All Posts by Olivia Bedford

Ponds as Emergency Water Sources

In many parts of the United States, ponds are as common as bees. Often the results of periodic flooding in river basins, ponds are an important part of local ecosystems. Many an adult can recall a pleasant childhood memory of chasing frogs or fishing in a local pond. A pond’s ability to sustain wildlife extends to sustaining us as well if you learn how to use ponds as emergency water sources.

Man has tamed the pond, as he has many other of nature’s features, and just as the in-ground pool is now ubiquitous in communities throughout the world, so too, the backyard pond can be possessed by those with the inclination. As the owner of a pond, one possesses not only the valuable aesthetic benefits of this little piece of nature’s beauty but the emergency preparedness benefits as well.

Let’s look at how your beautiful little pond can help sustain your family in a disaster. We’re going to address the backyard pond first, and then we’ll look at how ponds in your local area can supplement your survival strategy.

Beautiful and Life-sustaining

The pond is the anchor of a local ecosystem and sustains aquatic plants, insects, fish, birds, and other wildlife. Water is needed for life, and a concentration of water equals a concentration of life. Whether natural or man-made, a pond contains more water in a small area than you could reasonably store in your garage or backyard shed.

For example, a pond 15 feet by 15 feet and 2 feet deep contains approximately 450 gallons of water, or the equivalent of almost 2,200 pint-sized water bottles (1 cubic foot=7.48 gallons). Add some fish, and you have an additional food supply as well (fish also help control nuisance insects like mosquitoes).

As with any home improvement, money is a trade off with time and effort. In other words, if you have a ton of money, you can just hire a landscape architect to design and build your backyard pond. For the rest of us, there are numerous online resources and books available to help you start your own pond.

A basic pond requires some kind of liner to contain the water. There are rigid ones that are in a particular shape and flexible ones that allow you to design the shape and features within the pond. Anything over about 250 gallons will require the use of a flexible liner.

The actual construction techniques for installing your pond are comprehensively covered online. I particularly like This Old House for a great step-by-step explanation.

In addition to the installation of the pond liner, we have other details to plan. A pond isn’t just storage for water. It is a chemical and biological soup that should be managed to assure nuisances like algae and nitrates don’t ruin your plans. The good news is that you can design the pond’s environment to address likely problems. As a part of your emergency water supply, you need to get this right.

Your ally in keeping your pond environment clear and fresh is oxygen. Just as a living-room aquarium relies on a pump and filter to keep fish alive, a backyard pond benefits from a fresh stream of oxygen in the form of a fountain or waterfall. If you have fish in your pond, a pump and some type of biological filter is essential for removing ammonia and nitrates excreted from the fish. Aquatic plants help in much the same way.

Keeping it Clean

A biological filter sounds pretty complicated. The fact is that all you need is a place for beneficial bacteria to grow and a flow of water through the area. You’re going to love how easy this filter is to make. I have had great success with evaporative (swamp) cooler pads, available at your hardware store. Find a container, like a 55 gallon drum or big trash can, and direct the discharge from your pump into the container. Roll up a swamp cooler pad and place into the container, which needs to have a closed top (cuts down on mosquitoes).

Use a “bulkhead fitting” (also available at the hardware store) to affix a hose from the container back to the pond, where you can direct the discharge to a waterfall or fountain. The good bacteria naturally latch on to the fibers of the pad, and turn the nitrates and ammonia into a dark sludge. This sludge collects at the bottom of the container, and is full of nutrients for plants. Periodic draining of the sludge keeps your bio filter in top shape.

Using the Pond Water for Emergencies

When the finished pond establishes its own balance, the water should be pretty clear. While it is probably safe to drink, prudence indicates at least some basic purification before use. Straining the water through a coffee filter or other cloth will remove the larger particles. At a minimum, boil the water for a couple of minutes. Adding 8 drops of regular chlorine bleach per gallon will accomplish the same level of treatment in 30 minutes. As a last resort, you can put the water in clear plastic bottles and leave it in the sun all day. The ultraviolet rays from the sun kill microbes in the water. Using ponds as emergency water sources only works if the water is safe to drink.

Living Off the Land: Natural Ponds as a Water Source

Using natural pond water is a good strategy in areas with lots of rainfall or with a high water table. It’s a little trickier when you come across a stagnant pool with lots of algae, or foam. If you have the choice, avoid it as the excess algae can indicate contamination with chemical runoff.

When collecting water from a natural pond, draw from below the surface and above the bottom. Both areas are more prone to contaminants. A regular garden hose and 12 volt pump (available at hardware stores) are sufficient for water collection. Take extra care in purifying water from a natural pond, distillation and/or reverse osmosis are ideal methods. Boiling and bleach are second choices.

Of course, other water sources like streams and lakes are valuable water sources, but are greatly outnumbered by the humble pond. To be on the safe side, get your own!

More resources for water purification

Waterless Hygiene and How to Keep Yourself Clean


Now, there are numerous situations in which disaster could leave us short of water. They could be just for a couple of hours or situations that lasted for months or even years. Besides the lack of drinking water, how would you stay clean in a world short on water?

A clean body with no need for water.

This brings us to the topic of waterless hygiene, and believe it or not, there are actually products on the market that provide you with quite a good cleansing using no water at all. A bottle or two in every bug out bag would be a wise investment.

I am assuming that you currently have access to a limited amount of water like most people, and that you are reliant on city water. Drinking and cooking will be your biggest priority, of course, but at the same time, you need to keep yourself clean.

Maintaining good hygiene helps to prevent disease and maintain good moral.  Today we are very spoiled; we take a shower just about every day and use many gallons of water for other hygiene purposes during the day. This has changed over the years, though. Even when I was a child, you mostly had one bath a week and washed up in the sink the remainder of the time.

Now, when we talk about waterless hygiene, most people immediately think of wet wipes and hand sanitizer. If you have these on hand, by all means use them, but you can’t count on them for long term. You can only store so many packages and eventually, you’ll use them up.

Now, many people in the past who lived without indoor plumbing, simply washed up morning and evening with a basin of water, soap, and a washcloth. You can keep yourself clean like this if you are careful. You can brush your teeth with two mouthfuls of water, one to rinse your mouth and one to rinse off the brush.

waterless hygiene

Many soldiers shaved and took baths in their helmets

Washing your hair can be done with 16 ounces of water. Put a bowl on the ground to catch the water you use to get the hair wet and use it again to rinse with. If you don’t have water but you have cornmeal or baby powder, running it though your hair will help remove the oils and make your hair feel cleaner.

What about shaving?  Dry shaving is not fun, but if you have a tube of generic sex lube it will help. A little dab and a disposable razor and you can get a nice shave. Rub a spoonful or two of water over your face and wipe off to finish. Rinse your razor if at all possible and it will last longer.

If you have access to vinegar, a small amount mixed with water can be used to wipe critical areas of your body and it will kill bacteria and help prevent rashes and other problems.

The one big concern that many people have is lack of toilet paper. Here is a link to a post on No Toilet Paper Now What?.

waterless hygiene

Sun drying clothes

What about your clothes? Even without running water, you’ll eventually need to do laundry. If you have no water at all, lay them out in the sun and “sun wash” them.  Shake them to get rid of loose dirt and lay them over some bushes. Let the sun hit them for an hour or more and you will be surprised at how much fresher they are.

Most of these ideas are nothing but common sense, but after a disaster, waterless hygiene may become a serious problem.  Remember, lack of hygiene can kill.


How to Empty a 55-Gallon Barrel

Super Siphon Hose

A few questions have come up on how to get the water or other liquids out of a fifty five gallon barrel.  It is really pretty simple.  You can always use an old fashioned siphon hose.  Personally I don’t like to suck on them so I use a Super Siphon hose.  They consist of a metal fitting on one end of a six foot hose. You just stick the metal end in the liquid and shake it in an up and down motion a few times and the siphoning action starts.  An adapter is available so that you can extent the length of the hose by adding a garden hose.  They should cost about $8.95

barrel with Super Siphon Hose

There are also siphon pumps that are easy to use.  There are a long tube that fits into the barrel with a small pump on the top to start the water flowing.  These are available for both five gallon and fifty five gallon containers.  They should cost about $12.99.

Siphon Pump

A third item that you need if you use fifty five gallon barrels is a bung wrench.  There are available in both plastic and metal.  The one I use is plastic and will also lift the lids from 5 gallon buckets.  The plastic ones cost about $4.95, the metal a little more.

Barrel with Siphon Pump

A quick internet search under Super Siphon hose, Siphon Pump and bung wrenches should provide you with several sources of these items.

Barrel Bung Wrench


15 Ways To Celebrate Good Times In Tight Times

It’s been said that the first casualty of war is truth. That may be true, but right on the heels of truth are holidays and celebrations. In the middle of war or other crisis, who has the time to bake a birthday cake or hang Christmas lights, and yet, nothing else brings a sense of normalcy than celebrating long-standing family holiday traditions.

In a post-SHTF world, how can a family continue celebrating special days when the world as they knew it has come to an end. Depending on circumstances, here are a few ideas to help you begin planning and preparing for right now.

1.  Know how to bake a cake from scratch, beginning with grinding your own flour from wheat.  Remember that wheat can have a shelf life of 20 years or more, white flour less than 2 years. Along with the recipe and skill, make sure you have all the ingredients for the cake and the frosting. Most of them will be quite inexpensive.

2.  Begin selecting recipes for special days that requireinexpensive ingredients. Sounds silly maybe, but one of our favorite Christmas treats of chocolate mint bars ends up costing about $12 for a single batch! I know we can do better with a treat we’ll love just as much but will be easier on the wallet.

3.  Use the inexpensive to create special moments and settings.  I’ve always loved the look of twinkling white lights, and, surprise! they aren’t just for Christmas anymore!  Why not hang a string of lights in your child’s bedroom the morning of their birthday or use them to decorate the backyard or patio for Independence Day.  Look for them in the after-Christmas sales. Solar powered lights are even nicer, since they don’t require electricity and would be a great item to have on hand for power outages.

4.  Many holidays have a signature food or dish that helps make the day special.  For an inexpensive tradition that would be easy to continue through almost any hardship, assign a special recipefor holidays, making sure most of its ingredients can be stored in your long-term pantry.  A Dutch Baby pancake is special and doesn’t require any “fancy” ingredients.  Use your imagination and make sure everyone knows that this recipe will now be served every year on this special day.

5.  Another food related treat is to allow the birthday girl or boy tochoose their favorite recipes for their special day.  If that’s too risky, then you prepare a menu making foods you know they love and you just happen to have all the right ingredients for!

6.  Be on the lookout all year long for incredible bargains on large quantities of something or another.  Sounds vague, I know, but here’s how it worked out for me.  One year I was able to buy a massive amount of pink tulle at an unbelievable price.  When it was time for my daughter’s 5th birthday, we strung swathes of tulle from the center chandelier in the dining room to each corner of the room and let them drape to the ground.  It was an amazing setting for her little-girl tea party.  If you see something on sale and you can’t believe the price, snatch it up.  You never know when it will come in handy. By the way, if you’re into frugal living and want a support group, join my 52 Weeks Savings Club on Facebook!

7.  When my son was 7, he decided he was manly enough to use Axe shower gel and shampoo!  So, on Christmas morning he woke up to find sample bottles of Axe products in his stocking, along with a well-wrapped piece of the Limburger cheese he had always wanted to try!  Gifts can be practical, fun, and don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  Pay attention to what people casually mention in conversations for inexpensive gift ideas.

8.  Make it a habit to buy a few holiday decorations, including paper plates and napkins, when they show up in the discount bin at the store.  Sometimes all it takes to make a meal or holiday special is eating it on Christmas Barbie paper plates!

9.  Begin giving the gift of experiences, rather than things.  I learned this a few years ago when my sister-in-law and her partner treated my husband and I to a magical dinner at The Melting Pot.  I’ll never forget the evening but so often I forget gifts and who gave them.  I’ll bet it’s the same for you and your family.  A gift of a “girls day out” is something your mom, sister, or daughter will remember forever, or a “guys day only” for father and son.  This is a gift of time and attention, things we all too often do not give to our loved ones in this fast-paced world.

10. Have special read-aloud books that are only read on certain holidays.  We’ve always had a book basket filled with Christmas books that is pulled out only in the month of December.

11. Set special dates and traditions of your own.  Families with adopted kids often celebrate “Gotcha! Day”, the day their child officially joined the family.  Or make it a family “rule” that, “We don’t listen to Christmas music until December 1,” or “Our family always has a family bike ride to the park on Mother’s Day.” Dates and simple traditions give kids something to look forward to and help bond the family together. It also establishes what makes your family unique, as in,  “Our family only eats pizza on Fridays!”

12. Stock up on candles and enjoy a family candlelight dinneron birthdays or Valentine’s Day.  Any holiday, really.  Kids have seen candlelight dinners in TV shows and movies, but to have one in their own home??? Wow!  And, the nice thing for Mom is that it doesn’t even matter what’s on the plate!

13. In truly hard times, sacrifice a little bit each day in order to provide something special later.  I’ll never forget learning about one of the moms in the ill-fated Donner party, who was stranded in a tiny cabin surrounded by snow that came up to the rooftop.  She set aside tiny bits of food for weeks at a time just so she could tell her kids on Christmas morning, “Today you can eat all you want!”  Even nickels and dimes add up when saved over a period of months.

14. Plan for attrition now.  Sooner or later your stash of wrapping paper and ribbon will run out.  How could you creatively wrap presents in the future?  Christmas ornaments will eventually break, fade, or become otherwise unusable.  How could you decorate a Christmas tree when your stash of ornaments dwindles?  The products we normally use to make holidays special may not be as easily accessible in the future, so it would be smart to stock up on your favorite items now and plan for alternatives down the road.

15. Remember that your attitude sets the stage for any event.  If you’re feeling depressed because the money isn’t there for expensive family traditions, the whole family will feel the loss instead of looking forward to a fun, new tradition.

Moms are wired to give and to want to give the best they possibly can to their kids, but consider this.  Is it possible that we’ve put too much emphasis on things and other material distractions and have forgotten that we are what our loved ones want more than anything?  I’ve seen parents sitting with their kids at expensive birthday parties, immersed in their iPhones or trying to impress the other adults by showing off their own new “toys”.

A difficult future is going to be made easier if family bonds are tight and the love is strong.  There’s nothing quite like traditions and holidays to establish and reinforce those bonds, and tight times shouldn’t mean the end to these celebrations.  Survival Moms are creative enough to overcome anything!


10 Tips For Bugging Out To The Country

When many urban or suburban people think about Prepping or Survivalism, they think about bugging out to a more rural location.  This has to be one of the most frequently-expressed fantasies in the Prepping world, and reams have been written about where to go and how to get there.

But very little has been written from the perspective of the rural dwellers.  How does your average farmer or homesteader feel about urban folks bugging out to the country?

We live on a twenty-acre homestead farm in rural north Idaho.  Wow, I can see your eyes sparkling from here.  You’re thinking, “What a perfect bug out location!”  Then believe me when I say the most dreaded words a homesteader can hear on the subject of Prepping is, “Well, if the bleep hits the fan we’ll just come live with you.”

Oh, bleep.

The truth about farms and homesteads

“Farm” does NOT mean remote or isolated or even self-sufficient.  Farmers live pretty much like you do, but with more elbow room.  We go to the grocery store.  We have jobs.  We have neighbors.  And we have towns nearby.

Okay, granted those towns can be pretty small by urban standards, but they’re just as full of unprepared people as anywhere else.  That means if the manure hits the rotating device, we’re going to have our hands full dealing with them.

Bear in mind that most people in the country may not be much more prepared than you are – which is to say, perhaps not at all.  Unless rural folks already have a Preparedness mindset, they’re just as susceptible to societal interruptions as your average city person.

Our only advantage is we’re farther away from the Golden Horde, that mythical group of city folks who will take to the road in times of disorder, or so some survival experts believe.

Or, are we really that far away and safe from thousands of straggling refugees? In our case, we live within a very short drive (as in, four minutes) from a town of 1000, many of whom are on welfare and are just as dependent on government checks as anyone in the inner city.  This means they will certainly go “foraging” when they get hungry.

Many people don’t realize that the Greater Depression has already impacted rural areas.  Hard.  Jobs out here are as scarce as hen’s teeth (as the saying goes) and unemployment in our county hovers around 20%.  Most of us are poor to begin with, especially by urban standards.  That means we don’t have a lot of money to pour into elaborate “prepper” projects.

So does this mean you should give up your idealized little dream about bugging out to the country?  Yes and no.  It depends on how realistic you’re being about your bug out plans.

Ten Tips if you decide to bug out to the country

To smooth the way, here are ten tips that may make your welcome a little warmer.

1. Don’t Come Unannounced

If you want to escape from the city, make your own private plans in advance and do not broadcast them to every Tom, Dick, and Harry of your acquaintance.  Nothing will dismay a rural friend or relative – much less a perfect stranger – more than having a brace of new people on their doorstep asking for food, shelter, and protection.  There’s nothing wrong with talking to rural-dwelling friends or relatives about the idea of deploying to their place if things get bad.  But if you do……

2. Prepare the Way

One of the “panic” aspects we country folk feel is that we don’t have enough supplies to provide for a hungry horde.  And we don’t.  Let’s face it, sometimes we barely have enough supplies to feed ourselves (remember, 20% unemployment in our area).  Do the math to understand our concerns.  If, through hard work, thrift, and diligence we’ve managed to squirrel away a year’s worth of food for our family of four – and then you show up with your family of four – then we’ve automatically halved our supplies to six months.  Now can you understand our fears?

Pretend you’ve bought an isolated cabin in the mountains to use as a bug out.  Would you be pleased to show up, exhausted and scared, to a cabin with no food, water, bedding, lighting, heat, or other necessities?  Of course not.  Presumably you would outfit your cabin to be ready for a bad scenario.

Your plans to bug out to a host family should be no different.  Send supplies in advance.  Send lots of supplies in advance.  Can’t afford it?  Well guess what, neither can we.  That shouldn’t stop you from sending a case of canned goods, a few sacks of rice and beans, perhaps some boxes of ammo.  If the host family has an unused corner of their barn, perhaps they’ll allow you to dedicate that area for your supplies.  Don’t forget clothing, sleeping bags, toiletries, firearms, medical supplies, etc., and make sure you make everything weather, insect, and rodent-proof.

If your finances permit, consider funding an expensive project that may be beyond a host family’s reach, such as a windmill, pond, or other pricey item. Think of it as a sort of investment.

Sending supplies in advance proves your worth.  It demonstrates you don’t plan to be a leech.

3. Clarify your Baggage

Even if you’ve made plans ahead of time and stashed adequate supplies, don’t expect a host family to welcome all your baggage.  For example, we have two large and semi-aggressive dogs.  We have large and aggressive dogs on purpose – they help protect us.  If you show up with a yappy Pomeranian and four cats, don’t expect us to be happy about it.  Our dogs would spend every waking hour trying to eat your pets for lunch.  And no, it’s not our fault that our dogs are “aggressive.”  It’s your fault for bringing animals into a situation that we’re not prepared – or willing – to handle.

4. You’re Not the Boss

This is our home.  We live and work here.  We pay the mortgage.  No matter how much we may love and welcome you, you’re still coming as a supplicant, not a part-owner of our farm.  You are in no position to make demands or request that we change our way of doing things unless you can demonstrate you’re an expert.  And even then, it’s still our house, property, equipment, and possibly food and other supplies.

Hint: diplomacy will go a long way if you think you know a better way to do something.

5. Prepare to Work

If you bug out to a rural host family, remember they’re not running a bed-and-breakfast.  Don’t expect them to wait on you or cater to your every whim.  A farm – especially post-bleep – will be a place of constant and brutal work.  Nothing will annoy a host family more than some lazy jerk who does whatever he can to weasel out of the day’s chores.  Be ready, willing, and able to help.  It’s possible that lives may depend on the willingness of everyone to pitch in and work together to do what must be done.

6. Don’t Be Wasteful

When you arrive at your host family’s rural location, you must immediately change any wasteful habits you may have and become very parsimonious.   If you spill something, don’t lavishly use paper towels to wipe it up because you can’t buy any more.  Use a rag.  Treat everything as irreplaceable – because believe me, if you’ve bugged out in the first place, it’s probably because the bleep has hit the fan and common everyday things are irreplaceable.

7. Bring Skills

Host families in rural areas will be more likely to welcome those with useful skills. If your most useful skill is shopping or meditation or social activism, don’t expect a whole lot of sympathy.  Your master’s degree in 18th century French literature is not likely to do you a whole lot of good post-bleep.  But if you have practical skills – medicine or defense or mechanics or food preservation or animal husbandry or veterinarian skills or sewing or something similarly needed – you’re far more likely to find an open door.

And this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Don’t lieabout your skills or abilities. If you state with confidence that you’re an expert at hunting and butchering – but have never held a rifle or dispatched a steer – that will be discovered soon enough. Learn those skills first before you claim knowledge. Duh.

So learn stuff.  Don’t show up ignorant.

8. Clarify by Contract

If/when the bleep hits the fan, people (urban and rural) are likely to be a lot more hysterical than normal. Having your plans in writingahead of time clarifies all the obligations, expectations, andlimitations between the two parties. This contract can also include what the urban person can and cannot bring. Pets should be included in this list. If the rural refuge is not prepared to handle your yappy Pomeranian because he has three aggressive German Shepherds, you need to know that in advance.

This contract should include one very important part: how many people the host family is expected to take in.  If, in your compassion, you gather up every second-cousin-twice-removed and show up with a swell of fifty people, do you honestly think that’s going to work?

9. Shut Your Mouth

Okay, let’s say you’ve done everything right.  You’ve made a contractual plan in advance with a rural host family.  You’ve sent plenty of supplies ahead of you.  The welcome mat is ready to be rolled out.

Now whatever you do, shut upDon’t blab your plans to friends and coworkers, because doubtless they’ll want to know more, and before you know it, the host family’s OpSec is blown.  The host family is already going out on a limb by agreeing to take you in – don’t compromise their safety even more.  And if martial law ensues and your gossip spreads about the host family’s supplies, it may mean those supplies may be confiscated.  Congratulations, now you’re screwed – and so are the people who took you in.

10. Practice Forbearance

The dictionary defines forbearance as “patient endurance and self-control.”  Believe me, if the bleep hits the fan, we’re all going to have to practice astronomical amounts of forbearance.

It is not easy to move into someone else’s house.  It’s not easy for the hosts to have permanent guests either.  Imagine a standard-sized ranch house with five women in the kitchen.  Do you honestly think they’ll all get along swimmingly?  If that’s too sexist for you, imagine a building project with five guys or (worse) five engineers who all have their own ideas of how something should be done.  Who’s right?

Hint: Whoever owns the house gets the final say unless you can diplomatically demonstrate you’re an expert in something.  And even then, ownership trumps expertise.

Remember what it’s like at your home when friends and family arrive for the holidays?  After three days, you long for everyone to leave.  Well if it’s TEOTWAWKI, it won’t be a three-day vacation.  There will be stress, anxiety, and short tempers.  Everyone will need to walk gently, or the biggest danger for all may be much closer to home than you realize.

Living spaces are likely to be cramped and not private.  There is only so much room in the average country home.  It’s not like farmers live in mansions with multiple extra bedrooms.  Expect to be bunked down on the living room floor or even the barn, shoulder to shoulder.  (And no, the host family should NOT have to give up their bedrooms for you.)

Additionally, septic systems are easily overwhelmed by extra usage.  One of the first projects everyone is likely to be involved in is digging an outhouse.  Please don’t complain about its construction or usage.

If the circumstances with your host family become hostile and unbearable due to stress, high emotions, and general fears – then feel free to make other arrangements and leave.

I apologize if this list makes me sound hostile, but I’ll admit rural folks get tired of being treated like everyone’s personal deep larder if the bleep hits the fan, expected to uncomplainingly provide food and water and medical care and shelter and protection for anyone unprepared enough to show up on their doorstep.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re not without Christian charity and will do what we can to help; but like most of our neighbors, we are low income and our resources are NOT INEXHAUSTIBLE.   Our primary focus will be our family, neighbors, and beloved friends.

This article is not necessarily to discourage anyone from making plans to bug out to the country.  This is just an attempt to make you look realistically at the people whom you’ll be bugging – and I use that double-meaning intentionally.

By Patrice Lewis.


6 Essential Attributes Of Successful Survivalists

Having lived off the grid for the last 7 years, you see ’em come, and you see ’em go.  The dozens of people we’ve seen succeed in this lifestyle and the dozens of people we’ve seen fail has given us a keen eye to the attributes necessary to be a survivalist.  Like we’ve told many people before, no matter how prepared you think you are, you’re gonna go through some changes!  So after many years of observation, below are listed the 6 essential traits every survivalist should possess to be successful. They go beyond the typical survival skills list, since what matters most is what lies in your head and in your heart.

1. Tenacity (“stick-to-it-ness”)

This, more than anything else, has beaten many a would-be survivalist.  We knew a young couple from Texas who bought a 5-acre parcel in a very rural, mountain subdivision.  They purchased a camper and a 40′ shipping container and filled them with supplies.  Before they ever made the move, the husband freaked out when he discovered that there were ants on the property!  (Aren’t ants everywhere?)  These weren’t fire ants, just plain old picnic ants, and it was a real problem for him, resulting in their abandoning the property for the comfort of their old apartment.   The ants were just his way out of a situation he never was committed to in the first place.

As Sun Tzu said, “No one can ever be defeated who has made a strong resolve to win.”

2.  Resourcefulness

In today’s modern world, being resourceful usually means knowing what aisle at Home Depot has that pair of pliers.  What we’re talking about here is true resourcefulness.  Resourcefulness like building a house out of local rocks and local adobe, taking apart another house to use the lumber for your roof.  Resourcefulness like butchering a chicken, foraging for Navajo figs, yucca fruit and pinion nuts, and then creating a glorious dinner with them.  Resourcefulness like seeing the potential in a junker truck or a broken washing machine to be used in a new way.  There is a house outside of Taos that was built entirely out of adobe and the windows from an abandoned truck, total cost for the house, $200 for 20 bags of lime.

Resourcefulness is thinking outside the box.

3.  Thick Skin

There will be countless people all around you who are more than willing to tell you you’re crazy.  You need to understand thatyou’re the one who is seeing the world unveiled. Most people are very reluctant to admit that they are a product of television programming. Edward Bernaise coined the term, “programming,” because that’s exactly what he intended.  TV was developed to program society to take certain actions, feel certain emotions, want certain items and live a certain way – and to fear those who do not.

Many people will try to validate their life choices by convincing you that you made the wrong choice, not them.  Also, those who will try to take advantage of you are all too common.  Many people who are conscious enough to be looking for a better way to live tend to be overly charitable.  Be on the look out for those who are on the look out for you.  Being kind is one thing, being a fool is another.

If you’ve been given the gift of a vision of a better life, don’t let someone take that away.

4.  Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

This is the mantra of the U.S. Marines and should be the mantra of every survivalist.  To improvise means to take what you have and use it in unconventional way to accomplish your goals, such as removing the alternator from a car and giving it new life as a generator to power your home.

To adapt means to make course adjustments along the way to accomplish your goal, such as changing your house plans from stick-built to rock construction because rocks are plentiful.  To overcome means to let nothing stand in the way of accomplishing  your goals – to know that you can solve any puzzle put before you, face any foe and triumph.

Be flexible and ready to make adjustments. Be prepared to go beyond a survival skills list, and dig deep into your own creativity and ability to adapt.

5.  Solidarity

Work towards having solidarity with everyone in your party.  Whether you are a family or non-related group, everyone  should be striving towards a common goal.  This is much overlooked but it’s crucial.  I can’t tell you how many times a wife or husband has asked us to convince their spouse of the importance of preparing.  You must all be of the same resolve deep within to be successful.  A disgruntled spouse or family member can scuttle the entire enterprise, whether overtly or covertly, often even below the consciousness of the scuttler.

Have a sincere talk with anyone you plan on joining forces with and make sure everyone is on the same page.

6.  Trust

By this, I don’t mean to trust in foolishness, meant only to create self-sabotage,  but real trust in yourself, in your own abilities.

And trust in a universal energy, a natural law that knows the difference between right and wrong and will lead you towards right, if you listen.

What’s Bugging You? Dealing With Parasites In Humans

There are many different types of parasites that can affect us in the aftermath of a man-made or natural disaster. If we have a scenario of a large scale disaster or the grid goes down, we will encounter things, yucky things, that we normally wouldn’t, including parasites in humans. Crowded living conditions, shared clothing or personal items, and poor hand hygiene are a recipe for trouble that makes me want to stay home and not be forced (by necessity) to live in a FEMA camp.

I have been researching what types of parasites are most common in my area (Northwest Indiana).  Your area may be different, so it is wise to do a little research, but most of these are widespread and highly communicable even without a disaster. Have some medical preps to deal with them is just being smart.

In this article, I will tell you the things that the CDC and medical professionals recommend for treating various parasites, and some alternatives if you don’t have access to (or want to use) those treatments. Please remember that alternative medicine is still medicine and use it with care, especially if you are already taking other medications. There is a shopping list for the essential oils and other alternative therapies mentioned at the end of this article. (Many are multi-purpose.)

The two basic types of the common parasites we may encounter are internal and external.

Common Internal Parasites: Their symptoms and treatment suggestions


Symptoms: Vague abdominal pain, weight loss, distended abdomen, or vomiting. While larvae migrate through the lungs, there may be fever, cough, wheezing, sub-sternal discomfort and breathing difficulty.

Roundworms are found in soil, then get on your hands, and can be ingested. They’re also found in food contaminated with human waste. Children are more likely to get these. Cover sandboxes when not in use and have your kids tell you if they see anything weird in their poop.

Treatment: Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash hands frequently and with good technique. Trim and clean nails. Use safe drinking water, sanitize it first if you must, and be sure to wash fruits and veggies in potable water. Avoid raw vegetables that you aren’t certain have been well cleaned. Cooked food is safe.

Medications recommended by the CDC: Corticosteroids, Albendazole, & Mebendazole.


Symptoms: Initial rash at site of infection, coughing, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath (SOB), anemia, and nausea.

Because it is in the soil, walking barefoot in contaminated soil allows it to enter through the skin. It is spread where infected human feces is used as fertilizer. It enters the bloodstream, then the lungs, where it’s coughed up into the mouth, swallowed, and sent to the GI tract.

Treatment: Medications recommended by the CDC are Anthelmintic meds such as Albendazole & Mebendazole.


Symptoms: Can be asymptomatic, or itching around rectum (worse at night), severe scratching can result in a secondary infection.It may be seen with the naked eye a few hours after bedtime, by shining a light or pressing a wide piece of tape against the site.  Upon examination, they look like fine threads, less than an inch long.

Pinworm is spread human to human in crowded living conditions. Animals do not carry pinworms.

Treatment: Good handwashing, launder all bedding, clothing, and toys every other day for 3 weeks. Medications recommended by the CDC are Albendazole (Albenza), Mebendazole (Vermox), and Pyrantel Pamoate. A single tab kills the worms. A second dose is required a few weeks later to kill any newly hatched eggs.


Symptoms: Sometimes asymptomatic, but may include nausea, weakness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, worm segments in a bowel movement, hunger or loss of appetite, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

WebMD states: “Tapeworms are flat segmented worms that live in animals that have become infected while grazing or drinking contaminated water. Eating under cooked meat is the MAIN cause of infection in humans.”

There are 6 major types of tapeworms, which come from beef, pork, and fish. The larvae live in the muscles of their host and infection occurs when you ingest raw or under cooked meat. You can get pork tapeworms from an infected PERSON who prepares food with dirty hands. Usually tapeworms aren’t life threatening, but on rare occasions may be.

Treatment: A blood test can identify the particular worm by the antibodies you produce. Type and length of treatment depends on the type of worm. The most common med prescribed is praziquantel (Biltricide). A stool sample is checked at one and three months for signs of eggs or worms.

The CDC recommends that you avoid raw or under cooked meat, and not just in an emergency situation.

Cook whole cuts of meat to at least 145 degrees and poultry to at least 165 degrees. Allow it to “rest” for 3 minutes before carving.Ground meat and wild game should be cooked to at least 160 degrees. The University of Minnesota Extension office recommends freezing meat to -4 degrees for 4 days to kill eggs.

TIP: A meat/candy thermometer might be a good addition to your preps, since it’s impossible, otherwise, to know for sure the temperature of cooked food and heated water.

Cook fruits and vegetables or wash raw produce thoroughly. (I personally think an apple cider vinegar wash for several minutes would work well.)

Trichinellosis (Trichinosis)

Symptoms: According to, symptoms begin with abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and nausea. A few days later, muscle ache begins, along with itching, fever, and chills. Two to eight weeks after ingestion, joint pain develops. There may be “splinter-like” hemorrhages under the fingernails. Eye inflammation occurs, too.

Trichinosis is a worm picked up by eating raw or under cooked pork from an infected animal. This parasite can pass through the intestinal wall and lodge in muscle tissue.

Treatment: Generally not needed, as most people recover without problems. Occasionally, with more severe symptoms, Thiabendazole , Albendazole, Mebendazole, and Prednisone will be prescribed.

Giardia Intestinalis

Symptoms: Bloating, bad breath and gas, dehydration, diarrhea, greasy floating stools, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, stomachache, weakness, and weight loss.

Giardia is a protozoa released by an infected person in a bowel movement. The feces contaminate food, water, or surfaces. You get infected by ingesting the microscopic cysts. They thrive in the small intestine where they feed and multiply. Many animals can be infected too: birds, cows, sheep, deer, dogs, and cats.

Treatment: The CDC recommends taking antimicrobial drugs such as Metronidazole, nitazoxanide (for kids), tinidazole, Nitazoxanide, paromomycin, quinacrine, & furazolidone.

Common External Parasites in Humans


Symptoms: Intense itching, especially at night, and a pimple-like rash. It can cover the whole body but common sites include the wrist, elbows, armpits webbing between fingers, belt line, and “below the belt” – in short, areas where there are natural folds in your skin. Sometimes tiny “burrows” are visible under the skin.

Scabies is usually spread by direct, prolonged contact with an infected person. It spreads easily in crowded conditions and by sharing towels, bedding, or clothing. Scabies can be spread even before you have symptoms.


Treatment: Normally it is diagnosed with viewing a skin scraping under a microscope, but is usually based on appearance. A scabicide is prescribed by a doctor. There are no OTC meds at this time.

The NIH website recommends a “Permethrin” cream be applied from the neck down and left on for 8-14 hours, then washed off. A lotion is applied to freshly washed hair. Don’t use conditioner. (Do this over a sink, so none of the lotion gets on your body). Leave it on for ten minutes.

Wash all clothing, bedding, and personal items in the hottest water possible. Repeat as recommended. All members of any household with even one person with scabies should be treated to prevent further infestations.

The CDC website states never to use a scabicide for veterinary use to be used on humans because there haven’t been clinical tests on humans for veterinary meds. At least as importantly, animals don’t spread scabies and the type of scabies mite that causes “mange” is different from the one that spreads among humans. The “mange” mite can’t survive or reproduce on humans. But, in a true emergency,…Tractor Supply isn’t far.

Scabies can’t live longer than 2-3 days away from human skin.Wash contaminated clothing and bedding under hottest wash and drying cycles. Bag any item that can’t be washed securely and remove it from body contact for at least 72 hours.

Vacuum carefully, and get rid of the bag outside. You don’t need to fumigate the whole house.


Head Lice

Symptoms: Sometimes you can just see them and they can be itchy. Spread by direct contact or sharing scarves, hats, etc. Lice can only crawl, and can’t hop, jump, or fly.

Treatment: OTC medication include: Pyrethrins that kill lice but not nits; Permethrins that may kill eggs for several days, but often need repeat treatment; Dimethicone silicone oil that smothers the bug; and Lindane shampoo (Kwell) that works well, but can be toxic to the brain and nervous system. I wouldn’t want to use this on a young child.

There is a prescription drug called Ovide that is made from tea tree oil and alcohol. Why not make it yourself? Tea tree oil can be put into coconut oil and spread through the hair. Other oils that help are thyme, lavender, anise, ylang-ylang and geranium. I have heard of good results with NEEM oil (undiluted), and I would also “powder” my head with diatomaceous earth.

After all the lice are killed, you still have to go through all the hair under a good light and pick the nits out, otherwise they will hatch. Check every few days to see if any new nits have hatched. As with scabies, wash all bedding in hot water and use the hot dryer cycle.

Body Lice

Symptoms: Larger than head lice. Spread the same way as head lice. There are intensely itchy, red bumps on the skin that can become red or darkened, especially near the waist or groin. This lice has the ability to spread disease. The bug is the size of a sesame seed and can be seen with the naked eye.

Treatment: Body lice medications called “Pediculicides” can be used, but are generally not necessary. Just use good hygiene, laundering, and drying of clothes and bedding.

Pubic Lice

Symptoms: Pubic lice live in other areas that have coarse hair, too. They can be in beards, armpit hair, even eyebrows! It can be transmitted sexually, but can also be spread by infected towels or bedding. Itching is the main symptom.

Treatment: The OTC treatment is the same as for head lice. If items can’t be laundered, place them a plastic bag for 2 weeks.

Or shave everything off.

Bed Bugs

Symptoms: Small oval bugs that feed off human blood, especially at night. Bed bugs cause a rash that is small, flat (or raised) bump on the skin. There is redness, swelling, and itching.

Bed bugs have made a resurgence due to immigration and travel.They can be found anywhere in the world, and may hitch a ride home in your suitcase. Crowded living quarters, including simply living in an apartment building, can spread the infestation.

Treatment: First, find the bugs. They love to hide in the seams of your mattress, box springs, bed frames, edges of carpet, corners of dresser drawers, curtains, cracks in wallpaper, and in wicker furniture. You may see blood from their droppings where they congregate.

Pest control companies are usually called in to eliminate them.Many times you have to throw out the mattress because nobody can guarantee they have been totally eliminated.

There are over the counter insecticides to use, but once again, I’d recommend diatomaceous earth.  You can sprinkle it in every crack, corner, and drawer, and on carpets and curtains. YouTube has a video on how to make a bed bug trap. It was awesome. I made some with my friends.

You can buy a special mattress “bag” that prevents bed bugs from getting in. Also wash and dry all the bedding and clothing. Vacuum and get rid of the bag! If you are carpet free, it’s much easier to clean up an infestation.

There isn’t a treatment for bedbug bites. Just shower and try not to scratch, which will prevent a secondary infection. An anti-histamine or Benadryl may help.


They are actually arthropods (spider-like). Ticks are most common from April to September in low, brushy areas, but can be found year-round. Their population greatly increases after a mild winter. The bites can look as minor as a pink spot, or they can be red, inflamed, have a dark center, or have a bull’s-eye appearance.

There are 2 types of ticks: hard and soft. You usually don’t notice if a hard tick bites you, but the soft tick bite is extremely painful. Both can spread disease, but it typically takes at least 36-48 hours for ticks to transmit diseases to their human hosts, although it can happen during removal if their body is squeezed, causing them to vomit into the host.

Use the highest amount of DEET in a repellent spray or try some essential oil blends. Most essential oil brands sell a bug repellent blend including oils such as citronella.

Occasionally, people get reactions from the tick’s saliva. It can cause the redness or swelling that is associated with the bite. Sometimes, a toxin is excreted along with the saliva. The one that catches everyone’s attention is the toxin that causes Lyme disease (a bacterial infection). Lyme is contracted from deer ticks, which can be as tiny as the head of a pin, making it extremely easy to not see when they are attached.

Common symptoms of Lyme include a bull’s-eye shaped rash, followed by flu-like symptoms, numbness, confusion, weakness, joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches…. Unfortunately, the simple, short fact is that the symptoms can mimic many other diseases and the one (bulls-eye rash) that is distinctive isn’t always present and may be missed, particularly if it is somewhere hidden like on your scalp, under your hair.

If you are in an area with high incidence of Lyme, be diligent about wearing tick-repelling products and protective clothing. Do regular tick checks if you go anywhere they might be, and keep tick-removal tools on hand. Make sure you know how to remove ticks safely. Then, if you start showing symptoms, go to the doctor promptly and tell them your concerns. The current test for Lyme’s disease is highly unreliable (many false positives and many false negatives), so they will probably give you the antibiotics even without a positive test.

Treatment: Oral antibiotics. The type prescribed depends on the stage of disease. Early stage meds are Doxycycline (vibramycin), Amoxycillin, or Cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin). Doxycycline shouldn’t be used in pregnant women or kids under 8 years old. Later stage meds include Ceftriaxone (Rocephin) and Penecillin G. Even when the bacteria are gone, there are long term effects that can last a lifetime.


Symptoms: Hives, itching, and rash. The rash has small bumps (often in sets of 3) that are intensely itchy, turn white when pressed, and may be located in skin folds.

Fleas live outdoors and come in with our pets (or maybe ourselves).

Treatment: For Bites: 1% Hydrocortisone cream, an antihistamine (Benadryl), anything cool, like an ice pack, calamine lotion, eating garlic!!!, and vinegar in a compress. Tea tree oil, lemon oil, lavender, cedarwood, and eucalyptus oils all seem to be hated by fleas. (Reminder: Links to essential oils are at the end of this article.)

There’s also food grade diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle that everywhere your pet sleeps or plays. You can rub it into their coats too! You can put it in their water bowl for internal bugs, read directions for amounts to use. There are all kinds of flea sprays, flea collars, and topical medications available as well as pest control companies, too.


Not really a worm, but a fungus (Tinea). Highly contagious.

Symptoms: The classic sign is a patchy, crusty, circular ring, sometimes more clear in the middle. It can be on any part of the body. Depending on the body part, you can have discolored nails, and lesions on the head with bald spots.

It is spread by touching or coming into contact with an infected person or animal. Cats are common carriers. To prevent athletes foot (a form of Tinea), don’t walk barefoot through shared floors at gyms or pools. Wash recently purchased clothes before wearing, and don’t share brushes or combs.

Treatments: Over the counter antifungal meds like clotrimazole (Lotrimin), Miconazole, or Tolnaftate (Tinactin). There are creams, lotions, and powders. Apply twice daily for 4 weeks. Essential oils to treat ringworm include oregano, rosemary, and thyme in sweet almond carrier oil. Cedarwood oil and lemon oil have been reported to have good results. Tea tree oil can also be used to fight athletes foot.

Alternative Therapies for Internal Parasites

Essential oils that some people believe are effective in reducing or eliminating parasites include:

Oregano, Thyme, Fennel, Roman Chamomile, Clove, Melaleuca (Tea Tree), Lavender, Bergamot, and Peppermint. Take in a capsule or with a beverage. (When I occasionally ingest an EO, I just put a drop or two in a large glass of water.)

Try a warm compress of a washcloth, dampened with hot water, and a few drops of your choice of essential oil. Another option is to apply oil directly to abdomen or bottoms of the feet. This information is from pages 285-286, “Modern Essentials”. (A DoTerra Oils Guide)

Dr. Josh Axe recommends a blend of black walnut, olive leaf, wormwood, and garlic to fight parasites. This combination comes in a bottle with all the above ingredients. Take daily for two weeks, stop for a week, start again for two weeks. This allows for the eggs that hatch to be killed.

Pumpkin Seeds: Blend 200 grams of raw pumpkin seeds in a blender with a cup of yogurt (with live cultures) into a smooth paste. Eat it in the morning on an empty stomach. The chemical compound in the seeds is called “cucurbitins” and it will paralyze the worms. An hour later, take a laxative. The worms can’t hold onto the intestinal walls and are eliminated outside the body. Drink water to help flush out the worms.

Essential oils for eliminating ringworm include: Melaleuca (Tea Tree), Oregano, Thyme, Cinnamon, Clove, Arborvitae, “Protective Blend”, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemon, “Cleansing Blend”, Patchouli, Lemongrass, Juniper berry, and Geranium. Cypress was mentioned specifically for athletes foot, as is Tea Tree.

For yeast infections of the mouth (thrush): Eat Yogurt and take acidophilus pills.

Colloidal silver has been claimed to kill parasites.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth: Take a teaspoon mixed in water and drink it. It is made from the skeletons of tiny Diatoms. It’s perfectly safe for us, but it’s like ground glass to parasites. It slices and dices its exoskeleton. This is an effective therapy for external parasites, as well.

Alternative Therapies: Resources

Many of these are essential oils (EO), most of which are not regulated as medicine by the FDA. Before using any EO, read the instructions carefully. Some can be ingested with no problems, a small number may be poisonous if taken internally and are strictlyfor external use. Most are only used in tiny amounts, often not more than a literal drop or two.

When you buy any EO, please check to ensure the quality and don’t just buy the cheapest (or necessarily, the most expensive) one available.

ylang-ylang oil

thyme oil

tea tree oil

rosemary oil

pest defy blend

peppermint oil

oregano oil

lemon oil

lavender oil

geranium oil

fennel oil

eucalyptus oil

diatomaceous earth (food grade)

colloidal silver

clove oil

chamomile (Roman) oil

cedarwood oil

bergamot oil

anise oil

almond carrier oil

Learning The Art Of Foraging

I enjoy incorporating locally foraged plants into our daily diets. It supplements, and occasionally replaces, a meal at my house. It also gives me another “tool” in my tool belt of survival skills.

What piqued my interest in this subject and how did it all begin?

After the bank crisis of 2007-2008, I began to think there could be a possibility that our currency wouldn’t be worth anything someday. I wanted an alternative way of providing for my family. If hyperinflation occurred, I may not be able to afford groceries at the store. What could I do?

If I could learn how to find wild edibles, we could be more self-sustaining until things got back to normal. I’ve heard many people say they would just hunt for their food, but what if over 200 million other people are doing the same thing? We would quickly run out of animals.

In addition, a meat-only diet isn’t very appealing, nor is it nutritionally optimal. At the very least, most meals need some herbs and spices! I wanted to learn what plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers could be resources for me.

Learning how to forage

Of course I went online and learned about plants for food and medicine. I talked to my local county extension office and spoke to “experts” in many areas. I found that nobody would teach me about mushroom hunting due to the liabilities. (It’s too easy for newbies, especially, to mis-identify and think a poisonous mushroom is safe to eat.)

I looked for places to go that offered “Hands-on” learning that were free or had a minimal cost. I also wanted to meet local people that had useful skills that were willing to share their knowledge. I especially wanted to meet “my own kind”. I hoped maybe we could form a group and share what we learned.

Around 2010, things started happening. I found an awesome place called Willow Haven Outdoors in Anderson, Indiana that offered a FREE “Skills Day” once per year to showcase survival skills and techniques. I learned how to operate a bow drill, make a grote (fish hook carved from bamboo), observe flint knapping, and making three prong spear to impale fish. I would go down once or twice per year to learn things and buy survival gear. It is operated & owned by Creek Stewart. He now has a show on the Weather Channel called “Fat Guys in the Woods”.

TIP: Read more about the basics of foraging in “August Skill of the Month: Foraging“.

Then in 2012, my friend, Madelynn and I began our own preppers group, North West Indiana Preppers. We wanted to prepare for man-made and natural disasters. We wanted to get a group of people with a variety of skills that could help teach self-reliance. It was awesome to have like-minded people to talk to and learn from. One of our members, John, taught me how to build a solar cooker from a Fresnel Lens from my old TV. Another member, Bill, taught me how to tap Maple Trees, Creek Stewart came and took us into the woods to hunt for Wild Edibles, and many, many more events.

Surround yourself with people smarter and more knowledgeable than you!


It is very easy to mis-identify mushrooms and eat something poisonous unless you really, truly know what you are doing, which is why it can be so hard to find anyone willing to teach this skill. PLEASE exercise extreme caution if you choose to do this yourself.

I still wanted to mushroom hunt, so I joined the Indiana Mycological Society. (There are regional and state clubs from Mexico to Canada.) I get great information, photos, and advice from them. They also take people into the woods to hunt mushrooms that are in season. Another wonderful resource is Taltree Arboretum in Valparaiso, IN. They have edible plant tours, mushroom walks, and cool gardens. There is a small fee for the guided hands on learning, but it is well worth it.

Probably the most valuable investments are a great field guide and spending time in different types of terrain to locate plants in your book. I always have the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America by Steven Foster and James Duke in my car. (There is also one for western North America.) It has glossy colored photos accompanied by great descriptions of the plants and their many uses.

Last summer and fall, I spent a great deal of time in the woods around my subdivision, armed with a smart phone and my Field Guide. I would pick a mushroom or two, then find a place to sit, study, and photograph my finds. If I felt I could positively identify a mushroom, I would be the first one to eat it. I can’t figure them all out, but I can harvest Sheepshead, Chicken of the Woods, Puffballs, Oysters, Boletes, and an unusual one called Purple-gilled Laccaria.

I learned how to perform a “spore test” when the color of the spore is a critical factor in identification. I would get two of each kind of mushroom, placing one on a piece of black paper and one on white paper. Then I set a drinking glass over each one. In a few hours, remove the glass, and you will see a beautiful spore pattern appear. You need to see the spore color for identification of some mushrooms.

I also deliberately spread the edible mushroom spores in as many locations as I can to increase their numbers. Simply cut a mushroom into a few pieces, and insert the pieces gill side down onto a type of wood that they are partial to, and new mushrooms will grow there.

Be your own “Johnny Appleseed” and plant a few secret gardens in off the beaten path locations using heirloom perennial seeds. If someone takes all your stuff or takes over your property, you still have these little “hidden gardens”.


For more foraging options, consider insects. There is a reason people in dire circumstances are often seen eating them: We will never run out of insects.

Last summer I served guests dandelion and bacon soup for dinner, and dessert was a delicious protein bar made with CRICKET flour. Cricket flour is 60% protein, and when it’s mixed in with chocolate, peanut butter, coconut, or lime, it’s really good. The company that made these bars is called “Chapul”. You can order them online, but I just wanted to introduce this idea to you, in case you ever need another source of protein. It’s gluten free and doesn’t taste any different than “regular” flour.

Resources All Around

I know my area pretty well. Get to know yours, too. I located walnut and hickory trees, so I have a source for nuts. (These aren’t the easiest nuts to crack, so be prepared with a good nutcracker or two.) I can also use the hickory bark to smoke meat. I’ve found numerous mulberry trees and made syrup, jam, and jelly with some friends. I have apple trees with small sour apples that are great for making apple cider vinegar.

TIP: Take an inventory of the plants in your area. Learn more here.

I know where there are a few creeks not far from me. So, I have a water source, but also found crayfish, and don’t forget, animals need water, too. You can hunt close to the water, eventually, they will all come there.

I located raspberry bushes, cattails, wild asparagus, stinging nettles for medicinal tea, dandelion leaves (blanch them and they taste like a delicate spinach), elderberries, I have honeybees, Queen Anne’s lace for making jelly, my maple trees for making syrup, white willow for making salicylic acid (aspirin) in my own yard, and those “Helicopter” type seeds that come from maples are edible (toast them first). There are just too many to list here!

Final Thoughts

When I reflect back on all the weeds I’ve pulled, I can’t believe how many were actually edible plants! My garden was loaded with purslane, lambs quarter and plantain.  I eat the first two while they are still young and tender, and use plantain as a poultice for skin irritation or injuries.

All these amazing resources are probably all around you, and you may not realize it. Start looking and learning now, before anything bad happens.

My main points for anyone wanting to learn about foraging are:

. It’s never too late to start. Learn at least a few new things.
. Look for resources to help you. It can be people, books, groups, or the internet.
. But be prepared to learn by yourself if no one else is interested.
. Learn to identify local wild edibles (plants, trees, nuts, herbs, mushrooms).
. Learn to prepare these items and eat them.
. Become the Resource Person.


Create Your Own Altoids Tin Seed Vaults!

You gotta love Altoids.

The mints settle a queasy stomach and freshen even the most Dragonesque breath. They can make any beverage minty, help clear a stuffy head, and even defeat the munchies.
And then there are the tins. What junk drawer would be complete without an Altoids tin (or two) full of whatnot, so why not use one or more for your own seed vaults?

Long a favorite of Scouts, hikers, and others needing to travel very lightly, the tins have become the benchmark for the lowest-common-denominator of necessity. Books and the internet offer instructions for tin-based kits covering almost everything from watercolor paints to emergency survival (BOATs: Bug Out AltoidTins).

Altoids tins are so very popular that empty, blank tins of the same exact size are sold. A few actually include “Altoid tins” in the description.

Why Altoids tins for your seed vaults?

Altoids tins make great mini-vaults for your saved seeds because they’re rigid and easily waterproofed. They are small enough to be lightweight and easily concealed, while being large enough to hold a meaningful amount of material. That brings us to seeds.

There are emergency seed vaults for sale all over the Internet or instructions for making your own. Stored seeds are necessary (provided you actually garden, and know how to use and save seeds) and I can’t possibly urge you hard enough to have them. But like all preps, your seeds can go up in flames, wash away in a flood, or fall victim to mice. They can be stolen or confiscated.

We have portable back-ups for water, food, medicine and defense. Where are your back-up seeds?

EATS (Emergency Altoids Tin Seeds)

E.A.T.S. Hey, it could have been worse. Knowing how enamored preppers are with acronyms, my friends and I wracked our brains for a good one. The only other actual acronym (as opposed to initialism) that we could conjure was Altoids Survival Seeds, but this is a family

altoids seed cacheObviously, having a larger and more comprehensive seed supply is preferable. But what if you can’t take it with you? Several years ago, I worked with a lot of Bosnian war refugees. Many of them fled their homes (often at gun-point) with only what they could fit in their pockets. They didn’t know where they would end up or if they could ever go home.

It can happen here. It has happened here. Kind of a lot, actually. It happened to many Native American tribes. It happened to Latter-Day Saints repeatedly throughout the 1830’s and 40’s, to mid-westerners during the Dustbowl, and to Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII. Thousands of refugees from Katrina hit the roads and streets, carrying what they could and hoping for the best.

Your EATS is to seeds what a BOB (Bug-Out Bag) is to preparedness in general.

As Steven Covey teaches us…”Begin with the end in mind.”  So what is our objective? Obviously, we can’t provide a complete diet from an EATS. If we were in a situation dire enough to use this, then we would probably be acquiring food everywhere except a grocery store: hunting, fishing, foraging, barter, etc. Our EATS would be asupplement to those measures until things stabilized and/or we were able to barter for other seeds.

If seeds became so regulated and controlled that saving or trading them were functionally illegal, you could still provide for yourself and you would have a major advantage in the black market. I’ve known people from former or current Communist countries and other dictatorships. They have some interesting stories about illegal seed smuggling and clandestine gardening.

So, what earns seeds a coveted spot in our EATS? The kits are tiny, so we have to be selective. The seeds you choose to save and store in your Altoids tin seed vaults should be characterized by as many of the following factors as possible:

  • High nutrition per square foot of soil (no celery)
  • Fast bearing (no fruit trees)
  • Easy to grow/reliable cropper (no cauliflower)
  • Multi-purpose or multiple edible parts
  • High barter value for things you can’t grow (like insulin)
  • Cooking optional
  • Easy to store with little or no processing
  • Small or flat seeds
  • Easy to make more seeds from

Recommended Seeds for your Altoids tin seed vaults

1) The Cabbage Family (AKA: Cole Crops)

It’s hard to overstate the nutritional benefits of cole crops. It’s important to eat them in good times, but it becomes imperative in bad times when doctors might not be available and healthy food is our first line of medical defense. (They will cross pollinate, so grow one each in the spring and fall or better yet, get a good seed saving book and start practicing now.)

If you don’t like any cole crops, you’ve probably only had them boiled to death. Try roasting, sautéing, or making slaw. Cabbage leaves can be stuffed with anything and baked in any sauce, or chopped and mixed with other vegetables.

Population: Choose any 2 of the following, 40 seeds each.

– Kale is even more heat-sensitive than the rest, but is extremely cold hardy and can be planted in the very early spring. Late summer plantings can survive well into the winter with mulching. If winter cold isn’t a concern, collards are another solid option.

– Broccoli might not have the storage capability or extreme hardiness of the other cole crops, but it’s the only one that can produce seed in only one year. For that to happen, started them indoors and plant them in early spring. A little more child-friendly, it is palatable raw and the small leaves can be used like kale.

– Cabbage is the most versatile. It can be stuffed, sautéed, steamed, eaten fresh in salad /slaw or pickled into kimchi and sauerkraut. Cabbage can be stored for months, but the regular green keeps longer than the savoy and red.

– Turnips/rutabaga also store well. Rutabagas are milder flavored, but turnips are faster and produce greens.

I don’t recommend other cole crops for an EATS kit because they’re more troublesome to grow, don’t store well, are harder to save seeds from, or they provide less nutrition for the area they consume.

2) Legumes

These are good for protein now and later. You never know if there will be animal proteins or grains available.

– A multi-stage bean is edible in at least 2 of 3 stages: snap bean (like green beans), shell (like a Lima) and dry (soup beans). Not all can do this. Some candidates are Rattlesnake, Borlotto (AKA Tounges of Fire) and Cranberry. If your season is very short or cool, you should consider runner beans, but keep in mind that you will have to control pollination.

Population: 20 each of 2 kinds (10 of runners)

– Peas bear earlier than beans and provide a psychological lift after a winter of uncertainty. Snow and snap peas are okay, but they’re lower protein than English (regular) peas and English peas can be canned or dehydrated. Like beans, it’s fine to save seeds from just a handful of plants. If you’re in a milder climate, you can substitute cowpeas (black eyed peas).

Population: 20 seeds.

3) Beets

All root veggies provide a  lot of nutrients/calories/fiber for the time/space occupied, but beets also provide greens and red antioxidants. Beets can be planted in spring or fall and harvested at any size. Roots store well and can be used to create greens in winter. If you really hate them, substitute another root vegetable such as turnips. Turnips are desirable because they also have edible greens.

Population: 30 seeds

4) Winter Squash

No processing required! With squash, it’s okay (for one year) to save seeds from a single plant, so just a few seeds will do. Choose one each of two different species : maxima, (not necessarily massive, despite the name) , moschata (usually the longest keepers), and pepo (they don’t keep as long, but a shorter growing season makes them desirable for EATS). Try to stay in the 3-9’ish pound range. Buttercup, Butternut, Winter Luxury and Red Kuri are just a few possibilities.

Why not larger ones? The seeds are bigger, you might not have a fridge for leftovers, and the vines are usually gargantuan. More importantly though, what if you’ve got four Jumbo Pink Banana squash ripening in the field and a miserable little woodchuck takes a bite out of two of them? You’ve just lost half your crop. But if, in the same space, you’ve got a bunch of Butternuts and the woodchuck violates two of them before you get him into a stewpot, you’re still doing okay.

And it’s not just the squash: It’s also about the seeds. They’re a protein and oil source, nut substitute, and simple snack. If you end up in a situation without animal protein, then there also might not be enough fat. I know it’s hard for Americans to wrap their minds around struggling to get enough fat, but it can be a big problem in longer-term crises like war, pandemic, 30’s-style depression, etc.

Fat provides vitamins E, A, D, and K. Deficiencies in those vitamins can cause a host of health problems that are pretty bad under current conditions but become life-threatening in a long-term crisis:  fragile skin, brittle bones, blood-clotting problems, and even blindness.

When I met WWII Concentration Camp and Russian gulag survivor Karl Schnibbe, he talked about weighing 90 pounds and being nearly blind by the time he got home to Germany. The doctor gave Karl’s mother the last precious bottle of cod liver oil he had and told her to put three drops on her son’s tongue every day. It was a long road to general recovery, but his sight quickly returned. Squash seeds can do that, too.

Population: 10 seeds each of 2 species

5) Tomatoes

Cherry/grape, paste, or smaller slicing types of tomatoes will bear earlier and more prolifically than larger types and dehydrate in the sun better. Red ones can be water-bath canned if you have jars. But the real beauty of tomatoes for the EATS  kit is that they’re self-pollinating.

It’s OK to save seed from a single tomato, so you can save more kinds in almost no space at all. Just make sure one of them is super-early and another is a paste type.  And include a “blue/purple” one for the anthocyanins. They don’t need to be individually labeled. If you like, tape a list inside the kit and you can identify the varieties from a minimal description (i.e.; “Jersey Devil – big, red, paste”) or a name that says it all like “Black Cherry”.

Population: whatever

6) Onions

Don’t dismiss onions because they don’t seem like a “real” vegetable. They go with anything, embellish boring staples, and help redeem foods of dubious provenance. (Remember Mr. Woodchuck from the squash patch?) They store fresh for winter and dehydrate well. They are medicinal and repel Cabbage Worms if interplanted with Cole crops. They are day-length sensitive, so consult catalogs or locals about which ones to grow. Yellow keeps longer than red or white.

Population: 50

If your growing season is really short/cool or your soil really heavy, then opt for bunching or Welsh onions, which are perennial. Bunching onions won’t make big bulbs that store for winter, but they can be pickled, dried or winter-grown in a window or makeshift greenhouse.

Population: 50 by themselves or 20 as a backup to bulb onions.

7) Parsley

A pest-free, all-purpose seasoning that’s a fabulous breath freshener when chewed. Has more vitamin C per ounce than an orange!


8)  Grain

These seeds provide food for this year as well as more seeds for next year, in case things don’t stabilize quickly (or ever). Grains don’t have to be ground into flour or rolled. They can also be sprouted or cooked like beans. In addition to food, grains and their straw provide animal feed/bedding, fuel, roof thatching, insulation, garden mulch, and compost. Okay…and beer.

Small, irregularly shaped patches can be planted on the edge of many ecosystems and look (to prying eyes) like weeds. In addition to the obvious choice of wheat, try hulless barley and hulless oats. Triticale has the best traits of its parents; wheat and rye. It’s supposed to be a good grain for beginners.

Population: 75

9) A Summer leafy green

Greens like orach and purslane are an optional supplement to foraged greens. Swiss chard is great if you’re not growing beets; they’ll cross pollinate to the detriment of both.

LEARN MORE: Foraging can be a vital way to supplement your stored food. Learn the art of foraging with basic foraging techniques and know-how.

What’s left out? Why?

Corn suffers tragically (and often irreparably) when there is less than a population of 100 plants. This is called “inbreeding depression”. Those two words are never good news by themselves, so imagine how bad they are together.

Common green beans just don’t pull their weight nutritionally for EATS purposes. Ditto for summer squash, lettuce, cucumbers, melons, and peppers. Additionally, peppers set seedless fruit (or none at all) when nighttime temps drop below 55 for even a few days. If those temps aren’t a risk in your area and peppers are a big part of your life (or the local culture) then go ahead and sneak in a few…I won’t tell. They’re self pollinating, so a half dozen is plenty.

Carrots, parsnips, and spinach are a bit of a pain in the neck to save seeds from because of germination, pollination and ripening issues. If you’re experienced with these crops or willing to experiment with (or forfeit) future seed, then include 20-30 seeds each.


One of the problems with seed vaults is all the space wasted on packaging. One key to the EATS kit is combining multiple seeds in tiny ziptop bags sold for beads.  I used the 1.5″x2″, but longer ones will work with more multiples in them. Dime coin rolls fit perfectly in the tins and most banks give them away for free, just be sure to tape the ends shut.

The other key is to use smaller seeds to fill the airspace between larger ones. Sprinkle them on like pepper and shake them lightly so they filter down to fill empty spaces. Be sure to combine easily identifiable, and clearly different, seeds in each bag.

Don’t sweat the combined packaging. It’ll probably be you using the seeds, but if they get gifted or bartered…Well, I’d be more concerned about the survival prospects, in general, of an adult who can’t differentiate the seeds in the image from the label. If they’ve only eaten tomatoes in the form of soup concentrate or squash that’s pre-diced in plastic bags, seed labels are probably the least of their worries.

One last to-do before you seal your EATS: Use the lid. A contents list or very minimal instructions for growing or saving can be taped on the inside of the lid, or possibly a warning about which items take two years to produce more seed. There really isn’t room for anything more than a slip of paper inside the lid. More could be fit on the paper if it were printed on a computer and not by hand, but computers aren’t really my thing. I can scarcely check my email without hurting myself.

Now it’s time to finish your EATS. Ziptop bags are good moisture protection, but if you’d like back-up (or used coin rolls), waterproofing is easy. Apply an outer plastic bag, beeswax or chees wax (paraffin/candle wax is too brittle and might chip off), or just “duck it” (duct tape). You’ll want to secure the kit with something to make sure it stays shut under any circumstances, so duct tape will kill two birds.


Like all Altoids tin projects, your EATS  is easily concealed in a pocket or coat lining, down a boot, in a child’s stuffed animal, or a hundred other places. They’re a handy size for keeping on you if the evacuation bus won’t let you bring larger items, or for passing on to neighbors, bartering for other goods, and as “thank you gifts” to agents of all kinds. Almost as good, they are so common that few people will think twice if they do happen to notice your tin.

It might be a good idea to stash a few around your property and with a relative/friend/neighbor. If you have buried bug-out caches on the way out of Dodge, an EATS tin weighs almost nothing and more than justifies its space.

When I first got this idea and made one, I was stunned by how much actually fits in there! I think you will be, too.

Bean: Good Mother Stallard      20
Bean: Borlotto                            20
Peas: Wando.                             20
Cabbage: Danish Ballhead         40
Broccoli: DiCicco.                        20
Kale: Siberian.                            40
Beets: Lutz                                 30
Squash: Butternut                      10
Squash: Bush Buttercup             10
Tomato: mixture                          20
Onions: Yellow Spanish.             50
Onion: Welsh                             20
Parsley: Flat Italian                      10
Wheat: Red Fife                            75
Hull-less Oats: Rhiannon              75
Orach                                             8

Notice that there are larger populations of biennials because a few won’t be eaten. They have to be saved and replanted for seed.

Not all preps are created equal. There are some things we buy and store or could use everyday (shampoo, Spam) and others we’d actually prefer not to have to resort to (ammo and, well, also Spam, depending on your preference). Since all stored seeds need periodic replenishment, an EATS kit is a little of both. It’s easy to make, very portable…and will cost you a mint. About 75 yummy, yummy mints.




Liquid Gold Or Liquid Death: Liquid Fuel Safety

Whether it is used to power a vehicle, run a generator, or fuel a lantern, few people escape the need to buy and store liquid fuels like gasoline, kerosene or diesel. In normal times, we have easy access to fuel at the gas station, and safety is taken for granted. But are you aware of the potential dangers of liquid fuels, and how to mitigate the hazards? If not, please read on!

Liquid Fuel vs. Pressurized Gas Fuel

The two most common fuels important to people preparing for emergencies are gasoline, which is liquid at room temperature, and propane, which is used as a gas at room temperature. Other liquid fuels include diesel fuel, a denser, oily fuel popular in trucks and generators, and “white gas,” a petroleum fuel related to gasoline but used in the popular Coleman and other brand camping stoves and lanterns. Unlike pressurized gas fuels, petroleum liquid fuels have a limited shelf life; they separate into their component chemicals over time and become unusable.

While natural gas has more widespread use in home heating and cooking, it is used less in rural areas because of the extensive piping needed to distribute it. Where it is available, it is cheaper and easier to use than propane. Natural gas is lighter than air, and thus disperses more easily than propane which is heavier than air.

Propane, also known as LPG (Liquefied Propane Gas) is used for heating and cooking in mostly rural areas where natural gas is not available and is stored in large tanks at the user’s home or business. Periodically, the propane tank is refilled by a mobile propane truck.

Propane has the advantage of portability, available in consumer-sized portable containers including the popular 20 lb. tank used for barbecue grills and a small 16 ounce tank used for lanterns and small barbecues.

Why are Liquid Fuels Special?

Gaseous fuels like natural gas and propane are kept under pressure, and require a closed system (tank-to-hose-to-tank) that prevents loss of fuel during transfer from one tank to another. Usually a trained technician is needed to refill a propane tank. In normal times, there’s no problem, but during a disaster, this characteristic can be problematic.

On the other hand, all of us have filled up our car’s tank at the gas station. No thought required, you pay for the fuel and put the nozzle in your tank. You don’t see the safety measures engineered into the dispensing system; accidents are few. If you follow a few basic safety principles, you can safely store significant amounts of gasoline as part of your preparedness strategy.

Convenience Can Have a Cost

Gasoline’s value as a fuel is its volatility, or its characteristic of rapidly changing from a liquid to a gas. Even in freezing temperatures, an open container of gasoline quickly produces vapor that is extremely flammable. In hot temperatures, gasoline vapor can create outward pressure on a container, and if the cap isn’t tight vapor can escape; in extreme cases, the pressure can rupture the container. In the worst case, a burst gasoline container can ignite, resulting in an explosion. I have seen estimates of the explosive power of a gallon of gasoline equivalent to 20-60 sticks of dynamite.

Gasoline vapor is heavier than air, and so like water settles to the lowest possible point. Accidental ignition of the vapor will flash back to the container and ignite the remaining gas. As a result, one should NEVER store gasoline in any amount in a dwelling or garage with a potential ignition source like a water heater pilot light. Static electricity is another hazard; containers should be on the ground when pouring to safely avoid static sparks.

Less volatile fuels like diesel are easier to store than gasoline. While gallon for gallon diesel has more energy than gasoline, it has a higher ignition temperature and isn’t as volatile.

Safer Storage

Not surprisingly, the best container to store gasoline is called a “Safety Can.” These 5-gallon cans are built to prevent rupture, and have a spring-loaded seal instead of a screw-on cap. The seal keeps the gasoline vapors securely inside, and a spark arrestor screen prevents the contents from igniting from a flash back. In the event of a fire outside of the Safety Can, the seal will vent gasoline vapor that builds up inside, preventing a catastrophic explosion.

A Type I Safety Can (pictured) is just for storage, you’ll need a funnel to pour out the gasoline. It’s also the least expensive of the Safety Cans, available on ebay for about $40.00 each. Type II Safety Cans add a flexible spout to make refueling easier, and are about $60.00 each. Reputable brands include Justrite and Eagle.

While it seems like a lot of money to invest, the Safety Cans have a 10-year warranty and are well-constructed. In addition to their use in your plans, 5 gallons of gasoline or diesel would be a terrific barter item in an emergency for something else you need.

Liquid Fuels Have an Expiration Date

If you decide to store gasoline or diesel, you have to plan a rotation schedule, as they both will start to decompose within several months. Using old fuel in an engine will cause major problems in short order. You can extend their life with a fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL, but ultimately if you don’t use it you’ll lose it.

Let’s say you store 8 five-gallon cans of gasoline, for a total of 40 gallons. Number the cans 1 through 8, and each week empty one of the cans into your car or other gasoline-powered equipment and refill the can. Mark this on a calendar and it becomes automatic; in two months, you’ve rotated your gasoline stock without too much trouble.

To sum up, you’d be crazy not to include some fuel storage in your preparedness plans. Just be sure you do it safely, and that you can rely on it when you need it.

By Jim Acosta