Water is the building block of all life on Earth. Without it, we can only survive a few days. That’s why it’s so important to have emergency water stored up in case of a disaster or SHTF scenario.
Gaye Levy at Backdoor Survival has written a four-part guide on emergency water for preppers. Check out the first part here, and read the second part below.
While sourcing water, and especially an adequate supply of water, is a challenge, making such water safe to drink is a whole other matter. There is much confusion relative to the best method to use to purify water.
Is it boiling, filtering, adding bleach, distillation, or something else? Truth be told, the answer is “it depends”. Over time, I am starting to believe that the answer you get is dependent upon who you ask and what interests they happen to represent.
In this article, Daisy Luther, responds to the water purification questions posed by readers in a recent Prepper Book Festival giveaway. Daisy, who is the author of The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide, is not tied to special interests and is diligent in her research. As I mentioned in Part 1: Acquisition, she is stepping up to answer your questions and hopefully bring clarification to this all important topic of water purification.
So once again, grab a cup or bottle of good clean water and let us begin with Part Two of “Emergency Water for Preppers”.
While all of the aspects of water preparedness are vital, often the most overlooked is purification. Sometimes people outside the prepping world don’t think about the fact that the water they manage to acquire could be teeming with dangerous bacteria, sediment, and toxins. Today I’d like to address your questions about water purification.
What is the number one water filter you would recommend?
I have two different favorites.
For in-home use, I love my Big Berkey. For any time I’m away from home, I carry a Sawyer mini. We keep the mini in our backpacks, purses, and vehicles and have at least one in our possession at all times – you just never know when you might need to filter water!
What do you think of steri-pens for disinfecting water?
Steri-pens are awesome, because they are small and easy to use. They can purify up to 8000 liters of water. They work with ultraviolet light and destroy 99.9% of the bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that could make you sick.
The potential downside of steri-pens is that they require a power source. Some, like this one, are powered by AA batteries, while others can be recharged by computers, solar panels, or a wall charger.
What do you think of the SODIS method of purifying water?
SODIS stands for solar water disinfection.
It’s pretty amazing. Put water into a PET plastic bottle (PolyEthylene Terephthalate, Recycle code #1), lay it in the sun for at least 6 hours, and boom – you have safer water. The beauty of the SODIS water purification method is that it costs next to nothing and is simple to do in nearly any location.
The outdoor temperature is irrelevant – the purification occurs from the exposure to UV rays. This is sort of like an off-grid steri-pen.
Some warnings: if the water is cloudy, you need to filter it before using this method. If the weather is cloudy or overcast, 2 days will be required to purify the water. Be sure that your plastic bottle is absolutely clear.
This method is approved by the World Health Organization, the Red Cross, and UNICEF. (source)
For those who are concerned about the exposure to petrochemicals or BPA in the plastic, the SODIS website says that as long as you use the PET plastic bottles, the amount of exposure to those and other chemicals will be insignificant.
While this might not be my number one choice for water purification, if I was in a situation in which I didn’t have the supplies to use other methods, this would be my fallback method.
Speaking of the SODIS method, you might want to read Gaye’s review of the Puralytics Solar Bag; I know she swears by it.
Is using a WAPI (water pasteurization indicator) really adequate for heating water to a safe enough level to drink?
There are pros and cons to water pasteurization indicators.
On the pro side, a WAPI can help in situations during which you need to save fuel, since the pasteurization point of water is lower than the boiling point. They are a reliable way to heat your water quickly. Since they’re small and inexpensive, they can be a great addition to a bug-out bag.
This being said, I’d normally just opt to boil my water, since boiling water is unmistakable and can’t malfunction. Rocket stoves take very little fuel to bring water to the boiling point. WAPIs are really just a matter of personal preference.
What is really the best way to make sure you have clean water: filter, distill, boil, bleach, pool shock?
Distillation is probably the very safest method. When you’re capturing steam, you’ll have no debris or sediment, and the boiling required to make the steam will kill nearly all contaminants like bacteria, viruses, or protozoa.
The problem with distillation is that if water supplies are limited, you lose a lot during the process. This means it’s not the best method for every situation.
Water purification is always two-fold – you have to get rid of the chunks and you have to get rid of anything harmful living in it. If you are not distilling, most often it’s recommended to both filter and purify.
How do you use pool shock for potable water?
The great thing about storing pool shock instead of bleach is that you don’t have the limited shelf life of bleach. When a prep is this vital, you want it to be at full effectiveness when you need it the most.
Before using pool shock or any chemical purification method, filter any debris, particles and sediment out of your water.
Gaye has an excellent article with all the details on using pool shock to purify water. In summary, she wrote, “For my own use, I settled on 1 teaspoon of pool shock per gallon of water when making up my stock chlorine solution. Then, to disinfect water, I used 3/4 ounce of my pool shock solution to treat a gallon of water. This makes it easy to calculate how much to use, regardless of the size of your container.”
Always, always use eye protection goggles and gloves when dealing with caustic chemicals. If your water tastes funny, you can aerate it by pouring it back and forth between containers a few times.
How do you filter iron and sand from well water?
Reverse osmosis is one of the best ways to remove unwanted minerals from any kind of water, but in an off-grid scenario that isn’t going to do you much good. Not only are most RO systems grid-dependent, but they can also be outrageously expensive.
Carbon block filters (like the kind in the Berkey systems) are your next best option for removing sediment. The more sediment in your water, the more frequently you’ll need to replace your filters. Be sure to stock up on lots of extras. Berkeys are gravity fed and require no source of power to clean your water.
I have looked at my water heater as a 50-gallon source but our water has a lot of minerals in it. What is the best way to clean it up for consumption?
When harvesting water from your water heater, quite often the first water that comes out will be discolored and full of sediment. Reserve this for non-consumption uses like flushing the toilet. (Regularly flushing your water heater will help keep the sediment from building up too much.) Once the water runs clear, you can collect this for drinking water.
Once you’ve collected the water, you should still purify it and filter it through something like a Berkey filter to remove any debris.
If you have a heavy buildup of lime, calcium, or other minerals, the best method for making the water safe to drink is distillation.
My question is how to make an easier homemade distiller for water. This would be helpful if one can afford a fancy distiller, but still has concerns about water quality in a less than ideal situation.
Gaye has chosen to answer this one so let me turn things over to her:
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Jim Cobb’s newest book, Prepper’s Survival Hacks. In it he addresses the question of how to build your own solar still. Even though his book is not slated for publication until mid to late September, both Jim an his published have granted me permission to share his hack for building a survival still.
And just so you know, I agree 100% with Jim. This is not something I would do when SODIS or some other method is more productive.
I’m going to be flat-out honest with you. I don’t in any way, shape, or form endorse the use of a solar still for acquiring water in a survival situation. I’m including it here for two reasons.
1. In any survival manual, it is almost expected that the solar still be mentioned, and its absence in this book would be noticeable.
2. I wanted to include it specifically so I could talk a bit about why you shouldn’t rely upon it.
Bucket or clean container
Large plastic tarp
Large rocks or logs
#1 On the surface, the solar still is a fairly straightforward project. Using your shovel, dig a hole a few feet deep. At the bottom of the hole, roughly in the center, place your bucket or other clean container. Next, stretch the plastic tarp across the top of the hole using the large rocks or logs to secure it in place. Finally, place a small rock at the center of the tarp, which weighs it down above your container.
#2 The idea is that the sun will heat up the inside of that hole, causing moisture from the ground to evaporate, then condense on the bottom of the plastic tarp. It will then run along the plastic to the point above the bucket, into which it will drip.
Here’s the thing. The amount of water you’ll gain through the use of the solar still is, quite literally, a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of energy you’ll expend by digging the hole and setting everything up.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead, set one up tomorrow and see how well it performs. If you get more than 2 cups of water, you’ll be doing fairly well.
What would you recommend for a budget conscious first water filtration system?
If you want one of those pricey systems but can’t afford it, you can actually build your own version of a gravity filtration system. All you need are some basic tools, a couple of food grade buckets, and 2 or 4 Berkey filters.
I have not made this myself but have been present when someone else did, and it absolutely works like a Berkey. We did the dye test after he made it and the DIY system passed. This is a good short term solution.
When you can manage it, I recommend upgrading to a ready-made high quality filter made with stainless steel, but this will get you through in the event of an emergency.
Sometimes the pursuit of knowledge results in more questions than answers. I hope that is true in this case because the more you ask, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better prepared you will be following a disaster or other disruptive event.
Going forward, there will be an article answering your questions about water storage (Part 3 Emergency Water for Preppers: Storage) as well as a round up article providing you will links to some of the best articles on the web written by my preparedness blogging colleagues. Plus, in case you missed it, here is Part 1, Emergency Water For Preppers: Acquisition.
As I mentioned in Part 1, one thing you can count on is that over time, I will continue to introduce you to strategies and resources that will help ensure that you have an adequate supply of water to help you maintain both hydration and sanitation, no matter what.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday ended its search for missing crew of the cargo ship El Faro that sank off the Bahamas last week after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin.
An exhaustive air and sea search for possible survivors was called off at sunset, six days after communication was lost with the ship and the 33 people aboard, the Coast Guard said.
The decision came a day after federal safety officials arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, El Faro’s home port, to launch an investigation into what maritime experts have called the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years.
The White House issued a statement as the search was winding down, promising “the grieving families of El Faro” full government support in the investigation into what happened to the ship.
In parts one and two, we discussed what a first aid kit is, and started to populate it with the broadest category of first aid supplies; that is, for treating penetrations of the skin.
In this part, we will look at a number of other hopefully minor problems and the supplies appropriate for them. The numbers after the problem will be used as a shortcut to indicate for which problem(s) an item in the summary list is used for.
Generally we think of splinters as a sliver of wood which gets imbedded into the skin at or near to the surface. For the purposes of first aid, we will also include slivers of metal or plastic, spines and thorns, fragments of glass, or even small birdshot as long as it is at or just under the surface. There are two schools of splinter treatment, the “needle” school and the “tweezers” school. The needle or other sharp pointed instrument is used in an attempt to drag out the splinter. This can work for wood, as long as it holds together. It is less effective against metal and other impenetrable splinters. With the tweezers, which need to be the right combination of fine point, correct alignment and strength, you just grab the end of the splinter and pull it out. Many of the tweezers available have too broad a point, are not aligned quite correctly, or don’t have the strength to hold onto the splinter. Tweezerman point tweezerettes seem to be a good choice, although the price is higher than run of the mill tweezers.
Of course, in both types of treatment, there is a problem – you have to have access to the end of the splinter for it to work. If it is below the skin, that is not the case. In order to expose (“liberate”) the end, you will need to peel back or remove a bit of the skin from around the splinter, following the path the splinter took. This can be done with the needle, a tip of the tweezers if they are sharp enough, or a separate splinter instrument which is kind of like a big needle with sharpened edges. These don’t seem to have a specific name; I’ve seen them called splinter “out”, “liberator”, “remover”, “pick”, “extractor” and “probe”, and are available as reusable instruments or single use/disposable ones.
Magnification and light is often extremely helpful when removing splinters. Any type of high powered magnifier will do if you are working on someone else, but if you are trying to take a splinter from your own finger, a “hands free” magnifier is much easier. Choices include a visor or stand (neither practical in a small kit), clip on (if you wear glasses), an eye loupe, a magnifier mounted on the tweezers (I find these to be hard to use due to the sideways torque applied by the magnifier) or a small, folding, free standing magnifier (called a thread counter or linen tester). As for light, a useful one will generally need to have batteries, which can die or leak while in storage, so they will need to be checked every so often. The light should be small and moderately bright, so consider one using a single AA, AAA or CR123 battery. Lithium batteries tend to last longer in storage. Another option would be a “keychain” light powered by “watch” batteries. My favorite is the L.R.I. Photon Freedom, because it is small, very durable, water resistant, has easy battery replacement, infinitely variable brightness, a clip in cradle which prevents activation in storage, and a mounting accessory which allows you to mount the light to an iron surface or clip it to your hat or clothing. Of course, it also has a high price.
Once the splinter is removed, you have the situation of penetrated skin to deal with, as discussed in part 1. In order to not add to any infection introduced by the splinter itself, make sure your hands and the surrounding area is clean and disinfected, and all your instruments are sterilized by boiling, burning in a flame or dipping into or wiping with a disinfectant.
You are probably aware of the classic three classes of burns. Some people claim there are four or even five. They are:
We will consider a “minor” burn to be a First degree, or Partial Thickness Second degree over a small area. Anything else will be considered a “major” burn and is best addressed by advanced medical treatment. Burns can be caused by heat, contact with hot liquids or solids, ultra violet and other radiation, electricity, fire and chemicals. Chemical burns should not have any cream/lotion/ointment applied until the chemical is removed, as there could be a chemical reaction between the cream and the chemical. Electrical burns should be considered potentially serious even if they don’t appear very severe, as there may be internal damage not visible from the outside.
Whenever dealing with burns, the immediate response is to immerse the burn in cool, clean water, to stop any further progression of damage. This is not practical to provide for in a first aid kit, and actually can be dangerous to the victim, particularly in serious cases, by encouraging hypothermia and/or shock. There are lines of gel products, such as Burn Free, which are not only more portable than a bunch of water, but less risky as well. The product cools the burn to minimize further damage, and covers the exposed, damaged nerve endings to reduce the pain. Once the burn progression is stopped, and the pain is under control, treatment is focused on avoiding infection and encouraging healing.
There is not much equipment needed for a first degree burn. The most common cause is UV from sunlight (sunburn), and a case could be made that including sunscreen in the kit is appropriate, even though it is “prevention” rather than “first aid”. Pretty much the items indicated for treatment are an aloe vera (or other soothing) cream for comfort, and a dry gauze bandage applied loosely to protect the area and keep the air off of it. Even though with no break in the skin, infection is not a concern, antibiotic ointment can be applied for some comfort if no pain specific cream is available. There are some burn sprays and creams which include a topical anesthetic (often Lidocaine) which may provide good pain relief, but can also cause allergic reactions, particularly in children.
For a partial thickness second degree burn which is confined to a small area, the equipment needed for treatment is a way to wet it for a few minutes each day (gauze sponges work well), antibiotic ointment, pain control and dressings. If any of the blisters break, treat as for any other skin penetration.
Many insects have effects which are irritating or painful. Those which are actually life-threatening need more advanced medical treatment. Bites and stings both penetrate the skin, so the possible problems include bacteria, viruses or parasites, as well as an irritant or a small amount of venom.
An insect bite is a penetration of the skin by the teeth or “mouth” of the insect; a sting is also a penetration, but by a “stinger” or spine designed to deliver venom. The stinger may or may not be left behind; if it is, do NOT grab it, as that could squeeze more venom into the wound. Rather, “scrape” it out with a credit card, long fingernail or other sharp edge. A Sawyer Extractor may suck out some of the venom, but this is usually not important enough to try to fit one of these into a small kit, unless allergy to bee stings is a consideration. In the case of an embedded tick, use your fine tip splinter tweezers to grab the head and work it out.
In addition to whatever pain is generated by the skin penetration, the irritant can cause itching or the venom can add substantial additional pain. Diphenhydramine (an anti-histamine) or hydrocortisone (a steroid) cream can help with itching. Calamine lotion is obnoxious to carry and use (it is a staining, hardening, liquid), but also is effective at relieving itch. As for pain, a cream containing a topical anesthetic can be helpful. Lidocaine is good and fairly easy to find. Pramoxine (aka Pramocaine) is better, but harder to find except in hemorrhoid products. There is a product called “Sting-Kill” containing Benzocaine which is specifically marketed for dulling the pain of bee stings and the like, available in wipes and individual ampoules, thus a good choice for the kit.
Make sure you are aware of all the ingredients in whichever products you choose; all of the ones listed have risk of allergic reaction and serious problems from overdosing.
Other than dealing with the discomfort, treat like any other skin penetration.
Blisters can be caused by friction, most commonly on the feet or hands. If you sense a blister starting, a piece of moleskin can be stuck to what is rubbing on you to provide protection between your skin and the source of friction. Or you can cover the “hot spot” with moleskin, hypoallergenic silk tape, Second Skin blister pads or even a Band-aid if that is all that is available. Once the blister has formed, it is better to leave it intact, to prevent infection. To provide additional protection to a friction blister, you can cut a piece of moleskin with a hole in it (a “donut”) to fit around the blister. However, if it is too painful or too likely to be burst by continuing activity, you can drain the blister by disinfecting the blister and a needle, safety pin or splinter extractor, and poking a hole at the base of the blister and letting it drain, pressing gently to help clear out all liquid. In this case or if it has burst “on its own”, then treat like any other skin penetration.
Second degree burns or frostbite can result in blisters which should be kept from bursting if practical and not deliberately drained, but otherwise are similar to friction blisters. Blisters from spider bites need advanced medical treatment. Blisters from various illnesses should be considered to be contagious.
Rashes can be caused by contact with plants (poison ivy, poison oak, etc) as well as allergic reactions to exposure to the allergen either externally or internally. Heat rash can occur in folds of the skin where moisture and friction combine to make the skin raw, or as “prickly heat”, lots of bumps caused by blocked sweat glands. Numerous illnesses and physical problems, minor and severe, can cause rashes, hives or similar skin problems. Note that even trained doctors can have a hard time determining the type and cause of rashes from the rash alone. From a first aid standpoint, pretty much all we can do is just treat the symptoms.
Generally a rash will be one or more of red, painful, itchy, spots, bumps or scaly. Of course, the first thing to do if contact with an irritant or allergen is suspected is to clean off the area, as well as any clothing or equipment also exposed. Apply hydrocortosone cream to help with the itching. If an allergic reaction is suspected, an oral antihistamine such as Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help. If the bumps are ruptured or torn open, treat like any other skin penetration.
The lips are particularly subject to chapping, cracking and other exposure problems. A tube of Chap Stick, Carmex or other lip balm would be a good addition to the kit.
Summary of these
My contents list to cover this (* indicates part of the sale)
[The number under “Uses” refers to the number(s) listed after the problem(s) to indicate which are addressed by the item]
|Part of Sale?||#||Item||Alternatives (Notes)||Uses|
|1||Magnum Splinter Extractor/Liberator||or needle or Splinter Out||2, 5|
|1||Tweezerman Point Tweezerette||or point tweezers or splinter tweezers||2, 4|
|1||Binger 8x Folding Linen Tester||or other magnifier (Can replace Fresnel lens for reading meds instructions)||2|
|1||LRI Photon Freedom micro keychain light||or single AAA or AA or CR123 light||2|
|1||Scripto Tini Lite Lighter||or Bic Mini (For sterilizing instruments)||2, 5, 9|
|4||Burn Free Gel Individual Pouch||3|
|2||Burn Free 4″ x 4″ Pad||3|
|0||Burn Free 8″ x 8″ Pad||(Too big for my case)||3|
|4||Sting-Kill Towelette/Wipe||or ampoule||4|
|0||Sawyer Extractor||(Too big for my case)||4|
|yes||1||Up&Up 1 oz Tube Hydrocortosone||or diphenhydromine or calimine lotion||4, 6|
|1||Premier 4 5/8″ x 3 3/8″ Moleskin, 3 pack||or Second Skin or silk tape||5|
|1||Avon 4.5″ Iris Scissors||or other small scissors or razor knife||5|
|1||Carmex tube||or Chap Stick or lip balm||6|
|2||Medique Diphen 25mg caplet packet||or other diphenhydramine||6, 18|
In this list, the items are fairly comprehensive, but some of the numbers are a bit small since I spread the products purchased over 4 kits. Adjust the numbers to your preferences and situation.
So far in Parts 2 and 3, we have considered first aid for problems primarily resulting from external events. In Part 4, we will finish up this class of problems.
As South Carolina recovers from heavy rain and flooding, one insect is showing off its clever strategy for survival.
Fox Carolina’s Adrian Acosta recorded footage of a group of fire ants clinging together to form a life raft as they float on the water.
Acosta said he initially thought he was looking at a pile of mud, but closer examination revealed a swarm of ants.
The phenomenon is, in fact, a common survival tactic for fire ants faced with flood conditions.
As researchers studying the behavior in 2011 explained in National Geographic:
“In less than two minutes the ants had linked “hands” to form a floating structure that kept all the insects safe. Even the ants down below can survive this way, thanks to tiny hairs on the ants’ bodies that trap a thin layer of air.”
A reporter from NBC affiliate WSAV spotted and recorded another cluster of ants performingthe buoyant feat in Dorchester County, South Carolina.
Wilson Public Schools Superintendent Eric Smith has made an executive decision to allow 5 teachers to train with their own weapons and carry them concealed during school days,
The Superintendent along with the High School Principal, AG Instructor, Technology Director, and the Elementary Principal have all volunteered to take the three 21 hour classes required to carry their concealed weapon on their person during the school days. The beginning of the instruction will include unarmed security procedures, rules, and regulations.
The superintendent, both principals of the elementary and high school, and two teachers will be training in three phases for a total of 60 hours of concealed carry classes on and off the range before they will begin carrying at the schools. The training will be funded by the schools, and the staff will use their own firearms.
“A school shooting situation, even in a small town like Wilson, it is over when the police department arrives,” High School Principal Gary Labeth said. “A tactical team would take 15 minutes coming out of Ardmore. It’s just another level of protection.”
Thinking of buying the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems?
Want to know more about it?
Check out our review below and be sure to watch the video at the end to see the chest rig in action!
The Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems is a chest rig designed to provide high capacity munitions for the 12 gauge shotgun. Complete with an adjustable H-Harness and waist belt the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems ensures ease of accessibility as well as fire superiority in a SHTF scenario. The Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig features:
The Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems was originally designed to assist with military operations overseas involving the use of a shotgun. Doing so allowed soldiers to maintain fire superiority in urban warfare environments as well as complete missions involving searching and destroying caches of weapons of mass destruction.
The Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems was also designed to complement the efforts of Law Enforcement and Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T) teams with breach and entry situations regarding subjects under warrant for arrest. The Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig is also designed to benefit Law Enforcement working in Riot Control situations by providing a variety of non-lethal munitions such as gas ferret rounds, bean bag rounds, shock-lock, and Taser Xrep cartridges.
A wide range of individuals will benefit from the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems while partaking in their hobbies involving a 12 gauge shotgun. For example the competitive and the independent skeet shooter will have plenty of munitions at his or her disposal either during a competition or while out having fun with friends and family.
As well as seasonal and beginning hunters will benefit from the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by having plenty of munitions and additional space for tools and equipment. For hunters who partake in quail, rouse, or any other type of bird especially, the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig will provide more than enough 12 gauge bird shot shells.
And finally the professional survivalist and even the recently awakened prepper will benefit from possessing the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig especially if they live in an urban environment. 12 gauge shotguns are the most affordable rifle on the market and 12 gauge shotgun shells cost close to nothing so in a SHTF scenario the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems provides the wearer with fire superiority while getting to their extraction point.
The Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig by Beez Combat Systems is available in a variety of colors and is available at their website. Be sure to check out Beez Combat Systems on both Facebook and Twitter for reliable gear made in the United States.
Beez Combat Systems Homepage
Be sure to also check out the CRMB (Chest Rig MOLLE Belt) by Beez Combat Systems if purchasing the Tactical Shotgun Shell Chest Rig. The CRMB replaces the waist strap with a tactical belt complete with MOLLE webbing for additional gear such as a sidearm, medical kit, magazine pouches, or whatever else the mission at hand calls for.
Chest Rig MOLLE Belt
We’ve all been there.
You’re spending time in the outdoors…maybe a hunting, fishing or camping trip…and you realize you left your knife sharpener at home.
You need to cut some fishing line or gut your latest kill…but your blade is virtually useless.
Don’t worry — if you brought your vehicle along, you always have a knife sharpener handy.
Want to know what I mean? Watch the video below.
We say it here all the time: off the grid living is a lifetime commitment. If you truly want to live off the grid, you will have to constantly learn new and better ways to be self sufficient.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Fortunately there are experts like Survival Life contributor Robert Brenner to help you make off the grid living a reality for yourself and your family. Check out Robert’s tips on using straw and ice for refrigeration below.
When I was a kid, my brother and I spent a summer with our grandparents on a farm near Quincy, Michigan. Our grandfather was a Mennonite from Canada. He emigrated (legally) and worked at a Ford plant near Detroit until he retired as a foreman in the cast iron engine block manufacturing department. After he retired, the Korean War began. As a Mennonite, he was a pacifist and avoided anything to do with war. So he bought a 90-acre farm in the center of the state. The farm could easily be made Mennonite-ready. There were electrical wires running from the power line pole out by the road passing by. My grandfather cut the wires leaving the three glass insulators shown near the peak of the roof in the photo below. He took his whole farm off the grid.
And there was a water well hand pump in front of the porch. He used horses to pull the wagons and field implements. He farmed that land and raised milk cows, chickens, and goats. It was 1950.
Years later my wife and I attended a family reunion in Ontario, Canada. While there we visited my grandfather’s childhood home. The whole area is still Mennonite country. By then another family of Mennonites were living at the old homestead. These people were still using many of the same tools and equipment my grandfather did years before. Horses pulled the wagons and farm implements. The family worked hard but seemed quite content. These people were living off the grid just like my grandparents did years later in Quincy, Michigan after he retired.
When the Korean War began—Congress called it a “police action”—my grandfather went off the grid again, reverting to his Mennonite roots to farm and garden independent of government or political influence. He didn’t depend on anyone and was a great example of self-sufficient living.
My grandparents have since completed their tour on this earth and have passed on into history. A few years ago, my wife and I decided to relocate my grandparent’s farm near Quincy and see what it looks like today. To my delight, I found the farm just the same as it was in 1950s when my grandparents owned it. An Amish family lives there now—they have much in common with Mennonites. This family is also living off the grid. I was intrigued visiting with these great people, and I found it fun to see the places where my brother and I played when we were young boys. The glass insulators are still there on the side of the house up near the peak of the roof. And the well pump is still there.
But what really piqued my interest was the current resident’s discussion of refrigeration. They had cold refrigerated food all year long using an ice house and an icebox—without requiring electricity! The matriarch at the farm told me that an ice house was there when they purchased the property years ago. She said they go out each January when the surface of a nearby creek is frozen thick and cut blocks of ice out of the surface of the creek. This ice is brought by wagon to the ice house and stacked inside on a thick layer of straw. Beneath the straw is a drainage field of small rocks to allow water from melted ice to drain out into the soil. The ice is then covered with more straw below, around, and on top so ice blocks don’t touch. Each block is insulated from other blocks and the whole stack of ice is insulated from the outside environment. The ice in the storage house can remain frozen all year long through summer until winter returns and freezes the creek surface again.
Their ice house was a semi-underground structure built into the side of a small hill. It looked about 12 feet wide and at least this deep. Most of the sides and top were covered with earth—a berm-like building. The walls, floor, and ceiling were heavily insulated. It looked like the walls and ceiling are double-layered. I couldn’t tell if the inner-to-outer walls were insulated with straw, sawdust, or wood chips, but the structure looked well-built and solid. And it was cold inside.
In their kitchen was a simple insulated container called an “icebox” or “cold closet.” The ice box was wooden with hollow walls lined with tin and the hollow space between the walls packed with sawdust, straw, or cork. A block of ice was in a tray near the inside top of the box allowing cold air to circulate down over the food on the shelves below. This simple model had a drip pan to catch melted ice. This would be checked and emptied daily. (More expensive models would have a drain spigot coming out the bottom.)
When they need to refill the ice chamber, they would go into the ice house and get a block of ice. They would brush the ice off with a small broom and trim it to size. Then they placef it in the top chamber of the icebox. The melted ice is collected in a small tray and emptied daily, warmed and poured on plants growing inside the house. Their icebox kept milk, butter, meat, and vegetables fresh. An icebox like this was the primary means of refrigerating food in our country until well into the 50s. Obviously some people still use this non-mechanical, non-electrical appliance.
In the 40s and 50s, homes in cities had ice boxes, and ice was delivered every few days by the “ice man.” This person would ride up (or drive up) in a vehicle filled with blocks of ice. A block would be trimmed and brought into each house that had a prearranged agreement to purchase ice. The ice man would place the ice in the icebox and remove the partially melted ice. Kids used to love following the ice man’s vehicle to get shavings of ice to lick. You could tell when the ice man had been there by the melted water track leading down the street. The door-to-door delivery of ice was a social institution back then just like the milk man who delivered bottles of fresh milk to homes.
When gas and electrical refrigerators were introduced, most people went “high tech.” But the name “icebox” stuck and was used to describe the refrigerator by older folks for many years.
If you live where creeks and streams freeze over, you may want to consider an ice house—even without ice it makes a good vegetable and fruit cold storage. And you may want to make or buy an icebox to keep your food cold should the grid go down and SHTF arrives. You can find some great guides and construction details on the Internet. There are also companies selling construction services or iceboxes and general refrigeration products. You “can” have cold storage without electricity!