You Fall Through the Ice, Now What?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What To Do As A Bystander

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Oils you should keep in your survival kit!

These essential oils should be kept in your survival kit for many uses:

Lavender :

For cuts, scrapes, burns, eliminates sting from bug bites, relieves pain and soreness from sprains and muscle aches.

Peppermint:

Relieves Headache pain and allergies, digestion such as heartburn, bloating, constipation and indigestion.

Repels ants, spiders, mice and other pest.

Melateuca (Tea Tree Oil):

Used for antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, fungicide it kills germs and help eliminate infections.  Helps with mold and mildew.  Treats wounds of many sorts.

RoseMary:

Helps with stress it is very calming.  Reduces itching, dryness and irritation.  Sooth many skin disorders also helps improve your concentration so you can move on.

Frankicense:

Reduces inflammation, and pain that are present.  Heals wounds, cuts, scrapes and burns.  Helps with feeling hopeless and depressed.  Gives a bit of a supercharge so you can go on.  You can layer with many other oils.

Clove:

Helps with toothaches, sore gums and canker sores.  Helps treat wounds, cuts, scabies, athletes foot, fungal infections, prickly heat, insect bites and stings.

Lemongrass:

Relief knotted tendons and muscles, reduces fevers, eliminates body odor and foul smells.  Reduces bacteria.

Roman Chamomile:

Promotes sound sleep, reduces stress and fearfulness.  Heals skin condition like eczema.  Treats vomiting, nausea, heartburn, gas.

We carry these and many other essential oils in our store. So come get your oils to put into your survival kit. You can also call and order them as well.

 

90 Days part two

What you have to look forward to in a collapse situation:
Black Friday madness reveals animalistic behavior of modern people
Multiply this x everywhere!

I left off in Part 1 talking about mapping software.  There is other software out there but this is what I use. This software will let me print my maps as well. Use your mapping software to plan the locations of your caches as well as your AO of relocation for the 90 days.

Include a good field guide to edible plants, with actual photos rather than drawings. Get one with plants native to your geographical area. Don’t leave a path of destruction behind you, leave some to re-populate the area. Outdoor Life has a good book on edible plants titled: Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide.

Learn and practice Bushcraft skills. If you lose your main pack, these can sustain you until you retrieve your next cache. Keep your maps and compass upon your person, as well as your GPS if you use one. Store your map in a Gallon size Ziploc bag. Have a “Survival” kit that never leaves your person except to sleep, and is then kept by or under your pillow (a rolled up M-65 field jacket) and tethered to your belt. Learn to identify at least 10 wild edible plants.

The minimum for your “Survival” kit is the means to: Start a fire – matches, firesteel or butane lighter (3 methods is great), medium folding knife (suggest Buck 110) and small knife sharpener, water purification tablets or Frontier Straw, ziplock bag or soda bottle – to carry water, Mylar space blanket (x2) – shelter and warmth, 20 feet of Duct tape, and bug repellant.

A deck of Wild Edible Plant Playing Cards would be a great addition also. Currently available on Amazon, Camping Survival , US games Systems, Inc.  and others. Do a web search and find even more links at a variety of prices.

Many hikers advocate traveling with a minimalist pack, using ultralight equipment. This would allow you to move quickly if pursued. A light pack also means sacrificing comfort, so there is a need to balance utility with ease. You don’t want to make the experience any worse than it is. If you can afford it, get the U.S. Army surplus bivvy cover (or the the complete sleeping setup). They can be purchased for a reasonable price and are made from Gore-Tex (no relation to Al Gore thankfully) a waterproof breathable fabric. I have heard claims that you can sleep in a mud puddle without getting wet using one. This would eliminate the need to carry a tent, just bring a 6’x8′ or 8’x10′ tarp to cover your gear and make a small shelter when you are not in your bivvy. Don’t forget bug repellant and mosquito netting for the warmer months.

When traveling the backwoods, it is prudent to be prepared for an encounter with bears. This means cooking and eating away from where you will be sleeping. There are specific containers that are made for storing your food in when traveling in bear country. Whether you use one or not is your personal choice, but be prepared to suspend your food in a heavy contractors trash bag from a tree limb more than ten feet off the ground. Other pesky critters might make a try for your food so be prepared to trap them and add them to your food supply. Bring several snares or 220 Conibears to catch them.

Encountering a bear on the trail, or worse yet, in your camp can be a very scary and dangerous experience. Purchase at least two canisters of bear spray for each person, hanging one from your pack straps when hiking, and have a holster to hold the canister when you are moving about camp or foraging for food or firewood.

One such supplier of pepper spray and bear spray is Buy Pepper Spray Today. They have other self defense items for sale also, such as stun guns, batons and kubotans.

It would be advisable to have a powerful handgun also if you are traversing known bear territory. The smallest caliber I would personally carry would be a .357 Mag with hot loads. A .40 caliber or larger weapon would be better yet. No handgun? Then a shotgun with slugs and 00 buckshot alternated in the magazine.

A newer development that I have been following is the Mexican drug cartels are moving into the wilderness areas closer to their markets and setting up shop growing weed for the surrounding areas. There have been several record busts in Washington and Oregon of late.

This creates a twofold problem. If you are looking to setup caches, you may run into the cartel operations or the DEA out looking for them. Neither one is a good encounter.

By: Selous Scout

90 Days part one

Ninety days.

Huh?
What about it?

After ninety days, or thereabouts, most of the unprepared people will have died off from a lack of food and possibly adequate shelter.

Not all will be dead at this point. There will be those who survive, those who banded together and withstood the onslaughts of the displaced and starving masses. They were prepared to turn back those who had no important skills to offer, no supplies to share. They will be located in areas where ingress and egress can be controlled tightly.

The others that survived, the raiders, they are mostly the strong and the predatory. They were the shady characters that inhabited the inner city, preying on the weak there. They have no morals against taking what they want and killing those who stand in their way. Gang members and such come to mind.

And then the worst of the worst: those who have turned to eating their own kind in order to survive. They will be hated and killed when discovered by all other groups of survivors.

Within 2 weeks of the crash the cities will begin to tear themselves apart as different groups of people fight for precious dwindling resources. Only the very adaptable will be able to survive there. Things will most likely hold together until the first paycheck welfare check fails to materialize. Then watch out!

In the beginning the government may try to bring the chaos under control, but they will be vastly outnumbered by desperate people, trying to get food. Eventually they will retreat back to critical infrastructure in an effort to protect it from the destruction.

The first to die will be the sick and elderly who are dependent upon healthcare workers and caretakers for their daily existence. After the end of the 1st week, they will be left to die by those same workers, as they leave to see to their own family’s welfare. Perhaps not all will have left, but those who remain will soon be overwhelmed trying to take care of just a fraction of those needing care. After the second week, a large portion of the sick and elderly will have died. There is no one left to bury them. Their rooms become their mausoleums.

Because of just in time inventory management, all stores concerned with disbursement of household consumables will be empty in record time. One has only to look at what happens just before a hurricane or a Black Friday sales event to imagine what it will be like come the collapse. As soon as the people become aware, the stampede to “get some” supplies will empty store shelves. Two weeks after the collapse, the store owners will not even go there anymore as there will be no resupply and to be out on the streets is to invite swift death at the hands of the roving gangs.

Most available food will be consumed by week three and people will begin to hunt the small creatures that live in their neighborhoods. Dogs, cats, various non-standard pets, birds, rats etc… If it moves, it will be considered for the stew-pot. Expect the city pigeon population to dwindle quickly.

Even if the Government manages to open a few stores to ration out supplies, the gangs will post lookouts at the stores and they will report what vehicles loaded what supplies to the raider groups that will follow them home and steal it from them later, or perhaps immediately depending on the location and situation.

If you were to evacuate your home for at least ninety days, you might be able to come home to a semi-intact structure. If you are lucky, only your unprotected windows will be broken out. If you are unlucky you might find your home a burnt out shell. A possible strategy might be to leave a little food behind so that those who will break in (and they will) might be appeased and not vandalize the structure.

Now how does one survive these ensuing 90+ days? You will need to be mobile after the crash.

So the plan would be as follows:

Cache the greater part of your survival goods in various locations. Include in these caches, a large quantity of vegetable seeds.

In your main cache, store materials and plastic for a greenhouse(s). Not only can you raise food in it, you can also shelter in it if needed.

Acquire good quality hiking gear for each member of your family; shoes, packs, sleeping gear, mess equipment, etc… Army surplus is good durable equipment, built to last but heavier than civy gear for the most part.

If your group is larger than two, carry a variety of weapons. First consideration should be the crossbow, a compound bow, an air rifle (1000+ FPS) and a slingshot. Their ability to kill nearly silently is a great benefit. Since your ability to remain undiscovered is imperative to your survival, remaining in the deep forest is your best choice. Fancy scoped bolt rifles are of not much use in areas in which visibility is limited to under 50 yards. Here is where the lever action rifle comes into its own. It is also a good area for the shotgun and .22 LR. Whatever you choose to carry, have the appropriate ammo for it in a sufficient quantity.

You need to have a series of caches with enough supplies to sustain you for these ninety days. Your food should be high calorie as you will need the fuel to sustain you as you move about. At least 1 of each days meals should require no preparation as you may need to eat it on the move. More would be desired if possible. Each cache should supply your group with 2 weeks worth of food and other essentials.

If you are pursued, those following you may have little or no food, thus limiting their energy expenditures. Since you are able to eat on the move, you gain precious ground with each hour. Hopefully they are weakened by hunger and unable to pursue for long.

It would be wise to carry a small radio capable of receiving AM/FM/Shortwave/NOAA bands so that you can try to stay informed on what is happening. There is no guarantee that broadcasting will continue on the commercial bands, but shortwave will hopefully continue.

The use of mapping software can greatly help in planning routes and locations, and can download this info to various GPS devices. Electronic devices should not be relied upon solely to do your navigating, so a good compass and maps should be part of your gear. If you don’t know how to navigate by compass, yesterday is a good time to start learning. Find and make friends with a Boy Scout. Look for local classes, perhaps a class at your local hiking group or Search and Rescue group.

End part one.

By: Selous Scout

HOW TO STAY WARM INDOORS WHEN THE POWER’S OUT (& IT’S FREEZING OUTSIDE)

FORGET HOME HEATING AND THINK SMALL INSTEAD

Advice for anyone living in a cold climate trying to heat a home when there’s a power outage is to forget home heating and think small instead.

Why on earth would we already start by advising you to forget home heating and aim your goals at thinking small instead?

Let’s get into it!

HOW TO HEAT AN ENTIRE HOME WHEN THE POWER’S OUT

You don’t have many options here, and unless you’re: 1. Set up for these options already, or 2. Willing to drop a lot of cash to set yourself up for them – they’re just not going to work out for you. What are these options?

  1. Use a home heating system that completely depends on wood fireplaces.
  2. Use electrical power generators.

Expensive as hell to do if they’re not already options in your home. Actually, they’re expensive to take advantage of even if they are already options in your home (firewood/gas are not unlimited/free resources!).

With the first option, most will have a fireplace, but that usually will only heat up a single room: the one it’s in.

With the second option, again, most will never bother to have the kind of system installed where a generator heats your entire home.

This is fine though – better than fine actually. Because heating one room instead of an entire home is exactly what you should be doing in a winter emergency where the power goes out.

Why? Heating an entire home in an emergency instead concentrating your efforts on particular things that would be terribly expensive to lose power to – i.e. freezers, fridges, etc.. – well it’s just not wise.

Most would not bother using their generators to heat their entire home ever, and for two good reasons:

  1. This would be very expensive to do in the first place, and
  2. Depending on how long the emergency situation lasts (you never know!), you could potentially run out of fuel for the generator well before the emergency is even over.

So by just using the generator where you need it most (i.e. freezer & fridge, if there’s enough in there to warrant it) you’re saving a lot of money as well as giving yourself the best chance of your generator having enough fuel to last through the entirety of the emergency situation.

Alright, let’s take a look at your most realistic options for heating now.

 

1. CAMP OUT IN ONE ROOM IN THE HOUSE. PREFERABLY A SMALL ONE (AS IT WILL BE EASIER TO KEEP WARM).

If everybody’s in one room with the door closed and that room has got as many blankets, jackets, coats, pets, and whatever else you have at home to keep y’all as warm as possible, you’re going to have a lot easier of a time trying to stay warm by comparison to trying to heat multiple rooms.

When it comes to sleeping, you don’t need to share a bed if you don’t want to, but if it’s not something you mind, why not? If you’re not into sharing a bed, drag extra mattresses or sofa cushions into your room of choice and have everyone sleep separately, but by being in the same room, you’re making sure none of your individual bodies’ heat production is going to waste – it’s helping to keep the room warm.

NO ELECTRICITY/FUEL/FIRE OPTIONS

These techniques will keep your core temperature up, but won’t waste your money, your fuel, or your energy to keep them going. Use as many of them as you’d like, as they all play nice together.

2. STAY IN A TENT.

We all know that being in a tent in cold weather outdoors does wonders for being able to stay warm.

Set up camp inside a literal tent in your bedroom or “warm room” of choice. Sit and sleep in there with whomever is perfectly happy being in the tent with you. Wise to get a big tent that’s large enough to fit everyone in your family, with wiggle room to spare (blankets take up a lot of space!).

Obvious to say the least, but you’ll all be much toastier inside the tent than outside it. And, let’s be real, this’ll help you all sleep better.

3. STAY IN A SUB-ZERO SLEEPING BAG.

Sub zero temperature sleeping bags are a must-have when you’re thinking about outdoor survival for cold weather climates, and again, if the weather’s bad out and there’s no power, you should be using these tools to keep you warm inside. You don’t have to sit in a tent the whole day, but if you just want to warm up, and definitely when you’re ready for bed, it’s an excellent tool to make use of.

4. LINE YOUR TENT WITH MYLAR THERMAL BLANKETS.

We’ve all seen how bushcrafters will often line their shelters with mylar thermal blankets to stay warm outdoors, and when it’s all they’ve got, how just this simple tool is often enough to keep them toasty through some very cold nights.

Still not enough heat in your tent because it’s super cold in your neck of the woods? Chances are lining your tent in these will really help you stay toasty.

5. THROW YOUR BLANKETS AND/OR SLEEPING BAG INTO A THERMAL BLANKET AND STAY IN THAT.

You know they actually make survival blankets in the shape of sleeping bags? Super handy if you’ve not got a great sleeping bag, or of course if it’s still freezing inside your tent.

6. COVER YOURSELF IN EMERGENCY MYLAR THERMAL BLANKETS.

Yes, I haven’t finished with these yet. They seriously keep you so toasty and this step is probably overkill at this point, but if you haven’t got one of the thermal survival blankets I mentioned in the previous suggestion, but want the same effect, or if you prefer to just be plain cooked when you’re sleeping, throw a mylar blanket or two right on top of what you’ve got (a sleeping bag, blankets, thermal blankets, etc.).

Basically, if you’re trying to stay warm in a freezing winter with no power to your home, and you’re doing it on a budget, or with no electricity/fuel/power options whatsoever: treat your indoors like it’s winter survival outdoors. Add layer after layer of thermoregulation-oriented survival gear until you and your family are toasty.

ELECTRICITY/FUEL/FIRE OPTIONS

Sometimes, you won’t feel like turning a room of your home into a hot mess of blankets, sleeping bags, mylar blankets, and tents. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to be able to take advantage of more modern and less budget options. What to do in these cases?

7. KEEP A FIREPLACE FIRE GOING IN YOUR ONE ROOM AND HAVE EVERYBODY IN THE FAMILY STAY THERE.

Easy as pie. Doubt you will need a tent if you’ve got this, though I’d still keep the sub-zero sleeping bags and blankets galore in the room in case someone’s not happy enough with just the fire.

If you’ve got a fireplace in a non-open concept room as well as enough firewood to last you ages, no reason you shouldn’t use this method.

Stay safe, and make sure you’ve got your fireplace properly ventilated, that there’s nothing flammable near it, and if you’re going to bed, put it out or make sure to have shifts where at least one or two people are up to watch it. But hell, a good ‘ol fireplace can really keep you cozy with minimal effort.

8. NO FIREPLACE? TURN ON AN INDOOR-USE GAS HEATER FOR A FEW HOURS HERE AND THERE WHEN YOU’RE WATCHING.

Thomas and I were flat out of luck with no fireplace in our home when the electricity went out that one winter in Toronto. I’m terrible with the cold, so I couldn’t stand our bedroom with just the two of us and our cat in it at night. And yes, we were silly enough not to have prepped enough to have the kind of gear stockpiled that it would take to go the no electricity/fuel/fire options way.

What we did have was a propane/butane heater (like this one), and if I’m honest, not a lot of fuel for it. So we rationed out a few hours of warmth before bedtime, being very careful to ventilate our home by opening a window when it was on and watching it like a hawk simultaneously. About a half hour before bed, we’d shut it off, confirm it was off repeatedly, then sleep.

Not the best option, and definitely not what I’d do now, but if it’s all you’ve got, you make do with what you have. Banging my head on a wall these days for being a prepper who was not prepared for that kind of a situation, but you know – live and learn. And we’ve definitely learned.

THE MOST IDEAL PREVENTATIVE OPTION

In an ideal situation, given we had the money, what would we have done? The absolute best method I’ve found:

9. BUILD A BRICK ROOM-SIZED SHED/GARAGE SEPARATE FROM THE HOUSE AND PUT A FIREPLACE THERE ALONG WITH A GAS COOKER.

You know how comfortable you’ll be there? Our neighbours back in Toronto have this kind of a setup and so when the power went out, Thomas and I quite literally spent every morning and afternoon with them, enjoying our time sitting around the fire chatting away, before sadly hopping off to our cold home for nighttime.

Make sure you build this place large enough that you’ll be able to throw everyone in the family comfortably in at night, and you’ll literally be happy as clams throughout the outage. Obviously, again, make sure to practice fire safety (nothing flammable near the fire, good ventilation at all times, and make sure someone’s up whenever the fire’s going), but pretty much, with as much wood as you can get stockpiled, you’ll be cozy no matter how long the power outage lasts. You’re set as long as you’ve got firewood for the fireplace and enough gas for your cooker.

Living the high life during a winter emergency this is.

Enough suggestions? I think you get the picture. You can definitely stay warm and cozy indoors in sub-zero winter climates when the power goes out. Yes, you and your family members may be driven mad having to spend so much time in a single room together, you may be absolutely covered from head to toe in coats and blankets and mylar tarps, but you said you wanted to stay warm, didn’t you?

MORE WINTER PREPAREDNESS RESOURCES

If you live in a cold climate and are working on buffing up your winter preparedness, take a look at our winter emergency supply list to make sure there’s nothing on it you’re currently missing that you may want.

Besides the items on that list, which primarily concentrate on warmth and indoor cooking ability, there isn’t much difference between winter preparedness and any other type of preparedness. So if you’re interested, also take a look at the comprehensive list of survival gear we put together to compare your kits and at-home resources to.

YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR STAYING WARM IN COLD WINTERS?

As usual, if you’ve got any tips and tricks I’ve missed mentioning here, let me know in the comments! Would also love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with cold weather during power outages if you have any stories for me!

Going Green While Camping

Camping is a outdoor recreational activity which involves overnight stay away from home in a shelter such as a tent or a caravan. Camping is a wonderful experience if you’re ready to understand what it feels like to live off the land. Of course, with our modern technologies and conveniences, we don’t have to completely live off of the land.

Yet, there is nothing that can compare to getting back to nature and sleeping under the stars. It’s something everyone should try at least once.  While camping does feel quite environmentally friendly already, there are ways to make it even more green.

Camping with friends and family involves lot of fun. Going green with camping is an environmentally friendly way to make your vacation eco-friendly. The idea of making a greener camping is to have a minimal impact on the environment. Whether you are planning to week long backpacking trip or a short trip to snow covered mountains, here are some impressive tips to help you go green while camping.

Trash-Leave it how you found it-Clean

Even if you used mostly biodegradable materials, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your trash behind. It is important to leave your campsite the exact way you found it. What if the campers before you left all of their trash behind? Wouldn’t that be annoying? Instead of getting down to the business of camping, you have to start your trip by cleaning up after someone else. That would put a damper on anyone’s trip. So, be mindful of leaving anything behind. Bring extra cloth bags to store all of your items for the trip back home.

Soft Soles

You should tread lightly. You want to minimize your disturbance to the land. So, wear soft-soled shoes. You never know what might be waiting to shoot up beneath you. Remember, the plants and wildlife were there before you. We have our concrete jungles, give nature some space to live too. Also, don’t level the ground underneath your camp. It is that way for a reason. Instead, place cloths under a sloping mat to keep it level.

Clean and Reuse

If you’re camping for more than one night, you’ll have to do some washing. If you have reusable plates, cups and silverware–that is a good start. When washing them, use only biodegradable soaps. Don’t cancel out your green camping trip with toxic dish detergent. Also, do not dump waste water into a stream or river. Empty it on dry ground or vegetation.

Sleeping Gear

It is important to look for sustainable camping gear. Look for camping tents made with 100 percent recycled materials. This should include the tent, fly and floor. Then, determine what types of coatings are used for waterproofing. You want a tent that uses solvent-free polyurethane coating. And, it helps if it is made without toxic dyes.

They are made with naturally untreated, exterior-grade larch wood, while the floor is made from spruce. In addition, they have an integrated ventilation system and electrical outlets. Moreover, it can fit a king-size bed. You can also look for a pre-owned tent at most sporting goods stores. Just look at the materials before your purchase.

Again, look for sleeping bags made of recycled materials. If the weather permits, you might just stick to cloth blankets.

You might want to try a hanging tent. These are like sleeping in a tree. Sometimes, the ground is too cold, soggy and hard to be comfortable. For situations like these, the Tenstile company has created a hanging tent. It is called the Stingray, and it can help you camp anywhere you can suspend it off of the ground.

It is also made to fit three campers comfortably. You won’t have to worry about creepy, crawlies while you sleep. Plus, you’ll have a much better view.

Have you heard of solar tents? This is a new movement in sustainable camping, that also turns it into glamping. A solar tent uses solar fabric that catches the sun’s energy. It also comes with wireless charging pouches to let you charge your devices through magnetic induction.

Repellent

There are lanterns that double as a mosquito repellent. You can often use them to light up your surroundings for over 10 hours each time. Plus, they can protect you from nighttime predators.

Shower

Look for a rinsing system that uses garden hose pressure without the need for batteries or a pump. These types of shower systems compress air in the chamber, which then helps to force water out of the nozzle. This can be used to rinse dirty feet or wash dishes.

Solar Lantern

Carrying a lamp wherever you go can get bulky. The good news is you can find collapsible and portable solar-powered lamps. You can hang the lamp on a tree branch to soak up the sun’s energy during the day time. At night, the lamp shines brightly so that you don’t have to be stuck in the dark.

Food Container

Look for containers that have no BPA or phthalates. These chemicals can leak into your food, even in a microwave. You want something convenient, to travel with you without any messes. Look for leak, break and spill-proof containers. Plus, the design should be compact so as not to take up too much space and easily transport food.

Water

Many times people can be seen bringing a pack of water bottles along with them. This creates overhead as most parks require campers to pick their trash along with them. A better way is to bring a large water container or buy a couple of gallons from which you can refill your water bottle during the trip. You probably never imagined that camping could be even more eco-friendly than it already is. The objective is to continue trying to do as much as you can to care for the environment.

So next time you go camping try some of these tips and go a little greener. Try it, you might like it.

 

Traps and Snares

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

Traps and Snares for Game Animals:

Simple snare

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

Pit trapping


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

Deadfall

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

Traps and Snares for Birds:

Net trapping

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

Perch snaring

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

Deadfall for ground birds

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

Traps and Snares for Fish:

Trapping fish with a net


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

Bottle trapping

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

A line of lines

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

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?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Do Friends and Family Put Your Prepping Efforts at Risk?

Friends at the door
Friends at the door

We entertain friends and family at our home often.  They will at times comment on our family’s prepping efforts, equipment, food storage and other projects we are working on, and the following statement always seems to come up.  “Well, I know where we are coming if something ever happens.”

How many of you have heard this before?  This has got me thinking about the possibility that if and when our preparations are called upon, that I may not be as worried about strangers trying to hijack our food, water and equipment, as friends using guilt and the fact that we know them, to allow them access to a safe zone.

You have to ask yourself, what would you do in that situation?  Could you turn away a good friend in need?  Would you defend your property and supplies against a neighbor or perhaps even extended family?  I would hate to make a decision like that, but the simple answer has to be, yes.

Although I would have a heavy heart, and would definitely do what I could, depending on the overall situation, but the fact that we try to prepare for known and unknown situations, that may present, I and our family, have discussed the possibility of defending our home and family against the same people that know us.

Making a difficult decision.

I’m afraid that when SHTF, our door will be the first everyone is knocking on.  I doubt, hiding and acting like your not home like your avoiding a door-to-door salesman, is really going to work in this situation.  Making a plan before hand, would make the most sense, and allow you and your family to know well ahead of a rash decision during a disaster situation, what and who we would accept and who we would turn away.  “If grandma makes it to our home during a disaster, we let her in.” and If deadbeat Uncle Bob shows up, shoot him before he makes it up the driveway. (just kidding)

If you need to bug out, then gathering your family members and heading to your safe zone, or meeting area wouldn’t apply, but most people would be bugging in, at least for the short term, depending on the disaster or need. Either option, you’re going to encounter people in need or just simply want to stick with a family that has their stuff in order.  We’ve seen this over and over in television shows that bring in a new person, only to be betrayed at some point.

Others may genuinely need food, medical assistance, supplies, security from serious threats, and you know resources are not infinite. What to do?

You are now thinking, I have spent years and my family has worked hard to prepare for potential SHTF events. You have stocked up on canned food, water, filters, medication, guns, ammo, and many other items you thought necessary. You have planned on how you would defend your home and secured your family.

You may not have though, thought about all the people that you would have either knocking on, or down your door.  I suggest that you consult your close friends to at least make minimal preparations or supplies you don’t currently have, to form a small coop.  This would make sense to pool resources, but those that don’t heed your advice and recommendations are on then their own.

Short situations such as tornado, floods and hurricanes, are a different situation, than long term disasters.  You’re fellow man(woman) would definitely help out on these temporary catastrophes just as we have always done.  If a nationwide grid failure, EMP, pandemic, financial collapse, then all bets are off.  When and If food supplies end, McDonalds is closed forever, water, gasoline, and other necessities become scarce and nobody knows for how long, you will need to hunker down and take care of you and yours.

These are going to be some tough decisions for us to make. The decisions you make can and will be very difficult, and you will have to live with how you handle the situation.

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.