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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Homemade Soap (rendering fat)

When making your own soap, it's always important to follow a few basic steps. The first is being sure you start with quality ingredients. I personally used beef tallow, (fat gathered from around the kidneys.) I have gotten terrific tallow and "meaty" tallow before, so when shopping, be picky if you can. Tallow is a flaky, compact fat that's white in color, although will sometimes contain blood or tissue from the beef. The less red that it contains, the cleaner and purer the fat. Most of the time, I get mine from a local butcher. It takes 6 - 7 lbs. of fat. To start, I will dice the fat into pieces about a half inch square. Yes, it takes alot of time and your hands will get incredibly greasy, but i don't have chapped hands for a week! It's better to dice it small, though not too small, 1/2 inch works for me.

I then will get out my cast iron pot( a stainless steel pot will work) and pile it all in. I block the pot up on bricks and build a small fire underneath, cover the pot to keep the ash out. This is one of the places where you must be patient. Do not build the fire high, a low-medium fire is best in my experience. You run the chance of scorching the fat if the heat is too high, and all the work can be lost as the fat takes on the burned smell. Nasty smelling fat can mean nasty smelling soap! Stir the fat around every few minutes from side to side and top to bottom. You'll start to see the fat turning to a clear/golden liquid. This is a good sign! So far so good! Last time I processed tallow, it took about an hour for all the fat to melt down. I know I could do it faster, but I tend to be on the safe side than lose all my work.

I let the fat cool a bit, then I take a ladle / strainer and scoop the leftover pieces into a metal bowl. I use metal simply because I do it while the fat is still hot and it would melt plastic and could break glass. Once I get all the fat pieces out of the liquid, I scoop the leftover fat into a pan and use my potato masher to squeeze the liquid fat from it into the stockpot. Be careful not to squeeze too hard, otherwise you will end up with small pieces of fat you will have to fish out later. Now that you have squeezed all the fat from the pieces, you can discard those if you wish (There are some soapers that will add water to the leftovers, boil it and then cool it down in the fridge. You can then scoop the remaining fat from the top, drain and add to the fat for making soap. I never went that far, But, I may do just that when TSHTF and I have to waste nothing).

The last thing I do to end the rendering, is take several layers of cheesecloth, and filter the fat. I have used coffee filters, paper towels and old rags. I like cheesecloth, but old rags work very well. They are just difficult to clean up so if you use an old t-shirt, use one you can throw away. Now, you have your fat for soapmaking! Whew! The next step is the actual process of soap making. That will be in my next post titled “Basic soapmaking.”

Original: http://georgiapreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/02/homemade-soap.html

Recipe: Hardtack (hard biscuits)

I'm really into pioneer food right now. Never realized that hardtack is basically a rock-hard biscuit, or a thick cracker. If stored correctly, it could last for years. It could be made very cheaply (well, duh, flour and water!) and because it would last so long, it was a very convenient food for people who travel so it made it through wars, pioneer treks across the continent, explorations, and more... whenever someone needed to move fast and pack light.

Hardtack was eaten by itself, or crumbled into coffee. Nowadays, you could dunk it in reconstituted powdered milk, or crumbled into soup. You could also crumble them into cold water, then fry the crumbs in the juice and fat of meat (a dish known as "skillygalee" or "cush").

2 cups freshly ground flour
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine ingredients and knead until smooth. Sprinkle some additional flour on a smooth surface. Roll dough flat until 1/4 inch thick. Cut biscuits out with a can or score and slice into squares or rectangles. Keep within 3-4 inches in diameter/across. Poke holes into each using a fork (see the picture above). Place on a floured cookie sheet. Bake 35-45 minutes until biscuits are hard and dry.

Copyright (c) 2009 VP Lawrence-Williams

Original: http://www.survival-cooking.com/2009/04/recipe-hardtack-hard-biscuits.html

Make your own baby powder

1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
essential oil - optional - I like lavendar

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Let stand a few days and then sift through a flour sifter. Pour into a powder shaker/container.


Original: http://vermontpreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/03/make-your-own-baby-powder.html

Fiddlehead Ferns

In another few weeks, fiddlehead ferns will be popping up in woodland areas. These are the first wild edible that I'm aware of.

You need to pick fiddlehead ferns when they are very young (like the picture) and before they have unfurled into true ferns.

As with any wild edible, only pick a few in each area so that you don't destroy the whole supply for future wild edible hunters. Take a few from each area and leave some for the next person. Don't pull up the fern, just snip it off below the curl so that it comes back next year.

Once you get your fiddleheads home, rinse them well and peel off the brown part of the plant. You can use them in a variety of ways but my favorite is to make a fiddlehead fern quiche.

Fiddlehead Fern Quiche
serves 6-8
For crust use any non-sweet pie crust or a homemade crust
6 slices bacon, crisped
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. minced scallion or onion
salt, pepper
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 pint fiddlehead ferns

Cook crust according to directions. Combine eggs, milk and cream in a bowl. Add scallion and seasonings. Sprinkle half the cheese in the bottom of the shell, lay bacon and pour egg mixture over. Sprinkle rest of Swiss cheese, arrange Ferns on top and grate nutmeg over top. Bake at 375ยบ for 30-40 minutes until set. Cool slightly and serve.

Here are some other recipes:


As with any wild edible, make sure you know what you're hunting for. If you have any doubt whatsoever don't eat it.

Original: http://vermontpreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/04/fiddlehead-ferns.html

Precious Metals or Cash ?

Rangerman's recent post got me thinking. Every time someone talks about keeping cash around on their blog someone will comment that they keep precious metals on hand instead of cash. I got to thinking about the benefits of both and since enough of my time got wasted (and I need to fill up 2 weeks of field time) it is going to be a post.

I was recently introduced to a new phrase at work, critical assumption. Basically a critical assumption is: something you are considering to be truth (assumption) that is essential to success in your venture. EX: If you are bringing non-twist top beer to a BBQ and don't bother to bring a bottle opener because your friend Bob has one on his key chain that would be a critical assumption.


The first camp is the cash crowd. These people keep cash on hand usually in mixed bills. They keep this cash for emergencies, blackouts and natural disasters.
Here are their critical assumptions:
1. People will want to take their cash in exchange for goods. These people think the system may slip a little bit but it will not fall entirely. Cash will still be good.
2. Something bad might happen where they will need this cash to purchase things they need.

The second camp keeps precious metals on hand exclusively. They keep it on hand for barter or to sell if they need to raise a bit of cash.
Here is there critical assumption.
1. They will not need to purchase anything right away. You can't take one ounce silver rounds to the local Publix or Safeway and leave with food.

I keep cash and precious metals on hand. To me cash is for fairly mild emergencies including but not limited to: my fucking card not working, power outages, natural disasters, hurricanes and bank failures. I figure one months worth of cash expenses is a reasonable figure to keep at home on hand. To me cash expenses is stuff like food, fuel, etc. People who get checks now would get checks then so I don't include rent, insurance, cell phone bill, etc. This drops the number considerably from my total monthly expenditures. The rest of my emergency fund is in the bank.

As for precious metals. I look at these as having a couple roles. First they are the emergency fund for if things are completely fucked. They could be traded for food, fuel and other things I need. If a job is lost or something they could be sold to help you survive. Even if things went completely to hell people would accept cash for awhile then it would be barter time and precious metals have intrinsic value. The second role precious metals have is as a hedge against inflation. If people no longer trusted money (or far more likely its value changed on a daily basis in a hyper inflationary scenario) I would be able to sell/ trade a coin here and there to get what I needed.

As for how much in precious metals to own. I don't think you can own too much gold and silver but I do think you can put too much of your limited resources towards them.

Now comes the question of what to get first. Odds are at least one person reading this has no cash (except what is in their wallet) on hand and owns not even a solitary silver dime. Since they read my words and were inspired by their genius this person now wants to store cash and precious metals. I suggest getting your cash emergency fund squared away first. The odds that you will need this are far higher then that you will need precious metals. You might need some groceries when the power is out (and ATM/Debit cards don't work) or there could be a natural disaster. Maybe something real weird happens and you need $500 cash on a Saturday. After that months worth of cash expenses is safely stashed somewhere in your home start working on your treasure (precious metals stash). Depending on your thoughts and worst case scenario there might be a desire to have a bigger emergency fund (in the bank). If this is the case I suggest splitting fundage between precious metals and the bank emergency fund.

Original: http://tslrf.blogspot.com/2009/04/precious-metals-or-cash.html