Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Preventing Scurvy, Rickets, and other Vitamin Deficiency Diseases

I have never personally known anyone who suffered from scurvy, rickets, beriberi, or pellagra; but at one time these diseases were very common, some were epidemic.  All of these diseases have one thing in common.  They are all caused by vitamin deficiencies.  Scurvy is caused from lack of vitamin C.  You probably heard in history class how sailors of old suffered and died from scurvy until someone figured out that eating citrus fruit prevented the disease.  British ships started carrying barrels of limes for the sailors to eat, and hence the name “limey.”

Rickets is caused by vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D is found in dairy products and eggs.  If you look at a milk carton you will probably see the phrase, “Vitamin D Fortified.”  The wide availability of dairy products and the addition of more vitamin D has virtually eliminated rickets from the modern industrialized world.  Incidentally, unlike most vitamins your body can produce its own vitamin D but this requires exposure to sunlight.  You’ve probably heard the phrase, “vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.”  That’s what it means.

Beriberi is caused by vitamin B1 deficiency.  Vitamin B1 is found in nuts, seeds, and legumes among other things.  Beriberi became epidemic is Southeast Asia when the population switched from eating natural brown rice to polished white rice.

Pellagra, which is caused by vitamin B3 deficiency, was long associated with poverty areas of the Southern U.S. where cornmeal was the staple.  Vitamin B3 is found in fresh meat, peanuts, green peas, and sunflower seeds.

The widely varied and vitamin fortified diets of today have virtually eliminated these killers of olden times, but they could easily reemerge.  All of these diseases are associated with narrow, repetitive diets.  People who eat the same few things over and over.  Kind of like you might end up doing in an apocalyptic survival scenario.  A broad knowledge of edible wild plants and their vitamin content could help you get the nutrients that you need, but it just makes common sense to also store multi-vitamins along with the food that you store. 

A years supply of high potency multi-vitamins and minerals for one person costs less than $25 and takes up about as much room as a canned soft drink.  I would highly recommend that you include multi-vitamins and minerals in your storage program; two or three years worth for each person.  Hopefully this would be enough time to re-establish agriculture, animal husbandry, barter, and trade; so that you could obtain your vitamins from a healthy and varied diet.

As with any chemical product, heat and light are the enemy; cold and dark will slow decomposition.  Store your vitamins in the refrigerator or freezer and date and rotate just like you do your food.   

Monday, December 14, 2015

Good-Bye Little Buddy

My daughter rescued Sammy as a puppy.  She assured us that he was a Chihuahua, but it was obvious to everyone that he was not.  He grew to be a medium small dog.  He was a funny looking little guy with a long body, short legs, and a lab looking head and coat.  He was no show dog but we loved him dearly.  He spent the last four or five years of his life here with us on the farm, which he greatly enjoyed.  He had the gentlest disposition and the most soulful brown eyes that you have ever seen.  He alternately terrified or was terrified by our cat, depending on his mood that day.  He was a fierce protector of his home, but he didn’t like guns and he was terrified of thunder.  When a storm came it was into the house and under the bed.  He would be waiting for me outside the kitchen door every morning so he could have a special treat, and he, in company with our Catahoula, followed me around the farm all day so we could keep each other company.  Sammy passed away last Saturday from congestive heart failure at the age of eleven.  I cried like a baby when he didn’t come for his morning treat and I found him laying in the front yard.  He was a good little dog with a gentle soul.  Run and play in heaven little buddy.  I love you, and I will miss you.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Some Thoughts on Personal Hygiene in a Post Apocalyptic World

Most of us today have rigidly entrenched habits of personal hygiene that simply won’t be tenable in a post-apocalyptic world.  Many of the personal hygiene products that we use will no longer be available, and to continue our current lavish use of hot water would be labor intensive in the extreme.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that a lot of what passes for personal hygiene these days really has nothing to do with hygiene but is really just unnecessary beauty treatment.  I’ve done some thinking about this and tried to imagine what would really constitute necessary hygiene under potentially adverse conditions.  Some of the circumstances I envision are as follow.  (1) You won’t be able to run to the drug store and buy personal hygiene products; (2) medical help will be anywhere from scarce to non-existent so disease and injury preventing hygiene will be very important; and (3) obtaining and heating water will be a lot of work.  So let’s think about what we need to start doing, what we need to continue doing, what we need to do but not do as often, and what we can do without.

Dental Hygiene

This will be an absolute necessity.  An abscessed tooth that would be a 45 minute visit with the dentist today, could be a death sentence if no dental care is available.  I don’t even want to think about having a tooth extracted without some sort of dental anesthesia.  So brushing after every meal and flossing will be more important than ever.  By the way, you can buy dental floss in bulk for way cheap.  200 yard rolls cost around $2.50. 

Hand and Foot Care

First of all, hands and feet should be protected from injury.  Closed toe shoes should be worn at all times, and steel toe work boots should be worn for nearly all outdoor tasks.  No bare feet!!  It may work okay for Cody Lundeen or Amazon tribesmen, but it is foolish for the rest of us to risk a cut that could become infected when all we have to do is put our shoes on.  Feet should be washed daily and clean socks should be worn every day.  Toenails should be kept trimmed straight across to avoid ingrown toenails.

Hands should be washed before every meal and immediately after handling any material that may cause bacterial infection.  Work gloves should be worn when performing any task that could cause cuts or abrasions.  Nitril gloves should be worn when processing game or handling any kind of decayed material or human or animal waste.  The thing that we’re trying to avoid here is infection.  The tiniest cut can become infected, and without antibiotics that could mean death.  U.S. President Calvin Coolidge’s son died in 1924 from a blister that he got while playing tennis.  The blister became infected, and since antibiotics had not yet been developed, he died.  Enough said?


The fact is that most people bath too often.  Bathing too much washes away natural oils and friendly bacteria that help protect the skin.  Most dermatologists agree that bathing once every two or three days is more healthy and better for the skin than bathing every day.  Let’s face it, most of the time when we take a shower, it’s not because we’re dirty; it’s because we think we might smell bad, or because we feel a little sticky.  The daily bath is one of those cultural phenomenon, kind of like Mother’s Day, that was created by an industry that reaps huge profits on the event.  It’s like, “You smell bad and people won’t like you so you better take a bath, and your skin’s all dry now from bathing so you need to rub on some of our moisturizer, and your hair is oily so you need to wash it every day, and now your hair is all dried out so you need to use our conditioner.” Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching $$$$.

So how often do you really need to bath?  I’ve done some research on that, and I can’t come up with a definitive answer.  Most of what I have read has a pretty strong bias toward the modern fear of the human smell, so it’s hard to tell what the bathing requirements are for actual good health.  I’m going to have to fall back on my Dad’s childhood on an East Texas cotton farm in the early 1900’s.  Besides his parents there were six kids in the family.  They had to draw all of their water from a well and heat it on a wood stove.  Grandma’s rule was you wash your feet every night before you go to bed, if something specific gets dirty you take a sponge bath, and once a week they would draw water and heat it for a tub bath.  My Dad lived to be 90 and his brothers and sisters lived ranging from 88 to 100 years, so I guess that was healthy enough.

There is, of course, the smell factor.  The human body has an odor.  We have been taught that this odor is offensive, and so we try to either wash it away or cover it up.  I imagine that washing it away, other than a cold water sponge bath, will probably be out due to the amount of work involved.  I don’t think that covering up the human smell with deodorant or cologne will be very practical either.  For one thing these products will not be available unless you stockpile them or manufacture them from natural sources.  I suppose you could rub yourself with mint leaves or something of that nature, but there is a second and more important reason to avoid sweet smelling colognes.  Mosquitoes.  Sweet smells, especially fruit or flower smells, attract mosquitoes; and that is something that we certainly want to avoid.  Over one million people per year die throughout the world from mosquito bourn illnesses, mainly malaria.  We wouldn’t want to do anything to attract these little killers.

So I imagine that we all probably just have to smell a little bad.  The good news is that everyone will smell bad, so it will quickly lose its social stigma.  It has been my experience on long backpacking trips that everyone smells horrible for about the first three days; and then, all of a sudden, the smell seems to be gone.  I think the current term, according to one T.V. commercial that I have seen, is nose-blind.  You just get used to it and don’t notice it any more.


Over the years I have had hair of every possible length.  At one time I wore my hair in a ponytail that fell to the bottom of my shoulder blades.  A pain to wash, dry, brush, etc.  Currently I have a shaved head.  Once again a pain.  You have to shave your entire head every couple of days to keep it slick.  I imagine that in a post-apocalyptic scenario both of these would be out.  I think that the most practical length would be as short as you could cut your hair with scissors.  Here’s my thinking.  The shorter your hair, the less likely that you will be troubled with critters like head lice.  Short hair is easier to take care of.  It looks neater, doesn’t get tangled up in stuff, and requires less soap or shampoo to clean it. Short hair makes it easier to treat head wounds.  Now days if you go to the hospital with a head wound, the first thing that they are going to do is shave the immediate area so that it can be bandaged, stitched, or whatever.  This is why the military wants combat troops to have short hair.  Shaving your head would put you in needless danger of a cut becoming infected.  So hair cut short, but without shaving, seems to be the most practical solution.

Shaving the face should probably be avoided for the same reason as shaving the head.  A minor nick can become septic, and without antibiotics this could be deadly.  Sorry girls, but I think the same logic will apply to armpits, legs, etc.  So it will be short beards for men (currently very stylish) and hairy legs for women (not so stylish).

I don’t know if this is correct thinking or not, but it makes sense to me.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Make Flu-Flu Arrow Fletchings from Craft Store Feathers

Flu-flu arrows are arrows that are designed to travel at regular speed for about thirty to forty yards and then to abruptly slow down and drop to the ground.  Flu-flus are used in specific situations where you don’t want an arrow to go too far.  A good example would be shooting at a squirrel in a tree.  If you shot a regular arrow in this situation and missed the arrow might fly off a hundred-and-fifty yards into the woods, and would probably be lost.  With a flu-flu arrow, the arrow would probably drop to the ground within thirty yards of you, making recovery much more likely.  Flu-flu arrows have very different fletchings from regular arrows and require a different approach to fletching.  This is how I use whole feathers bought at a big-chain craft store to make my flu-flu fletchings.

The first step is to reduce the size of the quill.  I start this process by scraping the quill with a sharp knife held perpendicular to the quill.

 Once the quill has been scraped down pretty close to the feather vanes, I use the butt of the knife handle and tap solidly along the length of the quill.  This will start separating the feather into two sections.
 I complete the separation by cutting very carefully with a utility knife.

Now I can continue shaving down the sides of the quill until it is as thin as I can get it without cutting into the feather vanes.
 To work down the bottom of the quill I use some 80 grit sandpaper wrapped around a large dowel and clamped into my small vise.

I then drag both the sides and the bottom of the quill across this sanding block until the quill is extremely thin.

 I test the thickness of the quill by wrapping it around a 5/16” dowel to see if it bends smoothly.  If the quill is too thick it will snap, rendering it useless.
 When the quill is thinned down correctly, I assemble all of the materials to attach the fletchings to the arrow.  Here I am using two fletchings; one yellow and one red.  The fletchings will be attached with contact cement.

I mark the area of the arrow that I want to cover with my fletchings.

And then I use a throw-away foam brush to paint a coat of contact cement onto the arrow.  I cover about a quarter inch above and below the area I will be working with.
 Next I paint the bottom of each quill.

Now I set everything aside to dry.  The contact cement must be completely dry to the touch before you press the fletchings onto the shaft.  And you have to be sure to put the fletchings exactly where you want them.  Once the two painted surfaces touch, they’re stuck.  No changing your mind.

When it’s time to attach the fletchings I use a push pin to hold the end in place.
 And then spiral the first fletching on.  I leave about an inch between the spirals so I will have room to go in between with my second fletching.

 The second fletching goes on the same way.

With both fletchings in place I separate the vans a little and fluff them out.
 I use a utility knife to trim off the excess quill at the front and back.

And put a drop of fletching glue on the front and back of each quill to help secure it more firmly.

Now I apply a coat of polyurethane to the shaft.  I use a small artists brush to seal the area between the fletchings.

And here’s the finished product, ready to go out and irritate some squirrels. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Make a Saxton Pope Style Broadhead

For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Saxton Pope is the fellow who re-introduced traditional archery to North America in the early 1900’s.  He and Art Young (Pope and Young, get it) are basically the fathers of all that we do in the way of traditional archery today.  Any how, I was reading his book, “Hunting with Bows and Arrows last week and came across an illustration of how he made his broadhead hunting points.  I couldn’t believe it.  He was making points nearly the same way that I started making them when I was twelve years old.  Of course Pope was making broadheads this way because there was no archery tackle in those days.  I was making them this way because I was twelve years old and there was no money in those days.  So my archery buddies and I would buy wooden target arrows for thirty-nine cents and then use a little scrap metal and my dad’s shop to turn them into hunting arrows.  I still make broadheads the same way today.  I just think they look better than the three blade glue-on broadheads and, of course, the fact that they cost about a twenty-five cents apiece doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s how I make them:

First I make an arrow just like one of my target arrows except that I use five inch fletchings instead of four inch.  I fit the head of the arrow with a target point attached with hot glue.  I use Easton Scout target points that you can get on eBay pretty cheap.

Next, I take a triangular file and file a small starter groove in the top of the point.  You want to make sure that this groove is exactly parallel to the string nock on the back of the arrow.

Using a hacksaw I cut down into the point to just below where the taper on the front of the point ends.  I run a folded piece of 80 grit sandpaper through the cut to remove burrs.


Now I use a heat gun to heat up the point and a pair of pliers to pull the point off.

Then I take my hacksaw and continue cutting the slot in the shaft until it is almost down to where the bottom of the target point will come when I glue it back on.

The broadhead blade is cut out of a piece of steel sheet that is a little less than one-sixteenth inch thick.  It is about the thickest that I can cut using heave tin snips.  Make sure that when you lay your pattern out that the blade will be wide enough to comply with local hunting regulations.  In Texas the finished blade will need to be a minimum of 7/8 inch.  Yours may be different.

A file and sandpaper are used to finish up the blade.

When the blade is finished I push it down into the slot that I have cut in the target point.

Now the broadhead is pushed back onto the shaft.  The tang inside of the target point will fit on down into the shaft where I have slotted it.

I drill a small hole that goes through the target point, the shaft, and the blade.

Then I push a small brad through the hole and cut the end of it off with wire cutters.  I leave about a sixteenth-of-an-inch of brad sticking out.

With a ball peen hammer, I peen down the raw end of the brad to make it a small rivet.

Voila, a target point and some scrap sheet steel have now become a hunting broadhead.

Note that Saxton Pope made his broadheads with barbs on the back; something that is now illegal in some areas.  Also, his broadheads were enormous; as much as three inches long.  Of course he was often hunting very large game including elk and bears.