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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dutch Oven Cooking – Oh Boy!

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Dutch Oven Cooking demonstration at my community recreation center. They had several different foods to sample and I got to see how they cooked with charcoal on the Dutch Ovens. I stood beside the “cooks” the whole evening and picked their brains about everything. I’ve never done Dutch Oven Cooking before so I wanted to learn all about it.

I grabbed a handout with some great tips and recipes on it. Here is a compilation of some of what was included:

  • Protect your dutch oven from wind and rain, or add extra coals to compensate.
  • Remember, it’s not an exact science, be ready to add or take away coals as needed (usually add).
  • Cooking meat? Move coals to the bottom.
  • Baking bread or desserts? Move coals to the top
  • Meals that require more than 30-45 minutes to cook may need new coals added during cooking. If so, light new coals soon enough to allow them to get going before you need the.
  • Keep the lid closed! Avoid peaking more than needed.

NEVER USE SOAP! Different people have different methods for cleaning their dutch oven. The goal is not to get down to bare metal. Use a spatula or scraper to remove all leftover food and sauces. Use a clean rag to wipe out as much residue as you can. Then add about a cup of salt, and use another couple of clean rags to scrub the bottom and sides smooth. Then remove the salt, wipe down with oil, and place it back on the remaining coals for 5-10 minutes. Then give it a final wipe down and it’s ready for the next time. Most quality dutch ovens come with cleaning and seasoning instructions.

1 large can of sliced peaches
1 box yellow cake mix
1 can soda (lemon lime or ginger ale)
About 1/4 cup butter
Cinnamon to taste
Heat enough coals to cook at 350 degrees F. Dump peaches with juice into dutch oven. Spread cake mix over the peaches evenly. Pour 1 can of soda evenly over the cake mix. Place a few thin slices of butter on top. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cook until firm. Serve hot with cold ice cream!

One of the best things about Dutch Oven Cooking is that all you need for cooking is charcoal. Charcoal will store indefinitely so it is a fantastic fuel to keep on hand for emergency cooking. I am definitely going to be hitting the store to pick up a Dutch Oven for myself soon. I’ll share details about the one I get when I manage to get to the store ;)
p.s. Do you have experience with Dutch Oven Cooking? Share your own tips and recipes in the comments below and we can all learn from each other.

A Doctor's Thoughts on Antibiotics, Expiration Dates, and TEOTWAWKI, by Dr. Bones

As a recently-retired physician who is married to a nurse-midwife, my preparedness group looks to us as the post-TEOTWAWKI hospital and medical staff. Medical progress has been exponential and even just the last decade of scientific breakthroughs can equal a century of improvement in medical treatments, surgical techniques and pharmaceuticals. However, in the years (months?) ahead, the crumbling of the infrastructure and devolution of society in general will very likely throw us back to a medical system that existed in the 19th Century.

Let’s take an example: When the U.S. was a young nation, the average woman could expect to be pregnant 10-12 times during her reproductive lifetime (no reliable means of birth control). One out of four women would not survive the pregnancy, either from issues relating to blood loss from miscarriage or childbirth or Infection (no antibiotics) following same. A myriad of other complications occurred which are treatable today but weren’t back then. I collect old medical books, and even relatively modern obstetric textbooks devoted entire chapters on how to crush a fetus’ skull in order to expedite its removal from a critically ill mother, with instruments that clearly had no other purpose. When childbirth was successful, she could expect perhaps 3-4 of her children to survive to become adults, on average, with many minor children succumbing to simple infections that had no known effective treatment at the time.

This is the grim reality that we, in modern times, will face when the inevitable happens and current medical technology and treatments are unavailable to us.

There is an interesting post-TEOTWAWKI series by History Channel called “After Armageddon” which can be viewed on YouTube. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t appear on History Channel’s list of shows). In it, a family seeks refuge in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. The father of the family, who is a trained EMT, falls sick and dies from a simply cut on his hand because the antibiotics ran out. It shows that the lack of accumulated stores of antibiotics could mean a shortened life span for even the most prepared individual.

Given the new situation that we will have thrust upon us, it behooves every aware individual to begin to stockpile medications that will be needed in the future, and to become trained one way or another in basic and disaster first aid. Even if your group has a designated “medic”, you have an obligation to be able to handle medical issues in a catastrophic scenario for the sake of your group and your family. Just as the designated “medic” should be trained to handle security issues and should accumulate food and other supplies, so should you accumulate medications and medical supplies. Cross-training is essential for when the medic needs a medic!
Accumulating medications may be simple when it comes to procuring aspirin and other non-prescription drugs but may be problematic for those who cannot write their own prescriptions or don’t have a relationship with a physician who can. I would like to focus on the issue of procurement of antibiotics for the treatment of infection in this essay, as there are already a number of good essays on this site that discusses various aspects of medical care in the post-SHTF era. I heartily recommend that everyone read these in detail.

For all intents and purposes, it is highly unlikely that even basic antibiotics like Penicillin will be actively manufactured in an apocalyptic scenario due to the complexities in said manufacture. Those who say, “it’s just bread mold” are naïve if they think just making prepper bread and letting it sit will produce anything That would cure an infection (penicillin is actually made from liquid that the mold produces under certain man-made conditions. And, no, Ginger Root and other “home antibiotics” probably won’t either.

The reason that I consider this a major issue is that there will be a much larger incidence of infection when people start to fend for themselves, and injure themselves as a result. Simple cuts and scratches from chopping wood can begin to show infection, in the form of redness, heat and swelling, within a relatively short time. Treatment of infections at an early stage improves the chance that they will heal quickly and completely. However, many preppers, being the rugged folk that they are, are most likely to ignore the problem until it gets much worse and spreads to their entire body, causing fever and other systemic problems that could eventually be fatal. Have antibiotics already on hand in their retreat would allow them to deal with the issue until medical help (if available at all) arrives.

Now, what I am about to tell you is contrary to standard medical practice, and is a strategy that is best used in the event of societal collapse that causes the unavailability of conventional medical care for extended periods of time. This line of thought that I am presenting is that “sumpthin” is better than “nuttin” and is not meant to serve as official medical advice for any circumstance but a catastrophic breakdown of our infrastructure and ability of our country to provide medical care for its citizens. If there is modern medical care available to you, seek it out.

Small amounts of medications such as antibiotics could be procured by anyone who is willing to tell their physician that they are going out of the country and would like to avoid “Montezuma’s Revenge”. Ask them for Tamiflu for viral illness and Z-packs, Amoxicillin or Keflex for bacterial diarrhea. Stockpiling of these antibiotics is more of a problem. After searching far and wide, I have come across the best option for the prepper: Aquarium Fish antibiotics.

For evaluation purposes (and because I am an aquarium hobbyist), I decided to purchase online a variety of these products and found them to be identical (unlike some Dog and Cat medications) to those used to treat humans with a doctor’s prescription. I was able to purchase them without any demand for medical licensure, etc. The drugs are listed below and the bottles list the antibiotic as the sole ingredient. They are:
  • FISH-MOX (amoxicillin 250mg)
  • FISH_MOX FORTE (amoxicillin 500mg)
  • FISH-CILLIN (ampicillin 250mg)
  • FISH-FLEX Keflex 250mg)
  • FISH-FLEX FORTE (Keflex 500mg)
  • FISH-ZOLE (metronidazole 250mg)
  • FISH-PEN (penicillin 250mg)
  • FISH-PEN FORTE (penicillin 500mg)
  • FISH-CYCLINE (tetracycline 250mg)
These medications are available usually in plastic bottles of 100 tablets for much less than the same prescription medication at the pharmacy (some come in bottles of 30 tablets). The dosages are similar to that used in humans, and are taken two to four times a day, depending on the drug. The 500mg dosage is probably more effective in larger individuals. Of course, anyone could be allergic to one or another of these antibiotics, but not all of them. (Note that there is a 10% cross-reactivity between "-cillin" drugs and Keflex, meaning that, if you are allergic to Penicillin, you could also be allergic to Keflex). FISH-ZOLE is an antibiotic that also kills some protozoa that cause dysentery.

NOTE: It should be emphasized that FISH-CYCLINE [and other tetracycline antibiotics of various names] can become toxic after its expiration date, unlike most of the other medications listed. So consider acquiring the other ones listed, first.

Which brings me to a question that I am asked quite often and to which my answer is, again, contrary to standard medical recommendations but appropriate in a post-TEOTWAWKI environment where no medical care is otherwise available. The question is: What happens when the medications I stockpiled pass their expiration date?

Since 1979, pharmaceutical companies have been required to place expiration dates on all medications. Officially, this is the last day that the company will certify that their drug is at full potency. Some people take this to mean that the medicine in question is useless or in some way harmful after that date. With few exceptions (tetracycline being one previously mentioned), this is what I delicately term as “a bunch of hooey”!

Studies performed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that 90% of medications tested were perfectly fine to use 8-to-15 years after the expiration date. There was apparently no danger in the grand majority of cases. The FDA tested more than 100 medications, both prescription and non-prescription, and continues to study the issue today. The exceptions were mostly in liquid form (antibiotics included, but also insulin, nitroglycerine and some others). What is true is that the potency of an antibiotic could possibly decrease over time, so it is important that your medication cache is in a cool, dry place if at all possible. Refrigeration is an excellent method to maintain the full potency of many drugs.

Many people gauge their preparedness on the number of full ammo boxes in their closet. I’ve got them too. However, preparedness doesn’t mean going out in a blaze of glory; it means going on, in the best health and condition, to re-establish a peaceful and productive society. Every prepper should have antibiotics as part of their medical supplies. They’re available, they’re cheap and they could save your life.

Letter Re: Day to Day Survival--From the Perspective of a Homeless Man

It may not be TEOTWAWKI, but the end of “your world” may be closer than you think. Mine came eight years ago with the end of my wife's battle with cancer. With the down turn of the economy and a mountain of medical bills, we had already leveraged every penny that we could. We took out a second mortgage, maxed our credit cards, sold the boat, the four wheeler, and travel trailer. Since then I've sold my pickup, her car, the tools of my trade (I'd been a carpenter), and anything else that could bring in a dollar. I've been told that I could have gone through a “financial reorganization” a.k.a. bankruptcy, to save the house... but at the time, I was devastated by the loss of my wife, and nothing really mattered. She had always been the one to keep me going. Her battle cry “There's work to be done” usually meant she, or we would soon be headed to help somebody, or a cause that “won't make it without a little hand.” When my world crashed down, I lost my ambition, my faith, my hope. My depression led to heavy drinking, and that put me into a spiral, which didn't end until I hit bottom. One night I had a dream, a very realistic dream. I was standing with a group of people, in the front yard of our old house. Everyone was milling around talking in low voices... It was a Wake following a funeral. Then I saw her... she broke away from the group and rounded the corner of the house. I followed her to the back yard, as I caught up, she turned and gave me a hug. She held me at arms length, looked me up and down, and said I looked like hell. I asked if she had come to take me, if it was my time? She told me “no, not yet, I just wanted to see you”. She told me that I had to start taking care of myself... for her. “There's work to be done!” That's when I woke up, both figuratively, and literally.
Now I survive day to day, with an eye to the future.
I'm homeless... I don't steal, I don't beg, or take “hand outs”, I don't trespass onto private property.
I do my best not to look homeless. I do day labor for a temp agency, but am limited due to telephone and transportation constraints. I take occasional odd jobs on the side, but prefer small household repairs. I'm told that most local contractors won't even stop by to give estimates on these small jobs, because it's just not worth their time. I get this work by word of mouth, and have quite a few repeat customers. I have a growing list (of mostly seniors), that can't do the winter weatherizing, or spring cleanup of their homes. I don't charge an arm and a leg, and am open to bartering. I'll never get rich doing this, but I've made new friends, helped others, have been able to replace many of my old "tools of the trade", and have even bought a few “necessities” that I now see as luxuries.
A friend lets me store a few tools, and things in an old truck tool box that I have stuck under his deck. (A wooden deck that I helped build). He also lets me use his address to receive mail. This has allowed me to obtain a library card, which includes Internet access. I can only sign up to reserve an hour block of time, but if there's nobody else waiting to use it, they let people stay on indefinitely. With access to such a goldmine of reference/research material (including SurvivalBlog), the possibilities seem endless. It is also a warm place to spend a cold winter day.
Winter is, of course, the most difficult time to live outdoors. I dress in layers, and carry at least one complete change of clothes. It rains a lot here, and you will get wet. Wool makes the best insulating layer (even when wet), and “Gore-Tex” type materials are a great shell. I've gotten most of my layers cheap at local thrift stores. Shelters have come in many forms, from lean-tos, to public restrooms, or empty shipping containers. I won't stay in a “homeless shelter”, there is just too much potential trouble there. There is less chance of confrontations when I stay out of town, but there are also fewer resources, and opportunities for employment. There is one huge benefit when I do stay out of town. I'm able to cook, and heat with one of my “Penny Wood Gas” stoves, and not alarm anyone. I've made several variations of these and usually keep two or three around for different uses. Using the original size can, with fewer/smaller holes, gives a longer burn, with lower temps. Which is better for warming/drying cold hands, feet, and clothes. I always keep one loaded, ready to light, and it still weighs less than a pound.
There are wild foods to be had year round here in the Pacific Northwest. My diet is primarily vegetarian these days. Though I picked up a wrist rocket for a dollar at a garage sale, that occasionally adds protein to my meals. Cattails grow everywhere around here, and in it's many stages, is a constant source of nutrients. I highly recommend searching for a site like this one to familiarize yourself with local edibles. If/when the Golden Horde marches through this area, I expect most city dwellers to pass by these “weeds”, without giving them a second glance. Of the 55 plants on this particular page, I had previously only tried a hand full that I knew. Now there are only a few that I don't use regularly, either because they don't grow in my area of operation, they have digestive “side affects” or I prefer the flavor of others. A short note on “flavor”... While wild greens, grubs, and ground squirrels, can get you through a survival situation, they aren't always the most palatable for consuming day after day. Spice it up... a few basic spices can make the worst tasting gruel edible. I get my spices from the bulk food section of a local store. For the price of one pre-packaged little bottle of spice, I can get a variety of flavor enhancers. A few spices don't take up much space, and weigh only a few ounces. I carry a little with me, and have the rest in a few half pint jars stashed away in a secure location. The Ball company makes plastic (aka. non rusting) screw on lids. While not suitable for heat processing, they are air/water tight, and work great for storing dry goods.
In 2006 I was lucky enough to locate a south facing ledge approximately 12' x 30', which sits about 80' above a major highway, but is still 30'- 40' below the crest. I call it my “Garden Retreat”. With a sheer rock face above and below, my garden is still readily accessible by any surefooted mountain goat that knows the right route (a.k.a. me). There is a small spring not far away that gives me fresh drinking water and I can carry enough for the plants I am growing during the (very short) dry season here. Anything close to the edge that grows over waist high could be visible from below, but only if you know where to look. It has between 6” and 18' of top soil. I've been adding compostable materials and other amendments for three years now, and can easily produce 3-4 times the quantity of veggies I can eat. I use successive plantings, combined with intensive companion planting/intercropping, to get the highest yield out of the least work, and water. I go heavy on the root crops, because they keep longer, and often can be left in the ground until the rains set in. I've managed to assemble a couple of “cold frames” out of scrounged materials and old windows, to help extend my growing season. I can now have fresh lettuce in all but the coldest part of the year. Until I come up with better preservation methods, I'm using excesses as gifts, or barter.
Early this spring, I picked up (and rebuilt), an old bicycle. It has greatly increased my mobility, and extended my range. Now I'm gathering parts to build a trailer, to carry my tools.
Things have turned around for me. They may get bad again, or even worse, but I know that I will survive.
I've been sober for five years so far. I still don't know what God, or my wife have in store for me, but I will be ready. I haven't completely forgiven God yet, but it seems that he's forgiven me. I'm doing well right now, and have enough “extra” saved to purchase a prepaid cell phone. Another “luxury”, that will allow me to be more easily reachable/available for employment. If all goes well, I may spend this winter (or the next) indoors.
My advice to you?
  • Never give up.
  • No matter how bad things get... they could be worse.
  • Don't waste time pitying yourself.
  • Try to think clearly, and constructively. “There's work to be done!”
Regards, - Trashcollector
JWR Adds: Trashcollector's article was remarkable. It has earned him a special editor's prize, that will be dug up from the depths of JASBORR. His narrative reminded me of the same enterprising spirit that was shown by Sylvan Hart (a.k.a. "Buckskin Bill"), who lived a solitary life for many years in the wilds of central Idaho. I highly recommend the book Last of the Mountain Men, that documents Sylvan Hart's amazing life.


A lot of space on too many blogs is devoted to creating exhaustive lists of absolutely necessary (according to the author of same) gear that you must obtain to have even a slim hope of survival. While it might be nice to be a well-to-do über-prepper sitting in your fortified retreat atop your mountain of supplies, it isn’t going to happen for the vast majority of us. Not ever.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that many of these lists and the survival sites promulgating them have a negative effect on those people that are tentatively finding their way into the world of survival and preparedness. Many people are simply overwhelmed with the items and quantities they are supposed to obtain, and are defeated before they are fairly begun.

What follows is yet another shopping list. The difference is that this one is short, inexpensive to obtain for the most part, and fits in a backpack. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll survive, but it will shift the odds in your favour.

3 large contractor grade garbage bags (one clear plastic) - you can make everything from shelters to sleeping bags with these. The clear bag is for obtaining water by transpiration.

100’ parachute cord (or – 50’ cord/50’ nylon rope) - for tying stuff up or together…like a shelter.

Emergency space blanket - Get the heavier reusable version if you can.

Metal cup for cooking - Or a small aluminum pot, whatever works for you, plus utensils.

Water bottle(s) - a place to keep water you’ve treated.

Lighter + matches and fire starter/ tinder - multiple lighters, matches in a waterproof case.

2 candles - couple of tea lights, or some pink ladies.

Knife (fixed blade) - a good, sturdy, multipurpose blade. Avoid Rambo knives.

Whistle - a signaling device

Compass and Map - generally only useful if you’ve actually practiced using them.

Flashlight (or Headlamp) - I like the shake & charge flashlights or wind & charge types.

Med kit - Don’t forget your personal meds.

Disposable poncho - generally cheap and one use, but if you can’t afford better, get several. It’s easier to stay dry than to get dry.

Sunglasses - Surprisingly necessary in all seasons.

Sunscreen & insect repellent - Makes life merely miserable instead of unbearable in sunny & buggy locales.

Sewing kit - Take twice what you think you’ll require. You’ll wind up needing it.

Paper money and coins - Surprisingly useful in obtaining necessary goods, even in a crisis. Not infallible.

Multi-tool or Swiss army knife - Both if you can afford the money and weight, but one at least.

Can opener - Get a P-38 style one, nothing simpler or lighter out there.

Snare wire - Essential force multiplier

Flexible / collapsible saw - I like the collapsible saw option. Better all round, but more expensive.

Energy bars / dehydrated food - As much as you can afford and stuff into your pack. Look for high nutritional value and low weight.

Water / Water treatment - lots of options, from filters to chemicals - and you always have boiling as an option. Always carry or store as much water as practical.

There you go. If you’ve got that much in a back pack, and a back pack for each person, you’re likely miles ahead of the neighbours. You can add to it as you see fit, and expand your prepping as you are able to do so and see a need for. Do what you can afford, and don’t let the ‘professional’ preppers intimidate you and keep you from doing what you should do to be a bit more prepared.