Heritage Life Skills

On April 26th, the Craven clan packs up our shenanigans to head to North Carolina.  There, we’ll engage in the type of hijinks not seen since the trip to Florida in 2016, which has been scrubbed from all public record at great expense.  Ok, I kid.  We’re going to have a good time and if you’ve never heard of Heritage Life Skills, you should take a peek at what’s going on there. It’s put on by Carolina Readiness Supply and has a ton of classes and vendors.

I’ll be there with the Dirty Dozen Post Apoc Authors, as well as others in the genre.  I think the authors are also planned to speak Saturday night starting at 7 pm if you miss us at our booth.  Hope to see you all there!

Eat what you store. Store what you eat.

That sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? For most of us, we don’t. Not even close.

Raise your hands! Yes, I can see you.  The NSA has nothing on my shenanigans, so do it… IF – You regularly buy some pizzas, drink some beers, eat your store-bought bread, microwave out some hot pockets… tendies (chicken nuggets), or pizza rolls… all the while you’re storing up on freeze-dried foods, beans, rice, powdered milk? Yeah… I’m talking to you.  I’m talking to me too, I’m just as guilty.

Suddenly changing your diet can have catastrophic effects on your body, especially if you factor in Murphy’s Law.  Yeah, we all know Murph- The asshole who always mucks things up when you least expect it and can barely keep your head above water.  He’s the jerk who’s putting his foot on your noggin and pushing down as the waves come up… so in order to Murphy Proof your food storage, remind yourself, eat what you store, store what you eat.

Case in point – For some people, you don’t have to have TSHTF in order to be in a survival situation.  A loss of job, income, insurance, some kind of hardship… it can really put things into perspective.  Suddenly having to worry about having enough money when that was never a concern before, or having a very tight but do-able budget and something happens and you have to make up the difference somewhere…

I used to be a foster parent with my lovely wife.  One of the things we’d do with our foster kids was everybody would have a night to cook (who was old enough).  The reasoning was simple.  We took in older teens who had NO clue how to cook, clean, do their own laundry and they’d been shuttled from one house to another.  We’d take in the hard cases and “hopefully” give them enough life skills to survive in a year or two when they were out on their own.

Want to know one of the first things I loved to teach them? You guessed it, food. They’d go grocery shopping with me and we’d bypass the frozen foods for the most part.  The prepackaged, ready to cook noms were great in a pinch, but if you were broke or had to find yourself on food stamps for an extended period, cooking from scratch made the most sense.  We’d start with the carbs.  Dried pasta and rice were mainstays.  I could buy 50# bags of rice for $20.  That bag lasted a family of twelve for over a third of a year with what we used it for.  No, not instant rice, but the regular long grain rice you had to boil the crap out of if you didn’t have a rice cooker (which we totally do!).  They’d learn both ways how to cook the rice, pasta, whichever.  The next thing is I loved eating lentils and beans.  The kids thought it was hilarious until they got used to it and the “stomach issues” go away pretty fast. You can do SO much with that stuff.

Chicken? One of the cheapest meats out there.  We’d buy it in bulk.  Leg quarters or whole chickens we’d cut up ourselves and freeze. At Sav-A-Lot or Aldi’s, you can buy bags of frozen veggies for $1.00 a pound per bag.  That’s cheap as all get out.  Now let’s put it all together… for a large family, I’d make maybe 3 cups of dried rice which when fluffed turned into a LOT.  I’d let that go in the rice cooker while I threw the veggies in a big pan with a touch of olive oil.  Next, I’d throw in some rabbit or chicken meat to fry everything up.  Lastly, I’d mix it all up together and season and simmer it together to lock in the flavors.  Sometimes I’d add in 1/2 bottle of $1.00 dressing (girls love ranch for some reason), or use soy sauce and a little extra water.  Season to taste.  Eat it just like it is, or throw it on a flour tortilla.  Add to that? I’d usually add two cups worth of cooked lentils/beans and/or the same amount of corn.  If we’re paying attention to costs… we just fed a large family for about $3.00.  Want to cut that cost down more?  Make your own flour tortillas.  It’s easy as all get out.

So no lie, we are still in contact with a ton of our kids, even though we aren’t fostering anymore.  Some are married and have families of their own now.  Some have done really well, some have had hard times. It was always nice to have that extra food storage I had… because they could come shop in the pantry here and what little money they got from unemployment, SNAP or whatever… they remembered.  They could make it work.  They didn’t have like 3 hot wings, two hot pockets and a lonely piece of fish in their freezer to last them a month.  They were able to put things together and they took what they learned from us and taught me some new tricks to boot! I’ve got one daughter who went into the food industry and became a cook.

I’m reminded of all of this because I saw I was in desperate need of some food rotation and hadn’t cooked like I had done, for a while.  It got me to thinking, and although I do eat what I store and store what I eat, I don’t do it enough.

I need to fix that, and so do you.

Hurricanes – This is one reason why we prepare for the worst and pray for the best

Photo Credit: NatGeo Kids

I’m not going to sugar coat things… Katrina was bad, Harvey that hit Texas and swamped Houston was very bad. Irma has the potential to do the same with Florida or the east coast. I cringe at what might happen and it got me to thinking about things and I decided to write a little about it, in a blog post.

Knowing the storm is coming gives you options you normally wouldn’t have.  For some people, packing up and bugging out are one of best things they can do, and if the hurricane is going to hit, you are going to have property damage in areas.  Staying won’t help that.  Some people may not be able to bug out, and those who bugged out may have to come back sooner than they’d wish and deal with Mother Nature’s worst.

There are some things you can do if the worst was to happen that you can do to keep yourself safe, healthy and I’ll leave happy out of it for now, because most people won’t be happy after a catastrophe.  Assuming the worst, you’re looking at a situation where the resources are spread thin, the supply lines are shattered, utility services are going to need time to rebuild and you have to make do with what you can.  I don’t know if I’m going to do all of this in a single blog post, but I’d like to address the basics. Shelter, food, water, safety and a way to cook, so fire.

Food – This one is the easiest, yet the hardest.  If your food storage is hit by the storm surge, how much of it is going to survive or be good? If your power is out, your fresh food has a very very limited shelf life.  Stock up on dried goods or goods that can be sealed in a way that they won’t let water ruin it.  I literally love Ziploc baggies and you can buy the oversized ones (think 10 gallon) at any big box grocery chain.  If you’ve ever gone camping, you have an idea of how short a period food lasts without power and ice.  When I go camping, I usually pack something that I just add hot water to cook / eat.  Unfortunately a lot of food will be served like this after a catastrophe, and not everyone is accustomed to eating like this. Hopefully you love hunting and fishing and things are in season, because protein will be in short supply if you’re only eating beans and rice.  Make sure you’re good with methods of food preservation if you have time and not enough stocked up.  Smoking, canning or other methods are things to look into.

Water – Fresh water, bottled water and others may become suspect.  If you follow what happened in Haiti, a cholera outbreak caused secondary deaths from poor water conditions.  Having filters on hand, like a Katadyn or a LifeStraw helps, but there are many ways that are not as expensive, or can be made on the spot if you lose your preps.  Filters can be made with cloth, charcoal, and sand to get the larger particulates out of it.  It can further be sanitized by boiling it, using bleach at a rate of 8 drops per gallon to sanitize it, iodine if it’s appropriate, or the water purification tabs that are usually iodine based.  Note: Using bleach and iodine won’t necessarily protect against giardia, a parasite. If any water is sketchy though, filtering and boiling it is the safest way to go. Now, if your water is tainted by salt water, you have to get that out first.  Drinking salt water WILL KILL YOU sooner, rather than later.  Make sure you know how to distill it or use various other ways of desalination.

Shelter – I should have done this first, but what you shelter in is going to depend on what you come home to, or what is left. It’s also situational dependent… which brings me to Safety, but not quite yet… Make sure you have a plan in place for sanitation and using the bathroom that isn’t going to contaminate the local water and spread disease.

Safety – Katrina and Harvey have shown us that lawlessness breaks out when people think there are no consequences.  Looting, rioting, rapes and murder, were examples from Katrina.  It doesn’t happen with every apocalyptical event, but it’s something to worry about.  Have plans, have weapons if needed or be ready to be not there when things break down.  Whether or not to go with one type of weapon or another would take entire years worth of books, and you’d be argued at about your choices, by everyone.  In my theoretical case, if I was a prepper, and I had guns, I would make sure everyone in the family was familiar with them and could use one safely if appropriate. I would also theoretically have enough ammunition stored, if I had guns, that is. Enough ammo to ‘Git R Dun’ and then some. Sometimes it’s just honing your situational awareness is all that’s needed for avoiding a bad situation.  Almost like when you know you’re in a bad side of town and you see a drug deal going on.  You scram, because you never know.  This is like that.  Sometimes safety is working with other families as a group for mutual protection or support.  Have a plan, but remember to be flexible.  Plans usually go out the window early on, in any conflict.

Cooking – You have to boil water to make it safe to drink. You have to have heat to cook food if your food needs cooking.  My personal favorite tool is an alcohol stove, backpacker style.  It won’t work for a big family, but I can burn just about any fuel in it to heat water or boil food in one man portions if I were in a pinch, were I to run out of alcohol, I can also use it like a hobo stove and use wood.  Think bigger, scale up.  Learn to cook your meat over an open wood fire, but be sure you aren’t using pressure treated lumber or poison ivy or a thousand other things that should be common sense. You can use different methods of smoking to cook and preserve your food. What if your entire kitchen had a car dropped on it?  Most of your pots are crunched… what else can you use?

Your brain is probably the most valuable asset in a survival situation.  Don’t lose your sanity, be flexible.  Keep your head on a swivel.  Hopefully this will never happen to you, but I at least wanted to give you something to think about.

Prayers for everyone dealing with the aftermath of Harvey, and prayers for everyone who is in the path of Irma. One last thing before I quit this rambling post– Have a plan for your four legged friends.

Youtube for research?

Sometimes, I have to go to Youtube for research purposes.  I’ve been following deermeatfordinner for a while now. None of these guys appear to be in a survival situation, but I often dream about survival scenarios.  It’s a bad habit to get into, but it helps me to sell books… so I dream how much easier life would be if I didn’t have to worry about freezing to death.  Living in Michigan, I often find myself dreaming about living someplace warmer.

Saying that, I first found this youtube channel when trying to learn about crabbing when I was writing Rebel Radio.  I mean, what does a guy who’d barely been near a body of salt water know about crabbing? It was time to research!  I won’t bore you to death on my research methods, but this particular video reminded me of something I read in the Going Home series, by A. American.

There is a lot that this Youtube star does that has given me ideas.  Sometime this fall, maybe even in the winter, I’m going to be writing a survival story that involves a hurricane, martial law, civil unrest and a long, difficult path to survival.  Not that I have ever personally done what I’m about to write about… but I’ve seen it done.  It’s almost like staying at a Holiday Inn, right?


The Joys of cooking over a fire.

The Joys of cooking over an open fire.

I just got back from a month of camping at my bugout, if you can call roughing it with a motorhome with full hook-ups camping.  We’ve got a power pole on the property and we’re a stone’s throw from the lake.  It’s peaceful, and I can’t even begin to tell you how many nights I would start a fire, sit back and just watch the lake and let the crackling of the fire relax me as I ponder how to next take over the world… er… write more books.

One of the things I do like to do though, is cook over the fire.  Yes, I could have used a charcoal grill, or even my little propane grill… Instead, this is how I prefer to do things.  See… there’s a new little grocery store in the town near the bugout and they get their meat from a local (an hour away) butcher.  The quality is awesome.  I did everything from slow smoking, to charcoal grilling… yet my favorite is still wood fire.

I started with split hardwoods, with some chunks of water soaked apple.  While the main fire was started and I was letting it burn down some, I patted dry my steaks and then liberally rubbed in my own blend of seasonings.  I love Lawry’s Seasoning salt… so that’s part of it, then a blend of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and chili powder.  Then I let the steak rest, covered while things burn down.  When the flames aren’t kicking up past my grate, I liberally coat my grate with oil.  I do this, because if I don’t, it’ll rust, just like cast iron and the food will stick to it… so I put the oil on, add the soaked apple wood and wait for it to smoke.

Then it’s time to put the steak on.  Oh man, I throw it right over the hottest part of the fire till the outside is seared, then I flip it.  I know this is kind of redundant because everybody knows how to grill, but this is my story and I’ll tell it like I want to! So I sear both sides, then I slide the grate off the hottest part of the fire and find the coolest portion.  I finish cooking the steak there until its cooked on the outside, pink and moist on the inside.  The seasonings and wood smoke make me wish I didn’t have to come home, where it’s been raining.

Now, this same grate has also done the same job as a grill, in as far as grilling burgers, dogs, warming the buns, making grilled cheese sandwiches… to actually using a cast iron skillet on it, cooking bacon.  Let me tell you… you don’t want to be outside, cooking over a wood fire, sizzling bacon in your under britches.  Gives a flare up new meaning, if you know what I mean.

Cooking over a wood fire takes experimentation.  Raise the cooking height, lower it… move the food around, move the wood around (without coating food in ashes), how much wood to put for where… how much smoke you want… but just like grilling with charcoal, it’s an awesome experience and it’s results are mouth watering.  Getting good at it now will save you trouble and heartache later, should you ever have to know how to do this to survive.