Homesteading and Survivalism

Living a simple life

Month: May 2010

Harvesting the first potatoes of 2010

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The time has come to harvest the first of the potatoes. When the eyes were planted, they broke through the ground at different rates. So that means that the plants may mature at different times, and the harvest will be spread out.

When is it time to harvest potatoes?

A lot of people ask the question – when do you know when its time to harvest potatoes. Its a simple question and a simple answer – when the tops of the plants start dying, its time to dig the potatoes up.

If you have access to a tractor, a plow can be mounted to the rear end. The tractor is slowly driven over the row, as the soil is turned up, the potatoes roll out the ground. People can then walk behind the tractor, dig through the dirt and harvest the potatoes.

If your harvesting the potatoes by hand, dig around the base of the plant, or just pull up the plant to gain access to the buried potatoes.

Try not to use sharp hand tools – such as shovels – which can slice through the tender skin of the potato.

On May 30, 2010 – we harvested about 4 gallons of snap beans and 5 gallons of potatoes.  I think the production of the snap beans is being stunted due to the lack of rain.  For the year 2010, in just the first 5 months, we are somewhere around 4 – 6 inches below normal.  If we would have received our normal rate of rain fall in April and May, I suspect that the beans and potatoes would produced a lot more.

Related Forum Post:
Kevs 2010 spring garden
Gardening Forum
Forum threads about potatoes

Storing MREs

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Awhile back I posted a video on youtube about storing MREs.  Lets just say that some of the comments are either really funny, or really sad – depending on how you look at it.

It all started when a buddy of mine cleaned out his food stockpiles and gave me about 8 1/2 cases of MREs. Not being the one to pass up free food preps, I gladly accepted the MREs and loaded them up in the SUV. On the way home my wife and I decided to get one of those plastic shelving systems from a local big box mart.

One side of my sons closet was cleaned out, the shelving system was assembled and the MREs were put on the shelves in order to when the test / inspect date. The ones dated in 2011 were put on the bottom, the ones dated in 2010 on the second shelf up from the bottom, and the ones that your supposed to test were put on the third shelf up from the bottom. Some backpacks / daypacks were put on the very top shelf.

The following video is the one that I posted on youtube.

Examples of some of the comments:

You should not store the MREs in your house, because they will expire faster – ok, I dont even know what to think about that comment. If you not supposed to store the MREs in your house, where are you “supposed” to store them?

How are you supposed to reach the MREs if SHTF? – Do some of these people live in a fantasy world or something? Do they expect nukes to fall out of the sky at any second, blasting away bridges, roads,,,,. I guess I’am “supposed” to carry the meals around in the trunk of my car, or in the back seat of my truck?

Why do you have the meals stored in your house? You should buy a shed and store them there – Do people not realize that MREs are heat sensitive? The high the temp the meals are stored at, the shorter the life span. Here in East Texas we are in the lower 90s by May, upper 90s in June, and usually in the lower 100s in July and August. Storing the meals in temps that high could take years off their life expectancy.

As a long time survivalist, I just dont know what to think about some of those comments. Is common sense missing from our society these days?

If we were talking about a case of canned soup, would people be saying these same things? Or is just because we are talking about MREs?  Storing MREs is no different then storing a case of noodles, or some dried beans, or some soup. Why would people want to move MREs into the 100 degree heat but keep their canned goods in the house?

Please post your comments in this forum thread about how to store MREs.

Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger Review

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The Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger is unlike a lot of other backpacks, as it only has one shoulder strap. Its designed so that the user can disconnect an under-the-arm strap, and then spin the pack so that its in front of them. Thus, making the pack easy to access without having to dismount it.

Maxpedition makes 3 packs in its gearslinger series – the Sitka, Noatak and the Kodiak. In this article we are going to be looking at the Kodiak.

The single shoulder strap supports the weight of the pack, while the under the strap helps to keep the pack in place.

The Kodiak Gearslinger has 5 compartments on it:
Place for the water bladder
Small outer pouch on top outside
Medium outer pouch on outside
Zipper pouch on outside of medium pouch
Main compartment

Some specs from the maxpedition website:

* Single shoulder backpack designed to maximize utility when rotated towards front of body
* Main compartment: 17 high x 10 wide x 4 thick with internal organization
* Top front: 4.5 high x 9 wide x 2 thick with internal organization
* Bottom front: 10 high x 9 wide x 2 thick with internal organization
* Approximate Capacity: 1100 cu. in.
* Fits up to 15.4″ (diagonal screen size) laptop computer.
* Bag can be worn in front and contents comfortably accessed while sitting down
* Water bottle pocket sized to fit 32oz Nalgene bottle
* Compatible with 100oz hydration reservoir
* Theft deterrent devices built-in to capture zipper pulls
* PALS modular webbing throughout to for attaching accessories
* Top and side handles

Before the pack is taken out on a hiking / camping trip, I wanted to get a feel for it. So I grabbed some Eversafe meals, GPS, topo maps, water filter, map compass, hammock,,, and put everything in the Kodiak.

Top smaller outer pouch that is on top of the pack – bug spray, topo maps, GPS and map compass fit in there just right.

In the larger outside pouch, my first aid kit and water filter fit in there just right.

In the main compartment, I had the 2 Eversafe meals, rain poncho, rope, and hammock. If this pack was being fitted for a real camping trip, I would have to strap a poncho liner or fleece sleeping bag to the outside of the pack, add a multi-tool, and a couple of other things and it would be ready to go.

I like the pouch on the side for a 32 ounce water bottle. Plus, there is a compartment for a water bladder. So if your heading out in hot weather, you should be able to carry plenty of water.

The strap that goes sunder your arm has an emergency whistle on it – which is a nice addition.

Things that I would like to see changed:

The Kodiak Gearslinger really needs some straps on the bottom. I found it awkward trying to strap a fleece sleeping bag to the pack – when the bag was put on the top of the pack and strapped down, the pack deformed so that it would not have fit my back properly. Having some way to strap something to bottom would really be nice.

Take a couple of the straps on the side and turn them vertical – this would make strapping something to the side much easier.  Lets take a tripod for example, I’am not quit sure how I’am going to strap it to the pack.

If you have any comments, please post them in this forum thread about the Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger.

Related Maxpedition Articles:

Maxpedition Vulture-II

maxpedition vulture ii

Kodiak Gearslinger
Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger
Falcon-II and Pygmy Falcon-II

maxpedition pygmy falcon-ii

Being a survivalist in the 1990s

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Survivalism, like everything else changes with time.  During the Cold War – the 1950s and 1960s – people were worried about nuclear war with Russia.  In the 1990s theories were a dime a dozen about how the United Nations was going to invade the USA.  In the 2000s we were worried about terrorist attacks, and now in 2010 we are worried about financial collapse.

As I think about the past few decades, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s,,, to me, the 1990s was the best decade for survivalism.  While Bill Clinton was president from 1993 to 2001, he probably he did more to promote survivalism / conspiracy theories then anyone else that I can think of, besides maybe Janet Reno and the Waco situation.

1991 we had the Persian Gulf conflict – Desert Shield and Desert Storm. We got to see how well the Russian made tanks held up against the M1 Abrams. We got to see the stealth fighter and bomber. The world saw that the USA can kick some butt and take names later – if there was enough left to even name.

In 1992 there was Ruby Ridge and Randy Weaver
In February to April of 1993 we had the siege in Waco.
In 1994 we had the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA – even though Bill Clinton said during his campaign that he would not sign NAFTA, after getting elected, he crawfished on the subject and quickly signed the treaty.


Harvesting snap beans

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The snap beans are really starting to come in.  If we could get some rain, they would be producing a lot more, but you just have to make due with what you have. In all, we probably picked 4 – 5 gallons of snap beans.

I’am going to string some of these beans up for them to dry in the shed, while some of them will be blanched and put in the freezer. The old timers use to run a string through the beans, then hang the string up where they would stay dry. If all of the beans had to jarred, that would be a lot of jars and it would cost a lot of money. But if done properly, the jarred beans can stay good for years.

Anyway, here is a garden update filmed on May 24, 2010. If you want to post a comment about this video, you may do so in the forum thread about my 2010 survivalist summer garden.

Waterborne infections

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While reading through a government report on waterborne infections, something interesting came out. Cryptosporidium accounted for about 65% of all waterborne infections.

Here is the breakdown:

Cryptosporidium accounted for 65%
E. Coli accounted for 6.3%
Campylobacter 6.1%
Giardia 2.1%
Shigella Sonnei – 8.5%
Norovirus – 8.3%

Now lets combine that with some more information.

Here is another US Government report on Microorganism size and susceptibility to filtration report.

Organism Average sizes
Viruses 0.03
Enteric bacteria (E. coli) 0.5 × 3.0–8.0
Cryptosporidium oocyst 4–6
Giardia cyst 6.0–10.0 × 8.0–15.0

When I’am concerned about the water that I’am filtering, I try to take the area that I’am in, into consideration.

Is the water down stream from a rural or heavily populated area?

Has there been any recent flooding in the area? The flooding goes hand in hand with populated areas. If the sewage lines or septic tanks were recently flooded, then the risk of contaminated water increases.

If the water from a running stream, or a pond / pool of water?

If you have any questions, post them in this forum thread about Water Filtration.

My daughter turns 14 tomorrow

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Well, what can you say, kids grow up.  They have their own journey through life, they will make all of the same mistakes you did.  Maybe some not so bad, maybe some worse.

Saturday, we have a trip planned to a local park, where we will cook some hot dogs, do some fishing,,, and just try to enjoy life.  I’am sure hoping we will be able to catch something.

Its the simple times, the good time,s that  seem to slip past me.  I spend a lot of my time worrying about other stuff.  Like right now, I’am trying to think of a good place to take my son and daughter on a hiking trip.  I know “where” we are going, its just the route that I’am thinking about.

The weather this weekend is supposed to be great – with highs around 91 degrees and lows around 71 – 73 degrees.  Which means cool mornings and hot in the evening.

Armchair survivalist at it again

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It seems that those armchair survivalist are at it again, this time their posting stuff on my youtube gardening videos.

If your wondering what an armchair survivalist is, they are the people that sit at their computer chairs, post comments on videos, post on forums, might even have a blog, and never actually “do” anything. They are the people that know everything there is to know about survivalism, their masters of everything, but not of them have never actually done anything. They tell you how your doing everything wrong, but offer no proof that they have actually done it themselves.

A few days ago I posted a video on youtube about storing MREs – One guy posted a comment – “you should never store MREs in your house. The temperature does not stay cold enough and they will spoil faster.”

Your not supposed to store MREs in your house,,,,, that comment is so far out there, I dont even know what to think about it. I posted a reply asking “where are you supposed to store the MREs then?” I have yet to see a reply to my question. I figured he would say something like – “rent a climate controlled storage area and turn the temperature down.” Then I was going to come back with a reply with something about having to pay for the storage area.

On my gardening video, which shows the first harvest of 2010,

One guy posted a comment that stated “a family needs at least 5 acres to be able to grow enough food.”

I dont know for sure, but I’am guessing he has has never read any books on square foot gardening? Does he even know which plants will give maximum production? Does he even have any seeds stocked up? Has the guy ever even got is hands dirty?

Other comments included – “that is not enough food to live off of”,,,, “it took 6 weeks to grow 1 pot of peas”,,,,. I dont guess they know that snap beans are a high producing plant? Their comments show a total ignorance of the topics at hand.

I dont even know what to think about those types of comments. Its like their looking at one little small part of a big picture, criticizing that that part, and ignoring the rest of the picture.

Its like people criticize what I’am/your doing, but those same people that criticize offer nothing in return. Their just sitting there, in their computer chair, telling how your doing everything wrong, but they themselves have nothing to show.

Some of the comments were along the lines – “that is no enough food, your going to be in trouble in a real disaster happens.” I dont guess they say the video of the MREs,,,, or anything else.

If your going to speak up and say “hey, your doing that wrong” – then have something to back it up.  How about some pictures of your projects, how about a blog showing what you have done.  Or better yet, how about a video?

I might be the “ultimate survivalist” living on a farm, but I try to set some kind of positive example for others.  You dont  to have to have 50 acres to have a nice garden.  Even if its just a flower bed in the back yard you planted some onions in, its better then nothing.

The goal is to actually “do something”  – which is better then doing “nothing.”  Sitting at a computer chair, posting on a forum, reading blogs,,, does not count as doing something.  Getting outside, planting a garden, going on a hiking trip, taking the kids fishing,,, now that counts as actually doing something.

Given the choice between taking my kids fishing, or posting on a forum, I would rather go fishing anyday.

Post your comments in this forum thread about Armchair Survivalist.

If you wish to comment on the video, please post your comments in my 2010 survivalist garden thread of the forums.

Emergency Kit Checklist

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Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or simply want to prepare your family for a disaster such as a flood, earthquake or tornado, an emergency kit is a must-have. Some households may have a first aid kit but how many are really prepared for any disaster with everything you might need in a portable backpack? What should you have in an emergency? Here is a handy checklist for everything you should have in an emergency kit. Be sure to include enough items for everyone is your household.

1.Rugged Backpack
2.Band-Aids & Sterile Dressings
3.Food & Water Rations
6.Antibiotic Ointment
8.Insect Repellent
9.Toilet Paper & Tissues
10.Toothpaste & Toothbrushes
13.Emergency Blankets & Ponchos
14.Water Carrier
15.Water Purification Tablets
17.Dust Masks
18.Cups, Forks & Spoons
19.Nylon Cord/Paracord
20.Hand Warmers
21.Tube Tent
22.Pen & Notepad
23.Work Gloves
24.Portable AM/FM Radio
25.Duct Tape
26.Hand Sanitizer
27.Sewing Kit
28.Spare Batteries
29.Garbage Bags
30.Deck of Playing Cards

You can create your own emergency kit, or you can purchase a prepared emergency kit. Emergency kits from ( ) come loaded with the top of the line survival products and emergency supplies compared to our competitors. Our kits have all of the survival supplies you or your loved ones will need to weather any storm, all packed in a premium backpack. You can choose from kits for one to four people or you can even customize your own emergency kit for your own personal needs.

Weight gain and computer related jobs

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A lot of people probably say they were in their best physical shape at 18, 19, 20, or even 21 years old.  Not me – I think my best physical conditioning was around 27, 28, 29, maybe even 30 years old.  At that age I used to get home from working hard physical for 8 – 10 hours, eat dinner, then get on the bike for 6 – 12 miles.  After the bike ride it was either weights or a 3 – 5 mile run.

But that was then, and this is now.

A little bit about myself:

42 years old – when this was posted
Little over 5 years with my current job
Sit at a desk and work on computers all day

From when I graduated high school in 1986, up until I got this current job, I have always had a job that involved a lot of physical activity. Whether it was working in a welding shop – swinging a hammer, moving pieces of steel, walking from one end of the shop to the other,,, or running cable TV cable,,, I was always moving in some form or another.

I never quit realized how important that was back then. All I knew was that I was tired of sweating so bad in July and August, I was tired of the hard physical labor, I was tired of the welding burning my arms,,,,. But in away, that hard work was keeping me young.

Now that I sit at a desk all day, I feel that I’am wasting away. Its impossible to get the same level of physical activity today working in this office that I did working in the welding shop.

So what are my choices?

I could spend more time on the threadmill, but that is a focused exercise that only works your legs.

Maybe do some wii for a full body workout?

Ride a bike – yea, I like bike riding. Back when I was working in the welding shops for 8 – 10 hours a day, I would go home, eat and then get on my bike for a 6 – 9 mile ride. There is just something about being on the rode with the wind in your face.

Maybe I could watch what I ate a little better? Maybe so, but its too easy to get a cheese burger and a 32 ounce soft drink.

I think my biggest issue is from my sugar intake and my lack of exercise. If I could get on the threadmill for an hour a day, I think things would be a lot better – and then switch the threadmill out with the bike or the wii.

One of the things that stops me from getting on the threadmill is when the grandkids come over. They want to get on there with me, or they want to put a toy car or truck on the threadmill,,,,. So its better that I not even get on there when the little grand kids are over.

I have to do “something” to get into shape. Summer vacation is almost here, and I want to take my kids on hiking/camping trips. Its going to be really difficult to hump a pack 10 miles when your out of shape. Several years ago my oldest son and I made went on a 6 – 8 mile hike / camping trip when I was bad out of shape – I do not want to do that again. By the time I got home I could barely carry my pack and my feet had blisters on them – lets not even talk about how sore my legs were.

This year I want to go on a 12 – 14 mile wilderness hike with my son and nephew. But to do that, I HAVE to get in shape. Its been a full week since I have been on the threadmill, so I’am just going to have to set some time aside and get some exercise.

If I ever lose this job, the first place I’am going is back into the welding field. At least there I was able to maintain a good healthy weight.

Since I no longer hold a job that works you like a horse all day long, I have to figure out a way to get back into some kind of good physical conditioning.    Whether its bike riding, playing the wii, weights, or the threadmill – something has to be done.

Post your comments in this forum thread about my weight gain issues.

Vargo hexagon wood stove overview

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Until just a few days ago, I had never heard of the Vargo hexagon wood stove. It all started with Mark, the owner of Ready sent me an email and asked if I would like to do a review.  Since I like to test out new gear, I said “sure”.

Right off the bat I was impressed with this stove – it looks like it can go anywhere and cook just about anything.  Its versatile enough to be able to use wood, sterno, or an alcohol stove inside of it. The first thing that I notices as I took the stove out of the box is how thin it is.

Here are some dimensions:

Folded – about 3/4 inch tall
Folded – the widest part across the base is about 5 5/8 inches
Un-folded – about 4 inches tall
Un-folded – top – about 3 inches across
Un-folded – base – about 4 3/4 – 4 7/8 across

The bottom of the stove has 19 hexagon holes stamped in it, which as about 3/8 across.

The way your “supposed” to use this stove, is you find some small pieces of wood and build a fire inside of the stove. But while looking at the stove, and doing some thinking, I found that a sterno / methanol gel fits perfectly into the stove. I know the Vargo Hexagon Wood Stove is not designed to be used like this, but oh well, it works.


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