How to Start a Fire with Firesteel and a Knife

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How to Use Firesteel

Using firesteel in a survival or emergency situation can be tough. Here’s how to properly use a ferro rod and knife to start a soul-warming, life-saving blaze – every time…

Here’s What You’ll Need:

using firesteel

 

First, you’ll need some REALLY DRY tinder (this is the fine stuff) because this is ONE of the MAJOR keys to SUCCESS. Dead grass or weeds, fine, dry wood shavings, twine pulled apart, dryer lint or cotton balls all make good tinder.

Next you’ll need a campfire all set up and ready to go – I recommend a teepee fire for beginners – we’ll talk more about this in a minute.

You’ll need some comfortable leather gloves and a ferrocerium fire steel rod such as the Bear Grylls, Schrade and Exotac rods.

And last but not least, you’ll need a fixed blade knife.

Set Up Your Tee Pee Fire

using firesteel
Now… set up your tee pee fire with your dry tinder on a dry surface like sticks or a rock, and add kindling. Then top it off with some larger sticks for fuel.

Your Survival Knife

using firesteel
Next we’ll need our knife. Just about any sturdy fixed blade knife with a 90 degree / squared-off AND UNCOATED spine.

The Bear Grylls knife is a popular one with those just getting into survival land. With its included ferro rod and well-designed, notched, coating-free striker area on the spine toward the handle, it’s a perfect knife to start with.

Ferro Rod

using firesteel
Now… If you are using a new ferro rod (like the one that comes with the Bear Grylls knife, you’ll need to remove the dark rust-inhibiting coating from the portion of the rod you are going to strike.

To do this, angle the spine of your blade and scrape off a good bit of the coating. It should throw a nice shower of sparks.

using firesteel

Bonus Tip
Most beginners make the mistake of striking the ferro rod by pushing the knife over the rod and toward the fire… This often results in TOO MANY sparks falling short of the tinder, AND by pushing your knife out toward the fire you run the risk of knocking your fire over as your hand travels forward… which is really frustrating.

So Here’s the Right Way to Do It

using firesteel

With gloves on, hold the knife firmly with your strong hand, spine side facing down and the edge facing up.

Brace your hand on the ground close to your tinder for support. This hand will be stationary during the process.

Now grip the ferro rod with your other hand and bring it under your knife spine tilting it at about a 45 degree angle to the blade.

To generate sparks, pull the ferro rod toward you while it rubs against the edge of the knife spine.

Bonus Tip2

Problems? Here’s What to Do
If after a minute or two you can’t get a fire, your tinder is probably too wet or may not be the proper material.

So, if you have a choice, find new tinder. If not, keep trying. It might take up to 20 minutes to get a fire going in wet or humid situations.

ONE Last thing…

vaselinecotton
Since practice makes perfect… Here’s a simple way to practice using your ferro rod and knife without starting an entire camp fire.

Grab a cotton ball and add a small dab of petroleum jelly…This will allow the cotton ball to burn much longer.

To prepare your cotton ball tinder… Simply pull it apart a bit, expanding it to two or 3 times its original size, so it literally catches the sparks.

Then follow the steps we talked about earlier… AND with a strike or two… You should have a nice little practice fire in no time.

using firesteel

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Backyard Survival Herbs: Coltsfoot – Remedy for Coughs

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coltsfoot
Long ago, was a plant known as Filius ante patrem, which means ‘the son before the father’ because its golden flowers appeared and withered before the leaves would ever be seen. With its tufted yellow heads and later-appearing, decoratively lobed, hoof-shaped leaves, coltsfoot was (and is today) a treat to the eyes and spirit when it exploded into color along the roadsides and pathways declaring that spring had come!

Apart from being the initial burst of color after a long monochrome winter, coltsfoot, or Tussilago farfara L.,as it is now classified (a distant relative of the sunflower) also provides essential healing properties that can serve you year-round. The term ‘tussilago’ in the name refers to its cough-dispelling properties and explains one of its alternate names, Coughwort.

coltsfoot

The Europeans have long approved and popularly used it as a remedy for coughs, though, in Germany, a limit has been put upon coltsfoot usage of 4-6 weeks/year due to the liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids present- definitely something of which to be aware. Often it is combined with mullein, marshmallow or white horehound for the treatment of coughs. I have read that early Americans wrapped those with whooping cough in blankets that had been soaked in an infusion of coltsfoot. Not sure how that would work…

As noted above, the flowers appear first and should be collected before they fully bloom and dried carefully out of sunlight. The leaves then appear and can be used fresh until they die in the fall, but before then, you can collect and chop some up before drying to store for winter.

coltsfoot

 So How Does Coltsfoot Help Coughs?

Well, inherent in the plant are constituents that cause expectorant, antitussive,demulcent,anticatarrhal, pectoral tonic and diuretic actions. Let me explain each of those: expectorants support the body in getting rid of excess mucous in the respiratory system; antitussives suppress coughing; demulcents are rich in mucilaginous content which soothes irritated and inflamed tissue; anticatarrhals basically help your body get rid of snot buildup, wherever in the body that is happening; pectorals are general healers and strengtheners of the respiratory system; tonic herbs reinforce and strengthen the body’s systems, either individually as needed or overall; and a diuretic gets you urinating which can help eliminate toxins. (Just remember to rehydrate!) Some people have used a tea for the diuretic properties to help with cystitis, which requires the system to be thoroughly flushed to eliminate the bacteria causing the infection and restore balance to the bladder environment.

Now it also has emollient qualities, which make it a great herb to add to skin soothing, softening or protective preparations. It’s like the internal action as a demulcent, but externally. Fresh leaves can be crushed in your hands and then applied to abscesses, boils or festering ulcers.

A nice tea recipe for coughing would look like equal parts of coltsfoot leaf, white horehound or marshmallow leaf and flower and mullein leaf. (About a third cup dried or a half cup fresh herbs) Put your herbs in a nice teapot meant for infusing herbs or just into a glass jar. Then cover with boiling water and let steep a good half hour, even longer but not so long your tea is so strong you can’t drink it! 30-45 minutes is a good window. Then just sip on your tea as you have need throughout the day.

coltsfoot

In olden times, the leaves were dried and smoked, sometimes along with the dried root to alleviate bronchial spasms. To me, this seems counterintuitive, but I include it just for the historical aspect. Pliny, a first century Roman naturalist, recommended the dried leaves and roots of Coltsfoot to be burnt -optimally on cypress charcoal, and the smoke drawn into the mouth through a reed and swallowed, as a remedy for an obstinate cough, the patient sipping a little wine between each inhalation. Mmmhmmm….I think I will stick to the tea, thank you anyway, Pliny!  To your health and enjoyment of God’s creations! ~Carin

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Disclaimer: Of course we claim no responsibility for your experience with these herbs.  Everything we share is for information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional or medical advice. Do your own research!  Always consult a professional. Be wise. Consider always the chance of an allergic reaction. We are all unique in body chemistry.  We are NOT a medical professionals by any means, however we have saved our family a boatload of annoyance and money by being resourceful and using what is right at our feet – literally. See full disclaimer here.

5 Key Survival Disciplines to Prepare You Now – for “Then”

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Ultimet Survival Tips-Survival Plan

You can determine your chances of surviving any critical crisis, emergency or catastrophe by developing what you WILL need *then* – NOW. How? By increasing your “survival probability” quotient through the habits, attitudes, and mindset you choose today. Let me explain…

Have you watched some of the survival shows on TV where you just know that the person with all the mad survival skills is going to be the one to crush it….and how rarely that is the actual outcome? It isn’t just practical survival skills that matter but what is going on in your head and how you are accustomed to approaching life!

Habits don’t get developed easily. On the other hand, habits die hard – which is a good thing when you are thrust into an unexpected survival or crisis situation with some great habits established.

Let’s look at some lifestyle disciplines – or habits- you might want to develop.

#1 – Intentionality

Ultimate Survival Tips-Survival Plan-IntentionalityOne of the best choices you can make when considering how to live out every day is to choose to live intentionally. So MANY people live in a random fashion as if the forces of life are out of their control. Then, frustrated and maxxed out, they disappear into the oblivion of hours of media input only to emerge, rubbing their eyes and wondering where all their time and energy went and feeling depressed because nothing of personal significance seemed to get done that day beyond the “must-do’s” of life. I know the New Year’s resolution thing is widely bashed but *whatever* time of year it is when you realize you are living “less than”, is a GREAT time to sit yourself down and get intentional. Assess the past. Where did you fail? Where did you grow? What did you totally rock? Why? What is one area of your life that most needs for you to get a plan and be intentional? Nations are not won without a strategy nor relationships, jobs and daily events.

In a survival situation, you would most likely be entering into a big unknown – a situation where all elements may be completely foreign. Without a habit of intentionality and the ability to make a plan, you would surely succumb to the pressures and stresses of the unknown.

#2 – Focus

Ultimate Survival Tips Survival Plan Focus
Have you ever tried to communicate with a child who simply is not “able” to be still enough to hear what you are trying to communicate? My response is usually to get on their level and say, “So and so, I want you to stop and look into my eyes with your eyes.” Inevitably I gain a moment of their focus and a piece of calm enters into the chaos.

We live in a culture where we are literally bombarded (!!) with sensory stimuli on every side and our jobs and relationships are ordered to play into this paradigm of chaos. Cell phones and computers are requirements for life to carry on! Aaauugghhh! How many of us have said we want to run away from it all? I have! How can we accomplish the incredibly important goals of our intentionality if we are lost in the swirl of the chaos around us? It is so important to determine what it is we want/need to accomplish and be able to set those goals as our priorities for living even when that means that good things get pushed to a lesser priority. It’s hard stuff. “The sun’s scattered rays are too weak to start a fire, but once you focus them with a magnifying glass, they will bring paper to flame in seconds.” “If everything is important, nothing is.” and so on….Let’s look into the eyes of our own souls and determine what it is that we will intentionally focus on this coming year and determine to walk in that place of purposeful calm in the midst of everything else clamoring for our attention.

In a survival situation, you have to be able to assess priorities based upon your specific scenario. Do you get shelter taken care of first,or fire or food or water? Trying to do everything without a plan and a focus just might cost you your life. Having developed this skill in your day to day living will set you up to operate in a survival scenario with composure and confidence – a quality that may also bring others around you out alive.

#3 – Self-Control
Ultimate Survival Tips-survival-plan-self-control
We all want what we want when we want it. Isn’t that something we are cultivated to believe is our right and inheritance in this world? Yikes. McLife, as it were. I will refer to children again as I use the example of childishness lack of self-control and the reasons why a good parent will train a child to develop self-control. A child without self-control is unruly, usually self-centered, unable to think past the present want or demand, hurtful, lacks the ability to think about consequences of their actions on themselves or others around them, are high-maintenance, cannot say no to things that are not good for them that they want, and the list goes on….

Well, guess what? All those things are true of adults who lack self-control as well! As the list above highlights – developing self-control not only is a benefit to ourselves, but a great benefit to those around us as well. I like to use food as a means of continually developing my self-control because it’s an area where I can get to feeling really entitled, so I know it’s also an area that should really be kept in check. I will decide to do a month of raw foods only or a year of no sugar or grains or whatever I feel is something that will also benefit my health conditions at the moment. So not only do I develop a personal discipline of being able to say no but it is also something that is bearing exponential benefits in my life as I feel better and function better, etc. It might be something different for you, but a good question to ask to determine where you can develop some more self-control is: Where do I feel entitled, like this is my right to enjoy such and such? Ouch.

Now there is another angle to self-control dealing with the deeper realm of our inner man: If you deal with anger or other emotional manifestations of a lack of self-control, may I encourage you to read David’s page on The Ultimate Survival Tip? There are some areas of our lives where we really need what only God can give to help us change. As a Christian, self-control is considered a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s refining power in our lives.

So why would self-control be important in a survival scenario? Being in a habitual pattern of doing without is such a key when you must do without. Knowing you *can* flourish without the things you think you must have is very liberating.

#4 – Flexibility

Ultimate Survival Tips-Survival Plan-Flexibility

 

When I did my student teaching in an elementary school umpteen years ago, I got very high marks for my ability to be flexible with unforeseen changes in the day. I think being a parent also trains you in this discipline. Considering flexibility as a discipline seems a bit like an oxymoron, and allowing yourself to be interrupted seems contrary to intentionality and focus, but think of it this way – life happens. Are we going to fritz out when it does? Or are we going to be able to adapt our intentionally planned focus to be able to flow with the things we cannot control – because, let’s face it – life is full of things we cannot control! So the key here is not throwing out our intentionality or our focus (or our self-control!) but adapting them into whatever scenario we are forced to live within. These are the little mini-survival scenarios of life, people. Leaning into the wind and putting one foot in front of the other, continuing to head toward that goal. This is where the guts of life are developed. Who hasn’t had the unspeakable thrown at them when they least expected it? Do we curl up in a ball and give over on everything we are pressing toward? I think of the palm trees left standing after a hurricane. Deep roots hold them fast in those crazy winds.

The ability to hold one’s wits about oneself and continually revise a plan toward a goal is key in any survival situation. Being in an unfamiliar circumstance in every way will surely require the ability to be able to adapt to the unexpected.

So these are just a few things I am thinking about today as I look over my past year and into the one coming, seeking to live purposefully and redeem the time, but there is just one more I want to add which is, I think, perhaps the most important and that is….

#5 – Thankfulness

Rehearsing the things around you that are GOOD is such a “super vitamin” for being able to thrive in a difficult circumstance. And there are *always* things to be grateful for! When you make a practice of looking intentionally for these things daily – even multiple times a day if life is really hard- it is like reestablishing a plumb line for your emotions and mental health.
Have you ever been around someone who is continually critical, condemning or complaining? It just sucks the life right out of everyone around them. It is toxic. Simply put, you cannot survive very easily with such toxicity either coming from your own heart or someone else’s with whom you have to share space. A person like this in a survival scenario can be more lethal than a crouching predator. If *you’re* that toxic one, shut that voice up with speaking out those things that are good and keep it up until that toxic root is dug out completely and the desire to complain is neutralized.

Good Luck and Best Wishes as you enter into a season of endless possibilities! ~Carin

DIY – Survival / Bug Out – Hunting Fishing Cooking Kit

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DIY Survival Food Kit

In a survival or emergency situation you’re going to be burning calories fast – so food will become a critical need to maintain your morale, stamina and most importantly, your core body temperature.

But you can only carry so much food, and it runs out quickly if you don’t have the right tools to catch dinner on your own.

So let’s build a modular, everyday-carry, survival FOOD kit – that will allow you to cook, hunt, trap and fish and is designed to clip onto a bug-out bag, slip into a pack, throw in a vehicle or keep close by… just in case.
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Here Are the Core Item’s You’ll Need for Your Survival Food Kit:
!.  A MOLLE Compatible 4-inch by 10-inch pouch
2. A GSI Outdoors Stainless Steel Cup / Pot
3. A Stanley Camp Cook Kit
4. A 4-ounce Stove Gas Canister
5. A Compact / Lightweight Burner
6. Some Emergency Food and Spices
7. A Fishing Kit
8. A Mini Sling Shot…
9. And a Few Other Items that We’ll Talk about in a Minute
Our Pouch…

DIY Survival Food Kit
First… to store, transport and protect this kit I’m using the Condor Water Pouch (just like the one I used in my recent survival water kit video).

It has a large main compartment that will hold our cooking gear and emergency food, and a smaller front pocket that will hold our fishing, hunting, trapping and survival gear.

Let’s start by assembling our cooking supplies…

Our Cup…

DIY Survival Food Kit
First, I’m using the GSI stainless steel 20-ounce cup (which holds over half a liter). It’s durable, has flip-out handles, is designed for using over an open fire or on a camp stove.

Our Cooker…

DIY Survival Food Kit
Next we have the Stanley Stainless Steel Adventure Camp Cook Set that holds nearly a liter when filled to the top (although it’s rated for 24 ounces)… AND because it’s single- walled, it can be used for boiling water, making stew and cooking whatever you like in the back country.

It has volume marks on the side, a flip-out locking handle and a vented lid that can also be used as a strainer.

DIY Survival Food Kit

This set comes with 2 nested 10-ounce (or 296 ml) cups that we’re NOT going to use in this kit… so we’ll set them aside.

Now, inside our cooker we can fit a 4-ounce gas canister, which is fuel for our mini-cook stove as well as 3 individual packs of peanut butter, that contain about 190 calories in each pack. Peanut butter also makes a great bait for trapping squirrels.

DIY Survival Food Kit

We also have…
6 Water Purification Tablets
2 – 18 by 18 inch pieces of heavy duty foil for cooking
A salt and pepper shaker
A container of sugar
Soap for clean up
And 2 ounces (or 60 ml) of oil for cooking

DIY Survival Food Kit

With all of this stuff inside, place the cooker lid on top and snap the handle in place to hold the lid tight.

Next, we have a small scrubbing pad to put in the GSI cup.

And check this out… this cooker nests perfectly in our GSI cup…

and our cup and cooker combination all fits right in our Condor pouch! Voila!

DIY Survival Food Kit

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To Further Complete This Kit

DIY Survival Food Kit

I found an affordable and compact burner that easily attaches to our stove gas canister and has fired up every time without a hitch. It comes with a protective nylon pouch and is sized to fit snugly inside the pouch, on top of the Stanley cooker pot.

Then add a few tea bags and some coffee beans wrapped in small zip lock bags… the coffee beans can be chewed for a quick caffeine boost… but you might like to add chocolate or something like that.

In the pouch lid I was able to fit about 2 servings of high protein instant oatmeal
AND below this… about 7.3 ounces (or 208 grams) of Trail Mix, both in heavy-duty quart sized freezer bags.

DIY Survival Food Kit

You can add whatever nutritious and packable food you like.

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Now let’s take a look at the Hunting, Fishing Trapping and Survival Items that go into the front pouch.

Eating Tools

DIY Survival Food Kit
First, we have a stainless steel, 3-in-1, knife, fork and spoon kit – similar to the one I used in Boy Scouts. It’s durable and fit this kit better than any of the other spork type utensil sets that I own.

Fire Starters

DIY Survival Food Kit
Next we have a lighter which I taped up so it doesn’t accidentally discharge all the gas.

And for a fire-starting back-up, I’m including the Exotac Ferrocerium FireROD with a waterproof tinder compartment and a cottonball that I’ve loaded in there.

Now We Need a Knife

DIY Survival Food Kit
I chose my Old Timer 44OT pocket knife because it’s small, has 4 blades and is great for food preparation, processing game and small bushcraft chores. I can also use one of the extra blades to strike the ferro rod to start a fire.

A Light is Always a Handy Tool

DIY Survival Food Kit
And I don’t have much room… So I chose the super small LED Maglite Solitaire. It takes only 1 AAA battery so I was able to fit a spare.

Fishing Kit

DIY Survival Food Kit
For a fishing kit… I decided to use the Uncle Flint’s Survival Fishing Kit II which includes a nice variety of gear for catching just about any freshwater fish. They even include a list of all the components in this kit so you can replenish the kit after use AND it’s all packed into a durable tin that fits just right in the front pouch of our food kit.

Snare Kit

DIY Survival Food Kit
Also from Uncle Flint’s Survival Gear, I picked up 2 Small and 1 Large Cable Snare, with salt for bait and a useful instruction sheet. Then I added enough 24-gauge wire for 2 or 3 squirrel pole snare sets.

Hunting Kit
And last, but not least, I wanted a sling shot for hunting small game to be in this kit. So I came up with a Good, Better and Best sling shot solution for you to choose from.

First… for a Good Solution…

DIY Survival Food Kit
You can grab a ready to go, tubular sling shot band with pouch (for a few bucks) and improvise a sling shot in the back country.

For a Better Solution…

DIY Survival Food Kit
I found the accurate, affordable and small Top SHOT slingshot from Pocket Predator – I’ve added an extra band with pouch and sealed it all in a heavy duty freezer bag for storage in this kit.

And for the BEST solution…

DIY Survival Food Kit
I picked up the Pocket Predator SERE takedown sling bow / sling shot. Mine is made of Black G10.

The SERE assembles quickly, using a pin, and is easy to shoot.

Converting the SERE to a sling bow is a snap. Simply insert the arrow rest pin (that stores in the handle butt) into the top hole.

DIY Survival Food Kit

Now I can accurately shoot the three-piece takedown arrows (with expanding broad heads) that I’m taking along.

The SERE all packs up small in a freezer bag (with an extra band) and fits nicely in this kit.

To carry Slingshot ammo, I’ve repurposed 3 Chap Stick containers – filling two with .38 caliber and one with .44 caliber ammo.

DIY Survival Food Kit

Bonus Tip
If you want to pack more slingshot ammo, and feel more confident with your slingshot shooting than your trapping skills, you could eliminate the snare kit and substitute 150 rounds of .38 caliber steel or lead shot.

Regardless of what sling shot option you choose… all the survival, snare, fishing and hunting gear fits into the front pocket of this pouch.

DIY Survival Food Kit

NOW… If you choose to take arrows along… one, 3-piece takedown arrow should fit nicely through the MOLLE webbing… on either side of the pouch, leaving some extra room for paracord.

 

We’ve just taken a look at a modular, add-on, hunting, fishing, trapping, survival food kit that you can build for bug-out bags, vehicles and home emergency kits that can help you keep calories flowing into your body when you need them most.

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Wild Violets: For Beauty, Nourishment and Healing

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Wild Violets

Who isn’t entranced while walking a shady wooded path strewn with a carpet of wild violets? It instantly creates an almost magical atmosphere, intoxicating with the sweet scent of the blooms. Makes me wonder what virtue of the violet gained it prominence on the Napoleonic Imperial Army’s emblem! It is certainly a plant full of offerings for us, be it for just sensory enjoyment or for practical purposes.

There are many varieties of wild violets, some more fragrant than others, but all are edible and beautiful. Johnny jump-ups, or Viola tricolor, are a well-loved cousin to the violet, also with many uses. (They are also the forefathers of the cultivated garden pansy, which are also edible.) The violets I collect are Viola odorata.

To add violets to your home herbal apothecary, collect the leaves and flowers in mid-late spring. Dry carefully as they are delicate, which is also why they don’t withstand the summer heat. The plant likes some shade and can often be found at the edges of woods, stream beds and thickets, where the soil is rich and moist. Flowers sprout up on their own stems apart from the surrounding orb leaves, which is interesting. Leaves are heart shaped and often curl a bit on the edges. The flowers can be yellow or white but are definitely most commonly found in a shade of purple – hence, violet! Because the violet doesn’t seed until autumn when a new stem with a seedhead emerges where once in spring the beautiful flower resided, you can harvest violets to your heart’s content, knowing that you aren’t restricting their reoccurrence! I like that!

Wild Violets

Violets are also rich in medicinal characteristics. In an infusion, the leaves and flowers have expectorant action, helpful with any mucus buildup in coughs and especially bronchitis, and also have an alterative action, helping your body to rebalance and cleanse – especially your nerves, lungs, reproductive and immune systems. Their anti-inflammatory action is helpful for any condition related to inflammation, with people noting results in conditions as varied as eczema and rheumatism. As a diuretic, it can aid the body in ridding the urinary tract of infection. There is ancient and not-so-ancient medical literature that cites violets – specifically the leaves- as a viable anti-tumor agent, be it fibrocystic tumors or cancerous tumors. Check it out.

Also consider extracting properties of the violet by making tinctures and violet oil. Remember when making an infused oil to dry your herb first so that the moisture from the herb doesn’t cause mold in the oil. Violet leaves would be a welcome addition to any wound-healing oil to be made into a salve, because of the antiseptic, dissolving, cooling and healing properties they harbor. Pink eye? Get some violet leaves and make a hot poultice!

Wild violets

As part of a beauty regimen, it is told that soaking a cup of violets in a cup of warm fresh goat’s milk overnight and then soaking a heated washcloth in the milk in the morning and applying it to the face and neck does wonders for the complexion.

As an edible, we have just eaten the flowers and leaves as we pick them, strewn them into salad for a touch of beauty and tastiness and also have dipped the flowers into beaten egg whites (with a smidge of water) and dipped in sugar to let dry into beautiful decorations for edible creations. You can also add the greens to a collection of spring potherbs, a vitamin and mineral-rich treat of the spring season! The leaves are especially rich in vitamins A and C. (100 g fresh leaves = 10,000 IU vit A and 264 mg it C) Yum! Don’t eat the roots of the violet, however, or you will wind up with a belly ache. I’m going to add a fun recipe I found in an old book of mine on wild foods. It’s something I plan to make before the violets disappear for the year!

Wild Violets

Violet Jelly
1/2 cup fresh purple violet petals
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
1 1/2 Tbs plain gelatin
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Whipped cream
Fresh spring violets

Add stemmed violets to a boiling syrup of the sugar and water. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Strain and measure out 2 cups of syrup. Soften the gelatin in the orange juice and add. Pour into a mold and jell in the refrigerator. Unmold and garnish with whipped cream and fresh violets.

Wild Violets

Happy Spring everyone! ~Carin
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Disclaimer: Of course we claim no responsibility for your experience with these herbs.  Everything we share is for information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional or medical advice. Do your own research!  Always consult a professional. Be wise. Consider always the chance of an allergic reaction. We are all unique in body chemistry.  We are NOT a medical professionals by any means, however we have saved our family a boatload of annoyance and money by being resourceful and using what is right at our feet – literally. See full disclaimer here.

Just For Fun on a Spring Day- Dandelion Petal Jelly!

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dandelionjelly

A couple weeks ago, a friend of a friend remarked during dinner about her enthusiasm for making dandelion jelly. “Tastes like honey…” was her commentary and since I love honey, I purposed to create this nectar of the dandelion at my first opportunity.  (In addition to jelly, you can create a syrup or wine from the blossoms as well.)

dandelion jelly

Dandelion Petals Have Some Medicinal Value

In my research, in most of my go-to resources, I could find no mention of any real medicinal value to the flowers, fresh or as an infusion (the leaves and roots are another story), until I dug into Healing Wise by Susun Weed.  (I think it is too funny that that is her name and she is an herbalist!) According to her, dandelion flowers are good for beautification, pain relief and heart health.  She says fresh blossoms steeped in boiling water for at least an hour are amazing for beautifying your face and dealing with just about any facial skin anomoly you might have – putting the strained flowers on your face first for a while and then rinsing off with the liquid w/o following with plain water.  I must try this!

She recommends making dandelion wine for a heart strengthener and claims that an infusion will rid one of aches of all kinds -head, back, stomach, cramps, etc.!  In addition, if you infuse an oil with the blossoms and then rub it into painful, sore and stiff areas, it should help with stiff necks, arthritic joints and such. I have infused St. John’s Wort in oil for this reason…hmmm – I think this year I will add in some dandelion heads!

Now, I’m not sure if any healing value is left after all the processing of a jelly, but it is fun to just know that this is a creation from a gift of nature.  These are my favorite ventures in life!

dandelion jelly

What To Do On A Sunny Day

Yesterday was the sunny, pleasant, relaxed day I was looking for to pick the flowerheads. Little did I know it would take me 3 hours(!!) to collect enough flower petals (a loosely-packed quart) to do a batch of jelly! This is one situation where you want to ask all hands on deck to help because otherwise, I’m just not sure the result justifies the time expense! But for me, I was just enjoying the sun and downtime as I picked enough flowers and de-bracted them.

dandelion jellydandelion jelly

Don’t Leave Any Green!

Dandelion greens are bitters, so that includes the bracts that hold in the flower petals…it is important that if you want a sweet product, that you remove all the green parts! This is very time consuming! I used my thumbnails and broke each base in half and then ran my thumbnail along the base of the flower head to release the petals. Another friend says you just have to develop a technique of twisting the bracts while squeezing them and the petals will just fall into your hand.

 

It takes a lot of flower heads to get a quart of petals and honestly, I just had to be done at one point and shook up my jar to expand the volume! (They had indeed settled down into the jar and gotten moist.)

dandelion jelly

Make the Infusion First

I then brought the petals indoors and boiled them in a pot with 2 quarts of fresh, non-chlorinated water for 10 minutes. I decided to let this infusion sit overnight for the best potency. In the morning, I strained twice, first through a double layer of cheesecloth and then through a coffee filter. I had 6 cups of liquid.

dandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jelly

Then Make Jelly!

Using Pomona’s Universal Pectin, I came up with the following recipe for 6 cups of dandelion tea:

3/4 cup fresh (if possible) lemon juice
zest from two lemons
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scooped into the liquid
3 cups sugar
2 Tbs. calcium water
2 Tbs + 1/2 tsp pectin

Then I just followed the general directions for using Pomonas. Altogether I got 5 1/2 pints and 8 4-oz jars. (About 4 1/2 pints)

dandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jellydandelion jelly

My honest first impression was that it tasted like lemon meringue pie!  This recipe jelled nicely and has a very pleasant delicate lemony-vanilla flavor.

I think this is going to be a very nice accompaniment to popovers!

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Wild Edibles: 5 Rules For Safely Selecting Wild Plants To Eat

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UST-Wild Edibles-berriesWild plants are a great, free source of nutrition and energy while camping, hiking, or “surviving” in the wilderness. But eat the wrong plant and you could be sick as a dog or worse – die.  However, abide by these 5 Rules of Wild Edibles and you’ll eat like a King (or Queen) and live…

Rule #1:
NEVER eat anything that you are not 100% certain what it is, what parts are edible and when you can eat it.
Some plants have only certain parts that are edible.  Some parts of plants are only edible at certain stages of growth.
Many edible plants have poisonous look-a-likes, so be 100% sure before you eat something. If in doubt, leave it out.

Rule #2:
If you haven’t eaten it before a survival situation – don’t eat it.
Remember, you must be able to positively ID a plant – smelling, touching and tasting helps you remember correctly.
This also makes sure you don’t have a negative reaction when your life may be on the line.

Mints are easily identifiable by their square stems, heavily scented leaves and characteristic flowerheads.

Mints are easily identifiable by their square stems, heavily scented leaves and characteristic flowerheads.

Rule #3:
Focus on learning and using wild edibles that are:
*Most plentiful, common and readily available
*Safest to eat
*Easiest to identify

wild strawberries

Wild strawberries are easy to identify because they are just smaller replicas of the larger variety.

Rule #4:
Never eat plants that may have been treated or sprayed with chemicals –
an issue mostly in urban environments.

DSC03457edit2

Rule #5:
Get a good field guide for a reference (and carry it with you as you learn):
A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants – Lee Allen Peterson
Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate – John Kallas
Edible Wild Plants (Pocket Naturalist Guide)

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How to “Eat Like a King” in the Wilderness – And NOT Die

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UST-Wild Edibles-berries

Wild plants are a great, free source of nutrition and energy while camping, hiking, or “surviving” in the wilderness. But eat the wrong plant and you could be sick as a dog or worse – die.  However, abide by these 5 Rules of Wild Edibles and you’ll eat like a King (or Queen) and live…

Rule #1:
NEVER eat anything that you are not 100% certain what it is, what parts are edible and when you can eat it.
Some plants have only certain parts that are edible.  Some parts of plants are only edible at certain stages of growth.
Many edible plants have poisonous look-a-likes, so be 100% sure before you eat something. If in doubt, leave it out.

Rule #2:
If you haven’t eaten it before a survival situation – don’t eat it.
Remember, you must be able to positively ID a plant – smelling, touching and tasting helps you remember correctly.
This also makes sure you don’t have a negative reaction when your life may be on the line.

Mints are easily identifiable by their square stems, heavily scented leaves and characteristic flowerheads.

Mints are easily identifiable by their square stems, heavily scented leaves and characteristic flowerheads.

Rule #3:
Focus on learning and using wild edibles that are:
*Most plentiful, common and readily available
*Safest to eat
*Easiest to identify

wild strawberries

Wild strawberries are easy to identify because they are just smaller replicas of the larger variety.

Rule #4:
Never eat plants that may have been treated or sprayed with chemicals –
an issue mostly in urban environments.

Rule #5:
Get a good field guide for a reference (and carry it with you as you learn):
A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants – Lee Allen Peterson
Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate – John Kallas
Edible Wild Plants (Pocket Naturalist Guide)

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Best Tactical Survival Rifle for Civilians – AR15 or AK47?

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AR-15 Article Cover-790px

When we start talking about these types of weapons for survival, we are talking about a time when things have gotten really bad. Oftentimes referred to as the world without the rule of law (WROL). We want to be clear with you, the reader, that we are not advocates of violence for the sake of violence. However we do think there are certain tools that can increase your ability to defend yourself in an event where utilizing a rifle is warranted. Let us assume for a moment that has happened. Let’s look at the merits of the rifles themselves. Perhaps in another blog post we can discuss the tactics of employing these rifles.

An AK47 or an AR15?

Effectiveness
Both of these rifles are effective at doing their job inside of 400 yards. However, the AR15 has the ability to effectively go out to 600 yards incredibly well. In the hands of someone who invests a fair amount of time into training and shooting, it is effective even further.

  • Thumbs up to the AR15 on this aspect.

An AK47 or an AR15?

Caliber
The AK47 cartridge is 7.62X39mm. The AR15 is 5.56X45. If you are unfamiliar with those measurements they are millimeters. This allows the AK47 round to carry slightly more powder which in effect gives it more muzzle energy. Muzzle energy is the power of the projectile as it leaves the muzzle (business end) of the gun. The muzzle energy of the typical AK47 round is about 1500 ft. lbf, whereas the AR15 is around 1300 ft. lbf

  • Thumbs up to the AK47 on this aspect.

An AK47 or an AR15?

Functionality
This consideration is certainly subjective to the individual user. The AK47 is more widely used worldwide than any other weapon. The AR15 is more widely used here in the United States. It is this author’s opinion that the AK47 is harder to manipulate the safety, the bolt carrier, the trigger and (by design) it has much more “kicking” power. The AR15 is much easier to manipulate the safety, bolt carrier, trigger, and by design has very little kick at all. For a beginner seeking these weapons out, you will certainly find the AR15 much easier to manipulate. You can also add other parts to increase the function of it much easier than the AK47. There are an incredible amount of other parts to personalize your AR15 over and above the AK47. Items such as grips, lights, stocks, sights, optics are incredibly diverse and numerous for the AR. The AK does have some options. Just simply not as many.

  • Thumbs up to the AR15 on this aspect.

An AK47 or an AR15?

Maintenance

An AK47 or an AR15?An AK47 or an AR15?
This a very easy one to determine. Without a doubt the AK47 is much easier to maintain. It has been said that you can open the action of the AK47, dump a handful of mud in it, put it together and it will still run. It is true, I have done it. Both weapons are easy to field strip (basic breakdown) and clean. However, you mostly do not have to do it with the AK. I know of many fellows who have NEVER cleaned their AK47. The abuse they take and keep on running is phenomenal. The AR15 bolt carrier group has several small pins and gas rings that break after long and hard use and must be replaced. While this is easy to do with a small amount of maintenance, I am still leaning towards the AK here.

  • Thumbs up to the AK47 on this aspect.

Weight
This is again subjective to the individual user. While some people that may carry a weapon are the human form of a mule and can carry insane amount of loads. I can easily make a guess that there is no one that wants to carry any more weight than you have to. An AK47 with a fully loaded magazine (30 rounds) is 10.9 lbs. The AR15 with a fully loaded (30 rounds) magazine is 8.8 lbs. Those 2.1 lbs do not sound like much until you start carrying it for several days. They then start feeling like 210 lbs.

  • Thumbs up to the AR15 on this aspect.

An AK47 or an AR15?

Price
The almighty dollar places a part in this doesn’t it? It certainly does, we all come from different backgrounds and budgets. Much like the weight consideration, less is better here. Considering you can buy both used and new weapons that will function very well for you, the range on pricing is significant. The range on AK47s in my area of the world is currently $400 up to $600, with the difference being determined because of wear and tear and add-ons that are on the weapon at the time of purchase. The AR15 range starts around $600 and goes up to around $1500, with such a wide variety of manufacturers making these weapons, add-ons, wear and tear. The price of ammunition is also much cheaper for the AK47. The price of ammunition varies greatly depending upon current political, social and world events. Check with your favorite ammo supplier to see what is currently running.

  • Thumbs up to the AK47 on this aspect.

An AK47 or an AR15?

Conclusion
You were probably guessing this would come to be a tie. For good reason, both of these weapons will do what you want them to do. If you only look at these six basic reasons of choice then they are pretty even. I think it boils down to price really. What fits your budget? If you can afford an AR15 I would go with it, simply because it is easier to function and it weighs less. If you cannot afford the AR15, then do not worry yourself. The AK47 is a workhorse of a gun, can take a beating, and keeps on running and doing its job.

 

~ About Craig Caudill ~

Craig-Toon-BustCraig Caudill is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Nature Reliance School. He specializes in wilderness and urban survival, land navigation, scout/tracking and defensive tactics training for private, public and government agencies. Craig is a frequent survival and preparedness contributor to TV outlets, blog sites, magazines and is a popular online outdoor educator on YouTube via Nature Reliance and Dan’s Depot channels. Craig also has a regular show on CarbonTV.

Craig also has advanced rank in both Judo and Aikido and continues to teach and train after 20+ years of training in each and is also an avid student of all things gun. Forever a student, Craig always attempts to find ways to help others to develop their mindset and critical thinking skills so they can think on their own, for themselves.

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Backyard Herbs: Cleavers- Lymphatic Aide and Much More!

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cleavers

The earth is greening up all around us and for those of us who want to create our own home medicinals, it’s never too soon to get started collecting and drying those lovely “weeds” we who know better call herbs. Today I will give you the lowdown on cleavers, an herb that is a very foundational one to have in your herbal medicine chest and makes a delicious cooked green side dish as well.

Galium aperine, or cleavers, is an annual herb, which means that when you collect it, you want to leave plants in the collection area to go to seed to produce a crop next year. As a matter of practice, with any herb you are collecting, always leave behind a good patch of whatever you are harvesting. Take a little here and a little there and you will always have your sources remaining strong from year to year.

cleavers

This plant is identifiable by its whorled, lance-shaped leaves – usually 6- 8 around the stem and a prickly, “sticky” square-shaped stem, which will adhere back upon itself or to just about anything you hold it up against. The little hairs on the stems are hooked, much like the burdock seeds.  If you have your children along when you are collecting, they will find this very entertaining. Ancients would weave the stems together to make sieves.  There is another plant in the same family – gallium mollugo, or, whorled bedstraw, which also has squared (but hairless) stems and wider, lance-shaped leaves in whorls which can be confused with cleavers.

Same family: galium aperine or cleavers on the right and galium mollugo or whorled bedstraw on the left.

Same family: galium aperine or cleavers on the right and galium mollugo or whorled bedstraw on the left.

The test that reveals a cleaver plant is always the test of whether or not the plant will cleave! Be aware, also, that some people react to the juice in this plant with a dermatitis when they touch it, but I think that is rare. Later in the season, the flowers produce a bristle-covered fruit which is the bane of all dog owners. This gives the plant another nickname, ‘catchweed’. Supposedly geese also enjoy cleavers, which inspires its other nickname, ‘gooseweed.”

I usually find my cleavers throughout the woodlands where I live but you can also find them growing heartily in thicket environments too. They are quite pretty in a delicate way, gracefully drooping as they grow up to a few feet long and timidly offering for our viewing enjoyment a dainty white flower that shows on the stalks from the leaf axils. The plant should be gathered before flowering and dried in the shade.

cleavers

Cleavers are a lymphatic alterative or tonic, restoring health to an overtaxed lymph structure which is trying to keep your immune system in top shape. I highly recommend reading up on this quiet network that does so much! One of my favorite doctors refers to the lymphatic system as the “Cinderella system”, staying in the shadows, cleaning up all the messes the rest of the body systems make, while really filling the highest and most noble function of enabling the body to fight disease. So anywhere in the body where swollen glands are present – especially tonsillitis or adenoid problems- is a perfect scenario for cleavers to come to aid. A suggested lymph cleansing infusion is this mixture, derived from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes: 2 parts calendula, 2 parts cleavers, 1 part mullein and 1 part spearmint.  If you use about an ounce of herbs to a quart of water and let it infuse overnight, you can be set for an entire day the next day. She suggests drinking 2-3 cups daily for a few weeks to drain the lymph system. cleavers

The actions attributed to cleavers are: diuretic, alterative, anti-inflammatory, tonic, astringent, anti-neoplastic, hepatic, laxative, and vulnerary. Cleavers can also bring relief in urinary tract infections and are widely used topically to relieve dry skin conditions, like psoriasis. Cleavers have been used in the treatment of ulcers and tumors and have been used in experimentation with dogs as an agent in reducing blood pressure without slowing the heart or having any other side effects!

 

cleaversThe best use of the constituents of cleavers is through infusions or extracting the fresh juice to use immediately. To get the benefits of the citric acid, glycosides, asperulosides and gallotannic acid that this plant has to offer, an alcoholic tincture of the fresh plant can also be prepared and kept long term. Using the dried aerial parts in a tea is the easiest way to use cleavers, soaking a tablespoon of the dried herb for 10-15 minutes and drinking it.   Some day I will hopefully have enough experience to write an article on making tinctures, but for now, I just do a folk method of filling a jar with the herb and topping it off with vodka, letting it steep for a few weeks while shaking now and again before finally straining it for storage. There is no way of knowing what the strength of your herb component is to alcohol in these tinctures, but there is a way to do tinctures where you measure things very scientifically with weight and volume and then can know the strength of the resulting tincture.

 

cleavers

I will leave you with a fun fact about cleavers: it is a relative of coffee! Supposedly, cleaver seeds, when roasted, can be a caffeine-light substitute, albeit inferior, for coffee. That might be fun to try…. To your good health and enjoyment of what God has made! ~Carin

 

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Disclaimer: Of course we claim no responsibility for your experience with these herbs.  Everything we share is for information purposes only and is not to be taken as professional or medical advice. Do your own research!  Always consult a professional. Be wise. Consider always the chance of an allergic reaction. We are all unique in body chemistry.  We are NOT a medical professionals by any means, however we have saved our family a boatload of annoyance and money by being resourceful and using what is right at our feet – literally. See full disclaimer here.