Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Charcoal Chimney and Charcoal Storage

Charcoal Chimney and Charcoal Storage

Charcoal Chimney/Starter

It's a good idea to have charcoal stored away for emergency cooking.  If you use a charcoal chimney, you don't have to have lighter fluid.  Also, it lights much faster.  It's much more effective.  If you have a large can, #10, you can make your own cheap. You can use a coffee can or a clean paint can, etc.  You can get new paint cans at some home improvement stores and paint stores.  I used an old coffee can from my dad's garage that he stored nuts and bolts in.

You don't need the lid.  You want to put holes in the bottom (easier while still on the can).  You can use a drill, but I just used a screwdriver and hammer.  I think I should have put a few more, but this will do.  This is the first one that I've made.  Then, cut the bottom off with a can opener.  This will be the grate that you put down inside the can to put the charcoal on.

Then, you want to put 3-4 screws in around the bottom, a couple inches up.  This will be to rest the grate on inside the can.  

(Just showing you here where the grate will be inside.) 


Then push the grate down in the top to rest on top of the screws and then put more screws in above those screws, above the grate, to hold it in place.  I used a drill to get the holes started just to make it easier.  I don't have much "elbow grease" these days as I type for a living. 

You don't have to have a handle, but it makes it easier to pour the coal out when it's ready.  (Otherwise, you can use pliers, oven gloves, etc.)  I cut a piece of a dowel to make a handle that won't get hot, drilled holes through it, and used these bolts I happened to have.

Oh, I almost forgot.  You need to put holes all along the bottom.  You can just use a church key can opener.

Tada!  I know, it's not as pretty as it could have 
been with a new can.  lol

View from the bottom. 

View from the top. 

To light the charcoal, put a couple of pieces of newspaper in the bottom.  Then set it upright and fill with charcoal.  Light the paper underneath.  When the charcoal on top starts to get gray around the edges, dump the charcoal in the grill.  Walla!  

Charcoal Storage

I bought a couple large bags of charcoal to store away for emergency cooking, besides the campfire, and put them up in the garage but then read that it should be put in buckets with lids so that it will last longer (or so that it doesn't lose its effectiveness); so I put both bags, over 30 pounds of charcoal, in these four kitty litter jugs and will put the lids on and store them back in the garage.  (I didn't have spare buckets, but these work great!.) 

Then, I read, according to the Kingsford web site, it will last indefinitely, like I originally thought; but I figure it can't hurt to store it in containers to be sure is stays dry over a long period of time. 

This is from the Kingsford web site:  "What is charcoal's shelf life? The shelf life is indefinite so long as the product is stored in a cool, dry place. If the briquets become damp, they will not light efficiently. If a Kingsford® Match Light® charcoal bag is left open or becomes torn, the solvent will evaporate. This will also prevent the briquets from lighting properly. To extend shelf life, we recommend that you re-close the bag properly after each use."

Thanks for checking out my blog.  
You can leave a comment or suggestion below if you would like.  :)

Coming soon, cheese making...  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Natural Cleaners

Natural Cleaners
 I'll add new posts to this one as I try new things.  :)

Orange Peel Vinegar

I thought I'd give this one a try.  Should smell good right?  I've seen different posts for it around Pinterest.

Put orange and/or lemon peels in a jar and cover with vinegar.  Let sit for 10-14 days.  Strain and pour in a spray bottle and add water in a 1:1 ratio, (1/2 the vinegar solution to 1/2 water).  It's supposed to work on kitchen counters, fixtures, floors, etc. 

Mine has just a few days to go, and then I'll let you know what I think or you can try it yourself.  Some people seem to like it while others don't.


Well, I wanted to like it; but I really wasn't impressed.  I pulled some bottles (cooking ingredients) out by the stove in a hard to reach area to find this area to test it on, dusty, oily.  I used the orange vinegar on the right and had to keep rubbing.  I used a brand-name  cleaner with bleach on the left and it came right off!  Honestly, I don't use "cleaners" very often.  I usually just use soap and water on a dish cloth. When I do though, I'd like it to be good on pretty much everything.  I don't want 6 different bottles for 6 different chores.  I read on the internet about how well vinegar cleans a lot of things and I'm sure it is good for a lot of things, but I guess you will just have to try this one for whatever particular thing you would like to use it for and see what you think.  :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Waterproofing Matches

Waterproofing Matches
(4 popular ways tested)

 Shellac, Wax, Turpentine, Nail Polish

 Shellac, Wax, Turpentine, Nail Polish

I wanted to share a few of the ways I tried to waterproof matches for camping/survival.  I had four of each type done.  I took one of each, sprayed them with a mist of water, patted them dry, and lit them.  I did that until I used up all of them, (so four different times).  I was most impressed with the turpentine ones. 

The first four I sprayed on the back of the little paper plate; 
but the rest, I set on the counter so they were actually lying in water. 

Soak the matches in turpentine for 5 minutes and then let dry.  It is said to have a higher flash-point than the acetone in the nail polish ones.

Nail Polish

Brush the nail polish on and let dry.


Dip them in melted wax and let them dry.  The wax tends to flake off or crumble over time, specially if you are on the move, so I don't care for these ones.

Dip the matches in the shellac, head down, and let dry.  You can make a tape strip of matches for easy dipping.

The results

The shellac and wax ones did the worst.  Most just fizzled on the end and that was it.  The nail polish didn't do as well as I thought it would.  Two of the four burned just on the end and fizzled out.  I was surprised by how well the turpentine ones did.  They didn't  even look like they had anything done to them, but turpentine was the clear winner of my test.  All four lit and kept going.  

You can also seal matches in drinking straws.  Just cut to the length you want, put the matches in (or whatever you want to seal), pinch the ends closed with plyers, and melt closed with a lighter.

Thanks for taking the time to check this out.  :)

Pine Trees, Many Uses in Survival

Pine Trees, Many Uses in Survival

 This is White Pine.  Each bundle of needles has 5 needles. 

It's winter here now and very cold with lots of snow, so some of these things I won't be trying until this spring and will do updates and include more photos then.  

All Pine, Fir, and Spruce are edible; but not all evergreens are edible, like YewAs far as the needles go, use younger ones that are brighter in color if you can.  New growth tips in spring are even better.  Pine needles are full of vitamin C and vitamin A, 4-5 times the vitamin C of oranges and lemons.  This helped to save early explorers from scurvy.  Native Americans used tree parts for tonics and medicinal tea.  Pine needles are said to soothe sore throats, cough, and lung congestion and help with cold and flu, among other things.  White pine seems to be the preference.  It's said that Monterey Pine has an orange citrus flavor.  Soft pines like the White Pine and Pinyon are said to have a less harsh pitch flavor than the hard pines like the Ponderosa or Monterey.

Note:  Many sites give warnings not to consume evergreen tree parts if pregnant or breastfeeding. Large quantities of pine needles have been known to cause miscarriages in livestock.  

Pine Needle Tea
Pine, Fir, and/or Spruce needles (chopped or lightly crushed)
water sugar, honey, maple syrup, lemon, or anything you want to add.

Use around 2-5 tablespoons of needles per cup of water.  It's not an exact science, and the recipes vary a lot; so just play with it and figure out what your preference is.  You can wash the needles first.  I personally don't think it's necessary.  Bring the water to a boil and then remove it from the heat. Add the needles and let them steep for 15-20 minutes. I used a coffee filter to strain the needles out.  Some recipes say to bring the water to a boil and simmer the needles for 15-20 minutes.  It's said that, if you let the needles simmer, more of the health benefits are released into the tea but that it also releases more resin into the tea so that it may taste more harsh, sort of turpentine-like.  Again, use your own judgment and figure out what you like best.  You can lightly crush the needles first with a rolling pin or chop them.  I found what worked best for me was to just cut them up with the kitchen scissors.  I cut them off the branch too.  That way I didn't get the little brown sheath at the base in there, although it doesn't really matter.  According to Wikipedia, the vitamin C is not destroyed by high temperatures. 

I added a little honey.  I first tried a mix of Spruce and Scott pine as that is what is surrounding my house.  It tasted pitchy to me, not very good.  I then went up the road a little way and got some White pine needles.  Not bad.  Keep in mind that I don't like tea to begin with, but I could easily see drinking this in a survival situation.  If I liked tea, I would probably drink it now and then for the health benefits.  Pine needle tea can also be used as an antiseptic wound wash.

I found this website that has some more detailed information on pine needles.  (click here)
Here are a couple of paragraphs from it.... 
"First, the amount of vitamin C is reported to be five times the amount found in a lemon, which is 83.2 mg, according to nutritional data web site. That means a cup of pine needles would yield more than 400 mg per cup of brew. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and an immune system booster.  It also improves cardiovascular system functions, improves skin and eye health, which alone accounts for many of the positive results from using the tea, such as a cure for scurvy."

Second, pine needle tea is high in fat-soluble vitamin A, an antioxidant beta-carotene, which is needed for healthy vision (especially in low light situations), skin and hair regeneration, and red blood cell production! The vitamin A explains a few more of the nutrition and health claims, but certainly not all of them. There is more to the tea than just vitamins A and C. There are many components to consider with swallowing a cup of pine needle broth!"

Pine Needle Vinegar
1 pint jar
apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
3 Tbsp brown sugar.

This can be used as an alternative to the more expensive Balsamic Vinegar.

Sterilize the jar.  (I use the microwave or oven.  For the microwave, put about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom and heat the jar for 2 minutes.  You can use the oven also on low or boil it.)  Some say to pack the jar with the needles and others say a "handful".  (I think 1/2 to 2/3 or so full of needles is good.)  You can wash the needles first if you wish.  Some recipes say you don't have to, and I agree.  Bring the vinegar to a boil, shut off the heat, stir in the sugar until it dissolves, let it cool, and then pour into the jar with the pine needles.  Some people have reported some growth of mold if the vinegar wasn't boiled or you could buy pasteurized vinegar.  If using a metal lid, put waxed paper over the opening first so the vinegar won't erode the lid or use a plastic lid.  Let it sit in a dark place for 6-8 weeks.

I've mixed it together but now have to wait the 
6-8 weeks to try it.  I'll do an update then.   

Update: I tried it after 4 weeks, and it was pretty strong.  

I'd use less needles next time, maybe 1/3.  :)  I'm not a balsamic vinegar fan; but I think if you like that, you 
might want to try this.

Pine vinegar is rich in flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals.  You can use it to make salad dressings, flavor soups and stews, or cook down into a reduction sauce for chicken or fish.  It's supposed to help your immune system and ward off colds and flu.  
Pine Tips (new growth)

Young growth of pine in the spring is edible right off the tree.  Some think it has the hint of a citrus taste and a resin taste that will get stronger as the new growth matures.  It can be dried and powdered to use as a spice for a unique flavor.
This web site has some interesting-looking recipes.  (click here)

Update:  Ok, spring is here and I tried them.  Didn't care for the 
taste honestly.  Tastes like Pine.  Still good knowledge to have though 
in case of emergency, like being lost in the woods.  :)

White Pine, new growth.


Pine needles can be used for bedding, shelter, roofing. 

Massage Oil 

Pine needles can be soaked in olive oil for a time for a relaxing massage oil.

Pine Resin and Sap

Resin is the part that gets hard and is darker in color.  Sap is the water and sugar part that can be eaten.

Sap/Resin can be used to start fires and make a torch and is said to deter bugs.  It can be used to waterproof boots and clothing.  It can even be used as a glue.  It can be used to seal wounds and is said to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Resin can be powdered and used in heated fat/oil to make ointments.

Sap can be used to make gum. (no thanks!)

The clear-white colored part is the sap.  

I actually tried eating one of these clear drops of sap; and OMG, it was horrible!  lol  I had to go in the house and eat some crackers!  I "bit the bullet" for my blog, and it tasted like I thought it would.  It was a Spruce tree so probably a less desirable sap; but still, I don't plan on eating sap ever again.  It's different if you are in a true survival situation. You do whatever you have to do.

Pine Nuts/Seeds and Cones

All pinecone seeds are edible and can be eaten raw or toasted over a fire.  They contain thiamine, protein, and vitamin B1.  Shake the seeds out.  If the cones are closed, heat and drying will open them back up.  They close when they get wet. 

Here in the north, the seeds aren't really big enough to mess with; but if you can put a bunch in a bag or something and shake it hard, you can get some without too much effort. 

These are from Scott pine trees by my 
house.  The cones are small.  these are 
from the ones in the next picture.

 I took the wing part off just to see how much of 
the actual nut I could get from these.  

In the spring, the male pine cone flowers/cones can be boiled in water or baked and eaten. The pollen can be shaken out and used as a flour substitute and to thicken soups, etc. 
Pine cones can be used as a bobber while fishing.

Red pine, male pine flowers/cones.

Pine Bark

The bark on young pine twigs is edible.  Peel it off in layers with a knife.  As far as the mature trees, you can eat the layer of bark under the outside hard layer.  You can fry it over a fire until brown and crispy.  Add a little salt.   

I tried a small amount of the bark from this young white pine branch, and it didn't taste very good; but again, you do what you have to in a survival situation.

Water Source?

I heard someone on TV, I thought Les Stroud from Survival Man, say that pine needles are a good source of water in a survival situation when you chew on them.  Now that I look for something on that, I don't see anything; so I'm not sure. 

Thanks for checking out my blog.  :)  
Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion below.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Easy Suet Cakes for Birds

Easy Suet Cakes for Birds

This is a bit off topic, but I wanted to share this recipe I make every winter.  It will help you to save money if you buy suet cakes for the birds. When I figured out the cost once, it was at least half the price of the store-bought ones.

Use a large bowl or you could make a 1/2 batch.

Mix together:
4 cups quick cooking oats
2-4 cups cornmeal (I use 2)
2 cups white flour
4-6 cups bird seed

3 cups lard (I buy a large tub at Save A Lot)
1 small jar chunky peanut butter (18 oz)

Mix it all together.  I use plastic forms from store-bought suet cakes that I had bought, but you can use other containers.  I used a pan once and then cut it into smaller pieces.  I think I put tinfoil in the bottom to be sure it pulled out easy or you could use a little of the lard to grease the man.  (oh my gosh was that a Freudian slip?!  lol  I'm glad I proofread!) ....ummm I mean pan.  ;)  They are easiest to pop out if they are frozen.  I keep them in the garage in winter or, if isn't cold enough, put one in the freezer for a while before popping it out.  I put them in a suet cage.  The birds LOVE them!

I end up with about 9 of the forms filled.

Sometimes, my sister or mom make things like jelly and then give me the leftover strained fruit and I put that in the suet too.  I've also put raisins in it.  Use whatever you want in it.  

Thanks for checking this out. 

Hardtack and Survival Bread

Hardtack and Survival Bread

Hardtack is basically a large cracker made simply from flour, water, and salt.  It was known as "sea biscuits"also.  It lasts for many years if stored properly so is good for long-term storage for emergency food.  It was a main food source during the civil war, Union and Confederate.  The Minnesota Historical Society even has a video on Youtube of an authentic square of hardtack from the civil war era that is 150 years old and still edible!  (click here)

5 cups flour
2 cups water
3 tsp salt

Just mix the ingredients together, knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface, and roll out to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into 3 inch (or so) squares.  You can use a pizza cutter.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 30 minutes and then flip them over and cook for another 30 minutes.




Mine were more rectangle than square, but 
this is how many a batch makes, two trays. 

All done!

When they are done, just let them sit out for a few days to make sure they dry thoroughly and then store in air tight containers.  You can even store them with an oxygen absorber for good measure.
When you want to eat it, soak it for a little while in water, milk, or even coffee to soften.  You can then fry it in a little butter, oil, or shortening.  The soldiers would fry it in pork fat and would even soak it until it was doughy and then cook it over a fire.

 After they were cold. I took a small piece and 
soaked it in water for about 20 minutes.

Then, I fried it in a little butter just until hot to give it a try.  
It was still very chewy but crispy outside and  tasty. 

Flour and water biscuits are said to date back as far as the Third Crusade in 1189 and have most likely been around since the beginning of time.

Wikipedia has a nice article on Hardtack with more details and a few photos if you want to check it out.  (click here)

 sea biscuit

Small Update -I have some more mylar and oxygen absorbers so thought I'd make another batch to put away.  
I made a 1-1/2 batch as I figured they would fit on the pans and then did it twice, so this is 
basically 3 recipes worth of Hard Tack.  :)  I wasn't planning to photograph it so didn't try to get
 the pieces all the same size, etc. 

There is also a "survival bread" you can make.  You wouldn't want to make this for long-term storage as it has oil in it and wouldn't store well; but if you will be on the move, you could whip up some of this and not worry about having many ingredients on hand (including yeast).  It's lightweight, and you could put some in your backpack. 


Survival Bread

1 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
Mix the ingredients together and knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface.  Roll out to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  You could also cook it over a fire or on a grill if the power was out.  

Here's another Survival Bread recipe that sounds interesting.  (click here)

See also my post on making Bannock Bread. I like to make this over the fire sometimes, wrapped around a branch.  See the post for more info.  (click here)
Bannock Bread

1 cup flour2 tbsp powdered milk (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. shortening, oil, or butter
Thanks for checking out my blog and feel free to leave a comment or suggestion below.  You don't have to sign in or sign up.  ;)