Outdoors, Green Living, Homesteading, Sustainable living, Green Building

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Self Sufficiency


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The Survival Pod Cast
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What is self sufficiency in the modern world? I hear all this talk about Bug Out Location, Bug Out Vehicle, Bug Out Bag. I can move into the woods with my BOB and live for weeks even months if necessary. I could camp beside and in my BOV indefinitely though I probably wouldn’t want too. In the 20’s we had HOBO’s which were homeless people or migratory workers who camped in the woods vs getting a hotel room. In an economic collapse do we all become HOBO’s? Hopefully that is not going to be the case for most of us self sufficient survivors. If I’m going to camp, I want my own land to camp on. If I’m going to forest bum it should be my forest and neighbors forest and national forest near my homestead.

The truth is that we all need and want things that the modern world gives us that we are poor without. Sure, much of it we could live without, but we wouldn’t want too. Should the economy fail and we fall on hard times then we want to be in the best position possible to make due until it comes back and then be more ready for the next time. The problem is that it’s possible it may not come back in a given person’s lifetime or not in time for that person to enjoy the new good times.

I think we get the order of importance of skills needed backwards sometimes. Here is the correct order. And I’m not saying that you can’t work on all these skills at the same time only noting order of importance.

#1 Personal Finance skills.
#2 Career skills.
#3 Selling and Trading skills.
#4 Homesteading skills.
#5 Wilderness and primitive living skills.

Personal finance is first because we are not yet in a state of economic collapse and there is still time to use the current economy to improve our positions. Also prepping requires money. And land is not cheap in case you haven’t noticed.

Career skills is closely related to the first. But also in that during an economic collapse some people will still be able to work. What career skills might be best to gain before an economic collapse? Its something to think about.

Why selling and trading? I have never thought of myself as a good salesman. Matter of fact the only things I’ve ever thought I’d be good at selling where things I knew a lot about and liked. I mean a good salesman should be able to sell ice to an Eskimo right? In a depressed economy selling and trading things that one produces from their own land would be important. Supplemental income or any income will be important. And bartering will be all too important when money is worthless.

So the first three are money/goods related. Next is living off of your land or homesteading. You might think this would be number one in self sufficiency but I’m betting you would be wrong. It is very difficult to be totally self sufficient, I mean are the Amish? No they rely on community. So did the first pioneers in America. Even if you organized a self sufficient community similar to the Amish or pioneers then you live at a reduced standard of living until the money system and all other systems come back online. Homesteading is important because it gives some measure of self sufficiency greater than most other situations. Its also important because it gives longer periods of complete self  sufficiency than camping and forest bumming alone.

Lastly wilderness and primitive living skills because you may need them on your own homestead. You may need to travel from your own homestead and live primitively for a day or two at a time. Or you may just choose too. There is something therapeutic about primitive living for a few days every now and then.

 

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Project (Task) Management


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The Survival Pod Cast
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Quality Quantity Time Resources

Project (Task) Management can be one of the more difficult areas in ones life. Its easy to start building a “tower” for example and not finish because of unforeseen circumstances. A book I read talked about a superb metaphor about project management. I’m sure this author didn’t come up with this on his own, so I will share it.

Imagine that you are on a space station. You are the engineer in charge of operating the space station’s water treatment plant. In the control room there are 4 gauges and dials as controls. They read quality, quantity, time, resources. You may adjust any control from 0% to 100% but if you adjust one it may alter one or more of the other three.

If we increase quantity, then quality may drop. To compensate for drop in quality we can increase either time or resources. That is unless time is already at 100%. Time would be number of hours in a day that the plant is in operation. Resources in this case would be extra filters.

Lets say a meteoroid strikes your space station and knocks out a few filters. To keep quality the same you would need to increase time until the filters are replaced. Or we could reduce quantity possibly until the filters are replaced. This might be possible if for say we had water in reserve.

Next the filters after some use need to be cleaned. Quality may be dropped for short periods of time while one filter is being cleaned without adverse effects. And for certain uses water quality might be dropped even more for a given amount of time, such as wash water for some space station component. This would extend the life of the filters.

Let say, heaven forbid, that half the astronauts die off. Then time can be dropped which would also reduce quantity. So we see here in this example reasons to run the operation in reduced quality, reduced quantity, reduced time and with reduced resources. Not all at the same time usually.


Lets take another example in working a cattle ranch. Ideally with all gauges on 100% your fences will be up and fully mended, cows will be fed, doctored and happy. Hay or corn will be grown, harvested and stored. Sale of cattle or extra hay or feed will pay the farmers living.

Now what might lower resources? The farmer could be injured or get sick. The price of cattle, feed or hay could go down, in which case the farmer might have to pick up side work which would take time away from the cattle operation. With resources down time would also drop.

Quality would then suffer as a result and go down as well. Cows might not be fed or doctored and loose weight. Not as much hay or grain could be produced. This might force the farmer to compensate by reducing quantity, meaning selling cows.

Lets say the cows all have twins one year. Quantity goes up as a matter of production. To keep quality from dropping the farmer must sell off so many cows and calves. Imagine a disease comes along that can’t be doctored and half the cows die. That’s a drop in both quality and quantity. Resources and time might have temporarily increased giving the farmer time for side projects however, such as a construction project.

Consider that if the farmer earned extra income from selling excess hay or feed he can then hire the neighbors kid to help him out. This increases resources. 20 acres of meadow can be developed into pasture with weed control, be fenced, have some feeders put in etc. Now quantity can be increased. At the same time new farm tractor equipment is invented causing time to decrease. Quality won’t suffer as a result of increased quantity. The next year the farmer no longer has excess hay or feed to sell.

If you try you can continue to play these scenarios out in your mind on other types of situations and businesses. After you feel you have the concept then apply them to real projects that you are working on. It doesn’t matter if that project is for survival, career, or for fun. The depressing side is when you begin to understand that based on little or no resources and time your dreams are simply dreams. At that time simply scale down your dreams and redirect your energy to something feasible. For example if you can’t write a book then write an article instead, such as a blog article.


Survival Trucking (Eating in the truck only)


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This article will be about how to live from the truck or any vehicle such as pickup with cowboy camper or van. No truck stop food, no restaurants, no full service food, no fast food, no quick stop food. All the food must come from grocery store or Wal-Mart. I intend to take some photo’s of things need to cook with and cook on in the truck.  I will tell you what has worked for me. I will tell you what recipe’s seem to work for me and what brands.  I will tell you which cooking methods work best.

Boiling water.  There are two or three main ways to boil water in a truck. The 12v appliances sold at truck stops work fine but are slow. Inverter powered 120v hot water heater pot from Wal-Mart works great and boils nearly half gallon in 1 minute. I mean rolling boil. Probably need a 1500 watt inverter for that though. Of course the inverter would power a microwave as well. The other two types of 12v water heaters is one that looks like a thermos. The other is called a smart pot and shuts off if tipped over or if the water boils dry. The thermos looking heater needs to be watched while it heats and not left alone for a minute unless unplugged. If you forget about it you could burn a truck down. I almost did that once. I forgot about it for 35 minutes, I ran from the house to the truck and it was at a rolling boil with about 2/3s of the water left that I had put in it.

I just picked up a little camp cooker from Wal-Mart camping section that sits on top of a small flat propane canister. A single canister seems to last about 5 to 10 meals for $5 in propane.  I need to find a way to recharge the canisters using my RV propane to get that cost down.  I also picked up a spatula, flat skillet like pan, and a small lid and more bowl shaped skillet for frying. Along with that I have the 12 volt lunch box oven which heats to 300 degrees. Those lunch box ovens work great by the way for some things and not so good for others.

For cooling in a truck we have 12v refrigerators, and 120v refrigerators. Some are almost affordable and others that work better are expensive.  The 12v ones that rely on thermoelectric cooling barely work. The small ones I never got to work well at all.  A larger one worked well but took a long time to cool anything down that was at room temp.  And if it was in hot inside the truck it barely worked.  Anything with a compressor would work well, but cost a lot. And I have seen some recently that are 12v and 120v combo that have compressors.

We have the ice chest and ice cooling as well. I am going to try a 1 gallon container with ice that I will bum from the coke ice machines.  Will keep a few things cool but not much this way. With that there is always the pouring off of the water to do. I bought some bubble wrap to help add extra insulation to my 1 gallon cooler. I do not sit it on the floor mat but on the end of the bunk. I keep it insulated on top, bottom and sides. 32 oz of ice seem to keep it cool all day. I can get by with having to get ice only once a day, or sometimes twice.

I leave home for about 7 days at a time on my current job.. I hope to pack some meat in the cooler for the first few days. Deboned Chicken, Pork and Beef and maybe Fish.  As long as I can seem to keep this stuff cool I will try to do a little grilling. Will also keep cheese and hot dogs cool in this.j


Truck Date:201203301249 (yyyy:mm:dd:24hh)


Well last two weeks I have cooked soups, roman noodles, pork chops, chicken breast, bacon, scrambled eggs, American fried potatoes,canned veggies, mashed potatoes (instant), Velveeta shells and cheese and grilled bread toast using the camp stove. I have had no ill effects from CO(Carbon Monoxide). The truck is pretty roomy, as an 8’x8’x8′ cube maybe. I also keep the a/c blowing while cooking. I might crack the windows but I doubt that helps much. I really don’t think I’m getting enough CO to be harmful in the minute or two that I have the stove on. I really do not think CO will be an issue. Though I’ll keep you guys posted.

I think it might be best if potatoes are parboiled then kept cool in the cooler. This would require less fuel for cooking and less cooking time. I could parboil the potatoes in the lunch box cooker. This would save space in the cooler.

I had some trouble in the cooler with water infiltrating the zip lock bags and soaking cheese and meats. And I had some egg white escape into the melt water. So I am thinking that better zip locks are needed or some other method of sealing the meats and eggs. Small plastic containers with sealing lids might be in order, however these may use up more space in the cooler. Vacuum packing in Mylar would work well but Mylar is not cheap, and this is very temporary storage. Buying something that is already individually vacuum packed seems to be a good way to go here. Another thing I will try is to wrap cheese or meat in saran wrap and twist tie, then put in zip lock.

If the ice melts to produce ice water things may become soaked, however ice water is good thermal mass. Addition of salt might also keep it cooler longer. As long as salt does not leach into the food this might work. I am also going to grab a space blanket to wrap the cooler in to see if that helps the ice to last longer.

I brought only enough bread to make toast for 4 or 5 days. Bread can mold quickly in a humid truck environment. The one thing I am missing so far is salads. I could keep one small bag of salad stuff on ice to eat on for a couple of days after I leave out. I could also just buy salads from the fast food and quick stop sections in the truck stops which I think might be a better plan for now. That might be cheating but its not cheating much and I can still save money that way. Also flying J truck stop sells boiled eggs. They will be more costly than keeping boiled eggs on ice but not nearly as costly as sitting down to breakfast in full service. I may have to make some compromises to make this workout better.

I have cheated and sit down to food in full service twice in the last 2 weeks. Total cost of that so far was $20. I ate light both times. I broke down and ate a good breakfast for $12 plus tip after that a day ago.

The net result here is that after more than 2 weeks I’ll go home to about $500 extra in the bank. I intend to use that to buy a 5×10 bumper pull trailer that I have been badly needing. Note that this amount saved would also buy a very good inverter or a 12v refrigerator with a compressor and freezer section. So has it been worth it? I’d say so.


Truck Date 201204082149





I wrapped this 1 gallon water jug in 4 or 5 layers of bubble wrap packaging material. I also wrapped it in a space blanket on top of that and duck taped it. If somewhat insulate the bottom and top with blankets or whatever you can keep it near freezing for 24 hours with 32oz of ice.


Here I show the 12v smart pot. It boils water in 10 to 15 minutes. I use it only for heating water. It’s too much of a mess to clean up to use it for heating anything with sugar in it in my opinion.


Wood burning stoves, ranges, ovens and fire places.


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I only have a small bit to say here for now. And I didn’t order this well. Hope you enjoy the info anyway.

First let me say that when it comes to burn efficiency we have 3 main elements, time, temperature and turbulence. I think turbulence also means mixing with oxygen properly or at right stages along the burn path. I would like to add two more elements to this list though myself from Rumfords studies, insulation and thermal mass (a recurring theme in the green scene). Though insulation and thermal mass are elements that affect time and temperature.

There is plenty that I do not say in this article about stove installation and connections of pipes and types of pipes, wall connections etc. I don’t talk about modern stoves with catalytic converters in the smoke stacks which bring the cost up in the $1000’s. There are certified installers for stoves as well. I also don’t talk about creosote build up due to premature cooling of smoke gasses. Yes there is quite a bit more material covered by books and web sites about all this.

I, like most people, like the looks and pleasing feel of the open fire in or out of a home. I personally have no bias against highly inefficient open fires places, unless I need to conserve wood as fuel because of a shortage or because I want to spend less time gathering, cutting, splitting and stacking or moving wood.  You may get a metallic reflector to place in the back of your fireplace to add efficiency. Yet fire places with stove inserts of course are more efficient than open fireplaces. Inserts are not as efficient as stand alone stoves however.

Count Rumford was a guy who studied thermodynamics in the late 1700’s. He wrote a set of books about his research. He determined and recorded the BTU ratings for many types of wood around Europe and the world. His book is called “Complete works of Count Rumford.” You can download a free scanned copy of the original rare book from a publisher’s website (GeneralBooksClub.com). You can also preview excerpts of the book there. I have seen vol 2 and vol V. I don’t know how many volumes there are. You will find downloads of the pdf with with web searches. Here is a firewood facts page with some BTU for species info.

This image above shows the forward slant on traditional yet not on the Rumford. I’m pretty sure Rumford has a slight forward slant on top of the fire box, though not as extreme as the conventional one shown in the image.

Of the open fireplaces Rumford design is most efficient. This design is not deep from front to back. The back wall slopes forward for about half the height up to the fireplace flue opening. It would have a lot of thermal mass around it. It has a smoke shelf and chamber above the top of the fireplace so that hot smoke can circulate around and warm the thermal mass, instead of simply shooting straight up and out the chimney.

There are Rumford design stoves and cooking ranges/ovens as well. A brand of Rumford design wood cook ovens was AGA Brand. I don’t know that much about his stove/range/oven design yet and I can’t really find drawings of it. As for Count Rumford’s wood cook ovens and ranges, he used deep fire wells with good use of thermal mass, and insulation. He used Insulated lids and doors. The idea was to only produce the amount of heat needed and keep it where needed. His first ovens were so efficient that they had to install a small open fireplace to keep the cooks warm on winter days.

When cooking on wood ranges, pots and pans must be moved around from cooler burners to warmer burners. To get extra heat a burner plate could be removed to set the pot or pan directly on the heat or flames. Turning of the pots and pans is frequently necessary because each burner will have a warmer and cooler side.  To cool an oven that is too hot place a pan of cool water inside the oven. Some ovens vent smoke around a warmer box above the stove for keeping food warm until served. Some stoves also have hot water wells for on demand hot water.

Rocket Stove is made with a pipe that drops nearly to the bottom of the stove so that air is sucked downward and horizontally into the pipe. Mass Rocket heater is similar concept except that it uses a J shaped flue with firebox which circulates the smoke/gasses back around the flue and down into heater ducts. These ducts flow through Thermal mass of some kind and should be 6″ from the outside surface of this thermal mass. The flue is only about 3 feet tall and is insulated with high heat tolerant insulation such as vermiculite beads (activated mica), perlite (volcanic glassy material), pumice(volcanic ash), kaowool (sometimes called kawool I think), or, heaven forbid, asbestos. Actually there is a type of asbestos that does not get caught in the lungs or cause cancer or lung disease. Even though geologist have proven its safety it is still not allowed. Wools like kaowool may be called “High Temperature Insulation Wool” or HTIW.

Rocket mass heaters draw air from the top of the fire hole (pit) downward and sideways into the flue. They have their drawbacks. For example they need a lot more attention than the normal stoves or open fireplaces. However they absolutely make the most efficient use of heat, heat storage and thermal mass. And they burn the most cleanly and efficiently possible. The exhaust from a rocket mass heater is almost clear, has mostly co2, little co maybe and water vapor. The heat coming out of a rock mass heater flue would only be around 200F degrees or a bit more instead of 600 to 900 degrees. This in itself demonstrates why they are efficient. This shows heat retained by the thermal mass and inside the structure.

There are many uses for rocket mass heaters and one interesting one I heard of was used for a wood drying kiln. The kiln was 8 feet high, 20 feet long and 10 feet wide.  I think I’ll try this some day because you can use all the waste wood  and possibly saw dust for fuel in drying the good wood. Other uses mentioned was in the heating of a hot tub or pool water. Rocket Mass stoves for cooking are not out of the question either.

Unlike the open fire or stoves, using heated thermal mass means taking advantage of all the forms of heat transfer radiation, convection and conduction. If done properly you can place mattresses and or lay or sit directly on the thermal mass for the transfer of heat into your body. This is the most efficient way to warm the body. Normal warming comes from radiation(stoves or open fires) or convection (central heating) mostly.

Cob (Native American Horno (bee hive oven)) or brick ovens for baking pizza and bread seem like a great idea to me too. I’m a big proponent in utilizing thermal mass for this stuff. The cob oven I saw in the Cob House book, resembled a mud dome. It had a door that was made of wood actually. You build the fire inside the oven to warm it. After you warm it you remove the coals and ash and wait a small bit of time for the temp to drop to the baking temp. Then bake. This oven can be made more efficient borrowing from the rocket stove design. It would need a small chimney or flue at the top. It would also need an intake flue that would drop down so that intake air is drawn down to the floor level.I’d say a pipe with some slots or holes drilled in the bottom would work fine. This intake flue would be removed just prior to baking. An insulated plug might be needed for the intake flue hole. Chimney might need to have a damper or plug. The thermal mass of the 1 foot thick mud oven dome keeps the oven warm long enough to bake pizza or bread or maybe even a casserole. Its a matter of designing it so that it keeps a given temperature range for a given time for a given recipe. Its likely that what would work for one recipe will also work for a myriad of others.


Russian fireplaces and stoves were made using thermal mass principles as well. Russian chimneys were often made so that the smoke circulated in a zig zag fashion around block or rock so that more heat was absorbed by the thermal mass before the smoke escapes the chimney. They also had places to sit that had been warmed by the smoke and fire. Some Russian beds were actually made on top of stoves, where there were about a foot of thermal mass between the bed and stove. The bed would be high up in the room near the ceiling also, which would be the warmer part of the room because of convection. It gets quit cold in Siberia (-120F maybe).



            One last note about chimneys. First settlers in America made chimneys and fire places from logs and cob. Cob being mud/straw mix packed between the logs and as thermal mass between flue and logs and fire place and logs. The logs were stacked in a loose fit manner. The mud held the logs in place and the logs held the mud in place. Once fired a few times the mud would become like brick. The logs overhung the mud on the outside enough to prevent erosion from rain. This is probably not a method I’d use unless I was in a pinch. If I wanted an el cheapo cabin somewhere as a camp site I might try this method as well.

Lehman’s sells $8000 wood cook ranges and ovens imported from Europe. A quick search on ebay will find used wood cooking stoves and ovens for much lower prices.

Recommended Books
Rocket Stove, Rocket Mass Heater
Building with Cob, shows how to build a simple cob oven.

Metal working shop tool wish list.


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You my also want to read my post on Simple DIY Metal Buildings

The first settlers in America had very little scrap iron to work with. What little they had they worked and reworked. They made forges from sand pits and wood and leather bellows. Today however scrap is plentiful and I’m sure it’s shocking as to how much scrap is trashed in the local land fills. With a few basic tools and a small bit of knowledge I’m guessing an individual could work miracles in his spare time if not simply as hobby work alone. Tin working was a big thing in medieval Europe. Pots, pans, cups, plates, candle holders and roofing. So in addition to the tools listed here, one might add soldering tools, standing seam metal roofing tools, riveting tools.

This will be a brief article. I intend to put together in time, with little sums of spare cash a metal working shop just to play around with. It can also be something that I might invite a friend (whom enjoys metal working and is more skilled than I) to use. I do not intend to build a roof over this shop. I intend to build a 10 foot chain link fence in a yard area of about 40’x40′. Will have a large auto gate and a smaller human door way(gate). I will somehow make it a blind fence. I will use cinder blocks and pallets to keep tools off the ground. Will run electrical system in conduit few inches off the ground. I will cover all tools with tarps and untarp them on fair weather days for use.  Most tools will be bought from a well used state. Ground should probably be graveled at some point, or I should lay in brick or flagstone paving. Later if I can ever afford it I’d put up a metal pole barn with metal roof over 40’x20′ section that covered the tools. The rest of that 40’x40′ section would be for materials.

  • Sand Forge, hair dryer for blower
  • Fire Brick forge, hair dryer for blower
  • 5 Gallon foundry with crucibles and tongs, hair dryer for blower.
  • Mold making sand and materials.
  • Heavy metal tables with vices.
  • Anvil (rail road rail, heavy metal blocks etc.)
  • Sledges and Chisels
  • Power Hammer (see you tube)
  • Coal, Coke, Wood, Charcoal
  • Drill Press
  • Lathe
  • Sheet Metal Brake
  • Larger Brake for punching as well as bending and cutting. (being used some of the functions may not work at first)
  • Oxygen Acetylene(Propane) Torch
  • Roller Mill
  • Metal Shaper
  • Divider Head
  • Arc Welder
  • Tig, Welder
  • Plasma Cutter
  • Milling Machine
  • Band Saws
  • Grinders
Recommended Books