Archive for July, 2011

Dew Collection for Survival Water

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Besides air, water is of primary importance if you hope to stay alive longer than a few days in a survival situation. And if you’re stuck in a place where your source of water becomes polluted and you have no filter available there is still a way to get distilled, potable water — and that is through dew.

Collecting dew is a rather simple process, however there are a few guidelines that need to be followed if you plan on using this method:

Guidelines for Collecting Dew

Do not collect dew in these circumstances:

  • On or near poisonous plants
  • On plants or objects that are chemically treated or sprayed
  • In areas where obvious animal defecation has taken place
  • Near roadsides

How to Collect Dew

Dew collection requires only three steps:

Step 1: Find an area with a good amount of dew

The best time to gather dew is in the early morning before the sun has touched your collection area. My favorite areas are fields and untreated lawns. Plants with large leaves like grape or burdock also work fairly well.

Step 2: Wipe up the dew with an absorbent material

The basic way to collect dew is to take an absorbent material such as a cotton t-shirt, lightweight towel, rag, or my favorite: a ShamWow, and wipe it over grass, boulders, or other objects:

This also works for post rain, but there are better ways to collect rain water.

Step 3: Wring out the dew

Next, just wring it out into some container (or your mouth):

Dew Collections Yields and Filtering

You can get quite a lot of dew in a short time. For example, I was able to fill this 16oz glass with dew water in about 3 minutes. That equates to about a gallon of water in a half-hour’s time period! And although it is a bit cloudy, it’s quite potable.

Keep in mind that although dew is really distilled water, if you have a water filter available or at least can boil it, by all means make sure you do it. There is still a chance that you could collect the due from an area where an animal infected with Giardia or another illness has defecated.

EcoZoom Rocket Stove Review

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

In case you haven’t read/seen my past review of the Stovetec rocket stove a rocket stove is a highly efficient wood-burning cooking stove that requires very little wood to boil water or cook an entire meal. Due to its design that allows for complete combustion, with just a few twigs and sticks you can maintain a hot burning fire that’s super clean and produces practically no smoke.

Just recently I had been contacted by a representative from the EcoZoom company about doing a review of their version of the rocket stove: the “Zoom Versa”. After some thorough testing, I found it to be an top-rate rocket stove with an excellent design. Here’s what I think:

First Impressions

My first impression of the stove — for the most part — was very positive. It comes wrapped in professional-looking packaging that comes shipped in a well protected box. I did notice when initially checking things over that there were a few screws (mainly the doors and one of the door handles) that required some tightening up. But beyond that, it’s appears to be a solidly built stove that will last a long time.

When you first look at the EcoZoom stove, you’ll probably notice how similar in design it is with the Stovetec version of the rocket stove. That is probably because it likely made from the same manufacturer. Despite the similarities, there are a number of differences when compared to the Stovetec version of the rocket stove I have which I feel make this EcoZoom rocket stove a superior product.

*Note: Stovetec now appears to make the “Deluxe Wood or Charcoal Metal Lined 2 Door Stove” which for all extents and purposes appears to be the same as the “Zoom Versa” stove. However, since I cannot comment specifically on that stove I will be comparing the Zoom Versa with the Stovetec Wood and Charcoal model I have.

Features of the EcoZoom Versa Rocket Stove

6-Pronged Cast Iron Burner Top

One of the things I didn’t like about the Stovetec stove was it’s 3 pronged pot-support design. With smaller pots, I had to have the botttom of the pot positioned perfectly on the pot supports or else it would kip over. With Ecozoom’s design of six pot-supports, the smaller pots stay on without issue. This design also allows one to easily use a wok or other round bottom pot.

Charcoal and Wood Doors

This is one of the main improvements I feel the Ecozoom stove has made compared to the Stovetec version I have. The doors are a much better designed. The Stovetec doors, being made of thin metal, had no hinges and required that you slide them on and off. To me they always felt a bit flimsy and I thought that after repeated use that the door channels would eventually would wear down and become less effective over time or worse, break.

The EcoZoom Versa doors are solidly made with a reinforced metal frame. The hinged design of the doors allows for easy opening and closing (which was a bit of a pain with the Stovetec stove I have) to change up fuels or to regulate airflow.

Metal-Lined Combustion Chamber

Another great improvement the EcoZoom Versa has made over my original rocket stove is including a metal-lined combustion chamber. Both rocket stoves feature an insulative ceramic chamber that allows these stoves to be so efficient however, since the ceramic chamber is quite brittle it can easily succumb to wear with repeated insertion of wood (which will scrape off the sides and back of the chamber over time). The EcoZoom Versa’s metal-lined chamber will contribute to a longer-lasting stove.

They also include an additional grate (replaceable) to help protect the built-in grate when cooking with charcoal:

Using the EcoZoom Stove

Firing up the EcoZoom rocket stove is done in the same way I demonstrated in my video review of the Stovetec stove. In case you missed it I’ll lay it out here:


Before I can fire up the stove I’ll typically gather the following:

  • Several two-thumb thickness sticks (these can be whole sticks or sticks split with an axe or knife like in the picture below)
  • A few pencil to pinky thickness sticks
  • Some matches and
  • Some form of tinder (either dry grass, pine needles, or in this picture a cotton ball mixed with some Vaseline)

Firing Up the Stove

Firing up the stove is a fairly easy process:

Step 1: Fill burn chamber with small sticks.
Step 2: Light the tinder and place in lower compartment.
Step 3: Place wood rack in front of stove.
Step 4: Insert three to four of the larger sticks in the upper compartment.
Step 5: Cook food.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned in the article, the EcoZoom Versa stove is very much like the current Stovetec wood-charcoal stove that I own. And while the Stovetec stove is an excellent product, I was very impressed with the EcoZoom stove finding it to be superior in design and manufacture.

Having a means of cooking off-grid is of utmost importance when times get tough and it doesn’t get much more efficient or better than a rocket stove. This is definitely on my list of recommended products.

EcoZoom Offer

EcoZoom is offering a $5.00 discount on all stoves to my readers.

To access this discount, click on the following link: EcoZoom Stoves and enter tiej872011 as the coupon code when checking out (I do receive a small commission for this).

Wild Edibles: How to Eat Common Milkweed

Thursday, July 14th, 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.

Milkweed is one of those plants that I have fond memories for. As a young boy I used to love opening the late summer seed pods to feel the silky soft down inside and watch the wind catch it as I would toss one after the other in the air. I’m sure I was the bane of the nearby farmer since a good amount of the seed would land on his fields.

In my late teens and early 20s, when I was big into practicing wilderness survival skills, I would often use the outer fibers on the stalk to make a serviceable cordage (I still enjoy doing this) and I learned to use the seed down but it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I learned how wonderful this plant is as a wild edible.

I always knew it was edible, however I never bothered trying it since all the books I had read on the plant indicated that to render this plant palatable, it required multiple (three or more) boilings in order to remove the toxins and “bitter” taste. Given that there were so many other wild plants I enjoyed eating, I never bothered with this one. This all changed when I read Samuel Thayer’s book called The Forager’s Harvest.

Through his own experiences, Samuel learned that many of the wild-foods books that are out there were just parroting what others were saying, which is that Milkweed is a very bitter plant that requires multiple boilings to get rid of. This appears not to be the case. I was also able to confirm this (by trying milkweed raw) that it is not bitter at all, but is in fact slightly sweet. Given this new perspective, I was excited to learn about how to prepare and eat this plant. Here’s how to do just that:

How to Identify Common Milkweed

The first step before eating any wild edible is to positively identify it. Since Common Milkweed has some poisonous look-alikes (dogbane and butterfly-weed), it’s very important you learn to positively identify this plant before attempting to consume it. Here are some key features to look for in order to positively identify Common Milkweed:

Leaves Opposite: Leaves grow in opposite pairs along the stalk. Generally are 4-9 inches (10-23 cm) long and 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) wide. Oblong or ovate in shape with smooth margins. Thick, meaty leaves — not succulent.
Velvet “fuzz”: The entire plant is covered in a light pubescence giving it a soft, velvety feel (dogbane on the other hand lacks this throughout the plant).
Exudes Latex when Broken: If you break the leaves, petioles, or stalk it will exude a large amount of white, milky latex.
Flavor is Slightly Sweet: If a small tongue-taste reveals that the plant is bitter, it is not Common Milkweed!

How to Eat Common Milkweed

Variety of Foods in Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed is similar to cattail in that there is such a variety of different foods to eat during the various seasons (except winter)t. The parts of the plant that are all delicious are the following:

  • Shoots and new growth stalks
  • Young leaves
  • Flower buds and flowers
  • Immature seed pods and silk

In the following picture you can see most of the above foods except the shoots (found in late spring where I live) and silk (mid to late summer). In the next section I’ll demonstrate how I process these into a delicious and healthy meal.

How to Prepare Common Milkweed

The four ways I like to prepare Common Milkweed is: boiling, frying, and fritters. Here’s some examples from the above milkweed parts that I recently harvested:

Flower Buds and Flowers

There are two ways I like to eat the flowers (3 if you count raw): par-boiling and fritters. For both preparations I’ll par-boil the flowers for about 3 minutes (multiple changes are not necessary):

For half of the bunch, I’ll put a little bit of butter and salt on them and the other half I’ll dip them in a flour and egg batter and fry them to make fritters (they are fantastic with a little bit of honey):

The flower buds and flowers are also excellent in soups.

Young Leaves

The young leaves found on the top portion of the plant can be boiled (only once is required), but I prefer to cook them in a bit of olive oil. They come out crispy and very tasty with an excellent earthy flavor:

Immature Seed Pods

You’ll want to gather the immature seed pods when they are around 1.5 inches or smaller. Here is a picture of some 1/2 inch pods on a plant:

These are excellent boiled or fried. To boil, cook them in boiling water for about 5-7 minutes:

Shoots and New Growth Stalk

Since I gathered these in the Summer, I couldn’t demonstrate the new shoots being prepared. The shoots appear in late spring and are excellent when prepared like Asparagus (cook for around 20 minutes).

If you love the taste of the shoots, you can get a similar taste during the summer by picking off the new growth (be sure to keep the leaves as they are excellent as well) and boiling them for about 10 minutes. Here’s a photo of me pointing that out:


Milkweed is an often ignored wild edible due to the misconceptions that are still out there regarding this plant. This is one that is definitely worth your while to learn to harvest since it is so prolific and provides an amazing food source throughout most of the year.

Here’s a great meal: Boiled flowers with butter and salt, milkweed fritters w/ honey, fried and boiled seed pods and young-leaf stir-fry. Filling and fantastic, Bon Appetit!

Perimiter Security System Needed

Friday, July 1st, 2011

One thing that I have been looking to set up for my home is a perimeter security system. Although we do have an alarm system with security monitoring, in many ways I feel that if we are home when the system goes off, there really isn’t much time to prepare ourselves if there was a determined perpetrator (just think about the Sharon Tate murders).

On top of that, since I live in semi-rural suburbia and back in the woods a bit, my plot of land can be accessed from practically any direction. Although my long driveway is a great defensive choke point for automobiles coming up to my property, if someone is on foot there are no good choke points that would restrict their direction. This lack makes it a security nightmare.

Given this security issue, I’ve been looking into purchasing some kind of device that can provide 360 degrees of security which will act as an early-warning to potential home invaders.

If money weren’t an option I’d purchase a high-end underground fiber-optic perimeter that not only alerts me to the exact location of an intruder but would show me through infrared cameras who or what it is. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of dollars is a bit out of my price range. To keep it within budget I’m looking more into the lower hundred range.

One of the security systems that I have been looking into is a passive infrared MURS (multi-use radio service) based system made by Dakota Alert. I’ve seen this system promoted on as well as other sites around the web and it seems to be getting pretty good reviews. It’s also fairly inexpensive, so it could be a great potential option for me.

Now that you know what my situation is, what I’m looking for is some thoughts from you guys on this. Perhaps one of you has a perimeter system in place that you could provide feedback on. And when I do finally make the purchase, I’ll be sure to do a review on it once it’s in place.

So if any of you have any ideas on this or experience with the MURS or similar system I’d love to hear it. You can leave a comment below the article on this blog, send me a note through my contact link, or reply to the newsletter if you’re a subscriber.