It is Not Just About Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids
Sometimes it is easier to pay attention to the big things, because they are so obvious but the “devil is always in the details”. Molehills can turn into mountains if you are not paying attention. Do not overlook the not so “sexy” details of survival once the lights go out because you may very well regret it.
You can cook a meal today, but can you cook one when this is not a microwave, stovetop or oven available. Eating out of cans and packages works for a few days but after that you need to be able to put a meal together and it is not just for nutritional value.
Everyone looks forward to meals and while in a survival situation, you will eat to live but then it becomes a matter of living to eat. People look forward to good food and psychologically this will not change regardless of the situation.
Gather some cooks books. Old-fashioned print books may not be “the in thing” with all the electronic book readers and tablets available but they will be there for you to thumb through no matter what happens to the power grid.
Having the right cookware is important, cooking over an open flame is different in many aspects, and you can end up ruining and ultimately wasting food if you are not prepared. Cast iron is ideal for open fire cooking, as is stainless steel in some cases and do not forget sturdy utensils. Nylon/silicone spatulas and stirring spoons may not be ideal.
Do you know how to sharpen knives used for food preparation?
Simple things like the absence of quality potholders can hold a meal hostage in some cases. Once you have burned your hands or fingers, a few times because of shoddy materials you will understand the need for good potholders or oven mitts.
Aluminum pans and other cooking utensils with non-stick coatings may not hold up well under extreme cooking conditions. Cast iron cookware, such as Dutch ovens will allow you to make breads, deserts, casseroles and anything else you can imagine.
Do you know how to make breads, rolls and pie crusts from flour, sugar, salt and yeast? Do you know how to activate the yeast, so the dough rises? These skills may not be needed today, but when you cannot buy bread at the local grocer, you will need to know how to make it yourself.
If you are used to, eating foods already prepared then the spices and flavoring will already be in the foods. Cooking from “scratch” however will mean you have to flavor and season the foods from your pantry. Make sure you have various spices stockpiled. You can never have too much salt and the shelf life of salt is indefinite if stored properly.
Some of you may be thinking that you do not use salt but what you do not realize is that most of the foods you buy ready to cook from their package are loaded with sodium, which is what makes the foods taste good for the most part. Leaving a pinch salt out of some recipes made from scratch may get you some looks from the hungry diners.
When is the last time you washed clothes in a tub in the front yard. Once the washers and dryers start collecting dust you will still have to be able to get clothes cleaned. Dirty clothes harbor bacteria, and in the winter months, dirty clothes do not insulate as well. There is a psychological factor in having clean clothes as well. Can you make laundry soap if needed?
A quick recipe for laundry soap is Fels Naptha soap (in bars), borax and washing soda all of which is available practically anywhere. For literally just a few dollars, you can gather enough of these ingredients to give you enough laundry soap for a year.
Note: You can use other soaps besides Fels Naptha but for it to have cleaning power it must contain tallow as one of the ingredients otherwise all you are getting is a bar of fragrance and oils that will not do anything to remove dirt and grime from clothing.
The Naptha contains tallow, which is important in any soap because to make soap from scratch you would use animal fat (tallow) along with wood ash (potash). Grate the bar of Naptha, add one cup of the borax and one cup of washing soda to the grated soap, and mix well. You can make as many batches as you need to. Use one to two tablespoons per load. Make a paste with the mixture to pre treat stains.
Heat water, add the soap, and dissolve it before placing clothes in the tub. Then use a wooden paddle or practically anything to agitate (stir) the clothes to loosen/remove the dirt and rinse well. You will also need a way to hang clothes to dry. Heavy line, preferably nylon rope is recommended and make sure you account for the weight of the wet clothes. Steel cable unless coated will leave rust stains on the clothes. The weight may be more than you anticipated so make sure the line used is sturdy and is placed high enough so the clothes do not drag along the ground.
Operating Hand Tools
Can you use an axe without cutting a foot off, and if you are lucky enough to have fuel for a chainsaw do you know how to use it as well. Wood may be your only source of fuel for cooking and heating at times and when times get desperate you may have to venture off and cut down a few trees to get your own wood for cooking and heating.
This means felling a tree and trimming it and cutting it up so it fits in the stove or fireplace. You may have to use a crosscut saw or even an old fashion bucksaw to fell a tree and cut the chunks to size. When is the last time you felled a tree with a crosscut saw or an axe. Using a crosscut saw requires a helper on the other end so skilled help will be needed.
Do you know how to sharpen a wood saw or chainsaw by hand using a file, if not learn the skill today. You do not want to spend all day trying to fell one tree because you cannot figure out how to sharpen the teeth on your saw.
Plywood may have to be placed over damaged openings in your home and over glass openings so make sure you know how to use a hammer and nails. It is not rocket science but after a few blackened thumbs and bent nails, you will realize it does take some level of skill to drive nails in without wasting the supply you have.
Wasting supplies is not something you can afford to do in a survival situation so that is why it is important you have certain skill sets. Poor cooks’ waste food, not knowing what you are doing with certain tools is dangerous, and you can waste supplies as well.
Can you ride a bicycle, because once the motor vehicles set idle a bicycle can be a lifesaver? Outfit your bike with a basket so you can haul supplies or pull a small cart behind it.
Can you ride a horse or a mule for that matter and do you know how to saddle one. Horses and mules/donkeys have been used for thousands of years to transport people and their supplies, but you cannot just climb aboard and set off. You need to know how to ride one and pack supplies on one. Horses or mules of course may not be an option for everyone but once the SHTF horses and mules once kept may be roaming wild over areas where you would never expect them to be. Be prepared to take advantage of the situation.