Psychlonic's Survival and Frugal Living Thread

PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
edited December 2011 in Life
Hello all, for as long as I can even remember I've had a pretty big fascination with survival and the idea of living off the land with zero support from civilization as we know it. In the past two years or so, I have started to take this far more seriously and have been in the experimentation and learning process. I frequently learn and practice new ideas as I come across ones I see fit for consumption, so I figured it might interest some of you to read my successes and failures as I happen upon them. I am by no means an expert but I'm learning.

To start with is a trip I took around the end of July that I posted at another website but seeing as survival was far from the forum's point you might be more interested than they are. I add lots of personal thoughts you may or may not agree with, but they're there for the consideration.

So this trip was something of a "survival sim" I went on with a buddy we'll simply call "Yeoman". He's somebody I practice survival skills alongside of and we like to get out into the woods from time to time to test what we've learned. In this case, we went to a high desert region with a nearby river to see how well we'd fare with relatively minimal supplies. He had an ALICE pack half-full of stuff and I carried my LBV and a small 72 hour pack behind that. Worth noting is that neither of us had a shelter or sleeping bag, we would have to make our own.

For the most part we carried similar load outs even if they appeared different. We both had compact mess kits to cook and eat with, fire starting materials, first aid kits, water carrying apparatus, knives, change of clothes and cordage. The bare bones essentials if one were to try to leave for a long term period. He also had a .22 rifle and I opted to gimp myself and only carry a machete.

When we arrived at the general area we'd be surviving in, the first thing we did was stash my vehicle off road and cover it up so nobody could see it unless they were up close. Afterwards, we got a quick and general feel for our surroundings. At the base of everything was the road we came on and a river next to it. The river was really the foundation of life in the area. Just above, igneous rock faces, sparse dead grass and juniper trees. Very hot and dry. Yeoman hated it but I liked it. I used to hike around in that terrain as a kid. In this high desert region, there were actually draws that came down the mountains with water in them, and these channels had some greener grasses, willows and other useful plants and plenty of animal tracks. Yeoman wanted to press up the mountain further in hopes there would be more evergreen forestry as that was more of his forte but there really wasn't. Just a few areas with scattered pine trees then back to more of the same.

After wasting time persisting on trying to find forestry, we hiked back down to the river. At this point we're still both carrying full packs and I'm close to putting my foot down and directing the entire event as we still have nothing - no shelter, no food, no camp in general and it's already mid-day. So we reach the river and decide to fill up the largest aluminum pot from my mess kit with crayfish. This actually turns out to be fun and easy, we ended up finding a calm, shallow spot where they were simple to catch. With the pot half full along with a random snake we killed to try out as well, we retreated to a dry bed of the river to start a fire and make lunch. Yeoman actually wanted to camp there but I refused and actually it was a somewhat odd request from him. The ground was nothing but rocks, we were surrounded by steep embankments, and the area would get cold and swarming with bugs. Not to mention the obvious flood risk. Not happening.

So we got a fire going with drift wood (I used a lighter because at this time my primitive fire making skills were useless) and boiled the crayfish. I had some dried juniper berries and pine needles from the mountain above with me, so I grinded the berries and added them for a touch of flavor then set the pine needles in my canteen cup, covered them in water, and set that next to the fire as well for pine tea. I firmly believe in using every advantage possible in the wild where unfortunately Yeoman does not. You're not always going to get an animal and you need to keep your strength up. Plants are invaluable and should be taken advantage of IMMEDIATELY, not after you're already desperate. They provide vitamins, minerals, and in some cases even fats and proteins. I'd go so far as to say that at times, it's almost easier to be a vegan in the woods than a meat eater but if you do get meat, it's a big bonus and great morale booster.

So back to the crayfish, we ended up chowing down on that. Now, they can taste good but in this case they were pretty damn bland. And the snake was just plain shit. Boiling up the fish at home in some garlic and butter makes all the difference in the world. In the future, I'll pull the meat after boiling and mix them in a pan with other ingredients to make a more flavorful fry meal. Now I know what the manuals all say. Do this, do that, it's really spartan and bare bones. TV shows sort of send that idea across too, there's never really MEAL preparation, just eating what you can as you go. To this I say "Fuck you!" There is nothing wrong with making a nice, warm meal and it's a massive confidence booster when you're out there to know that you just ate something that was balanced, delicious, and can be done again if you need to. Even ancient stone and copper age humans knew better than to try to survive like so-called survivalists try to - they took the time out to prepare a meal and create rations from whatever meat and flours they could get their hands on. Going on another tangent here but seriously: look to the natives/aborigines as well as ancient cultures for survival information, not bros who have the luxury of a support system all the time. /rant

After the crayfish and tea, Yeoman and I found a nice willow stand from which we cut several poles. We decided we would make our camp up in the high desert in a ring of junipers we had found earlier which would shade the area in the day and make fortifying against wind easier. Carrying the poles up the hill was NOT an easy task but one we got them there we knew we made a good decision. We split the poles between us and set out to make willow bed frames. This was simple enough as we both had pre-made cordage. Afterwards, we took trips to the channels running through the area to gather smaller willow saplings to weave into our frames for a full bed. Note that these channels didn't have large trees so we would have never gotten the large poles from them.

After the frames were completed, I decided to get a small fire going and boil a pot of water as we were running low. I added more pine needles for flavor. Note, I almost always do this because making a simple herbal tea like this still hydrates you but also adds a small amount of flavor and vitamins. In this case, pine needles give you a slight amount of sugars and a huge vitamin C boost. It's a good pick-me-up to draw from your canteen!

With the water going and being sure that our fire couldn't get away and cause problems, we set off for an evening hunt with Yeoman's .22. We were hoping for small game of any sort, rabbit or squirrel, but didn't see anything except a deer which he didn't want to take for legal issues. Meanwhile, I was being counterproductive to myself and smoking dried mullein I had plucked earlier in the day.

Unfortunately, the time wasted hunting unsuccessfully meant a couple things. First, despite the heat of the day we weren't going to have much insulation for when it got colder tonight. Second, we were both hungry and shit out of luck. And this brings me to the last of my useless commentary - once again I don't care what the shows, manuals, or bros try to say. While water is the most vital thing and shelter definitely helps if it's freezing cold, most of the time the absolute most vital thing is FOOD. There are very few places and situations where you cannot get to drinkable water. Food, on the other hand, can be very evasive. Just pick up a history book and look at what most failed parties died from. Ship crews reduced to eating shoes and drawing straws to see who they'd eat first, pioneers reduced to cannibalism, ones who didn't find ANYTHING and died from starvation - NOT dehydration. Unless you an idiot trying to survive on K2 or Everest, your mind needs to be constantly focusing on where to find food. This is not to say the other points aren't essential, they are and they shouldn't be overlooked by any means, I'm only saying that you're going to find food to be your biggest struggle.

So we froze our asses off on a rather restless night. Even next to the fire on our beds and wearing all the clothes we had available, it was still just barely too chilly to get a good night's sleep. I think we both managed around 2 hours of sleep if we were lucky.

At the first hint of light I said screw it and got up. I wasn't going to get anymore sleep. I drank some pine needle tea for a boost of energy and set off to check out more of the surrounding areas. While the high desert provided water, medicine, and some other useful plants, it just didn't have shit for food unless we got an animal but I didn't want to bank on Yeoman getting something because like I said, you need to be ahead on your diet. I wanted to go back to the river and harvest as many plants as possible. So I went back to camp and suggested we go there. He grabbed his rifle in case we saw something worth shooting and I took the pot to get more crayfish as well.

Down at the river I found a huge ally: cattails. The entire plant is useful, everything from the roots right up to the pollen on top. Yeoman found ducks on a river bend but they swam away before he could get a clear shot off. As he tried to chase them down, I found myself disassembling the cattails. I removed the heads and shook the top most yellow pollen into a container then set the brown fluff aside. Then I pulled the shoots and set those aside as well. Finally, I dug out the roots with a sharp stick. Yeoman refused to try any of them, but I ate some of the young inner shoots immediately then put the rest in my pack to fry up with crayfish later. I also bundled the roots together and tied them to the outside of my pack so they'd dry out faster. The roots can be dried and turned into a crude flour or they can be boiled and eaten to the same effect as potato. Starchy energy, and not bad tasting either. I kept the fluff too for insulation.

We went back to our crayfish hole to catch another half pot full to boil up. This time we boiled them near where we caught them and pulled the meat out to set aside for my fry meal idea. I chopped up a few shoots and roots then added in some pollen to thicken everything and added this to a couple of my small pans - one for each of us. Then we split the crayfish meat and set them inside of the pan along with some of the back fat they had. We each fried up our pan of food ate enjoyed. This was decent to begin with, but on an empty stomach it felt like winning the lottery. Very good.

After splitting a canteen cup of pine tea between the two of us, we headed back to where I found the cattails to see what else I could find. There were a lot of bull-thistles that have edible roots if you're really desperate. They're hard to prepare and not all that tasty. But I also happened upon nettles which I snatched up instead. I could add the rest of my pollen to the pulverized leaves that evening and make a simple nettle pudding to enjoy. So at the very least, we had all of this to keep us fed for the day even if Yeoman still insisted on eating meat 24/7. Though I'm not going to lie, some roasted red meat sounded REALLY good at that point.

We headed back to camp to organize everything and properly set up our beds to sleep better that night. We essentially spent the rest of the day fortifying camp completely. We weaved more saplings into our beds to make them almost solid but still springy, then set aside the cattail fluff to set under us that night for insulation. I personally dug out a hole under my bed as well to place hot rocks. We then surrounded our beds with willow and juniper-based heat reflecting walls, leaving only the fireside area exposed.

Lunch was frugal - Boiled cattail root and raw shoots with rose hip tea. We both weaved extremely crude mats from the main cattail shoots I had as a base layer then gathered as much dry grass as we could from the area. These were our "blankets" to have over us at night. When the sun was on the verge of setting, we went on another unsuccessful hunt then came back to camp for the night.

After a preparation of nettle pudding and the last of my cattail roots, I puffed some dried mullein before going to bed and even got Yeoman to try some to help sleep. Sleep was much, MUCH better that night. I set a hot stone under my bed and covered myself with my mat and grasses. We still had the fire next to us as well and it was very warm and comfortable.

Day three was more of the same. Boiling tea to keep us hydrated, failed hunts, crayfish and plant matter. Yeoman and I also managed to catch a few small fish. We set a busted screen we had found at the bottom of a shallow where the fish kept swimming around and baited the center with crayfish. The screen had cord coming up out of it so when fish were above the screen, we could yank it up out of the water, catching the fish in the process. They were small enough that all we did was chop the head and tail off, gut them, and cook them whole, eating them like you would a sardine. To be honest, they tasted like shit. But it was food and we got another good night's sleep.

We left the next morning, smelling heavily of juniper trees and campfire. Overall, it was a great learning experience. If I knew then what I know now I could have taken advantage of more things as well. There were a lot of plants by the river that had died whose seeds could have been ground into a flour. It would have been awesome to have been able to make a really crude flat bread ration during the survival sim. Not being able to get red meat was also a huge letdown as I was going to try to smoke a portion of it into jerky. Yeoman's unwillingness to adapt really sucked too, but I think that if someone were to go into that area and immediately set forth to making a good, warm, sturdy home then start preserving as much food as possible, they could survive the winter. Large game WAS there, we could have taken a deer down. So in a real situation I feel pretty good about the chance of living indefinitely there, especially now that I know more.

IN THE NEXT POST: Utilizing the grains and starches from weeds around my house. Uses, thoughts on processing, and ideas for the future.


  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    So today I spent a couple hours basically doing Farmville in real life. I picked 2 5-gallon buckets worth of apples from my trees and still have countless available. Later I'll sort them by quality. Ones with wormholes and faults will be set aside for cider and vinegar, while the "premium" ones will be reserved for making into juice and apple chips. I'm also going to set some aside for making apple yeast starters for experimentation purposes. If successful, this might go towards an all natural cider, ales, and maybe even bread that I make from natural harvested grains.

    Speaking of those grains, I gathered several massive bundles of amaranth to later process into flour. This is in addition to previously harvested yellow dock seeds and lambsquarter. The latter of which has already been stone ground into about a gallon of flour while the yellow dock seeds are still awaiting winnowing and milling. I've also learned that the amaranth grains can be malted, meaning I can make legit amaranth ale. I've previously made malt-less ales from ground ivy, deadnettle, and lambsquarter leaves as the bittering agents but this should be a treat. I may even further decide to make a smoked ale in true old school fashion.

    But the cool thing is that all of the above three grains - yellow dock, lambsquarter, and amaranth - is that they're good both young and old. The young leaves of all three make exceptional salad greens while the seeds are good for their own purposes. In fact, back in August I fixed my girlfriend a meal made entirely from surrounding plants including yellow dock cakes, lambsquarter and common mallow salad, boiled cattail roots, and nettle pudding.

    Another young/old type of plant I found growing were wild oats which I'd like to harvest later and turn into a flour as well. On top of this, I discovered nettles STILL growing that I'll probably snatch up for ales and later cordage making experiments as well as mallows with the seeds drying out. Another to-do task is to gather mallow seeds and roast them for storage.

    I ended the second hour doing some rock hounding when I happened upon some red jasper that I took back here. It makes a great knapping material for arrowheads and blades, plus makes great primitive drill heads and a suitable striker for fire steels.

    On top of all of this, I'm also planning to later harvest more lambsquarter seeds and cattail roots to make into even more flour, gather still more apples, and I might even see about hacking down some excess lilac and seeing if I can't get a few straight pieces to cure over the winter time for wood working projects. Finally, I'd like to gather as much mullein and mugwort as I can before they wither and die for smoking blends and the later for use in alcoholic concoctions. There's also some dandelion still in bloom around here which I've contemplated picking to make wine, a task I performed already back in March, but as the result was less than stellar compared to most of my other wines I'm not sure I want to this time or not.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Yesterday I cut down the remaining lambsquarter and amaranth in the area then set those in a shed to dry out before they're threshed, winnowed, then milled. I also collected some more red jasper for projects. Finally, I collected a huge bundle of smooth brome grass to see how easily the grains can be used in those.

    These had incredibly rigid, hollow stems that actually cut my hands in a few places as I was taking them down so I decided to cut a few lengths of these for something I had been wanting to do for awhile now: make darts for use in a blow gun with zero man-made materials necessary. Brome grass leaves are also long, thin, and very tough. I slathered these in birch resin from a nearby tree and used the resulting sticky tape to attach a bunch of bull thistle down for fletching. Finally, I sliced some thorns from young hawthorn trees to fit into the other end of the brome stem and glued them into place with more birch sap.

    The resulting dart is very tough, sharp, and accurate. The hawthorn... thorns... are fairly dense and hard, but will probably fail if shot into hardwood more than a couple times. Soft targets are no problem though, as would be small game. Future additions to the "set" I intend to make for these include a wooden dart gun and extract of hemlock, possibly other alkaloids depending on availability.

    Pictures available at any point if wanted, by the way. I just can't be bothered taking them while I'm out doing stuff normally.
  • Darth BeaverDarth Beaver Meine Ehre heißt Treue
    edited October 2011
    This is all very interesting I am glad you decided to update it.
  • MeloncholyMeloncholy Regular
    edited October 2011
    Bugger. I read this yesterday and manually searched most of the plants individually. Should have waited for the update :facepalm:

    I'd be interested to know more about the flour and any tips you have for making it (and maximising the amount of usable flour you get; picking all those seeds seems a laborious task, I would want the as much as possible in return). Also, any field recipes you'd recommend for using it in?

    PS. You have already inspired one person with this thread - I made some pine needle tea for the first time ever this morning. It was surprisingly flavourful. One point I have: it sounds like you were letting the water boil whilst the needles were already in - I read elsewhere that boiling the water whilst the needles are in it (or pouring boiling water directly onto them) can denature some of the vitamins. It's better to bring the water to the boil, take it off the heat and then add the needles. More nutritious, and the same principal as chefs tending to steam veggies rather than boiling them I presume.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    This is all very interesting I am glad you decided to update it.

    If you don't have a problem with some back to back posts I'll happily update as I plug along. I try to spend a couple hours of my day doing something productive outdoors so updates are going to be fairly frequent as long as my internet doesn't die for whatever reason. I would edit posts but new posts keeps the thread cleaner IMO and is a better indicator of updates.

    Processing the grains is usually a three step process and one that was surprisingly difficult to hash out from information on the web since very few people today in the developed world can be bothered. The grains or seeds need to be threshed, winnowed, then milled and in that order.

    Threshing is the process of getting the seeds or grains off the stalk. Lambsquarter, amaranth, and yellow dock seeds can all be easily taken off by grabbing the stalk at the base, closing your hand, and sliding it towards the tip so that all of the seeds are forced off. Amaranth can also be sort of winnowed at the same time by grabbing the grain heads and rubbing them between your hands so that the seeds just fall off. You can also stuff as many stalks into a heavy duty garbage bag as possible and batter it so that all of the seeds fall to the bottom. Use your hands to rough up the sides of the bag and work your way down. This usually ruined my bags from stalks punching through in a few places but was the fastest method. Traditionally, this was done by laying all of the stalks on a flat surface such that you can beat the seeds off of the stalks with a flail and collect them afterwards. At home, a tarp could be a good solution to this. Afterwards what I was doing was running the seeds through screens so that all of the dried leaf matter, stems, and bullshit like that would be caught and filtered off leaving almost entirely grains at the end. It's still time consuming work but if you work at a good pace you can probably fetch a maximum of 10 liters of seeds (whole with chaff) in an hour. Of course, it depends on the plant too. 10L/Hr can be expected from amaranth or lambsquarter, maybe yellow dock but it's not as common to find huge patches of that. I haven't processed the brome grains yet but I can already tell that will yield far less and I have a feeling the same is going to hold true for wild oats, rye, and barley mostly because the hulls are far tougher which is going to bring the processing to a crawl during winnowing.

    Winnowing is the process of removing the chaff from the seeds or grains as it's often inedible. It's not bad for you and can be ground, but it's indigestible fiber. Some is good but leaving it all is going to really reduce the caloric content of the end product, it might not be a huge deal but I reason that the whole point is to make energetic foods. What I do is go outside and simply rub the seeds between my hands so that the chaff comes off from a good distance above my collecting bucket. Even a slight breeze will blow away most of the chaff and leave the heavier seeds falling into the bucket. It's not perfect, but it's relatively fast. You just scoop up a handful of grains, rub, repeat. Might be a bit monotonous for some.

    Milling is crushing the seeds and grains into flour. How fast this goes is really dependent on your equipment. It can be as easy as dumping it into a home steel or stone mill and turning an arm while flour spews out, or it can be as laborious as finding a huge flat rock and making sure it's relatively clean and dry then having an appropriate grinding stone to pound with. Or worse, having a peck and grind your own mortar. Certain hardwoods could offer a decent base for this. I processed my first lambsquarter using stones to pound it into flour and while it wasn't awful, it still left me deciding I wanted a good commercial individual-sized mill for the house.

    The biggest "tip" I can offer in the process is to use ingenuity whenever possible. I firmly agree with the idea of getting the most back for your efforts. None of it is particularly hard work per se, just time consuming.

    As far as recipes go, my experience actually cooking with the flours still are minimal. That comes next. I've cooked with cattail flour before and the yellow dock flour. Cattail flour has a very potato-like taste so if you like them, a simple flour and water batter to make potato pancakes would go well with some chopped greens and bitter fruits (maybe rowan?) as a sort of "salsa" to go with it. Yellow dock has a nutty taste to it, I tried making "dock cakes" and while they made an edible food that didn't fall apart in the pan I didn't think it tasted especially good. So whatever kind of doughy food you can think up that would taste good with a nut flavor I guess. Most of them should probably work as dumplings in a stew as well.

    I'm planning to try making a multitude of items soon, I touched on wanting to make an apple yeast starter to make complete breads from several of the grains. Hard tack made from them is also on the to-do list. I'll probably try tortillas and other flat bread ideas as well. I'll write up on how those go as I make them. Eventually one of my goals is to be able to make a crude stone oven in the wild and bake hard tack and simple breads without modern convenience. Again, I'll update on successes and failures in that.

    What you say about the needles is actually true and in fact true for pretty much any plant matter as far as I have learned. I mostly did it to minimize my time around the water pot so that it was ready as soon as I considered the water drinkable. Not only is this a matter of nutrition but it kills off the taste a little when you bring it to a boil. But there's still nutrition and still a very distinct lemony/pine taste going on. If you ever get into wine making, the process of making a must to ferment is very similar to making a massive amount of tea. The idea is to simmer at lower temps, not boil.

    Quick mini update before I finish here. Just a bit ago I gathered about a pint of mallow seed pods. Rather time consuming and I think they would fall into either luxury or last resort as the gain from time spend picking is minimal. Now I'm getting ready to go out and gather some dried juniper berries to place into a second-hand pepper grinder I picked up specifically to run dried herbs through for the house. These give a sharp spicy flavor after the resin dries in the berries that compliments red meat well and can help spruce up dishes in the wild where nothing else might be available.
  • Darth BeaverDarth Beaver Meine Ehre heißt Treue
    edited October 2011
    We never mind updates of great info to good threads bro.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Back on the 14th I threshed and screened the lambsquarter I had set out to dry. The amaranth wasn't quite ready so it's still drying. I also threshed the brome grass and so now I just need to winnow and mill it, although I might instead leave the grains whole as they're long and use them as one would rice. The stems were saved and set aside so I could use them for more darts later.

    In the time since the last post, I also collected the juniper berries as I planned but for whatever reason none of the nearby trees had dried old seeds underneath (they usually do) so I had to pick fresh ones and set them out to dry instead.

    Playing around with plants got old sometime after that so lately I've been practicing making bow drill fires and using old flint and steel methods with the red jasper I found. I've been focusing on the bow especially lately after a previous "test" where I started a fire out in the rain at night starting with nothing but a shoelace and a knife. This took me two hours to finally get a friction fire going and sustained to the point it wouldn't go out mostly due to lack of dry wood. I'd like to shave the time down as much as possible, and improving in ideal conditions is a start.

    As for flint and steel, I'm playing with various tinders to see what can catch a spark aside from the two main candidates: charcloth and tinder fungus. For one, we don't get tinder fungus around here. Second, charcloth is great but I almost never carry it so the chances of me starting with pre-made charcloth in a survival situation is scarce. What we DO have around here is mullein which normally makes excellent tinder but for flint and steel methods not so much, being so brittle when dry and incapable of fuzzing at the end to catch the spark. So, what I'm going to attempt is to make a sort of "char mullein" experimenting with both leaves and pith from inside the stems.

    I've read that the pith also makes a good fire piston tinder which I also want to play with since my last attempt at making a fire piston was a flop and when I make a new, improved one I would like a reliable tinder to use it with that isn't charcloth. Main reason being that fire pistons from what I've seen are extremely picky about their tinder, to the point that a lot of survivalists don't even seem to consider it a useful device and it's a valid point. On paper, the fire piston seems perfect. Very minimal effort. However, piston seal maintenance and tinder woes really hurt it. So what I want to see is if it can be redeemed by using readily available materials to everyone regardless of location to make a tinder the piston will like.

    I'm planning to make a good piston made from wood with a smoother material inside (probably just piping) to test this at a later date, with the cylinder design also being useful as a bow drill spindle as a redundant fire making method. I'm also trying to sort a way to create a cap that can carry a small chunk of flint and include tempered steel somewhere on the design that can be struck against. Wrap some string around the cylinder/spindle that can be used for a bow to drill with, and this could make a triple-method primitive fire starting device that takes up very little room and weighs little as well.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    After a debate with a good online friend of mine about the usefulness of a hatchet vs a hefty machete like a kukri and realizing that I didn't have a good kukri to make an honest comparison, I set out to make my own:


    This is only a couple hours into it, leisurely hours at that. I have a lot of work to do on the edge and the saw portion. Everything is intentional and built to perfect preference, from the sawback to the angle to the "lump" belly on the edge. I'm not saying it's best, but they're features I like and that's why they're there if you think that they should go.

    Overall length will be 18", the steel is 1/4" thick so it's nice and beefy.
    I set a piece of wood that will later become the handle on it as a sort of mock-up, here:
    (don't ask why a pentagram is burned into the fucking wood, I honestly have no idea who did it)

    When this is completed, I'll pit it against my favorite hatchet in a battery of tests to see what's more worthy of being carried through the woods around here as carrying both just doesn't make sense. "There can be only one."


    By the way, worth noting today are a couple survival experiments I've had going for awhile now. Back in May last year, I baked quite a bit of hard tack and as time has passed I eat a chunk every now and then to see how it ages. The hard tack is not being preserved in any modern way, it's simply shoved into some tin foil to keep light off of it which is when shoved into an unsealed ziplock and sitting on a shelf. Best I can say is that the reputation is well deserve. The stuff simply does not age, it tastes exactly the same it does today as it did the day after I baked it. I know this is documented many times over, referenced, and even in history but I had to see it for myself. I can attest that hard tack is a very simple survival ration that will last ages without needing any special storage conditions.

    Also of note is some biltong that I prepared back in February. It was made using simply salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar then placed inside of a crude cardboard "biltong box" to dry for a few days. I dried it a little more than one usually would for a tasty biltong, but the idea was to test it as a survival food. The biltong was then shelved in similar fashion as the hard tack and I've been observing it as it ages and eating pieces of it every so often. Earlier I tried a piece and while it was certainly dry and rather salty, it was still perfectly edible and hadn't gone rancid.

    The tests are still continuing so we'll see just how long the biltong will last before going bad. None the less, lasting from February until now is saying something. If you had salt and vinegar, you could store this over a winter and survive. If my planned apple yeast starter works out and I can make an all natural apple cider vinegar, I may try to find a way to gather salt in my area and thus make biltong from local game and without modern convenience. Chances of things becoming so desperate in all reality are slim, but it's still cool to say that you made something and NOBODY else had a hand in it.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Just about finished with the kukri now, I'd probably be done if I took it more seriously but I'm spread thin at the moment over life and projects.

    I need to re-sand the blade nearest the hilt where I reground it a little and then she'll be ready for hardening, tempering, polishing, and final furniture fitting. Then the competition test.

    Right now I'm pretty happy about it and am thinking about making a matching camp knife with a somewhat short blade to pick up the fine tasks the kukri struggles with. I might see about stitching up a leather sheath in the future too.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Alright so the kukri is on hold for a bit while I get back to the fun stuff. Today I've delved into a subject I had been neglecting and that's trapping. While I've had a theoretical knowledge of most varieties of traps and snares, my experience applying them was minimal. The first thing I did was construct a quick and dirty figure-4 deadfall just as a refresher since I've made these before. Then I decided to whip up a quality Ojibwa bird trap of the spring sapling variety. Picture here. Someday when I get really bored, I'll make one and drill the hole using my bow drill as would be proper, but today I simply used the power drill to see how well it works. I'll deploy later and hopefully take out a magpie. A Paiute deadfall is also on the list of things to make today and deploy, maybe I can land a rabbit with it.

    Magpies are pretty nasty tasting from what I hear - no surprise - but if I catch one I may cook it up anyways just so it's not a total waste. The bird trap took me about 15 minutes to make while I tried to figure it all out, and I think it might take roughly the same amount of time now in the field to make them now that I know what I'm doing but also limited to the bow drill. Of course, this is not including the time it would take to manufacture a decent drilling spindle for this purpose which could take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on what's around. Either way, this seems like it could be a good method of trapping to use after a couple days in an area and you're not already starving. Spend the morning constructing and the afternoon deploying, check before nightfall and take any catches, then check again later in the next morning.

    Perhaps tomorrow I'll spam an area with a wide multitude of traps and snares. An area where people nor pets are liable to enter. I realize some people may not enjoy the thought, but this isn't something I do all the time for fun - this is a one-off experiment and all catches (unless they're diseased) will be used in full.
  • Darth BeaverDarth Beaver Meine Ehre heißt Treue
    edited October 2011
    You are just a busy beaver my friend.
  • edited October 2011
    If biltong starts getting mouldy on the surface it can be washed off with salt water and if dried again quickly will be fine. Salt and vinegar will certainly go a long way towards preserving it for longer, if not making it taste a bit worse. Nutritionally though it's just as good. It's like aged, hard cheeses. The 'harder' the food item is, the longer it takes the mould to penetrate it. It must be said though that if you can't eat mouldy biltong without getting sick, you're not really South African ^_^
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Yeah I remember the story you told me about when your dad made biltong but it molded so he just washed it off and sold it anyways haha. That stuff definitely seems pretty bulletproof. Sometime soon I need to smoke some meat, I've heard that in general smoked meat won't last as long but I imagine with a thick layer of it and sitting long enough to get really hard, it's still going to be robust.
  • jehsiboijehsiboi Kanga Rump Ranga
    edited October 2011
    On your thing about making yeast out of apples ... You can literally grab the yeast out of the air in your kitchen ... An old head chef of mine gave me the method I can post it if you like once I find it.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    I have a method in mind I was going to use, but yeah man I'm always cool with learning more ways to do something.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Alright so today I got off my ass and accomplished a few things.

    First, I gathered a relatively huge amount of apples - 20 gallons. Tonight I'm sorting them and might even get some fruit leather and apple chips going. Cider, vinegar, and yeast coming up soon.

    Second, I threshed the amaranth I cut a long time ago. To my dismay, they hadn't dried much because of the recent frosts and thus moisture in the air. I decided to get this out of the way before it got any worse. The yield from this stuff is pretty amazing though, they're loaded with perhaps even more seeds than the lambsquarter plus have more uses. Win/win. The chaff is also even lighter than that of lambsquarter so winnowing this stuff will be cake. I obtained just under 2 gallons of seed + chaff from a garbage bag full of stalks, I'll probably end up with about a gallon of usable flour from it. Either way, I'm completely done threshing for the year so I'm happy about that.

    Finally, I deployed several Ojibwa bird traps. While the spring sapling version is cool and more portable in ready-to-deploy form, I found myself a lot happier with the heavy rock version that uses the stone's weight to cinch the snare and catch the bird's feet. It also requires only one piece of cord instead of two. Thus, most were made using this method instead of the sapling. For bait, I smashed a few apples and smeared the perch and pole tip with that and then pressed a bit of amaranth grain into the "sauce". It's a bit late now but with some luck the morning birds will swoop in and take the bait tomorrow morning.
  • SpinsterSpinster Regular
    edited October 2011
    I'v always wanted to make one of those but never had the patience. good on ya.

    Do you get into making bows and arrows? I use to enjoy making them as a kid
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Spinster wrote: »
    Do you get into making bows and arrows? I use to enjoy making them as a kid

    In fact, I've got some juniper and apple staves I cured throughout the summer specifically for this purpose. I'm wanting to make some proper bows but keep putting it off. I need to make a tillering rack but I basically have everything I need - the staves, leather cording, means to steam bend, arrow shafts, feathers, and obsidian to flake some heads out of. But as I haven't made a proper wooden bow, a part of my mind is a little intimidated by the process even though I can probably do it just fine. I've made lesser willow and softer wood bows for messing about and fishing but that's it. I'm planning my first to be a cord-backed juniper longbow. Paleoplanet has been a big inspiration and source of information on the matter. I've also got a great PDF on the subject I've just uploaded for you guys because it's very in depth, well written, authored by a legit outdoors expert, and can sometimes be otherwise difficult to find on the internet:

    The Art of Making Primitive Bows and Arrows (MediaFire)

    Since I'm posting, I might as well state that I've sorted the apples mentioned above and ended up juicing about 2 liters before becoming frustrated with my crappy ass juicer and sliced up dozens of other apples to set on the dehydrator. Note that in a survival situation, you can just sun dry the slices on a screen or heat them over a bed of coals/smoke them as you would meat. As for obtaining cider juice, I'm planning to make a press eventually anyways but I'd prefer to just juice these for now since I don't have the material on hand for the press. Hopefully I'll find someone willing to lend me a juicer that doesn't suck tomorrow and I can continue that process for cider, regular juice, and vinegar.

    As you might have also noticed, I haven't mentioned the kukri for awhile. It's still hanging around just waiting to be tempered. I'll get around to that... eventually.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited October 2011
    Well... I caught a quail this morning. :D I put on a leather glove as it was flailing around against the pole, grabbed it and quickly cut her head off. After I took the snare off her feet, I set the body aside and went in to grab a knife. Dressing the body was pretty easy, most of it just involved ripping the body apart with my hands and exposing the meat. I set the tail and larger wing feathers aside for fletching and other projects them cut off the breast meat along with some of the legs and wings. Not being a survival situation, I opted to simply toss the rest of the body. In hindsight, I probably could have made some cool wilderness gadgets from the bones but oh well.

    The downside is that even those fatty quail don't have a lot of meat on them, they're just not large enough. I cut the meat into smaller pieces and put it in a frying pan with a bit of the fat (there wasn't much on that body) along with some wild greens and chopped baby carrots. Made a decent appetizer for REAL breakfast which I need to eat as soon as I'm done posting this. Tasted pretty damn good, like the highest quality chicken cuts do.

    With the Ojibwa bird trap experiment a success, I'll take down the remaining poles and try something to snag a rabbit next.

    In other news, the apple processing is still coming along. I've got several big ziplock bags filled with apple chips and a few big pieces of fruit leather wrapped in wax paper. I'm also accumulating a few gallons of juice although I haven't really began the process of really tearing into my stores for juice yet. As is, the flavor is excellent. Hopefully I'll get some good cider out of the deal and thereafter good vinegar. Also on the to-do-soon list is another batch of biltong.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited November 2011
    The past week has been mostly more of the same. I'm planning to build my crucible to heat my blades within the week and get started with my axe vs. kukri test. I've also winnowed my amaranth and have been playing around with the seeds before I mill most of them into flour. Learning that they could be popped like popcorn was really amusing although I could never seem to get them all to evenly pop without some burning.

    Snow is here where I live finally and so some tests of skill are in order. I need to go out and test my firemaking skills sometime in an area where most everything is snow covered. I may attempt to carry only a knife and string as I have some new ideas about making a bow drill, base board, and usable tinder and kindling somewhat efficiently. Also on the to-do list is to find a good standing dead juniper to cut down, split in half, and make cross-country skis from it to mess with in the snow. I'd also like to play with making willow snow shoes and other assorted winter goodies. In short, the goal is to thoroughly enjoy this winter and make it a learning experience and that's what I'm going to start working on immediately. Hardship isn't a setback, it's an opportunity.
  • Darth BeaverDarth Beaver Meine Ehre heißt Treue
    edited November 2011
    When I get settled in Panama I am going to import totseans to my compound. You are on my list....
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited November 2011
    What brings you to Panama?

    Tomorrow I finally get some free time to play around again so I'm going to chop up a small canister and get that heating and tempering out of the way. I've also discovered a location filled with scouring rush that I plan to harvest and dry out for primitive craft projects as it makes a good final touch sandpaper. I'll also do some exploration in the area and possibly come back with a fun story. Finally, tonight I sliced up some meat cuts and have a couple batches of biltong marinating which I'll hang to dry tomorrow. Teriyaki beef and venison.

    If time allows, I'm also going to bust out my existing bow drill and practice fire making a little in this colder weather. I'm also going to see about scouting around for some fatwood, juniper berries, rose hips, and perhaps any seed or nut bearing trees to forage while the foraging is good. Gathering rowan before all of the berries fall off of the trees might be a good idea as well. Simple rowan jam is excellent on red meat.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited November 2011
    It's been a good weekend.

    First off, all of my knives have been hardened, tempered, and assembled. They're finished. The kukri and companion knife turned out excellent and they're going with me on my next camping trip. I submitted the kukri to a battery of tests against my tomahawk to see if it was worth packing around and it did exceptional. The only thing it couldn't do as well as the tomahawk was split log rounds for firewood. This is a non-issue to me because it still does the job well enough by batoning and I don't even have a good folding saw to carry about for cutting rounds anyhow. If I have a chainsaw, I've probably also got a splitting maul. What it DOES do surprisingly faster is actually chop through poles, logs, and other assorted pieces of wood. The kukri can take out relatively large wedges of wood per two swings when used right and the rounded belly enables me to unlodge the blade quite effortlessly in the event of sticking.

    Today I gave it a field test. We had heavy snow last night so I went out and unburied a small pine pole. After chopping a section out of the middle, I shaved off the outside with the kukri and began to scrape shavings onto a dry patch of dirt. This was way, WAY easier with the kukri as opposed to field knives which I normally use. After I had a large pile, I quickly turned the rest of the piece into a giant fuzz stick. The good news was that there was some pitch in the wood so lighting this would be cake. I took a dry pitch piece and really fuzzed it up finely. This was surprisingly simple even with the size of the kukri and the finesse required for the task.

    Then came the bow drill. I brought everything required with me so I kind of cheated. I already had the bow, socket, spindle, and baseboard ready to go but at this point I was just having fun. The kukri already proved itself in my opinion. I got a coal going on top of the fuzzy pitch flake and blew on it until I had flame. This flaming piece was then set under the rest of the shavings until the whole pile took off. Bear in mind that I was mostly just messing around so the giant fuzz stick was the only ready firewood I had. Normally I would have spent a good hour preparing wood to sustain a fire. That said, I enjoyed the nice, small fire amidst the snow that I had just made. Stuff like that really makes you look back to times when you would have struggled at the task or even failed and yet on this day it came so easily. When the fire died down I buried the site in snow and left.

    In other pursuits, I gathered more juniper for spice as well as filled a gallon bucket with rowan berries. Rowan trees are all over town here as people love them for decoration. I asked a guy who had one if he wouldn't mind me filling my bucket and after giving me a funny look and myself having to explain why and how some Europeans still traditionally pick rowan berries in the fall he was cool with it.

    While I found a few bushes loaded with big rosehips, I didn't have the carrying capacity to pick them so that'll have to wait again. I'm wanting them for wine primarily but I'd also like to make some jam.

    One thing is for sure. I'm ready for another survival simulation.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited November 2011
    The past week has been fairly uneventful as most of my free time went into knife making and personal studies. However, I did make a massive improvement on my primitive fire making skills with the bow drill. I learned the Egyptian bow drill method and it is in my mind the definitive bow drill method that should always be attempted first. The only possible time this could not be used is if your cord was just a little too small, but chances are that if you have enough for a regular bow drill, then you have enough for the Egyptian technique. It's a very simple adjustment that can potentially save tons of energy because it stops cord slip and greatly removes the chance of the cord riding the spindle until it slips off the end.

    I followed this video's instructions to learn how to do it:

    If you ever want to give the bow drill method a try, I HIGHLY recommend just going with this. There's absolutely no downside to it and it's better than conventional. Cord slip wastes huge energy and if you're close to a smoldering coal and for whatever reason your cord starts slipping at the final stretch when you're really going into it, it's extremely frustrating and tires you out.

    I've also found that white poplar bark makes an excellent tinder for making a nest. There's a large poplar outside of my house and quite a few down at the city park I was able to collect discarded bark from for this purpose. It's a rewarding feeling to get a fire going by primitive means and I enjoy practicing regularly now. The Egyptian bow drill just made it even more fun because now I barely breathe hard when I get a coal going. It's purely a matter of skill now.

    Semi-related to the frugal living aspect of this thread, I also picked up a 12V electric motor that turns easily for use in a wind turbine. It was free and bound for the junkyard, but when I tested it out it worked so I held on to it.

    Edit - I just made some rowan jam. I'm not sure what to think of it. It's sweet but it's got one hell of a bitter bite afterwards. I tried it on pork and it wasn't bad. Maybe it'll be better on red meat with some spices.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited November 2011
    I'm trying to find a good time to go out and do the survival simulation, in the meantime I've been messing with my equipment. I found a discarded external frame recently that I ghetto'd onto an Austrian webbing rucksack. It actually worked out really well in the end, it rides great with about 20lbs dry equipment inside and just as well once a 2L bladder is added. Picture here:

    Total cost was only $25 for the whole thing since I only paid for the pack itself which came with the suspenders.

    I also somewhat repaired my Ontario machete that had been hanging around with a huge chunk missing from it. Hollow ground machete - even an Ontario - against tree limbs on a cold night = bad news. I think hit frozen sap and damaged it. Here's the pic of it now, filed to have something of an inward curve there. It's not perfect, but at least that section is sharp again:

    You'll also notice a modified slingshot behind it. That was a cheap Crosman I ripped the plastic handle off of, bolted an aluminum bracket to, wrapped with paracord for a good grip, then added the ring. Why?

    I was inspired by this. He has follow-up videos detailing how to improve this by replacing the ring with a whisker biscuit and then using a reel in front of the slingshot on the bracket for fishing. It's really clever and I liked the idea because it offers an almost "free" hunting and fishing solution in terms of weight and bulk. I don't have a whisker biscuit to spare and I'm not taking mine off my actual bows, but I'll see about getting a new one soon for it as well as some PVC caps for the reel. I also need a new band as you can see, my old one cracked and I had to take it off.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited December 2011
    Tonight has turned into something of a "play with fire night" for me, I passed out early and woke up around midnight so I got bored and wandered outside with my kukri to make a fire for the hell of it. The ground was frosted over and all available wood was cold and wet, but this was no problem for me as I simply grabbed a pole just like last time and carved it down to the dry wood inside. After I flaked off a wide range of pieces and I found a suitable base for my fire to keep it away from the cold ground, I fuzzed up a piece and lit it with my lighter. Couldn't be fucked to use a bow drill tonight, really. But hey, good prep skills still help. I've seen guys try to torch wood for long periods of time trying to dry a spot and get it to light. This is wrong. You should strive to prepare everything so that you only need up to 3 seconds of open flame to get your fire going. Fatwood or fuzz sticks are your friend in wet environments, don't use your lighter as a dryer. This saves fluid and gives you probably 10x the firestarting capacity of Average Joe.

    The wood lit up and I sat down around my small warming fire, feeding it with a piece here and a piece there. Then I got the idea to transfer the whole thing over to my fire pit and see if I couldn't get a huge "white man fire" going just for kicks. I carried my base over and laid a bunch of the wet pieces above on the pit's rim for them to dry off and let that burn while I chopped up some large chips to feed the fire while it grew. While doing this, it struck me how much easier this was than gathering small pieces of wood, even when they were already dry it seems so much more time consuming and yet here I was chipping wet wood away from larger pieces with my kukri and it was all too easy and quite fast.

    Eventually I got the fire to the point I could just toss in large wet pieces of wood and they'd steam off and start burning. I decided to grab some bratwursts from inside and cook them up on the fire and eat. Then I decided now might be a good time to make some charcloth. I took some ripped up pants I'd been saving for this and cut them into tons of little squares then loaded them up into an altoid tin with a hole punched into it. Pretty simple process. My coals were so hot that the cloth was charred in about a minute. Since it was cold out, the tin cooled quickly and thus I was able to process the whole pair of pants in short order - just load what you can into the tin, char, take it out when it's cooled down and repeat. Anything cotton-based works so if you've got old clothes you don't want try it out.

    Once this was finished, I took a piece of cloth and put it on my flint to test it out. Striking the edge of my flint with the steel, I managed to catch a spark within about 6 strikes. Piece of cake really, cloth worked wonders and next thing I know I was merrily burning my hand with a hot coal. This would easily start a fire inside of a good tinder nest. I packed the cloth into a couple of tins - one went back into my survival pack and the other left out to practice with.

    This got me wanting to make some fire starting tinders. I like to make lint and petroleum jelly (vasoline) balls for this purpose. They're dirt cheap, burn for about ten minutes, and you can pack several into small tins and canisters. They compare in performance to hexamine tablets but don't carry the cost with them. I know this because I actually burned some hexamine tablets tonight as well since I hadn't used them in ages and wanted to see if they were worth putting into my survival pack. Good video on the "vasolint balls" here:

    I packed as many of these as I could into a couple of tobacco cans and tossed them into my pack. The hexamine got placed with my other stuff that goes along for "casual trips" when I'm not worried about being super-selective about my equipment.

    So now that I have more charcloth, I'm wanting to take that second stab at making a fire piston. Emphasis will be on precision with a larger, smooth bore and piston, this time I'll use a rubber O-ring instead of oiled cord for the gasket, and I'll be designing the head of the piston to have a deeper tinder hole with crossholes drilled into it to increase the chance of getting a smoldering coal. Success will be defined as a piston that is not too bulky, it lightweight, comfortable to use, and most importantly WORKS more often than not with charcloth and equivalent tinders like charred mullein pith.
  • PsychlonicPsychlonic Regular
    edited December 2011
    Today I got the chance to load up on more inner poplar bark which is really handy for holding a coal and turning it into flame. I have a whole garbage bag of it now from bark that had simply fallen off of trees which I'll be using to continue practicing my primitive fire making skills throughout the winter. The goal is to be able to reliably start fires in any conditions by spring. Lately I've been focusing on classic flint and steel methods but I'm planning to go back to friction methods soon. Mullein seems to remain standing throughout the winter making the stalks easy to find for hand drill fires too, I've noticed.

    What I'm waiting for now is the absolute worst day possible. Tons of wet snow, wind, and extremely low temperatures. Soaked wood on the ground. Then I can really see how good I've gotten. So far it's been easy mode. Light snow and dampness presents no problem for me. This is largely thanks to my kukri which has turned into more than just an experimental test item and now finds regular use because it's so useful. Someday I want to have a test between the kukri and other large designs such as the bolo, bowie, parang, etc. but that's for another time.

    Last, I've come up with a shelter system that directly integrates my survival pack relying on the frame to hold up a personal bivy shelter. When time allows, I'm planning to make a long willow bed which this shelter can sit on to demonstrate the modular value of it. The bivy can be set up on the ground in just a few minutes requiring nothing but a tarp, and from there can be improved by raising it up off the ground and adding a few extra poles. This will not only help you sleep easier, but it will get you off the ground keeping you warmer and dry. In addition, this will allow you to dig a small pit underneath of you which can be filled with hot rocks before going to sleep. I firmly believe in the value of comfortable sleep in the wilderness, it's not just about being cushy, it's about waking up the next morning fresh and with energy instead of being tired and lethargic.

    I've also come across a slew of really good late 1800s and early 1900s wilderness books that might interest some of you, before too long I'll be providing links to these in Printed Matter.
  • OsirisOsiris Acolyte
    edited December 2011
    I've got a question about the pine needle tea, I made some recently and it was good, tasted like oranges. The needles contain a lot of tannins as you may know, that's why ungulates don't eat them. Are you also consuming these in the tea? I have no doubt there are a lot of vitamins in them, hence the orange taste, but is it worth it if you are also consuming a lot of acidic crap?
  • dr rockerdr rocker Regular
    edited December 2011
    The tannins will be passed on but they are good anti oxidents.

    When I was reading the OP about the fist night, I was wondering why you did not heat your rocks up for a bed, but you did the next night. When I was a kid, at some of my night fishing places I fished for cod in the winter, I would make a bed out of bracken or long dry grass. It is mostly sandstone and flint around here, both of which I have seen sometimes go off like a bomb with trapped air or water being heated up in them. I would always try to build the fire somewhere a little way from the bed and use stones that looked like they had been heated before, or re-use your own from last time. With a tarp over the bed to keep it dry, I was kept warm in snow storms a couple of times.
  • chippychippy <b style="color:pink;">Global Moderator</b>
    edited December 2011
    Pound for pound, pine needles contain more vitamin C than lemons. However if you boil them to make tea you will lose the vitamin C. You would benefit more by chewing them and swallowing the juice then spitting out the needles.
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