Long-Term Living

This page could have been titled "Long-Term Survival", but let's put a more positive spin on things. Once we get beyond shorter-term survival, we have to believe we've survived for a purpose. That purpose includes embracing an opportunity never presented before in human history -- a shift of consciousness to a higher density. I'm not sure how this page will evolve, and the idea came to me only in early 2002. But evolve it will, and I pray daily for guidance.

From “Five Acres & Independence”, by Maurice Grenville Kains:
This “Handbook for Small Farm Management” first appeared in 1935 and is considered a classic in the field.

  • A small farm well-tilled will produce more in proportion to your efforts than will a larger farm tended carelessly.
  • The four fundamental factors that determine success are good seed, suitable moisture, abundant plant food, and rational tillage.
  • It is easy to damage good land through improper tillage or careless handling. To correct such damage usually takes several years.
  • Most soils need drainage, at least in spots. Without good drainage, many seeds will not germinate properly and root systems will become thwarted. Drainage is often the one factor that makes the difference between success or failure.
  • Growing crops without adequately returning plant food and humus to the soil is a common but short-sighted practice.
  • Animals should be regarded as living factories that convert their feed into products useful to people.
  • A good soil is one that maintains its food material without it being washed away; can provide sufficient water to the crop; is capable of maintaining a favorable temperature; has a structure that permits proper root movement. Most soils don’t come this way naturally. You have to work them.
  • Apply fresh or rotted manure to the soil surface before digging or plowing.
  • Every farm or garden should have a compost pile to take care of all the refuse organic material lying around.
  • No man can do his best when sick, and neither can a soil. The most common way a soil becomes ‘sick’ is when forced to produce the same or closely related crop year after year without change.
  • Good seed sown into poorly prepared soil will still result in inferior crops. The most important ongoing aspect of good soil management is proper tillage.
  • Good tillage will help improve the water connection between the subsoil and the surface. Also, the vegetable matter of the manure will decay more rapidly.
  • When you plow in the fall, you expose hibernating insects to destructive agents such as frost, birds, and other animals. However, in areas where the soil tends not to freeze in the winter, spring plowing is more desirable. Otherwise, autumn and winter rains can wash away plant foods.
  • Plants can thrive amazingly in deep-dug soils.
  • You can kill many weeds by raking the top inch of the soil surface. This helps dislodge and kill them by exposing their roots to the sun and air.
  • The larger you let weeds grow, the more likely they are to go to seed. There’s an old saying: “One year’s seeding makes seven years weeding.”
  • The greatest means of preventing weed troubles is through crop rotation. When you grow the same crop year after year, the weeds that naturally thrive under the same conditions become entrenched pests. Crop rotation and weed control also helps reduce the amount of unwelcome insects.
  • When we value accomplishment over effort (doing more with less), work starts to turn from drudgery into play. The hue of life seems to turn from dull gray to the bright sun of well-remembered childhood.
  • Next to having your tools exposed to the weather, the worst place to keep them is in the cellar because of the dampness and the certainty of rust. Clean your tools after using them.
  • The majority of gardeners make all too much work of the process.
  • One of the hardest lessons for a beginner to learn is that “cheap” seed is the costliest to buy.
  • Seed growing and saving are highly-specialized skills, demanding intimate knowledge of the plant in question. The typical grower should leave this to specialists. To get the best results, you need a working knowledge of plant breeding.
  • No rule-of-thumb as to sowing and planting is safe to follow blindly.
  • If you transplant, first concentrate on the root development of your seedlings rather than leaf development. The most important consideration in the reestablishment of transplanted seedlings is the rate of new root formation.
  • Some old advice: “Don’t hurry and don’t worry, but keep moving and make every effort count.” Ways to live up to this slogan are: 1) Plan things out before taking action, and 2) Make important changes only after deliberation.
  • No fruit is easier to grow and quicker to yield a crop than the strawberry.
  • Where a root cellar is not available, outdoor mound storage is the simplest method of storing many vegetables. Rarely can such mounds be kept watertight after being opened. Also, vegetables and fruits are more likely to spoil in a large mound. Potatoes do not keep well in large piles because they heat.

Interesting points from “Back to Basics”, compiled by Reader’s Digest:
The subtitle of this is “How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills.” It’s a 450-page hardcover that includes valuable tips on generating power from streams.
  • Homes of American settlers were built slowly, over generations.
  • The amazing durability of old barns can largely be attributed to their post-and-beam frames.
  • Very little fuel is needed to heat homes built into the earth. Erosion of the earth that covers the house must be kept in check. Usually this can be done by planting grass or shrubs that stabilize the soil. To achieve extra strength, underground homes are often built in the shape of a circle or octagon, designs that achieve a relatively even distribution of load.
  • Traditional windmills of the type associated with Holland were ponderous and inefficient. Wind power did not become popular in America until mills with multiple metal blades were developed. Such mills performed admirably at pumping water from wells.
  • Winter performance of underground structures sometimes amazes the “experts.” When building, stay away from L’s, angles, and offsets. The more surface area, the more heat loss. Creating windbreaks on the cold side and clearing out the sunnier side will pay dividends. The more you stay away from fans, pumps, machinery and controls, the less equipment you have that can break down. This comes from architect Malcolm Wells, a pioneer in underground construction.
  • Machines that use pedal power free the hands and triple the energy output of the human body as compared to arm power alone.
  • An 18th-century almanac cautions that “overplanted fields make a rich father but a poor son.”
  • Terracing is the answer to gardening on a steep slope.
  • You can speed germination of seeds by keeping them in the dark. Check them daily for moisture and sprouting. When they’ve sprouted, move them into direct sunlight. Excessive wetness can cause seeds to die of damping-off, a fungus disease.
  • A plot of land only 20 by 55 feet can supply all the wheat an average family of four will need in a year.
  • Fish farming has long been a major industry in China and other parts of Asia. Fish produce more protein per acre than other kinds of livestock, they are more efficient at converting feed into usable meat, and they yield a higher proportion of meat than livestock.
  • An above-ground pool 12 feet across and 2 feet deep can yield 50 to 100 pounds of trout, catfish, or other species in a single growing season of five to six months. For a small-scale operation, a sump pump with a short hose attached can serve as an aerator.
  • Once your fall harvest of plants is in, the next job is to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. Country folk call this process “putting by”: storing up today’s surplus against tomorrow’s shortage.
  • In the not-too-distant past, drying, salting and live storage were the only known ways for preserving produce. The Indians of North and South America depended on sun-dried foods. American settlers survived bitter winters by eating salt-cured produce or vegetables stored live in root cellars. Caesar’s army carried pickled food, and the builders of the Great Wall of China dined on salt-cured vegetables.
  • Garden produce will last all winter after only a few days of sun drying. Long hot days and low humidity are the keys to success.
  • When 80 to 90 percent of the moisture in food is removed, the growth of spoilage bacteria is halted and the food can be stored for long periods of time.
  • All wild game should be dressed in the field as soon as it is killed. The same goes for fish, though curing and smoking are easier than with most meats.
  • In pre-industrial America, a homestead wife was more likely to spin her own thread than to perform any other traditional craft.
  • Moccasins were worn as footwear by Indians from Mexico to the Arctic Circle. The leather was usually smoked to improve its resistance to water. Finished moccasins are comfortable and sturdy.
  • Making joints is the woodworker’s basic craft.
  • Welding a chain and making nails are basic skills. Nailheaders were once standard tools in any smithy and on most farms and homesteads. They are now all-but-impossible to buy. Fortunately they are easy to make.

Interesting points from “The Forgotten Arts & Crafts” by John Seymour:
Consider this more of a post-shift reference book to be referred to as specific needs and problems present themselves. The author has compiled a virtual encyclopedia of skills commonly employed before the 20th century. In addition, Seymour’s book illustrates a multitude of traditional hand-tools that can serve us well if a polar shift occurs.
  • A typical African hut could be built in a day and would last for many years. When a fire is burning in the middle of the floor you cannot stand up with comfort. But the moment you sit down you are below the smoke level and you’re warm. Just as important, you’re free of flies and mosquitoes.
  • Log building in Finland: The jointing of log to log is traditionally so precise that a thin layer of moss inserted between the logs during construction is all that’s needed for a permanent, weather-proof result.
  • American backwoodsmen were said to carry their sawmills on their backs. The only tools they carried were an ax, a broad-ax, a crosscut saw, and an auger bit. Together with these they needed a sheet of thin steel to be made into a stove, and a small sack of nails for fixing shingles. With this equipment they could build a cabin that could stand up to the fiercest winters.
  • Traditional huts of tribal Africans are nearly always roofed with thatch. Rarely do they leak.
  • Any blacksmith worth his salt knows how to temper steel by heating and quenching it, judging temperature by the color of the steel. In this way a steel blade is hardened so it can be sharpened and hold its edge.
  • Knives such as those found on Crete are particularly strong because the blade and handle are fashioned from the same piece of steel.
  • Cloth from the flax plant has qualities all its own. Flax also provides linseed, the source of the best of all non-edible oils.

Key points from the book "Worm Farm Management" by Eric Wilson:
Worms may become a crucial part of our diets for years to come. This book describes how to grow them effectively, and in large numbers. Though only 110 pages long, it is highly detailed and only the broadest of points are mentioned here.
  • Under ideal conditions, one worm can produce over 200 offspring per year.
  • Worms are livestock. To achieve effective breeding rates, they require good husbandry management techniques.
  • The growing bed is the foundation of your enterprise. There is no hard & fast rule concerning its shape.
  • Without lighting to keep the worms suppressed, it’s essential to build your frames with lips so they can’t escape.
  • Good drainage is essential, and you need to protect from excessive rainfall as well -- perhaps with a protective covering over a wooden A-frame.
  • Maintain a loose, friable working layer of soil. If you make the mound of soil in the shape of a sand dune, this will allow for variation in temperature, drainage, and moisture. Worms like this.
  • Add worms when the soil is cool. They won’t enter hot soil so readily. Once they’ve disappeared, give the mound a good watering.
  • As with any other livestock, you isolate the breeding stock from the growing stock. Separate "growing beds" are set up to grow adolescents to a larger size.
  • When the density of the stock gets too large, the breeding rate slows down.
  • Direct sunlight and wind causes much evaporation and erosion. Cover your mounds if necessary.
  • Keep the top level of soil aerated, especially if it becomes compacted or waterlogged. Waterlogged soil doesn’t supply enough oxygen to the worms.
  • Frequently toss the beds to relocate the worms over the entire surface area.
  • The majority of growers use animal manures as a primary food.
  • Good drainage will safeguard against the loss of worms.
  • Some worms will vacate your beds. Don’t worry about it.
  • The only thing that will kill worms is lack of attention on your part.
  • Match the food supply with the ability of the worms to eat it.

Key points from the book "Ice Fishing” by Jim Capossela:
Capossela is a fisherman and outdoors writer with 30 years of experience.
  • No human can completely assess the safety of ice all the time. It’s impossible to guarantee you’ll never fall through.
  • If there are patches of snow here and there, avoid those patches. The ice might be softer underneath them.
  • Underwater currents can greatly weaken surface ice.
  • Don’t assume ice is safe just because there’s a lot of people on it. There are a lot of stupid people.
  • You can get lost very easily if a heavy fog or snowstorm sets in. Bring a compass.
  • A woodsman’s maxim: Never step on anything you can step over. Never step over anything you can step around.
  • You don’t need a very large hole. 6 to 8 inches should do.
  • After digging a hole, keep cleaning out the ice chips that can and do form in the water below. Also, keep the surface clear of chips and shavings. On the bottom of the hole, round off the ice so it doesn’t break the line while you’re pulling in a fish.
  • Good sunglasses are essential on the ice. The glare can be fierce.
  • Use a hook disgorger. Parts of the fish can cut you severely, and in winter your fingers have less dexterity.
  • Some survival books illustrate stationary poles set out on the ice. You set them up and go elsewhere, and they’re known as tip-ups. When a fish is caught, a pole with a flag attached is tipped up. As an alternative to a flag, some fishers use bells to indicate when the pole tips up. The sound of a bell can travel remarkably well on the ice.
  • Serious ice fishers have better luck with a hand-held pole, called a jig. With your hands you can detect even the tiniest of hits that tip-ups would miss.
  • Binoculars are useful for checking faraway tip-ups.
  • Avoid points where tributaries enter. Fish won’t waste vital energy fighting the current.
  • Fish eat less in winter. Try smaller baits than in summer.
  • Keep experimenting with the location of your holes. The best ice fishers are roamers and hole cutters. They also spend almost as much time preparing as they do fishing.
  • The shoreline is a dynamic zone. Don’t shun it, like amateurs do.
  • If you know where a weed bed is located, dig some holes over it. It’s a great source of food for fish, and they will gather there. Fish also like to hang out near shrubs or bent trees that are frozen into the ice.
  • Keep weeds off your hooks and bait.
  • Try setting out your lines at various depths, but you’ll take most fish just off the bottom of the lake.
  • Commotion on the ice can quickly scare away the fish.
  • The primary rule for success is to be where the fish are. Follow your intuition. Be mobile.
  • The part of the fish line that takes the most wear and tear is the part that scrapes against the hole in the ice.
  • Bring in your hooks at night and dry them so they don’t rust. Keep them sharp, but don’t oversharpen them.
  • If a fish breaks off the line and falls back into the water, it may be disoriented for a few seconds -- just enough time for you to grab it with your hand.

Key points from “Camping & Wilderness Survival” by Paul Tawrell:
What makes this book stand out are the myriad of illustrations, in addition to some ideas not seen in other survival books.
  • If you don’t have a toothbrush, chew a green twig to a pulpy consistency.
  • Sponge and dry your face, armpits, feet and crotch at least once a day.
  • The group leader must at all times avoid the appearance of indecision. This helps minimize panic, confusion, and disorganization among the group.
  • Develop plans for upcoming days. This will raise morale.
  • Hunger, cold and fatigue can make you careless.
  • Keep your fingers out of your mouth.
  • Guns are not of prime importance.
  • You can increase the lifespan of your knives by periodically rubbing wood ash on them.
  • Don’t drag your rope on the ground. Dirt particles can weaken the fibers.
  • For a blanket, a piece of cloth can be filled with cattail down and then stitched up.
  • In the Franco-Prussian War (1871) and World War I, the French Army would dig shelters into the side of a hill. The roof would be made of lumber covered by sod.
  • American Prairie Indians would build multi-family lodges about 40 feet in diameter.
  • You should never travel with less than two other people. If one gets injured, the other two can carry him or her.
  • The essential tools for Arctic survival are the snow saw and snow knife. Throw your gun away.
  • In winter, throw powdery snow on your shelter for additional insulation. Add some more every few days.
  • Embers, if well taken care of, can be transported for a few days.
  • Because of its potassium content, wood ash can be used as a fertilizer.
  • In a forest fire, don’t wet your clothing. It can scald your skin.
  • The water from boiled lichens can be used as yeast.
  • Don’t eat fish if the eyes look milky or if your fingers are leaving indentations on the skin.
  • Don’t get any fish slime in your eyes. Avoid cutting the gut, and if you do, wash the fish.
  • Rock tripe grows all over North America and can be eaten raw or in a soup or stew.
  • Many animals live at the meeting point between two different ecological areas. For instance, the point where a forest meets a meadow.
  • Eskimos would place snares in shallow lakes to catch diving birds.
  • Rotten logs are excellent sources of bait for fishing.
  • You can drug fish and make them float to the surface, a method used by American Indians. One way is to burn sea shells to obtain lime, which is a fish poison.
  • You can locate schools of sea fish by watching the feeding water birds.
  • A seaweed, Irish Moss was a universal food of seagoing people. It can be eaten in soups or stews and has high nutritive value.

Key points from “How to Live Without Electricity -- And Like It” by Anita Evangelista:
Not worth going out of your way for, and most of the points are well covered on the Troubled Times site. However, the author makes a few interesting comments.
  • When her rural family decided to see how far off the electric grid they could go, they made a discovery that may seem too obvious. Too obvious, that is, until it happens to us and we realize how true it is: We are all very poorly prepared to live without electricity. We should all let this sink in, and sink in hard.
  • Almost everyone in the civilized world consumes more power than they really need.
  • As a culture, we’ve forgotten that water in past ages was a prime source for the spread of numerous deadly diseases.
  • Before the deep-well era (mid-twentieth century), the only way to save water was in a cistern -- an underground storage unit.
  • When it rains, don’t collect the first few minutes of water that runs off your roof. This water will contain the most contaminants.
  • No matter how clean the water appears, there is probably some harmful bacteria contained in it.
  • Fungi, molds and mildews can attack water supplies that are exposed to sunlight, which is why water keeps better when covered.
  • Backup systems are the key to success with water acquisition and storage. The same goes for energy sources -- diversify into as many sources you can think of. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. By the way, the Zetas said this recently, though in a different context.
  • To break up wood into stove-size pieces, you can use a sledgehammer-type tool called a maul.
  • When chopping wood, stick it in the ground and ring it with an old tire. This will help prevent flying pieces from smashing into your shins. These splits of wood can fly off with great force.
  • If you chop away from the old growth of the wood towards the new growth, it splits easier and cleaner.
  • Unless you actively plan ahead and stock up, you’ll run out of wood.
  • Ash must be removed from stoves daily, and it makes good fertilizer.
  • When you look at old drawings of people in their houses in the wintertime, you’ll find that everyone is bundled up in coats and gloves -- indoors.
  • Standard fireplaces are the least efficient way to use wood to heat a house. Heating stoves are much more effective. In particular, cast iron is superb at holding and dispersing heat.
  • Wood stoves need to be cleaned of internal ash and creosote (wood tar) buildup once or twice a year.
  • To find plans for a human-powered generator using the frame of a ten-speed bicycle, check out The Mother Earth News from January/February and March/April 1981. This system takes one minute of pedaling to produced two minutes of useable power.
  • Stair steppers -- the kind found at health clubs -- also generate rotary motion that can be converted into a power source.

More to follow . . .

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