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I frequently highlight the need for water when you are preparing for emergencies. This simple, yet vital element of life can’t be ignored for long, so I recommend a multi-faceted approach when it comes to making sure you always have enough to drink. As long as the tap is running and the source is not dangerous to your health, you should be fine. That works great normally, but we all know that stuff happens. Water mains break, sources become contaminated or the disaster can render the pumping stations inoperable due to personnel or equipment problems. Your job is to keep any of those situations from impacting your ability to provide good clean water to your family.

If you are in the safety of your home you can store water in large containers so potential disruptions don’t affect you as much. You can collect and filter rain water from your roof normally or in emergencies, public sources like ponds, streams or rivers will work for a large percentage of us assuming you have fairly consistent access to them. This is usually enough if rainfall and those water sources are prevalent.

But what if you live in a drier climate and you are forced out of your house due to some emergency? Or what if you are lost in the wilderness and your source of water is depleted?

A reader of Final Prepper, James sent me an email asking for more guidance on water for the millions of preppers who actually live in Phoenix or other desert environs. I do appreciate the question and although I don’t live in the desert (so this subject is a little out of my imagined wheelhouse) I figured that this topic was very worthy of research for my own information as well. Below are some of the ways I knew about in addition to new ways I learned to find water in the desert. I know that we do have some readers (and authors) who live in Arizona who will be happy to fill in with their own ideas in the comments below also. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

canyon-hot-warning-dead

The desert doesn’t play around…

Where can you find water in the desert?

I have been to Phoenix, AZ before on a business trip to a nice resort type of location in the warm days of July. If I did not fully appreciate it before, that trip really reinforced my gratitude for Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern air conditioning. To be honest, the temperatures really weren’t that bad in the evenings and mornings. I was inside during the day so it isn’t like I was too inconvenienced by the heat but with temperatures over 105 degrees, I know that you really wouldn’t want to be more than arms reach away from a good water source for very long. For Preppers, this type of climate does impact the importance of water in your survival plans. The heat and low humidity (but it’s a dry heat!) seemingly evaporates your sweat instantly so I didn’t even see the traditional outward signs of moisture loss, but the ready access to water everywhere reminded you to keep hydrated.

This was reinforced doubly when my wife and I took a drive after that up to the South rim of the Grand Canyon. I had planned a short hike into the canyon and in my research; I was frequently admonished about my hiking plans and water supply. Because of its altitude, the rim where you begin your hike down into the depths of the Canyon can be as much 40 degrees cooler than your destination. You start out at the top of the Canon and it is a relatively pleasant 80 degrees, but by the time you reach the bottom near the Colorado River, the temperature can be as high as 120. To make things worse, the hike back can take you twice as long as the trip down so if you foolishly consume all of your water going down, you won’t have any for the much more strenuous hike back up. Our plans weren’t to even hike all of the way to the bottom, mainly because I didn’t want to have to carry 2 gallons on my back.

Had I been in another, flatter desert environment and found myself without water, there are some tips and tricks you can try.

A woman seeks water in a dry riverbed near Kataboi village in remote Turkana in northern Kenya. In 40 degree heat and no access to clean water, she resorts to collecting unfiltered water for her family in containers. The lack of rain this year across the Horn of Africa has resulted in failed crops, lack of water and death of livestock. The Government of Kenya declared the drought a national disaster as 3.5 million people in the country are in need of emergency assistance.

A woman seeks water in a dry riverbed near Kataboi village in remote Turkana in northern Kenya.
In 40 degree heat and no access to clean water, she resorts to collecting unfiltered water for her family in containers.
The lack of rain this year across the Horn of Africa has resulted in failed crops, lack of water and death of livestock. The Government of Kenya declared the drought a national disaster as 3.5 million people in the country are in need of emergency assistance.

Dry riverbeds can still contain plenty of water if you dig for it.

North facing shady areas at the base of cliffs – There is water in the dry climates like Arizona. Actually, the main source of water for Phoenix comes from three rivers and they bank surplus water underground, but if you were out in the wilderness it might be harder to find. One thing to remember is water goes to the lowest point which is almost always underground. Even when there is no water on the surface, you can often find it where it used to be. In lower areas, near the base of cliffs, you can dig down and find water occasionally. This water has run off the face of the rocks and settled below the surface. If you find a low spot that looks like the sand is moist, you can dig down and sometimes find plenty to drink. This water will need to be filtered for sediment if nothing else but could save your life.

Watch where birds and insects travel from/follow animal trails – Birds and insects like humans need water to live. You can watch the path that they fly from in the early mornings and evenings for a clue as to where a source of water may be. Animal tracks can be used to follow a path to a water source as well and you may find a watering hole used by the native wildlife. To get a clean source without any type of water filtration you can dig a hole 9 feet away (roughly) from the water source and allow cleaner water under the surface to re-hydrate you. This water, filtered through many feet of sand and silt should be free of any contaminants that the water on the surface of the watering hole would have. Again, I would always try to keep some form of water filtration device with me if I was going out into the wilderness. It’s just one less thing I have to worry about.

Tinajas

Water collects in Tinajas and you can use this to keep you alive.

Rock pockets and depressions – Rain is routinely collected in depressions in rock surfaces. Some of these can be large enough for you to swim in. If you are searching for water, it is a good idea to get up a little higher up to see if you can see a source like this. Just one good-sized hole could be enough to keep you in water for a very long time. There are some of these large depressions called Tinajas, that have petroglyph markings on them and it is thought that some of these may have been ancient directions to denote good places to get water. If not, at least they are really interesting to look at.

Where vegetation is living/broad-leafed trees – If you can find trees growing in the desert, it’s a good bet they have tapped into a source of water. Broad leafed trees like cottonwoods are an indicator that you can dig down to their roots and find water suitable for drinking. These trees could be growing in old riverbeds that still have water flowing way beneath the surface.

In dry river beds – Like the example above, just because there is no water on the top, you may find water by digging below the surface. The drier it has been, the less likely you are to find water but look for a lower place in the riverbed, one where the water would have likely stayed there the most time and dig down. This is another reason to have a handy bandanna with you to soak up water and squeeze it into your mouth.

What not to do if you are looking for water

Solar Still – Now I have heard about solar stills for a very long time. I think even in the Army we discussed these as a good source of water. In a desert however, you won’t get the same amount of return for your effort. Digging a solar still will expend a lot of calories and effort and you won’t get much moisture out of the ground. If you have plenty of green leaves to lie in there, you still have to wait a whole day. If you are thirsty it is better to stay in the shade than dig a still.

Forget the cactus – You have probably seen the cowboy chopping open the cactus and drinking from it. Trying this yourself can get you killed. There is only one type of cactus you can drink from and only one variety of that one cactus. The barrel cactus looks like its name and the Fishhook barrel cactus has water in there that isn’t toxic. It isn’t like a bottle of Evian though and you could still get sick. One alternative is to eat the fruit off the cactus. Prickly pear can be roasted to get rid of the little hairs and spines and can provide some moisture.

Don’t drink your own pee or anyone else’s for that matter – If your body is straining with lack of hydration, the last thing you want to do is force your kidneys to work overtime on a strange substance. Yes, your urine is supposed to be “sanitary” but this shouldn’t be a trick you use to re-hydrate yourself even in an emergency. What you can use it for is evaporative cooling. Soak that bandanna in your urine and wrap it around your neck to cool off somewhat. Then make a mental note to wash that bandanna.

So there are some ideas I have for how to find water in the desert. I think it goes without saying that as much as possible, you should plan for water well before you find yourself in a situation that would require you to use any of these methods above. If you are, hopefully this will help.

I frequently highlight the need for water when you are preparing for emergencies. This simple, yet vital element of life can’t be ignored for long, so I recommend a multi-faceted

Preppers are a resourceful group of people and there aren’t too many dire situations we don’t have some type of prepared response for ready in our minds. Our plans and preparations for survival are expansive and limited in most cases only by our imaginations or our paycheck. You name the disaster and we have got the bases covered in terms survival kit, our basic needs, bug out plans and tactical DEFCON 1 defensive measures.

But there is still a large number of people in the world who simply don’t see the same value in preparing as preppers do. I personally think that number is coming down, but like everything else, there are degrees of urgency based upon your own situation and each individuals’ views of likely risks as you see them. I know friends who 4 years ago would laugh at the mere suggestion that our country could have anything approaching an economic collapse but who now, at least in conversations, agree that the future looks a little dimmer than even they had imagined. They can now freely admit that they have a sense that there will be bumps ahead, but disagree on how much you should worry about or prepare for any ‘potential’ disaster. They can acknowledge increased risks but they don’t feel inclined to do too much about it.

Then there are other people who never in a million years believe anything bad like economic collapse, pandemic, war or outright tyranny could happen in this our enlightened society. They also believe that the mere thought of bad people getting together to do bad things and not tell anyone (conspiracy) is a sign of mental illness. Sure they will agree that monstrous atrocities have happened in our collective past but rationalize that away because people were less educated, or concede it is limited today to a few violent places in third world countries. They will tell you that as a modern, interconnected world we are so much more thoughtful and considerate now. Rational discourse rules the day.

They have no doubt seen far too many Oscar award-winning, tear-jerking movies about bad people and bad situations to believe that any tragedy on a similar scope could befall us in these progressive times. These bad stuff deniers seem to have this view of the Star Trek ‘United Federation of Planets’ utopia where everyone gets along (usually) and there is peace and harmony across the cosmos if only the smart people (elites) are in charge. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

Well, even these people who have watched far too much TV and rely too heavily on the wizards of smart can admit that even if we don’t have Klingon battle cruisers outside our Solar system, you can have storms, both literal and figurative that wreak havoc with our peaceful civilization.

Even Prepping Deniers want a backup plan

Understanding that there are people like those I mentioned above out there, some of whom we are even related to, I wanted to try to put a less ominous spin on Prepping for the benefit of those who need some additional encouragement. You can still have some level of preparedness without going to the lengths that others of us choose to do. Granted, you are only going to be as prepared as the level of time and energy you put into it, but something is better than nothing.

denial

Even if you don’t believe anything bad can or will ever happen, wouldn’t you feel better with a just-in-case survival kit of items on hand?

To that end, I wanted to put together a list of common sense survival items to have on hand just in case, barring all logic and the goodwill of your fellow enlightened souls, something bad does happen and you are forced to rely on your own self for survival. These survival items are multi-purpose should be non-threatening to anyone out there. I won’t mention camouflage or firearms of any type today but I thought a simple list of items to go into a survival kit for not quite the end of the world could still come in handy to you out there someday.

This survival kit and the items below should be something that anyone can store in a closet of your home, nicely out-of-the-way and hidden from all your friends who would react with horror and derision at the mere hint you were taking any of this ‘prepping nonsense’ seriously. It may not be enough to keep you alive if we really do have a SHTF event, but it will help in many situations where it’s not quite the end of the world.

So for those of you who can foresee some minor inconveniences in life that are worked out shortly, but still want to be prepared, a little…. This list is for you.

Simple Survival Kit List

Backup Power – When the power goes out, it’s good to be able to replace that electricity isn’t it? You can do this in many ways according to how much you want to spend, but let’s assume that a whole home generator is not what you had in mind. Neither is a noisy portable generator. You can still have a fairly reliable source of backup power with a solar panel charging kit like the EnerPlex Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger. This set of panels allows you to roll it out and charge up your cell phone. Add something like Generatr S100 Portable Battery and you can charge a larger battery that will in turn recharge more devices. Another thing to consider with this is having extra batteries on hand should the power go out. I have Sony Eneloop rechargeable batteries but there are many other types of rechargeable batteries that I can use in almost all of my devices like radios and flashlights. I also have spare USB type batteries like a portable RavPower 16750mAh USB charger that sits fully charged. With this one unit, I can charge my iPhone 6 times.

BlackoutNY

Blackouts happen all the time.

If all that fails, you can also purchase a simple 1000 W inverter to plug into your car’s adapter to provide power to larger appliances or recharge your batteries much faster. Just make sure you have extra fuel stored for your cars too.

Lighting – Even during the bright hours of the day, if you are stuck inside, you could be in the dark, literally. Flashlights are a must have for power outages even during the day. You can choose from a lot of options like a bright tactical flashlight to something you attach to your key-chain but for the best of both worlds I like a headlamp. This way I can have the light automatically shine where my eyes are pointed and my hands are free to do whatever task I need to. Have one source of light for every family member.

Money – When the power goes out, so too usually goes your ability to get money out of the bank or ATM or make purchases without cash. Almost all point of sale systems rely on electricity and now the internet. so having a small stash of cash on-hand makes pretty good sense. Just a couple hundred dollars could buy your family food, get a hotel room in another state or purchase gas to power your car. Make sure you keep some on you and some hidden at home. You can hide some spare emergency cash in between your phone and the phone case and always have a backup. Have at least $200 in cash where you can get to it. Smaller bills (20’s) are better.

Food – Who wants to go hungry during a power outage or short-term emergency? You can either keep more food stored at home, or purchase food for emergencies. The former will give you better tasting food, but the later requires a little less discipline. Storing extra food in your survival kit keeps everything in one place, but it does take up additional room. Ideally we wouldn’t lose that space to something you already have storage options for, but it may work out better this way.

Along with actually storing and having access to food to eat, you need a way to cook it unless you want to eat a lot of cold canned food. One of the better options I have found is simple freeze-dried camping meals. All you need for these is hot water which you can either heat over a fire outside or with a small camping stove like the JetBoil. Sure the freeze-dried meals aren’t going to be the healthiest options but for short-term situations like this they store nicely, pack a pretty decent amount of calories (make sure you check first) and are filling. I would much rather eat a warm packet of Mountain House Chili-Mac than eat a cold or even warm can of beans. Have enough meals for 5 days for each family member.

Water – Water is one of the trickier items if you consider it. It is all around us usually, but clean drinking water may be hard to come by at times. If the water isn’t coming from the faucet, you might need to find a source. Fortunately, in most climates, there is water around us in lakes, pools, hot-tubs, water heaters and streams. You should store one gallon of water per person per day. We have been going with 5 days so far, so plan accordingly.

Having water on-hand is the best, but just in case, you need a water filter too. For the most basic needs, you can boil water for a minute to kill any bacteria. Filters like the gravity filters from Platypus allow for a lot of water filtration plus carrying capacity in a short time. LifeStraw makes an individual option too that is cheaper, but you can’t filter a large amount of water using one of these easily. Compared to boiling, purification tablets and the LifeStraw, I prefer the gravity fed options best.

Pensioners

Do you have a supply on cash just in case the banks don’t let you in or the ATM machines aren’t working?

Shelter – We will assume that you have shelter since this is not quite the end of the world and heat isn’t something you can easily plan around without power. Cold is something that can be easily addressed with a little more preparation. For this a good three season sleeping bag is a nice item to have for each member of your family. Optionally, you can go with something like the puffy blanket from Rumpl which packs down small and will keep in body heat. Hats and gloves are good also.

CommunicationsA simple weather radio will help you stay in touch with what is going on and you can even use some of these to charge your portable devices and also see in the dark with the included flashlight. No, you won’t be able to communicate out, but you can stay informed.

How do you store your survival kit?

For most of the items mentioned above,  they will easily fit in a good-sized plastic tote. Something like Rubbermaid’s 48 Gallon Action Packer will allow you to store these items neatly away. You may need additional options for water since that takes up so much space but the rest of these items should fit fine.

That will get the most basic needs out-of-the-way, but what else could you store if you were really hoping to cover more bases?

Miscellaneous tools and gearA good sturdy knife is important as well as a multi-tool or at least a decent set of tools to work on items around the house. A nicely stocked first aid kit would be a good addition. Disposable lighters are always handy and are much easier to use that a fire striker.

Security – I said I wouldn’t mention guns, so you can use something like pepper spray or a tazer if you feel that your security would be helped by having something. I would tend to agree.

Mobility – The ability to pack all your gear into a bag would be another nice to have, but if you are talking about evacuating, we have moved well past the simple survival kit mentioned above. If you do decide something more robust is necessary, we have lots of articles on Final Prepper that can help you with that. Bikes are another consideration.

Hopefully the simple items above can help you out if you find yourself in an emergency that isn’t as dire as The End of the World As We Know it. As anyone who regularly reads this site should know, I strongly advocate much more serious and comprehensive methods, skills and supplies, but that isn’t for everyone. Maybe this will help or inspire those out there who still can’t see the point, but nevertheless want a little insurance.

Preppers are a resourceful group of people and there aren’t too many dire situations we don’t have some type of prepared response for ready in our minds.

As disaster prepping continues its precipitous rise in popularity it seems every conceivable gadget, defense rig or bit of advice has been done or handed out. Everything’s been thought of, right? Not so fast. When you come right down to it, that advice, those how-to’s are what works for them. “Them” are all the people out there on the internet writing blog articles and posting videos. Most of them have the best intentions. They want to impart their knowledge to others who might benefit from it. But how do you take what they offer and make it your own? How to tweak it, modify it and customize it to what works best for you? This is exactly what should be done for a bug out vehicle, or in this case a bug out trailer. It has to meet your specific needs and include those particular adaptations and improvements that will be comfortably functional for you when everything else is going down the tubes.

Where to Start

First, select a base trailer to build up into the perfect survival masterpiece trailer. Lucky, for you there are a ton of choices out there. Trailers in all shapes and sizes have been manufactured for decades to meet all kinds of utilitarian needs from the professional contractor or construction firm hauling equipment to trailers meant for moving goods to those built for transporting recreational toys. Add to those variations all the recreational camping trailers on the market and the choices seem pretty much endless.

 

Do your research, envision the finished trailer in your mind, go look at potential buys in person, seek out used trailers for sale to save money, and pick the one that best fits your needs. Remember the longer a trailer is, the more restricted it will be for some locations. Longer trailers, obviously, need a larger turning radius and more space, in general, to maneuver. They are also limited to predominately flat roads as they are unable to manage rolling trails with narrow troughs between steep inclines.

Consider these types as potential bases to build out from;

  • Box utility trailers
  • Compact horse trailers
  • Teardrop trailers
  • Airstream trailers (compact versions)

To pull that trailer you need to first build your bug out vehicle.

These types provide solid bases from which to customize to your unique specifications offering enough variety to fall within particular budget constraints. The benefit of these trailers is they are already enclosed which is a head start, so to speak, which allows you to jump right into customizing the inside. Having said that, though, there are numerous examples of people who have built up open-topped trailers, or even homemade pickup bed trailers, into rugged, workhorse camp trailers capable of going anywhere the vehicle towing them can go. But more on those later.

Enclosed Trailer

Determine the type of space you want to have inside. Will the trailer be self-contained with room to sleep and move around or will it serve as a gear and supply storage and transport? Once the usage of the inside space is settled on you can set to designing the features; insulated walls, the sleeping and sitting areas, storage (gear, food, water), cooking equipment and fuel (Used inside or out? Is ventilation needed?) and windows.

The biggest decision to make (most likely made before even buying the trailer) is will it be a sleeper or a transporter. Will the environmental conditions require an insulated, indoor living area or will an expansion component like an attached tent or pop-up roof sleeper be sufficient and comfortable?

BugOutTrailer1

This trailer has almost every bell and whistle imaginable. Click the image for more photos and details.

If you’re starting with what is, essentially, an empty box on wheels then it would behoove you add a layer of insulation, especially if you plan to sleep inside. The typical, recreational, camp trailer will already be insulated but it’d be worth checking its condition if the unit is an older model. Insulating a cargo trailer is done in the same fashion as insulating the walls of a house. The trailer will already have ribbed, structural support throughout, just as a wall has studs. Cut and fit sections of insulation between these ribs and cover over with sheets of plywood, measured and cut to fit properly and don’t forget to do the same with the roof.

From here, the rest is a custom job, built to your standards and needs. Aftermarket interiors such as cabinetry, foldout beds, convertible seating (into sleepers), and counters are available from various travel trailer retailers or you can build them yourself. Sinks and plumbing are easily found at supply stores and counters can be built to fit a typical camp stove. Research space-saving techniques online for innovative storage areas, utilizing every empty space inside and out. Add storage fuel and propane tanks, generators and batteries outside to avoid gasses from building up creating dangerous conditions inside. For additional energy supply needs beyond fuel, with most trailers’ flat roofs, consider installing solar panels or even a roof-mounted, wind turbine.

 

ButOutTrailer4

Sleeping tents are a popular add-on to some bug out trailers.

Open Trailer

The open utility trailer comes in a full range of forms and sizes. By the term “open” we mean what is essentially, a flatbed trailer with 1-2 foot sides all around or a shallow, open-topped box on wheels. A popular customization for these is to convert them into tent trailers. A number of companies have cropped up over the years that manufacture folding or pop up tents that collapse into a zipped up square and overlays the open trailer. The tent and its support platform are hinged on one side and raise like a hatchback and serve as a cover lid for the open-topped trailer. The inside space is used for equipment and supply storage which can be partitioned off to effectively organize supplies. Or a portion of the inside houses slide-out storage containers or even full, outdoor kitchen setups with stove, sink and counter space.

Many people who go this route with their bug-out trailer make them into truly rugged, go-anywhere contraptions. Fitted with independent suspension, off-road tires and specialized hitches with couplings that allow for extreme vertical and horizontal towing angles these trailers can go virtually everywhere the vehicle towing them can go.

Both types of trailers, open-topped and enclosed, can incorporate external storage containers mounted to the outside walls, on over-sized wheel wells and to the roofs. There is often space on the trailer’s tongue for sturdy containers, propane tanks for cooking fuel or battery banks to store power. The customization opportunities are extensive, limited only by your imagination, time and to some extent, your wallet.http://fpnws.wpengine

Trailers are really one of the most versatile, bug-out vehicle options able to carry all that’s needed for a survival situation – food, water, shelter and lots more – the essentials, all piled into a mobile home away from home.

As disaster prepping continues its precipitous rise in popularity it seems every conceivable gadget, defense rig or bit of advice has been done or handed out. Everything’s been thought of,

Work Smarter Not Harder – In The Garden

Sometimes in the preparedness folds, we really get wrapped around axles. We have so much that we’re learning and trying to do, and we’re regularly doing it on a budget – which is just one more thing that circles around our heads and beats us up.

We can limit some of the pains of preparedness by changing how we look at things, but also how we do things. Gardening and larger-scale growing is routinely on our to-do list. It’s something that’s going to come as a shock for those who don’t practice ahead of time, no matter how many tricks get applied. However, we can save some time and stress on our bodies with a few low-cost and low-skill tricks and tools, and see increased yields. Bigger yields means lower dinner costs and potentially some increased food storage, letting us expand our preparedness in other ways.

Here are a handful of quickie, usually highly inexpensive – easy garden hacks to save time, money and labor. As you read them, don’t forget: Paper products are compostable.

Mulch

Mulch makes life easier.

Mulch can be straw or wood chips, lightly soiled animal litter, mown or whole leaves, the tips of branches we’re pruning, or shredded white paper. Shredded paper will settle into a mat that makes it tough for weeds, but “loose” mulch routinely does better with a weed suppression barrier down first. We can use newsprint, cardboard, or phone book pages as a weed suppressor and to keep small plants free of dirt kicked up by rain. We won’t get the same moisture-holding and soil aeration improvements, we will still have to weed some, especially if we already have beds that are weed prone, but it lessens our time spent sitting or crouched and bent over.

Mulch lessens the pains of gardening. We don’t weed as much, our plants do better, and we don’t have to water as much.

In some forms of mulch gardening, the mulch stays right there year-round. Some styles use a mulch that in hot, damp climates rots enough during the off-season and is tilled in that winter or early in spring. In others, we scoot aside just enough to drop seeds or transplants in during succession plantings, add amendments like cured manure or compost or pH-raising pine by raking it just into or over the surface, and add mulch more slowly.

Plastic bottles

olla-drip-irrigators-easiest-way-to-do-it-plantcaretoday_com

Sub-irrigated planters for buckets and storage tubs and conventional planters can be made using bottles for the tubes instead of aquarium or garden hoses or PVC.

We don’t store water or foods in milk jugs because they’re porous and can leach previous content out slowly, but they have their place among soda and juice bottles in the garden.

Various bottles can be used to make mini-greenhouses, cloches, scoops, and seed spreaders, as well as mouse and rat traps (2Ls can work for small squirrels and chipmunks, too, or slow them down enough for the garden terriers to get there). They’re great for vertical strawberry and herb and lettuce towers. We can use them to keep cord from tangling, and punch various holes to use for spreading amendments and treatments. Whack them in half, use sourdough starter and water or beer, and they catch horrific numbers of slugs.

For time savers and back savers, though, bottles really excel at helping us water.

Sub-irrigated planters for buckets and storage tubs and conventional planters can be made using bottles for the tubes instead of aquarium or garden hoses or PVC.

Whether we grow in raised beds or tilled rows, mulched beds or multi-layered hugel or lasagna beds, we can use bottles as a spin on olla irrigation, too. We can drill holes all over, as shown in the graphic from http://plantcaretoday.com/soda-bottle-drip-feeder-for-vegetables.html, bury it near our plants, and use a hose to fill it quickly. A similar version plants the bottle cap-down, with holes drilled in the cap and the sloping neck, and the inverted bottom cut entirely or with just enough remaining to make a flap. Those are even easier and faster to fill, with less aim needed.

The water from those will then sink out slowly, watering deep at the roots and watering our plants, not the weeds or walkways. Less water is lost to evaporation, and we don’t have to deal with timers or hose connections, or PVC to avoid standing out there forever to slowly sink in water. We pour it in, fill it up, and move to the next. If it’s really hot and dry, we might need to repeat, but it’s a low-tech, low-expense way to work faster than standing there with a hose or moving hoses back and forth so we can mow.

Maybe that means less time on our feet overall, or maybe that lets us progress to our weeding and suckering or the next round of planting.

Seeding time – The Dibble

A dibble is basically just something that makes a hole for us. Usually, it’s a somewhat shallow hole and it’s usually intended for seeds but we can work with that. There are two general types, rolling or boards, although with leek dibbles (which work with any transplant), you walk around with a rake or double-handle tool poking your holes. Boards are typically set up with dowels that will poke holes, or come as cutouts and we use something to poke holes to our desired depths. Rolling dibbles tend to be drum or wheel style.

drum-or-rolling-dibbler-and-dibble-board-www_ncat_org

There are two general types, rolling or boards.

Plans are out there for dibblers that can run from almost nothing if you salvage parts or make minis out of coffee cans and 12” PVC or make a single, double- or triple row dibble wheel out of bikes from Craigslist. Drum styles can cost as much as $100-200 to make at home if you’re inclined to go that route instead. Some of the really fancy board dibblers even get marked in colors so one board can be used for spacings from 1” to 6”.

In no-till schemes where you drag a pointed hoe to clear a spot for seeds, dibble wheels tend to be handy. In tall raised beds and window boxes or trays, a board dibbler may be more beneficial.

Using dibbles at whatever scale we choose to lets us quickly mark the space for seeds and transplants. Even if we have to go back with a post hole digger for some of those transplants, time spent upright instead of crouched tends to make for happier backs.


Seeding time – Furrowing rake

A furrowing rake is the simple DIY result of adding tight, relatively stiff hose or PVC to an ordinary hay or garden rake, and using it to drag lines along a prepared bed. It’s typically done so that the extensions are movable, letting us go as tight as the 1-1.5” gaps of the rake tines out to the full 1-2’ width of that rake.

We can get as complex as we like, adding marker lines to tell us how deep we’re aiming, or using multiple depths so we can plant cutting salad greens in the shallowest grooves and have deeper grooves for our peas. We can drag it both down and across a bed to create a grid, with seeds going at the cross points.

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A furrowing rake is the simple DIY result of adding tight, relatively stiff hose or PVC to an ordinary hay or garden rake, and using it to drag lines along a prepared bed.

Taking a few minutes to prep some moveable rods or pipes and lay out our grid – while standing – limits how much measuring we do while we’re bent or crouched, saving time and pain with a very quick and low-cost trick.

Seeding tubes or pipes

Dibbles and furrowing aren’t the only way to limit how much time we spend crouched over during seeding time. Even a congestion-planting scheme that calls for under-seeding doesn’t have to be done from a stool or our knees.

There are a couple of tiers of standing seeders for small plot growers, from this really simple version http://knowledgeweighsnothing.com/how-to-build-a-back-saving-pvc-corn-bean-seed-planter/ to this more advanced DIY https://thinmac.wordpress.com/a-homemade-seed-planter/.

Those aren’t really necessary, though. All you really need is a pipe smooth enough for seeds to roll through cleanly and sturdy enough to stand up straight.

If you want to work with tiny seeds as well as larger ones, maybe you lay on skinnier aquarium tubing to attach to a tool handle or yardstick (with rubber bands, even), and make yourself a pasteboard, tin-can or paper funnel and tape it in place. Use the back-end of a teaspoon or the little measuring spoon from somebody’s aquarium chemicals to fish out 2-5 seeds at a time.knowledgeweighsnothing-com-pvc-seed-hack

Seed tapes and mats

If we’re not digging the various seeding tubes, we can also use our rainy days or blistering hot days to make seed tapes out of strips of paper, or larger seed mats out of unfolded paper napkins and paper towels like these http://annieskitchengarden.blogspot.com/2009/09/september-22-2009-home-made-seed-mat.html & http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/2009/12/construct-your-own-seed-mats.html . We don’t have to mix up some kind of funky glue like with some of the DIY-ers show. The toothpick dab of white Elmer’s the first site shows is water-soluble and works just fine.

When we’re ready to plant, we just zoom along exposing our soil or following her mix, lay out our mats, and cover them again. We can work in fair-sized lengths that we roll up around an empty tube and then just nudge along using a broom or hoe, or use a square or two at a time that lets us stagger our planting for a staggered harvest or interspersed companion flowers.

Seed mats and strips can also be made out of a single thickness of newspaper pages for larger seeds like peas and beans as well, although we’ll want to make a small 1/8” slit or poke a pencil-tip hole through to give our seeds a head start on busting through the heavier paper.

Since we’re planting 3-6” or as much as 8-12” apart in those cases, whether we do rows or congestion beds, working with a larger paper size makes sense. The newspaper sheet will decay over the season, but being thicker, it does offer a nice head start for our seeds over the weed seeds that may be lurking below. Being thicker, it also does better if the seed gets that head start of a slit.

No more removing gloves. No more exposing seed packets to dirt and moisture, or unfolding and refolding and sticking them in a pocket as we try to keep track of where exactly the tiny black seeds landed in our bed. And since they’re evenly spaced instead of scattered in lines and areas, it’s minutely easier to tell which tiny baby dicot we should be plucking when the weeds start – at least we can work quickly in some of the gaps.

In the garden – Avoid the crouch-ouch

So why the focus on things that improve soils without hauling lots of bales, limiting all the bending, limiting the bending and time we spend watering (or pumping water), collecting trash to make all kinds of weird contraptions in the garden? It’s not just me being a greenie, I promise.

Especially for seniors and those with nagging pains and injuries, the ability to work standing upright or from a chair without leaning over or reaching far can not only increase the joy of gardening, but in some cases go as far as making gardening possible again.

Arthritic hands, shaking from an injury or age, and loss of full motor function from an accident can make it frustrating and painful even to fetch out and drop a lima or pea, let alone broccoli and spinach, and unless they’re willing to just punch some holes in a baggy and shake, just forget about iceberg and romaine and strawberry spinach.

The ability to work slowly over winter or summer to prepare for spring and autumn leaf and root crops, the ability to use a tube and funnel, then shake or scoop seeds using something they can actually grip is enormous.

Reexamine how you garden

Even for those in good health or who just like to be out there, some simple and inexpensive DIY projects and some trash collection and reuse can save a lot of time.

That might make a difference in garden size now, while we’re working and balancing families. It will definitely make a difference later, when we’re depending on those gardens to feed us or add a little forkability and crunch to our starvation-staving diet (I loved that article, BTW).

Saving backs and creating easy-to-use tools can also let us involve our parents and kids a little more in some cases, giving them independence and sharing the satisfaction that comes from a meal we procured for ourselves. There’s little better in life than seeing that pride returned to your parents and grandparents, or watching it bloom in your children.

It also sucks to fail, especially when we have a lot of time invested in something.

Water reservoirs, reduced weed competition, proper seeding coverage, and workload-friendly seeding methods can help increase our rate of success, which encourages us to do it again.

Work Smarter Not Harder – In The Garden

Urban Camouflage and Concealment

It makes me laugh when I see a lot of SWAT Teams and PSD guys wearing Tactical Black and other colors that look cool but do nothing but make them stand out. In reality, black is one of the worst colors to wear. Ask yourself, what is black in nature? Look around you and what in your surroundings are black? I expect very little… In urban areas, most walls are white, gray or cream… Light colors! The colors you wear should blend in with your background whether its day or night.

At night dark colors stand out, especially when moving past light backgrounds and in urban areas most backgrounds are light colors. Even in rural dry areas when moving through low bush and fields the silhouettes of people in dark colors are easy to see at a distance.

You do not have to have expensive patterns to give you good camouflage and concealment, a gray dress shirt and a pair of light khaki pants is way more effective than tactical Tim dressed in SWAT black!

Movement and Rural Camouflage

Modern humans are positively disadvantaged when surviving in and moving one foot in rural and wilderness areas. Most people these days have never spent a night outside without any cover, let alone in bad weather. When you’re in the woods or bush you need to get comfortable in the environment. I remember one of my military instructors telling me that to be able to fight in an environment, you must first be able to live comfortably in that environment, and this is true. If you’re having difficulty living day-to-day how can you operate?

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Camouflage your face, neck and any areas of the exposed flesh with mud, ash or charcoal from fires. Or use a balaclava or scarf to cover your face and wear gloves.

You need to start using all your senses as the animals do, learn to identify sounds, smells, movements and what they mean. You need to especially be able to identify things associated with people, like footprints, cigarette stumps, broken twigs or foliage, fences, straight lines, domestic animals, aircraft, vehicles, talking, etc. Think about human smells like fires, food, fuel, human waste, and tobacco; if your senses are sharp in bush or wooded areas you should be able to smell or hear people before you see them.  When moving you must do so quietly and regularly stop to look, listen and smell for any indication of people. If you identify people in your proximity are you going to take cover, evade or ambush?

You should always consider camouflage and wear clothes that blend in with your environment, in urban areas wear light blues and grays in rural areas browns and greens. As I have said before there is no need for military camouflage clothing as this will just draw attention to yourself.

Basic fieldcraft, things are seen because of these reasons: Shape, Shadow, Silhouette, Shine, Spacing & Movement.

  • Shape: Disguise your shape; use foliage or rags to break up your outline.
  • Shadow: Keep in the shadows and always be aware that you are not casting a shadow that could be seen by your opposition.
  • Silhouette: Don’t stand out against skylines, lights, white walls, etc.
  • Shine: No chrome, shiny watches, mirrored glasses, sparkly jewelry and the like.
  • Spacing: If moving with others, remain spread out, but not too regularly and do not bunch together.
  • Movement: Move carefully, as the sudden movement draws attention and is the main reason camouflaged personnel and animals are seen.

The basic guidelines for camouflage are

  • Learn to blend in with your surroundings.
  • If you are using foliage to conceal yourself or your position don’t use too much or too little.
  • If you are in a long-term hide remember to keep your camouflage fresh, dead foliage will alert people to your position.
  • When moving avoid skylines.
  • Don’t use isolated or obvious cover; it’s the first place others will look. Consider hiding in thorny bushes or nettles as most people will not expect anyone to hide there.
  • Camouflage your face, neck and any areas of the exposed flesh with mud, ash or charcoal from fires. Or use a balaclava or scarf to cover your face and wear gloves.
  • Take all noisy objects from your pockets, such as keys and coins and make sure nothing on your person rattles.
  • Make sure there are no shiny surfaces on your person, equipment or clothing.

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Guidelines for Movement

You should always move quietly and cautiously and avoid stepping on dry twigs or breaking through foliage and undergrowth as this will make noise and leave an easy trail to follow. If you know you’re going to a rural area or possibly going to be in an escape and evasion situation avoid smelly foods, strong soaps and aftershaves, as these will be easy to smell by those used to being in the bush. Always be careful not to leave signs you were in an area such as footprints, broken foliage, human waste or trash.  Trash and human waste should be carried out of a hostile area and disposed of when safe to do so.

You should always move in “bounds” from one piece of cover to another. Your bounds should never be more than, say 50 yards, especially at night. When you stop at the end of each bound you should use your senses to try to detect any human presence then plan your next bound. Moving in short bounds is the safest way to move through populated areas or places there are unfriendly forces. Remember, always be prepared to take evasive action or defend yourself.

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Camo Face Paint Sticks – 3 Pack – 6 Colors

The speed at which you travel will depend on whether it’s day or night, the type of terrain you’re in, people or police patrols in the area. Never push yourself to your limit, you always need to have energy in reserve so you can run in an emergency; tired people are also rarely mentally alert. If you must run from your opposition try to do so only for a maximum of a few hundred yards, then slow down and move quietly, cautiously and cover any signs of your direction of travel. Do not use obvious routes, which tend to be the easiest routes to use; head up hills and into thorny areas, etc.

There are no set time periods for halts but you should try to take ten minutes in every hour on long journeys. Tracks, paths, and roads make for fast, easy travel and can aid navigation but can also be very dangerous as your opponents will watch them closely. To be cautious walk a few meters off to the side of any roads or tracks.  Places to expect sentries are at the entrances to urban areas, on bridges, crossroads and on high prominent terrain.

Avoid being silhouetted when crossing skylines and hills, go around them rather than over them where possible. If you need to cross an obstacle or skyline then keep low and crawl, if it’s a fence, crawl through it or under it. If you have to cut through a fence, cut through the lower strands and then disguise the hole with undergrowth or tie the wire strands back together, never cut through the top strands as this will be easily noticed.

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Moving at night

You need to learn to treat the night and darkness as your friend, darkness affords you cover. Many people are afraid of being in the dark especially in rural areas or derelict buildings; you should use this to your advantage. If you are moving you should always try to stay in the shadows, if you get caught in a beam of light or car headlights you should freeze, the chances are that you will remain unnoticed. You must have your immediate reaction drills for encountering a person, being caught in the light of the hostile fire at the forefront of your mind. Being caught off guard will get you captured or killed.

There are both natural and man-made noises that are useful to you because they can cover up or disguise the sounds that you make when moving. The best time for moving covertly is during bad weather; rain will cover the noise of your movement and any ground sign you leave. Bad weather also keeps people undercover, lowers the morale of those standing guard, learn to love bad weather.

General guidelines for rural movement

  • Wear clothing that blends in with local people and the terrain.
  • Do everything possible to disguise evidence of your passage; cover footprints, never break twigs or undergrowth and repair broken foliage.
  • Avoid contact with all people unless absolutely necessary.
  • Litter, food and human waste must be buried or carried with you.
  • Learn about tracking, then you’ll be aware of what anyone following you will be looking for.
  • If moving with others spread out and when crossing obstacles such as rivers or roads etc. take up positions to be able to give warnings of any threats that might be approaching. Also, stay low move fast and cross one by one.
  • Always be ready to take cover from gunfire or people you may encounter by surprise.
  • Remember certain smells indicate human activity; odors float downhill in cool air and rise in warm air.
  • Watch for stones, leaves or logs that have been moved, the undersides of these will be darker in color and damp environments, this can be an indicator of human activity or the location of hides.
  • Always look for straight lines as they are rare in nature and are usually man-made.
  • Learn to identify unnatural vegetation, such as green leaves among dead branches or areas of too much foliage as this could indicate human activity such as hides or ambushes.

These are some basic guidelines to get you thinking, these skills can’t be learn sat in a comfy chair, you need to get out and learn and practice them. Everything I have written about here is simple and the main thing required is situational awareness and common sense!

Modern humans are positively disadvantaged when surviving in and moving one foot in rural and wilderness areas. Most people these days have never spent a night outside without any cover,

This is the second article looking at ways we can cut our dependence on commercial feeds for our livestock. The first article primarily dealt with historic feeds and ways of storing them and some of the feeds that are rarely seen in small-scale production in the U.S. As stated in the first article, our modern livestock – even a lot of the dual-purpose homesteading breeds – are accustomed to certain types of feeds, heavy on mass-production mono-culture grains and hay. Those feeds tend to produce the fastest results and be cheap and easy to access.

However, they do contribute to the financial cost of keeping livestock and they require certain cultivation methods that may not be available to everyone. Substituting fertilizers and water-hungry crops for tubers and less-common grains may be part of the solution to making our livestock resilient to a small personal crisis or a major regional disaster. It can help us weather some of the ups and downs in pricing, as with droughts that send livestock feed and grocery bills skyrocketing.

There are some other ways we can increase our self-sufficiency and resiliency, though, even if it drops our livestock’s production to historic levels and takes a little longer to finish our meat stock. There is no one way to do anything, and no solution is going to work for everyone. However, having some backup ideas and methods in place as alternate feeds is rarely a bad thing, especially if we’re counting on meat rabbits and chickens, eggs, and milk in a collapse or Great Depression situation.

 

Rule of Thumb – Rabbits to Goats, Chickens, & Pigs

There are a couple of rules of thumb that can apply to our livestock and what we provide as a base feed or supplement. The first is that if hares can eat it, so can goats. Happily, chickens and pigs will eat almost anything – especially if they see other livestock going after it. Most feeds safe for rabbits will apply to them, too.

The Rabbit Food Pyramid

The Rabbit Food Pyramid

The rabbit point comes in because of all the lists available out there for pet or show rabbits. Some of the feeds for rabbits come right out of our kitchen gardens. Some of the feeds in those lists lack the roughage both hares and goats need to keep their guts processing. Others offer some excellent ways to increase the feed availability for livestock using something that already exists.

One example is trees and tree hays. Rabbits and goats can happily consume a wide number of trees, some of which may already be on our property and in need of pruning, such as willow, apple, maple, elm and mulberry.

Tree hays are little different from using a fodder like locust and calliandra that’s fed green. We can treat a surprising number of trees just like we do grasses and dry limbs at peak nutrition to pull out for hay or add to our silage. Like grasses, tree leaves are at their highest nutrient content before they flower and start directing energy toward fruits.

That allows us to selectively harvest small green boughs that would be pruned in another season normally, selecting for branches with lower impact on our future fruit harvest. And since the flowers themselves are sugary powerhouses and pollen is an excellent protein source, collecting limbs that bear those is only a bonus.

rabbits eating tree leaf and branch

Rabbits, tree branches and leaves

 

The richest tree fodders can only be used in limited number to modern rabbits, because they have sensitive digestions. Once it’s hay, instead of a leaf or three for a large meat rabbit, up to 20-40% of their grass hay can be replaced by tree hay. The larger branches themselves can go to rabbits, goats and chickens, too, even a couple of inches across should you prune something that large. They’ll strip the bark in some seasons, and rabbits will use chunks to help keep their ever-growing rodent teeth under control.

Soaking tree hays can help increase the interest and palatability for finicky livestock. Individual leaves can be soaked, or branches can be righted and stuck in a bucket of water for 24-48 hours to soak up liquids. Chickens won’t eat quite as many of the tree hays, even soaked, and pigs regularly need them soaked and sometimes mixed in with something like turnips and grasses. However, both are a little more willing to eat silage.

Don’t use the whole branches for silage, just the leaves and the tenderest tips that cattle in bare lots are willing to nibble.

Tree Fodder & Fruits

Cattle - lucerne tree fodder

Cattle consuming tree lucerne

 

There are actual trees like the black locust and smaller options like pea shrub that are being studied and cultivated as livestock feed replacements, especially in places like Africa with limited irrigation and poor soils. There are mixed feelings about keeping livestock on tree fodders, there are mixed research results, and studies tend to focus on one aspect of feed or another – it’s hard to get a comprehensive paper on DM, protein, digestibility and palatability all at once. Still, if livestock is part of the plan, it might not hurt to look into some of them. A lot of U.S. climates can mimic climates found somewhere in Africa – where a lot of the research starts and focuses still.

Fodder and forage trees and shrubs can be managed for human harvest and transport, or planted along outsides of fences or inside curbing poles and fences that limit livestock’s reach. Quickly rotated pastures can also allow the trees and shrubs to mature and grow back.

Native trees and shrubs that can be used for grass and hay replacement for rabbits and goats include American sycamore, blackberry, dewberry, raspberry, roses, hackberry, gooseberry, alder and mesquite. Livestock can eat currants, but currants and some of the other soft berry shrubs tend to not respond as well to “pruning” as brambles and gooseberry.

Other options for livestock include planting trees that drop seed or nuts, either for human harvest and fodder, or for livestock to forage on its own. Elm samaras can be collected green or brown to use as a fatty nut or seed supplement as well. Acorns are another example. There are a wealth of oaks out there that produce at different times, produce in ebb-and-flow cycles, develop acorns for two years instead of one, and produce different sized acorns. Most nuts are too valuable for livestock, but somebody with thriving hazelnut/filbert thickets might run in goats and then pigs or chickens.

 

Goat climbing and eating black locust

Goat climbing and eating black locust

There are the conventional fruits such as apples and pears. For me, the focus on fruit trees for livestock is largely on storable fruits that can go from tree to cellar. Most tree fruit is going to be too rich for domestic rabbits and a lot of cattle and horses, but pigs and chickens seem just fine with even large portions of meals made up of pears.

“Weedy” fruits like wild plum and mayhaw need absolutely no help from me to grow, but will produce some goat forage and fruits for pigs and chickens. Shrubs like chokeberry and chokecherry can be used alongside chicken tunnels and moats and runs, with the birds helping themselves to berries that protrude or drop within reach, and humans harvesting the berries they can’t reach – berries which don’t look like “normal” human or livestock foods and that dry well for later feed.

Rule of Thumb – What we eat, they eat

A lot of livestock feeds are already made from things that humans can consume – corn, soy, wheat, sunflower, millet. In the first livestock feed article, we pointed out things like tubers that store well. We can also take a look at local foraging options, and encourage what are basically weeds to use as feed. I wouldn’t try to forage for a goat’s entire diet, although there are things I can plant (and protect) that they can forage for themselves.

Sheep eating Kudzu

Sheep eating Kudzu

Cattail in the four or five human-edible stages is happily and healthily consumed by everything but cattle and horses. Reed grasses (avoid European phrag like the plague) provide a storable seed. Chickens and hogs will dig chufa. Don’t plant the stuff for heaven’s sake, but if kudzu is nearby, it makes a nice flower jelly and its leaves are readily palatable to even cattle.

Wood sorrel, henbit, low clovers, plantain, purslane, and dandelions are so routinely cursed by gardeners and lawn-growers, but they provide an enormously beneficial mix of protein- and micro-nutrient heavy foods, with the benefit of being enormously palatable as well as cold hearty. That means we can stick them under some plastic or grow them in tiers of soda bottles in our windows in winter, and be providing fresh foods to our livestock, even in just dribbles. That keeps our livestock healthier and more ready to transition back to pasture grazing.

Wood sorrel, henbit and chickweed are also tall enough and “heat”-tolerant enough that we can use them in grazing frames inside chicken runs, letting the birds munch them down as far as they can reach but having them grow back faster because the birds can’t get all the way down to the roots. They’ll hold up to grazing and manure better than just wheat or barley grasses.

Chicken grazing frame

Chicken grazing frame

Cheno-family lamb’s quarters, mallow, amaranthus pigweeds, shepherd’s purse, most of the sonchus thistles, any strawberry plants to include the invasive “weed” variant with little or no flavor, and wingstem or Iron weed can all be consumed by rabbits, goats and chickens. Most can also have leaves and stems dried to provide roughage or healthy supplements throughout winter and early spring.

Check out what Sam Thayer says about your area and your local foraging guide. Nettles have to be treated for livestock the same way they are for us, and some wild edibles are too time consuming, but there are others that can increase our feed (and pantry) potentials without a great deal of work because the weeds grow like … well, weeds.

Alternative feeds for your livestock

Using a mix of intentional forage and fodder trees, increasing the use of fruit trees and shrubs to harvest green grass and dry hay replacements or increase silage content, and looking at the wild edibles in our areas as a way to increase livestock feeds can make a difference in both resiliency and livestock costs, especially if we’re running small flocks and herds.

You need to slowly transition livestock to new feeds, especially if they’re accustomed to 1-2 base feeds, but livestock is just like humanity – we all do best with a variety of foods. Livestock is especially dependent on gut microflora to help them break down foods. I’m sure you’ve heard the “starving with a full belly” nugget. Before commercial feed and penned livestock was so prevalent, there was also “spring sickness” or “green dribbles” that came in part from livestock being able to access pasture again after winter, eating their heads off, and ending up with upset stomachs. Slowly transitioning livestock and keeping them on a variety of feeds can help limit those conditions because their guts stay primed to consume them.

Some other nuggets to research, especially for game birds like ducks and young poultry that need higher proteins, include black soldier fly farms, algae and duckweed aquariums, and worm bins or troughs. Fast-breeding minnows will change the flavor of eggs and meat, but can be kept in pretty small tanks with low energy needs. There’s also barely-sprouted grains (the ones that barely have any “tail” showing when they’re offered). I’m not a major fan of sprouted fodder systems (the kind that grow root mats and green shoots in trays) as a primary livestock feed for anything more than a couple of chickens or rabbits, but then, I’d also rather grow and re-grow rotating flats of mixed weeds and wheat grass for them in winter because it’s a lot less costly and labor intensive. Just remember that while some livestock like chickens and rabbits can be vegans and have lower protein needs, the game birds like ducks are not really grazers – they need seeds and-or live foods and the higher calories and proteins those offer.

There are a world of livestock feed options that don’t begin with slicing an alfalfa bale or cutting open a bag of pellets. Even if we choose to stay with grains and conventionally farmed feeds, having the alternative foraging and fodder options gives us a fallback and gives us something to shoulder as we walk around, giving our livestock extra nutrients and variety that can help keep them healthier.

This is the second article looking at ways we can cut our dependence on commercial feeds for our livestock. The first article primarily dealt with historic feeds and ways of storing

Air conditioning is a pretty modern convenience. There are still lots of countries where A/C is a luxury found only in hotels, restaurants, and the homes of the rich. Little beats retreating to a lake, basement or cellar for the afternoon, but we can look at them and back in history to the 1950s and earlier to figure out how we can make our lives a little bit more comfortable when we have outages or grid-down situations. There are a ton of ways we can help cool our bodies and little changes to activity and habits that can be incorporated for beating the heat in our homes, too, but for this article, I’m going to concentrate on the dwelling space itself.

Generate Shade

The more of our buildings that we can ring with shade of some kind, the cooler the building will stay. Even so, just shading the entrances and windows of homes, cellars, and workshops can help reduce the heat inside. Shading entrances is especially good in air-conditioned or cooled spaces. It helps reduce the sudden inversion that happens when the doors open. That can be huge for a cellar being filled with harvest.

There are three ways we can generate shade around our homes: window awnings, porches, and trees.

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Shading windows with a short but deep awning and sheer tier curtains to reduce heating from sunlight.

 

Shading with window awnings helps reduce the amount of sunlight that enters the home. Old-style window awnings are deep. They’re designed to protect starting fairly early in the morning, all the way through midday into afternoon.

However, they were typically placed so they don’t actually cover much of the window. That protects from the brutal summer sun when it’s taking a high arc, while allowing for natural light early in the morning and late in the evening as the sun is setting, and for more natural light during winter when the sun’s path is at a lower angle.

Covered porches have the same effect – creating a buffer around doors if not the whole side or house. The deeper the porch, the less light will get through. There are programs available online that can help people at various latitudes figure out exactly what depth is most ideal by the compass directions, but generally 6-8’ will reduce summertime heat while still allowing for decent winter light to enter.

Deciduous trees are ideal for the southern face of a building and are regularly used on the east and west sides as well. They shade in the summer and then allow light to pass through their empty limbs in winter.

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Image: The more shade we can generate, the cooler our interiors will stay.

Seasonal Window Dressing

Window dressing didn’t start out as the “just window dressing” that makes some of us crazy now. A lot of history is in all those fancy-do’s we drape around. While lace became vogue and sheers and tier curtains became the providence of rich folks, they started out as a way for poorer folks to gain some comfort without spending as much on fabric.

Sheers allow both light and airflow to enter the home, while the pale and white colors reflect back a lot of heat for us. Tier curtains originally protected the lower half of a window that wasn’t originally shaded by deep awnings or a shallower porch.

Today we also have light-blocking or “blackout” curtains. They’re typically a white backing that faces outward to bounce light and heat outside again, and any color at all that appeals on the inside. We can replicate them with white or pale green-sign Dollar Store/Tree shower curtains, or the real deal can be found even at Dollar General.

curtains

Blackout curtains reduce noon to daybreak, but because they also impact airflow, they’re more for our air-conditioned world with selective, judicious seasonal use in an outage or grid-down scenario.

Those light-blocking curtains with a solid surface are designed for an air-conditioned world, however. Pier 1 to Dollar General, they dampen airflow as well as light. If we’re going to be opening windows, we’d be better off hitting Goodwill/Salvation Army or a fabric store and picking up the oldest, thinnest white or pale-colored sheets or loose-weave blankets they have. Sheets have the bonus of a band at the top that makes for easy hanging, but there is iron-on fabric/sewing tape that can help even the most needle-challenged soul make some curtains.

Bonus Tip: We can get dark fabrics, sheets, blankets, towels, and shower curtains to get the reverse effect and create more passive solar heating in winter.

Elevated homes

In the time before air conditioning, a lot of homes were raised, with open airflow underneath. It’s still seen in some places, although it’s now more common in areas that flood or get damp in North America now.

 

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Even outside of flood plains and when windows were expensive, simple Southern shacks were elevated slightly to increase airflow and decrease inside temperature.

We can’t do much about getting a preexisting home up off a foundation, but if we decide to build from scratch or buy a new one, it’s worth thinking about. Trailers are elevated, but even modern trailers aren’t usually insulated to the same degree that a house can be, even retroactively. Unless it’s the only thing besides a windowless brick that fits the budget, being elevated isn’t enough of a selling point to go for a trailer.

Thick Construction

Houses used to be nice and sturdy, built thick and dense. In some cases, that can create an oven, but with some shade and some windows for airflow, dense construction can create very much a cave-like atmosphere. That functions both ways, heat and cold, working to keep the house or building a more constant temperature.

We can sometimes cheat our way to denser walls and ceilings even in a home we already own. The thicker we pack our insulation – and the higher the grade of the insulation we use – the more solid our walls become. It’s not that difficult to pop off drywall and replace insulation, or add additional layers to it, overlapping the edges and layers as often as possible, and it can make a big difference in our daily life energy costs as well as during grid-down times.

If we don’t want to do the whole house, we might consider doing it either on the south or west side where the sunlight and heat are most brutal, or we might consider re-insulating the ceiling of a basement to create a heat-relief cave. We could also consider buffing up the insulation if we have an interior washroom, an isolated kitchen, or some other space that generates a lot of heat.

Airflow

We can’t do much about lifting our ceilings or putting in more or wider windows without a lot of expense, but both contributed hugely to cooling homes pre-A/C.

Tall ceilings allow heat to rise and collect up out of the human-use space nearer the floor. The advent of fans increased this hugely. A fan blowing just down or across us from the ceiling or a stand feels pretty darn good. Switching the rotation or blades so that fans are actively drawing air upwards instead of blowing down was a big help.

Even with A/C, a floor fan tilted to blow cool air up away from the floor and into our living space helps lower our electrical power use even in modern times.

Fan

Even a small fan set to blow back up from the floor can make a huge difference in our power draws (and bills). They function similarly to the historic use of ceiling fans to draw heat up but instead, they keep cool air from settling at our ankles.

 

Fans can also be placed in windows. In cool weather, they’re set to draw air inside. In warmer weather, they get flipped to help shove hot air out – especially helpful in the kitchen, just like when we set off the smoke detector while frying chicken.

Fans in windows can be a big help anywhere, and make a ton of difference for homes with few windows, a lot of turns, and little natural airflow.

Homes were originally designed not to block airflow, with room flowing into each other, large pocket or double doors in central areas, and copious windows that were arranged for cross ventilation. If we have the chance to buy or build, or renovate, they’re something to add to the list to check for. We can also find out where the weight-bearing walls are and remove one or widen doorways into arches to improve airflow.

Fans can also be used to help direct airflow from one end of the funky corners or dead spaces we get a lot in modern construction to another, but with kids and pets, the oddball placement required usually isn’t worth that one. However, since fans run off so much less power than an A/C, it’s an idea to stick in the back of our heads for an outage.

Whole House Fans

These aren’t just an attic fan. These are a specific cookie that does a specific job, and does that job best under specific conditions.

This guy http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/fans-attic-do-they-help-or-do-they-hurt does such a good job explaining a whole-house fan and the conditions, I’m just going to thumbnail it. There’s also a comparison here http://www.airscapefans.com/learn-about/whole-house-vs-attic-fans.php.

Basically, a whole-house fan is specifically for cooling the house, not the attic. A whole-house fan gets turned on at night with all the windows open. It’s function is to suck all the hot air from the day up into and then out of the attic. The vacuum draws in the cooler nighttime air, especially early in the morning when it’s coolest. Then the windows and vents in the house all get shut, holding that cool air for as long as possible. The denser the construction, the better the insulation and tightness of windows, and the more shade in the afternoon, the better it works.

It’s not like opening the house to cool off when we’re pretty sure we’re running the A/C almost all day tomorrow, because the A/C is actually more efficient without having to pump out all the moisture we’re going to let in.

This isn’t a “today” deep-summer fix for most of us who deal with 90-100+ temperatures, although it can reduce temps by 10-15 degrees even into afternoon, which helps keep us from running our A/Cs at times when it’s more comfortable (reducing power costs). However, in an outage of any duration, a whole house fan – which is pulling a lot less energy and requires a less robust generator – dropping the house from more than 95 degrees F down to 85 or 80 is something of a gift. Even if it only lasts to midday and then we have to reopen the house and run house fans with the temperature creeping up into “totally miserable”, it gives us more time to do canning chores and it can make for much, much more comfortable sleeping.

Alternate Sleeping Quarters

When it was really brutally hot and sticky, folks used to take to their fire escapes and front porches to sleep. Hammocks and cots indoors or outside under mosquito netting or a fly film pavilion help by increasing airflow compared to a standard mattress.

Air mattresses and air beds are fabulous little creations that can help keep us indoors, but accomplish almost the same thing – a fun fact I learned very recently as furniture made it one way, the wrong way, and faced delays in a move. They need to be fairly decent, though. I’m partial to Coleman. I’m not allowing another Intex into my house. Others’ results may vary.

air-bed

Air beds aren’t just for camping. A good air bed or air mattress on top of existing box frames or mattresses can help reduce heat while sleeping, providing more relief in summer the way hammocks once offered a cool-air option on the porch for sticky southern nights and afternoon siestas.

 

I have no idea how exactly air beds/mattresses manage it, but I can guess that the big pocket of air they store acts like insulation and then becomes a cold sink. I came to this conclusion because I’ve found that air beds are cooler than air mattresses. With an air mattress, I’m comfortable a few degrees warmer than usual. With an air bed I’m sleeping like a baby and reaching for a light blanket at the temperatures where I’m normally tossing and turning on our (stupidly expensive, was-going-to-be-perfect) $1K mattress system and crazy expensive stay-cool pillows. It was significant enough a reduction while I was by myself for a month, I threw one on the guest bed and I just sleep there when I’m hot (most nights).

Cooling Homes & Selves

There are lots of ways we can cool ourselves as well as our homes. Certain animals, the elderly, young children, and people with respiratory issues (even just allergies) are more sensitive to heat and heat stresses, and it’s important to know ways to help them and have somewhere for them to retreat from the heat. That might mean rigging an Egyptian cooler so there are cool, damp cloths for wiping down, or it might mean putting together enough of a battery bank or quiet generator to keep fans going. We’ll adjust, to some degree, but if a crisis hits during summer or it’s just a temporary outage, knowing some ways to cool a house can help with the adjustment.

This is about houses, but I can’t miss the chance to plug water. In high heat, I consume a gallon and a half of just water, and another gallon of things made with water. Getting some fans, getting fixed-shut windows opened, and installing screens are important, but we also need to be budgeting for water, whether it’s storage or catchment or our backup well or spring systems. Being 10 degrees cooler isn’t going to save us from dropping due to dehydration.

The more of our buildings that we can ring with shade of some kind, the cooler the building will stay. Even so, just shading the entrances and windows of homes,

Bug Out Bags come with their own set of problems just as complex in some cases as the myriad of reasons why you could be forced to rely on a Bug Out Bag in the first place. There is the type of bag to purchase, the specific gear to load in there and a million voices telling you what is best and what isn’t needed. Not to be left out of the discussion, Final Prepper has had its fair share of comments about the subject both from the perspective of how much weight to pack in your bug out bag and our very own Bug Out Bag checklist for those of you just starting out.

Regardless of where you get opinions or advice, everyone who is discussing a Bug Out Bag usually recommends you storing food in there. We casually throw out the obligatory, FEMA recommended 3 days or 72 hours’ worth of food advice but have you ever wondered what food to pack in your bug out bag? Does it matter anyway?

I like to make the connection between planning for your bug out bag and planning for a hiking trip into the woods because I think almost all of the same considerations should be taken for each situation. The motivation for strapping the pack to your back is different in each scenario, but the realities of packing everything you would need to survive for three days hiking the Appalachian Trail or running from mutant zombies from mars are very similar.

When you are looking for food ideas for your bug out bag there are four things I think you should take into consideration. The first is caloric value, the second is weight and the third is spoilage and lastly, you have preparation effort. For these food ideas, you need to seriously consider if the food you have planned for your bug out bag is going to be the most beneficial to you.

Caloric Value – A normal person hiking all day burns a heck of a lot of calories. I don’t have to tell you that hiking even on flat ground with a 30-50 pound pack on your back is going to make you work harder than that desk job you have. How many calories you will burn and conversely have to consume will depend on the shape you are in and what you are doing. For a very generic example, I used a calculator on HealthStatus.com to see that if I hiked for 10 hours I would burn close to 6000 calories. You may weigh less or hike fewer hours so you will have to see what your caloric needs would be, but the food you are packing should be able to give you back those calories each day or else your body will start eating itself and you don’t want to be anything less than 100% healthy if you are bugging out.

Weight – This should be pretty simple. The more your food weighs, the heavier your bag will be. A high calorie to weight ratio is smart and with the choices below I think there is a good balance. Some people think you should just pack 3 MRE’s in your BOB, but MRE’s aren’t weight conscious at all. On our last backpacking trip, I saw about 6 cans of food laying off to the side of a trail. I can only imagine the person who was carrying that weight and what they were thinking.

Spoilage – Where are you storing your Bug Out Bag? Is your food sitting in the hot sun of your car trunk every day for 3 months? You need to take care to only pack foods that won’t spoil, or plan for storing your bag in a location that won’t cause your food to spoil more quickly.

Preparation Effort – I know that when you are backpacking, you are outside in the fresh air with nothing but nature around. It’s a nice little creature comfort to make meals that taste great and have some fresh ingredients. Your Bug Out Bag food shouldn’t be gourmet. As much as possible, the preparation of these meals should be easy and kept to a minimum.

Before I get into the food ideas for your bug out bag, let me state that these choices aren’t always going to be what the normal healthy person consumes on your average day. The Bug Out Bag is what you grab when there is a need to get out of harms way very quickly. This isn’t camping or taking a leisurely stroll in the woods. Some of the food choices could be improved, but we are going for quick and simple calories mostly in a format that doesn’t spoil too quickly, doesn’t take a lot of preparation and doesn’t weigh a ton. So, with all that said, here are some ideas we came up with for your bug out bag food supplies.

G.O.R.P – 130 Calories per ounce

G.O.R.P – If you don’t know stands for Good old raisins and Peanuts and has been a hiking staple for years. G.O.R.P is calorie-rich and is simple to make. Unless you have chocolate in there, it shouldn’t melt in the trunk of a hot car either. The thing you want to avoid is what we did and that is to buy a giant bag of G.O.R.P thinking everyone would be eating off the big bag. After two days of hiking (we had also brought other snacks) the bag wasn’t getting any lighter and I think we still brought half of it home with us. Pack individual zip-lock bags for each person. One cup of GORP (depending on the ingredients you have in there) can provide as many as 700 calories.

Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals

I have taken Mountain House meals with me and my family on every camping trip. They are the best at filling us up and for the taste, they aren’t too shabby either. For breakfast, my favorite is the Breakfast skillet and dinner is a toss-up between Chilli-Mac or Lasagna with Meat sauce. To get these down to the smallest footprint, you can poke a hole in the bag with a pin, press out any air and cover the hole with a piece of tape. For optimum freshness, I would only do this right before you were leaving. An added bonus with these meals is that you don’t need anything but a long spoon. Simply heat some water and pour it right into the bags, seal for the recommended time and then eat up! You can cut the bag down to size with a knife to make it a little easier to eat out of without getting chili-mac on your hands.

Peanut Butter – 170 calories per ounce

Peanut butter is a great food item for your pack because of its high calorie to weight ratio. 1 tablespoon of peanut butter packs a whopping 190 calories and if you bring some crackers, this food will keep you going. This is one MRE food item to consider because all MRE’s have a pack of either peanut butter or cheese. You can also buy MRE items individually so I know someone will sell you a bunch of Peanut butter packets if you are looking for them.

Mainstay Emergency Food Rations – 3600 calories in a pack

Mainstay Emergency Food Rations are standard in my Get Home Bag as well as my Winter Survival Car kit and would make perfect sense in a Bug Out Bag as well. These are exactly what they say they are and that is survival rations. They are even less gourmet than the other options on this list, but they have some advantages. They are already packaged in waterproof containers, they can withstand extreme temperatures without spoiling and they take zero preparation. Just break open the pack and break off two bars (800 calories).

Mac & Cheese – 105 calories per ounce (with oil and summer sausage)

Mac and Cheese is probably the cheapest camping food you can get and you really only need to boil water to cook this. If you have some extra olive oil or meat to add to the pot, like summer sausage you can really amp up the taste of this meal. One box of macaroni and cheese, prepared with 1 ounce of olive oil and 2 ounces of summer sausage provides a whopping 1,100 calories and weighs just 10.5 ounces. I know that olive oil and summer sausage aren’t really spoilage friendly foods so I didn’t add them to the list, but if you have any preparation time, they might make good additions.

Snickers Bar – 140 calories per ounce

Now we get to the part where I said not every choice would be the healthiest you can imagine but a snickers bar does pack a lot of calories in a small size and could be a morale booster as well.  You could easily substitute bars that were made specifically for hiking like Cliff Bars or Power Bar. A single King Size Snickers weighs less than 4 ounces and packs 510 calories.

Lipton’s Pasta/Rice Sides – 110 calories per ounce

Another great add hot water option that makes for easy preparation. Lipton’s Pasta sides make a filling meal and are cheap like Macaroni and Cheese.

Instant Mashed Potatoes – 115 calories per ounce

Instant mashed potatoes are right in the same family as Macaroni and Cheese or the Pasta Sides. Just add water to a pot and let these rehydrate.

Drink Mixes – Gatorade, Coffee, Tea

I know it sounds like a comfort item but drink mixes are great for kids who may not want to drink as much water as they need plus they can add back vital minerals and electrolytes lost from sweating. If you don’t think carrying a big pack around the hillside isn’t going to make you sweat even in relatively cool weather, you really need to try it. For those of us with a caffeine habit, Starbucks Via packets are an excellent choice for your bug out bag. Tea bags offer the same level of comfort and when you can its nice to sit down or wake up to a nice hot cup of coffee.

Pop Tarts

Pop-Tarts are a good breakfast option for kids as well as adults. They need no cooking or preparation, just open the bag and eat up.

Your Turn! What ideas or suggestions do you have for your bug out bag food items?

When you are looking for food ideas for your bug out bag there are four things I think you should take into consideration. The first is caloric value, the second

When it comes to self-sufficiency, replacing the grocery store seems to be the biggest hurdle for most preppers. Gardens are most commonly thought of because we as humans collectively seem to think, ‘how hard can it be’ to dig a hole and put a seed in it? Regardless of how prevalent gardening and farming are and have been in our culture, most people do not have a garden or expect maintaining one will be quick and easy.

The rude awakening comes the first year when the summer months cause weeds to grow like evil vines choking out everything that in the spring was nice and tidy. Bugs begin to eat all our tender vegetables and the idea of eating one more zucchini makes you sick. The first year of gardening can make you think that there is no way these tomatoes are worth all that effort. For us, if you consider the cost of time, materials and effort that went into our first garden I know the vegetables were about $10 a piece and many lessons were learned.

Having a garden that is growing and producing fresh food that your family eats is a tremendous benefit, but what about protein? Aquaponics is another growing hobby, but the initial setup can seem daunting and still requires an alternate power source. Sure, it would be nice if we all had a working farm with livestock but that simply isn’t going to happen. For one thing, most people don’t have the land or money but more importantly experience, to keep a farm going. There are ways that preppers can provide all the meat you would need to live on in a smaller and easier package. Enter the humble rabbit.

The interest in raising rabbits for meat is growing as preppers are constantly trying to find ways to feed their families in the event the local supermarket is out of commission. Once you have considered the prospect of having your own source of food, the question turns to how to raise rabbits and that is what I hope to discuss today. Raising rabbits gives you the benefit of fresh meat, but it is also healthier and devoid of the chemicals and hormones found in most grocery store meat. While you are feeding your family, they are also getting healthy food that has been raised by you so you know exactly what has been put into the food that makes it to your families table.

A lot of people know that rabbits are prolific breeders, but exactly how many rabbits would you need to feed your family? A single female has on average about 8 babies or kits per litter and rabbits have a gestational period of 28-31 days so it is feasible for your rabbit to have one litter per month but more likely a little less. If you start with three rabbits (2 females and one male) you could have well over a hundred rabbits in the first year.

Of course you would be eating these rabbits so the population would need to be controlled to support your family, but it is easy to produce enough meat so that your family could survive on a relatively small number of rabbits. You would just need to figure out how much meat you would want to produce and adjust your breeding accordingly. This gives you the ability to raise more meat though so it could be used to feed other people or barter.

rabbitcage

Building a rabbit cage is simple.

What type of rabbits are the best

There are three breeds most commonly used as meat stock: the Californian, New Zealand, and Florida White. The American Chinchilla, Satin, Silver Fox, and Champagne d’Argent are also great choices. It is best to speak to a local provider as each breed has their own advantages. For breeders in your local area, you can check out RabbitBreeders.us who has a searchable rabbit breeder’s directory.

What do Rabbits eat?

There is commercial rabbit food, but primarily they need hay. You should have a hay rack in your rabbit cage and make sure it is full of hay. Some recommend using Alfalfa, which you can easily grow yourself right in your home. Making sure your hay is cut into manageable lengths will help the rabbits out as well as keeping their cage clean. Rabbits can also eat vegetable scraps and lawn trimmings but make sure you are watching what they eat to remove anything they turn up their noses at. Carrots are always a favorite, but monitor their intake of too many green vegetables as it can cause them to get bloat or diarrhea.

How do you make a rabbit cage?

There are many ways to prepare a home for your rabbits from buying new manufactured rabbit cages online or used rabbit cages for sale at yard sales, in the local paper or on Craigslist. The more industrious can also find free plans to build your own rabbit hutch all over the web. The basics of any rabbit cage should give them shelter from the heat, protection from predators and enough room to move around. You also want something easy to clean because everything that goes in the front of the rabbit has to come out the back. A close wire mesh floor will allow the manure to drop on through and not be trampled under their feet.

How do you kill a rabbit?

For most people I assume the act of having to kill and butcher your own meat is the biggest psychological hurdle to raising your own food. Some even have a complete disconnect with the fact that all the animals we eat have to be butchered and killed before they can make it to those shiny packages in the store. It is one thing to pluck a tomato off the vine, but quite another to chase a chicken down that you have been raising for eggs and wring its neck, let alone plucking it and the butchering process.

Are rabbits a food source you would consider for your home?


Other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns

Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need

4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis

Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps

When it comes to self-sufficiency, replacing the grocery store seems to be the biggest hurdle for most preppers. Gardens are most commonly thought of because we as humans collectively seem

Yesterday I began a new series called, Back to Basics. People every day can simply look at events happening anywhere in the world and understand how taking some simple steps to ensure you can handle minor emergencies, isn’t crazy. Prepping to a certain level makes sense for everyone, regardless of where you live.

This series was designed to go back to the basics of prepping, obviously. Today I wanted to share tips for how to stockpile food for emergencies that anyone can use. I will focus on preppers who are just starting out, but I think some ideas in the topics below could be useful to anyone looking to ensure their family has food and does not go hungry. This article will also have dozens of links to other content on the subject for additional reading.

 

I believe there are 5 main components to survival that everyone needs to consider. They are simply Water, Food, Shelter, Security and Hygiene. Yesterday we talked about the need for water and how you can easily store water for emergencies that render your traditional methods of obtaining water impossible. Water is more important to life than food or at least you can live longer without food than you can water, but they are both important.

Why do you need to stockpile food for emergencies?

If you are new to prepping, you may have something that triggered your awareness of the subject. Preppers have many reasons for doing what they do and no two preppers are alike. Some are preparing for the end of the world, but most see situations in our daily lives that give a perfect reason to stock up supplies. You have only to look at the recent winter storm that affected large swaths of the Eastern Seaboard to have a perfect example of why you don’t want to be left without a means to feed your family.

emptystoreshelves

Greeks are finding food, medicine and fuel in short supply.

It seems almost cliché at this point, but invariably it always happens when a winter storm is forecast. Everyone rushes out to the store and certain food supplies are wiped out. Images of empty shelves are shown on practically every newscast and eventually prepper websites. Food shortages during simple storms are common if not expected. We don’t really even blink anymore because we are so used to this practice of waiting until the last-minute and then hitting the local grocery store on the way home from work to grab some basic necessities or comfort food.

Related – Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need

If you can’t live for more than 3 days without going to the store, it’s time to reevaluate your family’s readiness. The statistic we hear most of the time is that the average home has only 3 days’ worth of food in it. If this is true, where would you be on day three if you had not been able to make it to the grocery store before the storm? What if instead of a snow storm, a virus outbreak had occurred and everyone was told to stay indoors to prevent infection? Each of us should have more food on hand that our families and friends will eat than is absolutely necessary to prevent surprises from leaving you hungry.

How much food do you need to store?

In the example above I used a virus outbreak as the condition that would prevent you from getting to the store. There are others though and weather could certainly be one of them. Some storms where I live have left roads impassable for upwards of a week. Could we walk to the store? Sure, but what if the stores having already been cleared of just about all of the food were closed? What if power outages prevented them from conducting any transactions? These are things you should consider.

Prepping is not something I ever consider you can accomplish. By that I mean, you are never going to be fully prepared. You may be much better prepared than some or all of the people around you, but you will never be 100% self-sufficient. Prepping should be done incrementally even if you have more money than you know what to do with because as you start to stock up food you learn lessons.

Related – The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

A good rule of thumb for me is to start small when you are beginning to stockpile food for emergencies. You don’t need a year of freeze-dried foods to start with. Try just having a week or two of extra groceries that your family already eats. This is accomplished without any exotic storage needs usually or 5 gallon buckets of grains you have to figure out how to prepare.

Premium Fresh MREs Meal with Heaters

My wife purchases the groceries and I started out by giving her extra money to simply buy more food. I did this in the beginning because she is a much better shopper than I am and will always save more money than me. This worked great because she was easily able to fill our pantry and had plenty of meals planned to last us well over 30 days. Sure, at the end of that 30 days of food we would be getting into more exotic cans of mushrooms and soups that are better left as part of a recipe as opposed to your entire meal, but we wouldn’t starve.

What are the best types of food to stockpile?

Once we had a month worth of food and water stored up, I started looking at other options. I think each person should have a layered approach to food storage. This gives you flexibility and more importantly variety that as you go out to 6 months or 1 year or 2 will be important. My own personal goal is 2 years’ worth of food stockpiled for my family but that isn’t made up of only food from our grocery store. That can certainly be done though with a very good rotation plan.

Related – 4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis

Food storage should ideally cover the following:

Short Term Food Storage – The best and simplest foods are like I said above, what your family eats every day. One thing to consider is that the bulk of this food should be non-perishable in case you lose power. Canned foods are great as well as pastas, drink mixes and staples. These usually last at least a year.

Medium Term Food Storage – For the 5 – 10 year range MRE’s are a great option although they are heavier and their convenience comes at a higher price. I have several boxes of these and I like MRE’s because they are self-contained and don’t really need any water. Freeze dried camping foods like Mountain House are another great option to just add hot water to. Rice and beans make great additions to this category because you don’t really have to do anything crazy to store them as long as they are kept cool and dry.

Long Term Food Storage – When you start to look at foods that will keep for many years you get into stored grains like Hard Red Winter Wheat that you store in sealed 5 gallon buckets. Freeze dried food from any one of many suppliers out there keep for 20 years usually and are individually wrapped Mylar packets. They require water to re-hydrate but the taste can be surprisingly good. Make sure you have seasonings though….

Renewable Food Storage – This is when you have to get your inner farmer working. Renewable foods are an intensive garden, small livestock like chickens or rabbits and the occasional wild game caught either through hunting or snares. In the worst disasters, your food will run out so having a plan for that ahead of time will help you prepare.

vegetables

For a well-rounded plan, growing your own food will give you the most flexibility.

How do you plan for your food eventually running out?

I have a mix of the food storage options above. We eat on our grocery store items every day, but I also have MRE’s and a pretty large amount of freeze-dried foods stored. We also have the grains I mentioned and the all-important grain mill to grind them into flour. Several hundred pounds of rice and beans round out the equation.

Stockpiling food is only the start. We have a garden and small flock of chickens. The stored food is just to get us through the worst of the disaster. Hopefully before our food runs out whatever disaster has happened will be mitigated and life will have returned to some sense of normality. If not, we have a huge leg up that will allow us to further harvest our garden to put away food like the pioneers had to do. It is an approach that gives us some sense of security and prepares us to come out on the other side still alive.

What is your plan to stockpile food for emergencies?


On a different note, here’s some other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

The Lost Ways (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)
Backyard Liberty (Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns…)
Alive After the Fall (Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need)
The Lost ways II (4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis)
The Patriot Privacy Kit (Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps)

If you can’t live for more than 3 days without going to the store, it’s time to reevaluate your family’s readiness. The statistic we hear most of the time is

A Prepper Must-Have – Baking Soda

I have it on good authority that some people actually bake with baking soda. That’s not why it’s stocked like a mighty brick in my house. Baking soda is one of those items that has about a hundred and one uses, only some of them limited to the kitchen. It’s nice and cheap, and while I don’t think it’s one of the things that runs off the shelves in any crisis – snow storm, hurricane, or larger – it’s hugely beneficial to have plenty of it on hand.

To me, the price and the usefulness put it way up on any must-have list for preppers (or pretty much any adult).

First we want to be sure of what we’re talking about. On store shelves, baking soda is most usually going to be a box, although it can be found in big bags for those of us who use it a lot. It’s the one with sodium bicarbonate listed as the active ingredient, not cornstarch and 4-6 other things in a little round carton. That other one is what you use for bannock bread and microwaved mug brownies – baking powder.

Shoe satchels

baking-soda-for-shoes

Stomping out smells in your shoes is one of baking sodas great claims to fame.

Those of us who have ever had a fridge or dishwasher that’s been turned off for a while have probably heard of sticking an opened box of baking soda in there. Arm & Hammer even creates packages with a mesh-lined side flap for just that purpose. That same deodorizing capability combines with a low-level desiccant, and can be used to dry out and kill the sweat or swamp funk in our boots and shoes. This is the stuff that gets added to kitty litter boxes, after all. Stomping out smells is one of its great claims to fame.

The satchels can be made out of cloth, old socks whose mates have gone missing, coffee filters, or used dryer sheets. The imagination is really the only limiting factor here. As long as it allows easy airflow between the footwear and the baking soda inside, it’ll work. Add at least a tablespoon and a half of baking soda, tie up, and drop inside.

 

If you want to jazz up the shoe satchels further you can add all kinds of things from dried flowers and herbs (lavender, rose, rosemary, mints, eucalyptus) to bath crystals or salts.

This one works not only on shoes, but also on things like old gym bags, the lunch bag from two years ago, a small cooler, a tool bucket or box that has a case of the funk, or a softball bag that’s being repurposed.

Foot Soak

foot-soak-recipes-600x399

If the smell from shoes is originating because of the feet in them, you can combine baking soda with any number of things to create a foot soak.

Mouthwash, herbal teas, various oils like lavender or eucalyptus or rosemary, lemon slices or juice, Epsom salts (excellent addition), apple cider vinegar, and dried herbs like rosemary, mints, or plantain all get added. A simple soak of 1-2 cups in a gallon or two of warm water for 15-30 minutes can soften and rejuvenate feet, and help control various fungus that want to live in warm, sweaty environments.

Surface Cleaner

cutting-board-plastic

We know that baking soda is one of the things we can stock to use as a toothpaste alternate, or to concoct our own toothpaste. It cleans more than mouths, though.

Just sprinkling it on carpets and wooden decks or porches, letting it sit, and then sweeping or vacuuming it up works wonders for some odors and fungi. We can also clean our cutting boards by rubbing with baking soda and-or salt and a lemon, or just scrubbing with a brush and the dry ingredients and then letting it sit for a bit. The powders create a habitat that discourages many microbes, like the kind that live in tiny scratched crevices and outlive even dish soap and the dishwasher.

 

We can use that trick on dog bowls, sinks and counters, as well, using fresh lemons or limes or bottled lemon juice, or just scrubbing and allowing it to sit, then sweeping it and wiping it up.

Pipe & Drain Cleaner

Getting rid of shower and tub mildew and *that* smell in any pipe uses basically the same ingredients as above: baking soda, salt in some cases, and lemon. Vinegar of pretty much any kind can be substituted for lemon juice if somebody likes that price enough for a different smell, or wants to go with apple cider vinegar.

I like the method where you boil 2-8 cups of water to pour down the drain, then throw a cup of baking soda in and let that sit for 5-60 minutes, and follow it up with 1 cup of vinegar or lemon juice mixed with a cup of water.

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There are a few variations, so poke around a bit. Some say to cover it to direct the reaction downward (not so sure about that), and some to limit the fumes in the air (just don’t use white vinegar). Some say to give it 6-8 hours, and some say to just wait until the bubbles stop. Some suggest just rinsing with tap water, and some suggest boiling more water to flush the remnants away. Up to you.

It doesn’t always work, especially in the bathroom where *somebody* sheds 2’ hair with every shower. Sometimes a repeat or upgrade to/of vinegar to the stronger cousins works. Every once in a while, you have to go to a snake or “real” drain cleaner, but a lot of the time, whether it’s a slow drain, a for-real clog, or a smell, the baking soda does the trick.

There are apparently schools of thought where this is bad and degrades things, so research that too.

Fungicide (Outdoor)

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We can add one tablespoon of baking soda to one quart of water (4 tablespoons/1 quarter-cup per gallon) and use it to treat black spots in the yard, roses, and berry brambles suffering from the various black fungus illnesses.

One of the things that helps baking soda kill smells is that the sodium bicarbonate is an antacid, a highly reactive one. A lot of growing things prefer an acidic environment. Fungi – from mold to mildew – is one of those things. The beauty is that baking soda is a stabilizing antacid. It’ll react with anything in an extreme, and go through a severe reaction initially (which can also kill bad stuff) but then it’ll self-regulate and return its surroundings to a near-neutral state.

No wonder this stuff is called miracle powder, right?

 

 

That miracle powder can help us in a big way with some common crop and garden pests – mildews.

We can add one tablespoon of baking soda to one quart of water (4 tablespoons/1 quarter-cup per gallon) and use it to treat black spots in the yard, roses, and berry brambles suffering from the various black fungus illnesses.

Powdery mildew on any plants can be prevented and treated with the same, however, the addition of a teaspoon of dish detergent and a teaspoon of vegetable oil per half gallon will help it stick better. Once powdery mildew gets started, it’s a constant battle, so having the spray last longer on the plants can save us a lot of time and heartache.

Creepy-Crawly Pests

destroying-ants

Fungus gnats aren’t usually harmful, but they are annoying, and there are times there are so many that the soil-dwelling larvae stage start stunting plant growth because they’re consuming the tiny root hairs of plants. A teaspoon of baking soda with a teaspoon of dish detergent in a full gallon of water can also help remove or reduce the populations, without changing soil pH so much that acid-loving veggie plants and perennials can’t handle it and die, too. As with mildews, all soils in the area need treated and the treatment will have to be repeated to break the infestation completely since there are multiple stages and locations in the gnats’ life cycles.

Mixing baking soda 1:1 with powdered sugar and surrounding an ant hill with a 1”x1” wall of the stuff can help reduce those garden pests, too. I’ve had it decrease the visible numbers, but they seem to pop back up. Still, it’s nicer working in beds and playing fetch or weed-eating with a few less ants getting aggravated with you. A ring of baking soda will also help deter slugs. (Grits and cornmeal help with ants and slugs, too.)

Pest Sting & Itch Relief

 

Baking soda recently got crowned the Most Prized Possession in my house. I was attacked by some sort of not-bee striped flyer, and ended up with welts roughly the sizes of eggs, from dainty little quail all the way up to jumbos, with 3-6” red raised areas around the big welts. Yay! A poultice of just baking soda and water reduced the swelling and pain.

That poultice is best applied with large Band-Aids already open and waiting, especially if you’re trying to doctor your own elbow and thigh.

If the poultice is allowed to dry, it will come off in big flakes or shingles, and can actually help extract a broken-off stinger, fang or tick head.

 

Like the satchels, the poultice can be improved on. Chamomile tea is awesome, but any kind of tea contains fabulous stuff that helps reduce swelling and pain more and faster. Let it cool and add it to the poultice, open a bag to mix in before the water, or open a used bag to add to the paste. Aloe can be stripped and chopped and added, as can commercially available gel. So can witch hazel, chamomile flowers, lavender oil or flowers, fresh or dried plantain, Echinacea (purple cone flower), chickweed or jewelweed, and lemon balm.

Some people also apparently make their poultice with milk. Not my thing. Likewise, I’m not adding to the mess or pains by using honey or honey crystals in there, but there are proponents of honey as well.

Go as crazy as you like with that one.

Maybe the sting or bite isn’t making you crazy enough to coat your wounds with paste and Band-Aids. Sometimes we’re just hot and itchy and can’t really identify a single place to treat, and a shower or bath isn’t really cutting it.

Baking soda in a tub with or without soothing additives like oatmeal can help.

You can also make a satchel similar to the first use listed, although you’ll want it to be bigger. Again, alone or with things like chipped aloe, oatmeal, chamomile flowers or oil, or tea leaves from a regular grocery-store brewing bag (Camellia sinensis species) can be added. You use the satchel to dab yourself while you’re in the shower.

Baking Soda

There are just so many uses for baking soda, with these the very tip of the iceberg. Run any google search for uses, and you’ll find dozens more, from killing weeds to repelling rabbits and silverfish. It goes in laundry and it gets used for facial masks. Use it to deodorize dogs, make Play Dough, or get gum/caulk out of your hair. The stuff is so cheap, so easy to find, and does so much, it’s worth filling a box or drawer and keeping handy, especially if we live well outside shopping areas.

It’s not one that I expect there to ever be massive runs on, not like generators, snow shovels, tarps and plywood, peanut butter, and toilet paper. However, in a long-term disaster, we could potentially run out. For me, it doesn’t replace a fire alarm and fire extinguisher, some extra batteries that fit that alarm, or having spare oil and coolant in the truck, but it’s right up there with the food and water supplies as a must-have item.

Hopefully you’ll explore its uses a little more, print out some of the many 11, 30, and 50+ uses lists, and stock up at least a little.


Other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

 

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns

Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need

4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis

Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps

A Prepper Must-Have – Baking Soda I have it on good authority that some people actually bake with baking soda. That’s not why it’s stocked like a mighty brick in

Wherever you are working or living at some point you will have to use vehicles, for most people they are part of their everyday lives. Driving itself can be a dangerous task in many places and as we have seen many kidnappings, robberies and assassinations occur when people are in or around their vehicles.  In times of civil unrest or if you’re traveling to a potentially hostile area your vehicle security and travel must be planned for and taken seriously.

Vehicles should be regarded as an important piece of your equipment and should be well maintained and never treated as a toy.  Before you take a vehicle out basic maintenance checks need to be done, like checking the battery, oil, fuel level, tires, water, spare tire, break down and vehicle emergency kit. You should always ensure you have a good means of communications and that you regularly check in with trusted people who can send assistance in the case of an emergency. You should also always know the routes you are driving and the location of any facilities along those routes that could be of use to you whether it’s a coffee shop with a bathroom or a hospital with an emergency room.

Basic Vehicle Security

Vehicles need to be secured or manned at all times, if they are left unattended, they, and the area around them, must be searched for IEDs, electronic surveillance devices, contraband and anything suspicious. The area around a vehicle must be searched as you approach it for any suspicious vehicles or people; the criminals may have found your car and are waiting for your approach it to kidnap or assassinate you. I always try to park my car as far away from others as possible, that way there is no cover for anyone to hide and if any other car is parked close to mine they are immediately suspicious.  If you keep the vehicle in a locked garage still always lock doors and trunk, you will also need to search the exterior of the garage for IEDs, electronic surveillance devices and signs of forced entry in a high-risk environment.

If the vehicle cannot be garaged, try to park it in a secure, guarded area or somewhere that is covered by surveillance cameras. Drive-ways and regularly used routes from your residence to main roads should regularly be search for IEDs and signs of criminal activity. A vehicle needs to be searched after being serviced or repaired and after being left unattended for any length of time, here are some guidelines on how to search a vehicle:

  • 100 Deadly Skills – Great information for people who want to make sure they can survive any dangerous situation.

    Always search the general area around a vehicle for any explosive devices or suspicious people waiting to ambush you. Always check the outside of a garage for any signs of a force entry before you go in and check garage doors and drive ways for signs of booby traps, land mines and ambushes. The roofs of garages need to secured!

  • Turn off all radios and cell phones and check the immediate area surrounding the car for disturbances, wires, oil/fluid stains, footprints, etc. It helps to keep vehicles a little dirty as you will be able to see smears in the dirt if someone was trying to break in.
  • Visual check through the windows for anything thing out-of-place or wires, etc.
  • Get down on your hands and knees and check underneath the vehicle, inside fenders, wheels and arches for any devices. Also check for cut tires, lose wheel nuts and devices placed under the wheels. This is where a flashlight and a search mirror can come in handy.
  • Check the exhaust as it is a very easy place to put an improvised explosive device. You can have bolts or wire mesh put in to exhausts to stop IEDs from being placed in them; if you do this, make sure the bolts or wire mess is not visible as this can draw attention to the car.
  • Slowly open the car doors and check the Interior of the vehicle even if there is no signs of a forced entry. Do the same for the trunk and make sure to search the spare tire and break down kit.
  • Open the hood slowly and check the engine. Again it might be helpful to keep the engine dirty as new wires and hand prints are easy to see.
  • Final turn on the engine and check all the electrics.

This is just a guide to searching vehicles but as you can see to do a thorough search can take time and would require someone to be watching the back of the searcher. Your best defense is to deny the criminal access to your vehicle but this can prove to be very difficult in the real world.

Vehicle Drills

If you are consider undertaking some advanced driving training, I see little need for evasive driver training but can see applications for people to learn to be able to handle vehicles at speed and in hazardous weather.  Again, vehicle drills cannot be learnt from manuals or videos, you will need to learn them from an experienced advanced trained driver. Always check out the instructor’s background, qualifications and reputation, look for those that offer sensible driving courses and not wannabe spy holidays.

The main thing you need to learn is how to drive safely and to be able to identify any possible threats and avoid them. In most large towns and cities you will not be able to perform such things as J turns or other evasive maneuvers due to lack of space and traffic, so you must always be aware of what is going on around you.  The main thing I tell people is to keep as much space as possible between you and the car in front as this can give you some space to maneuver in congested traffic.

When you watch the movies and there is a car chase and the cars are skidding all over the place check the state of the roads they are on. Chances are the roads will be wet, and the tires on the cars will have minimal tread. This is the same on most evasive driving courses, but these are also usually done on private roads or open areas where there is no other traffic.  Think about why you put decent tires on your vehicles; to stop them from skidding and spinning out of control right? When you are driving around you always want to be thinking of where you could take evasive action, in urban areas there will be few places where you could spin your car around and drive against the traffic flow; that’s Hollywood.

If the criminals or terrorists are in any way professional they will attack you when your car is penned in and you cannot take any evasive maneuvers, not on wide open roads. It’s a common street kid tactics in a lot of Latin American cities to rob cars at traffic lights that are at least two cars back from the stop light with other cars behind them; these cars are stuck and cannot escape. If street kids on bicycles with at most a rusty revolver have worked out how to jack people in cars don’t you think their big bothers have also?

I am regularly asked about whether I favor armored cars or not, as with everything they have their pros and cons. Armored cars do have an application, the first thing you need to consider is what level of armoring the car your buying or using has. I have come across people driving around in cars armored to stop pistol caliber rounds in areas where the bad guys carry assault weapons, they thought an armored car was all they needed and were unaware of the different levels of armoring. You will also need to confirm where the car is armored; doors, windows, floor, engine, roof etc. Some cars may only have some armored panels in the doors and rear seat, always check for yourself and do not believe what people tell you.

Now think like the criminals, if you knew your target was driving around in a SUV armored to B6 level are you going to shoot at them when they are driving around or wait for them stop and get out of the car, or stop them and make them get out of the car? Think about how can you get someone out of a car; what would you do if a female driver bumped into the back of your car, get out to inspect the damage and then possibly be kidnapped by her two armed accomplices crouched in the back seat of her car? Always be aware of decoys that are intended to make you stop and get out of your vehicle, such as accidents or even bodies next to the road. Basic rule, stay in your car and keep moving between safe areas.

A criminal tactic when targeting armored cash-in-transit vehicles is to box them in, cover the van in gasoline, then give those inside to option of throwing out the cash, surrendering or being burnt alive. An issue with armored vehicles is that you cannot shoot at the criminals from the inside. There was one incident I recall from the mid 1990’s where an unarmored van that was moving cash was stopped and ambushed in an Eastern European country, the fact the van was unarmored enabled the security personnel inside to be able to shoot through the sides of the van and drive off the criminals, which they could not have done if they had taken an armored van that day. There have also been numerous incidents where criminals have assassinated targets traveling in armored vehicles with IEDs, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and improvised shaped charges. An armored vehicle can assist you in your security program but it should not be all there is to your security program.

Security Considerations when using vehicles

  • Always check the area around the vehicle before you approach it.
  • Search the vehicle prior to use for IEDs, electronic surveillance devices and contraband.
  • Always keep a spare set of keys for the vehicle on you in case the driver loses his or is taken out by the criminals.
  • Be aware of the vehicle’s capabilities; make sure the driver has experience driving that type of vehicle.
  • Always drive safely at the maximum, safest speed, within the legal speed limit.
  • Always carry out basic maintenance checks, before you go anywhere and check that communications work before leaving a safe area.
  • Make sure you know what to do if your car breaks down; will someone come to get you or will you call for roadside assistance?
  • In rural areas things that should be included in your break down kit should include cans of fix-a-flat, air compressor, jump leads, tire plugging kit, tube to siphon gas, gas cans and a tow rope.
  • Know which routes your taking and keep maps in the vehicle for all areas you’re traveling in. Also have alternative routes prepared that have been driven and checked out.
  • Inform personnel at a location 10 to 15 minutes, before your arrival.
  • Constantly check behind you for criminal surveillance vehicles and be suspicious of motorbikes, especially with two people on them.
  • When being followed by a motorbike always watch to see if both the rider’s hands are on the handle bars, if you only see one hand, what is the other holding or doing?
  • Make full use of your mirrors; put a mirror on the passenger side for the passenger to use.
  • Regularly carry out counter-surveillance drills and always be watching for any cars following you or suspicious people along regularly used routes.
  • Keep a good distance from the car in front, so you can drive around it in an emergency and try to avoid being blocked by other vehicles.
  • Never let the vehicle fuel tank to go below half full and know where all gas stations are along your route.
  • Keep doors locked when traveling between locations and in urban areas do not open windows or sunroof more than an inch, so things cannot be thrown in.
  • Always be prepared to take evasive action, be aware of danger points on your routes and drive towards the center of the road to have space for evasive maneuvers.
  • Blend in with your environment; don’t drive expensive cars in poor areas, etc.
  • Be suspicious of all roadblocks, temporary stop signs and car accidents, etc. Never stop to pick up hitchhikers or help other motorists, as these could be covers for an ambush or carjacking.
  • Keep vehicle keys secure and know who has all the spare keys and access to the vehicle.
  • Remember others can monitor tracking devices and help services such as OnStar, then get the details of where you are and you’re routine without the need for surveillance.
  • Be extra vigilant at traffic lights and in slow-moving traffic.
  • Keep the vehicle in a locked garage when not in use and lock all doors and the trunk.
  • Wherever legal reverse park; this will help if fast get away is required.
  • Always use seat belts, especially when driving at speed or taking evasive action.
  • Keep a safety knife handy to cut away seat belts and break windows in the case of a crash.
  • When driving on dangerous roads or taking evasive action open the vehicles windows to make escape easier in the event of a crash.

Wherever you are working or living at some point you will have to use vehicles, for most people they are part of their everyday lives. Driving itself can be a