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Even though there’s not much to it, I get more questions about how to store food than anything else. It’s something that anyone who is serious about getting food storage needs to think about because if you’re investing your time and money into food, you want to make sure you’re storing it properly!

 

Our society seems to be so concerned about supersizing everything these days, EXCEPT for food storage. While closets have been expanded to fit every handbag in America, the pantry has been shriveling away, and in some homes, it’s practically non-existent. This is one reason, among many, that I LOVE buckets! They have come to the rescue, and have allowed people the option to supersize their food storage, while at the same time using little space.

What Can You Store in Buckets?

storing

You can store pretty much anything that is dry and sits on the shelf (except your cat, my brother tried), but look below for more ideas. Make sure to stay away from foods with high oil or sugar content; those need to be vacuum-sealed in jars.

I store 5 different type foods in my buckets that you can see below (the ones with the ***). I reserve my buckets for foods I use frequently and need more of. One rule I have that helps me stay organized and rotate my food is that I store each type of food in only ONE type of container. For instance, if I decide to store my flour in buckets, I DON’T then go store it in #10 cans, flour bags, etc. By storing food in one type of container it helps keep things rotating well in my food storage system.

For food items that I use less of, I store mainly in #10 cans – like my beans, popcorn, hot chocolate, and freeze-dried foods.  But if you use a lot of those items in your home, you might want to go ahead and use buckets.

Anyways, hopefully, that made some sense, just figure out a system that works best for you!

How Much Do You Need?

Now the fun part! You get to pull out your calculator and give your brain a workout. You first need to figure out how much food you want, then you can figure out how many buckets you’ll need!

Most bulk food you find is in 25 or even sometimes 50-pound bags. So if you needed 100 lbs of oats, you would need 5 buckets & 4 (25lb) bags of oats. Here’s some of the best estimates I could find, so figure out your plan and good luck with the math!

FOOD ITEM

#10 CAN

5 GALLON BUCKET

*** Wheat
5 lbs 37 lbs – (12 buckets)
*** Oats
2.5 lbs 20 lbs – (6 buckets)
*** Rice
5.3 lbs 36 lbs – (4 buckets)
*** Sugar
5.7 lbs 35 lbs – (6 buckets)
*** Flour
4.5 lbs 33 lbs – (8 buckets)
Popcorn
5 lbs 37 lbs
Macaroni
3.1 lbs 21 lbs
Beans
5.6 lbs 35 lbs
Brown Sugar
4.5 lbs 33 lbs
Powdered Milk
3 lbs 29 lbs

Options for Storing Food in Buckets:

There are various ways you can store food into buckets, but I’ll talk briefly about the top 3 and let you choose.

1- Do Nothing

This method involves just that, you don’t do anything. You just put the food in the bucket and put the lid on (ok, maybe you do a little). If you’re rotating through your food on a regular basis (probably at least every 5 years), then you can maybe get away with doing this. You need to make sure the bucket and lid you use are sealed on properly to keep as much air, light, and bugs out. The bucket only provides one layer of protection against the elements, so it’s not the most trusted way of storing food, especially long-term.

2- Dry Ice

This way is similar to using oxygen absorbers, but instead, you are using dry ice. It’s a little cheaper and can kill off insect eggs at the same time, but it can be somewhat tricky. You want to make sure it’s done properly so you don’t have the opposite effect and leave a puddle of water at the bottom of your bucket instead. You only need about 1 ounce of dry ice per 1-gallon container, so if you’re up for some experimenting and playing with dry ice, feel free to give it a try. I just didn’t want to take a chance on all the food I had just invested in!

3- Mylar Bags w/ Oxygen Absorbers

This is the method I prefer and the one the pros use. Most companies you buy pre-packaged buckets of food do it this way. Plastic buckets alone are slightly porous and will still allow for air to transfer through them. Using Mylar bags with buckets cuts the oxygen down to almost nothing, helping to preserve your food for 25+ years.

For instructions, look below.

Storing Food in Buckets w/ Mylar Bags:

Gather your supplies. If you’re feeling extra energetic and want to hunt down leftover buckets from bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores, you can get them for FREE! I’m lazy, and I like them to all look exactly the same, so I got most my stuff from the links below and from Baytec Containers.

 

1- Get Your Supplies:

  • BUCKETS – You want food grade buckets.
  • MYLAR BAGS – 20″ x 30″ bag
  • OXYGEN ABSORBERS – 2000 cc for a 5-gallon bucket
  • SEALER – You can use a hand-held sealer, iron, or flat-iron.
  • GAMMA LIDS – I use these only on my 5 buckets in the pantry.
  • REGULAR LIDS – I use these lids on all my buckets, except in the pantry.
  • RUBBER MALLET – Used to beat the lid on the bucket.
  • BUCKET OPENER – Helps take the lid off when you’re ready.
  • BULK FOOD – To fill your buckets.

 2- Put Your Mylar Bag into the Bucket:

I prefer 5-gallon buckets, but you can use smaller containers if that’s too heavy, or if you don’t need as much food. If you’re extra buff you can impress us and get 6+ gallon containers, just don’t say I didn’t warn you! They can get extremely heavy, so 5 gallon is my max.

Once you have your bucket, get a mylar bag that fits the size container you are using and put it inside. Mylar bags gives an extra layer of protection that keeps the oxygen, light, humidity, and pests out. Anytime someone tells me they had a bug infestation in their food I ask if they used a mylar bag and the answer is always NO, so don’t disregard these bad boys. These bags combined with the bucket, make it nearly impossible for critters to get in.

buckets

3- Put Food Into the Mylar Bag:

You may want a helper for this part, preferably not one dripping in ice cream ???? I’ve never had one, but I’ve dreamt about how I would boss one around, especially as I’m pouring 50 lb bags of food into mylar bags while trying not to spill it all on the floor! Maybe one day…

Anyways, fill the bag up as full as you can, just make sure to leave room so you can put the lid on!

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4- Add an Oxygen Absorber:

Do not add an oxygen absorber until you’re ready to seal! As soon as you open up a package of oxygen absorbers they start doing what they do best, absorbing oxygen. Make sure to have all your buckets ready to go with the mylar bags and food inside before you even think of opening the package up. As soon as they are opened, get ready to run around crazy throwing them into all your buckets. The goal is to have all your buckets sealed within about 10-20 minutes after opening the absorbers so they can have the maximum impact possible.

DO NOT USE OXYGEN ABSORBERS WITH SUGAR (unless you like eating bricks)

buckets21

*For a 5 gallon bucket use a 2000 cc oxygen absorber or you can use 5 of the 300 cc ones.

Size Container

 Oxygen Absorber Needed

Quart Jar or 32 oz container 100 cc
#10 can or 1-gallon container 300 cc
5 or 6 gallon bucket 1500cc – 2000cc

If you’re planning on using the leftover oxygen absorbers, you want to make sure you seal those back up ASAP. Often times I use the package they came in and re-seal it with my hand-held sealer, or you can repackage them in a vacuum-sealed bag, or store them in an appropriate sized canning jar with a tight-fitting lid. If possible, try to buy smaller packages of oxygen absorbers so they can be used all at once.

5- Seal the Mylar Bag

Once the bag is filled and the oxygen absorber is added, it’s time to seal the mylar bag. I went ahead and bought a hand-held sealer, which I love! Best birthday present I’ve bought myself so far.  You just go along the very top edge of the bag and melt the bag together to form an airtight seal. I leave a little opening at the end, squish as much air out as possible, and then finish sealing the corner.

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You don’t have to wait until your birthday to buy yourself a hand-held sealer – a clothes iron, or even a flat-iron you use for your hair will do the trick. Just lay a board on top of the bucket, lay the bag on top, and iron away! You might want to cut a strip of the bag off to test beforehand to get the correct temperature setting, or if your impatient like I am, just go for it.

buckets3

Make sure your bag is completely sealed, you don’t want any air creeping in. If the temperature is too high it will destroy the strength of the bag, but if it’s too cool the seam will pull apart fairly easy.

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The bag may seem monstrous for the bucket, but that’s good.  If you seal close to the top edge of the bag (above is an awful example), you can cut right below the seal when you open it and REUSE the bag! It can be reused over and over again, all you need to replace is the oxygen absorber.

6- Beat the Lid in Place

You can try to tap the lid in place, but until you lose control and start beating the crap out of it, the lid isn’t going anywhere. This is a great project to do after you’ve walked in on your boys while they’re painting themselves to look like Darth Vader and giving their room a Death Star makeover!

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Gamma vs Regular Lids: Which Lid Should You Use?

GAMMA LIDS – These twist on lids allow for easy access to the contents of your bucket which is one reason I prefer to put these on the buckets I have in my pantry. I can quickly twist the lid off to get the food out and then twist it back on. Some people put these on all their buckets, but the main issue is they are more expensive! They usually run about $4-6 more than regular lids, which can add up fast when buying 30+ buckets!

REGULAR LIDS – I prefer these for most my buckets because they are cheaper, stack easy, and create a good seal. If you are needing to get into your bucket often though, definitely go with the gamma lid if possible.

7- Label Buckets

I spent 2 hours peeling labels off my sister’s buckets, because we had to refill them and they needed a new year. After that, I had a brilliant idea! Instead of always needing to put a whole new label on, why not just put the year on some easy to remove tape. Ingenious, I know!!!

Since I already did the math and figured out what I want in each of my buckets, I went ahead and printed labels with the food item for each bucket.  I don’t plan on changing the contents of the bucket so I went ahead and made sure to tape it on good! The year is changing every time it’s re-filled though, so I put the year on a separate piece of tape! Now I won’t ever be scraping tape and labels off buckets again! Maybe it doesn’t look as nice, but at least it won’t take me 2 hours to change the date!

buckets

8 – Store in a Cool/Dry/Dark Place ????

Just like everything else, you want to store your food in the coolest, driest, and darkest place you can find. This is sometimes where you have to be creative and maybe even consider storing some under the bed. When storing, you want to make sure they’re off the ground (so air can flow underneath), and I’m told you don’t want to stack them more than 3 high (they might crack). I like to be a rebel, so mine are stored right on the carpet, and I stack mine 4 high! The biggest concern is making sure they don’t topple over on anyone, especially the kiddos. So whether you decide to follow the rules, or be a rebel, just make sure to be careful!

Opening Your Buckets:

If the bucket lid is new, you’ll need to pull the plastic part off around the lid. Once that is off, use the bucket opener to pry the lid off. Remember to cut as little of the mylar bag as possible if you plan on reusing it. I then take the bag out and pour the food into the corresponding bucket in my pantry.

buckets4

Using Your Food:

I have 5 buckets in my pantry, which contain ONLY the food I’m currently using. With these buckets, instead of the regular lid, I use the twist-on lids known as Gamma Seal Lids. Mine are all boring white, but you can be fun and get different colors to help keep them organized, or to just add some excitement to your pantry.

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Other Options:

Some other options with storing food is putting multiple smaller mylar bags into one bucket. I don’t necessarily promote this method, because there’s a lot of wasted space and it’s hard to rotate, but I’ve had many people mention they do it.

I prefer to put smaller mylar bags of food into crates or boxes that allow for more bags and are easier to rotate.  These smaller mylar bags can be purchased from places like the LDS Canneries and are a great option to use for storing smaller quantities of food like –  brown sugar, powdered sugar, spaghetti, etc.

bucket

Don’t let me squish your ideas or creativity, have fun and come up with your own ways to super-size your food storage! Just make sure you share your ideas with the rest of us!!!

Is there a method or way you like to store food long-term?

Even though there’s not much to it, I get more questions about how to store food than anything else. It’s something that anyone who is serious about getting food storage

What will go first in a SHTF scenario?

I totally agree with all of you about the importance of storing food, water, medical supplies, knives, weapons, and ammo. What I see as a discrepancy is that some are forgetting about the ‘looting masses”. The idea of “trade” or barter resembling near what everyone thinks will happen,  wont exist for a long time. The looters will not have a lack of guns, ammo, knives, or food for at least 3 to 6 months and when that runs out, they will be stealing from every store that sells guns and ammo. Granted, the food will probably run out first because they are either too lazy or they aren’t smart enough to plant gardens or can their food if they do. The ones who weren’t prepared will be looting or killing for food and water.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual of Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself

Medicine will run out after the pharmacies are looted dry. Drugs will be a hot commodity. Beer and liquor will last only as long as the looters allow. Paper money will be good for starting a fire. Rather than being in short supply, I believe that clothing will last a very long time just because the “looters” will be going from home to home and taking what they want and there are so many clothing stores. If they run out of bullets, they might try to trade for it. Silver and gold might hold some value but we have to remember that any place that sells or trades precious metals will be on their list to knock off. Wedding rings, diamonds, ear rings, gold teeth, or necklaces will be stolen from the less fortunate.

Gas will only last for a very limited time, even with the proper additives and stored properly. Diesel will last longer and there are many homes that have “fuel oil” heat that can be used in diesel vehicles. I’m not sure what the life expectancy of propane is. That will run out also.

Everything will run out eventually

Do I sound like the “grim reaper”? Sorry. Just trying to keep it real. If you’re going to prepare, Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Preparing like you are going on a camping trip and being caught in a real major TEOTWAWKI catastrophe is going to leave you a statistic. You won’t be any better off than those who didn’t prepare. In my opinion trying to survive alone is the worst case scenario and is not an option. The “looters” won’t come around knocking at your door and asking if you can help them and they won’t be alone.

If you want my opinion, get as much ammo as possible and learn to reload. Start growing your own food, collect water from natural sources and learn skills now that can help you protect your home or bug out location. You also need to get as many like-minded people with skills to join you. The only people to consider are those that you can trust and know will have your back no matter what.

It’s always a good idea to have the 5 basic weapons. There is another posting on here for that. Having the ammo and the skills to use those firearms are just as important as having them in the first place. I would like to add 1 more, the air rifle. To be exact, you should consider an Adult Air Rifle. Don’t discount its possibilities. It can save your life in more than one way.

Nothing brings a person to his or her knees like a dental emergency – be it an infection, a lost filling, or fractured tooth.

Having extra seeds to plant your garden (or trade) is or can be a life saver. Buying the right seeds are just as important. Heirloom seeds are seeds that are taken from mature vegetables. They will grow the same plants and give you the same vegetables year after year. You can also use those same seeds to trade or plant new stock.

Fishing and hunting skills are necessary by someone in your group and could prove not only to save you, your family, and group, but to barter with if you have a “good day” and can’t preserve it. You don’t need expensive fishing poles and reels. You don’t need a lot of lures. You will need hooks, sinkers, and bobbers. Remember, you’re not trying to win a fishing tournament; you’re trying to supply food. Small fish taste just as good as or better than big ones. Nets, fish traps, trout lines, hand lines and a stick with a string, hook, and worm will catch you a meal.

Rain catchment barrels are a must. They can give you many gallons of water even in a small rain fall. The water still needs to be purified but a simple boil can make it ready for drinking. I would strongly suggest getting food grade barrels and converting them to your gutters. There are many YouTube videos on how to do this. Very easy and very cheap.

 

The final piece of equipment I would strongly recommend is an M-67 Immersion heater. They can heat your water for showers, heating food, and cleaning dishes and they are not expensive. (under $200) You will need a metal trash can (35 gallon or larger) and PLEASE, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. It runs off of gas, diesel, kerosene, or any flammable liquid.

What will go first in a SHTF scenario? I totally agree with all of you about the importance of storing food, water, medical supplies, knives, weapons, and ammo. What I see

Disasters and emergency situations are a part of our lives. You may not plan on getting lost in the wilderness while heading out on adventure plans, but it can happen to any of us. You may lose your way or get in an accident and end up in the wilderness.

Now, it is all about how you respond to such a situation that plays a significant role in your survival. With the right skills and knowledge, your chances of surviving the emergency situation will be high. Having a positive attitude will greatly increase your chances of finding solutions to problems that can occur in a survival situation. The key is to put your knowledge to use and create your master plan for survival in the wilderness.

While it is nice to have all the tools, food and water along with you, you may lose your basic survival kit and would have to survive the emergency situation with nothing except the tools in our head. No matter how scared and alone you may feel, optimism makes a big difference and impacts your ability to handle the survival situation.

This article is about all the skills you need to learn and remember that can help save your life in any wilderness survival situation. Having a working knowledge of these skills will improve your ability to survive in the wilderness drastically. You may not have any equipment with you, but with the right knowledge of the below-mentioned skill you will still do fine.

This survival guide ensures that you are physically and mentally prepared to face any situation without any tools with you and help yourself at all times. Learning these skills can help you make it through most dangerous survival situations and bring you back home safely.

There are a number of skills but the seven survival skills mentioned below are the most basic ones that you should be mastering first because these are the skills that will help keep you safe for a longer time until you are rescued.

Making Fire

It is important to keep the wind direction and the surrounding area in mind when trying to start a fire.

The first survival skill you must know is how to make a fire. Knowing how to build a fire that burns through the night is crucial. Fire provides you heat, light and smoke keeps you warm and comforts you during the night. You can use it to cook food, purify water, as a signal for help, as a source of light, to see in the dark, make tools and also for keeping critters away. It also creates a sense of security and safety.

When traveling in the wilderness, it is always better to carry a few fire-starting tools like lighter, matches, firesteel, etc.  You could also light a fire with the help of eyeglasses, water bottles, and cell phone batteries. In case you do not have any of these available then fire by friction is the most effective technique that you can use.

There are various other methods of starting a fire with a bow drill, flint, and steel, fire plow, fire saw, hand drill, etc., depending on what resources you find around you. It is important to keep the wind direction and the surrounding area in mind when trying to start a fire. Make the fire away from hanging branches, stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves as it could turn out to be dangerous.

Finding and Purifying Water

Finding water will be mostly dependent on the surroundings you are in.

The next most important priority is water. Finding and purifying water is of primary concern in a wilderness survival situation. The best sources for drinking water in a wilderness are springs, headwater streams, and morning dew. You can find water by following the sound of a flowing river or grazing animals.

Finding water will be mostly dependent on the surroundings you are in. Large plastic bags can draw water from tree leaves; you can tap a tree to get some water. Dew on the grass is another brilliant source of water; you can collect water by running a piece of cloth through the grass. In the desert area, you can find water by digging up a dry creek bed. Stagnant water is not suitable for drinking even if you boil it.

Once you have found water, purifying it is another task. You can purify water by either boiling or filter it.

If you have a fire then boiling is the best way to purify water. Even if you don’t have a container to put water in, you can heat up some rocks, drop them into the water and let it boil for 2-3 minutes.

For filtering, allow the water to stand till the mud settles to the bottom and then you can use any cloth to strain out remaining silt.

Building Shelter

You can collect materials that could be put together as a rough shelter to help you get through until help reaches you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are going to need a shelter at some point until you are rescued. You should at least carry a tarp in your kit, if not a tent. A tarp could be a lifesaver when stuffed with leaves or grass as a barrier from the wind, snow or rain. In case you lose your bag, you can build your shelter as long as you can collect materials that could be put together as a rough shelter to help you get through until help reaches you.

Being able to build a shelter is vital in a wilderness survival situation. You need to consider the location before planning to build a shelter. A good survival shelter must block all the outside elements and protect you from the ground, freezing temperatures, heat, winds that insulate cold or heat, snow, driving sleet and rains.

There are various kinds of natural shelters to consider such as caves, hollow stumps, and logs. You can also build shelters such as a debris hut, lean-to, scout pit, snow shelter, etc., The type of shelter depends on the supplies available to you. The debris hut is the most practical and easiest to construct in almost any environment.

Finding Food

If you do not have any food with you, you will have to find something to eat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food might not top the survival essentials list, but it is equally important as you will start to lose strength if you do not eat for a long time.  It is wise to keep a small container of olive oil as it is packed with a huge amount of calories and can be used for other things as well. But if you do not have any food with you, you will have to find something to eat. Fishes, small animals, plants, and berries are some options that you can look for in the wilderness.

Most of the natural environments are filled with all these and various other foods. If you are around a lake or a river, fishing could be the best option in any survival situation. Hunting small animals with snare traps could also be considered if placed at the right spot.

Plants are another natural and best options that can satisfy your hunger during survival. But it is very important to identify any plant you plan to consume. Do not eat unless you are not sure about the plant as many plants can be poisonous. The best and readily available options are acorns from Oak tree, nut and inner bark from Pine tree, stalk, root and tuber from the Cattail of the grass.

Paracord Use and Paracord Knots

There are extensive uses of this survival tool like building shelter, making fire bow, snares, fishing lines, and stringer, securing an animal, building raft, ladder, etc.

Paracord is a very important survival tool that should always be kept handy. It is made of nylon, and it gives incredible strength and durability that can accomplish a variety of tasks. It is made in a braided form and can hold up to 550 pounds of weight. It is quick drying and resistant to rotting.

Paracord could be used in almost any wilderness survival situation. Paracord can be used intact, or the inner strands of it can also be separated and used for any work. There are extensive uses of this survival tool like building shelter, making fire bow, snares, fishing lines, and stringer, securing an animal, building raft, ladder, etc.

There are some cool Paracord projects that you can try yourself.

Paracord also has many uses in first aid and can be used as a signaling tool as well. All these abilities make paracord a powerful weapon.

Paracord Knot tying is another essential skill in survival techniques. It is a fast & easy way to make a quick safety harness. There is a kind of knot for every survival situation. There are numerous ways of tying paracord knots but taut-line hitch, figure eight knot, square knot, clove hitch and bowline are the most important and widely used paracord knots in any survival situation.

Self Defense

Self-defense is another very important skill in any wilderness survival situations. It is always recommended to carry a few tools or some weapon with you like a knife or pocket saw or any other sharp object that you can protect yourself with. If you do not have any of these, then you can probably make a weapon with the resources and materials available to you. You can find many potential weapons in the wilderness.

Self-defense weapons could be anything like a sharpened stick, branch, or a club or bow and arrow or an axe or simply a piece of rock. You can make a war club or an axe by using a sharp rock and a branch of the tree. All these could be a defensive weapon even in the most untrained hands in survival situations.

If you are at risk from any animal, do not panic or run away from it. It is better to face the animal and get away from it slowly. Throw anything that you can find at it. In case the animal attacks you, try to block its mouth with your non-dominant hand and smash its snout or directly hit it in the eye. Once the animal is temporarily disabled, run to find something that you can hide in. Arm yourself with any sharpened object that you can attack the animal with.

Learn to Communicate

Survival is your priority, but you also need to be rescued. One of the skills required in any survival situation to be rescued is to communicate. Communication is the key, and proper signaling plays an important role. Signaling is drawing attention. The rescuer must be able to recognize your signals and so you need to know effective communication skills.

Considering some wilderness places might not have cell coverage, you can use the following ways to communicate.

  • Construct unnatural objects that do not sync with the surrounding area and are easily noticeable. Use colors, materials, and shapes that can draw the rescuer’s attention.
  • A mirror can be used to reflect during the day. Aluminum foil, watches, silver parts on credit cards or anything shiny can also be used.
  • At night flares, torch and flashlights work best.
  • You can build a signal fire at a certain height in an open space and keep it ready to be lit instantly as you notice any plane or a helicopter.
  • A wave is considered as a signal to not land. Instead, form your arms in a “Y” shape indicating that you need help.
  • Wave your arms or a t-shirt attached to a branch of a tree vigorously; your movement will be noticeable.
  • Radio is surest and fastest way of communication. Learn how to operate and be familiar with the radios in your unit.
  • Whistles are another sure communicating tool that can be heard from far away. Always try to carry a whistle with you or learn how to whistle.
  • If you’re moving, it is better to leave some things behind as a signal at prominent clearings.

By maintaining a positive attitude and with the help of the above survival techniques you can not only successfully survive any wilderness situation but also you can get yourself out safely. For any situation Prepare, Adapt and overcome is the key to succeeding.

Disasters and emergency situations are a part of our lives. You may not plan on getting lost in the wilderness while heading out on adventure plans, but it can happen

The Pro’s & Con’s of Perennials

One of the benefits of going with perennials is that they’re largely a one-time investment. Some may only last a handful of years or a decade, but most will give us 20-50 years or whole lifetimes of production once they get started.

The flip side of that is that most perennials require at least a year or two to establish, many 4-10 years, and fruit/nut perennials could need 10-20 years before they start producing a reasonable yield. A lot of the fruiting perennials are one-offs per year, as well. There are some with longer harvest seasons, but it’s not like an annual garden where in some cases we have the potential to plant four different things in a space per year, and tree and shrub fruit isn’t usually like lettuces or spinach that we can repeatedly harvest from the same plant.

On the other hand, once they’re established, most perennials don’t really need us a whole lot, unlike annuals, and trees need us even less than smaller shrubs and perennial plants. Perennials can be highly multi-function, with additional roles such as nitrogen fixation that can improve soils around them, soil stabilizing roots, pollinator habitat and food sources, livestock fodder or forage in the form of green limbs and leaves or tree hay, and medicinal value. Some can be coppiced or selectively pruned to provide us with kindling, rocket stove fuel and mulching chips.

Here I’ll stay away from trees like apples and plums that are so commonly grafted and are super susceptible to diseases and pests. They tend to need us, and they tend to be pretty recognizable. Instead, we’ll look at some other options. Most of the ones I’ll recommend are largely free of pests.

I’ll come back to the ones that can be a little less obvious as food production in another article as well. Right now, here’s a look at my top five perennials preppers should consider, selected as such due to their climate versatility, ornamental aspects, health, versatility for all stages of preparedness, and highly multi-functional landscape and production roles: pea shrub, oak, willow, wild plums, and crabapples.

Pygmy peashrub can easily fit into even small urban and suburban gardens and homes.

Pea Shrub

Pea shrub is one of the more controversial plants that we increasingly see due to permaculture’s spreading interests.

Many types of livestock can consume the leaves and pods of pea shrub, providing a fodder or forage plant that can sometimes be lacking in the cooler climates. It’s also a habitat builder for small game and small birds, and beneficial predatory insects. Because it can survive in some pretty gnarly climates and ugly soils (thin, compacted, stripped out) it’s an excellent nurse crop or soil retention and rebuilding crop for mismanaged lands, drylands, and cool or cold climates. As a nitrogen fixer, it’s ideal for production alongside trees and larger shrubs with high needs, especially those that can use the N boost later in the growing season (it takes part of the season for the legumes to start producing excess nitrogen, even the perennials).

Peashrub offers great variety in use, tolerant of manicuring to a shaped hedge or blending into a freeform native patch – both hiding food or resource production in plain sight.

It’s happier in part shade than in full sun, which makes it an excellent addition for base shrubs against a northern or eastern wall and alongside established trees.

It’s one of the few where instead of a cold-hardy ceiling, we’re bounded instead by heat. Siberian pea shrub can handle zones up to 8 if there’s water, but many varieties will only go up to 6 or 7.

Warmer areas (7-8, sometimes 6 by variety) will find less flowering with some varieties, which means fewer of the pods we can consume and feed livestock green, the tender green seeds, and the dry peas. Shaded areas can help combat this. Even at its warmer limits, it produces foliage well, with that foliage an excellent addition to our tree hays as well as nutrient-rich mulch that we can use to overwinter strawberries or cover our garden beds.

Oaks

Oaks produce acorns, although there’s more to that story than some might think. Acorns come in a number of sizes and shell thicknesses, which increases and decreases their ease for human consumption or the livestock and wildlife that can make use of them. Oaks also tend to produce in cycles, although the cycles can vary widely, from those that grow and mature the nuts in a single year, to those that might take 2-3 years to drop harvests. Some have the same boom-bust cycles found in other nut and fruit trees.

There’s an oak that can be found for every zone, 3-9 at least, with most zones having multiple species native or compatible. Oaks also cover a wide, wide range of soils and precipitation. This site http://www.wildlifegroup.com/shop-for-hardwoods/ is a sale site, but I keep it handy as a reference for oak types, from their size to their zones, soil and climate needs, to production cycles.

Oaks come in a huge variety, from leaf shape to acorn size and shape, to the climates and conditions they’ll thrive in and their cycles of production.

Oaks can create some challenges due to the jugalone they produce and the high-tannin highly acidic leaves they drop, as well as the dense shade they produce, but there are plenty of native fruits and nuts in oak forests, and even some domestic crops and ornamental edibles that can share space with them, from blueberries to paw-paw. We can also mow the leaf drop annually to mulch over annual gardens and berries that like acidity, or create leaf mold.

A number of yarrows, reed grasses, lilacs, wild-type buckwheats (Californian, coastal, Suzi’s red), woodland and mock strawberry, lavender, lupines, Californian coffeberry/buckthorn, verbena, sages, sorrel, bunching fescue-type grasses, and others can grow in close association with oaks. They allow us to create a naturalized setting or a very ornamental one, with food production for humans as well as medicinal and herbal plants, and pollinator and nurse plants all in the same area. With tailoring, they can create managed free-range grazing for birds raising their own nests, goats, and other species; small game or game bird habitat for increased hunting in cities, suburbs or rurals; and harvested-fodder from grains to soft legumes to fruits and foliage for livestock.

Willow

From the ability to make small-batch or large-plot propagation-rooting and garden-transplant boosting “tea” to the ones that can help with pain management, willow is a pretty well-known function, resource, and survival tree.

We can use its leaves as medicinal feed for most livestock, or regularly supplement with it for goats and rabbits, even chickens, and turn it into tree hay. Wands can be woven for window covers and floor mats, baskets and chair seats, and used as natural ties in some forms of construction, from plant trellises and cages to fish traps and boxes. Its rapid growth enables us to turn it into living fences and hedges with relative speed and ease. We can even use some species to help us “mop up” seasonally or annually boggy areas to allow other plants a better shot at growing.

Willow is adaptable to trimming and pruning to hedges, domes, arches, living fences, and small shrubs, increasing its versatility in small lots as well as large homesteads.

Overhanging ponds, creeks and rivers, willow creates excellent habitat for game birds as well as fish, and it can help stabilize banks. As with use in open yards, it can help create a flood and high-rain buffer, soaking up incredible amounts of moisture, especially as a coppiced hedgerow backed by larger trees. Willow’s absorption powers can also help create a buffer between waste-generating systems like livestock manure, outdoor kennels and pet wastes, overflowing septic systems, and runoff from composting toilets or outhouses, and nearby veggie patches or waterways (look up algal blooms for the impact on fishing and waterways).

Willow makes an excellent resource and function tree, creating shade and habitat, fodder, and wands for various uses.

Bees and other pollinator and predatory insect species use its pollen extensively. The catkins (flowers) provide a very early season nectar flower for pollinators when not much else has started blooming.

As with oaks, there’s a willow for nearly every climate. Some willows excel in a few key functions far more than others, so some research into variety can help us.

Crabapples come in a variety of sizes, flavors and textures, with varying degrees of palatability.

Wild Plum & Crabapples

Chickasaw is by far my favorite wild plum, but it’s somewhat limited as to region. Like oaks and willows, in most of the U.S. and Canada – as well as Europe – there is a wild plum that is native to our area, or from a region that very closely mimics our conditions. Those will almost always be more successful than something we’re trying to force into our conditions.

Chickasaw plum

Wild sandhill plum

Wild plums are highly, highly variable. Not only do varieties change hugely in fruit size, texture, and flavor, those fruits can regularly change tree-to-tree, climate-to-climate, season-to-season –even within a small yard’s space, due to microclimate. Some make larger fruits that, while pretty tart, are readily consumed raw and have enough fruit around the pit to be worth it. Some produce tiny fruits. Some really have to be juiced and turned into jelly with lots of sweetness added.

Crabapples tend even further toward the “needs processing” side of the line, but sometimes a hybrid or cultivar can be found that isn’t too bad fresh or only baked, or can be aged in cool storage like a Braeburn apple or mayhop to totally sweeten the flavor and soften the texture.

Wild plums and crabapples have a number of uses even with the drawbacks.

They tend to be hardier and a little more resistant to the diseases our domestic rubus fruits face. In some cases they might act as a carrier for pest and disease, but in many cases, the wild cousins can actually help us by forming a “windbreak” of sorts, except for pests. Pests and disease carriers hit them, and the wild fruits keep the disease or insect from jumping from apple to peach to plum to roses to berry brambles.

Wild plums and crabapples tolerate heavy pruning and pleaching, providing the potential of food, fodder, and cross-pollination for domestics in any environment.

They can also regularly serve as cross-pollinating partners for domestics. Wild cousins tend to also be broken into early, mid and late seasons, but they regularly have much longer flowering seasons. As a result, if we lose an ideal partner, our wild cousins may be close enough to fill that role not just for one cultivar, but for several.

Wild plums are highly variable in fruit size and flavor, with a long flowering period that results in longer harvest periods.

The extended flowering translates into extended fruiting as well, whereas domestics tend to have a 2-4 week window for harvest, by variety. Wild plums and crabapples can be ripening for as much as a 2-3 month period. That can let us spread out the workload, help cover gaps if we missed the harvest season due to injury or a travel, and it can allow us to harvest some of the later fruits or earlier fruits, and run livestock under them for the rest.

Just like domestic apple and plum limbs can be fed in small amounts green or larger amounts when cut and dried for hay, so can wild cousins. The cousins tend to be lower, bushier and even faster-growing, which can increase the ease and amount of fodder harvests.

Some wild plums are thorny, like pea shrub can be, and the woody trunks and branches have the ability to form living fences with the bonus of harvests.

Crabapples share the hedge-tolerant and woody growth advantages. Both also create habitat for edge-dwelling wildlife like quail and rabbits, increasing hunting capabilities whether we’re using a pellet gun in the ‘burbs or a low-load saboted .30-06 on a large spread.

Mixed crabapple hedge

Perennial Foods

There can be some huge benefits to creating a food forest and forage meadow around our homes. Even if we don’t own homes or don’t own much land, we might consider picking up a hardhat and road guard vest, and putting in some perennial shrubs and trees near us, or indulging in some seed bombs (do NOT throw invasives like bishop’s weed or kudzu anywhere; in fact, stick to wild edibles that are native to your area or the habitat-building natives that increase edible wildlife).

In many cases, the plants we choose can be beautiful and provide other services like shade and pest insect reductions, while giving us a resilient, permanent backup food source should we need it. They can provide feed for livestock, or they can create habitat and food sources to increase our game populations. Whether we’re rural or renting, increasing game means increasing food sources.

Planting natives is becoming ever more popular, so they’re increasing in availability. To fill in the areas around these perennials – and any others – look to not only the native species around you, but also to some of the nostalgia fruits like gooseberry, chokecherry and garden huckleberry that fewer folks recognize these days, and natives from similar areas or foods from Africa, Asia and South America that put up with inclement climates and are equally less known such as teff, amaranth, Asian yams, and quinoa. They tend to have fewer U.S. and Canadian pests, and can help make sure we’re the ones harvesting, not passersby.

The Pro’s & Con’s of Perennials One of the benefits of going with perennials is that they’re largely a one-time investment. Some may only last a handful of years or a

 

Take a second and think if there is anyone you know who has loads of supplies packed in their home. Now ask yourself if that person has the knowledge and skill level to employ that equipment in critical times. What about you? Do you have the know-how when the going gets rough?

Maybe you’re just getting started with prepping and have an extremely tight budget. Your community and family are going to need capable people who can execute vital tasks when times are hard and lives are on the line. Don’t sell yourself short if your finances prevent you from acquiring massive amounts of equipment for any number of disasters. Think about the people on the other side of the coin who have lots of gear, but not lots of training on how to use it. Aristotle’s said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and pulling together as a community can pull you through any difficult circumstances.

Take a stroll through any prepper website and you’ll see that a ton emphasis is placed on gear and gadgets. I’m here to tell you that skills beat gadgets any day of the week and twice on Sundays! Knowledge weighs nothing and you always have it on you. People often try to buy their way out of a problem, but skills are built through habit and time. Today we’re going to focus on 6 basic skills that every prepper needs: Shooting, Medical, Survival, Communication, Gardening, and Leadership.

Shooting

A rifle with a sling in the hands of trained marksman can devastate and enemy force or consistently provide meat for the pot.

When things fall apart, it’s handy to know how to handle a weapon. Not just for self-defense purposes, but also for hunting. Even if you only have a .22 rifle, you can become deadly with it. Fancy scopes, match-grade barrels, suppressors and bi-pods are not required. A rifle with a sling in the hands of trained marksman can devastate and enemy force or consistently provide meat for the pot. You need to learn how to shoot – it can literally save your life!
Project Appleseed is a non-profit nationwide community of volunteers that teaches traditional rifle marksmanship that will “transform you from a person with a rifle into a principled and skilled Rifleman.” They offer inexpensive weekend shoots in nearly every state.

Medical

Medical emergencies don’t wait for the end of the world. They happen every day to thousands of people in your community. Trained First Responders can mean the difference between life and death. It’s likely that everyone will have to deal with some sort of medical or traumatic situation so it’s probably not a bad idea to learn how to deal with medical emergencies before they occur.

There are many counties/cities in every state that need volunteer firefighters. Since almost 80% of their calls are medical related, there are departments that will pay for your Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)- Basic Certification Course in return for your volunteer service to their department. This is an outstanding way to learn a crucial skill (for free) and get involved in your community. During my time as an EMT, I’ve seen first-hand the varied and extreme reactions of people’s response to stress while also developing the muscle memory to stay calm and provide emergency care to the sick and injured.

Survival

Whether you’re bugging out during a crisis or simply lost in the woods, survival skills are foundational to maintaining life. There are a lot of great resources on this topic that are free. Check out your local library for books or DVDs on survival. YouTube can also provide a lot of information regarding water purification, shelter building, fire-craft, signaling, navigation and snaring. There are a wide variety of techniques in the survival community so focus your search on practical skills and less on the primitive living techniques that can take years to master like fire by friction, tanning hides, flint-knapping, etc.

Communication

It’s a good idea to learn how to use radios now before you need them.For communities to effectively work together during catastrophes, they have to be able to communicate. In today’s society, we’ve become complacent with luxuries like the internet and cell phones that are highly vulnerable to failure when things go south.

In times of need, HAM radio operators stand in the gap to provide lifesaving information. This allows communities to prepare for incoming threats, make informed decisions, adjust provisions for crisis duration or work in concert with nearby communities. You can learn the basics of HAM radio with this free course.  Also, it’s less than $40 to get your license and using a simple handheld radio you can be talking to other operators in your community in no time!

Gardening/Canning

A garden is simply a prepping must-have to live off-grid.

You’ve probably heard the saying that “Growing your own food is like printing your own money” and in hard times this has never been truer. Imagine your delight eating fresh tomatoes or strawberries after two weeks of freeze-dried food. Or opening a jar of raspberry jam in the middle of winter that you canned earlier that summer. Gardening and canning are skills that can be learned with a minimum amount of startup costs. If you have no idea where to start, check out your local county extension or city. They likely offer free workshops on these subjects and some even provide supplies to take home! Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of space. A simple window sill herb garden can teach you the learning curve that comes with gardening. The beauty of gardening is that even if crisis never comes, you’ll still enjoy the fruits of your labor. Ha…you see what I did there?!

Leadership

Working together is a key factor to surviving disasters and leadership is a fundamental role in making that happen. Your community is a lot like a tribe and it needs leaders at the local level. Good leadership comes from being informed and understanding what people need in hard times. One part of leadership is understanding what planning and execution is taking place at the city, state and national level. FEMA has tons of free online courses so you can work together and relay community challenges using the local chain of command. Here is a snapshot of some of the courses they offer:

  • Understanding the Incident Command System
  • Emergency Planning
  • Decision Making and Problem Solving
  • Planning for the Needs of Children in Disasters
  • Natural Disaster Mitigation

Check out their site to learn more:

There are also free courses on personal emergency preparedness offered by your city or county. A quick Internet search should point you in the right direction.

Sometimes the hardest part with most things in life is getting started. The good news is that you don’t need a fortune to start building your skillset. The danger here is not acting on this information; you have to apply it! Like Derek Sivers says, “If information were the answer we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs”. Now you know how to get started and move towards your goal. This can actually be a lot of fun. Invite a friend along with you and learn something new together. You might even find a new hobby!

  Take a second and think if there is anyone you know who has loads of supplies packed in their home. Now ask yourself if that person has the knowledge and

1 – VARIETY

Most people don’t have enough variety in their storage. 95% of the people I’ve worked with only stored the 4 basic items we mentioned earlier: wheat, milk, honey, and salt. Statistics show most of us won’t survive on such a diet for several reasons.

  • Many people are allergic to wheat and may not be aware of it until they are eating it meal after meal.
  • Wheat is too harsh for young children. They can tolerate it in small amounts but not as their main staple.
  • We get tired of eating the same foods over and over and many times prefer not to eat than to sample that particular food again. This is called appetite fatigue. Young children and older people are particularly susceptible to it. Store less wheat than is generally suggested and put the difference into a variety of other grains, particularly ones your family likes to eat. Also store a variety of beans. This will add variety of color, texture and flavor. Variety is the key to a successful storage program. It is essential that you store flavorings such as tomato, bouillon, cheese, and onion.

 

Also, include a good supply of the spices you like to cook with. These flavorings and spices allow you to do many creative things with your grains and beans. Without them you are severely limited. One of the best suggestions I can give you is buy a good food storage cookbook. Go through it and see what your family would really eat. Notice the ingredients as you do it. This will help you more than anything else to know what items to store.

2- EXTENDED STAPLES

Few people get beyond storing the four basic items, but it is extremely important that you do so. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Store dehydrated and/or freeze-dried foods as well as home canned and store bought canned goods. Make sure you add cooking oil, shortening, baking powder, soda, yeast and powdered eggs. You can’t cook even the most basic recipes without these items. Because of limited space I won’t list all the items that should be included in a well-balanced storage program. They are all included in the The New Cookin’ With Home Storage cookbook, as well as information on how much to store, and where to purchase it.

3 – VITAMINS

Vitamins are important, especially if you have children, since children do not store body reserves of nutrients as adults do. A good quality multivitamin and vitamin C are the most vital. Others may be added as your budget permits.

4 – QUICK AND EASY AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FOODS

Quick and easy foods help you through times when you are psychologically or physically unable to prepare your basic storage items. No cook foods such as freeze-dried are wonderful since they require little preparation. MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), such as many preparedness outlets carry, canned goods, etc. are also very good. Psychological Foods are the goodies – Jello, pudding, candy, etc. – you should add to your storage.

These may sound frivolous, but through the years I’ve talked with many people who have lived entirely on their storage for extended periods of time. Nearly all of them say these were the most helpful items in their storage to normalize their situations and make it more bearable. These are especially important if you have children.

Store a variety of beans. This will add variety of color, texture and flavor.

5 – BALANCE

Time and time again I’ve seen families buy all of their wheat, then buy all of another item, and so on. Don’t do that. It’s important to keep well-balanced as you build your storage. Buy several items, rather than a large quantity of one item. If something happens and you have to live on your present storage, you”ll fare much better having a one-month supply of a variety of items than a year’s supply of two to three items.

6 – CONTAINERS

Always store your bulk foods in food storage containers. I have seen literally tons and tons of food thrown away because they were left in sacks, where they became highly susceptible to moisture, insects and rodents. If you are using plastic buckets make sure they are lined with a food grade plastic liner available from companies that carry packaging supplies. Never use trash can liners as these are treated with pesticides. Don’t stack them too high. In an earthquake they may topple, the lids pop open, or they may crack. A better container is the #10 tin can which most preparedness companies use when they package their foods.

7 – USE YOUR STORAGE

In all the years I’ve worked with preparedness one of the biggest problems I’ve seen is people storing food and not knowing what to do with it. It’s vital that you and your family become familiar with the things you are storing. You need to know how to prepare these foods. This is not something you want to learn under stress. Your family needs to be used to eating these foods. A stressful period is not a good time to totally change your diet. Get a food storage cookbook and learn to use these foods!

It’s easy to solve these food storage problems once you know what they are. The lady I talked about at the first of the article left realizing what she had stored was a good beginning, but not enough. As she said, “It’s better to find out the mistakes I’ve made now while there’s still time to make corrections.” This makes a lot more sense.

If you’re one who needs to make some adjustments, that’s okay. Look at these suggestions and add the things you’re missing. It’s easy to take a basic storage and add the essentials to make it livable, but it needs to be done. As I did the research for my cookbook I wanted to include recipes that gave help to families no matter what they had stored. As I put the material together it was fascinating to discover what the pioneers ate is the type of things we store. But if you have stored only the 4 basics, there’s very, very little you can do with it. By adding even just a few things it greatly increases your options, and the prospect of your family surviving on it. As I studied how the pioneers lived and ate, my whole feeling for food changed. I realized our storage is what most of the world has always lived on. If it’s put together the right way we’ll be returning to good basic living with a few goodies thrown in.

1 – VARIETY Most people don’t have enough variety in their storage. 95% of the people I’ve worked with only stored the 4 basic items we mentioned earlier: wheat, milk, honey,

When we think of castles in the medieval periods particularly, we generally think of staid, damp, barren places. Within some areas, they certainly were. It was a harsh, brutish time for many. It and the times leading up to it were filled with violence – hence the need for wall-ringed castles and hillforts in the first place.

And yet in these periods when death by violence and disease was prevalent, when survival was a constant chore, we find castle gardens within the very walls that were so utilitarian. By medieval and Tudor times, portions of the castles and even villager areas were being designed for pleasure as well as productivity. While we may not have enough land or resources to truly create our own castle, we can take away a fair bit from the layout of those castles, hillforts and even some of the equally guarded and protected monasteries.

First let’s take a look at some of the general consistencies between castles and protected areas during the pre-cannon times, and then we’ll look at how the residents can impact how we arrange large, sprawling homesteads and even small areas and yards.

Castle Layouts

British Hillforts tended to be Spartan environments, but even there – and when the Spartans existed – defensive structures also included water sources and regularly livestock and at least some limited garden spaces or wild foods within the safest palisades.

In the case of castles, there was even greater gardening taking place within the tiers of earthworks and walls carved out of hillsides.

Dunlop Hillfort and village – a macro-example of defensive structures and Spartan existence.

Castles and hillforts both made use of terrain. At the time, high was good, since it afforded more outward line-of-sight and thus more time to sound alarms. Deep trenches or moats surrounded the innermost walls and upper levels. Attackers not only had to scale the lower and outlying walls, they had to get themselves and siege equipment uphill, while defenders had the benefits of gravity and elevation on their side in all phases of attack.

If they could hold a force outside even middle and lower rings and walls, the defenders could even still reap the benefits of having crops and livestock grazing the rings around the inner walls.

Bonus – Fun Fact: This is the era in which we became obsessed with lawns. Rich folks had bunches of livestock, especially sheep. Sheep grazed all around, closely cropping grass and anything else that dared grow. It resulted in tightly mown lawns. The more sheep, the more pure grass and closer shorn it was. Having nothing but foods, shrubs and trees right around the house meant you couldn’t afford sheep. That poverty-wealth dichotomy stayed embedded as specialization grew, and everybody wanted a lawn so show their worth. It has stayed so embedded that here we are, hundreds of years later, burning fuel to prove we’re rich enough for short grass and competing with neighbors to have the most perfect, even, level grass on the block.

We can apply the lesson the same way Iron-Age Europeans did. We can create alleys or rings of silvopasture to shade and feed livestock and ourselves, creating tough fixtures and alarms where we can’t see – like the age-old sheepdog and sturdy gate or ha-ha. We can arrange properties large and small so that lower pastures and fields are outlying, allowing us more time to visualize threats.

We can create some of our first-line defensive walls with things like hugelkulture beds and other raised beds, and create ditches across roadways or leave trees standing that we can use to reinforce gates. Low or mid-height and dense, thorny brambles can also form our walls or create enough depth, noise and pain that simple thugs can’t make the jumps or choose and easier target.

We can use water catchment, mandala and keyhole beds, and our buildings and vehicles to form an inner wall from which we can defend property if necessary, keeping the things and supplies we most need access to safe within the innermost ring.

And we can use the castle gardens as examples of ways we can still produce food and medicine even if we decide to retreat inside our high, inner walls and abandon the rest.

The aerial view of Pensevey ruins helps show the amount of green space inside a hillfort and its moats, with sheep still grazing one of the inner walls and farm and grazing land still laid out around the lower and outer earthworks. We don’t have to have a true castle or that much space to follow the example laid out.

Zoning

In permaculture, a concept called zoning is at the forefront of design – right up there with the ever-pressing reminders of health and productivity through diversity and edge habitat. Zoning is where we create spaces for each thing, working by patterns of traffic frequency.

The places we go most are Zone 1, and we put the most needy members of our homesteads there, the things we’ll need to visit most often. Zone 5 is the outer limit. It’s basically an area left wild, only periodically visited for at most a little foraging and hunting.

The terms and definitions may have changed, but castles made use of the same theories.

The inner set of tall, high walls would be our Zones 1-2, with 3-4 those rings of livestock and feed and large crops outside the moat. Maybe we have a true Zone 5, or maybe we designate little patches of brush, hang bug motels and bat houses, and create towers and boxes where swallows and owls will do their things – ridding us of pests as they do.


Pottager Gardens

Pottager gardens are just a different way of saying kitchen garden – or they were.

Starchy peas, turnips, potatoes, and the grains for bread were largely grown in some of the outer rings and beyond them – the equivalent of Zone 3 and 4 from our permaculture example – but most of the rest was either from the hedgerows and wild fruit areas, collected by foraging, or grown very near the kitchens where they’d be used.

Most of the British populace ate little meat and roasted foods even up into Tudor times. Instead, pottage was the daily meal – and was for a long, long period of history. It’s basically just a stew based around peas and whatever is in season. The gardens that mostly influenced the stew’s flavor picked up the same name.

Pottagers evoke certain images for designers and historians: small beds, regularly bounded by wattle (woven horizontal branches and saplings) or stone, raised as often as they were ground level.

They were usually surrounded by bent-hedge (laid hedge) living fencing, dense hedges, brush fencing that used upright posts filled with thick timber debris laid horizontally between them, rip-gut twisted-timber and -stick fences, vertical wattle, or simple vertical stick and top-rail fences, either vertical posts or arranged in a series of bottom-heavy X’s with horizontal poles laid in the cross sections.

The fencing was largely dependent on what it guarded against – poultry, dogs, rabbits, a loose horse in some areas, geese – and was made out of fast-growing “junk” brush and the leftover debris from cutting housing timbers, firewood, and clearing fields. Wattle was even used to make livestock housing in some temperate areas of Great Britain, particularly.

Medieval Style Garden

We see pottager beds inside tight castle spaces as well as out among the village cottages and even used in the wide-open outlying guard shacks.

Outside the castle walls, fencing would typically be stronger and taller to prevent entry by deer, but thick debris fencing was even used to contain or exclude pigs.

Square beds predominate, with triangular or curving beds as well, particularly in later periods. In the small square and rectangular courtyards between various walls and towers and portions of the castles and hillforts, they were efficient to work by hand without losing much space.

It’s hard for us to conceive breaking up long rows, even with our high-yielding, milder, sweeter vegetables. In fact, Europeans and early colonists with their less-efficient crops may have benefitted hugely by using them instead of the plows.

Pottagers were visited and tended much more frequently than crops that were alternated with grazing animals between the rings of the further, lower outer walls around a castle. The field crops had to deal with much less compaction as a result.

Working the smaller beds from walkways likely kept those beds in better health because no one was stepping on the soil, packing it down the way we do when we work down our rows and lines.

Every Single Inch

While there were gardens near kitchens, and while chatelaines typically also had gardens, they all also had to compete with the chapel gardens that were typically allowed and with the physic gardens maintained by the official healers.

It could get tight.

Because so many people could be expected to cram into castles and protected monasteries during attacks, carrying everything they could, to include livestock, and because the early castles and the hillforts, especially, tended to be high-traffic areas, growing space within the inner walls was at a premium – a condition many of us can relate to.

Growing food and herbs in long sweeps between sets of castle walls.

It was also vital to be able to grow some of the food inside walls in case of siege.

So they made use of roadsides not only for foragable hedgerows, but also for small trees, flowers, herbs, and annual and perennial fruits. In some cases, they even built up raised beds against the castle walls themselves.

It was also very common to have orchards in the graveyards inside one ring of a castle or another, to use arbors around gates for vining fruit, and to make use of the steep sides of the earthworks that were left with sometimes vary narrow verges.

Images: Recreation of the castle-interior kitchen gardens of Highcote

Diversity

The small spaces weren’t necessarily a bad thing. From the narrow spaces available between pathways and walls, to the kitchen, noble women’s, and monk’s gardens, the tight quarters led to increased diversity in garden strips, hedges and beds.

Historians have decided that it was actually pretty rare for herbs and high-yielding fruits and vegetables to be separated into rows. Bulk-produced foods – especially those that needed each other for pollination, kept close because gardeners realized they did better when grouped even if they didn’t understand the mechanics – might occupy whole beds, but most were rambling and intermingled where there was space for annuals.

Recreated and English-style kitchen gardens typically have fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers intermingled, with perennial hedges, shrubs, arbors, and trees in corners an surrounding the garden space.

Beautification and “smelling” gardens around trees in graveyards and orchards increased diversity there. Even when things were only planted to take advantage of pre-leaf-out sunlight and make every use of the space, it resulted in longer periods of flowering, a heavy mixing of herbs and perennials near and with annuals, and a great many microclimates where all the plant types met each other.

Until formal gardens took over, those “margin” areas undulated and staggered in differing waves and sizes, further increasing the amount of edge.

Diversity and a mixing of microclimates creates the same relationships we see with both companion planting – where a plant attracts or repels something for another plant – and at the edges of roads, places where water meets woods or meadows, and other verges – places that we harvest the most game and the most edible weeds.

With rich, diverse webs of life taking place in the soil, nutrients are cycled effectively. Mixed plants mean roots are drawing from different levels, and pests find it harder to locate their victims.

It also creates resiliency. With so much life, if something in the soil is wiped out one way or another, it’s not that big of a deal. There’s plenty of other life available to make up for it.

Likewise, with many types of herbs and foods growing together, should one fail in one spot, another might survive. If all of a type were lost, because gardens were so diverse, there was still food production taking place – inside the inner walls, even if it was unsafe to venture out into the lower-walled sections with bulk crops and livestock.

Fences were made with what you had on hand, designed for simple function.

Castle Gardens

We can learn a lot from history, and given the defensive mindsets of preppers, we can apply some of the defensive lessons directly to even our suburban and urban homes. Really, up until the last hundred years, we still very strongly relied on defensive works designed surprisingly similar to castles – well after the widespread adoption of cannon and cartridges.

The gardens kept within the walls of palace castles and hillforts have particular application as well, both for efficiency and for remembering that even when life was short and brutish in the Iron Age an medieval eras, peons and princes still planted their castles for beauty as well as yield.

Castle defenses, medieval gardening methods, and permaculture sectors and zones are all things that can be further researched to forward the preparedness of our homesteads. Permaculture’s stacking functions can help make our spaces even more efficient.

They can also help city dwellers, looking at apartments and condos as inhabitated towers and making use of the narrow strips of greener. Japan’s container and small-bed growing has been in place since the time of the Samurai in the largest cities – about the same time we’re looking at European castles – and can make for good study as well for those in tight, tiny spaces.

For more information about some of the garden features from the Iron Age through medieval and Tudor times, check out http://www.castlesandmanorhouses.com/life_06_gardens.htm and http://www.sudeleycastle.co.uk/gardens/tudor-physic-garden/ . There are tons of images, as well as lists of foods and medicines valued by people who depended on what they pulled out of the ground.

When we think of castles in the medieval periods particularly, we generally think of staid, damp, barren places. Within some areas, they certainly were. It was a harsh, brutish time

I recall reading somewhere that we don’t actually measure life in hours, minutes, seconds or years, but rather in a coffee spoon. I have to agree with this one – if I did that right, I would say that my age would be around two cargo containers filled to the brim with coffee.

Anyway, today’s topic won’t revolve around coffee, per se, but the coffee ground. Yup that icky stuff that usually ends clogging the kitchen sink has many uses. So, without prolonging your agony too much, here are 9 ingenious ways to reuse coffee grounds.

Pots and pans detail

The only thing worse than burning your food is having to scrape that pot or pan afterward. It’s frustrating because no matter how hard you scrub, that scorch mark will still cling to your cookware. When everything else fails, use coffee grounds. Even though that stuff’s been drenched in hot water, it’s still quite abrasive – good news for you, bad news for whatever dirt’s left on the pot. I personally prefer giving the skillets a through coffee grounds scrub every now and then. That’s the reason why I keep a box of that stuff next to the kitchen sink.

Creating awesome marinades

Cooking’s great because it allows you to experiment with various ingredients combos. Take marinades, for instance. Each marinade consists of 5 basic ingredients: oil, salt, pepper, water, and spice mix. However, this doesn’t have to stop us from trying other things. Some use scented oils, veggie mix, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and whatnots. I personally prefer to use coffee ground. Apart from the fact that it makes the meat literally melt in your mouth (try this the next time you’ll be cooking pulled pork) it also gives it a smoky, earth-like aroma and aftertaste. Not to mention the fact that it’s a great way to recycle coffee ground which in 99.9 percent of cases would end up in the trash.

Giving plants a run for their money

Many people have asked me what type of chemical I use around the garden. Well, I don’t use that stuff because I don’t want to end up with supermarket tomatoes. I usually make my own compost from coffee grounds, wilted veggies, and dung. Plants simply love it. Sure, you need to wear a hazard mask to walk around the compost pile, but nothing beat a tasty and nutritious veggie dinner.

No more ice-skating

If you’re having trouble figuring out a way to remove the ice from your driveway with destroying the driveway in the process, try with coffee grounds. That stuff provides great traction while melting the ice.

Getting rid of dead skin and acne

Acne’s always an issue, regardless if you’re 14 or 44. Don’t waste your money on expensive skin creams when there’s a cheaper alternative – using fresh coffee grounds. After grounds cool down, stick them inside a food processor and give them a couple of spins. Use this fine powder to scrub your face and other parts of the body.

No more ants in the pants (or food basket)

Summer’s just around the bend, and we all know what this means – quite family picnics, hiking, and drives. If you don’t want to see any ants or other pests crawling all over your food, sprinkle some coffee grounds the picnic area. They hate them. Apparently, according to researchers, caffeine, the very same substance that gives us a kick in the morning, disrupts their central nervous systems, making the critters feel mightily uncomfortable.

Getting rid of nasty fridge smells

I know that no one’s in the mood to take everything out of the fridge and scrub that thing clean at the end of the week. Obviously, if you postpone this for too long, you’re going to end with a smelly fridge. Now, if you’re not a clean freak, you may be able to get rid of fouls smells from the fridge by putting some coffee ground on a plate or small bowl. Place it inside the fridge, and that’s it. You can also use the same stuff as an air freshener. FIY, coffee grounds are very effective at removing tobacco smell from the room.

Grow your own shrooms

No, not those kinds of mushrooms, because they’re illegal. I was thinking more on the lines of champignons, the same shrooms you find in every supermarket. It’s super easy to do it. Take a plastic bucket and fill it with some earth. Add a handful of compost and mix with a trowel or hands. At your local supermarket, take a look around the gardening section for shroom seeds. They’re very cheap (around $1 per package). Empty the pack’s content in the bucket, water, and place in a dark room with a loss of moisture. I personally keep my bucket shrooms in the basement. After a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to harvest and use them for cooking your favorite meals.

Keeping mold away from your linen closet

Nothing beats opening your closet and taking a whiff of those freshly-ironed bedsheets. Well, you wouldn’t feel that way if your nose was to be assaulted by a rancid smell. That’s the trouble with keeping linen for far too long under lock and key – they tend to smell of mold. However, there’s a quick to prevent that from happening, and it doesn’t involve washing, ironing or buying pricey closet fresheners.

Fill a small satchel with coffee grounds and place it between the bedsheets. The coffee grounds will remove any mold from the closet and make your linen smell as if they were just taken out of the washing machine. You can also do the same for your wardrobe and drawers where you keep stuff like underwear and socks. These coffee ground sacks will also keep moths and other critters away from your clothes.

Well, that’s about it on how to reuse coffee grounds around the house. What’s your take on this? Hit the comments section and let me know.

Yup that icky stuff that usually ends clogging the kitchen sink has many uses.

No matter what type of SHTF you are prepping for, expect the power grid to eventually cease to function. Many preppers stockpile oil lamps, and that is a great idea, but learning how to make oil lamps yourself will allow you to put back even more off grid light sources for a fraction of the price of store bought ones.

In addition to creating DIY oil lamps now (so they are ready immediately ready for use), you can also stockpile kits so more lamps can be put together in mere moments for use during a long-term disaster.

What Kind of Containers Are Used for DIY Oil Lamps?

You can use about any glass container on hand or purchased cheaply at a local dollar store or yard sale. Typically…

  • Mason jars
  • glass food jars
  • …and wine bottles

…are used to make inexpensive oil lamps at home.

Can Kerosene Be Used in Oil Lamps?

Kerosene is often cheaper than commercially manufactured lamp oils but, lamp oil does not boast an unpleasant odor and burns far cleaner than kerosene.

Kerosene is far safer to outdoors than indoors. When using kerosene indoors, proper ventilation is essential to avoid asphyxiation and quite possibly, death. In some countries, kerosene is referred to as paraffin.

Can You Use Vegetable Oil in an Oil Lamp?

Nearly any common type of cooking oil can be used as fuel in a DIY oil lamp. Also, butter, Crisco, lard, and even ghee, due to their animal fat content, can be used.

What Oil Can You Use in an Oil Lamp?

If you do not want to use kerosene, lamp oil or olive oil, there are many other fuel options that are equally readily available and inexpensive to use:

  • Hemp Oil
  • Tallow
  • Coconut Oil
  • Nut Oils
  • Fish Oil
  • Lard
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Seed Oils

Can Mineral Oil Be Used in Oil Lamps?

Mineral oil will ignite fairly easily, especially when blended with other types of safe burning oils.

What Can I Use for an Oil Lamp Wick?

A DIY oil lamp, just like a mass produced oil lamp or a candle, must have a wick in order to burn. The wick draws up the oil to use as fuel to make a flame. Wicks are made of fibrous material, like plant fibers, linen, and papyrus when commercially manufactured.

It is best to weight the bottom of the wick so that it does not move around in the oil. I often use a pop can tab, piece of cork, or washer to tie onto the base of the wick to help keep it weighed down and as immobile as possible.

You can also wrap craft wire around the lip of a Mason jar and then run two pieces of wire across the mouth of the jar to run the wick through to help hold it in place.

Yet another way to help hold the wick in place it to poke a hole through the lid of a Mason jar and thread the wick through it before securing the lid in place with a ring.

DIY oil lamp materials

DIY Oil Lamp Instructions

Equipment

  • Hammer

Ingredients

  • 1 Mason jar
  • 1 Mason jar lid
  • 1 Mason jar ring
  • Olive oil
  • Scissors
  • Cotton, cording, or other suggested wick material
  • Nail
  • Vice, two bricks, or two blocks of wood
  • Washer, nut, or piece of cork

Instructions

  • Put the Mason jar lid in a vise or upside down between two bricks or pieces of wood so the center area is exposed.
  • Use the hammer and nail (or a power drill and a bit if you prefer) to punch a hole in the middle of the Mason jar lid large enough for your wick to fit through.
  • Set the lid aside and remove the tools from your workspace.
  • Slide the wick through the hole so the top end is sticking out. I suggest temporarily taping the wick in place so it does not fall back inside when being placed in the DIY oil lamp or unravel while during placement.
  • Fill the glass jar with your chosen lamp oil.For the best results, fill the jar only a little more than ¾ of the way full. I recommend using olive oil.
  • Tie the washer or nut around the bottom end of the wick.
  • Gently place the lid with the wick through it into the DIY oil lamp container. Line the weighted bottom up so it is as centered as possible in the base of the Mason jar. I suggest keeping your thumb on the taped portion of the top of the wick to make sure it stays secured in place.
  • Screw the ring onto the Mason jar around the lid while holding the top of the wick firmly in place.

Notes

Allow the wick to soak up the oil for at least 15 minutes before lighting for the first time. You can use the oil lamp just as it is, or dress them up a bit with essential oils, herbs, cinnamon sticks, or pine cones and use them as attractively disguised prepper gear around the house.

I often give these inexpensive and handy oil lamps as gifts to loved ones, and to folks I am attempting to introduce to prepping.

If you want to know more about oil lamps and their safety, I’ve included this handy FAQ where I answer some common questions.

Can Oil Lamps Explode?

When using any of the natural DIY oil lamp fuel choices noted above (especially olive oil) such an incident would be highly unlikely. But, the possibility of “liquid fire” traveling along the floor, furniture, clothing, and the human body could happen if the lamp is knocked over or exposed to intense wind or blowing.

Are Oil Lamps Safe To Use Indoors?

Commercially manufactured lamp oil is designed and tested to ensure they can be safely burned indoors even without ventilation. Kerosene is not safe to burn indoors without proper ventilation.

Do Oil Lamps Give Off Carbon Monoxide?

Oil lamps can emit small amounts of carbon monoxide.

Do Any Vegetable Oils Catch Fire?

Like olive oil, vegetables oils are not really considered flammable. When used as a fuel in a DIY oil lamp, place a thick wick into the lamp so it becomes thoroughly saturated and helps to ignite the oil placed inside the lamp. Once started, vegetable oil should burn steadily for many hours.

Is Olive Oil Safer Than Kerosene in Oil Lamps?

The short answer is – yes. Oil lamps that use olive oil as a fuel will be far less likely to ignite if the flame drops down into the oil in the glass container. It would be rare to olive oil to catch on fire while being burnt as an oil lamp fuel. Kerosene will offer a brighter light, but DIY oil lamps using olive oil are generally bright enough to read by in the dark.

Olive oil will also smolder and put itself out and is largely considered a low volatility lamp oil fuel. Olive oil should not burn unless its temperature reaches a minimum of 550 degrees.

It is strongly recommended NOT to use K-1 kerosene in oil lamps and lanterns that will be used indoors because they contain impurities, including sulfur and red dye, that causes fumes that may be harmful and cause headaches.

What Is Lamp Oil Made From?

Commercially manufactured lamp oil is used as fuel in lamps, lanterns, and outdoor torches, oil lamps and lanterns. Generally, store-bought lamp oil has a petroleum base that has been professionally refined to enable it to burn in a soot free and odorless manner.

Is Olive Oil Better Than Vegetable Oil as a Lamp Fuel?

Olive oil has a lower smoke point than vegetable oil, which can be advantageous when using the DIY oil lamp indoors.

Are Baby Oil and Mineral Oil the Same?

Mineral oil is made out of paraffin oil (not paraffin like kerosene) Nunol, white mineral oil, and liquid petroleum. Mineral oil is classified as a hydrocarbon compound. The only real differences between mineral oil and baby oil are density and fragrance.

What Kind of Oil Was Used in Ancient Lamps?

Long before factories mass produced lamp oil, both beeswax and animal fat were used to fuel lamps. To a slightly lesser degree, olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil were also used. In the Mediterranean region, coconut oil was almost exclusively used as lamp oil.

What Is the Cleanest Burning Lamp Oil?

Olive oil seems to be the cleanest burning oil lamp fuel. For my fellow Christians, you might recall that is was olive oil Aaron used to generate light in the temple in the book of Exodus. The cleanest burning fuel is olive oil, the fuel that Aaron was directed to use for temple light in the book of Exodus.

Does Lamp Oil Go Bad?

Lamp oil, regardless of which type you choose from the suggestions given here, basically has an indefinite shelf life – as long as it is stored properly. Keep a firm fitting lid on your lamp oil or oil lamp when not in use and store it at room temperature in a dry place.

Is Coal Oil the Same As Kerosene?

Cannel coal oil is a form of petroleum that is made from a particular type of bitumen soft coal. Kerosene is refined from liquid petroleum (or crude oil) directly. In my opinion, coal oil has a far worse stench than kerosene.

What Is Florasense Lamp Oil?

Florasense lamp oil is an odorless commercially produced lamp oil that is quite popular for use both indoors and out. Florasense lamp oil is known to produce a bright glowing light when used in either manufactured oil lamps or the DIY oil lamp version you can make cheaply in large quantities.

Can You Burn Essential Oils in an Oil Lamp?

Unlike vegetable or animal fat cooking oils, essential oils are plant extracts and should only be heated to room temperature for aroma or natural medicinal purposes and not to create light or heat.

Why Does My Oil Lamp Wick Burn So Fast?

If the wick appears to be burning down too quickly, it is most likely a fuel oil issue. If the chosen oil is burning at too fast of a rate, pour it out and choose a safe indoor oil with a lower ignition temperature.

Can You Make Your Own Oil Lamp or Candle Wick?

To make a wick for your DIY oil lamp, roll up cotton fabric, newspaper, wood, twine, toilet paper, or paper towels as tightly as you can. Tie the wick together using twine or dental floss so that it does not lose its shape and density.

For best results when making your own wick, soak the material in a brine made of equal parts salt and water first and allow it to dry thoroughly. This process helps to prevent the wick from burning too quickly. Some folks use equal parts of not just water and salt, but an equal part boric acid, when making a wick stabilizer brine.

How Do You Trim an Oil Lamp Wick?

To trim a wick to fit a DIY oil lamp, cut it across the top, curving it just slightly at the ends using a pair of sharp scissors. The flame created by your DIY oil lamp should be about ½ of an inch tall to that it does not burn too quickly yet still produces a good quality light.

Do Oil Lamps Smell?

If you are experiencing a strong odor coming from your oil lamp, the flame may be either too high or too low or a poor quality lamp oil was used. If there is a lot of soot like smoke also showing, the wick may be over exposed.

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No matter what type of SHTF you are prepping for, expect the power grid to eventually cease to function. Many preppers stockpile oil lamps, and that is a great idea,

 

First off, properly splinting any part of the body requires careful attention to details, knowledge, and practice. We strongly recommend only qualified medical personnel perform splinting (or any advanced medical treatment for that matter). However, due to any number of unknown factors, qualified medical attention may not be available. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started.

General rules regarding splinting of an injury

If you suspect a broken bone, dislocation, or sprain, the suspected area should be splinted and possibly immobilized.

Splinting is not a permanent treatment of an injury, although it does reduce the chance of further escalating the injury.

How does a Splint Work?

A splint consists of a rigid material accompanied by the use of adhesives or tying material to hold the rigid material in place. This prevents the targeted area from movement, which reduces the possibility of future injury. The rigid material should be placed from one side of the injury to the other and secured on the ends. Once secured, the entire affected area is commonly wrapped to ensure a secure hold. Be sure however to not block circulation by over-tightening the splint.

How is a Splint Made?

Splints can be quickly made from a wide variety of basic materials. Common splint materials can include: sticks/branches, layers of newspaper or cardboard, cut up pieces of a foam sleeping pad, thin strips of metal, etc. Basically, anything straight and rigid can be used as a splint.

For digits, a couple of standard Popsicle sticks, (or any similar object) wrapped with tape usually does the trick.

Splinting Fingers

Fingers and thumbs are commonly splinted body parts, as we tend to unfortunately put our hands where they don’t belong. For digits, a couple of standard Popsicle sticks, (or any similar object) wrapped with tape usually does the trick. Before splinting, carefully straighten the digit and first treat any surface wounds. If you know a digit is dislocated, it should be set back into place before being splinted. Once the digit is stabilized, cooling it with ice will help to reduce any swelling.

Select a straight, rigid, relatively flat object such as a ruler, paint mixer, layers of cardboard, sticks, etc to use as a splint.

Splinting Wrists

Wrists are incredibly complex body parts and can suffer a wide variety of injuries. Without proper medical attention, it can be difficult for the average Joe to identify the specific injury suffered and exactly how to treat it. If you or a partner suffers a wrist injury however, something still needs to be done about it until it can be properly treated.

With any wrist injury, first carefully clean any surface wounds in order to prevent infection. Select a cylindrical object roughly 3 to 4 inches long and 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter (depending on hand size). This is placed in the hand, adding stability to comfort the victim. Select a straight, rigid, relatively flat object such as a ruler, paint mixer, layers of cardboard, sticks, etc to use as a splint.

Place the splint over top the round object so it’s touching the fingers on the inside of the hand. Carefully tape around the split and forearm. Encircle the top of the hand and splint. Depending on the injury, the thumb can be left free or splinted along with the wrist. Cool the area with ice if possible to reduce any swelling.

Splinting Arms

If the injury is a forearm, it should be splinted with a straight, rigid object, secured above and below the injury using the same process as the wrist above. If unsure of the exact location and extent of the injury, err on the side of caution and splint the entire forearm, including the wrist.

Use any piece of cloth and fold it into a triangle. Carefully bend the uninjured forearm to a 90° angle, placing the elbow snugly into the folded part of the cloth.

All other arm injuries should generally be splinted with a sling in front of the body. Use any piece of cloth and fold it into a triangle. Carefully bend the uninjured forearm to a 90° angle, placing the elbow snugly into the folded part of the cloth. Tie the sling between the shoulder and wrist. Lastly, tie another piece of cloth around the victim’s waist and sling, immobilizing the arm against the side of her/her body. In the picture to the left, we used a ½ torn up shirt we had lying around that we had previously used to make some char cloth.

Splinting Legs

Lower leg and ankle injuries should generally be immobilized together with the foot placed in a neutral (standing) position. To do this, use long, rigid objects such as branches/sticks, pieces of metal, foam from a sleeping pad, etc. These should be run along both sides of the leg between the knee and bottom of the foot. Secure the splint above and below the affected area. Take care when securing around the ankle, by wrapping underneath the foot to the side of each splint. When finished, the foot should be immobilized from the knee down. Once splinted, weight should not be put on the leg, as this can lead to further injury.

Upper leg injuries are far less common and typically cannot be treated solely in the field or at home. In order to avoid further damage, a splint should be placed on both sides of the leg between the hip and knee. Carefully secure it above and below the injury, wrapping the entire splint. Cooling the area afterward will help to reduce pain and swelling. This type of injury can be very serious, and professional medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the individual should not put any weight on the leg, instead using crutches.

Takeaway

Once again, with any potentially serious injury, we highly recommend seeking professional treatment.

When assembling your bug out bag, or any preparedness kit for that matter, having the right tools for the job is essential. Rather than hunting down the right stick for an injury, we urge you to consider adding a SAM splint to your kit. These universal splints are inexpensive, compact, incredibly lightweight and completely mold-able to fit nearly any injury. They can be used repeatedly, offering a lifetime of various uses.

 

  First off, properly splinting any part of the body requires careful attention to details, knowledge, and practice. We strongly recommend only qualified medical personnel perform splinting (or any advanced medical

I continue to see articles that offer good advice about prepping, but survival is education, training, and skill. Barricading yourself in the home for defense or Bugging out! Yes, Fine. The more you have and can do works, but you and I have different meanings of the word. My transportation breaks down 40 miles from somewhere in snow/ice 20 degrees, and 30+ winds…. is a nice, but inconvenient adventure. I wish to tell a story, and make a “comedy media” about it. Not funny when you hear/see people die, but fantastic if you can learn for when you need it.

There are stories in Oregon, of instant storms, rain and wind for eons, beautiful country and hypothermia. Meaning rapid condition changes. Easy to prepare for if you know what to expect, but, lets talk about what you really mean by prepping. It’s too late for many who live in those countries where the violence and breakdowns are occurring now or that have destroyed once wealthy nations. Earthquakes, the Tidal Wave, economic collapse, War, and societal breakdown. For the purge, or martial law, I’m armed ready, trained… and not going to be sitting here. Now for the coming zombie apocalypse, there is always the better ground. They call mine, the cascade mountain range, from Alaska to Mexico. what do you call yours? If I’m away from Portland, and in a 100 mile move, I can choose Mountain, Desert, Coastal, or the greatest ditch to ocean drainage system in which to live, prosper and hide in that ever existed – with perfect climate.

In my opinion. personally I hope most people go to the outskirts for their protection and care. They will not make it in cities, but the government will be there to Sign U UP, have a sandwich, sorry NO gear allowed, dress warmly. I don’t want to live in a city, now, or then. Being a Oregon country Man, I’m a little rough around the edges, had a couple bad habits, you probably know a similar story, Ex-USAF, pain pills, drinking. I seemed to have finally turned out OK. And no, I have no one to volunteer witness for me. But I digress.

So Its cold, snowy, I’m at a friends cabin, on Mt Hood, Anyone knowing Trillium Lake and Still Creek Campground should know what I am saying here. As usual, HWY 26 is right there, you can’t see it, but you can hear it. Chains, trucks until the winds shut down the highway. My friends cabin is less than 2 miles from a liquor store, beer store, food? Although there are 3 foot drifts on top of 2 foot snow pack.

Noticing we didn’t bring enough supplies to and it is already 7pm. The sun sets at 5. I decide to walk a trail cut through to the campground which will be easier. This time of year, the gates are closed and locked, you can not drive to government camp from here… kinda.. 5 miles back down the snowed in road, cut over, hit 26, and back up the mountain, sanded and police.. where you belong.

The Winter Survival Handbook: 157 Winter Tips and Tricks

I smoke to improve my health, most know what I mean by now. This night I have a partial pint in my pocket, a beer in my bare hand. I dress in open cell polyurethane foam, with a field jacket, stocking hat, and boots. I’m good for -10 and 50 mph winds except hiking through the snow will make you sweat.  So I open my chest to the air. Feels great. It’s actually somewhere around 25 degrees Fahrenheit with 20-30 mph winds. And snowing. The year was 2009-2010 if you wish to look at the storms. 3500 feet above sea level. Portland is 50 miles at 85 feet sea level. I used to live 30 miles down there. 600 feet above seal level at the time.

So imagine my surprise to hear a commotion, some movement, and a light. Not many bears or lions and definitely not this Lyon, ever use flashlights at night, except sparingly. We all do use light properly, bears are just too smart to consider a “flash” light. The noise was caused by a group of people stranded.

So add to the confusion, these people are stuck. Their vehicle is still warm inside with motor off and radio and lights on. In these conditions,  the car may stay warm for a couple of hours or so? As long as it starts. If it doesn’t, these people are in for some serious trouble. I think the driver said he had just under quarter tank. v-8 Ford car, nice. Should have left it in Portland and brought a truck.

I also came up here in a car and plan to leave the following afternoon. Now consider this from the side of the people in the car. You are semi lost with your car stuck, although not that bad. There are 2 men, 2 women, and you are angry, blaming, and maybe scared? I don’t know, and am not judging. You look out the front windshield, and a Bigfoot sized man, wearing a field jacket, open at the chest, drinking a beer walks up to you. He pulls out a pint, takes a slug, indicates sharing.

The guy inside rolls down the window and says, “what are you doing out here?” I reply, “Well, I was hoping to make the liquor store before they close”. The window goes up, and I feel, I should probably get moving. I’m out here in this environment because its my favorite thing. Had they acted sooner, those poor people would have suffered, at best getting their four Arses out and unsticking the car. But we know potheads, don’t matter, no need to listen to this guy. Be your own man. You aren’t going to listen? are You?

So a guy gets out the passenger door. That’s the right side front door, for you common law, private property folks that know, you don’t have a passenger vehicle. Title 18. When the liquor store is already closed, it’s illegal to take retail drink off premise, or outside in the winter. I could talk about title 31, legal tender and silver coins and walking back with a bottle but there is not much having to do with survival in that subject. I no longer drink alcohol much, but when a drunk is smarter than you, prepping may not come to mind.

So I tell him how far, and what they should be doing, to get out, if they stay where they are they will die, etc. He gets back in already freezing, while I actually have been semi stationary and ready to now button back up since having cooled down a bit. I am probably running a 100 degree body core. So to make the short story long, and the long story short. Against my advice the women want to go with me. Uh, no. A man wants to go with me to the store. If he is borrowing gear, he should be OK. My thoughts are with the 5 of us, lets dig, support, and push this vehicle out, and you all drive down this tree lined road, right here back home. Driver thinks he should go down the ridge. But with the Lake gate closed I ask how he is gonna climb back up in this snow? Once the car is free, point it the way home.

What did I do next?

What are you going to do, and how will you know? When you are a prepper you help people, in a survival situation those people you are trying to save might injure or kill you. Getting cold and hurt helping is always a bad idea. Sometimes you know not to. I hope we can all learn that safely? Not being seen, heard, tracked, is and will be necessary, while traveling, hiding, holed up, or even when it is time to attack. Warrior? He’s the teacher, dump him out naked in Alaska, in a week he’ll be sitting in Florida with a drink in his hand in your back yard. Observe and learn from this man, do not engage. (paraphrased from the sarge in Seagal’s on deadly ground) Green Beret Tactics.

Seriously now, I step back and short hop behind the tree,over a snow berm. erasing my tracks with a branch. (snow, wind, remember) and I walk to the village known as Government camp Oregon, 97028. Some time goes by, and I am in the bar, purchasing my goal and enjoying a nice drink, when in come the group from the stranded car. They look all brave and proud of their escape and are, like me having a drink, and talking about heading back home. As I depart, I understand that in front of me is a 2 mile walk in the storm. I am happy to go. In coming prepper days, there will be no time for fun and games. It wont be humorous anymore. But little will change for me the way I see it. I will have powerful trained friends, or I will be alone.

The other story was in Oregon, around the same time, I’m pretty sure. Of the Kims whom made some random mistakes. in the much safer coast range. Yet, with no drunk hillbilly to advise them what to do. The family survived without the Father, being rescued we are told. they were missing. The people in the Mt. Hood forest were not. yet. and they might have been OK. Maybe I should mind my own business?

Maybe I should not write a stupid article containing, alcohol use or smoking the evil marijuana? Fine. Maybe you all will learn, be the teacher, prepare for timing, retreat and advance. Learn martial arts, gather friends, recognize enemies. Plan to move. Prepare, train, practice till it’s a reflex. Relax, never panic, always respond. Conserve energy. Create energy. Everyone has my excessive survival tool for all occasions, a magnifier, or a Fresnel lens. Nothing excessive about my knife.

So that’s enough rambling on, you can thumb me up, or subscribe to the newsletter, or respond to me in the comments at the bottom. Luck favors the prepared mind. Your worst enemy, other than bankers, government, and media; will be shock, at loss, injury, family. War sux and will mess you up. I’m already messed up, so they cant win. I have nothing to lose. except some family and friends. If I don’t lose them, its like carrying my magnum, so I don’t have to argue or fight. If I do, well, a hazard may be upon them.

Prep well, folks. Remember what the greatest teacher said. “and I will be with you Always, even to the end of YOUR DAYS.” I’m gonna win this challenge, so are some of you. Survive!!

I continue to see articles that offer good advice about prepping, but survival is education, training, and skill. Barricading yourself in the home for defense or Bugging out! Yes, Fine.

As a prepper you’ve thought about the necessities for survival, but have you thought about your comfort? Imagine a long-term situation where you have food and water, but survival is a constant struggle. Will lack of sleep and uncomfortable surroundings take a toll on you over time? You might be sleep-deprived because of a need to stand guard against those who would do you harm, or simply because you’re not able to maintain a comfortable living environment. The inability to keep food from spoiling might result in a constant need to find food, robbing you of opportunities to rest. And, in harsh conditions, can you keep yourself clean and healthy? You may have considered bugging out, but you know that your home has most of what you need to survive, even if you’re not a serious prepper.

To get straight to the point; a reliable, sustainable, and ample alternative supply of electricity can solve the problems mentioned above and allow you the potential of living comfortably when the SHTF. A security system may include cameras, motion sensors, and trip wires to set off alarms. A surveillance system can keep an eye on your garden and animals in addition to your home, and alert you to an intrusion. Devices and systems relieve you of the need to stand guard.

An alternative source of electricity adds to your comfort by allowing you to cook meals indoors, and boil water, making it safe for drinking. You can use propane, wood, or charcoal for cooking if you have an ample supply of those, or you could use a solar oven, but nothing is as convenient as using electricity for indoor cooking.

The ability to preserve food means that you won’t have to hunt, harvest, and process food daily, providing opportunities for rest. With ample rest you’ll feel and perform better. A reliable supply of electricity allows you to use a refrigerator and freezer for food preservation. You may also need refrigeration to keep medicine from spoiling.

The biggest challenges, that is to say devices that use the most electricity, are air conditioning and heating equipment. The system described here is not large enough to handle whole-house heating and cooling systems. If you have a fireplace, you probably consider that as your source of alternative heat. If not, you may consider a wood- or pellet-burning stove. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. If you rely on fuel such as propane or kerosene, do you have enough for a long-term situation? How much can you store safely, and how long will it last? Will you be able to replenish your supply when it runs low? Weigh your decision carefully, implement it, and then stock up on wood, pellets, or fuel. I chose to install a pellet stove. It can run up to 12 hours unattended and maintains a relatively constant output. I can safely store enough pellets to get me through the winter, and left-overs can be used the following winter. Most importantly, I’ll get a good night’s sleep, and I won’t be inhaling dangerous fumes.

Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

You’ll also need electricity for communication devices, computers and tablets, TV, and Radio. Be sure to keep energy-efficiency in mind when shopping for any of these items. Energy-Star tags are helpful, but I’d rather measure energy use myself using a Kill-A-Watt meter. A Kill-A-Watt meter is a low-cost device that measures energy use over time (kilowatt-hours). You can find it at Wal-Mart or on Ebay.

Emergencies can occur at any time, in the middle of the night for example, and may include broken glass and structural damage to your home. The importance of good lighting cannot be overemphasized. You certainly don’t want to complicate an emergency situation with an injury.

Right-Sizing the Solar Electric System and Trade-Offs

If you want the same level of comfort as you had with grid-supplied electricity, you’ll pay a high price. To avoid the high cost, I’ll describe a system that will result in comfortable living, but there will be trade-offs. The system I’m outlining here can best be described as a mid-sized off-grid solar electric system. It’s not connected to your house wiring, so you’ll need extension cords, power strips, and light fixtures. I keep all of these items in a plastic container, so I won’t be fumbling around for them when grid power fails. I think you’ll agree that this modest system offers good trade-offs where comfort and cost are concerned. Don’t be fooled by pre-packaged systems that won’t actually meet your needs.

Home Heating

I’ve already listed alternatives to your existing whole-house system. In exceptionally cold weather you may want to use an electric blanket, and limit heating to one or two rooms. Table top and window fans are the most energy-efficient way to move heated or cool air.

Heating Water

As a substitute for your water heater, heating water over a fireplace or on a wood stove are good options. Since you won’t be using a fireplace or a wood stove when the weather is warm, you can heat water with one or more of your kitchen appliances, but the best option for heating water involves using the sun.

Harnessing the heat of the sun for water.

I’ve installed a PVC tubing grid in the attic portion of my storage shed for heating water. Mine is not the most efficient system, but I wanted a solution that would be out of sight and maintenance free. I use a hose to force water through the system when city water is available, but I can also use an electric pump. A fifty-gallon plastic barrel and a couple of hoses round out the system. Either way I can have a warm shower just about any afternoon or evening, using little or no electricity.

Other Decisions and Trade-Offs

I’ll begin by establishing some basic needs that will apply to many people, and then I’ll provide design details for a system large enough to meet those needs. Finally, I’ll discuss the cost, and some design options. I’ll assume that you’ve already ruled out a generator. You know that choosing a generator means that you’ll have to purchase, transport, and store a lot of fuel. What happens when the fuel runs out? Will noise from the generator attract unwanted attention, or mask the sound of approaching intruders? Instead, this is about a quiet and sustainable solution. You may only need to darken your windows to hide the fact that you’re living comfortably.

Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Super Quiet Inverter Generator

Prerequisites

To keep the size, and therefore the cost, of a solar electric system down, there are a few things you can do. Often, adding insulation to an existing home can reduce the need for heating and cooling. Lights to be used with the system should be energy-efficient CFL or LED types. If your washing machine and other appliances are old, replace them with energy-efficient ones. Use a hotplate or microwave oven, instead of your gas or electric stove.

Identifying Your Needs

Once you’ve listed the devices you want to use, and estimated how long each device will run each day, you can calculate the total energy you’ll need by simple math. For example; a fan rated at 35 watts, running for 3 hours each day, will need 3 times 35, or 105 watt-hours each day. Likewise, a 10 watt lamp, running for 6 hours each day, would need 10 times 6, or 60 watt-hours each day. Adding the daily requirements of both equals a total need of 165 watt-hours per day. The following chart is an example of total daily energy use, where energy availability is limited. It assumes cold-weather conditions, where circulating warm air, or powering a pellet-stove in my case, is the largest single energy requirement.

4 10 watt LED bulbs 4 hrs each 160 wh per day
1 40 watt Laptop Computer 2 hrs 80 wh per day
1 120 watt Blower Motor (stove) 12 hrs 1440 wh per day
1 105 watt (intermittent) Chest Freezer 6 hrs 630 wh per day
1 80 watt Television 2 hrs 160 wh per day
1 30 watt Modem 2 hrs 60 wh per day
1 6 watt Clock Radio 24 hrs 144 wh per day
1 26 watt Cell Phone Charger 1 hr 26 wh per day
1 1000 watt Hot Plate 0.75 hr 750 wh per day
1 900 watt Toaster 0.10 hours 90 wh per day
1 1000 watt Microwave Oven 0.15 hours 150 wh per day

During periods of warm weather, when the stove is not used, my daily average load is greatly reduced. When the stove is used less, I can use devices not listed here, such as a vacuum cleaner and washing machine, and still not exceed the capacity of the system.

Determining the daily energy use of the Chest Freezer is a little tricky because its compressor runs intermittently. This is where a Kill-A-Watt meter comes in handy. Simply connect the Kill-A-Watt meter to the chest freezer and take note of how much energy it uses (in kilowatt-hours) over a 24 hour period. You can do the same for other devices that use electricity intermittently. (One kilowatt-hour equals one thousand watt-hours).

Tip: In a situation where keeping energy use to a minimum is important, move your chest freezer or refrigerator to the coolest part of your home. The compressor will run less, cutting energy use.

Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

Tip: When you have a choice, use energy during the day and limit night-time use. During the day, when the sun is shining, energy travels from the solar panels to the load. Nighttime energy comes from the batteries, and therefore is subject to charging and discharging losses and battery inefficiencies. Cooking, pumping water, and washing clothes are examples of tasks that can be relegated to daytime hours. Do this, and you’ll help to offset the negative effect of cloudy days and system losses.

Selecting the System Components

In the example above, the total energy used each day (the sum of the energy used by each device), is 3690 watt-hours. To determine how many solar panels you need, divide the need by the total hours of peak sunlight, in this case it’s 3690 by 4 ½, or 820 watts of solar panel capacity. Solar panels come in different sizes. Seven 120 watt solar panels will provide a little more power than you need, (840 watt-hours per day), while five 160 watt solar panels will provide a little less (800 watt-hours per day).

GM Deep Cycle 12v 125ah SLA rechargeable Battery for Use with Pv Solar Panels

Next, calculate the size of the battery bank you’ll need. Since batteries are rated in amp-hours, convert amp-hours to watt-hours. As an example: For a 12 volt deep discharge battery rated at 100 amp hours, calculate watt-hours by multiplying volts times amps. In this example, that single battery can theoretically supply 1200 watt hours. However, to avoid damage and maintain high life expectancy of the battery, you should not discharge the battery below 50%. This leaves you with 600 usable watt-hours for a fully charged battery. Because of battery inefficiencies, plan on the actual usable energy to be at least 10% less, or 540 usable watt-hours. Since you need a total capacity of 3690 watt-hours, you’ll need 7 batteries (7 times 540 ), to provide 3780 watt-hours of storage.

In the event that the cost of a system large enough to meet your needs is prohibitive, you may opt to cut back a bit on energy usage. There are many ways to do that. Preparing meals in a microwave oven, instead of on a hot plate, is one way:

Using a 1000 watt microwave oven for 15 minutes results in an energy use of 250 watt-hours.

Using a 1000 watt hot plate for 45 minutes results in an energy use of 750 watt-hours.

Read More: Cooking when the Grid goes Down

A slow-cooker (crock-pot) might seem like an energy-efficient choice, but remember, using a small amount of electricity over a long period of time is the energy-equivalent of using a large amount of electricity over a short period of time. A slow cooker might be a good option when something needs to be simmered for an hour or two.

The chart lists a small chest freezer, and no upright refrigerator/freezer. Upright refrigerator/freezers are inefficient because the cold literally “falls out” each time the door is opened. A chest freezer is much more efficient, and a 6 cubic foot chest freezer uses much less electricity than a 12 cubic foot chest freezer. A chest freezer not only keeps frozen food frozen, it makes ice for use in an ice chest for items that need to be kept cold, but not frozen.

How Much Will it Cost?

I’ll assume that you’re doing all of the work yourself, and will not include labor costs.

Once you’ve calculated your needs, you may choose to build larger or smaller than the system described here. Adding solar panels helps to improve system performance by increasing charging power, and adding batteries helps to improve performance by increasing the storage capacity. If you want to maintain a system output in excess of 3690 watt-hours each day, consider adding at least one more solar panel and two more batteries. Anticipate extended periods of cloud cover.

The per-watt cost for solar panels is currently between one and two dollars. Therefore, 820 watts of solar panel capacity will cost between $820 and $1,640. Shop around for the best price. Sometimes you’ll find sales or special deals.

Having explored various battery types and compared costs, I’ve determined that the best value when considering cost vs storage capacity to be GC-2 deep-discharge batteries. GC-2 batteries are rated at six volts, so you’ll need a series-parallel wiring arrangement. It’s easy to do. For the system described here, you’ll need at least 6 of the GC-2 batteries for a total watt-hour storage capacity of just over 3700. GC stands for “Golf Cart”. These are available under several different brand names and at many stores, including SAMs Club. You’ll pay about $100 per battery, for a total cost of $600.

Consider 8 batteries if your budget will allow it. Although you can get by with 6 batteries, making your battery bank larger than your calculated need offers three advantages. 1. A larger battery bank helps to compensate for extended periods of cloud cover. 2. The load on the battery bank will be distributed over more batteries, resulting in an efficiency boost. 3. Distributing the load across more batteries will extend the life of the battery bank.

The next component is a charge controller. A charge controller uses power from the solar panels to safely and efficiently charge the batteries, and prevents overcharging. A charge controller helps to extend the life of the batteries.

Top of the line charge controllers have advanced features which can, in some cases, dramatically improve system performance. However, these features come at a high price, and not all advanced features are beneficial to a system such as the one described here. For now we’ll consider a reasonably priced, but good, charge controller.

Renogy Tracer 4210 40 Amp MPPT Charge Controller, 12/24V 100VDC Input

The charge controller you’ll need will be one that can handle the maximum current that your solar panel array can produce. For the system we’re describing here, a 60 amp charge controller will do the job, and leave room for expansion. While it’s not your only option, a Morningstar Tri-Star 60 will do nicely. I highly recommend the remote meter option, and the battery temperature option. The cost for the controller, with options, is about $350.

So far, I’ve listed all of the major components for a 12 volt DC system, but you’ll probably want to add an inverter. An inverter converts 12 volts DC (your battery bank voltage), to 120 volts AC. In making your decision, you should understand the pros and cons of two basic types, MSW, (Modified Sine Wave), and PSW (Pure Sine Wave). PSW inverters can safely power sensitive devices, but are much more costly than MSW inverters. A TV or Radio can be powered with a MSW Inverter, but you’ll probably hear an annoying buzz in the sound, and the picture may have streaks. Motors may run at the wrong speed, or overheat when using a MSW inverter. Inverters are rated by how much AC power they can provide. If you opt for a 600 watt inverter, you won’t be able to use a toaster, microwave oven, or any other device that requires more than 600 watts. If you want to watch TV, use some lights, and power a chest freezer at the same time, the total power (the sum of the individual power requirements), cannot exceed the capacity of the inverter.

My preference is an inverter that doesn’t harm sensitive devices, has enough power to handle most high-power devices, and can power most of my devices simultaneously. An Exeltech 1100 watt PSW Inverter can handle just about any load I’ll connect to it, but not all at the same time. For example; if I decide to use my 1000 watt microwave oven, I can’t use my 900 watt toaster at the same time. The total would be 1900 watts, exceeding the capacity of the inverter by 800 watts. My choice was to accept that inconvenience, rather than to pay an additional $1100 for a more powerful inverter. The cost of the Exeltech inverter is about $575, which is about $1100 cheaper than a good quality 2000 watt PSW Inverter. I’m aware of lower-cost PSW inverters, but I’m not sure if they match the quality, performance, and reliability of Exeltech products.

Tip: Some electric motors have a high starting current requirement. If the inverter you purchase can’t provide that initial starting surge, the device will not run.

Mounting the Solar Panels, Wiring, and other Considerations

Solar panel mounting can be as simple as bolting them to a south-facing roof for less than $50, or more complicated if you intend to build a mounting framework. Your creativity can help to keep the cost low.

Wire, wiring hardware, fuses, and a lightning protection device round out the requirements for a complete system. Because of the high current flow, battery wiring is the heaviest (thickest), wire. The wire you’ll use between the solar panels and the charge controller should be able to handle the maximum output current from your solar panels, and should be rated for outdoor use. Your local hardware store should have what you need. Since it’s a 12 volt system as far as the panels and batteries are concerned, I opted for low-cost automotive fuses and in-line fuse holders. I used heavy-duty terminal blocks, the kind you find in circuit breaker boxes, to tie the wiring together. You’ll need battery terminals or lugs, tie-wraps, tape, and other hardware. The cost of the wiring depends upon how far the solar panels are from the controller, but you may get everything you need for less than $300.

The total cost of your system, not including labor, should be in the neighborhood of $3000. You may choose to build with fewer panels and fewer batteries and add to the system at a later time. If you start small, buy a charge controller large enough to handle a bigger system so you don’t have to replace it when you expand. For less than $1000 you could build a system that can provide power for lights, TV, radio, fan, computer, and other small devices, but with limited use of course. For a little bit more than that you could power a small chest-freezer or refrigerator, in addition to those other devices.

The total cost may seem expensive compared to the cost of a generator, but don’t forget it’s sustainable and there are no operational costs. Assuming no physical damage or vandalism, solar panels will last 25 years. The batteries, with good care, can last in excess of 5 years. A properly constructed system will be almost maintenance-free.

Become an expert (or at least knowledgeable)

If you think a system like this is right for you, start by learning all you can, especially about batteries. Batteries are the most expensive component when you consider that they’ll need to be replaced more than once for the life of your system. Most importantly, know when to shut down your system to prevent over-discharge. Learn about battery types, paying special attention to those that last longer, but at a higher cost. Compare inverters and read reviews on them. Purchase reliable components, because you can’t afford a failure when the SHTF.

When you’ve built your system, test the heck out of it. This is where the Charge Controller’s remote meter comes in handy. Simulate grid power failures and see how long your system can power the loads. Upgrade if you’re not satisfied with the run-time.

Tip: As a capacity test I’ve connected two light bulbs, one 60-watt and one 100-watt bulb. A load of 160 watts over a 24 hour period equals a daily load of 3840 watt-hours. I’ve connected a Kill-A-Watt meter to the inverter’s output to keep track of the power that the system delivers. In bright sunlight the solar panels provide enough power to charge the batteries and power the load simultaneously. However, batteries charge more quickly if no additional loads are present. I record test results each time, which helps me determine when my batteries need to be replaced.

Failure Considerations

Perhaps the biggest threats to your system are lightning, and EMP events. You will, no doubt, use a lightning protection device, but it may not save your system in the event of a direct hit. An EMP event would have to be close and strong, to do any damage. In either case, it’s not likely that the solar panels and batteries would be damaged. The most vulnerable component is the charge controller. Here’s the good news: In the event that a replacement charge controller is not readily available, you can connect the solar panels directly to the battery bank. You’ll have to monitor the battery voltage, disconnecting the solar panels (charging source), when the batteries are fully charged. It’s inconvenient, but at least you won’t be without electricity. You shouldn’t have to worry about disconnecting the loads when the battery SOC falls below 50%, because most inverters will automatically disconnect at that point. You might also consider a low-cost MSW inverter as a back-up for your primary inverter.

Bartering

Assuming that you have an ample supply of electricity, you might consider charging batteries for your neighbors. I’m assuming a SHTF situation where those around you are also trying to live comfortably. A fully-charged automotive or deep-discharge battery might be used for lighting, to power a TV or radio, a fan, tablet computer, etc.

Taking it to the next level

If you build the system described here and then wait for a SHTF situation, you’re wasting a great resource. Why not use the system every day, and cut your electric bill? I’ve added two components to the system described here and accomplished just that.

I use an IOTA Automatic Transfer Switch to select either grid-supplied power or inverter-supplied power to run my refrigerator. When my batteries are above 50% SOC (state of charge), the refrigerator gets power from the batteries, via the inverter. When the battery SOC drops below 50%, the refrigerator is powered by the grid. I use a Morningstar Relay Driver to monitor battery voltage, and switch the inverter on or off. I can fine-tune the upper and lower thresholds as I see fit. When the transfer switch senses the loss of power (because the inverter is switched off), it automatically switches to grid power for the refrigerator. The Relay Driver is programmed to not turn on the inverter again until the batteries are once again fully charged. This happens automatically. It’s a wondrous thing to observe.

Should you decide to build the system I’ve described, or something like it, you’ll probably have many questions. The Wholesale Solar website has a wealth of information for solar do-it-yourselfer.

Summary

How much does electricity contribute to your survival? Try switching it off for a week and see how well you cope. With electricity you’ll live comfortably, not just survive, while the world around you crumbles. A good night’s sleep, vital to your long-term survival, is made possible because of sensors, appliances, and automatic systems. If you wait until things get bad you’ll be forced to use the resources you have, not the system you planned to install someday. Surviving a crisis doesn’t need to be unbearable, or even uncomfortable. It won’t be if you prepare in advance.

Perhaps some will say “I’m looking for ways to survive, while you’re talking about watching TV, wrapped in an electric blanket, after a hot meal and a warm shower.” I get it, but I want to live for a few more decades, and I plan do it in comfort.

 

As a prepper you’ve thought about the necessities for survival, but have you thought about your comfort? Imagine a long-term situation where you have food and water, but survival is