Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just watching and thinking...

On the news recently we have all seen the news about the housing market ills, bank closings, oil prices, rumblings of increased hostilities at various spots around the globe and the possibilities (probabilities?) of violence at bothe the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Are you watching? Are you listening?

I am not a a paranoid nut...I am a prepared paranoid nut!
Maybe this is the OCD for our age.
Instead of tsk-tsking and wringing their hands, preparedness *nuts*, aka *survivalists*, stock up on a little more rice or beans or lay in some water supplies or extra ammo. Keeps us calm and above the undertow of panic that is dragging so many others down.

Do I worry about going hungry?
Do I worry about being cold?
Unable to defend myself?

I don't worry. Simple as that.

I see the same news reports as everyone else. I hear the talking heads on t.v. freaking out about oil prices and violence and war and health care costs, etc., etc., world without end, amen.
I simple don't worry about it because I am aware.

I am aware of everything that is going on globally, nationally and locally. Because I AM aware, I have taken steps to make sure I am able to have survivability, whether it be in my home or on the road.
If need be, I can grab one bag out of my closet, go out the door and have everything I need to survive. Without a vehicle, without a roof over my head. Just that one bag.
Some people call it a Bug Out Bag (BOB).
Some survivalist types get elaborate ones with all the bells and whistles, but I prefer a simple one with the basics I need.
You can use a gym bag or even make one with no bag at all!
You may never need it, but it is a good thing to have.
If each of those people evacuated from Katrina had a simple BOB, life would have been easier (and safer) for all.
You can make one, a very simple one, with items you have in your home right now, for the most part.

Here you go:
Simple BOB
One gym-type bag.
One blanket (thin cotton or wool or one of those *space blankets* if you have one)
Small tarp (8 x 8 foot will do)
50 foot of rope (thin nylon or even cotton clothesline if that's all you have)
One folding knife (make it a sharp one)
One lighter (make sure it is full of fluid)
1 manual can opener (or a P-38 for you military types)
10 aspirin in a small ziplock bag
10 Pepto-Bismal Tablets (put in ziplock with aspirin)
10 Tylenol (in that ziplock!)
10 Granola or Protein Bars (in different large-1 gallon ziplock bag)
6 packets instant cocoa (in with granola bars)
6 packets instant drink mix (in the big ziplock, of course!)
10 dry instant soup packets (in same gallon ziplock..ramen is not a good choice, lipton is)
3 bottles of water, sealed inside a new ziplock bag
1 small flashlight with extra batteries (what the hell, seal it in a ziplock, too)

You can add to this if you wish, but that's your basics. You have food, water, warmth, shelter (the tarp and rope) and a signaling device.

Now, you need to, every three months, go through the bag and replace the food and water and check the flashlight batteries.
This is a minimal, I repeat, MINIMAL bug out bag.
Mine has more than this as I have a firearm (ammo!). I also have a firestarter kit in case I have to bug out to a wilderness area. And about 6 more pounds of other stuff.

But in a Katrina situation, this bag, as I just detailed, and this bag alone could be the difference between life and death for you.
I know I will be raked over the coals by those that will pipe up saying "but they should have that 285 buck camping water filter", or "what about that collaspible camp stove with the rain guard?"
This is about a very minimal basic BOB for the survival novice.

Now, quit worrying and put together this simple bug out bag. You may never need it, but at least you don't have to worry about "what if" anymore!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Livestock Breeds

I have thought a lot about the issue of livestock breeds for when I get on my homestead.
The majority of beef cattle raised in this country are Angus or a mix with a lot of Angus in it. The majority of the dairy cattle utilized in the USA are Holstein.
What's wrong with this picture?
Angus and Holstein are specialized breeds.
Angus gains muscle (meat) earlier and faster than many other breeds when given optimal feed.
Holstein gives milk with a known average of butterfat when given optimal feed.
Both have veterinary problems and concerns peculiar to the breed.
Holsteins, in particular have a tendency to foot problems (foot rot) when in hot, humid regions.
Holsteins, because of being bred for milk production with emphasis on udder size, can also develop mastitis if not *milked out* properly.
Angus have to have shelter in cold climates and are a *water needy* breed in hot, dry climates.
Look at commercially raised turkeys.
They are bred to have the large and succulent breasts we all want to carve at the Thanksgiving Dinner. The price of that breeding?
They have to artificially inseminate the turkey hens because the poor birds can no longer naturally breed.
Look at the meats in the supermarket. All come from commercial breeds. They are housed in little cages or stalls and artificially bred and fed to have those qualities that we, as Americans, have come to value and expect on our tables.
No, this is not some PETA-style rant about animal cruelty.
This a rant about the dangers and ills of specialization in livestock.
Lets do a hypothetical scenario:
You own 20 acres of fairly okay land in Pennsylvania or Ohio for your homestead. You have 5 acres in gardens and orchards, your plants and trees picked out with an eye to the climate and suitability.
So, you have 15 acres to use for livestock.
Lets say you have 3 children and a spouse. You want milk for drinking, to make butter and cheese. You hope to have enough milk to help fatten that pig you dropped into a pigsty you built next to the gardens. With the high gas prices, you are nervous about using a tractor to do plowing and/or other heavy chores. You want beef to eat as well.
You look at the local livestock market and what you see are raw boned Holsteins, and they just don't look like their beef would be all that appetizing.
Take a look at the pictures at the top of this post.(View more at
Milking Devons, a rare breed that is dying out because of their lack of commercial viability. They can be used for milk, beef and oxen. The Pilgrims brought them from England. They are very well suited to New England, the mid-Atlantic states, the Ohio River Valley, basically, from the North East USA out to the Mississippi and down to the Carolinas.
They used to be common. But no more.
They are more expensive, but if you get a good cow and can get her bred by a Milking Devon bull, you will have a good start. They will be worth their weight in gold in future years.
Devons are healthy and rarely need the veterinary intervention that the more *commercial* breeds need. The milk is rich and high in butterfat, the meat well-marbled and tasty. Devon oxen teams are strong and smart and learn quickly. It takes skill to train a team, but it is a highly rewarding endeavor that will have a long term pay-off. If gas supplies dry up, while others are trudging to market, you'll be making the trip in an ox drawn cart. Instead of watching your fields go to seed or lie unplowed into summer, you'll have the advantage of having animals that are able to plow and harvest with the right equipment. Old ways will be the ONLY ways to succeed in the future, I firmly believe.

Other cattle breeds suitable for multi-purpose are:
Highland (especially good for mountainous areas and very cold climates)
Irish Dexter (the itty bitty cattle!)
Watusi-Ankole (African cattle suitable for the Southwest region of the country)
Now, take those 15 acres, fence 5 acres for your pasture and 5 acres for a hayfield. (We'll talk about the last 5 acres in a later post)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cooking With Preps: Part One

Now, most survivalists proclaim the "stock what you eat, eat what you stock" philosophy. And most of them stock exhaustive quantities of dried wheat, rice and beans. Rice and beans, most people know how to cook them and with the addition of spices, you have a nice meal.
But whole wheat, also known as wheat berries?
Not so much.
Now, you can protest and say you will grind all your wheat into flour and make bread or whatever, but what if you are caught in a situation where you have no means to grind it?
I have prepared wheat berries--still do--and enjoy them very much. Great taste, good nutrition and easy!
Here's some ideas:

Basic Cooked Wheat Berries

1 C wheat berries 2 1/2 C water, juice or broth

You can soak the wheat 12 hours (overnight) in 2 C water, if you like. This is not strictly necessary, but it will cut down on cooking time.

Stovetop: Combine water and wheat in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until all the water is absorbed and grain is soft, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Pressure Cooker: Lower the amount of liquid to 2 cups. Combine water and wheat in a pressure cooker and seal. Cook at 15 pounds for 15 minutes, according to the instructions that came with your pressure cooker.

Slow Cooker: Combine water and wheat in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Breakfast Wheat Berries

Cooking in the slow cooker is a great way to have an easy and healthy hot breakfast in the mornings. Just put the wheat berries in the slow cooker the night before, with your choice of dried fruit. Some steel-cut oats, if you have them, would be nice. You could use old-fashioned rolled oats, too, and cracked wheat if you have any on hand. (We'll talk about how to make that in a later post.) Throw in some spices and salt (cardamom, cinnamon or nutmeg would all be good.) Cook the whole thing in water or fruit juice (don't forget to add enough liquid to cook the oats, too.)

If you prefer your dried cranberries or raisins or apricots to be chewier, stir them into the cereal just before serving. Add sugar and milk in the bowl.

Thermos Wheat Berries

If you have a good Thermos, you can put one cup wheat berries and 2 1/2 cups boiling water (or boiling water or boiling juice) in the Thermos, put the cap on tightly and eight hours later you have a cooked meal! This also works for rice and oats, so you can make a meal on the go or while camping with little effort. Some people have told me it works for beans as well, but I haven't yet tried that!

Cracked Wheat and Bulghur

If you leave on the bran (outer covering of the wheat), and chop or crunch the wheat up in a blender or with a couple of rocks, if need be, you'll have cracked wheat. Cracked wheat cooks much faster but -of course- has the same nutrition as it's whole counterpart.

If you crack up your wheat as above, then steam it, then toast it until dry, you have bulghur. Cooks fast( as it has been precooked with the steaming) and has a toasty, yummy taste! I have the tendency to put a dab (just the tiniest bit!) of sesame or peanut oil in the pan while I toast it to give it an even nuttier flavor.

Bulghur is a staple in Mediterranean cooking and is served as a side to meat. You can add herbs, vegetables, etc to enhance the flavor. Bulghur is also an integral component in making kibbeh, a delightful lamb dish that makes me drool just thinking of it!

Terrific Kibbeh recipes for those that haven't had it yet...

Stuffed Kibbeh (Kibbeh Mahshi)
From Mezze: Delicious Middle Eastern, Turkish and Greek Recipes (Canada, UK), by Rosamond Man.

These are the ultimate in kibbeh — long, thin, crisp shells filled with sweet, sweet pine nuts. Wet your hands thoroughly both to make the shells and to stuff them, patching up any cracks with your thumb — again constantly dipped in cold water.


225 g (8 oz) bulghur (cracked wheat)
450 g (1 lb) lamb, minced and well pounded
1 large onion, skinned and grated
Maldon or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
about 5 ml (I tsp) ground cinnamon
50 to 75 g (2 to 3 oz) pine nuts
olive oil, for frying


Soak the burghul in cold water for 10 minutes, then squeeze out, and mix with the meat, onion and seasonings. Pound until thoroughly pasty, then with both hands wet take a small lump of meat, a little less than a medium-sized egg, and shape it around your middle or forefinger to an even thickness all over, wetting the shell if necessary to close up any cracks. Drop about 5 ml (1 tsp) of pine nuts into each shell, closing up the ends in a smooth oval shape.

Heat a good 5 cm (2 inches) oil in a deep pan until nearly smoking, then carefully roll in two or three shells and fry for about 5 minutes, until browned and crisp all over. Do the cooking in small batches, until you get deft at it — if there are too many in the pan, they can stick together and then crack. Drain thoroughly and serve hot or cold with yogurt, tahina salad, and vegetable salads.

Yield: Serves 5 to 6

So, that plain old wheat sitting in those dusty buckets in your prep larder contain a world of delights!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Major Things To Take Care Of

I wonder, as I read blogs and forums, about those "survivalist" types that have tons of dried foods, thousands of rounds of ammo and water filters and tools stored away for any upcoming apocalyptic event, what have they forgotten?
Recent events in my own life brought this to the forefront...
I had a dental abscess two years ago that traveled to my heart and almost killed me.
Major antibiotics for an extended period of time finally brought me back from the edge, but the doctors told me I HAD to have my teeth removed to forestall a recurrence of the situation.

Being rather poverty stricken at that time, I could not get the dental surgery done. Last month, I had my last twenty teeth removed and got dentures. While recovering, I watched an account on an educational show about an ancient Egyptian tomb that was excavated. The mummy was of some female royal personage. They decided to examine the mummy to determine cause of death.
Turned out, it was an abscessed tooth.
This mummy was once a member of the ruling royal family. She had storehouses of grain and flocks and orchards at her disposal. Slaves fanned her brow, washed her clothing, cleaned her home and waited on her hand and foot. Soldiers protected her at the risk of their own lives and priests prayed and sacrificed for her.
All for naught, because of one infected tooth.
The doctors and archaeologists examining the mummy talked long about how painful her death must have been.
I felt for the long dead lady.
But I also felt a wondering about how many of the *preppers* out there have overlooked significant details in their preparations.

I no longer have to concern myself with an abscess tooth killing me. I knew I had bad teeth and was, thankfully, able to get something done about it.
But if TSHTF (The Shit Hits The Fan in survivalist acronym language), how many survivalists, huddled in their bunkers are prepared for such a thing?
Current antibiotics have limited shelf lives. Some may even turn deadly during extended storage.
Look, if you have bad teeth and you are hanging on to them due to vanity, lose the fantasy and take some of your money to a dentist and get them pulled out. Get an inexpensive set of dentures, wait until your mouth has healed well (about 6 months to one year) and get better dentures or even implant-type permanent dentures. Save your cheap dentures for spares.
In fact, two or three spare sets may be advisable. (TSHTF, I doubt you will be able to scoot down to a local dental lab for replacements)
Remember spare eyeglasses, too, if you wear them. You can buy spare pairs of eyeglasses very cheaply (20 bucks a pair!) online.

Let's address your appendix while we are at it. Still have yours? What would happen if you had appendicitis? No doctor, no hospital. Going to have a a fellow survivalist read instructions from a medical textbook so they can figure it out?
Yeah, scary thought.
I have recently read where some folks are having their appendix removed as an elective procedure. Smart folks.

As soon as you can afford it, go to a doctor and request a full physical. Pay close attention to what the doctor tells you to do, be it losing weight, gaining weight, lowering your cholesterol, lowering your blood sugar, whatever. Write it down and work on it.
And ASK your doctor about your appendix, your tonsils, bad teeth and any other conditions or situations that may imperil your life in a no doctor available situation.
You can tell him you are thinking of joining the Peace Corps and will probably far from a competent medical facility for two years and you just want to make sure there is nothing that may cause you distress in said situation.
Get everything done that you can as soon as you reasonably can.
Put off getting that new Mossberg SPX and pay for the dental work.
Forget the Unimog for right now and get your appendix out during your vacation.
Skimp on your next wheat order and get a few spare pairs of glasses.

A full larder and scads of ammo will do you little good if you die of a simple problem that could have been treated NOW.
Remember the mummy, entombed with her riches...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

So here I am

Decided, since life is changing by leaps and bounds, to start a blog. I intend to document, in a way, the spiraling down of civilization and modern life as I know it, and my efforts in preparation for a future that seems uncertain at best.

I am, by current definitions, a *survivalist*, a *gun nut* and a *libertarian*. Some people sling these labels around with derision, as if they were insults. I embrace them proudly. My larder, while not bulging with provisions, is ample and sufficient for my current situation. I could survive for approximately six months on the supplies I have without ill effect. I do need certain items to do this comfortably and with ease, but I have observed that far too many people tightly grasp the ease and comfort factor. Perhaps they fear hard work, perhaps they fear that without their high tech *toys* they will be unable to function.

I can function in a third world mode, although, admittedly, I prefer not to. I have wheat and rice and flour and dehydrated foods. I also have some chocolate bars and nice body lotion.
I have a lovely shotgun and ammo and some wicked looking sharp knives. I also have a telephone to call 911--while their response time in this area is rather slow, I still think I would call them first before shooting and slicing in wanton abandon.

I am currently living in a moderately sized city on the Gulf Coast. I would prefer to be in the wilds of Maine or Vermont or Idaho or in the Ozarks, but current finances do not allow this. So, I garden as I can in a fair sized back yard.

I am employed--*under the table*, as they say. My employment is entirely dependent on my employers continued good health and success. I have a small checking and a small savings account, so I haven't completely discarded the trappings of our monetary system. I have no stocks or bonds. Nor have I hoarded gold and silver coins and ingots (sadly).
My main assets are not monetary. I have my wits and my knowledge and my common sense, plus the ability to adapt rapidly to any and all situations. I give credit to my strong Irish family line for all of that. A bit interspersed with the Scottish line of my family, but I suppose it was difficult for some of my ancestors to resist a Scottish rogue in a kilt!

This blog will document how I have prepared and how I continue to do so. It will sometimes have a bit of *do it yourself* hints and recipes as I wander along this journey.