Those that know me personally know that the only thing I’m more passionate about than homesteading and prepping is music. Music has always been a big part of who I am, whether it is listening or playing an instrument. And I’m very picky about my music. It has to be real and emotional. No pop music really does that for me. Music is emotional, not a product to be manufactured and marketed to the masses like the latest smart phone or kitchen appliance. Needless to say I stumble on some unique artists, like Corb Lund. He’s a fellow from way up north in Alberta.
I’ve been a fan of his for years now, probably since his debut album. Most of his music is catchy with sarcastic, witty lyrics. Songs about getting trucks stuck in the mud or the problems with owning cows speak to the country boy in me. I love a smart ass, and Corb Lund never disappoints. His latest album came out a couple of years ago. The opening track made my jaw drop. It’s not often a musician talks about prepping or social collapse. He nailed the mindset perfectly with his lyrics on “Gettin’ Down on the Mountain”.
The song makes use of the word “shit” so if you are easily offended or have little ears nearby, you’ve been warned.
Plantain (the weed, not the small banana) has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb. Native Americans and Europeans have used it to treat a variety of medical issues including skin wounds, insect and spider bites, snake bites, and indigestion. It is said to even help with acne and blood clotting. Overall, this prolific weed has some powerful medicinal uses. I’ve just recently discovered it, but I’m already impressed with it as a treatment for bug bites.
With all of this new information I have, I ran into a problem. As it gets hot here in Texas, the Plantain is starting to dry up and crumble away. I researched ways to preserve some of it. Dehydration is an option, but I’m certain a lot of the medicinal qualities would evaporate away. It looks like the best option to save the qualities I want is by making a tincture. Tinctures are liquid extracts, usually made with ethanol. I just happened to have a stash of moonshine at a pretty serious concentration, probably close to 180 proof (90%). A bit of Google research turns up that tinctures are simple to make.
The basics are to add plant matter to the alcohol, let it sit a while, then strain the plant matter out with a filter or cheesecloth. The alcohol will absorb the herbal goodness.
The leaves will steep in the alcohol for a week or two to do its work. After this time, I will strain the plant matter out and save the liquid. This liquid is the tincture. This batch will net me around 9 or 10 ounces. Once it is done, I will put it in a dropper bottle and test it out on the numerous bug bites I receive here on the homestead. I’m really hoping it can offer some relief from all the chiggers that seem to find my legs delectable. Stay tuned for an update in a couple of weeks on the final product and the relief it might offer.
One of the biggest benefits of living in a modern society is unlimited access to clean water. We rarely even think about water quality when we can turn on a faucet and have millions of gallons of clean, safe water. This seemingly endless supply of water relies on huge investments in infrastructure. Most don’t realize that the water from the tap travels many miles through pipelines and treatment plants and distribution systems to get to the kitchen sink. These systems are robust and very well designed, leading to very reliable service. With such reliability, it’s easy to see why water is overlooked in preparing for emergency situations.
There are many reasons why interruption in water service can occur. A few that come to mind are long term power loss, infrastructure damage, and terrorist activity. What are we to do when that reliable source of water stops flowing? A simple answer for the short term is to have water stored. Storing water is as simple as it sounds… Put water in a suitable container and seal it. There are products out there for treating stored water, but they are largely unneeded. If the water is clean when stored, it will remain so as long as the container isn’t damaged or compromised. If you feel the need to treat the water, standard household bleach will work as well as any chemical preservative.
Let’s assume we have a loss of water service that is going to last more than a day or two. In this scenario, we need the ability to source water and make sure it is fit for our needs. Surface water is available in most areas of the country, but will not be safe to drink as it stands. We’ll look at a few ways to make this water safe to drink.
Selecting the Source
One of the best ways to get safe water is to start with the best you can. Running water is always preferred to standing or stagnant water. Just like we need water for life, so does every other organism on earth. Standing or stagnant water is a hotbed of life, including microbes that can rob us of our life. However, please do not assume that running water is safe as is. It can contain plenty of unsafe microbes as well. All water sourced will need treatment of some sort.
One handy way I’ve found to locate surface water is the use of Google Maps. You can zoom in on your area and use satellite images to locate ponds, lakes, and creeks nearby. More often than not, you will find water sources you didn’t know about.
If the water you have is not clear, you will want to filter it before treatment. This will remove large particles and dirt from the water. This can range from pouring water through a cloth such as a bandana up to building a sand filter. There is a lot of information available online for basic water filtering to remove large particles and contaminants. We’ll cover water filtration for microbe removal a bit later.
Now that we’ve found a source of water, we need to decide how to make it safe. There are a lot of options available to ensure clean water for drinking.
This is the most basic way to make water safe to drink. Microbes that can make us sick don’t do well with heat, so we can heat water until they are dead. At what point are we sure they are dead? The general consensus is 30 minutes at 160F, less than 5 minutes at 185F, and by the time water comes to a rolling boil, all microbes are dead. I’ve seen some sources that recommend 10 minutes at boiling, but anything over 1 minute seems to be overkill. I wouldn’t fault anyone for letting it boil for a few minutes to be sure if fuel sources are abundant.
2. Chemical Treatment.
There are several options available to use chemicals to treat water to kill microbes. One of the cheapest and most effective is chlorine. 5 to 7 drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water will kill anything in the water. Just shake up the container and let it stand for 10 minutes to let the chlorine kill everything. There are other chemical treatments available at outdoor supply store such as iodine based treatments. If you go this route, just follow the directions on the container for optimum results.
There are a lot of filter options available these days. Most of them work very well, but you have to pay attention to the size of the pores on the filter element. Most water filters will filter out all bacteria and particles from the water, but will allow a virus to pass through. There are filters available that offer pore sizes down to .01 microns. These will take out viral contamination, but they are generally expensive. If your filter cannot ensure virus-free water, you might consider additional treatments listed here.
4. Ultraviolet (UV)
Microbes (including virus) can’t live long when exposed to UV light. One of the easiest methods to kill microbes is to expose them to UV light. If the water is clear and placed in direct sunlight in a translucent container, wait for 6 hours and the water should be safe to drink. If you can place the container on a reflective surface, it will increase treatment effectiveness. The catch to using this method is that the water must be clear. If it is cloudy, UV light cannot penetrate and kill microbes.
I still think it is important to keep some clean water stored up. It will offer a good buffer during a disaster or survival situation while you make plans to procure and purify additional water. Of course, the best option is to have a plan in place in case you need it. So go ahead a take a few minutes to evaluate where the nearest source of water is and what would be the most effective means to make it safe to drink.
It should comes as no surprise that I have a bit of a gear addiction. It’s also safe to say that my addiction includes knives. I have knives of all sorts, types, and configurations. So much so that I pretty much have a knife for every occasion. I know better than to look at new knives because it usually results in purchase of that particular knife. The responsible part of me has learned to only buy knives when they fit a specific need (I believe this is called justifying an impulse buy!) and have a fair price tag. Sometimes this works well for me, and sometimes I buy knives I can’t really justify. My latest purchase turned out to be the former.
I was looking for a small fixed blade knife that would look appropriate when I’m sporting tactical style pants. I have a small Marbles knife that has served me well, but the brown leather sheath and stag antler handle stand out like a sore thumb on a BDU belt and tactical pants. I could usually care less about how I look, but for some reason this style faux-pas was unacceptable. So the search for the perfect knife begins….
The number of “survival” and “tactical” knives available is staggering. A lot of them are nice, some are complete crap. Each one that seems to work well has a cult following. I decided to delve into the information on the internet to see if I could sort the wheat from the chaff. As is turns out, only a few knives seem to have great reviews. With the state of Texas having laws in place that limit us to 5.5 inches, that narrowed it down a little further. I tend to hate any sort of radical design for fixed blade knives, so now there are even fewer. That was a lot of searching to find most companies either have a stupid looking design or are made of substandard materials.
I’ve heard of the RAT Cutlery knives for years, and the guys over at In The Rabbit Hole Podcast seem to really like them. I figured they were worth looking at. Some internet research revealed that the RAT name is licensed to Ontario Knife, and that the original manufacturer now uses the name ESEE. I managed to snag one at the local gun show for a little less than retail price. Make no mistake, these aren’t inexpensive knives. These are top quality in both material and construction. After much rambling, it’s time to get to the particulars of my perfect new belt knife.
The model I ended up with is the ESEE Izula II. Apparenty, the Izula is a pretty serious little ant in the Amazon jungle. The knife lives up to its namesake. It is sleek, slender, and ready to sting.
To save time, I’m going to borrow the specs directly from the ESEE website. I hope they don’t mind!
O.A Length: 6.75″
Blade Length (end of handle to tip): 2.88″
Cutting Edge Length: 2 5/8″
O.A. Blade Length: 2 3/4″
Maximum Thickness: .156″
1095 Steel – 57 Rc.
Blade Width: 1.0″
Handles: Canvas Micarta
Weight: 3.2 Ounces (Knife & Handles Only)
Sheathing: Injection Molded, Black
Pommel: .550″ Diameter Hole To Accommodate Carabiner
Spine: Thumb Grippers
Finish: Textured Powder Coat
My initial impressions were pretty favorable. The knife balances very well and they handle shape and size is very comfortable. The Micarta handle offers a no-slip grip. But as always, the best way to judge a knife is to use it. Here at Surviving Modern Life, I prefer to abuse the hell out of something before I give it a favorable review.
A weekend camping trip proved to be a great testing ground to see if this knife could handle my particular brand of abuse. Like I said, I wanted to give it a thorough test, so I wasn’t concerned about marring the finish or chipping the blade. Turns out, I didn’t need too. The first round of testing involved wild onions. They were growing everywhere in the rocky soil around the creek. Out comes the knife and into the ground it goes. It turns out that wild onions can really hold on to the ground. Each onion dug out required digging around it and loosening up all the rocks to get it out. When you use a knife to dig, you generally don’t like to hear crunching or scraping sounds. There were plenty of knife killing sounds going on. I got my harvest of onions then washed the knife off in the creek. I did dry it on my pants before resheathing out of habit.
The next round came before dinner time. It was time to start a fire and I went all out on knife abuse. The blade is less than 3 inches long, so it isn’t optimal for batoning wood. I’m not one to let “less than optimal” hold me back. Into a chunk of oak goes the knife and I proceed to beat on it with another log. Pretty soon I have a neat little pile of kindling and a couple of bloody knuckles. Now I know why a longer knife is preferable for this technique! Now I finally have some damage on my knife. The powdercoat finish on the blade flatten out a little bit. It didn’t peel off at all, just lost some of the texture. Functionality isn’t affected at all, just the cosmetics.
Now it’s on to dinnertime. I could have grabbed my Mora. I could have grabbed the kitchen knife we brought. Oh please, we’re in the middle of a gear test! After a quick washing, the Izula is in the camp kitchen. Of course I can’t find many ways to abuse it in the kitchen. The best I could do was some food chopping on the aluminum table. Since the knife has a Rockwell hardness of 57, I could have cut the table in two without damaging the blade.
At this point I decided to call it on further testing. I couldn’t think of any other sinister tests that would mimic real life use. I have to say I was very impressed. Now onto my not impressed impressions.
The sheath that comes with the knife is a hard plastic job that the knife fits into snugly. Unfortunately, it’s just a sheath. It doesn’t even include a belt clip. These are sold separately. I ended up using paracord to lash it to my belt for the weekend. Even if I was inclined to buy a belt clip, the knife would sit way too high on my belt. There are folks out there that offer leather and Kydex sheaths in a traditional style. This is the option I took. I found a great sheath from Endless Mountain Supply on Ebay.
The next issue I take with the knife is the Micarta handles. They start out a very pretty subdued greenish gray color. After using it with dirty hands for a weekend, it darkened quite a bit. Now it’s almost black. The functionality and grip are unaffected however.
I’m so impressed with the durability and craftsmanship in this knife that I’m now planning to purchase the ESEE 4, which is the same knife with a 4+ inch blade. I love the size of the Izula, but some jobs require a little more blade. I can safely say that if you are in the market for a higher end knife, you can’t go wrong. It has all the attention to details that you usually find from custom makers for a fraction of the custom price. ESEE gets the Surviving Modern Life endorsement. I look forward to getting the ESEE 4 and giving it the same style of abusive testing.
Build a fire. Sounds simple enough, right? We can all agree that the skill of building a fire is an important one. Whether it is to provide light and heat during a wilderness survival situation or just getting the fireplace going for a romantic evening at the house, everyone should be able to start a fire. This subject came to mind when I was looking at all the “cheater” options for getting a fire going. Modern technology makes getting a fire going entirely too easy. You can douse your firewood with lighter fluid or if that is too complicated, you can just light the paper bag containing a log made of compressed sawdust and an accelerant. Maybe we could go old school and pile up some sticks and logs then pour on some diesel fuel. Any of these methods should get a fire going, but are we cheating ourselves out of a skill that could save out lives if we are in a true survival situation and need fire to keep from freezing? I’ve been guilty of this myself too many times. I’ll want to get a fire going for any number of reasons, but I want it going now. Out comes the petroleum products and a lighter. Instant fire! When I was younger, I could put together a nice little fire with a little piece of charred cloth and a flint and steel. That’s not a skill I’ve practiced in many years, so I’m not sure if I could still do it. That is something I need to refresh on. In the meantime, it’s handy that I smoke, because I always have a Bic lighter with me. It’s part of my EDC, all day every day. Even having a lighter doesn’t mean that someone can build a good fire. It still takes skill to turn that small ignition source into a fire that can sustain itself. We’ll look at the skill of starting a fire, but this article is just as much a “Can You?” as it is a “How To.” Each of us should honestly evaluate our ability for firecraft. If you find yourself lacking, then practice now so that the skill is available if you truly need it. I know I need to improve my skills quite a bit.
I’ll cover some basics and explain how I go about starting a fire. There are as many ways to set up for building a fire as there are people. Some are no doubt better than others, so if my way conflicts with a method you already use just go with what works best for you.
The first thing I like to do is figure out where I want to build my fire. Once it’s lit, a fire is pretty difficult to pick up and move. Select an area that is safe above all considerations. Lighting fires under low hanging tree branches or on grass in the middle of a prairie are both really bad ideas. Keeping your fire from getting out of control is a major responsibility. I like to find an area close to where I need fire that is already as free from vegetation as possible. Before I do anything else, I remove anything from the site that can catch fire. I push or scrape back leaves and grass. If possible, I’ll dig a shallow hole to help contain the fire. Adding a ring of rocks can add some additional safety. Just be careful if you use rocks from a river. They can contain water that will boil and can cause the rock to explode. I thought this was a myth until I had a rock blow up rather violently. Once I’ve got my spot prepared, I start gathering my fuel for the fire.
There are three types of combustible materials used in starting a fire. They are tinder, kindling, and finally the main fuel source (usually logs). Tinder can be any material that takes a flame easily and burns rapidly. Dry grass is a favorite, but you can use any number of materials. If need be, you can take larger sticks and use a knife to shave off very thin slivers to create tinder. I figure out how much tinder I think I need, then collect about twice that amount. Next we move on to gathering up kindling. Kindling is simply small twigs and sticks. These sticks should range in size from very thin to sticks about the thickness of a finger. When I’m laying out my kindling, I sort it from smallest to largest. This makes it easy for me to grab it in appropriate order once I have a flame going. Now I start to gather larger pieces of wood to use as my main fuel source. These range from the diameter of my thumb up to as large as I can find. I lay these out the same way as my kindling. Having everything at arms length and ready to go makes starting a fire much easier.
There are several methods of laying out the materials to start the fire. Most common methods have names that are self explanatory such as the “Teepee” and the “Log Cabin”. I prefer to start out with a log cabin design then move over to a teepee once the fire is well established. With some experimentation, you will find what works best for you.
I start with a big handful of tinder and fluff it up a little to allow airflow. Once the tinder is ready, I lay it out and put some of the smallest kindling on it. When I’m first starting the fire, I don’t add anything bigger than the diameter of my pinky finger. I have larger pieces of kindling within easy reach to add as the fire starts to grow so I don’t have to move from my position.
Light It Up!
Now that everything is laid out and I have my tinder and small kindling ready, it’s time to break out the ignition source. Like I said earlier, I prefer Bic lighters, but matches work wonderfully. Fire steels also work well if you are proficient in getting a good stream of sparks from one. I try to light my tinder on two different sides as quickly as possible. Once the tinder catches, you should see the small kindling start to catch pretty soon after. As it catches, carefully place more kindling on the fire. As the new material catches, start adding the larger pieces. Within a couple of minutes you should be adding some of the largest kindling if your fire is healthy. At this point, the fire should be burning pretty well without having to constantly add material to it. Once I get to this point, I start laying pieces the diameter of my thumb and larger in that teepee design. Now it usually looks like a pretty good fire. Through the whole process, I add progressively larger pieces of wood until I’m using material from my main pile. At this point, it is easy to adjust the size of the fire normally by adding wood as it needs it.
A lot of fire safety is basic common sense. First and foremost, touching the fire is a bad idea. Don’t do that under any circumstances. It might seem obvious to us, but make sure any children around are well supervised. This is one lesson kids don’t need to learn the hard way. Also, be aware that metal is a great conductor of heat, so if you are using coat hangers or metal skewers to cook hot dogs, they will heat up. No need to turn a hot dog roast into an exercise in cattle branding.
If you cheat and decide to use an accelerant, please be careful. Vapors can be explosive and any spilled liquid can combust easily. Pour the liquid then light it rather than pouring flammable liquids on a fire that is already burning.
Control that fire! By starting a fire you assume full responsibility to control it. In most places, you even assume legal responsibility for any damage resulting from your fire. Before starting a fire, be sure you have a way to extinguish the fire. If winds start to pick up, monitor any blowing embers to make sure they can’t start another fire. When in doubt, just put it out.
It finally happened. I’ve been telling everyone for years that they should be preparing for the zombie apocalypse, but they wouldn’t listen. Now who’s laughing at who. Most of them have had their brains pulled out and eaten, or they’ve become part of the undead hoards themselves. Sarah, the girls and I are safe and sound in an undisclosed location away from major population centers. We are 12 days into the zombie occupation. We’ve been without power for 7 days. The laptop has a pretty low power draw, so I’m able to use my meager solar capabilities to run it. Somehow, the internet connection is still working. I guess they build in a lot of automation and redundancy into the telecommunication systems. Luckily the weather has been nice. I wanted to share with the readers on how the preps have worked out and what we’ve learned since this ordeal started.
Wise brand long term food storage is good stuff. The cheesy lasagna tastes pretty good and even the kids like it. Bacon SPAM is amazing, even under high stress situations. It’s a little taste of home in a world of chaos.
My .270 Winchester is a superb long range zombie gun. If I crank the scope up to 9 power, I can pick them off at 300 yards or a little more. There haven’t been many zombies out here, but we see a few. Being able to take them out long before they know where we are seems to keep more from showing up. We did have one get up close, but the HiPoint carbine worked as advertised.
Getting information has been difficult to say the least. We saw zombies conducting the national news, but we don’t know whether they were infected or not. It’s hard to tell with the hosts of the major news networks. Local radio stations have started going off air, but they didn’t know any more than we did. We think it all started in New York with the Occupy Wall Street movement and spread quickly. Apparently dirty hippies were more dangerous than we thought. I always thought the self proclaimed “99%” were out to destroy our world, but I didn’t think they would do it in such a literal way.
I’ve never been an avid football fan,but I realize how much I miss college football. Since the Texas A&M Aggies literally devoured the boys from the University of Texas, all football games seem to have been canceled. I would imagine a virus that causes zombie-ism would transmit pretty quickly through a locker room.
The bug out location has a shallow well that we can dip with a bucket, so we don’t have to worry about getting water without power. This has been a lifesaver. We are also surrounded by a lot of ranch land. Cows are unaffected by the virus, and are pretty much going about their daily lives. Zombies seem to have no interest in the cows, so I think we have a sustainable, long term food source in case things don’t get back to normal soon.
I’m very glad to say we haven’t had to resort to my article about treatment for zombie bites. Everyone is in good health and good spirits.
It looks like a cold front is moving in, so I’m hoping for freezing temperatures. The zombies can’t move if they are frozen and it would give us a good chance to get out and see what’s going on with the world outside of the bug out location.
I’ll update further if anything new develops and the internet connection holds out.
Happy Halloween from Surviving Modern Life!!
Anyone that has given much thought to what would happen during a societal collapse has surely had the fantasy of bugging out to the wilderness and carving a living out. Its a noble thought, and exciting to contemplate. I know I’ve spent more than enough time thinking about it and playing out scenarios. It really isn’t our fault that we dream about it. Countless books have been written about it, and a lot of them geared toward children. One of my favorite books as a kid was My Side of the Mountain. In this book, a boy runs off to the Catskill Mountains and manages to live off the land. He even survives the harsh winters of upstate New York. If it was so easy for this kid, why can’t we? The realm of fiction rarely has to deal with the harsh realities of life.
Over the past two years, I’ve had plans to preserve some of nature’s bounty here in north Texas. We are blessed with an abundance of wild fruits, berries, and nuts. It should have been easy to do with all of the means I have at my disposal. I have access to abundant energy to run a pressure canner and a dehydrator. I have a truck to get me to the growing location, and plenty of room to haul these food home. I’ve had visions of huge sacks of dried plums and pears, dozens of jars of preserves and jams, and big bottles of Mustang grape wine. In reality, I don’t have any of this. It wasn’t from lack of trying. I was primed and ready to go gather everything up and get to work preserving. Mother Nature decided otherwise both years. Last year, we had a very late freeze, late enough that most of the fruit trees and vines had already bloomed. The results were heart wrenching. Blooms dropped from everything. To say that fruit was scarce is a massive understatement! This year the entire state of Texas has been in the grips of a drought. It’s been hotter and drier than anyone can remember. There was a little bit of fruit that made it, but a very little bit. Grapevines that would normally be heavy with beautiful purple grapes only put on a fraction of what they did in years past. Those few grapes quickly cooked into raisins in the 105 plus heat. The plums didn’t do much better. I can’t even remember what a wild blackberry tastes like. Overall it was a dismal year for wild fruit production. Had I needed to rely on fruit production to make up any real percentage of my diet, I would be on the brink of starvation.
I know what a lot of people are thinking at this point. Fishing and hunting!! On its surface, its a really good idea to supplement the diet. Supplement would the key word in that last sentence. We’ve all been out for a fun day of fishing only to come back with an empty stringer. Its been even more depressing this year. All of the lakes are low and stagnant. There have been some algae blooms, but we’ve been lucky that we haven’t had massive fish kills. Even Lake Texoma, a very large lake fed by a very large river has been deemed unsafe for swimming because of water quality issues.
So no fruits and pretty poor fishing. Hopefully we haven’t starved to death already! Hunting season is getting ready to kick off, and I certainly hope it does better than our other means of living off the land. I’ve had some friends already partake in dove season, and they are reporting a mediocre season so far. They are bagging some birds, but they are smaller than normal and there aren’t as many. As cooler temps move in, there should be birds coming in from Kansas and Nebraska. We can hope they have been well fed and watered up there. Deer season will be opening up in a couple of weeks, and hunters all over Texas are hoping for a great season. I fear the drought will have taken its toll on the deer populations as well. I’ve even noticed a decrease in cottontail rabbits and squirrels. But I suppose if we were living off the land, hunting season won’t matter. We probably starved back in July when the land turned brown and dried up.
Luckily, we weren’t required to live off the land these past couple of years. Resources and been meager, and that was with no competition. In a massive collapse (and I don’t see one coming soon), competition for any resource will be intense. When someone is starving, they’ll do anything to feed themselves and their family. Distances will be traveled, on foot if necessary. Fights will be fought for anything available. All in all, it would be an ugly time even in bountiful years. As fun as it is to dream about, hacking a living out of the wilderness isn’t very likely. Hopefully you are prepared so that it wouldn’t be necessary. In upcoming articles here at Surviving Modern Life, I’ll be covering food storage and preservation, as well as producing our own food. If things go bad, our goal should be to still maintain a decent lifestyle, no matter how the rest of the world is doing.