Food Storage & Cooking Category

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Disclaimer: I am not a "medical professional", and this article is not to be considered "medical advice."

"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." Isaiah 40:29

Healthy Living is Hard Work! We, Americans, have been increasingly dependent on other people for our welfare, food, and lifestyles for a couple of generations. A company far away provides electricity to illuminate and heat our homes, pump our wells, or run the security system. City dwellers get their essential of life– water– from a city-owned pump facility. Most of us get the majority of our food from businesses called grocery stores. Everyday health maintenance is purchased from a health food or drug store business in the form of pills or elixirs. Our Creator never intended for us to be so dependent on others that if something were to happen to our suppliers or our income, we'd be dangerously vulnerable to things like famine, illness, or homelessness. Food is the biggest expense in the household, next to the mortgage or rent. If our food doesn't keep us healthy, our bodies aren't properly nourished. Therefore, we'll spend even more money on healthcare. There are many money-saving skills we can employ to maintain good health that Americans have forgotten to pass on to their children and grandchildren in the last few generations. Thankfully, that trend is beginning to change with increasing speed as many are turning to "prepping," taking time with our elders, and learning traditional skills. I hope to pique your interest in learning more of those valuable things.

First, You Are What You Eat: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." Genesis 1:29. The current American idea of what healthiness is tends to be distorted largely by the vast number of businesses manufacturing products made for health-conscious consumers. Skilled advertising makes these items look like what we think we need. Unfortunately, the average American eats only a handful of natural and plant-sourced foods. There are thousands of nutritious, natural foods having more nutrition that are available and that would provide a greater nutrient base for healthy bodies. In recent years, trends have begun to change as more folks discover natural lifestyles and traditional food practices. The Internet has connected people in the sharing of knowledge more than the inventor of the printing press could have ever imagined.

In most other countries you would be hard-pressed to find breakfast cereal in a brightly colored box or cake mixes and "Egg Replacer". For some examples, the French tend to think we're crazy about our idea of what tastes good or is good for us. They pride themselves in making everything from scratch in the kitchen and taking time to have proper meals and savor them by eating slowly. In Thailand, they rarely take a pill for anything. They instead use herbal preparations and teas. In parts of the Russian countryside, one is considered ignorant if there isn't an ample supply of garlic for cooking and medicinal use in the home. Many Russian families have crocks of lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, and beverages (like Kvass) fermenting in cool corners of their homes. Recently, many American commercial seeds are scientifically modified in a genetics lab for large-scale factory farming to endure pesticide chemicals or make non-viable seed. This not only influences other nearby plants but also meats and dairy. These designer life forms are called "Genetically Modified Organisms" or (G.M.O.s), which become things that are nothing like what God originally created. GMO foods are not very nutritious because they're grown in industrially damaged soils, and most carry varying amounts of toxins as GMO foods always require some kind of chemical maintenance while growing. They are hard to digest, and toxins are released into our bodies in the process. A majority of food products on store shelves these days are made from GMO wheat flour, soy, or corn. Some of us older people remember Jack LaLanne who started the fitness culture and invented many of the exercise machines we are familiar with. He said, "The more things you do to help your health, the more you'll be able to do. That is why a lot of people are sick and tired." Jack lived an active healthy life to the age of 96. He also advocated natural foods. Many current health advisors teach that exercise, natural meats, raw naturally raised dairy, organic produce, and medicinal herbs as the best choices to recover and maintain true health. I want to grow old like Jack! (

Naturally-raised, whole grains are basic nutrition sources in most cultures, with the exception being Asia's preference for white rice. The colorful outer coverings on them contain nourishing vitamins, minerals, and fats. Grains that have had the germ removed and bleached, like our common white bromated baking flour, are stripped of the vitamins and fatty acids contained in those coverings, leaving the carbohydrates with some gluten proteins for fluff. Natural sugar cane sap is brown and full of minerals and essential fatty acids. In the factory it is spun in a centrifuge so that minerals and fatty acids are removed in the form of molasses. The resulting lightly amber liquid is dried to become turbinado sugar. It is then baked at high heat to bleach it and evaporate the so-called impurities out and further ground to become the white table sugar we are familiar with. White sugar is a substance now shown in many medical studies to be just as addictive as cocaine. Bleached grains are addictive as well. If you don't believe me, do a two week fast of sugar and white flour foods, but warn your family first. Corn syrup and high-fructose-corn syrup, the later being 30 times sweeter than regular white sugar, can only be produced at the factory level with powerful machine processes. These corn products are so addictive that some health professionals say eliminating them from a person's diet causes withdrawal symptoms similar to those addicted to street drugs. (Think cocaine.) Alternatively, an extremely valuable sweetener is raw honey. Grocery store honey is usually pasteurized and filtered, making it just as bad as white sugar. Raw honey from a neighborhood beekeeper is nutritious, antibiotic, and anti-fungal with enzymes that support and help digestion. You can put it in cuts or burns, and it will help heal, not harm. It's also an immune booster. Note that it is not good for children under one year old.

Speaking of pasteurizing, our family has been using unpasteurized milk, cream, cheeses, and butter for the last 10 years. We buy our dairy from a local farmer who only grazes his cows, does not inject them with "rBght" (a synthetic hormone), and only supplements their diet with herbs. Unpasteurized, pastured dairy is a versatile healing food. Pasteurized milk, on the other hand, is an enigma, causing allergic reactions in many people who are regularly misdiagnosed. Conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, asthma, frequent ear infections, and recurrent tonsillitis or frequent diarrhea are a few symptoms of dairy allergy. There is more to the story of why milk is pasteurized than we were led to believe. You can read about it in the book called "The Untold Story of Milk" by Ron Schmid, N.D.

Naturally-raised food has lots of vitamins and minerals; industrial food does not. Pill type vitamins and minerals are so expensive they have become a multi-billion dollar industry in this country. While they can be a quick way to begin restoring health for you and your family, you must be careful with them. Most cheap vitamins aren't digestible (or only partially so) and contain cheap fillers and ingredients, which our bodies can't process. Look for vitamins that have plants as the main sourced ingredients or have "plant sourced" on the label. Avoid those containing Methylcellulose, names with "-dexter-" (corn) or petrolatum in the ingredient list. Many use binders made from coal, GMO corn, and fuel oil. Why spend all that money on vitamins you'll end up not digesting and flushing down the toilet? The Internet is a great tool for research.

A Little on Beverages: Clean water is essential to life. Your body is 60% water. The body makes a quart of fresh saliva daily. That's why you swallow spit between meals. Saliva is the main ingredient for all the other body fluids. This includes blood plasma and various other fluids and lubricants, which it helps manufacture fresh every few days. Sodas, bottled fruit juices, and sugary beverages like Kool-Aid interfere with this production process, the immune system, and also liver and kidney functions. Protect your kidneys and liver! Their main jobs are to eliminate toxins from the body and support your other body functions. Filtered water that is slightly mineralized is your best beverage. If you have city water, filter it as much as possible. City water with fluoride is awful for the body. In nature it occurs as calcium-fluoride, but what is used in public water processing is sodium fluoride– an extremely toxic mix of hexafluorosilicic acid and sodium silicofluoride, which is a by-product of processing aluminum ore. Ingesting sodium-fluoride dulls and suppresses nerve and brain function and the immune system. Filters to remove fluoride and other toxins are available from these vendors:, "Table salt" is refined sodium (Na) mixed with cornstarch and sugar to keep the sodium from exploding when put into water. Unrefined mined salt, sodium chloride (NaCl a.k.a. "real salt"), already has iodine and minerals that your body wants, and it won't explode in water either. Your body uses sodium-chloride and water to make saliva. See how they go together?

Natural beverages we can enjoy that support health are: herbal teas; unflavored fresh roasted coffee; white, green, and black teas; lacto-fermented beverages; raw vinegar; and naturally fermented wines and beers, on occasion. Get to know these quality beverages, and add some to your life.

Here's the Battle– Real food vs. Faux Food: People in most other cultures make meals from scratch, which is cost effective, more physically satisfying, and healthier. Packaged industrial foods leave you feeling hungry, due to a lack of nutrients. So, you feel the need for more "helpings" and buy much more of them to satisfy. Then you gain weight, because your body is still craving nutrients and not receiving what it needs, and so you eat more. What about all that hype over eating fat? Actually, nutritious healthy fats keep you thin! The body burns fat as fuel. Good fats are olive oil, natural butters, cream, coconut and palm oil, lard, tallow, egg yolks, avocado, and more. If it is a fat that comes from a natural source that God made, minimally processed and unadulterated by man, it is a good fat. Your body breaks these down easily and uses them in many ways, like making fuel for tissues, joint lubricants, or cholesterol, which is the primary food for brain and nerve tissue. Yes, your body needs cholesterol! The fad-food called "canola" oil is a GMO, originally designed to be engine lubricant in WWII aircraft but is now marketed as healthy cooking oil. It's actually a tissue irritant and can cause various forms of inflammation. "Crisco" style shortening is a hydrogenated flax oil (linseed). The recipe was originally intended to be a replacement for candle wax in WWI. It starts to burn at 107F. When does a human body get that hot? This, too, becomes a tissue irritant in the body. Margarine was developed by a French scientist to replace butter for their troops in WWII. It was considered unfit for human consumption and trashed. Some American thought it was a great idea and marketed it as healthy.

If your body is getting enough healthy fats, you don't gain excess weight. If your body is getting too many carbohydrates and sugars, you will get fat. Consider what the typical farmers do to prepare animals for market. The general practice is for cattle to be fed lots of grain for three months or so to gain weight, which increases profit when the animal is sold and increases the taste of sweetness in the meat. (I may offend some good hard-working people with the following statement, but please forgive me.) This practice causes the animal to be less energetic, so the meat is softer from lack of exercise. Herbivores, like cows, were not designed by God to eat seed-based feed. These animals need leafy plant food to be truly healthy. Grain interferes with the function of their digestive organs, nervous system, and immune system by fermenting in the rumen and producing alcohol, which is bad for the animals. Small farmers have begun to return to natural animal husbandry practices, thanks to educators, like Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms,VA ( ) and others. Quality meat costs more, but we can be creative to make it a part of a nourishing lifestyle. You are what your food eats.

Produce Your Own Food in A Veggie Garden: Really, this isn't as hard as you think. Even a neglected garden produces food. Plants are very forgiving. A food garden is an excellent money saver! The food in superstores tends to be flown in from other countries or driven over great distances from other states by truck. Fresh produce must be picked unripe to be shipped great distances. So, scientists have come up with ways of chemically ripening them during the trip in the aircraft or trucks to give the appearance of "fresh off the tree" ripeness. Unripe fruit doesn't have the complete compliment of nutrients, flavor, or enzymes of truly ripe fruit. Buying local from farms and locally-owned grocery stores is the best way to acquire ripe, nutritious produce.

If a grocery item comes in a box with a pretty picture of what it is supposed to look like on the front, but when you read the ingredients list on the back it doesn't appear to be English (or looks like a list from a university science lab), it's a "product" rather than a food. You'll also pay much more when buying boxed items than you will for the ingredients to prepare that same item in your kitchen. Be careful even with storage foods. Not every MRE is made from nutritious ingredients. Most food made from scratch will in no way harm or kill you. Commercial food products on the other hand have nastier effects. The average American living in 1900 to the 1950's was exposed to about 20 toxic chemicals per year. In the 21st century, Americans are now exposed to an average of 200+ toxic chemicals per DAY. Many of these are food additives, artificial flavorings, cosmetics, and household chemicals. Most consumer chemicals are neurotoxins and carcinogens. These toxins accumulate in body tissues. With the increases of convenience products we've become increasingly unhealthy as a nation. Taste a locally grown tomato or fresh off the tree fruit from your neighborhood orchard and suddenly the produce in the superstores just can't compare. A fresh egg from your neighbor's happy little flock of laying hens, which have been out catching bugs and eating a variety of plant life in the yard, will taste so incredible you won't want industrial eggs. A mind-opening book: "The Fat Fallacy" by Dr. Will Clower can explain these concepts in better detail.

Good, healthy foods begin with good healthy soil. Organic gardeners and natural, small farmers tend to maintain their dirt better than factory farms by putting compost, lime, sandstone, gypsum, manure, and such on their plots to restore and maintain healthy soil along with crop and grazing rotations. This means the produce from the animals and plants raised there will be full of nutrition, minerals, and vitamins. The better your food quality, the better the chances are that you won't need vitamin supplements or extra helpings at meal times. Healthy food also makes a strong immune system, and, on the occasion you do encounter illness, homemade herbal remedies prepared in the tradition of generations past are easy to make and store.

If all this information is overwhelming for you, listen to Jesus Christ who said, "Don't worry" (Matthew 6:25-34). Lifestyle changes and new habits are made one step at a time and one day at a time. No one can possibly put all this information into practice by the end of next week or next month. It takes time to develop new skills, habits, and knowledge. I've been learning and studying these particular topics for years upon the shoulders of my mother and many others. I didn't get to where I am today without work. There's still more for me to learn, more people to learn from, and more skills to gain and improve upon. Learning is so much fun!

I think this is God's design for us: to always be learning about HIM and Creation, discovering what skills He put within us, pursuing things that interest us, improving our skills and discovering treasures in nature (Psalm 96), and sharing what we know with others by being part of a community that helps each other (John 13:14) and influences our larger society (Matt 5:16). I hope this article has inspired new thoughts and goals for you. Cheers to JWR for bringing us together with Survivalblog! Keep learning and growing.

Recommended resources:

  • "What the Bible Says About Healthy Living" by Dr. Rex Russell,
  • "Nutritional Healing" by Dr. James F. Balch,
  • "Know Your Fats" by Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.,
  • "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon,
  • "The Fat Fallacy" by Dr .Will Clower,
  • "The Cholesterol Myth" by Dr. Uffe Ravnskov,
  • "The Untold Story of Milk" by Ron Schmid, N.D.,
  • "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Katz,
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Thursday, April 3, 2014


I just had a few questions regarding the article on cheese making.

  1. When storing, what tool do people use to check the percentage of humidity? Also, how do you increase/ decrease humidity?
  2. Do you use the same batch of wash or do you need to make a new batch each time? Do you just store the wash in a plastic bucket at room temperature?
  3. In a grid down, what can one use as a culture or b.linen if you can't buy one?

Thank you, - K.W.

T.Y. Replies: Dear Reader,

Thanks for the excellent questions!

For monitoring humidity, I use a simple Acu-Rite humidity monitor, which costs approximately $10 on Amazon. It runs on a single AA battery, which, of course, may be scarce in a grid-down scenario, so you'll want to have rechargeable batteries on hand. In my experience you can expect at least two years of life with one battery and probably more.

Regarding humidity control, don't worry about decreasing it. For almost all cheeses you want humidity to be AT LEAST 80%, with 90%-95% being more common. While ambient humidity may reach these levels in the short-term, they are rarely sustained. Here are some ideas to get humidity where you want and to keep it there:

If you're using a small space (such as a frig box), place a large bowl of water in the bottom. For increased humidity, you can place wick pads in the bowl. I use the same style wick pads that came with my poultry incubator, since both the incubator and the cheese cave aim to have high humidity. If you have your cheese aging in a room with a concrete floor or wall simply pour water over the floor. It's best if your concrete floor is NOT sealed. Concrete can serve as a wonderful large "sponge" that holds water and releases it to enhance humidity on a controlled basis. Finally, it's important to size your room properly. In short, rooms that are full of cheese tend to have no humidity problems, since the cheeses contain a lot of moisture, which they release. If you're planning on making a lot of cheese, consider a modular cheese room design where it's always sized for the amount of inventory that you have on hand.

I use the same batch of BRINE when brining the cheese and never change it. This is controversial, as some say you should change frequently while many have been using the same brine for a lifetime. I keep it heavy with salt and just keep going. Regarding the WASH, I use the same wash for multiple batches of cheeses. Often I will change the brush or rag that is being used, but to address your next question below I wouldn't do that in a grid down. I store the wash in a 3-gallon Igloo container and refill when necessary. It, like the brine, is stored in the cheese cave, so it is at cheese cave temperature– around 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finally, regarding cultures and b.linens in a grid down, let me address the second part of the question first. If you're not making cheese now simply put a small packet of b.linens in your preps (stored properly), and you'll have plenty to get you started. If you have already begun, this is why I would not change to a clean towel or rag. When you finish washing your cheeses, simply hang the rag up where air flow can move the b.linens around the room. You'll have more in your environment, along with other microflora unique to you, than you'll need. Regarding starter culture, if you cannot obtain it in a grid down scenario, then you'll need to create a mother culture from one of your batches, similar in concept to a sourdough starter. That's another article in itself, but I'm sure you can find information online to get you started. A great resource is

Remember also that air flow is very important. In small rooms this can be achieved simply by opening and closing the door a couple of times a day. If airflow is insufficient you'll detect ammonia. That's not only unpleasant but can wreak havoc on equipment.

Good luck and hope this helps!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Loyal readers of SurvivalBlog are likely well versed on the importance of food preservation and storage. Many of you have been practicing preparedness for some time and perhaps you are equally skilled in the art of water bath and pressure canning, dehydrating and meat curing. If you're adventurous, you may even have experience making cheese. However, I suspect that most readers have not ventured far into cheese making and, those who have taken the plunge, have likely experimented with softer/fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, chèvre, ricotta and perhaps even camembert. Indeed, these are the cheese varieties that most aspiring cheese makers begin with.

Those are all fine cheeses that are not difficult to make. They each have a very high moisture content of 50% or more which lends to the soft, creamy texture that so many love. However, since moisture is a requirement for the hospitable environment to support listeria monocytogenes, salmonella, e. coli and other pathogenic growth that you do not want to battle with limited medical assistance, such as in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, I would like to inspire you to make more shelf stable and far safer food in the form of aged cheeses.

By way of background, I am a small-scale but commercial farmstead cheese maker, making about 12,000 pounds of cheese per year. I specialize in aged cheeses that include cheddar, blue and Alpine cheeses such as Gruyere. It is this last cheese that I would like to introduce to you today and share with you how and why you should consider mastering this cheese, both in today's world and if times become quite different. So, let's begin with a great Alpine cheese, Gruyere.

Understanding Gruyere and Alpine Style Cheese Making

Before we get to the recipe, or "make procedure" as cheese makers refer to it, let us examine how this cheese came to be and how it relates to survival and preparedness. Of course, I was not there centuries ago when it all began, but with cheeses made from Alpine milk, I like to imagine small villages where families each had a cow...or three. These families, and their neighbors, were living 100% off the land, just as we may all find ourselves doing in the future. The cows all stayed in the villages during the colder months, but as the weather warmed and the snow melted from the bottom of the mountain up toward the top, there was a natural tendency to let the cows chase the snow line and graze lush, green pastures.

I believe this was for two reasons.

First, there was a relatively small amount of very fertile valley land that had to produce food for all the inhabitants of the valley. Therefore, it would not have been sensible to allocate it to pasture land for grazing animals, but rather to cultivate crops more intensively utilizing the village labor. The second reason, of course, is that allowing the cows to consume vast quantities of Alpine meadows, in effect, allowed the villagers to farm (or harvest) the mountain, by turning the mountain forage into meat, milk and cheese.

Of course, this created a bit of a logistical problem, as it was not sensible for a family to chase their cow (s) up and down the mountain to harvest milk and make cheese. The solution was to combine cows into larger herds and assign the job of milker and cheese makers to intrepid villagers who wanted to spend a few months on the mountain. Perhaps they were the uncle that no one wanted around. Perhaps it was the way, back then, of putting the man in the dog house. I do not know how it was decided, but decided it was and men (I assume) would ascend the mountain in the spring to return with the snow. What this tells us is that Gruyere and Alpine cheeses were always made from pasture-raised animals and almost always from fresh pasture.

Having a free source of feed and water from the mountain would have no doubt allowed villagers the ability to harvest prodigious quantities of milk from the cows. The challenge was not only how to transport this valuable source of protein down the mountain, but also preserve it to last villagers through cold winter months. After all, making aged cheeses is nothing more than taking a highly perishable commodity, fresh milk, and converting it to a stable, nutritious food that improves in taste, safety and quality month after month, year after year. The solution to harvesting the milk flow called for portable stations at various points on the mountainside where milk could be harvested and cheese could be made.

But not just any cheese.

The remote conditions meant that salt was difficult to come by (unlike England, where cheddar could be made using generous amounts of salt) and that a very durable cheese was needed in order to withstand the rigors of transport down the mountain in the fall. I like to envisage a cheese being made so durable that they cheese makers could literally roll it down the mountainside. Whether or not they did that, I do not know, but the end result was a cheese that likely could have withstood the roll. Hopefully you have stockpiled salt, but in the event it is hard to come by you can learn from those Alpine masters who came before us.

Health Benefits of Alpine Cheese

In addition to being delicious, there are numerous benefits to producing and consuming aged cheeses such as Alpine cheeses. Research shows that low acid cheeses (such as Gruyere) reduce the risk of dental cavities, something you will very much want to pay attention to when/if there are few practicing dentists in your neck of the woods. This is also true for other cheeses that have a pH of 5.5 or higher. pH levels in the mouth below that level significantly increase the risk of developing cavities. In addition, it is not new to many of us that high levels of calcium and vitamins in cheeses such as Gruyere also help bone strength.

Also, once the Alpine cheese has aged a few months there is ZERO lactose remaining in the cheese, making it a safe choice for those who are lactose intolerant.

Finally, Swiss style cheeses such as Gruyere are lower in fat than other popular aged cheeses, such as cheddar, and, as a result of using salt sparingly, MUCH lower in sodium.

How to Make Alpine Cheese

Of course, you can only make a real Gruyere cheese in that region of Switzerland, but let's not get picky about that. We can make a cheese in the exact style of Gruyere though, can't we? Typically, a Gruyere cheese ended up being 80-100 pounds each, and about 3 1/2" tall. The 3 1/2" height is quite important to ensure the proper rind/paste ratio for the cheese, which helps to yield the smooth texture many of us have come to love about Gruyere and Swiss-style cheeses.

Now, I make these style cheeses on a small-scale commercial basis. My jacketed cheese vat is 1,000 pounds, or about 116 gallons of milk. I like to make 100 gallons of milk a time if I can, but you can adjust for what you need at home. Believe me, you can make this cheese just fine at home on your stovetop or over a fire as long as you pay careful attention to temperature control.

Since there are a lot of right-brained people among us :-) I have structured the remainder of this article as a series of pictorial instructions rather than gobs of text. Just follow the links if you would like to see pictures of what I am describing. So, let us begin, shall we?

Step 1 - Get some milk (we ONLY use raw milk) and heat it to 90 degrees. Stir slowly...just enough to keep the milk moving so that it does not stick/scald. If you are using high fat milk (Jersey cows) like I do and stir too fast, you'll make butter along with the cheese. If you make cheese commercially check and record your pH when the milk hits 85 degrees or so. Should be 6.60-6.80, ideally, for cow's milk but will fluctuate based on feed, animal health and stage of lactation. If you are making at home do not worry about pH with Alpine cheeses such as Gruyere. It is not important as the process steps (below) will ensure this cheese is SAFE and delicious.

Step 2 - Add starter cultures and leave the cultures in the milk for one hour. As one of your "preps" you may want to buy some of the freeze-dried starter cultures I list below now and tuck them away. I buy mine from Dairy Connection in Wisconsin but there are many sources. Since Gruyere is a "cooked" cheese, the active culture will be thermophilic rather than mesophilic. Now...I am not going to tell you what cultures to use. I know, I know, you just want to know exactly what to use and how much. The truth is that there are lots of right answers despite the "right" recipes you see out there. For example, you may want your cheese sweeter and nuttier than mine, and you may opt for more of a specific culture...such as LH 100 than another cheese maker. So, add more. However, you will often use this with another culture, such as TA60 or TA50, so a typical Gruyere make will include LH100 and TA series (50 or 60). These are classic Alpine culture combinations that stabilize the cheese later and produce acid later in the process rather than earlier. A good start for you would be to use a dab (depending on how much milk you are using) of TA 50 and about 3 or 4 times as much LH100. You can get a description of many of the common cultures, including the ones I use on this page. Culture choice is important, for sure, but not as important as nailing the make process (below). Besides, let's not forget the critical importance of feed, particularly feed from a diverse polyculture of forage. Alpine cheese does not come from cows who consumed just one species of grass, such as Bermuda, wheat or fescue, but rather from cows who consume a very diverse forage-based diet.

Step 3 - Add rennet. I use double strength rennet (also from Dairy Connection) but you use what you use. How much will depend on how much milk you have. Just follow the instructions for the right amount of rennet for your milk. If you are using double strength, I would say about 1 ML double strength rennet for 4 gallons of milk.

Step 4 - Cut the curds. There are two important things here. 1) when to cut and 2) what size to cut. Regarding when to cut, if you know you have the right rennet amount and you are making at home, just cut after 45 minutes or so. However, a better way is to use the floc (short for flocculation method).

This picture shows a confirmation of the "floc" method, as exhibited by the curd particles just beginning to form on the knife that I slowly dipped and removed from the milk. In this instance, the floc was achieved 14 minutes AFTER rennet was added and the milk was stabilized. Now, each type of cheese has a "floc multiplier". In the case of Gruyere, a floc multiplier of 3 or even 3.5 is used. Therefore, 14 minutes TIMES a multiplier of 3 indicates that the curd should be cut 42 minutes AFTER the rennet was added. That is pretty close to my target of 45 minutes. What I am looking for is a reasonably soft curd set at that stage. That concept may seem vague if you haven't made cheese, but some things you just have to learn through experience.

After you have determined the time to cut, it's time to cut. In a commercial plant this is a little easier than at home as I have both horizontal and vertical cheese knives. You will have to twist and cut sideways at home unless you are using a more clever approach. At home you may prefer using a whisk to cut. Regardless of how it is done, what I am looking for is curds slightly larger than the size of grains of rice. When I am finished I want the vat to look as if it is full of rice pudding.

Why cut the curds so small? Remember, the cheese makers were up in the Alps and they had to get as much moisture as possible out of the cheese to make it durable to withstand transportation and aging. Unlike cheddar, which can accomplish much of that with generous amounts of salt, the Alpine cheese makers had to develop techniques based on small curd size. This increased the surface area of each curd particle and facilitated the expulsion of whey. The other very important technique they relied on was heat.

Step 5 - Cook them curds! Okay, to recap, your milk is at 90 degrees, you have added thermophilic culture, rennet and now you have a pot that resembles rice pudding. Time to  stoke the fire. In the Alps this would have been a roaring fire under a copper kettle. For me, it is a hot-water jacketed stainless steel vat. For you, it is ______. Regardless, the goal is to increase the temperature to 126 degrees as quickly as you can, preferably within 60 minutes. Of course you could exceed that on a stove top with a small amount of milk, but you run the risk of scalding part of the milk. What you are after is fast but uniform increase in temperature over the course of an hour.

During the early stages of stirring the curds will be soft and will tend to "mat", so you want the temperature rise to be gradual at first and increase once the curds firm up. Gently rub/break them apart as they do (do not squeeze them). Otherwise, their surface area will reduce and you will have very inconsistent spots in your cheese. After 15 minutes or so...or when you have passed 100 degrees, the curds firm up and matting concerns recede, though curds can still clump together. Just keep stirring. How fast? I like to stir where I see curd particles on the surface but I do not want the whey sloshing around like I am in a monsoon. You will find your rhythm.

When you get close to your target temperature you will notice that the curds pass what is called the "grip" test. They'll look like this picture

At this stage you could form the curd particles into a ball that would hold, but that would also easily fall apart if tossed against your other hand. Hopefully you have reached your temperature and now you are ready for a defining aspect of Alpine cheese making, which is called pressing under the whey.

Step 6 - Press under the whey. Unlike highly pressed cheeses, such as cheddar, Alpine cheeses owe their firm texture to the above process AND to pressing under the whey so that they will "knit" together.  Now, in the Alps I suspect they didn't really press under the whey, but rather used a cloth (similar to a cheese cloth) to gather all the curds into a ball and suspend in the whey. The whey kept them hot as they knitted together. If you are making this at home just do the same thing. Gather the curds into a cheesecloth and hang it in the whey. For me, I push the curds to the back of the vat with a plate I have made, put 1/2" plastic press plates on top of the curd mass and then use 5 gallon buckets to press the mass together. AFTER I drain the whey off 40 minutes later, it looks like this.

NOTE: The process of cooking an Alpine cheese to AT LEAST 126 degrees and then pressing under the whey is proven effective at killing off all major pathogens, such as listeria, salmonella, staph aureus and e.coli. In other words, this type of cheese, along with Parmigiano-Reggiano  is one of the SAFEST cheeses you can make. As a plus, it contains NO once it is aged so it is a great choice for those who are lactose intolerant. These combine to create a great bartering item for you in a TEOTWAWKI world that few others will know how to duplicate!

Step 7 - Now it is time to slice the sections and hoop the curds. In my case, I have fancy molds to shape the cheese. The important thing is that you are aiming for your cheese to be about 4" tall, so that, after aging, it will end up 3.5" or so. You can see this in action in this picture where I am hooping cheeses. Of course, you likely won't have a costly custom cheese mold but you can easily fashion a substitute with a 4" wide strip of plastic held together by a strap. Just line the interior with cheesecloth (buy lots for your prep area) and place the curd inside.

Step 8 - Press the cheese. Even though Gruyere and Alpine cheeses are very dense and low in moisture, they do not achieve that state through high pressure. Rather, that is achieved mostly by the previous step of pressing under the whey. By comparison, after cheddar is hooped it requires heavy pressure...about 40 PSI, which will likely require a pneumatic press (a car jack will work fine in a TEOTWAKI scenario). By contrast, I simply press our  Gruyere with 5 gallon buckets of water, as pictured here.

Of course, you can adjust this at home by using what you have. If you are a commercial cheese maker you can still use your press, just with light pressure.

Even though it looks like we're done...there are two more steps.

Step 9 - Brine/salt the cheese. There are two schools of thought here. Some cheese makers simply dry salt the cheese by rubbing salt on the rind over the first couple of days. I have done that as well, but I find that fully saturated brine works best. You can make a fully saturated brine at home by simply saving the whey you have used (I hope you read all of this before you disposed of the whey) and adding coarse salt so that there is at least a couple of inches on the bottom. If there is, consider that a fully saturated brine. If you are making cheese professionally you will likely test your salt concentrations but this is a fine method for most cheese makers.

How long to brine depends on the size wheel you made, of course, but a typical wheel the size pictured (10-12 lbs, 4" thick) would brine for at least 24 hours. Some people brine it twice that long. You will have to "tinker" to find the method that best brings out the flavor you are after AND develops the rind you are looking for. This picture of a cheese in the brine shows you what your finished cheese should look like.

Step 10 - Finally, the last step, aging the cheese. You will need a space to age your cheese...a cave in the side of a mountain next to a flowing stream in our perfect and permanent bug-out locations. A root cellar would likely be perfect as well. For many a wine refrigerator is the choice in today's world. It does not matter what you use. What does matter is that you have an ability to control BOTH temperature AND humidity. For Gruyere, I aim for 54 degrees F and 90% humidity. Higher humidity is okay but with cheese aging, there is a VERY big difference between 90% humidity and 80% humidity. Lower humidity levels and your rind will likely crack and you will experience yield loss. At higher than 90% humidity levels you will likely get white mold growing on your cheese. This is no problem; simply brush it off.

During the lengthy aging process, which should last at least six months to maximize flavor, you will do three things. Wash your cheese, brush your cheese and flip your cheese. Washing your cheese simply means using a light brine solution to help develop the rind that is typical or classic of an Alpine or Gruyere style cheese.  Here's a good "wash" recipe for you:

  • a gallon of water
  • 1 smidge (use your judgment but it does not take much) of b. linens (buy now Dairy Connection or elsewhere and once it is established on the walls of your "cave", you won't have to buy again)
  • 7 ounces coarse salt

We age our cheeses the traditional way; on wood. The routine we practices is as follows:

  • take cheese out of brine and let dry for 1-2 days
  • once cheeses are placed on boards, wash one side (the top)
  • the next day, flip the cheese and wash the other side (the new top)
  • flip daily until the rind is "developed". You will know what this means because otherwise the cheese can stick to the board. Normally your rind will be developed pretty well in a couple of weeks.
  • Then, go to washing 3X weekly, flipping each time.
  • Brush your cheese with a stiff brush as needed to keep the rind smooth.
  • At some point you will realize that you do not need to "wash" the cheese much at all as your rind has developed fully. You are trying to create a mosaic with your brush and keep the rind clean.
  • Now you can keep your attention on what's important; temperature and humidity.
  • Wait six months (at least) and eat, sell or trade.

That is all there is to making this fantastic cheese. It may seem intimidating to some of you but I promise you it is not and that you can do it. The resulting cheese will feed your family and friends as well as provide a highly-skilled bartering or income producing product.


While this article is focused on introducing you to the benefits and methods of making aged Alpine cheeses, I would like to close by discussing the value of whey.

As Little Miss Muffet told us in our youth, whey is separate from curds and is the liquid expelled once the milk solids have formed into the curd mass. When making Alpine cheeses, you will likely find that, initially, 87%-90% of the milk volume becomes whey once the cheese enters the brine, meaning that your initial cheese yield will hover around 11%. That yield will shrink to 9% or 10% after the cheese has aged. Whey from Alpine cheeses is considered a "sweet" whey since rennet is used the terminal pH of the cheese is quite high as compared to "sour" cheeses, where the pH is allowed to drop in the 4.6 - 4.8 range. Clearly most of the milk volume becomes liquid whey, but rather than treat this as a waste product, I would like to encourage you to make the most of this valuable resource. I wish I could go into more detail on each, but that would require another full article. Hopefully the following ideas will get you started.

  • Whey makes a great feed supplement for all livestock, especially chickens and pigs. Just make sure they have access to other feed sources, such as woods, pasture and grubs. You will find that the dogs will love it too.
  • Save whey for much of your cooking needs and replace use it to replace water, which may be scarce.
  • In particular, use the whey for making rice, pasta, oatmeal, potatoes, adding to soups and so on. In this way you will not only reduce your potable water needs but will also absorb the mineral qualities of the whey. In particular, feel free to use whey in any baking recipe that calls for water or milk. Examples include pancakes, waffles, cornbread, biscuits, muffins and many more.
  • Use the whey to make extra rich and nutritious soup stock. Replace water in soap recipes with whey and use it to make soap.
  • Use whey to soak grains for sprouting. Use whey to feed plants, vegetables and fruit plants. If you are using more acidic whey, give it to the plants that prefer acid, such as blueberries.
  • Use the whey to make other cheeses, such as ricotta.
  • Drink it and soak up the benefits. Or make a smoothie with it.
  • Add a couple of cups to bath water for healthy skin and to help alleviate dry skin or Eczema.
  • Use as a hair conditioner. After washing your hair and towel drying, comb whey through your hair, let dry then rinse as you normally would.
  • Use with garlic and other spices as a brine or meat marinade.
  • Interestingly, whey has been shown to stimulate insulin release in Type 2 Diabetics. This could enable you to be quite valuable to Diabetics in a world with few medical resources. You can read the research here.
  • Last but not least, if you feel you have no other use and have to dump the whey, pour some in your compost bin or spread over pastures. Or, water your garden. If you do, however, try to match the pH of the whey with plants that prefer that pH level. Also, if you have plants such as cucumber, squash or peas that suffer from powdery mildew, spray whey on the leaves. It will alter the pH and discourage the mildew.

I hope that this article has been helpful to you. Welcome to the world of making wonderful aged cheeses!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hi James,

I've read in so many places that cattails (bulrushes here in Australia) contain gluten. You've just mentioned it, but everywhere else it looks like a quote word for word from a single source. I can't find any information outlining the type of gluten it has or a site with a specific breakdown on its proteins. As a severe coeliac, I don't eat any grains whatsoever, but I've never come across tubers or rhizomes that contain gluten. As you can understand, to avoid coeliac shock, I'm reluctant to try eating my crop of cattails. I'm wondering if you might have some information regarding the gluten in the rhizomes that you could share with me. Thank you for a great site. - F.B.

HJL Replies: There is no gluten in cattails. In Boy Scouts, we used to make biscuits and pancakes out of cattails with gusto. It never worked as well as wheat flour and I certainly do not remember them tasting very good either, but I suppose in a pinch, they might keep you alive. However, F.B. answered her own questions with this useful information from

The objective of the study was to determine the content of gluten fraction in the flour produced from rhizomes of the narrow-leaved cattail that caused a disease response in persons with the celiac disease. The test for gluten was conducted by means of immunoassay methods using the products from an R-Biopharm Company. The content of total protein was determined by a Kjeldahl method using a Foss Tecator apparatus. The content of Gliadin protein in the extracts was determined photometrically using a Bradford reagent. Based on the results obtained, it was found that the flour from rhizomes of the narrow-leaved cattail did not contain any peptides that caused celiac disease. Thus, this flour can be used in the products for people suffering from this disease. The content of total protein in the flour varied depending on the place where the plants were harvested. The content of the protein fraction in the flour extracts produced from rhizomes of the narrow-leaved cattail was not correlated with the content of total protein in the flour alone.

She continues, “I did read a very old report where the author stated that the flour from cattails was mixed with water and formed into a gluten mass. This, however, was just a description; even snot can be described as a gluten mass :) Maybe people just run with the information in these articles and have just seen the word, gluten.”

Dear SurvivalBlog,

Can I use a bucket that had paint in it to store food, even if I use mylar bags? - L.J.

JWR Replies: No. The seals on mylar bags are too iffy.

HJL Adds: Additionally, plastic is permeable to many chemicals. You really don't want any of those chemicals to end up in your food products. You would especially hate to store a food product and then need that food product, only to find it was unusable due to some paint chemical contamination.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Food seems to be a most popular subject for Prepper's and Survivalist's, and why shouldn't it be? We all live to eat and eat to live. In an effort to expand my knowledge of shelf-stable food, I started thinking about the way indigenous peoples in different areas of the world survive, or survived, without refrigeration, dehydrators, or freezers. What I found was very interesting and helpful in my shoring up of shelf-stable foods for my family's security in a SHTF situation. There is one thing, more than the rest, that I really have enjoyed researching and implementing. Of all the different foodstuffs I came across, my favorite was the traditional Native American food known as pemmican. Now I have lived on the boarder of a small well-developed reservation for quite some time. Being out here in the Redoubt area one meets quite a few self-sustaining individuals on a regular basis, so in the past I had heard of pemmican but never put any serious thought into it until recently. Pemmican is a very easy to make, highly shelf-stable, tasty, and a highly nutritious food source, if made correctly. It is also nice to take camping/hiking, road-tripping, and tour bicycling, due to its low weight and caloric density.

Wikipedia describes pemmican as follows: “Pemmican is a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious food. The word comes from the Cree word pimîhkân, which itself is derived from the word pimî, "fat, grease". It was invented by the native peoples of North America. It was widely adopted as a high-energy food by Europeans involved in the fur trade and later by Arctic and Antarctic explorers, such as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen.

The specific ingredients used were usually whatever was available; the meat was often bison, moose, elk, or deer. Fruits such as cranberries and saskatoon berries were sometimes added. Cherries, currants, chokeberries and blueberries were also used, but those are almost exclusively used in ceremonial and wedding pemmican.

Traditionally, pemmican was prepared from the lean meat of large game, such as buffalo, elk, or deer. The meat was cut in thin slices and dried over a slow fire, or in the hot sun, until it was hard and brittle. About five pounds of meat are required to make one pound of dried meat suitable for pemmican. Then it was pounded into very small pieces, almost powder-like in consistency, using stones. The pounded meat was mixed with melted fat in an approximate 1:1 ratio. In some cases, dried fruits such as saskatoon berries, cranberries, blueberries, or choke cherries were pounded into powder and then added to the meat/fat mixture. The resulting mixture was then packed into rawhide pouches for storage.

A bag of buffalo pemmican weighing about 90 pounds was called a Taureau by the Métis of Red River. It generally took the meat of one buffalo to fill a Taureau.

I have found pemmican to be a good food source for myself. I personally did a 24-hour trial run of eating nothing but pemmican, and I personally had no ill side effects. I have included a few of the recipes I used and had great success with.

Here are some tips for you to improve your ability to use pemmican recipes properly and make good pemmican:

  • Talk to your local butcher to acquire the suet. A local co-op butcher might have the healthiest choices, in terms of organic meats. You may be able to acquire the fat for free in certain places.
  • When rendering (melting) the fat, be careful not to burn it or make it smoke.
  • The warmer the climate you are going to be using the pemmican in, the less fat you need in it.
  • This is also true for the time of year. Use less fat for the summer time and more for winter.
  • Label what you make, especially if you try different recipes.

God Bless all of you in your endeavors.


  • 4 cups lean meat (deer, beef, caribou, or moose)
  • 3 cups dried fruit
  • 2 cups rendered fat
  • Unsalted nuts and about one shot of honey


  1. Meat should be as lean as possible and double ground from your butcher, if you do not have your own meat grinder. Spread it out very thin on a cookie sheet and dry at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for at least eight hours or until sinewy and crispy. Pound the meat into a nearly powder consistency using a blender or other tool.
  2. Grind the dried fruit, but leave a little bit lumpy for fun texture.
  3. Heat rendered fat on stove at medium until liquid.
  4. Add liquid fat to dried meat and dried fruit, and mix in nuts and honey.
  5. Mix everything by hand. Let cool and store.

Can keep and be consumed for several years.


  • 2 lbs. of lean buffalo, elk, or beef loin.
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of dried currant berries.
  • Molasses to sweeten and for binding.


  1. Cut meat into thin slices about 1/16 - 1/8 thick. Allow to dry for two to four days, until thoroughly dry. Pulverize dried meat to fine, almost powdery, flakes.
  2. Add dried currant berries and mix well.
  3. Add molasses to sweeten and bind mixture.
  4. Mix well and knead into a big dough-like ball.
  5. Pull chunks of big ball and roll into smaller half dollar-sized balls, then flatten them. Let sit for two days to dry.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hello Hugh.

With regard to your comment about animal-grade grains and bugs, I had the same problem several years ago and I have found a very effective solution. In fact, before I found a solution the weevils were so bad that when I was near the bags of grain I could hear them rattling around in there and they quickly spread everywhere. I store many bags of corn, chicken scratch, and barley without so much as a single bug now. The solution is diatomaceous earth. Bugs hate it. In fact weevils and moths simply cannot live with it. Fleas and mites are also killed by it, and it gets rid of some internal pesticides when ingested. When I stack my bags of grain, I use a powder-puffer (I bought at to puff diatomaceous earth on the bags between each layer. I wear a protective mask while I do this, because inhaling diatomaceous earth isn't recommended. I also puff some of it in with my storage of rice and human-grade grains, which I previously also had problems with bugs. No more bugs. - J.P.

Hugh Replies: Diatomaceous earth is one of those things that no gardener or prepper should be without. It has so many uses, we may have to write an article just on it in the future. Another item I have been experimenting with is recovering grain that has been infected with bugs. Most bugs really don't harm humans that consume them. It's more of a cosmetic issue with the food with possible long-term storage issues. Most of our grain is vacuum packed and the bugs cannot survive in that environment. What is needed is an easy way to clean the grain. One of my experiments is using a section of PVC pipe to drop the grain through with a shop vacuum attached to the top. If the vacuum level is set right, you can safely vacuum dust and bugs out of the grain while the grain itself falls to the bottom into a bucket. The hope is that even if the grain is infected with bugs (larva), vacuum packing will kill them or prevent them from maturing, and the vacuum will clean them out, making the grain usable. My major concern is if the integrity of the grain berry is compromised, how will that affect the long-term storage of that grain.

Friday, February 28, 2014

When one thinks of SHTF and TEOTWAWKI, The Walking Dead kind of scenario may enter one's mind. I know it does mine (mainly because I'm obsessed with the show). Realistically speaking, however, TEOTWAWKI will not be because of a zombie apocalypse, but because of many other reasons– natural disasters, economic collapse, a nuclear bomb dropping on us (courtesy of an antsy enemy), and/or a pandemic. In any crisis event, having food stored for a lengthy period of time is essential for survival. There are many food storage options out there, as well as manuals and how-to articles. In this article, I will explain some of these storage options, how much food you should store, and what I believe to be the most important DIY food storage product.


In a TEOTWAWKI situation, having basic homesteading skills will become life-saving skills. This includes canning. However, assuming that you do not have access to canning materials after SHTF, you should get crackin'. Always have canned foods on hand. Yes, grocery store pick-ups are wonderful for food storage, but most canned goods last only 2-3 years, which makes rotation essential. Canning foods yourself provides two things: a longer shelf life and peace of mind that you aren't getting all the nasties that grocery store canned goods harbor.

There are three ways to can: 1) pressure canning, 2) water bath canning, and 3) dry pack canning. The first two require mason jars and a pressure canner, the third requires #10 cans and a #10 can sealer. Pressure canning and water bath canning are conducted using a presser canner. You can purchase a pressure canner at stores and online for $60, along with mason jars, pickle and fruit preserves, and anything else you'll need to can. Pressure canning is used for low-acidic foods, like meats and vegetables (and even butter!), whereas water bath canning is used for high-acidic foods, such as fruits and jams (and even cheese!) I won't go into extensive detail on how to pressure and water bath can, but a great resource (often called the canner's Bible) is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. There are also several YouTube videos out there that give in-depth tutorials and visuals of using a pressure canner.

Let's move on to dry pack canning. In my research, this is the most expensive way to store food. #10 cans can run about $95 for a pack of 45. #10 can sealers can run anywhere from $900 ($600 is the lowest price I found for a used sealer) to upwards of $2,000. They are, however, light and rodent proof and can keep food on your shelf for 10-30 years. The sticker shock of dry canning has not worn off for this prepper, so I will move on to the next (relatively inexpensive) topic.

Note: It is worth mentioning, though, that most major cities have LDS (Church of Ladder Day Saints) canneries that lend out (and let you buy) #10 cans and can sealers. It may be cheaper than buying them yourself.

Freeze Drying and Dehydrating Food Preps

I'll be the first to admit that I don't like freeze drying my own food. It's a very long process, and the end result is less than appetizing. However, if you're interested in trying it out for yourself, use a piece of cookware that has slits in the bottom (like metal pizza pans). I actually use my dehydrator trays. Thinly slice the item you want to freeze dry. (I tried apples.) Place them onto the tray and freeze until they are, essentially, dry to the touch. It can take a few days. Then you can store the freezed dried food in Mylar bags with an oxygen (O2) absorber. Personally, I don't like the "freezer" taste. Commercially freeze dried foods are produced using a machine that vacuums the moisture out of the product. To use one of these machines at home would cost thousands of dollars. The advantage of freeze dried foods, however, is that the shelf-life is 30 years. Most emergency foods that you buy online or in stores are freeze dried foods.

Dehydrators, on the other hand, range in price, but you can usually find one at a thrift store. You can dehydrate just about anything, but we mainly make jerky at home. We have dehydrated fruits to use in homemade trail mix. If you have never dehydrated food before, it's a very simple process that takes just a few hours to accomplish. Really all that you do is thinly slice the item you want to dehydrate, lay the slices on the dehydrator trays, and turn the machine on. After they're done, store the dehydrated slices in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. In my opinion (and I prep on a budget), dehydrating your own foods is the way to go. Bags of beef jerky at wholesale stores range from $15-$20, but you can buy the meat for the same cost and make twice, or even triple, the amount than what is commercially produced and available.

Five Gallon Buckets and Gamma Lids

You can buy five-gallon buckets anywhere. Whether they are food safe and suitable for food storage is another thing. Most home improvement stores, like Home Depot and Lowe's, have five-gallon buckets for $5-$6 each. That's not bad when compared to prices online, but there is some controversy surrounding whether Home Depot buckets are really food grade. Typically, if you look at the bottom of the bucket and see the number “2” in the middle of a triangle of arrows, it means that it's made from HDPE plastic. HDPE plastic is usually considered food-grade, but unless it also says BPA-free, then I wouldn't use that bucket for anything other than storing Mylar bags full of food. If your bucket is made from HDPE and BPA-free plastic, dump your food, such as flour and rice, straight into the bucket with an oxygen absorber. Voila; you have flour and rice good for 10+ years!

Regardless of how the food is stored inside the bucket, the lid plays a very important role in keeping your food free of oxygen, light, and rodents. Many buckets come with lids that fit securely on the bucket, but when attempting to take the lid off, there are two things to consider: 1) how am I going to get the darn thing off (when secured, the lids are really secured), and 2) how am I going to keep the rest of my food safe, if I take only a little out at a time. You may buy a bucket lid wrench at any home improvement store or online for $6-$7. They're very handy in assisting you to pry the bucket lids off. But you never know when a lid may crack, causing it to be unusable. What happens then? This is where gamma lids come into play. They're more expensive at $8-$9 a lid (versus $2-$3 for regular bucket lids), but the saying "you get what you pay for" really does have some merit, especially in this situation. Gamma lids are nifty lids that install onto the bucket, just like regular lids, but they have a screw top that allows you to open and close the bucket at your convenience.

Note: I only use gamma lids on the buckets that I am actively using. Regular lids are just fine for long-term storage, and you can always use a gamma lid once you remove the regular lid.

Mylar Bags and O2 Absorbers

I firmly believe that Mylar bags are the most important item to have for storing food. Vacuum-seal bags are great, but they're clear and subjected to light easier than Mylar, which are silver in color to makes them light resistant. Mylar bags are relatively thick, which helps protect against puncturing. They come in several different sizes from itty-bitty to huge. I found mine online and you can usually find a good deal on Mylar bags/oxygen absorber combos. My favorite sizes are 1-gallon bags and 5-gallon bags, which are small and big enough to store most things. Now, when I first started my DIY food storage, I had a lot of questions about how much to store in each bag, how much space should I leave at the top of the bag, how do I seal a bag, and other questions of that nature. So, I did what anyone with questions would do: I searched the web. The searches brought me to YouTube each time. After watching 5-10 videos, I chose two different methods and went with them.

Note: Ready your supplies BEFORE opening your oxygen absorbers. O2 absorbers have a 10-15 minute life span outside of an air-tight environment before they are no longer good to use. If the O2 absorber is crinkly and hard, it's no good. You want them to be soft and flexible.

Method #1: Iron

Your standard household iron will do the trick. You'll want some kind of wood (I use a 5/8" dowel rod) to make a seal. You set your iron on 5 or 6, gather your product and your choice of size Mylar bag, and locate your O2 absorbers, a kitchen scale, a scoop of some kind, a one-cup measuring cup, and a permanent marker. Say, for instance, you want to store salt. I bought a 25-pound bag of salt from a local wholesale store and wanted to store five pounds in each one-gallon Mylar bag.

Note: Please be aware that the 25-pound bags you can purchase from wholesale stores do NOT contain iodine. Iodine is essential for your health, especially thyroid health. Keep iodine supplements on hand or buy the smaller 4-pound boxes of iodized salt.

This is my process:

  1. Using a 1 cup measuring cup, I fill it with salt and pour the contents into the bag. (This gives it some volume to actually stand up on the scale.) I then put the bag on the scale and continue to scoop salt into the bag until the scale reads about 5 pounds ¾ ounces. (The bag weighs approximately ¾ of an ounce, so you'll want to account for that when you weigh.)
  2. I press as much air as I can out of the bag by gathering the side of the bag at the top of the product and then folding the bag over. I smooth out as much air as I can.
  3. Then I lie the bag down on top of the dowel rod, leaving about an inch from the top of the bag. I iron on the back over the dowel rod, 2/3 of the way, leaving about a 1.5" space on one corner.
  4. For a 1 gallon bag, all I need is one 300cc O2 absorber. I put the O2 absorber inside the bag, then using a straw (this tool is optional), suck out the remaining air and seal the rest of the bag. I go over the seal two or three times to ensure there are no air bubbles. Pulling apart the 1" space at the top of the bag, I make sure that the seal is strong. If you want, you can also iron the 1" space closed after checking the original seal.

    Note: Some people do not use an O2 absorber when storing salt because it's like trying to preserve a preservative. Since salt lasts forever, you may choose not to use an absorber, but do your own research, and make your own decisions!

  5. I take my Sharpie and label the bag with the product, noting how much product is inside and the date it was stored. For example: “Salt - no iodine, 5lbs, 02/22/2014."
  6. Lay the bag (for storage) in a dark, cool area. Do not move for 24 hours. This gives the O2 absorbers enough time to activate.

Method #2: Hair Straightener

I actually prefer this method. I find the iron and the dowel rod bulky and awkward to use. You'll need all of the above supplies, except the wooden dowel and switch the iron out for the hair straightener. When I used the hair straightener, I was preserving egg noodles. I bought a five pound bag from my wholesale store. I knew I wasn't going to be able to fit all five pounds in one one-gallon Mylar bag, so I decided to try one pound per bag. It worked perfectly.

1. Repeat step 1.

2. Repeat step 2.

3. While the top of the bag is folded, I take the hair straightener and start in the middle. I run from the middle to the right side of the bag, sealing the top inch of the bag shut. From the middle, run the straighter towards the left, leaving a 1.5" gap on the left hand side. Insert an O2 absorber, suck the rest of the air out with a straw, and then quickly seal the bag. Go over the seal 2-3 times to ensure the top of the bag is completely closed with no air bubbles protruding at the top.

4. Repeat step 5.

5. Repeat step 6.

I've mentioned oxygen absorbers (or O2 absorbers) multiple times throughout this article. They are necessary for proper food storage and you'll use them in most of your dry stores. They come in different sizes– from 20cc all the way up to 2000cc. The “cc”, which means "cubic centimeters," is the amount of oxygen that needs to be absorbed within a container. This amount varies based on the size of the container, which is described below.

Note: No ill effects will occur if you use more than the amount below. These are just a general rule of thumb:

  • 1 quart jar - 100cc
  • #10 can - 200cc
  • 1-gallon bag - 300cc
  • 5-gallon bucket - 2000cc

How Much of These Foods do I Need?

The amount of the food needed depends on how many individuals you intend to feed at any given time. There are four people in my family– myself, my husband, and my two children. I also expect to feed at least nine others in a SHTF scenario. My extended family lives within miles of my primary location and in the event of a crisis, they know where to come during the initial stages of the event. I am storing the below pantry staples for my family of twelve for one year. Of course, adjust this to your family's particular diets and tastes. A great rule to follow is: Store what you eat, and eat what you store.

At two servings a week:
Oats- 120 lbs
Cheese- 104 lbs
At three servings a week:
Beef- 468 lbs
Eggs- 24 cans
At four servings a week:
Chicken- 624 lbs
At five servings a week
Pork- 780 lbs
Beans- 780 lbs
At six servings a week
Rice- 936 lbs
Corn- 936 lbs
At seven servings a week
Pasta- 1092 lbs
At eight servings a week
Butter- 156 lbs
At ten servings a week
Fruit- 12 #10 cans
At fourteen servings a week
Wheat- 2184 lbs
Vegetables- 17 #10 cans [1]

So, Now That Tou Know...

Not all of this will you need to know, but the basics are critical. I hope this article has been a helpful resource for your DIY food storage. Many people love to buy preps online, which is completely understandable. When you buy online, it's already pre-packaged for you with a guaranteed 10-30 year shelf life, which not only gives you peace of mind, but lessens the burden on you to take the extra time to prepare thousands of pounds of food. However, buying it all online or in the stores creates a burden on your wallet. Most #10 cans of food online run anywhere from $8-$50 each. Buying bulk and storing it yourself greatly reduces the overall monetary cost, which is one thing this prepper finds appealing.


[1] Prepper's Food Storage: 101 Easy Steps to Affordably Stock a Life-Saving Supply of Food by Julie Languille.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dear HJL,

There are a few things that I do not understand in the article, written by TCG. First of all, his background in the food distribution business certainly qualifies him to write the fine article noted above, and I am certainly not critiquing the article. One of the things that confuses me, however, is in the first paragraph regarding the layout of a store. Any given building contains 100% of the available space and whether it is divided 25/75% or 75/25%, it contains the same amount of product. The variable is not the amount that is stored in the back but how the total inventory is managed by employees. It is conceivable that during a TEOTWAWKI event, store management would secure the entire building to control the release of supplies in the same way that an employee "checked in the back room for a customer request."

In addition, the addition of DCs and the receipt of several deliveries a day increases the flow of product, not limiting it to one or two deliveries a week as in TCG's example. Granted, store managers are urged to improve their return on assets ratio (ROA) by making greater profit on a lesser investment in inventory, thus creating the "just in time" (JIT) concept, but the involved companies have facilitated that process by creating DCs that were not previously available, thusly shortening the supply lines. If your local Wally World seems to have less on the shelves then it used to, it is due to Corporate or local management, not the supply chain.

Lastly, I certainly agree that it might be prudent to locate the local DCs in advance but, honestly, I can't see the management of a multi-million dollar warehouse loaded with hard-to-find commodities dealing a couple of cases of fruit cocktail out the back door for a few silver dollars or a case of scotch. Besides, his warehouse probably contains gallons of scotch. If he does have any "breakage", it will go to some very heavy bidders or relatives. Remember, all of the businesses that he supplies will be watching his (actually their) inventory closely and, when shortages occur, will descend like locusts on the DC, possibly with every truck that they can round up. You can also expect security at the DC to be several magnitudes greater than the Korean store owner's during the LA riots.

Anyway, good article which brings up a good point, but I just don't see DCs as a resource when TEOTWAWKI. Thanks again for your excellent work. Prep as if your life depended on it. - GLD

o o o


I feel the need to comment after reading yesterday's post, "Trading Posts of the New Frontier" by TCG. I read where "I am by no means advocating anyone run out and start looting their local Piggly Wiggly distribution center". I am unsure how to interpret that statement when the TCG then describes how to find these DCs by watching trucks, listening to the CB, and searching online. Holy cow, where do I start?

There are some DCs in the area where I reside, but even IF I were so inclined to visit, scout, loot any of these, unless I live next door, I would be traveling on the roads at a time when I want to be off the roads. Second, as a daily reader to SurvivalBlog, we know that we need to be prepared BEFORE the SHTF. That means that most of my preps should have been taken care of yesterday. We'll never arrive, but we should all have food and the means to grow more now. Third, most DCs are very large buildings without windows. If you are inside that building, how much can you carry out? Would it be enough for another week or month? That won't help you for a long scenario. Also, what happens if the DC is approached by a large, friendly or unfriendly force while you are inside and is ready to exterminate you? You'll just be another cockroach to be squashed. Aarrgghh! Please, use your time to prepare to live, not to loot. I remember the first time I read one of these posts.

I remember wondering why JWR put in a post like that. The next day, after the replies came in, he posted at the bottom that he wanted us, the readers, to understand that there are people that think this way. If they'll look at looting a business, they'll be coming down my driveway next. Thanks to the staff at SurvivalBlog. God bless you all. Piper in Virginia

HJL Adds: Just to clarify, I do not believe the author was suggesting that we should consider looting the Distribution Centers, but rather we should build relationships with the manager/owner of the DCs so that commerce is possible later. Of course, if the local gang takes it over, you do have a problem then.

o o o


There is just so much good information on this blog and this reader has clearly thought a lot about DC's and has a lot of information about how to find them, but this article seems to be avoiding the issue of one key element of these supply-line behemoths... employees.

I cannot imagine a DC that runs without a full complement of employees in staggering numbers who, A) know an awful lot more about the building, its security, its available resources, and every other concern than someone who's just done their research; B) live within a short drive or very long walk, if necessary (post-SHTF), of the facility; C) are, generally speaking, not the kind of upstanding, forward-thinking, well-prepared folks who will be hunkering down at home in the early phases of a true crisis.

I would hate for the readers of this fine blog to spend a great deal of time on this project, let alone hang their hat on it, when the most-likely scenario is that the horde of employees it takes to run these gigantic caches (along with everyone they know) will have those DC's cleared out long before the dust settles on whatever event triggered the crisis.

I suppose it might be worth checking them out, if they are within range of a patrol, but it would be a shame to waste precious resources, and maybe lives, traveling any real distance to see another empty shell. Isn't that locally-owned grocery store a much more likely trading post location in any case? It is close to home, everyone knows where it is, and it may be cleared out initially, but trade has to resume somewhere. Why not the same place folks are used to going? - KS

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In Thursday's Odds n Sods, you mention using the top of a salt carton in the top of a canning jar to create a pour spout. This will work, but I do not go through much salt, and the salt pour spouts don't seem to be in good shape when I am finished with the carton. Also, this does not really seal the jar as tightly as I would like.

I saw somewhere to use the top of milk and juice cartons with the screw on lid. I go through a couple of these a week. I cut the top off, wash it well, and let it drain. I use the outside of the jar ring as my template to draw my cutting line. This is one example of how this works. This works well for me with popcorn, rice, spices, and many of my dry foods. I am well on my way to a good collection in my pantry. - R.S.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Maybe you wear a Peyton Manning jersey. Maybe you gulp Gatorade during your outdoor activities. Maybe you like Lowe's because they sponsor Jimmy Johnson's #48 car. If you're one of the millions of people who commonly buy into the products of the top professionals, you might have an appetite for Long Range Patrol Ration Entrees. After all, LRP Rations are the survival food carried on long range missions by U.S. Military Special Forces members.

The name Long Range Patrol Rations tells you who the intended military target was for this food. Today, current examples of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol units (LRRPs) include U.S. Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, Marine Corps Marine Reconnaissance units, and Navy SEALS. Historians claim long range surveillance teams first formed during the fighting of World War II. The operations of specialized units, such as the British Force 136 and Long Range Desert Group set the modern standards for skills and tactics in scouting the enemy.

LRRP units are small teams of soldiers who bravely serve as "our eyes behind enemy lines." They do dangerous, covert missions crossing deep into unfriendly territory to gather important military intelligence. They identify and collect current information on matters such as enemy troop sizes and locations, key resources, and strategic targets of opportunity. These types of patrols have served critical roles in eastern Europe, North Vietnam, the Middle East, and beyond.

The Lowdown on LRPs

Out of necessity in the 1960's, American Military ingenuity developed a high-tech food advancement. It was formally called The Food Packet, Long Range Patrol Ration. Referred to as "Lurps" or "Lurp Rats," it produced a new solution to an old problem, which had been eating away at both soldiers and commanders for years.

The standard canned rations known as C-Rations just weren't making the grade. They weighed too much and were too bulky. This was especially true for the backpacks of heavily armed Special Operations soldiers who needed to travel long distances on foot and move quickly at times.

Highly nutritious fresh food is prepared and cooked. It then goes through the freeze drying process. At this time, 98% of the moisture gets removed from the food. Next, it is vacuum-packed, intentionally into the shape of a small brick. Now the nutrients and freshness are locked in securely. Entrees, weighing only four to five ounces each, can be easily stacked in a small space within a backpack, giving soldiers the ability to carry many more days worth of meals. There are other added benefits, too.

Suddenly, soldiers are given more room in their backpacks and more options to carry other important items they might need. Tremendous ease of use is also important. LRP Rations need only water (preferably hot, but any temperature will do) to reconstitute once opened. Within minutes, the aroma, texture, and taste returns. The nutritional value is alive and well. The end result is a delicious meal with a yield which increases to more than 20 ounces of high-protein, high-energy food.

Much to Love About LRPs

LRP Rations aren't just like freeze-dried foods. They are freeze-dried foods. Long Range Patrol Rations offer a long shelf life, typically lasting for decades. So, as is the case with other freeze-dried foods and dehydrated foods, LRPs will be reliable, ready, and waiting for you in those times when you want or need them most. This is the purpose of survival food.

The differences between these and traditional civilian freeze-dried foods are LRPs have higher ratios of key ingredients such as beef, chicken and turkey. This is mandated in order to meet nutritional requirements established by the U.S. Military for active soldiers in challenging field conditions. Another difference is LRPs in the shape of small brick packs are quite compact. They take up less space and weight than both pouches and #10 cans of freeze-dried food.

Long Range Patrol Ration entrees are manufactured in the U.S.A in large single servings, offering good-tasting, high-energy meals in a wide range of options. Among those on the menu for LRPs entrees are the following meals:

  • Chicken & Rice
  • Spaghetti with Meat
  • Chili Mac with Beef
  • Turkey Tetrazzini
  • Mexican Rice & Chicken
  • Beef Stew
  • Granola and Blueberries
  • Scrambled Eggs with Bacon

Civilian Use of LRP Rations

Because they are lightweight, compact, and easy to prepare, LRPs have attracted the interest of a variety of civilians. Lurp Lovers include backpackers, who carry them on hiking and rock climbing adventures. Also, campers, RV travelers, and sailboat owners bring them along as high-protein, home-cooked tasting meals that take very little space and effort. Survivalists and preppers consider LRP Rations as valuable and practical survival food items to have in their "Grab & Go" bags, and on their long-term storage shelves.

“Americans in the know” know how to make use of LRPs. The big issue with Long Range Patrol Rations and civilians has nothing to do with whether or not to carry them in backpacks, or store them with other emergency preparedness foods and items. The challenge is based on the rarity of these unique freeze-dried food solutions and their lack of availability to the general population.

Due to their long shelf life, manufactured runs of Long Range Patrol Rations are not done every year. In fact, it is not uncommon for periods of five to seven years to pass between requests by the U.S. Military for more.

LRP Rations only become available outside of military circles in the event there is a U.S. Government overrun (as was the case in 2013). On these occasions, a limited supply can be put on sale for consumption by the general public.

The LRP Ration is the longest running military ration still in existence today. For nearly 50 years, it has proven good enough to be carried on the backs of U.S. Special Forces on their longest, toughest missions. So, it may prove worthy of consideration by you for your emergency or outdoor food needs... especially if you want the best, like the pros do.

About the Author:
Thomas Baldrick is with Freeze Dry Guy and can be contacted at Freeze Dry Guy, Inc

Sunday, February 16, 2014


I found Aldis tuna and chicken salad packs for $1.19. It comes with a small can of chicken or tuna salad and crackers to eat it on. It's not the lightest most calorie-packed food you can buy to walk and carry, but it has a descent taste and us good for the car/day trips or short-term power outage at home.

When I lived in the South I once broke down and had to take a taxi home. I emptied my trunk of emergency supplies, including six army wool blankets I had bought from the thrift store. The taxi driver was saying how it doesn't get “that” cold! I saw the report about the traffic jam in Atlanta due to the mass exodus and remembered his reaction. These folks living in the suburbs and commuting have money and can afford blankets from the thrift store and dry food like granola bars or peanut butter crackers for their vehicle. When I hear about the mothers not having food for their toddlers, I can't help but wonder why they didn't have a little water, food, and blankets in their cars. - L.E.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dear SurvivalBlog,

First off, thanks for all you do. Your site is a great resource to “our community” of those awake and aware.

I wanted to share something I found at my local Costco. By the way, I don't work for either Costco or Tasty Bite. I'm just offering up an idea for others. I'm always looking for multi-purpose food for storage and rotating through my kitchen. I found a product called "Tasty Bite Asian Noodles" in a multi-pack. I thought it would make a good food item for a bug out bag.

I have freeze dried backpacking meals and MRE's but I could see this product being another option to add in.

Here are some of the features I liked:

  • Packed in a sealed waterproof bag
  • Cooks by boiling bag for 5 minutes
  • Very compact size (One 8.8 oz pack is supposed to be two servings. On the go it would be more likely for one person)
  • Eat out of the bag ability
  • No preservatives
  • Whole food ingredients! (there is nothing on the ingredient list I don't recognize)
  • No MSG
  • GMO free
  • 500 calories per pack
  • It doesn't matter to me but it might for others that it is Vegan & Kosher
  • Mine had a 2 year “Best By” date (2015)

We tried it as a side dish with dinner tonight. It was a lot sweeter than I excepted or like, but it was good. I especially like the peanuts in it. There is a lot of sodium in it, but I guess that wouldn't be all that bad if you were out hiking all day working up a sweat. It will add some variety to my food preps.

I found out that you can purchase this item as well as many other meals-in-a-bag from their website. The cost for a 12-pack was $37.08 or $3.09 per pouch. I found it at my local Costco. Keep at it. Train smart. Stay safe. - C. from NC

JWR Replies: As I mentioned in the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course, shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO can be one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. COSTCO keeps expanding their product line to include specialized long term storage foods in large #10 cans. Some or these are certified organic, and some are gluten free. But there are of course lots of bargain prices on rice, beans, sugar, flour, pancake mixes, and many other foods that are packed in sacks or boxes. (My preparedness course describes exactly how to re-package bulk foods to maximize their nutritive shelf life, and protect them from mice and insects.) Other new items--like the noodles that you mentioned--are not marketed to preppers but they certainly do have some utility for us!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Friends,

I read the submissions regarding seasoning cast iron with interest.

Many years ago I was fortunate to buy a new Wagner Dutch oven that must have sat on the shelf for an appreciable amount of time; the price was under $20. Inside it had the instructions from Wagner for seasoning. The instructions called for the use of peanut oil in an oven at 375 degrees F. for one to two hours.

The only reason there is peanut oil in our house is for seasoning cast iron. Seasoning is not a once-and-done procedure, rather it needs to be built up over time and be renewed to protect the cast iron and produce the original non-stick cooking surface. There are times that everything needs to be stripped down to clean metal, and then re-seasoned.

Using fat from meat products has the potential to taint food cooked afterwards if handled improperly, especially if not rendered. Also, non-food products should never be used to season cast iron.

All cast iron cookware is made using sand molds and is porous. More or larger porosities in cast iron indicate poorer quality. Small imperfections are not unusual and can be troublesome, especially when exposing a pan to a high heat environment. Overly porous cast iron will be difficult to clean and season properly. Dropping cast iron, especially when hot, may be the end of that pan. Foreign cast iron tends to be junk, with exceptions from the Scandinavian countries.

For cleaning, never put cast iron in a dishwasher with modern soaps. Porosities in the surface tend to hold soap and contaminate whatever is cooked next in the pan. It is imperative to rinse all cast iron when using abrasive cleaners, like Comet, or scrubbing with steel wool, before seasoning. I place my cleaned cast iron upside-down in a pre-heated oven to prevent thick build-ups of oil flowing into the bottom of the pan.

I have tried many methods for bringing old cast iron back to life and prefer media blasting to remove old seasoning, followed by cleaning thoroughly with boiling hot water, then seasoning using Wagner's instructions.

When I begin to see silver in the pan, small black flakes in cooked food, or worse (rust), I scrub my cast iron using boiling water without soap, and then I re-season.

Good cast iron which receives care should last more than one lifetime. - D.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Referencing Three Letters Re: A Science Based Technique for Seasoning Cast Iron

Dear HJL,

As a grower of canola, I would like to point out the “ola” in its name is for oil. It was bred the old fashioned way in the 1970's, long before genetic modification, at the university of Manitoba. Outside of North America, it's called Rape, Oilseed Rape, or Rapeseed. Now, as to whether or not the Canola oil you buy at the store is GMO or not? I would say, just like corn and soybean products, it's 95% likely to be GMO. However, I have no doubt that there are still non-GMO Canola products, if you know where to look. Of course, readers in countries that do not permit GMO crops need not worry. - J.D.

Others have mentioned Azure Standard as a source for bulk grains, as well as a variety of other goods, and I second their favorable endorsements. Those living in or near agricultural areas may find they can connect with grain farmers in their area and purchase grains in very large quantities directly. These purchasers may need to provide their own containers, but it's common to have to repackage bulk grains from other sources for long term storage anyway.

Local growers may also have "feed grade" grains, so called because they have some amount of weed seed and other material in them and are therefore used as animal feed rather than sold for human use. These are much cheaper than the cleaner varieties, but are typically quite safe and, when ground into flour for instance, no less palatable than the more expensive stuff. Thanks. - RM

HJL Adds: I would be very careful about “feed grade” grains. My own personal experience with them was with a couple of 50lb bags of corn. We purchased them because no local company had whole corn. Within 2 weeks of purchasing, my house was overrun with small bugs. It took us a bit to trace the bugs back to the bags of grain, and we ended up losing nearly 300 lbs of various grains that we had not yet processed for storage. “Feed grade” grains are usually not treated very carefully in storage, and you may end up in the same boat we did.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


S.B. talks about the high levels of sodium in freeze dried commercial meals. As a hobby backpacker and working in the outdoor industry for some time, I know why. It is because they are designed for high activity situations, where you exceed your normal calorie consumption and have expended large amounts of sweat. Just like those working out will take some sort of beverage, like Gatorade, to replenish salts and other minerals, freeze dried meals are designed to do the same for backpackers. They will be good for those who are required to do heavy manual labor; they are not made for those of us who continue the average sedentary American lifestyle. - M.

Friday, February 7, 2014


I was saddened to see that HercuGlass went out of business. Do you know of any other companies that sell hardened canning jars? - C.V.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Maple syrup is a gift of nature. Like all good gifts, it must be received. That happens in late winter and early spring in the New England and the Great Lakes regions. Since autumn, temperatures below 45 degrees have caused the trees to store sugar as starch. Around the end of February and into March, the sun begins to warm the maple trees even while the nights remain quite cold-- below freezing. This fluctuation in temperature begins a pumping action in the sugar maple trees, which I interrupt by gathering sap.

The Tree Sugar Maple (also known as Rock Maple or Hard Maple) trees are the most common source of sugary sap. I am told that Black Maples are also especially good for tapping. Usually, Red Maples and Silver Maples should be avoided, if their sap is not as sugary, which consequently takes longer to evaporate. If my red and silver maples test below 1.5% sugar, I will avoid them. Their taste is also not as light and sweet. The Sugar Maple leaf is distinctive by its five-fingered leaf with deep "U" shapes between the fingers. The traditional Canadian Maple leaf symbol is quite similar to the sugar maple leaf. The leaves of Red and Silver Maples have distinctive jagged edges and "V" cuts between fingers.

I find that determining the type of maple tree by its bark can be as much art as science. In some trees, the Sugar Maple bark looks like elephant skin. It can be difficult to discern one variety from another. Another cue to discover your Sugar Maples is that their branches tend to branch off lower to the ground (six feet or so) when mature. An important consideration of a great producer is its crown the collection of branches at the very top of the tree. A great crown will draw a great amount of sap up from the roots and truck. Leaving nothing to chance, I mark my Sugar Maples in the autumn, before the leaves fall, with a small dot of spray paint.

The University of Maine has excellent resources on selecting trees, harvesting sap, and making maple syrup at:

Tap Using a 7/16" bit, I drill a two-inch hole at a slightly uphill angle into the maple tree about three to four feet above the ground. I usually see sap immediately begin to wet the opening. Clean the tapped hole of any sawdust or debris. Using a rubber mallet, gently tap a 7/16" plastic spile into the tree. The spile should be firmly seated in the white wood but not split the tree. Tap on warm days to avoid splitting the tree.

Connect the spile using a food grade plastic hose inserted into a 5-6 gallon pail which sits on the ground at the base of the tree. Some older stainless steel spiles permit hanging the bucket from the spile. That doesn't work with the modern plastic variety, so I just put the collection buckets on the ground with a piece of wood on the cover to keep everything stable. The bucket requires a lid to prevent rain and snow from ruining the sap. On the side of the rim of the bucket, near the top, drill a hole for the plastic hose to go into the side of the bucket. My first year, I drilled a hole through the top of the cover, which was not a good idea since rainwater and melting snow contaminate your sap. Your collection operation is complete! It is that easy.

Responsibly tapping maple trees for sap does not damage the trees. The proof of that are the generations of "sugarbush" harvesters that tap their Maples every year. It is important to rest a tree every three or four years, arborists say. It is also important to tap only trees that are mature. The Michigan and Maine state websites about harvesting maple syrup agree that only trees with trunks more than 10" in diameter should be tapped. If a tree is 10-20 inches in diameter, it has a circumference of 31" to 61" and can support one tap. A tree 20"-25" has a circumference of 64"- 79" and can support two taps. Over 25" diameter trees can support three taps. A tree should not be tapped with more than three taps under any circumstances. Over-tapping a tree can starve it of the needed sap for its survival. Excess openings (taps) in the tree can also allow pests and infections to enter the tree.

The sap-rising temperatures-- 40 degrees or so-- will create pressure inside the tree and cause the sap to flow. Day and night, the running sap will drain into your collection bucket. During periods of great temperature fluctuations, I have harvested five gallons a day from a productive tap.

A sweet sap will be about 2% sugar and is measured in the field using a hydrometer. You will need to buy a long or short hydrometer ($10-$20) and a stainless steel cup ($18-$22) to hold the sap while testing. I buy all of my supplies from Sugar Bush Supply company I have found them them to be 100% reliable, fairly-priced, and knowledgable. Sap that is less than 2% is still usable, but it will take longer to evaporate and can result in a darker, more molasses-like syrup. The Grade A Amber syrup comes from the sweetest sap.


As soon as possible, boil your sap. If it stands for more than two or three days, especially in warm weather, it can become milky and affect the taste of the syrup. For my sap, I use a 125 gallon, food grade, polystyrene holding tank that I purchased from Leader Evaporators . Making maple syrup is about evaporating the water out of the sap. Roughly speaking (depending on the sweetness of the sap) 43 gallons of sap yields one gallon of syrup.

The sap is boiled to 7.5 degrees above the boiling point of water. At sea level this temperature is about 212 degrees Fahrenheit. So, since I am near sea level, I bring my sap to 219.5 degrees, when it becomes a clear amber yellow. Boiling above those temperatures will often result in gritty bits of "sugar sand" in the syrup and a cloudy product. Also, the longer the sap is boiled, the darker it gets. Inferior sap will yield a syrup that is “Class C”, brown, and molasses-tasting. The highest prized syrup is the golden, clear, light syrup.

In the past when doing small batches, I used an electric stove to boil my sap in stainless steel pots from Walmart. The evaporation/boiling process took about seven hours to turn 18-20 gallons of sap into two quarts of syrup. Because I will have several hundred gallons of sap this year, I decided to boil most of it on an outdoor steel box wood stove in the woodshed. I will use the stove top for the finishing process of taking the thickened sap to 219.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Filtering and Bottling

Syrup should be filtered when it's hot. I use homemade filters, but they can also be purchased at Sugar Bush Supply and other supply companies. The syrup should be bottled at a temperature of at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacteria and fungi. It is capped immediately and left to cool. I use 12 oz and 8 oz glass bottles, but there is a wide variety of containers, caps, and labels. Just make sure your jars and bottles are sterile before filling them. Bottles should be filled to near the top, minimizing the amount of air in the bottle. The bottle or jar can then be laid sideways to cool, creating a nice seal with the cap.

Reverse Osmosis

I have been reading and thinking about using a reverse osmosis (RO) machine to extract much of the water from the sap before I boil it. Most of the literature claims that the reverse osmosis filtering systems can extract up to 60% of the water out of the sap. Obviously, this would reduce the boiling time significantly.

However, I am concerned that the sugar in the raw sap would foul the filters frequently. If I have to replace filters every hundred gallons of raw sap, for example, that would require a lot of work and maintenance. For me this is a hobby, not a job. I am not convinced yet that using the RO filters makes sense for my small operation.

Clean Up

After the season is over, clean all of your hoses, spiles, and buckets with a hot chlorine-water solution. Use one part chlorine to twenty parts hot water. Then store your requipment in a dry, clean place. Cleanliness is critical in the process. Whenever I handle the raw sap, I usually filter it to remove any visible debris. Then, boiling it kills any unseen germs, bacteria, and contaminants.

Final Product

You are finished! Your maple syrup is delicious, pure and 100% natural, with no additives of any kind. I am told that maple syrup, like honey, will last for many years when sealed and stored in a cool, dark place.

Combined with your labor and a few materials, your maple syrup is a gift of nature.

I read with interest DDR's article “The Joy of Canning”. Most of her advice is spot-on and an excellent primer for new canners. I commend her for such a comprehensive article for novice canners. However, she includes some potentially dangerous advice that can invite the risk of botulism. For example, she correctly writes, "Vegetables and meats are considered low-acid and should always be processed in your pressure canner. This is also true of your soups, chilis, and most sauces. I find that it's a good idea, when in doubt, to pressure can just to be safe." Then, she contradicts this advice later in the article when she writes, "By the way, I water bath can my spaghetti sauce, even though it contains onions, peppers, and oil, because tomatoes are so very high in acid."This is INCORRECT. If her spaghetti sauce contains onions and bell peppers, then the food MUST be pressure canned in order to prevent the deadly disease of botulism. The acid in tomatoes does not negate the fact that onions and bell peppers are low-acid and must be pressure canned.

The rule of thumb for canning mixed-ingredient foods is to PROCESS THE FOOD IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INGREDIENT REQUIRING THE LONGEST PROCESSING TIME. In this particular case, bell peppers canned in quarts require processing for 45 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure (adjusted for altitude). Pressure canning these low-acid ingredients for less time or water-bath canning them invites the risk of botulism.

Even without the addition of low-acid ingredients, sauces made with modern, hybrid tomatoes are often too low-acid to be safely canned in a water-bath. It is recommended that citric acid or another acidifier be added to increase the acidity in order to safely water-bath can. And as I mentioned, if there is anything else added to the sauce (such as bell peppers or onions), then the sauce MUST be processed in accordance with the ingredient requiring the longest processing time.

DDR also mentions canning butter or high-oil items, both of which are items that should not be canned at home. While DDR claims she's never poisoned anyone yet, I'd like to remind her that “past performance does not guarantee future results.” There are some things that home canners shouldn't can at home, even with a pressure canner, and even if those products are available commercially. Commercial canneries have additives, preservatives, and processing controls that are not available to home canners. They also have professional processing equipment that we can't duplicate at home.

The foods not recommended for home-canning include:

  • Foods packed in oil. Canning in oil is not recommended because oil coats and insulates botulism spores and creates an anaerobic micro-environment, which allows the spores to survive high heat. To kill botulism spores encased in oil would require pressure canning at such high temperatures and for so long that the food itself would be destroyed. (A small amount of oil, for example used in sautéing before canning, is acceptable.)
  • Highly viscous foods. Items such as refried beans, peanut butter, pumpkin purée, or squash purée should not be home-canned. (Cooked cubed pumpkin can be canned at home, but cubed squash will compress during heating and become too thick; it should not be home-canned).
  • Lard. It is too dense and too fatty to safely can at home.
  • Pickled eggs. They are too dense to safely can at home. There are no tested recipes for canning pickled eggs.
  • Dairy products. Soups (or other foods) made with cream, milk, butter, or other dairy products are not recommended for home-canning. Like oil, dairy products are low-acid and support an environment which fosters botulism growth at room temperature. The fat in dairy products can protect botulism spores and toxins from heat during the canning process. When milk is over-heated, the milk proteins drop out of suspension and separate. The amount of heat that would need to be used to kill botulism is so extreme that the food would be rendered inedible. For this reason, canning milk or canning butter is not recommended as a safe procedure for home canners.
  • Cornstarch. Cornstarch is a thickener that breaks down during processing; more importantly, it retards heat penetration. When a thickening agent is needed, use Clear-Jel, which is a modified corn starch formulated for canning. Clear-Jel does not break down in acid food mixtures, and it does not thicken so much that it interferes with the process of heat-killing any pathogens. Please note that processing times listed in published reference books are not sufficient for using any thickeners other than Clear Jel. Unfortunately, this product generally can't be found in grocery stores, but it can be found online.
  • Flour. Some people believe they can make "cakes in a jar" or other foodstuffs that contain flour. This is strongly inadvisable. Home canned flour products , such as breads and doughs, are considered very prone to botulism. No one has yet been able to come up with a reliable recipe and canning direction that doesn't produce botulism some of the time. Flour products are low-acid and "baking" them in a jar is not "canning"; it is not recommended.

The reasons behind the inadvisability of canning these foods are generally due to one of two things: either scientific research has demonstrated that home-canning of such foods is potentially hazardous, or the only way to can them is at such high pressures that the results are unpalatable. In other words, if it's not possible to kill off botulism spores while producing a palatable product, then the food is placed on the "not recommended" list.

There will always be people who think the rules don't apply to them, or believe they're special enough to refute the science behind safe canning. This is the kind of sloppy canning techniques I continuously warn about. Remember, past performance ("Granny always did it!") does not guarantee future results. Canning is a highly developed science, and to assume the rules don't apply to you is asking for trouble. Be safe. - Patrice Lewis


Dear Hugh,

Thank you for all the great information that “Survival Blog” provides, and my compliments to DDR for all the information provided in "The Joy of Canning"! I'd like to expand on this work to describe what I call "Canning Marathons"-- 12 to 14 hour days spent producing 40 to 80 jars of home canned produce. Just for reference, I'm part of a family heritage that has grown and put up their own food for many generations.

Canning marathons are needed for serious ”preppers” or anyone that is dedicated to growing, processing, and preserving their own food. The following information doesn't count all the other homegrown food that is dehydrated, frozen, grains, dry beans, fresh produce, and more that is needed for a year's food supply.

The first step for a year's family food preservation is to grasp the enormity of this endeavor. To simplify the math, figure a 350-day year, a one-pint (16 ounce) canning jar equals a 12 ounce store-bought can (what most people are familiar with), and the contents of a one-pint jar equals one pound of garden produce or meat to be canned. Yes, I realize that's not totally accurate, but it simplifies the math. So, if your family uses (or wants to use) two cans of fruit/vegetables/sauce/canned meat per day for the entire year, you will need 700 pints or 350 quarts of home-canned food per year. It also means about 700 pounds of food ready to be put into jars. If you use four cans per day (for a big family), then double the numbers.

My family of five puts up an average of 700 jars of produce in various sizes of jars each year.. We also want to have at least one-half to one full year's worth of canned food on hand, in case of a year of low garden production or TEOTWAWKI-type events. So that means that at the beginning of the canning season, we should have 350 to 700 canning jars that are still filled with the previous season's harvest. While planning a garden, we take into account how many canning jars are still full in the spring. If we have lots of canned tomatoes, we grow fewer tomato plants. If our canned tomato supply is low, we grow extra tomato plants. Therefore, we have 1000 to 1400 jars filled and neatly stored in a large, walk-in pantry.

Obviously, dating and rotating the jars is extremely important. If my family, on average, cans 50 to 70 jars of produce per marathon, it takes 10 to 14 long, canning marathons to produce the 700 jars needed.

My suggestions for canning marathons are:

* Have a good quantity of the necessary equipment-- at least two or three pressure canners and/or two or three hot water bath canners, a large number of two-, three-, or four-gallon kettles/pots, (I use only stainless steel kettles), several 5-gallon pails for compostable waste, baskets of produce, numerous sharp knives (I have a dozen Chicago Cutlery steak knives and others for use), commercial-size stirring spoons, and large ladles (for the large kettles).

* Additional burners (beyond the four on an average kitchen stove) are needed. I add two Coleman camp stoves to give me an additional four burners. Propane burners are the easiest to use because they have immediate temperature control. It is far easier to find the "sweet spot" quantity of heat, to maintain an almost exact amount of pressure in a pressure canner, when using gas burners rather than electric ones. I process everything at 12 pounds of pressure. That way, it gives me a little extra time to adjust the burner heat if the pressure goes up or down since it's impossible to have your eyes on the pressure gauge every minute whilling getting the huge amount of other processing work done.

A minimum of two pressure canners are needed to can any quantity of jars because of the long times it takes to heat, process, and cool down each batch ,even when I work alone. If two or three people are working together efficiently, they can keep three pressure canners busy--one being filled, one processing, and one cooling. With some overlap all of this is repeated over and over again until all the available produce is canned. Don't forget that there is alot of produce prep work, jar washing, kettle washing, and clean up to be done, too.

The double decker pressure canners are extremely valuable for processing pint jars. They can hold 18 pints at one time. With two double decker pressure canners, it only requires two batches of jars in each of the two pressure canners to produce 72 pints of produce; that's an easy half marathon day.

The only big disagreement I have with what DDR wrote is the need to 'sterilize' the jars before filling. The jars certainly need to be clean, but they are not truly sterilized until they go thru the pressure canning process. Using precious time and the limited number of stove burners to heat the canning jars will greatly slow down the number of jars that can be processed during the canning marathon. As DDR wrote, you should never put cold jars into hot water or hot jars into cold water, so heating the jars does have a value for hot packing. I've never broken a cold jar from pouring hot liquid into it, but I've broken several jars by putting a cold pack jar into hot water-- the bottom breaks out. Therefore, I always put cold pack jars into water than is no hotter than 'warm”.

I take the rings off the jars after they are sealed, as the lids and rings have the potential to rust or stick together, making the jar harder to open. An additional value is that the rings will last for many years longer if they are removed, completely air dried, and stored in a dry place.

Hope you all enjoy your ”canning marathons” as much as I do! Seeing an entire counter top covered with processed and sealed canning jars after a day's hard work still gives me a thrill!!! - Mountain Firekeeper

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dear Editor,

When I was in college we had a history class which we re-enacted the civil war battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas. We actually dressed in period clothing and ate food the solders would eat. Hard tack was one on the meals we had. Another staple was beans, I found if you put the hard tack down and had the beans on top it was a little easier to eat. If this was all I had to eat I would go looking for something better for supper. FYI the hard tack works well as a hammer. - K.


Hello Hugh,

Glad to have you as part of SB. Regarding the recent post about hardtack, I have some experience here having made several batches over the years. Original, old time hardtack was said to be tough enough, yet not brittle, that when thrown against a brick wall would chip at the edges, but not shatter. It was essentially never eaten alone, as it would break the teeth of those attempting such a feat. This was not a good idea in a time when dentists were few and far between. Rather, the hardtack would be soaked in coffee or soup or gruel or grease and fat of salt port to allow it to soften somewhat. Breaking it into smaller pieces with the help of the butt of a rifle or hammer helps. Sounds great doesn't it? But it does do some things well, and that is why it persists. It lasts. I have some left over in my cellar that I made 3 or 4 years ago, with no sign of going bad or mold or off flavors or discoloration. Some of it was stored in mason jars, some in ziplock baggies, and some wrapped in newspaper, just to see what effect each storage method had. The difference in effect was negligible. That said, when I did a side by side taste test with the 4 year old hard tack verses some fresh stock I made the other day, the fresh was definitely better. To make it, simply grind wheat berries into flour, add enough water to make a dough that doesn't stick to your fingers, roll it out until half an inch thick, cut into squares (or rectangles, whatever), pierce with knife or fork several times each to aid the air circulation as they dry. And I do mean dry, rather than bake. Place them in the oven at about 250-275 for half an hour or so, then flip them over and repeat for another half hour. Then take them out of the oven to cool. Then back in for another 45 minutes to an hour, or even longer if your dough was quite wet when you started. This slow cooking is the secret to hardtack that passes the durable-but-not-shattering test. I got in a hurry once and turned the heat up to 300 for awhile, and while it gave a nice toasted appearance to the hard tack, it made it much more brittle. Many modern recipes will call for salt, sugar, lard, milk, butter, and all sorts of other things. While these no doubt improve the taste and nutrition content of the hardtack, they take away from the shelf life and durability, which is the main thing hardtack has going for it in the first place. If you wanted it to taste good, pack snickers bars instead! (Emphasis added by HJL) Salt and sugar attract moisture; lard, butter, and milk increase rancidity. I've only ever made it with fresh ground whole wheat, so can't speak to white vs wheat. I figured all hard tack was from fresh ground whole wheat, back in the day. If other readers have different experience, I'd be glad to learn from them. Cheers, - J.



Hard Tack has always been made with wheat flour. The generalized process of grinding wheat grain often includes sifting which removes the chaff (bran). This process makes wheat flour appear whiter than it would be if simply grinding the wheat berries into a coarse wheat flour.

Since early times, milling has been a process of separating the outer wheat bran and wheat germ from the inner endosperm portion of the wheat berries. Through mechanization in the 19th Century, though, the process became more streamlined. New equipment was introduced into the process which refined flour milling. Sifters, bran dusters, and even middlings purifiers all contributed to the industrialization of the variety of mills. A technique adapted from Europe, called “the New Process” also helped American mills achieve a better and more refined flour. Through these processes, the commercialized wheat flours became finer, lighter in color, and more desirable by most. Then came the bleaching process and additions of nutrients to enrich the final flour product. Rather ironic that now there are so many of us prefer freshly ground whole wheat flour. - LynnS


Dear Mr. Latimer,

In just reading the post concerning Hard Tack I wanted to share with you the following web site dedicated to hard tack. I have not yet attempted any of these recipes but the post got me thinking about it again and I plan to give it a good test! - M.B.

HJL Adds: S.V. also sent in the link to this web site.


Some Discussion:

Lembas was made with Elven magic by the Lady herself. Without that - no lembas.

Below is the hardtack recipe I use and my results. The recipe was derived from a Civil War recipe drawn from a no longer there re-enacting web site. At 8 years old (stored as noted below) didn't make anyone sick. I'm not sure if it did nourish anyone. Any fat in it can eventually go rancid, any seasons can eventually go stale.

Finding weevils in the hardtack was fairly common so I doubt that the small amount of fat going rancid would matter. Hungry is hungry.



Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

2 1/2 cups flour
6 tsp. Salt
3/4 cup water

Dry mix the ingredients.

Add the water and knead the dough. Dough should not be sticky.

Roll out to an even thickness. I use a shallow sided cookie pan. The shallow sides control the thickness

Cut to shape. Poke three rows of holds with a fork.

Place in the oven for about 1/2 hour or until just golden.

Makes 10-12 biscuits.

To cook them really thoroughly, set them aside for a day, then cook them at 225 degrees for 30-45 more minutes. The second baking will remove any "sweat" and really dry the biscuit. This is important.


I took my original recipe from a civil war reenacting webpage (it's not there anymore) and experimented. The recipe listed above is what I wound up with. I first made a double batch then put them in 1 gallon Ziploc baggies and put the baggies on the guest Bedroom closet shelf. All food trials included a bowl of hot chicken bouillon for dipping/soaking. One week later I tried one and I'd hate to have to live on them. Two weeks later I had the same result. I continued to test them at one month, six months, one year, 18 months, two years, 2-1/2 years, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 years with the same result. I gave one to a friend's step-son - a reenactor, and he liked it so I gave what was left to him. Apparently they were a hit at the reenaction. I have made a batch or two since then.

If you're going to consume them in a month or so - bake up a batch with whatever is in it and try it. The water/salt/flour recipe is the standard. - W.B.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

As desert-based urban preppers, my wife and I have invested a lot of research, time, and expenses building up a substantial supply of food, water, household supplies, medications, fuel, alternative power, and home defense resources. We've studied, we've trained, we've networked with like-minded families, and we've done our best to be ready for what increasingly seems to be the inevitable.

And then things changed.

Roughly four years ago I began experiencing unexplained episodes of debilitating vertigo, ear ringing, hyper sensitivity to sound, hearing loss, and fullness in my left ear, similar to that feeling you get when you've been swimming and your ears get full of water. Five ENT doctors later I was finally diagnosed with Meniere's Disease-- a rare and chronic autoimmune affliction to the endolymphatic components of the ear that manage the moisture and fluid content of the inner ear. Meniere's can affect either one or both ears. Fortunately only myleft ear is affected at this time.

There is no cure for Meniere's; there are only ways to mitigate the potential for episodes and symptoms. The primary treatment is the elimination of salt in the diet and the body. Salt causes the body to hold fluids, so my primary preventative treatment is to severely restrict my salt intake and to take a diuretic to help rid the body of excess salt. All this came as a surprise to me as it was rare that I used a saltshaker. One of the secondary treatments is allergy management; allergies cause inflammation and inflammation leads to increase in mucous and fluids in the body, especially the sinus cavities and ears.

At the end of four days of allergy testing for nearly 200 potential allergens, we found that I was allergic to eggs, soy, and an assortment of trees and weeds. Yes, those healthy egg white and spinach omelets I ate almost everyday for breakfast are now history. As for soy, I had no idea so many items from food to skin care products to interior car parts and bedding contain soy. Most of the store-bought meat we eat is fed and raised on soy products as well.

To my wife's credit, our food preps were very well diversified with the staples of bulk packed buckets of rice, beans, flour, grains and pasta, as well as canned foods and supplemental spices and treats to give variety to the bulk items. We also had about 1/3 of our food preps in the form of #10 cans of freeze dried meals, meats, TVP (soy), fruits, and vegetables. Herein lies the problem and the point where many of our preps became poisonous for me.

It's highly unlikely you'll ever develop Menieres, but what about high blood pressure or other chronic illnesses and allergies that can force you to not only change your diet but also your lifestyle?

Not all freeze dried foods are created equal. When it comes to salt and soy I can tell you that most of the full meal products contain two to four times more salt per serving than the USDA Recommended Daily Allowance of sodium, which is 2400mg for healthy people and much less for someone with high blood pressure or Menieres.

Ideally, we'd all eat locally or personally-grown, whole foods and meats everyday, but that may not be the reality in a SHTF scenario for those who do not live in rural areas. In our plan to build a diversified larder, it was smart to keep an ample storage of quick, easy, “add water and go” dehydrated meals. We still do store these. However, very little of that is of use to me personally now, except in miniscule servings.

As we rotate through our canned foods, my wife (being our home food planner and nutrition expert) replaces as much of our food stores as possible with “low to no sodium” and “no soy” options. For instance, something as simple as canned tomatoes can range from 20mg of sodium per can to 400mg per can. Canned soup, beans, and a host of other items have a wide range of sodium levels, as well.

The moral of this story is the importance of thinking about your age, your health, and how your health and nutrition requirements might change unexpectedly over the course of your life and your prepping. I had no idea or warning my health would change so suddenly and unexpectedly and chances are you have no idea what is in store for you either. Taking a close look at the health patterns of your blood relatives is a good start, since many maladies such as high blood pressure and heart issues are hereditary. Most importantly, before you buy a pallet of survival rations you should definitely read the labels and think about what in that package might become your poison someday.


Seasoned readers of Survivalblog may remember a letter on May 28, 2012 referring to “Optimized Corn” presented by ShepherdFarmerGeek. This is a very important article, since it discusses how to transform corn (generally regarded as nutritionally inferior) into a really great source of nutrients. This gringo had no clue what this was all about, but I did “know” corn was Baaaaaad. It is not so, however. The process is called nixtamalization (or liming) and was practiced by early Mexican cultures, but was omitted by Europeans in their preparation of the grain. This mistake was the root cause of Pellagra and other dietary based maladies. I recently ran across a very informative video demonstrating the liming process and the making of both masa and tortillas. Readers may check it in this video: Nixtamalization of Corn to maximize the utilization of its nutrients - M.E.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Welcome Hugh,

Walmart is carrying Augason Farms in their store and has carried it in our local store for a couple of years.

The excellent thing about Augason Farms is their large selection of Certified Gluten Free items, for those of us who need to look for those items. Walmart does not carry many of those in their stores, but they can be ordered through Walmart/Sams. Costco also offers some items online and in stores, often with free shipping.

If you sign up at Augason Farm's website or “friend” them on social media, you'll see they have a lot of really nice promotions. I've ordered directly from them and saved 30 to 40% off. With their very reasonable shipping, it's cheaper than Walmart. Plus, on their website, you can get a lot of recipe ideas as well as excellent product quality and service. - JN

Dear HJL,

Three quick comments about your cast iron seasoning techniques:

1. I don't think you are abusing your pans.

2. I would suggest not using Canola Oil, since it is the result of genetic modification and "big food" marketing (Canada Oil Low Acid or "CanOLA".

3. To re-season my cast iron, I generally just cook up a big batch of bacon.

Thanks - Mike


Dear Editor,

From a purely practical standpoint, it seems to me the science behind seasoning cast iron is simple; stick with what works.

To that end, I've been cooking with cast iron for 30+ years. I've hosted demonstrations, attended clinics, taught classes, and catered events using upwards of 30 assorted cast iron pots and pans at one time. Some of the cast iron I've used dates back to colonial times-- a custom-made spider skillet is by far the coolest piece from the period.

I would not endorse any particular brand over another, but vegetable shortening is all I've ever used to season my pots and pans. There are some famous camp cooks (those hosting their own tv shows and publishing their own cookbooks on the subject) that pretty much swear by the same. There are two reasons for this-- it is easy to work with, and it yields a consistent outcome.

Some folks I've worked with prefer to "cure" their pots to a golden dark brown. It works for them, and I've eaten plenty of food cooked in pots finished this way without complaints. Generally, you can get a finish like that with several light coats, each coating cooked at 375 degrees for an hour or two. My personal preference is to season my pots at 450 degrees or so until they just quit smoking, leaving a bright shiny black finish. I also like to swab them several times with a small swatch of linen soaked in shortening, letting the pot smoke off in between coats. Seasoning a pot is a lot like a good paint job, you want to do it in several thin coats rather than try and get it done in one big one.

My biggest pots are camp ovens. These have a lip around the top of the lid and three legs on the bottom of the pot. I used to have a big 22" diameter oven that Cabelas carried, but it is no longer being produced. I also had a big Maca oven that weighed 63 lbs when empty! Filled with stew or chili, it was at my load limit for hefting off the fire and onto a table. I got rid of them since I no longer cook that much food anymore. Sadly, Maca has quit making dutch ovens.

I've cooked meals for upwards of 200 folk, but prefer to cook for groups of around 20 or less. I do get a fair number of invites to elk camp and fish camp every year. I reckon the pioneers and colonials used whatever fat they could get their hands on to keep their pots seasoned. We call a good seasoning layer a "patina", though that isn't entirely an accurate reference. It's okay if a little of the finish flakes off into whatever dish your cooking. It won't hurt you, and if you've seasoned the pot right won't hurt it either.. Avoid using metal utensils with your cast iron, if possible, as it will ablate the finish quicker. I don't wash any of my seasoned pots with soap. If I need to clean out a crusty pot, I just heat it up, season it some, and if there are any leavings from the previous meal they will scorch out. If I have to resuscitate a pot from being abused (by someone else!), I will just heat it till the finish ashes out, scrub it real good in soapy water (the only time I scrub a pot in soapy water is when I am starting with a bare naked pot), dry it off, rub in a fine coat of shortening, heat it up, and swab it down a few times as it cooks off.

A person can over-analyze these things. We got 300+ years of history on how to use and care for cast iron pots. I reckon there's not much sense in trying to re-discover something already well rehearsed and proven. If you really want to know what it takes, I suggest contacting the International Dutch Oven Society. You will have access to all the information you will ever need to learn, without ever having to take a chemistry class. --Big Ben


Dear HJL,

My wife learned to cook on a wood stove, She then cooked on a propane stove. Since we married, we use an electric stove. According to the "made in the U.S.A. manufacturer" (Lodge), you never use soap or steel or copper scrubbers to clean cast iron. It scratches the seasoned surface (the patina). It doesn't matter what kind of oil you use to season it. She the thinks the best is lard, like they used 150 years ago or Crisco. When you buy a skillet that is seasoned, just lightly wipe it out with a little dish washing detergent, a soft rag, and a hot water. You can coat it with Crisco or oil, heat it in your oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and then let it cool. Then you have removed any impurities that may be present from the manufacturing process. The proper way to clean a seasoned cast iron skillet or dutch oven is to add some water and let it heat until the water starts to boil. Then carefully pour out the water and then wipe it clean with a soft cloth. This will remove everything from the seasoned finish. Cast iron that has not been used for several months will have a strange odor; but it can be removed by cleaning the piece (as mentioned above) reseasoning and heating in an oven.

Rusty cast iron can be restored, so if you inherit old rusty pieces or find them in garage sales, don't be afraid of them. Cooking with cast iron is supposed to be a good way to add a little iron into your diet.

After 35 years of marriage and thousands of skillets of made-from-scratch corn bread and made-from-scratch biscuits, I can testify that she is an expert at what she does. The guys I worked with refer to her as "the lady who makes the biscuits". - M.E.R.


Dear HJL,

You mentioned your wife's cornbread in response to the seasoning of cast iron. Is she willing to share and post the recipe on the blog? - TC

HJL Replies: Keep reading. I'll feature it in next week's recipe column.

With the changes at the LDS canneries, I wanted to share some other sources for bulk wheat and grains. For folks who live and around SW Montana don't forget that Wheat Montana has it's own retail store where one can buy 50lb bags or wheat berries and flour. It is located in Three Forks, MT which is in SW part of the state.. Wheat Montana is also the wheat berry supplier for WalMart if you've never heard of them. They also sell pre-package six-gallon buckets for long term storage, as well as the buckets, gamma lids, and oxygen absorbers for those who may want to do it themselves. When I compared the prices for wheat berries several years ago, the prices were very close to what it was at the LDS canneries. By the way, the "instore" price is NOT the same price as what's listed online; it's always cheaper. Azure Standard is another source we use. They sell in bulk and also have a good variety of organic foods as well. They offer free delivery to most of the Redoubt once a month, and they will also ship via UPS as well. We've been very happy with them, and their prices are fair. Thanks, long time SB reader, Fletch

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Food preservation through canning is a skill still practiced extensively in the rural areas of the United States, but people who live in the cities rarely consider canning because it is no longer a part of the urban culture. Most city dwellers wouldn't have the first idea about how to start canning, much less how to develop a viable food storage program through processing their own food. Canning is a skill that is not only important to our lives right now, but it will become even more important in the event of TEOTWAWKI, because there will likely be no more companies operating to preserve food for us.

I am a native Californian. I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and lived most of my life in the "Golden State". About 20 years ago, my husband and I started to become concerned about the radical changes happening in our beloved home state, and we were worried about raising our children in such a volatile culture. After about three years of researching possible alternative locations, we pulled up stakes and moved to tiny town in far northern Wyoming. When I say we pulled up stakes, I mean that we left family, friends, and jobs to move to a place where we knew no one and had no employment prospects. Our objective was to provide a better life for our children and ourselves. Over the past seventeen years we have carved out a niche in our little town and managed to almost integrate ourselves into a very insular culture. Being Californians, we had a hard time convincing our new neighbors that we weren't going to infect their society with our twisted California values. After seventeen years and many hours of community service, I think that they are beginning to trust us!

All kidding aside, my neighbors have blessed my life since we moved to Wyoming by teaching me many things about survival preparedness. In fact, it was difficult to choose just one subject for this article. After consideration, I decided that canning was the single most important thing that I have learned, because it combines self-sufficient food storage, healthy eating, and saving money. Three of my all-time favorite topics!

Without exception, everyone should "can". Men, women, city people, country people, and everyone in between can benefit from learning how to preserve their own food. It does carry some dangers, but they have been greatly exaggerated-- probably by the folks who make canned foods for the supermarkets. As long as you use some common sense and follow some simple rules, you will be able to provide your family with delicious meals that are much healthier than the highly processed, chemical-laden food that you can find in the grocery store. Additionally, you will be able to lay in a supply of emergency rations that are far more palatable than many of the freeze-dried foods and MREs that are currently being sold for emergency preparedness. (We have freeze-dried foods and MREs in our long-term food storage too, so I do not mean to marginalize these very important food storage items; they definitely have their place in your plan.) Canning will also allow you to save a substantial amount of money! So what's not to love?

This article is not intended to teach you everything you're going to need to know, as that would require a book. Luckily, you have an excellent resource in the Internet to give you recipes and basic instructions. (HJL Adds: Ball's Blue Book, usually available at Walmart in the fall is also an excellent resource.) I also recommend talking to all of the older women you know and polling your friends who live in the suburbs. You'll find a wealth of information. This article is intended to familiarize you with the benefits of canning, encourage those of you who dwell in urban areas to look into preserving your own food, and to give you the basic information that you will need in order to begin. I want you to get excited about food preservation because the benefits are almost limitless!

Getting Started

No matter how you slice it, you're going to have a little bit of an initial investment. But if you bide your time, and shop smart, you can find a lot of ways to save money on your supplies. Here is a list of the basic things you will need to start your canning adventure, and some suggestions on how to save money when you buy them:

  • Jars
  • Lids
  • Water Bath Canning Kettle
  • Pressure Canning Kettle
  • Jar Puller
  • Canning Funnel

Jars & Lids

Jars come in several sizes-- from the little jelly jars to pints, quarts, and even half-gallons. I would recommend laying in a good supply of at least the pints and quarts, because these are the sizes that you'll use the most.

Jars of all sizes come in two mouth types-- regular and wide. The regular size opening works well for liquids, sauces, and meats, while the wide-mouth jars are better for canning fruits and vegetables. The jars require lids, so if you buy jars with both size openings, you'll need both regular and wide-mouth lids. The lids themselves are a two-piece contraption-- a flat lid with a sticky inner surface to facilitate sealing and a ring that screws down over the flat lid to hold it in place.

Jars and lids are sold in the grocery stores in country towns, but they may be a little more difficult to find in urban areas. If you live in a city, try taking a trip out to country for the day with the family. Take a picnic and be sure to stop at a couple of farmer's markets to pick up some fruit and vegetables to put into your new jars. Find the local farm and ranch store, and you'll undoubtedly be able to find a wide selection of canning supplies.

Another great resource for jars is thrift stores. They usually wind up with quite a few of them, which they offer at a good price because they take up a lot of space. I once bought over 300 jars at a thrift store for $10.00. When you consider that they usually cost from $9.00 to $12.00 per dozen, this was quite a savings. I have also had excellent luck with finding canning jars at garage and estate sales. Seldom do I ever buy my jars new from the grocery store. If you are buying used canning jars, it is very important to inspect them carefully. Run your finger gently around the mouth of the jar to be sure that there are no nicks, which would interfere with sealing. Do this inspection carefully; you don't want to cut yourself! Also, hold them up to the light to be sure that there are no hairline cracks in the glass. If you take care of them, canning jars can last for years. One more word to the wise is that if you give any of your canned food to your friends, be sure to tell them that you want the jar back. You don't want them tossing your hard-won canning jars into the trash!

Lids are another story. "Official" canning websites, which are sponsored by canning jar manufacturers, will tell you that you cannot reuse the flat lids or the rings that screw them down to the jars. This is a lie. While you should NEVER reuse the flat lid, the rings can be used over and over again, as long as they remain in good shape and are free of rust. The canning jar manufacturers must know that this is the case because they sell the flat lids and rings as sets, but they also sell boxes that contain just the flat lids. I run my jars and rings through the dishwasher after I empty them. Once they are thoroughly dry, I place the ring back on the jar before putting it into storage to await my next canning venture. This allows me to be sure that I have plenty of rings for my jars, and it saves on storage space. There are several companies on the internet that offer reusable lids for your jars. I have used a few of these and have found them to be very effective. They're expensive, but they will save you money in the long-run, and they would certainly be good to have on hand in the event of TEOTWAWKI or any other national shortage of supplies. (HJL Adds: You can also reuse the lids when just using the canning jar for dry storage, or short term storage in the refrigerator. We will often use a Mason jar lid attachment with our vacuum sealer for dry goods. As a result, we hardly ever throw the lids away. New flats are always used for canning, but we save the old for general use.)

Water Bath Canning Kettle

A water bath canner is a large, enamelware pot with a lid and an inside rack. The rack sits inside the pot to hold jars in place during the canning process and is useful for raising or lowering jars into or out of the water. You will process your filled jars in a water bath canner when you are canning high-acid items, such as pickles and fruits (including tomatoes). While vegetables are usually pressure canned, they can be canned in the water bath kettle, if you're making pickles out of them, because the salt raises the acid content.

Your water bath canner will cost about $40.00 - $50.00, if you purchase it new. I have two of them, and I bought them both (you guessed it) at garage sales for $5.00 a piece. Be sure to check and make sure that the rack is on the inside, if you decide to purchase a used water bath canner.

Pressure Canning Kettle

A pressure canner is simply a gigantic pressure cooker with a flat rack in the bottom to keep your jars from coming into direct contact with the heat. When I first learned to can, I was scared to death to try pressure canning. I spent years canning only the high-acid items that I could process in my water bath kettle. Finally, I sucked it up and set out to learn about the pressure canner that had been sitting on a shelf in my garage for over five years. The first time I processed a batch of soup in my pressure canner I was sure that I needed the fire department and ambulance standing by, but (much to my surprise) I got through the experience with the house still intact and with no loss of limbs. I have been happily pressure canning ever since. Many people pressure can everything that they preserve, but I feel that pressure canning fruits and pickles makes them too mushy, so I stick to using both kinds of kettles.

Vegetables and meats are considered low-acid and should always be processed in your pressure canner. This is also true of your soups, chilis, and most sauces. I find that it's a good idea, when in doubt, to pressure can just to be safe.

A good pressure canner is going to cost you from $120.00 to $200.00. I bought mine at a garage sale for $10.00, and it was almost brand new when I bought it. The retail price would have been $140.00. It is important to buy a fresh gasket for the inside of any used canner that you might purchase, and it is also a good idea to take the pressure gauge (which will unscrew from the top) to your local extension office to have it tested. You can find an extension office by contacting your local community college. The nice extension people will test your gauge for free. If your used canner doesn't come with instructions, just check the model number and look up the instruction manual on the Internet. I recommend reading it thoroughly and printing a copy to keep in your files.

Jar Puller

This is a utensil that is specially shaped to allow you to keep a firm grip on your jars as you move them in and out of the canning kettles. These are also sold anywhere that canning supplies can be found, and they run about $12.00 each. Mine is 1970s avocado green and was purchased at a garage sale for 25 cents.

Canning Funnel

This is a funnel with wide openings, which will fit snugly into the mouth of your regular or wide-mouth jars and will allow you to transfer your food into the jars without making a mess. (Well, at least without making a huge mess.) It will also help you keep the tops of the jars as clean as possible so that you'll have to do less cleaning before sealing them. The new ones are plastic and cost about $15.00. I prefer the older models, which are made of metal and can be picked up at garage sales or thrift stores for next to nothing.

Aside from the things that you probably already have in your kitchen, such as pots and pans, measuring cups, and measuring spoons, you won't need any other equipment to start canning. When you've assembled the above-mentioned items, all you need to do is decide what you want to put into your jars, and get started.

What Can You Can?

You're going to be a little bit confused when you start reading canning websites and blogs. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what can be canned, how it should be canned, whether you should hot pack or cold pack, and how long it can be kept on the shelf. I personally prefer the blogs and websites of elderly ladies who have been canning for years and have plenty of practical experience under their belts.

Let's start with what can be canned. I can almost everything, and so do all of the other women whom I know. This includes meats, vegetables, fruits, stews, soups, sauces, relishes, jellies, chutneys, jams, and pickles.

Here's a little story to illustrate how confusing the canning websites can be. I had been canning my spaghetti sauce, which contains an appreciable amount of olive oil, for many years when I read a hair-raising article about the dangers of canning food that contains any kind of oil or fat. The article claimed that fats trap the bacteria and makes them resistant to heat. After forcibly restraining myself from tossing out the 30 quarts of spaghetti sauce that were sitting on my shelf, I thought the whole thing through and decided that I wasn't going to let the article strike a nerve with me. After all, I had been canning sauces, soups, chilis, and meats, which all contain fats, for many years, and I hadn't killed anyone or even made anybody sick. Additionally, I know a woman who even cans her own butter, and she hasn't killed anyone either. So, I have continued to happily can foods that contain fats. This is your call, though, and you should thoroughly research the available information before you make a decision about what you feel comfortable canning. By the way, I water bath can my spaghetti sauce, even though it contains onions, peppers, and oil, because tomatoes are so very high in acid. I would not do this if I put meat in my canned spaghetti sauce. Meat must always be pressure canned. Once again, do your research, and decide what you feel is safe.

Speaking of safety, before eating any low-acid canned foods you should thoroughly heat them to a hard boil to kill any residual bacteria. Check the canning instruction websites to find out how long they should be heated, and to what temperature, before serving.

Hot Packing and Cold Packing

There are two ways to can fruits and vegetables: hot packing and cold packing. Meats are always hot packed after they are thoroughly cooked. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I personally prefer cold packing. This means that the fruits and vegetables are washed and put into the jars raw. Then brine, syrup, or water are added, and they are placed into either the water bath canner or the pressure canner. Many people prefer to cook foods before canning them, but I feel that the canning process makes them too mushy if they are cooked ahead of time. This is a personal preference, and you should experiment with both methods to see which one you prefer. There is one problem with cold packing that you should know about. The raw fruits and vegetables will shrink a little bit during the processing, and your jars won't look as full and pretty. The contents will float up a little, too. This doesn't hurt anything, but your jars won't look as attractive as they do when you hot pack them. This is really only a consideration if you're entering your canning for competition in the local fair.

Additional Important Tips

  • Always sterilize your jars, lids, and rings before putting your product inside. This is easy to do by simply putting your clean jars upside down in a metal baking pan with about 2 inches of water in the bottom. Toss the lids and rings in around them, and boil for about ten minutes. If the jars suck up the water while they're boiling, just tilt them slightly to one side to release it back into the pan. Be sure to use a hot pad when handling the jars and lids, because they will be VERY hot.
  • When using salt in your canned products, always use the canning salt or kosher salt that is available in most grocery stores. Regular salt is iodized and it will discolor your vegetables. Also, add about a half a teaspoon of Fruit Fresh to your jars of fruit to keep the colors vibrant and pretty. Fresh Fruit is just ascorbic acid, and will not affect the flavor or nutrition of your product.
  • Cleaning the tops of your jars and the threads around the edges is vitally important before you put the lids on the jars. This will facilitate sealing and prevent contamination of the contents. After you process your jars in your canner and allow them to cool and seal, you should remove the outer ring and clean again around the threads. Don't worry about removing the outer ring, it won't affect the seal. Dry thoroughly and put the ring back on before storing the jars. Many people store their jars without the rings on, and they claim that this does not affect the length of time that the seal is viable. Since I stack my jars on shelves, or in plastic bins, I want them to be as protected as possible and have never done this, but I know several people who do.
  • Mark the flat lids of your jars with a permanent laundry marker as to the contents and the year that they were filled. You can buy those pretty little labels to put on the outside of the jars, but I have found that they use some kind of indelible miracle glue on them, and they're almost impossible to take off once you put them on. Even putting them through the dishwasher doesn't remove those little suckers. I'm going to throw the flat lid away anyway, so I always just do my writing on the tops of the jars.
  • When you remove your jars from the canning kettle, try to do it in a place where there is no direct draft from an air conditioner or a fan. They will be very hot, and the cold air can crack them. Always allow them to cool on a wooden cutting board or a thick dish towel to avoid contact with the cold countertop. Additionally, if you are processing several batches in your canning kettle, one after the other, don't lower the next batch of jars immediately into the boiling water from the previous batch. This can also break your jars. Allow the water to cool for a little while before putting in the next batch of jars. Leave the jars undisturbed on the counter for at least five or six hours before marking and storing them. After the cooling period, check each jar for proper seal by pressing your index finger gently in the center of the flat lid. If the jar is sealed, there will be no movement. If the jar is not sealed, the flat lid will pop up and down. Put any unsealed jars in the fridge and eat the contents in the next couple of days.
  • Jars should be filled to between ½ inch and 1 inch of the top before sealing. Different recipes call for different headspaces, so be sure that you check your recipes carefully before filling your jars.
  • After putting the product and the liquid into your jars, run a kitchen knife gently around the inside of the jar. This will release any trapped air bubbles. Add additional liquid as needed.

The Benefits of Canning

Food Storage - To me, this is the number one, most important benefit of canning your own food. "Official" websites say that you should not keep home canned food on the shelf for more than two years. We feel very comfortable with keeping them for up to five years. You simply have to exercise some common sense. Store them in a cool, dry place and away from direct light sources. If the jar is no longer sealed, if the food is discolored, or if the food smells bad, throw out the contents of that jar! We rotate our home-canned food storage in the same way that we rotate our store-bought food storage. The oldest jars are stored in the front and used first. We also date every jar so that we know in what year it was canned. We store our jars in plastic milk crates that are carefully marked as to content and dates. This protects the jars, makes them easy to stack, and would be handy to load into the back of the Suburban if we ever have to bug out during a crises. You could also use small plastic storage tubs.

Saving Money

There are several financial benefits to canning your own food. First, you will be able to buy fruit and vegetables during the seasons when they are readily available, and very cheap. You might not appreciate this as much if you live in California where vegetables are grown year-round, but those of us who live in wintry states, like Wyoming, know the value of being able to buy our asparagus when it's $1.49 per pound, as opposed to the winter time when it goes up to $4.89 per pound! Also, you usually save an additional amount of money by buying produce in larger quantities, which you will be able to do since you will know how to preserve what you don't eat right away! You can also use your new canning skills to take advantage of sales and promotions on everything from produce to meat. Finally, you can cut down on waste by cooking in large quantities, and canning the leftovers for future use.

Meat is a great example of the value of learning to can. Sure, you can buy meat on sale and put it into the freezer, but how long will it be before it starts to dry out and becomes freezer burned? Six months, tops? And what will happen if the grid goes down and you don't have the electricity to run your freezer? You'll wind up with a lot of spoiled meat. "Official" canning websites say that canned meat can be kept on the shelf for two years, but we have eaten meat that has been in the jar for five years with no ill effects at all. By the way, I have to warn you that meat in a glass jar is one of the most unattractive things that you will ever see. It looks like a failed science experiment. But don't let that put you off. If you like to preserve wild game meats, try putting them into a stew or soup before canning them. Between the seasonings and the canning process, they will lose that strong, gamey taste.

Whenever I cook chili, stew, or soup, I always cook in large quantities. It doesn't take much longer to cook a lot than it does to cook a little, and that way I can build up my food storage with very little additional effort. I simply can what is left over. This is also handy for my husband, who works out of town most of the time. Whenever he comes home, he goes down and raids the food storage for these pre-made meals to take with him when he goes back to the job site. That way he has fast and easy home-cooked meals that are tastier, more nutritious, and much less expensive than eating out.

Saving Time

After reading this article, you may have gotten the false impression that I spend all of my time in the kitchen, cutting up produce, and sweating over bubbling pots. This isn't true. I am a Funeral Director and a Deputy Coroner, so I work long, strange hours. Canning actually saves me time and effort because I can cook large amounts of product all at once and then enjoy it for a long time. Our family enjoys good food,,and we particularly love ethnic foods. Anyone who has ever cooked Mexican food or Indian food knows that the sauces are time consuming and labor intensive. I cook a couple of gallons at a time, whether enchilada or mole sauces, or Indian masalas. Then I can them in pint jars for quick use later on. What a blessing on days when I'm pressed for time!

Health Benefits

To me, this is another one of the most important aspects of canning. Our country is racing toward using more and more GMO raised produce, more insecticides, and more questionably raised food from foreign countries. Commercially canned foods are placed in cans and jars with BPA in the liners and the lids. So it is becoming essential that we protect our families from these serious health hazards. If you can your own food, you are able to grow your own produce and meat, or you can choose organic growers and small farmers to supply your products. You'll have the ability to know where your food came from,and what is being added during the canning process.

Flavor Benefits

Most kids hate vegetables because commercially canned vegetables are cooked to death and have absolutely no seasoning or flavor. While my preference is for fresh vegetables that have been cooked completely waterless (yep, not even any steam), the next best thing is my home-canned produce that is seasoned with herbs and spices before canning. Be creative with your preserved foods. When I can peaches I put cinnamon and cloves in the syrup, and I always put a tablespoon of brandy and a piece of star anise in the jar before sealing. Compare that with the commercially canned peaches that have no flavor at all, and you'll never want to buy grocery store canned fruit again!


Even the LA County Fair has a canning division. Once you've mastered the art of canning, you can enter your products in county and state fairs and have the pleasure of winning ribbons and prizes for your efforts!

So... do some research, start out simply, and discover all of the amazing food storage, money saving, health, and flavor benefits of learning to can. You won't regret a minute of it. I promise!

A Few Helpful Websites and Blogs

Dear Editor,

We are all aware of hard tack as a long term storage food supply. A pound of flour can make a large quantity of hard tack, which (correctly made and stored) can last for a decade if not more.

I would think that whole wheat flour would improve the nutritional qualities of the hard tack, but there are some online references that state that the fat found more so in whole wheat flour may go rancid with time. It leads you to wonder if there was white flour in Civil War times or in sailing ships? Or if they even cared if it went rancid. Valid question though. Anyone?

Also, original hard tack recipes even with white enriched flour have acceptable nutrition. Whole wheat would be even better. However, it would be valuable to know how that basic hard tack recipe can be improved without impacting its long term storage. Using ionized salt would of course add a necessary mineral without impacting storage life. What about white or brown sugar or perhaps baking soda for electrolytes? Other flours perhaps? It would seem that this basic recipe could be improved without impacting storage. - D.S.

HJL Replies: Never having made hard tack myself, I honestly don't know. It would seem that whatever you put in it will affect the taste, but let's see what our readers suggest. I question the use of whole wheat if it is fresh ground because of the inclusion of the wheat germ, which I understand goes rancid fairly quickly. Sometime I would really like to find out how the elves (in Lord of the Rings) made lembas bread.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dear Hugh,

Hi - first off, I am in NO way an expert or even knowledgeable enough about this matter to offer advice.

After reading Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning in Odds 'n Sods,I became interested in the subject as I generally just use grapeseed oil to season my pans. The very first article I pulled up not only refuted the information in the article above, but it also suggested that taking the advice of the article above could be dangerous.

Here is the relevant extract: 'Perhaps no other related topic is so rife with garbage on the internet than the seasoning of cast iron pans. It is cancerous with political correctness and completely removed from practicality. I think the worst that I have read was someone selling new pans and (proudly) saying he seasoned them with flax seed oil. Flax seed oil? That is just about the most unstable polyunsaturated oil there is. It is so unstable -- read easy to oxidize -- one never cooks with it, ever. To subject it to high heat for seasoning can create dangerous compounds and guarantees lousy performance. It is difficult to express just how stupid that is. I've also read where people spray a pan with no-stick spray then throw the pan in the oven at 500F for three hours, a pointless expensive exercise that might burn the house down.'

Here is the full article. I haven't the foggiest notion who is right and who is wrong on this matter, but I thought it worthy of being brought to your attention. - J.B.

HJL Replies: I'm almost embarrassed to admit how we treat our cast iron. We have two pieces that have been handed down at least three generations. The standard procedure is to use whatever oil is at hand-- canola(rape seed), olive, lard, butter, whatever. The meal is prepared and then the pan is merely wiped out with a paper towel while still warm. Since the pan is used on a daily basis, it never imparts a bad taste. Occasionally someone will cook something in it that ruins the season or cooks a strong flavored food which requires soap and steel wool to clean. In these cases, it generally has to be re-seasoned and the most common method is to wipe it down with canola oil and heat it on the stove top or oven. We generally just heat it until the oil is right below the point where it smokes and then let it cool down on the stove. About every 5 years or so, we begin to notice a black crud forming on the rim above the level that food is generally at. When it becomes noticeable, I just take the pan out into the yard and use a 100,000 BTU weed burner to heat it to the point that the carbon crud burns off, then let it cool down overnight and re-season it in the morning. There are many who would say that we are abusing our cast iron, but it's tough to argue with a process and pan that are 100 years old. My wife informs me that making her southern cornbread is an excellent way to keep the skillet seasoned. She pours about 1/4" of canola oil into the skillet and pre-heats it to 425 degrees before pouring the batter (made without any oil) into the hot oil. The cornbread is then crispy, southern-fried and your skillet is a pleasure to work with.

Mr. Rawles,

I don't know if you know about this, I didn't. I also don't know if this is an online only type thing. But, I found Augason emergency food supplies online at today. I live 2 hours from the nearest Wal-Mart and 3.5 hours away from the nearest Wal-Mart/Sams SuperCenter. So, maybe they sell these in the store, now. I don't know. But, for those of us who rely on shipping supplies in, this is news of note. Orders of $50 or more ship free from - B.E.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dear Hugh,

My online purchases of canned food from the LDS typically arrive within a week via FedX. The most recent purchase this month for 2 cases, showed a shipping cost of $3, no tax. Before it was always free shipping. -J.S.


Dear SurvivalBlog,

Regarding the local LDS store, as stated, they have stopped selling the large bulk items and no longer hold canning sessions. That being said, they do have a warehouse full of the prepackaged #10 cans/cases for purchase of pretty much all the items they used to carry in bulk. The prices can be found on the LDS website "Provident Living" . We are not affiliated with the LDS, but visit frequently and have always been treated with respect and kindness. We consider this the best buy in town. - Nick

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I ordered 10 cases of hard red wheat in #10 cans from the LDS store online. The charge was authorized on the card, but the hold expired and the charge initially did not go through. I received a message telling me that item was back-ordered, I could cancel at any time,and that my card would be charged when the wheat was sent. The boxes came 5 months later, almost to the day. All was as advertised, and the card was charged at that time. The amount charged was $28/box, with no shipping added. I believe this is the best price out there if one is willing to wait. --Prepper Tax Dude

HJL adds: I haven't shopped at the online LDS store and haven't been to the local LDS store since the new changes have been implemented regarding the cessation of bulk sales. The local store was always the best price (by up to 75% less) than most online places. However, we bought in bulk and packaged it ourselves. Since the bulk purchasing has been done away with, we are always interested in stores that can replace that valuable resource.

Monday, January 20, 2014

When I'm out hunting, and a lot of hunting in my neck of the woods is via logging roads that you drive on, or out for a hike, I like to have a little something to munch on. Quite often, I'll take some beef jerky or granola bars, as well as high-protein bars. It's just a good pick-me-up to have something to eat - instead of running home, when I'm a little hungry. Only problem I have with beef jerky is that, while it is quite tasty, it promotes thirst - a lot of thirst. Granola bars and high-protein bars are okay, but they really aren't a substitute for real protein, that the body needs, especially during activities like hunting, hiking or if you're in the military, out on a patrol, or even engaged in combat. The body needs protein - simple as that. [JWR Adds: Another problem with most compact high-protein foods--such as jerky, canned meats, and peanut butter--is that after a few days of an exclusive diet they tend to induce constipation, which could be potentially life-threatening if in the field for an extended period.]
I make no claims to being a scientist, in any way, shape or form. But I do a lot of research - as does my wife - on topics of nutrition, and what helps keep us alive. While I really enjoy a good piece or two of beef jerky, it is a bit hard to digest, unless you drink a lot of water, and you chew it - a lot - before swallowing it. Granola bars - well, I can take or leave 'em - but I have some when out and about in the boonies - I've always found their taste a bit lacking. And, I keep high-energy protein bars in my BOB, just in case.
A lot of hunters will carry a Thermos of coffee, for a quick pick-me-up, and that's fine - but it wears off almost as fast as the "high" it brings on. And, coffee really doesn't serve as a beverage that one needs in a high-stress situation - as in survival or combat. Yeah, I know, many folks are almost addicted to coffee - or more properly, the caffeine in coffee. I stopped drinking coffee more than a dozen years ago - and I only drank a cup or two each did nothing for my acid reflux. However, I will say that, when you're out and about, in a combat situation, out hiking or camping, a nice hot cup of coffee is a nice thing to have. Still, it does nothing to aid in your survival for the most part.

Consider Vitality Sciences, and their new SurvivAMINO tablets. SurvivAMINO tablets are a 100% replacement for amino acids - and any protein in the world can be broken down into a combination of the 20 amino acids. Of these, 8 are considered essential because without any one of them, body functions start to shut down in a few weeks. Any protein source without all 8 essential amino acids is not a complete source and is setting you up for a deficiency. This is not good in s serious survival situation, or even in combat. Let's face facts, when your in a survival situation, you are under a lot of stress, and your body is burning calories - a lot of calories, and that means you need protein to keep going. And, you sure can't carry a BOB full of sirloin steaks, and while beef jerky is nice to have, it still won't supply all the amino acids your body needs to keep going, and going and going.
You probably have the best backpack money can buy, and tough boots - that are water proof, and that Gore-Tex jacket will keep you warm when it's 30 below zero. You've made a study and have the best M4 type of rifle, that will see you through any fire-fight, and plenty of ammo to go along with that rifle. You have some MREs in your BOB, too - but as you know, MREs are heavy, and you can't possibly carry all the MREs you want or need. You also have the best camo clothing, for the area you'll be operating in, too. But have you really taken into consideration what your body really needs - to keep going and going? Probably not! We keep multi-vitamins in our BOB, and while it's a great supplement, it still isn't a substitute for eating right, and as already mentioned, your body needs protein if you want to keep going. Yes, I know, a lot of folks are Vegans or Vegetarians - and that's fine, but the human body, needs protein if you expect it to keep function 100% - especially in stressful situation - and a survival situation, no matter what brings it on, causes a lot of stress and your body craves protein - it needs protein.
Yeah, I know, you are better skilled than "John Rambo," and you can hunt wild game and get your protein that way. Well, believe it or not, Rambo is a fictional character, and to be honest, if you believe you can hunt all the wild game you'll need to survive in the wilderness, you're going to die in short order. I'm not Rambo, never was...and the older I get, the wiser I get (I think?) and I want to pack smarter and lighter for my BOB - and that means carrying less weight, and the weight I do carry, I want it to count - to provide me with the best of everything, to ensure my survival.
SurvivAMINO tablets take up very little room in a BOB, and weight only a few ounces. A 100-count bottle of SurvivAMINO tablets is enough to last a person for 7-days, if they have no other source of protein. And, "no" SurvivAMINO is NOT a substitute for food per se, it is a supplement for protein that our diets call for. And, taking a SurvivAMINO tablet will not give you an instant boost in power and energy - just like a good steak won't give you that boost, either. However, your body will notice that it is getting what it needs in the protein department.
One again, I'm no scientist, but I know a good thing, in the nutrition department, when I find it, and if you're serious about your survival - in whatever form, you honestly should have a bottle or two of SurvivAMINO in your BOB - it will only help your overall health and well-being, when under stress. My youngest daughter was recently discharged from the US Army, after serving a 4-year hitch. And, by the time this article appears on SurvivalBlog, she will be in New Zealand, making a trek, on foot, across 2,000 miles of that country, and she will have SurvivAMINO in her backpack - there will be some parts of the trek, where she will be at least, several days between rural towns, and the SurvivAMINO will help her keep her protein level up there, for the trek.
A 100-count bottle of SurvivAMINO is $45. - and it's worth it, if you're serious about aiding your survival. If you're a military troop, stationed in some hell hole of a place, you'll really appreciate the benefits of SurvivAMINO - it will help keep those protein levels up where they should be - in addition to the MREs you are eating. If you're a hunter or camper, these tablets will help you...if you're into long distance running or walking, the benefits of SurvivAMINO tablets will come into play. And, best of all, they come with a 100% money back guarantee, too. My family and I will be stocking-up on SurvivAMINO as funds permit - it's a small investment insuring your long-term and even short-term survival - whatever brings on that emergency, that requires your survival. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Dear Jim,
I just returned from COSTCO on big "stock up" trip for my retreat. (My family retreat/cabin is 155 miles away, and COSTCO is less than 20 miles away from my house.) Aside for maybe driving over 300 miles to Salt Lake City to buy from one of the big storage food companies, is there any better way to stock up, without my UPS driver knowing [what I'm getting]? Am I missing something, or is COSTCO the way to go?

Thanks, - L.D.M.

JWR Replies: As I mentioned in the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course, shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO is indeed one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. I still highly recommend that. In recent years, COSTCO has expanded their line to include some specialized long term storage foods in large #10 cans. Some or them are certified organic, and some are gluten free. But there are of course lots of bargain prices on rice, beans, sugar, flour, pancake mixes, and may other foods that are packed in sacks or boxes. My preparedness course describes exactly how to re-package bulk foods to maximize their nutritive shelf life, and protect them from mice.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If you have finally decided to take the plunge and eliminate social networks from your life (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), the skills for maintaining interpersonal relationships should not be completely thrown by the wayside.  Over the course of the last five years our “group” has created a network of people that has proven to be very valuable.  One disclaimer that I must put forth is that the flippant nature of social networking on-line must be completely discounted as OPSEC is paramount.  I would never bring someone into my home to have contact with my family or include them in my preps if I didn’t fully trust them.  This is why most of the people in my network I have met through my church.  Developing a relationship with other families who have similar values and beliefs has been the backbone of the group that we have formed.  Although there are only a dozen active members (not including 14 children) we have developed a set of skills that crosses many areas of need come TEOTWAWKI.  Aside from having a wide range of skills the ability to work together as a team, the members of our group encourage growth “as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17).

I have isolated six areas of preparation that our group network has been most beneficial:

1. Physical Training:

This has been the greatest area of growth for our group.  Five years ago more than half of the members were overweight and only a few exercised on a daily basis.  As a challenge to all of our group members we started our road to fitness with an eight week program similar to the Get Healthy Challenge.  Group members kept in touch with each other on a daily basis to hold one another accountable.  After this eight week program we decided to focus on strength and core training through the Hundred Push-ups and Two Hundred Sit-Ups challenges.  While working on individual fitness goals group members encouraged and challenged each other with daily progress reports through e-mail, phone or text to see how the others were doing.  Doing these challenges with our wives was also an eye opener, as many of the women took the challenges more seriously than the men.  One of the wives actually won the Two Hundred Sit-up Challenge ending with 312 total reps.  Over the course of the last year the physical training has been taken to a much more intense level.  The majority of the group members participated in a Tough Mudder  Event and a GORUCK Challenge.  While not every member participated in these events due to ability, injury or pregnancy the bottom line is that all of us are in better shape today than we were five years ago.  The average member has lost 20 pounds (I have personally lost 40) and we all have a regular schedule of physical activity that maintains strength, flexibility and endurance.  The challenge, support and accountability that doing these types of activities as a group brings is immeasurable.  I doubt that most people would see the same results if done individually.  Working at the retreat property together has also been good physical training for the group.  Bucking hay, cutting and hauling wood and other chores at one of the two sites we have as retreat properties can be grueling work.  You really find out who your friends are when the hay needs to come in or several cords of wood needs to be put up.  Physically the group dynamic is tested with hard physical labor, but working together completes the task sooner and builds relationships with group members.

2. Medical Training:

This has been the weakest area for our group as we need to increase our level of training.  We do have a doctor (optometrist) and a registered nurse in our group.  Although they both have medical training, by no means are we able to fulfill needs like trauma care or even general surgery.  One of the goals is to get several of the members to take an EMT course at the local community college.  This would not solve all of our needs for medical training, but it would be a start for gaining more knowledge concerning emergency medicine.  This course will be a major undertaking, as 120 hours of classroom, observation and practicum is a commitment that will not be taken lightly by most families.  Ultimately the benefit of the knowledge of life saving skills will have to outweigh the cost of loss of time with one’s family.

3. Food Preps:

Buying in bulk is always better when done as a group.  Greater quantity means lower cost per unit and the most value for the money you invest into your preps.  We bought beef from a local slaughterhouse, grains from the local co-op and worked on preserving them as a group.  Whether it is canning, storing in Mylar with oxygen absorbers or dehydrating, it is always better to have more hands helping with the work.  While most of the food preps were done successfully we have decided as a group to not try to brew beer anymore.  After hours of labor and weeks of waiting we had a pretty nasty batch of skunk beer that was not worth the effort or resources allocated.  Pickling has been discovered as a fun way to spend time together as a group.  Many of the wives were looking for ways to put up excess garden produce, so pickling parties became the summer staple.  Developing the mindset that putting food up was important became the norm.

4. Ammo/Shooting Preps:

Again working as a group to purchase ammo in bulk has always been better than trying to find the best deal for each individual.  Utilizing common calibers as the group standard for our center fire rifle and pistol, 12 gauge shotshells and .22 LR we were able to accumulate adequate supplies of ammunition for each group member.  The greatest resource to ammo preparation as a group has been reloading.  Most of our group members did not know how to reload ammunition when we formed five years ago.  Today most have at least a working knowledge if not their own presses and dies.  We have worked together sorting range brass, going through the steps of case preparation and even pooled our resources during the recent shortage of components.  Sharing load data and ballistics has also helped with refining the accuracy of the rounds we produce through reloading.  It is always better to have someone else check your load data just to be safe when reloading.  We have also purchased several sets of reactive steel targets for our shooting sessions.  While I admit this is the area that the guys enjoy the most and pour the majority of their enthusiasm behind, the wives in our group have all taken classes (as husbands are often the worst firearms instructors for women) and are continuing to hone their skills with range time.  The area for improvement would be to take a tactical course like one at Thunder Ranch or Gunsite Academy.  We did participate in a 1,000 yard long range shooting match (which just demonstrated everyone’s then-current lack of ability beyond 400 yards) as a group, but this was more of a recreational activity, not tactical training.  A couple of the guys do IPSC or IDPA, but the majority of the group is not involved in competitive shooting.  To encourage group participation in a serious training course or a competitive shooting series is the goal for the future.  While all group members have firearm proficiency, few have had shooting experiences under pressure.

5. Communications Preps

Our group started out with FRS/GMRS radios as our primary method of communication in the field, and then we got CBs which were slightly better, now most members have Ham radios.  Studying and taking the ARRL tests together was also a good experience.  While the technician test is not hard, it did require some studying to refresh knowledge of electronics and radios.  It was also amazing all of the different FCC requirements and regulations that we needed to know.  Pooling resources together to build antennas and radios is another good function for the group.  A few members have actually joined a local club that maintains the repeater in our town.  The next step would be to have more members go for their General licenses to increase the bandwidth we can access and broaden knowledge concerning Ham radio.

6. Spiritual Prep

As I mentioned earlier, all of our group members were found through our local church.  We are not exclusive to church members (as some have left the church but are still a part of the group), however it was important to find people that all had similar values and beliefs.  The group members have been a part of a couple of small group fellowships that meet at least once a week.  There is a family Bible study, a women’s study and a men’s study that meets at different times on different days.  This has been probably the most important area of our network.  To “bear one another’s burdens (Gal.  6:2)” and not only hold each other accountable, but to support one another through trials and blessings is perhaps the greatest function of our group.  One of our group members is active duty Army and has been deployed four times overseas.  The group has rallied around his wife and children to provide support during his prolonged deployments, which to me fulfills the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:39).  While a group may be squared away with beans, bullets and Band-Aids if they are not squared away with their Maker then all is for naught.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I love popcorn tins! I love all the different ways they come decorated – the wonderful Christmas themes, the various John Deere Tractor motifs, professional sports team logos, stock car racing favorite drivers and their race cars, the endless and delightful cartoon characters - just to name a few. They are like time capsules in that their outside decoration reflect what's popular in the culture during any given year. When they are displayed on a shelf, looking at them is like going back in time. I can't get enough of them!

Not only are they decorative, but popcorn tins are versatile. They are the perfect size for storing many prepping items and because they are metal, are especially good for keeping long term food storage safe and secure. Apart from being the ideal size for systematic shelving, they keep out bugs and other vermin. Mice can't chew through steel.

The lids on these tins are typically very tight, which also make them ideal Faraday cages. Just line the inside with cardboard (including the lid) and put in the electronics you wish to protect from EMP.

I have stored a variety of items in Christmas popcorn tins but none more important than my long term food storage. Each of my tins hold a week's worth of food for 3 adults, including coffee, tea, spices, serving plates, cups, utensils, and matches. When I get a shiny new popcorn tin, after sharing and enjoying all the delicious popcorn inside, I turn it into a self-contained no-brainer grab-'n-go little bundle of lovely life-sustaining survival!

There are 3 adults in my immediate household, so I prep for 3. My goal is to pack one week's worth of nutrition in every tin PLUS all the items necessary to consume the food, conserve water, and make life easier during what will no doubt be stressful times. When my tins are packed and shelved, I can see at a glance how many weeks and months of food I have on hand, and it makes rotating the perishables from each tin very easy.

Of all the foods in a long term food storage plan, no better food items have been found to be the overall best for sustaining life than beans and rice. Cheap to buy and easy to store, when rice and beans are cooked and combined they are the supreme complimentary nutritional food creation which gives a human being a near-daily requirement of usable protein, essential vitamins and minerals. When one adds additional protein, spices, and vegetables – it becomes almost a perfect meal. So the core components of my popcorn tin are 20 pounds of white rice and 10 pounds of beans.

A serving of rice has long been held to be “a handful” or ½ cup. When cooked, white rice will expand to be twice it's size, so ½ cup of dry rice expands to be one cup of cooked rice. In a 20 pound bag of uncooked rice, there are 20.154 cups or 40.3 ½ cups. If using long grain white rice, there will be about 200 calories in a ½ cup dry/1cup cooked serving. Nutritionally I plan on serving one cup dry/2 cups cooked serving of rice per adult per day, which translates into about 400 calories per day per adult from rice alone. So a 20 pound bag of rice = just under 2 cups of cooked rice per day per adult for one week.

Now lets look at beans. My household 's favorite beans with rice are black beans, so I heavily favor black beans. I round out my bean varieties with pintos, great northern and red beans as well. Personally, I think black beans are the easiest to cook, even under primitive conditions. And they take seasonings well, giving you a nice variety of tastes.

Nutritionally speaking, black beans are among the powerhouses of the legume family. So long as you don't skew the proper ratio of rice to beans and serve too much rice and not enough beans. When beans and rice are combined they form the almost perfect useable protein. Individually, rice and beans are incomplete proteins. Together, they complement each other and create a complete protein. As such, they are a good replacement for meat at some meals. Rice and beans also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber.

What is the perfect ratio of rice and beans? I prefer 2:1 with beans being 2. If I cook 3 cups of rice for one meal for 3 adults, then I prepare 6 cups of beans. That might seem like an awful lot of beans, but keep in mind that if eating beans and rice alone with no meat, then you need more beans to get enough protein. 1 cup of cooked black beans = about 15 grams of protein. One meal of beans using my portion sizes gives each adult 30 grams of protein. (Recommended daily = 46/60 female/male). With the protein from the additional meat, not to mention the protein in our other snacks and milk drinks, we meet and/or exceed daily protein needs. So, o ne pound dry beans = six cups cooked beans, drained. One pound dry beans = two cups dry beans. There's the 2:1 ratio. By storing a 10-pound bag of beans in the one-week food tin, we would have enough to even feed a guest.

I use different beans, (principally pinto, great northern, and red beans) for each tin to keep some variety and to avoid 'food fatigue.' But it's the addition of different kinds of vegetables and seasonings that truly help to combat food boredom and increase nutrition. But I don't stop there.

At the bottom of my tin, I place 6-7 cans of vegetables that my household personally enjoy with rice and beans, which complement the meal and enhance the flavor. Canned goods such as stewed or diced tomatoes, mixed vegetables, and even whole kernel corn. For additional flavoring I pack salt, pepper, packets of bean and rice flavorings, dry soup mixes, bullion cubes, as well as straight spices individually stored. To save space or add more food, you can store cans of tomato paste.

On top of those canned vegetables I put in a small canned ham, 2-3 cans of white meat chicken and a can of vegan cutlets. Next I pack enough paper plates and plastic utensils for a weeks worth of meals. Having these will save water from having to be used to clean too many dishes. On top of that I pack 10 pounds of beans, and 20 pounds of rice, each in their own mylar bag with oxygen absorbers and sealed. Tucked down in the crevices are my seasonings, spices, breakfast bars, snack jerky, peanuts, trail mix, dried fruit/fruit leathers, tea bags, individual coffee packets, dry coffee creamer, packet sugar, powdered milk, hard candy and daily vitamins, all also sealed in mylar and labeled.

Before closing the lid, I place a few large Ziploc bags on top and tape a bundle of waterproof matches to the underside of the lid. A week's worth of breakfast, lunch snacks and one main meal for each day. Calories per day vary between 1800 – 2200 for each adult. Daily minimum protein requirements covered and/or exceeded. I mark the date packed on the bottom of the tin and under the lid because I don't want to mar the lovely decoration on the outside. Tins are stored on a shelf and rotated through by date. When we empty one tin, I know it's time to put together another one.

In a separate food grade bucket I have my cooking tools: small portable propane stove with fuel canisters, a volcano stove (for boiling water), Esbit stove, fuel cubes, a thermos bottle, a collapsible water carryall, water purification tablets, large spoons, wooden spatulas, cook pot, small skillet, fire starter, dish cloths, ditty bag for cleaning kitchen prep tools Girl Scout-style, plus additional snacks and spices. The various means to boil water and cook the rice and beans also include over an open fire, hence the fire starters, and waterproof matches.

The thermos bottle is for more individual cooking of the rice and beans and for storing food to stay warm. One never knows what circumstances you'll encounter in a bug out situation and separation may happen or be prudently required, hence the various means to accomplish the same task.

My other non-food preps are generally stored in large cargo container-type boxes, but my bug out grab-'n-go items are in #5 food grade buckets with labels detailing what's inside. We have fit everything we need to bug out with in six buckets and will grab-'n-go with as many of my survival food packed popcorn tins that we can fit in the bug out vehicle. Each one of the popcorn tins represents a week's worth of food for three adults. We will know exactly how much food we have and how long it will last.

If rice and beans are not your favorite foods, then consider packing a popcorn tin with foods that will meet or exceed all nutritional needs, combat food boredom, provide for caffeine intake, snacks, and spices. The challenge is to fit enough food in the tin that will meet all nutritional needs 2-4 people. Can you do it?

Unless and until we may need to grab-'n-go with our popcorn tins filled with our survival food, it's comforting to see them all lined up on the shelf. They represent our will to survive and thrive, and they look pretty, too!

JWR Adds: In addition to their usefulness for food storage, steel popcorn tins also make great Faraday Cage containers to protect small electronics from the effects of solar flares and electromagnetic pulse (EMP.) No modification of a tin is required, and grounding a Faraday container is actually counterproductive. Just wrap your electronics in plastic bags, place them in a steel popcorn container and push the steel lid down firmly. If you live in a humid climate, be sure to toss in a bag of silica gel desiccant, for good measure.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I first got serious about prepping in 2006, when I realized the U.S. Dollar was on its way down.  I had a young son at home, and I wanted to make sure he would be safe if civil unrest occurred. I built a home on some acreage in the country in 2007 and started getting setup to be self-sufficient. I believed 2008 was going to be a bad year, and I wanted to be ready. I installed a wood stove in my home and purchased a hand pump for my well. When I moved my chickens out to the new home, I felt we were right on target to survive the coming turmoil. In this article I am going to share some of the things I have learned.

As the years have passed, I have continued to perfect my small piece of heaven into a full scale food-producing compound. I have leveraged tax advantage from my sale of all natural meat, poultry, and eggs. I have learned many things about sustainable food production. And meanwhile, my son grew up and joined the military. He is thousands of miles away, and here I am still maintaining the refuge I had envisioned would be for him. I have had some trying emotional times learning to deal with a situation where I am no longer needed by the child I was trying to protect.  And then it occurred to me that there are many young people who are barely able to put food on their table, let alone make preparations for an uncertain future.  So I continue to live the lifestyle of a prepper and believe I may be sharing my knowledge and my stuff with people who didn’t have the time and resources to be ready.

The Tax Man Cometh
I have been able to use many of the expenses for developing my little farm on my income taxes.  Fences, buildings, irrigation installation, vehicle expenses, equipment, etc.   Because my goal is to make a profit by selling the food I raise, the costs associated with its production are tax deductible. The deduction has been very useful in keeping more of my hard-earned cash so I can invest it in the development of a farm. Each time I need to make a big purchase, I strategize how it is associated with the farming production, so I can properly account for it in my income tax return.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
When I first moved onto my acreage, there were no fences.  My German Shepherds would wander off to the neighbors at times. The neighbors’ dogs would help themselves to my chickens. The coyotes and foxes had my place on the top of their list of great places to score a meal.  And then one day, I heard a chicken in distress and ran with my dog to find the chicken in the tall weeds.  My dog got there first.  The scoundrel attacking the chicken was a small dog belonging to a neighbor. My dog killed it.  It nearly became an International incident.  The neighbor was furious. He threatened to kill my chickens if they crossed onto his land.  It was a tense time.

That is when I invested in good fencing. My fences are 5-foot high predator-proof mesh.  They keep dogs, coyotes, foxes and other neighbors out, while the chickens and turkeys are usually more interested in staying in.  I had a gate constructed with the same mesh.  My dogs patrol the acreage and anything that manages to get in, soon decides it wasn’t such a good idea to get in.  The gate is locked so some unsuspecting “visitor” doesn’t just open the gate and come in.  My chickens and turkeys free range and we seldom have a predator incident. The dogs are quite aggressive in protecting our turf.

Garlic Cures Everything
I need to get a good garlic garden planted, because I have so many uses for the stuff that I simply haven’t been growing enough of it. I have an astute neighbor who is also a prepper.  She noticed my need for garlic and planted a bunch to barter with me when things get dicey.  I put the garlic cloves through a hand-cranked juicer. The pulp is mixed in with corn for my sheep, cows, and poultry.  It helps flush out internal parasites, keep the lice and fleas away, and builds the immune system.  I also mix garlic into my dogs’ dinners sometimes to combat internal parasites. 

Garlic is a natural antibiotic and anti-viral.  The juice is potent stuff. I keep some on hand in the refrigerator all the time. If I feel a cold coming on, I can spread some of the juice or pulp on toast with butter and the cold almost always goes away within an hour or so.
When I had triplet lambs this past spring, one apparently didn’t get her dose of colostrum. She suffered an acute onset of e-coli within the first 24 hours and was near death.  I added garlic juice to some warm water and gave it to her with a syringe. I continued to administer the water with the garlic and honey every 10 minutes or so for a couple of hours. Three hours later, she was up and nursing. I have been told even with antibiotics, that kind of recovery is pretty much unheard of.

I have a small herb-garden in my kitchen.  Recently I noticed the basil was being killed by tiny gnats.  I mixed some garlic juice with some olive oil and put it in a small spray bottle.  The gnats apparently don’t like garlic, because they are gone and my herb garden smells like an Italian dinner.

There’s A Lot of Poop
Raising produce without the help of commercial fertilizers is tricky.  I started vegetables indoor this year with an “organic” fertilizer I bought at Home Depot.  They did very poorly and many of them just keeled over dead after a while.  I bought the fertilizer because, at the time, everything was frozen solid outside, so I couldn’t collect poop to make the poop water I usually start them with.  Lesson learned.  This year I have some poop set aside in a place where it won’t freeze so I can start my plants indoors with something I know works. I have also mixed some soil that I have ready to use.

Chicken poop is not ideal for gardening, but I have been successfully using it for several years. When I clean the chicken coop in the fall, I spread the stuff over the garden area, so it can be rained into the ground over the winter.  I till more manure in with my spring tilling.  This year, I did not use enough and I experienced poor potato yields.

Food Cooked on the Woodstove Tastes Better
I installed a regular woodstove (not a kitchen stove) in my home.  It has a removable rounded top that leaves a nice flat surface for cooking.  If I need to oven-cook something, I use a Dutch Oven.  Last winter I slow cooked Salisbury steak in a Dutch Oven and it was heavenly.  I have also found that potatoes have a completely different moist flavor if I wrap them in foil and put them in an area of the stove that isn’t in flames.  There have been weeks passed in the winter where my kitchen range was never used. It conserves energy and provides a warm glow to cheer through those gray winter months.

Cute Little Children Become Teenagers
It is a fact – those sweet little munchkins we build our lives around eventually turn into teenagers.  Mine became increasingly resentful of my prepping.  I have heard it said that teenagers become so ornery because it is God’s plan for us feel better showing them to the door when they grow up.  Shortly before my son left home, he decided it fit for him to list all of my personal defects which ailed him.  At the top of his list was my “paranoid” belief system that something bad could change our lives in big ways.  He made it clear he was unhappy with that belief and that he would be carrying on his life without such worries.  So far, so good.  He is traveling abroad and living a good life. I still believe I would rather be ready and wrong than not ready and starving to death.

The Lifestyle Is Very Attractive
Many people see my lifestyle and want to come join in.  Well, not join in the work, but join in the food and the fun and all the nice resources I have.  Over and over my generosity has been stretched and taken advantage of.  I have learned there are many lazy moochers out there who talk the talk and then lay around in my house watching useless television programs while I carry on with the chores.  And they feel the food is “free” because I raised it myself, so they have no urge to contribute.  My new policy for anyone visiting my farm is that they will be asked to participate in chores.  I will work them out of their fantasy about how great it is to live like I do.

People Hate Rules
When I have had to travel for business, I have also had to rely on friends to help with the farm.  I have found that, regardless of the careful instructions, they always think they have a better idea and do it their own way.  It has cost me animals and it has cost me having to retrain my farm to the correct behavior for my ecosystem to function.  It is frustrating. But it has taught me that I will probably have this problem if we have a SHTF scenario where people will be coming to me for safety and food.  And I don’t expect they will be thankful as long as they will be trying to change my life to fit their own view of how things should be.  It is human nature. I will have to be very strict and it could lead to confrontation.  I anticipate that will probably be unavoidable.

Counting the Tables You Put Food On is Rewarding
Last year, I put meat, eggs and poultry on the tables of 14 families.  Counting those families at Thanksgiving was a very satisfying experience.  Although this year it has been fewer because I haven’t had beef ready, I still feel grateful to play a role in many family meals. I have contributed to the lives of many people I didn’t even know.  I have sold products of my farm, the income from which has enabled me to continue on my adventure.

Life Just Keeps On Going
If I had poured everything I had and taken big risks when I first started prepping, I wouldn’t be prepping today because I would have lost it all. I truly believed 2008 would be a year of disaster – and it nearly was.  But the powers that be found a way to kick the can on down the road. And they keep finding ways to kick it down the road again.  Life is amazingly easy right now in the artificially secure world we have to live in here in the USA  I am so blessed to have good employment from home in an area where people are often trying to live on minimum wage. Technology has brought about enormous opportunities, while it has also let us be monitored 24x7 by not only the government, but also large corporations like Google, who track everything you do on the Internet and keep the data indefinitely (I prefer because they claim not to track).  While I hope it all keeps hanging on, I really can’t see how it can.  We are living in an unmaintainable sphere of reality that is rapidly growing more unmaintainable.  I have chosen to continue to be “paranoid” and prepare to feed people in an uncertain future.  The difference now is that I realize I will probably be helping people I never planned to help and I have learned some good lessons on how to deal with them appropriately.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The ice storm that hit north Texas this past Thursday was forecast at least four days in advance, if not longer, but when it hit  apparently just about everyone was taken by surprise.  Drivers on I-35 north of Denton were stuck for so long they eventually abandoned their cars and sought refuge in local churches.  There was talk of sending in the National Guard to rescue them before that.  These people had days of advance warning about the weather but chose to drive anyway.  (Many of them apparently on their way to a rap concert in Dallas.)  Imagine the conditions if there had been a sudden emergency or disaster. 
The town we live in has one grocery store, and it was out of milk and bread by Saturday afternoon.  As of Monday afternoon, they still had no milk but had received a bread delivery.  When I say "no milk" I mean the liquid refrigerated stuff that is kept in dairy cases.  I walked over to the baking supplies aisle, and lo and behold, an entire stock of canned and boxed Tetra-Pak milk, untouched.  The shelves of powdered milk were well-stocked, too. Either things weren't bad enough yet, or people just aren't aware that there is more than one way to buy milk.  I already had a couple of liters of the Tetra-Pak milk at home, and plenty of canned milk, but I picked up a few extra just in case it takes longer than expected to get the highways clear and the trucks through. (Two of those cans of evaporated milk turned out to be expired.  Need to work on that can rotation!)
In addition to being stripped bare of milk and bread, the frozen pizza aisle was decimated, there was no chicken and no beef left in the meat section.  The store was completely sold out of Coca Cola, but there was plenty left of the other brands.  The canned soup aisle was pretty bare as well.  There was very little bottled water left. My husband and I made sure to note the items that sold out first so we’ll remember to stock up on any of those that we use regularly in our household.
The doughnut shop near our house had plenty of small bottles of milk, and there was milk available at the convenience stores we looked into during the few forays we made outside the house.  Those convenience stores were selling milk for four to five dollars per gallon.  In our area a gallon of non-organic milk is normally less than $2.50.
The groceries that were still in abundant supply as of yesterday afternoon were the things that take a little work to turn into food: flour, sugar, rice and pasta.  There were plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce section.  One takeaway for me- I need to become more proficient at making my own bread so that it becomes as easy as scrambling an egg is.
At one point in the weekend, there were over 250,000 people in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area without power.  We were lucky that our power never went out, but if it had we had plenty of firewood, oil lamps and candles on standby.  I would like to think that our neighbors had similar supplies laid in, but I would be surprised if they did. We lost power one night last summer and our house was the only one on the street with candle light flickering inside it.  (Some blackout curtains are on our list for future purchase.)  
I stayed home with our five year-old daughter because schools were closed and I was told to “use my best judgment” as far as driving in was concerned.  We made a fire and played with toys while listening to the audio book of “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  When my husband came home and said there was no  milk left at Kroger, our daughter said, "oh, no, now you're gonna have to give me hot water to drink!"  We took this opportunity to explain to her that this is the reason why Mama buys boxes of milk and puts them away in the closet.  We do it because we love you, we told her, and because we don't want you to go without milk just because there's an ice storm.  We went on to explain that people had known this storm was coming for days, but that most people waited until the last minute to go to the store and get the things they would need.  We advised her to remember this when she's older and act ahead of time so she doesn’t have to panic at the last minute.  Our little girl tends to listen and pay attention to us, so we hope she’ll remember this as she gets older and takes our advice about preparation and self-reliance to heart.
Everyone makes jokes about how Texans freak out when a quarter inch of snow falls and how no one around here knows how to drive on ice or snow.  That’s true because this hardly ever happens around here.  Weather like this has become more common in our area over the past few years, though (see Super Bowl XLV), but no one seems to have decided to anticipate or plan for it, especially TxDOT, who as of yesterday, still had crews stuck all over the state, rather than working on clearing roadways.  I saw crews sanding our local town streets for the first time this morning- six days after the storm first hit.
What I’m taking away from this six-day-and-counting inconvenience is that most people don’t plan and they won’t prepare. This would have been a relatively minor weather event if it had happened in another part of the country where municipalities are more prepared in general.  I’m sure readers in more northern parts of the country will be chuckling and shaking their heads at the site a big chunk of Texas brought to a standstill by a few inches of ice. This experience has driven home the need for us to be more prepared, to bring in more supplies, to be ready for whatever may come. This ice storm has also provided us a good opportunity to teach our daughter about being prepared and being self-reliant without scaring her.
It also showed where some holes in our planning and preparation lie.  While he was clearing ice from our driveway, my husband slipped and fell.  He landed on his side and luckily didn’t break anything.  If he had broken a rib or some other bone, we could have had quite a wait for an ambulance and/or faced a dicey trip to the hospital. This is one area where we need to make plans for the future.  What would we have done?  What other contingencies do we need to plan for? 
We cut down one old, dying tree just a week before the storm but there is still one tree that overhangs our roof.  This tree, too, may need to go for safety’s sake. Falling trees and now falling ice have done a lot of damage to buildings and cars in this area over the past couple of days.
As I noted, we never lost power (or haven’t yet), but if we did, can we be certain our fireplace would have kept at least part of the house warm enough?   We’re planning on adding additional insulation to one room in particular so we’ll have at least one room that we can keep snug and warm without electricity.  I’m certain we need to add more candles and oil lamps or lanterns to our stores, as well.  If our power had gone out Friday like it did for some, and was still not back on, as it isn’t for some, we would certainly burned through our supply right now.  I doubt, too, that the small supply of Sterno and Stoves in a Can see us through a five-day power outage.
We don’t let our daughter play on the computer much, so she’s not one of those kids who can’t function without electronic media to distract them, but she does enjoy listening to audiobooks and watching DVDs. We played “school at home” to keep her in school/learning mode.  Putting seed out for our wild birds and then watching them eat kept her entertained as well, but in an extended power outage, we might have had boredom and cabin fever to deal with on top of everything else.  We’ll need to stock up on more coloring books and puzzle books and look into a battery-operated CD player for her.
Our pipes did not freeze, but if they had, would the water we have stored lasted for six days?  I believe it would have, but we do need to store more water and purchase additional water BOBs or other means of water storage in case of long outages in the future.
The real problem in my mind though is what we’ll do if a summertime storm or other disaster, manmade or not, knocks out power for extended period of time while it’s 100F outside.  That would be a much more serious problem.  It’s always easier to get warm in Texas than it is to stay cool, and judging from TxDOT’s lackluster response to our icy highways and overpasses, and the fact that there are still people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area without power we’ll likely have no one to turn to for help except ourselves- as if we didn’t already know that. Thank you for considering this piece.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Describing how teenagers can contribute to and have the right attitude for family prepping. (Written by a teenager for teenagers.)
As a teenage prepper my top priority is making sure my family and I will survive a natural or man-made disaster, and prepping is how I do that. Prepping is a family affair around my house, each of us have our items or category (medical, food, garden, hunting, etc) that we are responsible for prepping and stocking up and we carry-out that responsibility to the fullest. If one of us doesn't do our job, in an TEOTWAWKI situation, it could cost us our lives. So in this article I am going to tell you what this teenager does and give some advice of what my fellow teenagers can do to contribute to your or your family's prepping.

Note: An important phrase I will use often throughout this article is "two is one and one is none". That phrase means that whatever you have, it is best to have two, rather than one, of that item. If you run out of or break one thing, whether it be a fire starter, a baby bottle, a shovel, or a gun, you will have a back up, if you have two. If you only have one of that item and that one item breaks, then it could mean your or your family's safety. So, remember: two is one and one is none.

Though humans can go for weeks without food and still survive, I don't want to think that my family and I might go hungry, so I'll start with how my family and I prep food.

A garden is the best and cheapest thing to have to preserve your own food and though it may be a little more work, it's worth it. My mom loves to can. She would be canning all day everyday if she had the time and food. It's a lot of work for just one person, so that's where I come in. When many people think of themselves canning some may say, "Oh, I could never do something that difficult!" or "Oh, isn't that dangerous?". Everyone knows someone that has had some sort of traumatic experience with a pressure canner. Believe me, we've heard the stories. Actually it isn't all that difficult, just time consuming. And it isn't all that dangerous if you follow instructions or get someone that is experienced in canning to "show you the ropes". Canning is almost as simple as making a stew. Chop your vegetables (or meat, whatever you are canning) and put them in a jar, fill the jar with water, add a little salt, put them in the canner and "cook" them. Now, don't go in there and do exactly what I just said, there are a few more steps than just that, but that's how you do it in a nut shell. Vegetables and meat aren't the only things we can; you can put up meat, fruit, jams and jellies, pasta sauces, soups and chili, and so much more. And, whatever you can/preserve will last a long time. How awesome is that? We love to can soups and chili because that's a complete meal in just one jar. If you have 365 jars of soup then you have got yourself one meal a day for a year! In a disaster situation, one meal will be like gold!

Now if canning still makes you a bit nervous, fear not, for there are others options. Store-bought food. My mom and I are always looking for food sales and when we find them, we rack up on whatever is on sale. Whether it be green beans, juice, chicken noodle soup or ramen noodles, it's all 'prep-able', as I say. Store-bought food is ideal for stocking since it isn't easily damaged, where home-canned food jars can break. We are friends with the owners of our local Butcher's Shop. Normally, when their meat is nearing the expiration date, they will put it straight into the freezer to take home for themselves. He sells us that meat for half price. We go every so often to buy up as much as we can afford then we bring it home to can it.

Did you know you can also stock up on things such as crackers, coconut, cereal, chocolate chips and other dry foods that you might think would go stale or dry out? Yeah! We use a FoodSaver with a mason jar attachment. Just stick the food into a mason jar and put a flat on it, then put the jar sealer attachment on the jar and press down on the machine as if you were vacuum sealing a bag of food, and wa la! The jar sealer vacuums out all the air, making it last a very long time. We have eaten cereal and crackers recently that we sealed a very long time ago and it was all still as crispy and fresh as the day we bought them.

Inventory, Rotating, & Hiding
When prepping, inventory, rotating, and hiding is one of the most important things for our family. Inventory is important because you want to know how much of everything you have and what you need. My mom and I are usually the ones who inventory all our stock, and we do it every few weeks. Any time we buy something new to add or take something out, we make sure to mark it down. We have a couple folders and notebooks designated especially for our prepping inventory. To make the job easier for the next time we do inventory, once we have inventoried something, we use a marker to make a mark on the label or top of the can/box, so the next time we take inventory, if there isn't a highlighter mark, we know we missed that one. We also write the dates on all our food, then rotate them every so often. You always want the oldest food in the front, to use up first, even with your home-canned food. It's my and my brother's job to find hiding places for our stock stuff. It's crazy some of the places that you can find to store your stock. When finding a place to store/hide your home-canned stock food you want to make sure it's a cool dark place. In the basement, in the closet, under the beds, places that don't get too hot or too cold. I know from experience that if your home-canned food gets too hot, it will unseal, if it gets too cold, it will burst. When it comes to storing/hiding non-food items, it's not so difficult. Medical supplies, hygiene items, and clothes don't have to have such care. As long as they are out of the weather and sealed to keep out moth, pretty much any where is a good place. Under the bed, top of the closet, etc. Secret hiding places around your house that only you and your family know of are ideal.

Make a Food Chart
It's a great idea to make a chart of how much food your family eats in a year. Calculating how many meals of what you want to stock up on. How many seasoning packets, how many packs of crackers, how many jars of cereal, or how many jars of tomatoes you will need. Our family has a list of several of our favorite meals that we want to have in a disaster situation. Just say you are trying to store enough food for one year and you want to have the same meal once a week for that year. Start out by making a list of everything that goes into prepping that meal. Include everything down to the seasonings. Then buy 52 of those items. Our family of four (two adults and two teens) can eat one box of spaghetti with one quart jar of sauce per dinner. That means we vacuum sealed at least 52 quarts of spaghetti noodles and canned at least 52 quarts of sauce. We also have 52 packs of seasoning sauce (Save-a-Lot food store 3/$1.00). So you would do that with each meal you want to have. You get the idea.

"Two-thirds of the human body (by weight) consists of water. Humans need water for circulation, respiration, and converting food to energy. After oxygen, water is the body’s most important nutrient. Quite simply, you need water to live. Your body loses water constantly through sweat, urine, and even breathing. You must replace the water your body loses for your organs to continue to work properly. Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water, because you’re losing more water than you’re taking in. In extreme heat, an adult can lose almost half-a-gallon of water through sweat alone. Without water, dehydration can set in within an hour in severe heat. The combination of physical overexertion and extreme heat — without water — can lead to death in as little as several hours. Surprisingly, it’s also easy to become dehydrated in very cold environments. Since cold air cannot hold much moisture, it dehydrates your body with every breath you take. Even if you aren’t sweating, you still need to replenish fluids even in cold weather. So how long can you survive without water? Humans in average shape and perfect conditions (not too hot or cold) can probably live for three to five days without any water if they’re not physically exerting themselves. Healthier people can live a day or so longer, while those who are unhealthy or exposed to particularly hot or cold weather may not survive as long. To stay healthy, you need to continually replenish your fluid supply. Experts recommend drinking approximately two quarts (64 ounces) of water each day. Of course, if you live in an extremely hot or cold area — or if you exercise a lot — you may need to drink a gallon or more of water every day. See: How Much Water Do You Need To Survive?

So as you can see from the excerpt above, we must have water! So let's talking about stocking some water. If you are like my family and don't have access to a working well then you can stock water by buying bottled water or you can even bottle your own. We use milk jugs and 2-liter bottles. Large drums are often used (you can see one in the tv show "Doomsday Castle: Water From a Rock"). A Berkey would be a wise investment if you can afford one. One reason we love the Berkey is that no matter where we have to get our water, we can always have clean and clear water to consume. GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) and water purification tablets are good to have to purify water that you aren't sure is safe to drink. We have both GSE and the tablets, that way if we run out of one we still have the other. Remember: two is one and one is none.

When it's time for our weekly shopping trip, it's a family affair. We all load up and head to town. We each have our list of things we are responsible for prepping so when we go into a store or stop at a yard sale, we scatter to all different directions looking for the items on our list. Some things must be bought brand new, but not all things. What do I mean by that? Things such as clothes, shoes, garden tools, sometimes even guns that have been taken care of, a good EDC bag, and so much more can be bought at places like the thrift store, yard sales or garage sales. Would you buy used guns? Yes, we have before. Most times it's elderly people or ex-military who sale them at garage sales and they have been well taken care of. Most often we can buy them for less than what you would pay for them buying it brand new, but remember: two is one and one is none.

When most people think of prepping they think physical items (i.e. water, food, clothing, guns, ammo, etc), but we have to not only prep those things, we must also prepare ourselves. In an TEOTWAWKI situation we will not have access to things like in normal days. Clothing stores, hospitals, etc. So we must learn how to do these things.

Medical Needs
In disaster days we will most likely not have access to a hospital. If you or a family member were to injure yourself you would need to know how to tend to the wound (as in the book "Patriots" by James Wesley Rawles). You would need to stock up on the material needed to tend to injuries, such as: gauze, bandages, pain medication, suture kit, etc. Sanitary napkins are a great absorbers for blood and would be perfect for serious injuries that need something to stop the blood flow. You don't have to become a nurse or doctor, but if you know someone or have a family member who is in the medical profession if would be a good idea to asked him/her to show you basic first aid, how to suture, perform CPR, how to stop bleeding, etc. My mom's brother is a doctor and we have asked him to show us many things that we would need to know. I am also training to become a midwife, so we know (and are learning) what to do with most injuries and child-birth. Most times you can't just go out and buy pain medications or antibiotics unless you have a prescription for them. So how will you stock the medicine needed? If you have medicine left over from the last time you were sick don't just leave it or throw it away, stock it! Natural medicines such as Essential Oils and Herbs are also wonderful medicines. I know from experience that most times they work just as well if not better than man-made medications. It wouldn't be bad to have both herbs and man made medicines. Remember: two is one and one is none. You can find herbs growing just about anywhere, so study up on your naturals medicines so that you know what to get when you need it.

Know How to Handle a Gun
It is very important, especially for us ladies, to know how to handle a gun. In James Wesley Rawles' novels "Patriots" and "Survivors" all the women knew how to handle a gun and if they didn't, they had to learn. We must be comfortable enough around them and know enough about them to be able to shoot them when we need to. You should learn how to handle, care for, load and shoot a gun. One day your life (or someone else's) may depend on it, whether it be for the use of self-defense, protection for your family or to protect your food. Don't be afraid of the gun, but give it the respect it needs. Once you know how to safely handle and care for a gun, you can show others how to as well.

Physically and Mentally Fit
Yes, we must be prepared with our stock items, but we must also prepare our bodies by getting fit, mentally and physically. You never know when you will have to bug-out and carry a heavy BOB or run for a while. You don't want to be caught or slow others down because you can't keep up. While our bodies must be fit we must also prepare our minds. We must have the Prepper's mind-set. Why do we prepare? Because we know something is going to happen and we want to be ready for it in every way. If the crap hits the fan and we blow our top freaking out like everyone around us, that will just get you lost or killed. You have more of a chance of survival if you keep a cool, calm, and collected head on you. Remember, you knew it was going to happen, so why freak out? When you stay calm, you can keep the others around you calm. There should always be one person who knows what to do, so why not let that person be you?

Soap and Body Care Products
So now that you have your water stocked and you can shower and wash clothes you need soap, right? Of course you can always buy soap to stock but what if that's something you forgot or you run out? So what do you do? You make your own. We absolutely love to make soaps and body-care products. Laundry soap can be made from things around your house such as bar soap, borax and baking soda (see the article in SurvivalBlog by J.D.C. in Mississippi that gives very clear instructions on how to make laundry soap. You can also make your own body soap, conditioner, shampoo, lotion, etc. They are so easy and such fun to make. All these things can be made with one person or many! There are millions of tutorials and recipes all over the internet and YouTube. All you have to do is pick one out and go make it! It can be much cheaper, a lot of fun, and it's healthier for you! We recently made another batch of soap that made 30 bars. It cost us only about $5! I don't know of anywhere you can buy homemade healthy soap at that price. Don't forget to stock up on lye. We buy ours very cheap from an Amish friend ($11/gallon).

Knitting, Crocheting, and Sewing Your Own Clothes
I love to knit, crochet and sew in my spare time. It's so easy and a lot of fun. You can find the materials needed at most any store and often at yard sales, thrift store, and sometimes people even give the stuff away. As long as you know the basic stitches and have the concept of how to do it, you can make most anything. During winter time blankets, hats, mittens, and scarves are a must. You can make all those things, you just have to have the some yarn, a crocheting hook and know how. It can sometimes be much cheaper as well. And it help pass the time away when there is nothing else to do (wink).

(Ladies) Prepping for the Monthly Cycle
I know many of us ladies including myself have, at some point in time, wondered what we will do when that monthly visitor arrives in a disaster situation. So what do you do? You stock some! When you have a little extra cash, buy an extra pack of your preferred item. But what about when you run out? You can make your own. I know what you are thinking, gross, right? Well, when the world is in a chaotic state and you run out, those homemade sanitary napkins are gonna look pretty darn good. They are much more sanitary than one might think. They are reusable and last years so you wouldn't need many. There are so many different styles, patterns, and materials out there all you have to do is pick one. I have made them before and they are very easy to make at home or you can buy them yourselves (the most popular ones you can buy are Luna-Pads). You can try out different ones now so that you will know what will work best for you when the times comes that you need them.

Hard Copy
Last, I want to mention something our family is working on full-time. There are tons of tutorials online in the form of video, pictures, or text. However, when we have no electricity none of it will be accessible. Now is the time to get all the the tutorial, instructions, recipes, etc printed out and neatly organized into a binder. Every time the family gives a "thumbs up" to a new recipe my mom or I try, two copies are printed or written in a binder that moment. No waiting. Remember: two is one and one is none. One important bit of information we have printed and filed is a conversion chart. It has everything from weights and measures to equivalents to substitutions. Although we copied this from a very old cookbook, I'm sure all of this information is online as well. Check out: Cooking Resources: Cooking Measurement Conversion, Ingredient Substitution, and More.
So there you have it, the answer to the question "How Can Teens Contribute?" Prepping can be a lot of fun especially when you get the whole family involved. When you are a prepper and have the mind-set of a prepper it will encourage others around you to get ready for whatever disaster may happen. I hope that you, my fellow teens, have learned something from this and have been encouraged.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
The letter from Tom R. raised the question of stockpiling alcohol for trade.  While I have no moral opposition to alcohol consumption, and even keep a stock of wine and spirits for my own use, there are some practical drawbacks to stocking alcohol for barter.  

First, unless a person has unlimited funds and storage space, it seems foolhardy to stock quantities of items which will not be used or consumed (precious metals excepted) in the normal course of daily post-SHTF activities.   A more rational course of action would be to stock quantities that would be used within the household, with additional quantities that might be used for barter if the opportunity arises. 

Second, alcohol is very easy to make.   Fruit wines, cider, and beer are all created with simple ingredients and can be made with equipment found in most homes.  Distilled spirits require slightly more equipment, but not anything that is extraordinarily expensive or complex.   Any person who is adequately stocked with food or has a moderately sized garden would be able to produce consumable alcohol on their own.  If individuals can produce a product on their own, the trade value of a product is limited.

Which brings me to the third issue: who to trade with?  In an extended grid down or SHTF scenario, most prepared people will want to keep their wits about them and not be interested in trading goods for alcoholic beverages.  Those less prepared will be trading what tangible goods they have for basic consumable necessities such as food and fuel.  This leaves only those with severely poor judgment and/or alcoholism seeking to trade for alcohol. 

Each trade of alcohol would require interactions with people who, at best, are having difficulty coping, and at worse, suffer from chronic alcoholism.  My own survival plan does not include actively seeking out contact with those types of individuals.   Nor do I expect that I would be comfortable knowing where or how they obtained their barter items.   Being known as 'the guy with the booze' would make a person a very inviting target as customers run out of things to barter.

As for me, I'm fine being the guy who has some wool socks and 10W30 motor oil to trade.  - R.L.W.

Dear JWR,
I prefer to store vodka versus whiskey. There are many reasons why. An article over at Life Hacker describes the versatility of vodka. Respectfully,- Don H.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wheat, bread and wheat products are a staple among a majority of preppers. Yet improperly prepared bread can be problematic. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is increasingly more common among Americans. Commercial breads are known to spike blood sugars after eating it, then causing blood sugars to crash, leaving the eater hungry and fatigued. This is a particular problem with diabetics. In a majority of diets bread is often one of the first items either restricted in the diet or removed altogether, due to its contribution to weight gain.
From the internet post Naturally Leavened Bread by Jacques de Langre  the follow excerpt is found:

"With commercial yeast, rising of the dough is lightning fast, coupled with a reduction (baker's yeast is a strong reducer), followed by a strong oxidation during the baking and often accompanied by an alkalinization. This is increased even more when a portion or all of the bran is removed. We witness here a phenomenon totally opposed to the normal laws of life. The end result of this biological decay (staling of bread), is a deficient oxidative energy that changes into a glycolysed energy, as evidenced by monster, or anarchistic, cells that are an exact duplicate of human cancer cells, according to the research of Dr. Warbourg, M.D." 

This quick rising yeast leads to nutritional and digestive disorders. Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, wheat allergies, heart burn and acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea and diabetes have all been associated with bread. The bran is removed to increase the shelf life of the flour but in the process removing a large portion of the nutritional value and dietary fiber. The quick rising yeast used in American baking is not a naturally occurring organism but in 1984 was created in a lab. It appears to be increasingly connected to the rather resent surge of health problems associated with wheat.
Scripture teaches us "give us this day, our daily bread". Knowing, as a Christian, that God would not instruct us to seek out and consume a product that was harmful to our body. So my search began, why is our bread bad for us and why have so may developing sever allergies to a product that has been safely eaten for centuries. As research progressed I found that Europe has not developed the explosion of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance found here in the US. European diets have been studied because of the health benefits associated with them. What was the difference in European wheat and American? The first difference was that quick rising yeast was not used in Europe. It is easy to assume that the slow rising yeast must be the answer to our bread problem. Yet, having been to Europe, it is easy to tell that the hard crusted bread served in Europe is nothing like the soft yeasted loafs made with slow rising yeast. Historical evidence of "yeasted bread" has been found and dated to 30BC in Egyptian artifacts. Wild or Natural yeast is in the air all around us. It doesn’t come in small packets or hard bricks. It enriches the bread through the slow growth process of the yeast breaking down harmful enzymes in the grain and converts wheat into an easily digestible food that will not spike your blood sugar level. The glycemic index of is naturally lowered by the organic acids produced during the yeast fermentation (2004, Emerging Food Research & Development Report), it not only lowers the glycemic response to bread but to all carbohydrates and that response remained lower through the next meal and several hours after that. When compared to whole wheat bread, wheat with barley and white bread, they all spiked with surprisingly whole wheat bread spiking the highest, but the glycemic response from white bread leavened with natural yeast remained level.

Natural yeast also called San Francisco Sourdough Bread, is the ingredient used for sourdough bread. This should not be confused with commercial sourdough bread, which is actually quick rise bread with vinegar added for the "sour" taste. Natural yeast maximizes the nutritional availability of vitamins, minerals and the fiber in wheat. Sourdough bread is low in fat, contains no trans-fats or cholesterol and is rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, including selenium, folate, thiamin and manganese.  Natural yeast also turns the phytic acid found in wheat into a cancer-fighting antioxidant. The use of natural yeast or wild yeast changes the digestive process, especially when using whole wheat. It helps slow down the digestive process, adding a "full" feeling to a meal, making it a natural way to eat less.

Naturally leavened bread can help control heartburn and acid reflux when eaten regularly. In most cases, medication used to control acid reflux can be eliminated. It has been shown in clinical trials to boost your immune system and reduce the incidence of cold and flu. Bone health is improved by the increased vitamin absorption that occurs from eating this bread. "Sourdough…enhances iron absorption and is a better source of available minerals, especially magnesium, iron and zinc" (Nutrition, 2003) Not only are blood sugars not spiked but the effect continues through at least one more meal, making this a must have prep for a diabetic. It leads to a feeling of satisfaction that discouraged weight gain.

I was now encouraged, I had found a solution to my bread problem. So I setting out to grow my natural yeast I got my crock to contain the flour and water mixture and began to grow, or so I thought. I followed the directions "to a T." I threw away excessive starter, added the flour and water and stirred when instructed. I got some bubbles but doubling in 8 hrs, did not happen. So I went back to the drawing board, how to get a true starter growing. That’s when I found I could send off for a 100 year old culture with $2 and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Much better than the 2 sacks of flour I went through, trying to grow my own starter.

For a Mild Starter:

Original Fast Food
1221 N. 1270 E
American Fork, UT 84003

For a Sour Starter:

Oregon Trail Sourdough
PO Box 321
Jefferson, MD 21755

The starter came in the mail as expected and was in powder form. It was easily reconstituted with some flour and water. Following the enclosed instructions I had the starter doubling every 4-8 hrs and was ready to bake bread.

The first loaf was quite sour. I shouldn’t have been surprised considering it is "sourdough bread." Remembering that it is a work in progress, I continued on with the next loaf, which was heavy and course. I read on-line sites and watched You Tube videos (Daniel’s challenge, then Bread Starter information, was very helpful link), learning how to adjust my kneading, rising and baking process. My bread has now mellowed out (with an interesting twang) and are light and fine textured. There is a reason that bread can be considered "artisan", there is a definite art to baking bread.

The ingredient for this wonderful loaf of bread: flour, water and salt, a perfect TEOTWAWKI food. No need to worry that your yeast packets have gone bad. The starter is easy to "feed" 1 and 1/2cup of flour with 1 cup of water (not chlorinated), stirred into the container that held the starter. Just the scraping left in the jar after removing the starter for bread is enough to keep the starter culture growing. When TEOTWAWKI hits, I plan to bake bread daily but working full time, gardening and continuing to up grade my retreat left little time bake bread regularly and to throwing away the excess starter goes against my frugal nature (extra starter can be put in the compost pile, as well as old bread.) I knew I needed to find another way to control my starter and bread process.

The exploration continued and found that if the starter can be refrigerated and kept untouched for up to a week. Just let it "grow" for about 8 hours, then refrigerate. A large portion of the starter still needs to be removed and flour replenished weekly. Needing a way to utilize the removed portion, sourdough pancakes were discovered. They are easily made with sourdough starter, stirring in an egg and milk until it’s the right consistency and cook as any pancake would be made. Personally, I have not eaten pancakes in years because of the weight gain and fatigue that was suffered after eating pancakes. It also gave me a sugar rush, leaving me hungry soon after eating them. Pancakes made with the starter are different. They are a little heavier and chewier but they stick with you, even after adding syrup there is not a sugar rush and a feeling of fullness remains far longer than would be thought. The sourdough pancakes don’t absorb syrup, so a much small amount can be used and still achieve a "sweet taste".

The starter can be thinned out even more than pancakes to make a type of a crepe and savory or foods can be spread onto them and then rolled up similar to a tortilla. The slightly sour taste adds another layer to the meal. Sweet breads can be made through natural yeast as well.

A typical small chemical hand warmer packet [that employs an oxidation process] absorbs about 1.25 grams of O². (This was calculated from weighing on a lab scale.)

So at 32 grams per mole for O² or 22.4 liters at standard temperature and pressure that is 32/22.4=1.4286 grams of O² per liter.

Assuming O² in the air at 20%, a 5 gallon bucket (18.92 liters) would contain 1.4286 x 18.92 x 20% = 5.4 grams of O²

It would take roughly 4 packets to absorb the O² in a 5 gallon HDPE bucket at 1.25 grams per packet if the bucket contained only air.

Therefore, using 1 or 2 packets to a 5 gallon pail filled with wheat, they should absorb all of the O² in the bucket. Note a typical HDPE plastic bucket will [gradually] pass some O² so ideally a heat-sealed Mylar bucket liner should also be used. Regards, - Jeff H.

JWR Replies: I describe mylar bucket liners and both the O² absorbing packet method and the dry ice (CO2 displacement) method of packing food grade buckets in the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course. This course would be a good gift to put in the hands of any relatives or friends who are interested in prepping. It is now priced at less than $20.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I hope some of you know most of these things, but I’m sure most of you won’t know all of these things.

I took a camping trip not too long ago where I made one of my favorite childhood camping dishes, the hobo dinner. I’m sure those of you who camp have had it a few times. Put some potatoes and veggies in some aluminum foil and throw it right on the fire. Easy enough. Tastes great. Don’t even need a plate. I, however, am not your average cook. I like to try new things, and I don’t eat plain old potatoes. I need cheese, so I added some. All was going well until it came time to eat and guess what, the cheese stuck to the aluminum foil and I didn’t get any of it. Not a lick. The potatoes were still edible, of course, and I didn’t go hungry by any means, but it teaches a good lesson. It’s the little things that make or break your meal. So it is with life and so it will be when the SHTF or TEOTWAWKI comes. Just FYI, add the cheese after it cooks and it works great, now on to it. As the appropriately named hobo dinner shows us, those who have nothing find ways to make something that works. You need a meal? You don’t have fancy cookware or a nice electric stove? No problem if you’re a hobo, and it shouldn’t be a problem for any of us to survive given almost any situation. Just use your head and think of those little things. The ones who have invested hundreds of thousands won’t necessarily be the ones still living, and thriving, in a bad situation.

I don’t sweat the big things, I’m sure there are a million articles on them already and you have read them all, but I hope there are a few little things here that will give you food for though, and that might just save your life some day.

First things first, don’t panic. Could this be obvious enough? If I were reading a top five list of things that will save your life in a disaster and this was number one, I would roll my eyes and toss the list aside as obvious and unhelpful. Wait! Don’t toss it aside so easily(note to self). Even those of us that have a set plan and have rehearsed it to death need to take a minute and assess the situation. Time is not always our enemy. A well panned trip tomorrow may be more successful than a rushed one today. We are all human and can and will make mistakes. A few minutes of planning or double checking can save hours or lives later. There are very few situations when acting instantly is the only thing that saves your life, and presumably when that time comes you are prepared enough to make the quick choice. You can’t, however, be prepared for everything and until you’ve been in a bad situation, you can’t be sure how you will react. You can, however, try and get into the habit of good planning now. It’s also a good exercise in using your head. A tool you should never be without, so don’t leave it behind. Daydream, just as a fellow prepper enjoys sci-fi to get ideas, I daydream. It’s also often a valid way to entertain yourself when bored. Imagine you’re at work and there’s a zombie attack. How do you get out? Where can you get supplies? Do I think that a zombie attack will ever happen? No, but if there’s an earthquake guess what, I already know where supplies are and an evacuation route. Ever tried making up a lie on the spot? It’s more difficult than you think. You will inevitably find yourself regurgitating information that’s already in your head. It’s very difficult to think of something new on the spot. If you haven’t already planned on possible evacuation routes and know where supplies might be, you may find yourself walking the wrong direction and right past valuable supplies as you try to get out. Don’t panic, analyze the situation and take things one step at a time.

Water, hopefully, you already have stored. You can’t go long without it. I won’t try to tell you how much to have or how to store it, I hope you already know, but here are a few things about water you may want to think about. If you are ever without water for a long period of time, life will change drastically. By long period of time I mean like…three days. I’m sure we would all be fine for a day or even two before it starts to get really annoying that we have to bring in water to flush the toilet or can’t take a shower. What happens in four days or a week. Your daily routine will change dramatically. Think about this for a second. Who is really ready to haul a gallon of water to the bathroom every time they have to use it, or take a sponge bath because there is no shower? Even if you have a little water stored, lets say a few 55 gallon barrels, that is hardly any at all. Given the average family of four and each person needing a gallon of water a day, that’s 120 gallons just for a month. Those two 55 gallon barrels just ran out on you. I’m not concerned with can you get more or how much you currently have stored. What I really want to bring out here is are you prepared for how your life will change? Running water is nothing short of a miracle and we take if for granted much too often. Say you have an unlimited supply of water. Are you prepared to get it to where you will use it? I have some water stored in my basement. Just thinking about hauling gallons of water up the stairs every day makes me inwardly sigh. What a bother. Maybe a should add a water pumping system in my house to easily move water upstairs manually? Just a thought. That’s what I hope to invoke here. For those of you planning on bugging out, what about filters. I’ve got a great filter you say, it can purify 100 gallons a day or I’ll boil water till the cows come home. Great, good for you for having an alternative, but that won’t do you any good while bugging out. Do you have a small and effective filter for the road? If for some reason your chosen transport fails, are you aware how long it takes to walk to your bug-out local? How much water will you need for that trip? To end my thoughts on water, do you know how much water weighs? Eight pounds per gallon. That’s 440 lbs. for that 55 gallon barrel. It’s not moving anywhere. Safest thing in your house if you get robbed. They aren’t taking it with them. I’m promise.

With food storage, I hear stories that I really hope aren’t true. Like the guy who has 365 cans of soup and thinks he has a years worth of food. Good luck with that. He may survive but I can almost guarantee he will be crazy by the end of the year. Don’t ever forget the old adage, variety is the spice of life. You have an unlimited supply of spirulina, meal worms, rabbits or even wheat. I don’t care what it is. You better have a lot of something to go with it because you’re going to get sick of it really fast. We are blessed to live in a country where we have just about everything. That variety is great for everyday life. The transition to nothing will be as hard for some as the actual living afterwards. Don’t discount those stories of people who commit suicide because they just lost everything. It will happen. Life can’t just be, it has to be worth living. Concentrate less on staying alive and more on living. There is a huge difference.

Travel and bugging out. What a huge topic. Let me just say a few things. There are about a dozen situations I can think of off the top of my head that would prevent someone from using a motorized vehicle. Too big, too noisy, no fuel, roadblocks, just to name a few. Have you ever tried to walk somewhere, and I don’t just mean down the street? I mean walk 30 miles to the next town or 100 miles to your bug-out locale. The average human walking speed is about 3 miles per hour. Assume a bad situation where you may only make 2 or less. Even at the small distance of 30 miles to travel, that 30 min trip by car now takes you 15 hours to hike. That’s 15 hours that you may be getting shot at or avoiding hazards or whatever else may happen. What if you’re trying to outrun something like an angry mob or radiation. Good luck with that. Unless you’re a marathon runner you probably just ran out of time. I see people paying lots of money for these big bug out vehicles. Well guess what. If it hits the fan, it may be the guy with a nice bicycle and some leg muscle that lives to fight another day. You could easily increase speed to 10 miles per hour on a bike, or more. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and allow for more weight for supplies than you could comfortably hike with. There are great fold up models if you work in an office building and want one with you at all times. Over-reliance on tech may well be a downfall for many. How many can navigate to their bug-out without GPS or a Google map? There are places I’ve been to a hundred times in my youth that I would get lost going to now, at least without glancing at a map first. How many of us have a good paper map and know how to use it? How many are prepared, both physically and mentally to leave everything and jump on your bike and go? For those bugging-in, you may still want a bike. I consider it a vital piece of equipment. That mile to the grocery store, without a car, gets old really fast.

Now let me say something that may be a touchy subject for many. I think that the prepper community is great. I’m glad that so many people are taking thought for tomorrow, but I’m afraid that too many aren’t taking thought for today and are being way too narrow in their preps. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Don’t get so caught up in planning your bunker for a nuclear strike that you die when a big earthquake hits. Don’t be so concerned with yourself that you forget about the six family members you have that will show up at your house and turn your food storage from a nice one year supply to a two month supply. Don’t spend so much money prepping for an attack that when you lose your job you can’t pay your bills, lose your house and thereby lose all your preps. The best prepper is a well rounded one. Have things, have skills, have people. You loose just one leg of a three legged stool and you will find it very hard to sit. Health is a big one, I’ve seen people with all the preps in the world and they are in such bad health that I expect they will be the first to go. A healthy person with a pocket knife and a head full of knowledge may be the only one to make it out, all your fancy preps notwithstanding. Prioritize, getting a personal trainer may be more worthwhile than another year of food or a better bug-out vehicle. A five dollar map may save your life when your $400 GPS fails. Plan generally for all possibilities and then add extra supplies for the most likely SHTF scenarios, not the other way around.

The way I see it most people are prepared for the imminent catastrophe. The whole prepper community is ready for it to hit the fan tomorrow, but I don’t think they are actually ready for it to hit next year. It’s very likely that there will not be one huge life changing event, but that a collapse of life as we know it will be a long and grueling process. You most likely wont wake up one day and say, times up, red light, everyone to the bug-out location. Most likely, life will get worse and worse over a period of weeks or even months and by the time you realize it’s time to go it may be too late. You had gas last week, but you’ve been going to work and running the generator every day and now the tank is empty and suddenly you can’t get more. Now it’s time to bug out, what do you do? It’s usually the combination of things that get you. You have a car, but no gas. You have food, but not enough people to stop that 10 person gang. You have a bunker, but you find after a few days that you’re getting claustrophobic. You have all the preps that man can buy, but you panic in the heat of the moment and get yourself killed. Life will change once TEOTWAWKI hits. Don’t just prepare for it, but for after it, and don’t let your hobo dinner be ruined because of the cheese. It’s those little things that will get you in the end.

You are the light of the world, let your light shine forth. Save someone.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Have you been thinking about leaving the crowded city and moving to a retreat? Perhaps you are weighing many factors, finances, age, leaving friends and family, and work.  But the most important factor you should weigh, is the answer to the question, “If the SHTF, can we survive here?”  If the answer is no, then take the leap and move!  We did! 

We sold our San Diego house and finally landed in Washington state, on the west side of the Cascades.  We aimed for the Redoubt, but due to work constraints we could not make that work for us.  So, last November, we closed escrow on our new 20 acre retreat in the country with rich soil, good rainfall, and a good well. It is in a farming community. 

After jumping in with both feet, I will tell you up front that if your plan is to escape to a retreat at the last minute, I strongly urge you to reconsider.  There is a big learning curve to retreat living, mistakes to make and plans to rethink.  If there is anything you take away from this article, I want it to be that message:  you need to get established first and practice your new skills. For example, this past first year I had to learn the growing season of the area, the problems with tomato blight, how to drive a tractor without killing myself, what works for purifying our water and more.  Because TEOTWAWKI has not happened yet, I have had time to sort out and buy seeds that will actually grow in my microclimate.  And when I drove my tractor under a big limb with the roll bar up, and the limb came crashing down on my neck, I was still able go to the doctor to make sure I didn’t crack my vertebrae.  Yes, I learn some things the hard way, and I am trying to learn what I can now before there is no medical care.  Mistakes made now are salvageable for the most part.  They are not so salvageable after TEOTWAWKI.  Move to your retreat soon if you decide this is for you.  Learn your sustainability skills and practice, practice, practice!

This first year, my life activities were dictated by the seasonal changes.  Almost everything I did depended on what season it was, planting, harvesting, canning, etc.  Even my indoor activities, sewing my quilts, organizing my pantry, etc, were driven by rainy days when I didn’t need to be outside.  Please keep in mind, I lived in a city all of my life.  And where I came from, it was, “Rain?  What’s that?”  I have never had to cut my own firewood, grow my own food sustainably, raise chickens or drive the aforementioned tractor ever before.  My association with seasons had to do with what kind of holiday decorations to put up. This is a big change for my husband and me.

November and December were very rainy months when we were moving in.  My husband travels quite a bit, so I spent several of those first days alone in the new house watching the rain outside and asking myself, “What have we done?”  It takes a sense of adventure and a lot of faith to take a leap like this, and you may ask yourself the same question, but take heart, it gets better.  I met one set of neighbors fairly quickly when they dropped by to say hi, and with their help I organized a housewarming for the other neighbors.  They also introduced me to a good Bible church nearby.  I got to know pretty quickly who were going to be the reliable friends, who was knowledgeable about growing a garden and canning and who knew the most about what was going on in our valley.  We also spent the winter learning what needed to be improved for our situation.  We lacked a wood burning stove, and once we installed it we learned how much firewood we used month to month in the cold months.  This first year we had to buy firewood.  The wood burning stove does a great job keeping the house warm and I think it is more comfortable than central heat.  I spent a lot of time unpacking and organizing these two months and finding out what needed to be replaced.  I had already created a modest stockpile of food, largely in part from the LDS Cannery in Reno when we were living there temporarily. (See my previous SurvivalBlog article: Visits to a LDS Cannery.)  I inventoried our supplies and went into town to stock up on many other items.  Some of those purchases included new cooking utensils, and cast iron items like a dutch oven and griddle that would fit on top of the wood burning stove.  I cooked on it a couple of times with the dutch oven just to know I could do it if needed. Referring to my own lists, I stocked up on OTC meds, toiletries, batteries, toilet paper, extra heirloom seeds and many other items. I also used this time to start buying canning jars and lids, including some of the reusable Tattler lids.  My philosophy in buying these so early was that I didn’t know when the supply line could end, and by harvest season I would still need them.  I bought more canning jars on sale later when canning season came around in July and August. Shopping was something I could do in the winter and it helped me learn my way around.

We also looked at our water situation. Our well produces drinkable water IF you close your eyes and imagine it isn’t really orange and turbid.  So we considered a plan to purify it and again after a couple of mistakes, we went with a peroxide treatment, coupled with water softening and reverse osmosis for drinking. We decided to store extra peroxide and salt for the future.  If we run out, the water is still safe to drink and can also be filtered with our Katadyn filter if it becomes too objectionable. I will discuss our well and electricity later in this article.

In January, I contacted a local nursery and had a long conversation with their expert on orchards.  I knew the bare root planting season was approaching.  Many nurseries place their orders for the next year’s trees around November so I wanted to find out what varieties they were going to carry and what was recommended.  I ordered 55 fruit trees of several varieties, paying particular attention to what trees best pollinate each other. I ordered semi-dwarfs in five varieties of apples, two varieties each of pear, Asian pear, cherries and plums. One other reason for ordering different varieties has to do with crop lost due to freeze.  If some trees bloom slightly later or earlier and a freeze hits, you may have some blossoms spared and still get fruit.  I neatly laid out the orchard to have roughly 15 feet between trees running southeast and southwest, with about 22 feet (hypotenuse) north and south.  One of my neighbors owned a tractor with a post hole digger and volunteered to start the tree holes for us.   Simultaneously, he dug post holes for the new fence. The nursery also had organic compost which they dumped into the back of my truck.  Twice I brought home a load of compost for planting and shoveled it out of the back of the truck into the orchard.  Because these weren’t muscles I was practiced in using, I developed a repetitive motion injury on one arm.  That was the last of my shovel use for a couple of months and was glad I had medical care still.  Come February and March, my husband planted the trees and we threw in a few extra varieties from the home improvement store.  The trees from the nursery did grow in very well!  Some of the trees actually produced this year to our surprise. But the home improvement store varieties had some mortality. If I was doing it again, I would buy only nursery trees. The nursery trees appeared to be older, sturdier and more suited to our area and were worth the few extra dollars.   We also took the opportunity to plant a few walnut trees strategically to lessen the view of the house when they grow up and to provide a good source of Omega 3. 

In March, we installed a six foot tall, 7-wire electric fence around the orchard.  We chose this fence configuration due to it’s success in controlling deer and elk in numerous studies.  We installed wood posts in the corners of the orchard, and between corner posts we used non conductive fence posts.  Of the seven electrified strands on the fence, five are 12.5 gauge high tensile wire, and two are white Gallagher Turbo Poly Wire strands.  The white Poly Wire placed higher on the fence improves fence visibility, which we hope will reduce the chance of an animal trying to run through it.  All strands are charged by a Parmak Magnum 12 solar fence energizer.  The battery keeps the fence charged day and night, even after weeks of clouds and rain. We were told by a local to mix molasses and peanut butter and put it on the fence to train the deer about the electricity.   Thus far, it has been 100 percent effective, and we have been able to keep out the two legged creatures as well, though I suspect in TEOTWAWKI this would not be much of a deterrent. 

April was the month for chickens, garden and a tractor.  Let’s start with the newly purchased tractor.  When it was delivered, we were taught how to operate it and I insisted on being the first to drive it!  With the instructor there, I took off with it around the yard with the brush hog going and had a little fun with it.  It was helpful to have him there to ask questions.  My husband got his turn and the rep left.  I pretty much took it as my job to use the tractor when something needed to be done as my husband isn’t always home.  For the most part, I did pretty well with it mowing around the house and in the orchard between the trees. Then there were two incidences that put a dent in my confidence.  The first incident was with the tree limb I already mentioned.  The latest incident involved me destroying the engine of the tractor.  I was removing fence posts with the bucket and mowing along side the road where the new electric fence is going for next years cattle.  I missed pulling one of the posts and not seeing it, I ran the tractor up on that post.  It went through the radiator and the oil filter.  Although I stopped the tractor after getting it off the fence post, the sudden loss of oil and coolant quickly overheated the engine and resulted in it needing a complete engine replacement.  I am lucky we bought tractor insurance, and TEOTWAWKI has not happened and I can recover from my mistake.  But I will say again, if you are planning to go to a retreat after SHTF, then you will not have the luxury of insurance or doctors being there for you while you learn from mistakes.  If you were already at your retreat, you could be learning these lessons now, not later.  My lessons learned about tractors:  (1) put the roll bar down to drive under trees, or cut the lower branches on trees, or do not mow under trees at all. (2) Back into tall weed areas with the brush hog, don’t drive over those tall weed areas engine first in case there’s something you can’t see (3) tractor tires have better traction going forward than backwards because of the [tread] design of the tires (4) wear a hard hat and hearing protection (5) don’t drive into a steep area sideways if you don’t want to roll your tractor (6) insurance can be a wonderful thing for your tractor! Yes, I will get on the tractor again, but with some added knowledge on tractor safety.  But, if you see me driving the tractor, you still might want to stand clear!

Late April, I also picked up my first chickens.  I had placed an order with a fellow who was a specialized breeder and was starting to think he wasn’t going to come through with the order.  So, I grabbed some different varieties at a co-op we had joined.  The co-ops here typically carry chicks until the end of April and I was afraid I would lose my opportunity to get chicks this year. Ok, you can laugh, I had the chicks inside in a box in a spare bedroom.  I didn’t have my coop set up yet and had to keep them warm, too.  The home improvement store sold me a shed which was constructed on our land, but I laid vinyl and my husband insulated it and finished it off inside.  He cut a small chicken sized door to the outside, where I had built the cage part of their coop with a screen door.  As my chickens got bigger, I was happy to get them out of the house.  I moved them into the coop and placed wood chips on the floor which I change out regularly.  Then I got a call from the breeder and now he had chickens for me.  It was too many chickens, but since I like to hold up my end of the bargain, I took them. Many of them were roosters, so I learned how to butcher a chicken as they got older.   If you are not too keen on butchering a lot of roosters, you may want to buy only the chickens you need from the co-op. Usually the co-op sells pullets (the females) but most likely you will get a rooster or two in the mix.  I will not go into methods of killing chickens, I’m still a little sensitive about that experience. But, for removing feathers without messing up the skin (after they are dead, of course), dunking them about four times in hot water at about 160 degrees F seemed to work best for me.  I butchered a total of eleven roosters and now have that skill in my repertoire.  What is left is what I consider a healthy number of chickens for my setup.  I have heard that you need about 4 square feet per chicken, which proved about right for me.  I do not free range my chickens because I want to protect them from predators and know where they are laying their eggs.  I’ve set aside extra food for them now that they are on a laying feed.  I have two roosters that get along well with each other in addition to my 13 hens.  One problem I nipped in the bud pretty quickly was some periodic aggression by both roosters towards me.  Each time, I grabbed the offending rooster and held him upside down by his legs for awhile to show him who’s boss.  Neither rooster attacks me anymore.

Let’s talk about the garden:  I count it a huge success to have just started a garden this year. Early April, I had started some seeds inside for transplanting into the garden.  Another neighbor came by with a tiller and cut an area 40 by 100 feet, where I had laid out tarps in advance to presumably kill the vegetation.  This was going to be the size of my garden.  We did a second tilling at the end of April. Early May, I started putting in my garden.  I planted a few rows a day and had most of the garden planted.

Then everything came to a screeching stop.

With all the recent talk about appendicitis on SurvivalBlog, my poor 56 year-old husband came down with it!  All the while, I kept thanking God for letting it happen when it wasn’t TEOTWAWKI and he wasn’t traveling. It was a very scary experience as his appendix had become gangrenous, and after surgery he was on IV antibiotics for several days.  I was terribly scared I would lose him. He is normally a very healthy, fit man.  He recovered more slowly than we anticipated, in part to his inability to sit still and rest. It was the first time I had faced the prospect of losing my husband and it still rattles me.  It also brought me to thinking about how absolutely difficult it would be to continue the work we were doing without him especially in TEOTWAWKI.

The days sitting in the hospital and then caring for him at home, the garden weeds got further ahead of me and some of my planted vegetables disappeared underneath them. The weeds looked just like the beets and spinach that was mixed in there. I didn’t fight the weeds too hard; victory was theirs.  But, I still decided to call my garden a success.  It was a big accomplishment to start a garden and have an area dug up for future gardens. I used heirloom seeds and was able to collect some seeds from the plants at the end of the season.  I did get food out of it, including green beans, cabbage, squash, corn and potatoes.  I had enough green beans for several canning sessions, and dug enough potatoes for my back to hurt.  The potatoes have gone into root storage as I have a chilly basement. I froze plenty of corn. It wasn’t the prettiest of gardens, but yes, I am calling it a success.

So in July, August and September, I did lots of canning.  Remember the big orchard we planted?  Well, we discovered we already had several mature fruit trees on the property! Surprise!  Apples, pears and plums came in and along with the garden vegetables, I was canning a lot.  I have a friend here who has canned for years, who was also gracious enough to give me lessons and recipes.  I found two canning books helpful, the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, and Canning for a New Generation. The latter has some wonderful recipes (spiced pears!) Yes, this is my first year canning, too. I made sauerkraut from my cabbage, adding caraway seed to it when I transferred it to canning jars.   Learning to can has probably been the most valuable part of the year for me.  Why?  Not only have I learned how to preserve my harvest for the winter months, but in practicing it I have learned what my husband and I actually like to eat and store more of the extra ingredients needed for those recipes.  For instance, the spiced pear recipe we like uses whole cloves and whole cinnamon sticks, so I have stored more of those.  If you are planning to can food in TEOTWAWKI, wouldn’t you like to know what really tastes good and works for you?  Some people have a very common genetic trait called “geographic tongue” that makes them extra sensitive to acidic foods like pickles canned in vinegar.  Is someone in your family sensitive to hot, spicy or acidic foods? Practicing your canning now will help you to sort out preferences and store the right ingredients.

In June, I purchased a Dakota Alert system that would monitor four areas and placed the monitors around the property at access points.  I know when someone is approaching the house, and sometimes know when the deer are going through an access point.  I do not get too concerned at every alert right now and familiarization with the alert may have desensitized me somewhat for when it goes off.  I know the time may come when I will need to seriously heed every alert I receive.

It’s now the first of November.  Hunting season is in swing in our locale and I am looking for that extra meat to put away.  As I am still learning the area and not up to speed on how to hunt this location, it is yet another thing I have to learn.  The deer that used to wander into our yard previously seem to know I am ready for them.  A successful hunt will mark the end of our self-reliance cycle for this year.  I was fortunate to have experience in hunting and butchering before the move.

So to continue about our water and power, this is not a complete project yet.  On a vacation to a jungle lodge a few years back, we noticed they ran their generator two hours a day to do their essential tasks.  Then the remainder of the time, the batteries supplied power to lights and a water pump.  We decided we would like to run a generator on one hour a day or less. During that time, we could run a washer, charge batteries and refill our home water tank.  We are on liquid propane for some appliances (stove top and oven, dryer), but a small electric current is needed as part of the operation as well.  So, we calculated the loads for our essential items, and bought a generator that will accommodate those loads while providing a charge to a battery bank.  Obviously, we think our water supply is the most critical.  We get our water from a well, which pumps it to a 300 gallon water storage tank in our basement.  From there it is pumped to our house fixtures by a 240 volt Gould pump.  Without AC power, we have no water.  We watched the National Geographic movie “Blackout” earlier this week, and it was ironic that we lost our power only minutes after the movie ended, but only for about an hour.  During that time, there was some remaining water pressure in the lines, but not enough to take a shower or flush a toilet.  So in addition to the generator, inverter and deep cycle batteries, we ordered an RV water pump (powered by a deep cycle battery) and are installing it in parallel with our main house water pump.  It is a fairly simple installation, but it required adding a one way valve on the output of the house water pump to prevent back flow.  This should give us water 24 hours a day. Based on a fuel flow chart for our generator, at roughly a gallon an hour for a full load, in 365 days we can go almost a year on our 364 gallon diesel tank, if it is full.  We try to run through the fuel to keep it fresh and keep some Pri-D in it to help preserve it. Once we have our set up complete, it will be tested with others in our group to see how this works and how we can trim back use of the generator.  If during that one hour a day, tasks are assigned to start the washer, cook a meal, take showers, operate a power tool, etc. then that’s not too bad.  Perhaps we can trim the electric chores to 45 minutes a day, or even 30 minutes a day with some good choreography.  I have timed the washer cycles and can wash a speed load in 28 minutes.  A wood drying rack in the same room as my wood stove does an excellent job of drying garments.  Who knows?  With some adjustments, and the addition of solar panels to help charge our inverter batteries, we may be able to go 2 or more days between operating the generator and stretch a tank of diesel for two years. Practice will tell us what works and what needs fixing. Once fuel runs out, we can still hand wash clothes, filter water, etc.  Some fuel will be retained for the tractor use and we are considering a second diesel tank. We will be working on a rainwater collection system later on and buying a hand pump for the well.

A note for the women:  I spent many years in a nontraditional job hearing how “a woman can’t do this”and “a woman can’t do that”.  If you hear it enough times it becomes easier to believe and as a result, we may not try to do certain tasks.  Yes, we may not be as strong as a man overall, but we know how to work smarter, not harder.  Think about this:  if your husband dies before or during TEOTWAWKI and it is up to you and only you, do you think it would have been beneficial to try some of those “man” things while he was still alive just to learn how to do it? I took this as my challenge this year to step up and try those things my husband would typically do.  I decided this year to use the chainsaws, use the log splitter, work with the tractor, run wire for the electric fence, and build the chicken cage and other things.  Trust me, I am married to a talented man who makes those chores look easy and he could do it all. But after his appendectomy, I kept thinking, ‘What if?”  I know I did the best I could this year and I challenge you to do the same especially if you have youngsters who depend on you should their Dad pass away.  In addition, this year I made a point of also practicing my shooting.  I focused more on my pistol, and practiced drawing, double taps and quick clip changes.  I had taken a few lessons from an NRA instructor the previous year but I was rusty. Gals, it is worth the money to pay for a good shooting instructor.  Some instructors will let you try their different guns out to for you to see what you like.  If you haven’t already, find that favorite gun you want to carry and get some lessons in using it. Go talk to the guys behind the gun counter and take some notes.  I went with a H&K .40 S&W, one of the more recent ones that had a grip that could be downsized for my hands, and a Black Hawk CQC holster made of carbon composite.  The holster doesn’t have the friction that a leather one does on draw, and this worked better for me.  Find a gun and holster that works for you, then practice.  Try a few “hips and head” shots while practicing, in case you encounter a target wearing a bulletproof vest.  While there are many good men out there who can protect a woman, they can’t always be there.  Take some of that responsibility on yourself.  A gun is a great equalizer!

You already know that it’s important to stay up on medical and dental care.   Get caught up on health issues before moving to a new retreat.  In some places it takes up to two months to get set up with new dentists and doctors, and if one doesn’t seem like a good fit, it takes more time to switch doctors.  I had to play catch up after I moved to get a delayed root canal done.  Right, no one wants to get one but it sure was a relief to have it out of the way.  I should have done it back in San Diego.  As just a side thought, if you still have your appendix and you are scheduled for another abdominal surgery, you might ask your doctor if they could go ahead and pull that appendix for you.  I was able to get my doctor to do this for me a few years back.  I think they wanted the practice for their residents and you might have a better chance getting this done at a training hospital!  Another decision I made a few years back was to have a cardiac ablation versus going on pills for an otherwise unmanageable arrhythmia.  What if I couldn’t get pills anymore?  Not fun, but glad I did it.  You have to decide for yourself.

Final advice:  If you have decided to move to a retreat, do it now.  It took a year of retreat living to get the seasonal flow of country life.  These are only the first lessons of self reliance.  My new neighbors have been a wonderful resource for me.  Should you find yourself equally blessed with good neighbors that are willing to teach you useful self reliance skills, open your ears and close your mouth. There is much to learn and practice, and you will be making edits along the way.  We are still editing and still have more to do.  Once TEOTWAWKI happens, there will be no “do over’s” in planning.

We took the leap and we like it!  We certainly pay less in taxes and in some states you can get a reduction in property taxes by operating your retreat as a farm.  Though our bodies hurt here and there, our hearts are happy in this beautiful valley.  Goodbye city life!  Green Acres we are there!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I'm a suburbs dweller, living about 25 miles out of Milwaukee. I've gotten my mom--who lives nearby--into prepping. (Loaning her my copy of your "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" book worked!) So what do I do next, to get her farther down the road [to prepping]? I bought her a Kat[adyn water] filter. She has no clue about storage of foods. (We aren't one of those "canning" families.) I bought myself a bunch of MREs and Mountain House foods, but she can't afford to [do likewise], since she's a retired school teacher. Do you have any advice on how she can store her own food, and not break the bank? Thanks, - G.H.C.

JWR Replies: The Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course (now priced at less than $20) would be a good gift to put in the hands of any relatives or friends who are interested in prepping, but don't know where to start. In the course I describe shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO as one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. There is also some information in the course that is useful for advanced preppers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Back in the day, when I was in the military, we had C Rations or "C-Rats" as they were called, when we were out in the field. And, quite honestly, they were really pretty bad tasting, and lacking in much of anything. I served in the Illinois National Guard, as well as the US Army, and have quite a bit of experience with C-Rats. While in the National Guard, when we went on weekend maneuvers, a bunch of us would bring our own food along. And, we'd bring, cheeses, pepperoni, olives - gourmet foods, instead of eating C-Rats, or on occasion, whatever the cooks might have prepared. During my years in the National Guard, I never once ate in the mess hall, during weekend drill meetings. Having worked full-time for the National Guard, I was tasked with going to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois every month, to pick-up the grocery items that our cooks were to prepare for the weekend meals - while we were in the armory. And, I wouldn't have fed that stuff to a dog - and most soldiers didn't eat that food either...someone would head to one of the many local food places and bring back something to eat.
In 1975, MREs were first introduced, but they weren't widely used in the field until 1983. Still, MREs were a vast improvement over the old C-Rat MCI meals. In 1992 MREs included a flameless ration heater, and that allowed you to have a warm meal, instead of a cold one - a vast improvement when in the field.
In 1983, we saw the first use of MREs - Meals, Ready to Eat. The they were a huge improvement over C-Rats to be sure - the nutrition value was higher, and the taste was much improved. My understanding is that, every 90-days the menu for MREs change, so military personnel weren't eating the same old thing all the time. Today's MREs come as a complete meal. Sitting on my desk is an MRE with the flameless heater - more on that in a moment - and this MRE has chili with beans, fried rice, crackers and strawberry jam, a lemon/lime electrolyte beverage powder, a strawberry dairy shake powder, instant coffee, creamer and sugar condiments and a spoon, most towelette, napkin and hot sauce. It all adds-up to about a 1,300 calorie meal.
When MREs came with the first flameless heater, you had to add some water to the heater pouch, and place your entrée into the bag and seal it up, and leave it for a few minutes. Today's flameless heater is a bit different, in that you add water to it, and wrap it around your entrée and in about 10-minutes, your entrée is nice and warm.
There are several companies providing MREs to our military these days. I received a case of 12-MREs for testing from Meal Kit Supply and I'll tell you, the samples they sent me were all quite good - honestly! I received breakfast MREs as well as MREs that would be considered lunch or dinner. Of course, in the military, you usually don't have a choice - whatever is given to you, is what you have - so if you happen to get an MRE for dinner, that has scrambled eggs as the entrée, well it's the luck of the draw. While there are quite a few companies who offer "MREs" - not all MREs are the same - some are packaged to look like the real-deal - that the US military uses, but the calorie content is extremely low. On average, the MREs from Meal Kit Supply have around 1,300 calories per meal - that's good eating - not starvation pseudo-MREs from some other companies. Meal Kit Supply says their MREs have the highest calorie count of any commercially available MREs, too!
MREs can be safely stored and eaten even when they are more than 8-yrs old. If you keep MREs stored at 50-degrees, they are good for 96-months, at 60-degrees, they are good for 84-months, at 70-degrees, they are good for 66-months, and at 120-degrees, they are only good for a month. Now, we all know that the FDA requires packaged foods to have an expiration date on them - and so it is with MREs, too - however, I have eaten MREs that were more than 10-yrs old, stored under a variety of temperature conditions and they were fine. Only thing is, I'm sure some of the nutritional value was reduced.
MREs are stored in a retort pouch that is made of a strong layered combination of polyester, aluminum foil and polypropylene, allowing the commercially sterilized food rations to be safe to eat for long periods of time. It's like most medications - not all - that can safely be used for many years past their expiration date. However, if the sealed pouched have been punctured, then bacteria will grow, and your MRE won't be safe to eat - throw it away!
I know a lot of today's military personnel hate MREs, however, if they ever had C-Rats, they would think that MREs are gourmet eating. As I stated at the start of this article, me and my family actually enjoy MREs. Some years ago, we ran across a deal on MRE entrees only, and we purchased several cases of the entrees, and quite often, that would be our dinner or lunch. And, we've introduced many people to MREs and no one ever complained about the taste of them, either. They are a great thing for hunters to carry in their rigs and/or backpacks, too. And, needless to say, if you are reading SurvivalBlog, you are a Prepper, and always looking for survival-type foods.
My family also carries a couple complete MRE meals in our BOBs as well as some entrees, so if the SHTF, and all we have time to grab are our BOBs and weapons, at least we won't be hungry for several days. Additionally, the flames heaters can be used to help warm your body - just add the required water amount, seal the bag up, and put it under you jacket, and they'll warm you right up.
The menus are always changing on MREs, and that's a good thing. Besides the chili MRE, we also received apple and maple flavored oatmeal, spaghetti and beef sauce, a breakfast sausage patty, vegetarian ratatouille, beef ravioli in meat sauce, and several other tasty meals.
It should be noted too that, Meal Kit Supply purchases their MREs directly from a DoD MRE supplier, and is trucked directly to their warehouse, and then shipped to you. Some other MRE supplies have a much longer route, before they arrive in your hands. And, although you can purchase MREs on eBay or other sources, you really don't know what you're getting - how old are they, how were they stored, etc. And, it is now against the law for anyone to sell MREs that are marked "US Property. (Formerly, a lot of military personnel would take the MREs they didn't eat in the field, to a local army/navy store and sell them - while it isn't against the law for you and I to have their military MREs, it is now against the law for them to be sold. ) A bit of a tangled web, and I've seen MREs being sold in stores - genuine military MREs, and when I told the store's owner that they were doing something illegal, they insisted they weren't, and that there were no laws against them selling the "surplus" MREs!
MREs are relatvely expensive to purchase, but if you want a complete meal, a three course meal, that is tasty and nutritious, then it's really hard to beat MREs. My family and I also keep some freeze-dried packages of food in our BOB and our rigs, but there's nothing like having a good three course meal, out in the boonies, when you cold, tired and hungry.
Meal Supply Kit sells their MREs by the case - and there are 12 complete MREs in every case. Cost is $129.95. That might seem high, but consider that includes shipping, so that's not a bad deal. My entire family really liked the various MREs that were sent to me for testing - didn't find any meals we didn't like. And, I believe if you served someone one of these MREs, without them knowing they were MREs, they would think you made the meal fresh yourself. Yes, they are "that" good. Now all I have to do, is replenish my Meal Kit Supply of MREs one of these days.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, October 26, 2013

This is something I hear from people often: “If things go down I’ll just salt my meat!”
My answer, “Really!!!  Do you know how??”

So here’s the question I have for you folks, assume we are now at that TEOTWAWKI. How many of you really “KNOW” how to salt the meat you have on? Or how to preserve the meat you may harvest in the future?

Everyone knows in the winter, if you’re in a cold climate just hang it, it’ll freeze. They’re right it will! Good Luck carving some for dinner. Don’t believe me? Pull out a pound of frozen burger and try to carve through it! Oh Yahhh….. Take it off the counter and suspend it in the air….now try! Not much fun! You’ll burn off those calories before you know it!
There are those out there that plan to can what is in the freezer when the power goes out.  My advice here is if you plan to can it for preservation do it NOW! When things go down we’ll all have plenty to do.  As we read daily about how crazy things are going to get during those first few days; but don’t worry you’re ready you won’t have anything better to do! Truth is if you are waiting to the last minute “you won’t have anything better to get done”. You’ll really need to have those supplies processed. So avoid the rush if you’re going to can them do it now! Why wait until it’s freezer burned.

For those that do wait or those that harvest game after the fact here’s the scoop on how to cure (preserve) with salt.
1 pound of meat = 1 ounce of salt (or 6%)(1oz to 1lb is slightly high on the 6% scale but better slightly to much then not enough)
Sounds like magic doesn’t it……LOL
For every pound of meat you need 1 ounce of salt absorbed in it to cure it.
The best method I know of is done in 3 applications.
Upon harvesting the game, DO NOT let it hang to cure or crust or even to cool!
You do not need to de-bone the game!
1. Weigh your harvest. If estimating go high. Better to much salt than not enough!
2. 1lb = 1oz (we estimate 100 lbs of meat  At 6% that’s 6 lbs. of salt)
3. Break the 6 lbs. of salt into 3 equal portions. ( 3 containers of 2 lbs. I actually put it in 3 contains so I don’t forget where I am in the process…..have I treated it 2 or 3 times?)
4. Apply the first container of 2 lbs. of salt. Rub it in and cover everything! Inside, outside, top, bottom, and the end of bones! All of it! It will seem like a lot but trust me it will soak in.
5. Now cover.  Feel free to hang anywhere out of the sun.  If you don’t have a way to cover your game there is a way to keep the flies and such off of your game. Use pepper!  I do believe that is why historically the two go together.  Salt cures it and pepper keeps the insects off.
6. Wait one week.  Repeat step 4 with the second container or salt.
7. Repeat 6 with third container of salt.

At this point your game is perfectly preserved.  It can be kept almost anywhere out of sunlight.  It will with stand temperatures as high as 100degrees without spoiling.  It will keep almost indefinitely.  At this point if you want to smoke it for flavor do so. 
I am sure there are some out there that will find that to be A LOT of salt!  Far too salty for their taste buds.  If that is the case soak the amount for your meal in water before cooking.  Salt is water salable and will dissolve from the meat.  Although my granny used to say “ If the soup is to salt, you used to much meat.”
Now for the fun part……..
Now that you know how much salt it REALLY takes to preserve meat, do you have enough of it in your stores!

JWR Adds: As SurvivalBlog reader S.T. from Virginia has pointed out, the salt that you use for curing should be the PLAIN (non-iodized) variety, which is typically marked "Pickling Salt."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I follow you via RSS and have purchases your past archives from Amazon. Following the advice in your blog, I just got done on purchasing some gluten free meal kits. I find it amazing they have these for people with food allergies and yet at rock bottom prices (even with the non-member surcharge.)

I will sleep much better at night for my wife, 17 month old daughter and myself.

God Bless you and thank you for your wealth of resources!

Thanks! - Andy P.

JWR Replies: As I highlighted in the Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course, shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO is one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. I still highly recommend that. Notably, in recent years, COSTCO has expanded their line to include some specialized long term storage foods in large #10 cans. And, as you mentioned it is great to see that they offer food that are guaranteed to be gluten free. These changes have made a good thing even better

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I don’t know about the Baker's Salute Oven (that another reader asked about), but there is a man in Springville, Utah that makes a similar one that can be mounted on a wood burning stove or on a expedition tent stove.  They are much less expensive as he makes them from repurposed propane cylinders and they are called Grover Chimney Ovens.   They cost $205 instead of $539 like the Bake's Salute Oven but they are not as large inside.   They are a double-walled oven, so the heated gases from the chimney stack surround the oven itself.  I am not affiliated with, or have any interest in these products other than to say that I want one.  He also makes one that will fit on top of a wall tent stove and he also makes a rocket stove using repurposed propane cylinders. - Brad M.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When I was very young I would sometime spend rainy days at my grand-mother's house going through sporting goods catalogs and the Sears catalog making list of items that might be needed during disasters or emergencies. I have no idea why I am wired in such a way that I give a good amount of thought to being prepared. I am no longer a young boy but now I believe making such plans are more important than ever before. The economic situation in our country can only be described as terrifying to anyone who will take the blinders off and look. It is said that there is nothing new under the sun and if one looks back at other countries and civilizations that followed a similar path you can see the possible outcome. If one prepares for a disaster that never happens he is no worse off but if unprepared when disaster strikes there is no remedy. 

Each family's needs and security situation is different so there is no cookie cutter plan for being prepared. Use available learning tools and make your own plans. The reason I am writing this letter is to share some resources I have found. I am by no means prepared for all possible events. I am working on my own plans as I am able to. If we encourage each other and help each other than if a disaster ever does occur then we will all be better prepared. I will list some resources I have found that others might find useful.

1. Water
    I believe that the first item everyone should try to plan for is a source for safe drinking water. If a well is available consider installing a solar powered well pump. Since most of us don't have a well I strongly recommend Lifesaver brand water filters. The Lifesaver jerry can filter will make 20,000 liters of safe drinking water from most any source of fresh water. The lifesaver jerry cans are available at There are other good filters but try to plan for months, not days.

2. Food
   You gotta eat! For short term food storage we should all have a supply of canned goods and basics such as rice, beans, oats, pasta, and flour. Don't worry too much about storing these foods for long term. As they age just donate them and replace them. One of the best resources for food storage is the Latter Day Saints food facilities. We are lucky to have one of these nearby in Slidell, Louisiana. The Mormons encourage their members to be prepared and set up regional facilities to pack food items for long term storage. Dry food items sealed in #10 cans can have a shelf life as long as 20 years. This facility is at this time open to people that are not associated the the LDS. The LDS web site has a great deal of information about disaster planning and food storage.
Storing food will feed you during most conceivable emergencies. We should also plan for an unconceivable emergency that doesn't last days or weeks but instead last months or years. We should all have on hand a good supply of heirloom non-hybrid seeds for gardens. Using heirloom non-hybrid seeds allows you to save seeds from your gardens for future gardens. Most hybrid or modified vegetables do not reproduce well naturally. Emergency seed packs are available at many sources. Here are a couple,, item wx2-222028. Type in emergency seeds on and you will many choices. Keep in mind that you will also need to keep fertilizer on hand. As you use the stored fertilizer replace it. You do have hand tools for gardening don't you?

3. Warmth and cooking
   We are lucky to live in an area with mild winters but we still need to plan on heat sources to keep warm. For short term generators or even simply extra blankets will suffice. For long term situations we will all end up burning wood in some form or fashion. Make sure you have hand tools such as ax, splitter, and saw. For cooking most of us have camp stoves or grills that we have used after hurricanes. But what if the fuel for these becomes unavailable or so expensive it might as well be unavailable. Buying some type of wood stove or making a jet cooker now and storing it will give you peace of mind. You can look up plans for home-made wood cookers on you-tube and on several prepper web-sites. I will list some helpful sites at the end of the letter. The Dollar Tree store sells candles that are about 8 or 9 inches tall in a glass jar that will burn for about 80 hours each. The candles cost $1 each. The stores are often out but you can order them by the case from their web site and pick the candles up at the store. You should have a at least couple of dozen of these candles.

4. Shelter
    This is a difficult topic because this is one area that everyone will have different needs and desires. Most everyone would want to stay in their present location but there are several items to consider. You must be in a secure location and be able to defend yourself at that location. Having a weapon is not enough. You need to consider what is required to set security watches and defendable perimeters. Some people might think that they will not resort to violence to defend their shelter and there supplies. When unprepared people decide to take what you and yours need to survive most people will fight. Your location must have a reliable water source. Many people will find it necessary to join with other friends or family members for support and security. These topics should be discussed with others before there is an emergency at hand. If people decide to plan on joining up together than it would be wise to preposition supplies at the planned location. It is also wise to have a back-up plan in case the planned location is not useable for some reason.

5. Medical supplies
    Most of us end up taking some type of daily meds as we get older. There is only so much of these meds that we can obtain and hold. However there are sources for other medical items that we all need from time to time. Many people that are called preppers these days have been buying antibiotics from vet supply resources. is one I have used. The antibiotics are usually labeled for use in aquariums or for animals. The antibiotics are exactly the same as the ones you receive from Wal-Mart or Medco. I have documentation from doctors that state that the meds are the same and that the shelf life if stored out of intense heat is measured in years in most cases. There is talk that the government wants to stop the internet sales of vet medicines because people are buying them for human use so I would get a supply as soon as you can. We should all have several types of antibiotics and other medical supplies. There are sites that describe which antibiotics are best used for different medical ailments. You should have basic first aid supplies for stopping blood loss from major injuries. Keep QuickClot or Celox packets to stop major bleeding. Israeli pressure bandages and tourniquets are must have items. Steri-strips and sutures are also needed. Also alcohol and Betadine needs to be on hand. Have a supply of forceps and other tools. Buy a good supply of otc medicines, especially imodium, tylenol, and ibuprofen.

6. Power
    As you can tell from this letter we are discussing long term emergencies instead of a couple of days without power after a storm. It would be prudent for us to look at solar power systems to provide some electrical power. This would not only allow you to have a couple of lights but could also power a communication device to talk to people on guard duty or could power radios for communication. We should all definitely have a good supply of rechargeable batteries and a solar recharging device. The more batteries you can obtain now the better. Remember that the day after the emergency is too late to find batteries, radios, or solar devices. If you decide to look into setting up a solar power system you will need deep cycle batteries. The better the deep cycle battery is the more expensive it is and none of them are cheap. A very good book to have on hand is The 12 Volt Bible, it is available on Amazon.

7. Transportation
    We should not only have at least one bicycle but it should be maintained. We should keep spare tires, tubes, and tire patches for the bike. It would be great to have an extra chain. Don't overlook having a hand powered pump

8. Clothing
    Buy a few pairs of jeans and other sturdy clothes and store them in a vacuum bag to protect them from moths. On there is available Guide Gear brand jeans. You can get them with or without a double layer of cloth on the front of the legs for extra durability.

9. Security
  This is too large a topic to cover in a letter. The most important thing to say is to learn and plan. There are many books available to order or borrow. Everyone learned a few months ago how quickly ammunition can disappear from store shelves. We should all have a couple of good weapons and plenty of ammunition. There is no such thing as enough ammunition. In a real long term emergency ammunition will become the preferred barter item. Ammo will become the basic currency along with pre '64 silver coins if we ever experience a real long term disruption. A couple of weapons and a good supply of ammunition are required but from there a person is only limited by his own resources. In a true long term disruption the man with a night vision device will be much more secure than those without. These devices are very expensive for good 3rd. generation models. At least get good night sights such as Trijicon brand night sites for your primary weapon. Trijicon night sights for an AR-15 cost less than $100 and will be invaluable if you ever need them. You won't be very effective if you cannot see your sights. A similar item is body armor. It seems like a complete waste of money in normal times but would be worth everything if it saves you from being shot. I will share some information from books I have read. It sounds basic but you must know the difference between cover and concealment. Concealment can prevent someone from seeing you but cover can stop rounds headed your way, don't confuse the two. In times of trouble a weapon is useless in a safe. During a real time of trouble you should be armed at all times.

Trying to be prepared is a project that never ends. All we can do is the best we can but even that will be more than the majority of people. I will list some items we should stock up on and a few books that can be helpful. I should say that these books should be acquired in paper form and not on an e-reader.
| Stock up items for your own use and for barter: bug spray, storage food, ammo, water filters, jeans, t-shirts, batteries, pre-1965 silver coins, otc medicines, skin lotion, towels, blankets, fertilizer, seeds, food grade pails with lids (find a restaurant that will give you mayo and dressing pails), hand gardening tools and wood cutting tools, toothbrushes, 1st aid supplies, candles, reading glasses, bike tires and tubes, tire patches, multi-vitamins, matches, baking soda, sugar, vinegar, propane (propane will store long term), bleach (dry pool tablets store well but must be pure bleach), bar soap, surgical mask, latex or vinyl gloves.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It by James Wesley Rawles
Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook by David Werner
Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson
Wilderness Medicine Beyond First Aid By William W. Forgey M.D.
Emergency War Surgery (NATO Handbook:- Third United States Revision, 2004) by Dr. Martin Fackler, et al.
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring
When There Is No Doctor: Preventative and Emergency Healthcare by Gerard S. Doyle,
Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles (a great novel but it is full of useful information)
Ranger Handbook an Army field manual. (There are many other useful books and military field manuals).
Useful web sites:,,, night vision sales food storage wood gas stove raising fish at home raising fish at home, aquaponics Vet Supply Vet supply Centers for Disease Control Medical info First aid training Sportsman's Guide Northern Tool military surplus equipment Natchez Shooter Supply Brigade Quartermasters Armslist MS. classified firearms sales and trade. wilderness first aid ammo search tool Israeli Tactical gear ammo sales gun parts and magazines ammo sales ammo sales night sights medical supplies raising chickens prepping info general homesteading info general homesteading info pre-1965 silver coins

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

As a wife, mother, cook, and gardener, I find that articles on long term food storage, are basic and practical.  But when I study the recommended lists for storage items, I wince at the lack of thought that goes into flavor, texture and variety. This article is dedicated to those nurturing souls who know that in a TEOTWAWKI situation, a delicious meal will be one of the most simple of earthly comforts that we can provide to keep others healthy and happy.
Although basic food may keep you alive, food fatigue can be a real problem. Variety is the spice of life, and in a SHTF scenario, one of the key factors in your survival is your psychological outlook. What you eat, and how much you enjoy it can be a huge factor in bolstering or hindering that positive mental state. With some basic additional food storage planning, it is possible to make even basic grains, legumes, beans and rice much more enjoyable and healthy while taking up very little storage space.

Most preppers stock the basics: Italian seasoning, garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon and vanilla.
If you want to validate just how important variety is, try living off of only your long-term food storage for a month. You will quickly find the prospect of eating your chili powder-beans and your Italian seasoning-rice for months on end quite disheartening. There is a reason why Marco Polo traveled the world to bring back and propagate exotic spices, some of which were considered more valuable than gold. Having a stock of unique and versatile spices will provide a valuable barter item and psychological comfort in any survival situation. Additionally, many spices and herbs have wonderful healthy side benefits and medicinal uses. I will discuss some of these below as well as some deep larder essentials that are often overlooked.

The key to exploring new flavors you may not have thought of is to look past the normal American "meat and potato" diet and look to cultures who have cooked with these spices and basic storage foods for centuries; some of the cultures we will explore include Thai, Indian, and Mexican cuisines. 
Another benefit of learning to cook food from other cultures is that they have mastered making delicious dishes using small amounts of meat and dairy (or none at all). In the future this could be a necessity as meat and animal products will likely be scarce. Besides the ones listed here, feel free to explore other cultures that may expand your options such as Brazilian, Creole, Cuban, Ethiopian, German, Mediterranean, and Moroccan as many of the spices and herbs we will discuss are multifunctional and overlap a myriad of different cultures and dishes.

Spices, herbs and extract flavorings . 
Most dried spices and herbs will store well in a dark cool places for many years, but flavor will fade somewhat as the years go by. Typically this can be countered by using more dried herb to get the same flavor. Buying spices in their whole form, such as cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, star anise and mustard seed, and grinding later will give you the longest shelf life and best flavor. Pure vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life, but other extracts or imitation flavorings such as almond, coconut, lemon, maple, peppermint and rum will likely only store a few years at best, and may break down or the alcohol will evaporate over time, so plan to regularly rotate these items.

With herbs, always try to grow them fresh when possible to ensure that flavor and nutrition are at it's highest.  Set aside non-hybrid seed packets for herbs that will grow in your area; you can always check with your local nursery for advice on growing in your particular climate. Mediterranean herbs are easy to grow in zones 3-9, are not fussy about soil, and drought resistant. Look for perennial herbs will come back every year once established. Good examples include: chives, fennel, mints, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme. Common annual herbs that you would need to reseed yearly include basil, cilantro, dill, mustard and parsley. By growing your herbs in pots that you bring inside and keep in a sunny window for the winter you can extend how long these fresh herbs are available. Finally you can dry extra herbs at harvest by simply hanging small bunches upside down to air dry for storage and later use or trade.

There are sub-tropical plants that will provide wonderful flavor options that will only grow outside in zone 8 or higher, the good news is that they can also be grown in pots that are brought inside during the winter in colder climates.  Examples include bay trees, ginger, lemongrass, and dwarf citrus trees such as Bearass Lime, Calamondin Orange and Meyer's Lemon. All but ginger will require a southern window with at least 5 hours of sun a day to thrive. Check the web for more detailed growing information.

Asian/Thai/Vietnamese cooking :  these are some of my favorite common herbs, spices and flavorings.  These produce light, fresh, exotic, tangy, sweet and savory dishes. Besides stews, soups and curries, you can also make wonderful sweet treats like rice pudding and Chai tea with these flavors.
Shop for these spices at an Asian/Indian grocer; they will be authentic and very affordable. Using these spices may take getting used to, so experiment!
•     Cardamom pods - the queen of spices, very aromatic! Green pods add a flowery taste to savory and sweet dishes alike, Black pods are more for Vietnamese meat stews and Pho soup. A tonic for the heart and can relieve toothaches.
•     Coriander - the seeds of cilantro, sweet, mild lemony flavor
•   Fennel Seeds - a slight licorice taste. Also used in Italian and German cooking. Good fiber, antioxidant and helps fight colon cancer.
•      Ginger - a unique spicy, hot rhizome that also aids in digestive woes and its odor helps fights depression. 
•      Turmeric - provides the yellow color and warm, peppery, earthy flavor in most curries; it supports the liver, as well as being a mild pain reliever and natural anti-inflammatory. It has even been used to settle anxiety in Alzheimer's patients.
•     Star anise - has a mild licorice taste, often used in Pho soup. Interchangeable with fennel seeds.
•     Five spice powder - a nice basic blend of Asian spices if you want to keep it simple.
•     Lemon grass - a mild lemony taste that is essential in many Asian dishes.
•     Coconut milk - a must for the creamy sweet undertones in Asian and Indian cooking! Because of the fat it should only be stored for 2-5 years. In a pinch, use cream and coconut flavoring. You can use powdered for longer storage, but it is non-fat and lacking compared to the real thing. 
•    Fish sauce - similar to soy sauce, made from fermented anchovies. Adds a mild richness to dishes without tasting fishy and has a long shelf life.
•    Rice vinegar - will keep long term and adds the perfect, mild sourness to dishes.
•    Sesame oil - only a few drops will add that authentic Asian taste.
•  Wasabi powder - this spicy, green, Japanese horseradish powder (used as wasabi with sushi) can be used any way that you would use  horseradish for a real taste kick! You can find it in a tiny can in your Asian isle at the supermarket. It's even good in salad dressings and mashed potatoes.
•    Other fresh veggies/herbs – these are healthy and create a ‘party in your mouth’. As discussed, it can even be gown inside in a sunny window. Mint, basil, cilantro, lime, garlic, chilies, and bean sprouts are fantastic options in these dishes. The "Basket of Fire" plant is an ornamental chili pepper plant that produces very hot, edible, peppers that may be used to add heat to a dish but removed before consuming.

Here are a couple of recipes to try:
Green Curry Chicken
Vietnamese Pho Soup

Indian  cooking:  Indian spices are wonderful for making rich, flavorful sauces that enliven even the humblest lentil or vegetarian dish. The overlapping spices from above include: anise, cardamom, cilantro, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, turmeric and coconut milk. In addition try:
•  Bay Leaves - used in many cuisines, and they also keep bugs out of food storage!
•  Cinnamon - used in main dishes as well as desserts a unique staple in Indian cooking.
•  Cloves - add a unique spicy taste to savory and sweet dishes.
•   Mustard seeds - one of the most used ancient herbs in cooking, pickling, as a condiment, and in sausage making.  Medicinal properties include helps to relieve congestion from colds, helps regulate cholesterol and blood sugar, and increases circulation helping with muscular and skeletal pain. It is easy to grow, but it prefers cooler weather. The greens are also edible and delicious.
•  Nutmeg - often used with cinnamon and cloves, it has many uses in sweet and salty foods and drinks.
•  Tamarind - has a uniquely sweet and sour taste described as apricots, dates and lemons. It comes from a seedpod and adds wonderful flavor to sauces, chutneys, and main dishes. The jarred products have and indefinite shelf life and don't require refrigeration.
•  Blends: Curry Powder and Garam Masala - these common blends will give you that Indian flavor (without having to stock all of the individual spices).

Here are a couple of recipes to try:
Make Poppadoms  (These Indian crackers can be made with chickpea or lentil flour, or half and half)
Vegetable Masala

Mexican/Southwest cooking:  You will use some of the same repeated flavors from above such as cilantro, cumin, cinnamon,  and of course garlic and onion. Add to this a few more spices, (in plastic bags but transfer to glass for longer storage), from the Hispanic section of your grocery store such as:
• Chili Powder – a mix of many common spices; smoky, spicy and essential. If you don't already have it, its a must have.
• Red pepper flakes – great for additional heat.
• Mexican Oregano - rich, earthy flavor that goes well with beans, salsa, and rice dishes.
• Fresh Chilies and Peppers - if you can grow peppers in your area, set aside some seeds. They are indispensable. 

Here are some recipes to try:
Black Beans and Rice   (you can use dried beans for more of a challenge)
Mexican recipes (Lots of classics to try)

If you are unfamiliar with cooking these types of foods, I recommend looking for marked down recipe books for the culture or cuisine that you are interested in. Bookstores or garage sales are great resources for this. If you have a favorite ethnic dish, try looking up a recipe online to print and keep in a binder. Vegan or vegetarians cookbooks can be a great resource for expanding your list of tasty meals using unique spices along with grains, rice and beans. Check out gluten-free web sites for ideas of how to use alternates to wheat flour. You may be able to use many of your stored grains in this way to make flat breads, wraps and crackers such as rice, chickpea and legume flour. There are also several books on cooking with food storage. Don't be afraid to substitute items either, you may be surprised how easy it is to create your own meals with what you have on hand.

Top 6 Deep Larder Must Haves (that you may not have already)
In addition to the ethnic-specific and basic long-term storage foods, I would like to recommend some essentials that may not be on your list. I find that the most flexible and economic way to store food is to keep the majority of your storage to individual food items such as grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and meat products. Compared to "just add water" entrees, you’ll discover greatly increased savings and diversity options. Once again as much variety as you can manage will serve you well, both in flavor, texture and nutrition.

1 - Tomato Powder 
Buy this now, you will thank me later. A #10 can weighs about 4 pounds (64 oz), and costs around $23 online, and on average has the equivalent of 80 pounds of fresh tomatoes! When compared to the equivalent of other tomato products, whether fresh canned or dried, this is a bargain! Many chefs use tomato powder because of its flavor (as tomatoes dry, the flavor becomes richer), convenience and versatility. Try it in your pantry now and save space storing so many tomato products. Nutritious and high in vitamin C, here are just a few items you can make with:
• Tomato juice/sauce/paste/soup
•  Spaghetti/pizza/Marinara sauce
•  Ketchup
•  BBQ Sauce
•  Steak sauce
•  Enchilada Sauce
•  Stews/soups/curries/gumbos
•  Add tomato powder to mashed potatoes, dips, cream cheese, bread dough, salad dressings, hummus, deviled eggs, and even popcorn. 

Here is a helpful site on how to use Tomato Powder:

2 - Dried Whole Egg Powder
Unless you have continual eggs from chickens, this is a great product to have on hand.  It offers an important source of protein and can be used in baking, cooking, or simply as scrambled eggs.

3 - Dried Peanut Butter Powder
This can be used as a flavoring in Asian cooking, used for baking, or simply add oil, salt, and a touch of sugar for the best peanut butter you've ever had.  Another great source of protein and the kids love it.

4 - Popcorn
Popcorn is a great comfort food and crunchy snack. You can buy 50 lb bags and seal them in a Mylar bag/bucket for very little money. Popcorn is naturally non-GMO, which is increasingly being shown to cause major health problems. The kernels can even be ground and used like regular corn meal.

5 - Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 
Chocolate is the most craved foods in the world. It is a special treat used to celebrate holidays and special occasions. It has been rationed in war times and traded as a valuable commodity in peace times; what makes it so desirable? Unlike most foods, it releases endorphins that stimulate the opiate receptors in the brain making you feel more happy and relaxed, especially in times of stress. The good news is that dark chocolate is an antioxidant and is good for you.  The average American consumes about 12lbs per person per year, so don't forget to stock this important ingredient.

6 - Seeds for Eating and Sprouting
Sprouting seeds are a critical source of nutrition in numerous, beneficial ways; it naturally increases/develops vitamins, minerals, proteins, amino acids and photo chemicals. Sprouts can even reduce gas production because of easier digestion. They can be a great way to add fresh "live food" to your diet all year long; easy to grow, you can easily sprout seeds in something as simple as a sterile jar covered with cheesecloth. Take care to rinse and drain them often to avoid harmful bacterial growth (never eat any that smell bad or look slimy or moldy). Although almost any seed can be sprouted, research before you try new seeds, as some should only be eaten cooked (like lentils and seeds in the tomato, potato and eggplant family). Here is a list of some that you may want to try that can all be eaten raw or lightly cooked by adding at the end of a stir-fry: alfalfa, almonds, Adzuki beans, beets, chickpeas, clover, cress, fenugreek, lentils, mung, mustard, peas, pumpkin, radish and sunflower.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Like other survival skills, practicing storing and using these ingredients is essential to your success.  Be sure to cook with some of your stored food now; making something new a few times a month is fun, educational, and provides invaluable practical experience. This allows you to make adjustments to food and supplies now while everything is readily available. Try some of the new spices listed above and store up what you like. Practice alternate ways of cooking such as over an open fire, on or in your wood stove or a solar oven.  Make sure you have cast iron skillets, and a Dutch oven on hand. You will learn a lot, and your experiences will differ from your expectations; it is important to iron out the wrinkles in there here an now instead of trying to figure things out in a time limited, stressful situation. 
If you are not familiar with hunting and butchering, start small with cutting up a whole chicken from the store or a whole hog from the butcher.  YouTube has lots of videos on how to hunt and skin small game like squirrels or rabbits. There are also resources that can teach you how to smoke and cure the meat if you want to increase your learning curve. A book I highly recommend is Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game by John J. Metten Jr., DVM.

A Few Final Notes
If you haven't already taken inventory of what you have, be sure to take the time. There are lots of helpful, on-line guides for this and most long-term food storage sites have free tools to help you. Make sure you calculate enough calories for each member of your group or family as serving sizes vary widely between products.

Gaining knowledge about foraging for edible wild plants is a skill worth developing and may help you if you have to bug out and can't carry much with you. May you eat well because of you thoughtful planning!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I couldn’t help but notice the white plastic bags that covered the handles of the gas pumps at the corner gas station.  “Out of Gas”, said the sign. No gas on account of a hurricane a long, long way from Springfield, Tennessee.  Fortunately, I had filled my tank earlier in the week and was only there to get ice. But it all seemed fishy to me how a storm so far away would affect us like this. And honestly, a vague sense of worry lingered in the back of my mind until the following day.  The trucks arrived and filled the gas reservoirs at my corner gas station and everything went back to normal, as if nothing ever happened. 

I am a stay at home Mom and I had become accustomed to being semi-prepared. With two children in diapers, I had double wipes, double diapers, double sippy cups – the whole nine yards. I had even dabbled in sewing my own cloth diapers and some times, when there just wasn’t enough money (which was most of the time), I created my own baby wipes from cutting a roll of paper towels in half and soaking them in a mixture of baby oil, baby shampoo and water.  It worked. It got us by when we needed it most. It seemed to me my faith in Jesus had grown so much during the time when the kids were little. God was always there, providing when we just couldn’t make it to the next paycheck. He always showed Himself to be faithful on our behalf and always seemed to come through in the nick of time providing for our every need.  That night at Wal-Mart, it was no different. He opened my eyes to see things I never really gave a second thought to.  And that night changed my life forever.

It was 1 a.m. and I just couldn’t sleep. I had decided to go to Wal-Mart to pick up our groceries for that week while my husband was home with the babies sleeping soundly. I could shop in peace without being sidetracked with juggling coupons, lists and the kids.  It probably wasn’t the best choice going out that late at night, but it had to get done and I’ve always been a fairly tough cookie. I made it in to the automatic doors and had my list sitting on my purse headed down the aisles. I turned down the rice and bean aisle and as I did heard His voice. Yes HIS voice. I was very familiar with the voice of my Shepherd but it came kind of unexpectedly and really, He caught me off guard. I heard, “Look at the shelves.”  I knew it was Him, and I knew I needed to obey, so I pulled the cart over, waiting for Him to speak again as the night stockers went about stocking the shelves a few aisles over. As I looked at the rice – I saw two or three – 2# lb. bags, maybe three 5# lb bags and two – 10# lb. bags and one huge bag on the bottom shelf. Different kinds of rice, Basmati, White and Brown. It sure didn’t seem like a lot though. The same with the bean section. There were a few different types of beans, but not a good supply for a major supermarket. Gosh, it sure didn’t look like a lot of food there, I thought to myself. Immediately He spoke in a voice full of authority and power and truth. “If a world economic collapse was to happen, this would be the first place people would come, and it would all be gone in seconds.”  I was stunned. I was not panicked or alarmed, because I knew He’d show me the answers, but I was definitely stunned. What did this mean? I really wasn’t sure, but His voice was so unmistakable, I knew what He was saying was very important and He wanted me to hear – really hear -  what He was saying. After a few moments, and after the shock of His statement wore off a bit, I answered Him back gently,  “Okay Lord, what do I do?”.   This time, without words, but with a picture in my mind, I just knew that each pay day, which was every two weeks, I was to take $20 and buy $20 worth of spaghetti noodles; then the next payday $20 worth of spaghetti sauce, and the next, $20 worth of sugar, and on and on. So I did exactly that.  I needed basic building blocks for cooking from scratch. Cocoa, butter, flour.  I had never ever thought like that before. Usually our dinners were hot dogs and macaroni and cheese and pizza’s from a box. Most of our food was processed although I did some recipes from scratch. So this entire concept solidified in my mind as I finished up the shopping. I knew what I had to do. 

I began researching cooking from scratch. A couple of my friends said,  “The Bible says, look at the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin, yet their heavenly Father takes care of them. Are you sure you’re hearing from the Lord?”.  I thought to myself, “they’re right”, scripture does talk about trusting wholly and completely on the Lord. So I researched that too. Woven through the glorious stories of the Bible, God revealed to me, Noah, who prepared by building the ark. He showed me Joseph, who by the wisdom of the Lord, staved off starvation for all of Egypt and ultimately his very own family. I realized that with faith – there is also wisdom from the heart of the Father.  I remembered the days as a small child of five years old, I would sit on my Gramma’s side porch and pick elderberries and put them in a colander along side my mother and Aunt. To this day, I still remember the taste of her elderberry pies. I remembered how cold the water was that flowed from Gramma’s hand water pump that was only 10 feet from that same side porch. And I remembered the scary cistern in her basement that I was sure had dead bodies in it…  I knew the road. I had been there before, and the Lord was helping to crystallize it for me in my own mind and life.  I could no longer be sidetracked with day to day life happenings, I needed to look ahead. I needed to be prepared. And I needed to one day be able to teach my children how to be prepared. Being a Mom, it was already in my DNA to be prepared. I came from a long line of women survivors in my family and I was no different from them. So I went to work. I began to make everything from scratch. Deodorant (cornstarch, baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils), Toothpaste, Make-up. I began to sew. I sewed monthly menstrual pads! I stocked medical supplies in a tackle box. I created a bug out bag that would probably last us 3 weeks if we had to bug out away from home. I read every article online about bio-diesel all the way to permaculture. I bought hundreds of dollars in seeds.  I grew plants and learned what bugs like to eat them, and then saved as much seed as I possibly could. Every time we’d get some extra money from our tax refund or side jobs, I would buy 15 packages of coffee at Big Lots and 10 more bags of rice!  I wanted to make sure that we would survive if anything like the Lord hinted at, would happen. And I’m happy to say, I am, with all humility satisfied with all that I’ve learned and I believe we would be okay, should any unforeseen disasters happen. Of course, there’s so much more we want to learn, but I am confident in our basic knowledge.

As the years have passed since the day I heard the Lord's voice in the bean aisle, our family has accomplished so much in the field of prepping. We’ve re-opened the water well on our property. We’ve installed two wood burning stoves in our home. We are, for the most part out of debt, except for those few medical bills straggling behind us. Our cars/trucks are old and ugly, but paid for. We have ceramic water filters in case we need to get water from the creek. I’ve taught myself to can tomatoes, chicken broth, chicken and crabapple jelly. We raise and butcher our own chickens. This past summer our garden produced 200 lbs. of tomatoes that all got canned and I’ve become obsessed with meals in a jar and meals in mylar bags. There isn’t much to this prepping life that we’re not familiar with now. I knew I had become a hardcore prepper when I raced through reading JWR’s novel “Patriots” in one night!

Oh and yes,  our family members definitely think we’re crazy. But the running joke is, “We’re going to Connie’s house if anything “goes down”.”  I’ve probably dragged my husband kicking and screaming all the way, but miraculously he is now -- fully on board. 

We have worked so incredibly hard at this lifestyle. Approaching life this way, full of faith in God and grateful for the wisdom He’s given us, we will thrive and we’ll be able to help others should the need arise. And I look forward to teaching my friends and family these amazing skills. There is a wonderful balance that we’ve found. Times are coming when we’ll need to know God’s voice.  Times are coming where we’ll need to heed and obey His voice and be His friend. We’ve all read the end of the book, and its not going to be easy. I’m thankful that He loves us all so much to speak to us.  And our lives are so much better for the listening.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mayflower Trading Company has kindly donated several prizes to add to the Third Prize package, for Round 49 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest, et sequitur. These are: A Nesco / American Harvest Gardenmaster Dehydrator with an extra set of trays, and the book The Dehydrator Bible. These prizes have a combined value of $210. This brings the combined value of the top three prizes to more than $6,000!

Round 49 begins today and will end on November 30th, 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.

The following is the first article for the Round 49 judging:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Though food shortages and malnutrition are popular discussion topics for preppers, I doubt that many of us have experienced a real, prolonged lack of food. Certainly we’ve all had a day or two – maybe even more, for the gutsy– with minimal or no food, but often those days happen by choice and are for practice, with a set end in sight. How many of us have gone weeks, months, or more on limited rations? How many of us know what to expect and how we’d feel? How many of us are ready for the surprises and challenges that prolonged malnutrition will bring?

More than ten years ago, as a teenager, I grappled with anorexia nervosa for almost a year. Although dealing with a deadly disease (a mortality rate of 10% is often quoted. ) may not be the way most of us will confront starvation, many of the physical and mental symptoms I experienced will translate. If you’ve never really starved before, then you may be caught off-guard by what you experience if (hopefully never when) it happens. I hope that what I relate will help you know what to expect.

In this article, I plan to describe my physical, mental, and emotional experiences during illness and recovery. I also hope to sketch out some basic treatments and coping mechanisms for staying as healthy as can be possible during starvation. Due to the passage of time, and the memory lapses associated with anorexia, I know I’ll omit some details that could be helpful, and for that I apologize in advance. Moreover, I am not a doctor, and this article is not intended to offer medical advice, to substitute for professional care and consultation, or to guarantee or provide any health outcome.

Finally, anorexia nervosa is a serious physical and mental disorder affecting many men, women, and even children worldwide. If you or someone you know are dealing with it, or want more information about it, please utilize these trusted resources:

What you may experience right at the onset of starvation:

  • Emotional issues. Some people experience an initial euphoria (similar to a runner’s high) as they, in the initial phases of starvation, feel invincible. “Look what I can do with less food”, they think. “I still feel great, strong, and healthy, and a lack of food isn’t slowing me down! It’s just mind over matter.” This high won’t last – the body and the mind will grow weaker over time.

Other folks feel an increase in stress. “Food was already in short supply – how will I make it now,” they wonder. All their thoughts and energies start being directed towards meals, eating, and supplies, with little effort left over for life’s other requirements. Stress also takes a toll on the body and mind.

There may be other emotions happening that are quite different, or at least unexpected. This can disrupt your routine and feelings of normalcy, and make it harder to get through a day. Try now, or as soon as possible, to establish and stick to a routine and schedule. As I’ll describe further below, routine, repetition, and structure are incredibly essential to making it through, and recovering from, starvation.
What you may experience in the middle of a period of starvation:

  • Emotional issues. The high is probably gone, and the reality of starvation may be kicking in. This can prompt depression, anxiety, and more stress. These emotions and feelings weigh on us even during times of plenty. They may be even harder to deal with as your physical resources are depleted. Try to identify your feelings, verbalize them to someone, and work through as much as possible so that your limited energy can be directed not at carrying tough feelings inside, but at doing what will need to be done in a survival situation.
  • Osteopenia and osteoporosis. It’s possible that my bones weren’t robust to begin with; I was always a smaller kid. But what’s known is that at age 16, I had osteopenia in both hip joints and full-on osteoporosis in vertebrae L1-L4 (lower back).These  physical issues are usually found in 80-year-olds;  I was not a normal growing teenager. Three and four years later, I broke my left and right foot, respectively. Though bone scans didn’t explicitly show problem areas in my feet, I’m convinced that the low bone density brought about by starvation was a cause. Fortunately, I haven’t had a break since then. Be extra cautious of bone health. Prepare your medical supplies to take care of breaks and fractures. If possible, supplement your diet with calcium. The best way is via whole foods like leafy greens and raw milk, but if those aren’t available, take calcium in tablet or pill form.
  • Memory issues. The human brain needs fats to operate, and fats are in short supply in a starvation experience. I’d had an average to good memory as a child; remembering complicated dance routines or memorizing passages from Shakespeare presented no problems. In the last three months (out of eleven total months of restricted food intake), though, memory work that had formerly been routine became noticeably laborious and nearly impossible. This realization, and the realization that I couldn’t come up with any mnemonic work-arounds, prompted frustration and depression – which you can see is related to emotional state.

Additionally, animal fats (grass-fed butter especially) and some plant fats (avocado, coconut oil) are essential brain nutrients. Even if other foods are in short supply, if you still have quality fats available, add more to your diet. Try to avoid processed vegetable fats like canola oil, though.

  • Physical symptoms.  Not every person experiencing starvation experiences all the possible physical symptoms of it. For example, it’s often brought up that a starving person will start to grow soft, downy hair in certain places on their body (back, face, arms, etc) to trap heat and keep the person warm. I didn’t experience that. What’s important to take away here is that lack of any particular starvation symptom doesn’t mean that the person isn’t actually starving, it just means that it manifests differently in different individuals. You may grow weaker, feel dizzy more often, start to black out or faint (as I did), and be unable to do more heavy-duty tasks. In a survival situation, where medical help may be non-existent, it’s so important to be careful, especially because there may be outdoor tasks with power equipment. Work with a buddy, don’t over-exert yourself, take breaks, stay hydrated, and be realistic.
  • Obsession with food. As the amount of food I actually ate decreased, the amount of time I thought about it increased. In order to direct unwanted thoughts of food away from eating, I started reading cooking magazines and cookbooks, baking food for others, ogling other students’ lunches at school, and in general obsessing over eating (and not eating). In a survival situation, it may be irresponsible and wasteful to just think about food, rather than doing what needs to get done. Unfortunately, it’s really hard not to think about food when you’re starving – that’s how the body keeps telling you that you are, in fact, starving. Find a way (via routine, schedule, structure, and the assistance of others) not to let those thoughts control you.

What you may likely experience while recovering from starvation:

  • Long physical recovery time. It took about a decade after the initial diagnosis for my body to be essentially completely healed. My weight no longer fluctuates based on a day’s or week’s eating habits, I no longer have weak bones, my heart beats normally, and I don’t get abnormal dizziness. The dizziness and erratic heartbeat resolved after a few years, the osteopenia and osteoporosis healed (with a closely monitored, high-calcium diet, and weight-bearing exercise) after about eight years, and finally, now in 2013, my body has established a stable set point. The ratio of ten years of healing to make up for one year’s starvation may not be too far off.
  • Difficulty regulating normal eating patterns. This remained consistently incredibly difficult for almost a decade after the hospitalization, even under clinical supervision and with a structured meal plan. Don’t think that just because you don’t actually “want” to starve (the relation of will to eating disorders is debatable) that it’ll be easy to start eating regularly again. It won’t be. After the body experiences starvation, when it is presented with sufficient food again, it remembers the starvation state and tries to avoid that in the future. The body plans ahead, in a way, by increasing your food cravings in order to build up reserves (i.e. extra weight) to stave off possible future times of food uncertainty.
  • Emotional issues. It’s hard to experience physical changes in one’s own body without accompanying emotions and feelings. Sometimes, when bodies change via starvation or refeeding, it’s a traumatic experience, because it’s out of our control. Feelings of helplessness, being out of control, anger, and confusion can happen. These feelings, while powerful, are normal. You may be surprised to find you’re not thrilled when food is abundant again. Your normal way of life has changed once more, and again you have to cope with something new – plenty to eat. Get support from others during this time – even just talking about it with someone who can relate can be helpful. Again, use the buddy system, have a routine, plan your meals, and keep life as structured as possible during this transition time.

What you probably won’t experience during or after starvation:

  • Refusal to eat available food.
  • Denial of the problem.
  • Aversion to treatment.
  • Phobia of gaining weight.
  • All these symptoms are more representative of a patient in denial of a real medical and mental issue. If you or someone you know starts to manifest these behaviors, something more serious may be going on, and you should consult with a medical professional about how to proceed. My best guess is that most folks undergoing involuntary starvation will not show these symptoms, but again, YMMV, and I am not a doctor.

What this means for you (with concrete steps to take):

  • As food availability decreases, access to warmth, shelter, and good hygiene must increase. Your body will have essentially zero extra resources to spare to keep your temperature up and to fend off infection. It’s crucial that you take as much physical stress off it as possible. Wear hats, warm clothes, down, and wool. Keep your extremities covered – they’re often very difficult to warm back up, especially if you are prone to Reynaud’s Syndrome. Mittens can be better than gloves for this. You must also keep warm enough when asleep, which is when body temperature can often fall and the heart rate decrease. In the hospital, patients were often cocooned in Bair Hugger blankets (heavy-duty medical grade electric blankets). You might not have access to something of that caliber, but if electric blankets are a possibility, they could save your health. If not, again, use down and wool, and sleep with someone else if possible to utilize body heat (much like hypothermia treatment). Finally, it will be harder to stave off infection and disease – your body is working overtime just keeping basic systems going. Clean out cuts and scrapes, brush and floss your teeth, don’t pick your nose, wear a surgical mask... do whatever it takes to avoid unnecessary infection and exposure. You don’t have the physical leeway that a healthy, non-starved person does.
  • Physical exercise, while not a panacea, shouldn’t be totally avoided. It’s true that you won’t have a lot of energy to spare. However, if you, afraid of wasting energy, just sit inside and do nothing all day, your muscles will atrophy even further. It’s essential to maintain some kind of muscle tone, especially as your bones may become weaker. I’m convinced that one of the reasons I didn’t suffer a disastrous break in my back or hips was because of the level of weight-bearing activity I maintained during illness and recovery. Gardening, child care, and cleaning the house could be good lower-impact options.
  • It is very unlikely that you will be able to recover from starvation alone. Your brain won’t be working right, your body will be startlingly weak, and you won’t be able to correctly assess your physical, mental, or emotional states, or your physical needs, for that matter. You need an external point of view on your situation, which is hard enough to do when well fed. One of the more helpful things I practiced in recovery was making lunches for the younger kids in treatment. It would’ve been too easy to skimp a little (or, in a SHTF-type situation, to give yourself a little more than everyone else) on my own meals – I had no such investment in their lunches. I made their sandwiches with exact, measured amounts ; because of my mind not working so well about myself, I’d never have been able to do that for my own lunch. Find a buddy in your group who will do this for you; do it for them, as well. Plan ahead of time, when you’ve got enough food, how you’ll go about caring for each other when it’s a starvation situation. Develop a schedule and framework now to follow then. Get it on paper and put it in your resources binder. Chances are not good that you’ll be able to do all this under stress and without food.

If I had to narrow down the take-away message about real starvation to just the essentials, they would be these two points:

  • You cannot think straight when you’re starving. No matter how much you think you’ll be different – that you’ve got more willpower, more backup plans, more experience, more toughness, whatever – starvation is going to affect your mind, and affect it drastically. Your memory, emotional stability, perception of reality will all change. In fact, in some ways, starvation affects the brain more than it does the physical body, and I don’t think many people will be ready for that.
  • You cannot recover from starvation alone. Again, no matter how much willpower, toughness, backup planning, or whatever you have, I posit that it’ll be essentially impossible to return to mental, emotional, and physical health by yourself. Each of those strands of health weaves into the others, so if you, alone, are struggling emotionally, that’ll affect your mental and physical health – it’s the same for any of those strands. Having even one other person supporting you means you now have a source of strength and objectivity that you didn’t have when you were alone. Get a group; make a plan; find a partner – it’ll save your life.

I don’t wish starvation upon anyone. It can be not only physically but also mentally and emotionally devastating. I hope this article serves to highlight the seriousness of starvation, whether voluntary or involuntary, and helps those dealing with it to find the resources they need to survive and thrive.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Thanks for the information you deliver every day. I have recently gone on Social Security Disability and have some money to further our preps. My wife and I will hunker down in place, that being said, we have done what we can to make this as easy as possible. We can heat our home without electricity, but still need a solution for limited electric needs in the event of power outage. We are looking at the Honda EU2000i portable generator with the multi-fuel upgrade. In our years here we have never lost our natural gas supply, but have often lost our electric power. We propose to hook the genny up to our house gas supply, ready to go into service when the lights go out. 15 amps of 110 AC plus the 12 DC power would be a great addition to our supplies. Given we have beans, band aids and defense, this is a big purchase at $1,200 or so. I'm looking for advice.
Thanks, - Michael From Pennsylvania

JWR Replies: That is probably a decent solution, but only if your local gas utility provides natural gas via local wellhead pressure (possible in Pennsylvania, given your oilfields) or if they supply remotely-sourced gas via natural gas-powered line compressor stations.  If they use grid electricity-powered compressors stations (which is still the norm), then the gas pressure could stop after a couple of days of a power grid failure. But if they use natural gas-powered line compressors FROM END TO END, then you'd be fine.

You need to call your local utility and ask for a subject matter expert to talk to, to be sure. DO NOT settle for "happy-happy" front office assurances of system reliability and continuity. You need to talk with an engineer who knows about their set-up, first hand.

The second issue is the requisite size of your generator. Most residential refrigerators normally draw around 12 amps, but the peak load (on startup), expressed as Locked Rotor Amps (LRAs), can be substantially higher. Your generator needs to be able to handle that LRA load. You will need to research the LRA rating of your particular refrigerator's compressor. Here is an example: (Click on "Specifications.") This is a typical modern 23-cubic foot refrigerator that draws 8.5Amps when running, but the Minimum Circuit Required is 15 Amps. The latter reflects the LRA requirement.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I couldn’t agree more with the article written by T.Z. regarding prioritized prepping. Many of us lack the needed organization and discipline to distribute our prepping budget evenly between the different survival categories and instead succumb to impulse buys – more ammo, more guns, more dried food, more camping gear. While stocking up on non-perishable supplies that will always have some use may seem like a good idea, what good are 50,000 rounds of ammo if your only water filter just broke, or you ran out of oil for your two-stroke chain saw?

My way of managing these impulse buys is with a plan – a comprehensive list of all gear and supplies needed for various situations, used to ensure every critical survival category is somewhat covered. I document any item me and my family consume on regular basis, as well as needed items for bug-in, bug-out and loss of civilization amenities may require. Following the familiar principals of redundancy I am constantly updating a prioritized list of supplies and equipment that I already acquired and items to be acquired. The lists, or rather “lists” document several things:

Inventory of perishable items – non-long-term food supplies (content of my pantry mostly), toiletries and household items, with expiration dates of items where applicable – this list is also synchronized with my mobile device and serves as a useful shopping list when visiting Wal-Mart/costco and the likes. This is the list hardest to keep updated but an hour a month usually keeps it in decent shape.

Comprehensive gear and equipment list – non-perishable items, every equipment and supply purchase in various categories, covering tools, shelter, water treatment and storage, fire making, portable cooking, communication and many others. This list helps with packing for various scenarios, as well as a reminder of what you already bought (how many emergency candles do I have ? Oh, I forgot I bought a case of 24 100-hour candles on sale last year).

Medical supplies – earned its own list with both non-perishable gear and medication with expiration dates that needs to be updated twice a year to reflect things I used, expired and replenished.

To do list – no explanation needed - various prepping projects.

To buy list – divided to many sections: there’s the affordable stuff to buy next time I am at the store – by store – home depot, Wal-Mart etc. Then there’s a list of big purchases to make when the time is right – yeah, a dirt bike may be a good idea (or a radiation meter, or a chest freezer, or a wood stove) but can’t buy them next time I am at the store. I also have a list of stuff to buy if I feel a TEOTWAWKI event is coming. We may get no warning, but if there was a small window of time to get some things done and buy a few special items I would never buy otherwise – I want to have a list telling me exactly what to do and buy and not start thinking about it for the first time (propane generator? Bio-fuel gear and truck? 6 months’ supply of frozen meats? A greenhouse? That great solar system with a few expensive 6V batteries)

Long-term food supplies – Anything I store that I do not plan to use in the next few years has to be inventoried well. Stocking a 1000 lb of rice with 1 lb of salt is not useful. My long term food store has to be balanced to provide the nutrition needed and fight menu fatigue. Inventory management is crucial and a lot of words were written about it.
And yes, I have my guns and ammo list as well. Have to be able to protect what I have.

My whole prepping activity is centered around these lists. If I read the excellent web site or others, I update my lists with new ideas of what to buy or do. I go over the lists often and look for ways to improve my prepping, looking for weaknesses, lack of redundancies, expiration of items.
There are so many overlooked items that can be great in a SHTF situation, or useful in other cases, that you should absolutely stock up on if you have the room to store them. The hardware store is an endless source of such preps. Nails and fastening devices were mentioned – how about PVC Pipes? PVC pipes are cheap, if stored in the shade last many years, and have so many uses – they can be used to route water from rain catchment or wells, but also for construction – you can build a greenhouse with PVC pipes, duct tape and plastic sheeting. Various means of water storage and filtration are often overlooked and are essential. Dental treatment kits. Disposable and work gloves. Automotive and 2-stroke oil. Various sizes or garbage bags. Lots of batteries and chargers. Pest and insect control (you can’t call the rat catcher any more). Fuel stabilizer !!! (probably one of the most valuable items post-apocalypse). Siphon tools.

To summarize – balance your preps among categories so you don’t end up having to barter at a disadvantage to get essential supplies you neglected to procure in advance. - Regards From H.P.

A few comments on the thought provoking article Prioritized Prepping by Z.T. I did a bunch of research on gas mask filters a few months back after realizing the filters that came with my 'brand new in box' Israeli masks found at a thrift store were woefully expired. Masks in perfect shape, probably sat boxed in someone's attic for 25 years. Filters generally have a shelf life of 10-15 years provided they are sealed and kept free from moisture. A good quality filter is something worth investing in, not saving a few bucks because it "might" work. An expired filter might help, it might not. Make sure your filter is rated for NBC protection, this covers the whole gamut of potential toxins. These filters protect you from all known biological agents in addition to chemicals like sarin and other nerve gases, mustard gas, cyanogen, arsine, phosgene plus many organic and inorganic gases/vapors and inorganic acids.

I spent hours researching the purchase of filters online and let me warn you that the majority of filters sold "brand new" on Amazon are surplus expired or have no date stamped on them. This was repeated over and over in the reviews posted by people who bought them, always read product reviews before you buy! Also, a lot of the sellers aren't shipping what they advertise on Amazon. I went beyond Amazon and really couldn't find a reputable vendor selling new, sealed filters with a clear expiration date or date of manufacture. I gave up for the time being and would love to see some recommended sources posted on SurvivalBlog. Thanks, - Sunshine in New Mexico

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I have a short comment on today’s article for “Pat's Product Review: All American Sun Oven”.
My wife and I bought the $399 model at a Dallas Prepper show a couple years ago and used it in order to make sure we knew how to operate it.
After several weeks of use, my job took me to a long overseas visit and the oven went onto a shelf in the garage. It sat for six months without anyone using it. Yes I cleaned and dried it out.
Upon returning from my trip I got it back out to use it again and found that the cheap bolts holding the leveling shelf in place were completely rusted up. I quickly disassembled the oven and removed the rusty bolts and went to hardware store and bought same size Stainless Steel bolts, washers and nuts. Put it all back together and went back to using it.
It is a fantastic unit and I agree with Pat’s description. My only complaint is for nearly $400 they could spent the extra dollar and go with Stainless Steel [hardware] to reduce the corrosion.
My two cents (solid copper of course). God Bless, - Edward A.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It goes something like this, "one is none, two is one, and three is two!" No, that's not new math - although these days, it could be with all the insane things they are now teaching in public schools. What I'm talking about relates to survival. If you have one of "something" and it breaks, you lose it, or whatever happens to it, you have none. If you have two of "something" and one goes south, then you still have one. If you have three of "something" then if one stops working, you still have two to fall back on. Makes a lot of sense if you stop and think about it.
I thankfully, don't have just one firearm, I have several - not nearly as many folks believe I have. I'm not a gun collector, I'm a habitual gun trader. So, if one of my firearms breaks, is stolen, gets lost - whatever - I still have a few to fall back on. If you're a Prepper, you need to have something to fall back on, be it firearms, extra food, extra water, or just about anything - you need to have a Plan B and a Plan C, if you want to survive. When it comes to cooking, my family and I have several methods with which to cook our foods. We of course, have our electric range in the kitchen. We also have a rocket stove, we have a propane BBQ grill, we have a propane camp stove, and we have some small compact little camp stoves that fit in our backpacks, so we pretty much have things covered when it comes to cooking, one is none, two is one and three is two, right?
I received the All-American Sun Oven for testing some months back, and it is a must have as far as I'm concerned if you're into prepping for the bad times that are coming - the bad times that are already here. Sure, there's a lot of foods you can eat cold - but not much fun. However, many foods need to be cooked before you can eat them. For many years, I read about home made solar ovens or cookers, and I always meant to get around to building one - never did! Just seemed like a good idea to have the sun do my cooking for me, and it can also help save on your power bills, by allowing the sun to do your cooking - for free!
Now, you can not only cook in the Sun Oven, you can also bake, dehydrate, steam foods or boil water - for making it safe to drink - have I caught your attention, yet? Good! The Sun Oven can reach temperatures from between 460 and 500 degrees, without fear of burning your foods, like a conventional oven can. I like the idea of being able to dehydrate foods - without having to plug-in our food dehydrators, they are noisy and take a long time to dehydrate at times, depends on what you are trying to dehydrate.
For the past 28-years of so, Sun Ovens have been widely used around the world in more than 126-countries, and have become the world's most well respected cooking appliance, especially in third world countries, where, well, to put it quite simply, they have no electricity or gas for cooking - they cook over open fires, while not a bad way to cook, it's not controllable and you are dependent on a fuel source. With the Sun Oven, your fuel is the sun!
Now, that's not say that the Sun Oven if perfect, and you can cook on it 365-days per year, you can't! You are dependent upon the sun, and in my part of Oregon - the wet side, we have about 8-months of rain and overcast days - that's not to say, we don't see the sun for 8-months, we do - but not on a daily basis. So, we come back to one is none, two is one and three is two - when it comes to sources for cooking meals. On days when the sun isn't out, we can cook on our electric stove, or if the power is out, we can cook on our little propane cook stove - which we do when the power goes out. Or we can cook using our rocket stove, that takes very little fuel - and we have plenty of trees on our homestead to use for fuel. So, we have a back-up plan, to our back-up plan when it comes to having a means to cook our food. In many areas of the country, you might have sunshine 365-days per year, and you can use your Sun Oven for many of your cooking needs.
The Sun Oven in American-made weighs about 22 pounds, and is large enough for most of your baking and cooking needs, and it is fairly compact. The E-Z Sun-track indicators - big term for a little device that allows you to set-up the Sun Oven to take advantage of the proper placement and alignment of the sun's rays. The front cover on the Sun Oven is 25% thicker than the glass on previous models, for increased shatter resistance and it also improves the insulation properties of the oven. The body of the Sun Oven appears to be made out of fiberglass, and it is sturdy, it should give you a lifetime of cooking use, assuming you don't abuse your oven - as in dropping it on a hard surface, where it might crack. The reflectors, and there are four of them, that surround the over, are designed to direct the sunlight directly into the Sun Oven. There are also wind resistant alignment legs with ground stakes, that allows you to raise or lower the oven's orientation to meet the sun on the horizon - really, it takes a minute to set it up, easy to do!
The model of Sun Oven I received is the basic model, and it only came with a dual purpose leveling rack, which hangs inside the oven and swings freely to prevent spilling food in a pot on the rack. It can also be set on the floor of the oven to increase the usable area inside the Sun Oven - again, easier done than explained.
Okay, enough of the "technical" stuff, so how does the Sun Oven work in practice? Well, I'm not a baker, my wife does all the baking around our place, but I am a cook, and a good one, at that. I do a lot of the cooking at our home, I enjoy it! Over the period of several months, we used the Sun Oven for baking breads and pies, and it works just as advertised, and the outside temps do not have to be hot at all - all you need is the sunlight being reflected into the oven to do your cooking. It doesn't matter if the temps are freezing or super hot - the oven will still cook for you, so long as the sun is able to hit the reflectors. Yes, in cooler temps, your cooking time takes a little bit longer, but not much, and on hotter days, your cooking time is less. We also boiled water - the Sun Oven web site says you can boil water to purify it, but we wanted to test it ourselves, and in short order, a pot of cold water was boiling.
I love pizza - it's my favorite food - followed by a good Chicago-style hot dog, then a good burger. Yeah, my eating needs are rather simple compared to most folks, I guess I'm easy to please. We baked pizzas in our oven, as well as "roasting" hot dogs and "frying" burgers. And, one thing you will notice is that, you foods are much more moist when cooked in the Sun Oven, compared to other cooking methods - especially breads and cakes.
There is a wealth of information on the Sun Oven, on their web site, be sure to check it out - you'll literally spend hours there watching videos and reading all the cool stuff about the oven. What is most amazing is, the simplicity of the Sun Oven, the darn thing works and works and works as advertised - so long as you have sunlight, you can cook. In a SHTF scenario, you have a way of cooking when the power goes down, and one of the nice things about the oven is, with much of the foods you cook inside the oven enclosure, it won't give away to the neighbors or the bad guys that you are cooking. They aren't going to smell the burgers cooking on a barbeque - little or no smoke or aroma to drift from your location. And, best of all, you are cooking for free - no other source of fuel is required, only the sun! Right now, we are just getting to the end of a heat wave in our part of Oregon, and we honestly didn't want to do any cooking or baking inside the house, it was hot enough. So, the wife placed the Sun Oven in the front yard and we did most of our cooking there - keeping the house a little bit cooler.
The only drawback I can see is that, as already mentioned, you can't cook in the Sun Oven all the time - if you don't have sunny days. That is where we revert back to our one is none, two is one and three is two rule - you have different methods for cooking your meals, just in case the sun isn't out on a particular day, you can still cook by another means - if you have prepared and have other means available for cooking and baking.  I like the idea of being able to cook and bake in one device. On my little propane camp stove, I can cook - yeah, they make an attachment for baking, but it's so small, I don't honestly know what I can bake in it. With the Sun Oven, you can bake and cook.
I received the base model Sun Oven, and it only came with the leveling rack - nothing more, and it sells for $349 - a bit steep you might say? No, not if you look at all the benefits you get by using the sun to do your cooking, and in a SHTF scenario, you'd give anything to have a Sun Oven to do you cooking and baking. And, if you stop and think about all the money you'll save by allowing the sun to do your cooking, you will recoup the investment in the Sun Oven. However, I would pop for the $399 Sun Oven model, as you get an entire host of accessories with it. Yes, you can purchase the accessories separately, but it is a huge savings if you purchase the $399 model over the basic one - well worth the extra $50 if you ask me.
If you're planning on cooking or baking when the power grid goes down - for whatever reason - you absolutely, must get your hands on the Sun Oven. And, as an added benefit, it's just a lot of plain ol' fun cooking in the Sun Oven, and it's fun to experiment - we haven't gotten around to doing any dehydrating with out Sun Oven, but we will. Honestly, this is a worth while investment to add if you are a Prepper, or just someone who wants to save money by not using your kitchen stove all the time. Simple - get one! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Captain Rawles,
I just saw a very shocking statistic from the USDA: 50% of the US population resides within two miles of three different grocery stores. There are 150,000,000 people in this country who have never been more than two miles away from three different sources of food.

I have made a career out of the food industry, most recently in the grocery sector. I know first hand how oblivious people are to where food actually comes from, what unsightly things go into the food supply to produce a sufficient volume to keep the shelves of Wal-Mart stocked (think the of horrors of Monsanto, their GMOs and chemicals), and how many resources are actually consumed in getting that carton of strawberries to the shelf of a Whole Foods in New York in the middle of December.

Statistically only 3% of the population works in the farming and agriculture industry, 9 million people grow the food that feeds the other 291 million people (not counting the millions we feed by giving food assistance to other counties). As anyone with the simplest bit of knowledge can deduce, the food supply in this country could very easily be disrupted, and the fallout from a disruption would be disastrous. I feel confident in saying that most of the "prepper" community is aware that when the shelves in the store go bare, many people will starve. I always assumed 30-40% of people would suffer from food shortages, I had no idea that when the shelves go bare HALF of the country would starve to death in month (if they don't kill each other first to take what's left of each other's foodstuffs, but then again the people who are dependent upon a grocery store are the same people who detest firearms, so most likely neighbors will be beating each other to death with tennis rackets and golf clubs, but I digress).

This information from the USDA serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of being able to produce our own food. Wether it be gardening, farming, livestock, hunting, stockpiling, or something else, when the shelves go bare, its going to be an unpleasant time for 150,000,000 people.

My very best regards,

A. CP-FS (Certified Professional in Food Safety)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My sister and I both retired due to disabilities are working as we can trying to prepare for the family. Often, we say did we really do that, like talking to a stranger in our local Wal-Mart and saying we would like some green beans and he happened to have about a bushel in his truck he had not sold so, we got them and yielded 14 quarts of beans we needed. Ask and ye shall receive hit us in the face so hard, Thanks be to God! We are on an extremely small budget but we continue to buy sale items. Then, we do a stupid things and go where it tells you how much you need for x people and kids. It is so disheartening. The adult kids know we are preparing but they do not have the time or seem too understand what can happen even with us talking to them. We pray they come to their senses and help.

Where do you store 500 lbs of flour, and rice, or 200 lbs of oatmeal and 300 lbs of assorted pastas? And do not leave out the 500 lbs of beans of all kinds! It is on the floor, table, corners, under the bed, under anything and everything and stacked to the ceiling here and there. But now where do we live? Then, there are the candles, and wicking, and of course Toilet Paper. I do not want to use corn cobs which I have, or other alternatives! Store toilet paper.

One work in progress is our assortment of "Gimme Bags." They are bags to hand out to people who ask "please gimme something to eat" or to tuck into your backpack! They are snack bags and zip lock bags of a pack of coffee, tea bag, kool aid, hot cocoa mix, and sugar in a bag. Then, in another bag, add protein bar, cup of soup, Raman noodles, pack of tuna or whatever you devise. In another add some dried beans with salt and pepper packets. Make a snack bag with band aids, Q-tips, other first aid items. You can add on and on. Another thing we are adding to some is like a Weight Watchers Protein Drink, 10 gram. Dollar Stores are great, but watch for sales. Packets of salt, pepper, and a bullion cube or two helps too.

Be creative and make a list of possibilities on an index card, pull that card, make up a few, then another card with different things and make a few. Mark the number made. EASY to pull out things already together than trying to go through your stuff if one shows up. Children can design a paper bag with artwork for you to hand to the “visitors“. Always keep your children away from the doors, out of sight, if someone shows up. Have your good ole handy defense weapon on you, not "nearby"! But, in order to be God’s children, help others as you can, but do not forget they want your stuff! I am sure you have things in place to determine when to open the door and not to! Be careful.

Make out menus, extend them to include your family members coming. Oops, I need 2 lbs of beans, instead of a cup, and see how it stacks up to your storage. Do not let it get the best of you. You are starting to get all things together, keep it up. Do not panic, just pull up your big girl drawers and suck it in and go on! Check calories, protein, etc! Have something for the kids too, pudding, or a cookie. We are saying a prayer, “GOD give us a chance to find beans cheap and some dried milk! Seriously, think of the amount a family needs! Rice doubles but even though millions of people eat it, we are used to a different diet and the beans with rice would make each go farther but can get very tiring!
Know how to make noodles, spaghetti, and breads! That includes lots of flour, solid shortening, and yeast! Get your recipes together for all kinds of breads! Corn bread on a fried grill is quick and good but again you will need variety! You must practice making things!

One thing that lays ahead for my sister and me is killing the rabbits with a broomstick and canning them. Yuck! I know we have to but do not look forward to it! YouTube has things on there that are amazing on how to dress rabbits or squirrels to making breads or cheese! Please get your act together and get organized! This is one thing I am doing too!
check for those dratted mice! I thought the mylar bags would deter them but to no avail. I lost some vital dried vegetables, and some other goodies. They do not seem to like cinnamon, so I sprinkle some around, get the cheap kind. Only mylar bag not eaten had some in it! Go figure! Make sure you have traps, etc for those unwanted detestable things. Be careful with handling them due to the disease they can carry!

One note of dehydrating things. One ounce of dried equals about a pound of raw vegetables, so when you see the cans on sale use this like a guide to determine if you can do it for less! IF we get the stuff given to us, it will be cheaper but to buy 10 lbs of green peppers and then uses the electric, etc compared to $14 a #10 can, you determine what best fits into your needs. Check into dried vegetables in minestrone soup or vegetable soup at your local discount stores! Usually, the package is about $1 and it is over an ounce of dried ingredients, so I think it is cheaper to buy!

Remember to get the necessities, like Gorilla Glue, metal tapes, and duct tape and Toilet Paper. Make sure all your tools are in good shape with good handles and clean them up. Get a few yards of extra screening, or muslin for cheese making and tuck it away in that pile, but label it well. You know what specifics you need in your neck of the woods. Of course, you need all the staples and some other necessities like chocolate and coffee! Check on this blog for list and lists. Not many can have everything they think they need but start marking off what you do have. It makes you feel like you have done something! Those hash marks behind the cans of coffee make you feel like I know I can have coffee! Also, try to find natural alternatives! If we can no longer get coffee or chocolate, the world would not end, but sure would make it easier to tolerate tough times with it!

One trick my sister thought was when storing canned jars, take off the rings, place clear plastic on the top of the jars and lids, and put a rubber band around it to keep the moisture out, and it works! She is so smart!

It is almost to the panic zone! Okay, we have the stuff to do an appendectomy but who knows how! Get someone in your group or two or three that have some medical training. Or who knows how to deliver a child? We see on television, it just comes out but really! Run off lots of" how to" situations and add in another binder. Pictures here are helpful. Let’s go from Point A to… Can you sew a cut or cleanse a wound, or bind a broken bone, find out how.

We are solicitors too, but it is legal. We ask people for apples when we see the trees are full, and not being picked, and have made lots of apple butter, apples, etc. We ask people if they do not want the produce may we buy it, usually, they give it to us and we can and can. ASK and ye shall receive, at least doing it in the right way, under the Lord’s guidance, we have been blessed.

My sis and I plug away, we read this blog daily and run it off too. Thank goodness people give me paper.
We will take most anything one gives us and find a way to make it work into our plan. If we do not can it, we bind it, or box it or seal it or sew it!

Please prepare for the children too. Get the crayons, cards, board games, glitter, glue, dice, books (i.e. school), rulers, pencils, (do not how to make pencils) etc. IT will be hard on them living a life so differently than they have for10 years or so. Get some cheap presents to have on their birthdays and for Christmas and tuck them away. A frilly top can work wonders on the girls and a neat shirt for the boys. Cheap! Right now summer sales are on. Get ones in several sizes.

SHOES-Where will I find a size 13 or 3! I can not make them, so how do I have room for all this or the money to get it! I have Please get boots in various sizes for your crew! Please tell the adults to bring boots! Good sturdy, hiking boots or work boots! Even community boots wear out, and you need several pair of working boots, and rain boots, and and and….

Okay, it hit’s the fan and the crew is coming! Have them bring clothes, bedding, and bring all the food they can fit in the car. Make sure they bring food for the animals too! Tell the family to make sure others in the family can pick up the kids from school. Keep trying to talk to those loved ones who do not believe it will happen. Also please talk to them about the value of having extra meds they need on hand! They do not have time to stop and get whatever at the store as it will be gone and your car will be stripped if you try and stop! Listen, have ears, and look, thorough eyes that GOD has given you! Have a plan, a meeting place and pray all will make it.

Being informed will help you in making wise choices. Know how to use that grinder, water purifier, and baking bread from freshly ground flour. IF you wait till something happens that is more burden on you and more stress. Practice some simple things with few ingredients that are great tasting and give you the proper nutrients. That is a job but one you must do, in all your spare time! Many cookbooks with four or five ingredients are great! This article could be 20 pages long and still not share all I feel is needed but certainly hope this may help at least one person.

Remember the Lord, go to HIM in prayer, and hold on to your faith, and beliefs. - The Peas in a Pod Sisters in a Pear Tree (And yes, we do have a pear tree).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I just received this announcement:

Pantry Paratus is excited to celebrate our second year on as an e-store.  We are looking to expand our digital marketing appeal with real pictures; so in order to do that we are hosting our first annual 2013 photo contest to celebrate all the harvest of this season's bounty.  All the official rules are here, but the basics are these:
-all photos must be original work and submitted to between Friday, September 6th and Friday, September 20th.
-there are two categories: "Canning" and "Food Preservation."  The first one is easy to define, but the second one can be anything from saving seeds to rendering lard to making jerky--surprise us!
-We have one grand prize winner ($200 of selected merchandise) and one First place winner ($150 of selected merchandise), one second place winner ($100 of selected merchandise) and one third place winner ($50 of selected merchandise) for each category.  There will be seven big winners in all!
-Since people tend to be private about their food supply, people need only supply their name (any name will do really) and a valid email address so if they win we can contact them--or else the contest is pointless, right?
-one entry per person, per email, per category  (e.g. John Smith can submit one (1) entry for "Canning" and one (1) entry for "Food Preservation" from

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I'm planning to get the "Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course." Does it have any details on the shelf lives of foods like beans, rice, canned goods, and vitamins?

Thanks So Much, - K.S.

JWR Replies: Yes, and in fact the shelf life appendix (in tabular format) is quite extensive, spanning 15 pages. You can of course print out a hard copy, for your reference binder.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

(This is the conclusion to the article series that began on Friday.)

Appendix A

The following is essentially a "wish" list; however the items that are in bold are relatively important.  The tools and medical areas would be for a complement for 1-10 people.  The sundries area covers a family of six.  The food area is for one person for one year, multiply (or divide) as you see fit.  There is extra food included for charitable impulses.  Coordinate purchases among the group if you plan to congregate.  I live in Georgia, so the clothing and supplies are tailored for that area; make modifications to the list to accommodate your particular AO or preferences.  The weapons list really is a bare minimum.  The anvil included in the lists is a clue that I plan on bugging in, rather than bugging out. (Bugging out, while it may become necessary, is just a fancy way of saying "refugee.")


Shovel, round point (2)                                     Shovel, square point                                   
spade                                                                                      Hoe (2)
Entrenching tool                                                            Machete                                                
Pick                                                                                    Mattock           
Post hole digger                                                           

Axe, double bit                                                            Axe, single bit
Hatchet, framing                                                            Chainsaw,
16" bar                                                                   Chainsaw blades
Hard hat/face shield/ear muffs                        Peavey           
Log dogs (4)                                                            Froe
Steel wedges (6)                                                            Splitting maul                                               
Block and Tackle (2)                                                 Crowbar, large
Crowbar, small                                                            Pry bar, small                                   
pinch bar                                                                        Pulleys, large (6)                                   
Pulleys, medium (6)                                                Pulleys, small (6)                                   
Chain hoist                                                                        Chain, 30'                                   
12 lb sledge hammer                                                8 lb sledge hammer                                   
4 lb engineers hammer                                    4 lb cross peen hammer                       
40 oz ball peen hammer                                                40 oz straight peen hammer                       
40 oz ball peen hammer                                                32 oz cross peen hammer
24 oz framing hammer (2)                                    20 oz bricklayers hammer                       
16 oz nail hammer (4)                                                14 oz Mallet                                   
16 oz ball peen hammer                                    12 oz Warrington hammer                       
Tack hammer                                               

24" Jointing plane                                                            12" Jack plane                                               
9" Smoothing plane                                                4" block plane                                               
Compass plane                                                            Rabbet Plane                               
Radius plane                                                            Chamfer plane
Adze, large                                                                        Adze, small                                               
Broad axe                                                                        Draw knife                                               
#80 Scraper holder                                                Spoke shave (2)                                               
Scrapers (3)                                                            Wood chisels, 2"-1/4"                                   
Corner chisel, 1/2"                                                Corner chisel, 1/4"                                   
Framing Chisel, 1"                                                Framing Chisel, 2"                                   
Socket Slick, 2"                                   

10 tooth crosscut saw (2)                                    8 tooth crosscut saw                                   
5 tooth rip saw                                                            Hack saw (2)
Mini-hacksaw                                                            Dovetail saw                                               
Compass saw                                                            Keyhole saw                                               
Coping saw                                                                        Coping saw blades (50)                                   
Back saw                                                                        1-man timber saw                                   
12" Bow/hack saw                                                12" blades (20)                                                
30" bow saw (3)                                                            30" blades (20)                                               
Bow saw                                                                        Bow saw blades, Asst.
Frame saw            

Brace, large                                                             Brace, med                                               
Brace, corner                                                            Bits, 2"-1/4"                                               
Twist drill (2)                                                            Twist drills,  (2 sets)                                   
Brad point drills                                                            Screw starter bits                                   
Pencils, carpenter (40)                                    Pencils, regular (40)                                   
Chalk line            (2)                                                            Chalk, 1 gal                                               
Marking chisel                                               

Combination square                                                Compass                                               
Dividers                                                                        Framing square                                   
Speed square                                                            Plumb bob, brass (2)                       
25' tape (3)                                                            100' tape                                               
Folding rule                                                             4' level                                               
2' level                                                                        Torpedo level                                               
Line level (2)                                                            Water level                                               
Pipe clamps, 6' (8)                                                C-clamps, Asst. sizes (20)                       
Wood vise, 12" (3)                                                Hold downs (7)
Work bench                                                            Shaving Horse                                   

cat's claw                                                                        nail belt, leather
nail belt, cloth (4)                                                            Wood glue (3 gal)                                   
Wood glue, small bottle                                                glue brushes, 18
Nail sets, 4                                                                        Mason's trowel                                               
Putty knife (3)                                                            Sandpaper                                               
Sanding block                                                            Peg sizer                                               
Box knife (3)                                                            Straight blades (100)                                   
Hook blades (20)                                                            Saw set                                                           
Bicycle tire pump                                                Traps (Asst.)
Plumbing fittings, valves, pipes, etc           
20d nails (100 lbs)                                                16d nails (100 lbs)                                   
8d nails, box (100 lbs)                                                Wood screws (50 lbs)
Fence staples (50 lbs)                                                1-3/4" Roofing nails (50 lbs)                       
8d finish nails (40 lbs)                                                1 3/4" lead head roofing nails (30 lbs)           
4d finish nails (20 lbs)                                                Concrete cut nails (20 lbs)           
16d double headed nails (10 lbs)                        Wire brads (3 lb)                                   
Tool box, mechanical                                                1/2" drive socket set                                   
3/8" drive socket                                                1/4" drive socket set                                   
Screwdriver set                                                            Asst. bits for 1/4" drive handle                       
Extra #2 Phillips                                                            Extra 5/16" flat screwdriver                       
3/16"-2" box end wrench set (2)                        4mm-23mm box end wrench set                                   
Pliers, side cutting (3)                                                Pliers, slip joint                                    
Pliers, linesman                                                            Pliers, needle nose (2)
Pliers, electrical                                                            Vise grips, Asst. (6)                                   
Crescent wrench set (3)                                    Water pump pliers (3)                                   
Fence pliers (2)                                                            Scissors (2)                                               
Staple gun                                                                        T-50 staples (3000)                                   
Glass cutter (2)                                                            Sharpening stones, Asst. (6)                       
India ink (1 pt)                                   
Anvil                                                                                    Forge
Stump vise                                                                        Manual powered blower           
12V DC blower                                                            Hardies/mandrels
Mechanics vise, 8"                                                Wire brush (3)                                   
Leather work gloves                                                Leather apron
Coal, 700 lbs                                                            Files, Asst. (20)           
Solder irons (2)                                                            solder, 5 lb
Tongs (7)                                                                        Pipe wrench (2), 14"
Tin snips (3)                                                            Sheet metal flattener
Swage block                                                            Oil, 2 gal                                               
Shears                                                                        Tap and die set
Punches, chisels                                                            Grinding wheel
Hacksaw blades (50)                                                Oxy-acetylene rig
Propane torch                                                            Propane bottles (50)    


Clorox                                                                        Disposable lighters
Soap                                                                                    Salt
Pepper                                                                        Candles
Nails, 16d,                                                                        Needles/thread
Fish hooks                                                                        Coffee

WEAPONS, Long guns (minimum)


Centerfire bolt-action rifle (w/ scope)            12 or 20 Ga. pump shotgun, full stock            
.22 rifle                                                                         .177 Pellet rifle

WEAPONS, Handguns (minimum)

.357/.38 - 4" bbl                                                           



.Centerfire ammo (200)                                                12 or 20 Ga rifled slugs (50)           
12 or 20 Ga #0 buck (100)                                    12 or 20 Ga #4 (100)                                   
12 or 20 Ga #7-1/2 (100)                                    .22 LR HP high-vel (1,500)
.177 pellets (1,000)                                                .357/.38 HP (200)                                   

Other Weapons
8" knife                                                                         Survival knife (1)                                   
Swiss Army Knives (2)                                                Power pliers (1)                                               
Single recurve bow w/ arrows                        Cleaning kit, base                                   
Cleaning kit, field (2)                                                Solvent, 2 pints                                   
Oil, 4 pint                                                                        Grease, 4 med tubes
Eye goggles (2)                                                            Ear protection (5)
Bow strings (2)                                                            Holster                       
Extra magazines (where required)                        Spare parts, springs, sears, pins, etc.
Spare scope           


5' spinning outfit, med action (2)                        Tackle box, med spinning gear           
Net                                                                                    Trot line hooks, 200                                   


Cast iron Dutch Oven (2)                                    Cast iron frying pan (3)                       
Pots (4)                                                                        Cast iron griddle                                   
Bread pans (7)                                                            Coffee pot                                               
Meat grinder                                                            Grain grinder (2)                                   
Metal grate for outside oven                        Copper pads                                               
Kitchen knives (7)                                                Asst. utensils                                               
P-38 can openers (7)                                                Asst. dishes                                               
Hand water pump                                                Tripod
Bell                                                                                    20 yds Cotton cloth
Canning Supplies (300 jars w/ lids)            Wool blankets (12)                                   
4" foam pad, 84" x 60" (6)                                    Pillow ticking                                   
Pillow (6)                                                                        Sleeping bag (6)                                   
Pup tent (2)                                                            Cabin tent                                               
ALICE pack w/ frame (2)                                    Day pack (4)                                   
Large pack w/ frame                                                Compass (4)                                               
Area map (6)                                                            Binoculars (2)                                   
BIC lighters (24)                                                            Ball bearings, 50                                   
Stick matches, 30 boxes                                               
Survival Kits (6)                                   
            Swiss Army pocketknife                                   
            razor blade
            bic lighter
            magnesium starter
            button compass
            space blanket
            Water purification tabs (100)

LC-2 belt (2)                                                            LC-H suspenders (2)                       
Canteen w/ cup w/ holder (4)                                    Shotgun pouch (4)                       
LC-2 first aid kit (6)                                                LC-2 butt pack (2)                       
Compass pouch (2)                                                G-3 mag pouch (2)                       
BAJA waterproof bags (6)                                    LBE rubber bands (20)                                   
Trioxane bars (100)                                                Survival cards (2)                                   
Light sticks (48)                                                            Signal mirror (6)                                               
Sewing kit
            needles, Asst., 100
            thread, Asst., 50 spools
            buttons, Asst., 100
            pins, 500

Watch                                                                        Zip-lock bags
Kerosene Lamps (7)                                                Kerosene lantern, (3)
Funnels (3)                                                            Gas lantern
Propane lanterns (2)                                                Propane stove, 2 burner
Propane stove, 1 burner                                    Propane tanks, 5 gal, 3
Adapter kit for lantern/stove                        LP 2 Propane adapter
Candles (70)                                                            Extra wicks/globes/mantles                                                            
LED flashlight (3)                                                Red lenses (3)                                   
D cells, Ni-Cd (12)                                                AA cells, Ni-Cd (21)
12 volt battery, Storage (2)                                    Solar charger(s)                                   
Extra bulbs (6)                                                            Radio, shortwave w/ antenna
Radio, AM/FM                                                            Scanner
CB base station SSB                                                CB handhelds, 3, SSB           
Sound powered phones, 6                                    IR Detectors, 3
Phone cable, 700 ft.                                                Phone jacks
Asst. coaxial adapters                                                Hand powered DC generator
Gas powered DC generator, 12V                         12/3 Copper Romex wire  (500 ft)
Twist connectors (700)                                                16 Ga stranded wire (700 ft)
Jumper cables (3)                                                            Butane operated soldering iron
Butane canisters (7)
General purpose electronic repair items
            Switches, GP
            CB crystals
            solder wick

Soap bars (300)                                                            Soap, liquid, 3 gals                                   
Toothpaste, tubes (12)                                    Tooth brushes (12)                                   
Floss, dental (20)                                                Towels, hand (7)                                   
Towels, bath (12)                                                TP (300 rolls)           
Boots, hiking (2 pr ea)                                                Boots, Shoe-pacs w/ felt liner (1 pr ea)           
Shoes (2 pr ea)                                                            Socks (20 pr ea)                                               
Poncho w/ liner (1 ea)                                    leather gloves (3 pr ea)                       
Work gloves, (12 pr ea)                                    Mittens (1 pr ea)                                   
Underwear (12 pr ea)                                                Pants,  (4 pr ea)                                   
Shirts, (4 ea)                                                            T-shirt, (6 ea)                                   
T-shirt, (6 ea)                                                            Shorts, (4 ea)                                   
Parka            (1 ea)                                                Jacket            (1 ea)                                               
Travel vest                                                                        Hat, floppy                                               
Belts (2 ea)                                               
Paper, 8.5 x 11 (3,000 sheets)                                    Area Maps                       
Manila folders (50)                                                pencils/pens (4 ea) w/ refills                       
Gum erasers                                                            3X5 cards, 200                                               
Books (many)                                                            Bibles (10)                                   
Coffee cups (6)                                                            Guitar                                                           
Strings (3 sets)                                                            case                                                           

Wood burning Stove                                                 Leather sewing needles                                   
Tarp, 12'x16' (1)                                                            Tarps, 12'x10' (2)                                   
40 gal tub (2)                                                            Washboard                                               
Broom (2)                                                                        Mop (2)                                                                       
Bucket, metal (7)                                                Bucket, plastic (7)           
Gold pan                                                                        Figure-8 breaker bar

K1 Kerosene, 25  gal                                                Unleaded gas, 55 gal
White gas, 5 gal                                                             Gasoline can, 5 gal (10)
Water cans, 5 gal (3)                                                Sta-Bil gas stabilizer (for 55 gals)
55 gal drums, 4                                                            Gasoline pump, manual
Wire mesh                                                                         Baling wire, 1000'
Fencing, 100'x 5', 6 rolls                                    Chicken wire, 100'x 3', 6 rolls           
Hardware cloth, 1/4" (20')                                    Hardware cloth, 1/2" (100')                       
Rope, 3/4" braided nylon (200')                        Rope, 1/2" braided nylon (400')
Rope, sisal, 1/4" (1000')                                    Rope, Parachute cord (700')                       
Mason's twine (700')                                                Heavy-duty Mason's twine (700')           
Twine (2000')                                                            Waxed lacing (1000')
2" Nylon strap, 20'                                                Cement, fire clay, (100 lbs)           
Portland Cement, (2100 lbs)                                    Tin roofing, 1000 sq ft
3/4" Plywood, 3 sheets                                                1" plastic pipe, 100 ft
Solid drain pipe                                                            Diverter valve for pipe  ???
Burlap bags (100)                                                hose clamps, 25           
Stove pipe, 25'                                                            Stove pipe elbows, caps, terminations,
Sheet metal, 4'x4' (7 pcs)                                    Asst. nuts, bolts and hardware
Spray bottles, 3                                                            Hydraulic bottle jack, 12T (2)
PVC, 3/4 X 16', 24 pcs                                                PVC crossovers, 12           
PVC T's, 12                                                                        3/4" copper pipe, 100'
1" copper pipe, 20'                                                Misc copper fittings, 30
30 wt tar paper (10 rolls)                                    Plastic sheet, 10 mil, 3 rolls                       
Screen wire (100 ft roll)                                                Glass panes, 1' x 1', 20 pcs                       
Glazing putty, 2 1 pt cans                                    Cheese cloth, 1 roll

Clorox, 30 gal                                                            Ammonia, 1 gal
Lye, 3 gal                                                                        Iodine, 21 oz
Silicon sealant                                                            RIT dye, earth colors (4 pkgs)
Axle grease (3 lb)                                                            Bar oil for chain saw, 5 gal           
10W-40 Motor oil, 24 qt                                                30W Non-detergent Motor oil, 24 qt
Dextron II Automatic Tran fluid, 4 qt            Mineral spirits, 4 qt
Acetone, 4 qt                                                            Oil to mix w/ gas for saw, 2 qt           
WD-40, 2 gal                                                            Locktite
PVC glue, 3 bottles                                                Boric acid, 2 qt           
Sevin dust (100 lbs)                                                Linseed oil (3 gal)           
Turpentine (3 gal)                                                Electrical tape (12 rolls)           
Duct tape (30 rolls)                                                Dichotomous earth, 50 lbs



Hard Red Wheat, 100 lbs                                    Dent Corn, 100 lbs
Rice, 100 lbs                                                            Spelt, 30 lbs
Barley, 30 lbs                                                            Pinto beans, 60 lbs
Kidney beans, 10 lbs                                                Millet, 10, lbs
Lentils, 10 lbs                                                            Great Northern beans, 10 lbs
Pasta, 70 lbs                                                            Cheese powder, 10 lbs
Cheese, 10 lbs                                                            Flour, 10 lbs
Dried Potatoes, 5 lbs                                                Dried Onions, 10 qts
Dried fruit, 20 qts                                                Dried vegetables, 30 qts

Coffee, 20 lbs                                                            Oil/Crisco, 7 gal
Powdered milk, 30 lbs                                                Beef stock, 7 lbs
Salt, 20 lbs                                                                        Pepper, 2 lbs
Soup, 70 pkgs                                                            Canned tomatoes, 70 cans
Peanut butter, 10 lbs                                                Sugar, 20 lbs
Kool-Aid, 30 pkgs                                                Honey, 3 gal
Corn syrup, 1 gal                                                            Powdered butter, 3 lbs
Cocoa, 3 lbs                                                            Yeast, 3 lb
Baking powder, 3 cans                                    Baking soda, 7 boxes
Vinegar, 1 gal                                                            Chili powder, 3 cans
Garlic powder, 3 cans                                                Soy sauce, 1 bottles
Italian seasoning, 1 cans                                    Vanilla extract, 3 bottles
Maple Syrup, 3 bottles                                                Lemon juice, 1 gal
Ascorbic acid, 2 lbs                                                Molasses, 1 bottle

Additional canned gods can be substituted for grains above

5 gal plastic food buckets, 25                        5 gal lids, 25
1 gal metal food cans, 30           

Seed, non-hybrid
            et al

Vitamins (300)                                                            Coffee filters, 100
Rennet                                                                        Whiskey, 3 gal
MREs, 30    



Bag, main                                                            Bag, surplus
Ace bandages (7)                                                Large bandages (21)
Burn dressings, (4)                                                Butterfly sutures (40)                                   
Triangular bandage                                                Band-aids, Asst. sizes, 300                       
Wooden cotton swabs, 100                                    Adhesive tape, 1" and 2" (10 rolls)           
Alcohol wipes, 100                                                2x2 gauze pads, 200                                   
4x4 gauze pads, 100                                                Cotton balls                                               
BP cuff                                                                        Stethoscope
Otiscope                                                                        Teaspoon
Thermometers, 3                                                Flashlight, AA x 2                                    
Chemical ice pack                                                Measuring cup                                               
Snake bite kit                                                            Rubber gloves (24 pr)                                   
Soap, 3 bars                                                            prescription glasses, 2 pr           
Hypodermics (3)                                                100 proof Grain alcohol (3 qts)                       
Needles                                                                        Lidocaine                                               
Hemostats (7)                                                            Needle holders (2)                                   
Scissors (3)                                                            Scalpels (3)
Lancets                                                                        Wire cutters
Pliers                                                                        Tooth extraction pliers
Dental mirror                                                            Dental pick
Hacksaw blade                                                            Suture materials, Asst. (20 sets)           
Surgical tubing, 20 feet                                    IV sets
Catheters                                                                        Plaster of Paris
Space Blankets (3)                                                Suction device
Urine Test Kits (2)                                                Pregnancy test kits (3)
Magnifier/30X microscope                                    AA Batteries (4)
Magnet                                                                        eye patches (3)
Cotton bats, 7 boxes                                                Safety pins, pkg 100                                   
Tweezers (5)                                                            Toenail clippers                                   
Zinc oxide                                                                        Alcohol, 2 qt                                               
Iodine, 7 oz                                                            Betadine, 4 qt
Liniment, 1 qt                                                            1% hydrocortisone, 3 tubes                       
Hydrogen peroxide, 2 qt                                    Tylenol, 250                                               
Aspirin, 700                                                            Nyquil, 1 bottle                                   
Baking soda, 7 box                                                Salt, 1 box                                               
Calamine lotion, 1 bottle                                    Activated charcoal, 24 oz                       
Decongestant, 3 bottles                                    Imodium AD, 12 pkg           
Oil of cloves, 7 bottles                                                Benadryl, 3 bottles           
Benadryl cream, 1 tube                                    Alka-seltzer, 300 pkgs                                   
Pepcid AC, 100                                                            Vaseline, 1 sm jar           
Oral-jel, 3 tubes                                                            Dental filling material, 2 tubes
Lice Rx (Permethrin)                                                Rehydrating solution
Ammonia inhalant, 7                                                Epidrine pens, 3
Codeine or Demerol, 100 tabs                        Anti-biotic ointment, 21 tubes           
Anti-biotic, oral, 300 tabs                                    Anti-fungal cream, 3 tubes                       
Moisturizing cream, 3 tube                                               

Bag, personal size (2)
            Ace Bandage                       
            Band-Aids, 12
            Anti-biotic ointment, 1
            Large Bandage, 1
            Butterfly Bandage, 3
            2X2 gauze, 7
            Aspirin, 12
            Whiskey, 1/2 pt           

Sunday, September 1, 2013

During National Preparedness Month, Mountain House has removed their Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) restrictions on their authorized dealers for long term storage foods packed in #10 cans. This is the first time the company has ever done so, and it has created the opportunity for low prices that haven't been seen in decades. Three SurvivalBlog advertisers are Mountain House dealers, and I strongly recommend that you stock up to take advantage of these sales prices in September.

Here is a summary of the three September sales:

A month-long sale on Mountain House long term storage foods began today at Safecastle.

Their average discount is almost 44%, with free shipping. (They may be adjusting their discounts as they go forward for special one-day or two-day deal offers through the month.) Their Mountain House product discounts (as of today) range from 38% to 58% off. With multiple member rebates and incentives running through September, actual savings are even greater than that. 

They have a special web page with the complete rundown on all the deals that apply.

Check their Mountain House cans category page as well as their Now On Sale category page.

Meanwhile, Ready Made Resources has a started a 45% to 70% off sale on Mountain House long term storage foods packed in #10 cans, for the full month of September. They also offer free shipping and will even mix and match some varieties to make 6-can cases. (All cans must be ordered in 6-can increments, and their special "mix and match" service is limited to stock on hand.)

And Camping Survival has also announced some sale prices on Mountain House foods in #10 cans up to 54% off regular price for the whole month of September.

Because of the huge volume of orders expected, you can expect up to a 15-day delay before your order ships, with all three Mountain House dealers. Note that the deepest discounts are limited to selected varieties and to stock on hand, so place your order soon. Check with the vendors' web sites often, as they will be adjusting some pricing during the month, and listing the food varieties that have run out.

Monday, August 26, 2013

To understand freeze drying there is less to digest than you might think. If you’re into survival, freeze dried food is your friend. It’s a good friend because you’ll enjoy it and feel good having it around. Like a weapon, a partner or a loyal dog, it serves as your trusted companion… always there for you when you need it most. Now let’s explain the process of freeze drying food and understand how this friendship begins.

What is Freeze Drying?
While today’s freeze drying industry is powered by some really smart people and super high tech equipment, the concept remains fairly simple and straightforward.
The process of freeze drying food removes moisture from a frozen material in a way which allows it to retain the benefits of its original form, aroma, taste, texture, and nutritional value.
Freeze drying is the most natural proven approach to food preservation. It delivers positive results for easier and extended food storage guaranteed to last for decades.

Why Freeze Dry?
There are three main reasons behind the strategy of freeze drying food. It is an exit, maintain, and return strategy.
1. Exit: You completely remove water in foods from A to Z (apricots to zucchini).
2. Maintain: You keep in the taste, nutrients, and composition of the food.
3. Return: You open the food sealed and preserved in cans or packets when you want or need it most.

  • Freeze Drying Fights the Bad Guys. Removing water prevents food from spoiling. Bacteria and other microorganisms feed on food and release chemicals causing it to decompose. For humans, this can simply mean experiencing bad tasting food, or illness and disease in worse cases. Additionally, enzymes react with oxygen to create the ripening and spoiling of many foods.

Freeze drying food fights bacteria and other microorganisms because just like human beings, they require water to survive.

  • Freeze Drying Provides Longer and Lighter Results. Today, quality freeze dried foods guarantee a shelf life of at least 25 years. This makes it the ideal solution for long-term food storage and those with a survival mindset.

Freeze-drying also significantly lessens a food’s total weight. Most food is largely made up of water. Removing the water makes the food up to 90% lighter and therefore easier to lift and transport near or far.

  • Freeze Drying Waits Until You are Ready. Storing food which doesn’t spoil helps you to survive. But locking in the great taste is what makes it truly enjoyable. Freeze dried food even decades after the process is the fastest rehydrating food there is. Simply add water, wait a few minutes, and then get ready to enjoy food which tastes, smells, and looks much better than your mind tells you it could or should.

Who Started Freeze Drying and When
The process of freeze drying food is built upon the methods of ancient civilizations. There are traces of freeze drying food dating back to 9th century Asia. Ancient Indians high in the Andes Mountains were also said to practice their own form of freeze dried foods.  

In 1813, William Hyde Wallaston pulled the freeze drying process forward in a big way with a very cool discovery. In a presentation to the Royal Society in London, he introduced a procedure known as sublimation.
Wallaston detailed his work for developing the fundamental process of directly converting liquid in a frozen (solid) state to a gaseous state (vapor). Sublimation is just like evaporation. It is able to occur when a molecule gains enough energy to break free from the others around it.

During World War II, there was tremendous need for human plasma due to the alarming high rate of battle related casualties. With the help of emerging developments in vacuum systems and mechanical refrigeration during these times, freeze drying was used to assist in improving the storage of human plasma.  

Later, the U.S. Military again turned to freeze drying as a solution. Freeze dried foods were introduced to Special Forces as a way of improving upon its bulky and bland C-Rations and other foods given to the troops. NASA did the same for feeding its astronauts on space missions where weight and space are critical factors for success and survival.   

Freeze Dried Foods are now a staple in the U.S. Military and Space programs as well as throughout American society. As much as many people love to bash the U.S. Government for its inefficiencies and corruption, the government rightly deserves credit for its efforts in the advanced freeze dried foods we have around the world today.

Beyond the food industry, a number of other sectors have warmed to the idea of the freeze-drying process. It is commonly used by florists and taxidermists, museums and insurance companies for repairing and restoring water-damaged items, and is an increasingly important factor in the pharmaceutical industry.

How the Freeze Drying Process Works
Rooted in Wallaston’s Sublimation procedure, modern freeze drying machines consist of the following components. A freeze-drying chamber, shelves connected to heating units, a freezing coil attached to a refrigerator compressor, and a vacuum pump.

Successful freeze drying is done in a 3-step process which takes many hours or even days. The food is freeze-dried in a system which converts ice directly into water vapor. This skips the liquid phase completely. Freeze drying bypasses the need for applying high-temperature heat necessary for creating the evaporation process.
1. Cooked or fresh food is flash frozen solid. This locks firmly into place the shape, nutritional value, taste, texture, aroma, and appearance of the food.
2. The frozen food is then placed into a vacuum chamber. A cold condensing surface helps to attract the ice vapor. Inside the temperatures are as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually roughly 98% of the moisture from the food is removed through evaporating the ice.
3. The freeze dried food gets sealed by securely placing it into oxygen and moisture and oxygen barrier packaging. The preserves the food’s freshness until you are ready to open it.
After the freeze drying process it shows its superior value and versatility for survival planning and long-term food preservation needs.

  • Unlike standard frozen foods, freeze dried foods do not require consistent low temperature conditions.
  • Unlike standard canned foods, freeze dried foods are not exposed to high temperature processing which can negatively impact the nutritional value, texture, and taste. 

In essence, freeze dried food offers the best of both the frozen and dehydrated food worlds. It removes the moisture and spoiling, but maintains the beauty and convenience of looking, smelling, and tasting fresh.  The process of freeze drying makes it an ideal solution for those who see the common sense and realistic value of having survival food on hand when you need it.

Knowing the benefits of the freeze drying process, I'm sure you can see the importance of having freeze dried food in your survival food plan.

About The Author: Thomas Baldrick is an executive manager at Freeze Dry Guy, a supplier of freeze dried food and other emergency preparedness items. The company was started in 1970 by a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran. They've been a SurvivalBlog advertiser for six years without any complaints from customers.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

You could say that Y2K started us on a serious survival path. But long before that, preferring the peace and quiet of country life, we had already begun our search for a small acreage some distance from any cities. The idea of simple living and self-sufficiency appealed to both my husband and me. Finally, in 1998, we were blessed to find a few acres in Central Texas. With a partially built house on a dead-end road, trees and some pasture, it mostly fit all our requirements and was within our rather meager price range. So 15 years later, we are both retired and, through frugal living, everything is paid for. Now our primary goal is surviving whatever may come but also to maintain a semblance of mental and physical well-being in a world that could become quite insane. The possibility of a TEOTWAWKI event seems to grow more likely each day. Whoever you are, wherever you are, the better prepared you are when it happens, the less likely you or members of your household will "lose it" when the dreaded events
are playing out before your eyes. I am here to help you and I am not with the government!

As matriarch of my family (not about to give away my age here, but I admit to having great grandchildren), the job of chief cook/caretaker/comforter in our group will naturally fall to me. Before your eyes glaze over, remember that with age, comes wisdom! When SHTF, I hope to ease the transition from that to which we are accustomed to a new, possibly stark reality and way of life. I can shoot a gun if need be, but that is not my area of expertise. Whether you intend to stay put or "bug out", it's a good idea to decide ahead of time the responsibilities that each person in your "survival family" is best suited for. A written, detailed plan should be compiled, scrutinized and agreed to by everyone involved so there will be no question of leadership and who does what when it's necessary to put your plan into action. Each of us is born with a natural talent. Keeping that in mind, choose (or accept) your role and become proficient at it!

Assuming that you are on the way to having your retreat well-stocked with water, food and medical supplies and your haven has been made as secure as possible, let's consider psychological effects of a SHTF situation. In our relatively safe, comfortable lives today it is hard to imagine how we may react when the worst becomes reality. How will you respond when the grocery shelves are bare, gas tanks are empty, the lights suddenly dim to darkness and violence is all around? The possible traumatic impact should not be overlooked or underestimated. There is a good probability that medical care will not be available. It may be up to us to deal with any after effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) This may occur after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. Educate yourself online about this serious condition. There are steps we can take to lessen the inevitable shock following a breakdown of society. If you haven't already done so, I urge you to begin now to hone your survival skills, build up your stockpiles and practice various "what-if" scenarios. Besides giving you peace of mind, your chances of coming through a crisis alive may depend on it!

I've come up with some suggestions which may be helpful to you preppers:

INFORMATION. The Internet, as long as it's available, is surely our best source, including JWR's blog, and we found his books to be very helpful, especially in matters of security. For Christians, the Bible is essential. I can highly recommend Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living for all-around how-to info. If you intend to prepare meals on a wood stove there is an excellent cookbook titled Mrs. Restino's Country Kitchen. And the More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Longacre is valued for thrifty, basic recipes. I compiled my own menus with dishes we like and that can be put together with a minimum of time and effort using our food storage. I've also run hard copies on every survival subject you can think of and these are categorized and in binders with labels. Do what you can now to get organized as there may be little time for that down the road. I think our predecessors had the idea of comfort during hard times down to a fine art. They not only made do, but they found small ways to bring joy into the lives of their families. I've gained much knowledge and inspiration from reading stories about the depression years and journals written by pioneer women!

WATER. WATER. WATER. It's already been said. We can live much longer without food than we can without water. Set up a rain catchment system suitable for your property! For $15 each, we purchased several 55 gallon plastic drums from a soda pop company. Though food-grade, these barrels aren't ideal because the syrup residue is difficult to remove, but water is water and there are good filters available.

This year we added a 1,500 gallon water tank next to our shop, utilizing a simple gutter and spigot system to capture the rain run-off. To deter the growth of algae caused by sunlight, white or light- colored barrels should be painted black or covered with black plastic. Water collected in rain barrels should be fine for laundry, watering a garden or flushing a toilet but is not recommended for drinking unless it is well-filtered. When time allows, we hope to add an outdoor shower using one of the 55 gallon barrels and a small solar panel. I can't think of anything more comforting than a warm shower! .

COMFORT FOODS. Every family has their favorites so practice creating those dishes using only items from your food stash. In stressful times a special treat may be just the thing to make life bearable. Possibilities in that category are chocolate, popcorn, hard candy, dried fruits, olives, nuts, flavored gelatins, peanut butter, instant puddings, and jelly beans. In addition, include baking goods such as vanilla, cocoa, cooking oil, leavenings, pie fillings, sugar and/or sugar substitute, instant milk, coconut and flour. And did I mention chocolate? A variety of grains and a manual grinder are a must. Don't forget a variety of soup ingredients such as canned meats, dried or canned veggies, stock and bouillon cubes. I have successfully canned butter and preserved cheese by coating with red cheese wax that I ordered online. (I can't imagine a world without cheese!) You'll want a good supply of tea, coffee or a favorite drink. Caffeine withdrawal amongst the turmoil is something we want to avoid.

Foraging for foods is possible in most areas. In our immediate vicinity we have cattails, cacti, acorns, dandelions, mesquite beans, purslane, wild grapes, and dewberries. All can become nutritious and appealing food with the proper preparation. These plants will supplement our fruit tree and garden production which is not always as dependable as we would like. Unless your garden has a high, sturdy fence, plan on planting extra for the varmints that will no doubt be showing up for meals.

QUICK BREADS TO EXTEND YOUR MEALS. (cheap, filling and surprisingly good)

1. Our family's version of Indian fry bread or what we commonly call "POOR MAN'S SUPPER": To two cups of flour, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and enough water to make a soft dough.
Dust with flour, knead a few times, roll out, cut into strips and fry in deep oil (365 degrees F) until puffed and golden. Drain well; serve hot with syrup or honey. These are also very good with stir-fry

2. We like these corn pones or "CORN DODGERS" with beans and that combination will give you a complete protein. Heat about 1/2" oil (I prefer peanut oil for its high heat tolerance) in a large iron skillet. Take a cup or two of yellow corn meal, salt to season and add enough water to make a mush consistency. This batter dries out quickly, so add water as needed. Using a large spoon, dip into the batter and drop into the hot oil, spreading to flatten to the thickness of a thin pan cake. Brown well on both sides and drain. Eat while hot and crispy.

FOOD STORAGE. This will be a challenge for us if the power goes down and we are experiencing one of our intensely hot, humid summers. I have researched alternative cooling methods to save our food preps and it looks as though our best bet will be a root cellar. The pot-within-a-pot or zeer refrigeration technique is supposed to work well in arid climates but our humidity runs way too high for that to be successful here. If you live in a hot and dry part of the country that is worth looking into. Besides using a vacuum sealer and food dehydrator I have canned vegetables, fruits and meats using water bath and pressure canners. I recently did some oven-canning of dry goods such as flour, corn meal and bread crumbs. That venture was successful and freed up space in our freezers. My best source for canning/drying basics has been the "Ball Blue Book". ALWAYS follow the safety guidelines when using any food preservation methods. Generally, a cool, dark and dry environment is recommended for optimum
storage life of foods and seeds. My attempts at drying veggies in the sun or a car have failed. Due to high humidity, the food turned moldy before it dehydrated. Because they don't require refrigeration, we have sugar, baking soda and salt stored in a broken freezer in our shop. It is air-tight and mouse-proof. Our grocery store deli gives away those handy food-grade buckets with lids which have been a God-send. If space is an issue, conceal items behind books on bookshelves, under a cloth-covered table or add extra shelving above doors or in closets. Part of our this spring's potato crop, layered with shredded paper and stored in burlap-lined wire baskets, awaits planting in the fall garden. For less than $10 we bought a set of bed risers to raise our bed several inches for underneath storage. I recently lucked upon a yard sale at closing time and picked up a free wooden bookcase. After a bit of touch-up it now hangs on a kitchen wall filled with colorful jars of canned goods. Free, decorative and useful!

PHYSICAL NEEDS. The additional work and physical exertion we will experience is going to require more calories than previously needed. That should be considered in your food preps. Stock up on vitamins to supplement your diet. Dehydration can become a real danger so make sure everyone drinks plenty of water. With our hot summers in mind, we built our home with wide overhangs for shade and plenty of windows for good air flow (no, we weren't thinking of the defense aspect when we put all those windows in!). A wet towel wrapped around your neck does a pretty good job of cooling your body. You can buy small, battery-operated fans for relief from the heat in case the power goes out. Start walking or jogging for good health and along the way, notice what natural resources are around you. When outdoors, protect your skin with long sleeves and straw hats. We will have enough challenges without dealing with skin cancer. Buy a bolt of cheesecloth. It's great for straining fruits, making bandages and
slings and it can be dampened and hung over an open window to cool down a warm room. It could even become mosquito netting. Seek out multi-purpose items! It's a good idea to have a variety of fabrics, yarn, needles and thread for repairing or replacing clothing and making quilts. Whether your winters are severe or mild as ours generally are, if you are caught without a heat source or trying to conserve your wood supply, lots of warm clothing, blankets and quilts will be needed. To keep clothes clean and fresh, all you need are a couple of wash tubs on a sturdy table, a scrub board and a plunger. And of course, soap, water and plenty of elbow grease! Hopefully you already have a clothesline. The old-fashioned clothes wringers can still be found at thrift and antique stores. I bought one because wringing out wet clothes is hard work for anyone but would be very painful to my arthritic hands. If you anticipate sleeping in close quarters, a stash of ear plugs to muffle objectionable sounds such as snoring, could make a big difference in your ability to get a good night's rest. Those little clip-on LED lights are great for reading in bed without disturbing others. We may be forced to be resourceful in order to keep our families fed, clothed, safe and relatively comfortable. And there's nothing more comforting than a good hug. I believe in the healing power of touch and that includes lots of hugs!

DOMESTIC & OTHER ANIMALS. Chickens are tops because they are easy and inexpensive to raise and their eggs and meat provide protein. Ours provide us with free (well, almost free) entertainment! Add a rooster if you want baby chicks AND a non-electric alarm clock. The few cows we had were sold after several years of drought which also caused our pond to dry up several times. We would like to try rabbits or goats but other projects have taken precedence over building cages and fences. I prefer a good dairy goat to a milk cow because they are smaller and easier to handle and an excellent source for meat, milk, cheese and brush clearing! A necessity for any retreat: a cat or two to control the mouse population and to cuddle with. A good dog can do double duty as a devoted, loving pet and an alarm system/guard animal when unwanted visitors come calling. Presently we have wild game such as deer and occasionally wild hogs to hunt. Small game that can be trapped or hunted here include rabbits, squirrels, wild turkeys, birds and frogs. (Toads are not edible.) In more desperate times there are snakes, raccoons, turtles, armadillos, opossums and coyotes. Forget about skunks. I have a horror of catching one in our Hav-a-Heart box trap. By the way, those traps are humane and come in various sizes, including ones large enough for boars. A simple way to catch squirrels is by nailing a large rat trap to a tree. If any of your "quarry" has an objectionable gamey taste, try pre-soaking the meat in milk. This works so well with venison that it tastes more like beef than deer meat. Keep plenty of spices and condiments in your pantry to enhance (or conceal) the flavor of foods you may not be accustomed to. It's well worth setting aside a good portion of your storage for animal food. That would include wild bird seed to entice those fat little squirrels and birds. Some corn and a salt lick can serve a similar purpose by attracting deer and hogs to within shooting range. IMO if you haven't eaten dove, you haven't lived. They are ground feeders and prefer to eat rice and you should certainly have plenty of that put away..

RECREATION. There may be little opportunity for recreation but even short periods of down time are necessary for our mental and physical well-being. Think lots of books, art and craft materials, small toys, crossword and jigsaw puzzles and board or card games.

LACK OF FUNDS. If this is a problem, maintaining a frugal mindset goes a long way. Before you throw away anything, think about re-purposing, selling or trading with your neighbor. Stretch those prep dollars at thrift stores, yard sales or flea markets - these can be found in most regions and there are incredible bargains out there! A large portion of our preps have come from those sources. Be on the alert for inexpensive or end-of-season sale items and freebies. The quickest and easiest way I've found to bring in extra income is selling on eBay and Etsy but do your homework first if you go that route. I am amazed at what people will buy online and there is big demand for used and vintage goods. Make prepping a top priority and the confidence you will gain from your readiness will be worth any sacrifice of luxuries you've made to get to that point.

RANDOM TIPS. Place a map of your county on the wall and familiarize yourself with the layout of the land in case you are forced to bug out. Aerial photos are also helpful and can be obtained from most county USDA FSA (Farm Service Agency) offices. On your maps, draw in cache spots, fox holes and getaway routes and of course, keep your bug-out bags in a convenient spot. Consider these possibilities for bartering: heirloom seeds, fish hooks, clothes pins, salt and matches. They don't take up much space and they're inexpensive now but potentially very scarce and valuable once SHTF.

Save plenty of containers for barter items, too. Vitamin and pill bottles are excellent for holding small portions such as salt and spices. They are also perfect for seed saving and often come with small packs of desiccant. Speaking of seeds, don't forget to store plenty of sprouting seeds. So healthy, and sprouts give a wonderful crunch to salads and sandwiches! Willow tree bark was used by native Americans just like modern aspirin. Go online and search "willow bark - uses and side effects". Willow branches can provide material for making twig furniture and a piece of stem will act as a growth stimulant when rooting plant cuttings in water. The versatile willow is common along river banks and other wet areas in most parts of our country. After one of our construction projects we were left with a big pile of sand.

Part of that we tilled and used as a plot for planting peanuts which, by the way, are super easy to grow. (Watch out for Peter Cottontail as he loves munching on the leafy green tops!) We plan to use most of that sand along with saved feed sacks to make sand bags (for defense purposes). Make your own lip balm with petroleum jelly, melted beeswax and a few drops of peppermint oil. (To please the girls, add a bit of lipstick and it becomes lip gloss.) So soothing to dry, chapped lips! Also, Avon sells a lotion called "Skin So Soft" that is an excellent mosquito repellant. The lip balm and the lotion are great anytime but an absolute necessity for our bug-out bags.

IN CLOSING. Are we where we would like to be in our plans for survival? No, but we've come a long way. There have been successes and failures, a few of which I have mentioned here. We would like for our children and grandkids to be more "on board". Hopefully this piece will serve as a wake-up call for them and others who aren't there yet. Our home is always "almost finished" - we continue to make changes and improvements on the house and land. And for the greatest comfort of all, we have a Savior who vowed to never forsake us. We have His written word to teach and sustain us and His promise that He will return. When I get tired or discouraged in our journey, I recall these lines from Isaiah 40:31: " But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Note: Any mention herein of products is intended for information only and not promotional purposes. I have no affiliations with the companies or products mentioned in this article.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wakeup Call
 It was 2 o’clock in the morning when our two year old toddler woke me with a terrifying scream. She was just across the hallway, but I was disoriented for a moment and couldn’t figure out why I was blind.  As I realized the power was out, I looked for the battery-powered lantern I keep beside the bed only to find it missing.  The three year old had probably been playing with it again.  I felt my way around the house and hoped the lantern would still have power.  It clicked on and what a blessed sight that light was.  After a few minutes of rocking and lullabies, the baby was soundly sleeping, but I was wide awake.  I found the extra flash light and left it turned on in the older children’s room so they wouldn’t be scared if they woke in the pitch-dark.  I went to the deck and saw the entire subdivision blacked-out.  Across the fields and interstate the city was aglow, but our tiny part of the world was eerily quiet.  All the white noise of technology was gone and only the frogs and bugs by the irrigation ditch were chirping away.  I lay awake long into the night, on high alert for the sound of little ones crying, pondering the long list of things I did not have prepared. 

Prior to that night I had 72-hour kits, winter-weather packs for the cars, and some bulk foods on hand for rainy days.  I grew up in the country where we kept a flashlight by the back door to check animals in the middle of the night.  My mother was and still is a wonderful advocate of food storage and small animal self-reliance.  Our family enjoys watching shows like “Doomsday Preppers” and “Mega-Disasters.”   My lack of preparation wasn’t because I hadn’t heard the message, but rather the notion that there would be time later.  My goal in writing this article is to provide an outline for individuals new to the prepping world. The first item of discussion is disasters, but which disaster? The second item is creating the LIST, in other words, what stuff is needed to survive said disaster.  The third portion addresses how to keep it all organized once you start making lists.  And I’ll mention a few tips on organizing for the smallest of disasters, Category I’s or 72 Hour Evacuations. 

Item 1: Disaster, Which Disaster?
Survival and Emergency Preparation information is available in many places and it can take days and weeks to sort through.  Our church hosted an Emergency Preparedness Fair with workshops covering many topics such as Heirloom Seeds, Getting Water without Electricity, 72-Hour Packs, Planning, Canning, and Non-canning food storage.  Each participant received a binder entitled “Provident Living” for organizing information and setting goals for future needs.  I dusted that binder off and began reading with new eyes. 

There are as many disaster scenarios as there are “preppers”, so how the heck do you know what to plan for? (Check out “Different Prepping Approaches” by Marlene M. posted July 20, 2013 in the Survival Mindset Category,  Using one presenter’s advice1 to create lists for different scenarios, I summarized his information on disasters into four categories.  It just made sense to start with disasters of shortest duration and build up to The End of the World as We Know (TEOTWAWKI)-level disaster.

Table 1. What types of Disaster do I Plan for?


Category I

Category II

Category III
Provident Living

Category IV


Natural or Man-made requiring evacuation

Natural or Man-made

Rainy Days & Hard Times

Long-Term Calamity TEOTWAWKI


Forced out of home, no utilities or supplies except what you take with you

In home or have access to it, but there are no utilities

In home with possible utilities, insufficient funds to purchase supplies

May or may not be in your home, nothing available anywhere at any price


72 hours to 2 weeks

Short term- up to 2 months

A few weeks to  a year or more

Long Term- Unknown



  • Natural Disasters
  • Weather related
  • Chemical Spills
  • Wildfires
  • Terrorism

<-    All of these, plus

  • Riots
  • Civil Unrest
  • Disrupted Utilities

Economic Crisis:

  • Unemployment
  • Death
  • Medical Problems
  • Hospital Stay
  • Extended family needs

Widespread Catastrophes:

  • War
  • Drought
  • Devastating Storms
  • Terrorism, etc.

Special Emphasis

All essentials in a portable container
Small, compact, lightweight

Emergency Supplies
Emergency Skills

Pantry Principles: Practical

Long-term storage, self-reliance skills of mending, repairing, providing, bartering, medical care, etc.

Item 2: List, What List?
My vague wish list for long-term storage items was not enough.  I began to sort through what I had and figure out what would be needed for possible disasters.  I needed a master plan to get organized and felt that the Lord would guide me.  A Sunday lesson had taught how the Creation was a pattern for gaining self-reliance.  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1). Following this example, I created a plan for my little “Homestead” taking into mind food storage, water, gardening, small livestock, and so on.  I made the following Table and listed some basic supplies for each section to give you an idea. For exhaustive lists search the “List of Lists” on 
Table 2. Creation-Based Planning



Category I

Category II

Category III

Category IV


Time Frame

72 Hour Minimum*

3 Month Supply

1 Year Supply


Genesis 1:3-4

Light & Heat


- Oil/Kerosene
-More Matches
-More Candles

-Wood Stove
-Wood for heat
-Cooking Briquettes
-Propane for BBQ

-Log Splitter
-Rechargeable Batteries

Genesis 1:9-10


-72 hour supply
-Portable jugs

-2 week supply
-Purification method tablets, filters

-Private Well
-Hand Pump for Well
-Large Storage Tanks

-Portable Filter
-Knowledge of local water and geography

Genesis 1:12,29

Plant Based Foods

-fruit leather, raisins
-Fruit cups
-Peanut butter

- Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, fats & oils, nuts, seeds, sugars and peanut butter

-Seasonal Gardening
-Composting, Natural Pest Control
- Canning & dehydrating skills

-Heirloom Seeds & preserving skills
- Farming Tools

Genesis 1:21,25

Animal Based Foods

-Protein shakes
-Powdered Milk

- meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, honey bees (powdered items for back-up)

-Dairy Goat/Cow
- Other livestock
-Hunting Weapons & Ammo

-Fishing supplies
-More Animals
-Gun Smith tools
-More Ammo

Genesis 1:27

Human Necessities &

-Toiletry Kit
-First Aide Items
-Sturdy, warm clothing
-Sanitation Items

-All Toiletry Items
-Socks, Underwear
- Medical Supplies
-Cleaning Supplies

-Sewing Machine
-Extra Shoes/Boots
-More Toiletries

-Outhouse or other Sanitation solution
 -Travel Trailer
-Bartering Goods


Rest from your work and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with being prepared.  Remember to honor the Sabbath day even in times of hardship.  Those in your company will be in need of Spiritual nourishment as much as physical nourishment.  Ex 31:17 “he rested, and was refreshed.”

Genesis 2:15

Put All into Practice

Set a time every year to rotate items

Store food that your family will eat, and rotate through it

Garden, Raise Livestock, and Live as if your life depended on it NOW

Learn Self-Reliance, Practice It and then spread the word in your community

*72 Hours is the minimum amount of time to plan for.  As recent natural disasters have shown, it may take longer for you to return home and have full use of utilities.

Item 3: How to Organize

So now you have all these areas of your life that need preparation and the list in your head is getting longer by the minute.  Ahhhh! It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the details, but don’t stop now!  Take a deep breath and remember that you only have to start with ONE item this week, and next week you can do another, and so on.  Look at different lists until you find a style that resonates.  A simple spreadsheet design on is titled “List of Lists”.  They offer detailed lists from an expert on every necessary area.   

All you need is a 1 or 2 inch ring diameter binder and some dividers to start.  The binder system allows you to easily add information along the way.  Start with a section entitled Homestead which will include: Communications, Evacuation Plans, and Tools.  Continue to make a section for each set of items from Table 2: Light & Heat, Water, Plant Based Foods, Animal Based Foods, Human Necessities & Comforts, and Spiritual Needs.  Some additional sections may include Financial Preparations, Safety, Security, and Maps.  Again, the work has already been done in “List of Lists” referenced above and they are free to use.  I just put each list under the best-fitting section and make personal modifications as needed.

Item 4: Category I- Short Term Evacuation

So let’s get into the short term evacuation scenario.  You need to leave your home quickly with enough supplies to carry you through … fill in whatever type of disaster you wish. I started organizing for Category I with “72 hour kits”.  Other names for this type of kit are the B.O.B. “Bug-Out-Bag” or the G.O.O.D. “Get Out Of Dodge” bag. You may have seen the term I.N.C.H. bag as in “I’m Never Coming Home.”  As this last name implies, it would be a kit that is kept for Category IV scenarios with more emphasis on rebuilding tools and long-term survival away from home.  Some helpful hints for beginners: designate an area for these items, make water portable, have a backpack for each person, and post a list in a visible spot. 

72 Hour Emergency Station- Create one spot or “station2” where all things needed for the 72 hour level of emergency are kept together. We now have a closet in our laundry room that is designated for that purpose.  This ensures that any person at home could load the evacuation supplies and meet up at a Rally Point with other family members. To help young children prepare, practice drills where each family member is assigned certain items to carry for an evacuation.  Use a stopwatch and make it a game for them. 

- The general rule of emergency preparedness is 1 gallon of water per person or pet per day. There are 5 people in our family x 3 days= 15 gallons.  Because my small children can’t carry the weight of three gallons, I have 2 liters in each pack with the additional water in a combination of 5 gallon jugs and cases of bottled water.  Since this is the bare minimum, it’s also a good idea to have water purification methods in each of the kits. 

- There is one backpack or small rolling suitcase for each person and pet in the home.  These hold everything from important documents in waterproof covers, flashlights, food, clothes, and first aid kits to books and tiny toys for the kids.  This is where list making is needed.  After studying several suggested lists, compile an individualized list based on what type of disasters are common in your region and specific needs of the person such as extra prescription drugs, glasses, or diapers. 

Evacuation List- Make a printed list that hangs in the station listing evacuation items in order of importance.  You decide and make sure everyone else knows that the list is law.  Take time to think it through now so when the SHTF evacuation will go smoothly and safely.  Put the “Extras” at the bottom of the list.

Extras- “Extras” are the items that would be nice to have if there was time and space to take them, but not essential to your survival for three days.  It could be a duffle bag or other portable container.  Mine is a blue Rubbermaid tote that is easy to move, water proof, and doubles as a child’s bath or wash tub.  Inside the tote is an inventory of items so that all family members will quickly know what resources are on hand.  I also added a copy of driving directions and a map of alternate routes to our evacuation spot. 

Item 5: Line Upon Line

Following the example of organizing for Category I, continue to develop your plans for the next category, and then the next, and then the next.  It’s a situation where the principle of “line upon line, precept upon precept3” applies because after you have planned for and acquired supplies for 3 days, 2 weeks will seem do-able.  After you have two weeks’ worth of supplies, three months won’t seem like too big of a burden, and all of a sudden you will have a year’s worth of supplies and be living like a veteran “prepper.” 
The last section titled Put it all into Practice happens when “prepping” becomes a way of life.  “Line upon line” you will gain knowledge of self-reliance, including but not limited to: gathering resources, building a personal library, networking with people, gardening, raising livestock, physical fitness, self-defense, hands-on training, and tools of a trade. 

Gathering Resources-
The internet is a wonderful tool for gathering information on every topic imaginable., Mother Earth News and are just a few of the sites I like to search. As I find a specific topic that I want to learn more about I send for free catalogues to look at supplies. My preparedness binder has a growing section of articles I’ve printed from professional and amateur blog sites. 

Personal Library
- When the grid goes down, having a collection of books on a wide range of topics will be invaluable.  I want the peace of mind knowing that I can refer to tried-and-true information in times of need.  Take the time to read reviews on books before purchasing them.  Many times I was saved from buying a book because the other readers pointed out it lacked the critical information I would need for real-life scenarios.  I also subscribe to GRIT that offers information on all kinds of homesteading topics.

Networking with People
- The talents and experience of neighbors, extended family, and community members is a wealth of knowledge that is only useful if we know where to go.  The Preparedness Fair at church gave me insight into the resources of our congregation.  We moved into a new subdivision and as we get to know the neighbors, I’ve found that one is a Jack-of-all trades that can build anything from houses to engines while another on is an avid bow hunter and camper.  Ask these people for advice and help when you come across new and unfamiliar prepping topics.  Being new to this blog, I find it exciting to know there are countless people out there with similar interests and a wealth of knowledge.
If you are a veteran prepper that has been doing this for years and can think of someone you know who hasn’t caught the fire to prep, maybe they don’t know where to start.  Don't give up; continue to be the great examples you are and someday it will reach someone like me.

- Grow what you can, even if it’s a few pots on the patio.  Learn about local soil, how to fertilize, controlling pests and climate restrictions.  Living in a dry area with short growing seasons means that my ability to preserve a large harvest is crucial.  Up here we plant mid-May and harvest by late September, so in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, I would be eating canned or dried produce 9-10 months of the year. 
Look to your local county extension office for help.  Each state has this program under their county government listing. They offer scientific based help for agriculture, livestock pastures, family and consumer sciences (cooking and preserving methods), and horticulture.  One example of courses offered by Yellowstone County helps develop horticulture skills in a Master Gardener Course. 

Raising Livestock
- Start small and build your herds and flocks with the same principle of “line upon line.”  I grew up in the rural 4-H setting, so I dabbled in everything from pigs to dairy goats to horses.  If you have children from ages 6-19, find a local 4-H club to join.  The kids get to enjoy the responsibility of caring for animals and parents have an automatic network of experienced project leaders that volunteer hundreds of hours to the program.  Their programs extend beyond animals to include a wide range of topics with everything from Aerospace and Astronomy to Wind Energy and Woodworking.  Check out page 16 of the Project Material Order Form4 for a full list of the 115 projects available.

Physical Fitness- After reading several articles5 I realized my kids will be depending on me to keep them safe, sheltered, and fed when SHTF.  I’m 35 pounds overweight and I feel stiff and tired many mornings.  That comes after a good eight hours of sleep in a very comfortable bed with plenty to eat and a hot shower each day.  Imagine being on the run, sleeping on the ground with limited calories and an immense load of stress.  This was another important area that I needed to start making changes in now, and not wait. So thanks to a great neighbor, I’ve started cardio and weight lifting, alternating days and resting on Sundays.  When I get tired, I envision having to put up a shelter in subzero temperatures or bug out with all our gear.  That’s what motivates me to push harder.

- I cannot add any personal experience in this area of preparation yet.  If you are like me, unfamiliar and intimidated by handling firearms, the best advice I can offer is to seek out opportunities to learn these skills.  This summer I will be attending a three day camp, just for women, that focuses on outdoor skills.  (An idea is already forming for my next article, Women and Firearms: 101).  This fall I want to take a two-part basic pistol class offered by a local shooting range. My goal is to increase my confidence through these experiences and become knowledgeable enough to purchase my own firearms. 

Hands-on Training
- So how do I become self-reliant?  If I wait to learn by trial-and-error, I may not last the first week or the first growing season.  Start by asking family members to share things they know about.  My father-in-law is a Vietnam Vet and was really helpful when I told him I had started “prepping.”  Search out camps and retreats that offer classes by experts.  I found affordable and local classes put on by the Wildlife, Fish and Parks Department in Montana.  They offer classes on things like packing horses in the mountains, GPS and Compass reading, Rifle, Archery, Outdoor cooking, and Wilderness Survival.  Locally the police department put on a free woman’s self-defense class.  Even if your funds are limited, be resourceful and find ways to learn the skills you want.  Organize classes through local churches or volunteer to be a 4-H project leader.

Tools of the Trade/Craft
- If the grid crashed today and there was no FedEx or would you have the tools and supplies needed to perform or produce something of value?  For example, my extended family raises dairy goats.  Each spring the children choose newborn kids for 4-H project animals and the extra milk is used by our families.  There are many valuable products besides milk such as cheeses, soaps, meats, hides and pack animals.  While these aspects of the goat herd aren’t being utilized right now, having the necessary equipment on hand such as molds, lye, presses, cheese cloth, Rennet tablets, etc. will be crucial for us to have a means of bartering goods and providing basics for survival. 

Just Do It
Just do it!  If you made it this far, I know you have been “awakened”! You are now aware that there are various types of disasters to plan for and that each can have a different list of supplies. Use a system to keep it all organized so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.  Remember to seek the council of the Lord.  Start with the smallest disaster and build steadily toward TEOTWAWKI. Make self-reliance a way of life and may God bless you in all worthy endeavors.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

In a situation that will be characterized by, among other things, gutted pharmacies and unmanned hospitals, the remaining population at TEOTWAWKI will be required to provide their own medical care and to meet their own pharmacologic needs.  While there have been numerous helpful articles outlining the importance of antibiotics in the context of TEOTWAWKI there has been very little addressing the importance of an overall pharmacologic strategy.

Some of you—especially those who take daily prescription medication—have likely considered this problem before.  But perhaps you are young and healthy, unburdened by any medical diagnosis.  There should still be a pharmacologic component to your overall survival strategy.  Even the robustly healthy occasionally encounter the minor health annoyance—a stomach bug, say, a case of diarrhea or constipation, or perhaps a urinary tract infection.  The problem, of course, is that, in the context of TEOTWAWKI, the minor health annoyance can rapidly spiral into something life-threatening.

Consider the title of this article, for example.  Constipation is, for most people, an infrequent and easily remedied problem—a couple of Sennekot and a quart of juice cures 95% of cases.  If worse comes to worse, there are suppositories—or enemas.

But suppose that you have no access to over-the-counter laxatives.  Suppose you are plagued by constipation for several days but because it ranks low on your list of immediate problems, it goes untreated.  By the time you get around to dealing with it, you’ve got a very large, rock-hard ball of stool in the lower rectum, and it isn’t going anywhere.   This what medical folks refer to as a fecal impaction.  Impactions are common among already sick, weakened individuals; the treatment is manual removal.  Without intervention, an impaction can lead to colon perforation, peritonitis, sepsis, and eventually septic shock and death.

Or perhaps, in desperation, you attempt to unimpact yourself, or have a willing family member do it.  In the process of this procedure, you inadvertently lacerate one of the delicate rectal vessels--and suffer a large hemorrhage.  Incidentally, I have encountered this exact scenario before, working as an EMT in rural Alaska.

It sounds ridiculous—that a case of constipation could lead to such dire straits.  But make no mistake.  Due to decreased fluid intake and no access to fresh fruits and vegetables, there will be hordes of constipated people at TEOTWAWKI. 

Consider another common health complaint, especially for females: the dreaded urinary tract infection.  Normally it is cured with a three-day course of nitrofurantoin, or, if you lack health insurance, a slightly longer course of ciprofloxacin, which costs ten dollars.  But suppose you have no access to antibiotics, and again, decreased fluid intake.  You have nothing with which to treat the fever that develops.  Eventually you start passing bloody urine, then clots.  The pain evolves from a mild discomfort during urination to a stabbing sensation in the flanks; by day five or six or seven it feels as though every organ in your abdomen and pelvis is on fire.  The infection has migrated from the urethra, to the bladder, up the ureters, and has now settled in the kidneys.  You have developed what is referred to by medical folks as pyelonephritis.  The fever climbs to 105. Your blood pressure bottoms out as the infection spills over into your bloodstream.  Untreated pyelonephritis leads to urosepsis.  Outcome same as above—septic shock and death.

The point is, if you have a body, eventually something will go wrong.  Eventually you will require pharmacologic intervention.



From a pharmacologic perspective, there will be four categories of people at TEOTWAWKI:  The first are those who are healthy and dependent on no medication, or very little medication, for day-to-day function.  They may have diagnoses ranging from seasonal allergies to mild asthma, psoriasis, and the like—the loss of pharmacologic treatment might be inconvenient but it would not be catastrophic. 

The second category includes those with diagnoses like hypertension and hyperlipidemia, who currently enjoy relatively good health. The loss of pharmacologic treatment will have no immediate impact on function.  But in the grand scheme of things, lack of access to drugs will permit deterioration of organ function; in the case of untreated hypertension, for example, long-term exposure to high arterial pressures will cause the heart muscle to become thickened and stiff.  A stiff, noncompliant heart does not pump efficiently: the inevitable result is heart failure and all its symptoms.  This group also includes those with type II diabetes, as long-term exposure to elevated blood glucose spares no organ system in the body.

The third category of people encompasses those who are able to maintain a normal lifestyle in the sense that may still be capable of work, of managing activities of self care—indeed they may even be fit and athletic depending on the nature of the diagnosis--but they suffer from a condition requiring daily intake of prescription medication, the loss of which would be serious or even fatal.  This category includes individuals with diagnoses like type I diabetes, some types of heart disease, and severe hypothyroidism.   It also includes patients who received a donor organ for transplant and rely on immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection. 

The last category of people are those who would be considered unhealthy, either because of a systemic disease that limits function, function that cannot be fully restored even with daily medication, or because, even though they may still have moderately good day-to-day function, they are dependent on a constant supply of medication and/or medical technology for survival.  The former suffer from severe heart disease, cancer, congenital heart disease, and degenerative neurological conditions such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s.   The latter group includes dialysis patients, COPD patients who require constant supplemental oxygen, tracheostomy-dependent patients, or those who can only take nutrition via tube feeds.


This article is aimed at all but the last group.  Not that members of the last group have no chance of survival at TEOTWAWKI, but the preparations that would be required are outside the scope of this article.  Pharmacologic preparation of the first three groups, if undertaken with a specific strategy and numeric goals in mind, is quite feasible.


  1. Determine your daily prescription medication needs.  If you and your family are perfectly healthy then the task is simple.  See Appendix A for my recommendations of prescription drugs.  If not, the task is still relatively simple: a one year’s extra supply of necessary prescription medications, in addition to those listed in Appendix A.  You may need to estimate—in the case of an asthmatic that uses inhaled steroids, for example, or for the migraine medication that is taken on an as-needed basis.  Determine what constitutes a one-year supply of the drug.  Record the data, with the names, dosages, and schedule, in a spreadsheet.
  2. Determine your over the counter (OTC) medication needs.  See Appendix B for my recommendations for the average individual.  Gauge your needs by looking in your medicine cabinet—perhaps you use a lot of liquid acetaminophen because you have small children in the home.  Perhaps your family goes through more   
  3. Inventory what you already have.
  4. Develop a plan for obtaining the rest.  Plan to obtain the drugs listed in Appendices A and B within one year.  This will require extra visits to doctors, calling in refills on schedule, being willing to fib about international travel perhaps, or being willing to change physicians.  More on this below.
  5. Store the drug stockpile in an organized and responsible way (indoors, labeled, airtight containers, with 02 absorbers, under lock and key if any controlled substances are included).
  6. After OTC and prescription needs are met, work on a stockpile for bartering purposes.  See Appendix C for ideas.
  7. Buy pharmacology reference books.  See Appendix D for recommended titles.



Don’t discount the potency or usefulness of a drug just because you can buy it at the local drugstore.  Many drugs that used to be prescription-only are now sold OTC.  One example of that is the proton-pump inhibitor omeprazole, used to treat acid reflux disease.  To expand on this example, imagine a situation in which a person who suffers from acid reflux disease exists solely on a diet of canned chili for an extended period of time, without access to his usual proton-pump inhibiting medication.  One day he begins vomiting blood, having developed a gastric ulcer as a result of his untreated condition.  If one of his companions has a supply of omeprazole on hand, currently available at any Walgreens or CVS without a prescription, his condition could be treated in the same manner in which it would be treated at the ER—with a large dose of a proton-pump inhibiting medication. 

Another example is aspirin.  Aspirin has a multitude of uses beyond pain relief.  It is a blood thinner.  For this reason it is often the first medication someone receives when they show up at the ER exhibiting signs and symptoms of stroke.  Aspirin is a central component of the standard protocol in treating patients who are suspected of having a heart attack—the blood thinning properties of aspirin are useful when a clot has occluded a coronary artery.  Aspirin also has unique anti-inflammatory properties—its use is normally avoided in children, but in the context of certain pediatric diseases, high-dose aspirin is a critical component of treatment.   Every time I shop at Sam’s club for groceries, I purchase aspirin in bulk.  Aspirin is inexpensive and potentially useful in so many ways. 



Not long ago a friend mentioned to me that he had thrown away some expired anti-depressant medication.  I suggested that he might instead sock away such medication for the possibility of a survival situation.  His position was simple:  in a true survival situation, he would have no tolerance for psychiatric illness.  People suffering from depression and other psychiatric maladies would be a drain on resources and a liability for everyone around them. 

I considered my friend’s position on this matter for a time and concluded that he was mistaken, for several reasons.  Number one, in extreme situations like TEOTWAWKI, people will inevitably experience depression, psychosis, PTSD, and so on.   Many scientists consider the aforementioned to be adaptive evolutionary responses to trauma, disappointment, and loss (research “Behavioral Shutdown Hypothesis” and “Analytical Rumination Hypothesis” if interested in further information). These conditions affect the toughest, most seasoned soldiers in the US military, so it is folly to assume that a meticulously chosen survival companion will be immune to them.  Depending on the nature of the psychiatric illness, at the very least it will affect the morale of the group; in the worst-case scenario it may indeed adversely affect the group’s chances of survival.  Having the means to treat such a condition may ultimately determine the fate of an entire group—consider a well-prepared, well-stocked family, the head of which is then struck down by a paralyzing depression—imagine that this happens at the worst possible time, at the very height of danger. 

Second, a survival companion may (whether they have chosen to share this information or not) already be taking a medication for depression or other psychiatric illness.  As aptly noted by author West Texas Prepper in the article Letter Re: When the Anti-Depressants Run Out, ceasing certain medications cold turkey leads to a crippling withdrawal syndrome.  Having a small supply of the same medicine on hand would allow a dose taper, thereby sparing the individual of any withdrawal symptoms.  I have witnessed patients, normally fully-functioning, contributing members of society, completely bedbound with nausea, vertigo, and paresthesias after running out of their daily anti-depressant medication.  In an already tenuous survival scenario, it would be imperative to avoid such a situation.

Third, many psychiatric medications have multiple indications.  Some were developed and manufactured for the treatment of other diseases years before their usefulness in treating psychiatric illness was discovered.  Case in point, my friend had thrown away four sample packages of the drug Depakote, known generically as valproate sodium, or valproic acid.  It had been prescribed for a patient diagnosed with bipolar disorder who was experiencing a depressive phase of the illness.  But, unbeknownst to my friend, valproic acid is used to treat a multitude of other conditions, most notably seizure disorders, but also migraine headaches, and chronic pain characterized by neuropathic symptoms.



The expiration dates assigned to drugs is arbitrary and very few drugs are actually toxic past the expiration date (tetracycline and doxycycline being the exception).  Testing has demonstrated that drugs maintain their potency decades after their expiration dates.  Save drugs you are certain you will never use, or never need again, save the ones you think were prescribed in error.  It is impossible to predict what might be useful. Save them regardless of the expiration date, regardless of how few tablets might be left in the package or how little ointment left inside the tube. 

My grandmother suffered an extended illness, the cause of which was unknown for a time.  Her physicians, not knowing what they were treating, hoping to eventually hit on the right drug, prescribed countless medicines, medicines from different classes and of varying strengths.  When I helped my grandfather clean out his medicine cabinet last summer, I found a cardboard box filled with bottles of unused diuretics and anti-inflammatory meds used to treat autoimmune diseases (and also useful in treating malaria).  With my grandfather’s permission I took the unused medication, removed the pharmacy stickers from the pill bottles, and replaced them with medical tape on which I wrote the names of the drugs and the milligrams per tablet.  For those without medical training, I suggest also recording the indication and recommended dose.

Although there are laws prohibiting the stockpiling of prescription medications, there are no reports of arrests for stockpiling medication in the manner described above.  Those who fall under legal scrutiny do so because they stockpile controlled substances, with intent to supply their own habit or to profit financially from supplying the habits of others.  That being said it is best to not discuss this type of preparation with others.  Nor would I advertise on craigslist requesting unwanted prescription antibiotics.  Limit those you involve to immediate family and trusted friends.  




Your primary care physician (PCP) may or may not be a good resource.

On the one hand, he or she may be in total agreement with you, and willing to write scrips for an extra supply of your regular medications, and perhaps even some antibiotics.  On the other hand, he or she may interpret your desire to prepare for a worst-case scenario as a manifestation of mental illness, one that is potentially dangerous and requires further investigation.  If the physician knows you have weapons at home, the situation becomes further complicated.  Therefore I do not recommend that people approach their PCP and ask for prescriptions for stockpiling purposes.

If you decide to do so and are honest about the reason why, and your physician responds by asking searching questions about your psychiatric history, or says, “Now tell me, how long you have had this obsession with the apocalypse?” then abort the mission immediately and refocus all efforts on damage control.

However, there are ‘legitimate’ reasons that physicians sometimes write prescriptions for large amounts of antibiotics, and there are numerous taken as needed (PRN) drugs that physicians write prescriptions for on a daily basis.  Odansetron, the anti-nausea medication, is one that comes to mind.  Benzonatate, the cough medication known as “tesselon pearls” is another.  If you are willing to ask for such medications, citing the presence of nausea or a cough that keeps you awake at night, you can easily obtain such prescriptions.  If you ask that refills be available if needed, your doctor is likely to oblige.   Refill the drug on schedule as refills are sometimes limited to a twelve-month period.

Be a hypochondriac for a year.  Get more than one PCP.  Pay out of pocket for duplicate prescriptions. Ask for samples.  Have a lot of colds. 

Another strategy is to go to the physician with a request for prescription meds for international travel.  Present a list of recommended drugs to have on hand when traveling in that area, perhaps one printed from a reputable web site (CDC).  I don’t know of any physicians that require the patient to present their boarding pass before writing such prescriptions.



  1. Antibiotics
    1. Augmentin-600mg-60 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    2. Ampicillin-500mg-63 tablets per person (three 7-day courses)
    3. Amoxicillin-500mg-100 tabs per person (50 days’ worth per person; ten 5-day courses, five 10-day courses, seven 7-day courses—it can be tailored to what is being treated)
    4. TMP-SMX (Bactrim DS)-84 tablets per person (three 14-day courses)
    5. Azithromycin-500mg-15 tabs per person (three 5-day courses)
    6. Cephalexin-500mg-120 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    7. Clindamycin-900mg-90 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    8. Metronidazole-500mg-90 tablets per person (three 10-day courses)
    9. Cefdinir-300mg-60 per person (three 10-day courses)
    10. Nitrofurantoin-200mg-42 tablets per person (three 7-day courses)
    11. Gentamicin ophthalmic solution-two bottles per person
    12. Erythromycin 0.5% opthalmic ointment-three tubes per person
    13. Ciprodex Otic-ciprofloxacin 0.3%, dexamethasone 0.1% solution-two bottles per person
    14. Aurodex Otic-antipyrine/benzocaine solution-one bottle per person (this is not an anti-microbial but it is useful for attenuating symptoms of ear infection)
    15. Mupirocin 2% antibiotic ointment-two tubes per person
  2. Anti-virals
    1. Acyclovir-400mg-63 tablets per person (three 7-day courses)
    2. Oseltamivir-75mg-30 tablets per person (three 5-day courses)
  3. Anti-fungals
    1. Fluconazole-100mg or 200mg tablets-60 per person
    2. Clotrimazole topical-several per person
    3. Nystatin suspension-100mL per person
    4. Nystatin cream-two tubes per person
    5. Ketoconazole-200mg-28 per person (one four week course)
  4. Anti-parasitic (for treating intestinal worms)
    1. Mebendazole 100mg-20 tablets per person
    2. Pyrantel pamoate (Pin X)-720.5mg-10 tablets per person
    3. Thiabendazole (Mintezol) 500mg tablets-10 per person
  5. Cardiovascular Health
    1. Anti-hypertensives
      1. HCTZ-25mg-365 per person
      2. Metoprolol-100mg-200 per person
      3. Lisinopril-20mg or 40mg-365 per person
        1. An alternative is one of the –sartans (i.e. Valsartan, 320mg) but they are more expensive
      4. Clonidine-0.2mg-100 tablets per person
      5. Spironolactone-50mg-100 tablets per person
      6. Furosemide-40mg-100 tablets per person
      7. Phenoxybenzamine-10mg-25 per person
    2. Lipid Reduction Agents
      1. Simvastatin-10mg-365 per person
      2. Fenofibrate-35mg-100 per person
  6. Gastrointestinal Health
    1. Omeprazole-20mg-365 per person
    2. Ranitidine-150mg-365 per person
    3. Misoprostol-200mcg-80 per person
    4. Odansetron-4mg-100 per person
    5. Promethazine suppositories-25mg-25 per person
    6. Metaclopramide-10mg-25 per person
    7. Diphenoxylate-atropine-300mL per person
    8. Anusol HC suppositories (2.5% hydrocortisone)-10 per person
    9. Lactulose-100mL per person
  7. Urinary Tract Health
    1. Allopurinol-100mg-100 per male
    2. Finasteride-5mg-365 tablets per male
    3. Bethanechol-25mg-20 per person
    4. Oxybutynin-5mg-20 per peron
    5. Colchicine-0.5mg-100 per person
  8. Gynecological Health
    1. Ethinyl estradiol/norethindrone combination-28 day packets-12 per female (useful for a multitude of menstrual problems)
    2. Contraceptive method of choice-one year’s worth per sexually active female
    3. Estradiol gel 0.06%-several tubes per older female
    4. Estratab-0.3mg-365 tablets per post-menopausal female
  9. Pain Medications
    1. Carbamazepine-200mg-50 tablets per person
    2. Gabapentin-400mg-100 tablets per person
    3. Diclofenac-50mg-200 tablets per person
    4. Cyclobenzaprine-5mg-50 tablets per person
    5. Keterolac-30mg-50 per person
    6. Tramadol-25mg-50 per person
    7. Immediate Release Morphine tabs-5mg-25 per person
    8. Extended Release Morphine tabs-15mg-50 per person
    9. Sumatatriptan-100mg-25 per person
  10. Allergies/Asthma/Respiratory
    1. Hydroxyzine-25mg-50 per person
    2. Prednisone-10mg-200 per person
    3. Loratidine-10mg-100 tablets per person
    4. Albuterol metered dose inhaler-3 per person
    5. Steroid metered dose inhaler (Advair, etc)-3 per person
    6. Benzonatate-100mg-100 per person
    7. Hycodan syrup (each 5mL contains hydrocodone 5mg-homatotrropine 1.5mg)-150ml per person
    8. Epinephrine injection (EpiPen, EpiPenJr)-two injection pack-three per person
    9. Guafenisin-phenylephrine (Entex)-100mL per person
    10. Montelukast-10mg-100 per person
    11. Metaproterenol-20mg-30 per person
  11. Skin Conditions
    1. Mometasone furoate 0.1%-15g or 45g tube-two per person
    2. Silver sulfdiazene-45g tube-five per person
    3. Cleocin 1%-two tubes per person
    4. Permethrin (Lindane)-five bottles per person
  12.   Psychiatric/CNS Medications
    1. Lorazepam-1mg-50 per person
    2. Lorazepam suppositories-0.5mg-10 per person
    3. Alprazolam-0.5mg-30 per person
    4. Fluoxetine-20mg-60 per person
    5. Wellbutrin-150mg-30 per person
    6. Haldol-5mg-10 per person
    7. Amitryptiline-50mg-30 per person
    8. Bromocriptine-1.25mg-10 tabs per person
    9. Meclizine-25mg-50 per person
    10. Scopolamine patch-ten per person
  13. Endocrine Health
    1. Metformin-500mg-500 per person
      1. For those with a strong family history of diabetes, Hispanic background, or prediabetes, I recommend stockpiling a one year’s supply of 1000mg strength metformin.
    2. Levothyroxine-150mcg-100 per person
    3. Insulin-300units-10 bottles per family (must be kept refrigerated)

APPENDIX B: Recommended OTC Drugs

  1. Acetaminophen-500mg-1000 tablets per person
  2. Acetaminophen liquid-five bottles per person
  3. Ibuprofen-500mg-1000 tablets per person
  4. Ibuprofen liquid-five bottles per person
  5. Naproxen Sodium-500mg-1000 tablets per person
  6. Aspirin-325mg-1000 tablets per person
    1. 325mg tablets can be cut into quarters, the quarters then approximate the normal 81mg dose recommended for most people with mild coronary artery disease or hypertension
    2. Alternative you can purchase the ‘baby aspirin’ version, often in chewable form, which is 81mg per tablet, though it is not common to find this in bulk and it is more expensive.
  7. Water-based lubricant jelly (KY)-5 tubes per person
  8. Petroleum jelly 100%, 13oz containers (i.e. Vaseline)-5 per person
  9. Immodium (loperamide)-100 caplets per person
  10. Docusate sodium-100mg-500 caplets per person
    1. Simply Right Stool Softener with 400 gel caps per bottle is an inexpensive example of this.
  11. Glycerin suppositories 2gm glycerin per suppository-100 per person
    1. Consider purchasing the pediatric version, containing 1gm glycerin per suppository
  12. Diphendydramine HCl-25mg-1000 tabs per person
  13. Fleet enemas (containing monobasic and dibasic sodium phosphate)-eight per person
    1. Alternatively you can purchase empty enema bottles and make your own saline solution, 1.5 teaspoons table salt to 1000mL of water; this can be preferable to the phosphate solution in store-bought enemas as phosphate can cause cramping.
    2. You may also want to research how to make a soap suds enema, the type often used in hospitals, and store the ingredients—liquid castile soap is the standard.
  14. Hemorrhoidal cream (Preparation H or Equate Brand Hemorrhoidal cream-contains 0.25% phenylephrine to constrict vessels, glycerin 14% as a protectant, pramoxine 1% as a local anesthetic)-2oz tube-5 per person
    1. Phenylephrine is the active ingredient in some decongestant nasal sprays like Neo-Synephrine Extra Strength Nasal Spray or WalGreens Ephrine Nose Drops; moreover these sprays contain a more concentrated dose of phenylephrine (usually 1%)—I have found that a cotton ball soaked with aforementioned spray works far better than Preparation H (or its equivalent) cream for getting the patient quick, effective relief—as an alternative to stocking up on Preparation H, I recommend stocking up on extra nasal spray for the purpose of treating hemorrhoids
    2. If you want a local anesthetic component for treating hemorrhoids, any local anesthetic ointment can be used to supplant a vasoconstrictor—I recommend using lidocaine, 2% or 5%, which requires a prescription.
  15. Medicated hemorrhoidal pads, active ingredient witch’s hazel 50% (i.e. Tucks)-several boxes per person
    1. An alternative to purchasing $6 boxes of Tucks pads containing 20 pads each, is to purchase a $3 16-oz bottle of 100% witch hazel (at Wal-Mart or most drug stores) and make your own pads using cotton balls or the like; witch hazel has many other uses too.
  16. Zinc oxide ointment 40% (i.e. Desitin)-five large containers per person
  17. Medicinal foot powder-1% menthol-(Gold Bond, Walgreen’s brand)-10oz bottle-three per person
  18. Anti-fungal foot powder 2% miconazole nitrate (Tinactin, Lotrimin AF, Walgreen brand ‘Athlete’s Foot Powder)-3-4 oz containers-five per person
  19. Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate)-16oz-5 per person
  20. Triple antibiotic ointment(should contain bacitracin, neomycin, and polymixin b)-ten tubes per person
  21. Tea tree oil-2 fluid ounces-ten bottles per person. This is an expensive oil; however it has many uses—a recent study indicated that tea tree oil is more effective than prescription medication for the treatment of lice, which is the main reason I have it listed here, as the rate of parasitic infections will be increased at TEOTWAWKI
  22. Pseudoephedrine-25mg-100 caplets per person
  23. Dextromethorphan syrup, 30mg dextromethorphan per dose (Robitussin, Delsym))-5 bottles per person
  24. Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol 16oz-ten or more bottles per person
    1. Warning-in a TEOTWAWKI situation, there will be desperate alcoholics in withdrawal, willing to drink anything with a label that indicates any percentage of alcohol within, no matter how small—isopropyl alcohol is usually not fatal if ingested and its effects resemble those of ethanol (the form of alcohol for drinking); the treatment is supportive care and to not do anything or give anything that interrupts metabolism, as the metabolite (acetone) is less poisonous than isopropyl.
    2. Drinking of isopropyl alcohol will not have the same effects as the ingestion of methanol (found in windshield wiper fluid-causes blindness, confusion, respiratory failure and death), or ethylene glycol (found in antifreeze-causes muscle spasms, heart dysrhythmias, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, death); nevertheless, for any product containing any percentage of alcohol on the label, I recommend adding a bright red sticker with the words “NOT FOR DRINKING-POISONOUS!” with skull and crossbones drawn—and if the TEOTWAWKI happens, keep these items stored in a place that is not well-frequented.
  25. Hydrogen peroxide-10-20 gallons per person
    1. There are many uses of hydrogen peroxide.
    2. See this site as an example of where inexpensive hydrogen peroxide can be purchased (Less than 10 dollars per gallon)
  26. Ben Gay Muscle Pain/Ultra Strength (30% methyl salicylate, 10% menthol, 4% camphor)-three tubes per person
    1. For those with allergy to aspirin an alternative is Tiger Balm Ultra, which contains 11% camphor and 11% menthol
  27. Mentholated topical cream, active ingredients camphor, eucalyptol, menthol (i.e. Vick’s VapoRub)-three jars per person
  28. Electrolyte replacement packets (Pedialyte makes these; a 4-pack costs about $5, Walgreens carries the equivalent; an 8-pack costs $4)-20 per adult, 40 per child
  29. Multivitamins-1000 per person (make sure and include some chewable forms for children or those who cannot swallow pills)
  30. Vitamin D-(1000-5000IU)-500 per person (also comes in liquid form)
  31. Folic Acid (400mcg-1mg)-500 per ovulating female
  32. Vitamin B12-(comes is dosages as low as 100mcg, as high as 5000mcg-recommend a variety)-500 per person
  33. Hydrocortisone cream 1% hydrocortisone, comes in 2oz tubes-10 per person
    1. Alternatively you can ask your doctor to prescribe a stronger version of the same medication, 2.5% strength hydrocortisone cream; this may be preferable if you or your loved ones suffer often from dermatitis, eczema, or other skin inflammation.
  34. Calamine lotion, contains calamine and zinc oxide, can be purchased in 6 oz bottles for about $1.50 at Wal-Mart. - Three bottles per person
  35. Sterile saline solution 0.9% concentration-1L bottles-10 per person
    1. You can make your own 0.9% saline solution but it will not be sterile; this becomes important when using it for the irrigation of wounds, etc
    2. For making your own solution, 9grams of sodium is dissolved in 991 mL of water
    3. Research and print the many uses of saline solution.
  36.  Oral liquid/gel anesthetic (20% benzocaine)-3 per person
  37. Coal tar shampoo (T Gel 2%, Denorex 2%, Psoriatrix 5%)-one per person
    1. If you or your loved ones suffer from psoriasis you may want to purchase other OTC coal tar products (bar soap, ointment, etc)
    2. For those with skin issues, three bottles per person recommended.
  38. Selenium sulfide shampoo-three per person
  39. Phenazopyridine (Urostat)-
  40. Miralax powder-17.9oz-three per person
  41. Fiber powder (Metamucil)-16oz-three per person
  42. Magnesium hydroxide suspension, 1200-2400mg per 10-30mL (Milk of Magnesia, etc)-16oz-five per person
  43. Antacid tablets, calcium carbonate 500mg per dose (Tums)-1000 per person
  44. Mineral oil (liquid petroleum)-16oz-three per person
  45. Earwax removal solution (carbamide peroxide)-three per person
  46. Nasal spray (Oxymetolazone HCl, phenylephrine)-five per person, more if you plan to use these to treat hemorrhoids too
  47. Doxylamine succinate 6.25-50mg per dose-50 doses per person
    1. This is the sedating component of NyQuil brand drugs
    2. It is a potent anticholinergic and can be used to treat a multitude of conditions (morning sickness, allergies, insomnia)
  48. Caffeine tablets-50mg-200 per person
  49. Trolamine salicylate cream 10% (Aspercreme)-5oz-five per person
  50. Tiger Balm Liniment (Menthol 16%, Oil of wintergreen 28%)-0.63oz-three per person
  51. Capsaicin products 0.05-0.1% strength-this is the natural ingredient found in hot peppers; it has been found to inhibit the actions of substance P in pain transmission; it can be used to treat the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy, tension and cluster headaches, osteoarthritis, trigeminal neuralgia, shingles, and more)
    1. Creams (Capsa Cream 8, Zostrix, Walgreens brand)
    2. Nasal sprays (Sinol, Sinus Plumber)
    3. Qutenza, a prescription pain patch that contains 8% capsaicin
  52. Povidone-iodine topical antiseptic-16oz bottle-five per person
  53. Phenol lozenges 14.5mg per lozenge/spray 1.4% in solution (Cepestat, Chloraseptic)-three per person
  54. Cinnamon supplement, 500mg-1000 capsules per person
    1. See the scientific evidence in support of cinnamon as having multiple healing properties
    2. Because I was a gestational diabetic, and because of my Latina heritage (my father emigrated from South America), and because my father, and multiple relatives on my mother’s side suffer from Type II Diabetes, I know that is where I am headed, despite a normal BMI and active life style.  Evidence suggests that cinnamon aids in glucose metabolism; studies have shown a decrease in A1C in diabetics who take cinnamon daily over a period of months.  I take cinnamon every day, in hopes of preventing or postponing Type II Diabetes.
  55.  Fish oil (Omega-3)-1000 caps per person
    1. A cardiologist I trust recommends daily fish oil even for the young and healthy.  Here is an article outlining the evidence.
  56. Baking soda-several five pound bags per individual
    1. There are many medicinal uses for baking soda, and whole books written on this subject
    2. Baking soda is also useful for cooking, cleaning, hygiene, as a fire extinguisher, biopesticide, cattle feed supplement, numerous others.
  57. Nutritional supplementation-Boost, Pediasure, etc
    1. To be used after electrolyte replacement therapy but before someone is ready to take regular foods again.
    2. A nutritional shake can make a huge difference in whether someone gets much-needed calories during a medically vulnerable period.

Appendix C: Drugs for Bartering

The two categories of medication likely to be most useful for bartering are antibiotics and pain medication.

  1. Antibiotics
    1. Amoxicillin-500mg-easy to get and inexpensive
    2. Bactrim DS-excellent for skin and wound infections
    3. Opthalmic antibiotics
  2. Pain Medications
    1. Aspirin
    2. Acetaminophen
    3. Ibuprofen
    4. Any narcotic/opioid (i.e. Vicodin, Percocet)—would be highly desirable in a situation involving serious injury
  3. Vitamins
  4. Insulin-will be a commonly needed, highly valued item since there are so many diabetics in our population.
  5. Inhalers for those with asthma/COPD
  6. Contraceptive devices—condoms, foam, other types of birth control
  7. Caffeine pills-ability to stay wired at critical times will be priceless at TEOTWAWKI
  8. Anti-diarrheals (loperamide, Pepto Bismol)


Appendix D: Pharmacology Bookshelf

  1. The Pill Book (Prescription medications)
  2. The Pill Book Guide to Over-the-counter Medications
  3. Any basic pharmacology textbook
  4. Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy
  5. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2013 (Lange)


JWR Adds: In addition to storing OTC laxatives (such as Senna tablets and plenty of Metamucil,) I also recommend stocking up on sprouting seeds and stainless steel screen mason jar lids (sold by several SurvivalBlog advertisers,) for growing sprouts at home. Be sure to regularly practice growing sprouts. Growing your own dietary roughage is the most healthy and reliable way to keep yourself regular.

Dear JWR:
By way of background, I’m a middle aged woman in reasonable shape.  I go jogging, do pushups and take karate.  I have never been in the military.
Around a month ago I tried ruck marching with my 25 or 30 lb bug out bag (BOB), to see how well I could handle it.  I wore wool Army socks and a pair of boots that I thought were reasonably broken in, and walked laps around a park as fast as I could walk.  The ruck was a civilian backpacker’s external frame pack with a belt.  I carried some water separately from the ruck – not as much water as I would want to carry in a bug-out though.
The cardio walking briskly with a ruck was similar to that from jogging, and that was manageable - but I got blisters on the balls of my feet and a sore arch after only 2 miles that made me have to stop.
After I got around the rest of that lap to the car, I put first aid tape on my feet, and at home I also taped on a small pad of paper towel to support my angry arch.  I had to wear this tape for about a week, and ended up buying arch supports and finding a pair of my boots that both they and my feet would fit in.
What I took home from this (besides blisters) was this: with a ruck on, your feet get a lot more punishment than if you’re unencumbered.  If you are going to embark on a hiking bug-out carrying any kind of weight, it would behoove you to protect your feet from blisters before starting.  One hiker told me she used duct tape for that purpose. Another thing you can do is wear some nylon knee-highs under your socks.  Nylons have additional “prepper” or “tactical” uses, your imagination is the limit there.  They also come in various thicknesses, strengths, and slipperiness.  Support or slimming hose tend to be slippery and strong, this is what you want for walking.
Granted, there may not be an opportunity to doctor up your feet before fleeing from someplace on foot, but if you have time, then do it.  Your feet will thank you, and it might make the difference as to whether you can walk the next day.
Packing a ruck also is an art, deserving of a whole other article. The things you carry should also be in layers, and be a little redundant, so that if you have to ditch the outermost layer several times you will still have something to work with.  The innermost layer is your knowledge, experience, and your muscle memory – you don’t want to be stripped down to that, but you want that layer to be real good, because it’s what makes the rest of the layers useful.  I guess you could argue there’s even a layer under that – the grace of God.
Finally, it’s a good thing to practice your bug-out route on foot.  Start small like I did, and stick close to your car or house at first just in case something like blisters or sore arches happens to you, until you work up to the actual route.  And come up with a ready excuse as to why you are romping around with a ruck on, before you start.  I had Nosy Nellies asking me stupid questions. - Penny Pincher


I thought the article "Car-Mageddon" was very good. What she describes is very similar to how my cars are set up. I'd like to add a few thoughts based on my own personal preferences too.
1. Disposable fire extinguisher - these come in containers that look like wasp/hornet spray. They are cheap and can be found at Wally World.
2. I keep my water in stainless steel containers with threaded lids. You can buy these at Wall-Mart, CVS, and other general stores for about $4 each. These won't break or puncture as easy as plastic water bottles, and you can refill them with tap water (do not filter the tap water or it won't keep as long). I suspect with a little ingenuity you could even use these to boil water in an emergency.
3. Fix-a-flat. I keep 2 cans in each vehicle, and they will keep you going after a puncture flat (nail, screw, etc). It is faster than changing a tire, adds a few lbs of pressure, and will seal leaky nozzles too so that if you have a major blow out and find that your spare is not holding air this works great.
4. My favorite food item to keep in the emergency backpack in my trunk is a box or two of Cliff bars.
5. Lastly, I buy those Halloween glow sticks for 10 cents each after Halloween is over and throw a dozen of them in the car. I have just tested some that are over two years old and they still work well. Flashlights are better, but batteries don't keep well in hot/cold weather in the trunk or glove box.
Oh, I know I said "lastly" above, but I always fill up as soon as my gas gauge gets half way down. I think a full tank of gas on most vehicles will get a range of about 300 miles, but if you are trying to leave an area where a disaster has taken place, so is everyone else. That 75 mile drive to the "safe" area might take several hours. You don't want to become disabled in heavy traffic half way there. Be safe, - Mark V.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Becky M.'s letter prompted me to write with a suggestion for other people with small children.  My daughter is just on the verge of being too big for her stroller, but I still keep it in the trunk and plan to keep it there for quite a while.  If the car breaks down or we get stranded for any reason, a five-year old will get tired of walking pretty quickly. For now, the comfort of crawling into her stroller and pulling up the sunshade will go far to calm her down in a stressful situation.  Even when she is too big for the stroller, we will be able to put my purse, our car kit, water bottles, her doll, etc. in it and keep our hands free and our backs unburdened.  

My husband asks me if I'm getting ready to reenact "The Road" and I tell him I hope and pray I never have to go that sort of extreme, but if the day should come that we do need to fend for ourselves on the road, I want to be ready.

God bless you and the work you do. Sincerely, - Emily S.


I greatly enjoyed the article "Car-Mageddon: Getting Home in a Disaster, by Becky M.". Being a person who has to drive about 45 minutes every day to and from work (1.5 hours daily) I have spent some time thinking on this
same theme.

I have equipped all of the family cars with a small survival bag. Most of the items Becky recommended are in mine. But I have a couple of things to suggest:

Basic categories: All bags should have at a minimum: cordage, a blade (knife of some sort), snacks, walking shoes & jacket (women may need some additional items to avoid long walks in dresses/skirts), a poncho (or large
garbage bag), and a fire starting kit. Flashlights are helpful but should be used carefully to avoid drawing attention.

Note on water: I have found that the Venom brand energy drink cans are a great survival item. The aluminum can is thicker than most "disposable" cans and really is a cheap aluminum bottle. In addition to the 230 calories and
liquid in the can, it could easily serve as a container for boiling/sterilizing water found along the way, and with the screw on lid, can store 16 FL Oz of water at a time. A similar camping or hiking bottle of aluminum costs around $12 to $20, versus $2 for the Venom drink.

But in addition, don't forget: a compact MAP in case you have to find a new route. CASH: never know when you need to buy something and power is down. A battery powered radio (I have a tiny MP3 player that is also an FM radio). Always keep a day pack handy; it's no use having items in the car if you have no way of transporting them!

Alternate Transportation: Skates, skateboard, a Razor scooter, or a folding bike are all portable solutions to a long walk. If you have never used a Razor scooter, take a look at them. They are similar to skateboards, but have a handle that can be used for balance. Just about anyone can quickly learn to scoot along on one in minutes, and it would cut energy expense in half because one push with your foot can propel you for several yards. They are also lightweight (unlike folding bikes), and unlike skates, don't require you to change footgear.

Alternate weapons: I sometimes keep a pistol locked up in my car. But sometimes that is not safe/possible, so I keep a youth baseball bat in the car. A padlock can be put into a knee-sock or bandana (tie a knot above the
lock to keep it in place) can make an innocuous but effective defensive weapon. - Patriot Refusenik


First time writer here, just read the post on car preparedness and thought I'd share a few thoughts I had as reading it:
Gasoline: rather than just keeping it above a quarter tank, keep it full. It’s only expensive the first time if you stay on top of it and keep it there. I deliver pizzas part time and fill up after every shift. It not only is good just in case of blackouts as OP stated, but it’s just convenient to not have to stop and fill up in the middle of my shift thus losing money.

Food: Keep it in a mouse proof container! I learned this the hard way. I kept a bag of trail mix and assorted crackers and fruit and nut bars on my passenger floor board within easy reach, only to see a mouse on my passenger floor board one morning on the way to work. My unwelcome visitor was disposed of the next night with a trap baited with peanut butter, but I’d rather have never had him in there, and I’d still have the food he ruined. Go for either a sealable small plastic bucket or an old metal lunch box or the like, maybe even an ammo can, but the lunch box would be much less attractive to burglars than the ammo can.

Light: A hand crank is great in theory, but I wouldn’t want to count on any of the ones I’ve ever owned. Get a large mag light that will double as a defensive weapon if needed. Get a small one for EDC as well. I have a Fenix E01 that lives on a small carabiner clip on my belt loop with my key fob and takes just one triple-A battery, and it's still on its first battery with almost-everyday use when I'm locking up the chickens at night.

She mentioned kids a few times. Keep a stroller in your trunk or cargo area if you regularly are carting the kids around. Even if you don’t have them with you the stroller would make a great cart to get any other goodies home.

One glaring gap is a fire starter. Even though I quit smoking over a year ago now I still keep at least 2 lighters in my car at all times and one on my person. - Aaron B.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gardening in the Southwestern United States is a huge challenge!  Growing a successful garden takes hard work and a commitment to never give up.  My gardening quest began in earnest in October 2010.  Prior to 2010 I had planted seeds in the ground with few, if any, results.  I had one lemon tree and aloe vera plants (part of my first aid kit, used for burns, skin irritations, etc.) that grew without much help from me.  A friend, who was a master gardener, gave a class one Saturday on how to start a garden.  He taught basic desert gardening and helped us create small square foot gardening boxes (2 x 2).  I brought home two of these (8 square feet total) and another shallow box in which to plant spinach and lettuces.  October was the perfect time to plant a fall garden.  I mostly planted greens, which are supposed to be easy to grow.  I watered and waited and hoped for a small harvest since I now had a miniature “garden” (if you could call it that).  It was a start.  Since that time, I’ve graduated to larger garden boxes that are four feet by eight feet long.  Planting in the ground here just doesn’t work due to poor soil and water loss. Garden boxes help control water usage/waste and soil quality. 
A visitor from up North was looking over a friend’s first attempts at a garden in the ground and remarked, “I had no idea what you were up against.”  People from other parts of the country can’t comprehend how difficult it is to grow a garden in the desert.  This gardener’s next attempts included raised bed boxes, bird netting and improved soil.  After a lot of hard work, he now has a garden to be proud of.

Building a garden box takes a few materials and a little bit of work.  Cedar and Douglas fir are good choices for building materials.  Four by four posts make the corners and then three two by six boards are screwed into the posts to make up the sides and ends.  The outside of the boxes are sealed with water sealer to help them endure the weather.  Once the rectangular shape is completed, an area is leveled and bricks are placed as a foundation for the box to sit on.  Place the box on top of the bricks and add ground cover cloth inside the box on the ground.  Cover the inner sides of the box with plastic sheeting to protect the boards from water damage, soil loss and water leakage.  Attach the plastic sheeting to the tops of each side with staples or secure with two by twos on the top of each side. Fill the bottom half of the boxes with sandy loam - delivered from a local company.   Next, finish filling the boxes with a mixture of vermiculite, peat moss, and two different types of compost.  Fill the boxes really full, since the soil will compact down over time.  Each planting season the boxes need to be topped off and the soil loosened.  This initial investment will last for years and grow excellent crops.  Test soil for nutrient levels with the local extension.  Very few weeds grow in these boxes, so most of that work is eliminated.

The type of seeds selected is also important.  Certain plants just won’t grow in the desert.  Look for heat resistant varieties.  The season in which a certain type of plant is planted matters also.  Zone nine has very different planting dates than other regions.  For example, tomato plants (not seeds) planted outdoors (from indoor starts) in late February will yield a nice harvest in May, June and into July.  The plants will usually stop producing and become dormant in August and part of September.  However, if they are kept alive, they will produce a nice second crop in late October, early November.  Even better, if the plants are covered and kept from freezing through the winter, then they will last for a second year.  After that, I like to grow new plants and move them to a different bed because diseases and bugs seem to overcome the plants at this point.  One friend had the same vigorous tomato plants that lasted for three years.

As of this writing, I have six garden boxes with one more in progress.  There is a permanent mountain of sandy loam on the back patio to be used in future projects.  At one point I felt that I had plenty of garden space with just four boxes, but last fall I planted half a box with carrots and the other side with onions (nice companion plants) and thought that would be plenty, but it wasn’t even close to enough.  Some onions were frozen while others were used in daily cooking (I like cooked onions) with very few left to use in making salsa, and none were left for dehydration.  The carrots were delicious and used quickly as well.  There weren’t any left to preserve.  The carrot tops went to a friend’s rabbits – a special treat.  Otherwise, the carrot tops would have been composted along with the rest of the garden leftovers to help improve the soil so we can stop buying peat moss.

The first couple of gardening years I had beautiful plants with little to actually eat.  I read somewhere that the most important part of growing a garden is the harvest.  Since then, I’ve concentrated more on production and how much we can eat from the garden.  The more the fruit or leaves are harvested, the more the plants are stimulated to produce.  This is especially true with strawberries, lettuces, spinach, and Swiss chard.

This year I have more than enough tomatoes.  Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, and combined with the citrus fruit that’s abundant in our area, scurvy won’t be a problem during an emergency situation.  Usually, I eat tomatoes fresh from the garden on salads or as a side dish with meals and that’s all.  It’s been nice to give them to friends and have leftovers to can as well.  One garden box was planted with two Early Girl, two cherry, and two Roma plants.  Six plants are the maximum one box will hold (tomatoes are space hogs and like to have lots of room for their roots).  The plants grew over six feet tall.  They are staked (with tomato cages and PVC pipe supports because I don’t like vines in the dirt. They seem to get covered with ants and the fruit rots easily) and have sun screens and bird netting over the top for protection.  Birds don’t seem to bother the green tomatoes in June, but once they start to turn, it’s a war to see who will get to the fruit first.  As the weather gets warmer, the birds get more aggressive and the bird netting in a necessity to keep the fruit from being ruined by the pests.  After the garden was planted, a friend brought over four additional Roma plants.  Roma tomatoes are wonderful – firm and medium sized with a pleasing flavor. 

What to do with the extra tomatoes?  First, a huge batch of spaghetti sauce was made using 1 jalapeno, green peppers, onions, and garlic from the garden.  Chili powder was also used since we like our sauce spicy.  This sauce included meat and was frozen.  Next, another batch of spaghetti sauce was made without meat.  This was canned using a cold pack canner - tomatoes are acidic enough that they don’t need to be pressure canned as long as they don’t contain meat.  I started with spaghetti sauce because the tomatoes don’t need to be peeled. 

Since I had so many tomatoes, I wanted to try salsa (first time) and knew the tomatoes needed to be peeled to make it correctly.  I found a few recipes and experimented.  Slip peeling tomatoes isn’t difficult.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and set up a large bowl of ice water.  Wash tomatoes and place in boiling water for 30 seconds, for canning whole (or 3 minutes for salsa, depending on the recipe).  Remove from boiling water and place in ice water for 30 seconds.  Remove from water, core with a knife, and then slip the skin off with your finger.  The skin will slide right off.  Some of these skinned tomatoes were canned whole with ½ tsp. lemon juice and ½ tsp. salt.  Fill jars to ½ inch of top with water/juice and process as usual.  The tomatoes that were processed for three minutes were cooked somewhat (which you need for salsa).  After peeling they go into the food processor or blender.  Depending on the recipe, the chilies and onion can be cooked first or added raw to the tomatoes.  Add spices and cilantro and put salsa in the fridge to be enjoyed right away or put into canning jars and processed for use later.

Usually my garden has finished most of its summer production by mid-July, but this year, in July, it’s still going strong.  We eat cherry tomatoes as a snack and on salad almost daily.  It would be nice if all the things I tried to grow grew as well as the tomatoes.  Beans, squash, strawberries, and cucumbers still challenge me.  My zucchini plants look gorgeous, but don’t produce any squash.  My gardening friend says I have a pollinator problem and need to pollinate by hand.  I can’t tell the difference between the male and female flowers so I just go out with Q-tips and rub pollen from one flower on all the others.  It just hasn’t worked.  He may have to come over and show me exactly what to do because I’m stumped.  Meanwhile, my gardening girlfriend has bounteous zucchini – maybe she will trade for tomatoes.  Next year I may not have as many tomatoes or they may get a disease, but this year I’m thankful for my successful salsa garden and I’ll do everything I can to preserve this bounty.

As I’ve studied material on gardening and prepping, I read comments such as, “Be sure to have seeds in your preps so that in a year or so you can plant them to replenish your food supply.”  A year?  A year is too long to wait!  Other than August, gardening can be done all year long in Southern Arizona.  Cool weather vegetables need to be planted in October, citrus ripens from December to April, and spring and summer gardens can be planted from February through March.  The seeds need to be put in the ground at specific times.  Even if seeds are started indoors, they can be transplanted outdoors later.  They need less water this way and can be protected from garden “raiders”.  Most marauders/scavengers would (hopefully) overlook seeds that had just been planted and garden boxes (the big ones) are not easily moved.  My small lettuce/spinach boxes could be easily taken away.  These I would gladly give up if the other plants were left alone.  In a worst case scenario I would still try to plant a garden using armed guards, if necessary. I’m counting on desperate people, who are looking for food, to overlook plants in the garden/ground as food, since food comes from a grocery store in cans and boxes – right?  It may not be practical, but I will try planting any way I can because a garden is a symbol of hope.  Even if just a few things grow, it will have been worth it to give myself and others even a small amount of fresh produce in a stressful time.  On the other hand, if trespassers steal my produce, then I will plant again and use my indoor stored food until I can plant again.

Here are a few things I have learned about/from gardening:
1.  Gardening is a process, a journey, and not a destination.  There will always be more to learn.   The more you learn, the more you realize you need to learn.
2.  Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and to make (many) mistakes.  Spend time in the garden just enjoying it.  Touch the plants and dig your fingers into the soil.  Attempt to unravel the mystery of an artichoke or whatever new and unusual plant you are growing this season.
3.  Be patient.  Growing a garden takes time.  I used to pick and wanted to pick things before they were ripe.  Sometimes, I still pick tomatoes a day or two early, but that’s to save them from aggressive birds.  They ripen nicely on the kitchen counter and still taste superior to store bought. A garden takes time to establish and the basic learning curve is about five years.  The things I’ve learned during the first four years in my garden have been invaluable to me.  I’ve become more confident in my ability to see a project through and not give up.  I’ve seen tiny carrot seeds become beautiful plants and then have gone on to eat and enjoy the crunchy, delicious taste.  I can’t imagine going without fresh Swiss chard or green peppers that have become a part of my weekly cooking, all in season, and not before their time.
4.  Eat/Preserve locally.  I never plant corn in my garden because so much corn is available here during June.  I can get it free and eat some fresh and freeze some for later.  A quick one minute bath in boiling water starts to cook the corn, which can be cut from the cob or frozen on the cob.  It stacks nicely in freezer bags.  Watermelon is also local and free.  An extended family member raises watermelon as gifts for friends, so we always get a few.  Farmer’s markets are great places to find fresh food to can or dehydrate.  When fruit is on sale it quickly becomes jam (strawberries, raspberries) or is frozen to be made into muffins or smoothies (blueberries).  Preserve what is abundant now.  Each year will be different.  If tomato products are coming out of your ears, then barter.  My neighbor down the street brings me grapefruit during the spring (I only have a lemon tree, but will be growing a grapefruit tree this year).  She gets tomatoes in June in return.
5.  When you think you’ve watered enough, water some more!  Water is a whole topic by itself, but there is no way to water too much.
6.   Keep a garden journal.  Include dates of planting, fertilizing, garden design & the changes made each season, and pictures of plants in different stages of development, especially new plants that are experimental or causing trouble.  This will be a great resource.
7.  Pray.  The Bible tells us to pray over our flocks and fields.  I’ve prayed many times for rain and for understanding to know what my plants need (Too much nitrogen? More shade?  Less fertilizer?)  In tumultuous times, a prayer on the garden as well as a blessing on the food couldn’t go amiss.  As I search for answers regarding watering a garden when the municipal water supply isn’t up and running, I keep turning to prayer to help me find answers to this important question.  (Again, water is a whole issue on its own.)  Pray in gratitude for the abundance that you’ve been given (thank you for the tomatoes) and more will be “added unto you”.

I’ll do whatever it takes to continue to garden.  I finally feel ready to take my gardening to the next level.  This includes planting heirlooms and beginning to save seeds from the heirloom vegetables (seeds should only be saved from ripe fruits/vegetables).  I want to move away from GMO/hybrid seeds and plants and try new varieties.  I’ll plant several new trees and will experiment with grapes and raspberries.  One of my garden beds will be used to plant a “three sisters” garden (corn, beans, and squash) next year, which according to Native American lore, help each other grow better (companion planting).  The corn shades the beans and squash while the bean plants grow up the corn stalks and the nitrogen content of the soil is nicely balanced. 

Plants that weren’t successful in the past will be tried again in new and better locations (improved microclimates) with some new techniques to see if better results will ensue.  I have a new location for strawberries and will cover them with straw when the weather turns hot and continue to water, long and slow.  This may save the plants for more than one growing season and protect the delicate leaves from sunburn.  Another item will be to plant more of what we eat/like and less of other things.  Dill is an excellent herb that I use frequently in my cooking.  It goes in potato salad, egg salad, deviled eggs and almost anything else that contains potatoes.  Dill needs to be planted in full sun in order to germinate, but doesn’t like the hot days of summer.  I’ll plant more in October and dry it when it’s ready.  Dill is so expensive to buy in small containers at the store, but is very inexpensive to grow.  A few seeds turn into a lot of dill! 

Another area to be improved upon is my composting.  I need a better system to save scraps from the kitchen and then remember to take them out to the composting container.  My container came free from the city simply for the asking.  It’s nearly full.  I may call and see if they will give me another one.  Many more projects and ideas are waiting, but I’ll tackle just one at a time and continue reading and learning about southwestern gardening.

My garden is a hopeful, positive place.  I can’t imagine my life without a garden now or in the future.  Gardening in challenging in Arizona, but I like the challenge and have learned how much can be accomplished with hard work and persistence.  Just start small and take it one step at a time like I did, and if you have lots of tomatoes, make some salsa (with salsa, who needs a recipe, right?), and if your lemon tree goes nuts, then make some lemonade too. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bone broth is slow-simmered broth, made with bones.  Vegetables and/or vegetable scraps are also sometimes used, as is a shot of vinegar to help leach the minerals from the bones.  Bone broth is healthful and frugal.
Why make bone broth?  For starters, prepping can be expensive!  Being frugal makes prepping easier.  Bone broth can be “almost” free to make, from items that you don’t even realize that you have, hence the “Stone Soup” title.   Also, bone broth is chock-full of minerals and nutrients, which is always a good thing, but especially so if/when the “balloon goes up”, when staying healthy will be of the utmost importance.  It is great for stiff joints, and it is supposed to promote gut wellness.  In addition, bone broth is easy to make. 

There are online resources that can explain in detail the health benefits, scientific facts, history, and miscellaneous other minutiae regarding bone broth.  This article isn’t about that.  It’s about my personal experience, and tips for a successful and delicious pot (or two, or ten) of broth.  Feel free to search for more information; I encourage you to do so. 

Any bones can be used for bone broth.  I am particularly fond of using “used bones”.  Roasting a turkey?  Save the carcass.  Grilling chicken legs?  Save the bones.  Rack of ribs?  Yep.  I freeze as many bones as I can.  I also freeze trimmings from carrots (peels, ends, etc.), onions (skins and all), garlic, and most other veggies.  I typically don’t save cruciferous vegetable scraps, though.  They are too strongly flavored, and can make your broth bitter.  They can be used if you really like them, but I typically don’t. 

I also save “wild bones”.  We butcher our own game, and I save many of the bones.  I usually don’t save the spines of deer, but a large quantity of the animal’s other bones end up in my freezer.  Venison and wild turkey stock have made the foundation for some truly gourmet meals in my home.  Deer bone broth simmered with rosemary and juniper berries is a delight!  Wild turkey noodle soup?  Delicious!

The easiest way to start making bone broth is to start saving bones and scraps.  I have numerous zip top bags in my freezer with various bones, meats, and vegetable scraps.  When they fill up, it’s time to make broth.  I also save veggies that are starting to “go south” in the vegetable scrap bag.  Nothing spoiled, mind you.  But it’s the perfect place for slightly limp vegetables that would otherwise be wasted.  When I prepare meals, I save the things most people throw away.  My biggest dilemma is deciding which scraps go to the freezer, and which scraps go to the chickens!  Bone scraps go into bags by type.  I do use bones that may have been chewed, as in rib bones or chicken leg bones.  They are frozen and then simmered for many hours at temperatures that kill bacteria, so I feel safe in using them.  Use your judgment.  It’s up to you.  There may come a day when you have no choice.  We have never become ill by doing this.  If I were canning the broth, I may reconsider this practice, but I don’t usually do so.  I occasionally buy pig’s feet (“trotters”) for broth, as they contain lots of gelatin and make the broth really rich and silky.  They are also great if you are using the broth for stiff joints.  I can get two feet for about a dollar.  “They” say that often, you can make friends with a butcher and get them free of charge.  I haven’t tried that yet. 

There really isn’t a set recipe for bone broth; it’s more of a technique.  Obviously, you start with bones.  Grass-fed beef bones are spectacular, but if you can’t get them, or more likely can’t afford them, regular grocery store beef bones are fine.  “They” say that broth made with conventionally-farmed bones won’t have as many vitamins, but it will have some, and the minerals should be the same.  If the animal was able to stand, it had minerals in its bones.  Organic free-range chicken bones make spectacular broth, but I’ve made a pretty darn good broth with the bones from take-out chicken.  In short, use what you have.  It will work, and it will be fine. 

So, place some bones in a pot, slow cooker, Dutch oven, etc.  I typically use my slow cooker, because it uses very little electricity and requires very little attention once set to cook.  Right this minute, I have about 3 pounds of beef marrow bones (two large bones that I purchased) in my 7-quart slow cooker, along with one large onion cut into chunks, some garlic scapes (just because I have them…otherwise I would have added 3-6 garlic cloves), and some celery, including the leaves.  I only have the purchased soup bones because they were a really good deal at the grocery store; less than a dollar per pound.  Normally, I use bones from roasts I’ve cooked, steaks I’ve grilled, or the like.  If I had a bag full of vegetable scraps in the freezer (I normally do, but I used them up earlier today to make fish bone broth and pork bone broth), I would use them instead of the chopped vegetables. I added a shot of white vinegar, maybe two tablespoons.  I don’t measure the vinegar, and honestly, sometimes I forget to add it.  It still works fine.  Vinegar is supposed to help draw out minerals from the bones, and it stands to reason that it should, but the broth will still be delicious and healthful if you don’t use it.  I have a few backyard chickens, so sometimes I throw in a few eggshells for the minerals they contain.  I turned the slow cooker to the Low setting for 10 hours (the maximum).  After about an hour, I will leave the lid slightly ajar, because my cooker runs a little hot.  The broth should barely bubble.  They say boiling damages the nutrients.  I don’t know about that, but it tastes better when it doesn’t boil.  Since it is evening, I will reset the slow cooker so it runs all night.  I am comfortable doing this; if you are not, only cook this during the day.  I normally cook beef bone broth all day AND all night. 

Simmer your bone broth for as many hours as you want.  Guidelines are anywhere from 2 hours to 72 hours, so obviously your mileage may vary.  I typically simmer fish broth for 3-6 hours, chicken for 6-12 hours, pork for 10-20 hours, and beef for 10-30 hours.  Taste it frequently, and when it’s really delicious, it’s done.  Strain through cheesecloth, if you like.  I normally use a wire sieve without cheesecloth.  You can strain more than once for perfectly clear broth, but that just seems like a lot of extra work to me.  Chill the broth, and remove the layer of fat, if you like.  If I use grass-fed beef, pastured pork, or organic chicken, I do not remove the fat.  I believe that it is healthy and nutritious, and it’s also quite tasty.  If I use bones from conventionally farmed meat, I do remove it.   Additionally, I remove any venison fat that occurs, only because I don’t care for the taste. 
Use your finished broth for soups and stews.  Use it as the cooking liquid for rice or quinoa.  Many people just heat it and drink it, with a pinch of sea salt.  It’s quite satisfying.  One of my favorite ways to use bone broth is to chop leftover meat, veggies, pasta, rice and/or whatever else is available in the refrigerator, put it in bowls, and ladle steaming hot broth over all.  Add a squeeze of lime and a dash of hot sauce, and it becomes a “faux” version of Vietnamese Pho, a delicious soup.  I’ve made this countless times, especially during fall and winter, and it’s been delightful, and completely different, each time.  The cost of this meal?   Very little.  If you are like me and let your leftovers get away from you on occasion, this is an incredibly satisfying feeling!   Something from “nothing”!  Stone Soup!

If/when the “Schumer” hits the fan, I plan to continue making bone broth, just in a different way.  My solar oven will be an excellent substitute for a slow cooker.  I haven’t experimented with winter sun cooking, but I plan to this year.  Additionally, my woodstove has a flat top that works well for boiling water, so it should work well for broth with a trivet to keep the pot far enough from the heat for simmering broth.  If time permits, I plan to purchase a wood cookstove. 

As far as storage, the Chinese have a solution of sorts.  They keep a pot on the back burner at all times on the lowest heat.  Scraps are tossed into this pot as they occur.  It’s a “perpetual” broth.  They ladle some out, and add more water, meat, bones, vegetables, etc.  Occasionally, the contents of the soup pot are composted, and they start over.  From what I’ve read, this yields some amazing broth/soup.  No refrigeration necessary!  I realize this isn’t the perfect solution, but it will work at least part of the time.  Some cooks use a similar method now in a slow cooker.  I’m sure with trial and error, this method will work.  I hope I’m never forced to find out.  Try this method today; you won’t be sorry!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dear JWR:
You've probably heard of the "Mormon Four," a starting place for beginning preppers wanting to attain a one-year food supply. The Mormon Four prescribes amounts of red hard winter wheat, powdered milk, sugar or honey, and salt to sustain life for one year. That's a lot of bread making, preserving, and sprouting over and over! Yes, these foods are nutritious, have a long shelf life, and can keep you alive. However, my opinion is that the boredom factor in this diet is huge, even if you love bread.

Here's an idea: Everyone, and I mean everyone, from around the age of 12 and up, both male and female, develop their own specialty to serve. That is, a delicious dish to prepare that is a crowd pleaser. Your special dish should be based on foods that you can easily access frequently from your garden, orchard, pantry, or stores. In Jim's book Patriots, one character masters making popcorn over a fire. His particular skill is appreciated at the retreat as a treat and a break in routine.

Your food doesn't have to be fancy, just special. You will want to know how to make a recipe based on either something you are growing or abundantly have on hand. You've got a lot of wheat? Okay, you be the sourdough bread person baking on a stone without using the electrical breadmaker. Or bake pie, cake, or pizza. You live in an apartment? Wonderful salad greens and herbs can easily be grown in pots. People write this idea all the time in their articles, but I really do it. Yes, I have a nice herb garden in a strip long my driveway, but I also have pots of growing herbs. And due to limited space, our lettuce always is grown in pots. Come up with your own signature salad dressing to accompany. Seasonings, oil, and vinegar are keepers. If you don't have chickens, deviled eggs probably shouldn't be your special food. Your dish can be simple or involved, a hearty soup or a casserole or a sauce or a food preserved from your garden by fermentation, such as cabbage or cucumbers. Once we lived up north and had glorious cherry and apple trees. For five years I made candied cherries (killer in salads) and tons of apple sauce. Down south you might have citrus trees like we currently do. Preserved candied citrus peel is a yummy sweet I first started making years ago when I was a teenager. The cook just needs to be practical in terms of availability.

Think about a few foods you and your family or friends love and enjoy. Then, see how you can acquire a constant ingredient supply, research and try out various recipes, perfect your substitutions, and eventually declare yourself an expert on a certain dish.

Here are a couple of easy food ideas:

If you grow corn, you probably already know many ways to cook corn, but here's how we do it:

1. Roasted or Baked Ears: Take whole ears still with silk and husks intact. Trim silk off top that is sticking out of top, about 1" so it won't smell burned in the oven. Scrub outside of ears to remove any dirt. Place in a 350* oven for around 45 minutes. Take out of oven, using a kitchen towel and tongs, remove silk and husks. Cover with butter, salt, and pepper, and realize life is good.

2. Grilled Ears: This is how my Girl Scout troop used to eat corn when we camped. Soak and completely submerge ears in a large container for at least one hour. Over hot coals, grill ears, turning frequently until all sides are sufficiently blackened, about 10-15 minutes. Take corn off grill, carefully peel back husk and silk because it's hot. Use the husks you've folded back as a holder. Butter, salt and pepper, eat and enjoy. Then wonder when you are grilling again because your corn tastes fabulous and you are aware that butter dripping down your chin isn't a bad thing.

3. Grandmother's Sweet Corn: Cut the raw kernels from each ear. Pan fry in a little butter (like 3 tablespoons), salt, and pepper. When cooked through, add milk to cover (cream is even better) and gently cook the milk down. Add a tablespoon of sugar or 1 Equal or Splenda packet. Adjust seasonings. Listen to the rave reviews.

4. Salted Ears and More: There is a variation on Grilled Ears made with salty ocean water. Another recipe calls for boiling whole shucked ears in 1 stick of butter, milk, and seasonings in a Dutch oven. However, I don't much care for this recipe as it sounds like a waste of ingredients to me, but I did want to mention it.

100 years ago, many people made their own pickles out of a variety of garden produce. Dill tomatoes taste like dill pickles with a different texture. Pickled green beans and pickled okra please many people. Pickled peaches were a staple at my house when I was growing up. Tasty sour pickles are fermented with salt and time in a crock. My father-in-law was a popular preacher and always would serve a large smorgasbord of home-canned pickles when guests came to eat. These were presents from little grannies from across small Texas towns. The best ones ever were called "Sun Pickles" and were amazingly hot yet amazingly sour, fermented outside over a period of days. I have yet to find a recipe that even comes close.

Fire and Ice Pickles:

dill pickles
2 garlic cloves
2 chile pepper packets, like from pizza delivery or about 2 teaspoons pepper flakes
lots and lots of sugar

There are quite a few similar recipes out there, but here's my easy recipe. Get a jar or big bucket (if you love pickles) of whole dill pickles, either commercial or your own home-canned. You may NOT ever substitute kosher dill pickles. They must be dill pickles. Drain off juice, but save it for potato or tuna salad. I use and reuse a 1 quart glass jar or spaghetti sauce jars. This is not a bread-and-butter pickle recipe. It's even better.

Slice pickles into 1/2" coins. Do not use a mandolin slicer -- the slices would be too thin.
Layer 1/2 the pickles, add the garlic and pepper seeds. Add rest of the pickles. Now, start to pour sugar into the jar. Cover the pickles with as much sugar as you can get in the jar. Put lid on tightly and shake to distribute sugar. Set out overnight on counter.

Next day you'll see that the sugar is pulling out the water and going into the pickles. The pickles will have settled some so you have room to add more sugar. Cover again with additional sugar, but the liquid should not be so saturated that it cannot dissolve all the sugar. Cover and set out again overnight.

The next morning rinse the jar off in case the outside is sticky, give the pickle jar a good final shake or roll on your breadboard, and refrigerate. I have no idea how long they last because they get eaten up so quickly. My guess is a long time. These pickles make phenomenal potato salad. Be sure to save the juice to use in potato or tuna or chicken salad. Now you have sweet, crispy, tasty pickles.

So, grow your garden, store your foods, and own your special recipe that makes your people happy. You'll give folks something to look forward to. Smile and say "thank you" when they rave. - Elizabeth B.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back in 1979 I found myself in facing a hurricane by the name of Frederic. It had Mobile, Alabama in its cross-hairs. The category three hurricane made landfall on September 12. I did not take the warnings seriously and unfortunately there was little to no preparation made on my part. I barely had a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was some non perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I was basically like most folks, ill prepared and not taking the warnings seriously.

When hurricane Frederic finally made landfall it did not take long for the power to go off. The winds were fierce and seemed relentless throughout the night. It was pretty eerie. There really wasn't much you could do except wait for it to end. The winds were estimated to be anywhere from 111 to 130 mph. Power lines and trees were down all over the city making some roads impassable. Most of the stores had been emptied out prior to the storm. Then whatever food was left had become spoiled in the stores that did not have back up generators. Back in 1979 that was probably most of the stores. I personally had never experienced power outages on this scale. I did not anticipate the power at my home was going to be out for 22 days. The entire city looked as if a nuclear bomb had exploded. Trees were on cars and houses; debris was scattered everywhere. A curfew was imposed by  the national guard because of homes and businesses being broken into. It took several days for assistance to arrive with emergency items. And even then there were very long lines for ice and canned goods that was distributed by the national guard. Arguments broke out as people were feeling tired and frustrated. It was also hot and humid. So I avoided going because I did not want to stand in the hot sun for hours and then finding out the supplies ice or food items were exhausted.

Each night was the same in my house-dark, hot and humid. It was difficult to sleep. I did have a natural gas water heater and fortunately the gas service was never turned off. So I did not have to take cold showers although that may have helped cool me down. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were several nightly cookouts until the food ran out. Afterwards I realized that I had made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never get caught in that situation again. This could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. It takes a little effort  here and there to prepare.
Since Frederic I have gone through several hurricanes - most notably Ivan and Katrina. I feel I have learned some valuable lessons.

I consider myself more or less an amateur prepper. And I really mean an amateur. I don't worry about the apocalypse but more about the possibility of lengthy power outages because of hurricanes.
My motto is “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. From what I have read over and over is that ordinary people can emotionally break down in just a matter of days. Within a week they can get desperate and then there are those who will take from you what they do not have and if necessary they will take it by force. It could even be your neighbor.

So don’t brag about how you are preparing or what you possess and the post it for all to see on the Internet. Don’t make your supplies common knowledge. Its best to maintain silence. The dangers are not only from ordinary people who under normal conditions are law abiding citizens. There is also the criminal element already established out there and they will become emboldened in a disaster. They will not hesitate to take with force what they want and will often gather together in small or large groups.

Most of you reading this are probably like me and have a budget to consider. All of my items have been purchased slowly and I have not gone on a frenzied shopping spree. I would love to but that is not economically feasible for me. So I just started with the basics and went slowly from there. Its amazing how quickly you can accumulate your emergency inventory.

The first thing I focus on  is having an adequate supply of water. I know that water is extremely important so I keep three six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. One of the first things I do once there is the potential for a hurricane entering the gulf of Mexico is fill up my water containers. If the storm misses I water my plants so nothing is wasted. I try to keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand and rotate them. Fortunately there have not been any issues in the past regarding water contamination but just too be on the safe side I keep several life-straw water filters and a couple of bottles of polar pure water treatment. I also fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. Recently I discovered a nearby water stream within easy walking distance from my home. That was a great find. Remember folks water is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.

Food is my next priority. I try to keep my pantry stocked with at least a month of food such as canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, rice, beans, granola bars and dehydrated foods. I also have several #10 cans of freeze dried foods. I have not had to use any of the freeze dried foods so far and I am glad they have a 25-30 year shelf life. They can be expensive to purchase so I always look for price drops and free shipping.
The next priority is obtaining fuel for my cars and generator. As a good practice measure I always keep my gas tank topped off especially when it is at the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam. In my area it is extremely important the minute a storm gets close to the Gulf of Mexico to head to the nearest gas station and not only top off your car but also fill up your gas cans. If you wait to see if your area is in the five day cone it will be too late. When that happens everyone panics and heads to the gas station. Then the stations start running out of gas. Then there are some who will only accept cash. So its good to keep some cash on hand for the unforeseen emergencies. I keep several five gallon gas cans and fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm.
If the storm doesn't materialize I just put the gas back in my cars. Additionally I have a small generator to keep my refrigerator running for at least two to three days.

Its prudent to have a supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and 9 volt VDC batteries. I also have several battery/solar powered radios. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency prep pack. Recently I discovered a new product by a company called WakaWaka. Yes it is a funny name. The product is a solar powered light with a phone charger. It works well. You can  charge them with 8 hours of sunlight or with a micro USB charger. My kindle charger will charge it. The solar light has several settings of brightness and even includes an SOS flashing light. I have used this to fully charge my iPhone and in less than two hours with plenty of power left for a light you can use to read by. On the lowest light setting it is estimated to last 100+ hours.

I started making an inventory of my emergency items and this way you can see what you have or what you need to replenish. I keep my items in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag. The items are duct tape, Para-cord with various lengths, a snakebite kit, hatchet, 15" knife, 18" machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10" fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-you can easily start a fire with these two items, and various camping cookware. I have learned it takes some practice to master using the fire starters. I try to practice at least once a month starting a fire and either boiling water or cooking on my ember-lit stove. The ember-lit stove is really amazing. Its very light and packs up compactly. It only requires twigs and small branches for fuel.

I also have a charcoal grill as a back up to our gas stove. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. It's good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than to wait until there is one. I keep a baggie by the dryer and put the dryer lint in it. Using a fire starter just place some dryer lint under the twigs and it doesn't take much of a spark to get started. And on windy days I take a toilet tissue holder and put the lint inside and you can easily get a fire started this way.
All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe. I learned about storing items the hard way. I had a fireproof safe and discovered that you must also make sure is waterproof. I lost several documents because of this oversight.

I keep my ammunition stored in watertight ammo cans. I have collected a number of flashlights and lanterns over the years. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. That way there is always light easily within reach. I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit as I have had problems with spotty cell phone usage during and after hurricanes. For some reason land-line phones have always worked.
An alarm company representative made some suggestions regarding safety in the home. He recommended hinging my doors so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force  winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. That prevents someone from kicking the door in with one swift kick. With the buddy bar it takes a number of kicks and of course a lot of noise so you are not caught so quickly off guard. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down and limits what outsiders can see at night if you have lights on.
Because of a recommendation from a local contractor I decided to use spray foam in my attic instead of the traditional cellulose insulation. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.

I recently installed a battery-operated wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home.
Anyway these are some steps I have taken and I hope this has been a helpful read for you. All of my purchases have taken me years to accumulate what I currently have. There is still much work to do. But instead of thinking of what I did not have and get overwhelmed I simply started with small steps.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Disclaimer: Please use common sense in applying anything you read here!

In the (European) country where I live in we have a lot of cooking shows on television, and I never cease to be both shocked and amazed at seeing (some – thank God not all) professional chefs taste their exquisite creation with a spoon  and then put that spoon straight back into the pot. So, if anyone feels offended by my stating the obvious below, please don´t take it personally. For preppers/ survivalists/ people who want to be self sufficient there are of course a host of reasons to take more care of health and hygiene than a well-paid television chef, since hospitalizing all your family for food poisoning is hardly an option, especially in case the Schumer has already has ”Hit The Fan.” This article also was inspired by a debate in a prepper /survivalist forum on the dangers of reheating food.

First of all: obsessing with hygiene can be taken too far – as exemplified by the fact that “normal” exposure to dirt and germs stimulates the immune system, and that incessant hand washing can be a sign of severe psychological trauma. So that being said, we are talking “hygiene to keep you and your family healthy, not paranoid about cleanliness” here.
Some general food safety tips:

  • Put food that needs cool storage back immediately, and cool leftovers down as fast as possible! Milk warms up one degree Celsius/ two degrees Fahrenheit per minute at room temperature. Fast cooling minimizes germ growth.
  • Heat food fast! Germs and yeasts multiply at an alarming rate if you let a pot heat up on low setting (or if you allow it to cool down slowly).  Exceptions are if you work sterile, i.e. canning or decoctions.
  • Never reheat mushroom dishes, if possible also avoid reheating fish.
  • Ditto for spinach and rhubarb dishes, the oxalic acid somehow doesn´t like reheating.
  • Never feed spinach or rhubarb to babies and animals because of the oxalic acid.
  • A pinch of sugar (or maybe a tiny speck of stevia) in salty food (i.e. sauces) and a pinch of salt in sweet dishes (or bread) makes food taste better, BUT: keep salt levels very low for baby food.
  • Moderation is important, it is possible to die from carrot (or rather carrot juice) poisoning, but too little vitamin A and your eyesight (especially night vision) suffers.  For the same reason also never eat (or feed your dogs) Polar Bear liver if you get the chance, the effects I don´t even want to write about.
  • Nowadays, if you eat meat, at least stay away from liver in general since poisons land there. (And foie gras is most often a product of animal cruelty, so stay away from that too).
  • Meats and fish often carry parasites and diseases (not to mention if raw or undercooked) and can be difficult to store, whereas nuts and seeds on their own, and pulses (beans, peas, lentils) in combination with grains have roughly the same percentage of protein as meat;  so also for food safety reasons consider going vegetarian or  vegan.                                                     
  • Humans and guinea pigs are the only mammals that do not produce vitamin C on their own, so feed yourself and your guinea pigs a steady (daily) supply of pine needles, rose hips, sweet peppers, bell peppers or citrus juices. (The last: pure for you, mixed in water for your guinea pigs).

(As a vegetarian I of course do not recommend eating your guinea pigs, but they are very useful as well as friendly animals: Their social squeaking is said to keep rats away, they will mow and fertilize your lawn, and the long haired ones have useful fur that is similar to angora rabbits, although longer and thicker:)

If you reheat leftovers, use a clean pot (i.e. not the one you stored the food in overnight), cut everything into small pieces – minimum thumb thick if possible, and use a wooden ladle to move things around to get all parts of the food up to temperature FAST.

[Some deleted, for brevity.]

Aluminum pots are an absolute NO-NO –especially for acid foods. If you only have aluminum pots, please exchange these as soon as possible, same with Teflon coated frying pans.                

 The old Romans apparently went crazy from lead poisoning via their water pipes and face make up; the Mad Hatter was mad like many members of his trade in Alice´s time because of the mercury used to cure the felt for top hats. [Except in remote regions], today´s water supply contains antibiotics and hormones (i.e. from industrial meat and milk production),  so at least avoiding adding to this load seems like a very good idea.

At our home we use stainless steel pots but we use just wooden spoons in them, to avoid scratching metal particles into our food. Ceramic glass pots are very good for metal free cooking, but on the other hand, if you break one of these you have zillions of very dangerous and needle sharp glass shards to handle plus wasted food plus tons of work with wads of wet paper plus vacuum cleaning until every single glass needle is taken care of. After one such accident we now move our one remaining ceramic glass pot with ultra extreme care and put it on a thick piece of wood or fabric when hot to avoid temperature shock breakage. Another drawback of the ceramic glass pots is that germs seem to reproduce at an alarming rate in there when cooling, rendering these pots useless for storing food in. Probably old fashioned cast iron or even earthenware pots are best for everything, if you can get them. But: avoid red, orange or yellow glazes in pots (nineteen-seventies craze) since these colors contain cadmium, another metal you want to keep out of your body. Pure cast iron pots should be okay even if rusting, (especially for vegetarians since they do not get iron from blood and meat) but if you own enameled iron pots, please stop using them for food if the enamel is cracked, certainly if chips are breaking off, since eating these enamel pieces  more or less equals eating glass.

One metal that seems to be helpful against germs and for immunity is silver, here is a link that was previously presented in SurvivalBlog. This public health link indicates that you have to work very hard at it to get any kind of negative reaction to silver at all, but again, moderation is the key - just do a picture search on "blue skin colloidal silver" (if you ingest too much colloidal silver your skin really turns gray-blue, permanently), but this seems to be purely a cosmetic problem connected to intentionally ingesting large amounts, not by using silver for eating or storing food.

Both tradition and research indicate that eating off of silver is a good idea for general health and immunity, so get your inherited silver flatware out of the box and use it for every day. If you search flea markets/ Craigslist etc., look for “Sterling Silver” or a small 925 stamp somewhere on the handle, preferably not “Silver Plated” (depending on the thickness the silver layer wears off one day), and definitely not “Nickel Silver” or “German Silver” which actually mean “no silver”. Knife blades might be stainless steel, even in “real silver” flatware, but at least the spoons and forks are pure silver all through.

Another food safety issue is Bisphenol A (BPA) contained in the inner white coating in food cans and in soft plastic water bottles,  so try to buy canned food in glass instead of metal, and/or do us much of your canning at home as possible. Store filtered water in clear glass bottles, so you can use the solar disinfecting method (lying flat at least 6 hours in full sunlight).
To avoid dust, that actually can contain a surprising amount of germs, parasite eggs and other nasties like molds settling on your plates and in your cups, I would suggest keeping glasses etc.,(and even books),  behind cupboard doors or at least curtains, and mop you floors daily.

To round out this article, I should mention that I did a web search on “clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy” I found this page with some interesting recipes and further tips for home cleaning.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A friend and I recently discussed some of the possible physical difficulties that might be associated with a rapid exfiltration from a devastated area during a major grid-down scenario.  We thought it would be interesting to explore the personal effects of increased stress, combined with decreased caloric intake, which might be encountered while “bugging-out.”  We wanted to move away from academic knowledge to personal experience, so we created a seven day bug-out “challenge” for ourselves.  

Background note: my survivalist friend was a U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam and then spent his career working on computers.  I'm a 46-year-old male who exercises daily by running and lifting weights.  I'm also a Wilderness EMT-B and I teach wilderness survival and wild plant skills as serious hobbies.  We both grew up in rural Utah, and we’ve spent many years backpacking throughout the Rocky Mountains.  We also invited another survivalist buddy (lawyer) to participate in the seven day challenge. 

The Challenge

  • Consume only 1,200 calories daily 
  • Run 5K or bike 10K each day
  • Work manual labor (or) lift weights one hour each day
  • Sleep only 6 hours a night on the floor or ground
  • Refresh your (heavy) bug-out bag and wear it at least 30 minutes a day
  • Capstone: Run 15K or bike 30K with a (light) pack at the end of the challenge

We picked 1,200 calories per day because this is the approximate amount of freeze-dried survival rations that we carry in our bug-out bags (and it's also the amount with which we've stocked our families' bug-out bags).  The idea was to test these calorie limits while under increased stress.  We couldn't simulate everything perfectly, as we still had to work each day and support our families.  However, we thought this limited set of experiences would be achievable and educational. 

Our friend the lawyer never started the challenge.  In addition, my Marine Vet friend shifted to 2,000 calories by the third day after struggling with effects of calorie reduction, although he continued with the physical challenges.  I personally stopped the challenge after five days – here’s why:  

Body Temperature
By the end of the second day I started getting cold and then I stayed cold.  I went from one blanket to two at night.  This was odd for me, as I don't get cold very often.  My metabolism is fairly high and I was probably feeling the effects of a reduced metabolic rate as my body adjusted to fewer calories.  One takeaway is that in a major crisis, I would probably want a larger sleeping bag than the ultra-light one I currently carry.  In addition, I'll probably include an extra base layer of lightweight underwear just to maintain body heat when additional food isn't available.   

Physical Fatigue
Under these austere conditions, by the third day I was taking nearly twice as long to run my standard 5K route (7,000s-foot elevation, two large hills).  For me that was huge, as I run this route regularly.  After four days of this grueling exercise regime, I became a little light-headed just climbing a few flights of stairs.  The lack of calories really affected my overall physical performance.  Occasionally while I ran, I would get a weak out-of-body feeling.  I felt feeble in my arms when I did pushups or worked outside with a shovel.  I also experienced difficulty sleeping only six hours -- I was a little wired at night, but then I had trouble getting up the next morning.  My stomach growled constantly and I even experienced low blood sugar "shakes" in my hands after exercising.  I simply didn't have the fuel to perform at normal levels.  A key takeaway is that I'll need to factor in a slower pace when backpacking and running long distances, as well as more time to complete light construction and related manual labor during a crisis.  I might also need a small, manual-wind alarm clock of some kind.

Lack of Mental Clarity
By the fourth day images of food consumed most of my mental down time.  When I wasn't thinking about family or work, I found myself drifting off while wistfully envisioning peanut butter on bread.  I love peanut butter, and my brain probably associates that food with calories, so images of peanut butter became my near constant companion.  I awoke the morning of day five to a vivid Technicolor dream of eating stacks of pancakes in my grandmother’s kitchen.  I also found myself mentally "dull" or not as "quick" when it came to making decisions and/or responding to everyday challenges.  The takeaway here is that with a fuzzy head, falling back on training will become important during a crisis.  As a Wilderness EMT-B we are drilled to follow standardized patient treatment pathways and protocols for every single medical scenario.  This ensures that we hit all the critical steps while under stress.  During a collapse, training will probably dictate many of my decisions when I’m too hungry and exhausted to think clearly. 

By the fourth day I also began to get a sore throat (remember that we were really pushing ourselves physically).  My immune system was clearly weakened due to lack of food and sleep.  I'm sure that if this exhausting regime continued for another few weeks, sickness would become my constant companion.  I responded to the sore throat by sleeping an extra hour, popping lots of vitamin C, and drinking more liquids.  This helped, but what if I couldn't add another hour of sleep or if I didn't have a ready supply of vitamin C?  I could potentially supplement with wild rose hips, which are plentiful in my area (even during winter).  But what if I didn't know what plants to use?  Historically, during wars and other periods of extreme deprivation, more deaths occurred from malnutrition and sickness than from direct hostilities.  When your immune system is weakened, a simple cold that you dodged during seasons of plenty might become a serious health concern.  My takeaway here (besides obviously trying to eat and sleep more when possible) is to throw into my bug-out bag a small bottle of multivitamins and/or vitamin C, as well as dedicating even more study time to what local plants may be helpful (albeit feebly) when sick.      

Behavioral Changes
My wife complained that I was grouchy during the challenge.  I've learned that care must be taken to control irritability and the tendency to snap at others in your family or team when fatigue sets in from too many sleepless nights and not enough food.  Kindness and patience come easily when your stomach is full, your family is happy and healthy, you are fully employed, and your DVR successfully records your favorite television program.  But can you practice charity and self-control when everything is collapsing around you and you can't even think clearly?

Weight Loss
After the fourth day I was down nine pounds.  This much weight loss in such a short period of time simply wasn't healthy – I pulled the plug on our little experiment at the end of day five.  I remember once reading an article on that suggested being 10 pounds overweight during a system collapse might be advantageous.  As a middle-aged exercise junkie I thought "how could being 10 pounds overweight be even remotely beneficial?"  Well, I've just learned that under stress and with reduced caloric input, I'll easily burn 10 pounds or more in a week if I'm carrying a heavy pack and dragging my family away from a crisis zone.  Of course, the assumption here is that one is in excellent physical shape (regardless of being a few pounds overweight) so they can actually perform under great duress.  Over the course of the last year I’ve increased my exercise regime knowing that being in shape may be the difference between living and dying in a collapse scenario. 

I cheated twice during the experiment.  I ate an extra 100 calories of peanut butter on two separate occasions.  My body was literally screaming for food and my brain was starting to rebel.  Most folks will probably cheat a little bit under similar conditions.  But stealing a few extra calories now and then may reduce how long you can survive with your given stash.  Because I teach wild plant food skills and I grew up hunting, I'll (theoretically) be able to augment my food storage with a few (very few) additional calories.  But knowing that I have a tendency to want more calories than I currently have stashed for myself and my family, my personal takeaway is to add to my total larder (and especially to our bug-out bags) while the stores are still open.  My initial estimates of how much food my family will need while bugging out (or “bugging in”) were too low.        

Coincidentally, I had a doctor’s appointment immediately following the challenge.  The nurse asked if I was dehydrated, as she had a very difficult time finding a vein from which to draw blood.  My resting heart rate was approximately 64 and my blood pressure was approximately 106 over 71.  I thought I had been over-hydrating during the increased exercise.  It turns out I hadn’t hydrated adequately.  I also gained back about two pounds later that day when I ate as many peanut butter granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, and glasses of milk as I could hold!  I diligently lived up to the exercise component of our challenge, and I learned that I simply wasn’t drinking enough water (and I thought I was pretty good at hydrating).  The takeaway here is that in a crisis, forcing yourself to drink more water than you want (or can perhaps even hold on a shrunken stomach) will be critical.  Water will always be more important than food in any crisis.  I probably need to add an additional water bottle (or two) to my bug-out bag in case finding water becomes difficult.               

“Survival Is Not Fun”
This real-world experiment might seem a little strange to most, but I personally learned a great deal about how my mind and body react to stress, increased physical exertion, and the significant lack of calories that will accompany many of the larger collapse scenarios.  Your experiences may vary under similar conditions based on your own level of fitness and your personal metabolic rate.  The ultimate goal here was to test ourselves, our equipment, and our survival food choices.  We achieved that goal, although the experience wasn’t much fun.  As Les Stroud of Survivorman fame states: “Survival is not fun.  It’s not pretty.  It’s never comfortable.  It may involve eating gross things, enduring pain and deprivation, and battling fatigue and loneliness.”  Prior to this exercise I was quite cavalier about how little food I would need to maintain optimal performance levels under stress (I'm invincible, right?).  Now I know from personal experience that I need to eat more calories and drink more water than I previously estimated if I want to stay physically and mentally sharp during the first critical phases of any future collapse.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My story begins as another closet prepper.  As many of you, I did not have the support of my spouse for my new found drive to prepare for the unknown. Often I would attempt to sneak items that I planned to lay up long-term into the grocery bill without her noticing. I would even have online purchases delivered to a neighbor claiming to him that it was for her birthday or our anniversary. Needless to say, I usually (always) got caught, which would lead to long discussions about me "wasting money."  As fate and the good lord would have it, I finally got my window of opportunity to prove what I was doing had merit. 

As I recall, it was late February. Pennsylvania had another one of its wonderful snow storms topped with ice. We awoke without power to a somewhat chilly house and a few feet of snow.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  The morning, afternoon, and early evening went as they usually would without power.  However we were starting to become concerned because power is usually restored in no more than 16 hours. My son was only about a year old at this time so his needs were a little more than our own. The house was becoming colder and as a new mother, my wife was starting to become unglued.  Although I upgraded our home with multiple heating sources (not without protest and a little help from the bank), all of them required electricity to operate the circulating pumps. A major new prepper mistake. Our refrigerator was slowly starting to warm, making us concerned about his supply of milk. Lucky for me, I made one of my "secret" purchases a few weeks back.  I had attended an estate auction in town and purchased a small gasoline operated generator.  At the time, I had no idea if it was large enough to run anything other than the drill I used to test its function ability.  I was also afraid of somehow burning my house down with a electrical fire.  It was around hour 36 of the outage when her meltdown occurred and she looked to me to fix the situation as she always has.  In her eyes I am the man of the house, the provider.  It is my job to fix and solve the things that end up over her head.  I bundled up and headed out the back door to the shed, hoping my plan would work.  Lucky for me it did.  About 45 minutes later I had the coal stoker and the refrigerator up and running.  We had heat.  As I returned to the house, I could easily read the look in my wife's eyes.  It was her classic "I don't know how you did it, but you did and I love you for it" look.  I was their hero. I saved the day. That is when the dimly lit light bulb went off in my head.  After a long discussion and a few confessions on where the generator came from, I had her convinced.  Without my purchase, we would have had no choice but to brave the roads to a unknown family members house, with our son in the car, in the middle of another wave of storms.  This is when she saw the light and realized that not all of the "wasted money" was really wasted.  I drove this entire concept home throughout the entire 4 days without power.  Without my inexpensive siphon, I wouldn't have been able to use some of the gas from the vehicles to keep the generator running.  Without the powdered milk, what would the little man have had?  Without the bottled water?  Without the small propane burner?  The list kept going.  Needless to say, I was in a bit of trouble with all of these "secret" items I had hid from her view, but I was forgiven quickly.  After all those months of trying to get her on the bus, it only took 36 hours without electricity.

Now that I had her partially on board, I was looking for opportunities to teach her skills that would benefit us in the future. The following summer provided several occasions for just that. My wonderful wife was raised by her grandparents who grew up in the classic "oldest of 12 kids during the depression" scenario. (In my humble opinion, this generation is one of the best untapped resources for learning new and useful skills and knowledge for a post-TEOTWAWKI situation.) Needless to say, they waste nothing and are avid gardeners. During one of our normal visits, her grandfather had mentioned to me that canning season was upon us and the next few weekends would be consumed by the task.  I volunteered us to give them a few extra sets of hands.  My wife was more than happy to give something back by helping out, and she had no idea she was learning a valuable skill.  After 3 consecutive Saturdays, she was canning like she had been doing it for years. During our weekly work parties, I got a chance to get some serious feedback from her Grandmother on the importance  of stocking up for the uncertain.  The advice from someone who has been there multiple times, some times worse than others, was truly priceless.  Coming from her grandparents, my wife took every word to heart.  She is now an avid canner, storing every small bit from our tiny undersized garden, and "clearance" farmers market deals.  Once she seen the savings of doing our own canning, this lead to more.  She now typically buys items in bulk from the warehouse stores.  Once you break the price of the item down per ounce and compare, the savings are obvious.  We now go looking for sales on food goods instead of the new Abercrombie store at the local shopping mall.  I can't complain a bit. We now have enough food in our pantry to sustain us for about three months.  All the savings have also started her into extreme couponing. She has created a sizable larder of things like tooth brushes, tooth pastes, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and razors.  She has even mentioned these would be great for charity or even barter for other comfort items. (I was so proud.) 

During a trip to an local amusement park, I inadvertently discovered my wife was incapable of reading a simple map accurately.  Before our trek into the park, I picked up two maps to help us get around.  I marked three separate and simple rally points (RPs) on the map. When something as simple a pre-determined RP has saved you in the past, it kind of sticks with you.  I often worry about an active shooter scenario when in a large group of people. My wife volunteered to go to the vehicle to retrieve some items for our son.  As the two of us continued around the park, my wife called me to find us.  After a quick scan of my surroundings, I noticed we were practically on top of rally point three.  After a few gripes, we hung up the phone and with the aid of her map, she headed off to rally point three.  Fifteen minutes later my phone rang again.  With her nowhere in sight, claiming to be at the RP, I asked her to describe her surroundings.  I was easily able to determine her location and meet her. She quickly became aggravated and defensive when I accused her of being lost. That is when I realized our bug out plan had a fatal flaw.  After a quick landmark recognition land navigation class, she led us around the rest of the day.  She still needed a little more advanced help.  Motivating her to learn something she has no interest in is extremely tough.  Lucky for me, I found Geocaching.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, Geocaching is where someone hides a cache (Usually an ammo can) with clues and coordinates on where to find it posted online. Inside the can you typically find a visitors log, and items to trade. A lot of newer GPS units have a feature built in for this from the factory. Some caches are entry level easy, increasing in difficulty to the multi-caches where only one point is published and once you find it, it gives a second location to find another.  During a family camping outing, I introduced it to her. After her first find, she was hooked.  Armed with my GPS, she was off to the next cache and I was playing catch up.  Once she had that mastered, I threw her a curve ball.  After obtaining a topographic map from the park office and making sure my compass was in my pack, her GPS batteries mysteriously went dead.  She had to find the last of her two day trek multi-cache.  After teaching her to plot to paper and correct for magnetic north, she found it easily.  (She actually did much better than most of the guys with whom I went to the Platoon Leader's Development Course (PLDC.) She also learned how difficult it was with a pack on your back and a baby strapped to your front.

Now that she is on the same page, knitting needles as mother's day gifts excite her.  She has started knitting and sewing some items for our boy.  Her ability to re-purpose items amazes me.  She even suggests going to the rifle range for our monthly date instead of dinner and a movie. She is even becoming a little obsessive about accuracy, taking over my reloading press for hours at a time.  Even showing her uncle how to "properly" shoot with a sling.  She is now constantly coming up with new ideas on how to store more stuff and other items we may need in our bug out bags. Her job as a bank teller even has her starting to stack pre-1965 silver.  Face value is the best way to buy! I highly recommend if you have a stubborn wife like I do, take any opportunity that arises to be used as a teaching opportunity. Be creative, and be persistent. Identify areas where they may not have the appropriate skills to carry out your plan, and find a way to get them involved.  I know this sounds cheesy, but you must be able to seize the opportunity.  If you can make it fun, they will learn without them even knowing it.  Some of these would also work great for kids.  With your spouse on board, two minds are better than one.  Wait for your opportunity to show them how awful it could be without prepping and the real reason behind it.  Be ready.  Molon Labe.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Editor’s Note: You have no doubt had your own set of issues dealing with friends and family members that simply don’t see the writing on the wall. The following article may serve to assist you in convincing those who simply don’t know, don’t want to know, don’t care, or have never even thought to contemplate. Some of the scenarios outlined below may be frightening, as they should be, because when it hits the fan millions of people will be thrown into desperation with no hope of a solution. Be Informed provides a variety of point-by-point details that may (and hopefully will) convince the non-prepared individual to at least insulate themselves with the basic necessities. The consequences for not doing so, as you’ll see, are severe and often deadly.

I have become personally so disenchanted with the way people fail to prepare. People still don’t understand how important it is to put away. I have gotten into arguments over this and had cretins call me a fool because I put away food, water, and supplies. I thought about this and the frustration that other preppers have with this laid back idiotic attitude that there is no need for preparation. There are good people that just can’t/won’t start preparing. They have the money to do so, but just don’t want to. Many have only seen what happens to non-preppers on television, but it still doesn’t make an impact.

In this article I detail some hard core realities to show just how awful it will be for those that don’t prep. Every one of these scenarios is something that has occurred to the non-prepper throughout history. While strong images come to mind, the purpose is to jar some people out of their inaction and into action before it is too late.

Preppers are good people and care much about those around them, and unless something does jar those around them that choose not to prep, their own survival chances could be reduced. For every bit of food, water, ammunition, or supplies you sacrifice to the non-prepper, the fewer irreplaceable supplies are left for you and your family in a crisis situation. It is hoped that the following can help certain people put into true perspective just how horrific it will be for those that don’t prepare.

Here are the awful consequences for those refusing to prepare.

As the world continues to decay at multiple facets, the common person has and continues to be lulled into a sense that everything is improving and will continue to for the distant future. After all, to them unemployment has peaked out and will drop until everyone that wants to work will easily be able to find good paying work, North Korea is no threat because all their long range “bottle rockets” fizz out, sanctions will eventually make Iran give up their nuclear program, oil prices will start going down after June or so, Europe will bail out Greece and Spain and everyone else, and U.S. debt will eventually come under control.

After 2012 everyone that has prepared themselves will go back to more “sensible” lives. “Good times are coming”, baseball season is here, let’s get back to watching some more crackerjack news.

It is amazing how people become good conversationalists with most others discussing all the gossip related news, while becoming mentally tranquilized into a totally deceptive state of denial of truly dangerous issues of the times. It’s the blind leading the blind… right off the cliff.

Rather than dealing with harsh reality, people surround themselves with easy to digest material that can be talked about without directly influencing anyone’s lives. Meaningless chatter. Even for those unwilling to even think to prepare for a societal catastrophic event, there is also no desire to even face the extreme possibility of a sudden loss of one’s employment. A personal SHTF.

Look at some of the terrible personal pain experienced in America right now – and it hasn’t even hit the fan on a grand scale. Those people who have lived it up on credit, who failed to put much of anything away for a rainy day, who’ve lost their job, and who eventually lost their unemployment benefits are experiencing the first level of collapse. This is happening to millions of people in our own country, all around us, as we speak.

These Americans, who once enjoyed the luxuries that modern living had to offer, are now at their wits end, with very little hope for a return to their previous lives. They are no longer able to pay most or any of their bills. Many have to humiliatingly turn to others for help to pay for food, or worse, to obtain old, unhealthy and poor tasting food from locally funded food banks. Their credit cards are totally worthless. Many have been evicted from their homes and have uprooted their families to live either on the street, in tent cities, with relatives, or have been forced to live at homeless shelters, They’ve have had their vehicles repossessed, or simply can’t afford the gasoline anymore. Their living conditions often make it difficult, if not impossible, to look presentable for job interviews. For many, the life of stability they knew just a short while ago is gone, replaced with fear and a constant stress to the point of nervous breakdown.

A personal economic meltdown is confined to the individual or family, or at worst a few families. The human civilization remains intact and so do society’s safety nets.

With food assistance, rental assistance, homeless shelters, and family to turn to, even the most destitute are almost always able to find some sort of help – however menial.

It is no wonder with these known assistance programs, then, that people have forgotten or never thought to consider what happens IF and WHEN human civilization goes through a strong enough SHTF event. If that happens on a mass scale what happens to everyone that needs help that has not prepared ahead of time? What happens when governments are in such total disarray or destroyed altogether that they can’t help even if they wanted to?

The media and others have portrayed the good people that sacrifice much if not all “luxuries” of life to prepare themselves and their family and friends for extreme times, as Chicken Littles. Those who have made the choice to store up emergency food, water, and other necessities to avoid extreme life threatening risks, including suffering horribly during and after a widespread SHTF event, are laughed at and ridiculed often for “wasting” their lives on delusional paranoia.

But who is delusional? Those who see the signs around them and understand how vulnerable the system is, or those who believe that things never change, that politicians have their best interests at heart, and that if the worst happens the government will be there to provide everything they may need?

How many have considered the dire consequences of their failure to prepare in the event that the infrastructure and everything a country’s people depend on totally collapses?

The misery from long term unemployment and lack of money is like a walk in the park compared to the severe anguish and dangerous conditions that await those who have failed to prepare for the aftermath of a large scale cataclysm. The “minor” problems of unemployment that seem extremely major and painful to most today should serve as a wake up call to what life will be like when something much, much worse happens – when those proverbial safety nets are no longer there to catch us.

Many preppers have become deeply frustrated at those around them, especially those that truly mean something to them, because they simply refuse to put away anything at all for emergencies. The prepper is usually a person that cares a lot and it is often difficult for them to take a tough stance towards the people that they care about. However, unless someone changes the habits of those people that fail to get ready, decisions will need to be made, and they won’t be easy.

The choice of what the prepared prepper should do will boil down to either either adding these people to their own circle or survival group and reduce the group’s safety, supplies and self sufficiency, OR, they will have to let the non-prepper fend for themselves. This is a very personal choice, and each of us will need to decide based on our own morals, ethics and personal relationships.

As a last ditch effort, discussing the following scenarios with the non-prepper may help them understand what life will be like without what has sustained them so comfortably for so long.

This is the hard reality the non prepper needs to understand:

  • Without power the water company cannot get water to their faucets. Without water dehydration occurs within 24 hours. Dehydration causes much suffering before death.
  • Toilets in homes, unless they have an incineration toilet that still need power to work, don’t flush without water. Where will they go to the bathroom and then where will they dispose of human waste?
  • There will be no clean water available anywhere, especially in major cities, and they cannot live more than about three days without it.
  • Drinking dirty and polluted water will make them incredibly sick and accelerate the dehydration process.
  • Polluted water must be purified and that means having a good filter, bleach or other disinfectant, or fuel and something to bring water near a boil.
  • Understand just how fragile the power and the infrastructure is that pumps water to the public. A breakdown in our power infrastructure or a cyber attack against utility systems will render them useless.
  • A single event can rapidly lead to a cascade of other events that would certainly collapse almost, if not, everything. This is why major snow storms, hurricanes or solar events in the past have affected millions of people in an entire region all at once.
  • A single, seemingly unimportant event may become quite terrible as its repercussions spread; this can include a far and away disaster.
  • Understand that the economies of the world are so interwoven that when one major economy falls it affects everyone.
  • Not having any food in the house means that if the stores are emptied suddenly in a bad enough situation that there will be no food available for a long period of time afterward. Recent history during disasters around the world has shown that stores can literally be emptied in minutes.
  • Think about how totally horrible the feeling of being very hungry is and what circumstances would cause one to be desperate enough to eat anything.
  • ALL stores can be closed instantly under martial law.
  • Understand that you may not be able to purchase anything after it starts, especially with any credit cards.
  • Understand the complexity of food and water distribution; breaks in these chains can stop anything from getting to the people.
  • What life will be like if no toilet paper is stored?
  • Understand that without modern light sources--interior, exterior, and street lighting. Some nights will be pitch black, often with zero visibility. [JWR Adds: Driving conditions will be a lot like England during the WWII Blackout. There, traffic fatalities were higher in some months that than the bombing fatalities.]
  • There will be no communications, other than probably martial law type of instructions over the radio, that is if they have batteries for the radio.
  • Other than ham and shortwave radio, any information that is available will be sent out by the government as filtered propaganda that “they” want everyone to hear.
  • Without power consider what it will be like to not have any heat to stay warm, or air conditioned air to stay cooler – with no way of alleviating the situation.
  • Traveling will likely be by foot or bicycle, as their will be no fuel and roadways may be blocked.
  • Realize that any travel outside of the home or neighborhood will be extremely dangerous as anyone who moves becomes a target
  • Non preppers will be pushed way beyond their limit because of lack of supplies.
  • The non prepper must realize their government does not really care about them individually, that they are a mere number and help will likely not come from them.
  • They have to figure out somewhere to get food. This can mean wild plants which they must know how to identify as safe, or risk poisoning themselves.
  • They have to understand that when we refer to “having no food” it doesn’t mean not having the food they are used to enjoying, it means no food to eat at all.
  • They have to understand that if they are fortunate enough to have any running water, they will probably have to bathe in cold water for lack of stored fuel to heat water.
  • They have to realize that the very strange and totally unexpected is going to be all around them, made that much worse because of lack of any reliable self defense stores or skills.
  • They might have to remain on the run constantly because of looking for water and food.
  • They must understand that bad will be magnified magnitudes to living misery because of lack of food, water, and other necessary items that they took for granted for so long.

Okay, now comes the “truly ugly and unthinkable” life that most, if not all, people that have failed and refused to prepare themselves will deal with. Clear vivid visualization is key here for anyone that ho hums the idea of prepping.

What horrors they will likely face after a cave-in of their nation’s economy, war, geophysical upheaval, or whatever crisis is bad enough to disturb or stop their nation from working and functioning? There are plenty of very potential SHTF events that are simply awaiting a catalyst to trigger them.

  • The Non-Prepper (NP) has to realize right off the bat that 911 and other emergency calls in will be met with silence or some recording telling the caller not to panic.
  • The NP that has no reliable self defense that can stop an attacker, will not get help from public services, and will become a victim of rape, assault, torture, or murder.
  • The NP that has no reliable self defense and will not only be at the mercy of criminal elements, but also have to contend with many desperate animals, some with rabies.
  • The NP that has no food will either have to find food or be ready to beg for food or worse, like sacrificing their bodies or other horrible acts or things to get a bite of food.
  • The NP will have to go through the worst, most rancid conditions of garbage to just maybe find what they should have stored up.
  • The NP will go through panic and near if not total psychosis looking for any water source right before their bodies begin shutting down during advanced stages of dehydration.
  • The NP will go through unbearable mental trauma when their children and other people around them are crying, screaming, and suffering with intense hunger pains in their stomachs.
  • The NP will have to deal with the awful stench of rotting wastes from many sources because they have not taken the effort to even store up waste disposal plastic bags.
  • The NP will have disease and pathogens everywhere, not only because they have no trash disposal means, but because they haven’t prepared how to deal with trash and waste.
  • The NP will have to live in very primitive conditions after things around them deteriorate rapidly, because they have neglected putting away anything to make life more bearable.
  • The NP and those around them will likely develop all sorts of infective skin rashes from the lack of insight of storing up toilet paper. Imagine the smell for a moment.
  • The NP will have to handle biting insects and other vermin that will collect amongst the filth that will pile up. No pest control stored up along with no other supplies.
  • The NP will have no way of treating sickness certain to follow a SHTF event, no first aid and likely no training or knowledge about how to treat the ill on top of this.
  • The NP will have sick and dying people around them because of not being able to treat minor injuries. Didn’t even stock up on disinfectants. Unsanitary conditions lead to infection.
  • The NP and others around them will experience much grief as they watch helplessly as their family members literally die of starvation right in front of their eyes.
  • The NP won’t believe how desperate hunger drives them and those that mean everything to them to “trying” to eat food that taste so bad it gags them and comes back up.
  • The NP will likely have family and friends around them that have also not prepared committing suicide because they can’t take it any longer.
    The NP will witness some of those people around them lose any sense of civilized humanity in them and behave like wild animals after some time from lack of necessities.
  • The NP and family members, maybe friends also, will at some point end up barbecuing or eating raw the family dog, cat, bird, any pet dear to everyone for food.
  • The NP will likely get into physical fights with other family members over any scrap of food available as rational thoughts are lost to wanton hunger.
  • The NPs will eventually go out of any safety of their home looking for food and or water, become disorientated and lost, and die a hard death somewhere.
  • The NP that is “lucky” enough to find some government help will likely have to almost sell their soul, probably all their freedom, to get tiny rations – just enough to keep them alive.
  • The NP will see widespread violence and barbarism that will shock them to the core and will wish that they had purchased some form of firearm and stocked up on ammunition.
  • The NP had better get used to attempting to explain the children and other adults why they wasted all that money on gadgets and trinkets, and didn’t buy any emergency food and other supplies.
  • The NP, no matter how positive they are will drop quickly into depression and lose willpower as having nothing to hold on to does this, along with lack of any nutrition.
  • The NP will feel the worst guilt imaginable as they hear their family moaning in anguish from lack of anything to eat, knowing they could have done something to prepare.
  • The NP will most likely not see the rebuilding and recovery after A SHTF event. They will, like almost all NPs, be statistics. Some will die hours or a day before help arrives.
  • The NP from lack of food, drinking bad water, no light at night, the horrid smells, no good self defense, the overall horror, will often be paralyzed with fear and despair, blank stare.
  • The NP is totally helpless after SHTF, will have to rely totally on charity of those prepared to live. They will take all sorts of desperate measures likely to get them shot. They’ll attempt to eat hazardous foods like an animal trapped in a house will do, and get sick and suffer much before dying. The NP will likely die (ugly and hard) as they lived, unprepared for anything.

If we were to use one single word to describe the torments that someone who “chooses” not to prepare will go through after a true you know what hits the fan it would be “PREVENTABLE”.

Almost every single person, even a very poor person, has the capacity to put away emergency food and supplies. Even homeless people have stashes of something just in case things become so bad that the normal hand outs and thrown-away items dry up. Many people with good sources of income don’t even have an extra can of food or any water put away at all. This is stupidity beyond words.

Every day lightweight disasters happen in all parts of the world that disturb services enough that people are confined to their homes for a certain amount of time. While recovery is short, people are still uncomfortable during these times. Look what happens after a power outage at night and you will be mystified at how many homes are completely dark for hours. People have not even bought an extra couple of candles or any battery operated light sources. Even in well-to-do neighborhoods you may hear only a lone generator going after a blackout. This lack of preparedness is truly frightening and plays itself out again, again, and again every time services are disrupted for minor to major reasons. It’s as if there is something wrong with storing extra food, water, and supplies.

Even after “lessons” played out to what happens to those non-prepared, most people still feel that it just cannot happen to them, or won’t ever happen to them again. It should be proof enough to people what happens to those unprepared after disasters simply by looking at those that have gone through it firsthand. The difference, though, comes in that these disasters have had recovery periods and help from others. Even Haiti received some help and conditions remain putrid over there.

After a true SHTF event, it is presumable that government help and others coming to the aid of those in need WON’T happen for long periods of time. During that time those that have chosen to not put food, water, and necessities away are going to be in life threatening positions. Most people just don’t get that when the supermarket shelves are empty they will stay that way for an extended period. When the utilities go down, especially water, it may be weeks, months, or longer before they come back, if ever. Without what someone needs to survive each day, it is not going to magically appear, and depending on the goodwill of others to feed them and sacrifice their own family’s survival chances is a terrible choice.

People must know what life will be like after SHTF in mega fashion if they refuse to prepare. This is NOT new. Terrible events have plunged people into the deepest levels of desperation and hopelessness, and they will happen again and again.

While the above consequences to the non-prepper are extremely abysmal for anyone to read, the simple fact of the matter is they have already happened time and time again to those that have nothing put away. People have resorted to cannibalism and gone to levels of primitive savage behavior out of shear desperation and out of literally losing their minds to the physical depletion of food and water that keeps the physical body operating. Sometimes showing the extreme severity and results of a person’s lack of action, such as failure of the simple act of putting away extra food, water, and supplies, can be the kick in the complacency that they need.

It’s really easy to put away food and supplies. All one has to do is add a little bit of extra food to the grocery cart for long-term storage. Over time this adds up to a well stocked pantry of supplies.

There is something that is in a can of food that everyone can eat and enjoy the taste of, so talk to family members about their nutritional preferences and start stocking up. Toilet paper and other supplies that really don’t have any expiration date can be put away and forgotten about ’til needed.

There must be common sense and intelligence to see what happens IF they don’t stock up for the future. There has to be the desire to get started, and this is the real problem with so many.

Once started, however, prepping becomes a type of life saving routine or positive lifestyle habit. It is easy and can and will save one from misery. It may save their life and the lives of their family from ruin when SHTF, which is almost inevitably going to happen someday. Every month and year that goes by without a true SHTF event, makes it more likely that it will happen. Basic statistical chance shows this to be the case, but people continue the same pattern of behavior that has led them to the same devastation countless time before.

For those preppers that have people around them that refuse to prepare, you can at least have some degree of solace knowing that you tried to show the non-prepping person(s) what not having anything will mean to them and their families.

All we can do is try. Once we’ve given it our best shot, all we can do is let those who have been warned about the direness of the possibilities live their lives the way that want to. They will, unfortunately, live in a world of regret and suffering if the nation and the world falls apart around them.

To every action there is an opposite equal reaction. Preppers will see their efforts have been more than worth it. Objects that are motionless tend to remain motionless and non-preppers will find there are horrific consequences for their lack of effort and motion to put away “life insurance” preps for themselves and their families.

Note: Reposted, with permission. This article first appeared in the SHTFPlan blog.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Along with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, leading conservative radio host Mark Levin reaches tens of millions of listeners weekly, and what he talked about recently on his nationally syndicated show has sent shivers down the spines of many of them.

A few years ago this was fringe theory, restricted only to the sphere of alternative (conspiracy) news.

Warnings of a massive economic collapse, government stockpiling of weaponry, and the idea that Americans could be broadly classified as terrorists and then detained indefinitely or killed often fell upon deaf ears.

Today, as more information ‘leaks’ into the mainstream, it is no longer just conspiracy theory. We now have some of the most influential journalists and commentators in the country alerting Americans to the possibility that everything the government has been preparing for the last several years may soon be realized.

I’m going to tell you what I think is going on.

I don’t think domestic insurrection. Law enforcement and national security agencies, they play out multiple scenarios. They simulate multiple scenarios.

I’ll tell you what I think they’re simulating.

The collapse of our financial system, the collapse of our society and the potential for widespread violence, looting, killing in the streets, because that’s what happens when an economy collapses.

I’m not talking about a recession. I’m talking about a collapse, when people are desperate, when they can’t get food or clothing, when they have no way of going from place to place, when they can’t protect themselves.

There aren’t enough police officers on the face of the earth to adequately handle a situation like that.

I suspect, that just in case our fiscal situation collapses, our monetary situation collapses, and following it the civil society collapses – that is the rule of law – that they want to be prepared.

There is no other explanation for this.

Sourced via Red Flag News

See the Mark Levin video clip HERE.

The Pentagon and military have been war-gaming large-scale economic collapse and civil unrest for nearly four years. Those within our government who understand the ramifications a massive breakdown in our systems of commerce, transportation and justice are preparing by stockpiling weapons and ammo, tens of millions of food rations, and even emergency shelters. They are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on continuity of government programs and exercises, preparing for what they know is coming.

Now why would the government be doing this if there wasn’t a reasonable chance that such events could come to pass?

We’ve urged our readers to prepare a well thought out contingency plan for the very scenarios our government is spending your hard earned tax dollars on.

So you’d better have your own reserves. For those who fail to prepare, it will be horrific. - Mac Slavo,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do you plan to walk to your retreat?  Then read this first.

For those who like me, are nearing or over 50 years old and out of shape after years of working a desk and who think that walking or biking to a retreat is an option for them, let me tell you about the last 27 weeks and the 850 miles I've covered by walking and biking. In doing so I'm hoping that I can convince you to start now rather then waiting for a situation that forces you to do so. After all, if my retreat were 260 miles from where I live, could I, or you for that matter, really afford to take the 10 weeks to get there that it took me to cover that distance when I first started? That's how long it took me to walk 260 miles and now that I've walked 200 more I can tell you that even in my current shape to walk 260 miles would take me a long and grueling time!

First let me say that I'm not a 'doomsday' prepper and I don't believe that a catastrophic economic collapse will end the world as we know it tomorrow. On the other hand I've seen human nature at its worst (war) and have studied enough history to know that things could go south in a big hurry if the right things occurred and we do seem to be living in a time in which a lot of those 'right things' are lining up to present the best possibility or “things going bad in a hurry” actually happening. I believe, however, that it will occur sometime in the future because, if one studies history, it always does.

I'm a 47 year old Marine who's allowed himself to ride a desk for far too long without exercising. This means that my formerly 'lean and green' 190 pound self managed to add 90 pounds of not-so-lean body weight. My blood pressure was high and I was diagnosed with Hypertension. While I ate well, so I thought, by avoiding processed foods as much as I could (I thought) I never really examined my food intake with a critical eye and as a consequence I added weight in the form of fat and raised my blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

My blood pressure was managed with drugs (a diuretic and Lisinopril) and because of that I didn't worry so much about it. My blood-work was excellent with cholesterol numbers that made the doc jealous but once in a while he'd frown at my blood glucose level which was bumping up against 100 – so not diabetic yet but starting to be something to watch.

I was out of shape, down right fat with high blood pressure unless I took drugs that might not always be available and I was fighting dehydration and a myriad of issues as a result of taking a diuretic and not eating as well as I thought. Something had to change.

After a few attempts to lose weight by dieting and a few 'starts' at walking I finally committed and began walking in earnest. Since I'd started and stopped a few times it was easier this time, but let me tell you, the first time I tried walking a mile was killer! This coming from a marine who once marched 32 miles in under 8 hours carrying a heck of a lot of gear! However, this time I wasn't so bad off and walked two miles with relative ease – if you call having shin splints relative ease anyway.  That first week I clocked 8 miles in 4 walks and I was convinced I could do 'this'. The next I was walking 4 miles per outing and put in 26 miles followed by 27. I was well on my way and felt I could easily attain 100 miles a month which was my goal at the time.

Christmas saw me take a week off but when I returned I stepped up and hit the road for an additional 23 miles and began to examine the foods I ate. I was determined to lose weight and get back into shape and while I'd done a lot of walking (now over 85 miles) I'd only lost about 5 pounds and my legs were killing me. I wanted off the blood pressure drugs and I wanted to get back in shape and lose all the weight.

I watched some movies that inspired me like 'Fat sick and nearly dead', 'Forks over knives' and 'Hungry for change' and through those and help from others I decided to really make some changes. I swapped my two eggs, cheese, toast and butter breakfast for cooked wheat and oatmeal with a little honey or agave for flavoring, I changed my lunches which were usually meat and cheese sandwiches or Ramen noodles packed with meat and cheese (I need the sodium so I thought) to rice with a little flavoring. I cut out meat and dairy from my first two meals with the exception of cream in my coffee (1 cup a day habit).

At first I gained a few pounds back which I attribute to my diet being different but I began to get used to the new foods and actually enjoyed them. It was more filling to eat the grains then I thought and I had plenty of energy for my walks. However, by now my legs were constantly sore and I began to realize that I needed more protein during the day so I added a protein shake between meals (twice daily) which seemed to cure that problem. I left my dinners alone mostly which gave me an incentive to eat well throughout the day because, after all, I could eat whatever I wanted for dinner. Doing this saw my daily caloric intake drop from around 2,800 calories a day to about 2,100 and I knew it would make a difference.

With my legs feeling better and my diet making a difference I stepped off for longer walks with more confidence. I was often walking 7 miles and clocked 25 miles the first week on my new diet and then 40 miles! I also stopped my blood pressure drugs and found my numbers were nearly normal! Frankly, that shocked me. How could this be? After all, I was told I'd probably have to take them for life so how could the doc be so wrong?

Before trying to tackle that last question, however, a new problem arose: my left foot began to really hurt. I'd done a 7 mile walk and then a 3 mile walk in the same day to reach my goal of 40 miles in a week and hadn't stopped or slowed down when I felt pain in my left foot. Perhaps it was the old marine in me loving the march again and feeling better, however it was clear I'd made a mistake the next day. My foot hurt.

I began to research the pain I had and realized that I'd given myself 'Planter Faciitus' which is tearing of the planter tendon on the bottom of the foot. The most likely cause of which was my lack of stretching! All this time I'd been telling myself that walking is what people do, it's not like it's running or something and there is not need to stretch when you walk. I was so wrong!

I also learned that my old runners (unused for most of their ten years) weren't what I needed and I learned about 'motion control' shoes and how they help with the problem I was experiencing. Off I went to the local shoe stores in search of a decent pair of runners to wear on my walks and I managed to find a good pair of gel control / motion control Asics that really helped. I was glad to be able to get back to walking and wasted no time (like a dumb old Jarhead) in getting back on the road. I clocked in another 25 miles before realizing that I was overdoing it and took my old mountain bike in for repairs because I knew I'd need to ride it if I wanted to continue my regimen of daily, or almost daily, cardio.

By this time I'd walked over 175 miles and while my left foot hurt I'd learned to stretch. My shins no longer bothered me, my thighs were no longer sore all the time and my blood pressure was nearly normal still. I'd also lost some weight and was down a total of 13 pounds off my heaviest. I was motivated but also realizing that no one my age or older who wasn't already in shape, was going to 'walk' out any great distances. After all, I was trying to walk in the best of conditions and I was having to learn a lot of things and relearn things I'd long forgotten or ignored. Consider that after each walk I could take a shower, I could eat and drink well and I could relax on a couch if need be. My evenings were spent in a comfortable bed and a nice home that was secure and warm and I had plenty of resources to pull from should I need supplements, shoes, Motrin or whatever. It wasn't as if I was walking through the hinterland on my own carrying a pack with no grid to log into and no Right Aid around the corner to purchase painkillers from. I wasn't sleeping on rocks and filtering my drinking water from a stinking mosquito infested pool and yet all I had managed in 6 weeks was 175 miles and to show for it I had a bad tendon in my left foot.

Clearly I need to change some things and clearly the idea of walking to a retreat could only really be done by the likes of me if the retreat was very close – which means too close to be of use.

I got my bike back from the shop and promptly rode it a mile – and nearly died! Forty minutes later I road it 4 miles and while my pulse was a bit higher then I'd like it wasn't that high. I could do this!

Over the course of the next four rides each getting longer and between riding I walked, albeit shorter distances and often slower paces since I was still dealing with a sore foot (that was healing thanks to the riding and a lot of stretching). My knees would get sore, my legs would complain but overall I was getting use to riding again and the following week I completed a 9 and finally a 10 mile ride. I was getting there and my pulse rate was much lower after those rides then on that first day. I also walked but a lot less and while my tendon had mostly healed it was something I had to constantly pay attention to.

In ten weeks I had completed 205 miles of walking and 55 miles of riding in ten weeks and lost about 16 pounds (20 off my heaviest). My blood pressure was 'ok' and while not below 120/80 in the morning it was often right there or only slightly higher (sometimes it's actually lower but not that often yet). Another 17 weeks followed with an additional 580 miles traveled and my weight is down 45 pounds, I can walk 4 miles per hour for 3 hours with few breaks (I walked in a 'Relay for Life' for 3 hours) and can cycle 13+ miles without killing myself. I believe at this point that I could walk, if I had to, 10 miles per day without much issue if I had to and had to carry a pack etc. To push to 20 miles a day would require a lot more work on my part but at least at this point I'm certain I could make a 260 mile hike inside a month providing there weren't any unforeseen circumstances. If I could ride, I'm certain I could ride 260 miles in 10 days or less though admittedly I'd be very saddle sore! Please bear in mind that this is after over 6 months of constantly walking and riding and eating right. I'm healthier today then I was 6 months ago and still off my blood pressure meds (my BP this morning was 121/79) and while I still ride a desk I work very hard to not allow it to debilitate me like I had previously.

The moral of the story here folks is that if you're out of shape like I was and you expect to be able to walk to a retreat further then a few miles, then you better get cracking and start walking now! Change your lifestyle, diet and routines and get in shape today because it will take months (no get fit quick scheme will work) and a commitment as great as any you've done so far.

I'm continuing on my quest to lose the weight and get back into shape but wanted to take a moment to recap for you some things that I think are important if you, like me, think you could 'walk out' if things head south in a hurry.

1. If you are not walking now then don't assume that you can later. Chances are you will injure yourself and quite possibly end up stranded somewhere you do not want to be stranded.
2. Your body simply cannot take the punishment if you are overweight and out of shape so do something about it now and get back into shape, lose the weight and strengthen your body.
3. You cannot carry all that you need so consider carefully what you think you will or can carry bearing in mind that the added weight of carrying a pack is added weight (ten times) on impact to your feet and knees.
4. You will likely suffer injuries to the planter tendon, Achilles heal and the knees as well as shin splints and other possibilities. Prepare for he worst and hope for the best.
5. You must consider pacing yourself which may mean only walking 2 to 5 miles every other day at the start and only slowly getting to a daily distance of 4 to 8 miles an only if you're at least well enough prepared that you have good shoes/boots that won't cause injury themselves.
6. You will need rest, lots of it, so if you really plan to walk out without at first getting back into shape then you will need a good sleeping mat and a lot of luck in finding comfortable places to rest.
7. There is more to prepping then just buying lots of stuff; physical fitness and personal health are as important, if not more important, then a lot of what you might be spending a lot of time and money on. Having a great retreat won't help you if you can't get there.
8. It is often said that you should store what you eat and eat what you store, but do you? How many have the required amount of wheat per person but don't know what to do with it? Have you sprouted wheat? Cooked it? Milled it into flour for bread? If you store it, eat it! Best way to do that is to start incorporating wheat, oats, rice (black, brown, wild more so then white but white is OK when added to the others), quinoa, farrow and others into your diet now. Try cooked wheat for breakfast and mixed rices and quinoa for dinner. It will be good for you and get you used to eating your storage foods.
9. If you store beans, then eat them! Many store beans but don't eat them so don't produce enough of the enzymes needed to digest them (hence the bloated gassy uncomfortable feeling when you suddenly do eat them).
10. Cut out processed foods, they are bad for you! Even store bought milk is processed and while it may be nearly impossible to replace it at least know that it isn't as good for you as the advertisements say. It's processed and that means 'damaged'. Raw milk contains enzymes and bacteria like 'probiotics' that today's modern American's buy expensive yogurts to get, ever wondered why that is? But I digress, I'm not saying 'go raw' I'm just saying pay attention to what you stuff into yourself on a daily basis and try to start eating right – something most of us have forgotten how to do.
11. Start making things you think you might have to make, or want to, at your retreat. Make cheese (you'll learn all about store bought milk then, I assure you), butter (you'll need good cream for that), soap, flour, sourdough bread etc. Everything you make will taste better then what you buy anyway and you will know what went into it. Just remember that you also have to be fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle so don't go eating cheese for three meals a day!
12. Seriously consider what you think you can do or might have to do and then test yourself. If you believe you can 'ruck up' and march off to a retreat that's 200 miles away hidden deep in the woods then ruck up today and take a nice long walk, chances are that if you're like me and no longer that young and lean fighting machine then you'll learn real quick that you need to make some changes. Make them today and survive tomorrow, make them tomorrow and you won't survive.

I know that's not a complete list but I'm hopeful that those of you reading it might take it to heart and get doing something. Just be sure to get good shoes to start off, to stretch lightly during and after each walk (calve stretches will help a ton!) and to research your diet now and make the appropriate changes to it so that you can both have the energy to keep at it, to keep walking or riding, and the nutrients to heal the muscle you will be tearing down and rebuilding.

Here is a sample of my daily diet for those interested:

1. First thing in the morning I drink a 12 oz glass of water (something that I never would have done before).
2. 1 cup of coffee with about 1 TBS cream and a half TBS of Agave sweetener
3. Breakfast: ½ cup of oatmeal mixed with ¼ cup of cooked wheat or bran and 1 scoop of Chia seeds sweetened with Agave nectar and cinnamon.
4. Snack: 1 8oz protein shake (140 calories, 27 grams of protein) made with water not milk.
5. Lunch: 1 1/2 cups of mixed rice with some flavoring (Mrs. Dash no salt seasoning and olive oil)
6. Snack: 1 8oz protein shake (140 calories, 27 grams of protein) made with water not milk.
7. Snack: on particularly hungry days I have ¼ cup of mixed nuts for a snack in the afternoon.
8. Dinner: Whatever I want but preceded by a large salad (fills my dinner plate) with a small portion of salad dressing (I used to pour on the Blue Cheese dressing but today use a 50-80 calorie dressing that I measure out to be sure I don't pour it on). I try to keep my dinners to about 500 calories except on days I burn a lot more doing cardio.

My current daily caloric intake is about 1,450 calories unless I do cardio which can increase the intake to about 2,100 calories (these are the days I take the protein shakes or eat protein bars).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I became aware of the need for prepping too late to have the advantages associated with youth.  Seniors are already dealing with issues of declining physical prowess, declining health and a growing sense of mortality.  To add prepping to the list of concerns seemed more than a bit overwhelming but given the realities of our day, prepping slowly became an unavoidable necessity as I began to understand that the economic path on which our nation is traveling is clearly becoming unsustainable and is getting worse, not better.

There was also the additional concern - shared by preppers of any age - of convincing my dear wife that my fears were well-founded and that prepping was seriously necessary if we were to have a chance to survive TEOTWAWKI.  So the first challenge to overcome when contemplating prepping as a senior is the same challenge as for younger preppers:  Becoming convinced that there is serious trouble ahead that will likely destroy the support systems on which we have all become far too dependent. 

For me, that reality began to come home to me as I watched the unfolding of the current administration's agenda to abandon private enterprise as an economic model and move toward a more socialistic, European model.  It still puzzles me that we can easily observe the disintegration of the economic well-being of European nations on our evening new broadcasts, and then decide to emulate them ourselves.  Human nature is a strange thing!  Regardless of the reasons, it became clear to me that there is no will to rectify the situation in Washington and that we are rushing pell-mell toward some sort of inevitable financial Armageddon.  Therefore, the only reasonable path for me was to begin prepping in earnest despite my age of 66 years.

At first my wife was not open to the idea of prepping at all.  Women don't like their "nesting" instincts messed with and to assert that all that we have come to depend on (Social Security, pensions, health care systems, investments, and the like), might well come to an end in the reasonably near future, was and is very difficult for her to deal with.  It was understandable.  So, my initial efforts at raising her awareness consisted of providing a running commentary on the evening news.  As things in Europe began to deteriorate into economic chaos, I would just point out that if we think that we are immune to such things here, we'd better think again!  Then, when President Obama was re-elected for his second term, I turned to my wife and said, "Honey, I'm sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but now we really do need to get serious about our prepping."  The economic mess that has been created was not going to be addressed by the Obama administration.

Reading was essential to my preparation for prepping.  The first book that influenced me was 77 Days in September, by Ray Gorham.  This was a tale of a man on a business trip to Houston whose plane crashed on take off due to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States.  It chronicled his trip walking home to northwest Montana, and was a primer to cultural breakdown.  Additionally, I read James Wesley Rawles, Patriots, which served as a wealth of resources for prepping and was a whopping good story.  I couldn't get my wife to read either one because they were both just too scary, but they helped me get prepping into focus for my family and I.

Another influence in raising my awareness was information from a friend of mine who subscribes to Richard Maybury's Early Warning Report.  Mr. Maybury is a combination historian and economist whose writings are both eloquent and pointed respecting how history intersects with economics and whose writings were often the stuff of Ron Paul campaign speeches on the topics.  The subscription to Maybury's publication is a bit pricey, but worth the investment.

My wife was still not really on board (the contemplation of economic chaos was just too unpleasant to deal with for her), so I determined that I would begin prepping on my own simply because it is my responsibility to provide for my wife, (our daughter is grown and gone), whether or not she approved of my efforts and would willingly suffer whatever consequences may come from that.

As retired senior citizens, there are things to be considered in prepping that younger people don't need to consider to the same degree.  Living in the wilderness at a remote retreat simply isn't as realistic an option for seniors no matter how tempting that choice may be.  Health care needs especially come into play and the effort it takes for relocation to such locales is almost beyond our emotional and physical abilities.  This was particularly complicated for us because after 40 years of married life, we had finally retired and moved to our retirement home in northern Colorado, near Fort Collins.  We had often joked that the next box out of our house had better have one of us in it!  So for us (and I believe for most senior citizens), prepping is a "bug in" proposition. 

We have some things going for us in our location.  We live in a small town of about 3,000 people.  It is mostly a bedroom community for Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley, Colorado.  Additionally, we are not next to I-25 but about several miles east of that major thoroughfare.  We are about an hour north of Denver which is a cause for some concern, but are hopeful that most desperate refugees would turn west from I-25 toward Fort Collins rather than east toward the open prairies.  Our community is likely small enough to get organized, but I don't see that happening until the proverbial stuff hits the fan and they are forced to do so. 

The problem with a bedroom community is that it doesn't really see itself as a community to any great degree so it will be necessary to try to identify some like-minded folks prior to the collapse to form a cadre of leadership with which to offer our community some guidance whenever things "go south".  It will be a difficult place to defend as we sit out on the prairie with the usual mile section grids that come with that.  Additionally, while some natural water sources are present, most are connected to irrigation canals, reservoirs, and the like, while the municipal water supply is connected to a water tower which requires electricity to pump water into it.  Water is always a big issue when you live in the rain shadow of the Rockies.  Therefore, I have begun to store water in larger quantities in house and garage.

With respect to food preparation, I have convinced my wife that having a year's supply of food is just a practical thing to do if there is any chance that things could get rough - the Social Security and pension checks could stop coming, and the panic following an economic collapse might quickly empty the grocery store shelves.  So I opted for a two-pronged approach.  First, there was the purchase of some long-term foods that stored essentially longer than I am likely to stay alive.  Here I examined the "Mormon Four":  wheat, honey/sugar, dry milk, and salt.  These were basic staples that may not be all that tasty, would keep us alive and I wouldn't need to worry about expiration dates except for the dry milk.  There are some local grain elevators near us who sell wheat in bulk, but the grain has not been thoroughly cleaned and my wife wasn't very excited about that.  So the best source I could find for nice, clean wheat for the price was at  I am not a Mormon, but I do recognize that these folks likely know more about food storage than just about anyone out there.  So 600 lbs. of wheat was ordered (hard red, and hard white) and stored away for safekeeping.  Likewise, a hand grain mill was ordered.  It will give you a workout, but it nicely converts wheat to useable flour.  I purchased a Wonder Mill Jr., grain mill from, and it works just fine.  Additionally, quantities of salt, sugar/honey, and dry milk were purchased and stored in the usual white buckets, but since my wife can't open the usual plastic lids on the buckets, I opted for splurging on some gamma lids that seal nicely, but unscrew for easy access.  Arthritis takes it toll!

The second prong of my food preps involved the purchasing of food items from Sam's Club, and the local grocery stores with emphasis being given to acquiring a year's supply of such goods and using them on a first purchased, first eaten rotational basis.  We built some storage closets in our basement, installed shelving, and stocked them full of goods paying attention, whenever possible, to finding items with extended expiration dates.  We have also planted three raised gardens in our back yard to produce as much produce on our own as we can and have purchased long-term, heritage seeds to keep for the future.

The next real life senior concern to be addressed was prescription drugs.  Both my wife and I are on cholesterol statin drugs, and blood pressure medication as are nearly every elderly couple I know.  What to do about that?  Here I want to carefully evaluate how seriously we need these medications and seek to acquire a surplus of them.  If possible I hope to convince my doctor to prescribe a years supply of these medications.  If he refuses, then it is my plan to see how much of the medications I can take and still not see a significant jump in either my cholesterol "score" or my blood pressure.  Perhaps I can take the meds every other day or every third day instead of daily and save the rest.  Failing to succeed in those efforts means that when things get serious and no further prescriptions can be obtained, then I will take whatever prescription medications I have and cut them in half.  Then I will take half of those cut in half, and cut them in half again.  The object is to wean myself off of them gradually rather than take them as prescribed and then stop cold turkey.  Blood pressure medications and cholesterol drugs are preventative meds, thus, it simply may become necessary to let things play out as they will if they become unavailable. 

In addition to medications, the elderly need to consider establishing a circle of friends and/or family who live in close proximity.  Eventually, us old folks get so old that we just can't get things done on our own.  I've walked through these things with my own parents so I know what I am speaking about first hand.  Aging is simply one of the most challenging aspects of life and there is no such thing as the "Golden Years".  Death does not scare me nor does it frighten my wife.  We are Christian people (I am a retired Lutheran pastor), and we know exactly where we are headed when we die and frankly can't wait to make the trip!  What doesn't excite us is the process of dying.  If we end up in a situation in which the usual artificial supports (medications, hospitals, doctors, and such) are not available, we know that we will die sooner rather than later.  If that is the case, then so be it!  The cadre of family and/or friends near by is simply what people have always done in the past to care for those who can't care for themselves until they go home to be with the Lord.

Older people are not just a drag on others, however.  We have an array of skills, knowledge, and understanding of an age when electronics didn't even exist, when we burned our own trash in the back yard, and by and large took care of ourselves and others without the government having much to say about it.  Those are precisely the skills that communities that are cooperating in surviving need to know.  Additionally, there is a difference between being older and being decrepit.  I am old, not decrepit.  I can work a full day, shoot straight, and think clearly.  Until the day comes when such things are no longer possible for me, then I can be a productive member of any survival community. 

With preppers of every age, however, I hope and pray daily that all of this preparation isn't needed.  However, I will continue to be ready just in case it is.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I started my weight-loss/lifestyle change journey four months ago.  I found myself unable to sprint a flight of stairs without feeling lightheaded at the top.  My older, but thinner lunchtime walking partners didn’t appear to have this issue.  I have been reading about the need to get into shape should a SHTF scenario happen in the near future.  This convinced me that I need to make a healthy lifestyle change including weight-loss and more physical activity.

As I started this endeavor, I wondered if the food preparations I stored would work with my new eating habits.  You’ve probably heard the motto “store what you eat, eat what you store”.
My prepping began a few years ago.  I learned canning from my mother and I took up dehydrating just recently.  I’ve been to the local LDS cannery twice and have loaded up on pantry items.  We also bought a few MREs for meal variety.  This was all before my decision to change the way I eat.

I joined Weight Watchers (WW) to help guide me on my weight-loss quest.  (I don’t work for WW, nor make any money from writing this article.  There are probably other great weight-loss programs out there.  This happened to be the program I chose.)

I knew that whatever program I followed, it would have to work with my food storage items.  I don’t typically buy the frozen pre-measured meals that WW or other companies sell.  After SHTF, these won’t be available anyway, so I need to learn to eat what I have.  My ultimate goal is to lose weight while rotating our food storage.
Here is what I found so far:

WW recommends eating fruits and vegetables over processed food.  Canning supports this since a wide range of fruits, vegetables, soups and stews can be stored and rotated easily.  You know exactly what goes into these foods.  Perfect are tomatoes, string beans, broth soups, pickles, and salsas for a few.  Canned corn, potatoes and beans add a few “points” (the WW food measurement system), but these foods make you feel fuller and are most times worth the trade-off in points.  Fruits like apples and peaches are another great choice too, but I’m careful to use the lightest syrup when canning.  Jams and jellies are high in sugar so I use these sparingly.
If you’ve ever participated in WW or lived with someone who has, you’ve heard of low-point/zero-point soup.  This soup is a life saver for someone who is running out of the weekly point allowance and wants a filling meal.  I make the soup different each time, but I start out with vegetable broth and then throw in handfuls of different veggies I have dried.  This could include string beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, celery, zucchini, etc.  Add a small amount of basil and oregano.  For protein, add some dehydrated salad shrimp.  I make this about every other week (yes, I frequently am running out of WW points!) and I cook it in my sun oven so I don’t have to heat up the house.  Simmer until the veggies are re-hydrated.   An extremely easy meal to make and it is satisfying. 
Fruits can be a little bit different when dehydrated.  Zero point bananas and grapes suddenly become snacks with points attached to them when turned into dried bananas and raisins.  This is because the sugars in the fruits change when heated.
LDS Cannery Items:
We bought 25 pound bags of wheat, oats, beans and rice.  What am I to do with all of this?  Another of the WW guidelines is to add fiber, whole grains and legumes to your daily intake.  I ground some of the whole wheat and made wonderful wheat bread in the sun oven.  Instant oats are a low-point alternative for a quick breakfast, while the rolled variety is great in recipes such as muffins.  Beans are a protein filled low-point legume that can be used in a wide range of dishes.   White rice, on the other hand, is a bit challenging for me to use and this lags in our rotation.  Rice has a similar amount of WW points as pasta, which for me is pretty high.  You have to decide if the benefit of eating rice outweighs the point value.  There might be some alternate food you might want to eat instead (spaghetti squash, for example is zero points and can be used as a bed for whatever you might top rice.  Spaghetti squash will probably not be available after the SHTF so I'll keep my rice on hand).
I don’t typically eat the MRE meals until near their expiration date.   An average MRE meal contains  1,100 to 1,300 calories.  While I haven’t figured out the WW point values, I’m sure that one MRE meal with all its extras would keep me sated for a full day.  For example a fruit bar I pulled out of an MRE recently measured at 4 WW points (equal to a reasonable breakfast), and a large cracker with jelly equals 6 WW points (equal to a reasonable lunch).  So there would be an easy way to split up the meal need be, although a nutritionist would probably balk at the quality of what is being ingested.  Of course, with the stress of a SHTF situation, I’d probably eat the whole MRE meal and extras in one sitting.  J 
In conclusion, I have discovered that my food preps do support a healthy change in lifestyle.  While I still have a ways to go to make my weight and physical activity goals, I am well on my way.  With portion control, I am able to balance both my weight loss goal and rotation of my food preps. - Wendy Q.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I would like to point out to everyone that even though the Better Than Bouillon labels say "NO ADDED MSG" it does still contain some MSG. Those of us who are made very ill by MSG have learned to triple check all listed ingredients. Here is a quote from Food Renegade that explains this better than I can:

"Hydrolyzed soy protein is an ingredient that always contains MSG! (source) Because the manufacturer didn’t add an ingredient called “mono-sodium glutamate,” they can “truthfully” claim “No MSG added” on their label. Yet, nothing is stopping them from adding ingredients that contain MSG. In that case, the manufacturer only has to list the name of the actual ingredient added, not the ingredients within those ingredients.

Because of this little-known fact, another ingredient on this label should give us pause: flavoring. MSG often hides in “flavoring,” “natural flavoring,” or “spices.” (source) Furthermore, the process used to create the dried whey produces : MSG!" 

Thank you, - Ginger

JWR Replies: Thanks for making that correction. OBTW back in 2005, I posted a useful list of pseudonyms for MSG, in a SurvivalBlog article titled: MSG, By Any Other Name

Monday, June 10, 2013


Hi Jim, 
I was in Costco yesterday and noticed that they now stock chicken and beef bouillon that has no MSG. Some people try to avoid MSG because it gives them headaches. I like to avoid it for health reasons, since it's been shown that MSG is an excitotoxin--a nasty chemical that may cause humans to develop brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. No thanks!

The Bouillon in question is sold under the "Better Than Bouillon" brand, and I think bullion will store very well for at least five years, making it a great addition to our food storage pantries.  

Best to you, - Sarah S.

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning that. Stocking up on storage food anther items for your family's survival stockpile at stores like Costco and Sam's Club is described in "Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course." The course is continuing to sell briskly, since it is now priced at less that $20. As I've mentioned before, you'll get immediate delivery, via digital download.

The writer of the "Free Food" article wrote that she had not found a good way to preserve avocados and in the next paragraph wrote that she had not had success dehydrating citrus fruit. If that citrus fruit is lemon or lime, it is part of the answer as to what to do with those avocados!

I ordered a box of avocados prior to having a large gathering of friends and family for a long weekend. A personal tragedy prompted several of my guacamole eating guests to depart days early, so I had to think fast as to what to do with a dozen large ripe avocados and even more limes. I decided to mash the avocados and juice the limes, mix them together, put into my vacuum sealer bags, vacuum seal and freeze in serving sizes that will be eaten in a day. It has been a breeze to thaw it, add my spices and peppers and eat as guacamole as well as just thawing it and eating it as a side with Mexican food, salads, eggs, etc. The color is a beautiful bright green, probably because it's frozen with the juice and vacuum sealed.

Thanks for letting me add a little something to the contributor's letter. - Sidetrack Susie

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A couple friends and I recently talked about the state of ‘things’, and how ‘things’ seem to be getting worse, and how ‘things’ are so bad that ‘things’ simply cannot get better. You’ve had those conversations, right? My friend David is well aware of the sorry state of our political system, and we’ve discussed those ‘things’ several times in the past. However, he was not thinking in terms of societal collapse. David started thinking along those lines pretty quickly, once I pointed out some weaknesses of our system, like the fact that our power utilities are not adding capacity, but reducing capacity, all at the behest of our environmental protectors at the EPA. We’ve had some bad weather in this area over the last year, and the power outages heightened his concern.
My other friend, Steve, was already thinking preparedness, and related some stories about how he buys his grown kids long term storage food for Christmas! (“What? No socks this year?”) Steve has his ear to the financial side of the equation and is quite concerned about the deficit spending and national debt.
Both my friends are also seeing clearly the moral decay of our country, and realize that the fruit of that decay will only be destruction. Needless to say, like you and me, they are looking to prepare and protect their families in whatever eventualities arise.
Then I mentioned my notion of starting a prepper store, a retail outlet that would serve our region by selling preparedness supplies and offering classes. So we started talking that over, having several meetings over the next months. We identified a location for the store, our target market, how we wanted to help our customers, and how we would compete in an marketplace flooded with cheap Chinese goods. We are now open for business!
We’ve come up with some good ideas, one of them being offering classes on preparedness elements. Our initial class drew dozens of people and gave us some initial encouragement that there is a potential place for local preparedness supply outlets. We notice that the attendees at our classes are fully engaged, whether beginning or advanced preppers. After the formal part of each class ends, the folks hang out for sometimes an hour, chatting, networking, and sharing ideas. This was a bit of a surprise to me because I thought that all preppers were very private, OPSEC obsessed individuals who would only reveal their first names.
In our classes, we find a discussion format works well because everyone attending is working on some piece of the preparedness puzzle. Even between two experts in one area, each learns from the other. It’s pretty cool to see two ‘experts’ taking notes during a class he or she is teaching!
In the process of opening this prepper store, David, Steve and I have been so encouraged. Before, we were thinking that there were only a few other people thinking preparedness. But now we realize that there are many, many people thinking and starting to live this way, just in our area. Our ‘destination’ for preparedness is helping folks to focus and get more serious about prepping for the gigantic disaster that our government is bringing down on our heads.
Something else is interesting… In our meetings, we have little or no discussion of politics, religion, morality, or the decline of society and impending doom. Very little. It’s as if ordinary people are getting beyond that and concentrating on the important matters of surviving and thriving. We all know that the sun came up today, the grass is growing, and the government is wasting 8 billion dollars a day, 46% of which is borrowed! That’s just a matter of course in our discussions, and we don’t waste time on it.
We are instead focusing on community building. David, Steve and I came to the conclusion early on that if only 10% of us are prepared in our rural county that we all will still suffer greatly. Now it’s difficult to convince a liberal that his thinking is destroying America, but there are many conservative people in my area who already have awakened. It’s not hard to get them thinking about prepping. If we can raise that 10% to 20% or 30%, then we are making progress. Not all of us can move to the Redoubt, and if we all did JWR would likely move back east!
Community building is the process of restoring the community atmosphere and benefits that we had in America 100 years ago. In every community there was a storekeeper, cobbler, carpenter, brick mason, etc., and these people were interdependent. They were not co-dependent, with all the negative connotations that brings today, but they were more inter-independent. Our communities today consist of individuals or families who shop at the same supermarket, but never speak. A neighbor of mine was out of work for a year, and I did not know it! We shop at the same supermarket, but never talk, and that’s not enough to support a community.
When I watch people chatting at the end of our classes, I see community building in action. “Oh! You know about solar power? I was thinking about putting in a small system. Can you tell me about what you’ve done?” That’s what we need in our community -- people sharing their expertise and friendship toward a common, meaningful goal, something more than watching the Super Bowl or American Idol.
The classes we teach are sometimes involved, and comprise topics such as radio communication, canning, food packing, medical, etc. The people who attend generally have a career and are experts at what they do, though not at what we are teaching. It is heartening to see a 60 year old grandmother hitting the books to learn about radio antennas, or a 20 year old learning about safe and proper canning. I’m getting a boost just from being around these people, and I’m finding others who have skills I lack, so I’m building my community network at the same time.
How do you build community to ensure you not only survive, but thrive? You have to take a bit of an OPSEC risk and talk to people about preparedness. In our area, we’ve had some bad weather, as I mentioned. That’s a good place to start. As I was putting up flyers at a convenience store for one of our classes, some guy standing there told me that a week long power outage was not the worst of it, but that they had a two week "boil water" requirement from the local utility after the power came back on. That was the perfect entrée for me to note the wisdom of having water and food stored for emergency use. Get them thinking with comments like, “Makes me wonder what we would have done if the power had been off for a month!”
Without taking politics or the accursed Federal Reserve, you can start a conversation with a fellow prepper. Recommend a product to them like freeze dried food that was ‘unexpectedly tasty,’ or a water filter, or how you and your spouse met a friend at the shooting range the other day. I was chatting with a buddy I had known for years and the topic of guns came up. I found out that he is an expert marksman and had taken several advanced handgun classes, with his wife, too. Both are office workers and I would have never guessed that about them.
A neighbor just changed the license plate on his car to one of the Gadsden flag designs. That opens up an easy avenue of discussion that may just well lead to a prepping dialog.
Another idea is to just call a meeting at a local library about basic emergency preparedness. Invite someone from your local Red Cross chapter to speak for a few minutes. FEMA gives out free literature (well, we are over-paying for it), shipped to you for free (we are over-paying for that, too), and the pamphlets have some great advice for short term preparedness. That will give your meeting credibility, in case the local constabulary show up to take names. That’s the first batch of your community building effort, because most people there will be interested in long term preparedness, not just how to apply a band-aid or open a bottle of water. Branch out from there.
As we have been building community, I’ve been feeling better about my family’s decision to bug-in and stay put. We are in an east of the Mississippi state which is within a several hour drive of a couple heavily populated areas. Though our county is rural, it could suffer an influx of refugees, if they survive the ride up the interstate. I’m not about to move to Idaho due to family, climate, and age.
While the greater population density is a downside, it’s not if a bunch of those people are part of my community. Every person I can get on the preparedness track is a person I will not have to feed, but one who can help me in time of need, most likely with skills and expertise, and by sharing a community workload. Who cares if there are 1,000 people per square mile, as long as most are prepared?
Another advantage to community building is it becomes the basis for the next American government. It is the survivors who write the history books, and it is the survivors who will form the next government. America 1.0 is done, we know. But freedom is not done, nor is morality, or honor, or virtue, or courage. The survivors, over time will be people with those traits, and they will force their will on the government, hopefully adjusting the framework to prevent the next politician-greed driven crash. I’m participating in training the survivors today, my community.
These people are awesome. One fellow is building an alternative fuels business. Another is taking his home off grid. Several are learning about communications techniques. Many are learning safe and effective firearms practices. A single mother is raising livestock on her own small farm. People are finding ways of getting water out of their deep wells and thinking micro-hydro installations using scrap materials.
These are the people I want to share a country with. A John Galt in every community. It’s happening!
I encourage you to build your community, wherever you are. Only about half of Americans are wed to the government check. Many of the rest have the backbone to ride out the end to the new beginning and be the men and women of strength and courage we need to build a brighter future. Yes, store beans, band-aids and bullets, but don’t neglect your community, for by working together we can determine our own tomorrow for many years after the dependents have burned Washington, DC.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I have discovered an ongoing source of mostly organic, quality food that requires only my commitment, labor and time as payment. Because it often arrives at my house in amounts greater than can be consumed immediately, most of it is being preserved to add to my long-term storage of foods in preparation for the days ahead when obtaining such food will be difficult.

A new food shelf opened in my town a bit more than a year ago. This particular food shelf works with a major chain of well-known grocery stores. The food shelf accepts the fresh produce and flowers that cannot be sold because of bruising, spoilage, etc., other types of food near their expiration date, and day-old bread.

The food shelf has employees and volunteers who pick up the donations from the grocery stores three times or more per week. The food is placed in refrigerators and freezers as needed or arranged on a row of tables so that clients can see what is available and choose what they want to take with them. The food shelf is open three times weekly for distribution to clients. There are no monetary restrictions on who can get food; the only limitation is that clients can take food just twice each month. (The exception to this twice-per-month limit is bananas and bread; because they are given to the food shelf in abundance, there is usually enough of both that anyone can take these at any time, dependent only on availability.) The limitation of twice-per-month per client household is set to allow more clients to be served.

When the food shelf first opened, I thought of the food that could not be distributed to clients. I understand about “seconds” from a grocery store; some stores sell these seconds at a reduced price; some seconds are not worth buying. I realized that the food shelf would likely have at least some produce that the clients would not want, and knew the food shelf would have to find a way of disposing of it, the most likely option being it would be thrown into a garbage bin, with the food shelf paying to have it hauled away. I approached the food shelf director to see if I could have those items for my family's consumption, or my compost bin. I knew that I could handle large amounts of “green” compost as I live near a forest and have easy access to as much “brown” as I need to mix with it to make great compost.

The food shelf director was pleased to have a way to dispose of the unwanted produce that did not require paying the garbage man to haul it away.

What I discovered when I brought the rejected produce home was that there was a lot of produce that was still edible, if only someone would take the time to rescue it instead of throwing it away.

My mother and father grew up through the Great Depression years, and had both been raised by parents who had lived through starvation times. One grandmother wrote of her father buying, cheaply, fish that was going bad, then pickling it to disguise the rot before feeding it to his children, who were grateful for any food whatsoever. Though she never went to that extreme, my mother was great at rescuing food. She would shop at a local produce store, often buying crates of fruit or vegetables that were starting to go bad. She taught us how to sort, clean, and recover the good food that was disguised by the bad food. To this day it makes me feel sad to see good food – food that could be feeding people – thrown away.

I have for over a full year gone to the food shelf at least two times per week after the weekly distributions. I haul home any produce that is left after the clients have taken what they want, food that won’t be edible by the next distribution day. By taking responsibility for this rejected produce, I have filled my compost bin with a variety of wonderful rotten fruits, vegetables and flowers, and have been able to eat and preserve hundreds of pounds of food that otherwise would have been thrown away.

Let me make this clear: I do not take food from the clients. The food shelf gets the food from the grocery store. The clients choose what they want to take on distribution days; volunteers are also allowed to take home what they can use. I only go to the food shelf when the distribution is done, and take only what they have left if it will not keep until the next distribution time.

I have no way of predicting what or how much of something I will get to take home; there are too many variables to project that. The grocery store gives different items in different amounts, depending on the season and what they have not sold. The food shelf clients have different desires and tastes, so they may choose to take a lot of one thing but only a little (or none) of another. Whatever it is and in whatever amounts, I get the leftovers.

Some weeks I bring home enough food to be recovered that I work many hours getting it prepared and preserved. Some days I bring home nearly nothing – perhaps just a few pieces of rotten fruit for the compost bin.

There have been times when the reason the food was sent home with me was not because it was bad, but because the food shelf got it in such a large amount that there was not the clientele to take it all. Such was the case when I brought home 60 dozen packages of basil. Yes, that’s 720 of those cute little plastic containers of basil. It took a long time to open all those packages, and to sort the bad from the good. I used and gave away some of the basil, froze some, and dehydrated the most of it. A similar situation allowed me to take home 200 pounds of bananas on one day.

I have been able to process all this food using only the kitchen equipment I had in my household: my stove, pots and pans, colanders, dehydrator, knives and cutting boards. Because of this endeavor, I have upgraded my collection of bowls to include some very large ones, and have gotten a larger colander, too. I purchased a gizmo that allows me to fill baggies hands-free. I will continue to upgrade my equipment as bargains are discovered, but could have reasonably continued with just what I had at the start, regular items found in most any kitchen.

The week I wrote this article, my first visit to the food shelf yielded a small bucket of very rotten fruit and vegetables that went directly into the compost bin. In addition, I carried in three large boxes of recoverable food including 13 1-lb packages of strawberries, seven 8-oz packages of edamame, seven 10-oz packages of shredded cabbage, approximately 16 pounds of apples (mixed types), about six pounds of bananas, 12 bags of Swiss chard, and one pomegranate.

When I visited the second time a few days later, all that was left was small quantities of a variety of items – not enough to preserve, but just right for my husband and I to eat up: two packages of mostly-good strawberries, three small yellow summer squash, three small tangerines, one eggplant, one small purple potato, one very ripe avocado, one bag of romaine lettuce leaves, one bag of spinach leaves, and one bag with a head of red and a head of green oak lettuce. I also had a half-bucket contribution for the compost bin of rotten food which included bananas, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, and more.

From the produce I brought home on Monday, I found that the Swiss chard, when opened, was too far gone to be used, as was the pomegranate, so they went to the compost bin (the plastic bags from the chard were thrown into the garbage.) I parboiled the edamame and the cabbage (separately, of course), drained it well, and dehydrated it for future use. Aside from a few individual beans and a few shreds of cabbage, the rest was in perfect condition, but would not have held, even refrigerated, until the next distribution day. The cardboard overwrap and the plastic containers from the edamame went into the recycle bin.

The strawberries were a mix of near-perfect and rotten. I separated out the truly bad ones to put in the bucket for the compost, and sliced the rest, trimming off the bruised parts. I save some out for immediate eating, and was able to freeze eight quarts for upcoming treats. Again the plastic containers were recycled.

A few of the bananas were too ripe even for banana bread or were split open (possibly allowing fruit flies or other vermin to enter), so they went into the compost bucket. The rest I sliced to dehydrate. In the past I have frozen some very ripe bananas, but as we are anticipating a move in the not-too-distant future, I am trying to eat down the food from the freezer and prefer to dehydrate. Because bananas are a fruit I frequently bring home, and sometimes in large amounts, I have given away many to friends and family members. Overly ripe bananas are like kittens: You can give away only so many before everyone you know has reached their limit. Personally I use the frozen bananas for baking, and to make banana shakes (a bit of milk added to the frozen bananas, run through the blender, makes an ice-cream-like treat that is healthful and tasty.)

Some of the apples, also, were too rotten to salvage; I have found that if a bruise causes an apple to rot to the core, even if it’s a small area, it taints the entire apple to make it unpalatable. Rotten apples do not go to waste, though. I put them out for the deer and squirrels to enjoy. The rest of the apples I chose to slice or to dice for dehydrating. In the past I have frozen some, and have made up many jars of applesauce. Peelings, of course, are added to the compost bin.

At the food shelf I am known as The Compost Lady. Friends call me The Queen of Dehydrating. Though I have used a dehydrator for many years, it is only through my ongoing relationship with the food shelf that I have greatly broadened my knowledge of dehydrating.  I have discovered that nearly any herb, fruit or vegetable can be dehydrated. Note the “nearly” in that last sentence. I have found no way to dehydrate artichokes (though I discovered they can freeze well with very little preparation). I also cannot dehydrate avocados as they have too much oil; I have yet to find a good way to preserve them, which is disappointing as I love them, but simply cannot eat 16 of them at a time. (I did learn, though, that very ripe avocado makes a lovely spread on un-buttered toast.)

I have not been successful in dehydrating citrus fruit, so I stick to juicing those and freezing the juice. Same with pomegranates. I tried dehydrating watermelon, having read it makes a wonderful flavoring for punch and as an addition to frosting. However, I was not able to keep it dehydrated; no matter how I packaged the dried watermelon, it always soaked moisture from the air and re-hydrated, but not in a way that made it useable.

Over the past year I have used several methods of preservation: freezing; making jams, jellies and other preserves; making sauces (mostly apple and pear); canning; and dehydrating. Because dehydrating is easy and relatively fast (compared to some of the more complicated ways listed), and because dehydrated food keeps well for long periods of time, it has become my favorite method of preservation. I own several books about dehydrating, but the two that I use most are Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook, and The Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt and Don Mercer. Both of these books teach not only how to dehydrate food, but also how to use the food after it has been dehydrated.

From these books and personal experience I have found that if I usually eat the food raw (such as with most fruits and many vegetables), I will dehydrate the food without cooking it. If I normally eat the food cooked (such as potatoes), I will parboil the food before dehydrating it.

By taking the unwanted food from the food shelf, I have gotten to try many types of fruits and vegetables I would not likely have tried if I had to pay for them. Fruits and vegetables that were new to me that I have now eaten and preserved include edamame, figs (both black and green), ginger, kale, many kinds of lettuces and other leafy vegetables, mangoes, and papayas.

I have preserved hundreds of pounds of more common fruits and vegetables, too, including apples, bananas, blueberries, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, corn, cranberries, eggplant, several types of herbs, kiwis, kohlrabi, melons. mushrooms, strawberries, peaches,  pears, peppers (sweet and hot), plums, potatoes, pumpkin, string beans, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and various winter squashes (often bagged pre-diced, meaning all I need to do is parboil and dehydrate).

I have learned that the drier the food is when it comes off the dehydrator, the better it keeps for me. When I first started hauling home great quantities of food, I was in a hurry to get it all preserved, and sometimes took the food off the dehydrator earlier than I should have. As I’ve gone back to check on that food after some months, I’ve found that the moisture left in it made it rot, and I had to throw it out. Thankfully I put most of my dehydrated food in zip-type baggies, usually in the quart-size bags, thinking it would be easier to use the contents of a quart bag for cooking before the contents re-absorbed water from the air. So, when I checked those early efforts of dehydrating and found the rotten food, I had to throw out only small portions rather than large amounts. (Of course rotten fruits and vegetables, even if dehydrated first, make good fill for the compost bin.)

Once a baggie has been filled with dehydrated food, I remove as much air as possible, either by squeezing it out (rolling it, as in the case of shredded cabbage) or by sucking the air through a straw. The filled baggies are then placed in tins. I tried putting my dehydrated food in glass jars and “oven canning” them to seal them, but have not had great success with that. Instead I opt for the tins – cookie tins, popcorn tins and such that I buy from thrift stores or get from others; my family and friends know that I seek these tins out, in various sizes. I store my baggies of dehydrated food, by type, in a tin which is the right size for whatever amount I need to store long-term. I use address labels as stickers for labeling the contents. Because we have a number of plastic coolers (the type used for picnics) that are usually stored empty, my husband got the idea to put the tins into the coolers, adding yet another level of protection from moisture and vermin.

I am grateful for the food I’ve been given. I would like to be able to give it back – preserved – to the food shelf clients, but that is not allowed because I do not have a certified kitchen. I’m not sure what I’ll do with all the preserved food. I figure, though, that God knows what he is doing in trusting me with it. It will feed my family and anyone else under my roof when we hit TEOTWAWKI. It will make good bartering material, too. (How many of you have enough basil stored up? I’ll trade you some for what you do have!)

The system that has developed – the store donating to the food shelf, the food shelf allowing clients to take food, then giving me what does not keep – has produced a string of benefits to all. The store gets a tax deduction for donating the food to the food shelf. The food shelf is able to provide free food to the clients. The food shelf does not have to dispose of rotten or excess food in the garbage bin. I get a fabulous mix of rotten food to put in my compost bins, and an equally fabulous mix to eat or preserve. My long-term-storage food supply has grown tremendously in this way.

I know that as long as I am able and desire to do so, I will be allowed to collect the food that cannot be distributed by the food shelf.  When we move, I will have to stop; I am hoping someone else will be able to benefit in my stead. I will look for another source of free food near my new home. I know that there are often trees, bushes or gardens that go unharvested, perhaps, for example, owned by elderly people who can no longer use the crabapples from their tree, or by people uninterested in preserving the berries that are growing in their yards. There are farms that allow food to rot in the field because it can’t be sold; there are other grocery stores and food shelves that have produce that is thrown away. I trust that with a little ingenuity and by asking a few questions, I will be able to find other sources of free food, and that you can, too. Unspoiled people food should go to people, to eat now or later. Compost heaps should only get what can no longer safely be used by people. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On the morning of August 29th, 2005 we came face to face with TEOTWAWKI in the form of Hurricane Katrina.  An estimated 92% of our community in Pascagoula, Mississippi was inundated with a storm surge of 20-30 feet and 30-55 feet sea waves.  The surge waters traveled well inland, between 6-12 miles and combined with freshwater flooding from our numerous creeks, rivers, and the runoff from the Mobile, Alabama reservoir that opened its flood gates to relieve stress on the dam.  This basically cut Jackson County in half.  Fortunately the worst of the storm hit in the morning just as it was becoming daylight or our losses of 12 souls would have been much higher had it made landfall in the dark of night.  Even though, it took almost two weeks before they found and were able to claim one of the fallen, a young child, because she was under an enormous  20-30 foot high by at least 100 feet in diameter debris pile a block up from the beach.  The devastation completely destroyed all of our basic services: electricity, communications, water, natural gas, and sewage and covered most of the town with debris piled 8 feet or higher.  The storm’s impact was such that the entire state was declared a disaster zone and it knocked out the power to over 98% of the state and damaged 100% of the states power plants.

When we were finally able to walk around and assess the situation after most of the waters receded, we counted ourselves as lucky because most of the houses in the neighborhood where we rode out the storm appeared structurally sound and there weren’t that many trees down.  Even though everyone knew things were going to be tough for a while, we didn’t count on it taking at least two weeks to restore water, another 1-2 weeks after that to restore some semblance of power and telephone services to our temporary abode.  This appeared to be the norm for most parts of town that sustained “minimal” damage.  As it was, it took over three months before it was restored in our neighborhood, not that it mattered as it was uninhabitable and eventually had to be bulldozed down but that as they say is a tale for another day.

Like most storm veterans living on the Gulf Coast, we had planned and prepared but Mother Nature has an inane way of pointing out the futility of all of mankind’s best laid plans.  Yes, we might have possibly been able to evacuate but deemed it in our best interest to hunker down with some friends and ride it out.  After all, we were staying in a well built home on some of the highest ground in town and at least a mile from the beach.  Besides, reports from other family and friends were that the roads were so congested (1-2 million evacuees from 4 states will do that don’t you know) that it was taking over 12 hours just to get as far north as Hattiesburg, a mere 95 miles north and that there wasn’t any hotel rooms available all the way up to Tennessee and even if you could find one, what would we do with our combined 10 pets?  Besides, how safe would it have been to ride out the storm on some desolate stretch of highway in a vehicle, especially with all of the tornados that Katrina spun off, 51 in total in at least 5 states with 11 of those in Mississippi alone?

So, the hatches were battened down and our storm plan was initiated.  First, was securing and inventorying our combined vital medicines, foodstuffs, pet food, drinking water, batteries, candles, grill and camp stove fuels, cleaning supplies, bleach, anti-bacterial gel, clothing, important papers and computer hard drives, tools, firearms, and cash.  Previously, all of the vehicles were gassed up along with all of the gas cans and the generator was prepped and stored high.  The ice chests, freezers and fridge were stuffed with ice and the most perishable foodstuffs were ready for immediate consumption in the event of a prolonged power outage.  The television and storm radio were tuned to the appropriate channels and the bathtubs were filled to capacity to provide general use water for cleaning and flushing.  The attic access was opened and some basic essentials like: food, water, axe, rope, flashlights, etc.  Just in case.  The outdoor surroundings were checked and a few boats in the neighborhood were identified that could potentially be used in a pinch.  All told, we had enough foodstuffs to last 6 adults and 10 animals for 2-3 weeks and at least a weeks worth of fresh drinking and cooking water as long as we were frugal.  Ah, hindsight is truly bliss now isn’t it.

During the height of the storm, when it became apparent that we would be receiving flood water into the house, everyone rushed throughout the house to empty out the lower cabinets and drawers and closet floors, placing everything as high as possible and even opening up the attic and placing more essential supplies and tools up there in case we had to seek higher ground.  Once, the homeowner and I braved the elements to go outside and unlash the next door neighbor’s small boat (they smartly evacuated early on) from its trailer and re-tied it off to keep it from sinking or floating away.  While doing this, we were obliged to add another soul to our motley crew by rescuing a man from drowning out in the street.  He was delirious and starting to suffer from hypothermia so we wrapped him up into a wool blanket and laid him up on a long dresser in the foyer.  Later, it was learned that he woke up when his head bumped against the ceiling of his bedroom and that he had to dive down and swim out of his bedroom window to safety!  He had the clothes on his back, no socks or shoes and a small empty suitcase.

We tried unsuccessfully to get a passing fire truck loaded down with EMT and rescuers to take him, in case he needed additional medical care but they said we appeared to have things under control.  Besides they were headed south into the teeth of the storm to rescue people clinging to roofs along with an apparent heart attack victim.  Later, two guys in a “commandeered” boat came by headed south but, on their return, the boat was overloaded with people they had rescued.  All total, they passed by 6 or 7 times, and each time the boat was filled to the gills with rescued souls.  Later, we learned that they had rescued over 100 people before the receding waters necessitated docking the boat in their front yard.  I’m pretty sure that that tidbit of knowledge didn’t make the media airwaves.  Of the untold hundreds of similar acts of heroism conducted during and immediately after this catastrophic event by our local emergency personnel and citizenry, I felt compelled to add it because in the end, we all need to have a little hope and faith in our fellow man.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, it became quite apparent that we needed to re-assess our predicament and adjust accordingly.  My wife and I knew that our house that sat at a much lower elevation closer to the beach would be untenable so we gladly took our friends offer to stay with them until we could assess it later.  They were extremely fortunate in that their home, where we rode the storm out, only had 2-3 feet of water go through it and that the structure was virtually unscathed from the ravages of felled trees and flying debris which meant that at least temporarily we would have a roof over our heads and a somewhat habitable place to stay providing everyone pitched in and acted quickly to mitigate the flood damage.  This consisted of removing all floor coverings down to the slab, all of the upholstered furniture, wall sheetrock from the floor to six inches above the visible flood line, and anything else that cannot be scrubbed and taking it to the side of the road.  Next was scrapping up as much of the storm water sludge off of the floors and all heavily coated horizontal and vertical surfaces possible and depositing it at the roadside too.  Some of our precious potable water stored in large 5 gallon containers with copious amounts of bleach and general purpose disinfectant soap was used to wipe down and clean one of the bathrooms, the kitchen and dining room, and a couple of bedrooms.  It took a full 2-3 days of steady cleaning by all hands to get the house sanitized for habitability.  The surge destroyed our large reserves of fresh water in the bathtubs due to the force of the flood waters backing up through the sewage system drains.

It is vital that you sanitize every surface that could have even remotely come in contact with the flood waters because they not only contain sea water and sewage, they are also full of chemicals from industrial waste and numerous other biological and toxic substances.  In our case, there was the addition of some of the foulest smelling primordial ooze from the nearby savannahs not to mention an old medical dumpsite from a former leper colony on one of the barrier islands and numerous chemical and gas refineries.  This mire coated everything in town with inches of nasty, foul smelling and toxic ooze turning the whole city into a gigantic Petri dish rife with disease and bacteria.  It was three days before I could make the first journey out of the neighborhood to inspect our property and in those 3 days, our house was filled with every color and shape of mold that you can imagine.  It literally covered the inside of the entire house from floor to ceiling so, I cannot stress enough that the first priority in such an event is to sanitize everything.

This is also a good time to remove any large appliance that was submerged along with any other furniture and belongings that will not be repaired or restored.  Just make sure to take photos and inventory all items being tossed to the road for insurance purposes and be prepared to fight the appraisers in the event the city is able to quickly remove those items.  One of our biggest fears after the storm was that of fire because the entire city looked like one giant maze with debris piles 10-20 feet high lining every street for months after the storm.  It seems as though we went at least two months before it rained again which meant we constantly had to battle the potentially deadly dust and the oppressive sweltering heat, this is South Mississippi after all!

Fortunately, we were able to salvage the mattresses on the beds because they floated on top of the box springs, all of which was set out to thoroughly dry in the sunlight the day after the storm after being wiped down with bleach water.  Everything gets washed or wiped down with bleach water and sun dried so eventually, all of your clothes become severely faded and thread bare after time.

Temporary power and transportation was next on the agenda and even though the generator was submerged after tipping over off of the raised supports that we set it on, we were able to salvage it and get a couple of box fans and table lamps going as well as powering a couple of fans and lights for one of the next door neighbors.  If we ever have to do this again, I think suspending it from rafter eyebolts on rope or cables may be in order.  In the beginning, we only ran the generator at night because of the fuel shortage.  Because fuel was basically non-existent for the first month or so, we augmented our diminishing supply by removing the gas tanks off of the three new vehicles that “died” during the storm and filtering out the water from the gas by emptying them into a large 55 gallon drum and letting the water settle to the bottom before dipping out the gas to fill our jugs.  Make sure to place this drum outside away from the living and cooking areas but still close enough to guard against looters.  We were fortunate that my venerable 1984 Ford Bronco and 1989 Ford F-150 started right up and didn’t have any water in the oil or gas tanks.  The trannys had water in them but as our friend worked for the local Ford dealership and their main repair shop was spared from the flooding and had adequate generator backup, he was able to replace the fluids within a few days so we had transportation until we were able to replace them about six months later.  We were lucky during that time because unlike so many others, neither of these vehicles burst into flames from corroded or shorted wiring.  This was probably due to the fact that they were raised higher than normal and their cabins weren’t submerged in the flood waters.  It wasn’t until months later that I discovered that the flood water had gotten into the rear ends through a rubber vent hole, needless to say, I wound up replacing the rear end on the pickup to extends it life until we could replace it so, make sure to drain, flush, and replace with new, the fluids in the rear ends and 4x4 lockers.

An important note here about transportation is to make sure you have plenty of tire repair supplies as we must have repaired at least 20 flats that first month alone and even had to acquire another tire after we found the cast aluminum head of an old fashioned meat tenderizer imbedded in the side wall after one of our forays across town seeking supplies.

Another note on “salvaging” your vehicles is the electrical system.  A lot of folks spent enormous effort and time in drying out their cars and trucks and getting them to run to no avail as many of these same vehicles later caught fire as the electrical systems shorted out.  So, if you have to resort to this please add a fire extinguisher or two to your survival kits for such emergencies.  I had to stop two cars coming down the road within the first few months because they were on fire underneath the vehicle and the occupants didn’t know it!

The mechanic had to go back to work within a few days because his services were in high demand at the dealership as it became the main repair facility for all of the emergency vehicles.  He was their only front end specialist and in high demand because the poor road conditions were reeking havoc on those vehicles.  At any given time, there were 20 -30 vehicles with license plates from all over the country there seeking maintenance or repair of some sort for months on end.  That basically left it up to me make the twice daily trips to the county fair grounds for food, water, and ice to distribute to the folks of our old neighborhood as well as our “new” neighborhood.  I cannot stress enough the fact that you never turn anything down because whether or not you need it, someone else in the neighborhood will!  Additionally, knowing the locations of facilities rendering assistance by way of beds and hopefully hot food is vital as this will aid you immensely when you come across people wondering around aimlessly due to the trauma they experienced.  One notable experience I had was with a family of four, including two small elementary age children.  I had observed them walking around for a day or two before it dawned on me that they were still carrying the same bundles of stuff.  After stopping them, their story was one of complete despair as they had been walking the streets for the better part of a week because they didn’t have anywhere to go.  A passing National Guard truck loaded with MREs gave me the location of one such center so, I loaded them all up and of to that wonderful church made famous by Ray Steven’s squirrel song we went!  A few days later while dropping off a few more unfortunates,  I was told that one of the many charity groups was helping to relocate the family.

In the beginning, water and ice are vital to your survival and as such, must be stretched to its fullest potential.  Our wives came up with a great simple process for extending the usefulness of ice.  They set up a simple linear process using the four 100 quart Igloo ice chests that we had as the basic line with two smaller Igloo ice chest to hold any excess ice we happened to acquire.  The first chest was raised up on a sturdy chair and contained all of our foodstuffs and medicine that needed to be cooled, packed in loose ice (some ice is also placed into sealed containers to thaw as a means to augment drinking and cooking water).  To the right, sitting on the ground so that the drain plug of the first chest could drain directly into it with little effort was the second chest.  This chest served as our bathing and dish washing water.  It was sanitized with bleach because an inadvertent germ or two could be in the drained water from our hands accessing the items in the first chest.  You bathed by dipping wash clothes into the bleach water and wiping yourself clean.  Bathing was augmented by squirting GermEx with Aloe Vera directly onto a damp wash cloth and wiping oneself off.  While crude, it kept you clean, provided a refreshing tingle from the alcohol in the GermEx and aided in disinfecting any minor sores or scratches you have.  After the dishes were washed, the water from the 2nd chest was transferred to the third chest sitting to its right and then the 2nd chest was sanitized with clean bleach water making it ready for the next use.  The 3rd chest was used to our wash clothes and the 4th chest sitting to its right was used to rinse the clothes prior to hanging out on makeshift clothes lines.  The water in the 4th chest was clear water that came from sundry sources, e.g. excess ice runoff from the extra storage chests, suspect bottled water that was overheated in the sun, and later on pond water from the local park once we were informed it was safe for non-food use.  Because it was suspect, it was always adequately bleached.  After the clothes were washed, the water from the 3rd chest was used for mopping the floors and wiping off non-food areas.  The water from the 4th chest was used to rinse off everything that was washed with water from the 4th chest.  All excess water from the chests was either used to refill the bathtubs for toilet flushing water or kept in buckets in case of fire and later sprinkled throughout the yard and driveway to cut down on the dust.

Our close encounter with the Post-Apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI event named Hurricane Katrina has not only left an indelible mark upon us but has made us stronger because we survived it and has taught us a few things about ourselves and mankind in general that everyone can learn from.  Here are the 10 biggest that readily come to mind:

First and foremost, in the event you are forewarned with an approaching disaster like Hurricane Katrina, do not hesitate. Evacuate.

Second, no amount of planning can cover every contingency so be prepared to improvise.

Third, 3-7 days of supplies are completely inadequate because it can take up to 2-3 weeks before regular and consistent support from outside sources becomes available.

Fourth, everyone impacted that survives is just that, a survivor so you had better be ready to get over stupid prejudices because you either survive together or perish individually.

Fifth, you are going to have to work hard so, accept your fate and “hitch up your drawers” and get at it.  The first responders are going to need your assistance so that they can provide the aid you need.  Everything that you can do initially be that clearing roadways, sharing resources, making signs to identify streets or people in dire need, assisting neighbors, scrounging, and safeguarding will only improve your lot in the aftermath.

Sixth, maintain your vital inoculations for Tetanus, hepatitis, etc.  Get your booster shots.  Thankfully for us, the nurse in our family went over and above to seek us out and administer all of those vital inoculations.

Seventh, get your pets looked at ASAP if they are subjected to flood waters, we almost lost two of ours.  Fortunately, a dear friend that worked as a Vet tech was able to bring and administer the needed antibiotics to save their lives.

Eighth, more people die or are seriously injured after the storm than during it due to accidents while cleaning up, stress, heat exposure, microscopic critters in the surge water, disease, improperly stored or cooked food, poisonous insects and snakes, exposure to the elements, etc.  If you do not have any experience with the art of using a chainsaw to fell trees or cut them off of your house then please, seek the assistance of someone who has this knowledge!  Observe each other and don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance for even the most basic of wounds, especially if you haven’t kept up on your inoculations.

Ninth, an openly well armed citizenry tends to keep the wolves and looters at bay as they are mainly cowards seeking to prey on easy targets.  Down here after a storm, everyone just assumes that everyone is “packing” so, everyone just generally seems to be much more calm and cooperative.

Tenth, thank all those “outsiders” that show up to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding because 99% of them are there to genuinely help.  Especially show your appreciation to all of those folks manning the stationary kitchens and food trucks.  Some of the best hot meals I ever had came from the church group around the corner running a kitchen and the Red Cross and Salvation Army food trucks.

Lastly, keep the faith as it will see you through to the bitter end.  Even though it’s been almost 8 years now since that fateful day, we are still recovering from Katrina, at least economically but hey, material objects are just that, stuff, easily replaced when you get the resources should you desire to do so.  Remember, not everyone will be made financially whole after such an event but hopefully you’ll still have your health not to mention the most important asset of all, your truly good friends and family.

Friday, May 31, 2013

I have really come to enjoy researching and testing off grid cooking ideas and possibilities.  Last year I had purchased a few products that I felt were going to be the back bone of my preparedness efforts. Over this past winter, I began thinking that it was necessary to actually try out the ideas and suggestions from videos I had seen and articles I had read.  I ordered a few products to round out my supplies, and I became so enthusiastic with all the possibilities that I wrote “Off Grid Cooking Solutions, Part 1” and “Off Grid Cooking Solutions, Part 2.”

I had mentioned that it is very easy to build a brick rocket stove that performs fairly well.  Two downsides of that method is lack of portability and efficiency. Depending upon the design, it will smoke more than a professional stove during cooking, which could prove to be problematic for security reasons.  (You won’t want others to be aware you are cooking and the less smoke, the better). One thing that really concerned me is that I kept reading of the potential danger of bricks exploding.  I stopped by a business that builds outdoor fireplaces for patio use.  The owner had heard of rocket stoves being made from regular brick, but he warned against their use.  They are not made to withstand the heat like fire brick does.  If they get wet (and most people leave them set up outside in the elements), the steam building up inside as the bricks are heated can actually cause them to crack and even explode.  He felt the risks were not worth it.  The cost of the safer yellow-colored fire brick was $3.50 each.  The design I like and seemed most promising required 28 bricks.  The price to purchase the bricks would be about $100, which is close to the cost of a commercially made product. 

My brother’s father-in-law provided me with reinforcement of what I was told.  He formerly worked in a blast furnace, and he was well versed in the dangers of heat on regular brick.  He said that even moisture from dew was enough to seep into the porous bricks.  Then in a super-heated environment of the “rocket” effect, the steam will build up and could actually make the brick explode.  It’s much the same idea of not using river rock to line your camp fire because the rocks could explode.

I have seen various videos of people building and using these stoves as an economical solution to non-electric cooking.  At my suggestion, a friend built one for emergency use for her family.  However, the risks do not seem worth the potential danger.  Unfortunately, it can be compared to Russian Roulette.  You can use the stove many times and not have any problems.  Then one day when the circumstances are ripe, disaster strikes.

I wanted to inform those that are using and relying on them of these concerns.  Because of the possible danger, and because of the portability and efficiency of a professional model, I would strongly urge that people go that direction. 

In continuing my off grid cooking journey, I contacted to let them know about my article.  I had bought my “SuperPot” from them (which is a pot that is made specifically for the StoveTec rocket stove) and I wanted to let them know I had tried it and really liked it.  I also relayed my experience with using a rocket stove and thermal cooker together, which is now one of my favored emergency cooking methods.

It turned out that that they had just received a new rocket stove which recently came on the market. Several days later, Chris Horrocks contacted me and asked if I would be interested in testing it out.  He was wanting a completely unbiased opinion (someone who wasn’t in business and had an investment to protect) who could experience the operation of the stove and give an opinion.   I felt honored to be asked and was glad to do so.

I received the stove, which is part of the new SilverFire line, and I got ready to try it out.  Unfortunately for me, we were experiencing the coldest and wettest spring that I can remember and it was difficult to even find a day suitable to get outside.  And that is where the trouble began.

In the previous year when I had worked with my StoveTec, I chose a few nice days to go outside and perform tests.  I experienced great results.  Satisfied that my stove would be an asset in emergency situations, I put it away in readiness should I need it.  I am so glad that is not the end of the story…

The rocket stove is ideal for cooking in emergencies because its fuel consumption is so little compared to woodstoves or campfires.  However, the stoves must be used outdoors, or perhaps in a garage with the door open for ventilation.  I discovered that days that are cold, damp, and windy proved to be bigger obstacles than I thought, due to my inexperience.  However, in a crisis, you must be able to cook in whatever the weather conditions may be.

The difficulty began when the theories and possibilities I had in my head met the reality of the situation.  What I thought I knew flew out the window!   I was working with damp wood (we had a lot of rain) and the cold wind just would not stop.  I wasn’t getting great results, even with my original stove, and I was frustrated.
Operating a rocket stove is actually basic, easy, and fun.  However, the reality of weather has to be dealt with and a few tactics employed in order to be successful.  I happened to pick more difficult conditions to work in.

I repeatedly had to contact Mr. Horrocks for advice because I was flailing a lot.  He   explained that a person at the equator in very hot weather would have an easier time of it than someone working with damp fuel in cold and windy conditions.  There really is a learning curve.  But, he also estimated that 80% of his customers never test out their stoves before storing them away in their preps. 
I believe that if I had to go through what I just did in testing out the stoves, but was in a crisis situation, my stress level would have gone through the roof.  I think that is an aggravation which is easily avoidable.   It is my opinion that everyone should test things out for themselves and try various recipes and pots in differing weather conditions.  The experience gained is more valuable than ideas and untried theories.  Although “doable,” it is much easier to learn in a more relaxed atmosphere.

I was the one who encouraged folks to get out there and hone their skills.   I felt so humbled because I was having such difficulty.   As I had not done much testing, but rather had spent my time researching, in reality I was an “armchair prepper.” Why does this all even matter?  Let me give you a scenario which someone could likely face.  Say you live in the Midwest where tornadoes often strike.  You live in the suburbs.  There’s been a few days of rain.  The weather briefly warms, but a cold front approaches.  They collide and result in a storm which produces a large tornado.  Fortunately, your home is spared, but there is great damage in the area and much of the power lines are down.  The power company works round the clock to restore the electricity, but it takes three weeks until your home has power again.  Meanwhile, the weather is unseasonably cool and rainy.

You have food, water, and a way to light your home.  You have invested in a rocket stove and have a way to cook the food to feed your family.  You previously saw a couple of videos that showed a person lighting up a few sticks to cook a meal, so you get everything ready and are confident that you have things handled.  With the cold wind swirling around you, you try to light the stove.  No go.  The fuel is damp and just doesn’t want to light.  You get some more tinder and remember the trick you heard of cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, which when lit creates a flame lasting several minutes.  Finally, you have a fire going.  But then it goes out.  You battle it for a while, but finally the fuel is dried out enough that it starts to catch. 

You didn’t find that many sticks for your fuel, but you think that you have enough because rocket stoves really don’t require that much.  You are preparing a large pot of vegetable beef stew to use up some meat you had in the freezer before it spoils.  But you just can’t get the pot up to a boil.  After an hour of standing in the cold wind, you finally are seeing progress, but now you are out of fuel.  Family members are scouting around for more sticks.  Thankfully, even though what sticks they do find are really damp, the hot fire dries them out enough to catch and you finally have enough heat to cook with.  You didn’t think it would take this long or be this hard. You’re cold and discouraged.  You realize that you have to do this two to three times each day.  There’s got to be a better way!

I urge you to invest some time with your stove.  Try out some recipes that your family enjoys.  Use a cast iron or stainless steel pan and fry hamburgers, a steak, or eggs. The amount of fuel to fry a few burgers is less than making a large pot of chili or stew in a Dutch oven or large pot.  Note that difference. Once your food is up to a boil, you can actually keep it simmering for hours by adding just one stick at a time.  Give that a try.   Take a large stock pot filled with water and bring it up to 150 degrees (the recommended temperature for pasteurizing) which may be needed for safe drinking water.   Keep track of how long that took.  Keep on going and see how long until the water boils.  You will need hot water for various tasks such as washing dishes, laundry, and bathing, so it is best to know how to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

If interested in using a pressure cooker or canner, try that out as well.  I have canned tomatoes and green beans, so I do have a little experience in that area.  Canning is just a simple process with numerous steps to follow.  But if you have never canned before nor worked with your rocket stove, I would think it would be pretty overwhelming to begin for the first time in a crisis situation.
I would suggest cooking on the rocket stove in fair weather as well as windy and colder conditions.  One thing to consider is that as the rocket stove is working to bring a pot and its contents up to a boil, a cold wind will work against progress.  You must add heat to the cooking pot at a higher rate than the wind takes away.  The wind will speed the heat loss, so you need a wind break or shield, as well as more fuel to provide the heat required.   In those conditions, a shallow pan heats up faster than a taller, narrow one due to a larger surface area of the taller pot that is assaulted by the wind.

In dealing with wind, I have found two things to be invaluable.  The StoveTec comes with a pot skirt that directs the heat up the side of the pots and helps the stove to operate more efficiently.  I have seen some videos where people have placed shallow frying pans on top of the pot skirt, but that actually is not how they work.  They are designed for a taller pot to be placed on the stove and the adjustable metal skirt wraps around the sides, thus guiding the heat up the sides of the tall pot.  StoveTec also has the SuperPot which essentially does the same thing, but also gives the advantage of not having to clean off soot from your cooking pots.  In my testing, they both are a beneficial aid to get your pot heated quickly, especially in cold and windy weather.

The new SilverFire stove does not come with a pot skirt.  Because it is an improved design, it has a hotter and cleaner fire and quickly heats up to provide an efficient cooking flame.   It is my experience that a pot skirt does make a difference in colder, windy conditions, so I wouldn’t want to be without one.  I am assured, however, that the SilverFire will have its own SuperPot, which is currently in the making.  It is slated to be available during summer of 2013.

I would suggest finding several locations for cooking.  Where will you prepare meals when the sun is hot and bearing down?  You would want to cook in the shade, if possible.  If there is a stiff north wind blowing, is there a southern portion of your home or a building that would provide you with a wind break?  Is a garage or shed available during rainy, cold weather?  Do you have so much stuff packed in there that it would be a fire hazard to cook with a rocket stove?

As far as fuel is concerned, I suggest that you stay ahead of the game.  If there is a crisis and you live in a suburban area, and all you can find are a few wet sticks, you are going to have a little difficulty. Thankfully, it does not take the time to “season” fuel sticks like it does larger wood pieces for use in home heating. Even in urban areas, trees continually shed small, dead branches.  It is such an easy thing to gather them throughout the year.  Consider storing them in a weather-protected area so that they don’t get wet.  A tarp will keep your fuel dry and ready to go should you wish to have an ample supply ready.  You could also keep handy a large bucket or two of larger sticks and twigs, which could be stored in the garage.   And pallets make excellent fuel for rocket stoves.  Many businesses in my area just give them away.  They can be disassembled and a small hatchet used to split them into fuel sticks – all at no cost to you.  Although any biomass can be used, sticks give the longest and most trouble free operation due to their mass, and they are my fuel of choice.

One thing I discovered in performing my tests is that fuel made from lumber or dry sticks versus wet sticks performs differently.  The bark on the wet limbs acts as a fire retardant due to the moisture it holds, and is harder to start a fire with.  Since I live in an area with a lot of trees, limbs will be what I will commonly use.  But I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting the results I saw on videos.  I was able to overcome this when I added drier sticks in the stove coupled with more tinder, and then used more sticks for a hotter fire.   On one of the first days of testing, I worked for an hour to get a small stock pot of 10 cups of water up to a boil.  Last summer I had accomplished the same task in just minutes.  It was taking way too long.  But with the right technique and a pot skirt, it took only 15 minutes.
If the only fuel available is wet sticks, this actually is still doable.  Using more dry tinder (any biomass) to produce heat and get a bed of coals going will aid in getting the sticks to burn.  As the fire progresses, the sticks will dry out and will burn more easily.

As I continued my tests, the day I was able to easily start my cooking fire without the assisted means of cotton balls and petroleum jelly, I was happy.  I know there are serious survivalists out there who could almost sternly gaze at a small pile of tinder and get it started.  Not so with me.  But I discovered that with the right amount of either paper strips or dried leaves coupled with plenty of small twigs to create a bed of embers, my fuel sticks really got going.  And I only used one match on a very windy day.  I simply struck the match slightly inside the door so the wind wouldn’t immediately blow it out.  It quickly lit the paper, which in turn caught the tinder, resulting in enough heat to catch my fuel sticks on fire.  I was able to start cooking in about one minute.   Victory!

You may be wondering what all my testing resulted in when I tried out the new SilverFire stove and compared it with my StoveTec.  There actually was not a clear “winner,” as each stove had advantages.  My observations formed my opinions, and I realize that a controlled lab test would actually give more scientific findings.  But I will let you in on what I experienced:

The StoveTec is a solid stove that sits very securely either on the ground or a table, and it can take quite a bit of weight.  It can handle large pressure canners and heavy Dutch ovens with ease.  It fires up quickly, and coupled with either the pot skirt or SuperPot, it works very well.  One nice feature is that it remains cool to the touch on the outside for a prolonged period of use.  However, the insulation and cast iron top are slightly fragile if dropped, so caution needs to be taken when transporting it.   I love using this stove and wouldn’t want to be without it.

The SilverFire is almost half the weight of the StoveTec (12½ pounds), and it has an inner insulation that will not break if dropped.  It also has a thicker cast iron top which is more durable.  Those features make it very portable.  It is made from stainless steel, will not rust, nor does it have paint to scratch or peel off.  It also fires up quickly and is very efficient.  It is both a rocket stove and a gasifier stove, which means that it uses primary air (from vents located on the base) and secondary air (from vents in the interior fuel chamber).  I noticed the combustion process lead to less soot on the bottom of the cooking pots, which attests to it achieving an efficient burn.  However, due to the design of the base, it is somewhat less stable and if nudged or hit from the back, could possibly result in the stove falling forward during cooking operations.  I was easily able to overcome that potential problem by placing a small wedge just under the bottom front.  A SuperPot of its own is in the making, which will help it be even more efficient in cold, windy conditions.  Therefore, I find that it also is worthy of having in my preps. 

Given the choice, one or the other, or both, I would actually say:  Both!  If any of you already have a StoveTec but have the financial means to add the SilverFire, that would be my recommendation.  If you plan on “bugging in,” the StoveTec is great and can handle all of your cooking needs.  But should you need to “bug out,” the lighter and less fragile SilverFire would be advantageous. Either would give you great results and will cook your food.  Why both?   Remember the wise saying concerning preps that “one is none and two is one?”  Having both would be a great peace of mind.

Before I conclude, I want to turn your attention to the AfterBURNER Stove Corporation. The help I received from them is invaluable.  They are a family owned business and mainly sell rocket stoves and accompanying merchandise.  They treat their customers like gold.  They have a 100% money back guarantee for one full year from date of purchase, a full year bumper to bumper warranty, a free lifetime ceramic burnout guarantee on all StoveTec stoves, and a lifetime discounted replacement plan for accidentally damaged stoves. They work hard to educate and inform their customers on the use of their stoves, provide instructional videos, and are planning additions to their web site to aid in addressing various aspects of stove use and other products.  As a customer, they want you to USE your stove and gain experience, which will help you in a crisis situation.  They are available to you to develop the skills you need for success, and they offer lifetime support on any of their products via phone or email.  I would hope that customers will take advantage of that while it is available.  In a crisis, you might not be able to reach them.  They work hard to earn and keep your business.  On top of all that, they guarantee the lowest online price.   
You might think that since I got a stove to test that I am just giving them a commercial.  Not so.  I informed them that although I would test the stove and would be happy to report my findings, I would be giving it away to a friend who only had a brick stove (which I now believe could be dangerous).  I did not receive any personal gain – except for the knowledge, experience, and improvement of my skills.  I feel like I made a friend. And that was priceless.

Although I highly recommend that every family that is serious about emergency preparedness have a rocket stove, I just as strongly recommend that you work with it and build your skills.  It will serve you well in a crisis, but it is so much easier to deal with the learning curve before it’s actually needed.  Your stress level will already be high in an actual emergency.  Why make it harder for yourself than you have to?  Because it’s so much fun to operate, and can be used right now for backyard cooking, picnics, camping, and hunting, it’s a win/win situation.  So why not go out and get cooking today?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Making it through a worst case scenario in a two bedroom apartment is not my idea of a good chance of survival.  I read about others who are relocating to the American Redoubt or who have acquired sizeable land out away from town.  Those who have bunkers or cellars lined with shelves of log-term storage foods and an arsenal of weapons and ammo to protect it all; who have chickens and goats and a place to plant those seeds that come in the long-term storage can.  Then I look at myself and think, “Can’t do that, can’t afford that, maybe I should just lay down and die when it all hits the fan”, but that is not my nature.  So I fight back with whatever I have, and besides the Lord is on my side.  In the book of Nehemiah the Bible speaks of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and enemies who are always present; from this and many other passages I gain courage, “When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses” (Nehemiah 4:14).  “Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon.” (Nehemiah 4:17).  So I intend to prepare my family the best I can and trust the Lord to be over all.

We live in the western side of Washington State and it would not take much to make it into the American Redoubt area, but without necessary funds it seems impossible.  My husband and I also care for my brother-in-law who is 63 but mentally developed to about that of a twelve year old.  Bringing him with us in a long term bad situation would be disastrous; abandoning him is out of the question. 

We live on the edge of a smaller town and are in a relatively good location for urban surviving.  Our apartment complex is a small six unit building in a neighborhood of houses.  The railroad tracks are about four blocks from the apartment complex.  If we had to grab our get-out-of-town bags and run I think we could make it through the neighborhood to the tracks.  Once there the forested area quickly becomes thick, another mile and you hit the river.  We fish this river in the summer.  Along the river is a corridor of thick forest, meadows and farmer’s fields for miles, and it passes through several state parks and national forest land.  In my twenties (or even thirties) this would have been my go to escape route, but we are not there anymore and my brother-in-law would not even make it past the railroad tracks.  So it seems to me I need to simply face my reality and do with it what I can.  So here is my plan.

A two bedroom apartment doesn’t have a lot of storage space but I have been rearranging as much as possible to accommodate boxes of #10 cans.  A box holding six cans stacked on another box of six cans and then covered with a cloth becomes a small inconspicuous table.  The upper shelf of the linen closet holds lighter weight items.  Filing or bankers boxes stack well and are placed under the desk in the second bedroom and on the shelf in the bedroom closet.  The lowest shelf of the bookshelf in the living room holds regular sized can items, coffee, quick cook pasta meals you buy at the grocery store, and other short-term storage items.  This shelf is then draped over with a simple spring loaded curtain rod and an old pillow case.  This keeps it out of view and keeps the dust off.  These items typically have a shelf life of one to two years and need to be rotated to maintain freshness.  My brother-in-law occupies another apartment in our six unit building and a few things are stored there that would be specifically for his needs, you just have to convince him to leave them alone.  If he thinks they are old or in his way he will simply throw them in the dumpster.  The trunk of the car currently holds a get-home-bag, in case I am at work when it all comes down, and extra toilet paper.  Toilet paper is bulky.  I am sure we are not the only family with similar difficulties or restrictions for making it through TEOTWAWKI and yet feel the urge from the Lord to “prepare now”, and I hope some of this encourages those. 

Fortunately, we live on the second floor on the end apartment.  This will make it easier for us to defend ourselves if it comes to that.  A few weapons have been acquired, a .357 Magnum carbine for home defense and .380 semi auto pistol (I know, some of you are screaming, “that won’t get you anywhere”, well this is what we have to work with and besides David killed Goliath with a stone and I’m not that great with a slingshot).  Then there is the .22 Winchester rifle for small game, a .22 magnum revolver (my personal everyday concealed carry), and another .22 LR revolver small game capable.  I know it is not much and writing it down and looking at it seems puny, but I have to live in my reality and like it or not, this is it.  We have a few hundred rounds of ammo for each weapon and have great difficulty finding any more anywhere.  For this reason practicing with these weapons is very limited.  I do have a slingshot by the way and practice with it.  I bought it from A+ Slingshots and like it a lot.  My accuracy is increasing and the slingshot will put a marble through a pop can at 75 feet.  My thought is that if I need to gather small game in a quiet manner this would work well.  Whatever resources I have I intend to use them.

The river is close by and I believe we could gather water there if needed and fish.  A large container could be strapped to the bicycle and I could take the neighborhood roads a mile and a half to the river gather water and return.  My biggest concern would be doing this with bad guys around, nevertheless the resource is there.  There is also a meadow alongside the river where I have gathered Nettles in the spring.  This is another resource available just outside of town.  Learning about a few wild edible plants that grow in your area can make a difference.  Another that is easy to find here is Cat’s Ear, It grows in the small lawn next to the apartment complex.  The lawn is never sprayed so I don’t have to worry.  I prefer the young flower buds to the leaves but both are edible.  Learn a few for yourself, you might be surprised at what grows outside your front door or very close by.  Neighbors can also be a great resource.  We have one neighbor that we are like minded with.  They have a house and a few fruit trees and raise chicken.  Currently we buy our eggs from them and they let us gather the extra fruit when they have it.  I believe they will be a great resource for safe barter in the future.  Having this relationship established now gives me a greater since of confidence.

There is one other place where I have a few things stored.  Last fall we purchased a used 17 foot camper unit.  It is kept outside the apartment and we have worked hard to seal up the leaks to keep it dry inside.  Inside the camper are a few very difficult to get to storage areas and I have a few #10 cans wrapped in plastic bags stored here.  The camper also has a propane operated stove and refrigerator and a 30 gallon water tank.  These could make the first week much easier.

We have managed to acquire and hide some silver and gold.  I cashed in a small IRA early (paying the penalty for early withdrawal), and paid down some of our debt and purchased some silver and gold.  Not knowing what the real scenario will be, we diversified and bought some bullion, some old 90% silver currency (junk silver), and a few small pieces of gold.  We also have a small stash of cash on hand.  Some may not be able to do even this much, but do what you can.  Our neighbors who live in the apartment complex likely have nothing stored away even for a weekend power outage.  It has occurred to me that we may be feeding them too.  Part of me says let them be, they have made their own bed and part of me says, am I not required by God to help my neighbor if I have the power to do so, therefore I prepare with the possibility in mind.  I can dream all I want about what I would like the situation to be, but I am still left to deal with the truth at hand.

Another way I have been preparing for my probable reality is in cooking.  Just for fun, a few years back, I began making homemade pop can alcohol stoves and can wood stoves.  I have become very good at it and feel I can make a stove to cook on with just about any kind of can.  The secret is to learn how fire works and what it requires to burn efficiently.  A small amount of wood in a home-made double walled can stove burns with very little smoke.  Some designs of alcohol stoves will work even on 70% isopropyl alcohol you have in the first aid cabinet.  Denatured alcohol form the hardware store is much better.  We also have a small hibachi type charcoal grill for when the propane goes out in the gas grill and the camper unit.  Acquire different ways to cook.  There are many resources on the internet to teach you how to make a can stove, the Zen Backpacking Stoves web site is a great resource to start with.

My husband and I went on a weekend trip to eastern Washington a few weeks back and rented a cabin on the Columbia River.  We picked up some beer along the way, the kind that says “tools required” right on the cap, and once at the cabin to my dismay I discovered I had no bottle opener.  Normally I would have had every type of camping gadget/equipment with me but it wasn’t intended to be that type of a trip.  I did get the bottle opened and drank my beer; the next day I purchased two simple bottle openers for a dollar apiece at the local store.  I seems a silly lesson, but this made me realize that I needed to do something more about preparing food without electricity.  No coffee grinder, microwave, oven, electric mixer, blender, you get the idea.  I have started looking through the local thrift stores for old time cooking gadgets.  There are many great things available, bottle openers, can openers, meat grinders, hand turned mixers and egg beaters, cherry pitters, apple slicer corer peelers; you would be amazed at what you can find.  It would be great to find a hand grain grinder and a coffee grinder at an affordable price.  Tools are also available at the thrift store, hand powered drill, saws, axes, hammers, and so on, at great prices.  Get now what you think you may need.  You may need to make it through right where you are.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

(Why I prep, and how I do so in a family that thinks I’m crazy.)

In the summer of 1977 my mother dragged me to see my older brother’s Cub Scouts meeting.  I was closing in on my sixth birthday and she informed me in no uncertain terms that I would be joining.  My mother was one of the multitudes of single mom’s in my part of Brooklyn.  A neighborhood where at the time crime was high, money was tight, and involved dads were few.   The only place for many boys to find any kind of positive male role model was in Scouting.  So off to the basement of the local savings bank I went, passing along the way many other kids whose parents weren’t making them go off somewhere that required stuffy uniforms on humid July evenings. 

Shortly after arriving, “Signs Up” was called and the scouts were ordered into their Dens so the meeting could open with The Pledge of Allegiance.  When that was done and all outstanding business concluded I watched in absolute amazement as the older boys (the Webelos) proceeded to learn how to treat shock and minor wounds on one side of the large room while the younger boys (Cubs) were learning how to lash branches together to build a tripod for use as a camp table complete with seats.  Those relatively simple things spoke to me on a level I still can’t comprehend.  I was “all-in” right then and there.

From that night until I turned six I was at every meeting.  I became a mascot of sorts, treated as a member of the team but not quite in the game.  It was a big deal for me when I was finally able to wear the uniform.  At the time (I believe it has changed now) the neckerchief had a picture of a bear cub and the logo: “Be Prepared”.  Words that still echo in my mind and a philosophy that continues to permeate everything I do.

The Modern World:

So here I am: A full grown man, husband and father both, having grown up hearing some variation of “Be Prepared” on a regular basis…  “Make sure you have a dime for the pay-phone”, “Make sure you have extra pencils for your test”, and “Make sure you check your engine fluids before you drive that far”.  The list of recommendations of how and why to be prepared just keeps going and going. 

In a modern world a fully charged cell phone has replaced the dime for the pay phone, but otherwise little has changed with regards to what we tell our children on a daily basis.  So you can imagine my surprise when upon building an emergency kit some year’s back, my wife looked at me with “that look”. 

You know the one you get… it sort of says: “Poor fool just doesn’t know any better”, the visual equivalent of a condescending pat on the head.  I guess I just didn’t realize that being prepared was somehow strange.  So my wife and I proceeded to have a conversation where on one side was the feeling that you can’t ever be too careful (especially in light of how many times we lose power in Upstate N.Y.), and on the other the assertion that I’m paranoid; backed up with the ever so logical “what will the neighbors think?”  I was astonished.

Having grown up about five cents below the poverty line and being raised with Scouting at my side, I had learned to always hedge my proverbial bets.  To find out that according to the people who loved me preparedness was considered crazy…  that most people truly believe the government can and will take care of them in a crisis… just confounds me. 

Had these people not been watching the same news I had?  Do they not remember any of the natural disasters over the last ten years?  Katrina, Irene or Sandy anyone?  Were all of my tidbits of wisdom thrown out like the mornings coffee grinds?

After several discussions about the topic of preparedness I realized I was alone.  I would not receive any assistance in gathering, organizing, storing or in any other way getting my stuff together for an emergency of any kind let alone for TEOTWAWKI.

I had no choice but to become: “The Secret Prepper.” (Cue ominous music.)

Logistics of a dual identity:

Deciding on where to begin is kind of like being an eight-year-old with a $100 bill in a candy store: Overwhelming in its possibilities.  So in looking at the logistics of fulfilling the requirements of my shadow-self, I decided to create 3 basic (but in retrospect woefully inadequate) categories to manage the tasks:

  1. How to pay for it?
  2. What to get and where to get it?
  3. How and where to store it?

The most difficult of these three options, for me, was how to pay for it.  Having a stay at home parent raising a child, in my humble opinion, far outweighs the negative financial effect resulting from only one income.  The problem I came across is that my wife wears so many hats.  I make the money, take care of the yard, kill the bugs and protect us from things that go bump in the night while she does pretty much everything else.  This includes balancing the checkbook.  (Remember, she’s not on-board because I’m nuts.)

How was “The Secret Prepper” to accomplish any of his preparedness goals while not tipping his hand to the one-woman oversight committee that thinks he’s insane?  Not to mention maintaining Operational Security (I will make references to where I adhered strictly to OPSEC.)  Over time it became a game to me.

Getting ready for the Schumer on the cheap:

Finances came from good old-fashioned sacrifice.  I’ve found that when money is tight you have an obligation to stick to what you feel in your gut is important.  As such, sacrifice is an imperative.  At that time, when all was said and done I could allot myself $25 each Friday for the following week.  This money was to pay for my lunch, coffee or anything else I wanted while I was at work. 

I realize this doesn’t sound like a significant amount of money, but once you learn how to squeeze blood from a stone you’d be surprised how much those suckers can bleed.  So I thought back to my childhood and how my mother managed to feed us and came up with some practical solutions as well as some that were foreign to me.

Two things that I did were start a vegetable garden and learn how to jar/can.  This was a completely foreign world to me.  Growing up in an apartment building, the only reason I wanted a good-sized property hours from the city was to get away from people.  I didn’t realize what could be done until I bought a homesteading book.  The amount of money I now save on produce is astonishing.  This has served to help my entire household and not just “The Secret Prepper”.

Otherwise, I spent the first few weeks stocking surplus goods in my locker at work.  Nothing too big mind you, just the basics for the purposes of masking my future purchases.  Ferreting away an excess item from home here and there and bringing it to work, I managed to stash several days lunch in my locker and needed less money the following week.  My surplus cash went into an envelope there as well.  I made it a point to only use cash so as not to create any kind of a paper trail (OPSEC).  It was good practice for my later and larger purchases.

I soon had a sizeable bankroll and a grocery store in my locker with none the wiser.  Some of this food was moved to buckets in the basement and some was consumed for lunch but all of it served to free up $100 a month in cash.  This process took several weeks but once I had it down to a science there was no stopping it.

Saving about $100 a month, I was able to start prioritizing the next objective: What to get and where to get it?

I decided on what my most immediate need would be in the event of the most likely emergency in my area: Nature’s fury and her prolonged power outages.  So with that particular goal in mind, and the knowledge that needs are similar in many emergencies, I proceeded to spend my hard saved money.  Candles, matches, water purification tablets/canteens, solar blankets, first-aid kit, tent and sleeping bags, walkie-talkie’s, batteries, MREs. Thus, all of the basics.

My cup runneth over:

Pretty soon my work locker, my car and my super-secret-hidey-hole were near to bursting at the seams.  It was time to consider task three: How and where to store it?  The problem was, I was still working on what to get.  It became clear to me that a two-pronged approach was in order.

I went to a “mom-and-pop” hardware store in the next town and bought two footlockers, paying in cash (OPSEC), making sure that they could fit into the trunk of my car in case I had to bug out rather than in.  One I labeled camping gear and proceeded to fill it with pretty much anything that fit the bill, storing it where I keep all of the other things my family has no interest in. The other one I left unlabeled and filled with surplus goods.  I added to them some large desiccant packs that I got for free at a piano store and hid the unlabeled one in a dark corner among the spiders.

With room at my outside locations freed up, I went back to my list of necessities.  After buying and waylaying various supplies, I started looking into the next phase of purchase and storage: Mylar.

Nowadays there are a lot of good videos on YouTube about the use of Mylar bags.  Not so just a few years back.  I’ll tell you what I believe to be the most important piece of information I learned about Mylar bags after I had started using them.  I have decided (once again my humble opinion) that I prefer to fill smaller bags.  I can then use these bags to create a variety of items in a single storage bucket.  If I had to grab just a few buckets and bug due to an emergency I won’t have to think about which ones to grab.  Each has a little of everything.  But I’m getting way ahead of myself…

I bought some 5-Gallon 5mil Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers through a dummy persona from an Internet retailer that accepted money orders (OPSEC).  Then, to save money I went to a bunch of grocery stores out-of-town (OPSEC) and basically trash-picked or asked for some food-grade buckets.  When I had a good bucket to Mylar ratio I proceeded to fill my dried stores.

Filling Mylar bags is a simple thing to do.  It’s pretty much a 3-step process:

1. Put bag in bucket and fill with dry goods.
2. Add Oxygen Absorbers.  I use 300 to 500cc absorbers per pound depending on how much “dead air” is left in the bag. For instance ziti leaves more air than rice.
3. Fold the bag over, squeezing all of the air out and run a hot iron across the open end to create a seal.  I usually iron the outermost part of the bag, near the opening, and an extra two inches to create a bigger seal.  By leaving a lot of the bag below the seal you can re-use it.

My dried stores consisted of what you’d expect: Beans, rice, pasta and various grains totaling a paltry five buckets-worth.  To supplement them I proceeded to add cans of various meats like tuna, sardines and the like.  Anything with a shelf life extending out for a few years that I could and would eat over time was collected and stored away.  After a while my secret stash, which was in plain sight, was becoming noticeable (definitely not OPSEC).

It was about then that I read on a blog about how a couple in Manhattan with a considerable shortage of space managed their preparedness needs. 
While I couldn’t follow their example strictly I did learn a lot from it.  Here are three examples of what I did with this wisdom:

  1. I made a workbench using stacked buckets for the legs and camouflaged it on three sides with storage shelves. (They had made a kitchen table camouflaged with a table cloth,)
  2. I stored food in Mylar bags under (my side) of the bed in those under-the-bed storage containers, surrounding them with out-of-season clothes.
  3. Started using 1-gallon Mylar bags to fit a greater variety of items per bucket.

Now it bears note that following number three is a less efficient use of food-space. When you seal the items this way and put them into a bucket there is a lot of dead space between the bags.  What I do with those spaces now is add things like: ammo, toilet paper, water filters/tablets, basic first aid supplies and pretty much anything else I can cram in there.  [JWR Adds: Never include anything on a food container that might exude toxic vapors such as lubricants, paint, Sterno, cans of lighter fluid, hexamine tabs, or Trioxane fuel bars.] So long as I can lift and carry them without straining myself I fill the buckets as much as I can.

Now, instead of having to open a 5-gallon bucket of rice and risk spoilage, I can open smaller amounts as needed and preserve freshness to greater quantities of supplies.  Plus, I have the added benefit of knowing that a single bucket is roughly equal to a full month of a majority of my supplies.  I’ll delve into this momentarily as I know it sounds like a ridiculous estimate.  Just bear with me.

Hiding in plain sight:

Over time my stores grew and my available space was shrinking.  I needed to find a new way to hide my stores in plain sight.  One of the way’s I’ve done this is to put storage buckets next to the items they resemble.  What I mean by this is that I have a bucket with a re-used label stating “Activated Carbon” next to my house’s water filter.  I have a bucket with a manufacturer painted fertilizer label on it among my garden supplies. The variety of things that now require buckets for “organization” in my house is amazing.

All of my buckets have been cleaned and sterilized, and the use of Mylar goes further to ensure the supplies are safe.  Plus, the buckets are among the items they are pretending to be.  This adds a level of camouflage that I otherwise wouldn’t have achieved (OPSEC).  If you think about it, you can find many different ways to not-camouflage your hidden stuff.

Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat:

So now that I have some experience in this, what do I fit in my magical, invisible buckets?  I’m glad you asked.  It takes some creative packing but here’s a typical inventory:

-8 Lbs Rice                                               
-5 Lbs Beans
-5 Lbs Pasta                                               
-5 Lbs TVP (taco, beef or chicken chunk)
-1 cup Sugar                                               
-1 cup Salt
-1 cup Italian Seasoning                       
-100 rounds .22 Long (for small game or ballistic wampum)
-4 Bottles of Water Purification Tablets in a wide mouth quart jug (totals 50 quarts)
-25 each of Chicken and Beef Bullion Cubes (also in the quart jug)
-1 roll of compressed/vacuum sealed toilet paper (cardboard removed)
-50 (ish) compressed/vacuum sealed napkins (can double as kindling after use)
-200 strike anywhere matches in a sealed plastic tube
-2 solar accent lights removed from their stakes
-Whatever first-aid supplies I can get in

Coupled with my jarred stores, garden and chickens (see below), these supplemental items should do just fine.  And if something should go wrong what buckets I may need to bring should I have to evacuate/bug out will still have a solid variety of supplies.

Subterranean Supermarket

I will touch briefly on canned goods.  We can all agree on the fact that they last a long while and offer up a variety of ways to supplement protein and calories as well as ways to avoid Food Fatigue

Food Fatigue is basically getting so sick and tired of eating the same things repeatedly over a long period of time that you slowly starve yourself because you choose not to eat them anymore.  Please feel free to look up a literal definition.

Setting up a rotational stock system should be high on your list.  Canned goods must be stored in such a way that they can be rotated with every purchase.  Optimally you can set up a shelf that lets you put new stuff directly in back and allows you to easily take from the front.

Just imagine that the Schumer has hit the Fan.  You’ve used everything in your refrigerator first and now are going to your stores.  You open up a can of tuna and it just doesn’t smell right.  So you open another… same thing.  As the fear sets in you realize your mistake.  The best way to avoid this is to rotate your stock and stay on top of it. 

Rule of thumb: One in, one out. [Quickly replace everything you use, and use your oldest stocks first.]

Other things you need to keep along with your canned/jarred stores are:

  1. Bleach: You can’t beat it for keeping things sanitary, especially if you have a designated area for butchering game.  It can also be used for treating water, but I’m not entirely comfy with that.
  2. Vinegar: It’s a great non-chemical cleaner that can be used where food is prepared/consumed.  You’ll also need it for jarring foods, post-SHTF.  Store different types of vinegar.  White for cleaning/jarring, apple cider for poultices or treatment for conditions like Gout.
  3. Alcohol:  The drinking kind.  I do not partake often, but if there is any kind of prolonged crisis you may need it for tincturing medicines.  It’s also a great barter item.  Make sure you have vodka and high proof rum.

An old dog learns new tricks:

So to address the obvious shortcomings in my monthly supply estimate, I did after all say it was a rough estimate, I had to learn a few new skills.  Under the guise of boredom (OPSEC) I decided that I wanted to enter the magical world of keeping chickens.  I had to think long and hard about this one.  There are a lot of reasons not to do this.  Among them are:

  1. Chicken coops require maintenance.  If you can’t keep up on things you have no place having them, especially when it comes to living creatures.  They may only be chickens, but their still Gods creatures.
  2. Space is a factor.  If you have a rooster and your neighbors are as little as an acre away, you won’t be friends for long.
  3. Town ordinances.
  4. My limited experience with animals of any nature.

If you look on YouTube there are a lot of instructional videos dealing with coop construction.  I strongly recommend watching them.  Also, though my acreage is small I’m surrounded on three sides by state land.  As for town ordinance, the clerk told me that, though illegal, if there were no noise complaints from my nearest neighbor then there weren't any chickens in existence on my property. 

After about six months, I decided that all was well on the chicken keeping front.  The next thing I had to learn was how to jar and can the produce from my ever-expanding garden. 

I firmly believe that it is my duty not just as a Christian, but also as a human being, to give charitably whenever possible.  I have found that a garden can go long ways towards helping others when needs are great.  As unemployment in my area exceeds 15% at the time of typing this, I am finding more and more people within five miles of my home who are in need of food assistance than I ever though I would see.  Having gone to bed hungry many times as a child I find this to be an affront to my very existence.

As such I keep producing as much as possible.  Along with this, I have found that it has become a simple matter to jar foods like pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, chutney and bean salad.  I give my surplus to the food pantry run by my church versus direct giving (OPSEC) and I’ve managed to streamline my process and make better quality stores for myself.  I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve always believed that you learn best by doing.

The best offense is a good defense:

I’ve now spent the last couple of years secretly creating my cache of supplies.  While doing so I’ve come across a like-minded individual who brought me to my current phase of preparedness: Security and Defense.

I had come to realize that there is a giant hole in all of my preparation.  I did not have the ability to defend it.  I have a fairly decent ability to fight hand-to-hand and with knives.  I honed this ability growing up in a rough neighborhood.  My biggest problem was that I didn’t want to end up being the fool who died because he brought a knife to a gunfight.

To that end I sought to get my pistol permit.  During my journey to permit-hood I met a firearms instructor who, as it turns out, lives not too far from my home.  My gut told me we were kindred.  After my class we got to talking and our belief systems seemed to be in sync.  So I decided to break operational security and divulge my preparedness.  I have not had a single regret about it yet.

My newly discovered partner-in-preparedness is a retired SWAT-experienced police officer.   He has helped several people on the road to “Emergency Security” and has decided to not only teach this to me, but to train with me.  I have been introduced to the world of the “three gun” philosophy and am currently taking steps to hone my skills along with others like me.

A man’s home is his castle:

When it comes to home defense, it’s not enough to just know how to shoot.  I had heard numerous times about “Hardening your home”.  Hardening, in general, is a very simple concept: Don’t make it easy for the bad guys to get in and win.  Use things like thorny plants below but not overgrowing your windows, security system, motion lights etc.  But what about when the Schumer hits the fan?

These basic precautions would likely not be enough to fend of a few hungry people let alone stand up to a full-on assault by looters.  With that in mind I spent a good amount of time walking the perimeter of my property looking for places where my property, as well as my home, could be compromised or used against me.

My property, which borders hundreds of acres of state land, is heavily wooded.  I don’t expect to be set-upon by a fast moving vehicle based force from any of the sides facing forest.  Any approach on foot from these directions would have plenty of cover, but only after traversing 12 acres of swamp on one side, and hundreds of densely forested acres on the others.  I have made good use of a chainsaw and thinned out the woods for a hundred feet in each direction past my property line.  This wood will do a lot of good in my fireplace.

Additionally, I have taken the liberty of re-populating the now thinned areas with low growing vines for ground cover.  These will serve to entangle all but the most dexterous foot thus slowing any approach, and even offering up targets should they get stuck on approach.

With three of four areas of approach taken care of I then needed to contend with my homes three weakest points.

  1. My proximity to the road.
  2. The gaping hole in my home created by my glass deck doors.
  3. The gaping hole in my home created by the Bay Window facing the road.

There isn’t much I can do about how close to the road my home is.  Here are a few solutions I have applied or am in the process of at the time of typing:

  1. The digging of a “Water Run-off” ditch along my road frontage will do considerable damage to smaller vehicles.
  2. A six-foot privacy fence, using concrete in the pillars running the length of my property.  On the “Yard Side” of the fence, concrete “Planters” with decorative brick facing have been added at intervals that will make it impossible for anything to drive between (should my fence be rammed).  Plus they look nice and are the future home for my medicinal herb garden.
  3. My glass doors will be removed when SHTF.  To take their place I have constructed a ballistic and fire resistant blockade that I refer to as “The Portcullis”, though it doesn’t really look like one.


Building The Portcullis

2x8 pressure treated lumber was used to frame out the door opening.  The framing was done in such a way as to allow for the installation of a steel fire door in the center.  The outside of the structure will be closed around the door by screwing plywood to the framing and allowing it to overlap the house by one foot in all directions. 

This plywood is then covered with sheet metal, which when needed for actual use will be coated in barbecue paint.  The whole effect, with the steel fire door installed, is to create a standard door opening that offers protection from nasty things like Molotov cocktails and bullets. 

The additional ballistic protection comes from gravel.   Once the outside of The Portcullis is installed, the inside will go up in sections.  The bottom four feet will be covered with plywood.  At which time gravel, cleverly disguised as additional parking on the side of my driveway (OPSEC), will be used to fill in the space between the outer and inner plywood. 

When I reach the top of the first section, three additional feet will be added in the same manner.  The final foot will be filled this way but with a bit more difficulty as there is little room remaining for the shovels of gravel to be manipulated.

The final product results in excellent ballistic and flame protection.  The same process will be used for the Bay Window with the addition of two gun ports.

The beauty of this assembly is that all of the parts can be stored unassumingly in my basement, shed or anywhere else such things seem ordinary (OPSEC).

It all comes full circle:

As I type this I am still living this secret life.  I have learned how to raise chickens, grow crops, jar and can, purify drinking water, store food, use multiple weapons and harden my home.  I am surveying my land for an area suitable for fuel storage and I have even signed up to take “classes” on battlefield medicine.  But I have yet to re-visit the topic of preparedness with my family.

To an extent I am a coward.  I know how I will react in an emergency.  We’ve had multiple hurricanes and nor’easters. We’ve had a “gas crunch” which saw people fighting on long lines.  I have stared-down armed assailants and fought violently to clear a path through harm’s way. And worse, I have performed CPR on my dying child, and failed, while others either panicked or froze in fear. I know exactly who I am.

I’m just still trying to find out how to be him.  Until then I am shrouded in Operational Security in my own home.  I am “The Secret Prepper”.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mr. Rawles:
In every decent sized town I've lived in there has been at least one "discount" grocery store. The stores that sell almost-expired food, dented cans or torn bags, local farmer over-production, that sort of thing. (And FWIW, only one can in a flat has to be dented for "the powers that be" to deem the entire batch unfit.)

My most recent good buy has been repeated three years in a row here. It's May, and the local store is selling one-pound bags of black-eyed peas at the discount price of 3 for $1. New Year's Day was 5.7 months ago and the bags are marked 2012. It's a seasonal product, like Thanksgiving cranberries or Christmas and Easter candy. The peas will be good for 4-10 years, at least, if treated properly. Given that every other grocery store in town still has black-eyes at anywhere from $1.29 to $2.29 a pound, three pounds for a buck is ridiculously cheap. The best price I usually see on any form of dried beans in pound bags is about a dollar. The best price I've EVER seen at a normal store is 50 cents a pound for pintos at Sam's, but that's gone up recently, and it's a 25-50 pound bag.

Point being, smart shoppers should know what average prices are, know what the "buy" price is, and (best yet) know when to buy everything the store has, or all they can afford. I now have about 60 more pounds of viable food for a $20 expenditure. The buckets are free at another store's cake-frosting department, and the mylar bags are a necessary, arguably negligible expense.

For those who don't know: Red beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, field peas, pintos, etc. can all be put in a crock-pot or solar cooker with good results. One pound of dried beans and four cups of water (more or less, with no pre-soak usually necessary) and you have food. Add an onion, half a pound of smoked sausage and Tony Chachere's to taste, and you've got a Southern classic, best served over fresh cornbread with sweet tea on the side. Just don't add the sausage or spice mix until the beans are cooked, or the beans will get tough.

And up next (starting in about two weeks) we've got blueberry season, organically grown pick-your-own for $9 a gallon. - J.D.C. in Mississippi

Monday, May 20, 2013

As a retired corn farmer, I find it quite interesting that the Fed's USDA is still keeping to it's hard-and-fast immutable "projections" of 97.3 million acres of corn being planted this year. Just like building a house, call the Fed's number the "planned" or projected blueprint idea.

But now let's look at the "as built" story. Here, where the "rubber meets the road," or I should say "where the planter tucks in the actual corn seed,' the "actual" or real situation is quite another story due to very late corn plantings, if at all. The surprise is that the market has not yet reacted much.

Last Monday USDA reported that only 12% of the nation's corn crop was in as of Sunday night (12 May 2013.) This should have shocked the markets--but didn't. As of today, US corn planting is up to 28%, but a far cry from the "fast planting" of last year which stood at 85% [on the same date] one year ago.

Western states show significant delayed corn planting because of wet soils.

With long corn crop maturation days here in Ohio's Corn Belt, common wisdom is that if you don't have your seed in by May 10th, you may as well forget it (or switch to planting soybean.) Here we are almost the middle of May and very little corn is planted and the media and markets seem to say: "Ho-hum...nothing to see here, move along folks." This is not good; we are not being told or shown the truth that a nation can rely and act upon.

Maybe this all just doesn't matter; maybe all the corn will eventually get in, maybe we'll have excellent weather and no drought or natural disasters, maybe insects and diseases won't affect the corn, maybe the price at harvest will be just ducky. "Maybe" is the operative word here and that word ain't even good a notion as "close enough" like when you play horseshoes or toss hand grenades.

My thanks to Marlin Clark, commodity trader at "Market Monitor" on pages A6-A7 in Ohio's "Farm and Dairy" newspaper, issue of 16 May 2013, for is alert on this same subject..

Thoughtfully submitted, - Woody in Ohio

JWR Replies: Thanks for that early news tip. SurvivalBlog readers should consider themselves forewarned. This would be a good juncture to buy few more super pails of whole corn and cornmeal. Be sure to buy them before prices jump!