Archive for August, 2011

TI Bow Featured in Fashion Photoshoot

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

I thought you guys would get a kick out of this.

My sister-in-law is a fashion designer and in a recent photoshoot for her clothing line she had featured one of my homemade self-bows. I thought the pictures look pretty cool.

This particular bow was made from a red-oak board that I bought from Home Depot. Thebow is 70″ long @ 45lb full-draw weight. Red oak isn’t the best bow wood around, but you can still make an effective and serviceable hunting bow.

If you guys are interested, I could do a series of posts on how to make one of these. Enjoy!

Copyright: Myke Yeager Photography
Make-up: Christy Lavallee
Model: Mara Adriana
Wardrobe: Kate Alves

Survival Sanitation: Disposing of Garbage Off-Grid

Friday, August 26th, 2011

This is the final post in a three-part series on survival sanitation.

In a SHTF situation, proper sanitation is of utmost importance if you want to keep your family from getting seriously sick. When you add to that a lack of medical facilities due to grid-down issues, staying healthy becomes even more crucial.

In this series I discuss the skills you need to avoid getting and spreading disease, and how to deal with waste and trash when your town and city services are no longer working.

In this article I take you step-by-step through the process of how you can properly deal with garbage in short and long-term grid-down situations.

One thing that is not commonly thought of when the grid goes down and services stop running is garbage collection.

If you are like most people who live in a western society, you probably have a garbage-disposal service that comes and collects your trash at specific times in the month. Well, if that service were no longer available, have you thought of what you’d do with the ever growing pile of trash?

Not only will the smell be increasingly offensive, rotting garbage is also a sanitation risk since it will attract insects and rodents who are carriers of disease. And if you have babies in the house with disposable diapers, you’ll only magnify the sanitation risk due to potential fecal-borne diseases.

How to Deal with Garbage in an Off-Grid World

If you know the grid is going to be down for only a few days or even up to a week or two, you will not need to handle your garbage any differently than you are doing now. I’m sure many of us have missed a pick-up date or two and had the trash sitting around for a bit without any issues. The problem is when it gets extended to a month or more.

In this case you’ll want to follow a simple, straightforward 5-step process:

Sort, Dump, Drain, Burn or Bury


If the grid goes down and you know it will be multiple weeks or more, some of your trash-disposal habits will likely need to change — sorting being one of them.

The first thing you’ll want to do is begin separating the trash (both the existing along with any new trash going forward) into 4 different groups:

  • those things that biodegrade quickly (plant & animal matter)
  • paper products
  • plastics and metals (should be flattened or crushed to reduce bulk) and
  • sanitary items (diapers, feminine hygiene products etc)


For the biodegradable waste, this can be dumped into a pile or a container away from your residence.

This will quickly begin to compost and can be used later for gardening.


After the initial sorting as well as any new trash going forward, you’ll want to drain off any liquids that are remaining in any containers.

For non-fat containing liquids, just pour them on the ground. For fatty liquids and oils, pour them in a small “cat-hole” dug from the ground and then cover it up with the dirt from the dig. This will prevent the attraction of animals and insects.

Keep in mind that it is not recommended to add fats and oils to any compost heaps you have set up from the “Dump” stage, as it can shut down the composting process.


Garbage that can be burned (like the paper products that were separated earlier) should be done so.

If you have the time or inclination, many paper products, like newspapers or junk mail, can be made into serviceable Paper Logs. These make good sources of fuel for cooking and heating when the grid is down.


For the remaining garbage like metal and plastic products and sanitary items, you’ll want to store these for as long as you can in doubled-up trash bags that are in a covered (preferably air-tight) container. However, if the grid is going to be down for a very long time, it may be necessary to bury these.

You’ll want to dig a trench or pit that is deep enough so that at least 1 1/2 feet (1/2 m) of compacted dirt will cover the trash (again, to prevent insects from breeding or animals digging it up). Also, be sure to keep this pit at least 100 feet from a water source (especially in the case of the sanitary products).

A Note on Fall-Out Shelters

If you are in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) situation where you’re forced indoors, many of these outdoor trash disposal solutions will not work for you. In such cases you’ll need to bag and store the waste until you have the opportunity to bury it.

To bag the trash, it’s best to first drain off whatever liquid you can if possible. Then before bagging it, wrap the trash in some type of absorbent material like newspapers or old clothing.This will keep the stench down and hopefully bide you a bit of time before you can dispose of it outdoors.

Check out the TI aStore!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Just recently I was talking to a friend of mine (who is a regular reader of TI) and he was mentioning how it would be nice if I had a one-stop location where readers can check out books and products that I fully endorse. So, taking his suggestion to heart I decided (as a start) to set up an Amazon aStore a few days ago to feature those survival-related items such as books, instructional DVDs, and other products that I have, use, and recommend.

Keep in mind that there are a quite a number of products and books I have that are related to the themes of the TI site which I do not fully recommend. These are not listed in my store. All the items that you’ll find in the TI aStore come highly recommended by me (In the interest of full disclosure, I do get a small commission for any product you buy through this site).

There are also a number of products that I have which I highly recommend (like the EcoZoom rocket stove for example) that unfortunately are not listed in Amazon. These miscellaneous products will be featured in a “Recommended Products” section on the site in the near future.

So be sure to check out the TI aStore. You can visit it via the link or in the menu above. Also, if you ever have any questions regarding any of the products that are in there send me a note via the contact form on my site and I’ll gladly answer you as best I can.

Thanks for all your support! You guys are the best.

Survival Sanitation: How to Deal with Human Waste

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

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.

This is the second post in a three-part series on survival sanitation.

In a SHTF situation, proper sanitation is of utmost importance if you want to keep your family from getting seriously sick. When you add to that a lack of medical facilities due to grid-down issues, staying healthy becomes even more crucial.

In this series I discuss the skills you need to avoid getting and spreading disease, and how to deal with waste and trash when your town and city services are no longer working.

When the grid goes down it doesn’t take long for serious sanitation problems to erupt. Take Auckland New Zealand for example:

In 1998, Auckland suffered a 5-week long power outage that halted water supplies, causing a large part of the city’s apartment dwellers and office workers to lose the ability to flush. Since the average person did not know how to properly deal with human waste, after only three days the resulting lack of wastewater services quickly escalated into a sanitation nightmare.

Here are two accounts of that time (please see footnotes for full articles):

Since water and sewage rely on electrically-driven pumps to get them into office blocks and towers, these services often aren’t available either. What little power is available is being used by emergency and civil services as far as possible, with other services like traffic lights being run if there’s anything to spare. Many office blocks have no power, water, or sewage services available. Combine the lack of sanitation with abscence of airconditioning and you can imagine what conditions are like in parts of these buildings.[1]

And here is an account from someone who was tasked in writing up a white paper for the New Zealand government on the effects caused by no running water:

People in general are not smart. Rather than try and conserve or make a plan once the water stopped flowing, they would flush their toilets. Without power from the force of water pressure the tank doesn’t refill. The domino effect is not only gross but staggering, what human beings that have never lived beyond modern conveniences will do is unimaginable.

What I researched and wrote about blew my own mind…when people were actually confronted with such a situation, they went where ever they could – they filled the toilet, the toilet tank, the tub, the shower, the sink – when the bathrooms became uninhabitable, they went in corners, boxes, bags, closets…most however left by the time they were using the tub. Guess how long that took? That’s right, three days!.[2]

How to Dispose of Human Waste in a Grid-Down Situation

If you’re in a situation where the grid goes down and the water stops flowing, you’ll want to be sure you’re correctly dealing with human waste.

Here’s how:

If You Have a Septic System

First off, if you have your own septic system, you’re in a better spot over others connected to a town/city sewer line. With a septic system, as long as you have availability to water (from storage or any grey water source), you’ll still be able to flush.

How to Flush without Running Water

To flush, you can fill up the back tank until the water reaches the float and then hit the flush lever, or…
If you have a big enough bucket (at least 2 gallons), quickly pour the bucket of water directly in the bowl which…
will trigger the siphoning action and cause it to flush on it’s own.

If you’re short on water, then I recommend you follow the same procedures as those who are connected to town/city sewer lines:

If you are on Town/City Sewer Lines

If you’re connected to a town or city sewer line then the the absolute first step is:

Make sure the sewer main is not down!

If the sewer main is down, don’t flush the toilet. Not flushing will prevent your lines from mixing with neighborhood crap and backing up into your plumbing (not just the toilets but the sink and tub too).

If you’re absolutely sure there is no issue with the sewer lines, then you can follow the same method as someone on a septic system. Just be sure you have enough water for drinking, cleaning and cooking.

Non-Water Dependant Methods of Waste Disposal

Before I get into some of the non-water dependent methods of waste removal, there are three things you need to be mindful of: flies, pests and pets. These guys would like nothing more than to chow down on your business and in some way come into contact with you or your living space.

Flies especially are notorious for landing on your food and plates while eating, and wouldn’t think twice about doing that after having just enjoyed a fecal feast at your expense. And what will soon follow is a fecal-borne pathogen’s ultimate fantasy — amounting to a health nightmare for you and your loved ones.

Given that, you want to do everything in your power to prevent them from coming into contact with your excrement by keeping it covered and clean (more details to follow).

Waste Disposal in a Rural Area

If you live in the boonies or a semi-rural area but are still connected to the grid, consider yourself lucky. For you guys, it’s just a matter of doing your business outside.

The Cat Hole

In a short-term emergency, a few cat holes is all you need. Just take a garden trowel, a small shovel, or a post digger and make a hole about 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. Do your business in the hole, wipe, throw the toilet paper (or leaves :)) in there too, and cover it up with the dirt you took out.

Although this is an easy method, here are a few rules you’ll want to abide by:

  • Place your cat-hole site is at least 200 feet from any source of water
  • Don’t dig in an area where water visibly flows (rain water run-off etc)
  • Disperse the cat holes over a wide area if possible
  • If possible, setup your cat hole in an area that gets a lot of sunlight (this will aid decomposition)
  • Again, remember water runoff. Your every thought should be on preventing feces from reaching any water source — be it underground well water, your water table, rivers, lakes, springs, and creeks.

The Trench Latrine

For a longer-term sanitation solution, you’ll want to build yourself a trench latrine.

A trench latrine is basically an oversized cat hole that is used multiple times. With the exception of dispersing it over a wide area, the same rules above apply to trench latrines as well.

The minimal recommended dimensions are around 1.5 feet (.45 m) wide x 1 foot (.3 m) deep and 2 feet (.6 m) long.

It’s also recommended that you build some type of privacy partition. An emergency situation is stressful enough. You don’t need to give anyone the added pressures of becoming a peep show. For example, a simple partition can be built with a few stakes in the ground with blankets, sheets or tarps stretched between them.

Since it is a multi-use station, you’ll also want to prevent any flies and pests from coming into contact with the exposed excrement. To do this, after each use cover your business with some wood ash, quick lime, or a few inches of the dirt that came out of the ground when making the pit.

Waste Disposal in a City

The average person produces around 2-3 pints of urine and 1 pound of poop a day. Multiply that by the number of people in your family and in a short time you can only imagine the amount of crap that would pile up in an extended grid-down situation in the city.

In most cases, city dwellers (and many suburbanites) do not have access to land where they can safely dig a trench latrine or cat holes. If you are one of these unlucky folk you’ll need to consider other options. Here are two possibilities that you could use:

Use Your Existing Toilet

Even if the sewage lines are down or if you’re short on water, it’s still possible to use your existing toilet:

First, remove as much water as you can from the bowl.
Second, tape a doubled-up trash bag to the underside of the toilet seat and let the bag fill the cavity of the bowl.
Have a pail of wood ash, quicklime, kitty litter or sawdust available so that after each duty is done, the offender can sprinkle a liberal amount over it. This will keep the stench down.
Finally, when the bag is filled up 2/3 the volume of the bowl, add a good amount of quicklime, wood ash or other disinfectant. If you do not have any of these things, you can use dirt with a little bit of a chlorine solution sprayed in it.

After the addition of the disinfectant, securely tie up the bag and place it in a temporary, sealable container (like a 5-gallon bucket or trash container). Keep it in there until you can find a good time and place to dispose of it.

Use a 5-Gallon Bucket

A 5-gallon bucket can be used in a similar way to the toilet as explained above.

Like the toilet-method above, you’ll want to line it with a double-bagged layer of trash bags (heavy duty are highly recommended). For a seat, you can either sit on the rim of the bucket directly (it’s actually not as uncomfortable as you’d think), place your existing toilet seat on it, or place a couple of 2x4s or other similar objects on the rim to fabricate a makeshift seat:

If you feel like spending a little money you can pick up a toilet seat cover made for a 5-gallon bucket.

I’ve also seen them sell bags that are made for these 5-gallon expedient toilets as well as toilet deodorants that control the smell and are made for these types of portable toilets. I don’t have any experience with these but they seem to get good reviews in Amazon (click on an image to see the product and reviews):

For those of you with a bit more money in your pockets, they sell non-electric composting toilets that are completely off-grid, require no water, and supposedly convert human waste into usable compost without odor.

If any of you have these types of toilets, I’d love to hear from your experiences. That may be something that an apartment/city dweller could use in a SHTF situation.


I hope you come out of this post realizing how important the safe disposal of human waste is and how you can properly take care of you and your families waste if times get bad.

In the next and final article in this series I’ll be covering how you can properly dispose of garbage in a grid-down scenario.


  1. Auckland’s Power Outage
  2. Sanitation in Grid Down Situations

Welcome TI's First Sponsor: The Berkey Guy!

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

As a long-time fan of the Berkey brand of water purification systems, I’m happy to welcome my first blog sponsor: The Berkey Guy!

If you haven’t yet heard of The Berkey Guy, he offers a full line of the Berkey series of water filtrations systems that I highly recommend for effectively removing contaminants from water.

The Berkey systems have been proven to remove cysts, parasites, and pathogenic bacteria as well as effectively extracting chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, VOCs, detergents, cloudiness, silt, sediment, foul tastes and odors. They can also reduce heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, aluminum and other dangerous heavy metals, along with nitrates and nitrites without removing the healthful and beneficial minerals that your body needs — all the while not requiring power to do so.

So please be sure to visit the The Berkey Guy over at Along with the full-line of Berkey Systems you can also purchase a number of survival products such as grain mills, grab-and-go kits, survival kits, books, seeds and other great products.

The Berkey Guy also has a blog and an online radio show where he goes into all things relating to Berkey Water Purification Systems and many other preparedness topics. So check them out!

Survival Sanitation: It all Begins with the Hands

Friday, August 12th, 2011

This is the first post in a three-part series on survival sanitation. In a survival situation, proper sanitation is of utmost importance if you want to avoid your family getting seriously sick.

If you add a lack of medical facilities due to grid-down issues, then staying healthy becomes even more crucial.

In this series I discuss the skills you need in order to avoid getting and spreading disease, and how to deal with waste and sewage when your town and city services are no longer working.

This may be a bit cliché, but having clean hands is really the first step in staying sanitary in a survival situation. Since the hands are the primary contact point with every-day objects as well as between humans, they are also the top spreaders of disease. Hand washing — although it’s a simple practice — is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

Diseases Spread through the Hands

The hands can spread disease caused by fecal-oral transmission (you or someone else goes to the bathroom, wipes, and doesn’t wash), indirect contact with respiratory secretions (coughing or sneezing into hands), and coming into contact with urine, saliva or other moist body substances (I won’t go there, but I’m sure you get the point).

Here is a list of the most common diseases that are easily spread by the hands:

Diseases Spread through Fecal-Oral Transmission

Ingesting even the tiniest particles of fecal material can infect you with any of the following:

  • salmonella
  • shigellosis (causes dysentry)
  • hepatitis A
  • giardia
  • enterovirus
  • amebiasis
  • campylobacteria
  • cholera

Diseases Spread through Indirect Contact with Respiratory Secretions

  • influenza (flu)
  • Streptococcus
  • respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • the common cold

Diseases Spread by Contact with Bodily Fluids (Saliva, Urine, etc)

  • cytomegalovirus
  • typhoid
  • staphylococcal organisms
  • Epstein-barr virus

Given the many types of diseases that are so easily spread through the hands it should be a given that hand washing be put at the top in terms of importance during an emergency. This cannot be overstated — if you want to prevent your family from suffering from disease, be it a mild case of diarrhea or worse, then this must become a high priority.

Creating Good Hand Habits and Avoiding the Bad Ones

Just like we preppers like to practice fire-making, off-grid cooking, cooking from our food storage and all the other skills we do during non-emergencies, it’s important that we “practice” getting in the habit of keeping our hands clean during normal times. That way, if things get bad — whether it’s 3-days or 3-years, we’ll have one less thing to think about. This also includes getting rid of habits that involve hand-to-mouth contact (other than eating of course).

Habits to Develop

  • washing hands after going to the bathroom
  • washing hands before eating
  • washing hands after coming into contact with another person’s hands
  • sneezing or coughing into the crook of your elbow instead of your hands

Habits to Avoid

  • fingernail biting
  • chewing on objects (pens, pencils etc)
  • coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • general hand to near-mouth contact (many people have the habit of putting their hands near or on their mouth when they are deep in thought).

Homemade Sanitizing and Handwashing Solution

In a recent article I talked about how to make your own chlorine bleach that can be used not only for water disinfection but for sanitation as well. To make a simple solution that can be used for hand sanitizing, you’ll want to add one cup of household bleach (or homemade bleach) to a gallon of water.

To use, after washing your hands with soap and water simply rinse your hands with the sanitizing bleach solution.

Homemade Anthrax Killer

For an even more effective disinfectant that is actually powerful enough to kill anthrax spores, you’ll want to add a cup of vinegar to the cup-to-gallon sanitizing solution above.

According to Norman Miner the president of MicroChem Lab, vinegar changes household bleach from alkaline to acidic which will make it 80 to 200 times more effective at being an antimicrobial product.

(Nancy Kerchevel – Bloomberg News) “Bleach has been used as a disinfectant for decades. People just assume it will kill everything on a countertop,” Miner said in an interview.

“It’s one of the myths.”

Bleach can’t be bottled in an acidic state because it’s unstable, Miner said in an interview. After a day, it would start losing the chlorine that gives it its bleaching power.

Researchers tested the vinegar recipe on dried bacterial spores, considered the most resistant to disinfectants used on microbes, the Euless, Texas-based company said.

After researchers swabbed surfaces with the acidic dilution, all the spores were dead in 20 minutes, Miner said. An alkaline dilution left only 2.5 percent of the areas free of microbes after the same amount of time.

Emergency Aid

“In the event of an emergency involving Bacillus anthracis spores contaminating such environmental surfaces as counter tops, desk and table tops, and floors, for example, virtually every household has a sporicidal sterilant available in the form of diluted, acidified bleach,” Miner said in a statement.The vinegar-laced bleach also killed aspergillus negri, commonly recognized by most people as the black fungi that infect the tile grout of shower stalls, Miner said.

“Diluted bleach at an alkaline pH is a relatively poor disinfectant, but acidified diluted bleach will virtually kill anything in 10 to 20 minutes,” Miner said.

Keep in mind that this solution will lose it’s effectiveness after about a day, since it will start losing the chlorine that gives it it’s bleaching power. For household use, given the short effective shelf-life of this solution, you’ll want to make it in smaller amounts that can be used on a day-to-day basis.


Survival Sanitation

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

In a grid-down situation, if your toilet stops flushing and your local waste-disposal service shuts down, do you know how to deal with the buildup of waste and sewage?

Improper (or a lack of) sanitation is one of the key contributors to hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout the world each year. Although most of these incidents occur in third-world countries, recent history (Katrina; Auckland, New Zealand etc) has shown that even in short-term grid-down situations, major sanitation issues can quickly escalate into huge health problems. Combine that with a lack of medical services and you’ve got some serious problems.

For example, if the water services shut off and people lose the ability to flush, in a matter of a few days this can quickly turn into a sanitation and health nightmare. This is especially true in the cities where people don’t have other options as far as where to relieve themselves.

I know that sanitation is not as sexy a topic as the latest firearms, fire-making, or bug-out bags, but knowing how to keep clean and properly deal with waste and sewage are some of the most important pieces of knowledge to have as a modern survivalist. You CANNOT let your family become complacent about sanitation or you will all suffer the consequences.

In this upcoming series of articles, I’ll be explaining and demonstrating how you can keep things sanitary and properly dispose of waste in a grid-down situation — whether you’re a rural, suburban or city dweller.