Category Archives for API – Mod. 2

Where There is No Water: Staying 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?

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.

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?.

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.

 

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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

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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.

pc-iceberg

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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

Howard

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Root Cellars: An Old Concept for Modern Survival

Yesterday I spent the day with a friend who was raised in Finland and is near my age.  He and I talked about the use of root cellars and what foods they had available in the winter.  They raised most of their vegetables in green houses, so they could get a jump on their short summers.

In the summer they had a fairly wide selection of vegetables, however in the winter they had a very limited selection.  They mainly had what could be stored in their root cellars.  This consisted mostly of potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, cabbage, onions and for fruit, apples.  They kept these in a root cellar.  Prior to refrigeration a root cellar was used to store food over the winter and to help keep food cool in the summer.

A root cellar is a structure built completely or partially underground and used to store vegetables, fruits and other foods that need to be kept cold.  They are well insulated so that the foods stay cold , but do not freeze.

To function properly a root cellar should maintain temperatures between 32° F and 40° F.  The humidity level should be 85 to 95 percent.

The high humidity slows the loss of moisture from evaporation and prevents wilting.

The cold slows the release of ethylene gas and prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause decomposition.

Some tips for making and using root cellars

  • Don’t dig near large trees.  It will be hard digging and the roots will eventually cause you problems such as cracking the walls.
  • Temperature can be regulated by ventilation to allow cold air in.
  • If you want completely stable temperatures, you need to have a root cellar that is 10 feet deep.
  • A thermometer and hygrometer can be handy to measure temperatures and humidity.
  • Wood shelving and platforms work well because they do not conduct changes in temperature as well as metal does.
  • Shipping pallets can make good flooring, because they allow air movement.
  • You should allow an air space between the shelving and the walls.

The following article is directions for building root cellars from a book published in 1907.  They show how to  build one that is partially underground.

Hope this helps you

Howard

root cellars

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How to Get Water From Your Well When the Power Fails

well

An Windmill

Recently I have run across several people who are concerned about how to get water out of their water well in an emergency.  Without electricity, most of today’s water wells would become useless.  But remember people had functioning wells prior to electricity.

Old-fashioned hand operated water pumps can still be purchased and are quite effective on wells less than 200 feet deep.  Some brands say that theirs will work to 300 feet in an emergency, but that the number of strokes required is less than desirable.

well

A Simple pump

well

A well bucket

If the water level in your well is over 300 feet, solar powered pumps will go as deep as 800 feet and wind powered pumps will go down to 1500 feet.  Here is a link to a prior post Solar Powered Well Pumps can Solve your Water Problems.  When I lived in the Midwest, every farm had a wind powered water pump.  You still see many of these in use in many areas.  The Aermotor Windmill Company which has made windmills since 1888, is still in business.  You can find their windmill on the internet or through a good well drilling company.  Both of these methods will make your water supply independent of the electrical grid.

A fourth method is to make a well bucket, they are simple and inexpensive to make.  Here is a link to a post that shows how to make your own, Make your own deep well bucket.  The well buckets work better in shallow wells, you can use them in deeper wells, but it will be a lot of hard work

One thing, it is important to remember is that even if your well is over 300 feet deep; the water table may be much higher in the casing.  We have a well in our family that is cased to 200 feet deep but the water level is only about 13 feet deep.  Well buckets and hand pumps may work in these wells.

 

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Hidden Garden Strategies

Gardening is a great way to supplement your food storage. In a post-TEOTWAWKI world, though, there’s the possible problem that your neighbors or other people may see it. That could pose a real danger. Hidden gardens are the solution. Gardens are not as hard to hide as you may think, and if you’re wondering how that could be possible, the author of this book spells out in detail how anyone can grow their own hidden garden. One easy advantage that we all have is that in today’s world, most people have no idea what many edible plants look like.

The first idea that most people come up with is to hide their garden behind a tall fence and a locked gate. This is not a bad idea, but a fence can attract the curious and they can be expensive.

Instead, there are a number of other ways to establish hidden gardens.

hidden gardens

Jerusalem Artichokes a good source of food most people won’t recognize

  • Look for unusual plants that most people won’t recognize as edible. The Jerusalem Artichoke is one such plant, and it’s healthy and versatile as well.
  • Instead of planting everything in one place plant them in small bunches around your yard. It will be harder to identify a “garden” if the plants aren’t growing in neat rows or in boxes.
  • Allow weeds to grow up and help hide the plants.
  • Don’t plant your garden in rows. Plants in nature don’t grow in rows.
  • Vary the heights of the plants; make your garden look wild and unattended.
  • Large leaved vegetable plants like squash, pumpkin and gourds can hide small plants like greens, beets, turnips, kohlrabi, and carrots.
  • Dill, mints and sage will all grow tall and thick providing visible cover for shorter plants.
  • Perennials only have to be planted once and they will produce food for years.
  • One idea is to make your garden look wild. You can grow many different wild edible plants and mix common garden plants in amongst them. Plant berries or other plants around the perimeter to help discourage people from being too inquisitive. Make the garden look untended, no paths or rows.
  • A second idea is to make it look like a flower garden using beautiful edible flowers that most people won’t recognize.
  • Learn about native edible plants and include them in your landscape. Most people don’t realize that acorns are very suitable for human consumption or that mesquite pods can be ground into a delicious flour.
  • Plant a variety of root vegetables, since most people won’t recognize the leaves and will never know that potatoes, beets, parsnips, or turnips are growing under their feet.

It is amazing the number of edible plants that you can have in your yard and not even be aware of.  Take some time to find out what you already have growing and then supplement it with others. Take advantage of the knowledge included in this book, too.

It is all free food.

 

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How to Protect Your Garden From Rodents & Other Small Animals

 

The other day I was talking to a friend who lives in one of the Rocky Mountain states.  It seems that they have an unusual heavy influx of voles this year. These voles have killed several of his young fruit trees by girdling them.

Now, I have talked to a surprising number of people who live in my area, who have never even heard of voles, even though they are fairly common. People are just not used to growing and having to depend on their gardens to survive. If they did, they would certainly know what animals in their area had the potential to destroy their crops. I know some who try to grow a garden and if they get lucky once, they think they are great gardeners and if the garden fails, they just give up and go to the store.  So, how do you go about protecting your garden?

The solutions range from an all-natural spray, to repellant pellets, and hi-tech electronics that emit electronic sounds and flashing lights. I suspect that what works for one person in one situation won’t work for another somewhere else. Kind of like the year we were inundated with fleas and tried everything from diatomaceous earth to spray containing essential oils to outright flea-killing poison. Nothing worked, by the way. We just had to wait it out until winter arrived.

Now, if your family’s survival depends on the food you raise, it all changes. You have to take the time to learn about protecting your garden. What do you do when voles, woodchucks, squirrels, gophers, rabbits, moles, and other furry little mammals attack your gardens? I am sure your  first impulse is to grab a shotgun like Elmer Fudd and blast them to smithereens. But there are better alternatives.

Start by identifying the animal that is causing the damage and then learn a little about the habits of that animal. This knowledge is essential for putting together an effective solution.

Make your garden less attractive to wildlife. Eliminate hiding or nesting areas, such as brush piles and tall grass. Seal off access to crawl spaces beneath your porch or deck. Minimize other food sources. Covering your compost pile will discourage raccoons, cleaning up bird seed will discourage squirrels, and using Milky Spore and beneficial nematodes on your lawn will reduce grub populations, which are a favorite food of moles and skunks.

A 4-foot-diameter circle around the base of young trees or vines that is free of vegetation or a buffer strip 4 feet or more along a row of trees can reduce problems, because voles and many other small animals prefer not to feed in the open.

Voles and meadow mice cause damage by feeding on a wide range of garden plants including artichoke, beet, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, and turnip.

protecting your garden

Gophers

Gophers are difficult to scare or repel. Castor oil sprayed on the garden may work. If gophers are a serious problem, you may want to go to the trouble of lining the sides and bottom of your garden (at a depth of 2 feet) with hardware cloth. Gopher-resistant wire baskets can be placed in planting holes before planting. For persistent problems, use traps and poisons. 

Moles are carnivores and don’t eat plants, but they burrow in search of grubs, earthworms, and other insects. This can damage the plants by disturbing the roots.

Squirrels are likely to eat fruits, nuts, berries, seedlings, bark and bulbs. You can’t get rid of squirrels permanently. You can try deterrents, like spraying bad-tasting sprays on favorite plants and protect your bulbs in fall by covering them with chicken wire; the bulbs will grow right through it in spring. You can shoot them with a pellet rifle, and use them for food. Squirrels can be good eating.

Rabbits eat flower gardens and plants of vegetables. In fall and winter, they damage valuable woody plants. You can fence them out, use traps, or even poisons.

Some ideas for protecting your garden.

protecting your garden

Protecting your trees with wire fencing. The holes need to less than 1/4 inch.

  • There are poison baits that are effective against most, however they pose a danger to pets that may consume them.
  • Smoke bombs and traps kill many types of pests and can be a method to help reduce the population. Trapping can also be a food source for either you or your dogs.
  • A dog or even a cat can help with protecting your garden from pests
  • Scent repellents, such as garlic clips, castor oil, and predator urine can be effective temporary solutions but they need to be reapplied to remain effective. Products made with hot peppers can deter nibbling rabbits.
  • Don’t leave dishes with pet food outdoors.
  • Don’t put your trash out in plastic bags; use metal cans with locking lids.
  • Don’t pile firewood up against the side of a home or shed; it creates a perfect place for rats and other small animals to nest. A friend made this mistake.

Just remember these small animals hate to be in the open where they are exposed to predators, so keep the areas around your gardens and trees clean.

 

 

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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!

Mushrooms

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”.

Insects

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.

 

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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!

Population:10

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.

Packaging

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.

Concealment

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.

 

 

 

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