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30 April, 2015

Why Starting a Vegetable Garden Is The Best Thing You'll Do This Summer

by Gemma Hurst

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Summer is just around the corner and it's at this time of year when the days are warm and long that many people enjoy getting outdoors and tending to their gardens. Vegetable gardening is growing in popularity and whether you grow from your garden, from a window box or from a community allotment scheme, the benefits of growing your own produce are plentiful. Not only will you save money and feed your family, but it is also great for your mental and physical health and is also enjoyable and easy to get into. Here are some of the ways that growing vegetables this Spring/Summer will benefit your lifestyle, making you fit and well.

You'll eat better


Studies show that people who grow their own produce will have a healthier diet. The obvious reason for this is that you're growing your own organic fruit, vegetables and salads to eat. Root vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini and lettuce are all great starting points and are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are vital to immune system health, good weight and the prevention of other diseases. But it goes a step beyond this in that people (particularly children) become interested about the food they're growing and eating. They are more likely to take an active interest in food, experiment with new recipes and learn about the health benefits rather than becoming stuck in a rut of bland, convenience food that lacks in nutritional value.

It's great exercise


If you spend a few hours out in the garden you'll have had quite a workout. Hauling watering cans and pushing wheelbarrows is a form of resistance training not dissimilar to lifting weights. Lawn mowing and digging weeds is great cardio and bending and stretching in order to prune plants is a good way to strengthen muscles. In short, gardening is a good form of exercise that is more gentle (and some would argue, more productive) than traditional workouts like jogging or gym sessions meaning it is ideal exercise for anyone regardless of age and ability.

It's good for mental health


As well as being a physical workout, many studies indicate that gardening can actually be a good way to keep your brain active too. Some link the repetitive yet sophisticated brain activity associated with gardening to the prevention of neurological disease such as dementia. With exercise and mood also being directly linked, the physical exertion of gardening a great way to get feel-good brain chemicals circulating throughout the body making you feel pumped up and positive. This combined with a healthy diet is a great way to maintain good mental as well as physical health and leave you feeling happy and well as healthy.

It's financially beneficial


Money worries are amongst one of the highest causes of depression, stress and low mood in the Western world, particularly during times of economic turbulence like we are currently facing. Growing your own food is a great way to eat well for less which will reduce stress and anxiety. You might think that the outlay for a vegetable garden (including tools, soil and plants) seems a lot, but consider how much you spend on shop bought food then think about just how much produce you could reap from re-flowering plants like tomatoes. Best of all, you have the satisfaction of knowing that your produce is organic and untreated by pesticides and other chemicals.

It's good for the soul


For centuries, people have considered being close to nature as a spiritual experience. The peaceful, natural environment of the garden promotes calm and the repetitive nature of gardening in this setting can be a perfect chance to unwind and contemplate. For this reason many hospitals and rehabilitation clinics offer gardening therapy to those who are ill or suffering with issues such as addiction. Vegetable gardening in particular is very rewarding and the act of planting and maintaining a crop then having an end result is a great way to boost self esteem in those who are lacking it. It can also be a very social pastime as as humans naturally thrive from interaction, it can be a good for the soul to make friends in this way.


Author's Bio:
Gemma Hurst is a freelance writer, who worked for many years in business and finance. After becoming a mother, she turned to writing to make a living and she now pens articles on as many different topics - from news and current affairs to money matters.



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29 April, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Backpacker's Pantry Shepherd's Potato Stew with Beef

So far, I've been able to keep up and settle into a nice rhythm with doing a review of a different long-term storage food each week (or some other Preppers survival gear), and this week I'll be focusing on Backpacker's Pantry Shepherd's Potato Stew with Beef. I'll also go ahead and admit, right up front, that giving this one a try has been something I've been looking forward to ever since purchasing it. Speaks to my Scots-Irish heritage, I guess. I'll also go ahead and say right now that I wasn't disappointed in any way by the experience.


And, as always, this final photo gives you a good look at the finished product as it is ready to eat. Very satisfying. Another thing that makes this particular dish awesome is that – unlike some of the others – this is one of the ones that really does provide you with enough food to make two different servings. I ate the dish you see in the photo above for dinner two nights in a row out of one mylar pouch. As always with these freeze-dried long-term storage foods, the high sodium content can be an issue, but that’s a problem that is pretty much par for the proverbial course, regardless of brand in my experience. It could definitely be a problem in an emergency situation where you were stuck living off of this kind of food, but then again such a situation would probably result in you not getting as much sodium from other sources. Probably balance out. It is an issue worth thinking about, however.


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28 April, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: "Judgment Day (The Survivalist Book 3)" by Arthur Bradley

Continuing on with a series I find myself enjoying quite a bit, today I'm going to review "Judgment Day (The Survivalist Book 3)" by Arthur Bradley (Kindle edition). Over the past several weeks, I took the time to read and review Book 1 and Book 2 in the series as well, so you might want to take a moment and look over the material there in addition to this article. Each review will contain my opinion of that particular installment in this ongoing series of post-apocalyptic Prepper Doomer Fiction novels as well as links through which you can purchase them for yourself, if you choose to do so. My recommendation is that you take the plunge. These aren't the best novels in the genre, but they are very entertaining. They are also rather short, but luckily that translates into each one being a very quick read.

Just so that we are all on the same page going forward, the setting of this series is centered within the American Southeast and East coast regions in the aftermath of a disease pandemic, which has wiped out most of the population. Needless to say, society has devolved into pretty much the exact level of chaos you would expect. The government still functions, but basically only in name and with control of only a few bases. Everybody else is pretty much on their own. The main character of the series is a Deputy United States Marshal and a secondary subplot follows the exploits of his convict father (freed from the penitentiary by a guard he had befriended as everything was effectively falling apart). Turns out, Daddy Convict isn't exactly a terrible guy, just one with a notoriously terrible temper. His prison sentence involved him killing two men in a fight, whom he had originally confronted over them hurting a lady friend of his. Anyway, the newly-released prisoner has to make his way in America's wasteland and eventually finds himself in the role of protector for a young girl whose own identity is another interesting part of the story.

This third installment in the series picks up just after the ending of the second book, and it's largely about the Deputy Marshal character chasing down a group of mercenaries who have carried out a deadly attack that resulted in the loss of many lawmen, perhaps some of the only ones left in the world. The characters in the subplot actually held a lot of interest for me when reading this book, though, as their fictional travels actually take them right up through where I live. In fact, and I won't tell you exactly which location for the sake of observing proper OPSEC, but there is one scene in particular that takes place very close by. It's rare that a novel includes a personal touch like that, so it definitely did its job to keep me interested.

Next week, I will continue to review the next book in this series. My advice is to go ahead and check it out. You won't be sorry, in my opinion.



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27 April, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "Soylent Green" (1973)

This week's Doomer Fiction film review represents a step back in time to take a considering look at "Soylent Green" (1973) Blu-ray (DVD version), often considered something of a classic in the science fiction genre, yet appealing for our tastes due to its depiction of a particularly dystopian future America. To be clear, we aren't talking about a Mad Max-style apocalyptic world here, but rather a future setting (50 years in the future as this film was being made) in which Mankind is on the proverbial brink as the result of serious environmental issues.

The film takes place in the year 2022 in the city of New York, the population of which has exploded to 40 million people with 20 million of those being unemployed. In fact, though it is rarely mentioned on-screen, overpopulation seems to be an issue at the heart of the world being depicted, if not truly of the story itself. The world exists in a year-round humid heatwave as a result of the "Greenhouse Effect." Water and soil pollution has decimated plant and animal life to the point where only elderly people can remember a time when you could go to the market and by real meat, eggs, or produce. Large cities such as New York act almost like ghettos. People live in deplorable conditions, even those "lucky enough" to have a job being relegated to dilapidated housing and dependence on a government ration program, so that what remains of the countryside can be maintained for food production and waste disposal. The dark side of this, however, is that being wealthy still translates to a greater share of the world's bounty then that enjoyed by the average person. "Luxuries" such as air-conditioning, real Bourbon, running water, and scented soaps are the province of the moneyed class alone. Real beef is so rare that it has become something of a black market item held back for those wealthy customers who are able to pay for it, and a small jar of strawberry preserves or jam is stated through the film's dialogue as costing $150.

The diet of the average person is, therefore, dominated by manufactured food rations that are produced by a single, powerful corporation known as Soylent and distributed by the government to impoverished crowds that often become unruly. These rations are designated as Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow (both made from vegetable concentrate) and the new product Soylent Green (reportedly made from ocean plankton), which is in high demand and – often – short supply, due to its more palatable flavor and greater nutritional content. Even with using such manufactured sources to feed people, however, food riots are still quite common. The especially poor often can do no better than buying Soylent Crumbs, the mixed leftover pieces of broken Soylent wafers in a plain plastic bag. Citizens must wait in long lines and present an identification number to receive food and water rations as well as their pay (for those "lucky enough" to be working) and any government benefits.

The actual plot of the film closely resembles a standard detective story, if not for the futuristic setting, revolving around Charlton Heston's somewhat grizzled detective character attempting to solve the mysterious murder of a wealthy and influential man. His investigation leads him into the depths of a conspiracy, the likes of which he could not have imagined. For my own tastes, I enjoyed this film more for the things that an examination of the setting and details of the plot drew me into thinking about than for the story itself, but – either way – there is definitely well enough reason to understand why this film is considered a classic. It is also the final film in which Hollywood legend Edward G Robinson appears, and is worthwhile viewing for that reason alone. He died mere days after filming wrapped for this project, having suffered a terminal illness that he kept even from those he was working with, never missing so much as an hour of work according to Charlton Heston. You don't often see that kind of dedication.



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25 April, 2015

Plagues Have Essentially Written Much of Our History

A truth that many people seem inclined either to forget or simply not to believe is that a great deal of our history has almost literally been written by pandemic illnesses, plagues. To be quite honest with you, when it comes to worrying about future threats, nothing frightens me more than the possibility of the onset of another large-scale disease pandemic. Outside of common everyday concerns, such as extreme weather (which is the most likely event most of us are going to be faced with, during which our emergency preparedness efforts will come in handy), a disease pandemic is the possible disaster that scares me the most. The reason for this is simple: it's not a matter of if it is going to happen one day, but rather when this calamitous event will befall us with the true potential to bring about a real-world societal collapse TEOTWAWKI scenario.

Sound crazy to you? It really shouldn't... because it has happened already, more than once in fact throughout history.

Examples of this are myriad, but one can easily cite The Plague of Athens, which struck that ancient Greek city-state during the second year of The Peloponnesian War, effectively guaranteeing the victory of Sparta. Just as might be expected in this day and age, the plague is believed to have entered the city through its port (where the food and supplies were brought in). Evidence taken from writings during the outbreak indicate that as many as a third of the entire population may have died. Not only did the plague change the course of a war, resulting in major geopolitical consequences in the region at that time, it also caused people to cease observing the law. Many believed they were essentially living under a death sentence, so they did as they pleased – a recipe for crime, rape, violence, and overall chaos in any population. The virulence of the disease also resulted in widespread abandonment of the ill and infirm with no one to care for them.

Source: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Less than 1000 years later, The Plague of Justinian struck with an effect felt throughout a wide region of the known world at that time, especially the Eastern Roman Empire and its capital in Constantinople. This disease is believed to have resulted in the deaths of between 25-50 million people over the course of multiple outbreaks, historians of the time believing it was a worldwide pandemic as a result of its extreme scope. The infrastructure of feeding the people became affected when farmers fell ill and were unable to look after their crops, resulting in a steep rise in the price of grain. In addition, there is a growing school of thought among scholars of history who believe this plague did much to assist the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain as the dates line up perfectly and it is likely the native Britons became infected with the disease due to regular trade relations with Gaul (modern-day France).

We also know definitively now that The Plague of Justinian is directly linked to The Black Death, which struck Europe hundreds of years later... meaning we know these pandemic disease plagues can come back around even once we think they are gone.

Further, much is also said in public school classrooms about explorers from Europe essentially conquering the Native Americans as the result of greater technology and thereby colonizing what they thought of as the New World. It took quite a long time before we were willing to be honest with ourselves, but it eventually became commonplace to also acknowledge that smallpox was basically used as a biological weapon against Native Americans. What we don't spend a lot of time talking about, however, is that the New World Europeans supposedly conquered as the result of their greater technology was all but emptied of the Native American population before they ever began serious efforts toward colonization.

Limited contact with traders from Europe as well as other geographical areas here in the Americas, resulted in the Native American population basically trading diseases around to each other in such a fashion that the population of many areas was almost completely decimated. Some estimates place the number of dead as high as 90% of the Native American population that existed in this part of the world in decades just prior to the large-scale colonization efforts of European settlers as well as stretching into the 1500s i.e. the earliest days of European settlement. Somewhere between 40-100 million Native Americans are thought to have perished during the comparatively short timespan during and following the conquest of Mexico as the result of a homegrown virus (odds are a North American mutation of something carried by Europeans). In fact, when de Soto landed in South Carolina, he was greeted by a female leader of what was left of a terribly decimated local Native American population, who informed him that an awful disease had taken a great many people and actually resulted in the failure of that culture's system of feeding themselves (a problem that we Preppers talk about often when discussing possible future threat scenarios).

When the so-called Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, they were greeted – not with a landscape full of wild, violent indigenous peoples they had to fight their way through with Christian determination, but rather – with a Massachusetts landscape devoid of 96% of its previous Native American population. In fact, the main reason Plymouth Rock was selected as the site of the settlement was because it was already a pre-existing settlement, where much of the work had already been done for them. Such a landscape stands in stark contrast to what was reported by sailors traveling up the East Coast of what is now the United States just years before, who had reported the area as being so "densely populated" with Native American peoples that you could smell the smoke from their fires burning even when still many miles out to sea. In fact, the first Europeans to actually discover the East Coast of what is now the United States were actually the Scandinavians most of us know today as Vikings, and the Native American population of the East Coast was sufficiently strong before all of these plagues that it had been successfully fighting them off and keeping a successful Viking settlement from taking hold in what they referred to as Vineland for, literally, several hundred years.

Basically, when Europeans arrived in the New World, it was like they were showing up in New York Harbor during the plot of "I Am Legend" and then saying they conquered the area because their technology was better. No doubt, of course, technology did play a large role... just not the defining role. Rather, the defining role throughout much of human history has been pandemic illness.

Prepare accordingly, my friends.


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24 April, 2015

Scrounging for Nutrition in Unlikely (and Somewhat Gross) Places




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23 April, 2015

DIY Homemade Apfelwein (German Apple Wine), Part 5

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4




Not much left to say at this point in the process, other than it is time to allow Father Time to do his work and age this batch to perfection. As you can see, I ended up with five bottles of wine resulting from the effort you have seen in this series of articles (the links to which you will find at the top of this article, above the picture).

From the most recent article until now, I haven't done anything other than let the wine sit and become stable before finally bottling it. As you can see, each bottle is clearly marked with its actual bottling date for use in deciding later how long it has aged. I expect to open a bottle in three months, then another at six months, and at least one more at the one-year mark. Beyond that, I'm going to do everything in my power to keep at least one bottle and open it at five years from the bottling date marked on its label. Rest assured that I will post pictures when I do so.

I'm not sure exactly what I will make next. I was hoping to try something new, but I've had a recent request for another batch of mead like I made previously, so I'll have to give it some thought.


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22 April, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Wise Foods Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini

One thing making this particular review unique among all the ones I have previously done is that it doesn't coincide necessarily with the actual retail version of the product. I actually contacted Wise Foods and requested a free sample (which anyone is welcome to do via their website), so I'm not sure if the packaging pictured is accurate as far as what you would receive if you purchased this product. Likewise, I'm sure the 1.8 ounces of product I received is actually less than what you would get buying it. These reviews are mostly about taste, however, so I hope you will still find the information I present here useful.


With respect to taste and texture, I thought the product held up very well. As you can see from the photo above, the serving size was a bit small, but – as I stated previously – this was a free sample sent to me. The actual retail product might actually include a larger serving. I can't speak to that point. What I can speak to is that I definitely did enjoy the taste of the product. The picture above may not give you the best indication, but from my experience I would compare the actual texture of the meal to being somewhat like cream of chicken soup. Definitely something I would likely purchase for my own supplies.


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21 April, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: "After The Dying Time: Book 2 in The Dying Time Trilogy" by Raymond Dean White & Duane Lindsay and Jane White (Editors)

As promised a few weeks ago, this week's Doomer Fiction novel review centers on "After The Dying Time: Book 2 in The Dying Time Trilogy" by Raymond Dean White & Duane Lindsay and Jane White (Editors) (currently only available as an e-book in Kindle format). I reviewed the predecessor of this book a few weeks ago, so I apologize for just now getting around to discussing number two in the trilogy. The book was only released back on the 15 March, and I usually wait until I am completely done with the entire thing before sharing my thoughts here on Backwoods Survival Blog. Other titles were ahead of it in my reading list, but I've now been able to fully digest it, so here is my overall opinion: blank.

I'll go into more detail as to my thoughts, but first take a moment and look at the book cover above and examine the picture of the world as it exists post-Impact in the universe where this story takes place. That alone should give you some interesting idea of the changes such a devastating disaster might bring.

I'm happy to say that, assuming you read my previous review of the first novel in this series, this second installment basically doesn't suffer from any of the small things I didn't like about the first one. Most of the more cliche and unrelatable villains are wonderfully absent, and this includes the fact that the author actually went so far as to provide more of the human aspect for the villains who do appear. Granted, they still do terrible things, but the reader is afforded glimpses into their psyche through chapters told from their point of view that help you more fully understand why they are the awful people they are.

This book also dumps a major problem from the first one of having simply way too many characters. Rather, book 2 in this series focuses mostly on a single region being faced by an invasion from an immense power that has grown in strength over the years between the novels (this one begins around 12 years post-impact). Owing to that more focused setting, the novel is able to concentrate fully on a smaller host of characters on both sides of the ensuing war, and thankfully those were some of the better characters of the series.

Definitely worth reading, even if you found serious problems with the previous first installment. This one actually left me hoping the third book comes out very soon!


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20 April, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "The Remaining" (2014)

For today's Doomer Fiction movie review, I will be discussing "The Remaining" (2014) Blu-ray (DVD version), which is an interesting film for a couple of reasons. Probably the most important of those reasons is the fact that it is essentially a story about the onset of Biblical End Times, which is rare these days as well as being worthy of note for accomplishing being an addition to such a fairly unusual genre without itself being necessarily married to each and every detail of a literal biblical translation. Don't allow that last statement of mine to turn you away, however, if you happen to be more of a fundamentalist; there are plenty of strictly biblical details included and the overall tone of the film definitely makes it feel like a work of Christian fiction.

One interesting detail that some may take umbrage over is the depiction of The Rapture as being quite a bit different from how many pastors, etc. talk about it. I don't really want to spoil the movie, but this event obviously occurs early on, so I don't think hearing about it here will necessarily impact your viewing of the film – people basically just drop dead. Each one has an odd coloring to their eyes, but other than that they simply cease to live in the instant before the onset of all of the calamity. This is, of course, explained later by a character who is a pastor as their souls simply being taken by God, so they cease to exist on the mortal realm. Dialogue throughout the film (a news broadcast) reports the sudden occurrence of a worldwide illness that accounts for the deaths of all children and infants and a seemingly random cross-section of the adult population. Meanwhile, those left behind – The Remaining – are forced to attempt to survive in a world seemingly gone mad where fire and ice fall from the sky and even greater threats loom large.

With respect to my opinion of the film, I will say here that I did somewhat enjoy it. It was definitely a unique take on a story we have heard over and over and seen in several different adaptations. Was it really great cinema? No. Was it a decent addition to the genre of disaster films and Doomer Fiction? Absolutely. And it also contained religious elements for those who would wish. My opinion is that it is definitely a film worth checking out.


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19 April, 2015

Guest Post: Why You Should Always Keep A Bear Grylls Survival Knife With You

Editor's Note: I must admit that, with respect to the myriad survival experts on television, Bear Grylls has never been my favorite, despite the fact that his background with the British SAS pretty much guarantees he really does have the knowledge and skills he professes to possess. I suppose that the fakery revolving around the production of his television show has always colored my experience when it came to enjoying it, and so I have found myself always leaning more toward Les Stroud. Still, this knife is actually produced by Gerber and is a quality piece of survival gear.

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When you talk about survival experts, the name Bear Grylls always stands out. His several TV shows as well as his stint as a military man earned him a reputation as one of the most respectable figures in the field of wilderness survival and adventure. He exemplifies the true nature of being a survivalist as practically all of the scenarios seen in his TV shows are for real! Thus, he got an opportunity to collaborate with one of the biggest names in knife industry (Gerber) and create a series of knives that will bear his name all throughout. Today, we are going to tackle more about the Bear Grylls Survival Knives any focus on the idea why should we keep a Bear Grylls survival knife with you. This post will serve as a review of the said product so that readers can fully understand the knife in detail and its practical uses in the wild.

Overview Of The Product:

Gerber, which is a leading company in manufacturing legendary blades has come up with a special series of knives which featured one of the prominent names in the field of survival, Bear Grylls. The knife series boasts a lot of interesting features that epitomized the ingenious nature of the famous adventurer. The main feature of the product is the compact size which also packs a lot of uses from cutting, slicing, and even chopping. It even includes a whistle which you can use to make distress calls whenever needed to be rescued. Moreover, the handle of the knife also an added feature which will be further discussed as we go on with this article.

Main Features Of The Bear Grylls Survival Knife:

The popular knife consists of these following features:
- Ergonomic handle design
- Includes an anti-slip grip which stays convenient after long use
- Stainless steel pommel
- Fine-edged blade
- Sheath of the blade also includes a fire starter, a blade sharpener, land-to-air rescue guide, and a guide book
- Whistle attached to the handle through a lanyard

Now let’s look into the specific details of the Bear Grylls survival knife and why it is a must-have item to include in your survival gear:

1. Handle – The handle is not only a handle per se, because it can be also used as a hammer. The pommel is made from high grade stainless steel and is shaped like a hammer so you can use it for hitting nails, tent poles, and other items you need to use it into. Although the previous models did not do well with this feature, Gerber was able to improve the quality of the pommel part of this knife and incorporate these enhancements in their recent models. Moreover, the handle of the knife is well-balanced from the blade and it also includes a non-slip material for a firmer grip.

2. Blade – Another interesting part of this knife is the blade itself because it’s made from one of the strongest type of stainless steels known out there (the 440A type). It is so strong that you can even make use of the back of the blade to pound fire steel as well as scrape off tinder, fatwood, and even magnesium! And you don’t have to worry about any traces of corrosion because the material used it is guaranteed stain resistant.

3. Other Specifications – The compact design of the knife makes it very convenient to carry wherever you may go out in the wild. It is considerably lighter compared to other top knives in the market today and it’s very efficient to use in any type of survival situation you might encounter. Other than that, the added features of the knife are very useful in many ways that you really must own one of these today. It’s like having a Swiss army knife minus the bulk. Or having a survival kit in one knife.

Another interesting feature is the sheath of the knife as it packs other things which you don’t normally get from other knife brands. The designer of this knife series was very clever in incorporating all these elements are these are things you truly need whenever you’re out there trying to stay alive.

And if you’re still in doubt about the quality of this knife, just let the name speak for itself. Like him, this product is legit and you can’t expect anything less than that.

Conclusion:

It’s a surprise you’d get all these features in a knife for only $40 or less! The Bear Grylls survival knife is a steal of an item and it really is a must-have for every survivalist, preppers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. So if you’re looking for a reliable knife to help you with all your survival tasks, then this survival knife is the right gear for you.

About The Author:

Michael Martin is a former Navy Pilot who believes no matter the circumstance, one should always be prepared. Upon entering the civilian world, Michael spent his time traveling the globe and observing different cultures. Growing up in as the son of a serial entrepreneur it was only a matter of time before he took his love of the outdoors and passion for helping others to new heights by founding Bug Out Bag Pro. As a survivalist & entrepreneur, his vision is to help educate and prepare families everywhere with the information, skills and tools to survive any situation they may face!



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17 April, 2015

Making Charred Cloth for Use As a Firestarter




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16 April, 2015

Growing 100 Pounds of Potatoes in 4 Square Feet of Space




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15 April, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Time for another long-term storage food review here on Backwoods Survival Blog, and I'll readily admit once again that the Mountain House Freeze-Dried Spaghetti with Meat Sauce entree is yet another of their line of excellent products with which I was already familiar. I actually tried this one for the first time several years ago, but I wanted to be able to review it here on the site with pictures in the same way my readers have become accustomed to seeing. And, seeing as how it's also a particularly great meal, giving it another go didn't hurt my feelings in the slightest.

All that being equal, please take it under advisement that this one also carries with it the same ambiguity with regard to serving sizes as a lot of these meals, regardless of the brand name manufacturer. I'm assuming that they are actually using some sort of FDA guidelines in order to delineate serving size, but I've tried to make it clear throughout my reviews exactly what one is getting when they decide to cook up one of these pouches as a meal. As expected, this is another one where it required the entire pouch in order to have a completely full bowl of spaghetti.

Appearance straight out of the package

Just beginning to heat up and rehydrate
The very satisfying finished product, but remember that what you're seeing in this picture represents the entire contents of the pouch, which was supposed to be 2.5 servings. Personally, I would consider the entire pouch a meal for one adult. YMMV, I suppose.


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14 April, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: "Anarchy Rising (The Survivalist Book 2)" by Arthur Bradley

As somewhat of a continuation from previous weeks, today's book review will focus upon "Anarchy Rising (The Survivalist Book 2)" by Arthur Bradley (Kindle edition). I reviewed the first book in this series, entitled "Frontier Justice," last week, and I was pleased enough with the story to want more. If nothing else, that alone should let you know that these novels are definitely worth a read with the caveat that they are fairly short. On one hand, that's not really a problem since they are part of an ongoing series and they are entertaining; but, on the other hand, it's something I feel a person should be made aware of before they spend money on this product. If you're a fairly avid reader, just be advised that you will likely blow through these novels fairly quickly, but you won't be left unsatisfied – at least that remains my opinion after reading this second novel. I'll definitely continue on with the series, and I'll be doing these reviews along the way, so stay tuned as they say.

Whereas the first installment in the series began with the main protagonist (a Deputy United States Marshal who shares many similarities with a certain popular cable television and literary character) coming down from a weeks-long vacation at his family's isolated cabin to find that a devastating pandemic has wreaked its havoc on society, while he was safely and blissfully tuned out in the wilderness.Realizing quickly that something terrible has happened, he pokes around a bit and finally gathers enough information to piece together the tail of what has occurred. After that, the rest of the novel revolves around him taking care of his own immediate needs and then eventually branching out to assist a local community in ridding itself of a cadre of violent convicts, who has set up shop and are victimizing the populace.

This second novel in the series, on the other hand, serves to expand upon the world a bit, giving the reader a bit more detail as to the events occurring outside of the immediate geographical area around where the Deputy Marshal has his cabin. The idea being that he wants to get back to the Marshal's facility in Georgia where he works to see if he can hook up with other law enforcement officials and assist in efforts to resettle things. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that his trip there from North Carolina in a post-apocalyptic landscape is anything but uneventful, including a brief sojourn into a small South Carolina town that appears orderly at first (a militia, surprisingly under the leadership of a strong female character has taken over the town and asserted authority), but later turns out to have a much darker side. Also, this installment continues to follow other characters from the first novel as well, including a released convict traveling with a little girl who is none other than the daughter of the President of the United States in an effort to get her home.

Definitely worth continuing to read further books in the series. Honestly, I think I actually enjoyed this one more than the first. Check it out!


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13 April, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: "The Purge: Anarchy" (2014)

My film review today "The Purge: Anarchy" (2014) Blu-ray (DVD version) is, of course, the sequel to the first film in The Purge movie franchise, which I reviewed here last week. This one is set exactly one year later, beginning approximately 2-and-a-half hours before the commencement of the Annual National Purge in March 2023. Only one character returns to reprise his role from the first film, but I won't reveal anything more about that at this juncture as his appearance occurs well into the film and I don't want to spoil any of the plot for anyone who has yet to see it.

As I stated in my review last week, it is my opinion that the first film has value to folks in our circles as a portrayal of a family defending themselves during a particularly violent home invasion, which we all know is a phenomenon that is becoming more and more of a future threat all of us need to keep in our minds. Like the first film, I assert that viewing this sequel is also a worthwhile exercise. All of you reading this know, as well as I, that the true structure of polite, everyday society is – in reality – nothing but a cruelly thin veneer that hides something far more sinister. Behind that false surface lies the truth: the only thing holding things together and keeping people (mostly) safe is the fragile rule of law and order and the fear of punishment. Even now, there are certain parts of every city where it is inadvisable to find oneself after the sun goes down. If people believe that they can get away with it, there is a large section of the population who would gladly act as predators. It occurs now, and it would occur far more frequently if there were no consequences for those actions. This film utilizes the plot device of the National Purge occurring annually to create this lawless environment, but any instance of civil unrest or rioting (up to and including an all-out TEOTWAWKI societal collapse) would place each of us in similar life or death situations, and these are eventualities for which we should all attempt to prepare ourselves.

Another thing I enjoyed about this installment in the series was that it affords the viewer a glimpse of how The Purge plays out across different sectors of society. As previously stated, the first film concentrated on one upper-Middle Class suburban home being invaded by violence, but the sequel takes things in a completely different direction and shows us multiple settings across the city, including characters from wide-ranging income brackets and social statuses. In this way, it does a very good job of effectively expanding the mythology eluded to in a vague fashion by the characters in the initial installment.

As for my overall opinion of the film, let's face it… neither this one or its predecessor are going to win any awards as being great cinema, but then again they aren't really attempting to do so. Being what they are and me understanding the truth of that prior to viewing either of them, I enjoyed both films as I am sure I will enjoy the upcoming third installment, which I'm hearing could possibly take the form of a prequel exploring how The Purge came to be instituted as a social phenomenon. From the perspective of a Prepper / Survivalist, I find both to be interesting explorations of the violent nature of the human animal, and so I feel comfortable recommending both films, despite the fact that you aren't likely to learn much by way of emergency preparedness from either of them. They are, however, films which fall firmly into the genre of survival, while simultaneously presenting the viewer with a stark picture of a society set in the very near future where the divide between social classes in America is not only still present – it can have deadly consequences. You see, in addition to all of this, there remains the underlying truth that the real reason for The Purge is to allow for artificial population control and an efficient "thinning of the herd" when it comes to those in society unlucky enough to be on the lower end of that social strata. With all of that in mind, I imagine most of you will enjoy these movies as much as I did.


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12 April, 2015

Snake Oil

OTC cough syrup is more than useless. It is, quite literally, the exact modern analog to the snake oil that got people tarred and feathered for trying to weasel people into buying it a hundred years ago. Going all the way back to the Dark Ages, charlatans would roll into town and sell fake concoctions as miracle cures to sick people and then do their best to run out of town with everybody's money before the local Lord got wind they were there and had them stripped and publicly whipped. The pharmaceutical industry is no different in modern times, except for the fact that they figured out having a lobby in Washington to constantly bribe The Powers That Be (by way of political contributions) would keep them from being punished like they used to rightfully be.

Not that all modern medicine is bad, obviously, but half of the stuff in OTC cough medicine actually keeps you sick longer. Makes you wonder if there's not a conspiracy behind that. For instance, a fever above a certain point can be a big problem for a small child, but most of us have no business taking anything that suppresses fever – a low-grade fever is actually your body's way of naturally burning out the bug in your system. Ditto for cough suppressant – keeping stuff in your lungs longer keeps you sicker longer. Most people are too dumb to actually allow their body to heal itself in the way nature intended, so they busy themselves with treating their symptoms with snake oil instead of concentrating on actually getting well. They are just big, spoiled babies who want their sniffles gone right now this instant. I swore off 90% of that stuff years ago. I get vaccinated against flu and pneumonia, and I'll take antivirals and antibiotics when actually necessary, but I faithfully treat cold symptoms with nothing more than bourbon and honey to wonderful results. Honey is a natural antiseptic and is very healthful. The ancient Egyptians considered it to be medicine. And at least I know how my bourbon was made, and that it didn't involve some joker in a lab coat doing a chemistry experiment.

11 April, 2015

Sometimes Bugging Out Can Be the Best Option for Survival

Often, the most important survival gear you can possibly own is your own mind and instincts. This is why I don't really endorse modes of survival based around "bugging out" or staying at home and sheltering in place, but rather prefer a middle road where all the options are kept open and such decisions are made based on the nature of the situation at hand. That being said, I fully recognize that there are times when "bugging out" may be, by far, the best option for ensuring survival for ourselves and our families. Depending on the nature of the disaster or other emergency occurring, the area where you live could quickly devolve into a mecca of violence, civil unrest, mass panic, and all-out rioting. Therefore, it is advisable as an emergency preparedness measure for each family member to have a "bug out" or go bag that doubles as an emergency kit and can be accessed quickly in the event you and your family must flee your home.

The brief video clip below is a scene from the film "World War Z," wherein the lead character (a former United Nations worker) played by Brad Pitt makes his case attempting to talk a stubborn gentleman who has sheltered he and his family during the crisis into leaving with them for the sake of a better chance at survival...




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10 April, 2015

My Views on Climate Change and the Absurdity of the Debate

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Among the questions I am asked often, one of the most enduring themes involves whether or not I am a skeptic or a believer in climate change. In fact, I get this question often enough that I have deemed it easier to simply express my opinion in an article, rather than answer each query individually. Interestingly enough, though, my views on this subject are a bit complicated.

In order to try to simplify things, let me say simply this: I am a believer in the changing climate, but essentially an agnostic with respect to whether or not human activity is the cause. Truthfully, I don't believe our industrial society has caused anything, but I am open to the idea that it is possible we has exacerbated an already existing problem. I think far too much time is dedicated to a debate that is, essentially, pointless. Whether our activity is harming the environment or not, attitudes are never going to change on either side. Human beings naturally veer toward a self-confirming bias, which is a fancy way of saying that we tend – as a species – to truly only listen to information that helps confirm things we already feel, discounting and sometimes even ignoring those who disagree, even if they make good points. Most people, quite simply, pick their side and stick to it, so debating back and forth decade after decade is a futile exercise. Neither side will ever change sufficient minds to end the debate.

What we should be concentrating on is the "already existing problem" I mentioned above, instead of haranguing to each other as to the question of whether or not we caused it or are making it worse. The problem is that our climate *IS* changing. Whether or not we have caused this or what can be done now to stop it is irrelevant.

It's too late to head-off climate change, even in the event it is a problem created by our activity. It was too late 10 years ago. The only reason it's still being pushed is to use it as a rallying cry to push through regulation that anti-business, pro-environmental zealots will never get passed otherwise. People need to stop debating stupid issues and begin a dialogue about how to best prepare. Probably 80% of it is just cyclical anyway. I'm not one of those to argue that our misuse of the environment isn't having an effect, but I'll say– at most – I believe we are the smaller part, simply exacerbating a process that would be occurring regardless.

The geological record seems to indicate that we are coming out of a brief warming period that has lasted the past few hundred years, and much of the northern hemisphere is likely to get colder as solar cycles decline in energy output. Pretty much, the whole process will be punctuated by more extreme weather conditions across the board. It already starts getting chilly earlier in the year and warmer weather starts later in the Appalachian region than was the case when I was a child growing up in these mountains. I remember going outside for recess at school  in high 70s-low 80s temperatures in May. We still see days like that occasionally in that month, but they are few and far between. Outlying warm days that crop-up amidst the much chillier norm. We don't get that type of warm weather consistently until July-August in this area nowadays. The growing season is shorter. Ask a gardener. You have to baby plants now to keep frost from killing them in May and September.

So, those are my thoughts on the subject and another reason why I favor a lifestyle conducive to being prepared for whatever nature may bring. What do you think?

You might also like to read:

Chilly Hearth, Empty Table: A Meditation on the Wealth of the Household Under a Colder Sun, Part 1

Chilly Hearth, Empty Table: A Meditation on the Wealth of the Household Under a Colder Sun, Part 2


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09 April, 2015

Another Highly Affordable Option for Stocking One's Pantry in Case of Emergencies

Maybe it's not the most enjoyable thing to eat or even an example of complete nutrition, but anyone who has ever been either poor or in college (or, typically, both of those at the same time) will be able to preach to you from the altar of Ramen noodles being both cheap and filling. Remember, we're talking about food security as an emergency preparedness measure here, so don't overlook the wisdom of adding a supply of these quick and easy meals to your food storage efforts. Even in the event that you go mostly in another direction for the bulk of your diet (which is what I would suggest), Ramen meals are very easy to prepare, pretty much just requiring water and the means by which to heat it. They also store well as dry goods, and they are very easy on the wallet, which means it wouldn't be difficult at all to build up a fairly decent supply of them to utilize as a filler between meals.




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08 April, 2015

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce

I'll have to admit to cheating just a bit with respect to this review. The Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce entree is something I have tried previously, years before I was ever writing Backwoods Survival Blog, so I already knew fully what to expect. I wanted to be able to have pictures to coincide with my writing here, however, so I ordered myself another pouch and decided to dive in once again. And my willingness to eat it yet again should tell you that I enjoyed it quite a bit. It seems that disappointing me when it comes to taste and texture is pretty much the only thing Mountain House can't seem to get right.

Another important factor to keep in mind with respect to this product is the typical disparity between the serving sizes listed on the packaging versus what the typical person would actually need to eat in order to be satisfied. I've talked about this numerous times here on Backwoods Survival Blog; to put it mildly, you typically just need to ignore what they tell you and assume you're going to need one pouch per person per meal. With respect to the Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce, however, that isn't quite as much of a problem. Perhaps it is owing to the fact that a pasta dish of this type makes for such a bulky and filling meal, but there definitely seems to be more food here for your money – nutrition as well, especially in the form of carbohydrates.

That being said, I did eat the entire pouch myself as a dinner one evening, mostly because I had been away from home and hadn't eaten anything else all day. In the past, I have fed two people fairly comfortably out of a single one of these mylar pouch meals, so YMMV. You can see what half of the pouch looks like in the photo at the bottom of this article (I initially intended only to eat half and save the other half for the next day, but I went back for the rest of it). It should be easy enough to look at that picture and make your own assumption as to whether or not half of the pouch would be enough for you or if you need to eat the entire thing on a one pouch per meal per person basis. Honestly, I think that may be the very most valuable thing about taking the photos along with the reviews.

Dry mix as packaged


Just started cooking. Please ignore the splashes. Accidentally let the water boil a little too much, and it was trying to bubble over on me.


Look at that and tell me if that is a sufficiently-sized serving of this yumminess to work for you. That's exactly half of the pouch. Sometimes, that would actually be plenty for me, especially with some bread on the side, etc., but YMMV. Either way, you can look at the picture now and see what you're getting, eating the entire package would simply mean doubling what you see here.



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