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Ideas on caching survival supplies

Hi, welcome to another Surviving Urban Crisis posting.

Today I’ll share my ideas on caching items for your survival gear, those secret stashes of goodies to keep you and yours alive during whatever SHTF situations you may be planning for.

Like any other long term survival idea, planning is the basis of the entire idea. You set up your scenario, map out how to get to where your Bug Out Location is, plan at least 3 ways to get there and along each possible route you stash these goodie safes to resupply food, gear and ammo as you get along towards your BOL (bug out location). Or (or additionally) at your BOL, you stash goodies in various places on the site, because since you can’t be there if you don’t actually live at your BOL, the security of your goods and gear must constantly be questioned. If you have built a place, put a travel trailer there, or plan to take a travel trailer to the location, the amount of gear and supplies you can stash there is crucial to how long you’ll be able to hang on at your BOL. No matter how well you build a place, given enough time, which will be aplenty since you don’t live there, a criminal looter or just plain thief will have all the time in the world to break in and steal whatever you may have placed there. Unless (or maybe even if) it’s an underground bunker with a theft proof, impenetrable outside door, someone can get into your BOL building and take your stuff, or even set up a squatters camp right in your BOL. Which is why you MUST approach your BOL as if there are hostiles there ahead of you when you’re bugging out during a SHTF situation. It would really suck to finally make it through all the dangers of the road getting to your BOL just to wind up shot by squatters in your own place. If there is a building that can be occupied on your BOL, you should assume it’s full of moochers who are eating your food, and will be using whatever weapons you may have stashed there against you along with whatever arms they had with them when they broke in. Which is why having the vacant location set up for a travel trailer to hook up to makes sense to me. That would be a well water source with a hand operated pump and a septic tank that you can hook up to for your sewer. Electricity may be nice, if you use your BOL for vacation or weekend trips in your travel trailer. That makes a nice cover story for your BOL activities.  Of course power will more than likely not be available in most SHTF bug out scenarios. You can have a dozen buried caches all around your property, but nowhere for squatters to occupy a building. And if they should bring their own trailer and squat there, well that’s pretty obvious when you cautiously drive up to your place, right?

OK, on to some details. To construct a cache tube or pipe, see this video page.  The side bar on the right also shows a bunch of other ideas and methods. I mentioned in a couple other posts how useful a FoodSaver machine is when you’re preparing items to go into your cache. As the videos point out, there’s several methods to constructing a cache pipe, but the key is to make it absolutely your best shot at waterproof. Then, you must consider how you plan to open the pipe at the point you need to access the contents. There are at least 3 different caps or ends that are common on DIY cache tubes, so consider that during your construction time. There’s the square nub on the end cap, which can be accessed with large channel-locks or a wrench.

end piece and cap

Shown here with the required end piece.

Then there’s a flush type, that would need sort of a giant screwdriver to open.

flush-abs-clean-out-plug

Which screws in where the square plug cap would fit.

Then there’s a rubber cap end, which would only need a good survival knife to cut it open.

rubber pipe cap

To avoid having to dig up the entire tube, I suggest you attach either wires or pull strings to packages or items in your cache, especially if the tube is smaller in diameter than your hand or longer than you can reach to the bottom of when the thing is buried and on end. Most people tend to bury their cache pipes vertically as it’s a smaller diameter, but much deeper, hole to dig rather than laying the pipe down in a long trench type idea. That also makes it a little harder to find with a metal detector if someone was searching for hidden goodies with that device.

Of course if you can’t remember exactly where you buried your cache, you’ll be rather frustrated if you need to dig it up, I’ll bet. So, if you don’t have family members with you to help bury the things and recall those details, you need some ‘memory joggers’ to help you recall the details of the location. A method that came to mind, and has other value as well, is to find a one ounce silver bullion bar with a smooth, non detailed backside to use as a “map”.

Cache map

On the back side of this silver bar, you could engrave, or have engraved, a cryptic little map of where a cache is located. In this fictitious example, I’m pretending this stash is buried at a Georgia state park, site #36, with the stash at 30 degrees north northeast of the corner of the concrete parking pad, 48 heel to toe ‘paces’ from the indicated corner along that compass heading. Unless a state park is virtually deserted, you’ll probably never be able to bury a cache pipe without someone noticing what you’re up to, so in reality this most likely wouldn’t be such a great place to try a cache. “X” marks the spot, matey, thar be the treasure. You don’t need anything but the very basics for clues to jog your own memory of this location, and drilling a small hole in the silver bar will allow you to hang it from a sturdy necklace chain and keep it around your neck like a military dogtag. And, bonus, after you’ve dug up the cache, you now have an ounce of silver you can barter or trade for goods. Another idea to help with fewer details to remember about your cache locations is to try to use the same compass headings and distance from the landmark (like the concrete pad) in each stash location. You can use any kind of memory jogging numbers for the compass heading and number of paces, like the year you were married and the month of your birthday times 2 or something.

When you’re digging your hole, save the plug of grass that comes up with the first shovel full to place back over the stash. Also the displaced earth should either be hauled away in a bag or widely scattered to hide the fact that someone’s been digging here.

So to sum up, I suggest vacuum bagging everything going into the cache tube, with silica gel desiccant packets and /or oxygen absorbers placed in the bags with the items before they’re vacuumed. Attach thin, stiff wires with ring handles formed at the end to the bags to aid in extracting the items when retrieving the cache. Make the tube as waterproof as possible with good glue joints, Teflon taped screw threads snugly (but not excessively) tightened because you may not have the proper tool to remove the cap when you truly need this cache, and add more silica gel packets in the pipe among the items placed. Make sure you’re unobserved when burying your cache. Make a map for retrieval with only just enough info to jog your memory as to the location. When you’re retrieving your goods, keep a guard up because if things have gone bad, you must take no chances. And when you get to your BOL, assume squatters are there until you prove otherwise.

The ‘FoodSaver’ machine

foodsaverHi, and welcome to today’s post, under two headings at once: Food storage and tested gear.

Today I’m showing you the FoodSaver machine, a system actually, that is one of the most valuable items in our kitchen or general prepping gear. They have advertisements on TV now and then, and it’s really not ‘hype’…..the gizmo really does save us boatloads of money on fresh, frozen and dry food that we process for our survival stash. We have used our machine for well over 15 years, still working fine as long as we use ‘authentic’ FoodSaver bag materials in the process. We’ve tried some of the competitors bags…..they just don’t cut it, too cheap and the design just really doesn’t make it. Those of you who’ve heard of sealing your stuff in Mylar bags will find this machine will seal Mylar bags well, but won’t really pull a vacuum very well on that material. I’ll go over dealing with bulk dry goods shortly.

I mentioned the Foodsaver machine in another post, about  food storage.

We find that using this on freshly bought meats (or fresh game you have bagged) and fresh vegetables will indeed last for years in the freezer, vastly better than anything you can hand wrap meat with. With anything you can fit into the different sized bags available, you can fully control the ‘hardness’ of the vacuum level from a gentle removal of the air in the bag to a rock hard brick, just like you may have seen commercial coffee products in their little vacuumed bags in the grocery.

The process works equally well when dealing with leftovers from a large crock pot load of food, just turn the vacuum level down to avoid sucking a load of juice out of the bag as the cycle runs. Toss into the freezer and have a quick meal of that delicious stew in a few months without going through the cooking process again.

As preppers, we generally spend a lot of time in the summer growing season canning veggies we grow in the garden. We also make up dry ingredient ‘meals in a jar’ recipes, and meals in jars from the fresh goods,  processing those along with the garden produce. A FoodSaver isn’t designed to replace the home canning method, but will supplement it nicely, using the canning jars and lids to vacuum pack dry goods, if you have spare jars that were left from the canning season, or have recently been opened to consume the delicious stuff you canned two or three years ago. Using the canister set available from FoodSaver, you place the canning jar with dry goods in it, into the canister which will fit it best, have the lid and sealing ring lightly on. Pull a medium vacuum on the canister and you’ll also be vacuuming the air out of the canning jar. When the machine indicates ‘done’, open the canister and check the ‘pop’ of the sealing lid. No pop indicates a successful seal, so tighten up the sealing ring and you’re all done. This also works just fine on recycling glass jars of commercial products with the lid that ‘pops’ when you open the product, like salsa, jelly, dressing products, just about any glass jar with a vacuum sealed lid from the manufacturer of the product. Wash the jar thoroughly, put your dry goods into it with the lid just lightly tight, only enough to just make contact actually, pop into the canister, pull the vacuum. Check the little pop spot on the lid, no pop is a good vacuum. Tighten down the lid and you’re done. You can also ‘reseal’ your jar of salsa or whatever as you use it up, with this method, which would no doubt extend the freshness of it as you consume it.

Now, on to dealing with saving money on bulk purchased dry goods like rice, pasta, beans, grains and so forth. We have some dear Mormon friends, their faith kind of making them the ‘original preppers’, wisely guiding those of this faith to set aside a year’s worth of goods for their families as a normal part of daily life. To aid their members, and everyone else in need, they have established regional storehouses for their members and their friends to purchase bulk quantities of dry goods of all kinds. Occasionally, the members can invite friends outside the faith to shop at the regional center, so I jumped right into that when my friend offered the chance. Got kind of carried away on my visit and wound up with well over 100 pounds of potato flakes, rice, sugar, pancake mix, all purpose flour, pasta, spaghetti and other stuff. These products, as is, could be stored with proper conditions for a couple years, perhaps. But with a FoodSaver available, it can be stored for decades. We took each product and put about two family sized servings of the item in a FoodSaver bag, along with a printed sheet of preparation instructions copied from the original bulk package, and hard vacuumed the stuff. The bags have a two sided construction, a smooth clear side and a textured side (to aid in the vacuuming process), so it’s very easy to see what you have in any bag you pick up. Any way, after about two days of processing and vacuuming, we had all that treasure reduced to manageable portions and hard vacuumed to last for a very long time.

As I mentioned in my other post, linked above, I use our machine for a lot of purposes other than food preservation. You can put survival gear into these tough bags to waterproof  and weatherproof the items. All kinds of gear, like walkie talkies, emergency radios, GPS units, clothing, and of course emergency dried foods for your Bug Out Bag. Do NOT pull a rock hard vacuum on any kind of radio gear or similar item (it’s not necessary, you’re only sealing out moisture and weather) and NEVER have the batteries in the item when you seal it up. Since it may be years before you take it out, the batteries will have turned to crap and possibly have ruined the item. Never leave batteries in any kind of your emergency or survival gear, keep them handy in their own little lightly vacuumed bags, so that if they go sour your gear isn’t damaged. Virtually anything a prepper may need to set up for long term storage that would fit into a FoodSaver bag can be done.

 

Ammunition, still in it’s factory box (video link), and small firearms such as pistols or survival knives that could be placed into hidden cashes (video link), along with dry food items, spare clothing or whatever else you could think of, can be sealed from weather, rot and rust with this system, placed in the cache and buried, walled up, or hidden away in many other fashions. Since FoodSaver bags also come in wide and long rolls, it’s conceivable one could even bag up rifles, probably in a disassembled state of some degree, and have those protected as well.  Couple points on caching….take maximum precautions when packing up your items to bury. Meaning, make every effort to intercept any kind of water damage making it to your goods, where the FoodSaver system shines. Even add oxygen absorbers and silica gel packets to the items as you vacuum bag them. Then construct your cache tube to the best of your ability to waterproof it. And when you bury the cache, make sure you can FIND IT when you need it! Always go with an extra family or trusted group member to stash these items so that more than one memory has the location. Use close by landmarks such as strong fence posts, unique rock formations or whatever is likely to be unchanged in case of fires, storms, or time passing. Devise a measurement system, such as heel to toe stepping off the distance, that is infallible and un-loseable (not really a ‘word’, but you get the idea) so that you can find the cache even if all you have is the clothes on your back and a folding shovel. Obviously, secrecy when placing the cache is a given, so a stash in your back yard can be done in the spring when you’re planting rose bushes or something. Rose bushes are our favorite stash hider. Who wants to mess with those thorny things unless you have to, right?

 

A quick draw rifle sling idea.

OK, the latest addition to my firearms and self defense column. Here we have a link to a “quick draw sling trick” video

He’s demonstrating the method with an AK-47, but that’s irrelevant to the idea I’m showing you today. This will work with any kind of rifle or shotgun with the standard kind of sling that such weapons are normally equipped with.

Since the technique is for speed and is done ‘at speed’, it’s a little hard to see the complete steps, so I’ve frame captured the movements down into about 5 steps, starting with just the ‘ready’ position.

ak quick draw 1As you see here, the guy has the weapon hanging off his ‘strong shoulder’, or basically the side he intends to shoot from. Hanging butt down, with the magazine kind of under the arm. This technique will work with right AND left handed shooters, all you do is ‘reverse’ it for left handed folks, hanging on your left shoulder.

ak quick draw 2To begin the movements, he grabs the stock below the trigger grip and begins to swing the butt up towards ‘horizontal’, doing a kind of spinning motion.

ak quick draw 3As the butt is swung up towards his shoulder, the support hand meets the forestock (here he is also partially gripping the magazine for additional control as the rifle pivots into final position) and continues the lifting up, while the right hand lets go and then grabs the stock again at the hand grip.

ak quick draw 4The right hand is then in the proper position to being firing.

ak quick draw 5This guy can do this move in just over one second, but I suspect he may practice some! If you try this, do it with an UNLOADED WEAPON until you get the hang of it so you’re not grabbing the trigger and shooting yourself in the foot. Go nice and slow until you can do every motion perfectly. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast after you get the motions down.

AK-47 tactical reloading drill

Right to left transition drill

A brief clip from a training DVD, Paladin Press, KALASHNIKOV RIFLE GUNFIGHTING -”Too Simple to Be Tactical” – with Gabriel Suarez. Click his name if you may be interested in a copy. I have this DVD in my personal instructional gunfighting video library. The price has gone up since I bought mine a couple years ago.

Other comments about rifle slings.     The idea is, find what works best for YOU and your weapon.

Do I favor AK-47s? Well, I have one, because it was more affordable than an AR. And I’ve seen very few other weapons that you could do THIS to. (Also points out how magazine type / quality affects operations.)

British Berkefeld® Gravity Water Filter

Hello, everyone.

Today I’m adding another post to my ‘tested gear’ section. An item our family has used for years, while living in the city and out in the boonies. The British Berkefeld® Gravity Water Filter, a company that’s been around for a very long time. A ceramic filtering media is the secret. Many years ago, before the term ‘prepping’ was in vogue, I bought one of these units with the dual ceramic filters as I didn’t trust the city water much because of the flavor and smell. And after a few years in the city, we moved out to a fair sized parcel where our water supply was from our own well. That too, even while being great water, was improved by a good filtering system, because of the microscopic silt that came along with every cup of water.

BerkeyThe versatile Big Berkey system is the ideal system for use at home with small or medium sized families, travel, outdoor activities or during unexpected emergencies. The ceramic units filter both treated water and untreated raw water from such sources as remote lakes and streams. Of course, stagnant ponds and ‘mud puddles’ would be the last choice because the gunk filtered out would rapidly cause the filters to require cleaning. If you must source your water from such a source, I suggest you should pre-filter your water through some sort of gross filtering setup, to help with trapping the large particles of trash, mud and muck that will inevitably be scooped up with the water.

berkey filtersTypical replacement filter package.

Water filtering is a must in hostile environments where electricity, water pressure or treated water may not be available. According to published information, the Big Berkey system removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites and reduces harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and VOCs without removing the beneficial minerals. Made of highly polished 304 stainless steel, the new systems come complete with four 7″ ceramic elements. This system has a storage capacity of about 2.1 gallons and when in use it stands 19.25″ in height with a diameter of 8.5″. The upper chamber nests upside down within the lower chamber for transport and stands only 13″ in height. This allows the unit to store on the shelf, if you trust your water, until the true, emergency need for filtered water happens. The system will filter about a gallon per hour when full and the filters are new and clean. That rate, being gravity operated, would slow as the water level drops in the filtering section and particulates begin to coat the outside of the filtering media. Whenever our white filters became grungy looking with the residues they trapped, a gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush (NO SOAP!!) under the spigot brought them up to par and improved the filtration speed back to nearly as new. Much improved in the past 20 years we’ve used ours, the new range of filtering media is impressive. And they still supply the good old white ceramic units ours uses.

All round, I think the Big B system is pretty good for a prepper to have, or anyone who distrusts city water to be as pure as they claim it is. No moving parts, batteries or power supply needed, no heat or fuel required. Just pour your dirty water in the top and wonderfully clean, pure water drips into the holding tank for drinking.

berkefeld

Zero Bike Bug Out Vehicle

As the Southeast USA gets pummeled by those pesky global warming record winter snowstorms, for the second time in as many weeks, it’s time to ponder things while scribbling notes by candle light, bundled up in layers and keeping warm by the auxiliary heat source. Nah, actually I’m quite comfy this time, as last time, while all this weather chaos is going down.

As a prepper, I tend to view things from that point of view, no matter what the subject or idea. So, as interesting things show up, I have an open mind as to their usefulness to me, as a prepper. Any vehicle that’s dependable, economical as possible for it’s purpose, and capable within it’s design ‘could be’ used as a bug out vehicle (BOV). In my book and other blog posts, I’ve talked about the typical idea most folks have for a BOV, usually a 4 wheel drive truck or Jeep, all good there. Except for the fuel issue. Every BOV has to have fuel, the weak link common to all, other than maintenance break downs. Many preppers prefer Diesel BOV’s because they will take vegetable oil as an alternate fuel, depending on the vintage of the machine. And some have taken the time, trouble and construction skills and make their own ‘biodiesel’ apparatus to refine and recycle found used fry cooker oil and other stuff. Good for them, but what of folks without such admirable skills?

How about an electric power BOV?  100% electric, no petroleum fuel required? Aw, man, you’re saying, if the grid is down, your screwed with the rest of the world. Yep, you’re right….unless you have a solar power backup generator. It can already keep your bug out location supplied with power, be it where you are now or where you want to be after the SHTF, it can also power your electric alternative transportation.

Most electric vehicles are hybrids, all still needing fuel, no matter how far it can stretch a gallon of gas. Few are total electric, and those are limited in production numbers and very expensive. And most wouldn’t be worth much on anything worse than a typical dirt road out in the boonies. So, what am I leading up to with all this suspense?

2013-zero-xl electric motorcycle

2013-zero-xl electric motorcycle

TA-DA! At last, here’s the idea….a 100% electric, fully capable, long range (compared to many other electric 2 wheel transportation), powerful, fast (near or up to 100 miles per hour for most models) dead quiet, off road capable (depending on model),  almost no maintenance, made in the USA motorcycle.  http://www.zeromotorcycles.com/

OK, granted, this is ‘solo’ transportation, so getting a family outta Dodge in a hurry is not an option here, BUT for what it is, I think it has some highly valuable points:

* For scattered family members who intend / need to get to a central family planned Bug    Out Location (BOL) it would be an option, up to 171 miles of surface street travel with an optional ‘power tank’ extra battery in the Zero S or SR models.

* For a scout ahead point man in a short run supply caravan, it would be quiet and highly maneuverable, an experienced rider can turn this 400 pound machine around and wind up the insane torque of this thing to get out of a surprise bad situation very fast.

* In the ‘dirt bike’ version, it can keep up with the best typical noisy as ‘ell gas powered dirt bike without alerting every hostile within a mile that you’re in the woods.

(video link to dirt bike version)

* It can be recharged by plugging into any 110v outlet, no special government approved ‘charging station’ required nor funky adapters or special equipment at your home, so where ever the grid is working or if your solar powered generator is available, you’re good for more power. Adapters for those stations are available, however.

* It has ‘regenerative braking’, so wise use of downhill opportunities or planning ahead when you see you have to come to a stop can be advantageous to extending your range. Which is more valuable in a situation, time or distance?  You can get there fast, at expressway speeds, but that will kill your travel distance to around 70 miles, or you can ease back and extend your range.

* There are saddlebag cargo carrying options available, so between those and a decent backpack, some search and scrounge missions are certainly possible, finding food and medicine items that would fit such carriers is easy enough. The machine is rated to carry over 350 pounds. Solo missions are possible, but likely more hazardous than in pairs or a caravan type expedition.

I explained in my book “Surviving Urban Crisis” that, in my opinion, motorcycles have a very useful role in survival situations, but with the criteria, again in my opinion, the virtues of QUIET and maneuverability over as much terrain as possible are top criteria for best use, so a roaring Harley, cool as they are or a screaming rice rocket, despite it’s 150 mile per hour capability are not my ‘best choice’.

It’s main negative is that it is not expected to be a long trip machine on the expressway, in spite of the fact that it can keep up with that speed level, but only for about 70 miles or so. So, is it the ‘perfect BOV’? Nope, no such thing, no matter what you pick as a BOV, there’s always negative factors. Weigh them and decide for yourself. Zero isn’t the only electric motorcycle out there, but as far as I’ve seen, they have the widest range of models. But, if you find something else that fits your needs, by all means go for it.

Information for this article was provided by Zero motorcycle’s web page and other sources on the net. I have no affiliation with Zero, nor do I own one of their bikes….yet.

Zero motorcycles facebook page

Now, if only you could find a Diesel fueled motorcycle at a dealer somewhere……wonder what that would be like?

Free survival information!

Yep, short sweet and to the point, today I’m posting several links to FREE E-books on Amazon. Don’t know how long they’ll be free, most are always on a time limit, so get ‘em while you can. If you don’t have an E-book reader, like a Kindle or whatever, no worries, Amazon gives away apps to read them on everything, smart phones or computers.

First one:  The Basics 4 Survival (A Wilderness Survival Topic)

Next: Survival Pantry: The Prepper’s Guide To Food Storage, Water Storage, Canning And Preserving

Next: Survival Guide for Beginners

Next: Practical Wilderness Skills and Thoughts on Survival

Next: How and When to Be Your Own Doctor

Finally: Survival Seeds: The Emergency Heirloom Seed Saving Guide

All righty then, that should keep you busy for a while, the best of all worlds. . . . free knowledge that could help save your life.

Again I’m saying these will probably be free for a limited time, I had given away my own book for a short while, “Surviving Urban Crisis”. But that time limit expired.

Current S U C cover.

FOOD PRESERVATION

 

In another post here on the Surviving Urban Crisis Blog, I discussed long term food storage

In that post I mostly talked about dry goods and commercially canned products and the actual shelf life you can expect to get from these products, which is far longer than the food companies give credit.

To add to that topic, today let’s investigate home food preservation a little further. The core idea here is to look at the methods our ancestors used back in the homesteading days of the late 19th century America, when there was no electric grid or refrigeration. Seems to me to be a very good policy as a prepper, to not have your food supply totally wrapped up in your freezer(s) which are dependent on the grid. Not saying freezers don’t have their place, it’s just the ‘all your eggs in one basket’ kind of thing that can be avoided with some planning.

Of course most folks think of home canning, right off, when discussing home food preserving. And you’re quite right, home canning is typically the top choice for most people. There’s plenty of product  and  information out there, such as your supply sources for jars, rings and lids which you can easily find locally. During the summer season, we can plenty of fresh produce while the getting is good. Between the hot water bath method and the pressure canning method there is not much you can’t put away by canning, by the item such as beans or carrots, even making up your own soups, stews and other goodies. We also home can meats along with the summer veggie crops. home canning stash

I will say that home canned meats, unlike the pretty green beans, bright carrots, corn and other veggies, look truly disgusting sometimes after the canning process. We did a batch of hotdogs (yeah, home canned hotdogs, for real) and they certainly look terrible. But they taste just fine, like regular ol’ hot dogs. The idea behind that experiment was having another item not needing refrigeration that was a common ‘comfort food’ item. That batch of hotdogs will now be good for two or three years.

How about smoking meat? (No, it won’t work very well, rolled in paper and lit on one end.)  This has been done about as long as humans have had fire and meat. Salting meat has worked for centuries as well. Smoking can be accomplished on a small scale with a ‘smoker cooker’ or outdoor grill, or bumped up to large scale with a dedicated smoker building. That kind of thing is one of the many reasons preppers prefer to live outside communities where life is restricted by dumb city ordinances or the dictates of little terrors know as homeowner associations. My Tennessee grandpa smoked and salted all his own hams in his smokehouse. Dad used to bring one or two of those hams home from our visits ‘back home’, man that was some tasty eating.

20 common fermented foods.

Now, how about fermented foods?  That process is also ancient in origin. How about beer, wine, cider, cheese  sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, sourdough bread? Yeah, some of these do still require being kept cold, but even so they would last longer than the unfermented original items.  Some items like cheese were, and still are, wrapped with cloth and wax so they only needed to be kept cool as in a root cellar or other cool place, so the cheese survived without need of the modern power grid.    ‘The Art of Fermentation’ 

And finally, another ancient way to preserve food is drying. Sun drying is the oldest method, but today we have modern electric dehydrators, capable of everything from drying veggies, making fruit leathers to beef jerky.  We have a well-worn Excalibur dehydration machine which has probably been through a literal ton of fresh fruit and veggies, and a decent portion of jerky. Dried meat or jerky is also in this category, so if you have a dehydrator   that’s one more item you can make with that very useful appliance.

As I mentioned in the article I referred to way back at the top, finishing off a lot of dried goods or store bought bulk dry goods, like noodles, rice or beans, we generally use our Foodsaver machine   to hard vacuum this stuff to make sure bugs and moisture are kept away from this hard work and future food. By hard vacuuming, I mean sucking down the bag until the finished item is as hard as a brick like some coffee products you see at the grocery. Buying dry goods in bulk, as in 25 or 50 pound bags of rice,   is very practical with a Foodsaver, repackaging the rice, beans, sugar, plain flour or whatever into manageable one, two or 5 pound bags to use out of while the remainder sits safe and dry in the pantry storage. If you have the Foodsaver canisters, foodsaver cannistersyou can ‘recycle’ product jars, such as jelly jars, salsa or spaghetti sauce jars, virtually any with the popping lid, the kind you know that ‘pops’ if you press it down and the vacuum is gone from the jar. You can re-vacuum items partially used to stay fresh in the fridge far longer by putting the item into the canister it fits into, with the lid just lightly finger tight, and vacuum the canister until the machine cycles. The jar inside will have it’s vacuum restored upon removal, just test the ‘pop’ spot, if it doesn’t pop, you’re good. Now, tighten down the lid fully, and you’re set. You can also do this with portions of dried foods, cereal, rice, whatever, with the same recycled jars or extra canning jars, all works the same. It’s in the top five most used kitchen appliances at our place, but occasionally ventures out beyond just vacuum packing dried foods. Items like boxes of ammo, spare gun parts, and clothes for our Bug Out Bags. Clothes are waterproofed and the compression saves a lot of space that way. Boxes of matches and many other items that need to be protected from moisture are good candidates as well. The non-food items are bagged with the machine set on its lowest vacuum setting so as not to crush the box (as with matches or bullets) or pierce the bag with sharp corners like with spare parts or pointy loose ammunition. It hasn’t ever happened to me, lucky I guess, but there may be a remote possibility to ‘set off’ a box of strike anywhere matches by crushing with the vacuum machine setting way too high, resulting in the matches being forcefully ground together inside the box, which could start the ignition process. There might not be enough air to get much reaction, but then setting off 250 or so matches at once, even in a mostly vacuumed environment, may cause quite a bit of excitement. You don’t need any serious degree of vacuum, you’re just sealing out most of the air and the moisture. I have seen arguments that vacuum packing ammo may supposedly render it ‘useless’ on the theory that it would suck all the air out of the cartridges thereby not allowing the gunpowder to ignite when the primer is struck by the firing pin, making the round a ‘dud’. I don’t think so, personally, because firstly I don’t set the vacuum anywhere near the maximum this machine is capable of, and additionally because even if the idea were valid, as soon (or shortly afterwards) as you exposed the ammo to regular atmospheric pressures the air would return into the cartridges, if it ever left. Assuming modern ammo is universally considered to be completely waterproof, and therefore largely resistant to air pressure or moisture, I’m not going to worry about it. The only time I put away ammo in this manner, is in our long term storage buckets stocked with dry goods, hard vacuumed items that may not be seen again for 10 years or more. Otherwise the ammo goes into surplus ammo cans with good rubber seals and lots of silica gel desiccant packs.

GUIDE 6: Preparing and Canning Fermented Foods
and Pickled Vegetables

How to Make Perfect Sauerkraut

Fermented foods and pickled vegetables

Quick, easy & free match safe.

OK, today’s tip is a quick, easy and ‘free’ match safe project, recycling an empty prescription medicine or similar bottle, some strike anywhere matches, sandpaper and a dab of hot-melt glue.

The hardest part of this project is merely finding the strike anywhere matches, it seems. You can find ‘strike on the box’ matches all over the place, not so much with strike anywhere.

We’ve all got prescription drug bottles with only one or two pills left, or have an empty bottle after finishing the pills. These useful little bottles get saved for various purposes around our place, everything from Vaseline soaked cotton ball fire starters, keeping handy recycled birthday candles for fire starting, to various spices in our backpack cooking kits, whenever you need a reasonably waterproof little bottle, they’re handy. Like little BOB emergency sewing kit, gear parts, spare scope batteries, spare AA or AAA flashlight batteries, lots of things possible.

So, take your med bottle and peel off the label, making it easier to see what’s in the bottle. Next find a small square of sandpaper, about 100 – 120 grit or so. Doesn’t have to be exactly 100 grit, but more coarse than that will mostly eat the match head when you try and strike a match on it, and more than say 180 grit is almost getting too smooth.

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Now, dig out your hot melt glue gun and put a big gob on the backside of the sandpaper square.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERANow, quickly jam the lid of the bottle into the blob of hot glue and firmly press it down.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAOK, next we trim the excess sandpaper off with scissors. (Don’t dare use your wife’s sewing scissors, you’ll catch heck for that!)

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERALoosely fill the bottle with your strike anywhere matches, and you’re all done.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you need to start your campfire, just get out a match, put the lid back on and strike the match on the sandpaper.

If you don’t have anything but strike on the box type matches, or the storm matches that require their own special striking material surfaces, then you can omit gluing the sandpaper to the lid, as these types will need their special strike material to light. Just cut out the strike material and stash inside the bottle, or if you wish, like if you were using typical little box type matches, you could hot melt glue one strip off the box to the side of your prescription bottle, going long ways along the side and place the other strike surface inside the bottle along with the matches, as a backup.

The wife and I carry one of these in our bug out bags, and we also carry as our ‘EDC’ (every day carry) a little box of strike on the box, water proof matches that have been wrapped in Saran wrap as a double protection layer. Just pull out enough wrap to be about 3 times the width of the match box, center the box at the edge of the wrap and begin wrapping the box. Take about 3 turns, now flatten out the overhanging ends of the wrap and fold them over on top of the matchbox. Now, continue with wrapping the box, pulling the wrap kind of snug. I have found, by accidentally leaving a box in my jeans watch pocket, wrapped this way makes the matches very well protected from say, falling into a creek and getting soaked, because running the jeans through the wash didn’t harm the matches.

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Making fire seven ways from Sunday

Well, as ‘global warming’ rears it’s ugly head with record COLD temperatures, with accompanying blizzards, ice storms, power outages and deep snowfall, from one corner of the USA to the other, a relevant topic would be ‘how many ways can one build / start a campfire?’ to stay warm.

This will be a mix of methods, tools and various ideas to boost / ignite your tinder and kindling, while assuming you pretty much know how to lay wood for a basic campfire.

Let’s start off without matches (no fun doing it the easy way, right?) to start your fire. Got a spark? Throwing a nice hot pile of sparks into some nice, dry and well prepared tinder has been going on for a couple thousand years, flint and steel being the old school method while ferrocerium rods and scrapers are the ‘new’ thing, which will spit sparks that are at around 3,000º F. ferrocerium-rodIf your tinder pile is properly done, shouldn’t take but a couple good hits using ferrocerium to get you going. Having a decent quality spark-maker is crucial for your survival kit or every day carry. Sparks onto a Vaseline soaked cotton ball, all shredded out, will light up nicely. Also, sparking into a stripe of Purell or similar brand, high alcohol content (around 65% content) hand sanitizer works great. The flame is just about invisible in daylight, so don’t stick your finger into it to see if it’s lit. Also, certain fire starting products like “Fire paste” will work great with sparks. Dryer lint is another excellent starting aid. Keep some in a baggie to catch sparks or a match and amp up your tinder pile.

Got sunlight? A clear sunny day and a magnifying lens of just about any type will give you a hot spot to concentrate in your tinder pile, getting it smoldering and gently blow the spot into flames, then into the rest of the tinder and kindling pile. You can even use a clear, filled with clean water bottle, a very clear and hand shaped (into a ‘lens’) chunk of ice, the little magnifying lens that comes with a number of decent lensatic compass cases, lens compassreading glasses, one of the large lenses from your binoculars, or a very polished soda can bottom. While not being a lens, the can bottom will act as a collecting reflector and will accomplish the same result.

Friction. Now, here we get into some serious work to get a fire going. You will have to practice these techniques (you should actually practice all these methods) to expect any kind of results. The ‘fire plow’ involves rubbing a hardwood stick rapidly along a softwood channel, a method that Tom Hanks used in the movie “Castaway.” Then we try the fire saw method, which generates heat by using a hardwood stick to “saw” a softwood stick. The hand drill method requires a great deal of practice. A smooth, straight shaft of wood is spun between the palms of the hands, forcing the tip of it into the hearth wood, generating an ember. Seems I remember Tom Hanks trying that one for a while as well.  The same principal is used in the bow drill method, but instead of using your palms to spin the wooden shaft you use a cord held by a wooden bow.

Battery and steel wool. A typical 9 volt battery and some ultra fine steel wool will give a pretty good start to your tinder pile. Just shred out some of the wool and stick the battery terminals into the wool. Then act quickly to get it into your tinder pile and gently blow it into flames because the steel wool will quickly run through itself. This also will work using your cell phone battery. You can combine this idea with some of the ‘starters’ mentioned, like the the Purell sanitizer or the cotton balls or others to come, for improved effect. A top quality spark maker would probably make hot enough sparks to catch this steel wool going as well.

OK, let’s proceed from here assuming we have matches or lighters, but we have stubborn kindling or damp wood to deal with. In that case, dig out the stale snack food! Really, stale Fritos, Dorritos, Cheetos, Pringles and that kind of junk will light up like little candles with your matches! It’s the grease from the deep fry process of cooking them. Take a handful, plunk them down with your tinder and fire ‘em up!

Other ‘aids’ can be home made, like wood chips and scrounged paraffin wax melted into it. Take a few paper bathroom cups and fill about half full with wood chips, melt the old wax in a double boiler and pour over the chips, just enough to soak the materials. After cooling, you can either light the cups directly under your kindling pile or cut the cups in half or quarters to start more fires.

‘Recycle’ your kids used birthday candles into your fire starting kit, they work great to get some stubborn wood going. You can make a similar idea by soaking cotton string or cord in your wax while making the wood chip starters, they’ll accomplish the birthday candle idea very well.

You can buy fire starting aids, like ‘wax sticks’, a commercial version of the above wood chips idea, and then there’s Coghlan’s fire lighters, which strike like a big old match and then burn for several minutes. A product called ‘Wetfire‘ will even catch a flame while floating in water. There’s ‘fatwood’, a resin dense wood material. You can find it in the wild or buy it by the box full commercially. While you’re in the woods hunting fatwood, pick up the dry pine cones under the trees, they’ll take off pretty well if they’re nice and dry.

Well, there’s a good start at various tricks of starting your campfire. I’ll say again, practice these ideas while you DON’T need to desperately start a fire, or die of exposure. A few shots at making a campfire in your back yard after a cold rain (0r even during!) will show the places you need to improve, leaving you more competent and confident of surviving when it’s SHTF time.

Processing acorns into food.

Hi, folks.

Starting the new year off with that typical ‘new years resolution’ thing (we all do that, eh?) promising myself to be a bit more diligent about my survival blog posting.

 So, in that effort, here’s another one for the foraging for food in the wilds department. Gathering acorns as a food source. For the benefit of you readers, today I’ll just discuss the ‘Black Oak’ and ‘White Oak‘, merely because they’re large acorns and will require the least amount of processing to obtain a quantity of food in return for the effort. One can consume the acorns from most any oak tree, but some, like the Water Oak, are tiny in comparison and will require a lot more time and energy per pound of returned food product.

Two acorns of Quercus alba

Two acorns of Quercus alba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘White Oak’ Acorns.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in regions where we have the majestic Black Oak and White Oak trees, you have a very useful, but vastly under utilized food source in gathering their fairly large nuts.

Bad acorns in food selection

For a description of Black Oak click here.

For a description of White Oak click here.

When gathering acorns, Black Oak in this example, don’t waste time with these shown above. The one with the cap still firmly attached dropped off the tree prematurely and is no good. The center sample, showing dark streaks, is internally infected with a fungus. The third has obviously had a worm consume the nutmeat and has left behind nothing useable. The cap on the usable acorns should already be off or can be popped off fairly easily with your thumb.

California Black Oak

California Black Oak (Photo credit: K Schneider)

After gathering an amount of acorn nuts, they should be washed to remove dirt and debris. After a brief wash, lay the acorns in a single layer into pans, tote or storage bin lids, boards, tarps, skins, sheets or other off the ground surfaces, fully exposed to the sun to dry them for storage and for easier processing into food. The dry nuts will peel far more easily than messing with nuts right off the ground. Properly dried nuts will also store well for a year or more. Obviously, avoid leaving them out during rain and bring them in before dark every night to avoid dew condensing on the nuts. It will take a couple weeks of continuous fall sunlight to dry Black Oak acorns, the White Oak acorns will take a week or two longer. If the weather is not favorable, fall back to your wood stove, dehydrator or other indoor methods. As far as the wood stove or other stoves, your goal is dry nuts, not roasted! Perhaps some home made racks or screen trays above the wood stove about the height where you can comfortably keep your hand, say around 110º Fahrenheit.

After the acorns are dried, you will find they have shrunk in their shells just enough to be easy to crack and peel. Find a board and a small hammer or round smooth stone (or whatever is handy), place the acorn with it’s little pointy end down against the board (or flat rock) and tap it lightly with your hammer / stone. It should split open fairly easy. Peel off the shell and inspect the nutmeat, removing any remaining shell fragments. You can toss the nutmeat into a pan of water to keep them from turning dark on you, like cut apples do when exposed to the air. Doesn’t really hurt anything if they do darken, but the finished product will also be darker. Don’t worry about the reddish ‘skin’ the nutmeat has, it will be dealt with as we progress.

The best method to remove the ‘tannin’ from acorns is cold water leaching, which gives the best nutritional result if the end product of the acorn gathering is to be a flour substitute / alternative for breads, pie crusts, etc. There are other methods, boiling water, lye and other processing which may even be slightly faster, but the end product is not so good for making acorn flour / meal and some of the food value is lost in the process. The boiling water process takes out most of the useful food starches, but makes up for it by providing an astringent water that has multiple uses, from tanning leather to working on poison ivy rash. To begin the leaching process, you need to crush, grind, pound the acorn nuts into as small granules as possible, using a stone mortar and pestle, couple rocks, food processor, blender or even an inexpensive corn grain mill. The smaller the mush, the more quickly the cold water leaching process will work.

Put the ground acorn material into a bowl or container large enough to hold however much you have made. Cover with generous amount of water, stir in the acorn meal until it’s all well covered. Just let it sit, pouring off the amber colored water twice a day without losing any of your acorn material. Recover the meal with fresh water and stir or shake the mix well. This continues for up to six or seven days, and the water will start becoming reddish. The reddish water will now be there every time the water is replaced. How do we know when we’re ‘done’? The acorn material will be kind of bland tasting and there will be no ‘astringent’ (bitter) taste / sensation in your mouth. This will have to be a personal experience or matter of preference, but you’ll want it bland for sure.

To extract the maximum amount of water from the final stage of leaching for a week or so, pour off the water in the usual way. Take a coriander and cover it with a clean cloth. Pour and scrape the acorn material into the cloth inside the coriander. Now, wring the cloth and acorn material out as best you can, squeezing out as much water as possible. All done! If you intend to use the product within the next couple days, just put it in your fridge or somewhere very cool and use it up in your baking. If you intend to use it much later, then dry your acorn ‘flour’ out in the sunlight or near your stove or in your dehydrator, spreading the material in a nice thin layer to maximize the drying effect.  Once completely dried, it can be stored like regular flour or corn meal.

ACORN BREAD

  • 2 cups acorn flour
  • 2 cups cattail or white flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Bake in pan for 30 minutes or until done at 400 degrees

Using the ingredients given above will produce a sweet, moist, nutty bread. The ingredients can be varied to produce different types of bread or muffins or pancakes, etc. Acorn bread is highly nutritious. It has an energy giving combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Recipe from http://www.jackmtn.com/acornbread.html

 

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