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Be Prepared to Survive

Defense and First Aid

If you live in a large city, you will have to expect—at some time or another in a survival situation—to defend your life and goods. There may come a period when the law of the jungle is the only law in effect, and you will be forced to live by it or be killed. I feel a considerable amount of revulsion at the idea of deliberately harming another human being, and would rather protect myself by avoidance. I find, however, that I must face the prospect of being unable to escape a confrontation and having to defend myself and my own.

In the role of defender, one should choose a weapon that is inexpensive, easily used by male or female and adequate to stop an aggressor (not necessarily to kill one). Make sure all who are to use it are thoroughly trained. Remember, firearms are always dangerous and should never be stored loaded. Keep all arms and ammunition out of the reach of children.  

On a less grim note, the right knowledge at the right time can be as valuable a safeguard as any weapon. Take first aid training, or at least buy a manual and study it. Enroll in civil defense courses on survival and emergency preparedness. If you have the time and inclination, you might even try an outdoor survival course or a field trip series on foraging.

If you have trusted friends who feel as you do about the need to prepare for difficult times, you might give thought to working out a mutual assistance program. A word of caution, though: It would be nice if everyone were honest, but—as has been proven in hard times all through history—some folks who suddenly find themselves in a tight situation get desperate, throw character to the winds and become downright savage. A hard-working Mormon family I know had their food supply ripped off and I discovered someone close to me planning the same thing. So be sensitive and careful, and choose your companions well.

Long-Term Food Supply

A year's food supply is the next priority. Before you begin gathering your stock, you'll need someplace to store it. This may be a retreat, root cellar, garage, house, or barn. Wherever the cache, it must be accessible and secure against spoilage and oxidation, rodents, insects, water damage and extremes of heat and cold. The best temperature range is 55° to 65° F.

Storage containers must be tailored to the space available and the type and amount of food. A secondary consideration is convenient handling of the stored provisions for consumption and stock rotation.

Most discount paint supply stores carry five-gallon round and square metal cans (such as thinner is sold in), and five-gallon lidded pails of the type used for paint and asphalt. Locally these cost $1.75 to $2.00 each. Some companies make a specialty of the same items in white plastic—new and used—for about the same price. Paint manufacturers will often sell brand-new one-gallon metal cans with friction lids, or will refer you to their supplier.

Sears and Montgomery Ward both catalog a heat-sealing device for use on heavy-duty poly bags. Institutions with large cafeterias—schools, colleges, factories, etc.—throw away gallon jars in both glass and plastic. Used plastic jugs practically litter the landscape.

Do not attempt to store food in any container that has held petroleum products. The residue will ruin the smell and taste of your stash ... and may ruin you, too, if you eat food stored in such a can or jar. Wheat and flour will absorb petroleum odors even when the food is sealed in plastic.

As you choose your food storage containers, remember that rats and mice can and will chew rapidly through a plastic bag or can to get at its contents, and that metal will eventually rust. You can shellac a metal can to prevent the rust, of course, but shellac often costs more than a new container.

Weevils love soap residue, so—even if you don't use detergent for dishes—it's a good idea to keep a small amount of the soap substitute around for cleaning food storage containers . . . after which you can get down to filling them.

WHEAT should be the first staple put into storage, since it's the most versatile and nutritious low-cost source of protein and can be made into a meat substitute called gluten. (See Passposrt to Survival by Esther Dickey from Bookcraft Publishers for instructions on the preparation and use of gluten ... and many other excellent survival food recipes.—MOTHER EARTH NEWS.) Three hundred pounds is an average year's ration for an adult female. A grown man will need about 100 pounds more per year and a child about 100 pounds less.  So if your males and children balance, figure 300 pounds per person. Don't count on young children remaining small, however. As their appetites grow, so should their reserve food supply.

Hard winter wheat (Turkey Red) or hard spring wheat (Marquis) is the best to store. It should be Grade 1, with a protein content of 11.5% and less than 10% moisture. Separate all foreign matter from the kernels and put the grain into clean, dry containers.

I know a lady who lives in a dry area of California. Her wheat storage system consists of a eucalyptus tree and a row of 88¢ plastic garbage cans. She buys uncleaned wheat at the feed store for 10¢ per pound, cleans it herself by winnowing on a windy day and then spreads the grain on an old window screen so she can pick out stones and such. Next, she pours an empty can three-quarters full of wheat, mixes in a double handful of eucalyptus leaves, places the fresh container at the end of a line of six and puts the lid on, weighting it with a gaily painted brick. Then she takes the makings for bread, cereal, etc., from Can No. 1 at the head of the line, thus rotating her supply. Once a year this lady aerates any unused grain, inspects it by pouring the kernels from one can to another and adds fresh leaves. She swears they keep out the weevils, and it certainly seems to work for her. I've heard the same said for newly picked bay laurel leaves.

Another way to eliminate both insect eggs and moisture—and a method that also works for beans, peas, nuts, etc.—is to fill a shallow pan three-quarters of an inch deep with whatever it is you're storing and heat the food to 150° F for 20 minutes, cool it and store it in an airtight container.

If you have to worry about rodents invading your food stash, you can protect it as follows: Gad about to the discard piles of any restaurants which serve deep-fat-fried food and look for five-gallon metal cans with two-inch openings (standard institutional packing for liquid shortening). Note that such a container holds about one-third hundredweight of wheat. That is, nine five-gallon cans are needed for 300 pounds of the grain, an average person's yearly supply.

Clean the containers well with hot soapy water so that no trace of fat remains to go rancid in storage. A very good way to do this is with five or six doses of hot sudsies from the drain hose of a washing machine, if you have access to one. (If you don't want to go through all this, of course, you can just buy new cans.)

OK. Set out your cleaned cans and your cleaned wheat. Then go and buy some dry ice. Drop a piece of the frozen carbon dioxide the size of a walnut (or two crushed ounces) into the bottom of each container and pour in about 33 pounds of grain. Leave the lids sitting loosely on top of the cans about 12 hours—or overnight—while the dry ice evaporates into carbon dioxide (an inert gas which displaces oxygen). Then screw the tops down tight . . . but be careful not to do this until evaporation is complete, or the buildup of pressure will cause the cans to explode. If you notice any bulging containers, loosen the lids at once to allow the gas to escape.

When you're finished with this process, your grain will be well protected. No insect eggs will hatch without oxygen. And, of course, no oxidation will take place either.

There's still another method for the long-term storage of grains and legumes that might appeal to you. A bag of diatomaceous earth—the fossil remains of one-cell marine diatoms—may be purchased from a pool supply firm and a handful tossed in with the food that is to be stored, whatever the container (even plastic and paper bags). Diatomaceous earth is a desiccant to insects and can also be dusted carefully on animals to kill fleas and mites, applied to plants in the garden for pest control, and used to reduce the fly and odor problem when disposing of human or animal feces. It's non-toxic when ingested, harmless to the environment, and very inexpensive.

After you've learned how to store wheat, you may also have to learn how to serve it. The grain can be sprouted, or eaten as a grass, or steamed or cooked in a double boiler or pressure cooker—or even a thermos jug—to make a good nutritious cereal. The addition of a grain mill, however, raises your standard of survival living by 500%. With grinding equipment handy you can have flour for bread and gluten, cracked wheat, mush for babies, the elderly or infirm, and so on. By all means, then, keep a mill along with your hoard of grain and learn to use it efficiently.

Of the several good makes available, I personally prefer the Corona manual; the exercise is good for me, and I'm immune to loss of milling ability due to power failure. Some electric grain mills are advertised as being hand operable in case the electricity cuts out. I'm not sure I'd want to be on the cranking end of such a machine—grinding grain and turning a powerful motor too—but I've never tried and may be wrong in assuming that it's more difficult than operating my own model. is Copyright © 2000-2023