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Monday, March 23, 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about MREs

When TEOTWAWKI strikes, we'll still all need to eat, right? And what is that classic survival meal, the ones piled high in the back of your local army surplus store? It's M.R.E.s, Meals Ready to Eat!

Why M.R.E.s?

Good question. They are stable, long-shelf life foods, pre-cooked and, yep, ready to eat. A real, full-sized M.R.E. contains several components--including an entrée, side dish, dessert, cracker or bread, spread, drink powder, coffee, utensils, and accessories (including the much-sought after mini-hot sauce bottles).

They can be eaten cold and on the go, but I don't really recommend it. Chemical heater bags--just add water--are usually packaged with the MRE, and can heat them up in minutes, with some mess and chemical smell. You can also heat them in any way you can figure out--leaving them out in the sun, putting the foil packets in boiling water, etc.

MREs vs. Mountain House

I view MRE's as a compromise; Mountain House-style, freeze-dried backpacking meals are lighter, generally taste better, and have a better shelf life--Mountain House claims 25 years for their meals.

But, Mountain House meals require hydration--adding clean, drinkable water. You can't really just rip open the package and start eating, like with an MRE You can rehydrate the meals just fine with room temperature or cold water, but hot will obviously be preferred. There are flame less heater kits available to do this, or you can always just use any method for creating hot water.

Mountain House meals are typically much more expensive per calorie than M.R.E.s are. A full-MRE has in the ballpark of 1300-1500 calories and runs around $7 each. You'd have to spend twice that amount to get the equivalent calories in Mountain House meals.

Why would you want MREs?
If you anticipate a need for a stick to your guts, ready-to-eat, easy-to-heat meal and need it to last 3-5 years. Are they the ideal "bug out" food--no, not really--there isn't one. They are heavier than a freeze-dried meal, but they don't require the addition of potable water. If your bug out area is short on water, or if you can't store sufficient water supplies at home, that may be an important quality to you. Also, the fact that you can easily open one up and wolf it down while on the move is unique. Finally, their lower-cost may make them an attractive alternative to backpacking-style meals. They're a good option to add to your bug out bag.

Why wouldn't you want MREs?
If your plan is to bug in--stay put--then you'd be better served storing up conventional food storage--canned goods, rice, beans, wheat, etc. You'll get a lot more bang for your buck, and the qualities of an MRE (portability, no-prep) are a lot less important if you won't be on the move. You could consider storing a case or two, for barter, use on excursions or guard duty, etc.

How do they taste?
Most of the MREs I've ever sampled have been from passable to fairly good. Go in with very low expectations and you'll be pleasantly surprised. The quality is akin to mediocre cafeteria food--the kind of stuff you may have had slopped on your plate in elementary school. The military has done a lot to improve the taste of the latest MREs, and while you won't be craving them any time soon, they're perfectly edible.

How long to they last?
Many have heard stories of people eating 10-15 year old MREs and living to tell the tale. While these may be true, a safe rule of thumb to follow is 5 years when stored at room temperature. When stored in hotter areas (the trunk of your car over the summer), the shelf life is reduced. MREs often don't "go bad" at that point, and can still be eaten, but most of the nutritional value has broken down.

How do I tell how old they are?
MREs are all packaged with a four digit date code--the first number being the year they were made, and then the following three the day in that year. So 7235 would be the 235th day of 2007. When shopping for MREs, always look for this date, as it will tell you how old they really are. Many sellers will mention the "inspection date" instead, which is usually 3 years after the actual package date. So, someone selling MREs with an 2006 inspection date is selling 5-year old MREs--probably not a wise purchase, as they've probably exceeded their useful life.

What else to look for when buying MREs?
Sellers will often push MRE components--usually the entrées--as full meals. This is not a full MRE, which should be large pouch and contain several different components (entrée, side, dessert, bread, etc.). It is generally not approved to sell the real-deal MREs, though they are available on eBay, and at gun shows and army surplus stores. These come in an unmistakable brown pouch.

There are also various civilian suppliers that put together the same MRE components to provide a similar--but not quite the same--product. Make sure to review the content list on non-military MREs before purchasing so you know what you're getting. Some will leave out the flameless heater or provide substandard crackers, desserts or accessories. A dead give-away is that they will not be packaged in the same brown pouch as real military MREs.

MRE Tips
  • MRE packaging is generally overly bulky--lots of bags and boxes. You can cut down on weight and space by opening them, field stripping them down to what you want and losing the rest.
  • MRE cheese and peanut butter spreads are very good, and make good snacks along with crackers. Keep a few stashed in your desk/car, along with a package of Ritz crackers, for a good snack.
  • The MRE chemical heaters release hydrogen gas as they work. Placing an activated heater inside a plastic bottle and sealing it up can produce explosive results. I don't recommend attempting it, but something to file away in the memory banks.
  • The military is releasing a new kind of MRE--First Strike Rations. These are lighter, more compact, and designed to be eaten by hand, on the go. The entrées take the form of sandwich pockets.
  • Along with First Strike Rations, expect some old MRE components to be rotated out and new items in. Chipotle snack bread, salsa verde, and Twizzler Nibs are among the items to be added.
Original: http://teotwawkiblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know.html

Lessons from the Great Depression

This barely scratches the surface, and is something we should be doing anyway, recession or not. It seems worth posting, though.

How to Apply Lessons Learned from the Great Depression

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Recent economic times may mirror what American grandparents or great-grandparents went through in the Great Depression. While this time may be a challenge, it may be an opportunity to look back and learn how previous generations coped with tough economic times. Hopefully, we'll never need to relive their lessons learned, but at the very least we can appreciate their resourcefulness and gain perspective on our own situations.


  1. Quit using credit. If you don't have the cash to make a purchase, then don't buy it. If you have credit cards, make sure to pay the balance off every month. If you can't pay off the balance, then cut up the credit card(s) and work on paying down what you owe. One of the first lessons learned by people who survived the Great Depression was to never borrow money unless you have a clear plan for how you're going to pay it back.[1] And when layoffs are a reality, expecting to pay for it with your Christmas bonus or your next paycheck is not a sound plan. If you don't have the money to pay for it right now, don't buy it.
    • Use Affirmations Effectively - Repeat this affirmation to yourself until it sinks in: Debt is not an option.
    • Prioritize Your Debts - Prioritizing your debts can help you pay them off as quickly as possible, and it can provide the security you need to get back on your feet even in lean times.

  2. Nurture positive relationships with family and friends. They will see you through difficult times. Be honest with your family and friends that you are facing difficult times financially. Discover ways to barter and help each other. During hard times, many people bond through the simple pleasures in life, many of which are almost free. During the Depression, people still had fun, just not lavish fun. Children had soapbox derbies, teenagers had dance contests, people played Monopoly, did puzzles, read, and listened to the radio. It took some imagination and ingenuity, but they had a lot of fun without hanging out at the mall, and you can too. Get together to discuss philosophy or pray; play poker or make crazy quilt pillows; play instruments and dance. Many of the friendships and alliances formed during the Great Depression on the basis of such activities stood the test of time.[2]

  3. Do it yourself. When money is short, you don't really have a choice - either you do it yourself, or it doesn't get done. Learn how to fix and maintain everything in your home, in addition to your clothes and accessories.

  4. See frugality as a virtue. There's a difference between being frugal and being cheap or stingy. A frugal person makes the most of what they have; a cheap person is just focused on not spending money. During the Great Depression, frugality was seen as a positive trait. During hard times, it'll help you get by, but when things get better, maintaining those habits will help you build wealth.[3] Plus, frugality requires planning, creativity, and critical thinking - all of which are important life skills, regardless of the state of the economy.

  5. Treat food with respect. When times get tough - really tough - you appreciate having food on the table. You might never know what it's like to have to eat wet bread for dinner, but you don't have to get to that point to make the resolution to never waste food. "Take all you want, but eat all you take."[1] Cook food from scratch and, if you can, go straight to the source (such as dealing directly with farmers) or become your own source: grow your own food, keep livestock, gather wild edibles, and/or hunt wild game if possible and legal. Whatever it is that you procure for food, never let it make it to the garbage can without a very good reason.
    • Save Money by Shopping Once a Month
    • Get Started in the Slow Food Movement
    • Keep Chickens in a City
    • Learn to cook. There is probably no skill that will get you through hard times with equanimity than being able to rustle up a good meal for yourself out of whatever's around.
      • While you're at it, learn other domestic skills too. Unless you're actually homeless, you can certainly afford to keep your home clean and tidy. On the other hand, whatever your worst expectations of being broke are, living in a dirty, disorganized place is likely to make it seem like they're coming horribly true.

    • Buy preserved (canned, dried, etc.) foods in bulk whenever the cost is lower than buying a smaller size.
    • Avoid "convenience" foods, as they are usually more expensive and less healthy. Learn to cook. You can save a lot of money by cooking from scratch rather than ordering take-out or take-away. A good thrifty cook can make a tasty, nutritious meal from inexpensive ingredients and "stretch a meal". Also, leftovers are much cheaper to bring to work or school than buying lunch.

  6. Reuse, reuse, reuse. The amount of stuff you have should already be reduced by your limited spending, and you'll always want to think twice before throwing anything away, whether it's into the trash or the recycling bin. Get everyone involved, especially children - hold up an item that you would normally throw away and ask, "How can we reuse this?" Here are some ideas to get you started:

  7. Be thankful. Be thankful when you're economically strapped? Of course. Make a list of the top five things you couldn't live without, and chances are, all of those things are not possessions. Most of all, be optimistic. As one Great Depression survivor said, "I never thought a cloud was so dark that I couldn't find a silver lining" (Betty Davison).[2]


  • "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." If possible, use the things you have until they are completely used up. Or, even better, do without things that don't hold up to use.
  • Ask your older relatives and friends how they lived through the Depression. Most will be happy to share how they "made do". If you don't know anyone from that generation, consider volunteering at a local senior center or nursing home. You'll gain tremendous insight, and they will gain good company.
  • Before purchasing anything, give it a thought, "Do I really need it?"
  • Try to save on electricity bills and telephone bills. If you're purchasing an electronic device, look for the ones that save power.

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Apply Lessons Learned from the Great Depression. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Just Like an Astronaut

Originally posted on The ReadyStore Blog


Just Like an Astronaut

So, is it just me, or did you LOVE going to the science center/museum when you were a kid? Wow, I would get so excited when I found out we would be going there on a field trip! Ok, so I have to admit, it wasn’t probably for the same reasons everyone else liked to go there. I liked to go to the science museum because it was the only place I could find freeze-dried ice cream! Yes, I was addicted, and I love it to this day. I was so thrilled to be eating the same stuff that astronauts ate it space…and it tasted great! Although, I always wondered how they got that ice cream to fit in an aluminum package and not melt somehow in the process. Well, I finally found out how that process works…

Freeze-drying was first developed during World War II to preserve blood plasma for emergencies without the use of refrigeration. (Yes, the freeze-drying process can be used for many things other than foods.) After the war was over, the process was then used for food products. Coffee was the first manufactured product that was sold on a large scale.

All food is tested and checked for purity before it goes through the freeze-drying process. Meats and fruits are checked for bacteria before they are used. Seafood and meat must be pre-cooked before it is freeze-dried. That way, when you open the package to use it, the meat requires no cooking to eat it…only the addition of water to re-hydrate it. After the foods have been checked and tested, they are spread out flat on metal trays. Then the trays are wheeled into a huge walk-in freezer where the temperature is around -40degrees. The food is frozen quickly. After they are frozen, the foods are wheeled to vacuum drying chamber. In this room, a process called “sublimation” is used to force solid material to change into a gas material without ever having turned into a liquid. This can be achieved by evacuating the air with a vacuum pump to reduce the air pressure. Once the pressure falls below the point of sublimation, the water vapor from the food is drawn away from the food, leaving the dry food behind. The dry food retains its original size and shape. The food is then packaged into airtight containers so that moisture from the air will not re-enter the food. The whole freeze drying process can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.

So, yeah, it’s a bit complicated, but fascinating all the same. Freeze-dried food has so many advantages to other food storage options. It is extremely light-weight, requires no refrigeration, and the food retains its color, shape, texture, and most importantly…flavor! Freeze-dried food may cost a bit more to start with because of the complex equipment that is needed to make it, but in the long run, it will be an asset. Freeze-dried food can last up to 30 years and sometimes longer! I challenge anyone to show me a can of mushy green beans that can do that! Freeze-dried food is definitely the way to go for emergency food storage.

Original: http://getmeready.blogspot.com/2009/01/just-like-astronaut.html

Recipe: Fried Green Tomatoes

Do you still have some green tomatoes from your Summer's harvest? Here's a recipe to help you out:

-fresh green tomatoes
-cornmeal or corn/masa flour
-salt/pepper to taste
-vegetable or peanut oil

Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 inch thickness, and spread on baking sheet, end to end. Sprinkle a little salt over the tomatoes. Stack more and salt more until all tomatoes are sliced and salted. Let sit at room temperature (or in the refrigerator) for at least six hours to allow the salt to take out the moisture from the tomatoes. Mix flour, and salt/pepper to taste in bowl. Coat each tomato slice with flour mixture. Place on clean baking sheet and let sit for 30 minutes. Then heat oil in medium skillet to medium high. Carefully place tomatoes into the oil. Brown tomatoes on one side, then carefully turn and brown on the other side. The tomatoes are done when they are golden brown. Remove to a paper-towel-lined place (to drain).

Variation: Substitute regular flour for the corn flour. Can also add preferred spices to flour mixture before coating.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Original: http://survival-cooking.blogspot.com/2009/01/recipe-fried-green-tomatoes.html

Review (Sort of): When Technology Fails

I got a copy of this book from the library. Amazon has it listed for $23 bucks, which is, in my opinion, a very good price for this book.

First, let me say that I am not really reviewing this book here, since I haven't had the time to read it. All I've done is look through it for a few days. But I will say that I definitely want a copy of my own. I no long buy novels, I use the library for my "entertainment" reading. I do buy good reference books, however, and WTF (When Technology Fails, not What the .....) fits in that category for sure.

I'll tell you about the book instead of reviewing it. How's that? I think most readers of this blog and other preparedness-type blogs will want a copy of Stein's encyclopedia. Herewith the main sections of the Table of Contents:

1 Introduction of Self-Reliance
An Uncertain Future
Technology Failures Are Common
Why This Book?
Be Prepared
Preindustrial Self-Sufficienty
Old-Fashioned Self-Reliance and Modern Sustainable Technology

(I'm not going to type out all the subcategories in each section--the TOC goes on for 5 pages! But I will put in a few subcategories from each chapter so you get a taste...)

2 Present Trends, Possible Futures
The Main Threats to Our Future
The Eco-Threat
Peak Oil
The Bio-Threat
The Terrorism Threat
Other Important Trends

3 Supplies and Preparations
Planning for the Short Term
72-Hour "Grab-and-Run" Survival Kits
Long-Term Planning and Storace
Calculating a Year's Food Supply
Notes on Camping Gear

4 Emergency Measures for Survival
Survival Strategies
Developing a Survivor Personality
Simple Tools
Surviving a Nuclear Disaster

5 Water
Water Requirements
Stocking Up for Emergencies
The World's Water Crisis
Preserving Water
Treating and Finding Water the Low-Tech Way
Modern Water Treatment

(All chapters have a References and Resources.)

6 Food: Growing, Foraging, Hunting, and Storing
World Population and Food Supply
Grow Biointensive
Sprouting: Your Own Mini-Garden on a Windowsill
Foraging for Food
Brief Guide to Wild Edible Foods
Poisonous Foods to Avoid
Preserving and Storing Food
Dairy, Tofu, and Tempeh
Raising Animals
Hunting and Trapping

7 Shelter and Buildings
A Survey of Various Green Building Systems
Straw Bales
Earth-Based Building Systems
Rammed Earth
Cast Earth
Passive Solar Design
Preventing and/or Battling Mold
Health Effects of Mold
Traditional Low-Tech Structures

8 First Aid
Initial Evaluation
ABCs of First Aid
Bandages and Dressings
Fractures and Dislocations
Heat-Related Trauma
Bites and Stings
Moving Injured People
Emergency Childbirth

(This chapter is a virtual first aid guide all in itself. With the addition of the next chapter, this information alone makes the book worth the price.)

9 When High-Tech Medicine Fails
The Holistic Health Movement
The Low-Tech Medicine Cabinet
Simple, Effective Remedies and Supplements to Have on Hand
The Essence of Healing
Colloidal and Ionic Silver
Healing with Herbs
Supplements and Food
Sinus Health and Molds
Electromagnetic Fields
The Beck Protocol
Healing with Energy
The Power of Prayer
Hypnosis for Pain Control and Healing
Visualization and Mind-Body Healing

10 Clothing and Textiles
Fiber Arts
Preparing Fibers
Sustainable Fibers
Furs and Skins
Patterns and Custom-Tailored Clothing

11 Energy, Heat and Power
Shifting to Renewable Energy (RE)
RE Systems
Wind Power
Solar Hot Water
Solar Water Pumping
Steam Energy
Fuel Cells
Heating with Wood
Energy, Power and Electricity Primer

12 Metalworking
A Brief Introduction to Metals
Casting Metal

13 Utensils and Storage
Making a Simple Wooden Cup or Bowl
Basket Basics
Storing Fluids in Skins and Other Animal Parts
Primitive Pottery

14 Better Living Through Not-So-Modern Chemistry
Natural Glues
Vegetable Oils

15 Engineering, Machines, and Materials

16 Making the Shift to Sustainability
A Poor Track Record
Proactive Success Stories
Tragedy of the Commons
Sustainable Communities
Sustainable Cities
Cradle to Cradle
The Natural Step
Negative Population Growth
The "Hundreth Monkey Phenomenon"
Plan B: Live Locally, Think Globally
Effective Action
Choose Wisely


One of the blurbs on the inside first pages:

"I liked this book. It's carefully researched, comprehensive, well-illustrated, and readable. It presents much needed alternate information, for, in my opinion, technology has already 'failed'. . . . so replacement of polluting 'high' technologies with non-polluting 'low' ones is urgent, and Matthew Stein's handbook systematcially and accurately surveys a wide array of possible low-tech options. Much hard work, time, and talent went into the building of this basic reference survey of low tech options." Carla Emery, author of The Encyclopedia of County Living: An Old Fashioned Recipe Book

I have enjoyed looking through and reading parts of this book. The foraging section is basic, but it'll do in a pinch. The health section is fascinating, the first aid chapter very good. It really is a good basic guide to most of the knowledge we will want to have on hand if the world crashes around us. Stein suggests a lot of books, magazines and other resources for each chapter. The bibliography is extensive and the index looks top-notch. I know I want a copy. :)

Original: http://handmaidenkitchen.blogspot.com/2009/01/review-sort-of-when-technology-fails.html

SHTF: One Gun

The topic of firearms and survival 'post-TEOTWAWKI' is a fine topic of conversation and a recurring theme. With the recent change of direction in political winds, it would be best that we all consider our options for firearms and their immediate procurement.

Whether our situation leaves us on foot, away from home, or simply travelling light, the question comes up frequently, "If you could have one gun which would you choose?".

Pistol? Rifle? Shotgun? Battle Rifle? Exotic? Common?

First up, I have some ground rules..

One gun means one gun.
No interchangeble barreled shooting irons..
Not "one handgun" AND "one long gun".

Just one gun. That's it.

Let's consider our options and variants. You can have your opinion on your blog or feel free to comment on mine.

Handgun -

There are some "pros" to choosing a handgun over a long gun.

A handgun can be concealed in clothing.
A concealed weapon is less likely to draw attention.
A conceald weapon is more likely to avoid exposure to elements.
In a close fight, a handgun can be as effective as a rifle or shotgun. Especially, if combat is hand to hand or if the assailent manages to "get the junp on you" up close.
A handgun weighs less - big factor if on foot and traveling light.
Less weight in gun means the potential of carrying more ammunition.
A handgun can be kept close while sleeping, can be fired with one hand while the other hand is used for eating, checking gear, etc.

If a handgun were my only choice, I would go with either...

A 9 MM semi auto, either of these two would work.

9MM is one of the most commone handgun rounds which means I stand a better chance of finding, obtaining, buying more ammunition down the road.
9's are favored by law enforcement, gangbangers and everyone (left) in between. Again, better chance of resupply.
A nine milimeter has a decent carrying capacity of ten or more rounds in a standard magazine. That means ammo ready to use in the gun.

If a revolver was my choice, there would only be one for me..

Ruger Blackhawk in .357


Reliable mechanics, will not jam or break down.
Can chamber .357 OR .38.
Simple to use and clean.
Makes a fine club if neccessary.
Single action wheel guns are cool! (not a great reason, but works for me).

OK, on to the long gun.. rifle in particular

My considerations for a long gun made this a tough choice. I want hardiness, but I also want something accurate, and something easy to feed. Nothing worse than having a filet minon demanding partner when the rest of the world is eating dog meat.

My choice for long gun in the rifle catergory goes to .... the AR15


The AR15 fires .223 - lightweight and accurate.
.223 is used by military and police, should be availble via purchase, looting or recovery.
The AR15 uses 10,20 and 30 round magazines. Means more ammo in the rifle ready to use.
The AR15 is widely deployed making spare parts easier to obtain.
If I was in some other part of the world, I might choose an AK variant for all these same reason. But I am in here in the US.

Long gun - Shotgun

My preferred weapon of choice. I will make it simple, there are two choices for me..

A shotgun can fire slugs, buckshot or smaller loads for hunting making it a true multiple gun.
12Ga ammunition can be found everywhere, even in most department and big box stores.
12Ga is used by military and police.
Most families who have a gun in the house will have a 12Ga (guess, but its a good one).
12Ga is simple to use, clean and rugged.
Even if the tube underneath breaks, single loads can still be manually loaded.

So for me, the 12Ga shotgun, in a Remington or Mossberg configuration, is my choice for One Gun in the post-SHTF world.

Your mileage may vary and of course, feel free to comment.. Please use your manners.

Original: http://survivalism.blogspot.com/2009/01/shtf-one-gun.html

Quote of the Day

Link of the Day

Roper's Knot Page

Excellent site with all you ever wanted to know about knots. Included are diagrams and instructions for m

Peak water

— by carolina @ 22 Jan 2009

Do we need it?
The era of cheap water is nearly over says a report by the Pacific Institute in California. A swelling global population, changing diets and mankind’s expanding “water footprint” have led ecologists to forecast “peak ecological water” — the point where, like the concept of “peak oil”, the world has to confront a natural limit on something once considered virtually infinite.

Off-gridders have to look at their water supply, and ask “is it really secure?”

The world is in danger of running out of “sustainably managed water”, according to Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute president and a leading authority on global freshwater resources.

A key element to tackling the crisis, say experts, is to increase the public understanding of the individual water content of everyday items.

Water footprint

A glass of orange juice, for example, needs 850 litres of fresh water to produce, according to the Pacific Institute and the Water Footprint Network, while the manufacture of a kilogram of microchips — requiring constant cleaning to remove chemicals — needs about 16,000 litres. A hamburger comes in at 2,400 litres of fresh water, depending on the origin and type of meat used.

The water will be returned in various forms to the system, although not necessarily in a location or at a quality that can be effectively reused.

Water Wars

There are concerns that water will increasingly be the cause of violence or war. Disagreements between neighboring areas in the US also result. “When we had the last drought in Northern California and rigidly conserved water, the people in Los Angeles, who live in a desert, objected to stop watering their nice green lawns,” said Gunther Steinberg of Portola Valley in California.

“It will always be the other guy who needs to save water.”

Dan Smith, the Secretary-General of the British-based peacebuilding organisation International Alert, said: “Water is a basic condition for life. Its availability and quality is fundamental for all societies, especially in relation to agriculture and health. There are places — West Africa today, the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system in Nepal, Bangladesh and India, and Peru within ten years — where major changes in the rivers generate a significant risk of violent conflict. Good water management is part of peacebuilding.”

David Zhang, a geographer at the University of Hong Kong, produced a study published in the US National Academy of Sciences journal that analysed 8,000 wars over 500 years and concluded that water shortage had played a far greater role as a catalyst than previously supposed.

“We are on alert, because this gives us the indication that resource shortage is the main cause of war,” he told The London Times. “Human beings will definitely have conflicts over this.”

Although in theory renewable sources of water were returned to the ecosystem and their use could continue indefinitely, Dr Gleick said, changes in the way water was exploited and how its quality degraded meant that methods of processing it would become more expensive.

“Once we begin appropriating more than ‘peak ecological water’ then ecological disruptions exceed the human benefit obtained,” Dr Gleick said. Defined this way, many regions of the world had passed that peak and were using more water than the system could sustain.

A significant part of the problem is the huge, and often deeply inefficient, use of water by industry and agriculture. UN calculations suggest that more than one third of the world’s population is suffering from water shortages: by 2020 water use is expected to increase by 40 per cent from current levels, and by 2025, according to another UN estimate, two out of three people could be living under conditions of “water stress”.

The World’s Water report sounds a particularly strong note of alarm over the state of water usage and pollution in China, where rampant economic expansion has overtaxed freshwater resources and could even begin to threaten stability.

“When water resources are limited or contaminated, or where economic activity is unconstrained and inadequately regulated, serious social problems can arise,” wrote Dr Gleick, “and in China, these factors have come together in a way that is leading to more severe and complex water challenges than in almost any other place on the planet.”

Drop by drop

— Water footprint calculations are still only rough. They differ around the world and depend on climate, soil types, irrigation methods and crop genetics. The water footprint of different meats depends on what the animals are fed and the relative “thirst” of the crops used to feed them

— The amount of water required to produce a single litre of soft drink may be only three or four litres, but vast quantities are used to produce the sugar and corn syrup feedstocks. For example, one kilogram of paper requires 125 litres of water to process, but that excludes the water needed to grow the tree

Herbal Infusions

I've been making herbal infusions nearly daily. I have a lot of dried herbs and wild plants and so I've been using them to make herbal tea. There's a slight difference between a basic herbal tea and an infusion and that is the infusion steeps quite a bit longer.

It works like this, very simple. Put about a cup of dried herb into a quart jar. Add boiling water. Let it steep overnight or at least a number of hours. Strain.

And that's it. You have your vitamin/mineral tasty drink and the medicinal properties of the herb will have infused into the tea.

The last batch I made was catnip/lemon balm. That made a really nice relaxing tasty tea. It made me a bit sleepy so it was ideal for night-time drinking. I usually put my mason jars into the fridge once they've been steeped and strained. Then you can either drink it cold as I do or heat it up on the stove.

The batch I made yesterday is a nettle-sassafrass blend. I'm drinking some of the nettle infusion now, but I made a second quart with nettles and sassafrass because I want to ferment it and get the extra benefit of the lactic fermentation: numerous enzymes and anticarcinogenic substances. I've posted about this before here. This is a very easy thing to do, really all you need is the dried herbs. And some whey, if you want to ferment your infusions. I made the nettle-sassy blend according to the directions given by Kiva Rose in the post I linked. Once the nettles were strained and the sassafrass root removed from the infusion, I added some honey and a cup of whey. (Kiva Rose also describes how to get your own whey in that post.) I added about 4 chunks of ginger to the brew as well. It is fermenting now and will be ready in a few days.

I have never been a soda drinker--since I don't have a sweet tooth I find Cokes and everything of that nature to be way too sweet. The diet varieties are even worse, tasting chemically on top of the almost sickly-sweet. I do understand that most Americans love their pop and have a hard time giving it up. I sympathize because there are things I hate giving up too. But if you want to strengthen your health, enhance your health, perhaps fizzy fermented herbal infusions would offer you something tasty to drink that will benefit you rather than harm you.

The flavors you get would of course vary by the herb/root/seed concoction you start with, as would the medicinal properties. I like horsetail tea very much--it's mild and full of silica, which helps absorbtion of calcium and other minerals. Nettles make a delicious infusion with a very greeny sort of flavor--you can almost taste the vitamin/mineral inherent in it.

Here are some herb combinations I'll be trying in the next few days and weeks:

Pine/rosehip: pine for the vitamin C and rosehips for flavor (also high in Vit. C)
Mullein/mint: mullein is very soothing to the respitory system, which is always nice in cold weather, mint for the flavor
Horsetail/lemon balm: horsetail for the silica, lemon balm as a calming, flavorful addition
Skullcap/catnip/mint for a sleepy time brew
Juniper berries/mint: just to see what that flavor is all about
Nettles and just about anything else: yummy and very good for you.
Sumac berries/mint: I have a few sumac berry heads I both dried and froze. They made a great lemonade then and probably will make a nice lemony tasting tea.

Nettle infusions have been traditionally given to worn-down or convalescing patients, due to its high mineral content. Mints have made flavorful teas for eons. Really, any dried herb you have can be used.

This coming spring and summer, gather what wild herbs and plants you have fully identified. If you don't use them right away, then dry them and use them to make a winter's full of good, tasty, health-enhancing drinks.

Original: http://handmaidenkitchen.blogspot.com/2009/01/herbal-infusions.html