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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Inventory Check: Soap

Soap. Simple, right? You use antibacterial squirt soap at the sink, have a bar of bath soap at the tubs, and gallons of laundry soap near your washing machine. But do you have enough?

Take a look at your receipts for last year. How often did you buy these things? Did you have enough? Did you have spur-of-the-moment trips to the store because you ran out of Cheer in the middle of doing laundry?

Did you know that in a pinch, you can use bar soap in your hair, and do you really need the convenience of squirt soap when bar soap will work just as well? How about using that same bar soap to do a load of wash (shavings)!

Do an inventory check. Then do a reality check. How much do you REALLY need per week. Per month. Per year.

Then make sure every time you buy one soap, you buy an extra or two for your storage plans.

The mother of all stuff collections...

Now we tackle the "Bug out Bag" (BOB). To read the blogs and most preparedness websites, a BOB is the be all and end all of survival stuff at your finger tips ready to impress all but the most apathetic amongst us. That's not what it is at all. Before we jump in, a few points to keep in mind: A BOB is bigger than your get home kit, it is heavier than your get home kit and it contains more stuff than your get home kit, but it's not all that different. The purpose of a BOB is to make it a quick exercise to leave your home/place of safety and go somewhere else that is safer. You still have to be able to carry this collection of stuff. A BOB is heaviest before you use it. As you consume food, water and other consumables from your BOB it gets lighter. The longer you use it, the lighter it gets, and that's a good thing - the longer you use it the more tired you become. The longer you are living out of a BOB the more grouchy you become because try as we might, we cannot get everything we want to be comfortable into a pack that we can lift.

Your BOB is just what the name suggests. A collection of stuff to support/sustain one person for three days, while travelling to a place of greater safety. If you decide to stay where you are and wait for outside assistance to arrive, you will make use of the stored food and water and other preparations that you have been accumlating over time for just this type of siutation. Your BOB is only to be used when it's time to go. Due to the relative size of a BOB it is tempting to put in a few "comfort items". Be careful. Food and water requirements already make this a pretty heft bag of stuff. This is the second time I have mentioned weight in just two paragraphs, so do not under estimate weight as a function of usefulness. Even though you may be able to drive yourself to wherever you happen to be going, you must still be able to strap on your BOB and walk with it.

Every individual in your home needs to have the contents of their BOB already packed up and ready to go at all times. A BOB is not a storage place for things that you use often as you should never remove an item from the kit to be used temporarily. 9 times out of 10, you wont put it back or replace it. If you run out of socks or band-aids, go to the store and buy some. Leave the stuff in the bag alone! The reason everyone needs their own kit is again related to weight. If a family of four puts all of the stuff required for 72 hours of subsistence living in a bag in the centre of the living room floor, it would take all four of them to lift and maneuver this pile of stuff around - Much more efficient to spread the weight out amongst all of the individuals. You need a BOB for each of your dogs and cats. I assume the higher order companions are going with you and expect to be fed and watered for the next 3 days? Wipe away any notion of turning your pets loose as you head out the front door. You have a responsibility to your family and your pets to conduct yourself with exemplary honour and compassion during times of crisis. If you had planned to act otherwise, your plans need to change right now!

Not every member of your family/group is able to carry the same amount of weight, children and your pets in particular, the adults are going to have to suck it up and carry more than their fair share. Superfluous comfort items aren't looking so good right about now are they? When choosing equipment to be included in a BOB it is important to select items that have more than one use if possible. For example, you can pack a can opener or if you already have a can opener on your knife you don't need to pack another can opener. Many, many useful items that can go into a BOB have multiple uses. A small cooking pot can be a mug. A mug can be a pot. There will be specifics on food later on but for now, when selecting food to pack, make sure everyone in your group is eating the same thing at the same time. Meal preparation is so much easier when the menu is the same all around.

I know your anxious, so let's get on to the stuff...

All of your EDC and get home kit items are coming with you.

You should pack a good quality fixed blade knife with a blade of between 4 - 5 inches in length and a tang the extends the entire length of the handle. A good knife will quickly become your best friend and single most important tool. A multi-tool is not a fixed blade knife. You may pack a multi-tool (I do) but you still need the knife.

Food. I'm going to limit my focus to 3 days worth. Having more than three days worth may be a good idea. I'll leave it up to you to figure out if you want to pack and carry extra food. Meals that just need to be heated up if at all are best. Since you are probably more active while bugging out than you would be at home if all was normal you will need to increase your caloric intake a little bit. Everyone should try to consume 2000-2200 calories a day. Try to select the most nutritious foods that meet portability/preparation requirements that you can but keep in mind, this is just for three days. High calorie fatty foods are good items to choose. Twinkies make great bug out food, but alas a diet of Twinkies does leave you seriously lacking in other departments. Toss in a small bottle of multivitamins to supplement the group for the next few days. Any food that you do select, should be rotated out and replaced with fresh food every 6 to 8 months. Because your BOB contains food, the completed bags need to be easy to get to but should be stored away from heat sources and places with wild temperature/humidity swings. Dry dog food is lighter than canned food. How you choose to feed your pet(s) is up to you. I suggest getting a doggie pack if you have a larger dog and let them carry some of their own stuff. Make sure the dog has on numerous occasions previously carried a load in its pack (see previous post: Walking away from the end of the earth). If anyone has special dietary needs take these into consideration when packing that person's BOB. Babies need formula or little bottles of strained green stuff. Glass is heavy but leaving the food sealed in the jar will prolong its useful life. Pack glass inside a BOB carefully. Like baggage being loaded onto a plane, BOB's tend to get knocked around and dropped a lot.

Water is bulky and heavy. If you are walking down the road wearing your BOB, you can't carry enough water. You would need to refill your water bottles at least a couple of times the first day. If you are driving down the road with your BOB bouncing around in the back seat then here's hoping that you though to store a 5 gallon jug of water next to your BOB and that too is now in the car. Stored water in your vehicle will come up again in tomorrow's post dealing with "stuff in your vehicle". If possible, try to include 4 litres of water in your BOB. Small children will have difficulty with that amount so do the best you can with the help of the stronger members of your group. Always be on the look out for a safe way to refill water containers as your travel. The survivalist in me wants to start talking about water filters and uv light pens for treating water from suspect sources. The prepper in me knows that goes well beyond what a BOB is supposed to be. There is no reason why you can't load your car with a stove, pots and pans, a tent, the portable toilet, oodles of water and cases of food, and if you are heading to the bush those things might even be a good idea, but all of that is well beyond the scope of a 72 hour BOB. We are attempting to provide only what we need for the next three days, not what we want or would like to have. Don't forget your pets. They need water too. You know how much they usually drink, now figure that they will drink least one third to one half more with all the excitement that's going on around them.

Clothing needs to be rotated with greater frequency than the food. As the seasons change, so do the clothes that are kept in a BOB. For three days, you will need three sets of underwear and socks. Three shirts and two pairs of long pants. If you want shorts, you carry them in addition to the long pants. A jacket and or fleece that is appropriate for the season. There should be a pair of work gloves in each BOB. Some of this clothing is already in your get home kit which is now attached to your BOB and you need only add the extra clothing that is now needed. When you head out the door is the time to get rid of the sneakers and put on your walking shoes/boots. If you are wearing them you are in fact carrying them, but it doesn't feel that way. Young children need diapers and a whole host of lotions, powders and tinctures the thought of which makes me cringe - you'll need to provide these items as well. Maybe add some more plastic garbage bags, you think?

A good first aid kit goes in one BOB and a few basic first aid items such as band-aids, iodine, tape blister pads, foot powder goes in everyone else's BOB. Have a look at the blog for other posts that deal with first aid supplies. If you are walking around, you are more likely to injure yourself. Have the supplies and medications you need to treat the usual every day cuts, scrapes, punctures etc. I trust everyone's tetanus shot is up to date? If you are bugging out to an emergency shelter, chances are you are going to encounter some diseases like, colds, flu and stomach bugs. Lots of people crowded together is a recipe for some pretty good misery. Don't rely on the support people to be able to provide basic medical treatment in any sort of timely manner. If you are heading for Uncle John's you may not have to endure the trials of shelter life, but you should still plan on dealing with as much pain and illness as is practical yourself. After all, there is a reason you're bugging out, I suspect there is a mess out there somewhere and you rely on yourself first, others second. If you take prescription medication on a regular basis, you should have an ample supply of that in your BOB. If you are diabetic and require insulin, then you'll need a way to keep it cool, but you already know that.

You need to stay clean while on the move so you will need some soap, tooth paste and a toothbrush. A package of dental floss is always a good multi-use item. Don't forget any necessarily feminine hygiene products that way be needed. You should have a small unbreakable camping mirror. If it's not winter, you can usually air dry before getting hypothermia so a face cloth will suffice for cleaning yourself. If you have contact lenses, you will be needing your lens cleaning stuff. Make sure you have a pair of glasses in case you have problems with your contacts.

Good flashlights and extra batteries. Hand crank flashlights are fine with me as long as they work well and you can see well when they are turned on. In this case we are looking for something a bit more substantial than a clip on l.e.d. like you have in your EDC stuff. That small flashlight will be useful for sure, but it cannot replace a more robust light source. 1 flashlight and spare batteries for every BOB.

One portable radio from your get home kit should suffice for the group but a second back up radio should you break the first one is not a bad idea. Don't forget batteries for the radio if it's not "crankable".

Documentation is next. If you only have one copy of your bug out plan (see the previous post entitled: Question of the week) put it in your BOB. Be able to provide supporting documentation for the entire group with the following information should someone insist on knowing it:

Who you are
Where you live
Your citizenship
Proof of medical coverage (ohip)
Bank branch number and account number
Insurance coverage, life, home owners, vehicle supplemental health care etc
Documentation attesting to your pets having been vaccinated
Sometimes a marriage license comes in handy.
If you are heading to a rural property that you own, a copy of the deed.

Make sure that you have some money with you. A family can burn through several hundred dollars in 3 days if you are shacked up in a motel waiting to go home. At least you wont have to shell out for dinner :-)

Let's talk about bugging out in a vehicle. I mentioned it briefly above but using a vehicle as your method of transportation instead of walking doesn't materially alter your BOB in any way. The use of a vehicle simply means that you can take more stuff with you. More stuff would probably be all of those comfort items that we be neat to have but you couldn't carry on your back. A vehicle means it would be easier to take along a big bag of dog food for Fido. A vehicle would mean more water to drink and bath with. It would mean more food and a means of heating/cooking said food. In the end, however, your BOB remains one bag, that you are able to carry, that holds everything you need for 72 hours. Make a list of all the extra stuff you would like to take when bugging out. Use this list to load the extra supplies into your vehicle if the opportunity to use a vehicle presents itself. You can plan to bug out in a vehicle as your primary plan, just be sure not to leave too late as driving away gets harder as more time elapses.

Let's really make this complicated. Up to now, we have been talking preparation for tough times. Essentially giving yourself the ability to be displaced and have enough stuff to survive for three days without assistance or more supplies (all except the total amount of water that is needed). From a survivalist perspective this simple BOB is inadequate. My BOB is modular. One bag is as described above - it's a backpack with a hydration system, that holds my clothes, food, two litres of water and an empty three litre water bladder. It holds my work gloves and a whole host of electronics running the gamut from a portable radio, a gps, a locator beacon, a weather radio and a two way radio. I have a small esbit stove in there as well as a UV light for purifying water. I can boil water if need be. I have signal flares, bear spray, about six ways to make fire, a spork, metal cup, 9 MRE meals, fishing gear, glow sticks, candles and candle lanterns, several knives, a folding saw, tarps for shelter, ropes and string, beaucoup first aid supplies, toilet paper, bug netting, towel, soap, toothpaste, tooth brush several hats, whistles, a compass, and snare wire. There is more in there but you get the idea. This one bag gives me way more than I need for just three days. It's also a lot heavier than a plain Jane BOB. The second module is a duffel bag that contains all of the stuff that I consider advantageous to have but if I have to leave it behind, I can. In the duffel bag is a more useful stove for cooking and boiling water, more clothes, more food, more candle light, another knife, a machete, hatchet, books, another compass, more garbage bags, more tarps, two hospital wool blankets, more of everything I could think of to fill the bag. The third module is my vehicle kit and get home kit packed together in a tote sized plastic storage bin. When I go, I can draw from all three modules and tailor the one bag I do take as closely as possible to situation I will be heading into. There is no way, I can carry all three modules. If I'm driving, well that's a whole different kettle of fish. I am prepared walk or drive as the situation dictates.

The reason I am going on like this is two fold. First, I want to say more is ok, if having more doesn't take away from your ability to meet the basic requirements of your BOB which is portability. Secondly, a BOB can quickly become a completely different creature if you aren't careful when you put it together. Always keep in mind what your goal is and try really hard to stay within the parameters of the overall plan. If all you want is a BOB, then put one of those together. If you want to be able to walk down the long dark road of the post apocalyptic wastelands and not be wanting for anything critical, then you will have to adjust your thinking accordingly. Often as we read blogs and websites about being prepared, the line between being prepared and being a survivalist gets blurred. You need to be a prepared prepper first, then at some magical moment in time, you will morph into a budding survivalist as you begin to build redundancies into your plans. Multiple ways to cook food at home or on foot. Multiple ways to produce light. Multiple systems for ensuring you can get a drink from even the most stagnant of water sources. Knowing how to set traps and capture food. Dressing animals, tanning of hides. A survivalist knows how inconvenient it is being without a simple spoon, so he will whip out a hooked knife and carve one.

Stay grounded in your preparations. My wife puts up with my idiosyncrasies. I've been doing this for a long time and I show her how what I am doing can be of benefit to her. I'm sure she still thinks I'm slightly touched at times but that's ok. All I have to do apparently is tell her which food is preps and which isn't and she seems to be quite happy. Your mileage may very. If you all of a sudden start bring home bags from MEC and Le Baron day after day and an awesome looking assortment of cutlery is seen about the house, questions might be asked. If you cross that line between prepper and survivalist, it gets hardcore real quick. What a ride, planning to be able to live off grid, knowing how to raise livestock, keep bees, advanced orienteering skills, how to build things from wood such as paddles, log cabins, door locks, plates and bowls, and on and on it goes. It's easy to lose your way when striving to be ready for anything and everything.

This is a prepper's network blog so for the most part the information I present here is intended to guide you towards more self sufficiency and more self reliance. Occasionally some soft survivalist dogma gets thrown in but for the most part we're all preppers here and it is important to be aware of the subtle distinctions. A BOB is really good example of this. As you read about what other people put in their BOB, ask yourself, "is this item intended for the short term application of a BOB or is it an item to allow the user to perform a task for the long term?" By doing this, you will be able to see that a sharpening stone really, doesn't belong in your BOB at all, it does however, have a preeminent place in a survival kit. Try not to confuse the two and you'll be a saner individual for it.

The final item I wish to address - I'm sorry this BOB post isn't a simple, pack all this stuff together in a bag and your done article. I've interpsersed some suggestions with some items that most will forget or not think of. I can't very well tell you what to pack because you are not me and our skill levels and expectations are quite different. You can put together a BOB if you think about what you need your stuff to do for you. Pack only what you absolutely need and keep a list of everything you want. Be prepared to go it with only one pack per person but pray for the option to take and have more. Realize also, that it will need to be a very dire situation indeed to force you to abandon the vast majority of your preps at home.

[What have you done today to prepare?]


Water Storage Options...

I'm on a roll tonight!
I posted this on tonight and thought it worthy of it's own post on here...

Hey all,
Here is some food for thought...
The human body can survive for three days without water, even less in arid or hot environments, still less when performing hard work.

One needs at least a gallon of water per person per day per household. This is drinking and cooking water. Washing water should be factored in separately.

Since I am at college I have only myself and my roommates to provide for, however I have taken the liberty to stockpile water in plastic soda bottles and milk jugs. I have only enough for a few days; after that I'd have to resort to transporting it from the creek out back of the apartments. I pre-treat my water with 1/8 teaspoon of plain bleach per gallon, or even 1/8 teaspoon/half-gallon. Keep in mind that with this method of water storage, you must dispose of the containers every six months or so (the milk jugs in particular tend to degrade quickly).

Other methods include:

  • Storage in jerry-can-type water-cans, such as were used from WWII through current conflicts. These can be found in varying condition from various sellers. The best are lined with ceramic or some such as this prevents the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria while insulating your wasser for those hot days in the field.

  • Storage in HDPE "blue cans," these are the most cost-effective method to stockpile transportable amounts of water, usually between 3 and 5 gallons.

  • Storage in Food-Grade 55 gallon drums. Food grade barrels can be found for cheap, or even free from suppliers of honey, molasses, and various other types of food industries. You will want to pressure-wash these to remove traces of whatever was in them before you picked them up. Also keep in mind that while this is a viable option, it is hard to refill them or clean them without a pressurized water source, thus, this should not be your only means of storing water. The steel 55 gallon honey drums which my uncle sells from our corncrib back home are great for use as rainbarrels, which is a very effective way to put to use whatever precipitation drains off of your roof. Even a very small roof will collect a sizeable amount of water. It is a good idea to set up a gravity-fed irrigation system for your planters or garden boxes using rainbarrels.

  • Storage in large, buriable tanks. This is a good way to stockpile water, however you will want to have not only an inlet but a way to bleed it and also a way to treat it (such as bleach or pool crystals).

There are three distinct categories of water according to my friend Eric:

1. Drinkable water on hand: This is primarily bottled water. We have roughly a dozen cases on hand at any given time. I hope to double that amount very soon. We add a few cases each time we go to Costco or Sam's.

2. Accessible water on the property: For us, this includes the water in the water heater, a well, any water remaining in the pipes of our orchard sprinkler system, and our pond. I wouldn't want to drink the water from the pond unless necessary, but we could certainly use it for flushing toilets when needed. And in a worst case scenario I have everything I need to make the pond water safe enough to drink.

3. Water in the area, within walking/carrying distance: We have several small streams/rivers within just a couple of miles of our ranch. Water is heavy and I wouldn't want to transport too much of it very far, but it's good to know where it's at.
So following this logic, there is a strong case (perhaps stronger a case than for stockpiling food) for the stockpiling of drinkable water and the upkeep of water-collection systes BEFORE SHTF.

Therefore I recommend a Five-Pronged approach to stockpiling water:

We (as Survivalists) should have:

  • 1. Ultra-portable 1-gallon or Half-gallon-sized jugs or a case of bottled spring water to grab in a "leave-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace" scenario (bugout issue),
  • 2. Vehicle-portable jerry cans or blue jugs (preferably five per BOV in addition to case of spring water),
  • 3. Rainbarrels for sustainable gardening without the benefit of an electric well-pump,
  • 4. A hand-pump for our wells. This is something I've yet to convince my Dad is the most important prep-item you can get. Problem is it's a relatively expensive procedure. However in an emergency it'd be worth its weight in gold. Just be sure to place it in a location unavailable to the general public or its liable to walk off.
  • 5. A dedicated water-tank for SHTF scenarios. Remember that if it's not properly maintained, mold or other nasties are sure to grow in it.

My pal Eric states that the human body needs 80 oz. of water per day in comfortable weather WITHOUT hard work. He says that if one is eating MREs or other emergency rations, the amount of water necessary for digestion rises dramatically, so plan for 80 oz. of water/day/person.

For two people that would be 8.75 gallons of DRINKING water per week, or 35 gallons per month. He says an average-sized dog drinks approximately 1-1.5 gallons per week. A small dog or cat would probably drink less than a half-gallon per week.

So to keep two people and several dogs hydrated for a month, one would need 65 gallons. That is ONLY DRINKING WATER and DOES NOT include water for cooking, washing dishes, clothes, flushing toilets, etc.

What does this mean? This means we should each have on hand at least 100 gallons of fresh, non-contaminated drinking water. This is just for two people and some pets! Add a gallon of drinking water per day per person per household, and you may well end up deciding that you need a 300-gallon water tank IN ADDITION to your stocks of easily-transportable drinking water.

As always, remember that without the benefit of either an artesian well or a hand pump, one is at the mercy of the droughts and at the mercy of the rescuers. Thus it is absolutely imperative that we all have a good supply of drinking water on hand AND have the means to get more from our immediate water table. Those of us who live in the cities or suburbia will have a harder time meeting these needs. In a long-term SHTF scenario, these folks will have to relocate in order to be able to draw clean drinking water from streams, springs, lakes etc.

Some useful water-prep related links: ---> expensive, holds less.> less expensive option, holds more. ---inexpensive way to treat small amounts of water, (bleach based). ---> expensive. ---> less expensive option, best used in addition to bleach, iodine, boiling or other methods.


Till Next Time,

If anybody has any suggestions as per other ways to store/treat/swap water and boost water collection during droughts, let me know.



Recipe: Homemade Peanut Butter

With the horrible pictures of the peanut butter factory, mold growing everywhere, critter droppings, etc..... who on earth would ever buy peanut butter again? And is that peanut butter powder we have stored safe?

Better to be safe. I found this recipe for making your own peanut butter. Experiment with cashews, almonds, macadamia, and other nuts too.
  1. Spread raw in-the-shell peanuts evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

  2. When peanuts are done, the shell will be brittle, and the "skin" will slip off easily. They'll be light brown with a roasted flavor.

  3. Place 1 cup of freshly roasted/shelled/de-skinned peanuts into a blender or food processor. Turn on machine and while it runs, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of peanut (or canola) oil through that opening at the top. Rule of thumb: 1 cup of Virginia peanuts + 2 tablespoons of oil OR 1 cup of Spanish peanuts + no oil.

  4. Add a dash of salt (to taste). Process until you get the desired texture (crunchy or a little bit longer for smooth).

  5. Alternative: add a little honey, molasses or chocolate syrup for a different taste

  6. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. Note that it won't last very long because it has no preservatives so try to eat within a couple of days. The oil may/probably will rise to the top so just carefully mix it a little before using.

  7. NOTE: It will feel a little less dense and taste differently than what you get at stores, but that's because it doesn't have all of those heavy shortening oils and preservatives.

Nut butters are a great way to get protein. They have lots of nutrition with vitamins and minerals. Keep your nuts (and seeds and peanuts) in the freezer until ready to roast, shell and make into nut butter.

This is a great way to get peanut butter that you're pretty sure is free of contaminants. To be 100% sure, grow you own peanuts and nuts!


Recipe: Roasted Garlic

I had such a craving for roasted garlic the other day that I made a special trip to the grocery store just to get some fresh bulbs. Here's how to do it:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel the outer skin from the garlic bulb but make sure the skin around the individual cloves stay put.
  3. With the root end on your cutting board, slice the top 1/4 off the bulb. This will expose the cloves. The root end will keep the cloves all attached together.
  4. Place the garlic head (bulb) on a sprayed piece of aluminum foil. (Some people use small pieces of aluminum in a muffin pan so they won't move around.) It's okay to place more than one bulb per piece of foil. Drizzle the bulbs with some olive oil, using your fingers to ensure the garlic bulb is well coated. This will prevent burning.
  5. Cover with more aluminum foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves feel kinda squishy and soft when pressed.
  6. Allow to cool slightly. Use a small sharp knife to slit the skins around each clove. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the skins.

This is especially tasty when spread on crispy buttery bread. Or mash with a fork to use for cooking or adding to salad dressings. Or mix with sour cream to top baked potatoes. Or add to a little parmesan cheese, butter and pasta.

FYI: The big "whole" is the bulb, and the individual parts are called "cloves. Some people (yes, including the past me) get these mixed up.

Alternate: Instead of using the oven, you could roast it in the foil on a grill. The aroma it gives off sometimes flavors other foods on the grill.

Copyright (c) 2009 VP Lawrence-Williams


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Convenience Store(d) Food

[ Another great piece by Wendy at Home Is... ]

Some time ago, I went on a quest for convenience, but I didn’t want the kind of convenience that comes in a box from the store.

Actually, that’s exactly what I wanted, but what I didn’t want is modified food starch, disodium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides (to prevent foaming … seriously, is foamy pudding a bad thing?), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, or BHA (preservative).

I’m not a purist or anything, but in learning to eat locally, we had to unlearn our dependence on commercial food products. So, when I went looking for “convenience”, initially, it was just because I couldn’t verify where the stuff in the boxes had come from, but I could find local flour and salt for the mix, and milk and butter when I mixed the pudding, and using raw vanilla beans and local vodka, I can make my own vanilla extract. So, at first, it was all about keeping our diet as local as possible, which means we had to learn to eat a lot of “whole” foods.

But sometimes, it’s nice to have the convenience. You know?


Then, I started looking at what’s in those boxes …

… and, well, as Neo discovered, once you’ve eaten the red pill, there’s just no going back.

So, I went on a quest for “mixes” I could make myself, and I found a lot of them. Currently, I have in my cabinet, pancake mix and vanilla pudding mix. I have recipe for corn muffin mix, but I haven’t mixed it, yet :).

I found the Vanilla Pudding Mix recipe on

It is:

1 1/2 c sugar
1 c instant nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt

Stir ingredients together and store in a tightly covered container in a cool place.

For different flavors you can add:

Caramel: 1 1/2 c brown sugar in place of the granulated sugar.
Chocolate: add 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa.

Recipe yields about 5 c of mix.

To make the pudding:

2/3 c pudding mix
1 3/4 c warm milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Stir pudding mix into the milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles throughout. Reduce heat and cook over low heat for one minute. Add butter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Chill before serving.

There are no preservatives - except what’s in the dry milk (Added later: I looked at the ingredient list, and the dry milk doesn’t have any preservatives, only the addition of vitamins A and D, but there is a concern as to how the dry milk is *made*). We used real butter and raw milk when we made the pudding, and added green food coloring (because it was St. Patrick’s Day ;).

It’s really rich! One could probably reduce the amount of sugar by a quarter and not miss it too much.


When we first started our quest to localize our diet, I assumed it would mean giving up things like pudding, which is crazy, when I really think about it, because pudding wasn’t “invented” by Jell-O, but I don’t think my assumptions were too far removed from the average American’s. I never thought *I* could can tomato soup, or that *I* could make cinnamon rolls that are at least as good as anything I can buy.

But I have, to both, and the more I learn about cooking with whole ingredients, the more I realize that food production isn’t some magic created in the bowels of the Campbell Soup factory.

I’m a little embarrased that it’s taken me so long to get where I am with regard to my food preparation skills, but, as they say, “better late than never ….”

And even better than my learning these skills, is that my three youngest are learning right along side me.

They actually know that cinnamon rolls don’t come shrink wrapped from the grocery store, that milk comes from a cow’s udder (which they’ve seen), that “chicken” is an animal that lays eggs and not just a KFC product, that yogurt and cheese can be made in our kitchen using milk and heat and bacteria, that maple syrup started out as maple sap, that potatoes and carrots grow underground, and while money doesn’t, apples do grow on trees.

They may not be able to recite the Preamble to the Constitution (thanks, Schoolhouse Rock!), but they have a great deal more knowledge than I had at their ages.

And better, it’s knowledge that has value.

Of course, if you’ll give me a dollar, I’ll sing the Preamble for you :).


Bright Lights in Your Survival Garden?

Swiss chard is one of the easiest crops you can grow in your survival garden, and it’s quite nutritious as well. Pictured above is Bright Lights Swiss chard, a very popular variety that produces colorful long stems that will amaze you. Your kids will love the various bright colors. I’ve grown this variety, and I’m not kidding when I say you’ll see electric yellows, pinks, crimsons, oranges, purples, whites, and greens. Some of the stems will keep their color even after cooking.

Several features make Swiss chard easy and fun to grow. The seeds are large enough to handle easily. If you’re square foot gardening, you can plant four per square foot. This makes Swiss chard ideal for containers, too. Chard will grow from spring through fall, and you can even over winter it with protection, as I’ve done in a greenhouse, though it’s not known as a hardy plant.

Leaves are ready to harvest 60 days after planting. One thing I like best about Swiss chard is that it’s a “cut and come again” crop. Cut off leaves to within a couple inches of the crown, and it will grow back to produce more. It’s an ideal low maintenance crop.

Swiss chard can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s quite tasty in a fresh salad or cooked like spinach with a little butter. The flavor is mild, not strong like some greens. A cup contains one gram of fiber, one gram of protein, 44% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin A and 18% of vitamin C. It also contains calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and copper.

When you’re ready to order Bright Lights, click on the picture above, and you’ll be taken to the page on the Park Seed site featuring Bright Lights Swiss chard. Of course, Park’s has other varieties, if you’d like something a little more conventional and less flashy. There are 125 seeds to a packet, and you’ll want to get several packets to have on hand.

You don’t have to be a gourmet gardener or cook to put some color and nutrition in your survival garden. Grow some Swiss chard, and you’re sure to have a supply of excellent, easy growing, nutritious greens.

Foot Blisters

After a major disaster (think Hurricane Katrina), chances are you'll have to walk a long distance. If you haven't prepared, you may end up with a major blister-and-blood situation.

A blister is irritating at best, and when they get advanced, they can be crippling, taking days to heal (while you sit still, unable to continue your travels). It will take even longer to heal if you have to walk in knee-deep in sewage water (again, Katrina).

What is a blister? According to Wikipedia, "A blister is a small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing (friction), burning, freezing, chemical exposure or infection. Most blisters are filled with a clear fluid called serum or plasma. However, blisters can be filled with blood (known as blood blisters) or with pus (if they become infected)." If they become infected and are left untreated, it could actually be life-threatening.

They often show up on heels or toes, but can occur anywhere, especially if you are wearing new shoes or boots.

How to Prepare:
  • Shoes: Choose shoes that are strong, lightweight, and sturdy enough to walk miles and miles and miles. Break them in as soon as you get them, but don't wear them out. I often walk around the house in my new shoes for days before they even hit the streets. This includes boots, sneakers, and casuals. I do NOT recommend flip flops or thongs for use during an emergency.
  • Socks: You really need socks that will wick away the sweat, keeping your feet dry and clean. Keep several changes of socks in your supplies, and change whenever they get wet. Some people wear thin tight socks directly on the foot (to minimize any rubbing), then a heavier pair on top of those.

The instant you discovered a blister, deal with it. Leave it alone and you'll regret it. Your goal is to stop the rubbing.

  • Stop walking.
  • Take off your shoes or boots.
  • Dry out or get out some clean dry socks.
  • Apply to the blister a piece of first-aid tape, "second skin", duct tape, or something else that's just for blisters, like moleskin. Cover a larger area than hurts so that if the dressing comes off, it will pull off the tender skin. Do NOT use a regular bandage because the non-stick part will keep rubbing the bad spot (I had been doing this wrong for a long time!).
  • Put your clean/dry socks on.
  • Don't leave the bandage or tape on too long. It's a good idea to change it every hour or so, to prevent moisture accumulating under the tape, which will cause even more problems.
  • If it gets really bad, make a little doughnut from moleskin and apply to the blister, keeping the blister inside the hole in the doughnut. This will even more minimize the rubbing.


  • If you can rest for a couple of days and not keep on walking, don't pop the blister. The liquid inside will reabsorb and will heal naturally.
  • If you can't rest and blister hurts, clean the area gently but thoroughly. Carefully pop around the edge of the blister with a sanitized/sterilized (tip in a match flame) needle. Gently press the liquid out. Leave the flap of skin in place, and cover with a large bandage and moleskin.
  • If your blister pops, stop and clean gently. Make sure all dirt and grime gets cleaned out. Lift off the flap of skin if necessary, replacing after it's clean and dry. Cover with a sterile banage then cover than with duct tape or other first aid tape or moleskin. Watch for infection (redness).

I've had my share of blisters, and have often treated them incorrectly, leaving scars in their wake. Here's just a tidbit of info that I hope makes your travels easier and painless.


Recipe: Salt Rising Bread

I was re-reading "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder to create a test for VHTS. It kept mentioning salt-rising bread, so I looked it up. This is a bread developed in the early to mid 1800's (1830-1840's) by pioneers who couldn't get a hold of "already-made yeast"- either because they couldn't afford it or because they were too isolated. This takes planning, and a willingness for a stinky house, but if you don't have yeast and want a risen bread, this recipe will be great for you!

You need: 1 medium Irish potato, sliced and placed in a big jar.

1 tablespoon cornmeal (white is preferred)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water

Cover and let rise in warm place until morning. Place in a box surrounded by a heating pad on warm if your house is too cold. If mixture is foamy and “smelly” the next morning (which is what you want!), pour the liquid into your mixing bowl and throw away the potatoes.

Mix 2 cups very warm water with 1/2 cup shortening (we like olive for a savory or walnut for a "sweet"). Then add 1 teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons sugar, and 5 cups of flour. Combine with the stinky rising mixture to make a stiff batter. Let rise in a warm place until double in bulk.

Work in another 6 cups of flour to make a soft dough. Lightly knead. Divide into 3 portions. Let them rise for 10 minutes. Knead for 3 minutes. Place in greased pans. Let rise until mixture comes to top of the pan. Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for another 25 minutes.

This doesn't really translate into a bread machine.

Copyright (c) 2009 VP Lawrence-Williams


Recipe: Bread Bowl for Stews, et al

I was watching TV the other morning, and saw a wonderful commercial for Red Lobster - a bread bowl with a soup (or something) in it! Oh, yum! It got me thinking... that's a good idea. One less dish to wash (which is always a good thing) and a fun way to present your meal. So I searched and tried out this recipe. Strong enough to hold chili, chowder, soup, stews and even fun to present a salad this way!

This starts out in your bread machine (dough cycle) but you can do it by hand if you'd like.

1 cup water
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Measure all ingredients carefully. Add first 5 ingredients in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the directions for your machine. Select dough/manual cycle and start it. Don't use delay - it won't make the dough right. Don't bake yet! Using floured hands, remove the dough from the bread machine pan. Cover with a lightly moist towel and let rest on a lightly floured surface.

Use pan spray to oil the outsides of six 10-oz ramekins or custard cups (must be oven safe!). On a sturdy ungreased baking sheet, place the ramekins/custard cups upside down. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, pat (or roll!) each piece into 7-inch circle. Lift up and shape the dough circles over the outsides of the cups. Don't let the dough curl under the edge of the cup becaue it will bake onto the edge of the cup, making it difficult to remove the bread bowl from the cup. If any gets onto the edge, use a sharp knife to cut it away. Cover these with a moist towell and let rise in warm place for 15 to 20 minutes (until slightly puffy/risen).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water (to make an eggwash). Brush the eggwash carefully over the dough. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. After taking out of oven, use clean towels to carefully lift bread bowls from custard cups (cups and bread bowls will be hot). Invert the bread bowls and cool on a wire rack.

Add a bit of garlic powder or Italian seasoning to flour before mixing. Delicious when serving pasta with marinara sauce.

= = = =

I'd like to know YOUR opinions of bread bowls.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Basic Soap Making

This thread is part 2 of my basic soap making post. If you haven’t already read it, go to my last post “Rendering tallow”. In this post I will introduce you to basic soap making. I will touch upon some finer points I have picked up since I started making my own soap. I won’t be able to teach you everything I know, but this will be a good starter for you. By the end of this, you’ll have a better idea of what is involved in soap making (you can also wash clothes with this in a SHTF situation)print it out and add it to your notebook for later.

You are going to need to gather some items. You will need a stainless steel stockpot, some wooden spoons, a Pyrex measuring cup (at least one that will hold 2 cups, maybe more if you have it,) a thermometer, some bowls, towels for cleanup and have your table top cleaned off! Saponification is the chemical reaction that takes places while soap making. It’s a continuous action that occurs from the time you add the lye to the fats to the aging of the soap. It’s really not that hard when you get into it. This recipe is a basic one that you can add "scents" or keep it basic for a good overall cleaning soap, for bath, home and laundry.

First things first, safety! Wear safety glasses and wear latex gloves during this part of the process. Absolutely! Even the slightest amount of lye splashed onto your face or in your eyes can be hazardous. Into a glass Pyrex bowl, pour 5 cups of COLD water . Be sure it’s cold, once you add the lye, you’ll notice the water gets real hot. Weigh out 13 ounces of lye. (Aside-Lye can be tricky to find, I now get it at my old hardware store in town. They can get me most anything I want. Lye is now sold as drain cleaner. BE SURE it is 100% lye, no other dyes or chemicals added. Do not substitute anything else for lye, I cannot state this enough. One hundred percent lye. Keep looking if you can’t find it, it’s still sold. The actual chemical name is Sodium Hydroxide. Okay…weight out exactly 13 ounces of lye. Slowly add the lye to the water, not the other way around. You could have a huge mess on your hands (and face.) As you add the lye to the water, stir, stir, stir. Be sure you keep stirring until all the crystals are dissolved into the water. At this point, you should notice the water being very hot. This is normal, don’t worry.

Now let the lye come down in temperature to 90-95 degrees F. While this is cooling, melt your tallow that you have rendered and bring to 120-130 degree F.Once you have both the lye and fat at the correct temperature, add the lye to the fat slowly while stirring. Add all the lye and continue to stir. Now, you will probably stir for about 20-30 minutes. Try to make soap in warmer temperatures. What you are looking for is the mixture to come to a “trace” where you can draw a line across the top of the mixture. It’s at this point you can add any essential oil you might want to try and maybe some finely ground oatmeal or dried flower blossoms. Keep stirring until you notice the top is getting dull and you have a ring forming around the inside of your pot. Now your soap is ready to pour.

You can use soap molds, old plastic butter dishes, etc. (I use a regular bake pan 4" deep) just watch what color they are because they can stain your soap. Prepare your mold ahead of time as the soap will “seize” in the pan if it doesn’t get poured right away. Once you have poured the soap, I top off the mold with a large piece of cardboard and cover with a folded towel and put it in the oven with the light on. I add a tray of hot water below it on the lowest shelf and shut the door, no peeking. I take out the soap the next morning and uncover and take out of the mold, cut and stack to age. I set each piece of soap on it’s widest edge and let set undisturbed for 3-4 weeks before using. The longer soap ages, the better it gets. This sounds a little complicated but don’t let that scare you. This is a lot of fun! Good luck and feel free to ask questions! I'm sure I may have left out some things so if you spot it, point it out.

Again, BE CAREFUL. Here are 2 links. #1: Making lye from woodash and #2: a youtube video.

I hope if SHTF you find this useful to help keep clean, not many People think of putting up soap as a prep.


Dehydrated Foods

Dehydrated-Freeze Dried foods have a longer shelf life than foods that are canned with liquid.
While I feel there is some wiggle room with "use by dates" on canned items unless you are rotating and going through stock rather quickly you might have some dust covered canned beets from 2003 that you may not feel are still safe to eat.

A way to avoid this altogether is to purchase freeze dried food. Freeze dried food has an incredible shelf life of up to 25 years. You will not get that with traditionally canned goods no matter how careful you are in rotation of cans. Freeze dried foods with a 25 year shelf life can take a lot of worry out of your preps as you do not have to worry if something has gone bad. Having opened a few cans of nasty smelling and lumpy looking canned goods this could become a life or death situation if a person isn't careful.

I also think that because of weight issues, freeze dried foods are easier to transport in a "bug out" situation if the need arises. Mountain House offers several different options for preppers who want to add freeze dried food to their larder. If you have never ate freeze dried food I would suggest you get a 72 hour emergency kit and eat it. For the price of a dinner out($52.00) you could sample the food and see if it would fit with your preparedness plans.

Freeze dried food is also a good choice for BOBs (bug out bags) again because of the weight. Do not forget that hot water is needed to rehydrate the food so where ever you have it stored, do not forget that you will need a means of heating water to prepare it. A mess kit and magnesium fire starter should also be in your BOB so no need to fret.

To learn more about freeze dried food and for ordering info from Mountain House check the link- you will be suprised with the amount of choices there are.


A most astounding Rhubarb Jelly

By Joseph Parish

Rhubarb is one of those interesting plants which you do not generally chance upon a lot of information on. You will certainly encounter difficulty locating it in your local supermarket. I would like to take you on a gardening journey from growing your own rhubarb to harvesting it and finally to creating some tasty Rhubarb – Lime jelly.

In most parts of America you would not encounter any problems growing this perennial vegetable. It is well worth your efforts to cultivate it in the home garden as it is readily enjoyed in jellies, pies and sauces. Rhubarb is usually planted off by itself at the far end of your family garden and is best left alone. It will be productive for at least five years. Six plants will produce sufficient rhubarb to satisfy a family of four with possibly a little left over for the neighbor.

Plant your rhubarb in the early spring while your plant roots are still in their dormant stage. Use plants or divisions as seeds are extremely difficult to grow in most places other then the deep southern portion of the United States.

The crown bud of the plant should be about 2 inches below the soil with 36 inches spacing between each root planted. Rhubarb rows should be approximately 3 feet apart. Make certain that draining is good in the area where you intend to plant the rhubarb as they do not like wet feet. Prior to planting your roots work the soil well with compost to increase the rhubarbs production.

If you already have several rhubarb plants you can dig up the roots and divide them to make additional plants. Simply cut the root into four sections. Ensure that each of these sections has at least a single strong bud. This process should be accomplished at least every five years to ensure healthy and vigorous plants. Plants older then five years tend to become very crowded and their production decreases drastically. Use only your healthiest plants for this spring thinning and discard the rest.

Maintain the rhubarb area free of weeds inspecting it on a weekly basis. Apply fertilizer generously at the start of the growing season and continue to side dress the plants as the year rolls on. Irrigate the crop during periods of dryness and do not permit it to dry out excessively.

Since the newly established plants need abundant foliage to create a strong root system do not attempt to harvest any plants during the first season. During the second season you may harvest the stalks for one or two weeks, but after that you can safely harvest for the full eight to ten weeks.

To harvest the plants pull the plants stalks and proceed to trim the leaf blades from each. Do not use the leaf blades as they contain oxalic acid. Remove only 1/3rd of the leaves so the plant will remain healthy and continue to produce.

Should your plant develop seed stalks and flowers quickly remove and discard them. The petioles or leafstalks should be of high quality with bright color, tenderness and flavor. The stalk should be thick and crisp when you break it off.

The major pest for your new rhubarbs will be the Rhubarb curculio which is a beetle which bores holes into the stalks and roots of your plants. Should you encounter badly infected plants with a vast number of beetle eggs simply burn them in July.

And now for the fun part. You have already grown your rhubarb so now let’s make some tasty Rhubarb Lime Jelly.

You will need enough Rhubarb stalks to create five cups of juice
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 Tbsp of lime juice
5 tsp of Pomona pectin
5 tsp of calcium water

Wash your rhubarb stalks well and cut them into small chunks. Puree these chunks in a food processor using a cheesecloth for extracting your five cups of juice. Mix the rhubarb and lime juice with the calcium water in a pot. Mix the pectin with the sugar in a bowl. Bring the mixture in the pot to a boil and then add the sugar/pectin to it bringing it once again to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and then ladle the mixture into pre-sterilized jars making certain to leave a 1/4" headspace. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for a period of 10 minutes. Be certain to adjust your time according to your altitude.

Your family is certain to enjoy this treat.

Copyright @2008 Joseph Parish


Get Some Survival Gardening Basics, Then Get Started!

Gardening is one of those subjects where there’s no lack of information and advice. I understand gardening and homesteading books are really hot sellers at bookstores this year. A lot of people are apparently thinking of survival as they’ve never thought before. For example, the swine flu outbreak makes us more aware of the possibility of disruption to availability of food through normal channels. It also reminds us of the importance of wholesome, healthful food. You can read all you want about gardening–and you should—but there’s nothing like doing it.

If you’re still sitting on the fence, so to speak, about whether you should take up gardening, it’s time to get started. It’s not too late to plant crops, such as beans, corn, squash or watermelon. You can plant tomato plants from a local nursery, too. However, time’s slipping away quickly.

Jackie Clay can help if you need to know some basics. She’s gardened for many years in several places around the country. The article excerpt below is from the May/June 2009 “Backwoods Home Magazine,” and will answer several questions about composting, mulching, raised beds, what to plant for your area, and more.

Jackie's garden primer

By Jackie Clay

Is it complicated? You know: mulch, compost, pH, organic, chemicals, biologic insect controls? No. It isn't a bit complicated. As you progress, you may want to expand your gardening skills for an even more productive garden. But gardening definitely is not complicated.

Well, isn't it expensive then? Again, no. Like anything else, you can spend a lot of money gardening. But you don't have to. In the old days, folks grew tons of food by saving their own seed from year to year, trading seeds with neighbors, and occasionally buying a few packets of seed to grow other crops they didn't have seed for. In fact, by growing even a modest home garden, you can save up to one third of your grocery bill each week all summer and fall, and even more if you home can your extra vegetables.

Read the whole article here:

Excerpt used with permission of Backwoods Home Magazine. 1-800-835-2418

By the way, you can read more from Jackie Clay on her “Ask Jackie” blog, linked on this blog’s sidebar.

If you’re limited on space and want practical info from another gardening pro, get Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening. On the other hand, if you’ve got lots of room, you can get tips from his book on how to use your space more efficiently. Order your copy by clicking on the picture of the book below. That takes you to the page featuring the book.

Now, Get started on that survival garden!

Click here for info on simple, high yield, organic gardening.


Make your own lip balm for cold sores

1 oz. Emu Oil
1 oz. Almond Oil
1 oz. Avocado Oil
1/2 oz. Shaved Beeswax or Beeswax Pellets
1/4 oz. Aloe Vera Gel
6 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
2 Drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
3 Drops Lime Essential Oil

Mix the almond, avocado, emu oil and beeswax together in a microwave-safe bowl.

Microwave for a couple of minutes or until the mixture is completely melted.
(Bowl may also be heated in a pan of water on a stovetop).

Stir the mixture often until the wax is melted.

Add the aloe vera gel.

Remove from heat and stir in the essential oils.

Stir again and set aside to cool completely.

When cool, transfer into small portable plastic containers or tins.

I generally find my ingredients at our local health food store but if you cannot find them near you, I'm sure you can find them on eBay.


Homemade Mouthwash Recipe

2 ounces of water
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda or sea salt
1 drop of pure peppermint essential oil
1 drop of pure tea tree essential oil

Mix ingredients together well. It leaves a refreshing minty taste in your mouth and prevents bad breath.

Essential oils can be purchased at your health food store.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Homemade Soap (rendering fat)

When making your own soap, it's always important to follow a few basic steps. The first is being sure you start with quality ingredients. I personally used beef tallow, (fat gathered from around the kidneys.) I have gotten terrific tallow and "meaty" tallow before, so when shopping, be picky if you can. Tallow is a flaky, compact fat that's white in color, although will sometimes contain blood or tissue from the beef. The less red that it contains, the cleaner and purer the fat. Most of the time, I get mine from a local butcher. It takes 6 - 7 lbs. of fat. To start, I will dice the fat into pieces about a half inch square. Yes, it takes alot of time and your hands will get incredibly greasy, but i don't have chapped hands for a week! It's better to dice it small, though not too small, 1/2 inch works for me.

I then will get out my cast iron pot( a stainless steel pot will work) and pile it all in. I block the pot up on bricks and build a small fire underneath, cover the pot to keep the ash out. This is one of the places where you must be patient. Do not build the fire high, a low-medium fire is best in my experience. You run the chance of scorching the fat if the heat is too high, and all the work can be lost as the fat takes on the burned smell. Nasty smelling fat can mean nasty smelling soap! Stir the fat around every few minutes from side to side and top to bottom. You'll start to see the fat turning to a clear/golden liquid. This is a good sign! So far so good! Last time I processed tallow, it took about an hour for all the fat to melt down. I know I could do it faster, but I tend to be on the safe side than lose all my work.

I let the fat cool a bit, then I take a ladle / strainer and scoop the leftover pieces into a metal bowl. I use metal simply because I do it while the fat is still hot and it would melt plastic and could break glass. Once I get all the fat pieces out of the liquid, I scoop the leftover fat into a pan and use my potato masher to squeeze the liquid fat from it into the stockpot. Be careful not to squeeze too hard, otherwise you will end up with small pieces of fat you will have to fish out later. Now that you have squeezed all the fat from the pieces, you can discard those if you wish (There are some soapers that will add water to the leftovers, boil it and then cool it down in the fridge. You can then scoop the remaining fat from the top, drain and add to the fat for making soap. I never went that far, But, I may do just that when TSHTF and I have to waste nothing).

The last thing I do to end the rendering, is take several layers of cheesecloth, and filter the fat. I have used coffee filters, paper towels and old rags. I like cheesecloth, but old rags work very well. They are just difficult to clean up so if you use an old t-shirt, use one you can throw away. Now, you have your fat for soapmaking! Whew! The next step is the actual process of soap making. That will be in my next post titled “Basic soapmaking.”


Recipe: Hardtack (hard biscuits)

I'm really into pioneer food right now. Never realized that hardtack is basically a rock-hard biscuit, or a thick cracker. If stored correctly, it could last for years. It could be made very cheaply (well, duh, flour and water!) and because it would last so long, it was a very convenient food for people who travel so it made it through wars, pioneer treks across the continent, explorations, and more... whenever someone needed to move fast and pack light.

Hardtack was eaten by itself, or crumbled into coffee. Nowadays, you could dunk it in reconstituted powdered milk, or crumbled into soup. You could also crumble them into cold water, then fry the crumbs in the juice and fat of meat (a dish known as "skillygalee" or "cush").

2 cups freshly ground flour
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine ingredients and knead until smooth. Sprinkle some additional flour on a smooth surface. Roll dough flat until 1/4 inch thick. Cut biscuits out with a can or score and slice into squares or rectangles. Keep within 3-4 inches in diameter/across. Poke holes into each using a fork (see the picture above). Place on a floured cookie sheet. Bake 35-45 minutes until biscuits are hard and dry.

Copyright (c) 2009 VP Lawrence-Williams


Make your own baby powder

1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
essential oil - optional - I like lavendar

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Let stand a few days and then sift through a flour sifter. Pour into a powder shaker/container.



Fiddlehead Ferns

In another few weeks, fiddlehead ferns will be popping up in woodland areas. These are the first wild edible that I'm aware of.

You need to pick fiddlehead ferns when they are very young (like the picture) and before they have unfurled into true ferns.

As with any wild edible, only pick a few in each area so that you don't destroy the whole supply for future wild edible hunters. Take a few from each area and leave some for the next person. Don't pull up the fern, just snip it off below the curl so that it comes back next year.

Once you get your fiddleheads home, rinse them well and peel off the brown part of the plant. You can use them in a variety of ways but my favorite is to make a fiddlehead fern quiche.

Fiddlehead Fern Quiche
serves 6-8
For crust use any non-sweet pie crust or a homemade crust
6 slices bacon, crisped
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. minced scallion or onion
salt, pepper
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 pint fiddlehead ferns

Cook crust according to directions. Combine eggs, milk and cream in a bowl. Add scallion and seasonings. Sprinkle half the cheese in the bottom of the shell, lay bacon and pour egg mixture over. Sprinkle rest of Swiss cheese, arrange Ferns on top and grate nutmeg over top. Bake at 375ยบ for 30-40 minutes until set. Cool slightly and serve.

Here are some other recipes:

As with any wild edible, make sure you know what you're hunting for. If you have any doubt whatsoever don't eat it.


Precious Metals or Cash ?

Rangerman's recent post got me thinking. Every time someone talks about keeping cash around on their blog someone will comment that they keep precious metals on hand instead of cash. I got to thinking about the benefits of both and since enough of my time got wasted (and I need to fill up 2 weeks of field time) it is going to be a post.

I was recently introduced to a new phrase at work, critical assumption. Basically a critical assumption is: something you are considering to be truth (assumption) that is essential to success in your venture. EX: If you are bringing non-twist top beer to a BBQ and don't bother to bring a bottle opener because your friend Bob has one on his key chain that would be a critical assumption.


The first camp is the cash crowd. These people keep cash on hand usually in mixed bills. They keep this cash for emergencies, blackouts and natural disasters.
Here are their critical assumptions:
1. People will want to take their cash in exchange for goods. These people think the system may slip a little bit but it will not fall entirely. Cash will still be good.
2. Something bad might happen where they will need this cash to purchase things they need.

The second camp keeps precious metals on hand exclusively. They keep it on hand for barter or to sell if they need to raise a bit of cash.
Here is there critical assumption.
1. They will not need to purchase anything right away. You can't take one ounce silver rounds to the local Publix or Safeway and leave with food.

I keep cash and precious metals on hand. To me cash is for fairly mild emergencies including but not limited to: my fucking card not working, power outages, natural disasters, hurricanes and bank failures. I figure one months worth of cash expenses is a reasonable figure to keep at home on hand. To me cash expenses is stuff like food, fuel, etc. People who get checks now would get checks then so I don't include rent, insurance, cell phone bill, etc. This drops the number considerably from my total monthly expenditures. The rest of my emergency fund is in the bank.

As for precious metals. I look at these as having a couple roles. First they are the emergency fund for if things are completely fucked. They could be traded for food, fuel and other things I need. If a job is lost or something they could be sold to help you survive. Even if things went completely to hell people would accept cash for awhile then it would be barter time and precious metals have intrinsic value. The second role precious metals have is as a hedge against inflation. If people no longer trusted money (or far more likely its value changed on a daily basis in a hyper inflationary scenario) I would be able to sell/ trade a coin here and there to get what I needed.

As for how much in precious metals to own. I don't think you can own too much gold and silver but I do think you can put too much of your limited resources towards them.

Now comes the question of what to get first. Odds are at least one person reading this has no cash (except what is in their wallet) on hand and owns not even a solitary silver dime. Since they read my words and were inspired by their genius this person now wants to store cash and precious metals. I suggest getting your cash emergency fund squared away first. The odds that you will need this are far higher then that you will need precious metals. You might need some groceries when the power is out (and ATM/Debit cards don't work) or there could be a natural disaster. Maybe something real weird happens and you need $500 cash on a Saturday. After that months worth of cash expenses is safely stashed somewhere in your home start working on your treasure (precious metals stash). Depending on your thoughts and worst case scenario there might be a desire to have a bigger emergency fund (in the bank). If this is the case I suggest splitting fundage between precious metals and the bank emergency fund.