Cool clean water and veggies

One of the big concerns in any war scenario is a supply of potable water… and in a quasi-guerilla/terrorist war, such as we’re anticipating today, it becomes crucial, since the water supply is an obvious target!

Today, you can purchase equipment and treatments to make sure your water is safe, but if things get bad, you’ll run out of supplies or the filters will give out, and it may be difficult or impossible to come up with replacements. Therefore, today’s article is a quick course in how to make your own with limited equipment… even in the forest, on the run for your life!

Very simply, put four inches of water in a large container, such as a bucket, an old coffee can… anything fairly large will do. In the center of this container, place a rock, a piece of wood or other object, on which a small glass jar or plastic cup can sit level.

Cover the larger container with a sheet of plastic (even a piece of a plastic grocery bag or trash bag will do, but if you can latch onto something heavier and keep it in your survival kit, it would be better), and put a pebble in the center so that it makes a downward point over the small container in the center of the larger one. Hang the edges over outer rim of the larger container, and tie pebbles into the corners so that it stays in place.

Now, make a small fire near one side of this contraption, about a foot or so away… being careful, of course, not to set any combustible parts on fire. Let the low heat from the fire radiate onto the outside of the larger container, and wait about ten minutes.

Lift one side of the plastic sheet, and you’ll see that you’ve just distilled some clean, pure water. This is because the water in the larger, outer container absorbs some of the heat from the fire, causing it to evaporate… but it can’t escape, because of the plastic sheet. It will cool on the under surface of the sheet, and run down the point until it drips into the small container in the center.

Don’t set your micro-still over a fire… you do NOT want this water to boil, or it’ll simply blow the sheet off and escape as steam. You want only enough heat to reach the water to allow it to evaporate, not boil away. In this way, you can generate small amounts of drinkable water almost any time you need it, and if you have time, and a safe place to do so, you can even put some away for later!

The bucket garden

As some wise man must have said once upon a time… “It’s great to be back” in the Junk Science saddle!

One of the most difficult problems we face in a long-term survival situation is providing food for ourselves, our family, and those we take into our care, and since it’s becoming obvious that times are about to get tough, I’ll be addressing these matters for the next few articles.

Now, if you live in the country, as I do now, then you might not have any problem putting in a garden and raising some basic food crops… but if you’re renting, or if you live inside a town with strict codes, then it isn’t so easy, and the Bucket Garden may be the answer to those problems.

To set up your own bucket garden, you’ll need to first find a supply of buckets. Five gallon buckets are best, and can often be had for free from auto shops, trucking companies, restaurants, janitorial supply houses, and many other places. Regardless of where you get them, be absolutely sure to clean them thoroughly, first with a good degreaser, and then again with some simple bleach and water. Then, for good measure, a thorough rinsing with vinegar and water will almost certainly neutralize any left-over chemicals that may be present.

Next, choose a spot where your buckets can get plenty of sunlight. In winter weather, you’ll want to select a spot inside the house or garage if possible, with a good south-facing window… in summer months, you can set them outside on a porch or patio, or just out in the yard, unless some code forbids you to do so.

Having gathered your buckets and selected your location, it’s time to turn to choosing a growth medium, which is merely a substance to use in your buckets for soil, and can be actual dirt from your yard. However, for best results, you might look into soilless techniques, and I’ll describe a couple of simple ones here.

Peat moss can be purchased at most stores that carry gardening supplies, and is relatively inexpensive. Mixed with some soil, it cna be a very good growning medium.

For those who are looking for even less expensive means, you might try sawdust, which you can usually pick up for free from any woodworking shop, pallet builder, or sawmill… and the fresher it is, the better, although it requires a bit of work.

Hardwood sawdust is the best choice, since most softwood sawdust has acids that can be poisonous to plants. I recommend oak, but it must have two treatments before it’s ready to use.

First, oak contains tannic acid, and this needs to be neutralized. Wet it thoroughly with a strong vinegar-water solution, and let it stand for a day. This will eliminate much of the tannic acid.

Then, since sawdust is nitrogen-poor, it will actually leach nitrogen from your seeds or seedlings, killing them… so you have to add nitrogen. The simplest way is the addition of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, but if you don’t have any, and can’t get it, there’s a simple substitute that comes along naturally–urine.

Urine can usually be obtained free from any dairy, cattle, sheep or pig farmer, because there’s undoubtedly a puddle of it somewhere on his premises. Simply gather all you can in some of your buckets, and keep some stored if possible. you can also use urine from your own pets, if you can get them to go on the sawdust, but I don’t advise using human urine… we tend to medicate ourselves with chemicals that may well be harmful to plants.

So… fill your buckets with your neutralized sawdust, add in enough urine to moisten it thoroughly, and then it’s time to think about regular fertilization. that same farmer can take care fo that for you, if he’s willing to part with some manure… add about a half pound to each bucket, and then stir it all up thoroughly. If manure is not available, try adding any dead insects you can find (as long as they didn’t die by Raid, or some such), leftover meat scraps, etc. Allow the whole mixture a week or so to decompose, then stir it up again, and it’s time to plant!

Like any garden, the bucket garden takes a bit of work… you won’t have the problem of weeds, but you’ll need to feed your crops from time to time, and keep them well watered. Keep the whole thing damp, but not soaked and flooded. Feeding is simply of matter of fertilization, and manure, or those leftover food scraps, or if you’re lucky enough to have a compost pile… well, you get the point. And if you can lay your hands on some Miracle-Gro┬«, then you might see some results that even those folks would be in awe of!

The cucumbers and tomatoes to the right might give you some ideas. Many food plants do well in sawdust, such as carrots, potatoes, lettuce, celery, and more… even beans and other grains, if you have the room for them.

So there you have it… I’ll update once in a while on my own bucket garden, and look for my article on a FREE greenhouse in the next few days… til then, I’m always open to questions… so email me any time!