I’m not a Prepper, or a Survivalist; but I think permaculture encompasses many of the survivalist ideals – just…without all the guns and dehydrated food.
Seriously though, I really love some of the products that you can find on survival websites. For instance, I’ve been looking for a substitute for a regular BIC lighter; and today, I found one! It’s awfully cool. It’s a Dual Arc Plasma Lighter that is charged by USB! Plus, it has a flashlight, and some other groovy doodads on it. I’ll be doing a review when I get mine.
Lighting is another area where the survivalist websites really have some awesome products. You’ve heard of a LUCI light, right? If you don’t have one, you should. Very handy little solar powered lights. But wait! Before you go ahead and get a plain ol’ original LUCI light, check out this one with a phone charger!
They’ve got lots of great solar lighting solutions; and other groovy solar gadgets too, such as charging stations for USB devices. I could charge my USB headlamp, my Dual Arc Plasma Lighter, and my iPod, when I’m out camping, or hiding from zombies, or whatever. Plus, the company is called Survival Frog. That’s just cute.
Okay, enough with the links! Just go to Survival Frog and check it out. And yes, these are affiliate links. If you go to their online store using one of these links, and you buy something, I will get a small commission fee for sending you there, at no extra cost to you; but you’ll have my eternal gratitude.
Learning what we need to know – BEFORE we need to know it
There are many skills that modern living has made pretty redundant. When we can go to the store and buy everything we need, and everything comes alive at the flip of a switch, the old skills fall by the wayside.
But there has been a real upsurge in survival and bushcraft videos on Youtube. Have you noticed? We enjoy watching a few of the guys as they practice their skills, and show their viewers how to do things like light a fire, chop wood safely, build a shelter, and forage for food.
I think these skills, along with growing and preserving food, and cooking on a fire, are becoming more and more important for everyone to be familiar with. Permaculture advocates using the most efficient ‘tool’ for the job. Fire is the most efficient tool for cooking and heating; so let’s take a look at how we use fire here on our little slice of paradise.
Cooking with fire
I want to learn how to light a fire without using a lighter or a match. I bought Rich a ferro rod last year for his birthday, and we’ve played around with it a bit – well, mostly he has played around with it. I’ve also watched him start a fire with a bow drill, and I wanna learn that. It’s pretty cool.
I think there’s a good reason to learn these skills: the world has gone mad. Stark raving nutters. Bonkers. Loopy. You get the idea.
Really though, I think this is important stuff. Rich and I have been talking a lot about learning these kinds of skills for fun – but now it seems like it’s a wise thing to do.
We’ve also been doing a few different things that are lessening our need for spending money during these uncertain times, while also shrinking our living footprint.
For instance, this winter, Rich started using his wood stove heater more for cooking his food, rather than turning on the propane or electric range. In doing so he has lowered his propane usage considerably; as well as burning far fewer meals. HA!
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we built a rocket stove last year for outdoor cooking. It is made with firebricks, and is built into a stone wall.
We’ve cooked a lot of different things on that stove, and it’s been great fun learning how to use it. I just came inside after cooking my dinner – stew and pasta – on that rocket stove.
One of the great things about rocket stoves is that you don’t need to split wood for it. You can just use dry sticks that you pick up in the forest – or in your yard, after a storm.
We’ve done some experiments, and found that cedar and fir are great for a quick hot fire, but are a little too ‘sparky’ to use in the summer. But dry alder works great, and has few sparks. Perfect.
Just last week, Rich built a new rocket stove. This one is portable, and made of bits and bobs of metal that he has welded together. Nothing was purchased – this is all made from stuff he just had lying around. It’s a really awesome contraption, and he’s having fun learning how to use it. Plus, it just looks cool.
Last night, after he finished cooking his big pot of stew (that he will divide into servings and freeze), I baked cookies on the new rocket stove, using a large metal roasting pan with a lid, and a rack inside covered in tinfoil and topped with parchment paper.
It takes a bit longer to bake cookies on that rocket stove than it does in the toaster oven I usually use, but it worked! Tomorrow I’m going to cook up a big stew on the firebrick rocket stove, and then bake cookies. I’ll be feeling pretty virtuous after that, let me tell ya.
EDIT to add: I have discovered that baking over the open fire pit is much better than the rocket stove. So now I bake my cookies that way. And last night I baked banana bread! Turned out pretty good, although a little overdone on the bottom. Plus, I could cook my dinner at the same time!
The point of all this yammering is: we can cook all our food using just sticks we’ve gathered in the bush. Great, right? We don’t have to use electricity, propane, or natural gas to cook our food.
I really like the feeling of being self-sufficient in some of the important things, such as heating and cooking. But I truly wish we had more room for gardening, because we could easily grow most of our own food.
Check out this video of Rich building and playing with the new rocket stove.
Growing and preserving
We expanded the garden a bit this year. Adding the tomato box along the edge of the shop, and putting in the new potato bed below it, has given us a bit more food potential. Oh, yeah, and the bathtub on the roof. Can’t forget that.
Growing your own food is the wisest move you can make right now. Even if you only have a small space to work with, you can grow at least some of your food. Check out the different articles I’ve written about how to grow food in all kinds of situations.
Preserving our harvest will be a big part of our food security this year. We’ve both become very attached to our fermented veggies, so that will figure prominently. I also want to try some fermented hot sauce, using the cayenne peppers we’re growing, as well as some fermented salsa. The rest of the tomatoes will be sauced and canned, or sun dried.
Besides the ferments, and the canned tomato sauce, I’d like to have some dried stuff too. I’ll be growing more dried beans this year; and hope to get some dried peas as well. If the zucchini grows well, I’ll dry some of that. And of course we’ll do some sun dried tomatoes, and dried herbs.
If our growing space allowed it, I’d grow WAY more beans for drying. But, I can only grow so much here. Someday…
I think that learning to ferment our food to preserve it is going to become a very useful skill in the future. How often do you buy fresh veggies, and then they go all wilty (or slimy) in the bottom of the veg drawer? Ugh. If you ferment them right away, they stay fresh for a long time.
Did you know that as soon as a vegetable is harvested, it starts to lose nutrients? Imagine how much it has lost by the time you buy it at the grocery store? Lots. But if you can’t grow your own veggies, and you don’t have access to a farmers market, fermenting is the next best thing.
When you ferment vegetables, it actually increases the nutrients available to your body. The fermenting process increases your body’s ability to absorb and utilize the nutrients in the vegetables.
You get more from fresh fermented veggies than you do from just fresh veggies. Cool, right? And of course, there’s the pro-biotics – and we all know those are extremely important.
Also, with food shortages looming in some areas due to lockdowns and people hoarding food, you might be tempted to buy lots of veggies in one shop. But how do you keep them fresh? Ferment them, of course!
Fermented vegetables store really well. Plus, you don’t have to slave away over a big pot of boiling hotness to make fermented veggies. All you need is a cool place to store them.
So one of the most important skills you can learn during these crazy times we’re living in, is how to grow and preserve your own food. It’s not hard to do, and the rewards are priceless – especially if you have a family.
Give it a try. You can read more articles on my site about gardening; and you can hit up Youtube for some great videos. Just get started!
I’ve never really been much of a Youtube watcher, but there are a few people I enjoy watching and learning from.
I enjoy Huw Richards‘ gardening videos. He’s just a young lad from Wales, but he has a lot of gardening know-how.
Then there’s my favorite British gardener, Charles Dowding, the King of No-dig gardening.
One of my favorite bushcraft guys is Mike at TA Outdoors; and he recently uploaded a great video: 20 Wilderness Survival Tips and Bushcraft Skills. Check out his other vids too – he has a LOT.
Of course, there’s also Survivorman, Les Stroud. He does a lot of different kinds of survival adventures, and is a little more intense than Mike at TA Outdoors. Rich likes his videos.
You can find dozens more. Find some that you enjoy watching, and learn from them. Play around with the different skills and techniques, and collect the tools and bits and bobs that you need. You just never know when those new skills will come in handy.
I hope you enjoyed this look at a few of the skills that I think are important for everyone to learn: lighting a fire without matches, cooking with fire, growing your own vegetables, and preserving your vegetables.
If you have any questions, comments, or nice things to say, please drop my a note in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Health, Hope & Happiness
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