey, salt will never go bad if you keep it dry and helps the flavor of anything. You can buy a big box of salt for around $1 and that will last your whole family a month easily.
  • Vitamins – I recommend getting some good multivitamins to augment your nutrition in the case of a disaster or emergency. Granted, rice and beans aren’t the best and you won’t be getting as many nutrients from canned fruit and vegetables so the vitamins help to fill in the gaps and keep you healthy. One big bottle costs about $8. You will need to get a kids version too if you have children small enough that they can’t or won’t swallow a big multivitamin.

All of the list above will feed the average family of 4 for right at 30 days and makes a great start to your food preparations. The meat was the most expensive part but the bill comes to around $500 give or take but this will vary by where you live. Should you stop there? No, but this is just a good starting point and you should expand from here. I would keep all of these items in your pantry along with your regular groceries and rotate these to keep the contents fresh.

What Next?

Once you have 30 days of groceries in your pantry I would recommend looking into storing larger quantities in Mylar bags or purchasing freeze-dried foods and bulk grains to augment your supplies. You would also need to plan for basic necessities like hygiene (hello toilet paper!) and different food items.

What else should you have? I would recommend several large candles (we make emergency candles that burn for 140 hours plus) or a propane powered lantern, matches or lighters, batteries for flashlights, a good first aid kit, radio and plenty of water. You should also add bullion cubes and spices in to make the meals more palatable. Is this going to be as good as some toaster strudel or 3-egg omelets from your chickens in the morning? No, but this list above will keep your family alive.

Water is another post, but for a month you will need 120 gallons at a minimum. Storing this isn’t as easy as groceries but there are lots of options.

This should get you started on your food preps and you can build on from here. One important thing to do is rotate your supplies. A good rule to remember is go through all your supplies every seasons. Let me know if you have other ideas I missed.

No Excuse for Starving

A Colorful History

There is no excuse for starving, especially in Florida. They have citrus of all kinds (orange, tangerine, grapefruit, lemon, lime, cumquat, and loquat), mango, grape, guava, bamboo, banana, plantain, sugarcane, avocado, acorn, dandelion, purslane, podocarpus, papaya, lychee, lemon grass, garlic grass, hickory, chestnut, coconut, cattail, coontie, cactus, cassava, Jimaca, and cabbage palm. They are all edible, all delicious, and each can be found growing throughout much of the Sunshine State, if you just know where to look. Nope, there’s no excuse for starving in Florida.

Florida has been home to many colorful characters throughout its history, from the pre-Columbian Chatot, Timucua, Tocobaga, Tequesta, Ocali, Apalachee, Asi-Jeaga, and fierce Calusa tribes to formidable Spanish Conquistadores like Hernando de Soto and Ponce de León to blood thirsty pirates like Jose Gaspar and Caesaro Negro to the wily Seminole and Miccosukee warriors like Osceola and Holatta Micco to Confederate blockade runners like Captain Archibald McNeill.

For me, the most interesting aspect of Florida’s history has always been the Seminole Indian Wars, partly because the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes are the only Native American tribes to never lay down their arms in abject surrender to over whelming Federal forces. Even the indomitable Comanche and Apache ultimately surrendered, but not so the Florida tribes who melted into the Everglades where Federal troops dare not follow. These two tribes were part of the Civilized Nations; they wore spun calico shirts, smoked clay pipes and were fond of their smooth bore muskets. They survived forty years of warfare (1817-1819, 1835-1842, 1855-1858)1 against a modern and well equipped army, not because of any technological superiority—although the Seminole and Miccosukee were excellent marksmen with bow and musket—but because they were adaptable and were able to live off the land in the wilds of Florida’s untamed swamps, wetlands, mangroves, and hammocks. As it was for the Seminole and Miccosukee, living off-grid in a SHTF scenario means having to live off the land.

Long-Term Scenario

We all pray that SHTF events never happens in our lifetime, but we prepare for them anyway. The Seminole and Miccosukee survived their own SHTF; will we survive ours? Our SHTF, when it comes, may come upon us slowly or suddenly. Regardless of the cause, we owe it to our children to survive, so we pray for the best and prepare for the worst.
I don’t have a cabin in the mountains. I don’t own a cattle ranch. I don’t have a fortified bunker with motion sensors and early warning systems. I am forbidden by our home owners association from installing claymores in my yard. Heck, I don’t even own any night vision optics. I just a private citizen who wants to see his family to survive. Faced with a SHTF event, I know that the acquisition of Water, Food, Shelter, and Security will be imperative to ensuring my family’s survival.

Most coastal Floridians have already faced SHTF scenarios—we call them hurricanes, and we take our hurricane preparedness seriously. Since Hurricane Andrew destroyed the southern tip of Florida in 1992, many households have maintained a family sized “hurricane box” containing enough gear and supplies for the home team to survive for at least a few of days. That may not seem like a lot by Prepper standards, but the hurricane box is not part of our Prepper provisions. It’s just a seasonal precaution. We stock the hurricane box in spring, watch the Weather Channel from May (Caribbean hurricane season) through October (Atlantic hurricane season), consume our hurricane supplies through winter, and restock the following spring. This rotation keeps stock fresh and it beats having to run to Publix for a last-minute can of green beans so my wife can whip up one of her tasty casseroles.
Preparing for the future requires forethought; the more you accomplish before an emergency event, the less you’ll need to accomplish during or after one. Stockpiling alone, however, can only carry you so far. You must be able to find renewable food sources. Once the SHTF, it will be too late to harvest Ramen at Walmart. Even if you could get your hands on that last brick of tasty noodles, fighting a gang of thugs for looting privileges is not sound tactical advice. If the gangs control your local Walmart, what then? Wouldn’t you rather be able to safely feed you’re your family from home than having to wander the means streets of some post-apocalyptic city scavenging for a nice clean dumpster? So, let’s assume you’ve already taken care of your short-term physical needs. You’ve got plenty of Evian and MRE’s on hand, your storm shutters are up, and everyone on your team who’s tall enough to ride the bog roller-coaster is strapped. No gun fight at the OK Walmart for you, but what about long-term survival? What about replenishment provisions? Have you considered that once your MRE’s run out, you will need to restock your larder with what you can hunt, fish, or grow?

Florida waters are teeming with fish, crabs, shrimp, crawdads, and turtles, not to mention the abundant squirrels, and various fowl that populate our area—with the notable exceptions of birds of prey and carrion eaters, pretty much most fowl are edible. For deer and hogs, we would need to go further afield. Barring a catastrophic decimation of wildlife, protein will most likely not be a problem for Floridians, especially for those of us living along the Coast. Carbs, however, will be much harder to come by.

The average healthy adult requires approximately 200-300 grams of carbohydrates daily.1 My favorite carb is rice, but what we’ve stored won’t last forever. We could try growing our own, but growing rice is a complete mystery involving paddies and some kind of water buffalo. We could try going native by harvesting acorns—a good source of carbs: 1 oz dried acorn (2-3 acorns) contains 14.6 gr. of carbs—but the acorns in South Florida tend to be rather small, and harvesting them is labor intensive, requiring patience and lots of water for blanching out the tannic acid. Acorns are a great supplement—make acorn-raisin cookie—but they are not a staple food.

The Lowly Sweet Potato

To resolve to the how-to-get-enough-carbs-so-I-don’t-starve dilemma, I would recommend the same carbohydrate-rich staple that was grown by the Seminole and Miccosukee and helped them survive as a people while they waged a forty-year long guerilla war.
Even if you’re able to fight off the first wave of spam-starved zombies, a single-family dwelling can suffer an extensive amount of damage from a break-in, let alone a firefight. During a SHTF event, we must be able to survive off-grid inconspicuously. This means living under-the-radar. It’s your choice; you can hang a “Welcome” sign over your green house door, or you can hide your food source in plain sight. Because they are so well camouflaged, the only true enemies of these delicious uber tubers are mice, floods, and weed whackers. It grows wild in many parts of the South, not just in Florida. The sweet potato is not a magical cure-all food, but it does have many dietary and strategic qualities that American Preppers may find advantageous. A store-bought sweet potato weighing approximately 7 oz. contains about 3 gr. of carbs while the same amount of rice has almost three times as many carbs (11 gr.), rice is labor intensive. Have you ever tried hitching a water buffalo to a rice plow? Though it lacks the carbs of rice, an average-sized sweet potato does possess many other essential nutrients including: potassium (48 gr), Vitamin A (2,026 IU), and Beta-carotene (1,215 mcg).3

The Growing Process

When germinating sweet potatoes, I employ the “science project” method. It is the skin that produces the buds or “eyes” that become roots, so all you will need is the outer portion of the potato. Slice out one-inch wide slips of skin from the potato. Make them about as half as thick as a pencil (1/8 inch) to lend support to the skin. Suspend—do not submerge—the inch-wide slips of skin in cool tap water by using string to form a “hammock” or tooth picks spears to hold the slips at water level, skin side down. Each slip should have its own container; too many slips in a confined space can cause the delicate sprouting roots to tangle. Direct sunlight can quickly bake young sprouts, so store them in indirect sunlight.

In about two weeks, you should see several healthy root tendrils sprouting downward from the slips into the water. When the tendrils grow to about six inches in length, it’s time for planting. Gently remove the sprouted slips from their containers and plant them about 4-6 inches deep and about 12 inches apart.4 Much of the soil in South Florida tends to be sandy and poor, so you may need to prep your soil before planting. My property is sandy and wonderful for growing sandspurs—they are the reason Floridians don’t walk around bare-footed. I do not prepare my soil before planting sweet potatoes. The whole point of the exercise is to establish a renewable food source that will grow well without any help from me. After about three to four months—depending on the variety of sweet potato, rainfall, soil, soil prep, pests, etc.—the crop will be ready to harvest. You’ll know it’s time to harvest when the leaves turn yellow on the vine, and the growing tubers cause the ground to bulge as though there were moles tunneling beneath the soil. I live in Hardiness Zone 10 (South Florida); your results will definitely vary.

Sweet potato vines can cover ground almost as quickly as kudzu and drop roots at the nodes their entire length. The potatoes grow close to the surface and can be harvested easily with bare hands. I don’t use my bare hands because Florida is home to the dreaded Brazilian Fire Ant, six different venomous serpents, and an ever-growing population of pythons. This is a genuine concern when weeding or harvesting because sweet potatoes attract rodents which in turn attract snakes, and the ground cover from the leaves can be so dense that you would never notice a coiled pygmy rattler until too late. All the prepping in the world won’t save you from a coral snake bite either—they are part of cobra family—with no way to refrigerate rare anti-venom serum during a SHTF scenario. “Don’t stick your hand in there!” is a good rule to live by in Florida, so use a little common sense and employ a small cultivator rake carefully to avoid damaging your crop.

For my first attempt at sweet potato gardening, I cut eight slips, but two failed to germinate. I planted the remaining six slips in a three-foot by five-foot patch of well-drained sandy soil. My little garden yielded 14 medium-to-large sweet taters. These were germinated from one store-bought potato. Not too bad for a first attempt considering the small size of the plot and the fact that I did not water at all. The Florida August monsoons did the watering for me. The rains come so regularly in late summer, between 3:00PM and 5:00PM, that you can practically set your watch by them. That particular crop of even survived a record-breaking three-day freeze just prior to harvest. A three-day freeze might not impress most Northerners, but it is big news in South Florida.

After my first crop, I let the vines continue to grow on their own, hoping for a second picking from the same planting. Unfortunately, the potatoes did not survive my wife’s attempt to clean up the back yard with the weed whacker. The best sweet potatoes are the large ones near the original slip planting. The further away from the original plant that the nodes take root and become potatoes, the smaller the tuber will be. The stunted golf ball-sized sweet potatoes, though still technically edible, are rough and not very tasty. These became seed crop for the next planting.

Another nice thing about the sweet potato is that it can be grown almost anywhere: apartment window boxes, small backyard gardens, empty lots downtown, power line easements, around the edges of county parks, or the woods behind your house. With their dramatic purple blossoms, the attractive broad-leafed vines are used as an ornamental plant. They make such great ground cover that they are regularly incorporated into landscaping around buildings, mailboxes, lakes, canals, trees, and other shrubbery.

There is a storm canal easement behind our property. Like Johnny Apple Seed, I’ve started planting germinated slips on this property. Several plantings have taken root and are growing well. When the summer rains begin, they should really take off. The early success of this off-property experiment has encouraged me to try other locations. I’ve germinated and planted sweet potatoes at my mom’s house, my brother’s house, and at a friend’s house. They’re going to enjoy the attractive ground cover around their shrubs, and I will enjoy helping them establish a prolific and renewable emergency food source.

I’ve started scouting other areas as well for strategic planting locations that will be self-sustaining. Anticipating future fuel shortages, I’ve kept my scouting to within bicycling distance from my property. There is a long tract of scrub woods along the river near our home which will make a good planting zone as the average non-agricultural zombie wouldn’t know the difference between potato vines and kudzu. My plan is to hide a strategic and productive potato pantry in plain sight. Nope, there’s no excuse for starving in Florida.

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.

Edible Weeds: Herbal Medicine Chest in Your Backyard

Don’t kill, spray, tear up, or destroy the weeds in your garden, yard, and fence rows. Many of them are actually highly-regarded, widely-used, and extremely-valuable medicinal herbs! What could be easier than growing an herbal medicine garden with no effort? Of course, you’ll have to harvest your edible weeds, but you would do that anyhow: it’s called weeding.

Spring is an especially fertile time for harvesting your edible weeds – roots and all – and turning them into medicines. Here then are some tips on how to find, harvest, prepare, and use a baker’s dozen (13) of common edible weeds that probably already grow around you.

To make your medicines you’ll need glass jars of various sizes with tight-fitting lids. And at least a pint each of apple cider vinegar (pasteurized), vodka (100 proof is best, but 80 proof will do), and pure olive oil (not extra virgin) or good quality animal fat such as lanolin, lard, or belly fat from a lamb or kid. You will also want a knife, a cutting board, and some rags to mop up spills.

In general, you will fill a jar (of any size) with coarsely-chopped fresh, but dry, plant material. (Do not wash any part of the plant except roots, if you are using them, and be sure to dry those well with a towel before putting them in your jar.) Then you will fill the jar with your menstruum, that is, the vinegar, the oil, or the alcohol. Label well and allow to stand at room temperature, out of the sunlight for at least six weeks before decanting and using.

A field guide is helpful for positively identifying your weeds. The one I like best is: A Guide to the Identification of New Zealand Common Weeds in Colour, complied by E. A. Upritchard. (Available from the New Zealand Weed And Pest Control Society, P.O. Box 1654, Palmerston North) This book even shows you how the edible weeds look when they are emerging.

Ready? OK! Let’s go outside and see what we can find.

Shepards Purse

Shepards Purse

Shepherds’s purse (Capsella bursa pastoris) is an annual in the mustard family. Cut the top half of the plant when it has formed its little heart-shaped “purses” (seed pods) and make a tincture (with alcohol), which you can use to stop bleeding. Midwives and women who bleed heavily during their period praise its prompt effectiveness. Gypsies claim it works on the stomach and lungs as well. A dose is 1 dropperful (1ml); which may be repeated up to four times a day.

Gallium Aparine

Gallium Aparine

 

Cleavers (Gallium aparine) is a persistent, sticky plant which grows profusely in abandoned lots and the edges of cultivated land. The entire plant is used to strengthen lymphatic activity. I cut the top two-thirds of each plant while it is in flower (or setting seeds) and use alcohol to make a tincture which relieves tender, swollen breasts, PMS symptoms, and allergic reactions. A dose is 15-25 drops (.5 – 1 ml); repeated as needed.

Chickweed

Chickweed

Chickweed (Stellaria media) this edible weed has many uses, including delicious salad greens. I cut the entire top of the plant and eat it or use alcohol to make a tincture, which dissolves cysts, tonifies the thyroid, and aids in weight loss. A dose is a dropperful (1 ml), up to three times a day.

 

Daisy

Daisy

Daisy (Bellis perennis) is a common perennial edible weed of lawns and open areas. Quite different from the native daisy (Lagenifera petiolata), the little English daisy is related to feverfew and has similar abilities. I use the leaves and flowers to make a tincture (with alcohol) or a medicinal vinegar which relieves headaches, muscle pain, and allergy symptoms. A dose is a dropperful of the tincture (1 ml), up to twice a day; or a tablespoon of the vinegar in the morning.

 

Dandilion

Dandelion

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) is a persistent perennial of lawns and gardens and one of the best known medicinal herbs and edible weeds in the world. (The native dandelion of New Zealand – Taraxacum magellanicum – is medicinal too.) Those who love a pure green lawn curse the sunny yellow flowers of common dandelion. But those who are willing to see beauty anywhere (such as children and herbalists) treasure this edible weed. You can use any part of the dandelion – the root, the leaves, the flowers, even the flower stalk – to make a tincture or medicinal vinegar which strengthens the liver. A dose of 10-20 drops of the tincture (.5-1 ml) relieves gas, heartburn, and indigestion, as well as promoting healthy bowel movements. A tablespoon of the vinegar works well, too. More importantly, taken before meals, dandelion increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, thus increasing bio-availability of many nutrients, especially calcium. The fresh or cooked green leaves are loaded with carotenes, those anti-cancer, anti-heart disease helpers. And the oil of the flowers is an important massage balm for maintaining healthy breasts.

 

Dock

Dock

Dock, also called yellow dock, curly dock, and broad dock is a perennial plant, which my Native American grandmothers use for “all women’s problems.” The Maori call it paewhenua or runa. It is another plant that disagrees with sheep, especially when the land is overgrazed. I dig the yellow roots of Rumex crispus or R. obtusifolius and tincture them in alcohol to use as an ally when the immune system or the liver needs help. A dose is 15-25 drops (.5-1 ml). I also harvest the leaves and/or seeds throughout the growing season and make a medicinal vinegar, taken a tablespoon at a time, which is used to increase blood-levels of iron, reduce menstrual flooding and cramping, and balance hormone levels. If the chopped roots are soaked in oil for six weeks, the resulting ointment is beneficial for keeping the breasts healthy.

 

Growndswell

Groundsel

Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) and Ragwort (Senecio jacobea) are hardy perennials that have a reputation for poisoning livestock, like their cousin tansy. Although not good for sheep, these two Senecios are some of the world’s most ancient healing plants, having been found in a grave 60,000 years old. You can use the flowering tops and leaves with your alcohol to make a tincture which acts slowly to tonify the reproductive organs, ease PMS, and stop severe menstrual pain. A dose is 5-10 drops (.2-.5 ml) per day, used only once a day, but for at least 3 months. (A larger dose is used to speed up labor.)

 

Mallows

Mallows

Mallows (Malva neglecta, M. parviflora, M. sylvestres) grow well in neglected gardens and are surprisingly deep-rooted. The flowers, leaves, stalks, seeds, and roots are rich in sticky mucilage which is best extracted by soaking the fresh plant in cold water overnight or longer or by making a medicinal vinegar. The starch is extraordinarily soothing internally (easing sore throats, upset tummies, heart burn, irritable bowel, colic, constipation, and food poisoning) and externally (relieving bug bites, burns, sprains, and sore eyes). The leaves, flowers, and bark (especially) of the native Hohere (Hoheria populnea) are used in exactly the same way by Maori herbalists.

 

Plantain

Plantain

Plantain, also called ribwort, pig’s ear, or bandaid plant – and kopakopa or parerarera by the Maori – is a common edible weed of lawns, driveways, parks, and playgrounds. Identify it by the five parallel veins running the length of each leaf. You may find broad leaf plantain (Plantago major) with wide leaves, or narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) with lance-thin leaves. Either can be used to make a healing poultice or a soothing oil widely regarded as one of the best wound healers around. Not only does plantain increase the speed of healing, it also relieves pain, stops bleeding, draws out foreign matter, stops itching, prevents and stops allergic reactions from bee stings, kills bacteria, and reduces swelling.

Try a poultice or a generous application of plantain oil or ointment (made by thickening the oil with beeswax) on sprains, cuts, insect bites, rashes, chafed skin, boils, bruises, chapped and cracked lips, rough or sore hands, baby’s diaper area, and burns.

To make a fresh plantain poultice: Pick a leaf, chew it well and put it on the boo-boo. “Like magic” the pain, itching, and swelling disappear, fast! (Yes, you can dry plantain leaves and carry them in your first aid kit. Chew like you would fresh leaves.)

To make plantain ointment: Pick large fresh plantain leaves. Chop coarsely. Fill a clean, dry, glass jar with the chopped leaves. Pour pure olive oil into the leaves, poking about with a chopstick until the jar is completely full of oil and all air bubbles are released. Cap well. Place jar in a small bowl to collect any overflow. Wait six weeks. Then strain oil out of the plant material, squeezing well. Measure the oil. Heat it gently, adding one tablespoon of grated beeswax for every liquid ounce of oil. Pour into jars and allow to cool.

St. Johns Wort

St. Johns Wort

St. Joan’s/John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) This beautiful perennial wildflower may be hated by sheep farmers but herbalists adore it. The flowering tops are harvested after they begin to bloom (traditionally on Solstice, June 21) and prepared with alcohol, and with oil, to make two of the most useful remedies in my first aid kit. Tincture of St. Joan’s wort not only lends one a sunny disposition, it reliably relieves muscle aches, is a powerful anti-viral, and is my first-choice treatment for those with shingles, sciatica, backpain, neuralgia, and headaches including migraines. The usual dose is 1 dropperful (1 ml) as frequently as needed. In extreme pain from a muscle spasm in my thigh, I used a dropperful every twenty minutes for two hours, or until the pain totally subsided. St. Joan’s wort oil stops cold sores in their tracks and can even relieve genital herpes symptoms. I use it as a sunscreen. Contrary to popular belief, St. Joan’s wort does not cause sun sensitivity, it prevents it. It even prevents burn from radiation therapy. Eases sore muscles, too.

Self heal

Self heal

Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris) This scentless perennial mint is one of the great unsung healers of the world. The leaves and flowers contain more antioxidants – which prevent cancer and heart disease, among other healthy traits – than any other plant tested. And as part of the mint family, self heal is imbued with lots of minerals, especially calcium, making it an especially important ally for pregnant, nursing, menopausal, and post-menopausal women. I put self heal leaves in salads in the spring and fall, make a medicinal vinegar with the flowers during the summer, and cook the flowering tops (fresh or dried) in winter soups.

Old Man's Beard

Old Man’s Beard

Usnea (Usnea barbata) is that many-stranded grey lichen hanging out of the branches of your apple trees or the Monterey pines planted in the plantation over there or in almost any native tree in areas of the South Island Alps, where it is known as angiangi to the Maori. If in doubt of your identification: Pull a strand gently apart with your hands, looking for a white fiber inside the fuzzy grey-green outer coat. To prepare usnea, harvest at any time of the year, being careful not to take too much. Usnea grows slowly. Put your harvest in a cooking pan and just cover it with cold water. Boil for about 15-25 minutes, or until the water is orange and reduced by at least half. Pour usnea and water into a jar, filling it to the top with plant material. (Water should be no more than half of the jar.) Add the highest proof alcohol you can buy. After 6 weeks this tincture is ready to work for you as a superb antibacterial, countering infection anywhere in the body. A dose is a dropperful (1 ml) as frequently as every two hours in acute situations

Yallow

Yarrow

Yarrow (Achellia millefolium) This lovely perennial weed is grown in many herb gardens for it has a multitude of uses. Cut the flowering tops (use only white-flowering yarrow) and use your alcohol to make a strongly-scented tincture that you can take internally to prevent colds and the flu. (A dose is 10-20 drops, or up to 1 ml). I carry a little spray bottle of yarrow tincture with me when I’m outside and wet my skin every hour or so. A United States Army study showed yarrow tincture to be more effective than DEET at repelling ticks, mosquitoes, and sand flies. You can also make a healing ointment with yarrow flower tops and your oil or fat. Yarrow oil is antibacterial, pain-relieving, and incredibly helpful in healing all types of wounds.

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.

Do you have water if the grid goes down?

On National Geographic’s American Blackout we got to see a lot of common problems presented as the result of a power grid collapse that lasted 10 days. One problem that everyone faced, but didn’t receive a lot of air time was the lack of drinking water. National Geographic did not demonstrate any methods for obtaining water other than going to the store, or as in the case of the people trapped in the elevator and eventually the roof of a building, collecting some from a bucket that had been left in the rain. Since water is one of the most important elements for our survival I wanted to go over some methods of storing water and treating water that could help you in a disaster situation. You must have water if the grid goes down and you expect to live.

If you find yourself without power as they did in American Blackout, food and water were their priorities. Safety and security weren’t big issues until people started living without food and water. The nice veneer of society will vanish in a few days max even if we are only living through a power outage. Can you imagine if there was sickness or a disease pandemic? Can you envision how chaotic a hurricane knocking your town into the ocean would be? The situation presented in American Blackout gave us a lot to learn I think, but as far as disaster goes, a power grid failure would not be anywhere near as severe as a lot of other possibilities.

Now, I am not try to trivialize the scenario at all. A national power grid failure would be catastrophic but only because people aren’t prepared. I think it’s very telling when you consider how many lives might be altered forever just by not having some electricity. I think it is sad that our world is so dependent upon electricity that millions potentially would starve, riot and die because they were forced to live like our not too distant relatives did. Can you imagine the pioneers if you presented this situation to them? OK, just imagine how horrible it would be if there was no electricity… No what?

Where to find water

Water is everywhere normally unless you live in the desert. That is one reason why not too many people recommend living in Phoenix if the grid goes down. For the rest of us that live in closer proximity to lakes, rivers, ponds and streams we have a lot of options for finding water if we are faced with the task of collecting enough to drink. In American Blackout, the people who lived in the city had no water in the pipes because the electricity needed to pump water up into tall buildings was nonexistent. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any water in the city though.

I was surprised they did not have someone manning a hydrant letting people fill up jugs of water. The sheer volume of water contained in the fire hydrant systems of large cities if used properly could have probably lasted a week. Could you have taken showers and washed your car? No, but it is a source of water that could have been tapped into if you pardon the pun.

You could make a solar still or collecting the condensation off the leaves of plants with a bag or getting water from a tree even, but that is for another post. I want to talk to the majority of us that have water all around us and we simply need to get it and make it safe for drinking. In that I’ll start with the obvious and that is you should have water for everyone in your family on hand at all times. Water is cheap (relatively) and it is easy to find. You drink it every day now and there is no reason to be without a minimum of one week worth of water no matter who you are or where you live. Don’t wait until the power goes out to run to the store and try to find a gallon or two.

Water in a suburban setting is most easily collected from rain. Once you have rain barrels set up you don’t have to do anything. When it rains, your barrels will fill up and all you would have to do is make sure it is filtered or disinfected. Water can be used from any stream or creek or lake. What about the golf course down the street? You can drain your water heater in a pinch just by opening the drain valve at the bottom. The trick is to look around you for locations that have water in your neighborhood that you might need to access in a grid down scenario, but don’t neglect stocking up on your own. The stream down the road might be dry.

How to carry water

Let’s say you live near a body of water (lake, stream, well, fish pond) and the power is out. How are you going to get water to drink? You could just walk down there and fill up your bucket or bottle and walk back, but that is going to take a lot of time and energy for something that won’t last long. You need a way to carry a considerable amount of water at one time to reduce your trips and cut down on your risk of being caught out. Humans on average need a gallon of water per day to stay hydrated and provide cooking and hygiene. I think that amount is slightly off because it can’t be the same amount for small children, but who cares. We will use it for a guideline and obviously that guideline has to be adjusted for the scenario you find yourself in. If it’s the middle of summer, temperatures are soaring and you are doing a lot of manual work that amount could easily double. What if you are sick and are throwing up? It’s best to always have more than the average amount of water on hand and you need to have a plan for getting water and bringing it back to your location.

You need to plan now for containers that will hold several gallons of water at a minimum, but carrying these will be difficult without a wagon, cart or improvised method of weight distribution. One of my readers commented that they were planning on using a deer cart to tote their bug out gear and I think that makes a great option for carrying water too. Like the woman in the picture above, running out for a drink of water might not be as simple as it used to be. You have to plan to carry enough back so that you won’t need to go out for another couple of days hopefully.

How to treat water

There are many ways of filtering water and making it safe to drink and I have listed several down below.

Filters – Hands down my favorite method of treating water. Why? Because it is the simplest and takes the least amount of energy for the return on investment. I recommend two types of filters to be part of your preps. For my home, I use a H20 2.0 water filter bucket. I simply dump a couple of gallons in the top and clean water comes out the bottom. Obviously, you want to ensure you are filtering as much gunk out of your water before you bring it into your filter so as to keep your filter elements clean for as long as possible.

For portable alternatives, I have a pair of H20 1.0 water straw filters and canteens. These work great and have kept us in plenty of cool clean water on several backpacking trips with our family. You just pump the water through the pump and clean fresh water is delivered to your water bottle.

Boiling Water – Boiling is probably the oldest method of disinfecting water but it works! All you need is a container (preferably not plastic) and heat. Bring your water to a boil and let the water boil for a couple of minutes and that’s it. The boiling will kill any bacteria and you can drink the water. Let it cool off first.

Ultra violet light – there are UV pens that they sell for camping that are supposed to kill any bacteria in water. I have never used these so my assumption is that it may kill the bacteria, it won’t help the taste or make the water technically cleaner. Saving your life is what is most important though so if you have to drink some water that has stuff floating in it…as long as you don’t die from a water borne illness you can live to fight another day.

Chlorination – Chlorine Bleach is probably the most common household item that you will have that can be used to disinfect your drinking water but it is a little tricky. Chlorine is affected by the temperature of the water you are treating. Always try to filter any water that may be cloudy with contaminants such as lake water first. You can use paint filters or a bandana if necessary. If the water is room temperature (meaning not cold or hot) you would add two to four drops of chlorine bleach per quart. Shake well and let the container sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, smell the water. It should smell like chlorine and this is normal. If it doesn’t smell like chlorine add another drop or two and let it sit for 30 additional minutes. By drops we are talking about an eye-dropper size drop, not a dollop.

DistillationDistillation is another option but requires more equipment than the average person will be able to acquire much less put together in an emergency. There is a lot of information about this method online.

We have videos and information about all our water products and systems.

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?

Winter SHTF Planning and Preparation

Currently enjoying the first real Winter storm of the season up here in Canada and I must say I really like it. Got me thinking about those things relating to Winter survival that are either not really talked about or, worse yet, ignored. I am assuming you do not have a massive solar array and geothermal power. I am also assuming you live in the snow belt meaning two to five months of Winter and arctic temperatures.

It is Snowing. A lot!

Here at work I just opened our Storm accommodation plan so staff can sleep overnight rather than risk life, limb, and fenders trying to get home as 20cm of snow falls (8 inches). They have the option to sleep in warm, dry, secure location and get a free meal voucher. Awesome deal but in SHTF when it snows hard it gets complex. Stay or go? I’d stay put until the obvious storm front has passed me by as I really will have no idea if the snow is stopping in an hour or going to keep dropping the next three days.

This means in the Winter season you always need to have a Winter bug in kit on you at all times you know you cannot easily get back to home base. You should always have a compass on you in SHTF as fog, rain, and snow can easily get you lost real fast even close to home base. This is my minimum gear I’d have on me if venturing any distance in the Winter season in Southern Ontario away from the home base.

  • Emergency bivvy bag. Many makes of these are available. Get an expensive one you can reuse. In SHTF you cannot reorder from Amazon easily.
  • Emergency stove and fuel. The goal here is to boil water for hot drinks and food and to get a bit of heat. I’d use my BioLite but a basic rocket stove made from an old number 10 tin can would work great. Carry fuel and ignition. Snow means getting a new supply might be impossible. The BioLite Wood Burning Campstove is expensive and heavy but really awesome on fuel usage and heat. It also charges a good light source (get the orange one not the blue version)
  • The clothes I’d be wearing would be Winter proofed. Look up and learn how to dress for Arctic temperatures. I’d have extra gloves, hat, socks, and leg/arm thermal wrapped in the pack as well.
  • Metal water container that can be used to boil water. Some emergency filters won’t work so well in minus temperatures however hard you suck on the ice!
  • Emergency shovel. Dig a hole and then a ditch around the base so water will run away from you. Consider covering it to make a snow cave. Know how to do this safely.
  • Those high calorie life boat rations, MREs, and wise food would also be great in this situation. I’d want 5000 Cal minimum but 10000 Cal would be safer. Candies and a couple of boil in the bag meals will help with variety.
  • A couple of Mylar survival blankets and a 6 by 10 piece of transparent plastic sheet. The better the survival shelter, the warmer you will be.
  • 50 feet of paracord.
  • Decent amount of duct tape
  • Folding saw and a knife in case fuel is available
  • Flash light that works without solar or batteries. Hand crank or squeeze (I use the BioLite for this one).
  • Sun glasses
  • Sun screen. I never use it except in the Winter. So easy to burn your face

At this point you are probably rolling your eyes but this kit is for my local conditions not for yours! Deep snow is a killer up here and will be much worse in SHTF. Mostly I won’t venture more than 2 miles from home base and this is my minimum carry is for extend trips beyond 10 miles in December through March. It would be a lot smaller for local sojourns. If you can safely get back to home base then get back to it. If unsure bug in and make camp until it is safe to walk home. What did I miss? What should I not carry? Let me know in the comments and why of course.  I excluded snow shoes as I’d have them on if it had already snowed but would not carry them if it had not. I can make a pair using the folding saw, knife, and paracord if I had to.

Winter Storm in SHTF from your cozy bug in or bug out location

If you have prepped right and have been lucky then you should have adequate calories and comfort to survive the storm. If not then you are SOL. However these are some of my ideas that might be overlooked by some in SHTF.

Toilet Paper

I have loads of it but it will run out. The supply I have will be withdrawn from circulation after the first four weeks of SHTF. I will tell my girlfriend she has to let go of the past and embrace the now. Likely she will leave me at this point and I will have doubled my supply of white rice! The paper toilet paper will be strictly only for use if sick or in deep Winter (and her birthday. I’m not heartless). I have pre-cut a large supply of linen toilet ‘paper’ from old jeans and shirts. In the warmer months that is what is used to wipe and polish. In deep Winter the ability not to have to wash the toilet rags will be an awesome asset (pun intended) and avoid a real problem in arctic temperatures.

Fuel

For me this will be wood. I plan worse case and SHTF forever. You need about 5 cords of wood to get through the Winter here but around my bug in home I can collect wood for sure 10 months of the year so this can be reduced. At my bug out cottage that drops to about 8-9 months of the year. Sure I can hack down standing dead trees but realistically how many of them will be close to me abode after a few months? Wood gathering and storing will be a continual endeavor all year-long. Collect birch and ignition materials will also be a yearlong activity. However if I can avoid chopping and processing wood when it is below minus 10C then I absolutely will. Sure that makes for great looking prepper videos but to me it means they did not prep smart.

Exercise in SHTF should be avoided and exercise in arctic temperatures should only be done in a life or death situation. Like the bears your plan should be to basically sleep through the worst of the Winter. Using wood from one or two years ago that has been stacked properly is a great idea but think for a moment. In SHTF you will probably use your entire stock of wood in the first year if you neglect to add to the supply each and every day. Like toilet paper you never, ever can store enough wood but try.

Fuel Storage

Fuel for me means wood. I do not expect gasoline or propane to be widely available in SHTF and do not construct my preps around anything that cannot be found or used 5 years down from the SHTF event(s). Wet wood needs to dry before use. Cold wood needs to be warmed before use as does kindling. You can, with effort, work around this but why even try? Your bug in or bug out place needs to be able to accommodate a large supply of wood and ignition material inside the place. Going outside in a storm is the last thing you will want to do and having an ample inside store means not opening the door and pre-warmed and dry wood. Have lots of mouse and rat traps as the critters love wood piles. In the Spring store wood at least 30 feet from your shelter. Have a wheelbarrow to help move wood and water around when there is no snow.

Water

If safe to drink then snow can easily be melted provided you have lots of wood available. Remember to add unfrozen water to the pan and add snow slowly in small amounts and stir. If can and will burn if you just dump it into the hot pan. You need to use a window or an additional chimney to direct the steam outside your shelter. Water vapor gets everywhere and moisture can kill you in SHTF. Bang a few empty cans together and use aluminum foil to funnel the rising steam into the cans. Have it open through a window and use bubble wrap and duct tape to seal. Block the inside end with cloth when not creating steam.

You should have a lot of treated water stored year round but remember to move it inside the warm room before freezing starts to occur.

Home is where the hearth is

One room is your home in the deep Winter. Heat that one room and use plastic sheets and Mylar to reflect heat back into the room and trap heat in the room. Bubble wrap should have been hoarded for all the windows before SHTF. Hand plastic sheets on both sides of all the doors and avoid using them as much as possible. Stack soil and wood around the outsides of that inner room to add insulation but make sure it is in trash bags and is dry.

Set up a tent inside this room to sleep in but, as with the plastic sheets make sure there is zero risk of a fire or a melting happening. Have several fire extinguishers and a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm inside this room as well. If you cannot set up adequate ventilation do not use anything other than the fireplace to cook in. I’m using the BioLite as well as the fireplace but with the additional ventilation system for steam described above.

Plan how to gather more fuel and food in the warmer months. Figure out how to preserve that food for the next Winter. Keep mentally busy as Winter is not a great time to wander around outside when snow is on the ground. It takes far too much energy to do so and has a lot of risks.

The Roof

Have a suitably angled roof for your worst case snow fall activity. Sure you can go up a ladder and sweep it off but I can tell you a lot of elderly males get spinal injuries each and every year in Ontario from doing that. Have your roof renewed more frequently than you need as roofers will be in short supply in SHTF.

Winter SHTF is not all suffering, eh?

Can you skate and do you have frozen rivers and lakes near you? For most of Ontario’s history travel in the Winter was easier than in the Summer and this will happen again a few years into SHTF as the bridges fall and the roads fail. Good time to go out and meet the neighbors. Winter is a wonderland and a great time to think about ice fishing.

Keep a supply of pre SHTF goodies hidden away and some tinsel. December 25th or as near as you guess the date to be wrap up some presents using newspaper and eat some decent food. Sing carols and make merry. This birthday and special day celebration is what makes suffering through SHTF worth while. Never neglect to think about how to make yourself happy in SHTF even if most days it will be as awful as the weather is right now.

By Huples

 

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.