10 Requirements for Long Term Food Storage

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10 Requirements for Long Term Food Storage   This is a very simple article that details some very important pieces of the food storage process. Its a full article that doesn’t talk about the actual food to be stored. Rather, it focuses on how to store and plan to do things the right way with …

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Prepper Podcasts for the Preparedness Community

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Prepper Podcasts for the Preparedness Community If you are taking steps to get really prepared for the future podcasts are a tool that must be used. With today’s technology you can take a podcast wherever you want. These podcasts are on your phone and with Bluetooth tech you can link them up to your car …

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Is Your Clean Water Really Clean

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Is Your Clean Water Really Clean This article is a stirring look at the idea of clean water. It takes a look at several common ways that we clean water both at home and on the trail. Its an exciting topic because we all want to believe that our water filtering method offers us the …

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7 Reasons You Should Raise Chickens

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7 Reasons You Should Raise Chickens This is a great article that seems like a no brainer to the chicken owner. As someone who enjoys the company of chickens I remember a time before my birds when I too was on the fence about bringing these creatures into my world. I was concerned about what …

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12 Must Have Prep Items for the Elderly

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12 Must Have Prep Items for the Elderly This is a little bit of a disheartening article to read because we would like to think of our elders living their days out in glory. Survival for the young and able bodied is a struggle. If you factor in old age and any number of ailments …

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How to Restore Cast Iron Cookware

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How to Restore Cast Iron Cookware   The even heating and durability of cast iron cookware makes it the perfect solution for preppers. Even with great care you will find Teflon coated cookware loses its coating and begins to rust or chip after only a few years of heavy use. Cast Iron, on the other hand, will …

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The Coming Great Wealth Transfer

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The Coming Great Wealth Transfer While economic topics may not be the most exciting, I have news for you, they are necessary. If you plan on being prepared and understanding the threats you face as a nation you need to get your hands on some material that is readable on the economy. An article like the …

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How to Build Your Own Survival Fishing Kit

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How to Build Your Own Survival Fishing Kit   There is no getting around it. Fish are your best source of protein in a survival situation. There is simply nothing else you can put on the menu that will satisfy your protein needs that comes as easy as fish. That said, having a survival fishing …

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How To Repackage Foods in Mylar Bags With Oxygen Absorbers For Long Term Survival

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Shelf life varies, depending on the storage conditions and the food. You will usually see a range indicated for shelf life. For example, rice is listed as 15-30 years, and

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How to make an Emergency Water Filter

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How to make an Emergency Water Filter The bio filter is a powerful tool in your survival kit. We all know the importance of being able to filter water. Cleansing water is such an important part of any survival situation. No matter how good you are at building shelters or making fires, if you drink …

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How to Survive a Flood

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How to Survive a Flood Severe flooding is one of those disasters that affect millions of Americans every years. These floods costs untold billions in damage. Yet, we rarely see them highlighted on prepper and survival websites. This article features a powerful flood article that helps put it in better perspective. There were more flood related …

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The Retail Apocalypse

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The Retail Apocalypse   The economy is something that peppers always have their eyes on. Many times we look at markets to get a grip on what is happening to the American economy. How are house prices, oil prices and those types of things. This article is about the condition of the retail market. It …

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They Converted A 1991 Cheap School Bus Into An Off-Grid Home. And They Love It.

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They Converted A 1991 Cheap School Bus Into A Home. And They Love It.

Take an interest in tiny home living, add in a bit of wanderlust and combine with a tight budget and you have school bus living.

On their “We Got Schooled” blog, Justine and Ryan share their story of converting a 1991 International school bus into their home on wheels.

The conversion process took about two years of part-time work while the couple maintained their full-time jobs. The entire project cost about $15,000, one-third of which went to the purchase of the bus — which they found on craigslist — and some initial engine repairs.

They earned money to pay for the project as they went along, and they had to research many of the steps before they actually performed them.

One of the most striking things about the young couple’s bus is its color. They painted over the traditional school bus yellow with a specialty marine & industrial-grade blue paint from Sherwin-Williams. “It’s bright, hard to miss, and makes us happy,” Justine writes.

Let’s examine the details of this converted school bus:

Power. The bus is equipped for both off-grid and on-grid living, with a 30-amp AC power inlet under the carriage and two 6-volt deep-cycle batteries on board that provide an alternative source of DC power. They also installed solar panels on the roof, and they have two gasoline-powered Honda generators as a back-up power source.

The bus has a 15,000 BTU air conditioner designed for RVs mounted on the roof, and Ryan and Justine use space heaters for heating in the winter.

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“Despite these systems, we’ve found that the best way to regulate the temperature inside our bus is to use its wheels,” Justine writes. “To avoid extreme summer temperatures, head north, or barring that as an option, head for higher elevation. … Likewise, when it gets cold, head south.”

Meals. The couple uses a standard mini-refrigerator, and when they are off-grid, they tend to go low-tech with ice and a cooler. They cook their meals on a propane camp stove and oven.

Plumbing. Ryan and Janine have an in-line water heater that uses propane to heat the water as it flows through the unit. A ventilation pipe in the roof allows exhaust to exit the bus.

They have a 40-gallon tank that holds water for drinking, cooking, showering and flushing the toilet. They also have a 20-gallon tank for holding grey water and a 20-gallon for holding black water.

Storage. In a video tour of the refurbished bus, Janine admits that she and Ryan had to downsize and simplify their lives to embrace the tiny house lifestyle. “It was an interesting process,” she says. “So far, the results have been good.”

Story continues below video

 

 

The couple shares a closet, and they store their books in hand-made shelves that feature removable bars that keep books from falling off when the bus is moving.

Additional storage is located under the couch and under the bed. Stringed instruments hang on the walls. In the bedroom, Janine and Ryan have other shelving, and they use magnets to hang some belongings from the walls and the celling.

Ryan rigged up a pulley system to hoist large heavy items, such as their bikes and their kayak, up onto the roof of the bus.

Driving regulations. Although specific bus driving requirements can vary, most states require school bus drivers to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and/or a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) based on the weight of your vehicle.

“As part of the conversion process we each upgraded our licenses from a class C to a class B license,” Janine writes. “To do so, we both had to take written and practical exams demonstrating we could safely drive the bus. We typically take shifts behind the wheel and swap out whenever the driver becomes tired.”

Ryan and Janine have logged more than 11,000 miles in their converted bus.

The bus, they write, “represents countless hours of hard work, a whole lot of head-scratching, and yes, even a few spilled tears along the way.

“In its completed state,” they write, “it serves as a reminder of all the reasons we began this endeavor – letting us confidently say that home is wherever you park it.”

Would you want to live on a converted school bus? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Crazy Gadget Makes Every Window A Cell Phone Solar Charger

The Best Concealed Carry Pistol for a Defensive Prepper

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The Best Concealed Carry Pistol for a Defensive Prepper   A concealed carry pistol could make the difference between life and death. A properly trained person with a CCP can make a whole area safer, but you already knew that. You’re here for the best concealed carry pistol on the market. The truth is, the …

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5 Tips to Start Your Apartment Garden

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5 Tips to Start Your Apartment Garden What I like most about this article is that it addresses an issue that many frightened preppers deal with. I am talking about those stuck in condos or apartments that feel like they have no ability to grow their own food. These restrictions could be do to space …

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Pressure Canning Asparagus at Home

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Pressure Canning Asparagus at Home Asparagus is one of the those amazing gifts of spring. I put it on par with the English pea and arugula as those first blessings from the garden. If asparagus is cooked too long it can become terrible. In fact, for many years I thought asparagus was what came out …

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Top 10 Barter Items Every Prepper Should Have

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Top 10 Barter Items Every Prepper Should Have Along with those items that you store for your own personal use there should always be a little bit stowed away for the purposes of bartering. You know the average American doesn’t have much cash stored in their home. Once that cash runs out, if the ATMs …

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How Cherokees Used Trees for Food, Medicine, and Craft

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How Cherokees Used Trees for Food, Medicine, and Craft There are those articles that stir ideas, that offer small smatterings of information often prefaced with a bold title. These articles are very important to the content of the community. This article is not that type. This is a well crafted and thoughtful article filled with …

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Growing Vegetables In Pots – Choosing Plants That Thrive

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Growing Vegetables In Pots – Choosing Plants That Thrive Not everyone has the chance of having a lush vegetable garden. Most of us have to deal with the lack of gardening space or arable land. Living in an urban environment requires for you to find alternatives to your gardening plans. However, there is always a …

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Gray Man Secrets of a Surveillance Operative

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Gray Man Secrets of a Surveillance Operative The infamous gray man is a topic covered pretty often and with a collection of great info throughout the internet. What makes this article unique is that rather than get the information from another prepper, survivalist or ex-military officer the source is much more connected. We have information …

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Survive a Winter Storm Power Outage

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Survive a Winter Storm Power Outage Winter storms must affect more people in the nation than another disaster. They hit giant metro areas like Boston and New York City. Even with underground power lines and a fleet of powerful plows the city and surrounding areas can be paralyzed by powerful winter weather. If the power …

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9 Ways our Homestead Cooks Off Grid

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9 Ways our Homestead Cooks Off Grid I learned early in my prepping career that stoves can die on you! Particularly electric stoves. They are just not the best single option for the average home. The power goes out and now you are stuck with eating out or eating cold. When you talk about a …

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The War Against Germs and Parasites

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The War Against Germs and Parasites This is a very interesting article about germs and parasites attributed to wild game. Much is written about how to procure wild game and how to hunt it quietly in a post SHTF situation. There are even some great article on butchering and storing meat. Where this article shines …

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The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

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The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

Image source: Pixabay.com

My headlights showed that no one had closed the pop door on the coop even though the sunlight had vanished a half hour prior. I had just returned from picking up pizzas for supper and noticed a hen sitting outside in the snow.

Putting the van in park, I glanced at the coop again. There he was — an opossum standing just inside the building. I honked the horn to warn the other hens. The pop door seemed as if it were exploding as my hens flew out and scattered. Some ran for the safety of the back steps to the house, a few scurried into the garage, and one flew up to the roof to roost. Fortunately, all of my hens returned to the coop unharmed. On this night, pizza saved my flock, but by utilizing a few tips, I hope to prevent this from ever happening again.

Predators are a fact of life on the homestead. Raccoons, opossums, weasels, foxes and snakes are common threats to any chicken coop. In addition to these ground-level predators, air attacks from hawks and owls occur in some rural areas. Of course, completely eliminating the threat to hens is impossible, but managing the threat is doable.

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Here are a few tips to tighten the security of your coop and increase the level of safety enjoyed by your flock.

1. Install an automatic pop door

A sliding pop door is a DIY project that can be made with the help of an electric motor and timer, or it can be purchased and installed rather easily. Using a timer to regulate the door opening and closing can be tricky if your birds free-range, as the length of each day changes dramatically and a bird closed out of the coop certainly will draw predators. If constructing your own door, including a bottom rail will hinder some types of predators from lifting the door and helping themselves to your flock.

2. Upgrade your locks

A few predators, raccoons in particular, are skilled at opening doors and lifting latches. This could pose a problem for the inhabitants of your coop. Upgrade the latches and locks on your coop by including multistep latches and even padlocks to deter the most-skilled predators.

The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Replace chicken wire

Chicken wire is fine for some projects, but it is not the best option for protecting your flock. Replace the chicken wire in windows, screen doors and the run with hardware cloth. This cloth is a sturdy mesh that allows air to flow through easily while making it difficult for predators to tear. It also can be used as a covering for a run to deter hawks and owls from sampling your chickens.

4. Bury the fencing

Bury at least 12 inches of fencing below the surface to prevent burrowing animals from entering the run, but do it with the proper materials.

“The Big Book Of Off The Grid Secrets” — Every Homesteader Needs A Copy!

Uncoated metal, such as chicken wire, deteriorates quickly. When burying fencing for a chicken run, or as a protective measure around the coop, use coated metal below the surface. Chicken wire can deteriorate in as little as three years when exposed to the constant moisture typically found in the soil.

5. Keep it clean

Cleaning the coop is certainly necessary to maintain healthy chickens, but keeping the area surrounding the coop clean is just as important to their safety. At dusk, remove uneaten food and treats from the run and coop. This will discourage predators looking for an easy meal — and rodents that can spread disease — from entering the coop. Remove tall grasses, vines and other debris from around the coop, as well. Predators will be less inclined to stroll out to the coop when they will be in full view.

6. Perform regular maintenance

Small creatures, such as weasels, snakes and young opossums, can squeeze through very small holes. Replace worn or rotten boards promptly, including floor boards. Also, take care that the seams are properly fitted together, using a sealant to ensure there are no gaps for predators to slide through. Mend or replace fencing or hardware cloth that has been damaged.

How do you keep predators out of your flock? Share your tips in the section below:

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Hone Your Axe Skills to Functional Fitness

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Hone Your Axe Skills to Functional Fitness There is something about a strong hickory handle and a hand forged head that has been slammed by a craftsman over and over again. When I first picked up an axe with the right intentions I realized there was something electric about it. This article offers a look …

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EDC Survival Flashlight Buyers Guide 2017

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EDC Survival Flashlight Buyers Guide 2017 Owning a great EDC survival flashlight is not about a fear of the dark. A powerful flashlight is about insight. The better insight you have on a situation the safer and better off you will be. I have used quality flashlights professionally and personally for years. There is no …

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How To Can Chicken (Step By Step Guide With Pictures)

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Canning chicken is something our great-grandparents knew all about.  Preserving game and surplus meat for the leaner months or for your prepping reserves is a technique that’s well worth getting

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Surviving a Blizzard

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Surviving a Blizzard The whiteout conditions of a serious blizzard are no laughing matter. In listening to NYC officials talk about preparing for this most recent blizzard they spoke about how prepared they were to handle the snow but it was incumbent on people staying in and out of their way. This made me think …

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Analyzing 4 of the Best Military Surplus Rifles

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Analyzing 4 of the Best Military Surplus Rifles In this age of newest, biggest and best its hard to imagine anyone would read this article and consider using older military surplus rifles. Still, there is something that trumps the aforementioned, and that is your budget. If you are looking for a rifle and do not …

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Wilderness First Aid Basics: Surviving Injuries in the Outdoors

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Wilderness First Aid Basics: Surviving Injuries in the Outdoors Surprisingly enough the average American is very uneducated on first aid basics. Though, we are watching the outdoor adventure market grow by leaps and bounds. The only thing we can assume is that more people are heading into the wilderness than ever before. There are some …

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Hands Off Fishing Techniques

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Hands Off Fishing Techniques There are no two ways about it. Fishing is the best way to get protein in a survival situation, period. Even chasing small game can be an endeavor that proves unsuccessful. Knowing how to setup snares and traps will increase your odds but I still say look to the water for …

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He Built A Family-Of-Five Home For … $5,000

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The Family-Of-Five Home That Cost … $5,000

If you daydream about living the tiny house lifestyle but think that building your own tiny house would be either too difficult or too expensive, then you need to hear the story we found.

In a new video, a young father of three shares how he designed and built a tiny house for his family of five, with little to no building experience – all for under $5,000.

First, he did all the work himself over the course of a year. Then, he also saved money by repurposing free or low-cost items, such as returned wood at his local Lowe’s store, which he purchased at a deep discount, and free solid oak kitchen cabinets he found advertised on Craigslist.

This tiny house builder started with the flatbed of a 1960s Layton camper that he purchased for $200. Hoping to get back his purchase price in scrap metal, he dismantled and destroyed the camper in order to get down to its bed.

Story continues below video

He did recoup his $200, but he admits, “For the labor, it definitely wasn’t worth it. It was a lot of work.”

The tiny homebuilder bought all his framing materials at Lowe’s, explaining that after befriending the store manager, he was able to score great deals on returned or slightly damaged wood. As a result, the entire framing of the house, including the siding and the roof, cost only about $500.

He next tackled all the electric wiring himself, calling the job “very messy” but “pretty easy.”

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The family began their tiny home project in August 2012, and by August 2013, they decided to move the under-construction house to a new location 30 miles away by towing it with their Dodge Ram pickup truck. “It handled it with no problem,” says the builder.

In the new location, they set back to work, staining the home’s exterior red, putting in cedar paneling and window molding, installing hardwood and slate flooring, creating walk-in lofts for sleeping and creating bannisters.

The finishing details were time consuming, the father admits, but his photos show how much character they add to the home.

He made a second video several months after the completion of the home, and those photos reveal a warm and attractive – albeit small — family home both inside and out.

Story continues below video

“We use every single inch of space,” he says. “We have lots of storage nooks and places to hang things like our three guitars, our four guns, our four bows and all our books.”

He says organization is the key to living in a tiny house, but that “after two months, you enjoy the things you like even more than you did previously.

“You get rid of the things that clutter your life and keep the things you want the most.”

The young family is not without modern conveniences. For instance, they have a 42-inch high-definition TV, Internet and a PlayStation for video games. In order to play board games with friends, a table made from reclaimed church pews can slide out from its tucked away location inside a kitchen cabinet.

The couple has enough clothes for one week. “If you get something new, you get rid of something else,” he explains. Out-of-season, clothing and bedding are stored in space bags in cabinets under the couch. Homeschooling books for the kids are under a multi-purpose desk.

“You don’t sacrifice the quality of life (in a tiny house),” he says. “Our quality of life has improved. We have more money, more time and more freedom.

“It has been an awesome journey.”

Would you want to live in a tiny house? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Family Tips for Effective Preparedness

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Family Tips for Effective Preparedness Anyone who is taking on preparedness knows that one of the biggest hurdles towards preparedness is the family. It sounds insane but most people have a hard time explaining the need to spend money, spend time and prepare for disasters. I know it sound counterintuitive to the survival of those …

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Create a Personal Hygiene and Santiation Kit

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Create a Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Kit Personal hygiene and sanitation are two of the most often overlooked parts of the prepping and survival world. They are not as cool as tactical pants, guns and food storage. The truth is hygiene and sanitation will be the first and one of the most dangerous threats in …

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Create a Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Kit

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Create a Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Kit Personal hygiene and sanitation are two of the most often overlooked parts of the prepping and survival world. They are not as cool as tactical pants, guns and food storage. The truth is hygiene and sanitation will be the first and one of the most dangerous threats in …

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Rich Discover New Ways To Escape Societal Collapse

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Rich Discover New Ways To Escape Societal Collapse

Image source: YouTube

Escape plans and bugout bags are the latest fad for wealthy New Yorkers. Some Wall Street types even are paying $7,500 a month for an evacuation service to get them out of town fast during an emergency.

“It’s a marine evacuation service based in New York City,” co-owner Chris Dowhie said of Plan B Marine. “A boat is the fastest possible way out of Manhattan. A lot of people don’t wait in line to get on a ferry. They don’t want to worry about walking off of Manhattan as people had to do in the past. They know that a boat is the fastest way off.”

Evacuation for the Rich

Dowhie’s company, The New York Post reported, has a number of Coast Guard surplus Defender boats stashed around Manhattan Island. Wealthy customers pay between $4,500 and $7,500 per month for access to the boats, which would take them away from the city during, say, a terrorist attack.

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The rich, though, would have to pilot the boats themselves.

“It’s a sealed hull, unsinkable, and it provides rollover protection,” Dowhie said of the boats. “As long as your doors are shut, if the boat rolls over, the boat will right itself. So it’s about the safest boat you can find right now.”

“We plan out your evacuation route,” Dowhie told the newspaper, “and we plan for every customer differently depending on your needs.”

Getting out of Manhattan in an emergency can be nearly impossible. If the subways stop running, the only way to get off is by boat or walking over one of the bridges. Cars clog the bridges.

Dowhie and his time will train the customers to sail the craft themselves.

Survival Bunkers on Park Avenue?

But escape boats are not the only precaution that hedge fund managers, investment bankers and executives are taking. At least 25 New Yorkers spent between $25,000 and $30,000 to install bunkers with air-filtration systems in their homes to protect them from dirty bombs, Tom Gaffney told The Post.

Gaffney is CEO of Gaffco Ballistics, a company that installs bunkers and air-filtration systems for wealthy New Yorkers. Business has boomed since a bombing last year in Manhattan.

Another company, called Preppi, is selling $5,000 72-hour monogrammed bugout bags to the rich. Customers include Steven Spielberg and Modern Family star Julie Bowen. The bag contains night-vision scopes and a GPS satellite communicator.

What is your reaction? Share it in the section below:

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6 Tips to Protect Your Property From Flooding

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6 Tips to Protect Your Property From Flooding Flooding can seriously ruin your day, and your property. Prevention is the best method to avoid becoming a flood victim, but even then it can sometimes be unavoidable. Plenty of natural disasters bring flooding with them including hurricanes, severe storms, and blizzards. All of these are situations where …

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How to Make a Waterproof Altoids Tin Spice Kit

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Waterproof Altoids Tin Spice Kit

Variety is the spice of life especially when it comes to your food. So if you’re looking for a great way to spice up your food on the trail this is an excellent way to bring some of your favorite spices along and it won’t cost you more than 5 bucks for a package of straws and a tin from your favorite Altoids mints.

So check out the graphic below and remember that this method can be used to make all sorts of different Altoids kits, the possibilities are endless. Sealing items in the straws keeps everything sealed and dry the ranger band is optional but just adds protection. Some things you can seal in straws are matches, tinder (cotton balls with vaseline). Keep in mind straws also come in a few different sizes you can use the larger 1/2 inch straws to seal larger items too.

Waterproof Spice Kit

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How to Use a Wire Snare

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How to Use a Wire Snare Many people think that hunting is a pretty easy endeavor. In fact, I have been in arguments about how unfair the hunters advantage is. For those of us who hunt we know it couldn’t be further from the truth. In a true survival situation you will want to focus …

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Pack Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit by Category

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Pack Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit by Category This article is a list of the various categories that should be considered when you are building your 72 hour bag. The uses for a 72 hour bag are varied and the bag should be tailored to the specific task. Is this a camping bag, bug out …

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Preppers Food Storage List

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Preppers Food Storage List There are so many food storage articles on the net. The best part is that most of them offer some great information. This article is one of the more comprehensive articles out there. It features about 30 food items and how to incorporate them into your food storage plan. It is …

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Hygiene and Being Resourceful

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Hygiene and Being Resourceful Image credit: safety-zone.com How much do you really know about personal hygiene outside of the what sits on the store shelves? Do you know that there are tons of options right under your nose that can keep your personal hygiene up to snuff when the world around you is falling apart? This …

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Survival Tools for Chopping Wood

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Survival Tools for Chopping Wood I know what you’re thinking: “Survival tools for chopping wood? All you need is an axe or hatchet!” For some, the idea that all you need to chop wood to burn is an axe or hatchet is true. There are people on the planet that could take an axe and build a …

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Soap Making and Soap Recipe

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Soap Making and Soap Recipe This time of year it may be pretty common for you to have a fireplace full of ashes. By this time of the year you have also probably exhausted the many areas that you can sprinkle ash upon. The compost piles have had their fill and the garden cannot take …

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Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

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Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

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According to many recent books on animal husbandry, livestock feeding has become much easier and better with the advent of commercially prepared feed mixes. These mixes are scientifically formulated to provide everything your animal needs, and you don’t have to bother with thinking about them.

I followed this advice for my first few years of farming, and then I began to think and to see some of the disadvantages that come with this convenience.

One is freshness. Commercial mixes have been finely ground, blended and reformulated. They decay faster than whole grains. It can be hard to tell just how long your bag of feed has been sitting around or whether it’s still safe to feed. Back when I gave our goats commercial premix, I occasionally got bags that the goats absolutely refused to eat. I couldn’t see or smell anything wrong, but apparently they could. By the time we started raising rabbits I had stopped using commercial feeds for most of our animals, but I heard from other rabbit growers who lost many animals to bags of spoiled feed.

Another concern is provenance. Some feed bag tags tell you how much fat, protein and fiber are in the feed but aren’t specific about the ingredients. Sometimes when ingredients are listed, they seem inappropriate for the animals in question. For instance, feeds for rabbits and goats, which are naturally vegetarian, sometimes contain animal fats.

The factor which first got my attention was genetic modification. Many experts tell us that there is no health risk in GMO foods, but some of us have doubts. And most commercial feeds are based on soybeans, corn and alfalfa — commercial production of which is dominated by GM varieties.

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You can buy certified non-GM feed with appropriate ingredients listed. This feed is often prohibitively expensive, and freshness still may be a concern.

There is another option, and it’s more health-conscious than buying standard commercial feed, cheaper than buying certified GMO-free feed, and more shelf-stable, too. This is mixing your own ration from recognizable, whole, non-GMO ingredients. This approach requires more attention and flexibility than buying prepackaged rations, but in the long run it may be better for your health and your pocketbook.

Feed Components: Grain and Seeds

Most of the calories in concentrate rations come from grains and seeds. While corn and soy are likely to be GM unless certified otherwise, many grains have not yet had GM varieties approved for commercial production. You can buy these fairly cheap and be sure that they’re GMO-free.

Non-GMO grains include wheat, oats, barley, millet and triticale. (Rye is also GM-free, but it’s highly susceptible to a fungus called ergot which can sicken or kill animals, so most resources I’ve read recommend avoiding it.) These are a little less energy-dense than corn, but also a little higher in protein. Some studies say that beef cattle fed on these grains instead of corn eat less and gain weight a bit more slowly and show greater feed conversion efficiency. In place of soybeans you can use such non-GMO legumes as peas, lentils and broad beans or fava beans. Sunflower seeds are rich in protein and vitamins and also high in fats; a little fat in your ration is helpful, but too much may not be healthy for your animals.

There are plenty of online information sources that describe the energy, protein and fat content, as well as the palatability and other relevant information about different grains. Feedipedia.org has detailed crop-by-crop information. GMO-Compass.org has information on which crops are genetically modified. Brief introductions to different feed grains are available here and here.

Dirt-Cheap, Non-GMO Livestock Feed? Yes!

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You’ll also want to read up on the livestock species you have. Find out what they need in terms of energy, protein, fat and vitamins or minerals. Also find out how readily they can digest whole grains and what their particular food intolerances might be.

Also, learn which seeds are available locally. Our local feed mill only offers wheat, oats and sunflower seeds from the list above, so we feed our chickens, rabbits and goats with those grains. Each type of animal gets a somewhat different mix. The chickens thrive on a higher percentage of fats than the goats, so they get a higher proportion of sunflower seed (and would get even more if it was less expensive.) The rabbits do better on a low-fat diet and only get sunflower seeds when they are lactating. Our mix is lower in protein than I would like, so we supplement protein in other ways. There’s more about that in the next section.

Feed Components: Supplements

Whole grain-based feed rations may need to be supplemented with extra protein, vitamins and minerals. There are several ways to approach this.

Pigs and chickens can thrive on animal-based protein. Ours get extra milk, broken eggs, whey, and cheeses that don’t turn out right. The chickens also get bugs picked from our garden and scraps from our rabbit butchering. (We don’t give raw meat to our pigs, lest it should give them ideas, as they are large and have powerful jaws.)

Herbivores, of course, need plant-based protein. That’s easy during the growing season. Most new green growth is reasonably high in protein, and you can collect and feed them especially high-protein plants. In our area, these include willow, mulberry, clover, dandelions, comfrey, redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus; some other plants commonly called pigweed have poor feed value), chicory and purslane. Ask your local extension about high-protein weeds in your area. Some of these weeds dry well for winter feeding. You also can increase the protein content of grains by sprouting them. (Read more about that here.)

Vitamins and minerals can be provided through commercial salt-mineral mixes or through feeding a wide variety of foods. Our goats and rabbits have free-choice access to mineral and salt mixes. We also see that they have access to a wide variety of grasses, forbs and woody plants, which tend to concentrate different vitamins and minerals.

Our chickens get oyster shell as a calcium supplement; the rest of their vitamin and mineral intake comes from the wide variety of animal and vegetable foods they eat. We’re still feeding our pigs a commercial ration now, trying to figure out how to transition.

The Ongoing Experiment

Statistics about the nutritional content of weeds or grains can be a useful jumping-off point, but they don’t provide the last word. The nutritional content of plants depends somewhat on the content of the soils in which they grow, the time at which they’re harvested, and many other factors.

You can try to formulate a ration that seems, on paper, to meet the needs of your livestock. The next step is to feed it and see how your animals respond. Do they eat what you offer? Do they keep producing well? Do they lose or gain weight? What do you notice about their overall health? Keep paying attention and making adjustments. You are the expert on what works for your animals, in your circumstances.

How do you keep your animal feed prices low? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Shelter in Place Kits – How Duct Tape and Plastic can Save Your Life

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Shelter in Place Kits – How Duct Tape and Plastic can Save Your Life   Like Broadway Joe once said “First, I prepare. Then I have faith.” The Shelter in Place kit is not one you want to find yourself using if you can help it. As a matter of fact, you will probably need …

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7 Tips For Successful Defensive Shooting

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7 Tips For Successful Defensive Shooting Your EDC gun can prove quite useful in a defensive shooting scenario if you know how to handle it. I’m not talking here about pointing at the target and squeezing the trigger. Everyone can do that, however it is where the bullets end up that counts. The drills you …

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Two-Story A-Frame Cabin

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Two-Story A-Frame Cabin This tiny house could change your life if more ways than you can imagine! If you are like me and can’t afford a big fancy cabin for a retreat or even a bug out shelter, this 2 story, half A frame tiny house may just be your saving grace. Yes it’s small …

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Prepper Acronyms: Common Survival Acronyms to Know

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Prepper Acronyms: Common Survival Acronyms to Know SHTF, BOB, TEOTWAWKI… Whether you embrace the shorthand or not, the fact remains that there is a lot of it out there. It has almost evolved into an exclusive language where you can hold a whole conversation without using layman’s terms. I’m pretty used to this myself, there …

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Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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For many, living under the auspice of the Bible is not only seemingly impossible, but, perhaps, a ridiculous idea.

You know the story, don’t you? A young Christian at college gets invited to a party and says, “I just can’t go.” The organizer says, “Why not?” The Christian responds, “It’s not what I believe or follow.” It’s enough to make some believe that Christianity is too restrictive, rules-minded, and life-altering.

They may say, “Why should I follow something that will limit me?” Of course, the catch for our culture is that freedom is defined as having no restrictions — to shed all authority and discover what works best for you.

Ironically, that is exactly what biblical Christianity is all about – allowing you to discover what’s best for you. Following the risen Christ allows you to really thrive in the purpose God created you for (to glorify His name).

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In John 8:31-38, Jesus unpacks two truths that help answer the question, “Is Christianity a jail?”

First, Jesus—God in the flesh—teaches that true, authentic freedom is found only in serving the living God.Serving” seemingly reeks with the chains of non-freedom. But freedom isn’t just throwing off any man-made restraints. It also comes from within:

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’” (John 8:34)

In other words, we all work hard for something – success, romance, acceptance, achievement, materialism — that we think will fulfill us. And, instead, of us controlling whatever that is, that thing ends up controlling us.

But notice what Jesus says in John 8:35-36:

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Is Christianity Essentially A Jail?

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The son has real freedom. But why is that? Because the son knows he is in union with the Father. No matter what we may chase in this life, nothing can replace the fact that we are created for God and His purposes. Moreover, the son also knows that the Father best recognizes the way he should live. The world claims that true freedom is experienced by whatever we want. Yet, Jesus Christ says that His freedom is doing what you were created to do—following Him.

Real freedom is found only in serving the living God. Freedom isn’t just living independently. We all long and cling to something—known or unspoken. That thing becomes our master and lord. The world says freedom isn’t having a boss or master. Jesus says that true freedom comes with acknowledging and having the right Master.

Secondly, the biblical Gospel alone sets you free. Let’s be honest—when you don’t live in the Father’s house mentioned above, then yes, the Father’s house is going to be like and feel like slavery. We become resentful of being in such a home and look for “greener pastures” and a chance to get away.

Notice Jesus’ words in John 8:37-38:

“I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Jesus wants to give us back the heart of the son in this passage. A son who trusts, loves and follows his Father. One that is like the Father in all respects and loves what his Father loves. You need the Holy Spirit of God to change your heart, not more resolutions or plans to “do better.” You need to be absolutely overcome by Jesus’ love for you and what He did for you in the Gospel.

For many who are reading this, going to church and trying to live the Christian life does feel like drag. They reason many believe that Christianity is restrictive is because they’ve never accepted Jesus’ free offer of forgiveness by repenting and believing the Gospel.

Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Life isn’t a “cake walk” with Jesus. But He will sustain you and satisfy you under any burden.

So, make a choice today: Would you rather have a burden or the right master? I don’t know about you, but the biblical Jesus is my desire, not a burden. Only is Him can true, non-restrictive freedom found.

What is your choice today?

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The Hidden Worm That Can Kill Your Goats & Sheep

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The Hidden Worm That Can Kill Your Goats & Sheep

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I lived in ignorant bliss for years. Like many keepers of small ruminants up north, I was more complacent than I should have been about the possibility of parasites. As a general rule of thumb, these organisms have been more of a problem in southern locations for longer than they have in the north, but are gradually making their way to all regions of the country.

About six months after I purchased two doelings and integrated them into my herd, a visiting animal health expert noticed some worrisome symptoms in one of the young goats and took fecal samples back to her office to examine under a microscope. The next day, she called me with the results: the animal was loaded with barber pole worm.

I had never even heard of barber pole worms, and I set about learning all I could about it by asking other goat owners, seeking information from animal health experts, and searching online.

What Are They?  

Barber pole worm, or Haemonchus contortus, is a parasitic organism which thrives in the abomasum—or last stomach—of ruminants. It is highly contagious, often deadly, and once contracted is nearly impossible to eradicate.

Research revealed that my first order of business was saving the life of my goat. How-to’s varied widely among all the sources I consulted, many of them directly contradicting one another on everything from types of medications to frequency and dosage. It was scary and confusing, to say the least.

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A person in my goat network took the time to tell me the story of what worked for her, and I believe her help is the reason my goat survived. She recommended I use a specific type of anthelmintic—the scientific term for a chemical de-wormer—called levamisole hydrochloride.   The information I found online supported her advice. Levamisole is available only via mail order in my state, but the lady happened to have some on hand and offered it to me at her cost.

Lest the treatment described above sounds like a panacea, it most assuredly is not. Different drugs are more or less effective by region, by farm, by animal, and by a whole host of other factors. But if a treatment worked at a farm nearby, that is a good place to start.

Before continuing with information about barber pole worm, it is worth noting that I am not a veterinarian. Any knowledge I have of animal health and parasites is gained through my own research and experience as a goat owner, and should never be taken as advice in lieu of consulting an expert.

First, a few barber pole basics. It is the adult worms, striped like a barber pole, which take hold in the stomachs of ruminants. From there, they lay eggs which are passed out of the animal’s body through its feces. Once on the ground, the eggs develop into larvae and are ingested by ruminants as they graze. Back inside the digestive system, the larvae become adults and the life cycle continues.

Symptoms of Barber Pole Worm

The Hidden Worm That Can Kill Your Goats & Sheep

Image source: Pixabay.com

Visible symptoms of the possible presence of barber pole worms include diarrhea, hanging tail, dull coat, lethargy and depression. It is important to remember that these signs can be indicative of other maladies, as well, so while these symptoms indicate that something is wrong, it is not always barber pole worm.

If barber pole worm progresses, edema—fluid buildup in body tissues—sometimes becomes visible, particularly in the face and jaw.

An excellent way to diagnose the presence of stomach worms—of which barber pole worm is a likely candidate—is by determining whether the animal is anemic. This can be achieved using a diagnostic tool called “FAMACHA.” This is basically a chart showing how to compare the colors of the tissue under the lower eyelids of the animal—pink tissue means there is plenty of healthy blood flow and white means anemic—and providing guidelines of when to treat.

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Another excellent diagnostic method is a fecal exam. Veterinarians typically offer this service, but it can be costly and cumbersome for multiple animals and follow-ups. For this reason, many people learn to do it themselves. Examining fecal content is not nearly as off-putting as it sounds.  Training can be attained for little or no money, often from another ruminant owner. My own microscope training was provided to me by the professor who first diagnosed my sick goat, but since that time my state cooperative extension has begun to offer quarterly microscope training workshops.

The expense of owning a good quality microscope can seem daunting, but groups and clubs can potentially share ownership in equipment, giving each member easy access without being solely responsible for cost or storage.

It is important to be aware that fecal exams do not always tell the full story. The presence of parasite eggs in fecal matter does not necessarily correspond exactly with the presence of adult stomach worms. When in doubt, always consult a veterinarian.

It is critical to catch barber pole early. Unchecked, it can be deadly. In late stages it is even possible for the treatment itself to be dangerous because the sudden die-off of parasites can render an animal too compromised to recover.

As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is wise to screen new animals for parasites before putting them in with your existing herd, even when buying high quality stock from a reputable dealer. Once barber pole was present on my farm, the only option from that point forward was to manage it.

Some livestock owners get desirable results by routinely administering anthelmintics to the entire herd or flock. However, current school of thought recommends treating only sick animals. The reason for this is to avoid the risk of creating a medication-resistant super-organism.

Hot to Prevent Barber Pole Worm

When my goat was first diagnosed, I treated my entire herd. It was important at that time to make a complete break in the life cycle of the parasite. I carefully monitored the fecal egg counts after the first dose and treated only sick animals from there on.

Parasite activity is minimal in winter in cold climates. It flares up most in spring and fall, so diligence is most crucial during those seasons. Some individual animals and certain breeds are naturally more resilient, and young stock is generally far more susceptible than are adults. Resilience—the innate ability to thrive in the presence of barber pole worm or avoid getting it at all—is an excellent trait to keep in mind when culling a herd.

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The Hidden Worm That Can Kill Your Goats & Sheep

Image source: Pixabay.com

Some of the best ways to manage barber pole worm are really more about managing the livestock, pasture and infrastructure. Parasite eggs and larvae thrive best in warm humid conditions, multiply most easily in crowded conditions, are most plentiful close to the ground, and have a more profound effect on less healthy animals. With those facts in mind, good parasite management includes:

  • Keeping indoor quarters clean.
  • Allowing ample space in the most-used paddocks.
  • Rotating pastures and sticking to the highest and driest during damp seasons.
  • Keeping hay and feed up off the ground by using hay and grain feeders.
  • Hanging water buckets on walls to minimize spills and feces contamination.
  • Keeping feed and water containers clean.
  • Providing mid-level browse. Sheep tend to graze and goats prefer browse, but both will eat vegetation higher off the ground if browse is provided. This will help limit the likelihood of the larvae being ingested.
  • Maintaining overall herd health.
  • Staying abreast of any health changes in individual animals and within the overall herd, particularly during seasons when parasites are most prevalent.
  • Doing fecal exams often.
  • Being responsible regarding biosecurity: Use due diligence to prevent yourself and visitors from carrying barber pole worms to other farms.

Two other preventative treatments being increasingly recommended by veterinarians and farmers are copper and tannin. Many sheep and goat owners use copper boluses—capsules filled with copper pellets—as effective treatment. The drawback to these is that they can be challenging to administer, because they need to be shot with a special gun down the animal’s gullet in order to remain intact and not chewed. An easier yet arguably less effective method is to offer free-choice tannin. This is easily found in the bark of softwood trees, but comes with a warning: certain pine trees are toxic to goats and sheep. Pine trees native to my region pose no danger, but that is not the case in all areas of the country. The bark of other trees, most notably cherry, can be toxic, as well. If you are not certain, consult your veterinarian.

No small ruminant farmer wants to have barber pole worm show up in his or her herd, but it is becoming increasingly common in most areas. But with attention to self-education and adoption of careful practices, barber pole worm can be monitored, managed and mitigated.

Have your sheep or goats ever had barber pole worm? Share your advice in the section below:

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3 Reasons Heritage Hogs Are Just Plain Better Than Commercial Hogs

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3 Reasons Heritage Hogs Are Just Plain Better Than Commercial Hogs

Guinea Hog. Image source: USDA

If you’re thinking about raising a couple of hogs for your family’s freezer, the first place to start is by deciding on the type of pig you want.

Heritage hogs and commercial meat hogs are distinctly different in many ways. Depending upon your space constraints, budget, timeline and individual beliefs you may find one better than the other. Heritage hogs are more self-sufficient but slower to grow. Meat hogs are fast growers but require more maintenance. And when it comes to the quality of the meat, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Heritage animals were bred by our colonial forefathers to adapt well to the local environment with little maintenance. In America, common breeds include Choctaw, Guinea Hog, Mulefood, Ossabaw Island and Gloucester Old Spot. These breeds were developed to exhibit better foraging abilities, longevity, maternal instincts, and resistance to disease and parasites when compared to selectively bred commercial breeds.

Here’s four traits of heritage hogs you need to know:

1. Heritage hogs are cheaper to feed (but need more space). You can set a heritage hog loose on acres of pasture and allow it to forage for the bulk of its diet, saving you tons in feed costs. But this means it must have permanent access to pasture. This is the first, and largest, discrepancy between the two types of hogs. How much space are you willing to dedicate as “hog land?” Heritage hogs were developed to fend for themselves on open land.

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For a small farm without an acre to spare for hog pasture, heritage breeds may not be the right choice. Commercial hogs that were developed to thrive in very small spaces get by perfectly well on as little as 20 square feet of space per hog. These breeds include Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire and Landraces. They will do just fine on dirt; however, these types of hogs need access to commercial hog feed 24/7 to meet their growing potential.

2. Heritage hogs are heartier. Not only are heritage breeds raised more humanely than your standard commercial CAFO pig, but they are also much more hearty. Thanks to their DNA, heritage breeds are naturally resistant to a variety of diseases and parasites. They are able to adapt to their environment without any help from you. You won’t ever have to juice up your Old Spots with antibiotics or growth hormones. Nor will you have to give them regular de-wormer. While commercial-breed hogs may not specifically require antibiotics or other medications, they are more susceptible to disease and parasites than heritage hogs. They also don’t deal as well with extreme weather conditions.

3 Reasons Heritage Hogs Are Just Plain Better Than Commercial Hogs

Guinea Hog. Image source: USDA

3. Heritage pork is more flavorful. When you think about the pork you will get as a reward in the end, a big factor is the taste you want. Commercial-type hogs have a leaner carcass, producing a light pink meat and little lard. This is the classic “supermarket” pork taste that so many people are accustomed to and may prefer. However, darker heritage pork has a more full, complex flavor; it is well-marbled with fat, meaning it is more juicy and tender. Like all grass-fed meat, heritage pork is also healthier for you. It is higher in good fatty acids, beta carotene, and vitamins D and E.

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Of course, not everything about heritage hogs is great. Let’s examine the one negative.

Caveat: They’re Slow Growers

Though the cost of feeding commercial hogs might seem daunting, remember that you will only be feeding them for a matter of months. Commercial hogs are bred for fast growth and good feed efficiency. A 50-pound feeder hog can reach market weight in as little as 100 days. If you are looking for some farm-raised meat and needing it fast, commercial hogs are the way to go. This is especially beneficial if you don’t like having hogs around full-time. Raise a couple of Hampshire-Durocs from August to November and have a pork-filled freezer and pig-free yard until next summer.

Though some heritage breeds mature faster, most take over a year to reach a weight worth taking to the butcher, some even longer. This is due in part to their genetics makeup and in part to their diet. If you are supplementing your heritage hogs with commercial feed, you may be feeding them more than a commercial hog in the long run.

As far as temperament goes, it can be a toss-up. Both types have more docile and more aggressive breeds. If you are looking for a pig with personality, Guinea Hogs can be real sweethearts. However, you may find raising pigs you’ve bonded with a big drawback when it’s time to hit the butcher’s block. Ultimately, if you want some quick, low-cost pork you raised yourself, then crossbreed commercial hogs are the way to go. If you want to preserve an environmentally sustainable breed that practically cares for itself, get a heritage hog.

What is your favorite type of hog? Share your advice in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Surviving A Fall Through The Ice

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Surviving A Fall Through Ice If you were to fall through ice into freezing water that is over your head, do you know what to do? What if there is a current? Even if there’s people with you, they may not be able to assist you without falling in, too. Do you know how to …

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Can Non-Maple Trees Be Tapped For Syrup? Yes!

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Can Non-Maple Trees Be Tapped For Syrup? Yes!

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Tapping trees for sap and making homemade syrup is an easy and delicious component of being a homesteader and raising one’s own food. The three issues that often stymy beginners, however, revolve around the trees themselves.

People new to tapping often struggle with being able to tell sugar maples from other maples, discerning which trees are maples as opposed to other deciduous trees, and wondering what to do even when they can differentiate between trees but do not have access to maples.

It’s Not Just Sugar Maples … And Not Just Maples!

So, what if there are no sugar maples? The good news: It might not matter.  Trees vary greatly by region and even by individual trees. This means that the red maple in your yard might produce better quality sap with a higher sugar content than your neighbor’s sugar maple, in the same way that your yellow Labrador dog might outrun your neighbor’s greyhound.

The best way to know is to try it. When in doubt, tap it and taste the sap. I happen to have a big old sugar maple that gives sap with a bitter taste, and a red maple which is excellent for syruping. Pretty much any maple can be used for syrup. If the sap tastes good, try boiling it down. And if it turns out to be worth the effort, put a marker on the tree so that you can identify it for future use.

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Even better news is that trees other than maples can be used to make delicious syrup. Birches, particularly yellow and gray species, make an excellent syrup, even though the sap has a lower sugar content and must be boiled down for longer than that of most maples. Many sources say walnut and hornbeam trees also make good choices for syrup.

As with any endeavor, remember to keep safe and avoid trying the sap of trees that contain any toxic components.

How to Tell the Difference

Telling the difference between trees, especially, during winter, is admittedly tricky at tapping time. The best way to know whether a maple tree is a sugar maple or a red maple or some other species of maple is often by the shape of their leaves or the color of their flowers. Unfortunately, when it’s time to tap for syrup, the leaves and flowers are long gone. It is possible that the leaves are on the ground under the tree, and it is even slightly possible that there is adequate distance between trees that it can be determined which tree the leaves fell from. But it is also likely that whatever leaves are present are buried under a foot or more of snow and ice. If you can tell by the leaves which kind of tree you have, using Internet photos or a field guide, do that.

Otherwise, try examining the bark. Mature red maples and silver maples tend to have a scalier texture than sugar maples, and do not have the light-colored splotches that sugar maples sometimes can.

Can Non-Maple Trees Be Tapped For Syrup? Yes!

Walnut tree. Image source: Pixabay.com

The best way for small homestead syruping operations to ensure they are using sugar maples for spring tapping is to identify them ahead of time. The flowers and fruit — often called “spinners” or “wings” — are distinctive among maple species, as well as the leaves. Anyone considering tapping trees would do well to do their research in advance and mark the trees, using colored survey tape or marker flags, or even a hand-drawn map if there are enough trees.

Distinguishing Maples From Other Deciduous Trees

As with differentiating between species of maples, telling one genus of deciduous tree — often called hardwoods — from another can be challenging, as well, and for most of the same reasons.  However, there is generally a more easily discernable difference between the bark textures and colors, sizes and basic growing habits between one tree genus and another.

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Using the process of elimination can help. Paper birches are easy to discern by their bark. Other birch species and many ash trees hang onto their leaves long into the winter and sometimes even until the spring buds start pushing, so it is very likely that they would still have a leaf or two attached to the tree or on top of the snow beneath it.  American beech trees often have a beech bark disease that makes their trunks covered with distinctive cankers.

Other trees sometimes have particular shapes or growing habits which make them discernable from sugar maples. For example, bear in mind that the branches of willows droop, and cherry trees are often twisted and gnarly. Red maples and silver maples are more likely to be found in swampy areas than are sugar maples.

While these points do not result in a definitive identification, they can at least narrow the pool of possibilities and thereby decrease time spent poring over field manuals and online guidebooks.

Tapping trees for sap need not be complicated. As with anything, it makes sense to start with the basics, continue to learn through a combination of trial and error and research with each season, and enjoy the tasty results.

Have you ever tapped a non-Maple tree? Share your tapping advice in the section below:

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Ask a Prepper Series: Desert Island Survival Scenario

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Ask a Prepper Series: Desert Island Survival Scenario Besides shooting the shit when we get together, we sometimes like to run through survival scenarios. One of us had caught that Tom Hanks Castaway movie showing on TV recently and another had stumbled on this online image. We pulled this up on a screen and got to …

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Lessons from History – Hand Powered Tools

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Crank It Out

When we hear “crank it out”, we tend to be hearing “get it done”. We have a lot of advantages with that these days. Nobody’s spinning a wheel on a giant roller to produce our news – we just tap a few buttons, and systems lift and press, roll, and cut for us, or we’re online and reading away without a walk to the morning paper at all.

The conveniences are all around us, from our coffee grinders and brewers, out in our sheds, and all around our homes and lives. But it wasn’t actually too far back in history that “crank” was a very literal term for a lot of those conveniences.

In my kitchen, I have a simple slider mandolin, mason jar pump-top onion chopper, and a salad spinner. I’m going to break down and get a cherry pitter this year or next year. They’re convenient. They save labor in time and energy. Grinders are there for coffee and wheat, so I stay happy/sane. My world is full of items that do the same, from my battery drill and power saws to the blender that cranks out curach and turns strained jelly peels and pulp into slurries for fruit roll-ups.

A disaster is a bad time to lose all of our conveniences in life. There are also some hand powered tools we can pull from the pages of history – and that inspire modern tools – that will help us with our self-reliance. They bounce back and forth from the kitchen to the workshop, out to the barn. Here’s a quick look at a handful of those things that can help us keep cranking it out.

Oil press

An oil press can be a big financial commitment, and it’s not for everybody. Until there’s enough land space to be producing foods, let alone oil nuts and seeds, it should go on the back-burner. On the other hand, if you’re in suburbia and you have the 1-2 working oil presses in 3-25 miles, you have a very powerful bartering tool at your fingertips.

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That’s because fats are important. A lot of game animals are very lean in fats. In a world where we and our limited livestock are working just as hard as wildlife to eat, stay warm, prepare for winter, recover, and raise a family, we’re going to get leaner, too. That’s not always a good thing. There are vitamins and minerals our bodies can’t process without fats.

Fats are also important in baking, and make cooking (and cleanup) a whole lot easier. Plus, check out your powdered peanut butter. I’ll bet it tells you to add some oil for best results.

Sadly, even Crisco and powdered margarine won’t last forever, and it’s not like they’re all that good for you.

There is an alternative to a press to get those fats – at least one.

We can basically mince the heck out of various seeds and nuts, turn them into a slurry, let them settle (for hours or days), pour off the liquids (that’s what we keep), strain and press the wet mass (to get more of the liquids), and wait for the water to dehydrate (days). There are regularly additional steps for different types of plants, like shelling, simmering, filtering, additional pour-offs, and milling. Fermentation and spoilage risks are high. Labor and time are through the roof.

With an oil press, an impressive number of tree and grass seeds can be turned into oils.

Many presses have or can be fitted with automatic shellers and separators. The leftover meal can be dried to use in breads, thicken stock and gravy, or be fed to animals. The same presses can be used for a wide variety of seeds and nuts, sometimes requiring a gear change and sometimes extremely small or large seeds require an additional piece or to be minced. Sometimes we do have to take our peanut shells and skins off, and feed it just corn kernels.

(There are corn threshers and bean-pea shellers available crank-style, too.)

Not only is the time and effort hugely reduced with an oil press, our product comes out cleaner and we usually have more to show for it at the end of the day.

I won’t go into as much detail for the rest of today’s list, but those types of factors are there for all of them. It’s why the “convenience” and “efficiency” machines came into play in the first place.

Hand Beater

While we’re right there talking about speed and ease in the kitchen, let’s talk about rotary beaters.

I know that at various stages, there were also rotary and pull-cord blenders on the counters. This guy has good memories for me, though.

Moms and Grandma used to have a set. They made whipping eggs or cupcake frosting for twelve or a classroom fast and easy. If we’re going to be doing a lot of from-scratch cooking, or if we have months and months’ worth of powdered milk, butter and creamed soups stored, something as simple as a design that hasn’t much changed in 50-100 years and can still be found in stores is a force multiplier.

Peeler-Corer-Slicer

Another kitchen equivalent to the venerable 1911 is also probably one of the most commonly suggested and available hand-crank tools. It extends way beyond the preparedness-homesteading crowds. Like a cherry pitter, anybody who grows or processes a lot of fruit considers these things gold. When I’m only filling out a few drawers in a dehydrator I’ll still just whip out the mini-paddle mandolin, but when you start talking buckets and bushels, these apple peelers more than earn their price.

Ours has the option for using the coring center or just a spike, so I can also peel potatoes with it, and the slicing blade can come off so I can grate those, pears, or apples instead of slicing them.

Hand-Crank Food Processor

Once we’ve peeled or washed our produce, there’s another gem we can upgrade to if we want – people have actually started (or returned to) making hand-crank food processors. Like the electric versions, they make pretty fast work of assembling salsa veggies, dicing for relish and chutney, slicing salads, or cutting butter into pie and tart crust.

Salad Master

There’s another version we can use that bolts onto a countertop or table. I actually prefer it, because I like the resiliency of metal when I’m plunking down a chunk of change (Queen Klutz here).

You can get them in a number of styles and there are sets with attachments as far ranging as the modern Kitchen Aid base mixer. That means a single hand crank base can be adapted for ground meat and sausages, and pressing pasta, as well as mincing, slicing and dicing veggies.

Which styles we like best is just personal preference.

Applesauce and Baby Food Strainer

If we do a lot of jelly and jam canning, want to quickly churn out applesauce, or want to make our own baby food, there are some pretty simple devices out there still – and that we can pick up from old farm estate sales fairly regularly if we watch for those.

Like the Foley applesauce and baby food strainer, many are meant to be used as a stage in the process of cooking.

You can also find steam and hand-crank juicers that work for syrups and jellies. If you plan to forage or produce a lot of the cranberry viburnum and chokecherry type fruits, those are handy to have.

Butter Churns

When we think of churning butter, a lot of people apparently think of somebody sitting with the tall canister and paddle or plunger, lifting up and down. I think of my blender, personally.

Throughout history, however, there have been a lot of different styles and scales of butter churns, and some of the small and countertop hand crank versions are more likely to fit into our storage space – and regularly, our budgets.

Styles like the canning-jar base are also a lot more hygienic than the wooden ones and the larger, longer metal designs. You can clean them more effectively in between uses.

If we’re in a world with limited outside assistance, that becomes even more important. Goats aren’t as likely to have a milk infection, but cattle used to get them regularly. They still do in some cases. Some of those diseases will only spoil flavor, but some of them have human health concerns. If that milk is transferred into plastic or wooden containers, it takes a lot of cleanser and then a lot of rinsing to regain comfort in using them. Water is going to be a hugely important resource for a lot of people, and it still might not do the trick.

Smaller glass and metal vessels can fit inside pressure canners and are easier to reach (and rinse) than larger ones, and long, skinny churns.

They’re far faster than shaking a jar or rolling it underfoot – although if you’re about to shell a solid ton of peas, the foot thing might work for you.

Centrifuge for Butterfat Testing

So, we have our goats, sheep, camels or cattle, and we want the ones with the highest butterfat for butter and clotted cream. How do we find out in the second and third generation of livestock after a crash?

An old-school hand-crank centrifuge.

That centrifuge can also be used just to find out which animal’s butterfat or heaviest creams separate fastest and easiest.

Instead of having shallow containers sit for hours – without jostling – with the risks of pests, dust and heat spoilage, we can also use various turn-of-the-century tools to speed that process.

Hand-crank sewing machines

When a ram horn catches us and rips a hole in our clothes, or our pockets start failing, when growing kids need clothes made out of curtains, we can sit down with a needle and hand sew, but if a sewing machine is available, it tends to be a lot faster of a process.

It’s also an easier process for old and damaged hands – some tension adjustments and threading is required, but then those hands (and eyes) can relax a bit.

You can hunt up antiques, or run some searches for non-electric sewing machines – they’re out there, especially from/for some of the still-developing nations.

Modern Manual Drill

Nothing is going to help us rebuild a shed or fence or put in a new milking bench like our electric drill and driver, but there are still manufacturers out there for hand-crank versions that will be faster and easier than doing it all with a screwdriver.

Hand augers are commonly seen on the lists of disaster tools, and are shaped a bit differently. They’re really good at what they do. Modern and yester-year manual drills that can also be fitted with our current drill’s screw tips have some advantages, too.

Combined, they make a pretty handy pairing around a house or farm that’s looking at losing power. 

Bench Grinders

Modern-made and antique, there are all kinds of handy things for the shop. While a drill is one of the most commonly reached-for items in our house, the wheel grinders are in high demand at my father’s. They make fast work out of sharpening tools and blades.

Some of the hand-crank versions are massive beasts that can be set up for two hands, and can handle light notching, planer, and plank sanding and some can even be set up as circular saws and used to cut pipes, tubing and OSB. (Those are two-person jobs for safety reasons.)

As with the kitchen, the speed and work effort compared to a hacksaw, steel wool, and sharpening stone plays a factor when looking at the costs.

And, as with the kitchen, both the bench grinders and the manual drills mean that people with injuries or ailments can still get work done in a lot of cases, and do that work faster. That, too, factors into what we’ll pay and how we prioritize.

The Wide Range of Shop Tools

Shop tools of all kinds are out there. I don’t use a drill press often enough (and they’re expensive enough) to have given it its own listing. But they’re out there. So are things like barn beam boring drills, smaller tinker-merchant and jeweler’s presses, ratcheting drill presses and nail setters.

Farm horses used to regularly be hitched to circle and power things like turnip slicers, grain threshers, and grain mills. Horse-drawn harvesters dug, separated and in some cases even sorted potatoes and turnips, working off gears attached to the wheels. Dogs and goats can handle some of that workload with smaller versions.

Modern Spins

Just as some of the hand-crank and -lever tools that bear consideration can be had from current production runs, the modern world has not turned its back on hand cranks.

They’re there in tire pumps and emergency lights large and small. We can also buy little hand-cranked battery boxes to charge our small electronic devices. One of my earliest articles dealt with laundry, with several modern takes on manual washers and wringers.

In some cases, we can find those devices in bike-pedal powered forms as well.

Cranking It Out in the Modern Age

The internet is a wonderful thing. It brings the whole world right to our fingertips, and it can regularly have most of that world delivered to our door.

We didn’t jump from caveman sticks and rocks directly over to sending email over HAM radio. Throughout history, there are gadgets that made lives easier and allowed us to do more work. As preparedness spending grows, we can find a lot of new manual gadgets becoming available from suppliers and inventors.

Whatever you reach for this week or this month, especially over planting and harvest season and the next DIY build or repair, make a note of it (a real, physical note). Is it a force multiplier? A must-have? A beloved convenience? How important does it rate on your scale?

If you’re doing things by hand or planning for a world without power, it might be worth popping a “manual” or “hand-operated” search for that item into your browser. There are fair chances somebody has one, makes one, or has a hack to create one.

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The Quick & Easy Way To Tap A Maple Tree For Syrup

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The Quick & Easy Way To Tap A Maple Tree For Syrup

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When it comes to sweet delectable gifts given to us from nature, maple syrup ranks as one of the best. Tapping maple trees for sap and making it into syrup is a surprisingly simple process, can be done at any scale, and is achievable by anyone with access to maple trees and a few basic supplies.

The Basics of How Tapping Works

The rudimentary science goes something like this: the natural fluids inside trees tend to remain dormant during the cold of winter, but begin to rise and fall between the roots and branches when spring arrives. This brief period, during which the temperature rises well above freezing during the day but continues to dip back to cold overnights, is the best time to extract the fluid — or sap — from the tree by way of tapping it.

The way to do this is to drill a hole through the bark in order to access the sap, insert a specialized funnel-shaped spout called a “spile,” and hang a bucket under the spile to collect the liquid.

The Basics of How Sap Becomes Syrup

Anyone who has spent any time in the kitchen knows that boiling liquids in an uncovered pan causes the liquid to “reduce,” or become thicker. The more surface area in the pan and the hotter the heat, the faster liquid will evaporate into the air.

Making maple syrup works along the same principles. It begins with sap, which is more water than sugar, and boiling reduces it into a thick sweet syrup. It takes roughly 40 units of sap to yield one unit of syrup.

Equipment You Need to Make Syrup

The equipment needed for a syruping operation varies widely, depending on the size of the project. That is one of the beautiful aspects about making syrup — you don’t need to invest in a bunch of supplies if you want to just try it out.

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For an easy first-time one-tree backyard tapping project, you need:

  • Drill, either cordless electric or hand-crank, with a 7/16 bit for standard-size spiles.
  • Spile with hook, made out of metal or plastic, available online or at hardware stores and specialty retailers.
  • Hammer or rubber mallet.
  • Bucket, either one made specifically for sap collecting or a jerry-rigged one. Covers are nice to keep out debris and precipitation, but not crucial. You can rig one out of recycled materials if needed.
  • Heavy stockpot.
  • Filtering material — cheesecloth or paper coffee filters.

How to Tap

Select a tree for tapping. Sugar maples, also known as rock maples, are best, but other maples — and even other kinds of deciduous trees — can be used. The tree should be healthy, eight inches or more in diameter, and ideally have a widespread crown.

Drill a hole in the tree 2 and ½ inches deep, holding the drill at a slight upwards angle. I wrap masking tape around the drill bit so I can tell when to stop. Run the drill in reverse to get out the pulp.

The Quick & Easy Way To Tap A Maple Tree For Syrup

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Attach the hook to the spile before inserting it. Using the hammer or mallet, gently tap the spile into the hole, with the pour spout on the bottom.

Hang the bucket and wait for the sap to run. Depending upon the tree and the weather, you could get as much as two gallons a day, or as little as a few drops.

It’s important to check your tap every day. The warmer and sunnier it is, the more it will run. Between boils, you will need to keep it cold to avoid bacteria growth.

You can drink sap the way it comes out of the tree. It is tasty and said to have health benefits, but take care not to overdo as it can have laxative properties.

When the tree begins to push buds, the sap will begin to taste bitter and it’s time to pull the spile out of the tree. You can do this with pliers. Wash it well and put it away for next year. The hole in the tree will heal over in a year or two, with no long-term ill effect.

How to Make Syrup

If you can possibly boil your sap outdoors, that is ideal. The reason is because all of that humidity coming out of the reducing sap has to go somewhere, and could leave a sticky residue on your walls and ceilings and even contribute to peeling wallpaper. That said, people do get away with boiling small amounts indoors, especially if their house is very dry from wood heat.

You can boil outdoors using a propane camp stove, but always make safety a paramount concern. Use appropriate practices, keep children and pets at a safe distance, and follow manufacturer’s directions. You also can set up a firepit and build a wood fire.

No matter where or how you boil down your sap, the method is simple. Use the widest, shallowest container you have, and cook it at a full boil. Tend to it carefully. It can roil up unexpectedly every now and then, and you will want to back off the heat if it does. As with any reducing liquid, particularly one containing sugar, you will want to stir it more often as it thickens to keep it from sticking and burning.

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When the syrup is reduced to the thickness you like, strain it while still hot to remove any fine debris, foam or grit. There is no wrong answer when it comes to thickness, but simply personal preference — and if you decide later it’s too thin, you always can cook it more.

Homemade syrup can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for quite some time. If you question its freshness at any point, you can skim it and reboil it.

Ongoing Options

Once you have made and used your own homemade maple syrup, you are unlikely ever to want to return to store-bought stuff again, and you eventually may want to step up your game and tap more than one tree. When it comes to the many permutations of tapping and syruping, on any scale from 10 trees to 10,000 trees, the sky is the limit.

After trying a single tap, you may choose different style spiles or buckets or perhaps even abandon buckets altogether and go for plastic tubing instead.

Your boiling options include everything from homemade outdoor wood-fired evaporators made out of masonry, metal or earthworks, to retrofitted turkey fryers, to commercially manufactured evaporators.

You may end up purchasing specialized felt filters with paper liners, skimmers, maple-leaf-shaped syrup bottles, and other useful and fun accessories.

As with any hobby or venture, it makes sense to start off small and expand gradually. With maple syruping, you will want to research each component as you go, evaluating cost and balancing needs to create your own customized process. But for now, a few dollars and a little time can result in delicious maple syrup and bragging rights of having made it yourself.

What advice would you add on tapping trees for syrup? Share your tips in the section below:

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Tips For Building Emergency Food Stocks

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Tips For Building Emergency Food Stocks Have you been trying to build an emergency food supply, only to turn around and use up all you worked to stock up? It can be incredibly frustration and make you feel like you’re failing when that likely isn’t the case at all! Most people, when first starting to …

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Cordwood Building – An Old-School Building Technique

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Cordwood building – An old-school building technique The first time I found out about cordwood construction was while visiting a close friend of mine. He built a great retreat in the woods of North Carolina. He did it after researching his family history and the way his ancestors build houses. After seeing his cabin and …

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Radio Silence – Communication Without Electronics

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

I love modern technology, particularly the electronics that allow me to communicate so quickly and easily. Even so, the loss of that capability – for whatever reason it’s lost – doesn’t have to be entirely devastating. We communicate not only without our electronics, but without noise all the time.

I tap my wrist, hold up my hand with my fingers splayed. Across a room, instantly, I’ve told someone they have five minutes, or that I need/want five minutes. I tap beside my eyes, point in a general direction, and then point lower or higher in an aisle of a store. It tells somebody at the other end that I found what we’re looking for, or that I want them to look at something, and then where more specifically that something is.

We do it nearly instinctively, some of us more than others. While hand gestures especially change meaning culture to culture, the ability to communicate without speaking is inherent to our species. It has been since before the first cave painting.

Recently the topic of communication without radios came up. The possible reasons for a non-radio life are pretty varied – a generator or solar panels with significant damage, low winter light, extended-time crisis when even rechargeable batteries are exhausted, seasons and locations when it’s hard to get messages through, EMPs and solar storms, neighbors who have the skills to survive but don’t have the same EMP-proof stockpiles we do, newer homesteaders and preppers who can survive but haven’t moved into serious “thrive” supplies yet.

There are also times we want to communicate, but don’t necessarily want to be heard. Hunting and tactical reasons are two of those.

History and modern technology have given us a lot of options to work around those possibilities and needs. Here are a few.

Morse

Morse code can be applied to a lot of communication options. While it’s primarily associated with radios, it was once a common ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication method using light instead.

Navy signalman using Morse –

It wasn’t until I started looking for an image online that I realized how dependent people are on the blinker-clicker features of their flashlights for light-transmitted Morse. If you have a milspec light that can take that abuse, great.

If not, cover and uncover your flashlight with your hand.  It’s still fast and easy.

For some of us with broken and aging fingers, and for people who are turning their lights on and off to get the same effect, it’s not only actually easier, sometimes faster, it’s also going to save your light a lot of wear and tear.

You can use a laser pointer for it as well, or cover and uncover a battery-candle-oil lantern with a box (or an oatmeal tub, coffee can, small ones with your hand).

Containing Light

Light stands out like it’s cool at night. Even a little green-red-blue laser light. It travels a long way when it’s dark-dark.

If you’re only trying to not stand out to everybody with one of those insane fifty-yard beams and you’re working from a set, expected position, you can signal by flashing the laser light or a flashlight into your palm or onto your chest, onto a tree or certain wall that’s visible from another location but not most of the property.

If you anticipate the need to really not be seen by anybody but your LOS partner, carry a flattened toilet paper roll wrapped around your small flashlight. (Flattened but tube, not sliced.)

When you’re ready to send a message back to the house, to the other side of a building, along the length of a wall, or down a roadway, cup the tube in one hand so you’re blocking the back, and stick the front of the light just inside it. Or, hold a laser sight/pointer just outside it.

The roll contains the light, so only somebody facing you sees it. If you want, add a mirror or a white disk to the palm to make it a little easier for that person to see.

I pretty much prefer those two general methods, regardless, because you stand a really good chance of blinding the person you’re trying to signal, or at least giving them dots in the eyes, especially with a pointer.

 

Ship Flags

The sea services have been using specific flags to communicate since some of the earliest days, from pirates warning about trying to run from them, warning others that illnesses are aboard, to requesting assistance. This site has a list of international signal flags, their phonetic name, and the navy/maritime meanings.

The phonetic name becomes valuable, because some of the meanings at sea translate directly or with minor modification to things we face on land, too. The Morse, semaphore, or ASL of the phonetic name can be flashed or signed to convey a whole thought or message, just as a flag would.

The flags can be made – painted on boards or drawn on cards to use in windows or to be flashed, or drawn in chalk on a wall or sidewalk as needed. It doesn’t have  to be fabric, or flying in the air.

Any flag, banner, or windsock at all can be part of group and neighbor communication.

If we all normally fly the local team’s colors, but somebody puts it at half-mast or upside down, they could be saying they need help – or they’re ready for harvest/planting assistance. One person with a weather station might say rain, so a blue banner goes up. A black cross on yellow might mean a woman went into labor and the local sheep keeper would be welcome as a midwife. A black dot might mean there’s sickness – don’t come calling.

A flag might also just mean all’s well here, and a quick snip to drop it on the way past alerts all the rest that the gunfire wasn’t practice, it’s real, or that there’s a fire-fire, not burning waste or smoking out bees.

We can get as creative or simple as we want.

Semaphore Flagging

Another powerful tool in the box for sending messages visually, with the same alpha-numeric capabilities of Morse, is semaphore signaling – that signalman out there with the two bright flags or cone lights. Semaphore flag signaling was also once done using a single flag in just four positions (you can find it called wigwag signaling as well).

 

With two flags, there are fewer combinations to remember, but you also have to have two flags – and hands – available. For both, a larger line-of-sight space is required so the flags can be seen.

Established Shorthand Codes

Radio Q codes  and 10 codes have a lot of value for quickly sending messages.

Various established codes provide shorthand communication for “Suspicious vehicle” (10-37), “your keying is hosed and hit every branch of the ugly tree on its way down” (QSD), “Report to [location]” (10-25), “stand by” (QRX), and “Be super-duper quiet” (“Do not use siren or flashers”) (10-40).

Those are all phrases we might use, from communicating across a yard or across a farm, as a simple survivor with a neighbor or family, or as a group with defensive and patrol forces. 10-codes especially have a lot of preexisting elements that are of use in many situations.

They can be transmitted with clicks, whistles, a pipe smacked with a hammer, marker on a dry erase board, flashed/blinker lights, or using semaphore flag(s) and hand signals.

We can also easily modify or truncate existing codes.

“QRO” (are you troubled by static noise) can become “do you hear anything”.

10-81 (breathalyzer report) becomes “just a drunk”.

10-90 (bank alarm) can become a prefacing code for an audio or visual alarm, with the location following it.

As with cop and amateur radio codes, there are hospital codes that can apply or be readily modified to fit life without radio communication. Heavy equipment operators and divers also have signals we can steal and modify. Knowing the common motorcyclist signals can be applied to daily life as well as serious disasters.

Military Hand Signals

Whether we’re ever planning to clear a house or a yard with another person or not, military and police hand signals also have applications for many situations. The numbers alone are useful. There are also action-information signals that are pretty handy.

The difference between “stop” and “freeze” gets used with my dumb dog 20 and 200 feet from our house with some regularity. I prefer to just go extract her or the ball from my pots and planters, but sometimes I just want her to stay generally where she is while a car passes. “Go back” translates to “out/away” in our world – I want her to back away from me, usually while I’m playing with sharp things or might squish her.

I originally thought it was just my quirky father telling dogs, the rest of the family, and hunting buddies that we were going to the vehicle with his “steering wheel” gesture. For a while I though the military had stolen the “down” signal from hunters with dogs.

Turned out, not so much. He just modified them from his military days.

Even without need for silence, it’s just really easy to whistle or clap a hand once, tap a window, ring a triangle, and then make a quick gesture, as opposed to shouting fifteen times or hiking out to somebody.

The gestures themselves are rooted in military hand signals we each learned (decades apart). In most of my lifetime’s applications of them, they’ve had no military bearing at all. But like the ability to say “I love you” a last time from a window, or immediately flag a distress signal in a boating-savvy community, they entered into our world and stayed in use.

ASL

American sign language has some of the same benefits as the everyday-everyone useful military signals. There are a world’s worth of truncated single-gesture shorthand signs, for everything from “man” or “female child” to “taking lunch”.  Deaf-mute people are able to hold the same sophisticated conversation as speaking and hearing folks. The addition of spelling and broader concepts to military hand signals allows ASL signers to be more specific across even distance, silently.

It’s also just a handy skill to have and might increase your employability when you stick it on a resume.

Written Word

As with flags and hand signals, we can take cues from history and modern eras with leaving drawn symbols – or flashing cards and posters – as well.

Here’s a fairly comprehensive listing of WWII symbols. It wouldn’t be completely crazy talk to go with another nation’s symbols, such as German or Russian, if you want to keep the information a little more segmented, although there tends to be a lot of commonality.

The old hobo symbols can be a little tricky. I can think of three or four for “safe water” alone. It also means adjusting from “black spot of death” and “X marks the spot” to slashes and X’s are bad, and dots are good.

However, from “dangerous man” and “vicious dogs” to “rickety bridge” or “avoid this in rain”, there are many apply, whether we’re planning on a community, thinking “Kilroy” situations, or just making notes for family or a core group.

The symbols also allow us to quickly and easily annotate our own maps for areas of concern or resources.

Limitations

The limitation to all of these is line of sight. But in some to many cases, being able to communicate even from a driveway to the house, the length of a hall, or stacked in a ditch, without making noise or taking a lot of time, makes them worth considering. There’s a good reason many of them have never faded from use, even with today’s technology.

If you want to communicate at range in the dark, you’ll need flashlights or pointers, (or oil-candle lanterns if your non-radio needs are expected due to long-duration interruptions in shipping). For us, that’s balanced, because we have lights on us, almost always, but not always a cell signal and not always a radio. That might not hold true for everyone.

Hand and flag signals are limited in range, while light carries longer distance. However, blinker-light comms is only really reliable at night. I may be able to use red boards, car windshield heat reflectors, or white flags to increase range in the daytime.

The number-one piece of gear for longer-distance communication without electronics is going to be binoculars or a scope.

Day or night, if I can’t see what you’re sending, clearly, we have delays or miscommunication. They’re inexpensive enough and should be part of most preparedness closets anyway.

If you’re mostly in brush country and are only talking about distances of double-digit yards, don’t break the bank there – there are more important things. If you’re looking at using blinker lights and somebody climbing a windmill or water tower daily or weekly to do a neighborhood-town flag check, a simple scope should work.

It’s also a lot to learn.

Instead of planning to use all of them, maybe take notes, print guides, but cherry pick. The very basic hand signals (heard, saw, numbers, armed or unarmed, child, adult, animal, danger, recover/relax, say again) and basic Morse code would take priority. 10 and Q codes can be added on. A few flags or graphics to represent ideas or situations follow.

Radio Silence Backups

The point is not to discourage anyone with fifty-five million more things to learn or buy. It’s that we have lots of options even if electronics-driven communication becomes unavailable. With any luck, there are some ideas here that can add some resiliency and redundancy to existing plans.

And, since a lot of it is learning based, not resource based, non-radio comms can be a way to improve preparedness with free-inexpensive skill building while saving up for purchases.

If you liked this article, please rate it.

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Interactive Bug Out Bag List

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Interactive Bug Out Bag List While you can purchase a premade bug out bag, creating a custom kit is the preferred option since it allows you to choose exactly what you want to pack in your bag. However, when assembling your kit you need to make sure not to overpack so that you remain mobile …

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How to Be a Marksman Year-Round For Less!

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How to Be a Marksman Year-Round For Less! Shooting an air rifle is a great hobby to keep your marksman skills sharp. While shooting .22 caliber ammo can chew through your wallet quicker than a honey badger, air rifle pellets are about as cheap as they come. There is nothing quite like picking up a heavy …

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How To Make A Backyard ‘Survival Forge’ … From A Brake Drum

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How To Make A Backyard ‘Survival Forge’ … From A Brake Drum

Image source: Pixabay.com

So many backyard blacksmithing projects, so little time…

And then there’s the whole thing about not actually owning a forge, which also might throw a wrench into things. Yet when things get pricey, that’s when you can look to the trusty DIY-method of doing things. In this case, the solution is actually a strangely simple one: the time-tested brake drum forge.

Really? This actually works? Short answer: Yes, and it works like a charm (at least in my own personal experience).

The concept of the forge itself is rather straightforward. All you need is a bowl, made of some pretty beefy steel, and a method of feeding it oxygen. Then add charcoal, light ‘er up, and whamo … it’s hammer time. Because it’s made out of things we already may have, let’s call it a “survival forge.”

But before we begin, there is something EXTREMELY crucial to keep in mind.

It’s called “metal fume fever,” which is basically what happens when you inhale a bunch of vaporized zinc oxide, which builds up in your lungs. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself feeling nauseous, coughing and wheezing, then likely passing out (among other things), and if enough zinc oxide was inhaled, dying.

When galvanized steel gets red hot, it releases zinc oxide vapor — a toxin that you’d inevitably breath in if you’re not wearing a full-blown commercial-grade hazmat suit. The stuff is extremely poisonous, so whatever you do: please, please, PLEASE do not construct your forge out of anything galvanized.

Ok, glad we got that out of the way. On we go.

Let’s Get Started, Shall We?

First, you’re going to need a brake drum. Even better, grab a big old truck brake drum from the junkyard, since its size will make it far easier to

How To Make A Backyard ‘Survival Forge’ … From A Brake Drum

Brake drum.

work with. Now, here are a few additional components to acquire:

  • 2-inch black iron piping with standard threading
    • (1) 2-foot long piece
    • (2) 1.5-foot long pieces
    • (1) Tee fitting
    • (1) End cap fitting
    • (1) Hat fitting
  • A table stand to hold the forge in place (you can either construct one yourself, but I just used cinder blocks to prop mine up).
  • Electric or hand-pump blower. Even a hair dryer will do — and those are always available during garage sale season.
  • Your charcoal screen (for keeping the fire inside the brake drum, and not falling into the piping). This doesn’t have to be too complicated, as I found a simple steel plate with several holes drilled into it works just fine.
  • Non-galvanized bolts, nuts & washers, roughly the same diameter as the holes that brake drums already have, because they were formerly attached to the truck somehow, right?
  • Metal plate (This is optional, in case your brake drum and iron hat-fitting don’t line up properly. Simply drill out holes to line up with both, just to keep the dern thing in place.)

Now thankfully, assembly is pretty easy …

  1. Put together your piping by making a “T.” Make sure the 2-foot pipe is your stem, then thread the end cap on one end and the hat fitting on the other.
  2. Next, line up the brake drum holes to those on the hat fitting. Granted, the hat fitting might not be big enough for the brake drum itself, so that’s where the last item on our component inventory comes into play.
  3. Fix the hat fitting and the brake drum into place with your (non-galvanized) hardware.
  4. Set the brake drum and assembly on your stand or cinder blocks with the brake drum’s concave side facing skyward.
  5. Drop your charcoal screen into the belly of your brake drum. Make sure to cover the big hole that drops down to the end cap.
  6. Line up your blower to the 2-foot-long pipe that’s sticking out horizontally.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, you have a forge.

Operating the Forge

All that’s left is to acquire your charcoal, but this is a bit more complicated than it may seem. Unfortunately, you can’t just kindle a fire in this puppy and expect to heat your project evenly.

Some have noted that they’ve used grilling charcoal bricks in a pinch; however, having tried this myself, I just don’t think those things can get hot enough (because I’m working with steel, not steak). So, with that said, I have actually seen blacksmithing charcoal available for purchase on eBay — but if you can track down any local blacksmiths, I’ve found that they’ll often just sell you a bag or two for a decent price.

As for the blacksmithing, well, I shall leave that one to you.

If you’re still confused, then watch the video below from a YouTuber making his own forge. (He does things a bit different.)

Have you ever made a forge? What blacksmithing advice would you add? Share your tops in the section below:

 

The Most Important Survival Skills According to Grandpa

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The Most Important Survival Skills According to Grandpa   When people think about survival skills, they tend to lean more toward things like starting fires, making shelters, gardening, hunting, and being able to filter water. While all of these are indeed fantastic survival skills, they are actually secondary to the most important skills that people …

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These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

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These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

Image source: Pixabay.com

When choosing a meat animal for your homestead you may begin wondering, “What animal will get me the most bang for my buck?”

Each animal uses feed differently, and some are able to turn that feed into pounds of meat more efficiently than others. This is usually expressed by what’s called a feed conversion ratio. Feed conversion ratios are a rate of measure that expresses the efficiency with which an animal converts feed into the desired output. For cattle, broiler chickens and pigs, the desired output is body mass. For dairy cows, the desired output is milk. For the purposes of this article, we are just going to focus on animals where the desired output is body mass, or pounds of meat.

The mathematical formula for a feed conversion ratio is as follows: FCR = feed given / animal weight gain.

This feed conversion ratio (FCR) is typically expressed as one number and is dimensionless, meaning it is not effected by whatever units of measure are used to calculate the ratio. A low FCR means that the animal is efficient at converting feed to the desired output, while a higher FCR means the animal is relatively inefficient. In other words, the lower the FCR, the higher the weight gain obtained from feed. It is important to remember that FCR can be calculated using several different metrics.

Some farmers calculate FCR based on live weight, for example, while some calculate based on dressed weight. Although a good place to start when looking at the feed efficiency of different livestock, FCRs also can be hard to compare between species unless the feed in question is of similar suitability to the animal in question.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

That being said, let’s dive into the different FCRs of some common homestead animals.

These Meat Livestock Will Give You The Most ‘Bang For Your Buck’

Image source: Pixabay.com

One of the most common animals found on any homestead is broiler chickens. Broiler chickens are chickens being raised for meat, and their FCR varies widely depending on the breed raised and the conditions in which they were raised. Commercial livestock operations boast broiler chicken FCRs of 1.8 for Cornish Crosses raised in factory farm conditions. Chickens raised on pasture or free-range systems are more active and therefore have higher energy needs, translating into a higher FCR. Cornish Cross broilers can have an average FCR of 3.5 when raised on pasture, while some heritage breeds of chickens have FCRs of 4.0 or higher.

Many homesteaders choose to raise rabbits because of the relatively low cost of feedstock, ease of breeding, high protein content of their meat and short time between birth and butcher. Just as with any animal, the FCR of rabbits is highly dependent on breed and raising method (pasture vs. high grain diet). Rabbits raised on a high grain diet have an FCR anywhere between 2.5 to 3.0, and those on pasture average an FCR between 3.5 and 4.0. When choosing whether to feed primarily grain or pasture, it is important to not only look at the FCR. Consider the cost of feed (grain costs money, forage is free) and your desired turn-around time from birth to butcher.

Due to the prevalence of beef in the average American diet, there has been a lot of research done on the FCR of beef cattle. In modern feedlots, an average FCR of 6.0 is common. In this method, cattle are fed on pasture until they reach approximately 600 to 900 pounds, then they are brought to the feedlot to be raised on grain until they reach 1,300 pounds. The FCR of beef cattle raised strictly on pasture is not nearly as well researched, but preliminary data shows that the FCR will be higher for beef cattle raised strictly on pasture.

Pigs are one of the most efficient sources of red meat on the homestead. When butchered between 240 and 250 pounds, commercially raised pigs have an average FCR of 3.46. Like cattle, data for more pastured-based systems is not as easily come by, but some farmers report FCRs anywhere between 4.5 and 5.5 for pigs raised on both pasture and a ration of grain.

There are obviously many more factors to consider when choosing livestock for your homestead than just the FCR. You must take into account how much you’re willing to spend on grain, the value of raising animals on a pasture-based system, your preferred type of meat and what resources you already have available to you. FCR is not the “end all, be all” for determining how efficient an animal is or if it is the right choice for your homestead. However, it is a measurable number that can be factored into your decision, and it is a good place to start when looking at the wide variety of factors that influence raising animals for meat production.

From your experience, which animal is the most efficient for meat? Share your tips in the section below:

Aryn is a farmer and writer living in Homer, Alaska

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How To Build Your Own Survival Fishing Kit

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by Ted. 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.


If you are planning to build a survival fishing kit by own and so are looking for some guides, then your search stops right here. Survival fishing kits could be of any size and shape, and it would adapt readily to suit your particular needs.

To get started on how to build your own survival fishing kit, we have come up with a list to help you out.

Building Your Own Survival Fishing Kit

This best fact about this kit is that it wouldn’t cost more than 20 dollars to create. The tools and materials that would be used here are easily available along with the fishing essentials.

Tools and Materials:

  • 1” Threaded PVC Adapter
  • 1” Threaded PVC Cap
  • 1” PVC Pipe Of 10” Length
  • PVC Cleaner
  • PVC Cement
  • Scrap Wood
  • Paracord
  • One Small Washer
  • Fishing Line Of 100.’
  • Drill Bit Of 1/8”
  • Drill Bit Of 1/16”
  • Hand Drill.

Fishing Elements:

  • Lures
  • Hooks
  • Bobbers
  • Swivels
  • Sinkers.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Attach The Threaded PVC Adapter To The Pipe

First step is to connect the 1” PVC pipe to the threaded PVC adapter of 1”. You could either press the two materials together or glue them employing PVC cement and PVC cleaner.

Via www.instructables.com

 

However, gluing the pieces would be better as, if by chance the adapter becomes loose from the PVC pipe, then your fishing essentials could get loose.

For attaching the two pieces, you would need to clean the areas of joining with PVC cleaner, and then use PVC cement to press the pieces all together.

If you slightly turn the PVC cap after it got fitted on the pipe, you would get sure whether it has bonded firmly or not.

Lastly, let the pieces sit for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Add a Lanyard to 1” Threaded Cap

At this level, you would use the drill along with the drill bit to bore two evenly spaced holes in the 1” PVC threaded cap’s top.

Via www.instructables.com

 

After it is done, you would now have to lace the paracord of 20” length through these holes and tie a knot.

Via www.instructables.com

 

The lanyard would help to carry the fishing kit quickly. It could be even wrapped around the wrist at the time of fishing to prevent the kit from slipping down from the hand.

Step 3: Forming And Installing The Front End Plug

Most of the survival fishing kits employ a PVC end cap for closing the fishing kit’s front end. This is because these caps are available easily and could be installed quickly. But such caps could create a problem while casting the fishing line.

Therefore, it would be better to make a customized cap that would fit tightly on the pipe.
You would need to chuck a wood piece and make its diameter same as the 1” PVC pipe’s outside diameter. You would have to shoulder it off till it gets fitted inside the pipe snugly.

Via www.instructables.com

 

After this, you would need to cut a portion of the turning to have a slight cone or rounded end. It would help your fishing line to come off in an even manner while casting.

Lastly, you would have to employ the 5 minutes epoxy for affixing to the fishing kit’s end.

Step 4: Drill Holes To Secure The Hook

Once these steps are complete, the next thing you would have to do after epoxying the front plug is to bore some holes. These holes would not have to be very deep as they are only to secure the hook.

Via www.instructables.com

You could drill about six holes around the plug to have many points for attaching the hook.

Step 5: Wrap The Handle

Paracord is always a great prepping supply to have in a survival scenario so you could wrap some of it around the handle. This would not only help you to use for many things but also would offer a solid grip to prevent the kit from slipping out from the hand.

Step 6: Add the Fishing Line

Next, bore a small hole of 1/16” in the 1” PVC pipe for adding the fishing line. You would need to thread one end of the line through the hole and let it come out from the kit’s end.

Via www.instructables.com

 

After this, you would have to tie a small washer on the line’s end employing a stronger knot. The washer would help to fix the line on the kit and prevent it from coming out.

Via www.instructables.com

 

After this, you will have to pull the line steer to draw the washer’s end into the kit and start to wrap the fishing line around the PVC pipe. If this wrapping is done nicely, then the line would unspool exactly as it does from fishing reels while casting.

Step 7: Loading It Up

After completing the fishing kit, you would now have to load up the fishing essentials or survival gear in the kit. It would be entirely upon you that which things you would pack according to your needs.

Via www.instructables.com

However, small hooks, lures, sinkers, swivels or bobbers could be some of the materials that you might include.

Step 8: Ready To Cast

A fishing kit would work almost like a fishing rod. You would just have to hold the fishing kit around the paracord with your hand and hold the line’s hook end in place with the index finger.

Via www.instructables.com

 

Now you could either employ underhand or overhand movement for casting the line.

If you catch a ladyfish then the question of whether to eat it or not might haunt you. Well, this post on fishing and eating ladyfish will definitely help you.

Conclusion

Well, we hope that our process of how to build your own survival fishing kit will help you a lot to make a kit easily. A survival kit is always necessary as it would keep you sufficiently equipped to survive in any situation. However, if you have any suggestion regarding this article, please let us know in the comments below.

We would be happy to hear from you.

About the author: Hi there, I’m Ted Thomas from GrayWolfLife, an ardent adventure writer. I write for readers with a genuine interest in enjoying the great outdoors. By sharing my experiences camping, hunting and fishing, I hope to inspire others to fully explore the depths of their passion.

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23 Free Workshop and Shed Plans

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23 Free Workshop and Shed Plans This is the mother load of free workshop and shed plans. Spring is pretty much here so that means you need a great looking shed to potter around in and look awesome! Whether you’re just dreaming it or you’re ready to build it, the backyard workshop is the ultimate …

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DIY Emergency Lights From Solar Yard Lights

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DIY Emergency Lights From Solar Yard Lights Being able to see when the sun is down and the power is out is usually not a big deal. Emergency lighting in most buildings and the flashlight feature on millions of smart phones around the globe is enough for the general populace. The main problem with that …

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7 Tips For Bugging Out Faster

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7 Tips For Bugging Out Faster If the SHTF no warning and you were forced to bug out, how long would it take you to get out of dodge? This is a very important question. You probably have lots of supplies you’d want to load into your bug out vehicle, but that takes time, and …

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The Next Gen of Preppers

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The Next Gen of Preppers Regardless of what you may think or feel about the millennial generation, there are certain things about them that have far exceeded their parents’ generation. Information, for example. All they’ve ever known is to Google search. They have little to no concept about the Dewey decimal system, cassette players, or …

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How To Keep Your Chickens Legal (And Safe) In The Big City

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How To Keep Your Chickens Legal (And Safe) In The Big City

Image source: Pixabay.com

Raising chickens, once considered a staple of country living, has made its way into suburbia, where wannabe homesteaders are finding creative ways to bring rural life to their neighborhoods.

Caring for chickens (and their eggs) is not all it’s cracked up to be, however. Even in the relative calm of suburbia, there are dangers that threaten suburban flocks. Ready to enhance your homesteading journey with chickens? Be aware of these potential perils.

1. Zoning laws

Despite the growing popularity of backyard flocks, many cities haven’t kept pace and have zoning laws that prohibit the keeping of chickens within city limits. Check with your city’s ordinance codes to find out what (if any) limitations there may be before you order chickens and set up your coop. In some anti-chicken cities, officials are willing to “overlook” small flocks, provided they are well-behaved and don’t upset the neighbors. Many chicken owners find that paying off their surrounding neighbors with fresh eggs will smooth over any “ruffled feathers” about a few sweet chickens living in the backyard. Be a good neighbor: Keep your coop clean (and odor-free), skip the rooster (they make too much noise) and offer to bring deviled eggs to neighborhood cookouts. Be prepared, however. If you have an illegal flock, you may be forced to rehome them should city officials enforce zoning laws.

2. Neighborhood predators

You’d expect there to be danger to a flock of chickens out on a farm. Suburbia, however, has perils of its own that can be deadly for your brood.

Diatomaceous Earth: The All-Natural Livestock De-Wormer!

One night, I forgot to close my chicken coop door. About midnight, I heard a clattering sound at my fence, followed by an uproar from inside the coop. By the time I made it outside, whatever had infiltrated the backyard was gone. My chickens were beside themselves, but all were present. A neighbor later told me she saw a coyote racing out of my yard while letting her dog out that same night. In my neighborhood, a new housing development had displaced a band of coyotes, sending them prowling through the streets in search of food and shelter. Fortunately for my girls, he left hungry that night.

Other neighborhood predators include the obvious: cats, as well as dogs. A hungry neighborhood cat can (and will) scale fences in search of young chicks happily rooting in the yard. Dogs break through fences, dig under coops, and chase errant chickens who may have escaped the safety of your yard. They also can include some surprising additions. As cities expand and develop forested areas, wildlife such as coyotes are trying to share space with the humans that just moved in. They’re looking for food and are willing to sneak into your yard to get it. Possums and raccoons may stealthily find their way into laying boxes in search of their morning eggs. Hawks can swoop down on unsuspecting chicks, carrying them off to feed their hungry young. Rats and mice invade coops and feed supplies.

How To Keep Your Chickens Legal (And Safe) In The Big City

Image source: Pixabay.com

How can you protect your flock? Provide your chickens with a coop. Their coop not only acts as a laying station for their eggs, but it gives them a place to escape the clutches of predators. With a chicken-sized entrance, large dogs and coyotes will be unable to enter the structure. A door that can be closed will provide extra protection from nocturnal visitors such as possums, raccoons and cats. Chicken wire (or poultry netting), buried at least six inches around the base of the coop, will discourage predators from digging in, and help keep your chickens from trying to tunnel out. (Have you seen the movie Chicken Run? I’m convinced it was based on the antics of my chickens!)

3. Free-range dangers

You may not have acres of land to allow your chickens to free-range. Even with an average-sized yard, however, your small flock can happily spend the days rooting through the grass and bushes in search of snacks, a warm dirt spot to burrow down in, or a shady area to rest. Trouble happens, though, when your chickens notice that the grass on the other side of the fence is actually greener, and then fly over the fence to explore. Not only will the rest of the flock follow, but they’ll luxuriate in their new-found freedom and head down the street, checking out what plants and bugs your neighbors have available. Your neighbors may not appreciate having visitors who scratch their way through their yard, and may chase them off or call the city to complain. Secure your neighbor’s goodwill by offering eggs, and offer to let your girls help turn over their garden plot in the spring. Keep your brood grounded by regularly trimming their wings.

4. Poisonous plants

Many decorative plants that look beautiful in landscaping beds are poisonous to chickens. Hydrangeas, tulips, azaleas and other beautiful flowers that gardeners like to grow can be toxic to free-ranging chickens. Look for chicken-friendly plants that can provide snacking opportunities for your brood, while beautifying your yard. Add nasturtiums, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and sunflowers for variety (and safety) in your garden.

Raising chickens in suburbia is an adventure. However, the benefits of fresh eggs and a flock of happy chickens in the backyard are worth the challenges. If you’ve been considering adding chickens to your family, there’s never been a better time.

What advice would you give to someone raising chickens in the city? Share your tips in the section below:

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DIY Homemade Healing Neosporin Cream

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DIY Homemade Healing Neosporin Cream Knowing how to make your own Neosporin like boo boo cream is a great skill to have. This recipe is a great natural alternative and cheap and easy to make. This homemade ointment consists of powerful essential oils, herbs and beeswax that quickly address pain and stinging while reducing the …

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Harvesting Rainwater When Digging Wells Is Too Expensive

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Harvesting Rainwater When Digging Wells Is Too Expensive

Harvesting rainwater is something many of us do for our gardens as a way to save money and to make better use of a precious natural resource.

However, do you think you could run your home and garden almost completely off rainwater? What about if you lived in the desert?

A family who lives about 45 minutes south of Tucson, Ariz., does just that. In a video interview with the Life Inside a Box YouTube channel, the father, Joe, gave a tour of his system for harvesting rainwater.

“We got some well estimates, and it was way too expensive to drill a well, so we said, ‘Let’s try some rain water harvesting.’ And that’s what we live on for about 95 percent of the year,” Joe said.

Joe created a culvert system to collect roof and gutter run-off, and he has huge polyethylene tanks behind his home. Water from the roof drains underground through four-inch PVC pipe in what Joe calls a “wet pipe system.”

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The sides of his home feature a network of downspouts that connect to this underground system. These pipes then connect with a 5,000-gallon tank behind the house. The 5,000-gallon tank is buried nearly halfway underground. As water fills the tank, most of the dirt and sediment stays on the bottom.

“I do not do ‘first flush,’” Joe said. “I use my first tank as a first flush and clean it once a year.”

Story continues below video

He explained that the water that flows into his other two “clean” tanks is free of dirt and sediment, and then he adds a small amount of bleach to kill any bacteria.

“Most municipalities use chorine, and I just do that to a lesser scale,” he said. All water that is used for drinking or cooking passes through a Berkey Water Filter system, as well.

The fruit trees on the property are watered exclusively by rainwater and gray water from the home. Other trees and his garden are watered by an extensive sloping system that carries rainwater and overflow from the gutters downhill.

One pool shown in the video is about three and one-half feet deep and holds about 500 gallons of water, Joe estimated. He uses a bucket to scoop water from the rainwater pools to water his garden and other trees.

Joe, who modestly calls much of his rainwater harvesting system “jerry-rigged,” said he got many of his ideas by reading books by rainwater harvesting expert Brad Lancaster.

At the time the video was made, Joe also was working on building a sunken greenhouse, which he plans to water completely with rainwater, and a new garden that is situated on a slope that catches rainwater and allows run-off to run downhill to other parts of the garden.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on rainwater systems in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

How To Live Self-Sufficient With These 10 Simple Tips

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How To Live Self-Sufficient With These 10 Simple Tips Have you ever wondered about what it would be like if you lived out on a farm where your neighbor was a mile away and you owned at least an acre, rather than in the middle of a bustling city with a department store just a …

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How To Freshen and Clean Carpet Spots with 2 Natural Ingredients

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How To Freshen and Clean Carpet Spots with 2 Natural Ingredients If you have carpet you know how annoying stains can be. I found a great NATURAL way to clean them and this works great to freshen the carpets too. These 2 natural ingredients are that good they will tackle and clean away the toughest …

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Homemade Apple Cider Recipes To Die For

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Homemade Apple Cider Recipes To Die For   My grandma made the best apple cider from an old English recipe. My mom has an old dutch recipe that is pretty good too. I went hunting the internet for a collection on apple cider recipes that I could share and I think I have found a …

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How To Make A Quick Emergency Lamp From A Mop

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How To Make A Quick Emergency Lamp From A Mop In a real emergency situation we all need to use everything around us in order to thrive and survive! That being said, I remember seeing this somewhere on the internet years ago and I am sorry I can’t remember which site. Luckily I can remember …

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How To Make Papercrete

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How To Make Papercrete Papercrete is the ultimate building material for preppers, homesteaders, and off grid living enthusiasts. It is easy and cheap to make. It also could solve your paper and cardboard recycling problems. Literally! You make these building blocks by using old paper or cardboard. The process to make papercrete is easy and if …

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How the Early Pioneers Preserved Food and What They Ate

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How the Early Pioneers Preserved Food and What They Ate Imagine living in an era when there is no refrigeration. Ever thought about the foods our pioneer ancestors ate, and ancient people before them? Foods from 150+ years ago or long before that. Compare that to the “food” we eat for decades before we woke …

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6 Trees Every Survivalist Should Know & Why

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6 Trees Every Survivalist Should Know & Why Being a prepper/survivalist is a great lifestyle. I am loving it and haven’t looked back. There is always new information to be learned and this article is proof of that for me. Trees give us wood for our campfires. They provide structure to our shelters, materials from …

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How To Build A Herb Spiral

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How To Build A Herb Spiral Spring is just around the corner and winter is starting to wind down, for some of us anyway. Build one of these beauties and have plenty herbs for the rest of the year. I found an article that shows you how to construct these simple herb gardens in a …

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Maple Trees: Which Types Are Best For Firewood, Syrup, Shade & Foliage?

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Maple Trees: Which Types Are Best For Firewood, Syrup, Shade & Foliage?

Image source: Pixabay.com

Maple trees or shrubs can be found on several continents around the world, but these useful plants have a special place in the hearts and lives of those of us in the United States and Canada. We love them for many purposes: shade, ornamentals, lumber, firewood and syrup.

Homesteaders use maples and other hardwood trees for most of the above purposes as well as for projects more specific to farming and independent living — saplings for bean poles and poultry perches and other craftwork, leaves for banking buildings, and more. Sometimes it is important to differentiate between species. But even when the particular species does not matter, it is always nice to have some knowledge about any maple trees surrounding the homestead.

Sugar Maple

Of the many types of maple tree in North America, one of the best known and most loved is the sugar maple. Known as a rock maple, hard maple, or its Latin nomenclature Acer saccharum, this tree can be found growing naturally in most of the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada.

The sugar maple is prized for its sap, which is harvested in early spring and boiled down into maple syrup or further processed into maple cream or candy. This tree is most people’s first choice for maple syrup, even though other varieties of maples—as well as other genera of hardwood trees—can be and often are tapped for syrup and confections. The sap of the sugar maple generally takes the least time and energy to boil down, requiring 40 quarts of sap to render one quart of finished syrup. The sap-to-syrup ratio for other trees can be as high as 80:1, making the sugar maple a more economical and practical choice. The taste of sugar maple sap is often considered superior, as well, and it is the most plentiful maple species in some areas.

Maple Trees: Which Types Are Best For Firewood, Syrup, Shade & Foliage?

Image source: Pixabay.com

In addition to syrup production, the sugar maple is often harvested for its wood value. It is prized for flooring and furniture stock, particularly “bird’s eye” or curly-patterned varieties, and is commonly used for firewood and occasionally for pulp.

Sugar maples also make lovely landscaping trees. These medium-sized trees with widespread roots make excellent shade trees, provide wildlife habitat, and display stunning multicolored fall foliage.

Red Maple

Another common maple species is the red maple, or Acer rubrum. Known also as the swamp, water or soft maple, this tree can be found across most of eastern North America. It is frequently tapped for syrup, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident. Some red maples offer a sap ratio that is similar to sugar maples and just as tasty, and it can be challenging to tell the trees apart without leaves or buds present for clues. The subtle differences in the bark are challenging for most people to discern.

As the nicknames suggest, red maples do not mind wet feet and are often found in swampy areas. They display brilliant foliage twice a season — once in the spring with stunning red flowers, some of the earliest in my region of New England — and again in fall with gorgeous scarlet and orange leaves.

Their fiber is softer than that of sugar maples, making them less prized for their wood overall but still often used for firewood and pulp. A good all-around homestead tree, red maples also make wonderful ornamentals and animal habitat.

Silver Maple

Silver maple, or Acer saccharinum, is known by many other names, including creek, soft, water, white and silverleaf maple. This large tree is native to most of the central and eastern United States, and often cultivated far beyond that, making it an extremely common maple species. The silver maple can be easily identified by its distinctive leaves, which look more like a five-toed chicken foot than the classic maple leaf of the Canadian flag. This tree is often found along riverbanks and at the edges of wetlands.

The silver maple’s fiber is relatively soft and less durable than harder species, making it less sought-after for wood, but is a mainstay for landscaping in public parks and private yards. As with most maple species, it can be tapped for syrup as availability requires. It sports soft yellow foliage in fall and delicate clusters of spring flowers in shades of yellow or pink.

Striped Maple

Acer pensylvanicum, commonly known as the striped maple or moosewood, can be found from the eastern provinces of Canada to the upper elevations of northern Georgia. This is a smaller variety of maple, sometimes no larger than a shrub, which thrives in the understory. It prefers hillsides and rocky slopes and is usually found in forests of predominantly hardwood but does sometimes mix with conifers.

The white and green stripes of the striped maple bark distinguish it from other maple species. Its goose-foot-shaped leaves turn pale yellow in autumn, and its spring flowers are bright yellow.

The striped maple’s primary value is aesthetic, but it adds broad dimension and wildlife support to natural forests and managed areas. It grows quickly and can be considered a nuisance tree when allowed to grow out of control.

Mountain Maple

The mountain maple, or Acer spicatum, is also a small bushy species found in northern regions of the eastern United States and Canada. Like the striped maple, this type of maple grows in dense thickets on wet slopes. It is of little value to humans, but provides superb cover and forage for a wide variety of forest wildlife.

Boxelder

The Acer negundo, also known as ashleaf maple or boxelder, is another smaller species of maple. It can be found across much of the eastern two-thirds of the continent and in pockets everywhere in North America. Fast-growing and short-lived, the boxelder can thrive in a variety of conditions and takes hold so quickly that it is considered invasive in some areas. Boxelder leaves look more like that of an ash tree than a maple — obovate and small-toothed — hence the name.

Boxelders can be tapped for syrup and are often planted as ornamentals, but are of marginal value for other uses. The wood is light and soft, and can be harvested for pulp.

Bigleaf Maple

Acer macrophyllum

Image source: Wikimedia

Acer macrophyllum is aptly described by its common names, bigleaf maple and Oregon maple.  This large tree with leaves that can span nearly a foot across is found along the Pacific northwest coast, from Alaska to California and as far inland as Idaho.

The bigleaf maple has many uses. Its dense wood is prized for furniture stock as well as for smaller fine-woodworking products such as guitar bodies, piano frames, gun stocks and veneer. It provides great browse for animals, particularly in the sapling stage, and grows into a beautiful shade tree. Its sap-to-syrup ratio is similar to that of the sugar maple, making it feasible for syruping, but does taste somewhat different from its east coast counterpart.

Bigleaf maple foliage turns to brilliant golds and yellows in fall, and boasts showy yellow flowers in spring.

Norway Maple

The Norway maple, or Acer platanoides, is not native to North America, and is generally considered to be invasive. Often planted in yards, parks and along sidewalks for its aesthetic and shade qualities, it has escaped into the forest across much of the United States.

Once in the wild, the Norway maple crowds out native plants. It is fast-growing in a wide variety of conditions, has shallow roots that suck moisture away from other plants, and its dense canopy prevents understory vegetation from thriving.

Probably the most distinctive and attractive feature of the Norway maple is its purple leaves. However, the leaf color does not carry over to offspring, resulting in an overabundance of aggressive plain green maple trees with which native flora cannot compete.

Norway maples have very little practical value beyond ornamentation, but can be used for firewood in lieu of better quality choices.

Whether you value trees for syrup, beauty, firewood, lumber, shade or animal habitat, there is sure to be a maple species that is just right for your needs. The maple tree has served homesteaders, suburban residents, forest workers, and nature enthusiasts for generations, and will continue for years to come.

Which is your favorite type of maple tree? Share your thoughts on maples in the section below:

The 10 Principles of Effective Family Survival

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The 10 Principles of Effective Family Survival There’s nothing more important than family in this world. No matter the differences and the hard times you faced, the survival of your family remains your main priority. If your loved ones depend on you to make it during a crisis scenario, you must bring them together. They …

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How to Build the Ultimate Survival Shotgun

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How to Build the Ultimate Survival Shotgun Having items for survival at hand in any situation is obviously the ideal situation. What people don’t know is that you can place a lot of the 5 main categories, Water, Fire, Shelter, Signaling and Food in some of the weirdest places you can think of. The first being a shotgun. Think about this, …

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25 Car Emergency Kit Must Haves to Rule Any Road

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25 Car Emergency Kit Must Haves to Rule Any Road Most of us believe it or not do not have any kind of kit for emergencies in our car. I think the statistics is like 7% of Americans have an emergency kit for that just in case moment. I personally have a small tote I …

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