Posts Tagged ‘diy’

Midsummer Foraging Fun with Garlic Mustard!

[Editor’s note: I originally wrote (and promptly forgot about) this back in June. Ah well, better late than never!]

If you’re not involved in invasive species control, you might not be very familiar with garlic mustard. Which is too bad, because everybody should know about it—this European plant is a major problem in North America these days. Luckily, unlike a lot of the nastier (usually Asian) imports, this one is at least good for something!
In fact, g.m. is one of the oldest known cooking spices—its use dates back all the way to the Old European Neolithic!

Since we’ve just passed the summer solstice, now is the perfect time to get out in the woods and kill two birds with one stone—help rehabilitate our local environment, as well as harvest a tasty seasoning! Earlier in the spring, g.m. can be gathered fresh and the leaves used to flavor dishes, but by now most of the plant has died back, leaving the seed pods for easy identification.

I took a quick barefoot woods-walk this afternoon, and in about twenty minutes managed to gather a good bundle of dried stalks:
Garlic mustard plants (June)
Because the delicate dried pods (or “siliques” for all you botanists out there) that contain the seeds will break open if you look at them the wrong way—and since we’d also like to prevent the spread of g.m.—it’s best to take extreme care while you pull the plant up by the roots to keep the seeds from shooting everywhere.
Garlic mustard pods
Once you have your bundle of plants, you can ‘shuck’ or strip the pods off the stalks; from here, it’s a simple matter of agitating the pods to release the seeds (I ground them around in this stone mortar before rolling bundles between my hands, and then winnowed away the chaff:Garlic mustard chaff
Garlic mustard seeds Now that I’m left with an ounce or so of pure seeds, I’m going to experiment and keep some plain and roast some others (to facilitate easier grinding), and then do some living history and season some venison with it. The seeds by themselves smell deliciously savory, with a hint of horseradish!

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Doomsday Preppers: David Nash

Our other Tennessee prepper this episode is David Nash, who is also concerned about the likelihood of a modern New Madrid earthquake.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentDavid explains how he and his wife Genny have “chosen careers that fulfill us but don’t necessarily leave us with much in the bank”, ergo he is DIY all the way! Which is great—less is more! I like it!
He starts off by showing Genny his homemade ‘saline converter’ to turn saltwater to bleach, which he could then add to contaminated water to make potable.
I’m not totally sold on the chemistry(NaCl+H2O -> NaOH + Cl ->bleach?), but if it checks out, that’s not a bad little system!
And because David thinks ahead, he DIY’s himself a stringtrimmer motor/wood-burning steam engine contraption to charge the battery he’ll use to run his bleach-maker. I’m not sure how all that comes together—I have little mechanical knowledge of anything more complex than a forge-bellows, but if he can indeed charge a battery by burning sticks and small wood, that’s a winner.

After that, David reveals his build project: a geodesic dome shelter to resist the shaking expected in an earthquake.
He cuts the aluminum pipe framework pieces in his shop, assembles them with his dad’s help in the woods, and then drapes it with a big heavy-duty piece of signage tarp. The dome gets draped in three kinds of wire mesh (probably could have gotten by without the chickenwire), and is coated by sprayed concrete and then given a camouflage paintjob. It looks solid, if a bit melty organic, but to make sure they give us another requisite DP tannerite explosion test, with dad inside! (the shelter appears to survive).

I had a friend in the UP who built a shack along similar lines some years back—except he used steel cattle panels and reclaimed plastic sheeting and old carpeting, all bermed with soil, to make a sort of ‘longhouse’. Apparently it was pretty much invisible once the woods grew up around it.

Oh, and for lighting inside his dome, David installs a two-liter ‘light bottle’—a really genius DIY lighting system—and some DIY gutters for water catchment.

Anyway, geodesic domes (yay, Buckminster Fuller!) are always awesome, and I love the use of the reclaimed billboard tarp. For a non-mobile DIY bugout shelter in the woods, the sprayed concrete shell is probably pretty hard to beat (I wonder if their concrete sprayer would be compatible with any of the alternative ’cretes—something with more solar mass for passive heating/cooling?)

After watching this episode and about the same time coming across this art exhibit, I got to thinking about the utility of combining modern materials like David’s tarp (which already exist in great numbers) with traditional indigenous building shapes and materials. I can pretty easily imagine a band of neotribal folks walking or riding (horses—no Ancient Sunlight Juice for these sustainables) across the post-Long Emergency landscape (or even the Right Now landscape, if you can imagine such a thing!), towing their travois loaded with a couple of these waterproof billboards (emblazoned with images of golden arches or sports mascots or other similar logos that must have once held great significance to the old ‘uns of the Fourth World, but are now no more than mysterious runes) and a bundle of tentpoles, all ready to set up camp at the next watering hole.
Just something to think about, it’s always fun to combine ‘new’ and ‘old’ and imagine different ways of doing thing. After all, there is no One Right Way to Live!

Doomsday Preppers: David Mays

Alright, folks. It would seem DP has finally jumped the shark—or at the very least, hit peak media oversaturation, and exhausted its fifteen minutes as a rating$ juggernaut—and stopped producing new episodes, which mean there are only two I have left to cover this season…and I really couldn’t be happier. It’ll be a big weight lifted off my shoulders when I won’t have to subject myself to watching this program (one which, in the big picture, turned out to be pretty sensationalist, exploitative, and generally detestable) for the bigger purpose of uncooling its message.

It’s not 2012 anymore, and I think folks are kinda sick of ‘reality’ shows about midlife-crisis, middle-class white guys with more money than sense, delusions of grandeur, and hard-ons for ‘tactical’ weaponry and foodbuckets. Don’t worry, they’re still out there; but the media landscape has (unsurprisingly) shifted over the past two years to the point where Prepperdom isn’t such a hot commodity anymore. Which is fine by me, because while it means a little less blog traffic for this page, it also means less toxic, deluded, status quo-y notions being broadcast into the public mindspace.

Anyway, episode ‘Nobody Will Be Ready’ cuts between the two Davids from Tennesseee; both guys are supposedly (but not unreasonably) preparing for a quake along the New Madrid fault line.
First up is David Mays:

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Transparency clause: David and his wife Holly run an essential oils business (remember, this show has almost always been about ‘preppers’ using their appearance as publicity for their own enterprises).
Even though they live in a tract of burbland, their family seems to be taking some good first steps to increase their self-reliance by raising silkie chickens in the backyard, and growing aeroponic vegetables in a vertical garden tower.

But David’s main hobby, it seems, is flying drones!
Huh.
While the military-capitalist-corporate-industrial hegemons rain down remote-piloted death and destruction on foreign civilians of colour, here at home the basic technology has trickled down to the prosumer level, allowing armchair hobbyists to tinker about and remote-pilot their own camera-equipped drones around their pre-apocalyptic suburban wastelands! Isn’t our modern age great?

David’s plan post-quake is apparently to use his ‘drone army’ to ‘patrol’ his neighborhood, and equip them with various payloads—like one of those GoPro cameras that are all the rage right now, or a disposable camera-turned-improvised taser, or an ultralight silver parachute of medical supplies.
I dunno, I feel like it might just be easier and more productive/rewarding for David and/or the family to get out in the neighborhood on foot, meet their neighbors face-to-face, and start turning their subdivision into an actual community. Get a couple more families in the cul-de-sac on the chickens-and-gardening bandwagon and they could have the seeds of a nice little self-reliant network. Just a suggestion.

Doomsday Preppers: John Tucker

Man, the longer this show goes on, the least interesting it gets: I’d chalk it up to familiarity breeding contempt, and I’ve been writing these up for way too long to not notice the patterns everywhere.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentSegment Breakdown:
John Tucker, family of six (yay, excessive procreation!), oil field technician (yay, fossil fuels!).
Supposed motivation: Category 5 hurricane (not unreasonable; it’s Texas, and weather’s only going to get worse).
Strategy: “I keep bees.”
Prior disaster experience: 49 days without electricity from Hurricane Ike!
The above ^ covered in the first six minutes. Rest of segment:

*Some drawn-out drama-stuff where John and his assistant get swarmed while trying to remove a hive of what we’re told are Africanized (‘killer’) bees from a house, without smoking them first, for some reason. Well, what did they expect was going to happen?

*John plans on bugging-out 350 miles, and wants to bring bees with him. But not all of them – just one hive (plus a dummy hive full of supplies)? As you should know by this point in the season, we’re going to spend the next fifteen minutes in a montage of sweaty folks welding (don’t forget the generic heavy metal music!), then adding weapons, followed by a testing stunt.

And why exactly—ignoring the fact that we’re talking reality tv here (nothing can be educational or even realistic!) and everything is sensational and for ratings—does John find it necessary to add a one-time-only, deployable car-caltrop and scythe wheels to his killer beehive trailer honey wagon?
Because he thinks people will see his beehive on the trailer (while they’re traveling down the road, apparently), recognize the many, many uses of honey/wax, and want it for themselves, therefore making him a target!
Y’know, when they first said they were worried about people taking their bees during a bug-out, I figured they meant people pulling combs out of the hives when they had parked somewhere. It’s pretty much only in the movies that somebody would try to steal something from your vehicle while you’re driving.
Ugh. At the end of the segment, John declares, “I’m not crazy, I’m a prepper!” Ha. Whoever said preppers weren’t paranoid…obviously doesn’t watch this show.

You know what I would do if I had bees to transport covertly? For starters, I’d make sure the trailer was big enough and sturdy enough to hold all of my hives—if you were to bug-out with a surplus of commodity with actual value (in this case, honey and wax), hey, you would have something to barter!
Plus, what with colony collapse all the rage these days, I’d want to make sure I had as many hives with me as possible! I thought preppers were all about redundancy—why does John only load up one hive??

Next, I’d make sure the trailer (which would probably need to be a double-axle for stability, not the dinky one John makes up) had low walls, for partial concealment, obviously. Finally, I’d just throw a blue plastic tarp over the top of everything, and nobody would be the wiser.
Of course, John and his crew realize this too, but it’s only after they’ve weaponized the trailer and given it a tacticool name, when they decide they could “put a net over the whole trailer, so they won’t even know what’s going down the road”. Right guys, except now you’re towing a redneck scythe chariot, which is probably gonna tip people off that you’ve got something worth taking.
And what they wind up throwing over the top isn’t something innocuous and commonplace like a blue tarp, as I’ve suggested (who doesn’t have one kicking around?), but some military camo netting, which definitely makes it look like they’re trying to hide something.

Oh, and of course they have to test it out! (Gotta have a stunt to get those ratings!) John tows the weaponized trailer while his cousin or whatever plays the role of honey-coveting marauder. They wind up pulling the front bumper off the car and flattening a tire or two. Whoo.

John closes by letting us know that he always makes sure he has extra stuff on hand so his family can eat. Dude, we’ve seen your vast array of sponsored foodbuckets, why not keep a little extra on hand to help your neighbors, maybe help build a more resilient, local community? Teach them about beekeeping, then you wouldn’t have to worry about people hypothetically taking yours? I dunno, I’ve just about had it up to *here* with redstate Takers preoccupied with keeping their Stuff from others and perpetuating the status quo, instead of engaging in actual solutions.

Doomsday Preppers: Dan Rojas

The other half of ‘Total Destruction!’ takes a look at Dan Rojas, of Tampa, Florida, which the show claims is the ‘lightning capital’ of the US&A. Yikes. So…just another reason to stay out of the Sunshine State?
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Since he lives in the lightning capital, Dan’s prepping fear is for a Mega-Lightning Storm, one that could knock out the grid for an inconveniently long time. Hey, I’ll say this—that’s much more reasonable than an EMP doing the same thing, and given the intensification we’re seeing in changing climatic patterns, probably more likely.
A bit later in the segment, Dan says he believes such a megastorm could “create a modern-day Dark Age.” Unfortunately for us, that term is firmly rooted in our culture’s Myth of Progress, and it’s pretty fallacious. Recognize that the term ‘Dark Age’ only arose during the Renaissance, essentially cooked up by the PR spin-doctors of the day to convince the people into believing they were living through an extraordinary time of cultural rebirth and innovation, totally worlds away from those dirty, backwards ‘Dark Ages’. I think Michael Crichton said it best:

“If a benighted medieval world has proven a durable misconception, it may be because it confirms a cherished contemporary belief—that our species always moves forward to ever better and more enlightened ways of life. This belief is utter fantasy, but it dies hard. It is especially difficult for modern people to conceive that our modern, scientific age might not be an improvement over the prescientific period.”

Anyway, to prepare for an eventual grid-down scenario, Dan is making some solid choices to give his family a major step up on most folks. Although it’s given barely more than a mention, it looks like their entire backyard has been converted to a massive aquaponics system. Additionally, Dan and Denise have incorporated exercise routines into their day-to-day work—which is something that seems to be sorely lacking in most Preppers’ plans.

Because it’s not enough to spend more time showing the audience helpful innovations, instead the producers inject a bit of DRAMA and have the family do a lightning storm ‘bug-in’ drill—this amounts to running around, locking animals in cages, and—quite literally—trying to herd a cat. Whatever, it’s all for ratings.

Thankfully, we get down to the meat of the segment fairly quickly, and get to watch Dan put together a totally awesome The-Sun-Provides-For-Everything ‘survival station’. They start out with a visit to the local pawn shop to track down a pre-flatscreen television, containing a precious giant fresnel lens. Back at home, Dan (genius backyard scientist that he is) bolts together a frame to hold the lens, adds sun-tracking capability (solar-powered, of course), and right off the bat, starts a fire in second.

From here, they pretty much just go nuts, using the abundant, free energy from our nearest star to make potable water (boiling pond water), cook chicken (using a parabolic mirror and cast-iron skillet, instead of the fresnel’s direct beam death-ray), and even melt zinc metal to cast a shiny, intimidating hunting knife. Basically, there’s nothing you can’t do with solar.
Just don’t call it ‘cool’. *rimshot*

I’ve poked around through Dan’s youtube channel, and he’s doing some pretty wild stuff; definitely worth checking out. It’s nice to see folks putting this how-to/diy kind of info out there, so that everyday people will see what’s possible in off-grid tech. I’m just waiting for the day when Dan’s niche isn’t considered ‘alternative tech’, but just ‘tech’.

Doomsday Preppers: Tracy Foutch

Up next we have a pretty decent episode, entitled ‘Total Destruction!’ We start out in Smithville, Tennessee with Tracy Foutch, who is worried about an F5 tornado. And once again, the show airs right on the heels of yet another large disaster, this time a string of twisters in the American Midwest.
A token amount of time in this segment is spent ‘showing off preps’, which Tracy handles pretty intelligently. Normally folks on the show will give out their full name and location, and then proceed to show off every nook and cranny of their secret hideouts. Or else they only go by a first name, give a rough location, but still show off everything. Tracy instead opts for two-out-of-three, because while we know who and where he is, and that he has two hidden safe rooms, he wisely doesn’t show where they are! Why does it seem like he’s the first person to have thought of this?
There’s also a little bit of apiary fun when Tracy and his wife do some bee-keeping, which is always awesome. You simply can’t go wrong with delicious, nutritious, antibacterial, everlasting bee vomit!

However, like I said, none of that is the focus of the episode, because season three’s overwhelming common thread seems to be ‘ambitious building projects’.
And so, the segment spends the majority of its time constantly recapping a build at Tracy’s factory, as he and his team put together a gasifier-powered school bus mobile safe room. It’s nice to see his gasifier looks shiny and professional, instead of built out of oil drums and rusty pipe. Of course, it’s not enough to have a bus that runs off scrap wood (which in a disaster, will likely be freely available): it’s gotta be armored!

In the end, there’s something vaguely troubling that underlies this season’s running theme of ‘all end-of-the-world-survival vehicles must be bulletproof’—as it suggests these preppers assume that as soon as one’s town gets wiped off the map by the megastorm du jour, people will immediately start shooting at each other, and with the exception of Hurricane Katrina, I really don’t think that’s been the case (mostly folks are just too busy coping with the shock of having their home and all of their material possessions taken away by an indifferent force of nature). This prevalent idea worries me, in a positive-feedback kind of way. While this show focuses on a small subset of the populace, the audience is nonetheless looking to these subjects for a model on how to approach the issue of survival/disaster preparedness.
If people watch this program and see that the mainstream-media-endorsed way to approach disasters is to expect a third-world warzone, I’m afraid that’s what they’re going to get –
“We only receive what we demand, and if we want hell then hell’s what we’ll have.”

So they cut out a platform for the gasifier, weld a cow-catcher on the front, some (admittedly, pretty cool-looking) articulated slats over the front windows, plus bars over the tire wells and side windows. All in all, it comes out looking pretty good; plus, the cow-catcher makes it look like a Greek trireme by way of Mordor:
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Barber

Like I said, ‘We Are the Marauders’ thankfully only referred to the previous numbskull. The other half of the episode consists of an update from a previous family profiled at the end of Season Two. And even better, this is a family that’s doing great things!
That’s right, Kevin Barber is back!

and, might I say, rocking a sweet suntan!

Last time we saw them, the Barbers had just packed up their suburban Kansas lives into a shipping container and moved to Costa Rica, where they set up a chicken coop and proceeded to eat a dozen kinds of fruit right off the trees.

They’re still required to have a single-issue preparedness motivator, so Kevin’s is still US&A Economic Collapse, but unlike pretty much every other person who talks into the camera on this show, Kevin doesn’t sound scared, paranoid, or like he’s spoiling for a fight, post-collapse. Instead, there’s just calm, levelheaded, healthy confidence. I wonder why that is? Could it be—just maybe—that Kevin seems to have peace of mind because his family’s survival plan takes a form that actually addresses his feared disaster? He’s not focused on hoarding guns, bullets, and purchased foodbuckets, or buttoning up in a concrete bunker—the Type I strategy held up by most would-be preppers as the one-size-fits-all ‘solution’ to every collapse contingency; such thinking is painfully inside-the-Box and as such only serves to play into the hand of the capitalist/consumerist system that bred the collapse in the first place. I have to believe the aura of fear that most preppers fairly radiate can only result from the realization that deep down, they know these ‘solutions’ are only temporary stop-gap measures: kicking the can, if you will, another six months or so further down the road (hmm, much like the US&A’s current infuriating pattern of debt-ceiling limit raising).
On the other hand we have Kevin Barber – who, instead of stumbling forward blind and unthinking, has hit the brakes on his suburban American daydream life long enough to take a good look at it, see what needs fixing, and make concrete changes to his way of life.

Down on their tropical homestead, we see Kevin and his wife setting up rain barrels for water storage, showing off their chicken coop, and compost system. In an extension of their last appearance, they’re now butchering their own chicken by themselves, AND they say some nice words for it before they dispatch it! Awesome.

However, the majority of the segment follows the family as they set up an aquaponics system, which unfortunately is chopped into five-minute snippets and spliced with said previous ‘marauder’ asshat. Blerg, I swear, the decision this season to intercut between segments has resulted in a whittling down of actual material by about half…which means the other half is spent recapping what we’ve just seen five minutes before. Ultimately I’m afraid it’s a chicken-or-egg quandary—is this kind of programming a cause of shorter attention spans, or simply appealing to them?

While they’re working on getting set up, a caption suggests that aquaponics may date back to the Aztec use of floating gardens (the chinampa system), which is a pretty cool idea; I’d never thought of it like that before, but it’s totally valid!
When the time comes for Kevin to dig the pits to put his various fish ponds and algae tanks in, he doesn’t foolishly attempt to do it single-handedly (as you might expect of a deluded, gung-ho, lone-wolf prepper)—he gets the neighbors involved! AND he speaks Spanish while working with them! Imagine that! Building community by coming to together to build a system that can contribute to a local, resilient economy! In other words, Kevin has taken a gigantic step towards true survival, a notion that terrifies Amerikans—he has ‘gone native’. How’s that for progress?!

In the end, this family is too cool. Major thumbs-up. Their ducks look to be all in a row, and they have the groundwork laid for a great life off the grid…now if people in this country would only realize that they could do the same thing, without moving to Costa Rica.