Thursday, December 30, 2010

Survival Mom

I was very excited to learn that Survival Mom is writing a book on basically the same things she writes in her blog.  She is one of my favourite bloggers, and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.  Congratulations!

Water Supply, more words of wisdom from M.G. Kains

Chapter 15, of Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management, is about the water supply.  M.G. starts by talking about his experiences with a variety of cisterns that he'd lived with over the years, and in one paragraph, he encapsulates all the mistakes one can make with putting in a cistern to harvest rain:

"At various times I have lived in houses where the primitive rain barrel furnished family needs and reared mosquitoes; where the shallow cistern provoked profanity every winter because holes had to be chopped in the ice and from which the water had to be lifted by a "sweep", "the old oaken bucket," or hauled, hand over hand, by rope and pail; a "chain-pump"; where a deep, unprotected cistern was built without provision for drainage and had to be cleaned of noisom sludge, dead toads, mice and other gruesome ingredients every summer; where there was a "filter cistern" which could not be cleaned (!) because of inaccessibility; where an attic tank filled direct from the roof collected leaves, soot, dirt and bird droppings; and where, in several houses, the water had to be pumped by hand either to a tank in the garret or a pressure tank in the cellar."

I have read a number of blogs where the authors planned to use a cistern to harvest rainwater, and this paragraph brought these folks to mind.  I've also seen some neat instructables from those who have actually made working rain collection systems.  Here are a couple of links to some manuals about creating rainwater catchment systems:

The Texas Manual of Rainwater Harvesting
Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Montana
Harvesting Rainwater for Landscape Use, University of Arizona
Rainwater Harvesting, Practical Action Organization

This interesting page details one family's experiences with using rain barrels:

And here's another page from a fellow building a custom tank in his father's garden:

In fact, visit Instructables and do a search for rain barrels.  There are lots of ideas for those that are handy.  In conclusion, there are some books that come highly recommended for those that are looking to build a water supply system based on rainwater:

Art Ludwig has also written some great books on re-use of "greywater":

This particular blog entry also points out some of the pitfalls of gathering rain from a roof:

Blogs and Blooms

Here on my island, we've been complaining about how much rain we've had over the holidays.  Ironic really, as we will undoubtedly suffer a shortage of rain in July, and August.  We so rarely have freezing weather, it seems positively wasteful to watch the water that got away flowing off into the little swale behind the house.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Five Acres

I have been re-reading my ancient copy of "Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management" by M.G. Kains.  This practical book aboutthe realities of farming a modest sized spread has a wealth of information and guidance to help someone succeed both at farming the land and raising a family there.  In his introduction, he quotes from H.W. Wiley, author of "The Lure of the Land":

"Many a wreck has been the result of taking the family to the country, and afterwords having part or all of it become thoroughly dissatisfied.  There are many rough realities in a life of this kind that it takes the poetry out of the visions of joy, peace, contentment and success that arise in the minds of many."

One might also add that the realities of country life are such that preppers would profit from reading this book.  Anyone who has recently taken up their abode in the country and is trying to garden on a large scale for the first time, and going through the learning pains of maintaining a young orchard, new hives of bees knows what I speak of.  There is so much to learn and it seems like you have to learn it all at once.

This book was first printed in 1935, and is still in reprint today, and has 52 chapters of practical information.  And he didn't hesitate to quote from older authorities.  One important quote which I think is relevant in today's financial "climate" is from David S. Kelsey, author of "Kelsey's Rural Guide":

"Almost any farm needs a much larger working capital than the proprietor provides.  The more successful the farm is, the more it absorbs or ties up capital."

For anyone who is "going back to the land" as a preparedness measure, the stark reality is that you are unlikely to make a living at farming for a long time, if ever under the current economic system.  It's value for you is going to lie in its potential value when all goes to hell in a hand-basket.  This is one investment that should be protected. 

Mr. Kains wrote a number of books that would be useful to someone who wishes to keep chickens, or grow fruit.  However, only Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management is currently in print.

Check out these other books he has written:

Ginseng, Its Cultivation, Harvesting, 1902
Making Horticulture Pay, Experiences in Gardening and Fruit Growing, 1909
Culinary Herbs, 1912
Plant Propagation: Greenhouse and Nursery Practice, 1916
Home Fruit Grower, 1918
Profitable Poultry Production, 1920
The Principles and Practice of Pruning, 1922

These books are all available in PDF, kindle or ePUB format.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Food Bill S510

I see that Food Bill S510 was passed by the U.S. Senate yesterday:

Interesting times we live in.  It remains to be seen how this will play out in real life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Border Vision

Over at Advanced Survival Guide, Justus discovered an article from the National Post about a proposed Canada/U.S./Mexico security perimeter that made him nervous.  I can appreciate his point of view as an American.  From the Mexican and Canadian points of view, it is also a move that does not make one feel warm and cozy.

And yet, what fuels this effort?  There are hundreds of mini-Hitlers out there fomenting hatred based on religion (both so-called Muslims and so-called Christians are guilty here) and many young inexperienced people are falling prey to this kind of charismatic bullshit.  Yet, Hitler had an agenda that was based on greed and a desire for power.  Religion was one of the tools he used to achieve his own goals: personal power folded into the goal of empowering and enriching his country, but only on his terms. 

Will this proposed "security perimeter" come into being?  Who stands to gain the most from this proposal?  Who stands to lose the most from this proposal?  Draw your own conclusions!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stranded Overnight

If you haven't already checked it out, have a listen at Off Grid Survival about the big snow storm that hit Ontario and Michigan.  There's an interview there with one fellow who was stuck in his truck over 24 hours, all he had was a blanket, and he'd started his trip with only a quarter tank of gas in his truck.

I have two words for you:  Car Kit.  Brandon Junkin mentions in the interview that by midnight, he was unable to open his vehicle doors because the snow had drifted in so deep.  My friends, he is one lucky hombre to be able to tell his story.  But think how much better off he would have been with a survival mindset.  One thing I will bet on: Brandon is probably going to put together a car kit, and he'll probably listen to weather warnings in the future.

The one item that Off Grid Survival's recommended car kit list doesn't mention is personal sanitation.  If you can't open the vehicle doors, you can't step out for a potty break.  And for the ladies, a bottle is not going to do it.  For the car, when you can't step out, a plastic bed pan or a portable urinal may be just the ticket.

You may also want to consider some waterproof bed-pads if there are children with you.

This would also be useful if you have your dog with you.  If it's not safe for you to step out, it certainly is not safe for Rover to do so either.

Finally, if you have your car kit in the trunk of your car, you may want to think about putting it in the back seat if you set out on a trip and the weather is iffy.  Your kit won't be of any benefit if you can't get it out of the trunk because the snow is so high that you can't open the doors.

December 15, 2010:  Looks like 327 people were rescued altogether.  Reports indicate many were not dressed for the weather, and some were stranded for almost 24 hours.  Check it out:

Non-Electric Lifestyle

I was reading Wendy's post over at Surviving the Suburbs about giving up her dishwasher to save electricity and become more eco-friendly, and it struck me that we all have our little guilty electric pleasures that will be hard to give up.  I'm sitting here listening to my electric coffeemaker gurgling on the kitchen counter, and wondering how long I would need to pedal a bicycle generator to get my morning cup of joe.

There are so many things that we North Americans take for granted, and just never consider how difficult it would be if the lights went out for a very long time.  Growing up, we didn't have an electric coffeemaker.  Mom made it on top of the stove using a percolator; it went camping with us and made coffee just as happily on the camp stove as it did on the electric stove at home.

Many of my relatives had large kitchens with both electric and wood-burning cook stoves in them.  One of my aunts had an oil-burning cook stove for use in the winter.  One thing I remember vividly is watching my granny stick her hand into the over to gauge the heat and whether it was hot enough to stick a tray of cookies in.  I wouldn't have a clue what felt hot enough.  Mom's stove had a thermometer on the front of the oven door.

We've probably all seen those camping gadgets for making toast or popcorn, but these are not new inventions.  There was a time when these are what people used.  I remember sitting in front of the fire with a wire basket on a long handle full of popcorn kernels and watching them pop.  I grew up with all those non-electric tools, although I will admit that when dad came home with that first electric coffee maker when I was in high school, that produced genuine excitement.  With that baby in the house, my first major addiction was born.  Mmmm, coffee! 

Nevertheless, when I look at a lot of food storage sites, and prepper sites, even though we all talk (and write) about preparing for a time when there might not be electricity, we all have all kinds of electric gadgets for prepping with.  Now that's ironic.  M.D. Creekmore addressed the same issue in a recent post, 4 Unique Ways to Preserve Food.  Honestly, I read a post from someone who is using an electric pressure cooker to can small batches!

This has driven me to an obsessive search for all those old-fashioned non-electric tools that my mother used to use.   Amazon has an amazing selection of these products, and the prices are not bad at all: 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Raising Children to be Survivors

I was reading the Bill of No Rights again this morning, and while it is good for a pained chuckle or too, it always makes me pause and think.  Once more, I thought that so many of the problems we have in modern society is the result of "eliminating" consequences, and giving children what they have not earned.

Children are praised, even when they have not done well.  They know when they haven't done well, and so they don't value the unearned praise.  All it does is teach them that they don't have to try, and someone will fix it for them.  They never get to have that wonderful feeling of having truly good work recognized.  And for the children who actually do well, the unfairness of seeing their achievements devalued by the praise given those who didn't (and perhaps didn't even try), causes them to stop trying.  (I recommend that you read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for her take on the social implications of lowering standards to the lowest common denominator).

The loss of consequences where parents insulate their children from punishment when they behave in a manner that is (or used to be) socially unacceptable has led to a society of liars, thieves, and violent people.  I have heard young mothers brag about how well behaved their children are, and if "junior" is "naughty", they have a time-out.  A time-out, for crying out loud.  Those children are usually little s**ts.

When I was a child, a time-out was for when you were crying, and getting on mom or dad's nerves.  I got spanked when I was bad, and it did me no harm.  I learned right off the bat which things were okay to do, and which things weren't.  No endless time-outs in a bedroom full of toys and entertainment devices.  Just a single sharp statement, and I knew exactly where I stood.  My parents loved me, and I knew it because they taught me the rules of real life.

I tried to do the same for my kids, so that at least at home, they got realistic information about how life works.  Unfortunately, they were mired in the public school system, and I do not find them to be as prepared for reality as I would have hoped.  Both learned to work with their hands, but didn't learn to value that knowledge. But they both do understand my desire to be prepared for whatever comes down the chute, and I hope that one day, they will take steps of their own instead of planning to "go home".

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food Storage - Baking Necessities

Check out this post from the Jodie and Julie at Food Storage Made Easy.  If you aren't familiar with their website, this is a good time to check it out.  This is one of the best websites out their for those new to the food storage scene.

Baking powder is a real must for baking, and yet its storage life is quite short.  Store the basic ingredients, baking soda and cream of tartar (both of which have very long storage lives) and you are set for years of baking to come.

Another great site is Safely Gathered In, which recently posted on this same topic.

What You Can Learn from Playing Video Games

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow at work yesterday about what you can learn from video games.  Now, I've always thought video games are great for teaching eye-hand coordination.  It worked well with my youngest who had real problems in that area.  But apparently, there is more that you can learn.

One thing my young friend mentioned is that you learn not to panic.  Suddenly, a raptor jumps you from out of nowhere; what do you do!  Apparently, long time gamers learn to not panic.  Another skill is to anticipate possible scenarios and plan for them, or planning strategies.  Thirdly, another skill is to learn to deal with tedium as in "grinding out rep", and "farming".  So, my friend thinks that all that time spent playing World of Warcraft is good survival training.

I can see the value in learning to not panic, but strategic thinking is best developed in handling real world events.  In real life, your strategy cannot include running through your opponent, and rezzing if things don't go as planned.  Indeed, if your main skills are game related, and you are a computer potato, you are not going to be physically prepared.

It's possible that in a bad situation where you need to direct younger folk who are clueless about real life, drawing upon gaming analogies can at least help them understand the situation, and why you need them to follow a certain strategy.  For example, you can tell them it's like doing a boss raid where you have to do everything just right, or the raid will wipe.  And if they complain that you don't trust them, let them know that all the tedious little jobs you are giving them to do is "grinding rep" with your faction, or they are "farming" for mats.

If you have kids that spend all their leisure time in the cyber world, you may need to offer them a "quest" and help them apply their "skills" in the real world.

Friday, December 3, 2010


A few weeks ago, I was reading Kellene Bishop's Preparedness Pro blog and she had posted about reusable canning lids.  A number of readers commented on the lids, and I recommend that you check out the blog, AND the comments.   Initially, when I saw these re-usable lids, I was all enthused, and thought I would like to have some.  This seems like it might be a useful item to have on hand.

However, I'm put in mind of a few recent blogs I read that asked if you are going broke prepping.  It seems like there's always someone coming up with some new "must-have" preparedness product, and people flock to purchase them, which is fine if you have the money to spend. 
However, for those of us on a budget, these new "must-haves" can be depressing to contemplate. 

I reuse my metal ones.  And I can pick them up at the dollar store very economically.  For the price of one flat's worth of re-usable plastic lids and rubbers, I can pick up 10 or more packs of the tin lids.  If you carefully inspect a used tin lid, you can readily tell when the sealing material is gone and not suitable for reuse.  And even a new lid can fail to seal, which is why we test the seal after cooling. 

So, while I think it would be wonderful to have the plastic re-usable lids, I believe that I will stock up on the tin lids. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Economic Collapse

It seems clear that some sort of economic collapse is on the way in the U.S., and that would tend to have a domino effect around the world.  When that will happen, no one can predict because there are simply to many factors to consider, and it's possible that the triggering event will not even look financial, if you know what I mean.

And remember, there are groups in the United States that are actively trying to take away freedom of speech.  If they are successful, a great many blogs and sites with useful information for the prepper minded may simply disappear because they are deemed offensive and alarmist. 

Be prepared!  Checked out this video from RickVanMan.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Couple of Interesting Blogs on Home Food Storage

Momzoo posted a blog about making tomato powder from her garden, complete with pictures.  Thanks, Momzoo.  It certainly was inspiring to see what one can accomplish with a dehydrator.

Another nice post on canning applesauce came from Michelle at my family prepared.  It was also beautifully illustrated.  I really like the hints and tips she provided.

Steve Dowdney, over at's blog has a nice post on making Christmas Pepper Jelly that sounds delicious.

I also found a really nice blog called Safely Gathered In on food storage which a section of recipes using food storage staples.  The recipes are focused on the kind of food storage where you stock what you eat and eat what you stock, and most of the of the recipes have pictures.

Another great blog with food storage recipes is My Year Living on Food Storage.  This blog regales the reader with one family's experiences with eating using food storage items, both the bulk staples and the store bought canned food pantry.  It's very interesting as we learn with this family about what actually works out well and what doesn't.  She also posts a list of books that have helped her find recipes to use the storage items.

The Everyday Gourmet Cooking with Long-term Food Storage
Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis
It's in the Bag a New Approach to Food Storage
A Year's Supply In "Seven Days"
Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation
Food Storage 101 Where do I begin? (Cookin' With Home Storage)
I Can't Believe It's Food Storage
Emergency Preparedness The Right Way
The Essential Food Storage Cookbook
Food Security for the Faint of Heart
Cooking with Food Storage Made Easy
How to Develop a Low-Cost Family Food-Storage System
Not Your Mother's Food Storage
Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation
Pantry Cooking, Quick &Easy Food Storage Recipes - 2006 publication
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

Anyway, you get the picture.  There are lots of cookbooks and guides to help you make choices that will fit your budget, and that your family will eat.

Preparedness and Planning

Another fantastic post from The Survivalist Blog Dot Net.  This is the best summing up of the first principles of preparedness I have seen.  I especially appreciate the point on having a team.  Anyone who imagines that being a lone survivor is a good thing needs to re-watch Castaway.  The dangers of being injured or hurt when alone, and the sheer horror of being lonely are well-illustrated in this film.

I also like the points on planning, point 2 being "with a paper and pen write out a detailed survival plan", and point 6, "know when to change strategies."   "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley", quote Robbie Burns.

I'm going to be daring and add to point 2:

Whatever your long term goal is, set a series of mini-goals, and don't rush.  As a self-confessed lazy person, I want to do the job right the first time, so I don't have to do it again.  This means a little extra work in the short term because a detailed plan really is necessary.

Planning is especially important if you have non-preppers in the house.  Hubby has been known to give away some of my prepper supplies because "we have lots".  Well, duh, Skippy!  That's the point!  It takes planning to keep him from giving away the store.

More About Emergency Sanitation

Found a really good article on how to prepare for emergency sanitation over at Self-Reliance Central.  One of the suggestions is to have a bucket with a toilet seat, bags and kitty litter.  And if you already have a cat, it's no biggie to buy an extra bag every time you pick up some up.  Whoever uses the kitty litter, it is disposed of in the same fashion.

Of course, if you live out in the country, it might be prudent to locate a spot where you can dig a discreet outhouse disguised as a garden shed.  There are so many fake outhouses out there, no one will give it a second thought as long as you are stealthy about digging the hole and scattering the dirt around the garden.

For that matter, it occurs to me that until you actually need to use the hole for matters sanitary, it could very well serve as storage.  Just a nebulous thought.  The details I leave to your imagination.