Building a Natural Emergency Shelter With No Tools

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ominous_forest_coldHave you ever tried to build a shelter from natural materials in the woods?  Have you ever tried to do it with no tools?  Have you ever tried to do it with no tools in the winter in a foot of snow? Well I did, and here’s what happened. I went out snowshoeing with my yellow lab (Phyllis) and thought it might be cool to pretend that I was lost and needed to set up a shelter for the night.  It was about noon in mid-February, which meant I had roughly four and a half hours to build a shelter and get a fire going.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Since I never go into the woods without minimal equipment I can’t say that I had zero gear, but I didn’t use any of it when I built it.  Here’s a little video of just how easy it is to build a shelter from natural materials in the snow with no tools.  What could go wrong?

Time Line:

  1.  Fall on my ass:  5 seconds
  2. Swear:  17 seconds
  3. Gather wood:  1:20
  4. Breaking wood:  2:51
  5. Constructing the shelter:  4:54
  6. Tipping:  6:08
  7. Covering the shelter:  6:53
  8. Digging the firepit:  7:19
  9. Lighting the fire:  8:24
  10. Chillin’ in the shelter:  9:03

Don’t Lose Heat!

Before we actually build the shelter let’s take a look at some of the objectives.  First and foremost, don’t lose heat!  You lose heat through the following processes:

  • Convection – think blowing wind here
  • Conduction – like sleeping on the cold ground or sitting on a cold rock or log
  • Radiation – heat leaving your body like heat waves coming off  a woodstove
  • Evaporation – sweat

Building a shelter from what you have around you with no tools and keeping these rules in mind is a bit of a tradeoff.  Do the best you can with what you have.

Resources and Construction

In my case, I decided to build a lean-to style shelter from what was lying around in the forest.  In the section of forest I was in, there were a lot of standing dead fir trees about three to four inches at the base.  I looked all over and found a good supply of what I’d need, then went back to where I’d decided to set up my camp.

Read Also: Emergency Storage of Wild Plant Foods

It was in the forest near water, although this wasn’t absolutely necessary since there was so much snow on the ground.  However, it’s easier to gather water or ice then melt snow, so you exploit whatever edge you can, which is what I did in my mock survival situation.  It was also close to my supply of wood and a decent amount of fir trees, which I’d need for the fir boughs.

Next I laid a small log between two trees supported by small logs I’d broken and put underneath to hold it up.  This “cross beam” was about three feet off the ground.  Then, I laid a couple of ribs along it to get an idea of how long they’d need to be so I could break bunch to the right length.

survival_shelter_fallen_treeAfter this, I went and gathered what I hoped was enough wood to put the ribs on the shelter.  (If you haven’t seen the video, you should check out the first minute or two.  I completely fall on my back, while breaking some trees off).  Hey – nobody said it was going to be easy. Next I had to break the tree length sticks to the right size.  To do this, I found two trees close together.   Then I stuck the wood I wanted to break between the two and pulled on it until it broke where I wanted it to.  This isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done.  (Again, see the video for a demonstration).

I tried to build the shelter with it’s back to the wind so as to cut down on convection.  When you have a wind blowing it lowers the temperature considerably and with my shelter set up with it’s back to the wind and the fire throwing heat in, I was in pretty good shape.

Covering It Up

winter_shelter_survival_fireOnce I had the ribs on it was time to cover it up.  There are plenty of fir trees in that area, so I resorted to a technique called “tipping”, which means to break the tips off some fir branches in order to get what I need.  This doesn’t particularly hurt the tree as long as you don’t snap off every branch.  I gathered five or ten armloads and put some on the outside of the shelter and a few armloads inside as well to avoid losing heat through conduction.

Related: Ten Facts About Fire

Special note:  if I were going to build this for real, I’d put a lot more pine boughs over the top and on the ground to really help with the insulation.  Since this was a demo and I was getting tired I decided to go light on the insulation.

Next I broke some wood up for the fire and grabbed some small dead branches off fir and pine trees.  I piled the wood up and put the tinder on top then lit it with a lighter I happened to have in my pocket.  (I could have used a firesteel, but the lighter was quicker and easier).

Pretty soon I had a merry blaze going and decided to make myself some coffee.  Part of that small kit I told you about is a military canteen cup, so I poured in some water and made coffee using a coffee bag (exactly like a teabag, but with coffee instead).

After Action Report

canteen_cup_fire_shelter_survivalIt really wasn’t that difficult making a shelter using natural materials.  True, I don’t feel like I totally finished it, but it would have been easy enough if I needed.  I could have also covered it up with snow to really insulate it or added more to the front to make it less of a lean-to and more of a full shelter instead. The total time to make the shelter, even in the snow, was about two to three hours.  The thing about a shelter like this is you need a lot of wood to keep you warm through the night.  In the area I was in, it wouldn’t have been a problem because of all the dead wood laying around, but in other areas it might not have worked out so well.

Again, you’ll need to adjust the kind of shelter you have according to the materials available. Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

 

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5 Winter Survival Items EVERYONE Should Store In Their Vehicle

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5 Winter Survival Items EVERYONE Should Store In Their Vehicle

Image source: Pixabay.com

In an earlier post this winter, I wrote about three survival gadgets that everyone should store in their vehicles during the coldest months of the year. Let’s now turn to the basics.

Here are five often-forgotten items that everyone should store in their car, truck or SUV during winter:

5. Light sources.

Basically, the nightmare scenario that we’re preparing for is the most commonly experienced during the winter.

The cold has a way of freezing the life out of our car batteries (jumper cables being a given addition to this list). The cold also tends to result in the loss of friction – that is, the force of physics that cars depend on to keep the wheels on the road. Hence is why I recommend adding a work lantern with an attached magnet. That way, you won’t be fumbling in the long winter’s night while trying to get your car back on the road again.

And in the event that there’s no possible way of driving out of that snow bank, I’d also recommend a tactical flashlight with SOS signaling capabilities.

4. First aid.

Simply put, one sheet of ice can put us in the ER on a normal day. Besides, in the event that you find yourself in a survival situation, the events leading up to such a scenario are often the same ones that make a first-aid kit necessary in the first place (such as a black-ice-caused car accident).

3. Emergency communication.

Let’s play out a particular scenario for a moment…

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Pretend your vehicle has slid into a ditch, but you also happen to be on a road that tends not to see much traffic — especially in this weather. And so, you sit in your (now stationary) metal shelter with wheels, wondering what to do next. Of course, you’d phone for help, but you’ve got a grand total of zero bars to work with, so that’s out of the question. Should you walk for help? How low will temps reach tonight? Will this lull in snowfall hold until you make it to assistance?

These gaps in weather intelligence info can be alleviated with a simple pocket weather radio, since you’d be able to hear real-time weather broadcasts as the storm unfolds.

5 Winter Survival Items EVERYONE Should Store In Their Vehicle

Image source: Pixabay.com

I’d also recommend keeping at least a mini CB radio on hand, which can run on the adapter to a cigarette lighter power supply. Not only could you tune in to CH9 (emergency channel), but you’d even be able to communicate to nearby CB operators … who might just be kind enough to alert emergency personnel to your present predicament. At which point, set your flashlight to SOS-mode and await the cavalry.

2. Chains, n’ such.

Perhaps one of THE most obvious additions to your winter emergency vehicle stash would be the appropriately sized cables/chains for your tires. At least in my own experience, I’ve seen a Saturn SL2 rip through two feet of road powder with chains, while the 4×4 Jeep I was in remained stuck. A humbling experience, I do admit.

I’d also recommend adding other tire-traction items, such as traction mats. You also might want to purchase a traction “boot,” which are these ingenious tabs that clamp to the wheel and dig into the snow like a cleat.

1. Things that make you warm.

Last (and certainly not least), make sure you’ve got a change of the warmest possible clothing you own (that you don’t mind storing in your vehicle indefinitely and you use only for emergencies). In this instance, you might not necessarily have to concern yourself with moisture and water resistance, since you’ll be staying inside the vehicle. However, I would still NOT consider cotton materials an option. Cotton is just horrible for winter apparel, since even the slightest amount of sweating can result in chills … and chills are a precursor to hypothermia. I’d recommend wool materials. Quite frankly, I will always recommend wool (or smart fleece.)

And while we’re at it, you might as well do your due diligence and equip your ride with a polar fleece thermal blanket. If you’re going to be stuck inside a cold metal box, this will at least keep your body heat to yourself.

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

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

5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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Transitioning from winter to spring is an exciting time around our homestead. We have used these last few months to research and plan new ideas to incorporate on our land throughout the coming growing season. Right now, we are seeing the last remnants of snow and ice melt away, creating a soggy mess of our land, but there are still plenty of things we can do inside to prepare our homestead for the busy spring season.

Using these last few weeks of winter to prepare for spring weather allows us to work efficiently during those first weeks of spring when life around the homestead becomes increasingly busy. As with any project, creating a plan, even if it is a simple list, enables us to establish what needs finishing before the weather breaks and it helps us take full advantage of the warm winter days that come our way. So, what will we be doing to ensure we are using these last few weeks of winter wisely?

1. Preparing for seeds.

This year we are going to use newspapers saved by neighbors, family and friends to create seedling pots. Cutting and folding enough pots for the seeds we are planning to start indoors this year will take some time, but the materials and labor are free. Additionally, using newspaper pots will allow us to place the whole thing into the ground. No chasing down plastic seedling trays blown about by the wind or finding a place to store them in the offseason. If you are using traditional plastic seedling trays, use this time to clean them, inspect them and replace them if necessary. Or consider newspaper pots!

2. Implement maintenance.

Now is the time to be sure your tools, mechanical and otherwise, are in sound, working condition. For hand tools, sharpen the edges, oil the blades and repair or replace splintered or broken handles. Sharpening the blades of mower decks, tillers, plows and other implements now will allow spring ground-breaking to get off to a smooth start.

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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In addition to the array of outdoor tools that need to be maintained, sharpen and oil your scissors and knives. Sharpening butchering tools in these last few weeks of winter will save you time during the busy harvest season.

3. Stocking up on the essentials.

If you produce your own soaps, detergents and other household products, stocking up now will ensure you make it through the busy spring and summer months without setting aside precious time to whip up more. Estimate the amount you will need to have on hand until after harvest, and set aside a day to complete multiple batches. This is also the perfect time to rotate food storage supplies while cleaning and reorganizing, if necessary.

4. Preparing soil amendments.

Not all of the prep work can be done indoors, so take advantage of those warmer days in the last weeks of winter to work outside. Enrich garden soils by adding a top layer of compost to the rows. This will allow the compost to begin breaking down before you till it under in a few weeks. If you are planning on adding new raised beds, begin marking off dimensions, or even start constructing them, weather permitting.

5. Building and fence maintenance.

Inspect your outbuildings and fencing for damage due to wind, ice buildup or other weather-related activity. Wet winters can cause wood rot, as well as mold and mildew issues if the temperature remains above freezing for long. Repairing buildings and fencing now will ensure there are no untimely accidents later due to escaped inhabitants or ruined food supplies.

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

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

4 Hidden Dangers Of Winter That Can Kill You

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4 Hidden Dangers Of Winter That Can Kill You

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Even for the seasoned outdoorist, it’s good to review wintertime safety protocols so that they are fresh in your mind.

Too often we become relaxed, believing that nothing bad will happen to us. Yet things don’t always go as planned, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

Here are four wintertime safety and awareness issues that everyone should keep in mind.

1. Watch out for black ice.

Black ice is ice hidden under the snow. It can be on roads, walkways, steps or even in your yard where the ground is hard. Fresh snow can create the illusion that it is safe to walk on it. An unexpected fall on ice can lead to serious injuries – and if you hit your head, even death.

Sometimes, though, walking on ice in unavoidable. If so, walk like a penguin. Yes, a penguin! Waddling like a penguin allows you to maintain balance by centering your upper body over your legs. Simply hold your arms out at your sides, keep your feet shoulder distance apart, and take small, waddling steps. Remember to breathe and to stay limber, as well. If you do fall, keeping limber can protect your body from injury, as being too stiff can make injuries worse. Also, try to land on your bum or upper thighs where you have more padding, as opposed to trying to stop the fall with your hands, which can result in fractures or breaks.

2. Know the signs of frostbite.

Frostnip is the tingling feeling that happens first, and it is a warning sign that your body parts are becoming too cold. When you feel tingling in your fingers, hands, toes, feet, nose or ears, it is a sign that you need to warm up. If you ignore the signs, it can lead to frostbite. During this first stage, you will notice redness, and it might be painful, but permanent damage will not occur as long as you take action.

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4 Hidden Dangers Of Winter That Can Kill You

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Frostbite begins when your skin becomes numb and starts to turn pale, or even white. You may start to feel warm, but this is not a good sign at this stage because it is an adverse reaction to the frostbite. If not treated immediately, the skin of the affected body parts will start to die and will turn black.

As your body tries to fight the frostbite, you may experience intense shivering, loss of coordination, slurred speech and drowsiness. It is imperative to seek warmth and emergency help as soon as possible.

3. Monitor carbon monoxide levels.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas. Without taking proper measures, you will not know it is present until it is too late. Therefore, it is imperative to keep a carbon monoxide detector in your home and any other place where you use a heat source.

Carbon monoxide can be produced from a natural gas or wood fireplace, as well as from kerosene and similarly fueled heaters. A good way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to have your equipment checked each season and ensure there is proper ventilation.

Here are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • A dull headache.
  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Vomiting.
  • Confusion.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Don’t let these symptoms fool you into thinking you simply have the flu, especially if you use one of the heat sources mentioned. Get outside immediately in the fresh air. Call 911 as soon as possible and have your home and source tested for the leak.

4. Watch for the signs of hypothermia.

Don’t take shivering lightly. It could be a sign that your core body temperature is dropping. Shivering doesn’t mean you are in danger yet, however. You still have time to act. If the shivering becomes uncontrollable, more than likely hypothermia is setting in. It is imperative that you get to a warm place soon.

Know the signs of hypothermia:

  • You experience
  • You start to feel clumsy.
  • You begin to feel drowsy.
  • The shivering becomes uncontrollable.
  • The shivering stops
  • Your speech is slurred.
  • You notice you are making poor decisions.
  • Your energy levels are dropping fast.

Treatments for hypothermia:

  • Remove any wet clothing.
  • Keep moving. You need to raise your body temperature.
  • Move toward warmth and a shelter if possible.
  • Begin re-warming with dry clothing, blankets, heat packs or by a fire.
  • Drink hot liquids — but, not alcohol or caffeine, which can aid in heat loss.

Remember that other hazards are possible too, such as injuries from shoveling snow. Be smart, be aware, and do things as safely as possible.

It is better to be prepared for wintertime emergencies than not to be. You never know when you might find yourself in a survival situation.

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

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Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay Warm

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Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay Warm

When winter rolls around, most of us simply curl up in front of the wood stove or fireplace, or even turn on our electric blankets, but what would you do if those things were suddenly gone?

If the worst-case scenario occurred, would you know the ways that our ancestors stayed warm during winter? During those times, we might not be able to have a fireplace or a cozy home to sit out the winter months. So this might be a good time to familiarize yourself with the old-fashioned ways people have used to stay warm when they were outside.

Instant Heaters

My mother, during the depression, often took a hot baked potato to school, worn inside her coat. This helped keep her warm on her wintery walks to school.

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Other warming items, which are easily heated in a stove or in a pot of boiling water, would be hot water bottles, rocks, bricks, flat stones, potatoes and even shoes or underwear! My mother often said that, before she got dressed, she put her underwear and shoes right next to the wood burning stove on a cold, icy morning.

‘Crazy Layers’

Dressing in layers — but not the types of layers you and I use — was perhaps one of the best ways our ancestors stayed warm. They weren’t too picky about what it was, either. Layers of items create air pockets which keep heat in and cold out. Today, we have a great selection of fibers to choose from, so we can put on a couple pair of silk undergarments and a synthetic coat.

Before these materials were invented, however, some of our ancestors knew how to do what my grandmother called “crazy layers.” This means wool long John’s or undershirts and leggings, perhaps several pair. If you had them, you wore multiple pairs of pants or several petticoats (or slips). Stories in my family say that my great-grandfather only had two pairs of pants, so he would put them on, stuff the hems into his socks and boots, and then he stuffed chicken feathers in between the pants for insulation!

Most women wore several layers of clothing, a couple of scarves and hats, along with fur-lined gloves. It was not uncommon to see women wearing blankets tied about their neck or across the shoulders. This left their arms free to work, but helped to keep them warm.

Even More Unusual Ways to Stay Warm

Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay WarmOf course, we all want to believe that the truly desperate fights for survival are behind us. However, since none of us can foresee the future, we should at least be aware of some of the extreme, or at least unusual, ways that our ancestors stayed warm when dire circumstances were more common.

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Sleeping next to or under animals is a good way to stay warm if need be. Yes, it’s true that sleeping under a cow or next to a couple of goats or sheep might not smell great and might not be all that comfortable, but it will surely beat freezing to death.

Also, in a pinch, you can use some of nature’s own insulating materials, such as leaves, hay, feathers, hair (such as horse hair), straw, dried grass and even pine boughs to insulate your clothing, make a shelter and provide a dry floor for bedding.

Let’s not forget that there are other things to burn besides wood. If you want a fire but can’t find wood, remember that you can burn most dried animal manure (cow, horse and buffalo “chips” are great for this), as well as bird nests, straw, hay, charcoal (partially burned wood), paper, cloth, tires and leaves.

I don’t know about you, but after thinking about burning cow patties to stay warm, I am really grateful for my wood burning stove and electric blanket right now!

Do you know of other ways our ancestors stayed warm during winter? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

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9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

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While garden season may seem a lifetime away when you’re hauling wood and shoveling snow mid-winter, there are many things you can be doing now to ensure a healthy, productive garden in the coming season.

1. Collect wood ash

Wood ash, used in moderate amounts, makes excellent garden fertilizer. The ash is comprised of non-combustible minerals that the tree took out of the soil to fuel its metabolism. Those concentrated nutrients can go back onto your garden soil or into your compost to give both a boost. Wood ash can impact soil pH, so use in moderation.

2. Browse seed catalogs

Real gardening starts with mid-winter dreaming. Browsing seed and nursery catalogs early can help ensure that you’re organized and prepared in the spring. It also can build a good bit of excitement to keep your mood up until the warm weather comes back. Try something new this year and consider planting varieties you’ve never even heard of.

3. Start a worm compost bin

Compost bins tend to stall in the winter as the cold temperatures slow down micro-organisms from decomposing your food scraps into nutrient-rich fertilizer. An indoor worm compost bin is an easy way to keep your compost going all year to ensure you have an ample supply to start seeds in the early spring.

4. Research new methods

Have you heard of permaculture? Back to Eden gardening? Hydroponics? Tomato grafting? Small scale mushroom farming?

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There are all sorts of innovative gardening and food production techniques that go well beyond just planting a few novelty tomatoes in a raised bed. Use the winter to research new methods to keep your mind sharp and your garden fresh and exciting.

5. Build cold frames

Winter is a great time to build a few cold frames either to get your garden started earlier in the spring, or to extend the season later into the fall. Cold frames are like mini-greenhouses that insulate a small area or growing bed from the mild conditions of the “shoulder seasons” or spring and fall. If you get started assembling a few now, they’ll be ready to be set out with greens by late winter, giving you a heads start on the gardening season.

6. Start long-season seeds

9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

While most garden crops, such as tomatoes, need to be started just six weeks before the last expected frost date, there are others that will need to be started as early as mid-winter if you expect to have a full harvest. Leeks and onions need to be started from seed indoors as much as 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost. Early cold weather crops that you’ll want to plant and hope to harvest before the mid-summer heat, such as broccoli, also might need to be planted well before your other seeds.

7. Trim or cut shading trees

Most annual garden crops need full sun to produce full crops in a single summer season. Winter is a great time to prune back branches to ensure that your garden beds are getting as much sun as possible.  With the trees dormant, winter trimming will do the least damage to them in the long term. Winter also is a great time to cut down trees. With the soil frozen and leaves gone, cleanup will be much easier.

8. Plan a root cellar

If it’s mid-winter and you’re desperately missing your garden produce, perhaps take this time to plan ahead for next year to ensure that your garden provides for you a bit longer. Root cellars don’t need to be complicated affairs involving lots of land or heavy equipment for digging. Even a cold closet on the north side of your house can keep storage squash in prime condition all winter long. Evaluate the space you have and determine if you can convert part of your basement to cold storage, or in warmer areas, perhaps a buried cooler or refrigerator just outside the back door will be sufficient to keep things cool.

9. Force perennials indoors

Consider planning ahead to force perennials indoors. Rhubarb and asparagus roots are some of the simplest plants to dig in late fall or early winter and store in cool moist soil in a basement or back closet until you’re ready to give them an early start. Planted in buckets and brought into a warm room in the house, both rhubarb and asparagus can provide a dependable indoor harvest over a few weeks, even in January.

How do you jump start your garden? Share your tips in the section below:

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

10 Overlooked Ways To Keep Livestock Warm During Winter

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10 Overlooked Ways To Keep Livestock Warm During Winter

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When the mercury is dropping and the wind is blowing a gale, most people would rather be indoors than outside braving the elements. The same is often true of livestock. I am among those  who prioritize keeping all of my animals as comfortable as possible throughout all seasons, and have developed a repertoire of effective ways to keep them warm during the cold of winter. Even if your motivation to keep livestock warm is centered more on avoiding a drop in production or merely basic survival, the following list is a good reference for livestock safety in winter.

1. Time grooming and treatments with intentionality. Avoid shearing and trimming coats when cold weather is approaching, of course. But beyond that, it may not be a bad idea to limit shots, hoof-trimming, and other routine procedures in winter as much as possible. Anything that causes an animal stress can detract from the energy it uses to stay warm and healthy. I am not suggesting a moratorium on livestock handling, but only to try and do the bulk of it in late fall and early spring so as to keep it to a minimum in winter.

2. Give easy access to shelter. Laws in some states specify minimum housing required for livestock. Whether a certain level of shelter is mandated or not, even animals that are adapted to cold often do better if they can get in out of the wind and precipitation. Insulation is great, but could be considered extravagant. If a barn is well-insulated and airtight, it is important to allow for ventilation in order to prevent excess moisture buildup inside and keep healthy air circulating.

3. Provide plenty of clean dry bedding. Depending upon your infrastructure and the type of animals you have, this may include cleaning out waste every day or two before applying fresh shavings, straw or other litter.

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Conversely, the dung of certain livestock such as goats and sheep is sufficiently small and dry that it can be allowed to build up over the winter. This creates a thick mattress of composting material which contributes to the animals’ comfort. Whether you clean out regularly or not, a clean dry space is important.

4. Increase protein intake. For ruminants and other herbivores such as cattle, sheep and goats, this is usually accomplished by way of grain. This can be done by switching up to a higher-percentage grain, adding a top-dress of kelp or other supplement, or increasing the amount of grain. Protein for omnivorous animals like pigs and poultry can be fed meat fats as well.

5. Allow communal living. Animals will group together for warmth if they need to do so. Snuggling into the hay, or even moving about in close proximity to one another, will help them create and retain body heat. Sometimes the animals within a herd need to be split up for management reasons, but they all need at least one or two buddies during frigid conditions.

10 Overlooked Ways To Keep Livestock Warm During Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Allow them to rely on their own instincts. Animals will gravitate toward warm areas on a cold day if they can. If they have access to sunny barn windows, draft-free zones, or spaces up against buildings or solid fences that reflect the sun, you are likely to find them availing themselves of nature’s hotspots.

7. Use a plastic livestock curtain in doorways. These vertical strips of heavy plastic purchased from farm equipment catalogs — or made at home using clear shower curtains — hang in doorways and are effective barriers to inclement weather. They allow animals to move freely in and out, are loose enough to provide crucial ventilation indoors, limit snowfall beyond the threshold, draw the sun’s heat on cold clear days, and help retain interior warmth.

8. Maintain some dry ground outdoors if possible. Livestock often balk at fording deep snow, possibly because as prey animals they do not want to get bogged down, or because their instincts cause them to avoid expending unnecessary energy, or perhaps they just do not like it. A roofed outdoor area, plowed paddock, or even some shoveled paths to their favorite locations are a plus.

9. Use added heat if absolutely necessary. The best way to do this is to provide heavy-duty water jugs — tightly closed and kick- and chew-proof — of hot water, or bricks heated near the wood stove, for the most frigid snaps. Another way is by using heat lamps, but only with extreme caution. I see at least one news story every winter about a barn fire that started from heat lamp use. It is so easy to make a mistake or for accidents to occur — they end up too close to combustible materials, or the hanging apparatus breaks, or animals knock them over or chew the cords, or the outlets are bad. Except for extenuating circumstances — compromised newborns, animals that are sick or must be isolated, or other extreme situations — the use of heat lamps is probably not worth the risk. Choosing the right breeds, maintaining infrastructure, and facilitating a way for the animals to keep themselves warm naturally are all better choices. If heat lamps must be used, it is vital to use only those that are high quality and are designed for use in a barn.

10. Choose the best breeds for your climate. Some breeds of livestock are more naturally suited to extreme temperatures than are others. Animals with thick coats or other cold-weather adaptations are more likely to thrive in colder regions, but obvious physical attributes do not always tell the whole story. It is helpful to consider where the breed originated or was developed — did it come from the desert, or the tundra? Another consideration is the size of the animal: Very generally speaking, larger animals tolerate cold better than smaller ones, due to the ratio of skin surface to body mass.

Short of bringing livestock into the house, these are some of the best ways to help keep farm animals safe and comfortable in the harshest of winters. Due diligence and a little forward thinking can work together to create an atmosphere that will provide the best possible care for animals and peace of mind for owners.

How do you keep your livestock warm during winter? Share your tips in the section below:

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Grow Your Own: Winter Lettuce and Microgreens

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Grow Your Own: Winter Lettuce and Microgreens Winter is a tough time to grow food, we all know that. This article shows us how to grow winter lettuce and micro greens inside over the winter months. If SHTF this may be all we can gather, especially if you get a lot of snow and freezing …

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7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

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7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

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I’ve been in survival situations numerous times — usually because of bad luck or sheer stupidity. The two worst ones occurred in winter, and, thankfully, I survived.

Winter is unforgiving in a survival situation. The only advantage is that the snow and ice are delivering you a regular water source that’s typically safe to drink when melted.  After that, everything else is worse.

The critical first step is staying warm, building a fire and sustaining it. But there’s a second priority that’s equally important: shelter.

But before you exhaust yourself scrambling to find the branches, boughs and other materials to build a shelter, take the time to look for a natural shelter.

1. Low-growing pines

You may have seen a pine tree with its boughs overloaded with snow. It’s not an inviting sight, but if you spread the boughs and look at the base of the tree you may be surprised to see dry ground around the trunk. This is one of the ways that nature can provide you with an instant shelter that will protect you from the wind and snow.

7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you cut away a few low-hanging branches you can build a fire that will provide some heat. You also could build the Swedish “upside-down fire” even if you can’t clear all of the snow off the ground. We’ll cover that at the end of this article.

2. Large deadfalls

A large tree, whether it be a pine or deciduous, will often create a natural canopy over an area of ground if it has been toppled. Here again, you’re looking for that precious bare ground that says it may stay that way over a period of time. You could carefully clear some branches for a fire to provide some heat, but you’ll need to guard against snow melt.

3. Root cavity of large uprooted trees

We have a cabin in Michigan. One summer, a violent windstorm uprooted a monster oak not far from the cabin. It was a green tree, so I was going to wait until the next summer to cut it up. During the winter, I was walking and noticed the snow-covered and sand-encased roots forming a natural canopy over the hole left by the roots. It was dry and no snow had entered. I climbed down and was surprised that the sand was still soft and unfrozen. It was cozy but a bit claustrophobic. In an emergency, I would have gotten over that fairly quickly.  It was my first experience in a literal root cellar.

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Large uprooted trees are fairly common in heritage forests, so keep a look out and you might find your own natural root cellar as a winter shelter.

4. Caves

If you’re fortunate enough to find a cave, you’ve found nature’s natural penthouse.  However, advance cautiously. You’re not the only animal in the woods trying to survive the winter, and some of the other animals have bigger teeth.

Caves are also ideal for capturing the heat of a fire. Build the fire as large as you want.

5. Rock canyons

7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

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In some parts of North America there are natural rock canyons. They’re often narrow in parts and both the snow and wind have a hard time getting into them. That’s a good thing.  Here again, you can haul in your firewood and build a significant fire to stay warm. If you’re worried about animals using your canyon as a pathway at night, build fires on either side of you in the canyon. Just make sure they’re small enough so that you can jump over them.

6. Rock overhangs

There are occasions along a cliff face that a natural depression will occur, resulting in an overhang. It’s not as cozy as a cave, but it could protect you from precipitation and the wind, depending on the wind direction. It’s also a good environment to enjoy the heat of a fire; the rock at your back and around you should reflect the heat nicely. You just have to hope the wind doesn’t shift and fill your little enclosure with snow drifts.

7. Large boulders

It’s a bit odd to be walking through the woods and encounter a large boulder in the middle of nowhere. It’s so odd that geologists call them “erratics.” They’re erratic because they don’t geologically belong there. They were delivered by the glaciers as they advanced south during the Ice Age.

An erratic has some benefits. For one, the leeward side (the side opposite the wind) will often have less snow on the ground and will protect you from the prevailing wind. It also can serve as an excellent heat reflector. You can sit with your back against the wall of the boulder, and the fire will heat you and the rock face. Or you can build the fire at the base of the boulder to allow the rock to act as a huge reflector. This assumes you have a clear night without precipitation.

Do you know of other instant and natural winter survival shelters? Share your tips in the section below:

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter

Artist: Robert Duncan

Most of us head indoors and turn up the furnace when frigid weather hits, stacking in a good supply of wood for the stove or plugging in the old electric throw blanket — and praying that the power doesn’t go out!

For the native people of this land, however, they had none of those luxuries. Have you ever wondered just how the heck they stayed warm when it was dangerously cold? During blizzards and ice storms? Were teepees and other shelters really that warm?

Of course, there could be causalities during severe weather. You can’t help but picture the people who went outside to attend to nature’s call, only to find themselves half frozen within minutes, or lost in a driving snow.

Let’s take a look at how the indigenous people of this land not only survived during the harshest winter weather, but actually looked forward to it as a time to stay indoors, sleep, rest, spend time with family, and get caught up on chores.

An Ounce of Prevention

One way that native people prepared for harsh storms was forecasting them. Generally speaking, there were always one or two elders who seemed to have a knack of understanding that, for example, if the wind was bringing clouds from the north, it meant a blizzard, if from the east, it would bring snow, but nothing too harsh. Thin clouds meant cold weather. No snow and a ring circling the moon meant it would rain within 24 hours.

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It also helped to observe animal behavior. For example, woodpeckers sharing one tree or one nest meant a harsh winter was coming. It is also said that when muskrats made their holes high up on the banks of rivers, lots of snow was on the way.

In the far north, the elders looked for bright spots that appear on either side of that cold winter sun. An old saying was that those spots were fire, which the sun had made to warm its ears. This was a sign which meant a severe cold snap was coming quickly.

Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter Native people were well aware that being caught without proper provisions during the winter would almost certainly mean death — so they prepared themselves accordingly.

When Caught Unaware

Literature has painted Native Americans as some sort of “magic” people who knew everything about nature, but the truth is that they were humans who made mistakes. This is especially true of young couples sneaking away for a little tryst, or young men trying to prove their bravery.

Sometimes, indigenous people were away from camp when a snowstorm or blizzard struck.  In these cases, stories of survival are almost all the same: People sought shelter quickly, made a small fire, tried to stay warm and wait it out. Shelter was the foremost concern, and it would take the shape of hollowed-out tree trunks, caves, rock outcroppings, even a quick lean-to made from branches, a tree and some snow.

Anything that would burn would be collected as quickly as possible, including horse or cow dung, pine cones, old pine needles, small branches – basically, whatever was dry. By surrounding the fire with rocks, they could radiate heat into the shelter.

If you were with someone else, you could share body heat. Natives would wait out the storm by sleeping as much as possible near the fire. It’s an old wives’ tale that people who fall asleep in the cold will never wake up. When you are cold enough, your body will wake you up to let you know!

Protect the Body

Next to the fire, your most precious asset is your own body heat. Native people considered their body as a natural fire that they never wanted to squander or allow to go out.

For the indigenous people, this meant never sitting directly on the ground, but instead perching themselves on furs or rocks near the fire that were covered with hides and fur. The Eskimo people were known to tie dried loon skins, including the feathers, to a rope, which they wore around their waist, similar to an apron. This was not only an extra layer of warmth, but if they were out and about, they would turn it around so the skins were lying on their buttocks, giving them a natural buffer between their fanny and a cold rock!

Native people kept their body fire protected by layering clothing. Better to remove clothing if you became too warm than to be caught in a snow storm wearing just a breechcloth!

Making the Cold an Ally

Of course, native people had many ways of dealing with the cold over the years that are no longer useful to us in modern times. Many tribes were nomadic and simply moved south along with the migrating birds. Other tribes used longhouses, where almost everyone in the tribe would spend the winters together in close quarters, their combined body heat making the interiors warmer.

Native people were known to cut wood when it was well below freezing. Why? Not only were they kept warm through the effort, but wood at 30 below (Fahrenheit) splits very easily!

Perhaps one of the best secrets of the indigenous people was that they saw the cold as a living thing that deserved respect. They did not try to prove how long they could stay outside in an ice storm. Native people believed that cold was a spirit that had great power worth of respect and attention.

Do you think you could have survived as a Native American in frigid weather? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds That Can Thrive Anywhere

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Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds That Can Thrive Anywhere

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Anyone who lives north of a certain latitude or above a particular elevation knows that winter can be hard on homestead chickens. Keeping a flock warm and comfortable can be a challenging endeavor when the temperature plummets. Although there are a variety of methods available, ranging from infrastructure modification to feeding habits to artificial heat, one of the most important things to ensure chickens thrive in winter is to choose the right breeds for the climate

First, bigger is better. Larger animals are often able to store more fat, which acts as insulation. Although the general rule of larger animals being more adaptable to cold than small ones is more often true among mammals than in other animal families, it does seem to bear out with domestic fowl. Full-sized chicken breeds tend to do better in severely cold areas than do the smaller-sized bantams. While smaller poultry can and are raised successfully in northern climates, it works well to choose heavy breeds.

Another thing to look for when choosing a cold-hardy chicken breed are their physical features. Larger combs and wattles—the fleshy protuberances on the tops of their heads and hanging from below their beaks, typically red in color—are more prone to freezing. The reason for this tendency may be that combs and wattles have a lower blood flow than the rest of their bodies, particularly during cold weather. As with other organisms, including humans, physiology focuses on survival, which in cold weather causes blood flow to be reserved for the most important areas of the body.

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Roosters typically have larger combs and wattles than do hens. But both sexes of some breeds have smaller ones, and those are the breeds that do better in frigid weather. They have less area of this sensitive skin exposed to the cold, which results in them being less apt to suffer from painful and debilitating frostbite.

Another feature to consider is fur versus feathers. The answer feels almost counterintuitive, but chickens with feathered or furry legs are not recommended for colder regions. The reason is this:  snow and ice can stick to the fluffy legs and feet of silkie types and cause them to freeze more quickly than legs and feet with only skin. The same holds true for chickens with fur or fluffy feathers on their bodies and heads—traditional feathers keep them drier and more protected from cold. This is not to say that chickens with furry legs or bodies cannot be raised in the north, but it may be wise to keep an extra close eye on them during deep cold, particularly if they go outside at all.

Chickens have been bred over generations to adapt to specific conditions, and being cold-hardy is one of those sought-after traits. So what breeds of chicken are generally considered to be the best choices for regions of extremely cold winters?

My personal favorite is the Ameraucana. This is an American breed that is derived from the South American “Araucana,” a bird known for laying blue eggs. Like its parent bird, the Ameraucana—also known as an “Easter-egger”—typically has distinctive tufted ears and a short tail, and lays eggs that range from olive green to baby blue in color. Ameraucana roosters have brilliant plumage in iridescent greens and sometimes other colors which some people favor for fly-tying, and hens range from multicolored golds and oranges to all white. The two distinguishing characteristics which all of my Ameraucana birds have are tufted ears and greenish legs.

The traits that make me like Ameraucanas include their all-weather hardiness—heavy bodies and extremely low-profile combs and barely existent wattles—as well as their extra-rich eggs and general toughness.

Another breed I have had success with is the Golden Comet. One of my hens is a seven-year-old Golden Comet, and she is still laying eggs regularly even at her advanced age. She is robust, smart, and adaptable to new conditions—and like her roost-mates, has the cold-weather traits she needs to survive winters in my region.

Other breeds that are generally thought to be cold-weather chickens include Reds—both Rhode Island and New Hampshire—as well as all colors of Wyandottes, Orpingtons and Rocks. I have had a few of all four of these types over the years, and they have proven to be excellent cold-weather choices, but have replaced them with other breeds as time went by due to reasons other than winter hardiness.

It is likely possible to change housing conditions so that any chicken can be kept safe and thriving during frigid weather. But choosing breeds that naturally tolerate cold better can result in less effort and less worry on the owner, and create a more pleasant environment for everyone involved.

What are your favorite cold-weather chicken breeds? Which traits are most important to you for winter hardiness? Share your tips in the section below:

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Does ‘Banking Snow’ Around A Home Really Make It Warmer?

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Does ‘Banking Snow’ Around A Home Really Make It Warmer?

If you live in an area that often sees standing snow for weeks or months at a time during the winter, you are surrounded by some of the best insulation you can use for your home.

“Banking” is the process of building snow around your home to help keep it insulated, and it’s a proven technique that can help cut your heating costs during the winter months. This technique is ideal for those who live in climates where there isn’t a real thaw until March, so that the snow stays in place all winter. It will still work in slightly warmer climates, but you need to be cognizant of any thawing cycles and add snow when necessary.

Although the concept may seem too simple to be true, banking your home with snow can add some serious insulation power. For every inch of snow, you gain an extra R-value of 1 or more for your walls. R-value indicates the capacity of a material to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value a material has, the greater the insulation power. Most older homes are built with R-11 insulation, while newer homes can have insulation with R-13 or higher. Regardless of the type of insulation you have in your walls, banking with snow can significantly increase your home’s ability to retain heat.

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When banking your home with snow, the goal is to build a wall of snow around the base of your home 2-4 feet high. You can do this by simply shoveling the snow up in drifts until they are at the desired height, but most people find it easier to use a piece of plywood roughly 4 feet by 8 feet with a bracing pole to keep it vertical. Starting at the corner of your structure, place the piece of plywood about two feet from the wall of your home, and then use the pole to brace it vertically. Make sure that you use a bracing pole strong enough to hold the weight of the plywood and the weight of the snow as you start to pack it in.

Shovel snow in between the piece of plywood and your structure until you reach the desired height. Be sure to pack the snow down as you go so it can resist any winds that may blow it away. As you finish one section of the wall, move the plywood one length down the structure and pack the next section. Continue this method until you’ve built a snow wall two feet thick and at least two feet tall around every part of your home. You may not be able to build a continuous wall around your entire home because of stairs or ground level doors, but any section you can bank with snow helps. It will make a significant difference.

Of course, while banking with snow, it is extremely important not to block any vents that may extrude from your home. Gas appliances, electric clothes dryers and other home appliances use these vents to get rid of gases that can prove toxic if built-up to certain levels.

It’s also important to keep a close eye out for warmer temperatures. As soon as it looks like a thaw is imminent, remove the snow around your home to prevent any moisture from seeping in. Modern-day homes typically have good moisture barriers to prevent this, but an older home may not have the proper prevention in place.

Aryn Young is a writer and farmer currently living in Homer, Alaska. 

www.arynyoung.com

Have you ever banked snow around your home? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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Baby It’s cold outside! Are you ready?

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A Few Ideas on How to Prep When it’s Cold Outside

If winter and its freezing temperatures are making you depressed, I want to give you a few ideas on how to prep and help pass the time. No, this is not one of those “how to prep for winter” types of articles.

Instead, I’m going to give you a few ideas that don’t require you to go hiking, to go outside and build a solar cooker and test it. These are things you can do in the comfort of your own home, most with little effort, but they will give you that feeling that you’re productive. And you will be.

#1. Try making a clay pot heater

…or any other indoor project for that matter. Now, don’t get your hopes up, these heaters won’t be able to heat up a whole room, however, they will help in an emergency. If, for some reason, none of your other heating options will work, you’ll be able to use this heater to at least keep your hands and feet warm.

Warning: candles are a fire hazard so be sure to supervise the thing every minute it’s running. There are lots of youtube videos about clay pot heaters you can watch. (Editors note: Please watch this warning video about clay pots. They can be very, very dangerous.)

#2. Watch a movie

There are plenty of survival movies you can watch with your family and learn a thing or two. While many of them are full of errors, I still enjoy them and I’m sure many other preppers do. If your family is not on board with you with regards to prepping, this could be a great way to open their eyes, if only just a little bit.

Recommendations: History Channel’s Alone series (not a movie, a TV show but really good), The Way Back (2010), Children of Men (2006), Volcano (1997).

#3. Make Plans

Don’t stop to making  survival plans. Winter is the perfect time to plan for the year ahead, set goals and think of ways of achieving them. Of course, making or refining your survival plans should be a top priority.

If you’ve already done your basic planning, consider improving them by:

  • figuring out how to make more room for your increasing stockpile
  • reviewing your gear to see if any of the items you have are low quality
  • printing better/more maps of your area and re-adding the points of interest with a marker
  • prepping for disasters and emergencies you haven’t yet considered
  • finding your blind spots and making plans to improve them (e.g. if you’re not prepping to bug out, you should definitely start planning for it)

#4. Perform a full inspection…

…of all your gear, your food, water and meds stockpile, your bug out bag, even of your EDC!

Check…:

  • that your electronics are still functional
  • for leaky or discharged batteries
  • your propane heater
  • your generator
  • that your hand-crank devices are still functional
  • that your fuel tank is full or almost full, and make a mental note to always keep it full
  • the gear inside your car
  • Your medical equipment (ever tested your newly bought thermometer, for instance?)

Check everything!

Pay particular attention to items that have never been used. You definitely want to put them to the test more than a few times, to ensure they’re going to hold up in a survival situation.

Inspecting your stockpile can save you money by not having to throw away food that would otherwise spoil. If a tuna can is close to its expiration date, you may want to take it out, eat it, and re-add to your shopping list.

#5. Learn how to use your gear

Come on, admit it: you have at least one piece of gear you don’t know how to use. Wouldn’t this be a great time to play with it a little bit and see how it works? Well, you won’t be able to test everything indoors (some items are fire hazards) but you can safely play around with:

  • Paracord (try to make some knots)
  • HAM radio
  • emergency radio
  • multi-tool
  • compass
  • …and so on.

#6. Read

Survival and preparedness are complex and, as a result, they have a lot of issues and controversies. The more you read, however, the closer to the truth you’ll get. The bugging in versus bugging out dilemma, what things are found in water that filters can and cannot purify, whether or not you should tell others about your preps, how to handle cashiers when they ask you why you buy too much of one thing – these are just some of the things that’ve caused heated debates (and still do).

Knowledge is power, so take advantage of all the free info out there, read it all and make up your own mind.

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6 Tricks To Ensure Your Fruit Trees Survive The Winter

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6 Ways To Ensure Your Fruit Trees Survive The Winter

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Experienced homesteaders know that just because the trees go dormant, the hens take a break from laying, and the garden goes fallow it doesn’t mean that you can go into hibernation from December to March.

Among the many wintertime tasks on the farm, you can’t forget to include tending to your fruit trees. Proper overwintering of fruit trees helps them to survive the cold months and can get rid of any hidden fungal spores, bacteria, and insect eggs that can wreck havoc come summertime. The three simple steps include: insulation, pruning and spraying.

1. Prioritize autumn clean-up. Start winter preparation by cleaning up your orchard during autumn. Remove fallen, rotting fruit from the ground and rake up fallen leaves. This debris can harbor hidden fungal spores, insects and their eggs. Rotting fruit is also an invitation to animal invaders to move in. Be sure also to remove any dead fruit from the tree. After the leaves have fallen, give your fruit trees a thorough inspection for signs of disease or damage. Look for any cracks, discolorations, unusual growths or other signs of damage. Remove or treat any wood that shows signs of disease.

2. Prevent sunscald. Before the cold really sets in is the time to protect your trees from sunscald. Sunscald occurs in the winter when the sunlight heats the bark during the day, waking it from dormancy, and then freezes again at night, causing an open scar. The scar can become an inviting opening for insects and disease. To protect your trees from sunscald you can use a commercial tree wrap — like crinkled paper or spiral plastic wrap — to wrap the trunks of young trees. Older trees can be treated with a 1:1 solution of water and white latex paint.

3. Guard against animal invaders. If you have a busy wildlife presence in your area, you also may need to protect your fruit trees from deer, rabbits, mice and other animals that are looking for an easy wintertime meal.

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For trees less than 5-7 years old, use tree wraps or wire mesh to protect trunks from mice and voles, making sure they are partially buried. Though nothing short of an 8-foot fence is guaranteed to keep deer at bay, a barrier of poultry netting or woven wire can help protect your trees. Scent repellants also may work, including liquid repellents like coyote urine or hanging a highly scented bath soap from the tree’s branches.

6 Ways To Ensure Your Fruit Trees Survive The Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Insulate the roots. When it comes to winter prevention, insulating your roots is the most important task. A nice, thick layer of mulch is the best way to keep roots warm. Mulch should be a few inches thick all year long and even thicker in the winter (4-6 inches for young trees). You can use a variety of organic materials as mulch, including bark mulch, leaves, pine straw, wood chips and straw. Snow works, too! For the very best protection, cover your mulch with an insulated barrier like black landscape fabric or a black trash bag.

5. Prune the trees. Prune from December to February when the trees are dormant. Weak branches are an easy target for bacteria or insects to lay eggs, so weed them out now before it’s too late. First remove those dead, dying or diseased branches you noticed back in the fall. For diseased branches, be sure to cut the next juncture down to be sure of removing all the affected wood. Next, remove branches that are rubbing or at risk of growing into one another, branches that grow straight out, and root suckers. When pruning fruit trees be sure to sterilize your shears between cuts to prevent disease transfer. This can be done by rubbing them with denatured alcohol or a 1:99 solution of bleach and water. Tea tree oil is also a natural choice.

6. Wash the trees. The dormant season is prime time to “wash” fruit trees. Washing, or spraying, is the most successful way to kill off any bacteria, fungal spores, insects or insect larvae that may be hiding in your tree. Spraying should only be done in the winter when trees are deeply dormant, before any new buds have begun to show. Dormant oil sprays are available online or in most gardening and home improvement stores. These usually contain some type copper and/or lime, fish oil, or plant-based oil and can be found in organic forms, as well. Do your spraying when temperatures will be consistently above freezing for a few days. Make sure to wet all surfaces thoroughly, especially bark fissures. Since these sprays work as a contact insecticide, getting into all the nooks and crannies — especially around the base of the trunk — they ensure that you will kill off all of those hidden aphids, mites and other harmful bugs.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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First Aid During Winter: Can You Handle It?

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Winter First Aid

In an emergency situation, it’s difficult to provide good first aid even in good weather, but if you must tend to sickness or injury in freezing weather, your job is going to be twice as hard.

You’ll have greater difficulty getting to a warm place to provide treatment, and snow and freezing weather will make it difficult to start a fire or find healing herbs that would be abundant in warmer weather.

You will also have to take care of yourself by wearing appropriate cold weather gear, which may impair you.

In this article we’re going to discuss how to meet these challenges and provide adequate first aid even in freezing weather.

How to Reduce the Risk of Injury

The first problem that you’re going to face is that chances for injury are going to be much greater. You’ll be facing the risk of frostbite, hypothermia, falls and hunting injuries. As a provider of first aid, the first rule is to avoid injury yourself.

In freezing weather, it will be an uphill climb to provide life-saving treatment without risking yourself as well.

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Hypothermia

The first challenge that you’re going to face when providing first aid is avoiding hypothermia on top of treating the injury, or perhaps the injury is hypothermia. The problem is that in order to treat hypothermia, you need a way to warm up the person, which isn’t going to be easy if you’re stuck outdoors.

In severe temperatures, your core temperature can drop dangerously low when exposed to the elements in a matter of minutes even if you’re awake and active. If the patient is unconscious, their body temp drops even faster because they aren’t moving about to generate extra body heat.

When you sleep, your body temperature drops by as much as a couple of degrees, which can be critical since hypothermia, by definition, is a decrease in body temperature. When you’re in a deep sleep, you don’t shiver to maintain body temp.

Your body also pulls heat from the shell (your limbs) to maintain core temp, which puts the extremities at risk for frostbite. Loss of blood increases the chance because blood is basically the hot water in your body’s radiator – the warm blood in your vessels keeps the surrounding temperature warm.

The take-away here is to keep the person awake and warm, even if he or she is in pain and you would normally encourage sleep.

Though you may need to shed at least your gloves or mittens to provide treatment of wounds, it’s critical that you stay warm in order to prevent becoming hypothermic, too. If both of you are down, there’s a high probability that you’ll both die.

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Frostbite

If a person has an injury that requires removal of clothing, such as a gash or puncture wound, there’s a much greater risk of frostbite.

Like with hypothermia, it doesn’t take long in freezing temperatures for frostbite to set in and cause potentially permanent tissue damage that can result in loss of digits or limbs, or even gangrene.

The risk is particularly high around the wound area because it’s wet so it’s important to get it dry and keep it dry, or at least under a dry dressing so that the wet material and flesh isn’t exposed to the cold.

Ice

Ice presents many problems when traversing terrain in bad weather. The risk of broken bones, severe bruises, concussions, and just about any other injury is increased exponentially if you’re walking or traveling on ice. It will also make it much more difficult to get an injured person to safety.

If you have to provide first aid in an icy environment, don’t forget the first rule – keep yourself safe.

If a person has fallen through ice on a body of water and you’re trying to save them, do the best that you can to ensure your own safety. Tie yourself to a secure tree or fixed object before going after them, and if you have to go out onto the ice, lay flat so that your body weight is distributed over a larger area.

If you have a path that you use several times a day, use rock salt to melt the ice. You don’t have to use much, but you will need to reapply it at least once per day to keep the water from the melted ice from re-freezing.

Some ice on a shelter may act as an insulator, but if it gets too heavy for the structure to bear, you’ll find yourself without shelter. Monitor and do what needs to be done.

Inability to Travel

First aid is called that because it’s often meant to be the precursor to a higher level of medical treatment. For instance, if a person has severed a digit or limb, or has a severe injury, they’re going to need more than a bandage and some antibacterial ointment.

Tourniquets can only be used carefully and for a short amount of time without causing tissue death or damage and wounds such as gunshot wounds need surgery if the bullet or foreign object is still in the patient.

Freezing weather, especially in a SHTF scenario, makes travel much more difficult. Trying to travel in severe weather may result in further injury to the patient, or injury to you, and we already know that’s the last thing that needs to happen.

The best way to prepare for this is to know how to make snowshoes and to keep a means of transporting a patient, such as a sled, handy in case you absolutely have to get out.

Proper vehicle maintenance will go a long way here, too. It’s also good to know how to make a litter to carry somebody should they be injured away from home or camp.

How to Keep Supplies and Equipment from Freezing

All of those great balms, ointments, and elixirs that you have stored in your first aid kit are likely to freeze, and the lubrication in your equipment can freeze and make them difficult, if not impossible, to operate.

The same thing can happen to cloth bandages if they’re even remotely damp.

Any liquid treatment made with a large percentage of alcohol will likely be fine. That includes tinctures and rubbing alcohol. Peroxide will remain liquid up to -60 F or so. If you’re in temperatures that cold, you have bigger problems that a need for peroxide! Other meds such as cough syrup or saline bags will be popsicles.

One med that you really need to keep from freezing is insulin. Every package insert I researched was adamant about not freezing the product. I did some further study, thinking that this was, perhaps, Big Pharma’s way of keeping you from stockpiling product.

What I found was that “R” type insulin may survive freezing and still be viable, while “N” types don’t fare so well. That being said, I am certainly not a doctor, or even a diabetic, so if you have to use frozen insulin, do so at your own risk and monitor your levels closely. Also know that you’re going to be affected by cold weather more than your non-diabetic peers.

For your other antibacterial and special-use ointments, it seems prudent to store them in small enough packages that you can warm them just by holding them in your hands or placing them in your sock or somewhere else on your body.

Carrying MRE heaters or heat packs to warm them as well.

To keep vehicles running in freezing weather, make sure to use a lower viscosity oil in any internal combustion engine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the proper antifreeze to use in the radiator.

Working with Layers of Clothing

If it’s below freezing, providing treatment while wearing gloves will be difficult. Another problem is that the injured person may need to have protective layers of clothing removed to be treated. In both of these scenarios, the risk of hypothermia and frostbite is increased.

To protect yourself, always carry rubber gloves. This will help in two ways – it will keep you from getting your gloves and skin wet, and rubber gloves will help keep your body temperature in at least a little.

To protect your patient, provide treatment as quickly as possible and get them re-dressed immediately.

Again, carrying heat packs such as hand warmers in your medical kit can help – you can tuck them into areas such as armpits where the heat will be best utilized.

A nice down-filled jacket that was keeping a person warm ten minutes ago can quickly turn into a body-heat sponge that wicks away warmth if it gets wet. Carrying extra clothing in a water-proof pack can be a life saver.

How to Stop Bleeding and Wound Care

When your body is cold, circulation is increased, which means that your blood pressure goes up. Depending on what type of wound you’re dealing with and whether or not blood flow has been restricted in favor of keeping the core warm, it may be harder to stop bleeding.

If the cut is deep and on the trunk, you may have increased blood flow, which means you’ll have to work harder to stop the bleeding.  If it’s on an extremity, you may not have problems stopping the bleeding, but will want to make very sure that your bandage is loose enough that it’s not restricting what little circulation is getting to that area.

The bleeding may be large, medium or small, but in the vast majority of cases, (in 80% of them) the bleeding stops through compression if you press down for 3 to 5 minutes. This is one of the things that I’ve learned from dr.Radu Scurtu after reading his book “Survival MD”, but believe me that it’s only a tiny piece of the medical survival knowledge you can get from his guide.

One more thing to learn in order to properly stop the bleeding: take a good look at the color of your blood since it will tell you how bad the wound is and how likely is to stop it by yourself, without involving specialized help. Arterial bleeding has red, purple blood, venous bleeding has black, dark blood. In the first case, you might stop it by compression, but the second one is much more life threatening, and it’s very likely you will need to get the victim to the hospital as soon as possible.

Caloric Intake

We already know that your body needs more calories to properly heal, but it also needs more calories and possibly even more water, to survive in extreme temperatures. Part of this is because every chore is harder because you’re traveling in snow and bad conditions wearing a ton of clothing, and part of it is because your body burns a ton more calories just keeping warm.

Don’t be surprised if you have people experiencing light-headedness or sugar lows, especially if they’re diabetic, if you’re treating them in freezing conditions. Yes, it may be the onset of hypothermia, but it may also simply be that their body is out of gas or dehydrated.

Make sure that everybody in your party makes allowances for up to twice the caloric intake and at least half again the water requirements to avoid this problem. In a pinch, you can always melt snow and ice for water.

Providing adequate first aid in freezing weather will be challenging, but it’s not impossible. The important thing is that you educate yourself and understand the adversities that you’ll face before going in. As in all things survival-related, knowing and being prepared is half the battle.

How to Stay Dry

Aside from gushing wounds or injuries that render you unconscious, being wet is probably the quickest way to die in freezing weather. Wet clothing, including wet shoes and socks, leeches your body heat and causes your core body temp to drop at least as quickly as if you were standing there naked.

If you have a patient that’s gotten wet, the first thing that you need to do, after treating severe bleeding or more life-threatening conditions, is to get them dry. Pack extra clothes in a way that they won’t get wet.

Another point that you may not consider is that sweating makes your clothing wet. For this reason, dress in layers, with the layer next to your skin being made of a wicking material such as wool. This goes for your feet as well as the rest of your body.

If you’re wet, get dry immediately before the doctor … err, first aider … becomes the patient.

Building a Fire

First order of business when setting up camp should be to find a way to get and stay warm and cook food. Building a fire in snow isn’t nearly as easy as it is in warmer conditions but it’s definitely possible, especially if you have a good fire starter.

Carry a fire starting kit to help you kick start your fire.

Finding or Building Shelter

In warm weather, it may be just fine to sleep under the stars but in freezing conditions, you need something that’s going to hold in heat and protect you from the wind and freezing temperatures. In the end, it’s a survival situation and the rule of three is still applying.

If you’ve studied up on your bush craft, you should already know several ways to build a shelter that will sustain the conditions and hold in heat.

You can even build a snow shelter, though it’s a lot of work and takes hours to do. Ice and snow can act as insulators, though that seems counterintuitive. If for no other reason than building a wind-proof shelter, you should carry garbage bags, moon blankets, or tarps.

In addition to making the walls secure against the weather, you also need to make a floor that will protect you. Lying on cold ground will suck the heat right out of your body. You can use tree boughs, tarps, a thick sleeping bag, or even layers of clothing or newspaper to do this.

How to Avoid Detection

If you’re in a survival situation, you may need to avoid detection. That means that you won’t be able to build a fire during the day because of smoke, at least in an open area, and you’ll need to shield the light from dangerous entities at night.

Since a fire is just about a necessity in freezing weather, learn your local terrain and how to use it to build a fire that will keep you warm without giving away your location. If it’s absolutely not possible, you may have to resort to shared body heat to stay warm.

When I lived in WV and CO, there were numerous caves that could be used both as shelter and as a means to have a fire without being detected, but in many places, that’s not an option. Just know your area and work out ways to make this happen.

If you can think of other challenges to providing first aid in freezing weather, please share them with us in the comments section below. And remember that knowledge is the only doctor that can help you survive when there is no medical help around you!

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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia. 

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4 Winter Skills Every Homesteader Should Know

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4 Winter Skills Every Homesteader Should Know

Image source: Pixabay

Chances are that if you’re reading this, then you’re probably acutely aware of just how tough it can be to handle the year’s coldest months on the homestead.

It’s not long after the winter solstice that the temps begin to plummet, creating a perfect storm for situations on the homestead to deteriorate. After all, February’s full moon is known as the “Trapper’s Moon” — named for the fact that, like the snow, beaver pelts are at their thickest. Beavers have had to adapt this capability, perhaps with the knowledge that this is essential for maximizing their survival in extremely low temps.

Of course, if there ever were a perfect animal to model our own homesteading practices after, then it would have to be nature’s greatest homesteader: the beaver. And here are four great ways to do just that.

1. Please, remember: timing is everything

When it comes to surviving a winter on the homestead, one of the most important challenges to overcome is to see beyond the obvious ones — especially since the cold is something we’re all quite familiar with. If anything, this skill is one that keeps us one step ahead of the challenges.

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Timing is everything, especially due to how the daylight drains away quickly. Not only that, but because colder temps often give way to rapid-moving high-pressure zones, the weather can change even faster. For this reason, it’s critical to keep tabs on the following:

  • Make sure you are able to read the clouds to detect potential changes in weather, so you’re not caught completely off-guard if you must prepare for a fast-approaching blizzard. For more information, check out our recent article, Survival 101: How to Forecast Tomorrow’s Weather Without the Weather Channel
  • Since winter brings low-light conditions early in the day, it’s important to provide lighting in as many places around the homestead as possible. Predators aren’t fond of them, and they simply keep us safer from injury and disorientation.
  • Additionally, I recommend an EDC (everyday carry) kit that rides along with you. This will buy you additional time if you find yourself in a winter survival scenario and possibly require rescue.

3. Dress (and sew) for success

You’re probably not surprised about just how critical warm clothing can be this time of year. However, it’s important to know how to fix that clothing in a pinch. Knowing how to sew, along with having a kit that can meet the task at hand, could be invaluable.

4 Winter Skills Every Homesteader Should Know

Image source: Pixabay

It’s not uncommon for homesteaders to find themselves snowed in, largely cut off from access to populated areas, meaning that your best work coat is only as warm as the quality of its patches. With that being said, it’s important to invest in clothing and winter apparel that maintains insulating properties even while moderately moist or damp, such as wool and certain synthetics. Cotton, however, will lose all insulating properties when wet, so it’s best to stick with the tried-and-true materials (and not end up with frostbite).

2. Stay healthy

The cold is downright brutal on the body, especially for immune systems, since our metabolism must work harder to maintain body temps. So, it’s smart to keep your medicine cabinet well-stocked with the usual sick-fixes and your mind well-stocked with at least basic medicinal skills. Not to mention, the cold also can make for far-more-difficult muscle movements, impairing motor skills in the process.

So be sure to keep your walkways — along with those of your livestock — clear of ice and snow. Broken bones and torn tendons tend to make life A LOT more difficult for everybody.

1. Be efficient with your heat

Heat is, perhaps, the most coveted commodity on the winter homestead — meaning that you need to be able to generate it cheaply and hold on to as much of it as possible. Becoming knowledgeable about heat efficiency would greatly reduce your burden to chop wood and shovel pellets. For this, I’d recommend purchasing an IR camera to identify problem spots where heat may be leaking out your cabin. At least then you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where to apply a can of insulating/expanding foam in the most scientifically efficient way.

In a previous post we discussed how to build your own water heater, running on nothing but the heat generated by your homestead’s compost pile. Not only can this system achieve higher temps than most residential water heaters, but you’re also using zero electricity in order to keep it working. Get good at thinking up designs and innovating your infrastructure on heat conservation, and you’ll spend far less time and energy trying to keep everybody (including your water supply) toasty warm.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Strange Ways Your Ancestors Saved Fuel During Winter

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5 Strange Ways Your Ancestors Saved Fuel During Winter

Our first home was built in 1907 and boasted drafty windows and a minimal amount of insulation. Before our first winter came to an end, we knew changes had to be made if we were to survive in any amount of comfort. Staying warm at the expense of draining our savings account was not an option. And although we have since moved on to a well-insulated home, we still employ many of the fuel-saving practices we learned many years ago.

Our ancestors knew how to conserve energy. Whether it was using nature’s colder temperatures for food storage or keeping the house warm without turning the thermostat up a single degree, they utilized ordinary objects to conserve fuel.

Below are some time-tested methods to put into practice this winter.

1. Window coverings

Windows are points of entry for cold air, and although new windows are certainly more effective, they still cool the room. Foam tapes, clear films and other products abound at big box home improvement centers, but these are unnecessary and may in fact cause damage to your home. Foam tapes are often difficult to remove completely, damaging the finish of the casement and sill.

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Clear films have been known to cause cracked window panes, particularly on south-facing windows. Years ago, homeowners used quilted window coverings to block drafts, raising the temperature of a room by several degrees. In addition to windows, glass patio doors also can be covered with an insulated curtain to reduce the amount of heat lost.

2. Straw bales

Using straw bales around the foundation of your home may not increase its’ curb appeal, but it will help to keep your fuel costs down by adding an extra layer of protection against cold winter winds. Place bales where they can absorb the greatest impact from winter’s worst weather. The bales also may help to prevent heat loss. Straw bales may later be used as livestock bedding, mulched for compost or used elsewhere on the homestead, provided it is dry, and mold- and mildew-free.

3. Humidifiers

We are not talking about the commercial humidifiers that release moisture in the air, but rather, the strategic use of space on an indoor burner. Cast iron kettles filled with water will release moisture in the air when safely situated on a fuel-burning stove. Even if you do not have an indoor wood burner or corn burner, you can utilize other appliances as humidifiers.

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For example, once you’re finished using your kitchen oven, place a dish of water in it while leaving the door ajar. As the oven cools down, it will heat the water enough to release moisture into the air. Indoor air that has the proper level of humidity feels warmer.

4. Cover bare floors

Bare floors keep a room from retaining heat and contribute to an overall chilly feeling. Using area rugs to cover wood or tiled floors will not only keep your feet warmer, but also will raise the ambient temperature by a few degrees. Rugs can, of course, be purchased, but old quilts, toweling, and scraps tied into rag rugs work just as well.

5. Door rolls

From a unique design that matches your interior to the thrift store quilt, a roll of material stopping drafts from entering your home is essential to any fuel-saving plan. Scrap material can be fashioned into a tube that can be filled with numerous things to block cold winter air. Fill the tube with densely packed material. Rice or sand are both common options, but materials such as recycled quilt batting or scraps of denim are also very effective.

Do you know of other time-tested ways to keep the house warm? Share your tips in the section below: 

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

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

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

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

1. Frozen or fermented fruit

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

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

2. Water plants

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

3. Tree bark

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

4. Wild berries

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

5. Nuts

Image source: Public Domain Pictures

Image source: Public Domain Pictures

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

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

6. Biennial roots

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

7. Winter hardy greens

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

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

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Surviving Iceland: My #1 Survival Concern

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surviving iceland

When my family spent 2 weeks in Iceland this past fall, surviving cold weather was my top concern. Coming from Arizona and now Texas, I tend to go overboard when it comes to preparing for cold weather and packing for this trip was no exception. I knew that our first and most important prep was our bodies — packing the right type of shoes and clothing to keep us warm from the skin out.

Start with your skin

No matter what the temperature and weather conditions are, get ready at the skin, or base, layer. My favorite base layer is made of silk — my ancient “silkies” from REI. They’ve been in my dresser drawer for about 30 years and still get the job done. Silk is an excellent fabric for a base layer and when used as long underwear, they’re comfy. I like the fact that the next layer of clothing glides over the silk fabric. The one downside to silk is that it’s best for moderately cold temperatures, as I learned in Iceland. There, I layered my silkies with fleece lined tights and kept pretty warm.

If you opt for a different fabric, consider synthetic fibers or Merino wool. Of the 2, I greatly prefer wool. As I learned with my wool socks, you can wear them again and again and again without much worry about body odor, a feature you won’t find with synthetic fibers or silk. However, Merino wool can be very expensive. I bought my Merino base layer top on clearance at REI, and even then, it was about $50. If you tend to get and stay cold or spend a lot of time in cold weather, it would be a worthy purchase.

Caps, scarves, jackets, and longjohns!

One final consideration with this base layer, or layers, depending on the weather, is your own tendency to be cold or on the hot side. My poor daughter had a tougher time in the chilly Iceland outdoors than I did because she is pretty much permanently cold! In her case, a heavyweight base layer would be best. Just read the labels and look for the words “heavyweight” or a “midweight”, if you’d like something slightly lighter.

I mentioned fleece lined tights and these are a wonder! From the moment I put them on, I knew my world was permanently rocked. Not only did they feel great, but I could wear them under jeans, my silkies, ski pants, or anything else. They even look good worn with a skirt, and, if worn as leggings, they’re suitable for cool weather just about anywhere. No need to hoard them for Arctic blasts!

Not all brands are the same, so try one brand first before buying additional pairs. We started with an and actually prefer those to the Muk-luk brand we purchased later.

Your feet are next

If your base layers are keeping your body warm, socks and shoes are the next most important consideration. If you were to splurge on any one thing for cold weather survival, it would be socks and shoes. You can trudge an awful long way if your feet are warm and comfortable, and you can pick up good quality coats and jackets at second hand stores, but that isn’t nearly so easy when it comes to shoes.

surviving icelandI highly recommend getting waterproof boots, even if you aren’t anticipating being in wet weather. If you buy a great pair of boots or heavy walking shoes, they’ll last for years, if not decades. You never know what weather conditions you’ll encounter in that time, so you might as well plan for protection from wet weather.

When I bought my most recent pair of boots, I knew I was making an investment. I went to 2 different stores, tried on maybe half a dozen different pairs and settled on a pair of KEENs. I love them. Now that I’m back in civilization and far from fjords and glaciers, I still wear them every chance I get. I paid right around $165 for them and expect them to last until I die. Seriously. My daughter’s Vasque boots are as beloved to her.

Shopping for these boots, I asked the salesperson to point out which boots were waterproof and we based our decisions on those. You’ll also need to decide if you want low or high tops. I wanted a little more ankle support, so I went with high tops.

If you already have boots but they aren’t waterproof, pack a tube of multi-purpose Shoe Goo, or spray them with a waterproofing spray. I recommend keeping these in your emergency kit or glove box, since you’ll most likely encounter wet conditions away from home.

Add 2 or 3 pairs of wool blend socks, and you’re set. Personally, that’s my first and only choice. They are soft and cushy, incredibly comfortable, and I can wear them for days without them stinking. That’s pretty remarkable. Smartwool is an excellent brand, but on the expensive side, and as you’re shopping for them, you’ll find some pretty cute vintage designs. Wool blends usually include some spandex, a little nylon, but steer away from blends that include cotton.

Now for the rest of you

If your feed are solidly shod in wool socks and comfortable, waterproof boots, you are well on your way to comfortably endurng chilly, winter weather. Now it’s time for layers of clothing.

Around my house, jeans are #1 for every single season. Right now as I type this, I’m wearing jeans and without looking, I’ll be at least one other family member is, too. For cold weather, though, we had to change our tune. My husband and daughter packed one pair of jeans and wore them with base layers, Propper longjohns for him, but most of the time was spent wearing lighter, quick-dry pants.

surviving icelandThose lightweight pants over our base layers did very well for this particular autumn trip, and on the coldest days and nights, we wore 2 base layers each! The lighter weight pants allowed for freer movement. Since we weren’t in full winter weather yet, we didn’t need anything heavier, but if we did, I’d opt for wool pants and a pair of waterproof pants. Iceland has thousands of waterfalls around the entire island and hiking to them can be a wet adventure. Another popular activity is glacier hiking which, again, brings the opportunity to be cold and wet!

Those wool pants should be maybe one size bigger to allow for some shrinkage as well as the layers you may wear underneath. Here’s some more excellent advice for choosing cold-weather pants.

Surviving Iceland from the waist up!

Looking back, it’s funny that I never tired of gearing up every morning for cold weather. I naturally like chilly days, but growing up in the Southwest and most days wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, you might think all the layering would grow tiresome, but it didn’t. It was just a part of our day, getting ready to enjoy something new in the gorgeous Iceland countryside.

surviving icelandPrior to our trip, my final investment piece was a water-resistant softshell jacket lined with a very thin fleece. Made by Marmot, it has numerous features that helped me adapt to wet weather and super chilly nights. It even has an inner band that snaps around my hips to prevent cold air from traveling up through the bottom of the jacket. Bright raspberry red insured that I couldn’t get lost from my family, at least not easily!

A softshell jacket is breathable, wick sweat away from your skin, and are comfortable in all kinds of temperatures. My son’s Marmot jacket was pricey but it built to last, even with growth spurts. The fact that it was a bright tomato red helped identify his location on so many occasions. He was entranced with being outside in a gorgeous environment and tended to wander away, down the sides of cliffs, up mountainsides, enjoying some solitude.

surviving iceland

As far as other layers went, we wore combinations of t-shirts (both long sleeve and short sleeve), wool tops, and anything else we happened to have. I knew that our base layers, socks, boots, and jackets would do most of the work in keeping us warm, so we were more casual with our shirts.

Finishing off our daily ensembles were warm gloves, knitted caps and scarves. As a souvenir, I purchased an Icelandic wool scarf and wore it constantly. I was amazed by how warm it kept my neck. This is that exact scarf! Caps kept our heads warm — a necessity, and was the final piece of clothing I put on every day. Since we were sleeping in a camper van, I often went to sleep at night with it on my head! Here’s a pick of the inside of that van. GoCampers was the company we selected, and they were terrific to work with.

surviving iceland

If you can stay warm in Iceland…

…you can stay warm anywhere! If we ever really want a cold weather challenge, we’ll head over there during the winter where icy winds are powerful enough to knock cars off the roads! In fact, on our first night in our camper van, the winds howled so loudly that I was convinced we were in the middle of a hurricane.

surviving icelandThe payoff for all this cold weather preparation? Incomparable beauty. Again and again and again we commented to each other how no photograph could ever capture the beauty that we discovered every mile along the way. On 3 special occasions, we were treated to the indescribable experience of the Northern Lights, once from our airplane flying in to Keflavik. Yes, we got to see endless miles of the lights. What a great memory.

surviving iceland

Life is about making memories with the people you love, and what made this trip so special was not only the beauty and being with family, but the fact that we were equipped and prepared to fully ENJOY the experience and not huddled in front of a tiny space heater!

On to the next adventure…

14 Winter Survival Items Everyone Should Store In Their Vehicle

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14 Winter Survival Items Everyone Should Store In Their Vehicle

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I live in a warm part of the country now, so winter isn’t a big deal. Actually, it’s my favorite time of year, because it’s not hot. But it wasn’t always that way. I grew up and learned to drive in Colorado, where the mountains make it so that a winter blizzard can sneak up on you and leave you stranded before you know it. I can’t remember how many people I rescued; they simply were good drivers who were trapped by winter weather.

I don’t care how good of a driver you are — there are situations where you can’t keep on trucking. I remember an icy parking lot that put me in a snow bank, simply because I couldn’t get enough traction to overcome gravity (the parking lot was sloped, and the exit was uphill). I’ve seen the same happen to truckers, who literally had to bail out of their rigs when gravity overcame friction and their trucks started sliding backwards, down the mountain. Then there were the times when blizzards cut visibility to the point where I or someone else drove off the road, thinking we were driving on it.

That’s why I always kept my car prepared to deal with emergencies, especially the emergency of being stuck in the snow. I never could afford a fancy four-wheel drive, so I was stuck trying to make do with a sedan — and that was in the day when sedans were rear-wheel drive, not front-wheel drive. So they were even worse in the snow.

Preparing my car for winter weather consisted of two basic areas: preparing the car to survive and preparing so that I could survive. Both were necessary, because in the wintertime, that care was an important piece of survival gear.

Preparing The Car To Survive

I’m not a big fan of playing mechanic, although I’ve done more than my fair share through the years. Even worse is having to play mechanic in the cold and snow. I replaced more than one frozen thermostat in below-freezing temperatures before I learned that lesson. After that, I always made sure my car was mechanically ready for the winter.

Wintertime is hard on cars, so they need to be in good shape. The old cars I was driving didn’t automatically have that going for them. So I had to make up for what they lacked. That meant going through the car from end to end, before the first real freeze hit. I checked all the fluids, the rubber on my tires, the battery, and the condition of all of the “regular maintenance” items, like hoses and belts. Better to spend a few bucks replacing one when it’s convenient, than getting stuck because you didn’t (which will cost more).

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The next important thing was the gas tank. In the wintertime, I’d always keep a minimum of half a tank of gas. That way, if I did get stuck somewhere, I could use the engine for heat. Used cautiously, running the engine only in short bursts, that half a tank will last the night.

In addition to those two items, I’d put some things in the trunk, to help my car or the car of someone else who was stranded:

1. Sand – The extra weight of two bags of sand made a huge difference in traction. Of course, that was rear-wheel drive, so it’s not so important today. But if you drive a pickup truck, you’ll need to add some weight over the back wheels, where they are notoriously light.

2. Chains – If your state allows chains, get some. Just be sure to take them off, if you get to dry pavement or even spotty drive pavement. Otherwise, they’ll break.

3. Shovel – You never know when you might have to dig your own car out.

4. Tow strap – I prefer the nylon straps to a chain, but to each his own.

5. Basic tools – For emergency repairs.

6. Spare battery – Batteries are one of the things that go out easily in the cold. I’d carry a spare, as crazy as that might sound. Today, I’d use a lithium ion backup battery pack, such as a Pocket Power X.

I also carried the following:

7. Plastic bags – To use as a makeshift toilet. You don’t want to have to go outside for that. Just do it in the bag and set it outside.

14 Winter Survival Items Everyone Should Store In Their Vehicle

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8. High energy food – High calorie food bars will help your body produce heat.

9. Water – The trick here is keeping it from freezing. I kept mine in the passenger compartment.

10. Flashlight — With extra batteries.

11. Rope – Avoid getting out of the car. But if you have to go outside for some reason, tie one end of the rope to the steering wheel and the other to your wrist. That way, you can always find your way back, even in whiteout conditions.

12. Blankets – A couple of wool blankets makes a world of difference. I carried a couple of old Army blankets. Wool is the only material that maintains some of its insulating value even when wet.

13. Gloves, hats and scarves – An extra set you won’t wear anywhere else.

14. Space blankets, duct tape, candles and matches – More on that in a moment.

Additionally, I carried a full survival kit. Since I didn’t have to carry it on my body, I carried a rather robust one, more along the lines of a bug-out bag. That way, I had enough with me to use, in case I was actually caught in a situation where I would have to walk out. That never happened, but there were places in the mountains where my car might not have been seen if I went off the road.

As part of that kit, I had a portable stove and fuel. That allowed me to prepare warm drinks. You don’t want to eat snow for water, as your body has to warm it. Better to melt that snow and drink hot water, which will add heat to your body, rather than take it away.

Preparing For My Survival

Even with the best driving practices and a properly equipped vehicle, you still might end up off the road in a ditch somewhere. I remember once when the snow had drifted up over the road and I couldn’t get through. So I turned around. But by then the snow had drifted up a couple hundred yards behind me, as well. I was trapped on the road until the next day, even though I had done everything right.

Whether you’re off the road in a snow bank or sitting on the road as I was, you want to stay with your car. While a car isn’t the best shelter there is, it will protect you from the snow, wind and to some extent from the cold. When you’re trapped, you can help it to keep you warm by improving its ability to hold in heat. You’ll need:

  • At least three space blankets.
  • Something to cut them.
  • A roll of duct tape or other strong tape that will stick in cold weather.
  • Some large candles.

Line the inside of the passenger compartment with the space blankets. If you’re alone or just a couple, you can line just the front seat, allowing one of the space blankets to form a curtain behind the seat. So, you’d use one for the dash, down to your feet; one for the roof and curtain behind you; and cut one in half to cover the doors. If you have a family, just extend to include the back seat, as well; but you’ll need a couple more blankets to do that. Fortunately, they’re cheap.

What else do you carry in your car during winter? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Smartest (And Easiest) Ways To Keep Chickens Warm During Winter

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The Smartest (And Easiest) Ways To Keep Chickens Warm During Winter

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When the temperatures dip below a certain level, staying warm is more than just an issue of comfort. It becomes a matter of survival. If you keep chickens year-round, keeping them safe during cold snaps is a real concern.

Some breeds of chickens are more naturally hardy in extreme temperatures, but there are still steps that can be taken to enhance your flock’s winter survival. Assuming you have the best breeds for your area, consider some of the following practices to help them stay warm in the coldest weather.

1. The right-sized home. During winter, too much space can be a detriment. The larger the area, the more difficult it will be for the birds to keep it warm with their own body heat. My local organic farmers’ organization recommends between four and eight square feet per bird. Some experts allow for more or less than that, and a good bit of the decision depends upon the size of your flock and how much access they have to the outdoors.

If your chicken coop is cavernous, consider creating a coop within a coop. Building a small structure—even a temporary one using pallets or scrap materials—around their roosting area can provide them with a cozier space.

2. The right shape and orientation coop. A steep shed roof provides a low ceiling on one side, which helps the birds stay warm, and a higher ceiling on the other to allow human access for tending the birds. If your roof is high throughout, consider a makeshift dropped ceiling for the winter months.

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Facing doors southward and away from winds and inclement weather helps when the chicken access door is open. If the orientation of your doors is not quite optimum, you always can add on an extra roof or vestibule.

3. Natural lighting. A skylight or south-facing window, or even some strategically placed sheet plastic near a door or window, can create a greenhouse effect. This can help keep your chickens warm in the same manner that plants are kept warm in a hothouse.

4. Insulation. Adding commercial insulation to a newly constructed chicken coop is a great choice. Just as with human homes, the more heat that can be retained inside during winter, the better.

The Smartest (And Easiest) Ways To Keep Chickens Warm During Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

The insulating value of your coop can be increased with whatever you have on hand. It may be possible to stuff wood chips or other fibrous materials between walls—or between an outer wall and an inner layer of recycled materials—to help keep your birds warm.

Snow is an excellent insulating material, too, but if you have more cold weather than snowfall, try using hay, straw or even bags of leaves for banking around the outside of the chicken coop.

5. Ventilation. It may be tempting to shut them up tight, but remember that respiration can cause condensation and dampness. Allowing the inside of the coop to become excessively damp can be dangerous during cold weather. Additionally, birds have a more delicate respiratory system than do other animal families.

6. High fat foods. Eating fatty foods helps keep chickens warm. Suet, fatback and kitchen scraps are ideal.

7. Warm foods and liquids for consumption. A friend of mine prepares fresh hot oatmeal for her hens on cold winter mornings. Perhaps that’s not your style, but you may want to allow kitchen scraps to come to room temperature—or even set them near a heat source to warm them—before delivering them to the chickens. I replace my chickens’ waterer with hot tap water at least twice a day during the coldest winter days, because warming from the inside out is a great way to create and maintain body heat.

8. Portable hot water heaters. I keep water in a kettle on top of my wood stove during winter, which helps me humidify my house and heat the chickens. I pour hot water into some heavy-duty five-gallon plastic jugs I salvaged from a bulk foods store and haul them out to the chicken coop on a sled and place them inside. Water retains its temperature far better than does air, which means it will help keep the coop warmer, longer. You can use any heat-resistant container, such as plastic or metal buckets, as long as it has a secure lid to prevent spills and keep the chickens safe.

You can use heated bricks in lieu of warm water if you prefer.

9. Entertainment. Chickens that have something to do while cooped up inside during cold weather will not only be less likely to become aggressive toward one another, but they can generate heat by moving around. Provide a fruit or vegetable such as an apple or cabbage, or a hunk of fatback or suet, hanging from a string at beak height so that the birds can peck at it.

10. Heat lamps. I use heat lamps as a last resort, but many people rely on them as a go-to. Whichever your viewpoint, it is essential to make safety your first priority. Make sure both the bulbs and the fixtures are of the highest possible quality you can afford, are hung on heavy-duty suspension material, and are not too close to anything combustible. It is always best to follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding usage.

Deep cold temperatures can be a real challenge for humans and animals who live in a northern climate. But by getting creative with ways to heat their coops, we can keep chickens safe and comfortable through even the coldest of winters.

How do you keep you chickens warm during cold months? Share your tips in the section below:

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Stockpiling The Medicine Cabinet For Winter: 17 Things You Better Be Storing

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Stockpiling The Medicine Cabinet For Winter: 17 Things You Better Have

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Wintertime is a wonderful season — full of holidays, resolutions and relaxation. However, it is also the time of the year when our immune systems are the most vulnerable.

Of course, it is best to prevent illnesses, but it’s just as important to be ready if an illness does strike. That means you need a well-stocked medicine cabinet. Here are 17 natural treatments you should stockpile:

Vitamins and Supplements

1. Vitamin C. This should be taken daily, as vitamin C is critical for boosting the immune systems, for preventing illnesses, and for fighting infections.

2. Vitamin B. It serves as a pick-me-up and helps the body generate energy. It is good to have on hand to combat fatigue.

3. Calcium and magnesium. Many of us suffer from a lack of essential nutrients, and calcium and magnesium are two important ones the body needs. Take a daily supplement if you do not get enough in your diet. Both of these are good for relieving cramps and for relaxing.

4. Cod liver oil. Cod liver oil is considered a superfood, a crucial omega 3 fatty acid, and is extremely high in vitamins A and D. Take it daily, but especially when you feel a cold or the flu coming on. It is also a healthy fat to help lower bad cholesterol levels.

Herbs and Tea

5. Mullein. This is an herb that is useful for treating a sore or scratchy throat. It can help to ease coughs, too. One good way to use mullein is to boil it and then inhale the steam. It can contribute to clearing congestion and blocked airways.

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6. Chamomile. Chamomile tea is great for soothing an upset stomach, easing anxiety and tension, and for treating insomnia.

7. Peppermint. Peppermint tea can fight fatigue, ease nausea, battle congestion, open airways, and promote overall well-being.

8.  Ginger. Ginger is a natural antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory qualities. Furthermore, it is good for heart health. It can boost your immune system, aid in indigestion, fight bacterial and fungal infections, and even help with the symptoms of diabetes. Ginger root is excellent as a tea, or it can be added to your food.

9. Turmeric root. Most people use fresh turmeric root to treat aches and pains, as it is a natural pain reliever and aids in blood circulation. You can add it to your food recipes, or drink it as a tea. Be aware that turmeric can be hard to absorb, so add black pepper or coconut oil to your recipes to aid in absorption. Here is a fresh, turmeric root tea recipe.

Essential Oils

10. Tea tree essential oil. Tea tree essential oil is a natural antiseptic and is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. Use it in a vaporizer to purify the air in your home and to kill germs. Furthermore, you can add it to a spray bottle with water and spray all the surfaces in your home to disinfect them.

As a first-aid treatment, swipe cuts to prevent an infection. Tea tree oil is also a good treatment for acne and fungal conditions such as athlete’s foot.

11. Lavender essential oil. Lavender essential oil is an all-around healing agent. It treats cuts and wounds, rashes, insect bites and acne.

Stockpiling The Medicine Cabinet For Winter: 17 Things You Better Store

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Since lavender is anti-inflammatory and analgesic, it is perfect for treating aches and pains and even headaches. Mix it with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil and massage it into the affected areas.

Lavender is a calming oil and can help with deep relaxation. It’s a natural anxiety and depression remedy. It can treat insomnia, too. To use lavender essential oil, vaporize it in a diffuser, add several drops to a hot bath, or use it as a massage oil to receive all of its incredible benefits.

12. Rosemary essential oil. Rosemary is a natural warming oil and is anti-inflammatory. It is great for relieving fatigued, overworked, aching muscles. Use it in a carrier oil to create a soothing massage oil.

Rosemary essential oil also has stimulant properties which, when inhaled, can help to wake up the senses and help with concentration. Furthermore, it’s a natural stress-reliever. To use rosemary essential oil, vaporize it in a diffuser, use it in a hot bath, or create a massage blend.

13. Eucalyptus essential oil. Eucalyptus essential oil is a natural decongestant, so it’s perfect for treating colds and the flu. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can ease aches and pains. Use it in a diffuser or steam inhalation to help clear the senses. Alternatively, use eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil as a chest or muscle rub.

14. Peppermint essential oil. Peppermint essential oil is good for treating nausea, for fighting fatigue, for relieving congestion, and as a warming oil. To acquire the benefits of peppermint oil directly, drop several drops on a tissue and deeply inhale. This oil is also good when used in steam inhalation, a bath, as a warming, massage rub, and in a room diffuser.

First-Aid Natural Treatments

15. Honey. It is a natural healer and an antioxidant. In first-aid, honey can act as a band-aid. It will protect the wound, prevent infection and begin the healing process.

Honey is also good for preventing and treating colds, relieving coughs and sore throats, and for easing nausea. You can add honey to your tea to help lower your cholesterol.

16. Activated charcoal. This is a good remedy for treating gas and upset stomachs. It is also great for fighting food poisoning.

17. Epsom salts. Epsom salts are good in baths when you are sick. They can help to lower a fever and reduce bodily aches and pains. They also can help to reduce tension and anxiety. If you have a headache, try to lightly inhale Epsom salts to help relieve it.

What would you add to our list? Share your stockpiling tips in the section below:

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Winter Survival & Preparedness!

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Winter Survival & Preparedness Forrest & Kyle “The Prepping Academy” Audio in player below! On this episode of The Prepping Academy we cover something essential for this time of year. Winter survival. Every year we hear about American’s going off the roads and getting stranded. Even worse, we hear about people freezing to death in their … Continue reading Winter Survival & Preparedness!

The post Winter Survival & Preparedness! appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

7+ Tips To Survive When Camping In Winter

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Survive When Camping In Winter

For the average Joe out there, myself included, winter camping usually means renting a cabin somewhere nice in the mountains and spending the holidays with friends, family, and a few bottles of booze while chatting, listening to CCR and enjoying the downtime. (Still I would survive out there without these, if I have to.)

However, there are hardcore outdoors aficionados who actually resent the idea of camping in a heated cabin by a romantic wood stove. That’s not camping – it’s glamping.

Moreover, there are adventurous folks who prefer to grab their backpack, rent a snowmobile, and go somewhere in the wilderness away from the mad world, the rush, and the insanity of civilization for a few days or weeks.

Regardless of what your pleasure is about camping during winter, there are a few tips and tricks you should know before going out in the cold.

Hypothermia is a very “cold” (pun intended) fact to consider if camping outside in extreme weather conditions. If you want to return home in one piece, with all your thumbs and toes in working condition, then keep reading, as I will share with you some important information about how to stay warm even in -45 F. Okay, maybe not toasty warm when it’s that cold, but you got the idea.

To begin with, you should be realistic and realize that winter camping is not for everyone. However, if you’re properly equipped and trained, you may very well have the time of your life even on Everest.

Let’s begin with the basics: pre-trip planning. Pre-planning prior to any type of endeavor is the key to success, especially if we’re talking about camping during winter.

If you remember that old Bob Dylan song, you don’t need a weatherman to tell you where the wind blows. In other words, regardless what the weather forecast says, you must always prepare for the worst winter conditions possible. Better safe than sorry, right?

1. Plan Your Trip

Even if it may sound like overkill, make sure you’ll be packing all the emergency supplies you’ll ever need in a winter survival situation, such as extra food and water supplies (or means to procure water by melting snow and ice), extra clothes, etc., especially if you’re going somewhere remote.

Also, if the weather conditions are likely to bad, as in dangerous bad, you should play it safe and postpone your trip, that is, if you don’t want to win the Darwin award, if you know what I mean. If not, Google it. It’s fun in a macabre sort of way.

Pack light, but don’t scrimp on essential gear, like a camping snow shovel, plenty of lighting, spare batteries, a first-aid kit, ski poles/walking poles and always go for a strong/sturdy waterproof tent.

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2. Take a Friend With You

Another crucial rule when it comes to winter outdoors survival is a rule I’ve learned from a Jack London novel. Never travel alone. Period.

3. Research the Campsite

Research the area you’re going to visit, check the surroundings, see if there’s a forest nearby (read firewood), see if there are any villages or small towns around, learn how long it will take to get from point A to B, etc. We’re living in the age of Google Maps and satellite imagery, so you don’t have any excuse not to get proper intel before going in!

Choose the right campsite (the sun is your best friend during the winter, so check out where it rises), start your fire first thing, before anything else, plan ahead, and stay warm folks.

4. Inform Your Family & Friends

Also, remember to inform your friends and family about your whereabouts, i.e. where you’re going to be for the next couple of days/weeks or whatever, thus making sure you’ll be able to get help if SHTF. If you can give them a detailed map of your route, that’s even better.

5. Keep Warm

Now, let’s talk about keeping warm. Obviously, the main thing to consider when camping outside during the winter is the right clothing. That’s the detail that will make all the difference in the world.

Dress in Layers

Layers is the word. Wear layers of clothing, as layers are the outdoors explorer’s best friend, besides a good fire. Layers work by trapping air between them, thus insulating your body from the cold. A few layers of clothing are more efficient than a single one, regardless of how thick it is.

Also, stay away from cotton clothes, because cotton absorbs moisture (you’ll get sweaty at some point during your trip) and damp or wet clothes are your worst enemy when it’s cold outside.

Basically, you should use three layers of clothing: the base layer, something like a second skin which helps you trap the body heat (synthetic materials/merino wool are the best for the base layer), the mid layer, which works as the main insulator (you can go for fleece lined trousers/heavy fleece) and the outer layer, which must be waterproof.

Dress In Layers

Keep Your Feet Warm

Feet are the infantry’s secret weapon, as my old drill sergeant used to say, so when you go out camping during the winter, pay extra attention to your feet.

To avoid cold feet, keep your cotton socks at home and go for polyester socks or wool socks. Specialty stores stock special foot gear (read socks and boots) designed for hiking. Obviously, the boots are very important too, as they must be waterproof and grippy, especially if you’re going to hike through the snow or ice.

Never Neglect Your Head and Your Hands

A huge amount of body heat, almost half of it in fact, is lost through the head during the winter, so make sure you wear a hat that’s going to block the wind and keep your heat in. Finally, don’t forget a nice pair of gloves.

6. Know Your Gear

The sleeping bag is an essential piece of gear when it comes to winter camping, so know your gear well if you want to survive low night-time temperatures. The idea is that you’ll require a high-quality sleeping bag if you want to be comfortable during the night and wake up healthy.

Or, double up your existing one just in case by putting one inside the other. Remember to always put a foam roll mat (or 2) under your mattress.

The idea is that shelter is pretty important when camping during the winter, as you may experience snowstorms, strong winds, and the whole palaver. Don’t get cheap on your tent, nor on your sleeping bag. They can make the difference between waking up relatively warm and safe and having somebody find your popsicle body.

7. Know Your Body

Together with knowing your gear, knowing your body is very important. Some folks sleep cold, others sleep warm. There are variables, like your age, sex, fitness level, experience, the amount of body fat and lots of other factors, which differentiate between the comfort levels achieved by different people using the exact same gear.

If you’re not familiarized with winter camping, it’s better to be over-prepared than not prepared enough. I am talking about layers of clothing, sleeping bags, and just about anything else that counts toward survival.

Go to Sleep Already Warmed Up

Always remember to go to bed, (inside your sleeping bag that is) already warmed up. The idea is that warmth cometh from within, while the sleeping bag is playing just the insulation part, so if you’re freezing and sleepy, do a few press ups/sit ups or just jump around a little before getting inside your sleeping bag. You’ll thank me later.

Eat Late

Another trick for a good night’s sleep while winter camping is to eat late, ideally a hot meal just before going to sleep. The ideal meal would be fatty (as opposed to carbohydrates), as fat gets metabolized slowly by your body (it lasts longer) and, needless to say, you’ll require fuel to make heat, right? Cheese, olive oil, bacon, pork; you know what I am talking about.

Eat high-energy food at all times, preferably in the form of warm meals. If you can’t, go for nuts, chocolate, and energy bars. Cover your exposed skin in animal fat or vaseline, just like the Inuit have been doing forever, thus preventing frostbite and windburn.

Keep Your Sleeping Bag Dry

Keep your sleeping bag dry at all costs, add more layers outside eventually as you need them. This doesn’t have to be clothes; it can be as simple as putting a metallic survival blanket over your sleeping bag.

This Emergency Survival Blanket helps retain 90% of your body heat. Get yours now! 

Video first seen on Survival Frog

Avoid breathing into your sleeping bag while sleeping (it introduces moisture) and sleep with your boots in your bag. Put them at the bottom of your sleeping bag so they don’t freeze during the night.

Leave your water filter at home and concentrate on boiling the snow. Chemical filters work painfully slow in the cold while mechanical ones may crack/fail due to the cold.

Hydrate

Don’t forget to drink enough water, even if you don’t have your usual thirst reflex, which is common in extreme cold. However, dehydration is a serious danger in sub-zero conditions, especially if you’re sweating. Also, a lot of moisture gets lost while breathing in and exhaling the cold air, as the air is very dry during the winter.

Try to prevent your water supply from freezing, but that’s easier said than done.

If you have other ideas or suggestions, feel free to comment in the dedicated section below.

This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia. 

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14 Fun ‘Old-Time’ Winter Activities To Keep You From Going Insane

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14 Fun 'Old-Time' Winter Activities To Keep You From Going Insane

Artist: Winslow Homer

From our 21st-century vantage point, it is hard for many of us even to envision a life without electronic entertainment, especially during winter. But there really was fun to be had before the advent of handheld devices and before state-of-the-art televisions.

There were plenty of ways for people to amuse themselves year-round in days gone by. Children and adults alike had fun both indoors and out—and the best part is, most of the things enjoyed by people in the past can still be done in modern times. Following are some examples of old-time winter fun that we can still do today.

Outdoor Sports and Recreation

1. Snowshoeing. The basics are easy. They amount to strapping snowshoes onto one’s winter boots and walking across the snow. Of course, it is advised to use the model that works best for your ability and conditions, and practice the technique of walking with an enormous footprint before venturing too far. Some people strike off across the lawn, and others use trails groomed specifically for snowshoeing. Many folks use poles for added balance, but they are not necessary. Snowshoes can be found for every terrain, skill level and body size.

2. Cross-country skiing. This is relatively simple, as well, and can be done in a wide variety of settings, from the backyard or neighborhood park to commercial trails. Skis, bindings, boots and poles can usually be purchased as a package, and while the up-front price can feel daunting, they last for years and will provide many hours of free or inexpensive entertainment for the whole family.

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3. Downhill skiing. This activity kicks it up a notch in terms of cost and skill required, but remains a beloved winter sport for many. This type of skiing takes place on a groomed ski hill or mountain, with a motorized lift to the top. It requires a different set of equipment than that of cross-country skiing and uses different skills to master.

4. Ice skating. Skating on farm ponds and city rinks is a quintessential classic winter activity. Gliding across the ice on simple skates can be fun, romantic, exhilarating, challenging or athletic—or a combination of any or all of those things.

14 Fun 'Old-Time' Winter Activities To Keep You From Going Insane

Image source: Wikimedia

5. Birdwatching. Many birds remain in northern habitats all year long—or migrate into the area specifically for colder seasons—and winter is a great time to seek out favorites and observe their behavior. With less birdsong and chatter to compete with them, it is easier to make out the calls of some species during winter. Sightings of snowy owls and bright-colored cardinals can thrill the hearts of even those with little enthusiasm for birds in general.

Inside the House

6. Games. Cards, board games, checkers, kids’ games, dice, pick-up sticks, party, trivia, role-playing or words—whatever kind of game is appealing, winter is the ideal time to strike up a game. From Scrabble to Hungry Hungry Hippo, games are great for families at home, inviting relatives and neighbors over for a friendly competition, or for a community social event.

7. Puzzles. Puzzles run the gamut, from jigsaw puzzles to word puzzles and searches, to Rubik’s cubes and everything in between, for all ages and interests and budgets and skill levels.

8. Reading. Winter is an excellent time for reading. Whether one prefers romance novels, non-fiction, memoirs, adventure, how-tos, classics or other genres—they are all attained by simply opening a book or magazine, downloading an e-book, or listening to an audiobook selection. And when a household’s reading capacity exceeds the budget, library services are available in person or by mail just about everywhere.

Artist: Frans Van Mieris the Elder

Artist: Frans Van Mieris the Elder

9. Corresponding. This one sounds a little like the texting and social media that consumes so many lives nowadays, but it can be more old-fashioned than that if one wants it to be. Letters or cards to loved ones, pen pals, and personal journals are all ways to correspond.

10. Crafting. The sky is the limit when it comes to modern-day crafts, with an amazing abundance of ideas, tutorials and materials available at the touch of a screen and at stores everywhere. Upcycling, painting, gluing, crocheting, needlework, sewing, wood-carving, knitting, wreath-making, weaving—the list of worthy craft projects is endless.

Christian Heroes For Christian Kids: These Stories Are Putting God Back Into History!

11. Culinary arts. Winter is a wonderful time to bring out tried-and-true favorites, try one’s hand at Hollandaise sauce or crème brulee or homemade confections, or just make and enjoy simple fare like sandwiches and hot cinnamon cider with the kids.

Away From Home

12. Visiting. Winter is a slower season for many, particularly those who practice homesteading and living close to the land, and a great time to catch up on socializing.

13. Roller skating, bowling, lap swimming, dancing of all kinds … and whatever other indoor sporting activity is available in the area—all wonderful options.

14. Movies, plays, concerts and shows. These kinds of attractions were often more special events than run-of-the-mill entertainment in old times. Lives today can include so many of these that they’ve become ho-hum. If that is the case, it might be worth mixing in more of the other old-time activities and limiting commercial attractions, thereby making the ones remaining more distinctive.

It is not necessary to throw out 21st century technology in order to enjoy some of yesteryear’s recreational practices, but it can be a rewarding endeavor to set aside gadgets and devices long enough to try some old-fashioned ways to have fun.

What would you add to our list? What are your favorite winter activities? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Gloves With Thinsulate™ Insulation

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The other day I was reminded of how important it is to wear insulated gloves during the winter, and how Thinsulate™ insulation is something to look for when choosing winter gloves. Not only from a comfort standpoint, but from a preparedness point of view, insulated winter gloves (e.g. with Thinsulate™) of varying purposes and degrees […]

Prepping for a Winter Bug-Out

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As the climate begins to take a turn for frigid and icy conditions, make sure your doomsday prepping skills are a match for the weather. Your normal bug-out bag will just need a little tweaking and your vehicle may need to be upgraded. Here are 5 tips to how you can successfully survive a winter bug-out situation when disaster hits!

Vehicle

For a winter bug-out you will not want to be on foot or left out in the cold when your little car breaks down. You will want to invest in a proper winter vehicle that includes the following features;

  • 4-wheel or all-wheel drive
  • plenty of cargo space
  • all-terrain capability
  • reliable
  • comfortable capacity for you and your escape party

These are just the bare necessities, but ideally you would also want your vehicle to have protection against bullets and be able to run on flat tires if it ever came to that. Visit a store like Dualtone Muffler Brake & Alignment if you have any concerns.

Layer Clothing

Polyester is the best bottom layer because it won’t soak up your sweat like cotton will. You will want 2 layers of synthetic material. The middle layer will serve as insulation. Fleece and wool are a great choice. The outer layer should be waterproof and breathable. Make sure that these layers can be taken off easily so start with the shortest sleeves and work your way up.

Keep Dry

This is essential to a winter bug-out. If you happen to get wet, you need to remove the wet clothing immediately and dry them next to a fire. If you continue to wear wet clothing then you will be exposing yourself to hypothermia when if freezes.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials

You will, of course, want all the bug-out bag essentials such as a hatchet, food and a first aid kit, but there is more to be added when you consider a winter situation:

  • gloves
  • boots
  • snow goggles or glasses
  • warm headgear
  • insulated bottles
  • Mylar or “space” blankets
  • shovel
  • winter socks
  • wool clothing
  • warm portable shelter

Not much needs to change about how or where you house yourself as long as you prepared well enough for wet conditions. One thing you will want to keep in mind is even though it is freezing outside, you will want to make sure that you keep the air moving in your shelter. Another tip to your shelter is to keep someone else in there with you to cuddle up to. This may be awkward depending on who you bring along, but it could save your life.

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.

Dave Canterbury’s Winter Survival Hacks

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The Amazing History Behind Your Favorite Christmas Songs

Survival in the wilderness is never easy, but survival in the wilderness when it’s frigid cold and snowing? That’s even harder. But if you’re prepared and know what you’re doing, you can live to tell about it.

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we discuss winter survival with Dave Canterbury, a survival expert and the author of several books, including The New York Times bestseller “Bushcraft 101.” Dave also teaches classes on survival and has a prominent YouTube survival channel.

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Dave begins by giving us tips on everyday carry (EDC) during winter, and he then tells us:

  • How to start a fire during winter, even if it’s damp.
  • Why Vaseline-soaked cotton balls, popular in the survival community, may not be the best option.
  • Where you can find objects in the woods to burn – even if it’s been raining.
  • How a simple road flare can provide multiple survival uses.
  • Why he urges many people not to eat during survival situations.
  • How to “drink snow” without catching hypothermia.
  • Which lightweight items he carries that can provide immediate shelter.

Dave also tells us the items he believes everyone should carry in their automobile during winter. Finally, he shares with us stories from his past when he – get this – captured reptiles for a living.

If you live in frigid temps and want to be better prepared, then this week’s show is for you!

DIY Winter Water Heaters For Chicken Coop

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DIY Water Heater Coop

If you’re a chicken farmer, you may already know that chickens actually thrive in colder temperatures, as they’re designed with a unique ability. They are excellent at regulating their body temperatures – way better than humans actually.

However, with the winter upon us, it would be nice to help our little feathered friends as much as we can.

The thing is that during the winter, your chickens require at least as much water as they do during the summer in order to generate body heat, so it’s still crucial that they receive an adequate supply of fresh, clean, unfrozen water. Going without water for even a couple of hours can decrease egg production for up to 2 days.

Keep Your Chickens Hydrated During Winter

Dehydration sets in quickly with chickens, especially in extremely cold environments. Even though your hens will drink significantly less water during the winter – about 3 times less on average than in the summer – it’s critical that you keep your “girls” properly hydrated during the winter.

Also, depending on where you live, wintertime survival for your chickens can be anything from a walk in the park and a day of busting bricks, if you know what I mean.

Another fact is that chickens are basically 65 percent water and shuffling back and forth to the chicken coop 3 or 4 times a day carrying heavy buckets of water in freezing cold and/or heavy snow is pretty far from my idea of having quality time during the winter months.

The problem with harsh winters and chicken coops is that water tends to freeze rather quickly in sub-freezing temps. Since your chickens need water on a daily basis, you’ll have to find a way to provide it to them without breaking your back in the process.

Water is involved in all aspects of poultry metabolism, which essentially means that if they don’t get enough of it, your girls will not be able to regulate their body temperature properly among other things (food digestion, body waste management etc).

Also, water is very important in the production of eggs, as an egg is made roughly from 74 percent water. If your girls don’t have access to enough clean/fresh water, you can kiss your egg production goodbye during the winter.

Just like humans, poultry are more sensitive to a lack of water rather than a lack of food, so you must be extra careful that they always have access to fresh and clean water (water no older than 24 hours would be ideal).

Discover how to easily build an attractive and affordable backyard chicken coop!

How To Stop Your Chickens’ Water Freezing

Now, during the winter, your biggest problem is preventing your chickens’ water supply from freezing. I know I am stating the obvious here, but just like with so many other issues, this is easier said than done.

Even if chickens come equipped with pretty tough beaks, they’ll never use them to pierce through heavy ice to get to the water. In other words, this will be one of your many designated jobs during the winter.

There are 2 main strategies when it comes to mitigating the freezing issue:

  • the hard way is to manually replace the water when it freezes
  • the easier way is to prevent it from freezing in the first place.

Carrying water may be quite fun – some may even say idyllic – during the summer, when it’s nice and warm outside, but it will make for a miserable experience during the winter’s freezing dark conditions. While this is basically the most passive option, it’s pretty far from the ideal one, at least in my book. It’s labor-intensive because you’ll have to refill the chickens’ water at least 3 times/day. Which brings us to the second option: prevention.

It pretty much goes without saying that in order to prevent water from freezing, you’ll have to summon a little bit of magic to apply some heat to the water container in your coop 24/7.

I must emphasize the word “little” here, because chickens aren’t very fond of drinking lukewarm water, pretty far from it actually, so you’ll have to pay attention to that issue. You should concentrate only on keeping the water from freezing because, as a matter of fact, chickens really love sipping freezing-cold water.

Again, there are 2 strategies involved here: if you’re not DIY friendly, you can always take the easy approach and buy an electrically heated pet bowl, though you’ll have to cough up a few bucks in the process.

Also, this solution only works if your chicken coop has easy access to a source of electricity (solar panels would work, but that’s overkill for your budget). These bad boys will do the hard work for you, but you’ll have no fun in the DIY-ing process and that’s a bummer.

Now, the flip-side to that coin is to use that big brain of yours along with a little elbow grease and build your own water heater.

Start building your own chicken coop. No special tools required. Get your free easy plans! 

DIY Winter Water Heater Using Electricity

As long as you’re handy with a screwdriver and you don’t have a problem with getting your hand dirty whilst saving a few bucks in the process, you can do this. To improvise a water heater you’ll just need a few basic materials and tools, including:

  • a stepping stone
  • a cinder block
  • a light bulb (the good old-school incandescent variety, alright folks?)
  • a fixing bracket.

The fixing bracket will be used to secure the light bulb firmly in place to the side of the cinder block. Also, you’ll have to drill a tiny hole through the side of the cinder block, so you’ll be able to run an electric wire to the light bulb.

When turned on, the light bulb will provide enough heat to keep the cinder-block warm provided it’s strong enough. It needs to be at least 40 watts. Obviously, if you place the chicken’s water bowl on top of the cinder block, it will stop the water from freezing without making it so warm that they won’t drink it. Depending on how low your temperatures drop, you may need a stronger bulb, or a weaker one.

Make sure you isolate all the electrical parts properly, because you don’t want to wake up in the morning and discover some fried chicken inside your hen house.

Video first seen on Gustavo Monsante

DIY Winter Water Heater Using Sun Light

If you don’t have electricity available or you just don’t want the fire hazard or you’re afraid of electricity, wiring and what not, don’t despair just yet. We have another solution for you: the Sun-is-your-best-friend approach. The idea behind this DIY job is to use the sunlight (if any) for keeping the water from freezing.

Since chickens are usually sleeping during the night, they’ll only need water during daytime, when the sun is presumably up and shining.

For this DIY job, you’ll only need:

  • a tire
  • styrofoam
  • a rubber tub
  • sunlight.

The idea with the tire is that, being black, it will absorb the sunlight, thus keeping the water from freezing.

The styrofoam is used for insulating. Remember, this neat trick only works if there’s enough sun, which is a best case scenario during the winter. This may not be reliable enough if you don’t live in an area that gets lots of sunny, albeit cold, winter days, though it’s worth mentioning.

Video first seen on Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily

The easiest way to prevent water from freezing is to float 5-6 ping pong balls in your water container. The ping pong balls will float around the container at even the slightest breeze, thus making tiny waves on the surface, which will prevent the initial layer of ice from forming. That’s right – ping pong balls can prevent water from freezing as long as the temperature doesn’t dip much below freezing.

It’s essential to remember during the cold season to never use a metal water container. Always go for dark-colored (ideally black) plastic or rubber containers during the winter. For example, a deep-black rubber container alone, if placed in the sun (if any) will prevent the water inside from freezing to temperatures several degrees below freezing.

Also, the larger the surface area and depth, the longer it will take for the water to freeze. A 40-gallon rubber-made water trough will rarely freeze during the winter, but it all depends on where you live.

You can build your chicken coop on a budget with these ready-made easy to follow plans! 

This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.

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How To Choose Warm Clothes For Cold Days

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Cognitive function begins to be impacted when you lose just 2 degrees of body temperature. In temperatures below freezing, that can happen in just a matter of minutes if you’re not dressed properly.

The right clothing can quite literally be the difference between living and dying if you’re caught outside in bad weather.

Of course, keeping all of your fingers and toes and avoiding freezing to death are benefits of choosing the right clothes for cold weather, too!

Today we’re going to talk about the top considerations to keep in mind when choosing your winter clothing. Your primary goals are to stay warm and trap body heat inside.

Dress in Layers

The first and most important step to keeping warm is to dress in layers. This helps in several ways.

First, it allows you to shed some clothing if you get too warm. There’s nothing more miserable that sweating so much that your clothing gets wet, then being exposed to cold. Staying dry is extremely important if you’re planning on surviving long enough to warm your toes by a fire somewhere.

Layers also serve different functions. Your inner layer (or layers) should be made of something that wicks away sweat. A middle layer should be warm and insulating, and the outermost layer should block the wind. It’s also good to make this layer waterproof.

cold-weather-dressing

Now, most people make the mistake of only thinking about a coat; if you’re going to survive, you need to cover as much as your body as you can, while still maintaining mobility. You lose most of your body heat through your head, hands, and feet, so make sure that you keep those well-insulated.

Lower your home heating bill with this D.I.Y. Home Energy System! 

Layer One

The first layer, your long underwear, should wick away sweat. There are any number of synthetic and natural fibers out there, but the best wicking fabric is wool. Of course, it’s also itchy. Merino wool is much softer than other wools and wicks well, but it’s a bit pricey.

Of course, you can always get really into the project and raise your own sheep and make wool yarn so that you can knit your own long underwear, but that’s not an option, or a preference, for many people.

A cheaper, less time-consuming option may be to choose something other than wool.

Polypropylene doesn’t absorb moisture at all, which makes it a great material for your bottom layer, but it’s flammable. Just keep that in mind around the campfire at night.

Silk feels great but it doesn’t wick very well. Stay away from cotton and flannel because they hold moisture. That’s bad when it comes to staying warm, because that wonderfully soft fabric that felt so good on your skin when it was dry turns into clingy, heavy material that sucks out all of your body heat when it’s wet.

Oh, and anything that sucks your body heat out is promoting hypothermia, which, if you don’t know by now, is a bad thing. It also creates a petri dish for bacteria.

Speaking of which, there are several synthetic blends out there that actually have compounds in them that inhibit bacterial growth. This isn’t really a big deal if you’re going to wear it for a day or two, but if you’re going to be in it for several days or more at a time, it’s a concern.

With this D.I.Y. Home Energy System you can take control of your home’s energy. 

The Middle and Outer Layers

Your coat may serve as both the middle and outer layers if it’s stuffed with insulating material and has a wind-proof outer shell. The stuffing is the middle layer, and the shell is the outer layer.

Coats that are made to keep you warm as you go from your car to the office often offer more aesthetic incentives than functional ones. They keep you warm, but they’re not built to keep your heat in long-term or to really block wind or keep you dry.

When you’re choosing a coat for serious warming power in the real outdoors, go for a coat that has baffling – those little layers of pockets full of fluff that are sewn together, sort of like a quilt.

It’s good because it helps hold the down in place and create what coat folks refer to as loft. We normal people would probably just call it fluff or puffiness. You don’t need as much stuffing if your coat has plenty of loft.

Down coats are great, especially if you choose a good one, and they’re light. Cheaper varieties often use feathers instead of down, which aren’t as insulating. It’s all about the density of the down that traps the warm air in. You can tell how many feathers are in it by giving it the pinch test. If you can feel quills, there are feathers.

There are also good synthetic blends that offer great insulation as well as breathable yet waterproof shells that block the wind. Two common ones are polyester and nylon.

Since polyester is basically made from plastic, it has great value as an insulator and a windbreaker. Nylon is tough and doesn’t absorb much water. What it does absorb, it doesn’t hold. Instead, the moisture evaporates, making it great outer shell material.

Gloves/Mittens

You absolutely have to have gloves – think of them as a coat for your hands. For that matter, you want your gloves to have the same properties as your coat.

Mittens are the best option because they keep all of your fingers together in one warm little pocket, whereas with gloves, your fingers are isolated. It’s important that your gloves have great insulation if you choose to use them instead of mittens. Gloves do offer much more mobility than mittens.

What type of fabric you choose depends on your activity. If you’re going to be sweating, you want something breathable that wicks moisture away while keeping your hands warm. If you’re not going to be active, you may want to go for something with more insulation.

Socks and Hat

Cold feet are miserable. Not only that, they can be deadly. If you get frostbite, you run the risk of developing gangrene too. No fun. Wool socks are, again, the best because of their wicking and insulating properties, and cotton socks are the worst. Just as with coats, there are blends that work wonderfully, too.

If you want, you can always buy a coat with a hood. There are some limitations when you’re wearing a hood versus a hat, though, so if you opt to go with a hat, follow the same rule as you do with socks. Wool is good because it’s both insulating and wicking.

Oh, and don’t forget to cover your face. Your nose is one of the quickest appendages to freeze, so cover it up! A good wool balaclava will keep your head, face, and neck warm and toasty.

Choosing winter clothing that will keep you warm every day and alive if SHTF doesn’t have to be difficult, but you should consider your environment and assess your needs (durability, flammability, etc.) before investing in good outdoor clothing.

Some things you can skimp on, but this probably shouldn’t be one of them. Buy the good stuff – your life may depend on it at some point.

Make your home 100% immune from future power outages or blackouts with this D.I.Y. Home Energy System. 

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

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How To Grow Peppers Indoors All Winter Long

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How To Grow Peppers Indoors All Winter Long

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There are few things that you can grow in your garden that are as versatile as the pepper. Hot, sweet, red or green – even yellows, oranges and purples can add a touch of the exotic to your next dish. For most gardeners it simply wouldn’t be the same without a nice harvest of peppers come late summer and early fall.

But why limit yourself to fresh peppers for only a few months of the year? Unbeknownst to many of us who do not live in a desert climate, peppers are actually perennial plants that can live for many years if given the proper care.

There are two main ways that you can grow peppers indoors. The first is by starting a plant from seed, and the second is by bringing your existing plants indoors at the end of your normal outdoor growing season.

Starting Peppers Indoors

Starting your peppers indoors from seeds is fairly simple and can be done at any time of year. Seeds should be planted in a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and sand (roughly equal parts of each). Place two seeds in each pot near its center, and push the seeds just below the surface of the soil. Keep soil moist but not wet, and keep pots in a spot where they will get sunlight throughout the day.

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If you are starting peppers from seed, then you will have the advantage of selecting a variety that will grow to the ideal size for your indoor space. If you have lots of room, then you can grow larger plants such as red bell peppers or Hungarian wax peppers. If you are short on space, however, then try more compact varieties such as dwarf chilies.

Bringing Your Outdoor Peppers Inside

If you’ve already got pepper plants in your garden, you’re ahead of the game. Peppers in containers can be brought directly inside.

For peppers that are planted directly in the ground, the process for bringing them inside is trickier – but so worth it! Start this process well before your first frost. Using a sharp shovel, you can dig around each plant and lift it out of the ground, placing it into a plastic (not terra cotta) pot. This should be done during the evening so that the plant has the cool of the night to recover.

How To Grow Peppers Indoors All Winter Long

Image source: Pixabay.com

If there is extra room in the pot, you can add some compost, but avoid adding extra garden soil. Water you plants and place them in a shady spot outside, and leave them for a few days. Inspect you plants for any pests or aphids and rinse them off very well and then move them to a different spot. Repeat as necessary, until you can’t find any pests. After a few days, you can bring your plants into an in-between spot like a porch.

Finally, bring your pepper plants inside and place under florescent bulbs.

Keeping Your Peppers Fruiting

It is possible to keep your pepper plants fruiting the entire winter – but you will need to keep them toasty warm and give them sufficient light if you are to be successful. Ideally, the room that they are in should be a constant 65-75 degrees. Using very bring florescent lighting or a combination of sunlight and florescent light is best. Peppers tend to need more light than other plants, so if you want fruit you should plan on leaving their lights on for 14-16 hours per day. Some people control this using a timer, but it is also fine to leave the lights on 24 hours a day. Once plants have flowers, they should be fertilized on a weekly basis.

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Watering may be done whenever the soil is slightly dry. It is important to never let your peppers sit in a pool of water, as this can cause disease.

Finally, in caring for you plants, remember that peppers are sensitive to air quality. They should not be kept in a room where people smoke or where there are other pollutants in the air, as this can damage the plants.

When fruit is ripe, you may harvest it using a sharp knife. This will help to prevent you from inadvertently damaging the plant.

Growing any type of fruit or vegetable indoors gives you greater control over your growing environment and provides an extended growing season. Peppers are a perfect choice for those who love to make spicy Asian or Mexican dishes to beat out the chill of winter.

Even if you decide that it is too much trouble to keep your pepper plants fruiting over the winter months, there is still good reason to bring this season’s plants indoors and keep them healthy. That’s because next season, you’ll be able to re-plant your mature pepper plants – instead of seeds or starts from your local garden center.

And those mature plants will start producing peppers fast, and you will be the envy of the neighborhood. Your only problem will be trying to figure out what to do with all of those peppers!

Have you ever grown peppers indoors? What tips would you add? Share them in the section below:

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

Winter Survival Lessons From Alaska’s Denali

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In the summer of 1967, 12 young men climbed Alaska’s Denali — the 20,000-foot mountain that outsiders call Mt. McKinley. There, they encountered a deadly storm that killed seven of them in what remains one of the most heartbreaking mountain climbs in U.S. history.

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we discuss that well-known tragedy with Andy Hall, who wrote a book (Denali’s Howl) about the event and who was the son of the park superintendent at the time. Andy spent years tracking down rescuers, survivors, lost documents and recordings of radio communications for his book — and he says the winter survival lessons learned from ‘67 can apply to anyone who lives in areas where it gets cold and snows.

Andy tells us:

  • What the five fortunate men who did make it down the mountain did to survive.
  • How a simple, free modern-day invention could have saved the seven men who died.
  • Why Denali, “physically,” is even bigger than Mt. Everest.
  • What homesteaders and those in the preparedness community can learn from the disaster.

Andy also shares with us the incredible story of the 13th man who was scheduled to make the climb but couldn’t do so because of a car accident. Finally, Andy tells us what he learned about life itself while writing the book.

Don’t miss this amazing, unforgettable interview that will change how you view winter survival!

Mom Walks 26 Miles In Snow To Rescue Family; This Is What Kept Her Alive …

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Mom Walks 26 Miles In Snow To Rescue Family; This Is What Kept Her Alive …

Photographer: Thomas Quine. Flickr Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

PHOENIX — Karen Klein now knows the high price of not carrying survival supplies such as winter clothes, boots and food in her car. The mother walked 26 miles over a stretch of 36 hours in the snow with no snow boots and no cell service – and with only a small bag of cheerios to eat.

Klein’s ordeal began with a family vacation and ended with what authorities are calling a “Christmas miracle.” Klein, her husband and 10-year-old son became lost when their GPS device told them to take a Forest Service road near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Their car, though, soon got stuck in the mud. Klein, a triathlete, volunteered to go and find help because her husband had recently been in an accident, NBC News reported.

The Kleins did not realize that the area was closed for the winter. When they found roads closed, the family followed GPS directions on a detour that got them lost.

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“It was decided that there is a main road up ahead, and I have professional and recreational experience, a lifelong (experience) in the outdoors, so I said, ‘I’ll just go, I’ll just walk up to the main road, I can do this, I’m a runner,”’ she said.

Her hope was to flag down a passing vehicle for help, but the main road was closed for the winter. So she continued her trek, drinking melted snow and eating aspen and evergreen twigs.

At one point she pulled a muscle and then lost a shoe. She couldn’t move her leg and had to “physically pick it up and put it forward.”

“I could only move it 10 steps at a time,” she said.

Her desire to save her family kept her alive. She said she told herself, “I can’t leave my son without a mom. I’m can’t leave my husband without a wife. I’m not letting my parents bury me.”

She eventually broke into an empty residence where rescuers found her. During her walk, she refused to fall asleep, afraid she would die.

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“I kept myself awake. I just talked to myself and rocked back to stay warm,” she said.

She does have some frostbitten toes but has not lost any yet, NBC News reported.

“In the grand scheme of things,” she said, “I keep thinking: ‘You know what? It’s a few toes. Don’t worry about it.’”

Ironically, her husband and son already had been rescued. After Klein did not come back soon, her husband and son walked in the opposite direction until they got enough cell service to call for help.

Klein said she and her husband could have done a better job in planning.

“As far as places being closed, we just didn’t realize that these roads were closed and these visitor centers were closed,” Klein said. “We didn’t investigate that deeply.”

Klein is now recovering at a hospital in Utah.

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

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Prepping Guide for Winter Survival

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Even the most prepared of families can fall on hard times when winter comes. Depending on where you live in the world, winter can mean extreme cold temperatures, harsh winter storms, and complete lack of food resources. This can add up to life-threatening situations, which is why prepping for winter should be at the top of everyone’s list. Here are some of the best tips to keep in mind for making the most of winter survival.

Warmth

This is possibly the most important factor in preparing for the winter. The cold can totally incapacitate, and even kill a person, in a matter of a few hours. Preventing yourself from exposure to the cold is the first step in winter survival. Cold can make a person’s immune system more vulnerable to pathogens, so keeping warm enough will keep you healthy.

Make sure that you and your family have the right kind of winter clothing. The best possible option combines both price and utility, and wool fits the bill for both of those categories. Wool is an incredible material all around. Naturally resistant to bacterial growth, it can be worn consecutively for days, even weeks, at a time and will not be hazardous to your health or hygiene. It is the most effective fiber at keeping skin warm, especially when acting as a base layer.

To stay warm – have multiple layers available. Wool base layers, followed by a clothing layer, then a core warmer (like a vest), and an outer sweater. A jacket on top of that, along with a hat, gloves, and warm socks, and any human can stay warm in even the harshest cold weather. Additionally, warming packets can be added to pockets, gloves, and socks. Clothing should fit well to prevent heat loss. If you live around rain and/or snow, then a waterproof layer is a must. None of the warmest clothing will work if you can’t keep it from getting wet. And wet + cold is a recipe for serious trouble. Stay warm and dry!

Additional Heat

Most likely, if you live in a place with deep, dark winters, clothing won’t cut it by itself. You will need a way to generate heat to stay warm, especially in the night when temperatures drop to their lowest. Look into purchasing a gas stove, along with extra gas containers. A generator is a basic prepping piece of equipment, and can also be used to power heating devices like space heaters.

The other option is to have a good old-fashioned wood fire. The problem with this is that you might not always have dry wood to burn, and it can also attract attention if you are trying to keep a low profile.

Food and Water

Without these two items you will be hurting in no time, so it is important to ensure that you and your family have clean water to drink, and enough food to eat. Water is more of an immediate need, so make sure that you have several options for gathering it. If you live near a stream or river, have multiple filters to use in case one breaks or is lost. Mechanical filters with ceramic filters work the best, and are very price-effective. Have a way to contain water – purchase several jugs that you can store enough water in for a few weeks at least.

Canned food keeps the longest and can be kept for years on end. Make sure that the cans are not dented, which can be a sign of botulism. Have a diverse set of canned foods, from beans to vegetables to canned meats. This way your nutrition will not falter and you will be in the best possible state of health to tackle other survival concerns.

Be sure to stock up on some treats here and there, as this is the best way to boost moral. Candies, chocolate, vape juices can all provide something to create a good mood in the dark and cold of the winter.

Prepping for the winter is a serious task and should take a lot of forethought on your part to make sure you have everything you could possibly need. You know best what your winter conditions are like where you live, so think about possible circumstances that might arise and what you can do to mitigate winter threats. With adequate prepping, you can survive winter in relative comfort and stability.

The post Prepping Guide for Winter Survival appeared first on American Preppers Network.

3 Winter Survival Gadgets Everyone Should Have In Their Vehicle

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3 Winter Survival Gadgets Everyone Should Have In Their Car

Indeed, the temperature has dropped. We’ve noticed.

This means now would be a good time to reevaluate your winter preparedness – specifically, what’s currently stashed in your vehicle to break out in case of a blizzard?

Have you stocked and loaded your favorite emergency duffle? Well, if you haven’t, then here are a few interesting ideas that might turn some gear to keep you warm. Now I won’t be discussing general winter survival or gear in this post, simply because those are some rather inexhaustible topics in themselves, but we will cover a few items that really make sense to carry during the coldest months of the year.

1. Heated blanket/portable charger

From my own personal experience, as heated blanket has actually kept me from a potentially life-threatening situation (ie., when my hatchback plowed into a snowbank just outside Bedford, Va). I had to get quite comfortable with the idea that help would not arrive soon, and my heating options were limited.

With a portable heated blanket and a portable charger, you can stay warm until you’re safe. (Plus, your car battery – or even the sun — can recharge this type of portable charger.)

Be Prepared: Get The Ultimate In Portable Backup Power!

Just make sure that your car is NOT enveloped in snow when it’s idling, because carbon-monoxide poisoning becomes a huge concern. Also, time your gas to battery intervals so you don’t drain your only way of starting the car again.

2. Zippo hand warmer

In my mind, carrying along a Zippo Hand Warmer makes quite a bit of sense. However, it’s not just the dexterity-enabling heat capsule that I’m after. It’s the fact that you should also be carrying lighter fluid in the same duffle. If you just so happen also to carry a Zippo Lighter, well then, you’ve got a hand warmer and a complete fire kit.

3. The right signaling gear

3 Winter Survival Gadgets Everyone Should Have In Their CarSpeaking of fire, snow is white.

And if you’re pressed into a situation where you have to build a fire in the snow, chances are, you’ve probably had a bad day. That’s why, if you’re going to bring along duct tape, you should make sure that your sticky wonder ribbon is in the most obnoxious neon orange color possible to pop against the whiteness of the snow. With that being said, fire is always a great way to keep warm in such situations — but oddly enough, it’s not really that great of a signaling device in snow-clad broad daylight. You’ll need a way to offer additional contrast for responders, and wouldn’t you know it? Duct tape burns with black smoke.

Be smart out there this winter. Stay safe. Stay warm.

What devices would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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

11 Tips On How To Survive A Polar Vortex

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The term “polar vortex” isn’t one that most people became familiar with until just recently. We had to face it last winter, and we have to face it again these days.

Now, however, it’s a serious concern and needs to be figured into your potential disaster events if you live in areas that may be affected.

Read the following article to find out what a polar vortex is, what it isn’t (if you haven’t been affected by one), and what you need to do to prepare!

What is a Polar Vortex?

We have two polar vortexes – one around each pole. It’s an area of low pressure that circulates counterclockwise in the stratosphere around the pole all the time, but weakens in the winter time.

Sometimes it wobbles a bit and throws a surge of bitter cold south into the US, and other countries in equivalent latitudes around the world.

When this happens, it can drop temperatures below zero. It’s a phenomenon that is always around, but we just don’t notice it until it puffs a blast of freezing air toward us.

scientific-american

It actually plays a big part in the weather worldwide throughout the year. Think about it – how often do you ever hear of cold fronts coming from the south?

Usually, polar vortexes force temperatures down into the single digits in areas of higher latitude such as the Dakotas and Michigan, but the temperatures go up farther down the map.

Still, even if temperatures drop into the teens or twenties, even a light wind will make that temperature seem exponentially colder.

What a Polar Vortex Isn’t

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about polar vortexes, so let’s clear some of them up. First, they’re not a sign or result of global warming. Though many weather anomalies of recent years are linked to the warming of the Earth, polar vortices aren’t. They’ve existed exactly as they are since we started tracking them and the frequency or intensity hasn’t changed.

Next, a polar vortex doesn’t bring snow with it. Weather events such as rain and snow occur in the lower level of the atmosphere and polar vortices occur right above that. They bring bitter cold that can make snowstorms much worse, but they don’t actually bring snow or freezing rain with them.

What you need to Know about a Polar Vortex

The first and most important thing that you need to know about a polar vortex is that it can be lethal.

Even if you’re in a warmer part of the area that’s affected by the vortex, temperatures combined with wind chill can easily drop to temperatures that can cause frostbite and hypothermia quickly if you’re not bundled up.

Polar vortexes also tend to set in fairly quickly and hang around for at least a few days. If you don’t have to go outside during one, don’t. Avoid driving anywhere if you can, because it’s a guarantee that the roads are going to be icy even if it does snow.

If snow or freezing rain is going to happen right before or during a polar vortex, that danger is going to be amplified because temperatures that low can cause several disasters including car crashes, hypothermia, collapsed rooves, limbs, and powerlines, and burst water pipes.

Obviously, even one of those can be horrible, but they may also occur in tandem. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that your roof can collapse while your power is out. That’s why you need to take precautions and be prepared.

How to Prepare for a Polar Vortex

There are relatively small steps that you can take in advance that will help keep you safe. Other steps will need to be taken during/after the snow, but they’re relatively minor.

Technically, to prepare for just a polar vortex, you only need to worry about the cold, but since it often coincides with a snow storm, we’re going to assume that the worst case scenario and prepare for both a polar vortex and a snow storm.

1. Stockpile Food and Water

You may have a tough time getting to the store because of ice or snow, so make sure that you have at least a week’s worth of food and water stored back.

Yes, you’ll have access to plenty of snow, but if you want to drink that, you’ll have to filter and purify it. Stockpile at least 2 gallons of water per person per day. You’ll need to drink more because, oddly enough, water needs increase with extremes in temperature.

Regarding food, figure on at around 2000 calories if you’re going to be outside for more than just a few minutes at a time because your body burns a lot of fuel just to keep warm when temperatures drop that low.

You typically have several days of warning, so there’s no excuse not to be prepared.

2. Stay Inside

Seriously. If you don’t have to be outside, don’t be. In temperatures in the single digits, it only takes 15 minutes or so for frostbite to become a possibility, and when the temperatures are below zero, that time decreases even more.

Hypothermia is also a problem and, like frostbite, increases the colder it gets. Wind plays a big factor in the onset of both conditions.

Also, it’s a guarantee that there’s ice on the road, so there’s no reason to risk it if you don’t have to. Be prepared in advance, because crashing your car for a gallon of milk is bad, but dying for it just isn’t worth it.

3. Wrap Your Pipes

If you can access them, wrap your pipes to protect them from freezing. This tape keeps your pipes warm enough that the water in your pipes won’t freeze. If you don’t know how to do it, read our article about how to insulate your heating system.

This not only saves you a ton of money if your pipes burst, but also ensures that you have access to your water and heat as long as you have city water or a generator for your pump.

4. Trim your Trees

There’s nothing cozier than sitting around a tree limb that’s fallen through your roof and into your living room. Oh wait – yes there is.

This is a relatively easy disaster to avoid – simply keep your trees trimmed back from your house. Here’s a short guide on how to prepare your garden for winter.

5. Bundle Up

If you absolutely must go outside, bundle up. Make sure that your fingers, ears, nose, and toes are particularly protected because when you get cold, your body automatically pulls the blood flow to the center of your body to preserve heat. This leaves your extremities vulnerable to frostbite.

You also naturally lose more heat through the top of your head, the bottom of your feet, and your palms, so make sure they’re covered well to preserve that heat.

Mittens are actually better than gloves because they keep your fingers together and allow the heat that emanates from your palms to warm your entire hand.

mittens

6. Your Animals

Your animals are going to need some special attention depending upon what kind they are. Regardless of their species, they’re going to need to stay warm and they’re likely going to need extra food and water to meet the caloric needs required to stay warm.

Extremes in temperature can also cause animals such as milk cows and chickens to stop producing milk and eggs, so it’s especially important to keep them comfortable.

Winterize your barn and coop by sealing it up, but leave ventilation going through in order to keep the air fresh. Know your animals and adjust to meet their needs.

7. Check your Roof

Before winter even sets in, check your roof and rafters for damage and stability. This is one of the biggest risks you have in the case of a polar vortex and snow storm clashing.

If temperatures drop enough to make building materials brittle, then heavy snow is piled on top, the odds of your roof collapsing increases quite a bit.

8. Seal Windows and Doors

Your heating system is working hard enough to keep you warm even if your house is well insulated and sealed.

Cracks around windows and doors can really dampen that effort and make it nearly impossible to keep your house warm, so take care of that before winter sets in. It will also help save you money in the summer by keeping cold air in.

Read this Survivopedia article to find out how to build your own frames for insulating windows.

9. Winterize Your Car

This may not seem like a big deal, but it can save your life. You need good tires, but not as much for traction (nothing really sticks to ice though good tread does do much better in snow and mud) as to make sure that you don’t get a flat.

Chains for your tires, adequate anti-freeze, winter-grade thinner-viscosity oil, and just a general winterizing is important. Getting stranded in freezing weather is extremely dangerous.

On that note, make sure that you have a get-home bag in your car. You need a full change of clothes, extra socks and gloves, and even extra shoes. Also, have several bottles of water, hand warmers, several protein bars or MREs, and flares.

Blankets, at least emergency blankets, should be in there, too, and a fire-starter wouldn’t hurt. Besides these essentials, you just need to know your circumstances and build the rest of the bag around your needs.

10. Have Alternate Heat

If you rely on electricity for heat, you REALLY need to have an alternative heat source. Installing a wood burner is probably your best option, but a generator or wood for your fireplace (if you have one) are good, too.

Whatever you decide on, have plenty of fuel and the equipment to start it. Be realistic and base your heating needs on your house and your family, not some ideal version of them.

newEMP_2

11. Include Games and Activities in your Stockpile

You’re going to get bored pretty quickly, especially if you lose cable and power. Make sure that you have several different games, books, or hobby supplies on hand to alleviate stress and boredom.

Being prepared for a polar vortex is extremely similar to preparing for a blizzard, except you need to make some modifications for the extreme temperatures that you may have to deal with.

If you have any suggestions or ideas that I’ve missed here, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

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Cold Weather Camping – Why You Should Try It

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climbing-225x300Most folks are inherently afraid of the idea of camping out in cold weather, but before we go further let’s define cold weather.  A person from Alabama is probably going to have a different definition of what cold weather is than someone who lives in Maine or any of the northern latitudes.  I consider temps 30 to 50 degrees pleasant to sleep in.  Anything below 30 degrees is starting to get cold and once the temperature hits 10 degrees, I consider it true cold weather camping.  The coldest I’ve ever slept in was -40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty cold!

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

So why would someone want to subject themselves to the torture of sleeping in the cold?  A couple of reasons:

  1.  To prove to yourself that you can do it.  If you ever have to bug-out in the cold with just a tent and sleeping bad you know you’ll be able to do it.
  2. Once you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll have your gear tweaked for the cold just the way you like it.
  3. Experience.  Nothing beats actual hands-on experience when it comes to any kind of camping, but particularly cold weather camping.
  4. It’s actually fun once you understand how to stay warm out there.  It only sucks when you’re not prepared for it!

Gear

tent-300x225Shelter and Sleeping:  A four season tent is good if you’re going to be camping in higher elevations or where it’s windy; however, I’ve slept in three season tents in dead winter and they worked just fine.  They’re just not as sturdy in a high wind.  I’ve also slept in tipi’s, five and ten military tents, and snow shelters, all of which did a good job of keeping the weather off.  In my mind the sleeping bag is the most important piece of gear you can take with you into a cold weather environment.  The colder the bag rating the better you’ll sleep.  I’ve had a few nights where I slept cold (meaning I was shivering in my sleeping bag) because I took the wrong bag or was experimenting with different sleep systems.  A sleeping pad is important too because it separates you from the ground, which will try to suck the heat out of your body.

Stove and Fuel:  Other than small wood stoves, you can put in wall tents or military tents my favorite stove is the MSR Whisperlite.  Check out this video I made a couple of years ago.

Sled or Toboggan:  An easy way to move gear through deep snow is with a sled or toboggan.  I’ve pulled sleds called ahkios, which we used in Norway, but probably the most prevalent sled I’ve used is the toboggan.  The toboggan isn’t just a death ride into the valley, it’s actually designed to carry gear.  It’s slim width is well suited to fit into your snowshoe tracks as you pull it behind you.

Snowshoes:  If you think you’re going to hike long distances in deep snow without snowshoes, think again.  Let me save you the trouble and tell you that it is exceedingly difficult moving through deep snow without them.  Invest in a decent pair and your life will be much happier.

Clothes/Boots:  Synthetics and wool are your best choices here.  Remember the old adage, “Cotton kills!”  When it gets wet, cotton is pretty much useless when it comes to keeping you warm.  Dress in layers using synthetics and wool and you’ll be fine.  A good, warm pair of boots is also a good investment.

Water Filter:  If it’s warmer than 32 degrees F., you can get by with a filter.

Pot Set/Mess Kit:  If it’s really cold, you’ll likely be melting snow into water, so make sure you’ve got a pot to go with your stove.  Snow is super fluffy compared to water, so you’ll need a bunch of snow to  make just a little water.  Plan accordingly.

Fire Starter:  Lighters are good, but remember that butane doesn’t perform that well when it gets really cold.  I always carry a firesteel as a back up.  Matches are good as long as they are fresh and don’t get wet.  I’ve used the wax tipped matches with mixed results in cold and wet weather and would rather have a lighter. Experiment and see what works for you.

Flashlight:  Since it gets dark around 1630, it’s wise to have a couple of flashlights and even a lantern on hand.  I love lantern light and that’s what I use 95% of the time when I’m cold weather camping in my tipi or military tent.

Toilet Paper:  When there’s three feet of snow under you and no leaves, you’ll want to have some TP with you.  You’ve been warned!

First Aid Kit:  You’ll want a comprehensive first aid kit.  In cold weather you could see anything from a cut by an axe to trench foot.  Be prepared with knowledge and how to treat the injury.

Navigation:  You all know how I feel about GPS.  Yes, it’s totally awesome when it works.  I love looking at my phone and seeing what’s over the next hill, but when the phone or GPS dies where are you going to be?  Carry a map and compass. More importantly, know how to use it!  If you’re in the back country snow shoeing and get lost, you have suddenly entered into a true life and death situation.  Make sure you know how to get home, or at least to the nearest road.

Considerations

winterfire-300x225Some things to think about in cold weather.  Carry extra long underwear with you.  When you stop for the night and you’re still warm from moving change into something dry as soon as you can.  If you’re already dry, no worries, but if you’ve been sweating you’ll be a lot more comfortable if you change. Everything takes longer in cold weather.  Moving, setting up your tent, getting water… everything.  Make sure you give yourself extra time when setting up camp the first time, so that you can get a feel for how long it takes.

Related: Your GPS is Awesome Until it Gets You Lost

Things tend to break easier in cold weather too.  The cold makes plastic brittle so it cracks easier, cold metal sticks to wet skin, batteries die faster, and other fun stuff you’ll discover when you get out there.

Stay Hydrated!

You won’t feel as thirsty in cold weather.  Remember to stop and take frequent water breaks as you’re moving.  One good thing about snow is when you urinate it’s easy to gauge how yellow it is.  If it’s dark, you need to drink way more water.  If it’s as clear as the snow, good job!

Going to the Bathroom At Night

snowmobile-300x169Of all the things about cold weather this is the one that sucks the most.  When you have to get up at 2:00 am to go to the bathroom and it’s -10 outside you might wish you were dehydrated, but don’t do it.  I sleep with wool socks and as soon as I get up I stick my feet in my boots, grab my soft coat, and go outside.  Usually there’s a designated area to go to the bathroom, but what you’ll probably find is at night people will take about five steps away from the tent and let fly.  If there’s no wind it’s not too bad.  Look up at the sky and marvel at how crystal clear it is.  If it’s windy and snowing, you’d better hurry because you’re probably going to freeze your ass off.  Once done, race back to the tent and crawl into your sleeping bag and get warm again.  You’ll be surprised at how fast you get back to sleep!

Read Also: Cold Weather – The Great Equalizer

Another  option is to use an old water bottle as a “piss bottle”.  Just maneuver around inside your sleeping bag until you’re in position, open up the old bottle and urinate into it.  Be careful you don’t miss!!  Cap it up and slip it outside the bag when done.  It’s more comfortable, but riskier if you can’t see what you’re doing.

Summary

Despite all the things I’ve told you to watch out for here winter camping is still an enjoyable experience.  Once you’ve got your gear nailed down and your winter knowledge solid, you’ll  enjoy those trips into the back woods.  The only way to know for sure is to get out there and try it.  Remember, when you’re walking from your heated car to the office and you’re wearing thin pants and winter jacket you’ll tell yourself, “No way in hell am I camping in this!”  But as soon as you put on three or four layers and climb to the top of a mountain somewhere, the wind hitting you in the teeth feels refreshing.

Don’t sit around for life to pass you by, folks.  Get out there and grab it by the tail and live it like it was meant to be lived! Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy of:

Jarhead Survivor
Kim Tashjian 

5 Cold-Killing Spices Hiding In Your Kitchen Cabinet

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5 Cold-Killing Spices Hiding In Your Kitchen Cabinet

Image source: Pixabay.com

As winter blasts the U.S., the local pharmacy is dispensing various chemical cocktails aimed at curbing the symptoms associated with the common cold and seasonal flu virus. The pharmaceutical companies certainly benefit during the cold winter months, but their relief is costly — and not guaranteed. In fact, some medications often produce side-effects that are just as bad or worse than the original symptoms.

So, what natural options are available? The answer may be as simple as a glance in your spice cabinet.

Good nutrition is essential for a healthy life. As the adage states, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A well-thought-out diet, full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, will bolster your immune system. Whether sprinkled on as a garnish, used to create a flavorful broth or sauce, or even steeped in a tea, this list of cold- and flu-fighting spices can keep you healthy and happy this winter.

1. Turmeric

Dress up your farm-fresh eggs, create a tangy dip, or spice up a side of rice with a dash of turmeric. Produced from the roasted rhizomes of the turmeric plant, turmeric powder stimulates the immune system, reduces inflammation, balances blood sugar levels and aids the digestive system, all of which are important aspects of fighting off the common cold or seasonal flu.

2. Clove, nutmeg and cinnamon

This trio is most often associated with baking fall and winter “goodies,” and with warm, soothing drinks; however, they also work well together to aid the body in resisting infectious illnesses prevalent during the holiday season. These spices are antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents. The addition of nutmeg also has the added benefit of being an anti-depressant, which is helpful to calm the wintertime blues and relieve insomnia, although caution should be used by only including small amounts of nutmeg to any recipe.

3. Ginger

5 Cold-Killing Spices Hiding In Your Kitchen Cabinet

Ginger. Image source: Pixabay.com

Although ginger is used with the popular fall spices listed above, it also works to aid the digestive tract — relieving nausea, reducing bloating and gas, and overall working to relax the digestive tract to promote healing. Ginger also provides extra support for the immune system and further relieves inflammation due to irritation or infection.

4. Oregano

Not to be limited to Italian dishes, oregano can be sprinkled on eggs, salads and meats, enhancing your immune system by acting as a powerful antioxidant. It contains multiple vitamins and minerals, giving it helpful antibacterial and antiviral properties. Oregano also provides relief from inflammation, particularly in the upper respiratory tract, which is more vulnerable due to the drier air found in the colder climates.

5. Thyme

Well known in ancient times for its medicinal properties, thyme is most effective against respiratory infections and intestinal distress. It boosts liver function, increases immune function and clears the sinuses — the breeding ground of many respiratory infections.

For many of us, these spices are staples in our cabinet, only to be pulled out for special recipes and not considered based on their medicinal properties. Yet by incorporating them into our regular diets, we can increase our chances of staying healthy during the winter months.

What is your favorite spice for health? Share your tips in the section below:

Windchill Frostbite Chart

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Source: National Weather Service Windchill Chart The Windchill Chart shown above (from the National Weather Service) is a temperature index which accurately indicates how cold the air feels on human skin. The Windchill Chart also includes a frostbite indicator which reveals the temperatures at which wind speed coupled with skin exposure time will produce frostbite […]

The Indoor Winter Garden: 5 Vegetables You Didn’t Know You Could Grow In Hanging Baskets

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The Indoor Winter Garden: 5 Vegetables You Didn't Know You Could Grow In Hanging Baskets

Image source: Pixabay.com

The square footage of my vegetable garden is about the same as the square footage of my house. While I do love fresh organic veggies, finding space to grow them indoors during the winter can be a bit of a puzzle. One way to maximize indoor growing space is to use hanging baskets.

Getting Ready to Plant

Bigger baskets will give your edibles more room to flourish. Choose baskets that are at least 12 inches deep. Their diameter can be as small as 6 inches, but the bigger you go, the more you can plant.

Keep your soil light by using a potting mix, and working in some perlite or vermiculite. Avoid bringing in soil from your outdoor garden, or using soil with clay or loam in it, as those will be heavy. Work some fertilizer in before planting to give your edibles a strong start.

Choose a location where your plants will get lots of sun, like a south-facing window. Most edibles need at least six hours of daylight each day, but some require up to 16 hours. Research your cultivars before planting to determine the amount of light needed, but remember that it’s easy enough to attach a small clamping grow light to a basket for supplementary light.

You also should consider your home’s temperature and humidity levels. Most edibles thrive in temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the usual range in most homes. Keep in mind that winter air is often quite dry; and placing your baskets near heat vents will cause further drying. Use mulch in to help maintain moisture, and plan to water daily. You also can increase humidity by misting your plants or running a humidifier.

Choosing Edibles to Plant

Dwarf varieties are best for hanging baskets. Compact plants that produce small, light fruits will keep your baskets healthy and manageable. Some plants, like tomatoes, have varieties bred specifically for baskets. For others, such as cucumbers, choose cultivars with smaller fruit.

1. Tomatoes

There are lots of great choices when it comes to tomatoes. Florida Basket and Micro Tom are just two of the varieties bred for baskets and pots. Tomatoes that mature early, such as Tumbler F1 and Tumbling Tom, are also good choices for growing indoors.

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Tomatoes need at least eight hours of light each day, and should do well in a south-facing window for most of the winter. On the darkest days, supplement with a grow light if necessary. They are heavy feeders, and you should start fertilizing them twice a week once the plants are about three inches tall. Because there aren’t any insects or wind to do the job, you will need to hand pollinate your plants once they flower. Simply tap the flower stem to dislodge the pollen; or, if you like, you can use a cotton swab to transfer pollen from one flower to the other.

2. Peas and beans

The Indoor Winter Garden: 5 Vegetables You Didn't Know You Could Grow In Hanging Baskets

Image source: Pixabay.com

As a cool weather crop, peas are particularly well-suited to growing indoors during the winter. Since they can tolerate light frosts, you don’t need to worry about the vines getting too close to frosty windows. Keep your beans more protected, though, because they prefer warmer temperatures. Both peas and beans require only about six hours of sunlight daily. Plan to water once a day and fertilize once a week for best results.

3. Cucumbers

Choose your cucumber varieties carefully. Some, like Carmen, are bred to grow indoors — or, rather, in greenhouses. These cultivars have a high propagation rate, high yields, good disease resistance, and most importantly for the indoor gardener, they self-pollinate. However, Carmen produces large 14-16 inch fruit, which will be difficult to manage in hanging baskets.

Regular outdoor varieties will have lower yields, and you’ll need to help the pollination process along. However, a variety bred for planters (like Patio Snacker), or one that produces small fruit (like County Fair Hybrid) are excellent choices to grow indoors.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Cucumbers require only moderate amounts of light (5-6 hours daily), but they bask in warmth. Plan to water daily and increase watering once the plants flower. Indoor cucumber plants should be fertilized once a week.

4. Salad greens

Lettuce and other salad greens like kale and spinach are cool weather crops, and are well-suited to growing in your home’s cooler nooks and crannies. They are also very easy to grow from seed. However, these veggies do need a lot of light — 14 to 16 hours a day is ideal. If you’d like to grow salad greens indoors, plan to attach a clamping grow light to your basket. Since salad greens need a moist environment in which to germinate, mist the soil frequently.

5. Strawberries

Strawberries grow well indoors as well as in hanging baskets. The best variety for indoor baskets is the Alpine strawberry, which produces small, fragrant and flavorful fruit. Strawberries do just fine in regular indoor temperatures and need only six hours of sunlight per day. Plan to fertilize about every 10 days, and break out your cotton swabs, because you’ll need to pollinate your strawberries as well.

Even with decreased amounts of sunlight, low humidity and frosty windows, it’s possible to grow some fruits and vegetables indoors during the winter. Use hanging baskets to maximize your growing space — and your harvest. Why spend your winter daydreaming about next year’s garden? Just go ahead and break out those seed catalogs now.

What do you grow indoors during winter? Share your tips in the section below:

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

5 Winter Survival Skills That Will Keep You Warm, Dry … And Alive

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5 Winter Survival Skills That Will Keep You Warm, Dry ... And Alive

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Every different climate delivers a unique set of challenges in a survival scenario, and winter is no exception. If you aren’t too careful, the frigid wind and cold can immobilize you with frostbite and then kill you off with hypothermia.

In this article, we are going to look at five specific skills that you absolutely must have in order to survive when you’re stuck outdoors during winter.

1. Getting a fire going … and keeping it going

Knowing how to start a fire is an important skill to have in any survival scenario, but it’s extra important during winter. If you are ever wet and cold, a fire may be the only thing that gives you a chance of surviving. You also need a fire to dry out any damp clothing.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to build and maintain a fire during winter. The ground often is blanketed in snow or ice and the wood that is above the ground is saturated with moisture, too. On top of that, there could be high winds that put any spark you manage to create out in an instant. So how are you supposed to start a fire during winter?

The answer is to keep cotton balls that are coated in Vaseline with you at all times – especially during winter. These are highly flammable and will be a lifesaver in a winter survival situation. (They’re also inexpensive.) You’ll also need something to cause a spark, such as a ferro rod. But this is just the solution to getting a fire going. How can you keep that fire maintained?

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Construct a pit into the snow that is approximately two feet deep. This is so that the walls of the pit will protect the flames from the wind. The bottom of this pit should then be covered with logs and sticks. Next, set some tinder and your Vaseline cotton balls on top of these logs.

If all of the wood that you find is already wet, then use a knife or a hatchet to cut into it and see if there’s any drier kindling that you can get from the inside. Then, set up your kindling in a pyramid. This will allow the wood to dry and then burn faster.

The technique above might save your life.

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2. Building a warm-enough shelter

This is another survival skill that is important in any situation — but arguably more so in a winter scenario. During winter – unlike other seasons — you have to keep yourself warm and dry. For these reasons, you would be wise to spend more time working on your winter shelter than, say, your summer shelter.

Your shelter should be constructed in a site that is flat and on higher ground, with plenty of trees for cover from falling snow and wind. The trees also provide the natural resources you’ll need to build your winter shelter.

One of the best winter shelters to make is one that has natural cover, such as the boughs of a tree. You can dig around the trunk of the tree underneath the lowest boughs, so that the branches spread above you protect you from the snow and wind. The snow walls would then provide additional protection, and you can even set up a little place for you to make a small fire.

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3. Maintaining a proper body temperature

During winter, it’s easy to get too cold – but also too hot. Wear an outer shell layer that deflects the wind and the coldness, an insulation layer that keeps your body warm, and then a final layer that sticks right to your skin. When you’re traveling through the snow with all of this clothing on you, you can easily overexert yourself. The sweat will then freeze and make you at risk for both frostbite and hypothermia.

Keep close attention to your body temperature and add and remove layers as needed. If it is snowing or raining, wear all three layers so that your shell layer can keep your inner two layers dry. But when you’re traveling out in the sun or working on building a shelter, remove one or more layers so that your body can cool down and avoid perspiration.

4. Making snow goggles

While we most commonly use sunglasses during summer conditions, the ice and snow during winter can reflect the rays of the sun back to your eyes – essentially blinding you. If you don’t have snow goggles or sunglasses with you already, then you’ll need to know how to make them on your own, out of natural resources.

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The easiest snow goggles to construct are made out of birch bark. Birch bark is best for snow goggles because it can be removed from the trunk of the tree in sheets. Cut out a sheet of bark and then cut small slits in it for your eyes.

Next, cut holes into the sides of it so that it can be tied around your face. It may not sound like much, but these simple DIY goggles will provide your eyes with the protection they need when the sun is out.

5. Building a pair of snowshoes

Snowshoes distribute your weight over a larger area so that your foot will not completely sink into the snow. If you’ve ever tried to walk through a winter forest without snowshoes, you know how exhausting and time-consuming it is. Snowshoes will save you a lot of time and energy.

If you don’t already have a pair of snowshoes with you, you’ll need to make some on your own.  The simplest form of DIY snowshoes are groups of boughs that are tied together and then lashed onto the feet. More traditional snowshoes will require some time and energy to build. You’ll need to find a long, flexible stick that you can bend and then tie at the end, followed by crisscrossing the insides of the snow with more sticks, vines, and/or rope.

 

 

Should you successfully build a pair of snowshoes, it’s guaranteed you’ll be able to make it out alive much faster.

What winter survival skills would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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How To Grow Tomatoes, Outdoors, During Winter

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Winter weather is here, which means it’s time to put away your garden tools and daydream about spring and warmer weather … right? Well, not really. Winter is a great time to continue gardening, as you can grow and harvest dozens of types of vegetables – including certain varieties of tomatoes – outdoors. But you have to know what you’re doing.

Winter gardening is the topic of this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio, as we talk to Caleb Warnock, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the subject and whose Backyard Winter Gardening book is among the best resources on the subject.

After listening to him for five minutes, you’ll understand why people pay to hear him teach.


Caleb shares with us his three favorite wintering gardening methods, and he also tells us:

  • How any homesteader, no matter the location, can grow vegetables during winter.
  • Which vegetable varieties can deliver a harvest within one month.
  • How to grow tomatoes outside during winter – without a greenhouse — and which varieties work best.
  • Which popular winter gardening method he doesn’t

Caleb lives in the foothills of Utah’s mountains; when we spoke with him he had a foot of snow on the ground. In other words, if he can grow food within his frigid climate, then pretty much anyone can … anywhere.

If you have a green thumb and want to try something new this winter, then this week’s show is for you!

6 Dirt-Cheap, Low-Tech Ways To Water Animals During Winter

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6 Dirt-Cheap, Low-Tech Ways To Water Animals During Winter

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Watering animals in the winter can be a huge headache for both small-scale homesteaders and large-scale farmers, especially if you’re off-grid. Certain animals, like dairy cows, need lots of water to keep up production. Producing 10-plus gallons of milk per day means they have to drink a lot more than 10 gallons of water. At the same time, water can be dangerous and create slippery conditions for animals like pigs and ducks that are prone to climb in and spill their buckets.

The most common tactic used by livestock owners is to try and keep water from freezing. This can be more daunting than you realize. Commercial farms water their animals in centralized tanks that can be heated electrically, but that may not be an option for a small-scale or off-grid homesteader. Propane heaters are one potentially good, automatic off-grid option, but they can be dangerous if the pilot light goes out or if they are not adequately protected from the animals themselves. A number of other options are listed here.

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But there are a few low-tech ways to keep the water from freezing without a big investment.

1. Hauling warm water

For some animals, the best way to ensure they have water is to haul in fresh water every single day. Chickens and rabbits are small and require relatively little water per day, and can easily be managed off-grid by bringing them fresh water daily. For larger animals, you’ll want to employ one of the low-tech strategies below to keep the water fresh longer, meaning that you’ll only have to water them every few days or only need to provide a small amount of water each day, saving a lot of labor and time.

2. Raised water platforms

The cold ground robs heat from water buckets placed directly upon it. Raising your watering station even a few inches off the ground can keep it from freezing in milder weather. Try a suspended water system for chickens, or a bucket latched to the barn wall for larger animals such as pigs. Even a few inches can make a big difference.

3. Watering indoors

6 Dirt-Cheap, Low-Tech Ways To Water Animals During Winter

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By watering the animals indoors, even in an unheated structure, the protection from the elements will keep the water in a liquid state much longer. Insulating both the structure and the water tank will further delay the water’s freezing, and may mean that you only need to bring fresh liquid water every few days.

4. Passive compost heating

The water also can be passively heated with the use of active compost. Place a water trough near a corner of the structure, and then each time the pen is cleaned, toss manure behind and around the trough to keep the water insulated with the manure — and perhaps even heated if the manure is in the right balance to make it hot. Remember to keep a clean path to the water by only piling on three sides of the trough.

5. Watering in feed

For animals like pigs and chickens, wetting down their food into a warm mash is a great way to prevent dehydration on an otherwise dry ration, and to help reduce feed waste, as well. Pig feed crumbles and much of it can be lost to dust if it’s not wet into a slurry. Adding a bucket of hot water to the feed will encourage the animals to consume all the feed while keeping them hydrated. But they can’t get quite all the water they need in feed, so making sure they have a good supply of liquid water (or snow if appropriate) is still important.

6. Watering with snow

Knowing that deer survive all winter outdoors without a liquid water source can help encourage you to provide snow to your animals to supplement their water supply. As long as there is ample fresh snow that hasn’t been packed down into ice or covered with excrement, many animals, including horses and ducks, can do quite well. Fussy animals, such as many (but not all) breeds of chicken may refuse to eat snow, even to the point of dying of dehydration before leaving the warmth of their coop. You’ll need to evaluate on a case-by-case basis based on the temperament and breed of your animals, and even if they readily eat snow, it’s still a good idea to bring them a small bucket of warm water daily to make sure they’re staying well-hydrated. Dairy animals producing a significant amount of extra liquid in the form of milk will still require daily supplementation with a large supply of water.

When Not to Water

Believe it or not, there are some animals that should not be watered when temperatures are below freezing, such as water fowl. Ducks and geese love fresh water, but they use it more for bathing than drinking. No matter how small the outlet, ducks may thrash against it to create a puddle to bathe in, which will satisfy them temporarily, but if the temperatures are more than just a few degrees below freezing, they’re likely to create an ice slick, gluing themselves to the ground by their chest feathers and feet. Once they realize their predicament, they’ll thrash and injure themselves, often mortally. To avoid these risks, only provide fresh water to water fowl on days when the temps are above freezing. Otherwise, make sure they have an ample supply of fresh snow, even if it means shoveling it in from outside of their yard.

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Winter Survival: How To Build A Snow Shelter

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Do you remember the holy trinity of survival? Food, water, shelter: does that ring a bell? Also, do you know the rule of threes? You can survive for 3 minutes without oxygen, for 3 days without water and for 3 weeks without food.

Well, how about hypothermia? Do you have any idea how long will you last out there in the cold during a wintertime apocalypse?

The thing is that in an extremely cold environment, if you cannot find or you cannot build an emergency shelter, you’ll die from exposure in a matter of hours. It’s also worth noting that you’ll be totally incapacitated a long time before your actual death. Cold has this effect on people, you know.

In a winter outdoors survival situation, your worst enemies are frostbite and hypothermia along with other conditions like dehydration, but let’s concentrate upon what will kill you first.

Besides wearing the proper (layered) clothing, knowing how to build a snow shelter in an emergency situation in order to maintain a proper body temperature should be mandatory for any outdoors enthusiast.

Winter presents many survival challenges but also a lot of lessons. Now is the time to practice unique survival skills.

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The best thing about snow is that it makes for an excellent insulator. We’ve already talked about it in our article about how to insulate your homestead using snow during the cold winter months in order to save on your energy bill.

How To Build a Snow Shelter

Snow can be used for building a survival shelter, also known as a quinzee, which is basically a large pile of snow, a mound of sorts, that has been hollowed out, thus making for a cave-like place to rest, sleep, keep yourself alive and so on and so forth.

Basically, a quinzee is a man-made snow cave inspired most probably from what dogs and wolves do when a blizzard’s coming their way: i.e. they dig a hole in the snow and they wait for the storm to pass.

The thing is, for building a quinzee you’ll definitely require a snow shovel or something similar, as you’ll have to move around and dig out a lot of snow.

quinzee

The best design in an emergency survival scenario, especially if you’re out there alone and you lack basic tools, is the snow trench shelter which is easier to build using just your hands. To begin with, you should be aware of 2 main things:

  1. First, practice makes perfect. Therefore, you should practice building a snow shelter in your backyard using meager means for as long as it takes. Don’t use snow blowers and high-tech stuff. That’s cheating. I am talking about acquiring the skills first because theoretical knowledge alone won’t save your life in a survival scenario; it’s just not enough.
  2. Second, while practicing DIY-ing a snow shelter, you’ll realize the amount of effort and elbow grease that it takes for piling and packing snow, then removing some of it for just a one-person space.

Even if it’s 10 degrees outside, you’ll be breaking a sweat constantly, and that’s particularly dangerous from multiple points of view in a real life winter survival scenario, because of the risk of dehydration and hypothermia, not to mention exhaustion.

Most experts agree that building a snow shelter is not a feasible endeavor for just one person, especially if you try to do it in a hurry and you lack basic tools (like a shovel), so fair warning. However, it’s also very true that when confronted with imminent death, humans actually gain superpowers in the form of adrenaline kicks, hence you might have a chance after all, so don’t despair just yet.

Another thing to remember is to never travel alone, even if we’re talking about short distances. You can easily get lost in a blizzard and find yourself in a world of pain.

Now, the equipment you have at your disposal and the environment will determine the type of snow shelter you can build: a quinzee or a snow trench.

Step 1. Find a proper location

As usual, location is everything, so before starting digging, you should select the proper spot for your snow shelter. Always avoid windy slopes and areas of rockfall. In other words, never dig your snow shelter in the path of a potential rockfall or avalanche.

Also, if you’re building on a windy slope, where the wind blows against your shelter, is very dangerous as snow can easily clog the entrance of your shelter overnight when you’re sleeping, thus preventing fresh air to get inside. You know what happens with asphyxia, right? In short, you’ll be dead without even knowing it.

Step 2: Find an are with deep snow 

Next, try to find an area with deep snow, thus saving a lot of work. Ideally, you should look for a snowdrift that’s at least 5 feet deep. The consistency of the snow is another factor, as fresh snow tends to be powdery, thus pretty difficult to work with because it’s prone to collapsing when you’re trying to make a cave.

The good news is that once disturbed, snow tends to harden, so if time is on your side, you should pile it up and wait for nature to take its course.

So, considering that you’ve already determined the size of the snow shelter you want to build and you’ve located the sweet spot for it, you should begin with stomping out the diameter of the snow shelter (a quinzee in this particular case) while wearing snow-shoes (provided you have them) thus packing the interior down.

In this way, you’ll create a strong platform upon which to build your snow shelter by eliminating layers in the snow.

Video first seen on OutsideFun1.

Step 3: Pile up the snow 

Now it’s time to start piling up the snow, assuming you have a shovel. As I already warned you, this may take a while, especially if you want to let the mound set up for a few hours, during which you may start building a fire, take a bite to eat while you wait, etc.

This wait time is essential when building a quinzee, as it allows for sintering to kick in. Sintering is a fancy word which depicts the energy released by snow while moving inside the mound you’ve created, making for the snow crystals to bond together, thus acquiring structural integrity.

Basically, sintering prevents the cave from collapsing over you while you’re sleeping inside; that’s the lesson to be taken home.

Step 4: Dig a tunnel into the snow pile 

Now, provided your mound has firmed up, you have to start digging your hole and you should begin with punching a few sticks (a foot long) through the mound, as they’ll serve as guides while you dig up your slumber chamber.

In the next phase, you’ll start digging the entry tunnel. You can plan on spending 2 or 3 hours digging the chamber area.

You can use tarps, pans or snow shoes to scoop out/remove the snow that resulted from digging. When you’ve reached your guide sticks, stop digging.

The ideal wall thickness is about 10 inches, so keep that in mind when designing your quinzee and putting your thickness markers in. Always remember to punch a few fist-size holes to let fresh air in.

How To Build a Snow Trench Survival Shelter 

If the quinzee is not an option because you don’t have the time, the energy, the tools or none of the above (or you’re alone), you must go for a snow trench instead.

Video first seen on Snowy Range Survival.

In an emergency survival scenario, the best alternative is to dig a trench in the snow and use a tarp or something similar (wood branches covered with snow for example) as a roof of sorts.

You can use tree branches or ski poles to prop the tarp up. Snow tranches are easier and faster to dig, but they’ll lack both the comfort and the warmth of a proper-made quinzee. Also, you can be buried in case of a heavy snowstorm, so keep that in mind too.

As for my final words: if you’re the outdoors type and you’re roaming in the wild during the winter on a regular basis, always make sure you have the proper clothing and equipment that you’ll require in a survival scenario, including a compact snow shovel and never travel alone.

Think about our ancestors, how they survived during the biggest winters in history and what mistakes they did – you don’t want to repeat them, trust me!

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If you’ve ever built a snow shelter or have any questions, please share them with us in the comment section below.

This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia. 

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7 Essentials You Better Be Stockpiling For Winter

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7 Essentials You Better Be Stockpiling For Winter

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I stay prepped pretty much all year long, but I like to turn things up a notch during winter. Where I live, the nearest major store is an hour and a half round trip. The distance to town is merely an inconvenience in summer, but winter weather can turn the commute into something stressful and even potentially dangerous.

As with many situations in life, it is the little things that can make or break the success of stockpiling for winter. Sure, whole-house generators are a nice perk—and are understandably crucial in some circumstances—but it works for me to concern myself first with the small items. The problem is that small everyday needs can be all too easily overlooked. Here is a short list of must-haves to help you start your own winter stockpile, and a few hints about fine-tuning the list for the needs of your own household.

First, remember that it is about the basics: water, food, shelter, heat, safety, hygiene and comfort for the entire household. Humans, pets and livestock will need to eat, drink and be safe and healthy. Additionally, your location or relationships might mean that neighbors and relatives will be looking to you in the event of a winter emergency, and you will want to be prepared for whatever level of sharing you are willing and able to accept.

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For me, winter stockpiles are at least as much about not having to go out when the roads are slippery as it is being ready for a catastrophic event. I focus most of my preparedness efforts on the occurrences that are likely to happen. My winter supplies are usually planned around the likelihood of inclement weather or finding stores sold out of what I need, or even run-of-the-mill unrelated emergencies such as a last-minute work deadline or having a sick animal.

1. Water. You will need some for drinking, some for cooking, and some for your animals. Additionally, you will need water for sanitation and hygiene—brushing teeth, washing, and flushing the toilet. People often do not realize how much water they go through in a day. When considering how much water to stockpile, spend a few days being aware of every drop of water you use. Every time you turn on a faucet, imagine instead having to get that water from a jar or bucket in an emergency.

I keep between six and eight half-gallon mason jars of drinking water tucked away in my cellar pantry at all times. As winter approaches I increase my stores of drinking water, and add at least 15 gallons in lidded buckets for flushing. During winters when I am keeping large livestock, my water stockpile multiplies exponentially. Cows drink a lot.

Your water use may be more or less than mine. If you are unsure, it is better to overestimate your water needs than to underestimate them. If you end up not using the stored winter water, no harm done. Just pour it out onto the garden in spring and start over next season.

2. Food. The important thing about food is to stick with what you will eat. Sure, there might be a sale on cans of anchovies at the liquidation center. But if your family would not eat anchovies unless you were literally starving, pass them by and spend a little more to stock up on what you will eat. Tailor your food supplies to that which can be cooked on whatever equipment you will have available to you if the power goes out, or food that can be eaten cold.

“Oooooh,” my brother messaged me one day last winter, “I have a quarter inch of snow! I better run to the store to buy bread and milk and eggs!”

The joke among those of us who stay prepared all the time is that everyone seems to be in desperate need of milk, bread and eggs whenever a storm is predicted. We watch the TV news and see shelves and milk coolers stripped bare, and long lines at the registers. Don’t get caught being one of those people. Buy a loaf of bread, a package of frozen egg products, and a box of shelf-stable milk the next time you shop for food, and make room for the bread and eggs in your freezer. But plan on never using them—instead, commit right now to staying ahead on all of your grocery necessities. Pick up a gallon of fresh milk a couple of days before the current one is gone. Don’t get down to the last crust before shopping for bread. Put pasta on your shopping list ahead of time.

Do not forget food for animals. Keep pet food, grain and hay stockpiled as much as you can for the winter. If your goats go through 200 pounds of grain or 20 bales of hay a month, keep that amount as a baseline, always buying new as soon as you dip below a month’s worth.

7 Essentials You Better Be Stockpiling For Winter

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3. Medication. Winter is not the time to run out of over-the-counter remedies for colds, headaches and minor injuries. Whatever your go-to is, from multi-symptom nighttime cold syrup to St. John’s wort tincture, stock up now.

Prescription medications can be a little more challenging to stay ahead of. There is a specific window of time during which pharmacies can legally refill medications—in other words, they cannot refill your 90-day prescription just a month after filling it the last time—but there is often a week or so of leeway. Be diligent, and do not wait until you are down to your last day to go for a refill.

4. Equipment and supplies for handling ice and snow. Depending upon your geography and needs, this might be shovels, snow scoops, roof rakes, chemical ice melt, ice creepers, car windshield scrapers, and more. Buy it now, while it is available, instead of rushing out right before a big storm only to discover that the best quality and least expensive options are sold out, leaving you only the ones nobody else wants.

5. Alternative heating. This looks different in every home. If it is not very cold outside and your house was warm before you lost power, you might be able to get by overnight and even for a few days with only heavy clothing and blankets. Other contingency plans include a wood-burning appliance or another choice of heater run by natural gas or a generator and the fuel it needs to run. Remember that equipment which is designed to run outdoors can cause carbon monoxide poisoning indoors, so whatever you use, make sure it is safe and that you know how to operate it properly. But if you are going to burn wood or propane, or rely on down-filled sleeping bags to keep you warm, stockpile what you need now.

6. Flashlights, lanterns and the batteries to run them. Have an absolute minimum of one lighting appliance per household member, and keep at least two full sets of batteries for each appliance.  Always.  I keep a flashlight, a small battery-operated lantern, or both, in almost every room in my house.

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If the wind is howling and I think power might be interrupted, I keep a flashlight on my person so that I can use it to access other lights and necessities. I do not rely on gas lanterns or candles for power outage lighting, but I do keep a few around for absolute emergencies.

7. Basic household supplies. This varies greatly from one household to the next, but almost always includes batteries, toilet paper, tissues, diapers, and women’s hygiene products. These are the other items that are almost always sold out quickly when a storm is predicted. The way to avoid this is easy—stockpile! Keep an absolute minimum of a month’s worth on hand at all times, and you will be glad you did.

Just like you did with water, assess your needs ahead of time as you go about your daily routines. If you need kitty litter, paper towels, cigarettes or coffee, stock up now.

A lot of winter stockpiling is more about peace of mind than actual needs. Having enough of everything on hand reduces anxiety. Whether the weather forecast is calling for a blizzard of epic proportions or a few inches of slush, you will rest easy knowing you have done all you can to keep yourself and your family from falling in between a rock and a hard place.

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

Keeping Warm with Winter Preps!

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Keeping Warm with Winter Preps! Highlander “Survival & Tech Preps” Audio in player below! BRRRRR! Getting cold out there! What are you doing to keep warm in the beginning months of winter? Well fall is almost over and winter is right upon us. In this episode I will be talking all about how to keep warm. … Continue reading Keeping Warm with Winter Preps!

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6 Indoor Homestead Projects To Keep You Busy All Winter

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6 Indoor Homestead Projects To Keep You Busy All Winter

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Homesteading doesn’t have to stop just because it’s winter. The garden may be put up, and the outdoor projects put on hold, but there are many useful ways to keep your hands busy and pass the time all winter long.

Here are six ideas:

1. Bee hives.

Constructing bee hives and honey frames is a simple, but very time consuming process – and winter is the perfect time for it. If you plan to keep bees during the spring, you’ll have to start early to get all of your equipment assembled in time. If you’re not an advanced woodworker, it’s common (and cost effective) to buy all of the hive pieces already cut, but you’ll still need to assemble them. Hive boxes need to be nailed together, glued and painted, but the real work comes in assembling the tiny fragile honey frames and attaching a paper thin wax foundation where the bees will begin their work. A simple work bench, a tiny hammer, and box upon box of tiny brad nails are all you need for tools. You’ll then need patience and time as each of anywhere between 40 and 60 frames are assembled for each hive you plan to keep.

2. Crochet blankets.

6 Indoor Homestead Projects To Keep You Busy All Winter

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Perhaps one of the easiest crafts to learn, basic crochet is great for anyone with two hands who can count to three. Simple repetitive motions help you feel productive as you sit by the fire to pass the time. Working on larger crochet blankets has the added benefit that it, by definition, keeps a blanket (the part which you’ve finished thus far) on your lap, helping you stay warm. There are dozens of beginner blankets online, easy enough to be made by grade school children.  Once you’ve mastered the basics, the sky’s the limit and projects can become more complex if you choose. Or, keep it simple, and pull out that half-finished blanket each winter for slow additions that keep you warm while you work.

3. Felted hats.

While you spent most of the summer trying to keep things in your life, literally and figuratively, from tangling, felting is just the opposite. When felting, your goal is to get wool to tangle intentionally into an attractive shape such as a warm wool-felted hat that can last a lifetime. If you’re intimidated by the complicated patterns and precision required for knitting, perhaps give felting a try.

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While there are a number of ways to felt wool, wet felting is a great way to start. The simplest projects layer wet wool on top of a child’s ball, wrap it to keep it in place, and then have you bounce the ball around the house. The impact causes the wet fibers to tangle. Needle felting is also an option, and the wool is placed over a foam hat form, and stabbed repeatedly with specialized barbed felting needles that hook the wool and tangle it into layers.

4. Hooked rugs.

In a cabin mid-winter, regardless how warm the air is from the wood stove, a cold floor will dampen your mood and make you acutely aware of the winter chill. Hooked rugs are a simple way to keep your feet warm while adding an attractive accent to any room. The process is simple. Beginning with a backing such as burlap, you use a rug-hooking hook that looks a bit like a very small metal crochet hook to pull loops of cut wool strips through the burlap. Each loop forms a loop in the rug, either small, tight and compact, or big and fluffy. While rug hooking is physically very easy, having the artistic vision to take small loops of wool and design an attractive masterpiece can be a bit of a challenge. Start with simple patterns and designs, and soon enough you’ll be ready to tackle more complicated artistry, such as the elaborate shaded flowers so common in antique hooked rugs.

5. Soap making.

6 Indoor Homestead Projects To Keep You Busy All Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

As a hot stove-top task with shelf-stable ingredients, soap making is an ideal wintertime task. If you’re looking for the most basic home soap craft, then try melt-and-pour soaps. Just melt the soap down and pour it into a beautiful custom mold to create unique gifts for your family. Once you’ve mastered molding your own soaps, try making cold process soap, which involves mixing lye and a fat base, including anything from fancy store-bought almond oil or shea butter, or simply making a basic tallow soap out of your own rendered fat. While you’ll need to be conscious of safety — using eye protection, gloves, long sleeves and working in a well-ventilated area — soap making is easy to learn at home.

6. Home remedies.

Winter is a great time to bolster your supply of home remedies. Tinctures that start with dried herbs and alcohol need only a cool dark place and time to extract. Herbal teas can be mixed, and recipes refined to combine good taste with the medicinal properties you’re seeking. Beyond these simple tasks, there are also more complicated remedies, like healing salves, that take time, heat and patience. Salves start by infusing herbs into oils, such as olive, almond or sunflower. Those infused oils are then mixed with emulsifying wax to make them into smooth creams or solid lotion bars and lip balms. These topical remedies can be used all year round and are a great way not only to keep your hands busy in winter, but also to keep them moisturized.

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

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7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive Winter

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7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive Winter

Life was hard for our ancestors — much harder than it is for us today. Most of them didn’t have running water and electricity to make their lives easier. These modern conveniences have changed our way of life, to the point where we often forget what people had to do throughout history in order to survive.

We look at survival today as something needed in a time of emergency, but to many of them, survival stared them in the face every day of their lives. That was especially true in the wintertime, when it wasn’t possible to glean what you needed from nature. Basically, if you weren’t ready for winter, you didn’t survive.

So our ancestors all became experts in stockpiling. They’d spend the warmer months preparing, so that when the cold winter months came around, they’d be ready. You could tell a lot about a family’s wealth and industry by that, as there were those who struggled through the winter and those who didn’t.

I remember my grandmother, who lived though the Great Depression. She was a hoarder if you ever saw one. While her home wasn’t one you’d expect to find on one of those reality shows where they dig through a house filled with junk, she didn’t let things go to waste. If there was any utility she could get out of something, it didn’t go to the trash; it was saved for that proverbial rainy day.

Not everyone saved all the things that my grandmother did, but I imagine a fair percentage of those who lived through the Depression did. Even those who didn’t knew the importance of stockpiling for winter. The idea of “saving up for a rainy day” wasn’t just a figure of speech — it was a way of life.

So, what did they stockpile? Let’s take a look.

1. Food

Of course, the most important thing to stockpile for winter was food. Everyone would “put up” food — canning, smoking and drying it. The modern grocery store is actually rather new, with the first real supermarkets opening exactly a century ago. Before that, you could buy foodstuffs from the general store, a local butcher or a local greengrocer (produce only). But there weren’t grocery stores as we know them.

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The majority of the population at the time was involved in agriculture. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that the vast majority of the population shifted to the cities. And while people who lived in the cities have always had to depend on store or market-bought food, before that time, they were in the minority.

2. Feed

Feeding yourself wasn’t enough in those days. You needed to be able to feed your livestock, as well. Even people living in the city had to take this into consideration, as many had horses and wagons.

Early garages weren’t attached to homes, because they were converted barns and stables. Before the automobile became common, that’s how people moved around. So, they’d have a stable behind the home and had to make sure the loft was filled with hay and grain to feed their horses. Granted, they always didn’t harvest that themselves, but they still had to buy it and stockpile it to take care of their horses.

If that hay and feed was the “fuel” for their transportation back then, and they stockpiled it to get through the winter, perhaps we should follow suit. While our modern cars won’t run well off of hay, few of us have enough fuel to keep them running for more than a day or two. In a blizzard or power outage, that could prove to be a costly mistake. (Click here to learn how to stockpile gasoline.)

3. Firewood

7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive WinterCutting wood for the fire in the wintertime is much more difficult than it is in the summertime. So our ancestors needed to take advantage of the warmer weather to cut their wood and stack it for winter. Granted, living in the city made that hard for some, but cities were smaller back then. They could still take a wagon out to the country to cut wood, if they didn’t want to pay someone for it.

It would take several cords of wood to make it through the average winter, and – prior to electricity — there wasn’t any other option. That is, unless you happened to live in an area where you could heat with coal. Coal produced much more heat per ton than firewood did, making it a great improvement; but you couldn’t cut or mine it yourself.

In addition to the firewood, our ancestors always made sure they had a good stock of tinder. It’s all but impossible to find anything that can be used as tinder in the wintertime. So, most families filled up their home’s tinderbox to overflowing during the warmer months. That way, they could always start a fire if it went out.

4. Extra blankets

Keeping a home warm was difficult, especially a larger home with lots of rooms. Few actually could afford a fireplace in every room, even if they wanted one. So they’d heat the main living area of the home and leave the doors open to the bedrooms. Whatever heat managed to make its way in there was all that they’d get.

Since they didn’t have much heat in the bedrooms, they counted on body heat to keep them warm at night. That was part of the reason why kids would sleep together — so that they could keep each other warm.

But the other thing they did was pile blankets high upon the beds. It wasn’t uncommon to have a chest at the foot of the bed, which was used to store these extra blankets in warmer weather. Then, in the wintertime, they’d be brought out and piled on the bed. A good quilt was laid on top to make it all look good.

That’s part of why goose down quilts were so popular. Not only are they warm, but they don’t weigh a ton. It’s much nicer to bury yourself under a couple of goose down quilts than to have the weight of six wool blankets on you all night long. So save those goose feathers; it’s time to make another quilt.

5. Medicine

Most people kept a pretty good supply of medicines in the home — not the medicines that you can buy over the counter in the drug store, but home remedies. Doctors weren’t all that common. Some communities only had a visiting doctor come by a couple of times a year when he was making his circuit. So, they needed to be ready to take care of themselves. That’s why home remedies were so important. When that’s all you’ve got, you want to make sure you don’t run out.

6. Candles

Candle making was a summertime activity. You had to make them when the bees were active, collecting pollen and making honey. That meant you made them during the warmer months, when there were lots of flowers in the fields and on the trees. In the winter, bees stay in their hives, living off the honey they stored up in summer.

Harvesting honey, for those who had hives, also meant harvesting the beeswax. That meant it was time to make candles. While some were made by professional candle makers, it wasn’t uncommon for people to make their own, especially those in rural communities. Those candles would have to be enough to get them through the winter.

7. Reading material

Wintertime was a time to stay indoors as much as possible. The harvest was in and it was too early to think about plowing for spring. So, people would work inside the home, repairing harnesses, sewing clothes and reading. Few had time to read during warm weather, as the work on the farm kept them going from “can see” to “can’t see,” but in the wintertime, gathered around the warmth of the fire, reading was common.

People would literally save magazines and newspapers for months, waiting until wintertime to read them. While that would make the news a bit out of date, life didn’t move as fast back then. News was slow to get to rural communities anyway, especially out West. So, winter made a good time to catch up.

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

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Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

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Cold-Hardy Livestock Breeds That Thrive Anywhere (Even In Alaska)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Editor’s note: The writer lives in Alaska.

Choosing the right livestock for your homestead is an important decision. You may know what kinds of animals you want — ducks, chickens, pigs, cattle, etc. — but how do you choose the right breed?

Too often when choosing a specific breed of livestock, the winter hardiness of the animal gets overlooked. When winter rolls around with her cold breath, you want to ensure you have livestock that will require little supplemental heat. Heat is energy, and when you’re already trying to keep your family warm, you don’t want to waste precious energy trying to keep your livestock warm unless it is absolutely necessary.

In this article, I will go over some of the common types of livestock people choose for their homestead and then explore some of the most winter-hardy breeds. For poultry, I will focus on breeds that are typically used for laying, assuming that any poultry kept through the winter will be primarily used as a source of eggs.

Choosing livestock that is appropriate for your geographical area is incredibly important and can save you a lot of time and energy while making your winter preparations.

Ducks

It is hard to find more winter-hardy poultry than ducks. Domestic chickens evolved from tropical regions and by their very nature deal much better with drier and warmer conditions. Ducks and geese, on the other hand, can handle much colder and wetter climates with ease. Another benefit of ducks is that they require a lot less added light to keep them laying. In some areas of the country, you may not have to add supplemental light at all.

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Swedish Blue ducks are a winter-hardy bird that are known for both their meat and laying qualities. You can expect about 120-180 eggs a year from them, with males weighing about 8 pounds and females around 7 pounds. They do mature slower than some other breeds of ducks, however. Originating in Germany, they are very winter-hardy and have a calm temperament.

If you are looking for a duck for just egg production, I recommend the Khaki Campbell duck. The Khaki Campbells we have on our Alaskan farm keep laying straight through the winter, and we are still getting good yields from ducks that are over a year and a half old. You can expect 250-325 eggs a year from the Khaki Campbells and, while they are a smaller duck, they are extremely cold hardy. Males top out at about 4.5 pounds and females around 4 pounds. They are very noisy, however, and can be flighty birds.

Another duck you may consider is the Cayuga. They are very cold-hardy, and lay approximately 120-180 eggs a year. Males weigh about 7 pounds and females 6 pounds when mature. Although very loud, they are calm and only go broody occasionally.

Chickens

Chickens are a homestead staple. To have them lay throughout the winter, keep in mind that they will need added light during the darker winter months. Chickens lay best when they have at least 15 to 16 hours of light provided. When the amount of daylight dips below that, either keep a light on in their chicken coop, or set it on a timer to add the extra light needed when the sun goes down. Although you will need added light for chickens, if you choose winter-hardy breeds you may be able to avoid having to add extra heat.

If you live in an extremely cold climate where frostbite can be an issue, you’ll want to choose a laying hen that has a small comb. The Chantecler chicken is an excellent example of a winter ready chicken. Originally bred in Quebec, these chickens are made to handle the extremely cold winters of the Canadian prairie. They have small combs and wattles, making them resistant to frostbite and will lay throughout the cold winter months. They do have trouble in extremely hot weather, however, so if you live in an area with hot summers, these may not be the right chickens for you.

Another breed that we have been very happy with on our farm here in Alaska is the Black Australorp. The hens do have larger combs that could be susceptible if your winters are especially harsh, but they do extremely well in areas that have winter temperatures in the 10-35 degree Fahrenheit range. They are also prolific layers, laying 280 eggs a year or more.

Pigs

Although many homesteaders purchase piglets in the spring, raise them through the summer and then butcher them in the fall when the weather turns colder, there are several reasons you may want to keep pigs through the winter. Maybe you are starting to breed your own piglets for butcher or want to do two rounds of butchering a year instead of just one.

When choosing a breed of pig to carry through the winter months, I’ve found it most beneficial to look to the heritage breeds. Heritage breeds of pigs typically do better on pasture and are hardier for the outdoors. Breeds that are used in confinement operations, like Yorkshire crosses, will invariably be bred to live in conditions that have them inside year-round with an extremely controlled environment. Heritage breeds retain a lot of the characteristics that make them suitable to living outside, and if you choose breeds that originated in climates with colder winters, they should do just fine with minimal shelter provided from you.

After doing a fair bit of research, we finally settled on the Tamworth Hog for our Alaskan farm. One of the oldest heritage breeds found in the U.S., the Tamworth originated out of Ireland, where it was known for its ability to forage and grow on pasture. They have quite a bit more hair than some of your other breeds of pigs and do perfectly well in our winter climate. We know of one breeding operation in Michigan that lets their Tamworth sows give birth in the middle of winter with just a small shelter and straw, no added heat or attention. In addition to being hardy, the Tamworths are also extremely intelligent and very personable. We couldn’t be happier with them.

Although it is always tempting to get whatever livestock may be readily available to you at your local feed store, it is always worth the effort to carefully research and select breeds with climate in mind. The result will be happier animals and a more efficient homestead.

What are your favorite winter-hardy breeds? Share your tips in the section below:

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How to Survive Hypothermia

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How to Survive Hypothermia Winter storms pose a potential danger to everyone in their path.  Whether you’re an avid hiker and camper like I am, work outdoors, or are otherwise caught in a winter storm, hypothermia is a very real possibility. offgridweb.com has a survival guide designed to help us recognize the signs of hypothermia …

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Snow Shoes: A Survival Necessity In Deep Snow

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article_snowshoes_1It’s almost time for winter here in the Northeast.  That means lots of fun outdoor activities, but one of the easiest is snow shoeing. If you ever get the opportunity, I would highly recommend that you at least try it. It’s a great way to learn how difficult snow can be to navigate. When I was in New Brunswick, Canada last season,  I had the opportunity to visit my uncle’s tipi.  It’s about a mile out in the woods and there was three feet of snow on the ground. In some higher drift areas, the height of snow exceeded this. From time to time, we will get similar amounts of snow here in Maine.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

I snowshoe’d out there, shoveled it out, then decided to get some wood for a fire.  I figured I’d try doing it without my snow shoes which turned into a forced march of less than a 100 yards.  It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve been in deep snow you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It’s hard to move around in deep snow.  Anyway, I went back with my armload of wood and returned wearing my snow shoes.

History and Features of Snowshoes

Snowshoes have been in use for over 4,000 years.  Ancient peoples used different kinds but our contemporary snowshoes originate from Native Americans. Older American webbed snowshoes were made from wood with gut and/or leather to form the webbing and bindings.  Modern snowshoes are made from metal and other synthetic materials.

snowshoes_traditional_survivalIn years past I’ve used beaver tail and bear paw snowshoes.  I also used a pair made by one of my uncles that were long and thin – almost like a ski, but wider, which worked awesome on open snow.  Beaver tails (my dad still uses them) are a generic snowshoe that work well in most places.  I found the bear paws, which are a little smaller and rounder, to be good in tight quarters such as bushwhacking, but not as good as the beaver tails on open trail.  With this being said, you could adequately use either type for any scenario. In fact, I preferred the bear paws my dad gave me until I bought the more modern Yukon Jack shoes.

Modern snowshoes are nice and have neat features that help in different environments.  First, modern bindings are superior to older ones.  Instead of a buckle and leather, they are made out of synthetics and easily snap into place.  I’ve froze my fingers off many times trying get old bindings tight.  Believe me, it is a relief to use more convenient, modern bindings.

Another great feature of modern snowshoes is the cleat that sits under your foot.  This is really handy if you’re climbing a hill and need traction on hard snow or ice.  I have crampons I wear for ice climbing, but snowshoes are better for overall snow travel.

There are many kinds of snowshoes on the market today. If you’re in the market for snowshoes, I’d suggest you talk to knowledgeable friends or a store expert.  Some of them are really expensive, but my Yukon snowshoes cost about $80 and have lasted me ten years with no problems.  I’ve hiked many mountains and forests with them and they are still in great shape.  Find a pair that works for you and your situation.

Snowshoe Accessories

article_snowshoes_2Most people use gaiters that keep snow out of boots as they walk through deep snow. Gaiters are pieces of fabric and velcro secured under knee to the boot. Some folks like to use ski-poles.  I now use a ski pole because there are situations where you’ll fall over without a little assistance.  I like to have at least one hand free when walking to move bushes aside, pick stuff up, or what have you, so this was a good compromise for me.  It’s like everything else, find what works for you and run with it.

Earlier this season I was walking through a frozen swamp.  If you think walking through a swamp with alders is difficult, you should try it in the winter when all the trees are bent over from the weight of the snow.  At one point I walked over a fallen tree to try and get past a particularly nasty deadfall.  When I got to the other side, I fell off the tree and landed in a five foot snow drift.  Luckily I had my ski pole with me, but I bent it all to hell using it to get out of that mess.  Without it, I’d have worked much harder to escape from the drift.

Winter boots are pretty much up to you, but I prefer to wear a technical ice climbing boot when I’m doing winter activities.  These boots are usually more expensive. While these are expensive, I get a great amount of use from them. For the record, I have an older pair of Scarpas and love them.

Snowshoeing is Tough

snowshoeing_tough_physicalIn the early part of the snowshoeing season, I get leg cramps at night. Following some of these early expeditions, I’ve jumped out of bed gritting my teeth and massaging my thigh. After a couple times out, I adjust. I suggest you start going slow and walking short distances. Be patient; you’ll get the feel for it.  Once your body adapts, you’ll be good to go.  Even though snowshoes expedite travel over snow, you’ll need be in great shape.  Snowshoeing is damned hard work.  It is especially difficult if you’re wearing a pack, pulling a sled, breaking trail, or heaven forbid, doing all three at once.

When you go out there be prepared to have fun and work hard. Anybody else out there enjoy snowshoeing? Question?  Comments?  Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy of:

JarheadSurvivor
Dave Ruben Photo 
Azmuskoka
Brigitte Malessa

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The Man Who’s Been Right 6 Of 7 Years Just Predicted A ‘Colder-Than-Normal’ Winter

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The Man Who's Been Right 6 of 7 Years Just Predicted A ‘Colder-Than-Normal’ WinterResidents of the Northeast and Midwest can expect a very rough winter with extreme cold temperatures and lots of snow, according to climatologist Judah L. Cohen, whose unconventional model of forecasting is well-known in the meteorological world.

The Man Who's Been Right 6 of 7 Years Just Predicted A ‘Colder-Than-Normal’ Winter

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Cohen theorizes that an October that features heavy snow in Eurasia is a predictor of a rough winter for the Eastern U.S., The Washington Post reported. Other forecasters look to temperatures in the Pacific Ocean for long-term winter forecasts.

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“I would say that the predictors that we follow are strongly indicating a colder-than-normal winter,” Cohen, of the Atmospheric and Environmental Research, wrote in an email to The Post.

This year the “advance of snow cover in Eurasia (south of 60 degrees north latitude) was the fastest on record going back to 1998” – an indicator of a brutal snow in the Eastern U.S., he said. The snow coverage was the fourth highest on record.

“I think the most impressive cold will be across Eurasia,” Cohens aid. “But here in the U.S., extensive Eurasian snow cover favors colder-than-normal temperatures in the Eastern U.S. more than it does in the Western U.S.”

The meteorological community remains skeptical to Cohen’s forecast, but he says his forecasting for the U.S. has been correct in six of the past seven years.

“That is an impressive track record for climate prediction,” he said. “But I am happy for the community to be skeptical of our ideas and create a void that I am willing to fill.”

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36 Cold Weather Hacks to Keep You Cozy This Winter

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36 Cold Weather Hacks to Keep You Cozy This Winter It’s that time again-whether we love it or dread it, the holidays are upon us.  For a lot of us, that also means it’s about to get so, very cold.  The kind of cold that keeps us in bed, or in the hot shower.  Lucky …

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Cold Weather: The Great Equalizer

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forest_cold_winterFor preppers, cold weather has to be the worst of the elements.   In some parts of the country we are just entering the phase of the harshest part of winter. It has been pretty mild in most cold zones, but Mother Nature being as she is, I expect that to change.  Remember, if you saw the Seattle-Minnesota NFL playoff game last year, the air temp on the field was at or below zero not counting the -10-20 degree wind chill factor. How would you like to be outside during a SHTF in that?

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

How do you prepare for and survive a bug out with outside temperatures in the teens or worse? It is the ultimate challenge in my mind. Cold has a way of sinking into the soul. Can you remember photos of the German Army marching in to Russia in WWII?   How about Valley Forge with soldier’s feet wrapped in mere cloth because no boots were available? I shiver just thinking about it. Cold can zap your spirit and take your life.

Structural Preparation

But like any other part of preparing for a SHTF, preppers can prepare for cold weather, too. First and foremost some kind of shelter has to be paramount. You simply cannot sustain yourself in zero temps huddled under a tarp cover. Even a cloth or nylon tent is sketchy. One exception might be a high quality outfitters wall tent with a good wood, propane, or gas stove inside. Protection from cold, wet and wind is essential to survive the winter months.

Related: Tarp or Tent Debate 

Better yet some kind of a fixed house, barn or structure. Doors and windows can be sealed and walls insulated. A wood stove or even a fireplace would generate some heat to stave off the penetrating impact of the cold. Kerosene or propane gas heaters could also be deployed. If you live or escape to where it could be cold, then plan now.

Camping trailers are an option, too, as a bug out shelter in addition to being available for regular recreational use.   If considering a trailer to tow, shop for one with good wall and floor insulation and a good heating system. Most likely a heater and cook stove will be fueled by propane, so plan for ample supplies for a long term stay if needed. Try to park and anchor a trailer out of prevailing winds with a tree line screen or other protective block.

Clothing Matters 

Obviously proper clothing is an essential defense against cold.  That cotton hunting outfit will not do. Forget the blue jeans for driving winds and snow. And don’t be fooled by some highly marketed super fabrics either. Many of them fail in the cold. Go for well insulated outfits and or wool. Wool from head to toe will provide better body heat retention than just about anything else, even when wet.

Read Also: It’s Winter – Don’t Go Hiking Without Proper Clothing! 

Though you’ve heard it many times until you’re dizzy, layering is still the best strategy. Use wicking layers against the skin and work out from there. Then, just like a wall thermometer, as you heat up or cool down, you can adjust by taking off or putting on layers. Don’t forget a good hat or beanie to stop body heat from escaping through your head. Use a scarf for the neck.

Get proper boots, and gloves, too. If there is a driving wind, then a protective facemask adds warmth and skin protection as well. Cold weather boots such as Schnee’s or Kenetrek boots with the wool liner inserts provide exceptional foot protection from the cold. Your boots should be totally waterproof and well insulated.

frost_tree_pine_winterSupplemental heat can also be added to the exterior of the body by using the chemical heat up pads that can be placed in gloves, boots or as body wraps. The ones that stick on the bottom of socks add an extra measure of warmth for cold feet. Place them on top of the toes and the bottom for even longer heat generation. There are battery operated or rechargeable boot heaters, too, but these require extra batteries or access to a power source to recharge them.

During super cold you have to eat right and hydrate more than you might think. Internal ovens  fed with protein foods with a good mix of carbs.   Cold weather will drag on your mind and body. Prepare ahead to withstand it and you will survive it.

All Photos Courtesy of:
John Woods

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Ten Ways To Survive the Winter Cold

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winter_river_snowIt’s getting to be that time of year again and winter is nearly upon us. You know what that means,  snow. If you live in the northeast, you’ve seen your fair share of it.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the cold and snow and thought I’d pass on a few things I’ve learned and seen over the years.  Playing outside in a good winter snow is awesome.  I love snowshoeing, ice climbing, ice skating, snow mobiling, winter camping, and just about anything that can be done outside in the winter.  I’ve never understood folks who go inside at the first snow fall and stay there until spring. Why huddle under a blanket or camp out next to the wood stove when there’s so much to do outside!

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Armed with years of experience in hostile winter conditions, I’ve prepared an informative list. If you’ve read this list and followed it, you’ll be better prepared than most individuals.

1.  Dress for Winter

thick_snow_heavyThere’s a couple of ways you can be prepared for winter that will allow you to enjoy it.  This first one may be a little obvious, but in order to stay warm you’ve got to dress for it.  There’s a few guidelines for dressing for winter and the first one is to dress in layers.  Try to dress in synthetics as much as possible, but wool is also a good material to wear.  A good pair of winter boots to keep your feet warm will make your life a lot better as well.  There are thousands of winter boots out there, but I’d suggest something thick and durable.  I wear technical ice climbing boots and gaiters for just about everything, but I figure most people won’t want to pay $500 for a pair of boots.  Shop around and find yourself something comfortable.  You don’t want your gloves to be skin tight.  In order to provide warmth they need to be a little loose.  If your hands start to sweat take them out of the gloves if feasible.  If it’s below zero you probably won’t be able to, but wet gloves suck when it gets cold.

A good coat will consist of a shell and inner liner.  If I’m working hard snowshoeing, I’ll take the outer layer off and put it back on when I’m no longer working. If the temps are in the 20’s or 30’s, it’s not that big a deal unless the wind is blowing. When the temps dip below zero, you have to pay special attention to how you dress and how much you sweat.  Sweat can kill you in cold weather. Be prepared to change your clothes if necessary. I usually carry an extra set of long johns in my pack, so if I sweat I can change into something dry when I stop moving.

2. Bring Snowshoes and Skis  

If you’re going out in deep snow, the only way to move around is with snowshoes or skis.  Deep snow is very hard to navigate. If you’re on foot, your lack of mobility could kill you.

3.  Stay Hydrated  

If you’re moving outside during the winter, you’re dehydrating at a summer rate.  Be wary however, your thirst reflex kicks off in cold weather.  Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  If you’re hiking, keep that canteen handy and take a swig from time to time.  A good way to monitor hydration levels is to check your urine colors.  If it’s yellow, you’re getting dehydrated.  The darker the yellow, the more critical it is for you to drink.

4.  Don’t Underestimate the Environment 

winter_hike_survival_prepI’ve met people hiking in the winter with light clothes, no packs, and no clue.  I actually had one guy ask, “Do you know how to get out of here?”  We were hiking some back mountain trails and he and his son were completely lost.  They had no maps, no compass, no pack,  and no chance at survival if conditions deteriorated.  If you do go for a hike, make sure you’re able to take care of  yourself in a worst case scenario.  It’s better to carry those fifteen pounds of extra gear just in case.

5.  Know How to Start a Fire in the Cold and Snow 

With fire and shelter, you can survive adverse conditions. Starting fires is a skill that takes practice.  When you can light a fire with a lighter, begin using matches.  When you’re proficient with a match, use a firesteel.  Once you’ve mastered the fire steel, try making a bow drill.  When you can light a fire with a fire steel or bow drill, using a lighter almost feels like cheating.  Practice!

6.  Don’t Overestimate Your Skill 

snow_fire_survivalIf you’re an expert at desert survival, understand that doesn’t mean jack shit when the temp falls to -20 and you’re faced with three feet of snow.  I camp out year round and try different things to see how I’d make out in an emergency.  Last weekend (mid-November 2016) I spent the night in my tipi.  The temps were in the high 30s and I decided to sleep with just a couple of blankets to see how I’d make out.  I damned near froze my ass off because I wiggled off my sleeping mat during the night and the ground was leaching the heat out of me.  Make sure you understand all the nuances of how cold weather can impact you.

7.  Know How to Use Your Gear  

Whatever gear you decide to carry, you must know it like the back of your hand.  How will your stove fuel behave in cold weather?  Did you know that your Jetboil needs a special mix of fuel in the winter in order to work properly?  Same thing is true with Bic lighters.  If you do get a flame in really cold weather, it’s puny.  Test the integrity of your gear. When your life is on the line, you don’t want your equipment to fail.

8. Take a Map and Compass and Know How to Use Them

Terrain looks different in the winter.   I’ve hiked trails in the summer and when I went back to that same trail in the winter I had a hard time finding my way.  Why?  When it snows, it bends the trees over and they have a tendency to cover the trail.

9.  Know How to Build a Shelter 

In order to prepare a camping spot, pack down the area with your snowshoes. Let it set a half hour or longer and you can make blocks for an igloo.  Did I mention deep snow is hard to move around in?  You can either dig a snow cave or make an igloo out of blocks that you cut from the snow.  Keep your shelter small and tight and it will retain heat better.  You’ll find that snow is a remarkably good insulator!

10.  Be Physically Fit.  

There’s a lot of heart attacks from older and middle aged men who live a sedentary lifestyle after a big snow storm.  Snow can be quite heavy and the physical exertion of managing this snow can kill.  Keep yourself physically fit and it won’t be an issue.

There are many factors to keep in mind when you’re outside in the winter, but if you dress warm and use common sense you can have a great time.  Instead of saying, “Oh damn, winter’s almost here,” you can now say, “Alright!  Winter is almost here!”

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

Photos Courtesy of:

Mont Blanc Treks
Christophe Brutel 
Kendall Whitehouse
Hello I’m Wild!
Leeshpix

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6 Guaranteed Ways To Boost Egg Production During Winter

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6 Guaranteed Ways To Boost Egg Production During Winter

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1. Light

Chickens need at least 14 hours of daylight in a day to trigger their internal clocks to lay. By supplementing light, as is done in commercial production houses, you can trick a chicken’s internal clock to think it’s spring so that they keep laying all winter long. Be sure to turn your light off at night when you go to bed to give them rest, but even a few extra hours of light in the evening can make a huge difference in production.

2. Food

In the winter months, chickens are using a lot of the calories they get from food for warmth. In order to lay eggs and stay warm at the same time, they need more protein than they normally would during the summer. Add in the fact that they don’t have ready access to bugs or grass in the winter, and you’ll need to supplement their food to keep them happy, entertained and productive throughout the winter months.

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Generic egg-laying feed generally contains 16 percent protein, while in the winter to increase egg production you’ll want to aim for 18 to 20 percent. A small amount of high protein scratch feed every day or every other day will get the ladies up and moving and provide them extra calories. Homesteaders have reported that once given adequate light, adding in scratch feeding doubled their daily egg production.

3. Liquid water

Egg production takes a lot of water, both in the metabolic process for the chicken and in the egg itself. In order to keep laying, chickens will need a ready source of fresh, liquid water. While they can technically survive on an ample supply of fluffy snow, they won’t lay with that as their only water source. Chickens will eat snow to survive, but it’s not in their best interest. In warmer climates, keep the water liquid by bringing in fresh warm water every day and placing it up above the ground by 6-8 inches. In colder climates, heated water sources can help but might be impractical for those living off-grid. Try bringing them small amounts of warm water several times a day if possible, and giving them at least one wet meal a day by soaking some of their food in water or milk.

4. Sprouted green fodder

6 Guaranteed Ways To Boost Egg Production During Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

Growing your own small scale animal fodder has increased in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. When seed grains are sprouted, they shed their protective enzymes and convert otherwise inedible starches to sugar. Feeding your chickens fresh sprouted fodder will not only endear them to you, but it also will provide nutrients they’re otherwise lacking outside of the growing season.

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To sprout barley seeds, pop a few holes into an aluminum baking tray (or plastic tote) and spread an even thin layer of barley seeds. Water them daily, ensuring that the extra water drains out the holes (to prevent mold and mildew). Place them in a warm sunny spot, indoors, until the grains have grown a thick lawn, about four to five inches high. At that point, you can peel out hunks of fresh barley “sod” for your chickens each day. Lacking fresh green fodder, try throwing them a chunk of alfalfa hay each day, which will provide many of the same results, though be slightly less appealing to the birds.

5. The right breed

While heritage breeds may be attractive if you’re looking for dual-purpose birds worth culling out for the dinner table, in truth the best egg production comes from modern compact bodied commercial hybrid birds. There are many breeds that are available to the home farmer that tend to be more productive than others, including Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns. For a good general list of productive breeds, read “The Eight Best Egg Laying Breeds of Backyard Chickens.”

6. Stagger bird ages

Egg production peaks in most breeds of chicken somewhere between six and 18 months of age. At 18 to 24 months, chickens will naturally take a break from laying to molt and replenish their feathers. They’ll come back to laying at a slightly lower rate for another year or two, and then egg production will drop off dramatically as the chicken ages. To keep a consistent supply of eggs, you’ll need birds of staggered ages to ensure that some are in their peak laying period while others are taking time off to molt. For most breeds of chicken, they’re ready for egg laying retirement at the age of three. While they’ll often keep laying one to two eggs a week throughout their lifespan (often six to eight years), you’ll be feeding them the same ration for 1-2 eggs a week as you feed your younger ladies for 5-6 per week.

What advice would you add? Do you try boosting egg production during winter – or do you give your chickens the winter off? Share your thoughts on this topic in the section below:

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Winter Chicken Care Tips – How To Keep Your Coop & Flock Safe & Warm!

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Keeping your flock safe from the elements of winter’s fury is a prime concern for most backyard chicken enthusiasts. But with just a few simple tips, it’s actually quite simple to keep your chickens happy and safe through the cold winter months. Chickens

The post Winter Chicken Care Tips – How To Keep Your Coop & Flock Safe & Warm! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Sights and Sounds: Moving Through the Woods in the Wintertime

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Winter does not always mean a blanket of snow is on the ground, and thus, may make camouflaging difficult, when there is patchy snow, green foliage, grays rocks and dried leaves on the ground.

Snow means visible tracks as well. Therefore, snow on the ground is not always good, however, a snowstorm can offer cover for those needing to move about unseen in some cases.

If in a heavily wooded area, you will experience earth tones, like browns, grays, and evergreen foliage. Moving out of the woods to cross a field you will find snow possibly and golden colored grasses or light tan or buckskin colors as well. Very hard to blend in given all the colors and it would not be practical to pack various camouflage outfits. You have to make do with what you have, but first, you need to know the geography. 

Your typical woodland Camo outfits would probably be sufficient for most areas of the country that experience cold weather and snow. There are outfits that mimic the various colored leaves as they turn in the fall, and then there are outfits that mimic the earth colors when the leaves are off the trees. Then there are Camo suits specifically for snow, which you probably will not need unless in upper Canada or parts of Alaska or some other region with heavy snow covers.

You probably will not be wandering in the woods long enough to see the leaves turn from green to amber, reds, and browns and then to no leaves at all. Tailor your outfits to the seasons and this may mean you need two to three suits and carry the one needed for the particular season in which you are out and about.

As far as walking across a snow-packed field, a white sheet wrapped around you could provide some camouflage. However, if you are in stealth mode, it is not recommended you wander across a field, but rather skirt the edges using hedgerows and trees to move unseen around the field. Use the sheet when stationary such as when you are taking a break, or gathering intelligence from a static location such as from a Listening Post (LP) or Observation Post (OP).

Carry a black marker and/or camo sticks to subdue any shiny parts on your gear, shoes lace eyelets and any shiny metal on your firearms/weapons. If someone is scanning an area with scopes or binoculars, any reflection can be easily picked up, so when moving during daylight hours make sure you have subdued any metal that may reflect the sun.

Use Ranger bands to secure buckles and straps to stop any noise and to keep loose straps from flapping around. Experts scan using their peripheral vision and a flapping strap can be easily picked up out of the corner of a tracker’s eye.

Tracks in the snow can be spotted using scopes and binoculars, so move at night when possible to prevent someone from spotting your tracks at a distance. If you do move during the daylight hours tracks in the snow may distort due to radiant heating so they may be hard to distinguish from animal tracks in some cases. It may be best to move when the sun is shining in hopes your tracks melt to the point they can be confused with an animal track. Again, a snowstorm can be your friend if it covers your tracks.

Keep your riflescope lenses covered and the same goes for spotter scopes and binoculars. The glass’s reflection can be seen for miles.

When the leaves are gone, sound travels farther, because the leaves act as a noise buffer, not to mention, once gone they do not conceal any movement.

Moving at night when there is snow on the ground is not the same as movement in the warmer months. Snow reflects the moon and you can be easily spotted moving about when there is a good moon out. Use cloud cover, fog and snow falling to your advantage. Snow falling muffles sound as does fog and of course, both can conceal you.

If you need to be in the woods in the winter and you need to hide your presents there, you need to plan. Know the area, i.e. colors, ground cover, and keep track of the moon phases and weather patterns, temperature and know what upcoming weather events may look like as well.

The post Sights and Sounds: Moving Through the Woods in the Wintertime appeared first on Preparing for shtf.

Prepping For Winter: Essential Stuff That Homesteaders Often Forget

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Prepping For Winter: Essential Stuff That Homesteaders Often Forget

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Getting ready for winter when you live in the city is one thing, but winter readiness on the homestead is another matter. Not only are there more needs to fulfill and a wider variety of possible emergencies to consider, but there is often more distance to travel for goods and services.

Out on the homestead, you need to up your game. You don’t want to wait until a blizzard is bearing down on your homestead to make the 70-mile round trip to the feed store, take the risk that they might be sold out of what you need, and worry about your livestock facing the elements back at home while you search for another source.

Begin by making sure your winter readiness includes everything you need. Start with personal items that you cannot go without. It goes without saying that you will need food and water for human consumption. Boxed or canned food that can be eaten hot or cold are great choices, and you can never have too much clean drinking water. Consider keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer and a quart or two of shelf-stable milk on hand, as well.

Make sure you keep adequate stores of toiletries and hygiene items on hand throughout the winter. Stock up so that you don’t have to beat everyone to the stores when inclement weather is imminent.

Do not forget medications. Winter is not the time to practice “just in time” inventory management. As soon as your prescriptions are diminished enough that your pharmacy will refill it, do so. Foul weather, car trouble and sick kids can happen in the blink of an eye, so leave yourself enough wiggle room that unexpected events do not turn a snowstorm into a medical crisis.

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Have winter clothing on hand, too. Go through your closet and make sure last year’s long underwear still fits, there are no holes in your wool socks, the zippers work on your winter parkas, and that you have the hats and gloves and waterproof footwear you will need for cold and snow.

Remember your pets. They will not care if snow is falling and stores are closed when they run out of dog chow and kitty litter.

The time to fill up the heating fuel tank, have any needed well or septic maintenance done, and make arrangements to hire someone to plow your driveway is now — before the weather forecaster is wearing earmuffs and a sweater. And before the phones of the service providers are ringing off the hook.

Out in the shed and garage, you will want to have what you need to remove snow and ice from your car windshield, house roof, porches and decks, sidewalks, paths and driveway. Depending upon your neighborhood and climate, this could be anything from roof rakes to rock salt to ice creepers to shovels. But it is about much more than stocking up. It is about making sure your vehicles are winter ready. Check out the tires and change them over to snow tires if needed, make sure there is enough antifreeze in the radiator, and take care of any repairs and maintenance before the weather turns to winter.

Prepping For Winter: Essential Stuff That Homesteaders Often Forget

Image source: Pixabay.com

Do not forget emergency supplies, from batteries to lanterns. But again, it is about more than buying and storing goods. If you have a generator, make sure it is running well. If you burn wood, see that the stove or fireplace and chimney are clean and safe. If there is a chance a winter storm can drive you from your home — if you have no way to heat it without power, for example — be certain you and your household have a rock solid evacuation plan.

Having all of these plans and supplies in place in preparation for anything winter throws your way is a great start. But if you are a homesteader with livestock, there is more to be done.

Your barnyard animals will need to be fed, watered, sheltered and corralled. Some of them might need medications, supplements and health treatments. In a worst case scenario, they might even need emergency intervention of some kind.

Make sure your fences, posts, gates, doors and chutes are ready for cold and can withstand a snow load. Pull up portable electric mesh fencing before the posts freeze into the ground. Ensure that infrastructure — barns, sheds, run-ins, chicken coops and other shelters — are in good condition, and tend to any shingles or siding or door latches that might need to be tightened up before the winds of winter howl across the homestead.

If you use heated water dispensers or heat lamps, get them out ahead of time and make sure they are operating. This way, if you need replacement bulbs or parts, there is still plenty of time to send away for specialty items.

As with food for humans and pet, staying ahead on hay and grain during the winter months is crucial. Even if you cannot store enough for the entire season, store as much as you can, replenishing and rotating as you use it.

Before winter hits, go through your stores of emergency treatments and medications. Replace items that are dried out or contaminated or expired, and add any new items you might need for livestock maladies and injuries to your kit.

Make sure you bring products sensitive to cold indoors if your barn or tack room will dip below freezing in winter. Even if it is not damaged by the cold, many gels and pastes are easier to use when thawed.

By preparing for winter in advance, you can save time, money and anxiety for everyone. If you can sit back and relax in the face of snow and cold instead of standing in long lines for basic groceries or braving icy roads on your way for essential supplies, everyone wins.

What winter readiness advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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11 ‘Powerhouse’ Essential Oils That Combat The Cold & Flu

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11 ‘Powerhouse’ Essential Oils That Combat The Cold & Flu

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Farmers are hard at work bringing in this year’s harvest, and in many parts of the country, deciduous leaves are boasting a myriad of beautiful colors. We love much of what autumn offers, but these days also bring with them some of our least favorite things: viruses, mainly colds and flus.

Cold and flu season is quickly approaching. The cool, dry air of fall keeps the mucous membranes dry, leaving them vulnerable to invading viruses. In addition, most of us spend a lot more time indoors during the fall and winter months, providing additional opportunity for viruses to spread.

There are many ways to prevent cold and flu viruses from affecting you. First, frequent hand washing is a must. Making a conscience effort to keep your hands away from your face is also a great way to lessen the chance of you contracting one of the many viruses out there. Second, make it a habit to get a good night’s rest. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on how effective your immune system is in resisting harmful bacteria and viruses.

Another line of defense can be made with judicious use of essential oils. Using essential oils as cleaning agents, topically, or through a diffuser can not only kill viruses, but also can strengthen your immune system to more effectively fight off seasonal illnesses. An alternative way to reap the benefits of using essential oils while on the go is to use an oil diffusing pendant. These pendants may be made from porous stone, or unglazed clay, allowing them to absorb oils that are then slowly released throughout the day. Other pendants are essentially lockets that include a mesh cover and felt swatch to absorb the oils. Either method will allow you to use essential oils effectively while working on the homestead or traveling around town.

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Not sure what to buy or use this fall and winter? Below are 11 suggested essential oils to help you stay healthy this season.

Tea tree oil is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, making it an important part of many preventative measures. The frequent cleaning of door handles and light switches alone with a cleaning solution that includes tea tree oil will greatly reduce the possibility of spreading germs to others. Tea tree oil used in a diffuser will combat pollutants in the air, while topical applications will reduce cold symptoms by relieving congestion.

A blend of lemon eucalyptus oil and balsam fir oil will fight viruses, bacteria and fungus and is also effective when used topically with a carrier oil or when diffused. Additionally, it relieves fatigue, muscle and joint pain commonly associated with flu-like symptoms when used as part of a warm soak.

Cinnamon, clove, lavender and sweet orange oils combine to create a seasonal smell that is an anti-virus powerhouse. Use this blend in a diffuser to clean the air in your home.

Lemon oil alone is a wonderful agent for boosting one’s immunity by naturally increasing the production of white blood cells. Use lemon as a single oil or combine it with clove bud oil and pine oil for a potent blend that fights infections.

Peppermint oil, coupled with eucalyptus oil, provides an extra layer of defense against common viruses. These oils continue to work well for those who are suffering with cold and flu symptoms by relieving nausea, congestion and fever-induced pain.

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A blend found in writings from hundreds of years ago, thieves is a popular blend that provides antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic qualities when used in several different ways. This blend of eucalyptus, clove, lemon, cinnamon bark and rosemary can be used as a disinfectant around the house and to clear the air of pollutants. It also can be used topically to support immune function and fight infections.

Please be aware that as with any substance, you may build up a tolerance if used topically for prolonged periods of time. It is best to switch up the types of oils you use, or alternate a blend with a single oil, every seven to 10 days for maximum effectiveness. For topical applications, a few drops applied to the soles of the feet before bedtime, three to four times a week, is a good baseline.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first.

What oils would you have place on the list? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:  

hydrogen peroxide report

Here’s How Smart Homesteaders Avoid Cleaning Out Manure

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Here’s How Smart Homesteaders Avoid Cleaning Out Manure

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Winter is coming, and for those of us who live in snowy climates the task of cleaning our barns and chicken coops is about to get more complicated. One solution is simply to stop cleaning out over the winter and try the deep-litter bedding approach.

You’re probably already covering the floor of your stalls and coops with some kind of high-carbon material like sawdust, shavings, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, hay or straw. Instead of cleaning the bedding out once it’s been covered with manure, just leave everything in place and keep adding a clean layer on top.

The Advantages

Deep litter has several advantages.

First, there’s the convenience. You don’t have to chop through the snow banks between your barn or coop and your compost pile; you don’t have to struggle to pry up frozen-down bedding and break it into manageable shovelfuls or forkfuls.

Then there’s the warmth. As the pile grows deeper, the well-insulated manure and bedding below will begin to compost, creating heat which your animals may welcome on cold nights.

This composting process gives you a head start; in spring you’ll have partially decomposed material instead of raw bedding that has been frozen all winter long.

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Chickens love to scratch, and deep litter will give them more scope to amuse themselves. The composting litter provides a breeding ground for bugs and worms, which can be a valuable protein supplement. Harvey Ussery, backyard chicken raiser and author of many articles which you can find online, says that deep litter also breeds immune-boosting microorganisms.

The Disadvantages

Here’s How Smart Homesteaders Avoid Cleaning Out Manure

Image source: Pixabay.com

Deep litter has drawbacks, of course, although most can be avoided with careful management. There’s the mammoth task of cleaning up in spring, when you have a deep, dense, compacted layer of litter to remove. There’s the issue of air quality. Properly managed deep litter will compost fairly cleanly, but if you have too much nitrogen for your carbon-producing materials to absorb you may end up with excess ammonia. This is more likely to be an issue with chicken droppings, which are highly nitrogenous, than with ruminant droppings. Ventilation is also a factor; a tightly sealed building is much more susceptible to air quality problems than an open or very well-ventilated one. There’s also a need for vertical space. My goats may be on deep litter from November through March, and by then their stall floors are two-feet deep in compacted bedding.  Remember to think about door height as well as overall stall height.

You’ll need to consider all of these factors in deciding whether deep litter works for some or all of your animals. Here’s how that’s works on my farm in upstate NY, where the winters tend to be cold, snowy, windy and long:

How to Make it Work

I leave my two goats on deep-litter bedding through the winter. They’re in roomy open stalls in a shed that’s open to the outdoors on all but the coldest and windiest nights. I’m able to add enough hay to absorb the nitrogen from their manure and urine so the whole mix composts well. I have noticed the increased warmth of the deep-litter floor. I haven’t had trouble with smells and the goats haven’t had respiratory problems.

My chickens are another story. In summer they have a moving yard and also a fixed compost pile to scratch in. In winter they’re closed into a fairly tight winter coop with a lot of south-facing glass. The coop can get fairly warm on sunny days, and there’s not a lot of air circulating. I don’t use deep bedding for our hens in winter. But some folks do manage well with deep litter for chickens, including Ussery, who lives further down the coast where the winters are milder. He uses Joel Salatin’s recommendation of allowing at least five square feet of floor space per bird. Ussery adds that it’s helpful to bed with coarse materials very high in carbon, like leaves or wood chips; he says the coarseness makes the material easier to scratch up while the high carbon ratio allows the material to absorb more nitrogen. Some farmers report that wet straw in chicken coops is easily colonized by toxic molds; others use straw and say they have no problems.

Pay attention to what works and doesn’t work on your farm. Reading about other people’s experiences can be a helpful starting point, but you can learn most from your own experience. Check the bedding daily; cover over areas that are extremely wet or soiled, and monitor if there’s visible mold. If you notice a mild ammonia smell, add more dry high-carbon bedding. If you have a major or persistent ammonia smell or mold, you may need to muck out after all. Watch whether your animals seem comfortable and healthy. Then tell your friends and neighbors, and perhaps also your fellow readers here, what you’ve learned.

What advice would you add on using the deep litter method? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Steps To Get Your Chickens Ready For Winter (And Ensure You Still Have Eggs)

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How To Get Your Chickens Ready For Winter – And Ensure You Still Get Eggs

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Preparing the chicken coop for winter should be at the top of any homesteading to-do list. A well-maintained coop will help prevent illnesses in your flock and keep your chickens happy enough to continue providing eggs for your table.

Winter often finds us with frozen water buckets, more cleaning than usual and cranky hens, but taking care of a few fall chores can make overwintering much easier – and make it far more likely your flock will continue producing eggs.

1. Prepping the coop

After every snowfall I am reminded there is a slight gap in the hinged door that rests on top of our coop’s nesting boxes. That results in a small snow drift that materializes and scares the hens from using the far west nesting box until I clean it out. A few minutes with a caulking gun will ensure that doesn’t happen again this winter. Seal crevices, tighten screws and make sure doors close flush with the coop walls.

Now is also the time to clean the vents that allow air to circulate through the coop and clean debris off the outside walls and roof. In addition to general cleaning and maintenance, determine if your building would benefit from extra protection from the elements in the form of wind breaks, wraps or extra insulation.

2. Cleaning the coop

Start winter with a fresh, clean coop. Remove old bedding from the entire coop, roosting areas, nesting boxes and runs. Before loading the hen house with fresh litter, dust the interior with diatomaceous earth (DE). This will deter unwanted pests from finding a home with your flock.

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Some homesteaders choose to use sand in the winter as bedding, because it is easier to spot clean every few days. Others opt for the traditional straw or wood shavings that need to be replaced weekly during the more confining winter months. A few poultry owners choose to use the deep-litter method, which works by adding a fresh layer of bedding on top of the old to act as an extra layer of insulation and requires fewer full cleanings. Those using the deep-litter method must be sure the enclosure is well-ventilated. Decomposing droppings release ammonia, which can cause blindness and other illnesses if levels remain high inside the chicken coop. No matter which method you choose to use during the winter months, you must be certain that the enclosure remains dry. Bedding that is retaining high amounts of moisture will cause your birds respiratory issues.

3. Watering the flock

How To Get Your Chickens Ready For Winter – And Ensure You Still Get Eggs

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Keeping the flock healthy throughout the winter months has much to do with water. Too much water in the litter will cause disease in the birds, but too little fresh drinking water will do the same. Chickens will not break through the ice with their beaks, so you must provide water containers that are free from ice. For the busy homesteader, heated waterers are quite a timesaver. A heated pet bowl with a pet-safe cord will keep your flock drinking throughout the day, although the shallower pet bowls may need more frequent cleaning. For those who do not have electricity in their building, or choose not to risk a fire, changing the water frequently, two to three times a day when temperatures are below freezing, should be sufficient. Use thick plastic containers to delay ice build-up.

4. Lights on or off

There is much debate on whether you should provide a light for your chickens, whether for the sake of heat or the sake of artificial daylight for egg production. Much of the debate stems from the risk of fire that arises when heating or lighting a hen house. It takes just a few moments for a heat lamp that has been knocked over to start a fire inside the coop. Heat lamps, or brooding lamps, should not be used in most chicken coops. They produce too much heat and also can stress the birds in the colder winter months.

In most areas, adequate lighting can be achieved with one 40-watt bulb with a reflector for every 250 square feet. Using a timer to achieve 10 hours of daylight will encourage your flock to keep producing eggs while also providing them adequate time to rest.

5. Boredom busters

Poultry cooped up in the coop all day will quickly become bored. That’s where the trouble starts. They will begin pecking at each other, to the point of death in some instances, while others will find mischief in the nesting boxes by destroying precious eggs.

Keep the boredom at bay with a few additions to the coop. A produce bag filled with fresh greens hung from the ceiling works as a healthy treat as well as a distraction from pecking at each other. Similarly, broccoli crowns, cabbages and other vegetables can be hung as a treat as can more traditional suet bags and seed blocks.

What advice would you add for taking care of chickens during winter? Share it in the section below:

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

How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

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How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

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You don’t have to live next to a farm, field or forest to have a large mouse population in your neighborhood.

Mice are the ultimate survivors, and they thrive anywhere they find warmth, shelter, water and food. They may not bother us during spring and summer, but as the chill of autumn weather appears they look for better alternatives. Unfortunately, that often means our homes and cabins. There are a variety of steps you can take to diminish and resist this invasion.

Mice are prolific breeders. One female can produce up to eight litters a year, with six to 10 mice per litter. That means a single mouse can produce 80 other mice who will also breed and reproduce. The affect can be exponential, and that’s why this is often an ongoing battle against the furry little rodents.

Try to Seal Off Access to Your Home or Garage

This is not as easy as it sounds. A mouse can squeeze through the smallest spaces and gaps between your foundation and framing.

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But you have to start somewhere and here’s where to look:

  • Start in the basement and inspect any gaps in your foundation. If you shut off the lights in the basement, you may see daylight peeking through gaps or cracks. You can seal these with a patching cement, caulk, spackle or even steel wool. Mice are notorious for chewing through wood and just about anything else, so a patching cement might be your best bet if it’s an unfinished area and cosmetic appearance is not as important.
  • Check for any holes or gaps in your garage, whether it’s attached or freestanding. Garage doors are often left open for various periods of time, and that’s an invitation for mice to hide under and around things in the garage while they search for an entrance to your home.
  • Eaves and soffits aren’t out of reach for mice. Mice are good climbers and a tree or vine gives them a pathway to any gap or hole in an eave or soffit. Caulk works, or repair with new wood and re-caulk.

Eliminate Accidental Food Sources

  • Look for food left in or around spaces frequently occupied where food is consumed.
    • Did the kids leave some potato chips on the floor in front of the video game?
    • Did some organic garbage fall on the floor in the garage by the garbage cans?
    • If you have pet food, make sure none of it got scattered around by your pet, and seal the food in a sturdy plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
    • Any food storage space can become a destination for mice, and mouse droppings in stored food are especially dangerous. Make sure any food storage is well-protected either in metal cans or sturdy plastic pails or containers.
    • Grass seed and wild bird seed in the garage are also mouse magnets. Make sure they’re in sealed containers and on a high shelf.
  • Check for incidental water sources.
    • I’ve often found a dead mouse floating in the sump-pump well. Try to seal the top to restrict access.
    • Wet spots in the basement also create water sources. Seal cracks or areas where seepage pools water. You should probably do this regardless of the mice, but if you’re unaware of the problem, this inspection step can help you remedy it.

Trapping and Eradicating Mice

How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

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There are a variety of options for mouse eradication, and you should consider them carefully, especially if you have pets or children in the house. Some of the approaches are traditional and time-tested, and some fall in the category of new technology.

General Trapping Advice

  • Mice are nocturnal animals, which means they come out at night. As a result, they will be most active not only at night, but in a dark room. Shut off the lights and check your traps in the morning.
  • Mice hug the walls when they travel. They are skittish and nervous animals and like the reassurance of a wall next to them as they move around. They will foray into a dark and open space for food and water, but your best location for any trap is along walls and in corners or under furniture next to a wall or corner.
  • Yes, you can reuse any trap, and there is some evidence that the scent of a dead mouse actually attracts other mice to a previously used trap. That’s up to you. Wear rubber gloves if you take this approach.
  • Traditional bait for mouse traps is cheese or peanut butter. I prefer sharp, cheddar cheese pressed around the trigger so the mouse has to exert some pressure to get the cheese. I’ve had many occasions when the peanut butter on a spring trap was successfully licked off the trap without springing it.

1. The traditional spring trap. We’re all familiar with this mouse trap. It’s a small, rectangular piece of wood with a snapping bar sprung by a spring when a piece of cheese or peanut butter is consumed from the trigger.

  • Pros: A quick kill that is inexpensive and allows you to discard both the mouse and the trap. It’s also highly effective.
  • Cons: Potentially dangerous to both kids and animals who may innocently trip the trap.

2. Glue traps. Glue traps are a cardboard box shape that have a strong contact glue on the bottom of the trap. Sometimes you add food to the back of the trap and some are already scented with an attractive scent for mice.

  • Pros: These traps are also inexpensive and are specifically designed to be disposable. They’re also pet and toddler safe.
  • Cons: Probably the least humane mouse trap. I’ve hunted and fished for years and I’ve always hunted and fished to eat. But I’ll confess that when I used these traps, it broke my heart to see a small mouse squeaking and looking at me with a paw reaching out trying to free itself from the glue. I actually tried to get it loose so I could release it in the forest, but the glue was too strong. I dispatched it quickly and got rid of the glue traps. They work, but I don’t use them anymore.

3. Live-catch traps. There are many variations on this type of trap. The concept is that they can get in, but they can’t get out. They’ll catch anywhere from one to six mice at a time, depending on the size and type.

  • Pros: It’s a humane option requiring you to find a distant location to release the mice. You also can capture mice in bulk if you get one of the larger traps. Most are baited with some type of food or food combination and are usually made of metal so they can be washed and reused. Also, they are pet and toddler safe.
  • Cons: They cost more but because they’re reusable, that’s not a big issue. They also tend to be somewhat large and visible, so they’re OK in a basement, but on the kitchen floor they stand out a bit more than you might like. Also, when you release the mice, make sure it’s a good distance from your home. The backyard is just going to invite them to try and get back in, and your neighbor may not appreciate it if you dump them in their backyard.
How To Mouse-Proof Your Home For Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Mouse poison. Mouse poison is a box of small, edible pellets that are usually made with corn and permeated with a potent poison. The mice eat the poison and will often run to an open space to die, although sometimes they will die in a hidden space and the only way to find them is the smell of a dead and rotting animal.

  • Pros: This type of eradication is often used in barns, sheds and other locations that are hard to access or check on a regular basis. It’s also used for large infestations when single traps just can’t do the job.
  • Cons: Be very careful with this one. Some stores won’t even sell it for liability reasons. Regardless of how well you hide it, a pet or toddler can die from ingesting it. In the old vernacular it was called “rat poison.” When our dog was a puppy he ate a box, and fortunately my wife caught him doing it. We rushed him to the vet and he put some eye drops in his eyes that caused him to immediately vomit. Sure enough, the tray was filled with the little, green pellets. He survived but it cost us $200 to learn the hard lesson about mouse poison.

5. Ultrasonic sound. There are products on the market that broadcast a high frequency sound that is supposed to repel mice. I’ve never tried them and they might work, but I worry that they might also affect a pet dog or cat. There are enough versions of this type of product on the market to make me think it works, but I have found mixed reviews on Amazon.com

  • Pros: They’re safe for children and if placed properly may actually repel rodents with little effort.
  • Cons: Many of these products imply they will repel rodents in a broad range, from mice to rats, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons and possums. That’s what concerns me about cats and dogs.

6. Chemical repellents. These are repellents that you spray in areas where mice enter or reside. They usually come in a plastic bottle with an adjustable spray, from mist to a direct stream.

  • Pros: They’re easy to apply across a broad area or areas.
  • Cons: Some people don’t like spraying chemicals around their homes, although there are natural versions on the market. Also, the scent eventually fades. so you have to reapply from time to time.

Keep at it!

After you have tried one or more of the above methods, be vigilant to see if the mice have returned. Droppings are a clear sign they have, as is chewed paper or cardboard shreds.  If you think they’re back, don’t hesitate! Once they start reproducing you’ll be back to the battle again until spring.

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

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Winter Survival

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Winter Survival Josh “7 P’s of survival” Listen in player below! In this episode of the 7 P’s of Survival Radio Show we will be talking all things winter survival and preparedness. While we are all most likely a few weeks away from out first major winter storm now is the time to stock up. Get … Continue reading Winter Survival

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Things That Make Splitting Wood Simpler, Easier & Even Fun

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Things That Make Splitting Wood Simpler, Easier & Even Fun

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When maple leaves are glowing red and gold, Canada geese are honking overhead, and patches of white frost accent the path to the barn, it is time for homesteaders to turn their attention to seasonal matters.

The rhythms of those who heat their homes with wood vary from person to person. Some stay a full year or more ahead on their firewood, cutting and splitting all their wood for the winter of 2016-17 during the year 2015. Others get the current season’s wood done just in time to chuck it into the woodstove as the snow starts flying. Most of us hit it somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

No matter how far ahead you may or may not be, you probably like to take advantage of the cooler autumn temperatures to split firewood. And now that wood-splitting season is upon us, it is time to get serious and get ready. If a weekend set aside for firewood processing is in your future, make sure you have all you need to keep things running smoothly from start to finish. Here are some things you may have forgotten – things that will make the day’s task much easier.

First, make sure your wood splitter is tuned up and running well. Assuming you use power equipment to aid in splitting your wood — be it powered by electricity, gas or a tractor — you will want to have it in the best working condition possible. Having a malfunction which slows or stops progress can be frustrating, so be proactive about having it ready. Take it to a shop or do the work yourself, but take care of whatever is necessary to prevent breakdowns and sluggish operation.

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Have a supply of fuel ready. Keep in mind that some small-engine mechanics warn that gas older than 60 days ought not be used in small engines, and make sure you have the gas cans topped off so you will not have to interrupt the flow of work to go for a fuel run. If your splitter is PTO-driven, make sure you have enough diesel fuel for the job.

Do not forget lubricant for the log table. This is a small item but one which ought not be overlooked. I am fastidious about spraying my splitter table every time I start it up, and the occasions when I used up the last can and forgot to replace it or it got misplaced have resulted in delays. If you live out in the country where stores are a long drive away, little things like this are even more crucial to gather up ahead of time.

Have an axe or hatchet handy. Having at least one piece of wood put up a fight is almost guaranteed. Bucked-up firewood has a mind of its own, and will sometimes twist around a knot or pull apart in sinewy portions that are difficult to master. A quick chop with an axe is a great remedy.

Things That Make Splitting Wood Simpler, Easier & Even Fun

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If you live in an area where snakes pose a threat or if you have an aversion to them, you will want to keep something within easy reach for possible encounters. Firewood piles make excellent snake habitat, and you will want to have a way to deal with them if needed. A long handled axe or hoe close by is good insurance.

A pulp hook is often useful for moving and lifting firewood. Using a hook gives the user better control, more leverage, increased arm length, and creates a little more space between him-or-herself and potentially dangerous moving logs.

Ear protection is advisable. Gas-powered wood splitters are loud, and muffling the sound is a good idea. While it may be tempting to go without ear defenders when splitting with other people so as to convey information, it is useful to consider that you probably cannot hear them well enough to communicate verbally anyway. Instead, consider developing a plan that includes a few unmistakable nonverbal signals when working with others, for the sake of safety and ease of operation.

Make sure your gloves are the right ones for the job. Many people prefer leather gloves, but my experience has found them to be slippery — which is very dangerous when handling wood, as it can result in less control of the wood and possible foot injuries — and they tend to wear out quickly. I inherited a pair of knit fabric gloves with rubbery palms and fingers one year when a farm hand left them behind, and I have since thrown away every other pair I had and begun purchasing the fabric-and-rubber types by the dozen. I find them to grip wood well, fit comfortably, and last longer than leather.

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One final thing to make sure you have ready to go on firewood-splitting day is a collection of good friends. Not only do many hands make for light work, and particularly with firewood processing projects which easily lend themselves to being done assembly-line style, but they make for fun as well.

If you do have friends and family show up to help, be sure to have plenty of cold drinks and snacks available for the whole crew. You might even need to consider a barbecue after the work is done if you want to make sure they return next year.

As with any tasks involving power equipment, make safety a priority. If goggles, chaps, steel-toed footwear, and a helmet seem like a good choice for you and your work team, do not hesitate to use them.

Splitting and stacking firewood for the winter are some of my favorite homesteading activities. I cannot promise that by following the above steps will transform it from a detestable chore into a fun time, but being prepared can often alleviate some of the stress and aggravation that can go along with any big job. And when you are enjoying the warmth of a cozy wood fire while the snow is falling outside in winter, you will know that your wood-splitting work was worth the trouble.

What wood-splitting advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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The Easy Way To Stockpile Antibiotics, Legally

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How To Build An Off-Grid Home Without ANY Construction Skills

Temperatures are plunging and winter is only a few weeks away, which means that for homesteaders who live in the coldest parts of the country, it’s time to stockpile necessities for frigid weather.

Wood and food are always on that list, but what about medicine?

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we talk to Dr. Joe Alton, the co-author of the popular book “The Survival Medicine Handbook” who is perhaps best known as “Dr. Bones” from the survival “Doom and Bloom” website.

Dr. Alton tells us how to stockpile medicine and even antibiotics for winter – the legal way – and he also reveals:

  • Which over-the-counter and alternative medicines are best to stockpile for the common cold.
  • Why he believes many people are fighting fevers the wrong way.
  • What he thinks about Zicam, vitamin C and other supplements that supposedly prevent colds.
  • How Neti pots are often used incorrectly – a mistake that can cause major health problems.

Finally, Dr. Alton gives us his best advice on staying healthy this winter – including whether that regiment should include hand sanitizer.

If you want to stay healthy all winter long, then don’t miss this week’s show!

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7 Garden Must-Do’s You Shouldn’t Put Off Until Spring (No. 5 Might Be Most Important)

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7 Garden Must-Do’s You Shouldn’t Put Off Until Spring (No. 5 Might Be Most Important)

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After a full season of intense gardening and homesteading activities, many of us are ready to pull up the last of our vegetable plants and sit back on our heels as cooler weather moves in.

Don’t do it.

As tempting as it is to put things off until spring, there are a handful of tasks that you will wish you had already completed when the next gardening season rolls around. Springtime is usually so busy for those of us who grow our own food that we just cannot get it all done, and many projects are easier or more practical to do in the fall anyway.

Following are 7 ideas for things you might want to consider doing before winter hits.

1. Soil testing. Having the right soil for what you are trying to grow is a key component to success. Unless you have it tested, you will not know if you have enough organic matter, major nutrients or micronutrients. You can add amendments until the cows come home, but unless you know exactly what you already have in the soil, you may be missing out on essential information.

While many substances are said to be good for the garden, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” I live in an area where the soil is generally on the acidic side, and therefore believed that routinely disposing of wood ash in the garden was the right way to go. After a few years of doing this, a soil test came back with a high pH, and the advice to refrain from using wood ash.

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Testing in the fall is a good idea, not only because of timing—in addition to your own busy gardening activities, the laboratory might have a full slate in spring and take an extra few weeks to return your results—but because fall testing will give you the chance to make adequate amendments before planting.

In my state, testing is done professionally and inexpensively by the Cooperative Extension. They send back a thorough written report and are available for follow-up answers and guidance. I expect most states offer a similar service, and although it may be a little more trouble and money than those instant-read gadgets you can buy, it is worth it.

2. Soil amendment. After testing your soil, you will want to follow the advice provided. It is never a good idea to add raw manure to a garden in springtime, but you can get away with doing so and tilling it into the soil in fall. And if the advice is to avoid adding wood ash, you need to know that before winter, not after.

3. Preparing sites for perennials. Many crops get off to a running head start when the site preparation began the previous year. Killing weeds, leveling the site, testing and amending the soil, and creating any necessary infrastructure ahead of time will make both you and your plants happy during spring. It will be less challenging for your berries and other perennial plants to become established and develop vigorous habits, and less stressful for you without having to squeeze it in with tilling and greenhouse-tending and planting.

4. Rototilling. Not everyone uses traditional tilling methods, but if you do, fall is a great time to get it done. Running the rototiller over the garden now will prevent weeds from taking hold before the snow flies. Be sure to first remove any spent plants that had disease or parasites this growing season in order to keep them from overwintering in your garden.

7 Garden Must-Do’s You Shouldn’t Put Off Until Spring (No. 5 Might Be Most Important)

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5. Mulching. Sure, you mean well. You are going to jump right on that garden and begin tending it before a single weed has a chance to grow next spring, right? We have all vowed something similar, but things happen to prevent us from following through. Two straight weeks of rain makes the garden too wet to work in, or the kids are sick, or there is a lot of overtime at work—and before you know it, the garden is full of weeds before you even start. The secret is to prevent them now by mulching. Whatever you normally use—grass, plastic or fabric—go ahead and lay it in fall. Even if you do not want to mulch the whole garden, you can do selected sections. Mulching works well to prevent weed growth on your garden perimeter and designated pathways. I use strips of used old carpet for this, and like to pull it up and re-lay it every few years, to keep it tidy and to keep out persistent weeds from coming through.

6. Mapping and planning. Unless you have a terrific memory or a very small garden, you might lose track of when and where you grew which crops. I take lots of pictures throughout the summer, which helps, but nothing beats written documentation. Maps, sketches, graph-paper drawings, and narratives are all great ways to keep your garden organized year to year. This helps with rotating crops in order to ensure that diverse nutrients are drawn from the soil over time.

A good reason for doing as much planning as possible in the fall is because the successes and failures of this season are still fresh in your mind. Right now, you remember that the location of the basil was in an inconvenient spot, or that the dog kept running through the space where the winter squash was trying to spread out, or that the amount of sun was perfect for the corn this year. Make your garden sketch for next year with those things in mind—or at the very least, make notes of what worked and what did not for reference during spring.

7. Taking care of infrastructure. This is a big one. If any one thing really knocks the wind out of my spring sails, it is trying to build, modify and make major repairs to infrastructure. It is always something I need to get done before the plants go in, so there is always a rush. Trying to put together raised beds, install new pea fencing, build arbors and trellises, rig up new rain collection systems, set up low tunnels—it is tough to get all that done during spring. I always get excited about planting season and am ready to hit the ground running as soon as I can, but having too many infrastructure projects trips me up every time.

Minor repairs and re-installments are fine. Even adding a raised bed to an existing plot or modifying a roof rainwater collection system can be done during spring. But major infrastructure projects are tough to get done before planting a garden, and can set the tone of being overwhelmed for the whole summer if you try to squeeze too many of them into spring.

If all of this sounds like more than you can get done this fall, then remember that few gardeners do everything exactly right every season. Do your best to get these projects done during the fall, but cut yourself a little slack if needed. If you do not get as much finished as you hoped before winter, then remember the gardener’s perennial mantra: Next year will be better.

What would you get done before spring? What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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7 ‘Storage Secrets’ To Make Your Apples Last 5+ Months

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

One of the best things about late summer and early fall is the sheer variety of fruits and vegetables that are abundantly ready for harvest. And one of the most beloved fruits ready for the picking during September is the humble apple. Yes, fall is a time of hot apple cider, apple pies and the simple joy of biting into a fresh Empire, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apple.

In addition to their versatility, apples have the advantage of being quite easy to store. In fact, if you follow a few simple steps, you should be able to store the following apples for at least five months – and sometimes even longer. Storing apples is easy, and it’s a great way to have fresh fruit for you and your family during the winter months.

What You’ll Need

If you are ready to put some newly harvested or market fresh apples into storage, you will need the following:

  • A container such as a box or basket
  • Newspaper
  • A root cellar is nice to have but certainly isn’t necessary

In order to keep your apples unspoiled, you’ll be pitted against three main foes: time, bruises and contamination from a rotten apple.

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You can, however, increase the amount of time you have by selecting apples that store longer. Choose varieties that have a thicker skin and a more tart flavor, rather than thin-skinned sweet apples. Apples that that will store for up to 5 months include:

  • Golden Delicious
  • Jonathan
  • Red Delicious
  • Chieftain
  • Melrose
  • Fuji
  • Northern Spy
  • Mutsu
  • Stayman
  • Turley
  • Winesap
  • Rome
  • Granny Smith

Avoiding Bad Apples

Have you ever heard the expression “one bad apple spoils the bunch”? Well, it’s really true. If one apple starts to turn, it will also spoil any apple in which the rotten spot has contact. To avoid this, simple wrap each apple in newspaper.

You don’t need any special technique for wrapping the apples – just ensure coverage so they don’t make contact with other apples.

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Image source: Pixabay.com

While you’re wrapping apples, scan them for bruises or other defects. Bruised apples should be used up quickly and not put into storage. Store only your most perfect apples.

Storing Your Apples

Storing your apples is quite simple, but there are still a few things that you should know:

  1. Store only fresh, ripe apples. The fresher your apples are when you put them in storage, the longer they are likely to last. Also, remember that ripe apples store the best. If they have become overripe, or are still a bit unripe, they will not last as long.
  2. Separate apple varieties. Different types of apples have different shelf lives, so if you’ve got more than one variety that you will be storing this winter, keep different varieties in separate boxes or baskets.
  3. Separate apples by size. You may not think it makes a difference, but apple size actually does matter! Larger apples simply don’t last as long as smaller ones – so divide your fruit into small, medium and large, and organize them so that the large fruit get eaten first.
  4. Don’t store apples and potatoes/onions next to each other. Potatoes and onions release a gas that causes apples to rot more quickly. If you are storing apples and potatoes/ onions, they shouldn’t be stored right next to each other (in the same root cellar is fine, though). Apples also have a tendency to absorb the flavor of other foods.
  5. Store in a cool dark place. You should never allow your apples to freeze, but they will do great if they are kept around 32-34 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll also want to keep them in a dark place. Areas that work well for storing apples include refrigerators and root cellars, or you also may do well keeping them in boxes in a basement, pantry or enclosed porch.
  6. High humidity. The place you choose to store your apples should also have a decent amount of humidity (about 90 percent is ideal). But don’t allow apples to get wet or they will end up rotting.
  7. Check your apples on a regular basis. Look for any signs of spoilage, and be sure to remove any fruit that is starting to rot.

Stored properly, your apples should last well into late winter or even early spring. If you have too many to eat fresh, then consider making cider, pies, applesauce or a dish that can be frozen.

Apples kept in storage will become sweeter over time, so enjoy tasting your harvest at different intervals throughout the winter!

Sources:

Iowa State University

Purdue University

What advice would you add on storing apples? Share your tips in the section below:

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21 Vegetables You Need To Plant For Your Fall / Winter Garden

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21 Vegetables You Need To Plant For Your Fall / Winter Garden With the main gardening season coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking about your fall / winter garden. I personally will be planting a fall / winter garden this year and I wanted to get this info out there so others can. There …

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DIY: The Cheap-And-Durable Hoop House Your Winter Garden Needs

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DIY: The Cheap-And-Durable Hoop House Your Winter Garden Needs

Image source: Dick Melvin

Growing your own food moves you one step closer to the goal of self-sufficiency, but Jack Frost’s freezing winter temperatures hinder such efforts.

This year, why not build a cheap survival mini-hoop house and realize your independent objective of raising winter greens?

Most hoop houses are walk-in arched structures with plastic sheeting covering steel conduit frames. Smaller crawl-in mini-hoop houses usually contain white PVC pipe ribs. The problem: Heavy winter snowfall collapses these plastic ribs. One solution is to add purlins, or horizontal wooden 1x2s, connecting and supporting the ribs.

An even better idea is producing mini-hoop house PVC framing that has 2½-foot squares built into the structural integrity of the framework, a vast improvement over single PVC ribs. It’s done by inserting 4-way PVC connectors in three places every 2½ feet along middle ribs. PVC tees are used similarly in two ribs that will be at the ends of your new mini-hoop house. Then, 2½-foot PVC pipe connects horizontally, between 4-way interior connectors and to the tees on the two end ribs. The final 10-foot-long PVC frame involves five hooped ribs with horizontal PVC pipe halfway up each side and on the very top. It holds up to winter snow loads.

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To build this mini-hoop house:

Shopping List – Purchase the following, inexpensively, from any home building supply store:

  • 6 — ½-inch PVC tees
  • 9 — ½-inch PVC four-way connectors
  • either 16 5-foot, or 8 10-foot lengths of ½-inch PVC pipe
  • PVC pipe cleaner & PVC cement
  • 20-foot length of ½-inch rebar (use a hacksaw in the building supply parking lot and saw it into 4-foot lengths to fit inside your vehicle)
  • 150-foot length of ¼-inch polypropylene or nylon rope
  • 12-foot by 25-foot roll of 4-mil clear plastic sheeting
  • 22 8-inch wide by 16-inch long by 3-inch high cement blocks to hold down your plastic sheeting

Saw PVC Pipes & Rebar

Saw your PVC pipe, with a power saw, or a crosscut handsaw, into 32 2½-foot lengths. Hacksaw the ½-inch rebar into 10 2-foot lengths.

Construct PVC Hoop House Frame

DIY: The Cheap-And-Durable Hoop House Your Winter Garden Needs

Image source: Dick Melvin

Make your two end ribs first. Rub the cotton dauber found in your PVC pipe cleaner on the outside of the last half inch of one 2½-inch length of PVC pipe and inside a PVC tee. Apply PVC cement on these same surfaces and immediately slide the pipe and the tee together. Use the same procedure to connect pipes and tees, positioning all tees to face in the same direction. The resulting 10-foot-long rib contains four pieces of 2½-foot pipe connected with three tees. This rib will be at the end of your mini-hoop house frame. Make another rib in the same manner. Then, make three middle ribs, but use 4-way connectors, instead of tees. Again, make sure all 4-ways are positioned the same direction. Lay your five ribs 2½ feet apart on a flat surface, with your two end ribs on each end of your five ribs and three middle ribs in between. Now, cement 12 2½-foot PVC pipes between tees on the end ribs to the 4-way connectors on the next middle ribs, and between the 4-ways on the middle ribs.

Rebar Supports

Hammer five rebar pieces into the ground at a slight angle toward what will be the inside of the hoop house. Leave about four inches above ground. Place each rebar in a straight line exactly 2½ feet apart. Using your new framework as a guide, place the next five rebar pieces in a parallel line that is six feet away from the first line of rebar stakes, driven at a slight inward angle.

Arched Framework

Slide the ends of your ribs over your rebar supports on one side. Then, slide the other end of your ribs over their corresponding rebar supports.

Build Tie-Downs

Cut eight 15-foot lengths of rope and heat the ends with matches or a propane torch so they don’t unravel. Cut two 3-foot lengths, heating their ends, too.

Plastic Tied & Weighed Down

Pull the plastic sheeting over your arched frame. Trim it, leaving two feet extending onto the ground on all sides. Secure your tie-downs over the top of the plastic, on either side of each rib, tying each end to an appropriate rebar support. Gather the plastic on the two hoop house ends and tie your three-foot rope around this twisted-together piece of plastic. Use three cement blocks per end to weigh down plastic lying on the ground, and two blocks on the ground between each rib down each side.

Critics will advise building a door into one end, attaching ribs to a raised-bed wooden structure, using UV-protected plastics, or 6-mil plastic sheeting. These are all great ideas, but cost more money. This is the cheapest mini-hoop house design that stands up to winter’s winds and snow—a perfect solution for any homesteader.

What advice would you add on building a mini-hoop house? Share your tips in the section below:

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All-Natural Fall Remedies That Smart Homesteaders Store For Winter

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6 All-Natural Remedies That Smart Homesteaders Make Each Fall

Image source: Pixabay.com

The fall can be a busy time if you’re trying to stock a well-prepared larder. Perhaps you’ve put up or purchased enough food to get you through the winter, but have you thought about keeping your family healthy as well as fed? There are many natural medicines that are easy to make at home during autumn to keep your family healthy all winter long.

1. Herbal teas

A great place to start for the beginner, herbal teas can be as simple as looking for tasty and health-promoting recipes in your favorite reference book and mixing them ahead of time. Dried herbs can easily be purchased for your first batch, but harvesting and drying them at home is a much more cost-effective and reliable method of ensuring availability. Even if you haven’t planted an herb garden, try learning to identify and harvest wild elderberries, yarrow, rose hips, raspberry leaf and mullein as a first step. Drying can be as simple as tying them into small bundles and hanging them in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Once dry, store in Mason jars or other airtight containers in a cool, dark place.

2. Tinctures

Once you’re comfortable blending your own herbal teas, tinctures are a great next step. While there are many plant compounds that are water soluble in teas, some medicines are alcohol soluble and require a different extraction to get the full benefit. Examples of alcohol soluble herbs include most that are high in resins or naturally antibacterial alkaloids such as Echinacea, cleavers, nettle and elecampane. To make a tincture, start with a plain alcohol such as grain alcohol or vodka that is at least 50 proof (25 percent alcohol), preferably 80 proof or higher. For most herbs, a ratio of 1 part herb to 5 parts alcohol works well for extraction. Place the herbs and alcohol in a sealed jar out of direct sunlight for at least 2-3 weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain out the herb, and the tincture is ready for use.

3. Oxymel

An alcohol-free way to extract herbs that may not be water soluble is with vinegar. Oxymel is a mixture of a vinegar-extracted herb, with raw honey to both enhance the health benefits and the palatability. Ratios vary widely, but a common method takes 1 part herb, 2 parts vinegar and 2 parts honey for the mixture.

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Add all three parts to a mason jar, seal and wait 2-3 weeks before straining out the herb and bottling for use. There are many elderberry/vinegar/honey oxymels on the market today, selling for as much as $5-$10 dollars per ounce, when they can be made at home for just a few dollars per quart. Dollar for dollar, oxymel is one of the easiest and most economical natural remedies to make at home.

4. Infused oils

Following the same principle as tinctures and oxymels, infused oils extract herbal components into an oil base. Try a neutral oil such as sunflower, almond oil or light olive oil. A ratio of 1 part herb to 2-4 parts oil works well for most herbs. In the winter, herbal-infused oils can be great for treating burns, ear infections, topical fungal issues or respiratory issues when used as a chest rub.

5. Healing salves

Once you have an infused oil, a healing salve is a great way to improve the versatility of your remedy. Healing salves take infused oils and add a wax component to make them semi-solid at room temperature so that they’re easy to apply and store. Start with 8 ounces of infused oil and 1 ounce of beeswax. Slowly heat until the beeswax is melted, and then mix thoroughly. Pour into a storage container while hot. Healing salves often incorporate the use of essential oil and vitamin E oil to enhance their effectiveness, depending on the use.

6. Witch hazel extract

A commonly used astringent and topical disinfectant, witch hazel is easy to make at home. Witch hazel is a small bush/shrub that’s prevalent in the wild in the eastern half of the United States. An extract can be made from wild harvested witch hazel twigs, or if you prefer, there are many online sources to purchase dried witch hazel bark. For the most potent extract, harvest the twigs just after the plant has flowered late in the fall (October/November). Finely chop the twigs with pruning shears or scissors, cover completely with water and place on the stove on low to simmer. Most recipes slow cook the stems and bark for at least 8 hours, adding water during cooking to keep the plant material covered. Once it’s done cooking and cooled completely, it’s perishable unless alcohol is added as a preservative.  Add 1 part high proof vodka or grain alcohol for every 2 parts witch hazel extract, and store in a cool dark place indefinitely.

Which is your favorite home remedy? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Start Prepping For ‘Downright Frigid Weather’ This Winter, Says The Farmers’ Almanac (Which Is About 80 Percent Accurate)

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Start Prepping For ‘Downright Frigid Weather’ This Winter, Says The Farmers’ Almanac (Which Is About 80 Percent Accurate)

WASHINGTON – If you hate winter, then you might want to avoid the newest Farmers’ Almanac long-range forecast.

The 2017 Farmers’ Almanac, released Monday, predicts that the upcoming winter will be far worse than last year’s winter for much of the country. Although such long-range forecasts are sometimes ridiculed by modern-day scientists, many Farmers’ Almanac readers say the forecasts are 80-85 percent accurate, according to officials with the publication.

The long-range forecast uses a nearly 200-year-old formula that is based on math and astronomy.

“While last winter was a reprieve from shoveling and high fuel bills, the party is over,” the Farmers’ Almanac website says. “According to the 2017 Farmers’ Almanac, ‘winter is back!’’”

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A strong El Niño that made last year’s winter rather mild is now gone, says Farmers’ Almanac editor Peter Geiger.

The newest forecast predicts that “exceptionally cold, if not downright frigid weather will predominate over parts of the Northern Plains, Great Lakes, Midwest, Ohio Valley, the Middle Atlantic, Northeast, and New England this winter,” according to the website. Also, “shots of very cold weather will periodically reach as far south as Florida and the Gulf Coast.”

It also predicts “some snow and cold conditions in mid-November in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and Midwest” – although the “frigidly cold temperatures really won’t take hold until much later in the season.”

December and January will bring a “mixed bag of wintry weather.”

“It’s really February when the frigid temperatures take hold (northern tier states could see ambient air temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero!),” the almanac website says. “This is the month you want to make sure your heat works, your long johns are washed, and your slippers are nearby.”

The Farmers’ Almanac says its weather forecast is based on a “specific and reliable set of rules that were developed back in 1818 by David Young, the Almanac’s first editor.”

“These rules have been altered slightly and turned into a formula that is both mathematical and astronomical,” the website says. ‘The formula takes things like sunspot activity, tidal action of the Moon, position of the planets, and a variety of other factors into consideration.”

Are You Prepared For A Downed Grid? Read More Here.

The $70,000 Solar-Heated ‘Earthship’ Home That’s Completely Off Grid

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Off-Grid Life In a $4,500 Converted School Bus

Imagine living in an off-grid home and not ever receiving a utility bill – no electric bill, no water bill, no sewer bill. Even better, you don’t have to stockpile firewood, because your home is heated by the sun.

Sound impossible? It’s not. It is called an earthship home, and on this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we take a look at these unique houses that are revolutionizing what it means to live off-grid. Our guest is Craig Cook, who lives in an earthship home with his wife Connie in Canada – where temperatures in the winter often hover around 0 degree Fahrenheit.

Incredibly, their home cost only $70,000.

Craig tells us:

  • How his house stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, without a stove or AC.
  • What is different between an earthship home and a typical homestead house.
  • How he and his wife have all the water they need – without a well or utility hook-up.
  • Why his home incorporates hundreds of used tires … that he got for free.

Craig also shares with us the pros and cons of an earthship home for those considering making the transition. If you’re a homesteader, off-gridder or simply someone who enjoys fascinating people, then don’t miss this week’s show!

5 Things to Include in Your Evacuation Plan

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5 Things to Include in Your Evacuation Plan

While it may seem unlikely that something like a flood, hurricane, tornado, or wildfire would impact your neighborhood, the rate of natural disasters is actually increasing. While you can’t prevent a disaster from impacting your region, you can plan your response and evacuation plan in advance.

Your Family Needs a Plan

It doesn’t matter if you live on the East Coast, West Coast, or smack dab in the middle of the country, disaster can strike anywhere. From earthquakes on the West Coast and hurricanes on the East Coast to tornadoes in the Midwest, a natural disaster is always a possibility. Throw in things like floods and wildfires and your life very well may depend on how prepared you are.

Specifically, your family needs a disaster preparedness plan. To help keep your family safe and prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way, let’s highlight some of the things that need to be included in this plan.

  1. Have an Evacuation Plan

The first key to any disaster preparedness plan involves having a specific and clear evacuation plan. This is especially true when it comes to flooding.

“Know your neighborhoods safe routes and the surrounding area,” says Lani Testa of My Plumber CA, an industry leading company with more than 25 years of experience. “Draw or write up an emergency evacuation plan and go over it with your family. Don’t forget to include your pets in your plan!”

The best way to find evacuation routes is to walk around your neighborhood and make note of elevation changes, pathways, and key intersections. If your property is located in a low area, knowing the quickest way to higher ground can literally save your life.

  1. Give Everyone Responsibilities

Every member of the family needs to have specific responsibilities during a disaster. For example, one parent may be responsible for getting the children ready, while another may be tasked with packing a bag and gathering the pets. Children can have responsibilities, too. When everyone has a role, the evacuation goes much smoother.

  1. Know Where to Go

Evacuating your home in the event of a natural disaster is one thing, but where will you go? The most irresponsible thing you can do is leave home without a plan for finding shelter and safety.

In your evacuation and preparedness plan, identify locations of nearby shelters, safe houses, and hotels. And don’t rely on GPS to get you there. Since cell phone towers and data networks may be down during a disaster, you’ll need physical maps and addresses.

  1. Take Special Needs Into Account

Sometimes evacuating your home isn’t straightforward. “Kids, infants, people with disabilities and seniors may all need special considerations while planning for an emergency,” says Katherine Boehrer of The Huffington Post. “If you or a family member need medication or special equipment, make sure you have a plan to bring it with you. Talk to your neighbors about how you can help one another in a disaster, and check on each other in case of an emergency.”

  1. Contact Information

As mentioned, your cell phone and internet-powered devices may not work during an emergency. As such, it’s important that you know the contact information of friends and relatives – both locally and out of town – so that you can reach out to them if need be.

Keep Your Family Safe

It’s your responsibility to protect your family, even in the wake of an unforeseen emergency or natural disaster. While you can’t stop a disaster, you can control how you respond. By developing a disaster plan and teaching your family how to respond, you can ensure your family is prepared for whatever happens.

The post 5 Things to Include in Your Evacuation Plan appeared first on American Preppers Network.

Cattails: How To SAFELY Harvest And Eat Nature’s 4-Seasons Survival Plant

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

A lot has been written about cattails, although the focus often tends to be on warm weather months. But I’ve harvested and eaten this remarkable plant throughout the year.

Still, don’t be tempted to yank out a young cattail shoot and start munching away. The cattail may be safe, but is the water it was growing in safe?

Cattails tend to grow in swampy waters, ponds, lakes, creeks and even ditches. The caution is that many of these bodies of water are rife with aquatic microbes — from amoebas to microscopic parasites — carrying everything from giardia to typhoid. It is one thing to get sick at home and drive over to the doctor or a hospital, but it’s quite another to develop amoebic dysentery in a survival situation. There are simple ways to avoid this but the telegram is: Don’t eat an unwashed section of cattail that has been immersed in any body of water.

And Now The Good News

You can use many parts of the cattail in a survival situation, across all four seasons. There are extremely few plants that can fulfill that level of nutritional, medicinal and functional value from summer through winter. Remote survival environments can often present you with cleaner, safer water, as well.

Let’s examine how it can be used, season by season:

SPRING

As a food source:

From a survival food standpoint, the best parts of a cattail to harvest include the spikes (the emerging plant) in early spring, the spike-shaped shoots throughout spring and early summer, the yellow, pollen-covered heads at the top of the plant mid-spring, and the roots (although the roots are better and bigger as they mature into winter).

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The spikes or emerging plants can be found poking above the water or just beneath the surface. The spikes actually look like a very large leek with a white base extending two to five inches and a long green stalk leading to the early fronds emerging at the top of the plant. I also save the roots at this time, but we’ll get to that later.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

I cut the first six to eight inches from the base and collect them. These need to be rinsed in fresh water and ideally, soaked in vinegar for 10 to 20 minutes. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic and will help to kill and remove any bacteria. Rinse them again in cold water or just enjoy them with their vinegar flavor. In an extreme survival situation where you have no resources, you can always roast them over a fire to kill any bacteria.

You might also spot some shoots emerging from the stalks. These show up in spring and continue into early summer. They’re usually above the water line and are triangular in shape. The base is white and you chew the end like a potato chip or strip it with your teeth like an artichoke petal. I’d still give them a rinse if you can, even though they’re above the water.

Some people say the seed heads at the top of the plant can be boiled and eaten like sweet corn. I tried it and didn’t like it. Maybe I should have tried it sooner in the spring, but if I’m starving I’d give it another try.

The roots

Regardless of the time of year, the roots are an excellent source of starch, like potatoes. You need to peel the roots first like a potato, rinse them well and then let them dry. Some sources suggest that you can eat the roots raw. You can eat anything raw, but cattail roots present a very fibrous texture and uncooked can give you stomach and intestinal distress.

Once they’re dry, they’re often pounded into a flour. You can also cut the roots into pieces and crush the root in some water on a board. Drop them in water and the starch will sink to the bottom. You may have to rinse and repeat. That sounds like something you’d find on a shampoo bottle, but you need to do it, followed by carefully allowing the starch slurry to dehydrate. What you’ll end up with is a flour that can be used to bake breads and biscuits or to make pancakes.

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It sounds like a lot of work, and it is. I prefer to peel and wash the roots and roast them over a fire and then chew them. You can always roast them on the end of a stick. You’ll have to spit out the fibers as you chew.

Functional value

The functional value of cattails in the spring is somewhat limited, only because the immature plants are small in size. That’s because the long fronds of summer and fall that can be used for weaving, cordage and other uses are undeveloped, as is the rest of the plant. However, the dried and dead stalks from the previous season can be used as tinder for starting a fire.

SUMMER

As a food source

In summer, the cattails are beginning to mature but there are still some shoots emerging on the sides of the stalk. The roots are also good, and the same approach applies that we described for spring roots. The seed heads will begin to present pollen in summer, and that can be mixed with the flour from the roots. You can carefully shake the pollen into the flour from the seed head, or cover it with a bag and shake the pollen into the bag.

Functional value

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you take the time to practice a bit, you can learn to weave cattail fronds into just about anything, from baskets, to a hat to protect you from the sun, to cordage, but weaving the fronds into rope is better done in the fall, when the fronds have matured and are tougher and more fibrous.

FALL

As a food source

The roots are now your primary foodstuff and are prepared the same way. They’ll be larger so you can harvest less to get more. The seed heads now have the appearance of a brown corn dog.

Functional value

The cattails have now matured to a tough, fibrous plant. You can still use the fronds for weaving, and now is when the fronds make the strongest cordage.

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What you’re going to be doing is a basic braiding process of overlapping three or more strands of cattail fronds. You’ll need to add in additional pieces as you go to splice in new fibers. Sometimes you can actually tie small knots to make a better connection from splice to splice. Watch this video to understand this step better:

Story continues below video

 

 

You’ll also notice that the seed heads are releasing puffs off fluff. This is an exceptional tinder, and the interior of the seed head will still be dry even in wet weather.

WINTER

As a food source

Roots are at their peak. The seed heads will have gone to seed in pieces of fluff. The stalks and fronds are starting to turn brown. Prepare the roots as before.

Functional value

The seed heads, stalks and fronds have now turned brown. This offers numerous fire-starting and insulation possibilities. The fronds can still be woven, and the seed heads continue to offer excellent tinder in addition to the dry, dead stalks and fronds. Cordage can still be made, but the strength will not be as dependable as fully green and mature fronds.

The seed heads in early winter will be loaded with fluff and can be used as insulation. If you collect enough, you can stuff a T-shirt to make a pillow. The stuff is a real mess if it’s not contained, but in a true survival situation it can be dumped into boots or gloves, adding insulating layers. It’s also highly absorbent if you’re trying to dry out those boots or gloves.

Final thoughts

If you know of a source of cattails, then go out and collect a few and get to know the plant.  Depending on the time of year, try some of the suggestions covered in this article. I’ve had a lot of fun sitting on the back porch with my kids and teaching them how to use cattail fronds to weave a basket or make a length of rope. It makes me feel good to know they’re learning some new skills for self-sufficiency and survival thanks to the humble cattail.

Do you know of other survival uses for cattail? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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

5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

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5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

Khol Rabi. Image source: Pixabay.com

The days are getting longer, snow is disappearing from the garden and the air is rapidly getting warmer. You’ve spent your dreary, winter days planning this year’s garden. Are you feeling the gardening “itch” yet? If you haven’t chosen which vegetables yet to grace your garden this year, here are five hardy vegetables you can sow outside soon – if not right now.

The soil may still be a bit hard, but if it is workable, then dig and add a layer of compost or manure to the garden. This doesn’t mean scrape the ice and snow off if there is any still there. If you still have snow and ice on your garden, you will need to wait a bit.

If all is well, then begin planting. Remove any weeds and other plant debris you may find. If you are planning to plant any produce that requires stakes or supports, add the supports now. Place a cover over your garden to help protect and warm up the soil before planting.

Check for any pests, especially slugs, as the weather continues to warm up during the month.

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If you want to try something new, raised garden beds save your back from the hard work of bending to till and dig. These beds heat up quicker than traditional gardens in the springtime, but they still need to have good soil and drain well.

Ready to plant?

Here are five popular and healthy choices for your March planting. They are all hardy, and can be planted outside to enjoy during the spring and summer.

1. Spinach. This cool-weather plant can take about six weeks to grow from seed. All you need to do is loosen the soil before planting. You also can prepare the soil for this vegetable in the autumn if you want to save time in the spring. Spinach likes moist soil, but not soggy. When the plants start to grow, you will need to thin them to prevent overcrowding – a big “no-no” with spinach. You’ll need to buy fresh seeds every year, as spinach seeds don’t seem to store well. This green vegetable is full of vitamins and can be used for salads, main dishes and cooking.

5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

Image source: Pixabay.com

2. Leeks. Here is another tough, hardy vegetable you can plant now. Leeks need well-drained soil with organic matter to protect and boost health. They like a sunny, yet sheltered spot. Planting now will allow you to harvest leeks at the same time as you do onions. You will need to break up the soil before planting and the seeds need to be spaced about an inch apart (one to two centimeters.)

3. Turnips. Known as a root-vegetable, turnips are easy to grow. They are full of nourishment, with many minerals and carbohydrates. Turnips grow well in cool, moist soil, and they mature in about six to 10 weeks. You don’t need too many seeds. Plant them by sparsely sprinkling the seeds in a row. Cover with a thin layer of dirt and add a little fertilizer before watering. Turnips should sprout within a week. Water during any dry weather. You can harvest turnips when they are about the size of a golf ball.

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4. Spring onions. This type of onion should be planted in a part of the garden that isn’t waterlogged or still frozen. Pick a spot in the garden that gets a good amount of sun and break up the soil. Rows should be shallow, and you simply drop the seeds into the rows. Add some sort of fertilizer to give plants a boost. By planting spring onions now, you will get a crop in June and July. They can be enjoyed raw or in salads. You can even use them as a substitute for other onions.

5. Kohl Rabi. Here is a fun-looking, hardy vegetable that seems to thrive in cool temperatures. Kohl Rabi grows well in temperatures of 40-75 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4-23 degrees Celsius. It needs 45-60 days to fully mature. Kohl Rabi likes full sun and handles frost well. You will want to plant this vegetable half an inch (one and a half centimeters) deep, in a thin row until plants are five to eight inches apart. The soil needs to be moist. Use compost on the garden bed. You’ll notice Kohl Rabi is sweeter than cabbage. It stores very well in the refrigerator for one week, or up to two months in a cool place.

There are so many other vegetables you can enjoy as well. Choose your seeds, wake up your garden and get planting.

What vegetables would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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5 Long-Lasting Superfoods To Keep You Healthy All Winter

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5 Long-Lasting Superfoods To Keep You Healthy All Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

Consuming seasonal superfoods – that is, foods that are nutrient-rich — strengthens your immune system so you can fight off those nagging colds and be at the top of your game no matter what life throws at you.

Here are five winter superfoods that you should consider adding to your list. Even better, they will store for weeks or months:

1. Root vegetables

Vegetables such as parsnips, celery, carrots, beets and turnips all grow under the ground, where they can take in nutrients from the soil. These high-fiber vegetables are truly versatile and can be added to soups or stews, or stir fried and even made into tasty chips (a great alternative to the potato chips you buy in the store). My whole family enjoys these root chips!

Research has even demonstrated that a compound found in raw carrots may inhibit the formation of breast cancer.

2. Winter squash

Squash and colder weather just sort of go together, don’t they? But rather than just using these beautiful veggies to adorn your front doorstep, why not consider adding them to your diet?

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Antioxidants found in squash can help to reduce inflammation — good news if you suffer from achy joints. Just one serving of butternut squash has 35 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. The high amount of beta-carotene and omega-3 in squash helps keep your skin looking radiant and young all winter long.

3. Cabbage

Both red and green cabbage are loaded with vitamin K and anthocyanins that improve both mental function and concentration. Also, both of these nutrients help to guard against dementia and Alzheimer’s, and they prevent nerve damage. Cabbage is also high in potassium that regulates blood pressure. The vitamin C and sulfur in cabbage helps to get rid of free radicals and uric acid – the main culprits of gout, arthritis, skin conditions and rheumatism.

Cabbage can be eaten raw, juiced, sauteed, roasted or included in soups, salads or stews.

4. Chia seeds

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While you may know that flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are even better. These tiny black seeds are loaded with vitamins A, B, E and D, along with the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, niacin, potassium, thiamine, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and zinc.

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Throw some of these potent little seeds into your salads, smoothies, soups and more to enjoy all they have to offer.

5. Citrus fruits

How could I forget the ever popular winter citrus fruits? Citrus is just one of the things that makes me smile — whether it be grapefruits, oranges, limes, tangerines or lemons. Eating citrus in the winter is a great way to keep your immune system strong and your energy high. Not only are citrus fruits high in vitamin C, but they are also rich in thiamin and folate. Research shows that citrus fruit can help protect against heart disease and cancer. Enjoy citrus fruits fresh, in salads or juiced.

What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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

The WWII Winter Survival Story You’ve Never Heard

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World War II is full of survival stories, but there is one particularly harrowing one – set in winter – that wasn’t fully told until recently.

It involves an American pilot named Leon Crane who crashed during the middle of frigid temperatures in the Yukon wilderness, and then survived alone for 81 days in snowy, icy, dark conditions even though all he had was his parachute, matches and a Boy Scout knife. His incredible story is now the subject of a book, “81 Days Below Zero,” and the author, Brian Murphy, joins us on this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio.

Crane’s inspiring tale is one that anyone who loves history or stories of survival can learn from. In fact, it’s a story that would be unbelievable if it weren’t actually true; Crane, after all, was a “city boy” with very few skills, but had enough instincts to make it through the 11-plus weeks.

Murphy tells us:

  • How Crane survived the first week in the wilderness without finding any food.
  • How he determined which direction to walk, even though he had no compass or map.
  • How his parachute played a critical role in his survival.
  • How he stayed alive after falling into frigid waters.
  • How he survived in an area that was receiving only about four hours of light each day.
  • How he kept his spirits up, despite not seeing anyone for nearly three months.

Finally, Murphy shares with us how Crane’s survival story – and others like it – changed the way the military trains its personnel. Don’t miss this episode if you’re a lover of history or amazing stories, or simply someone who wants to learn new skills!

11 Winter Survival Skills Every Child Should Know

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11 Winter Survival Skills Every Child Should Snow

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Are you attached to your child at the hip every minute of every single day? Your children have a far greater chance of survival if they possess some basic self-reliance skills and have practiced the emergency disaster plan with the family.

Even if your work does not force you to leave the property and the children are homeschooled, they are still not protected from a crisis. Children, even the youngest ones in the family, must learn what to do if mommy and daddy are not home, are injured, or are killed, during a disaster. Teaching children about disaster should begin at a very early age and the information should be presented in a manner which does not scare the child, but still relays the seriousness of the issue.

For example, children are firmly taught that a stove is hot and not to touch it when they are a toddler, yet they do not fear walking by the stove when they scamper into the kitchen. Employ non-nonsense and loving tactics when educating children about emergency situations and their role during such situations.

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Children need to learn what to do in event that specific disasters strikes. A checklist or picture book can help relay this message and reinforce the lessons learned during drills. Winter weather threats can quickly prove deadly for panicked children who suddenly find themselves without an adult around to save the day. If little Billy ventures out in the cold to look for help because the power went out, then he could get frostbit in mere minutes if not dressed properly.

11 Winter Survival Skills Every Child Should Snow

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Skills to Teach Your Children

Some of the skills on this list may not be appropriate for young children, but here are 10 to consider:

  1. How to forage during winter and what can be eaten around the house.
  2. How to start a fire using multiple methods.
  3. How to cook over an open fire.
  4. How to use a “finger” saw to cut kindling.
  5. How to safely use a knife.
  6. How to find the way home, even in snow, from multiple directions.
  7. How to ward off frostbite.
  8. How to dry damp or wet gloves, socks, and hats over a fire safely.
  9. How to check frozen ponds and creeks to ensure they are safe to walk upon.
  10. How to find drinking water / melt snow to drink.
  11. How to find shelter when it’s cold.

Winter Survival Kit Items For Young Children

  • Picture book which details family emergency plan with family contact information typed inside the front cover. Pages specific to winter survival and other weather-related disaster tips should be included in the book.
  • Mylar blanket, gloves, hat, scarf, thermal socks, set of thermal underwear and handwarmers
  • Flashlight and glow sticks.
  • Basic first-aid kit with Band Aids, a quick clot bandage, triple antibiotic ointment, and antiseptic wipes.
  • Map created to guide the child to a designated meeting place if they must evacuate the home.
  • Several bottles of water and food which can be opened easily and eaten without heating.

Winter Survival Kit Items For Older Children

  • Copy of family emergency plan, family contact information
  • Flashlight and glow lights
  • Mylar blanket, gloves, hat, scarf, thermal socks, set of thermal underwear and handwarmers
  • Firestarter and reminder note about safety and details about starting a fire in the family fireplace or woodstove. Instructions on how to utilize the family solar generator if one is owned by the family.
  • Bottles of water and long-term storage food which can be heated in a pouch but also food items which do not require cooking.
  • Pocket knife, signaling mirror, binoculars and a compass

What would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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

5 ‘Get Ready For Spring’ Chores You Better Do Before Winter Ends

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5 'Get Ready For Spring' Chores You Better Do Before It's Too Late

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The fields lay dormant, the animals are less active and the earth is at rest. For most, winter on the homestead means daily chores may take longer to complete each day, but there certainly are fewer of them to tend. Although that does leave plenty of time for dreaming, planning and even relaxing, there are numerous things that can be done in the final few weeks of winter to make for an easier spring on the homestead.

Here are five items to put on the checklist for the end of the winter season.

1. Create an action plan.

Where should the homestead be by the end of the year? Start by brainstorming ideas and putting them in writing. Prioritize the few that need to be accomplished this year and, for the moment, save those that should be put off. Think realistically. Multiple large projects may seem feasible, but could lead to burnout or worse yet, be completed with less-than-quality work. From gathering materials for a building project to ordering spring chicks for increasing the backyard flock, getting a plan in place is essential for a smooth spring.

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In this planning stage, consider negotiating bartering agreements for skilled labor that needs to be done on the homestead or for supplies that are not locally available.

2. Evaluate the property.

Looking to increase the garden plot, the orchard or the fields this coming year? Map out the locations and evaluate the potential yield as a result of the increased areas. Some areas can serve dual purposes with careful planning. Use these winter weeks to read up on effective land-management strategies that will increase the production of the existing property when appropriately utilized.

Seed orders will be arriving soon, so be sure to have the potting shed or potting area ready to go. This includes performing necessary maintenance on grow lights and other greenhouse apparatuses. Cold frames should also be prepared for use. This is the time to check trellises, tomato cages and other gardening tools. Make repairs, sharpen shears and replace these items if necessary.

3. Rotate stored supplies.

5 'Get Ready For Spring' Chores You Better Do Before It's Too LateHaving a ready supply of food and other necessities is a trademark of self-sufficiency, but rotating these supplies is sometimes neglected. There are few things more discouraging than having to dispose of supplies that are no longer fit for use on the homestead. Inventory the food storage areas, including all pantries, root cellars and freezers. Plan the next few months’ worth of meals using foods that will be replenished with this year’s harvest. While completing the inventory, take time to clean the storage areas thoroughly before they are refilled.

4. Work ahead.

In the busy months of spring, summer and fall, it is often difficult to find time to replenish homemade goods that are used throughout the year, such as laundry soap, cleaning solutions, medicinal ointments and other products. The slower months of winter present the perfect time to work ahead and leave the stress of adding one more item to the to-do list behind. Estimate the needs of the household and start from there. Keep careful records of what product was made, including the amount produced, and also note when it runs out in order to plan more accurately for the following year.

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Clothing needs can also be addressed early to avoid hassle during the busy summer months. Reinforce buttonholes and knees, and replace worn-out clothing items by purchasing or making ahead for the warm summer months.

5. Perform seasonal maintenance.

Seasonal maintenance is a normal part of the home life; however, nonessential repairs are often left for those days when the problem is no longer bearable or nothing else more important fills the time. Patching and repainting drywall, mending frayed linens, tightening door handles, oiling hinges, and reinforcing loose handrails all add to the comfort of home but are often neglected. Even repairing or replacing the screening material on removable window screens and doors will save valuable time.

The above-mentioned items are certainly not the only things to consider doing in these last few weeks of winter. Any work that can reasonably be done ahead is work that should be done now, leaving more time for the necessary work around the homestead in the busy spring months.

Related:

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The 3 Best Livestock For New Homesteaders

What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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Winter Survival Secrets, With Expert Tim MacWelch

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Winter is nature’s most dangerous season. A wind chill of -20 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to frostbite in only 30 minutes, and if you stay out much longer, it can kill you.

But if you’re prepared and know what you’re doing, you can survive.

Winter survival is this week’s topic on Off The Grid Radio as we talk to outdoors expert Tim MacWelch, the author of the new book “The Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook” as well as three bestselling survival books, including “How to Survive Anything.”

Tim shares with us everything we need to know in order to survive being stranded during winter – whether that’s in the wilderness or on the side of a deserted road.

Tim tells us the first thing we should do in such an instance, and then he gives us advice on:

  • What you should wear for winter survival – and why nearly everyone gets it wrong.
  • How snow itself can be used to help you survive, and not just for melting and drinking it.
  • What you can forage for during winter, no matter how much snow is on the ground.
  • How you can build a durable shelter, even in a snow-covered forest.
  • Which winter-specific items deserve a space in your survival kit or bug-out bag, and how you can use each one of them.
  • How you can stay warm using only what is on your body and what is in the wilderness.

Tim also tells us how to survive in the wilderness if our clothes get wet – and how it involves doing something that seems counterintuitive. If you’re a survivalist or just someone who wants to build your winter survival skills, then this show is for you!

Hunting 101: How To Track And Find Animals In The Snow

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How To Track Animals In The Snow

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For those of us who live in the North, winter snows bring an unexpected benefit: It is much easier to find and follow animal tracks. If you are a novice tracker, or if you would like an opportunity to deepen your skills, winter is an excellent time. It is possible to find very clear tracks and trails, distinguish regular runs, and even detect how recently an animal traveled by, as determined by the snowfall.

The best tracks are found after a new snowfall, early in the morning as the sun is rising. If you are in a populated area, dogs and people will spoil most trails quite soon after sunrise. In the country, tracks can remain pristine all winter if conditions permit it. You will have to take note of how recently snow and other precipitation falls and learn to read the snow, in order to determine the age of a track. For example: Imagine your region has a powdery snowfall, and then an ice storm, and then a powdery snowfall again. Fresh tracks would be in powdery snow on top of ice. Any frozen tracks would be older than the storm, and probably useless except as a curiosity. Keeping a log of the weather is useful for trackers.

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Image source: NY State Parks

Image source: NY State Parks

If you are an absolute beginner, you must first learn which animals make which tracks. Even near your homestead you should see patterns of prints leading in various directions. You may notice animals near tracks, as well. Keep a logbook of tracks, sketching them and noting which animals were nearby, the conditions, and if you could find a trail. You also can purchase a guidebook picturing local animals and their tracks, but you will still need to learn to recognize them in the wild; tracks look differently in snow and mud than on paper.

A hike in the snowy woods should yield many examples of tracks. This, in itself, is excellent fun, and no opportunity to look for prints in the woods should be wasted. Challenge yourself and your family to identify as many of the local animals by track alone as possible. However, identifying animals is only part of tracking; you need more information before you’ll catch anything. After you find an animal track, you must also locate its trail and establish the age of the trail.

Hunting 101: How To Track And Find Animals In The Snow

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In winter, there are many clues offered by following an animal’s trail. In this case, you will be leaving established walking paths and moving into the woods, so exercise caution. It is very easy to become disoriented when you are following tracks. Begin in country in which you are familiar and know the surrounding topography, and travel with at least a basic understanding of orienteering. Never venture into the winter wilderness without proper survival gear. Don’t track bears, wolves, moose, cougars or other large animals without proper training and a firearm. Knowledge of weather won’t hurt, either; suffice it to say it’s better to watch the storm hit from indoors.

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On a fair winter day after snowfall, find a clear track on your normal route, identify it, and begin to follow in its direction of travel. Don’t walk on the tracks, but nearby, marking them in the snow or with blazes on nearby trees. If you plan to hunt, it is valuable to know the behavior of your intended catch. Many animals will travel similar routes, seeking food and especially water. If you find one of these routes, called a run, you likely will be able to find the animal. In the case of small game, you could set traps along a run to catch animals for food; with larger game, you would likely set up a blind for hunting nearby. The real objective of tracking is determining where the animal is, or will be, not where they were.

Another destination that trails may take you is a den or cover. You will know you have found an animal’s home when you see many tracks leading into it — food scraps, droppings, or the den itself. Try not to despoil the area; you don’t want to make your presence felt. It is better to know more about the animal’s whereabouts than it knows about yours. If you find an animal’s home, you can watch the area to find a good location for hunting. Consider hunting a distance away from a den or cover; other animals may use it, and if you hunt there you may drive them away, but if you hunt nearby you may catch more.

With practice and regular travel into the winter woods, you will be able to identify tracks and know the patterns of your animal neighbors – a skill that could prove invaluable one day.

What advice would you add on tracking animals? Share your advice in the section below:

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

How To Trick Your Chickens Into Laying More Winter Eggs

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How To Trick Your Chickens Into Laying More Winter Eggs

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We have been raising chickens for their eggs on our homestead almost from the first day we got here six years ago. Chickens are a great starter as far as livestock goes and let’s face it, who doesn’t love farm fresh eggs? Chickens are relatively simple to keep, hardy and during certain times of the year produce a lot of eggs. But what about those other times during the year?

It is a common misconception that egg production by necessity is slowed down or even halted in the winter months. Most folks think that this is due to temperatures and scarcity of forage, among other things. While these do contribute to the standard winter slowdown in egg laying, they are not the primary cause. The big culprit here is the shortage of daylight. From a biological standpoint this makes a great deal of sense.

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In most parts of the world, the number of daylight hours is the most reliable indicator of the season. Like many creatures, chickens will limit their reproduction in the winter simply because it is harder to nest and incubate new chicks in the cold than in the warmer months. In a chicken’s opinion, eggs are offspring; they are far less concerned about your morning omelet than they are with perpetuating their species.

Fortunately, chickens are not deep-thinkers. None of this is controlled by conscious effort, rather by the pituitary gland. It is therefore fairly easy to trick birds into prolonged laying by the simple addition of artificial lighting into the coop to achieve the peak laying conditions of 16 hours of daily sunlight. We have achieved this goal at our homestead by adding a pair of solar-powered shed light kits to the coop. At the times of year when light becomes an issue, we turn them on just before sunset and off right before bed. These light kits have allowed us to avoid running extension cords through the yard, and allow us to provide this light boost without grid dependence. In the past we had run the cords and used a chickens snow -- wikipediapair of heat lamps on timers. This, despite the extension cords and grid dependence, had a couple of advantages. First, they provided some heat in the coop, keeping the birds a bit more comfortable. Secondly, they didn’t require two trips out to the coop in the dark of winter, keeping us more comfortable. Finally, the extra light could be used in the early hours without us having to get up, giving the chickens the opportunity to jump start their day.

Once lighting has been addressed, you have to confront the nutrition issues of winter. During the cold months, more energy is required by animals just for maintaining body temperature. So more calories are going to be required. Your birds will require more feed at a time when forage is reduced. I feed my birds a 50/50 mix of a good 16 percent layer pellet and scratch, supplemented (as always) with a healthy dose of kitchen scraps.

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From time to time I will add a flock raiser in the 20 percent range to give my birds an extra boost. In an effort to reduce the number of trips out into the cold, I have set up a pair of game feeder in the chicken yard. I keep them filled with the feed mix and set up for four feedings a day. The four feedings keep the chickens from straying too far from their yard in search of food and provide the calories they need. The feeders are run by small solar panels and batteries, again making this an off-grid hack.

The final issue is water. Water can be hard to come by in winter, at least in a non-solid form. By stimulating your chickens to produce eggs, you have increased their need for water significantly. In order to meet this need, we use heated waterers. These can be found at most feed or farm supply stores. The one issue I have with these is that they require an extension cord from the house, but they are needed and do get the job done.

Ultimately, the plan is to set the coop up with its own dedicated, alternative energy system. I have a small wind generator for this purpose, and intend to add a solar panel at some point. Then, I’m just a charge controller and deep cycle battery away from running all my wintertime egg production off the grid.

With a bit of effort, you can keep your chickens laying eggs year round. As with all things, there is a balance to be struck. There is some expense and a bit of work involved in making it happen, but with a little ingenuity this can be minimized. For us, the desire for fresh eggs year-round make the efforts well worth it.

What advice would you add to get chickens to lay more eggs during winter? Share your tips in the section below:

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Surprising Foods You SHOULDN’T Eat When You Have A Cold

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Surprising Foods You SHOULDN’T Eat When You Have A Cold

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It can be tough to stay healthy during the cold months of winter – especially if you’re doing everything wrong.

For starters, avoid certain foods when you are stick with the cold or influenza. Milk, ice cream and puddings are mucus-forming foods. If you have a child or elderly person who needs nutrition and really likes dairy, use small amounts of fat-free milk or cultured dairy products only if absolutely necessary.

Soups should have a clear broth base, as cream soups create mucus, too. Limit your intake of heavy, greasy or very sweet foods while you are ill. Consume extra fluids and fresh, light foods.

Diluted juices, broth-filled soups and warm herbal teas are best for the sick. Avoid iced beverages and foods. The only exception to this practice is the use of ice pops for sore throats or when necessary if a person can’t keep other liquids down because of vomiting.

Some people like blander foods – such as chicken noodle soup – when they are ill, but spicy soups can be a good idea, as well. They help to rid the body of mucus and are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, such as vitamin C, which is needed for healing. Spicy foods such as peppers, garlic, onions and pungent spices are packed with antibacterial compounds.

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But there are other things you shouldn’t do when you have a cold. Here are five:

1. Don’t keep your house closed up too tightly.

Don’t hibernate this winter. When the weather outside is frightful, you may be tempted to just stay inside by a cozy fire. While that is one of the joys of winter, too much of a good think may actually make you sicker. Many of us strive to make our homes airtight for the sake of comfort and energy. Unfortunately, airtight homes and offices don’t allow for much airflow when sealed up. Toxins, germs and particles from cooking, among other airborne pollutants, all accumulate. In work, school and home settings, germs just keep on circulating. So when you get a warm spell this winter, open up your doors and windows to let some fresh air in.

2. Don’t stay indoors all of the time.

Surprising Foods You SHOULDN’T Eat When You Have A Cold

Image source: Pixabay.com

It is vital that you get outdoors during the winter. Outdoor air is invigorating. Exposure to sunlight will help keep you well. If you engage in sledding, ice fishing, skiing or other vigorous outdoor activities, you will keep your entire body functioning better. Your immune, circulatory and respiratory systems will especially benefit. Fresh air and sunshine are great for your mental health, too. It has been proven that depression and anxiety impair immune system function. The combination of light and enjoyable outdoor exercise can help you avoid the winter blues. Getting exercise also will help you to maintain a healthy weight.

3. Stop relying on hand sanitizer to keep you well.

While frequent handwashing and hand sanitizing does reduce the number of bacteria on your hands, don’t assume that keeping your hands clean is all that you need to do to stay healthy this winter. You still need to use other hygienic practices. The number of adults who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom is astounding. Don’t be one of those folks.

When you wash your hands, do it correctly. Wash vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Make sure that you scrub between each of your fingers. Rinse and dry well afterwards.

And remember, there are a lot of people out there who have lousy hygienic practices. So protect yourself and your family. Don’t assume that others are being as considerate and respectful to others as you are.

4. Don’t go to work when you are sick.

Regardless of how indispensable your employer says that you are, stay home from work when you are ill. It is particularly important when you are first coming down with a cold or flu, because this is when the germs are the most contagious. Don’t go and finish out the week or wait to see how you feel once you are there. If you think that you are getting sick, stay home. Also, keep your children home from school when they are ill.

You need rest when you are ill. All the cold and flu products in the world will not compensate for this. Your symptoms may be suppressed, but you may actually be ill longer if you don’t take timeout to let your body heal.

5. Don’t bury yourself in blankets.

If you have a fever, don’t pile on the blankets. In fact, remove the covers and heavy sleepwear. Just drape a sheet lightly over the ill person. This can help to reduce a fever. If you feel cold or have chills and don’t have a fever, feel free to pile the blankets on. Just be aware that chills are often the first sign of a fever. Fevers are most likely to rise in the late afternoon and evening.

Keep you and your family healthy this winter by eating well, staying active and using common sense. Consult with your health care provider for individualized advice, particularly if you have an underlying health concern, are elderly or have young children.

What advice would you add? How do you stay healthy? Share your tips in the section below:

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