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When I think of Hydroponics I also think of Aquaponics. Aquaculture is the raising of fish and Aquaponics is using fish waste water to fertilize a hydroponics bed. But also there is Aeroponics, which is the spraying or misting of roots and plants with nutrient solutions. Hydroponics is generally thought of as the growing of plants in a water solution alone, which is called water culture. However, some plants are better grown in a sterile medium of some kind like sand, gravel, saw dust, peat, straw, etc. In those cases it is called sand culture, or gravel culture, or peat culture, etc. The basics are the same, which is that nutrient rich water is pumped and gravity fed though the medium and around the roots.

As it turns out, all plant nutrients in the form of ions of various salts can be suspended in water. These "nutrients" are all basic elements. Of the 100 or so elements in the chart of elements table about 60 have been found in plants. And, of that, only a few are considered to be essential. To be exact 16 (wikipedia says 14, different sources vary) are essential and, of those, some are more essential in greater quantity. Those are called macro-nutrients. Those needed in less quantity are called micro-nutrients.

Hydrogen, carbon and oxygen are the main elements and guess what? Plants get most of that from air and water. Of those three, carbon and oxygen are 45% each with hydrogen at 6%. Yes we have all heard that plants breath co2, giving off oxygen, and we animals breath oxygen, exhaling co2. Of the macronutrients we also have the famous NPK or nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the primary macronutrients). The other three secondary macronutrients that most of us don't think about are calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Micronutrients needed can be chlorine, boron, iron, manganese, zinc, copper and, strangely, molybdenum. Of those, we might have thought of iron, manganese, zinc and copper, but not the rest. And there are a few elements outside that which some plants might need, such as selenium or nickel. There was one plant, a tree, found recently where they discovered gold in its leaves. There was not enough gold to try to get rich getting gold from its leaves; however, the tree might be used as an indicator that there is gold in the ground beneath it. As far as they could tell, the plant has no use for the gold, it just happened to draw it up with other nutrients.

About 15% of a plant's mass is dry weight. 90% of that dry weight is hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, and it gets much of that from the air and water. This means that 1.5% of a plant's weight are nutrients. Of 100 pounds of plant matter, 1.5 pounds are nutrients. The point being the nutrients you buy for hydroponics are very compact compared to the plants they will produce. Or to say it another way, a little plant nutrient will go along way.

If you research you might find information similar the following.

Carbon 45%
Oxygen 45%
Hydrogen 6%
Nitrogen 1.5%
Potassium 1.0%
Calcium .5%
Magnesium .2%
Phosphorus .2%
Sulphur .1%
Chlorine .01%
Iron .01%
Manganese .005%
Boron .002%
Zinc .002%
Copper .0006%
Molybdenum .00001%

Aside from plant nutrients, another major factor which is to be considered is the pH. 7 is neutral pH. Less than 7 is acidic. More than 7 is alkaline. PH of 6 to 7 is best for plants to properly convert the salts to something they can use. The pH is different for various elements, however. So a plant requiring one element more than others might want a pH that is suited more for that element.
With all but aeroponics, air is needed, as well. This can be achieved with aquarium air pumps and air stones. If you think about it, soil has air in it, and that air  is more carbon dioxide rich than the atmosphere. The rotting plant matter and humus and manures help to provide a looseness which gives the soil more air. In aeroponics, the roots are sprayed or misted so air is a constant. In hydroponics, water levels need to be raised and lowered to to help with aeration.

Some advantages of growing with hydroponics versus soil are:

  • The growing medium can be totally sterilized. This means no diseases, fungus, weeds, bugs, etc. to bother your plants while they are growing. One interesting method for this is using steam, though I'm not totally sure how well this would work out on the homestead.
  • No weeds.
  • No bugs (probably indoors only), at least it reduces bugs outdoors.
  • Lower chance of diseases.
  • Plant nutrition and pH can be controlled precisely at each stage of plant growth and evenly to all plants at the same time.
  • You can space plants closer together and get more yield per square foot.
  • You can automate the watering more precisely and there is less water loss due to evaporation versus flooding or other typical irrigation methods.
  • More sanitary because you are not using manures, which could transmit human diseases to fruit.
  • Plants mature faster.
  • Plants are not stressed as much during transplanting. Transplant shock is not as severe. Start your plants in, say, sand or vermiculite, then transplant to the growing medium.
  • Pesticides and herbicides are not necessary. Pesticides are not necessary if grown indoors, but some may be if grown outdoors. Herbicides won't be necessary at all; however, you might have to protect the nutrient solution from sun light so that algae won't grow in it.

What might some possible disadvantages be?

  • Cost and labor in designing and setting up the system, containers, pumps, etc.
  • If using a medium (sand,gravel, saw dust, etc.), a change, or at least cleaning of the medium, is necessary after so many cycles.
  • Roots clog the medium.
  • The nutrients needed probably come totally from industry byproducts. Yes nutrients are terrible dangerous chemicals (satire alert). What? Not organic? If a bag of sulfur can be labeled organic, I'd say these nutrient solutions are organic, too. My concern here is that we are dependent on the systems of support for the nutrients.  (Nutrients would be a good prepper item to stock up on with possibly an infinite shelf life).

In soil, apparently we have nutrients as ions, meaning basic molecules that contain any of the 16 nutrient elements. There are different molecules for different elements. We generally call this chemical fertilizers. Organic is where plant and animal matter have been decayed or broken down to the point that it has become these chemical molecular ions. Some of these elements also come from rock, gravel, clays, and sands that have been broken down to where the roots can grab them and use them. Much of the soil is not usable by the plant and is simply good for aeration and supporting the plant structurally while it lives.

Plants roots absorb nutrients via chemical magnetism between molecules.  Soil nutrients are - ions which are attracted by + molecules inside the plant cells. Water is pulled into the plant via a suction created by evaporation of water from plant leaves. Nutrients move to the leaves where they are turned into food for the plant and its parts by photosynthesis. Strangely, plants can take in water and nutrients through their stems and leaves, as well as roots. The point is that nutrient solution in contact with plant parts makes plants grow.
I say all the above to give you an introduction to hydroponics. I myself have yet to try this method of growing food. But I'd like to try it for some staple items. Corn, beets, carrots, potatoes and rice come to mind as staples. About the grains, such as wheat, oats and such, I'm not sure on how easy it would be or how to go about it.  You may have heard of fodder systems for feeding livestock. This is a form of hydroponics. I would think root crops would be nicely grown in a sand culture. Corn might be best grown in a gravel culture, I would probably support corn with string as it grew. Other plants such as tomatoes, melons, squash, lettuce, greens, etc. might be good grown in water culture.
The basics should all be about the same. You will need some kind of containment for the air, water or medium culture. This container will need to be water tight. Solution will flow from one end to another through it and the medium. Pumps will be needed to circulate the solution. Alternatively, if your setup doesn't actually flow, then changing out the solution will have the same effect.  So, on the small scale, pumps are not absolutely necessary. However, aeration will be using the fish tank pumps and stones.

For plants where roots will hang down into the water, something will be needed to support the plant itself. Anything with a funnel shaped hole might suffice. And this might be one good reason to raise your own cotton. After you have sprouted your plants in perlite, vermiculite or sand, or whatever, you can transplant it to the bed by stuffing its roots down through the hole then supporting the plant with cotton. Alternatively, peat or rockwool (an insulation) might be used, as well. Could recycled fiberglass insulation work? For making holes you could get a cone shaped bit from the hardware store and drill the cone shape hole into 1" plywood. If using styrofoam, one might just cut the hole the proper shape with a pocket knife. And styrofoam will float in the water solution.

Alternatively, one might make cone shaped pieces from any plastic material and insert that into a flat hole in flat material. Have you ever made a paper funnel for pouring oil into your car? Same concept. The thing is that you need to have this cone shape to allow the roots to be lowered below into the solution and to hold the stem. Again, some material needs to be packed into the cone to hold the stem in place.

Hydrogen 1.0079
Carbon 12.0107
Oxygen 15.9994
Nitrogen 14.0067
PHosphorus 30.9738
Potassium 39.0983
Sulphur 32.065
Magnesim 24.305
Calcium 40.078
Iron 55.845
Chlorine 35.453
Manganese 54.938
Boron 10.811
Zinc 65.39
Copper 63.546
Molybdenum 95.94
Nickel 58.6934
Selenium 78.96
Aluminum 26.9815

The above table is the atomic mass of each nutrient (element). Atomic mass is defined as 1/12th the mass of a carbon 12 atom. This gives us a ratio for figuring atomic mass of molecules. We can then determine what percentage of the molecule is our nutrient. Using this, we can figure ppm mg/l. That is parts per million milligrams per liter. A good digital scale, such as a scientific or scale used to measure gun powder, might be used to weight out a fertilizer salt to be added to a solution. Just as percent means out of one hundred, ppm means out of one million. One microliter is one ppm of a liter. 1,000 microliters would be a milliliter. PPM, though, is a ratio that is used with any measuring system. PPM for gallons would be 1 millionth of a gallon. And one ounce of a gallon is 7,812.5 ppm.

Sources for plant nutrients

  • Dry fertilizer compounds
  • Liquid fertilizer solutions
  • Teas (manure tea, compost tea)
  • Home mixed liquid fertilizer solutions

The last one, of course, will be made from the first three. Some compounds are more soluble in water than others. This means they dissolve well and stay suspended. Solubility ratios might be 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:15, 1:60, 1:300, 1:500. Compounds that are less soluble tend to be better for gravel and sand cultures and anything but pure water culture. The end result is that you mix up something liquid that can be added to your tank of water at a nutrient level, which will feed the plants and yet not burn them with too much nutrient. This is called a nutrient formulation.  Nutrient formulations are like recipes for nutrient solutions.

Fertilizer compounds should give you amounts of each compound (molecule). It should give you the name of the compound and possibly the molecule itself. You will need to calculate a ratio for each compound. First, you will need to figure the molecular weight of a compound. A nutrient will be one atom in that molecule. You will need to figure the total weight for that element. A molecule may have more than one atom of the nutrient. Online Molecular weight calculator. You could try to calculate molecular weight yourself and then check it with an online molecular weight calculator.

1 mg/l is one ppm. You will divide the nutrient weight by the molecule weight to get a ratio. This ratio will be .2358, for example, or .4231 or .1258. Let's say you need 150 ppm of the nutrient in the solution. This means 150 mg/l. By the way, it's probably best to just calculate this in mg/l and later convert to ounces per gallon if you must. So we divide 150 ppm by a ratio, say, .3092 and get 485 mg of your fertilizer compound to get the proper ppm in your 1 liter solution.

Compounds are usually not 100% pure and may be, for example, 40% up to 98% purity. I would assume the impurities are not harmful to plants and they should tell you what they are. Let's say in the above example the compound was 85% pure. 85% is .85. We divide 485 by .85 and get 570 mg. I made up the numbers above, but you get the point. Now we multiply 570 by the total number of liters of water in our system. Say, 100 liters, which would give 5,700 mg or 5.7 grams.

Factors that affect the formulation might be the following.

  • Plant species and variety
  • Stage of plant growth
  • Part of plant being harvested (stem, root, leaves, fruit etc. )
  • Hours of sunlight
  • Intensity of sun
  • Temperatures

You will most likely be mixing your solutions from solid fertilizer compounds or from liquid solutions or both. In order for you to use some manure or compost tea, you would have to test your tea solution for nutrient content. This is not cheap or fast. Though there may be some general data already established  for popular manure teas. For example, fish waste for a given type of fish in aquaponics. Or for a given compost recipe. Local county extension offices would probably test a tea solution for you and maybe for free. However, most people probably wouldn't bother unless you are wanting to find non-industrial organic solutions.

You may experience nutrient deficiencies. This can be a complicated issue. Testing can be time consuming or expensive. You can get strip test kits from the hardware store. But you, as a homesteader, will basically have to watch for symptoms and then change out or amend your water. I won't really go into talking about symptoms in this article. Conversely, having a toxic nutrient level is usually not a problem. And, again, there might be differing nutrient requirements at different stages of growth.  That means there may not be a single generic one size fits all nutrient solution. Some further research and study here will be necessary.

As preppers we might simply experiment with hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. We might have a small system setup so that, if needed, we could fire up the hydroponics system for a few months and produce some staples.  Or one might live off the produce day in and day out. In the case of a greenhouse or poly tunnel, we could live off of some of it year round. Hydroponics is not without work, however. It is merely another way to skin the cat.

If you wanted to try aeroponics  you might check out www.dripworks.com Drip Works for some drip and spray emitters and other components. However, I don't have a clue if these will clog or stop up due to the solution not being pure water.



Trapping can be a huge topic. There are many reasons one might construct different traps for any living thing. I began my trapping research because I see that, for winter survival, trapping skills and equipment could be a huge asset. It can supply supplemental income to a homestead. It can supply insulation, in the form of fur clothing and bedding. But the amount of food you can put in the freezer or storage, when you combine trapping with hunting and fishing, could be incredible and the difference between starving and surviving. One man could certainly feed several people to even supplying a good amount to a community. Trapping items could make great barter goods. One might want to live trap and release just to see the inhabitants of his property up close and to learn more about the animals. Finally, one might trap to get rid of nuisance animals.

This will be the first article of about five in this series. Some of this series will seem basic but it's to set a frame of mind. Some will seem simplistic to those that already know trapping to some extent. I base what I say in this article on research, not experience. Feel free to comment and correct me, if I'm wrong. Mainly, in this series, I want to lay out an outline or guide in which to introduce and give the reader a good starting point on where to begin his own research. I want to give you some clues and make you think. Hopefully I will entertain a little, as well.



Traps are devices that kill, injure or hold your prey, or any combination thereof. A trap appears to have several basic components. A) Holding/Injure/Kill component B) Trigger (Pan) (C) Force Mechanism (Springs) D) Latching (Also called a "Dog").  In general, a force is applied to trigger, which unlatches some potential force causing a hold, injury, or kill. Many traps can be made with scrounged materials and simple tools. Using only deadfalls, for example, a man could enter the forest with only a good knife and, using only wood and stone found in the forest, eat quite well. If he had on him a bit of cordage and a few nails, even better. A few fencing staples would make another kind of deadfall or snare. Carry a bit of wire and cordage and snares are a cheap and easy way to procure food. For modern trapping most cheap and homemade trapping methods are illegal for the protection of some animal species or for protection of neighborhood pets. Anything you may want to trap probably is regulated, though there are exceptions in cases of nuisance animals. So be very well aware of the trapping regulations in your area or you would be poaching. In a real survival situation you would, of course, poach. Heck even in an economic downturn you might poach. Of course, if I'm not starving, I'm not poaching and I don't recommend it.

Traps are called sets based on an arrangement or placement. A trap in water is a water set, for example. A trap on land is a land set or perhaps dry set. We have log sets, trail sets, pole sets, mound sets, pocket sets and such. A cubby set is a pen made from any materials such as sticks, logs, stumps, rocks, usually roofed with evergreen boughs. There are limbs sets, and hollow log sets. There are den sets. There are also lucky sets that are spur of the moment improvised sets that might do better than a standard set.  A set with no bait or decoy lure scent is called a Blind Set.

A pit style trap might be an exception to the way most traps work where the creature merely falls into the pit or container. There is a plant in the Philippines that traps rodents in its cup shaped flower and then consumes or digests the rodent. Snares and deadfalls are common types of traps. Snares and deadfalls are illegal in most locations. Deadfalls are totally illegal in the state of Arkansas, but snares may be permitted for certain animals if you use a specific type of snare. The main reason these are illegal is because they are mostly indiscriminate. That is, they catch and or kill species they are not intended to be caught. If someone's pet or livestock ends up in the trap, then you have accidentally killed or injured their property. Deadfalls specifically are kill traps where something heavy, usually wood or stone or a combination, falls on the victim, crushing it. You might recall Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Predator killing the alien with a log deadfall (Actually the log was a weight that operated the spike trap, but it had the same function as a deadfall in that instance).


Though snares can be set to hold and not kill many times, they do kill. A snare is a lasso style loop of wire or chord that closes around its victim on a leg, neck, or a combination.  The cool thing about snares and deadfalls is that they can be made with very little investment in tools or materials. Materials for deadfalls, in particular, can be found entirely in the woodlands. What little you may need, such as wire or nails, weighs very little and are easy to pack. However, the deadfalls require a lot of work. This is work that can be done in the off season. It's good to let these traps sit for months so that they look more natural when trapping time comes along. The wait means that human scent is eliminated until you set them and, at that time, you will be careful to leave as little scent as possible. Leghold traps are another type. These are spring loaded traps that have a jaw which clamps the leg when the animal steps on a pan (flat round trigger). The jaws of these traps are made in different ways. Some have had spiked teeth. Some have had flanges that hand down to prevent the animal from chewing his foot off. Modern jaws have rubber pads that keep the traps from causing too much, if any damage, and thereby only holding the animal until the trapper shows up.


The larger the trap and the stronger the spring makes setting without tools difficult. The best thing to get is a C clamp shaped tool which will compress the spring and hold it until you get the trap set. A friend told me a simple method for keeping springs compressed. Wrap a chord or rope around the springs and keep it wrapped tight as you compress the spring (by standing on the spring). Do not attempt to set traps for larger animals with only your hands, as you might get your hands caught in them.


Kill traps can be a trap, such as deadfalls or snare; however, many are simply spring loaded wire or rods that mash its victim by concentrating a force in a small area. A modern brand is Conibear and some have forces of 650 pounds per square inch(psi)! A tractor trailer fully loaded might only load the road surface with 200 psi or less. This kind of trap is similar to the standard mouse trap everyone is familiar with. A poison might be another kind of kill trap but most likely is illegal, unless used for pest control. Common poisons have been cyanide and the metal arsenic. Poisons or intoxicants have been used for catching fish. Green walnut shells mashed up and ground make a good fish poison. Clove oil has been used as an intoxicant but it's not cheap in the quantities needed. Net traps are well known to be used in fishing, mainly commercial fishing. Netting is very effective and can be illegal in many cases, such as using gill nets. In Arkansas, if you are on your own land and it's your lake or pond, you can do what you want with your fish. Fish nets may be used to effectively catch most any living thing.


Nets can be dropped on animals or can be pulled upward and around the animal. A net is a mesh or grid made from some type of strong material that the animal cannot get through or break. In many cases, the animal becomes entangled. This net grid is commonly based on squares but can be of any shape. Nets are generally flexible but do not have to be. Chicken wire is, in effect, a netting. Fencing itself is a kind of netting. Have you ever thought about how a farm is where we keep animals in a 24/7 trap? Constantly trapped and when we need one we just go grab it and kill it. The homestead is a much improved method of trapping and hunting. The animals are born within the trap with little means of escape.


Container traps are box, tube, can, jar,  bucket or barrel traps. These are live traps usually. Make sure when in use you check them often enough so that critters do not die in them from exposure and lack of food water. In Arkansas we can use up to 8 box traps for rabbits with or without a trapping license.  A cage is a stiff net container trap that can be in any shape. Trap walls and doors can be solid or partially open with netting of some kind. Gravity can be used as the trapping force but most especially in the pit style trap. Often a surface is baited and gives under the weight of the animal allowing it to drop into the container. In the case of some pit/container traps the animal risk falling in an attempt to get the bait. Otherwise there are various mechanisms for trigger, latch, spring forces. In one episode of Survivorman, Les Stroud used wide mouthed jars or cans to make pit traps to catch scorpions. He used a tube to catch a large centipede. Pen or corral type traps work good for animals that can be held by fencing such as hogs. An auto feeder can be placed in the pen. Once the animals get used to entering and eating for a period of time all that is needed is to show up and set the trap door or doors.



There are common concepts and themes in my research on trapping that I have encountered, which I will relate to you. A decoy is anything that attracts the prey (victim) to the trap. Decoys may also be called Lures. Bait could be a decoy but it's usually just called bait and can be something the animal wants to eat or is otherwise interested in or curious about.  Though bait could be dragged from trap to trap spreading the baits scent in a trail fashion. In hunting a decoy might be a sound such as dying or suffering sound, or a mating call or feeding noise. A decoy in duck hunting is fake wooden or plastic duck. But in trapping it's referring to a scent or smell. Scents are kept in oil or alcohol. Scents mixed with oil or honey tend to slow evaporation and last longer after application. Some scents are oils such as fish oil or skunk oil. These are rendered fats of the animal. Some scents are from herbs such as oil of anise which is similar in flavor of black licorice or black jelly beans. Honey is another good scent or bait especially for the bear family. In some cases, a scent oil is made by rotting something (meat, fats, commonly fish) in a loosely capped bottle for a few weeks. Then the oil/liquid is poured off into another container and filtered for applying a few drops at a time about a trap. Urine and feces can also be used as decoys. Animals are attracted to their own kind. Household pet urine and feces could be spread about a trap for example. Dog for dog family and cat for cat family. Or an animal that you might want to trap could be held captive where its feces and urine could be collected and then used to trap members of its family and kind. Some scents are from glands of an animal such as beaver castor, skunk scent or musk of Muskrats. As you might imagine coming up with your own scents is dirty smelly work.


Just as you want scent to attract the game, you also want to eliminate, or at least reduce, human sign and sent. As far as elimination of sign, you should leave the area around the trap looking as natural as possible and use a limb to brush out your tracks. Traps should be covered for many types of game though some game pay no attention to the trap and readily step right on the pan or into it. Dig a hole level with ground putting dirt in a sand bag to be removed from trap area. Place some type of soft material under the pan to keep lighter animals from triggering the pan. This can be leaves, moss, wool or cotton balls, hair/fur etc. Place a piece of scrap paper over the trap and pan and lightly cover it with dirt from the sand bag. If it is too clumpy or heavy you might need to bring in something that is lighter. Use leaves, grass, straw or feathers as well to cover the trap.


To eliminate human scent, observe some strict rules in regards to not spitting or urinating near the trap areas. Some scents can be smeared on shoes/boots that overwhelm human scent such as skunk scent. Rubber soled shoes may hold less scent or not allow your scent to leave the inside of the shoe or boot. Also shoe or boot could be wrapped with a skin of some kind such as buck skin or practically any fur from a fur bearer. If you have to get down on your knees a skin such as buckskin can be laid out near where you will dig. Use buckskin gloves when handling and setting traps. Even with all of this effort you may not want to return to the traps the next day as nothing will go near them until all scent fades. Near water areas and water sets you can sprinkle area where you may have left scent with water to wash the scent or dilute it. Using a mount such as a horse/mule/donkey when traveling from trap to trap might be best as well since any sign you leave will be minimal and wild animals are not suspicious of  the scents these animals produce or at least are not as suspicious.


The metal traps have scent as well especially when they are new. They have scent of metals and oils. Trappers for ages boil their traps. They usually make a stew of bark and evergreen leaves and needles or acorns crushed up. Green walnut hulls are good too. These ingredients have an acid in them called tannin. And this is called browning the trap. The traps can also be coated with bees wax which not only covers up scents and protects from rust but lubricates the traps. Blood is also used to coat the traps.


Traps are attached to clogs or grapples which are generally buried along with the trap and chain. In this way the animal is less likely to chew its foot/leg off or injure itself because a clog or grapple acts like a hobble and gives the animal only a little freedom to move about. The clog or grapple usually leaves a trail the trapper may follow to find the victim. A steak can also act as a clog if it is pulled out of the ground and if it is heavy enough. A branch limb can also be used as a clog. The length of chain is sometimes important. Shorter chain is more difficult to yank therefore the animal does less damage to the trap in trying to get free. Yet in water sets the weight of the chain aids in drowning the animal. In water sets a ring on the end of the chaianchors-300x160.png.dd3a2a01cdadab16384dc8ad3cc253af.pngn is placed around a pole such that when the critter is caught it immediately tries to swim down and away. It doesn't realize it can't go back up and therefore drowns. Its generally preferable to drown animals caught in water sets. This protects the fur and prevents the animal from chewing his foot off. In situations where you don't want the stake pulled up an earth anchor is used. Stakes or cables with earth anchors are used. In some cases these anchors pivot 90 degrees when the stake is pulled on. A buried clog can serve as earth anchor as well.


Traps should be sized according to the animal you intend to catch. Metal traps are numbered from 0 to whatever the manufacture decides to use. Lower numbers for smaller and larger numbers for larger animals. One size of trap may work for several species and its often that while trapping for one animal you will catch another one. For food or fur this could be a better catch than what the trap was intended to catch. Many times one trap will catch similar types of animals as well. For example when trapping for beaver you might catch otter, mink, muskrat etc. When trapping for coyotes you might catch fox or wolf. When trapping for raccoon you might catch mink, weasel or skunk. And when trapping for bear you might catch a human!  Some traps and trap setups discriminate more than others depending on size, kind and placement etc. By the way its illegal to trap game as large as bear or deer in Arkansas and probably most states.


Traps should  be baited based on the species you intend to trap. Some species such as skunks like tainted (rotted) bait. While others like the cats prefer fresh meat. Fish rotted or otherwise is good bait for coons and bear and other critters. Salmon, sardines and about any fish can work. Bait is not always placed on the pan or trap. Sometimes its placed beyond the trap so that the animal must cross the trap in order to reach the bait. Sometimes it is hung in the air or nailed to a tree. In most cases its best to tie the bait to something so that the animal must struggle with it in order to try to obtain it. In doing so the odds are greater that they trip the trigger. One can trap without bait or with only decoy scents. Or you can use decoy scents and bait in combination.  In the case of no bait usually the trap is placed in a path so that the animal in its normal routine steps on or enters the trap. In the case of decoy scent the animal may be curious and try to sniff the scent thereby stepping on the trap. In some cases vegetable is a better bait. Honey comb for bears. Apple, carrot, cabbage for rabbits. Seeds for birds and squirrels. Young shoots or sticks of certain species of trees for beaver.


In many cases with certain kinds of traps it would be good to lift the prey off the ground high enough that nothing but you can get to it. This keeps other animals from eating it and tearing the hide. A spring pole is a green sapling or small tree where the main trunk/branch is bent over almost a full 180 degrees. It should be large enough and strong enough to lift the weight of the prey and the trap off the ground to the desired height. A test could be performed using a sand bag of appropriate weight. Have the trap lift the sand bag as a test. A balance pole is tree trunk or log long where the heavy end is placed beyond a fork in another tree such that when the trigger is released its weight lifts the opposite end via leverage off the ground. Think of the play ground seesaw, fulcrum and lever. A weight such as a sand bag or heavy piece of log or stone could be tied and lifted over a tree limb as a counter balance such that when the trigger is tripped it pulls the prey off the ground to the desired height before hitting the ground itself. Another interesting fish trap that is spring loaded that lifts the fish out of the water is a fishing yoyo. And don't forget any of these methods could be used to catch and lift fish out of the water.


There are different kinds of triggers and they are difficult to describe in text. "Figure Four" is a common type in setting up deadfalls but there are more types for deadfalls. If using a nail as part of the trigger it should be a finishing type nail or headless. Triggers can be made to trip more easily or less easily depending on how you make them. Ever heard of hair trigger? Like many things this is probably a matter of balance when tweaking the trigger. Not too light a force or heavy a force needed to trip the trigger. Learn some basic types of triggers and then begin learning on variants. In the case of some types snares and deadfalls small nails and fencing staples can come in handy. Your spring poles, balance poles and weights also come in handy as a force applied to the trigger to keep it set. In the metal traps a spring force is applied to the trigger. Just like when the trigger on a gun is depressed causes the gun to action, same for traps. Guns have springs that direct a firing pin or hammer. In the case of the traps the victim is the one depressing the trigger.

The next in this series will be on tracking and and more on trapping.



Knockdown Shooting Bench from kosterknives.com
I found a good design for a shooting bench made from a single sheet of plywood on the web. It requires a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" plywood, and I chose pressure treated at near $45. It also requires some 1" to 1.5" screws and wood glue. So I spent around $50 thus far. If I paint it, I will spend a bit more.

  • 4x8 3/4" plywood (treated) $40-$45
  • Box of 1" to 1.5" screws $5.
  • Wood glue $2

For the project I needed some tools. First, I need to build sawhorses from kit with brackets.  $65 to $70 for 3 sawhorses (4'wide by 31" high)

  • 3 sawhorse bracket kits  $30
  • Box of 8 penny nails  (8d) $5
  • 6 - 8' 2x4's (treated) $30

Tools needed for making sawhorses.

  • Skill saw or hand cross cut saw.
  • Carpenter pencil
  • Tape measure.
  • Rasp file or grinder with grinding wheel or cutting wheel might work.
  • Small hammer.

Tools needed for drawing shooting bench.

  • Carpenters pencil
  • Giant Sharpe
  • Tape measure
  • Tri square
  • Framing square
  • Drafting squares and circle tool
  • Drafting compass
  • 4' straight edge if possible
  • 1' ruler marked in inches down to 16th inch

Tools needed for cutting out the pieces and assembly.

  • Jig saw with good wood blade.
  • Sawzall or router might work, as well.
  • Small skill saw or any circular saw could help with straight line areas.
  • Drill Motor with bit just larger than jig saw blade for corners and slots also small bits  for drilling pilot holes and counter sink holes.
  • Phillips screw driver bit for drill motor for screwing a few pieces to the seat.
  • Rasp file or grinding tool.
  • Sanding tool or sand paper if you want to sand edges.

Materials needed for target frames around $100 or less.

  • 8' steel T Post.  8 - 10  $7 ea.
  • Chicken wire 24"x25' $12
  • Tie straps and wire for tying chicken wire to post.
  • Horizontal pieces for making the frame a box shape. These will be tied with wire to the vertical post. I used bamboo sticks.

Tools needed for putting up target frames.

  • Steel fence post pounder.
  • Side cutters or wire cutters.
  • Pliers for twisting wire.


4 Target Frames (2-3 hour $100 project)

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First, I'll start with the target frames. I sized them for 2' wide by 3' tall human silhouette targets that I get for $1 each. In our case here, the pond dam was 60 yards long. There is a very steep and nice hill on the opposite side as a natural back stop. The pond dam curved in such a way that I was able to place each target frame so that all of them could be seen from the firing position, without one being in front of the other. Frames were placed at 20, 40, 50, 60 yrds. Not 30 yrds. because there was a hole in the dam where water had overflowed the dam and washed it out. I may put one there once I fill that hole. However, all one needs to do to have a 10 yrd and 30 yrd target is move forward 10 yrds.  For bow target, we have a pillow rag filled type target and its very easy, now that I have these frame setup to move it back and forth to accurate ranges of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 yrds. I simply pounded the post in 2 for each frame and 2' apart. The post might hit rock or otherwise become crooked during pounding. I simply bent the post by pulling on it to straighten it after I attained the proper depth. They bend quite easily.

Next, I used other pieces to form horizontal frame parts that were longer than 2'. They stick out on each side a little. I used garden stakes that were for tomatoes, but any straight piece of wood or anything would work.  I wired them to the T-Post and measured to try to get the proper width of 2' top and bottom. This made a 2'x3' box frame. Next I wired a 2'x3' piece of chicken wire to each frame. To put up a target simply use duct tape on the back side to stick the target to the tape through the chicken wire. It works well. All in all, it took me a few hours to put up the target frames. The pond dam was very tough to pound the post in to. I would pound for a while, then go back to a previous frame to do something, then go pound some more.

3 Sawhorses (2 hour $70 project)

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Sawhorses are pretty simple with the metal brackets. There are a couple of notes though. First, a 2x4 didn't fit in the bracket leg slots. I had to use a rasp file to campher or round the edges so that it would fit. I cut 3 legs from one 8' 2x4. 32 inches each. This made a saw horse about waist high for me or 31 inches or so. There is a chart on the box for the brackets that tells you how long the legs need to be to have given height. Waist high is typically about right. The single nail on each side for the top horizontal member is a bit flimsy. I am considering drilling holes for more nails and reinforcing it a bit. I made the top rail 4' long which is a standard width for many materials such as the plywood I would cut for the shooting bench.

Shooting Bench (6 hour $45 project)

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drawing32-150x150.jpg.6a143e94073f60dedf5bf7bff147116d.jpg           drawing33-150x150.jpg.39146ba1d9fe260e3e4081751596a737.jpg

 Drawing (3 hours)

597ce05d84590_sawing1-e1415481596932-150x150(1).jpg.9d7c94d525f3cd8b3e1906950015823b.jpgFirst thing to do is to draw the pattern on the plywood. If you had a CNC router machine and had the plans programmed in, it would be snap to cut out. Otherwise with rulers, tapes, straight edges, squares and compass tools you can draw it up in about 3 hours. It took me 15 minutes for seat, 15 for back leg, 30 for front leg, 1 hour for table top, 45 minutes for main connector, and 15 minutes for two small pieces. I used the pencil for making guidelines and lightly tracing where the pieces were at. I only used the giant felt sharpe when I knew it was right. Even at that, I made a couple of mistakes that had to be scribbled out and moved a little. A drafting compass would have helped with drawing the curves on the table top and the front leg. However, I free-handed the curves fairly well. Dad taught me a trick growing up when doing carpentry. Using pen or pencil mark distances with crows foot mark. Always start each toe at the point you are marking. In this way, you will not accidentally choose the wrong end of the mark when drawing up lines. Its easy to mismeasure, so check and double check, and look for where things just don't look right, then go back to plans and recheck distances. Dad also taught me to use factory cut edges whenever possible when measuring.


Cutting (2.5 hours)

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Next I used a jigsaw to cut out the pieces. I'm not totally sure the blade that I was using was best for this job. It did seem to go slow. After I had cut out a few pieces I noticed this dial on the jig saw that said "0, I, II"  I set it to II and it seemed to cut faster. I didn't pre-drill holes at corners but it might have made cutting corners easier. I did pre-drill a hole for the slots that were not on an edge but inside on the table. The way I did the corners was simply to keep nibbling with the jigsaw blade until I cut out the material so that I could make the turn. It took us 2.5 hours to cut out the pieces. This could have been faster if I'd used the skill saw or some circular saw for the straight lines. I would think that a small battery powered skill saw might be ideal. Also, Gary and I were cutting at the end after dark. A better light than the cap light I had might have been good. If I were on the wrong side of the blade a shadow was cast making it hard for Gary to see where the line was exactly.

Assembly (30 minutes)

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We pieced it together to see how it fit together and it was a snap. I placed the seat in its position and sat down on it. Felt fine. However there are 4 blocks, 2"x4", that I had cut out, which needed to be fastened to the seat to form groves that fit around the frame of the bench. These hold the seat steady in a position so that it won't move left or right or slide out. I measured where the blocks needed to go and drew boxes on the seat underside. I would place a block and drill pilot holes with 1/8th inch drill bit. I then took a larger 1/4 inch drill bit and made a small depression to fit the screw head. I think they make special bits for this. Very light pressure is needed or you will punch on through and make a hole that is too big for the screw.  Next I put the screwdriver bit in and drilled the screws in, after I had spread wood glue on the bottom of the block. To fit the seat back on the bench pull the back leg down an inch or so to insert the seat and then push it back up to fit snugly.  The next thing we noticed is that the table top on the right (for right handed shooters) left (if left handed shooters) was a bit too springy. I decided to take scrap and cut out a 1" strip to go on both sides of this side of the table. I glued and screwed them in place. That did the trick, its plenty strong now.

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This bench is designed to be used by left or right handed shooters. To reverse, simply take the table off and flip it. Take the front leg off and flip it. There is a small pieces in the middle that supports the table which also must be flipped. I next moved it to our shooting range and tested it. When I first tried it, I thought it was designed wrong. I had to lean way too far forward, it seemed. It felt like, in a sitting up position, the table top should have been closer to me. After I shot a few shots with my crossbow I realized its design is for sniper style shooting. You should make a fist with your forward hand and if possible grip a sand filled sock. Place this under the muzzle or stock somewhere far forward. This controls up and down micro movements of the front sight. Pulling the stock firmly into your shoulder this bench is just right.

Note that this bench is made to be taken down and put up with ease. You can take it apart and lay it in a pickup bed or trunk of a car, so that it doesn't use much space. It might even fit behind the seat in a pickup. One problem I noticed with this bench, while shooting, was that if I pushed down too hard on the rearward part with my elbow, the table top would raise up and come loose from the front leg where the slot is at. I found myself constantly pushing it back on the leg. Something has to be done about this and I'm not sure exactly what just yet. A simple metal U shaped clip could be made. A slot cut in the front table leg just thick enough to accept the metal clip and the clip sized so that it just fits snugly over the table top edge. Of course, if you intended for this table to remain at the range forever, you could just use some plumber's tape or whatever and fasten it permanently. But then it wouldn't be reversible. We did later discovered by accident that if you put a sand bag on the front of the table just over the notch it is enough to hold it down. The table was fine also until we put a rifle in a shooting brace. Then again a little trouble with springiness. We now see a need to make a leg to hold up the table on the right rear (right handed shooter) or left rear (left handed shooter). It wouldn't take much for example a 3" wide piece of plywood also made to fit in a small slot.

Last note about our shooting range. I bought a $25 tool box to keep various targets in, as well as Allen wrenches, small jeweler screw drivers and tools needed in adjusting and working with sights and scopes. I also keep duct tape in it. Duct tape works great for covering up shot holes in targets as well as taping targets to the frame. It might be good to get various colors of duct tape or masking tape.


Barnett Rope Cocking Device

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As a bonus I'll tell you about this rope cocking device. It cost between $10 and $20. There are other brands as well. It effectively gives you 1/2 pull force needed to cock a crossbow. For example in my case a 150 lb pull is 75 lbs on each side. With the rope cocking device it is now less than 40 lbs on each side or 40 lb draw. You hook each handle on each side next to stock and pull the cord around the butt of the stock. You can put your foot through the loop and pull or simply with mine put the butt of the stock against my stomach and pull both handles until it latches. It makes practicing with a crossbow pleasurable.



First let me say that, when it comes to burn efficiency, we have 3 main elements; time, temperature and turbulence. I think turbulence also means mixing with oxygen properly or at right stages along the burn path. I would like to add two more elements to this list, myself, from Rumford's studies; insulation and thermal mass (a recurring theme in the green scene). Though insulation and thermal mass are elements that affect time and temperature. There is plenty that I do not say in this article about stove installation and connections of pipes and types of pipes, wall connections, etc. I don't talk about modern stoves with catalytic converters in the smoke stacks, which bring the cost up in the $1,000's. There are certified installers for stoves, as well. I also don't talk about creosote build up due to premature cooling of smoke gasses. Yes, there is quite a bit more material covered by books and websites about all this. I, like most people, like the looks and pleasing feel of the open fire in or out of a home. I personally have no bias against highly inefficient open fires places, unless I need to conserve wood as fuel because of a shortage or because I want to spend less time gathering, cutting, splitting and stacking or moving wood.  You may get a metallic reflector to place in the back of your fireplace to add efficiency. Yet, fireplaces with stove inserts, of course, are more efficient than open fireplaces. Inserts are not as efficient as stand alone stoves, however. Count Rumford was a guy who studied thermodynamics in the late 1700's. He wrote a set of books about his research. He determined and recorded the BTU ratings for many types of wood around Europe and the world. His book is called "Complete Works of Count Rumford." You can download a free scanned copy of the original rare book from a publisher's website (GeneralBooksClub.com). You can also preview excerpts of the book there. I have seen vol 2 and vol 5. I don't know how many volumes there are. You will find downloads of the PDF with web searches.Here is a firewood facts page with some BTU for species info.


This image above shows the forward slant on traditional yet not on the Rumford. I'm pretty sure Rumford has a slight forward slant on top of the fire box, though not as extreme as the conventional one shown in the image. Of the open fireplaces, Rumford's design is most efficient. This design is not deep from front to back. The back wall slopes forward for about half the height up to the fireplace flue opening. It would have a lot of thermal mass around it. It has a smoke shelf and chamber above the top of the fireplace so that hot smoke can circulate around and warm the thermal mass, instead of simply shooting straight up and out the chimney. There are Rumford design stoves and cooking ranges/ovens, as well. A brand of Rumford design wood cook ovens was AGA Brand. I don't know that much about his stove/range/oven design yet and I can't really find drawings of it. As for Count Rumford's wood cook ovens and ranges, he used deep fire wells with good use of thermal mass and insulation. He used insulated lids and doors. The idea was to only produce the amount of heat needed and keep it where needed. His first ovens were so efficient that they had to install a small open fireplace to keep the cooks warm on winter days. When cooking on wood ranges, pots and pans must be moved around from cooler burners to warmer burners. To get extra heat, a burner plate could be removed to set the pot or pan directly on the heat or flames. Turning of the pots and pans is frequently necessary because each burner will have a warmer and cooler side.  To cool an oven that is too hot, place a pan of cool water inside the oven. Some ovens vent smoke around a warmer box above the stove for keeping food warm until served. Some stoves also have hot water wells for on demand hot water.

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Rocket Stove is made with a pipe that drops nearly to the bottom of the stove, so that air is sucked downward and horizontally into the pipe. Mass Rocket heater is a similar concept, except that it uses a J shaped flue with firebox, which circulates the smoke/gasses back around the flue and down into heater ducts. These ducts flow through thermal mass of some kind and should be 6" from the outside surface of this thermal mass. The flue is only about 3 feet tall and is insulated with high heat tolerant insulation, such as vermiculite beads (activated mica), perlite (volcanic glassy material), pumice (volcanic ash), kaowool (sometimes called kawool, I think), or, heaven forbid, asbestos. Actually, there is a type of asbestos that does not get caught in the lungs or cause cancer or lung disease. Even though geologist have proven its safety, it is still not allowed. Wools like kaowool may be called "High Temperature Insulation Wool" or HTIW.


Paul Wheaton of Richsoil.com

Rocket mass heaters draw air from the top of the fire hole (pit) downward and sideways into the flue. They have their drawbacks. For example, they need a lot more attention than the normal stoves or open fireplaces when it comes to feeding them. However, they absolutely make the most efficient use of heat, heat storage and thermal mass. And they burn the most cleanly and efficiently possible. The exhaust from a rocket mass heater is almost clear, has mostly CO2, little CO maybe and water vapor. The heat coming out of a rock mass heater flue would only be around 200F degrees or a bit more instead of 600 to 900 degrees. This, in itself, demonstrates why they are efficient. This shows heat retained by the thermal mass and inside the structure. A rocket stove design at alt-nrg.org


There are many uses for rocket mass heaters and one interesting one I heard of was used for a wood drying kiln. The kiln was 8 feet high, 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. A rocket stove would pipe its exhaust through a box filled with sand the length of the kiln. I think I'll try this some day, because you can use all the waste wood and possibly saw dust for fuel in drying the good wood. Other uses mentioned was in the heating of a hot tub or pool water. Rocket Mass stoves for cooking are not out of the question either. Unlike the open fire or stoves, using heated thermal mass means taking advantage of all the forms of heat transfer radiation, convection and conduction. If done properly you can place mattresses and/or lay or sit directly on the thermal mass for the transfer of heat into your body. This is the most efficient way to warm the body. Normal warming comes from radiation (stoves or open fires) or convection (central heating) mostly. Cob (Native American Horno (bee hive oven) or brick ovens for baking pizza and bread seem like a great idea to me, too. I'm a big proponent in utilizing thermal mass for this stuff. The cob oven I saw in the Cob House book resembled a mud dome. It had a door that was made of wood actually. You build the fire inside the oven to warm it. After you warm it, you remove the coals and ash and wait a small bit of time for the temp to drop to the baking temp. Then bake. This oven can be made more efficient borrowing from the rocket stove design. It would need a small chimney or flue at the top. It would also need an intake flue that would drop down so that intake air is drawn down to the floor level. I'd say a pipe with some slots or holes drilled in the bottom would work fine. This intake flue would be removed just prior to baking. An insulated plug might be needed for the intake flue hole. Chimney might need to have a damper or plug. The thermal mass of the 1 foot thick mud oven dome keeps the oven warm long enough to bake pizza or bread or maybe even a casserole. It's a matter of designing it so that it keeps a given temperature range for a given time for a given recipe. It's likely that what would work for one recipe will also work for a myriad of others. Russian fireplaces and stoves were made using thermal mass principles as well. Russian chimneys were often made so that the smoke circulated in a zig zag fashion around block or rock, so that more heat was absorbed by the thermal mass before the smoke escapes the chimney. They also had places to sit that had been warmed by the smoke and fire. Some Russian beds were actually made on top of stoves, where there was about a foot of thermal mass between the bed and stove. The bed would be high up in the room, near the ceiling, also, which would be the warmer part of the room because of convection. It gets quite cold in Siberia (-120F maybe).


One last note about chimneys. First settlers in America made chimneys and fire places from logs and cob. Cob being mud/straw mix packed between the logs and as thermal mass between flue and logs and fireplace and logs. The logs were stacked in a loose fit manner. The mud held the logs in place and the logs held the mud in place. Once fired a few times, the mud would become like brick. The logs overhung the mud on the outside enough to prevent erosion from rain. This is probably not a method I'd use unless I was in a pinch. If I wanted an el cheapo cabin somewhere as a camp site I might try this method as well. Lehman's sells $8,000 wood cook ranges and ovens imported from Europe. A quick search on eBay will find used wood cooking stoves and ovens for much lower prices.

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Recommended Books

Rocket Mass HeatersRocket Stove, Rocket Mass Heater             Building with CobBuilding with Cob, shows how to build a simple cob oven.

Some comments from the blog post with additional info.  http://politowoodfireovens.com.au/ A cob oven maker in Australia



Omega heat measuring device Its a hand held heat monitor

that reads up to 4 probes at once for around $350 or so.

This is for oven and stove development and engineering.


Kitchen Queen Wood burning cook ranges Not cheap $2,000 to $3,000.


Grover Round Stove pipe oven.


They also make these to sit on top of a stove.


Lehmans box flue oven.


Masonry Heater Association Mother Earth news article about Masonry Heaters Also, for rocket mass heaters made from 55 gallon drums, you can make your own ovens by using metal bowls turned upside down or large metal cans. You can cook breads, pizza and even casseroles, or even just warm something up. You could insulate with ceramic wools and use aluminum foils and such. You could add oven thermometers or other high temp thermometers, also. There is a lot one can do with cooking on wood fired stove tops.

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More on Trapping

A friend of mine said, "What I like about trapping is that out of the 100,000's of square feet the animal travels in I get him to place his foot in one 3" circle area." We use the animal's greed, needs or miss fortune, his laziness or state of mind (mating, hunger, nursing young etc.), intellect or lack there of and habits are all used to his disadvantage. This is how fraud, scams and the con man works. This might also be how the police or even the military do their job at times. Its a matter of knowing your prey.  As the great Chinese general said, "Know your enemy!". "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer!" Learn as much as you can about the animals you intend to trap via actual tracking, in reading tracking guides, and conversation with trappers and hunters. Learn bedding, feeding, mating and migrating habits. Then you will know proper trap set placement.

Trap placement as you might imagine is very important. A common concept in trapping is in using scent or lure to bring the animal in from a distance, then the animal sees and or smells bait which brings his foot, head or body to the trap. Trap placement is based on the type of animal you intend to trap, its habits, its nature and such.
Two obvious locations might be on a game trail or path or at the entrance of a den. Some use logs as paths or as a bridge path. Many animals burrow which form holes as entrances to their dens. Many animals will steal another animals den or borrow as well. Some animals use trees as their den. Well known examples are raccoon and squirrel. Some use hollow logs as a den. For example, with a raccoon, a log/pole might be laid at an angle against a den tree. The traps are placed on this leaning log.

For dog type animals, traps can be placed on high points or mounds or logs and stumps where they might climb to look around. Dogs will also circle a bait for a few log-set.jpg.13241cc66df8b95fcbeedef4085ed30f.jpg minutes prior to going for it. Traps placed some feet away from the bait all the way around will catch the dog. Dogs also mark their territory by urinating on trees. Dog urine sprayed on a tree or stump will do the trick. Place traps around this tree or stump. A jaw trap should always be placed such that the animal steps between the jaws and not over a jaw. This is so that the trap will not knock the animals foot from the trap as it closes.
For cats and many types of animals an enclosure, called a cubby, can be made of rock, stone or wood and roofed with evergreen bows or brush. Bait is placed in the back and a trap or several traps at the front. These enclosures use materials on the sides called "fencing" to guide the animal over the trap. A "backstop" of wood or rock or something that may aid in getting the critter's attention. Bait is placed next to the backstop. When the animal is standing to take or eat bate a trap is placed not directly under where the animal will be but is "offset" so many inches from center. This is so that it will be where the animal's foot will step on the pan (trigger). Sometimes this corral arrangement is covered, such as when deep snow is expected. In this way, the animal can dig in the snow and enter and still be trapped.
Water sets are almost always placed in a couple of inches under the water. Muskrat traps can be placed along the top of a log in the water. Bait can be placed in the water on a stick just beyond an artificial island, which contains a trap. For some animals, you can dig a hole in a bank (pocket or cache), set bait back in the hole and place a trap at the entrance just under water or covered with a bit of liquid mud or leaves. In one case, a trapper had an intelligent weasel turning his traps over. He placed his traps upside down and caught the rascal. When placing traps on trails and along shores, take advantage of natural brush or banks or rocks and even add barriers that funnel the animal into the trap. Sometimes these barriers can be made of rows of sticks pushed vertically into ground or mud creating a kind of vertical stick fence or wall. Larger pieces of logs can be laid horizontally.  And you can make stream bridges with logs by placing logs across a stream. Hollow logs can be used with great success with traps on each end and bait in the middle. Culverts and stove pipes can be used to simulate hollow logs. Traps can be set in tunnels that lead from burrow to outside.  Artificial tunnels can be made.

Live bait can be used such as birds, rabbits, and rodents. Give the bait bedding, food and water to last a week or so. The baits smell grows stronger by the day and the predator can't get to the bait because its caged.  Caged live bait can be placed in a hollow log or in a small fake chicken coop like structure in the case of fox.

These trap setups can be made during off season so that they look more natural and have less human scent and sign before trapping season. And some trappers have good success setting traps around and nearby their camp as animals tend to be curious of human camps. One trapper told of how he would set a trap in his own trail in the snow and catch a critter that was following him. There are many hundreds of sets (ways to set traps). They all have names and over time you can learn them from books, web sites, articles, etc. I have simply given you a few to think about in these articles to show you that its a bit more complex than walking out in the woods and trowing a trap down in some random location. And to be honest I didn't even give you a fair overview in this article. If you use google foo, you can fin many illustrations of different trap sets. Simply google for "'type name' trap set", i.e. "trail trap set" or "log trap set". Used google images for pictures and diagrams.
I should mention trapping honey bees. One of the trapping books talked about how to find and rob bee hives. But what I'm talking about is getting the bees to come to a box. I have not tried this, but basically you set up a hive box and then place drops of lemongrass oil in it. There are other bait oils as well such as clover oil. And honey comb with some honey can be placed in the box as bait. Also I read you can start a fire and boil or burn some honey which will send the scent a long way out. The bees move in and set up housekeeping. Then later you rob them of honey.

Trapping Humans?!

String Perimeter Alarms

I'm sure this will get big brothers attention. But what I'm going to be talking about here is more along the lines of camp security. Some traps can be set around camp to alert a person to animal or human presence. One kind suggested is a string pull trap fireworks supplier sell that sounds like a firecracker. And they are cheap you can get a dozen for 15 cents. I wish there were a whistling trap like this. Tin cans tied to barbed wire are famous. A bunch of tin cans tied to a string and hung in a tree is a good idea. When the trap is spring the cans fall making all kinds of noise. A bow and arrow trap can be easily made to cover a bend in a trail. This might be triggered with a trip line. A spring pole trap was made famous in Rambo I. Spikes or blades can be affixed to it so that it stabs the victim. Pungi stick pits are famous from Vietnam where spike shaped sticks or bamboo was stuck in the mud pointing upward.

A dead fall was made famous in the movie "Predator" where Arnold tripped the trap to drop the log on the alien. Actually, the log, in that case, was a force mechanism to cause the spike trap to function but it served as a dead fall in the end. Traps like nail boards are easy to make and can be placed around with nails up like landmines. Cover the nail boards with leaves and they are almost impossible to detect.
Be careful when setting traps for human or larger game or one might become victim to his own trap. There was a story a wilderness skeleton told. The skeleton had both hands caught in a bear trap, in the wilderness and far from any help. This poor trapper attempted to stand on the jaws of a 55 pound bear trap and with both hands and feet pushing the jaws open. He had already fastened the trap to a log. It's likely this poor mountain man died of dehydration and exposure long before starvation.

Many of these intruder traps can be made non lethal or near non lethal though potentially still injurious. A pit could be made just large enough for a foot to drop into with nothing in the bottom. An arrow trap could have a padded arrow tip and set to light force (though it might still put an eye out). A spring pole trap could be made to simply slap the intruder. A dead fall could drop a bag of rags on the intruder or water or oil or anything non lethal that would intimidate and piss them off. At least they might get the idea that they are not welcome and, at least for the moment, are not in the lethal zone. Of course, if I were really going to do any of this I'd make sure the land was posted on its perimeter every 50' or closer. I like the purple plastic no trespassing ribbon you can wrap around trees. Boundary Tape
Sniping is where hunting and trapping overlap. In sniping there is a concept called trapping. This is where you pick a location where the enemy will be traveling. Usually based on prior knowledge from intelligence reports (i.e. game cam on feeder). You set up your spider hole or nest blind or whatever. You figure ahead of time all the variables such as wind, lighting, temperature, barometric pressure, compass heading of shot,  angle, visibility, rotation of the earth, etc. Then you adjust your sniper rifle's scope accordingly.
You make charts so that if adjustments need to be made they can be made very quickly. Then the gun is setup and positioned so that it is stationary and solidly aimed at the target location. Now all that is needed is to wait for the enemy (game) to move into the sights. The trap is tripped by a squeeze of the trigger. This is actually an active shooting situation and not a passive trap, but in essence compared to simply taking pot shots at the target it is trapping. I simply point this out as a note of a variation of trapping using a manned vs unmanned trap. In this hunting scenario you could even practice shooting given locations in the off season.


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I searched the web and found a pretty good web site that gives a decent introduction to tracking. Wikihow Tracking Animals It list 3 main methods. 1. Identify the animals. Interpret animal sign. Following the animals. The book below "Tom Brown's Field Guide" was recommended by a TSP forum woman who has spent time on search and rescue teams out west. I have read it twice and recommend it myself. I will read it again and again in the future, too. Also, the field guide I show is good as well though I'm not sure if it is "the best" field guide, but it's not bad.


 Tom Brown's Field Guide to Natural Observation and Tracking.

The first half of his book is dedicated to teaching you the Apache ways of getting in tune with nature and explaining the mental frames of mind needed to be a good tracker. His first chapter is about clearing the mind, quieting the mind and body and learning to listen, observe and ask questions like a child. It's about being open minded and becoming one with nature. Listen to what plants as well as what animals are saying. Don't be afraid to become uncomfortable, weather it is weather or getting down on your belly in the mud.
The second chapter is on fine tuning the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. He has exercises which is meant to increase awareness. One of which is tracking blind folded. If you disable one sense the others become stronger. When it comes to vision, change from distant view with binoculars to wide view to up close view to magnified views. He uses something he calls splatter vision which is an unfocused wide angle vision. Take on the mind of an artist and musician. With hearing use natural echo chambers such as tree, rocks, even brush.

He discusses ways to increase your sense of smell. It's mainly by smelling things. Smell bits of plants. Notice animal smells around dens and try to trace a smell to its origin. If you are a hunter you might try smelling the animals you hunt after a kill. I was sitting in the woods on my property a few weeks back totally camouflaged. Suddenly I smelled something different, somewhat dusty or dirty smell. I have no idea what it was, but it was different than a normal smell. One time walking in the woods in north Arkansas while looking for caves I smelled a pretty rank smell. Coyote? Bear? Big foot? I'll never know.
With blindfolding you can increase your sense of touch. You can take your castings of prints, use them to make tracks then feel the tracks. There are times at low light levels or during the mid day sun or overcast days when feel might become more important that sight. Its best to do tracking early morning or late evening because of the angle of the light and the shadows are longer.  He talks about developing taste with blind taste test. Notice how taste is connected to touch and smell. Finally he covers increasing night awareness.
The next chapter takes you to a deeper level of awareness. It covers his Apache grandfathers 4 veils or levels of consciousness. To get to deeper levels of conciseness you use relaxation,  mediation and concentration techniques. He talks about subconscious perception, imagination and intuition. He tells you how to make a Native American sweat lodge which is like a sauna. All of this coalesces into a more spiritual observation.
In the last chapter of the first half of the book he discusses how to move when stalking and observing. He talks about how to go from the city shuffle to  coyote walk, fox walk, fox run, trail walk, weasel walk, weasel sneak, stalking high, low,  on knees, crawling and on belly. He talks about how to use cover, clothing, concealment and camouflage.  Also covered is de-scenting, other hiding techniques and disappearing.


The next half of the book is on tracking. Tracking and observation are one and the same thing. Everything is a track, not just foot prints. Believe you can see it. Be a detective and use the ground like a manuscript. Good tracking takes patience and practice. Identify the tracks using number of toes, claws and shapes. This narrows it to a family of types of animals. For example you can pretty much figure 3 toes are birds, while 4 to 5 toes are mammals. Some mammals have 4 toes up front and 5 on back feet. Some are single toed as in hoofed. And in some cases cats can have 6 toes. Dogs usually show claws but cats do not etc.
Next a gait is a speed of movement for grown humans might be walk, fast walk, run, sprint. For animals it can be diagonal walk, pace, trot, bound, lope, gallop. Some birds are hoppers and some walkers. But this all depends on the animal. Animals might use any of these as their normal mode of travel. You might think rabbits hop but what they are doing is galloping. Some weasels bound as normal mode of travel. Some animals use only one or two of these modes. With animals that have only one gait in order to determine speed you simply measure distance between prints. Faster means greater distance(stride)  of course. There are also patters in how they place the feet in any of these moves. Cats and fox direct register meaning the back foot lands directly on top of the front foot print when they walk. Others indirect register where the back print is offset from the front print. And in some instances an animal that normally doesn't direct register will.
To narrow down from the family of animals to the species you will often have to take measurements of the width and height of front and hind foot prints. You will also measure stride and trail width. Stride being the distance they move forward on each movement of the same gait. Measure straddle which is inside width between left and right foot prints. And measure pitch which is the angle of feet to line of travel. Then consult field guides to narrow down to species.

Next you can try to determine male or female, age, weight, and other signs. It is interesting to note that larger foot print doesn't necessarily mean it's a male. That depends on the species. If you can determine weight then that can also be used to determine sex based on species but again heavier is not necessarily the male. He talks about all the various animal families and their habits. An interesting note was that the wild dogs and wild cats have very regular patterns to their movement while the tame animals will meander around and not be so regular. While wild cats direct register the tame cats may not in their walk. I figure it's because the wild animals are taking care of serious business when they move but tame animals are more relaxed almost playing.

Next he covers animal highways and signs. He has large, medium and small scale signs, His major highways are game trails and minor ones are runs. Trails might be like our interstates and runs like local highways or city streets. Both trails and runs can be broken down into general, seasonal, singular (one animal), size group (certain size of animal uses it), directional (one way travel). Runs are offshoots of trails from what he calls manifold junctions or cluster junctions. Runs additionally have primary and secondary feeders. Some runs are push downs from fleeing animals. Some are escape routes to hides. A hide can be heavy cover where the predator may still enter to search or occlusive such as dense briers or dens. Runs lead to beds and lays, wallows, dens, feeding and watering areas etc. Feeding areas he breaks into 4 types. General, single plant, eat through and trail nibbling. So far this has been large scale signs.

Medium scale signs are like rubs and nicks, scratches, gnawings and bitings. Bitings are insized, serrated and chewed vegetation. Predators being the ones that typically chew. There are breaks and abrasions of sticks twigs and logs. Look for upper vegetation disturbances such as bruised, bent or twisted leaves.

Next medium sized sign that we all would think of is scat. He talks about aging scat, scat analysis, scat contents. He also tells you how to dry and preserve scat with a clear coat spray. Why might you want to preserve scat? Everyone has their own personal scat collection, right?  Well, it might be that at the time you find it you simply can't identify it and want to keep it for later identification. It might also be that if you are teaching tracking a collection would be good to show students. Also, you may want to take the fresh scat back to study weathering effects which would help in aging scat.

He talks about small scale sign such as hair, leaf disturbances, stone disturbances, compressions and using a technique he calls sideheading. With sideheading get your head down to ground level and view the sign with light source on opposite side.  There is also shinings and dullings. A shining is where an animal moved through grass or vegetation and left a trail that shines in the right light. A dulling is where dew was removed and therefore the path is dull while the vegetation shines.

The chapter on pressure releases is worth its weight in gold. He lists 31 common pressure releases out of 85 he has documented. He has nice drawings of each and shows you how to diagram them.

  • Gouge
  • Slide
  • Slip
  • Cave
  • Cave-in
  • Shovel
  • Explosion
  • Pock
  • Reverse Pock
  • Depression
  • Cliff
  • Overhang
  • Slope
  • Rounded
  • Ridge
  • Crest
  • Dome
  • Mound
  • Crevasse
  • Crumbling
  • Plume
  • Wave
  • Disk
  • Flat
  • Pitch
  • Roll
  • Twist
  • Pivot
  • Spiral
  • Wobble
  • Stutter

I won't explain these but will refer you to the book. But the jest of it is that when animals step they put pressure down then release the pressure when they move the foot. Depending on what they were doing, how fast they were moving and what they had on their mind they will leave characteristic shapes aside from the shape of the foot itself. And by properly reading these you will get very good clues on where to look for the next foot print. It may be that the next foot print is not at the expected distance or direction. He also talks about using chalk or flour to make a track stand out. Sprinkle chalk in front of the track and blow it over the track.

He talks about preserving tracks with plaster which is easy. You see the forensic guys on TV doing this all the time with human prints or tire tracks. It's simply plaster of Paris. You may need to clean debris from the track and spray clear coat on them before pouring plaster. If you want a good way to capture tracks so to speak make a track album. A track album is a smoothed circular piece of ground or a box with soil smoothed off on top. In the center is placed a stick with scent, bait and or something shiny or colorful that might get the animals attention. They will then come in to investigate or take the bait and leave you nice prints to examine. If the soil you are adding is too hard add sand, powdered dirt or wood ash.

You could then use this casting to make prints in a sand box for further study. You could try to replicate different pressure releases. He talks about making a track like this in damp sand or dirt then cutting away small slices at a time to examine cross sections. Also, you can make a layer cake of sand/flower/clay or whatever makes the print and do the same. The layers show how the pressure moves the soil well below and to the sides of the track.

When aging tracks and signs there is a lot to consider. Having a record of the weather for the area is a must. Tracks will become beat down by rain and round out to flat. Debris will be blown or fall on track based on weather. Tracks will dry and then be blown apart by the wind. If tracks overlap than the one on top obviously is the most recent track. If you want to study weathering effects you can use your plaster cast to make tracks in soil or sand and then put in the weather and monitor it. Or you can create artificial weather with sprayers, and fans, ovens, and freezers. You can practice on tracks of different depths by using more or less pressure when you make them. You can also use different hardness's of soil in your test. Sand is softest, with typical loamy garden soil being medium and clay being hard.

Vegetation ages by turning brown because of loss of water. How it turns and how fast is based on local climate. Grass will lay down and over time stand back up. Scat tends to dry from the inside out. It also has a mucous membrane on the outside which drys and goes away after a few hours. If it's fresh it will still be warm of course and a temp reading might give age.

In finding the next track a tracking stick comes in handy. I made one from a 36" (3') 1/2"  dia.  dowel rod from Walmart, using water hose band washers that roll back and forth on the stick. They fit tight. I need to mark the stick with one inch and one-half inch marks for measurement. Two of the band washers mark the width and length of the foot. And two mark the trail width and length of the stride. You can lay this stick on the ground and use it to find the next track. One technique if the animal crosses a stream or pavement is to cross over and follow the bank up and down or road edge up and down until you find the next track. This is called cross tracking. Also, you can step out to expected distance of next track and circle the last track at that radius. If not found increase distance.

In the end of his book, he talks about tracking humans. I won't talk about any of that in this article. I will end this article by giving you a list of items I bought from Walmart that is similar to the one he suggested in the book. Also, I would always be carrying a compass, GPS, paper maps, lights, gun, knife, any needed clothing, rain gear etc. I also have "The Tracker's Field Guide" which shows foot prints and other size data and info for most common North American mammals. In this trackers field guide, the author has a section on tracking where he mentions Tom Brown's guide.  Tom Brown's guide book is $16 on Amazon. It's 280 pages with reference material in it. He explains all of this thoroughly and convincingly in detail.  It is worth the buy. As a matter of fact, I just bought one for a cop friend of mine and it was on sale for $13.

  • Measuring stick with 4 band washers, extra bands.
  • 10' retractile tape measure
  • 3' tailors tape measure, as a 6" flexible tape.
  • 6 power Magnifying glass with tweezers with light.
  • String (for outlining)
  • Popsicle sticks (for marking)
  • Small Cutting pliers (wire cutting)
  • 3x5 file cards (for drawing tracks)
  • Sharpe Pen
  • Pencil
  • Scotch tape (for hair collection)
  • zip lock containers and bags or glad lock.
  • Thermometer
  • Plaster of Paris.
  • A cup to mix plaster in.
  • Some plastic to lay over plaster to keep the weather off of it while it dries.

This article will contain 3 parts with additional information and photos for Deer Hunt articles, Shooting .177 article and continuation of cartography articles.

Deer Hunt Addendum

First I had told you guys that a friend of mine's son told me I got lucky with the 410 in killing that deer. So I took a cardboard deer target to the spot where the deer was standing and strung it up between two trees to be positioned same as the deer that day. Recall that the deer was at 44 yards. I went back to the chicken coop and shot the target 10 times.

The result was 3 hit vital areas, the lower one was actually two shots almost in the same hole. I hit the back legs 4 times and they would only have injured the deer. It would have had plenty of strength left to run off and die a slow miserable death somewhere. I hit it once in the fro

 nt leg which would have had similar results. The shot group was about 2.5 feet in diameter. I missed completely twice. So yes I had a 30% chance of a kill shot that day and got lucky and killed the deer. That might be fine in a survival situation but it's bad deer hunting.

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If I had practiced with the gun, I could have made the shot group tighter. If I had something to brace the gun against, such as a post or wall or tree, the shot group would have been better. If I were using shooting sticks to rest the gun on (bi pod), it also would have been better and I could get a tighter kill zone shot group. There might also be a couple of mods to the gun which could help out. I hear using rifled slugs can help and I hear also they won't because the riffling in this case is so that the round fits easier through the modified choke. Also adding a riffled choke might help. Removing the smooth bore barrel and adding a riffled barrel would also help. Adding a back sight could also help. Without any of this, however, the gun might be better used for closer ranges, such as 10 to 25 yards.

I still proved this little snake charmer 410 to be a good survival gun in my opinion. I just need to work on my accuracy a bit more and wait for closer shots. If you have time to be in the woods every day, a closer shot is much more likely. With me getting only 4 days this last season to hunt I think next year I will use a longer range gun.

.177 Chinese Air Rifle

In the gallery below you will see how I camouflaged the rifle using gun tape. I camouflaged the scope using vinyl sticky cut out cammo. I need a different scope ring set, which is sold separately from the scope. I need one that would allow me to sight with open sights under the scope. Also this would give more room for inserting a pellet. As it is, this scope setup puts the scope almost in the way of inserting a pellet.

bsa-scope2-150x150.jpg.699eedece413acebec44b6c0559d7013.jpg       177-rifle-front-sight-150x150.jpg.50506b5a15cc7a71390fdfd5dfb98f61.jpg       177-rifle1-150x150.jpg.ba4865f7159206b5a146a86c20fa3492.jpg

177-rifle2-150x150.jpg.8eb1daf1e674a110543bcbb174303090.jpg       bsa-scope1-150x150.jpg.245729e053692b1b0adca68309641cb2.jpg       177-rifle-back-sight1-150x150.jpg.07c00c78be39d7dfed3fd320933ba576.jpg


I show you the full view of rifle in a couple of shots. I show two shots of the scope, and I show the front sight and rear sights. You may adjust front sight up and down by twisting it counter clockwise with a tool from the top. The back sight can be raised and lowered easily to make quick adjustments for various ranges. And you numbers for 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3 3.5 positions, etc. Also I could not get a good photo of it, but there is a screw in the back sight which can be turned clockwise or counter clockwise to adjust windage. There is no way to adjust windage of front sight. I can not tell you right now how much adjustment each 1/4, 1/2 or whole turn makes for either windage or elevation. I think I will probably be replacing this chinese rifle with a Beaman Duel Cal .177 .22 soon. Otherwise I need to buy a new chinese rifle. This one probably has been dry fired too many times, as it only shoots 450 fps. Also, I need to do some work to the scope mount to make it more in line with the barrel. We welded it, but didn't get the alignment good enough to even sight it in. I could attempt to rebuild this one but I'm not sure that I might not destroy this gun trying.

Mapping the 18 Acre Homestead using my Smartphone and Compass

Map 1 is the overall map which shows everything. I basically took one evening and walked from my camper on Nichols Lane up an old road to the chicken coop then eastward up another old roadway. I then went south to the shale pit and found 3 points on the shale pit. I also tried to triangulate on 2 buildings. One I own in the shale pit is a shop and one is the neighbors. Next I followed around to the beginning of a ravine/brook that sometimes has flowing water. I made my way to the power line on the east boundary of the property and northward into the woods and found some corner markers. I tried to triangulate the location of the white house on the cliff. Next I moved westward along the cliffs (which I don't think I own) and took notes on a few points one of which was next to a pretty nice bluff shelter that might house 2. Then westward past what was an old lodge up on top of the bluffs that burnt down. All that is left is a deck. Next to the west boundary and down a log skidder road along the west side. I took notes on a couple of points then the west driveway into the property to the old house place, the barns and chicken coop, which is also the old road that continues on over to the power lines and crosses to adjacent lands. If you read my deer hunt articles, you will notice a few points that were part of the deer hunt. 80 yard scrape and maybe the 60 yard scrape, along with chicken coop and where the dear was at near the east end of the old burned house foundation.

The white crosses are reference points I used when plotting these points (the yellow triangles). Each crosshair is 100 feet apart. This forms a 100 foot by 100 foot grid.

My cell phone app on my Android phone, called GPS Tracker Lite, which is no longer on Google Play for some reason, was what I used to get GPS coordinates. It gives Longitude, Latitude down to minutes, seconds and 10ths of seconds. I looked up info on the web that suggested a second of longitude or latitude is about 100 feet by 100 feet. So the precision of the phone reading is about 10 feet by 10 feet. The accuracy, however, didn't prove to be that good. Some of the points were off by about 100 feet, but maybe there was some other reason for this. Like maybe I read and recorded the numbers wrong. Also, the phone was going to sleep between points and then I'd wake it up to read the next point. It seem to float to the point from the last one. It's possible I didn't wait long enough for this floating to settle down before recording a reading. It doesn't make sense for the phone to be so accurate on the streets but not accurate in the woods.

I pulled the satellite image off of Google Maps and imported it as a layer in Inkscape I then stretched it to fit my points. I had already made the grid as one layer and plotted the triangles on another layer. Many points seemed to line up perfectly while a few did not. So I stretched it to fit what I thought were the majority it lined up with. I will explain more in the rest of this article next to the images. Also the grid of crosshairs were for me to use to plot points and are not aligned with any real known point on the satellite image, except for general features. In other words, they are not aligned with a corner marker of a section or of my property or of my neighbors' properties.

Map 2 is of the compass and pace count survey I did from my camper, up a path to the chicken coop then to the east, up an old road above the shale pit. The white pixels next to AA1 is my camper. The few white pixels next to AA2 is an old mobile home roof covered by tree foliage. AA3 is next to another mobile home on my property. My pace count is about 12 paces for 21 yards, which is 57 paces for 100 yards. This is about 1.75 paces per yard. A pace is every left foot or every right foot when stepping it off, do not count both left and right feet. And the foot you start with is not the one you count, the other foot is, because it will be a full pace. The one you start with is half of a pace. Note that if you pace uphill, your steps will be shorter and vice versa longer downhill.

The compass I was using was a cheap Chinese made lensatic compass from Walmart. This survey turned out surprisingly well. It seemed to fit the satellite features image perfectly. It lined up with he road well. I did back angles and checked error as I went on the truck survey. I did not do that on two branches to the chicken coop and deer kill site.
Map 3 is along the shale pit, which is also our pistol shooting range. I started taking my GPS coordinate readings here. I moved from there over to the ravine intermittent stream and to the power line on the eastern side of the property. Later in this article, I talk about how I tried to use 3 points to triangulate on two buildings to find their location. Not really necessary since we have satellite image, but a good exercise anyway. The phone app said the elevation precision was about 20 feet. I took the first elevation reading at the power line and then moved upward to the next point where it actually read lower! That was disappointing. However, as you look at these, you will see it going up to the north, which is correct and the 150' elevation difference is about right.

Map 4-1 is the south eastern corners of the property. First, there is the end of the compass pace count survey AA11 and AA12. Then 4 shale pit points along the upper edge/rim of the pit. Next one point in the ravine/intermediate stream. Then two points on the power line, not that the first one's elevation can't be near correct. It was lower than the first point. Next, a couple of points on an old road/trail with a buck scrape nearby. This was not a fake scrape, like the ones I made by the chicken coop, but a real scrape. And a point on a flat area.
On map 4-2, the north eastern property boundaries, we see two corner markers, a log seat where I stopped to rest, and a large rock. Not that there were many large rocks on this property. We also see the white house on the cliff that belongs to a neighbor. And we see the bluff shelter at 855', which I think is most likely on the neighbor's land.
Map 4-3 is the north west boundary and I didn't really take any points on the south west boundary yet. This one shows again the bluff shelter. It shows two points along the bluff, one of which has a crooked pine growing out of it. It shows a point below where the old burned lodge house was. You see the deer kill site, well the deer ran uphill to about 100 feet or so just south and slightly east of the lodge, where she lay down to finish bleeding out.

Then, on the western edge, two points along the clear cut and property line. One at the road/western drive at the clearcut edge. Another at a fork in the drive. Another at the 80 yard fake scrape I made in the road that goes past the barns and coop. Those 3 points are almost exactly 100 feet too far north. I may have recorded coordinates wrong and I may move them to where they need to be, 100 feet to the south.
Next we have Map 5 triangulation attempt 1 and 2. I was on top of the shale pit and decided to take compass readings from several points to two corners of the shop and at the neighbor's house, which was behind some trees. You will see that I put a box bottom left for the neighbor's house, well it needs to be smaller and moved towards that lower left triangle. That point actually looks close. But the other box was much larger than the house and well on the other side of it.
Next on map 6, I was triangulating in on the white house you see on top of the cliff to the right or east of the green box. The green box is where the house was supposed to be located. Note that I sized these green boxes before I underlaid the satellite image. I made them a bit too large. So, with this triangulation experiment, we see that we get a general direction and very rough distance. This is mainly because of the cheap ($5-$10) compass. A Sunnto ($150) brand compass or a transit ($500) might be better suited to this type of mapping. Really the cheap woodland navigational compass is to allow you to trek across miles of woodlands. And you can use triangulation on nearby ridges or water towers or other features a few miles away and get a fairly accurate location within a few hundred feet or so. In this case, you shoot angles from multiple points to the target. You can also shoot angles from yourself (the target) to multiple known points to find where you are on the map.


The black dotted lines where added in for 500'x500' grid. Here is the download for the 18 Acres.svg Inkscape file Inkscape file.



mil dot reticle

Mil Dot Reticle

I'm working on understanding scope adjustments and use. I had always thought mil dot stood for Military Dot Reticle System. Nope, it means Milli-Radians. A radian is PI(3.14) at 180 and 2 PI(6.28) at 360 degrees. Milli-Radian is 1/1000th of a radian. Also just a note, this means there are 6.28 radius (one radian is a radius) of a given circle around its circumference. But what this means for us is that the image in the scope at 10x power is 1/1,000th the actually size of the object. So a 1 meter tall target at 1,000 meters is 1 mil dot tall. A 1 yard tall target at 1,000 yards is 1 mil dot tall. A 1 foot tall target at 1,000 feet is 1 mil dot tall. A 1" target at 1,000" is 1 mil dot tall. A 1 cm target at 1,000 cm(10 meters) is 1 mil dot tall.

Remember that is at 10 power. So 5x power and the target is now 1/2 mil dot tall. 4x power and it's slightly less than 1/2 mil dot tall. A Mil dot (10x) at 100 yards is 3.6" (that is 1/10th of 1 yd(36") at 1,000 yds) There is nearly 17 Mil dots in 1 degree and 1 degree is 60 MOA. (scope adjustments are in fractions of  Minute Of Angle) Or there is .28 or close to 1/3rd mil dots in one MOA. Saying it another way, there are 3 MOA in one Mil Dot. And one MOA at 100 yds is close to 1". 200 yds, 2" and so on. So you can see that, once you get this straight in your head, you can really fine tune your POI (point of impact).

Could a mil dot reticle be used for short ranges such as air gun ranges? Sure. A table could be made to help you with this. I'm not totally convinced that my math is correct here. So check me on this. I made a spreadsheet as such. Mil Dot is 1/range/(%of10x*1,000). % of 10x is power /10.  In this case, 4 power scope.

foot mil dot range ft x power % of 10x
1 20.0 20 4 0.4
1 13.3 30 4 0.4
1 10.0 40 4 0.4
1 8.0 50 4 0.4
1 6.7 60 4 0.4
1 5.7 70 4 0.4
1 5.0 80 4 0.4
1 4.4 90 4 0.4
1 4.0 100 4 0.4
1 3.6 110 4 0.4
1 3.3 120 4 0.4
1 3.1 130 4 0.4
1 2.9 140 4 0.4
1 2.7 150 4 0.4

MOA is Minute of Angle or 1" at 100 yards. Actually 1.047" at 100 yards. My new BSA scope has 1/4 MOA adjustment for both windage and elevation. This means 1/4" at 100 yds. So this would be 1/8" at 50 yds or 1/16" at 25 yds. (This scope adjustment has nothing to do with the power of the scope)  One feature of this BSA scope I really like is the metal screw-in lens cover end caps. I have decided to zero my Chinese air gun at 20 yds because it is shooting at only 420 fps. This gives me a kill zone from 4 yds (12 ft) to 22 yds (66ft) of 2" diameter. What I need to do is buy a new air gun with higher fps or repair this one.

Once zero is set it can be moved with the elevation adjustment. At 20 yds 1" is about 20 clicks. A person could also re-zero at 25 yds, 30 yds and 15 yds noting how many clicks is needed to reach each zero point. However the ballistics and kill zone changes dramatically when you change the zero point. You really need to know at each 0 point how high the pellet will rise above the line of sight. Will also need to know where it drops a few inches below line of sight. You can use ballistics software to determine this or simply do some shooting of targets at different distances.

plex reticle

DuPlex Reticle

Above is a common reticle which can be used for range finding. This is the reticle on my BSA 4x32 scope. I have yet to find out specs for it such as MOA of the thick to thin line transition you see in the image. Or how many inches that is at 100 yds from left to right or up to down. Many of these scopes are 30"x30" at 100 yds. So, with lack of proper information, I may have to use empirical methods for figuring this out with my particular scope by sighting through the scope at a target at 100 yards.  This process should be simple enough. I will set up something with 1" or 2" marks on it at 100 yds from viewing position. Then count the number of marks from center to left or whatever. Double the results to get size of object in inner box.

Let's say the inner crosshair box is indeed 30"x30" at 100 yds, that means a coyote at 100 yards would nearly fill the box. A crow 8" tall would be half the distance from outer box to center of cross hair. If the crow is at 25 yds, then it would fill the box top to bottom. It's a matter of ratios. It's also a matter of knowing the average sizes of the game you are hunting. Also, one can range objects such as fence post, pop can, bottle or other refuse. Just about anything you already know the size of in the field of view. Then, when game moves into that position, you have a jump start on estimating its range.

Using Parallax Adjustment to Determine Range

I think this blog link can explain better than I, so here it is     "Parallax and Scopes". This BSA Air Gun Scope I bought has a parallax adjustment on the objective bell up front. It shows 7.5 yds to 100 yds to infinity. It has markings adjustments on it for ranges between 7.5 and 100 yds. As that article suggests, they probably are not accurate. Also the article says that on lower powers, such as this 4 power scope, and at closer ranges, such as air gun ranges, parallax is not a huge problem. This may mean it will be more difficult for me in this situation to use this adjustment in ranging targets.

Basically if you change your gaze or focal point forward and back, this will cause some movement to appear in the reticle between the target and the crosshairs. If you notice this movement, you have parallax and then can adjust the setting until there is no parallax. The markings on the bell adjuster will give you the range. Conversely, if you know the range by some other method, then you can reach up and set it to that range and know that most of the parallax is removed. Also, that article said that parallax has nothing to do with focus adjustments. My scope comes with a focus adjustment on the front.

For air guns some good free ballistics software can be found at Hawke ChairGun Pro


As we can see from the chart above, we have a 2"dia. kill zone from 3 yds to 25 yds. The pellet will rise to roughly 1/2" above line of sight at 13 to 14 yds. It also drops to 2" below line of sight at 28 yds. Keeping this in mind after you have ranged your target (game) would be important.

If anyone wants to clarify or even correct any of this in comments, please feel free.


I purchased a Chinese Spring Piston .177 cal Air Rifle for $40 and he threw in a box of 250 pellets. New, this gun goes for about $80. I owned one of these once almost 15 years ago. Currently I want this gun as a "hunt near the BOV" gun, as it's a bit heavy for packing. Back then I wanted it for target practice because I had been scoring only marksman on military M16 qualifications around 23 of 40 shots. I practiced my marksmanship fundamentals with this pellet gun in the backyard for a few months just prior to the next qualification. That next time I scored sharp shooter, which I think was a score of 35 of 40 shots.  That was almost expert, which was 36 to 40 of 40 shots.

I wanted this gun in particular because it comes with front adjusting sights and rear adjusting sights for both windage and elevation. On this gun I just purchased it appears that both front and rear sights adjust for windage and elevation, though I know for sure the rear sight adjust that way. The rear sight also had 8 quick settings for varying distances which adjust its height.

The ballistics on a .177 varies quite a lot from the high powered .223 at 2,500 fps. I believe the .177 exits the muzzle at 900 to 1200 fps on most air guns of this caliber. I chronographed this gun and it shoots at 420fps. I'm not totally sure that it may not need servicing, which might increase the fps. It doesn't matter how many fps the gun shoots, marksmanship fundamentals remain the same. For rifle this is Position, Aim, Breathing and Trigger Squeeze. For pistols it is Stance, Grip, Aim and Trigger Squeeze.

The above clickable image is an Excel file that I wanted to share. This chart shows a silhouette size for targets 6' tall (human size) for varying distances. 25 up to 500 yards. It gives you meters for comparison sake. It shows you in yards, feet and inches how tall and wide the target silhouette must be in order to simulate a sighting view size for targets at various distances. The only value you change on this is the yards to the real target. This example is set to 20 yards. So we see that, at 20 yards, your silhouette must be 5 12/16 tall by 2 14/16 wide to simulate a human at a distance of 250 yards. In other words, in your sight view, that silhouette will appear to be the same size as a human at 250 yards.

This is good, it gives us a way to practice for longer distances even though we only have 20 yards of back yard to shoot in. Of course the ballistics are not the same for higher powered rifles at longer distances, but we still get to practice all the fundamentals which include aiming and sighting.

On the spreadsheet above, you may however set that distance to 10 yards, 20 yard, 25 yards, 30 yards, 50 yards or whatever you like and it will give you appropriate silhouette sizes. How did I come up with the formulas? Ever hear of Angular Size Calculations? Angular Size Calculator And they have a formula (Angular size in degrees = (size * 57.29) / simulated distance). This is in column C on the spreadsheet. I then have to divide that by 2 (in other columns we multiply back by 2 to get full size) to figure 1/2 the tallness of the silhouette because the next math deals with trigonometry of right triangles. The formula is (Opposite side=tangent(angle)*Adjacent Side) which is in column E. Adjacent side in this case is the simulated distance. I believe I also had to covert degrees to radians in the formula as well with a spreadsheet function radians().

I made this for simulating rifle distances(ranges). However there is no reason it could not be made to work for pistol distances as well. So that you could emulate a pistol shot at 10 yards, 15 yards, 20 yards, 25 yards, 35 yards, up to whatever, 50 yards, 100 yards. Also It could be changed from 2 yard tall target to a smaller animal sized target other than a human, such as a rabbit or hog.I did this on page 2 and page 3 in the worksheet download above. Instead of 2 yards change the formulas to use 2/3 yard or 1/3 yard. Though the height to width ratio would be inverted meaning the animal is most likely twice as wide as tall instead of twice as tall as wide. Could also work up a tab for vehicular size objects such as trucks or armor.

My first hunt with the Chinese pellet gun and cheap 4x scope. 

On my first hunt with the pellet gun, I sat down almost at the top of a hill below some bluffs near the property where my camper is at now. I waited about 20 minutes, being very still. I was mostly camouflaged, except for my blue jeans, which probably looked similar to the large rock I was sitting on anyway. My eye glasses were visible but that was about it.

In front of me I heard nothing, but caught sight of some movement. It was a grey squirrel that moved onto a rock at ground level about 30 to 40 feet from me. As I lifted and moved the gun to get a bead on him, he froze and looked my direction. I thought, "Good squirrel! hold very still while I shoot you." I put the 4 power scope on him center mass and fired. He then moved very fast while chattering very loudly to a small tree in front of him. Then up that tree. And then did a frantic leap to a larger tree that was behind him. He went around to the back side opposite of me and disappeared . With a semi-auto 22 I would have been able to get in another shot. But with this single shot pellet gun I didn't have time to reload a pellet before he got behind the big tree.

I went over to the big tree and saw a split at the base large enough for a squirrel to get into. So I guess this was his den tree. I may have hit him or maybe only close. Even if I hit him, it might not have hurt him much if any. I now think I'd had better chance of a kill if I aimed at his head instead of his body. With the pellet gun one must snipe the game.

Zeroing the new BSA scope.

I began to shoot the gun to zero with the new scope. It was shooting all over the place, something was wrong. Sometimes groups would be together and sometimes not. Adjustments to windage or elevation didn't seem to take effect or even moved the wrong direction. So I inspected the scope mount to see if it was not secure. I found it was secure but the scope rail was not. There was a rivet in the back of the scope rail that was loose. My friend Gary suggested I have someone take a mig or tig rig and tack it. So I called my brother, Mike, who has shops with those rigs. In the photos below, I show where we tacked it. The first tack weld on the rivet did not solve the problem. There was a ring the rivet was attached to that was moving around the housing. We added a tack to the ring and yet there was still a small bit of movement. Last we tacked the rail against the housing and then it was solid.

I began to zero it again and it was quite a ways off in both directions. Like 1.5 feet or so. My friend Gary said we may be able to shim the scope mount rings with cardboard. Its my fault but when we welded it we eyeballed the alignment of the scope rail with the barrel. If we can't get it zeroed then I may have to take a thin disk wheel and cut the welds and then find a better way to align it, then re-tack weld it.


Home Food Preservation

Root Cellars


 I have heard of several methods for making ground temperature storage. Depending on where you live, this ground temperature may vary from 70F degrees on the gulf of Mexico, to 58F degrees in Arkansas where I live, to 50F degrees in southern Canada. That's quite a difference.  Nonetheless using the ground for its year round constant temperature is a great thing to do.  Humidity plays some role as well.  Some sections of underground storage you may want to be more humid or other sections drier yet. Containers may affect humidity as well. For example you could remove oxygen and humidity and seal the container then store in a humid, or not, underground location. garbage-can.jpg

 A root cellar may be a simple as a barrel or trashcan that has been buried where any exposed parts, such as a lid, are well insulated. This might be buried horizontally in a mound or hill, vertically in flat area or at some angle in between on a slope. Other types of cellars might be a house basement, might be a storm cellar and may even be a bermed out building with earthen and insulated roof. One interesting potato cellar I saw while traveling in the Utah, Idaho, Washington and Oregon area was an A-Frame structure with roofs sloped at about 45 degrees and earthen cover. All of these methods use some combination of earth (thermal mass), underground and insulation to keep the inside temperature near ground temperature year round.

Another method similar in root cellar concept is to store food items in water either stream, pond or lake. If pond or lake, then deep enough to get down to the cold water layer. Could a root cellar be cooled artificially? Sure it could be cooled with a typical A/C unit. If so, insulation may be required between the inside space and the ground. Hey we could even make a highly efficient walk in freezer this way? Sure. Commercial freezers are above ground and are insulated to about R60 to R80 standards. As an example consider the typical house 2x4 walls at R11. Meaning you would need a wall about 7 times that thickness for your freezer. Or around 28 inches thick, but that's using fiberglass batt insulation. With styrofoam at 5R per inch, we would only need 16". Or with papercrete at 3R per inch, we would need 25 inches or so. The cheapest insulation here would be by far papercrete. Straw and sawdust could also be used as insulation. Though both would have to be carefully protected from moisture. I would suggest those two used as moveable insulation kept in some kind of sealed containment. As in most insulating efforts, shiny polished metallic surfaces are good for added heat reflection if possible.

By the way eggs may be pickled and raw eggs may be stored in a water and mineral oil or water and "water glass"  (sodium silicate) solutions for up to 6 months or longer in a cellar. They say if the big end is beginning to float the egg is near bad. And you may add ventilation for use in winter to achieve below ground temperatures in the root cellar to increase storage time.  Carrots and other roots may be kept as fresh as when harvested by keeping them in containers of damp sand. Leave the tops sticking up so you can pull them from the sand. Granddad always said to leave the dirt on the potatoes because if washed they would rot. Maybe the dirt functioned same as sand for carrots, aye?

Zeer pots

Zeer pots are most likely only useful in arid climates. This method uses passive evaporation cooling. Use two pots of different sizes, one that fits entirely inside the other. A layer of wet sand is placed inside the larger pot and separates the two. If the sand dries it, is to be dampened again. It appears that one may extend the shelf life span from 2 days to about 20 days or 10 times using this method.

Pickling and Fermenting

Pickling is a procedure where food is preserved chemically by alcohol, salinity, alkalinity or acidity.  Fermenting is usually an initial procedure before chemical pickling, where bacterial action works on the food item until a given alcohol content or acidity or alkalinity is reached.  This is a matter of creating an life barrier for bad bacteria which would otherwise feed on the food item. Salt and vinegar (high acid) is usually used along with other possible spices which stunt bacterial growth. Lemon juice or vinegar are usually added to make sure the pH is low enough to keep the food safe.

Acid - Alkali: pH of 7 is neutral. Below 7 is acid and above 7 is alkali. In acid pickling pH needs to be below 4.5. There is a such a thing as pickling with lime and pH here needs to be above 8 or 9. Most microbes survive at pH 3 to  near 7.

Alcohol:  I have not heard of anyone eating anything pickled with alcohol except uh alcohol(drinking). And we might call whiskey "pickled water". I have made homemade wine. I can tell you that alcohol content of 12 to 15% and kills the yeast which is used to ferment the products. Beer yeasts are killed at lower percentage ages. 20% alcohol and higher is about right for killing any microbes.  Port wine is kept in open vats and is fortified with brandy to around 20%. Therefore, port wine is indeed pickled wine. Brandy is a product that is distilled from wine so that its alcohol content is higher than that of wine, say around 40 to 50%. Whiskey and rums and vodka's are around 40 to 50% and could be used for pickling purposes. As a last note, a food item pickled with alcohol might be cooked to remove the alcohol, though I'm not sure how good it may taste.

Salt:  Salt creates an environment where there is more salt outside a bacterial cell wall than inside the cell. This kills the cell because it loses too much water. Brine water is greater than 5% salt and will kill most life. Though its tough to say just how salty a liquid or food item must be to kill all bacteria that might live in it. After all, there is life growing even in the saltiest seas. Great Salt Lake Utah Ecology(food web) As you can see by this though, the number and kind of life is greatly reduced by salinity, life is not totally eliminated. For comparison consider the ocean average salinity of 3.5% to Great Salt Lake, Utah of 5%-27% depending on the season to the Dead Sea at 33.7%

Just about anything we can think of can be pickled. Meats may be pickled and, in fact, salt and sugar curing is a form of pickling. But plant matter is fermented and not meats. Fermentation at different temperatures give different results. Vegetables and fruits both are pickled. Once pickled, a food may be left at room temperature, though I usually keep them in the frig after opening. Unlike canning, pickled items are not completely sterilized, though they may be canned and sterilized as well. I'd have a difficult time with meat that was pickled but not canned properly. Though I do eat beef jerky and it is not canned, only pickled and dried.

An interesting last note is that your leather is pickled. The act of tanning is where tannin is used to pickle skin based on high acid.

Salt and Sugar Curing


From what I understand, meat is buried all the way around in salt for salt curing, and in sugar curing salt is also used but not as heavily. This salt pack or salt sugar pack dries the meat out so that there is little moisture (a key ingredient for life) and also kills bacteria. I know little about this method, though I think the FoxFire series books talk about how old timers did this. But I do know that salt needs to be course, not fine like table salt, or the end result is very salty. The salt is for drawing away moisture. Also the black peppering was for keeping flies away. Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrites are used in curing. Sea salts and natural salts contain amounts of each. This is responsible for the pinkish color in some cured meats.


Smoking not only flavors meats, it dries them out. Smoking is antibacterial but only protects the surface of the meat. Smoking should be used in combination with other methods of preservation. Liquid smoke, while adding flavor does nothing, for preservation. Smoking and drying or dehydrating, in my opinion, might go well together.




Canning in Jars

  • Steam Canning
  • Boiled Water Bath Canning
  • Pressure Canning

USDA Canning Guide PDF

The food industry cans in "cans", bags, bottles and jars. But we at home can in glass jars mostly (I talk about retort bags below). Equipment for this is a large pot with a sealing lid called a canner. Note that some pressure pots you may see are only pressure cookers and not canners. A canner, such as a "Presto", will come with a pressure gauge. In general 5, 10 and 15 PSI are pressures needed. 20 is too high and will cause pressure to be released via a safety valve or else the pot might explode. The higher the pressure, the higher the temperature that can be achieved when canning. PSI means pounds of pressure per square inch above atmospheric pressure. So 15 PSI is really 30 PSI roughly, or double atmospheric pressure. The food boils in the jars within the canner at temperature above 212 degrees. At 15 PSI, it will boil at 240 degrees or higher and kill all life period, not question about it. Meats are canned at 15 PSI (though I hear altitude alters this pressure) If meats are canned at lower pressures, then lower temperatures will kill bacteria but not spores, which are like bacteria seeds. Later, if the meat is opened, these seeds can cause the bacteria to grow quickly again and become very deadly fast. Lids for jars are made such that they sink in after cooled to show that a slight vacuum seal has been made and the food is indeed sealed and protected. If you set hot jars out, as they begin to cool, you would hear popping sounds as the lids sink in. As the contents cool, they also shrink and reduce in volume slightly causing a slight vacuum. Canned items can literally be good for decades if kept in cool dark locations. Though, as they age, they do lose nutritional value.  I would like to suggest the canning dates on store bought cans are set for this maximum nutritional drop off, not for spoilage. Though eat out dated canned items at your own risk, not because I told you it was OK.

Note on canning of fish or anything with small sharp bones. Pressure canning will soften bones and scales, for that matter, to the point where they may be safely chewed or eaten. Personally I wouldn't want to can the scales; however, I have seen sardines canned with scales on them. One thing a person might do is first pressure cook the fish and then remove larger bones and scales. Can the remainder (mostly meat). I have read that one may cook up sausage patties the size of a jar, then fill the jar with patties, finally fill the jar with melted lard which will solidify over the sausage. The lard actually protects the contents and, if you throw on a lid, it will vacuum seal as it cools. However, it would be safest to go ahead and cook the sausage in a canner.  Other things to know is that wax poured on top is sometimes used to seal in some items, such as jams and jellies. This is possibly as a secondary precaution in the case a jar seal is not made tight.  Finally, not all canned items have to be pressure canned. There is also hot water bath canning. And there is simply pouring something boiling hot (212F) into a jar and throwing a lid on it. This is how my uncle cans his dill pickles.

Steam canning and boiled water bath canning are virtually the same. Though I hear steam canning is not as safe. Why someone would want to steam can versus boiled water bath, I don't know. But you may find steam canners on the market. These are pans about 3 inches deep with a grate where the jars may be set above the water and steam may flow upward around the jars. A large lid the height of the jars sits on top. There is no seal and steam must leak around the lid as far as I can tell.

Vacuum packing in Mylar and Canning Jars.

I feel that vacuum packing in Mylar is expensive. Mylar is a special kind of plastic that does not breath, as other plastics do. It's a bit tougher and not cheap. Mylar bags might be reused, however, if washed and trimmed.  Though each re-use will reduce the volume of the packaging. Great advantage to vacuum packing this way is that you conserve space in storage.
I suppose "Food Saver" is a well known brand of home vacuum packing machines. Food Saver also sells an attachment so that a person may vacuum pack in a regular canning jar. I think this is a super idea. Jars may be reused with ease. And it's a good thing to do with dry goods and items you want to put under refrigeration for shorter term storage. Vacuum packing anything wet will help it to last longer simply by removing the oxygen. If it were something dry, I think I'd also add a small bag of something that absorbs moisture or robs oxygen in the jar.


Retort Vacuum Packing and Canning

List of chamber sealers for sale. Note these chamber sealers are not cheap at $600 to $2,000. List of Retort pouches from the same site. Note these bags cost around $250 for $1,000, depending on the volume. 1332543998328806535407.jpeg
A retort bag is a bag that was invented to contain food for the space program and for the military. Retort bags are now in use in your local grocery store. I have seen spam, tuna, salmon, sardines, etc. canned in retort bags. Retort bags are a little more expensive than cans or bottles. Basically a special plastic is bonded to a given thickness of aluminum foil. This makes a tough bag that is puncture and tear resistant and keeps out light. You may buy a special machine for vacuum packing and sealing a retort bag. Then the canning process is identical to pressure canning in jars or cans. Food preserved in retort bags may be stored for decades. Though, again, may lose nutritional value over time. Retort bags may be washed and reused. Though, like the reused Mylar bags, they become smaller in volume on each successive reuse. I think you may even reuse the bags from store bought retort bagged items.


Keeping food items as far below ground temperature as you can and yet just above freezing will preserve them for weeks; otherwise, they would last for only hours to days at atmospheric or room temperatures down to ground temperatures. Air and light here play the most important roles. Air is most important. Depriving any refrigerated item of oxygen is key. Sealed containers help with this greatly by reducing air flow and spread of microbes from one item to another, though vacuum packing would be better yet. Drier items last longer than wetter items. Pickled items last longer than unpreserved items.


Freezing will preserve most anything, but not indefinitely. Freezing only slows down bacterial growth. Freezing does not kill bacteria. Colder is better in freezing. Quick freezing and quick deep freezing is better than slow freezing. If frozen very quickly, ice crystals will not form. This is what you may have seen in the grocery store as IQF or Individually Quick Frozen products. I used to work at a Tyson's chicken processing plant. The meat industry first began using freezers that were made for quick freezing vegetables and fruits. These freezers have conveyers that circle through the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes at -60F.  The only thing I've seen wrong with IQF products is that it seemed to me that they were frost bitten quickly at home in the freezer. I think frost bite in food is something like a freeze drying effect on its surface. This toughens and disturbs the flavor of the food item, as well as the cooking properties. Meat packaged in butchers wax paper seems to do well and not become freezer burnt quickly.

Blanching is a technique where you partially boil an item for a few seconds, then freeze. I think this works by coating the outside of the food item with a consistent layer of ice. Meaning no part of the food item is exposed directly to air. If food items are frozen in water then they are completely sealed off from air, which prevents freezer burn and freezer taste from getting into the food item. Fish is normally frozen in water. Frozen items may last for a year or more.

Drying or Dehydration


Food dehydrators are commonly sold but are easy to make. Even an aluminum foil lined box with hot light bulbs can work. I'm sure you may see videos on YouTube for homemade food dehydrators. Beef jerky, pemmican and biltong are all basically the same things;  dried meats. They differ in cuts and spices and processing procedures. Beef jerky is well known here in the U.S.A and I have commonly seen deer (venison) jerky made by individuals. In stores, beef is the main meat used; however, you might find chicken, turkey and pork as well. Even some smoked dried fish, such as salmon. I would suggest that dried meats are also somewhat pickled but not usually fermented. However, there is this notion of aged beef and venison. Aging is, in essence, slow fermentation of meat at very controlled cold temps and given moisture presence. Meats are usually dried from the raw state. However, diced meats might be dried from a cooked state for addition into soup mixes.

Beef jerky usually is somewhat sweet, whereas biltong (African jerky) is not. Pemmican is basically what was a nutrition bar for mountain men in the USA during the western migration period. Pemmican is pureed fruit, finely minced meat (possibly dried and ground into almost a powdery state) and solid animal fat, such as lard (not liquid oils), combined and cooked into a bar form. You may find recipes with a quick web search for jerky, biltong or pemmican.

Vegetables and fruits are commonly dried in ovens, dehydrators and even by sun drying. Sun drying would be more effective in cold and dry climates. Dried veggies make great soup mix material. Dried fruits mixed with nuts make energetic snacks.

Once dried, food items again must be protected from the usual heat, air, light, water to be long lasting. I wouldn't hesitate to vacuum pack and/or refrigerate or freeze dry items to even further increase their lifespan. Remember refrigeration can be as simple as storing in a root cellar. During the drying process anything that you may do to remove humidity will help as well. Refrigeration and freezing usually remove humidity. A room dehumidifier might be a good idea as well. For example, you put the room dehumidifier and the dehydrator in an enclosed space together. If you are under central heat and air or any a/c, then dehumidification is part of that cooling process as well.

O2 Absorbers and Desiccants

Rock salt and even powdered milk (I've heard, in coffee filters tied up) can be used as a moisture absorber (desiccant). Both after use might have the moisture removed by cooking in oven. Rice and crackers have been used to absorb moisture from salt shakers. They might work for stored food items as well, again wrapped up in a coffee filter. Desiccants should go on bottom, and O2 absorbers on top. O2 absorbers can create a slight vacuum, I hear, on the container. O2 absorbers are usually made from iron powder and small amounts of water. The type of container and sealing are very important in O2 absorption, as any leak will ruin the process and effect.  O2 absorption is preferred in some cases to vacuum packing because it does not crush or compress the food product.

Freeze Drying

It appears that to freeze dry on the commercial scale one might need to buy a large freeze drier which will cost $4,000 plus and require 3 phase electrical connection and probably 240 volts.  This might be doable for a group of families, but is most likely not practical for common home freeze drying for most people. This is a 2 step process. First the product must be quickly frozen to somewhere between -60 and -120. This prevents ice crystals from forming. Next a vacuum is drawn and the product is slowly warmed back up. As it is warmed, moisture under a vacuum will vaporize from frozen to gas immediately skipping the liquid state. This is what happens to liquid water in space, instead of forming a ball it quickly vaporizes or boils away. One note about freeze drying is that the product is not deformed or compressed or crushed because the vacuum is put on it in a frozen state.
I have heard of a less expensive method of freeze drying which will work for certain foods or foods prepared a given way. I picked this up from the off-grid.net forum.  In this method you use a typical deep freeze to freeze items in canning jars. Next you take them out of the freezer and screw on canning lids which have an L shaped fitting to a 1/4" vacuum hose. This line goes to a group of connections where other jars are connected into. A 6 millibar vacuum is kept on all the jars until complete. A vacuum can be purchased for $350 on Ebay which will do the job such as, "Robinair 15600 6 CFM 2 Stage Vacuum Pump"  This is a 2 stage, 120v, 1/2 horse vacuum weighting 27lbs. Once put on vacuum the food item is simply left to warm back up to room temps. When it  is warm it is usually  done. Some foods (those that are very wet) may require a second treatment.

One way to go might be in using a Savant Vapor Trap which cools down to -50c or even -105c These cost between $600 and $2,500 at the time of this writing. They have 120 and 240v models. Different models probably have different volumes which they handle.



Light, moisture, temperature, and oxygen are key components in food preservation. If something is kept in a clear or translucent container, it must be kept in dark or near dark storage. When it comes to temperature, colder is usually better, but freezing some things can cause problems in taste or break containers. Remember when liquids freeze they expand. Expanding ice can crack steel even.

Keep it dry
Keep it cool
Keep it air tight
Keep it dark
Keep it protected
Keep it absent of oxygen via vacuum or by removing or replacing oxygen

Final note of caution.

Some preservation methods and chemicals can render food toxic if too much is eaten over time. Such as salt and high blood pressure, as well as other illnesses that need low salt diets. It would be wise to research illnesses related to preservatives.

Below are some interesting links I added in comments after the article was released.

Digital temp and humidity gauges for $25.

Canning in cans, including #10 cans. I think this vacuum packs as well in the cans.


An interesting read about preserving eggs, cool (50) degrees without refrigeration for up to 8 months or longer.
Here is a forum post from a guy that is doing freeze drying and canning in metal cans. This is an awesome read,
though he is using an approximately $15,000 freeze dryer

Nice looking freeze drying equipment that a guy in the forum post above bought and used.

A hand pump for putting a vacuum on jars and bags.

I saw a post about a homemade vacuum sealer. A PVC pipe large enough to fit a jar with end caps formed the chamber. An automotive a/c compressor and 1/3 horse power electric motor was the vacuum pump. It is supposed to seal food in jars. After a vacuum is pulled, simply opening up the chamber seals the jar.


A nice vacuum canner

Build your own battery powered refrigerator.



Thermodynamics is the study of heat and how heat and cold work. In this post I will try to relate some things I know to the homestead or BOL. This will be another food for thought article. I think Jack on the Survival Podcast has it right when he says, “Going green is not only for hippies or environmentalist.” It’s good for preppers, survivalist, farmers, business, and other folks. It’s merely making more efficient use of available energy and heat/cold transfers in particular because heating/cooling requires more energy in general than anything else.

First let’s review some general history and facts about heat energy. The first thermometers around 1600 used distilled alcohol as the liquid for showing changes in temperature. Galileo made and used one of these. These early thermometers were not very accurate. Later in the mid 1700’s, after failed attempts to use mercury, they finally made good mercury thermometers. Some of the first early spirit thermometers were graduated with 360 marks similar to a compass or circle, thus degrees. Different people tried using different scales. The first well used and known thermometer actually used the freezing point of water on the low end and body temperature on the high end to delineate the graduation and markings. And for some strange reason he chose 32 degrees for water’s freezing point and 98 degrees for body temperature. This gave 212 for boiling point of water at sea level. Yes it’s the one many of us use today, the Fahrenheit scale.

antartica1.jpgShortly after Fahrenheit made his thermometer, another guy came up with a different scale that seemed to make more sense for measuring cold. Fahrenheit’s was designed more for measuring heat above normal temps. This new scale used freezing point of water as 100 and boiling point of water as 0. Yes you heard that right, another guy came along and inverted it so that freezing was 0 and boiling was 100. This is the Centigrade or Celsius scale. Celsius was the actual name of the inventor. During the same period of time, one man was working on a theoretical absolute zero temperature or complete absence of all heat. They figured there might be an absolute zero because of their test on gasses and liquids with pressure, volume and temperature changes. Based on those tests, they came up with calculations that determined this absolute zero point and then the Kelvin Scale of measuring temperature designed by William Thompson (Baron Kelvin) in the late 1800’s.

The coldest temperature on earth was recently noted at the south pole, -94(Celsius)C, -137(Fahrenheit)F or 179(Kelvin)K.deathvalley1.jpg To give you a frame of reference, normal northern cold temps are -51C, -60F is 222K. -60F is also the temps at which they quick freeze fruits, meats and vegetables for better preservation and for freeze drying. -17C, 0F or 255K. Freezing point of water is 0C, 32F or 273K. Mean ground temperature in my area at 35(angle of latitude)degrees to the north is 14C, 58F or 287K. Comfortable room temperature is 23C, 75F or 297K. Body temperature is 36C, 98F or 309K.

Death Valley, California, is the hottest location on earth 56C, 134F or 329K. High composting temps are 72C, 160F or 344K. Boiling point of water at sea level is 100C, 212F or 373K. Canning meat temps are 115C, 240F or 388K. Baking bread oven temps of 121C, 350F or 394K. Melting point of lead 327C, 621F or 600K. Melting point of iron 1538C, 2800F or 1810 Kelvin.


The surface temperature of Pluto -240C, -400F or 33K. You can get no colder than 2.7 Kelvin in space somewhere. Of course we know the sun can be millions of degrees in temperature.

mercuryplanet1.jpgBut a better reference of hottest is the 426C, 800F or 699K sunny side of the planet Mercury, the closest planet to the sun; though, there are hotter temperatures on earth, such as the temps of lava coming from a volcano and the temperatures of lightning. Also fire is well known and it is quite hot. The point is that we realize how heat is produced, collects and moves from place to place by studying the measurable temperature of things.

When there is a temperature change then heat is transferred. For measuring heat energy transfer there are 3 scales, Joule, BTU(British Thermal Unit) and Calorie. The BTU and Calorie are fairly simple. BTU is the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water one degree F. Calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise one gram of water 1 degree C. You might think the Joule has something to do with raising some material one degree K, but no. It’s the force of applying one newton for a distance of one meter. Or passing one amp through a resistance of one Ohm for one second, or passing electric charge of one coulomb through an electrical potential difference of one volt, or one ‘”coulomb volt” (C·V) Or one watt of power for one second, or one “watt second” (W·s). “Isn’t that special.” I think for the rest of this article we will stick with mostly Fahrenheit scale and BTUs.

In the mid 1800’s, a temperature of -110C or -166F was reached using dry ice, frozen CO2. Refrigeration was invented in the early 1800’s and was used some in the later part of the century during the US Civil War in the south. That machine used ammonia (nitrogen and hydrogen) with water as the refrigerant. They cooled a few special hospital rooms but cooling rooms, buildings and spaces would come a bit later around 1902 and the inventors name was Carrier.

Now on the homestead we are mostly concerned with cooling or heating the family. Animals tend to get more heat than cooling. Plants need heat at times. We need to cool food in the preservation of food. Heat transfers via three different modes. First heat will radiate from a source to any surface or material that would absorb some of it. Second is convection where moving liquids or air transfers the heat from one place to another. Lastly heat conducts through solid or near solid objects from one atom to another and one molecule to another. These are very important principles to understand not only in making a space more comfortable but in preserving and cooking of food as well.

Can we stop the transfer of heat from an area of higher temperature to an area of lower temperature? Nope, we can only slow it down. This is what insulation does. Insulation might reflect some heat, will stop most or all convection and slows conduction. In the vacuum of space heat only travels via radiation. If it hits an object, say an asteroid, space station or astronaut the object will absorb the heat and then conduct the heat to its parts. It will radiate the heat back into space from its exterior. Vacuum then is considered to be about as perfect an insulator as we can get on earth. The only real application of this at home is the thermos bottle.

Heat can be reflected in the same way that light can be reflected. Shade is the blocking of solar radiation so that it is converted spaceblanket1.jpgto conduction at the surface that blocks it. If that surface is a shiny metallic color it will reflect it instead of absorbing it. Silver and gold colors are very good. White, especially shiny white, will also reflect a great deal but not as much as silver. Shiny polished surfaces in general reflects more heat. Other colors we know absorbs more heat. Darker colors up to black are best. Dull surfaces absorb more heat. Reflecting heat is better than shading or insulating because it prevents most conduction. Wrapping something in shiny silver is the same effect as shading it from the radiation. Of course if the material is dense or solid enough it can block convection winds so that there is no convection. Windchill and wind breaking jackets come to mind.

Glass can reflect and absorb some radiant heat, whereas plastic sheeting or glass won’t have the same effect. Obviously heat radiates trough the glass though. If you have ever seen the effects of sun shining on objects through a window in a room you would know this to be true. The sun heat in space just above the earth’s atmosphere can radiate a surface with 450 BTU per square foot per hour. Our atmosphere will block, absorb and reflect some of that heat radiation. On the surface of the earth we are looking at more like 350 BTU per square foot per hour in hot summer conditions at noon hours. In winter, this can be much less. In early morning and evening this can be less.


Thermal mass is another important factor and is as important as insulation. Most people understand insulation fairly well but are woefully ignorant of thermal mass. All materials, except a vacuum, have thermal mass properties. Insulation, for example, has some thermal mass. Some materials are better used for thermal mass than others, however. Thermal mass is to heat what the battery is for electricity or the water tower is for water pressure. It stores heat and then radiates the heat back out. Just as you watch for materials you might use as insulation, you also search for materials that make good thermal mass. When using liquids as thermal mass convection, conduction and radiation are at play. When using a solid, only conduction and radiation are important. Although convection on the surface of the thermal mass change the speed in which it transfers heat.

Specific Gravity Table for General Materials

The above link shows densities of common materials. Density is measured in grams per cubic meter. More dense materials make better thermal mass. A formula could be worked out comparing density of water to density of any material to estimate how many BTU’s a pound of it would gain if heated 1 degree F. But I have been told that won’t work, it doesn’t work that way. Instead one must use specific heat. This is in cal/gram at 0C. And that is based on liquid water, not frozen water.

Specific Heat Capacity of General Materials                            Calorie/Gram0C converted to BTU/LB32F calculator

Using the data and calculator above we can convert calories/gram0c to btu’s/lb32F. Note the calculator has BTU(IT) and BUT(th). Use IT but there appears to be little difference. Then all that is needed is to use the formula Q=cm(delta)T. That is BTUs=(Specific Heat)*Lbs*1F. I’m sorry that I didn’t have time to work out some tables for this post. But this gives you enough clues to find out how many BTU’s are added when you raise the temperature of a given pound of material 1 degree F.

A gas is not used as thermal mass. Gasses however are used for insulation purposes. An example would be double, triple or more layers of glass or plastic with Krypton or Nitrogen in between the layers. Any dead air space insulates because it stops convection. Heavy and dense materials are better thermal mass. Lighter materials usually are better for insulation.

For convective transfer of heat we have two kinds. One is passive. This relies on the natural convection of air or water. In an enclosed space passive relies on the natural convection cause from the heating of air or liquid. Hot air rises and so does hot water. Cold air falls and so does cold water. Yes temperature changes the weight of molecules. As these molecules flow around one another trying to move up or down they are mixing and transferring heat via conduction as well. A person can artificially move liquids or gasses. This is an active system. You can use power; be it animal, mechanical or electrical, to speed up convection and therefore speeds up the transfer of heat or cold.

Let’s look at a couple of examples such as air. A cubic foot of air raised 1 degree F is .02 BTUs. If you want more accuracy use .018. A 10’x10’x10′ cube of air is 1,000 cubic feet. This means if you raise that area by 1 degree F you gained or added 18 BTU. If you lower that area by the same you lose 18 BTU. Let’s now apply this to water used as thermal mass. Recall that 1 BTU is one pound of water raised 1 degree F. 1 gallon of water weighs 8.3 lbs. If we raise that one gallon of water 1 degree F we gain 8.3 BTU’s. Same in loss if that water cools by one degree F. Note that if it cools by one degree F, then your room gained 8.3 BTU’s from that gallon of water. A 55 gallon drum, therefore, raised 1 degree F gained 456 BTUs. A 5,000 BTU air conditioner will remove 5,000 BTU per hour from a room. You may have heard of out side A/C heat pumps rated in tons. 1 ton is 12,000 BTU per hour. A shop floor heater might add 100,000 BTU per hour to a space. Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson) in the 1800’s did extensive research in Europe with varieties of wood species. He determined BTU’s given by burning so many pounds of wood. It is possible to calculate how much a space can be heated by using a wood stove by burning a given amount of wood.

Anyhow, in trying to manage this, we are simply wanting to move heat around at faster or slower rates. We are blocking and redirecting heat. We are also storing heat and then drawing it back out at given rates. We technically can not store cold, but if we remove heat from a thermal mass it has that effect. After all that’s how ice works. These same concepts apply for our bodies, a space be it living space or food storage space. Do you know why a freezer is more efficient when it’s full? It’s because of the thermal mass of the food that is in it. This is also why your food will last longer when the power goes out if the frig/freezer is more full. The food itself is a battery for cold.

I’m highly considering doing more articles on this topic as a series. One for insulation. One for thermal mass. One for thermal barrier. I will talk about materials, techniques and ideas. I also have not talked in this article about humidity and evaporation cooling. I also didn’t talk about how 32 degree 1 pound of water to 32 degree ice is a 144 BTU change. I didn’t talk about how 212 liquid water to 212 steam is a 970 BTU change. I didn’t talk about in general heat energy is conserved meaning if heat is gained in one place it is lost somewhere else. But heat is a form of energy and forms of energy can change from one form to another. This is where we get into thermoelectric. That is electrically produced heat or cold actually. Indeed there is a lot to think about in thermodynamics. But this is where we need to start in order to reduce our cost or need for energy.

And what is the red liquid in modern thermometers used to replace the toxic mercury? It is colored alcohol. Usually it is red but sometimes blue, green or black. Mercury, however, is still more accurate and is used in medicine or science applications. Mercury thermometers are always silver.


The post “Thermodynamics for the Homestead” appeared first on Brink of Freedom.



Inkscape Map Drawing
Libre Office Calc Map Data Spreadsheet

The above two files are a zip file containing an InkScape drawing of the first survey with some preliminary sketches of the garden spot and the Libre Office spreadsheet data of the first survey. This first image below is of the line plot and sketch. This is the actual field sketch. It’s on graph paper like you might find in the Walmart office supply. I would have to go to a real office supply to get the kind I wanted that had two sizes of grid on the same sheet. 5×5 inner squares inside a thicker outer square, same as what you have seen in prior articles in some of the images.


















                     Here we see a line plot drawn in one layer of the InkScape drawing.                                                Next I circle in red some problem points. A6.1 and E should

                                                                                                                                                                                       be the same station or location.          

Below A7 should connect to A2 but you see there is 3 to 4 feet between them. Not good.lineplot4.pnglineplot3.png











A5 should have been on top of the end of the compost pile,

but did not end up that way on the sketch.

Below i show you on the sketch what was wrong by circling the points with great error. You might also note that where I drew the fence was in error as well.


Here is the full drawing. I think the road might be a bit wide. This image has the sketch underlay that I had scanned in.

I traced over the sketch in different layers above it.


                    This one would be what an actual map                           

       This one is without the sketch but includes the line plot.                                                                      would look like. It is without the line plot.                          

                       gardenmap2.png                                                                             gardenmap3.png                   
gardengarden.png        gardenmapmanurecompost.png                           gardenmappathsroad.png

This one is the garden details. It shows pump,                       This layer shows manure and compost.                                           This one shows road and trails.

watering tank, a couple of zai square foot rows

and a box. It also shows the placement of a

white table I have in the garden. And the chair

and bucket sitting where I normally fish.                        

                                        gardenmappond.png                                                       gardenmaptrees.png

                                                      Here is the pond layer.                                                    This is the trees, growth and brush layer. The dark green are cedar trees.                                                                                                There is also a persimmon tree and a couple of hardwood trees there.             

                                         gardenslopes.png                                                      gardenfence.png

    This is the drops and slopes layer.                                                                                 This is the fence layer.   

                                           This reflects changes in terrain elevation.  

I had used a cheap $15 lensatic compass for this survey. One of the first things I noticed about this compass was that the compass dial was not floating too smoothly. Nothing like the more expensive military compass. It actually floated more like the tiny compass on the end of the knife or walking stick. I also noticed a lot of trouble with glare when trying to read it. Honestly this compass might have been good for a survival situation where you are trying to find your way through the woodlands but for surveying it was terrible.

You will notice some 8 degree errors and 13 degree errors in the survey data. This probably contributed to the closure problems. I surveyed some lines out to each corner of the garden fence. These stations were 3.1, 4.1,  6.1 and 7.1. I drew dashed lines between the supposed corner post locations. This should represent where the fence would be. On the road side and the pond side the fence is at irregular angles. But on the west side and the south side the fence is square with NS and EW. This seems logical and correct.

I did tape measure all the lines and they should all be good except for one or two where I didn’t have a stable attachment point for the dumb end of the tape. So this may have contributed to the closure errors.

I began to draw the cedar tree artistically with many lines and then decided that it looked cool but was taking a lot of time. Instead, I put them as filled loops. The waves in the pond also take a lot of time but I just like the way it looks. What would really be nice is to be able to outline an area and then draw inside it as though it were a bit map. The fill would be your drawing. If you altered the shape by stretching it, your drawing would also stretch to match. This would make a much more artistic looking map.

To survey this properly I need a better compass and clinometer similar to the Sunnto brand. A better lensatic compass would help as well. For a clinometer I have a phone app clinometer. The problem with this is that you must use a mirror to read it and aim it at the same time. The mirror image is, of course, reversed. It would be nice if they would add a mirror image feature so that you could reverse it in the software and then when you looked into the mirror it would read normal. I did not take any clinometer readings. These lines were very flat.

I could redo some lines of this survey and then re-draw the line plot and see if that helps. I could also re-tape a couple of lines and do the same to see if that would help. If you get the connecting lines close enough you can just move them to match and then stretch or reshape  the sketch to fit. But what I will probably do is resurvey the whole thing with a better compass and clinometer. For this to be used as a solar map I need it to be accurate to the nearest square foot almost.


The post "Introduction To Cartography – Mapping the Garden Spot" appeared first on Brink of Freedom.


In the last two post I talked about the Hunt up to dragging the deer home. I talked about gutting, skinning and quartering the deer. In this one I will talk about deboning, processing and slicing the deer. We started by soaking the deer in refrigerated temperature salt water for 24 hours. We changed this water 3 times using a full container of Morton table salt each time. This was to get as much blood out of the meat as possible. The meat doesn't actually absorb much salt.

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Again we had perfect butchering temperature of around 45 degrees and dropping to 35 degrees before midnight. The first thing to do was to setup the butcher block. We grabbed an empty metal 50 gallon drum, wiped the bottom clean and draped a clean towel over it. The block went on this and it was the perfect height for me. We prepared the knives, mainly different kitchen knives. We also had the skinning knife and if I'd thought about it the Tanto Knife, too. As it turns out, the skinning knife worked out well with some of the butchering.

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The first thing I worked on was the back legs or hams. The first thing to do is to use the skinning knife to remove this slimy fat and membranes. This seems a bit tedious. On wild game there is this liquid gel looking fat. I've been told this comes from eating acorns. After it's cleaned of this, I sliced on the inside down the bone and to each joint. I found the knee joint and cut it apart. I trimmed around the joints and bone removing huge chunks of muscle as I went. Aside from huge chunks, there will be bits and pieces, scraps and scrapings from the bone. These become stew meat. The bones are saved also for simmering to a broth. The pieces that will become stew meat I cut into small bite size pieces. I pretty much always cut across the grain. The only time I might cut with the grain is to make a piece that I turn around and then chop across the grain again into stew meat.

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I bagged these in two 1 gallon zip lock bags and labeled them "Ham, Butt, Rump" with a Sharpie. I put the stew meat in a 5 gallon stainless steel stew pot as I went. I next worked on the front legs. I began cleaning them. These have 2 joints to cut through. The two lower sections will all become stew meat as they are tough meat to chew. The upper portion has a shoulder blade that, if cut across, makes T-Bone steaks. I filleted this instead. Again I made stew meat. Anything that could not be identified as roast, steak or other became stew meat. Anything I messed up while cutting became stew meat. Bones were saved for broth. I bagged this from near the shoulder blade and labeled it "front shoulder meat."

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Next I took the rump end of the back bone and began cleaning it. The first thing to do was to cut off the tenderloin. You begin near the top of the back bone on either side and fillet along the bones. Roll this meat as you fillet. It makes a nice roll as it comes off. You will get one from each side. I then trimmed meat from around the rump area and pelvis area. Much of this became stew meat. I sawed off the pelvis with the Wyoming Saw. I then threw all the pelvis bone away. Underneath the back bones and ribs is a large piece of tender meat as well. I cut those out and laid them to the side.

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I took the tenderloin which has a rather thick membrane on one side and laid it on that membrane. As Gary instructed me I made butterfly steaks. You cut 3/4" from the edge inward a cross sectional cut down to the membrane but not through it. Then you cut again 3/4 cross cut down and completely through the membrane. The membrane holds the two pieces of the butterfly steak together when you fold it. Once I got both ends of the back done we had 23 butterfly steaks from the tenderloin. I fried some up and oh man the best deer I had ever eaten. It was not tough at all and every bit as good as any good beef steak that you have ever had.

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I scraped up scraps and bits and made more stew meat and threw it in the stew pot. We were getting quite a pile of stew meat by this time. Next I worked on the belly meat and the ribs. I cleaned and cut up the belly meat first and placed that on the tray. Gary says he usually cuts that up into stew meat as well but I left it in whole pieces. I then began cleaning ribs and cutting them in half with the Wyoming saw. I cut and threw away any bruised or bloody meat around the wound area.

I was having a lot of trouble holding the meat while sawing. I found myself lifting the saw pushing it forward and then dragging it back to saw. This worked but it would always hang and smash and push the meat when going forward with it. I then looked at the blade and noted the saw teeth were pointing forward. I thought I might reverse the blade and see what effect it had. Amazingly it worked perfectly as expected after I reversed it so that the teeth were pointing towards me. I could saw easily in both directions and when the teeth would bite in, it was against my pushing the meat and bone which worked as you would expect.

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The loppers would have worked well here too and even some garden shears for cutting the ribs. I next used the bone saw to cut the neck into 3 neck roasts of a few pounds each. I put the neck roast in bags labeled "neck roast." I put the tenderloin steaks in 4 bags labeled "tenderloin butterfly steaks." I put the belly meat in a bag labelled "belly meat." I put the ribs in 4 bags labeled "ribs." I put the meat that came from under the back bone and ribs in a bag labeled "underneath meat" for lack of better naming. Then I put the rest of the stew meat scraps from that in the pot, I next bagged up 3 handfuls of stew meat into a bag which made 4 bags of stew meat.slicer1

Other cuts that could have been made are pork chop like cuts and leg chop cuts. To make pork chop cuts a jig saw or sawzall could have been used to split the back bone right down the middle. Then again to cut the bone across the spine. These cross sectional cuts on each side would be like pork chops. The tenderloin in this case is part of the chops instead of making butterfly steaks. If you cut across the ham leg bone or below the shoulder up from then you get leg chops with the round bone in the center of each one. Also we should have chilled this deer with some ice an hour or so before I began processing it. It needs to be brought up near the freezing point to stiffen the meat up good. I would think this would especially be necessary when making these cross sectional chops.

The next morning I got the $70 slicer out that I had just bought from Lowe's Hardware store. I set it up on the freezer and pulled out the ham/butt meat. For jerky meat you want to select the leanest cuts. I took the largest pieces of this and sliced it as thinly as i could across the grain for jerky meat. I ended up with two 3 lb bags of jerky meat. This will make 1.5 lbs for each bag when dried. The slicer would make a ratcheting noise if you pushed it too hard, or if the meat, skin, sinew or membranes caused it to bind. It also turned a lot slower than the slicers we used in the restaurant business, however it did the job fine. The rest I put back in the bags they came out of and put everything back in the freezer.

Before I did all that, I pulled everything out and weighed it on the scales. This is the scales like you might get from Walmart for weighing yourself on. I weighed in at 220 lbs. I picked up the cooler of meat with bone and it weight 305 lbs. I took the bone out and it weight 13 lbs less. The only bone left in it was the ribs and neck bones. This was 72 lbs but wait, I weighed the cooler and it was 20 lbs. So I'm going to say we deboned and dressed this out to 55 lbs of meat. I had taken a few pounds over to my camper before I did the weighing. We estimate by this that the deer must have weighed in at 110 to 120 lbs. This makes it a pretty good sized doe. This 50 lbs of meat or so filled a 5 cubic foot freezer about 1/4 full. We can assume we could kill about 5 deer for the season if we eat some as we go.

I will have to kill a few more to get more than my money back on all the hunting stuff I bought. But this one doe I would say, if compared to beef prices, would be worth $250 in the freezer. Now ask me if I think the processor fee of $60 to $80 is worth it? If you have the money it most surely is. I had almost decided to take it to a processor nearby but I wanted the experience of cleaning it myself and I wanted to spend that money on the 5 cubic foot freezer instead. All in all it wasn't that bad and I'll probably do it myself a few more times before I take one to a processor. It took me 5 hours to process the meat after soaking and another 30 minutes the next morning slicing the jerky meat. Again, next time I expect it to go twice as fast. If you had someone helping, the time could be cut in half yet again. For example two people skinning, quartering, processing, slicing, maybe 2 to 2.5 hours max.

One last note about the Rossi Tuffy 410. I did not practice a lick with it. When I went to shoot the deer I simply pointed, aimed down the barrel and shot. I'd say that says something about the gun as a survival pack gun. I mean think about it? Shouldn't that little 410 be as good as a Indian bow, long bow, cross bow, compound bow, recurve bow? It should be as good as many pistols used for deer hunting right? But we will see as I use it more. Call it what you want, "kids gun", "toy gun." I call it a very light weight survival tool.



In the previous post I talked about the hunt up to the point where I had drug the deer to the porch of my friend's house. I will talk about the gutting, skinning and quartering in this post. This was a perfect day for cleaning a deer at 25 to 30 degrees. Next we had to drag it away from the house to a tree in which to hang it in. The tree they had traditionally used had lost its limb. So we had to look at other trees. The first one we tried had small limbs that sagged and bent too much. We then decided to gut it on the ground as we would if field dressing it.

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The first thing to do is to cut off these furry patches on the lower back legs that have glands in them. If you don't, the meat will begin to stink, so I hear. I forgot to take pictures of those furry patches on the legs. I also took no pictures of this gutting process because I had blood all over my hands. I'm sure some will appreciate that I spared them those photos. I will describe what we did. The one interesting thing to note here is that I wanted to use my Tanto blade survival leg knife. I had sharpened it recently. It was working but I decided it was not the best knife to use for gutting or skinning. I think for field dressing it would be good to carry a good lock back buck knife. Later we used it for quartering and it worked quite well for that. I accidentally cut a gut with it so we switched knives.

I finished up the gutting with a skinning knife that Steve Rogers had made for Gary Tuck from a planer blade. He also had put an elk horn handle on it. You will see it in photos later on in the butchering article. I began at the neck and cut towards the center of the breast bones until I hit the breast bone. I cut the esophagus. Next I tried to cut the breast bone with my Tanto knife. This didn't work. Gary started to go get his Wyoming Bone saw then said, "I have something better than that!" He brought the limb loppers and we easily cut the breast bone down the middle.15 - dqCajVw

I then began cutting the skin down the stomach to the udder and to the vulva and anus. I cut around the anus best I could, and didn't tie it off like a book told me to do because I forgot; though I don't think, in this case, it ended up being a problem. If it's a buck, you can remove the testicles but leave the scrotum sack for the game and fish for identification. I went back to the chest cavity and began to cut the diaphragm and pull out the esophagus, lungs, heart and then guts. Everything came out pretty easy except at the anus end where I had to work a bit more. Next we leaned it on its side to drain the blood downgrade.

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Since that tree didn't work for hanging we went looking for another one a bit farther from the house and found a dandy. It had some undergrowth that I had to clear first with my machete. I had to clear some small cedars seedlings and some saw briers. I cut off one lower limb of about 1" in diameter out of the way, but left about a foot of it sticking out to tie our rope to. I cut off another small branch that was in the way using the saw on the back of the machete. This time I went to my van and found a poly rope. A poly rope is slicker and I felt it might help us to pull the deer up to the limb better.

Gary told me to tie off to the deer head and neck with a single noose made of a single slip knot. We both worked together to hoist the deer up to the limb and Gary tied it off to the stub we left sticking out. Gutting and hanging took 30 minutes and now we start the skinning process.

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I began trying to use the Tanto knife again and quickly tell that it isn't going well. Gary then handed me his skinning knife and man did it make all the difference. Gary said it would take about an hour to skin it. I begin by pulling and skinning around the neck. I make cuts up the legs on the inside and around each leg near the feet. I go back to the neck and pull and skin, pull and skin downward. When skinning you make a cut/slice/scrape motion. I next go to working on the legs pulling and skinning. It's difficult to skin without cutting through the hide sometimes. If you get a hole in the hide, the hole is not repairable. Too many holes and you ruin the hide or large sections of it.26 - BDx23fi

Gary told me to use a rock and wrap the skin in it to make a handle. You can even tie a rope around this handle to make it easier to grip. I've even heard of some tying the rope to the bumper of a vehicle or four wheeler and pulling on the skin. It took me 2 hours to skin the thing completely. Gary again grabbed the loppers to cut off the feet. You can see in the photos how we point out where the bullet entered and where it hit on the opposite side. You will notice all the blood and bruising on the opposite side where it hit.

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Now it's time to quarter. We put a tarp in the wheelbarrow and I grabbed the Tanto knife. This knife worked fine for quartering. First we cut off the hams, this is the back legs, cutting near the pelvis joints. They came apart quite easily. Now we cut off the front legs and the same, they came off easily. The ribs however were not easy to saw or cut and again we grabbed the limb loppers. Gary had me to cut 4" from the back bone. We cut the ribs off in about 4 pieces. With the ribs came some belly meat. Next we moved the wheelbarrow under the backbone and cut the head off with the loppers. This left the back bone which has the tender loin and neck roast. I ended up cutting the back bone in half to make pieces easier to move. The head, feet and hide will be frozen and kept for tanning and making hide glue from the hoofs.

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We talked about composting the entrails. I didn't bother to save the heart or liver or anything else. Gary said he didn't want me to compost them but to take them up on top of the hill and dump them for they coyotes. He said the Chihuahua would only dig it up, roll in it, then bring a stinky piece of it up on the porch for all of us to enjoy. And I agreed that wouldn't be a good thing. It took me 2.5 hours to dress, skin and quarter it. I'm sure next time it will go twice as fast.

I have been asked why we hung this deer by the head instead of by the back feet. I say, "Because my friend Gary was instructing me." I asked him and he said it is because its easier to gut, if you hang it by the back feet the rib cage holds all the innards like a tub. And he said he prefers to skin them from the neck down. He said if you look at all the old photos of deer camps of the past the deer were hung from the neck. But its a matter of personal preference with skinning.


Deer Hunt - The Hunt

I am an over the road truck driver. I recently moved my camper out to one of my friends' places in the woods about 3.5 miles from a state highway on a dirt county road. For the last year, every time I come in for a day or two off or leave out, I see deer hopping and jumping around. I began to figure it might not be difficult to kill a deer this year. I have zero time for scouting but I thought I may as well try anyway. So I came in one day on muzzle loading season and borrowed a 50 cal inline. I went up on the hill above my camper about 200 yards from the camper and sat down. I put on my leafy suit. I heard some things in the distance but didn't see anything. No luck on that hunt.

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I went to Walmart and bought some blocks. One feed block, one salt/mineral rock, and one deer cocaine block. I then took those up and placed them about 25 yards from the chicken coop on the road near the white metal shed. I also found some containers refuse around the buildings and placed them around the shed where they could collect rain water, thinking this would give the deer something to drink as well. The next time I came in these blocks appeared weathered and melted. It did look like something had eaten on the feed block because pieces of it were laying a few inches from it.

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This location was an old house place. The house had burnt down and there were several sheds/barns left. There was an old chicken coop that looked as if it might make a good blind. I had been hunting out in the open in front of this coop. I next planned on taking my vacation during gun deer season. The next time I came in I bathed in no scent soap, and washed my cloths in no scent detergent. I then realized it might be best to have clothes that are for deer hunting only, that is not dual purpose. This way you can keep them scent free easier and ready to go in a moments notice. I took my 410 Rossi Tuffy, 3 lb pack gun with a slug, and went up to hunt at daylight. I was in the open again this time. I put on the leafy suit pants and gloves. I was wearing cammo coat up top.

A nice grey squirrel came along and played in the trees. He gave me at least 10 good shots at him, never saw me. He moved on. I heard crows in the distance. Again I occasionally heard something in the distance but saw nothing. So I went back home and then to Walmart. I talked to another hunter there that recommended the fake antlers and the Gold Doe Estrus, which I bought.

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Next time I went out I stood in the chicken coop or leaned against the hen roost in the coop. I saw nothing again, I did rattle some and I was also playing with a squirrel call. I think I heard a squirrel nearby making a lot of noise. Oh, on that day I heard what sounded like buck antlers crashing once fairly loudly. But no sight of deer. On these previous 2 hunts it was cold, 20 degrees and my legs, feet and hands were cold.

So I go back to Walmart and get some buck scent. I also bought some nice neoprene hunting gloves, farmer john coveralls and what looked like freezer boots (black with water proof bottoms up to ankle, insulated throughout). The time before I was cold. My coats and head gear were plenty good, so my head was fine. Next time I was good and warm in the 20 degree weather. I then go to the scrapes that day and spray buck scent in them. I looked for signs to see if another buck was trying to take over the scrapes (saw nothing) and then went back to the camper to do other things like work the garden or whatever.

A few days later, the day after Thanksgiving, I decide to give it one last shot before my vacation was over. I put on all my clothes and headed up to the coop at 15 minutes until full sun up. I overslept the alarm clock a bit. This time I decided not to try the squirrel call at all thinking that was a mistake the last time, just the antlers. I made a crash sound and scraping sound and rustling sound with the fake antlers. I immediately heard some noise in the distance past the old burnt house foundation and thought it sounded like deer or maybe squirrels.

I would wait 15 minutes and give a little rattle that sounded like young bucks sparing, but not too loud. I waited another 15 minutes and again a little bit of rattling. In this chicken coop there is chicken wire to my left and right. To my left 25 yards away were the blocks I had put out. I could also see the scrape at 40 yards. To my right I could look through the wire and see the scrape that was at 30 yards, and through the door I had a very limited view, but could see about 42 yards away between two large trees.
07:35 I hear a noise and lo and behold a doe steps into view at 42 yards through that doorway. I raise my gun to take aim and before I can squeeze the trigger she moves forward to my right and out of sight between me and some limbs or brush. She was headed for the 30 yard scrape on my right, so I figured I might have another chance. Before I could even lower my aim a bit a second doe steps in the same place. I aimed steady down the barrel of the 410 as straight as I could at her chest area and fired.

There was a slight delay as she looked up and then she leaped into the air and twisted at the same time to move in the opposite direction. She must have thought it safest to run the direction she came from. So I waited about 15 minutes to let her bleed out a little, hoping I hit her. I couldn't wait a minute more, I paced off the distance and it was 42 yards from the coop. I immediately saw a good amount of blood on the leaves. That excited me that I had hit her. I started to track the blood and lo and behold it was like following a chalk line.

She was heading up hill towards some cliffs above. As I'm approaching where she lay, that is before I had seen her, I heard this noisy galloping and looked back to my right to where it was coming from.

Another doe, maybe the first one that I let get by, was running at me (or her maybe). It stopped, turned broadside to me and snorted then galloped away as fast as it could. I almost would have had time to shoot her, too. So I track another 50 feet then see her laying under a couple of cedar trees where she lay to die. She had laid down on the shot side. I thanked her for the food she would provide and then began to drag her about 200 yards downhill to the old house place.

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I then covered her up a bit with leaves so that no one else would easily see her laying there and hiked the 170 yards back to the camper to find some rope or something to drag her with. I found some 1/4" fiber rope and a nylon ratchet strap. I went back up the hill to the house place and then dragged her the remaining 170 yards to my friend's front porch. I swear she got heavier and heavier the closer I got to that porch. We are figuring she weighed in at about 120-130 lbs. I had no real way to weigh the deer itself. We did have a human scale that I used later to weigh the processed meat. I later recovered the slug from here skin on the opposite side. It had passed through her lung and liver and didn't penetrate the skin on her back side. It had passed between the two ribs closest to her stomach so it was indeed almost a gut shot.

In the next article I will tell you how I gutted, skinned and quartered the deer. And I will tell and show you how I deboned, processed and sliced the deer in the last article. One last note here on this hunt, I don't know if the fake scrapes or scents helped at all. I do believe the rattle may have helped on this last hunt. I think the no scent soaps and detergent may have helped. Using the chicken coop as a blind worked very well, though it did shock me that I was able to get that shot through the door instead of out either side. There was much less view through that doorway and it was wide open with no wire or anything for blind. One thing to my advantage was that, as you can see in the photos, it was dark inside the coop compared to the partly sunny sky outside.

I knew there were deer around me and I proved it. I also proved that the 410 Snake Charmer or Rossi Tuffy can be a good survival tool. I could have borrowed sniper rifles but I wanted to use my gun. This was the only deer legal gun I had. I'm pretty sure I used a rifled slug. But a friend of mine's son said I got lucky with that 410, so now I'm going to get a full sized deer silhouette on some cardboard and walk it up there to where I shot her. I'm going to go back to the coop and shoot it in the chest area 5 times with rifled slugs and 5 times with non-rifled slugs. That should settle that argument. Later I may post the results as a comment on this article.

On Dec 22 I returned home for one day. On that morning I got up and needed to go to my friends mobile home to get a gallon of water. As I opened the door to my camper I lifted my head to see a large Doe do a jump and 180 degree about face with fast gallop away, white flag flying. She was standing about 20 feet from my camper door in the driveway. I suspect I will get another with a bow before March.


mushroom1.jpg.455d7e6cdbcfa42b0fb363b1d6c9abc9.jpgThe Mushroom Cultivator book is a 400 page book that I found to be invaluable in more ways than one. It's primarily written for mushroom growing and it covers 25 species. It covers every method used by commercial growers. Any of it can be scaled down for home growing as well. But two very important aspects of this book for any gardeners is the chapter on composting and the appendix listing a huge number of compost materials you can add and their properties such as NPK and more. Other important info in the books is about bacteria, molds and of course fungi and how they work.

  • Mushroom culture and life cycle
  • Sterile techniques and agar culture
  • Grain culture
  • Mushroom growing room
  • Compost preparation
  • Non-composted substrates
  • Spawning and spawn running in bulk substrates
  • The casing Layerl
  • Strategies for mushroom formation (pinhead initiation)
  • Sustaining the mushroom crop
  • Growing parameters for 25 various mushroom species
  • A trouble shooting guide
  • The contaminants of mushroom culture how to identify and control
  • The pest of mushroom culture
  • Mushroom genetics

There are 8 appendixes, but I will list the one I thought was so important to everyone and it was, VI Analysis of Basic Materials used in Substrate Preparation (composting).

Mushroom culture is a petri dish, test tube or some other glass container which holds the root, hair like strands of mushroom mycelium. I will be overly simplistic in this review. The life cycle is something like this, spores which land and begin to form the root hair like structures. When a male and female mycelium meet, they transfer genetic material. The male and female spores can be from the same mushroom or different ones. The mycelium really begins to grow at that point and forms a knot which forms a pinhead, which forms something like a small ball or bullet shaped thing called primordia. Then the stem and fruit body or cap form. The spores are in the ridges under the cap and finally get released and blown around by the wind.

The book has really nice microscopic images. Some look like electron microscope images. If you have ever kicked or stomped a mushroom, you have seen a small dust cloud come out of it, this was the spores. Each mushroom has both male and female spores. Into the world of mushrooms we have poison mushrooms, psychotropic mushrooms (semi or mildly poison) and edible mushrooms. Some of these edible mushrooms have quite a high protein content. Some as high as 35%. That means for 100 grams of mushroom, 35 grams is pure protein. One of these is called chicken of the woods. In nature these mushrooms of various kinds can cross. This means a good mushroom might cross with a poison one and become somewhat poisonous. For this reason, in many cases, a very sterile environment will be needed in working with mycelium cultures. The spores are the seeds but growers don't keep spores, they keep mycelium cultures. These cultures can be kept for years in test tubes if kept properly.


Each time you grow a new crop you go back to the original culture to start fresh, which gives a consistent product. They again work with very sterile environments to transfer culture into something that it can multiply in. They use various kinds of grain or grass type seeds for colonization. They use wood plugs for varieties that grow in logs. If done properly, the jars of colonized seeds can be shaken apart and then scattered over the substrate where again it will grow and then fruit.

A substrate is basically perfectly prepared mushroom soil. Except that with mushrooms pasteurized non-composted straw can be used. Or wood chips, saw dust and logs can be used. Pasteurization can be performed by par-boiling or steaming of the substrate. When composting substrate the composting process creates temperatures high enough to kill most anything that would be bad for the mushrooms.

Mushroom growing rooms are simply box like rooms insulated well, such as R19 walls and floor and R30 ceiling/roof. And I always thought mushrooms were grown in caves. Also the same rooms can be used for composting the substrate prior to growing the mushrooms. Basically these rooms are very tightly sealed and sterile. Ventilation is highly controlled with blowers and fans and intake air is drawn through HEPA filters. HEPA filters keep out outside spores and bacteria. Humidity is tightly controlled as well as temperature. I'd suggest looking into Arduino or Phidgets controllers for such things.

Can mushrooms be grown at home in smaller cheaper containment? Yes you can grown in closets, tubs with lids, jars, aquariums, etc. You still have to go to similar extremes especially with sterilizations, filtering, lighting, temp and moisture control. One thing they do to control sterility is with 10% bleach/water solutions. This is sprayed in the air as well as used to wash everything. And there are yet other extremes the book talks about such as special boxes that your hands only enter for certain transfer work and breeze entryways.

Spawning is basically sowing seed. This is where you scatter the grain kernels that had been used to start the spawn. Or putting the plugs back in the logs after the spawn has colonized the plugs. Some mushrooms need total darkness, some need certain amounts of light at varying stages. Some need or grow better with a casing layer on top of the substrate just after the substrate is colonized. This is a thin layer of more clay/loam soil. Other mushrooms don't need this casing layer at all.

Some of those log mushrooms take up to 19 months to fruit. Others fruit after only months. If you follow certain procedures pest, bacteria, and mold are kept to a minimum because there is no place for them to grow. The mycelium is taking up all the room. A final note about the appendix. I was looking through it and I decided to look for "Johnson Grass" as a compost additive. It's a member of the sugar cane family and is a sweet grass that grows like a weed in many areas. It's very invasive and therefore easy to come buy. This grass grows to about 5 feet tall. I thought, "I bet it's not in there".


For Johnson Grass---

Dry Matter per ct. 90.1, Protein per ct. 6.5, Fat per ct. 2.1, Fiber per ct. 30.4 N-Free extract per ct. 43.7 Total Minerals per ct. 7.4, and PNK Phosphorus per ct. 0.26 Nitrogen 1.04 Potassium 1.22
That was under "Dry Roughages of Fibrous Materials" They have a second section on "Concentrates" which includes something such as meal, flower, seeds, feed, byproducts, and you name it. And one last interesting note, they calculate yield in pounds of mushrooms per square foot. They get yields of 1 to 6.5 lbs per ft2. Overall a great book well worth the $30 new for it.

Fungi.com is a great site, I think maybe it's by the same author of this book, Paul Stamets. And I was looking for some awesome posters in his shop but didn't see them. Though there are many great book titles there to go along with The Mushroom Cultivator.


I'm a national trucker. I am gone from home between 2 and 3 weeks most of the time and a maximum of 5 weeks sometimes. I talked a friend of mine that has a small garden spot into watering the garden this last summer by pumping water from the pond with a gasoline powered water pump. This was a 1.5 horse pump that pumped 1,800 gph(gallons per hour) through a 1" line. This wasn't a bad way to go and didn't use much gas. I bet we didn't use 2 gallons of gas all summer. We were only running it for 30 minutes every 2 days or so and there were several wet weeks when we didn't water at all. However I am burdening my friend with this chore. I had been looking for a more automated system and I still am. So in this article I will explain what I've come up with so far.

This pump with pipe and fittings solution has cost me $300 so far. I priced a solar pumping system at between $600 and $1,000 and that doesn't count pressure tanks, irrigation lines and drip emitters. I'll list some websites of interest below.

Irrigating the Garden 2013
Grow Your Grub Podcast
Cycle Stop
Irrigation Direct

I got the third link Dripworks from the Grow Your Grub Podcast. Dripworks has some nice looking drip emitters that work from 10 psi up to 50 psi. Some of them are also are self flushing and easy to take apart and clean. Cycle Stop has a valve that keeps the line pressure more constant. I'm not sure that will be important but I thought I'd mention it. Irrigation Direct has pressure regulators, as well as Dripworks. One I was looking at keeps a line at 20 psi, screws onto a hose and didn't cost much.


$25 pressure switch, $150 to $600 for pressure tank, $100 to $200 for a decent pump. We could pump directly from the pond into the pressure tank or we could pump from the pond into some settling tanks ($45 each) and from settling tanks into the pressure tank. We have pumped pond water into 50 gallon drums and stock tank and it clears up as clear as spring water with a small amount of time settling. We could run power to the garden to a pump house or we could put the pump house near the house and pond dam and run pipe to the garden. To run outdoor underground wiring 300 feet $700. To run 1" black pipe 300', $60 to $90. I think I'd rather run the pipe, even though it would be nice to have power at the garden spot.

We need some way to shut off the watering during rainy periods. I have found a few options. One is called "Smart Irrigation Controllers". These use soil humidity probes. The probe use electrical conductivity of the soil to determine moisture content. They need to be buried in the root zone or about 6" deep for garden veggies. They have to be calibrated to your soil. On a couple of dry days you would water over the probe and soak the ground. Then wait 24 hour without any rain or watering and set the calibration. There are also guidelines as to where to place the probes in relation to plants.



They make basically two types. One type shuts your sprinkler timer system off based on high moisture. The other starts and stops the sprinkler system based on moisture. I have yet to find one in a price range that I can afford, meaning much less than $1,000. And some I find want to give you a quote which is always a bad sign. I can't believe this technology costs so much. The probes are cheap, so it's the controller that is expensive and I see no reason it should be.


Another option for us is to use a sprinkler timer with a remote control so that my friend can simply watch the weather and turn it off in rainy periods from his house 300 feet from the garden. These are not expensive and it's a simple solution, so it is probably the one we will go with. Finally there are rain sensors which can be plugged into the sprinkler system. But I fear they may be prone to failure and would have to be monitored to make sure they are functioning properly.

For drip irrigation we have this 1/4" (100' $6) black tubing. Some emitters can be used with 1/8" (100' $4.50) tubing as well. We also have what is called drip emitters and what seems to be quite a few different types. There is also drip line and drip tape. I'm not sure we will need it. I might get some and try it out. Some emitters are called non pressure compensating and around near 20 cents each. This means they do not alter the pressure and work between 15 and 20 psi. This gives different GPH rate based on the pressure. However if your pressure is lower they will still work only at slower GPH rates. So if you want to try gravity flow from a tank near ground level, you must use these non pressure compensating drip emitters.

That brings up a point. Another alternative to the pressure tank setup would be to elevate the tank 21' vertically above the garden. We get .433 psi for every foot of elevation. This would give 10 to 15 psi required by the pressure compensating drip emitters. The only way we could do this is to put the tank on a hill, as it would cost too much to build a water tower. In our case, the hill is 300 or 400 feet away from the garden. This is not altogether out of the question since black pipe is so cheap. And I think our gasoline powered pump would pump water up to the tanks just fine. I'm just not sure that I want to go to that trouble. I think using a pressure tank, pump and switch will be our best option.

The other type of emitter is the pressure compensating drip emitters at just under 40 cents each. These have some diaphragm in them maybe similar to micro pressure tank. They kind of look like a micro tank. These work in the 10 to 50 psi range. A water pressure regulator may still be a good idea as most household pressures can be 60 to 80 or so. What I assume this type does is to keep the pressure constant to say 10 psi so that a constant flow rate is achieved. These can be 1/4, 1/2, 1 and 1.5 GPH.

So far this last summer we prepared about 50 square feet of garden space. If I want to place a drip emitter in each square foot I will need hose and 50 emitters. I will also possibly need some couplers and T's etc. 100 ft of 1/4" line might do it for us. I intend this winter to expand the garden to 100 square feet SFG space and develop the sunny pond side with some 20' rows. The row area will be approx. 20'x16' and might be a good place to try out drip line or drip tape ($12 for 100' or $100 for 1,000') We would need to spend about $25 for drip tape as a minimum.

There was one interesting looking controller that comes with a phone app. And there was another that let you control your watering via a website. So the technology is coming along well, it just needs more development and more production and sales to bring the cost down. So in conclusion it looks like it may cost us something around $1,100 to implement this plan for next year's gardening. And one alternate method I didn't mention was to use some kind of filter and pump water directly from the pond into the pressure tank.





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The photos here that are clickable are in gallery sets. Click and expand view to get the full images.

Episode 711 Lessons from the man who stopped the desert

Jack had a show on about Zai farming in Africa, reclaiming the desert. This is a method where they dig holes in the sand and pour in manures of any kind and then plant in them. The holes are organized in a grid-like pattern. I didn't have a lot of time this summer for soil work so I thought to myself, "Why not use Zai holes in a garden in Arkansas?"

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Compost                               Rabbit Manure

We had a grassy garden spot that had not been used for a garden in a long time. We also have no tiller or way to break up the soil. I had acquired about 4 yards of rabbit manure and 4 yards of compost for this project.  My soil mix was to be 1/3 top soil, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 rabbit manure.  Mel's mix in SFG is 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost.  I don't really have the funds for peat or vermiculite.  My conclusion after a couple of years of trying without those is that the soil mix dries out quickly, especially if in a mound, or in a box or table garden.  So I may begin to, at least, use some peat and/or vermiculite in the mix from now on.

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In this year's garden experiment, I used a fiberglass style mulch cloth to suppress grass and weeds. Initial report is that it will not do it alone. The grass grows under it and pushes it upward. I had to add wood chip mulch on top of it. Also, there is a black plastic style mulch cloth that is permeable, though easily torn. The fiberglass-looking cloth is about impossible to tear. Next year, I will combine those two types of mulch cloth; one layer of the black down first then a layer of the tear resistant on top of that. Then wood chip mulch on top of those.

To cut the square foot holes I used a razor knife blade and a 1'x1' plastic square tile I found at WalMart, used as a stepping stone, I think in, landscaping. Scissors work but are not as fast and easy as the razor blade.

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The mulch cloth comes in 3' and 4' wide rolls. I used 4' wide this year so far and separated the rows by 4' as well. Next year I may lay some down in between the rows and mulch it too. It does a great job of stopping grass and weeds. This year we have had to mow the grass with our trimmer edger a few times. One thing I may do before next summer is buy some landscaping edging. I will use duct tape or metal tape to make 1' squares with it. So each hole that I prepared will have a box to keep out mulch and reveal where the hole is at. I will do this for any holes and down rows between mulch and grass. Some plants you can mulch around within the hole itself. Some types are so close it would be difficult to mulch around them.

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As you can see, from the photos above, how well this works. This works well because, for a plant that uses 3'x3' square or 9 square feet, you only need prepare and mix soil for 1'x1' foot area. The rest is mulch covered. Same for plants that require 2'x3' or 2'x2' or 2'x1'. Examples here are watermelons, squash, and tomato.

Now for plants that require 1'x1' the holes where I separate them by 3" is good. For example, you might make a grid of 1'x1' holes with 3" all around. Examples here are okra, corn, potato and peppers.

However, for plants where you may plant denser than 1 or 2 plants per square foot, I recommend using 2'x'2 hole, 2'x3', 3'x3', 3'x4', or even 4'x4'. This depends on how much you want of that food item. I show above in some photos a 2'x3' hole I had dug. This is a bit more efficient in soil mixing as well. I was only digging about 6" to 8" deep until I hit clay and next year I intend to finish to a 1' depth. It worked out well to dig up about 2 square feet at a time to make soil. Examples here would be greens, beans, radishes and carrots.

Our water tanks and barrels this year in photo below. I show, in the illustrations, how we intend to use the barrels with rain catch. We will make a frame with 4x4's and turn the barrels on their side. A faucet can be fitted into a bunghole. Somehow we will construct a rain catch just above the barrel and run the runoff into the barrels. We can use gravity flow of the fairly pure rainwater to non-pressure compensating drip emitters.


If you mix your soil like this, you end up with putting only part of it back in the hole. In my case, about 1/3 back in the hole. This left 2/3 for a garden box. This is what you will fill the garden boxes around the perimeter with. Next year I may end up with a little more than 2/3 and maybe 3/4, because I intend to use some peat and vermiculite in the mix.

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Garden box photos in this gallery below. I use it for corn and beans. I put in four tall steel metal fence posts on its corners so that we could use chicken wire to protect it from racoons.

Go back to the images in the first gallery, which I drew using Google Sketchup. These images represent a plan and design. That garden would be about 50x50 feet and the box and row areas are about 45x45 feet.

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There are 19 1'x1' (19 sq. ft.) holes to dig. There are 8 2'x2'(32 sq. ft.) holes. There are 4 2'x3' (24 sq. ft.)holes. There are 2 3'x3' (18 sq. ft.) holes and 2 3'x4' (24 sq. ft.)holes to dig. This makes 117 square feet to dig up
and mix or 4.3 yards of material. And when mixed with equal parts manure and compost, it will give you 13 yards of soil mix or about 350 cubic feet of soil mix. If you add some peat and vermiculite, then even more. The boxes around the perimeter is near 250 cubic feet of volume.

Also I show how to make a 4x8 hot box for starting plants. This box could be used for table garden as well. And if you had particular plants that, were under attack, you could plant them in the table planter and rabbits and such wouldn't get to them. You could even wrap the planter with chicken wire, if needed.

Below are my articles on blog.larrydgray.net about this method with more photos and more info.
Zai Square Foot Gardening
Zai Square Foot Gardening 2
Zai Square Foot Gardening 3
Zai Square Foot Gardening 4
Zai Square Foot Gardening End of Summer








container1.jpg.3ac7d47a930e1424de00cc5b85f4efc5.jpgWhat I'd like to talk about in this article is a plan I have for turning a 20' ocean container into an RV (BOL) quickly and hopefully cheaply.  I recently did a lease-to-own on a 20' container for $3600+$288 tax+$138 delivery fee.  Though, if I'd had cash, it would have been $2400+$192 tax+$138 for delivery.  These are delivered on roll back wreckers.  I can pay it off early but it won't save me anything on the lease agreement.  I guess I'll break this down into areas of concern. In this plan there is no underground, earth roof, or berming in the design.

  • HVAC
  • Insulation
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Lighting
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Bed/Living area.
  • Container Modifications

The heating will be via wood fired stove or propane stove.  The wood fired stove would double as a water heater and for cooking.  A/C will be via 120v window unit air-conditioner.  Ventilation will be via 3 kinds of vents.  Two turbine vents, which are the type you see on top of storm shelters a lot; 1 or 2 RV 12 v fan vents; some kind of lower side vents, with possibly a 12v computer fan; or heck even 120v box window fans.  Heating a body will also be accomplished when sleeping via a 12v or 120v electric blanket.

One thing might be added here as a suggestion, though I've never tried it...a couple of 55 gallon drums of water in the sleeping/living area for added thermal mass.  This would be almost 1,000 lbs of water.  If you raise that water 1 degree F it gained 1,000 BTU.  If it loses 1 degree F by radiating it into your room, then the room gains that 1,000 BTU.  It has the opposite effect when cooling.  Condensation might be a problem with this approach.  Insulating the barrels would help with condensation and slow the charge/discharge rate.

Insulation I would consider to be part of HVAC.  For the container, I hear there are insulating paints.  These paints have ceramic beads in them.  I also hear they act more like heat reflector paint not insulation.  So they do not exactly have R value. Instead they have a percent reflectivity. This is similar to shade cloth with a percentage shading. Radiant barriers have exactly the same effect on your structure that shade would have. Also water seal is sold for mobile homes with reflective properties.  They work similarly to the way a space blanket would work, or polished aluminum or thermal barrier.  Along with thermal pane, I'd use thermal barrier, which is silver coated bubble wrap.  I'd probably use it on the inside, though it could be used on the outside, as well. If you used multiple radiant barriers then I would think the total percentage of reflectivity would be higher.

I would insulate the sleeping/living area with foam board on 3 sides and insulating curtains on the side that opens up to the kitchen and bathroom areas.  Insulated curtains could be as simple as hung blankets combined with radiant barrier.  Electric blankets insulate as well as quilts, sleeping bags, and such.  Air mattresses insulate.  Another idea might be to stack hay or straw bales around the container.  I'm not sure I'd want to go that far.

Water might be the next concern.  The roof of the container is metal and would catch rain water; however, it is flat.  A better idea would be to tarp from corner to corner, yet attach the tarp at 3 corners to be, say, 6" high and about 2" high at a 4th corner.  In a 1" rain, we could collect about 100 gallons of water.  This means, in Arkansas, I  could collect 5,000 gallons all year.  In the desert southwest 1000+ gallons and in far west coast or deep south east 7000+ gallons per year. This tarp doubles as shade for the roof.  Several 55 gallon drums would do for rain catchment and I suggest they would best be elevated so that the highest water point in them is about 2" below roof level.  This would give you the possibility of gravity flow to a sink.  It might even be better to have the barrels on their side instead of standing upright.

Pumping can be achieved with a 12v water pump, filter, and 30 PSI pressure tank.  Search for 'SHURflo 182-200 Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank', 'SHURflo 4008-101-E65 3.0 Revolution Water Pump', and ' SHURflo 255-313 Classic Series Twist-On Strainer (1/2" FPT x 1/2" )' on Amazon.  These are probably similar to what an RV might have.  If you have gravity flow, then you might think you wouldn't need pumping.  But it might be necessary to pump water into a shower head, or up to the solar hot water heater on the roof (above the tarp).  This hot water heater, I would make from a roll of black plastic pipe.  Would need a frame to support it.  Water from it would gravity-flow to the shower and sink.  A person would need some indicator as to when it is full.  This could be as simple as having it run over when full and run down the tarp into the tanks.

Other options for hot water are heating water on a stove; heating with 12v appliances; heating with 120v appliances, though after the electrical system is beefed up more; and heating with on-demand gas/electric, which requires water pressure.

Energy system will be electric, solar panel(s) mounted above the tarp beside the hot water pipe heater.  A 3-stage smart solar charge controller and 3 marine batteries, one would be for my trolling motor.  A couple of inverters, say 400 watt and 800 watt. I would run power inside to one outlet with two female plugs on inside and male plug on outside.  I would plug an extension chord into the male plug on the outside to energize the outlet inside.  I would also be able
to recharge the batteries from grid power or generator power.

Propane Gas from 100lbs, 20 gallon tanks or less, would be used for cooking, heatinglight, possibly refrigeration/freezing, and for producing electricity with a multi-fuel generator.  Gasoline would also be used in producing power and running power tools.  Ethanol or methanol would be used in cooking on alcohol stoves.  Wood and charcoal are fuels, as well, that would be used for heat and cooking.

Lighting will begin with day and sky lights.  I would make round, port size windows on the sides, say 6" to 1 foot in dia. All I would do here is cut the round hole, then silicon and bolt clear plexiglass on the outside onto each hole.  I would make a similar sized window piece on the inside that is white translucent plastic or translucent plexiglass, and bolt it in at only one point on top, so that it could be spun up or down to cover the hole.  On top, I would use the square plastic RV dome vent covers and simply weld a small box around a square hole for them to sit on top of.  Or just bolt and silicon a piece of plexiglass on top of a hole I cut in the roof.

For artificial light, first we have battery-powered camp lights.  Second, I'd use 120v LED rope lights or Christmas lights.  I would have a couple of LED flood lights or CFL. 12v lighting might be used where convenient.  It wouldn't hurt to have a couple of gas lights, though note that any inside light must be enclosed and vented because of CO gas.  Oil lamps, kerosene lamps, candles, mantle lanterns, and maybe even carbide lamps, all would be part of this plan.  Lighting will not be a problem.

Build your own battery-powered refrigerator is an interesting link.

For refrigeration and freezing, I'd want to get an RV gas/electric combo for inside.  Outside, I'd want one or two energy efficient chest freezers.  I would insulate this freezer with something, maybe thermal radiant barrier.  It would remain locked.  If the outside freezer could be gas/electric or gas that would be even better.  I'm a trucker and gone a lot, so I would need a pretty good assurance that the freezer would always be online.

Root cellar storage would be as simple as a bucket buried in the ground with an insulated lid and straw thrown on top.  If I had the time and digging ability, the burying of an old frig/freezer chest would also be a good idea as long as you could keep the ground water out of it.  If the ground was very wet and it was empty, it might actually try to float out of the ground.  You could easily lock your ground temp storage if it were an old frig/freezer also.

I would highly insulate the bed/living area on the walls with rigid foam board insulation to between 1" and 6" deep. This would depend on your budget of course. I would also insulate the ceiling.  Next, hang an insulated curtain between the living area and the kitchen/bath area.  3 or 4 of the daylight ports would be in this area.  One of the RV vents would be in this area.  The window unit A/C would be in this area, along with an added external metal door.  The bed/beds would be air mattresses, a futon, a recliner chair, or something like this.  Add a flat screen TV, surround sound, DVD and stereo system, and call it home.  When heating, I'd just move the insulated curtain a bit and heat the whole area with wood stove or use electric blankets.

Bath area would be partitioned somehow with something like an Oriental folding wall board, curtains or some similar method.  This area would have a plastic tub for standing in while taking a shower.  A shower curtain on a ring.  A shower head from pressurized water or a garden sprinkler bucket with appropriately warmed water in it.  There are a lot of different ways to rig a shower.  The tub would drain to the outside somehow.  I would use a $12 camp toilet with bags.  For a urinal, I would use a jug or a funnel with a hose draining to the outside.  Biodegradable toilet bags would be best, though, in a pinch, one can use heavier plastic trash bags.  Having a bed pan or small bucket on hand might not be a bad idea either.

Camping Sink Forum Post

I have recently seen the forum post above on a kitchen made from cheap parts you would get from the hardware store. The frame of this was made using PVC pipes, plastic shelving, and the sink from plastic tubs.  It could be rigged or plumbed as you would a typical kitchen and, heck, could even have a disposal.  A gas range would be used for cooking and oven.  A vent hood would be a must, not only for exhausting smoke but CO, as well.  A microwave added and other 120v or 12v appliances as desired.  The RV frig/freezer combo would go here.

Now what modifications to the container would we need to do to accomplish all of this?  We would cut holes for a doorway, window unit A/C, port windows, vents; and entry points for electrical, water, and gas lines.  We would weld post and frame for holding tarp using rebar, and weld some frame for supporting dome sky lighting.  Might also weld supporting frame for solar hot water heater and solar panels. Would weld a frame for the door and and a shelf to hold the window unit a/c.

Some of the tools you might need are welders, cutting torch, and metal jig saw or Sawzall.  You will need 1 to 3 ton ratchet jacks for leveling the container, as it weights 6,000 lbs.  Also, you will need some blocks or rocks for support underneath.  I recommend some 1" treated board pieces and possibly some 1/4" and 1/2" plywood pieces for fine tuning the leveling. A carpenter's level, or some kind of level, and a magnetic level will stick to the container.  Might also use a drill motor with metal bits and wrenches for securing bolts.  Would need other tools necessary for simple wiring or plumbing.

If I were going to berm this type of BOL, I think I'd start by making earth bag walls about 3' from any side of the container, then berm on the outside.  This would be to keep sun off the container and would do some good as thermal mass for a few hours a day.  It would also protect from tornado strength winds.  If necessary, additional shading could be hung between the top of the berm and the top of the container using shade cloth, and a berm could be used for further rain catchment somehow.

I will be continuously updating price info for you on this post over the next year, as I research more. This is something one could do with cash as they go, of course.  But here are some basics from what I already know.  A rough estimate of what I show below is a cost between $4,700 and $6,700, all depending; and I didn't figure in all the cost yet.  Remember, though, what we are wanting and getting, and that it is paid for as we go.  The main point to using a container is that it's in the dry on delivery and construction is crude but simple.  Compare this to an equally priced RV, or motor home with same features and same floor space. There would also be 160 square feet of floor space in a 20' container.

  • Container $2,700 to $3,800 delivered.
  • 12v/gas frig/freezer combo, not sure yet.
  • Good metal door $300.
  • Wood burning stove $200.
  • Window unit A/C $100-$150.
  • 100 lb propane tank $130
  • Gas light fixture $80
  • Pump, filter and pressure tank, $125-$150.
  • Blocks for leveling, $2 each for a dozen or so.
  • Thermal Paint? Not sure yet.
  • 55 gal drums, $15 ea or a 200 gal tote for $45.
  • Tarp $40.
  • Rebar, not sure yet.
  • Plexiglass, not sure yet.
  • RV vent fan/sky light, $150.
  • RV plastic dome for skylight only, not sure.
  • Turbine vents, $50 ea.
  • 100 watt solar panel $250.
  • 3 Batteries $80 ea.
  • Charge controller $50.
  • Inverters $20 and $40.
  • Used gas range $50-$100.
  • Vent-A-Hood $100.
  • Microwave $100.
  • Kitchen sink setup? No idea yet.
  • Shower setup, not much.
  • Thermal radiant barrier 100' x 48" roll $166.
  • 4'x8'x1/2" polystyrene foam board $11.
  • Insulated curtains, I have no idea yet.
  • Black pipe 100' roll 1" $20.
  • 12v electric blanket $25.

Cost of prepping can be divided into two areas that I can think of.

  1. Cost of self-reliance.
  2. Cost of self-sufficiency.

What other areas?

Self-reliance is where we exist for a period of time without outside help. Self-sufficiency is where we don't need outside help. Self-reliance is not sustainable, however self-sufficiency should be close to sustainable. What we are trying to do is to gain a measure of self-reliance and a measure of  self-sufficiency. Though I must say we should not prep as though we are alone in this. We do have family, friends, neighbors and community to lean on or assist sometimes. Though I'm not quite sure where State and Nation fits in, in this day and time.

And if you are religious then of course you lean on God. Someone once told me that I should be trusting in God to provide and I do. However God created both the ant and the grasshopper. God helps those who help themselves at times. I do everything God gives me the good sense to do do first and then call on Him when things get tough. More than anything I would ask Him to give me the strength to handle tough situations rather than save me with miracles. Might development of community be another cost? I mean at least as in costing time. I think religion is more about community and relationships as much as begging to have ones stupid self saved in crisis situations. And I think God would agree.

Types of cost to think about.

  • Time cost
  • Labor cost
  • Development cost
  • Educational cost
  • Banking cost
  • Monetary cost
  • Depreciation cost
  • Tax cost (includes stupid tax)
  • Spiritual cost (ministry support)

What other cost are there?
What is priceless?
What is worthless?

Time and labor cost are closely related. In constructing a home as a rule of thumb 1/3 cost is labor, 1/3 is materials and 1/3 is contractor cost. Additional cost would be land and associated cost. Banker cost is yet another if any financing is used. As Jack has said most all cost can be traced back to labor cost. For example the high cost of gold can be traced back to the labor in locating, mining, smelting and finally minting of fine bullion.

There was once a TV repairman who went to a call out at a business. He removed the cover, turned a screw 1/4 turn which fixed the TV. He put the cover back on and then gave the manager a bill for $60. The manager said, "That is preposterous I won't pay $60 for 5 minutes work. I want an itemized bill." So he wrote out an itemized bill, "25 cents for turning a screw 1/4 turn to the right. $59.75 for knowing which screw to turn and how far to turn it." Some people do get paid for time. If you earned say $20 an hour in your career, then you might weigh all your personal time put into the homestead as being worth $20 an hour to you. There comes a point when DIY is fun but isn't worth it. The quest is to look for DIY projects that are worth it.

Some cost are more like total losses. Depreciation cost is one which means the value of things go down over time. Have you noticed that almost everything we as mankind make erodes, weathers, wears and crumbles. This reminds me of a song, "Dust in the Wind". I get the term "Stupid Tax" from Dave Ramsey. This is where you make mistakes that cost lots of money. One such stupid tax is in not having emergency fund money set aside. Though most of us would call Tax "stupid". We all know what taxes are. Income tax, property tax, sales tax, permits, licenses, fees and yes some fines. And what about breath and heart beat tax? Well lets not give them any health care ideas. We all gamble though not necessarily as a "gaming experiences" at casino's. Some losses are gambling losses be it business or agricultural or whatever. I and you do not have to be a professional gambler or visit casino's to understand some gambling concepts and something about statistics. And we should learn about such things as we can.

It is said in real-estate that the cost of a given piece of property is no more than a willing buyer is willing to pay for it and a willing seller is willing to take for it. The same can be said of anything. A particular prep cost might be worth more to you and worth less to someone else. Its up to the individual to determine what is priceless, worthless or somewhere in between.

What is priceless? Experiencing the conversion of dirt into something you have tasted and used as fuel for your body. Experiencing the killing, cleaning, cooking and eating something you took in hunting, fishing and farming. Some education can be almost priceless. I have a library that is fairly vast. I'm sure I don't have the same books that Thomas Jefferson kept but I have what I need in 8 - 5' long shelves. And I have Google and Wikipedia and E-Books. Some education can be worthless as time will tell turning it into trivia. Not all educational cost are monetary. It takes time to learn things on your own. We call this learning curve.

There is a saying in computer tech about free software that it is "free as in beer".
What does that mean? Well beer is rarely free. And when it is someone usually expects something in return for it such as friendship. Oh and free energy is all around us. The problem is that it cost to harvest,  handle and  harness that energy and use it. Nothing is truly ever completely free!

Development cost is a kind of exploratory cost where you are trying to find out just how much it will cost to do or produce something. The prototype is always expensive in one way or another. The key here is in looking for opportunities based on your abilities, know-how and the situations. Then figuratively its a matter of cloning, copy and paste so to speak.

Priorities are important. As with computer programming I have learned to keep things simple and upgrade over time as I can. This is what we should do with our preps and homesteading. And we may develop different areas at different rates. For you RPG(Role Playing Game) folks it might not be much different than leveling your characters attributes and skills over time. I mean RPG is based on life right?

Home Accounting, Doing the Bills
Java Ledger a simple free
accounting program that I wrote

Java Accounting Ledger Version 2.0
Java Ledger at Source Forge


Monetary cost can be tracked with the use of book keeping also called accounting. I have three blog post on this topic, I show links above. Two links pertain to a free accounting app I am writing. I am about to release version 3.0 of this app soon. Accounting is  not difficult but may require 15 minutes a day of your time. It may also require new habits and a minute or two here and there to record an expense, especially those with no receipts. I can tell you exactly what I spent on prepping this year so far. I place these expenses under Home, Van, Homesteading, Gardening, Fishing, Hunting, and Camping categories. A spread sheet is easy to learn to use and it can be used for all out accounting or simple expense tracking. Google for Open Office and you will find some free open source office software which includes a spread sheet called Calc. If you were tracking your prepping expenses for example you could have each expense in a different column and have a different sheet for each month. Then you might have periodic sheets for totals or averages. Tracking monetary cost is one way to track cost but remember that not all cost are in dollars.

Types of expenses to think about.

  • Income related expenses
  • Frivolous expenses
  • Investment type expenses
  • Insurance type expenses

Some expenses are related directly to the making of income. Other expenses are are more indirect or simply for things we want but don't need. I impulse buy a lot. It helps to support our economy of course. Instead of trickle down economics its more like spread it around economics or flood upward economics LOL I'm joking of course. Seriously though, it can be difficult to determine what is necessary from what you might buy and never use or expires before use.

Investing Stocks Money Metals Land

Some expenses are more like an investment meaning it will pay for itself over time or even earn a profit. Jack talks about investing in silver and copper a lot. I have a link above to a blog post on my take with investing. Other expenses are like insurance but over time become a waste if not used. Some waste are total loss not even creating a waste stream we may turn into something beneficial. A good example of this might be bank overdraft fees.

A perfect example of an investment is a solar power system and battery bank. These things pay for themselves but there are up front cost which are the investment. An example of insurance expense might be the BOB, BOV and BOL. A more perfect example of insurance expense is a year supply of dried food put away that you sit on. Its there if you need it but if you never use it, it will eventually go bad. Whereas garden improvement is an investment. For example you might spend $2000 on the garden this year and then collect $200 a year in produce for the next 10 years. Though its probably a much better return than that,  though I have found my first year to be a poor return. If its manage right the return keeps coming more and more without too much additional expense as input. And wouldn't ministry support be both an investment in community and insurance expense? Some verses come to mind about God opening the flood gates of heaven and pouring out blessings.

All in all homesteading and farming are businesses. So is prepping and so is your life. I suggest you treat it as such. Elimination of debt in our case is all too important. We all want to keep cost down and operating on cash can help with that. We need to keep our preps real to keep cost down. Jack has some good episodes on prioritizing  that I suggest we all listen to again and again.

Oh I feel I need to also mention how I manage projects and my life in general. There are 4 factors I work on. Most people only consider one factor, Time management. But the four are...

Project Management

  • Time
  • Resources
  • Quality
  • Quantity

If one of these factors change then one or more of the others must change as well, or are adversely affected. For example if you increase time then quantity or quality can go up. Same if you increase resources. If quality drops then it might be as a result of an increase in quantity or a decrease in resources. If you play this out in your mind when considering anything you undertake it will be easier to keep things real. Below is a link to my blog post on this topic.

Project Task Management

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