Mar 28

Fire Starting Tinder Is Everywhere

Some of the best tinder for starting a campfire are the following:

Dead pine needles and branches, feathers on the ground from wild birds, an old bird’s nest,Birch Bark has an abundance of oils and is a good easy fire starter. Some mushrooms are good if they are dry and broken into pieces. The insides will burn easily. A good one is called the Horse Hoof fungus. It looks like a horse’s hoof. The black coal appearing fungus usually found on dead tress is also a very good fire starter. These small fungus’ can be transported a long way once they are burning and are used for starting another fire elsewhere. The American Indians used to carry them wrapped in a small leather pouch by the women for starting the next campfire.Thistle cotton from a thistle seed pod is also a great fire starting material.

You can make a nice torch by splitting a two inch diameter branch down from one end to about ten inches or so and jam several pieces of Birch Bark down into the split branch. Get as many in there as you can manage and once this is lit it will burn a long time.Each piece should be about eight inches by eight inches. Cram them down into the split in your branch and be amazed at now long they will last.

Did you know that a small pencil sharpener can trim nice shavings for fire starting by simply taking dried pieces from a branch the diameter of a regular lead pencil and sharpening the stick like you would a pencil? Those shavings are great fire starters. Also, dead dry leaves make good fire starting material. When dead trees are down and they have many branches still attached but obviously dead, these also make great tinder and lots of it. If you don’t have a fire starting kit, you should have one as part of an essential tool for making a fire. We don’t always have a lighter or matches.

I always carry a small bottle of cooking Olive Oil in a plastic bottle. This is one of the most amazing fire starters there is. It takes up very little room in a pack and weighs nearly nothing. There is nothing like a campfire to change a gloomy outlook into a comfortable and cheery one once a fire is going strong, especially if the weather is wet and you are soaked from it. Set up a shelter, get a fire going and get out of those wet cold clothes.

L Michael Rusin

Mar 28

A Slingshot, Powerful and Silent

Did you know that a good slingshot can launch a marble, a lead ball or a stainless steel ball bearing at about 300 feet per second? A projectile traveling at that speed can and will take down small game and can be used for protection in a pinch.Some can send an arrow to a target, and some can be fitted with a wire hold down devise that rests against your forearm and is part of the slingshot main body for the shot to be launched. I have seen them fitted with a laser aiming devise and they are pretty accurate. The next time you feel the need to have that something extra for protection in the woods or while camping, consider a slingshot and bag of marbles. They are fun for simply plinking with and can be a powerful defensive weapon when there is no other weapon that will keep you and an adversary at a distance. As with any devise used to launch a missile at a target, it takes a bit of practice, but boy is it worth it once you begin to hit cans at fifty feet with little effort.

I first used a slingshot as a boy. I got pretty good with one and was able to hit fence posts, telephone posts, tin cans and other stationary targets with ease. It takes practice, but it is worth the effort and that effort is minimal considering what you can do with a slingshot. I recommend you have one with your survival necessities. Every thing you can add to your arsenal is always going to give you an advantage over an adversary. You can fend off many wild animals with one in a pinch.

L Michael Rusin

Mar 25

How To Make An Age Old Water Filter

1909 book of household discoveries reveals how to make homemade water filters, another lost art.

“Take a new vinegar barrel or an oak tub that has never been used, either a full cask or half size. Stand it on end raised on brick or stone from the ground. Insert a faucet near the bottom. Make a tight false bottom 3 or 4 inches from the bottom of the cask. Perforate this with small gimlet holes, and cover it with a piece of clean white canvas.

“Place on this false bottom a layer of clean pebbles 3 or 4 inches in thickness; next, a layer of clean washed sand and gravel; then coarsely granulated charcoal about the size of small peas. Charcoal made from hard marble is the best.

“After putting in a half bushel or so, pound it down firmly. Then put in more until the tub is filled within 1 foot of the top. Add a 3-inch layer of pebbles; and throw over the top a piece of canvas as a strainer. This canvas strainer can be removed and washed occasionally and the cask can be dumped out, pebbles cleansed and charcoal renewed every spring and fall, or once a year may be sufficient.

“This filter may be set in the cellar and used only for drinking water. Or it may be used in time of drought for filtering stagnant water, which would otherwise be unpalatable, for the use of stock. This also makes a good cider filter for the purpose of making vinegar. The cider should first be passed through cheese cloth to remove all coarser particles.

“Or a small cheap filter may be made from a flower pot. A fine sponge may be inserted in the hole and the pot filled about as directed for the above filter. It may be placed in the top of a jar, which will receive the filtered water.

“Or a valuable substitute for charcoal in the above filters is sponge iron obtained by burning finely divided iron ore with charcoal. This can be obtained in the locality of iron mines or smelting furnaces. This is much more powerful than charcoal, and is said to completely purify contaminated water.”

L Michael Rusin

Mar 25

Building A Dakota Fire Pit

A Dakota Fire Pit is excellent for cooking over and can be used to heat a shelter when built properly. I will address that one for heating a shelter in a different posting.

What you’ll need to build this with:

A small camp shovel, a small folding pocket knife and a machete.

First, select a site that will be convenient to your campsite. You will want it out of the way as to not be an obstacle of camp activities as you come and go.

Dig a hole in the ground about twelve to sixteen inches deep and about twelve to fifteen inches across. Once your hole is dug, move off to one side of it, about sixteen to twenty inches and dig another hole about six or eight inches across and as deep as your initial fire pit hole.

From the main Fire Pit hole dig a horizontal tunnel connecting the two holes in a straight line.

Start a fire in the main Fire Pit hole and you are ready to cook with it.

When you are done using the Fire Pit, you simply cover it over with dirt and put it out.

L Michael Rusin

Mar 21

How To Make a Swedish Torch

Select a log about 36″ long by about sixteen inches wide and split it lengthwise in four long cuts. These pieces will then fit back together as they came apart. Put your pieces back together and secure the bottom about 12″ from the bottom portion with a piece of wire. Stand the log on end with the wired portion toward the bottom and slide several one inch sticks down the length of the log from the top. If you slide these sticks down about half way down the log it will spread the log apart slightly and will serve as a fire stop to prevent the fire you will set on top of those sticks from falling all the way down toward the bottom and into the middle of your log. Once you have your fire log prepared as described, place a handful of dry tinder down and rest them on the fire stops you have set in place. A cotton ball dabbed in Vaseline will help get the kindling burning once it is placed on top of the fire starting material in the center of the log. You can also use an Olive oil soaked piece of cotton as well. Once it is lit and burning well, it will continue to burn for hours. Several of these torches set in strategic places will keep a campsite well lit all night long.

I usually make sure the spot where I set them up is clear of any debris that might catch fire later, making sure I have encircled each one with stones such as we would use to set up a campfire fire pit. If the log falls over in the night and it is unattended, it cannot cause a secondary fire. I also recommend you do not set one of these up over an underground root which might continue to burn unnoticed long after you have left your campsite.

Mar 20

Cooking Breakfast Without Utensils and Pots and Pans When Out In the Woods

That seems a bit like stretching but here it is. You’ll need a paper sack, the size we used to use for our lunches. not real large. The kind that would hold a couple of sandwiches and an apple in the bottom of the sack. A couple of eggs, a few strip of bacon, a good campfire and a stick.

Coat the inside of the paper bag with grease from the bacon.

Simply wipe the fatty part of the bacon on the inside bottom of the bag.

Make sure you coat it thoroughly.

Then lay two or three strips of bacon on the bottom inside of the bag, making sure it is covered well.

Break two eggs on top of the strips of bacon and then roll the top portion of the bag several times down to close the bag.

It is important to cook this over a fire that has stopped flaming up. What you cook over are campfire coals. Take a stick, a green branch without any branches or leaves on it, sharpen the end and push this end through the rolled up part of the paper bag. Allow this to hang above the coals of the campfire for about fifteen or twenty minutes.


Clean up is, simply throw the paper bag on to the campfire coals to rekindle the flames.

Sep 09

Selecting a wristwatch for the Survivalist

Most of us take a wristwatch for granted. In this modern age they are relatively inexpensive to purchase, and many of us take them for granted.Of course there are the diehards who don’t put time in the proper perspective, but time is critical in a survival situation. Let’s explore some of the reasoning for this.

Most modern day wristwatches have not only the time displayed, but some of the more sophisticated watches have the day, date, month and the year on the face. Critical information for someone who is getting ready to plant a garden or to harvest it.

Many of the watches are battery operated. This is not good in a survival situation. Once the battery goes the timepiece is worthless. It goes without saying that spending a little bit more on a quality wristwatch that is either solar powered or self winding is what you want.

In a survival situation people will rely on proper timekeeping for every day chores. We will all want to know when it’s time to change Sentry duty, like the of time for cooking, sterilizing water by boiling, perhaps even timing labor pains. It will behoove all of us to know what time it is at any given moment. A wristwatch straped to your wrist is as convenient as it gets, and I recommend you invest in a quality wristwatch at your earliest convenience.


Jul 13

I9th Century Ice Harvesting and Preservation

Ice houses


Before in-house refrigerators, homes had ice-houses which were a separate building that ice was stored in.  They were usually located near natural water sources.

In the winter time, the houses were filled with this natural ice and then heavily insulated to keep the coldness in.

Often times the ice could last for many months before melting, and usually there was enough to last until the next winter came.  The owners of these houses could also ship out ice to people who did not have ice available to them.




Jul 13

Antique Farm Equipment

The Natural Farmer-Antique Farm Equipment – Fall 1999

By Jack Kittredge

Early settler and farm families in our region lived largely self-sufficient lives. The food, fiber and energy they

needed for subsistence were produced on-farm. The few items they could not produce were available locally on

a barter basis. This way of life has been captured in several historical museums in the northeast which specialize

in recreating life as it was in certain places and periods of our past.


These museums, such as Old Sturbridge Village and the Hadley Farm Museum in Massachusetts, the Farmer’s

Museum in Cooperstown, New York, the Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey, Coggeshall’s in Rhode

Island, Shelburne Museum in Vermont, Stonewall Farm in New Hampshire, the Maine State Museum in

Augusta and many more have collections of period tools and implements. These tools illustrate the cleverness

with which our forebears faced their daily tasks.


Frank White, curator of the Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) collection, has a degree in the classics and started at

OSV as an interpreter. The Village has space and staff to display only 10% of its tool collection during most of

the year, but does open the barn to the public during the special Agricultural Fair the last weekend of

September. Frank was kind enough to give me a special viewing, and discuss with me local agricultural tool-

making during the end of the 18th and first half of the 19th century.


Over the 50 years from 1790 to 1840, major changes occurred in tool-making. At the beginning of that period

tools were largely local. Metal blades or tips to shovels, axes, plows, etc. were either produced on-farm or by

the village blacksmith. The wooden handles were usually cut and shaped by the farmer. Implement designs

were largely regional. Plows used in Pennsylvania in the 18th century were different from those used in New

England or the Hudson River valley.


As the years passed, however, more tool-making took place off-farm. Patents for tools were filed by common

everyday people – local blacksmiths or mechanics. They were making tools on an everyday basis and saw ways

to improve them. By the late 1820s the New England Farmer Seed Store in Boston put out a catalog listing

seeds and various farm equipment. You could visit the store and take it home with you, or order from the

catalog and take delivery through your country store, which would have someone going to Boston on a regular

basis. By 1840 a comparable store opened up in Worcester, Ruggles, Nourse, Mason. Besides stocking

equipment made by others, they manufactured the cast iron “Eagle” plows which gained a national reputation.

Manufacturers like this had agents going to Pennsylvania or beyond, trying to sell their products. A plowmaker

in Hampden had plows in Texas, Louisiana, and the Midwest.


The OSV implement collection is particularly strong in plows, and Frank illustrates the changes in society

during this period from the changes seen in plowing tools. “In the early 19th century,” he relates, “one of the

most important changes in agricultural technology was that from wooden plows, ones which were locally made,

to cast iron ones – still with wooden beams and handles, but with cast iron share and moldboard and landside –

that were factory made. The wooden plows had some iron, usually a point and locking coulter (the vertical sod

cutting knife), but the moldboard was wooden, though often faced with iron.


“There would be a plow maker in the town – someone who was a reasonably skilled woodworker. Sometimes it

would be the blacksmith himself. But the plows were locally made. The advantage to that is that if you are on

limited means, as many farmers were, you could take your plow to the shop and have it repaired for an

exchange of labor or scrap iron instead of having to come up with cash. In the rural areas there wasn’t much of a

cash economy in the early 19th century. But in 1818 a man named Jethro Wood patented a plow with

moldboard, share and landside in three separate castings. With this plow you could replace the point when it

wore out or broke. In this area from the late 1820s into the 30s a lot of the farmers who could afford to were

converting from their wooden plows to cast iron ones. They were mass produced and as a result were much

more uniform than the earlier ones. The problem with cast iron, factory made plows was that you would have to

lay out money for them. And repair parts would cost you money as well. But by 1830 cash was more prevalent

in the region. A good farm worker might get a dollar a day for his labor.”


By 1830, White asserts, there was enough commerce in farm implements that a design would be patented and

then an iron foundry would buy the rights to cast those parts. Then a local plowmaker would go down to the

iron foundry in Hartford, get a load of castings, and bring them back. He would then make the wooden parts for

them and sell the plow. If you were a farmer you would buy directly from the plowmaker. If you wanted a

different plow you could go to your local store and order one, or go yourself to an agricultural warehouse like

the one in Worcester and buy one there.


Plow design became much more standard across regions, too, as time passed. Massachusetts plows were

popular in the Midwest and South. On prairie soil, however, the cast iron plows made here didn’t scour well -

the dirt didn’t fall off the moldboard. That opportunity was met by John Deere, a Vermonter, in the 1840s, with

his steel plow. Cast iron rusts, but in New England abrasion from the soil scours it to a shiny finish. In prairie

soils that doesn’t happen. Steel, which polishes differently, turned out to be the answer.


Other new implements had to do with processing corn and other grains. Corn was the biggest crop grown in

New England. It was grown for the seed, which was either ground into meal for human consumption or cracked

for animal feed. When you harvested your corn you would husk the ears by hand and then put them into a raised

shed to dry. Later in the fall when it was dry you would shell it. There were a number of ways to do this. You

could take a shovel with an iron tip, place it over the edge of a tub, and rub the ear of corn back and forth across

it. The kernels would fall into the tub. Or you could flail your corn on the barn floor. The problem with that is

the kernels scatter all over the place and you have to shovel them up, which isn’t very clean.


One of the pieces of equipment that became quite popular, according to Frank, was a corn sheller. There were

various kinds made. One, patented by Harris, was a simple device made in Vermont in the 1830s. It’s a matter

of two cast iron plates with teeth on them, one mounted on an easel, one with a handle. You put the ear of corn

between the plates and work it back and forth. This was produced for many years and there are a lot in

existence, so White believes it was reasonably effective. A smaller, bench mounted version just had nails in it.

That, too, was quite common.


The most effective corn sheller had large wheels studded with iron teeth. A hand crank drove the wheel through

gears. On the side of the box there were also iron studs, facing the wheel. You laid the ear in against the wheel,

turned the crank, it rotated the ear, pulled it down, and striped it clean. Some of these were made in small one or

two-man shops, like the one OSV has, which was made in Woodstock, CT. Others were made by larger



Another major introduction, which compared with the corn sheller, has to do with processing small grains.

Farmers didn’t raise much wheat here because they had trouble with rust and other diseases. The climate was

too damp and crop rotations weren’t customary, so the problem kept recurring. Finally they introduced resistant

varieties, which did better, but with the opening of the Erie canal in the 1820s grain prices plummeted and

farmers found they couldn’t compete with the wheat which came in from upstate New York. In the early 1800s,

however, farmers in New England did raise a lot of rye and oats.


They harvested small grains with a sickle, bending the stalks over after being cut for someone else to come

along to bind. In the late 1700s harvesters began to use a cradle, which is a scythe with an attachment of fingers

which catch the cut grain and hold it. Someone still has to put it into sheaves, but it’s a lot faster. The cradle was

common in the mid-Atlantic states and New York before coming here, perhaps because they raised more grains



After harvesting, farmers in southern New England threshed their grain with a flail on the barn floor. The grain

shattered and the stalks were separated out. By the 1830s there were people designing threshing machines,

mostly in New York and Maine where the crops were large enough for that.

But cleaning the grain still took a long time. You would pick it up, after removing the stalks with a pitchfork,

and put it through a riddle – a sieve with open latticework. You would shake it and catch the larger debris there.

Then you would take a winnowing tray into the barn when a wind was blowing, open both doors for cross-

ventilation, and toss the grain repeatedly into the wind so it would blow away the chaff. Eventually you ended

up with clean grain, but it was fairly labor-intensive.


So fanning mills, or winnowing machines, became popular. You pour the grain into a hopper, crank a fan in the

back which creates a draft in the box as the grain drops through a series of screens of different size. These

screens are connected to the crank so they slide back and forth as the fan turns. Your clean grain falls into the

bottom of the box in a tub. You could change the screens to those of a different mesh, depending on the size of

the grain you were winnowing. You could even winnow peas or beans.


There is evidence that fanning mills were actually first developed by the Chinese for cleaning rice. The idea

apparently was brought to northern Europe by people who had traveled in China. The mills were used in

Europe, and then moved to America via German immigrants, who used the mills in Pennsylvania and New

York long before they were popular in New England.


One more major improvement in 19th century farm technology had to do with dairying. Farmers were moving

from producing for their own use and for a limited local market to producing for a much broader market. Herd

sizes were increasing. Barns were getting larger. Butter and cheese were being produced in larger quantities on-

farm for shipment to market.


Refrigeration, of course, did not exist. Commercial ice-production was only beginning in the 1820s and 1830s -

Frederick Tudor started the business in eastern Massachusetts and found a market for ice, packed in sawdust,

shipped to the Caribbean Islands. But on farms ice-cutting didn’t become common until mid-19th century. There

were occasional ice cellars, and later in the century most towns would have an icehouse.


Farmers, however, needed to keep dairy products cool and relied on spring houses or underground storage. Salt

was used to preserve butter, which was made it in cooler weather (cheesemaking occurred when it was warmer).

Many people are familiar with the dasher churn – the one with a plunger in it – which the housewife or daughter

would lift up and down until the cream was made into butter. For larger quantities other methods were

developed. One is a barrel on a rocking chair base which could be operated with a foot while doing something

else. Others were hand-cranked, and there were a lot of different designs for mechanizing this process.


One interesting innovation, usually found in back rooms or dairy rooms, is the “dog power”. This is an endless

belt or treadmill, perhaps 5 feet long. A dog or goat or other small animal would be hitched onto it and trained

to turn the belt, which would turn a crankshaft driving a pitman rod that would operate a churn or some other

piece of equipment. Dog powers were used a lot in the middle to late 19th century and were available as early as

the 1830s. Larger versions of it involving horses or oxen drove thrashing machines, while balers were driven

with sweeps.


Once the butter is churned, the moisture still has to be worked out of it. This is usually done with wooden

paddles, working the butter back and forth while adding salt. You pour off the liquid every so often. OSV has a

butter worker – a one handled rolling pin which can be used to roll butter back and forth and work out the liquid.

You can change the pivot hole to get butter that catches in the corners. Later models had a hand crank and

gearing which drove a fluted roller in a rectangular trough to do the same thing.


When you make cheese you have to break up the curd. Several devices handled this. One is a multi-bladed

knife, another is a hopper with teeth and a crank. Later you have to press the cheese curds and drain the liquid

out. Some presses used a screw system like a vise, others used weights and gravity. But one problem they

encountered was that, as the water is driven off, the cheese gets smaller. Instead of resetting the screws a lot,

one clever device – called a self-acting cheese press – uses the weight of the cheese, amplified through levers, to

press it.


There are many other interesting implements in the OSV collection. One is a sausage grinder – similar to current

meat grinders except that it has wooden teeth. Another is a hay press, or stationary baler. They were quite rare,

according to White. You fork loose hay into the cabinet, crank the ropes tight with the windlass to compress the

hay to about half its size, and then pass cords around the bale to tie it off. Then you open the doors and take the

bale out. For transporting normal distances you would carry hay loose, in a wagon. But you would bale hay for

long distance shipment when space was at a premium. The OSV baler came from a farm in Connecticut where

they were shipping hay out on board ships. Larger, horse operated hay presses were in existence, Frank says,

which pressed up to 500-pound bales.


In the early 1900s cider was usually pressed in a large mill, which might be part of a large farm with an orchard.

Other farmers would come and have their apples pressed there and take the cider home in barrels. Of course it

got hard, and that is what cider was – unless it was hard they didn’t call it cider. Cider milling was a source of

extra income to the mill owner. The OSV mill is typical for the time, coming from a farm in Brookfield, New

Hampshire. The press bed is 5 or 6 feet square, and it has three large wooden screws.


The apple crusher has a ten foot trough which feeds apples to be ground up into large toothed cylinders. A horse

or ox was hitched to a wooden beam or sweep which drove the wooden gears of the crusher. Then the pomace

would be shoveledup and put into “cheeses” on the press – layers of crushed apples contained in layers of

folded straw. Several “cheeses” would be stacked on top of each other and pressed at one time.


Another OSV implement is the woodworking lathe. The lathe is driven by a foot treadle on which is mounted a

connecting rod that turns a large overhead wheel. The wheel, through a belt connection, drives a lathe spindle.

Blocks slide along two wooden bars paralleling the spindle to serve as stops and tool rests.


To find our more about the Natural Farmer, go to the NOFA Interstate Council website.

Jul 07

Pace count beads

Pace count beads are often used by Army Rangers, Special Forces and any forward Recon operative. It’s a tool usually constructed using a set of 14 or more beads on a length of cord. The beads are divided into two sections, separated by a knot. 9 beads are used in the lower section, and 5 or more beads are used in the upper section. There’s often a loop in the upper end, making it possible to attach the tool to the users gear with a simple Prussic knot. You can make your own or buy them at an Army Surplus or Survival Store.

How to use the beads:
There are two ways to use the beads. One is to represent the paces the user has walked, while the other is to represent the distance walked.  Both methods requires the user to know the relationship between the paces walked and the distance traveled.

Counting your paces:
As users walk, they typically slide one bead on the cord for every ten paces taken. On the tenth pace, the user slides a bead in the lower section towards the knot. After the 90th pace, all 9 beads are against the knot. On the 100th pace, all 9 beads in the lower section are returned away from the knot, and a bead from the upper section is slid upwards, away from the knot.

In this manner, the user calculates distance travelled by keeping track of paces taken. To use this method, the user must know the length of his pace to accurately calculate distance traveled. Also, the number of paces to be walked must be pre-calculated, or the distance travelled has to be calculated from the walked paces.

The distance walked:
For every 100 meters the user walks, one of the lower beads are pulled down. When the ninth of the lower beads are pulled, the user has walked 900 meters. The next time the user has walked 100 more meters, one of the upper beads are pulled down, and all the lower beads are pulled back up.

Using this method the user must know the number of paces walked in 100 meters. An experienced user can also adapt the pace count for each hundred meters depending on the terrain. When using this method the user doesn’t have to calculate, or look up how long distance to walk or the distance traveled.

This method can of course be used for non-metric distances as well, though with the beads arranged in a different manner.

Jul 07

Salt Curing Meat in Brine

contents of web page © Al Durtschi

Curing meat by using a salt brine was a widely used method of preserving meat

before the days of refrigeration. This is the way we cured pork in Southern

Alberta, however it would work for beef as well:

Recipe by Verla Cress (born 1940)

OK – Brine barrel filled half way up with 1 cup salt per 2 gallons of hot water

(that’s 32 parts water – 1 part salt), and a bit of vinegar -


BETTER - Brine Barrel filled 1/2 way with 5/8 cup salt & 3/8 cup curing salt per

2 gallons hot water, and a bit of vinegar.

Cut your animal up into ham sized pieces (about 10 – 15 lbs each).

Put the pieces in the brine barrel and let it soak for 6 days. Now that your

meat is salted, remove the meat from the brine, dry it off and put it in flour

or gunny sacks to keep the flies away. Then hang it up in a cool dry place to

dry. It will keep like this for perhaps six weeks if stored in a cool place

during the Summer. Of course, it will keep much longer in the Winter. If it goes

bad, you’ll know it!


Putting it in a brine barrel, filled half way up with 4 cups brown sugar to 3

gallons water – and a bit of vinegar (note: no salt): Inject some of the sugar

brine mixture into the already salted meat with a syringe, then put the meat in

the sugar brine for 3 days.

Remove the meat from the brine and smoke it for 3 days. Now put your smoked meat

into flour or gunny sacks to keep the flies away and hang it up in a cool dry

place to store. Smoked meat preserved like this should keep in the Summer for at

least 4 months if stored in a cool dry place. It will keep much longer in the

Winter, or if refrigerated.

Extract from

Leslie Basel’s


Salt, Sugar, Sodium

Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate.

Salt and sugar both cure meat by osmosis. In addition to drawing the

water from the food, they dehydrate and kill the bacteria that make

food spoil. In general, though, use of the word “cure” refers to

processing the meat with either sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate.

Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are the basis for two commercially

used products: Prague powders #1 and #2. Prague powder #1 is a

mixture of 1 part sodium nitrite and 16 parts salt. The chemicals

are combined and crystallized to assure even distribution. Even

though diluted, only 4 ounces of Prague powder #1 is required to

cure 100 lbs of meat. A more typical measurement for home use is 1

tsp per 5 lbs of meat. Prague powder #2 is a mixture of 1 part

sodium nitrite, .64 parts sodium nitrate and 16 parts salt. It is

primarily used in dry-curing.

One other commonly available curing product is Morton’s Tender

Quick. It is a mixture of salt, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate and

sugar. Ask your butcher or grocer to stock it for you.

[Where can these compounds be obtained?]

If you are chummy with a local butcher who does curing, maybe (s)he

will sell you a small quantity. Otherwise, the Sausage Maker offers

all items mentioned here. The Sausage Maker Inc./ 26 Military Road/

Buffalo NY 14207. (716)-876-5521.

© 1996, Leslie Basel


More Detailed Instructions:

This recipe was taken from a tiny home-made recipe book, “Remember Mama’s

Recipes.” It was put together by the women of the Stirling, Alberta, LDS

congregation back in the 1950′s.

Brine Cured Pork

100 lbs pork

8 lbs salt             (Note: 1 part salt to 48 parts water)

2 oz. salt peter

2 lbs brown sugar

5 gallons water


Mix salt, brown sugar and salt peter, add this to the water and bring the

mixture to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar. Skim off any scum that may form while

boiling after everything is dissolved. Remove from heat and chill until quite


Pack the pieces of meat into clean barrels or earthenware crocks, placing

them as close together as possible. Now pour the cold brine over the meat making

absolute certain the meat is completely covered. Put a board over the meat that

just fits inside the container and place weights on it to make sure that the

meat is emerged in the brine.       When curing larger and smaller pieces of

meat at the same time, place the larger pieces on the bottom and the smaller

ones on top. This is so the smaller ones can be lifted out without disturbing

the larger pieces. The small pieces do not take as long to cure as the bigger


The meat should be cured in a temperature that is just above freezing. If

the meat is cured at a warmer temperature the brine may show signs of souring.

If this should happen, remove the meat and soak it in lukewarm water for an hour

or so. Wash the meat in fresh cold water and be sure to throw out the soured

brine. Clean out the container, repack the meat and make a fresh brine in

original proportions.


Bacon sides and loins require 2 days per pound in this brine.

Shoulders will take 3 days per pound.

Hams will take 4 days per pound.

After the meat is cured the pieces should be soaked in warm water and then

washed in cold water or even scrubbed with a brush to remove any scum that may

have accumulated during the curing process.

Hang the meat by very heavy cords in the smoke house and allow to drain 24

hours before starting the smoking.

Hard wood is the best to use for smoking and the temperature in the smoke

house should be 100-120 degrees F. The ventilators should be left open at first

to allow any moisture to escape. Smoke until desired flavor and color is arrived


The Way We Did It…

As told by Glenn Adamson (born 1915)

We never had electricity or an ice house on the farm. Since we had no way of

keeping meat refrigerated, we only killed animals as fast as we ate them.

…Pork was our main staple. It seemed there was always a pig just the right

size to butcher. We ate more meat out on our farm than the typical family eats

now. In the summer, what pork we didn’t eat immediately was preserved. When we

butchered a pig, Dad filled a wooden 45 gallon barrel with salt brine. We cut up

the pig into maybe eight pieces and put it in the brine barrel. The pork soaked

in the barrel for several days, then the meat was taken out, and the water was

thrown away. We sacked a shoulder, a side of bacon, or the ham, which was the

rear leg, in a gunny sack or flour sack to keep the flies off. It was then hung

up in the coal house to dry. Quite often we had a ham drying, hanging on the

shady side of the house. In the hot summer days after they had dried, they were

put in the root cellar to keep them cool. The meat was good for eating two or

three months this way. We didn’t have a smoke house like some people had. But

what we had worked just fine. In the winter time when we killed something we

didn’t have to cure it. We’d hang it outside the house or somewhere else where

it was cold and it kept just fine. (We’re talking Canada, here, where it gets

really cold.)

My Uncle George Ovard told me the following story when I was just a kid: He had

put a pig in the brine barrel and when he went to take it out several days later

he only found half of his meat. This puzzled him somewhat, but he never said

anything about it. A couple of days later, one of his neighbors happened to stop

by and mentioned, “I hear someone took some of your pork out of your brine


Uncle George said, “Yes, but I didn’t tell anyone about it.” The guy had trapped

himself right there.

|| Walton Home Page || Old Timer’s Home ||

Al Durtschi, E-mail:

Home Page:

All contents copyright (C) 1996, Al Durtschi.

This information may be used by you freely for non-commercial use with my name

and E-mail address attached.

Revised: 17 Dec 98

Jul 07

Wood Gasification: A Renewable Fuel Option to Power Your Vehicle

Read more:

 Wood Gas: An Old Idea Reborn

Throughout the lean years of the Second World War, civilians in Europe — and, to a lesser extent, here at home — took advantage of wood energy to power vehicles and drive stationary engines. (See How to Run Your Own Car on Wood.) Today, the concept is just beginning to enjoy a new wave of interest as a result of excessive gasoline prices … and Steve and Lois Nunnikhoven — of Oakville, Iowa — are among the people who are re-pioneering wood-powered vehicle research.

The husband and wife, you see, run a small woodstove manufacturing business and offer delivery service to their customers … a practice which used to cost the firm hundreds of dollars in transportation expenses each month. So, to ease their “gas pains,” the couple decided to investigate alternative fuels … and were surprised to find that energy from wood — in the form of vapors produced under controlled burning conditions — could indeed power a vehicle and would require a minimum of engine modification. After doing some research, the Nunnikhovens fabricated a wood-gas generator for their delivery truck … and they’ve been using the vehicle as a working “guinea pig,” to test performance and various designs, over the past several months.

Here’s how the Iowa couple’s wood gasification system operates: The wood scraps — pieces ranging from one to five inches on a side — are contained in a four-foot-high, 18-inch-diameter hopper with one-eighth-inch-thick walls. The chamber is sealed except for an airtight fill lid and an adjustable intake draft control. Inside this drum is a cone-shaped stainless steel hearth that’s ventilated to allow interior convection. From the hop per a gas outlet pipe connects, in series, to a drop filter and a centrifugal canister. Then additional tubing routes the fumes through a water vapor separator and on into the engine compartment … where they’re fed into the carburetor’s breather shroud through a manually controlled air mixer valve which regulates the amount of “atmosphere” in the blend for a proper ratio. (The Carb’s butterfly valve then governs engine speed, as usual.)³
Read more:

The producer gas is formed under conditions of high heat and controlled “respiration.” As air enters the generator, the solid fuel within the hearth burns, releasing carbon dioxide and water vapor … and at the same time “manufacturing” a hotbed of charcoal in the base of the generator. The gases are then drawn by engine vacuum through the glowing carbon coals, where a destructive distillation process breaks down the CO² and water into carbon monoxide and hydrogen … a mixture which — along with nitrogen, a small amount of methane, some unconverted carbon dioxide, ash, soot and water vapor — forms the final “gengas” fuel. Of this chemical potpourri, only about 45 to 50 percent is combustible … and some components (notably ash, soot particles and water vapor) must be filtered out to prevent poor performance and possible engine damage.

After the gaseous fuel is “scrubbed,” it’s mixed in a roughly one-to-one ratio with fresh air and used directly in the engine. The Nunnikhovens opted to set up a dual-fuel (gasoline/producer-gas) arrangement for convenience. To do so, they simply installed a solenoid-operated shut-off valve in their truck’s petrol line, and rigged it so that the switch stops the flow of gasoline to the carburetor whenever the air mixer valve is moved from the full-open position (which, of course, is always the case when the vehicle operates in the “gengas” mode).

You Get What You Pay For

The Hawkeye Staters’ earliest experiments confirmed their expectations that the wood-fueled vehicle wouldn’t have quite the get-up-and-go that it did in its gasoline mode. (As near as they can figure, between 35 and 50 percent of their original power has “gone up in smoke.”) On the other hand, they couldn’t be happier with their fuel bill (which is pretty close to zero, since the pair can cut or scrounge much of the wood).

But even if their fuel were purchased at the market price of $100 a cord, or roughly 3 cents a pound, Steve calculates that the timber equivalent of one gallon of gasoline (20 pounds, or a five-gallon bucketful of scraps) would cost only about 60 cents! The economical nature of the fuel — coupled with the fact that an entire woodburning propulsion system can be put together for about $100 in scrounged parts — certainly makes the idea of “poplar power” look mighty attractive.

Potential Drawbacks of Wood Gasification

Read more:

Besides the loss of “zip” (the effect of which can be somewhat eased by converting an older, overpowered, large-displacement, high-compression engine to wood fuel and advancing its ignition timing), there are other disadvantages to gengas fuel. Obviously, a producer — gas generating unit — with its wood supply — is going to take up more space than does a standard gasoline tank. Also, because of the nature of the fibrous hydrocarbon energy source, scheduled maintenance — especially on the filter systems — must be frequent to prevent engine damage. But probably the most important fact to be aware of is that the gaseous fuel produced by the burning wood is 20 to 28 percent carbon monoxide … which can be deadly if allowed to leak into the vehicle’s passenger compartment or a closed garage. (Of course, the same poison is present in the exhaust fumes of gasoline engines.)

Nevertheless, if the proper precautions are taken and the system installed carefully, there’s no reason that high “octane,” relatively clean-burning wood gas can’t be a practical substitute for petroleum fuel. (In fact, MOTHER’s researchers are so “fired up” over the idea that they’re designing their own apparatus to be used on one of MOM’s pickups, and we’ll be sure to cover that in a future issue!)
Read more:

Jul 06

72 Hour Kits For the home – from the Mormon (LDS) Emergency Preparedness Manual

The objective of the Family 72-Hour Emergency Preparedness Kit is to have, previously assembled and placed in one location, all of those essential items you and your family will need during a 72-hour time period following an emergency. When an emergency occurs you will probably not have the luxury of going around the house gathering up needed items, especially if you have to evacuate your home on short notice.

Take time now to gather whatever your family needs to survive for three days (72 Hours) based upon the assumption that those items are the only possessions you will have. Store these kits in a closet near the front door or some other easily accessible place where they can be quickly and easily grabbed on the way out the door.

Pack all items in plastic Zip-loc type bags to keep them dry and air tight. This will prevent a liquid item from spilling and ruining other items in your kit and keep rain and other forms of moisture away from the items stored.

Keep a list of the dates when certain items need to be reviewed, especially foods, outgrown clothing and medications so that they may be properly rotated.

Emergency supplies are readily available at preparedness and military surplus stores.

Fear may well be responsible for more deaths than exposure, hunger and injury combined.

Realizing you have fears and that these are normal emotions in unfamiliar situation, you will be aware of them and better able to cope with them as they appear. Fears can be expected in any outdoor problem situation. Fear of the unknown and fear of your ability to cope with the situation will be foremost, along with a fear of being alone, darkness, suffering, or death. Fear is  usually  based on lack of self-confidence and lack of adequate preparation and experience.  Knowledge and experience(practice sessions), will help to instill confidence and help to control fear.


The container you choose for your kit must be waterproof, have some type of carrying handle, and must be able to be carried easily by family members. The following are good containers: backpack, beltpack, suitcase, polyethylene plastic bucket, duffel bag, trunk or footlocker, plastic garbage cans.


Advised amounts of water for a kit vary. Professional Consultants recommend a minimum of two quarts per day for each adult. However, a person can survive quite well on less, and the load of carrying six quarts of water with a pack is great. Outdoor survival course veterans agree that a two-liter bottle should be adequate. Water purification tablets or crystals need to be a part of each kit. Refer to Emergency Water Supply for treatment methods and information on portable water filters.


You should include in your kit a three-day supply of non-perishable food. The food items should be compact and lightweight, in sealed packages. MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) are a good choice because they require little or no preparation. Freeze-dried foods are lightweight but require extra water in your kit. Canned goods are heavy with extra refuse. Plan nutritionally balanced meals, keeping in mind that this is a  survival kit.  Include vitamins or other supplements, if desired.

Possible foods for a kit might include:

· MRE’s

· snack crackers

· hard candy

· dried fruits

·instant oatmeal

· powdered milk


· bouillon cubes


·instant rice/potatoes

· dried soups

· gum

· granola bars

·instant pudding

· powdered drink mixes

Also include a mess kit or other compact equipment for cooking and eating. A can opener

may also be useful.

Jul 03

A Great Recipe and Blend for Chicken Feed

There may come a day in the near future when “Preppers” will be growing their own food. Chickens will offer you a good source of protein. Especially if you have children to feed. They need protein to grown strong bones and healthy brain cells. They will provide meat, eggs and a source of supplemental food for a farm animals such as a dog or cat. Three hens and one rooster will have you producing meat for the pot in short order. The following is a great all around and well balanced feed for chickens:
makes 100 lbs.
60 # yellow corn meal
15 # wheat middlings
8 # soybean meal
3.75 # fish meal
1 # bone meal
3 # dry skim milk
2.5 # alfalfa meal
.4 # Iodized salt
6.35 # powdered limestone
Mix all together and store in closed covered container.

As this is dusty add a small amount of water to what is removed for feeding , as a binder. Do not add water to all of it as it will not keep as long.


Jun 29

Emergency Drinking Water Treatment

Where would you get water if none came out of your tap?  Most people take good water for granted, but if an emergency disrupts your normal drinking water supply you may to have to find your own.  If you drink unsafe water you will soon be spending most of your time and energy treating sick people, including yourself.  Water from ponds, lakes, streams, rainwater runoff from roofs, dirty snow, wells that have been flooded or damaged or municipal (city) water systems that have been damaged or polluted MUST be treated to make the water safe to drink.

Questionable water must be treated by boiling or through the use of chlorine or iodine products that you may have in your home.  If the water has gasoline, oil, antifreeze, soap, detergent, pesticides or other poisonous chemicals in it, you cannot drink it at all.  You will have to find another water source.

To make water safe to drink you must first remove as much of the solid stuff from it as you can.  You can pour the water through a coffee filter, or several layers of clean cloth, like a towel or t-shirt.  You can also strain the water through a bucket with small holes in the bottom.  Put a foot of compressed clean dry grass or straw or six inches of clean sand inside and press it down so that the water cannot flow around it, but has to flow through it.  This will remove most of the solid stuff so you can more safely treat your water.  Change the grass or sand at least every other day.

BOILING WATER  If you have fuel then water for drinking, cooking and washing dishes can be boiled.  This will kill all harmful bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that can make you sick.  Any food container that wont melt can be used, but large cooking pots work best.  All water should be brought to a rolling boil (lots of breaking bubbles) for at least one minute.  (High altitude:  For every one thousand feet above sea level you are at, add one minute to the boiling time.)  If you are going to drink the water, let it cool first.  The water will taste “flat” so it may taste better if your pour the water from one clean container into another, or shake it vigorously to put some air into it. Keep the water in clean containers or it will become contaminated and need to be boiled again before you can drink it.

CHLORINE  If you have plain, unscented, uncolored laundry bleach you can use it to disinfect drinking water.  For every gallon of clear water add eight drops of bleach, stir well and wait thirty minutes before drinking.  If the water is cloudy or cold then double the amount of bleach (16 drops) added to the water.  After the thirty minutes are up you should be able to faintly smell the bleach in the water.  If not, add eight more drops, stir and wait another fifteen minutes.

If you have a swimming pool, hot tub, or jacuzzi and have dry chlorine you may be able to use it to disinfect water.  Read the chlorine container label carefully.  Calcium hypochlorite should be the only active ingredient and nothing else.  If so, make a disinfectant solution by mixing one-half teaspoon of the dry chlorine into 2-1/2 quarts of clear water until it is dissolved.  Don’t drink it, but use one cup of this solution to disinfect five gallons of clear water.  If the water is cloudy or cold, use two cups in five gallons.  Stir well and let sit for thirty minutes before using.  When the time is up, the water should smell faintly of chlorine.  If it doesn’t, add another cup of solution, stir and wait fifteen minutes.

If you don’t like the smell or taste of the chlorine let the water sit open on the kitchen counter overnight or pour from one clean container into another until the smell is gone.

IODINE  If you don’t have bleach, but do have tincture of iodine you may use it to disinfect water.  The label should say that it is “2% US Pharmacopoeia (USP) strength”.  Add eight drops of iodine to every quart of clear water, stir and wait fifteen minutes before using.  If the water is cloudy orcold, add eight drops and wait thirty minutes before using.

WARNING:  DON’T drink water treated with iodine if you are pregnant or have thyroid problems.  Anyone with a weak or suppressed immune system should use only boiled water because they can get diseases that healthy people will not get from iodine or chlorine treated water.  Snow should be melted first in clean containers before using it as a source of drinking water.  If the snow is dirty, disinfect it using one of the methods mentioned above.


Jun 06

Is Hiding A Cache’ Good Survival Practice?

You decide and tell me.

You cannot telegraph to anyone that you are armed as you head for your retreat. Up close where most confrontations take place and a hand gun will suffice is usually adequate. Handguns can be hidden from view when you are traveling without anyone taking undue notice of you. Out and away from the city you might be in a position where a long gun will be better suited for the job. Anything past 25 feet is getting into shotgun territory and then rifle after that.

You cannot go armed in plain sight particularly with sub-machine guns because they are illegal to have unless you’re a law enforcement officer or a military type. So, rather than have these types of weapons in our homes or with us, we bury them for later when the law keepers will be busy doing other things and not be focusing their attention on us as we are driving by. The last place you want to be as the Balloon is going up is in a jail cell because you were seen riding through town with a rifle on your back. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 06

Starting A Camp Fire Made Easy

Did you know a small bottle of cooking oil will get a fire pit full of wood  sizzling and blazing in short time? Simply put your initial kindling sticks in a tee pee configuration with some dry flammable (a small amount fire starter, about as big as a softball), material under and in the middle of your sticks which form the tee pee, such as dry pine needles, pour a half of cup of your oil on the center pile and a single match will get the whole thing blazing in a matter of minutes.
Be careful to not overload the initial fire. Let it get going well and add pieces of wood in progressive larger diameters as the fire is building. You’ll be warming yourself in no time at and around a cozy campfire where the conversation is easy as the fire building was.

Jun 04

A Beginner’s Survival Library

I’ve already discussed the importance of a good Survival library.  In fact, with an adequate one, you can pretty much take care of everything else.  I I consider it be the primary asset of any Survivalist or Prepper.  As I said, I realize that’s cheating because you’re never going to have just one book. The books would have to have a wide spectrum of “How To” things such as building, food preparations, cooking, canning, preservation methods and growing food from seeds. What kinds of animals could I raise that would provide food for the pot. It is one items although a comprehensive item of a well thought out and rounded survival plan.

Where do you start?  Here’s a listing of about 40 books, by topic.  I’ll provide an annotated top ten in the near future.  Nothing fancy here… just the title (links will be added soon), and the publisher.  If you do plan on buying them, consider using the SPS store to help us better serve you in the future.


Joy of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer & Marion Rombauer Becker Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 04

The Innovator’s Corner

“The Innovator’s Corner” is a collection of short snippets of innovative ideas for the Survivalist out there.  Eventually it could be a collector’s accumulation of handy little hints to make a camping or other outings easier and more fun.

You’ll also find innovative way to re-purpose things for personal use and fun!

Jun 03

Preparing a “Get Out of Dodge” kit.

First of all everyone should keep in mind that you and the people you have decided to group up with must always stay in contact with each other at all times. E-mails are good and so are telephones. Your main people should have scanners and even if you don’t have an Amateur license, you should have SW radios, additionally, everyone should have scanners/two way communication transceivers at all times. You should meet regularly; you should practice both as a group and individually about heading for the retreat when the time comes. You’ll know when that time is, believe me.
When you talk to one another, you should use code. There a few good books out there that can teach you different codes, but in case you can’t find one, try this method: Pick a book that everyone will have. Pick a page in each book and use the first letter of the first word of different paragraphs, or you can do sentences. Any method you adopt will work as long as you are consistent about it. Count the words and the paragraphs so everyone understands where exactly you are spelling from. As long as everyone is on the same page you can spell out what you want to say and unless someone knows the book you are using they can never break your code. [Editor: You can find an example of this in the first chapter of Rusin's book, Avalon]

I have always recommended certain words for specific events. Emergency could be Read the rest of this entry »

Older posts «