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Design Your Own First Aid Kit

Many homes have a first aid kit, and if yours was like the one in my family growing up, it was a big mess stuffed into a small container. Some families have smaller kits for their cars, garages, or even their everyday carry gear, and if you’re someone who likes to be prepared for anything, chances are good that at least one of your first aid kits is fairly extensive.

It’s easy to find first aid kits that are already put together, and some of them are fairly affordable. There are all levels of kits as well; you can get a 100-piece FAK on Amazon for under ten bucks, and you can go up to a full paramedic-level kit or higher depending on where you shop and how much you are willing to spend. With all of these options available, why would we be advising you to design your own? 

Every Family is Different

The first reason you should design your own FAKs is that your needs will not be exactly the same as the family down the street or in the next town. There are several different factors you’ll need to think about when putting together a first aid kit, including:

  • What regional or local threats do I need to worry about (spiders, scorpions, snakes, etc.)?
  • What types of injuries or issues could arise from the specific activities my family is involved in?
  • Typically, where would we be if these injuries occurred—halfway up a mountain or at the local ball diamond?
  • What specific medical issues do my family members already have?

The above list isn’t all-inclusive, but it’ll get you started. Does your son have an allergy to bees? You’ll need an EpiPen in your kit. Maybe you or your spouse are diabetic and will need to have some oral glucose or other supplies. Are you all big hiking fans? Moleskin might be a must-have. A family with kids in sports might want to carry a SAM splint or other materials for the breaks and sprains that can happen. 

Sure, you can buy one huge kit that may or may not cover all of it—but you’ll be far better prepared if you have exactly what you and your family need and can pack specific supplies for the activity or location that you’ll be in. 

You Need to Be Intimately Familiar with Your Kit

This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people buy an extensive medical kit only to pronounce themselves prepared after putting it away, only to be frantically digging in it later when they need something and can’t find it. What’s more, your kit might be missing the one thing you need in the moment—even if it has 350 band-aids in sixteen sizes.

If you design your own kit, maintain it, and are doing regular checks on it, you know what’s in there and you know where to find what you need in a few seconds. Sometimes that’s all the time you have.

You Need to Have the Training to Use Your Kit

It’s easy to buy a kit so extensive that you could almost perform an appendectomy on your kitchen floor, but do you have the training to use everything in your kit effectively? Supplies mean nothing if no one in your family is trained on them. If your level of training is somewhere around the level of little to non-existent, then look around in your area for some first aid instruction and get it done. There is no downside to medical training when it comes to protecting your family.

We aren’t saying don’t ever buy a pre-packaged FAK. For the optimum level of preparedness, however, you’ll need to:

  • Understand your family’s needs
  • Understand your level of training
  • Understand your kit itself

Those three things will get you on the path to be a lot better prepared to care for your family in the case of a medical need.

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Muscovy Ducks Inbound

It’s a running joke among our friends that we’re trying to recreate Noah’s Ark up here on the mountain with all the animals we have. While we certainly aren’t trying to get two of every kind, we are working toward self-sufficiency, and that means having a variety of plants and animals in our little farm ecosystem. To that end, we are introducing a group of Muscovy ducks next week, and we’re excited about what that means for our farm!

roast duck

Muscovies are native to Mexico, Central and South America, and are domesticated in farms across the United States. The males are the largest ducks in North America, but that’s about where the similarity to traditional ducks ends.

The have long claws, and like to roost in the trees. They don’t need as much water as a true duck, and are quite content with either a small kiddie pool or even just a big bucket to wash their heads in.

The females can hatch up to four clutches of 11-14 eggs per year, which means lots of ducklings. They are excellent mothers, which means they can raise their own babies with no interference from us.

They’re also very quiet; they don’t quack at all. They have a low cooing sound and a soft hiss.

So Why Muscovy Ducks?

Every animal on our farm has at least one purpose, and some of them have more. Our chickens provide eggs and meat, our cats keep the rodent population down, the goats provide milk for dairy products and our amazing premium soaps, and our dogs guard the farm.

The ducks will have dual purpose: they’ll provide pest control services (grasshoppers and other garden ruiners are thick here) and rich, dark meat. In return, they’ll be spoiled rotten, fed fresh greens and grains, and given the absolute best life possible. We’ll keep some for breeding and continue the genetics using a clan-based system, which means a self-perpetuating source of meat — and eggs for baking, too.

Since they’re hardy in cold, like rain and snow, and raise their own young that means we can focus on the goats and chickens, who require a lot more attention. All in all, getting this particular breed of duck means we will have meat for a long time to come.

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Replanting: Free Survival Food

If you’re like me, you’ve started poring over the spring seed catalogs long before spring is officially here, choosing new varieties of garden produce to plant. Maybe you’ll be adding a fruit tree or two, or even just sticking to tried-and-true winners for this year’s garden. What if I told you that you could have part of your garden inside all the year through … without buying seeds? It’s called replanting, and it is way easier than you ever thought.

What is Replanting?

With replanting, you’re literally regrowing what’s left of produce you’ve purchased or already harvested. You’d be surprised at how little work it requires to get started or keep going. What’s more, it’s good for the environment as well since you can use compostable items like eggshells as starters.

Not everything can be grown this way, but a lot of things can. I’m currently growing quite the garden in my kitchen bay window, and have already harvested several things, only to have them keep right on growing. The best part is it’s all growing from scraps of fruits and vegetables I either bought at the store or got from neighbors. Let’s take a closer look at how to do it. Chances are you can start today with things already in your fridge.

Green Onions

This might be the easiest of all, and it’s the one I started with. Simply take the white bulb part, going up about 2″, and snip it off. Use the green part as usual, and then take the bulb end and place it in about an inch of water. The onions will start growing right out of the cut off stem, and you’ll see visible growth in only three days or so. It takes about two weeks to be able to harvest them again, and after that time you put them in a container to keep growing.

Celery

The same principle applies to getting fresh celery. Just take the bunch you bought at the store, cut off the bottom three inches (the “butt”) and put it in water about 1.5″ deep. You’ll see growth in only a few days. After two weeks, I planted mine in an empty coffee container with some holes in the bottom to let excess water drain out.

Potatoes

I cannot count the number of times I’ve snagged those old, forgotten potatoes from the back of the pantry, cut them into pieces that have an eye or two each, and planted them in a container only to get a nice little trove of fresh new potatoes. These go right into a large container filled about only 4″ deep. Once the plants are about 8″ high, I add six more inches of soil, and when they reach 8″ again, I add six more inches of soil. Then I let them grow until they’re done. Instead of only a few potatoes at the end, I have layers and layers of them. This is best done in a 5-gallon bucket but can be done in anything really, as long as it’s deep enough.

Peppers

Peppers are full of seeds, and you can simply use half of the pepper as a kind of built-in planter. Fill it with soil, spray with water, and put the pepper half in a sunny windowsill. After about two weeks, just put the pepper and all in a pot and cover with soil.

The Downsides

There are a few things to know when replanting. If you’re set on having heirloom varieties, this probably isn’t the right way to go for you.  You’re essentially just regrowing whatever you bought at the grocery store.

It also won’t be a good replacement for a full garden during your zone’s growing season. Unless you have a lot of sunny windows, you may be limited in how much you can grow.

The good news is that both of these downsides can be mitigated. If you’re already growing a garden outside every year, you can use replanting to extend the growing season and keep some fresh veggies and herbs long after your outdoor garden is covered in snow. If your garden is made up of heirloom plants, then that’s what you’ll get back in replanting.

If you have room in your home to hang or stand a few grow lights, then sunlit windows become much less of an issue as well. You can expand to however many lights you have.

Instead of throwing your vegetable scraps away, composting them all, or even throwing them to your chickens, try replanting. You might be surprised at how easy — and effective — it is.

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Seeds for Your Homestead

One of the biggest parts — if not the most important part — of survival is food. After all, if you can’t eat good, healthy food, you won’t be able to do much else. While having a deep pantry and well-stored goods is an excellent start, to really round out your diet you’ll need to grow your own food as well. If you don’t have the greenest thumb, then now is a good time to start learning. That means you’ll need some seeds.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with seed buying. There are thousands of different varieties, and just as many questions. What’s the difference between heirloom and hybrid? How do you know what grows well in your area? And what if you’re not the world’s most accomplished gardener? How do you know how much to grow for your family?

Thankfully, the internet is a great place to find answers to all of these questions and many more you haven’t even thought to ask yet. The time to get started on a sustainability and homesteading path is now — long before you need to start planting.

Types of Seeds

There are three main types of seeds: open-pollinated, heirloom, and hybrid. Understanding the differences can set you up for success.

Open-Pollinated Seeds

If you have open-pollinated seeds, it means that insects, birds and even wind did the work to create those seeds by spreading their pollen. All heirlooms are also open-pollinated, and they’re also called “true to type.” In other words, they’re the original real deal. Heirlooms are all open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated are heirlooms.

Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom seeds are often more expensive than their hybrid cousins, but they also have a nifty little benefit. You can collect the seeds from your own plants, use them the next year, and get exactly the same plant and produce from them. To maximize this benefit, always take the seeds from the strongest, highest producing plants.

Hybrid Seeds

Many of the seeds you’ll see in big box stores are hybrids (also called F1), which means they’re man-made varieties resulting from intentional cross-breeding of plants. This is done to increase yield, size, flavor, or even to make the plants more resistant to frost or disease. While all that can be very beneficial, especially to new gardeners, if you save the seeds from these plants you might not get the same results next year due to the genetics in play.

When deciding which seeds to start with, keep in mind your climate, gardening skills and goal. If you’re looking to maximize your yield and don’t mind buying seeds again next year, a hybrid might be perfect. If you’d rather jump into the survival aspect and want to get used to saving seeds and working toward sustainability, heirlooms are a better bet.

Choose Your Seed Varieties

When you think of garden veggies, the standard colors and types probably jump into your mind. Red tomatoes, green lettuce, orange carrots.

There are actually hundreds of varieties of every kind of vegetable, and some of those varieties come with amazing colors, textures and flavors. You can have purple carrots, black tomatoes and even Swiss chard that comes in bright rainbow colors, or corn with kernels that resemble stained glass. Your lettuce can be leafy, sweet, or spicy — or even all of the above. Half the fun of planning your garden is deciding what kinds of vegetables you want. Your garden can focus on basic things like yield and hardiness, but you can also put in some color, making it both beautiful and fun to take care of.

Choose a Seed Company

Before you run to your big box store and grab a handful of the basic varieties, consider ordering online. There are a number of reputable seed companies who not only sell online but offer extensive education and tips on how to best maximize your purchase. You can sit in your recliner, perusing a catalog or website with all the information you need — including how much you’ll need to feed your family.

Some companies cater specifically to those looking to get into survival gardening. Their seeds are packaged for long-term storage, so you can buy more than one year at a time if you like and stash them for future gardening ventures.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is my favorite site. They specialize in rare and exciting varieties at reasonable prices. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is another great site for survival gardeners. Another option is Legacy Food Storage, which offers bulk kits of survival seeds meant to be stored long-term.

Check out those companies first, and then get to buying! Don’t forget to check out ways to put up all that garden goodness!

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Survival Food: Buy or DIY?

Storing food is the cornerstone of prepping for all sorts of disasters or emergencies. Out here in Montana, it’s right up there with firewood for winter importance. Survival food can also keep your family secure during times of financial hardship as well.

Food storage comes in all flavors, too; you can buy meal kits, bulk freeze-dried, or even pack and can your own after hunting, gardening, or even raising some meat. If you’re just starting out with prepping or looking to make it through a bad winter, you might be wondering what direction is best for you and your family. If you’ve already started storing up food, you might be looking for a good way to diversify your stock. Let’s talk options.

Pre-Made Meal Kits

Pros: Convenience, ease of storage
Cons: Price, possible quality concerns

Several vendors sell prepared survival food kits that only require heat and water to use. They come packaged for long-term storage with a variety of foods. It’s by far the most convenient option; you simply buy and store.

Prices vary widely depending on the quantity, quality and type of food. Mountain House (non-sponsored link), for instance, produces meals that are widely regarded as some of the highest quality you can buy with incredibly long shelf lives; their prices, however, are often reflective of that quality.

On the other hand, highly affordable long-term food storage can also come with some negatives. Make sure that what might seem like a great deal actually provides you with enough caloric intake to survive for the amount of time the manufacturer claims.

Before choosing to purchase any ready-made meal kits, make sure to research more than just the price; look at ingredients, length of storability, quantity and calorie load in each meal.

DIY Long-Term Storage

Pros: Knowing what you’re getting, lower cost
Cons: Limited use, requirement to use it all after opening

Another option is to get some 5-gallon buckets, oxygen absorbers and mylar bags, and pack your own survival food storage. This is best for staple goods like corn, wheat, rice or beans.  You can buy the supplies fairly cheaply at a number of vendors online, and if you’ve done it yourself you know exactly what the quality and quantity is. The downside is that once you open the bucket, you’ll need to have a plan to use all of the contents in a short timeframe.

Before deciding to take the plunge and do your own, you’ll want to do some cost analysis, and be honest with yourself about what you’ll use. If you aren’t a fan of beans today, for instance, it’s not an effective use of your supplies, time or money to start prepping them in huge quantities.

Canning Options

Pros: Low cost, wide range of recipes and options available
Cons: Shorter storage time

Home canning is a time-honored method of putting food aside. Done correctly, it can provide you with hundreds of foods, including jams, meats, vegetables and even some desserts. It’s easy to learn, and while it requires the biggest time commitment, it also arguably offers the highest return on your investment — especially if you have your own garden. With a few solid sessions of canning, you can eat fresh food both in and out of season.

The best way to maximize your home canning is to put up foods you’ll eat, use food that you’ve grown or raised yourself, and rotate your stock, eating your oldest food first. Canned food can last at least 18 months; many experienced home canners say it can last far longer than that if you’ve performed the process correctly.

Conclusion

You may choose one of the listed methods above, or a variety of them. What’s best for you and your family might be different than your neighbors or friends. It all comes down to what you can afford, and what you’re willing to do. Regardless of your chosen method, however, whatever you stock now can help you later.

This article was originally posted at Springfield Armory’s blog, The Armory Life.

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An Unlimited Meat Supply?

Prepared folks know that having the skill or materials to raise or make something is worth more than having the money to buy it. That principle has been shown true this year, as panic buying has made even something as basic as toilet paper a scarce resource for many. Money is great — until you can’t find what you need to buy; especially if that something is meat or other food.

In rural areas, local small businesses and butcher shops can still provide meat even while larger urban stores are seeing a shortage, but you might be wondering how to bring meat home if you can’t buy it. That leads us back to the principle of being able to raise your own. If you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to start looking at raising your own meat, then let’s talk about what’s out there besides beef (as having your own cows requires a lot of infrastructure and a much larger commitment).​

Chickens

You can get both meat and eggs out of chickens, making them incredibly versatile. If you’re in a suburban or even urban landscape, this is probably your only option; while many towns will let you have a few hens, they’re not going to be so understanding about Bart the beef steer. If you can also have a rooster, that means you have a self-perpetuating meat source. If you keep a staggered flock, with birds ranging from chicks to two-year-old birds, you’ll always have eggs and meat. Butcher the young roosters for meat and use the hens for laying until they stop — then throw them in a stew pot. You don’t need to raise separate meat chickens and layers, but you certainly can if you prefer the larger birds. (In fact, if you want to be able to keep a healthy flock with the proper level of genetic diversity, you can find out how here!)

Rabbits

Rabbits are easy to raise and breed, and they can provide you with nearly unlimited meat. One buck and two does, with proper care, can make enough rabbits to let you feed your family and even have extra to sell or barter with. They’re simple and quick to process as well. Rabbit manure is also fantastic for your garden and doesn’t need to be aged first, providing you with excellent additions for your soil. However, be sure to diversify your meat source some as too much rabbit mean over the long term can be problematic due to its notably low-fat content relative to its remarkably high protein content.

Goats

These amazing animals are perhaps even more versatile than chickens, but they require more space and are a bit harder to raise. Not only do they offer meat, but dairy breeds also provide excellent milk, which means a whole host of additional food products. In addition, their milk can be used in a wide variety of soaps, lotions and more. Goats are herd animals, so you’ll need at least two. Thankfully, they come in all sizes, and if a 200-lb. Boer meat goat doesn’t sound fun, then you can always opt for the smaller Nigerian Dwarf breeds, which still provide meat if necessary but are well-known for their creamy milk. We have been raising the Nigerian Dwarf breed for a few years now, and we find them sources of not only milk, but joy and fun as well.

Pigs

Pigs are walking garbage disposals that are fairly easy to raise as long as you know how to handle them. Like goats, there are all different breeds and price ranges available. If you’re looking for something smaller and more manageable but still want good quality meat, take a look at Kunekune pigs. They’re friendly, easy to handle, and smaller than your average hog at only 100 to 200 lbs. as opposed to twice that for a regular sized animal — which admittedly means less meat than the full size. Kunekune meat, however, is premium quality. Kunekunes also graze like cows and goats, which means lower feed costs.

How to Get Started Properly

As with anything, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Understand your own situation, what you can reasonably raise based on your available land. Animals need more than food and water; they need medical care at times, preventive measures for parasites and disease, and they require a consistent schedule. If you have animals, leaving for a few days isn’t an option unless you make arrangements for them to be cared for in your absence.

Study the animal you choose to raise; decide on the right species for your family. There are books available for just about every type of farm animal there is, geared for the small homestead. Storey’s Guides are excellent resources for beginners.

Start small, but get the best quality animals you can on your budget. You’ll need good genetics, and a plan for how you’ll breed, raise and process them. Have their living space set up before you buy, and have an experienced person you can consult with questions and learn from.

Raising your own meat is one of the most rewarding things you can pursue. Not only does it taste better than anything from the store, it will bring you that much closer to being ready for anything.


This article was originally posted in 2019 at Springfield Armory’s blog, The Armory Life.

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Survival Chickens: The Food Source in the Backyard

For many, the concept of raising survival chickens is something equated with living in the country. While having fresh, organic meat or eggs sounds great, you can’t have chickens if you live in the city or suburbs. If you’re not in a position to move out to greener pastures, that means you’re stuck being dependent on a grocery store for your meat and eggs.

Or does it?

The truth is that many towns and cities allow you to have survival chickens in your yard—with a few caveats, of course.

Get Informed About Your Area

The first thing you’ll need to do is find out what your area’s specific regulations are. A fairly standard list of regulations can include any of the following:

  • A limit on the number of chickens you can have (six is common, which means 4-5 eggs per day)
  • A ban on owning any roosters due to noise
  • A permit or license, with a fee
  • You will be expected to have adequate fenced area and housing for them, typically two square feet per bird
  • You’ll also need to keep their area clean and odor-free so as not to annoy your neighbors.

Regulations vary by locale, but you can often look up your town’s ordinances by simply doing a web search. You can also check with your local zoning office and county health office as well. In some cases, even apartment dwellers can have a few.

The Pros of Survival Chickens

We all know that having farm fresh eggs on hand is a great thing. After all, your average store egg is about a month old; once you’ve tasted truly fresh eggs you’ll never want to go back.

Meat is also a great reason to raise survival chickens. While a breed like Cornish Cross can give you fat, plump birds in just a few weeks, even your egg layers will be good eating later in a soup or as base for a broth. The best part is that you’ll never have to worry about what medications, supplements, or other things your meat has been injected with.

The Cons

Chickens are great, but they do require upkeep. Eggs don’t appear like magic; you’ll still need to feed them, provide fresh water, and make sure they have somewhere safe to sleep. If you’re not a fan of the idea of processing an animal you raised, however, then meat birds probably aren’t a good goal for you. If you aren’t currently set up for chickens, it can take a few bucks to do that. Once you have what you need, the costs go down exponentially.

Balancing It Out

Like most things in a sustainable or preparedness lifestyle, the decision to raise chickens comes down to risk/hassle vs. reward. If fresh meat and eggs is something that’s important to you, especially if you’re looking to ensure food security in an uncertain world, take a look at chickens—no matter where you live.


See how we’re putting survival chickens to work on our farm!

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Suzie Has Some Babies

This morning we figured putting the mamas out to pasture might help speed things along for Frenchie, who is very agitated this morning.

Shortly afterward, Eric looked outside to see Suzie laying on her side, yelling loudly, and Frenchie was nudging her like an experienced mama, pushing her onto her feet. NO GET UP. YOU GOTTA STAND UP FOR THIS. Suzie struggled to her feet, with Frenchie pushing and encouraging the whole time.

Eric could already see two tiny hooves and a little baby nose as he went up to her. He yelled to me that the kid was going to come right there in the dirt so I grabbed a towel and ran out there just in time to catch the baby before it hit the ground.

The little one is strong, healthy, and Suzie is being an excellent first time mom. We have a little doeling who is perfect, looks just like her mama down to her little black boots and white patch on her head…and blue eyes. Her full registered name will be Liberty 76 Belleau Wood.

Bella, for short.

After a short exam, a bit of selenium, and some iodine for her umbilical cord stump, we left them alone. Bella is currently spending some bonding time with mama and getting her land legs but we will go back down in a bit and get some video of her dancing around.

Frenchie is now yelling and acting quite annoyed. Double babies today? Maybe so. 

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Loki Learns to Leave the Cats Alone

Loki, one of our miniature Aussie Shepherds, is a sweet 7-month-old pup that is still learning farm life. He loves to play with the cats…but they don’t always love playing with him.

Today Loki got in his second fight with one of the cats. He lost this one. Why, you might ask, is he suddenly fighting with the very animals he loves playing with?

It all started when Sugar, one of the Cats Formerly Known as Babykitty, came up and rubbed her head against him affectionately, purring in a friend-zone sort of way. Loki, as many friend-zone males typically do, immediately misinterpreted the gesture as a green light, frantically attempting to mate with her in the frenzied, poorly-done manner of every virgin male with no clue who has been raised as a mama’s pet.

At first, Sugar tried to get out from under him, but Loki bit the back of her neck, trying to hold her there. Suddenly, Sugar went from “hey I don’t like you that way” to SUPER EMPOWERED FELINE, DESTROYER OF WORLDS. Executing what can only be described as a cat-like maneuver, she extricated her neck and spun around under him, clawing his face repeatedly so fast I couldn’t even see how many times she got him. All while screaming what must have been cuss words in Cat.

Jumping off of her with a loud yelp of pain, Loki backed up, bewildered. How could this enchanting creature NOT want some of this, he apparently thought. Sugar ran a few feet away, glaring balefully.

The pain of rejection was quickly replaced with rage as Loki charged what was just a moment ago the object of his obsessive brand of love. Sugar calmly awaited his attack, the tip of her tail slowly curling.

As he reached her with a snarl, Sugar proceeded to Whup. His. Behind.

And his face. And his back. And his belly. It took her literally about 1.5 seconds and I doubt he even got a smack in. Lol

Then she jumped on to the balcony rail and started cleaning herself like it never happened. Loki ran and hid between my legs, and Sugar looked at me as if to say…”well, keep your little predator on a leash and that won’t happen.”