Book Review: The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making

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One self-reliant project that I enjoy, but haven’t got around to videotaping is home sausage making. I believe that the ability to cure and store meat is a vital skill to anyone interested in producing a majority of their own food (vegans and veggies excepted). I can deal with a lot of things, but a life without bacon and sausage are just not worth dealing with (IMHO).  All preppers need to know how to How to Harvest Your Livestock and Wild Game Luckily I found this little gem. The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making is a

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How to start foraging … Without killing Your family!

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How to start foraging … Without killing Your family! Austin Martin “Homesteady Live“ Audio in player below! Last year i was super excited when my wife came inside and told me that she thought she found a patch of Morell Mushrooms in our backyard. I ran outside to look, and yes! There were lots of … Continue reading How to start foraging … Without killing Your family!

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Basic Essentials for Cooking Fish Off the Grid

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survival_bucket_of_fishFish are a nutritional powerhouse; with lots of protein, healthy fats, and a potent cocktail of nutrients that influence human brain function, optimize hormonal production, and even prevent aging! They’re also a camper or survivalist’s dream come true. Why, you may ask?  Fish go fin-in-stream with the most important resource – water! Whether you love the outdoors, want to be a little greener, or need to eat to survive, learning to cook fish using traditional “off-the-grid” methods is a useful addition to any culinary arsenal. There are a many techniques available to catch wild fish, ranging from building your own rod to catching with your bare hands, but this article is going to discuss how to best cook up your catch.

By John S., a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog & SurvivalCache

First, let us discuss the different types of fish meat. “Oily” or “fatty” fish are fish that are over five percent fat by weight, while lean fish are under five percent. Oily fish include anchovies, carp, herring, salmon and sardines. They are generally known for their moist texture and richer flavors. Lean fish include bass, cod, catfish, and perch. They’re known for being a little tougher and a little less flavorful. Your location will be a big factor in determining what types of fish are available to you. Study up on your local species to be best prepared to feed yourself, for fun or survival.

Baking on Smoldering Coals

survival_coals_fishOne of the best, and most basic, off the grid cooking techniques is baking on smoldering coals. While this method is useful for any kind of meat, it adds a certain smoky edge to fish that’s extremely delicious. Oilier fish are especially good when cooked with this method, since the hearty fats seal in a moist texture. Salt is a staple in every kitchen, and you may often hear people talking about bringing salt on outdoor excursions. This isn’t only for the taste, but it’s also especially useful in preserving food, so you should take care to keep some with you on all outdoor cooking excursions and during your survival practice.

Read Also: Best Glide Survival Fishing Kit

As for leaner fish, they’ll bake best wrapped in foil or, in an emergency situation, large leaves will do the trick. The wrapping helps trap moisture in and steams the fish. Feel free to dress a coal-baked fish up with some lemon juice and butter if you’re cooking for leisure! It’s probably safe to say you won’t have these items handy during a survival situation, but in that situation, anything edible, and especially nutritious, will be delicious.

Pan Frying (if possible)

fish_survival_pan_fryingFrying the fresh catch in a large cast iron pan is also an option, if you came prepared with the pan and a little oil. If you’re frying for fun, a simple mix of flour, breadcrumbs and your favorite seasonings will keep well in a zip lock bag, is easy to transport, and makes for yummy treat. Even without the mix, the fish will be a great meal on it’s own; especially if you’re eating for survival. The biggest key is to make sure the oil is hot enough, a spit test should do the trick. Simply wet your fingers with some water and flick the moisture into the pan, if the oil “spits”, or jumps and bubbles, on contact, then you’re ready to cook.

You will need long tongs or a durable cooking spoon to flip and “fish” out the filets once they’ve fried to a light golden color. This method tastes great, even with only light salting, and works well for both types of fish. If no tongs or cooking spoons are in your repertoire, you can use a multi-tool or knife so long as you’re careful not to damage it, as you will need it for other important tasks as well. Worst case, there should be twigs and sticks around for you to use as cooking tools.

Building Your Own Smoker

Last, but not least, fish meat is fabulous fresh out of a smoker. Not only is it fresh, but smoking fish, or any meat for that manner, is optimal for survival-based situations because prolonged smoking results in dehydrated, well-preserved food that can be saved and stored for several days. Building, or finding, a smoker can be tricky, you just need to create a small space where a rack can hang above a fire and a ventilation system to bring the smoke up through the fish meat.

Related: Teach Them to Fish

Stacking appropriately-sized rocks is a good and, usually, convenient method of construction. Covering the vents with foliage can help trap in smoke and improve the cooking process, and burning clean, dry logs will provide the best smoky flavor for the food. While this process does take longer than the other two, the preservation effects of smoking could mean the difference between life and death, so it’s definitely worth learning about and practicing. For example, if you are in a survival situation and are having luck catching some fish, you may want to use a lot of that meat in the smoker simply for preservation, and then consume the meat at a later time when you may be running low on food.

Conclusion

survival_fish_filetLuckily, there are a lot of options when it comes to preparing fish off the grid using very little materials. Salt is perhaps one of the most underrated items in a survival situation, as it offers a convenient method of preservation. Adding other herbs, spices and extras will provide a welcome kick to your next camping meal, but of course, this may be out of the question in a survival situation. Lastly, Always make sure any fish you consume is thoroughly cleaned and cooked before consuming. This, combined with thorough cooking, will ensure you have a nice edible fish packed with nutrients to keep you going. Practice makes perfect, so next time you’re out in the backcountry or doing some camping, try cooking some fish with as little materials as possible, ideally using natural objects around you. Good luck!

 

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Bushcraft Mushrooms: 5 Uses of Polypores and Other Mushrooms

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

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

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

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

Related: Emergency Storage of Wild Plant Foods

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

Edible Mushrooms

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

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

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

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

Medicinal Mushrooms

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

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

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

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

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

Fire-Starting with Fungus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiber from Polypores

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

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

Taking Care of Tools with Polypores

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

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

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Emergency Foods from Wild Plants

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

By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

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

Tree Bark

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

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

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

Additional Foods From Trees

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

Read Also: Five Best DIY Toothache Remedies 

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

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

Roots

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

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

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

Cattail

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

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

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

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

Seeds

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

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

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

Vegetables

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Warning

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

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

Photos Courtesy of:

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

6 Survival Skills You Simply Can’t Do Without (Not Knowing No. 4 Could Kill You)

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6 Survival Skills You Simply Can’t Do Without (Not Knowing No. 4 Could Kill You)

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I know the feeling — after watching an episode of Man vs. Wild or Survivorman. You’re pumped and ready to survive anywhere.

But before you head out for an extreme, pee-drinking, slug-eating adventure, there are some survival skills you can’t do without.

No. 1. Navigation

With good navigation skills, you probably won’t find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere, to begin with. But in case your navigation skills can use some work, we will list some tips.

To find north, get a stick about waist height and dig it into the ground. Ensure the place is clear and flat so that you can see the shadow clearly. Put a marker (small stone) at the end of the shadow. Wait for 10 to 15 minutes, and then place a marker at the end of that second shadow. Stand with the first maker to your left and the second to your right. You are now facing north. The sun moves from east to west across the sky, so finding the east-west line will help you determine the north-south line.

Other navigation tips:

To avoid turning in a circle, pick an object in the distance and walk to it. Find another object in the same line and walk. Continue this until you are where you want to be.

Measure your pace. A pace is a step (left foot, right foot, then left again). Go outside and count how many paces you need to take to walk a mile. You can use this information to find how many miles you have walked in a survival situation. Knowing your pace is also a good way to estimate the length of time it will take you to walk to your desired location using a map.

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Use the palm of your hand to measure how many daylight hours are left. Find a clear view of the sun and the horizon. Put your hand up in front of you (to see your palm) and aligning it with the horizon. Your pinky finger should be on the horizon line. Now place the other hand on top of your first hand. Remove the hand at the bottom and place it at the top of your second hand. Repeat this until your hand has arrived at the height of the sun. Each hand from horizon to the sun is estimated as an hour. Count how many palms you had up to know the number of daylight hours you have left.

No. 2. Lighting a fire

Without fire-lighting skills, a simple outing in the wild can turn into a survival situation real fast. Being able to start a fire not only provides warmth, but it’s also a way to cook food and purify water — and it is a psychological boost. In a survival situation, that boost in confidence can be what keeps you alive.

So there are the basics:

  • Tinder – a bird’s nest (preferably one without a bird in it) is an effective way to make the most of your spark.
  • Kindling – small sticks and twigs.
  • Fuel – big logs and branches. In wet conditions, split your wood to get to the dry center.

Adding a layer of wood on the ground before lighting the fire is a good practice. In wet and cold conditions, the extra wood keeps the cold ground from sucking the heat and killing the fire.

A flint stick, bow drill set (friction fire), magnifying glass, lighter or anything producing concentrated heat/spark can help start the fire. Find one method that works best for your location and practice it.

Light the tinder, and then add the kindling and then the fuel. Be patient with your ember. Allow it to smolder and flame inside the bird’s nest before putting it down and adding the rest of your wood.

3. Finding food

6 Survival Skills You Simply Can’t Do Without (Not Knowing No. 4 Could Kill You)

Image source: Pixabay.com

When lost, especially in the jungle, one of the most abundant food is greens. Knowing edible plants in your area is essential.

There are some common characteristics of poisonous plants:

  • Avoid plants with milky sap.
  • Don’t eat white berries.
  • Avoid all mushrooms, unless you’re an expert.
  • Ignore plants with thorns, spurs and hairs.
  • Stay away from plants with groups of three leaves.

If you think you found an edible plant but are unsure, then use the skin test. Crush the leaves and put it on a sensitive area (inside elbow or wrist) for about 15 minutes. If there is a reaction in the next eight hours, don’t eat; if not, proceed to the mouth test. Take a small piece of the leaf and place on your lips for three minutes. A burning or tingling sensation means you should discard the plant. If nothing happens, chew and keep in your mouth for 15 minutes. Swallow if there is no reaction. Don’t eat anything for the next eight hours.

When testing a plant’s edibility, use a plant that is in abundance. Search online for edible and poisonous plants in the area you are interested in exploring.

4. Finding and purifying water

6 Survival Skills You Simply Can’t Do Without (Not Knowing No. 4 Could Kill You)

Image source: Pixabay.com

You can survive about three days without water but 21 days without food. You’ve got to have water.

The water that runs off the mountains and hills flows down into the valleys. So if you are in a mountainous region, your chances of finding water increase as you head down to the valley or low-lying areas.

Boiling water for more than 15 minutes is a quick way to have drinkable water. But just in case you can’t get a fire started, filtering the water is also effective. Use a bottle or plastic bag and add a bottom layer of charcoal, and then a layer of sand. Repeat, and then add a layer of stone or grass to filter the bigger impurities. It also is useful to carry a portable filter, such as a Paratrooper Filter.

Ultra-Compact Water Filter Fits In Your POCKET !

There are some other methods for finding water:

  • Cutting a vine first from the top, and then to the bottom to collect drops of water.
  • Collecting dew by soaking a cloth or shirt. Then, ring it into a container.
  • Digging a hole in a dry spot near a swamp and allowing water to collect.

5. Security and self-defense

Although there may not be any dangerous predators in your area, you should always be ready to defend yourself.

Sharpening a long stick can be used as a spear and also as a walking stick. Bamboo or river cane, due to their hollow inside, make a great dart gun. Darts can be carved out of hardwood (black locust), splinters or thorns.

Setting traps is a great way to catch food and immobilize a predator. Tie the short grass around your location to trip an intruder. Dry leaves around the perimeter also can alert you of an intruder in the area.

Keeping a positive attitude and a willingness to survive has gotten many lost campers and hikers out alive.

6. First aid

Practice your first-aid skills at home on your partner or a family member.

Here are some basics:

  • Cuts – Clean the wound. Stop the bleeding by applying pressure and bandage.
  • Breaks – Immobilize limb to keep from further damage. If an arm is broken, for example, then use two straight sticks (split a big log/branch in two as straight as possible). Place them on each side of the arm and bandage them together. Use a cloth to make a sling and to keep the arm elevated.
  • Sprains – Rest and ice. If near a river or lake (water is usually cold), then soak a cloth and place it on the sprain. Repeat until skin feels numb.

Keep in mind: The wilderness has everything you need to survive. Knowing what they can be used for is what differentiates the survivalist from the ordinary man. The more you know, the less you need.

What skills or advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

3 Subtle Mistakes That Will Get Your Killed In The Wild

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3 Subtle Mistakes That Will Get Your Killed In The Wild

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Every year, thousands of people venture into the wilderness for recreational purposes. And while communing with nature is an excellent way to alleviate the stresses of everyday life, many people fail to take into account just how harsh the wilderness can be to those who are unprepared.

In fact, underestimating the dangers posed by a day or week in the woods and being unprepared to handle them can lead to life or death struggles to survive until help arrives. To help prevent this from happening to you, here’s three major mistakes to avoid:

1. Miscalculating the risk. Most people only venture into the wilderness on weekends or for occasional camping trips. As a result, the first and most common deadly wilderness mistake most people make is miscalculating the level of risk that venturing into the wilderness poses. For instance, because many people plan what they expect to be only a day adventure, they fail to take into account just how quickly the local weather can change and the danger that inclement weather can create. Excessive heat, for example, can quickly cause hypothermia and dehydration, which can lead to disorientation, poor decision making, and ultimately death.

Discover The Secrets Of The Word’s Top Survivalists!

Also, although most people are aware of the dangers posed by excessively cold weather, they fail to understand that even a light rain in relatively warm weather can lower a person’s core temperature enough to cause hypothermia, which poses the same dangers as excessive heat. Furthermore, many areas of the US are inhabited by dangerous creatures such as bears, wolves, mountain lions, poisonous snakes and poisonous insects. In fact, the black bear can be found in most mountain ranges of the US and is responsible for more attacks on humans than grizzlies or brown bears combined. Numerous people each year are bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness, because they are either unaware of their presence or unaware of their preferred habitat.

3 Subtle Mistakes That Will Get Your Killed In The Wild

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2. Not being properly prepared. The wilderness can be deadly for those who are not prepared. It is essential to plan for accidents and emergency situations by carrying a properly stocked daypack that contains extra clothing and extra high-energy, non-perishable foods such as dried meat, dried fruits, trail mixes and hard candies in case you need to unexpectedly spend one or more nights in the wilderness.

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Furthermore, everyone venturing into the wilderness, regardless of how long they intend to stay, should assemble and carry a well-stocked survival kit, along with a sturdy survival knife, and know how to use them to build survival shelters, start a fire and obtain food.

3. Not knowing survival basics. Because most people venture into the wilderness using well-marked trails, they mistakenly feel that they do not need to know how to read a topographical map or how to use a compass. However, people often leave the trail to explore. Because they fail to note and memorize distinguishable landmarks, they suddenly find they are lost. Having both a topographic map and the knowledge of how to read it can be a life-saver. Also, while a person’s general direction of travel can be determined by observing the sun’s path, a compass can be an invaluable tool in determining the proper course for returning to the trail. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes even those who are familiar with wilderness navigation become disoriented and are forced to spend one or more unexpected nights in the wilderness. Therefore, taking the time to learn and practice basic wilderness survival skills can mean the difference between life and death.

Anytime you head into the wild,  prepare accordingly. Having proper supplies and basic survival skills can literally mean the difference between life and death.

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