What is MYDS? It’s not prepping, it’s not hoarding, it’s not a disease or even a mental condition and it certainly isn’t unpatriotic or terrorism. What is it about, then? It is about being provident. Actually, MYDS stands for Make it Your Darn Self! That is my Philosophy and Motto for 2013!
Provident means to prepare for the future. Why? Why take the time, the effort, or the expense to be provident? Look around us. Look at the world we live in. Look at the economic and political climate. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to anything. Everything from the top down – From our God to the sand beneath our feet – Everything is being questioned and demonized. Right is wrong and wrong is right. The freedom that we once knew as children of playing and frolicking on the streets in our community only to worry about making it home before dark or when we were hungry has given way to the fear of our children playing in front of our homes. Progressives, Agenda 21, Socialism, Communism, Failing Schools, and having to sign up on a registry to know where sex offenders and predators live just to be able to keep our kids safe. I wonder how to keep my kids safe in these times – both physically, spiritually and educationally. My goodness, these are scary times on our doorstep. The moral decay of this country is an entire topic all on its’ own and one in which I won’t get into here.
The real question should be why not? Why not take the time to make sure you and your family has a little extra. Why not have the knowledge and resources on hand to make it through a possible job loss, a natural or manmade disaster, a terrorist attack, the collapse of our financial system. Why not have practical skills and knowledge to endure the “what-if” scenario that weighs heavily on your mind. To every question you have there are multiple solutions. And, as I have found, every solution leads to another question and yet another discovery. The most basic answer I can give is to be as provident as you can possibly be and that will ONLY come through knowledge and experience. You must find within yourself the desire to learn and to never stop asking questions. You should learn to ask how does that work, how would I do that if I could not run down to the local big box store, how can I make this if I didn’t have a box of prepackaged food. You don’t have to have a property that resembles Fred Sanford's home from Sanford and Son (a sit-com from my earlier days) or a pantry that would make your local big box store envious. Instead think of what you do and what you use every day and remember the 5 W’s from elementary school. Who, What, Why, Where, When and I’ll go ahead and add How. How is it made, why is it done that way, where can I get it from if it’s not available commercially, who can I learn from, from when and where will I start getting my knowledge and experience base?
That is the premise behind my 2013 motto “MYDS” and being provident is a never ending process that plays directly into my motto. The world is always changing and as the saying goes “without change there is no growth.” I am learning to be more provident. I read all of the prepping web sites and have spent a massive amount of time researching and more money than I care to admit on buying this book and list or that book and list to see what I can do to be more provident. As you will learn in your journey, not everything is contained on those lists. Don’t get me wrong, they are all very good resources and they were well worth the investments even if I only learn one thing new from it. Being provident (most people would say prepping), has, for the most part, been a man’s specialty area. Their department. Beans Bullets and Band-Aids type thing. And, most would agree that is it rightly so. Men are our protector’s, our muscle our anchors our braun. We love them, we cherish them and we look to them as our rock in time of need. However, I find the majority of publications on the market, web sites and blogs today are lacking on the subject of being provident from a woman’s point of view. Women, just as men, have a role in preparing the future needs of a family. After many hours of research, I am often left wondering how I am going to clean my house if I can’t go to the store or can’t afford to get what I need. How am I going to do the laundry without laundry soap if the price is too high or it’s not available? How are my children and family going to stay clean if we can’t get our hands on what we need? Let’s face it. Work isn’t picking up. People are losing jobs. Our dollar doesn’t get us as far as it used to. Taxes are going through the roof from all levels of government. The price of gas, food, household cleaners, and the cost to put our children through school are going through the roof. Honestly, it’s getting pretty darn expensive just to be able to exist these days. How are we as wives and mothers going to continue to manage our household without breaking the bank or the ability to just run down the corner market when we run out of something? How are we going to take care of our families in tight or hard times?
That is the key to my article and the story behind my new motto/philosophy and I want to share with you some tidbits of knowledge from a wife and mothers perspective on being a provident housekeeper.
For starters, you have to learn how to make your own household products. It’s simple, it’s easy, it will save you money and is something you can start doing right away with little to no investment. Money that you could use to start stocking up on food supplies or paying down debt. A bottle of laundry soap is expensive, but what if I told you that you could make 10 gallons for less than what you pay for one bottle of commercial laundry soap? Even cheaper than the generic brands! I am here to tell you that it is possible. You don’t need special or expensive equipment. All you need is the desire to obtain knowledge and skills that will see your family through. Save the space in your supply area for more meaningful supplies such as seeds for growing a garden or food preservation supplies, food, first aid and all of those other items you read about. With ingredients that you have, or can get really inexpensively, you can clean every aspect of your home. Adding a few more ingredients to your arsenal will allow you to make personal hygiene items such as deodorant, hair cleaners and conditioners, and bath soap.
For example, Borax, Washing Soda (not baking soda), and Castile Soap in bar form will make laundry soap. From 1 bar of grated soap, 1 cup of washing soda and a ¼ cup of borax, and water, you can make 10 gallons of laundry soap using just a pot for melting the soap on your stovetop. You will also need two five gallon buckets. To show you real numbers, let’s break down the cost. In my area, a bar of Fels-Naptha castile soap costs $.97, A 76 oz. box of Borax is $3.38 and a 55 oz. box of Washing Soda is $3.24. Keep in mind that you are only using a few ounces of each box, not the entire box to make your liquid laundry soap. For a mere, $1.62 you can make ten gallons of laundry soap. WOW! That is a Savings you can’t argue with. To eliminate those expensive dryer sheets try adding ¼ cup (or less) of vinegar to your rinse cycle and in place of dryer sheets use a ball of aluminum foil. Yes, this does really work. The laundry soap is safe to use for the smallest of family members. Don’t fret; you will be able to use the borax and washing soda in making many other cleaning products for around your home.
Let’s expand on those items to include the following items: Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Baking Soda, Liquid Castile Soap, Essential Oils (not fragrance oils), Ammonia, Bleach, Cornstarch, Olive Oil (or other neutral oils) and you will have the perfect combination to make everything you need to make a smooth running household without almost never having to rely on commercial products again. That’s right - YOU will be able to clean your floors, windows, toilets, walls and so much more. YOU will be able to make deodorant, hair care products and bathing products. No more spending countless hours’ couponing to get those ridiculously great deals. I coupon too and love the thrill of getting those free to cheap deals. With my new knowledge to make my own products, my perspective and scope of couponing has changed to buying things that I cannot make myself – razors, toothbrushes, dental floss and of course beans (unfortunately there are no coupons for bullets) and Band-Aids! Do some research and you’ll be delighted at the amount of information available to make your homemade household products. A word to the wise, there are items above that should NEVER be mixed together. Ammonia and bleach is just one example – The mixture is toxic and potentially deadly. Please air on the side of caution. Read labels, research what can be mixed and what cannot! Do not put yourself in harm’s way over saving money. You and your families’ safety should always come first!
Second on the list is to learn how to manage your kitchen. By taking the time to do some research on these topics - making your own mixes and how to make meals in a jar – you will be pleased at how simple and fun it is to learn about the multitude of options for short and long term food storage. The concept surrounding making your own mix is to make a master mix and from there you can make almost anything. Pancakes, cake mixes, breads and so on. Additionally, there are recipes to making your own “cream of soup” as well as gravies, drink mixes and spices, to name a few. I found a lady on the internet that takes separate complete meals and puts them in quart sized mason jars for a total of 52 meals in a jar, or more if you desire. It’s a provident housekeeper’s version of fast food. Take this idea and expand with your own recipes or scour the internet for more meals in jar recipes. While hers are made from freeze dried (and dehydrated) food, there is a plethora of web sites and forums dedicated to canning meals in a jar. My advice here is to start off small. Try a loaf of bread or try starting off with sampling each recipe. What tastes good to one person may not to another. The absolute last thing is to get into a situation where you have stocked up on x,y, & z and not like it when you could practice, practice and practice some more to find the ones you really are going to like and use! Get crafty and try adding your own twists to the recipes. The possibilities are limitless.
Another aspect of kitchen management you should consider is the use of paper towels and cleaning utensils (sponges, miracle erasers, etc..). What are you going to do when you run out of paper towels or that sponge is on its’ last cleaning leg and has to go to the trash? Invest in cloth ones! Rags, kitchen towels and wash cloths. I know, I know, you like your cleaning wipes. I do too! Except, I make my own cleaning solution with the products listed above, soak my rags in the all-purpose cleaning solution, store them in a container with a lid and voila – I have my own homemade cleaning wipes! They are dirt cheap and ready when I need them. When I’m done, I just pop them in the washer, dry and reuse (of course, the paper towel version goes into the trash!). This year I am going to grow what is called a loufa gourd. From my research, you use it the same way you do any other loufa. The plan is to initially use it for bathing purposes and when it is outlived its’ purpose for bathing it will be relegating to cleaning tasks. When it’s done with cleaning, it goes into a compost pile after being thoroughly cleaned.
What about feminine needs? Are you going to stock shelves upon shelves of these products? This is another item that is growing to be very expensive, and, if I dare, a luxury item. I believe it is time to discuss alternate means to commercial pads and tampons. One solution is to make your own feminine pads and another solution I found is called a Diva Cup. It is an alternate solution to tampons. They are washable and reusable. A concept that our use and throwaway society would probably not take to instantly even though the rest of the world has been using for some time now. To have them as a back-up in your arsenal is what I consider to be an invaluable asset! There are plenty of tutorials and patterns on the internet on how to make your own feminine pads. It’s almost the same concept as cloth diapering for babies.
While on the topic of feminine needs, let’s address a rarely discussed topic and probably one of the most embarrassing and hardest to plan for and that is “The Bathroom.” What are you going to do in a situation where there may not be power or access to toilet paper? This has plagued me for quite some time. There are composting toilets, outhouses and ones that incinerate your waste. Another solution I’ve discovered is a bidet. They are used in other countries. In a grid down situation or an off grid situation, I don’t see why you would not be able to use them. Especially if you are on well and septic. You can find portable ones and ones you can attach directly to your existing toilet for about $150. These are supposed to attach to any two-piece toilet system without any special plumbing other than attaching to your water valve. That would eliminate the need to stock up on toilet paper. Of course, as my husband pointed out, it may not clean everything and you’ll be left wet. The solution here is to make washable toileting cloths. Scour the internet for free tutorials and patterns. Again, think about cloth diapering of babies. It is the same concept, just used on adults instead of babies.
You should also consider showering and not only taking a shower in general, but taking a warm shower. How are you going to get warm water? There are many people who would disagree with me and consider this a luxury and not a priority. In my household, I don’t agree with them! I always tell my husband that no matter what, he has to make sure we have some way of us getting a warm shower. It is one of the best feelings at the end of a long day of hard work. Just to be clean makes you feel normal, it improves moral and helps you get a good night’s rest, too. Try researching solar heaters and solar showers and other forms of heating water without relying on electricity. You’ll be amazed at the options available as well as the interesting DIY videos.
Gardening and food are two very key provident factors. My research has led me to a few animals of choice. In considering my animals, I wanted those which serve many purposes. Chickens – I can get meat, eggs and manure for my compost piles. Goats – I can get milk and milk products like cheese, goats’ meat, and goats’ milk soap. Rabbits – Meat, fur and manure for my compost bins. And, a donkey for my heartstrings (yes, I’m absolutely in love with donkeys, especially miniatures). On the practical side, they are great for protecting your livestock and you can train them to pull a cart for carrying farm and other supplies. Children will love taking rides in the buggy too.
Aquaponics is a relatively new concept as it takes aquaculture (fish farming) and mingles it with hydroponics (growing plants in soilless media). This is a fascinating concept as you are able to grow fish which are a great source of protein as well as grow fruits and vegetables from the byproduct of the fish and increase your food diversity. [JWR Adds: Because modern aquaponics require circulating pumps, I recommend them only for families who have large, long-term alternative power systems--typically either a PV power system with at least 20 panels or a micro-hydro power system that runs year-round.]
Some gardening techniques you may want to consider are square foot gardening, container gardening, growing dwarf varieties of fruit trees as well as the Back to Eden gardening concept. Search your local free classified ads. Many people do not want to harvest their fruit and nut trees and will typically offer the bounty for free or really cheap if you come and pick it from the tree. There are always ads of people selling off “extra” for less than what you can get at the market and grocery store. If you do not have the ability or space to garden at your present location, why not take an add out to see if there is a local farm or land owner that will lease you a small amount of space to start growing your own food? Even if you do not have a lot of money, try bartering some of your harvest or offer your time around their farm in exchange. Farmers always need help and you’re more likely to walk away with a ton of useful knowledge. You are in a win-win situation!
My final piece of advice is to research essential oils and growing your own herbs. As a mom, I worry about the access to medical care – good quality medical care. I have been doing some in depth research in to natural healing with herbs. Way back when my dad had to walk 5 miles to school barefooted in the snow uphill both ways, families like his mostly relied on herbs and plants to maintain their health and to help heal them. Mother Nature has a pharmacy all her own and many of her miracles contained within are no longer practiced and almost all but lost. Very few herbs have side effects and actually the most common complaint comes from the user not using enough to make them effective. Let’s take lavender for example. Lavender can be used for its antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties as well as for its’ calming effect and it is successful in repelling fleas! From this one herb you get all of that for cleaning, medicinal healing and for your pets too! I love multifunction solutions such as this one! See the trend here? I took it from corporate America. It’s the ol’ Do More With Less philosophy!
In closing, I hope that you will take the time to analyze what you do and use every day and then start learning about how to replicate those practices in a less than ideal situation. As the founder of The Provident Housekeeper, it is my goal to research, develop and teach seminars that intertwine the ways of the past with the ways of today. With just a little knowledge and a desire to DO, you can achieve anything. Educate, Inspire, Lead and always, be Provident!
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
What is MYDS? It’s not prepping, it’s not hoarding, it’s not a disease or even a mental condition and it certainly isn’t unpatriotic or terrorism. What is it about, then? It is about being provident. Actually, MYDS stands for Make it Your Darn Self! That is my Philosophy and Motto for 2013!
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Imagine a market place in your back yard for fresh homegrown fish, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Best part of this is that you grew it and know what’s in it. No pesticides or unwanted hormones and additives. Plus the market is open 24/7.
My Hawaii Experience
Living on an island and having everything shipped into it makes for the worst case disaster when mother nature or human nature turns bad. From total communications failure to coastal ports devastation, Hawaii would suffer the worst of all the states in the shortest amount of time. A large population on island Oahu would mean all meaningful supplies would be consumed in two weeks. If nothing else the multi-cultural mix of the islands make-up may prolong the inhumanity a month. After no resupply of goods and fuel, then the insanity begins. But when it comes down to family needs, your best friend may become your competitor for what you may have.
Water is not far away, but clean water can still be a problem. I have water filters for the times when questionable sources are the only available supply. Drought in Hawaii, you betcha. Clean water source can at time be hard to find. Water storage is a must, but to be prepared to find renewable resources will be very challenging. Would be great to have a miniature desalinization plant in a box for these times. The only alternatives will be the tried and proven, moisture capture, filters and sterilization tablets.
Climate is predictable. Constant 80 degrees, plus or minus 10 degrees throughout the year and depending on your island location.
Aquaponics, Barrelponics, etc. by any other name is an easy low cost way to supplement your survival box of tools.
Simply put, fish excrements gets pumped out to the grow beds to fertilize the plants. The plants convert the waste to nutrients and the water is returned to the fish tank cleaned of the toxins.
The Aquaponics ebb and flow or constant flow systems (NFT) provide more nutrients and water to the plants than if the plants were in the ground. But then again, you have to have a “usable” water supply. Rain barrel collection probably the only alternative.
Ground pest are minimized.
Normal maintenance if you had an aquarium and an in-ground garden. Feed the fish and watch for abnormal conditions to the fish and the water (pH, ammonia,etc.). Keep the grow beds clean (no weeds in this system), remove algae build-up, pest removal and elimination with non-lethal methods (vinegar/water solution) minimally sprayed under leaves.
My Systems 1:
1 – 110 gallon tank for fish ( 20 Tilapias – Blue and Red)
4 – Grow beds 2’x3’x8” on plastic tables and PVC piping
1 – 150 gal/hr water pump
1 – Fluval 60 air pump single with 4 way gang-valve
My System 2: (under construction – 70% complete)
2 – 55 gallon barrels for fish, on concrete molded stands
4 – halved barrels for grow beds, wood stand and PVC piping
1 – Stellar 60 dual outlet
I covered the fish tank to reduce sunlight to energize algae growth.
Know your fish and plantings, expand your knowledge on fish and plant life cycles, nutrients and pest.
Disadvantages are growth time and clean water availability. Also when it gets time to cull the fish, don’t names them. You can get so familiar with the fishes that killing them to eat can be hard to do. Reproduction is the real issue, do you have the know-how to create generations.
But great a hobby turn necessity, and a good stress release when tending the fish and garden. Makes you appreciate all the farmers out there making a living.
I have planted tomatoes (roma and beef), egg plant, green onions, basil, taro, Stevia (Sweet Herb), zucchini, lettuce, bok-choy, and oregano.
Fish food – Silver Cup pellets, green leaves from the garden, duckweed
So start now, grow in stages for continuous supply.
Organize a group to share knowledge and food. Like minds breed success.
Knowledge can go a very long way. So boot up your computer and start your searching through all the great web sites that offer information on everything Survival.
Books are great, but I prefer scanning all the things of interest specific to what I need to know and cut out as much wording as possible. Start now and don’t stop looking up things of interest on a continuing basis. Print all interesting pages for later referral. Once the Internet is gone and the grid goes down, it’s too late. Your specific library of knowledge will serve you right until the world gets back to order.
Other must additions to your survival box of tools:
Heating sources are definitely a must. Strike and chemical fires starters, like matches and lighter have a finite life, so I like lenses and a hand or bow drill.
Parabolic metal pots and mirrors. This is a great idea, buy mosaic mirror tiles (or if you are not superstitious, break a mirror) and glue the pieces to a Wok pot. You can focus the suns rays to heat pots of anything.
Add live protein sources to your backyard of ducks, chickens and rabbits. Work on this one. You got to deal with the neighbors, predators and city ordinates for this one to work.
Add Rain barrels to your water supply (don’t forget filters and screens). Run-off from the roof sounds good, beware contamination hazards from bird poop and just stuff landing on it.
Jack of All Trades should be you mantra from now on. Be a general knowledge sponge on all things. If you know of or come upon someone that is a specialist, stop to watch what they do. You never will know when a situation will arise and you’ll recall how you can apply what you saw.
Alcohol is a great item to have for sterilizing, medicating and trading. Stock up and don’t drink it.
Buy a generator to meet your needs and store gas in containers (rotate them).
I have a motorcycle. You may want to have a small one, 175cc. Getting around quickly and in all terrains will save time and help carrying items long distances. Unless you can get animal of burden. But as the gas supplies dwindles, there may be items from the bike that you can use.
Stock up on canned goods and rotate there use. Remember when the electrical grid goes out and then your generator, you’ll have to eat everything in the freezer and refrigerator first. Cook as much as you can to prolong the ability to eat them.
Get a good book on natural ways to deal with medical emergencies. Local plants and common man-made products can substitute for the usual meds. Unfortunately, if you have a need for prescription drugs, then stock up knowing there is a shelf-life. I’m sorry if you are dependent on them for you life.
Solar panels that you own or others may have on their roofs, can benefit your needs for renewable energy. Read and learn how to utilize this option.
Abandoned cars and trucks have unlimited uses. From gas, batteries, glass, bendable metals and tires. Be inventive and anything can be used.
Add a Worm bin to compost all you vegetable waste. The worm liquid and casing are great fertilizers. I guess if it gets really lean, you could eat them, but the fish would appreciate them more.
Get a weapon. It’ll serve you well. Home and personal defense and hunting. Gun(s), knives bow and arrows. Gun – at least a handgun (I like a revolver), shotgun and rifle. I prefer reloading and some bought ammo. But any tool or household implement has a dual purpose.
Get to know your neighborhood. Walk around during the day and the night. Get to know where the watch dogs live, which homes have fences and security. Look for fruit trees. Wave to all the people you meet, a familiar face is more excepting than a stranger when you need help or advise. Become a scavenger and walk around your neighborhood. Look for sites that you might use to replenish usable resources (water, food, energy). It may be sad and depressing to watch your neighbors and friends died, but the opportunity for you to live on on their leftovers can not be overly emphasized. Realize that your compassion will have a limit. Discuss this with you love ones.
Get a loyal friend, guard and a weapon, get and dog. Worth its weight in food and your servicing. When you can stock up extra bags of kibble, do it and rotate them as you use them. Secure you home. Realize that this is your castle, work towards making it so.
My wife and friends thinks I’m nuts. But better safe than sorry. If the worst happens, I’m ready. If it doesn’t happen, then we have a great supplement to the grocery list.
Bottom line, be creative and use your common sense, sounds a lot like Survival 101.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
This submission is about gardening (tips on what to grow and why) and how and why I am switching from outdoor to indoor gardening. I have been gardening since age 3 - much to the chagrin of my parents who, once they realized what was going on, quickly gave me my own 10 square feet with some lettuce and radish seeds and told me to tend to that in the future. I did get to take care of their garden as I grew older though. I also have had gardens on various soil types as my family moved about and so in many respects I am better prepped to grow (part of) my own food than most.
For many generations my ancestors, who lived in Europe, had small businesses and/or farms. In those days the grocery stores didn't sell vegetables but just what we would call 'dry goods' today. People didn't have much money so whatever they could grow themselves, they did in their own garden. They also didn't have much in the way of weather forecasts beyond the type of clouds they happened to see and whether air pressure was rising or falling. To be successful in those days you needed to have a very different skill set than what most of us possess today. With respect to gardening it really came down to this: grow a wide variety of vegetable crops.
This tactic solved a number of problems:
- regardless of the weather there would always be a few crops that did well, so there was always something to eat.
- disease and pest control were iffy or non-existent, but again the chance that all crops failed due to them was small so there was always something
- a lot of vegetables are high in specific minerals and/or vitamins.
Eating a variety of them was the best way to avoid deficiencies and stay healthy. I am sure that most of my ancestors had no clue about the science behind what they were doing but they just knew what worked. I consider myself lucky that a good chunk of this knowledge was passed on to me and apparently it still works: I haven't been to a doctor in more than 30 years except for a painful episode with a kidney stone. And, no, I have
not taken additional vitamins or other supplements during those years.
So here is what kept us going for at least 4 generations:
- bread (white - though it wouldn't be as refined or bleached as today's flour).
- potatoes (peeled, washed, boiled, mashed)
- before potatoes where introduced in Europe their role would have been filled by dry beans, peas, lentils, etc.
- sometimes a meal would be based on rice but this was seen as a luxury
Vegetables (summer season):
- lettuce (can't beat a cool salad on a hot day)
- spinach (early crop high in iron and vitamins - usually cooked but can be used as salad)
- purslane (high in omega3 fatty acids and vitamin E - usually cooked but can be used as salad)
- swiss chard (used mid summer when spinach tends to bolt - always cooked)
- endive (either cooked or as salad)
- radish (said to 'cleanse your system' - used in salads or sliced on bread)
- rhubarb (maintenance free perennial - cook stems and sweeten to use as vegetable or in jams) [use in moderation because rhubarb is high in oxalic acid, which is nasty stuff if you get too much of it]
- strawberries (used fresh or in jams)
- tomatoes (high in vitamin C - used fresh in salads or on bread; canned as base for soup, meat tenderizer)
- cucumbers (high in vitamin A,C, phosphorous, magnesium and other minerals)
Vegetables (rest of the year):
Most of these would be stored throughout at least part of the winter season and therefore be used as cooked vegetables, in stews, etc. They tend to be more filling then summer vegetables and would rarely be used raw in salads.
- cabbage species (good source of Vitamin C, amino acids)
white cabbage (is really just meant for sauerkraut production folks)
red cabbage (served with enough vinegar to change its color)
savoy cabbage (tastes much better than white cabbage)
- kale (high in vitamin C and various minerals)
- brussels sprouts (high in vitamins A,C and folic acid)
- rutabagas (high in calcium)
- broccoli (high in vitamins A,B,C and phosphorus and potassium)
- peas (moderate amounts of vitamins A,C, calcium, iron, phosphorus - used as vegetable or as soup)
- green beans (high in vitamin A,C, dietary fiber - used fresh or canned)
- carrots (excellent source of vitamin A and beta-carotene)
- red beets (good source of carbohydrates)
This is a very complete list and not all crops were grown each year or by each family but finding 10-15 crops in a garden in the course of the year was the rule rather than the exception. Most of these crops grow best in temperate climates, so if you live in a warm or hot climate: forget about summer and grow them in the winter.
To round out the picture: the farmers usually had some apple and pear trees and sometimes plum trees in their yard. Then there were red and black currants, raspberry, blackberry and alderberry bushes. Most had at least a few chickens to turn food scraps into eggs and were fattening 1 or 2 pigs per year for personal use. Not much beef was consumed because dairy cows were supposed to be milked (some of that milk was for personal use). And a 10 year old cow can give you some really tough meat. If goats and/or sheep were kept their milk was used for cheese making. Fish might be consumed once a week because it had to be purchased even though it was readily available. Some crops (potatoes, onions, peas, beans) would mostly be grown in the fields for marketing purposes, but part of the crop was kept for personal use.
I won't bother to tell you about canning; many articles have been written about it already. Actually my preferred way to preserve vegetables is to freeze them because, if you do it right, frozen is hard to distinguish from freshly harvested. And, barring power outages, nothing spoils. With the exception of lettuce, radish and cucumber, all vegetables mentioned above can be frozen. Kale, leek, peas and beans can be frozen raw if needed, all others should be cooked first. Onions and rutabagas are usually stored dry, but if there are quality concerns or your onions won't dry properly, there is no harm in processing/freezing them. Cabbages, brussels sprouts and cauliflower can be stored from 2 to 6 weeks depending on temperature and quality of the crop. If their outer leaves turn yellow you should process or eat them. Carrots and beets can be kept several months in a cool somewhat moist area. In cold (not frozen), damp soil they will keep till spring without much deterioration. Cabbages, brussels sprouts and kale can be kept in the garden as long as temperatures don't drop much below freezing. To keep them from growing too large in the fall, you can lift them. This means you pull them straight up until you hear some roots break but leave the plant in the ground. This will keep your plants fresh but prevents additional growth. Leek will survive a light frost as well but its leaves become less appetizing once the plant stops growing.
There's plenty of recipes on the internet so I am sure you can find something you like. However preparing your food correctly is very important because if you do it the wrong way you will loose all your nutrients to the drain or the kitchen sink. Here are the important steps: - Cook your veggies with salt: about 1 teaspoon (meal) to 1 tablespoon (large batches for freezing) depending on the size of your pots and pans. The reason is that you want to prevent the cells from bursting open during the cooking process (think salt water fish in fresh water). Don't worry about your salt intake because most of that salt will disappear down the drain again. I you get it right, it won't even alter the taste of the food.
- Do not overcook your veggies. If you can stick a fork into the stems (beets, carrots, etc.) without much effort then they are done. Again you do not want the plant's cells to spill their guts any more than you have to.
- When freezing your vegetables, you really only want to blanch them:
- Cook them a few minutes less then you would otherwise.
- Immediately pour the boiling water out of your pan and fill to the rim with cold water
- Immediately pour the hot water out of your pan and fill to the rim with cold water
- This water should stay cold or only get luke warm: pour it out
- Put the food in plastic bags or boxes and put it in the freezer
- When serving frozen foods you only need to heat them to the proper serving temperature; no need to cook them again. A microwave works great for this purpose.
I have read advice on gardening ranging from: 'here's a list, just get
those seeds' to 'just eat what you like'. I agree with neither. Getting
seeds if you don't know how to grow them or refuse to eat them afterwards
is a waste of your efforts. Just eating what you like increases the
chances you will develop some kind of deficiency (unless you happen to
like broccoli, kale and cabbage - or follow Victory garden which uses a
very well rounded subset of the list above).
My advice is: variety, variety, variety. Your body knows exactly what it needs and, given the opportunity, will pick those things in the right quantities from the food you give it. It doesn't get much easier than that! Your body is also capable of storing most minerals and vitamins in one form or another (sometimes as precursor molecules) for up to a few months. So there's no need to worry about what you eat on any given day. Tastes are acquired. I heard from my parents that kids in the old days didn't want to eat certain foods anymore than kids do today. However they weren't given much of a choice. Their own parents knew from experience that without the (vitamins and minerals from) vegetables, sickness and mortality skyrocketed. In Europe this situation persisted until around 1950. If you are serious about prepping you should know by now that we can get back to such a situation in a hurry.
Part 2: Why I am switching to an indoor setup:
Last year I read a primer on aquaponics on Survivalblog.com and deep inside there was the conviction that I too had to pursue this angle. Having had the time to reflect on that conviction I believe it has something to do what is coming our way. As of today I can think of two primary reasons:
- Fukushima-type reactor melt-downs
- Climate change
I am sure most of you know what Fukushima stands for. After matching atmospheric particle dispersion maps generated in Europe to systematic denials of North-American governments, I had quickly seen enough and got hold of a geiger counter. Even this summer, if we get rain after a dry spell the unit shows elevated readings when put it up against my rain gauge. The levels are not worrisome at this point in time in so far as many people on this planet live in areas with higher radiation without suffering noticeable negative effects. Having said that, the pattern is repeatable so there must be something raining down on my food. I am afraid that Fukushima will turn out to be just a warning of future nuclear disasters. Given that in many aspects it was a fairly standard type plant (albeit in an unfortunate spot), we need to seriously consider the possibility that we will see a dozen or more Fukushimas in the northern hemisphere due to grid down and/or extensive coastal flooding scenarios. Unfortunately both of these have a probability of happening this decade that is too high for my taste. So its time to prepare for that eventuality. My personal attitude on this one is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
When I mention climate change, I am not referring to the mainstream media (MSM) angle which blames everything on man-made carbon dioxide emissions and so it wants to tax them. Which is very convenient for MSM's owners who seem to be trying hard to get global weather patterns under control. Trying to control a complex system is a tough job because it doesn't necessarily react the way you expect. It is also an expensive proposition, so if you can use your mishaps to get taxpayers to fund your research, that's an added bonus. [One's got to admire that business model.] Now I know that this sounds a lot like some conspiracy theory. I have no interest in promoting those, however the weight of historical evidence (check the adventures of the vikings in Canada, for example) suggests that MSM is blowing another smoke screen. Which leads me to follow the money instead.
An even bigger influence on earth's climate is our solar system. On the one hand sunspot data suggests we should expect a cooling trend for the next 20 years. On the other hand satellite images from other planets suggest they are actually warming up. There is rampant speculation in some circles on the internet as to what would cause this but I haven't seen anything conclusive that's worth mentioning. Whatever may happen, physical evidence and the written records of our ancestors suggest that drastic climate change can come very quick. Think frozen mammoth with palm leaves between his teeth. I do not believe that I will join that mammoth otherwise I wouldn't need to prep. All I am saying is that to blindly assume all things will continue to be the way they always have been during my (relatively) short life is dangerous at best.
While working on this article, SurvivalBlog.com had a link to an article by Kellene Bishop that asserts we may be entering a seven year famine. It points out several more reasons why you may want to get your garden out of sight and an aquaponic garden would fill that bill rather nicely; it can also be used by people who have no access to a land area.
Of course, it doesn't help is that my outdoor vegetable garden isn't doing all that great this year. The weather events we have had since the start of the growing season aren't too extreme in and of themselves. Its just that the continued sequence of alternating high rainfall, high heat, baking sunshine and high winds is starting to stress the plants. They look like the big rains we have had are stunting their root systems and so the plants are unable to properly cope with the other events.
Alas, if our climate is really shifting gears, this situation will be the norm for coming years. And so its prudent for me to shift gears as well and I have started by building a small test setup this year with just 4 grow beds to try a bit of everything and whatever it yields is fine with me. Because it is a setup so very different from traditional soil based gardening, I have done some comparative tests on germination, fertilizing and growth medium particle size. So far I am quite pleased with the results and plan to go with 16 grow beds next summer. That should allow me to grow everything except my corn under a roof. I will relate some of my observations later but will first discuss my setup.
My choice of setup:
There are a variety of ponics systems and about the only thing they have in common is that they don't use soil. The so-called hydroponics system only uses water and no growth medium. It is mostly used in commercial operations. I wouldn't recommend it as a home based system because you will have to content with algae and fungal problems. Apparently algae will quite happily interfere with a plant's root system and need to be controlled at all cost. It also has a higher startup cost than other types of ponics systems due to required electronic control systems.
A complete aquaponics system is the most elegant because the plants live from the waste that the fish create, while in due time you can harvest both fish and vegetables. You can even grow your own fish food in the form of duckweed, making for an almost closed system that just needs sunlight and some minerals. I do not have a real aquaponics setup because the fish are missing. The reasons I chose not to use fish are of a practical nature. My growing season is too short (200 days at best) and temperatures vary too much day to day for the fish to really thrive. I have had a few aquariums over the years which worked fine but those were electronically controlled environments which I cannot hope to replicate with a solar powered aquaponics system at my current location.
In an aquaponics system you do need a growth medium to act as a biological filter that turns the fish waste into nitrates for the plants. I chose to keep the growth medium because it is a more natural environment for plant roots since they can grow in the dark, meaning no algae problems around the plant roots. It also means that I can run the system on manure tea if other forms of fertilizer are not available since the growth medium will act as a biological filter as well. Thirdly, nature abhors a vacuum and if you do not put your plants in an environment with lots of good microbes, the bad ones WILL move in. Again a growth medium is ideal to get the proper environment.
How I created a grow bed:
I started by cutting a plastic 55 gallon drum in half lengthwise to give me two grow beds. Clean them out really good and leave them outside in the sun for a few days so UV radiation can break down any leftover chemicals. If at all possible use drums that were used for food ingredients or chemicals that are approved for use in food factories. The grow beds lay side by side on a pair of 2x6's, supported by a small piece of 2x4 on each side so they don't slide around. You can find good pictures of how to build the supports in this document, which is where I got my first ideas. You will also see that my setup uses far fewer parts than the one in the document though. In the lowest part of each grow bed's bottom I cut a 1" hole using a hole saw. From the outside I put 1 leg of a 1" poly tee through the hole. This leg has a male pipe thread on it. Inside the grow bed I screwed a 1" female adapter onto this MPT leg. Make sure to put a liberal amount of silicone caulking around the MPT leg so your grow bed won't leak. You may want to test this before you put the growth medium in your beds.
Then I put a 8" piece of 1" poly pipe on the female adapter. This allows the end of the pipe to reach above the growth medium in the bed. Which means that you can always reach the bed's drain hole in case it gets plugged (one of my cucumbers decided to put a root through it ...). On the side of the hose/female adapter, about 2" above the bottom of the grow bed, I drilled a 1/4" drain hole. This hole determines the speed at which the water drains out of your grow bed. Putting it a few inches off the bottom leaves the plants a small emergency water supply should there be a pump problem. Over top of this drain assembly I put a piece of perforated plastic drain pipe to keep the growth medium from blocking the drain hole. This drain pipe is 4" diameter and can be cut lengthwise so it lays flat on the bottom of the grow bed. A length of 1 feet will do just fine. The drainpipe is shown in figure 25 in the above mentioned pdf document.
On top and around the drain pipe I put small rocks to act as fillers so I don't need as much growth medium. In a true aquaponics system you will want as much growth medium as possible because you need a large biofilter to buffer against quick changes in water quality. However plants can handle a wider variety of circumstances so I can get by with a lot less growth medium. My beds are filled with about 6" of medium at the center of the bed and spread out horizontally. This will fill the drum halves until the point where their walls are vertical. That gives me maximum growth space for minimum growth medium.
Aquaponics people mostly seem to use expanded clay or pea sized gravel. I read about one setup in South America that used white sand. I couldn't find expanded clay at my local garden center but did try pea sized gravel along with much finer gravel that I got from a brook on our property. Based on my test results I have to say that the plants definitely prefer the finer gravel from the brook. Germination is better and initial growth is faster; as the plants mature the differences tend to get smaller. Presumably because finer material has a much larger surface area per cubic inch, creating a more even moisture/air environment for plant roots. As a result I am going to fill my beds with gravel from our brook. Since its consistency is close to that of coarse sand, you could use that instead of pea size gravel. If you decide to use sand you may need to put a layer of pea sized gravel over the drainpipe to prevent the sand from dropping into it. Do not be tempted to go cheap and use garden soil. It contains way too much silt and possibly clay. Both particles are microscopic in size and under an ebb and flow situation they will collect in low flow rate areas and form a layer that won't be appreciated by you or your plants.
How to create a system:
Creating a functioning system from the grow beds you made (doesn't matter how many) is fairly straight forward. Remember that every bed is outfitted with a tee. I use the two legs that are open on the outside of the bed to connect the beds together with 1" poly pipe (potable water rating), no hose clamps needed. One piece of poly pipe has a tee in it which is located above an opening in the collection tank. And that is the entire system for collecting the water that I pump into the beds and returning it to the collection tank.
The collection tank itself is simply a 55 gallon drum laying on its side (you want to keep the distance the pump has to lift the water as short as possible) with a few access holes for hoses and to add manure tea/fertilizer, made at its highest point. My collection tank is white which means I have some algae growth in it that I need to clean every once in a while. If you can: get a black drum or paint it black or put it in a hole in the ground to avoid sunlight from entering the tank. This greatly reduces algae growth in the tank.
To pump water into the grow beds I use a 1,000 GPH bilge pump (located at the bottom of the collection tank) with a 1" outlet that is connected to a poly pipe (with hose clamps) that runs to the top of the grow beds. [Because the return lines are gravity fed the bottom of the grow beds are located above the top of the collection tank.] At the top of the beds the poly pipe connects to a 1" PVC pipe. This PVC pipe runs across all 4 beds. In the middle of each bed there is a tee in the PVC pipe and connected to that tee is a PVC ball valve with a 1/2" opening. I found that I have to be able to adjust the amount of water going into each bed individually because of the variety of crops (and the different growth stages they are in) in the system at a given point in time. I have outfitted each valve with a splash guard (made from a 1 quart plastic bag) because plants do not like to be wet 24/7.
The waterpump operates on 12V so I can run it directly off a 12V battery that is charged by a solar panel. Operation has turned out to be very simple. I start a cycle by running the pump for 20 seconds. Then it is off for 30 minutes; this drains the grow beds to the point where water is just dripping into the collection tank. At that point you should start the next cycle. The actual length of the cycle will vary with the way you construct your grow beds. I have seen reports from people with larger beds that had a 2 hour cycle. You may be able to find an electronic timer that allows you to fine tune your cycle.
What I have described so far is your basic system. You can now let your imagination run wild to improve on it. For instance I built my own timer using a microcontroller that controls the bilge pump through an automotive type 40A relay. But the microcontroller had unused pins. That is an eyesore for any DIYer. So the system has been expanded with a voltage sensor, temperature sensors and float switches. This allows the microcontroller to actively manage water temperature via a second water pump and an external heat exchanger. It can monitor battery charge levels and stretch the flooding cycle if voltage drops too much. That will slow down the plants but at least it keeps them alive. It also monitors water levels and pump action to prevent pump damage. If it finds an issue that needs my attention it will signal this by turning on a red LED instead of a green one.
As I mentioned way back when, one of my goals is to grow my veggies under a roof. I haven't build the housing yet but its on the drawing board and I have pretty much settled on the design. It will be a cross between a cold frame and a greenhouse. 2 units of 8' x 8' x 4' each. An 8' x 8' footprint holds 8 grow beds with a walkway in between. Each 4' high side panel will have a 2' translucent clear pvc panel at the top and white siding below. A unit's roof will be made of 2 4'x8' translucent clear pvc panels that can be easily removed. Putting the grow beds on the floor will leave the plants with about 3' of headroom which is enough for 2 tiers. For instance tomatoes, cucumbers and pole beans can be easily made to grow to a second story made from a horizontal sheet of lattice with lettuce, spinach, etc growing below. Similarly peas love to climb a wall of chicken wire. If I start the system early I should be able to get 2 crops or multiple harvests out of most beds, improving production considerably.
First impressions on germination:
This is what really blew me away. You basically throw your seeds on the rocks, barely cover them and walk away ... just to see the plants pop up in record time. Due to our short frost free season there are a number of crops that need to be started indoors. This year I divided those seeds in two portions and put half of them in trays with potting soil (mini greenhouses) to start them in the living room as I have done for many years. At the same time the other seeds were put in an aquaponic grow bed whose temperature ranged from high 40s in the morning to about 55 degrees at the end of the day. All crops emerged 1 to 2 days quicker in the grow bed than in the mini greenhouses and then simply kept outgrowing them.
Two striking examples:
- I planted 18 red cabbage seeds, 9 in each medium. In the aquaponics grow bed all 9 emerged and grew into healthy plants; in the mini greenhouse 1 cabbage plant emerged which died after 2 days.
- I had done a germination test of my tomato seeds in the living room to see how viable they were. I just kept them there until I saw a root come out of the seeds. No longer needing them I threw them on one of the aquaponics beds without bothering to cover them. Two days later I found a bunch of 1" high healthy tomato plants some of which are now setting fruit.
I started the system out with using just manure tea. Apparently you can make tea from pretty much any type of manure as well as from compost. Your mileage will vary because each type of tea will have different amounts of NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) in it, chicken manure being the highest rated.
Using just manure tea, the plants grew okay but not as I expected. They looked pale green and spindly as in suffering from nitrogen deficiency. After letting them muddle on for about a month, I decided to add some commercial fertilizer (10-10-10) that I use in my outdoor garden. Took a 2 handfuls of it, put it in a bottle with two quarts of water, shook for a minute and dumped it in the aquaponic system's collection tank which held about 40 gallons of water. [Repeat once a week when plants are small and increase frequency as required during the season.]
Once again the system did not let me down. The plants turned noticeably darker pretty much overnight and took off. Growth rates easily match the best performances I have seen in any outdoor garden. Because the commercial fertilizer only supplies NPK I still feed the system a pail of manure tea once or twice a week along with a few tablespoons of sea salt once a week to make sure there are enough trace minerals in the system. Kelp is supposed to work really well too but for me it is expensive to get and as long as I see no deficiencies in the plants I see no need to use it.
On water issues:
The water I use comes from a 150 ft deep well we use for drinking water so I am not worried about its quality or contents. Water usage is minimal when the plants are small. Now that all beds are filled with more or less fully grown plants setting fruit and seeds, they use up to 8 gallons per day. Tomatoes and cucumbers seem to be the biggest users. Unless your water is very hard, you may need to add some lime or other pH booster to your system because the water will get more acidic as the season goes on. This is due to bacterial activity in the grow beds. My setup has come down from around pH=6.8 to pH=6 which is about the minimum I want to see. With the exception of red beets the plants don't seem to mind at all though. I did buy nitrate and pH test kits so I could see what goes on in the system. I never see any measurable free nitrates so I guess I could put more fertilizer in the system but the plants look healthy so I won't over do it.
I haven't noticed any real problems yet. As expected there have been some caterpillars showing up on the cabbages. I tried to get rid of them with diatomaceous earth. It killed some but not all. Since I am a bit pressed for time this summer I sprayed the cabbages with a systemic chemical (same as you use for corn borer) which takes care of the problem in a day or two. An easy way to avoid them is to put screening over the beds where you grow these crops as it keeps out the butterflies. But make sure not to keep the bees away from your tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas. I didn't expect to see any soil borne diseases in the beds and to-date they haven't shown up. Nor have I seen any other signs of trouble.
If there are readers that are venting steam from their ears by now because I have broken all the rules of aquaponics and organic gardening: that's okay, I understand. But I am rather pragmatic about it. My goal is to grow food; lots of it in a small space, with minimal inputs. I need to know what I can and cannot do. I won't put stuff that I know is bad for me on my food, but if it is not bad and fixes a problem for me, I have no problem putting it on. Do I think fertilizer and chemicals will always be readily available? No, that is why I am trying to find the best alternatives while I have the opportunity.
Well, I think I have covered just about all aspects by now. I hope this will give you enough information to determine if (modified) aquaponics is something that fits your preparation needs. My garden is fairly large as I grow veggies for a few families. The goal with 16 grow beds is to match that output. Your system could be much smaller. For instance I still have 4 unused (20"x4"x4") planters laying around. I plan on sealing their drainage holes and turning them into a small indoor system to grow herbs and start seedlings indoors. Together with a 5 gallon pail, an old aquarium pump and a timer they should do the trick. Happy gardening.
JWR Adds: I only recommend hydroponic gardening for families that have very copious and continuous power such as that provided by micro-hydro, photovoltaics, or an on-site natural gas well with redundant generators. Without a stable power supply, electric pumps don't pump, and you'll be back to traditional dirt gardening, very quickly.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
In reference to CentOre's recent article, "Subsistence Fishing After TEOTWAWKI", one method not mentioned which works very well (speaking from experience) is to kill a non-edible animal like a prairie dog and hang it over a bank.
After a couple of days maggots begin to fall off of the decaying carcass and the fish learn to come to that bank to get a free meal.
Then using yo-yo fishing lines you bait whatever hooks you use with scraps and pretty much I've never gone without a pan full of fish a day to eat.
The other method is to use 12 volt DC current. This is the same trick that the fish and wildlife guys use to do fish counts. Place a couple of copper rods several feet apart in the water -- driven into the ground. Hook up your jumper cables from your vehicle and let it run for a bit. The 12 volt DC current acts as a fish magnet and you can pick and choose which ones you want to eat. - Hugh D.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Introductory Disclaimer: Many ideas expressed within this article may not be legal in all jurisdictions. Items covered and methods discussed are strictly theoretical in nature unless otherwise stated.
Many people have a love of fishing. Take a pole, and maybe a youngster, down to the shore, or a dock, baiting up, casting out, and waiting for a bite. It’s a great time to just sit, talk, and enjoy nature. Right?
Not after TEOTWAWKI! There will not be many ‘restful’ days, or nights for that matter. Our group has a saying that: “Sportsman-ship goes out the window when Survival-ship comes in the door.” Catching as many fish as you can properly make use of with a minimum of effort will become the rule. It is wasteful to catch more of any game than you can make use of. If you can dry and/or smoke ten pounds of fish per day don’t go out and catch a hundred pounds unless you have the means to keep the unprocessed fish from spoiling.
Looking back at the Native Americans and their ways is a good place to start. In the Columbia River Drainage they fished with both nets and spears. They still do, where the white man hasn’t messed up the stream flow.
Let’s discuss several methods of catching many fish. Gigging, Netting, Bow Fishing and Trot Lining.
Gigging involves using a device that resembles a spear with two or more points. A quick search online for “fishing gigs” will show the full range of styles that have been used and are in use today.
Using a fishing gig generally requires being able to see the fish you are hunting, getting close enough to reach it with the gig, and doing all that in a stealthy enough manner that you do not spook the target. Another method involves finding a spot that fish are known to pass, setting up and waiting for the fish to come to you. Again, you must be ready to strike at the proper moment. You may miss the first few times. There is a trick of optics called ‘parallax’ that we will discuss in depth a little later on. A fish is not where it seems to be and the gigger must learn about and adjust for this before many fish are gigged.
The net has been used down through the centuries and has evolved into very sophisticated ‘fishing systems’ used on all modern fishing vessels. In this paper we are talking about a simple net you weave yourself and use up close and personal. Go online and do a search for fishing net making. You will find the size and shapes of the shuttles that are used, and the one very basic knot that creates all good nets. Generally you need to decide where you are going to use the net before you begin to build it. If it is a stream situation, then determine the width and maximum depth at the place you will be fishing. If I were to make one, I would generally make a net that is one and a half times the width of the water and twice as deep as the water. The size of the net openings is determined by the size of the fish you wish to catch. For instance, if you are going out to catch all the fish you can regardless of size, then a net made with a mesh opening of 1 inch would probably be good. If, however, you only want to catch large fish [say, for splitting and smoking] then a net mesh size that will allow the smaller fish to escape and keep only the larger fish then you want to make a mesh size commensurate with the fish size.
EXAMPLE: We have a large annual run of German Browns every fall in a small creek off a large reservoir. The larger fish can be well over ten pounds. The creek is about thirty feet wide and 5 to 6 feet deep (at a spot that would work for netting). Personally [If I were going to net this creek which of course I am not since it is not legal], my net would be about forty to fifty feet long and ten to twelve feet tall. One note to remember, a 4” mesh net takes ¼ as many knots as a 1” mesh. When you multiply that out to the total size of your net you might come to the decision to make a course net first. Maybe you should/could make just a small one to keep the deer out of your garden, before you tackle a really fine net.
One word of caution. You will read many articles and, in fact talk to many people who will write or speak of making a ‘gill net’. I see the word tossed about as if it were the only net to make or use. A gill net is a very sophisticated fishing tool that is sized precisely to the size fish you are going to take. Fish too small can swim right through it. Fish too large will run into it and go away. Only the ‘right’ sized fish will be able to poke its head nearly through the primary netting to the extent the much smaller gill strands of the net will catch behind the fish’s gills and hold it securely until harvested. I will not say you cannot make one. I will say I would never invest the time and precious materials needed in making and then maintaining a gill net.
Anyone who has used a target bow, a hunting bow, or a sophisticated archery competition bow might want to consider its’ use in the area of fish harvesting, provided of course that it is legal in your area. For many summers when I was a kid I would take my trusty long bow, attach an old spinning reel below the grip with electricians tape. I would take an old, damaged but pretty much still straight target arrow shaft, drill a small hole through the metal tip just about as far back on the ferrule as I could and still be on the metal. I would drill the hole so a 1½ to 2 inch finishing nail would fit loosely. The head end of the finish nail plus about a ½ inch would be bent 90 degrees? and hammered flat enough that I could attach a small fishing swivel-snap to it through a very small hole I drilled in the flattened nail head. I would then slide the nail point through hole in my shaft. The pointy end would now be bent about 45 degrees?, such that the swivel-snap and the point would both be pointed up the shaft. Attach some old about 30 lb monofilament or braided line to the swivel-snap and wind about 50 feet onto the reel.
When I went fishing I would nock the arrow, open the bail on the reel and I was ready to fish. Carp were always in season [and legal at the time to hunt with bows]. Upon spotting a likely candidate I would draw my bow and loose the arrow. If I struck the fish I would play it on the spinning reel. When I landed the fish all I had to do was make certain the barb went completely through the fish. Then a light pull on the shaft would flip the barb/swivel-snap/nail over so it was pointed down the shaft. Then the arrow could be withdrawn with minimum damage to the flesh of the fish, and no damage to the arrow. I could be back to fishing in under two minutes once I had landed the fish.
The tricky part is learning to compensate for the parallax that occurs when you look into water at an angle. [The natural tendency is to aim too high, so if in doubt, hold low.] All I can say is, you will get lots of fish just as soon as you figure the angle out. The variables include 1) the angle you are looking into the water at, and 2) the depth of the fish in the water. Each shot requires a fresh mental computation.
Simply stated, a trot line is nothing more than a long line with many hooks. However, there is a little more to it than that.
Not having lived in the southern states where trot lining for catfish is nearly akin to a religion, I’ll just share the simple way I was taught up in the Pacific Northwest. In the 1960s I had what I consider to be a real honor to know a gentleman in the State of Washington I will call ‘Bob Ford’. Bob was an octopus fisherman. He was on a scientific register back east somewhere and he supplied octopus parts for many science research projects. Bob ran three trot lines. As I recall two of the lines were 1,000 feet long and the big one was 1,500 feet long. They were set in the shelter of Dungeness Spit in areas where he knew the bottoms to be sandy and free of snags. Bob would go out every day and ‘pull’ his lines. He would start by going to his marker buoy and hauling up the 75 to 100 feet of anchor line that anchored the trot line against the tides. He had a roller assembly on the forward, port gunwale where he placed the line as he pulled it. When he got to the anchor he would move it over the pulley and keep on pulling on the trot line. About every fifty feet or so was a cedar box that was about twelve inches square and four feet long. One of the twelve by twelve inch ends was open. Each trap was on about a five foot tag line off the main trot line. He would pull each box up to see if it held an octopus. Then he would pull again to the next box. Now you might say one person pulling well over 3,500 feet of wet, soggy line festooned with a bunch of heavy anchors and water logged cedar boxes every day, and sometimes twice a day, is a little hard to believe. Well he did it. He did it every day for over twenty years. I knew him when I was the Keeper of a nearby Lighthouse. At the time Bob was in his ‘younger’ eighties as he put it. Nobody, not even the young loggers in the area, ever challenged him to arm wrestling!! Every Friday morning the Oriental market buyers would come over from Seattle to bid on any ‘extra’s’ Bob had caught.
So, how does this story fit in? Well, if you want to be a successful trot liner you need to follow every one of the rules that old Bob taught me. 1) You need a bottom that is free of snags, 2) you have to attach your hooks to the trot line in such a way that the main line will not get tangled and broken, 3) you need to put each hook on the end of a short leader, and 4) fish with the right bait. Old Bob’s ‘bait’ was the cedar box. You see, octopi like darkness. They feed at night, but when the sun comes up they look for a cave to hide in. Well, in our area there must have been a real cave shortage because the octopi would crawl into the cedar ‘caves’ and defend it all the time it was being hauled to the surface. A really large octopus would even fight him when he tried to get them out of ‘their cave’. In your case you too have to use ‘the right bait’. Yours will probably be something you know the local fish like to eat. In our area I am well stocked up with many flavors of ‘Power bait™’. It stores well and the fish around me don’t seem to care if it’s five or six years old. My mainline is 100 pound test braided synthetic line. Every six feet there is about a ½ to 1 inch dropper knot tied in the main line.
For each dropper there is about an eighteen inch, 20 pound monofilament leader with a swivel-snap [see my aforemention of bow fishing] on the dropper end and a #6 or #8 2x treble hook snelled onto the business end of the leader. (You may want to use a different hook and system for your local area.) A short study on the web will teach you the dropper knot and how to snell a hook. I direct you there because Mr. Rawles properly frowns on pictures or drawings as some readers have trouble downloading them.
The leaders are all carried in a bucket. They are all pre-baited and placed in the bucket with a little water over them so they don’t dry out. Each end of the mainline has an anchor on it and an anchor line that goes to the surface. I frown on marker buoys as too many people might see them from too far away. A small piece of driftwood three or four feet long works just fine as an anchor line float and has a much lower profile.
I put down one anchor and begin to pay out the main line. Each time I come to a dropper knot I snap on a swivel snap with its’ leader and pre-baited hook. When I get to the far end I set my second anchor, anchor line, and marker buoy. You should always put a marker buoy on each end so if one marker buoy gets loose or damaged you can go to the other end and not lose your trot line.
Depending upon your situation you may need to place small weights every so far to keep the line where you want it. Many cat fishers set their lines in the evening and pull them in the morning
As I stated earlier: You have an obligation to get food and keep your family fed. But, you have an equally important obligation of not taking more than you can make use of at any one time. So, I recommend you start small until you get an idea of what a ‘normal’ catch might be. One method to do this is to only put a swivel, leader, hook and bait on every second or third dropper while you are ‘testing the waters’.
As a side issue, we like crawfish. They supply some of the nutrients our other foods might be otherwise lacking. We have a stash of crawdad traps picked up for peanuts at garage sales. Anything you can open, close, and punch holes in will make a bait can. Why not make use of the fish offal, I think that’s the word. I call them fish guts. Use them to bait a few crawdad traps. If you get more ‘dads’ than you can eat at one time [a rare occurrence at our house!] they can up great with a water bath canner and a little vinegar and pickling spice.
Disclaimer: Many thoughts expressed here may not be legal in some or all jurisdictions. Consult your state's fishing and trapping regulations! Items covered and methods discussed are strictly theoretical in nature unless otherwise stated. - CentOre
(CentOre is a loosely connected group of people in the Oregon High Desert interested in improving our existing skills, and learning new skills that will enhance our odds when it hits.)
Friday, August 5, 2011
In many states, it is illegal to transport fish from public waters to private waters [or vice versa]. You might be okay going from private waters to private waters. The concern is that you might introduce disease from one area to another and thus contaminate another area. He should probably look into stocking his pond from a legal supplier. - Alan W.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Food storage is important for short term survival, and everyone should have at least a six months to a multi-year food supply. But long term survival requires that you grow your own food. Whether it is TEOTWAWKI or just losing your income because you were laid off from your job, a home food production system is essential to your security.
Most successful food production systems involve using a greenhouse for year round food production, as a greenhouse extends the growing season, and shields your crops from severe weather. Another advantage is that a greenhouse is better protected from nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare than open field farming. And a greenhouse has greater physical security than an open field against pests and animals that might want to share in your harvest, whether they have four legs or two.
One problem with a greenhouse is providing an efficient watering system that doesn't require you to hand water your plants, and that will reclaim the run-off or excess water that would otherwise be lost into the floor of the greenhouse. Water is always an expense, and if your city water supply or electric powered well pump is not working, then it would be almost impossible to manually haul enough water by hand to maintain your greenhouse plants. Another problem is how to keep the temperature of the greenhouse stable without using propane or electric heaters. A greenhouse needs to store the heat collected during the day, and slowly release this heat so that the plants won't freeze when the sun goes down. I believe that the concept of "Aquaponics" solves both of these problems, and is the perfect technique for growing food off the grid in a greenhouse.
Aquaponics is a combination of Hydroponics (growing plants in water), and Aquaculture (growing fish in water). Aquaponics uses low energy water pumps to move the water from the fish tank through a gravel-filled bed to filter the water for the fish, while providing water for the plants growing in the gravel bed. The low pressure water pumps recycle the water for continuous use, and require a very small amount of electricity power which can be provided by a solar panel.
The fish in an Aquaponic system are a good survival protein source, but more importantly the fish create ammonia as a waste product, which provides fertilizer for the plants. The fish ammonia is converted into liquid nitrate fertilizer by autotrophic bacteria that reside in the gravel-filled growing beds, which is where the plants are raised. The water pump moves the water from fish tank into the gravel filled grow beds and back to the fish tank, thereby watering all of the plants automatically, while purifying the water for the fish by removing the ammonia. Around 98% of the water is conserved and reused, with very little makeup water needed. This solves the large water consumption problem that most greenhouses have. And, the large amount of water contained in the fish tank (ours has nearly 1,000 gallons) acts as a temperature buffer, which moderates the daily swings in temperature in the greenhouse by storing the excess heat during the day, and gently emitting the heat each night to keep the plants from freezing. The thermal storage capacity of the water based Aquaponic system fully complements any "Solar Greenhouse" design.
Aquaponics produces a large amount of organically grown food, as much if not more than a standard hydroponic greenhouse, without purchasing any hydroponic chemicals. Once you have the system set up, it pretty much runs itself with much less effort than traditional gardening. And if you can grow your own fish food from duckweed, black soldier fly larvae, earthworms, crickets, etc., then the system becomes almost completely self contained.
Our setup is pretty simple, and cost around $1,500. We built a small greenhouse frame using recycled wood. Inside we built our Aquaponic structure that is 8' x 8' wide and 8' tall. The foundation of the structure is an 8' x 8' wide by 2' deep fish tank made out of 2x12 lumber lined with a 12 mil rubber liner, all of which rests on concrete blocks. Above the fish tank are 4 gravel filled grow-beds mounted on 8' tall 4x4 posts. The grow beds are wooden boxes made from 2x12 lumber that are 8' long, 2' 6" wide, and one foot deep. The grow-beds are spaced 5' and 8' off the ground directly above the fish tank, mounted on top of each other like bunk beds with a walkway between them. Since the grow-beds are only 2' 6" wide, there is room between them for a 3' catwalk over the fish tank to let us stand and work between the two sets of stacked grow-beds.
There are a lot of ways to build a cheaper aquaponic system. Once way is by using recycled plastic barrels for the fish tanks, and making the grow beds by cutting plastic barrels longways and laying them on their sides on a wooden rack and filling them with gravel, and then plumbing everything together with PVC pipe. You can also do it on a small scale with a standard aquarium and small water pump to push water through your potted plants on the windowsill, as long as you have a place for a "biofilter" such as a gravel filled bed or refugium where the bacteria that changes the ammonia into nitrogen can reside.
A working "biofilter" is the key ingredient to a good aquaponics system, as the bacteria in the biofilter keeps the fish water clean, and changes ammonia into nitrogen for the plants. The bacteria need to reside in a wet environment that has plenty of oxygen, and little or no light. A gravel bed that is alternately flooded and drained, is perfect for this type of bacteria to thrive in. Other aquaponic solutions, such as Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and Deep Water Raft Technique, use a large amount of netting submerged in the water to give a place for the bacteria to reside. We chose a grow-bed filled with 1 foot of gravel as our biofilter, as it is simpler to build.
The bacteria in the gravel biofilter changes the ammonia into nitrogen in two steps. The first step is performed by the Nitrosomonas bacteria, which changes the total fish ammonia (NH3 and NH4+) into nitrite (NO2). The next process is accomplished by the Nitrobacter bacteria that changes the nitrite (NO2) into nitrate (NO3), which the plants use as fertilizer. The ammonia and nitrites are very toxic to fish, while the nitrates are fairly harmless, so it is important to monitor the bacteria by testing the water quality using the inexpensive aquarium test strips sold at any pet store. As long as you have a large amount of gravel or other media for the bacteria to colonize, your water quality won't be an issue. If you are using sterile media, you won't have any bacteria to start with, and you will need to purchase the bacteria from an aquarium shop or from Fritz-Zyme. We used gravel from a creek, as the Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria is always abundant in river gravel. Since these two types of bacteria work in tandem and do not reproduce quickly, it may take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to ramp up the bacteria to full production. So, it may important not to add a large number of fish at the same time unless you already have a good supply of bacteria at work in your system.
Our first step in construction of our Aquaponic system was to lay an 8' x 8' "carpet" of around 40 concrete blocks for the foundation of the fish tank. It took a long time to get the blocks level using a spirit level and a long 2x4, but this is probably the most crucial part of the construction. The next step was to build the fish tank out of wood, that would ultimately be fitted with a rubber liner. I created a square box out of 2x12 lumber standing on their edges, that was a little less than 8' x 8' and held together by wood screws. I designed it so that the 2x12's had an extra 3.5" overlap or "flap" on each of the corners, so I could drill holes and put carriage bolts through the 4x4 posts and 2x12 sides from two different directions on each of the outside corners. This holds the wood seams together. It is very important to "overbuild" the tank seams on a wooden fish tank with carriage bolts, wood screws, etc. as the water pressure is very great. Once I had my square box built, I made sure it was perfectly "square" by measuring the distances diagonally across from each corner. When these two distances were the same, I knew it was square. Then I covered what was to be the bottom of the tank with 8' long 2x4s, nailed into the 2x12s with a 2" gap between each 2x4. When I turned the 8'x8' box over and placed it on the concrete block foundation, the gaps between the 2x4s allowed me to put shims between the blocks and the 2x4s, so that each concrete block was helping to evenly support the 2x4s that held up the fish tank.
For the bottom of the fish tank, I nailed an 8'x8' section of heavy duty 1" flooring over the 2x4s that were shimmed against the concrete blocks. The next step was to secure the second set of 2x12s standing on edge on top of the first set, to bring the fish tank up to two feet in depth. I again secured it to the 4x4s with carriage bolts in all of the corners, all the while making sure the 4x4 posts were plumb. Copious amounts of wood screws were added wherever possible. After this I inserted the rubber liner to make the tank hold water.
I calculated the weight of the water in the tank as follows: 8' x 8' x 2' equals 128 cubic feet of water, times 7.5 gallons per cubic foot, equals 960 gallons of water. With around eight pounds per gallon, this would give a total of 7,680 pounds of water, not to mention the gravel beds. So, I am giving a lot of detail on how to over-engineer the fish tank, as with this much weight and water, there will be no small failures, only big ones.
Now this is a very large tank, and as you can always add more grow-beds or an NFT system to the tank, but it is not so easy to add another fish tank that is incorporated with the pumps into the same aquaponic system. The general ratio from the research I have read is that you can use 2 cubic feet of gravel growbed for each cubic feet of water in the fish tank. Since I plan to feed my family off this system, I thought it was better to start with a moderately large fish tank, and then add more grow beds later. And, the larger your tank, the less problems you will have with any rapid changes in temperature, pH, Ammonia, or other problems. A larger tank with over 500 gallons of water buffers most problems, and gives you more time to find a solution and correct it.
The construction of the grow beds was much easier, as there were no real water pressure issues. I nailed 2x12s to the upright 4x4 posts to form boxes that are 8' long, and 2'6" wide. For the bottom of the grow-beds, I nailed 2x4s laid on their sides, and covered them with 1" flooring, topped off with the same 12 mil rubber liner I used on the fish tank, which I purchased at FarmTek.
The next part was the plumbing. I used rubber Uniseal bulkheads to hold the 1" PVC pipe straight up for a stand pipe drain in the bottom of each grow bed. The Uniseal is great, you just drill a hole with a hole saw through the rubber liner and 1" flooring in the growbed, and insert the rubber Uniseal bulkhead, and then slide the PVC pipe through the bulkhead. The 1" PVC pipe is a tight fit, but there are no leaks, and you can pull the pipe out later if you have a problem. To keep the gravel away from the stand pipe, I used a 3" PVC pipe about 8" long that I drilled with about 50 ¼" holes and nested the 3" pipe around the 1" standpipe.
By stacking the grow-beds on top of each other like bunk beds and placing the inputs and drains on opposite ends, and I make the water traverse the entire length of each of the two gravel-filled grow-beds in the stack before it can return to the fish tank. I use two 330 gallon per hour fountain pumps I got from Lowe's to pump water to the top growbed. Since it takes about 15 minutes for the grow-beds to fill up, and about 45 minutes for them to drain, I set a timer that runs the pumps for 15 minutes on the hour. This gives me the "ebb and flow" water system that is crucial to aquaponics. Each growbed needs to fill up with water to irrigate the plants and the bacteria for the system to operate. But each growbed also needs to dump all of the water back out, so that oxygen can reach the plant roots, and the bacteria can function. If you don't drain the water, you will have an anaerobic condition (no oxygen), and your plant roots will die and harmful types of bacteria will begin to develop.
One way to create an "ebb and flow", or "flood and drain" cycle is to use a Bell Siphon, which will automatically siphon all of the water out of the grow bed once it reaches a certain depth. Bell siphons are widely used in Aquaponics, and the University of Hawaii has a good research PDF on how to build one. However, the bell siphon can malfunction, and they assume that your water pumps will run continuously. That is, with a bell siphon, if your pumps quit working, you may end up with a grow bed half full of water and no drainage. I opted to build something simpler, with just a 6" long stand pipe out of 1" PVC, with a ¼" drain hole just above the bulkhead. The stand pipe is the main drain pipe, that sticks straight up and keeps the water from ever cresting higher than 6" deep, as it will just flow into the pipe. The ¼" drain hole just above the bulkhead keeps a continual drain going, but the amount of water it relieves is less than the 330 gallon per hour pump is putting into the growbed. So, after the growbed fills up and the water crests over the standpipe, the timer will shut the water off and the rest of the water will slowly flow back out through the ¼" hole at the bottom of the standpipe. I found this approach to be more energy efficient for an off-grid system, and the water retention period in the growbeds is long enough for the ammonia-eliminating bacteria to function completely.
Using "free" river gravel for the media in the grow bed is the cheapest option possible, but other media options are vermiculite, perlite, expanded clay balls (which are sold under the trade names of Hydroton and LECA for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate), and coconut fiber, which is also called "coir". We have tried adding a layer of coir over our river gravel, and found that it makes it easier to start the plants from seed over planting directly in the river gravel. The coir does not deteriorate, is PH neutral, and wicks the water up to keep the seeds moist for germination. You can get 35 pounds of coir in compressed bricks from Terra Prima Industries for around $70 with shipping.
Fish selection is another topic for Aquaponics. Tilapia are the most commonly used fish, as they are herbivores that eat algae and aquatic plants, grow very fast, handle crowding well, and are very prolific breeders. Tilapia are mouth-brooders, and raise their young inside the mother's mouth. Tilapia have a lot of advantages, but they cannot handle cold water. The White Nile Tilapia, which grows the fastest of the species, will show stress at water temperatures less than 62 degrees, and will die at 55 degrees. The Blue Tilapia is the most cold tolerant, but will die at temperatures less than 50 degrees. Tilapia really need 80 degree water. If you are off the grid in a cold climate with Tilapia, you will need to find a way to heat the water to these temperatures, year round. This means some sort of solar thermal panel that will thermo-siphon or otherwise pump hot water up to the fish tank. Fish cannot handle thermal shock or any quick changes in water temperature, so you will have to construct some sort of heat exchanger that can fit inside the fish tank. This adds a lot of complexity to an off grid food production system.
For this reason, I chose to go with Bluegill, as they can handle water temperatures down to 39 degrees, and the greenhouse always keeps the water at least that warm without assistance. Another reason I chose Bluegill is that they are much cheaper than Tilapia, as I cannot get Tilapia locally. The "Tilapia Source" is a great company to work with, but they would have to overnight them to me for $70, plus charge $2 a fish – for a total of $170 for 50 Tilapia fingerlings. Instead, I bought 100 Bluegill for only $40.00 from Farley's Fish Farm from their truck that came to our local Farmer's Co-Op. Farley's serves about 12 or 13 states here in the Southeast USA, and I found them to be a very reasonable resource for fish.
Bluegill is a good fish for Aquaponics, as they handle crowding well, can tolerate various PH and other water quality issues, and do not generally eat each other. Other fish used in Aquaponics are Catfish, Yellow Perch, Bass, Koi, Goldfish, and sometimes Trout.
I had a minor problem in the beginning with a fish disease called "Columnaris", which I diagnosed from from a "Fish Pharmacy" web site. Columnaris is a small white growth that occurs on the fins. The Fish Pharmacy web site had a toxic pharmacy solution for every fish problem. However, in Aquaponics you are not going to be able to treat the fish with anything that is not organic, or that you would not eat yourself. This excludes all of the anti-fungal treatments, or any medicine that contains some type of poison. Even the regular antibiotics that are meant for fish are not meant for humans to eat, and need to be excluded. I found from research on the web that Columnaris responds well to the addition of salt and other minerals to the water, on the order of 1 tablespoon for every 50 gallons of water. For my setup, I put over a cup of sea salt into the water, and the disease has began to retreat, with only one fish still showing signs. Columnaris is in almost every fish tank, and probably came in with the fish, or in the river gravel I used. It finds an opening when the fish are mishandled in some way. My mistake was to not acclimate the temperature of the fish when I brought them home in a bag from the fish truck, which created a lot of stress. We should have let the bag float in the water for 15 minutes before letting the fish out. The thermal shock and other rough handling I did on day one is probably the reason for the Columnaris problem. But since I only had to add sea salt to the fish tank to correct the problem, I will have no worries about eating the fish at some point. I can discard any fish that show signs of Columnaris, if they still have that problem when I harvest, and only eat the best. I know exactly how these fish have been raised, and what has gone into them, which is much better than what you buy at the supermarket. But what I find most reassuring about raising and eating fish I raise is that when the fish are eaten fresh, there are very few diseases that fish have can be passed on to humans, unlike the trichina worms that pigs can give to humans, tularemia in rabbits, tetanus in horse meat, etc. These diseases can kill you if you live in a time without access to modern medicine. Columnaris won't hurt humans, and aquaponically raised fish will not generally have diseases that affect humans, and so are a very healthy source of protein.
But the real purpose of the fish in Aquaponics is not just for food, but to provide the ammonia to power the bacteria-based fertilization system. If you don't have fish, any organic ammonia source can work. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, the ammonia contained in human urine can work just as well as what the fish produce, and while waiting for my fish to arrive, I actually used this technique to jump start the bacteria in the system. The result was that the water clarity improved once the bacteria were given enough ammonia to thrive. Another option if you don't have fish is to use the ammonia and nitrogen found in a "manure tea", which is made by placing horse manure in a burlap bag and immersing it in the water tank for short periods of time.
Dissolved oxygen in the water is another important topic. Using an air pump to diffuse oxygen through airstones in the fish tank improves water quality by helping the aerobic bacteria to grow and the fish to be active and healthy. Without an air pump, you cannot raise enough fish to power the nitrogen needs of the plants. I purchased a 65 liter/minute Eco Plus Commercial Air Pump from AquaCave for $79.95. This pulls 35 watts on 110 AC, and is quite sufficient, as it easily powers four 12 inch airstones in the tank, plus 4 48" flexible air curtain diffusers I buried under the gravel in the grow-beds to help aerate the bacteria there. This is a floating piston commercial type of air pump, as the standard diaphragm pumps would not have enough power or longevity. For a backup system when the power goes out, I bought a 25 watt 12 volt DC air compressor from AquaCave that runs directly from a 125 amp-hour marine battery, which gives over 2 days of run time. To kick in the DC compressor when the 110 AC power goes out, we used a small plug-in DC transformer to hold open a relay, both of which we ordered from Jameco. When the 110 power goes out, the transformer loses current, and the relay closes which completes the circuit for the DC compressor to draw power from the battery. For a large Aquaponic system with over 100 fish, you have to have redundant air systems, for if the fish go for more than four hours without air they will asphyxiate.
In calculating our total power consumption for running the Aquaponic system using solar panels, the two 330 gallon per hour water pumps for the grow-beds draw 13 watts each, but run only 15 minutes each hour, for an average hourly usage of 6.5 watts. Adding the 25 watt DC air compressor gives a very low total power consumption rate of 31.5 watts. Solar panels and a few marine batteries can easily power this system if you are permanently off grid, and I hope to do this soon.
But to be truly off-grid with Aquaponics involves more than just using solar panels, as you need to create your own fish food as input to the system. Right now, I am using some water containers to grow Duckweed (which is an aquatic plant with high protein that the fish love), but mainly rely on Purina catfish food to feed the fish. To close the loop that would make me independent, I will be building a compost pod that harvests Black Soldier Fly Larvae, along with giving the fish the earthworms from the compost pile. Another protein source I am using is a small electric light about 4 inches over the fish tank with a timer that turns on at night. The bugs fly in and bounce against the light and into the fish tank, where the bluegill snap them up. Now that's a good bug lamp!
The output of produce from the Aquaponic setup is phenomenal. The cucumbers, tomatoes and basil are growing about 3 times faster than in my container garden, and 5-6 times faster than using traditional soil techniques. For more scientific proof on the superiority of Aquaponic gardening, a Canadian research group has written a paper that indicates how Aquaponics outperforms hydroponics. Will Allen of Growing Power has a great video that shows how he grows 1 million pounds of food on 3 acres using Aquaponics. The tremendous production potential of Aquaponics over traditional gardening techniques should make anyone that has a greenhouse investigate Aquaponics.
My next step for the Aquaponic project has been to develop a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) setup, which consists of running the fish effluent through 20' long sections of vinyl gutters, which feeds the plants that are mounted with their roots in the gutters. Thin plywood is mounted on top of the gutters, with a 2" hole drilled every 6 to 8 inches. Inside the holes I put nylon netting that holds some pea gravel to provide support for the plant roots in the nutrient-rich fish water. The top of the plants grow on top of the plywood. The gutters have a 40:1 slope (6" over 20'), and a small pump puts water into the high end, with the water transversing the gutters and draining back into the fish tank. This is nearly identical to a standard hydroponic setup, except I am using renewable fish effluent from the fish tank instead of purchasing standard hydroponic chemicals to feed the plants.
YouTube is an excellent video resource for understanding the various Aquaponic systems. A quick search on YouTube for "Aquaponics" will bring up many videos. Be sure to find the videos by Will Allen at Growing Power (an aquaponic farm in downtown Milwaukee ), or by Nelson and Pade who did much of the original Aquaponic research, or any videos by "Backyard Aquaponics" which is located in Western Australia. Aquaponics is very big in Australia as it is a good solution for gardening in a dry climate. One of the best technical articles online to understand the technology of Aquaponics is "Optimization of Backyard Aquaponic Systems." Any articles written by Dr. James Rakocy of the University of the Virgin Islands would provide another expert source for Aquaponics. Wikipedia also has a good article that gives an excellent overview of Aquaponics, and the picture in Wikipedia of the "small portable Aquaponic system" (which came from Growing Power) is the model I used for my system. I just kept looking at this picture, and it finally dawned on me how simple this is. For more technical advice, the book "Aquaponic Food Production" by Nelson and Pade will teach you everything you need to know.
Most preppers live, or hope to live, as far away from the city as possible. But the problem with rural life is the lack of a steady income. An Aquaponic greenhouse can potentially earn enough to make rural living possible, as long as you can occasionally get to a market to sell your produce. Aquaponics is the only type of hydroponic vegetables that can be certified 100% organic, as all other types of hydroponic vegetables use inorganic chemicals for their nutrients. Premium organically raised vegetables will command much higher prices at restaurants and stores that cater to health conscious buyers. But Aquaponics gives you something that no other organic producer can create, and that is, organic produce with roots that have never touched any soil. You can sell lettuce and other vegetables with the roots attached, as no dirt will have ever been on your roots. By leaving the roots attached and not injuring the plant, the "living lettuce" and other vegetables you sell will keep much longer and your profit will be greater.
The one final thing I have to say about Aquaponics is that it gives any prepper something even better than a nearly endless supply of food, and that is, a large quantity of water. If everything else fails and I end up eating all my fish and produce, I still have 960 gallons of water that I can filter and use. In fact, if I extract the water as it comes out of the gravel-filled grow beds, it already has a good amount of filtration, and is probably healthier to drink than the chlorinated and fluoride filled water that comes out of a city tap. Every prepper needs a large amount of stored water, and this is a great way to do it.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I grew up in South Louisiana, so seafood was a staple of the family diet. Shrimp, Crabs, Fish, and Oysters were easy to come by, or at least it seemed that way as a kid because we ate seafood two or three times a week. Fried Shrimp and Oysters, Crab Stew, Shrimp Gumbo, baked Flounder or grilled Redfish, it was all good and those meals made for many a great family memory. However, as much fun as we had watching our mothers and fathers and grandparents cooking those great Cajun dinners, as kids we had infinitely more fun catching as opposed to cooking the seafood. Those lessons are just a part of this brief tip sheet, which hopefully will enable some of you and your family to enjoy fresh filets of fish roasted over a campfire when you are ready for a change from MREs and beans.
Times have certainly changed over the past 40 years. One thing that has changed greatly is the legal means of harvesting seafood. As a kid, I helped the grownups run gill nets and drag a 210-foot saltwater seine in the surf. We also set trotlines in freshwater and saltwater, used Oyster Tongs in the bays and estuaries, and set crab traps in shallow brackish water and right off the beach. The old trusty rod and reel was fun, but to make a pure meat haul nothing beat a gill net, seine, crab traps or trotlines. While gill nets and seines are now illegal in many states (with the exception of bait seines), I have still have a functional seine net stowed away in storage for the day that might come when survival trumps game laws. I realize that most people will not have the great fortune to have inherited or otherwise still own a good gill net or seine. If you do, you are extremely lucky – guard them like gold because they are expensive. If not, then you really do need to think about taking one of several possible routes to obtain this material to supplement your family’s survival chances and pleasure quotient if that terrible day ever comes when all you have left is canned beans.
As mentioned previously, a good gill net or seine is expensive. If you afford to buy a 100-foot gill net or 150-foot seine, by all means do so. You will want the net to be made of braided nylon, not monofilament. There are many reasons for this, but the most important one is longevity of the net. You will want the mesh to be at least 2 inches stretched for a pure fishing net, or much smaller for a bait seine or shrimp seine, maybe ½ to 3/4 inches stretched. A proper seine or gill net will have lead weights on the bottom rope to which the net is attached, and wooden or Styrofoam floats on the top rope, depending on when the net was made. A gill net is used by fastening both ends of the net to sturdy poles that are anchored in the water. You always want to set a gill net in water that will be near chest-deep at high tide, and always where there will be tidal movement. A great place to set gill nets is near inlets where fresh water meets salt water. A net set overnight can easily yield enough fish to feed a hungry crowd for several days. I remember one early winter morning running a gill net with my grandfather and taking 30 big Flounder out of the net.
As far as being able to really put a mess of good fish in the cooler, nothing beats a large saltwater seine (usually deployed from the beach, as opposed to lakes or bays). It takes 3 or 4 people to manage the net, depending on the surf. You will almost always need at least 2 people on the deep end and sometimes 3 will be necessary. In rough water, it could take 5 people to handle the net, especially if you hit a school of Redfish or a large shark. The way to maximize your catch with a seine is to be methodical. The people dragging the leading (or deep) end should head out from the shore at 90 degrees until the people at the shallow end are in knee-deep water. At that point, the team should begin dragging the net parallel to the shore. The team should drag the net for at least 200 yards before angling back in to the beach, unless you get hit by a school at which point all hell will break loose and you will want to get that net on the beach as fast as you can. A good team should be able to make 3 or 4 drags in about 3 hours. I can tell you that it is possible to catch enough fish in one drag to make you put the net up. I remember many times as a kid where 3 drags yielded over 100 Speckled Trout, several Redfish, and the assorted Shark or Stingray.
Enough on gill nets and fish seines. After you have cleaned your fish, you will always want to use the heads for crab bait. 2 or 3 crab traps properly baited with fish heads and placed in brackish water with moderate tidal movement can easily bring in 2 or 3 dozen crabs per night. That’s enough for a feast, especially when used in a gumbo.
Now for my one of my favorite foods - Oysters. Oysters are a great treat when prepared properly. When eaten fresh, they are hard to beat. When cooked right, they are impossible to beat. They are a great source of protein and vital nutrients. The problem is they are difficult to gather. Oyster Tongs are essential. With a pair of Oyster Tongs and a small boat, it is possible to harvest enough Oysters to feed whole family several times. However, it is difficult work akin to digging post-holes. In fact, Oyster Tongs resemble post-hole diggers. You can gather Oysters by hand, but it is much more difficult and dangerous due to the very sharp edges of the Oyster shells and the fact that some of the best Oyster months (the “R” months) are in the fall and winter when the water will be cold. Like fishing for Crabs, your best results when looking for Oysters will be in salt water that gets influenced by fresh water inflows. Shallow bays near freshwater inlets are usually fertile Oyster grounds. In a good area, you will usually be able to see the Oyster beds at low tide. Mark the spots by throwing old fishing floats with weights attached, and return at high tide when the beds are accessible by boat and load up on Oysters.
The main point to remember in your quest to prepare for being able to harvest seafood in difficult times is to think creatively. Man has been gathering seafood for as long as we have lived near oceans. Even Gerry-rigged saltwater trotlines fashioned from old nylon rope or clothesline and curtain hooks can be effective if deployed and baited properly.
Lastly, here are a few essential items to add to your stockpile to be able to effectively handle cleaning and preparing your saltwater catch without wasting valuable meat. These items will prove almost irreplaceable, so consider having more than one, especially since they are cheap.
- Filet Knife – most important knife to own
- Oyster pry-knife – you can catch all the oysters you want but without this tool, you will be limited to eating them steamed
- Crab cleaner -especially useful to obtain lump meat when you have many dozens of crabs to clean. This one item can save hours when cleaning crabs. This item can be made from 2x6 boards and flat iron and angle iron attached to heavy duty hinges. Rather than giving a long explanation of how to build one, I will describe the one my grandfather made and that we used often. When laid fully open on a table top, the two boards lay end-to-end, connected by the hinge in the middle which was bolted to the flat iron/angle iron mounted on the end section of each board. On one board, the flat iron piece was mounted to the end section. On the other board, the angle iron was mounted so that one of the 45-degree angles came flush to the flat iron when the board with the angle iron was raised upright from the table. Crabs can be par-boiled, shelled and halved, than placed so that the iron mashes out the meat when compressed.
- Steel-mesh fish cleaning gloves – a lifesaver, literally. If you happen to take a deep stab from a hardhead catfish barb when heading it for crab bait, you could die from the infection without proper antibiotics. These gloves can save your hands from incredible damage when cleaning or working with fresh seafood like Oysters and Crabs.
- Monofilament Cast Net – essential for catching small bait fish, and highly effective for catching shrimp in the right location in the fall.
If you live near saltwater or even if you don’t, consider adding these items to your arsenal of tools so you will be prepared to gather some great seafood to supplement the family diet if times get bad enough to have to rely on your stash of dried and pre-packaged foods. Your health and well-being will be greatly enhanced by being able take advantage of what God put in the oceans for us to eat.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I was thinking about the fishing e-mails and thinking: why are we talking [about using hand-held] rods?
In a true TEOTWAWKI situation [where present-day conventions and legalities on sport fishing have gone by the wayside] I don't want to be standing there for hours trying to catch dinner just like I don't want to be sitting in a tree stand trying to shoot dinner either. Like hunting, which I tend to agree with you on (you do it all the time by carrying your rifle and being ready at all times -- or at least some firearm capable of taking big game)...the same goes for fishing.
Should I find myself near a lake or pond that has fish in it I'll rig up a trot/trout line and get it set across the lake or between to jutting trees etc. Then I'll go back to surviving and check the line later in the day, even the next day. I don't have to sit there and watch it so I can gather wood, work in my garden (should I be fortunate enough to have one) etc etc..
When I was young I remember an older native lady who used to set up multiple poles on the pier she fished from. It was up north in British Columbia and far anyone so no worries about getting in trouble with the law. The point is, she put multiple hooks in the water then went back into her little shack and waited out the day doing something else.
She always caught lots of fish and you'd never know unless you watched her pull them up or put the lines in...she often set trout lines from one wharf to another also and always caught fish on them.
How did I know? I was an enterprising young lad who spent hours with my rod and reel to catch one or two fish, while she caught 10 or 12.
So it's just lines, hooks and gear of that sort for me with one or two compact rods to use if traveling.
Otherwise, why waste the time? - Erik
While a good discussion on fishing gear please remember that post-collapse the "old" rules no longer apply.
There are two excellent methods for getting fish that have not been mentioned.
The first is courtesy of Larry Dean Olsen (primitive survival expert) and I have tried this myself and it works like a champ. Basically you trap a small rodent (ground squirrel, prairie dog, etc. that you would not eat) and hang it over a deep cut bank on a stream or lake. As flies come maggots will grow and gravity being what it is, they will drop off the carcass and into the water. This process takes three days at a minimum. But it conditions the fish to come to that spot for a "free" meal. Then using a large net or other means, the fish are relatively easy to catch.
The second is courtesy of my brother who worked doing fish surveys for the Division of Wildlife in the back country of Utah for a number of years while finishing his education. Basically you drive two copper rods into the bottom of the stream or pond and attach them to your vehicle's electrical system (I use jumper cables). The 12 volt DC current acts as a magnet for the fish and you can pick and choose which ones you want for supper. Now I've only tried this in areas that are predominately populated by trout and char (brook and lake trout) so I do not know if it works on other species. - Hugh D.
Many of your readers seem to think that hunting and fishing are going to be feasible ways to feed their families after the balloon goes up. I guess this is possible in very remote areas, but I would caution them not to count on it. Even assuming the disaster that caused the collapse doesn't destroy wildlife (radiation for instance), wild game is a very undependable food resource.
The assumption is that without game laws, a resourceful fisherman can take many times more fish from a body of water than if he were following rules. This is absolutely true. Having fished with grenades in the past, I can vouch for the effectiveness of unrestrained fishing techniques.
Unfortunately, game laws are there for a reason: to keep the resources from being over-exploited. I participated in an exercise with a Tahan Pran unit (Irregulars attached to the Royal Thai Army) in 1986 and watched a platoon fish out an entire section of a fairly large river in just a few days. By the end of a week, they stopped throwing grenades in the water because there weren't enough fish to justify the activity any more. This small group of people basically denuded several miles of river and harvested all the fish available, including minnows. We ate a lot of fish that week, but their technique was too effective for long term use.
Even a large body of water has a finite carrying capacity and I expect most of them will be exceeded after the balloon goes up. Even if nobody is fishing with dynamite, lots of people are going to have the same idea and most bodies of water are going to be exploited much more heavily than they currently are. Most lakes, rivers and ponds are stocked regularly with fish to keep anglers happy. Without constant re-stocking and feeding programs, the watershed will be dependent on native fish breeding to restock. This is a slow process at best. Add to that over fishing by lots of hungry people and I expect water resources to be quickly depleted in most areas.
Hunting is even more prone to over-exploitation. Shooting deer from a feeding station or spotlighting them is very easy, but the downside is that anyone can do it. Deer, bear, and other large game may be poached to extinction in most areas and are going to be scarce wherever there are hungry people. Even rabbits and squirrels are likely to be in short supply.
Perhaps more serious is the topic of security. After TEOTWAWKI I expect fishing to be extremely hazardous. Water courses and lake shores are lines of drift and attract people. Standing around dangling a hook in the water seems to me to be a very dangerous activity and drifting around in a boat can make you a convenient target. You are vulnerable to rifle fire from basically anywhere on the shore. Tramping around in the woods is little better. If you run into anyone, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an ambush, or at best, in a battle, far from help.
Hunting and fishing are very time consuming (with the exception of traps and trot-lines). After TEOTWAWKI, there may be better uses for your time and energy. If you are truly isolated, hunting and fishing can be valid ways to put some meat on the table, but if you are anywhere near a population center, I would forget about buying fishing gear and use the extra money to store more food. - JIR
Sunday, December 27, 2009
This is in response to the articles on fishing. Depending on where you are, I would assume that everyone and his relations will be sitting on the bank and hoping for a fish to bite. Fishing is hit or miss, unless you have a boat and have spent a great deal of time on the water, you will starve to death waiting for a fish to bite. You will be sitting exposed and probably looking over your shoulder.
I have a better solution and it is one that will work every time it is tried. Assuming you are operating in survival mode, a device my dad and, now I, have is a simple thing called a crawfish (crayfish, or freshwater lobster) rake. You make a rectangular wire basket with a long pole on the top and the end facing you open. You thrust it out into the water and let it sink. Then you rapidly pull it back in by letting it drag along the bottom. You dump it on the bank and poke through all the leaves and sticks for all the small fish (occasional big fish), crawfish, frogs, mussels etc. You not only have bait, you can also add this to a pot of stew or gumbo, it may not look good but I assure you it will be good for you. I am attaching a picture of one I've used for 25 years. You can probably describe it better than I can for your readers.
You can easily supply the protein needs of a family with what you can drag out of a ditch, or most any still body of water. The murkier the water the better.
Another devise is a minnow seine, one or more persons will have to get in the water. One end is secured on land, the other is walked out into the water and then in a wide arc as it is slowly walked until you get the other end on shore. Then you simply keep walking until the net and its contents are on shore. I recommend at least a 20 foot one.
There is also a device called a cast net, it requires practice, but is very effective at catching fish.
Webbing is very effective, this requires a boat or shallow water and is extremely effective at snaring fish, turtles, etc. I have a 100 foot one stored in a duffle that will go with us when we bug out.
A hoop net is another type of net. There is a company in Jonesville, Louisiana called Champlin Net Company. They have been making and selling nets for as long as I remember (Hoop, webbing, gill, and even baseball). [JWR Adds: OBTW, the large mesh commercial fishing netting (1.5-inch squares) is also perfect to use for the base layer for assembling ghillie camouflage ponchos.]
Although bulky, fish and crab traps are also effective. They can be hidden and out of sight, just remember where you deployed them. And don't forget the trot line and simple lines tied to tree limbs that you run at intervals during the day and night.
Everyone likes to get out the rod and reels, but ask anyone who goes fishing how many trips they make to Wal-Mart or Academy Sports for supplemental gear for every trip. There may not be a sporting goods store to go to, so keep plenty of hooks, line and sinkers. Don't just keep monofilament line, it goes bad from old age.
Hope this helps, catching a mess of fish is great and the eating is good. But using any or all the techniques I have described above will feed you every day. Thanks, - Ken G.
No offense to W. in Atlanta - but that isn't a TEOTWAWKI fishing article, it is geared more toward "what to consider before your weekend fishing trip" article.
First, my nephews catch just as many pan fish (from shore) on their $12 SpongeBob Squarepants and Batman poles as I do with my 10x more expensive Shimano/St. Croix rods. So while it's a good idea to have some more expensive/reliable equipment, you might also consider getting a number of bubble pack rod/reel units too. More hooks in the water, lots of spare parts,
Regarding fly fishing - It's difficult enough to remain semi-hidden when fishing from shore, but a fly fisherman flipping a 9' rod around while wading in waist deep water can be seen from a great distance. It also puts you at a serious disadvantage tactically. Another advantage of the cheap bubble pack rods is their short length, making it easier to cast from the cover of weeds, trees, or rocks - albeit at less distance.
Some additional equipment I'd add would be:
1) Gill nets with mesh sizes appropriate for the fish species in the nearest bodies of water, and nylon rope for trot lines. Draped under the waterline after dark, these hopefully go unnoticed during the day for retrieval the next night. These also allow you to be 'fishing' while you're performing other activities.
2) Minnow nets/traps for bait (and pet food).
3) Ice fishing gear, if applicable (or again, another use for the short bubble pack poles).
4) Devices capable of producing an underwater shock wave. ('Nuff said).
Lastly, don't forget to store lots of brine ingredients, seasonings, and freezer bags/wrap, cause at TEOTWAWKI we're going catching - not fishing.
Merry Christmas, - Off-Grid Al
Friday, December 25, 2009
Much has been written in these pages and elsewhere about prepping for food: maintaining protein and caloric intake. Fish are an excellent source of protein, and will continue to be so under most post-SHTF scenarios. How does a person go about preparing to catch them, and convert them to food?
I write this as someone who has had the good luck to have fished over the last fifty plus years in every continent but Australia, and survived, and who has designed and built hundreds of rods in pursuit of every conceivable species of fish using a wide range of techniques. I prefer the anonymity that others on this blog use, but my articles on fishing have appeared in national and regional magazines over the years. I also happen to be a prepper. More correctly put, I have been a prepper for a while without realizing it, until I read Patriots and other writings by Mr. Rawles, and others!
I must qualify any recommendations I make:
- First of all, fishing gear is the subject of exhaustive discussions on every possible media. It’s the nature of things that fishermen and women get very detailed, and opinionated, in what works and doesn’t. By making recommendations, it is not my intent to stir the pot. I have tried to keep my comments as brief and as practical as possible.
- Secondly, name brands of gear. I happen to lean towards Penn and Abu reels with a preference for the older models, and make most of my own rods from blanks made by Calstar, Seeker, Loomis, Sage, Lamiglas, Amtak, Cabela's, Tiger, and more. However, these preferences are meaningless for the purposes of this letter. There is a lot of other gear out there that is high quality, made by these manufacturers and others such as Shimano, Daiwa, Bass Pro shops and others. Instead my recommendations are based on line capacities, which drive size, weight and to some extent drag performance, and commonly available rod lengths and lure sizes. You must pick out the outfit(s) that fit your situation.
- Third, I am assuming in a TEOTWAWKI situation you will have no access to a boat (or if you do then you may lack a vehicle to pull it with) and will be on foot. In a boat, you can get by with a lot less casting, so the equipment recommendations may be different. What I present below is a set of opinions based on distillation of a lot of ideas and my experiences.
- So, this is addressed to those intrepid souls who have their wits about them, even if not a lot of fishing infrastructure, as they diligently prepare for scenarios they may be confronted with. I’ll start with outfit types then move to terminal tackle, then inexpensive alternatives.
The spinning outfit. If I were limited to a single outfit for a vast majority of the situations I would encounter anywhere in the Americas it would be a spinning outfit. The technology enables a user to cast and manipulate small and large lures and baited hooks efficiently across a wide spectrum of applications, and species of fish.
The actual size outfit will vary, however, depending on where one is located:
- For 80 percent of the applications in the Americas: that is where one may encounter fish up to, say, 20 lbs., in relatively unobstructed water, a rod in the 6 ½ - 7’ range designed to handle lures from ¼ to ½ ounce or so, with a reel having a line capacity of 200 yards of 10 lb. test line will handle things nicely.
- If in higher altitudes and latitudes where trout, small salmon and char predominate, I would lean toward a lighter outfit; something in the 6 - 6 ½’ length designed to handle lures from 1/8 to 3/8 ounce or so, with a reel capacity of 200 yards of so of six pound line.
- In lower altitudes and latitudes, in water full of trees and brush, as well as for light salt water use, I would go with a rod in the 7’ range designed to handle lures from 3/8-3/4 or so, sporting a reel having a capacity of around 200 yards of fifteen pound line.
A decent outfit meeting any of these descriptions can be had starting at about fifty bucks, and going upward from there (substantially upward!).
If you can, buy extra line for the reels in various line classes at, above and below the recommended ones, as these can be used as replacement lines or to quickly add a leader to the existing line of a smaller diameter to fool finicky fish, or larger diameter to prevent toothy fish such as pike (in fresh water) and mackerel (in salt water) from biting through your line.
The spin casting outfit. Also called “push button” “closed face spinning” and “under spin” reels, depending on whether they are mounted above or below the handle on a rod, these are instantly recognizable by their enclosed shroud inside which the line is stored. These are great outfits for kids to learn fishing with, but they have no place in a prepper’s set of tools, unless nothing else is available or as a backup.
I have a number of these reels, including some expensive models, and observe that drags are uniformly weak and the line pickups are poor. The line pickups for example are either a stationary – non-rolling – pin of steel or coated material, or are integral to the rotating head and have a serrated edge, not unlike like a bread knife, with a predictable impact on line wear. With these reels the line quickly twists and frays, as any dad with a fishing kid can attest. As a result, line life is very short compared to reels that have ball bearing line rollers such as spinning reels or reels where there is very little contact with the line as it is retrieved, such as bait casting reels.
Another factor: the design of these reels is utterly incompatible with saltwater because of its closed face which traps salt water, and quickly rusts the reel out unless you have the time and means to meticulously clean and air, re-lubricate and reassemble the reel after each use. So unless you have plenty of extra line and spare time to maintain the equipment, I wouldn’t bother with spin casting if prepping for a wide range of situations.
The fly outfit. These are far better suited to the gathering of fish protein than some would think, a fact which has been underlined by some well thought of outdoor writers such as HG Tapply of Tap’s Tips (Field and Stream) fame which I used to read avidly. In reality, the fly outfit is deadly at laying out not only flies and streamers, but also dangling worms from a distance, even flipping perch bellies for bass, pickerel and pike.
Once you figure out you are casting the line rather than the lure, things fall into place. Another plus is that, with a little practice, once you have made your first cast into an area it takes only a second or so to place a lure or bait into a productive fish zone if it has drifted away or if you are working a shoreline: there is no need to retrieve the line and cast it back out – you simply lift it off the water and with a flick move it to the next spot.
Simplicity is the key. For example, there is little need for a reel to do anything but hold line, so you can strip out the line you need when you start fishing, then wind it back on the reel when you are done (or need to move on to the next spot and don’t want to trail loops of line behind you on the ground). The fish is fought by stripping the line backward through your fingers. Thus, for most applications the typical “single action” fly reel is dirt simple: a spool with a 1:1 gear ratio which rotates on an axis mounted on a frame.
Some of the fancier reels for large fresh and salt water fish have serious drags so you can fight the fish “from the reel”. There are also “multiplier” reels where one turn of the handle generates more than one turn of the spool. But these are not a requirement for the vast majority of situations the prepper is planning for. The KISS principle applies here.
If I were to limit myself to a single fly rod, I would get something approximately 8 ½ - 9’ long that matches to a 7 or 8 weight line (with a preference for a “weight forward” or “bass bug” tapered line if I had either of those options over “level” or “double tapered” line) and a “single action” reel. I would attach a tapered leader to the fly line say 7 1/2 -9 feet long, and going down to as small as six pound test (10-12 lb. test for heavy situations such as farm ponds and larger fish).
For alpine lakes and rivers I would select an 8’ - 9’ rod that matches to a 4 or 5 weight line, with the shorter length rod being better suited to brushy streams, and the longer rod being for more open spaces. Leader would taper down to about 4 lb. test.
People ask, doesn’t one need an advanced degree in entomology (bug science) to be able to successfully fish a fly rod? Heck no! Here’s why: lots of bugs are “terrestrials” which is a fancy word for anything other than the genteel critters with the Latin names that “match the hatch”: Terrestrials are grasshoppers, bees, spiders, crickets and the like which occur pretty much everywhere. You can buy a pack of these flies at your local china-mart for a few bucks, and along with a few bare hooks (for garden worms, larvae, and strips of fish belly) are pretty much all you’ll need for terminal tackle for the fly rod. Tie one of those terrestrials on and the fish will hit it even if it does not match exactly their normal fare, because it will look like something that got blown into the water by the wind. By the time they taste it: too late!
You can buy a complete starter fly fishing setup including rod, line, reel and leader, with perhaps a few flies thrown in for about $80 at Wal-Mart or any reputable mail order catalog.
The bait casting outfit. This is a generic term for the revolving spool reel. This gear is most popular in the Americas in applications involving the casting of artificial lures and baits of 3/8 ounce and larger. They are by far the furthest casting reels in long distance casting competitions when a large weight of about 5 ounce is cast out three hundred yards and over (no kidding)! They are also excellent for trolling and bottom fishing, as quality models have the line capacity and the drags are able to tame very large fish. They happen to be my favorite category of reels.
For practical purposes, however, the minimum lure (or bait) size limitations will limit the usefulness of bait casting. In most fresh water applications the deadliest range of lures and baits for gathering fish protein is from about 1/16th to ½ ounce, and bait casting gear can comfortably accommodate only the upper end of that range. They are also more difficult to learn to use than, say, spinning gear.
Therefore, unless my retreat is on an ocean beach or a boat, I would not recommend this type of gear for the prepper except as a backup, especially when other choices are available.
Decent bait casting outfits can be had new for around seventy dollars and up.
Rod considerations. In the non-prepping world rod choices are generally lumped into one-piece (the best choice for most mainstream saltwater rods, and many bait casting rods), two-piece and “travel” (which may have three or more rod sections).
In the prepping world, where we are interested in addressing a wide range of applications with as little gear as possible, the choices narrow considerably (although they are still ample). First of all I would eliminate one piece rods, unless your plans call for staying in one place – they lack the portability of the multi-piece rods.
So the question becomes “am I better off with a two piece rod or a multi-piece “travel” rod?” The answer is not simple, because of a general rule that for the same amount of money, the quality generally goes down the more pieces your rod has. The best value is therefore a two-piece rod. However, if space and convenience is at a premium, a multi piece travel type rod may be the best alternative, even if more expensive. My advice would be not to scrimp, if you go the multi-piece route.
One option you may find very attractive is a combination travel fly and spin rod: one rod that can handle both fly and spinning applications. Eagle Claw and Fenwick came out with these in the sixties, and they were quite the ticket in those days, but the selection is greater now. This setup would be tailored for the lighter applications, however.
What about terminal tackle? For an extreme post-SHTF situation, you can get by with just some hooks, and perhaps an assortment of sinkers. One rule of thumb to follow is that – generally – you can catch a big fish on a small hook, but not a small fish on a big hook. Here’s a punch list since we have the luxury of shopping now. These are available from any Wal-Mart ("China mart") or outdoor mail order business:
- Hook Assortment from about size 12 to about size 2. For saltwater, expand this hook size assortment to include hooks up to 4/0 (you’ll still want the small hooks for catching smaller fish and bait).
- Sinker assortment from split shot to 1 ounce.
- Bobbers or floats, from marble size through golf ball size.
- Pre-filled “Beginner tackle box” sets loaded with hooks and sinkers, as well as some assorted lures can be had for perhaps 10 bucks.
- Line – lots of spools in sizes ranging from 4-15 lb. test, as well as some 30-40 lb. test to use for leader material. This is inexpensive stuff. What you do not use will make excellent trading stock!
- Some wire leaders. For most purposes single strand “piano” wire of 27 or 36 lb. test is the best of the alternatives.
Selection of artificial lures, some staples of which are:
- Rapala floating minnows – silver in the 7 to 11 cm sizes
- Mepps spinners – size zero through size 3. Also buy small ball bearing swivels if you use spinners.
- Assortment of bucktail jigs.
- Assortment of jig heads (unpainted) in sized 1/32 through ¼ oz
- Assortment of “Curly tail” plastic lure bodies (which attach to the jig heads, above).
- Selection of “terrestrial” flies, if you plan to fly fish.
- A few “muddlers” “”black gnats” and “coachmen” (all purpose flies)
- A couple fillet knives. These have a long, thin and flexible blade that allows you to separate the fish flesh from the bones.
- A sturdy knife that can be used to sever heads from fish, or to cut bait with.
- A simple knife sharpener. Can be a sharpening stone or steel.
- Pliers: at a minimum a pair of needle nose pliers for removing hooks from fish. If you are in catfish country I’d add a standard set of pliers (for breaking spines and skinning)
The $5 or less solution! There are millions of folks out there (particularly outside the industrial northern countries) who fish with nothing more than a piece of line with a hook on the end. Now, their technique may not be as productive as with fancier gear, but if you are either not able or not interested in investing in this aspect of your survival preparations, you can certainly pull a kit together that will do the job, inexpensively even if not perfectly.
Line – there’s really no substitute for monofilament line. You could use cord, but you’ll still need a section of clear leader, and the cord may fall apart when wet. If I were limited to only one piece of line, and space was limited, I’d select about a 100 foot section of 30 lb. test line. For alpine lakes and rivers, I’d drop that down to 10 lb. test line. You can buy a hundred yards of line at a discount store for a couple bucks, easily.
Reel – For storage, you can store line simply by wrapping it around a piece of cardboard with a v notch at each end to hold it securely. For a reel, you can use, literally, a beer can – lots of people do. The line is wrapped around the outside and the “cast” is made by holding the can in one hand and pointing the can at your intended destination, then whirling the baited hook on circles with your other hand and letting loose with the line peeling off the end of the can. The retrieve is made by holding the can in one hand and winding the line back on with the other.
A variant on this is a cleaned out tin can with a plastic lid on it. The line is wrapped around the outside as per the beer can example, above. The can itself can be your tackle box, containing hooks sinkers, lures, etc. held in place by the removable plastic lid.
Other economical substitutes:
- Small sinkers can be made from discarded metal nuts (as in nuts and bolts)
- Big sinkers can be made from old spark plugs that have the electrode squeezed down to form a closed loop you can tie your line to. Clean off the smelly oil and gas sludge before using, the odor may (will!) repel fish.
- Bobbers can be made from bottle corks. They can be attached to the line in a number of ways: a needle can thread the line through where it will be held under tension; or you can drill out a hole in the center then thread the line through, holding it in place with a match stick. Alternatively you can simply attach the line to the exterior of the cork with a rubber band, a twisty or a zip-tie.
- The Boy Scouts tout the many uses of paperclips, including for hooks, but do yourself a favor - just buy an assortment of hooks.
The bottom line is that prepping for fishing is like lots of other categories of prepping. You can get about as detailed as you want. Just cover the basics if you have to!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Throughout the last few centuries, mankind has been building and building up, combining raw materials and energy to create... stuff. This stuff is scattered all over urban population centers, and many of it can be used for basic life-sustaining purposes. I thought I'd write in and share some information I've gathered over the years in my work and in my hobbies, as it relates to sustaining life if you're trapped in an urban area. I'm enumerating the primitive uses of some very basic components for those interested, this wasn't meant as a guide for building any of this stuff, further research is definitely necessary and DO NOT try any lab chemistry without becoming an expert first and observing all the appropriate safety precautions. [JWR Adds: Handling strong acids and bases also necessitates wearing goggles, extra long gloves, long sleeves, a safety apron, having proper ventilation, and having an eye flushing bottle (or fixture) and neutralizers close at hand!] I hope this inspires others to share similar uses for modern waste.
Many urbanites will not have enough room to grow self-sustaining gardens in the soil in your backyard, with the limited growing season, and even if you did it would become a target for looters. Construction of a greenhouse in your backyard with adequate security may be a worthwhile compromise. Using hydroponics in your greenhouse will maximize your yield. Hydroponics requires that you're moving fluids around in a growing medium, and this movement requires electricity in the simplest setup. It also allows you to maximize your space by eliminating huge buckets of soil. One downside to hydroponics is that it requires more advanced technology, and most often an energy supply. Another downside is a requirement for more specific fertilizers.
Car batteries can be used to power your food supply and your home, a typical setup is a very sturdy shelf to hold rows of the deep cycle variant. You can calculate how much energy you'd need to power your appliances but a better setup for survival would be to only power a single DC circuit, with some very energy efficient appliances; LED lights, laptop computers, radios, flashlight battery chargers. I have a circuit wired in my basement which can be switched to backup power, so for me it would just be a matter of wiring an extension cable out to my greenhouse.
The equipment to build a battery backup system is widely available, it's very mature technology and has been very easy to afford with the increased usage of solar energy. Solar panel prices have also dropped almost 40% in the last couple of years. I recommend that someone with the cash to spend, who has already bought a long-term supply of food and other essentials, build themselves a photovoltaic backup system to keep your electronics running for years, using deep-cycle marine batteries for storage. It happens to be the cheapest form of storage, the deep cycle batteries are available from Wal-Mart and Costco at the best prices.
I recommend some form of sustainable electricity. Most fuels will go bad with time, the easiest fuel to reliably store is propane and many homes are equipped with propane and natural gas powered backup generators. Propane is extraordinarily cheap right now as well. A 300-to-500 gallon propane tank can be bought used for around $500 in most places, and propane is selling in my area for $1.79/gallon. Propane is produced from natural gas and, along with coal, are the two fossil fuels we're least likely to see a shortage of. Regarding solar, you don't need a 5,000 watt solar panel farm to power your essentials. Just one large solar panel on a pole will be enough [to provide charging] for your odds and ends DC-powered electronics.
If you intend to use scavenged car batteries for home power, you will need to come up with a scheme to charge them. If you charge a random collection of batteries off of one charger some of them may overheat and explode. You need to have an individual charging circuit for each of them, a temperature probe is good but not necessary. The best way to do this with a generator setup is with a multiple-bank charger or charging station, or with multiple charge controllers in a solar setup. It would be a good idea to have backups, so you might as well have one charge controller for every battery. If you're running a generator, it is especially important that you use a battery backup system, as it allows you to use the energy more efficiently to charge up a battery bank which you can use for days to power efficient appliances.
Another interesting thing about car batteries is what you can do with them if you're not using them for power. Car batteries contain two main ingredients, sulfuric acid and lead. Sulfuric acid is used in many industrial processes. It's a source of elemental sulfur, and these strong acids are used to convert many other substances to something usable.
Hundreds of years ago people made saltpeter for formulating black powder by urinating in a jar and adding straw to it (almost too easy, huh?). A more industrious method would be to mix straw and manure into a pile and urinate on it regularly to keep it moist. This was called a "niter-bed". After a year, run water through it and then run the resulting mixture through a wood ash filter, and then air dry the resulting mixture in the sun. Any failed batches could always be used as [the basis for a larger quantity of] fertilizer. Your urine contains nitrogen in the form of a chemical called urea, which means it also makes a good fertilizer (1 part urine and 10 parts water immediately applied makes a decent fertilizer). The urine/straw mixture would change over the course of a few months to contain nitrates, mostly a chemical called potassium nitrate, or saltpeter. Wood ash contains mostly potassium compounds and can be used to convert remaining nitrates to potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate is a powerful oxidizer. Mixed with a fuel it forms the ingredients of many fireworks such as bottle rockets. Black powder is made with a mixture of 75% potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal, and 10% sulfur. Sulfur can be found on the electrodes of the car batteries, or it can be produced through electrolysis of the sulfuric acid. A good rocket fuel is 60% potassium nitrate and 40% powdered sugar, should you have a need for rockets, perhaps as a signal flare.
You can buy potassium nitrate over the counter from the hardware store (Lowe's and Home Depot). It's known as stump remover and is available in 1lb bottles. If you're doing that last minute shopping, it might be a good idea to swing by the pesticides shelf and buy all the stump remover while you're getting your fertilizers and everything. Potassium nitrate has an NPK rating of 13-0-38.
In the 1890s, widespread use of "smokeless powder" was adopted, which is about three times as powerful as simple black powder. This was a result of a substance called nitro-cellulose or guncotton, which is which can be made from cellulose and nitric acid and some
other chemicals by means of nitration. Nitric acid is a very useful substance. Nitro-groups or nitronium ions can be added to certain chemicals to create explosives. Compounded with hexamine fuel tablets (Esbit fuel), it forms [the equivalent of ] RDX explosive. Compounded with glycerine, it forms nitroglycerine, that with added stabilizers forms dynamite or blasting gelatin. (Not to be confused with trinitrotoluene (TNT), which is generated by the nitration of toluene.) The most useful application of nitric acid though is in making smokeless powder, commonly just called "gunpowder" today, which is a compound of nitrocellulose and a number of other proprietary ingredients. It can be made from cellulose and nitric acid and some other chemicals by means of nitration. [Reader M.H. Adds: Doing any of this will take considerable study and storing some other chemicals, since nitric acid just by itself will not (to any significant degree) nitrate organic compound such as glycerine, hexamine or toluene. For details, see the book titled "Chemistry and Technology of Explosives" by Urbanski (available online).]
The government has made it difficult to purchase nitric acid without a valid reason. You can make it out of sulfuric acid, from the car batteries, and potassium nitrate, from the niter beds. You will need some basic lab equipment to do this, a glass distillery connected to a vacuum pump (a vacuum distillery), and a hot plate. With the leftover parts of the car battery, mainly lead [and wheel weights as a source of antimony for hardening], you can mold lead bullets. The lab equipment required to perform some of these reactions is useful in many other processes, such as an ethanol distillery, so it may be something you'd want, regardless. Take care that you don't cross into illegal territory with your experimenting. Potassium nitrate and black powder aren't controlled substances, but at some point gunpowder becomes classified as an explosive and requires a permit to manufacture. [JWR Adds a Strong Proviso: This summary information is provided for educational purposes only. EXTREME safety measures must be taken, and all the legalities and zoning issues must be researched, permits obtained, et cetera. Also, be advised that the instructions presented in many of the published references on do-it-yourself explosives making have insufficient safety margins. For example, the set of directions on making nitroglycerin in the book The Anarchist Cookbook, could best be described as a "recipe for disaster." It will get you killed or at least maimed, in short order!]
Another interesting thing I'll mention is that handgun calibers and muzzleloaders are better suited for lead bullets with no copper jacket, since they travel through the barrel slower they can be made softer. Forming a copper jacket around a bullet is difficult and expensive. [JWR Adds: One notable exception to this is making jackets for .22 caliber bullets, which can be made with discarded .22 LR brass and lead wire, using commercially available forming dies.] I think it's also worthwhile to own at least one muzzle-loading black-powder rifle, and bullet forming equipment. Manufacturing guncotton is not nearly as easy as black powder. You can no longer readily buy black powder [in gun shops] today, it is less stable and more expensive to ship. Even the modern muzzle-loader propellants (like Pyrodex) are smokeless powders. So, you may find black powder is all people are using one of these days, as they can make it in their backyard. Either stockpile thousands of primers or use a flintlock style rifle.
I mentioned that urine can be used as a fertilizer, nowhere is this more true than in a hydroponic system. Plants need three main chemicals to grow, all three of which must be in a soluble form. urine is easily the best source of nitrogen in soluble form. Potassium can be gathered from wood ash easily by running fluids through it. Phosphorous is the hard part, and many fruiting plants need phosphorus, so it is the area where you focus the most energy. Bone has phosphorus in it, and a commonly used fertilizer for plants is bone meal in the form of calcium phosphate. Bone meal has an NPK rating of 4-12-0. Bat guano is one of the best sources of phosphorous, and bird droppings ("Bird Schumer") can similarly provide a good supply. Be careful with bird droppings though, many contain diseases especially pigeons. You may want to boil it first. Match heads can also be used for their phosphorus content, if for some reason you have thousands of matches with no barter value.
Back to urine fertilizers: When you urinate into the water your urine and many other nitrate fertilizers begin to break down into ammonia, which needs to be filtered out. If you've ever maintained a koi pond you know this can be accomplished with the use of a bio-filter. Another way to do it is with an aquaculture setup, which means connecting a fish hatchery to a hydroponics setup. The fish and the plants thrive off of each other. This has evolved into it's own industry called aquaponics, and has proven to be a commercial success, mainly to serve as leafy plant production on top of a primarily fish producing setup. If you get sick of eating that dried corn, try feeding it to a 55-gallon barrels full of Tilapia. Tilapia has been the preferred fish stock as it will eat a wider range of things, but the temperature must be kept warm. It's possible that even in colder climates a greenhouse would provide sufficient trapped heat to keep the fish alive.
Many of these techniques can form the foundations of exciting hobbies such as model rocketry, aquaculture, hydroponics and gunsmithing. I strongly encourage you to absorb some of these hobbies in your life, if they appeal to you. [Do plenty of research, and get lots of practice,] especially when it comes to something sensitive like fish or hydroponics. Beginner's mistakes could spell the end of you if you're depending on this for your urban survival. I've opted to fortify my suburban home on a quarter acre and optimize it for survival, with over two years of food storage for me and my family to get started and enough energy to cook it. If this is all you can afford then make the most of it!
Letter Re: Making Do at a Rural Vermont Retreat
While I could wish to be west of the Mississippi, my wife and I will have to retreat where we are. My elderly parents are nearby, and my wife has made it very clear she has moved for the last time. Vermont is where we will be for the foreseeable future.
We live within a rural town of approximately 2,000 residents. We are about seven miles outside of a twin-city with a population of 28,000. We lack like-minded neighbors both in faith and preparedness. We hope our far-flung family will be able to rally here, but are realistic about their chances. Not an ideal location, but we work with what God have given us.
We own 60 acres, mostly wooded with some pasture, up and three miles out of town on a dirt road. Our home is close to the middle of the land, at the end of an 1,100 foot driveway and it is not visible from the road. The driveway could be easily blocked if necessary. We have cleared good areas around the house without giving up our privacy. We heat with any of three sources, wood, pellets, or oil. Our neighbors include a medical doctor and a nurse/midwife and two miles down the hill is a dairy farm with 400 head.
We have three spring-fed ponds, (one is stocked with trout), a deep artesian well and a developed spring with a concrete cistern. We use a small greenhouse to extend our short growing season and have apple trees and blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes. We can and dry fruits and veggies, I hunt and we both cook. We have about 18 months of food in storage (dehydrated, canned, frozen and grains) and expand our larder as we are able. We used to be cold weather tent- campers and have all of the equipment that goes along with that sport in both propane and white gas.
Our arsenal is varied, deep and redundant. It includes four muzzleloaders and supplies; they are hunting and hobby rifles, but they will still put food on the table or provide defense in a pinch.
We have much on our “things to do” list. Fuel storage is a problem in quantity due to permitting issues. We do have the fuel oil tank in the cellar for the tractor, but gasoline will be limited to our cans. Our only generator is small, only able to power the pellet stove, a couple of lights and a radio. We do hope to add solar in the future. Our home is not as defensible as I would like due to glass windows and doors and we lack man-power for long term survival.
We will never be as ready as want to be, but we will be as ready as we are able. Our greatest assets are Jesus and each other. - B.C.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I’m finding SurvivalBlog very interesting in these troubling times. I came across it in the bibliography of a good novel, "Last Light", by Alex Scarrow, which took me to Peak Oil, and then to your blog.
I live in a small city in the most unknown part of Italy , a southern region called Basilicata . It’s always been a region bypassed by history and its inhabitants have known a modicum of well being only in the past 20 years. You might have heard of a book called "Christ Stopped at Eboli" by Carlo Levi. Well, that’s here. Though of course right now, it’s a charming place to live, with a lively music scene, great art and new restaurants opening up every day, people still remember vividly a subsistence existence.
I think having been very poor could actually be a huge advantage if and when it is The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). There’s still a huge huge amount of knowledge in their DNA about how to make do under harsh conditions of extreme scarcity. I can’t imagine them panicking if horrible things happen because every home has a grandmother or grandfather or an uncle that tills a small field, that can make sausage and is really good at canning. They have literally thousands of years of experience in banding together in harsh conditions. My sisters in law know everything there is about storing food, canning, etc.
In many ways, the millennial poverty (now greatly alleviated) will probably prepare them well if things collapse. And maybe areas of the world that are used to living in scarcity will do better than rich urban areas. They might not collapse, just revert to a previous culture. Also, this area is very rich in water and they’ve just discovered the largest methane fields in Europe .
Anyway congratulations on your fascinating blog. Right now, there’s no food scarcity because Italians don’t have a long food chain. They are very careful to eat locally and by law food’s origins must be labelled and Italians prefer national food to imported food, because they are snobbish about the taste of imported food. Also, Italy grows most of its own rice. Best, - E.J.
JWR Replies: I wholeheartedly agree that in the event of a societal collapse, those that live close to the land will fare better than most others. It may go down in history as a Great Inversion--something analogous to France, during the Revolution, when wealthy people in desperation traded rings set with precious stones, gold necklaces, and fancy furniture for loaves of bread. Perhaps in the next collapse they'll be trading Jet Skis and big screen plasma televisions. This sort of inversion was aptly described by Pat Frank, in his early-1960s post-nuke novel "Alas, Babylon." The novel is set in rural Florida. The story describes how the erstwhile poor black residents coped much better than rich whites, simply because they were already accustomed to making do. When dollars became worthless, suddenly it was practical skills that trumped all else. Before the Schumer hit the fan, the "Po Folks" already raised gardens, kept small livestock, and were experienced subsistence fishermen. Their white neighbors had a lot of catching up to do, to reach the same level of self-sufficiency.
Could life imitate at? I think so. The most likely to prosper in a collapse will me middle class farmers and ranchers that are well-removed from urban areas . They can capitalize on their food production kills and infrastructure, yet will be isolated from most of the peril that will grip the cities and suburbs. A farmer with a pair of well-trained draft horses and old-fashioned (horse-drawn) machinery will do the best of all. These farmers with new-found wealth will of course have to quickly hire some mercenaries to protect what they have. Speaking of Italy, the days ahead may get downright Machiavellian.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
My husband and I are like minded, (he realized way before I did), and he and
meet until I was in my mid-thirties. I was considered weird, called a tomboy
and later, a gear head. Don’t get me wrong, I cook, sew, knit and crochet.
I had many interests though and wanted to learn.
What I have seen lately and in some people we met that are like minded, is the lack of initiative on the part of some spouses. I have seen some women and men that will ridicule their spouses or will just roll their eyes and feign interest. I have seen some that their spouses have prepared and bought supplies but their other half has no clue even how to do the basics. If you are truly vested in being prepared, your spouse and children need to brush up on the basics also. This should give you some good ideas on how to learn where you are lacking.
Do you have a grain mill? Mortar and pestle? Does he/she know the basics? Can all of you bake and cook from scratch? Are your children picky or will they eat everything you put in front of them? Can they sew? Do they know the basics on edible plants? Can they hunt or fish? Can your children do what is needed? Can you do the repairs needed to your home/vehicle?
Our daughter is 16 and she is learning about cars, she can fish with the best of them and she is a good shot. Our youngest is three years old and he will be learning as we go. Both will be able to cook (one does now), sew, set traps, care for farm animals, strip and clean weapons, basic survival, fix the family relic (car) and hopefully get through anything that is thrown at them.
The first step is to start early – my husband is Creole and we eat a lot most people don’t. Turtle soup, crawfish, head cheese and some even eat tripe. My son will eat everything he is offered, he was eating crawfish when he only had 2 teeth. So our routine was this; we fix it and tell you later what it is. It works well with older kids; younger kids will eat what mom and dad eat. It is a well known fact that most really young or really old will not eat a “different” diet, unless they have been doing so all along.
When your child starts showing interest in guns, at about 6-7 years old, take them hunting. Show them what guns do. My father did that I have always had respect for what they can do. Children love doing what mom and dad do so they will take to hunting with pride. We start ours fishing at 2-3 years old for small fish and getting them used to being around the water supervised. They know how to check nets and bait hooks by the time they’re 5, that’s when we teach them how to clean the fish (mom or dad using the sharp knife).
With cars teach them as soon as they’re out of a booster seat. I have seen too many men and women who can’t even check the oil in their own cars. Your children should be a help in most situations not a hindrance, even if it’s just handing you the tools you need. Our three year old will do most simple tasks he is shown and he does them willingly, he is so happy to be a help.
If you are in the military they have a lot of classes on the base that can help with some of this. Most bases have a repair shop and you can utilize their mechanics and tools to learn about repairing your car. They offer other things so check into at the base [or post] repair/craft shop.
Work out your plans to include the jobs you expect your children to do. When
things get bad, if we’re on the move our 16 year old is to keep her little
brother while we move and defend if necessary. When stationary she can shoot,
load and take care of first aid. She will be able to pull her own weight and
then some. Our littlest one will follow suit as he grows.
Use barter to attain the skills you don’t have, watch family, use the Internet and community college. Take a vacation to Pennsylvania or Tennessee. You can learn a lot in an Amish community, I learned how to make butter and I am going back so I can learn to shear. Some teach and charge others will share what they know for free. You can also buy produce and goods from the Amish. Davy Crockett days are in August and you can watch the craftsman work and it is for the whole family. All vendors must have a "period" looking tent up and must dress in period clothing. The on site cooking is also period.
Volunteer to gain skills; veterinarian office and humane society is a good place to learn about wound care, antibiotic use and dosage, just go watch, then you will learn, most places will not turn down a volunteer. Zoos are a great place to learn about husbandry, housing and more than basic wound care, as smaller zoos take care of injuries themselves (after a vet is consulted), most of what you learn at these places about wound care can be used on humans. Colleges have book sales where you can get books on farming and some older trades/crafts very cheap (books are 1-5 dollars). Local small gun and knife shows are also a bountiful source of information [and logistics], from hard to find books to hard to find ammo.
Buy reference books! We recently went to a "Friends of the Library" book sale and spent just $12. We now have the McGraw-Hill's 20 volume set on technology ($5), doctor's desk references ("fill the box for $2"), a whole box. These included: beginner, intermediate and advanced practical chemistry, triage handbook, a nurse's reference guide, medical encyclopedias, and a diagnosis reference. We also got the EIR special report "Global Showdown Escalates", Practical Handyman from Greystone Press ($3). In many towns, you can join the Friends of the Library for $5 to $10 dollars annually, or just hit the book sales once per year. Our $12 investment filled the back seat of our car!
Even if you don’t live where your retreat is take the time to “visit” the
area. Go to the local library, stop at the local shops and grab the touristy
maps. In Amish communities the maps tell you about the local farms and what
produce and goods they sell. They have fliers that have information on classes
locally. The department of education has listings for adult education classes
on things like welding. Introduce yourself to the locals, visit the farmers
and the farmers market. Attend the church while you are there, it is the quickest
way into the fold and into being welcomed by the locals. Whether you live there
permanent or you will someday, you will want to be on friendly terms right
then when it all goes down.
In Tennessee when we were there, we saw newcomers (less than one year there) helping and being helped by the Amish. Neighbors coming together when they’re needed, no questions asked other than when do you need me. They all pull together and work well.
If your family isn’t ready, or is almost ready, taking these steps or some of these steps will help you get there. If you’re not “together” as a family in your preparedness then you need to find a way to be. Get the spouse interested in this even during an outing or vacation. Find a way to get your children involved. Preparing isn’t just for one person in the family, it’s for everyone. - T.D.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Dear Memsahib and Jim,
I am a daily SurvivalBlog reader and contributor, along with my husband. I am very interested in learning more how Memsahib and other retreat women manage to do all that they do. How does a day or week in your life go? How do you can, bake, cook, shear, spin, weave, knit, sew, teach, et cetera and get it all done?
We are moving to our retreat soon. I have baked, cooked, knit, learned to spin and weave, and have canned in the past, but not all at once. I forgot to mention clean, wash, take care of a garden, etc. etc.
We need a blog [post] about how to accomplish everything and remain sane. Not to mention home school and run a family, continue church life, etc.
For those of us who have been working and raising a family in a large town and are moving to a retreat life, we need some how to's!!!
The order of things is of the most importance or we will never accomplish all our tasks!!!
Memsahib, does your work every stop? Do you feel like you have no personal time?
I also work as a registered nurse and will try to continue with my specialty in teaching young mothers how to breast feed and care for their newborns.
Thank you for your input from all of us women who will try to "do it all" on our retreat sites. Thanks again, - Kathie
The Memsahib Replies: Thank you so much for your huge vote
of confidence. How nice to think there is a woman out there who thinks that
I do it all! :-) First
let me say first, no I
don't do it all. And secondly I don't worry about doing it all either.
I'm writing this reply specifically to married women with children. The most important thing is to keep your priorities right: I believe the correct order is: God, your husband, your children, and then everything else after that. Also remember it is not up to you to insure the survival of your family. God is in control of everything. And after God is your husband. I hope this will lift some if the burden that you are feeling. Don't shoulder the burden of the family's survival yourself. That is not your role. I think that is usurping your husband's role of provider and protector of the family.Your job is to be a helpmeet to your husband.
Okay, that said, I have acquired a lot of skills that could be put to use in TEOTWAWKI, but I do not try to do them all now. I think to attempt that would put me in an early grave like my pioneer great grandmothers! I think this is time for learning preparation skills, but if you tried to actually do them all there is no way you would have time to learn any new skills. For example I have a lot of food preservation skills. But at this present time most of our larder is full of mostly purchased foodstuffs. For the satisfaction of it, I have fed my family entire meals from food I personally raised including the milk that came fresh from our cow. It feels great to know I can do it. But I don't try to do it on a day to day basis.
There are some things that we do that allow for extra time in my schedule. We don't own a television. I think I get a lot more done for the lack of watching television. Also, I do not have a full time job outside the home. Not having to commute saves a lot of time. Another thing I attribute to getting more done is the fact that we are out in the middle of nowhere, so I don't shop. There is no place to shop. Every two months or so we stock up to top off our supplies. I also know the capacity of our larder well. I'm very strict with my family about sticking to the list! This saves time and money when we are out shopping. Also we only shop for clothes twice a year when we visit family in the big city. My sister knows all the great thrift stores. And, she knows which department stores have the best sale prices on shoes socks and underwear. If we didn't have growing children we probably could go several years without buying clothes! By the way. I do know how to sew clothes. And I know how to knit sweaters, hats, socks, mittens, and such. But I don't make my family's clothes because I don't particularly enjoy sewing. (For now, I go to the thrift store. I often can buy down jackets, Merino wool sweaters and nearly new blue jeans for $3 each, and shirts, slacks, blouses, skirts, dresses for less than than that.)
Another thing is that our family does which frees up quite a bit of time for me is cleaning up after themselves. Our children for example clear their places after meals, take their dishes to the sink and putt the scraps in the chicken bucket, and rinse their plates and glasses, and put them in the dishwasher. When there are clothes to be folded at our house all the children fold and put away their own clothes. Our children also have an individual chore based on their age, such as setting and clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, keeping the wood box filled, and feeding their pets. And you may have realized by now I make use of all the modern appliances which make household chores quicker. In the past, we've lived without running water and without electricity. I know I can survive without them, and I may have to in the future. But I sure enjoy the luxury of having them now!
The "survival skills' that I do practice daily are the ones that I personally really enjoy. I practice them as recreation and relaxation. For me personally that is raising small livestock. I really enjoy going out to the barn and feeding my critters. I especially enjoy my sheep because I also enjoy the fiber arts. I also really enjoy gardening. So my hobbies dovetail nicely with my husbands desire to be well prepared. So what hobbies and interests do you have? Which ones could you cultivate as prepping? Just because I don't care for sewing doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a great dovetail for you.
You might say another one of my hobbies is acquiring "life skills". Some people have a personality that is suited for focusing on one skill and developing that skill to a master level. My personality is more suited to trying everything. I try to make the most of each situation in which we've lived to learn what I can. My motto is: when God gives you zucchini take the opportunity to experiment baking, drying, frying zucchinis! The older women of the communities we've lived in have been wonderful teachers. They have taught me how to can pickles, make grape juice, milk goats, make soap, knit socks as well as sharing the abundance of their gardens and orchards. But I in no way feel compelled to now makes all the food we eat from scratch, knit all our clothes, make all our soap, and neither should you!
I would be remiss if I did not say that I think it is very important to use this time of liberty of ideas and travel to attend Bible studies. Yes, you can and should read and study the Bible at home. But, I find that the commitment to do a study with other believers disciplines me to stay in the Word even when life gets hectic. And our pastor has many valuable insights into the Scriptures. If you have the ability to attend a good Bible study, then do it! You may not always have that opportunity because of poor health, high gas prices, lack of transportation, or lack of religious freedom. Reading the stories of prisoners of war, I am struck by how their knowledge of God's word helped them endure. As the Bible says, "make the most of time, because the days are evil".
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Dear Mr. Rawles -
I need some advice on storing fats and oils. I have read that the shelf life these essentials can be extended by keeping them in an air tight container, and avoiding exposure to heat and light, but even then the shelf life of these products is no more than a year or so. Shortening, which used to have a shelf life of up to ten years, is no longer sold in metal cans, giving it a much shorter shelf life. How are others dealing with this problem?
Also, I have thought about other sources of oils that one could use once the stockpile has been used up. I found this link on making your own seed press out of a metal frame and a three ton jack. It also gives instructions on how to dehull the sunflower seeds with a grain mill, as well as winnowing them with a vacuum cleaner.
I hope your readers find this information helpful. - Tim R.
One of the TEOTWAWKI issues we must contend with is where to get our oils and fats. Historically, sources of sustainable fats and oils included dairy, animal fat, nuts, vegetables (olives), seeds and certain legumes (peanuts). Let us examine these in turn. Dairy requires the animals, the skills to manage them and the ability to feed them. If you do not have all of these requirements these then dairy is off the list. Animal fats require either animal husbandry, hunting, trapping and/or fishing. Animal husbandry gives us the same challenges as dairy. Hunting, trapping and fishing require locations where it is possible to do so. Nuts come from trees so if you don't already have them now, don't expect anything from them for a long time [given the many years it takes to grow a nut tree to productive maturity]. This leaves plants like peanuts and seeds such as sunflower. I humbly request that those more knowledgeable in agriculture chime in and let us know which (if any) other legumes and seeds they would recommend for edible oil in terms of ease of production and harvesting as well and yield. - SF in Hawaii
JWR Replies: Both of these letters raise an issue that is often
overlooked in long term survival/preparedness planning. I believe
and oils are consciously ignored by food storage vendors, because they
love to market their "complete" three
year and five year food storage packages. The problem is that those food
assortments do not
include the requisite multiple-year supply essential fats and oils! And
I believe that they do this because they have nothing in their bag of tricks
to provide suitable
sources of fats and oils that store well for five years. They are doing their
customers a huge disservice by this omission. Granted, most of them mention
in their catalogs
that cooking oil and shortening must be added to their storage program,
but they hardly trumpet that fact. Unfortunately, most of the typical "buy
and forget" customers--those that don't practice using their storage
foods--overlook this! And it isn't just a matter of having shortening available
as an ingredient to bake with the grain that you grow or store. Fats and
oils are a nutritional necessity--some
fat is needed for health and nutrition.
Raising livestock is a great way to provide fats for your diet. A few home-raised pigs will provide your family with both meat and a source of fat. (So much that you'll have extra available for charity or barter.) For those readers that avoid pork, I'd recommend raising sheep or emus. Emu oil is amazing stuff. Anyone that has ever butchered an emu (as I have) can tell you that there is a tremendous amount of oil stored in an adult emu. Fish raised in ponds are another possibility. Anyone considering taking up aquaculture should consider raising at least one particularly oily species, such as shad, just as a source of fish oil.
If you have the room to keep one or more cow, you will have a huge source of butterfat. (Again, so much that you'll have extra available for charity or barter.) If cattle are too large for you to handle, or if you live in an area with CC&Rs that restrict them, then you might be able to raise dairy goats. They are quite easy to handle (but sometimes a challenge to fence), and they do a great job of clearing brush. It is difficult to make butter from most goat milk. American Nubians have some of the highest butterfat milk of all the goat breeds. Even still, it must be run through a separator before you can make butter.
Egg yolks are another important source of fat. This is yet another reason to keep a laying flock. (That is, until a new strain of H5 Asian Avian Flu comes along. Then be ready to butcher all your chickens and emus in a hurry.) Growing peanuts and sunflower is an option in much of North America, and olive trees is viable for folks that live in mild climate zones. Do you have an oil press? If not, then you can buy one from Lehman's.
Hunting isn't much of an option unless you live in bear, beaver, wild pig, or emu country. (On the latter: It is notable that SurvivalBlog has a lot of readers in Australia.) Most other wild game lacks sufficient fat. Rabbit meat is particularly low in fat. As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, a diet consisting of mostly rabbit meat will lead to slow starvation. Venison by itself is quite low in fat. Just ask your neighborhood butcher how he makes venison sausage. He will probably tell you that his recipe includes adding plenty of pork fat.
A diet that has too much lean meat can lead to both severe digestive problems and even malnutrition. If you plan to depend heavily on wild game or livestock that you raise, then be sure to provide for some bulk fiber in your diet. To provide this fiber, you must ether sprout it, grow it in your garden, or store it. Don't overlook this aspect of preparing your survival larder!
Survivalists need to seriously re-think the way that they process the wild game that they harvest. Odds are that you currently throw away fat, kidneys, tongues, and intestines. Some hunters even discard hearts and livers. Wasting valuable sources of fat would be foolish in a survival situation. Take a few minutes to read this article: Guts and Grease: The Diet of Native Americans. American Indians were famous for hoarding fat. Bear grease and fat from beaver tails were both particularly sought after. (And BTW, they have multiple uses including lubrication, medicinal uses, and even as a source of fuel for lighting.) One of my favorite books is The Last of the Mountain Men, a biography of Sylvan Hart (a.k.a. "Buckskin Bill"). Hart was an Idaho solitary that lived in the remote River of No Return wilderness (southeast of Grangeville and northwest of Salmon, Idaho.) In the book, Hart makes several mentions of bear grease and its importance for self-sufficient living.
One important proviso about bears for anyone living up in polar bear country: Avoid eating more than a quarter ounce of polar bear liver per month. Because of the polar bear's diet out on the ocean pack ice, like many other polar region predators their livers contains so much concentrated Vitamins A and D that is cause vitamin poisoning when eaten. (A quarter-pound of polar bear liver contains about 2,250,000 units of vitamin A. That is roughly 450 times the recommended daily dose for an adult weighing 175 pounds.) From what I have read, this is thankfully not an issue with bears in lower latitudes.
For urbanite or suburbanite preppers that don't hunt, don't fish, don't have the room to raise livestock, and don't have the room to grow peanuts, olives, or sunflowers on a large scale, there are precious few options for long-term sources of fats and oils. The first option is expensive but viable: Once every 18 months completely rotate your supply:. Donate the unused portion of your stored stock of cooking oil and shortening/lard to your local food bank--or if it has gone rancid, set it aside for making biodiesel, candles or soap. (Speaking of soap making, be sure to stock up on plenty of lye (sodium hydroxide). Until about three years ago, lye was sold in the US as drain cleaner, under several brand names including Red Devil. Sadly, lye is no longer widely available in the US, but there are still some Internet lye vendors. One of them is a SurvivalBlog affiliate advertiser: Lehman's. And of course acquire all of the requisite safety equipment including goggle and gloves. Lye is highly caustic.)
The other thing that you can do is buy a case or two of canned butter, once every three years. Canned butter is available from Best Prices Storable Foods and from Ready Made Resources. (Both of these firms are reputable and both are long-time SurvivalBlog advertisers.)
As I've mentioned in the blog before, be very selective about the fats and oils that you store. Some that you buy in your local supermarket are borderline rancid and unhealthy even when "freshly made." I prefer olive oil over corn oil. I also prefer storing canned butter over Crisco-type shortening or canned lard. For those that do prefer shortening, its shelf life can be extended by re-packing it in Mason-type canning jars. Some brands of lard are still packed in all-metal cans, which provides a longer shelf life. Look in the ethnic foods section of your grocery store for cans marked"Manteca", which is Spanish for lard.
Study up on fats and oils. This article by Carl L. Alsberg and Alonzo E. Taylor is a good general overview. Think through how you would provide for your family in a long-term societal collapse. Odds are that you will conclude that you must either; a.) relocate to an area with abundant wild game, or b.) buy more acreage so that you can grow sunflowers and raise swine or cattle. To be the best prepared, you should pursue both.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Plentiful fresh drinking water for drinking, cooking, washing, and gardening is the most critical resource for all societies. The vast majority of the residents of First World countries are dependent on grid power to supply their water. When the grid goes down for more than a few days, water towers will soon be drained and huge numbers of people will be forced to draw water from open sources. Thankfully, there are streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds in walking distance of most homes. Rainwater from roof downspouts can also be used. But the logistics of hauling water will just by itself be a challenge. Next, people will need treat all that water, or face infection. Most families don't own a water filter. Boiling water is an option, but only for those that have natural gas, propane, or wood cooking stoves, since electric ranges don't work without grid power. Even folks with well water will face difficulties, unless they have a backup generator, or better yet a fully capable alternative energy system. (Coincidentally, we recently addressed emergency well buckets in SurvivalBlog.)
Gravity-fed spring water is the ideal water supply for a rural retreat. There is no need for power, relatively low installation expense, low maintenance and little risk of frozen pipes. But unfortunately very few properties are blessed with a spring that is situated to provide gravity flow to a house. When I advise my consulting clients, I urge them to make gravity-fed spring water a top priority when they are evaluating properties when relocating.
Grid-powered wells are problematic, since most wells use just a small pressure tank. Whenever there is a power failure, the water pressure drops to nil in just a short time. Photovoltaically-pumped well water is a good solution, albeit with a fairly high installation cost. With a large cistern that is positioned to supply gravity flow to your house (typically 35 to 60 feet of "head") you can skip putting a battery bank in your system. When the sun shines, it pumps, and when the sun sets it stops. Simple. A float switch on the cistern will insure that you prevent needless wear and tear on you pump.
Ultraviolet (UV) treatment is an interesting innovation that was first embraced by fish farmers and by koi pond enthusiasts. The UV technology is quite promising for anyone that has a shallow well or spring that has an unacceptable bacteria count. (This typically happens during a flood, or seasonally with heavy rains that increase surface water that can get into a well or spring.) The UV method of treatment is growing in popularity in the US and Canada because there is no need for chemicals. Ultraviolet light rays--just like those from the sun that produce sunburn, only stronger--alter the DNA of bacteria, viruses, molds, and parasites, so that they cannot reproduce. They are not killed, but are merely rendered sterile. Thus, they safely pass through your digestive tract, but cannot reproduce--which is otherwise the cause of intestinal illness.
The three questions that readers ask me about well and spring water are:
A.) Is well or spring water safe to drink?
Generally, yes. And because it is not fluoridated, it is probably much healthier than public utility-provided "city" water.
B.) Do I have to worry about pesticides, MTBE, or heavy metal contaminants in well or spring water?
Yes, and you should have the water tested before you buy a property that has a well. Any certified lab will test for these contaminants, as well as bacteria. Do a web search for your state's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), or equivalent. The DEQ web site should list some approved/certified commercial laboratories that do water testing. In some states, spring and well water testing is also handled by state universities. The good news is that you will only have to do this once, unless you hear about some drastic change in local water conditions.
C.) Do I need to chlorinate my well or spring water?
In most cases, no. As preciously mentioned, it is possible that your well might get contaminated by a flood, or seasonally contaminated with coliform bacteria from rain water run-off. The best solution is to use a UV sterilizer year-round, so that you don't have to worry about it. Alternatively, if you know that there has been a contamination, you could add a calculated quantity of plain hypochlorite liquid bleach solution down your well shaft, as described at this web site. But if there is continual bacterial contamination of your well or spring then again the best solution is to use a UV sterilizer year-round.
As mentioned previously, water from open sources must always be treated before use. Typical chlorine concentrations will kill bacteria but not all viruses. So I recommend a three step approach to treating water from open sources:
1.) Pre-filtering. This remove particulate matter. Pouring water though a couple of thickness of t-shirts or tightly-woven bath towels works fine. The water that comes through will still look like tea, but at least you will have removed the crud and larger particles. By pre-filtering, you will also extend the life of your water filter. (You avoid clogging the microscopic pores in teh filter media.)
2.) Chlorinating. This can be accomplished following the
time and concentration guidelines previously discussed in SurvivalBlog.
3.) Filtering. I recommend the large Katadyn or British Berkefeld filters. Some filter elements available for Katadyn or British Berkefeld filters can even remove chlorine. (Complete filter systems and spare filter elements are available from Ready Made Resources, Safecastle, and other Internet vendors)
Compact Water Treatment Systems
I am often asked about compact water filters for backpacking, hunting trips, and "Get Out of Dodge"/"Bug Out" situations. For this, Katadyn makes an excellent compact water filter/pump called a Pocket Filter. The volume of water that they can process is limited, but they are perfect for their intended purpose. Another option is the recently introduced Hydro Photon SteriPEN--a compact battery-powered UV sterilizer. This is a miniatur version of a home water UV sterilizer. Very clever! We are currently testing one here at the Rawles Ranch. Look for a product review of the SteriPEN that will be posted on SurvivalBlog next week. SteriPENs are available from Safecastle, Ready Made Resources, and several other Internet vendors.
An even more compact water treatment method for lightweight backpacking is Polar Pure--essentially just iodine crystals in a mesh-top bottle. This is used to create a strong iodine solution that is in turn used to treat a quantity of water. As recently mentioned in SurvivalBlog, the US government is about to ban the sale of iodine crystals and iodine solutions over 2%, since they now deem iodine to be a "precursor" chemical for illicit drug manufacture. Therefore, I strongly recommend that all SurvivalBlog readers in the US get themselves a lifetime supply of Polar Pure, as soon as possible. It is sold by Ready Made Resources and several other Internet vendors.
It is important that every prepared family make plans in advance on exactly how they will handle their water supply in the event of a long-term grid-down situation. Buy the gear. test is extensively. Also research a primary, secondary, and even tertiary source of water in your area. You need to plan ahead for transporting that water, even if fuel for vehicles is not available. Think in terms of a two-wheel garden cart or a bicycle cargo trailer with "Slimed" tires--or better yet, foam-filled "airless" tires (available from PerformanceBike.com or Nashbar.com). A cart or trailer can be loaded with 5 or 6 gallon plastic buckets or water cans. (For planning purposes, each 5 gallon water can will weigh about 42 pounds, so you'll want a cart or trailer with at least 200 pound capacity.) Oh yes, and don't forget that if times get really bad you'll need to plan for a security detail, to protect the water detail. This is starting to get complicated, isn't it? And if you are unfortunate enough to live in an area that lacks open water sources available in every month of the year that are within walking distance, then you ought to seriously consider relocating to area with more plentiful water .
Make plans to to be able to distribute water purification supplies as charity. (Pool Shock chlorination tablets can be bought in a five gallon pail--enough to treat many hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. Make some photocopies of of directions for using hypochlorite tablets. A few plastic zip lock bags of hypochlorite tablets (roughly 6 ounces per bag) along with direction sheets could save hundreds of lives.
Monday, June 4, 2007
I'm amazed at the wide variety of people that read SurvivalBlog. I"m starting a new poll: in seven words or less, tell us you profession, (via e-mail) and I will post an anonymous list. For any of you that are doctors, lawyers, or engineers, and so forth please state your specialty. If you have two (or more) vocations, please state the both with a slash in between. (Such as "neurosurgeon / musician.")
As standard policy, unless specifically given permission I remove people's names, titles, e-mail addresses, company names, and other identifiers from letters before I post them. Without mentioning any names, let me briefly summarize some the more notable readers that I already know about: NASA scientists, Lawrence National Laboratories physicists, pharmacists, doctors in various specialties, Hollywood actors, foundry workers, novelists, a rock-'n- roll musician, dojo masters, current and former military intelligence officers, NSA intelligence analysts, stock analysts, derivatives traders, aircraft mechanics, an astronaut, beekeepers, military and civilian pilots (lots!), submariners, an underwater welder, veterinarians--including one that is also an attorney, a prototype automobile modeler in Detroit, real estate agents, truckers, organic farmers, a mushroom farmer, two fish farmers, research chemists, an underwater photographer, U.S. Army Special Forces officers and NCOs, Navy SEALs, petroleum engineers, umpteen electrical and computer engineers, and dozens of police officers, paramedics, and firemen. I'll be interested to see what a more complete list looks like!
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
One of the requirements for long term survival is high quality protein.
High on the list for many survivalists would be chicken eggs and
rabbit meat. Of course one problem is having something available
to feed the chickens or rabbits. I have been experimenting with another
source that basically raises itself and is easily obtained. I am
talking about fish. Here is a summary of my results after experimenting
with my small pond:
In order to provide enough fish [with a "natural' (not food supplemented) pond], count on 1 acre of pond per adult and perhaps 1/2 acre per child. Of course if you supplement this with chicken eggs or other sources, you can get by with less.
To start, it is best to begin with a clean slate. This means contacting your local fish and wildlife department and having them poison your pond with a temporary poison. This will remove all undesirable trash fish that will compete with your production. This step is optional, and I was successful without resorting to this method by overstocking my forage fish.
Next, consider the food pyramid. What you are doing is creating an ecosystem. At the bottom of your food pyramid are phytoplankton and bacteria. In order to boost their production, you can add a small amount of fertilizer to the pond. In a post-TEOTWAWKI scenario, this can include chicken manure. If your pond is murky, then this step is probably unnecessary.
The next level of the pyramid is zooplankton. After some research, I discovered the daphnia, also known as the water flea. These little critters feed on bacteria, but they are also one of the few organisms that feed on one-cell algae. The best place I discovered to buy them is from Dallas Discus. Google on "Dallas Discus Daphnia" to find their web site. They will ship daphnia to you direct. I purchased the 3 species starter culture for around $25. Daphnia also have a great feature. When the water temperature drops, they will lay eggs that will survive the winter. During warmer months they reproduce by live birth and increase at a geometric rate. I found a sheltered area of my pond that had a lot of water plants to introduce the daphnia.
Next on the list is forage fish. I used two species, the fathead minnow and the blue gill bream. The fathead minnow will get clobbered if put directly in a pond, so I put mine in the creek that feeds it. A good portion stayed in the creek, but clouds of minnows would periodically swim into the pond.
For forage, it is hard to beat the blue gill. These fish will spawn multiple times per year and will also reach eating size. Be careful and order only “native blue gill”, “non-hybrid blue gill”, or “copper nose bluegill”. Do not order “hybrid blue gill” or “hybrid bream/sunfish”. These will grow quickly, but they do not reproduce well. The copper nose bluegill is actually a sub species, and not a hybrid. They are great for the pond, however they should only be used in warmer areas. Native blue gill can be used in most of the U.S. and are even a popular fish to catch ice fishing in Minnesota. Another cold water forage fish to consider is the yellow perch. I do not have much experience with them, and can not comment on their use. One fish to avoid, however, is the crappy.
The red ear bream or shell cracker is another species of forage to consider. They will reach eating size also, and they eat different foods then the blue gill, such as snails. These should only be used in more southern areas however.
Finally there is the apex predator. These are needed to keep the bream population healthy, and they provide a lot of meat. For my pond I chose the large mouth bass, though the channel catfish is another alternative.
Stocking Rates: For a healthy population, stock 1,000 bream per 100 bass, per acre. So a typical stocking rate would be 800 native blue gill, 200 red ear bream, and 100 largemouth bass. You should also stock 10 pounds of fat head minnows. Put a few pounds in any creek or stream that feeds your pond, a few pounds in the vegetation, and the rest in the open water. The native bass will hammer the open water minnows, which will allow your new bream to find safer waters.
Harvesting: For harvesting, use the same ratio. Remove 10 bream for each bass you catch. The bream are easily caught using a cricket or worm on a hook. To prepare, cut off their heads and gut them. Remove the scales. Fry whole. Bass are best prepared by filleting them. Both species are excellent to eat with a very mild flavor.
After you stock your pond, you are finished. You really don’t have to do anything else. However, I have been able to increase my production by feeding my bream. It is best to use a 30% protein floating catfish pellet to do this, though I have had great success using Wally World kitten chow with the same protein content. Post-TEOTWAWKI, you can increase production by raising earthworms and feeding these to the fish. I have not done this yet, but I will try using grass clippings to feed the earthworms. The composted grass and worm casing mixture should make for an excellent additive to a vegetable garden.
My next experiment for this season is to try preserving the fish. I have not done this yet, but from what I have read, I will soak the fish for thirty minutes in a brine solution and then cold smoke for 12 hours. This would make for a good winter food supply, though bluegill can be caught year round, even via ice fishing. I have friends who stored smoked fish using regular canning methods and ate it all winter long.
Preparing a fish pond is an excellent option for a retreat that you can not permanently live in, since if you stock using the correct ratio, the pond will stay in balance and take care of itself. Your protein supply will be waiting for you after the Schumer hits the fan. Remember to stash a large supply of fishing gear including hooks and monofilament line. Also, a pellet gun [could potentially be useful] for removing unwanted herons. Note that this is currently illegal, so follow your local, state, and federal laws. - J.D.
JWR Adds: In my estimation it is a far more efficient use of resources (especially time) to install protective netting over your fish ponds, rather than guarding them against predators. Osprey, herons, egrets, kingfishers, and cormorants are relentless. They will wait until the days that you are away from home and then clean out your pond. Unless your pond is quite large, the expense of constructing net supports and buying netting is far outweighed by the value of the extra fish that you will harvest. Fish farming is great way to provide self-sufficiency and it can be very profitable. "The Werewolf" (SurvivalBlog's correspondent in Brazil) is a fish farmer. He raises Tilapia. I know of one gent in Idaho that started out with one 20 foot diameter tank full of trout. He eventually added more and more tanks. He sells primarily to the restaurant market, shipping out the fish packed in boxes chilled with dry ice. His operation eventually grew so large that he and his family were spending several hours a day, seven days a week, just gutting fish. So he bought a $25,000 electric fish cleaning machine from Germany. You insert a whole fish head-first into the machine and it pops out the other end completely de-gutted and washed. That machine is quite a labor saver.