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17 December, 2014

The False Veneer Of Polite Society Hides An Ugly Truth

I am not, in any way, taking any sort of credit for the Internet meme pictured above. If you pay close attention, there is actually a copyright notice in the lower left-hand corner which I left fully intact. Also, I give full credit to the Facebook page that originally shared it: the Anti-Media page. I just thought it worthy of sharing with you folks, because I found the message it carries to be both timely as well as chilling. Originally, I had shared it on the Facebook page for this blog, but I know some of you folks avoid most of social media due to the privacy issues. So, I thought I would make a point of showing it here on the Backwoods Survival Blog main site as well.

It really does conjure up some worrisome thoughts when you sit down and ask yourself, the question: if otherwise normal, everyday people will act in such a way over something as frivolous as cheap electronics for the holiday season, then how are they likely to react when there is a real crisis facing us?

The truth is that we live in a society that is largely peopled by individuals who are selfish and pampered, unaccustomed to having to deal with the kinds of hardships you and I have in mind when we make our efforts toward emergency preparedness. There's a lot of debate with respect to whether or not we live in a democracy or an oligarchy, but more than either of those I think – more and more every day – that what we really have in our society should be classified as an idiocracy. People these days are frivolous and spoiled. I don't hate them for that. In fact, I know myself well enough not to be ashamed to say that I fall into the same traps at times. I'm a guy. I like my toys, which in the grown-up version of the little boy I once was pertains to electronics, firearms, etc. The difference between myself and many other people, however, is that I have worked diligently in my own mind to make sure that the things in my life do not define who I am. The majority of people can't say that. Not and be honest.

This epidemic of frivolousness would be nothing more than a sad commentary on the fortitude of our society, if it weren't for the looming future threats we face. When you allow your mind to center on the concept of being prepared for emergencies, though, the result is that you naturally begin to mentally assess the foundations of society, and the truth of your deep-seated fears cannot be denied – modern society really is a very fragile thing. With that in mind, the self-centered and entitled nature of the average person in our society takes on a much more dangerous connotation. People act like complete barbarous maniacs, shoving aside strangers and causing injuries with what amounts to less than even an ounce of compassion or remorse, and that's how it is when all they're fighting for is a good deal on a big-screen TV. Can you imagine how these same people will react when their own survival is at stake?

It truly is a terrifying thought when you come to the realization that mankind's baser animal instincts are still so close to the surface. Being terrified of such knowledge doesn't make it go away, though, nor does it make it any less true. In a situation such as a food shortage, the future threat of civil unrest, rioting, and widespread anarchy will become a much more immediate danger. Crime and violence will be the order of the day. Panic will rule these people who have never given a single moment's thought to the idea that they might go to bed hungry in the future.

And the other terrifying part of the entire equation is that there's really nothing any of us can do about it. You can't really change people. Maybe you can convince a few of your family and friends of the wisdom of preparing themselves for future emergencies, but if you have ever attempted to proselytize our way of thinking then you have no doubt run into the same resistance I always have. The vast majority of people simply refuse to believe anything could ever occur that would break down the order of their daily lives, and many will die in some future disaster because of that lack of forethought. Most people simply don't want to take time away from drinking their favorite beer or Starbucks coffee and watching the latest rage in Reality TV. They are oblivious. And, as a result, when something truly bad really does come upon us, it will shock the average person to the point that they will either crumble under their own sorrow or revert to animalistic behavior. These are the dangerous ones.

And all we can do in the meantime is to continue to quietly prepare for ourselves and our families/friends, based on what we think is best. I urge that you use the proper discretion with respect to your emergency preparedness efforts in the face of people you do not know or are not sure you can trust (and, if your head is in the right place, the latter ought to include most people). If some truly harrowing disaster or resource shortage does ever occur, you can bet that the false veneer of polite society will quickly be torn asunder and you don't want most people to be aware of the preparations you have put in place. To be honest, having no choice but to put myself out there somewhat in promotion of this site has placed me in the precarious position of far more people knowing I try to stay on top of preparedness then I would prefer were aware. This has resulted in me having to take various precautions in case I'm faced with a similar situation. I will not go into detail about what those precautions entail, but you have it in your power not to be forced to deal with those kinds of issues. Just keep your head down and only trust those people you know for sure will have your back.


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16 December, 2014

Trapping Small Game As a Food Source

Photo Source – This is an example of a figure-four deadfall trap for small game. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them. I don't enjoy having my fingers crushed by a big, heavy rock, so I went looking for a better option. Read the rest of this article to see what I came up with.
As Preppers, most of us understand that if any of the things we spend our time preparing for actually occur, then food production is going to become a large part of our daily life. That's how it has been for most of human history, that's how it still is for those who live a subsistence lifestyle, and that's how it's going to end up being again even for the rest of us. No way around that. Folks gotta eat.

To that end, most of us spend our time acquiring the skill of gardening on as large a scale as we are able in our current circumstances with the understanding that, once you have the knowledge, all you have to do is step up the size of your operation to be able to produce more food. A goodly number of us at least try to get our toes wet in the field of raising livestock, even if all it amounts to is keeping a few chickens and a rooster in our backyard. We do these things because we understand the need to be self-sufficient, either to continue to survive after some disastrous event has occurred or just to live more simply now, rather than conforming ourselves to what the rest of society considers a proper lifestyle.

And a lot of us also hunt, fish, and trap for these same reasons and/or simply because we enjoy the sport of it. There are, of course, folks out there who will glibly call you a monster for being active in these types of activities, but most of that – I'm convinced – is simply because people tend to get far too entrenched in their own ideological viewpoints to see the bigger picture. There may be some truth to the argument that people don't usually actually have the need to hunt in this day and age, unless they are on the very low end of the income spectrum; we all can, after all, buy our meat at the grocery store. But that has always seemed a hypocritical argument to me, seeing as how those cows, pigs, chickens, etc. were once living, breathing animals as well.

Somehow, people can take comfort in the spoils of violence as long as they themselves don't have to be involved in the actual act, which is both intellectually dishonest as well as hypocritical. A cow killed in a slaughterhouse doesn't suffer any more or less necessarily than a deer taken down by a rifle in the woods. And then there's the other important part of the argument, which is that a failure of a certain amount of hunting and trapping can cause increases in the animal population that result in their being insufficient food and the poor critters end up either starving to death or wandering into city streets in a vain effort to find something to eat.

Photo Source
Participating in these kind of activities also has the benefit of training those involved how to better be able to achieve self-sufficiency if needed. A person who can hunt, fish, and trap can feed themselves and others with just a handful of tools. That kind of self reliance is beyond value, in my opinion, and is something that is sorely lacking in most of today's society of people who either have no idea where their food comes from or who are simply so far outside the means by which that food was produced that they lack the respect for the animals who died to feed them.

Producing food for ourselves through the death of animals should only be done in such a way that the spirit of the animal is honored and respected. I have no problem with people hunting for sport as long as they also make use of the animal whose life they have ended. I'm not a fan of people who shoot a deer and leave it to rot, having only taken the head for the antlers and the back strap meat. You may or may not agree with me, but I consider this a sin against nature, so much so that any wild game that makes it into my orbit of control is broken down in such a way that every part of the animal that can possibly be used is used. It's simply the only way I can feel right about it, and we all have to be able to lie down and sleep at night with whatever we did that day. I prefer keeping my conscience clear.

This article has already become far more lengthy than I intended, but I felt the need to get my point across with respect to food coming from wild game. On this subject, what I wanted to share with you were the YouTube videos you will find embedded below. They represent a couple of different ways one can make a homemade trap to catch small wild game, which could become a very important food source in the future. My interest in building the sort of traps comes mostly from a dislike of the traps you often see built by survival experts, such as the several different kinds of deadfall traps (also pictured above), because these are sometimes difficult to set up and can actually result in injuries to your hands.

To put in my own two cents on the subject, allow me to just say first off that I preferred the design utilized to build the trap in the first video. The fulcrum-driven system used in the second set of videos (they are part 1 and part 2 of the same series – I didn't bother posting the rest of it as part 3 was missing entirely and parts 4 and 5 simply show the guy building the traps) seems overly precarious to me in that I wouldn't be surprised if something triggered it from the outside. To be honest, it looks like even something as ubiquitous as a strong wind could cause this trap to spring prematurely and result in you going hungry. The first one seems like a much better system, but I would include the metal grating on the side that the second guy has on his traps. As he states in his video, these make it possible to not only see what you have caught but also to actually use a .22 caliber to kill the creature before you even take it out of the trap. Much more efficient. So, I guess my best advice would be to build a hybrid of these two.

The main thing I like about both of them is that the cost of putting the straps together yourself as a DIY project would be almost nothing. The first guy quotes his as costing around $10 per trap, but you'd have to up that a little if you wanted to install the grating in the side of the box or if you were building something larger to try to catch something like a raccoon. Still, it would be very cost effective to simply build a bunch of these for very little money and have them positioned all around the woods. Each day, you'd simply have to make your rounds to check all the traps and retrieve whatever game they may have produced for your stewpot.




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15 December, 2014

Potable Fresh Drinking Water from Tree Leaves and Urine

Even though I often like to pretend it is a completely separate genre, television programs that teach outdoor survival skills are technically considered to be Reality TV, and as such there are times when they fall into the trap of trying to sensationalize things. The idea, of course, being to shock the audience of mostly suburbanite viewers. As a result, you'll see a lot of these guys – including Bear Grills – making a big show about drinking their own urine.

It's true that urine is mostly water, but that doesn't make it good for you, despite the crap you see on TV. Please don't drink your own urine. Okay... if you are about to die of dehydration, and you have no other way of getting any water into your system, then by all means go ahead. Otherwise... just... no.

Instead and if at all possible, follow the guidelines you'll see in the video below. You won't get a lot of liquid this way, certainly not enough so that these alone would fulfill your daily needs. There's no reason, though, why – given certain materials (which could mostly amount to nothing but trash) – you couldn't scale up the methods you're about to see and/or simply build/implement multiple instances of the two types of making fresh potable water you will see in the video below. To put it simply, build three or four or five stills to increase production.

By the way, this video clip is taken from an episode in season two of "Survivor Man," where he is in the Kalahari desert, which is exactly the type of climate where something like this could save your life. This is the type of survival training you need to have in your skill-set in the event that you find yourself somewhere (be it a desert climate or an island, surrounded by nothing but salt water) where simply finding fresh water is not necessarily a viable option.. Enjoy!


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14 December, 2014

Prepper Christmas: Even an Off Grid Homestead Can Be Festive

Photo Source
It's that time of year when, depending on your own personal religious and cultural background, most of us are in the business of getting ourselves in the holiday spirit. This often involves decorating our homes for the season, and there will be few reading this – I'd wager – who do not have warm memories associated with trimming the family Christmas tree every year. Unfortunately, the holidays have become much too heavily commercialized and gotten a bit away from the true spirit behind it all, and there are times when those of us who've chosen a simpler life might shy away from the more gaudy things that mainstream society has to offer. This doesn't have to mean giving up things like decorating your home and the Christmas tree, though. Instead, what it might call for is simply a bit of an adjustment.

There's no reason why a Prepper living on a homestead, whether on or off grid, can't decorate their home in a festive way. In this article, I plan to talk about a few ideas of how this can be accomplished in keeping with the leanings that most of us have toward more old world, rustic, and primitive ways of living. Bear with me and let's see what we can come up with, and there will be opportunity for your feedback in the Comments section below.

The Tree

Typically, our tree every year is artificial. Growing up we always had a real, living pine that we watered all through the holiday season, but I've gotten away from that as I've gotten older. This is mostly due to the convenience factor of an artificial tree. In the end, it doesn't matter whether your Christmas tree is real or artificial; you can still decorate it in such a way as to appeal to a more rustic taste by examining things people did in the old days.

Ideas for naturally-themed decorations might include gathering real pinecones and using them to decorate your tree. You can also use festive gift tags, each written with its own heartwarming message. In the place of store-bought garland, consider stringing your tree with popcorn and dried fruits. Other possibilities include ribbons and flowers you've picked.

As far as lighting goes, that is to each their own. Some may relish a brightly-lit Christmas tree, whereas others will default to one without any lights. Perhaps this is a purely aesthetic choice or maybe it has to do with the use of electricity at an off grid site, where it is likely that every AMP is produced by an alternate energy system and usage must be kept to a minimum.

It is interesting to note that there are options available that don't require the use of electrical power. For centuries in the past, it was common practice to light a Christmas tree with candles. I'm aware that may sound a bit reckless, but Christmas Tree Candles are an option, even in this day and age. Basically, it's a matter of using your own common sense and hoping you possess some. You don't light the candles on your tree and leave them burning all the time. Rather, you only light them at certain times and for brief periods to enjoy the beauty, and they must be arranged properly on the tree itself to keep everything and everyone safe.

That being said, most Christmas lights purchased nowadays are of the much more energy-conscious LED variety as opposed to the wattage-guzzling and heat-producing incandescents of the past. I purchased a few strings of lights for my house just a few days ago, spending only a few dollars per set, so the expense is not high even on next to no income. And, the 200 light string I brought home is rated at only 48 watts (0.4 amps) of power, so I can't imagine them being much of a drag on even a medium-sized alternate energy system.

Other Decorations

Beyond the tree itself, you can easily decorate the rest of your home using these same sorts of methods. For instance, one might decorate banisters leading up a staircase with bundles of sticks, tied together with a festive bow and decorated with natural seasonal plants. Pinecones would also be useful in this type of arrangement as would some of the dried fruit to help the bow accent things with color. In addition to this, you could hang pinecones from the light fixtures of your home, using fishing wire. Maybe even sprinkle them with something white to give the illusion of snow.

Either as a conversation piece on the coffee table or as the centerpiece of a dining table, you could feel a glass bowl or carafe about a quarter of a way with some material to simulate the look of snow on the ground. Then, by adding a few small sprigs from the ends of pine or fir branches, you could easily create what looks like a miniature snow-covered scene like one might find inside a snow globe. Especially crafty individuals might even be able to populate their scene with fake birds or tiny houses. Other ideas for decorative centerpieces might involve a crystal bowl of water, within which clear votive candle holders could float, each topped with a seasonal holiday flower.

And, instead of simply hanging Christmas cards you have received on the wall or the refrigerator, gather some branches that are devoid of leaves to make a much more festive and artistic display. Tie the sticks together into a bundle, using holiday themed ribbon, decorate with sprigs of Evergreen, and allow the ends of the branches to act as holders for the cards. It may be necessary to clip the cards in place so nothing slips, and this same method could be used to display family photos as well.

So that's just a few ideas I was able to come up with by looking around the Internet. What do you think?


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13 December, 2014

Building My Own DIY Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit: A Step-By-Step Journey, Part 1

Photo Source
As is true of any subculture, there are many schools of thought within the Prepper / Survivalist community, many of which tend to overlap one another. A growing trend these days revolves around the phenomenon of the ubiquitous everyday carry (EDC) kit, so much so that entire websites are dedicated simply to this single facet of the greater picture that is emergency preparedness. Needless to say, I have been feeling the pressure to build one of these myself for quite a while now, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm doing it in stages, little by little, and I'm going to document each stage here on Backwoods Survival Blog as I proceed.

First off, what is an everyday carry (EDC) kit? The simplest answer possible is that it is a collection of tools that you carry with you on your person everyday and that are specifically geared toward assisting you in overcoming obstacles that you might find yourself facing. Things you know you're going to use every day need to be part of your everyday carry kit, and – with a mind toward emergency preparedness – you also need to take the time to weigh those scenarios that could present themselves to you, even if not every single day. That's how you become prepared.

Everyone has their opinion as to what sort of case ought to house the kit. It needs to be large enough for you to be able to carry the things you need, while also remaining a sufficiently small size as to allow you to carry it on your person all the time without a great deal of difficulty. The fact of the matter is that, if it becomes a great inconvenience, human nature will prevail and you'll end up leaving it at home, which utterly goes against the entire concept of everyday carry. The other important factor that I wanted to concentrate on, as I do with pretty much everything else I deal with with respect to emergency preparedness, was to keep things at as low a cost as possible. We all know that there are folks within our community who adopt the mindset that being prepared means you have to spend thousands of dollars, but I have never been one of those people.

In my case, a light bulb went off over my head as I was going through an old box and found this old day-planner (pictured to the right) that I've probably had since college. Nobody uses these things anymore. They're completely obsolete now that most people carry around what once would have been considered a supercomputer in their pockets (smart phones). No one needs a paper calendar anymore. And, as I was just on the verge of thinking about tossing this old thing in the garbage, I decided to repurpose it. I ripped pretty much anything out of it that I didn't think I could use and was left with what is essentially a small leather case that zips and has a bunch of useful compartments. Perfect for my purposes.

It came with this little ruler inside it. I'm not sure if it will be all that useful, but it takes up almost no room in the case whatsoever. There isn't really much to say about something like that. I'm essentially keeping it because it isn't inconvenient to do so, and I imagine it may have some utility somewhere down the line. You never know when you might need to measure something small or have a guide to help you draw a straight line.

Next, I added this very good ink pen and a small pad of Post-it notes. I had a bunch of these lying around, and they also take up very little space. You never know when you could be stuck out somewhere, possibly even separated from your companions, and need to leave notes to help guide them to where you are or let them know where you're going. These may never get used either, but until I'm out of room and need to start dumping things to make room for better stuff, I'll leave them in there.

And the last thing I added today were 2 large, heavy-duty 30 gallon garbage bags. Garbage bags, tarps, plastic sheeting, etc. can have probably hundreds of different uses. As needed, these could be cut or torn to make a rain poncho or waterproof roofing material for a temporary woodland shelter. Given some sort of container, they could even be fashioned into a rain catch to get you some fresh water at great need. Granted, this isn't food-grade plastic by any means, but in a pinch you do what you have to do to avoid dehydration.

So, that's it for today. I will be revisiting this project and adding more to my kit in the next few weeks, so don't think for a moment that these few things are all I'm going to be carrying with me or that I have forgotten any of the extreme necessities I haven't yet addressed. You will see more in upcoming articles, but feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments field below. Thanks!


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12 December, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

As I've said previously, I have wanted for some time to get back to reviewing Doomer Fiction here on Backwoods Survival Blog. Recently, I was able to get back into doing film reviews that fall under the survival genre, so I wanted to be able to return to doing reviews for books and novels as well. So, to that end, today I will be reviewing the novel "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins (Kindle edition). It is, as some of you may already be aware, the first book in a trilogy, so you can expect to see the other two parts reviewed here as well over the coming weeks. I'm reading them in order, and I'm trying to do one per week here on the blog, but that schedule might end up having to be adjusted because of school. I will do all three over the next few weeks, though.

The world in which this trilogy of novels takes place is actually in our future, and – as this particular genre of fiction more or less the demands – we are depicted as having a dystopian future. To be honest, things are pretty bleak. We are very quickly introduced to our viewpoint character, a young girl named Katniss Everdeen, who has spent much of her childhood attempting to keep her family from starving to death by "poaching" illegally in the woods that surround the fenced-in district where she lives. We are made aware that this crime, which most sensible people would consider to be minor even if it was a crime at all, is punishable by death, so she has been risking her life every day since she was just a child.

Through her inner dialogue, we quickly come to understand that the tyrannical nation in which she lives, known as Panem, grew out of the ashes of what was once North America. There is a city, known simply as the Capitol, which is centered in what was once the Rocky Mountains region of the western United States, and it is surrounded by 12 districts that each have a certain resource that they must provide to the Capitol. District 12, where the story begins with Katniss, is in what was once called the Appalachian Mountain region, and is responsible for providing coal to the Capitol. Rule is carried out with an iron fist by this tyrannical government.

We also learn that the Hunger Games, which give the story its title, are just another part of the government's tyrannical rule. Sometime in the past, one of the other districts had raised up a rebellion against the government and was utterly laid waste as a punishment and as an example to quell further future rebellious attitudes. While that 13th district was wiped out completely, the others were to endure a punishment going forward in the form of a sporting event that takes place every year and is required viewing on state television with no exceptions. These so-called "games" involve one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18, referred to as tributes, being taken from each of the surviving districts and forced to participate in a gladiator-style event where they must kill each other until only one survives and is named the Victor. Anyone who manages to win the games is insured of a better life for themselves and their family going forward, but every year people must watch adolescents from their own hometowns being killed on national television as nothing more than a show that the government can do whatever it pleases with their children and they are unable to do anything about it.

Let me just say that this story is a definite page turner. The action gets going pretty quickly as the main character Katniss ends up as one of the contestants in the Hunger Games, having volunteered in place of her younger sister that was chosen as the girl tribute of District 12 by lottery. One thing that those of us who consider ourselves to be Preppers will find of interest in this novel is that the guiding force of most of the story is food insecurity. The reason it is a possible death sentence for this young girl to have been hunting, fishing, and foraging in the forbidden wilderness around her controlled district is because all natural resources – having been depleted long in the past – are now the property of the government and the simple act of taking a fish from a stream is considered a terrible crime. As a result, most normal citizens subsist on a diet that is just this side of starvation, while those in the Capitol live in a world of plenty. It is Katniss's abilities at hunting and foraging for food that go a long way toward helping her in the Hunger Games, and those are skills that we often do our best to cultivate. She has also spent most of her young life bartering in a black market to trade the wild game she has illegally killed for things that her family needs, understands the value of certain healing herbs, and knows the importance of locating water, using common sense methods to locate it (such as knowing that where there is wild game there will also be water and that she is more likely to find water in a valley since it flows downhill).

Another thing about this story that those of us in the Prepper / Survivalist community might raise an eyebrow over are some of the parallels that can be drawn by examining the world in which Katniss lives and must fight for her life and the dreaded Agenda 21 of the United Nations that we have all heard about. Very interesting indeed.

Definitely check this book out! Also, I've listed a couple of links below that you might find of interest on similar subject matter:

Herb Research Foundation

"Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager" by Langdon Cook

Edible Pine Bark


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11 December, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: "Cast Away" (2000)

I've been wanting to get back into the swing of things with my reviews for survival-oriented fiction, both with respect to films as well as books and novels, so I decided to get back into it by presenting you with a review of "Cast Away" (2000) [Blu-ray]  (DVD version). I had seen this one and really enjoyed it back when it first came out, but it had been quite a long time and so I screened it again just to refresh everything before writing this article. I also wanted to see if the film would still hold up after all these years and make sure that me enjoying it previously wasn't simply a case of me pretty much enjoying every film Tom Hanks has ever done throughout his career. Happily, I can report to you that everything I remembered about this film that caused me to hold it in such high esteem was still evident, even after all this time.

From a Prepper / Survivalist viewpoint, there were a few things that made me cringe, but it wasn't because there was any fault in the film or the writing. Rather, it was because I know in my heart that the mistakes made (like stupidly wasting the only battery in his only flashlight) would be exactly the kind that your average person would end up making if trapped in a survival situation for which they have had no training at all. In this, the film actually takes on an air of believability that might have otherwise been lacking.

For any who are not aware, the film centers on a character played by Tom Hanks who is a representative of FedEx. He's the guy who travels around to different countries, from distribution point to distribution point, whenever there is a problem with the efficiency of a particular depot that needs to be addressed. The film begins with him trying to increase the package delivery speed in Moscow, then returning to his home in Memphis briefly, before being called out again to help solve some problem at a site in – I believe – Malaysia. This is the path that Fate takes in order to put him into a position where he is the sole survivor of a harrowing plane crash over the South Pacific and subsequently washes up on a lonely, deserted island.

As he himself works out by scribbling math on the walls of a cave in which he has sought shelter, the search radius for the downed plane – which was driven off course by a storm and wasn't where their last radio communication would have placed them – is twice the size of Texas, meaning there is very little hope of rescue. This is how we find ourselves in the audience watching him as he attempts to survive. He makes mistakes, while at the same time coming up with some fairly ingenious ways to use items that he finds in FedEx packages that wash up on his beach from the crash. Researching some things about the movie afterward, I learned that the writers of the script gave a bunch of random items to survival experts and asked for their assistance in planning out what the character could do with these items to keep himself alive, so it shouldn't be surprising some of the very good ideas we see him come up with. I won't spoil any of that for you, in case you haven't seen the film.

And you should definitely see it. It is a critically acclaimed account that, while not based on a true story, smacks of realism in many ways. You'll see some very resourceful things made from random items as well as have a chance to delve into the subject of the mental effects that can result from extreme solitude and stress in a survival situation. You'll also spend most of the beginning of the film thinking to yourself how much better off he might have found himself if he had simply been carrying a minimal everyday carry (EDC) kit in one of his pockets. I know that is what I was thinking over and over and over.


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10 December, 2014

Emergency Communication Devices Explained

When it comes to emergency preparedness, communication is an issue that needs to be addressed in as early a stage as possible and very thoroughly. There are many kinds of disasters that can literally cripple the technically-advanced forms of communication that all of us use on a regular basis and by which we have thus become spoiled. Anything from a simple weather event all the way up to a Black Swan-type disaster like an EMP burst have the potential to cut off communication between parties separated by distance. As a result, those of us interested in emergency preparedness should be acquiring alternative technologies that will allow us to remain in contact with the people that are important to us. Typically, this boils down to the use of a dependable two-way radio system, but it isn't always that simple.

Courtesy of Zipscanners.com, here is a detailed info graphic to help you gain a better understanding of the different types of radios, etc. that are available:


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09 December, 2014

Guest Post: What's Really In A Survival Meal?

Determining what actually makes up a meal can take on a number of definitions for different people. This can include ideas like:

• Proper food combinations
• Sufficient protein
• Portions that add to fullness
• Vitamins and nutrients
• Balanced nutrition
• Variety of foods per serving

While all of these concepts do go into the constitution of a single meal, they can also affect the caloric value of what is eaten in a single sitting.

Many people do not consider calorie counting in a positive aspect. This concept is often associated with dieting and weight reduction, but the truth is that caloric counting is also necessary to ensure that sufficient energy is being consumed in order to support healthy day to day function.

This idea of an actual calorie count constituting what makes a meal does tie in to the other factors which help to make nutrients bio-available to the body, but it can also be an important consideration when the rationing of food is added to the mix. This could be due to:

• Times of emergency
• Outdoor recreations where food supplies are carried
• Survivalist scenarios
• Limited budgets
• Food storage in rural habitation

In these cases, it can be vitally important that what is considered to be a meal actually meets the caloric and nutritional needs for a day.

Filling Or Fueled Up?

A healthy adult requires around 2,000 calories per day in order to support proper physiological function. These number account for basic activity and periods of rest, although, if the body is further taxed by excess activity or even stress, then the caloric intake can be as high as between 2,500 to 3,000 per day. However, the minimum of 2,000 calories will ensure that basic metabolic functions for wellness are maintained, and this can include immune support, muscle strength, and brain health.

Stored foods are necessarily compact and should be nutrient dense, although this is not always the case. Some ready-made meals and food kits will offer a condensed size that expands to fill the stomach, while overlooking some of the nutrient requirements that are also a part of the equation. What happens is that a person will feel full after having one of these ready-made meals, although the body is not actually fueled up from the intake.

Over time, several negative results can occur:

• Diminished health
• Loss of energy
• Cognitive impairment
• Cravings that indicate the need for further calories

When purchasing food storage make sure that the combinations that are offered to fit a one month or even one year supply actually have the appropriate amount of calories to meet the body's needs. This goes beyond using compressed starches and fillers to fool the stomach into simply feeling full, but actually helps to feed the metabolism in order to keep it fueled.

Food calculators can often overlook this aspect if they are not based on calorie content. Although the rule of thumb that adults should consider three meals a day and youths should have at least two meals a day can be considered accurate, it is more important to consider the amount of calories that each of the meals is bringing in. If the totals are below 2,000 calories on any given day, then a food kit might as well be termed a snack kit.

About the Author: James Tolboe is an owner at Valley Food Storage, and he enjoys being outside and teaching people the real story about long term food storage. Visit his site and see if he can help you today!


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08 December, 2014

Fresh Garden Tomato Soup Recipe: Preserving Nature's Bounty

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One of my favorite things about the summertime is the opportunity to enjoy some fresh tomatoes from the garden. I've always been partial to the tomato, which seems to be a trait that I had handed down to me honestly. One of my clearest memories of childhood were tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches being enjoyed by both my mother and grandmother, and I have always loved that meal as a warmer weather treat myself even into adulthood.

One thing that I have found to be frustrating in the process of attempting to master old world homesteading skills, however, has revolved around being able to hang on to the excess of a fruitful tomato harvest throughout the rest of the year. Canning comes to mind, obviously, but there's one glaring issue with that plan: despite our fervent love of the tomato when it's fresh, the majority of my family turns our noses up at cooked tomato in just about any form. I believe I have come up with a probable solution, though, in the form of simply canning homemade tomato soup. Most of us do enjoy that dish during the colder months. In fact, I'm not really a soup person at all, except when it comes to both tomato and homemade potato soup. I suppose it's my Irish roots showing.

The following is a recipe I pieced together by combining those of several other people who graciously shared theirs with me. Rather than simply use someone else's recipe, I took a little something from each and made it my own. Also, as always and in keeping in line with the idea that this is supposed to be a blog about simple living in a homesteading situation (possibly even including having to get by during a TEOTWAWKI societal collapse), what you're going to see here will not be some very fancy and complicated gourmet recipe. Rather, this will be the recipe I'm going to be using myself this next year. It's another example of what I like to call a "quick and dirty solution" that will provide you and yours with some hearty tomato soup you can store in your cellar to enjoy over the cold winter:

Fresh Garden Tomato Soup

Chopped fresh garden tomatoes (enough to equal 8 cups)
2 whole onions, sliced or chopped (your preference)
4 cups of chicken broth
4 tablespoons of butter or margarine
4 tablespoons of flour
2 teaspoons of salt
4 teaspoons of sugar, either regular or brown (again, your preference)


- Combine tomatoes, onion, and broth over medium heat and bring to a boil for around 20 minutes or so. This is meant to mingle the flavors.

- Remove it from the heat and run it all through a processor or food mill into a large bowl or pot.

- Reusing the original pot where you boiled the mixture previously, use medium heat to melt the butter/margarine

- Slowly stir your flour into the butter/margarine, cooking it until it is a brown of a medium shade.

- Slowly stir in the tomato/onion/broth mixture, taking care to make sure not to allow any noticeable lumps to form.

- Lastly, stir in the sugar and salt to season your soup to taste.

This is supposed to only take a little over a half an hour to prepare and should make enough for 5-6 people to get a hearty, meal-sized bowl of soup from this recipe. Sorry that I can't tell you how many quarts or pints for canning purposes, but as I said before this is going to be a recipe that will be new to me this next year as well. I guess we'll all just need to play it by ear, but I'll be sure to post an article about it when I make it, including pictures of the process.


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07 December, 2014

Trash Burning As a Supplemental Heating Source for Self-Sufficient Prepper Homesteads

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These videos will probably make environmentalists cry, and I've got to admit that it probably isn't good for Mother Earth. But, then again, garbage does have to go somewhere unless you're willing to utterly change your life so that you consume less and therefore create less garbage. Also, there is the fact that people all over the world in developing countries burn plastic and other things we would consider to be toxic and carcinogenic in order to both heat their homes and cook, so this isn't much different. If anything, he seems fairly intent on doing it in a way that won't anger his Homeowners Association, which we all know are a notoriously prickly breed of folks. He also specifically mentions, at times, not burning rubber or plastic that could be harmful to the environment, but I don't see the point of this project at all if he's only going to be burning paper. He could do that in a normal woodstove, and it will burn so fast that it's heating potential is next to zero. What's more, passing such a high volume of air through the area of the burn chamber is even going to speed up how quickly the materials burn away and the fire simply dies.

One thing I'm not sure of is how to tackle the problem of the air blower using quite a bit of amperage, perhaps limiting the utility of something like this on an off the grid, alternate energy homestead attempting to enjoy true self-sufficiency. In the second video, he is using only a 7-amp leaf blower, so that's much more feasible, though it's disturbingly loud for indoor use. A small computer fan might serve better, using less power as well as moving the air slower and giving it more time to heat up inside the heat exchanger. The only issue with that being is, the way he has things set up, the computer fan may not be able to move the volume of air necessary. Also, the heating potential of such a setup is going to depend on how much pipe/ductwork is needed. Moving air has a tendency to cool down fairly quickly, so by the time it gets in the house it may not be doing much good. I've always despised forced air heating systems for this very reason.


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06 December, 2014

Pone Bread As A Survival Food

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One of the things that has always frustrated my efforts as a Prepper has been the conundrum of making my own bread. Half of you reading this are probably laughing at me right now, because you've likely been grinding your own flour and baking your own bread for who knows how long, but it has always seemed to my mind like there was a glaring problem with that type of plan. I've always wondered what was going to happen if we were to find ourselves in the midst of a societal collapse where it was impossible to obtain needed materials for such a complicated process, namely yeast. As a result, I have never fully committed to the idea of stockpiling wheat. Rather, I've been looking for a process that would allow for the approximation of bread making without the use of yeast or self-rising flours.

I have not been entirely disappointed in the search. One thing I know for sure is possible to make, because it was made and enjoyed for centuries by people in Scotland and Ireland (both of which represent my heritage) as well as Wales, was Bannock bread made from oats – essentially, just ground oats and water baked into a loaf by the fire. I also discovered that if I used pancake mix I could make something that very closely resembled cornbread in a pan, then simply cut it out in squares. As of now, however, I have officially found my favorite option, and it would come – ironically – from an old Hillbilly Appalachian tradition that was borrowed from the Native Americans: pone bread.

You're probably still laughing at me, because I'm probably leaps and bounds behind others out there who have been making and enjoying this for years. My mother even knew it immediately from her childhood and told me that it was sometimes called "pony bread," which I suspect is just because of a mispronunciation due to the letter "e" at the end of "pone" being combined with some old timer who was probably only educated to the sixth grade. Either way, I made some recently and thought I would share the experience with you.

Please understand that, although there are probably thousands of different, elaborate recipes online, my specific purpose in all of this has been to come up with a bread-type food that could be made very simply by people living in an emergency situation and without elaborate ways to prepare their food. So, please understand that what I'm about to describe to you is an extremely paired-down and plain recipe. The only extravagance I used was to crush up some peanuts in the mix, which serve as the analog for walnuts or chestnuts that you or I could easily gather from the wild. Also, I used butter to fry the whole mess, rather than cooking oil, as an approximation of using melted animal fat procured during a hunt.

One quarter of a cup of crushed peanuts in a bowl, which turned out to be completely superfluous. You could barely taste them at all, and when I make this again I'm pretty sure I won't be using them. I'm sure that maybe they added a little oil to the mixture and some calories/carbohydrates, but they weren't needed.

One cup of flour and some salt. Remember, this was just meant to be a small test batch. It would be easy enough to scale the recipe up to feed more people if needed. I didn't measure the salt, but rather simply shook a bunch in from the shaker. Couldn't have been more than maybe one teaspoon. You'll notice this is typical self-rising flour, because that's what I had on hand, but this process would work just as well with flour ground directly from wheat. You're going to be frying it, rather than baking, so the "rising" doesn't matter and you don't need to use any yeast or baking powder.

Added a third of a cup of water, which wasn't quite enough but another third of a cup would've been far too much. Dribbled maybe another tablespoon of water above the third of a cup that was already in it, because I wanted it to be thicker, rather than pourable like pancakes.

Unnecessary peanuts mixed-in.  ----->

Mixed and ready for frying as the butter melts

Another mistake I made, not really being a cook, was that I failed to make note of how long this took to get done. All I can say is continue to flip it until it is done all the way through without being burnt on either side.

And, the end result…
It came out very much like a big flat, fluffy biscuit. I simply put a little extra butter on top and ate it warm right off the stove, and it was very filling. Mind you, the only absolutely necessary ingredients were flour, water, and something to fry it in. I think it would've turned out much the same without the peanuts or the minuscule amount of salt I added. In a pinch, you could make this in a skillet over a fire built in an old coffee can or on a flat rock next to a campfire, and you would get essentially the exact meal I produced here. So, this proves that it does not require an elaborate recipe or even a very well-stocked kitchen in order to make a bread-type meal that is very satisfying. I, for one, am very happy with this, and may post about it again later as I experiment with adding honey, berries, etc. somewhere down the line.


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05 December, 2014

Using the Zones of Assessment Technique of Self-Appraisal In a Survival Situation

Last week, I wrote an article in which I quoted outdoor and primitive living expert Les Stroud of "Survivorman" fame in reference to the concept of "The 5 Ws of Survival" that he had spoken of previously on one of his many TV programs. Thinking back, I remembered another useful concept he likewise put out there, which he referred to as the "Survival Zones of Assessment." So, let's talk about that one for a bit. For the sake of this discussion, let's imagine that you find yourself stranded in your car in a lonely, isolated area, perhaps in a blizzard. That was actually one of two scenarios in which I can remember seeing this method utilized on his show, so it should work well for our purposes. With that in mind, let's use this example of setting and examine each zone of assessment the way that Mr. Stroud suggests and see if we can't make a good appraisal of our current situation:

Zone 1 – Your Body and Your Immediate Belongings

Are you injured? What clothing are you wearing? Is that clothing such that it will aid you in attempting to survive your ordeal, such as whether or not you could be wearing thermal underwear or if the jacket you're wearing qualifies as a heavy winter coat? What's in your pockets? Now would be a really good time for you to be hiding a cigarette lighter and some snacks somewhere on your person.

Further, this is a shining example that can be used to promote the idea of an everyday-carry (EDC) kit or pack. Often, these can be assembled in such a way that they are small enough to fit in the pocket of cargo pants and, most assuredly and with no difficulty, in the glove box of your vehicle. Inside, one could have a knife (you ought to be carrying a good one), a dose or two of any medications that you cannot afford to miss, fire starting materials, a compass, cordage, a folded-up heavy-duty trash bag or tarp, etc. The possibilities are nearly endless and it would literally fit in your pocket. You need to be putting one together today. Seriously. I'm doing the same thing myself.

Zone 2 – Your Immediate Surroundings

In your case in the situation we have previously described, your immediate surroundings pretty much refers to whatever else you might have inside the vehicle, but other situational settings would dictate different. Assuming you are stuck inside that car in our fictional blizzard, however, now would be the time for you to check in the glove box, console, backseat, and even in the floorboards of the vehicle for anything whatsoever that could help you get through the situation in which you have found yourself mired. How about the trunk or cargo area? Could there be a blanket there that you could use to keep warm? Or maybe a little something that you put their just for such a situation...

My family has two vehicles, and I have emergency kits packed and ready in both of them. I won't go into an absurd amount of detail about what is in these emergency kits, because I would rather you click on the link above and read for yourself what all is included. Suffice it to say, however, I was able to accomplish this spending very little money at all. There's no excuse for your vehicles not to have one as well. Mine started out as a 2 person-48 hour kit (4 days for just one person) and I expanded on it, but you don't necessarily have to go that far if you don't want to do so. To be brutally honest, any little bit you do will make you immeasurably better off if you should ever need to use your kit, so do what is best for you and yours. I suggest these even for people who aren't what you would think of as Preppers, just because we live in "Four Seasons Country" in the mountains, and I consider it a little irresponsible not to at least put some minimal effort into doing something like this just in case of a rainy day. I think of it as insurance.

Zone 3 – Your Surroundings Expanded from the Immediate

In the situation we are describing here, you may not want to go far from the shelter of your vehicle with the uncertainty that you may not be able to find anything better before the weather clears. What you can do, though, is take a walk around the immediate area outside the vehicle to assess whether or not there is anything out there that can help you. For all you know, you could be 30 feet from a year-round, running fresh water spring that could help you keep hydrated, but you'll never know if you don't perform such an assessment of this outer zone.

If you have to, you can always melt snow to get drinking water, but there are times when this can be inadvisable as a result of possible environmental toxins that would make it better if you could avoid such. Don't get me wrong; the possibility of toxins in no way outweighs the very real and present threat of death by dehydration, but it's worthwhile to look around and see if you can find a better source for drinking. It's also possible that you could be very near a food source, a better shelter, or even a means of rescue, and you would never know it if you never got out of the car and looked around. Also, in the event that you might be stranded there for any extended amount of time, it would be a good idea to gather up any easy to get, fallen dead branches and bring them inside your vehicle to dry. There's a good chance you may be needing to build a fire out next to your vehicle before all is said and done.

Again, The particular situation I have used as a basis to describe Les Stroud's "Survival Zones of Assessment" involves being stranded in a vehicle somewhere during a blizzard, but the same basic ideas would apply regardless of the situation or setting. The real value of this way of approaching a survival situation, however, seems to be hidden in the fact that it will keep you from losing focus and ensure that your mind stays sharp. Many times, individuals who have found themselves stranded in the wild have ended up either dying or at least making their situation even worse as a result of panic. Employing the "Survival Zones of Assessment" is a good way to keep your mind centered on survival.


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04 December, 2014

Best Knife to Have With You in a Survival Situation: My Opinion

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If there is one thing that never changes, regardless of where and in what situation you find yourself or who you're talking to, it is that everyone will always have their own opinion(s). Those of us in the Prepper / Survivalist field are no different, and a simple Google search will reveal that the Internet is chocked completely full to the brim of people telling you what they believe is the best gear for you to run out and buy. In that same vein, and seeing as how this is a blog dedicated to survival and emergency preparedness, I guess I'll throw my hat in the ring and give my two cents as well.

In a true survival situation, few things are of more value than a good knife. Sure, everyone needs water, shelter, and food, but a good knife can help you get all of these for yourself as well as serving myriad other purposes. A jug of fresh water will eventually run out and leave you thirsty, but a good knife can be used to cut a vine that you can drink from. I won't go into great detail with every possible analogy, because I'm sure you can use your own imagination and understand what I'm getting at. Just suffice it to say that a knife of a quality make is of utmost importance. As I said before, everyone has their opinion about which knife is the best one for you to run out and purchase, so I thought I would take a moment and give my recommendation as well.

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For my money, the number one pick would be the kukri. You don't see many people carrying them here in the United States, but that's a shame, because few blades can boast the same kind of versatility this one can. You can use it to do pretty much anything you can do with any other survival knife, but it's also useful for cutting your way through thick brush when out in the wild. It can even help you gather firewood and materials you need for building a shelter as its increased length makes it ideal for chopping down dead tree limbs and small saplings. You can use it to do just about anything you would normally do with a machete or small hatchet. And, on top of all of its practical utility, it also makes for a fine example of weaponry if you should find yourself in a situation where such becomes necessary. This is typically a blade you would see carried by the Gurkhas of the Nepalese region and for good reason, because it is an extremely good design and I can't think of very many other pieces of survival gear that would do you as much good as having one of these by your side.

As with anything else, YMMV (your mileage may vary), but those are my thoughts. Some other really great choices for knives would also include:

KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife, Straight

SOG Specialty Knives & Tools SE38-N Force Knife with Straight Edge Fixed Heat Treated 6-Inch AUS-8 Steel Clip Point Blade and GRN Handle, Black TiNi

ESEE 6P-B Fixed Blade Knife

Fallkniven A1 Survival Knife Fixed Blade Knife, 6.375in, Satin Spear Point Blade, Kraton A1Z

KA-BAR BK-22 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife with HD Polyester Front Pocket Sheath

Cold Steel 27TLSH Recon 1, Spear Point, ComboEdge


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How to Keep An Edge: Knife Sharpening for Beginners Infographic

Some very good advice here…

Knife sharpening for beginners
Courtesy of: KnifePlanet.net


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