Share your knowledge & learn from experts

Because prepping and community go hand in hand

How to make the greenhouse cool in summer?

As a novice gardener, it makes sense to know how to keep your greenhouse cooler in the summer. Perhaps some facilities can keep plants cooler.

Besides vents and fans, what better suggestions do you have?

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What are your softcore preps?

Even though flashy crises are more fun to talk about, a prepping mindset has a big impact on day to day life. Do you have any creative everyday/non-SHTF prepping that you’re particularly happy about?

For example, I finally got tired of never being able to find new heads for my razor (yay supply chains), and I am not shaving under my arms with my Leatherman, so I started to use a metal razor. It can use any razor blades (which can be resharpened) instead of proprietary ones only, it means I have a pile of spare blades (safely) stored, and I’m not worried about it breaking anytime soon.

I’ve also moved towards wearing more durable and easily repairable materials like leather and using mechanical pencils and refillable pens instead of disposables. This won’t save anyone’s life, but moving away from disposables feels like prepping to me because it increases resilience both materially and financially in the long run. In the short run, they’re just nicer to use.

Even in the more traditional EDC, my bike (hex key) multitool sees more use than my Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife, but that’s probably because I’m still in the Ikea stage of life.

All that said, do y’all have any creative softcore prepping tips?

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Making your own first aid supplies after a disaster

If a large region-wide or even country-wide disaster occurred which harmed many people, store shelves and hospitals will quickly run out of first aid supplies from band-aids, gauze, antibiotics, and more. The hope for us as the prepared is to have enough of this stored before this happens to be able to treat injuries we and those close to us sustain. But what if that disaster happens before we are able to accumulate all of those supplies or we run out because the disaster was worse than we had prepared for?

How do you craft and make various first aid supplies from things you have around the house? It will be hard to make things like antibiotics but instead of gauze for a large cut on the arm, could you use pieces of a tshirt that has been washed? Instead of band-aids can you fold a square of toilet paper and attach that with some tape? And even during the normal times, why not save a buck and make your own supplies? What makes the store bought gauze better or different than say a piece of tshirt or toilet paper?

I don’t have any answers but was curious if other people had thoughts on the subject.

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Survival Gardening … Make your own seed vault

When I first started prepping, I knew how important it would be to have plenty of garden seed on hand in case of a severe crisis.  So I would purchase seed vaults online that had lots of seed, could store a long time and had lots of variety.  However the problem with these commercially made seed vaults is that that contain all sorts of varieties that probably wouldn’t do well in my specific climate and location.  I knew a lot of the seed would not do well here.

So about the same time that I started putting staple foods in my own long term storage, I decided to do the same with garden seed.  For me, long term storage means the items are inside sealed Mylar bags with either desiccants or oxygen absorbers inside.  This bag was then inside a sealed 5-6 gallon plastic container.  These containers are stored inside a prepper room I built in my upper barn that has its own AC unit, so the room stays in the 60s or less year round.

Now I understand gardens seed will not last anywhere near as long as my food items.  Things like dried beans, rice, wheat berries, etc. can last 30+ years in such conditions.  Most seed would last only a few years.  So each year, I put up a new container of garden seed.  Each container (seed vault) contains the basic garden seed that could sustain my family for a year, along with fruits & berries from my orchard, catfish from the pond & wild game in the woods.  These seed are varieties I grow each and every year, so I know they do well in my specific location.  I don’t have anywhere near the number of varieties found in commercial seed vaults, but every seed I have are varieties that grow here with minimal to no fertilizers & other garden chemicals… even though I keep more than a year’s supply of such in storage.

My philosophy on survival gardening is to keep it simple.  I also wish to extend the growing season as long as possible, which is pretty long here in north Mississippi.  So my seed vaults all contain cool weather varieties.  Tops for me are collard greens.  They grow early spring & late fall & produce huge crops of nutrient packed leaves.  I normally include some English peas, which also are cool loving, but this year I put them in my freezer in the barn, for very long term storage.  For warm weather varieties, my core crops are the three sisters, grown for ages by native Americans all over this country.  They include corn, pole beans & winter squash.  They are called companion plants because they all assist the others.  Corn grows tall & strong, and provides the support for the pole bean vines to grow on.  The pole beans, being a legume, fix nitrogen on their roots & provide natural fertilizer for the corn.  The winter squash vines stay low to the grown & provide ground cover to help maintain soil moisture & to smother weeds.

I always include amaranth in my seed stores and I feel amaranth is probably the most valuable variety for survival gardening.  It was a staple crop of the Maya civilization in central America.  Its leaves are super nutritious as are its seed.  Each plant can produce a half pound of seed each and the seed are tiny.  A single plant will produce hundreds of thousands of seed.  Amaranth in its native form, which I have growing wild on my property, is a weed.  You almost can’t kill it.  Across the country farmers fight it because it grows so well & reproduces so fast.  This family trait makes the commercial varieties so easy to grow.  They handle drought well, as do most weeds.  Cut the top half of the plant off, and in a few weeks it will have regrown.  These plants can get over 6 feet tall.  The seed can be ground into flour or eaten as a porridge.

So here is what is in this year’s seed vault:

10 lbs Rattlesnake pole beans   5 lbs Tennessee Red Cob corn, 5 lbs Truckers Favorite corn

1 lb Georgia Southern collards      1/4 lb Seminole pumpkins   1/4 lb Green Callallo amaranth

Seed count is as follows:  corn: 12,800     pole beans: 11,000      Seminole pumpkin: 1100

Georgia Southern collards: 100,000   Green Callallo amaranth: 150,000

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Turn off your WiFi when you don’t need it, and other tips on how to prevent hacking and tracking

A recent article by Bleeping Computer summed up many of the dangers of leaving your WiFi turned on which many people might not be aware of, and the solution of turning off your WiFi before you leave the house is so simple that I thought it inherited a post of it’s own. Check out the article for the full technical explanation but here is my quick and dirty summary:

By default, most smartphones search for available WiFi networks all the time, and connect to them if trusted. About ¼ of the time, your phone searches for a WiFi signal and broadcasts the name of past networks you have connected to which are then stored in WiFi routers you pass. Passwords to previous connected WiFi networks (like your home or work) were also leaked during this broadcast. Having your phone always broadcasting WiFi probes has tracking implications. Your phone is always being tracked by other radios like your cell connection, but why add one more point of tracking? Many stores already use WiFi and Bluetooth probing to track their customers’ position and movement to see what items and areas they are most interested in. Hackers set up fake hotspots with popular network names, like Starbucks, and your phone may auto connect to it and now the hackers can watch all your internet traffic and intercept things you are doing.

What to do to minimize your attack surface from easiest to hardest.

The thing you should get in a habit of doing is to simply turn off your WiFi when you are leaving your home. Not only will it save battery by not constantly sending out probes for networks, but it will reduce your attack surface quite a bit. Turn off your phone, put it in airplane mode, or put it in a faraday bag when you don’t need it. An easy thing you can do is to remove previously connected to networks that you no longer use like that AirBnB you stayed at last winter. Disable your device’s ability to auto-join a network. That way it won’t connect to some hacker’s fake WiFi broadcast under the same name as one you have previously joined. Update your device’s operating system. Newer versions have better security and can offer settings which help minimize some tracking. Turn on MAC address randomization. This is your device’s address on a network so your router knows to send that data you just requested to you and not your kids on their device. If your MAC address is the same on every network you connect to, it is easier to track you than if you have your device randomize that address for each different network you connect to. If you do need to use WiFi somewhere that is not your home and can’t be 100% trusted, only connect using a VPN. So even if you connect to a rouge hotspot or it is being monitored, your internet traffic is encrypted.

I am glad that I read through this article and then did a self assessment. I usually turn off WiFi when I leave the house, have MAC addresses randomized, and use a VPN. But when I looked at my phone I have collected 9 saved networks that are all set to auto-connect when in range. So these are constantly being sent out and probed for. I was able to delete five of them and turn the remaining four to not auto-connect. It will just involve one more step of clicking on the network name when I get in range and want to connect to it, but hopefully it will cut down on the amount of information I am sending out and not allow my device to automatically connect to networks I pass. I wrote down the deleted network names and passwords in my password manager so I can easily access those if I ever need them without having to ask again for the password.

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Endure: A tabletop RPG for preppers

Heya everyone! I wanted to share something cool I found that we could use to test out or even just play around in hypothetical scenarios. It’s a rules-lite, pay-what-you-want Tabletop Roleplaying Game known as Endure. You can find it here!

https://vonbednar.itch.io/endure

The basic idea of it is that you are an average person caught in a Crisis Scenario. This isn’t The Division, where you’re essentially a super soldier putting the world together one city block at a time. No, I’d say it feels more like The Long Dark or The Last of Us. You can also set the game in whatever time period or setting you want, as long as you’re surviving a Crisis.

All you need to play this game is two six-sided dice. No complex character sheets, no battle maps, none of that. I like this because it leaves the game open for Players and GMs to tell the story they want to without being confined to a framework. The only thing I don’t like about it is that combat isn’t explained very well, as they just advise avoiding it if you can. While that makes sense, a little more on the subject would be nice.

Regardless, I hope y’all find this game interesting!

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Remove rust off your gear and tools with vinegar or ketchup

Did you know that vinegar is a great way to remove surface rust off of metal objects like tools, stoves, or camping gear? I didn’t, but after seeing it done on YouTube I gave it a try and it worked quite well.

I do take care of my tools, but have inherited and found some used tools that were neglected and gathered some rust.

The following two were my fault though. The small pair of wire cutters and the rust on this parang were from me not applying a protective layer of oil on them.

The first step is to scrub everything down with soapy water to remove any grease or oil that is on there. This is an important step because I forgot to do that the first time I put all these in a vinegar bath and not very much rust came off. After washing them properly and then soaking in vinegar again, it worked much better.

Because it would take quite a lot of vinegar to submerge the parang, I opted to try spraying it and the wire cutters down with some ketchup on just the areas that have built up rust.

The rest of the tools I submerged in vinegar for 24 hours. Without even touching them, look at the rust that has just flaked off.

Taking a brass wire brush, I lightly brushed off the remaining rust and the tools are looking much nicer now!

Some of the files and punches still had some of the 20+ year old rust on them, but they do look much nicer now and I’m happy with the results. Another soak or two with additional brushing probably could get them back to new.

The parang however didn’t show any signs of improvement. I’m not sure why, because the ketchup worked great on the wire cutters. Maybe it is the type of steel it is made out of.

I then put some oil on a rag and wiped all the tools down to prevent this from happening again.

Neat little trick, but hopefully I never have to do it again and can prevent this from happening with proper maintenance in the first place.

Further reading: How to maintain garden tools with a bucket of sand and oil

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Success! I finally made a batch of soap that I liked

After some great advice from the wonderful people here on the forum my second attempt at making soap turned out MUCH better than the first time. Check out the comments on this forum thread to see my first failed attempt.

For those who are interested in making soap, I’ll give a brief summary of how to do it.

Shopping list:

Pure sodium hydroxide (lye). I bought 2lb for $16 on Amazon and it came with a free silicone mold. I’d link to the item I bought but it doesn’t seem to be available any longer. Silicone molds. These make the process much nicer and produce a better bar than homemade cardboard molds, so it is definitely worth investing in these. Two small 3-4 gallon buckets Silicone spatula Soap blender Disposable paper cup Kitchen scale to measure ingredients Fat sources. Coconut oil, beef tallow, olive oil, and many other options. Check out the possibilities on soapcalc.net to see what they can help you use. Avoid polyunsaturated fats, I learned this the hard way in my first attempt, which is linked up above. Distilled water Eye protection and disposable gloves

A quick and dirty summary of how soap is made is that you take some fat source like olive oil, mix with lye and water, and chemical reactions happen that turn it into soap.

To calculate what recipe you are going to use, go onto soapcalc.net and plug in your various fat sources and how much you have. For this successful attempt I used about 2/3 beef tallow and 1/3 coconut and olive oil. The users on this forum taught me which parameters I should shoot for. I went with an INS of 160, higher than this gives you a harsher soap and having some superfat to offset possibly being off on your recipe and avoiding excess lye that will burn you. Tweak your fat levels until you reach the goals you are going for. Here is my recipe. I don’t know what all this means but I’ve highlighted the things I look at.

According to your recipe, measure out your ingredients. Use a disposable cup for the lye, but the other food grade materials (water and the fats) can be measured into your normal kitchen’s bowls because they won’t touch anything toxic. 

Take one of the 4 gallon buckets outside and put on eye protection, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt. Pour in the water first and then the lye and stir with the spatula. It will give off some nasty fumes and heat up pretty hot from the chemical reaction. 

Back inside you will heat up your fats to as close to the same temperature as the lye mixture. I just threw it all in the crock pot and melted down the solid beef tallow and coconut oil. If you are doing just oils like coconut oil and olive oil then just heat them up in the microwave.

Combine the lye and oil mixture in your second bucket and mix for 2-3 minutes with the electric mixer until it is very creamy and thickens up a bit.

Pour the liquid soap into the molds and use the spatula to clean out the last drop. Put the molds in a cool dark cupboard and cover with a cloth for it to harden. I gave it a couple days and then pulled the soap bars out of the molds and stood them up on a piece of cardboard to get more airflow. Let them sit for a month to cure and they are ready to use.

The nice bars in the back of this picture were from the mold, and the weird pieces were ones that I broke up from a large chunk in a cardboard mold that I made. I won’t use a homemade mold again and will get more silicone molds because they make it so much nicer.

My soap bars smelt very strongly like beef broth when they were just poured into the molds. By the time a month had passed and they were ready to use they still smelt slightly beefy if you put your nose up to them. When you lather your hands a smell of beef broth can be smelt but your hands don’t smell like anything after you rinse them off. It’s an interesting smell that I don’t particularly like, but my wife has showered with it and said she didn’t smell anything. Maybe I am just more sensitive to it. Next time I make soap, I have some pig lard that I need to use. It probably won’t smell as strongly as the beef tallow, but I still am going to only put in 25% lard because I am not a fan of the meat smelling soap. I also do not want to add essential oils because I don’t want to smell peppermint beef either.

Well, that’s about it. I am extremely new to this world of soap making and if I said something incorrect please correct me. I don’t know how everything works, I just know that if you do steps A+B you get C and that’s what I want. It’s a fun experiment and I feel a sense of self sufficiency. If there was a nationwide run on soap for whatever reason I could make my own and share with others. Soap and cleanliness is very important for health and moral so it is an important survival and prepping skill to know how to make. At first I was scared and worried I wouldn’t get the chemistry right, and I actually didn’t the first time, but once I knew what to shoot for it was very easy to do. It is not a hard skill to learn and there are so many things and variations you can run with from here. I just like plain, simple, cheap survival soap though. Maybe one day I’ll expand into scents, colors and shapes.  

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Games that teach survival skills

What games have you found that teach survival skills in a fun way? I’ll include some of my favorites as comments and encourage others to do the same.

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Cooking in a haybox – a fuel efficient way to slow-cook your meals

This has been discussed a little before, but I’ve got a “new” resource to share in the form of a 1909 online booklet:  https://archive.org/details/firelesscookbook00mitc/page/n7/mode/2up  “The Fireless Cookbook”.  The Haybox is a type of thermal cooker that only requires fuel for the initial boiling of the food.  The container of boiling food is placed inside a box filled with hay or other insulating material and allowed to slow-cook for a few hours.  I’m just about ready to give it a try.  Bought an excellent heavy duty box from the UPS store and have a supply of hay.  Just need the time to get all set up.  I’ll start with some dry beans, which are notorious for their long cooking time/fuel consumption.

I’m pretty interested in this method because most of our power outages occur in foul weather and my cooking resources would otherwise all be mainly outdoors.

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Let’s make the ultimate emergency reference guide for a bug out bag

In a previous forum thread talking about light weight gear, I recommended that people ditch the heavy and bulky survival manual in their bug out bag, store most of that info in your noggin, and maybe have a laminated 1/2 sheet sized reference guide as a reminder or for those hard things to remember.

Another member asked if I or anyone else has a 1/2 sheet reference guide like this, and to be honest, I don’t. But let us change that and come together and come up with some things to add.

What do you all think of the following list? What do you like, dislike, or want to add? I’ll do all the work and compile it into a document, but I need ideas of important things you would find helpful on a 1/2 sheet size reference guide.

Here are some of my ideas:

Contact info for someone out of town, for your child’s school, spouse’s workplace, and other important numbers like doctor, insurance company, or utility company. Emergency meeting place location and instructions Diagrams of how to navigate using a wrist watch Diagram of how to set a snare Diagram of knots Escape routes Important radio frequencies Read More

Share YOUR social media page/account on prepping/homesteading

Shameless plug, my wife relatively recently started a homestead TikTok page. She covers topics from things we do around the homestead/rural property to the unschooling we do with our kids, and of course prepping. She’s skilled at social media and puts out good information.

@boarsteadhomestead

Not only did I want to share hers but I wanted others to share their prepping/homesteading social media pages/accounts. Do you write a blog, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, or have a FaceBook page? Share them so we can support each other and see through a small window into our fellow preppers lives. Even if you know it all, there’s still some things that can be learned!

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How to get rid of noxious weeds

Help!I am overwhelmed by plantains and Queen Anne’s lace following a compost delivery last spring.

None of the weeds went to seed. I don’t know how to get rid of these pests, and would be grateful for any advice.

Thank you

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Can we as a forum bust a survival TV show myth? – Cooking an egg in toilet paper

On the Bear Grylls TV show Running Wild, actor Terry Crews tags along with Bear in the Icelandic Highlands of Season 6 Episode 2 (available on Disney+ for streaming). One of the main points of this episode is that Terry has to carry an egg around with him and on the second day of their adventure they eat it. Bear introduces Terry to a cooking technique where they wrap the egg in toilet paper and light it on fire. With magic of editing, the egg is perfectly hardboiled in 2 minutes. 

Ever since seeing this scene, I wanted to test that out for myself. I tried to look online for anybody else attempting this and could not see a single mention of this technique. So going back to the original episode, I analyzed it to see if I could pick up on any tips or tricks. 

Terry rolls up the egg in toilet paper and seems to do it moderately tight Bear says that to prevent the egg from exploding, you need to poke a small hole in it. It seems like they may have used another tinder source behind the wad of toilet paper because it takes off very forcefully, there is a loud hissing sound from the flame, the toilet paper doesn’t seem to be on fire and charring enough to equal the amount of flames coming off of the wad, the flames look an unnatural red color, and personally I haven’t been able to easily light toilet paper like that with a ferro rod before. They do cook a gull egg, but it doesn’t look to be too different in size than a medium chicken egg.

Here’s the clip in case you want to look at it as well. 

On my first attempt, I took a free range chicken egg from my neighbor’s chickens and wrapped it tightly in over six feet of toilet paper.

Taking it outside, I doused it with lighter fluid (for extra help) and set it on fire. The lighter fluid gives off big orange flames for a few seconds and then the wad of toilet paper is extinguished and it smolders. I let it do that for a few minutes thinking that it would still give off heat and cook the egg. But when even the smoldering started to die down, I drenched it in lighter fluid twice more and waited for it to die down again.

All of the toilet paper didn’t burn off because I wrapped the egg tightly and the toilet paper wasn’t able to get enough oxygen.

When I cracked the egg open after 13 minutes, only a very small sliver of the egg white was cooked.

I attempted the experiment again with a very small chicken egg that is much smaller than the gull egg used in the episode. I wrapped it in the same six feet of toilet paper, but very loosely and lightly this time to have it burn more completely. I also stayed away from using lighter fluid this time to see if that was causing it to burn too quickly last time. After 13 minutes, the toilet paper was more thoroughly consumed, but the egg wasn’t any more cooked.

My guess is that the egg used in the TV show had been hardboiled the entire time and this toilet paper technique was just to show off for the audience.

I know that many survival shows are staged and edited to show various techniques, but if this is a hoax and you can’t actually cook an egg from raw to hardboiled with toilet paper like is shown, then it needs to be known that this is not a real survival technique. I am not dogging Bear at all, he is a great and genuine guy and I look up to him as a person in many ways.

So here’s where the challenge comes in. Can we as a community prove or disprove that this works? Try it on your own with your family and see if you can figure out what steps need to be taken to hardboil an egg using toilet paper. 

Want more Bear Grylls? Drinking your own pee for survival: does the science bear it out? 

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80/20 Rule for Emergency Radios

Just wondering how others apply the 80/20 rule to emergency radios (both hardware and skills), keeping in mind that what constitutes 20% preparation for 80% of scenarios can and will vary from person to person.

I would breakdown the levels of preparation as follows:

Owning a good quality one-way radio:  AM/FM/NOAA and, maybe shortwave Owning an inexpensive VHF/UHF/FM/NOAA Ham radio for purposes of receiving and monitoring emergency broadcasts but only transmitting in the case of a bona-fide emergency, meaning no ham license. All of the above + a Ham technician license.  Financially inexpensive but definitely a time commitment to study for and pass the licensing test.  Perhaps additional time invested in honing the skillset via involvement in CERT, ARES, etc. Ham general license or above + necessary equipment to use that level of licensing — sky is the limit in terms of expense, acquiring equipment, and practicing and honing the skillset.

Depending on a variety of factors, the 20% threshold could be as low as #1 for some and as high as #3 for others.  For me, personally #2 probably meets or exceeds the 20% threshold and #3 (which I’m currently working towards) definitely exceeds the 20% threshold, perhaps bringing me closer to 95/25.  Honestly, the bar for moving from #2 to #3 is pretty low for all except the most technically challenged so, I think, definitely worth pursuing.  #4 is a much bigger commitment, mainly on the financial side so clearly in the realm of advanced prepping, perhaps the inverse of 80/20.

Just my initial thoughts. 

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I’m planting potatoes!

I’m finally doing it and I’m excited! 

Background: I got my suburban house 3 years ago (inherited from my mom) and aside from small foundation beds in the front, it was all lawn, a blank slate.  Now, I am famously indecisive when presented with a blank slate. I love having people over and I adore flowers, so I wanted ornamentals for my backyard paradise. But as a (low-key) prepper, obviously I want to think about growing food. However, the amount of sun in my yard is marginal for food production, with only a few areas potentially suitable. What to do?

I started one bed at a time, refurbishing the flower beds in the front and starting with a small shade garden with rhododendrons, ferns and hostas in the back. A few tomatoes and cucumbers in pots on the deck. An herb patch we just kind of scratched out of the ground. We got fig trees in containers last year, and expanded the shade garden – it’s gorgeous! The vision started coming together and this spring we replaced the herb patch with an actual raised bed, and just yesterday built another raised bed just below it where we are going to plant potatoes today!! (A little late but the folks at Agway said we’d be fine)

Why potatoes when we don’t even have a real vegetable garden yet? A few reasons. The area only gets about 5 hours of sun, and potatoes are supposed to be among the more shade tolerant veggies. Plus, if we ever really needed our garden for survival or supplementation during lean times, I’d like experience producing a crop that can provide storable calories. 

Anyway, the seed potatoes are cut and curing right now and will be in the ground by the end of the day. Wish me luck!

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Recognizing when it’s time to change how you prep

Yesterday, my prepping evolved. I made a hard choice and packed up all my canning gear for donation.

Over fifteen years ago, I purchased all of it when I ramped up my preps. It was a natural choice to return to the lifestyle I knew so well. Canning was part of self-sufficiency.

The problem was I never used any of it. The canning gear sat in unopened boxes for the someday promise of a garden.

The canning supplies also sat in boxes because there was no room on my prep shelves for any of those lovely unfilled jars. That was because I had already stocked my shelves with store bought cans, regularly rotated and neatly stamped with expiry dates.

There was no way to carve out more room in my prep storage. The space just wasn’t there and yesterday, I finally accepted that fact.

I also accepted that jarred foods as preps don’t make sense for me anymore. My husband and I avoid high sugar foods and rarely eat jam. 

Arthritic hands mean an unpredictable grip. If I drop a jar, it breaks. If I drop a can, it dents.

If we ever had to bug out or set up an alternate location for bug out, it will be easier to load tin cans than glass jars.

I was also concerned about the sustain ability of long term canning without replenishment of canning supplies, like lids or even fuel to properly sterilize jars and keep the process clean under what might be adverse conditions.

The risk of a bad batch of canning had always bothered me in the back of my mind. My Mom was an expert canner, and yet, I remember a time when she culled a batch of canned beans because she didn’t like the look of them that winter.

A friend made us lunch one day and proudly brought out her jar of jam. There was mould under the paraffin seal. I expressed regret that her jam was spoiled. She didn’t believe that it was “spoiled” and scooped the upper layer of jam out of the jar. I refused to eat any of it. Mould on the surface is also below the surface and should never be consumed.

No matter how careful a person is, home canning does carry the risk of botulism. A pressure canner is safest for low acidic foods, but it always goes back to operator error as a possible source of food borne illness.

Food borne illness is not something anyone wants to encounter in the best of times and definitely not during a crisis where medical care may be unavailable. Spoiled and inedible food is not a prep.

The last factor in my choice to relinquish my canning gear and preserve food using different methods was because of what happened last summer.

My someday promise of a garden finally arrived. I promptly blanched and froze everything that I grew. The thought of canning in that heat never crossed my mind. Not once.

I realized that it was time to evolve again. 

The word evolution comes from the Latin “evolvere” meaning “unrolling.” One of it’s meanings is “gradual development” and that is exactly what prepping has been for me.

Prepping is not a static, “do it this way forever” practice. It is a part of a life that undergoes growth, change, and gradual development.

If anything prepping has taught me to face reality and find solutions.

So, it is out with the canning and hello freeze drying. I have my home sized freeze dryer picked out. Until the budget allows it, I will be deep freezing my produce instead. What I grow this year will also be harvest as part of daily meals and if there is surplus, it will go for donation to the food bank.

I believe the freeze dryer will be a good prepping investment. Freeze dried foods have a longer shelf life than dehydrated foods. I can seal the freeze dried food into mylar bags and put them into pails for storage. The pails work well on my storage shelves and I don’t have to worry about breakage.

These are the moments in prepping when we can practice courage by letting go of an idea of how to prep that no longer works for us.

I was holding onto the tradition of canning and the memories it held for me. Now, I am forging new methods that hold the promise of new lessons and more to learn.

I think sometimes in prepping, there is a tendency for people to embrace ideas or methods of survival, because that is what everyone else is doing. However, that doesn’t always make it right for you. No matter how you prep, do what works for you. Don’t be afraid to evolve.

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Cook your food in water instead of over a fire during a survival situation for the most nutrition

When you need to cook something you have caught, hunted, or foraged, cooking it as a soup in a pot of boiling water is much more nutritionally efficient versus grilling it over an open flame.

By containing the food in the pot, all of the nutrients are infused into the surrounding water which can later be drank as broth. That’s why chicken noodle soup was a common “cure” to being sick, because back in the day the whole chicken was cooked into the soup and the bones, joints, and skin would be broken down into a very nutritionally dense broth. The can of Campbells chicken noodle soup from the store in 2022 does not provide the same benefit.

It’s also easier to make sure that the food is cooked thoroughly if it has been boiling in a pot of water for some time. You can’t burn and char it in water but that can happen over an open flame.

A grilled piece of meat will always taste so much better, but in a survival situation you want the most nutrition as possible in soup form.

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Helpful bugs in your garden – Don’t kill these!

At least for me, when I see a bug inside my house I kill it or relocate it outside. But some bugs might be helpful in garden at eating other bugs that would otherwise take out your crop.

Here are some bugs that I learned about that can help in the garden, reduce the need for pesticides, and don’t look too creepy:

Ladybugs – Cute, usually left alone by other bugs so they won’t be eaten themselves, and they eat aphids, mealy worms, leafhoppers, and mites.

Tachinid fly – They lay their larvae in the backs of other bugs like caterpillars and moths. When the larvae hatch, they consume the host they have been planted in. SICK! But helpful…

Green Lacewings – They eat aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and mealybugs

Fungus gnat predator – The only creepy looking one I’m adding on the list because of how helpful they are at eating fungus gnats, gnat larvae, and spider mites. I’ve had issues with fungus gnats before and they will destroy your plant, wish I had a few of these predators earlier.

Praying mantis – They eat moths, beetles, crickets, and caterpillars.

Spiders – I usually kill spiders because I don’t know the ones that could turn around and kill me. Self defense? But spiders are helpful in the garden at killing many various bugs so it’s best to leave them be.

Bees – You may be afraid of getting stung, but we need to save the bees. They bring fruit to your garden by pollinating the flowers.

Worms – If you find a worm, take it to your garden and they will aerate your soil and break down compost into rich fertilizer.

Toads – Not a bug, but a slug and bug killing machine. You may like one of these going around your garden than some of the creepy bugs.

Baby chicks – Baby and young chicks will clean up a garden of invading pests, but once they grow up they start to realize that they can eat the berries and other leaves of your plants.

You can buy many of these insects online, at your local nursery, or maybe a hardware store. For example, here are 1000 green lacewing larvae for $24

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Screenshot from 2022-05-14 15-10-56

How to set up a new axe for first use

Even if you buy a quality axe, it’s very unlikely it will arrive from the factory ready for first use. Here are my tips for preparing the handle and sharpening the blade on a Council Tool Boy’s Axe, a gift from my wife that she found from TP’s best survival axes roundup.

Unlike the cheap axes you tend to find in hardware stores, the Council Tool axe is made in America with quality materials and is well hung. A lot of times, you can pick up an axe in a hardware store and the head is already loose, which is unacceptable. The Council Tool Boy’s Axe is an incredible bargain at well under $100.

Summary:

The handle has a factory varnish finish, which you’ll want to scrape off and replace. After scraping the handle, sand it to get it silky smooth. Oil finishes are usually preferred for tool handles. Raw linseed oil is safer than boiled linseed oil and works great. Apply multiple thin coats of oil on a warm, sunny day. Linseed oil can combust. Lay oil-soaked rags flat when not in use and soak them in water before disposing. Once the handle can’t accept any more oil, sharpen the blade. A Lansky sharpening puck is a convenient sharpening tool for axes. Buy a good sheath to protect the axe blade (and yourself).

More: Want to become a sharpening pro, especially with limited tools? Check out TP’s video lesson.

A boy’s axe is enough for a man

When looking at axes, you may be tempted to pick a big, heavy axe. I also made that mistake. Yes, a heavier axe can more-easily cleave through wood with less applied force, but when you’re using an ax, you’re going to be swinging it. Over and over again. A heavy axe will tire you out quickly while you can swing a lighter axe for much longer. A heavy axe is also harder to pack into the woods unless you’re car camping.

A boy’s axe, with a head weight of about 2.25 pounds and a 28-inch handle, is the best general-purpose axe for most people. It’s just heavy enough to handle most tasks, but light enough to be easy to carry.

You can also manipulate an axe of this size for basic wood shaping (think holding near the head and doing fine-control work). You also want a poll or single-bit axe. A double-bit axe can be handy, but having a cutting edge on both ends of the head adds extra risks. Plus the flat poll is handy for driving in wedges and smashing things in a pinch.

If you become a serious woodsman, you’ll likely assemble a collection of axes. If you split a lot of wood you may want a full-size axe with a duller blade. And hatchets are handy for bugging out, camping, and dispatching roosters. But the boy’s axe is a good starting point.

Preparing the handle

If you have an axe with a factory handle, or the next time you pick one up in a store, feel along the handle. Most axe handles come from the factory covered in a rough varnish. Those spots may not feel rough as sandpaper, but imagine the handle sliding along your palm hundreds of times. You want your handle to be as smooth as possible.

The first step is removing the varnish, which takes only a few minutes. Take a knife (not one of your fancier ones) and scrape it at a 90-degree angle across the handle to scrape off the varnish. You could also use a cabinet scraper if you have one around. Don’t cut into the handle, just scrape the surface.

The finished result should look like bare, pale wood.

Next, smooth the handle with some sandpaper. A lot of people use 250-grit sandpaper for this, but I had finer 800-grit so that’s what I used. Fold the sandpaper on itself like an accordion to make it easier to grip. Then wrap the sandpaper around the handle and lightly move it up and down. You’re not trying to remove a lot of material here, just smoothing out the surface.

You’ll probably find that it’s hard to move the sandpaper up to where the handle wides. So when you finish with the narrower part of the handle, unwrap the sandpaper and lightly sand the wider bits.

Run your fingers along the handle, feeling for any rough spots. Sand them down. When the handle is smooth, wipe the wood dust off with a rag.

Choosing a finish

You can’t use a bare wood handle because moisture will soak into the wood and it will eventually rot. So you need to apply a finish.

Wood finishing is a complex topic and I could go on at length about various pros and cons. For our purposes, there are two types of finish: exterior coatings (varnish) and finishes that soak into the wood (oils).

The problem with exterior coats like varnish is that they only cover the surface of the wood. When they inevitably flake off, it exposes the wood to the elements. They’re tricky to apply correctly, and even trickier to repair — you basically have to strip the wood and apply varnish again.

Many woodsmen like oil finishes, which penetrate and soak the wood to repel water from the inside out. They’re easy to apply and maintaining the finish is as easy as applying more oil. You have to apply the oil more often than you’d have to redo varnish, but the application takes just a minute.

There are two types of oils: drying oils like linseed and tung, and non-drying oils like coconut and tallow. You want a drying oil for tool handles, which will polymerize so that it won’t be slick. If you soak a handle in something like coconut oil, you could be dealing with a greasy handle for a long time.

The often-recommended oil for this is boiled linseed oil (BLO), which is cheap, quick-drying, and makes for a nice finish. The problem is BLO is a misnomer, as the oil isn’t actually boiled. Instead it’s mixed with solvents and heavy metals like lead to speed up drying time. You don’t want that stuff in contact with your hands, which is why I avoided the handles when I treated my scythe snath with BLO and turpentine.

A better choice is raw linseed oil, which allegedly takes a bit longer to dry but is all-natural and non-toxic. However, I found that it dried as quickly as BLO without toxicity concerns.

Properly oiling a tool handle

It takes a long time to get the first layers of linseed oil in a handle. You won’t want to slather on a thick coat all at once, because it will dry into a tacky mess that’s a pain to remove. You want to apply multiple thin coats to let it soak into the wood.

Check the weather forecast and pick a couple of warm, sunny days for this project. The warmer the better, as heat helps the oil penetrate deeper in the wood, and sunlight will help speed up drying.

Pick a spot that gets good sun that has a stump or fence post to drive the blade into. I used a fence post in a sunny spot. Chop into your wood so the axe is firmly in place and won’t fall off. That will give you a safe, stable base to work from.

Pour a little linseed oil onto a clean rag and wipe the handle down with it. Wipe it thoroughly to keep a thin, even coat. And don’t forget both ends of the handle — the end grain is extra absorbent. While you’re at it, wipe down the blade on your first pass to protect the steel from the elements.

Wait 10-15 minutes to let oil soak into the wood and then wipe off the excess with a clean rag. If you’re busy and can’t go out that often, wipe down the initial coat with a clean rag to thin it out a bit more.

Warning: Linseed oil can spontaneously combust when soaked into wadded-up rags. Lay your oily rag flat outside and put a rock on it to keep the wind from blowing it away. When you’re finished with it, soak it in water before throwing it away.

Give it an hour or so, feel the handle to see if the oil has soaked in, and if it has, do the same thing again.

Expect this to take a couple of days. Take the axe inside at night to protect it from the dew.

I applied seven coats total: five on the first day and two on the second. You want to repeat this process until the oil is no longer soaking into the wood.

After a day of applying oil, the finish already looks richer.

You can keep repeating this process over time. Consider oiling it once a week or so until the finish gets dark enough for you. I plan to do a second round of oiling this summer when the temperatures are much warmer and the oil can soak in better.

Sharpening the Council Tool Boy’s axe

The factory edge of the Council Tool Boy’s axe is okay, but not especially sharp. More experienced axemen might want to reprofile the head with a file, but I didn’t feel it was necessary.

There are many tools for sharpening axes. Even a simple bastard file works. But I’m a big fan of the Lansky sharpening puck, which is cheap, easy to transport, and made for axes.

You want some sort of lubrication. Many people put oil on their stones, but I’m not a fan of oil for two reasons: once you oil a stone you have to keep using oil and oil makes a thick layer between the steel and stone, making it cut less effectively. Some recommend kerosene or diesel, but I like plain water and keep a bucket nearby when I’m sharpening. Water is safe and can be found just about everywhere. You can spit on the stone if you need to.

You want a stable sharpening surface. Putting the axe in a vice would be the best, but I wanted to simulate field conditions. I sat down with my stone and bucket and laid the axe across my knees, with the head on one knee, facing away from me.

I dunked the puck in the bucket and then using the fine side of the puck, ran it in a circular motion up and down the blade’s bevel. When that side was done, I’d switch sides (and knees). But that’s an oversimplification.

Sharpening is intimidating when you’re new at it, which is why TP offers a whole course dedicated to it. Part of the learning process is getting a feel for the blade. That starts with carefully running your finger across the blade edge to feel for the “burr,” which is a rough spot in the edge.

You want to work that burr to smooth it out, which then folds the burr over to the other side of the blade. Then you work on that side to smooth the burr out. You keep repeating this process with progressively lighter stone grits and pressures until you end up with both sides of the blade meeting in a sharp, smooth edge.

Don’t run the stone across the entire blade unless you’re planning to reshape it. You want to put the puck on the bevel (the end of the sharp edge of the blade) and angle it so that it “catches” the bevel. That takes some experience. The key is trying to maintain an even angle across the bevel.

After about 30 minutes of light sharpening, I had an edge sharp enough to shave hair off my arm.

I decided to take the axe for a test run. I hacked down a couple of annoying saplings in the edge of the woods near my house, and tested the edge by peeling bark from them.

Once your axe is good and sharp, you want to be careful with the edge, not only to prevent injuries but to avoid damaging the edge. You definitely want some sort of sheath to carry it around in. I like leather because it plays nicely with oil. In the meantime, you can hang it up in a safe place.

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Straw bale gardening – Turn last fall’s decorations into this spring’s raised garden bed

Has anyone tried straw bale gardening? I have to say it is a creative and resourceful way to have raised garden beds.

The idea is that you take a straw bale, sprinkle a bit of potting soil on the top to start out the seeds, and the plants will then grow into and live off of the decomposing straw bales. This technique is nice because it doesn’t grow weeds, easy to care for, is raised up, and can even be placed down on concrete. 

Some tips I read about:

Hay contains seeds, you need to use straw which is just the leftover stalks. You can wrap the straw bales in black plastic and have the sun cook and kill any remaining seeds that were left behind in the straw. Shorter plants work better than tall plants like corn which may tip over

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Preps for people with physical disabilities and limitations or who aren’t in great physical shape

I’d like to start a thread where we can discuss how to best get prepared if you or a loved one is dealing with physical disabilities or limitations or isn’t in the best physical shape. I’m particularly interested in discussing scenarios where we have to bug out. I know it’s desirable that person be in good shape for physically strenuous activity in case of the need to evacuate, but let’s get real. Some people just aren’t. Life happens; age happens; disability happens. We all do our best. I see physical fitness as an important goal to have in mind for health and safety reasons, but not something we should feel bad about falling short of.

I have very personal reasons for starting this thread. I am in my 50s, not in great fitness shape, although not horrible. I have some repetitive usage disabilities and long standing foot problems and now some knee problems.  Nothing extreme, but I’m pretty keenly aware that hiking out of Dodge with 25 or 30 lbs on my back would wear me out pretty darned fast. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d even make it a mile on foot. I also have a mother who is much MORE disabled, living part time alone after having a stroke two years ago.

I want to be practical so am looking for ideas of what I can do at my current size and shape and fitness level to prepare.

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The sun ☀️ is our greatest survival ally

During some morning meditation and reflecting, I thought about what an incredible resource the sun is to the survivalist. Here are some of my thoughts on how the sun helps us and if we study each method and learn how to capitalize on it’s ability, then we can become better prepared to survive. Feel free to add to the list if you have any thoughts.

Generating electricity through the use of a solar panel Cooking food with a solar oven Heating up a house by opening the blinds Disinfecting water that is placed in a clear bottle Providing vitamin D through our skin to keep us healthy Telling time by using a sun dial or just looking up in the sky for a general sense according to it’s position Helping us navigate. Rises in the East and sets in the West Brings life to our gardens

Thank you sun! 

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Screenshot from 2022-04-28 10-51-28

What’s worth canning?

I’d like to ask a question (ok, 2 questions) to the folks who are experienced with canning fruits and veggies:1) What fruits & vegetables do you prefer to can and what do you prefer to freeze? (Set aside the issue of the power going out and the freezer defrosting…)2) What fruits & vegetables have you canned that you won’t can again – because of the effort involved, change in color/texture, shift in taste, equipment needed, etc.

Thanks in advance!

-WS (a canning newbie)

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Creating a prepping team

No man is an island and no one can succeed in a disaster alone. Mad Max, The Omega Man, I Am Legend, even The Road had guys going it alone against the post-apocalyptic hordes. But that’s not realistic. A truly prepared individual will surround themselves with like-minded others who have diverse skill sets.

The question I have is how? How do we find these people? I’ve been looking. I’ve joined groups, I’ve been on other forums. I want to enlist the people in my community,  but do so without coming on like a desperate weirdo or paranoid gun nut.

Where do y’all go to find others?

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