Category Archives: survivalist

plan before you spend

Check out the article “Prepping for doomsday? Prepare your wallet, too”

It points out all the people making money off people who want to prepare for some emergency. They have a good point but the miss the most important point. This is all about risk management. Not a word in the article mentions anything about this. One has to identify the risks, the impact of the risk, and the probability of the risk happening. Only then can they prioritize the risks. Once the risks are prioritized then one can determine means to avoid or reduce the impact of the risk. You have a plan of action. If this is done correctly then one can budget time and money to implement these means. The goal is to follow the plan of actions so you do not waste resources. Without such a plan and corresponding budget it is very easy to waste both time and money and in even increase your overall risk.


being prepared and container gardening.

Why and what of container gardening .

  1. 1.       Lower your current grocery bill. There are a number of vegetables and herbs that are cost effective to grow at home. Herbs are a great example. For example basil is very easy to grow and has a relatively short shelf life when picked. The short self-life makes it very pricey per pound to purchase fresh. For most people just one plant will give them all the basil they will use over a given summer. Another example is cherry tomatoes; some varieties can produce hundreds of small tomatoes from just one plant over the growing season. You also have the advantage of picking as they ripen because there usually are several days from when they are ripe and when they are overripe. One can easily grow enough cooking herbs to last a summer and still have some for drying and/or freezing in just a few containers.
  2. 2.       How about growing better tasting food. Tomatoes from the store are generally picked before they are ripe. Therefore they never develop the natural sugars that they vine ripened tomatoes develop. Fruits and vegetable that are sold need to last and ship well in order for them to be marketable. Also, many are designed so that they all ripen at the same time to make harvesting more effective. Flavor and textures are not the primary factors for fruits and vegetable that are sold commercially. That is one factor in the slow food movement. People found that we were losing the flavor in foods as society worked to make food a cheap commodity. Containers are a great way to grow many small fruits and vegetables.
  3. 3.       Increase supply of open pollinated seeds for trading. I have found certain heirloom seeds to be hard to obtain and/or expensive to purchase. Growing a single container of heirloom tomatoes with a couple of plants grown from different seeds can supply me with enough seeds to last years and still have seeds to trade with. By growing in containers it is much easier to move the container far enough away from my other tomatoes so I do not create hybrids with my other tomatoes.
  4. 4.       Understand growing habits and needs of selected variety of plant. Many people are purchasing survival seed banks. But can they really grow these seeds in their area. Growing just one container of a given variety will tell you a lot about that plant. You can learn it growing habits, soil requirements, watering needs, etc. More importantly it lets you FAIL small when you can afford to make mistakes. If you kill you container of plants you will learn for the next time. Fail fast and fail early, you are learning and you can afford to try things and experiment.
  5. 5.       Learn to identify insect species that attack selected species of plant. Many times even a single container of a plant variety will be attacked by insects if they are native to an area. You can learn their life cycle and experiment with ways to deal with them. I have found containers very effective when I am trying to setup a mobile trap crop to kill off insects without using pesticides on my food crops.
  6. 6.       Learn to identify diseases that attack selected species of plant. Again, if diseases are in your area many times they will show up in a single container. I have found it a good idea to test a new variety in a container before I put in full row in a garden. Better to fail fast and small then lose the farm.
  7. 7.       Test different potting mixes and amendments to soil for selected species of plant. I have conducted a number of experiments involving invasive tree roots. I used tree bags and underground containers. I had to test a number of amendments for my very poor soil. Containers provided a cheap means to evaluate ways to improve my soil using locally available resources. Again you fail fast and work cheap.
  8. 8.       Develop a storehouse of Mycorrhizal Fungi for selected species of plant. Many plants benefit from mycorrhizal fungi which work with the roots of plants. You can buy these and establish perennial plants with these and use the soil when starting plants they use the same fungi. This way you can build a bank of fungi to use when you cannot order fungi.
  9. 9.       Develop a storehouse of nitrogen fixing Bactria for nitrogen fixing plants.  You can buy these and establish perennial plants with these and use the soil when starting plants they use the same nitrogen fixing bacteria. This way you can build a bank of fungi to use when you cannot order nitrogen fixing bacteria.
  10. 10.   Keeping a colony of good nematodes going. Again, you purchase these and keep a working colony of these going. In some cases you can feed these insects you raise to keep the colony active. Your container can provide a controlled environment to keep them active and alive. You may also need containers if you have a lot of harmful nematodes. You can create clean soil without the nematodes. You can also use containers to experiment with ways to kill and/or reduce harmful nematodes such as growing annual rye.
  11. 11.   Provide rootstock that is moveable. For example a sweet potato is grown from a root but you plant the rooted vine. All you need is one growing sweet potato vine and you can grow many sweet potatoes. So long as you have one good container of sweet potatoes you have the possibility of growing a whole row of sweet potatoes. Also some plants like tomatoes can be grafted. You can use disease resistant root stock and graft mature tomatoes varieties on to this root stock. If you have plants in containers you can move these plants quickly.
  12. 12.   Ability to grow in clean soil in areas where ground may be contaminated. A few people still live within 30-kilometer zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant back in 2006. They had gardens and raise poultry since the nuclear accident in 1986. In America there are a large number of brown soil sights that have been reclaimed. There are many ways that soil can become contaminated. In many cases you can get access to water that is not contaminated such as rain water. If you have clean soil you can safely grow food in containers. You can even keep the waste isolated and create clean compost for use in your containers.
  13. 13.   Containers can be moved into and out of heated areas to extend the growing season. Many times we can get a late frost in spring or an early frost in fall. If you have containers you can move and a protected place you can move them to you can beat the frost.


Defending what is yours an age old human problem.

Defending what is yours an age old human problem.

I am currently watching the show “The Colony” season two. It portrays a group of survivors being robbed by a larger group in the first show. In the show I just watched one of the team members was kidnapped and the team was forced to trade needed supplies to get her back. I have talked about the “birdie in the cage”. This is what some convicts call a women alone in a car that has broken down in an isolated area. In the show season one or two the base camp for the teams is as much of a trap as it is a sanctuary.  This problem goes back to the beginning of human farming. When humans were hunter gathers they could only take what they could carry with them. If the hunting parties of neighboring tribes became raiding parties then the tribe could move and try to find a safer place to live. Unfortunately, when you farm you ideally have more food at harvest than you can readily consume. This food has to be stored. Now once you store it you now have something of value that others may want. If a local tribe comes with a raiding party you can let them have your food and likely starve or you can fight to protect said food. Going back to a hunter gather may not be an option because over the generations your tribe may have lost the skills they needed to live this lifestyle. So you develop technology to defend yourself. From such humble beginnings the idea of a warring city state is born.

So in something like “The Colony” what is the answer? Around the world you have situations happening daily where people are struggling to survive. In many cases this is the result of warfare. In such situations people are distrustful, despondent, and life is bleak. In America we have robberies, murders, etc. but overall we have a high level of personnel safety. We also in many cases have the right to arm ourselves for safety. America has had civil unrest and rioting but we as a people are more likely to come to the aid of emergency victims than we are to cause unrest. The majorities of Americans are not distrustful, despondent, or believe that there is not hope for a better life. So in an apocalyptic scenario how would we prevent becoming a birdie in a cage. Well in cases of rioting in the past what has happened in real life is that people came together to protect their community. In something like “The Colony” the same thing could happen if a large enough stable community can form. They would have to solve the basics of shelter, clean water, and food to support a cooperative community that is large enough to defend itself. History is full of warlords emerging in areas of civil unrest. There have been a number of TV shows and movies made on this theme. But I also believe that there are many strong communities in America that would cooperate and remain functional if something like “The Colony” happened.

Do you have time for Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

The TV reality show “The colony” does demonstrate the stages of team building Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. I watched season one this week. It is like survival meets the apocalypse. However you have all the issues of a group of people forming a team.

  1. 1.       Teams initially go through a “forming” stage in which members are positive and polite.
  2. 2.       Reality sets in and your team moves into a “storming” phase. One’s authority may be challenged as others jockey for position and their roles are clarified.
  3. 3.       Gradually, the team moves into a “norming” stage, as a hierarchy is established. Team members come to respect authority of a leader, and others show leadership in specific areas.
  4. 4.       When the team reaches the “performing” stage, hard work leads directly to progress towards the shared vision of their goal.

One interesting thing that was demonstrated that does happen many times in real life is that the skills one has may have little or no value in an emergency situation. However, because one still sees themselves based on their normal circumstance they may over estimate their own importance. For example there was a doctor and ER nurse on the team. In a situation like on the show dehydration and diet issues become problems. From my days in Alaska I remember monitoring water bottles to make sure everyone was drinking enough on long hikes. But no effort was made to make sure everyone was taking in enough water. The other issue was food nutrition. They had mostly nonperishable foods. If your planning for a long camping trip you balance the carbs, fats, and proteins. In a case where you have a limited amount and selection of food you need to not only rations but try to balance carb, fats, and proteins as much as possible. In their case proteins were a major limiting factor but no effort was made to maximize this limited resource. These are medical issues, there were two highly trained medical people in the team, but these issues were not addressed. It just demonstrates that their skills were specialized and not fully transferable to their specific emergency situation.

In season one there were only about a third of the people who had badly needed skills and experience. However, because of a lack of people skills two people with needed skills were undervalued. At the same time votes were taken on course of actions. I have been in many situations, most not emergencies where people who lacked knowledge and experience had a major say on how things were done. In several cases there was not enough time to educate these individuals or they refused to learn. This generally resulted in bad decisions being made. Unfortunately, the people who made the decisions never realized this until it was too late to correct their decisions.  The show did not have a leader it had a committee with everyone getting a vote and the majority winning. In the case of the show this jockeying for position or “Storming” resulted in a lot of effort being put into the wrong tasks.  Because the members had to reach a norming stage before they would allow the people who knew what they were doing to make decisions. Once the team was able to assign some leadership and reached the norming phase they were able to move into the performing stage and get things done.

In many situations in real life there is not enough time to truly build a team let alone allow them the time to establish a leader. That is one reason groups are formed in anticipation of events. It is also why well performing groups are assigned the critical projects. Because forming a team comes at a price.

Are you limiting you tastes in food?

Are your tastes in food limited?

I have found that many people tend to eat only certain types of food. They never take the time to expand their tastes. In our current world of cheap food and large varieties this becomes easier to do. However, this can be a risk factor. Let’s look at a personnel example. My uncles and grandfathers on both sides of my family are no longer alive. However, in the old country the males live long lives if they did not die in accidents or war. One factor is that we do not eat the same foods. We learned to limit our diet to high fat and simple carbs. When my children were born I lived in Anchorage, Alaska. It is culinary wise an international city. So I made sure my children learned to eat many types of foods. One of the foods we rediscovered was fermented foods. Even with food allergies we found fermented foods we could eat. I learned that I could find miso without soybeans made from chickpeas, barley, etc. from South River Miso Company. We found yogurts made from rice, almonds, and coconut.  We learned about the world of kimchi, pickles, Japanese vegetables, etc. There were also health benefits to this. It also allowed them to share food form different cultures. It is sad that we Americans limit our foods when there is such variety today. I even find this limitation in areas I would not expect it. I have watched all of season one for “Doomsday Preppers” since is provides some good material for blogging. What I did not find was any discussion on fermented foods. In much of the world fermented foods were survival foods. They are foods that can last in some cases for years. It was also an important way to make vegetables last the whole year. But our culture is so limiting that even people preparing for the end of the world as we know it do not think to include foods that are common in much of the world.

Some useful information on fermented food is below:  

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World, by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Quick & Easy Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes, by Ikuko Hisamatsu.

Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen, by Alex Lewin.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods, by Wardeh Harmon.

Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home: Creative Recipes for Lactic Fermented Food to Improve Your Health, by Klaus Kaufmann.

The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market, by Linda Ziedrich.

The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi, by Lauryn Chun.

The Miso Book: The Art of Cooking With Miso, by John Belleme, John and Jan Belleme.

The Book of Miso (Savory Soy Seasoning), by William Shurtleff.

Homemade Living: Home Dairy with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter & More, by Ashley English.

Pickle-Pro vegetable Fermenting Lid

Vegetable Starter Culture by Caldwell

TSM Products Fermentation Pot, 10 Liter capacity

Ohio Stoneware 1GC Crock 7-34/”x8-1/4″ – 1 Gallon

TSM Products 20 Liter Stone Weight

Weston Cabbage Shredder

Euro Cuisine YM80 Yogurt Maker



the importance of chainsaws

Well, Hurricane Sandy has past and thousands of trees are being chopped apart and removed. In many natural disasters the chainsaw becomes an important part of the cleanup. But chainsaws run on gasoline right? We have blended fuels that at alcohol to gasoline, but gasoline with alcohol added can shorten the life of small engines. We add fuel stabilizers and purchase the highest octane we can and this helps. But it still takes a toll. Add to this that gasoline has a self-life it deteriorates over time. Why does this matter. Well, if you have a chainsaw and you know a storm is coming you will want to get fresh gasoline BEFORE the storm and make sure the chainsaw is working properly. You want enough bar oil and a sharp chain. You need to prepare before you know you need the chainsaw. Now let’s look at another scenario. Again, I will go to my favorite extreme case “Doomsday Preppers”. Most of these depend on wood for heating and cooking. But what happens when the gasoline runs out or the chainsaw breaks? Well I remember when this happened to me. It was over four decades ago when I was a teenager in Alaska. We had to move a small bulldozer threw an area of tundra. This is a swamp with moss growing on it. Well, our chainsaws broke!!! So we went back to the cabin and got grandpa’s cross-cut saw, two bow saws, and a number of axes. I have never worked so hard in my young life. Cutting wood by hand is labor intensive. You not only had to cut the trees down you have to remove the branches so you can drag the tree to the log road. I quickly learned the value of a sharp saw or axe. My grandpa had no sympathy for me. He reminded me he cut and dragged every log in the cabin I was sleeping in. And that every year he had to cut and split enough wood to get through the winter. That was back before he had chainsaws. It was a very humbling experience. Well we got the chainsaws repaired and I still value the lessons I learned on the old hand tools. Today there are options that did not exist today. Below are some links to options that could be considered to cut trees without gasoline powered chainsaws.

I am editing this because of a comment I received on this post. That was about how dangerous a chainsaw can be. I have personally seen the results of kickback where the blade jumps up. Of blades breaking and flying into people and other chainsaw accidents. Today’s chainsaws are much safer than the ones I first used. But you have to learn how to use them properly. I am not going to go over proper chainsaw use since there are so many resources that do a great job of this. One thing I will say is that it is always a good idea use that chainsaw for the first time with someone who has experience using it. Where I lived in Alaska there were always old timers willing to teach us teenagers how to safely use a chainsaw. There were also dealers of chainsaws who would have clinics. They showed us how to properly use and care for our specific brand of chainsaw. They also showed us what could go wrong or common mistakes people make. So yes part of being prepared is knowing how to use the chainsaw correctly. You also need to  make sure you have used your chainsaw to actually cut wood. It is a good idea to practice with it at least twice a year. And to make sure your chainsaw is in good repair.

Quasiturbine Pneumatic Chainsaw Electric chainsaws The Timber King Pneumatic Chainsaw Battery 12 types of hand saws Crosscut saws Marshall tree saw Bahco bow saws Fiskar axes Japanese Pattern Crosscutting Timber Saw

It goes beyond dollars and cents

So you want to address global warming and eat sustainable produce. You’re a “Doomsday Prepper” and you want a way to replenish your food supplies. I have followed and participated in the organic food movement for most of my life. My reason has been food allergies. I have found many people looking at growing their own food for many different reasons. I have also found that many methods have been used again based on different reasons. One thing I have always found is that growing food is ether labor intensive or energy intensive or both.

“any way you look at it, a single farm producing a diverse range of clean food on a community scale is darn expensive compared to supermarket prices.”

Due to modern agricultural methods we are producing some of the cheapest calories in the history of the world in terms of labor hours spent to buy food. Does it carry environmental cost, health costs, etc. The answer is yes. As milkwood points out in the article above, will people in an industrial society pay four dollars a pound for potatoes when a five pound bag goes for a couple of bucks. In America, there is a reason that many small farms have disappeared. They could not afford to sell what they produced at the prices that large scale farms could sell them at. So what happens is that generally organic food becomes the food of the wealthy. Even this has changed as organic foods have been adapted for large scale production. Again, some small scale operations have been forced out. So how do you make this work? From a personnel point of view I focus on the low hanging fruit.

In my area herbs are easy to grow but not cheap in the store. So my first focus on organic sustainable is herbs. Herbs make a big difference between ok meal and a very flavorful meal. Herbs and spices can also be used to keep food from rotting.
To support this investment I also obtained a food dehydrator that has a temperature control for different types of drying. This has allowed storing of products in the winter. To further expand on this I now create vinegars for some herb like tarragon.  Also, some herbs like basil can be frozen in ice cube trays to be used in sauces and pesto.  This method is in line with the start small and learn theory.

Next on the low hanging fruit is fruit, but not the type you think. I am talking Tomatoes, peppers, and egg plants. Much of the fruiting vegetables sold in the store are not really ripe when they are picked. They are ripened and look ripe. However, sugar production stops when the fruit is picked. So the flavor of a tomato ripened on the vine will have more sugar than a tomato picked for shipment.  With peppers the long peppers produce earlier and in greater abundance than the bell peppers. The other factor is there are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and egg plants that you will never see in a grocery store. So these were the next low hanging fruit. Once production was high enough freezing, canning, and drying became possible. Most of my peppers are now dried along with a lot of my tomatoes. The peppers I have canned have been used as marinades for pork and chicken. I was also surprised by all the uses for dried seed free tomatoes.

After these were mastered the focus became garlic. I have several tubs of different types of garlic ready to sleep through winter and grow again in spring. If you look at garlic there are only a few types sold in the stores. Again this is a plant where there are hundreds of varieties.  It also has a high enough price that it can be cost effective to grow. So it has been added to the garden. This grow and learn continues until you reach a balance between your time, money, and efficiency in you gardening methods.

There was a time when food producing plants were an important part of our landscape. It was not uncommon to have a fruit tree in the yard and some berry bushes in the yard. As we moved to cities we lost touch with our past. When people moved from cities to suburbs after WWII we wanted tidy little yards. Fruit bearing plums, cherries, pears, and apples were replaced with flowering plums, cherries, pears, and apples because we did not have to deal with decaying fruit.  We wanted grass lawns that required watering and fancy flowers and shrubs that were easy to maintain and looked good. Many time we deliberately put in inedible plants so we did not have to deal with wildlife such as rabbits and deer. As we cooked less and less even having food at home became less and less important. If you did not have anything at home to cook for dinner you just grabbed something on the way home.  Our modern life style is based on low cost (dollar wise) food. As the milkwood article says we have lost touch with the seasons. When I was young I first learned of the seasons. Not the seasons you know summer, fall, winter, spring. I learned of the clam tides, the fiddle headed ferns, the salmon runs, the mushroom patches, etc. Everything related to food was in its own season in Alaska when I was young. I remember how the old people always referenced time in terms of some type of harvest. Our modern lives are no longer linked to harvest and growth so we have lost this connection. All we have left now are the four seasons.