Friday, August 24, 2018

13 Things You’ll Wish You had when Your Smart Phone is Useless

I recently watched a video called “Thirty Things Your Iphone has Replaced.”  It’s pretty interesting to see how many things that used to be common accessories in everyone’s homes 25 years ago, have been made obsolete by the smart phone.  One good example would be that most families used to have a set of encyclopedias.  Who buys encyclopedias now that you can go on your internet connected smart phone and look up anything you want?

But, this video got me to thinking about the flip-side of the smart phone as an information multi-tool.  What would happen if your smart phone was suddenly rendered useless?  What items would you wish that you had if your smart phone cratered?  What follows is a short list for your consideration:

Communication Devices

Although it is used for many other purposes, the smart phone is still primarily a means of communication.  The network of cell towers that supports this technology is extremely vulnerable to EMP attacks.  If an EMP attack ever occurred, cell phone service would probably end.  Some alternatives to the cell phone might include hardwired field telephones for close by communication, rechargeable walkie-talkies and CB base stations for wider area (but still fairly limited) communications, and shortwave radio for long distance communication.


It never fails to amaze me when people show up for a survival class and expect to use the compass tool on their cell phone as a real compass.  No, no, no, no!  So many things can go wrong with a cell phone or its related infrastructure.  They are far too unreliable to ever take the place of a real compass.  Spend the $10 and buy a real compass to stick in you bug out bag or glove box.


Google Maps and various GPS applications have made paper maps virtually obsolete.  Don’t fall into this trap.  You need to at least have a state road map.  Better still; buy several topographic maps of the area around your home.


Everybody uses the flashlight on their smart phone.  Yes, it’s very convenient, but have a back-up.  You need an LED flashlight, rechargeable batteries, and a solar battery charger.


No more looking things up on Google, no more reading e-books from Amazon; you’re going to have to go old school.  It’s a shame that books take up so much space, but it’s a burden you’ll just have to bare.  You’ll need books on gardening, plant identification, canning and food preservation,  first aid and medical guides, repair manuals, gunsmithing books; all of the practical how-to books that you can find.  You’ll need books for entertainment (stick to the timeless classics), and don’t forget the children’s books.  If you have room throw in a set of encyclopedias.


You won’t be playing Candy Crunch on your smart phone anymore.  Buy a deck of cards, some dominoes, a few dice, a set of checkers with board, and a chess set.  A few old school board games wouldn’t hurt either.  Yatzee once got my wife and I through six months without electricity when we were young.  Also, definitely buy a copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games.  It has the rules and how to play every card and dice game you’ve ever heard of and a bunch that you haven’t heard of.

Pencil and Paper

Everybody takes notes, makes grocery lists, etc on their smart phones.  Without a working smart phone you’ll need to do it the old fashioned way with a paper and pencil.  Buy yourself a couple of boxes of pencils and a few spiral notebooks.  They don’t take up much space, and they could come in very handy.

Musical Instrument

You won’t be listening to that play list anymore after your smart phone bites the dust.  How about learning to play a musical instrument?  My wife and I belong to a re-enactment group that uses no gear more modern than 1836.  We always have a campfire with a group sing-along.  One person plays guitar, a couple of people play the boron (a kind of Celtic hand drum), one plays the harmonica, and another plays the penny whistle and sometimes the fiddle.  The rest of us sing along loudly and poorly, and we all have a great time.

Weather Instruments

No more weather app, so buy yourself a thermometer, a barometer, and a rain gauge.  Learn a little about cloud formations and weather prediction. 


The calendar and alerts function on your smart phone is very handy; but if your smart phone is useless, you’ll wish that you had an old time paper calendar.  Some businesses still give them away for free, or you can buy one or print one off of the internet.

Self Winding Watch

Hardly anyone under the age of 50 wears a wristwatch any more.  Most people just glance down at the screen of their ever present smart phone.  Knowing the exact time may not be all that important in a survival situation, but if you feel the need to know the time you will need an old fashioned wrist watch.  I would recommend a good quality self winding watch so you don’t have to worry about batteries running out.  I had a not so high quality self winder that lasted for over 10 years without repair.  Hey, if you have deep pockets buy a Rolex and you’ll probably be fixed for life.

Photo Album

If you have pictures that mean a lot to you; spouse, children, parents, etc; print them out and put them in a photo album.  You should do this anyway.  You could lose or damage your phone, and the pictures would be lost. 

Solar Powered Calculator

Unless you are an engineer or a math teacher you probably depend on the calculator on your smart phone.  You really should buy an inexpensive solar powered calculator as a back-up in case your smart phone becomes useless.

Well, there’s my little list.  Now, I have to admit that I don’t even own a smart phone, so I’m sure that some of you smart phone owners can come up with a lot of things that should be added to this list.  If you think of anything feel free to add it in the comments section below. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Make Dutch Oven Biscuits

Let me start off by saying that there are a lot of different recipes for biscuits, and several different methods of cooking them in a Dutch oven.  I don’t claim to have the ultimate biscuit cooking knowledge.  This recipe for biscuits is what I would call a survivalist recipe.  It uses only basic ingredients that can be stored for a good while; no butter, or milk, or buttermilk, etc.  You can change the recipe to make a tastier biscuit; but, truth is, these are not too shabby.

The cooking equipment that you’ll need is:

Medium size mixing bowl
Half-cup measure
Teaspoon measure
Bowl or coffee pot to hold water
Dutch oven
Biscuit pan
3 lug nuts or small stones to put under the biscuit pan
Lid lifter
Camp shovel

The recipe ingredients are:

2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening or lard

Before you mix up your biscuit dough you need to build a good hardwood fire.  You need some good coals to cook on, and it may take from 45 minutes to an hour for your fire to burn down properly.

Once your fire is built, set your Dutch oven next to the fire in order to pre-heat it.  Turn the Dutch oven occasionally to heat it evenly.

When the fire has burned down pretty good, it is time to mix up your biscuit dough.  This recipe is for a small batch that will feed two or three people.  Start by placing two cups of self-rising flour in your mixing bowl.

Add one teaspoon of salt and mix it into the flour.

Next add ½ cup of shortening or lard (for a better biscuit use half butter and half shortening).

Use your fork to cut the shortening into the flour. 

Mash and mix until the shortening is evenly distributed and the flour looks like coarse sand.

 Now you can start adding water (or milk or buttermilk for a tastier biscuit).  Add the water a little at a time, mixing as you go.

Keep adding water until you have a dough that doesn’t stick to the mixing bowl or your hands.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you grease your biscuit pan with shortening.

For quick and easy camp biscuits I like to tear off chunks of the dough, press them into a ¾ inch thick disk with my fingers, and place them in the biscuit pan.  If you’re cooking in the kitchen, you can roll the dough out on a floured cutting board and cut the biscuits out with a biscuit cutter.  They don’t taste any different.  They just look prettier.

Now turn to your fire and shovel out a bed of coals to set your Dutch oven on.

Put your three lug nuts in the bottom of the Dutch oven,

And set your biscuit pan down into the oven.  The lug nuts will hold the pan up off of the bottom of the oven and allow the heat to circulate around the pan better.

Put the lid on the Dutch oven and shovel an even layer of coals onto the lid.

Let the biscuits cook for ten minutes, then use your lifter to rotate the Dutch oven 180 degrees one direction. Then lift the lid and rotate it 180 degrees back the other direction.  This is, again, to try and keep the heat distributed evenly.

Let the biscuits cook for another ten minutes then carefully remove the lid. 

You should now have a nicely cooked pan of hot biscuits waiting for some butter and jelly or maybe a nice ladle full of sausage gravy.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Outdoor Cookware

If you’re cooking outdoors it is important that your cookware is durable.  Cast iron and stainless steel are the materials of choice.  Those nice pottery bowls and Teflon pans may be okay for the kitchen, but they have no place around a campfire.

Cast Iron Cookware

I have four pieces of cast iron cookware in my cooking gear.  I have a 10” cast iron pot with a bail and lid.  This is convenient to hang from an “S” hook over the fire.  I use it to cook things like stew, chili, chicken and dumplings, pinto beans, and etc.

A 12” Dutch oven is handy for baking biscuit, bread, pies, and cobblers.  It or the hanging pot are also good for cooking large chunks of meat like a pot roast.

I have a round 12” griddle that is great for cooking pancakes, corn cakes, and tortillas.  It’s also good for cooking bacon, sausage, spam, and sliced ham.

I actually have two different sizes of cast iron skillets, but I usually just stick to a standard 10” skillet for most situations.  If I’m cooking for a pretty good crowd I have a larger 12” skillet.  These are great for cooking eggs and for frying chicken or fish.

Stainless Steel Cookware

A large stainless steel lidded pot is handy for cooking vegetables, soups, rice, or anything else that you would cook in a pot on your stove.  I have such a pot that I use for large groups, but I don’t use it often.

I use a deep, round baking pan that fits inside my Dutch oven when I cook biscuits or bread. Some people cook biscuits and bread directly in the Dutch oven, but I use this pan and set it on three steel hex-nuts that elevate it about a quarter inch from the bottom of the Dutch oven.  I find that this cooks my bread-stuffs more evenly and avoids scorching the bottoms.  The pan pictured here is actually a new one.  My old one was fairly shallow, and I’m looking forward to using the new pan.

I also have a big stainless steel bowl that serves as my wash basin for doing dishes. It also doubles as my dough bowl for mixing up bread dough and letting it rise.


I have an enamelware coffee pot that has seen a good number of campfires.  Some people cook camp coffee by putting the grounds directly in the water, boiling it up, and then throwing in a cup of cold water to make the grounds settle.  Maybe you can make this work, but I always end up straining coffee grounds through my teeth.  I prefer to use the removable basket and percolator tube to make my coffee.

A medium size enamelware bowl is used for mixing biscuit dough, pancake batter, and etc.

I use my small enamelware hanging pot to cook vegetables, soups, and etc.  I find that I use it much more often than my large stainless steel pot.

I also have an enamelware lid that fits over my 10” skillet.

Kitchen Utensils

You can get as complicated as you want on utensils.  I keep it pretty simple. The main rule is “long handles.”  You want to be able to reach out over that fire without singing the hair off of your hand.  I use a big butcher knife and a small paring knife.  Also pictured is an old-time can opener.

A pair of meat tongs and a long handle fork are also handy; especially if you are cooking straight on the grill.

You’ll need a spatula, a ladle, and a spoon to cook with, and that weird looking thing on the right is an absolute necessity if you’re using a Dutch oven.  It’s called a lid lifter.

The last item on the list is a blow-pipe.  This is used to direct air at your fire to help build the flame.  It concentrates the stream of air much better than bending over and blowing through your lips.

Well, that’s it for cookware.  As you can see I didn’t exactly drive over to William’s Sonoma and buy my stuff.  It’s mostly hand me downs, garage sales, and thrift stores; but it works, and it has turned out some good camp meals over the years.