Archive for June, 2011

Blog Update: Change in Email Service

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Hey guys, for those of you who are subscribers to my email updates I wanted to give you a heads up that I’ve changed my email service.

In a few days, you (my email subscribers) will receive an email indicating that you need to reconfirm your subscription. This way I can be sure that I’m not spamming anyone and that only those who are interested can opt-in to receive the regular updates.

I’m really excited about making the switch since it will give me a lot more control over what I can send my subscribers. Instead of just the regular blog updates, subscribers will be able to receive additional newsletters, product reviews, upcoming contests and better formatted messages. This just was not possible with the previous service.

Thanks for all your support (email subscribers as well as regular readers) and interest! If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you subscribe. There are good things coming…

Wild Edibles: Sumac Shoots

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!

Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.

In one of my earlier articles on wild edibles I wrote about how to make sumac lemonade from the Staghorn (or Smooth) Sumac. In this post I want to share another food source from this wonderful plant – the peeled shoots.

How to Identify Staghorn or Smooth Sumac

The first step before eating any wild edible is to positively identify it. Here are the four key items to look for in order to positively identify staghorn and smooth sumac (taken from my previous article):

  1. Compound Toothed Leaves: Both species have pinnately compound leaves with serrated edges.
  2. Unique Stems and Twigs: Staghorn sumac has velvet (hairy) twigs and smooth sumac has no hair but instead a fine white powder that is easily removed when touched.
    Staghorn

    Staghorn

    Smooth

    Smooth

  3. Red Fruit Clusters: Since poison sumac has white berries (green early in the season), if you see the red one’s you’re safe. See the following pictures of the two varieties.
    Staghorn Fruit

    Staghorn Fruit

    Smooth Sumac Fruit

    Smooth Sumac Fruit

  4. Milky Sap: Both varieties exude a milky sap when broken sumac_milk

Just to see the contrast, here’s a picture of poison sumac fruit cluster and leaves (notice they are smooth and not serrated). Stay away from this plant:
poison_sumac_leaf

How to Eat Sumac Shoots

Most wild-edible foragers are familiar with using sumac for the lemonade-like beverage you can make from it, however few know about the other important edible it provides: the peeled shoots.

I first learned of eating sumac shoots from Samuel Thayer’s wonderful book, The Forager’s Harvest (highly recommended btw). From his book,

Sumac shoots are largest and best in their first year growing as suckers or stump sprouts, but you can also collect the tips of the branches from older plants. The portion of the new growth that bends and snaps easily will make a good vegetable. (Examine the thick end of the shoot to see if it has developed noticeable, light-colored pith. If it has, that part is too old; break off a few inches until the shoot is solid and opaque green all the way through.)

Here’s a picture of the new growth that appears on the end of an older sumac plant. The newer growth (in staghorn sumac) will have little hairs whereas the old growth will be woody (not seen in photo).
If you break open the new growth you’ll see a solid green green center all the way through. This is the part you want to eat.
If you break open the new growth and see a white pithy center, then it is too old and you’ll want to work your way toward the end of the branch until it is solid green.
After you’ve broken off your pieces of solid new growth, begin preparing it for eating by peeling the bitter, tender bark. It should peel away almost effortlessly.
Now that you’ve collected a decent amount, you can eat them raw (very tasty) or cook them up and enjoy!

Falling Skies

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

For those of my readers into post-apocalyptic/survival themes, there may be a new show of interest for you. This past Sunday (June 19th, 2011) TNT released the 2-hour premier of “Falling Skies”, an end-of-the-world story set six months after an alien invasion that has exterminated most of the human population and has stripped the remaining population of electricity, advanced communications and other modern-day advances.

The main plot of the story (so far at least) revolves around a small band of survivors who call themselves the resistance. Led in part by a former BU history professor (played by Noah Wyle) they wander the apocalyptic aftermath of the Boston area trying to make some sense of their lives. This human underground is forced to find food, necessary supplies, and seek out a meager existence all while plotting how they can avoid and overthrow their occupiers who at this time in the show it is unclear why they came to Earth.

“Falling Skies”, airing Sundays at 9PM EST on TNT, appears to be a pretty solid show and, for you survival-minded folks, it opens up a slew of “What would I do in that situation?” or “How would I react?” questions that good survival stories inspire.

How to Make Homemade Chlorine Bleach

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

One of the main components that you’ll want to have around the house (or apartment) during a SHTF situation is chlorine bleach. Not only can it be used for cleaning water (although boiling is hands down more effective and healthier) it is excellent for keeping things sanitary.

Unfortunately, the average shelf life of liquid bleach (being stored between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit) is around 6 months. After that, bleach will lose 20% of it’s strength at around the year mark and then 20% each year after that. So if you’re not vigilant about keeping it rotated, chances are when you need it for disinfecting water or to keep things clean you’ll be fresh out of bleach and luck.

There is a better option. What if you could make your own fresh chlorine bleach that could be used for both keeping things sanitary and will disinfect water? Here’s how:

How to Make Chlorine Bleach

Before we go into how to make it, I just wanted to point out the differences between this homemade chlorine bleach and your standard household Chlorox variety.

First off, liquid chlorine bleach is a solution made from mostly water and 3-6% Sodium Hypochlorite. This homemade variety is made from Calcium Hypochlorite which you can easily find as “pool shock” at your pool-supplier store or Walmart. Both are used throughout the world for water purification and are the main chemicals in standard household cleaning products.

The Benefit of Calcium Hypochlorite

The major benefit of using Calcium Hypochlorite over Sodium Hypochlorite is shelf life. Calcium Hypochlorite (pool shock) is sold in a solid granular form and has a 10 year shelf life when stored in a cool, dark place. This will easily meet your long-term storage needs.

The other benefit is the amount of available chlorine. The concentration of chlorine is much higher with Calcium Hypochlorite. For example, a small 1-pound bag of calcium hypochlorite can disinfect up to 10,000 gallons of drinking water. That’s around 5 gallons/day for one person for 5 1/2 years! Not bad for only 1 lb of granules.

Making Chlorine Bleach

To make a chlorine bleach solution using calcium hypochlorite, here are some formulas I got from the Army Technical Bulletin entitled, “SANITARY CONTROL AND SURVEILLANCE OF FIELD WATER SUPPLIES” (TB MED 577).

From the Army manual, to make a concentrated chlorine solution that you can use for disinfecting water (or to be used in maintaining a clean and sanitary living environment), you’ll want to use calcium hypochlorite that has around 70% available chlorine.

If you’re buying pool shock, on the back of the bag it will tell you what percentage of chlorine is available. The one I use is called “Zappit 73 Pool Shock, it is pure calcium hyphochlorite that contains up to 73% available chlorine and sells for around $5 for a 1lb bag.

To make the homemade chlorine bleach solution, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Mix 2 level Tablespoons of Calcium Hypochlorite to 3 cups of water.

After you’ve made your stock of chlorine solution, you’ll want to follow the formula from the Army Technical Bulletin in determining how much of the above stock chlorine solution you’ll need for your desired number of gallons of water to be disinfected. *Note: I’ve updated the formula to calculate the same concentration that household bleach has. If you have questions, fire me an email and I’ll be more than happy to explain the math.

mL of stock chlorine required = (desired concentration (mg/L)*number of gallons to be treated)/18.12

The desired concentration refers to how much chlorine in mg/L you want the disinfected water to have. A recommended amount is 7 mg/L of concentration. This equates to adding 8 drops of household liquid bleach to 1 gallon of water (the recommended amount when disinfecting water with household bleach).

Given these amounts, if you wanted to disinfect 1 gallon of water with the homemade chlorine solution, the formula would be as follows:

(7*1)/18.12

This equates to .38mL or 8 drops of the concentrated solution per gallon of water. Just like normal household bleach!

So the 3 step process is as follows:

  1. Place 8 drops of homemade chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water
  2. Let stand for 30 min
  3. If water is still cloudy, repeat steps until clear; otherwise it is ready to drink

Keep in mind, that once the homemade chlorine bleach is made it will follow the same shelf-life limitations as standard household liquid bleach. So be sure to only make amounts you will be using within that time frame.

Fight Food Fatigue: 20 Oft-Forgotten Items in Your Long Term Food Storage

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

One of the major mistakes people make with regards to food storage is buying a huge amount of one or two staples (ie rice and beans or wheat and powdered milk) and nothing else. While there’s no problem with storing thousands of pounds of wheat, if that’s all you have you are going to suffer from a serious case of appetite fatigue in a short time.

Appetite or food fatigue in simple term can be described as a phenomenon whereby eating the same foods over and over cause you to become disinterested in eating. In the best of cases it will cause minor malnutrition but in severe cases it can lead to starvation – despite being hungry.

Though this may sound ridiculous it is a very real phenomenon, especially during times of stress (something that a SHTF situation would probably promote), and young children and older people are particularly susceptible to it.

If your family’s nutritional security is as important to you as it is to mine, appetite fatigue is a real threat that you’ll want to plan and prevent. Given that, here is a list of 20 oft-forgotten food items that will help to expand the culinary possibilities of your existing bulk food storage and fight food fatigue:

  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Corn Starch
  • Cream of Tarter
  • Cooking Oils
  • Instant Dry Yeast
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Pectin
  • Plain Gelatin
  • Powdered Eggs
  • Rennin Tablets (for cheese making)
  • Salt
  • Shortening
  • Spices
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Vinegar
  • Vitamins and other Supplements
  • Wheat Gluten Flour

Don’t Forget to Practice

Like a mantra I’m sure you’ve heard the advice, “store what you eat, and eat what you store”. If you plan on using your bulk storage with some of the items above in a long-term emergency be sure you have practiced a number of different recipes to ensure you know what your family will eat (especially if you have young kids). At the least, have a number of good cooking books that call for simple ingredients that you can easily store.

How to Make a Homemade Stash Can

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

With the economy continuing to decline, joblessness increasing, and a growing number of the younger generation not able to find work, we are seeing an accompanying increase in crime — particularly home burglary. More and more small-time thieves are looking for easy items to pawn for a quick buck.

Beyond the obvious preparations of securing your home, I thought I’d share another way to keep your valuables safe — and that is by hiding them in plain sight.

Crime reports have indicated that the average time a burglar spends in the home is around 6-10 minutes. Since statistics show that most burglars are looking for high profile items (electronics, jewlery, firearms etc) and will typically look through bedroom and office drawers and closets, normal everyday items will be overlooked. You can use this to your advantage by stashing valuables “out in the open” with your own homemade stash cans.

How to Make a Homemade Stash Can

Making a stash can is a very simple process. In this example, I’m using a used aerosol paint can, but any similar can could be used. Here’s how to do it:

Items You’ll Need:

  • used up aerosol or similar type can
  • can opener
  • ceramic block or disk magnets (or similar powerful magnet)

Putting it all Together

Step 1: Obtain an empty can. Especially if you’re using an aerosol can, be sure that you have fully discharged all the air pressure by pressing on the nozzle until no more air comes out.
Step 2: Remove the bottom. With a standard can opener, place the circular blade directly above the metal lip of the bottom and open as you would a normal food can.
Step 3: Clean out can. Once you’ve completely removed the lid, be sure to clean out any remaining paint, whip cream, or whatever contents are in the can.

Step 4: Place magnets in can. Take your magnets and place them in the bottom of the can (since the can is made from metal they will stick without the need of adhesives).
Step 4: Place your valuables in the can.
Step 5: Replace the bottom. Since the bottom lid is made of metal, it too will strongly adhere to the magnets. Given the strength of the magnets, you can store even heavy objects like precious metals without risk of them falling out.
Step 6: “Hide” it out in the open. For this step, you want it to blend as best as possible with the other items around it. For example, you would not want to store a whipped-cream can amidst a bunch of paint cans. It needs to fit in with its environment.

50 Essential Wild Edible, Tea, and Medicinal Plants You Need to Know

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

I’ve been often asked in reference to a survival or bug-out situation “which wild edible and medicinal plants should I study and know?”.

Unfortunately there is no clearcut answer for this since it’s highly dependent upon where you live. But if I would boil it down to the top 50 essential wild edible, tea, and medicinal plants that occur in most areas of the northern hemisphere this would be the list:

Note: I’ve added links to the plants which I’ve covered in detail on this site on how to identify, prepare, and use for food or medicine. Bookmark this page since these links will continue to grow as I demonstrate the uses of these plants in upcoming articles.

50 Essential Wild-Edible, Tea, and Medicinal Plants

  1. Amaranth/Pigweed (Amaranthus) – Food
  2. Arrowhead/Wapato (Sagittaria L.) – Food
  3. Balsam Fir (Abies balsamia) – Food
  4. Blackberry (Rubus L.) – Food
  5. Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) – Food
  6. Blueberries (Vaccinium L.) – Food
  7. Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) – Food
  8. Burdock (Arctium lappa) – Food
  9. Bulrushes (Schoenoplectus L.) – Food
  10. Bur-Reed (Sparganium L.) – Food
  11. Birch (White) (Betula pendula) – Food, Drink
  12. Catnip (Nepeta L.) – Medicine
  13. Cattail (Typha L.) – Food
  14. Chamomile (Anthemis L.) – Tea
  15. Chicory (Cichorium L.) – Food
  16. Clover (Trifolium pratense L. and Trifolium repens L.) – Food
  17. Curly Dock (Rumex crispus L.) – Food
  18. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Food
  19. Daylily (Hemerocallis L.) – Food
  20. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) – Food
  21. False Solomon Seal / Treacleberry (Maianthemum racemosum) – Medicine
  22. Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) – Food
  23. Goldenrod (Solidago L.) – Tea
  24. Heal-All (Stachys L.) – Medicine
  25. Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) – Food, Medicine
  26. Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L.) – Food
  27. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) – Tea
  28. Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) – Food
  29. Mints (Mentha L.) – Tea
  30. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.) – Medicine
  31. Mustard (Sinapis L.) – Food
  32. Oak (acorns) (Quercus L.) – Food
  33. Pine (Pinus L.) – Food
  34. Plantain (Plantago L.) – Food
  35. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) – Food
  36. Queen Anne’s Lace / Wild Carrot (Daucus carota L.) – Food
  37. Rose Hips (Rosa L.) – Food
  38. Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella L.) – Food
  39. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) – Food
  40. Sumac (Rhus typhina L. and Rhus glabra L.) – Food
  41. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – Medicine
  42. Thistle (Cirsium L.) – Food, Medicine
  43. Violet (Viola L.) – Food
  44. Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) – Medicine
  45. Wild Lettuce (Lactuca L.) – Food
  46. Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum) – Food
  47. Wild Rice (Zizania L.) – Food
  48. Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) – Food
  49. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis L.) – Food
  50. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Tea, Medicine

Most Common Places to Find these Plants

ROADSIDES

  • Chicory
  • Curly Dock
  • Daylily
  • Elderberry
  • Fireweed
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Meadowsweet
  • Milkweed
  • Mullein
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Yarrow

WOODS

  • Balsam Fir
  • Blue Aster
  • Bracken Fern
  • Oak (acorns)
  • Pine
  • White Birch
  • Wood Sorrel

BROOK AREAS OR SWAMPS

  • Arrowhead/Wapato
  • Bullrushes
  • Bur-Reed
  • Cattail
  • False Solomn’s Seal
  • Weeping Willow
  • Wild Rice

FIELDS, LAWNS and GARDENS

  • Amaranth
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Burdock
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile
  • Dandelion
  • Daylily
  • Field Sorrel
  • Goldenrod
  • Heal-All
  • Lamb’s Quarters
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Plantain
  • Purslane
  • Raspberries
  • Red & White Clover
  • Rose Hips
  • Sumac
  • Strawberry
  • Tansy
  • Thistle
  • Wild Lettuce

Some Helpful Hints on Identifying and Getting Started

Be sure to check out my article on How to Identify Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants for some helpful tips and recommended resources in getting you started.

Concrete Canvas Shelters

Monday, June 6th, 2011

For those of you with some extra money lying around I wanted to introduce you to an interesting shelter my brother told me about. It’s called the Concrete Canvas Shelter. It is a rapid deployable shelter that takes under an hour to set up and is ready for use in under 24 hours.

They are made of a special fire-proof, cement based composite fabric (Concrete Cloth) bonded to the outer surface of a plastic inner which forms a Nissen-Hut shaped structure once inflated. Designed to be covered with sand or earth, the shelters provide protection against small-arms fire and shell fragments as well as superior insulation against cold and heat.

They can also be fitted with a combined forced air/inflation unit and decontamination module to provide full spectrum CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) protection.

I could see these as a great addition to a retreat or bug-out type location. Check out the following video for a demonstration (email subscribers please visit site for video):

Wild Edibles: How to Eat Japanese Knotweed

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!

Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is one of those plants you’ve probably seen a hundred times but haven’t realized it.

A native to southeast Asia, it was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental and has since become one of the most invasive plants in the United States, quickly spreading across to more than 40 of the 50 states. It’s root system is so invasive and strong that it can damage foundations, buildings, flood defenses, roads and so on.

Despite its bad rap, Japanese Knotweed is a great source of food and medicine and one of my favorite wild edibles in the early Spring. And since it is an invasive species, you don’t feel bad about over-harvesting it. In this post I’ll explain how to identify and harvest Japanese Knotweed and how to make a simple but delicious recipe from your foraging.

How to Identify Japanese Knotweed

The problem with Japanese Knotweed is that once you typically notice it, it is usually too late to harvest for food. In early spring, it starts out as a humble shoot that quickly grows (over an inch a day!) into a mature plant reaching upwards of 10 feet high.

Although the time to eat it is in the early spring before it begins to turn woody (under 12 inches), you’ll want to be able to identify it during its later stages of growth as well so that the next year you can return in the early spring and harvest it.

Spring Identification

Spring is the time you should be on the lookout for this plant. Here’s what to look for:

In the early spring red/purple mottled green shoots appear from the ground and grow rapidly forming canes. This is the ideal time to harvest the Japanese Knotweed shoots. You’re looking for 6 inches or less.
Late spring shoots with initial branching. You can still harvest the plant at this point as long as it is under a foot. At this stage you’ll need to peel them before consuming, since the outside has begun to get more fibrous.

Summer/Fall Identification

By summer this plant has grown to its full size. Since it typically grows from a networked root system, all of the individual mature plants form what appears to be a large shrub:

Here’s a good example of how the knotweed comes to form what looks like a large shrub.
Bamboo-like canes.
Shield shaped leaves that are aligned in an alternate pattern.
In the late summer you’ll also begin to see the flower growth.

Late Fall/Winter

During late fall and winter the knotweed’s energy will begin to travel back into the root system in preparation for the winter time. During this time the leaves fall and the stems die and turn brown. The stems (canes) typically stand during the winter which can serve as a good indication of next year’s growth.

Since it grows in colonies, the winter skeletons are easy to identify from afar.

How to Eat Japanese Knotweed

While you can eat Japanese Knotweed raw (it is tart and crispy and tastes very similar to rhubarb), ideally you’ll want to cook it. Since it tastes very similar to rhubarb, you can use Japanese Knotweed in any dish that calls for rhubarb – my favorite being strawberry knotweed pie…yumm.

Here’s a simple dish that I got from Steve Brill that I love:

Japanese Knotweed Surprise

Ingredients (for one serving)

  • 2 cups sliced apples
  • 1 cup sliced Japanese Knotweed shoots
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • sugar to taste (optional)
Step 1: Gather your harvested knotweed and remove any leaves and stems.
Step 2: Chop the knotweed into a small enough size to fit into your cooking pot and peel those shoots which have begun to form leaves (these will have already begun to turn stringy).
Step 3: Throw the knotweed and chopped apples into a pot and pour apple juice on top, bring to a boil and begin to simmer.
Step 4: Simmer for about 20 minutes or until soft. You will notice that the knotweed seems to melt into a thick, sauce-like consistency.
Step 5: Once the knotweed turns to a sauce-like consistency, serve and eat!

Japanese Knotweed Nutrition and Medicinal Information

Japanese Knotweed provides an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. It also provides potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese.

Japanese Knotweed is also an excellent source of resveratrol, the same substance in the skin of grapes and in red wine that reduces bad cholesterol and lowers the risk of heart attacks.

According to master herbalist, Stephen H. Buhner, Japanese Knotweed is very effective when it comes to treating and preventing Lyme’s disease. As an anti-inflammatory, it also helps the immune system to combat various infections, relieves symptoms of arthritis and can protect the body against neurotoxin damage.