7 Common Household Supplies Useful for Survival

If you’re just starting out on your prepper journey, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you think you need. The good news is that even if you live in a studio apartment in the middle of the city, odds are pretty good you already have some items on hand that will be useful in an emergency.

Garbage bags

These are incredibly useful. They work well as makeshift rain ponchos, of course, as anyone who’s been caught in a downpour at the county or state fair can attest. Naturally, they can be used to hold things, such as scrounged food found either in the wild or down at the already-been-looted Gas n Sip.

If you or a family member have an injury that absolutely must be kept dry, the plastic garbage bag can be cut into sections and wrapped around the wound. Don’t keep it on there forever, though, as most injuries benefit from some fresh air.

Black garbage bags will soak up heat. Fill one with water and keep it in the sun for a bit to heat water for bathing.

Tape bags over the inside of your windows to keep out prying eyes.

If the plumbing isn’t working right, line your toilet bowl with a trash bag. After a few uses, tie the bag closed and replace with a new one. Sprinkle baking soda or powdered laundry detergent after each use to help cut down on odors.

Hand sanitizer

If water is limited or nonexistent, use hand sanitizer after each visit to the bathroom. It can be very drying to the hands, though, so I suggest you keep some type of hand moisturizer nearby as well. Because it is alcohol based, it also makes for a pretty good fire starter. Just squeeze a bit where you’re building your fire and light it up.

Matches/lighters

Even non-smokers usually have some matches or lighters kicking around. How else do you light candles when you want to be romantic or celebrate a birthday? You’ll be able to use them to light your campfire or patio fire pit for cooking when the stove and microwave aren’t feasible options.

Bleach

We typically keep this on hand to help with stain removal in the laundry. In an emergency, we’ll use it to disinfect water for drinking. This is a simple process. You need to start with clear water, though, so filter out any floating sediment and debris by pouring the water through a coffee filter, clean T-shirt, or other material. Then, add 2 drops for each quart or liter of water. If you have a gallon, that’s 4 quarts, which means 8 drops of bleach. After adding the bleach, wait 30 minutes for it to work.

It is important, though, that you check labels. Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient. Your bleach should contain 4-6% of this ingredient. If not, find one that does. Also, don’t use scented bleach or anything else fancy like that. You want just straight bleach.

If you don’t have an eyedropper and thus lack an easy way to measure drops, don’t panic. Take a square of toilet paper and roll it into a tube shape. Take the cap off the bleach bottle, turn it upside down, and put the toilet paper into it so one end of the tube overhangs the rim. Carefully pour a little bleach into the cap. After a bit, the bleach will soak through the toilet paper and drip from the end. Big thanks to my friend Creek Stewart for that tip. http://willowhavenoutdoor.com/featured-wilderness-survival-blog-entries/how-to-purify-water-with-household-bleach/

Knives

Just about every kitchen has a few knives in it. A survival knife is truly whatever knife you have available in a survival situation. While it’d be great if you had a sturdy fixed blade knife set aside for emergencies, a decent quality kitchen knife will do just about everything you’d need a knife for during a crisis. Personally, I don’t much care for serrated blades unless I’m cutting cordage. If you feel the same, make sure you have one or two kitchen knives that are non-serrated. You should also make sure you know how to sharpen those blades and have the requisite supplies on hand. A dull knife is far more dangerous to the user than a sharp one.

Dental floss

Flossing is an important part of dental hygiene, thus most of us have a package or two sitting in a bathroom drawer. In an emergency, there are many uses for cordage, such as lashing, repairing clothing, snares, even fishing. Dental floss is rather strong, despite how thin it is. While I wouldn’t want to put a lot of weight on it, floss will do the job in many situations.

Baggies

Many of us use small plastic bags when packing our lunch every day. You do pack a lunch, right? As opposed to eating fast food or, even worse, risking a sandwich from the Wheel of Death in the break room. A packed lunch will likely be healthier and for darn sure it’ll be cheaper. Anyway, the point is, most of us have a box or two of plastic bags in a cabinet or drawer. I use these all the time for organizing supplies in survival kits. They’ll keep the contents nice and dry, even if the pack itself gets soaked. I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, from the little snack ones all the way to the gallon freezer bags.

Obviously, as you continue on the path of emergency preparedness, you’ll start to amass supplies and gear specifically for emergencies. That said, get into the habit of thinking outside the box and coming up with alternative uses for common items. Not only is that great brain exercise, that creativity just might come in handy someday.

4 Common Prepping Mistakes

Prepping is like any other worthwhile endeavor – there are going to be a few stumbles along the way. Fortunately, you can avoid some of them by learning from the mistakes of others. The important thing is to not lose sight of your goal or just toss your hands in the air and give up. Stay focused and you’ll get through it.

Common Prepper Mistake #1 – Too much, too fast

Those of us who’ve been at this for a while see this all the time. Someone finally comes to their senses and decides prepping is a good idea. Suddenly, they go into overdrive and are trying to read 87 different books at once, going through an ink cartridge a day as they print out a bazillion different BOB content lists, and put together shopping lists that may close down every warehouse store in the state.

It doesn’t take long before they are burnt out on the whole idea and they go back to “normal” life.

Look, you can’t do it all, not all at once. I understand that when “prepping fever” strikes, you feel as though you are running out of time. I get that, I really do. But, reality check – you’re human and there are only so many hours in a day. On top of that, you still have a life to lead, one that probably doesn’t have a whole lot of free time to begin with, right?

Solution – Slow down and take your time. Tackle one issue and resolve it before moving to the next. Start small. If you are just starting out, build your bug out bag. No, it won’t be perfect, far from it. But, it gets you moving in the right direction. From there, look at food and water storage. Do one thing every day that moves you forward and don’t rush around trying to do it all.

Common Prepper Mistake #2 – Accumulating stuff without forethought

No matter how we look at it, prepping will involve accumulating some amount of gear and supplies. There’s just no way around it. However, all too often we see people buying stuff just for the sake of buying it, with little to no planning or forethought as to whether the item is actually needed or wanted.

I see this a lot with food storage. People will go out and buy entire pallets of freeze dried vittles and call it good. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more involved with food storage. Or, there should be more involved. See, a sudden diet change to those freeze dried foods can lead to some rather serious digestive issues. That’s just for starters. On top of that is the need for an increase in your water storage as you’ll need that H2O to rehydrate all that food. But, the person feels better about their situation because they’ve done “something” to prepare.

Solution – Start by making lists of what you think you need. Base this on research you’ve done as well as common sense. Don’t buy due to panic or a sense of obligation. Every family is different and their needs are unique. Build a plan that is best suited for you and yours and let others worry about their own situations.

Common Prepper Mistake #3 – Spending money on junk

This is often tied in with Mistake #2, of course, but I felt it still needed a separate entry. Let’s face facts, there is an awful lot of sheer and utter crap out there. Knives that look pretty but wouldn’t cut through pudding. Packs that have seams that will split the first time you load so much as a teddy bear inside. Flashlights that turn off if they are nudged or jostled.

Prepping is big business today. Many companies are taking advantage of the popularity of emergency preparedness and sending off to market cheap knock offs that are really all but worthless. And people are buying this garbage by the truckload, all in an effort to be prepared but without realizing just how unsafe a lot of that stuff is.

Solution – If you’re going to rely on a product to save your life, you owe it to yourself to make sure it is up to the task. Don’t spend money on something just because it is shiny or because some quasi-celebrity on TV endorses it. Do your homework. Read reviews and seek out video reviews as well. Learn what to look for when it comes to knives, packs, flashlights, and other gear. Over time, you should be able to recognize good from bad, at least most of the time. As a general rule, you get what you pay for. An inexpensive widget probably isn’t going to be as rugged and well-made as a more expensive one. That’s not always the case, of course. There is some pretty high priced crap out there, just as there are deals to be had. Case in point with the latter is the Condor Bushlore knife. For under $40, you can have a very good quality blade, complete with a really well made leather sheath. I’d put the Bushlore up against just about any similar sized high-end knife on the market. http://amzn.to/1TgCjMh

Common Prepper Mistake #4 – Not testing your gear

This may well be the biggest mistake I’ve seen, at least in recent years. People go out and buy the things they think they need and put it all on a shelf or in a pack, sometimes without even taking the items out of the packages.

Now, I know some of you buy at least some of your gear in pairs or sets. One of the item is used regularly and the other is kept in storage. That’s fine, no problem there. Obviously, this section isn’t for you.

For the rest of you, listen up. If you aren’t getting your gear dirty, which means taking it out of the box and actually using it, you are doing yourself a disservice. You need to have a full understanding of how the item works. Make sure all of the pieces are there and test out the product to see if it does what is supposed to do. It is vital that you know what the item can and cannot do before you need to rely upon it for survival.

Solution – Get in some dirt time. Take new items out and play with them. Let your family members test things out, too. Make sure everyone knows how the stuff is supposed to work and that each person can assemble or disassemble items as needed. Make actual meals on emergency stoves. Use water filters to drink collected rainwater. Load up packs and take them for a test hike for a few hours. This is truly the only way you’re going to know if you can rely on your gear when times get tough.

Choosing a Bug Out Location

Regular readers of mine know that I strongly advise sheltering in place at home until or unless home is not safe. Generally speaking, home is where you’ll have the bulk of your gear and supplies. Packing all of that stuff up and transporting it to a separate bug out location would be no one’s idea of a good time.

That said, we survivalists want to try and plan for as many contingencies as possible, just in case. Setting up one or more bug out locations is part of that planning.

Before we go any further, let’s define bug out location (BOL) so we’re all on the same page. For the purposes of our discussion here, a bug out location is a place away from home where you can hunker down and ride out the disaster and aftermath. It need not necessarily be 1000 acres of wilderness where you figure on living off the land for decades to come. It could just as easily be the home of a family member or trusted friend. The basic idea is to have one or more places you can go if disaster hits your area, rather than end up roaming the highways and byways like some sort of rambling drifter.

Ideally, I recommend arranging for a minimum of three potential BOLs, all in different directions from home. For example, one to the north, one to the east, and one to the southwest. Why? Because we have no way to know for certain what the future holds. If you were to only have one bug out location, say to the north, what are you going to do if the disaster itself prevents you from traveling in that direction? Sure, you hopefully you’d be able to detour around it but life might be easier if you had an alternate location or two.

So, what factors should be considered when choosing a bug out location?

Distance from home

Bear in mind there is a distinct possibility you may have to complete all or part of your journey on foot, depending upon the nature of the calamity. Therefore, reaching a bug out location that is several hundred miles from home might not be realistic. This isn’t a novel nor a movie, folks. In real life, most people probably wouldn’t survive a journey of, say, 600 miles on foot through possibly hostile areas.

Even if you are able to use your car or truck, gas stations might not be open so you’d have to rely on whatever fuel you have in your vehicle at the time of the disaster. It is a common rule of thumb with preppers to not allow any vehicle to dip below ½ tank of gas. If we use that as a guideline, knowing that the average vehicle on the roads today can probably make 300-400 miles on a full tank of gas, we can ballpark a range of about 150-200 miles without needing to refuel. Yes, we could certainly bring a few gas cans with us and we should plan to do so, if possible. But, you should always plan for things to go awry and figure on not being able to top off the gas tank at some point.

Even 100 miles might be pushing it for a hike for many people but it is certainly more realistic than 600 miles. Keep in mind, you may only average a few miles a day if you’re on foot. While long-distance hikers routinely do 20+ miles a day, that may not be realistic for you, especially given the likely societal breakdown that will be happening around you.

The maximum distance your bug out location should be from home is roughly 150 miles or so. Grab a map and use the distance scale and a ruler or compass to draw a circle that far out from home.

Do you have any family members or close friends who live within that circle? Those would be my first choices for BOLs. Next on the list would be public land, such as state parks and such. Third would be hotels or motels, ones that allow pets if that’s going to be a concern for your family. However, keep in mind that hotels and motels are largely first come, first served. In the event of a big disaster, they’re going to fill up quick.

Routes

Are there any major potential obstructions in that circled area? For example, you’re going to want to avoid any major cities. Rivers can be problematic if bridges are damaged or jammed with traffic. In fact, you’ll want to stay away from any expected high traffic areas as they will likely be nothing but impassable parking lots. If you’re on foot, the traffic snarls won’t be as much of a problem as all of those people – frustrated, angry, scared – may be.

Your chosen BOLs should take into account these potential problem area. Steer clear of them if at all possible.

Amenities

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times now, we can’t foresee the future and accurately predict what will cause us to need to bug out. It may very well not be a true end of the world scenario, one that would force you to live off the land in some remote wilderness area. Instead, it could be flooding or something along those lines that forces you to vacate your home for a limited time.

With that in mind, many of us would prefer to hunker down in the home of a family member or trusted friend, at least until things settled down a bit and we could plan our next move. Someplace we could feel safe and secure and, hopefully, that has hot water and indoor plumbing. Don’t get me wrong, primitive camping has quite an appeal for many people. What I’m saying, though, is that it might be less stressful on the family if you’re able to sleep in real beds and use online sources to gather information as to what’s happening in the affected area.

If feasible and practical, give thought to stashing some gear and supplies at the BOL. While you’d hopefully have your trusty bug out bag with you, what if you lost it along the way? Ideas for what to store include:

  • Extra clothes (2-3 days for each member of your family)
  • Copies of important documents (insurance policies, identification, etc.)
  • Cash
  • Toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. for each member of your family)

Again, we’re not necessarily looking at a total end of the world situation here. Instead, we’re looking to hunker down and ride it out for a while.

Choosing a BOL takes time and planning. It isn’t something you will want to do at the drop of a hat. Take advantage of the fact that disaster hasn’t hit you yet and make the appropriate plans.

 

Investing in Self-Sufficiency – Food Production

[The following is an excerpt from Prepper’s Financial Guide.]

Perhaps the single most important investment you can make towards a successful future is to become as self-sufficient as possible. The greater the number of your basic needs you can satisfy on your own, the less you will be impacted by some sort of societal breakdown. Think about it like this – back during the Great Depression, the folks who saw the least amount of trouble were the ones out in the sticks who had been raising their own food all along.

Food Production

Gardening

I firmly believe that no matter what your living arrangement is, you can grow something to feed your family. Even if it is only a couple of tomato plants and a barrel of potatoes, that’s a start. If you’ve never grown anything other than dandelions before (which, by the way, make for great salad greens), now’s the time to get moving. Make a list of the vegetables and fruits your family enjoys eating, then start doing some research on each of them. I mean, there’s little sense in investing time and energy growing asparagus if no one in your family will touch it, right? There are a ton of resources available to help you get started. Talk to neighbors and friends who are more experienced than you. Ask them for advice on what plants grow best in your area and climate. Heck, if you ask nicely, they might even toss you some seeds.

Go online and seek out your local county extension office. They have Master Gardeners who will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Many of these offices offer classes throughout the year as well, either for free or for a nominal fee.

I would advise you to start small if this is your first garden. Food production, even as a hobby, is rather labor intensive and if you try to do too much at once, you may quickly become overwhelmed. You might be surprised at just how much food you can grow in just one small garden bed.

If you are strapped for space, look into container gardening or square foot gardening. Container gardening, at its core, is simply growing plants in pots rather than in the ground. This is a great option for those who live in apartments or condos. While you won’t be able to grow a ton of food on your patio, something is better than nothing. Another option for urban dwellers who lack yard space is to seek out community gardens. Arrangements are made with the owners of vacant lots where individuals or families are allowed space to plant small gardens. Each person is responsible for their own garden plot. These community gardens can be a great way to network with other like-minded individuals as well as trade some of your excess produce.

Square foot gardening is another option for those with limited space. It is sort of a kissing cousin to container gardening in that all of your growing is limited to a defined area. Basically, you take your garden and divide it up boxes, each one being, you guessed it, a square foot. Truth be told, you aren’t actually making small boxes out of your garden but rather just using string to section off the space. Each square is devoted to one or more plants, with each one planned in advance so as to complement its neighbors. For example, a crop that grows best in partial shade would be planted next to something that grows tall and thus blocks the sunshine a bit.

Don’t overlook the possibility of adding a few fruit trees to the mix, either. While many varieties do require cross-pollination with one another, you can grow apples or pears in a far smaller area than you might realize.

Gardening and Homeowners Associations

If you live in an area governed by some sort of HOA, I would strongly advise you to research the bylaws and guidelines to ensure you abide by any restrictions when it comes to planting a garden. Urban and suburban dwellers should do the same with municipal ordinances as well. It would be horrible to invest considerable time, energy, and expense in a garden, only to learn it needs to be removed immediately lest you incur fines and such.

Personally, I would never want to live in an area where growing a garden was verboten, let alone someplace where others had a say in what color I painted my house or what kind of mailbox I wanted to put up. But, to each their own.

As you gain more experience with gardening, hopefully you’ll be able to expand your plots each year, growing more and more of your own food. Not only will this positively impact your wallet, homegrown food is generally much healthier, not to mention tastier, than what you’ll find at the grocery store.

Wild Edibles

All around us are plants that are not only tasty but nutritious and have tremendous health benefits. Dandelion greens, for example, have a ton of calcium, vitamins A, E, and K, as well as iron. And here you thought it was just a bothersome weed! If you want to get a huge bang for your buck with regards to investing in self-sufficiency, learn to identify and prepare wild edibles. Pick up a guide to edible plants at the bookstore or library and get outside. A couple of guides I wholeheartedly endorse:

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America

The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Wild Edible Plants by Samuel Thayer

Concentrate on learning just a few local plants first. Learn to identify them in each stage of their development so if you run across them but they’re not quite ready for harvest, you can note the location and come back later. Gradually add them to your regular diet.

You should avoid harvesting wild edibles growing in areas that are treated with pesticides or that are subject to high amounts of pollution, such as on the side of a busy road. Also, be very wary of trespassing or harvesting plants in city, county, or state owned areas. They tend to frown upon that.

Meat Production

This is an area that is slightly less accepted among neighbors than gardening. I mean, it’s one thing to plant a few berry bushes along your back fence. Quite another to add a rabbit hutch and some free range chickens to the mix. But, producing at least some of your own meat is a big step toward self-reliance.

Many municipalities have begun enacting ordinances that allow for raising backyard chickens, as well as a few other critters. A simple phone call to City Hall should let you know if you’re in the clear to explore these options.

Both chickens and rabbits offer a great return on minimal investment. Chickens, of course, offer both meat and eggs, the latter of which could occasionally be gifted to neighbors which may serve to help offset any negative opinions on your new hobby. Other animals to consider include ducks, turkey, and goats. If you live a bit further out from city limits, you might look at pigs as well.

As with gardening, when you’re starting out with raising animals, you need to be careful to not overextend yourself. Even just a few chickens involves a lot of work with feeding, cleaning, and protecting them from predators. But, I think you’ll find the taste of homegrown meat far superior than what you’ve purchased in the past.

Speaking of which, the whole point here is to raise animals you plan to eat. In other words, you might want to refrain from naming your dinner. This also means you need to learn how to properly butcher the animals. And this is where many people turn away from the prospect of raising meat animals. Killing and processing a chicken is a whole lot different than heading out to the garden and picking a few tomatoes. If you’ve never done it before, you’re naturally going to feel at least a bit apprehensive. That’s normal, it just means you’re human. But, that said, it isn’t as difficult as you may think and it does get easier the more often you do it.

Wild Fish and Game

Hunting, fishing, and trapping have all been putting meat on the dinner table for millennia. While there aren’t many of us who could afford to spend hours each and every day pursuing these time-honored activities, they are each methods of food production you should consider learning.

First and foremost, research the applicable laws in your area and obtain the proper licenses to engage in these activities. Faithfully observe all rules and regulations that apply. I cannot stress that enough. You may not agree with all of those laws and, in fact, I can almost guarantee there will be at least a few that really bug you. But, rather than thumb your nose at them and risk ending up spending hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars in fines, work to change the laws that don’t make sense to you. In a true SHTF scenario, the DNR probably won’t be out enforcing all their various statutes and such. But, practice makes perfect with these activities and you’ll need to be licensed and permitted in order to do so.

Fishing is probably the least energy-intensive of the three methods for procuring wild meat. What could be more relaxing than sitting on shore or in a boat drowning worms all afternoon? Here’s the thing, though. The successful fishermen (male and female) are successful for a reason – they know what the hell they are doing. They know how to “read” the water and accurately predict where they’ll find the most fish. They know what bait to use and when to use it (your bait should change based on weather, lighting conditions, and a host of other factors). They’ve been at it a long time and much of what they do is sort of second nature at this point. The only way you’ll ever get to that point is to get out on the water regularly. Talk to the more experienced folks and learn from them. Spend some time hanging around the local bait shop. As long as you’re not asking them to divulge their secret spots, most of them will be happy to lend advice.

Where I grew up, deer hunting is treated almost religiously. There are so many kids who go off hunting during deer season, school districts darn near shut down. Of course, the percentage of hunters who bag one or more deer each season is fairly small. But, those that do will have meat to last quite some time. There is more to hunting than just going after the big game like deer or moose. Small game will more consistently put meat on the table and the season for it lasts a lot longer than a week or two. Heck, a 12 year old with a little practice and a used .22 rifle will be able to bring home at least a squirrel or two with almost every outing.

As for trapping, back in the day, many an enterprising young lad made a few extra bucks running a trap line before and after school. That said, this is probably the hardest skill set to learn. There’s an awful lot that goes into trapping, from knowing different sets to determining the best locations. There’s a fair amount of luck involved, as well, truth be told. Out of the entire forest, you need for the critter to hit this one exact location. But, by studying the craft you can learn to make your own luck, at least to a degree. Traps are nice in that they work by themselves. While you’re doing other things, the traps are (hopefully) bringing in the meat. But, there’s a lot of work involved in running a successful trap line. The more traps you set, the better your odds of success, of course. You also need to check those traps regularly, preferably daily. The only thing worse than finding an empty trap is finding one that wasn’t empty but is now.

Again, though, as with raising meat, you need to learn how to process wild game and fish. Letting the meat go to waste is just foolish. Practice makes perfect. If you know a hunter, ask them to teach you how to handle this chore.

Beekeeping

While man cannot live by honey alone, it can darn sure make things a bit easier to swallow. Honey has been prized for ages and commands a high price, whether sold for cash or bartered. Beekeeping is one of those homesteading type of activities that doesn’t involve a lot of daily work. The bees handle most of the heavy lifting. As with anything else, though, there is more to it than it may appear. The hives cost money, whether you buy or build them. Location of the hives is important and can mean the difference between success and failure. Harvesting the honey isn’t a walk in the park, either.

All that said, the benefits of producing your own honey are huge. If you have an area that would be suitable for a hive, I’d highly encourage you to explore this option.

Preppers are Optimists

[The following is an excerpt from Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide.]

It has been said that preppers and survivalists are “doom and gloom” types, always talking about pandemics, nuclear war, and natural disasters. In my experience, that is actually far from the case. While we may worry about end of the world scenarios more than the average person, we are taking steps to make things better in the wake of disasters, rather than just throwing our hands in the air and accepting the worst as being unavoidable. If nothing else, preppers are actually rather optimistic, when you get right down to it. We recognize that bad things happen in the world but believe that by preparing for them ahead of time, we can “beat the odds” and come out ahead in the end.

Personally, I truly hope we never do experience disasters of the magnitude we’ve been discussing. I rather like having reliable access to Netflix, flush toilets, and the occasional handful of Doritos. At the same time, though, it is just common sense to be prepared for whatever life might decide to throw our way.

As you go through your own long-term survival planning, you might notice a change in your thinking and this change might alarm you. It is not at all uncommon for someone who’s been prepping for years and years to start to actually long for a disaster to hit. Not in a tragic sense, not wanting to see mass death and destruction, not really. But, rather, you desire sort of a real life test. You want to see that all your prepping wasn’t for naught.

This is normal. You’re not weird. Well, maybe you are weird but this isn’t a symptom of being so.

Thinking about a world without law, without rules, gives many people sort of a tingle. The idea of being able to just take what you need from a store, without worrying about payment, is sort of exciting. I mean, one of the most common tropes in post-apocalyptic fiction is when the hero, down to his last can of ravioli and three bullets, comes across a store that has miraculously avoided being looted down to bare shelves. He finds everything from handguns and ammo to a brand new leather duster and sets out on the trail again.

On top of that is the very human desire to be able to truthfully say, “I told you so!” A major disaster, and our successfully overcoming it, would be validation for all our efforts and planning. No longer would we feel it necessary to defend our beliefs or argue with a spouse about expenditures. We can just let loose with a righteous, “Ha! I was right!”

Someone just starting out in martial arts training, having learned a few basic defensive moves, will sometimes wish for a real world test. It isn’t that they really want to hurt anyone but, rather, they want to know for certain that what they’ve learned will work out on the street. I mean, it is one thing to break a choke hold in the dojo or gymnasium, where if you screw it up the instructor will just admonish you to try it again until you get it right. Quite another to have some Hell’s Angel wannabe breathing beer breath down your neck as his heavily tattooed forearm draws ever tighter around your throat.

As that vague yet ubiquitous group of people we call “they” often warn, be careful for what you wish for.

A disaster of the degree that we’ve been discussing, one which would almost certainly result in a total societal collapse, won’t be fun and games. Not unless one of your favorite games involves choosing a burial plot in your own backyard.

Let’s take a little closer look at just one end of the world scenario. While we know, at least in a practical sense, what the basic ramifications of an EMP strike would be – a breakdown of the electrical grid – we honestly can’t say for sure just how bad things could get. For example, an EMP of sufficient magnitude could cause affected planes to crash. Given that there are, on average, about 5,000 planes in the air over the continental United States at any given time, that’s an awful lot of possible debris coming down at high velocity.

Then you have the thousands of people who are occupying hospital beds at any given time, many of whom are relying upon some form of life support. While most hospitals have generator backups to be used during power failures, an EMP may cause them to be inoperable as well. Safe to say, hospitals and long-term care facilities won’t be pleasant places to be after such an event.

Vehicle crashes would undoubtedly injure or kill thousands more. Just because the engines stop running doesn’t mean the cars and trucks come to a halt. Many drivers, who had just seconds before been cruising along at 70 mph on an interstate highway, and now facing the sudden loss of power steering and power brakes, will panic and lose control of their vehicles.

In a nation where being overweight, even obese, is considered the norm rather than the exception, countless more people will drop dead from heart attacks and related issues in the days immediately following the EMP. When suddenly faced with having to walk miles just to get home from where the car died, many just won’t make it.

The point is this – there will be an awful lot of dead bodies littering the landscape. And that’s just within hours of the initial event. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me, how about you?

Another thing to bear in mind is that disasters are rarely ever single-natured. By that, I mean it isn’t often that the misery stops with the initial event. Instead, it often works like dominos. For example, let’s stick with the EMP scenario a bit longer. Wildfires hit the West Coast of the United States with frightening regularity. Currently, we are able to combat them using the best firefighting technology around. However, what if those firefighters weren’t there? What if buckets of lake water tossed by hand is the epitome of our available firefighting abilities?

If all that is true, then what’s the point of prepping? Why in the world would someone want to live through all that death and destruction?

Because surviving beats the alternative. Beats it by a long shot.

Most preppers and survivalists are familiar with the acronym TEOTWAWKI. For the uninitiated, this stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. It refers to the sorts of disasters we’ve been discussing, events that go far beyond a simple three day blizzard.

Here’s the thing about that phrase. Most people concentrate on the first part of it – The End Of The World. The latter half is often just seen as an intensifier, a qualifier if you will. Really, what it is saying is the event will bring about an end to the world as we know it to be today. It isn’t saying the world is going to be utterly destroyed. Just that it is going to change and be completely different from what we’ve known before.

History has shown that civilizations rarely just disappear from the face of the Earth. Instead, should a collapse happen, the society and culture typically are absorbed by those in the area. When the Roman Empire fell, it wasn’t as if every single Roman just up and died, leaving behind nothing but burned out ruins. In fact, it was a series of events over the course of a few hundred years that led to the eventual decline and fall of the Empire. Hell, some historians suggest the Roman Empire never did actually “fall” but instead went through several transformations and eventually morphed into what we now call the medieval world.

The point of that short history lesson is, should our current society collapse for whatever reason, it isn’t like it will just cease to exist. It will change, people will adapt, and a new society will arise from the ashes of the old. As kids today like to say, that’s just how we roll.

Human beings are nothing if not adaptable. In just the last hundred years or so, we’ve seen countless wars, including nuclear weapons dropped on Japan. The Spanish Flu pandemic killed off tens of millions of people around the world. We’ve experienced natural disasters, from earthquakes to tsunamis, hurricanes to drought. Around the world, and in our own backyard, stock markets have crashed and various currencies became worthless.

Any one of those events could have been enough to send humanity into a tailspin, were it not for the tenacity of mankind.

Should an EMP take down the grid, should the Yellowstone caldera finally blow, I have little doubt that a significant percentage of the population will survive. They will then become the forefathers of a new world, a new society, maybe not created from whole cloth but certainly unlike what we’ve seen before.

By planning ahead, you can be there to see what comes next. I told you, we preppers and survivalists are optimists!

SW Video/Essay Contest Winners

Let me first say that several of the judges commented that it was difficult to narrow their choices in the contest. Overall, the feedback was generally positive.

Here are the winners in the 2016 SW Video/Essay Contest, as chosen by our panel of judges. For those interested, you can see all of the entries here.

Video entry:
#5 – Low Voltage LED Bulb comparison

Submitted by Alan Fiebig
Prize package:
Baofeng UV-5R radio
Copy of Prepper’s Communication Handbook
Small selection of DVDs from the Make Ready to Survive series
A UV Marker and UV pen light for leaving your own secret messages.

Essay entry:
#10 – Kids and Preparedness

Submitted by Elyssa Jones
Prize package:
Baofeng UV-5R radio
Copy of Prepper’s Communication Handbook
Copy of The Survival Group Handbook
A UV Marker and UV pen light for leaving your own secret messages.

Fan Favorite, as voted by you folks:
Video #1 – Teaching the Next Generation the Importance of Preparing and Building a BOB

Submitted by John Shandor
Prize package:
One copy each of:
The Journal (combined edition of first three books) by Deborah D. Moore
Prepper’s Communication Handbook
Prepper’s Financial Guide
Prepper’s Survival Hacks

We also selected one voter at random to receive a handful of Make Ready to Survive DVDs from Panteao Productions. That winner is Kevin Koren.

Thank you, all who submitted entries in the contest this year. Thank you, also, to all who took the time to vote for their favorite entry. Finally, HUGE thanks to our panel of judges who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in the contest. Again, those folks are (in addition to myself):

John McCann – well known and highly respected survival and preparedness instructor and author, as well as owner of Survival Resources.

Rich Beresford III – head honcho over at Around the Cabin, pioneers and innovators of live streaming video used in teaching self-reliance.

Gaye Levy – preparedness authority and blogger at BackdoorSurvival.com.

Craig Caudill – Director of Nature Reliance School and all around great guy.

Charley Hogwood – Owner of P.R.E.P., and author of The Survival Group Handbook.

Scott Finazzo – Author of The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook and The Prepper’s Workbook. See his website here.

Let’s Talk Tinder

Being able to get a fire going in different weather conditions is a critical survival skill. In many situations, fire is what you’ll need to keep you warm and dry you out. Not to mention, skill with fire making is an excellent boost to self-confidence.

Tinder is a crucial element of any fire making kit. I look at tinder as sort of the bridge between your spark and your kindling. Whether you’re using a butane lighter, strike anywhere matches, a ferro rod, or maybe a primitive method like the bow drill, none of them will light kindling straight away.

Fire making works in stages. Your spark lights the tinder, which in turn lights the kindling, which lights the larger fuel. You really can’t skip a step along the way, either.

What makes a material good tinder? The short answer is it has to be something that will light easily from a spark or small flame. It should also burn long enough to get your kindling going. Some types of tinder you can find on the trail include cattail fluff, seed pod fluff, dried grass, and fatwood. That last one goes by many names, including fat lighter, lighter wood, pine knot, and others. Basically, it is pine that has a large amount of resin trapped inside. Using a knife, you scrape or shave off bits. They’ll light off a spark or flame without any problem.

Unfortunately, sometimes it can be difficult to find tinder when you need it most. If it has been pouring rain for the last several hours, it can be near impossible to scrounge up dry, fluffy material. This is why most instructors, including myself, recommend keeping a stash of tinder in your various and sundry survival kits.

Now, there are several options for packable tinder, both commercially produced as well as homemade. For the latter, I like cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly or cotton make up remover pads coated in wax. Both work very well. While the cotton material will burn quite easily all on its own, the petroleum jelly or wax extend the burn time a lot. Jute twine coated in wax works great, too. It burns far too quick all on its own, in my opinion.

On the commercial side of things, there are two products I particularly like and recommend. Instafire is a granular material that is all natural and easy to use. Simply pour out a small pile and light it with a spark or flame.

It burns quite a long time and will easily light your kindling. One thing I really like about Instafire is you can divide it up into smaller containers and spread the wealth, so to speak, between your different kits.

WetFire cubes are also quite good. You don’t need to use an entire cube for each fire, either. Simply shave off a small pile of material from the cube and light it up.

Some time ago, I did several tests of different commercially available fire starting materials and WetFire was one of the ones that burned the longest. It is very easy to light, too.

Here’s what I recommend. First, always have a small ziplock plastic bag in your kit. When you stop for breaks while hiking and such, take a look around and see if you can collect some bits of natural tinder. Keep it stored in that plastic bag until you need it. In addition, have some tinder you’ve brought from home ready to go in your kit. Consider this your backup or reserve source of tinder. Use the natural stuff you find along the way first, if available. This way, you’ll always have some in your kit that you can rely upon when you absolutely, positively have to get a fire going quickly.

Practice using different types of tinder under varying weather conditions. You may find that some materials work better for you than others. For example, many people like to use charcloth but I often have trouble with it. To each their own. If you find a particular type of tinder really works great for you, make sure you have plenty of it stashed in your kits.

The Devil’s in the Details

Whether you call it prepping, survivalism, or something else, it is filled with what ifs. It seems as though we’re constantly running scenarios through our heads and coming up with ways to mitigate risks before they happen. This is all good stuff, don’t get me wrong. But, I think we sometimes approach it from the wrong perspective.

We talk a lot about societal collapse, EMP, economic disasters and all that sort of fun stuff. We make plans for bugging out should our homes no longer be safe to inhabit. We set aside food, water, and other supplies to last us weeks, months, even years. We put together bug out bags, get home bags, even INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) bags – that last one is really kind of ridiculous if you ask me.

We make plans for what we’ll use for barter and trade after the dollar collapses. We strive to be able to kill a deer, prepare it for dinner, and build a working bicycle from the carcass, all with nothing more than a knife that we’ve made ourselves from knapping an old beer bottle we scrounged.

Here’s the thing, though. We’re far more likely to need a simple bandaid than we are the giant pack filled with everything but the kitchen sink. By covering that cut properly, we’re going to lessen the chances of an infection that could have truly serious consequences.

Spare socks are likely to be more important in the grand scheme of things than that fancy $100 multi-tool. For damn sure they’re going to weigh less and they’ll probably get more use.

Learning 87 different ways to light a fire using everything from flint and steel to a chunk of ice to a freakin’ lemon is great knowledge to have…but pack a couple of butane lighters in your kit.

Packing several snares and knowing how and where to set them could prove very useful…but bring some trail mix and peanut butter.

Knowing how to slap together a debris hut will definitely help keep the rain off but a compass, map, and knowing how to use them might get you home before the storm hits.

It is the little things that keep us upright, alive, and moving forward. Survival is typically far more about the the little things than it is about the heroic efforts.

SW Video/Essay Contest – Entries and Voting

Okay folks, here we go. What follows are all of the entries submitted for the contest this year. Our panel of judges will be evaluating all of the entries throughout the week and the winners will be announced Monday, April 4th.

The assignment was this – Create an original video or write an original essay that illustrates and shares information about some aspect of prepping or self-reliance. That left it pretty wide open and the entries received reflect that. We have quite a wide range of topics addressed in the entries below.

Who are the judges?

John McCann – well known and highly respected survival and preparedness instructor and author, as well as owner of Survival Resources.

Rich Beresford III – head honcho over at Around the Cabin, pioneers and innovators of live streaming video used in teaching self-reliance.

Gaye Levy – preparedness authority and blogger at BackdoorSurvival.com.

Craig Caudill – Director of Nature Reliance School and all around great guy.

Charley Hogwood – Owner of P.R.E.P., and author of The Survival Group Handbook.

Scott Finazzo – Author of The Neighborhood Emergency Response Handbook and The Prepper’s Workbook. See his website here.

and myself, of course.

Now, here’s where you come in. See, the judges are going to choose one winning essay AND one winning video. In addition, we’re allowing you folks to vote for your own favorite entry. Comment below with your absolute favorite contest entry. Choose wisely as you only get one vote. The entry with the most votes will win the Fan Favorite prize package (all prizes are listed below).

Why take the time to vote? Well, we’re going to choose one voter at random and he or she will receive a handful of DVDs from the Make Ready to Survive series by Panteao Productions! Be sure you use an accurate email address when you vote so we can reach you if you win. We will not be using your email address for any other reason. Rest assured, we won’t be spamming you with anything.

Fan Favorite votes will be collected through Friday, April 1st.

One vote per household, please. Duplicate votes will not be counted and you will be disqualified from winning the DVD package. Remember, you’re only voting for ONE entry, either a video or an essay, not both.

Good luck!

Here are the prizes up for grabs:

Video Prize Pack:
Baofeng UV-5R radio
Copy of Prepper’s Communication Handbook
Small selection of DVDs from the Make Ready to Survive series
A UV Marker and UV pen light for leaving your own secret messages.

Essay Prize Pack:
Baofeng UV-5R radio
Copy of Prepper’s Communication Handbook
Copy of The Survival Group Handbook
A UV Marker and UV pen light for leaving your own secret messages.

Fan Favorite Prize Pack:
One copy each of:
The Journal (combined edition of first three books) by Deborah D. Moore
Prepper’s Communication Handbook
Prepper’s Financial Guide
Prepper’s Survival Hacks

Without further ado, here are the contest entries.

Video #1

Video #2

Video #3

Video #4

Video #5

Essay #1 – Untitled

I gotta be honest. I think the zombies were on to something. Take any zombie flick or tv show you’ve seen. Half rotten and decaying carcasses sloughing around mindlessly in search of what? You don’t seem them clambering around for ‘arms’ or ‘legs’ or even ‘rriiiibbbsssss’.

What’s the one thing they long for?

BRAAAAIIIIINNSSSSS.

The most useful tool in any survivalist, prepper, or self-reliant human being’s arsenal is your own mind. Sure, high-zoot whiz-bang tools are great to have and look cool hanging off of your belt, but do you really know how to use every item on that? Specialized first aid kits are great for prepper use, but if you don’t know how to use a tourniquet then those items are useless. First aid is one of the few skills that could cause more harm than good if you do not know what you are doing. I’m not saying take a 7 year doctoral program in emergency medicine, but there are several cheap and even free (yes, that word still exists) opportunities for you to expand your own basic first aid knowledge. FEMA online courses, Volunteer fire houses, Community C.E.R.T. programs all can teach you a little more information regarding life-saving skills, basic search and rescue, and even fire suppression. ‘Cause when the zombies come knocking, well… no one else will.

Face it folks, in order to be truly self-reliant you need to train yourself. Stimulate your mind. Fill it with important useful information, not more malted hops and bong resin. Hear me out. No amount of gear is going to help you unless you know how to use it. Nowadays there is no substitute for actually getting out and learning how to do something. I mean it is extremely helpful to have YOUTUBE, or blog sites dedicated to prepping, but unless you physically put your hands on some 550 cord and make a shelter, your website doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in a survival situation.

Mmmm. Beans.

Which brings me to food. Grow your own. Becoming more popular across America is the farm-to-table movement. Which, by the way, can happen in your own backyard. There are an innumerable number of companies that cater to container gardening. I know, I know, you live in an apartment or condo or somewhere that doesn’t have a porch/ patio/ gardening area. Not an excuse. A 5 gallon bucket, some dirt and seeds (water and sunlight help also), are all you need. Truly, plant some tomatoes in mid-June and you’ll have dozens all summer. You actually gotten off the web also! Now go use that thing that your rest your hat on! (I mean your head.) Get dirty! Sit down and make a plan of what vegetables you want to plant next. Make a meal from your own backyard.

So in the last 500 or so words, we’ve discussed first aid, survival prep, and container gardening. “But, but, but, how am I going to protect myself when ______ occurs and they come knocking at my door?” Ah yes. Well if you are considering hand-to-hand combat, why not take a martial arts course? Most martial arts studios offer at least an introductory class for free. If that style doesn’t meet your needs, move on. What’s the worst that has happened? You used 3 hours of your life to get a general introduction into another survival skill? I can almost see your brain increasing in size from here. (Which doesn’t really happen unless you get a viral infection and then encephalitis sets in… see: FIRST AID paragraph). But anyway.

Don’t feel like tugging on another person’s clothing and grappling to the ground? Take a firearms course. With the Second Amendment being a front and center issue in not only politics but around the water cooler, learning how to use a firearm properly could save your life in a dire situation. Many states have very restrictive laws regarding the ownership of a firearm, but do not have such laws regarding learning about how to use a firearm. Levels of courses around the United States ranging from “Keeping your booger hook off the bang button” to weekend long ballistics course learning how to stretch your rifle out to a thousand yard shot.

So here’s the deal. The only reason you are not prepared is your own fault. Stop buy the newest ‘survival tool’ and make the best of what you’ve got. Your own brain. The zombies will thank you.

Essay #2 – How to clean a chicken or upland game bird

Kill the chicken or get someone else to do it. Once it is dead, hold it by its feet and swish it around in a bucket of hot water to loosen the feathers. Immediately start plucking the feathers, pulling them against the pattern of growth. They should come out easily. IF you are planning on using the feathers for stuffing pillows, you need to pluck them dry without scalding the bird and this is much harder but gives you nice feathers for your pillows.

Once the bird is free of feathers, singe the hairs off. You can do this many different ways. I usually use a rolled piece of paper or birch bark and do it fast enough not to singe myself while I’m at it.

Remove the feet between the joint at the start of the drumstick and the start of the scales that cover the lower leg and feet on most breeds of chicken or other bird. At the neck, cut the skin and remove the crop which may be full of seeds, gravel and other bird delicacies. Place the bird on its back and carefully slice the skin between the breast bone and the tail, being careful not to cut across the vent, but around it, to remove it with the entrails. You can wear rubber gloves to do all of this if you are squeamish about stuffing your hand up a birds behind. Carefully pull out the entrails and possible egg sacs. Reaching farther up, remove the heart, liver, gizzard and lungs. Save whichever parts any of you will eat. They are good and contain a lot of nutrients. Cleaning the gizzard is a delicate job, cut through the large muscle piece on one side between the openings but not through the sac inside that contains the digesting contents. Carefully roll it away from the walls of the gizzard and discard.

Turn the bird over and on the back near the base of the tail is a bump that is the oil sac for preening the feathers. Cut far enough away from it to remove it without getting any on the meat. It works well for feathers, not so much for flavoring meat.

Rinse the bird well, it should now be a cleaned bird, ready for cooking or canning. That is, if the head was removed as a means of killing the bird. If not, cut it off at any time during the cleaning process.

If you want to cook it whole, now is the time. Other than that, go ahead and cut it into pieces as for frying. Pull the legs away from the body and cut the skin and any tissue between the thigh and the body, aiming for the hip joint and removing each leg this way. Straighten the leg and press it down as though you were going to bend the joint the wrong way and cut through the dimple in the joint to make a drumstick and a thigh piece.

Pull the wing back and cut it from the body at the joint, repeat on the other side. Cut the breast away from the back, cutting along the ribs where they join the breastbone. The breast meat can be cut from the bone or left on the bone on one side, cutting it in half after cutting a chunk off the front to separate the wishbone, making the breast into 3 nice pieces.

Cut the back piece in half. Bend the ribs back toward the outside of the backbone and slide your knife blade along the rib bones to remove them. Cut the neck off the rib section, also. Now you should have 12 pieces of chicken if you count the neck piece. This makes a nice fried chicken dinner for a small family or the chicken can be deboned and cut into smaller pieces to feed a larger group, whether fried or made into another chicken dish such as chicken stew.

Essay #3 – Untitled

When it comes to being a prepper, I can’t even call myself a beginner and keep a straight face. Honestly, if TSHTF right now I would be in deep trouble. What I CAN say, however, is that I am in better shape than I used to be, and I am far more aware of the fact that in this day and time, we NEED to be prepared. I have learned that it is really easy to become distracted by the shiny trinkets of prepping, such as this knife or that multi-tool, this fire starter kit, or that bag. I must admit that until just recently, those are the only things I had thought of. I can say, “Yeah, I got this ESEE 4 on my hip and this Leatherman Wave in my pocket”, but if it came down to it , would I really know what to do with them? I have to say “NO”. I hereby throw myself onto the sacrificial alter of what NOT to do. Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you what I have done to change this situation.

I am a Type 2 diabetic. That’s not as bad as being a Type 1 but it is definitely not something to play around with. If all goes wrong, what would I do to treat my condition? The only answer I have been able to come up with is to begin to learn alternative ways to treat it. I am no doctor and cannot offer any type of medical advice. This is something that has to be one’s personal quest for knowledge, but it is good to have a Plan B, if for no other reason than peace of mind. The less stress on the mind, the better our chances of coming through an ordeal, and at the end of the day, our health should be top priority.

The second thing I have done to try to change my situation is to think about my food situation. I try to make sure that I have a two weeks supply in the pantry at all times. I buy the things I like, and I try to follow the wise old saying, “Eat what you store, store what you eat, and ROTATE, ROTATE, ROTATE.” This is one that we have all heard and to hear it, it sounds rather generic, but it is good solid advice and it has helped me tremendously. It certainly simplifies things.

Lastly, there is my meager bag of trinkets. I have a simple mini A.L.I.C.E. pack that I use as my bug-out bag. In this bag is a personal trauma kit, a small flashlight, a tube tent, a good knife, a pill organizer with my medication in it. I might add that I treat the medication just like I do the food. I rotate it. There is a fire starting kit in there, some water purification tablets, an emergency blanket, and a S.O.L Survival Kit. That sums up, my preps so far, but I am constantly learning. I can only hope that in a few words and a humble confession that I have given you, the reader, a little food for thought.

Essay #4 – How My Family Preps on a Budget

Being prepared is important for my family and I. We have a large family, 6 people in the house, so a monthly budget is important for our survival. I am a soldier in The National Guard and my husband is a Supervisor in a chemical plant. We make a good living and live on a 14 acre farm in West-Central Kentucky. We make and stick to a monthly budget for food, bills, car payments, mortgage, etc. Most times it is hard to have spare money to spend on things we might need some time in the future. But we have set a plan and we stick to it as best we can. To date we have built a storage supply of non-perishable food to last us about 9 months. It has taken some time but we add to it every shopping trip. I hope our methods can assist in setting up a system for your own preps.

When we put together a grocery list, we make a menu for 2 weeks, our pay cycle. We roughly calculate an amount to spend and then add an additional $20-$100 to the total. The additional money is based on other things we need to accomplish that pay cycle. We then plan out our addition storage food purchases. We purchase bulk rice and beans, flour, sugar, salt, and lots of mix packets like gravy or sloppy joe mix. All of these additional purchases are vacuum sealed and placed in our survival cache. We package these items into usable portions, 2 pounds of rice and 1 pound of beans packed with gravy mix. This will feed everyone for a day. We package flour with yeast packages and everything needed for bread. We shop around for the best deal for all our food purchases, and usually fist 2-3 stores to finish our shopping. We avoid impulse purchases and stick to our list as much as possible. This helps us stay on budget and allows us to put some food back every 2 weeks. We inventory and rotate our stores as needed and use the food that is close to expiring. We replace that food and keep a rotation going.

We grow a decent sized garden each year. We utilize raised beds and vertical gardening to maximize space and to keep the work to a minimal level. We see very good yields from this method and eat a lot of fresh veggie all summer long. We all get into canning also, we get the kids involved and make a fun time of it. All of the extras get canned for use throughout the winter. We use a pressure canner so that we can preserve just about anything. We can full meals and side dishes as well. This gives us a nice rotation for our food usage. We avoid processed foods and eat as healthy as possible. We find recipes online to make some things that are normally bought as processed, like chicken nuggets, fish sticks, etc. Each year we have a surplus of canned foods and they are integrated into our storage foods and rotated as needed.

We also purchased a dehydrator for use in prepping. We dry vegetables and meats for storage as soup bases. We use pint mason jars filled with dry meat and veggies and a couple bouillon cubes. This is the perfect amount to mix with 1 gallon of boiling water for a nice soup. We also use the dehydrator to make fruit leather from fresh fruits and berries. The kids love it and it is a healthy snack for them. The fruit leather keeps well also, just vacuum seal it and it last for months, if you can keep the kids from eating it all that is. We also make jerky that tastes awesome. We are a family of hunters and make a lot of jerky each fall after deer season. When vacuum sealed, it lasts for over a year.

With these simple inexpensive systems we have been able to build a nice supply for food for any emergency that might arise. Be it a severe storm, a flood, or TEOTWAWKI, we have what we need to survive. These ideas are not the only way to do it, but it is what works best for us. I hope this gets you thinking, and DOING!

Essay #5 – Growing Garlic

So this spring at the new house I’ve been busy planting, most springs I plant garlic in spring and fall. Garlic is one of the easiest herbs(?) to plant. Literally dig a hole and put the clove in and forget about it. I’ve been planting the stuff for at least ten years, since I was given a couple of pods of “wild” garlic. I think that it actually came from an old home place and just kept making pods every year. I don’t think it is ramps or any other truly wild bulb.

But after a face book posting about spending the first warmish and dryish day of spring planting about a hundred cloves I was hit with a lot questions. So I’ll go through them Where did I get my cloves? Most were gifts from various people, and they have came from around the country.

Another question was, is any other part edible, a quick goggle search produced the following paragraph. “Hardneck garlic produces long, curled stems, called “scapes,” in early to midsummer, following a fall planting. Snip off the scapes as soon as they appear, but don’t harvest the garlic bulbs yet. Unlike onions, the flowering garlic bulbs will continue to grow after the scapes have been removed, putting all of their energy into making the bulb. A tasty bonus: You can use scapes from flowering garlic — which have a pleasantly mild garlicky flavor — in soups, salads, stir-fries or pestos. Harvest garlic bulbs when the lower five leaves of the plant have turned brown.”

Garlic is broken down into two categories, hard neck and soft neck, and many sub categories, like elephant garlic! Honestly I do not know the difference between hard and soft neck varieties, unless storage is the primary factor. I planted what I obtained in gifts or trade and have been happy with what I have.

Will store bought cloves grow? Now this needs a bit of clarification, yes store bought cloves will grow and make pods. But seed cloves are sold in stores also. We’ll cover both. When I’m in any grocery store I first go through the produce section, I’ll look at the boxes of garlic to see if any has little green sprouts. Those I buy and plant, well at least the ones showing green, the others if not used soon I’ll wrap in damp paper towels and store in the fridge for a few days to see if they will also sprout. If so out those go to the garden, if not cooking time. Since I almost have always lived in more rural areas the stores also have seed cloves for planting. With those I look for green shoots

I have preferred to have raised beds. In spring, When I plant my cloves I just barely cover then with dirt. Then for weed control I’ll go back and thinly sow radish seeds and moderately sow salad greens. The weeds don’t have much chance to take root and the extras are harvested before the pods are ready to dig.

In fall when I plant garlic, I do pretty much the same thing, only I use turnip seed and winter wheat, rye, and barley. There are other companion planting choices, no one is limited to these few.

Onions, shallots, and chives being close cousins are treated the same way. The flowers of all of them are quite Ornamental, even striking!

Even if you are in a no gardening zone, the allium family will let you have your own “guerrilla” plantings. The greens planted for weed control can be worked into your gardening plan as ground covers.

In the pics you see that I use tires for the raised beds, there folks that text and email each year detracting the use of old tires. Some people believe that planting in tires is hazardous due to possible chemical / heavy metal contamination. I have not found yet an unbiased study to agree or disagree with their beliefs. For generations people have been using old tires repurposed into planters. But planter choices are up to the individual. It’s a good use for them, they are repurposed.

Garlic has so many virtues in cooking and medicines that an encyclopedia could be filled. I’m not going into that. My favorite uses are for vinegar’s and oils, just cut your cloves and drop in a container cover with oil or vinegar let sit for a while and you have a culinary experience waiting for you.

And you get to repel vampires and other obnoxious entities and people.

Essay #6 – PREPPING: AN ACTIVITY FOR COUPLES

Based on the title, I’m not suggesting boasting on your E-Harmony account that you have 3 lbs. of junk silver, 2000 rounds of .22 ammo, 97 cases of MREs and 2 Berkey water filters. What I am saying is prepping should be viewed as a couples activity if you’re in a relationship. My wife and I feel it not only is an activity that brings us together but makes us better preppers.

Humans obviously don’t all share the same interests nor do we all have the same talents. By each person learning skills they are interested in they become the “experts” in that field. An example of this is my wife enjoying all aspects of gardening from starting the seedlings under grow lights in early spring (officer, those really are tomato plants) to canning in fall. Me, I could kill an artificial Christmas tree, but I’ve had extensive training in fire arms and have competed in shotgun sports, indoor small bore pistol, and 600 meter rifle. My wife and I will conduct classes for each other sharing our knowledge with each other. Doing this even a few times really helps the communication lines in the relationship.

Another prepping activity that should be done together is shopping. Often time’s one person is what I call “The Accountant”; the one who controls the purse strings. The other person is much more spendy (that reminds me I need to take the credit card out of my wallet before my wife catches me with it). By doing it together you both know what you have, can talk about what you need, and make plans on how and when to get it.

A final activity that we do together is wilderness camping. We do this to try survival skills and get familiar with gear we have acquired. Wilderness camping is our favorite way to get away from all the hustle and bustle of modern life. There are endless survival skills that can be tried out over a weekend of camping. It doesn’t even have to be in the middle of nowhere. You can just as easily test your fire making skills in the middle of Jellystone Campground outside your 30 foot travel trailer as the youngsters are playing video games inside; although that would be a travesty on more than one level.

Not every couple will have two people who both enjoy this lifestyle. One of them may even see prepping as unnecessary and a waste of money. If that is the case … Heck, I’m not Dr. Phil. Don’t know what to tell you. For my wife and I it has been a great way to strengthen our marriage.

Essay #7 – Creating a self-sufficient homestead

A self-sufficient homestead can be a critical asset to you and your family in a SHFT situation. There are many different aspects and components that are involved in having a self-sufficient homestead. You have to insure that your homestead can created all the aspects of food and supplies that you would need to provide for yourself and your family. You will need to provide all meat, dairy, wheat, vegetables, supplies and knowledge to provide for your family and your farm.

Providing the meat for your homestead might seem easy: you just need a couple pigs, a chicken or two, and maybe a cow or goat. Though you will need these kinds of animals, you will also need your farm to provide the grain, hay and supplementations to keep your animals alive and healthy. This will require a larger property to grow and cut hay from, and also for growing a plot of corn. Also, you will need knowledge of the animals you have in order to keep them healthy and cared for properly.

Dairy plays hand and hand with meat. You will have to have a cow or goat to provide milk and other dairy products. The decision whether to get cows or goats is a hard one; cows produce more milk but are hard to care for and eat a lot more than a goat, whereas a goat eats a lot less but it would require at least 4 milking goats to provide all the dairy products needed for an average family. Your dairy animal will eventually become a part of the meat that your family eats. You also have to have the knowledge of all the different processes to make cheese, butter, and any other dairy products you wish to have.

Your wheat and vegetables are extremely important, because unless you are going to just live off of meat and cheese, you will want to have a garden and definitely a wheat plot. Your garden can be very family specific: plant what you eat. Your wheat plot needs to be quite large. The average american person eats one acre of wheat products a year. With your wheat and vegetable products, you must know how to preserve the products you grow or you will not have any vegetables in the winter months.

You will also need products to heat your home and preserve your food. You may be able to heat your home and preserve your food with the current conveniences of electricity and fuels, but if there is none available you will need to be prepared. You have to be able to have access to cuttable woold to make firewood for a wood-burning stove to heat your home. You will also need the knowledge of how to preserve food without using electrical appliances.

Most importantly, you will have to have the supplies to take care of these things you need. You have to have all the resources to care of your land, garden and livestock. You have to have a means of fixing these supplies if they break, and making new supplies you may someday need to survive. If you have the know-how for most of these different aspects or the willingness to learn them, you can make your homestead self-sufficient. The key is to look into the deeper aspect of it; you will not just need some firewood, you will need the means of getting more. Being self- sufficient isn’t for one day, and having a self-sufficient homestead could potentially save you and your family in a SHTF situation.

Essay #8 – Vegetarian Prepping-Beyond Rice and Beans

I will first start this essay by saying I am not a nutritionist. I am, however, a vegetarian, and have been one for over 28 years. I tend to eat mostly vegan at this point, no dairy or eggs, so I will not be talking about dairy or eggs in this essay. I am not gluten sensitive, so I will not be talking about gluten free options exclusively, though some are gluten free.

Prepping while vegetarian seems limiting at first. Rice and beans, beans and rice. It doesn’t have to be that way! In this essay I’ll talk about a few alternatives, and some other things you can stock up on now, that will make your pantry fun to fall back on.

One of my favorite proteins is seitan. It is incredibly easy to make yourself, adds a great texture to any meal, and is very versatile. The main ingredient is vital what gluten flour. You can buy this in bulk at any health food store, or through a buying club. I have also found it in regular grocery stores, with the Bob’s Red Mill products.

Vital wheat gluten stores well, though, like whole wheat flour, it needs to be stored properly to last. A pound makes a lot of seitan, enough for many meals. Most recipes I follow use only a few cups at a time and I have enough for several meals. Vital wheat gluten is the protein part of wheat flour, and it is a great protein supplement. With the right herbs and seasonings, you can change the flavor of it nicely.

There are several good cookbooks and recipes online to teach you how to make seitan in all its forms. I really recommend the Vegan Dad blog; he is a master of seitan! Seitan can be made with just whole wheat flour as well, the process is somewhat longer and more labor intensive, but it can be done! So if you store whole wheat and grind your own, this is a great option.

Another great product that stores well, is inexpensive, and is very versatile is Besan, or chickpea flour. You can make your own easily, it’s just ground chickpeas. Chickpeas store incredibly well, like any bean, and you can do so much with them. Besan is available in Indian markets, and is very inexpensive. Store it like any other flour, and it should last you quite some time. This is gluten free flour, so it is useful for people with gluten allergies.

A book I recommend for getting started with this protein source is The Chickpea Flour Cookbook: Healthy Gluten-Free and Grain-Free Recipes to Power Every Meal of the Day by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Chickpea flour is used often in Indian cooking, but there are a host of other things that can be done with it. It makes a fantastic, and protein packed, noodle. Chickpea pasta is just as easy as easy as fresh pasta to make, and has a bunch more protein and vitamins. Pretty much anything made with besan has a nice nutty flavor too.

There are several companies that sell vegetarian foods that are canned. Worthington Foods is the one that comes to mind first. They started in the 70s, and for a long while were the only kind of meat substitute you could find. They’re still available, and have a great shelf life. Some are tastier than others, though I guess if I were hungry enough, I’d be OK with just about anything they make.

It is a great idea to look at other cultures as well, when planning a vegetarian pantry. Just about every culture has some great vegetarian proteins and recipes, and if you familiarize yourself with those types of recipes and cooking styles you will be amazed at what there is to offer. Simple things like masa harina and refried beans and vegetables can make some wonderful Mexican food! Making your own tortillas is inexpensive, easy, and pantry friendly, as masa harina stores well. Indian recipes are often vegetarian, and it is amazing how inexpensive their different proteins are. You don’t have to just stick with storing kidney beans and lentils. Familiarize yourself with the array of dried beans and proteins used around the world, and your pantry just got a whole lot more exciting!

So, when you think of prepping your pantry for a vegetarian diet, don’t get mired in the beans and rice trap. Explore now, while you have time to learn new techniques. Explore some different markets and see what you can come up with. I bet you will be surprised, and be looking at your food stores a whole new way!

Essay #9 – Untitled

You probably have life, auto, and homeowner or rental insurance – maybe riders for flood or earthquake. But what about economic collapse, power grid failure or pandemic? We believe that the best insurance is educating yourself and maintaining a quality of readiness in life for any crisis, large or small.

Stocking water, food, the means to communicate, to keep warm and keep safe are a lot like making a will, rotating your vehicle tires or changing the batteries in your smoke detectors. At the time, you don’t think much about it – but if a particular situation arises, you and your loved ones will be glad you did.

Some view preppers as wild-eyed, paranoid crazies. There are a few out there, but the reality is that we’re regular people, many with families. We just don’t want to be refugees in a disaster, dependent upon help that may or may not show up.

What this group IS about: helping each other by sharing knowledge and information, and forming relationships and alliances. Our focus is prepping in urban and suburban environments more so than wilderness survival.

What this group IS NOT about: sedition, militias, conspiracy theories, racial identity, religious prophecies, political agendas, or promotion of any provocative group or culture. We’re all human beings here. No one is going to tell you what to believe or not believe, but let’s keep the conversation on preparedness.

We deal only with realistic SHTF/WROL scenarios, not zombie apocalypse nonsense. Also, firearms and other weapons are a part of the discussion.

Some of us are new to prepping, and others have been doing so for years. Wherever you are in your journey, you’ll find a friendly community here.

Essay #10 – Kids and Preparedness

I am 16 years old and live in a home where prepping and survival is discussed way more times than I care for. I understand that my parents want to protect me but it all seems a bit much at times. As a kid, I want to go and hang out with my friends, watch TV and do things that are fun. I don’t want to sit and talk about preparedness and suvival. I’m not even sure that I really understand “Situational Awareness” or “Loss of Civility” but I hear words like these all the time.

We talk about severe weather and all sorts of other things that may interrupt our lives. Dad is always talking about manmade and natural disasters and how we can prepare to survive them. He taught me what I need for emergencies and survival, how to pack a bug out bag and we discuss different places to meet in case we are not together and something tragic happens.

When Dad asked me if I was going to participate in this contest I said, “No!”. I didn’t want to and didn’t think I had anything to offer anyhow. I could tell he was bummed but I just didn’t want to.

A couple of days later the whole survival topic came up again and it occurred to me that I do have something to offer. I have my aspect as a kid; I have my experiences of being a part of a family that prepares for disasters. It is boring most of the time but other times it is interesting. Maybe even fun sometimes.

So, I sat down and began writing. It was much harder than I thought it would be and started to feel like a homework assignment. The harder I tried the more I realized I had made a big mistake! I didn’t want to do it anymore but my parents have always taught me to never give up just because something is difficult, so I continued on. I realized that there are lots of things that I know how to do that will help take some of the stress off of my parents if something bad happens.

If we stay at home during an emergency (Bug-in, as Dad says) just knowing where things are stored is helpful. If we have to leave (Bug-out) then knowing how to catch fish with Dad helps put more food on our plates. Knowing how to start a fire helps keep us warm and helps Mom heat water for cooking and washing dishes. In emergencies, I can actually be helpful and not just look to my parents to save me!

I continued to think and realized that none of my friends know anything about prepping or survival. Most of my friends are too concerned with cellphones, music, videos, playing games and doing other things. I don’t discuss prepping or survival with my friends because it’s sort of weird. I am embarrassed to talk about it with my friends because they wouldn’t understand, they don’t care anyway and would just make fun of me and my family! Maybe their parents don’t know how to survive or care to teach them about Emergency Preparedness.

At school, we have fire drills and they give us pamphelts about Hurricane and Disaster Readiness but most of the papers wind up in the trash, on the floors or flying around the student parking lot. No one reads the information because no one cares! I guess they just all think that there will always be someone there to protect and save them.
So, as much as I hate being interrupted from doing what I want to do to participate in Dad’s “Preparedness Discussions”, I can see where I have been taught how to help and even take care of my family and myself in an emergency.

I have at least some skills that can help us survive. I can’t believe I am saying this but kids need to listen and learn more about preparedness and survival if their parents are trying to teach them. We may be in a situation someday where we act and save ourselves or sit and wait for someone else to come and save us. Dad says the latter isn’t an option because there may be no one to come to save us!

I think I understand now.

Essay #11 – A Plan for Comprehensive Preparedness

Prepping can be a daunting task. You know you need food, water, shelter, bugout bags, medical supplies, cleaning supplies, pet food, and a million other things. But how can you do that with a limited budget? And where do you even begin? The purpose of this article is to answer these questions and provide you some basic strategies to utilize in developing your overall preparedness strategy.

I encourage people to complete the following with their families or preparedness groups:

1. Answer the question “What are we preparing for, and how long an event is this?” This will help you define an achievable goal, so you are not just establishing a stockpile with no end in sight. Different emergencies required different levels of preparedness.

2. Decide what you and your family need to ride through the event. Here are some broad categories to think about. This is not meant to be an all inclusive list, and you may not need all of the items or may not need particularly large quantities of these items. Use this list to determine what your specific needs are. Don’t forget to take stock of what you already have.

*Skills — first aid, CPR, gardening, plumbing, electrical and carpentry, automotive repair, herbal medicine. It has been said that the more skills you have, the less “stuff” you will need.
*Food
*Water and/or water filtration/purification
*Medical supplies, including personal medications
*Flashlights, lanterns and other emergency lighting
*Shelter — Camper, tent, tarp, a trusted neighbor or relative’s house, motel
*Batteries and or rechargeable batteries with a charger
*A generator and fuel
*Toilet paper
*Communications — radios, phones, cell phones, shortwave, CB and HAM radios
*A written list of phone numbers, legal documents, medical records, insurance papers, house deed
*Pet food and medications, shot records
*Hygiene supplies — soap, shampoo, wet wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, etc.
*Cleaning supplies — detergent, bleach, cleaners, disinfectant
*Self-sufficiency items — seeds, livestock, land
*Repair items — fluids for your car, basic tools, duct tape, plywood, screws and nails
*Defense — knife, pepper spray, firearm, ammunition
*Cash to buy food, gas, etc.

3. Set a budget. Even $10 or $20 per week will go a long way toward helping you have what you need.

4. Start small, and grow steadily. I usually follow the guidance of FEMA and recommend starting with a 3-day supply of necessities. You can always add more down the road or as soon as you have the money. Once you are ready, work up to a couple weeks, a few months, a year, or even longer, depending on your needs.

5. Prioritize your large purchases. You don’t need to have everything all at once because you won’t use it all at once! Get the things you will most likely need first.

6. Be a smart shopper. Use store loyalty cards, coupons, sales, and other strategies to help build your stockpile cost effectively. Just buy a few extra cans of vegetables or a few small items when you go to the store each week. Don’t forget about discount stores, yard sales, farmer’s markets, online sales, and other nontraditional vendors. Community health fairs can even be a good source of free small preparedness items such as string backpacks, Band-Aids, pens, and coupons.

7. Reuse and recycle. Not only can recycling metals help you get a few extra bucks to build your preps, you can also reuse various items. A gatorade bottle makes a good canteen, a metal can makes an improvised stove or pot, cotton balls covered in Vaseline make good tinder, etc. There is virtually no limit to what you can reuse and repurpose if you put your mind to it!

8. Never forget that your most important preparedness item is YOU! Take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually. It saves money and stress in the long run to take care of those longstanding medical/dental issues and chronic health problems. It is also crucial for your survival to have hope, and be strong enough emotionally to deal not only with the crisis at hand, but be able to help your family and group, as well.

By taking the time to “prepare to prepare”, you can maximize your effectiveness, lower your stress, avoid impulsive purchases, get more for your money, and get the supplies you really need. Preparedness is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride.

Long-Term Survival Planning: Making and Enforcing Community Laws

[The following is an excerpt from Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide.]

While many of the laws on the books will likely continue to stand, for convenience if nothing else, some will need to be changed and others created anew. For example, stealing an apple from the grocery store today will net you probably nothing more than a ticket for shoplifting. You’d pay a small fine and be on your way. Stealing food in a post-collapse world, though, might be considered a capital offense.

Further, the penalties currently enforced today might not be feasible. How would you go about imprisoning someone for a few months, let alone a year or more? How could you levy a fine when money has no real value any longer? While the first inclination might be to banish those who are found guilty of committing the serious crimes, that might not end up being in the community’s best interests. Should you decide to remove someone from the community and cut them loose outside the gates, as it were, what you’ve done is take someone who knows the inner workings of the community intimately and placed them in a position where they can reveal that information to those who would do your community harm. In fact, the removed individual might even feel rather motivated to do exactly that.

Is the solution resorting to capital punishment? I don’t know, maybe. Certainly for the most egregious crimes, such as rape, murder, child molestation, something needs to be done to ensure the individual doesn’t do it again. Remember too that punishment serves as a deterrent to those who consider committing similar crimes. Therefore, while it sounds barbaric, perhaps a viable solution might be some form of corporal punishment.

Another option for consideration would be forced labor in the fields or something. However, you then run the risk of those workers already doing such tasks as feeling their roles within the community are so bad, participation is considered punishment for others.

It also bears noting that the enforcement of laws should not be done by the same people who are creating the laws. In other words, members of the leadership committee should refrain from being actively involved in the corporal punishment, if that’s the route your community decides to take. As we talked about earlier, the security element or group within the community serves two roles – defending from threats outside the community as well as enforcing the laws within. If the population of the community allows, the ideal would be for these two groups to be somewhat separate. An analogy would be to have a sheriff’s department for the law enforcement and a National Guard for handling outside threats. With that said, in our current society, the law enforcement agencies do not truly get involved with the punishment phase. While many county jails are overseen by the sheriff’s department, the deputies making arrests are not the same individuals working within the jail. This division of duties is important to preserve the impartiality of those creating and those enforcing the laws.

When it comes to enacting new laws, great care should be taken in how they are written as well as communicated. Personally, I’ve always felt that if an average third grade student cannot understand the law as it is written, it should be reevaluated. In other words, while asking an experienced attorney to assist with crafting a new law would be a great idea, he or she should be instructed to use terminology that is commonly understood and free of what we might call “legalese.”

As for communicating new laws, if possible they should be posted in one or more areas that are easily accessible to the community members as well as discussed in town meetings.