Posts Tagged ‘paleo’

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!


Doomsday Preppers: Snake Blocker

With the last couple of episodes, I’ve started to notice a trend of each episode only focusing on two groups (compared to the usual three per episode last season). And instead of splitting each episode cleanly down the middle, the segments have been coming out a little uneven – in fact, this segment received only about a third of the time devoted to the Seven Trumpet crowd.
This episode’s second individual is one Snake Blocker, jack-of-many trades currently operating from around Denver, Colorado.
snake-blockerHe’s of Apache descent, and seems pretty in touch with that side of himself, which is good to see. Too often modern Native Americans get lured in—and ground down—by the call of White culture. Nice to see Snake’s kept his head.
As our narrator introduces him, we hear how he always tries to emulate his ancestors’ ways of life, and uphold their traditions. Apparently this includes interpreting dreams and prophecies, which leads him to conclude that the US economy is bound for collapse. Wait, he had to interpret his dreams to deduce that? Hell, I know it’s assured, and I’ve never had an economic dream (tons of dreams about air- and spacecraft falling out of the sky, though, for what it’s worth). I’m sure his Apache forebears could’ve told him the same, based purely on observations of our culture’s counter-to-the-laws-of-ecology foundation of infinite expansion in a finite world.
Of course, when it comes to holding onto your ancestors’ lifeways, it’s pretty tough to get by on hunting-and-gathering in the impoverished ecosystem this culture has left in its wake. Then again, when your ancestral lands are stolen by a genocidal culture who believes Their way is the only right way for people to live, what do you expect?

Snake’s biggest motivator—and challenge—is his new wife Melissa. He wants to be able to provide for her in any contingency, but isn’t sure if she’ll be able to ‘rough it’ when the time comes.
And Snake has a novel strategy of survival, one this bunkers-and-guns-heavy show rarely features: when things go south, he plans on grabbing his partner, hopping on his motorcycle, and going nomad.
(While I agree with his reasons for choosing a motorcycle—primarily the ease of navigating congested roads—it’s important to remember that a bicycle has the same advantage, is only like, 1/10th the weight, and requires zero fossil fuels).
So to put themselves to the test, Snake and Melissa head for the hills, where they’ll try out some survival skills to see if they’re up to the challenge.
First up is staying hydrated. They come across some stagnant puddles, which they drink using some of those third-world-water filter straws. I like the idea of having a disposable way to suck water directly out of the source, but they have their disadvantages too. First of these is capacity—each straw is only rated to filter something like, twenty gallons. Second, they’re based off that ‘activated carbon’ stuff, which I’m pretty sure don’t handle the two big guys when it comes to dirty water—giardia and cryptosporidium. To take care of those, you’re better off boiling water, or passing it through a heavy-duty Katadyn filter or the like. Actually, the Lifestraw is probably the optimum for short-term outings (what with its’ 1,000 gallon capacity, ability to filter the important critters, and light weight).
There’s a shot of Snake trying to swish water from the puddle into the narrow neck of what I swear is a Red Stripe bottle. Ideally, you’re better off with a wide-mouth bottle, but if you don’t have one, an empty ziplock-type bag—or a condom, in a pinch—can make a handy water-scooper.

Next challenge is staying fed. Obviously not nearly as important as water (after all, you can survive for three weeks without food but only three days without the wet stuff), but nobody likes to be out in the woods on an empty stomach. Snake finds a monstrous ant mound and digs out some six-legged snacks. He eats some of the ants, but unless you’re in an area with those honey-assed ants, I wouldn’t bother. Instead, focus on something that can’t crawl away or bite you—larvae! Ray Mears demonstrates a great way to collect larvae (get the bugs to work for you!) in his Belarus bushcraft film.

After Melissa passes on the creepy-crawlies, Snake decides to try for something more meaty, and actually shoots a nice big jackrabbit, right through the eye. Better yet, he doesn’t use some big, ugly, black plastic gun, he uses a wooden bow! Finally! Man, I really mean it when I say there’s not nearly enough archery on this show!
Like I said, there was a time when you couldn’t throw a stick west of the Mississippi without hitting a buffalo or elk or something sizeable to eat, but not anymore, so they have to make do with the rabbit. Snake skips his knife and skins the rabbit with the teeth in a coyote skull (somehow), whips up a fire with a bow-drill, and roasts the whole critter, eyes and all. And major thumbs-up on thanking the Great Spirit for the nourishment the rabbit will give them. I was kind of surprised he didn’t do it when he shot it, but he made up for it at suppertime.

With water, food, and fire taken care of, I’m disappointed they didn’t have time to tackle Shelter. Especially since the couple passed a little wikiup framework when they reached their camp, I would’ve liked to see how he made it sleepable, but alas, we run out of time. Like I said at the beginning, Snake really gets the short end of the stick in the episode, which is too bad because I would’ve liked to see more of him, particularly because folks with his kind of survival approach are criminally under-represented on this show. As he says, folks with alternate methods of supporting themselves (in other words, those who don’t have to rely on the locked-up food at the supermarket) are the ones who will really be able to survive.

In their assessment, the ‘experts’ suggest that Snake get familiar with snares and traps (they say hunting is too much work), and I’m inclined to agree. Of course, there’s no reason to keep everything primitive; you can throw a couple of large Victor traps in your pack, and a medium-sized Havahart trap on the back of the bike, and you can catch anything from packrats on up to cats!
However, despite the fact that he seems perfectly competent to handle himself in the wilderness, in the end the ‘experts’ give Snake just 48 points for four months’ initial survival (which is the second-lowest score yet).
This is just further proof that these so-called ‘experts’ are unable to objectively evaluate someone who operates under a paradigm completely different from theirs. I shouldn’t be surprised, though; I first started leaning towards this conclusion when I tried the ‘How Prepped Are You’  feature (what the experts supposedly use to calculate the scores) at the NatGeo site; clearly, the brains behind the show—victims of our culture’s myth of Progress—cannot imagine a world in which one’s odds of survival have nothing to do with how much one has stockpiled (whether of food, water, paramilitary guns, or high-tech gear).

In his update, Snake sounds like they are setting up the makings of a nice homestead at Melissa’s parent’s house.

Doomsday Preppers: Jay

JayThe last would-be survivor profiled on the Escape From New York episode is Jay (no last name, smart!), family man/stock trader worried about a second September 11-scale terror attack, possibly using a ‘dirty bomb’.To help him prepare, he enlists the guidance of Shane Hobel of the Mountain Scout Survival School.

If there’s one common thread running through all three of these people’s challenges, it’s one of resiliency. Margaret Ling was in fine physical shape but needed to focus on awareness of her environment and keeping vigilant against possible assailants, as well as finding it within herself to be able to physically harm those assailants in order to survive. Cameron Moore needed a little more physical exercise, but he also had some mental walls to break down—accomplished by ‘acquiring’ a bicycle for better transportation, and adopting a ‘spray first, ask questions later’ with regards to hostile encounters. Jay’s practice escape is no different. As a middle-aged urban man, he’s not as physically fit as he used to be, so undertaking a multi-mile hike on foot is going to challenge his endurance as well as his attitude. This is a good point to stress the pre– part of preparedness. It’s not postparedness for a reason—preparation is something that needs to be done before disaster actually strikes. One shouldn’t wait for a disaster to discover you can’t take it; get off the couch and get out there for some practical exercise. If your bug-in plan relies on heating with wood, don’t say, ‘Oh, I’ll start splitting firewood once things go south’, do it now! If you’re like Jay and are your family rendezvous point is twelve miles away, don’t assume that when disaster strikes you’ll instantly be transformed into a Tarahumaran marathon runner. These things take time, and if you wait until shit goes down, time’s up.

Since Jay is focusing on a dirty bomb attack, his mentor shows him how to use matches to determine wind direction; I’m not sure I buy it. Might as well lick your finger and hold it up in the air. Shane also tells Jay to walk into the wind, in order to get the threat behind him as soon as possible. In other words, late great Mitch Hedberg’s parade theory applied to radiation!:
“If you’re watchin’ a parade, make sure you stand in one spot; don’t follow it, it never changes. And if the parade is boring, run in the opposite direction. You will fast-forward the parade!”

After what I assume is several miles, Jay starts getting tired, so Shane takes him to a public fountain to get a drink. Of course, it’s full of algae and gunk, so Shane uses powdered charcoal and a bandana to filter the water. I don’t really buy that either. We’re told that such a filter method will remove chlorine (more on that in a minute) and sediments, which is all well and good, but it doesn’t kill microorganisms (what you should really worry about)–it just makes nasty water more palatable. The caption tells us that water can also be purified with household bleach, 1/8 teaspoon to a gallon. That’s more like it. Although personally, I prefer 2% tincture of iodine, which isn’t as affected by temperature as chlorine, and can also be used to clean wounds as well as water. To have really safe water, however, I recommend using at least two purification methods, and luckily there are lots of options. Take your pick: chemical solutions (chlorine, iodine), UV (SODIS, SteriPen), boiling, distillation, the list goes on. Once you’ve got the bugs out, then run your H2O through a charcoal filter to improve the taste.

I might’ve missed something, because Shane starts showing Jay a handy medicinal weed: Plantain! Not those starchy banana-things, but a common plant you probably have growing in your yard: plantago. I frequently use it on cuts, as the sap is great at stopping bleeding. But unlike what this guy shows, just crush up or bruise a leaf or two in your hand, don’t chew it up to get the juices out—if you have an open wound, you definitely don’t want mouth germs in it.

I can’t say the techniques this guy demonstrates are great, but it’s more than most folks know; I’m starting to think NatGeo should give Hobel his own show. Doomsday Preppers is great for looking at folks and their various approaches to what they consider survival, but there are certain basics (navigation, what to eat, how to drink, shelter, medicine, and fire-making) that people just don’t know.

In the end, Jay meets up with his family and they drive off to the Hamptons in their SUV. But not to worry, their bug-out vehicle has three bikes on the back rack! Which is AWESOME, as it’s nice to finally see someone thinking practically, sustainably, and survivably.

Looks like the next episode next week’s episode is also themed? And it’s superbunkers? Oh boy. Until next time, folks!

Doomsday Preppers: Ryan Croft

Up next is Ryan Croft, from Ashville, North Carolina.
ryancroftThis former Air Force airman is the father of five teenage boys and like most the show has featured, is concerned for worldwide financial collapse. But Ryan isn’t afraid to think outside the box that ‘prepping’ has become. Unlike other folks on the show who focus on mobility and bugging out, Ryan is ready to stand his ground with other members of his community. And unlike almost everyone else on the show, his food plan isn’t based around hoarding canned or freeze-dried food.

First off, Ryan comes across as very earnest in this segment, probably because of his Tea Party topics, but also because he talks to the camera a lot! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially given that the things he talks about are things people need—but probably don’t want—to hear. (Probably my favorite is when Ryan tells us that as a former member of the USAF, “government solutions SUCK!” As someone who just finished up a gig with the US Forest Service, I’m inclined to agree.)

So, as we’ve said, Ryan is worried about an economic collapse, which will bring about a social collapse along with it.
That’s nothing we haven’t seen on the show so far (especially this season). However, why does he think this scenario might come to pass? Because, as he says, “the value of a dollar is totally artificial.” YUP. Unpleasant truth avoided by Our Culture # 1: when your whole civilizational experiment’s system of wealth is based on shiny, inedible rocks, you’re going to be working within a framework of completely arbitrary values for everything.
Ryan continues to explain that this economic collapse has already begun with the 2008 Financial Crisis/Great Recession/Depression MkII/whatever you want to call it. (On a side note, I’m sick of hearing talking heads refer to, “this current economy”, as if our global slump is just something temporary to shake off and rebound from. Sorry guys, but it’s just the way things are, and it’s simply a result. If you drink too much, you have a hangover the next day. If your economy is designed around the idea of infinite growth and expansion (in a finite world), eventually the bubble will burst. That’s all we’re dealing with. I only wonder how long people in This culture will continue to seek solutions for this inevitability we’re living through now, instead of considering a different system altogether.)  He goes on, saying that the economy is now in a “gentle glide” downwards, and that the one thing keeping it moving forwards is consumer confidence. It makes for an interesting visual, and it makes sense to me.

So, as I’ve said, Ryan isn’t planning on bugging out or hoarding food. So what is he doing? Growing algae! Apparently, Spirulina is a healthy, easy-to-grow aquacultural food supplement. Of course, while Ryan’s telling us about how awesome the stuff is, our undercutting caption pops up to inform us that a cup of dried Spirulina contains only about 325 calories. If that’s the case, I’d lean more towards gardening/ horticulture, but keep growing the algae as a valuable supplement.

Not only is Ryan growing this nutritious green stuff, he’s also organizing folks around town to grow it, creating a network of ‘microfarms’, essentially acting as a hedge against a vulnerable monoculture. His family’s no-bug-out plan stems from a great community-based ethic (as he says, “This is our home; we love these people”—major thumbs-up, dude!), and although they don’t go into any details, he also plans not just for a network in his neighborhood, but within his region. Their goal: “Everybody lives, nobody dies”. It’s a good theory, but I actually agree with the experts, that he should keep his focus small on a microtribe-sized group (20 people or so) at first, and let it grow organically so that in a few years, maybe he will have big network for support.

I also like his notion that a prepper’s “number-one resource should be people! …and that’s not on most people’s prepper list!” Believe me, I’ve noticed. Why is this the case? First off, as I’ve written about many times, the modern idea of ‘prepping’ has less to do with preparedness and more to do with consumption as a means of keeping one’s current civilized, unsustainable way of life going for just a little bit longer, should disaster occur. Secondly, we as Americans are in love with the idea of the rugged individualist/lone wolf-types. These are the men (very rarely women) who struck off into the wilderness with a belt axe and the clothes on their back and Singlehandedly Built This Great Country, By God.
Except, that was never really the case.

As part of his ‘stand your ground instead of bugging out’ strategy, Ryan does some tactical-y exercises with fellow enthusiasts, using some of his self-designed weapons. He shows off his outfit (Amendment Arms)’s new AK/AR mashup (he calls it the Joshua Mk5).
I understand the respective strengths and weaknesses of those two popular platforms, so I’ll be very interested in seeing how his new rifle works out.

Anyway, Ryan explains another reason he doesn’t hoard food is a result of his airman’s survival knowledge: “you don’t need to stockpile if you have experience with primitive techniques”. Again, we are in agreement. If you’re living off the fat of the land your people have been carefully stewarding for thousands of years, of course there’s no need to stockpile! Food is everywhere! Of course, if that land has been stolen by members of a cannibalistic death-culture who’ve done their very best to destroy the fertility and diversity of that land so that you can’t live off it…yeah, stockpiling might be a good idea.

He takes his boys out in the pasture and they set up a figure-four deadfall trap to catch fieldmice. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t bother with the bushcraft trap. I keep a couple of Victor rat traps in my survival pack for the simple fact that they’re inexpensive, efficient, easy-to-use, and lightweight. And even in a long-term disaster scenario, even when the grocery store shelves have long been empty, I’d bet these ubiquitous classic traps will still be around.

So, Ryan and his boys make a good-looking campfire and chow down on a mouse; nice to see their enculturated food preferences fall by the wayside. Speaking of which, when Ryan talks about supplementing his algae with wild protein, he eats an earthworm. Now, I’m pretty sure he’s not an animist, so I’m not going to get on his case about why he doesn’t thank the Great Spirit for the sustenance the worm will provide him. But I am going to ask the question Why Doesn’t Anyone On This Show Know How To Eat A Worm? Seriously. This is like, the second episode in a row where someone picks up a red wriggler, half-heartedly wipes some dirt off it, and just eats it. When one of Ryan’s sons eats one, he says, “Hm. Tastes like dirt.” Well, no wonder! I bet it feels like dirt, too! The trick to eating worms is simple: throw ’em in water for a few minutes first. Without that crucial step, a worm is simply an unappetizing, writhing, gritty, meat-tube full of dirt-shite. However, letting them sit in water not only gets the grit off, it also makes them purge themselves, leaving you with a tube of pure subterranean protein.

In the end, the experts give him 63 points, for ten months’ initial survival.

Doomsday Preppers: Brian Murdock

Up next is Brian Murdock, late twentysomething from Massachusetts.
brianmurdockHis segment doesn’t have much material, most of it is occupied with generic ‘reality’ show drama, which I have no interest in.
He’s worried about a third world war looming on the horizon. Honestly, I don’t think it’s such an outrageous concern. In fact, my cousin told me about an article she recently read in a popular magazine that pretty much said a world war would be likely in the next forty years or so. Brian sees it beginning with an early US&A-on-Iran strike, followed by Tehran retaliating with a strike on Tel Aviv. I think that might be a little simplistic by not factoring in nations like Russia, backer of both Iran and Syria—and let’s keep in mind that as I write this, signs are good that Assad is preparing to deploy chemical weapons on his people, possibly forcing the hand of the US/UN.
Allow me to springboard. However and whenever stuff goes down, I remember Einstein’s famous quote, “I don’t know what weapons World War Three will be fought with, but I know that World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones”. That may be true—eventually—but there are several things wrong with our notion of being “bombed back to the Stone Age”. First, ‘Stone Age’ societies don’t just spring out of the ground, they’re products of three million years of evolution, and they’re societies that Our Culture has been doing its damnedest to annihilate for the last eight thousand years or so. How many people in Our Culture, given a core of flint and a hammerstone, could craft a workable projectile point? Hell, I can barely knap an Olduwan chopper if I’m lucky—something my ancestors 2 million years ago would’ve had little problem doing—and I study this stuff! Second, calling them ‘Stone Age’ is to misunderstand how these cultures work. Sure, stone plays a part, but it’s like calling our society the ‘Glue Age’—glue plays a part, but it’s hardly the foundation of our way of life.

Anyhow, Brian has an prediction about this forthcoming war—he claims that it will claim exactly 2.3 billion lives.

Huh. That's oddly specific.

Huh. That’s oddly specific.

Because he lives near a major city, Brian is an ‘apartment prepper’. The narrator informs us that to get started as an apartment prepper usually costs $1,500. The very fact that this can be so easily estimated just makes me go ‘Ugh!’: It’s prepping-by-numbers; it’s like saying, ‘If you want to be ‘indie’, just buy x, y, and z!’ There is more than one way to ‘be prepared’ for unseen situations, and believe it or not, sometimes it has nothing to do with how much stuff you’ve bought.
Anyway, instead of being stuck in his apartment, Brian sells apparently all of his belongings for $75,000, and uses the money to buy an RV and 50 acres in New York. Awesome!, now I’m interested. Is he going to be a mobile, nomadic rubbertramp with the NY land as a home base? Is he going to use the RV as temporary housing while he builds his offgrid earthship?
Nope. He’s going to get a Columbian mailorder bride, bring her to Boston, and then whisk her off in the RV to the property in NY. Whoah-oh, culture-shock time!!!
Brian says he really likes this girl because “her culture’s way of life is already well-suited to prepping”. I hope that’s so, because I don’t see Brian doing much in the way of growing potatoes or raising goats and chickens. But apparently, the idea of ‘prepping’ is a foreign concept to Tatiana because back in Columbia, it’s ‘bad times all the times’! So, when the WW3 bullets start flying and she has to hit the ground, she should be right back in her element?

They do some target practice…shooting bananas. Way to waste food, bro.
The experts give them a 43 (including 4 points—a new low—on food storage), computed to eight weeks initial survival time. Now, we know the points don’t matter, but it still seems a little harsh.
In their post-filming update, we learn that they’re now married, and they’re planning to move into the RV in NY in a matter of days. Good luck, guys.

Doomsday Preppers: John Major

Sorry I’m a bit behind schedule at the moment; having Passover and Eostre on the same weekend meant I spent too much time feasting and not enough time writing.
Anyway, last Tuesday’s episode ‘Lock the door and load the shotgun’ opens with a look at one John Major, who has moved his family to Idaho from Utah. Five kids. Yet another Mormon?
He’s worried about coordinated dirty bombs, which he believes would ‘radiate’ our food, leading to a scarcity. Because he doesn’t follow sports (thumbs-up!), he instead explores the Great Outdoors with his kids…by foraging and eating bugs!
His wife says something like, “not too many families eat bugs as a family activity!” Actually, yes they do, but it’s not an ‘activity’, they just call it eating supper. Travel outside the industrialized world and you’ll regularly find insects on peoples’ plates. As I’ve said before, the first things to go out the window in a survival situation should be food preferences. Hell, make it easier on yourself in the future and overcome those preferences now.
For what it’s worth (quite a lot, actually) here’s some useful know-how for Bugs 101: “Red/orange/yeller—forget that feller; green/black/brown—wolf that down!”
Although I’ve been unable to find his outfit on the web, the show says that John is really big into seed banks. And he has a colleague/helper? Uh-oh, we’ve heard that before
And I mean, he’s really into seed banks. In addition to running a seed bank mail-order business, he claims to have 1,500,000 seeds in his personal inventory, because he sees seeds as a plausible post-collapse currency. Which seems pretty logical.
John has a lot of those 1.5 million seeds spread out in three seed banks he’s buried around his property; I’m glad to see he doesn’t have them all in one place like the last seed-banker. That’s good in a nature-emulating sense; it’s only in the civilized human sphere that things are ever crammed/dumped all in one place.
Once again, the Type 1 ‘experts’ suggest that folks buy a HAM radio, as if everybody should want to maintain communication with the rest of the world, post-disaster. What if some of us don’t?

Doomsday Preppers: Bradford Frank

And our last fellow for this episode is Bradford Frank, a Yale-educated psychiatrist living in San Diego, California. Worried about a pandemic, has spent $15,000 on preps.
Again, this one’s pretty light on actual content, unless you like ‘reality’ show family drama.
His Cambodian wife says ‘nothing will happen!’ I’d like to say she’s being an optimist, but I think ostrich is more correct.
The guy from Tennessee stockpiles corn, this guy stores tons and tons of RICE! It’s funny, because they’re Asian.
Apparently, his wife survived the Khmer Rouge by hiding in a cave. Real survival. She also doesn’t care about stocking rice, she’ll eat the robin, snake, and cricket in the backyard! As you should (I’m really looking forward to grasshopper season this summer, so I can chow down on some toasty shish-kabob’d locusts). The first things to go out the window in a survival situation should be your food preferences.
Like others on the show have tried, they do a practice bug-out…to an abandoned mine/cave; as previously mentioned, wife has had bad past experiences in caves. Does not like.

I don’t know what would be worse—trying to bug out with a cat, or a teenage daughter.