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Found 122 results

  1. Troy Brooks

    How To Successfully Grow Potatoes In Tires

    Here’s a question that I get from potato lovers: “How can I grow potatoes in abundance in limited space?” Growing potatoes in tires can be quite simple and here are my instructions how to do it and have a bumper crop. You get a chance to do some recycling and vertical gardening all together. Depending on the size of the tires, I first wash them. If they are small enough for me to get them in my pickup truck, I’ll take them to a car wash and wash them under pressure with soap then rinse with water. Inside the tire and outside as well, making sure the tread is free from road grim and grit. You’ll want to set the tire away from an prevailing winds to keep their foliage from getting wind damage. Make sure the spot you select will be free of most foot traffic and out of the way of activities to avoid the set-up from being knocked over. Press down any growth on the ground such as clover or grass, and lay a thick mat of saturated newspapers over the grass or area which you will be setting the tire over. Over this put down 2 nice layers of cardboard: one long ways, the other cross ways: you can cut the cardboard away AFTER you position the tires on top of the cardboard. The newspaper will soon deteriorate into the soil, but the cardboard hangs around for awhile, giving added protection against weeds and grass that would come up into the tire. Whether or not you trim away the rim of the top tire is your decision. Some tires I do trim, others I do not. The bigger the tire is, the more likely I am to trim away the sidewall up to its tread. (This is just my own way of doing things). Wet the cardboard down really good then start stuffing newspapers, leaves, straw, corncobs, sawdust or whatever you have that will absorb moisture into the inner rim of the tires so when rains come, the organic material will take up the excess moisture and hold it until the plants need it the most: moisture will “wick” away from the inner rim into the main tire container area. Once the rim is packed with such materials you have on hand or can obtain at no cost to you or for little cost, crumble your topsoil, potting soil and cover the cardboard with 3 or so inches of this mixture, then seat your potato seeds into that mixture. I always add a dusting of hardwood ashes I’ve kept from the wood stove over the potatoes. Potash is very good for root crops. Once your potatoes are in place, dusted with wood ash, cover with a layer (not pressed down) of straw, shredded newspapers, compost, or whatever mulch you’ll be using, then cover the top hole with a piece of glass, Plexiglas, or you can rig clear plastic over the top if you have nothing else to use. Glass and/or Plexiglas is ever so much easier on you the gardener, than using the plastic cover is, because the bed must be watered weekly unless rainfall measures 1-inch. You never want the soil to dry out, and potatoes (sweet and Irish) need a lot of water to return you a bumper crop. Irish potatoes need only 4-inches of top growth. When your tater vines/plants reach 6-inches tall, it’s time to add a 2-inch layer of mulch, and snug it up around the potato plant stems. When it’s time, add another tire on top of the first one. And just keep adding mulch, water, and tires until the stack grows 5-6 tires tall. You may need to drive a wooden stay on 2 or 3 sides of the tires so they won’t blow over when storms come, or when you brush against them, or dogs hit them while chasing a ball, or once night temps no longer offer a chance of frost, you can omit the glass top: if you have predators who might eat the tater vine, you can use an old window screen instead of the glass top. And when the temps get around or above 80 degrees, put a layer of newspaper around the upper edge of the top most tire: this will to deflect heat away from the tire and preserves inner moisture as well. The first blooms that form, I pinch off. This pours more growth to the roots which is what you’ll harvest anyhow. The 2nd set of blooms, I allow to form and soon after the vines will begin to dry and become mulch. You can “dig” your taters by removing one tire at a time. If you’ll prepare another tire spot before unloading your tater tire, as soon as you remove one tire, you can roll it over on top of the cardboard spot you’ve just made beside your tater tire, and by the time your potatoes are all lying out on the ground, you’ll have another tater tower built ready to plant into again to make another crop of late fall taters to harvest just before a hard freeze hits your area…depending, of course, on just what area that is. Keep It Growing!
  2. Josiah Wallingford

    Interview with Allan Savory

    Nicholas Burtner of Working With Nature and Josiah Wallingford of Brink of Freedom interview Allan Savory of the Savory Institute. First posted on Brink of Freedom.
  3. Chef Keith Snow

    The 12 Hour Sale-How to Kill your Own Customers

    My mother always told me that if I did not have something nice to say about somebody to say nothing at all. Sage advice! The words that you will read below are not meant to indict anybody in particular but to simply point out facts. These are general statements that may offend many, however, no disrespect is meant. Sometimes we MUST talk about things that are not pleasant yet true. The truth must be told even if people’s feeling get hurt in the process. So, with that disclaimer, let’s get into the crux of the story. I live in Montana, a state that is supposed to be fairly healthy compared with the Southeast where we moved from. Of course we find obese people in all states but the Southeast tends to lead the pack. Frankly, I’ve been surprised how many Montanans are obese. With the wealth of outdoor activities more people should get outside and exercise. The sad truth is at least 50% of the folks I see here are obese or not far from it. These people come from all walks of life, however most are mid 30’s-mid 50’s and these people are dead standing. I don’t see any hope for them. They can be seen just about everywhere in town but once every quarter you will see them in HUGE numbers at The 12 Hour Sale. Our local grocery is a small chain of approximately 15 stores in western Montana, eastern WA and eastern Idaho. I will not mention the name. Once per quarter they host a 12-hour sale outside that is filled with 99% GMO junk, absolute crap, garbage….not food….this is stuff not fit for animal feed, in my opinion, yet it comprises the bulk of the diet for these dead standing souls. You can hardly get into the store during this 12 hour bonanza – replete with cheap processed, GMO food. The place is mobbed, shopping carts stuffed to the brim with these “bargains”. The procession of zombies waddling in and out of the store looks like a scene from Night of The Living Dead. People so fat and sick, with the worst skin problems, huge fat rolls, dry stringy hair, and the most miserable dispositions you can imagine. Their days are certainly numbered. These zombies have carts filled with food from the 12 hour sale. The struggle to get these dietary staples out of the store and into the car seems monumental. Lumbering across the parking lots, these sad people seem unaware that they just spent their hard-earned money on food that is slowly but surely killing them. This packaged garbage is robbing them of their right to happiness and health and causing them thousands in medical bills and daily misery. I would bet that 99% of this boxed trash has one common ingredient….wheat. More on that in my next article. I am always baffled that these dead standing people cannot realize that their carts are filled with certain death. If you can barely manage to walk, how can you readily consume soda, Doritos, frozen pizza, canned soup, junk crackers, cereal with colorants, and marshmallows in it? After seeing this for a few months now, I can think of only one motivational and inspirational directive; “Eat Some Damn Vegetables” I uttered this the other day on my podcast and it’s caused quite a stir. My fans and listeners worldwide think I should make t-shirts and bumper stickers with this bit of wisdom, “EAT SOME DAMN VEGETABLES” I might take their advice. I am from New Jersey. I can’t say I am overly proud of that. The late Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini, even went to my high school. I grew up around these spaghetti and red sauce eating citizens who have short tempers, foul mouths, and quick wit. Admittedly, I am one of them. Yet I have managed to squelch the annoying accent and become more moderate in my approach during the last few decades. Only recently, I am having trouble controlling my inner wise guy……Forgetaboutit! More and more the “New Jersey” in me rears it’s ugly head…think Bill Bixby…”you dont want to see me angry”. Usually it surfaces in traffic yet more often than not, while observing the happenings of my local SUPERmarket. When I see a management team who does such a bang up job slowly killing their customers I get annoyed. Do they realize they are poisoning their customers with their 12-Hour Sale crap ? Do they care? Who directs them to do this? Their upper management I bet. With a country in such decline, we must be assertive and address shortcomings of bosses, managers, and political leaders who fail us. Here is an example; not long ago I was in another supermarket in Missoula, Montana. The drive to this store is about 30 minutes, so when we arrive we usually need a bathroom break. After several visits there witnessing the utter disgust in the bathroom I finally went “Tony Soprano” on the manager, it went something like this….. “Sir, are you the manager?..oh good….I see that you’re sitting down in your office smiling and chatting right now….but the bathrooms that my family just had to use are nothing short of an utter disgrace!…..pregnant pause…his mouth was wide open…… There is toilet paper all over the floor, an inch of hair from somebody who just shaved in the sink, black stink all over the floor, filthy toilet bowls, no paper towels, trash bins overflowing, bags of trash sitting outside the door, dirt all over the walls and doors and it stinks. Absolutely disgraceful, a mockery of biblical proportions….all happening while you sit there in your chair chatting away. Additionally, your deli workers who are making sandwiches for the public right now, just left that unsanitary pit you call a public restroom….here are your options…are you paying attention?….see to it that the PUBLIC bathroom is cleaned and stays clean. If I come back and I find it like this again I will be calling headquarters and reporting this health hazard and I will be sure to let them know how you were sitting so nonchalantly while your PUBLIC bathrooms are worse than a college dorm. Are we clear?” After that verbal tongue lashing (notice I used no profanity though..) he agree and tried to shake my hand…I refused and told him he does not want to shake my hand as I just used his nasty bathroom. You see folks, sometimes you cannot sit idly by and let the shortcomings of people in charge affect others. Remember, our dear supreme leader Obama said last year on video that he is setting a “REDLINE” on Syria…if they use chemical weapons they will cross that line. Then the other day our dear leader said on video that he did not set a red line….it was somebody else…lies, lies, lies…..but the lazy, miscreant slobs we call mainstream media just accepted those pack of lies and did not even question the dear leader….only if I was there….FORGETABOUTIT! Some of your libertarian minded readers ( I consider myself a budding libertarian) might be thinking that the zombies at my store can choose to NOT buy the cheap 12-hour sale garbage….true….and that the store staff is doing nothing wrong, simply practicing free-market capitalism. In some ways you’re spot on…but that does not make it right. When somebody does not have the willpower, knowledge, or fortitude to STOP behavior that is killing them, others must step in to lend a helping hand. In this case the store needs to STOP offering this trash for a steep discount. Encourage the zombies to “EAT SOME DAMN VEGETABLES”. Why can’t they discount healthy fresh living foods once in a while? Why do they need to strip every stinking penny they can from the public by selling food that is nothing short of poison? I’m not advocating they try to compete with Whole Foods but at least address the problem. What about cooking classes or nutrition information sheets? If I were in charge the headline on the nutrition sheets would start with “Eat Some Damn Vegetables”. Things need to change….we libertarian-minded people need to step up and confront those in charge who are perpetuating this death spiral to try and save our fellow citizens. Just like we need to stand up for our gun rights, constitution, and other basic rights. Ok, enough said, I am going to have a bowl of gluten-free pasta with red sauce….alright paisan?
  4. Danelle Downer

    Remembering Hope

    “I want to turn this place into a homestead.” That is the statement that changed my life more than I ever thought possible. There has been the good, the bad, and the ugly. So many tears. So much joy. So many heartaches and losses. So many victories and celebrations. So many sleepless nights. So many long days. So many rewards. Add all of those up and you don’t even come close to the lessons learned. Today is no different. The day started just like any other day. Coffee at the kitchen table. Watch the weather report on the news. Get hubby off to work. Feed the dogs. Make a list of what I want to get done for the day. Load up my pockets with all the normal stuff. You know knife, screws, drill bits, bandana, bandaid, pencils, tape measure, screwdriver, lighter, small note pad, a bit of cash and change, sometimes a side arm. I put on my boots, grab my gloves, turn to the pups and say “Come along. Time to go to work.” It’s a race to the barn. Abby wants to do her morning rat check while Mowgli starts his rounds picking up feathers. No rats this morning. Off Abby goes to check the chicken house for rats and maybe sneak an egg for second breakfast. Mowgli is hot on her tail as he loves the left over egg shells. I do a quick head count on the pigs, throw them some alfalfa, and give everyone a quick belly rub and butt scratch. The little piglets are so funny jumping into the feed dish. I feed and water the alpacas and fill the pig wallows. I can hear the baby turkeys in the hay barn chirping and flying all over. They know I am coming. Normally we don’t keep the turkeys in the hay barn. Animals go in there only for medical care or for an emergency. This time was no different. Five days ago when we went out to the pasture to check on Hope (turkey hen) and her 6 little ones we found her over the fence and not moving much. We thought she was a goner at that point. No she was still alive and full of energy. We had no idea what had happened to her. Was it the heat? Was it a predator? Did the neighbors’ goat or donkey kick her? The only thing we could do was get her to the house quickly to evaluate her. Being caught once again without an emergency crate or medical pen we put her in a dog crate. I stayed with her to give her some meds while hubby and son (who was here visiting) went down to try and catch the 6 little ones. No easy thing to do as those babies know how to fly. There is no way to get a baby turkey down out of a huge Doug Fir tree. All you can do is wait. When they hide, they squat down and freeze making them all but invisible. With a bit of luck, a fishing net, a sheet and a couple of long sticks, they managed to catch 3 of the 6. We gave them a box, food and water set up in the hay barn. The other 3 would have to wait until the next day since it was just about sun down and they would go roost somewhere. We really didn’t think Hope would make it through the night, but she did. She was not moving that much but seemed like she could possibly get better. We figured putting her in the barn with her 3 babies would be best for now. They were so excited to see their mom. They ran to her in spite of us standing there. She was softly calling to them. It really warmed our worried hearts. What could be better than that. Now if we could just catch the rest of them. The next morning armed with my turkey herding sticks and the fishing net we set out to the lower pasture. We could hear their chirping sounds they make when they are in trouble or looking for their flock. That made it much easier to track them. It wasn’t long and we found 2 traveling together. That pretty much told us we had lost at least one. We were able to catch the 2 fairly quickly this time. Again the reunion was heart warming. Those little ones climbed under mama’s wing and hunkered down. The family was together again. This morning, as usual, I fed Hope first so I could check her over. Overnight she had taken a turn for the worse. Back to the house to get some supplies for a deeper inspection and more medical treatment. She was so weak. Then I found it. Gangrene. My heart sank as I knew what would have to be done. It hit me hubby won’t be home for hours. I can’t let her suffer. She was so weak. She didn’t even flinch when I picked her up. My head starts racing. What do I do? How do I do it? 22? Don’t want to blow her head off. Hatchet? What if I miss. Tail pipe of the car and a plastic bag? I knew it was only a matter of time and a moment like this would come about. I had rehearsed in my mind over and over how I would handle it. Now that dreaded moment was here. I had to make that call. Let her lay there and suffer all day until hubby gets home or handle it. No I will not let my fear and my ignorance be the reason this animal has to suffer. She has suffered enough we should have done this 5 days ago. A quick phone call to hubby to fill him in and get some last minute coaching. I had never been the one to take the kill shot. I have shot targets and gone rabbit hunting. I have stood by hubby’s side. I have been a spectator. This is different. This time I have to pull the trigger. I have spent time caring for her, giving her meds, rotating her. With a heavy heart and a refusal to shed one tear I swallowed my fear and went back to get my gun. Locked the dogs in the house, set the gun on the stump. Then made that long walk back to the barn. I told her her pain would end soon. I told her I was so sorry I could not help her more. That this was the only thing I could do. Then the thought of would she rather be in pain and spend more time with her little ones? My heart sank. Am I being selfish to not want to watch her suffer? No it’s time to do what needs doing. This is the ugly of it all. I can not and will not only put this on hubby’s shoulders. Gently I laid her on the ground, thanked her for all she has taught us. Carefully put the barrel to her head trying to remember everything I was taught. Swallowed hard and said “I am so very, very sorry, Hope, I love you” and pulled the trigger. I felt numb. I felt sad. I felt disbelief. Ya know it’s weird but I also felt pride. Not happy for what I had to do but that I was able to do what needed doing. I did it. Right after, I called hubby back so he would know I was ok. All I could say was “it’s done.” I buried her. Put everything away. Went back to the barn and stood there looking at the little ones. Oh the tears. I watched those little ones just sobbing. The heartache. This little turkey flies over my head lands on a bail of hay and just looks at me. I reached my hand out with some food and she ate out of my hand. I smiled. Life goes on. It may seem crazy to get so upset about a turkey. It happens. You become attached sometimes. Those babies that are so cute and fluffy now will someday end up on the table. Until that day, they will play, grow and live like a turkey or a pig or a chicken or a rabbit. They will live like the animal they are. Enjoying fresh air and sunshine. Fresh blackberries off the vine and apples from the trees. We will care for them and then thank them for feeding us. We will learn lessons from each and every single one of them. We will laugh at their antics and have stories to tell. We will also feel sadness when it’s their time, yet we will feel pride that we were able to put food on the table. I will feel good knowing that these birds had it much better than those that are raised in a factory farm. They didn’t suffer a miserable existence like the others. After all, that is why I am doing this. One less animal has to be raised in a factory farm because we will raise our own. We will endure the good, the bad, and the ugly, too. Thank you Hope for your little ones. Thank you for all you have taught me. Thank you for the strength you have given me. Most of all thank you for the freedom you have given us. I will always keep Hope in my heart.
  5. Kenneth Cooper

    Kayak Considerations: Heading Out to the Water

    Why a kayak? If you live near any considerable body of water (river, lake or oceanfront), a kayak can be a valuable tool. There is a lot which can be done with a kayak; from keeping you entertained, to providing some food, traveling to a rural destination, and even adding some variety to your exercise regimen. While a kayak may sound kind of an odd mode of transport to discuss in a prep blog, it certainly has a ton of positive aspects to consider. 1. A kayak allows me to get from point A to point B on virtually any inland body of water and has a shallower draft than most other typical forms of personal watercraft, allowing it to go places one would not otherwise be able to go. 2. A kayak is lighter and, with few exceptions, can be carried by one person to and from a transport vehicle and the water’s edge. My lightest kayak is a 10-foot recreational boat which weighs right around forty pounds. My heaviest kayak is a 16-foot Seda Viking with a rudder and it weighs just over fifty pounds. I carry any or all of my kayaks on a simple ladder rack on the bed of my pickup. 3. A kayak doesn’t cost a whole lot. I bought two of my three kayaks used on Craigslist for a fraction of their retail price, and they were in great condition. The one kayak I bought new was on sale and I got it for less than two hundred dollars. The twelve-footer I found on Craigslist cost less than that! 4. A kayak can carry ample gear. My ten-foot kayak can carry everything I need for a day trip or a weekend of camping. My sixteen-footer can carry about four hundred fifty pounds and can easily support me for a week, or considerably longer, depending on whether I can procure my own food where I am camping. This is also true of rowboats and canoes, but my kayaks keep everything stored away in sealed hatches. If I were to capsize (hasn’t happened yet, fingers crossed), I would simply flip the boat upright on its long axis and keep going. Try that with a canoe or rowboat. 5. A kayak can go places other boats just can’t go. Spend a little time in the cozy comfort of your favorite kayak and you will see that a bit of practiced paddling can put you exactly where you need to be to get to the fish. Fasten a five or ten pound weight to a nylon rope, and you have an anchor to keep you in position until you run out of bait or run out of fish. 6. You are closer to the water and, therefore, have a lower center of gravity. This is more stable. Kayaks, being typically lighter than other personal watercraft, are more maneuverable and require less effort to propel through the water. There are other considerations to this when considering the length of a kayak, but I’ll cover more about this later in this article. 7. Kayaks are simple. There is less that can go wrong. They run silently. They don’t require any fuel or engine maintenance and, should they be damaged, most temporary repairs can, believe it or not, actually be successfully accomplished with a roll of duct tape. No kidding. Paddlers on long kayaking treks have successfully continued their voyages after a bad spill, against a rock or tree in high-level rapids, by simply wrapping the damaged portion of their boat in duct tape, until better repair could be made back in camp. 8. Kayaking is an easy, enjoyable, full-body workout. When paddling properly, you exercise every major muscle group in the body. Paddling is not done with just your arms. You use your entire torso and even your legs get into the activity, as they help you maintain your position in the boat by bracing with your thighs against the rim of the cockpit. Type of Kayaks I have provided several reasons I enjoy and prefer kayaks for personal transport on the rivers and lakes around my region (and even some ocean-going fun on occasion) and, if any of this has got you considering adding a kayak to your ensemble of preparedness items, here are some things you should consider before going out to purchase one: There are different types of kayaks for different types of “adventure” and there are several “middle-of-the-road” kayaks, which would do well in most situations but not necessarily excel at any particular type of water conditions. Here is what I’m talking about: 1. There are kayaks designed for running “rapids” or fast-moving water typically found in rivers with high flow rates (measured in cubic feet per minute). These are typically shorter boats (usually six to nine feet long) and have little or no storage capacity. I don’t personally recommend this type of boat for a preparedness circumstance, but thought it prudent to mention them, as they are a popular style of kayak and you will see them when you go looking for a kayak. They are really best for fast-moving water that is going to move you, but they are very inefficient when it comes to paddling them in still water. They’re great for white-water rapids! 2. There are kayaks which fall into what is frequently referred to as the “recreational boat” category. These are typically nine to twelve feet long. They may have a small “day hatch” for some storage, but there is plenty of storage available just by stuffing your gear in dry bags and placing them fore and aft of yourself inside the hull of the boat. Note: Dry bags are waterproof bags which can be purchased (in various sizes and colors) at sporting goods stores such as R.E.I. and on sites such as Amazon and Ebay. Place your gear in the bag (use shirts, towels, socks and soft items to surround harder, sharp items when stuffing your dry bag), then simply roll the seal at the top of the bag about four or five times and fasten the plastic clip. 3. A third category, which I will refer to as “longboats”, are generally kayaks in excess of twelve feet (typically fourteen to eighteen feet, although the largest I have seen in person was a twenty-four footer from an Australian company. I mention this only to say: Despite it’s size, it was easily transported on a mini-van and carried to the water by only two people. Fiberglass kayaks are amazingly light, yet durable.) Longboats can also be further categorized into standard kayaks and “sea” kayaks. The difference between a regular longboat and a sea kayak is the watertight compartments. A sea kayak will have multiple (usually two or three) large watertight sections within the hull, which are water tight when the hatch is sealed. This creates a pocket of buoyancy in the event the cockpit is flooded with water. (If you ever get out on the open ocean in a kayak and get swamped by a wave, you will realize why this is so important. And, yes, people go out on the open ocean in kayaks. Going from California to Hawaii is just one example of an open crossing that has been done successfully via kayak.) Ok. So, we have our rapids-running boats, our mid-sized “rec” boats and our “longboats” which, for the record, are usually the only category of the three which have rudders. Not all longboats have rudders, but a rudder can easily be fixed to practically any longboat, and they are well worth the investment. A boat without a rudder relies on the paddle to not only propel the boat, but to also make adjustments to the direction of travel. A boat WITH a rudder allows all of the paddle’s effort to go towards forward motion, while any steering adjustments are done with the rudder (controlled with your feet inside the cockpit). This makes for a more efficient paddle. Concerning the length, the longer and narrower the boat, the more efficient the paddle. The shorter and wider the boat, the more stable it is. Having said that, my first kayak was shorter and wider and helped get me acclimated to kayaking. My sixteen-footer, being longer and narrower, is still plenty stable, and is my kayak of choice for almost any situation or event I have experienced so far. Pictured here are my ten-foot rec boat and the twelve-footer I found on Craigslist. Some weekends, I volunteer to monitor open-water swimmers training for triathlete events and a swimmer or two will need a break. I have sat comfortably in my kayak while paddling into the midst of tired swimmers grasping for a hold on the edge of the kayak. No problem. Low center of gravity. Very stable. This also bodes well for the avid fisherman trying to haul their catch in over the side. The purpose of this article was to provide a little insight about what can be done with a kayak, so you can see what type of kayak may best suit your needs, should it interest you. I intend to cover more about how a kayak can be a valuable asset in preparedness in future articles. Please feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions, comments or corrections. I will try to answer you directly or I may work your question into a future article. Thanks for reading! Stay vigilant and be prepared. Kenneth Cooper
  6. Surfivor

    Let’s see what’s growing at the Yurt

    A yurt is an ancient Mongolian structure that is pretty portable, at least compared to a cabin. Yurts typically have doors and a lattice wall. The lattice wall can be folded up. Mongolian hunters used yurt frames to protect themselves from tigers indicating that the wall is very strong. Yurtinfo.org seems to indicate people live in yurts in Alaska where there are a lot of big bears. One bear tried to get into a yurt, but only tore some of the fabric. The Yurt enabled the Mongols to move seasonally. There are some books and online materials on how to build your own yurt, I did study some of those, but this Yurt here was built by a Yurt company. The most challenging part of yurt construction seems to be to fit the canvas to the frame and center ring construction. The platform was not trivial either, but that is optional for some yurts or may vary as to how it’s done. You can buy the canvas part premade. The canvas needs to be replaced after 10 years or so. The roof part of the canvas I have is guaranteed for 15 years from Colorado Yurt company. An idea that has some appeal is, if you had someplace where you could set up a yurt for several months, say in Alaska, Montana, New Mexico; in that case, a smaller yurt between 11 and 16 feet seems an ideal size to load onto a small utility trailer. A 16 foot yurt has about 200 square feet of space. The day the Yurt went up in late November 2010…I spent many weekends that summer clearing trees and removing stumps in order to build a driveway and a place for the yurt. I made these very rustic stairs into the yurt using white cedar. The carpenter ants seem to not bother with it too much. Other kinds of wood scraps I felt I needed to move away from the yurt. Originally I thought I’d store scrap wood under the yurt, but that ended up seeming like not a good idea. There’s a bunch of black plastic you can see here because I am trying to get rid of some Japanese Knotweed growing on the property. The yurt has some big roll up windows for ventilation, but I never hooked up the electricity. It’s, on average, 5 degrees cooler there than down in Massachusetts, but we had a heat wave recently. I built this makeshift table out of some cedar logs, a piece of plywood, and some boards. I used it to cook on with my wood burning rocket stove, as it got too hot in the yurt to cook for my tastes. As you can see, the floor is elevated off of the ground a few feet. I put hardware cloth around the sides to discourage animals from living underneath. What looks uneven here is a large door I installed, in case I wanted to store large items under the yurt; however, it tends to get very wet under there in the spring or winter. The floor is attached to concrete blocks that just sit on the ground. I was told the circular structure is very stable the way it distributes its weight. The stovepipe on the inside has a protective plate. Vertical 2×6 supports are part of the snow and wind protection. Zone 4B in Maine can easily get 4 feet of snow. The snow usually just slides off, but, to be safe, I ordered extra thick rafters and the snow load kit. Sometimes it’s fun to fire up the wood stove and see if you can get the snow to melt enough to slide off the roof with a big “swoosh” sound. Though I was told it was unnecessary, I added this deadman center piece for additional protection of snow loads. It’s jammed in at the floor with wedge-shaped pieces of wood and only held to the center ring with bungee cords, as well as the force of the wedges from below. The center skylight helps to add natural ambient light to the yurt and, of course, you can see some stars and moonlight coming in. The walls have removable insulative panels that are composed of reflective foil and an air bubble wrap. I insulated the floor with 18 inches of fiberglass-like insulation material. Using a small wood stove, the yurt seems best suited to 3 season use or winter weekends where the temperature is fairly above zero degrees Fahrenheit, at least for my tastes. It works for me in that I can take a week-long vacation up there most anytime of year, except the coldest part of the winter. Many of the trees on the lot are medium-sized due to the land was logged at one time. I was able to create a number of clearings with a chainsaw using the chop and drop approach. In these clearings, I planted some groundnuts, small fruit trees and so on. This hugel bed has compost with not enough topsoil, but raspberry transplants from my mother’s house are becoming heavily established. These raspberries originally came from my grandfather in Connecticut, but there are plenty of wild ones growing on the property as well. Jack Spirko discussed groundnuts in a podcast episode with a title that was something like “10 wild edibles to plant.” I had read about groundnuts a little as a kid in a wild edibles book, but I had never seen any. Jack pointed out groundnuts have protien and carbohydrates, which greatly caught my attention. I ordered a bunch of tubers from Sand Mountain Herbs and, from the plants that sprouted from those, I was able to identify groundnuts in the wild. Here is just one big batch of tubers I harvested recently from the banks of a river in Maine with some pretty big ones in there. I’ve gotten better at finding ideal spots to dig tubers. These tubers are mainly going to be used for more plantings, as well as to trade with someone from another part of the country. Apparently there are a few different varieties of groundnut, some have more dense tubers or larger tubers, some don’t have flowers because of how the Native Americans cultivated them, I guess. Groundnuts are not nearly as common as some plants and seem possibly threatened by certain invasives, human construction, or herbicides in some areas. Many of the colonies that exist today may have been originally planted by native Americans. I was encouraged by someone I talked to online to help try to propagate groundnuts from different areas onto my land and spread awareness about them. I have come across larger colonies of groundnuts in Maine. The colonies I have found thus far in Massachusetts seem smaller and less significant. I am familiar with a river system in Maine where there seems to be a lot of groundnuts. This river is in a very good agricultural area and was used by Native Americans extensively. Through reading, I have discovered that groundnuts where a main part of the first Thanksgiving and these tubers probably saved the pilgrims from starving. That seems to be just another little known or omitted part of history. The best way that I have had groundnuts is to parboil them, then fry them in oil with garlic, soy sauce, and black pepper. I found a blog post comment online that indicated Native Americans may have slow-cooked them in water for many hours. Groundnuts are a climbing vine, so I try to put sticks in the ground, or set them up like a tripod, so they have something to climb. I also plant them near small trees. They tend to do best in loose soil, such as sand or peat. I planted some small urban apples mainly because the root ball seemed small and easy to manage. I perhaps should plant some other varieties, when I have time and space. Some parts of my land may be too wet, and one problem is I am not there to water these plants, thus it seems I should plant smaller tree plantings in areas that have somewhat moist soil. Here I have a first time crop of high bush cranberry from a bush I planted recently. It is not a true cranberry, of course, and not as tasty, but can be used in cooking. Here is an actual American cranberry I planted. My land has some wet areas. I may need to heavily mulch around these and add sand to encourage them to spread. The grasses and ferns seem pretty dominant in these spots. Without some weeding and other help, the cranberries’ future seems questionable, even though they are a wild plant technically. There are a few shiitake growing on some logs I inoculated 2 years ago. I have not had much of a crop yet, but I am hoping that will change. These logs are in a part of my land that has a lot of white cedar which provides a lot of shade year round. I moved a few of these logs near my neighbor’s property line, so I can perhaps get the lowdown from him if mushrooms are coming up and I am on the phone with him. The logs that I left where they were, or some that I moved back to Massachusetts, haven’t gotten any mushrooms yet. I also tried to stick some logs in the ground, as Sepp Holtzer recommends, because the logs get moisture from the ground that way, according to his approach. Other people disagree with this, apparently because they think other fungi, I guess, could, invade the log more easily. Sepp Holzer recommends inoculating logs in the spring, but I had also heard you can do this in the fall or winter. It seems nice to have this as a winter project when there’s not much else you can do, as well as to be able to do something with trees you cut. I have been using mainly maple, as well as poplar, for oyster mushroom inoculation, but I think I will try some oak logs next. I tried to create a trellis here for some arctic kiwi by leaning these poles up against a tree. I should perhaps add some wire in between them as well. There is a kiwi vine climbing up the pole there. The kiwis have not grown as fast as I hoped, but most of them are alive and growing. Here is a grow dome yurt made by Shelter Systems that I am thinking about getting. It is 150 square feet, a very strong structure in winds. It is held down by heavy tent stakes. It is easy to assemble or take down in less than an hour, easy to store, and weighs about 40 pounds. The frame is made of PVC and the material is very resistant to UV light. I’ve had the exact same yurt as a camping yurt, without the translucent material, for 12 years or so. I used to use it as an additional structure to my small pop-up camper and had even rigged up a wood stove with it. It is big enough to store a couple of 9 foot surfboards, and easily stand up in. I used it to store extra gear and practiced the guitar in there or let guests stay in it. I had a seasonal camp on the Maine coast and did a lot of surfing there. My little tiny truck camper and yurt was nestled in amongst 30 foot + RV’s with big screen TVs. The campground manager decided, after a couple of years, that the yurt looked out of place and no longer allowed me to use it and I had to switch to a screen house. Surfers at Ogunquit river mouth in southern Maine, one of the many great spots to surf in Maine with some really nice sandbars and long rights. August 2013 – Surfivor
  7. TheBerkeyGuy

    Why Refill My Water Storage?

    How much drinking water storage do you have? When did you last replenish/recycle your drinking water storage? Regardless of the claims made by the company that provided the water “preservative” you used in order to secure a shelf-life for your water, it is recommended that you cycle through your water storage and replenish it every 6-12 months. Notice that I am strictly discussing drinking water storage and not general use water that will not be consumed internally. General water storage can be cycled through at longer intervals if desired. Naturally, people always wonder why this cycling out is recommended…especially those of us with large quantities stored. (It’s no cheap endeavor.) Here are some reasons why I do it yearly: Cycling out my water ensures the integrity of my water. I like to save money everywhere I can, but on matters of sustaining life and ensuring critical functionality in crises, I will not scrimp. Over the last few years, I have come across a handful of individuals who thought that their water storage was in perfectly consumable condition, only to discover their storage had turned to non-potable quality. Some of the bung seals had cracked due to improper application, a non-secured seal, or poor protection from environmental elements. Another culprit was unauthorized access by a curious household member. This person had opened up the container and closed it, essentially cross-contaminating the water and not informing anyone. Tisk, tisk, tisk. Use the water you are cycling out to run through your water purifier/filter & drink it, water the garden, wash the car, rinse off garden tools, hydrate & wash the pets, or re-allocate that water as general-use storage and fill a new drinking water storage container to build up your supply! “Take care of your tools & they’ll take care of you.” This is a no-brainer and the primary reason that many of us like to “rough-it” every once in a while. I like spontaneous campouts in the backyard or somewhere locally to test out gear and ensure its deliverability. This also gives others within my family (or group) a chance to learn, test, and socialize. Most importantly, it has helped me refine gear or methods for future applications. I have discovered gear that I will not purchase again and recommend that others avoid acquiring. I have also discovered products that required more frequent inspection, such as my Coleman grill/stove combo. One of the O-rings had to be replaced and I had not noticed it after I had previously used, then stored, it. Lesson learned. Habits are formed through repeated action. My wife and I have three wonderful children who are eager to see and do almost anything that they observe us doing. Our boy Joshua absolutely loves helping me break-down tools to clean, inspect, and oil them, so do our two daughters. It’s more than neat to then watch them internalize those principles and do the same to their toys and tools. We all enjoy the same excitement when we get together in the kitchen or go pick fruits/vegetables from the yard. Beyond the individual discipline that I need by forming healthy habits, these behaviors become a legacy-mindset to our posterity and like-minded friends. I learn directly from observing others as well. One of the greatest joys of life is the bonding that emerges as individuals participate in collective learning experiences. Clearly, the reasons for cycling out my drinking water storage are based on principles that extend far beyond that commodity. I approach Self-Reliance with the idea that principles and laws found in nature extend into all aspects of Life. Our challenge is to adapt and apply those guiding lights to the particular project(s) we presently pursue…and then share them.
  8. LVS Chant

    Crab Apple Juice Project

    A big part of becoming more frugal along our path to freedom is making things at home and building things ourselves instead of buying them elsewhere. Today’s project was making juice from a friend’s crop of crab apples. The lowly crab apple is often not even harvested these days. Most people have them simply for their ornamental qualities as a landscaping tree. My friend with the crab apple tree agrees with me about their value, but didn’t have time to juice them herself and offered them to me. So…homemade crab apple juice (destined for crab apple jelly) was produced at home. One year, for my birthday, I received a wonderful tool for making quick work of producing fruit juices – a Stainless Steel Juice Extractor. Stainless Steel Juice Extractor It is great for extracting juice from fruits without all the normal mess. It has a stacking set of components: the bottom holds water; the middle collects the extracted juice; the top layer holds the fruit. Cleaned, halved crab apples After cleaning the fruit and placing in the top section, you assemble the unit (filling the bottom component with water), heat it up and let the juicing begin. It takes about 45 minutes to get the juices flowing, a couple of hours to complete the task. Today the crab apples made the most beautiful juice.* Crab apple juice Lovely, pink crab apple juice! *Crabapple juice tastes something like cranberry juice when prepared in this way. Since I added no sugar, it had a very tart, slightly bitter taste.
  9. LVS Chant

    Can You Make the Change?

    The Homestead… starting a new phase of life. My husband and I live on our own piece of land in southeastern New Mexico, along with our two teenage boys. He retired last year from his job at age 51; when we moved here and began building our own home, with the plan to be able to live on his retirement and be fairly self-sufficient on our own land. We have no mortgage, no car payments, no credit card balances (beyond what we plan to pay off each month) and no plans to get into any debt. We live on about 33% of the income we had before my husband’s retirement with no problem. The thing is…we were far from this only a few years ago. We had the big suburban house in a neighborhood with restrictive covenants, a big mortgage, and a high cost of living that is very common to many Americans, only three years ago. The difference is that we made a significant change in our focus and personal plan. Granted, we weren’t in the kind of bad financial shape many folks are, even before we made the change. We hadn’t financed a car since the mid 90’s, didn’t carry huge credit card debt, or have a terribly extravagant lifestyle. However, we did have the huge 30-year mortgage and no plans for early retirement. Our house owned us and kept us enslaved to the high costs of maintenance and taxation. It provided nothing for us in terms of production. Day to Day Lifestyle Changes About 2009, I began listening to Jack Spirko’s podcasts regularly, joined the TSP forum, and began learning from more experienced preppers. My husband and I became convinced that we needed to make a change in lifestyle to allow us to completely change our path. We needed to save every penny we could to allow the purchase/construction of a debt free homestead. The changes at first were very subtle. We just stopped wasting money on things we didn’t need. Eating out became a fairly rare occurrence. We just cooked food at home – every day. I began to be more of a frugal shopper and planner, stocking up on foods we ate when they were on sale and storing more food in the pantry and freezer. This alone made a huge difference in our monthly expenses – and in how much money I could put aside into savings each month. We began to seriously think about each purchase we made, considering whether we’d rather save the money toward the homestead or just spend it now…you can guess where most of the money went, right? Each month we were able to save more and more from the take-home pay and the nest egg began to build. Making the Plans Batter boards for the foundation. We also knew that we had to change the focus of our plans for the future, so we began looking for suitable property to use for our homestead. We did some searches on various states that had reasonable property taxes, productive land, etc. In the end, we decided it was more important to be close to family, so returned home to New Mexico. The land is very dry, but the growing season is long, so the potential for good food production is there, as long as we have access to water. We finally found five acres that are reasonably close to town for convenience, yet outside the city for taxation and no homeowners’ association or restrictions. We purchased it (cash) when we were still living in the big suburban house. Immediately we had a well drilled and capped on the land. We didn’t want any possibility of a problem with having our own well due to future water rights legislation. For us, it made sense to also build a small workshop with some amenities. Our plan was to live in a travel trailer while building the main home. We hired out the construction of the workshop out to a local builder, who completed it before we returned to New Mexico. In order to make life more comfortable, the workshop was equipped with a full bathroom/shower and washer/dryer hookups. To do this, we also got all infrastructure installed – electricity, pump/pressure tank for the well, septic system, cable (for internet service). We paid cash for this. We could have built this much less expensively ourselves, but we just didn’t think we could stand living out there without the basics covered before we started. Next, we had to figure out the best way to rid ourselves of the home mortgage albatross. That big home cost us nearly $8,000 per year in property taxes alone. Consider the interest payment on the mortgage and you can see money dropping down a rat hole at an alarming rate. My husband was in a career field that had a mandatory retirement after 30 years’ service. Most people in that career field apply for and receive a waiver for that so that they can continue to work up to either age 56 or 60. He let it be known that he had no intention of requesting the waiver. His employer then transferred him to a position across the country for his last assignment before retirement. With this transfer came a relocation package, and a home buyout option. Even though we lost money on the house, we took the relocation offer and got free of the mortgage. Although we had to rent a house at the new place, it was much less than the cost of a mortgage, homeowners’ insurance, and property tax – that much more to save before retirement. Checking the plan For years, we had been living well…with a fairly high income. With the planned retirement, our income would be steady, but very low in comparison. We had to find out if it was a feasible plan. We calculated what the retirement income would be after taxes, healthcare deductions, etc. Then, except for the monthly rent payment, we made ourselves live on no more than the income we would have after retirement. Since this was only about 1/3 the take-home income, it meant we would potentially be able to save two-thirds of the monthly income for the rest of his work time. So, the plan had two purposes: 1) See if it was feasible to assume we could make it on the retirement income without finding other employment 2) Save the extra money so that we could build our house without a mortgage once the retirement came. In short order, it became obvious that we were able to live just fine on the 33% (which made me realize that we had been very foolish with our money for many years). This, along with the equity from our home sale, provided the money set aside for building a home free and clear. We essentially had nearly two years’ salary set aside for the building project when we began. Can you do this? I think many people could do the same thing with their plans. No one has exactly the same situation, but the general idea would work for anyone. Obviously, if your situation involves more current debt, it will take you a bit longer to save up the nest egg. Here’s how I would boil our plan down: 1) Decide as a family that you want to be debt free. 2) Make the monthly spending changes to rid yourself of current debt as follows: a. Consumer debt (pay smallest balance first, then snowball to the biggest) b. Student loans (these things will never leave you…get rid of them) c. Mortgage (Once the consumer and student debt is gone – pay it off as soon as possible or sell the house if you need to) 3) Start a savings plan for the homestead a. Reduce consumer spending b. Eat at home c. No buying on credit d. Become a more frugal shopper e. Live on the amount of income you’ll have at retirement only – save the rest 4) Determine the retirement location a. Analyze taxation, growing season, location relative to friends/family b. Purchase the land (or house and land – as your situation demands) c. Begin work on the homestead as time/money allow i. Dig well ii. Install septic system iii. Build/install other infrastructure needed (electricity, internet, gas lines, propane) iv. Consider building small outbuilding to assist with living during construction. v. Design the home, using current materials costs to estimate what it will really take. If you plan to subcontract most of the work out, you must save a lot more before you start. We ended up doing most of our own work in order to stay within the budget and ended up with a building cost of about $67/sf. It is not easy to do this…I won’t lie to you. It’s been a hard fifteen months of building. Perhaps you need to plan to live in a rented house or apartment instead of living in a travel trailer, to save your sanity/marriage. The travel trailer living was much harder than I imagined. Just build your plan accordingly. This was our plan…yours will look different, I am sure. But if you are willing to make the changes now in your life, you can live your life much differently than other folks can in the future. You can make your homestead work for you instead of the other way around. You can have less stress in your life without debt and high taxation, if you choose. You can have time to do things that truly interest you, instead of being tied forever to a job just to make it. Home on The Homestead. We have been (and will continue to be) documenting our plans and struggles at our website: The Homestead…Starting a New Phase of Life.
  10. Photo: Root Simple Nature knows no waste. Humans? Think of all that perfectly good water that flows down the sewer out of our laundry machines. Why not harness that laundry water to grow food? Of all the projects I’ve attempted on our modest urban homestead, reusing our laundry greywater was one of the simplest. In this post, you’ll learn how to reuse laundry greywater. I’ll share a useful greywater resource and describe the systems I installed at my house and the house of a neighbor. Planning Before heading to the hardware store for plumbing parts, you’ve got to answer two questions: “How much laundry does my household do in a week?” and “Where am I going to send that water?” For me, in both of the installations I describe, the answer was to send the laundry greywater to fruit trees. For food safety reasons, vegetables are not a good destination for greywater. Fruit trees, on the other hand, thrive with greywater. If you’ve got a big household and a lot of laundry, plant some more fruit trees. Fruit trees can be pruned to keep them compact, so you don’t need much space to create your own mini-orchard. Design Greywater expert and author Art Ludwig has detailed an easy to understand free plans you can find on the laundry to landscape section of his website Oasis Designs. These are the plans I used to install the laundry to landscape system at a neighbor’s house several years ago, which have transformed a hot and dry side yard into a lush landscape of fruit trees and native plants. Three way diverter valve. Photo: Ludwig/Root Simple. Ludwig’s laundry to landscape system is simple. You send the drain hose of the washing machine to a three-way diverter valve (Ludwig sells a nice brass one on his website). This allows you the choice to send the water back to the sewer in the wintertime, if it’s raining outside, or if you’re doing a load with bleach or diapers. While the diverter valve is expensive at around $50, it’s well worth it for the convenience of being able to easily shift between landscape and sewer. From the diverter valve, one set of 1-inch pipes leads to the sewer and the other leads to the landscape. On the side that runs to the landscape, Ludwig recommends installing a backflow preventer (some laundry machines can suck water back, and you don’t want that to happen). You also need to install a vent, and means to hook up a hose to clear the line of lint. See Ludwig’s plan for details. Once the line is out in the landscape, you have the option of sending all the water to one place or creating a sort of pressurized drip system by punching holes in the pipe. Ludwig created a spreadsheet that details the size and number of the holes you can punch in the pipe. At my neighbor’s house, there are around ten holes in the pipe that irrigate a line of fruit trees and flowering shrubs. You can use either PVC pipe or flexible HDPE pipe. PVC is a bit of a chemical nightmare, but it’s what I went with since I couldn’t find HDPE line in less than huge quantities in my area. Note that you must use pipe that is 1-inch or greater. Do not try to hook a laundry machine directly to a garden hose. Doing so will burn out your laundry machine’s pump. Greywater 1.0. It ain’t pretty but it works. Photo: Root Simple. Greywater 1.0 I’m still using an earlier Ludwig design at my home. Rather than sending a pipe directly into the yard, my washing machine greywater discharges into a 55 gallon drum. I have a standard garden hose hooked up to the bottom of the drum that I drag around the yard. The advantage to this design is that I have more flexibility in where I can send the water. The disadvantages? You need gravity to do this (my house is on a hill). And the garden hose plugs up with lint frequently. Ludwig no longer recommends this configuration, but it has worked well for me. Precautions You need to use a detergent formulated for greywater use. Note that many “eco” detergents have ingredients (like boron and borax) that are toxic to terrestrial plants. I’ve been using Oasis Biocompatible that I order from Amazon. You can also use soap nuts. If you have absent-minded members of your household who might send a load of bleach out to your orchard you should consider a lock on the three-way diverter. Nobody has ever gotten sick from greywater in the US. That being said, you should avoid loads with diapers. And don’t use greywater for vegetables or lawns. Never store greywater. It goes rancid really quickly. Send it straight out to the garden. The valve on the bottom of my greywater tank is never closed. Keep it simple. Avoid the expense and maintenance duties of pumps and filters. They aren’t needed. I’m in balmy Los Angeles. If you’re in a place where it freezes, you will need to drain the outdoor lines and/or bury lines beneath the frost line. Send greywater out to mulch basins. The mulch will help filter and soak up excess water. Since washing machines pump out their water, you can force the discharge uphill to some extent. But be careful. Go uphill too much and you risk burning out the washing machine’s pump. According to Ludwig you can “irrigate any distance downhill, or pump up to an elevation 2’ below the top of the washer 100’ away.” The Law Laws in the US regarding greywater vary widely. Some states allow laundry to landscape without a permit and others treat greywater as sewage. Ludwig has a state by state listing of greywater laws. If there’s any risk that authorities might bust your greywater party, install the system after building inspectors have left and be discreet. Our system was illegal until 2009, when California amended the plumbing code to allow laundry to landscape without a permit, and nobody noticed or cared. Have you installed a laundry to landscape system? How has it worked for you? Have you worked with other greywater sources such as your shower or kitchen sink?
  11. Christopher Nyerges

    Chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms

    An excellent tasting — and colorful — wild mushroom Knowledge of edible wild mushrooms can really enhance your outdoor experience and give you a little bit of self-reliance in the city. Yet, there is this mystique about mushroom hunting. Lots of folks are very wary about venturing into the field of mycology. And this is understandable, considering the fact that even “experts” occasionally die from eating the wrong mushroom. I often have told my students that they should avoid eating any wild mushrooms if they do not devote considerable time to studying mushrooms, and learning how to positively identify different genera and species. One of the biggest hurdles to studying mushrooms is that they appear, as if by magic, and then a few days later, most have decayed back to nothing. By contrast, most plants are available for inspection all throughout their growing season. You can leisurely study the leaf and floral structures, clip some for your herbarium, and casually take (or send) samples to a botanist to confirm your identification. Generally, you don’t have the luxury of time with mushrooms. Furthermore, there seem to be far fewer mushroom experts than plant experts, so even if you have a perfect specimen, there may not be anyone to take it to for identification. Despite the obstacles, thousands of people collect wild mushrooms throughout the United States on a regular basis. Many — such as myself – began the pursuit of mycology by joining a local mushroom group which conducts regular field trips. Nearly everyone I’ve met who collects wild mushrooms for food collects only those few common mushrooms which are easy to recognize. These very common, easy-to-recognize, edible mushrooms include field mushrooms (Agaricus sps.), inky caps (Coprinus sps.), fairy rings (Marasmius oreades), chantrelles, Boletus edulis, chicken-of-the-woods, and many others. Today we’ll take a look at the chicken-of-the-woods, also known as the sulfur fungus (Laetiporus sulphureus, formerly known as Polyporus sulphureus) The sulfur fungus is a polypore, or shelf fungus. Instead of the more-familiar cap on a stem, this one grows in horizontal layers. It is bright yellow as the fungus begins its growth, and then, as multiple layers appear, you will also see orange and red. As it grows older, it fades to a very faded yellow or nearly white color. Typically, the chicken-of-the-woods grows on tree stumps and burned trees. It can grow high on the stump, or right at ground level. Though it can appear on many types of trees, in my area (Southern California), it is most common on eucalyptus and carob trees, both imported from Australia and the Middle East respectively. This fungus is very easy to positively identify. If you are uncertain, you can call around to the botany departments at local colleges, or nurseries, or check to see if there are mycology groups in your area. Most full color wild mushroom books include this mushroom with color photos. Fortunately, you can collect a sample of the chicken-of-the-woods and put it in your refrigerator or freezer until you can get it to someone for identification. This mushroom will keep well. In fact, when I locate some of the fresh chicken-of-the-woods, I cut off as much of the bright yellow tender outer sections as I think I can store. I only cut back a few inches; if I have to work my knife, then I am into the tougher sections of the fungus, and those are not as good eating. Typically, I will simply wrap the chunks of this fungus and freeze them until I am ready to use. Once I am going to prepare some for eating, the process is the same whether I am using frozen or fresh mushrooms. I put the chicken-of-the-woods into a pan and cover it with water, and bring it to a hard boil for at least 5 minutes. I pour off this water, and repeat the hard boiling. Yes, I am aware that some people do not seem to need to do this. However, if I do not do this boiling, I am likely to vomit when I eat the mushrooms, however prepared. I find vomiting one of life’s most unpleasant experiences, and I try to avoid it whenever possible. Thus, I always boil my chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms twice. If you are experienced with this mushroom and you know you can eat it without all this boiling, that’s fine. Just be sure to thoroughly cook it for your neophyte friends when you have them over for dinner. Once boiled, I rinse the pieces, and cut them into small nuggets on a breadboard. I roll them in egg (whole eggs, whipped) and then in flour. In the old days, we would then deep fry the breaded pieces. But since we now know all the bad things that deep-frying does to our arteries, we gently sauté the breaded chicken-of-the-woods in butter or olive oil, maybe with a little garlic, in a stainless steel or cast iron skillet, at very low heat. When browned, we place them on a napkin and then serve them right away. We have made these little McNuggets, packed them, and taken them on field trips for a delicious lunch. Richard Redman looks at a chicken-of-the-woods shelf fungus growing on a stump. [Christopher Nyerges is the author of “Guide to Wild Foods” and 9 other books. He leads regular wild food and survival skills walks through School of Self-reliance. You can learn more at www.ChristopherNyerges.com]
  12. EMERGENCY EXPEDIENT ONLY! Ol’ Backwoods has an emergency preparedness item for you today. Suppose there’s a short-term to medium-term disruption of your natural gas to your home, and you really need hot showers and clean dishes. This hack shows you how to run your natural gas hot water heater for short periods from a propane grill tank, and do it safely. By building a simple $5 pipe adapter BEFORE the emergency comes, you can be ready to go when there’s an emergency disruption of the natural gas supply. At the bottom of the post is the engineering behind the hack, and why it works. I know this works, because I heated three tanks of water with my water heater using this technique. WARNING! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY EXPEDIENT, ONLY TO BE USED IN TIMES OF DIRE NEED. I am NOT LIABLE for what you do with this information; it is presented for educational purposes only, in the field of emergency preparedness. If you do this expedient, it must be MONITORED CONSTANTLY and only be used for short periods. It requires GOOD VENTILATION, as the expedient may increase CARBON MONOXIDE output from the water heater. This expedient is not a replacement for natural gas service, and may damage the burner of your water heater if used for a long period of time! In what situations might you do this? Any emergency that causes the interruption of natural gas service for a few days or more. Here are some examples; all have occurred before, in the US or the rest of the world. How do I know? I was an engineer in the natural gas industry. Backhoe operator does not call utility before digging, and breaks open a residential gas main; Accelerants in burning building near gas meter burns through natural gas pipe, causing the pressure to be too low to operate your water heater; Train wreck or chemical plant explosion nearby to natural gas pipeline breaks pipeline open; Earthquake causes a gas line break; Terrorist attack against natural gas pipeline or pumping station; Economic collapse. LET’S DO IT! Get a CO monitor for $25! You’ve decided to prepare for this emergency? Even after my warnings? Okay, what do you need? 4 things: Special pipe adapter you will build below; Full propane tank from your gas grill (or buy a dedicated one); Gas grill hose & regulator off your gas grill (or buy a dedicated one); (Optional) carbon monoxide monitor (CO monitor), which everyone should have near their gas hot water heater anyway. THE PIPE ADAPTER To the right is a picture of the special pipe adapter you will assemble and test. The pipe adapter allows regulated-pressure propane from a gas grill tank & hose to flow into your water heater. If you build the pipe adapter ahead of the emergency, you will be ready to make hot water with your grill tank. I’m not going to tell you each and every step to build and install the pipe adapter. If you haven’t ever done basic plumbing before, this is NOT the project to start with! If you are in a country that uses metric plumbing parts, you will have to figure out your own sizes. Below is what we use in the US. The lower part is a 2″ long, ½” diameter black pipe nipple, designed for use with natural gas. I purchased it from a local hardware store for about a dollar. Buy the black iron pipe, not galvanized. The upper part is a brass flared male 3/8″ to female ½” pipe adapter, purchased from the same hardware store for a few dollars. The two parts of the pipe adapter need to be put together with PTFE (“Teflon”) cream, to prevent leaks. Use your vise and a pipe wrench to get them very tight together. YOU DON’T WANT LEAKS! And we will be checking for them. DON’T PUT PTFE CREAM ON THE MALE END of the brass piece THAT GOES TO THE GRILL HOSE! HOOKING THE GRILL TANK TO THE WATER HEATER NOTE! YOU MUST CLOSE THE NATURAL GAS VALVE PRIOR TO REMOVING ANY PIPES! EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN’T HEAR IT, AND YOUR WATER HEATER WON’T LIGHT, THERE STILL MAY BE NATURAL GAS COMING INTO YOUR FEED. TURN IT OFF! Using a pipe wrench, remove the pipe that connects between the output of the natural gas value and the input of the thermostat. If you aren’t sure, you shouldn’t be doing this! Usually, there is a tee where this can be accomplished easily. The bottom of the tee goes to a capped vertical pipe, which is designed to catch condensation in the gas. The top connection of the tee is where your pipe adapter will go. After putting PTFE cream on the threads of the pipe adapter, screw it into the top of the tee. Hook up the gas grill hose to the top of the pipe adapter. DO NOT USE PTFE CREAM HERE! Okay, here’s a picture showing the FULL hookup to my water heater. PLEASE, PLEASE pay attention to the notes in the picture. Click to embiggen, or right-click to save it and view in your picture viewer. Don’t EVER Do This! (Unless you have to) PROCEDURE TO LIGHT AND BURN WATER HEATER FIRST, turn off propane tank valve (should already be closed), and turn off the pilot light valve AND the thermostat on the water heater. Lather 50/50 soap/water mixture over all your connections, even on your gas grill hose. A sponge is good for this, as shown on the right (thanks WikiHow). Turn on the gas grill valve, SLOWLY to avoid triggering the leak restriction device built into the regulator. If you are getting expanding bubbles, STOP! TURN OFF THE GAS GRILL VALVE, and work on tightening your connections. I was very careful making the pipe connections, and used enough PTFE cream on the joints, that I didn’t have any bubbles at all. Light the pilot light on your water heater. Watch it burn for at least 2 minutes. Be sure you are getting a mostly-blue flame, with some yellow edges. (YES, YES, I know, using flame color to determine fuel mix is dangerous! This whole thing is an emergency expedient, remember?) Now, turn the water heater gas valve to ON. Be sure you have no leaks at this point! More soapy water on the joints, please! No leaks? It’s time for the moment of truth. Turn the thermostat up to about 120°F (more on this later). Listen and watch for the burner to light. Be sure it seems to be burning nice and hot, with at least 50% of the flame blue. We expect the upper part to be yellow, because, remember, this water heater wasn’t designed to be run this way. (YES, YES, we know, using flame color to determine fuel mix is dangerous! This whole thing is an emergency expedient, remember?!) DO NOT LEAVE THIS UNATTENDED! WATCH THE CO MONITOR! Remember, this hack is for emergency use ONLY. Run it for ½ an hour, be sure the flame is still burning good and heating water, then shut it off and go take your shower, or have someone else watch the flame and the CO monitor for you. DO NOT LEAVE THIS UNATTENDED! WATCH THE CO MONITOR! for awhile! Remember, it’s an emergency, and we are conserving what little propane we have stashed. THE TECH BEHIND THE HACK First, we are heating stuff, so we should talk a little bit about the energy density of fuels. A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. Different fuels have different energy densities, or BTU values. A gallon of liquid propane contains 91,502 BTU’s. A pound of liquid propane contains 21,591 BTUs. A hundred cubic feed of natural gas (a so-called CCF) contains approximately 102,000 BTUs, but a hundred cubic feet of propane will yield 224,880 BTU’s – almost 2½ times more heat– because propane has a higher energy density. How hot does the water have to be, then? 170°F water (77°C) is hot enough for sanitizing dishes, if kept immersed for at least 30 seconds. 140°F water requires many minutes (like a long dishwasher cycle) to sanitize dishes, but takes much less energy, as we see below. An even lower temperature, like 120°F, is more reasonable if you use some kind of chemical sanitizer when washing dishes. At 120°F (water weight: 8.25 lb/gal), it takes roughly 5 minutes for a scald burn, so you are less likely to get burned at a wrong shower setting. Alright, how much water do we need to heat? My hot water heater has a 38-gallon capacity, which is 315.86 pounds of water at year-round earth temperature (about 50°F here in North Carolina). The weight of a gallon of water varies between 8.312 (50°F) and 8.125 (170°F) pounds. Let’s calculate the amount of energy in BTU’s to raise my 315.86 pounds of water from 50°F to 120°F: BTU = water weight * temperature difference = 315.86 * (120°F-50°F) = 315.86 * 70 = 22,109 BTU. Okay, we have the energy required to heat the water from cold to the desired temperature. This is a straightforward application of unit conversion, since 1 BTU will raise 1 pound of water 1 degree F. But how long will it take to heat the water? Depends on your burner. My hot water heater burner, running natural gas, can supply 40,000 BTU per hour. Assuming 100% heat transfer to the water (not true, but close enough), we can heat a tank of water in: Hours = BTUs required / BTU /per hour = 22,109 / 40,000 = 0.57 hours x 60 min/hr = 33 minutes. But the burner was designed for natural gas, not propane. If the propane’s BTUs were used as efficiently by the water heater burner as the natural gas BTUs are, then the water would heat about 2.5 times faster on propane, because propane has about 2.5 times the energy density of natural gas. But it won’t burn propane as efficiently. The orifices (little holes) in the burner are sized for efficient mixing of natural gas and air, not propane and air. Propane orifices are usually about 60% of the size of a natural gas orifice, for the same BTU rating (I looked this up in a paper design table I have). That means running propane through natural gas orifices cause too much gas to be mixed with too little air, causing incomplete burning, increased carbon monoxide and soot production, and in general less energy. Chemists call this a non-stoichiometric mixture, and the gearheads among us would say, “she’s runnin’ too rich.” And they would both be right. Just how far off are the orifices for burning propane? Not far. A 0.129″ orifice for natural gas would yield about 59,000 BTU per hour. The propane orifice size to rate the same BTU’s should be between 0.089” (55,000 BTU/hr) and 0.094” (61,000 BTU/hr). To yield the 40,000 BTU/hr that my hot water heater puts out on natural gas, it would need a 0.075″ orifice to run on propane. But it doesn’t; its orifices are likely closer to 0.129″ in diameter (nearest natural gas orifice size that corresponds to 40,000 BTU/hr), allowing too much propane through. So, keep in mind, it could take longer to heat the water than it does with natural gas. In the case of my water heater, it was really pretty close; about 45 minutes vs. the about 30 minutes it takes normally. What other considerations are there? The pressure of the gas at the input of the regulator on the water heater. My water heater burner is well-matched to the gas grill regulator I have. The water heater is rated for natural gas pressure at between 5” and 14” of water column. I bought a “Type 1” gas grill regulator (commonest type in the US), which delivers a pressure of about 11” of water column. This hack likely wouldn’t work for a much larger burner that requires a higher pressure. By the way, 7 inches water column is equivalent to 4 ounces per square inch pressure (1/4 PSI). 14 inches water column is 8 ounces pressure ( ½ PSI). 1 PSI equals 27.7 inches water column. Even with the correct pressure, my orifice is the wrong size, and my flame color is only about 75% blue, with the rest yellow. This means I am getting soot and CO, so be careful! I wouldn’t have even attempted this hack if my water heater wasn’t next to an exterior wall in my attic with PLENTY of ventilation. No, it’s not optimal. But, for a temporary expedient in time of emergency, IT WORKS. I know it works, because I heated three tanks of water with my water heater using this technique. I want to emphasize again: this is NOT something I would want to do all the time. If I was running off propane all the time, I would buy a propane water heater. And maybe at your bugout location, you do or will. But if you live in an area where earthquakes or man-made disruption of the natural gas system is possible— even a misplaced backhoe – this is a viable technique to get you hot showers and clean dishes in a short to medium-term emergency. Again, DON’T DO THIS if you aren’t sure! Ol’ Backwoods would to hear feedback from anybody who builds their own pipe adapter. Leave me a comment.
  13. Jason Akers

    All About Chicken Tractors

    As always I like to give some background on why I’m qualified to speak to a subject. I built my first tractor in 2010. I built it out of leftover chicken wire, salvaged 2x4s and pallet lumber. It was roughly 6 feet by 3 feet. It was the Ark style tractor (triangular). I’ve since scrapped that one. The second one is the Joel Salatin style broiler tractor. My newest iteration is the cattle panel style (with differences) 2003. I also have two quail tractors. So first let’s talk about why use a tractor. To me the tractor is the most perfect middle ground between free range and coop run that is available today. Some might argue that the electronetting fills this niche. I could not disagree with that statement very strongly but the electronetting still falls in the middle ground but its more leaning toward the free range and the tractor leans on the spectrum more toward the coop/run. The tractor provides most of the protection of the coop/run but with the advantage of being able to move the animals to fresh ground as needed. You always know where the chickens are and yet they still have free range type access to a degree. The other advantage is you can concentrate chickenness or birdness in one area. This means you can use them as a permaculture element to do varied things. Raising chickens is not the goal, the goal is to integrate them into your system. You can do this by allowing them to denude an area for later planting. You can use them to improve the soil. They can warm an area (yes that is correct) for a type of microclimate. You could use them to keep pests in an area down. The uses are almost limitless. The disadvantages are that you now have this heavy thing that you have to move ever so often. You can reduce your feed bill but probably not as much as free range. So there’s the why but what about how? First you have to build one. The main considerations are: Strength Size Weight These considerations fight each other. In manufacturing we have a saying which is: Fast, good or cheap – pick two. You can build the strongest tractor in the world but it might be too heavy to move. If you try to make it lighter but just as strong you have to reduce size. So the perfect chicken tractor meets all three requirements. Its light enough for you to move. Its strong enough to prevent predator incursion. Its also big enough to hold the birds you need. This is highly dependent upon your situation. A person living near Yellowstone with wolves would get totally different advice than someone living in South Florida with Pythons. How do you do accomplish your goals? First use rigid but light materials. – the cattle panels are a good example. They take the place of a lot of lumber of which equivalent sizes would be heavier. Aluminum is a good example too. Don’t use 2×4’s when you can get away with 2x2s. Combine materials and sizes for strength. On my broiler tractor I used 2x2s for framing except for the uprights which are 2x4s. I can get two screws through a 2×2 into a 2×4 across the width so it helps. I use chicken wire (lighter) on high places and hardware cloth (stronger) on low places. Don’t put extraneous features – when you cover it with wire, only use enough wire to accomplish your goals. For instance I have a metal roof section. Well needless to say that section didn’t get wire and roof, just roof. Its best to build light and strengthen later if you can. The build is pretty simple but there’s a lot of cut to fit. The tractor consists of three main components: Simple frame – what holds the tractor together. Covering – the type of material to keep the chickens in and predators out! Shelter area – a small area where all birds can get undercover in a storm or colder weather. When planning you have to understand the needs of the animal. You don’t want a low tractor for laying hens which will need to roost and lay. You don’t need the upward space in a cattle panel tractor for broilers which are earthbound. If you are raising meat chickens then limiting their upward space can reduce leg injuries. But if you just feed them right you don’t need to worry about such things. As for stocking rate it is far better to stock low and then build up. Anywhere from 1 sqft per to 3 sqft per. It really depends on the chicken, the size and activity level. You would stock a bantam Sebright different than a Black Giant. Stocking rate would also depend on your land. If you have rich clover and perennial grasses then it would be different than if you were doing it on scrub brush and multiflora rose (like me!). So don’t think there is any one formula out there for getting to it. You have to use your brain and senses on this one. Likewise goes with how often to move it. The more you move it the higher stocking you can do. But if you are like me there might be a day or two you can’t get to it – stock it lower. How do you know if you are moving it enough. Its hard to move it too much. But if you get matted down grass and manure on top of the matted down grass then it could stand to be moved more. There are various methods of actually moving the tractor. The hardest depending on weight is just actually dragging it. This is tough but it does help level out the ground a bit. Putting wheels on is never a bad idea just make sure they don’t hold the tractor up off the ground enough that predators can get in. Some people use furniture dollys. I know Joel Salatin uses a custom built dolly. Then you have to think about feeding and watering. Ideally the feeder and waterer move with the tractor and aren’t things that need rearranging to move. After you move them its time to do a check. Make sure the feeders and waterers are still in place and functional. Look for any gaps around the bottom and use something to take the gap up. Feeding – Getting the birds to forage is a conundrum. As long as food is free fed then the foraging will be limited. Simply put it costs a chicken more in calories to work for food than to not work for it. By limiting feed you can force forage. But forcing forage will cause your chickens to gain weight more slowly. Whether this is a problem or not is totally up to you. Water – If you leave the waterer in an open spot it will nearly keep itself filled with rain. Chicken nipple use here is ESSENTIAL. Overall using a chicken tractor puts the user in a situation where adaptation and creativity is not only wise but necessary. You’ll find that though this article may be a general guideline that you will have to build the chicken tractor and change it as your specific conditions require.
  14. Jason Akers

    Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

    For me, growing shiitake mushrooms just makes good sense. For one, I have in my state, the lady who wrote the book (literally) on Shiitake production in woodlands – Professor Deborah Hill. Professor Hill works out of the University of Kentucky and has answered my questions on many different occasions, even several years ago when they were at times annoying beginner questions. The other reason is that Shiitake is derived from the Japanese shii which is commonly thought to mean oak. However shii is actually an evergreen tree related closely to oak. The word take means mushroom. Shiitakes are, for the most part, oak mushrooms. In that case you could call my four-acre property in Western Kentucky shii-land because every third tree here is an oak. History Shiitake mushrooms, like all mushrooms, belong to the fungi kingdom. Its proper name is Lentinula edodes. Shiitakes are native to China, Korea, and Japan (of course). The first written record of shiitake cultivation is attributed to the Sung Dynasty of China. That writing was made several decades before the Normans conquered what would become medieval England. This mushroom has been gaining more and more popularity in the US as it becomes “hip” to eat Japanese and eastern cuisine. In a way, the popularity of sushi has probably spread the shiitake more than anything. Not that shiitake relates in particular to sushi, but the same Japanese restaurant that serves sushi usually has a few udon type soups that contain some quantity of shiitake mushrooms. Appearance The shiitake is a large mushroom. The color can vary from white and tan to white and dark brown. The brown part at the top tends to exhibit a crackle pattern exposing the white beneath. However, it should be noted that the mushroom itself is only the fruiting body of the mycelium. If the mushroom is the “fruit” then the mycelium is the “root”. The mycelium is an invisible thread-like mass that invades the rotting log, soaking up nutrients and moisture by breaking down the wood with an excreted acid. A sheath protects the threads from its own acid. It is nearly impossible to confuse another mushroom for a shiitake mushroom, once you’ve seen one. Growing Them Inoculation The process of introducing mushroom starts to the wood is called inoculation. It is essentially infection of the log. It consists of a few steps. I will explain the steps and why it’s done the way it’s done. Wood Selection I’m making an attempt by experimentation this year to determine just how much both type and size of wood matters. Conventional knowledge states that oak is the way to go. However, I theorize that using different types of wood could affect not only yield, but also speed of fruiting and duration. I’ve got access to, and will try, oak, sweet gum, and hickory. There are only a few types of wood that are said to not work. First of all, you should not use any coniferous trees. Some do not rot well and others contain chemicals such as terpenes that are found in pines. Most hardwoods are acceptable fodder for shiitakes. However, it should be said that there are better and worse types to use. The harder types of wood are better. Oak is primary, followed by maples, hickory, sweet gum, birch, sycamore, and poplar. Walnut and black locusts are not desired because they are too hard and rot resistant due to chemicals in the wood. Aspens and willows are also not desired because they are too soft and will allow contamination. Selecting the wood should be done before fall. Paint or tape off trees you want to fell later. The best size is said to be 4-8” in diameter. However, it’s impossible to harvest a tree that is 6” in diameter all the way up. In addition, a stack of logs of exactly the same size is going to fruit for the same duration and in the same manner. I think it’s best to have a variety of sizes. I usually cut trees with main trunks that are about a foot in diameter. That way I can harvest a good deal of the limbs as well as the main trunk. The size guidelines are mostly in effect to help the user deal with the wood. An oak log a foot in diameter and 3 feet long is a chore to lift. Simply cut them shorter. It is a good idea to fell them after the leaves have fallen, but before the trees bud in the spring. During this time, the moisture content is said to be ideal in theory. Apparently the problem with cutting trees during the growing season is that the bark is looser than during the dormant times. The bark is essentially the armor for the log and by association – the mycelium. Without the armor of the bark, all kinds of outside organisms can contaminate the log. Speaking of contamination, it’s essential to inoculate the logs within 2 weeks of cutting. While making sure the bark stays on is a long-term protection, getting the inoculation done is a short-term protection for closing the wounds you’ve inflicted by cutting the tree to begin with. Drilling The next step to the inoculation process is drilling the holes. If you’ve chosen sawdust spawn, then the hole size is 7/16”. If you’ve chosen plug spawn, then the hole size is 5/16” generally speaking. It’s important to keep the depth at about 1 inch if you’ve chosen plugs. The plug needs to contact the bottom of the hole to avoid forming air pockets causing the mycelium to have difficulty taking. My new favorite type of spawn is thimble spawn, which is compressed sawdust. It does not require waxing. However, the drilled holes must be 13mm in diameter. Plugging The next step is inserting the spawn. With the plugs it’s easy. Just insert, hammer in, and you’re done. If you are using sawdust, it helps to have a tool to take up and deposit the spawn. Waxing Cover the plug or sawdust and entire hole with a dab of cheese wax. The goal is to simply seal the “wound” and allow the moisture to stay inside the log. Stacking After the logs are fully inoculated the next step is to stack the logs in a shady moist area. In the north, this is commonly done by leaning them against a standing fence. In the south, the log cabin stacking method is commonly done. This is simply stacking the logs in a square configuration similar to a log cabin. Watering If the logs do not stay sufficiently damp, then the fungi mycelium may succumb, suffer, or not produce well. In certain cases the grower may need to intervene by watering the logs. Flushing The actual fruiting of the mycelium by producing edible mushrooms is called flushing. Shiitakes usually fruit in force, sending up mushrooms in quantity. The timing all depends on the spawn type, log type, weather, moisture levels, etc. It’s important to watch the logs after changes in rain amounts and temperature. I’ve found my logs start to produce when the daytime temps drop to about 55F. During the heart of winter, production drops but picks up during every warm spell, as well as the beginning of spring. Apparently sometimes thumping the logs with a hammer can force them to fruit. It is not known why this happens, but theory is that the vibration sets off a mechanism telling the mycelium it’s time to reproduce.
  15. Interest rates soaring and new homes sales plunging are signs of stress fractures in a failing economy. Despite $85 billion per month in new money creation, the Fed has been unable to keep the economy above stall speed. Just the hint of taking away the punch bowl has sent bond markets plummeting. July new home sales dropped 13.4% from the previous month. The skyrocketing 10 year Treasury, which is the bench mark rate that lenders use to figure mortgage rates has almost doubled from its lows in May. The rate has risen from 1.6% in may to briefly touch 2.92% last week. Many of the sages that predicted the housing bubble like Peter Schiff, Nouriel Roubini, and Ron Paul have since warned of an even bigger bubble of sovereign debt. Even the world’s largest Bond fund manager, Bill Gross, compared the current bond market to a supernova. For those of you who don’t watch ‘Big Bang Theory’, a super nova is when a star, like our sun, burns enough gas to lose the density required to maintain enough gravity to keep all of the gases together. The gases expand to many times larger than the original size of the star. The gases burn up in a giant flash that sears any nearby plants orbiting around the star. Bill Gross went on to say that he recommends hard assets like gold. That is the equivalent of Hilary Clinton telling folks to vote for Rand Paul. The rapid rise in interest rates is definitely a cause to keep your eyes open. Whether the Fed is letting rates rise because they are anticipating higher inflation or if rates are rising because the Fed is losing control, both are bad news for a fragile economy. This week did see a brief respite from the rapid increase in Treasury yields due to the fear of yet another war that we can ill afford and have no business interfering in. How convenient. In other news, gold and silver have made a tremendous come back. At the time of writing, gold was at $1410, up from its low in June near $1200 per ounce. Silver has made an even more impressive recovery. It sits above $24 from its low right around $18.50 in June. That is a 30% jump in little more than two months. Gold and silver have served as stores of value since the dawn of time. Genesis 13:2 says ” Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.” Which fiat currency can you think of that has been around that long?
  16. Roswell Crutchfield

    Homesteading on a Budget

    “Homesteading on a budget” is almost a repetitive phrase. It just seems natural; those that homestead, do so on a budget. Yet, looking through a lot of the websites and catalogs geared towards homesteaders, you would think it was a hobby for rich people who have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. The truth is basically the opposite. Not to say that all homesteaders are poor, but that they tend to spend a little more conservatively than most people, as they are naturally striving towards self-sufficiency. Below are some ideas that I came up for homesteading on a budget. If you think of any I may have missed, please leave it in the comment section below. Forage for food in your yard and the wild. (Make sure to have the landowner’s permission and do NOT eat anything that you are unsure of) Use rain water to water your lawn and/or garden. Make your own compost instead of buying it. Go to the library for your books and movies to research the homesteading lifestyle. Instead of spending money going “out” think of other ways to save money. For instance, go on a hike instead of joining a gym, cook instead of going out to eat, read a book or watch a movie from the library. The money saved can be used on something that you actually need. Visit Freecycle.org; there you can find all sorts of stuff that people are giving away. Craigslist is another website that has great deals and often free stuff. It is basically a free online classified section. Save on energy (there are SO many ways to do this): When you leave a room cut the lights off! Use energy saving appliances, CFL bulbs in your lights, cut the ac/heating off when away for long periods of time, use a power strip or a timer to cut off those vampires (you know all those little lights that are still blinking after you “cut off the lights”), when done charging things like cell phones and laptops – unplug them, use cold water detergent and even air dry your clothes on a clothesline (assuming you don’t have a HOA that frowns on that like we do). Use alternative energy. Things such as solar panels, geothermal, a gasifier, or wind turbines to save on your energy bill and, in some cases, even sell energy back to the power company (initially this can be quite expensive, but you can probably find grants or tax credits, both federal and state in some areas). Get Creative! Recycle things and re-purpose things for new projects. Think before you throw something away and see if you can devise a new use for it. Also, be on the lookout for things you can re-purpose elsewhere either from dumpster diving, garage sales, neighbor’s trash or anywhere else you see and can legally obtain materials. If you have to buy something then why not get it used? Check out Ebay and Amazon for pretty much anything. If you must buy something new, buy in bulk and/or when stuff is on sale if possible. Check out stores like Sam’s Club or Costco for bulk items. Stores like Dollar General, The Dollar Store, Family Dollar and such are great sources as well, but can be hit or miss. Clip coupons from the paper, save them from the grocery store line and scour the Internet. One site I use before ever making an Internet purchase is retailmenot.com. You can also use a search engine and look up “(name of company) and coupon”. You will usually get hits on any current coupons or deals going on at that store. Some are codes for online and others to be printed and used in the store. If you can use a coupon on something already on sale, so much the better.
  17. Roswell Crutchfield

    Camouflage Is Not Always The Best Camouflage

    It seems a lot of people of the preparedness mindset seem to be somewhat obsessed with camouflage. And when I say camouflage, I am talking about the mixed patterns designed to make one blend into their surroundings. Merriam-Webster dictionary describes camouflage as follows: the disguising especially of military equipment or installations with paint, nets, or foliage; also: the disguise so applied concealment by means of disguise behavior or artifice designed to deceive or hide Too often, I see people focus on the first definition while forgetting the second. However, in many settings today, camouflage patterns make you stand out more than you would without them. If one wants to really conceal themself, the best plan is just to blend in. This idea of blending in can be applied to just about everything and takes camouflage to an entirely new level. This is what it means to become “the grey man”; a being of total inconspicuousness, this is true camouflage. First, let’s talk about clothing. It seems like recently camouflage clothes have become part of fashion, and not for actual concealment. You can walk into just about any mall or Walmart in America right now and someone will be in there wearing camouflage clothes. Guess what? He sticks out more than golf pants in the woods! If you aren’t in the woods, camouflage clothing makes you more obvious. I’ll say that again. If you aren’t in the woods, camouflage makes you more obvious. Instead, try to wear clothes that allow you to blend in. This is real camouflage! Remember, the sheepdog is so effective because he can blend in; otherwise, everyone assumes you are a wolf. For instance, I wear cargo pants almost every day, but I don’t walk around in military BDUs (battle dress uniforms), I wear khakis. And nobody looks twice. This concept of hiding in plain sight by blending in can be applied to almost every aspect of one’s life, even their home. For instance, one could spend all kinds of money making a 20 foot tall barbed wire security fence, post all kinds of threatening signs, and it will work… to an extent. Sooner or later, someone is going to think, “If this guy spent so much money keeping people out, then there must be something good in there worth stealing.” Instead, why not try to make your security a little less obvious. You can still have a formidable fence that looks more aesthetically appealing and people won’t think about the utilitarian aspect. Instead of a sign that reads, “Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again”; go with a simple “No Trespassing” sign. They basically say the same thing, but the less threatening one doesn’t advertise that you have guns in the house. Remember, a lock on a door only keeps honest people honest. So, you want to redirect the not-so-honest person’s attention elsewhere and avoid the conflict all together. Another mistake I see people make is on their vehicles and the stickers they put on them. I understand the draw to want to share your interests, as I have a TSP (The Survival Podcast) sticker on my car. However, when someone has like 10 stickers for the NRA it becomes obvious that you may have a gun. Many people think that would warn people off and it will, for some, but on the real criminal element, it has the opposite effect. They aren’t scared because they plan on getting the jump on you first; which immediately puts them at an advantage. Another thing I see are these stickers with all the family members, their names, and even their favorite activities. To me, this is tantamount to putting your social security number on your car. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love wearing camouflage patterns and don’t always keep it to the woods. However, I am well aware of how people perceive me when doing so and sometimes change so to blend in. This isn’t a fashion thing and I wouldn’t look down on someone wearing camouflage pattern in public. I am speaking to the mindset of what it means to be “the grey man”; to blend in so completely that you are, for all respects, invisible. Truly think about your goals and make sure you aren’t working cross-purposes and be mindful of the personal information that you may be sharing in public without thinking about it.
  18. Roswell Crutchfield

    Monthly Home Maintenance

    It is nearing the end of the month, which for me means it is almost time to go through my monthly home maintenance checklist. Your home is your most valuable asset and it deserves to be taken care of. Monthly home maintenance isn’t as daunting as some people think, but when put off, it can really add up and, in some cases, it will come back to bite you if neglected for too long. The list below may not be a complete one for your home and some of the things listed may not apply to you. So, I encourage you to use my list as a basis for your own. Furthermore, I encourage anyone that thinks I forgot something to please add it in the Comments section. Home Maintenance Checklist Test your smoke/fire alarms, as well as your carbon monoxide detector(s)- [replace the batteries every 6 months at minimum]. Change the filters on your air conditioning system and furnace. Check all other filters, purifiers, and water softeners; such as, those on your refrigerator and water pipes. Check the disposal and all drains for obstructions and clean accordingly. Check the level on your fire extinguisher(s) and replace if necessary. Make sure your generator(s), sump pump and battery back-ups are all in working order, if applicable. If you store gasoline, and you should for emergencies, make sure to rotate your cans by putting the old gas in your vehicle and filling the cans with new gas. If you have a bug-out-bag/72 hour kit or whatever, check the food you have packed to make sure it hasn’t expired. Confirm that your family’s emergency plan has remained unchanged and all numbers and routes are current. Check the air pressure on your vehicle’s tires, as well as the treads. Check all fluids on your vehicles and lawn maintenance equipment, as well as their air filters. CLEAN!!! You should constantly be cleaning your house so it doesn’t all pile up. However, take this time to clean all the things you don’t normally get to. Hardly anyone likes to clean, but you need to do it, and not just because guests might come by. Cleaning the home keeps things from physically deteriorating, improves the resale value, and most importantly it keeps you healthy. Mold, dust, and bacteria are more than just gross; they can cause some serious health issues. As I said, the above list is not a complete home maintenance list, but more of a jumping off point. So, take my list and tailor it to you, your family, your home, and your situation. Also, there are many things, such as cleaning the gutters or sweeping the chimney, that need to be done to maintain the home, but don’t need to be done every month. These items either need to be on the list too or have their own list because they are no less important. Take home maintenance seriously because Murphy’s Law dictates that the worst thing will come up at the worst time; the more you can do to maintain things, the more prepared you will be.
  19. Roswell Crutchfield

    Homemade Applesauce Recipe

    It is harvest time for apples, as well as pears and other fruit. This recipe is for making homemade applesauce in the crock-pot, but it can be adapted to many different fruits. For example, my wife and I love pearsauce, especially with some pork. I would also suggest purchasing a hand crank apple peeler/slicer/corer as it will make the process much easier and faster. Ingredients: 6 Medium sized apples 1/2 cup Water 1 tbsp. Cinnamon 1 tbsp. Sugar 1/2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract – imitation is just that, imitation Directions: Peel, slice and core the apples (make sure to peel. I once tried to leave it on to “make it chunky” and it did not work out. LOL). Put the apples in the crock-pot. Pour the water, cinnamon, vanilla extract and sugar over the top of the apples. Cover crock-pot and cook on low for about 4 hours, stirring every couple of hours. (If you doubled the recipe, like I did, then you may want cook it up to 5 hours) Lastly, either mash up with a potato masher or toss in the blender until it reaches the desired consistency. ENJOY! *TIP : When the applesauce is finishing up in the crock-pot, get the water bath or pressure canner ready. The applesauce will already be hot so this way you won’t have to heat it twice.
  20. Roswell Crutchfield

    DIY: How To Make Can Lanterns

    Can lanterns are fun, cheap, and easy to make. You can use an aluminum can or a tin one; both will work. This project is only limited by your creativity. You can cut all kinds of designs into the cans if you want or keep it simple and just make them functional. You can use can lanterns in all types of ways: to create ambiance in a backyard by hanging them from trees, to provide a light to read by, and anything in between. What You Will Need: Can Cutting Tool (Knife/Tin Snips/Multi-tool) Old Candle Stub or Tea-light Candle *Optional* – Wire Directions: 1. Cut a big “U”shaped door in the side of the can 2. Carefully bend it upwards. The edges will be sharp so be careful not to cut yourself. 3. Put the candle in the can and that’s it! Some advantages to this are that you can see without giving away your position or subjecting the flame to the wind. OPTIONAL If you want to you can go a step further and make hanging can lanterns. Cut two holes towards the top of the can, on either side of the opening so, that they are opposite each other 2. Take some wire, strip both ends and make hooks 3. Fit each end of the wire through a hole and hang The best thing about these is that you can make them fast, and you can make them anywhere. Pretty much everyone I know carries a knife and a lighter, and if you don’t, then you should. Cans themselves can be found anywhere trash can be, which is everywhere. So, all you need is a piece of candle or a tea-light. These weigh basically nothing, and can be added to anyone’s gear without any noticeable difference. Don’t forget that what I have shown is the most basic and utilitarian design for the can lantern. One can go all out creating different designs by cutting shapes into the can. You just have to make sure to leave yourself room to get the candle in and light it.
  21. OldGrouch

    Alternative Fuels In Diesel Engines

    Warning- Before using alternative fuels on the highway, ensure you are familiar with your state and federal laws for road use tax. The taxman takes this very seriously and getting caught with even a few gallons of untaxed fuel in your vehicle can result in thousands of dollars in fines. Off road, in generators and farm equipment and such, no problem. On the road, you are taking a risk if you don’t do the paperwork and pay the taxman. A GM 6.2L Diesel, an ideal candidate for alternative fuels use Why learn about alternative fuels? My first experience with alternative fuels came 15 years ago. I was in rural Alabama on a buying trip in my diesel Ford van, and let myself get way too low on fuel as the evening progressed. I pulled into a little town with 2 gas stations, and only one was open. Of course, just my luck, the open station did not sell diesel. The one with diesel would not reopen until 6:00am the next morning, and the next station was 25 miles away, and I doubted I could stretch the fuel that far with the load I was towing. Remembering what I had learned, I went into a local supermarket, purchased 3 gallons of vegetable oil, dumped them in my tank, and made it to the next station with diesel with no problem – in fact I found my engine ran a little quieter and smoother on the peanut oil. Had I not known this trick, I would have been sleeping in the van the next 8 hours until I could buy some fuel. Not only can alternative fuels bail you out of a hard spot or be available when other fuels are out and the gas stations are closed, they can save you a significant amount of money. Often these fuels can be had at a substantial discount over regular diesel, or even free. When you are working make a homestead as low-cost and self-sufficient as possible, using alternative fuels can save a lot of money. This article not going to go into deep specifics about what exact fuels and engines work, but give you a good basic overview that you can use to build your knowledge and learn from. From this, you will know enough to get started researching your exact situation with engines and available fuels. The primary knowledge you need it to know what engines work best and what can be used as alternative fuels. Engines The diesel engines best suited for alternative fuels are older designs that are non-computer controlled with indirect injection. This is not to say that modern diesel engines cannot use alternative fuels; however, there are factors that limit the ability to use them, and newer engines are far less tolerant. The most notable is that the modern computer controlled diesel engines, in an effort to produce the most power and economy while meeting ever more stringent emission regulations, are placing the fuel under much higher injection pressures and far more specific fuel parameters that the engine control computers demand. Shifting away from the viscosity, lubricity, and performance of diesel can have very adverse effects on these newer engines. Another major factor is that newer diesel engines have emission control systems that can be damaged by using some of these fuels. As a general rule of thumb, anything automotive older than mid-1990’s works best with these, on generators and tractors the dates push a little later. Some that I have personally used and verified work well are the GM 6.2 and 6.5 V8’s, the Ford/International 6.9 and 7.3 V8’s (non-Powestroke), most 80’s VW and Mercedes diesel engines, the Kubota D905 and similar engines, and the engines found on military MEP-002A and MEP–03A diesel generators. A surplus 10kw diesel generator. The author has over 200 hours of use on his with a 50/50 blend of diesel and used motor oil. Every time he changes his oil he filters it and dumps in free backup power fuel. If you have a vehicle, tractor, generator, or other diesel-powered anything you are considering using alternative fuels in, a quick search on the internet will almost always yield a list where somebody else has tried it and shared their experience. A brief search before trying it can often save you the trouble if it is not a good combination, or let you learn how to best make it work from another persons trail and error. Fuels This is a list of fuels I have either personally used or seen used in diesel-powered vehicles. This is not a complete list of all possible fuels, but it is a good starting point. Some I list as usable at a 100% mixture, some are only usable as a blend with diesel, kerosene, or another agent that thins it. Home Heating Oil– This is essentially No. 2 diesel with a slightly different mix that is inconsequential for use in vehicles; or often the exact same thing, and the addition of a red dye so the tax man can tell it is not taxed for road use. In some parts of the country ,there are hundreds of gallons of this at almost every older home with an oil furnace, and if one has a pump and lines in an emergency it can be pulled from the tanks and used. Kerosene– This also can be used with only a slight drop in power output. In a situation where all the gas stations have “no gas” signs, often the kerosene pumps will still be running. It does lack the lubricity that many diesel engines need. If available, you should mix some 2 cycle oil in at a ratio of around 100:1 to restore that lubricity. But in a pinch, don’t hesitate to use it. A few hundred gallons of it without a lubricity additive won’t harm anything. Note that it will act as a detergent and break gunk free from a fuel tank, so be prepared to change fuel filters. Jet/Turbine Fuels JP4/JP8– The military runs all its diesels on JP8, so the same fuel can be used in all vehicles that are turbine or piston powered. Like kerosene, it lacks lubricity; so, if possible, add 2 cycle oil. Unused Vegetable Oil– Vegetable and cooking oil that has not been used to cook, fresh from the bottle or even farm can be used. This is actually nothing new. Rudolf Diesel ran the very first diesel engine on peanut oil by design. It is possible to even raise soybeans as a crop for fuel. In the summer, in warm climates, you can dump it in many engines at 100% strength, no mixing. In colder climates, you cannot use it at 100%, as it will gel and the engine cannot pump it. Vehicles modified to run on vegetable oil year round will usually have a special fuel tank that circulates engine coolant through the tank to heat it; as well as heaters in line with the fuel system to ensure that fuel delivered to the engine is warm and, therefore, thin enough to run through the system; and a separate smaller tank for diesel that the engine starts and runs on until the veggie oil tank is warm. You can run in colder climates, to a point, by blending with diesel; kerosene; or, in limited amounts, gasoline. To test blend ratios, put varies ratios in jars and simply leave them out on a cold night, and see what mix gels and what stays liquid at various temps. A commercial second tank system, heated and filtered, for running Waste Vegetable Oil Used vegetable Oil – Generally called Waste Vegetable Oil or WVO. This is the famous used French fry oil. Not made into biodiesel, that is something outside the scope of this article, but used directly as a fuel. DO NOT JUST DUMP USED FRYER OIL IN YOUR TANK! Used veggie oil is dirty and has emulsified water in it, and both will harm your engine. Before use, used oil needs to be filtered, ideally to a smaller micron rating than your vehicle filter, and de-watered. There are varied methods for de-watering, from centrifuges, to simply heating it to boil water off to water absorbing filters. But you need to ensure the oil is clean and free of water, then you use it just like virgin vegetable oil. In a later article I will discuss filtering. Motor Oil– New motor oil can be mixed with fuel up to around 50% in most cases. Used motor oil is the same, farmers often called it “black diesel” and have put the used oil from the farm in diesel tanks for years. Usually called Waste Motor Oil or WMO on most online forums discussing it. The same warnings that apply as to used veggie oil above- you must filter it and remove the water, and watch in colder climates for gelling. The Army, for a while, was buying a machine that removed the oil during an oil change, filtered it, and pumped it right into the fuel tank. They paid thousands, but you can easily build one yourself for around $100. Your friends, neighbors, and even local shops will probably be happy to give you as much free “fuel” as they can generate. One word of warning, some have found that WMO is best used in vehicles that are used for longer runs or duration, like tractors used all day or trucks run on the highway. Using it in vehicles used for short, around town drives can possibly lead to deposits being left in the engine as it does not get to full operating temperature. Automatic Transmission Fluid– Can be run up to 100% in many engines. Since every gas station has it on the shelf, this is a good emergency option when the pumps run dry. If used ATF is burned, the same warnings about filtering apply, but in a pinch it is less likely to hold moisture dirt than motor oil. Hydraulic Oil– Before all the engineers jump me, yes I know there are thousands of kinds of hydraulic oils. But most are around a 5-10wt oil that can be run up to 100% in these engines. Your farm supply places have it in 5 gallon buckets, and heavy equipment has gallons of it that can be removed and used in a pinch. Transformer Oil– The kind from the big transformers on the pole or outside a big building. Do not use ones from transformers older than the 70’s as it may be full of nasty PCB’s, but anything newer will be fine. If you can find a shop that rebuilds these transformers, they may be very happy to have you haul away the oil so they don’t have to pay for disposal. These are just a few examples of fuels and engines. The key things to remember before using an alternative fuel in your diesel engine are to research and see if anybody has used it before, ensuring whatever fuel you are choosing is clean and free of water; and to start with a slow blend if possible. Of course, in an emergency, this isn’t always possible, so use your best judgment. But for a cost saving measure on the homestead, these basic rules will help you explore and start using low-cost diesel fuel alternatives. In an emergency you will see all sorts of possible sources of fuel along the road that most people would have never considered. Try spotting all the fuel sources on your next drive.
  22. Angery American

    Ruger 10/22 Davidson’s Takedown

    On this, the inaugural debut of Brink of Freedom, I think we should all take a moment and think about those very words: Brink of Freedom. I think that today, more than ever, they are three very profound words. Usually that phrase would be associated with a people on the cusp of achieving freedom. However, for those of us who take responsibility for our own lives, it is quite the opposite; we are on the brink of losing our freedom. I don’t know if this is the way Jack intended the phrase to be taken or not, but sadly it is all quickly becoming a reality. I have a favorite quote from Robert A. Heinlein that sums up what I, and I am sure many of you, feel about our freedoms: I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. Robert Heinlein This pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. Now on to the topic of this article, the Ruger 10/22 Davidson’s edition take-down. The only difference I see between this one and the original is the addition of the threaded barrel and flash hider and the fiber optic sights. Opening the case there is another small addition, a scope base, rail type, that can be added to the top of the receiver. The literature that comes with the gun doesn’t give you any idea of any additional work and the web is devoid of real particulars. The rifle is typical of Ruger quality sporting a 1-16 twist and a 16.25″ barrel. This version comes with one of the superb BX-25 magazines, the original only comes with a 10. The BX-25 is just as reliable as the good old 10 round rotary, it just adds to the fun factor. The rifle comes in a nice Cordura case with two pockets on the outside. The lower of the two will hold six of the BX-25’s leaving the top pocket open for some additional gear, small PSK maybe? Inside the case, one side holds the rear half of the rifle and the other side has two pockets for the barrel and a possible spare. The takedown and assembly are extremely simple, insert the chamber into the receiver at about a 45 degree angle from center, push in, and twist into place. It locks nicely with only a tiny bit of movement. To take down, simply pull the small lever visible in the notch in the right pic, and twist. The bolt does have to be locked back when disassembling, a small switch much like the safety on the Mini 14 is sandwiched between the trigger guard and the magazine release. The switch has two settings – one to lock and one to unlock the bolt. While initially slightly confusing, it is quickly sorted out and works well. A lot is made about the rifle’s ability to retain zero. Looking at the gun, it’s simple to see why. The chamber is part of the barrel and is inserted into the receiver so that all parts that touch the bullet, with the exception of the firing pin, are one piece. Since the sights are attached to the same part, it only stands to reason zero should remain constant. Where you could run into trouble would be with the use of an optic, as it would attached to the rear half and zero could be compromised. One of the most striking features is the flash hider. It is very reminiscent of the old M-16 birdcage, just a little longer. The barrel is nicely threaded with a quality bushing to protect it. The best feature here is that you can easily add your favorite suppressor for some private rodent control. I hope to add a suppressor to this little gem soon and will report back on the result. The front red fiber optic sight is visible in the pics above. The rear is a two dot green and they do an outstanding job of collecting light and making the sights highly visible. The rifle weighs a mere 4.75 pounds and when assembled is 34.75″ long. Disassembled, the front end is 18 3/8″ and the stock comes in at 20″. This model of 10/22, just like all the others, is fun to shoot. Out of the box, four rounds fired at twenty-five yards, almost fit under a nickel, damn fine by anyone’s standards. I ran fifty rounds of Federal 40 grain through it and it functioned perfectly. This is a perfect rifle for small game hunting and would make a terrific truck or trunk gun. The fact that it comes apart makes possession of it legal in nearly every state. I can’t speak for the left coast though. I would however recommend you check your local laws about possessing and transporting it, as I am sure there are places it’s considered an assault weapon, whatever that is. In a pinch, with 25 round mags, it could be pushed into service as a defensive weapon. Overall, I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about the rifle, except maybe the price. A .22 with sticker over $500 really makes you think twice, but I am very happy I bought it. As with anything in this world, gun prices are driven by demand. If you can find one of these on the shelf and you’re in the market for a great shooting rifle, buy it. You won’t be disappointed.
  23. Angery American

    Carolina Readiness Supply

    This week I dropped in on Carolina Readiness Supply, located in Waynesville, North Carolina. Carolina Readiness Supply (CRS) was founded by Bill and Jan Sterrett in May 2008, after the gravity of the economic situation of that time became clear to them. At the time, Bill was just beginning to put food and supplies away; it just seemed prudent, but he wasn’t a prepper. The 2008 election cycle only added to the uneasiness Bill was feeling and spurred on his activities. Meanwhile, Jan looked on, unsure of her husband’s new hobby; that is until, as she put it, “Then I read One Second After.” The book changed everything. Soon, Bill cashed in his 401K and turned it into hard commodities and inventory. By July 2010 the store was open. If you’re like me, when it comes to buying things, you want to touch it, see it, and hold it in your hands; then there is nothing better than having a place like Carolina Readiness Supply nearby. They stock a wide range of products for the prepper/homesteader. I was surprised by their inventory of Aladdin lamps and parts. Better than ordering a new burner and worrying about whether it’s going to fit, you can carry in your old one and make sure. Unlike a number of stores geared towards the preparedness crowd that focus on “tacticool” stuff. CRS’s focus is on tools and knowledge that will feed you and your family. They carry a vast selection of canning supplies, jars, canners, lids, and rings. All in stock and all competitively priced. In addition to the canning supplies, they carry a substantial line of hand powered appliances to help prepare your harvest for canning. From quality Lodge cast iron to Morton Kosher salt and butter bells, CRS carries everything a prepper kitchen needs. It was interesting when Bill told me the prices of everything slowly creeps up. Every month, nearly everything he orders increases a fraction of a dollar, but we don’t have inflation in this country, unless you’re buying something. Being a Mountain House (MH) distributor, they carry a substantial line of products in both #10 cans and pouches. The prices are very competitive with those online; and, best of all, if you can get by, no shipping. Even here though, the nonexistent inflation shows up in the slowly rising prices at the wholesale level. I asked Bill about the shortage of MH foods we recently witnessed. He said from November 2010 to September 2011, the product was nearly impossible to come by. MH sent him and other distributors an interesting letter that essentially said; due to increased demand we will not be able to supply product to 99.9% of our distributors. So think about that statement for a minute. Due to the increased demand of our product, we will not be able to supply it to those that create the demand. So where’d it go? Maybe those rumors of FEMA buying it all up weren’t just rumors after all. CRS also has a very well stocked prepper library, carrying everything from fiction to how-to manuals. If you’re looking for something to read, they probably have what you’re looking for. One of the primary concerns for Bill and Jan is simply “…to educate people.” They are doing their part to help those around us who do not understand the value in taking responsibility for their lives to wake up and prepare. Bill is also very active politically, letting his Representative and Senator know where he stands on issues. CRS also hosts prepper expos, the next one is in November. They have a number of classes on everything from canning to ground fighting and include speakers like Dr. Bill Fortschen, author of One Second After; and SouthernPrepper1 of YouTube fame. They work hard inside the community to bring like-minded folks together. It’s that cooperation that will see us through, no one can go it alone. If you live in North or South Carolina or even eastern Tennessee, drop in on Carolina Readiness Supply. But, I’ll warn you, they carry so much quality gear it could be an expensive proposition. Bill and Jan are wonderful people. Pull a stool up to the counter and chat a while. Carolina Readiness Supply 72 Montgomery St. Waynesville, NC 28786 www.carolinareadiness.com
  24. Angery American

    Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener

    A sharp knife is a safe knife. We’ve all heard that in one fashion or another, there are many variations on the quote, probably because it’s true. If you’re like me you carry a knife everyday, sometimes more than one. I carry a pocket folder, wear a Leatherman on my belt and have a fixed blade in my EDC bag, that’s a lot of blades. Even people who don’t carry a knife and may even be repulsed at the idea have them in their kitchen, they are essential tools. Keeping these tools in top-notch shape is important to them being able to perform their intended function. Sadly for many folks the art of keeping a good edge on a blade is as mystifying as Chinese math. Blade sharpening is an art, some master it, some simply cannot. Others manage to learn enough to keep their blades functional, but never achieve the mastery of the art required to get that razor’s edge that will shave. In our incredible modern world there is a solution to every problem, and there are no lack of solutions when it comes to knives. I have had a lifelong love affair with knives and the art of sharpening; taking pride in being able to bring an old tired blade back to a razor’s edge with nothing more than a good stone or a diamond hone. Despite the fact I can get the job done with basic tools I’m always on the look out for a better knife sharpener, I think I have found it. A new sharpener by Work Sharp with the very non-creative name of WSKTS-W, which stands for Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener, takes all the guess-work out of turning most any blade into a razor. Unlike many of the carbide style sharpeners that actually cut material off the blade, the Work Sharp uses belts similar to a belt sander to get the job done. The package comes with the tool, two guards and two sets of belts, a green 80 grit, red 220 grit and a purple 6000 grit. The two supplied guards have guides for the blade, one has a twenty degree angle and the other has twenty-five and sixty-five degree guides. The twenty degree is recommended for kitchen knives while the twenty-five is for field blades. The sixty-five degree guide is for scissors. The manual states it only takes five strokes per side to sharpen an average blade. I used the Work Sharp on a variety of blades, from a cheap fillet knife all the way to K Bar. The results on each of them was impressive. Because the belt is flexible with a spring loaded pulley applying the tension, it applies a very nice convex edge to the blade. A convex profile is great for maintaining a long-lived edge, but is very difficult to achieve with standard flat hones. In the picture above you can see the tension pulley; by pressing it down and turning it a quarter of a turn it locks in place to allow for easy changing of the belts. The red knob is used to adjust the tracking of the belt. Proper belt alignment ensures a quality job and prevents the belt from rubbing on the guides. Another nice feature seen above, is that the head can be rotated. This allows for the sharpening of other tools around the homestead or shop. Putting a new edge on an axe or a shovel is no problem, faster than a file and considerably easier than a stone. While it will never completely replace your usual list of sharpening instruments, after all you can’t take it into the field with you, it will certainly relegate them to that drawer in the kitchen with the melon baller. Below is what I usually use to maintain my blades. Now they will be spread out in my packs, or more packs. The Work Sharp has become my primary tool for maintaining my primary tools. As I said earlier, I used the Work Sharp on a number of knives, here is a picture of the varied blades I sharpened. It handled them all easily, creating a beautiful edge on each. I was curious how it would handle the K Bar. In a word, beautifully. The ESEE 4 pictured below created quite a shower of sparks when I put it on the belt. I used that knife as my primary fixed blade and have been maintaining it with the items pictured above. After the first pass on the belt I looked at it and was surprised at how un-uniform my edge had been. It took several passes to get the edge back to a consistent profile the full length. Another really nice aspect of the tool is how easily it takes a nick out of the blade. On a hand hone it can take a long time to slowly work a nick out, with the Work Sharp it’s nearly effortless. At about $90 the Work Sharp is an investment, however it will pay dividends in time saved in maintaining your blades and keeping them all sharp and ready to use. After all, professional knife makers sharpen their knives with belts, not stones. Isn’t it time you came out of the stone age? Here’s a link to the Work Sharp website, http://www.worksharptools.com/knife/sharpeners/knife-sharpener/work-sharp-knife-and-tool-sharpener.html.
  25. Travis Shute

    SHTF-Falconry

    SHTF Falconry: Don’t Think So! Falconry, what is falconry? Going by the text book definition falconry is “the training of raptors to hunt wild prey for humans”. This by definition is completely wrong. Take it from the ones who know. The instincts and innate ability of a raptor to hunt prey came from millions of years of evolution and where handed down from the parents to the offspring. The only thing that you are “training” a raptor to do is to put up with a human tagging along for the hunt. This is not an easy task. Some falconers will argue that when raising an eyass (a nestling hawk or falcon) that you, in fact, do teach the bird how to hunt. In my own experience, they already have all the mechanisms and drive in place. All we do is “prime the pump” so to speak. Falconry has been around a very long time. When the art of falconry started is still up in the air. Some historians believe the practice started in the steppes of Mongolia between 4,000 and 6,000 B.C. Other experts believe that it started much earlier in the Middle East. Regardless of when it started, most of the evidence found on ancient falconry was tied to royalty or aristocrats of the time. This is not by coincidence! Kings, queens and the upper-class in antiquity not only had more land, money and goods; they also had more time. When it comes to a SHTF scenario, how precious will your time be? If I haven’t lost you yet let’s talk about devoting time to falconry. A hawk or a falcon can be equated to an Olympic wrestler when it comes to weight. A wrestler finds his or her optimum fighting weight and does everything they can do to be at that weight when it’s time to hit the mat. Raptors, on the other hand, are very opportunistic hunters and will, even if they just gorged themselves, try to plug some more food down into their crop. They do this because, in the wild you never know when your next meal will be bouncing down the fence row. A heavy bird is bad when it comes to falconry. If the bird is overweight and you cast it into the air, be prepared to stand under your bird swinging your lure for a while. If the bird is sharp or underweight, you will have just as many problems. A bird lacking in nutrition and energy will never be a good hunter. So weight is a very important aspect of falconry. You must find your bird’s hunting weight and make sure that it is at that weight when you want to go hunting. So knowing how many grams/ounces of weight your bird burns in what climate is essential. If you know this number you have dedicated at least an hour a day, EVERYDAY, to your bird. Can you afford that much time in a SHTF scenario? Now that we touched on maintaining weight, let’s talk about actually hunting along with your bird. I have seen comments stating that falconry would be an ideal way of hunting in a SHTF scenario. I’ve read different explanations as to why, but none of them were from actual falconers. So let’s start with the first one. Shooting a gun will draw unwanted attention and hunting with a hawk is silent. The first part of that statement is true. Shooting a gun will let others know where you are. The second part however is very much not so. There is a saying among falconers that speaks a lot of truth, “I spent all this time and money just to become a beagle.” That’s your role when you hunt with raptors. You put the bird in the air and flush the game out for them. Almost every animal around knows when a raptor is in the air. I’ve seen ducks hold so tight on the water that you could almost grab them with your hands because there was a falcon flying in the sky above them. I’ve seen rabbits hold so tight that I have actually stepped on them because they knew that my hawk was in the air. So to make these animals move you have to beat the bush. Walk with a stick and slap the brush trying to get something to flush. Bring a dog to flush the game. Now you’re yelling commands at the dog. Falconry is a very loud hunt when compared to any other type of hunting. Falconry is by no means silent, not by a long shot. The bird will be able to put food on the table. Yes and no. Yes the bird will be able to put food on the table just probably not your table. Let me explain. Some of the best hawks that I have seen hunt were able to get a double kill that day. 2 rabbits sound great. Those were ideal conditions and they were located within city limits. In a SHTF scenario, you won’t be flying hawks inside any city very long, I don’t think. Now country rabbit hunting is a lot harder and they are spaced a lot farther out which means more work for your bird with a hell of a lot flybys or misses. There will be more beating around in the bush and making noise trying to flush game on your part. The both of you will be burning precious calories by the minute. Many days I have went hawking for 4 to 5 hours and came home with sore calves and scratched shins and no meat. Now you’re tired and hungry and so is the bird, but you have no fresh meat to feed the bird. What happens now? So if the bird does make a kill, most likely you will be saving some, if not all of it, to feed back to the bird. This article is not meant to discourage anyone from legally becoming and practicing falconry. In fact I encourage it. Falconry has changed my life in many ways. Mostly good changes, but a few changes are bad. It’s hard to find someone to take care of your raptor when you want to take a vacation or have a family emergency. Taking care of a raptor is like taking care of an infant that will never grow up. Every day you wake up the first thing that must happen is check on the bird. Every night before you go to bed… check on the bird. Somewhere in between all that you feed it and weigh it and do some flight exercises. These must happen every day whether it’s a SHTF scenario or not.
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