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How to Dry Cure Meat at Home

One of the old forms of food preservation is fermenting and curing meat. It’s also one  of the tastiest in artisan salamis, pepperoni, aged cheeses, and of course, bacon, just to name a few. Not only does fermenting add preservation to the meat, but it adds flavor, flavor. Need I repeat it again.

If learning how to do things the old-fashioned way, bringing back traditional skills and learning true art forms, or just plain eating delicious foods that you know where they came from and went into them, then you my friend, are in the right place. Let’s raise our cheeses and pepperoni together!

Today we’re talking about the art of using salt and fermentation to preserve your meat.Many people use the freezer or canning to preserve their foods, and while I’m a die hard Mason jar and canning addict, looking back at older forms of food preservation is just as important.

The art of fermenting is using the good bacteria (and salt with meats or dry curing) to give flavor and preservation to the meat, along with drawing out the moisture, which allows it to be a form of preservation. 

Advantages to Fermented and Dry Cured Meat

Cured meat increases in flavor as it ages, as opposed to time in the freezer where over time your meat slowly degrades. Hanging and aging your whole muscles cuts and salami it concentrates the flavors and gives it a more intense flavor process. Plus, there’s the cool factor of being able to have shelf stable meat cured like the pioneers did.

 How to Dry Cure Meat at Home

Purchase a culture specifically for meat SausageMaker.com or ButcherPacker.com  You can keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to do your meat.

The easiest way to preserve your meat is taking a whole muscle cut, make a salt and spice rub and cover it with the rub, and put it in the fridge for a few days. This way you don’t have to use nitrates or any special ingredients.

After a few days, when the salt has had a chance to get in there and draw out some of the moisture, hang it in a controlled environment at 60 degrees Farenheit with 70% humidity and let it dry until it’s lost about 30% of its water weight. That is preserved traditionally and you can eat it raw.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. I make a commission if you make a purchase, but it costs you  no more. Thank you so much for helping support this site and podcast.

Resources for Dry Curing Meat at Home

Kitchen Scale– digital kitchen scale weighing up to 18 pounds at a time to make sure you can accurately tell when 30% moisture loss has occurred.

Salt This is a pink Himalayan sea salt with no additives

Curing Salt– for use in ground up cured meats to help prevent the growth of botulism

The Cave – unit that allows you to control the temperature and humidity on any refrigerator or freezer.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing -the book on how to cure meats at home.

Three FREE Recipes on How to Dry Cure Meat at Home- homemade pepperoni, salami, and prosciutto

How long do you let your muscle cut cure?

Prosciutto cuts can take up to a whole year, but smaller cuts don’t take as long. It depends on when it looses the 30% of its water weight. So you need to weigh the cut going in and then after its aged.

You can make Panchetta, which you usually cook, so if you cook it, and don’t eat it raw, then the 30% weight loss isn’t as crucial.

How do you store your cured meat and how long is it good for?

You can continue to store it in The Cave to continue to age it and concentrating the flavors. If you keep curing it will get really hard, otherwise you can store it in your fridge.Lowering the temperature slows down the aging. You can freeze it as well.

Once the meat is completely dry cured, it is shelf stable. You can keep it out on the counter. But to keep it as palatable as possible,  you store it in the fridge or freezer to extend the shelf life and keep it from drying out too much.

Karen says they take they’re salami camping and don’t worry about keeping it in the fridge.

What cuts are a whole muscle cut?

The most popular would be your back leg of a pig, deer, or lamb. You can do something smaller like a loin or neck muscle. Just a whole muscle group, just follow the line and separate that muscle from the rest of the muscle groups. This way you don’t need a grinder.

A grinder is a small investment and you can find both manual and electric
meat grinders here–>stainless steel meat grinder

You can take any piece of meat and do this process of salting and dry curing it.

Back when people naturally cured their own meant, they’d use an basement, cellar, or attic.

You want a slightly warmer temperature so the good bacteria blooms and forces the bad bacteria out, and not being to cold helps with this.

You can use cheese cloth to wrap your meat while its hanging if its in an open environment like a basement or attic. For ease and safety, a contained chamber is best, not only to keep the bugs off, but to help with humidity and temperature levels.

Karen and James created a product, called The Cave, to control your humidity and temperature that attaches onto any refrigerator or freezer. It has a touch screen that allows you to set the humidity and temperature for dry curing meat, cheeses, and even culturing yogurt and sourdough. It has a wireless app so you can easily change the settings if you’re not home.

Right now (thru June 8, 2016) they have a kickstarter campaign going for the Cave including some special kits and e-books.

The fridge or freezer you put it on should be a single unit (no separate freezer) and the heater for warm cultures works best at 10 square feet.

With cheese and meat, if it gets to dry on the outer layer of your meat and cheeses then it creates a hard crust and that hard crust traps the moisture inside and creates a safety issue. This is why the humidity level is so important.

This is also true of your cheeses, if the good mold doesn’t start to form. We had some disasters in the first few years, before The Cave, which is why we ended up creating.

How to Make Bacon at Home

Take your pork belly and throw it in a container with spices, maple syrup or brown sugar is a favorite, and put it in the fridge and flip it once a day for a week. Then throw it in the smoker or in the oven and cook it to a set temperature and you’ve got your bacon.

On the Kickstarter campaign is bacon making kit, both ginger garlic and apple cinnamon bacon.

Salt Safety in Dry Curing

Again, you really need some type of scale. You need 2.5% percent of the weight of the meat to salt ratio, if the meat is 100 grams then you need 2.5 grams of salt to the meat.

If you’re grinding the meat you need to include some type of sodium nitrate or pink salt, and it’s .25% in order to prevent botulism. Nitrates are controversial, but our opinion is we’d much rather not die of botulism if we’re aging salami, the nitrates protect against that.

You don’t need to use nitrates in a whole muscle cut. Unless, you’re rolling up panchetta, in that type some of the meat has been exposed to oxygen, and some hasn’t. Nitrates are needed when the  meat has been exposed to oxygen and is then put into an anaerobic environment. 

Type of Salts for Dry Curing

You want to use salt that doesn’t have any additives to it, like anti-caking methods.

Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Himalyan Pink Salt.

Is your cured meat okay if its moldy?

Orange and black are bad.

You’re dry aged pepperoni’s are covered in white mold.

You can buy mold powder to add to your meat when you’re hanging them. It’s beneficial to help with the moisture level and to establish the good mold.

We dissolve the mold culture into water and then spray our sausage with it to help bloom that mold onto the surface of our sausage.

What’s the molds purpose?

It helps the flavor profile and when you make a sausage like salami, the casing helps it not dry out too quickly, and the mold does the exact same thing. It helps regulate the moisture loss, so you don’t dry out the outside too quickly and then moisture gets trapped inside instead of releasing.

Three Dry Meat Recipes:

Home Curing Recipes Pepperoni: Homemade pepperoni is worlds above what you can buy in the store. It is also a great “beginner” fermented sausage, since it is aged in a smaller casing and is ready to eat much sooner than other sausages.

1400 g pork  600 g lean beef (or venison)  10 g Bactoferm F-RM-52  50 g de-chlorinated water  50 g salt 5 g Pink salt #2 (not Himalayan salt—pink salt is a mix of sodium nitrite/sodium nitrate)  30 g dextrose  56 g nonfat milk powder  13 g paprika  6 g sugar  6 g black pepper  6 g cayenne pepper  5 g anise seeds, crushed  1 g fennel  24 g reduced dry red wine (optional: boil wine for 15 minutes then chill)  3 meters hog casings, or 6 meters sheep casings

If using natural casings, soak the casings in cold water for about an hour, making sure to rinse and replace the water at least once halfway through. Open the casings underneath running water to rinse the insides. 2. Grind chilled beef and pork through the small die of your grinder. 3. Dissolve the starter culture (F-RM-52) in de-chlorinated water. Let sit for 20 minutes. While it is re-hydrating, chill the beef and pork in the freezer to keep it cold. 4. Combine meat with starter culture, salt, and remaining dry seasonings. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes tacky. 5. Add chilled dry red wine and mix until combined. If you took the optional step to boil off the alcohol and concentrate the wine flavors, be sure to add the same mass of liquid that the recipe calls for (start with a quantity of wine greater than 24 g and boil this down to 24 g). 6. Stuff immediately into casings. Prick all over with a sterile pin to eliminate air pockets. Weigh the mass of your sausages and record this value. 7. Ferment using the Cave fermentation controller at 85ᵒF and 90% relative humidity for 12 hours. 8. Optional: cold smoke for 6 hours. 9. Dry using the Cave fermentation controller at 55-60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity until the pepperoni has lost 30% of its weight. Adjust airflow so that it is highest at start of drying, and gradually decreases until the pepperoni is complete. This should take approximately 2-3 weeks, if using hog casings (less time if using sheep casings)

Goat Prosciutto: Lamb or goat prosciutto is easy to make, requiring only a few minutes of hands-on time before hanging in the Cave. It is intensely flavorful and has an amazing mouth-feel when sliced thin. This is a traditional recipe made with juniper berries, garlic, and fresh rosemary. You could also substitute other game animals for this

de-boned and butterflied goat leg (or leg roast)  3.8% sea salt  0.25% cure #2 (optional)  3.0% sugar  2.0% minced garlic  1.0% fresh rosemary (or 0.6% dried rosemary)  1.4% pepper  0.4% crushed juniper berries 1. Start by de-boning and butterflying the goat leg. Trim off any silverskin. 2. Mix the salt, cure, and seasonings Cure in the refrigerator: place it all in a zip-loc bag (or a covered non-reactive container) and put in the refrigerator. Cure for about 5 days, being sure to redistribute the cure every day or so. 4. Rinse in water or wine and pat dry. Weigh the meat and record this number. 5. Tie with butcher’s twine and hang in the Cave. Age at 55ᵒF and 75% relative humidity. The goat prosciutto is done when it has lost 30% of its weight and is firm to the touch. 6. Slice thin and enjoy!

Hungarian Salami Hungarian salami is a slow-fermented sausage with traditional flavors of Hungarian paprika, pepper, and garlic.

1200 g pork  400 g lean beef (or venison)  400 g pork fat  0.9 g T-SPX dissolved in 30 g de-chlorinated water 50 g salt  5 g pink salt #2  20 g Hungarian paprika  20 g pepper  10 g fresh garlic, minced  4 g dextrose  3 g white pepper  24 g reduced dry white wine (Hungarian Tokaji)  3 ft of beef middles 1. If using natural casings, soak the casings in cold water for about an hour, making sure to rinse and replace the water at least once halfway through. Open the casings underneath running water to rinse the insides. 2. Grind partially-frozen meat through small die and pork fat through large die. 3. Dissolve the starter culture in de-chlorinated water. Let sit for 20 minutes. While it is rehydrating, chill the beef and pork in the freezer to keep it cold. 4. Combine meat with starter culture, salt, and remaining dry seasonings. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes tacky. 5. Add chilled Tokaji wine and mix until combined. If you took the optional step to boil off the alcohol and concentrate the wine flavors, be sure to add the same mass of liquid that the recipe calls for (start with a quantity of wine greater than 24 g and boil this down to 24 g). 6. Stuff immediately into casings. Prick all over with a sterile pin to eliminate air pockets. Weigh the mass of your salamis and record this value. 7. Ferment in the Cave chamber at 70ᵒF and 90% relative humidity for 72 hours. 8. Cold smoke for 6-12 hours. 9. Dry in the Cave at 55-60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity until the salami has lost 30% of its weight. Adjust airflow so that it is highest at start of drying, and gradually decreases until the salami is complete. This may take 2-3 months if using beef middles.

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Survival Bread

Many years ago, at a Preparedness Fair, I picked up this recipe for Survival Bread. The recipe says that after it’s made, it “will keep indefinitely”. Hmmm… Made me think of Lembas bread – something the elves would make (for you Lord of the Rings fans). “One small bite will fill the belly of a grown man.” Since I can’t stand to waste, it didn’t sound like anything I wanted to HAVE to consume on an otherwise perfectly good day, with soft yeast bread and an abundance of other good foods in the fridge. But this recipe keeps popping up in front of me, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and bake up a brick of Survival Bread today.

Here’s the original recipe, just as I received it:

Survival Bread

2 cups oats

2 1/2 cups powdered milk

1 cup sugar

3 Tbl honey

3 Tbl water

1 pkg. lemon or orange Jell-O (3oz)

Combine oats, powdered milk and sugar. In a medium pan, mix water, Jell-O and honey. Bring to a boil. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. (If the dough is too dry, add a small amount of water a teaspoon at a time.) Shape dough into a loaf. (About the size of a brick.) Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Wrap in aluminum foil to store. This bread will keep indefinitely and each loaf is the daily nutrients for one adult. 

Well, the ingredients don’t sound too bad, but that last line bothers me for some reason. Healthy food should deteriorate, shouldn’t it? I have teenage boys and not much goes to waste around here, so I figured it was worth trying out. Even though the recipe doesn’t specify, I used quick oats. As for the liquid, that little bit didn’t even begin to cover it. It was so dry, I was still stirring mostly powder, so I ended up adding another 1/3 cup water plus more – almost 1/2 cup! It was very stiff, and very sticky. I wonder if I should have added less and got my hands in there and just packed it all together when it was still a lot drier. I don’t know, but here’sthe results:

It doesn’t look so bad! AND – it actually tasted pretty good! It has a heavy powdered milk taste, which I’m not a big fan of, but with a little butter, or honey, or butter AND honey(!) I hardly noticed. I’m sure the recipe can be altered. Maybe less powdered milk and more oats? Unless it’s formulated to an exact scientifically nutritional specification! 🙂  But I doubt it.

Has anyone else had any experience with survival bread? Or maybe if you have a different recipe you’d like to share, email it to me and I’ll post it with your name.

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How to Build a Fire Bed

Did you know that you can have your fire and sleep on it as well?  Most people are content to sleep as close to a fire as possible in order to stay warm at night.  However, we all know that this doesn’t always work as effectively as we would like.  Parts of our bodies get really hot while others receive little or no heat at all.  Let’s explore a really easy trick that can give you the best of both worlds and provide a long-lasting source of heat that your whole body can enjoy.

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Build A Solar Dehydrator For All Of Your Garden Bounty

Build a solar dehydrator for all of your garden bounty. This is a great diy project if you want or need to dehydrate a lot of food. It is perfect for folks that follow a raw diet or are mostly vegetarian. When preserving foods you have a few choices and a lot of folks like to can their foods for storage but canning does affect the nutrients because the food is cooked, where dehydrating only removes the moisture content of foods leaving all the nutrients behind. Another plus to dehydrating is storage space. Dehydrated foods take up much less space than either canned or frozen. While a lot of people have electric dehydrators, these can take hours to dry foods and they are using energy the entire time. This diy solar dehydrator tower by Peak Prosperity can dehydrate a great amount of foods while it costs nothing to use because it drys with the sun.He built it using some recycled materials to help keep costs down but says the family is mostly vegetarian so they dehydrate a lot of their garden produce. As long as you have a place to build this that can catch enough sun you could dry a lot of your garden produce, saving on energy and storage while retaining all of the nutrients in the foods.

This is a story of one of the steps my family has taken towards increased resiliency, including actions taken to build a more sustainable lifestyle and invest in our food security.  My family lives on mostly a vegetarian diet. We currently grow a large garden and plan to grow most of our food for the full year. Growing a year’s worth of food brings up many questions, but the most critical one is how do we preserve the bounty of our garden?  Of methods that I know of, one can dry, ferment, can, or use cold storage. Canning heats the food and takes away some of the nutrients. Not all foods can be stored in cold storage (but I am working on this, as well). We have an Excalibur dryer but find it takes forever to dry things and the electricity to match.

So I decided to build a solar dehydrator. After researching different design ideas, I went with a design that I could use some recycled materials and materials left over from other projects, plus some new. I also wanted a high-capacity design that could dry a lot of food at once. This design has a heat collector and a tower.

Construction

First, I built the foundation out of 4×4 pressure treated (PT) and some not PT. The wood that did not touch the ground did not need PT. The site was also at a slight slant, so I doubled the wood under the tower. The design has a 4′ square tower and an area for the metal that is used for the heat collector mass. I dug trenches in the dirt, drilled screws into the 4×4’s and filled the trenches with concrete. I set the 4×4’s (with the screws down) in the trenches, then leveled the 4×4’s and bolted the intersections together. Then I covered this with 1/2″ plywood that I painted black.

We have a shop in town that sells recycled construction materials (Habitat for Humanity Restore) that makes finding used materials easier for these types of projects. I was able to find three 5′ long, 6″ diameter, single-wall stove pipes and one 14″ diameter single-wall pipe. The three 6″ pipes fit nicely inside the larger pipe. I painted the pipes black with high temp paint (the same paint that you paint a woodstove with). I was going for as much mass as I could get to dry a lot of food at once.

Next, I built the tower. I used 5/8″ plywood siding, as I have this thing for making structures that not only function, but look nice as well. You could use 1/2″ CDX plywood instead, if you chose. Since the plywood is 4′ x 8′, it took 3 sheets (the door is on one side). The framing, including the rafters was made from 2×4 studs. I was able to get a recycled 3′ wide door with a full dual-pane window. This I framed in on the west side of the tower, so the food would not be in the direct sun, but you could see inside. (It could have also been in the rear.) The roof is slanted to allow for an exit vent in the rear. The exit vent opening should be approx. equal to the inlet opening. I covered this with galvanized welded mesh wire on the outside (for animals) and window screening on the inside (for insects). I covered the roof with 1/2″ plywood and scrap metal roofing.

I went to my local glass shop and they had recycled (like brand new) 3/16″ thick, tempered glass shower doors. I framed in a triangular box to hold the shower doors. This area became the heat collector area. Again I covered the inlet with welded mesh wire on the outside (for animals) and window screening on the inside (for insects). This could be flat, as well, with corrugated metal sheets as the heat mass. I made covers for the inlet and outlet for winter.

Cool air comes in the heat collector area, is heated by the metal, and flows up thru the tower and out the top rear of the tower. It works like a woodstove or greenhouse. Heat rises.

Now for the food trays: I made 10 frames out of 2″ x 2″ wood, painted with mineral oil. They are 3′ square. The mesh covers an area of 2′ x 3′ (the mesh comes in 4′ width, so I cut it in half). This leaves an area of 1′ x 3′ opening. I covered 3/4 of this opening with plywood. The opening is on the outside of the frame, away from the mesh. These are installed in a staggered pattern, with the opening opposite on each. This makes the air flow on both sides of the food and slows it down, as it makes its way up to the exit vent. The food is sliced thin and placed with maybe 1/4 to 1/2″ between the pieces. This makes the hot air stay more on the bottom of the trays and move to the opening. The trays rest on angles mounted the inside walls of the tower.

Material for food trays: I used 1/4″ mesh welded wire, type 316 stainless steel, to hold the food. This type of stainless is best for acid foods. It’s expensive, but there are only two types of mesh that you should use for this: food-grade plastic mesh (which I could only find commercial grade) or type 316 stainless steel. (Window screen is fiberglass and can put fibers in the food; aluminum window screen adds aluminum to the food. So these should not be used.) The stainless mesh needs to be welded, not woven, as food can be caught in the weave. The stainless comes in 4′ wide and sells by the foot. I needed 6 square feet (2′ x 3′) per tray x 10 trays = 60 square feet x $6 per square foot = $360.

Final Thoughts

The overall project came out nicely and the ability to use a lot of leftover and used building materials makes this type of project creatively adaptable regarding the design and size of the final dehydrator. The size of our system gives us the capacity to dry and preserve large quantities of garden produce with limited light exposure (we live in a mountain home) and maximize our harvest yields. Some of the other things we will be exploring with our system are:

  • Creating an adjustable cover to regulate heat levels
  • Adding a wireless thermometer to monitor temps from the house
  • Evaluating temperature ranges and zones of differing heat levels within the tower.

I’m happy with how this project turned out, and I hope you will be inspired by my efforts. Do-it-yourself plans for capturing and utilizing solar energy are a solid step on the journey toward resiliency. I’m looking forward to increasing our year-round preserved food supply with homegrown dehydrated produce and dried fruit, and I look forward to sharing our experiences after we’ve used our solar dehydrator through another growing season.

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How to find and use soap plants

soap-plants

As functional members of our modern society, we are somehow accustomed to take things for granted and we become dependent of stores and the items we buy. Soap is one of the many items that we take for granted and if stores would stop selling this item tomorrow, we would have no clue how to make do without it. Luckily for us, there are soap plants that we can use as substitute when soap runs out. Sanitation will become an important task during a crisis scenario and although you may have stockpiled enough soap to last you for a lifetime, it is always better to learn about the alternatives we have. Learning how to make soap is a skill that will come in handy and it will help you stay clean when stores will close. However, in today’s article I will share some of my knowledge regarding a natural, cost free alternative; the soap plants that can be found in the wild!

Interacting with nature and using all its resources is an important aspect of preparedness and off-grid living. If you are familiar with this site, you’ve probably noticed by now that I encourage people to get back into nature and learn about foraging and every other skill that will help them survive when our modern society will collapse. Foraging for wild plants is a forgotten skill that will prove very useful if you are forced to leave your home and head for the woods. Nature provides all sorts of plants that can help you survive and thrive in a harsh environment. Besides the medicinal plants and the wild edibles, there are quite a few plants that contain saponins (steroids that dissolve in water and create a stable froth). These plants will help you stay clean when exploring the great the outdoors.

Most of the soap plants that you can find in the wild were used by the Native Americans and the first pioneers. Although they are different from the old fashioned soap that your grandma used to make on the farm, these plants work just as well and they are a great substitute for the traditional soaps.

Some of the soap plants listed in this article are found everywhere in the wild and they can be prepared very easily.

Soap plants – Yucca (Yucca spp.)

soap-plants-2

Yucca is one of the soap plants used by the Native Americans and there are numerous species of yucca spread throughout the plains and western States. This is one of the arid edibles I wrote about in a previous article and it is very easy to identify it. The plant produces a stemless cluster of long, rigid leaves which end in a sharp point. The leaves are 8 to 35 inches long and have a gray-green color. This is a versatile plant and the Native Americans used it extensively for various purposes. Besides being used for soap, the plant produces several good foods, quality fiber that was used to make sandals. It was also used as tinder and it helped improvising carrying cases or quivers from the mature, hollowed-out flower stalks.

Although many prefer to use the root to make soap, digging up the root is an intense labor and you may even get fined for doing so because some Yucca species are listed as endangered. To make soap easily you can cut the leaves (even one would do) and strip them into fibers until you have a handful of very thin strands. Add water and agitate between your hands until soap forms. You will need to pay attention when cutting the lives because you can hurt yourself with the sharp tips or you can slice your fingers on the edges of the leaf. Make sure you snip off the sharp tip before you strip the leaves. Yucca soap has extremely good cleansing properties and the leaf fiber helps in scrubbing. It provides medium to rich lather depending on the species, but since the leaves are available year-round and the plant is widespread it makes Yucca one of the soap plants that can be used the most.

Soap plants – Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus spp.)

soap-plants-3

This plant is also known as soap bush and there are over 50 species of shrubs or small shrub trees. Most of the species are confined to North America. The soap bush is common throughout the southwest and if you go hiking in the spring, you will notice a spot of white, blue or purple along the trail and on the hillside. Many species can be used as soap plants even though their botanical properties will sometimes be different. To make sure you have mountain lilac that can be used as soap you can do a simple test. Take a handful of blossoms, add water and rub them between the hands. If you get a rich lather with a mild aroma, you got the right plant! The plant will lose its flowers early summer and it will form some sticky green fruits. Don’t worry if you missed the flowering period of the mountain lilac because the fruits can also be used to make soap. The early pioneers used to dry the fruits and used them for soap when needed. If you decide to dry the fruits and store them for later use, you must know that the fruits will get very hard and you will need to ground them into a fine powder before using it as soap. Once you have the powder, add water and rub vigorously. The soap doesn’t have the same quality as the one made from the fresh fruits, but it is a good alternative when nothing else is available. Mountain lilac has good cleansing properties and it’s worth traveling to the difficult terrain to collect its flowers and fruits.

Soap plants – Soaproot (Blitum californicum)

soap-plants-4

This is a plant that was used by the Native Americans both as medicine and as a food source. The leaves of soaproot can be cooked, drained and used as you would use spinach. This is often confused with lamb’s quarter by many foragers, but if you pay attention, you can notice that soaproot has a large taproot. This is the part that can be used to make soap and it is often similar to a ginseng root or an overgrown carrot. Getting the root requires some effort and in hard soil it can be a foot deep, making it impossible to be harvested without a good shovel. The first pioneers learned to make soap from the Native Americans and they used to preserve the root in a dark, cold place for later use. In order to make soap you will need to grate the root with a sharp knife. Add water and rub between the hands to obtain a soap that many consider superior to store-bought soaps. The taproot produces a frothy lather that has very good cleansing properties. This plant is harder to find since most of those who know about its cleaning properties would take entire taproots and store them for later use. It can be found only in isolated patches and if you plan to use Soaproot, make sure you only use small taproots and leave the rest.

Soap plants – Amole (Chloroglaum pmeridianum)

soap-plants-5

Amole is widespread plant that is part of the lily family and it can be identified easily due to its long liner leaves growing from the base of the plant. It develops flowers on a long stem and it grows a large brown bulb. To reach the bulb, which is the part used for making soap, you will sometimes have to dig down up to a foot deep. The bulb is usually covered in layers of brown fibers and you will need to remove these fibers until you reach the white bulb. The white bulb is stick and has many layers, just like an onion. You can take some of these layers, add water and agitate between your hands. As a result, you will obtain a rich lather that can be used for any sanitation operation you might need. You can use it to take a bath, to wash your hair and even to clean your clothes. You can also dry the bulb for later use, but just like for all other soap plants, the soap made from the fresh parts is far superior. The bulbous root of the Amole plant can be dug year-round if you know where to look for it. In the fall the plant is dormant and although it is widespread in various areas, it will be harder to find compared to the other soap plants.

Soap plants – Buffalo Gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima)

soap-plants-6

This plant can be found in the central and southwestern United States and northern Mexico and it even grows in urban vacant lots. Some people know it by the name of coyote melon and based on its form, you can notice that it is a relative of squash and pumpkins. The Native Americans used the plant as rattles, but also as soap to for washing clothes. In order to make soap, they used the tender growing tips or the leaves of the plant. Adding water and agitating between the hands will result in a green frothy lather that has satisfactory cleansing proprieties. If you decide to use buffalo gourd to make soap, you have to handle the leaves with care as they are covered with tiny rigid spines. These tiny hairs are known to cause irritation to the skin for some people and many survivalists will use this soap plant as a last resort.

Soap plants – Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis)

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Many people know this plant as soapweed or crow soap and it is widely available since many gardeners will plant it for its pink flowers. This is an introduced plant and it is mostly used by European countries as soap substitute.  Although the leaves and the roots can be used, it is much easier to use the leaves since it will also help maintain the plant alive. There are various ways you can use the leaves to make soap. You can agitate the fresh leaves between your hands with water or you can boil them to produce a lather liquid that has the ability to dissolve fats or grease. Take a handful of fresh leaves, bruise and chop them for 30 minutes in 1 pint of water. Strain the liquid and use it as you would use liquid soap. This plant has satisfactory cleansing proprieties and it is a good alternative if it grows abundantly in your area. You can plant it in your off-grid garden as a useful ornamental and use it as soap substitute year round if no snow has fallen.

Soap plants are just another proof that Mother Nature will take care of your needs and it can provide you with viable alternatives to commercial products. The plants listed in this article will help you stay clean when your soap supplies run out and this is knowledge worth knowing.

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27 Uses for a Five-Gallon Bucket

Texans may have their five-gallon hats, but the rest of us preppers have our five-
gallon buckets! Grab some of those buckets, because there are dozens of do-it-
yourself projects you could be starting. Consider this your prepper “bucket list”!

Dozens of Do-it-yourself Prepper Projects with Buckets
Here’s our bucket list of dozens of projects you can do yourself if you have a food-
grade 5-gallon or 6-gallon bucket:

#1: Assemble and off-grid laundry station.
Include a Rapidwasher mobile washer agitator, which is much better than a plunger
because it has slots for the water. Also it uses minimal water and less soap
(because of the agitation motion). Fill your bucket with your favorite laundry soap,
borax,  baking soda, and stain remover, along with a clothesline, clothespins, and
rubber gloves. Right, Prepare My Life has assembled everything for you in a kit with
a gamma seal lid.

#2: Fuel up at Costco with Charcoal.
This is an easy do-it-yourself prepper project: charcoal storage. Preppers must stock
a variety of fuel and charcoal is ready to go! The problem is that the bags are messy
and are not moisture proof. At Costco, you’ll find Kingston Charcoal: it’s around $20
for two huge bags. Grab them, then stash your charcoal treasure into a couple five-
or six-gallon buckets. Having charcoal in a bucket provides the added security of a
weather tight capsule.

  • Why hoard charcoal? Charcoal is highly combustible and paired with a lighter
    is an easy source of fuel. Charcoal has an indefinite shelf life when the
    product is stored in a cool, dry place. Use charcoal after you exhaust your
    supplies of propane, kerosene and other liquid fuels.
  • Is commercial charcoal good for composting? No! Kingston Charcoal and
    other briquettes won’t aid in the breakdown of organic matter, because they
    contain other ingredients to make them light faster. You’ll need to dump your
    commercial charcoal in an area separate from your composting.
  • #3: Tackle this one: create a bucket for your fishing gear.

Go fishing for tackle supplies and make a tackle bucket. Pictured right is a tackle
organizer. There are organizers for inside and outside of your bucket. Complete
your tackle bucket with a comfortable seat lid. Makes a great gift.

  • Fishing Bucket Organizer. Right, from Wild River Tackle, is a five-gallon
    bucket organizer that fits most 5 gallon buckets. It’s a single solution soft
    tackle bag with an integrated flexible neck LED light system that allows you to
    see into the bag or the bucket when natural light gets scarce. This is a clip on
    LED light that can be moved to illuminate any area of low light. It also
    features a zippered pocket ready for your aerator to keep your bait lively. The
    rigger has storage areas for two 3500-series trays and extra pocket to hold a
    third reel or fishing line. A fisherman’s dream, this organizer features a
    removable self-retracting steel cable lanyard for clippers or small tools. It has
    clear internal pockets to keep maps and fishing license dry but visible. The
    exterior mesh pockets will allow you to carry popular tools and easily view
    contents.
  • Sit-n-fish. Left, from Frabill is the Sit-N-Fish bucket. It’s the perfect fishing
    bucket for on the ice or during open water season! This bucket is the “real
    McCoy”! Keep your bait inside during both seasons, and sit comfortably on its
    padded seat whenever you’re out. 6-gallon outer plastic pail; Removable 8-
    quart insulated foam bait bucket; Keeps bait alive and frisky without freeze-
    up; Comfortable snap on / off padded seat lid is included.

#4: Make an emergency toilet.
Here is a port a potty you can actually port… Take a five-gallon bucket (use a
colored bucket, so you don’t mix it up with your food grade buckets) and line your
bucket with appropriate bags, chemicals or Borax to keep down the stench, and of
course, toilet paper and a plastic toilet seat lid and you have a grid-down
emergency solution! This portable potty is also an ideal solution for camping,
hunting, and having an adventure in your RV.

#5: Use your noodle and stockpile the macaroni!
Preppers don’t often think of storing macaroni in food grade buckets, but it will keep
you from eating your emergency stash on an everyday basis. You can fit 25-lbs or
more of elbow noodles in a six-gallon bucket. Next time it goes on sale, use your
noodle and stock up on versatile elbow macaroni or your favorite pasta. Remove the
pasta from the plastic bags and insert them into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers
to enhance their shelf life. Include the boiling instructions on the inside of lid of the
bucket. To make retrieval easier, get a gamma seal lid. Be sure to use a food-grade
bucket or the plastics will leach into your macaroni or other pasta. Be sure also to
store your macaroni inside your home, and not in a basement or attic, which has
heat fluctuations. Be sure to store enough water to boil your noodles!

#6: Sugar up your food storage!
Sugar lasts indefinitely and is another easy prep for a food grade bucket. Sugar
doesn’t need. Head to Costco for pure cane sugar, preferably organic, which has a
hint of brown color. Get a gamma lid for easy retrieval of your food storage. Don’t
stop your food storage projects with sugar or macaroni. In addition to sugar, buy in
bulk to save and stockpile:

#7: Build a better mouse trap!
Featured on Doomsday Castle, the concept of a five-gallon bucket  rat trap at first
seemed a little far fetched, but it worked! Here’s a how to build a better mousetrap!

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Back to Basics: 5 Ways To Make Toothpaste At Home

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You grow your own food, you use coconut oil for moisturizer, and you clean your house with vinegar and maybe lemon oil. Why? You probably do it for a number of reasons. You want to be self-sufficient, you don’t want to eat or clean with toxic chemicals, and you want to save some money and preserve the environment.

Then why on Earth are you still brushing your teeth with a product that’s packed with so many questionable ingredients? Why not make your own toothpaste at home?

As preppers, another valuable reason to know how to make your own toothpaste is that it’s going to be a valuable trading commodity if SHTF and causes a major disruption in commerce for an extended period of time. Most people don’t have more than one backup tube of toothpaste, and it’s one of those items that most folks won’t think to include in a bug-out bag, so the demand will be there.

I personally have learned how to make several different hygiene products including soap and perfume, but toothpaste is by far one of the easiest. It doesn’t require any cooking and the ingredients are common and easy to come by; chances are good that you have the basics in your house right now.

In addition to self-sufficiency, making your own toothpaste is a good idea because commercial toothpaste has several ingredients that may not be so good for you.

4 Reasons to Avoid Commercial Toothpaste

Fluoride

Nearly all commercial toothpastes contain fluoride, a mineral that the government started putting in our water in the 60’s. Fluoride is purported to be good for the enamel on your teeth and is currently a topic of hot debate in the medical community because of links to cancer. Though there are studies that support both sides, I choose to avoid it.

Glycerin

Again, this is an ingredient that is purported to be benign but there is data to support that it may leave a film on your teeth that can prevent your teeth from absorbing the minerals they need to  stay healthy. Since removing that type of film is kind of the point of brushing your teeth, I’ll pass.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This is a surfactant, which basically means that it’s a soap that’s added to toothpaste to clean your teeth and make the toothpaste foam. Though it’s been deemed safe by the FDA, it has been shown to aggravate existing canker sores and may actually cause them, though the research about that is unclear. Either way, it’s something that I just don’t want in my toothpaste, and you won’t find it in any of these recipes.

Artificial Colors and Flavors

In its natural state, toothpaste isn’t gleaming white or sparkly blue and it doesn’t taste sweet. Commercial toothpastes add artificial colors and flavors to their product to get these results. Since many artificial colors and sweeteners have been linked to cancer, many people have cut them out of their diets.

Sure, you don’t eat toothpaste, but you typically swallow at least a bit of it, and small kids swallow even more. None of these recipes have artificial colors or flavors. You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to add flavor, along with a few drops of liquid stevia to add sweetness if you’d like.

What You Need for Making Toothpaste

Finally, if SHTF, commercial toothpaste may not be an option and you’ll certainly want to be self-sufficient enough to be able to maintain dental hygiene. The most basic of these recipes requires household ingredients that you’ll likely have around anyway, as you’ll be using them for purposes other than just brushing your teeth.

As preppers, we all love multi-purpose items, and these fall distinctly into that category.

Baking Soda

Most of these recipes contain baking soda because that’s the traditional base for toothpastes. It’s long been known for its ability to destroy odors (thus why we use it in the refrigerator and in laundry) and it’s abrasive enough to scrub the plaque and stains off of your teeth.

It’s also alkaline so it neutralizes acids in your mouth that can cause bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. Many worry that this abrasive quality may also wear down the enamel on your teeth. The abrasive rating of baking soda on the Relative Dentin Abrasively scale is less than that of commercial toothpaste.

Sea Salt

Many people add sea salt to their toothpaste because it has trace minerals and it’s also an abrasive that will help scrub stains off of your teeth. Salt may also have some antibacterial properties that will help eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath.

Bentonite Clay

This natural clay acts as a natural mild abrasive and also delivers trace minerals that can help re-mineralize your teeth. When using bentonite clay, don’t use metal containers or utensils because, when moistened, the clay builds an electrical charge and opens up like a sponge to absorb toxins. Metal disrupts this process.

There is some concern that bentonite contains trace amounts of lead, which is true, but according to the research that I found, the lead is already strongly bonded to the other minerals in the clay, and thus won’t stay in your body. Instead, it will be swept out of your body along with other toxins and waste.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is being used more and more as a base for homemade toothpaste because of its antibacterial qualities. It comes either refined or unrefined. The unrefined tastes like coconut and the refined is flavorless.

Natural Sweeteners

We’re programmed to think that toothpaste is supposed to be sweet so many of us, especially kids, like to add some sweetener to the homemade versions. There are two good options and both come in liquid forms.

  • Stevia is derived from a plant and has been shown in some studies to inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that helps prevent tooth decays and also helps re-mineralize enamel.

Since bacteria don’t feed on xylitol, it doesn’t cause tooth decay. If you’re going to use this, be sure to keep it away from pets because it can be toxic to them.

Essential oils

There are many different essential oils that you can use in your toothpaste to kill germs that can cause cavities and bad breath. Some of them taste great and some of them, not so much. However, some of the ones that taste the worst (tea tree oil, neem oil, eucalyptus oil) are some of the most powerful. It’s a tradeoff: taste for effectiveness. Still, there are good-tasting oils that are also extremely effective for day-to-day purposes.

Clove oil, in particular, has been used for centuries as a cure for toothaches by the old timers and is actually approved by the Dental Association for that purpose. Here are some essential oils and the benefits that push them to the top of the list. Remember that essential oils are extremely concentrated and too much of a good thing isn’t always a better thing. Oils often need to be diluted before use so educate yourself on the oil before you use it.

This list is just a guide to get you started; how much of each oil to use is outside the scope of this article. Most of the recipes below recommend adding a few drops of the essential oil to the toothpaste but some of them, such as clove oil, can be applied straight to a sore tooth. Others can be irritating if used at full strength.

  • Tea Tree, Neem, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Myrrh, Lemon, Orange, Clove, Cinnamon, Lemon, Rosemary, Oregano Oils – antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic
  • Peppermint – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and great tasting.

5 Ways to Make Toothpaste

You can use these in combination if you’d like in order to find a taste that you like. Peppermint and cinnamon are, of course, two favorites because those are standard flavors for commercial toothpaste. To use these toothpastes, just dip or apply a pea-sized amount to your toothbrush.

Recipe 1 – Basic Baking Soda Toothpaste

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/8 cup sea salt (optional)
  • 10 drops peppermint or cinnamon oil (optional)
  • 1/4 cup filtered water

Combine baking soda and sea salt. Add essential oil then add enough water to reach a paste consistency. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe 2 – Coconut Oil/Bentonite Clay Toothpaste

This homemade toothpaste looks a bit funky but it has great ingredients that offer a diverse array of benefits for your mouth and teeth.

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup bentonite clay
  • 3 tbsp. filtered water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 10-20 drops peppermint oil or oil of your choice
  • 4 or 5 drops stevia or xylitol (optional)

Combine coconut oil, clay and salt. Add water until it reaches a paste consistency then stir in the oil and sweetener. Store in an airtight, non-metal container away from light.

Recipe 3 – Coconut Oil/Baking Soda Toothpaste

This version of homemade toothpaste is a bit less gritty than standard baking soda toothpaste. The coconut oil may take a bit of getting used to texturally but in the long run, it’s a good option.

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 10-20 drops essential oils
  • 5 drops stevia or xylitol (optional)

Stir baking soda into coconut oil, then add essential oil and sweetener.

Recipe 4 – Whitening and Re-mineralizing Toothpaste

One of the reasons why your teeth decay is because the minerals in your enamel are depleted. Dentists don’t typically think that replacing these minerals was possible but there is research that suggests that it is. A big part of the process is diet but toothpaste may play a role, too.

  • 1/4 cup bentonite clay
  • 2 tbsp. calcium powder
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 10-20 drops essential oil
  • 5 drops of sweetener, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup filtered water

Stir together all of the dry ingredients. Add the coconut oil, the essential oil and the sweetener, then stir in just enough water to make the concoction a paste. Store in an airtight container. Opaque is best, or store it in a dark place to preserve the essential oil. If you’re worried about it being too salty, add the salt a bit at a time.

Recipe 5 – Squeezable Toothpaste

This is a cool combination because most of us think of toothpaste as coming in a tube. In addition, dipping into your toothpaste may be a bit messy, especially if you have kids. It can also be tough to travel with. This recipe makes a paste that goes right into BPA-free squeezable bottles and has the perfect consistency for squeezing out.

  • 3 tbsp. bentonite clay
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 20 drops essential oil
  • 5 drops sweetener, or to taste
  • 3 tbsp. filtered water

Combine dry ingredients then add coconut oil, essential oil and sweetener. Stir in water 1 tbsp. at a time – it should be exactly enough to make it into a squeezable paste but if it gets to that consistency before you use all the water, stop adding.

There you have it – some great recipes for DIY homemade toothpaste that are free of chemicals and are easy to make. If your coconut oil is particularly hard, you may want to melt it a bit before you mix your paste. Since the melting point of coconut oil is 76 degrees F, mine tends to have a texture similar to room-temperature butter but I know that some are much more solid than that.

For containers, just do a search for BPA-free squeeze tubes.

Now that you have some recipes to start with, go crazy, try them, and tell us about it in the comments section below! And click on the banner below to discover more ancient ways of living!

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Learn How To Wash Clothes During An Emergency

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Are you ready to learn how to wash clothes during an emergency? Remember the month of September is National Emergency Preparedness month. Today I am going to show you my new and improved portable emergency washing machine. Well, it’s actually two buckets that fit inside of each other with one new change to my original style. Yesterday I shared my laundry detergent recipe.

Clean Underwear

Here’s the deal, I could go a few days and not wash my shirt or pants. Its the underwear. Yep, lets just say it how it is. We all want to wear clean underwear. Its no secret. I remember growing up and my grandmother would always shout “be sure and wear clean underwear” if we were getting ready to go somewhere. Heaven forbid the you’re in a car accident and you end up in the hospital wearing dirty underwear. Enough said, this little washer bucket set can wash clothes very well. Oh, we could only wash clothes a little at a time but that beats bending over the bathtub.

No Laundromats To Wash Clothes

If we had an unforeseen emergency the local laundromats will more than likely not be working, unless the power outage is confined to a very small area of our city or county. Another reason we need to keep up on our laundry, it’s hard when life gets hectic and we are running kids to ball games or lessons. I did learn something from one of my daughters about our washing machines. She tried washing her clothes in the short cycle. Its like 26 minutes. Hmmmm. Why didn’t I think of that? I would use less water and my clothes would be done in half the time. Keep in mind we do not have anyone in our family at the moment that has a large amount of grease coming from work. Therefore the 26 minutes works great.

Two Six Gallon Buckets

You will need two six gallon buckets, the five gallon buckets are just not big enough. I use Gamma Lids for the top because it holds the plunger in place. Yes, I am colored coded with my Gamma Lids. The color green is for the laundry. I had a friend drill the two inch holes in the Gamma Lids a few months ago.

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Drill Four Holes

Here, my husband is drilling the four holes in the top bucket. This is my new technique to give the emergency washing machine a little more friction with the water going up and down with the plunger. There is about a three-inch area to give the water to swish around a little more when wewash clothes. Plus, this added feature will be great when we need to rinse clothes as well. I have two set of these, one for washing and one for rinsing. The four holes drilled inside the inner bucket will let the soapy water drain from the clothes after washing them. You will then put the soapy clothes into the second set of my washing machine design and “plunge” the soapy clothes in the fresh water to “plunge” and rinse the soapy water out of the clothes. Now the clothes are ready to hang on a clothesline, clothes rack or a fence.

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The Blue Washer Plunger To Wash Clothes

Here is the washer plunger. It is totally different than the usual toilet plunger. It has four parts as shown and can really move the water around in the buckets.

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Easy To Store & Ready To Use

Here I am assembling the washing machine for storage until needed. I place paper towels between the buckets because they are so hard to get apart when they have been sitting in the heat in my garage for an extended amount of time.

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If you have this ready to use you will be ready for the unexpected emergency or disaster. All you need is water, about 1/4 teaspoon of my homemade laundry detergent to wash and rinse clothes. I hope I never have to use this, but I am at peace knowing I have this ready to go. Just add water, detergent and clothes. Woohoo!

There is one more item I want to mention. Do you have a clothesline or a way to hang up your clothes after washing and rinsing them? I found a clothesline about a year ago from Earth Easy.  I had been looking for one just like this one. I can fold it up and put it away, or leave it out all the time. It has a bag to store it in as well. Are you ready to wash clothes during an emergency?

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How to Make Waterproof Matches

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If you carry matches as your primary means of starting a fire, I highly advise rethinking that strategy. While some outdoorsmen seem to think it’s more “outdoorsy” to carry matches, in a survival situation, do you want to look like Bear Grylls, or do you want to stay alive?

While my number on choice of fire starting tools is usually a lighter – again I’m concerned with staying alive not looking cool – I do think carrying backups to that lighter is extremely important. If matches are one of those backups, they need to be waterproof.

You can purchase commercial waterproof matches, or you can save some money and make your own.

Making waterproof matches

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Method 1: Candle Wax or paraffin wax

An ordinary box of strike anywhere matches can be turned into a box of waterproof survival matches with an ordinary household candle.

  • Melt some candle wax or paraffin wax in a pot. If the candle is already inside a glass jar, the safest method would be to leave the candle in the jar and let the wick slowly melt the wax.
  • Dip the match heads into the liquid wax and coat the entire match head.
  • Let the wax harden over the match head.
  • When needed, the wax can be picked off the head before striking the match

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Method 2: Fingernail Polish

With a small bottle of fast drying nail polish you can easily coat your match heads, making them completely waterproof.

  • Paint the match head with the nail polish, coating it a little past the head on to the wood stick.
  • Let the matchstick dry completely.
  • Matches coated with the nail polish don’t need any kind of prep to light them. They should be ready to strike without having to pick off the polish.

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Method 3: Turpentine

Turpentine is another easy way to make your matches resistant to water damage.

  • Pour 2 to 3 large tablespoons of Turpentine into a small glass jar.
  • Place the matches head down into the jar and let sit for 5- 10 minutes.
  • Remove the matches and let them dry for 20 minutes.
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Off Grid Air Conditioner: DIY Bucket Air Cooler for Camping and Other Uses

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When I was much younger I didn’t need a sleeping bag, mat, or even a tent when camping.  We would take off for the wilderness with only an Indian blanket, a canteen of water, a Zippo lighter, or box of matches and have a great time.  Since I’ve grown older I’ve learned to appreciate the things I didn’t need back then.

Temperatures in northwest Louisiana routinely reach the upper 90°’s and low 100°’s during the sunny days of summer.  I’ve long been a fan of using solar energy to cook and power some of our phones and radios so I decided to research and build a small evaporation cooler for camping, work, and around the house that will also run off solar power.

There are a lot of great articles and videos on the Internet showing several different styles of “bucket coolers.”  After reading many articles and watching numerous videos on “Swamp Coolers” or “Bucket Coolers,” I settled on a design and began developing a parts list.  It should be noted that I took advantage of the works others have done previously by using the same fan and pump observed because they have been proven effective in some of the videos and articles.

 My parts list:

  1. 5 gallon plastic bucket with lid
  2. 4” 90° PVC
  3. 12 VDC water pump (Model 66039, from Harbor Freight)
  4. Computer fan (Model # AFB121SHE, from www.frozencpu.com)
  5. Switches (SPST – I purchased two from Radio Shack – your choice on which type you want to use)
  6. Project Box, small (Radio Shack)
  7. 1” L Brackets
  8. #6 screws, #6 flat washers, #6 lock washers, #6 nuts
  9. Filter material (minimum 24” X 36”)
  10. Window screen, black plastic (minimum 24” X 76”)
  11. Tubing (diameter to fit pump)
  12. T- fitting (diameter to fit tubing)
  13. Goop glue
  14. 4” dryer vent hose
  15. Cigarette lighter plug (male end)

Tools I used:

  1. Drill motor
  2. 2 – 2 1/8” hole saw
  3. Yardstick
  4. Razor knife
  5. Phillips head screwdriver
  6. Marker
  7. 5/32,” 3/16,” 15/32,” and ½,” drill bits
  8. Wire cutters
  9. Soldering iron
  10. Rosin Core solder
  11. Tape Measure
  12. Electrical Tape

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I began with a white 5 gallon bucket and lid from Home Depot.  Two rows of 12 – 2 1/8” holes were drilled in the bucket and the plastic burrs around each hole were removed.  The holes are drilled around the top, leaving the bottom free for holding water.

After drilling the 24 holes, a razor knife was used to de-bur the holes.  Once all the holes were cleaned, a piece of .window screen was cut to match the height and inside circumference of the bucket.  The filter material was cut to the same dimensions.  The pump was set in the bottom of the bucket and tubing cut to reach the top of the bucket.

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At the top, a T-connector was installed and a loop of tubing was measured and connected to the T.  In the circle of tubing connected to the T, 3/32’ holes were drilled through the underside approximately every ¾” – 1” for water to flow down the filter. The screen and filter were removed and approximately 2 ½ gallons of water were poured into the bucket and the pump tested.

A hole, corresponding to inside diameter of the large end of the 90° PVC was cut into the lid.  The fan was centered over the hole and connected to the lid with 4 – #6 screws, washers, and nuts.  The 90° PVC was connected to the lid Using 4 – 1” L Brackets, screws, washers, lock washers, and nuts.  A bead of GOOP put between the lid and PVC 90°, sealing it from any leakage of air.  A dab of GOOP was also put on each screw and nut on the bottom of the lid to prevent them from loosening from the slight vibration of the pump and fan.  On the lid of the plastic Project Box, two equally spaced and centered holes were drilled for the switches (I used 2 with on-off tags).

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The switches were mounted to the top of the Project Box and then the Project Box was mounted to the lid behind the 90° PVC.  A ½” hole was drilled through the box and lid.  The pump and fan were wired to the switches with each connection being soldered.  The power wires were connected to a longer wire with a fused cigarette lighter plug on the other end for use with our solar panels and deep cycle batteries.

The cooler works great on hot days.  It works better with lower humidity, but still cools the air on humid days enough to be an asset when camping.

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When camping, we run the cooler using a deep-cycle marine battery.  A solar photovoltaic panel to charges the battery during the day. A standard dryer vent power cord installed hose directs or focuses the cooled air into our tent.  If it gets too cool in the tent a night, we can switch off the water flow and still have air circulation.

This particular set-up runs very quiet.

After running the fan and pump together it was observed that two (2) wraps of window screen are needed to keep water from running out the 24 holes as it drips down the filter material.  Also, if used to cool a tent, the bucket cooler needs to be outside the tent and there needs to be vent or opening in the tent opposite from where the cooled air enters to prevent condensation from forming.  A good point to remember is if you keep the deep-cycle Marine battery connected to a solar charger or trickle charger, the water needs to be checked regularly to prevent a dry cell for forming.

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I spent two or three nights reading, watching videos, thinking about how to make a cooler, and a little over 3 nights building and testing.  Since the cooler will be used on a daily basis in the summer in my truck (for work), camping, and poolside, I decided to beef-up some areas.  The 90° PVC fitting was connected with “L” brackets and sealed with GOOP glue insuring now air leaks around the nozzle.  All connections were soldered and taped with a quality electrical tape.  The taped splices with be re-soldered in the future and heat shrink tubing with be installed on the slices.  The holes in the project box were sealed with the GOOP Glue.  And don’t forget there are 24 – 2” or larger holes in the top of the bucket so it has lost a lot of structural strength and will not hold up much weight bearing down on the lid.

In addition, I added 2 SPST switches to allow the pump to be turned on first, wetting the filter material.  The other switch controls the fan.  If it gets too cool at night the pump can be shut off, leaving fan on and the circulating air.  The only change I foresee is changing the filter material to a more coarse material.

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It’s not pure air conditioning, but it’s much better than just a fan blowing hot air and we are more comfortable while we rough it.

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What to eat in the wild

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Today I want to talk about a subject that always creates a lot of buzz and has generated quite a few emails; what to eat in the wild. As I have said in previous posts about the 5 principles of survival, food is way down on the list as even the skinniest of people can survive for a few weeks without food. Despite that, I want to touch on this subject and answer the questions I have received from readers. The only real way of knowing what to eat in the wild is to do a taste test.

The taste test for unknown foods

The process is actually very simple, but time consuming, and there are a few things I want to stress before I go on

1. This system DOES NOT work with mushrooms and fungi, unless you are an expert then leave them well alone. Mushrooms and fungi will kill you in some pretty horrific and painful ways if you get it wrong. How can I tell a poisonous mushroom? Truthfully, it is just too hard to tell and is simply not worth the risk vs nutritional benefit received.

2. There are exceptions to every rule; what I am teaching is a rule of thumb but it is not fool-proof.

3. It is better to understand what plants and animals are in your area before you need them in an emergency. That should hopefully allow you to live off the land. The process that follows is to be used in extremis only (see point 2.)

4. Tasting something that you are unsure of can result in death, so never eat something that you cannot positively identify as edible or if you are in a true life or death situation. If you are truly starving then use the following taste test.

What exactly is the process then?

  • Take a very small piece of the food and rub it on your skin – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece and rub it on a small part of your lip – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece and rub it on your tongue – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece, chew it and spit it out – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece and eat it – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a larger piece and eat it – wait 24 hours
  • Gradually increase the size waiting 24 hours each time until you are content its not having an adverse effect on you.

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You are probably thinking, ‘I will have starved by the time I get to eat anything’ and you are not far wrong. Unfortunately the wait is the most important part of the test, you are waiting to see if you suffer ANY abnormal reaction. If you do, then under NO circumstances eat what you are testing. That is why education and practice are your best bet; positively identifying something as edible will mean you don’t have to do any tests.

But all is not lost there is a way to speed the process up slightly; however, see rule 3.

What to eat in the wild if you really have to.

Plants – If it is hairy, has a milky sap, strong smell or has brightly coloured berries then avoid.

Animals – Mammals and reptiles are generally a safe bet as are most fish. Avoid the livers of uncommon animals such as seals or Polar Bears which have toxic levels of Vitamin A
Insects – Okay, I know what you are thinking and trust me I feel the same… However, some of the most nutritious and easily accessible foods available are insects. Avoid if they are hairy, have spines, brightly coloured or are known to be venomous. It is also good practice to avoid insects that you would associate with your house as they will likely be diseased i.e. Cockroaches. And, honestly they don’t taste that bad, I have tried quite a few over the years.

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Funny story – When doing the Desert Survival Instructor course in the Nevada Desert we were being given a lesson on finding food. Our instructor (Chalky, you bastard!) told us that a delicacy in the founding years of the USA was
an insect called the perfume beetle. It is a small black beetle,
than when threatened, would do a little handstand and secrete a fluid from its butt.

So there we were as trainee Desert Survival Instructors all looking to impress and do well. When Chalky challenged us to eat the sweet tasting ‘Perfume Beetle’ we all jumped at the chance! So half a dozen of us at the same time took one of these live beetles, put it in our mouths and started chewing as quickly as we could to get it over and done with.

To say that the ‘Perfume Beetle’ tasted foul was an understatement, it is without doubt the most horrible thing I have ever had in my mouth. The moral of the story, never trust a survival instructor when he tells you insects taste nice; especially when its real name is the Stink Bug because of how bad they smell…. And taste!

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Fungi – Just to be clear, I am talking about all fungi, mushrooms and toadstools. They are very difficult to identify and can kill you very quickly. Simply put, do NOT eat them unless you are an expert!

All of the above food sources will still need to have the taste test completed if you are not 100% sure you have identified them as edible.

Time doing homework is never wasted

There you have it folks , should you find yourself in a dire situation and you cannot identify local foods then you may be able to work around the problem. The method described is not foolproof but it will help you should you be starving and in danger of eating anything you come across out of desperation.

Your best chance of eating the right thing is to get out into the wild with a couple of pocket books and identify your local plants and animals before disaster strikes. Better still, find out who the local foraging guru is and see what classes they run; it could just save your life.

I hope you enjoyed this article and it has generated some food for thought (pun 100% intended) and encourages you to get out and see what exists in your local area. Please dont disappear straight away, have a look at my other articles especially this one about eating food in a survival situation. Of interest will be this post on harnessing your survival instinct.

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How to Raise Chickens Cheaply – Small Budget? No Problem.

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How to raise chickens cheaply?

That’s what I needed to figure out.  I got the idea to raise chickens while unemployed for several months. Times got a little tight (to say the least!) and I thought that if I had a coop and a garden at least my family and I would have just a little more in the pantry. So I set out to learn as much as I could before spending any little cash. Here are a few lessons learned…..

Build an Inexpensive Chicken Coop

Before dropping a lot of cash on one of those fancy chicken tractors you see in the back of poultry magazines, keep in mind you can spend your cash a little wiser. It depends on your living situation of course. If you are a city dweller, then you might have to put a lot more into your chicken operation than us country folks. City folks have zoning regulations and neighbors to deal with – problems I didn’t have to deal with. My thoughts contained here are more for those of us who have a little space between us and the neighbors.

Chickens need a place to get out of the wind and rain and a dry and safe space to roost at night and somewhere to lay eggs. Keep these very simple requirements in mind when building a coop.  I have seen coops built out of an old truck cap, pallets and plastic sheeting, old yard sheds, etc. You are only limited (out in the country) by your imagination.

As for my coop, I had a friend who had an old camping trailer. He wanted the frame for an ice shanty and was going to rip off the camper and junk it. I asked him for the camper body and helped him cut the bolts off… and I was on my way to raising chickens!

After cutting the bolts, we towed the camper into place and proceeded to “slide” it off the frame. It turned out to be an interesting time but we got it done.

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Choose Coop Placement Carefully

This brings me to my first lesson: Location, location, location! My Wife had a few “rules” that I had to follow to stay in her good graces.

Rule #1: she wanted it out of sight.

Rule #2” she didn’t want to smell it!

Very valid points! I wanted it close enough to the house so I could easily go out to tend to the birds. I have a detached garage situated across the yard from the house, out near the gardens. We agreed that that was the best place for a coop. Far enough for her and close enough for me! Once the coop was in place, it was time for the next decision.

Should You Let the Chickens Free Range or Keep Them in a Run?

Having chickens free ranging is great. It gives the place a “country” look and they will eat bugs out in the yard. Keep in mind, they will also eat your young plants in the garden, flower beds, get out on any roads nearby, wander over to the neighbors, etc.

I also took into consideration that I live very close to a highway in a heavily wooded area. My chance of losing birds to coyotes, hawks, coons and cars was very high. I chose to build a run for my flock and not spend money feeding the local wildlife or seeing my investment flattened on the road.

For my run, I looked around for anything that might work before spending any money on something fancy. I was lucky enough to have an old dog kennel set up behind my house sitting empty. I used the chain link panels to construct a run behind the coop. I even had enough panels to construct a top for my run to keep the hawks and coons out. (The “dog coop” would also make a perfect pig shelter, but that’s another story!)

Now that the coop was in place, the camper gutted, it was time for some work to make it easier on the birds and myself. First, I built nesting boxes out of existing shelves inside the coop. Then I used saplings to build a roost inside the coop.

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Then I built an interior wire wall and door into the laying area thus creating a space to store feed and supplies.

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The camper windows allow me to control ventilation and I added a passive roof vent (the Restore $3.00).

I buried wire around the coop and run to keep out tunneling varmints. Once all this was done, it was time to get birds!

What Breed of Chicken is Best?

What breed you get is your personal decision. Why are you keeping chickens? Meat? Eggs? Both? What climate?

I chose White Leghorns. Why? Because they are cold tolerant (it gets cold in Northern Wisconsin!) and they are EGG LAYING MACHINES!

This is where I made my first mistake. I ordered too many! I ordered 14 hens and one rooster. I got 14 hens and 2 roosters shipped to me. I was not ready for the sheer amount of eggs they could lay!

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Great, I can sell the extra eggs and make money!”. All I will say is, don’t even think about it. There are a TON of people trying to sell eggs. Competition is fierce! The thought of making money raising chickens is a pipe dream conjured up by writers at Mother Earth News or Backwoods Home magazines. On good months, you might break even. Most months you won’t!

I was lucky enough to have a local feed mill sell my eggs for me – but it’s hit-and-miss some months. During the winter, egg production drops like a rock but feed consumption goes up. During the summer, feed consumption goes down but egg production goes up. You will either have so many eggs that you just can’t get rid of them, or so few any steady customers you do have will not get eggs year round. It’s just part of raising chickens!

Now, when I ordered my flock, I ordered pullets (8weeks old). Due to some miscommunication at the feed mill, I got 1 week old chicks.

This leads me to my next point:

Be flexible!

The day comes, and I get the call that my birds are in. I was surprised to find baby chicks and not pullets! Now what??? I wasn’t set up for chicks! Well, I took them anyway. They are animals and you can’t send them back to the hatchery.

When I got home, I made an impromptu brooder out of a cardboard box and a heat lamp. I had to set it up in the living room for the first 2 weeks. Then the noise and smell prompted me to move them to the coop. It was getting warm enough outside and with the help of the heat lamp in one corner of the coop the chicks would be fine.

I was a few weeks behind schedule but I was raising chickens!

How Much Time and Effort Does it Take to Raise Chickens?

People ask me: “How much time out of your day do you spend taking care of your birds?” My answer: not a whole lot. I set aside about 10 minutes in the morning to feed them, check their water and adjust ventilation for the day. In the evening, I do the same. It’s not a lot of work keeping chickens. You will fall into a routine. I find that I have a summer and winter routine. It takes a little longer in the winter but it’s not a lot of trouble at all. In the summer, I spend a lot of time in the garden so I look in on them more, especially during hot spells. They are very easy to take care of!

Another point I want to make. If you are gathering eggs, please do so EVERY DAY! I hear of people buying “farm fresh eggs” only to crack them open to find a developing chick inside! GROSS! Who wants to see that when cooking breakfast? That tells me that some people are not gathering eggs every day and getting them in a refrigerator soon enough. It’s a sign of laziness on the part of the chicken farmer!

Winter Care for Chickens

During the winter, the waterers WILL freeze. It’s a fact of life here in the North. I got a second waterer and keep it in the house. I fill it with warm water and bring it out to the coop in the morning and swap out the waterer from last night. I do this every 12 hours. A heated waterer is nice and I will get some for next winter but it’s not necessary to get started.

I also create a draft shield to stop that blast of cold air from hitting the birds when I open the coop door. I staple up some feeds bags on the wire wall next to the door to protect the birds. Also, give the flock some scratch in the evening inside the coop, they will love it and it will help keep them warm on cold nights.

I also leave a red light on inside the coop 24/7 to help keep down incidents of picking.Chickens get “Cabin Fever” just like we do in the winter so give them something to do. Scratch blocks in the coop work well, as does enclosing the run in plastic sheeting so they can still get out side even on cold snowy days. Throw in a head of cabbage once a week or a bale of hay into the run so they can pick it apart during the winter.

It’s important to still have good ventilation during the winter as well. I close the windows on the north side of the coop but keep a window open for air intake between the coop and garage. I put down extra bedding on the coop floor and stuff the nest boxes thicker during the cold months as well.

Create a “dust bath” for your chickens. I did this by taking a cat litter box and filling with a mixture of 1 part play sand, 1 part sifted (cold!) ashes from the wood stove and 1 part food grade DE. It helps them clean themselves.

Summer Care for Chickens

During the summer, I keep all the windows open. During the day, I leave the outside door open. The camper has a screen door so I leave that closed allowing air flow but no varmint access. I keep a closer eye on the water, they will drink a lot more in the heat of summer and I like to keep the dust bath full as well. I take the plastic sheeting off the run and replace it with a tarp on top will help keep the sun off of the birds and give them a dry place to sit when its raining. I cut my grass and bag the clippings. Then I dump the clippings into the run. The chickens love it! As long as you don’t spray your lawn for weeds, it’s okay.

It’s been a year now and I will say that it’s been worth it! I have learned so much and continue to do so. You will get advice from EVERYONE! Keep in mind, there are a lot of so-called “experts” out there who will try to tell you that you are doing it wrong. All I can say is when you get some advice, research it yourself. The internet is a great tool for this or better yet, get to know the folks at your local feed mill. Go to “small animal swaps” and get out a meet others in the chicken business.

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3 Survival Hacks for All Your Christmas Trash

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Since one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, what kind of treasures can we make from the massive stream of holiday trash that our households produce each season? Here’s how you can make a wax and cardboard “stove” in a can, wrapping paper fire starters, and ribbon trail markers to take on your next outdoor adventure.

1. Build a Wax and Cardboard Stove
This simple gizmo is made from any cast-off flat can (like a tuna can or a round Altoids tin). You’ll also need some thin strips of cardboard cut as wide as the can is tall (any length will work). And finally, you’ll require some candle wax, new or old. This wax component is a great way to use up candle drippings or old holiday candle nubs.

To make the stove, coil up your cardboard strips inside the can until it’s full of cardboard. Melt your wax over a medium heat, preferably in a disposable container like another tin can. Pour the melted wax into the cardboard stove until the cardboard is almost covered. Now let the cardboard stove cool until the wax is hardened (unless you need it right away). Your cardboard stove will need a steady open flame to light, and it will take about one minute to get part of the can lit. However, once it’s finally lit, the can produces a lot of heat and is hard to put out.

2. Make Wrapping Paper Fire Starters
Paper products and wax can again come to our aid, this time as a fire starter rather than a fire source. Select your least slick wrapping paper for this project. The more absorptive the paper, the better it will work. Cut it into strips and roll the paper into small tight rolls. Tie the rolls shut with bits of cotton string or twine. Then soak the rolls in melted wax for a few minutes. Remove the rolls from the wax and allow them to harden. Once solid, these little rolls can be lit with an open flame and used as a bad weather fire starter. Just prepare your kindling and tinder as a cone with the fire starter at the base, and light when ready.

3. Create Ribbon Trail Markers
If you have colorful ribbon strips destined for the garbage can, roll it up and tuck it into your survival kit instead. These ribbons can be a cut into sections for trail blazes or signal flags in the wilderness. Add a small permanent marker to this “signaling kit” and you can even leave notes or write messages on the ribbon.

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How to Make Your Own Alcohol for Post-SHTF

How to Make Your Own Alcohol for Post-SHTF

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Alcohol has been made, used, and consumed by people for thousands of years. For examples, cereal grains were used to make beer in Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Later on, the Greeks and the Romans began producing wine and used it as a part of their social and religious lives.

Today, the use of alcohol has largely been reduced to quenching thirst or to be used in religious practices for some people, but it can also be used as an anti-septic, to sterilize equipment, as a morale booster, to make weapons, and most importantly, as a bartering item when it comes to SHTF. These are just a handful of reasons for why alcohol will be in exceptionally high demand during and in the aftermath of a great disaster.

For this reason, brewing your own alcohol at home would be a wise skill to add to your existing list of survival assets. Just like any other skill, home brewing requires you to practice extensively until you get it right, but as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.

As long as you have the necessary resources and the knowledge, you will be able to make your own alcoholic beverages in a post-SHTF world, but also keep in mind you have to stockpile the tools and the equipment to make them as they might be hard to get post collapse.

Beer

To make beer, you’ll need hops, specialty grains, yeast, and malt extract. But the first thing you need to is to make sure that your work area and all of your materials are clean. Any successful brewer will be sure to inform you that one of the secrets to a successful brewing is that everything used is fully cleaned and sanitized.

Next, steep the grains by placing them into a grain or mesh bag, and then steeping it in a large, roughly three gallon pot of hot water for about thirty minutes. After that, you can then remove it and allow the water to drip from the bag and into the pot.

At this point, you can then add the malt before bringing it all to a boil. After the mixture has boiled for a few minutes, feel free to add in the hops in intervals. The reason we recommend that you add in the hops later in the boil is because adding it too soon can cause the beer to taste bitterer.

Once the liquid mixture has been boiled, you’ll need to allow it to cool very quickly. Rather than just setting the pot out on the counter to cool, we suggest that you place the entire pot with the lid in a sink filled with cold or ice water.

Once the mixture has been reduced to around eighty degrees Fahrenheit, it is ready to be transferred over to a fermenter. When the fermentation process has begun, you will want to keep its exposure to the air to a bare minimum. This is done to preventing any unpleasant flavors or smells developing from out of the mixture.

Use a strainer to scoop out the hops, since all of the good stuff has already been used out of them. Next, add water before then adding in the yeast. Sometimes, the yeast will need to be first stirred with warm water before being added to the mixture, but this is not always necessary.

Proceed to place a lid over the fermenter, and then place the fermenter itself in a darker location where it will be at a constant room temperature. Within a period of twenty four hours, you should notice that the air lock is bubbling.

Within the next week, this bubbling activity will slow down considerably. Within two weeks, it should stop considerably. It is now ready to be bottled.

You can start the bottling process by transferring the beer, using a sanitized siphon, from the fomenter to your clean bottling bucket. Open up the spigot and then place the bottle filler into a bottle. By pressing the filler to the bottom of the bucket, the beer will soon flow.

As long as you have the right resources like we have explored and get enough practice in, you can easily become a decent beer brewer in your own right.

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Wine

A prepper who is learning to brew should learn how to make beer first, but wine should be second. In addition to the actual wine ingredients that you’ll need, you will also have to acquire a glass jar with a volume of at least two gallons, another glass container that’s have the size of your first, a thin plastic siphon, sanitized water bottles, and an airlock.

An advantage to making wine is that it can be made with nearly any kind of fruit, with the two most common choices being berries and grapes. Just be sure to pick the ones that are in their prime and at their best flavor, and if possible, pick fruits that have not been touched by chemicals.

Rinse any fruit you collect very thoroughly. Many novice wine makers make the mistake of peeling it while in the rinsing stage, but this only removes much of the flavor from the eventual wine and is therefore not recommended if a stronger wine is what you desire.

You can use your hands to crush the fruit, but if you have something like a potato masher on hand that would work even better. The juices will be released as you squeeze them. Continue adding juices until it is within two inches of the crock’s top. If you don’t have enough juice to accomplish this, you can always use clean water to accomplish this tax.

Next, add some honey. Honey is critical in making wine as it is what gives it its sweetened flavor. The more honey you add, the sweeter your wine will taste. But even if you don’t prefer a sweeter wine, you should still add two cups at the minimum.

Now, you can add the yeast. Simply pour it into the mix and then stir it using a spoon. Like the honey, adding yeast to your wine is a must.

Next, place a lid or a cover over the crock and then store it for the night. This covering should keep any bugs or pests out, but also need to allow some air to flow in and out. There are crock lids that are designed specifically for this purpose, you can take a t-shirt and secure it over the opening with a rubber band. The crock will need to be stored at room temperature.

Dedicate a few minutes of your time over the next four days to stirring the mixture thoroughly. Most wine makers recommend that you stir the mixture at least once every four to five hours during the day. As the yeast begins to take action, the mixture will bubble, signaling that the fermentation process has begun.

The bubbling will slow down roughly three days after it started. At this point, you’ll need to siphon out the liquid to a carboy so it can be stored for the long term. Once all of the mixture has been siphoned, attach the airlock to the opening of the carboy so that gas can be released while stopping any oxygen from entering and ruining the wine.

From this point, you can sit back for at least a month and allow your wine to age. The more months you leave the wine alone, the better taste it will have. But considering that you’re making wine during or immediately after a long term SHTF situation, one month will suffice.

Once you’re satisfied with the wine’s taste, you can then proceed to bottle it. Make sure that your siphon tube has been sanitized before bottling the wine in order to prevent any bacteria from getting into it. After filling up the bottles, cork them immediately. You can then either allow them to sit and age further, or you can enjoy them immediately.

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Whiskey

Whiskey is produced from fermented grain mash. There are many different combinations of grains, which explain why there are many different kinds of whiskey. Most of the time, the grain mash will be made out of wheat, rye, barley, and corn (as with Bourbon whiskey).

Making your own whiskey will consist of five basic steps. The first step is to make the whiskey mash. Mashing is simply using the steeping process from hot water to activate enzymes, which essentially converts the starches from the grains into the fermented sugars. The resulting solution will be very rich in sugars and is referred to as wort. Later on, the yeast will be what converts that wort into alcohol.

At this point, you will have to decide what kind of whiskey you want to make. You can choose any whiskey recipe that you know of, but for this article, we’ll assume that you’ll go with the Bourbon recipe that we told you of above.

The next step is the fermentation process. This is the process where the sugars are converted into Co2 and ethanol. Once you have selected your recipe, made the wort, and then added the yeast to the wort, it will begin to ferment. The fermentation process takes anywhere from a couple of days to over a week. The temperature and the nutrients in the yeast are the two biggest factors in determining how long it will take. You will know that the fermentation process is complete when there are no longer any bubbles forming.

The next step is the distillation process. The primary goal of the distillation process is to separate the wort and the ethanol. Granted, it’s going to be impossible to separate them exactly. But you should still be able to get a solution that is four fifths ethanol and one fifth water and mash flavors.

The whiskey will be distilled in a pot still. To distill, transfer the wort to a still using a sanitary siphon. Heat the mixture very slowly, but without burning it. You should grant yourself at least forty five minutes before the wash will come to a boil.

Next, start the condenser until it reaches a temperature of one hundred and thirty degrees Fahrenheit. A consistent drip should then begin to form at the condenser’s end. Collect this mixture, which the temperature reading around one hundred and eighty degrees on the thermometer. Allow the temperature to climb forward to two hundred degrees, distilling out the fusel oil and adding flavors to the final product, before turning it off and removing the mixture from the source of heat.

Allow everything to cool before continuing on with the next step of maturation. Whiskey will always taste best after it has aged, and it always ages the best either when placed in oak barrels or when having oak chips added to the mixture. Once you have bottled your whiskey, it will no longer mature.

The fifth and final step is to dilute and bottle the whiskey, again by using a sanitized siphon. To truly enjoy whiskey, you’ll want to cut the mixture with water.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that while brewing your own alcohol at home is an important skill, it is also something that can be fun and should therefore not be dreaded; despite how complicated of a process it may sound. You may make a few mistakes on your first few tries, but that is to be expected and you’ll learn more with each new brewing.

Many people use alcohol brewing as a chance to bring family and friends together, where you can demonstrate to them how to make homemade beer and wine, and pass on their skills.

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How To Recognize And Treat Food Poisoning

How To Recognize And Treat Food Poisoning

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Food poisoning in an everyday situation is bad enough but at least you have access to hospitals if you need medical treatment. In a post SHTF situation, it can be deadly.

Recognizing the symptoms can be crucial too, because a case of food poisoning may present similarly to other, contagious diseases such as the flu or malaria that would cause you to isolate the person or forbid them entry into your home, compound, etc.

The first thing that you should probably know is the different types of food poisoning, because if you know the types, you know how to avoid contracting (or causing) food poisoning. Here we go.

Norovirus

Norovirus is the most common cause of food poisoning; as a matter of fact, it accounts for over half the cases reported annually. Typically, Norovirus is contacted due to poor hygiene and improper food handling. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, chills, headache, low-grade fever, muscle aches and fatigue.

It’s rare for Norovirus to be severe enough to cause death, but it could happen. Also, care must be taken with hygiene because the Norovirus because it IS contagious through contact with bodily fluids.

The only real treatment for it is maintaining hydration while waiting it out. Symptoms should subside within a couple of days or sooner.

To avoid contracting it (or spreading it) wash your hands and all cooking areas and prep tools thoroughly. If somebody has it, clean everything that they come into contact with thoroughly or discard it in a hygienic manner. Somebody who’s had Norovirus shouldn’t prepare food for others for at least 2-3 days after symptoms go away.

Norovirus survives extremes in temperature so you have to kill it chemically. Bleach is a good bet. Wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly and cook all shellfish before you eat them. Don’t eat or drink after people and avoid handshaking. If you do, don’t touch your face before you wash your hands.

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Botulism

The next on our list of fabulous things not to get is botulism. Caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, this type of food poisoning is rare but extremely serious. The botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous biological substances known to man.

It’s a neurotoxin that causes central nervous system impairment. Botulism is most frequently contracted from improperly prepared or damaged canned goods, whether they’re home-canned or store-bought.

Symptoms include drooping eyelids, facial paralysis on one or both sides, muscle weakness, dry mouth, blurry vision, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing or speaking, nausea, vomiting and paralysis.

In babies, you may see constipation, flopping around, a weak cry, drooling drooping eyelids, paralysis or difficulty sucking.

Treating botulism in a SHTF situation is going to suck because the only treatments are to induce vomiting and bowel movements in order to get the toxin out of the body as quickly as possible. Antibiotics aren’t recommended for foodborne botulism because it actually speeds up the release of the toxin. There is an anti-toxin, but that’s only available at the hospital.

The best way to deal with botulism is to avoid it. Don’t eat canned goods, especially low-acid produce, meats and fish that you even suspect may be bad, or that are stored in a jar or can that’s been damaged or isn’t sealed properly.

E Coli

This is another bad boy in the food poisoning category. Avoid it at all costs because it sucks. It’s caused by exposure to contaminated products including meat (usually hamburger), unpasteurized milk or juice, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, or alfalfa sprouts. It can also be contracted via contaminated water or by coming into contact with contaminated animals.

There are a couple of reasons that e Coli is bad. First, even if you have the lesser strain, symptoms can last 5-10 days. Symptoms include severe diarrhea that is frequently bloody, vomiting and severe abdominal pain. The other, more critical reason, to avoid e Coli is the risk of HUS, or hemolytic uremic syndrome which is an infection that releases a toxin that can damage red blood cells, thus causing kidney injury. This is rare, though and will manifest after the first week if it’s going to. Symptoms will include facial pallor, decreased urination and dark, tea-colored urine. There’s really nothing you can do to treat HUS at home.

Treat e Coli by remaining hydrated and resting. Do not take antibiotics for e Coli.

E Coli can be spread from person to person by contact with contaminated feces so, again, hygiene is imperative.

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Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacteria that affects the intestinal tract and is found in the intestinal tract of poultry and seafood. It’s caused by eating undercooked contaminated meat, seafood or eggs. The food is contaminated by coming into contact with the feces of the infected animal. Fruits and vegetables treated with fertilizer made from the feces of infected animals can carry the bacteria, too.

Contamination can also occur if you don’t keep your work surfaces and utensils/tools clean. If you cut bread with a knife that you cut contaminated chicken with, your bread is now contaminated. Wash your counters, cutting boards and tools with an antibacterial such as a product with bleach.

This can be spread by people infected with salmonella by coming into contact with their feces.

The good thing about salmonella is that it’s easy to kill by cooking the product thoroughly. Wash all of your produce well before eating it and don’t think that just because an egg is clean with no apparent breaks in the shell that it’s safe; some chickens can spread salmonella to the egg before the shell forms. To sum it up, cook poultry, eggs and seafood well and wash your produce.

Symptoms of salmonella will show up anywhere from several hours to two days after contact. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, headache, chills and bloody stool. Symptoms typically last four to seven days but it can take several months for your bowels to get back to normal.

Treatment includes maintaining hydration, taking anti-diarrheals and antibiotics. Antibiotics are typically only used when the bacteria has spread to your bloodstream, which isn’t typical.

As you can see, the common thread here is hygiene and proper cooking methods. The best way to avoid food poisoning is to wash your hands, make sure that all of your food is properly prepared and fully cooked, and take precautionary measures when treating a person with food poisoning as all types are contagious if you come into contact with certain bodily fluids; typically feces. In a post-SHTF situation, some of these illnesses can be lethal so the best cure is prevention.

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How to Fillet a Fish: An Illustrated Guide

Reblogged:  http://www.artofmanliness.com/

fish

Few summer pastimes are as satisfying as fishing — it’s a great activity to do with your kids, makes for an excellent microadventure, and harkens to our manly imperative to be providers. What makes it even more satisfying is being able to fillet and cook your catch for a real water-to-table experience.

This illustrated guide is a useful starting point that will be accurate for most fish; some varieties have unique methods, but in those instances you’ll likely have someone with more expertise with you. Get out there and bring some dinner home!New

Hat tip to AoM food guy Matt Moore for consulting on this piece.

Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

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How to Store Charcoal

Re-Blogged From thesurvivalmom.com

It’s summer! Summer means barbeques, and barbeques mean grills. And grills need fuel. Of the potential fuels for grills, charcoal is the easiest and safest for a prepper to store long-term. Add the fact that it’s cheap, lightweight, and regularly goes on sale in the summer and we have a real prepper winner! And the cherry on top? Unlike propane and many other fuels, you can make your own charcoal if a disaster goes on for long enough and charcoal is a much safer fuel to store.

However, Since it is still a fuel, it’s important to never be careless about how and where you store it. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Choosing a container

Charcoal briquettes are made from sawdust and wood scraps. As such, they need to be dry to light. A moisture proof container with a tight lid is key.

To keep charcoal dry, you can use metal or plastic containers, butmetal is generally recommended because it is fireproof and not as porous as plastic, which can allow some air and moisture in even when sealed. Since metal, unlike plastic, can rust out if left on a damp surface, it is important to elevate metal cans a few inches off the ground. One common method is putting several bricks underneath or a wooden pallet.

For truly long-term storage, you can use an airtight plastic bucket and seal it shut with caulk to keep the humidity out. For a metal container, use aluminum duct tape. To be extra-sure the charcoal is dry, toss in a handful of silica packs to absorb any stray moisture. Just know it will take a whole lot more of these desiccants than a five pound bag of flour does!

Choosing a storage spot

Store your charcoal out of the sunlight in an area that stays cool but not damp. If you have a basement that is either naturally dry or where you run a dehumidifier regularly, that’s a great choice.

Outdoor sheds can be a good place, but be sure the containers are well sealed, off the ground, and not near a window / direct sunlight. You will also need to be sure the shed doesn’t get excessively hot, especially if there is a heat wave.

Using charcoal for cooking

Using charcoal for fires and cooking is one way to pick up an off-grid living skill. One tool you may want to invest in, to make this easier, is a charcoal chimney. The handy tool is simply a metal container that you fill with charcoal, light, and then quickly heats up the briquettes for use.

If you’re planning to use your charcoal for Dutch oven cooking, experiment with the number of briquettes you place in the chimney. You may not need to fill it completely in order to have enough hot fuel to cook a Dutch oven meal.

Once you know how to store charcoal and stock up when the prices are low, you’ll be ready for outdoor cooking as well as a long-term power outage.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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How to Bug-In: What You Need to Know to Survive a Grid-Down Disaster

As the East Coast of the United States recovers from Hurricane Sandy, aka “Frankenstorm,” the rest of us watch the unfolding aftermath from a distance – thankful Mother Nature hasn’t unleashed her fury on our doorstep today. Hurricane Sandy is yet another sober reminder that none of us are exempt from disaster. Mother Nature doesn’t discriminate. She doesn’t care where we live, what we drive, how much we make, or what we do for a living. Her antics are diverse and far-reaching. She has a recipe of devastation for all parts of the world: hurricanes, tornados, floods, wildfires, winter storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, heat waves, volcanoes, land-slides, and sometimes even a combo pack.

It is human nature to avoid potentially bad news. It is also human nature to procrastinate. Consequently, many of us avoid going to the dentist, taking our car in for routine maintenance, implementing a home security plan, getting our yearly physicals, and many other important preventative and preparative tasks. Unfortunately, avoiding the thought of potential bad news has absolutely no bearing at all on whether or not it will happen. In fact, this attitude is completely self-destructive. Avoiding preparing for or prevent a very dangerous and probable threat is irresponsible and incredibly foolish. Yet, people do it all the time when it comes to potential natural disasters. The mentality of “it’s not going to happen to me” is no longer an acceptable excuse. In the 15 years I’ve taught Survival and Preparedness courses I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no acceptable excuses and I have run thin on patience to those that offer them. Burying your head in the sand is not a strategy and depending on the government to save you is not a plan.

Many of you remember the article I wrote a while back titled How to Make a Bug Out Bag. “Bugging Out” is the decision to abandon your home in search of a safer destination in the event of a large-scale disaster. Sometimes, Bugging Out is not necessary nor is it the best decision. A disaster may, in fact, make it impossible to Bug Out. The alternative is called “Bugging In.” Bugging In or hunkering down during a large-scale disaster can present many challenges to a survivor. Oftentimes, the utilities we depend on are ripped off-line – known as “Grid-Down.”

Disasters can devastate our most critical services including water supplies, medical facilities and first responders, waste and trash processing and removal, transportation options, fuel and grocery supplies, natural gas lines, electricity, phone service, and even public safety. A Grid-Down scenario can last for several days or even weeks. During this time, you must be able to provide basic survival needs for you and your family. These Bug In preps and plans need to be made in advance. They cannot be made in the heat of a disaster.

How Long Should I Prepare to Bug In?

That’s the question of the century! The government says 3 days. I have preps to get me through 1 year. My answer is a minimum of 2 weeks and then keep prepping for longer as time and money allow. Start with 3 days then work up from there. Don’t let this question prevent you from making progress.

What Are the Categories I Should Consider When Prepping?

Our basic human survival needs remain the exact same no matter where we are in the world or what circumstances we face. They will always be: shelter, water, fire, food, first aid, and self-defense. The order of priority may change, but the basic categories will not. Below is a brief breakdown of each category including several solutions to consider for a short-term Bug In scenario.

Shelter

shelter

Dura Heat, DH2304, Convection Kerosene Heater, Portable, Indoor

$118.15

During a Bug In scenario, shelter may seem fairly obvious. It is your primary place of residence. However, there is more to shelter than just a roof over your head. Shelter must protect us from the elements – even if access to modern utilities is limited or nonexistent. Shelter becomes your #1 priority in cold conditions. You must have alternative heating solutions in place just in case a disaster strikes during cold weather. Some excellent and affordable options are wood burning fireplaces, kerosene heaters, and portable propane heaters.

The back-up kerosene heater I keep at Willow Haven that will heat 1000 square feet for 11 hours on one tank of fuel.

Kerosene heaters can be purchased for just over $100 at virtually any home improvement store. My grandparents heated with a kerosene heater in their living room most of my life. They don’t require electricity and are very easy and safe to operate. Some countries use kerosene heaters as a primary heat source, in fact. The fuel (kerosene) also has an extremely long shelf life – I’ve heard of 20-year-old fuel burning just fine, and I’ve personally used kerosene that’s been sitting for 5 years with no issues. Above is a photo of a back-up kerosene heater I keep at Willow Haven that will heat 1000 square feet for 11 hours on one tank of fuel.

Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium

$56.99

A small propane heater can last 4-6 hours on one tank.

For smaller spaces or supplemental heat, portable emergency propane heaters are excellent little solutions. Mine photographed above takes a one-pound propane canister that is available at most camping and home improvement stores. It really puts out the heat and lasts a surprising length of time (4-6 hours) on one tank. Extra propane canisters are easy to store as well.

fire-place

I had the wood burning fireplace pictured above installed in my home for about $1500. Even a small stove like this one will heat 1000 square feet of space to a comfortable temperature in freezing conditions for as long as you have wood to burn. If you opt for a fireplace, choose one that can also cook and boil water. Multi-functional uses are always a survival plus. The brand I have is Jotul though there are many excellent brands on the market.

Below are some other home (and car) heating tips I’ve collected from personal experiences testing my preps:

  • Close off certain rooms of your house and ‘move in’ to the room with the heat source. Close doors or hang blankets to zone out other areas.
  • Hang blankets in front of large windows to reduce heat loss.
  • Have good blankets and sleeping bags on hand to help keep you and your family warm.
  • Just one candle can warm the inside of a freezing car as much as 8 degrees.

Action Steps:

  • Decide on an alternative heat source
  • Buy it / install it
  • Test it to calculate how much fuel you need for your chosen prep period
  • Stock up on fuel

Water

This summer we had the worst drought in over 100 years here in Indiana. It sucked my well dry for over 2 months, and I had to live on my water storage. It wasn’t fun, but really put my back-up plans to a test. Whether you use a well or depend on municipal water service, a disaster can put a stop to your flow of fresh drinking water. Without water you can die in as little as 3 days. The best short-term Bug In water solution is to simply store extra water in your place of residence. You can buy commercially bottled water by the case/gallon or you can bottle and store your own water in food-grade containers.

A very popular do-it-yourself water storage solution is repurposed 2-liter pop bottles. Below is the process I use (I don’t drink soda but friends and family members are happy to give me their empty bottles):

  • Step 1: Wash each bottle using water and dish soap.
  • Step 2: Sanitize each bottle and cap inside and out with a bleach solution (1 teaspoon bleach mixed in 1 quart water). You can use this same solution to sanitize other types bottles. Rinse the sanitized bottle with clean water.
  • Step 3: Fill each bottle with tap water. Add 2 drops of standard unscented household bleach (4-6% sodium hypochlorite)
  • Step 4: Empty and refresh your water storage once each year.

water1

There are countless water storage solutions available ranging from fancy interlocking containers to 55-gallon drums. You’ll have to choose a solution that is right for your environment, budget, and consumption needs. Always store your water in a cool place away from full sun exposure.

jug-water

Good Ideas RB55-BLUE Big Blue Recycled Rain Barrel, 55-Gallon

A few additional emergency water storage tips:

  • Keep a few gallons of unscented household bleach on hand at all times. This can be used to purify water and for other sanitation needs.
  • A 55-gallon rain barrel used to collect water from your gutters is really easy to install and only costs about $100. You can make your own for even cheaper.
  • Your hot water heater contains many gallons of emergency water storage. All hot water heaters have a drain valve at the bottom. This water does not need to be purified.
  • In the event of a large-scale disaster, fill your bathtub(s) with water as an extra precaution. This is bonus water if your supply is threatened.
  • Pets? They need water too – don’t forget to store water for them.
  • If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brownflush it down.
  • One gallon of water per day per person is a good rule of thumb for water storage.

Action Steps:

  • Decide whether you are filling your own containers or if you are buying commercially bottled water
  • Calculate how much water you need (one gallon x people in household x days in your chosen prep period)
  • Stock up

Fire

During a Bug In scenario, fire represents two categories: warmth (which we’ve covered) and cooking. You’ll see in the next section that I recommend your emergency meals be very simple to prepare, requiring no cooking at all, if possible. However, it’s important that you have an alternative cooking solution in place to cook meals and boil water if necessary. Several affordable and turn-key off-grid options exist. I’ve listed a few below in no particular order.

Solution # 1: Fireplace or Wood Burning Stove

fireplace

 

Not all wood burning stoves can be used to cook meals or boil water. If you are installing one, be sure it can do both. Even an open concept fireplace can be used to cook and boil water. I installed a metal swing arm in the fireplace at Willow Haven that can hold pots and kettles over the open flame. This is an excellent cooking solution.

Even an outdoor fire pit can be an efficient means of cooking or boiling water. A tripod and swing-away cooking grill make these tasks much easier.

Solution # 2: Good ‘Ol BBQ Grill

foodgrill

 

Now this isn’t even roughing it! However, you can’t cook on the grill if you don’t have a propane tank or charcoal. Always keep an extra full propane tank (or two) or several bags of charcoal on hand if you choose a BBQ grill as your back up cooking solution. Both store long-term very well.

Solution # 3: Natural Fuel Rocket Stoves

Solo Stove works really well for one-pot meals for one or two people.

Rocket stoves have come a long way in recent years. They are incredibly efficient and can operate on a variety of natural fuels such as sticks, twigs, pine cones, charcoal, and other biomass. Above is a photo of a small version from Solo Stove that works really well for one-pot meals feeding one or two people. You can literally cook an entire meal with a little pile of twigs and sticks.

solo

 

Buy Rocket Stoves

The EcoZoom stove is also a great off-grid alternative that can burn small sticks and split wood for fast efficient cooking.

The EcoZoom stove is also a great off-grid alternative that can burn small sticks and split wood for fast efficient cooking. The cooktop can accommodate big pots when cooking or boiling for larger groups of people.

Solution # 4: Camping Stoves

The MSR Pocket Rocket Stove is what Creek keeps in his Bug Out Bag

MSR PocketRocket Stove

 

Your options are endless when it comes to lightweight camping stoves. They are all fuel dependent so you will need to stock applicable fuel canisters if you intend to use this option for more than a few meals. They are also designed to cook for one or two people at a time versus a large group.

Regardless of which cooking stove you choose, make sure you have the necessary metal cookware, pots, and utensils to both cook meals and boil water in an emergency.

Action Steps:

  • Choose an off-grid cooking solution that best fits your needs and budget
  • Stock up on fuel
  • Make sure you have metal cooking pots and pans that fit your stove choice

Food

food1

MOUNTAIN HOUSE JUST IN CASE… CLASSIC BUCKET

Our food supply is dependent on a myriad of factors. When disaster strikes, it screws with pretty much all of these factors. 99% of the food you see in a grocery store is on the shelf. Their back rooms are filled with empty cardboard boxes. The food arrives on a truck and is immediately stocked on the shelves. If it’s not delivery day, guess what? No milk and bread today – that’s what. But you won’t have to worry about that because you’re stocking your own shelves in advance.

Think “open and eat meals.” Ideally, your emergency food rations will consist of meals that require little to no preparation. Boiling water for reconstitution should be the most complicated step of any emergency food ration. Your food preps should also have a long shelf life and not require refrigeration. There’s no sense in stocking your shelves with fresh vegetables that are going to rot in a few days or with frozen dinners that will go bad without electricity. It’s very easy to overcomplicate food storage. Keep it simple! Below are a variety of emergency food storage options.

Food Storage Option # 1: Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Meals

Many dehydrated meals have a 10+ year shelf life.

These meals are easily reconstituted with hot water. You can eat most of them in the pouch they come in. And, many of them have a 10+-year shelf life. This is a really easy and nutritious food storage option. Some reputable brands are Mountain House, Wise Foods, and Backpacker’s Pantry.

Food Storage Option # 2: Military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)

MRE Star. Editor’s Note: In the McKay household, we’re partial to MREs from

Emergency Essentials

MREs are packed with calories – they are designed to fuel soldiers in the field. They are also easy to prepare, often coming with their own little chemical “just-add-water” heating element. And, they have a long shelf life.

Food Storage Option # 3:  Store-Bought Canned Goods/Packaged Foods

Add a few cans to your grocery list each week and you’ll be surprised at how fast a small stockpile will develop.

Canned goods make great survival meals. Most of them can be eaten cold right out of the can. Just keep tabs of the expiration date and use them up before they go bad. From soups to vegetables to tuna and chicken, the options are endless. Add a few cans to your grocery list each week and you’ll be surprised at how fast a small stockpile will develop.

Food Storage Option # 4: Can Your Own Food

You can also can your own fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. This is more labor intensive but is a great way to preserve items from a garden or extra meat from a large-game hunt. Growing up we had canned vegetables from the garden all winter long and they were delicious.

Food Storage Option # 5: Hunting, Farming, Gardening, and Gathering

For extreme long-term survival scenarios some basic hunting and gathering skills can go a long way. Depending on the season and time of year, wild animals and plants can be very viable meal options. You’ll need to know how to clean and dress wild game as well as how to identify wild edible plants, so further training is advised. Small game animals such as squirrel, rabbit, and fowl make excellent survival meals. Learn how to field dress a squirrel here. I have a pond at Willow Haven that I like to call my long-term food storage solution. Fresh caught fish make easy survival meals and require zero maintenance.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables can also supplement other food storage you might have. Even apartment dwellers can grow impressive container gardens with limited space. Fresh herbs can easily be grown in windowsills or on balconies. You can store root vegetables and apples all winter long in a cool basement or cellar.

Other more self-sufficient options include raising animals such as goats, rabbits and chickens. I’ve found raising backyard chickens to be a very fun and productive hobby. They are low maintenance and keep me in fresh eggs year-round. And, they could care less if the natural gas or electricity is flowing.

Raising backyard chickens to be a very fun and productive hobby. They are low maintenance and keep you in fresh eggs year-round.

Food Storage Option # 6: Mix & Match

One of Creek’s storage shelves.

Mix and match the above options for a very well rounded food storage solution. Other great food storage options include rice, dry cereal and granola, powdered milk, energy bars, and beef jerky. Your food storage doesn’t have to look like a well-organized grocery store shelf like you see on those prepper TV shows. It can be crazy-looking like this picture of one of my storage shelves above.

What About My Refrigerator and Freezer?

Well, unless you have solar, hydro or wind power (which most people don’t), you’d better start eating the stuff in your refrigerator and freezer first. If it’s below 40 degrees outside you can just put the contents on your back porch. Or, you can pick up a generator for a few hundred bucks. If you choose to buy a generator you will also need to consider fuel storage. I do have a back-up generator to run my refrigerator and power a few miscellaneous electronics. I’ve found that running a generator in a “2 hours on – 4 hours off” cycle makes best use of fuel. Keep a thermometer in your fridge. If it rises above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours then throw any perishable food away.

Other Emergency Food Storage Tips:

  • Do you have a manual can opener? Get one!
  • Don’t forget your special dietary needs.
  • Infants? Stock up on powdered formula.
  • Pets? They need food too.

Action Steps:

  • Choose a food storage solution (or combination)
  • Start building your stockpile
  • Routinely check expiration dates and rotate in new stock when necessary

First Aid

You may not be able to leave your house. Hospitals and pharmacies may not be open. Heck, medical supplies may not even be delivered to your area for a few days.

The most important facet of this category is prescription medicines. If you or a loved one is dependent on some kind of medicine then you need to have enough on hand to get you through a short-term Bug In disaster. Explain to your doctor that you are preparing an emergency kit and you would like to have an extra refill for that kit. If he/she denies you, I’d say get a new doctor who is like-minded in these matters. These medicines need to be monitored and rotated just like food.

In addition to prescription meds, you need to beef up your first aid preps as well, and even consider taking a local first aid course through the Red Cross. I own an emergency first aid kit from Alaska-based MedCall Assist and it’s the best I’ve seen. If you build your own I’d suggest using their kit as a guide. It is a very thorough and well-thought-out disaster preparedness medical kit.

Other tips for first aid issues:

  • Does anyone have severe allergies? Do you have an EpiPen?
  • Pets? Do they have medications?
  • Don’t forget extra contacts/eye-glasses/solution.

Action Steps:

  • Get some back-stock on important medications – have a conversation with your doctor
  • Beef up your first aid supplies
  • Consider taking a basic first aid course from the Red Cross

Self-Defense

Disasters create abnormal circumstances. First responders (and public safety) are always overwhelmed. Response times are always delayed. 911 is always inundated with calls. Phone and internet services (land and cell) are often interrupted. Disasters can drive good people to do things they would not normally do. Disasters also have a tendency to embolden and empower existing criminals as well.

The importance of self-defense is often overlooked in disaster preparation. Unfortunately, it is an aspect that must be considered. Violent crimes increase during large-scale disasters. Some people further exploit disaster victims under the cloak of chaos and disorder. Whether driven by desperation or greed, it is the darkest side to every disaster.

Self-defense comes down to two basic categories: Home Security & Self-Defense Tools and Training

Home Security

Simple and inexpensive upgrades to your home’s security can be very effective in preventing successful break-ins during disaster scenarios. A few basic upgrades can include:

  • Solid metal or wood doors – no decorative glass.
  • Dead-bolt on every outside door.
  • Consider an inside mounted door bar for added security.
  • “Beware of Dog” sign even if you just have a cat or goldfish. Criminals are looking for easy targets.
  • Upgraded door hardware with deep-set 3” screws.
  • Exterior motion lights (solar-powered) – front and back.
  • ‘Defensive’ rose bushes below each ground-level window.
  • Upgraded window locks / cut wood-block stoppers for inside.
  • Well-advertised video alarm system – whether you have one or not.

Self-Defense Tools & Training

Guns are the obvious home defense weapon. The type is a personal choice. I prefer shotguns. Regardless of what type of gun you choose to own, it can be more of a liability than an asset if you don’t know how to use it. Firearms training and practice are crucial elements to gun ownership and effective self-defense. Other inferior self-defense tools include pepper spray and stun guns.

Action Steps:

  • Make necessary upgrades to home security
  • Decide on a home self-defense weapon
  • Train and practice with your weapon of choice
  •  You can’t shoot without ammunition

Two Things Many People Forget

1. Know how to turn off your utilities. Disasters have a way of damaging electrical lines/circuits, gas lines, and water lines. If yours are affected you may need to turn them off. The crawl space in my house once filled with water during a large-scale flood. I had to shut off the electricity to my house to prevent a very dangerous situation. Make sure you have the proper tools (and knowledge) to quickly and safely disconnect all of your utilities.

2. Disasters can also affect sewage systems and trash removal. When that flood I mentioned happened, I could not flush my toilet. The flood water had completely filled my septic tank. Store extra heavy-duty trash bags to contain human waste and trash just in case. It’s important to maintain a very sanitary bug-in environment. A 5-gallon bucket lined with a trash bag makes a suitable makeshift toilet.

Conclusion

There are many facets to consider when preparing for a potential Bug In. While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a great place to start. There are countless people on the East Coast right now wishing they had prepared just the basic necessities for the uncertain days or even weeks ahead. This is the unfortunate truth after every disaster – regardless of type, size, or location. As of this writing over 4 million people are still without power from Hurricane/Storm Sandy, and some may not have it restored for another ten days. It’s easy to let life get in the way of preparing for the future. Ironically, though, our future is shaped by the things we do (or don’t do) today.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

Creek Stewart

____________________

Creek Stewart is a Senior Instructor at the Willow Haven Outdoor School for Survival, Preparedness & Bushcraft.  Creek’s passion is teaching, sharing, and preserving outdoor living and survival skills. Creek is also the author of the book Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit. For more information, visit Willowhaven Outdoor.