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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Make an Inexpensive Reflector Tarp for a Warm Survival Shelter



The wilderness survival community has, of late, taken a keen interest in using reflector blankets or reflector tarps to help create warmer lean-too shelters.  The idea is that if the inside of your lean-too has a reflective surface, it will reflect the heat of a campfire onto you as you lie in the shelter.

   
     This is not really a new idea.  I can recall Mors Kochanski advocating for this quite a few years ago when he developed his concept of the “super shelter.”  Mors suggested placing a shiny Mylar survival blanket on the inside of your tarp to reflect radiant heat into the shelter.  More recently I have seen several companies selling survival blankets/tarps.  These survival tarps are made of more durable material than Mylar and they have a reflective surface on one side and grommets to aid in set-up of a shelter.  One problem with these commercial tarps is that the ones I have found are fairly small.  What I am going to show you here is how to make any size vinyl tarp into a reflective tarp that is pretty durable and quite a bit cheaper than a commercially made model.  Let me emphasize that I have only done this with vinyl tarps.  I don’t know how it would work with nylon or other fabrics.
     The idea for this tarp came to me in a blinding flash of the obvious when I was working on one of the out-buildings on my farm.  The building in question is about 25 years old and is covered in corrugated sheet metal.  The metal was starting to look a little on the rusted side, so I decided that I would paint it with some Rust Stop metallic aluminum paint from our local Ace Hardware store.  I bought a gallon of the stuff for about $30 US. 


     They also had quarts for about $10, but I knew that a quart wouldn’t be enough.  So, anyway, here I am standing up on a ladder painting this building when the sun comes up over the trees.  In about ten minutes I started feeling like a rotisserie chicken.  Man, I thought, this stuff really reflects some heat, and that’s when it hit me.  I wonder if I could paint this stuff onto a vinyl tarp?  Well, sure enough, I had about a half-gallon of paint left when I finished painting the building, so I decided to try a little experiment on a tarp.  I got an old tarp and painted a couple of square feet with the aluminum paint.  It flowed on smoothly and covered with one coat. It also didn’t appear to be damaging the vinyl in any way.  So far; so good.  I let it dry in the sun for a couple of hours before I gave it the durability test.  When it was dry I scraped it with my finger nails and there was no peeling.  I folded it into a crease, wadded it up, and just generally tried to make the paint crack or peal.  The tarp seemed to be completely flexible, and the paint adhered beautifully.  I thought to myself, “We may have a winner.”
      
     I unstrapped the 8’ x 10’ camo vinyl tarps that my wife and I have attached to our bug-out bags and went to work.  I laid a tarp out on the ground and used a three inch foam brush to apply the paint. 


     It went on easily and took about 45 minutes to apply.  I left the tarp out in the sun for a couple of hours to dry. 

     When it was nice and dry I gave it another round of durability testing, and it seemed to work great.  Even better, painting the two 8’ x 10’ tarps barely made a dent in my half gallon of paint.  I bet a quart would paint three or four of these tarps, so if you have friends that are into this kind of thing you could share the cost of the paint.


     I did learn a couple of lessons from the first tarp that helped make the second one a little easier.  First of all, do this in the shade or on a cloudy day.  These things really, really reflect a lot of light and heat.  Second, use some tent stakes to stake down the corners before you paint.  This keeps the tarp from moving around as you paint it.
     So there you go.  An easy way to turn a $15 Walmart or Harbor Freight tarp into a high dollar reflective survival tarp.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dried Peas from the Survival Garden



When you start talking about peas, people from the Northeastern United States are picturing English Peas; but people in the Southeastern United States are picturing blackeyed peas, purple hull peas, crowder peas, cream peas, lady peas and any of the dozens of other field peas which have long been a staple in the South.  My personal favorite is the pink eyed purple hull pea.  The pink eyed purple hull is an heirloom, bush pea.  It loves hot weather, doesn’t require a lot of water, doesn’t need fertilizer, is an abundant producer, is easy to pick, and it tastes delicious.   As an added bonus, it puts a lot of valuable nitrogen into the soil.  In our area you can get two plantings over the summer; so we get two to four bushels of this pea out of the garden each year.  You pick fresh purple hulls when the pods are dark purple but still soft.  They are great when fresh shelled and fresh cooked, and the fresh frozen ones taste almost as good; but in a grid down situation frozen peas won’t last long.  You could can the fresh peas, but that is sure a lot of work.  In pre-refrigeration days the way to long-term store peas was to dry them.  When dried and stored in dry, air-tight  containers they are edible for years and remain viable for seed easily for two or three years.

Drying peas requires no shelling and no dehydrator.  All you have to do is just leave them on the vine and, when the plant dies, they will dry nicely on their own. 

The dried pods will be brittle and a light brown in color as opposed to the soft, pliable, dark purple pods of fresh peas.

Dried peas are also much easier to shell than fresh peas.  The following photos illustrate how I thrash and winnow a small quantity of dried peas.  The time to trash and winnow is on a dry, sunny day when a good wind is blowing.

First I spread a tarp on a table top and lay out my dried peas on it.  A couple of hours of hot sun will drive the last of the moisture out of them and assure that the pods are nice and brittle.

Next step is to use your hands to start crushing up the dried pods.  The vast majority of the peas will separate from the pods at this point.




To further separate the peas, pick up handfuls of the pods and rub them between your palms.  Continue this rubbing until the pods have been reduced to small fragments.  This will complete the trashing process.








Now you need to separate the chaff (crushed up pods, etc) from the peas.  To do this you need a good stiff wind, or if it’s a calm day you can set a fan next to the table and turn it on high (obviously this won’t work in a grid-down scenario).

Pick up a double handful of peas and chaff, raise your hands a couple of feet above the table, and let the peas and chaff slip out from between your hands.  The peas, which are heavier than the chaff, will fall straight down onto the table.  The chaff will be carried away by the wind.

Continue winnowing over and over until most of the chaff has been removed.





Now set a wide pan on the table and, using small quantities of peas at a time, drop them down into the pan. 

You should end up with a pan full of pretty clean peas.  You may have to pick out a few pieces of chaff from the pan, but it shouldn’t be too many.

Store your cleaned peas in air-tight containers and you will have a good long-term source of protein and seed for next year’s planting.

If you are processing a lot of peas, the same principles apply; but instead of a small tarp on top of the table, you can lay a large tarp out on the ground.  Instead of crushing the pods in your hands you can walk on them.  Just make sure that your shoe soles are pretty flat and don’t have lugs or deep treads.  For winnowing you can place a few handfuls of broken down peas and chaff in a wide shallow basket or an upside down trashcan lid and toss the stuff up into the air and let the peas fall back into the lid.  You will have to toss the same batch several times in order to remove the chaff.  Be sure and stand over the tarp when you are winnowing so that any peas that you don’t catch will fall back onto the tarp.  This takes a little bit of practice, but after the first bushel you’ll be doing it like an old pro.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls from the Garden



The three main garden ingredients for these cabbage rolls are cabbage, new potatoes, and green onion tops.  I make cabbage rolls this way for one very simple reason; all three of these ingredients are available from my garden at the same time.  These cabbage rolls are actually a combination of two different Polish dishes; golabki, which are cabbage rolls stuffed with a meat and rice mixture; and pierogi, which are a wheat dough dumpling stuffed with a mashed potato mixture.  I came up with this recipe on my own, but I’d be willing to bet that it already exists in some European folk cuisine.  After all, I’m not the first gardener in the world that has potatoes, cabbages, and onions all come ready at the same time.  So let’s make some cabbage rolls.

If you have a garden; start off in the garden.  If you don’t have a garden, start off at the produce market. You will need about two pounds of fresh new potatoes,

a good sized head of cabbage,


and a few green onion tops.  You can use chives, but I just pull a few smaller green onion tops and then cut them up with my kitchen shears.


I also like to add a little diced canned jalapeno to my rolls to give them a little zing.

In addition to these ingredients you will need a couple of tablespoons of butter, a heaping tablespoon of sour cream or plain yogurt, some shredded cheese of your choice, and a little salt and pepper.

Peel your potatoes and put them in a medium pot. Cover and boil slowly until done.

When potatoes are done, drain them and leave the potatoes in the pot.  Use a potato masher or a fork to roughly break the potatoes up.

Add your butter and sour cream and mash the potatoes until they are pretty creamy.

Add shredded cheese and stir in well.


Add salt and pepper to taste and stir again.

Lastly add your green onion and jalapeno and stir until evenly distributed.



Now the filling is finished.  Set it aside or put it into the refrigerator and let it firm up a little while you prepare the cabbage.

To prepare the cabbage first rinse it and then cut out the core.

Put two or three inches of water into a stock pot and place it over high heat.

Put your head of cabbage in the stock pot with the core end down.  You are going to steam the cabbage for a few minutes to soften the leaves and make them easier to remove without breaking.  About five to seven minutes ought to do it.

Turn off the heat and remove the cabbage from the stock pot.  Be careful.  It’s really hot.  I use a couple of big wooden spoons to do this.

Carefully remove the cabbage leaves one at a time and stack them in a pan.  The dark green outer leaves are a little tough, so you are better off using the light-green inner leaves. You will need eight leaves, so remove ten just in case.

Now take a sharp paring knife and shave off the top portion of the rib on each leaf.  By thinning the rib down you will have an easier time rolling up the leaf when the time comes.
 

Now take your filling and divide it into eight equal portions.  I just flatten it out in the pot and use my knife to slice it into eight wedges like you would a pizza.

Lay a cabbage leaf out on your cutting board with the rib side down and place one of your eight portions of filling at the bottom of the leaf.  I kind of shape it into a little oblong mound.

Roll the leaf up to cover the filling.

Fold the sides of the leaf in even with the ends of the filling.

Now finish rolling up the leaf.
 
Place the finished cabbage roll into a lightly greased baking dish.

Now repeat this for the rest of the rolls.

When your dish is full cover it with aluminum foil.

Place the covered dish into a preheated 375 degree F. oven and bake for about 20 minutes.  Remember, everything is already cooked.  All you’re doing is heating it up.

I like to top these with butter and sour cream when I serve them.  Note that there’s already a bite missing.  They’re so good that I couldn’t wait.