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Friday, April 30, 2010

Another Coleman Lantern for Preps

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's a sickness. We're having neighborhood garage sale through the end of the week-end and my neighbor called last night and said he had a Coleman lantern I could have first shot at. He wanted $3 but it's a garage sale so I haggled with him and finally settled on $5. It's a May, 1972 model 200A.

If you pick any of these up here are a couple of tips for you.

1. Tap the tank. If it rings then it's a good empty tank. If it thunks, then it either has rust or fuel in it. Take the cap off. If there's no fuel, put it down and walk away. If you can see that it has slight rust inside then dump 40-60 BBs and a little fuel in it and shake the daylights out of it. The BBs will shine it right up. The hardest part of this is getting the BBs back out.

2. Always check the air intake tube. It's a favorite spot for spiders to build nests and they will choke the airflow right off. I've found about half of the lanterns have them. I use some braided automotive wire, skin about a 1/4 inch or so and bend the wires backwards. I insert it into the fresh air tube and it will clean out any webs inside. If the lantern flares up and won't burn correctly, suspect a spider web.

3. Never store a lantern with gas inside the tank. For some reason it causes moisture and the tank will rust. Always empty the tank and let it dry out before storing it.

Here are some before and after pics of the latest addition to the preps family.

As purchased....

After about an hour. Completely disassembled, cleaned and reassembled.

And what it's supposed to do...


3596829214 93ddeb6cbf m INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP:  To Do vs. To Buyimage by koalazymonkey
Every family I know is cutting back on extra spending.  When your goal is preparedness, though, the fact of the matter is that money is required if you’re working on food storage, making trips to the shooting range, or buying a generator.  What might help, when times are tight, is to have two prepping lists.

To Buy 

On this first list, keep track of what you want to purchase.  Create sub-categories for food, camping supplies, tools, communication, fuel, and the like.  To make the lists even more useful, prioritize what you want to purchase first.  Then, keep the list with you always.  You never know when you might drive by a garage sale and see a perfectly fine generator sitting there with a price tag of fifty bucks or a case of Y2K era MREs for ten.  Your lists will keep you from making spontaneous purchases for things that, you discover later, you already own, and will help you stay on track.

To Do

This second list will likely be longer but will keep you from getting discouraged when a tight budget puts that To Buy list on standby.  On your To Do list, list the books you want to read or download.  List all the things you want to learn.  List the names of people who can teach you survival skills or just how to install a ceiling fan.  If you haven’t compiled everything you need for a Bug Out Bag or 72 Hour Kit, add that to your list.  You probably have nearly everything you need for those bags right now.  Add “decluttering” to your list!  That’s one of the most important things you can do, it won’t cost a dime, and if you put all your unwanted stuff out in a garage sale, it just might give you some cash for your To Buy list!  Have you made an evacuation plan?  Have you gathered together all your important documents for a Grab-n-Go Binder?  Have you printed out important survival information for your Survival Mom binder, just in case your computer crashes or you lose power?
I think we all get caught up with the idea that to prepare, we have to spend.  When the money just isn’t there to spend, then we feel doomed!  As you can see, though, your To Do list is actually the more important list.  Knowledge, skills, and experience are priceless.  It’s every bit as important to stock up on those as it is buckets of wheat.
© 2010, thesurvivalmom. All rights reserved.

Make a Garbage Bag Shelter Part of Your Survival Kit

by Leon Pantenburg, Survival Common Sense
I’m not sure how the early settlers along the Oregon Trail or the western frontier  got along without duct tape, WD-40 or trash bags, but life surely would have been easier with them!
Trash  bags, in particular, are included in all my survival kits. They have a multitude of uses, including being containers for picking up trash! But in an emergency, when correctly used, trash bags can prove a quick, temporary shelter from the elements.
I first noticed this trash bag shelter use  at an Iowa State University football game in the early 70s. The weather got really bad during the half, with snow, rain and wind. But one row of die-hard Cyclones pulled out a roll of plastic trash bags, cut holes for their heads and arms, and weathered the storm. I don’t recall how the football team did!
Since then, I’ve taken shelter in trash bags on a variety of outdoor activities. Trash bags are particularly valuable on hunting trips, because a large bag gives you a place to lay meat while you’re butchering.
trash bag shelter1 Make a Garbage Bag Shelter Part of Your 
Survival KitThis 55-gallon trash can liner can provide a quick emergency shelter. (All photos by Peter Kummerfeldt)
Obviously, if you anticipate bad weather, be prepared for it, stay home or take along a  lightweight, four season backpacking tent.  But, c’mon, how many of you are going to lug around a tent on every outing? Most of us will carry it a time or two, and eventually, the tent will end up getting left at the trailhead. Then, some day late in the afternoon, you realize you’re lost or in a survival situation. You’ll have to  build some sort of shelter before it gets dark.
Reality shows to the contrary, you probably won’t be able to build a shelter out of natural materials, says survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt.
“I believe it is impossble for the survivor to build a waterproof, windproof shelter from natural materials,” Peter writes in Surviving a Wilderness Emergency Make a Garbage Bag Shelter Part of Your Survival Kit.  “Shelters made from natural materials require time, natural resources, a cutting tool and a fully-functional survivor who has practiced building emergency shelters in the past! The survivor needs a waterproof, windproof shelter now!”
Large, heavy grade (3 or 4 mil) 55-gallon drum liners can make a good short term shelter. But don’t just crawl in and hunker down. Like any survival technique, you need to prepare and practice to use this shelter.
“Totally encapsulating yourself inside a plastic bag is not a good idea,” Peter advises. “Apart from the need for oxygen, the water vapor in the air you exhale, and your prespiration, will condense on the inner surfaces, and you will get quite wet.”
trash bag shelter2 Make a Garbage Bag Shelter Part of Your 
Survival KitInclude an insulated pad for sitting upon, because the plastic bag doesn't have any insulation.
To avoid this problem, cut an opening in the closed end of the bag with your survival knife or the scissors  on your multi-tool  just large enough to allow you to pass your head through. The bag is then passed over your head until your face aligns with the hole and the moist air is exhaled outside.
To make the hole, Peter advises cutting the plastic at a 90-degree angle along a seam about five inches below one corner. The hole should be just big enough to pass your head through when you are getting too warm.
This shelter  technique very well. In Boy Scout Troop 18, we keep a roll of 45-gallon plastic bags from one of the local tire stores. Each scout takes one on hikes or campouts, in case they need to improvise a shelter, rain poncho or pack cover.   The smaller bags are just the right size  to cover the little guys from head to toe.
Trash bags for shelters are easy to come by. Your local hardware store will probably have contractor-grade 45 and 55 gallon bags. You can also look in the storage area. I found 55-gallon, 3-mill bright yellow bags, designed to cover furniture  for long term storage, that will work quite well as shelters.
Color is another consideration. I prefer blaze orange or bright yellow to help rescuers find me. But if you want to avoid being found, just get the standard black color.  Get in the shade of a tree, under a black bag and you will be pretty well camoflauged. A large white bag, also in the shade of a tree, will allow you to blend in well with snow.
I carry several tire bags, along with an orange 55-gallon heavy duty bag as part of my Ten Essentials survival kit and my hunting gear. My orange bag already has a head hole cut. In a pinch, per Peter’s advice, I’ll stick my feet in a smaller bag, pull it up around my waist and pull the orange bag down over me.
Also, as recommended by Peter, I always carry a piece of insulite foam for sitting upon. The plastic bag provides no insulation, and the cold ground will suck the heat right out of you. The padded, warm seat will make waiting to be found much more comfortable!
Obviously, an emergency shelter is just that. It is designed  to be used in an emergency, and nobody ever claimed a trash bag shelter is the best choice under any and all circumstances.  But a trash bag is light, will give you a waterproof shelter from nasty weather, and is compact and light enough to be taken anywhere. Remember this thought when you’re putting together a survival kit, bug-out bag or a set of wilderness or urban survival tools:
No piece of survival equipment is worth anything if you don’t have it with you!
© 2010, thesurvivalmom. All rights reserved.

Survival Meal Planning

cooking in desertImage via Wikipedia
When faced with a survival situation, one of the basic things that will be required is regular meals. Regular meals will be necessary to maintain proper nourishment and nutrition. You will be expending energy and will need to plan for regular meals to help avoid stress and fatigue. This makes meal planning essential if supplies or resources are limited after a crisis or disaster.

Tips for Survival Meals

1) Keep the meals simple and plan as many “one-dish” meals as possible.

2) Use recipes that don’t require special cooking equipment or preparation.

3) Limit yourself to one pot or one pan when preparing a meal. Less clean-up effort is needed afterwards.

4) Use simple and very basic ingredients. Using complicated recipes will only add to the frustration and stress of a survival situation.

5) Plan daily meals ahead of time but be flexible in case circumstances change and smaller meals (rationing) become necessary.

6) Include meals in your planning that can be eaten “as is” for those times when cooking a meal may not be possible.

7) Avoid cooking extra. Left-overs will perish quickly if power sources are out and proper conditions to prevent spoilage are unavailable.

8) If you do have left-overs, they will probably need to be eaten as quickly as possible and should be incorporated into the plans for your next meal.

9) Use only tested recipes and food items that you know family members will eat. Avoid experimenting with new recipes in a survival situation.

9) Don’t be afraid to repeat the use of basic food items in your meals.

10) Include some “survival snacks” for variety and nutrition.

Keeping things simple and uncomplicated during a crisis or disaster will aid you in your survival efforts.

Got survival menu?

Staying above the water line!

Oatmeal Apple Crisp

Oatmeal Apple Crisp
I had some Granny Smith apples that were slightly past their prime, so I thought it was a perfect excuse to use some of my food storage oats for something other than oatmeal.  I found this simple Oatmeal Apple Crisp recipe and “voila!” the apples were transformed.  I couldn’t snap the picture fast enough before it was being served with scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Since oats will store for 30+ years, in proper conditions, I don’t think we can have too many ways to use them!
I love that this recipe is fast and easy!  The only change I would make next time  is to add chopped pecans to the topping.
3 C. sliced apples
3 Tbsp. flour
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (I think Apple Pie Spice is even better)
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. water
1/2 C. rolled oats
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 C. butter (I used Smart Balance)
1/3 C. brown sugar
Combine apples, flour, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. salt and water. Place in a greased casserole dish (I doubled the recipe to fill the 9 x 13 pan).
Cut the remaining ingredients together with a pastry blender and sprinkle over the top of the apple mixture in pan. Bake 35 minutes in 375 degree oven.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Edge

There have been volumes and volumes written about survival knives. Long boring discourses on point types, metallurgy, folding versus fixed, stamped versus hand forged, on and on until it would cross your eyes. Some survival experts would have you carrying a monster blade capable of butchering a moose; others recommend a bewildering array of knives for every purpose that leaves you wondering where you could possibly carry them all.

There is indeed a place in preparedness for large fixed blade knives and full suites of specialist knives, but the average person is unlikely to be carrying either on a day to day basis. In fact, in some places in Manitoba you will contravene bylaws and leave yourself open to large fines if you carry a blade longer than 7 cm (2.5 inches), and to carry a blade in a manner where it is obvious that your intent was to conceal a weapon can result in a charge under the Criminal Code.

So what is the one best survival knife? The answer is simple: The knife you always have with you. It doesn’t matter if you own blades that would make Rambo weep in envy if they are in one place and you in another.

For me, that means an everyday carry knife that will not contravene laws, that will be useful for a variety of situations and that I will carry all the time. In my draconic opinion, that comes down to just two choices for most people: The multi-tool or the venerable Swiss Army Knife. And while I own a multi-tool, the SAK is my personal preference, and I believe it should be the preference of most people. Why do I say that?

I thought you’d never ask...
The multi-tool does have one striking advantage in that it consists of a strong pair of folding pliers (with additional tools in the handles) that offer a gripping strength that Swiss Army Knives can’t match. That said, the multi-tool is often quite heavy (weights of well over half a pound are not uncommon), offers a smaller range of implements, and is generally more expensive than a SAK with comparable functions if pliers are excluded. Additionally, the greater weight and size of the multi-tool makes it harder to manipulate the handle-carried tools, especially for individuals with smaller hands or limited strength. Most importantly, that greater weight also means it is far more likely to be left on the bedroom dresser at home than would a pocket knife.

To give manufacturers their due, there have been efforts to make the multi-tool lighter and more compact, but this has resulted in tools that either offer far fewer accessories, are more fragile, or are more expensive (Titanium ain’t cheap!). Unfortunately, a simultaneous move has been to go the other way, adding more to it in the form of bit sets, turning an already bulky tool into a bulkier one.

In contrast, the SAK is lighter than a multi-tool in most of its incarnations (my Huntsman model, pictured at the start of this article, is ~ 80g), although the flagship model, the ‘Champ’ weighs in at a silly 221 grams. On the whole however, there is such a large variety of knives in so many sizes and degrees of complexity that you're sure to find one to fit your exact requirements.

The usual suspects are present: blades, screwdrivers, can and bottle openers, wood saw, tweezers and scissors to name just a few, but it doesn’t end there. For example, there are knives designed with activity specific tools (e.g., the Equestrian which has a hoof cleaning tool, or the Hunter, with gut hook). There are Swiss Army Knives with integral LED flashlights, a feature I have yet to see on a multi-tool. There are even knives that have removable USB flash drives!

Further items such as magnifying lenses and pens are available, and if you really must have it, there are knives with pliers as part of the tool set, although far from as robust as those of a multi-tool.

In closing, let me make clear that I think multi-tools are great for what they are. The same is true of the SAK. In all honesty, both are far inferior to a purpose built tool intended for a single specific task. Both are far, far better than having nothing at all.

So you need to ask yourself two questions before you choose either:

What combination of features are the most useful to you?

Which of the two is more likely to be in your pocket or purse when you need it?
Personally, I think that most of the time the honest answers to those questions will lead you to some version of the Swiss Army Knife.

Urban Resources

Having a plan of action is critical in any survival situation. Any good Urban Survival plan should have a way to find food, water and other supplies within walking distance of your home. It should also include multiple routes to get out of Dodge should the need arise.
Plan of Action
Get a detailed map of your area (or download one from Google maps). Plot out all the routes to where you can find various supplies during an emergency situation.
WATER – Ponds, streams, rivers, wells or whatever other sources of water are near your area need to be plotted out in detail.
  • How far are they from your location?
  • How much water can you obtain from the source?
  • Are there water sources where you can bathe and wash clothes?
  • What are the risks associated with obtaining water from the source?
  • Are there safety issues that you may encounter and how will you overcome them?
  • Can you stay hidden along your route?
  • Where can you find wild game around your area?
  • Are there area where you can easily set traps & snares?
  • What are the edible wild plants in your area?
  • Are there farms in your area? Local gardens?
  • What are the risks associated with transporting food in your area?
  • Are there safety issues that you may encounter and how will you overcome them?
  • Can you stay hidden along your route?
ESCAPE ROUTES – Having multiple escape routes is extremely important and should not be overlooked. Make sure you study your routes, and know them well!
  • Find routes that have multiple other escape routes via the original trail.
  • Are there hiking trails in your area?
  • Are there train tracks in your area?
  • How easy is it to stay hidden while walking along your route?
  • Is there a river you can safely follow?
  • Make sure you also know where to find food and water along your escape routes.

Preparing for a Natural Disaster - Volcanic Ash?

What types of natural disasters are you preparing for? Most lists would include those that would occur in your vicinity. These may include tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and/or earthquakes. How about a volcano erupting and the resulting volcanic ash? This one probably didn't cross your mind unless you live near a volcano. I spent some time in southern Chile under the shadows of some very large volcanoes. (See Mt. Osorno pictured above). I also lived in North Bend, Washington when Mount St. Helens erupted. I remember waking up and seeing ash everywhere—I had never seen anything like it before. It took substantial work for us to eventually get everything cleaned up.

Many are familiar with the recent volcanic ash cloud that originated from a volcano in Iceland. It has caused the worst air travel conditions since the September 11th, 2001 tragedy. According to the Associated Press, after five days officials have finally moved to "end the air paralysis caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland, agreeing to let air traffic resume on a limited basis and giving hope to millions of stranded travelers."

3-Day Emergency Kit

So what does this have to do with natural disaster preparedness? I read an Associated French Press report today that said British supermarkets could start running short on some imported goods such as certain fruit and vegetables if the island’s airspace remains closed into next week. Granted, a fairly small percentage of imported food arrives by air, but it did cause me to "enlarge" my natural disaster preparedness thinking. Some great questions to ask: Could I be affected by a volcano even if I don't live near one? Am I prepared for a natural disaster that may not even occur in my region? When was the last time I evaluated my resources?

Emergency Essentials has many blog posts dealing with natural disasters. Now may be a great time to read some of them and update your emergency preparedness plan and supplies. Here are some links to those posts:
As the ash begins to clear, we hope that you will prepare yourself and your loved ones for any natural disaster that may occur in the future.

Episode-421- How to Develop Your Personal Survival Plan

Monday I responded to a listener who asked a question about planning and he was hoping for a checklist.  My response was that I can’t really give you a hard check list because you must develop your own plan (Tenet Ten of Modern Survival Philosophy).  From the beginning of TSP I have stated that to be the case, I also realized that it has been a long time since I did a show on planning and that I have never really dissected the personal aspect of planning for the needs of the individual and their immediate family.  So today we are going to do just that.
Join me today as we discuss…
  • First we must define survival and preparedness
  • Next we should consider the meaning of self sufficient and self reliant
  • It is important to acknowledge that you need a plan in the first place
  • Before we assess threats we need to delineate between acute and long term effects
  • Next examine threat probability and the commonality of disaster
  • Now define your self sufficient and self reliant time lines (”wealth” according to Buckminster Fuller)
  • Then define your primary and secondary priorities
  • Determine your weakest points and assign future resources based on your most urgent needs
  • Journal your progress, successes, failures, the weather, everything
  • A plan is designed to be fluid but you must have a basis and changes need documenting
  • As you shore up weaknesses you will find new ones emerging, prioritize them accordingly
  • Be sure to test yourself both voluntarily and involuntarily
  • Remember no one cares about you as much as you do
Additional Resources for Today’s Show
Remember to comment, chime in and tell us your thoughts, this podcast is one man’s opinion, not a lecture or sermon. Also please enter our listener appreciation contest and help spread the word about our show. Also remember you can call in your questions and comments to 866-65-THINK and you might hear yourself on the air.

A Practical, Full Spectrum Suburban Survival Plan, by JIR

Survival planning can be overwhelming and a lot of the advice you get is not practical or compatible with our lifestyles. A lot of us choose, or are forced to live in the crowded East Coast far too close to cities to survive TEOTWAWKI. I dare say, a lot of SurvivalBlog readers live in suburbs just outside medium to large population centers. Many of us have jobs that don't migrate to small towns and would face a substantial loss of income if we moved away from our livelihoods. Some of us like our current lives and feel that hunkering down in a rural town is just too much like running away from life. Others (like myself) have family obligations that preclude relocating.
That can make surviving the "big one" difficult or even impossible. But, fortunately, the "big one" is much more unlikely than a lot of smaller regional disasters. You should be able to easily survive the small ones and with a little planning you may be able to increase your odds of surviving TEOTWAWKI astronomically. If you approach preparation logically, you should probably have a variety of plans in place to mitigate a whole range of possible disasters. While this suburban approach is not as safe as living in a back-woods retreat out west, it's much less extreme and more palatable for suburbanites. If you can pull it off, living debt free and off the grid in your remote retreat is the safest option. If you can't, don't give up. Prepare for what you can and mitigate the rest. At least think it through and have a plan of action.
First, what are your real goals? Survival is simply keeping body and soul together and your body temperature at 98.6 degrees. That's definitely not enough for most of us. We all want to survive in style, with as little discomfort as possible. There is a huge difference between living in a stadium with thousands of other refugees and living in your own home. Most of us want to be in a position to help others in a crisis, or at least exercise some level of control over our lives and maintain some dignity. But, don't lose sight of the real objective. You want to keep breathing, even if you lose your home and your possessions. The scale and duration of a disaster determines the amount of preparation you must have, but in every case, living in style with dignity and comfort takes more preparation than simply living through it. If you are living in a high population area, you are accepting risk and betting that society will continue in some form. That's okay as long as you realize that you are going to have to pay for that bet if the big balloon ever goes up.
Lets look at some disasters in ascending order of severity and see what you can do to live through them from your suburb home. I will share my own preparations under each heading, not because I am a super-survivor and ready for anything, but so you can see what I consider a practical level of effort (in my particular case). You can easily improve on my preparation level and should if you feel the need. I am 50 years old and basically a lazy guy with grown up kids. If I die from my own lack of preparation, I can accept that and I guarantee the world will go on without me. You have to choose your own pain level when it comes to survival planning.
1. Power outage (temporary, like would be caused by a severe winter storm). This is an easy disaster to survive. Basically everyone will survive it unless they are unfortunate enough to be on an operating table or something at the time. Surviving with style requires a generator or at least candles and maybe a camping stove. In very cold environments, you can be in danger without an alternate form of heating for at least one room. Setting up a dome tent inside your home and using good quality sleeping bags can allow you to survive sub-zero temperatures easily. Even a couple of candle lanterns can keep the inside of a small tent above freezing. Several LED lights will make your life much better and a good battery radio is a must. Rechargeable batteries are a good idea but only if you keep them charged. If you can't make that much effort, take the lazy way out and keep a large supply of Duracell batteries on hand and rotate them yearly--problem solved. Keep in mind that elevators and subways become immobile metal boxes in a power outage.
My own preparations: I have a deep cycle battery backup to provide light and recharge AA batteries for a few days. My system is on a smart-charger to maintain the charge and I rotate one of my two big marine batteries every three years for a cost of about $90. This is much less trouble than maintaining a small generator, but probably a little more expensive in the long run. I also have a 12 watt (12 volt) solar panel to top off my battery bank and a 6 watt solar AA battery charger. If worst comes to worst, I can recharge my batteries from my truck alternator. Total system cost (with a 1,500 watt inverter, charger and a hand truck) was slightly more than a generator. I don't use a freezer for food storage, so I don't require much electricity. I have kerosene lanterns and both propane and wood cooking capability. I am prepared for much worse, so, of course I have lots of food, some water, a hand operated well, several good radios, camping gear and other stuff. So a power outage is not even very inconvenient. The only thing I really miss without grid power is air conditioning and television.
2. Regional disaster (Earthquake or Hurricane). Some disasters are too nasty to face. You will want to evacuate. This requires a vehicle with plenty of fuel, a wad of cash, and a well stocked bug-out bag for each member of the family. More importantly, it requires a plan. What will your bug-out route look like in a disaster? If you haven't considered this, you probably should. Take a look at the congestion in every recent hurricane evacuation and plan accordingly. You need to know where you will go and plan your route. If you can own a well stocked retreat outside the disaster area and can get to it, you have it made. If not, make plans to stay with friends or family outside the disaster zone.
My own preparations: My area is sort of vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, so I have a very extensive bug-out bag with basic camping stuff, two weeks of food and water, and a few basic weapons for the road. I have all my important documents in a waterproof/fireproof lock-box that I can grab and take with me. I keep my truck in good shape and consistently top off my fuel when it reaches 1/2 tank, but I only store seven gallons of gasoline (which I rotate every month or two). I also have cash on hand so I can pay for hotel rooms. I am 1/4 tank away from high ground, so I figure that's good enough. Oh, and I also carry flood insurance.
3. General economic depression/recession/hyper-inflation etc. Once we start an economic slide, it can hit you in a lot of ways. Some of us have already been crushed by the current depression. Your pension may be lost. Prices will skyrocket, while your paycheck doesn't. Losing your job or having drastically less money can be a soul-destroying disaster. There are several ways you can mitigate it if you start early enough. Debt is your biggest problem and threat. If you miss a few house payments, or car payments, the banks are not going to be forgiving. Credit card debt can crush you with interest and finance charges. Avoid them like the plague. While you still have a reliable income, you need to pay off debt, or at least build up a buffer of cash to allow you to make minimum payments while you look for a job. Many of us have fallen into the trap of having a huge 30 year mortgage and live in fine suburban houses. As the real estate market falls flat, you won't be able to sell your home to get out of debt. Buying a smaller, less expensive place or renting can give you a measure of freedom if you can manage to get free from your current mortgage. If you have a mortgage payment, you are still a renter and subject to eviction. Even if you own your house outright, you really don't. You probably still have to make a tax payment or you will be evicted.
Oddly enough, a food storage program can really help you make ends meet. The kinds of food we store tend to be not only shelf-stable, but cheap. If you start eating the same foods you store, like wheat, beans and rice for most of your meals, you can feed your family on pennies. These basic foods are actually tasty and nutritious once you get used to them. Work them into your diet gradually and you may find that you feel healthier and spend less on your grocery bills.
A small garden can cut your food costs and raise the quality of your diet at the same time. (You also get an opportunity to get a little exercise, something most of us need.) Fast food is not only unhealthy, it's expensive. The same $20 you would spend to feed your family a meal of greasy burgers will stretch to five or more healthy meals if you cook it yourself. A good cookbook can be a wonderful investment if you use it.
Get rid of all your car payments. Driving an older car that you own outright can save you a ton of money. They are cheaper to insure too.
My own preparations: Not so good. I have a fairly safe job, but almost no savings and quite a lot of debt, mostly in the form of a large mortgage. If I lost my job, I would quickly lose my home if I couldn't find another one quickly. I have a small military retirement pension, but we would have to make some drastic lifestyle changes to live on it. The thought that I could be homeless and broke within 5-6 months scares me, but there is no quick fix for debt.
As long as I have a job, I will at least have local transportation. I often ride to work or shopping on my mo-ped which gets 150 mpg. I can get around town pretty well with no other form of transportation. I store 7 gallons of gasoline and oil and have a complete set of spares. This would allow me to run my Moped for at least months, even if I were unable to get more. If gas gets much higher, I will probably park my old truck most of the time anyway. My little bike is home built from a kit. It has a 66cc engine I bought on Amazon and put together in a weekend. At first, this bike was just a toy, but I quickly saw the utility and bought a complete set of spares and bike parts to "systemize" it. It has proven reliable, economical and loads of fun. Coupled with a small cargo trailer, my bike can haul about 200 pounds of groceries at 25mph and has a range of over 75 miles without refueling the little 2.5 liter tank. Total cost counting the bike, engine kit, spares, fuel storage containers and tools was about $450. If you are interested in building one of these kits, I highly recommend a visit to With a little research, you can tell if you are skilled enough to build one and maintain it. This solution won't work for everyone, but it works great for me. It's a wonderful feeling of power to know I can repair anything that goes wrong with it.
4. Crime. The Marines have a saying I admire: "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet." These are words to live by. Being robbed, raped or burglarized is a personal disaster, but violent crime can be the most horrible thing that ever happens to you. Anyone can be a target of violent crime, so never assume you are safe, even in your own home. Your physical security should be your first concern and always at the back of your mind. There is no time to think about it while it's happening, so you will need to plan out your responses in advance. Do you have to go through life watching over your shoulder for danger? In short, yes. You do anyway. When you cross a busy street, you don't just amble across without a glance. Why should you behave that way when it comes to thugs?
Do you have a weapon? If not, you really do need to get one ASAP and learn to use it. Do you rely on the police to protect you? If you do, you are betting your life against long odds. Historically, the police have a dismal record for protecting citizens. If you don't believe me, ask a cop. Most of them will tell you that they can't protect you from violent crime and will advise you to arm yourself. Firearms are by far the best weapons, but if you simply can't own one (for whatever reason), have something and a plan to use it effectively. Even residents of New York City can own a ball bat, knife or tomahawk, so there is no excuse for being unarmed. Don't bet your life on a Taser or pepper spray. Buy something lethal and learn to use it. Just your possession of a weapon, skills and a plan to use them will calm you and allow you to think more clearly.
Defending your home. If someone wants into a house, then they can get in. No physical barrier can stop a determined person. But, barriers like solid doors and locks can slow them down and force them to make noise. The only real deterrent that works is the threat of brute force (even if you rely on the police to provide it for you). Visible barriers can also deter criminals and make them go elsewhere. But what if they ring the doorbell in the middle of the day? Do you answer your door with a pistol in your hand? Maybe you should. Or at least, stuff a snub-nose revolver in your pocket on your way to the door. Home invasions often begin with a knock on the door and a friendly smile. You may not be able to stop the Manson gang with a pocket pistol, but then again, you might. Your chances are certainly better if you expect that friendly UPS guy holding a package to suddenly turn nasty and push past you into your house with his four buddies. Look at your situation right now. Are you more than five seconds away from a loaded weapon? If so, you are not as secure as you might be.
Defending against burglary while you are away is harder. Barriers like stout doors and window bars help. Living in a good neighborhood and knowing your neighbors helps. Having a monitored burglar alarm helps if you can afford it. A loud (unmonitored) burglar alarm will make the burglar jumpy and might scare him away. You should also make it hard on him. Don't store your valuables in easy to find or easy to grab fashion. A heavy gun safe is a lot harder to carry off than loose valuables. If it's bolted down, it's even more difficult to steal. Scatter and hide your wealth and the burglar is likely to miss some of it. If the worst happens and your stuff is stolen, console yourself. It's just stuff.
A dog can be a big deterrent and a wonderful warning system (and a peerless pal!). But never depend on a dog to fight for you. Dogs are too easy to beat. Dog owners tend to overestimate the combat effectiveness of their animals. The fact is, even a large dog is not hard to kill and all of them are downright stupid compared to a human adversary. Don't count on your dog to defend your home. He will try valiantly and fail. Dogs are best used to warn you and give you time to prepare a defense. (By the way, domesticated dogs are the only canines that bark. There is some evidence that they were originally bred specifically as burglar alarms.)
If you bug out, then you should absolutely be armed. There are too many things that can go wrong on the road. You need weapons you can conceal or they may be confiscated at a check point, so I suggest a battle carbine with a folding stock. (The WASR 10 AKM, that comes with a TAPCO trigger job is a great choice). A good choice for concealed carry is a Ruger SP-101 in .357 Magnum. It's utterly reliable, powerful and as accurate as you are. My G.O.O.D. preparations include a Mossberg riot shotgun to surrender to the cops and a few other items that are less noticeable. The Mossberg is an excellent weapon and cheap enough to not weep if you lose it.
My own preparations: Not great, but better than most. I have a battery powered burglar alarm inside the house to give me some warning and 3 battery powered wireless cameras for outdoor monitoring. We have three cell phones on two different networks, so we can call the police.
I have a modest, but adequate survival battery and a moderate amount of ammunition for each weapon. I answer the door with my hand on a .44 Magnum. I am rarely more than two seconds from a loaded firearm and carry a knife even in the shower. Does this make me a paranoid? Maybe, but I figure that just because you are not paranoid doesn't mean everyone is is not out to get you. This level of readiness for sudden combat might prove too inconvenient for some people but doesn't cramp my lifestyle at all. I have lived this way my whole adult life. I am not hurting anyone and I feel pretty safe. None of my neighbors know about any of my preparations or suspect that they are covered when they come knocking at my door. My home doesn't look like a bunker and I never look like I am armed. My wife is a marginal but enthusiastic shot, and has a .45 Colt single action revolver within reach most of the time. (She has three of them and jokingly calls two of them her "speed loaders" [since Colt single action revolvers are notoriously slow to reload.] It might be a bad day for someone attempting a home invasion at my place. The bad guys will at least have to overcome an instant, determined defense. But even with all my "rational paranoia", my house is far from secure. It can be burglarized easily or burned. It's definitely not a fortress. If law and order completely breaks down, I recognize that I can't possibly defend this house from a determined group. There is no shame in running away from extreme danger.
5. Financial collapse: If there is a general collapse of the finance systems, expect banks to close immediately for the duration, or perhaps impose withdrawal limits on your accounts (check the fine print. They can do that.) If you have valuables stored in a strong box inside a bank, you may not be able to access them. ATM machines may quit working. Credit will dry up and your VISA card may not work. As hyperinflation takes hold, the price of goods will fluctuate wildly and vendors will start defensively pricing their goods. In most historic cases of hyperinflation, prices changed daily or even hourly. If all of this comes to pass, any wealth or entitlements you have denominated in dollars (like a retirement check, for instance) will quickly become waste paper. In this kind of environment, most people are going to we wary of doing business and shortages of fuel, food and other staples should be expected. Cash is king in a credit-less economy, but it's also poisonous. It loses value quickly, so you will want to hold as much of your wealth as possible in tangible goods and dump cash quickly. In hyper inflating economies, people who get paid in dollars try to cash their checks and spend the money on payday. If this kind of emergency gets really bad or lasts very long, I believe it could easily slide into a total grid-down TEOTWAWKI collapse. Our only hope is that the same government who caused the crisis can somehow maintain order and halt the crash. I don't have a clue how they will be able to do this and I suspect they don't either. The point is, they will be on a time limit. At some point, people will start to riot, loot, and evacuate cities and the whole house of cards may fall.
The Ideal way to survive this kind of calamity is to already be living outside the money economy. If you don't have any bills or expenses and are largely self sufficient, you can probably survive this without much change in lifestyle. Everyone else may be in trouble. In the event of a general finance meltdown, you really should consider executing your TEOTWAWKI plan, because things may get very ugly very quickly and you may not be far ahead of the Golden Horde. Widespread and simultaneous bank closures from financial instability is a very bad sign.
6. TEOTWAWKI plan. (Long term Grid-down emergency): This is the big one. It's what this blog is all about, and the reason you should have moved out west to a quiet little town. If you can plan for this one, you will be ready for anything less catastrophic. I see a collapse happening in three broad phases: The struggle to save society, the big die-off, and the early struggle for recovery. Let me explain what I mean. Our modern world is very inter-dependent and a breakdown of any major system can cause the collapse of the others like a house of cards. The main ones that can't stand much interruption are:
Food distribution
Fuel distribution
Finance systems (commerce)
Electrical Power Grid
Government law enforcement
Failure of any of these for an extended period could cause catastrophic failure of the other four systems. If people are starving, they will break laws to get food. If nobody can buy or sell, it can completely stop food and fuel distribution. Fuel distribution effects the power grid. Unless the Government quickly reacts to disruption of any of these main systems and props it up well enough, the others are sure to crash. There will be a period where the government (and most responsible citizens) attempt to prop up the system and put it back in order. Reporting for work even if you are afraid of violence and not being paid may be the only way the system can be repaired and the crash averted. If these efforts fail and one or more of the above support systems stay down long enough, all five of these systems will likely fail in rapid succession.
Failure of these will cause other second order failures in systems that, while critical, can stand some disruption without catastrophic results, such as food production, medical services, transportation and distribution of other goods, other government services, coal mining, Water and sewage and maintenance as well as many others. The net result of a general breakdown of services would be to shatter society beyond a return to normalcy.
Here is the problem you face: Almost everyone in western civilization is supported by this precarious web of services. Without them, these people cannot possibly maintain their current existence for more than a few days or weeks at the most. There is not enough food stored nearby where people live, also, these people don't yet own it. (check around. Almost nobody stores a meaningful amount of food in the USA or Europe). Without the electrical grid, finance, law enforcement, transportation and security, everything comes to pieces and people will start to starve.
The population of the USA (and Europe) will be hungry and desperate within a very short time. How short? I really don't have any empirical data on this. Regional disasters are not a good model for a general breakdown because there is always help available immediately from the outside, even if it's nothing more than a stable finance system and the threat of eventual prosecution for looters. The one thing we can be sure of is that without modern systems, most people are going to die in a matter of months.
Lest you think this kind of catastrophe can't happen, be warned: This massive population die-off is not without precedent. Throughout pre-history, there are repeated catastrophic die-offs where a population suddenly collapsed. The Mayans, Anasazi, Greenland Vikings, Easter Island, and several African empires probably experienced a very similar event. Each population (except Greenland) stabilized at a new, far lower, population level. But, each of these cases was the result of the collapse of societies much less complex and populous than our own, with fewer dependencies and much shorter production chains. In other words, their societies were much more robust and resilient than ours. Our collapse and die-off will be unprecedented only in scale and the speed of the crash.
Living near a population center makes surviving the die-off difficult or even impossible. People don't just sit down and starve to death. They form groups and go out looking for provisions. Put yourself in their shoes and think it through and you will see that every house, every building they can reach will be systematically searched for food. Even remote retreats may not be safe from this. People tend to organize and come up with solutions, even to tough problems. [JWR Adds: And be forewarned that they tend to apply "situational ethics."] Every city and every town will have provisioning teams out looking for supplies. Anyone who expects to stand on their rights and claim that they "own" their supplies is going to lose in the face of general starvation. Any provisions you have that can be found will be confiscated by somebody unless you can fight them off.
I would like to save you some planning time here and say that you can't fight them off. They will use whatever force they require to kill you if you try. you will be facing a modern military force determined to take you down. You simply cannot win. Expect to be approached by a uniformed policeman (or citizens wearing armbands or whatever) armed with a writ or martial law decree allowing them to search your home and confiscate food and fuel. Unless you have hidden or evacuated your goods, you will lose them, one way or the other.
You will need to make some hard choices if you plan to survive a die-off and live near a population center! If you truly believe, as I do, that you can't possibly bug out in place, you will either have to evacuate to a safer place, or hide. A long G.O.O.D. trip (IMHO) is likely to fail. There are just too many variables that are outside your control. You must have a clear route, good weather, working vehicle, provisions for the trip and ample fuel. You must also maintain security during the trip. It's not just ambush or raiders you have to worry about. Any local sheriff, anywhere on your route can block a road and confiscate your vehicle, almost on a whim. Any number of problems can come up on the road.
My own preparations: Since I have chosen to accept risk and live in the East near a population center, I will have to take extreme measures to live through an extreme disaster. My preparations are fairly extensive, but not as expensive or time consuming as buying even a meager retreat home. As with all my other preparations, I set a goal for myself that minimizes my effort and expense and still gives me a good chance to survive.
First, I have no confidence that I could evacuate to a safe place or outrun the "Golden Horde", so to live through a general population die-off, I will have to hide my family and all our provisions. This is not a fool-proof solution. It requires some preparation and it certainly isn't easy to do, but I believe this is my only real chance of surviving the die-off long enough to help rebuild.
I have chosen a remote wooded area (Federally owned pine woods) near my home with lots of ground cover and almost no game or other resources. There is a tiny stream nearby, too small for fishing, but with a year-round supply of relatively clean fresh water. I have chosen a good place for a hide site (a camouflaged encampment with a sturdy fighting position) and cached quite a lot of provisions nearby including a big box of sandbags.

With these basics and my (truck load) BOB, I can set up a LRS style hide site. This is sort of an enhanced objective rally point (ORP) with much better security than my home. I feel that my family can be preserved there for about a year, even in the event of a massive society collapse and die-off.

This plan seems extreme, (it is), but weigh it against the alternatives. The advantages of a wilderness hide-site retreat (for me, anyway) are compelling. My site is very close to my current home, so I don't have to worry about keeping a lot of fuel on hand or facing a long, dangerous G.O.O.D. evacuation. It is highly unlikely to be found by looters, hunters, loggers, or anyone else and isn't on somebody's private fact, I don't hold a deed to it, so it can't even be traced to me and located by city hall records. It's much safer and more defensible than my home and can be evacuated with little loss of provisions since the bulk of them are hidden at some distance from the site. My pre-positioned provisions are carefully waterproofed and don't require much maintenance. (I spot check some of my caches yearly, but none of them have ever required any attention). Any retreat with buildings is much harder to hide or maintain and obviously costs much more.
Building a permanent cache is an art form, so if you choose to use this tactic, think it out and research it before you do it. A good technique is to bury a large galvanized steel culvert and seal the space inside with welded (or even bolted) steel doors or bolted panels to keep out rodents. Cover the ground a few feet around with heavy (6 mil or better) plastic sheet and cover the whole thing with a foot of soil and sod or leaf litter. In a few weeks, it will be undetectable without a metal detector. An 8 foot section of 3 foot culvert provides over 40 cubic feet of usable secure storage space and can be man-handled into place by two strong men using only a pickup truck and hand tools. You still have to waterproof every container inside the culvert, but they are surprisingly dry and temperature stable inside as long as you are well above the water table. I recommend you provide some redundancy. Hide several of these and store more food than you think you will need, in case one or more of them are found and looted somehow. This requires a lot of heavy digging unless you can rent some machinery without attracting attention. But, even if you have to do it with a shovel, it might be worth it someday. And once you have your culverts in place, you can relax and go fishing. You don't have to worry about provisioning too much since the bulk of yours will be safe.
Living in suburbia in the Eastern US, you are constantly living in the shadow of a major population center, or several. This can be good and bad. Your chances of making it through most disasters are actually better than if you were living in the remote boonies since you will enjoy the benefits of the money economy, easy to find jobs and a nearby police force. Just be aware that if the worst happens, you will need some pretty extreme plans to maximize your odds of living through it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

EMP or Solar Storm, no electricity, What about lighting?

Every day we walk into a room, flip a switch and in an instant there is light. We push a button and are spending a “Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. We move a little device on our desk and can be sharing news around the world. We place clothes or dishes in a box and a half hour later they are clean. We expect all of these things to be at our fingertips every day but within mili-seconds of an EMP attack or solar storm we can be transported back to 1850 and living like Abraham Lincoln, chopping wood for warmth and reading by candle light. But it may not be an EMP or solar storm that leaves us in the dark, an earthquake, hurricane, blizzard, terrorist attack, or even a wild fire in the right place could propel us back in time.
There are days when that life sounds really good to me. It would be so nice to have the peace and quiet with just the sound of a crackling fire. It would be great to have an excuse to read a book I have been putting off because of a lack of time. It would be wonderful to lay on the lawn and look at the stars. For those in the city you would actually be able to see the stars again. Not everything about the lack of electricity is a bad thing.
There are things I would miss and those are the things I will plan to replace, just like our great grandparents lived without them. In 2008 we spent the year preparing using our Seven Steps program. Every Monday I posted seven things to do that week to be better prepared. We accomplished so much that year. It was amazing. One of the first things we did was to list all of the things we do that require electricity. For those of you who went through the Seven Steps those lists should be in your binder. Let’s consider several over the next few weeks.
First light: Today it is pouring here, really pouring, a real winter storm, I know it’s spring. It hasn’t really been very light all day but now it is actually dark outside, two hours earlier than usual. What did our forefathers do to provide light for their family? There are many solutions to this problem but as we consider an EMP or solar storm as the source of the outage we need to prepare a little differently. These outages could last for weeks or months. It is not just a matter of storing a few candles or a few batteries.
We may want to use kerosene lanterns. These are great and produce plenty of light to read by. They are good for use in common areas where they can be monitored and children can be kept away from them. Lamps can be lit and the wick adjusted so you have a dim or bright light. After a few days or several hours the wick will become hardened at the end and will need to be trimmed. If you should choose to make kerosene lamps the source of your lighting you will need plenty of kerosene and plenty of extra wicks.
Glow sticks are a great addition to your stash as they provide plenty of light to read by if they are yellow or white. Colored sticks will provide plenty of lumination in a hallway or a bathroom as a night light. They are safe around children and can be used in the rain or snow if you need to venture outside at night to collect wood or to use your sanitation facility, more about that later. They will last eight hours. If you know you want one for each bathroom at night it is easy to calculate how many you would need for two weeks or six months. These do have a shelf life but you will be the hit of the neighborhood if you rotate them by passing them out for Halloween. We took some to Disneyland and had the kids where them after dark. It made them very easy to spot and they loved it!
Flashlights are also a consideration for lighting. These are perfect when you are trying to find a lost item at the back of a cupboard or when you are trying to adjust the generator at night. Batteries will last only a few days, three to five, if you are leaving them on for extended periods each day. Develop a plan now and calculate the number of batteries you will need to store.
Solar lighting is an easily renewable lighting source. Garden lighting can be placed outside each morning to recharge and brought in at night to light your home. You can place these in indoor potted plants, in an outdoor umbrella stand or just supported between a couple of stacks of book. These will last a very long time if you have new batteries to replace the old at the beginning of the crisis. Our Solar lamps have been working now for three years on their original batteries. The only drawback to relying on these is the inability to charge them during winter storm seasons when there may be days without sunlight.
I guess we can’t overlook candles. These are my least favorite option but my favorite type of lighting. I love candle light but it is not bright enough to read by and it is dangerous to have an open flame around children. You will need to have a plan for keeping your candles safe. Glass canning jars are great for a candle holder as they can with stand the heat and allow all the light to shine through.
Finally there are crank/solar powered lights. As with outdoor lighting these can be charged when the sun shines or they can be cranked to provide light. A good light will hold a charge for two to three hours without rewinding. They are a great option is you fear you may fall asleep and don’t want to leave a flame burning or run down batteries. With just a few cranks and a few seconds you can have light again when you awaken. You should also consider the light from a fire in the fireplace. This can supplement your other lighting preparations; saving kerosene, batteries, candles and glow sticks for later use.
You may also want to consider natural light in your planning. If you have wooden shutters in your home that cannot be opened you may want to consider replacing or modifying them. I was amazed when I helped a friend move last year that those pretty wooden shutters in the living areas could not be opened. The slats were movable but you could not open the entire unit to clean the windows or sills. It provided a great place for dust and spiders, not a good idea for any family with allergies. Definitely not a great idea for emergency lighting options.
I have not forgotten about generators but that is a topic all of it’s own. This week consider just how long you could provide lighting if your power were to fail this week and leave you in the dark for a month or more.
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4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Garden

When spring comes around, so does the annual planning of the summer garden.  No doubt, there were also fantasies of walking through a robust garden clipping off tomatoes for salad, and pulling off bountiful ears of corn for supper.  The gardening process begins with finding the perfect garden location, waiting for the right temperature, and planting the minuscule seeds that will inevitably become a harvest.  But there is more to gardening than just planting a seed and watching it grow.

Watering the Garden

Even moisture is an essential key to maintaining plant growth.  Plants should have on average about 1-2 inches of water per week.  More water should be provided during hot summer months where there is drought like conditions.  Soaker hoses and other methods, such as the use of rain collection barrels can assist in water conservation and at the same time, providing water during the rainless summer months.  Another method of crop irrigation is the use of ollas, or unglazed clay pots buried in the dirt.  These clay pots get water to the roots, as well as alleviating water evaporation.  This type of irrigation is 50-70% more effective than modern day irrigation systems and it also assists in eliminating disease caused by excessive watering.

Mulching the Garden

Mulching around the base of the plants is another essential method in maintaining healthy plants.  Adding 2-3 inches of natural mulch will assist in retaining more moisture in the soil, discourage unwanted weed growth, prevent soil erosion and help eliminate unwanted pests and insects.  Mulching also helps the soil have an even temperature which will assist is healthy growing roots.  Additionally, natural mulches such as grass clippings and straw will provide added nutrients to the soil in the decomposition process.

Feed Your Garden

Native American Indians planted fish at the base of a garden mound as a gift for the plants.  That gift of fish, when decomposed, provided needed nutreints for the plant to grow and bear it’s fruit.  Using natural fertilizers will condition the soil, or growing environment for the plant.  Plants need certain “foods” to grow and become more productive.  Typically, “foods” that plants need to thrive are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  These elements will promote strong, healthy root systems and healthy fruits.  Natural fertilizers can be purchased at gardening centers, or a person can try and create their homemade version of fertilizer in the form of compost.  Composting is a great way to give back to the garden.  This natural soil amendment is a process that needs to be started before the garden is grown as it takes time for the weather, and nature to break down particles that will become compost.  Depending on the size of a compost heap, compost would be ready for use in the garden after 4-6 months.
Another way of feeding plants is  companion planting.  Companion plants have a symbiotic relationship and equally benefit from being planted near eachother.  Some of the benefits are pest control, higher yield, and added nutrients in the soil.  This fertilizing method, simplifies the gardening process to a minimum.

Pruning Your Garden

Many do not like to take the time to do this essential step, but it truly makes a huge difference in the health of the plant, as well as assist in helping the plant redirect it’s ergy on the growing of fruit.  Taking time to prune dead foliage, branches, non-producing limbs, etc will assist in developing better sized fruit.  Pinching and pruning are two methods of controlling the growth of vegetables.  Plants are very adaptable, and prefer to be pruned or pinched from time to time.
What to Pinch
Pinching is used to remove growth buds, flowers or immature fruit.
  • Pinch branch tips throughout the growing season to grow more bushy and full instead of lanky and tall.  Remove only the last set of two leaves, including the stem, each time you pinch a branch.
  • Continuously remove any dead or faded foliage.  Keep only the growth that is green and healthy.
  • For flowering fruits and vegetables, pinch off 1/3 to 1/2 of the blooms that appear in order for the plant to concentrate on growing larger fruits.
What to Prune
Pruning is used to correct or remove branches or prevent the spread of the plant outside it’s growth area.
  • Prune plants when they are growing too large for their allocated area.  Use sharp, clean shears to prevent the spreading of disease.
  • Remove entire unwanted or non-blooming branches to keep plants contained.  Keep some foliage to shade the developing fruit and prevent sun scald.
  • Continuously remove any dead or faded foliage.  Keep only the growth that is green and healthy.
If practiced, these simple gardening methods will help a person grow healthier plants with higher yields.  Growing fruits and vegetables requires constant practice, and learning from mistakes.  These methods listed above can help a person establish a better understanding of what plants need in order to thrive.  Happy Gardening!

Using Your Food Storage: Lentils

Lentils are an amazing food, and because of two important reasons are a superb item to be stored. The first reason they are so wonderful is the time it takes from dry lentil to tasty meal is less than 30 minutes-so speed of cooking(whereas most beans need to be pre-soaked). The second reason for lentils being a great food storage item is the nutritional value they offer.

In times of crises nutrition should not be overlooked as maintaining ones health is much more critical during crises. One cup of lentils provides about 2/3 of your daily fiber needs, about 40% of your daily iron needs, and over 100% of your A, C, and K vitamins needed.

For women menstruating, pregnant, or lactating lentils provide the boost of iron needed, as they do for children and teens need additional iron too.

Oh and lentils are very inexpensive! You need to do a few things in prep to cooking them. First lay them out on a white or light table or counter top so you can remove any rocks or debris from them. Then you need to rinse the lentils in a colander in cold water. Cooking lentils for me then is filling about 3 cups of water over the one cup of lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce temp for about 30 minutes. That's it!

Simply pour the lentils out to make sure they are free of debris

I love lentils as is with a bit of salt on them and this makes the storage, the prep, the cooking, and the eating as simple as pie!!

Even a simple serving of lentils can be elegant

1 Cup lentils uncooked
Equals this much cooked lentils!
Here are some lentil recipes for you to look over if you have not used lentils before:
Lentil Burgers
Different recipe Lentil Burgers
Curried Lentils
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
Barbeque Lentils
Pomagranate Lentil Soup
Dry Bean ABC Soup mix
and heres a link to many more

How To Compost

Compost heap on a frosty morning. The rising s...Image via Wikipedia

How to Compost

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Good composting isn't only about building a good bin and correctly mixing the compost. It's also about what you add to the compost. This article will provide a simple outline of what you can and can't compost. Follow the reduce, reuse and recycle way of life to reduce the amount of things you have to end up throwing away.


  1. Choose or construct a bin for your compost. While you can compost successfully in a pile on the ground, a bin will keep the process a bit neater and help to discourage animals if you are composting food scraps. Depending on the construction of the bin, it can also help to regulate moisture and temperature. A good minimum size for a pile is at least 1 cubic yard or 1 cubic meter, though a pile can go larger than this, and smaller-scale composting can be made to work.
  2. Fill your bin with a balanced mixture for best results:

    • Green stuff (high in nitrogen) to activate the heat process in your compost. Perfect heat-generating materials include: young weeds (before they develop seeds); comfrey leaves; yarrow; chicken, rabbit or pigeon manure; grass cuttings; etc. Other green items that compost well include fruit and vegetables; fruit and vegetable scraps; coffee grounds and tea leaves (including tea bags - remove the staple if you wish); vegetable plant remains; plants.
    • Brown stuff (high in carbon) to serve as the "fiber" for your compost. Brown stuff includes fall (autumn) leaves; dead plants and weeds; sawdust; cardboard & cardboard tubes (from foil wraps etc); old flowers (including dried floral displays, minus plastic/foam attachments); old straw and hay; and small animal bedding.
    • 'Other items that can be composted but you may not have thought of before: paper towels; paper bags; cotton clothing (torn up); egg shells; hair (human, dog, cat etc.) Use all these items in moderation.
    • Air. It is possible to compost without air (anaerobically), but the process employs different bacteria and an anaerobic compost pile will take on a sour smell like vinegar. It may also attract flies or take on a matted, slimy appearance. If you believe your compost pile needs more air, turn it, and try adding more dry or brown stuff to open up the structure.
    • Water. Your pile should be about as damp as a sponge that has been wrung out. Depending on your climate, you can add water directly or rely on the moisture that comes in with "green" items. A lid on the compost bin will help to keep moisture in. If a pile gets too much water in it, it might not get enough air.
    • Soil or starter compost. This is not strictly necessary, but a light sprinkling of garden soil or recently finished compost between layers can help to introduce the correct bacteria to start the compost cycle a little more quickly. If you are pulling weeds, the soil left on the roots may be sufficient to serve this purpose. Compost starters are available, but probably not necessary. [1]
  3. Layer or mix the different materials in your bin so that they come into contact with one another and so that you avoid any large clumps. Especially avoid compacting large quantities of green materials together, since they can rapidly become anaerobic.

    • If possible, start with a layer of lightweight brown material, such as leaves, to help keep enough air near the bottom.
    • Try for a mixture of anywhere from 3 parts brown to 1 part green to half and half, depending on what materials you have on hand.
    • Sprinkle each layer lightly with water as you build the heap, if it requires additional moisture.
  4. Turn your pile regularly, once every week or two. Clear a patch next to the pile. Then use a pitchfork and move the entire pile to the clear spot. When it is time to turn the pile again, move it back to the original spot, or back into the bin. Mixing the pile in this way helps to keep air flowing inside the pile, which encourages aerobic decomposition. Anaerobic decomposition will smell very stinky (generally sour, like vinegar) and they decompose materials more slowly than aerobic bacteria. Turning the pile helps to encourage the growth of the right kind of bacteria and makes for a nice, sweet-smelling pile that will decompose faster.

    • Try to move matter from inside to outside and from top to bottom. Break up anything that is clumpy or matted. Add water or wet, green materials if it seems too dry. Add dry, brown materials if the pile seems too wet. If you are still adding to the pile, take the opportunity while you turn it to introduce the new matter and mix it well with the older matter.
  5. Decide whether to add slow rotting items such as tough branches, twigs and hedge clippings; wood ash; wood shavings and wood pruning. They can be composted, but you may want to compost them separately because they will take longer to break down, especially in a cold climate with a shorter composting season. Shred heavy materials, if you can, for faster decomposition.
  6. Try to avoid composting bread, pasta, nuts, and cooked food. They don't break down very easily, become quite slimy, and can hold up the heating, rotting-down process. (Old nuts left in the garden will disappear quickly if you have squirrels or monkeys around!)
  7. Never compost the following items for reasons of health, hygiene and inability to break down: meat and meat scraps; bones; fish and fish bones; plastic or synthetic fibers; oil or fat; pet or human feces (except for manure of herbivorous creatures such as rabbits and horses); weeds that have gone to seed; diseased plants; disposable diapers (nappies); glossy paper or magazines; coal and coke ash; and cat litter. Place these items in the normal garbage collection.
  8. Harvest your compost. If all goes well, you will eventually find that you have a layer of good compost at the bottom of your bin. Remove this and spread it on or dig it into your garden beds.

    • You may wish to sift it through a coarse mesh screen or use your hands or pitchfork to remove any larger chunks that haven't yet broken down.
    • Very fresh compost can grow plants, but it can also rob the soil of nitrogen as it continues to break down. If you think you are not all the way done, either leave the compost in the bin for a while longer or spread it in your garden and let it sit there for a few weeks before planting anything in it.



  • Composting works almost magically and FAST if you begin with a cubic yard of proper materials (3 parts "brown" stuff and 1 part "green" stuff), keep it moist, and turn it weekly. It's possible to get two large batches of compost each year if you stick to these points. If you vary, it will just take a bit longer, but it will still compost.
  • The fastest way to get compost is to mix 1 part grass clippings and 3 parts dead leaves (chopped with a mower), place in a three-sided bin with no top or bottom, keep it moist, and turn it with a cultivating fork every 2 weeks.
  • Locate your compost bin somewhere that is easy to access, so that you and family members will be encouraged to use it.
  • Share a composting facility if you live in an apartment complex.
  • Have a mini compost bin indoors that you keep near your meal preparation area. It should be something that is easy to fill up, transport daily to the compost bin, and keep clean. You could consider a small plastic container (there are fun tiny garbage cans with lids) or use something as simple as a glazed terracotta plant saucer - it looks nice, is easy to clean and transports easily.
  • To aid the decomposing, add some red worms, which can be bought online. If you use a compost bin with an open bottom, the worms will probably come into your compost pile on their own.
  • Cut around the top of a plastic milk jug leaving it attached at the handle. Keep it under the kitchen sink to collect your compost.
  • For faster break-down, shred leaves, clippings; and crush egg shells.
  • At some point, you may need to start a new compost pile, and stop adding to the old compost pile to let it "finish up."
  • Layering is very effective if possible - one layer brown stuff, one layer green stuff, one layer composting worms (as long as the temperature of your compost does not exceed 25ÂșC).
  • Contact your local municipality if you can't compost for whatever reason, to see if they will collect garden waste for composting. Many municipalities will collect Christmas trees and chip them for compost in January.
  • In dry weather, fill your bucket with water each time you dump in the compost pile. This will help add needed moisture.
  • If you mow your yard, collect your grass trimmings! It's free, and it's a great way to get more compost, unless you have a mulching mower. A mulching mower will add the grass back to your yard as mulch (not thatch), which will provide your lawn with 40% of its fertilizatin needs. Also, never compost grass that's been mowed within a few days of adding chemical peticides or fertilizers.
  • Bury food scraps under a layer of general yard waste if you wish to include them. It will help to discourage animals and flies. So will having a contained, covered bin.
  • While it's not strictly necessary, a compost pile that's working at its fastest will heat up. If you have created a good mix, you may notice that it's very warm inside, even steaming on a cold morning. This is a good sign.


  • Don't add the things to the compost that are marked above as "never compost" - they will absolutely ruin the compost for one reason or another and some are downright unhealthy.
  • While it is slowly becoming possible to compost dog feces, this must only be attempted under very special conditions in municipally sanctioned compost bins; usually these are located in local parks. Do not use this compost in or near vegetable and fruit gardens. Check with your local municipality for more information. Encourage your municipality to supply these bins in parks and on dog-walking routes.
  • If you are going to compost weeds, dry them out before adding them to the pile. If you don't, they might start to grow.

Things You'll Need

  • A location for your compost pile
  • Vegetable scraps, yard waste, and other compost materials
  • A pitchfork or other tool to turn the compost

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

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