Pine Needle Tea

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This post is by Bernie Carr,   I got the idea about pine needle tea from watching old episodes of Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild.  He picked out some pine needles, boiled them then drank the tea.  He said pine needles are full of vitamin C.  In a survival situation, if fruits and vegetables are scarce, you’ll need a good source of vitamin C.  I also read it can be a good decongestant.  Spotting a nice looking pine […]

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Making Maple Syrup

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2_tappedinsnowMaking Maple syrup is an annual celebration of spring, as it is one of the first wild plant foods of the year and the rising of the sap marks the beginning of the spring harvest.  For the do-it-yourself tapper, it is not so much about calculating (the work to syrup ratio turns many a woodsman to purchase rather than boil, and perhaps even to the manufactured, corn syrup based, imitations) as it is about experiencing the full spectrum of early spring weather while communing with the forests and partaking in one of the most quintessentially American traditions.

By Nathaniel Whitmore, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

For me, cooking sap is a way of remembering my first mentor who taught me of wild edibles and medicinal herbs.  It is also a time to remember the Native Americans who taught early colonists how to tap Maple trees and boil the sap into syrup and sugar.  It is also a great way to start off a new year with an act of self-reliance.  Even if you don’t have the time or lifestyle to make syrup every year, you should be familiar with the basic principles and practices in the case of necessity.  The process is rather simple, but there are several things to know and be aware of.  This article will explain the basic steps of making syrup, including some information you should know about trees, the season, and the process of cooking.

When to Make Maple Syrup

When the dormant sap of trees first rises in the late winter and early spring, its sugar content is high and it is free of many of the stronger tasting constituents of the sap of a fully awakened tree.  It is this sap, that rises and descends back to the roots with the warm and cold of early spring.  Once the trees bud, the sap takes on bitter flavor and remains suspended in the tree, while the hole you drill to receive the sap through starts to heal up.

This year, because of regular warm spells, the sap is very watery.  I have not counted the gallons I boiled or the syrup resulting from it, but I have heard a couple people say that a local paper reported that the ratio was around 70 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  Good cold winters followed by ideal spring conditions (such as a March, in my area, with lots of warm days well above freezing alternating with cold nights well below freezing), produce much sweeter sap than warm winters.  We had sap flow all year and by mid February people were tapping trees and getting good sap flow.  Often, it is still much too cold in February for much sugaring.  Generally, a good year starts off with Sugar Maple yielding around 1 gallon of sap for 35 gallons of syrup.  The average for Sugar Maple is said to be 40 to 1.  The average for Red Maple is 60 to 1.  In spite of the watery sap, the syrup still tastes delicious!

Which Trees to Tap

Generally, syrup is made from Maple trees.  However, many other types of trees were tapped by Native Americans, including Birch, Ash, Hickory, and Black Walnut.  The ideal tree is Sugar Maple.  Quite a lot of syrup is made from Red Maple.  Silver Maple, Ash-Leaf Maple (Box Elder), and others can also be used.  

9_maple_leaf_imageMaple trees are relatively easy to pick out.  One distinct characteristic of Maples is that they have opposite branching.  When looking at the buds or branch silhouettes, you can see that the buds are formed directly opposite each other and the branches tend to remain that way (of course, here and there one of two opposite branches breaks off, but overwhelmingly the opposite branch arrangement is obvious).  Most other trees have alternate branch arrangement, where the branches come from one side then the other, or spiral around, so that they are alternating, rather than opposite.  A third type, such as is seen in many evergreens, is the whorled arrangement, in which several branches spread out from a certain point, or node.

The only other trees in my area besides Maple that have opposite leaves are Ash trees.  Ash are easy to tell apart because, having compound leaves, the branches are rather stout (the smaller branching taking place in the deciduous stem of the compound leaf).  Since Maple have only simple leaves, they need more finely divided branches.

Maple bark is distinct, but difficult to describe and highly variable.  Red Maples develop a much more shaggy appearance in older specimens, while Sugar Maple has its distinct folds.  Red Maples have large red buds, while those of Sugar Maple are smaller and brown.  Sugar Maple prefers upland, more exposed areas.  Red Maple prefers moist areas and is also known as Swamp Maple.  (Sugar Maple is known as Hard Maple and Red as Soft Maple because of the density of the wood.  Sugar Maple is good firewood.)

Besides the sugar content of the sap, Red Maple often doesn’t flow as well as Sugar because of the cooler shady areas it tends to grow.  Generally, people try to tap on the south side of the tree of trees with good southern exposure.  This is because on an average year, the trees that warm up the easiest run the best for syrup productions.  However, if you are tapping the same trees year after year, you will want to spiral around the tree with the taps each year to avoid damaging the “sweet spot”.

Tapping the Trees

9_dropofsapI use a non-electric drill to make the holes for my spiles.  It is a traditional tool, works well, is much more peaceful than a power drill, and doesn’t run out of battery power.  The holes are drilled so that they are a little deeper than the spile will need to go (you don’t want to smash it into the back of the hole) and at a little bit of a downward slant so the sap doesn’t stagnate in the back of the hole. When you hammer the tap, or spile, into the hole, take care not to split the tree.  If you split the tree, sap will run out of the crack and less through your spile into the sap bucket.  I listen for a change in tone as I tap.  When the hollow thud turns to a crisp note, I know the spile is seated tightly.

Hang your bucket, cover with the lid, and, if the weather is right, enjoy the pings of the drops of sap landing in the empty buckets.

Boiling Maple Sap

Cooking of the sap is best done in a shallow pan, for surface area.  Bring the sap to a good boil.  As it gets cooking and for a little while after it is boiling impurities will rise to the top in the form of foam.  Use a sieve to scoop the foam from the boiling sap. Repeat this until it is cooking well without abundant foam production.  Every time you add sap, you will need to repeat the process of removing impurities as they foam to the surface.

3_3_goldenelixerAnother type of foam marks the end of the process.  Once the sugar concentration gets to a certain point, which depends also on the temperature, it turns to foam.  This is a very important point, for if you are not carefully watching towards the end, you could miss this stage as the syrup all turns to foam and bubbles out of the pan.  Many people like to finish the process inside.  It is particularly dangerous to leave almost finished syrup unattended in your home.  It could foam over and cause some problems.  This second foam, which marks the sugar concentration of syrup, is not to be removed with the sieve – it will simply calm back down to syrup once taken off the flame.

Finishing Steps

Once cooled, the syrup should be poured into large jars and let settle so that the sediment can sink to the bottom.  You can then pour the clear syrup off the top.  It might then be left to settle again, to remove any more sediment or sugar sand.  Often, people like to filter the syrup.  It can then be jarred.

With time, and sometimes quite quickly with watery syrup, mold can develop.  In order to recover moldy syrup simply bring to a simmer again and skim the mold off the top.  Let it simmer for a bit, being careful not to let it foam over, and skim repeatedly to make sure the syrup is heated up well and the impurities are completely removed.


4_buckets on Red MapleI use the old fashioned galvanized buckets.  Many people today use plastic equipment, including plastic hose linked together to replace buckets at each tree.  I have often wondered about ways to make syrup without these specialty spiles and buckets.  Natives would sometimes collect sap through “v” shaped cuts, rather than holes with spiles.  It is, of course, possible to fashion spile with wood, bamboo, or other plants.

The process of cooking becomes much more challenging without metal.  The large, flat, pans used for sap boiling are perfect for the job.  I can’t easily imagine trying to boil without it.  Native people used hot rocks to boil sap, and apparently for making sugar.  I am sure they had ingenious ways for doing so, but any quantity of production will be much easier (and still plenty of work) with metal.

Drinking Sap

5_maplesyrupWhen I first began making Maple syrup, I was warned not to drink the sap.  However, this old knowledge was either misguided or the wisdom, for better or worse, has been forgotten.  Today, there are many companies bottling the sap itself for commercial sale.  It is being promoted as a sort of northern version of Coconut water. Sap, especially the first of the season, is indeed delicious.  It has a noticeably sweet taste and is otherwise clean and crisp like water.  Besides sugar, it has significant mineral content. It is also enjoyable to use the partially concentrated sap for making tea and oatmeal.  So, really, there are many ways to enjoy Maple sap, straight from the tree, during the cooking process, and as syrup.

Even if making Maple syrup is not much of an option, sap is a potentially important clean water substitute.  Weather permitting and without a good water source, it could be possible to tap a tree in the spring and collect the sap for cooking and drinking.  I mostly use 3 gallon buckets on the trees and on good days they can overflow.

One year I made some syrup from Black Birch when boiling from a stand of Red Maple.  The Maple ran for a couple weeks before the Birch started.  The Birch continued after the Red Maple had stopped.  The Black Birch produced copious amounts of sap.  Similarly, the Black Walnut that we tapped this season, though it dripped a little when first drilled it did not run much at first, when the Sugar Maple were productive, but then started to run well.  So, the staggered timing of the various tree’s sap flow is significant.  Knowing when which trees tend to run could help you collect sap beyond the season of any one species.

Pancake Ideas

pancakes_syrupOne final thought about Maple syrup- pancakes!  Since much of the delight in Maple syrup is in gathering food from the trees, I especially like to include other ingredients from the trees when eating it.  One of my favorites is acorn pancakes.  Properly prepared acorns are delicious and make very tasty pancakes.  I also like to use Slippery Elm powder as an ingredient.  (Sometimes, I simply make a gruel with Slippery Elm and Maple syrup.  It is very delicious.)  Walnuts can be added for additional flavor and nourishment from the trees.

The obvious drawback to Maple syrup is its high simple sugar content.  For this reason, I also like to use Cinnamon at times in my pancakes.  Cinnamon is known to help with blood sugar problems.  Blueberries (and other dark-colored fruits) are also good, as their high antioxidant content helps offset the sugar concentration.  Using such healthy ingredients makes enjoying Maple syrup a more wholesome and nourishing experience.

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The Mighty Oak: Survival Food and More

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mighty_oak_treeOak is a favorite tree of survivalists.  It’s strong, dense wood is favored for utility and for firewood.  Acorns, though most species need to be prepared by leaching, are an important survival food.  Plus the acorns, bark, roots, and leaves provide important herbal medicines. Native Americans used many species of Oak for medicine and food.  Mainly the part used for medicine is the inner bark. With this being said, the acorns have been considered medicinal food as well as staple food.

By Nathaniel Whitmore, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Oak is a far more versatile survival example than many realize. The uses of Oak are not limited to simple acorn consumption. For example, in The Way of Herbs Michael Tierra discusses acorn porridge as a common food for the treatment of tuberculosis and other wasting diseases.

Oak & Mankind

Acorns were a principal staple of our ancestors.  Talk of the Paleolithic diet has persisted long enough for real Paleolithic snacks to emerge among the over-priced, plastic-wrapped Paleo bars.  Yet in spite of the increase in grain-free snacks, cookbooks, and diet practices, I have not seen any increase in acorn use.  Though, a quick google search did turn up a few sites selling acorn flour.

The acorn was quite possibly one of the major foods that allowed our Paleolithic ancestors to start building agricultural society from hunting and gathering.  Largely, acorns are edible, though most species need to be leached and some are so astringent and bitter that they are considered inedible.  

food_acornsGenerally, acorns are leached of their tannic acid with cold water soaks or through slow cooking (while changing the water).  Some are sweet enough to be eaten raw or with relatively little cooking.  Early man learned to bury astringent acorns in bodies of water or to anchor in streams so that they could return later to the leached acorns and prepare food from them.  Enough acorns and our distant ancestors managed to hunker down for a winter… and the rest is history… until current times.  I don’t know how long it has been the case, but I just checked online and found a few companies selling acorn flour.  For years I had been saying that I hadn’t seen any for sale or in commercial products.  Until just the other day nobody ever responded saying they knew of acorns in mainstream commercial foods.

Acorns are one of my favorite foods, though I often don’t get around to them.  You have to find them at the right time (others are looking too and some of them, like the squirrels, take it more serious than me).  Once found they still need to be processed and leached.  Then cooked.  They can be eaten just like that, cooked into rice, mashed into pancakes, or dried and ground into flour.  The mash or flour can be used in just about anything.  It is very tasty.

Acorns as Survival Food

Although many animals eat acorns as they find them, a good number of the Oaks produce acorns too bitter and astringent for humans to eat without leaching.  The most efficient way to leach acorns if you are home or at a long-term camp is with cold water.  You’ll want to cook them (if possible) eventually, but you can save on fuel by doing the bulk of the leaching with cold water.

Related: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food

If you want to or need to speed up the leaching of acorns, you can do so by applying heat.  Just as with cold water leaching, when the water turns dark you should dump it and add clean water.  You might find it best to heat up a large vessel of water so that after you dump the tannin-rich water you can add hot water.  This will be quicker and will avoid any fixing of the bitterness from alternating between hot and cold.

Mushrooms that Grow with Oak

mushroom_Maitake_oakBesides the acorns as a potential staple food or nutritional side dish, Oak forests prove hospitable because of the large selection of edible mushrooms that grow with Oaks.  (Of course, the warning stands that there are non-edible and fatally poisonous mushrooms that grow with them as well.)  There are basically three different kinds of mushrooms: decomposers, parasites, and symbionts.  The subject is complicated by the various forms within these three categories and in that many mushrooms belong to more than one of the three.  Nonetheless, these basic groups are important to learning mushroom identification.  Decomposers break down dead material, such as a downed Oak or one that was killed by a parasite, so they are found on such material.  Parasites attack their host.  In the case of Oaks, they can take a while to succumb to the parasite and in many cases can grow for years before dying from the attack.  Parasites are therefore found on live, dying, and recently dead hosts.  Symbiotic species grow in association with their host.  In the case of mushrooms and Oaks, the fungus is attached to the tree roots underground so the mushrooms grow from the ground near the tree.

Edible species of mushrooms associated with Oak include all three of these types of mushrooms.  Two of the most abundant and well-known edible species are common in the autumn on Oaks – Maitake (Grifola frondosa, Hen-of-the-Woods, Sheep’s Head, etc.) and Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria spp.).  Chicken-of-the-Woods (Laetiporus spp.) is another abundant and delicious Oak parasite.  These three mushrooms (two of them are identified only by genus above because there are groups of closely related species known by the same name) are prolific enough to provide surprisingly large amounts of food.  Indeed, many mushroom hunters content themselves with only one of the three as a foraged ingredient for the table.  But they also miss out on many of the other fungal offerings under Oak.

Mycorrhizal (symbiotic) species include delicious edibles like Boletes, Chantarelles, and Milk Mushrooms (Lactarius spp.).  Chantarelles (Cantharellus spp.) are pretty well known and pretty easy to identify.  Also, closely related is the Black Trumpet (Craterellus spp.).  Boletes (Boletus spp. and other related genera) are perhaps more difficult to identify than Chanterelles.  Although there are many species of Chanterelle, there are a few obvious species that stand out.  The Boletes, however, are a very large group.  Although it is not really true, some people consider all Boletes to be edible (at least those without a strong bitter or spicy flavor).  Certainly, some are very prized.  Lactarius is a group with many non-edible and poisonous species, and many people avoid them.  However, there are some delicious species that grow with Oak, like the Voluminous Milky (L. volemus).

You might want to check out Macrofungi Associated with Oaks by Binion, Burdsall, Stephenson, Miller, Roody, and Vasilyeva.  It is over 400 pages on mushrooms associated with Oaks and includes information on edibility.  


mushroom_chicken_of_the_woodsChicken-of-the-Woods (not to be confused with Hen-of-the-Woods, Grifola frondosa) is also known as Sulphur Shelf and Chicken Mushroom.  I avoid the name Chicken Mushroom because it also refers to another, and Sulphur Shelf is really only good for certain varieties.  It is called Chicken-of-the-Woods because it tastes like chicken and has a similar texture.  I have served it to folks who thought it was chicken, though I wouldn’t have done so intentionally – as some people do react to even the thoroughly cooked mushroom (she helped herself to the pan of leftovers).  As with most mushrooms, Chicken-of-the-Woods should be cooked, and with this one in particular it should be done thoroughly and with plenty of oil.  It has mixed reviews, but I think it is mostly due to it being harvested past its prime (which is common) or cooked improperly (it really does suck up the oil – be libral).  Many people love this mushroom, even if they generally don’t like mushrooms.  Plus, it often grows in abundance.  This is a very significant survival food.


mushroom_maitake_hen_of_the_woodsHen-of-the-Woods is another mushroom that can grow very large and in abundance.  It is also known as Maitake, Sheep’s Head, Ram’s Head, and more.  In this case “Hen” refers to the appearance more than the taste and texture.  When found young (they can still be young and be quite large) they are quite delicious.  Hen-of-the-Woods should be cooked thoroughly to avoid digestive troubles.  It is revered as a medicinal as well as an edible, being used for the immune system to help with infections and cancer.

Mighty Materials

Although the modern world has largely forgot Oak as a source of food, its wood is still commonly recognized as a superior building material.  Used for hardwood flooring, furniture, and more.

Read More: The Survival Staff

Oak is also still used as an ideal material for martial arts weapons like the bo staff and for the handles of nunchaku.  It is very strong and makes a good choice when a superior and strong material is desired, such as for tool handles and sturdy furnature.

Oak as Fuel

fire_flame_facts_top_tenThough there is significant variety among the many species of Oak, it is generally a superior firewood.  It is dense and hard and has a high heating rating.  It does burn a little slow, which is one of its benefits, but it also doesn’t put out light as well as some other choices of wood (Hickory, for example, is also very hard but burns bright.  Lighter woods that burn quick will often put out more light.).  It can easily become smoky when not dried well or not tended to in the fireplace.  Of course, being dense means that it dries slow.  In my mind the classic “all-nighter” is a nice, large, dry Oak log placed on a hot bed of coals.

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Survival Gear Review: Survival Guides to Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountains

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Waterford_Edible-Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_in_handSurvival Guides are a dime-a-dozen, but good ones, the real save-your-life guides are as rare as hens teeth. Luckily the two new plastic-covered foldouts from Jason Schwartz are an outstanding and necessary contribution to your survival kit that literally could save your life. For less than the cost of a box of American made ammo, you could outfit your survival gear with some to-the-point literature can make a difference when on an afternoon hike, or when the S really hits the fan.

By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

Published in 2016 by the ultimate pocket guide company, the Waterford Press, these guides join an ever growing list of speciality reference booklets. “Putting the World in your Pocket” is Waterford’s motto, and it could be true given they’ve had over 500 publications with over five million sales.

Fast Food

Waterford_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_knife_berriesThe two water-resistant guides under discussion are Edible Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains, and Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Both guides are in the classic Waterford six-fold design leading to 12 individual vertically oriented pages. The full-color guides are printed on white paper and laminated heavily with factory-installed bends between pages.

The pictures are a godsend and make for fast field ID of plants. The brief descriptions confirm the identity and instructions follow for applying the part of the plant in the most useful form. Some are used as tea, some as topical, and some eaten outright.

The philosophy behind the guides according to their author is to, “provide a set of handy, yet realistic reference guides that will help hikers and backpackers lost in the Rocky Mountains forage for food, or treat injuries and ailments using wild plants and trees.” An assumption the author makes is that most survival situation are from three days to a week. This is reflected in the use of often low-calorie plants to get you to a better place and keep your spirits up.


Waterford_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press_berries_closeIn my own testing of the guides, I wandered my million acre backyard and looked for both plants listed in the guides and to see if a plant was in the guide. In most cases the obvious plants were covered, while locating specific plants took some time. A suggestion, if space permitted, would be to mention common locations of plants if they exist. Like kinnikinnick, dandelion, and thistle on old roads where the soil had been compacted decades earlier.

Knowledge is Power and Power Corrupts

Waterford_Medicinal_Survival_Plants_of_the_Rocky_MountainsWaterford_Press__neck_knifePoaching plants is easily as abundant as poaching animals. While the hunting laws don’t often address North American medicinal plants, there is the concern that someone with a little knowledge and a bunch of free time might pillage the local area of important plants. And in one rare case with the Curly-Cup Gumweed, there is a plant “species of concern” because it resembles a medicinal plant mentioned in the guide known as the Howell’s Gumweed. There is a very slim chance in a small region of the west that the more rare related species (Howell’s Gumweed) will be over harvested by an overzealous collector, but human nature is anything but predictable.

Related: Bushcraft Mushrooms

According to Schwartz, the highlighted plants were chosen for the wide distribution, easily identifiable traits, and ubiquitous presence across landscape and seasons. So with that said, you can take Rocky Mountains with a grain of salt. You will encounter most of the plants in these guides well outside the rugged terrain of the west, but not so much on the plains, east coast, or desert America, of course.

The Saguache County Colorado Sheriff’s Department found the guides so particularly helpful that they adopted them as essential equipment to have when backcountry survival might be an issue.

The Doctor Is In

Half the pages of the Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains IDs 18 plants of which seven are trees. The other half of the guide explains treatment options, medicinal preparations including infusions, tea, decoction, juicing as well as plant feature identification and author bio.

Half the Edible Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains IDs 19 plants of which three are trees. And the reverse six pages of the over half include survival basics, 16 images of types of edible plants, the steps of the Universal Edibility Test, general plant preparation and eating practices, and a note on edible plant myths.

Read Also: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food

Each entry for a plant across both guides includes a description, the habitat, harvesting tips, preparation (in the Survival guide), and comments and cautions. I had to smile when reading about the Ponderosa Pine in the Survival guide. Jason Schwartz is a bushcrafter through and through. In the middle of the description Jason uses 15 words to explain baton. The baton, by the way and in Jason’s words is, “an arm’s length branch used as a mallet to pound the back of the knife.” Once a teacher, always a teacher.

waterford_tetons_wyomingHere’s the deal with these guides. They cost little and weigh almost nothing. They are filled with lifesaving options for when you really need them, and you don’t even need to read them ahead of time (but I would suggest it). And anyone living within 200 miles east or west of the Continental Divide should spring for the $8 apiece and put a set in every bug out bag and car or truck glove box. Better yet, head outdoors and familiarize yourself with the local edible and medicinal flora. You’ll thank me and Jason later.

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Bushcraft 101

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Bushcraft 101 John Smith “Disaster Prep Guides” Audio in player below! Bushcraft is a term for wilderness survival skills that was originally created in Australia and South Africa. There are some areas in Australia that are called “The Bush,” which is an area that is mostly wilderness. If you are lacking the needed survival skills, … Continue reading Bushcraft 101

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Five Emergency Toothache Remedies From Wild Plants

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tooth_ache_painThe crippling pain of a toothache can occur at inconvenient times – perhaps when far from your dentist or even your emergency first aid kit.  Because of the potentially intense pain and potentially critical health concerns associated with a tooth infection, wild herbs to treat toothache is an important category of medicinals to become familiar with in preparation for emergencies in the bush.

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

In my previous article Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies I mentioned three herbal remedies (the other two were oil pulling and shiatsu / acupressure).  Of the three, only one related to herbs common in the wild in North America.  I chose to focus on Barberry (Berberis spp.),  though it is a representative of the group – the berberine-containing antimicrobials.  Others include Goldthread (Coptis spp.) and Oregon Grape Root (formerly Berberis but now Mahonia aquifolium).  These and the other berberine-containing antimicrobials are great toothache remedies, and will be discussed in detail below.  The other two remedies in that article, though “natural”, won’t be easily found in the North American forests.  Clove is from Indonesia, and besides it is typically the essential oil that is used for toothaches.  Toothache Plant (Spilanthes spp.) is largely of the tropics.  It can be grown here (quite easily, actually), but I do not know it in the wild of even the warm locations I have been to in North America.  So, what other toothache remedies do we have around?

Berberine-Containing Antimicrobials

Lately, I have been focusing on Barberry (Berberis spp.) in regards to this group.  It is a common invasive where I live (I harvest it regularly as part of maintaining my property in New York state).  It also has the genus name that is the source of the name “berberine” – for the constituent that gives the roots of these plants a yellow color and strong medicinal properties.  Plus, for many years Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has been in the spotlight to the point that this native plant has been overharvested.  There are different virtues to the various berberine-containing species.  For instance, Goldenseal roots are fleshy and are therefore easier to harvest and process than the woody roots of the prickly shrub Barberry.  For this reason, Goldenseal is a good herb to grow if you don’t have it locally abundant in the wild.  In the bush, it is basically a matter of finding whatever species you can.

Related: Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies

oregon_grape_forageBarberry species are common in some areas (often invasive).  Once harvested, the inner bark can be scraped off the root.  It can be packed directly onto the tooth or into the cavity.  Oregon Grape Root, also being shrubby (though small), is similar (See image – the root bark is scraped, showing the yellow inner bark.  Also take note of the bowl full of edible berries.  These pictures were taken in Montana.)  Goldthread is so-named because the rhizomes are thin and string-like.  The Chinese species used in medicine is much more fleshy.  Goldenseal is fleshy and can be easily chopped for making tinctures or chewed on for direct treatment of toothache.  Chinese medicine also utilizes a species of Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) with berberine-containing roots.

Phellodendron is another berberine-containing herb commonly used in Chinese medicine.  Often the three Phellodendron (Huang Bai), Goldthread (Huang Lian), and Skullcap (Huang Qin) are used together, perhaps with other non-berberine-containing “yellows” like Astragalus.  Many websites claim that the medicinal actions of berberine are unverified.  (Who knows if it is really berberine that is the main active constituent anyway?  And certainly each herb has countless active chemical constituents.)  However, the berberine-containing herbs from all over the world make up one of the best examples of verification in herbal medicine from different parts of the world.  To the best of my knowledge, all cultures that had access to yellow, berberine-containing roots figured out their medicinal uses.

barberry_tooth_ache_remedyIn addition to a distinct and very useful antimicrobial activity, Barberry and these other herbs are very good for stimulating the liver and gallbladder (take note, for gallbladder attacks are another medical emergency worth preparing for and herbal remedies can be very useful).  They are the quintessential bitter, “heat-clearing” herbs.  The bitter taste indicates cooling, cleansing actions.  “Heat-clearing” refers to the antimicrobial and antiinflammatory properties.  These herbs are often the best antibiotics around.  However, because of their strong bitter taste people generally don’t want to use them.  Plus, as with all herbs of powerful effect, there are some cautions and contraindications.

Regarding products available for sale, tincture can be quite useful to treat toothaches.  Perhaps, ideal is powder.  Powdered Goldenseal is often available.  Because of overharvest of native wild stands it is generally best to buy powder made from (organically) cultivated roots rather than from wildcrafted stock.  I would discourage it altogether, except that it really does work like a charm.  Very good to know about.  The powder can be applied directly to the trouble area.  It is also possible to tuck dried material into the gums near the affected tooth.  For instance, a Chinatown apothecary would likely have slices of Huang Lian that could be placed right between the cheek and gum.  Whether from the wild or from the store “chewing” these roots (like tobacco – chewed a little and tucked into the cheek) is a great way to keep the medicine local.


echinacea_cone_flowerConeflower (Echinacea spp. – the genus name is also used as the common name) is one of the best-known herbal remedies, made famous right alongside Goldenseal in the simple American formula Echinacea / Goldenseal that used to be the quintessential herbal antibiotic formula.  Unfortunately, many of the Echinacea products on the market are basically worthless due to the fact that Echinacea has a short shelf life as a dried herb.  Best products, in general, are tinctures made from the fresh root, flower, or seed (the leaf and stem are less potent).  The dried material does hold up for a little while, but not long.  

If you happen to live in an area where Echinacea grows wild, or if you find some in a flower garden, you can simply pick it fresh to chew on it.  If the cone part of the flower is still fresh, you can cut into it to and remove the center for use.  You can also unearth a piece of the root.  It is easy to figure out which part is most potent by chewing on it.  Echinacea, like Toothache Plant (Spilanthes spp.), creates a distinct tingling sensation on the lips, tongue, or whatever part of your mouth it touches.  It also encourages saliva production.  The more you tingle and salvate, the better.  It indicates medicinal potency.  It also numbs the ache.  You can also compare different species by taste.  

Prickly Ash

zanthoxylum_americanumSpecies of Zanthoxylum also have a tendency to produce saliva and a sensation that helps relieve pain.  In this way, it is very much like Echinacea and Toothache Plant.  Sometimes, Zanthoxylum is known at “Toothache Tree”.  The name Prickly Ash is in reference to the pinnately compound leaves, which are similar to Ash (Fraxinus spp.).  Prickly Ash and Ash are not very closely related. There are many species.  I am not sure how all their medicinal properties compare,  If you live near them or are travelling through an area where they grow.  It is worth getting to know them.  You might even find a toothpick, as the name Prickly is not in vain!  The bark is the main part used.  It is available through herb shops as well as in the wild.


acorus_calamus_sweet_flagCalamus, or Sweet Flag, (Acorus spp.) is another very interesting medicinal plant.  Like the berberine-containing herbs, the medicinal virtues of Calamus have been verified by many cultures all over the world.  It has been a major medicinal of European and Chinese herbal traditions and has been among the most revered herbs of Ayurveda (the ancient healing tradition of India) and Native American medicine.  Several Native tribes have used Calamus for toothaches.  Moerman (Native American Ethnobotany) lists that the Blackfoot, Chippewa, Cree, Creek, Mahuna, Okanagan, Paiute, Saanich, Shoshoni, and Thomson used Calamus as a toothache remedy.

Read Also: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food 

Unfortunately, one of the main side-effects of Calamus that is relatively common is that it can cause or exacerbate heartburn.  This clashes a bit with the chewing method of administration I have been promoting for the treatment of toothache.  Perhaps, for mild toothaches a small amount of Calamus would be beneficial and tolerated by most.  But with higher doses, such as one with an intense toothache might be driven towards, there will be a higher rate of intolerance.  Try a little first.

Calamus has many benefits, mostly relating to its pungent, aromatic, and somewhat bitter flavor.  It stimulates digestion, opens the lungs, and benefits the mind.  Native people have traditionally used it to help with concentration and as a stimulant when travelling or for ceremonial dance.  Likewise, yogic and Taoist traditions have used Calamus for the mind.  It is a primary remedy for lung congestion.

The name Sweet Flag is because it looks similar to Iris (the leaves- not the flower), which can be called Blue Flag or Yellow Flag, etc. (according to the flower color).  “Sweet” because it smells nice (such as when walked on), not because it tastes sweet.  If you happen to walk on it, there is a good chance your feet will be wet, as it mostly grows in swampy conditions.  It is also called “Swamp Root”.


spruce_tree_tooth_acheSpruce (Picea spp.) and its evergreen relatives are readily available toothache remedies.  I mention Spruce as the representative genus here because they tend to be pitchy and seemed to have been favored by Natives for toothaches.  The pitch is antimicrobial, pain relieving, and can be applied directly to the trouble area.  It can also be used to pack a cavity to fight infection and close the hole.  Cedar, Pine, Hemlock, Fir, and Juniper can likewise be used.  The needles and inner bark are also medicinal.     

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Making Cordage in the Wilderness

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When you find yourself in a dire situation in the wild, a piece of string can become an important survival item. Making cordage from plants you can find all around you is a good skill to master. It will help you in the construction of almost anything you need.  Making cordage from common plants is … Read more…

The post Making Cordage in the Wilderness was written by Dan Mowinski and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

Deadly Poisons, Wild Edibles, and Magic Medicinals of The Carrot Family

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carrots_foragingApiaceae, is known as the Carrot Family, the Hemlock Family, and the Umbel Family (after the old name “Umbelliferae”).  It is one of the most important botanical families for the survivalist to become familiar with.  Its diversity and importance are implied with common names for the family ranging from one of the world’s most important vegetables, the Carrot (Daucus carota), to one of the most famous and deadly poisons, Hemlock (Conium maculatum).  With medicinals like Angelica (Angelica spp.) and Osha (Bear Root, Ligusticum spp.), which have been revered around the world since the earliest records of herbal medicine, this plant family seems to have it all.  

By Nathaniel Whitmore, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

This article follows Wild Edibles & Poisonous Plants of the Poison Ivy Family in a blog series on poisonous plants that began with 5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know.  The initial article outlined some basics of five major plant families with poisonous plants.  The article on Poison Ivy included some basics on botany and plant names, in addition to the discussion of the Poison Ivy family.  Here we will focus on Apiaceae.

Umbels & Aromatic Roots

umbel_flower_forageA characteristic of Apiaceae is the flowers being arranged in umbels, which is the source of an older name for the family- Umbelliferae.  The umbel flower is umbrella shaped, or bowl shaped, partially due to the divisions of the flower-top (the pedicels) arising from a single point.  The pedicels therefore, are like the ribs of an (upside-down) umbrella.  Many other flower-tops appear to be umbels, but are supported by a branching structure that does not stem from a single point (Yarrow of the Daisy Family, Elder and Viburnum of the Muskroot Family, and others).  Another distinct tendency in Apiaceae is aromatic roots.  Sometimes people will attempt to explain that Wild Carrot roots can be distinguished from Poison Hemlock and others because they smell like Carrots, but this is far too subjective.  Because it is standard that members of this family have aromatic roots, including poisonous species, many of them could be said to “smell like Carrots” in that they are similarly aromatic.

Read Also: Medicinal Uses of Pine Trees 

Apiaceae members also tend to have divided leaves.  There are many technical terms used to describe leaves and their arrangements on plants.  Plants in the Carrot Family tend to have leaves that are lacey or otherwise finely or not so finely divided.  The leaves of Carrots and Parsley (another genus that is used to name the family) are characteristic. Celery is also in Apiaceae.  It is a good example of another tendency in the family to have the visible vascular strands (“strings”) in the stem.

Categories of Plants in Apiaceae

As usual with nature, it is difficult organize Apiaceae by category since in reality there is much more of a spectrum (from delicious and nourishing to extremely toxic).  Our human minds, however, like categories,

The primary categories of plants in Apiaceae are:



Toxic Medicinals

Fatally Poisonous

These oversimplified categories are complicated by plants like Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), which is a well-known edible (at least used to be), but also known to cause rashes in sensitive people upon contacting the leaves of the wild plants.

Edible Members of the Carrot Family

One of the world’s best-known vegetables is the Carrot, Daucus carota, which is the domestic variety of the Wild Carrot, which is also known as Queen-Anne’s-Lace.  The root is usually much smaller than the domestic version, white in color, and quite fibrous, but it is indeed a Carrot.

Biscuit Roots (Lomatium spp.) were top foods of the northwest Natives.  I have never tried them, but apparently their starchy roots are good food.  The genus is certainly worth learning about for those living in the Northwest or travelling through (there are notable medicinal species as well), but there are concerns regarding population decline so learning about Biscuit Roots is more in preparation for emergency survival than for expanding your regular diet.

Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria) is also known as Goutweed, for its medicinal effect.  It is a common groundcover that was introduced from Europe.  It often spreads “uncontrollably” in landscapes and can be found persisting on old home sites.  It is cooked as a spring green, or potherb, when it can help rid the body of the uric acid build-up after a heavy meat diet in winter.

Though so many edibles and many culinary herbs belong to the Carrot (or Parsley) Family, you should approach this group with caution.  As there are many poisonous species.  Culinary herbs in the group include Parsley (Petroselenium crispum), Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum – the seed is Coriander), and Dill (Anethum graveolens).  

Medicinal Members of the Carrot Family

carrots_stackedOf course, all members of the Carrot family are medicinal, just as it can be argued that every plant is medicinal.  There are many home-remedies that utilize Carrots.  Plus the greens and seeds have medicinal uses.  (While you could argue that it is not “medicinal” one of the best-known uses for Wild Carrot is as a morning after contraceptive).  There are also the toxic medicinals, which are described below, that are too poisonous for home-care use.  Here, we will look at the well-known remedies from the Carrot family.  It is an all-star line up.  

Osha and its relatives (Ligusticum spp.) are top medicinals.  A couple species are known to Chinese medicine and used extensively.  Garden Lovage is well-known to the western world, though somewhat forgotten.  And the Osha of the Rocky Mountains it one of our Nation’s most famous medicinals.  In fact, Osha is one of the few herbs that I have come to depend on that is not available in the wild or even in the garden of my area.  Osha grows in high elevations, usually over 9,000 feet.  It has many medicinal uses but is best known as an antimicrobial for lung and respiratory infections.  The Navajo call it Bear Root and consider it a cure-all for lung ailments.  It works remarkably fast, especially if used at the onset of a cold.  I like to chew the root or hold it in my cheek like chewing tobacco.  Once, when harvesting Osha with a friend in Colorado just after he had harvested his honey, we filled jars with roots and topped them with the fresh honey.  A very delicious way to take Osha indeed!  The roots softened in the honey and were then easy to chew.  Plus, the honey was infused with Osha.

dong_quiAngelica is a very important genus of medicinal herbs and worthy of its own article.  In fact, I have already written a paper on AngelicaBut that too only scratches the surface.  With a name like Angelica, its got to be good – or at least it was revered at some point.  Angelica archangelica is the main European species known to medicine.  It has been used for respiratory, digestive, and circulatory disorders, among others.  It is a common ingredient in “digestive bitters” as it is a quintessential aromatic bitter.  Bitter herbs are bitter (not just bad tasting, but bitter, like Dandelion).  Aromatic bitters are also pungent or are predominantly pungent but are similar medicinally to bitter herbs, particularly in that they benefit digestion.  The pungent aromatics are also generally good for moving mucus and blood, which is largely how Angelica species are employed in medicine.  The famous Dong Quai (A. sinensis) is a top herb in Chinese medicine for moving blood (treating blood stagnation) and nourishing blood (treating anemia and similar deficiencies).  It is especially used to treat menstrual disorders and injuries.   

Rattlesnake Masters (Eryngium spp.) have been used for snake bites and as an antidote to poisons.  

Toxic Medicinals in the Carrot Family

Angelica_venenosaMany Angelica species belong in this category, as they are far too toxic to use for the uninitiated.  In fact, even those species above can have properties that are too strong and inappropriate at times, such as because of blood-thinning properties.  Most, if not all, Angelica species are blood thinning, especially when fresh.  However, they are most commonly used dried and because they are so commonly known and used I included them above. (The point about plants being more toxic when fresh is important.  Especially since many herbs in common use are mostly or only available dried, but when you are lost in the bush or otherwise seeking out herbs in an outdoors or end-times emergency you might only have access to fresh plant material.)

Deadly Angelica (A. venenosa) has poisonous properties (as you might expect from the name), yet the Iroquois employed it in poultices in the treatment of injuries.  Another, Poison Angelica (A. lineariloba) was used by the Paiute for pneumonia and spitting up of blood.  

See Also: Tree Bark as an Emergency Food

Sanicle species (Sanicula spp.) have some toxic properties, or some toxic species belong to the genus.  On the other hand, they were also used as poison antidote and for snake bites.  They are also known as Snakeroots (like Echinacea and Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga or Actaea).  It is not uncommon that snake bite remedies have some toxic properties.

Fatally Poisonous Members of the Carrot Family

david_-_the_death_of_socratesOne of the most famous poisonous plants and perhaps the most famous of Apiaceae is Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum).  It is the plant that killed Socrates.  Water Hemlocks (Cicuta spp.) are also very poisonous.  Cicuta douglasii has been called the most deadly plant in North America. Though they too undoubtedly have medicinal uses, they should be considered far too toxic to mess with.  It is said that a single bite of Poison Hemlock is enough to kill an adult man.  It is these deadly poisonous species that make this family dangerous.  Study carefully.

The common name Hemlock is shared with the basically non-toxic member of the Pine Family.  Herein lies the importance of scientific names.  Mentioning Hemlock often causes eyes to open wide in surprise, so well known is Hemlock as a poison.  When scientific names are used alongside the common, we can easily avoid confusion.  Conium and Cicuta belong to Apiaceae, while Tsuga belongs to Pinaceae.

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Tree Bark as an Emergency Food

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bark_piecesAn almost forgotten food from the wild is that which comes from the bark of trees.  Once a staple, now it is barely known even as a coarse survival food.  I myself have been slow coming to it even with wild edible plants as a major preoccupation since my teens.  An obvious possibility for why tree bark has not been found much in modern cuisine is that it doesn’t taste good.  The modern imagination easily responds to the notion of tree bark as food with images of gnawing on trees – not exactly as exciting as fishing, hunting, picking mushrooms, or picking berries.  However, perhaps that assumption is wrong.  Maybe delicious foods can be prepared from tree bark.

By Nathaniel Whitmore, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

I have in front of me eleven books on wild edibles.  At first glance at the table of contents of each book, or the text or index if the plants weren’t listed there, I found nothing in ten of the books  related to tree barks as edibles.  Euell Gibbons (Stalking the Wild Asparagus) and others discuss Black Walnuts and Hickory for nuts.  Lee Allen Peterson (Edible Wild Plants) discusses the leaves of Basswood.  Bradford Angier (Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants) discusses the seeds of Maple and, of course, that the sap is boiled into Maple syrup.  …And the list goes on of other foods from the trees.  Only in one, A Naturalists Guide to Cooking with Wild Plants by Connie and Arnold Krochmal, did I find that the authors went on to discuss harvesting and preparing Maple bark.  They have a recipe for Maple bark bread that uses, along with other typical ingredients for bread, only ½ cup of all-purpose flour to 2 cups of ground Maple bark.  Another recipe for porridge is a typical porridge recipe with only Maple bark (cooked like farina, grits, or oats), along with a suggestion to spread it out to chill and thicken before browning in oil.

Cuisine and Nutrition

maple_treeI have not yet tried Maple (Acer spp.) porridge.  I have made porridge from Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra) but only because I have acquired out-of-date stock from herbs stores here-and-there that I worked for.  The powdered bark is quite costly to eat like a breakfast cereal.  It is sold mostly for home-made lozenges and to add to smoothies.  Because the bark is quite mucilaginous, it is a great ingredient for do-it-yourself lozenges for sore or dry throat.  I like to always keep some in a convenient storage spot.  When I have plenty, I like to cook the powdered Elm bark with Maple syrup (and a little salt) for a real breakfast from the trees.  I have not yet attempted to powder the bark itself, though I do intend to.  Powdering bark is one of those things that is high up on my list of things to do that I never get around to doing.  Again, a survival situation might just re-prioritize that list.  The shredded bark is also readily available through commercial sources and is prepared as a cold infusion to produce a thick, moistening drink or ingredient.

Related: Food to Stock for Emergencies      

According to Daniel Moerman in Native American Food Plants, Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) was cooked by the Ojibwa.  Apparently they believe it tastes like eggs.  I have chewed it and infused it for “tea”, but will certainly have to try to prepare it like scrambled eggs!  I doubt it is all that similar, but I do not doubt that it can be prepared so that it tastes good.  Remember, much of foraging is about timing.  Not only is bark easier to peel off the tree in the spring (when the sap is flowing), but it also is thick, juicy, and milder tasting than other times of the year.  Certainly, timing is important for Ash bark and the others.  Though, if starving to death you might eat tree bark even if it wasn’t the ideal harvest season and even if it didn’t taste like eggs.

white_pine_barkWhite Pine (Pinus strobus) and other evergreens were vital survival foods for Native Americans in cold areas.  Although they often have too much astringency and pitchy consistency to be ideal foods, they also have vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and many important medicinal constituents.  It would be interesting, and potentially important in a survival scenario, to look into the nutritional constituents of various barks.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to understand that Pine bark has lots of vitamin C, but what about the macronutrients?  Are barks able to provide sufficient sugar, protein, or fat?  Sugar seems the most notable macronutrient from bark, but I still wonder how much is there.  Certainly, Maple bark can taste remarkably sweet, like Maple syrup.  Clearly it has sugar in it.  The benefits of bark as a survival food are at least partially illustrated by the Natives formerly feeding Cottonwood (Populus spp.) bark to horses.  Certainly, humans have different nutritional requirements than the four-legged grazers, though I still think it says something that the deer, other wild animals, and horses can glean nutrition from bark.

Basswood (American Linden, Tilia americana) is unique as a food tree in that it produces large broad leaves that are edible right off the tree.  Young twigs and buds were cooked by Chippewa.  By this I would assume that the bark is also mild and edible.  However, I turned to Moerman’s book Native American Medicinal Plants to learn that the Cherokee used the bark for diarrhea and the Iroquois used as a diuretic, which has me wondering if the bark is too astringent and drying to use as food.  Of course, many such remedies are mild enough to eat or can be prepared to be more food quality and less medicinal.  Generally though, diarrhea remedies are astringent and can cause constipation when not needed for runny stool.  Moerman did also report that the Cherokee used during pregnancy for heartburn and weak stomach and bowels.  If it was used during pregnancy, I imagine it is mild enough to eat.  Basswood bark is now bumped up to the top of the list of wild foods to try out this spring.

Medicinal Uses of Tree Bark

Medicines from tree barks are many.  Though this article focuses on edible barks, it would not be complete without mention of medicinal uses.  In addition to those already discussed above, the medicinal barks included many categories, such as astringents, cough remedies, blood-moving medicinals, and pain relievers.

aspirin_vintage_advertisement_willowWillow (Salix spp.) was an original source of a well-known medicine known as salicylic acid (named after Willow).  Like the drug Aspirin (which is named after Meadowsweet which is currently Filipendula, but formerly Spiraea), Willow is used for pain, to thin the blood, and for fevers.  Salicylic acid is commonly used for acne, dandruff, and warts.  Poplars (Populus spp.) are closely related to Willow both botanically (though many people confuse Poplars and Birch, or Betula spp.) and medicinally.  Poplars have largely fallen out of use in modern times, but formerly were commonly employed as medicinals – the bark used like Willow, and especially the resinous buds used for coughs.

Oaks (Quercus spp.) and many other trees have bitter-tasting astringency.  Astringents tone tissue, remove inflammation, and stop discharge.   They are important medicines that are indicated for damp, inflamed conditions like diarrhea, rashes, bleeding wounds, and sore throats.  Astringents are also used for daily maintenance like washing the face and brushing teeth.  In small quantities, they are used to maintain tissue integrity of the gums and digestive system.

Read Also: Bushcraft Mushrooms

Like Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.), our Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is used to stimulate circulation and clean the blood.  The bark is delicious as tea, and can be combined with other root beer ingredients like Black Birch (Betula lenta).  The leaves of Sassafras are mucilaginous as well as spicy and can be prepared as food.  They are used in gumbo.  As an aromatic, blood-cleansing medicinal, Sassafras is used to treat skin disorders, arthritis, and to warm up the body.  The FDA has a controversial ban on Sassafras and the oil derived from it, safrole.

cherries_cherry_treePerhaps one of best-known cough remedies, Cherry Bark (Prunus spp.) has been used for ages.  My guess is that Cherry became a standard flavor for cough syrups largely because the bark was a standard medicine for coughs, even though the bark does not exactly taste like the fruit.  It does have a distinct Cherry flavor, but even more distinct is the cyanide flavor, especially in the fresh bark.  Because of the toxic properties, the use of fresh Cherry bark has been discouraged in the literature.  Though, the fresh bark is used medicinally and is significantly stronger than the dried bark.  The dried bark is available through commercial distributions.  Especially the wilted leaves have been known to cause poisoning in farm animals, so it seems the toxic properties spike during drying.  There are also various ideas about the best time to harvest.  Since I am not a chemist, I cannot say much with authority about cyanide content.  Consider yourself warned, however.  I encourage you to do your own research (before you find yourself starving or coughing to death in a Cherry forest).  Since this is such a valuable medicine I do indeed recommend learning about Cherry bark.  In my experience it is a top remedy for coughs and I assume it has many other uses in line with how Peach (Prunus persica) is used in Chinese medicine, which is extensive.  If the medicinal barks were not strong-natured and somewhat toxic, they would have been discussed earlier as edible barks.  It is precisely because they are strong that they are medicinal.  

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) bark is very medicinal.  It is one of the strongest antifungal herbs and is well-known as a remedy for intestinal parasites.  The inner bark stains yellow, as do the green hulls and leaves.  These parts also give off a distinct aroma that can help with identification and are doubtlessly related to the medicinal virtues.  Of course, Black Walnut is also known for its nuts, which are important survival food.     

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Bushcraft Mushrooms: 5 Uses of Polypores and Other Mushrooms

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otzi_ice_man_mushrooms-2Mushrooms were among the earliest survival essentials of man.  Otzi, the Ice Man, had two mushrooms with him.  One, the Tinder Polypore (Fomes fomentarius), used for firestarting and the other, the Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), was quite possibly being carried for medicinal reasons.  The fire-starting and fire-carrying properties of Tinder Polypore and others like Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) have been well known since ancient times.  

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

As punk, dried Polypores can be lit and hold the ember very well.  It is for this reason that their benefits begin with the first spark of the fire, which will stay aglow easily on good punk.  Tinder Polypore, Artist Conk (Ganoderma applanatum), and others have a felty interior when the hard fruiting bodies are broken open.  These mushrooms are also called conks, shelf mushrooms, and bracket fungi and are perennial, developing layer upon layer, year after year.  This type of mushroom is very good for tinder.  The felt can be teased with your knife.  There are other types of shelf mushrooms that are not perennial.  Often, they will be more moist and fleshing, or otherwise maybe not the best for tinder… perhaps because of their texture.  Also, there are Polypores that aren’t shelf mushrooms.

polypores_bushcraft_1Polypores (many-pored, or many-little-holes) produce their spores in tubes that are usually under the “shelf” of the mushroom, though many species take on more of the form of the “cap & stem” mushroom.  They are common, seen even in winter because of the persistence of the perennial species and of the dried remains of the tougher annual species.  Even as I write this, I can count several species of Polypore on my eclectic assortment of firewood piled by the wood stove – dried, so even though the wood is punkier than desired the mushrooms will burn with it quite fine.  Earlier today I noticed a Polypore I am not used to seeing on a Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), along with several other species of Polypore that I see regularly.  I also saw the crumbled remains of an annual species that was edible in the fall.  In fact, now that I stop to think about it, that’s a lot of Polypores for a short walk along the road and through the woods!

Related: Emergency Storage of Wild Plant Foods

It is especially the Polypores that are of interest to the bushcrafter and survivalist.  They are a pretty safe group for edibles.  Many are not considered edible because of toughness or taste, but the majority of poisoning is relatively mild.  Of course, many well-known “choice edibles” and some of the most sought after mushroom delicacies are Polypores.  They have medicinal uses.  Many of the most important herbal medicines come from Polypores.  They can be used to start fire.  Because they keep lit well and burn slow they can also be used to carry fire (potentially very useful without matches or a lighter on hand), and can also be burned for insect repellant.  The dried fruit bodies, or slices of them, can be used to maintain an ember when not feeding wood to the fire.  Polypores can also be used to make torches.  They can be made into charcoal.  They can be pounded into felt (another trait the Tinder Polypore is particularly known for).  They are great for storing fish hooks.  And I am sure there are countless other uses.  

Edible Mushrooms

edible_mushrooms_mycophilic-2Mushrooms are sometimes abundant and are very important survival foods.  It is an interesting thing that mycologists consider cultures to generally be either mycophobic or mycophilic – mushroom fearing or mushroom loving.  Some cultures favor mushrooms that most others avoid.  I have often wondered if this and the deep appreciation some cultures have for mushrooms is due to ancestors being repeatedly saved from famine by mushrooms, which has certainly happened throughout the ages.  

I myself have eaten massive amounts of mushrooms, especially Polypores like Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus spp.), Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa, Maitake, Sheep’s Head, etc.), and others that grow very large and are delicious.  Many times I have eaten more than one meal a day that consisted primarily of mushrooms.  I have often felt very revitalized when doing so, particularly during Morel (Morchella spp.) season when eating lots of Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus), Morels, and wild vegetables.  Mushrooms are very nutritious foods.  Since ancient times they have been revered for their rejuvenating properties.

The all too well known problem with mushrooms as edibles is that some are deadly.  Coupled with the fact that mushrooms in general are difficult to identify, eating mushrooms can  clearly be risky.  Do your research before starving to death so that you can be certain to take the time to seek out knowledgeable people as well as good books.  There are many excellent mushroom websites.

Mushrooms can be dried.  Though, it is a funny trick of nature that they tend to grow when there is more humidity and can be difficult to dry.  Those in the Rocky Mountains will have a much easier time of it than I do down in the Delaware River Valley between New York and Pennsylvania.  For off-grid sites, consider a solar dehydrator, such as passive solar using glass to trap heat.  For sites with electricity consider one of the many commercially manufactured dehydrators, or make one with a simple heating unit such as a light bulb.

Medicinal Mushrooms

polypores_bushcraft_3The medicinal properties of mushrooms have been getting increased attention lately, though they were well-known before the modern world.  Many of the medicinal uses of mushrooms pertain to first-aid care, so this subject is well worth learning for the survivalist.  If the notion of medicinal mushrooms seems strange, consider that out first antibiotic drug, penicillin, is fungal.  

Indeed, primary traits among the medicinal mushrooms are antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties.  Polypores in particular, like Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) and Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis), are known for benefiting immunity and fighting off pathogens.  They are used for lung ailments, respiratory infections, systemic infections, cancer, and even auto-immune diseases.  As in the case with Otzi, ancient people all over the world have probably recognized the medicinal benefits of mushrooms.  Today they remain primary ingredients in herbal medicine.  Many cultures have long-held reverence for medicinal mushrooms.  China, for instance, has an extensive and ancient lore surrounding Ganoderma spp., called Lingzi, which means “Longevity Mushroom” or “Spiritual Mushroom” just as the Japanese name, Reishi, does.  For a well-researched reference on many species of medicinal mushrooms see The Fungal Pharmacy by Robert Rogers.

While Reishi is too tough and strong tasting to be eaten (rather, it is decocted into a “tea” or broth), many medicinals are good food.  Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is another name that seems to reflect a long-found reverence.  In Japanese it means “Dancing Mushroom”, which some say is because it was worth so much (so revered were such medicinal mushrooms) in ancient Japan that you would dance for joy upon finding one.  Or, perhaps if you were suffering from a life threatening illness that Maitake was known to cure you would have even more reason to dance.  Locally, Grifola is one of the most commonly picked mushrooms, known as Sheep’s Head or Ram’s Head – largely an Appalachian name.  American field guides and grocery stores (this one is also cultivated) usually call it Hen-of-the-Woods.  It is so abundant in certain Oak forests that people will often eat more than their fill and still have plenty to dry, can, or freeze.

Mushrooms even have antifungal properties.  If this seems strange, consider that you are protected by pathogens by your skin.  Fungus has no such barrier, but must still protect itself against pathogens… including fungus!  Fungus tends to prefer dark, damp, dirty areas where other fungus also likes to grow.  Much of the immune-boosting potential of mushrooms is explained in this way.

Many mushrooms, especially certain Polypores and the Luminescent Panellus (Panellus stipticus) can be used to stop bleeding.  The species name stipticus is from styptic, meaning that it is used to stop bleeding.  And yes, the common name is because it glows in the dark- at least the North American variety.

Fire-Starting with Fungus

polypores_bushcraft_6As already mentioned, mushrooms can be very good for “catching the spark” when starting fire with flint or maintaining the ember when starting with the bow drill and the like.  A nice dry piece of Polypore can be used in the middle of your tinder bundle.  Species with a felting interior, like the Tinder Polypore, can be fluffed into very nice tinder by scraping them with your knife to tease the fibers into fluff.  While it can obviously be very helpful to have nice downy tinder, it is not always necessary as even chunks of dried Polypore can stay lit with just a spark.

Transferring a “coal” from bow or hand drill methods is simply done by contacting the mushroom with the ember so that it keeps lit.  One might even use larger flat polypores underneath the fireboard so that the hot wood dust falls directly on the mushroom.

Polypores are like punk, meaning that they stay lit easy.  Punky wood (dry and rotten) might very well stay lit for hours from only a spark or ember, but generally wood requires sufficient heat to keep burning or it goes out.  Polypores can stay lit for many hours, often slowly burning from just a small ember until all the mushroom is burned up.  This has several uses.  Such as in primitive times, lit Polypores can be bound in leaves and bark so that the fire could be carried to the next spot.  I have also maintained embers in the firepit by setting in them a piece of Polypore during times when I did not desire to build up the fire by adding more wood.  Obviously, the standard rule is to keep watch on a fire at all times, but we are talking survival here.  Perhaps, you are lost in the woods with no fire-starting implements and need to spend the day hunting, fishing, or gathering mushrooms.  You certainly don’t want to lose your fire, but you don’t want to build it up either right before leaving.  It could be much safer to feed the embers with mushrooms than to pile on firewood.  

Also Read: How to Start a Fire With Your EDC Knife and a Shoelace

Mushrooms don’t have the tendency to burst into flame, even though they stay lit well.  In order to produce flame, hot pitch can be poured on the Polypore and then lit to produce a torch.  Alternately, clumps of pitch can be set or stuck (depending on consistency) on a Polypore and then lit.  The pitch will melt down into the mushroom and this makes good fuel.  

Polypores can also be made into charcoal in the same manner as making char cloth.  I have used the leathery Polypores, like Turkey Tail, as well as slices of thicker species like Tinder Polypore and Reishi.  I usually use tins, such as old Altoids tins, to fill with the mushrooms and then place on the hot coals until smoking ceases.  Then remove, let cool, and add to your tinder box for later fire-starting.

Fiber from Polypores

tinder_polypore-2Tinder Polypore can be made into felt.  This can be done by boiling and pounding the interior portion (which looks felty even when fresh).  A friend of mine has hats made of the felt, similar to that worn by the famous mycologist Paul Stamets.  I have also seen purses and other crafts from the felt.  It might be a stretch to consider making an outfit out of Tinder Polypores in a survival scenario.  Small pouches and such, on the other hand, could be very realistic and handy.

At the New Jersey Mycological Association’s yearly Fungus Fest they set up a paper-making station.  Violet Tooth Polypores (Trichaptum biforme) and other similar mushrooms are blended in water in order to produce a fibrous mush that is strained, pressed, and dried to produce a sturdy craft paper.  Violet Tooth Polypores work well for fiber extraction because they are thin, like the well-known medicinal Turkey Tail and other mushrooms that comprise the “leathery” group of Polypores.  

Taking Care of Tools with Polypores

polypores_bushcraft_2Pieces of dried Polypores can work great for storing fish hooks.  I like to slice the fresh mushroom into thick strips before drying them.  This makes them handy for decocting into medicine, for stashing in tinder boxes, and for piercing a selection of fish hooks into in attempt to keep a tackle box orderly.  It also makes them ready for making charcoal if, for instance, they are cut so that they fit into an Altoids box or some other vessel that can be used to make charcoal.  Have a line-up of fish hooks in a small rectangle of Polypore makes it easy to grab a few hooks to throw in your pocket or in your sack.  If it keeps dry, you’ll even have fire-starting material with you.  If it gets wet, just toss it – you have plenty more stashed away.

Apparently Birch Polypore can be used for stropping.  An alternate name commonly cited for the Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) is Razor Strop.  I have never tried it, but the dried fruiting bodies certainly seem to be the correct consistency (usually leather is used for stropping).  

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Foraging During Winter: 7 Cold-Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Life

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Foraging During Winter: 7 Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Live

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Winter is obviously not the best season for foraging for wild plant edibles, but in a survival situation there are many plant-based foods you can use to keep you eating even when prospects for wild game come up short.

With a little work learning what’s edible in your area, you’ll be prepared should you find yourself hungry and on your own in the dead of winter. Here are a few options available throughout the United States:

1. Frozen or fermented fruit

Though by January, apple season has been over for months, many types of apples hold their fruit on the tree all the way through winter, especially native crab apples. Some heirloom varieties of apples have been selected for their ability to hold fruit without dropping them well into cold weather. One such variety is D’Arcy Spice, which is traditionally picked in November months after most apples have dropped, and then stored hung from bags off the tree in winter. The apples themselves will freeze, and slowly begin to ferment into calorie-rich hard cider within their skins when the temperatures rise above freezing. Scientists believe that our ability to digest alcohol stems from the ancient practice of harvesting fermenting fruit in winter and early spring, and needing to get as many calories from it as possible.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

Foraging During Winter: 7 Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Live

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Other fruits also hang on the tree or vine through the winter include grapes and hawthorn fruit (an astringent native fruit, similar in some ways to a crab apple). For grapes, many wild species ripen long after birds have already migrated, and hang on the vines to be eaten by returning birds in the spring.

2. Water plants

Water has a buffering effect on temperature, and in less extreme climates the ground near small ponds may be workable during warm spells. That’s a good time to go looking for cattails, which can be identified by their dry stalks sticking up out of the water. Their roots are similar to potatoes and are a rich source of carbohydrates. Watercress growing along banks is also high in nutrients, though unfortunately low in calories. Together, steamed cattail roots and watercress can keep you going until your prospects improve.

3. Tree bark

Foraging During Winter: 7 Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Live

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The inner bark of many trees is easy to harvest and contains starchy calories that are easily accessed in winter with the use of a sharp knife or even a pointy rock or stick. Trees such as pine, aspen, beech, maple and linden are excellent choices, and some restaurants are jumping on the foraging bandwagon and making a pine bark bacon by marinating the inner bark in salt and spices before roasting it to a crisp in strips.

Though I’m sure pine bacon won’t fool a true carnivore, it’s something that might add a bit of comfort to an otherwise dire situation, and perhaps help you forget that you’re actually eating bark to survive.

4. Wild berries

While many softer fruits are long since eaten by birds or rotted away, some berries hang on through the winter and are a welcome calorie and nutrient source if you can locate them. Teaberries are the fruit of the wintergreen plant, a creeping forest ground cover. The berries remain edible all winter and can be found in melted patches of the forest floor. Cranberries, similarly, remain tasty all winter and can often be found as late as June of the following year still clinging to the low-trailing stems. Rose hips are a bit astringent, but generally hold on roses, wild or propagated, throughout winter and can help fight off vitamin C deficiency.

5. Nuts

Image source: Public Domain Pictures

Image source: Public Domain Pictures

If you’re winter tree identification skills are decent, you can find acorns, butternuts and black walnuts by digging in the snow at the base of those trees. Take care to identify those trees ahead of time, noting the distinctive branching pattern of the butternuts and black walnuts, as well as the diamond bark pattern particularly prominent on butternuts.

Learn The Secrets and Tricks Of The Word’s Top Survivalists!

Once you know how to spot them, they’ll likely be a great high calorie mid-winter food source anywhere squirrel populations are not exceptionally high.

6. Biennial roots

Biennial roots, or the roots of plants that store energy in the first year for seed production in the second year, are a great source of calories in the winter in milder climates where the soil can be worked. Good examples include burdock, wild parsnip, wild carrot (also known as Queen Anne’s Lace), Jerusalem artichokes, thistle root and dandelion.

7. Winter hardy greens

Many nutrient-rich salad wild greens do not die back in winter. They keep their leaves and pause growth during cold and snow-covered spells only to continue growing when temperatures warm slightly or snow cover melts off briefly even in mid-winter. Good examples include sorrel, chickweed, miner’s lettuce and watercress. While they’re not calorie-rich, they can help to balance a diet based on starchy roots or meat by providing micro-nutrients, and help to boost moral by giving you a taste of spring even in the coldest parts of the winter.

What would you add to the list? Share your winter foraging tips in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

Plant These Edible Flowers in Your Garden Now

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Plant These Edible Flowers in Your Garden Now via Preparedness Advice

The first edible flower I ever ate was a nasturtium. We had giant nasturtium plants growing in our herb garden, nearly taking over, in fact, and decided we would start consuming the orange and yellow blossoms and leaves. They have a peppery flavor with a little bit of a kick. It’s always fun to discover plants in your own backyard you can eat.

Nasturtiums aren’t the only edible flower that is commonly found in backyards and growing wild. Here is a list of some of the most common. This list is by no means complete, but is meant to be a starting point for further study of the flowers you have in your yard. Just because you see the name of a flower on this list, do not assume you can run right out and start eating them.

First, do a bit of research on the flower, make sure you have it correctly identified. This foraging book is one of my favorites and the author is a well-known foraging expert. Second, make sure you know which parts can be eaten. If you are interested in learning to identify edible plants like the ones on this list or growing a garden with all the herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers you could possibly want, check out this book and this book.

Interestingly, as you learn more about foraging in your backyard and elsewhere, you’ll find that not every part of a plant is edible. It’s important to have some fundamental foraging knowledge before you start picking random plants and eating them!

Angelica Anise Hyssop
Apple blossom Artichoke
Arugula Bachelor Buttons/Cornflower
Banana Basil
Borage Calendula
Carnation Chamomile
Chicory Chives
Chrysanthemum Cilantro/Coriander
Citrus Clover
Dandelion Daylily
Dianthus Dill
Elderberry English daisy
Fennel Freesia
Fuschia Geraniums
Gladiolas Hibiscus
Honeysuckle Hollyhock
Hyssop Jasmine
Johnny Jump Up Lavender
Lemon verbena Lilac
Linden Mallow
Marigold Marjoram
Mint Mustard
Nasturtium Oregano
Okra Onion
Orange blossom Pansy
Passionflower Pineapple sage
Primrose Radish
Red clover Redbud
Rose Rosemary
Rose of Sharon Runner bean
Safflower Sage
Savory Scented Geranium
Snapdragon Society garlic
Squash blossom Sunflower
Sweet Marigold Sweet William
Thyme Tuberous Begonia
Tulip Viola
Violet Winter Savory

It’s good to know that the flowers of these plants are edible because they’re a source of nutrition and flavor that would otherwise go to waste. Sample a single petal, or small piece of a petal, before assuming you’re going to like the flavor. Get a good foraging book or two, preferably one with a few recipes to get you started. Try drying the petals and seeping them in hot water to make teas or chopping up the edible blossoms, leaves, too, if edible, and adding them to biscuit batter or on sandwiches and in salads.

The beauty of this very long list is that there is something to be found in every growing region, from deserts to the coldest climate areas. Many of these flowers will be found in the wild, such as wild violets. I’ve made a printable checklist of these flowers so you can have a copy on hand to keep with you as you forage.

In the future, I plan to write posts on some of the flowers on this list along with pictures and identifying information, as well as a few edible weeds. However if you have these in your yard you don’t need to wait for me.  Learn about the plants in your yard or area today.

Updated by Noah, January 14, 2017.

The post Plant These Edible Flowers in Your Garden Now appeared first on Preparedness Advice.

Wild Edibles & Poisonous Plants of the Poison Ivy Family

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poison_ivy_treesThe Poison Ivy plant family, Anacardiaceae, is well known to those who spend time outdoors. Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is one of the most notorious weeds of the wild, feared by campers and other outdoorsy folk because of the nasty rash it can produce with contact. While poison ivy is largely reviled, Anacardiaceae yields enormous benefits for humanity. The family, often known as the Cashew Family, also produces several well-known edibles like Cashews, Mangos, and Pistachios. Moreover, poison ivy itself has a number of medicinal uses.

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Anacardiaceae (Ending with -eae indicates a family name. The Cashew genus is Anacardium.) is more a tropical family and in the north we only really have the Sumacs (Rhus spp.) as edibles. Since the family produces potentially irritating oils, even in species producing edible portions, it is good to learn to recognize the various species in the Poison Ivy Family. In “5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know” I discussed some details regarding identification of plant families and general information regarding toxicity. Here, we will explore species of Anacardiaceae, starting with the two genera of my area – that of Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron, and that of the Sumacs, Rhus. (1)

On Botany & Plant Names

journal_binomial_nomenclatureSince this is the first article to expand on the above-mentioned blog regarding major families of poisonous plants, we should review basic taxonomy for field identification and discussion of plants. Species are named through binomial nomenclature, which consists of the genus name and the species name. Together, these two give each plant its formal name. Since species names, like names of people, are often used for different plants and the genus name represents a collective of species, only the two together identify a certain individual species. (Similar to the first and last name for people, except human names are often repeated while each species, in theory, has its own unique name formed by combining genus and species names.)

Related: 5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know

For instance, there is a Blue Sumac called Rhus glauca. “Rhus” refers to the genus for Sumac and “glauca” means blue. (“Glaucous” plants are those with a powdery or waxy bloom, often bluish in color.) The species name is applied to other genera. Festuca glauca is Blue Fescue and Echeveria glauca is Blue Hen-and-Chicks, for example. Picea glauca is White Spruce, but it is not uncommon to have scientific and common names include names of different colors, which can be confusing. To add to the confusion, Blue Spruce is Picea pungens. This is the case too with Birches. Black Birch is Betula lenta while River Birch is Betula nigra (since “nigra” means “black” you might assume the scientific name for River Birch would be applied to Black Birch). (To further the confusion even more, many colors in names don’t correspond to popular perspective, like in the case of Red Clover and Purple Loosestrife, which might both be considered pink.)

kiowaSmooth Sumac is Rhus glabra. The genus name is Rhus, which is capitalized. The species name is glabra, which means smooth. This is an example of the scientific name and a common name having the same meaning. Of course, common names are highly variable. Rhus glabra, for instance, which was known as an edible to many Native tribes, has many names in various languages. The Kiowa name refers to “smoking mixture” (similar, I assume, to the well-known name “Kinnickinnick” that is used for both a mixture of herbs for smoking and to name specific ingredients.), “Maw-kho-la”. “Chan-zi” (“Yellow Wood”) is used by Dakota, Omaha, and Ponca, while the Pawnee say “Nuppikt”, meaning “Sour Top”. (2) Because common names are so variable their use in literature is often followed by the scientific name, which is italicised.

A genus is a group of species. Rhus is a collective of species mostly known as Sumacs. Toxicodendron includes Poison Ivy and related species.   There has been significant discussion of Toxicodendron related to the differentiation of Poison Ivy species, including that Poison Oaks (usually Toxicodendron pubescens in the east and Toxicodendron diversilobum in the west) are variations rather than a distinct species. Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix (notice not Rhus)) is quite distinct.

Usually when species of a common genus are listed or written about the genus is abbreviated with an initial after the first mention. So, if we were to list the species of Toxicodendron in North America, rather than write out the genus name each time as in the previous paragraph we would list them as: Toxicodendron diversilobum, T. pubescens, T. radicans, T. rydbergii, T. succedaneum, T. vernicifluum, and T. vernix.

If several species of a genus are lumped together for discussion, “spp.” might be used for plural tense, as in Toxicodendron spp. If the species name is unknown in reference to one plant (singular tense), “sp.” is used.

Poison Ivy

poison_ivyAlthough Poison Ivy and its relatives have distinct medicinal uses, the genus should be regarded as poisonous and not consumed nor even contacted. Most people will react to Poison Ivy if they come in contact with the plant’s oils (which often is not the case by merely brushing up against the leaf). Some people lose sensitivity to the plant through desensitising protocols that use gradual contact. Some methods include eating the plant, though this is often strongly encouraged as a dangerous practice. Usually to desensitise the young buds and leaves are consumed. One man who attended a plant walk I was leading insisted that the trick was “white bread and mayonnaise sandwiches” per the Appalachia tradition he knew of through his uncle and others. It is also important to keep in mind that people who have never reacted to Poison Ivy can suddenly react with the typical red, itchy, and blistering rash. Such a change is often the result of a potent exposure.

Be careful cutting firewood that has Poison Ivy growing on it. Or even that had, as the toxic properties are quite persistent in dried plant material. It is also important to know that one can be poisoned through the smoke of burning Poison Ivy. Also take care when digging near Poison Ivy to avoid getting juice from the roots on your skin.

Treating Poison Ivy Rash

jewelweedBy far the most impressive Poison Ivy rash remedy in my experience is Jewelweed (Impatiens spp.), or Touch-me-not. It is best when fresh. The plant can be crushed and rubbed onto the affected parts. If timely, such use of the plant’s juice can stop a Poison Ivy reaction with one application. The Iroquois (who believed the rash was sure to occur if one jumped when they touched Poison Ivy) used Jewelweed. I have met countless people who depend on Jewelweed. As a child I got a pretty bad Poison Ivy rash pretty regularly. Fortunately, I learned to recognize the plant in order to avoid it and learned to apply Jewelweed if I did contact it or begin to experience the itching, redness, or blistering of the rash. Although I occasionally get a small skin reaction, it has been many years since I have experienced a severe Poison Ivy reaction.

There are many other remedies, though often not as seemingly miraculous as Jewelweed. Herbs like Plantain (Plantago spp.) and Yellow Dock (Rumex spp.) are used to sooth irritated Poison Ivy rashes. Astringents, which are indicated for redness and inflammation as well as watery discharges, are used for the rash. Such herbs include Oak (Quercus spp.), Pine (Pinus spp.), Raspberry and Blackberry leaves (Rubus spp.), and many others.

The Iroquois used White Pine (Pinus strobus), particularly the boiled knots, for Poison Ivy. They also used Black Locust leaves (Robinia pseudoacacia) and a formula with Cleavers (Galium aparine). The powerfully medicinal (and potentially toxic) Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was also applied by the Iroquois to Poison Ivy rash. (3)

Medicinal Uses of Poison Ivy

Although mostly regarded as a toxic plant, Poison Ivy does have medicinal uses. It is especially used to “ripen” skin disorders, such as for sores and rashes. Iroquois, Delaware, Meskwaki, Potawatomi, Kiowa, and Cherokee used Poison Ivy in this way. Interestingly, the Cherokee also used Poison Ivy internally used as an emetic (induces vomiting); and they used Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) to treat fevers, asthma, and other diseases.

Pacific Poison Oak (T. diversilobum) was used for eye problems by the Diegueno. Mendocino Natives used it for warts and ringworm, and the Yuki applied it to rattlesnake bites. (4)


sumac_poison_ivy_usesIt seems that the best-known use of Sumac (Rhus) as a wild edible is to make Sumac-ade, which is so-called because its sour taste allows it to be used to make a beverage like lemonade. The berries of various species can be soaked in water and then squeezed and strained. A sweetener is then added to the liquid. I prefer maple syrup. People often worry about Poison Sumac, but it has white berries instead of the red berries of Rhus species. Poison Sumac was once classified in the genus, but is now in Toxicodendron. Plus, Poison Sumac typically grows in bogs not near species of “true” Sumacs.

Technically, the fruits of Sumacs are not berries, but drupes. Drupes are fruits with a hard inner seed surrounded by the fleshy fruit. In common language, such as in the previous paragraph, Sumacs fruits and others that are not technically berries are still referred to as berries. In many cases the flesh of drupes, or stone fruits, are quite edible, like Peaches and Plums. With Sumac, however, the flesh is rather insignificant compared to the seed and we generally squeeze the juice from them rather than eating the fruits. With Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) the hairs on the fruit are also quite flavorful. So, by soaking the fruit clusters in water (cold infusion) you can extract the flavor from the hairs and then crush for full flavor from the juice.

The hairs should be carefully removed from the beverage because they can be quite irritating to the back of the throat. This can be accomplished by straining well or by letting the hairs settle to the bottom of the vessel before carefully pouring the clarified liquid off. It can then be heated in order to mix in the sweetener. However, if it is heated with the plant material still in the liquid you will extract more of the astringent properties. Much of the medicinal use of Sumac is from these astringents, but it will be particularly drying because of the astringents and the sour flavor of the fruits will be tainted with the bitterness of the astringents.

If the fruit clusters are picked before they are ripe (although they may be quite red and appear ripe), they will be too astringent to make Sumac-ade. The taste is so water soluble that you can collect drops of red rain water with your finger from drupe clusters that is pleasantly sour. If collected too late the sourness will be faded and washed from the fruits. With a little practice, you will learn just when to harvest for Sumac-ade. And you will become familiar with the medicinally important astringency of Sumac. Astringents are used for rashes, diarrhea, and other damp, inflamed conditions requiring a cooling, drying remedy that restores tissue tone.

Additional Foods from Sumac and Bushcraft Uses

euell_gibbonsYoung shoots of Sumac species can be peeled to reveal a tender core that serves as a delicious raw or cooked vegetable. Though seasonal, this is an important vegetable. It can be eaten raw, which is not true of many wild edibles. Plus, it might be found in abundant populations in the wild. Like the fruits, the “shoots” can be astringent if not harvested at the right time. Learn to recognize the more tender edible portions. Euell Gibbons, in his classic book Stalking the Wild Asparagus discussed using Sumac-ade to make Elderberry (Sambucus) jelly. (5) The fruits are a well-known culinary spice in the Middle East. “Wildman” Steve Brill gives a recipe for a Sumac Hollandaise sauce (7).

Also Read: Survival Books for Your Bunker

Another important trait of Sumac is that the wood is relatively soft and has a low moisture content, which enables it to be burned green. Because of its size, it is often easy to cut firewood size pieces. Sumac also has a central pith, which allows branches to be hollowed out easily. The bark and wood can be used to make baskets.

A beekeeper friend of mine uses the hairy Staghorn Sumac fruits to smoke her bees to sedate them while working in the hives. In this way, like punk, the smoke can be used as an insect repellant. Stinkbush Sumac (Rhus trilobata) leaves can rubbed on the skin as an insect repellant, as done by the Hualapai.

A Range of Benefits from Anacardiaceae

It is clear that the survivalist has much to learn about Anacardiaceae, the Poison Ivy family. From knowing how to avoid Poison Ivy and its relatives that can cause a terribly itchy, blistering rash… to knowing that even with these poisons are obscure medicinal benefits. Maybe forgotten by the modern man, but there is a reason Native people knew the plants so well and how to use them.

The survivalist can enjoy many benefits by becoming familiar with Sumac species, from vegetables and beverages, many craft applications, fire-starting potential, to medicinal uses. These plants are within reach for the prepper, because of their size and their common occurrence.


Photos Courtesy of:

Suzanne Schroeter
Vlad Podvorny

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6 wild healing plants you should use

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Nature provides us with everything we need in order to survive and there are a few wild plants that are commonly used as first aid. These wild healing plants are well-known for their healing properties and those living off the grid have been using them for years. If you get stranded in the wild or … Read more…

The post 6 wild healing plants you should use was written by Bob Rodgers and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know

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dogbane_2The subject of poisonous plants is complex.  Conditioned by the grocery store, modern man often considers it a black and white subject, with things being either edible or poisonous.  Realistically, toxicity in plants is much more like a spectrum.  Some things are very toxic and some very safe, while most are along a spectrum of the in-between.  The subject is further complicated by variables such as dose and preparation.  Hence, the saying “the dose makes the poison”, as even water proves fatal in excess. (See “Water Intoxication”.)

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

Often people ask, “Why are there poisonous plants?” or “Why would God create poisons?”.  While this could prove another very complex discussion, it’s sufficient here to point out that even the most poisonous plants have medicinal uses.  In fact, it is precisely the poisonous plants that have provided the most powerful and dramatic medicines- they are poisonous or medicinal because their chemical constituents are so strong.  So, everything has its place.  The survivalist should get to know the most toxic plant families to avoid accidental poisoning and to become familiar with the myriad uses of such plants.

There are certain generalizations that the botanist can make regarding the identification of plant families.  Likewise, there are generalizations that the forager and herbalist can make about the edible, medicinal, and toxic properties of plant families.  This is very useful for plant identification and use of plants for food and medicine.  However, while generalizing is useful for learning – it is not the full story and one must also learn the details.  The Carrot Family (Apiaceae), for instance, is one of the most poisonous plant families that also gives us Carrots, Parsley, and other well-known edibles.  The forager should know that the family in general is quite toxic.  But they must also learn which species are good edibles, which have medicinal properties that are also somewhat toxic, and which are fatally poisonous.  Learn the ends of the spectrum first- the most edible and the most poisonous.

One could argue that the safest method to learning about wild edibles is to learn the most deadly poisons first.  Then, one would know what to avoid to avoid death.  All other mistakes would be mild in comparison.  This is good theory, but in reality it is much more common and natural to learn a little bit here-and-there about edibles, medicinals, and poisons.  Still, the point has been made.

Because of the “spectrum of edibility” an exhaustive article on plant poisons would be very long.  For this post we will focus on five plant families of common occurrence and some of the most deadly plants.  This will be a good starting place for the subject.  The five families covered are the Poison Ivy Family (Anacardiaceae), the Carrot Family (Apiaceae), the Milkweed Family (Apocynaceae), the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae), and the Nightshade Family (Solanaceae).

Anacardiaceae – The Poison Ivy Family

poison_ivyAnacardiaceae is also known as the Cashew Family.  Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a complex species group that may or may not include what is otherwise known as Poison Oak.  They deserve mention here not only due to “poison” in their name but because these plants are among the most trouble to people spending time outdoors, some people anyway.  A decent percentage of people can react to the Poison Ivy oils and experience a troublesome, blistering rash.  Some people do not react, but must still maintain some respect for the plants as sensitivity can develop at any age.  People also lose sensitivity spontaneously or through desensitising protocols.  The best remedy for the Poison Ivy rash is fresh Jewelweed (Impatiens spp. or Touch-Me-Not).  The juicy plants can be crushed and rubbed on the exposed area.  You should learn Poison Ivy and its relatives as well as Jewelweed.

Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is another in the genus.  Sometimes when people get a bad Toxicodendron rash they will say it is Poison Sumac because of how bad the rash is.  However, because Poison Sumac grows in swamps and bogs it is much more rare to come in contact with.

Mangos (Mangifera indica) and Cashews (Anacardium occidentale) belong to Anacardiaceae, as do our Sumacs (Rhus spp.).  It is believed that eating these foods can help against Poison Ivy reactiveness.  People sometimes worry about consuming Sumacs because of Poison Sumac.  But Poison Sumac belongs to Toxicodendron and Staghorn Sumac and its close relatives belong to Rhus.  They are different plants.  Rhus species provide several edible and medicinal parts.

Apiaceae – The Carrot Family

Apiaceae is also known as the Poison Hemlock Family, the Parsley Family, and by its old name, the Umbel Family or Umbelliferae.  This latter designation has persisted since Apiaceae became official largely because it describes the flower type, the umble, which is characteristic.  To describe it here is slightly too technical (will save it for an article focused on this family alone), but perhaps you already know it.  Carrots (Daucus carrota), Angelica (Angelica spp.), Parsnips (Pastinica sativa), Dill (Anethum graveolens), Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), and Water Hemlock (Cicuta spp.) all have umble (umbrella-shaped) flowerheads.  Yarrow (Achellea millefollium of the Aster Family) and Elderberry (Sambucus spp. of the Elder Family, Adoxaceae) look at first to have umbels, but when inspected closely the stalks supporting the flowering parts arise in a branching pattern from the main stem while true umbles branch from a single node of the main stem.  That is, umbels come from one point.  

david_-_the_death_of_socratesPoison Hemlock, Water Hemlock, and the related species are very deadly.  Water Hemlock (Cicuta douglasii) has been considered the most poisonous plant in North America.  Poison Hemlock is infamous as the plant that killed Socrates, as it was used in ancient times as a euthanizing agent.  Umbel flower-heads should be a warning.  Eat and use such plants carefully to avoid confusing a desired species with a fatally poisonous one.  Even those that are edible can produce toxic parts.  For instance, Parsnip has been cultivated for generations as a delicious vegetable, but the above-ground portions of Wild Parsnip are well known to produce rashes in some people.

Like Parsnip, Wild Carrot is the wild version of the domestic vegetable (same species).  It is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables around the world.  Some people cook with the greens as well.  However, it is not considered safe to freely eat the greens or seeds in that there are some toxic properties.

Apocynaceae – the Milkweed Family

dogbaneApocynaceae is also known as the Dogbane Family, especially since Milkweed was formerly classified in Asclepiadaceae (the families have been merged).  I call it the Milkweed family because Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) is a much more commonly known plant and because I often teach about the edible properties of it.  Dogbane (Apocynum spp.) is commonly known as the poisonous relative of Milkweed.  Besides the toxic properties of Dogbane, the survivalist should get to know the plant as an important source of fiber for cordage.  A common species A. cannabinum is sometimes known as Indian Hemp (which is referenced in the species name that refers to Cannabis) because it was a primary fiber plant.  

Ranunculaceae – the Buttercup Family

marsh_marigold_buttercup_familyIn spite of being named after a food, Buttercups (Ranunculus spp. ) are generally toxic.  One species, Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustrus) is a well-known edible (must be cooked properly), but the family should be treated with caution.  It would be another whole article (or should I say will be another blog) to discuss the range of toxic plants of the Buttercup Family, from the Common Buttercup (Ranunculus spp.) to the “most deadly plant” in the world – Aconite (Aconitum spp. ).  If you live in an area where Aconite or poisonous relatives like Larkspur (Delphinium spp.) grow, you should learn these plants.  Aconite is also known as Monkshood and Wolf’s Bane.  

Another member of the family is known as Baneberry (Actaea spp.)  In my area we have Red Baneberry (A. rubra) and White Baneberry, or Doll’s Eyes, (A. pachypoda).  It has created some confusion since Black Cohosh, formerly Cimicifuga, was included in the genus, and some concern since the common medicinal is not as toxic as the Baneberries.  

Ranunculaceae is also known as the Crowfoot Family.  Members of the family are quite common, especially in wet areas.  Often, they go unnoticed when not in flower.  It is worth learning the leaves, by which they get the name Crowfoot.  Even Ranunculus species can blister your mouth if chewed on.  There are also important medicinals in Ranunculaceae, like the famous antibiotic herb Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).

Solanaceae – the Nightshade Family

This is one of the most famous and controversial plant families.  While there are still many more families to discuss (such as the Lily Family, Liliaceae) in our exploration of poisonous plant groups, it is fitting to close with such an interesting group.

Solanaceae produces deadly poisons (hence the name “Deadly Nightshades”), hallucinogens (like Jimson Weed and Belladonna), food crops (like Potatoes and Tomatoes), and other exceptionally interesting plants (such as Tobacco).

daturaJimson Weed (Datura spp.), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), and other similar plants are very toxic.  They have been associated with Witchcraft, crime, and other dark and deadly affairs.  They are also important medicinals.  Before asthma inhalers these plants were often used in the same fashion, though inhaled as smoke.  Still today, we get crucial medications from these plants like atropine and scopolamine.

Although widely associate with Italian food, Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) first came from South America.  It is widely believed that they were first cultivated as an exotic ornamental and thought to be poisonous before they became a staple cooking ingredient and primary garden “vegetable” (it is the fruit, technically, that we eat from the Tomato).  Wood Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara, also known as Bittersweet) helps to show why Tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous, as it has small, poisonous, red fruits that look very much like Tomatoes.  Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) is still believed by many to be deadly poisonous, though it was once promoted as “Wonderberry” in seed catalogues.  Common knowledge of the plant has been growing due to the popularity of Samual Thayers’ Nature’s Garden in which he discusses Black Nightshade and similar writings.  But still, edibility is not always clear and many diets (such as macrobiotics and anti-arthritis diets) recommending the near complete avoidance of Nightshades.     

Knowledge is Power

So, understanding poisonous plants will take some time and study.  The investment comes with the reward of knowledge that could save a life through prevention.  So start small, with the study of plant families and the identifying characteristics of the most poisonous species.

Maybe you noticed the word “Bane” in the names of plants in these families.  That is an indication of poison.  Apocynaceae has Dogbane.  Runuculaceae has Baneberry, Bugbane, and Wolf’s Bane.  Asteraceae (the Aster Family) has Fleabane (Erigeron spp.) and the list goes on.  Throughout the lore of plants, include in their names, has been woven the knowledge of toxicity.  Such is its importance.    

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Bugging Out. Carrying all that weight.

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You can travel light and carry all you need for long term wilderness living/survival, all that is accept perhaps enough water and food! If there are water holes on your route then there is no problem. If you are able to hunt & forage on the way then there is no problem. But what if you get diverted have to by-pass those water holes? What if you are trekking in winter and there are few edible plants to find and the game is scarce? Then you have a problem. You can survive for three days without water, but this also depends on how hard you are working. You can survive three weeks without food, but again, this is dependent on your exertion level. You probably know as well as I that when you are working hard your need for water and food increases. You are drinking all the time to stay hydrated and come lunch time you are very hungry. To go without water and food is dangerous, because the lack of water and food effects how you perform, mentally and physically. One minute you think you are doing fine, the next minute you are feeling sick. Keep going and you will collapse.
Sharing the load with a partner is fine, you can carry the shelter, kettle, arms and ammunition, your partner can carry the water. But water is heavy, and to be safe and practicle your partner also needs to carry at least some of her/his own equipment. Simply put, you can never really carry enough water for a long trek unless you can find a water source along the way to refill your water bottles. Even then to be safe you will need to stop and boil that water before you can drink it.
So what is a simple and practicle alternative? Using a trekking trolley. A trekking trolley can carry a lot of weight, and there is a wide variety of different trolleys to suit your needs. On a level surface pulling a trolley is easier that carrying a heavy load, but going uphill you will need to pace yourself. Even so, when you stop for a rest on the trail and take a drink of water, you are not still bearing that load. If you are travelling with a partner or a group, you can use a rope to link you to another trekker who can help pull the load up steep inclines. If you can afford it, you can purchase a trekking trolley, if you don’t have the funds, then you can make your own without too much trouble.
An Australian made trekking trolley.
A trekking trolley that the author made from old wheelbarrow parts and bush timber. This one only has one wheel, but the author plans to make another one from an old golf trolley.

When you reach your destination this trolley will still be of use, and can be used for: transporting game, transporting water from a water source, carrying firewood, transporting rocks for a fireplace, moving camp if needs be. Perhaps you can think of further uses?

A Collection Of Cool Things To Do With Stinging Nettles

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A Collection Of Cool Things To Do With Stinging Nettles Stinging nettles have been around from the beginning of time, they hurt us a kid but these green wild plants can actually be very useful in the kitchen. Here is something that I have just found out today! Stinging nettles actually have a similar flavor to that …

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Comfort Equipment.

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Comfort Equipment.
Definition of Paleolithic. Of or relating to the earliest period of the Stone Age characterized by rough or chipped stone implements. Merriam Webster Dictionary.
Humans have been surviving for thousands of years, back in the Paleolithic period life was hard, even so these people must have had some creature comforts, perhaps local flora placed on their beds to make it softer and keep them up off the ground. Tools were very basic being made of wood, stone bone, horn or antler, and yet these people survived.

Make no mistake, most of the equipment we carry today is for comfort, to make life easier, but we could survive as a people without the equipment we carry. Some items I deem essential, a good medical kit for instance. But as for the rest, no it is not a necessity, just a preference. So why all this modern so called “survival gear”? Does it add to our comfort? In some cases perhaps, but it also has drawbacks. Take the sleeping bag for instance. Great until it gets wet, then it will not retain as much of your body heat as an ordinary pure wool blanket! I am not going to list all the fancy gadgets here that are basically designed to attract people that like gadgets, people that have no real sense of what is needed to survive long term in a wilderness situation. But I would like you to think about this. Every time you add a piece of equipment to your pack, ask yourself these questions: Do I need this? Is this piece of equipment sustainable? If it breaks can I fix it? Will this piece of equipment serve a needed purpose, or is it just taking up room where I could be carrying something else that is more important, such as water, food and ammunition?

Think about the tools that you carry or are about to purchase, think about their purpose. The knife, what is it used for? Skinning and butchering game, and for defence; Is the blade long enough for defence use? Can I kill with this blade or is it too short? The axe, used for many tasks that involve the cutting and shaping of wood as well as for defence and possibly needed for hunting. How easy would it be to replace a broken helve? How heavy is it? Can I use the poll as a hammer to drive stakes into the ground? And so on and so on. Your equipment needs to be versatile & sustainable, it needs to be able to perform the function that it’s namesake was originally designed for. Paleolithic flint knives were not used for cutting down small trees; they made flint hand axes for that purpose. In today’s modern world of survival equipment manufacturers seem to have forgotten this common sense approach that those primitive people in the Paleolithic took for granted. Think about that, your life may depend on it!

By David Wright.

11 Professions That Will Make You a Millionaire In a Post-SHTF World

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When I look at today’s young people, majoring in things like video game design and gender studies, I have to shake my head. Many expensive degrees today almost guarantee a life spent as a Starbucks barista. As well, in a post-SHTF world, those degrees will be worse than useless. The years spent in classes such as “Games and Culture”, “Gender and Representation of Asian Women” and “The Invention of French Theory”…oh, my. Those hours could have been so much better spent studying things that are real, meaningful, and have true significance in the world around us, as well as having practical applications that might be of some actual help.

But, I digress. In the future, as we see the value of our dollar decline, increased civil unrest (although that may provide occasional income opportunities for gender studies students), and a chaotic world, there are a few “professions”, if you will, that could reap huge benefits and income. Just to name a few:

Gunsmith — In a world where violence becomes more common place, armed defense and offense are going to become the hallmarks of a survivor. Want to protect yourself, your family, and your property? Then your firearms had better be in working order 100% of the time. In a future in which law enforcement agencies are disbanded or barely functional, a citizen’s firearm will be his or her own first line of defense. What better career for such a time, and a cool hobby for right now, than becoming a gunsmith? The NRA has information about the trade and suggestions for gunsmithing schools at this site. If you’re not able to attend a school, then a good manual or two, like this one for getting started and this one for learning advanced gunsmithing skills, and a set of basic gunsmithing tools can help you get started.

Midwife — As long as there are men and women who coexist anywhere near each other, there’s going to be a need for midwives and, actually, anyone with the skills to help birth a baby. In a real TEOTWAWKI scenario, life expectancy will decrease and the lives of a mother and newborn will become more precarious. Midwife training is available across the country, including community colleges. Even a single class to learn more than just the basics of childbirth could easily save lives, and if nothing else, a good midwife’s guide to pregnancy and birth is worth adding to your library.

Herbalist — As Obamacare has made the medical field a virtual landmine for medical professionals with onerous regulations of every type imaginable, many have left the field. Now, imagine trying to find a random physician for a major medical crisis when everything hits the fan. That’s when alternative medicine will truly come into its own. My family has experienced good results with certain herbal treatments — slippery elm lozenges for my daughter’s cough, for one. My wife takes Boswellia to help with a chronic cough during allergy season. It works nearly as well as an OTC drug like Delsym. I’m very aware that herbs can and do cause side effects, which is why becoming a trained herbalist would be a darn good profession in a SHTF world. Additionally, start growing medicinal herbs that help with common ailments, such as headaches, stomach aches, and to boost overall immunity. Right now, my family buys herbs in capsule form, and occasionally teas, but in the future, Amazon Prime won’t be there for that quick 2-day shipment, so one of my goals is to build up our backyard herb garden.

Beautician — Now, hear me out on this one! A few months ago, as a student in Preppers University, I had the chance to hear a Bosnian war survivor, Selco, talk about the realities of trying to live life on the front lines of a war. He was asked if, during that time period, the women still tried to look attractive. He chuckled and said, “Yeah, the women still did their best to look good.” Now, in my own personal, albeit somewhat limited experience, I’ve noticed that women always, always want to look their best. Before the birth of our second child, my wife found an attractive nightgown that would look good in photos and after he was born, she fluffed up her hair and put on some mascara. Crazy? Yes, but you can’t argue with the multi-billion dollar beauty business and chances are, no matter what happens, women will still want a haircut and, if possible, color and highlights. Men, too. (Some of them. Maybe.)

Forager — One other piece of information I picked up from Selco’s talk was the importance of foraging. In his town, one old woman knew how to find a few edible plants and was able to forage for them to provide food. Depending on where you live, start researching the edible plants in your area but be very careful with this. On some plants, the leaves may be edible while the roots are poisonous or, in other cases, the plant parts aren’t edible until cooked. Learn more about foraging in this book, one of the best and written by a local Texas foraging expert. Whatever you can forage can be either dried/dehydrated or canned to preserve it for longer term storage.

Seamstress — If you’ve ever traveled in very poor parts of the world, you undoubtedly noticed the well-worn clothing, to put it politely. Modern laundry facilities aren’t usually available, so clothing quickly becomes faded, tattered, and frayed. In such a world, what if you could alter clothing to different sizes or use old jeans to create a brand new pair. Not many have these skills anymore, and they would be worth learning. It’s also a good reason to stock up on sewing supplies like thread, needles, pins, fabric, bobbins, and a treadle sewing machine.

And now for the vices…

The vice businesses, think gambling, drugs, liquor, and prostitution, have always done well, regardless of economics. There will always be customers for these things and, sadly, as times and people get more desperate, those who make a living this way will thrive at the expense of those addicted to their products.

Obviously, I’m not recommending any of these professions, but it’s good to keep them in mind if and when you see society deteriorating. You’ll see an increase in the business of vice and, along with that, a rise in crimes of all types, including organized crime. Hey, with law enforcement scattered or out of the picture altogether, what else would you expect?

Gambling — People either hooked on the thrill of the roll of the dice or in dire need of just one lucky roll will provide plenty of customers for even primitive gambing establishments.

Drugs — Across the globe and throughout time, people have found ways to get high on one thing or another. Back when I lived in the Pacific islands, chewing on a betel nut gave a good buzz, if you were into that sort of thing. Mushrooms and plants of all kinds have been used to produce hallucinations, euphoria, excitement, and a host of less positive effects. This article explains that homemade heroin may become a reality. TEOTWAWKI absolutely will bring an increase in drug production and sales, along with more addicts.

Liquor — I suppose this may not be a vice, depending on which side of the aisle you sit, but I included it in the category because that’s where it has typically belonged. Back in the 30s, my wife’s hillbilly relatives had a front porch still, and as far as I know, they may still be producing homemade moonshine. However, home brewing has come a very long way since then, and if you know how to make a decent beer, wine, or some other alcoholic concoction, you could be set for life. Of course, historically, organized crime usually wants a piece of this type of action, so that life could be shorter than you might expect.

Prostitution — As a dad, this one bothers me a great deal. I’ve seen the devastating consequences of child prostitution in East Asia and human trafficking here in the United States. In a desperate world, one’s body becomes a form of currency and many families have sold their sons and daughters simply to stay alive a few more months. In many parts of the world, this isn’t a “lifestyle”, it’s survival. Knowing this, prepping and moving toward a self-reliant life becomes even more important. I never want one of my family members faced with no other option just to stay alive. In a SHTF world, you’d better believe pimps and prostitution rings will flourish.

Pornography — Yet another soul-stealing “profession”. I see no reason why it wouldn’t continue to thrive in a world with little law enforcement and individuals of all ages willing to risk anything in exchange for food, water, and shelter.

How will you earn a living post-TEOTWAWKI?

There are many skills and professions that will be in demand in a post-TEOTWAWKI world. I’ve listed just a few





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Survival, Then and Now.

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Survival, Then and Now.

What do you think has changed  in the last 300 years regarding our survival needs? Anything? Whether it be long term wilderness living as it was for the New World settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries or whether it be a lost in the bush survival situation, I don’t see as though anything has changed. Our requirements are still the same, sensible tools, good survival provisions and primitive survival skills. Yet here we are in 2016, and people are obsessed with using dryer lint. stubby so called “bushcraft knives”, camo clothing, ferrocerium rods, pop-up nylon tents, RAT packs and freeze dried foods, special hiking boots, fuel stoves, battery operated equipment and no skills to speak of except invented ones like “battening”, making Vaseline cotton balls and other “homemade” fire starters and inventing new ways to lay a fire so they can take photos of it for their favourite forum!

300 years ago the main tools you needed to survive were the gun, the axe, the knife and flint and steel for making fire. You could even survive without the flint and steel if you had to because you could use the lock on your flintlock gun to make fire. You needed skills such as trap making and the knowledge of trapping. You packed only the essential equipment and provisions, and if you made mistakes in packing too much useless gear, then you ditched it along the track and learnt a hard lesson. Generally you asked experienced people for their advice, some ignored that advice to their own peril, and others profited by it. Today many so called survivalists and preppers also seek advice on internet forums, or at least they appear to. Most though have already made up their minds, and really all they want to do is share on the forum what they have chosen and carry. Giving correctional advice to these people is usually a waste of time, and in some cases you will be answered with rudeness and ridicule. Most of us, who have been there and done that, had a lot of experience in long term wilderness living simply ignore this and perhaps go to the persons profile and click the “Ignore” button. After all, we don’t have to put up with abuse, and the less people that survive after tshtf the better for us, less hunting and foraging competition.

For those of you that are serious about survival, and genuinely think that a shtf situation could arise in the future, here is my advice, take it or leave it: Think about your needs, think about the tasks you will be faced with if you have to survive in a wilderness situation. Choose you tools carefully. You will need a tool or tools for hunting, you will need an axe for cutting wood for shelter construction and trap making, you will need blades for skinning and butchering, camp chores and trap making, and perhaps a spare just in case. You need a hunting knife with a blade long enough to be used in self defence. You do NOT need a tool for skinning and butchering that was designed to cut wood, and you don’t want to have to cut saplings down with a knife! Each tool should have a specific purpose, don’t skimp on tools to save weight, you need the right tool for the specific job in hand.

Think sustainable, if you purchase something that is going to break, wear out or run out and you are unable to repair it, then it is just extra weight in your pack you don’t need, and it is going to compromise your safety. Carrying good sustainable gear may mean that you are carrying extra weight, and may mean that you will have to travel slower and take more breaks, but long term it will pay off.

Learn the skills you will need now. Having a good pair of hiking boots may help you initially, but what happens if they break or wear out? Do you know how to make a moccasin pattern? Do you know how to make moccasins? Do you know how to tan an animal skin to make leather? If you make a pair of moccasins now, then you will not only have learnt the skill, but you will have the moccasins and the pattern for another pair. This is the way you need to think. A modern firearm is great providing it remains functional, but what if it ceases to work? Can you fix it? How much weight in ammunition can you afford to carry? How much ammo do you use on an average hunting trip? You may shun primitive hunting tools such as the traditional bow, the crossbow and the muzzle-loading gun or rifle, but these tools have certain advantages over the modern firearm for long term wilderness living. By all means if you are travelling in company have someone carry a modern firearm, but make sure it is not the only hunting tool you are taking with you.


Emergency Foods from Wild Plants

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dandelion_edible_forageMany people start learning about wild foods from common field guides focused on the subject.  There are often plants mentioned as wild foods that are not abundant enough to supply much of a harvest (such as Spring Beauties, or Fairy Potatoes), not nutritionally rich enough to offer much to survival situations (such as the many greens, which have few calories), are not very tasty (such as bitters like Dandelion), or are difficult to harvest and prepare (such as tree bark).  Further, the limited season of many nutritious edibles (like Cattail pollen and acorns) keeps them unavailable for much of the year.  The forager naturally sorts through plants as he learns about them, more-or-less forgetting many while focusing on the “choice” edibles.  (Mushroom hunters in particular refer to the best edibles as “choice”.)

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

For those who are learning about wild edibles to add to their daily diet or to harvest for restaurants, it only makes sense to focus on the best.  For the sake of preparing for end times, survival situations, and emergencies in the woods, however, one should learn as many edible plants as possible.  Perhaps many are not tasty or are time-consuming to harvest and/or prepare, but while these are very legitimate obstacles for every-day life in the “normal” world, you will likely enjoy even strange flavors when you are starving. The gathering of calories might turn into your top priority when there are none at hand.  In order to prepare for emergencies, it is well worth learning about the wild plants that the field guides deem “trailside nibbles” or “survival foods”.

Tree Bark

elm_treeA very important survival food is the inner bark of trees.  It is a common belief that the work “Adirondack” means “tree eaters”.  Maybe this is originally from the Mohawk word for porcupine, or maybe it was mostly derogatory referring to bad hunters (who had to, therefore, eat tree bark) but the truth is that Natives of the woodlands ate many tree barks.  My favorite is Slippery Elm.  I have prepared much of the powdered bark available through commercial herb distributors.  Cooked with Maple syrup it is a delightful breakfast “cereal” from the trees.  It is worth considering the powdered bark for emergency storage as an edible and medicinal.  Learn to recognize Elm trees and learn where they grow for emergency use and because they host the famous Morel mushroom. In my area they are found mostly along rivers.

Another tree I have consumed a bit of is White Pine.  While I was stripping bark from the logs for my log cabin, I chewed on the inner bark and prepared it as a “tea” (decoction- material is simmered, not just steeped).  I did not get around to grinding it to prepare as meal, as the Native Americans did with many of the barks they used as food.  It was enough work for my spare time to drag logs through the snow and carve notches in them.  Plus, I am still trying to figure out just how much of the evergreen trees are safe to consume.  Pines and their relatives have been important survival foods as well as winter foods, providing many medicinal and nutritional benefits.  However, there is concern regarding ingesting too many of the thick, resinous compounds in the pitch.  These agents give the evergreens many of their medicinal properties, but can gum up the kidneys if over-consumed.  Perhaps Native Americans knew things about preparing these barks that have been lost to the modern world.  When the end times come, however, we might be wishing we did our research.

Many other trees have edible inner bark, such as Poplar (though it was probably more often used to feed horses so that more desirable food could be hunted) and Ash.

Additional Foods From Trees

It is much more common today to consume the needles and small twigs of the evergreens by preparing as a tea, than to strip the bark and prepare as gruel.  By steeping the needles we can extract the vitamin C and many of the aromatic constituents.  For survival situations, I am sure thicker inner bark has more to offer nutritionally.

Read Also: Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies 

black_walnutMany other parts of trees can be used as food and should be mentioned here, such as the leaves of Basswood (American Linden).  Of course, one of the most important wild foods from trees is nuts, such as from Hickory and Black Walnut (which is another important medicinal, being used for parasites and fungal infections).  We also have acorns from Oak and many lesser-known seeds such as Beechnuts from Beech.  Many don’t realize that sap can be made into syrup from more than just Sugar Maple, including other Maples as well as other trees like Hickory.  It is clear that the survivalist has much to learn about trees in preparation for emergency.

A major consideration for emergency food, are the winter caches of wildlife.  Squirrels and other critters store piles of acorns, nuts, and seeds, which can be found by digging through leafy brush piles and other areas conducive to storage of such foods.  


evening_primrosePlants store energy in two distinct places- roots and seeds.  There are many roots that are generally overlooked as edibles, but could prove life-saving in emergencies.  Evening Primrose, for instance, was once a staple vegetable of Natives.  Today, it is common to find along roadsides and is worth getting to know for roadside emergencies.  Like many edible roots (including Burdock and Wild Carrot), Evening Primrose is biennial and best harvested in the fall of the first season or the spring of the second.  During the second year the plants develop their flower stalks and the roots become tough in order to support the stalk and because they are on their way out (they will die after seed is produced, while the autumn of the first year they store energy for the next).  

Garlic Mustard, because of its pungency, is usually used as a condiment (like Horseradish) more than a vegetable.  When push comes to shove, however, you might overcome the bitter, pungent flavor, or figure out how to reduce it through cooking.  Yellow Dock is similar in that it is avoided largely because of its intense bitter taste, and because being perennial it will get tougher with age.  Yellow Dock species are quite common and I am very often told by budding wild food foragers that they began eating the greens.  Usually I assume that if someone is eating Yellow Dock they have not learned about the other, more palatable options, and I tell them so.  Often, when seeing them at a later time I am informed that they moved on from Yellow Dock to tastier greens.  However, concerning survival, Yellow Dock might be an option.

Strong flavors generally indicate that the plant is not suitable for consumption in large amounts.  Bitter, pungent, and sour flavors are commonly indicative of constituents that shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts.  There is a reason we appreciate these flavors in relatively small doses.  Likewise, there is a reason we like the sweet flavor – it is the mark of calories (food energy).  All our macronutrients are sweet, which includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fat.  Roots that are relatively bland or sweet, such as Evening Primrose and Burdock, are generally more edible.  Wild Carrot also has a bit of pungency, and although Carrots are staple food, many members of the Carrot Family (Apiaceae) are quite toxic.  It should not be assumed that because something tastes good it is edible.  It is said that Poison Hemlock tasted quite good to those who were able to tell us so before they died.  Cattails produce very starchy roots (rhizomes) along with many other edible portions.  


Cattails were called “Nature’s Pantry” by Euell Gibbons, one of our nation’s first famous wild food experts.  The rhizomes store much starch, which can be easily extracted to used for porridge or baking.  The young shoots are edible as are the bases of younger leaves.  The best vegetable portion is the young flower stalk, including flower, while it is tender and still wrapped inside the leaves.  The pollen can also be gathered, which is very nutritious.

Because starch is very water soluble and due to the structure of Cattail rhizomes the rhizomes can be pounded in a bucket of water.  The starch is then suspended in the water making it possible to strain out the fibrous strands, joints, and peel.  It can then be left to sit so that the starch settles to the  bottom.  Maybe not the ideal form of carbohydrates to the modern man, but an abundant source of nutrition in a survival situation.  

The vegetable portion can be nibbled off the bottoms of leaves that are young enough to have a tender portion intact.  The young shoots at the end of the rhizomes can also be harvested.  In my opinion, one of the best wild vegetables is the flower stalk.  Many old books refer to treating it like corn on the cob.  This has led to the misunderstanding that one should eat the flower (the “cat tail”) off of the stalk.  However, it is the stalk itself, when tender, that is the delicious vegetable.  It can be found by peeling the coarser material away to reveal the tender part.  You can develop an eye for the ones with flower stalks developing by the way the plant elongates upward during growth.  It resembles corn on the cob because it can be cooked in the same way, which is also why it is a very convenient camping or survival food.  Simply pick the whole above-ground/water plant by pulling straight up so that it separates from the rhizome.  You can confirm that is has a flower stalk by observing the base.  If there is no stalk, you will only see the crescent-shaped overlapping leaf bases.  If it has a flower stalk you will see it’s round base.  Then throw the plants, green leaves and all, directly onto some hot coals.  Turn them until thoroughly cooked.  When done, simply peel back the tough parts to reveal a tender, cooked vegetable within.  

The pollen is gathered after the flowers emerge above the leafy portions by shaking the yellow powder from the plants into some kind of container.  It is very nutritious and should be considered an important emergency food and nutritional supplement.  Many other pollens, such as Pine, can be harvested as well.


I have already mentioned seeds from trees above (in the section “Additonal Foods from Trees”).  Here we will consider seeds from shrubs and herbaceous plants.  Perhaps the best-known staple of our Northeastern woods is the Hazelnut.  Although, because wildlife love it Hazelnuts are often hard to come by.  Still, the survivalist should learn to identify the shrub.

Amaranth seeds, though small and covered by a tough outer layer, are edible and very nutritious.  Plus, the young plants are good as cooked greens.  Likewise, Lambsquarters, one of the best cooked greens from the wild, can also provide nutritious seeds.  

Jewelweed, which is well-known as the poison ivy remedy, has edible seeds.  They pop from the ballistic seed pods when ripe and disturbed (by wind or animal).  Pinched just right, the seeds can be released into your hand.  Small, but they taste just like Walnuts.  The young shoots of Jewelweed have raised concerns regarding their edibility.  I used to eat them when a few inches tall and after cooked, but I have not done so in years.


There are many wild vegetables.  It is worth learning the lesser-desirable species as well as those commonly sought after.  However, vegetables are not the focus of this article because in emergency survival situations we are often more focused on calories.  Although greens are nutritious, they are not calorie rich.  Still, in survival situations there might be need to focus on certain nutrients that are available from vegetative plant parts.  Many greens are high in nutrients that would be cooked out of other plant foods.  For this reason, it is important to include some lightly cooked or raw vegetables in the diet.

Related: Choosing the Best Survival Tools for Your Bug Out Bag

Dandelion, in spite of its strong bitter flavor, is a safe source of edible leaves.  They are high in calcium, iron, and many other nutrients.  The flowers are also eaten.  The root is too bitter to be a common vegetable, but is often dried and/or roasted for tea. Sorrel, including both Wood Sorrels and Sheep Sorrel, are edible and tasty, but shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts because of the oxalic acid content.  Oxalic acid binds easily with calcium making the calcium unabsorbable and potentially leading to other problems, like kidney stones.  Lambsquarters (mentioned above) is also quite high in oxalic acid, as is Purslane.  One should be aware of these things, as it very well may come into consideration in a survival situation.  Purslane has many nutritional benefits, most notably that it is high in essential fatty acids for a vegetable.  

milk_weedMany of the important vegetables must be cooked before consumption.  Those mentioned above with oxalic acid can be cooked to reduce the acid content.  (The old fashioned parboiling that is looked down upon today as destroying nutrition has its place here.)  Plants like Pokeweed and Milkweed are put through a couple changes of water to render edible because of their toxic properties.  Ironically, when this is done they become two of the best wild foods.  Some greens need to be cooked to a lesser degree, such as Winter Cress (Yellow Rocket or Wild Mustard).  It doesn’t require changing water, but it should be cooked thoroughly.  


The plants listed above are only a few of the many options in the wild.  There are choice edibles – those few species we seek after as even superior to domestic veggies.  There are the deadly poisonous – some so much so that one bite can be fatal.  Then, there is a large spectrum in between.  The vast majority of plants are somewhere between choice and deadly, and the vast majority of them are not consumed.  In an emergency that includes a food shortage, it could be very useful to know obscure edible properties of plants.

The survivalist should learn to identify the two ends of the spectrum first.  Obviously, anybody at all interested in the subject wants to know about the best edibles.  It is perhaps even more important, however, to first learn the most poisonous (watch for another article).  If you know the handful of deadly plants to avoid, you can more safely explore your options in an emergency even if you don’t know everything about all the plants at hand.  Then, the survivalist can continue to explore the vast world of wild edibles in order to prepare for any situation.   


In this article many wild plants are mentioned that might be toxic if prepared improperly, might have toxic parts even if other parts are edible, or might produce very real problems if consumed as part of a dramatically imbalanced diet (such as what might occur in a survival situation).  I only mention them here.  If you want to eat wild plants, ensure that you are thoroughly educated beyond what can be gleaned from a short blog article.  Read books, attend walks, and seek out knowledgeable foragers.

jumpingrabbit_foodFurther, this article contains speculation regarding possible survival foods.  Details regarding the situation, including climate, health conditions, and other aspects of the diet might make certain foods more-or-less inappropriate.  Several plants have been mentioned with some toxic or possibly some toxic properties.  If over-consumed as part of a diet deficient in essentials, some of these plants might be harmful, even if they can be regularly enjoyed as part of your regular diet.  Consider rabbit starvation, during which what many consider to be good meat (rabbits, for instance) possibly becomes worse than not eating at all.  The ideas expressed above are done so in the spirit of researching for possible survival scenarios.  At the brink of starvation it might just make sense to wander into the gray area of wild edibles and to risk consuming things that are not usually consumed.  In everyday life, however, it is best to avoid eating in such risky territory.

Photos Courtesy of:

Rich Bradshaw  
Julie Falk  
All other photos are in the public domain. 

The Lost Ways – A Truly Amazing Prepper Book

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Learn how to build a self-feeding campfire. How to use herbs to heal a wound. How to forage for food, navigate by nature, and make your own knives. How to cook a survival staple that will keep for years. How to build a shelter and cook over open flame. Preserve food and water. Make homemade soap and toothpaste. If the world as we know it came to an end tomorrow, would your family be able to survive? The Lost Ways is a book that could help you thrive.

I’d like to tell you about the book The Lost Ways. I bought the book several months ago, and really haven’t been able to put it down. There are so many prepper topics covered in the book, that I think everyone would be able to learn something from reading i; beginning prepper, and seasoned survivalist. Take a look at the table of contents, and you’ll see what I mean.

The Lost Ways – Table of Contents

Disclaimer …………………………………………………….. 4
The Most Important Thing ……………………………… 18
Making Your Own Beverages: Beer to Stronger Stuff …………………………………………………………………. 23
Making Beer – Basic Recipe ………………………………. 25
Equipment ………………………………………………………………. 25
Ingredients ……………………………………………………………… 26
Creating the Malt: Malted Barley ………………………………. 26
Making the Yeast …………………………………………………….. 27
A Word on Hops ………………………………………………………. 28
Making the Beer ………………………………………………………. 28
A Bit of the Stronger Stuff: Distilling Your Own ‘Moonshine’ …………………………………………………… 30
Making a Still …………………………………………………………… 31
An Alembic Still ……………………………………………………….. 31
A Homemade Still ……………………………………………………. 33
A Schematic of a Homemade Still ………………………………. 35
Ginger beer: Making soda the old fashioned way .. 37
The Deadliest Drink? ……………………………………….. 38
Drunken Sailors ………………………………………………. 39
Beer Gets Boring …………………………………………….. 40
Spicing It Up …………………………………………………… 41
An Easier Brew ………………………………………………… 42
An Unusual Organism ………………………………………. 43
Doing It Yourself ……………………………………………… 45
How North American Indians and Early Pioneers Made Pemmican …………………………………………… 47
Nutritional Qualities ………………………………………… 49
Directions ………………………………………………………. 51
Ingredients ……………………………………………………………… 51
1. Rendering the Fat …………………………………………………. 51
2. Dried Meat Preparation ………………………………………… 58
How Much Do I Need? ……………………………………… 65
Spycraft : Military Correspondence during the 1700s to 1900s ………………………………………………………. 67
Rectal Acorn, Silver Ball, and Quill Letters …………………… 68
Invisible Ink……………………………………………………………… 70
Mask Letters ……………………………………………………………. 74
Wild West Guns For SHTF And A Guide To Rolling Your Own Ammo…………………………………………. 77
Modern Firearms …………………………………………….. 78
Handguns ……………………………………………………………….. 78
Rifles ………………………………………………………………………. 80
Ammunition ……………………………………………………………. 80
Reloading Components …………………………………….. 82
The Cartridge Case …………………………………………………… 83
Processing Brass Cartridge Cases ……………………………….. 85
Primer Pocket………………………………………………………….. 86
Bullets and Projectiles ………………………………………………. 86
The Cast Lead Bullet …………………………………………………. 87
Casting Bullets………………………………………………… 88
The Bullet Mold ……………………………………………………….. 88
The Lead Melting Pot ……………………………………………….. 89
The Ladle ………………………………………………………………… 90
The Melting Process …………………………………………………. 90
The Casting Process …………………………………………………. 91
Swagging Bullets ……………………………………………………….. 93
Machining Bullets…………………………………………………….. 94
The Final Word on Lead Bullets …………………………………. 95
Powder …………………………………………………………. 95
Black Powder ………………………………………………………….. 95
Smokeless Powder …………………………………………………… 96
Primers …………………………………………………………. 96
Primer Size ……………………………………………………………… 96
Reloading Equipment ………………………………………. 98
The Lee Loader ………………………………………………………… 98
The Single Stage Press ………………………………………………. 99
The Progressive Press …………………………………………….. 100
Reloading Dies ………………………………………………………. 101
Reloading Bench ……………………………………………………. 102
The Tumbler ………………………………………………………….. 102
The Powder Scale …………………………………………………… 103
Manuals ……………………………………………………………….. 103
Storage of Ammunition and Components ………….. 104
How Much Ammunition is Enough? …………………………. 105
Recycling ………………………………………………………………. 105
Work Practices ………………………………………………………. 106
How Our Forefathers Built Their Sawmills, Grain Mills and Stamping Mills ………………………………. 109
How the Overshot Wheel Works ………………………. 111
Making That Force Usable ……………………………………….. 115
Gears ……………………………………………………………………. 116
Belts ……………………………………………………………………… 119
For Reciprocating Saws …………………………………………… 121
Don’t Forget Lubrication …………………………………………. 122
Building Your Own Water Wheel ……………………………… 123
How our Ancestors made herbal poultice to heal their wounds ……………………………………………… 126
What is a Poultice? ………………………………………… 127
A Few Poultice Recipes……………………………………. 130
Cataplasma Aromaticum …………………………………………. 130
Soothing Poultice …………………………………………………… 131
For Stomach Aches …………………………………………………. 131
A Mustard Poultice …………………………………………………. 132
A Native American Recipe to Treat an Abscess …………… 132
A Word of Warning from The Past ……………………………. 133
What Our Ancestors Were Foraging For? Or How to Wildcraft Your Table ……………………………………. 134
Arrowhead (Sagittaria Latifolia) ……………………………….. 135
Asparagus (Asparagus Officinalis) …………………………….. 136
Bulrush (Scirpus acutus, Scirpus validus) …………………… 138
Cattails (Typha Latifolia, Typha angustifolia) ……………… 139
Chickweed, Common ……………………………………………… 141
Chicory (Cirhorium Intybus) …………………………………….. 143
Cleavers ………………………………………………………………… 144
Dandelion (Taraxacum Officionale) …………………………… 145
Henbit (Lamium Amplexicaule) ………………………………… 146
Lady’s Thumb (Polygonum persicaria) ………………………. 147
Lambs Quarters (Chenopodium album, Chenopodium berlanieri)……………………………………………………………… 148
Mint (Mentha piperita, Mentha spicata) …………………… 150
Mulberry (Morus alba, Morus rubra) ………………………… 151
Mustard, Black (Brassica Nigra) ……………………………….. 152
Peppergrass (Lapidium Virginicum) ………………………….. 154
Pigweed (Amaranthus Retroflexus, Amaranthus Hybridus) ……………………………………………………………………………. 155
Plantain (Plantago major, Plantago minor) ………………… 156
Pennycress, Field (Thlaspi Arvense) ………………………….. 158
Prickly Lettuce ……………………………………………………….. 159
Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea) …………………………………. 160
Quickweed ( Galinsoga Parviflora) ……………………………. 161
Reed Grass ( Phragmites communis) ………………………… 162
Shepherds Purse (Capsella Bursa-pastoris) ………………… 163
Sour Dock (Rumex crispus) ……………………………………… 165
Storksbill (Erodium Cicutarium) ……………………………….. 166
Watercress (Nasturtium Officinale) ………………………….. 167
How Our Ancestors Navigated Without Using a GPS system ………………………………………………………. 169
Shadow Tip Method ………………………………………. 170
Watch Method ……………………………………………… 171
Using the Stars ……………………………………………… 171
Letting the Sun Guide You ………………………………. 174
Letting the Moon Guide You at Night ………………… 175
Moss and Other Vegetation …………………………….. 175
Making a Compass …………………………………………. 176
How Our Forefathers Made Knives …………………. 178
Forging a Knife Blank ……………………………………… 179
Forging the Blade …………………………………………… 180
Forging the Tang ……………………………………………. 181
Grinding the Blade …………………………………………. 182
Hardening the Blade ………………………………………. 184
Making the Handle…………………………………………. 186
To Make Your Own Knife…………………………………. 187
How Our Forefathers Made Snow Shoes for Survival ………………………………………………………………… 190
Anatomy of a Snowshoe …………………………………. 191
Making Survival Snowshoes …………………………….. 193
Using Your Snowshoes ……………………………………. 196
How North California Native Americans Build Their Semi-subterranean Roundhouse ……………………. 197
Building the Semi-subterrain Roundhouse ………….. 201
Supporting Poles ……………………………………………………. 203
Roof Construction ………………………………………………….. 204
Roundhouse Entrance …………………………………………….. 206
Fire Pit ………………………………………………………………….. 206
Summary ………………………………………………………………. 208
Our Ancestor’s Guide to Root Cellars ………………. 210
History ………………………………………………………… 211
The Right Space for the Job ……………………………… 212
Climate …………………………………………………………………. 212
What to Keep Where ……………………………………………… 215
Creating the Ideal Conditions …………………………… 216
Lighting…………………………………………………………………. 216
Humidity ………………………………………………………………. 217
Dirt Floors …………………………………………………………….. 218
Wet Cloth or Paper ………………………………………………… 218
Standing Water ……………………………………………………… 218
Bury Your Treasure ………………………………………………… 218
A Condensation Nightmare ……………………………………… 219
Ventilation ……………………………………………………………. 219
Storage Ideas ……………………………………………….. 220
In-Garden Storage ………………………………………………….. 221
Insulation ……………………………………………………………… 222
Things That Do and Do Not Belong in Your Root Cellar ………………………………………………………………….. 223
Proper Storage ……………………………………………… 224
Cull the Crops ………………………………………………………… 224
Preparing Vegetables for Root Cellar Storage ……………. 225
Curing Winter Vegetables for Storage ………………………. 226
Pests …………………………………………………………………….. 226
Organization ………………………………………………………….. 227
Good Old Fashion Cooking on an Open Flame ….. 230
Cast Iron Cooking ………………………………………….. 231
Care and Use …………………………………………………………. 232
Seasoning Your Cookery …………………………………………. 232
Never Use Dish Soap ………………………………………………. 233
Iron Rusts ……………………………………………………………… 234
No Fire ………………………………………………………………….. 234
Companion Tools……………………………………………………. 234
Roasting Meats ……………………………………………… 235
On a Spit ……………………………………………………………….. 235
On a String …………………………………………………………….. 236
Dutch Oven Cooking ………………………………………. 238
The Right Temperature …………………………………………… 239
Companion Tools……………………………………………………. 240
Recipes Past and Future ………………………………….. 241
Colcannon …………………………………………………………….. 242
Meat Pies………………………………………………………………. 242
Mock-mock Turtle Soup ………………………………………….. 243
Wassail …………………………………………………………………. 243
Apple Pie ………………………………………………………………. 245
Biscuits and Gravy ………………………………………………….. 245
Easter Cake ……………………………………………………………. 246
Porridge ………………………………………………………………… 247
Stew ……………………………………………………………………… 248
Bread ……………………………………………………………………. 248
Learning from Our Ancestors: How to Preserve Water ……………………………………………………….. 250
How Can I Make Sure That the Water Is Clean? …………. 256
Where Should I Hide or Store My Stock of Water? ……… 260
Learning From Our Ancestors How to Take Care of Our Hygiene When There Isn’t Anything to Buy … 263
Soap Making …………………………………………………. 264
Basic Recipe for Soap ……………………………………………… 264
Making Lye Water from Wood Ash …………………………… 265
Collecting the Fat …………………………………………………… 266
Cooking Up the Soap: The Cold Process Method ………… 268
Making Your Own Signature Soaps …………………… 269
Medicinal Soaps …………………………………………………….. 270
Homemade Toothpaste ………………………………….. 270
Basic Baking Soda Recipe ………………………………………… 271
Clay Toothpaste …………………………………………………….. 271
To Taste ………………………………………………………………… 272
How and Why I Prefer to Make Soap with Modern Ingredients ………………………………………………… 273
History ………………………………………………………… 274
Why Modern Ingredients ………………………………… 275
Understanding The Process …………………………….. 275
Irreplaceable Ingredients ………………………………… 276
Machinery and Equipment for Making Soap at Home ………………………………………………………………….. 278
Possible Soap Additives ………………………………………….. 279
Essential Oils …………………………………………………………. 279
So, How do You Make Soap? …………………………… 280
Ingredients ……………………………………………………………. 280
Equipment …………………………………………………………….. 281
Methodology…………………………………………………………. 282
Temporarily Installing a Wood-Burning Stove during Emergencies ………………………………………………. 288
Why a Wood-Burning Stove …………………………….. 289
Temporarily Installing Your Wood-Burning Stove … 290
Temporarily Installing the Chimney ………………….. 292
Heating with Wood ………………………………………… 294
Making Traditional and Survival Bark Bread ……. 296
How to Make Sourdough Starter (The Rising Agent People Used Before 1900) ……………………………….. 298
How to Make Tasty Bread Like in 1869 ………………. 301
Making Bark Bread (Famine Bread) …………………… 302
Trapping In Winter For Beaver And Muskrat Just like Our Forefathers Did …………………………………….. 306
Why Our Forefathers Trapped ………………………….. 307
The Best Places to Trap for Beaver and Muskrat … 308
Their Local Habitats ……………………………………….. 309
The Types of Traps You’ll Use for Beaver and Muskrat ………………………………………………………………….. 310
Foot Hold Trap Types ……………………………………………… 311
Finding the Land Trails ……………………………………. 313
How to Set the Foot Hold Trap …………………………. 314
Finding the Underwater Trails ………………………….. 315
How to Set a Body Grip Trap ……………………………. 315
Tanning ……………………………………………………….. 316
Selling at the Trading Post ……………………………………….. 318
And There You Have It…………………………………………….. 318
How To Build a Smokehouse and smoke Fish ……. 320
Cold Smoking ………………………………………………… 322
Before We Start: Woods for Flavoring Your Fish ………… 322
Cold Smoking the Fish …………………………………………….. 323
First Things First: Curing the Fish ……………………………… 323
Making a Cold Smoker ……………………………………………. 324
Creating the smoker……………………………………………….. 326
Hot Smokin’! ………………………………………………… 330
Recipes Using Smoked Fish ……………………………………… 332
Practical Survival Lessons from the Donner Party 335
The Story of the Donner Party …………………………. 338
The Fatal Decision ………………………………………………….. 338
Escape and Rescue Attempts …………………………………… 343
Survival Lessons from the Donner Party …………….. 345
Follow the Known Route …………………………………………. 345
Money Won’t Save You; It’s What You Know …………….. 346
Supplies + Time = Life……………………………………………… 346
Weather Is the Deciding Factor ……………………………….. 347
Know When to Turn Back ……………………………………….. 348
Stress Leads to Anger and Volatility………………………….. 348
Age and Gender Play a Huge Role in Survival …………….. 349
Small Wounds = Death ……………………………………………. 350
How The Sheriffs From The Frontiers Defended Their Villages and Towns ……………………………………… 351
Crime in the West………………………………………….. 354
Equipment …………………………………………………… 356
Guns …………………………………………………………………….. 356
Communications …………………………………………… 359
Organization ………………………………………………… 361
The Sheriff …………………………………………………… 362
Deputy Sheriffs ……………………………………………… 363
Posses …………………………………………………………. 364
Bringing It Up to Date …………………………………….. 364
Showing the Flag ……………………………………………. 368
Raising a Posse ……………………………………………… 371
References …………………………………………………. 375


The Lost Ways has a 60 day 100% money back guarantee on the book. Also several other interesting books. Click on the The Lost Ways book image below to watch the video. Decide for yourself if it is something you want.

The Lost Ways book

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More Food from the Wild and Your Yard – Graft Fruit Trees!

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Despite a smashed thumbnail, the author bravely grafts a loquat tree in his food forest.

I once did a horticultural analysis of a property way out in the scrublands. The owner had good clean water, no real neighbors, a great location… and hot, fast-drying, mineral-poor sand that was really, really bad for gardening.

There was no couching it. I had to tell him: this area just won’t cut it for most of your planned annual gardening projects. It will barely support much in the way of fruit or nut trees.

What it did have was a decent amount of native American persimmon trees. They were dwarfed by drought and stress, but they were strong and alive. That said, I saw very few with fruit.

With antive persimmons you deal with a variety of drawbacks. Unlike their cultivated Japanese persimmon relations, they’re dioecious. That means you have male and female trees – and you need both to get fruit. The male won’t make fruit but it does provide the pollen that allows the females to fruit.

Japanese persimmons are self-fertile, plus they make hefty, sweet fruit that’s very worth growing. They’re also regularly grafted onto American persimmon rootstock.

Seeing the wild trees gave me an idea: why not use the existing trees as rootstock for Japanese persimmons? They’re already established and growing in poor soil, making them a perfect support for a higher-producing and delicious variety of improved persimmon!

Sometimes our first observations aren’t the best. You might see a crabapple with lousy fruit in your yard and think “I hate that thing! I’ll tear it out and plant a good apple in its place!”

Step back and think about it: maybe that tough tree is a resource you can use. With grafting you can go nip some twigs off good apple trees and just graft them onto the tree you don’t like. If it’s a happy and healthy mature tree, use it! If you can graft fruit trees, you can grow more food for less money.

Another interesting factoid to consider: you know those stupid ornamental pears people grow for the blooms? You can graft REAL pears onto them. There are folks doing that in California right now by illegally “guerilla grafting” street trees:

Doesn’t that change the landscape a bit? Ornamental trees are generally a non productive liability… productive trees are a serious asset. If you’ve got ornamental pears, plums, peaches, apples, etc… why not switch them up by grafting on some good varieties?

Grafting In Local Woods and Property

Here’s another thought for you.

In my neighborhood there are wild persimmons growing here and there around the block. Some of these are on empty lots and in unused property with absentee owners. We don’t know how bad things are going to get in the future so it makes sense to grow as much food as possible near our houses… even if that food is on other people’s land right now.

Wild persimmon fruit is only found on 50% of the trees (since the other half are male). That fruit is about 1″ in diameter, plus it’s astringent and seedy.

I have Japanese persimmons in my yard that make fruit that looks like this:


That fruit is as large as a beefsteak tomato and just as delicious (if not more so).

Though the legalities are rather grey, I don’t think anyone would really mind if I were to take buds off my Japanese persimmon tree and graft them into the wild trees here and there around the neighborhood. People will find it rather puzzling, sure – but be upset by it? I doubt it. Heck, at the very worst all I’ve done is improve somebody’s tree. Hehhehheh.

Just thinking out loud here. In your local woods you may have quite a few trees growing which could be judiciously improved, turning them into fruit-production machines rather than marginally useful wild specimens.

Grafting Is Easy

I know what many of you are thinking: “All the above is nice, Dave… but I don’t know how to graft fruit trees!”

I understand that feeling. I was in your shoes for a long time. Grafting was something that seemed… complicated. Planting beans? No big deal. Drying fruit? Easy.


Well… it takes a little whittling experience (unless you go this route)… and a couple of decent tools… but it isn’t really hard. If you’d like a quick illustrated guide, click here. Though it states that wood should be dormant, I’ve been able to successfully graft in summer here in Florida, at least on loquat trees.

One of my favorite (and most successful) ways to graft is called “veneer grafting.” At my site you can see how I saved the genetics of an improved loquat tree hit by a string trimmer by grafting some of its buds onto some seedling loquats.

Don’t worry about messing up. We all mess up. There’s no harm in trying something new.

This spring I grafted a big, sweet improved plum onto a sour native plum tree. I did five grafts – one took:


The leaves on the grafted plum variety are about 10 times the size of the weenie leaves on its native plum host. The author finds this strangely hilarious.

Now, in the fall of the same year, that branch is about 3′ long. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to have it bear fruit this coming spring.

Get yourself a sharp pocketknife, some pruning shears, a roll of grafting tape and your courage… then start experimenting.

Grafting can help you get food from unproductive trees and lots – harness it and you’ll be just that much more prepared for an uncertain future.


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The Top 7 Survival Gardening Secrets

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If your eyes are open right now, you know Western Civilization is in trouble. Now is the time to start survival gardening.

Today we share 7 survival gardening secrets that will get you off on the right foot.

1. Grow Near, Not Far

This is one of those “secrets” I can’t repeat enough. Don’t put your garden beds at the edge of your yard. Put them where you’ll see them. This will keep pest problems from becoming plagues. If your chickens are digging up the corn, you’ll see it… instead of finding bare ground and chicken tracks a week later. You may think you’ll be out there in the garden every day, but “out of sight, out of mind” holds truer than most of us would like to admit.

2. Healthy Soil is Key

Make sure the ground you’re trying to garden upon is suited to it. A reader recently sent me pictures of the land she is hoping to plant as a food forest. I took one look and shook my head.

The ecosystem was obviously Pine Flatwoods: acid sugar sand, poor mineralization, a clay layer, intermittent flooding and droughty conditions.

survival gardening

This is tough land for survival gardening.

When even the weeds look sick, you may need to hunt for a better spot. Though it’s possible to grow a food forest there – barely – a better use for the ground would be for growing timber and blueberries, not survival gardening or food forests.

If that was the only land I could get, I would turn to livestock such as goats, chickens and cattle for my calories, rather than plants.

If you are stuck with poor conditions all over your yard and need to garden, I recommend deep mulching the worst areas if you have the material – and if you don’t, then double dig or broadfork the soil, then feed it well with a wide range of nutrients. Planting nutrient-accumulating chop and drop species for mulch and compost is another good idea.

3. You don’t Need Lots of Compost

Having tons of organic matter is great but most of us don’t have that luxury. It’s hard to make enough compost (though I greatly expand the possibilities in my book Compost Everything) so you need to get creative. My favorite method is to make an anaerobic compost tea with a wide range of inputs. Manure, urine, seaweed, saltwater, fish guts, kitchen scraps, Epsom salts, weeds, grass and leaves – if it has some decent nutrition in it, I will pile it in a barrel, top off with fresh water and let it rot for weeks, then use it as a diluted fertilizer for my crops. Like this:

It (literally) stinks but can save your life in a survival gardening situation.

4. No Irrigation? No Problem

If you get a decent amount of rainfall during the growing season, you may not have to run irrigation to your gardens. Instead of planting intensively in tight spacing, clear more ground and increase the space between plants and rows. I grew a corn patch this way as an experiment one year and had fine luck.

survival gardening

Since then I’ve done the same with cassava, pigeon peas and winter squash.

Wide spacing and clear ground will keep your plants hydrated as root competition will be reduced and they can find the moisture in the soil with less difficulty. Steve Solomon’s book Gardening Without Irrigation is available online for free – download and read it for good in-depth info.

You can’t do this in all climates but you might be surprised how many farmers pull off irrigation-free gardening and where they are able to do so.

Want To Know Where To Find Hidden Water Sources For Irrigation?

Discover where neighborhoods hide 1,000 of gallons of emergency water

5. Urine is an Excellent fertilizer

This ties in with the anaerobic compost tea idea but it’s quicker. Urine contains a range of minerals and lots of much-needed nitrogen. In many countries it’s been used instead of chemical fertilizers and I think it makes more sense. I’ve seen rich, green gardens and trees fed on nothing but urine. It works.

Dilute urine with water so it doesn’t burn the plants with nitrogen and salt – I find six parts water to one part urine works well. I’m feeding some weak pumpkin vines this way right now and they’re really starting to perk up.

6. Calories First!

survival gardening

I grow African yams as a staple.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but we gardeners aren’t always the most practical people on the planet. We like the challenge of growing interesting things and we also love our culinary treats. Fresh tomatoes, cilantro, hops. These are all great – yet if you’re survival gardening, you’re not hobby gardening.

You need to find the best staple crops for your area and concentrate on those primarily.

As I’ve written before, plant calorie crops first – then plant some patches of nutrition crops next.

Keeping yourself from starving is more important than the potential nutritional deficiencies you might face later.

I would argue that in most case you could probably meet many of your nutritional needs through wild plant foraging for greens, nuts, berries and game.

Finding caloric staples is harder.

Plant roots, winter squash, beans and grain corn first in most climates. Also – Jerusalem artichokes and white potatoes are good in the north, cassava, sweet potatoes and African yams in the Deep South. Dent corn is your grain corn for the South – flint corn for the north.

This ties in to my next tip:

7. Snag Seeds Locally

survival gardening

I found this beautiful pumpkin at a roadside stand. Now I own the seeds and can grow my own.

Buying seeds through the mail from a seed company growing crops in a different climate isn’t the best way to prepare for a crash.

If the plants were cultivated for seed in Southern California but you live in New Hampshire, the varieties may not be well adapted to your growing conditions. This is why I seek out local varieties of vegetables at farmer’s markets, farmer’s stands and local gardeners.

See a stack of pumpkins on a stand by the road?

Ask the farmer if he grew them locally. If he did, buy one and save the seeds. Ask around for bean varieties that do well in your area. Pick up local grain corn from the farmer’s market if it’s being sold for decorations in the fall.

Keep your eyes open.

You want those seeds which will make plants that can handle your levels of sunshine, pests, humidity, rainfall and everything else. Local is good – start hunting!

I buy pumpkins all the time and save their seeds. In this video you can see how I do it:

I have been known to screech to a stop by a roadside farm stand because I spotted a variety not currently growing on my farm.


The survival gardening secrets I shared today will put you in good stead in a crisis but they’re just part of the story. You can grow your own food in a crisis but it’s very important to start right now.

I highly recommend you pick up my Survival Gardening Secrets program and learn. Get growing – and may God be with you.




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Lessons Learned from One Second After

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One Second After by William R. Forstchen is a really scary book. Not scary like a Stephen King book, but more like a wake up call to how fragile the world we live in is. This is the book that prompted my first post, and really pushed me to start thinking of myself as a prepper or a survivalist. If you stay dependent on today’s way of life, you will die quickly when it is all taken away from you.
One Second After

This post is a review of One Second After and assumes you have read the book. If you haven’t already read One Second After, then be warned that there are a lot of spoilers in this post.

John Matherson is the main character and lives in the small college town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. One Second After deals with an unexpected electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States and how it affects the people living after.

Here is my list of lessons learned:

  1. If you currently depend on medicine to stay alive, you will be one of the first people to die. John Matherson’s daughter was a Type 1 diabetic. When the insulin was out, she died a painful sad death.
  2. The elderly that depend on others to take care of them will also die quickly. People forget about taking care of others when it is a struggle to take care of themselves.
  3. Back up generators are useless when they’re taken out by an EMP. None of the important generators in the town of Black Mountain worked after the EMP. The hospital and the nursing home specifically. If they had worked, many lives would have been saved. The town would have been more prepared before they ran out of fuel.
  4. Tend to any kind of open wound immediately. The small cut on Matherson’s hand almost killed him. His stubbornness to have it looked at was dumb.
  5. Old cars are more reliable than today’s modern cars. A 1950s era Studebaker, a 1964 Ford Mustang and a whole fleet of old VW buses and bugs didn’t notice the EMP attack. When so much depends on computer motherboards today, it is really easy to render them useless.
  6. Don’t be afraid to be a leader when you are the most knowledgeable and experienced in the group. Someone had to take charge of the town. The major was slow to take action because nothing like this had ever happened. Matherson was hesitant to take charge of the defense of the city, even though he was the most experienced.
  7. Teach your way out of a job. When everyone around you knows what you do, you no longer have to be the one that people depend on. This is what Washington Parker did with the college kids. He taught them as much as he could as quickly as he could. When the attack from the Posse came, the town was ready and performed well even after Washington died.
  8. Learn how things were done before electricity. Have good training material for this available in something other than electronic format. Books and magazines were eventually found in the basement of the library. But having this ready from the beginning would have been great.
  9. Having electronic versions of training material on a laptop that was in a Faraday cage would have been even better. Not a single time was a Faraday Cage mentioned in the book.
  10. Communication is really important. Having a way to talk across town would have saved lives.
  11. Why is it that in every prepper book the local first responders are screwed after an EMP? Couldn’t a fire truck or police car be hardened against an EMP?
  12. Everyone in your family needs to know how to use a gun safely. But you also have to train and practice how to protect your home. When Matherson’s home was invaded, the children were not useful. They had never trained for that situation. Gun training is not enough.
  13. Having neighbors who you know and trust is so important. Immediately after Matherson’s home was invaded, his neighbor came over to assist.
  14. It doesn’t matter how rural you are. If everyone is hunting the woods to survive, the animals will all be killed. Why didn’t they do more fishing?
  15. Working together is the only way for a group to survive. The town of Black Mountain became organized and everyone participated in the defense and food for the city.
  16. Don’t be afraid of strangers. Just make them prove themselves. They may be able to provide skills or advice to help everyone. Makala was and outsider who’s car was stalled on the highway like many others. But she was a gifted nurse who ended up running the hospital.
  17. Pets were looked at as protein. A last desperate means of feeding starving family members.

If I was the mayor of a small town and read One Second After I would:

  1. Have a room specially built onto the municipal building that would serve as a Faraday cage.
  2. Add a HAM radio for long distance communications. Also add a dozen short distance (25 mile) walkies talkies to the room.
  3. Add nightvision goggles to the room for defense.
  4. Encourage solar panels for homes in the city, stores, schools and municipal buildings.
  5. Create school and city food banks. Stock up on MREs and freeze dried food.
  6. Create a seed bank with crops that grow well in your area. Encourage people to have gardens and have free classes on gardening.
  7. Encourage and fund homesteading and Renaissance festivals. Old world skills like blacksmithing, farming without electricity, tanning hides and foraging would be valuable and it’s good to know who has these skills.
  8. Encourage chicken and rabbit raising. Have free classes on these topics too. Eggs and rabbit meat would have made a huge difference in Black Mountain.
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Wild Persimmons – A fall delight for every forager

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It’s the time of the year when wild persimmons begin dropping in most places and it’s the perfect time to forage for these fall delicacies. If you want to enjoy wild persimmons this year, you would need to hurry as raccoons, deer, birds and pretty much every living creatures will be looking for these tasty … Read more…

The post Wild Persimmons – A fall delight for every forager was written by Dan Mowinski and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

FACEOFF: What’s The Most Important Desert Survival Skill?

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What's The Most Important Desert Survival Skill?

Picture yourself alone beneath the blazing sun. You can feel the beginning of a sunburn and it’s only 11AM. Cursing yourself for forgetting a hat, you take another swig from the single bottle of warm water you grabbed from your car, cringing at the oily plastic taste. It’s already 3/4 empty.  You start to wonder if leaving the car was a good idea. Maybe someone would’ve spotted it? Yet the road is in the middle of nowhere. What a place for radiator failure. The horizon ripples with heat as you try to remember the last town you passed in your air-conditioned vehicle, radio cranked up, looking for that out-of-the way cell tower you were supposed to service. The road ahead stretches on forever. No shelter and no hope in sight. In another hour your water will be gone… and the worst of the day’s heat is still to come…


If you were stuck in the desert… how far could you go? What skills would you need?

The world isn’t as stable as it once was. And the world has never been very stable in general.

There are earthquakes, wars, plagues and riots, and the ever looming possibility of a TEOTWAWKI event.

There are even simple things like mechanical failure on a lonely strip of highway or a wrong turn on a hike.

Get stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time and you may end up dead. Yet the desert can be conquered – or at least survived – if you have the skill. Many tribes have done so throughout the centuries.

Desert survival requires serious knowledge and experience… and the experts we gathered to answer our questions abound in both. Men with their own unique skills, backgrounds and abilities.

Four desert survival skill experts: Max Cooper, Bob Hansler, Tom McElroy and AZ Prepper.

We asked them all the same question: What do you think is the #1 skill people will be sorry they didn’t practice before they end up being in a desert survival situation where their life depends on it?

Read and learn as one day the stumbling man in the desert… may be you.

Max Cooper on Desert Survival Skill

Max-cooper-desert-survivalWhat do you think is the #1 skill people will be sorry they didn’t practice before they end up being in a desert survival situation where their life depends on it?

“The number one survival skill is mindset.

While this is more of a “soft” skill as opposed to a “hard” skill, it is incredibly important. You must have the mindset that you will survive no matter what happens. The desert is a brutal environment where everything is out to get you such as extreme heat, blistering sun, lack of water, poisonous snakes and a variety of thorns from plants and cactus. In a true life or death emergency your survival mindset must be strong.

I like to say, ‘The will to survive beats the skill to survive.’

A survival mindset allows you to properly plan before you enter the desert to ensure that you are properly prepared. It allows you to have contingency plans for when things do not go as expected. A survival mindset gives you the confidence and focus you need in an emergency so that the physiological and psychological reactions of stress do not overwhelm your coping mechanisms. Too many people overly rely on hard skills such as fire starting and shelter building while never giving any attention to the importance of mindset.

If you do not possess a survival mindset no amount of skills will keep you alive. A survival mindset gives you the mental capacity to focus on survival so that you do not give into fear.”


Vital Stats on Max Cooper:

Max Cooper is an author and survival instructor who is highly skilled in both mountain and desert environments. He has worked inside the criminal justice system, taught firearms courses, trained with the FBI and has extensive experience in officer safety and survival. He also designs outdoor gear systems to prepare for different types of emergency situations including natural disasters, terrorism, civil unrest, and more.

Go check out his books here and follow him on Facebook here.

Bob Hansler on Desert Survival Skill

Bob-HanslerQuestion #1: What do you think is the #1 skill people will be sorry they didn’t practice before they end up being in a desert survival situation where their life depends on it?

“Quick Answer: orienting by starlight. Being able to navigate at night is one of the most important aspects of desert survival. In the desert you should be most active at night. Knowing a few of the constellations and being able to locate the North Star can allow you keep your bearing, especially when heading over distance towards a landmark or potential water.

Complicated answer: the art of finding water. The most sought after substance in a desert is water. It is hard to find and those organisms that do have some stored away have become masters at holding onto it… so it often comes down to finding unclaimed water of your own.

First is patience. Shade and rest should be forced during daylight hours, your mind and body might urge you to act and move during the day, but that would likely be a fatal mistake. Let the twilight hours and the darkness of night become those of wakefulness and activity. Moving at night will save your body from the sun, reduce fatigue and lessen your water loss. An additional benefit to moving at night is that many deserts become cold after dark and staying active during these hours will keep you warmer.

Secondly, reading the land so that you have somewhere to go when the sun does finally fade. Simply stated, you want to find contours in the land. High points such as mountains will provide shade in their canyons and likely hold water of some form. Without mountains, head for lowland contours. Look for water runoff and dry creek beds. Follow these down while keeping an eye out for taller vegetation and areas of green. These lusher areas indicate that water is either at or close to the surface.

The further you travel down, the higher your chances of finding that lifesaving water.

An important note to consider when planning on walking by moonlight is that landmarks such as mountains are not always visible once the sun has set. Marking the direction of the mountains during the day and then orienting to that direction in respect to the north star when night falls can keep you on the right track through the dark hours.

Brush up on some basic astronomy.”

Vital Stats on Bob Hansler:

Bob Hansler teaches survivalist, bushcraft, and primitive skills in the great state of Texas. His popular YouTube channel is a wealth of information on everything from finding wild edibles to fishing and primitive cooking.

Bob is a lifetime advocate of Boy Scouts and an Eagle, as well as a former Biology Teacher and an avid outdoorsman with an insatiable desire to do more, learn more, and go further.

Tom McElroy on Desert Survival Skill

Tom-McElroyQuestion #1: What do you think is the #1 skill people will be sorry they didn’t practice before they end up being in a desert survival situation where their life depends on it?

“The trouble with theorizing about survival situations is that survival strategies are incredibly dependent on the resources available and the environmental conditions— there are countless variables. This is why I make sure my students have a huge bag of tricks to draw from so that they are able to dig deep into that bag and pull out just the right solution to the problem they are facing. Survival situations are the ultimate problem solving game, with the highest stakes. Its not enough to only know one friction fire making technique, or a few ways to make cordage from plants.

To be a good survivalist a person needs to have the ability to improvise with every environmental variable and adapt their strategy to suit the surroundings. I can imagine a desert survival situation where finding shelter materials is extremely difficult and others where it is a incredibly easy—the same for fire, water and food.

That said, I do feel that learning how to make an effective shelter and the ability to find water can be learned and completed with less practice than making a friction fire. Often times, a fire is necessary in a desert as there isn’t enough insulative materials to make a shelter that will keep you warm at night when the temperature bottoms out. Getting that first fire before nightfall can be the difference between life and death. Fire is also great in the desert as a signal and will increase your chances of being rescued immensely. For desert situations, the bow drill make of Yucca stalk and yucca leaf cordage is a great start.

Hand-Drill would be even faster if you can pull it off. However, for every thousand “survivalists” that learn how to create a bow-drill fire with prepared wood and a nylon cord as a string, there is one that can walk into the wilderness with nothing and make a friction fire from scratch. So, don’t assume that just because you can make a friction fire at home in optimal conditions, that you will also be able to make one in the wild. Get out there and do it time and time again, and when you really need it you change the worst night of your life into one where you stay warm and safe.”

>Editors NOTE: For a great video on other uses of the Yucca plant mentioned above you may also be interested in checking out our video on how to make yucca root soap.

Vital Stats on Tom McElroy:

Tom McElroy has taught survival and primitive skills to more than 15,000 students worldwide over the past 20 years. Tom has taught everyone, ranging from young children to avid hunters, outdoor enthusiast and elite military groups such as Seal Team Six. He has consulted for numerous news programs, Hollywood movies and was featured on the Discovery Channel. He hunted with blowguns in the Amazon with the Huaorani tribe, ran through Copper Canyon with the Tarahumara (Raramuri), lived with a tribal shaman in a palm thatched hut a hundred miles off the coast of Sumatra, trekked through the Baliem Valley of Papua New Guinea, the Andes of Peru, Sumba Indonesia and the Costa Rican Jungles.

Discover more and find out how you can join him for epic survival training via his website. His YouTube channel is also very worth watching.

AZ Prepper on Desert Survival Skill

69a53f6617b175e7c3d51d98866afc4c_400x400Question #1: What do you think is the #1 skill people will be sorry they didn’t practice before they end up being in a desert survival situation where their life depends on it?

“The two key components for survival in the desert is water and fire. Without both of these, you die.

Water is the most important immediate item for the body to function, but once found, it often needs cleaning to be made safe to drink. If only needed overnight this isn’t important, assuming medical assistance will be available quickly afterwards. But if you are stranded in the desert for an extended period of time, you must have safe drinking water. If the water isn’t safe, then death can follow soon afterwards.

In order to make water safe to drink, a fire is necessary. And then when evening arrives and the temperature drops, a fire is needed to stay warm and make it through the night.

Click Here To Learn How To Start A Fire

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Although the temperatures throughout the day may reach into the 120’s, the evenings can drop down to the 50’s or lower, making hypothermia a real threat.

Therefore, fire-making skills are the most critical skill. Whether it is making and utilizing a bow drill with the components readily available in the desert, or utilizing flint and steel from a tin carried with you in the desert, practiced skills are required.

It is a very easy thing to learn and simple to perform if you know what to do and practice. If you don’t know what to do, it is near impossible. So without some knowledge and practice, death is fairly certain.”

Vital Stats on AZ Prepper:

AZ Prepper is a knowledgeable guide to preparedness and has written on everything from gardening to camping, raising quail to C.E.R.T. training.

His excellent site on raising rabbits has also helped many homesteaders get started (including David The Good’s wife). As AZ Prepper writes, “…despite what you may think, preparedness is a very fun thing! Once you get started, a whole new exciting world opens up! And it’s a great thing to do as a family. Get your children involved. Teach them skills and empower them to be able to handle all things throughout their lives. Involving them will teach them about responsibility, planning ahead and will also help increase their self worth. No matter how you look at it, preparedness is a very positive thing. Be sure to keep stay away from fear mongering. Being prepared eliminates fear. It empowers a person. Keep your intentions right and help others as well.”

Discover more here at his website.


These guys know their stuff when it comes to surviving the desert. We highly urge you to hunt them down online, follow their books, websites and YouTube channels and learn. A big thanks to all of them for joining us here at The Prepper Project – time and knowledge are some of the most valuable commodities and they graciously shared both with us. We will have them all back soon to answer more questions, so watch for that.

So how about you? Do you have the skills you need? I know I don’t: yet. That’s why it’s important to keep learning, and as Max Cooper wrote, “you must have the mindset that you will survive no matter what happens.” Get knowledge now before it’s too late.

Stay safe out there.


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How to Collect Pine Nuts

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How to Collect Pine NutsDelicious and good for you

Here is a digger pine cone I picked up off the ground

The other day while out looking for edible plants, I came across some cones from the digger pines, also sometimes called gray pines. These cones were still intact and had not dropped their seeds, often called pine nuts.

I spent a bit of time and opened one.  The digger pines have one of the harder cones and you will need a hammer or a big rock to open them.  However, it is worth it you can get a good handful of nuts from one cone.

The individual seeds or nuts then need to be removed from their shell. This is a bit of work and a good pair of pliers will be a big help. If you don’t have the right kind of pliers, I used a Gerber Multi-tool I had with me and this worked just fine. Unshelled pine nuts have a long shelf life if kept dry and refrigerated. Shelled nuts (and unshelled nuts in warm conditions) deteriorate rapidly, becoming rancid within a few weeks or even days in warm humid conditions

About 1/2 the nuts from a medium size cone

There are about twenty species of pines that produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting. In North America, the main species are three of the pinyon pines, Colorado Pinyon , Single-leaf Pinyon, and Mexican Pinyon. Eight other pinyon species are used to a small extent — the Gray Pine or digger pine, Coulter Pine, Torrey Pine , Sugar Pine and Parry Pinyon.

The following information on how the Native Americans collected pine nuts is from this website, Pine Nut.

  • The pine nut is large and an excellent food source. It is, however, relatively difficult to harvest and requires a substantial group effort to do so. The pine nut harvest began in the late summer and lasted into the fall. It was essentially the last big food-gathering opportunity of the year before retirement into winter lowland quarters. It occurred at intermediate elevations in arid upland hills where junipers and pinions tend to grow. It was a significant social occasion, and most Great Basin people held these regions to be sacred ground. If you don’t happen to live near a source of pine nuts, you can buy them in bulk.
  • Over the last two thousand years, the pine nut sustained these peoples. The pine nuts required substantial processing and, then, they could be stored for later use. Utilization of pine nuts required technological innovations. While nuts can easily be picked from the ground-fallen cones of the pinyon pine (pinus monophyllia), they are rarely good for human consumption by that time and the crop has been substantially reduced by insects and small mammals.
  • The pine nut came to be a useful staple food because only after the people learned how to harvest the nut prior to the final ripening stage of the cone. The technology for achieving a pine-nut harvest was messy and complex, and it was practiced communally. In fact, pine-nut harvest defined the great social time of the year, being the greatest gathering of the people in the concentrated areas of sacred lowland pinyon forest. People went to the forests in the early fall before the cones had fully ripened and dropped. They began with “first fruit” celebrations that confirmed the sacred significance of the food and established their respect for the forests.
  • When harvest began, the men pulled cones from the trees using tools made from large willow branches equipped with a sturdy V-shaped hook at the end. Women and children piled the cones in burden baskets (usually large conical wicker baskets carried on one’s back with a cordage band across the forehead). At this point, the cones were just at the point of opening and were usually full of pine pitch.
  • In camps surrounding the forest harvesting grounds, the pine cones were processed. This began by roasting the pine cones around hot coals, turning them often, to cause them to open up. Then, the cones could be beaten lightly to cause the nuts to fall out. When a supply of nuts was available, these required further processing since the nuts were covered by a soft brown shell. Cracking this shell would be difficult and would injure the fruit inside The nuts were processed by placing them on a basketry tray with hot coals from the fire. Once introduced together, the whole mass was kept in constant motion, throwing them up and swirling the tray, until the shells were roasted to a hard, crisp dark brown. The coals were removed at this point and the nuts were poured onto a grinding stone where they were lightly pounded with a mano until all of the shells had cracked and falled free of the inner fruit.
  • Cracked pinenuts are yellow-orange, translucent and soft. They can be eaten at this point and are delicious. Far more pine nuts were harvested than could be eaten raw so they needed to be processed further. At this point, the nuts were returned to a winnowing tray and thrown repeatedly into the air to allow the cracked shells to be carried off by the wind. When the shells were all gone, hot coals were returned to the tray and the roasting process was repeated until the nuts were dry and hard, somewhat darker in color.
  • At this point, the nuts could be stored in large basketry storage containers for later use. Dried nuts could still be eaten without further processing but the usual procedure was to make a pine-nut flour by grinding them. They were returned to the grinding stone and the mano was used to pound them lightly until they were well fragmented. Grinding was achieved with small amounts quickly so that the fine flour could be pushed off the metate forward into a bowl or onto a tray. A soap-root brush light be used to move the pine-nut flour on the tray. When enough flour was available, it could be warmed in water to make a thick paste; then the paste could be reduced, by dilution, to make whatever consistency was desired. While pine-nut mush may not sound especially appealing, addition of berries, various leafy vegetables, and/or ground meat or fish made it a feast.

Different tribes and cultures collected the nuts by different methods. Here is a small excerpt from the book, Survival Skill of Native California, by Paul D Campbell. If you live in California, I strongly suggest you get a copy of this book.

I suggest that you investigate the pine trees that live if your area and see if you can gather the seeds for food.


The post How to Collect Pine Nuts appeared first on Preparedness Advice.

4 ‘Survival Nuts’ Your Great-Grandparents Foraged For Each Fall

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Off-Grid Life In a $4,500 Converted School BusNot that long ago, foraging for nuts was a staple of homesteaders and survivalists – a skill that nearly everyone, no matter their background, practiced. Today, though, few people forage for nuts … even though the food is plentiful and free.

But plenty of modern-day homesteaders are re-discovering this lost art, and on this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we talk to one of the nation’s top foraging experts — Mark “Merriweather” Vorderbruggen, the author of Foraging.

Merriweather learned about foraging at a young age, and he tells us about four nuts that every homesteader and survivalist should know.

Merriweather shares with us:

  • How to know if a wild nut is ready to eat.
  • Which nuts are most prominent and easy to find.
  • How to easily get rid of the bitter taste in the most popular wild nuts.
  • Which popular nut is poisonous and should never be eaten.
  • How to crack and process even the toughest of nuts.

Finally, Merriweather tells us the simple trick you can use to discover if a nut is ripe or ruined – without even cracking it! Don’t miss this educational-but-practical show that will transform how you view fall foraging!



Foraging for wild foods this fall, just like the pioneers did

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The first settlers that shaped and tamed this country were nothing more than modern hunter-gatherers and their foraging ways provided a good source of foods when crops were not available. Foraging for wild foods was an important skill and it was passed on to newer generations, even when trading posts were becoming more and more … Read more…

The post Foraging for wild foods this fall, just like the pioneers did was written by Bob Rodgers and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

Honey Mesquite: A Survival Tree for Arid Lands

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Honey mesquite also commonly called mesquite is an amazing tree native to North America that was a key resource of the native people. If you grow this tree on your property, it will provide you with food, drink, medicine and fertilizer, just as it did for the natives.   There are two known varieties of … Read more…

The post Honey Mesquite: A Survival Tree for Arid Lands was written by Dan Mowinski and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

Survival Mom DIY: Make Coffee from Chicory Root

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make coffee from chicory root

Here’s my story of how I discovered a simple, common weed can be used to make coffee from chicory!

For several years, I’ve noticed a beautiful blue wildflower lining the road during the summer. It starts out looking like a weed, but when it blooms, the flower is the color of a Tanzanite gemstone. I’ve noticed that it also grows well along sidewalks, in gravel, or any other harsh environment you can think of. The plant is a dark green and is about 12-24 inches high. The bluish flower petals are flat at the ends, and slightly “fringed”. The leaves closest to the ground look exactly like dandelion. If you are looking for it on a sunny day, they are easy to see. But, on an overcast day or late afternoon, the flowers close up, and it’s harder to spot.

I decided to take some photos and find out what it was.

To my surprise, I found out it was chicory. I  remembered hearing that it can be used to make a beverage similar to coffee, but wanted to learn more about it. I also wondered  if it had any medicinal properties.

wild chicoryAccording to Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants & Herbs, the root can be mixed with water to make a diuretic or laxative. It’s used homeopathically for liver and gallbladder ailments, it can lower blood sugar, and has a slight sedative effect. Chicory root extracts have been shown to be antibacterial, and its tinctures have an anti-inflammatory effect. You can learn how to make your own tinctures fairly easily.

Next, I wanted to find out what parts of the plant were edible and how to use it to make “coffee”. I learned that its root must be dried and roasted before making a hot beverage. Its’ leaves are good for both salad and cooked greens. The white underground leaves are great as a salad green in the spring, and the outer green leaves can be boiled for 5-10 minutes and eaten. I decided to go dig up some roots and try roasting them for coffee.

chicory root

Make coffee from chicory

I found plenty of chicory right around my house and along my street. I thought I could just pull them out of the ground but I was wrong.

It’s had been dry for the last week and we have a lot of clay soil, so I went and got a shovel. Once I started digging, I found some of the roots are very long. Many broke off as I tried to pry them up with my shovel, but I got a decent sized batch quickly.

I soaked them for a short time, then scrubbed the roots clean, and chopped off the rest of the plant. I put those parts in my garden to add to the compost, which is an ongoing project. I patted the roots dry, and sliced them up. I did have to get a heavier chopping knife because some of the roots have a center that is like wood. The really tough stuff, I just added to my garden, and the rest I put on a cookie sheet.

I thought I’d try roasting it slow and low. I turned my oven on to 250 degrees and watched it for a half hour or so. It seemed to dry out but not really “roast” the pieces. So, I turned up the heat to 350 degrees, and about 20-30 minutes later, a wonderful smell came from the oven. The root pieces were turning brown and smelled like chocolate, caramel and coffee, all in one. The darker it got, the better it smelled. Once I thought the chicory root was dark enough, I turned down the oven to 300 degrees, so it wouldn’t burn but just roast a little bit more. I would say the total time was about and hour and a half. I took the roasted root pieces out of the oven and let them cool to room temperature.

I toground chicoryok out my blender, and used the “chop” setting to grind up the roots. I checked on them after several seconds and found it was still too coarse, but once again, the smell was incredible. I think the blades created enough heat to warm the grounds and send the smell wafting up in the air. I knew I needed a finer grind, so I set the blender to “liquify”, and that worked much better. I ended up with a finer grind that almost had the appearance of cigarette tobacco.

I was finally ready to brew a cup of chicory coffee! I added 2 teaspoons into my coffee filter and add enough water to the pot for one cup of coffee. I watched it brew, and it looks dark , just like regular coffee. By the way, in a power outage, a French Press is highly recommended for every coffee lover. You can get one for less than $30, and it’s worth every penny.

Now, the taste test. First, I tried it black. It tastes just like a strong black coffee (too much chicory?) but with a definite mocha, possibly caramel flavor. I may have used too much chicory, so next time I’ll use 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons per cup when I brew.

Schicory coffeeince I don’t normally drink black coffee, I added a tiny bit of stevia (here’s Survival Mom’s preferred brand) and some Coffee Mate to this aromatic concoction. Oh, my, GOSH!!!!! This is like a fabulous cup of coffee from a pricey coffee house. I really thought it wouldn’t be this good. I can’t wait to go out and gather more chicory root! If SHTF, this will be priceless. There is no caffeine in this drink, so you can have a warm beverage, late at night. I had no idea how easy it would be to make coffee from chicory.

I highly recommend foraging for this wonderful and amazing plant. I can’t believe we’ve lost so much knowledge over the years about living off the land. We all should learn foraging skills. This coffee alternative is  free, abundant, delicious, and a great barter item. Better yet, just try it now to enjoy, but save some for yourself for later!

make coffee from chicory

Plantain – A common weed with medicinal properties

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Although it is seen as a garden weed in many parts of North America, Plantain is a powerful plant that has many medicinal uses. Even more, plantain is an edible plant that can be foraged in both wild and urban environments. Plantain is a truly wonderful medical aid and people should learn about its properties … Read more…

The post Plantain – A common weed with medicinal properties was written by Dan Mowinski and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

Questions And Answers Episode 105

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James and Mike A Day In THe Woods Autoimmune Diseases

James and Mike


Questions And Answers


Join us this week as we tackle your questions and answers. Some of the topics include supplementing your camping food with wild edibles. Cooking with grubs, frying grasshoppers.

Matt calls in wanting to know how to stay cool in the summer without air conditioning. We go deep on this question. With tons of info on how to keep cool during the hot months. Shading your house, reflecting the sun back and using the ChiliPAD to stay cool.



  • Supplementing wild edibles
  • Keeping cool in the summer
  • I would love to know yours and mike’s edc.
  • What is your ideal apocalyptic scenario?
  • Why do you prep?
  • What’s your ideal survival firearm?
  • Is technology a help or a hindrance for survival?
  • What are you bug out bag must haves?
  • Please describe the differences and similarities of B.O.B., get home bag, car emergency kit, edc…
  • What would you personally do in a mass shooting scenario?
  • What are your first aid kit must haves?
  • What hand tools do you recommend everyone should have for a grid down scenario?
  • What are some effective diy home security preps both low and high tech?
  • Is there an episode this week?


Bannock Recipe


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Want to hear yourself on the podcast? Call in with your questions at (615) 657-9104 and leave us a voice mail. 

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The post Questions And Answers Episode 105 appeared first on Survival Punk.

10 Wild Plants You Can Eat (With Pictures)

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10 Wild Plants You Can Eat (With Pictures) In the wild, you can’t be picky about what to eat. In some cases, you’ll have no choice but to forage. Foraging for wild edible plants can be a great way to stay nourished. However, you need to make sure you’re picking the right plants. If you …

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The post 10 Wild Plants You Can Eat (With Pictures) appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

Foraging For Survival: Wild Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat

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Every week, homeowners across North America spray their lawns with chemicals, killing plants that their grandparents and great-grandparents would have picked and eaten.

In fact, most homeowners likely don’t even realize that those “pesky weeds” are actually edible – and far healthier for you than many items already in the refrigerator.

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we take a look at some of the most common plants you can forage and eat – whether in your yard or in the wilderness. Our guest is Mark “Merriweather” Vorderbruggen, a foraging expert and the author of the new book Foraging, part of the Idiot’s Guide series by DK.

Merriweather tells us:

ν Why it’s essential that every homeowner and off-gridder learn how to forage, even if food is readily available at the local store or in the garden.

ν How foraging played a critical role in feeding his family years ago, essentially keeping them from starving.

ν Why foraged plants are healthier than many common foods we eat every week.

ν Which wild plants you can eat that are growing in your yard right now.

Merriweather also tells us the easiest-to-find wild plants you can eat in the forest, and he closes by listing the biggest foraging mistakes people often make.

If you’re an off-gridder or simply have a love for nature and self-reliance, then this week’s show is for you!

Eight Survival Myths that will get you killed

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You can see more and more people wearing a paracord survival bracelet and talking about survival and prepping as they’ve seen it on TV, movies or after reading about it in various magazines. However, what the media transmits to the consumers does not reflect what true survival requires and this is how survival myths were … Read more…

The post Eight Survival Myths that will get you killed was written by Bob Rodgers and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

How to find and use soap plants

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As functional members of our modern society, we are somehow accustomed to take things for granted and we become dependent of stores and the items we buy. Soap is one of the many items that we take for granted and if stores would stop selling this item tomorrow, we would have no clue how to … Read more…

The post How to find and use soap plants was written by Bob Rodgers and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

Top 10 Medicinal Herbs for your garden

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Herbal medicine has been around for centuries and although people are encouraged to buy modern medicine, this ancient healing knowledge is still widely practiced. Medicinal herbs will still be here, long after the collapse of modern society and we should all learn how to take advantage of these healing herbs. In many parts of the … Read more…

The post Top 10 Medicinal Herbs for your garden was written by Rhonda Owen and appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

4 Foods Every Survivalist Should Know How To Find In The Woods

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4 Foods Every Survivalist Should Know How To Find In The Woods

Jerusalem Artichoke

If you ever find yourself in a wilderness survival situation, then you’ll have two initial goals. One, you’ll need to find or build a suitable shelter. And two, you’ll need food.

Most experienced wilderness survivalists carry simple fishing gear (some line and hooks) as well as the materials to build snares, deadfalls and traps to capture birds and fish. However, the truth is that hunting and fishing with primitive methods requires considerable skill.

Fortunately, nature often provides the observant individual with another bountiful source of calories in the form of wild fruits, nuts, tubers and greens. Although they are seasonal, they are both surprisingly tasty and highly nutritious. Here’s four of the best foods to forage:

1. Wild lettuce

4 Foods Every Survivalist Should Know How To Find In The Woods

Wild lettuce

The human body requires certain vitamins and minerals which are most easily obtained from eating green, leafy vegetables such as wild lettuce. This plant contains the vitamins A, E, C, K, and the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, folic acid, carotenoids and Omega 3 fatty acids. It is high in fiber, which helps to keep your digestive system working properly, and it contains antioxidants to help prevent cell damage and cell mutations. Located throughout North America in wooded regions where the soil has been disturbed, wild lettuce is commonly found in forested river bottoms, adjacent to roads and trails, along the edges of woods, and in shaded, fallow, fields. Appearing as a biennial plant that grows to a height of approximately three feet, it produces a rosette of large, long, slim, lance-shaped, green leaves up to 10 inches in length.

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The leaves have distinctly lobed edges and the plant produces a dandelion-like head from which the flowers bloom. In addition, all parts of the plant turn light orange-brown upon exposure to the air. It should be noted that there are several different species of wild lettuce throughout North America and that the leaves of this plant appear very similar to the dandelion plant (which is edible as well).

2. Jerusalem artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is one of the best known wild tubers in North America and it appears as a green, leafy, flowering weed. Its tubers are high in starch and sugars, which the human body converts to carbohydrates. It also contains thiamin, iron, phosphorus and potassium. Widespread in North America east of the Mississippi River, the Jerusalem artichoke can be found from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Great Plains to the East Coast. It prefers to grow in sandy river bottoms, floodplains, lake edges, creek sides and wet areas where there is plenty of sunlight and where the soil is sand, loamy sand or sandy loam. A member of the sunflower family, this plant is tall, green and leafy with a single, straight, round, unbranched (except occasionally near the top) stalk, usually measuring 1/2 inches to 3/4 inches in diameter. The stalk is covered with short, stiff, raspy hairs which remain after the plant dies in the fall. Jerusalem artichokes produce large flower heads that usually measure two to three inches in diameter and look like miniature sunflowers, except that the discs in the center are yellow instead of black and much smaller. The edible part of this plant is the tubers it produces below ground, which can be dug at any time of the year but are not fully ripe until late fall, winter or early spring. Also, because of their flatulent properties, they should be cooked by either steaming, boiling or baking for one to six hours (depending on the time of year they are harvested) to convert any inulin they contain to simple sugars and reduce the chance of stomach upset. If cooked properly, they have a highly palatable, almost buttery flavor.

3. Morels

4 Foods Every Survivalist Should Know How To Find In The Woods


Thousands of foragers each year hunt for morel mushrooms simply for their superior taste. This distinctive fungi has a honeycomb-like appearance and the ascocarps are highly prized by gourmet cooks (especially for French cuisine). Morel mushrooms can be found throughout most of the lower 48 states and require moist soil, deep shade, and warm weather to propagate. As a result, they are most often available in the spring. Yellow morels (Morchella esulenta) and black morels (Morchella elata) are commonly found beneath deciduous trees such as oak, ash, elm, sycamore and tulip poplars, as well as fruit-bearing trees such as apple. In addition, morels are seldom found in close proximity to most of the common poisonous mushrooms but they do grow adjacent to false morels (Gryomitra sp.) and elfin saddles (Verpa sp.).

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False morels (which are poisonous) can be differentiated from true morels by careful study of the cap, which is often wrinkled rather than honeycomb or net-like. The easiest way to tell a false morel from a true morel is that false morels contain a cotton ball-like substance inside their stem while true morels have a hollow stem. Also, the caps of the false morel can be easily twisted in comparison to that of the true morel. Lastly, false morels often display a reddish-brown color. Morel mushrooms should be cooked prior to consumption because they occasionally contain insect larvae.

4. Acorns

While neither as palatable nor as glamorous as the other foods mentioned here, the fact is that acorns are one of the most widespread, readily available forage foods in the U.S. In fact, oak trees are so common in the eastern U.S. that most people consider their acorns to be a nuisance. Various species of oak trees exist all across the U.S. except in desert regions, and they all produce acorns. Once you have gathered a store of these nuts, you will need to examine each one carefully and discard any with worm holes or deformed and soft hulls. To crack the shell, you will need to use a baton or a hammer stone, combined with an anvil. Once you remove the nut portion, you must soak it to remove the tannic acid, which has a bitter taste. You will need to repeatedly soak the pieces for a couple of hours (changing the water after each soaking) in order to leech the tannic acid from the nuts. Once they are fully leeched, you can either boil them or crush the pieces and mix them with water to form a paste, which can then be baked like bread.

Although there is actually a very wide variety of edible plants available to a forager in a wilderness survival situation, the five plants listed above are all widespread, commonly available foods that will provide your body with the necessary vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates it needs. They also provide nutrients that you simply cannot obtain from consuming protein alone. If you know where to look and what to look for, there is a veritable banquet of foods to forage throughout the year that can easily keep you alive in a crisis situation.

What wilderness foods would you add to the list? Share your tips in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

Foraging for Edible Wild Plants

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

I believe it is of great value and importance to know about the wild edible plants in your vicinity and how foraging for edible plants can benefit you. You may need this information if one were to be lost or stranded in the woodlands for some time.

The post Foraging for Edible Wild Plants appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Know Your Region Before Disaster Strikes

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Where will you be when SHTF? There’s a big chance it will catch you in your home region and eventually, it will all be for the best. If you know your region before the even occurs, you have better chances of surviving it. People are making a lot of preparations for various emergency scenarios, but … Read more…

The post Know Your Region Before Disaster Strikes appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

If or When TSHTF Part Five. My choice of the best gun for long term wilderness living. The Muzzle-Loader.

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Any muzzle-loader will give you an edge in long term wilderness living except the percussion lock. The percussion lock, also known as a caplock, requires fulminate of mercury caps for its ignition. This method is NOT sustainable. Tinderlocks & Matchlocks are good but they require a burning fuse at all times making you visible in the dark & the gun not so pleasurable to use as other later locks. The wheellock is good but does require Pyrite for its ignition & this is not always easy to find.

The flintlock requires a siliceous or igneous rock for ignition & this type of rock can be found in the bush if you know what you are looking for. I find the easiest way is to carry a fire steel with you & simply test the rocks you come across to see if they are hard enough to create sparks by striking the steel.

Above: This is English flint, a siliceous rock which can occasionally be found in coastal areas of Australia where English ships dumped their flint rock ballast before taking on a new cargo.

Above: This is agate which can be very common in places in Australia. Agate was used a lot in place of flint for flint & steel fire lighting. Agate is also a siliceous rock.

Above: This is quartz, very common in places & although it tends to fracture easily it is still a good rock to use for gun or fire lighting.

Above: Green chert.;


This is obsidian, an igneous rock or volcanic rock.

Advantages of A Flintlock Muzzle-loader.

Survival Lessons from the Native Americans

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   For the Native people of our country, survival wasn’t something extraordinary as it is being portrayed today and it was just something they did every day. In our modern times, due to the abundance of TV shows, magazines and online information, survival has become a complex way of life. The survival lessons passed to … Read more…

The post Survival Lessons from the Native Americans appeared first on Prepper’s Will.

8 Survival Foods You Can Forage For In The Dead Of Winter

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8 'Foods' You Can Find In The Dead Of Winter

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I’ve instructed a number of field classes on foraging for wild foods and have written about it quite a bit, too. The classes always took place in the spring, summer or fall and the articles focused on plants, berries and other wild edibles that were easy to find on a sunny, summer day. But what about winter? Well, I’ve done that, too — and it’s tough.

For the record, we’re talking about serious winter. Not a cold night in the desert or a brisk wind in the southeast. This is below-zero stuff.

It is possible to find food in the winter, but let’s first look at four factors that will complicate your winter foraging:

1. It’s cold. This not only affects what you’re trying to find and gather, but it’ll eventually affect you. Cold also can freeze the ground, which will limit your access to some roots and tubers.

2. There’s snow. Snow covers and obscures many of the things you’ll be looking for. You need to look for clues above the snow. An oak tree is a good indication that acorns may be on the ground under the snow. Some oak trees hold their leaves on their branches over the winter. That helps. We’ll cover some other clues for those snowy days.

3. It’s wet. A lot of us like to harvest cattails in the winter. But sloshing through a foot or two of water and reaching deep into water and mud is going to take its toll on you quickly, if you’re not prepared.

4. Less than 10 percent is still available. If you’re in a winter climate, most stuff is dead or not growing. Your options are limited for any harvest at around 10 percent, depending on where you live.

In winter, we lose some of the indicators that help us find food — especially the prolific appearance of leaves. However, some indicators are still out there.

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8 'Foods' You Can Find In The Dead Of Winter

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I found a grove of wild plums two days ago in late January. I recognized the shape and concentration of the trees, but the real giveaway was the frozen little plums still on their branches. They made a great jelly. Fruits visible on a tree or plant also could include rose-hips, cranberries and crabapples.

Take note of the shape and appearance of bark on trees, especially nut-bearing trees like oak, horse chestnut and black walnut. Take the time to learn and recognize the bark and the physical characteristics of nut-bearing trees. One clue is a squirrel’s nest in a tree — although the squirrel may have gotten too many of the acorns before you arrive.

Some plants continue to photosynthesize under the snow. Scraping the snow might reveal some of this winter treasure, including dandelion, wild onion and chickweed.

Go in the water, but carefully. Water sources have an abundance of food in the winter. If you live by the ocean, tide-pools at low-tide can provide shellfish and plants like kelp or seaweed. Freshwater springs, creeks and ponds often will have stands of cattails, fresh water mussels under the mud and muck, and the occasional crayfish. But you have to be dressed for any water foraging, so let’s get into how to dress and equip for winter foraging.

Here’s what you should look for:

8 Survival Foods You Can Forage For In The Dead Of Winter

Cattails. Image source:

1. Cattails. The roots, when washed and peeled, are an excellent starch source with a potato-like flavor and can be prepared like potatoes. They also can be dried and made into a flour.

2. Acorns, black walnuts and horse chestnuts. These are found on the ground under nut-bearing trees. You should soak them for three days with three changes of water to remove tannins and then either roast them, or boil and dry and grind into flour.

3. Rose hips. Usually bright red and about one-quarter-inch to a half-inch in diameter. Make into a jelly or infuse in a tea. One of the highest sources of vitamin C in the wild.

4. Fresh water mussels. I often encounter these while foraging for cattail roots. They usually grow in beds. Where you find one, you’ll find others. Scrape them up from the mud with your small, hand rake. Wash and scrub carefully and boil until shells open and then boil some more. If they are from a suspected polluted water source, then don’t eat them. In fact, don’t eat anything from a water source that is suspect.

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5. Mushrooms. Curiously resilient even in winter and will sometimes appear after a brief thaw. Look for them on rotting deadfalls. Check out some pictures so you know what you’re eating. Even in winter, some mushrooms are toxic.

6. Wild greens. Dandelion roots and crowns, wild onions, chickweed, wild garlic. They’ll betray themselves with a showing of green under the snow or poking through the leaf litter. Rinse and boil with salt and eat like greens.

7. Watercress. Evident as a large bloom of green flowing in springs and creeks. Easy to harvest in bulk and can be eaten raw as a salad.

8 Survival Foods You Can Forage For In The Dead Of Winter

Crabapples. Image source:

8. Wild fruits like plums and crabapples. Usually apparent still hanging from their trees. Mash into a jelly or strain as a juice blended with water, sugar and boiled.

It goes without saying that you should dress warmly and dress in layers when foraging. There are going to be varying degrees of exertion and rest, and you want to be able to manage your perspiration.

Here are a few more tips that have benefited me when winter foraging:

If I’m going to harvest cattails, that’s usually all I’ll do. I’ll wear water-proof boots and have even donned insulated hip-waders. I also wear heavy-duty rubber gloves that go up to my bicep with a layer of insulated gloves underneath. Rooting around in the mud with your bare hands is going to be a short-term effort in the winter. You also need to harvest a good amount of things like cattails if you’re seriously thinking about making a meal.

The same equipment and preparation applies for looking for mussels, although I’ll bring along my little three-pronged hand rake like I do for wild nuts. I’ll also bring along a five-gallon plastic bucket if I’m foraging in water. It does a better job of containing the residual water, mud and muck.

If I’m going to pursue wild nuts like acorns or black walnuts, I’ll leave the rubber boots and rubber gloves at home, but I’ll make sure I have the small, three-pronged hand rake. Scratching your gloved hand through the snow and leaf-litter will get your gloves wet and not be as efficient as scraping the surface with a small rake and picking out the nuts.

If my goal is to find frozen fruits or berries like rose-hips, wild plums, crab-apples or other frozen fruits, I’ll make sure I have a supply of plastic bags in one-gallon, one-quart and sandwich sizes to contain the fruits. It’ll be a lot easier when you get home to sort and wash the berries or fruits rather than tossing all of them in a side-pack or sack.

If I’m looking for wild, winter-greens, I’ll have some kitchen shears and my little hand rake.  I’ll also have plenty of one-gallon plastic bags. The rake helps to separate the matted greens from the leaf litter and some of the stems can be tough, so the kitchen shears help.

Collecting your foraged foods requires the ability to potentially carry a few pounds or more in a way that keeps them separate and any water or snow contained. I usually have two, canvas side-satchels or even a small backpack. Sometimes I’ll insert a plastic, kitchen-sized garbage bag into the satchels or the backpack, or use the smaller plastic bags to keep things organized and dry. Sometimes, the five-gallon plastic bucket comes along for the hike.

Don’t forget to bring along a bottle of water or two and if you’re going far afield and a small, waterproof survival kit. If you trip and fall into water when it’s 10 below and you’re four miles from anywhere, you’ll need to be able to build a fire fast.

Winter foraging is slim-pickings. I’ve seen too many articles that seem to make this all so easy. It’s tough, it’s cold, and it’s hard work, especially if you’re trying to find any wild plants in winter. But if you know what you’re doing, you can find food … and survive.

Have you foraged during winter? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

When You Can’t Carry Food

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Pat Veretto. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today. Let’s face it, food can be heavy and bulky, even if it’s […]

The post When You Can’t Carry Food appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Mushroom Cultivation & Foraging

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Mushroom cultivationI love to hunt wild mushrooms in the summer and fall in Northwest Indiana. I usually go out in June through October for Pheasantback (Dryads Saddle), Oyster, Sheepshead (Maitake), Puffballs, Chicken of the Woods, and Boletes. I like having fresh ingredients that I can prepare to eat as soon as I get home. I can also sautee them and freeze them for later use.  It also gives me some exercise, sunlight, and a chance to inhale all the wonderful smells of fall leaves deep in the woods. I’ve also seen a great deal of wildlife while I’m out there. It just restores my soul.

NOTE: This article is about my own foraging and cultivating of mushrooms, but expert Dr. Mart “Merriweather” Vorderbruggen of Foraging Texas recommends being very careful foraging for mushrooms until you can take a class on identifying wild mushrooms and are an experienced forager. Even experienced foragers can sometimes mistake a poisonous mushroom for an edible one.

Health benefits of mushrooms

One of the benefits of eating mushrooms is that they have many benefits. Overall, they have antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. They are also a good source of iron, readily absorbed by the body. This is great for anemic people or vegetarians to keep up their iron levels, which plays an important role in forming red blood cells. Mushrooms containing Linoleic Acid can have an anticarcinogenic effect and and have anti-tumor properties.

Mushrooms are gluten free,  low calorie, low carbohydrate, high fiber, no cholesterol, and have compounds which may help regulate insulin production. Mushrooms are a source for calcium, which is wonderful if you are lactose intolerant, as well as vitamin D, an essential vitamin which helps the body absorb and metabolize calcium and phosphorous. (Another source for vitamin D is sunshine).

Potassium is also found in Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms. This can relax the blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure, but beware it can increase potassium in people with poor kidney function, or on dialysis. Copper and selenuim are found in mushrooms. They are trace elements that we need for essential body functions. Do read up on individual mushrooms for specific benefits, because they vary between species.

Cultivating your own mushrooms


If you don’t have a wooded area near you, have a hard time walking, or don’t want to get burrs and bugs on you, consider cultivating your own mushrooms by making “mushroom logs”. I really love Shiitake mushrooms, but they don’t grow wild here, so I decided to create a hospitable environment for them and grow my own.

I needed to find some fresh cut oak logs, about 4-6 inches in diameter.  My husband and I found somebody cutting down a tree after a storm, and we asked for 4 of the medium sized logs which had been cut from it. They were happy to give them to us, because they were going to pay somebody to remove it anyway.

These logs had to sit for about a month to cure them before I could use them.  One site I researched said that freshly cut logs give off some type of protective enzyme after being cut to prevent other fungi or spores from attacking them. Another site stated the moisture content needed to be reduced by 50% internally, but still moist enough to help the mycelium from the mushroom spore to grow into the wood.

In the meantime, I ordered my mushroom “plugs” with the spore on them. I ordered a bag with 100 plugs and placed them in my refrigerator until I was ready to use them. I invited a few friends over and we did this project together. The supplies we used were:

4 oak logs, about 3 feet long

Package of mushroom plugs

5/16 drill bit and drill


Small paintbrush

Hot plate and an old pot or a tiny crockpot

Hammer or mallet

Pallet, 2’x4′, or cement block to place logs on

I warmed up my beeswax in a small crockpot. I kept it plugged in until I was ready to use it. In each log, I drilled a hole that was just slightly deeper than the plug. Next, I gently tapped it in with a wooden mallet, then each hole was sealed with melted beeswax that was applied with a small paintbrush. This would protect my spores until they became “established”. (The weblike structure or mycelium would now grow into the wood). Eventually the beeswax will break down & the mushroom would emerge from this hole.

I drilled another hole every 6 inches until I got to the end of the log. Then, I rotated it and started drilling holes again. I had 3 rows when I was finished, and repeated this with the other 3 logs. I actually ended up with mIMG_4876ore holes than I needed, but not a big deal. Since I did this in February in my garage, I didn’t put them outside yet, due to danger of frost.

Around late April, I selected a shady spot under my deck and placed 4 cement blocks down as a base for my logs. I placed them parallel to each other, then stacked the other two across them, kind of “Lincoln Log” style, then checked to make sure none of the holes were covered during the stacking. It’s important to keep them moist, so I watered them a few times per week and in the hotter weather, placed a tarp over them.

Then, in September, voila! They began sprouting all over the wood. I was very happy to begin my mushroom harvest. Now, I can’t wait until next year! I’m sure I’ll have a few new additions to my mushroom family.

Want to learn more about foraging?

mushroom cultivation

Survial Mom DIY: Make Pure Beeswax from Honeycomb

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how to make beeswaxThis year I began a beehive, but didn’t get to harvest any honey for myself. The bee population outgrew their home and I lost half my bees. The remaining ones only produced enough honey for themselves, so I will have to wait until next year. I was looking forward to having my own raw organic honey, honeycomb, and wax products from my own hive. What a bitter disappointment! But, a fellow beekeeper offered me his honeycomb after he took the honey from it. Of course, I accepted.


photo 1 (2)My husband picked up the big box of honeycomb on his way home from work. Inside the box was a large plastic bag, filled with a gooey, sticky mess. Just pulling it out of the bag was enough to coat me in honey up to my elbows. It was also kind of dirty looking. Then I noticed bugs, like ants, moths, and dead bees in it. I always thought honeycomb was all a pretty yellow or gold color, but its not. This had some yellow comb, but also had brown, orangey, and even some black streaks running through it. I was a bit skeptical at this point, unsure if this was even usable material.

I photo 2 (2)decided to make a go of it despite my concerns. I really didn’t want to tell the beekeeper I threw his honeycomb out. I’d feel guilty. So, I cleaned my deep kitchen sink really well and filled it with warm water and added the honeycomb, piece by piece.  I washed, rewashed, and rinsed it several times to just get rid of the honey residue. Then I put a pot with an inch or so of water on the stove on low and added the comb. I watched it start melting and kept adding more until the pile in my sink was all in the pot.

It was funny to compare how much space it took up in the box and my sink with the melted wax that fit into an average size pot. Honeycomb has a lot of volume, but it condenses down into a much smaller amount of actual wax.

Getting started

photo 1 (1)As the honeycomb melted, it “released” the dead bugs, impurities, and strange colors I had seen earlier. The debris went to the bottom of the pot and the wax floated to the top.

Next, I cooled it until the wax became solid.  (I put it in my refrigerator to speed up the process) I couldn’t drain the water until I broke the wax block up a bit, but thee was already a crack across the top from the cooling process. I drained the pot, rinsed the pot and the block of wax, and put an inch of clean water back in the pot.  The bottom of the wax had to be scraped off  in a few areas with imbedded debris.  It took several rounds of doing this until I judged it “clean” enough.

photo 1When it was time to pour it into a clean container, I used an old Cool Whip tub. If I melted it or damaged it, who cares? I found a funnel, washed and dried it, then stretched clean knee high panty hose over the funnel. That would keep any floaters that still remained, out of the wax. I made a small indentation, a little “well”, in the middle of the panty hose so the wax wouldn’t run off the sides. I held my funnel in one hand, and poured the wax with the other.  The wax did cool a bit and plugged up the nylon, but I just moved it over a little bit each time it happened. I’m very glad I had the nylon there, especially at the end, because it caught quite a bit of “sediment” from the bottom of the pan.


photo 2Because I wanted small cubes of wax, I hunted around for some containers to use as a mold. Fortunately, I had some one ounce containers with lids that I bought from a garage sale. They were leftover from a bridal or baby shower. I thought I could put them to use one day. They were perfect, and only .25 for all 10 containers! Silicone ice cube trays are another great option for this. I don’t know about you, but I have a stack of them in different shapes.

I rewarmed the wax in the microwave, although I probably should have used a double boiler method for safety reasons. I filled all ten containers with beautiful pure yellow beeswax. Now I have to decide if I am going to keep them or give some to friends.

It is tempting to keep them all for myself because I want to learn to use wax for candles, to make homemade deodorant, and as a base for medicinal ointments. Here is one of the recipes I’ve made, but feel free to try different Essential Oils for different conditions.

Tea Tree Oil Antiseptic Cream

1/4 cup Beeswax. Shavings or pieces are easier to melt.

2 TB Coconut Oil

2 TB Almond Oil

10 drops Tea Tree Oil

10 drops Lavender Oil

Melt the beeswax and coconut oil over a low burner, Crockpot(TM), or double boiler. (This particular double boiler is silicone and folds flat for storage.) Once melted, remove from heat. Add all the other ingredients. I like to pour mine into Altoids tins. I ask everyone to save their tins of any type for me. You can also make lip balm in empty tubes you can buy online.

There are recipes for deodorant, too. I made a large batch some time ago, but haven’t finished it up yet. I just don’t want to be putting the aluminum found in most anti-perspirants on my skin. It’s not good for you. I also found a great link for my next project – learning to make your own Beeswax candles.  It’s exciting to learn how to become self-sustaining by using the things around you in your environment!

I am glad I tried rendering down the raw honeycomb into pure beeswax. It wasn’t hard, just time consuming, but the benefits outweighed any inconvenience I went through. I can improve upon it each time I try it again. So, if anyone ever offers you some raw honeycomb, take it, and turn it into a DIY project of your own.

how to make beeswax

25 Ways People Earned Money During the Great Depression

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great depression earn moneyIn a previous career, I was a history teacher, and I’ve always loved learning about the past and gleaning whatever wisdom I can from the words and actions of others.

A couple of years ago I found an excellent book with dozens of first-person accounts from the Great Depression, We Had Everything But MoneyI’ve spent hours reading through anecdotes, touching, humorous, and poignant, and one thing that struck me was the ingenuity of the Americans who lived through those tough times. Many continued to find ways to earn money, even when their own circumstances were dire.

I put together this list. Feel free to add any others that you know of.

To earn money, people:

1. Caught and sold fish, clams, and crabs

2. Made homemade fudge and sold it

3. Sold newspapers on the corner. Kids earned a little extra if they were promoted to “Corner Captain”, a sort of Great Depression multi-level marketing program where a kid brought in other kids to sell papers and earned a bit extra himself.

4. Started a lunch truck/wagon

5. Grew, picked, and sold berries

6. Road work

7. Shoveled snow on roads

8. Multiple part-time jobs, including housecleaning

9. Chopped wood or harvested driftwood

10. Made and sold handwoven baskets

11. Mowed lawns and other kinds of yard work

12. Door to door sales of things like shoes or sewing notions

13. Made deliveries for stores

14. Made and sold quilts

15. Sold homemade baked goods, like bread or pies

16. Sold eggs for 25 cents a dozen

17. Childcare

18. Rented out rooms

19. Mended or altered clothes

20. Washed windows

21. Would purchase produce and re-sell door-to-door

22. Sold apples

23. Loaded coal

24. Piecework sewing

25. Sold homegrown produce

In every case it was a simple matter of looking around to see what people needed, what they wanted, what made them feel good about themselves and about life. Years ago a hairdresser friend of mine said, “Lisa, even if the economy collapsed tomorrow, women still want to look pretty. I would do business out of my home and probably continue to earn pretty good money.”

This is why some people who have lived through economic collapses say that beauty products, such as lipstick, eye shadow, and lotions, are good items for barter.

In addition to these creative entrepreneurial efforts, don’t forget that many people found work in the various Depression-era works programs as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, and keep in mind that these people had practical skills that folks today just don’t have. Perhaps some of these might be good additions to your own skillbank:

  • Rendering lard
  • Caring for livestock of all kinds
  • Smoking meat, poultry, and fish
  • Butchering all types of animals from squirrels to hogs, cattle, and other “varmints”
  • Foraging
  • Sewing by hand or with a non-electric sewing machine
  • Raising flourishing gardens
  • Preserving food by canning
  • Tinkering — Knowing how to fix all kinds of things.

As you can see, many of these skills go hand in hand with the money-making ventures of our Great Depression-era grandparents and great-grandparents. Today, so few of us have any of these skills. We are generations removed from farm life and homesteading.

How will YOU earn money in the next Great Depression?

One of the main reasons for studying how people survive, whether economically or physically, is to find lessons we can apply to our own lives and circumstances. For many years, some economists have been predicting an economic collapse here in America. If you are one of the 93+ million of Americans who are out of work, your own personal economy has already collapsed.

Now it’s time to consider how you will earn money, whether or not you are currently out of work. In the days of the Great Depression, it was common for grocers and landlords to provide credit to their customers. Today? That would be a rare occurrence.

From the Depression days there is an abundance of stories of neighbors and church families showing up at the door, laden with bags and boxes of food for a needy family. When one desperate mom was asked by her daughter, “Mama, what’s for dinner tonight?”, the response was, “Whatever the neighbors decide to bring us!”  I wish I could imagine that happening today, but our communities and families have become so fractured over the past few decades that it would be a rare event.

So, what skills do you have that might offer a service during a severe economic downturn? What knowledge do you have that would be helpful, even vital, to others? What products can you produce? What skills can you teach?

Ingenuity is something that can never be stolen by thieves, confiscated by a government, or lost to flood or fire. It is possible to survive during a Great Depression and there is plenty to learn from those who lived through the last one.

Want to learn more about Great Depression survival?

great depression earn money


Foraging gifts for the family

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Foraging is easy – free food is hidden all around you.

Foraging for food sounds difficult but with these tips you will get an easy start – and soon become an expert forager.

Introducing foraging into your lifestyle will benefit your family, your diet and your bank balance. It’s another step to becoming more sustainable — working with the environment, whether you live off-grid or you’re looking to eat ethically sourced food.

Foraging is a great family activity. For younger children it’s their first lesson in eco-living – a way of teaching them about how to depend on and respect their environment. It’s also a great way to keep the kids entertained on a hike.

Set them a challenge to see who can collect the most and you’ll soon have enough wild vegetables for dinner. It saves you time and adds nutrients to your diet which is so important in the winter months. We think you should buy this book introduce your family to foraging – buy it on because it covers all types of edible vegetation from fruit to vegetables.

But it in the UK

Buy it in Canada

When you’re out there this set of organic vegetable bags – buy it on Amazon is perfect for storing different types of vegetables that you may not want to store together.

Buy it in the UK

Buy it in Canada

Foraging is free food – one of the most important elements of off-grid living is trying to save money wherever you can. All it costs is a few hours of your time, a few hours that you’ll no doubt enjoy. You’ll be able to cut down on your shopping bill, causing you to do a mini-fist-pump at the checkout. Not only is foraging free, it can also bring a new zest of life to your cooking. You’ll be using new ingredients that you can integrate into recipes you’re familiar with or you can create completely new dishes, such as a wild mushroom risotto. We’d suggest this book – buy it from Amazon about mushroom picking as it’s by highly respected forager, Peter Jordan.

Buy it in the UK

Buy it in Canada

A great thing about foraging is that you can work it into your schedule. For example, you can forage when you happen to be walking to work or when you’re looking for firewood in the surrounding woodland. You may even come across some edible vegetation when you’re hanging washing out to dry, your food may be hiding in plain sight, you won’t know until you’ve learnt how to identify the correct plants. When you come across some wild vegetables you’ll need to delicately excavate without damaging the vegetable, this set – buy it from Amazon is recommended to us by someone with extremely green fingers and they can be carried compactly in your rucksack:

Foraging is a great skill to pass on to other people in your community. When you’ve read up on foraging and you’ve had sufficient practical experience out in the wild, you should pass on your newly acquired expertise to your neighbours and the wider community. We hope you feel sufficiently enthused enough to get your kit together and start foraging.

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Using Leaves in the Wild

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Another great one by Chaya Foedus:

Sometimes the solution is right in front of us all along.  Today’s post might save your life–certainly, it might make things easier on a camping, hunting, or hiking trip. If you find yourself on the side of the road with a long walk to the gas station–there is a use for leaves to help you…

Continue reading

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5 Edible, Wild Mushrooms Anyone Can Find (With A Little Help)

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5 Edible, Wild Mushrooms Anyone Can Find (With A Little Help)

Porcini mushroom. Image source:

I have been gathering wild fruits, vegetables and other wild, edible plants for more than 40 years. Every walk I take into a field or forest presents me with new combinations and possibilities for something that can be consumed as a survival food or as part of great meal. However, I also find myself looking with alarm at many wild plants that I know to be toxic, if not deadly. This is especially true for mushrooms.

For a number of years when my sons were younger I was involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. One of the things I would do at troop campouts and jamborees is conduct field classes on foraging edible, wild plants.

This always concerned me because many young boys would quickly get the idea in their head that they could eat anything out there. As a result, I would always spend the first half of our hike identifying poisonous wild plants. I wanted to send the message that a lot of what grows in the wild knows how to defend itself, and poison is the first line of defense that many plants present.

Wild Plants Can be Poisonous

In that regard, some mushrooms top the list. So we’re going to begin with a review of the bad guys. Here’s a link to photos of the most common poisonous mushrooms. They tend to grow in the ground and often have unique characteristics in terms of coloration and shape. Unfortunately, some look common and similar to popular edible mushrooms, such as the “false-morel.”

“When it Doubt, Throw it Out”

That’s the mantra for mushroom foragers. Even experienced mushroom hunters will take a pass on a questionable mushroom. If you’re in doubt don’t even harvest it. Check it with your field guide and if you’re not sure, don’t even put it in the bucket.

This may discourage you from mushroom foraging, but don’t let it. Some edible varieties are distinctive, easy to spot and have characteristics you can easily identify. It also helps if you take your first few forays into mushroom land with a mushroom expert, but if you don’t know anyone with that experience we’ll hopefully give you some preliminary advice.

Where to Find Wild, Edible Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a fungus and as a result are ubiquitous. They’re everywhere from our backyards to fields and forests. Many grow from rotting tree stumps or composting plant concentrations. They emerge quickly, usually in the night. And they deteriorate just as quickly.

Image source: Mary Smiley/Wikipedia

Morel. Image source: Mary Smiley/Wikipedia

Typically if they emerge from the ground there is a composting source beneath the soil such as a rotting tree branch or a layer of compacted leaves and grasses. It’s sometimes hard to find ground mushrooms unless the ground is relatively clear of brush, grass and scrub. I’ve had great luck walking through stands of pine because the needles act as a natural mulch and the mushrooms will easily poke through the carpet of needles. I gathered close to 100 morels in a small stand of pines this way a couple of years ago. In the fall, many mushrooms emerge from the knots of tree branches that have died and are in some state of decay. That’s why you have to always remember to look up.

One thing you’ll learn quickly is that mushroom foraging is going to leave you turning your head and neck like a jet pilot. They grow on the ground, on trees and stumps at eye-level, and high in the dead branches of trees above you.  Just take your time and enjoy the casual pace of your hike.

The following are five mushrooms commonly found:

1. Morel

These appear in early to mid-spring after the first wildflowers begin to emerge. They are considered an absolute delicacy in many parts of North America. They tend to grow in groups and can be dried for later use, or used within a few days to a week after harvest. Pay close attention to the photos in the link and take note of the photo of the false morel.

2. Golden chanterelles

Golden Chanterelles. Image source: wikipedia

Golden Chanterelles. Image source: Wikipedia

Another very popular mushroom that grows across North America and appears from June to September is the chanterelle. They’re usually found in the woods, often in pine stands or under stands of oaks and maples.

There are two similar mushroom varieties that are not poisonous but toxic to some degree, so do your homework.

3. Black trumpets

Black trumpets are related to chanterelles but have a distinctive, trumpet shape. It’s the kind of mushroom you would typically avoid, but if you’ve found a true black trumpet they are very good to eat. They tend to grow out of rotting stumps

Black trumpets. Image source: Wikipedia

Black trumpets. Image source: Wikipedia

and deadfalls in deciduous forests.

4. Porcini mushrooms

Porcini tend to emerge from compost in the ground and can be found in fields and forests. Their color varies from a light red to shades of brown.  Make sure you use your mushroom guide or follow the link above to correctly identify them.

5. Hen of the woods

This is considered the bonanza for any mushroom forager. They have a wonderful flavor, keep well, and grow in bunches up to 50 pounds. They appear in the fall and grow on the trunks of deadfall trees and the base of stumps. The largest bunch I ever harvested was about 20 pounds and I

Hen of the woods. Image source: Wikipedia

Hen of the woods. Image source: Wikipedia

quickly called it a day after that find.

When Are Mushrooms at Their Best?

The day after first emergence is the prime time to harvest mushrooms. It may be hard to know this has occurred if you’re exploring an area that’s new to you, but their color, texture and overall appearance should look fresh, yield when squeezed and have no powdery spores present. Spores are essentially mushroom seeds and if you’ve ever kicked a mushroom in a field to reveal a puff of what looks like smoke, you know what the spores look like.

Mushroom Harvesting Tools

The tools you use to harvest mushrooms can vary from gloves and a bucket to long poles made from electric conduit with a flat blade at one end to cut the stems of tree mushrooms. Here’s a checklist if you’re going out to do some serious mushroom hunting:

  • Gloves
  • 1 to 5 gallon plastic bucket
  • Knife for slicing stems from the ground or deadfall trees
  • 1 gallon plastic bags if you want to separate species of mushrooms
  • A tree pole usually in sections and often made from thin tubes of electric conduit.
  • A Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms

If you are planning to do some serious tree mushroom hunting you might consider a net as well. This can be a fishing net or butterfly net. The reason is that mushroom are delicate and if they fall onto hard ground, branches or even your hand, they can break into numerous pieces. A net gives you a fighting chance to catch it in one piece.

Cleaning and Keeping Your Wild Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms should be refrigerated in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Do not wash them before packaging them in their plastic bags. Try to use them within a few days of harvest. Before use, wash them under cold, running water. Many disagree with this washing step, but as a former chef I know it has no adverse effect. Let them drain on paper towels a bit before slicing or dicing and adding to a salad or sauté pan.

You also can dehydrate wild mushrooms and reconstitute them later. Use a standard food dehydrator and if the mushrooms are large you will want to slice them before dehydrating them. If properly dehydrated, mushrooms can be refrigerated, frozen or stored in the pantry.

What mushrooms would you add to the list? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: 


Mother Nature: Healing What Ails You

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Riss Ryker.   Living below poverty level, has, in a sense, forced me to prepare for anything coming my way. Learning the value of plants has saved me more than once. The one thing I believe all preppers should know is the […]

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Survival Food – Arid Edibles

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   Wild edibles are a precious source of food when you find yourself lacking the resources to survive in an unknown environment. Since nature doesn’t always play in your favor you could be wandering in unfamiliar grounds like the desert. In the United States, some major areas are deserts and although it might not be … Read more…

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All About The Moringa Plant – GIVEAWAY!

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moringaHave you ever heard about the Moringa plant? I’ll be honest – I had never heard of such a thing until fairly recently. At first I dismissed it as a fad, but after some extensive research, it looks as though it is here to stay because of its genuine benefits.

Very simply put, Moringa oleifera is a plant that has recently come into the public consciousness because of its high nutritive value. It has many culinary uses, is easy to grow, and can be used to purify water to boot! It goes by other names as well: some call it the “drumstick tree” and in the Philippines it is known as “malunggay.”

I haven’t had the opportunity (yet) to try out any of the many things you can do with the moringa plant, but the more I’ve researched the more intrigued I have become. I haven’t been this fascinated by a plant since I heard about soapwort and vowed I would grow it in my garden and use it as shampoo. But that’s a subject for another day.

Basic nutrition facts about moringa

Moringa has joined the exclusive club of “super foods” that also counts among its members kale, quinoa, and acai berries, for some very good reasons. Moringa is extremely high in over 90 nutrients, including 8 essential amino acids that our bodies need but cannot produce, such as vitamins B, B1, B2, B3, D, and E. It has three times as much iron as spinach, four times the calcium of milk, four times the vitamin A of carrots, and is higher in vitamin C than oranges.

Moringa is one of the highest naturally occurring sources of chlorophyll, the health benefits of which could be the subject of its own article. Because of this, many international NGOs are encouraging the use of moringa as a treatment for malnutrition.

Because of its amino acid profile, moringa is considered to contain a complete protein, which makes it of particular value to vegans and vegetarians. With all these nutrients, one or more moringa plants would be a great asset to your garden, in addition to the foods in your food storage pantry.

Culinary Uses

The leaves, flowers, seeds, and seed pods are all edible. The flowers must always be cooked, however slightly, before eating to neutralize certain toxic compaounds found therein. WebMD recommends avoiding the flowers entirely during pregnancy because they can act as an abortifacient. WebMD also recommends staying away from the roots and bark, as the same toxic compounds found in the flowers are present in the roots in much higher concentrations, and can cause paralysis and death. The threshold for such a dismal fate is not known, so to be on the safe side, don’t eat the roots.

Young and tender seed pods, also referred to as “drumsticks,” can be cooked as green beans and have a flavor that is reported to be not unlike asparagus. Interesting fact: they call them “drumsticks” because they resemble the things you use to hit drums, not because they have anything to do with a certain favored part of a chicken. They kind of look like really long okra pods, to me. Older trees produce seed pods that are tough and bitter in addition to tender ones; for this reason moringa trees are often grown as seasonal crops even in places where they can thrive year-round. Why not try this drumstick sour soup recipe from Myanmar (Burma)?

The leaves can be found in many traditional South Asian dishes, whether they are dried and added as a garnish, or added to soup, omelettes, or curry. As for the taste, one source said that the leaves tasted like a “pecany spinach” when cooked, and slightly pungent like radishes or watercress when raw. It has become popular in the Philippines to make a pesto dish from moringa leaves. A delicious recipe/ tutorial for such a dish can be found here.

Seeds can be roasted like nuts when mature or cooked like peas when young. Unless you are eating seeds grown yourself, use caution when ingesting seeds. Only eat seeds meant for human consumption, as seeds intended for cultivation are sometimes sprayed with insecticides.

As for the flowers, they can be used to make tea, or can be battered and fried like squash blossoms.

Using Moringa Seeds To Purify Water

As a prepper, this is the thing about the moringa plant that most piques my curiosity. You can not only eat it, but can purify water with it, too? It sounds almost too good to be true. In fact, I am pretty sure I once saw an episode of “I Dream Of Jeanie” that featured some kind of magic seeds that could be used for water purification. Unlike that ridiculous made-for-TV plotline, this looks pretty legit. According to this tutorial, two spoonfuls of dried, powdered moringa seeds can be used to purify as much as 20 liters of water!

Not only does this sound like a practical solution to the widespread problem of water accessibility in the third world, trying this out would be an extremely educational homeschooling activity!

The seed powder bonds with particulates in the water and make them sink to the bottom, so the purified water can be poured off through a simple cloth filter. This method also takes care of most (but, as a caution, not all) of any bacteria present in the water. It doesn’t take care of 100% of all possible water contaminants, but it appears to do a pretty decent job. In a SHTF scenario when bleach drops could be impossible to come by, this could be a legitimate option.

Growing Your Own Moringa

Moringa is a tropical tree native to Northern India and the Himalayas. It loves heat, and does very well in zones 9, 10, and 11. The seeds germinate easily, and the plant grows quickly. Many gardeners report that it can grow up to 20 feet in a single season! If, like me, you live in a colder climate (zone 6 here in the Intermountain West), it is still possible to grow this plant in a greenhouse or as an annual.

Karen Coghlan of Blue Yonder Urban Farms suggests:


If you have access to a greenhouse Moringa seedlings could be grown in a greenhouse, with temperatures kept well above freezing.


Moringa grown in pots can be moved inside when the weather changes. Just be sure to provide warmth and light to keep it alive.


If you grow a vegetable garden you are probably aware of the practice of growing vegetable as annuals. Most vegetables are grown in one season and replanted again the next year.

I don’t have a lot of garden space in my backyard these days, but I think next year I will give moringa a try, just for fun. Do any of you have experience with the Moringa plant? We would love to hear all about it.


Win a packet of Moringa seeds!

Karen of Blue Yonder Urban Farms is donating packets of 25 Moringa seeds to 4 lucky Survival Mom readers! Enter the giveaway using the form below. Winners will be selected at random on October 26, and notified by email no later than October 27. Winners have 48 hours to respond.

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Eating crickets

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Like virtually all of you, I grew up in a culture where bugs were gross and I would never consider eating them. However, as I’ve traveled the world I’ve come across a few cultures where bugs are considered food. It turns out bugs are nutritious and as safe to eat as any other food source (keep in mind how much attention we pay all down our food chain making sure our food is safe and remains uncontaminated). Being curious by nature, an adventurous eater, and wanting to be prepared for who knows what, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to eat various bugs. I’ve had ants, ant eggs, bees, water beetles, june bugs, crickets, cricket larvae, some sort of beetle I don’t know what it was, unknown (to me) grubs from a river, silkworms, and forest cockroaches. I’ve really enjoyed some of the ant recipes, but my favorite of all are always crickets.

bats and insects

From l to r: bats, forest cockroaches, silkworms.

Recently I found myself in Cambodia and was able to observe how they caught crickets. The crickets were caught out in their fields, then sold in restaurants, marketplaces, and roadside stands. Apparently, crickets are attracted to light; and judging from what the Khmer people were using, they are particularly attracted to violet or reddish fluorescent lighting. The farmers would attach such a light above a sheet of plastic hung vertically low over a basin of water. At night the crickets, drawn to the light, would unexpectedly hit the sheet of plastic and fall into the water. There, they would drown or become otherwise incapacitated. In the morning, the farmers would go out to their cricket traps and collect several pounds of nutritional and delicious insects.

A cricket trap in Cambodia.

A cricket trap in Cambodia.

I recommend frying your crickets and seasoning them with garlic, onions, soy sauce, etc. I’d avoid eating insects I suspected might be contaminated with pesticides; as with other foods, a safe source is ideal. When you don’t know if an insect is edible or not, keep in mind that brightly colored, spiny, or hairy bugs are often poisonous. No meal of insects has yet made me sick.

Crickets roasted with pig fat served with prawn crackers. From a restaurant in Hanoi.

Crickets roasted with pig fat served with prawn crackers. From a restaurant in Hanoi.

If you would like to try some insects for yourself now before you find yourself in dire straights, I recommend you look for a supplier of quality insects and grubs intended for pets such as birds and reptiles.

If you appreciated this article, please help me by voting for Still Getting Ready! at



Foraging for Food: Identifying Poisonous Berries

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Plenty of wild berries waiting to be plucked - - 583340 Even if you’re not prepping for an apocalypse, knowing how to forage for food in the wild is a useful skill to have. Properly identifying plants and berries can mean the difference between survival and death. Knowing identifying properties of common poisonous berries in the U.S. will go a long way toward helping you forage safely.

A Word of Warning

This is by no means an extensive guide on poisonous berries, and if possible you should always carry a field guide to help you identify plants. Never eat something that you can’t identify or are unsure of, unless it’s a complete emergency – better safe than sorry. It would be better to go hungry for a little while than to eat something that makes you sick.

Berry Buddies

All the berries listed below are edible and relatively common in the United States. Even better news: Not only are these berries abundant but also pretty easily identifiable – making them a safe option for berry foraging.

  • Rosehips are oval or circular-shaped reddish-orange berries that grow on rose plants; they’re a great source of vitamin C and could be essential to preventing scurvy if no other sources of this vitamin are available. Rosehips have a slightly acidic taste with a hint of sweetness. If eating the berries raw and whole, it is best to avoid the hairs sprouting from the top and running through the berry, as they have irritating properties.
  • Blackberries grow wild across the states to the point that some people even consider them invasive. Blackberries can be identified by their small, deep purple, circular clusters, which may have little hairs on the berry. Unripe berries are red or green and while they’re not poisonous, they’re far too bitter and sour to enjoy. Take care when picking as the plants are covered in small thorns.
  • Wild strawberries can be found in abundance all over the United States. The berries are delicious but tiny, so filling up on them could take quite a while. They looks like strawberries except much smaller. The leaves and roots of this plant can also be used to treat diarrhea, making them useful medicine if conventional products aren’t available.

Bad Berries

Some poisonous berries look downright delicious, making them especially dangerous to those who are curious or hungry. Knowing what poison berries are native to your area and what they look like is a great first step in learning how to safely forage.

  • The pokeweed has juicy, deep purple berries that migrating birds and deer will happily eat, but humans should stay away from these enticing plants. These berries are identifiable by grape-like clusters of purple-black berries with fuchsia-colored stalks that may grow up to 8 feet tall. A handful can kill a small child. These plants can cause convulsions, seizures, rapid pulse, slow or difficult breathing and vomiting, among other symptoms.
  • Don’t assume a berry is safe because you see birds or other animals eating it. Birds love to eat moonseed, but to humans it is a toxic and potentially lethal plant that could be confused for grapevines. Moonseed can cause vomiting, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing and death if enough are ingested.

    While the moonseed may look like grapes, muscadines are a real grapevine species that thrives in warm and humid climates. Most muscadines will be deep purple or nearly black on the outside when ripe, but there are also large greenish or bronze muscadines known as scuppernongs, which are native to the southern United States. Muscadines are sweet and edible, with a thick skin.

  • Holly is a common plant with small red berries. While the leaves and berries have a low toxicity, it’s still enough to cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can be fatal in a survival situation.

While foraging probably won’t be enough to sustain you, it is a great way to supplement your stock and keep you from running out of food completely. Being able to live off the bounty of nature is a survival skill that we should all know how to utilize in case of emergency. These berries can be a vital source of nutrients in survival situations, but eating the wrong thing can end in disaster. Research the plants in your area and try finding a guide to help you identify the plants around your home to become familiar with what you could eat if necessary.

Alicia grew up in Alaska where she earned her hunter and wilderness safety license at age 13. She now works as a content coordinator for a tech company in Pennsylvania and blogs in her free time at Homey Improvements.

Natural Tick Repellent Recipes & Tick Bite Prevention Tips

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Tick before and after feeding Before we discuss natural tick repellent recipes and tick bite prevention, let’s take a moment to learn a little more about ticks and their dangers. Ticks. They’re rightly considered to be one of the most unpleasant pests of the insect world.…

The post Natural Tick Repellent Recipes & Tick Bite Prevention Tips appeared first on .

Food at Your Feet: Wild Onions

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This is about a little adventure my wife and I had during our recent trip to West Virginia. I need to set the stage for this one. Stick with me long enough, and you’ll understand the where and why of it all.
The more I write, the more I realize the punchline isn’t the important […]

What Makes You a Prepper?

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I recently went back to my roots in West Virginia, visiting there for the first time since I started I stayed with friends from high school, folks that have consistently proven themselves to be worthy of that short list of folks that you know you can call at 3am when you need bailed out, […]

Rule Of Threes

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In survival training, many instructors refer to the “Rule of Threes”.
Here they are, as taught to me by Hank, of Green Earth Survival School:
3 minutes without air
3 hours without shelter
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
Please note that the second one, Shelter, is not normally included, but for survival reasons, SHOULD be. While it […]

How To Disappear In The Wilderness Using Natural Camouflage

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how to disappear in the wilderness using natural camouflageIf you ever wanted to disappear into the wilderness, one of the best ways to do so is by way of natural camouflage. In other words, not using camo gear or clothing, but using the elements of nature to make yourself hard to be seen. You never know when you might need natural camouflage.  Whether to escape and evade or to hunt and stalk, blending into the wilderness around you might be a necessary part of your survival scenario one day and it’s important that you understand the basics.  Luckily, the process is fool-proof – and – surprisingly fast.

Follow this link for the full step-by-step tutorial on…

How To Disappear Into The Wilderness
Using Natural Camouflage

Matt is NOT a Qualified Expert

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I was reminded of this last week after we did some elderberry foraging.  We had gathered more than ever before, thanks to some new locales Urban Nature Gal scouted out, and I was making a batch of elderberry jam.



First, a few facts to set the scene:

Elderberries are mildly toxic.  Some people have a reaction to this mild toxin that causes vomiting.  Most of the toxin is in the stems, seeds, and leaves, though, so the fruit is pretty safe.

Heat destroys this toxin.

I often eat raw elderberries on the trail and have never had a problem with that.

As I was saying, I was making jam, and as usual, a foam developed on the top of the mixture.  This is common, and I skim it off when I want the jam to set well or mix it back in if I don’t mind something more syrupy.  That day I skimmed, but the foam had a good amount of juice, which just seemed a waste.  There were also way too many seeds to make jam, syrup, or tincture, but I figured I could use it in my cookies.


Next day, I made my famous wild buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.  As I was looking for toppings, I saw the foam and decided to see how it tasted.  So I spread it on my pancakes.  Delicious.  I was delighted and could not wait to bake some elderberry shortbread cookies.

Two hours later I was doubled over the toilet, vomiting for all I was worth.  After a few minutes I laid down in bed but soon was back up and in the bathroom as my body periodically ejected all matter from my stomach through any means necessary over the next few hours.

So what happened?  Urban Nature Gal and I spent the afternoon figuring it out.

Did I pick the wrong thing?  No.  I KNEW FOR A FACT I had picked elderberries, so I knew I was going to be okay.  Otherwise this story would have included a trip to the hospital.  Like I’ve said before, ALWAY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE PICKING.

Why did I get sick?  You may have noticed above, the toxins of elderberries are in the stems, leaves, and SEEDS.  The foam created concentrated the seeds from about 6 quarts of fruit into a 1 pint container.  That’s a lot of seeds.

But heat destroys the toxin?  TRUE.  But the pot I had held 6 quarts of fruit, plus the sugar and lemon juice for the pan.  It was a big pot.  And the foam that was created on top of the mixture was at the top of the pot, where everything is coolest.  Because I wanted the foam to develop, I wasn’t stirring, so the top stayed just cool enough that the seeds stayed toxic.  Once the foam had been skimmed, I stirred the mixture until it came to a boil to evenly cook the entire thing.

When I put the foam on my pancakes, I was literally spreading concentrated elderberry seeds in all their toxic glory on my breakfast.


Needless to say, the foam went right into the compost, and I spent the rest of the day in bed, taking activated charcoal to ease my tummy.

That’s the fun of Urban Nature Man:  When I screw up, I tell you about.


Currant Season!

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I love the wild currants, but I gotta say the picking is quite labor intensive.

It’s THAT time of year again, when the currants begin to ripen and are ready to be picked and dried for the year.  It always manages to happen when the weather gets hot, meaning any foraging trips require plenty of water, cooling clothing, and in this Ginger’s case, plenty of sunscreen.

But the effort is worth it.

I use wild currants in a lot of my baked goods, including my homemade brioche, muffins, and pancakes.  And earlier this year Dave McCallum soaked them in whiskey for our Valentine’s Day Gluten Free Foraged Cake!


This is my brioche, mid bake, with dried currants from a nearby park.

So I think this week I’ll be taking Hunny B. out to my favorite currant picking spot to gather and dry enough berries to get us through the year.  I don’t need many, the flavor is very strong so usually less than a gallon is enough to get us through til next season.

But I’d better do it soon.  Carolina’s parents are visiting from Chile at the end of the month and love my Wild Currant Brioche.

Just remember, whenever you forage, to use proper foraging etiquette.

Oh!  I almost forgot – speaking of Chile, we’re back with new episodes on Memorial Day!  We start with a trip to Chile, with urban foraging, a live volcano, and a hike to a glacier that gets us in a little over our heads.  Don’t miss it!