Posts Tagged ‘basic survival’

I checked out the video Stay alive! a guide to survival in mountainous areas from my local library.

Random comments after watching:

  • According to the host, Preston Westmoreland, if you have ever heard the idea that you could add whiskey to water to clean the water than that is not true.  Ummmmm, I have never heard that, in fact if one googles adding whiskey to water what one discovers is that most feel this is a waste of good whiskey.
  • The video visits with Peter Bigfoot, which is awesome because I really like that guy.  Bigfoot covers the edible plants of the desert.

July is the best time to eat Saguaro fruit.

  • Peter also eats the hedgehog, he mentions it is better with salt,  hey that’s what I saidThe hedgehog cactus might be a quarter of its size in summer.
  • Some plants are poisonous for some of the year and then not poisonous for other parts of the year.  Great.
  • 90% of prickly pear plants are poisonous, yikes, only eat the fruit, that was the next plant I was going to try so I am glad I watched the video first.
  • Mesquite is the “mother tree” of the desert.  He does not elaborate on why it is the mother tree.
  • To clean water use 2 drops bleach per quart.
  • If one ever needs to make a fire to signal for help while stranded in the desert, the black tubing in your engine makes for good black smoke.
  • Thank god tube socks are out of fashion.
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Thank you Tommy Cannon for showing me how!

As part of my research on how I should spend my vacation time, I have been checking out what survival schools I could sign up for.

The one I ended up settling on is the Ancient Pathways’ Complete Survivor class near Flagstaff, AZ. The class covers edible plants, deadfalls, snares, and game preparation. What I am most excited about is making jerky, I love jerky! Who doesn’t? (I mean, besides vegetarians. Sidenote: How do you find a vegetarian at a cocktail party? Don’t worry they will find you. ) At first the cost for 4 days of instruction seemed a bit steep but looking at other survival courses it is not so much. I have to get a hunting license for the class.

There are other options out there.  Here is what I have found so far:

Cody Lundin in Prescott, AZ is famous from being on the cover of Backpacker magazine, Discovery Channel, and Dateline NBC which has also added to the tab for his courses.   If money was no object I would take his Self-Reliance Symposium class, 7 days at $1790 which covers all sorts of stuff, and prepares one for living off the grid.

Another good option available for folks in AZ is the Reavis Mountain School, run by Peter Bigfoot.  The prices are more reasonable.  I took his wild medicinal, edible and useful plants class a couple of years back and enjoyed it.  Over many years Peter has experimented with about every type of plant one could find in the Superstition Mountains.  Years of trial and error (and he has plenty of error stories) made it so he knows what each plant’s nutritional and medicinal uses are.     My favorite quote from the weekend was someone asked “Peter, what plant confused you the longest?”  His answer, “MJ.”

He also has classes on “off the grid” living and other survival skills.  Bring your own coffee, he doesn’t believe in it.

Another local is the AZbushman.  I have not taken any of his classes, but I really like his videos on youtube.

The person probably best known in the United States for wilderness survival skills is Tom Brown.   For example he was the technical advisor for the film The Hunted starring Tommy Lee Jones.   His Tracker School has the longest list of classes, but his website could use a little work.   It was tough to figure out which classes were actually happening.  Plus the classes are in New Jersey, which I also find a little funny.  I figure I should take classes in AZ, because that is where I will be when the SHTF.  Wikipedia has a good links of articles he wrote for Mother Earth News.

I ended up going with the Ancient pathways because their site does not emphasize one man.    Wilderness survival should be about how anyone can do it, and by empasizing one person detracts from this in some subtile way.  Plus I am a little jealous of how manly all their names are.  My parents told me that they were going to call me “Adam” and my grandmother responded, “What?!? Adam!  As in Adam and Eve?  What else you got?”  In the moment of panic they said “Kevin”.  I think I would have been taller if they had stuck with Adam.

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Above: Kindling I tried to use at my first attempt and building fire with two pieces of wood.

Neil Strauss has already wandered deep down the rabbit hole I am currently exploring.  Many of the same conclusions I am reaching (for example how we are more likely to help rather than hurt each other when the SHTF)  are chapters in his book, Emergency: This Book will save your life.  While I have been exploring what one would need to know when society crumbles for the last 4 months, he spent 3 years doing this and wrote a book when he was finished.

If one is looking for a practical “How to guide” for surviving the end of the days then this book is not for you, perhaps How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times is a better choice for that.   But if one is looking for a journal of how goes about learning how to prepare or one wants to reflect on the lessons learned while prepping then this is a book worth reading.

Since reading it I have caught myself a couple of times thinking when blogging “Is this my observation or Strauss’s?”    He killed a goat, learned how to make a knife, was instructed on how to respond to a disaster, cooked a fish and survived a wet night in the woods.  However, these things he did are not as valuable to the reader as his reflections of what conclusions one reaches when one does these things.  For that reason, if nothing else, it is worth reading.

In the meantime, I am going to take a least one of his specific recommendations, which is to take a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class.

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Above:  A recent shot taken of the hedgehog.

The hedgehog cactus I ate about a month ago seems to be doing fine.  However, several people have told me the cactus I ate had yellow needles not because it was the wrong cactus, but because I ate one covered in coyote pee.

I did not have a lot of success with my experiments over the weekend. On Saturday I dug a shallow bath-tub size hole, put six handfuls of weeds in the hole, and covered it with clear plastic. This was my first attempt at a solar still.

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Water did collect on the bottom of the plastic, but did not drop into the collection device.  On the next attempt, I am going to put more weeds in the hole, and try to tap the plastic before I remove it. 

I was also unsuccessful at rubbing two sticks together to start a fire. I think I failed for two reasons. One: I was feeling very lazy having just dug the hole for the solar still and only tried for like 3 minutes. Second: My drill was pine. The drill has to be harder than the fireboard.  So I am going to keep my eye out for a good hard drill.

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I did however gather or make all the other necessary ingredients  for my second attempt: different types of tinder, a fireboard, and a coal catcher.

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The weekend was not a total wash, I was succesful in one thing. I successfully melted wax in the solar oven. I figure this is a good way to recycle the nubs of used candles to make new candles.

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Update: The cactus seems fine. I went back the next day, and then a week later. I plan to go again this weekend. The plant before looked like it was drying from that branch, but the root looked firm. The overall plant has about 9 spears. At this point, I suspect it will be fine.

I also learned that the hedgehog I ate had yellow needles because of coyote pee and not because I ate the wrong plant.