Our forefathers have given us many tools and knowledge to survive and rebuild from a disaster. Whether it is soap making, gardening, woodworking or manufacturing gun powder, these are skills you may need in the near future.
This is the 2nd Post in a Series – Read Part 1 (Click Here)
Soap making will be a great commodity for hygiene and morale. Producing lye soap is not hard but does require practice. The thing to remember about lye soap is that it is a harsh alkali and can cause “chemical burns”. There are several articles and books written on this and I will have links at the bottom of this page to some.
Gardening has been covered but look into the natural fertilizers such as compost and manure. The Native Americans used to bury a fish with each of their seeds to fertilize the crop. Miracle Grow probably won’t be in big supply if the situation is truly TEOTWAWKI. Also using non hybrid, open pollinated seeds will be the only way to continue your garden once your seed supply runs out. Learn how to not only plant and care for the crops while growing, but how to save part of the harvest as seed for the following year(s). I would recommend never using all your seeds for a season; as if a plague of locusts, drought, flood or any other disaster occurs, you will not have the seeds to begin again the following growing season. You should research what plants to grow that may not have food value but provide natural insecticides, fibers for rope and clothing, or help deter animals from eating your garden. Also, flowers will draw in bees to pollinate the crops and if you have hives available, will provide honey.
Woodworking will be a really labor intensive skill. Building your own home, table and furniture, cabinets, etc will be of particular value once the recliner breaks or you must leave your possessions and create a new life to escape the threat. Since power will probably not be in great supply, hand saws, water wheel powered saw mills, axes, adzes, hammers and wooden dowels will replace our circular saws, lumber yards, screw guns and screws. If possible, start collecting the hand tools now, brace and bit sets for drilling, hammers, saws, etc, so you will have them when the time comes. You can even use our modern tools for convenience while we have them available to learn the basics; like joining boards together to make a table. I’d recommend using as many hand tools as possible, but the circular or table saw will definitely save a lot of time. You can make a unique and custom table with minimal costs and have something to be proud of the next time you have company over for dinner. If you have space, money and the ability to, maybe stock up on some boards and other materials before they are needed. Cedar will resist insects, resists weather rot, and makes fine looking and useful items.
Making blackpowder can be the only means of firearms use left after the powder magazine supply is exhausted. Muzzleloading firearms may become our main tool for hunting and defense and knowing how to make the powder will mean the difference between a useful tool and a decoration. Even with the ability to reload some modern firearms with black powder cartridges, the availability of primers will probably be remote to nonexistent before we are able to restart our manufacturing facilities. I recommend flintlock weapons for long term survival tools. Flintlocks have a lag between the trigger being pulled and the actual discharge of the bullet. If you flinch with modern weapons due to the thought of recoil, then you will really be doing you and yours a disservice trying to acquire the food. Modern blackpowder comes in 4 granulations, from Fg to FFFFg; the higher the number, the smaller the granules. Fg is primarily used for the cannons, FFg for rifles, FFFg for rifles and pistols, and FFFFg for priming the flashpan of a flintlock. I normally use the FFFg as it works well in both my rifles and my pistols. The smaller granules do seem to burn a bit faster, but that is my opinion. The rule of thumb for blackpowder (rifles), is to start with the grains equal to the caliber; i.e., 50 grains of powder for a .50 caliber rifle. I load 90 grains in my .50 caliber Hawken after experimenting at the range. You do not want to overcharge the weapon, it can cause serious injury or death but also, it’s a waste of a valuable resource.
You can ensure all the powder is burning by firing through a white poster board set at 10 feet (ensure you have an adequate backstop and use safe shooting practices); if you see powder splattered all over your poster board, you are over charging. Casting lead round balls will also give your flintlock longevity as a survival tool. Pure lead is best and you can stock up on it, dig it out of dirt back stops at shooting ranges (where allowed) or smelt lead wheel weights and remove the tin and other metals if desired, but not required. There are several lead pots out there for this, check with Dixie Gun Works for a lot of your blackpowder needs.
Firestarting was a major chore for the settlers and pioneers. We all have seen the tales of the woodsmen being able to spark a fire in seconds; although historically possible, most could not (3 Steps to Build a Fire). The settlers would send a member of the family with a lidded pan to the neighbors to get some coals if the fire went out. The most successful were the ones who adapted the Native American methods of a bow drill or spent their lives in the woods and used flint and steel every day. Charred cloth was probably the best tinder to have. It can be made by placing 100% cotton (any natural fiber like linen will also work) in a tin and “charring” it (see link below). You need a tin with a lid (Altoids or mint can, soup can, tuna can, etc); if the lid does not fit snugly, you can help seal it with aluminum foil. Put a very small hole in the top of the lid, I recommend using like a 4 penny finish nail for ease and availability, to allow the gases to escape from the charring. Cut the cloth down to fit inside the tin but make it as large a piece as possible. Place the Lid on and when you get done grilling those burgers or brats, place the tin down on the coals. You watch the hole in the lid and when the smoke stops coming out, remove from the coals. DO NOT open right away. Allow the tin to cool and open the tin. This material will catch sparks very easily and quickly and start to smolder, and all you will need to do is add small twigs and dry grass, paper, whatever and gently blow the smoldering cloth into a flame. Practice this method A LOT, as it is not easy but will become very doable with practice. Bird nests make excellent tinder; look for them in trees and during inclement weather, look to our modern conveniences like over passes, inside buildings, and under the eaves for dry nests.
Travel may become difficult and looking to move long distance will be a chore. You may find it necessary to look past your brand loyalty and get a Mustang… although the Mustang will not be produced in Detroit and will have only 1 horsepower. Horses, mules, oxen, etc may be needed to move not only to cover more ground for hunting but also if the need arises to move the family and belongings. Animals that will meet multiple needs can also be implemented for the normal planning; goats, dogs, cows, etc can all carry equipment (See Dog Bug Out Bag) and household items to save you from having to do so or leave things you cannot carry and they have the dual purpose of providing food, security, and hides if necessary. Learning how to use pack panniers and pack horses or mules could allow you to move your goods and not break your back while doing so. It will also leave your hands free and more mobile in the event of hostile action or predator attack. There are people who practice this art today with the same equipment available to the Mountain Men. The Native Americans utilized a travois, which can be made from the tarp you build your shelter from while in camp (multiple use item). A good travois can be made from large to small tarps and can be designed for pull by dogs, goats, cattle, mules, horses, etc.
If live near water, a canoe may be worth its weight in gold. They are very agile watercraft and can carry loads and people over long distance without the need for fuel. They can be modified from their “off-the-shelf” style and have sails added, out-riggers for stability, and many other useful modifications. I have towed a 12 foot Jon Boat behind a canoe for extra gear when taking several people into the backwoods. You can also build a platform to fit in between 2 canoes and make it into a very crude catamaran for use on lakes; you could try rivers but they normally have obstructions and not as wide to allow for the platform. Rafts are another option for water travel and can be made with several materials, natural or manmade. Canoes and rafts can also be used as hunting platforms. You can drift along and catch the game when they come for a drink. In some states, it is legal to hunt squirrel this way but in a survival situation, use every advantage you have. Since you should always have a weapon available, just keep your eyes open and be prepared to move silently to hunting mode from fishing mode and when that deer or other critter goes for a drink, you have some fresh meat for the smokehouse. You can also use them to easily and effectively run your trap line and cover more territory than on foot, especially in swamps or high banked rivers. If you do buy a canoe and never need it for survival; you will still be able to use it for great family fun. I still have memories of canoeing the Peace River with my family as a kid. Many areas have rivers that you can canoe long distance and there are camp sites for overnight adventures (Boundary Waters in Minnesota and Buffalo River in Arkansas come to mind) and this will give you time to practice your skills, bond with members of your family/group and find out if that gear you have is going to work like you expected or needs modified or traded for something else. There is no education or training more complete than Practical Application.
Even if you cannot learn every skill, select members of any group can “specialize” to form a balanced membership of skills and abilities. I have friends who do metalworking and are good at it; where I prefer working with wood and leather. I can sew on a button or mend a small rip but I leave the sewing chores to my wife and others who make quilts and such as a hobby.
I have brought up some skills I believe will be useful in the long term, if and when things go bad. Although the sites and skills I mentioned are done using only historic materials; we have the option to use modern materials. We can use fiberglass, aluminum or even inflatable canoes if we desire. We should practice with flint and steel, but have lighters, magnesium fire starters, lifeboat matches and wet tinder for our fire making equipment. We can use power tools when we can and even with complete infrastructure collapse, we have solar and wind turbine options that our ancestors did not. Even though I brought these ideas to the fore front of minds for thought; I believe a truly long term event should not last more than 1-2 years. We have the systems, technology and knowledge to return to our modern way of life, where our forefathers were in the modern times for their period. We may need to make and produce our staples for survival but the factories and infrastructure will be there for implementing the return to modern life barring a full out military strike or natural disaster on the scale of a “planet killing asteroid”.
We must strive to become the “Modern Mountain Men” or the “Longhunters of New”. I truly enjoyed my forays into the backwoods carrying just my muzzleloader, skinning knife, chore knife, tomahawk, blanket(s), and my other “possibles” but if I must revert to this lifestyle on a “temporarily permanent” basis, then I will have my modern kit as well and hopefully it makes it that much easier to survive.
As we become the woodsmen of old, we must also strive to become the new Founding Fathers. When you plan and think about your EAP (Emergency Action Plans) and make decisions with the other members of your family/group, please include plans on how to bring society back in line with our morals, law & order and general well being. If we lose our humanity, even if we survive the event, what have we accomplished? I suggest those who have a well organized group, elect a council of elders to keep our bearings on this matter. If you have a security/military apparatus; ensure you have a Law Enforcement and justice apparatus in the plans, even if it takes 6 months or a year to implement. This will keep the powers separated and keep our Constitutional ideas alive. In my opinion, surviving is more than just staying alive, but ensuring the future for the generations that follow.
I cannot speak for all who serve or served in the military, but feel I probably have the same thoughts as they do; I knew I risked my life to go to war and defend our nation. I survived, even the breathing part, but I knew even if I fell, we “survived” as a nation and I was just the lifeblood the Liberty Tree needs from time to time. If after the event, we fail to bring our nation back; the troops who have sacrificed will have done so in vain. We must reinforce our Constitution and possibly add guarantees of the Freedoms and Rights we were given, but the ones who strive for power seem bent on taking. As the new Founding Fathers, we will have the ability to learn from our past and clarify the language to ensure a Constitutional Republic is kept and the People remain in charge.
Stay Alert, Stay Alive
Traditional Bowyer’s Bible series by Jim Hamm
Books of Buckskinning by Scurlock Publishing
Recreating The American Longhunter by Joseph Ruckman
Practicing Primitive by Steven Watts
Primitive Wilderness Skills and Survival Skills by John McPherson
Mountain Man Crafts and Skills by David Montgomery
Deerskins into Buckskins by Matt Richards
Art of Hand Sewing Leather by Art Stohlman
Primitive Technology by David Wescott
Finding Your Way Without Map and Compass by Harold Gatty