Notes for Friday – September 19, 2014

On September 19th, 1778, the Continental Congress passed the first budget of the United States. While the budget may have passed, the states responded poorly to the call for taxes to fund the government, and the government resorted to printing paper money to cover debts. In effect, the first budget was a failure, due in large part to the states not responding to the demands of Congress and the depreciation of fiat paper money. Are we talking about 1778 or 2014 here?

Also, on this date in 1796, George Washington addressed the nation in his farewell address as president.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 54 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,100+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hardcase to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel which can be assembled in less then 1 minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouseis providing 30 DMPS AR-15 .223/5.56 30 Round Gray Mil Spec w/ Magpul Follower Magazines (a value of $448.95) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear,
  7. A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $300 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. A roll of $10 face value in pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver quarters, courtesy of GoldAndSilverOnline.com, (currently valued at around $180 postpaid),
  11. Both VPN tunnel and DigitalSafe annual subscriptions from Privacy Abroad (a combined value of $195),
  12. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  13. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate.

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Instituteis donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. $300 worth of ammo from Patriot Firearms and Munitions. (They also offer a 10% discount for all SurvivalBlog readers with coupon code SVB10P),
  6. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  7. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  8. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value),
  9. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate,
  10. Organized Prepper is providing a $500 gift certificate, and
  11. RepackBoxis providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. Ambra Le Roy Medical Products in North Carolina is donating a bundle of their traditional wound care and first aid supplies, with a value of $208, and
  7. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit, and
  8. SurvivalBased.com is donating a $500 gift certificate to their store.
  9. Montie Gearis donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack. (a $379 value).

Round 54 ends on September 30st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Challenge of Prepping, by R.W.

How My Insights Have Changed With Time

I became interested in prepping and survival 12 years ago. It wasn’t so much an event or reading about survival, it was what I believe was a message from God. I was 49 years old and had just finished leading a Bible study in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. On the way home, my wife and I stopped at a Dairy Queen for our usual weekend treat. It was a beautiful, summer day with lots of white summer clouds floating by. As we finished and were sitting there enjoying the beautiful downtown skyline off in the distance, I thought to myself how perfect of a day it had been. At that moment a voice I could not only hear but feel throughout my body said, “Enjoy the time and prepare; storm clouds are coming!” It shook me for a few moments and the impact of it never left. I tried to push it aside and rationalize it, but it was embedded in me more as the summer went on. I read everything I could find on prepping and survival as well as DVDs and websites, such as this one. I bought gear, trained, and taught classes on self-protection, prepping, and survival. I helped people who had built retreats evaluate their effectiveness, and over the years I have learned how many of my beliefs on survival were wrong. I still see many ways of training being promoted that I think are wrong or misguided. I looked critically at survival and prepping and these are my current conclusions. First, let me say I’m a Christian, but I look at what I must defend against from a perspective of someone who is ruthless with no morals. As I write this, I am preparing to flee the inner city of Minneapolis, where I have lived for thirty years. When I first moved here, it was a quiet, friendly neighborhood with almost everyone in our area being a home owner. Now, it’s mostly low-income housing. The value of my house has dropped over seventy percent in the last ten years. My house is an armed fortress to keep out the thugs and neighbors, who watch and wait for an opportune time to rob and steal. We have beggars on every corner shaking down foolish motorists. The response from city hall is always about their freedom of speech. The police are never able or willing to protect. Instead, they collect information after the damage is done. If this is what goes on during the so called “good times”, I shudder to think of what will happen when TEOTWAWKI hits.

You Must Be Able to Physically Survive

This is a much bigger problem than most people think it will be. It’s a very likely scenario that if you don’t live in the country or see trouble coming in advance, you may well only get out with your backpack. Here is my list of the challenges:

  1. Can you carry your backpack for a long distance over unfamiliar terrain and under duress? If someone is after you, could you carry the load while on the run?
  2. Do you train with your pack on and loaded, as it would be in if you needed it? When I teach classes and have people bring their backpacks, it amazes me how many out-of-shape people bring in 80- to 100-pound backpacks and think they will be able to carry these all day. The other thing I see is the packs have everything but water. So even if you can squeeze the water you need in your pack, plan on carrying considerably more weight. Add to that the weight of any weapons and ammo you would have to carry. If I was perusing many of these people, I would be able to survive and overtake them just by collecting the items they would have to dump and leave behind. Anything you can’t carry should not be in your pack, if you go on foot.
  3. Do you know what’s in your pack and where it’s located? Is it still usable? If the answer is “no”, it’s useless.
  4. If you’re with family or a group, what do you do with the people who are disabled in some way and unable to help or keep up? What do you do with the seniors in your family or group? What about the small children and babies? When I first started prepping, I was 50 years old and a competitive athlete. Now at 62 I find the health issues more challenging than ever before, and I find my training more difficult every year. I urge you to consider this point very carefully. Will you leave the weak, children, and elderly behind? Will you leave your spouse, child, mom, dad, grandchildren, or grandparents? As this becomes more of a reality in my life, my perspectives have changed as well as the way I prep and plan. Surviving is not enough without a certain quality and love in our lives.

Living in a Bunker

So you decide to spend the money to buy or build a bunker to wait out whatever crises have fallen on America. The first problem I see in most bunkers is keeping the bad guys out. Very few that I see on the various television shows have independent ventilating capability. So, if I find your air intake, I can just block it off and wait, or if there is water available, I can flood you out. However, the biggest problem I see is being cooped up in a small area for a long period, especially if not all of your family is on board for this kind of existence. I would urge anyone thinking about this to set up a two-week period of time to move your family and anyone you plan on living with in your bunker into a secluded part of your home, such as a basement or garage. Close off all outdoor light 24/7, only eating and doing things you would do in your bunker. Use none of the amenities that you won’t have in your bunker. No one goes outside for the duration. I have found in this kind of situation that people will get on each other’s nerves very quickly. Some will get claustrophobic and mentally start breaking down. Some might revolt or challenge authority. As food becomes bland, compared to how you ate before going into seclusion, there will be a difficult adjustment for some family members. Playing survival is fun for a short time; then it becomes a hard way to live, and the stress can become overwhelming. Adding to that stress is the fact that having to go out of the bunker for any reason makes you vulnerable to attacker’s waiting to ambush your bunker.

Homes and Compounds

Most of the people I have worked with prefer this form of survival. Although I feel it’s better than a bunker, it still has many potential weaknesses. The first is the same as a bunker. People being close together for a long period of time will present many problems. During a home renovation, my family was limited to three small rooms for a week. Even being able to go outside within a few days, we were all showing signs of aggravation, and harsh words were exchanged many times. Now, add to that people we don’t know as well as we think we do, habits as well as ways of living we find annoying, members of the group who are not pulling their weight or challenging how things are done in the group, people who are of different religious backgrounds or moral beliefs than yours, and/or people who become negative and critical of others.

What do you do if it’s a true violent survival situation and someone wants to leave? What would you let them take with them? Can you trust them to not give away your security setup to someone plotting to attack you? What happens if someone gets a virus infection? Is everyone who is old enough in the group capable of firing weapons and using other protective devices? Who’s in charge of what in your compound? What is the authority breakdown? Who is in charge of each different area needed to keep the compound functioning? How do you deal with someone or a group of people sabotaging or trying to take control of the group? What is the procedure for challenging or removing someone not fulfilling their duties? Is everyone willing to be cross-trained in case someone dies or is severely injured? Has everyone simulated a combat scenario and the stress that comes with defending the compound and possibly taking a life? Are the members of your group prepared to deal with seeing someone they love or care about killed or wounded? These are real threats to survival and when people start breaking down mentally or physically, bad things happen.

If I was leading a gang of thugs and had no morals, I could take most of the compounds I have visited with little trouble; I’ll give you one way I would do it. My group would consist of twenty to twenty-five members. We would be mobile and live off what we take from anyone or anything available, staying only long enough to use up what resources are there and then moving on. My group would have one, and if possible two, good snipers. After doing a day and night of surveillance, I would launch the first attack on your compound in the late afternoon, if the weather conditions were to my advantage. I would put a sniper and four of my group in a spread out attack position. My sniper’s job would be to shoot the first person he has a good shot at. Then I’d launch an assault with the four attackers and the sniper doing as much damage possible for twenty to 30 minutes; then I’d pull back. We would wait a couple of hours for the adrenalin rush and the accompanying headache and fatigue to set in, always being prepared for a counter attack if one comes. Then another five would begin another attack, setting up in different positions from the first attack. I would keep this attack up for an hour, if possible, and pull back again looking for any counter attack. One important thing to remember is, unlike the television shows, unless you have a stone house, the walls will offer little protection from the attack; also, if you stay put and patterns of how you return fire are learned, surviving will be extremely difficult. If the people inside are not combat tested and ready, my third attack should be the one that finishes the job. The mental distress should weaken most of the resistance, and if not I have the time to wait.

So how do you survive this scenario? Practice and train for real life situations, and take it seriously. Doing paintball outdoors is a great way to get a feel for combat. Getting shot at and shooting at a human target is a great way to begin the process of self- protection. Find someone who teaches self–protection, using actual fighting techniques rather than sport fighting. In a life or death setting, you don’t need self-defense, you need self-protection, and in my experience it’s not defending against your opponents attack, it’s making them try to defend your attack. Have procedures in place to deal with every problem I have presented. Always have an escape route. Have supplies buried in the ground around your property and be prepared to live on the move. This is an extremely hard way to live, but it offers the best chance in my opinion of surviving, if you train to live this way. Much of my gear is set up for living on the run if needed. I train to be able to withstand the physical and mental demands that life will require. The one intangible in every person’s training is that until the time comes we will not know for sure how we will respond to the threat. The more you practice and prepare, the better your chance of surviving.

I hope and pray that the time will never come to live this way, and may God guide your path always..

God Bless

Letter Re: Septic Systems

Mr. Hugh,

My house was built in 1978. I don’t know if you would consider it “modern”. It is built on a concrete slab with brick veneer and is air conditioned. I noticed in your comments about things going into the septic tank, especially water from the washing machine. This a source of major problems for septic systems. When my plumber stubbed out the sewer drain lines there were three. He offered me some good advice, which I followed. The larger 4-inch line I ran to my septic tank, which was the waste from my toilets, bath tub/shower, and lavatories. The two remaining were 2-inch lines. One from the kitchen sink I connected to a grease trap and then a 60-foot “field line” buried in washed gravel. The second 2-inch line came from the washing machine. I connected it to the field line after the grease trap. This keeps all the bleach, strong soap, and clothing fibers out of the septic tank and the grease from the kitchen sink. During the time I’ve lived here with my family, I have only had to clean the tank two times. I did it myself with a bucket and shovel handle I improvised. As you said, there was about a two-foot layer of sludge that was soft. The rest was water. We are careful with the type of toilet paper we buy and make sure that no feminine products are flushed. Every few months we pour a package of yeast down the drain to the septic tank. Like you said, though, the natural chemicals are already there that cause the digestion process.

Odds ‘n Sods:

This interview with Russian hardliner Federov (a Deputy of the State Duma) is most revealing on several levels, especially vis-a-vis the dollar-tied Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Clearly, the great game continues:

The Purge is coming. Evgeny Fedorov

Federov covers a lot of ground in this interview, perhaps tipping his hand more than he intended. A transcript can be found online.

Parenthetically, if Federov’s prediction is correct, then look for an announcement of the nationalization (or perhaps a “dissolution” or “reorganization”) of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the issue of a gold-baked ruble as the catalyzing events. – JWR

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On September 25th at 7pm central, Glenn Meder is hosting a free online education class exclusively for the SurvivalBlog audience titled, “Understand How To Treat Dangerously Contaminated Water in an Emergency!” You can register for the event at http://survivalstill.com/webreg_9252014. Glenn Meder is quite knowledgeable about emergency water treatment and regularly writes articles for water treatment trade magazines. In this class, Glenn will show you the science behind treating dangerously contaminated water and will give you specific tips on what you should and should not do. Glenn will also show you how to turn ocean water into clean drinking water.

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I heard that all the ebooks on firearms published by HLEbooks.com are now also available under the Android format, so they are now usable on a wide range of portable devices, including iPhones, tablets, and more. These detailed ebooks were compiled by Gerard Henrotin of Belgium and are mainly about 20th century European handguns. A listing of his Android ebooks is available here.

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I often have consulting clients ask me about undeveloped retreat property that is affordable. One of the new listings at our SurvivalRealty.com spinoff site caught my eye: Hogum Creek Retreat Land – Lincoln, Montana. It is priced at just $49,000 and is being offered by agent Erik Schweitzer. – JWR

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Isaac Asimov has long been one of my favorite authors. As a child I literally wore out my paperback copies on his “I Robot” series. It was with keen interest that I viewed this link sent in by SurvivalBlog reader D.S.: Robot with “morals” makes surprisingly deadly decisions. In effect, the programming iterated Asimov’s first rule of robotics: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” While the rule seems simple on the surface, and the robot had no problem implementing it when confronted with scenarios in which it could successfully complete its mission, it really choked when presented with scenarios in which it could not successfully complete the mission 100%. When presented with two “humans” to save but only having enough time to save one, it often choked, became indecisive, and saved neither– similar to a real human with no training. However, a human can be trained to make an ethical decision in such a situation. A robot could not.

Hugh’s Quote of the Day:

“I don’t ‘need’ to own the battle rifle of my choice any more than Rosa Parks ‘needed’ to have her choice of seating locations on the bus.” – James Wesley, Rawles

Notes for Thursday – September 18, 2014

The 18th of September is Chilean Independence Day. On this day, in 1810, Chile declared independence from Spain.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 54 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,100+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hardcase to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel which can be assembled in less then 1 minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouseis providing 30 DMPS AR-15 .223/5.56 30 Round Gray Mil Spec w/ Magpul Follower Magazines (a value of $448.95) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear,
  7. A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $300 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. A roll of $10 face value in pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver quarters, courtesy of GoldAndSilverOnline.com, (currently valued at around $180 postpaid),
  11. Both VPN tunnel and DigitalSafe annual subscriptions from Privacy Abroad (a combined value of $195),
  12. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  13. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate.

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Instituteis donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. $300 worth of ammo from Patriot Firearms and Munitions. (They also offer a 10% discount for all SurvivalBlog readers with coupon code SVB10P),
  6. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  7. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  8. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value),
  9. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate,
  10. Organized Prepper is providing a $500 gift certificate, and
  11. RepackBoxis providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. Ambra Le Roy Medical Products in North Carolina is donating a bundle of their traditional wound care and first aid supplies, with a value of $208, and
  7. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit, and
  8. SurvivalBased.com is donating a $500 gift certificate to their store.
  9. Montie Gearis donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack. (a $379 value).

Round 54 ends on September 30st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Multi-Species Rotational Grazing to Maximize Food and Income in a TEOTWAWKI World, by J.B.

When new preppers begin planning their retreat or bug-out location they often first visualize an abundant garden, overflowing with fruit and vegetables, and focus their food production efforts on learning to garden. This is a wise approach indeed, but perhaps a disproportionate level of attention is paid solely to the labor-intensive task of annual gardening, which produces primarily carbohydrates, versus the less labor-intensive task of livestock grazing, which produces a perennial supply of primarily protein, fat, and pelts (if desired). Also, unlike most plants, protein derived from animals is complete and includes all nine essential amino acids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_protein).

Now, please don’t get me wrong; I strongly advocate annual and perennial gardening, and we have a 5,000-square-foot garden ourselves, along with numerous fruit trees, vines, and beds. However, in the past decade, we’ve also practiced intensive multi-species grazing with cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks on our homestead, where we are serious “preppers” and committed to long-term self-sufficiency. We’ve gardened in years with plenty of rainfall and consecutive years of historic drought, only to watch the crop yields suffer greatly in tough conditions. The livestock, however, grew and sustained us regardless of the weather. The aim of this article is to share some of what we’ve learned and to encourage readers to consider multi-species livestock grazing, particularly if the SHTF. This article does not include other important sources of animal husbandry that we raise, such as rabbits and bees, since they are normally managed separately from grazing animals.

Multi-Species Grazing Goals for Preppers

Let me begin by stating what are, for us, the goals for multi-species grazing, as they relate to a TEOTWAWKI situation. In order of priority, they are:

  1. Maximize use of available land to produce as much food (nutrition) as possible for the long-term.
  2. Ensure operational security of food production by reducing animal noise and ensuring protection.
  3. Minimize labor per calorie produced.
  4. Develop potential for income and/or barter.
  5. Allow animals to use their natural instincts to improve the soil, thereby ensuring our ability to perpetually achieve the previous goals.

Benefits of Multi-Species Grazing for Preppers

There are numerous benefits to multi-species grazing, especially for preppers who will often start out with rural or mountain properties (rather than pastures) that have marginal grazing land in need of improvement. Of course, it’s well understood that cattle prefer grass over other types of plants, but what if the land has weeds rather than lush pasture? What then? We can tell you, from personal experience, that even if you begin with lush pasture, if only horses are allowed to graze, the land will soon be populated with a high density of brush and weeds that cows will avoid. This is because having only one animal species allows it to graze and quickly re-graze its favorite forages, such as clover, quickly killing the roots and allowing un-grazed weeds to grow and hog sunlight. As for us, we’re fortunate to enjoy excellent pasture health today, but that wasn’t the case a decade ago when we weren’t grazing any animals on our new homestead. At that time our “pastures” more resembled weed forests, littered with brambles and woody forbs (broad-leaved plants); some weeds were over seven-feet tall, such as dog fennel, blue vervain, and Chinese privet, with equally non-desirable plants, such as bitter sneezeweed underneath their canopies. Certainly, it was nothing akin to the mix of nutritious clovers, ryegrass, vetch, fescue, lush crabgrass, and Bermuda that our animals enjoy today. So how did we make the transition from poor grazing land to excellent grazing land?

We began with cattle in our fields but quickly learned that, by themselves, they made matters worse by destroying the little bit of grass and clover we had. By reading books 100 years old or more, we studied how homesteaders formerly managed their land and looked for natural solutions that didn’t rely on chemicals or equipment. Indeed, the solution to this problem can be found in nature, for rarely in nature can one observe only a monoculture of plants or animals. Rather, diversity is the norm, and the solution. For our situation, this meant that we needed to embrace multiple-species livestock grazing, if we wanted to achieve a polyculture of lush forages.

For example, in contrast to cows, sheep exhibit a preference for forbs and weeds before grass, while goats prefer to browse brush before choosing forbs. Grazing cows, sheep, and goats together ensured that not only will each get the nutrition they want but that all plants are grazed evenly. Unlike cows, sheep and goats do a great job of controlling blackberry brambles, thistle, honeysuckle, multi-flora rose and other uncontrolled pasture plants, and those plants became quickly eradicated from our pastures.

Another benefit of multi-species grazing relates to parasites. While cows know to not graze near their own manure deposits, often for up to a year, sheep will graze near cow manure deposits without fear of contracting the cow’s parasites, which are specific only to the cows. Thus, our pastures are more evenly grazed, which has allowed lush grasses to increasingly take over, absorb nutrients, hog sunlight, and fill in.

Additionally, in many areas of the country, the existing forage mix may be harmful to one species but not another. For example, while this isn’t a problem in the southeastern United States, some western states are plagued with plants harmful to cattle, such as leafy spurge and larkspur. These plants are not harmful to sheep, and allowing sheep to graze them has been shown to help restore grass growth to the land, creating a better habitat for cattle.

Cows and sheep together are a very natural and beneficial mix. However, for many situations, the real benefits begin to accrue when goats are added to the herd. Unlike sheep, goats prefer the woody plants, and thereby have the ability to clean up and control significant weed and brush outbreaks. Many preppers will begin with land that has either been abandoned or is just new to grazing, and this is a perfect situation for goats. Problem plants that are poisonous to other species, such as certain thistles and poison hemlock, pose no problem for goats, which will often graze six feet high and eat the light-hogging canopy before chewing the undesirable plant (from the cow’s perspective) to the ground. This creates an opportunity for grass to fill in.

Beyond cows, sheep, and goats, we found that poultry and pigs fit in very nicely to our multi-species grazing model as well. Pigs, of course, prefer to root, which makes them perfect choices for woodlots or marginal perimeter land. They can easily be trained to a solar electric fence that’s located just a few inches off the ground (snout high), though frequent walking along the fence line is necessary as pigs just love to root dirt and debris up to the fence, which could cause it to short out. Other than that, they’ll clean up the forest in short order, plowing through downed trees for grubs, eating nuts and acorns, and digging roots. When their paddock is cleared, simply create a new adjacent paddock for them, move them in, and (if you’re so inclined) toss some seeds (turnip, pumpkin, squash) into the soil they just disturbed. Return them several months later; they’ll harvest the crop for you, free of charge, and turn your seeds into pork.

Some breeds of pigs can be effectively grazed along with the cows, sheep, and goats. I’m thinking mainly of the Large Black breed of pigs, and while they are effective grazers, like all pigs, they like (and need) to root. As a result, you’ll likely end up with pastures ranging from lightly torn to having large wallows. In our experience, it’s best to keep the pigs in the woods.

Poultry fit in perfectly to this model, since many species in nature have a naturally synergistic relationship. Pulling a mobile hen house a couple of days behind the grazers allows hens to scratch through manure piles and harvest grubs. This provides them with much-needed (and free) protein, while drastically reducing the potential fly population. Of course, the hens will convert the grasses and grubs into nutrient-rich eggs for your family. In our case, we also mix turkeys along with the hens and move them together as a flock. The turkeys tend to roost on top of the portable hen house at night, while the hens sleep safely inside. While some older research suggests that turkeys and chickens shouldn’t be raised together due to blackhead, we have never found this to be the case. Chickens and turkeys act as the sanitation crew, ridding the pasture of grasshoppers, crickets, and armyworms, which can wreak havoc in these parts by destroying entire pastures in a matter of days! For those in the south, we have also found a huge benefit to including poultry along with ruminants; free-range chickens and turkeys, by virtue of their constant scratching, eradicate fire ants in those areas!

It should be noted that one potential pitfall of multi-species grazing is the potential for bullying. Now, you may think I’m referring to the larger cows bullying the sheep and goats, but I’m not. We’ve witnessed, on more than one occasion, our ram literally do just that to a cow he didn’t like; he would step back, charge, and ram her side, launching her in the air 10 feet away! Bullying resolves itself and isn’t a significant problem, but don’t be surprised if you witness this.

Finally, and something of a side note, pigs, sheep, and goats can be used in border and woodlot areas to reduce fuel loads, which, in turn, reduce wildfire risk. I don’t have to stress how important this benefit would be if the SHTF. For us, the primary goal was to end up with more grass so that we can graze more cattle, and multi-species livestock management helped significantly to achieve this. However, there was always the risk that animals may re-graze their favorite plants, so a specific management tool was required to prevent this.

Rotational Grazing

Rotational grazing is simply moving the animals from one paddock to another to allow the previously grazed paddock to recover. In that way, the grazed plants, such as the clover, can grow sufficiently until it can be grazed again. The time for this rest varies greatly, depending on local climatic conditions, time of the year, and forage in question but is often anywhere from three weeks to two months. Very intensive rotational grazing, or mob grazing, is when a large number of animals are put in a small paddock for a very brief period of time (hours). While this can be an effective tool today, you will unlikely practice such an intensive method in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

In our model, we have a four-strand, high-tensile electric fence around the perimeter of the grazing land, powered by a solar fence charger. This is a permanent fence with metal T-posts that is supported on the corners with six-inch wood posts. We find that the easiest way to rotationally graze the animals without having permanent paddocks is to strip graze. We achieve this by using plastic step-in posts that section off a slim strip of the paddock. When that paddock has been grazed 75%, we move the herd into the next strip and allow the previous section to recover.

Unfortunately, as many readers may realize, parasites are a significant and ongoing concern with sheep and goats. Regardless of the livestock species, worm eggs are deposited in the animal’s manure, which then incubates the egg until it hatches. If the species that deposited the manure is allowed to graze nearby when it hatches, it will ingest the parasite. Repeated exposure of this kind will result in a build-up of parasites. Rotational grazing is also a very effective method of parasite control, since animals are moved away from their manure deposits, which incubate their species-specific parasites. Further, when they return to graze, the plant growth will be taller and since parasites tend to stay on the lower parts of the plant, the risk of parasite contraction is further reduced. This will become a critical issue in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, as dewormers and parasite controls will be not only cost-prohibitive but likely unavailable. Even if they are available, if you procure them, you inadvertently advertise that you have the animals, which may not be wise. Instead, choose animals that have some resistance to parasites, such as Katahdin sheep, and practice rotational grazing.

One alternative to rotational grazing for parasite control is the leader-follower method. In this model, species are grazed separately in paddocks and follow one another to clean up what the previous species chose to not graze without any fear of parasite contraction. We do not prefer this model, because it is more time and labor consuming, and it requires more fencing. Some do prefer it, however, and it can be an effective tool.

I would like to stress that this concept of rotational grazing is VERY important if you hope to:

  1. maximize production on your land,
  2. improve grass coverage, and
  3. control parasites.

Failure to use this management tool will likely result in an ever-increasing population of weeds and browse, which may be fine if you hope to raise only goats and sheep, but meat production per acre will be significantly reduced, as you will not be able to graze as many cows and you will definitely experience livestock loss due to parasite load.

Fencing, Protection, and Operational Security

Maintaining control of your livestock is critical, both now and in a TEOTWAWKI environment. Frankly, keeping cows contained is pretty straightforward and can often be achieved with a single strand electric fence. Sheep and goats, on the other hand, are notorious for performing escape acts worthy of a Houdini award. If you’re fortunate enough to have a field fence (or woven wire) around your property, that will certainly suffice to keep your livestock in and most predators out. However, most woven wire is 4” x 6” or thereabouts, meaning that goats can easily stick their heads through, get caught by the horns, and become a coyote’s drive-by fast food meal. Of course, you can dehorn goats to eliminate this threat, but it doesn’t change the fact that field fencing is more expensive and not suitable to some terrain.

Goats and sheep can be confined with electric fencing, particularly with electrified netting, but this is not only laborious, it is difficult to maintain a high electric charge with a solar charge on the netting. Moreover, in some areas (such as ours), it is VERY difficult to get electric netting posts into the hard ground when summer rains are scarce. The result is many broken posts.

Another approach is to use six to eight strands of high tensile to confine goats and sheep, and this works if the fence is maintained, but the model we arrived at is much simpler and less expensive. After two seasons of fighting a losing battle with the sheep breaking out in a leader-follower system, we simply put them in a permanent herd with cows, goats, and donkeys. It took a short period of time, but the result was that the mixed clan became a single herd that relied on each other. Goats and sheep often played the role of an early warning system and retreated to the herd to present a formidable challenge to any would-be predator. As a result, while the sheep and goats sometimes venture a little ways off, it is only that…a little ways. At the sign of any trouble, they retreat to the herd with the larger cows. In the end, we found that the fencing wasn’t the solution; the herd mentality was. Getting the sheep and goats to be part of the cow herd solved this problem and is another reason we prefer rotational grazing to the leader-follower model.

Of course, an additional livestock protection tool is livestock guardian dogs (LGD’s), such as Great Pyrenees or Anatolian Shepherds. Many homesteaders use this approach, and these indeed normally keep coyotes and other predators away. However, they should be used with caution in a TEOTWAWKI situation, as their greatest weapon (constant night barking) will surely call attention to your retreat. Now, this could also be desirable if you want the menacing growl of the LGD’s to deter invaders, but if that is your aim you may be better off with a German Shepherd or the like just inside your yard or house. To our way of thinking, we’d like to preserve operational security (OPSEC) by keeping animals protected AND quiet. To achieve this, we use donkeys as very effective guardian animals, instead of dogs. They are part of the herd, just like all the others, and our two donkeys often stand quietly facing opposite directions, ready to stomp any invader. Also, unlike LGD’s, donkeys are inexpensive (sometimes free on Craigslist) to purchase and FREE to feed!

As you may have noticed, we also think quite a bit about the best way to keep our herd quiet to preserve OPSEC. An obvious way is to not have noisy animals, such as roosters, as part of the mix. The same is true with bulls, who will call for the cows, unless you keep the bull as a permanent part of the herd, but this may increase your risk as you will need to be careful around bulls. Still, another consideration regarding noise level is how the animals are fed. One of the reasons we so love sheep, goats, donkeys and cows is that they can freely harvest their own feed and pay us back with protection, protein, and pelts. Simply match the species to the environment, and let them do their thing. With pigs, however, you may want or need to give them supplemental feed, unless you have A) a breed of pig that is nearly feral and B) lots of land for them to roam. If you do choose to feed them, I recommend hand feeding daily in a trough and not using a metal feeder with a flap lid. Those metal feeders produce a loud and unmistakable noise that will be heard far away as the pigs clank the lid up and down through the day and night, calling attention to your bacon on the hoof.

You’ll achieve these goals of protection and OPSEC by allowing the herd to bond together, protecting them with quiet but alert guardians, eliminating inherently noisy animals, and not feeding them in a noisy manner.

Recommendations to Get Started

In closing, let me offer a couple of thoughts if you’re just starting out with grazing. Of course these are just ideas, as every situation, parcel, climate, and budget is different, but hopefully this will help get you started.

  1. Choose breeds that require little labor. For example, wool sheep require shearing, but hair sheep (such as Katahdin) do not. Also, ensure rocks are available for sheep and goats, so that you do not have to trim their hooves. In our case, we have never trimmed animal’s hooves, giving them the environment to do it naturally themselves.
  2. Choose breeds that fit the environment for your retreat, i.e. no Scottish Highland cows in south Texas.
  3. Choose parasite-resistant breeds.
  4. If you supplement with minerals, take care to choose low copper minerals for all, as sheep are more sensitive to copper than cows.
  5. Finally, in terms of stocking amounts, here are some recommendations for our neck of the woods, in the southeast U.S., though recommendations may be VERY different in your region:
    • PER each three acres of pasture/forbs/browse – one cow, one calf, two goats, one sheep, ten chickens in movable henhouses (no roosters), two turkeys. So, for nine acres, we would have three cows, three calves, three sheep, six goats, 30 chickens, six turkeys.
    • Wooded areas – six pigs per acre, moved monthly to new paddock, confined by solar-charged electric fence and fed by hand. For smaller herds of one or two pigs, try to locate adjacent to the garden for A) ease of feeding waste and B) monitoring.

I hope this has been a helpful introduction into multi-species livestock grazing. The aim is for you to not only survive a TEOTWAWKI scenario but to thrive. Producing an endless supply of organic fats and complete proteins will help you and your loved ones to achieve that goal.

Letter: Ebola and Hajj

Last year more than two million Muslims from all over the world performed hajj, or travel to Mecca, to participate in the Muslim rituals there. People are in close contact, often shoulder to shoulder and even stepping on each other, for several days as they go through several rituals of hajj. When the hajj is over, these people return to their homes in dozens of countries across the globe.

This year 70,000 Nigerians will travel to Mecca, despite that country having more than a dozen confirmed cases of Ebola Zaire, with over 300 suspected of exposure to the deadly virus.

Saudi Arabia insists they have taken the necessary precautions to prevent any problems with Ebola. Yeah, right. I lived in Saudi Arabia for two years, and while their medical care is far better than West Africa, that’s only because they hire European and American doctors and nurses to staff their hospitals and clinics. Left to themselves, the Saudis are not much better than West African society, when it comes to healthy habits. (Just go out into the desert and attend a “goat grab”– a feast with goat and huge mounds of rice as the main course; it’s great food but lousy hygiene.) In the downtown markets, they’ll hang a steel or aluminum cup on a chain at the water fountain, and almost everyone who drinks at the fountain uses the cup. No one washes or sanitizes it.

So, think about 70,000 people from a country with an emerging Ebola crisis traveling to a place where millions of people are concentrated into a few square miles, for days. If even a handful of those 70,000 Nigerians have been exposed to Ebola, they’ll be eating, sleeping, and walking around the Kaaba stone with all these people, and when it’s all over, potentially hundreds or even thousands of people exposed to the Ebola virus then board planes and travel back to their homes in countries all over the world, many if not most before any Ebola symptoms begin to show.

The possibilities make Hollywood movies, like Outbreak and Contagion, look miniscule by comparison. This graphic shows the hajj ritual, which includes a lot of “rubbing elbows” with the other hajjis.

Now, having said all that, having lived and traveled in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, I believe that our American health care system is still one of the best in the world (even after Obamacare), and we’d have the best chance of any nation in containing Ebola once it reaches our shores. Still, the entirely possible scenario I just outlined could overwhelm even a robust healthcare system like ours.

There’s lots of information on the Internet about Ebola, how to prevent transmission, sanitization, and so forth; just use any search engine. The same information can be used to prepare for virtually any pandemic; Ebola has the headlines now but so does a mystery respiratory virus spreading across the U.S. from which I just recently recovered. The CDC’s website has lots of excellent information about pandemic preparedness; for very deadly things, like Ebola, just assume they’re low-balling the numbers, when it comes to infectiousness and transmissibility. (We can’t go telling the real truth and scaring the public now, can we?)

It could be that this all blows over (I almost said “dies out”, but that would be grossly inappropriate) in a few or several months and never reaches the U.S. I hope and pray that’s true. However, if it does reach the U.S., be informed and prepared; it’s not hard and not that expensive. If you do, you’ll be ahead of 99.9% of the rest of the country who’ve been too busy watching the latest reality show or glued to their smart phones.

Last and most importantly, if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, there’s not a better time than now to get spiritually ready, while you consider what you’ll do to prepare for a pandemic, be it Ebola or influenza or any number of bugs that will make you sick, or dead. Don’t wait. Do it now. God doesn’t promise us another breath.

Of course death as a Christian isn’t a bad thing, but I’d much rather make the journey from something other than Ebola. Come to think of it, dying in my sleep and waking up in heaven sounds far better!

Maranatha… – A Prepared Dad near Denver

Odds ‘n Sods:

Ol’ Remus at WoodpileReport.com noted: “In the dull light of the woods, crisp new cammies are easier to spot than the somewhat faded cammies typical of military surplus. And Flecktarn may be slightly less visible than Woodland.” JWR Adds: But be careful not to buy any camouflage uniforms that have ever been starched, since that makes them reflective to infrared (IR.) And likewise, it is best to launder your field clothing with a mild detergent such as Woolite, since using a detergent with any “whitening” or “brightening” will make you stand out quite noticeably to users of FLIRs and night vision equipment.

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Mac Slavo of the excellent SHTFPlan blog just re-posted a great piece from the Alt-Market blog: When War Erupts Patriots Will Be Accused Of Aiding “The Enemy“. It is some thought-provoking reading. – JWR

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Krayton Kerns: Opening Day

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Racial, Ethnic Disclosure Rules Anger Gun Advocates. – H.L.

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New data center protects against solar storms and nuclear EMPs. – G.G.

Hugh’s Quote of the Day:

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government…” – Declaration of Independence, 1776

Notes for Wednesday – September 17, 2014

Today, September 17th, we celebrate Constitution Day in these United States.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 54 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,100+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hardcase to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel which can be assembled in less then 1 minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouseis providing 30 DMPS AR-15 .223/5.56 30 Round Gray Mil Spec w/ Magpul Follower Magazines (a value of $448.95) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $300 gift certificate from CJL Enterprize, for any of their military surplus gear,
  7. A 9-Tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator from Safecastle.com (a $300 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. A roll of $10 face value in pre-1965 U.S. 90% silver quarters, courtesy of GoldAndSilverOnline.com, (currently valued at around $180 postpaid),
  11. Both VPN tunnel and DigitalSafe annual subscriptions from Privacy Abroad (a combined value of $195),
  12. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  13. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate.

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Instituteis donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. $300 worth of ammo from Patriot Firearms and Munitions. (They also offer a 10% discount for all SurvivalBlog readers with coupon code SVB10P),
  6. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  7. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  8. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value),
  9. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate,
  10. Organized Prepper is providing a $500 gift certificate, and
  11. RepackBoxis providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. Ambra Le Roy Medical Products in North Carolina is donating a bundle of their traditional wound care and first aid supplies, with a value of $208, and
  7. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit, and
  8. SurvivalBased.com is donating a $500 gift certificate to their store.
  9. Montie Gearis donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack. (a $379 value).

Round 54 ends on September 30st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Two Forever Foods, by Northern Forager

Disclaimer: The author and SurvivalBlog take no responsibility for the information or use of information resulting in or from the following article. This article is intended for informational purposes only.

There is a world of food that exists outside of the supermarket– types of food that people who only get their food from stores never see or learn about. In my effort of sustainable and self-reliant living, I have become an advocate and convert to the idea of eating local plants in the area where I live, even to the point of eating “weeds”. Doing the same will greatly improve your food security, but it may earn you some stares from neighbors. Dandelions are the quintessential weed to eat; they are easy to identify and grow almost anywhere. Although dandelions are common and nutritious, they have few calories and cannot make the mainstay of a meal. So, I set out searching for other common “weeds” that could supply the daily caloric intake people need.

After all, what is a weed, except a plant that grows well in adverse conditions? Traits like these– hardiness and reliability– are exactly what is desired in a food source. A crop that needs no care and still produces food is to be desired above all others! So, I chose to eat the weeds. I personally prefer to plant them myself in my yard and garden. This removes the controversy over foraging, which has resulted in arrests in some instances, and it improves their quality. However, I have also, on occasion, harvested “wild” weeds from areas I know are free of pesticide and herbicide use and where it is legal to do so.

Discerning which plants are useful as food can be a tricky business, similar to picking mushrooms. There are some plants that look strikingly similar to noxious or poisonous plants. Another important consideration is to learn and use the Latin names of plants. Many plants have the same or similar “common names”, but each will have a unique Latin name. I deliberately began my quest by choosing plants that are easily identifiable and have no known poisonous lookalikes.

The following plants fit the bill admirably, providing complex carbohydrates, edible oils, and protein in quantity:

Tragopogon Pratensis

(Also known as Goat’s Beard, Showy Goat’s Beard, Meadow Salsify, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon)

Growing profusely outside my back door, the bright yellow, dandelion-like flowers are easily identified. These flowers open in the morning and close up in the afternoon, lending to the name “Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon”. Later in the summer, the fluffy seed heads pop out almost daily. The flowers are also, reportedly, an accurate predictor of rain, closing up whenever rain is on the way. This may be an old wives tale, and the flowers close around noon anyway, so any use as a weather forecaster would be limited, even if true.

With the plant being very common, easily identifiable, self seeding, and the whole of the plant being edible, Tragopogon pratensis stands out as an excellent food crop. Tragopogon pratensis is one of the few weeds that produces an edible, starchy, and good tasting tap root. Wild plants in marginal soil conditions produce smaller roots than cultivated plants but do not require the added input of gardening effort.

The plants go to seed in the mid-summer, usually from July to August, but this is sometimes dependent on the climate you are in and your localized weather conditions. Seeds can be planted any time of year but naturally overwinter well in the soil and germinate in the spring.

The tubers themselves resemble small white carrots in structure, although they are smaller than normal supermarket carrots. They are easily harvested by pulling them up from the base of the plant in good soil. However, when harvesting wild plants, a weed puller or small shovel is useful to break compacted soil. I usually wait until after a rain fall, which loosens and softens the soil, to make for easy harvesting, or I use a weeding tool from the hardware store. The roots have been compared in flavor to a cross between parsnips and sweet potatoes, and the plants that are cultivated with intentional watering and good soil can produce fairly large roots in a season. Depending on the plant, tubers can get quite stringy– sometimes it seems like they are all string– but even if you boil a pot and find that they are too stringy to chew, you can scrape the starch out with a dull edge (like a butter knife) and make a tasty mashed potato-style dish.

The rest of the plants can also be eaten, beginning with the young shoots and leaves, which can be eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. While it is possible to eat the entire plant raw (useful in an emergency), they taste better and are less tough when cooked. You can steam or fry the leaves in butter, and chop them up into smaller pieces before cooking, if you find them stringy and fibrous.

They grow well in marginal terrain, such as gravelly slopes, hillsides, and ditches. When collecting wild plants, I am always careful of areas that may have been sprayed with herbicides and insecticides, such as rail yards and roadsides. The plants can be harvested at any time of the year but will be largest and have the biggest tubers in the autumn, after a full season of growing. Tragopogon pratensis roots can be stored in a root cellar or similar structure the same way that you store carrots. If you keep the soil or sand at a constant humidity, they will remain firm throughout winter. Roots can even be replanted in the spring to get a jump on growth, if desired. Another possibility is to keep a few plants indoors as houseplants, and harvest the greens throughout the winter as desired.

Each plant produces just one tuber, similar to carrots and parsnips, so if you are harvesting the tubers, or plan to do so in the future, planting numerous plants is your best bet. I personally plant quite a few, since although they are present in the wild, the numbers of plants growing naturally is not enough to be viable food source (though it would make a good supplement). Did I mention that they require virtually no care? You don’t even need to weed them; they are the weed! A big patch of Tragopogon pratensis in bloom is a beautiful thing.

Caragana Arborescens

(Also known as Siberian Pea Tree, Siberian Peashrub)

The Caragana is a large deciduous shrub (the leaves fall in the winter) that can grow to heights of up to nineteen feet and have a base of up to thirteen feet in diameter. It has yellow flowers that appear in the spring, usually from May to June, and goes to seed in the fall from August to September. The shrub resembles a willow in structure, with many shoots and stems, some of which can get rather larger, protruding from a single rootstock. The plant is hardy from zones 2 to 7 and can survive in most of the climate zones in North America. It has been naturalized in Europe, North America, and Australia for many years, the settlers having had used it for shelter belts because of its excellent growth rates and dense understory.

In my opinion, the Caragana is one of the best producers of wild, perpetual food in the nation, especially for northern latitudes and continental climates. There is no other temperate tree or shrub that compares with its hardiness, production, and low maintenance. Nuts have high protein and oil content, similar to Caragana seeds, but they require high levels of watering and (for the most part) a mild climate hardiness zone. Meanwhile, the Caragana shrub is drought tolerant and produces similar yearly harvests that are high in protein and oil content. Beans can have similar nutritional value as Caragana seeds, but require planting and gardening effort every single year that Caraganas do not. Furthermore, and most notably for those who live in temperate climates, the Caragana is hardy to planting zones from 2 through 7 and thrives in cold climates, even surviving winters where temperatures drop to 40 below! The flowers are also edible and can be added to salads or other dishes; they are good in pancakes.

Plant once, harvest forever.

Because the Caragana is a long-living shrub, the seeds can be harvested yearly, like a fruit or nut, and it requires only trimming to keep growth in check. The seed pods resemble a small pea pod, with around two to six seeds inside each pod. Caragana seed pods “pop” open as they mature and dry, with a characteristic snap that sounds like a bowl of puffed rice cereal. If you ever walk past or sit near a Caragana bush in late August or early September, the sounds of bursting pods is easily recognized. This feature makes harvesting even easier. You can pick the seeds before they burst and then dry them, upon which time they will pop open and the seeds fall out; there is no shelling required! Or you can lay a sheet or tarp below the bushes and collect the seeds as they burst from the pods on the branch. Harvesting them before the pods burst allows more control over quality, since you only get the seeds from the pods you pick and no additional droppings from other plants or animals, such as birds. When I dry them, I lay them on a sheet in the sun with a second sheet on top, as the seeds otherwise would travel several yards when the pods pop open. I leave them this way until the pods burst, and then I separate the dry pods from the seeds by sifting them or letting the pods blow like chaff in the wind. The seeds resemble a lentil in size, though they look more like a bean, and can be cooked similarly to whole lentils.

The final appreciation for the Caragana is the fact that they are nitrogen fixers, meaning that like peas and beans, they take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to solid state nitrogen that acts as a fertilizer for the soil. This is the main reasons that Caraganas can thrive in poor soils. If growers are looking for middle level cover for food forests or forest gardens, the Caragana can fit the bill admirably, and provide years of food from a single planting.

The one caveat regarding Caraganas is that some areas in North America are beginning to list Caragana shrubs as invasive species– a proposition which is a little overblown in my opinion. Caraganas have been planted as shelterbelts across the plains for well over a hundred of years, and while they do spread they certainly have not overrun the nation. The main reason they are considered for nomination to be included as invasive species is because once large Caragana patches are established, they can be difficult to remove. They also tend towards monoculture; their natural patches are close knit and prevent other low-level species or saplings from becoming established. Large areas of Caragana can be burned, which is the best method for total eradication; smaller plots can be plowed over, which is the traditional method, or killed with herbicide– my least favorite option. Cutting them back is an option as well, for small scale plot management.

However, the ancient shelterbelts, planted by homesteaders and settlers, remain largely where they were planted without major expansions, so I personally feel that the idea of Caragana’s taking over a forest is a great leap in logic and an unfounded concern. I prefer to have single plants interspersed with other ground-level forbes (leafy ground cover) and high upper-story food producers, such as fruit and nut trees, to take advantage of the nitrogen-fixing properties of the Caragana and increase the growth of food-producing plants surrounding them. Still, I feel the above concerns bear mentioning. Personally, the qualities for which governments are considering listing it as invasive are the very qualities that make it such a great food source– namely, its tenacity and ability to thrive in harsh conditions with no human input.

Another unique use for Caragana that readers who raise chickens may care to take note of is as a staple bird food; being high in protein, it makes an excellent food source for chicken and game birds. It has been successful in promoting wild grouse and pheasant populations, providing both food and cover for those species. It’s thick and tangled nature makes it an effective hedgerow, which can be improved even more by weaving and intertwining young shoots together, which then grow thick and strong in a uniform living wall– a natural fence for farms and homesteads.

Caraganas can be most simply and easily planted by scattering seeds around on the ground and scraping a light dirt cover over them. The young plants, like most young plants, require sufficient water, so planting during a rainy time of the year (spring where I live) gives better results than other times of year. They can also be germinated indoors and then transplanted outdoors when they are one to two inches tall. I have had the best success with planting this way, although it is more labor intensive than just throwing seeds about.

There are “old wives tales” that Caraganas are toxic; not only has this been shown to be false by several studies, but the seeds have been shown to be completely edible and contain 12.4% fatty oils and up to 36% protein (Meng et al., 2009). Most people credit North American stories of inedibility to the fact that the Caragana is avoided by North American ungulates (ie. deer) and livestock, and I tend to agree with this assessment. Deer also avoid eating canola that is drying in the field. With caraganas having similar seed pods that are pokey and sharp, the physical structure of the plant may be more of a deterrent than the chemical make-up. Eating sharp pokey pods is not pleasant.

If you do choose to look into foraging for these two species– caragana arborescens and tragogpogon pratensis– instead of planting them yourself, their designation as “weeds” may be of benefit to you. In the city where I live, people are encouraged to remove “invasive” species when they are found on public lands. This is a bit of a grey area, but it may be worth looking into for readers where foraging restrictions are in place.

If you do not have either of these species around the area you live, there are suppliers online, although they are few and far between. Seeds are available from online suppliers and auction sites (like eBay). Some government farm improvement agencies will provide Caragana plants free of charge for use as shelter belts and windbreaks for farmers, although the programs like this in my area have recently been canceled. Tragopogon pratensis is a little harder to source, but seeds can be found from online suppliers with a little effort.

In general, newer seeds from recent harvests have better germination rates and are desirable over older stock. A small plot of hardy, edible, high calorie weeds can be started from a few dollars worth of seeds and can provide a source of perpetual, low effort food in years to come. There are many, many other plants that are useful as food and require little to no effort to grow, but these two are a couple of the few that can thrive in almost any climate in North America and produce enough calories to be a significant source of food. So get planting!

References:

Plants for a Future: Tragopogon pratensis (http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Tragopogon+pratensis)

Plants for a Future: Caragana arborescens (http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Caragana+arborescens)

Meng QX Niu Y, Niu XW, Roubin RH, Hanrahan JR (2009). Ethnobotany, phytochemistry and pharmacology of the genus Caragana used in traditional Chinese medicine. J. of Ethnopharmacol., 124(3): 350-368.

Katelyn B. Shortt and Steven M. Vamosi (2010). A review of the biology of the weedy Siberian peashrub, Caragana arborescens, with an emphasis on its potential effects in North America (2010). Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada (Retrieved June 2014 from http://ejournal.sinica.edu.tw/bbas/content/2012/1/Bot531-01.pdf)

Letter Re: What Retail Might Look Like at TEOTWAWKI

Dear Sir,

I feel like I have some insight to add to Jacob’s post about what retail may look like post disaster. I manage a warehouse for a DSD (direct store delivery) company. Here’s just a little bit of insight into what that is, since not everyone knows how stores get their merchandise: Many items are not stocked by the stores themselves. They never go through their own distribution network. Instead, companies (bread, snacks, soda, beer, pizza, et cetera) manage their own distribution and have their own trucks go to the store. We handle our own product from raw materials all the way to placing it on the shelves at retail.

I have a feel for how things will start to run out on the shelves, once people start panic buying and/or the distribution system starts breaking down. I have learned this over the course of a couple of blizzards or when there have been minor trucking issues that end up throwing the system out of rhythm.

There are many similar items stocked in a major grocery store. Let’s use milk as an example. (I do not deal with milk at work; it just seems like a good fit for this scenario.) Think of the different brands of milk. Then think of the different fat contents (skim, 1%, and so forth). Now think of the different sizes of containers (gallon, half gallon, and quart). These are all basically interchangeable, but people have their preference. Once their first choice is gone, they can easily switch to the next best thing for them. If they normally buy a gallon of 2% milk but that is unavailable, they will simply buy the half gallon size. Here is where the problem starts. With the short supply (or even perceived short supply) instead of buying two half gallons, they will most likely buy three or more, just to be sure they don’t run out. This puts a lot of pressure on the other sizes and styles of the item. Something that normally has a small sales volume suddenly has a huge amount of demand with little supply to support it. These secondary items will run out quickly, as they are not stocked in any kind of volume. Then the consumer has to start looking farther away from the item they originally wanted. Maybe the whole and skim milk, then things like rice or almond milk that have only a few units in the store at a time. After that juices, soda, and other items will go. It is amazing the different things that will sell, once a main item runs out. Something I have discussed with fellow warehouse managers that we all are amazed by is this phenomena “When you run out of something, you run out of EVERYTHING”.

Another thing to point out is the amount of time it takes to get back on track following a disruption in supply. Take a blizzard that shuts down a distribution center for a day. The way things work is that shipments are coming in constantly, but they are timed so that basically only the items projected to be necessary are delivered. There are not warehouses full of every item imaginable that can just be run out to a store. Now a blizzard not only shuts down the warehouse and its delivery vehicles, but it shuts down the trucking that supplies the warehouse itself. When the trucks do start moving they are going to be late and sometimes out of sequence. So, items that aren’t needed are coming in, and items that are needed are sitting in a yard somewhere waiting for a driver. The last time this happened to me, it took a full week for things to get caught up and for me to actually be able to supply the customers properly. That isn’t to say there was nothing available, but it was not the right items at the right time. It was a week’s worth of issues caused by a blizzard that didn’t even hit our state. It just shut down the transportation system. Now imagine if something serious hit. Stores would be wiped out, and resupply would be spotty at best.

Also, in a real disaster there is a very good chance that many delivery trucks simply won’t go out. There could be inventory sitting in warehouses that has no one willing or able to move it to the stores. Or there may only be certain routes that go out, so supply can be limited to certain stores, even though there is product enough to supply all of them.

A final thing I want to address is the amount (or lack thereof) of inventory waiting to fill shelves. Gone are the days of stores having big back rooms full of product waiting to be stocked. Our trucks go out to the same stores every day. Depending on the volume of the store being serviced, they can get deliveries as often as every day (or even twice a day in special circumstances). The entire inventory of the stores is contained on the shelves of the sales floor (with maybe a tiny amount of back stock composed of partial cases that wouldn’t fit on the shelves, or a few extra cases of fast-moving items that will be worked on days that there isn’t a delivery). Because inventory dollars are dollars that can’t be used for other things, there isn’t a big supply of this product farther along the supply chain either. We try to keep our supply at less than eight days worth. That is a deceptive number though, as some items move very slowly and need decent sized minimum orders, so they may have a few weeks worth on hand. The faster moving items (the things people actually want) can have two or three days of supply on hand at any given time. A big spike in demand, due to a disaster, will wipe that out VERY quickly.

Due to the nature of business and that no company wants to tie up dollars with “just in case” inventory, it really is up to the consumer to make sure they have the items they need in their homes before something happens. You cannot rely on stores having what you need once the panic buying has started. – Dave