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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Frontier Diet: The Proven High Speed, Low Drag Travel Foods, by Hambone

As you make your plans to beat feet to a pre-selected retreat site or evacuate your area of operations for a short-term emergency, food has to be part of that planning effort.  As I read through SurvivalBlog site, I see folks posting their ideas.  These ideas fall into some general categories – freeze dried / dehydrated and MRE style meals, with the remainder looking at commercially wet-pack canned or other prepared food.  All have much to offer to a person or family looking ahead and seeing the possibility bad times.  They all have some drawbacks, as does any set of foods, when you travel.
Food and water are major constraints to any movement cross country, the longer you plan to be on the move or the greater the distance you must travel – the greater the burden you face to supply yourself.  Add in the need to have food that is nutritious, needs little if any preparation, and that can be eaten cold – you really have something of a planning problem. 
I would like to suggest you can look to the history of this Nation and draw on the successes of past long distance travelers – from the fur trader to the civil war soldier.  I have identified a set of four basic foods that I believe will meet the need for portable food, are lightweight, flexible and offer the basic nutrition you require while traveling. 
This I call the Frontier diet – four high-speed, low drag foods that can get where you are going without weighing you down.  I’ll cover each of the four in some detail, explain why they were picked, link to recipes and why I think they are worth your consideration.
The four foods are: Coffee (or tea), hardtack, parched corn, and pemmican.  All are easy to make at home, with the exception of the coffee and all offer excellent storage lives, ease of preparation, and all may be eaten cold if necessary.  Each offers a specific set of advantages and they all can be used together to provide a bit of variety in your meals.
The coffee I am talking about is the commercial, freeze dried product found in small, one-cup packets.  I would not consider any other type of packaging – the packets are air-tight, waterproof and frankly, I find the flavor to be superior.  I suffered through many years with the “coffee product” found in C rations, Long Range Patrol Rations, and more recently in MREs.  All were pretty nasty, at least in my opinion.
The value of coffee in the Frontier diet is in its use as an appetite suppressant.  Strong tea (green, black or other non-herbal teas) will also provide the same effect.  Tea normally requires hot water to provide a satisfactory product – though cold soaking tea bags for several hours will provide a drinkable product.  Freeze dried coffee will quickly mix with water at any temperature.  Either will provide a way to knock down hunger pains until you can reach a suitable or protected rest position for a better opportunity to feed yourself or your crew.  The coffee can also be used to soak your hardtack (hard bread) to make it somewhat easier to eat.  Which brings us to hardtack.
Hardtack or hard bread has been part of a soldiers ration since Roman times.  Often reviled, always hated, hardtack (or sailor/pilot bread) serves to provide a long lasting, lightweight food that offers needed calories for travel.  Commercially baked hardtack or hard bread is a staple in both Alaska and Hawaii.  Modern commercial hardtack is seen as “Saloon Pilot” crackers in Hawaii and in Alaska as my favorite “Sailor Boy” pilot bread.  Very long lasting when stored properly and eatable by itself cold, hardtack is improved with anything you might have, from peanut butter to apple sauce.
You can make your own hard bread, SurvivalBlog has several recipes already posted or you can use this one.  Remember, if you add salt to your home made hardtack, it will reduce the storage life as the salt attracts moisture.  Store in a cool, dry location and physically protect the product, lest weevils become part of your travel diet.  Should the product become infested, use the old Union Army method of preparation – break up the hardtack into your coffee, skim off the larvae and enjoy!
Actually, hardtack can be crushed and added to your coffee or to hot water for making a kind of porridge.  Not the world’s best perhaps, but at least different.  Crushed hardtack can be used in dumplings and other related foods.
Next, parched corn.  Corn has been a staple of frontier ‘dining’ since before the United States was an independent nation.  Made from dried corn, parched corn offers a very long term storage item, a useful addition to your diet and adds both calories and variety to the food you eat.  You can make your own or purchase a commercial product.  I will have to say parched corn is an acquired taste but offers many options as a food.
I make my parched corn in a cast iron skillet with just a bit of olive oil.  Start with dried corn, heat the skillet and add the corn one layer (or kernel) deep.  Keep the corn moving in the pan until it plumps and turns brown.  If the corn starts to pop, reduce the heat slightly.  Dump the parched corn in a bowl to cool.  It is ready to eat.  Add any spices or salt after the corn is cooked. The corn should be browned, plump and soft when you bite into it.  If not try again.  Start with small batches until you are happy with the results.
I pack mine in a wide-mouth water bottle (airtight container), and store in the cool location.  I also grind some of the parched corn in the wheat grinder with the stones set in an 'open' position to give a course meal.
Most people find the taste of sweet corn most palatable.  I use dried field corn as the fiber content is much greater and serves to keep constipation at bay while in the field.  While diarrhea is killer while in the field (I carry some Imodium tabs as a precaution) I have found that constipation is the bigger issue with most troops on cross-country movements, especially while eating MREs.  Hence my choice of the field corn as a basis for the parched corn.
The dried corn is available in many stores - use only corn sold for food.  Feed corn in 50# sacks runs under $15 here in Alaska, so it should be less expensive in your area.
Parched corn can be eaten cold (dry), it can be added to hot water with or without hardtack or pemmican to make a soup.  You can even carry some parched corn that you have ground in advance as pinole.  Add 6 to 8 tablespoons to cold (or hot) water and some sugar, either brown or white and enjoy a popular drink.  Pinole may be added to milk if available.  Pinole is suitable to be eaten dry as well.  Store pinole in an air tight container such as a dry water bottle.  This dry, ground corn product was also called “Rockihominy”.
Your parched corn can be soaked overnight to make a kind of Nixtamal.  Normally the corn is soaked with lime, but on the trail, this is normally not possible.  The corn can be soaked with ashes from your campfire and the resulting mixture washed thoroughly before use.  Do not use your aluminum cookware for this, as lye and the metal do not mix.  Use only a steel container if you wish to try this.
The corn, once soaked, should have swollen and the hull separated.  This corn may be used in soups, fried with any leftover grease you may have or simply eaten cold.  This product does not have all the nutrition advantages as lime (lye) soaked corn, but it is easier to chew.
The last item in our travel food bag is pemmican, food of trappers, fur traders and Antarctic exploration teams.  A mixture of tallow and dried meat. It is a staple that has a long storage life. It may be eaten cold and contains nutrients needed to keep you going in tough times.  The famed explorer Amundsen used pemmican made with dried peas, a key reason his party survived with the Scott expedition did not.  Made from tallow and dried meat, pemmican is an energy dense food with excellent keeping properties.
Several folks have posted their recipes on the site, so use the keyword search as "Pemmican".  If the thought of eating fat leaves you a bit queasy, you can try pemmican made with peanut butter.
This version of pemmican uses peanut butter rather than melted suet or lard as the binding agent, which is likely more palatable with the younger members of your family.  Grind [or pound] the dried meat to a mealy powder. Add any dried berries, seeds or nuts if peas are not to your taste. Heat the peanut butter until softened. Blend all ingredients.  When cooled, store in a plastic bag or sausage casing in a cool dry place. It will keep for months if stored properly.  Some pemmican recipes call for honey, cayenne pepper and other spices.  Experiment now, while you can.
If you purchase a commercial product, check the ingredients closely.  Classic pemmican is about 50% fat and 50% dried meat.
So now you have four high-speed, low drag foods for the G.O.O.D. bag - all which can be eaten cold, dry or as part of mix using all the foods listed - just add water for a better tasting meal.  You can roll your own, except for the coffee, and adjust the taste to suit you - not some mythical 'public'.  You should now see the advantages for tactical travel, the added value of making these food items for your self and tailor them to your tastes.  All have long term storage potential, and do well in most climates.
Including all or some of these foods into your planning can give you a better outcome.  Adding some simple items like sugar, condensed milk, salt and spices can expand on your meal choices.
Related Links for Further Research
http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/science/food2.htm (mentions scurvy)
http://www.wellsphere.com/healthy-living-article/4-reasons-you-think-you-are-hungry-when-you-aren-8217-t/923338  (hunger issues)
http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/200-299/nb257.htm  (this also mentions scurvy)

Wild Edibles: The Daylily

Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!
Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.

The daylily (hemerocallis fulva) is a very common ornamental plant that has found a home in many yards and gardens throughout the United States. Despite its common occurrence, few realize the year-round food potential of this plant.
In this article I’ll go into detail about how to identify, process and eat these delicious plants.

How to Identify Daylilies

Before you attempt to eat any wild edible you need to be absolutely certain you can identify it with 100% certainty. Luckily, daylilies, when in flower, have no poisonous look-a-likes. But to those that only see a “wall of green” out there, everything looks alike. In that case here are the 4 key things to look out for when properly identifying daylilies:
6-petaled flower that faces
These are typically orange but some have been bred to be different colors. In all daylilies the flower only lasts a single day (hence the name :) )
Leafless flower stalk that is about 3 feet tall. The stalk that supports the flower head will have no leaves on it. This is a good comparison to the Blue Flag Iris which is poisonous and has leaves on its flower stalk.
Light-green basal leaves that are long and sword-like with pointed tips.
Root is a tangle of small tubers. The tubers are around pea size to about the size of a large almond.
If you can positively identify each of these 4 attributes above, it’s pretty certain that your looking at a daylily.

How to Eat a Daylily

Eating in the Different Seasons

The great thing about daylilies is that there is always something to eat from this plant all year round. In the late Fall and Winter (as well as all year round) you can eat the tubers (root nodules), in the Spring the young shoots are edible and delicious as a stir fry, and in the Summer you can eat the flower buds and the flowers.
I would recommend waiting until Summer to eat these as it will have all of the attributes available to make for an accurate identification. Since it’s a perennial plant (lives longer than two years) you can then come back to the stand during the following springtime to get the young shoots.
If you do decide to gather them in the Spring, care must be taken not to mistake them with some of the poisonous irises and lilies that emerge around the same time. One of the best ways to identify them is to unearth the young shoot, roots and all. You’re looking to find small potato-like tubers with tiny hair-like roots attached to them (see the picture I took in the section above). If you unearth one long, thick rhizome without tubers or a single bulb, then you’ve got the wrong plant.

What Parts to Eat

The edible portions of the plant (tubers, young shoots, flower buds and flowers) can all be eaten raw. However, there have been reports that some people react with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea — especially if they eat a bunch of it). Cooking it is supposed to help reduce these effects. Just try out a small amount and see if you have any symptoms. All my friends and family who try this plant have never experienced this.
Tubers: You’ll want to remove the hair-like roots and thick rhizomes. Wash and clean them and boil them in water for about 15 minutes for best taste (you can eat them raw). Some people like to peel them like potatoes, however I find the skin is just fine to eat along with the starchy centers — without the hassle. In this picture I’ve peeled some and left others with the skin.
Flowers: The flower have a pleasant sweet taste when eaten raw and also can be dipped in batter and fried.
Day-old Flowers: The wilted flowers (above-left in the picture) can be reconstituted in soups.
Flowers Buds: Both the flower buds about to bloom (bottom left) and those that still have a while (bottom right) are excellent in your favorite stir fry recipe.
Young Shoots: The young shoots are excellent raw, in salads or with dip. They are also great in stir fry.
The benefit of learning wild edibles is that it can greatly improve and extend your long-term food storage. Here’s an example of using some of my stored rice with some fresh daylily flowers, stir-fried buds, and boiled daylily tubers. Yumm!

Daylily Nutrition Information

Daylily flowers and tubers are high in protein and oils. The flower buds are good sources of beta carotene and vitamin C.

Other Notes

Although daylilies are an excellent food source, you should be aware that research done in Chinese laboratories have reported that there are potentially toxic substances in the roots which may be cumulative. Keep in mind that people have been eating these plants for centuries without being poisoned so use them with respect and in moderation.

Related posts:

  1. The Fantastic Four – 4 Essential Wild Edible Plants that May Just Save Your Life
  2. How to Eat Dandelion Flowers
  3. Dandelion Greens – The Perfect Spring Survival Food

Make a Dual Fuel Survival Backpacking Stove for Less Than $20

If you’re going camping this weekend or any other time soon, here’s useful info on making your own survival dual fuel backpacking stove for less than $20. And this will appeal to you if you’re a beer drinker. You have to read the whole article to see what that’s about. An excerpt and link to the full article follow.

The poor man’s ultra-light dual-fuel backpacking stove
By Rick Brannan
For as long as I have been venturing into the backcountry, which is a pretty long time, I have been on a quest for the perfect backpacking stove. I have tried everything from the ultra-light micro stoves that run on butane to the cumbersome and messy white gas stoves, none of which I really liked. On a long hike I inevitably run out of fuel for my camp stove and have to hike off trail to restock or spend the rest of the trip eating granola bars and jerky.
The campfire is still best for cooking, but there are times when a campfire is not practical or legal, like during fire season in the national parks.

Read the whole article here:

Excerpt used with permission of Backwoods Home Magazine.
http://www.backwoodshome.com 1-800-835-2418

There are plenty of ready-made camping stoves and survival stoves available, but Rocket Stoves and Grover Rocket Stoves offer a couple of fuel efficient options. (Click on the highlighted words in this paragraph for more info.)

So you think you're prepared? Now let's discuss REALITY......

Hi everyone.

This is my first post on any SHTF/survival type forum, but I've been scouring these type of sites for several months because for a broad number of reasons that continue to become more convincing to me every day, I believe that we will indeed experience chaotic and potentially life threatening circumstances in the not-so-distant future. Having read many hundreds of posts on many different forums and watched countless videos on YouTube, I have come to realize that most people on these type of forums have not truly sat down and fully conceptualized what life will be like in a SHTF scenario. They all think they have, but most of the people (including many here) give great lip service to the idea, but haven't really expanded their minds to fully grasp everything involved. In fact, I find myself growing increasingly disgusted with the many hours I have wasted in having to dredge through countless posts on different boards trying to glean valuable and useful information, just to realize that the majority of posters obviously have no clue how they would survive a real breakdown of society.

There are basically 3 levels of preparedness that a person needs but most people are not prepared for the 1st level, much less the 2nd or 3rd. Preparedness Level 1 is pretty easy to cover. Level 2 is difficult, but achievable. Level 3 is where 99% of us are royally screwed and will likely die.

Here are the three levels of preparedness that I am working toward developing, and I am hoping to possibly generate some constructive and valuable feedback (and perhaps contacts) from this.

Preparedness Level 1 - This involves stocking your immediate residence with everything you need in the event of a short term catastrophe that will last less than 10 days. This should be a definite prep level that all of us here should already have covered, but most people don't even have enough food/water/fuel/cash, etc to last even a week. Let's walk through this ......imagine you're at work and a sudden catastophe strikes. What if within a few hours, every gas station, bank and grocery store was mobbed with people.... But what if the power goes out and the banks have to immediately close, the gas pumps don't operate and the supermarket generators only last a few hours? Suppose the power is out for several days......do you have enough cash on hand to get what you need (because your credit/debit card will be useless in a power outage)....do you have enough gas in your car? Do you have enough dry goods to feed your family for up to 10 days? All your neighbors will watch their perishables go bad within 24 hours and will be knocking on your door for help. The ones not prepared (most of them) will become very nasty within 3 to 5 days when they start going into a panic mode looking for food and water for themselves or their kids. Do you have a couple weeks of bottled water in stock? What if the tap water is shut off? How will you clean yourself, brush your teeth, wash dishes? What about medical supplies? Do you have enough supplies to deal with a serious wound or injury? Do you even know how to stop bleeding? Do you have antibiotics? How will you communicate when your cell phone battery goes dead? How do you know your neighbors won't break into your home to loot your supplies when they see you leave the house? Likely there will be very little police response or support during the period. Are you prepared to protect yourself and your home? Will you poison your relationship with your neighbors by fending them off and refusing assistance, just to have them hate you when the crisis has passed? Picture this scenario from A to Z, hour by hour, day by day......you will suddenly see all kinds of holes in your so-called "preparedness".

Preparedness Level 2 - This is when things go bad for up to 30 days, so you may need to leave the area temporarily. By the 10th day, your neighbors will start to go into full survival mode and things become very dangerous. Desperate people will not hesitate to rob you at gunpoint, even kill you if needed. Thugs and gangs may be roaming the streets by the 15th day, looking to rob anyone of their supplies, rape women, shoot people, etc. If you leave your house, just know it WILL be looted upon your return. But in this situation, you MUST leave the area and get somewhere safely out of harm's way, but still within a 2 to 3 hour drive from your primary residence. Do you now own land in a rural place, far away from the inner city chaos? Do you have a bunker of supplies on that land, preferably buried in the ground so it's not being robbed right this very moment? Have you really taken a hard look at the lengthy list of supplies you will need? Land is not cheap and the cost to build a temporary residence or even a supply bunker is expensive. How will your supplies stay dry and undamaged? How will they be completely hidden from anyone's view to find them? What if there is no power at your BOL? No heat? Or what if it's a desert location and 115 degrees? What if the major roads to your BOL are blocked by police or military? .......uh-huh, starting to think now, aren't ya? Can you truly survive at your BOL up to 30 days if it takes that long for power, law and order to be restored at your primary residence? Suppose you're eating well and doing fine by day 21. It will be obvious to those that are starving and near death, so you will become a prime target if you are seen. Your family could be kidnapped or held at gunpoint to force you into turning over your supplies or BOL. It would be best if your BOL had sufficent housing and supplies to provide for a network of very close and trusted friends and family to assist one another and protect the group. But suppose one of you needed to go back into town? How will that person survive or evade capture? What if the person is captured and forced to reveal your BOL? Or simply followed? How will you maintain contact with that person or group? How do you protect them? How many of you have really thought about every little detail of such a situation and how you would survive?

Preparedness Level 3 - This is the unthinkable in which you would need to survive up to 6 to 12 months. During that period of time, most people will have died from all manner of atrocities such as starvation, accidents, disease, sickness, violence and murder. I would imagine by month 12 most people without a strong support group will be dead and most survivors will have attached themselves to one of two groups that will fall into well-defined camps, one focused on benefiting the community and rebuilding, the other focusing on simply killing off other groups and taking what they have. In addition to the above issues, how do you generate light at night without it being seen from a distance? How do you get a fire going for cooking without creating a telltale smoke sign that gives away your location? Have you studied how to make solar panels and how to store electricity? Do you know anything about AC/DC current? Do you know what type of batteries work and don't work with solar power, or how many solar cells are required to power various things ? Where will you get water and how will it be transported and stored? The body doesn't naturally produce certain nutrients, so how will you get enough of all the nutrients you require? How will you obtain and irrigate the water needed to grow vegetables/herbs? How will you grow, feed and water animals for food? How do you identify other people as friends or foes? How do you communicate outside your immediate network? Do you know what temperature eggs need to be maintained at in order to hatch so you can have chickens to eat? How will you feed them? How will you protect them (and yourselves) from animal predators? Who will be in charge? What are each person's duties? Are all those people trained and can they be trusted? You will be amazed at how people can and will turn against you in a real live SHTF scenario. How will you treat a scorpion sting or spider bite? An infection? What kind of antibiotics do you have on hand and how can you obtain them now for later use when you don't have a prescription for them? Have you ever hunted? Are there wild game near your BOL? Do you know how to field dress your kill so you can eat it and not poison yourself? How do you cook it without generating attention to your location? What will be your source of fuel? Do you know how long it takes for wood to dry? Where will you even get wood if you're in the Arizona desert? For all you gold and silver hoarders, how do you expect to "spend" a 1-ounce gold bar or coin for supplies? Do you think you can just break it up into little pieces to equal the amount you will need? You will find that people will be far more interested in bartering for supplies rather than your coinage or bullion.

The list of questions and concerns goes on and on and on as you REALLY stop to think about it. Are you really as prepared as you think you are ? There are so many details involved that this post has only begun to address. When one really stops to conceptualize and picture each and every step, each hour of the scene, each passing day and night when TSHTF, even if just 7 days, or 30 days, then the gaping holes in our so-called preparedness begin to become clear and you will realize just how truly UN-prepared you really are......

Summer Survival

These fireworks were all photoed at a local fi...Image via Wikipedia
I know, slow and late. I should have posted this up in early May, when summer began, instead of waiting until after Midsummer. Better late than never, I suppose, and it will be here for next year. And I am getting the Fireworks Safety bit in before the 4th, so maybe that will help.
Anyway, here’s a list of safety tips for some common dangers lurking in the joys of summertime.
It probably sounds a bit stupid and trite to say this, but fireworks are dangerous. They go splodey. They involve fire and explosives and projectiles. These, done right, are beautiful, the ephemeral beauty that makes the heart leap and makes the mind joyful. The memory lingers fondly for all of one’s life.
And the damage done can also last for all of one’s life. Lost eyesight, lost hearing, burnt flesh and the scars left behind, burned homes and lost property and memorabilia, loved ones gone forever. These are the dangers lurking in the beautiful fireworks.
I don’t advocate outlawing fireworks. Rather the opposite. Leave people their fireworks, but spend time educating people on the safe use of them. By all means, pool money together to hire fireworks professionals and an emergency vehicle to have a community-wide fireworks display – you get more bang for your buck and a much prettier display. Families can do this, or neighborhoods, or entire cities. The larger the group of people paying towards the display, the better the display will be.
But we still want to do our own fireworks, those little Black Cats and Sparklers, if nothing else, so take a few precautions. Being blinded or bearing deep burn scars for life is going to taint your memory so do your best to prevent that from happening.
Fireworks Safety
Wear eye protection. And I’m not talking the cheapy plastic stuff that will melt onto your face. Get good quality fire-safe eye protection.
Keep all fireworks away from young children. Children under 5 lack the coordination and the discretion to handle fireworks safely and shouldn’t be allowed to handle them at all. This is common sense, but apparently, some adults are too stupid to think of it on their own. This includes Sparklers. Sparklers burn very hot to produce those sparks. For the young child, give them fiberoptic flashlights they can swish and swirl and get the same sparkly effect without the risk of burning themselves or your home. As the child ages, you can introduce them to fireworks ads apprentices, getting closer to see how it’s done and explaining the safety precautions you’re taking. Eventually, they graduate to Black Cats and Sparklers, and then to bottle rockets and other simple fireworks.
I think older children should be exposed to handling dangerous items with adult supervision and direction. How else are they going to learn?
Read and follow instructions on labels. Another no-brainer, and I’m surprised I have to point this one out, but there ya go. These directions include fuse times. Fuse times change from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from year to year, and fuse times are Very Important for your safety. By following the directions, you get both the maximum safety and the maximum pretty bang for your buck.
Have a connected garden hose and someone manning the faucet and a bucket of water nearby. If you’re just shooting off a few fireworks from your back yard, that’s all you’ll need to douse any inadvertent fires. If you’re pooling resources with neighbors and have a large amount of fireworks to shoot off, I’d recommend something bigger, up to an including hiring a fire engine or emergency vehicle to be there just in case.
Use your fireworks outdoors in a clean and debris-free area Another no-brainer, but worth saying for those who just plain didn’t think of it. This includes Sparklers. I don’t know where people got the idea that Sparklers are safe – they’re not. They’re pretty, and they’re fun, but they are not safe. My brother once burned our house down playing with a Sparkler indoors. My mother lit it for him, thinking it was safe for indoor use. Let me state it loud and clear: No fireworks are safe to use indoors. Period.
Enjoy your fireworks, but be safe in their use and be responsible. The best fun is to pool together with friends or neighbors for a larger display, and hiring pyrotechnic experts to assist you in putting on your show.
Heat-Related Sicknesses
Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle if it’s hot outside. This includes babies and pets and any disabled people who have mobility or dexterity issues. A car heats up scary fast – in less than 90 seconds, a car can get lethally hot, even with windows rolled down and even when parked in the shade. There have been so many reports of babies being left in cars because parents forgot them and dying that this information becomes critically important. If you can rig it up, I think one of those seat belt type alarms that buzzes when the driver’s side car door is opened and a child is still in a child seat would be very helpful for those forgetful, distracted parents. And those day care and school buses that park with a child still on them needs some kind of counter or buzzer, too. Something to alert the driver that there’s still a child on the bus. Apparently we can’t depend upon them to physically look for children still on the bus.
If you must be out in the heat, limit your activities to morning and evening hours. Sometimes this is really hard to do, especially if you work long hours and have a HOA that rides you about your lawn. I honestly think they should people’s safety above looks, but we all know how shallow-minded HOAs are. They truly do care more about looks than about the environment, safety, or practicality. If possible, don’t live where there’s a HOA. Then you can be reasonable and safe about your lawn care.
If you’re playing, take a break during the hottest part of the day. Go swimming. Or seek shade and play quiet games like lawn chess, or better yet, go to the library or a museum where it’s cooled. Or the mall. Stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Deep shade is best, but dappled shade is better than direct sunlight. Use parasols and umbrellas to provide shade when you’re strolling around at fairs and festivals or just walking your dog. You can get pretty paper parasols at party supply stores. What you want is portable shade when there is no other shade to be had.
Drink plenty of fluids, and if you drink sugary or alcoholic beverages, drink at least an equal amount of water for each sugary or alcoholic beverage you drink. I know a lot of other safety sites will tell you not to drink carbonated, sugary, or alcoholic drinks in the heat, but realistically, people still will. Therefore, I say, drink an equal amount of water or sports drinks for each soda or juice or slushie/smoothie/float/milkshake drink or cocktail or beer you drink. Hydration is important in the heat.
Use sunscreen. Sunscreen protects you from more than the sun’s rays. Modern sunscreens also moisturize your skin which slows down dehydration. Not much, mind, but enough to make a difference between a very mild case of heat exhaustion and feeling great. And slathering on sunscreen may remind you to take a drink of water.
While heat-related illnesses can affect anyone, infants and the elderly are especially susceptible. Check on them regularly. Babies under 6 months of age shouldn’t be out in direct sunlight or the heat of the day anyway. Their bodies are still too new and fragile to take that kind of abuse. Their systems don’t reliably regulate their temperatures yet. If you must take babies out in the heat of the day, keep them shaded and provide some form of cooling for them. For both elderly and babies, I like those bandanas that you soak, or those ice chest or lunch box freezer mats wrapped in a towel to allow the cool to seep through without freezing their delicate skin. Spritzing them lightly with a mister fan can also help. And don’t leave them in an enclosed space, especially not a car, in hot weather.
Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. The library, museums, malls, and community centers are all good places to go for coolness if you don’t have cooling at home. There are tips and suggestions for cooling your home if you don’t have air conditioning.
I did a whole post on surviving lightning, but I’ll recap here.
Pay attention to the weather. Many times, weather stations will report when there’s dangerous lightning. Listen to that. If you don’t have a radio on or nearby, look up. Look at the sky and pay attention to what you see there. Don’t get so involved at looking at the ground or what you’re doing that you don’t notice when lightning, especially the dangerous cloud-to-ground streaks of lightning approach. Get to shelter. You can resume playing or working outdoors later.
There are four types of lightning strikes: the direct hit, the nearby hit, the indirect hit, and the flashover. The direct hit accounts for less than 10% of lightning injuries. The most common one is the nearby hit, where lightning strikes something near a person and the energy from the hit sprays over the person. The next most common one is the indirect hit, where lightning strikes the ground or water and the current is conveyed through the ground or water to strike the person even at a bit of distance. And the final hit, the flashover, is when the lightning passes close by and their sweat or moisture from water causes the air around them to explode.
The most common injuries from lightning are ruptured eardrums and neurological injuries that can cause long term symptoms like chronic pain, memory and sleep disorders, dizziness, muscle weakness, personality changes, and depression.
If you are outside and far away from shelter when a lightning strike occurs, crouch down and get as close to the ground as possible. Balance on the balls of your feet so the least bit of you touches the ground. Remember, the lightning can travel through the ground and hit you. The less of you to touch the ground, the safer you are. And if you can get to a hard-topped car, getting inside one is safer still. Not a convertible, because contrary to popular belief, it is the rubber tires that save you, it’s the metal shell of the car. Place your hands over your ears to protect them.
Even if you are inside, lightning can still hit you. Stay away from water, doors, and windows. You should also avoid landlines that have cords, plumbing lines and electric lines, and listening to music with a headset. I know one poor gentleman who has been struck by lightning twice while using the toilet in his house during a thunderstorm.
And if you happen upon a victim of a lightning strike, call 911. If the person is not breathing, perform CPR. Contrary to popular belief, victims are not electrically charged and are safe to touch.
Food Poisoning
The heat of summer can quickly spoil food. Spoiled food leads to food poisoning. Food poisoning makes you miserable for a few days. And it’s avoidable.
Two Hour Rule If the food’s been sitting out for 2 hours or more, throw it away. To keep the food longer, only set it out for half an hour at a time, placing it in a cooler in between. That gives you four times you can take the food out before you exceed the 2 hour limit. If your house is not air conditioned, don’t leave food out of the refrigerator for more than half an hour at a time and again, toss it after 4 times out of the fridge.
I recommend making smaller amounts of food so less is wasted.
Use “one-use” spoons. Provide a cup of water to put the spoon in after it’s been used so people won’t re-use it, or have large ladles to dish out the food that people won’t be tempted to lick or taste from.
Cook meat to safe temperatures. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ground beef and pork should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and chicken should be cooked to at least 165 degrees. The chicken temperature applies to the thigh if you’re cooking the whole chicken or the thickest part if you’re cooking chicken pieces.
Berries are fragile and will spoil quickly in the heat, often under 2 hours, so check them before you eat them.
Contrary to common belief, mayonnaise doesn’t spoil quickly unless it’s homemade. This is because store bought mayonnaise and creamy dressings have so many artificial preservatives in them and homemade ones don’t. If you’re doing a cook-out or a picnic, take only as much mayonnaise or creamy dressings as you will use and follow the 2 hour rule with it. Put them into smaller containers.
Pools and Ponds
Children should be closely supervised, and very young children should be in sight 100 percent of the time they’re in or near the water. Yes, even if this means you are physically holding them while in the water or eyeballing them constantly if not. It takes so little time for a small child to drown. How many times have you read a newspaper article that says, “I just looked away for a second” or “I just turned my back for a minute” and their child drowned? Don’t look away for a second, and if you must do something where you can’t see the child, take the child with you, get someone else to do it, or wait.
Pools should have fences around them. And they should also have close by lifesaving equipment – hooks, rings, first aid kit.
Keep pool chemicals far away from the reach of children. This should be a no-brainer, but again, some people, especially ones who don’t have children of their own and are entertaining friends with children, don’t think about it.
For ponds, never go into the water unless you know how deep it is, and don’t let children enter it until you know how deep it is This is very important, especially where children are involved. They drown so easy.
If you, or a child in your care, fall and hit your head and you (or they) start to feel nauseous, lightheaded or lose consciousness, seek medical attention immediately. This means a concussion at the least and a brain bleed such as the one that killed that actress this past year.
If you, or a child in your care, fall and your ankle is in an awkward position and it starts to hurt, it should be checked by a medical professional. Children especially, are prone to greenstick breaks or damage to their growth plates and such injuries need immediate attention so the child doesn’t grow up with one leg shorter than the other.
Avoid it. That’s the best advice I can give. Don’t stay in direct sunlight more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time (essential for Vitamin D production), and seek deep shade as much as possible.
Use sunscreen of spf 30 Or higher, but don’t waste your money on any spf higher than 50 because the effectiveness no longer outweighs the cost. Apply it liberally and often. Even if the sunscreen claims to be waterproof, re-apply after heavy sweating or when you get out of the pool. No sunscreen is waterproof enough regardless of claims. If you’re not sweating heavily and haven’t been swimming, re-apply every half hour you are in direct sunlight.
If you do sunburn, cool the skin with tepid or cool water and apply aloe gel.
Pets suffer from the heat as much as people do – and probably more because a lot of people don’t realize just how hot their pet is.
Cars A car can become lethally hot in less than 2 minutes for puppies, older dogs, sick dogs, or fat dogs. It’s a myth that a dog can survive in a car for under 10 or 15 minutes, especially when those “just a few minutes” turns into half an hour or an hour or longer. Most people don’t bring cats with them in the same way they do dogs, but cats handle the heat of a car even less well than dogs do. Small rodents handle it better, but they still suffer. Ferrets can’t take the heat at all. If it’s over 80ºF, ferrets suffer the heat badly. Don’t take your pet with you if there’s even the slightest possibility you will have to leave the pet in the car. No matter how bad their separation anxiety may be, they will survive it much better than being killed by a hot car.
Shaved fur It seems logical that less hair equals a cooler experience in summer’s heat, but it’s not true that shaving a pet’s fur will keep them cooler in hot weather. What it does is expose them to sunburn. Since dogs don’t have sweat glands, the fur offers them protection from the sun’s rays and it actually helps keep them cooler in much the same way the heavy all-encompassing robes of desert people keeps them cooler. The best way to keep long or thick-furred dogs cool in the summer heat is to provide them with air conditioning.
Sunscreen They make special sunscreen just for dogs and it’s important that if your dog is going to be in the sun for any length of time, where they don’t have ready access to deep shade, that you apply dog-appropriate sunscreen to their noses, ears, and groin area. Dogs can suffer painful sunburns and peeling. Don’t use people sunscreen on them, it contains chemicals that will make your dog sick. Use sunscreen formulated for dogs. Ask your vet.
Heat Sickness If your dog or cat is drooling heavily, they are suffering from the heat and are either already in the early stages of heat exhaustion or worse. Get them out of the heat and into air conditioning as quickly as you can, provide shade and place chill packs to their neck and groin. Do not douse them in ice water, this shocks their system and increases their heat problems as their veins constrict.
Keeping your pet cool They make some chiller bandanas and belly vests that are made from those water-absorbing crystals that work short term for keeping a pet cool. Tie them loosely around the dog’s neck and belly, where the dog cools off the fastest. These cool through evaporation, like sweat, and doesn’t cool them a lot, but it seems to cool them enough.
I have a service dog that accompanies me everywhere, which means he has to endure all kinds of weather. He tolerates heat less well than I do, so I’ve learned a few ways to keep him cool when we attend festivals and other outdoor events with sparse shade and no air conditioning or when driving in a car or riding on a parade float with no air conditioning. One of the things I did for him was create a mat that can hold those frozen ice chest ice blankets. He sprawls on these when he waits for me to do whatever I do and it’s hot outside. I also carry a parasol for him so he can have shade as well as the ice mat. When he’s walking about, I have made him “saddlebags” that carry the frozen lunch box inserts to keep him cool and I carry the parasol so he’s shaded. He wears “sandals” I made him so he doesn’t have to burn his paws on hot pavement – they are rubber soles that lace up his legs to hold them in place. Most dog booties are too heavy and hot for summer wear but his “sandals” are perfect. They also protect his paws from broken glass at these events. They are not good for walking in beach sand, though. I keep spare mats in a small ice chest so when one mat melts from the heat, I can trade out a fresh one for him. Three mats are enough to last a whole, hot day. I also provide him with plenty of water and I always treat him to doggie ice cream or frozen fruits. He likes frozen bananas and watermelon.