All posts by msp_jason

Moved from the big city to the country to find a simpler life in which we pursue YHWH (God) through following his commandments while living off the land that HE provided.

Benefits of Community Gardens: More Than You Think

Growing a garden offers so many benefits to the gardener, and their family. Everyone knows this, but when community gardens are started, the number of people who can benefit increases significantly. While some of those benefits might seem obvious, such as access to fresh food, there are a few that might surprise you. A few of the lesser thought of benefits of community gardens are outlined below.

More Control

By growing your own vegetables, you can control the quality, as well as the variety, of the produce that is available. By carefully choosing seeds that are either organic or heirloom seeds, or ones that have not been genetically modified, you can ensure that the foods you eat are free of harmful chemicals.

Build Connections

While the food benefits are likely the first to pop into your mind, they are not the only wonderful aspect of community gardens. These hubs of the community are also a great way meet up, and connect, with other preppers who have an interest in being less reliant on outside sources for their food. Growing your own food is also a superb way to spend quality time with all members of your family.


Many urban areas have community gardens available as a way to keep youths out of trouble. Sometimes children do things they shouldn’t simply because they don’t have a positive avenue to exert some energy. Community gardens are also a great way to teach less knowledgeable folks the importance of healthy food and how to grow their own.

Build It, And They Will Come

No community garden in your area? Not to worry. You can start your own. It is easier than you think with resources such as this checklist from the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA). It contains a list of easy to follow steps you can use to start your community garden. As the word spreads about this new, and welcome venture, you can be sure that preppers, and other like minded people, will flock to it.

Community Gardens are Just the Beginning

Community gardens are a fabulous base onto which you can then build relationships with other like minded folks in your area. Your community garden group will undoubtedly help each other in other areas of prepping and knowledge sharing. You may even form a mutual assistance group with your fellow gardeners.

If you do not have much land of your own or are in an apartment, you should definitely consider becoming a part of or starting your own community garden.

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New Preppers: 4 Easy Tips for Getting Started

What is a Prepper?

Preppers are simply people who want to be prepared for any contingency; this includes even short term problems, such as power outages from storms and other events along those lines. Our goal is simply to be ready to provide for our family and friends if and when the need arises.

There is no right or wrong way to be a prepper, each individual and family must make their plans and preps whatever way works best for their circumstances. Preppers do have at least one thing in common though; food and water are at the top of any preppers list. Anything else you collect or plan will do you no good if you don’t have water to drink and food to eat.

How do I Get Started in Prepping?

The first step on the road to preparedness is to set-up an emergency food & water supply. Your stockpile of supplies will depend on your level of commitment, financial means, storage space, and where you live.

If something were to happen that compromised the nation’s food supply, or even the food supply only in the area where you live, what would you do? Would you be prepared or would you have a couple of cans of spaghetti and things in your fridge that would have to be eaten immediately or thrown away.

1) Water

The first item you must plan for is water. Your body can go weeks without food but only days without water, so an ample supply of water is essential in any type of survival circumstance. You should have no less than three gallons of water per day per family member.

If that sounds like a lot to you, keep in mind that this water is for more than drinking, it will also be used for cooking and basic hygiene. The more water you have the better shape you will be in and the more likely you will be to survive any disaster situation.

Storing water is simple – you can start by re-using containers you would normally recycle. Make sure you keep your emergency water supply in a cool/dark place such as in a basement, closet, or under the bed.

Pro Tip: When you’re unprepared neighbors come to you looking for water remind them that they already have a basic water supply in their hot water heater and toilet tanks.

2) Food

Begin with an emergency supply of food that could sustain you and your family for several weeks or ideally several months. You can purchase canned and pre-packaged goods that have long shelf lives, or you could even can your own food, or better yet, do both. Either way, make sure you have enough food for your family.

Many preppers buy food in bulk supplies from companies that specialize in offering preparedness supplies. If that’s an option for you, start building your long term food storage today with just $5 a week.

Eventually, your store bought food supplies will dwindle and then what?

Developing a plan to produce your own food should be high on your priority list. The more self-reliant you are the better off you will be whenever it becomes necessary to put your prepping skills to work. You can start off by planting a small garden with herbs and vegetables that are easy to grow. As you become more comfortable with gardening and giving the proper care and attention to your plants, you can work your way up to larger gardens and more varieties of fruits and vegetables.

Another way that preppers maintain their own food supply is by raising animals that can either produce food consistently, such as a chicken’s eggs or a cow or goat’s milk, or can be raised cheaply and then used for meat.

Although preppers in urban areas may have a hard time raising any livestock, anyone can start a garden, even on a roof top or a windowsill. Many major cities are now making it easier for people to start rooftop gardens or allow bits of empty land in city limits to be used for community farming.

As you discover which kinds of food you can grow and maintain on your own, begin weaning off of store bought items and use more of what you have produced instead. Doing this will help make the transition to only using your food much easier should the time ever come. You and your family will already be used to eating and living in a self-reliant way.

3) Develop Your Skills

Going on hikes and camping trips are perfect ways to get comfortable with being outdoors and learning to go without modern conveniences. Having children join boy or girl scout troupe’s is a great way to get them involved and teach them ways of being able to live in the wilderness if they had to. Everyone in your family should know how to build a proper fire.

The entire family should also learn and regularly practice self-defense techniques. You can train with weapons, martial arts or whatever you are most comfortable with. You never know when you may have to defend yourself, your family or your supplies.

You’ll also want to take at least a basic first aid course with your entire family, so that in case someone becomes injured or sick, you will know what to do.

4) Become a Part of the Prepper Community

As you become more confident in your prepping abilities reach out to the prepping community. See who around you is interested in prepping or perhaps already does. There are many different prepper websites and forums where you can connect with people. It’s a great way to get new ideas or form partnerships that fill a mutual need since you are sure to have something another prepper needs and vice versa.

Baby Steps

Hopefully your preparedness measures only amount to nothing more than a well grounded lifestyle and are never put to the test. But if hard times come and your preps are needed for survival, each step you take today will put you miles ahead when disaster strikes. So more than anything else – get started and start taking baby steps to improve your preparedness.


Firemaking 101

A firefighter once told me that there are four elements to a fire: Heat, Fuel, Oxygen, and Chemical Reaction. This is a bit of fire-science, and for the purposes of making a campfire or cooking fire, the important elements are: Fuel and Oxygen. The Heat comes from your matches or other fire-starter and the Chemical Reaction takes care of itself. Here’s 7 easy steps that if you follow, will ensure grand firemaking success.

Firemaking Basics

There are two main styles of firelay: the Log Cabin and the Teepee. A log cabin fire lay is one in which the sticks are stacked on top of each other in a grid-like fashion that looks like a log cabin. The Teepee is my preferred method of building a fire. In a teepee shape all the heat from your fledgling fire is utilized as it goes up, catching on fire the sticks above them.

So, let’s start a fire!

1) Select the method of ignition, your fire-starter

If you have a lighter, that is usually very easy to use. Ferrocerium fire rods, flint and steel, or a fire piston are a bit more challenging, but they all serve to ignite the tinder. Of course, matches work just fine as well.

2) Gather Tinder

Tinder is generally something light and easily ignited. In the wilderness you can use milkweed fluff, or scrape a knife against a cedar tree to create a “bird’s nest” of dry bark shavings. Steel wool works well (plain, not the pre-soaped stuff) as does dryer lint. Dried leaves or dry grass can also be used, but are not optimal because they burn up rather quickly, and they produce an awful lot of ash.

Whatever you choose, it is best to have a double handful, or roughly enough material to fill up the inside of a hat. Artificial tinders burn for a good while so you do not actually need as much to get your fire started. Set the tinder near where you will be building your fire.

3) Gather Kindling

  • Start with match-stick thick twigs. It is best to find these still attached to a tree, or on a fallen limb. Twigs found on the ground, or amidst leaves are often moist and do not work very well. To test whether the wood you will gather is dry enough for burning, snap the wood in half. If the wood breaks cleanly then it is dry, if it bends or splinters when you break it then it is too moist. This method will work with any wood you test, as long as it is not too big to be broken. The length of these twigs should be in the size range of a pencil or a bowie knife. Again, gather at least a double handful of these and set them near your tinder.
  • Now select twigs that are as big around as a pencil or your little finger. This will be the wood which basically ignites the rest of your fire, so gather a double handful or more. It is better to have too much than too little of this wood because nothing is worse than getting your fire going, then having to run out in the woods to gather more fuel and by the time you get back the fire has gone out. You have to feed your fire to keep it alive.
  • Gather more sticks, making small piles of thumb-sized, then up to wrist-sized wood. The thumb and wrist-sized sticks can be a bit longer, about as long as your forearm. If they are even longer than that, it is fine you will be able to burn them in half once you get your fire going.

At this point, you should have: about a hat-full of tinder, next to that a pile of twigs roughly the size of a matchstick and as long as a pencil, next to that a pile of pencil-to-finger-sized sticks, and then a pile of thumbish-sized sticks and then a few wrist-thick ones.

4) Clear the Ground

It’s important to clear the ground of anything you wouldn’t want to burn in about a six foot diameter. Remember, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

5) Construct the Firelay

  • Stick the ends of three thumb-sized sticks into the ground in about a coffee-can sized circle and lean the tops together.
  • Put the tinder in the middle of the three sticks. As you build the fire, remember that you will need to light this stuff on fire, so leave yourself a little access hole in one side. It is better to sort of fluff up the tinder, you do not want it all compacted when you light it.
  • On top of the tinder, right on top of it, put the matchstick sized sticks. You can put them in a teepee shape as well, just make sure to put all of them on to the tinder. Keep in mind oxygen as you place them, so if you are just laying them onto the tinder, make sure they are not all parallel to each other; lay them in different directions.
  • Continue building your firelay with the pencil-to-finger sticks, placing them with their tops in towards the center stick or against the three sticks for your teepee shape. Don’t forget your access hole for lighting the fire. As you get to the thumb-sized sticks, place them against the fire and then keep the wrist-sized ones right there next to you, for fuel once the whole shebang gets going.

Now your fire should look like a pile of dry sticks in the shape of a teepee and have a little bundle of tinder in the middle.

6) Light the tinder.

Pro tip: If you are using a striker of some kind, such as a ferrocerium rod or a magnesium fire striker, etc. then it is better to place the striking-metal or knife right up there by the tinder and actually pull the rod away from the fire. This way, the spark goes right where you want it, and the motion of striking does not disturb your firelay.

If necessary blow on the fire with long steady breaths to help it get started initially. Once the tinder is lit, all the rest should follow right along. You can maneuver some of the sticks so they are more in the flame as it gets going.

7) Feed your Fire

As the fire increases in size, go ahead and start adding any remaining thumb-sized pieces and then add your wrist sized pieces. At some point, the teepee will collapse.  This is fine, just use a stick to push the coals into a pile and keep feeding the fire. You can put very long sticks on the fire and when they burn through, push the ends in to save yourself from breaking or cutting them all to the size you need.

When this method is followed correctly, you should need no more than three matches to achieve the campfire or cooking fire you desire.

Remember: dry sticks snap in half, wet ones bend or splinter, and it is better to have more fuel than less, so you don’t have to go find sticks when your fire is just getting started.

Happy firemaking!

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Why It’s Not Crazy To Be A Prepper

If you’ve decided that you and yours are going to be responsible for your own safety and well-being and be prepared for whatever tough times might come your way, you’re probably discovering that it can be a difficult road to follow. Never mind the learning curve involved, the lifestyle changes and the compromises and decisions. All of that can be trying enough, but one of the toughest things to deal with as a ‘crazy prepper’ is the scorn and alienation from family, friends and acquaintances.

You May Be Paranoid, But They May Be In Denial

Let’s face it, storing food, weapons and ammunition is questionable enough in most people’s eyes but if you choose to live a self-sufficient lifestyle, especially off the grid, you’re liable to be labelled a downright kook. Just look at National Geographic’s tongue-in-cheek description of their hit show Doomsday Preppers; “Doomsday Preppers explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties”.

Ordinary Americans except for their humorously paranoid obsession with being prepared for some fantasy apocalypse. There’s even a free app so you can play along too, in cyberspace anyway. Can you use virtual preps?

It’s not as bad today as it was 20 years ago, when if you were a hard core prepper or shared certain social and political opinions you could face real ostracism. Since 9/11 and all of the events that have occurred since, the public is for the most part willing to acknowledge the wisdom of having the bare minimum of a few days of extra food and water on hand, whether they practice it or not. Prepping has gone mainstream to a certain extent.

But acknowledging the need to go beyond that, to be truly prepared for almost anything, is an impossible leap for many. The irrational and illogical belief that it just can’t happen here, in spite of all the ominous signs, still prevails. Incredibly, many still believe that come what may the government will be there to save and protect them.

Such thinking is inexplicable to those who understand the frailty of the current situation. It helps to remember that this is a classic example of denial, of not wanting to consider the worst, of a blind and comforting faith with no foundation in reason, logic, or evidence.

Who To Trust, Yourself Or FEMA?

Annoying as it is to suffer the smirks and smart-alecky comments that you’re bound to encounter as a prepper, the real danger comes from allowing them to affect your own mind-set. Being surrounded by those who make light of your preparations can lead to second-guessing your plans and self-doubt. It’s necessary to pause and remember from time to time why you prepare. It’s not a bad idea to make a list of reasons and review them whenever doubts begin to nag at you. Another good approach is to make it a list of persuasive points you would present to a skeptical friend.

The first point you might make is one of the best, and that’s the poor performance of federal agencies, particularly FEMA, in the aftermath of natural disasters. The helplessness of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina was put on painful and embarrassing display to the whole world.

Who can forget news clips of survivors crying for relief and asking when the government would come and save them. The mismanagement was horrendous, and took a toll in lives lost. The shocking drama of a modern city transformed overnight into an apocalyptic nightmare should have been enough to quash anyone’s illusions that the government would always be there to help. They did manage to show up to confiscate citizen’s guns though.

Their performance after Hurricane Sandy wasn’t much better. Worse, if government had simply been performing it’s basic responsibilities much of the damage might have been avoided. There are still numerous investigations into fraud and mismanagement of funds ongoing. Local responders tend to do a better job but are often overwhelmed and lack the resources to make much of a difference.

No, only a fool would rely on the government for their safety and security.

How Will Your Neighbors React In A Crisis?

If anything good can come from these disasters it’s the insight into human behavior during a crisis. Time and again we’ve seen the population of urban areas revert into helpless, almost animal-like behavior. Panic and violence begin almost immediately as people rush the stores for supplies, and looting becomes rampant. Urban residents tend to be more reliant on and accepting of government and are truly shocked when it isn’t there to help. They’re much less likely to have taken practical precautions for dealing with emergencies.

Contrast that behavior to those living in rural areas who have suffered through floods, snowstorms and tornados in recent years. These folks tend to be better prepared and more self-sufficient by nature. Living apart from most government authority and regulation they don’t automatically look to government for assistance. Neighbors pitch in to work together and the crisis is managed in a calm and orderly manner. Government usually arrives after the fact, if at all. The differences are stark.

But The Economy Is On The Rebound, Right?

Then you might remind your skeptical friend of our fragile economic situation. It’s hard for anyone to deny that our economy balances on the edge of a precipice. With our staggering national debt many countries are beginning to lose faith in the U.S. dollar. The constant threat of war in the Middle East endangers our supply of cheap oil. Our trade deficit with China and their holding of so much of our debt gives it the ability to crush us economically overnight. The global economy rests on such a fragile foundation that even a small disruption could cause the whole thing to come crashing down, as so many experts have been warning us.

Wholesome Food Or Frankenfoods?

Then ask them to consider our food supply. The food we eat is almost entirely under the control of a handful of giant corporations. These conglomerates could easily shut off that food supply at any time if they chose to do so. This gives them unprecedented power and they work closely with government. Food could be used as a weapon to control and pacify a population. It’s happened before, less than 100 years ago in Russia and China to cite only two examples.

But of immediate concern is the kind of food we’re getting. Genetically modified food means higher profits, with little consideration given to the possible health risks of such foods which many mainstream studies have shown are a real cause for concern. It also means they’ll own the patents to modified foods and control who grows them. Wouldn’t anyone concerned for their health and welfare want to take control of their food supply as much as it’s in their power to do so?

Government Gets It, Do You?

But maybe the most ominous point to make is that our own government has gotten into prepping in a big way. Over the last few years there have been lots of reports of government agencies stocking up on arms and ammo and survival foods. What do they know that we don’t?

Prepping: It’s Not Just For Hillbillies Anymore

The mindset of denial isn’t new, before almost every historical disaster or political or economic upheaval most of the population lived under the fantasy that it couldn’t happen to them. But our ancestors had advantages that we’ve largely lost as a society. They didn’t expect government to come riding to their rescue and they were much more prepared to survive. They still had the self-sufficient, practical skills that we’ve forgotten. If things crash now the impact will be horrific.

More likely than not your friend will still be skeptical after you’ve presented these arguments. So be it, wish them well and say a prayer. But don’t let it shake your personal convictions and affect your preparations. Rest assured that you have very good reasons for being a prepper and hope by some miracle you never have to say “I told you so”.

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How To: Camping and Outdoors Handwashing Stations

When spending time outdoors, there are many and various ways to soil your hands.  Whether on a day trip to a state park or on an extended foray to the woods, you could find yourself in need of a cleaning which cannot be provided by a keychain hand sanitizer.  Perhaps you have been handling some wood or digging around in the ground, even just making a delicious meal—you can get some actual dirt or grease or grime on you, not just a sneeze or cough.

At times like this it I like to wash with water and soap.  However, when there is not a public restroom around, this is not such an easy task—unless you brought a hand washing station along with you!  These are easy to make and cheap in materials, but add a whole lot to quality of life.

How to Build a Camping Handwashing Station

Step 1: The Container

For most outings and campouts, a smallish container is all you will need.  I recommend a 3-liter juice container or a gallon milk jug.  For just one or two people a half gallon milk jug would also work.  The key is to have a handle incorporated, that makes everything easier.  Slip a length of string through the handle and then tie it into a loop.  A three foot section should be good.  This will allow you to hang the handwashing station from a limb or a nail.

Step 2: The Soap Holder

The challenge for washing with bar soap in the woods or at a picnic site is to keep the soap at-hand but out of the dirt.  The solution is to use an old onion bag.  Usually they are red mesh and they have a bit of texture to them.  This texture helps with the washing as well, serving as a sort of scrub loofah.  Simply put whatever kind of bar soap you want into the bag.  Then tie a small string around the bag (making sure the hole is up near where you tied, so the soap won’t fall out) and then tie it to the handle of your container as well.

Step 3: The Plug

So far, you may be asking, “How do I wash my hands with just a jug full of water hanging from a tree?”  Or, “How can I open the lid and handle the jug with soap-slick hands?”  Fear not, this step really nails the whole thing together.  To make the plug, carve a point onto a smallish twig [a golf tee works great also] and then tie about a foot of string to the dull end.  Tie this to the handle of your jug or to the rope holding your soap bag.

Now, CAREFULLY poke a hole in your jug.  The hole can be poked with an awl, or a knife, or the plug itself if it is sturdy and sharp enough.  Just make sure the hole is not bigger than the plug.  The plug can stretch the hole a little, but poke a too-big hole and you will end up with a leaky washer.  Position the hole on the opposite side from the handle, near to the bottom.  This way it is pointing down while your jug is hanging, and you get maximum usage between fill-ups.

Step 4:  Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Now you just fill the jug up with water, find a convenient spot for it, and you are good to go.  Pull the plug out to get your hands and the soap wet, then put it back while you lather.  Pull it out to rinse and put it back when you are done.  With this method, a gallon of water will last a long time, even with young kids involved.

This basic camping handwashing station is easy to make and works great when in a pinch or if you need something portable. However, it is a short term solution and won’t last long. For a more permanent solution read on in our advanced class.

The advanced class is for members only.

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