Archive for April, 2010

Off-the-Grid Living on only 1/5th of an Acre

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

For you homeowners that think you don’t have enough land to live off the grid, think again…

Dervaes's BackYard - photo ©

Ten years ago, Jules Dervaes along with his three adult children, set out with the goal of becoming completely self-sufficient. Today, these residents of the Pasadena California suburbs have taken their small 1/5th of an acre lot and converted it into a (almost) completely self-sufficient paradise.

They make their own biodiesel and electricity (through solar means) and their 1/10th of an acre garden produces over 6,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables annually! This is more than enough food for four adults. They also sell the surplus to nearby restaurants making about $20,000 a year on the food alone.

Here are a couple of videos featuring the Dervaes family and their home (for my email subscribers you’ll have to view it on the site since the video doesn’t embed in most email servers):


Be sure to check out the Dervaes website, Path to Freedom: Urban Homestead for details into how they accomplished this as well as tips in creating your own homestead.

How to Eat Dandelion Flowers

Monday, April 26th, 2010

This is a follow-up article to the Dandelion Greens – The Perfect Spring Survival Food article I recently wrote.

If you’ve already tried preparing the dandelion greens from the prior article than you know how delicious this wild plant can be.

In this article I wanted to quickly present you with another pair of delicious recipes using a different part of this common every-day plant: the flowers.

Pickled Dandelion Flower Buds

I’d like to thank Rosalee de la Foret for this recipe!

For this recipe, you’ll want to harvest the flower buds when they are still tightly closed — before they ever opened.


  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 3 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup dandelion flower buds
  • apple cider vinegar
  • tamari sauce

The Process:

Rinse the flower buds well and place into a pint jar with the onions, garlic, and ginger. Fill halfway with the apple-cider vinegar and then fill halfway with the tamari. Cover with a plastic lid or a metal lid with a buffer (vinegar will corrode the metal lid). Let sit for three weeks and then enjoy on salads, as a snack, or on tuna fish sandwiches.

Dandelion Fritters

Ingredients for the Batter:

  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • one teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

The Process:

There are different ways of making this recipe.

One is to combine all of the above ingredients, dip the flower heads in the batter and then fry on a greased pan as I demonstrate in the following picture:
The other is to combine all of the above ingredients, mix the flower heads in the batter and then fry on a greased pan like a pancake as I demonstrate in this picture:
You’ll end up with them looking like this (very tasty!):
While the above recipe is good, my favorite recipe however, is to take a 1/4 cup cornmeal and 1/2 cup flour and put that in a bowl. Then put an egg with a dash of salt in another bowl and finally heat up some olive oil in a small pot or wok:
Then just take a flower head, dip it first in the egg then the flour mixture and then just drop it into the oil:
When it’s done you should have the best tasting flower fritters that are super light and fluffy (sort of like tempura), that look something like this (unfortunately the picture doesn’t do it much justice):

As I mention throughout this site, the more you can practice these skills — whether it be learning to identify and prepare wild edibles to learning different off-the-grid medical treatments — during tranquil times, the better off you’ll be if you are faced with serious hardships during times of trial.

How’s that saying go? “The more we sweat in times of peace the less we bleed in times of war.” There’s a lot of wisdom to that quote. Now get out there and practice!

Dandelion Greens – The Perfect Spring Survival Food

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

With Spring finally here in New England, not only are we are enjoying a taste of warmer weather but the first shoots fresh, tasty, wild-edibles as well.

One of my favorite wild edibles during the early Spring happens to be the bane of all lawn owners: The Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

This article details how to identify and prepare this commonplace but excellent tasting and nutritious wild plant — knowledge that is an excellent addition to your survival info store.

How to Identify Dandelion

Dandelion is a perennial, herbaceous plant with long, lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are deeply toothed and resemble it’s namesake (dandelion comes from the Old French “Dent-de-lion” meaning lion’s tooth). Here are the key components of dandelion that you’ll want to look for:

  • deeply toothed, lance-shaped leaves (3 to 12 inches long)
  • leaves grow in a basal rosette
  • leaves are hairless
  • leaves and flower stalks exude a white milky sap when injured
  • yellow, composite flowers (1 to 2 inches wide)
  • flowers turn into round white seed heads that float in the wind

Dandelion Greens – How to Prepare Them

Instead of waging backyard chemical warfare on dandelions why not eat them instead?

The best time to gather and eat dandelion greens is in the early Spring before the flowers emerge. At this time of year they are only minimally bitter when eaten raw. When added to a stir fry (as I show you below) even finicky eaters will like them.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to prepare and eat dandelion greens:

You’ll notice the first shoots appear as a basal rosette
Gather around 3 cups of dandelion greens
With some olive oil, cook around 2 cups of onions until soft
Add the dandelion greens some chopped garlic and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and cook for around 15 minutes
viola! some awesome tasting dandelion green stir fry!

Dandelion greens can also be added raw to salads and are excellent in sandwiches. If you eat the greens after the flowers emerge, they will be noticeably more bitter. However, you can still eat these. Just boil them in two changes of water (be sure to bring the water to a boil before adding the greens) and they’ll taste just fine.

Dandelion Greens Nutrition Information

Dandelion greens (leaves) are more nutritious than most anything you can purchase in your produce section.

They’re higher in beta carotene than carrots and the iron, vitamin K, and calcium content is far greater than spinach and brocolli. And for the price of pulling them out of your (and your neighbor’s lawn :)) you get vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, P (bioflavonoids) and D, biotin, mositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.

Still think this is a bothersome weed? Think again.

How to Make a Candle Heater

Friday, April 9th, 2010
This post is sponsored by Prepper Academy, the only preparedness program that shows you step-by-step how to rapidly prepare for the coming hard times — no matter what your income or where you live.

With the cold season coming to a close I wanted to share one more survival craft that you can do in order to provide some off-grid heat to a small insulated area with just a candle!

I got this idea straight from the site, where instead of ordering one of their “Kandle Heeters” I decided to make my own and share with you guys how you can too (it cost me about 15 bucks to make compared to 30 dollars (plus shipping) if you were to buy one).

How it Works

The basic purpose of this heater is to capture the heat given off of a candle flame and to concentrate it into a steel and ceramic radiator assembly. After some time, the ceramic surface will act as a thermal mass and begin to radiate the captured thermal energy into your room or office. Here’s how describes it (image and description c/o

  1. Heat rising from a burning candle (or electric lamp) is first trapped in the Steel Inner Core and surrounding Ceramic Inner Module.
  2. The Inner Cores get very hot and radiate heat to the Ceramic Middle Core.
  3. This Entire Inner Region gets VERY VERY HOT!! Heat synergistically builds up and “boils out” of the Ceramic Inner Core into the Ceramic Middle Core. The Middle Core heats up and begins to Radiate Heat. Heated air “boils out” into the Ceramic Outer Core.
  4. The Large Surface Area of the Outer Core begins receiving Heat. The inner wall surfaces become very HOT! Heat travels through the wall to the Outer Surface.
  5. The Outer Surface gets VERY WARM to HOT and gently begins to Radiate Heat into your home or office.

Putting it all Together

The process for putting together the candle heater is very simple:

What You Need

  • one 4″ ceramic (not glazed) pot
  • one 2″ ceramic (not glazed) pot
  • one 1 1/2″ ceramic (not glazed) pot
  • two 1 1/2″ x 1/4″ washers
  • three 1 1/4″ x 1/4″ washers
  • three 1″ x 1/4″ washers
  • eight 3/4″ x 1/4″ washers
  • seven 1/4″ nuts
  • one 3″ x 1/4″ bolt

Assembly Instructions

I think that the easiest way for you to learn how to put one of these heaters together is to follow the cutout image (to the left) I used from the site:

Just place the washers and nuts in the right combination as the image and you’ll be good to go. Looking inside, it should look something like this:

Making the Stand

I found the simplest stand to make is to purchase three 4″ corner braces.
Then just put the three braces together with the middle brace facing the opposite direction and bend the outside two just enough to support the heater.

Test Results

I decided to test out the heater with the bacon-grease candle I had made (check out Homemade Lamps from Everyday Objects to learn how to make your own). Since the homemade candle jar was a bit bigger than the 4.5″ stand I made, I added 6″ corner brace extensions to support the larger candle.

After burning the heater for around 6 hours it seemed to be putting out only a small amount of heat (a decent amount of heat was pouring out from underneath though). However, since the weather has been warmer around here I wasn’t able to give this little heater a fair shake (and besides, how much heat output are you really expecting from a candle anyways?).

Despite the less-than-optimal testing conditions, still, in no way would it heat up your home (or even a normal size room for that matter), but in an enclosed area like your car I could see it having some benefit. Again I haven’t been able to truly test it so this is only conjecture.

Even though the heater doesn’t seem all that effective, making this contraption was far from a waste of time. I learned some important principles as well as came up with other ideas of how to convert a flame source to radiant heating (just think of a larger version of this heater combined with the rocket stove I reviewed and you’ll get what I mean).

Back to Business

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I just wanted to quickly say thanks to all of you who sent me congrats via comments and email about the new baby. She and mom are both recovering and doing wonderful (there were some complications during the birth that gave us a scare).

Since my wife being has been out of commission for a bit I’ve been quite busy holding down the fort (I never realized how much she really does on a day-to-day basis until now) on top of taking care of my own responsibilities. I want to thank you for your patience and hanging in there for me while we adjust to this new addition.

With that said, it looks like things are slowly returning to normal so it’s time to get back to the important work of preparing ourselves. So stay tuned, I’ve got some great articles coming!