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

Sustainable Living

5 areas of concern in wilderness survival.

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A guy from 180 Tack.com inspired this post. Below is a list of his
survival areas of concern in order of concern. The interesting thing to note is that fire was #5.

  1. Exposure
  2. Shelter
  3. Water
  4. Food
  5. Fire

Exposure has to do with covering the body and keeping it from wind, cold, moisture in winter (possibly sun) and heat or sun in the summer. Clothing plays a huge role here. Poncho may be needed. Insulation in layers. Sun glasses and sun block in winter snowy areas. I have experience -20f with wind near Chicago and I can tell you that you must have all exposed skin covered or it will begin to go numb in minutes. In summer shade, sun screen or earth covering and ground temps may be in order.

Shelter has to do with added protection from wind, rain, cold in winter and heat or sun in summer. Shelter can be anything from tarps, to space blankets, to tents, to ponchos to tube tents to lean-to’s made from brush to caves or burrows in summer. Don’t underestimate the power of the ground to cool you in summer. Just a few feet below ground is 40f to 70f year round temps. Its a perfect natural air conditioner that’s everywhere.

Water of course is water or moisture. Needed to avoid heat stroke, dehydration and in avoiding hypothermia. Know your wilderness water sources. Plants are better sources than solar stills.

Food can mean small amounts of food to give small burst of energy and stave off some hunger. Pine trees alone can provide much. I feel that winter is a very tough time to survive if you didn’t bring food with you. Finding nut trees might be your best hope. Hunting critters will be a better food source in winter but its not easy. In spring, summer and early fall the buffet opens up. Especially with fishing. Hunting is easier. Plants are abundant.

Fire is good for sanitation of water and heating the body. Fire should not be the main concern when thinking of warming the body. If you worry too much about getting a fire going other more important things may be neglected. Fire is best used in shelters or at shelter entrances. Know how to use bow and drill but don’t depend on it. That method takes practice. One note on that method is that one should use the same type of wood for both bottom plate and drill. A better plan would be to carry flint and steel striker on your belt somehow along with some char cloth. A money belt could hold some char cloth. The buckle if made of carbon steel could be the striker or a carbon steel knife as a striker. All that is needed is a place to keep the flint rod. Maybe in the sole of a shoe as long as you know it to be secure.


6 main areas of life when prepping for Survival

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  • Food
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Shelter
  • Security
  • Health/Sanitation

These are the 6 main areas of life to consider when preparing for survival. This is the “prepper” world. Not necessarily “doomsday prepper” however. How about preparing for things that are likely to happen? These are things Jack Spirko talks about on The Survival Pod Cast all the time.


Dave Ramsey says in the “Total Money Makeover” that we should keep a $1000 emergency fund and then 3 to 6 months of “expense” money (not income) on hand. Preppers when storing up food say “Store what you eat and eat what you store”.  The pioneers stored food for getting them through the winter. We usually just go to the grocery store all winter. It is possible to store up food that last for years. The best used by dates on most food items means that it will begin to loose some flavor or possibly vitamins or nutritional content after that date. Many canned items could last 10 years in a root cellar. Dried and Freeze Dried items can last that long and longer. I have a blog post on Food Harvest Preservation you may want to read.

How about keeping 2 months food on hand? or 6? or a years worth? or 2 years or 5 years or 10 years? If you store food and do not use it then it spoils and is trashed after a given period of time. This is similar to the concept of insurance. You may just loose your money if you never need the food. If we rotate and eat the food that we stored then nothing is lost but effort and some time maybe. I think rotating and consuming is best, at least as much as you can stand. You need to be willing to know that you will eat the food that you store.

Also what about seeds? Yup you can set aside typical garden seeds and they can last for decades. Could there be a possibility that your or someone you know may in dire straights situation suddenly have no job and time for growing and harvesting food? Its something to think about. Other things to stock up on in this area might be garden soil, fertilizers, manures, compost, hummus etc. If we are going to be prepping for years into the future how about planting fruit, nut trees and vines around most especially native varieties of fruits and nuts and vines. Here I have an article on Square Foot Gardening. And here Types of Gardening. I’d add one thing to those also, the Critter Gitter Bag . If you have time to garden you may also have time to hunt and fish and trap.


There are many possible problems that might arise in the current water systems. High prices are one problem. Contamination another. Outage another. We need to have alternative ways to get clean uncontaminated water. We need to have ways to conserve and recycle used water. I address these problems in two post. Home Water Production and Filtration Purification Distillation and more


Energy comes in two main types, electricity and fuel. We can store energy at home and we can produce some energy needs at home. No matter what you read or hear there is no such thing as free energy. Manipulating or converting energy has its cost. For the average prepper we are talking about a generator and battery bank for backup power. As Steve Harris says we need to be like a submarine, run noisy and charging then run silent and run deep. Fuel can be more difficult to produce than electricity. Wood and wood gas would be most prepper’s priority here I would think. That is other than the buying and storing of other fuels. Propane is a great thing to store. Here are my post on
Home Fuel Production and Home Energy Production.


It cost under today’s economy around $50 to $70 per square food to build a new stick frame home. Stick frame means that dimensional lumber is used for the frame. It’s difficult to put up a new pole barn for $20 per square foot. If you bought a used mobile home one might get the cost down to $20 per square foot. A military tent might cost that much. I have been trying to figure out how to get a Mongolian yurt built for under $2.5 per square foot. Its not much more than a tent. Lets say you purchases a well used camper 8’x20′ for $300. That’s $1.85 per square foot. And for that price it will need some work.

Shelter is a huge cost in life with not much way to get around it. In a typical home 1/3 is material cost, 1/3 labor and 1/3 contractor cost. That doesn’t count land. If you need to buy land then make sure you have $3000 to $5000 or so on hand before you being your search. You will have extra cost up front to get the deal done and may have setup cost for services and other enhancements to the land. The one debt that I wouldn’t fault anyone for is a mortgage on home and land. Still larger down payments and lower payments are best. Shorter terms (with higher payments) are best in most cases.

I have a few articles related to shelter. Green Houses, Earthen Homes, Timber Frame Homes, Log Cabins and Metal Buildings


Security is not simply about guns and ammo. Risk assessment is a very important first start. However if you do not exercise your rights you will loose them. So keep and bear arms. But this is only a minor part of it. The army uses obstacles as well as arms and armor. Think in terms of slowing down the assailant  or making expensive attempts to thwart your security schemes. We can’t always stop violations of our security but we can always provide resistance. My article on security is Home Security. Also Ham Radio might be important. And for financial security I have two post. Home Accounting and Investing.

Health and Sanitation

As far as the health part goes I don’t have a lot to say. Keep various emergency kits and backup medical supplies around. Keep a trauma kit around. Keep bee sting and snake bite kits around. Keep communications in order. Health insurance is always a good idea. Keeping spare cash on hand for doctors is a good idea, though I rarely seem to have it when I make a visit.  I have a lot more to say on sanitation however in my post on Home Sewer Treatment

Critter Gitter Bag

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Below is a list of items for what in bushcraft is known as a Critter Gitter bag. Some of these items are illegal except in certain situations, such as in certain locations on your own private land etc. Snares are illegal almost everywhere because they catch dogs and cats as well as everything else. This is called an indiscriminate method of trapping. Gill nets are illegal in most cases but trot lines are not. Use of poisons and intoxicants for fishing is illegal in most cases. Why are some methods illegal? Because they work too well. However on your own land you may find that most if not all of this is legal at nearly any time. You may want to make this up without the illegal items for standard use and with them for SHTF use.

  • 3-3 piece arrows.
  • arrow tips
  • sling shot/sling bow
  • shot (.32 cal balls)
  • snare wire for snares and deadfalls
  • other cordage
  • large mouse traps
  • fishing yoyos
  • coon cuffs
  • gill net
  • trot line (18 feet with 12 1 foot drops) with small trebble hooks and dry bait. This will be the lighter catfish line and 8 lb mono line for drops.
  • large trebble hook to make 3 prong gig point
  • knife to make spear
  • clove oil (fish intoxicant)
  • polk weed berry juice (fish poison)
  • ground up green black walnut shells (fish poison)
  • other common fishing tackle for pan fishing (hooks, white grubs, silver spoons, fly’s, line, sinkers, floats)
  • fishing line (8 lb)
  • razor blade
  • flint knap kit sold here
  • very small fishing multi tool
  • small finger nail clippers
  • few small nails for bait anchors and setting up some types of deadfalls
  • binoculars or telescopic monocular for inspecting traps from distance to keep human sent away from traps.
  • copy of the 350 page brown cover trappers bible

If I added any kind of blow gun to this kit it would include the use of poison darts. Blow guns are not very effective without poisons. When you use blow gun with poisons you are playing the rattle snake game. This is the way he hunts. Though he has an advantage of heat sensing when tracking his prey. This may be one reason this method is illegal, because its hard to track prey after you poison it.

Making the 3 piece arrows shouldn’t be too difficult. If you are already an archer then you may have bent and broke arrows that you can use. Otherwise cut a standard arrow into 3 pieces. Get the end tip inserts with female threads(4 of them). Get two or 3 machine bolts that fit into these inserts. Screw a bolt into an insert and mark the threads next to the insert. This shows the center position. Then cut the bold head off equal distance from center. Use the bolt as a handle when gluing the insert into each end of the arrow piece. Use hot glue to glue in the insert. The arrow should be relatively aligned and straight because of the inserts. This will add weight and inflexibility to the arrow. And you may not want to shoot this arrow from high powered bows. It should work fine from the sling bow.

A sling bow is a sling shot that has or can be converted easily into a device for shooting full length archery arrows. There is an attachment for the sling shot for holding the arrow and the rubber bands are lengthened. Search the web for more info and videos. There is a video on you tube of a guy in Hawaii taking a hog with one. I have a friend that claims his son is almost good enough shot with one to take a deer, we will see.

Recommended Books
Trappers Bible

Self Sufficiency

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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.


Types of Gardening

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In this article I plan on listing, defining and mentioning a few things that maybe you have not heard of or thought about.

Square Foot Gardening

Garden box style gardening where a grid is placed over the soil using wooden lattice or anything that might form a grid with 1 square foot of space in each grid cell. This style of gardening can make keeping stats on your production easy. Also its an attractive way to layout plants. Plants are laid out in a grid fashion within each square foot 2×2, 3×3, 4×4 and maybe 5×5 or greater in some cases for things like wheat that grow very close together. Its a matter of density. Some experimentation would be needed for the individual to determine exactly how densely each plant type may need to be planted. Some plants use more than one square foot per plant also. Large vines such as tomatoes and water melons might require 9 ft2. However you can get away with planting these in the corners and along sides to make the most use of the garden box. Some plants grow vertical as well and require a vertical grid, also square foot just to keep things pretty. Square foot gardening typically requires a soil mix of 6″ to 1′ deep. Some plants such as potatoes and carrots require deeper soil. This mix is generally 1:1:1 topsoil/manure/peat(or compost) For more information and other general gardening info look at my article titled Square Foot Gardening

Square Meter Gardening

This is the same thing as square foot gardening yet for scientific and non-American(English standard) style. Simply measure and adapt
spacing for metric. In this case you might actually have a half meter grid lattice.


This is a German word for Hill (mound) Culture. In this style of gardening you bury wood which over time rots and acts like a sponge for the holding of moisture. This can be made like mound or like a swale(hole, pit) or a combination. The wood/manure combined is covered in compost, soil and mulch. Over time (even up to 20 years) the wood is converted to Humas(Organic soil). This can in turn be dug up and mixed with other garden soils. The wood also absorbs nitrogen from the manure and later as it rots gives it back to plants.


Permanent Culture or Permanent Agriculture began in Australia and spread to hippies and environmentalist everywhere, and others with sustainability on their minds. I don’t fully understand this yet except to say a few things about it. Its supposed to be a system that never fails in that it returns to the soil that which was taken. Its a perpetual self sustaining way to produce food. Ideally the food should be produced very close to the residence. Even in greenhouses that are part of the residence itself.

Row (Cultivated Farrow)

This is conventional farming where fields are plowed. To be honest, we can’t all live on a homestead and produce our own food. There is simply too many people on this planet for that. This system is setup so that men and equipment can easily navigate the rows of plants for harvesting and other activities. I’m certainly not against this method of gardening or farming. However it depletes the soil over time. And what happens when we run out of soil? Billions will starve to death. Some solutions need to be found a soon as possible to solve this one looming problem. Soil conservation services has done much to slow down the problem yet not solve the problem. Please recall the Easter Island folks who died because they cut down all their trees.


This is a type of lazy way to mix the soil and build soil. On top of open ground you lay down alternating layers of compost, peat, topsoil, manure or whatever else you intend to mix. I’ve read that newspaper is placed between layers but I don’t have any idea why (maybe weed control). I’d guess you make your lasagna rows about 4 feet wide and any length desired. I’d also go with plastic and mulch on top myself. Mulch being wood bark or chips and or straw.

Field (Not cultivated)

I think this is like Forrest yet you plant basically in amongst the grass or weeds in a field. You simply let your plants compete with whatever is there. If you find something to harvest at harvest time then great. If you discover one plant type that does particularly well against its competitors then add it to a list of plants to replant this way the following year.

Fedge (Food Hedge)

I think this combines shrubs, and vines and ground plants to make a hedge that produces food. This may be in combination with other hedge type plants also.

Forest (Food Forest)

In this method a person will plant types of plants that do well among various types of taller shrubs and trees and along the edges of glades(open areas). Plants with varying needs for light and moisture will be worked together. This is a fairly dense form of gardening and was likely the first form. In this form you also try to locate natural growing food items from the area and seed or transplant them into your forest garden.


These are gardens created for the study of certain types of plants. Its also for the preservation of certain types of plants. These are usually created by wealthy individuals or societies who dedicate the garden for use in the study. Monasteries for example are famous for having wonderful Botanical Gardens. Books are produced as a result of the gardens and usually they are landscaped beautifully open for tour. For example in Savannah Georgia there is a garden with 150 varieties of Bamboo, 45 varieties of blackberry vines and 35 varieties of palm trees. If you search your home area it is likely that you will find several botanical gardens that will be worth a visit.


This is too well known to talk about, but usually only entails low to the ground plants. I don’t know of any vegetable producing tree for example.


What can I say about this that you don’t know? This can be plants of many types and sizes. From ground covering plants, to vines, to shrubs to trees. And by the way we all know a Tomato is actually a fruit right? Its a huge Berry. A pumpkin is a fruit? actually its a squash, so a vegetable?


Orchards are of course trees that bear fruits or nuts and are an integral part of forest gardening. Orchards may even be grown in green houses.


Herbs are for spices or medicines and can include any type of plants. A friend recently showed me lemon grass which can be used in place of lemon for flavor and a plant that has very sweet leaves which can be used as a sugar substitute. Herb gardens per pound of produce can be quit profitable. Or they can save you a lot of money. Recently I noticed there were half a dozen types of sage seeds I could buy. I love sage in sausage. I’ve found that many herbs do well in shady conditions.

Green house

A green house is a structure with many windows all the way around or at least on one side or part of it. Or it is made so that much of the roof and wall spaces are for letting sun light in. More than for letting light in its for keeping heat in. A non heated green house can grow plants from one USDA zone warmer than the green house is constructed in. This means earlier planting times and longer growing season. A green house can be constructed adjacent to a house to provide heat for a living space in winter as well as easy to access food. Wood or metal frames are used for construction for holding glass or plastic. The glass or plastic may be clear or translucent. Glass blocks radiant heat whereas plastic allows it to pass. Glass therefore helps to hold the heat in better. With plastic its better if you have 2 layers with dead air space. By plastic I mean plastic in rolls or hard sheets such as plexi glass. One interesting idea i heard about was in the use of boat(marine) shrink wrap over a frame. I think this comes in 9 and 11 mil thickness. Though it will degrade over time from UV exposure its possible you may get a couple of years out of one covering.

Cold Frame

A box with a glass or plastic lid. The lid can be either horizontal or at a slope facing the sun. This is used in same way as green house but for early starting of plant seedlings. In some cases some plants are left in the cold frame for their full life cycle. The frames usually can be lifted to allow for ventilation and watering. One version of this concept uses cold framed holes for better use of
ground temperatures. One version of that has straw bales for the sides of the cold frame box. A nice cold box for starting plants would be aquariums with lids. The Cold Frame can give you the same growing effect as a green house in that it would allow you to grow at 1 USDA zone to the south, if unheated (most if not all are unheated(except by composting below for example)).

Hoop House (poly tunnel)

This is a very cheap and easy to construct form of green house. Its in the shape of a Quonset hut. You make stakes from rebar so that they are in the ground about 1/2 to 1 foot at angles and stick up about 1/2 to 1 foot. Using 1″ PVC pipes bowed to half circle shape placed over the bars forming hoops. Metal conduit may be used as well. Using the same pipe you form diagonal bracing along the sides and one horizontal brace along the top. Then cover with some flexible covering such as clear or translucent plastic or shrink wrap. These can be made to about any size. These might require some vents. And they can be heated. The down side is that storm damage may occur mostly from wind.

Agra-dome (Geodesic or other)

This is green house in the shape of a dome. These are not simple to construct depending. If you want glass panes then I’d say they are the most difficult to construct. The best idea I’ve heard so far for an easy to build dome is to make your dome then shrink wrap it with marine boat wrap. You can get this is 9 to 11 mil thickness, clear or translucent. Note that the shrink wrap will degrade due to UV exposure over time and have to be replaced.


This is a small planter in your house with a glass or plastic cover. Could be also inside of an aquarium. Instead of containing a single plant it usually contains many packed densely. This is for plants what the aquarium is for fish. Its usually not for food production. However on a larger scale could it be used in such a way?

Container Pots

I won’t say much about container gardens, there are plenty of good books on the subject. Basically you use any container you can find, by filling it with a custom made potting soil, gravel and sand. Addition of drain holes may be required. What are the advantages of container gardens? They can be moved around. Can be moved indoor to outdoor and back. Can be attractive landscape feature. Can be used on concrete, pavement and brick ways, stairs, patios, and balconies. Can be hung from structures and trees. Can be placed on shelving and tables.


Same as container but uses cheap easy to find buckets. Such as 5 gal plastic painters buckets. Have handles for easy moving. Global Buckets is an interesting idea that uses 5 gal buckets.


This is a form of gardening where soil is not in use. Sand and gravel may be used but doesn’t have to be used at all. In some cases roots grow and hang below a starting material. In the case of plants grown in gravel or sand mineral and nutrient rich water is pumped or flows through the gravel or sand and feeds the roots. In the case of hanging roots mineral and nutrient rich water is sprayed on the roots for flows around the roots. This setup requires pumping systems that’s are not cheap, prone to failure and use power.


This combines aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the growing of fish and water plants that feed the fish together. This produces a nutrient rich water that can be feed to the hydroponics farm. Water can be filtered and circulated back to the fish pond. Shrimp or crayfish can be part of an aquaponics setup as well as fish. Though we normally hear of the African Tilapia being used.

Water Gardens

Water gardens are more for landscaping than for production of food however in the case of plants such as rice and in aquaponics they can be useful for production. Water gardens of course are for growing plants that like semi-wet to very-wet soil to underwater plants. One under(salt)water plant that is edible I’d say that we have all heard of is kelp. I’m sure there are more than we know of that grow in fresh water. How about Chestnuts? Try growing rice in 5 gallon buckets or plastic tubs.


A swale is a swamp or marsh or underground porous area near the surface that can hold water or moisture like a tank. A swale can be in the shape of a ditch or bowl or hole. Its simply a spongy low place in the terrain for collection of rain water and ground water or run-off. And its a sneaky place to store water in areas where the laws prohibit the collection of water in rain barrels. A swale can be natural or man made. For example a hole filled with stone and gravel or sand would hold quit a lot of water. An advantage of a swale or any underground storage is that the water is not evaporated by the sun. Your trees, shrubs and garden plants can then draw water from this swale.

Zai Desert Farming

This type of farming was invented in the African desert in order to reclaim the desert around towns. Basically a grid of holes are dug in the sand and they are filled with manure (probably from any source). I don’t know if sand is mixed with the manure or not. Or if other composted plant matter is mixed. The hole on top is left in a bowl shape to aid in water collection and retention. Rice and Wheat and other crops are planted in this manure hole. This prevents the soil/sand from eroding and makes good use of desert terrain. Larger plants then grow up in the same area and turn desert to oasis.


Organic farming is the attempt to produce food without the aid of commercial fertilizers and pesticides. I like having options myself so I see no harm in using organic fertilizers such as bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, cotton seed meal, fish meal etc. However I see no real reason myself for not using commercial fertilizer if its available except in the case where you want to advertise “Organically Grown”. There are also organic methods for deterring deer, rabbits and insects. In the case of insects what one must do is ensure plenty of predation, meaning attracting predator insects and birds or other critters. There is one problem I agree with when it comes to the use of chemical pesticides and that is that it is a “nuclear” attack. Meaning it kills all insects good or bad with extreme prejudice but without discrimination. In effect it could make great predator free romping ground for the bad insects.


Not much to say here. I think of typical landscaping when I think of this. However there are some really beneficial flowering plants to add to your other gardens. Lavender for example deters deer. Some may deter certain harmful insects. And of course sun flowers produce great edible seeds and oils.


This comes from the orient and is a form of the growing of trees as shrubs in containers. Basically if you took a large tree and planted it in a container, the small amount of soil restricts its growth so that it is very dwarf like. It would be possible for example to grow what would be a 379′ red wood tree in a flower pot in your house as a house plant. Also the gardeners tend to train(bend) limbs as they grow to form certain attractive shapes.


Really a type of container garden where one container is suspended above another. Troughs are used a lot for this type. And this type is combined sometimes with hydroponics or aquaponics.


Suspended container gardens.

Raised beds

Garden beds are build up with some kind of containing frame made of
any material imaginable. Wood is often used to form a box. Height can be anything from 1′ to 2.5′ on average or possibly higher. These do not have to be square and can be round or any shape. They are usually not wider than 4 feet if accessed from both sides. Soil for these boxes is prepared in much the same way as for container gardens. Something like 1:1:1 Manure/compost/peat or manure/compost/top soil. These type of gardens are not cultivated and are relatively weed and grass free if one is careful. The height means the gardener does not have to position himself as low to the ground to do the tending.

Window or Window Box

Google for ‘window farms’ to see some interesting ideas for making vertical hydroponic gardens from 2 liter coke bottles in your home windows. Outside and inside window boxes and plants in containers on window seals are common. Might be nice to have half shaped hexagon box widows for each window of the house. Herbs and greens would be easy to grow here.


Moss is not usually edible but for some reason people like moss
gardens. They are attractive. They would make a nice attractive addition to any of the other types of gardens. People usually search the local area for the moss and transplant it to their garden. Vines and ferns go well with moss, as well as rocks, water and dead wood. I’ve seen people collect the moss and rock together to have a more natural look.


Some plants love to be planted near other plants and some hate other plants apparently. People have come up with list of plants where some like each other others love one another. And some just make more sense when planted with others such as the Native American beans, corn and squash combination.

Inter-planted or Intensive

A friend of mine plants garden boxes in this manner. She has worked out certain combinations that seem to work best for her. Its somewhat like companion planting. It also means planting densely similar to square foot gardening. I have no real guidelines for this. Try different combinations for yourself to see what works best.

Straw Bale

In this method you lay down soil on top of straw bales(or hay) and then plant in that soil. The roots of the plants drop down into the straw. The straw is supposed to hold moisture. Though I’ve heard only when its a bit rotted. This method literally gets your garden off the ground quickly. One method is to buy soil in bags and lay them on top of the bales the first year. Just split the bags and plant. Poke holes in the bags below your plants. Next year remove the plastic completely. I might think certain plants would love this method more than others. Experimentation would be required.

Artificially Lighted

Some gardens can grow inside. Special lights or light bulbs can aid in plant growth because they put out all the same light frequencies as the sun. These are called full spectrum lights. There are different kinds and some use more power than others. There is a ton of information on the web about this, and stores are popping up here and there to cater to the medical weed business. Also it might be good to consider grow lights over plants in shady areas and in windows. Professional photographers use photo umbrellas to direct light. These can be useful in the growing situation as well.

Roof Garden

Usually these are on flat roofs in urban areas.

Terraced Gardens

In very steep terrain or yards. terraces provide a way to make flat land from steep land. Also water may flow from higher terrace to lower ones for easy irrigation.


Not like hydroponic. I’m not sure what this is.

Guerrilla Garden(Vigilante Garden)

This is where you garden on land you don’t own or have a right to use. For example Marijuana growers use government lands. Mostly this is talking about urban dwellers using vacant lots or highway land or other non used commercial or industrial lands. Though I might be inclined to spread native plants around on government lands if I were there harvesting. Such as Muscadine, Huckle Berry, Ginseing.

Food Harvest Preservation

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  • Root Cellar
  • Zeer Pots
  • Pickling and Fermenting (alcohol, salt, acid, lime)
  • Salt and Sugar curing
  • Smoking
  • Canning in Jars
  • Vacuum packing in Mylar and Canning Jars
  • Retort Vacuum packing and Canning
  • Refrigeration
  • Freezing
  • Drying or Dehydration (Jerky, Pemmican, Biltong etc. as well)
  • O2 absorption and Desiccants(moisture absorption)
  • Freeze Drying

Root Cellars

I have heard of several methods for making ground temperature storage. Depending on where you live this ground temperature may vary from 70F degrees on the gulf of Mexico to 58F degrees in Arkansas where I live to 50F degrees in southern Canada. That’s quit a difference.  None the less using the ground for its year round constant temperature is a great thing to do.  Humidity plays some role as well.  Some sections of underground storage you may want to be more humid or other sections dryer yet. Containers may affect humidity as well. For example you could remove oxygen and humidity and seal the container then store in a humid, or not, underground location.

A root cellar may be a simple as a barrel or trash can that has been buried where any exposed parts such as a lid are well insulated. This might be buried horizontally in a mound or hill, vertically in flat area or at some angle in between on a slope. Other types of cellars might be a house basement, might be a storm cellar and may even be a bermed out building with earthen and insulated roof. One interesting potato cellar I saw while traveling in the Utah, Idaho, Washington and Oregon area was an A-Frame structure with roofs sloped at about 45degrees and earthen cover. All of these methods use some combination of earth(thermal mass), underground and insulation to keep the inside temperature near ground temperature year round.

Another method similar in root cellar concept is to store food items in water either stream, pond or lake. If pond or lake then deep enough to get down to the cold water layer. Could a root cellar be cooled artificially? Sure it could be cooled with typical A/C Unit. If so insulation may be required between inside space and the ground. Hey we could even make a highly efficient walk in freezer this way? Sure. Commercial freezers are above ground and are insulated to about R60 to R80 standards. As an example consider the typical house 2×4 walls at R11. Meaning you would need a wall about 7 times that thickness for your freezer. Or around 28″ thick, but that’s using fiberglass batt insulation. With styrofoam at 5R per inch we would only need 16″. Or with papercrete at 3R per inch we would need 25 inches or so. The cheapest insulation here would be by far papercrete. Straw and sawdust could also be used as insulation. Though both would have to be carefully protected from moisture. I would suggest those two used as moveable insulation kept in some kind of sealed containment. As in most insulating efforts shiny polished metallic surfaces are good for added heat reflection if possible.

By the way eggs may be pickled and raw eggs may be stored in a water and mineral oil or water and “water glass”  (sodium silicate) solutions for up to 6 months or longer in a cellar. They say if the big end is beginning to float the egg is near bad. And you may add ventilation for use in winter to achieve below ground temperatures in the root cellar to increase storage time.  Carrots and other roots may be kept as fresh as when harvested by keeping them in containers of damp sand. Leave the tops sticking up so you can pull them from the sand. Granddad always said to leave the dirt on the potatoes because if washed they would rot. Maybe the dirt functioned same as sand for carrots aye?

Zeer pots

Zeer pots are most likely only useful in arid climates. This method uses passive evaporation  cooling. Use two pots of different sizes, one that fits entirely inside the other. A layer of wet sand is placed inside the larger pot and separates the two. If the sand dries it is to be dampened again. It appears that one may extend the shelf life span from 2 days to about 20 days or 10 times using this method.

Pickling and Fermenting

Pickling is a procedure where food is preserved chemically by alcohol, salinity, alkalinity or acidity.  Fermenting is usually an initial procedure before chemical pickling where bacterial action works on the food item until a given alcohol content or acidity or alkalinity is reached.  This is a matter of creating an life barrier for bad bacteria which would otherwise feed on the food item. Salt and vinegar (high acid) is usually used along with other possible spices which stunt bacterial growth. Lemon juice or vinegar are usually added make sure the PH is low enough to keep the food safe.

Acid – Alkali: PH of 7 is neutral. Below 7 is acid and above 7 is alkali. In acid pickling PH needs to be below 4.5. There is a such a thing as pickling with lime and PH here needs to be above 8 or 9. Most microbes survive at PH 3 to  near 7.

Alcohol: I have not heard of anyone eating anything pickled with alcohol except uh alcohol(drinking). And we might call whiskey “pickled water”. I have made home made wine. I can tell you that alcohol content of 12 to 15% and kills the yeast which is used to ferment the products. Beer yeast are killed at lower %ages. 20% alcohol and higher is about right for killing any microbes.  Port wine is kept in open vats and is fortified with brandy to around 20%. Therefore Port wine is indeed pickled wine. Brandy is a product that is distilled from wine so that its alcohol content is higher than that of wine, say around 40 to 50%. Whiskey and Rums and Vodka’s are around 40 to 50% and could be used for pickling purposes. As a last note, a food item pickled with alcohol might be cooked to remove the alcohol though I’m not sure how good it may taste.

Salt: Salt creates an environment where there is more salt outside a bacterial cell wall than inside the cell. This kills the cell because it looses too much water. Brine water is >5% salt and will kill most life. Though its tough to say just how salty a liquid or food item must be to kill all bacteria that might live in it. After all there is life growing even in the saltiest seas. Great Salt Lake Utah Ecology(food web) As you can see by this though the number and kind of life is greatly reduced by salinity, life is not totally eliminated. For comparison consider the Ocean average salinity of 3.5% to Great salt lake Utah of 5%-27% depending on the season to the Dead sea at 33.7%

Just about anything we can think of can be pickled. Meats may be pickled and in fact salt and sugar curing is a form of pickling. But plant matter is fermented and not meats. Fermentation at different temperatures give different results. Vegetables and Fruits both are pickled. Once pickled a food may be left at room temperature, though I usually keep them in the frig after opening. Unlike canning pickled items are not completely sterilized, though they may be canned and sterilized as well. I’d have a difficult time with meat that was pickled but not canned properly. Though I do eat beef Jerkey and it is not canned, only pickled and dried.

An interesting last note is that your leather is pickled. The act of tanning is where tannin is used to pickle skin based on high acid.

Salt and Sugar curing

From what I understand meat is buried all the way around in salt for salt curing, and in sugar curing salt is also used but not as heavily. This salt pack or salt sugar pack dries the meat out so that there is little moisture (a key ingredient for life) and also kills bacteria. I know little about this method though I think the FoxFire series books talk about how old timers did this. But I do know that salt needs to be course not fine like table salt or the end result is very salty. The salt is for drawing away moisture. Also the black peppering was for keeping fly’s away. Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite’s are used in curing. Sea salts and natural salts contain amounts of each. This is responsible for the pinkish color in some cured meats.


Smoking not only flavors meat’s it dries them out. Smoking is antibacterial but only protects the surface of the meat. Smoking should be used in combination with other methods of preservation. Liquid smoke while adding flavor does nothing for preservation. Smoking and drying or dehydrating in my opinion might go well together.

Canning in Jars

  • Steam Canning
  • Boiled Water Bath Canning
  • Pressure Canning

USDA Canning Guide PDF

The food industry can’s in “cans”, bags, bottles and jars. But we at home can in glass jars mostly (I talk about retort bags below). Equipment for this is a large pot with sealing lid called a caner. Note that some pressure pots you may see are only pressure cookers and not caners. A caner such as a “Presto” will come with a pressure gauge. In general 5, 10 and 15 psi are pressures needed. 20 is too high and will cause pressure to be released via a safety valve or else the pot might explode. The higher the pressure the higher the temperature that can be achieved when canning. PSI means pounds of pressure per square inch above atmospheric pressure. So 15 psi is really 30psi roughly, or double atmospheric pressure. The food boils in the jars within the caner at temperature above 212 degrees. At 15psi it will boil at 240 degrees or higher and kill all life period, not question about it. Meats are canned at 15psi (though I hear altitude alters this pressure) If meats are canned at lower pressures then lower temps will kill bacteria but not spores which are like bacteria seeds. Later if the meat is opened these seeds can cause the bacteria to grow quickly again and become very deadly fast. Lids for jars are made such that they sink in after cooled to show that a slight vacuum seal has been made and the food is indeed sealed and protected. If you set hot jars out and as they begin to cool you would hear popping sounds as the lids sink in. As the contents cool they also shrink and reduce in volume slightly causing a slight vacuum. Canned items can literally be good for decades if kept in cool dark locations. Though as they age they do loose nutritional value over time.  I would like to suggest the canning dates on store bought cans are set for this maximum nutritional drop off, not for spoilage. Though eat out dated canned items at your own risk, not because I told you it was OK.

Note on canning of fish or anything with small sharp bones. Pressure canning will soften bones and scales for that matter to the point where they may be safely chewed or eaten. Personally I wouldn’t want to can the scales however I have seen sardines canned with scales on them. One thing a person might do is first pressure cook the fish and then remove larger bones and scales. Can the remainder(mostly meat). I have read that one may cook up sausage patties the size of a jar, then fill the jar with patties finally fill the jar with melted lard which will solidify over the sausage. The lard actually protects the contents and If you throw on a lid it will vacuum seal as it cools. However it would be safest to go ahead and cook the sausage in a caner.  Other things to know is that wax poured on top is sometimes used to seal in some items such as jams and jelly’s. This is possibly as a secondary precaution in the case a jar seal is not made tight.  Finally, not all canned items have to be pressure canned. There is also hot water bath canning. And there is simply pouring something boiling hot (212F) into a jar and throwing a lid on it. This is how my uncle cans his dill pickles.

Steam canning and boiled water bath canning are virtually the same. Though I hear steam canning is not as safe. Why someone would want to steam can vs boiled water bath I don’t know. But you may find steam canners on the market. These are pans about 3″ deep with a grate where the jars may be set above the water and steam may flow upward around the jars. A large lid the height of the jars is sit on top. There is no seal and steam must leak around the lid as far as I can tell.

Vacuum packing in Mylar and Canning Jars.

I feel that vacuum packing in Mylar is expensive. Mylar is special kind of plastic that does not breath as other plastics do. Its a bit tougher and not cheap. Mylar bags might be reused however if washed and trimmed.  Though each re-use will reduce the volume of the packaging. Great advantage to vacuum packing this way is that you conserve space in storage.

I suppose “Food Saver” is a well known brand of home vacuum packing machines. Food Saver also sells an attachment so that a person may vacuum pack in a regular canning jar. I think this is a super idea. Jars may be re-used with ease. And its a good thing to do with dry goods and items you want to put under refrigeration for shorter term storage. Vacuum packing anything wet will help it to last longer simply by removing the oxygen. If it were something dry I think I’d also add a small bag of something that absorbs moisture or robs oxygen in the jar.

Retort Vacuum packing and canning

List of chamber sealers for sale. Note these chamber sealers are not cheap $600 to $2000. List of Retort pouches from the same site. Note these bags cost around $250 for 1000 depending on the volume.

A retort bag is a bag that was invented to contain food for the space program and for the military. Retort bags are now in use in your local grocery store. I have seen spam, tuna, salmon, sardines etc. canned in retort bags. Retort bags are a little more expensive than cans or bottles. Basically a special plastic is bonded to a given thickness of aluminum foil. This makes a tough bag that is puncture and tear resistant and keeps out light. You may buy a special machine for vacuum packing and sealing a retort bag. Then the canning process is identical to pressure canning in jars or cans. Food preserved in retort bags may be stored for decades. Though again may loose nutritional value over time. Retort bags may be washed and re-used. Though like the re-used Mylar bags become smaller in volume on each successive re-use. I think you may even re-use the bags from store bought retort bagged items.


Keeping food items as far below ground temperature as you can and yet just above freezing will preserve them for weeks otherwise they would only last for only hours to days at atmospheric or room temps down to ground temps. Air and light here play the most important roles. Air is most important. Depriving any refrigerated item of oxygen is key. Sealed containers help with this greatly by reducing air flow and spread of microbes from one item to another, though vacuum packing would be better yet. Dryer items last longer than wetter items. Pickled items last longer than unpreserved items.


Freezing will preserve most anything but not indefinitely. Freezing only slows down greatly bacterial growth. Freezing does not kill bacteria. Colder is better in freezing. Quick freezing and quick deep freezing is better than slow freezing. If frozen very quickly ice crystals will not form. This is what you may have seen in the grocery store as IQF or Individually Quick Frozen products. I used to work at a Tyson’s chicken processing plant. The meat industry first began using freezers that were made for quick freezing vegetables and fruits. These freezers have conveyers that circle through the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes at -60F.  The only thing I’ve seen wrong with IQF products is that it seemed to me that they were frost bitten quickly at home in the freezer. I think frost bite in food is something like a freeze drying effect on its surface. This toughens and disturbs the flavor of the food item as well as the cooking properties. Meat packaged in butchers wax paper seems to do well and not become freezer burnt quickly.

Blanching is a technique where you partially boil an item for a few seconds, then freeze. I think this works by coating the outside of the food item with a consistent layer of ice. Meaning no part of the food item is exposed directly to air. If food items are frozen in water then they are completely sealed off from air which prevents freezer burn and freezer taste from getting into the food item. Fish is normally frozen in water. Frozen items may last for a year or more.

Drying or Dehydration

Food dehydrators are commonly sold but are easy to make. Even an aluminum foil lined box with hot light bulbs can work. I’m sure you may see videos on Youtube for home made food dehydrators. Beef Jerky, Pemmican and Biltong are all basically the same thing’s, dried meats. They differ in cut’s and spices and processing procedures. Beef Jerky is well known here in the U.S.A and I have commonly seen deer(venison) jerky made by individuals. In stores beef is the main meat used however you might find chicken, turkey and pork as well. Even some smoked dried fish such as salmon. I would suggest that dried meats are also somewhat pickled but not usually fermented. However there is this notion of aged beef and venison. Aging is in essence slow fermentation of meat at very controlled cold temps and given moisture presence. Meats are usually dried from the raw state. However diced meats might be dried from a cooked state for addition into soup mixes.

Beef Jerky usually is somewhat sweet, whereas Biltong (African Jerky) is not. Pemmican is basically what was a nutrition bar for mountain men in the USA during the western migration period. Pemmican is pureed fruit, finely minced meat (possibly dried and ground into almost a powdery state) and solid animal fat such as lard (not liquid oils) combined and cooked into a bar form. You may find recipe’s with a quick web search for Jerky, Biltong or Pemmican.

Vegetables and Fruits are commonly dried in ovens, dehydrators and even by sun drying. Sun drying would be more effective in cold and dry climates. Dried veggies make great soup mix material. Dried fruits mixed with nuts make energetic snacks.

Once dried, food items again must be protected from the usual heat, air, light, water to be long lasting. I wouldn’t hesitate to vacuum pack and/or refrigerate or freeze dry items to even further increase their lifespan. Remember refrigeration can be as simple as storing in a root cellar. During the drying process anything that you may do to remove humidity will help as well. Refrigeration and Freezing usually remove humidity. A room dehumidifier might be a good idea as well. For example you put the room dehumidifier and the dehydrator in an enclosed space together. If you are under central heat and air or any a/c, then dehumidification is part of that cooling process as well.

O2 absorbers and Desiccants

Rock salt and even powdered milk(I heard) (in coffee filters tied up) can be used as a moisture absorber (desiccant). Both after use might have the moisture removed by cooking in oven. Rice and crackers has been used to absorb moisture from salt shakers. They might work for stored food items as well, again wrapped up in a coffee filter. Desiccants should go on bottom, and O2 absorbers on top. O2 absorbers can create a slight vacuum I hear on the container. O2 absorbers are usually made from iron powder and small amount of water. The type of container and sealing are very important in O2 absorption as any leak will ruin the process and effect.  O2 absorption is preferred in some cases to vacuum packing because it does not crush or compress the food product.

Freeze Drying

It appears that to freeze dry on the commercial scale one might need to buy a large freeze drier which will cost $4000 plus and require 3 phase electrical connection and probably 240 volts.  This might be doable for a group of families, but is most likely not practical for common home freeze drying for most people. This is a 2 step process. First the product must be quickly frozen to somewhere between -60 and -120. This prevents ice crystals from forming. Next a vacuum is drawn and the product is slowly warmed back up. As it is warmed moisture under a vacuum will vaporize from frozen to gas immediately skipping the liquid state. This is what happens to liquid water in space, instead of forming a ball it quickly vaporizes or boils away. One note about freeze drying is that the product is not deformed or compressed or crushed because the vacuum is put on it in a frozen state.

I have heard of a less expensive method of freeze drying which will work for certain foods or foods prepared a given way. I picked this up from the off-grid.net forum.  In this method you use a typical deep freeze to freeze items in canning jars. Next you take them out of the freezer and screw on canning lids which have an L shaped fitting to a 1/4″ vacuum hose. This line goes to a group of connections where other jars are connected into. A 6 millibar vacuum is kept on all the jars until complete. A vacuum can be purchased for $350 on Ebay which will do the job such as, “Robinair 15600 6 CFM 2 Stage Vacuum Pump”  This is a 2 stage, 120v, 1/2 horse vacuum weighting 27lbs. Once put on vacuum the food item is simply left to warm back up to room temps. When it  is warm it is usually  done. Some foods (those that are very wet) may require a 2nd treatment.

One way to go might be in using a Savant Vapor Trap which cools down to -50c or even -105c These cost between $600 and $2500 at the time of this writing. They have 120 and 240v models. Different models probably have different volumes which they handle.


Light,moisture , temperature and oxygen are key components in food preservation. If something is kept in a clear or translucent container it must be kept in dark or near dark storage. When it comes to temperature colder is usually better, but freezing some things can cause problems in taste or break containers. Remember when liquids freeze they expand. Expanding ice can crack steel even.

Final not of caution.

Some preservation methods and chemicals can render food toxic if too much is eaten over time. Such as salt and high blood pressure as well as other illnesses that need low salt diets. It would be wise to research illnesses related to preservatives.

Blue Gold: Water Filtration, Purification, Flocculation, Sedimentation, Distillation, Condensation and more

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Lets talk about the bad things in water. All of these things in the list below have acceptable levels. For information on pathogens (bacteria, virus and protozoa) please do research for the area which you intend to visit. This is because there are simply too many. Also with good water treatment, all of them (from any location) will be deactivated, killed or eliminated. Since we are going to do a nuclear attack with residual disinfection, knowing which kind you are dealing with usually is not important at all.

  • Bacteria (Too many kinds here to count, mostly from rotting animal and plant matter or fecal matter and urine)
  • Virus (too many kinds to count)
  • Protozoa (larger than bacteria, kind of like microscopic worms)
  • Poisons (pesticides, herbicides, mining byproducts or products, chemicals)
  • Heavy Metals (lead, mercury etc.)
  • Radioactivity (radon gas, nuclear fallout)
  • Acid/Alkaline (from trees and rocks)
  • Minerals (iron, manganese, calcium)

Someone in live chat ask me what would I possibly do with all this clean water that I would produce. I have to reply that I don’t want chemicals in my garden soil. I don’t want high levels of bacteria or heavy metals fed to my barnyard animals. And my hot tubs, swimming pools or swimming ponds, water gardens and aquaponics, hydroponics and aquaculture use a lot of water.

This will be an article about how to make water more usable (safer form) for animal, plant and human consumption. I say “more usable” because no method purifies water 100% when it comes to the bad things in the above list. Some types of filtration remove some types of bacteria yet not other types. Distillation will get you water that is roughly 99.5% pure on the first run. This percentage may depend on the exact distillation process used. Double distillation will get you closer to 99.9% pure. Water that has been distilled or purified by other means, with no residual disinfectant, can still acquire bacteria and disease in the distribution system or storage system. Reverse Osmosis(RO) will remove near 100% of toxins and heavy metals but may let bacteria through imperfections in the membrane. Also bacteria may somehow get into the product water side. Boiling water kills all bacteria but not some spores (bacteria seeds). Only pressure cooking which will get temps up to 240F(115C) or better kills all life. This is what happens during the canning process. I need to mention that if you “can” water in bottles, packs (retort bags) or cans, residual disinfection is not needed because it is sealed then purified. However boiling or canning does not remove toxins and heavy metals. Filtering removes most toxins and heavy metals. And some forms of filtering remove bacteria and diseases as well. Water in distribution systems or water that is not used immediately after purification must have some form of residual disinfectant such as chlorine or chloramine added to it. Sodium Hypochlorite is house hold bleach and can be used for this purpose as well. My overall point in this is that you can’t completely 100% purify or sanitize or de-poison water. You simply get the bad stuff down to very minimal levels that your body and immune system can deal with or tolerate. Conversely it is good for our bodies to be exposed to some bacteria and disease in small doses because it helps us to build immunity. Immunity means your body can handle lager accidental doses without serious consequences. Point being that 100% clean water or anything could actually be harmful. (Read a book called “In Self Defense” about the immune system).

Its funny to me but water filtration and purification is the same or nearly the same for both production of potable water and treatment of raw sewage (black) water. This gives me an idea. Why not use filtering, concentration and sedimentation methods to make fertilizer from fish ponds. This is also the idea behind aquaponics (aquaculture(fish grown in tanks) and hydroponics).

There are varying scales of methods used when talking about acquiring clean potable water. I show the scales in the list below. In the material in this article any points may be discussing thoughts on any of these levels. Its up to the reader to decide how they apply in their own situation.

  1. Survival water
  2. Camping water
  3. Homestead water for gardens, livestock, aquaculture, aquaponics and hydroponics.
  4. Water for hot tubs, swimming pools/ponds, gold fish ponds and other water gardens
  5. Municipal, industrial, military water

Barriers in water treatment systems are outlined below. Thinking of the system in barriers means being aware of where contamination can get into the water supply.

  • Source Water
    • rain, condensation, dew
    • springs and wells
    • lakes, ponds
    • rivers, streams
    • oceans, seas
  • Processing system
    • flocculation
    • filtration
    • purification
  • Distribution System (storage system)
    • pipes, connectors, valves
    • bottles, tanks, bladders

Water sources can not only become contaminated but can also be designed so that they aid in purification and clarification. For example terrain shape and type of plant life help. Deep water tends to lend to good settling. Terrain where the water runs slowly and circulates aids in clarification. Running water into falls and rapids oxidizes the water which helps with separation of dissolved solids as well as odor and taste removal. Winds and wave action affect turbidity. Certain plants and algae aid in bacterial and disease control. UV(sun light) on flowing water can kill algae and stop pathogens from reproducing. What we are looking at here is ways in which nature purifies water. The cleaner it is going into the processing system the less work, repair and maintenance is needed per given amount of water processed. Filters are not clogged as quickly.

On a side note water that is more turbid (polluted) after processing can be cleaner than clearer water that is processed. The reason for this is that the coagulation and flocculation used for more turbid waters actually make the filtering process work better. One more note on the water source would be that all watershed area at higher elevation above the source that enters the source should be monitored for new pollution or contamination from human activities. This area needs to be regulated as well. Probable sources of this pollution or contamination I’m guessing would be industrial and agricultural or municipal. Keep in mind that anything that changes runoff patterns might also introduce new pollutants via erosion or flooding.

The processing system itself can have contamination or become contaminated. Bacteria and diseases that have been removed or was never present can find their way in or begin to grow and multiply. As we are trying to remove organic pollutants from water we sometimes provide fresh breeding grounds for them. This is why residual (meaning it remains in the water and continues to work) disinfection is almost always necessary. Chlorination would be the main method for residual disinfection. Other chemicals can be used and I list towards the end of this article chemicals used in water processing. Inspecting, testing, repairing, replacing and cleaning help to combat these problems in the system itself.

The distribution and holding system can become damaged or breakdown and then contaminated. Water once cleaned needs to be used quickly or it needs to have residual purification chemicals added. Or it needs to be re-purified again just prior to use. Again the main means of dealing with problems in this area is residual disinfection. And as above inspecting, testing, repairing, replacing and cleaning.

Below is a huge list of topics in water treatment. I tried to place the list items in order of treatment.

  • Pre-treatment
    • Design of water shed
    • Straining or sieving
    • Settling (without flocculation)
  • Flocculation and Settling
  • Filtration and Sieving
    • Centrifugal
    • Slow sand
    • Sand
    • Activated charcoal/carbon
    • Ceramic coloidal silver
    • Reverse osmosis membrane
    • Anthracite (similar to activated charcoal by from a coal product)
    • Coke (cooked coal, works like activated charcoal)
  • Purification
    • chemical
    • UV
    • Ozone
    • Boiling
  • Distillation
  • Condensation
  • Airiation (mainly for iron, magnesium and odor/taste control)
    • Bubbling (diffusing through bubbling stones or other means)
    • Falling (through holes in a grate)
    • Paddling (stirring vertically)
  • De-ionization

Pre-treatment is basically any cheap thing that can be done to semi-purify or semi-clarify the water before sending it through your system. This can be in the design of the water source as well, such as man made reservoirs and ponds. Might be use of plants and fish for pre-cleaning. UV, airiation, settling and straining or sieving would be methods of pre-treatment.

Coagulation and Flocculation is where they add some chemical or fine solid such as clay. This adds turbidity to the water so that it almost looks muddy. Very small suspended solids cling to the larger solids which were added. To aid in this clinging process the water is stirred slowly in either a passive manner or an active manner to make it more turbulent (this process is flocculation). Most of the coagulant then settles (precipitates or rains) out in settling tanks to produce sludge on the bottom of the tanks. It also aids filters in filtering by making particles larger which means the filter can block their passage more easily. Water that is flocculated, settled and then filtered is likely to be cleaner than clearer water that is not flocculated and yet filtered. Also coagulation and flocculation remove much of the organic stuff from water such as algae and bacteria etc.

Sieving is merely straining through anything you can come up with such as cloths, metal grates with holes, screens. An example of a sieve might be a kitchen colander, flower sieve, tea leaf strainer or coffee filter. Sieves have a single thin layer and stop up rapidly. You would use a sieve to remove larger debris and particles in water that contains little of this material. Monitoring of the sieve and cleaning routinely or when needed would be necessary.

The subject of filtering is huge. A filter has multiple layers and is thick or deep. Filters are classified based on micron size of particles they will filter out and by the surface area of given types of filter material. Filters stop up sometimes and must bee cleaned, but they do not stop up nearly as quickly as sieves. Filters do block some bacteria etc. Sometimes filters can become breeding grounds for pathogens. Airiation helps filters to grab dissolved solids by separating these solids from water so that the filters can catch them. Types of filters include activated carbon or similar activated materials. Also included are ceramics, reverse osmosis membranes, sand both forced and slow (gravity fed). In filtering, water can be pressurized or gravity flow. They can be up flow or down flow which makes some difference because of how gravity acts on the filter material and debris and particles being filtered. One thing to remember when buying filters is that marketing strategies will advertise what they will filter, they will not tell you what they won’t filter.

Making Charcoal This site has a good design for a charcoal making kiln. Basically you cook wood at 600 to 900 degrees in an oven absent of oxygen. Wood gives off H2O, CO, and H when cooked or heated. CO (Carbon Monoxide) and H (Hydrogen) are combustible but as long as they are in the oven without oxygen they will not ignite. No flames or ash develop. The idea is that the wood in the oven surrounded by gasses other than oxygen will simply turn to a form of carbon, not ash. You may later burn the charcoal with oxygen as a fuel and it will burn hot and then turn to ash. Or you may filter water or alcohol( ethanol) with it.

Making Activated Charcoal This site has good info on making Activated Charcoal. It looks to me that you soak charcoal in calcium chloride or zink chloride for 24 hours. You then wash it with pure water. After this you cook it again in an oven at 215 to 230 degrees for 3 hours. What remains is activated charcoal with a surface area of near 500m2 per gram. Calcium Chloride is commonly used as roadway de-icer.It can be produced directly from limestone, probably by crushing. Another interesting note is that it is used as a dehumidification chemical and in water hardening. Zink Chloride is used in smoke grenades or fireworks. Zink Chloride looks to me to be harder to make at home than Calcium Chloride.

Ceramic filters are made by taking some material such as plastic sponge and saturating it with liquid ceramic or porcelain and then firing it once to dry it on lower heat. Then its fired on higher heat to really solidify it and burn out the sponge material. This sponge can be rice hulls or saw dust or anything that would make it porous after it is fired. I would guess that air must be forced through it during this firing process to push out this sponge matter that is vaporized. Colloidal silver may be added to the liquid ceramic mix to produce a filter that is anti-bacterial as well. Apparently silver is toxic to bacteria, viruses and protozoa. The silver does not leach into the water. There is an organization called “Potters for Peace” that teaches third world communities how to make these filters from cheap locally available materials.

Sand for sand filters needs to be between #17 and #50 sieves (see chart below). Minerox is a web site that sells sieves of varying sizes that you could use to get your correct sand size from any locally available sands. In forced sand filter, the sand is in a bottle or tank and is enclosed, where water is forced under normal pressures through the sand. Slow sand filters are more like pools or ponds. This is layered with larger gavel particles on bottom working upwards with smaller and smaller gravel gradients to the sand layer. Sand should be added with water in the pool so that particle size is evenly distributed in the sand layer. You don’t want size gradients in the sand layer. Water is fed into this pool very slowly by gravity flow. The very top of the sand forms a bacteria which eats away at the other pathogens and organics in the incoming water. Water coming out the bottom of the filter will be 99.9% pure and pathogen or organics free. If done properly this methods is almost as good as distillation. Periodically the top of the sand becomes clogged and must be removed. Gravel and rock can be uses in a similar manner for filtration of sludge from raw sewage. Sometimes these types of filters need to be cleaned with backwashing and scouring. Backwashing is where water is pumped backwards through the filter. Scouring is where the surface of filter is pressure sprayed with water.

Centrifugal filtration is more of a separation which uses inertial forces to separate matter of varying weight and density. This can be used to get sand out of a system that happens to be pumping sand with the water. Sand can damage valves and pipes. This can be as simple as a vertical cylinder that is spun horizontally. This was proposed as a method and I think was used for cleaning up the gulf oil spill in 2010.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) filtering is where a membrane made of some kind of polymer or cellulose is used at almost the molecular level to allow only water under pressure to pass through it. Membranes are made through various techniques and new methods and types of membranes are being developed all the time. This is a changing technology. In one method hot near molten material is extruded then stretched. The stretching process forms evenly spaced holes which only water may pass through. Another method involves bombarding a membrane material with some kind of radiation. This alters the molecular structure so that holes can be developed. Some kind of reactive agent is passed over the membrane and eats evenly spaced holes in the membrane. One of the agents used in this process is cancer causing and you might see a warning label on your RO filter package because of this. They don’t know how many gallons of water might be needed to wash all of this agent out of the membrane. Except for imperfections in the membrane and imperfections where membranes are connected to the container, they do a perfect job. Small RO filters spiral the membrane in a canister, and probably resemble a rolled up carpet. RO also removes salts and nuclear and biological and chemical contaminants. Military is using RO very successfully to filter contaminated water or sea water at 1000’s of gallons per hour. In reality the RO membrane is more like a sieve than a filter. On the raw water side water is pushed into contact with the RO membrane in which only a percentage of the water passes through the membrane. The rest if flushed out with concentrated contaminants in what is called the reagent stream. This reagent stream is usually sent to house hold black water drains. However depending on what is in it, it might be used as grey water. You could also distill this reagent water. DIY Reverse Osmosis dot com has a systems for home use that produce 50 or 100 gallons per day. They say pressure needs to be roughly 50 to 80 psi. They claim that for every gallon of water you pass through you get half gallon of pure water and half gallon of reagent water. I am guessing it is probably not that good and if that is true then it would have to be at 80psi. The higher the pressure in the RO system the more efficient it is. I think for commercial and military applications the pressures need to be up between 200 to 300 psi to be feasible. To filter sea water you need 600 to 1200 psi.

The industry recognizes that there is a problem in RO filtration where bacteria can build up on the product (clean water side) of the process. This may be because some small amount of certain types of bacteria make it through imperfections in the membrane and where the membranes attach to the housing of the filter body. For this reason I suggest chlorination after RO filtration. I also suggest at the very least a post filtering with activated carbon and colloidal silver ceramic filter. Also note that pre-filtration is needed to lengthen the life of the RO filter and to make that process more efficient. pre-filtration is for prevention of fouling and clogging the RO filter. RO filtration is slow, so a small holding tank for clean water is needed. With all its problems RO filtering is about as close as you can get to the quality of water double distillation will produce. And as slow as it is it is faster than distillation.

Purification by chemicals has its drawbacks, but is necessary none the less. Each type of chemical has its own pro’s and con’s. Some methods develop neurotoxins if done improperly. Disinfection of water requires 4 elements, (time duration of application, concentration, PH, temperature) Chlorination would be the most well known. At the end of this article I list chemicals used in water treatment (research any you intend to use before use.) Iodine is another well known method and has been used by military and everyone in the bush for many many years. Iodine’s only problem is that you can get too much of it. It is bad for pregnant women and very young children. Some people have a medical condition where they can not tolerate it. Water purification tabs are usually iodine based water purification. Though I’m seeing chlorine dioxide tabs now. Walmart sells scented bleach tablets. Pool supplies sell chlorine tabs and powder. Walmart also sells in their camping and hunting section water purification tabs.

UV purification is perfect right? Hardly. If for example you put a bottle of near clear water in the sun for 2 to 6 hours it is purified because of photo deactivation. Meaning the bacteria and disease can’t reproduce. They are made dormant. You can drink the water and your body will finish killing them. But if that bottle of water sits in indirect sunlight something called photo reactivation may occur. This means the live things will go back to reproducing. For this reason you need to use UV purified water immediately or it must be purified again just prior to use.

Ozone may be generated and bubble through water to purify water. I don’t really know much about this type. But I assume its used in combination with other methods.

Boiling water is a well known common method for purification and sterilization. However 212F(100C) will not kill spores which are like bacteria seeds. For this you need canning which is boiling under pressure. Botulism in meats is a well known pathogen that canning kills. The pressure allows the water to heat to above 240F(115C) degrees which will kill all life. Note that heating to 140F(60C) or 160F(71C) will also kill most pathogens. Compost piles achieve temps of 140F(60C) to 160F(71C) through bacterial action which generates heat in the decaying process. Like other purification methods that have no residual disinfection boiled water needs to be used soon after treatment.

Distillation is a well known method for getting survival water. If you have a piece of clear plastic you can place a rock in the middle of it and suspend the corners above a water source. Put a cup just underneath the inverted cone for collection of dripping condensation. This must be implemented using some container or hole with the water in it. A similar method places a bag over a tree limb where the bag is tied off to cause moisture from the tree limb and leaves or needles to condensate and drop to the bottom of the bag. If you leave it on the same limb too long you can kill that limb so its good to move the bag around limb to limb. Survivorman Less Stroud (A TV Series) made a urine still in the sand in a desert using the inverted cone method above. He urinated in the sand around the collection cup.

At the top of this article I have a link to an image of a super simple design for a table still. At I make my gas dot com you can buy a kitchen top still for around $240 that will allow you to home distill water, as well as moonshine and ethanol. In a book called “Fire Fox”, the first in a 12 book series, 3 different methods are shown for moon shine stills. There is no reason you couldn’t use these methods for distillation of water on a larger scale. I have seen table top solar stills for $500, that will distill 3/4 to 1.5 gallons of water per day, for sale on the web. As I said in the beginning of this article distilled water is 99.5% pure and after double distillation is 99.9% pure.

Condensation is where some type of gas is compressed, heat is driven off with fans, and then decompressed in radiator type coils such that in becomes very cold on the surface of the coils. When air is cooled by passing it through the coils or radiator water condenses out of the air. This is because the dew point of the air is changed. Air can only hold so much evaporated water which is the dew point. This dew point is based on the temperature of the air. So cooling the air is like squeezing a sponge or ringing a cloth. Its literally rain making. You can get condensers that produce clean drinking water from Eco Blue. Other side benefits of this process is “cooler air with air conditioning” and “dehumidification”. Condensation water from a/c units, refrigeration and freezing units is considered to be grey water, but not pure water. If you were to collect water from these sources the water would need to be further filtered and purified before use.

Airiation is adding of oxygen to water through bubbling action, falling action or stirring/whipping action. Adding air to water causes dissolved solids to separate from water so that they may be easily filtered. Airiation also improves taste and odor. Its good for removing iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide. This is why you smell stink when passing water treatment facilities. And some wells contain hydrogen sulfide. Airiation can be accomplished with a number of methods. One is forcing air through air stones which disperse the air as small bubbles. Another is letting air fall through a series of colanders. These are flat not spherical. Gravel is a few inches deep in the colander. A few inches of head (depth) is maintained to evenly distribute the water over the whole surface of the colander. In a closed system air can be forced upward through the colanders to cause airiation as well. Forcing air through the falling water with fans from the sides also helps in the airiation process. The water must fall a couple of feet between colanders. Another method uses a paddle wheel to stir and whip water which also causes falling water. Yet another method uses spraying or fountain water. Airiation or Carbon filtering removes radon gas from water.

De-ionization is something I don’t know much about yet. But it removes some minerals from the water. Similar to a de-ionizing air filters i guess.

Related topics.

  • Water Softening
  • Measuring and Adjusting PH
  • Measuring Particulate Matter (turbidity)
  • Testing for heavy metals, salts, minerals and toxins

Water is also produced from hydrogen fuel cells as a byproduct. Water is the exhaust from the burning of hydrogen as a fuel. The US military is working on a method of getting water from diesel fuel exhaust systems.

  • Water Pumping
  • Water Transporting
    • Tank Trucks
    • Tank Trailers

I could write a whole other post on pumps and pumping. I have some illustrations on my blog post Home water production which show how hand operated pumps work. Search you tube and you will find some good examples of simple hand operated pumps as well. PVC Check valves can be bought for a dollar or two to put inline in your PVC piping system. RV dealers sell 12 volt pumps that give you 35 psi for a little less than $100 as of this writing. The only 120 volt pumps I have come in contact with were submersible pumps and piston pumps. How about setting up a ram pump near a remote water supply to fill a tank. Then you can draw via gravity water from it into your mobile hauling tank? Maybe I’ll have more to write about pumps later.

On hauling water I am a only talking about the small scale. I had a friend who used to live in Oklahoma and the community where he lived shared a 500 gallon bumper pull water tank for hauling water from a local source, then dumped it into their water wells. Who knows, you may produce so much water after reading my article and implementing these principles that you are able to give water away by hauling it or instruction others how to come get it. I think hauling water can be either in jugs, barrels or tanks on this small scale. Typical over the road tanker trucks haul around 7000 gallons. For $1500 to $2000 as of this writing you could have that quantity of water tanked from almost anywhere in America to your location. I have thought about living in a desert where I would own my own large tanker. I’d run somewhere within farm distance of 150 miles to get water and bring it back to my desert location. I could either use it directly from the tanker or move it to cisterns and other holding tanks.

I want to talk about hauling water in typical sizes of smaller trucks and trailers. Just going by manufacturer specs 1/4 ton, 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, 1 ton, 1.5 ton, 2.5 ton and 5 ton. Ton means 2000lbs hauling capacity. Small flat bed trailers come in all sizes. For example a 16 foot twin axle trailer would haul about 6000 lbs which is 3 tons. If you were to haul in a pickup bed you would need to find tanks that fit in the bed. Larger tanks would fit on trailers easier. In both cases find good ways to strap these down. I’d suggest ratcheting nylon straps. Though I suppose ropes and chains would work but know what your doing. Water is heavy. It weighs about 8.34 lbs per gallon. A 5 gallon container or bucket then weighs 41.7lbs. A 50 gallon drum weighs 417lbs. A 500 gallon tank weighs 4170lbs or 2 tons.

1/4 ton truck would haul 50 gallons.
1/2 ton truck would haul almost 125 gallons.
3/4 ton truck would haul 200 gallons.
1 ton truck would haul 250 gallons.
1.5 ton truck would haul 325 gallons.
2 ton truck would haul 500 gallons.
2.5 ton truck would haul 650 gallons.
5 ton dump would haul 1300 gallons.

With the above list I am talking about hauling in or on their bed. In addition trucks can also tow so much weight. This depends on the tow package or tow upgrades. The bumper hitch might need to be upgraded to support the proper tow weight. A transmission oil cooler might need to be added. Trailer break control might also need to be added. At any rate its a matter of matching the trailer, tank and tow weight to vehicle tow capacity. My 1992 3/4 ton Chevy Van will tow 6000 to 8000 lbs. It has a Chevy 350 V8 in it. I probably wouldn’t risk towing more than 3 tons of water with it. When towing water you must realize that especially in larger open tanks it will slosh. Side to side means it might turn over easily if you are not careful. Forward to back means it can actually push you through intersections and/or into other vehicles. When towing water slow down and make every move slow and deliberate. Be careful on curves and take them at 15 miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit. I’m a trucker so trust me I know. They say going too fast for a curve is like a blind man walking near a cliff. Once he steps off its too late to recover. Once you begin a roll over in a curve you will not work your way back up. Its simply too late then.

A millimeter is 1/1000th of a meter.
A micron(micrometer) is 1/1000th of a millimeter(MM).
A nanometer(nm) is 1/1000th of a micron.

Cheese Cloth (as a filter or sieve)

Grade Vertical × horizontal

threads per inch

#10 20 × 12 1400×700 microns maybe? Just for comparison.

#40 24 × 20

#50 28 × 24

#60 32 × 28

#90 44 × 36

Coffee filter
10 to 15 micron filter
Activated Carbon Filter
0.5 to 50 microns or larger

Ceramic filters
0.3 to 1.4 microns or larger will not filter viruses but will kill viruses if silver is added.
Sand Filter
Used for filtering particles of less than 100 microns in size. Sand grains are from 300 to 1200 microns in size.
Particle filtartion
1 micron or larger
Membrane filtration 50nm or larger.
Membrane filtering for macromolecular 3 nm or larger solutions. Used in blood dialysis.
membrane filtration 1nm or larger
This is RO membrane filtration. 0.1 nm or larger

A human hair ranges between 17 and 170 microns. So you see #80 to #400 sieves has human hair size openings.

Types of chemicals used in water treatment

  • Coagulants or Flocculants(Settling)
    • Ferrous Sulfate
    • Aluminum Sulfate (filter alum)
    • Sodium Silicate (activated silica)
    • Sodium Aluminate
    • Ferric Sulfate
    • Liquid Ferric Chloride
    • lime
    • cement (activated lime and clay)
    • quick lime
    • clay (Bentonite)
  • Disinfection (killing bacteria and spores)
    • Calcium Hypochlorite (Hypochlorites)
    • Chlorine
    • Chloramine (chlorine and ammonia)
    • Chlorine Dioxide
    • Ammonium Sulfate
    • Sodium Chlorite
    • Iodine
  • Taste and Odor Control
    • Powdered or Granulated Activated Carbon (baked Charcoal)
    • Sodium Metalbisulfate
    • Copper Sulfate
    • Potassium Permanganate
    • Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda)? Wonder if this works?
  • Water Softening
    • Sodium Chloride (salt)
    • Sodium Carbonate (soda ash)
    • Calcium Hydroxide (hydrated lime)
    • Calcium Oxide (quick lime)
  • Corrosion ( PH control)
    • Caustic Soda (lye which is sodium or potassium hydroxide)
    • Sodium Herametaphosphate
    • Sodium Tripolyphosphate
  • Prophylaxis (Disease prevention i.e fluoride)
    • Sodium Fluoride
    • Sodium silicofluoride
    • Fluocilicacid
Mesh inches mm Microns
1 in. 1.00 25.4 25400
7/8 in. 0.875 22.6 22600
3/4 in. 0.750 19.0 19000
5/8 in. 0.625 16.0 16000
0.530 in. 0.530 13.5 13500
1/2 in. 0.500 12.7 12700
7/16 in. 0.438 11.2 11200
3/8 in. 0.375 9.51 9510
5/16 in. 0.312 8.00 8000
0.265 in. 0.265 6.73 6730
1/4 in. 0.250 6.35 6350
No.3 1/2 0.223 5.66 5660
No. 4 0.187 4.76 4760
No. 5 0.157 4.00 4000
No. 6 0.132 3.36 3360
No. 7 0.111 2.83 2830
No. 8 0.0937 2.38 2380
No. 10 0.0787 2.00 2000
No. 12 0.0661 1.68 1680
No. 14 0.0555 1.41 1410
No. 16 0.0469 1.19 1190
No. 18 0.0394 1.00 1000
No. 20 0.0331 0.841 841
No. 25 0.0278 0.707 707
No. 30 0.0234 0.595 595
No. 35 0.0197 0.500 500
No. 40 0.0165 0.420 420
No. 45 0.0139 0.354 354
No. 50 0.0117 0.297 297
No. 60 0.0098 0.250 250
No. 70 0.0083 0.210 210
No. 80 0.0070 0.177 177
No. 100 0.0059 0.149 149
No. 120 0.0049 0.125 125
No. 140 0.0041 0.105 105
No. 170 0.0035 0.088 88
No. 200 0.0029 0.074 74
No. 230 0.0025 0.063 63
No. 270 0.0021 0.053 53
No. 325 0.0017 0.044 44
No. 400 0.0015 0.037 37
Larger sieve openings (1 in. to 1/4 in.) have been designated by a sieve “mesh” size that corresponds to the size of the opening in inches.  Smaller sieve “mesh” sizes of 3 1/2 to 400 are designated by the number of openings per linear inch in the sieve.

APN Water Treatment pdf
APN Water Purification pdf
APN Slow Sand Filters pdf
World Health Organization Water Treatment PDF

Army/Air Force FM for Water Treatment

EPA Water Born Illness document
Texas Document