Plant Profile – Snap Beans (Physalis vulgaris)

snap beans

snap beans

Just what are “snap beans” anyway? “Snap beans” are words used by garden writers to denote what the rest of us call “string beans” or “green beans”. 😉 I can see the logic of calling them “snap beans” though: the strings have mostly been bred out of them so that you are not likely to encounter strings unless you let the beans become too overgrown and, as to “green beans” – well, some are purple and some are yellow, so “green beans” is somewhat of a misnomer. But whatever you call them, if you grow them yourself and pick them while they are young and tender, they will be vastly superior to the sad excuses-for-beans in supermarkets. Homegrown beans are actually delicious! That’s a strong word to use for a vegetable generally considered somewhat ordinary, but it’s true.

From a gardening standpoint, there are two main types of snap beans: bush beans and pole beans (more on this in a minute). From a cooking/eating standpoint, both bush and pole beans come in green, yellow, purple (although the purple ones turn green when cooked), and Romano beans – a broader, flatter bean, sometimes called “Italian green beans”. The Romanos tend to have a stronger and “beanier” flavor. Then there are yellow Romanos and purple ones too…. Yellow beans are also sometimes called “wax beans.”

snap beansI like variety in gardening (and eating), and I enjoy different colors too and I hope you will also, so for both bush and pole beans, besides selling the different colors individually, we will be selling “variety packs” with a small quantity of each color (and of Romanos), so that you can have the fun of growing some of each kind. These will be packaged separately rather than mixed together, so that you’ll know which is which. And since all snap beans are ideal for container-growing, I have the fun of selecting the very nicest varieties to sell at my website. Believe me, there are many lovely varieties of beans, so picking the ones I consider the “very best” is not an easy job. They’re all easy and fun to grow, and delicious when not allowed to become overgrown. This is really important if you want the very best beans: pick them while they are young and succulent. Also, if you allow the beans to become fully mature, the plants will stop producing new beans: just what you don’t want.

From a gardening standpoint, all the colors are treated alike, except that purple beans are said to be able to withstand colder soil than the rest. I have not experimented with this but have no particular reason to doubt it. In any case, if you are growing them in containers, cold soil isn’t going to be a problem. Containers warm up faster and – if you are at all worried about a container’s soil being too cold – you can pour a teakettle or two of hot water into the container (then wait until it cools off to plant the seeds, of course).

snap beans growing on strings

snap beans growing on strings and poles

You will need to decide whether you want to grow bush or pole beans, or both. Both are very well-suited for container-growing. Both have pretty flowers and are nice-looking plants. The advantage to bush beans is that they produce beans faster than pole beans, and they don’t need any support (trellis or poles). They’ll produce most of their beans in a relatively short period of time. Gardeners who plant bush beans therefore generally use succession plantings to have a supply of beans throughout the summer months. Bush beans grow quickly, only taking about 40 to 60 days to produce a crop, so you can fit several successive plantings into a summer in most areas.

Pole beans, first of all, require support – poles or a trellis. Pole beans can serve as a living curtain of shade if grown in front of hot, sunny windows (I’ve done this by stringing twine from nails in the roof overhang to bricks on the ground and letting the beans grow up the twine). They take longer than bush beans to start producing beans, but they will keep on producing beans throughout the summer and you’ll get more beans per square foot of planted area from pole beans (although I think succession plantings of bush beans can come close to matching pole beans’ production). We use a “bean teepee” – poles tied at the top – which can easily be put around a container. An alternative is any kind of trellising or nets, or letting them grow up string or twine.

We have been using pieces of rebar (concrete reinforcing rod) for our bean teepees. However, Bountiful Container suggests that you use wider poles – poles more than one inch in diameter. I think pieces of 1 ” x 2″ lumber would work well. The use of wider poles “produces a more concentrated growth pattern, with the full length of the vine condensed by the wide circles and the beans themselves bunched up thickly together, which is what you want when your space is limited.” This is an excellent idea to keep in mind. If the bean vines reach the top of the poles, trim them at the very tip to force them to put out new growth below. I think pole beans would happily grow forever (remember “Jack and the Beanstalk”?) but there’s no point in using poles higher than you can comfortably reach to pick the beans.

OK, now you’ve decided which kind of beans to plant – or decided to plant both. How do you plant them? First of all, snap beans are frost-tender (will not withstand temperatures below 32 F – or 0 C) and prefer warm weather. So wait until after your last frost and until the weather is reliably warm – maybe gambling by planting purple beans (only) a week or two before the last frost. I’ve always planted my beans directly outdoors and this is certainly easiest. Most of my gardening books say that they do not like to be transplanted, although I start lots of seeds indoors that theoretically do not like to be transplanted. However, I don’t see any reason to start beans indoors. They are large seeds, easy to handle, and very fast to sprout, and do just fine when planted directly outdoors.

Before sowing your bean seeds, it’s helpful to soak them in warm water for an hour or two to soften the seed coats. It’s also helpful to “inoculate” the beans. The inoculants are a bacteria that legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) need to both use nitrogen and actually add it to the soil. (They actually enrich the soil in which they are grown, which is an excellent feature of growing beans, of course.) While these bacteria do occur naturally in the soil, the use of an inoculant ensures that your beans will have the right bacteria and in sufficient amounts, and will allow them to produce more beans for you. This is particularly true for container gardeners who use sterilized potting soil and/or a soil-less mix. The inoculants come as either a black powder in which you dredge the bean seeds, or granules that you sprinkle in the planting holes before sowing the seeds. One type of inoculant will cover peas and all the commonly grown garden beans. They are quite inexpensive and should be available at your local garden center, as well as online.

Plant bush beans about 4″ apart from each other (each way), so that you wind up with nine plants per square foot of surface area. Just draw a grid in your container by running your finger along in the soil, dividing each square foot of surface area into nine sections. Then put the beans in the middle of each section. For pole beans, plant about eight seeds per pole – in a circle around poles, or in a double line in front of a trellis. You may need to thin these down to about six plants per pole later. To plant the seeds, you just space them and then push them about one inch deep into the soil, smoothing the soil back over them. Keep the soil moist until they have sprouted. Then stand back and watch them grow!

Beans prefer to be evenly well-watered so don’t let your containers dry out between waterings. It’s very difficult (almost impossible) to over-water outdoor container plants so I wouldn’t worry about over-watering them (by contrast to indoor container plants which are easy to overwater). Although the beans will supply themselves with nitrogen if you have used inoculant, I recommend that you use a balanced fertilizer or plant food at least monthly on the beans, to ensure that they receive the other nutrients they need (particularly for container-grown plants). I have found that they do much, much better than unfertilized beans. I think this is essential if you’re using soil-less mix (Pro-Mix or the like) as your growing medium, and beneficial in all cases.

Beans are subject to some minor pests and at least one major pest. Flea beetles have been a minor pest of beans I’ve grown in the ground, but they have never found any container plants that I’ve grown. Mexican bean beetles are the major pest and they are horrid – their larvae will eat holes in your bean leaves until the leaves are skeletonized and the plant dies. (Knock on wood, we don’t seem to have them here, although I’ve had to cope with them in other places.) Here’s a picture of the eggs, larvae, and adults.

The first control measure is good garden clean-up each fall: don’t leave plant debris in your containers (or in your in-ground garden) as that will just be a home for overwintering bean beetles and other pests. The second control measure is to check the undersides of the leaves for the yellow eggs and crush them whenever you see them. Recommendations for other (and stronger) control measures can be found on the Gardens Alive! website.

Alternatively, you can cover bush bean plants with floating row cover (or nylon netting) to prevent the beetles from laying their eggs on your plants. Since beans don’t require insect pollination, you can leave the row cover on throughout their life cycle, only removing it to pick the beans. For containers that need floating row cover protection, I make a chicken-wire cage in the container and cover that with the row cover. However, I don’t need to use any insecticides or row cover on container-grown beans, and hopefully you won’t either. But it’s good to know what to do just in case.

Now you’ve got your beans! Lots of lovely beans. Please pick them when they’re young and tender. Just briefly steamed, they are lovely. They’re also great in a stir-fry or soup. If you have too many beans for eating fresh, they are very easily preserved by freezing and they keep their quality well: just cut or break the beans into pieces (or leave them whole) and briefly blanch them (drop them into boiling water). They only need to be blanched for about a minute or until the color changes from purple to green, or from green to the more vivid green that cooked beans have, or to a more vivid yellow in the case of yellow wax beans. Then dump them into a large bowl of cold water with ice cubes floating around to cool them quickly. Then drain in a colander, package in a freezer bag or container, label, and freeze. And that’s all there is to it.

You can easily save seeds from your (non-hybrid) beans, and I do save bean seeds. (I think most, possibly all, snap beans are open-pollinated, or non-hybrid.) Suzanne Ashworth (in her terrific book on seed saving entitled Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners) explains that bean flowers are “perfect” meaning that each flower has both male and female parts and pollinates itself: however, there is some (perhaps remote) possibility of insect pollination as well and, therefore, of varieties becoming crossed with each other (mixed up). If you intend to save the seeds in order to sell them or distribute them via The Seed-Savers Exchange, this would be a concern and measures to prevent it would be desirable. But if you just intend to save the seeds for your own use the following year, I don’t see it as a problem. Certainly, I’ve often saved bean seeds without any apparent mixing-up of varieties the following year.

To save the seeds is simplicity itself: you just let a few pods mature and dry on the vine before picking. When you have picked the yellowed and dried pods, then you open them and remove the beans (the seeds) inside. It’s a good idea to freeze the seeds for at least 48 hours to kill any possible insect eggs in or on them. Then allow them to warm to room temperature inside the container in which you froze them (so condensation won’t gather on the seeds), and then store the dry seeds in a cool dark place. Or, of course, you can take the simpler and easier alternative of buying your next year’s seeds from online seed retailers.

By the way, runner beans, the bean most grown in Great Britain, are a different species – Phaseolus coccineus. They have larger and more showy flowers, prefer cooler growing conditions, and are (to my American tastebuds at least) not as good to eat. They resemble (again, to me) an overgrown and tougher snap bean – this may be because I didn’t pick them young enough. I’ll be growing them again this coming summer, and will pick them younger. They are very useful for people who live in cool-summer areas and/or who want more decorative bean plants. There are other types of bean as well, such as the Asian yard-long beans or lima beans…. but this article is already too long and really only meant to describe snap beans. And so ends (at last!) this Plant Profile. There’s just a lot to be said about beans, I guess.

Brassicas (Cabbage Family Plants) and Evil Butterflies

BrassicasThe brassicas are a huge component of vegetable gardens: many, many of our garden vegetables are in this family. These plants are also sometimes called “crucifers” or “coles”. Included are:

bok choy
Chinese cabbage
broccoli raab
many other Asian greens
brussels sprouts
and probably others I can’t remember at the moment

Most gardeners want to be able to grow at least some of these plants: their absence makes a huge hole in the vegetable garden as well as in the diet, as many of them are nutritional powerhouses. Many are also really delicious when home-grown.

The brassicas are, basically, cool season (spring and fall) plants although there are some that can be coaxed along through summer, certainly in areas with relatively cool summers. I can grow mizuna, other Asian greens, collards, bok choy, broccoli and others through the summers here in northern Pennsylvania in the mountains. But I don’t think it could be done in, say, Georgia. The hot-summer places typically have longer springs and falls, though, so that affords sufficient time to grow these plants in those areas.

Brassicas are occasionally subject to some nasty soil-borne problems but as a container gardener, you avoid those completely. They are also subject to damage from flea beetles, but – at least in my experience – flea beetles stay close to the ground and do not jump high enough to pester container-grown plants. (I have had no flea beetle damage in container-grown plants: none, zero, never.) So right away, you’re ahead of the game.

However, even container-grown brassicas are subject to the depredations of Evil Butterflies and Evil Moths! (Enter the villains of the piece….). The cabbage looper moth and the cabbage butterfly cause the same problem, and the solutions are the same too – a solution effective for one is also effective for the other – so I’m mostly just going to refer to them both as “cabbage butterflies.”

Brassicas and cabbage family plants

Brassicas and cabbage family plants

You may see small white butterflies flitting innocently and delicately over your plants. Them’s the bad guys! (You’re less apt to see the moths as they do their evil business at night). The butterfly (or moth) lays eggs on the brassicas. The eggs hatch into larvae (worms or caterpillars). The larvae of both the butterfly and moth are green, by the way. These larvae eat the leaves of the plants. Left alone, they will completely destroy the plants. When the leaves are sufficiently riddled with holes, the plants collapses and dies.

This is one of the very few insect problems that container gardeners really need to solve. I have spoken with gardeners who claim that they never have this problem. I think they’re very lucky indeed, or maybe their area has some unusual climatic or geographic feature that prevents the butterflies from living there. I can only say that I have experienced the Evil Butterfly Problem in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (places in which I’ve grown brassicas), and in containers as well as in the in-ground garden. The Encyclopedia of Natural Insect and Disease Control states that all 50 states in the USA have them (even Alaska!), so presumably Canada is troubled by them as well. I don’t know whether they exist on other continents or not.

Fortunately, there are three fairly simple things that will solve the problem and none of them involve the use of broad-spectrum insecticides or heavy chemicals. I use all three solutions: which one I use depends on the circumstances. So I’ll tell you about all three solutions and you can choose the solution(s) that seems suitable for your circumstances.

First, some brassicas can be planted in early enough spring that you’ll harvest them before the butterflies appear. I can do this with several of the very fast growing Asian greens such as baby bok choy, choy sum, and hon tai tsai. I think you could do it with radishes too (I seldom bother to grow radishes, however, as I don’t like them much.) You can also grow some plants late into fall and winter (kale, for one) after the butterflies have left for the season or gone into dormancy or died off (whatever butterflies do when the weather turns cold). So this is one solution.

Second, you can spray your plants with a solution containing Bacillus thuringiensis, usually abbreviated as Bt. Bt is a bacteria that infects and kills the larvae of butterflies and moths. It is harmless to other organisms (including humans). Bt can be sprayed on your plants up to the day you harvest them. You do need to spray the Bt at the correct point in the larvae’s life cycle, so if you use this solution, read the label and follow the directions. It may need to be resprayed after rain, too.

Bt is available from GardensAlive, other online sources, and local garden centers. This is my solution of choice for decorative containers: containers that I want to look pretty. It’s effective, it works, it’s a fine solution to a nasty problem.

The third solution is what I usually use: that is, to cover the plants with either floating row cover or nylon netting. The openings in the nylon net are small enough to keep out the butterflies and moths, so in this case it works just as well as the row cover. Nylon net is also cheap and available in fabric stores and the fabric department of discount department stores. Row cover comes in fairly large quantities, perhaps more than you, as a container gardener, would want, so the nylon net would be a better choice for you in that case.

In the case of the brassicas, we don’t want pollination: we don’t need these plants to produce fruit as we eat the leaves (cabbage, etc.), flower buds (broccoli, etc.), stalks and leaves (bok choy, etc.) or roots (turnips, etc.). Since we don’t need bees or other insects pollinating these plants, the netting or row covering can be left on throughout the entire life cycle of the plants, just being pulled back for harvesting. You can water right through either row covering or nylon net, and sunlight will enter through the coverings too, so that’s not a problem.

You can drape floating row cover loosely directly over the plants, fastening it loosely down at the edges with soil or with ground staples (long u-shaped pieces of heavy wire). For containers, you can also clothespin it to the container’s rim. The plants will push it up as they grow. I don’t like to do this though, because I believe it restricts the plant’s growth somewhat and encourages mold and fungus by being closely draped around the plant and soil, especially in a wet season.

So this is what I do for container plants that need to be covered: I make a cage that will fit just inside the container’s rim. I use 1″ mesh chicken wire to make these cages. The 1″ mesh chicken wire is self-supporting (2″ mesh chicken wire is too floppy for this purpose). I make the cage taller than the plant will eventually grow. For the sake of simplicity, I have standardized on using 3′ chicken wire although in the case of some of the brassicas you could manage with 2′ chicken wire. The chicken wire cages are reusable for successive seasons, and the netting or row cover is also reusable. If you have no chicken wire, but have some woven wire fencing left from a project, or tomato cage wire, they would also work here. Or you could construct a frame out of light pieces of wood. You just need something that will support the netting or row cover.

I put the cage inside the container when I transplant the little plants out, fastening the cage down to the soil with ground staples. I then cover the cage (right away!) with nylon net or floating row cover. I fasten the net or row cover to the soil in the container with ground staples at the bottom, or I use clothes pins (UK: clothes pegs) to fasten the net to the container rim. I fasten the net to the cage’s top with clothes pins. Voila! The Evil Butterflies can flutter all around the container, but they’re not going to get in to lay their eggs on my plants. Villains foiled, problem solved!

So there you have it: three different ways to solve this problem: all are very effective. You may want to use all three (as I do), choosing which is best on a case-by-case basis.

Non Hybrid Survival Seeds

My Survival Seed Bank arrived today!

survival seed bank canister huge

survival seed bank canister is HUGE


And I can’t wait to get in my garden and plant the seeds!

Survival Seed Bank is a canister almost a foot tall, I must say I was a bit surprised when I opened the package. Didn’t think it was THAT BIG. It’s HUGE! Check out the pictures if you don’t believe me! Inside this foot tall container are seed pack with individual seed varieties..

I wanted to buy a seed bank for some time, for a couple of reasons. I notices, and I’m sure you have too, that the prices of groceries are rising all the time. Frankly, it’s becoming alarming if you ask me.

I particularly hate when producers don’t increase the price, but instead make the container a little smaller (lets say, instead of 10 oz of product, the newly designed container now has 9 oz). It’s still a price increase, if you get LESS goods for the same price!
So, it makes sense to start growing at least some of our food ourselves..

We are lucky that we have a large backyard and part of it is already converted in a vegetable garden. My wife and I (well, mostly me, but she helps) are growing vegetables for a couple of years started rather small, with just a couple of tomatoes, peppers, some lettuce and spices, but since than every year we increase the number of vegetables we plant, and the yields go up every season! We planned our garden correctly, started a compost bin, have some raised beds’s really coming along nicely.


nicely packed seed packages

Let me show you what you can expect in a Survival Seed Bank, if you decide to buy one. All the seeds are non hybrid NON-GMO seeds, and the usual varieties are listed below. I say usual, because sometimes, due to seed shortage, they may swap some varieties with others. But, always non hybrid non GMO! And the amount of seeds is always the same. Here’s the list:

Jacob’s Cattle Bean
Bountiful Bean
Black Valentine Bean, stringless
Detroit Dark Red Beet
Copenhagen Market Cabbage
Scarlet Nantez Carrot
Fordhook Giant Chard
Golden Bantam Corn
Reid’s Yellow Dent Corn
Straight Eight Cucumber
Rosa Bianca Eggplant
Oak Leaf Lettuce
Red Salad Bowl Lettuce
Hales Best Melon
Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion
Green Arrow Pea
California Wonder Pepper
Early Jalapeno Pepper
French Breakfast Radish
Bloomsdale Spinach
Waltham Butternut Squash
Brandywine Tomato

Nice assortment of delicious vegetables if you ask me!

In case you were wondering, I bought my survival seeds from here, because I was able to compare all survival seed banks in one place before making a purchase, which i really liked. There is a nice table which is really detailed, with every data about each seed bank you need: number of seeds, varieties,packaging, detailed review and of course price! Really nice. The direct link to the seed bank I bought is


survival seed bank advertisment

Prep Blog Review: Summer Preparedness for All


Survivopedia Summer PreparednessBy Brenda E. Walsh

Summer’s here and we all know what that means: we need more water, we want to stay cool (off-grid ideally) and for some states hurricane season is back.

This week we made a roundup of survival and prepping blogs out there and you’ll love what we found!

Drop us a line in the comments section below and let us know what else you’d like to read about.

1. Survival Water Collection: Simple Solar Water Still

Review 1.1“Virtually all survival manuals have various methods of water collection, to include solar water distillers.

The concept of this type of distiller is simple in its design. It uses the sun’s rays for evaporation of water/moisture so it condenses and can be collected on a cooler surface typically clear plastic. The water or moisture in most cases is supplied by soil and/or green vegetation.

Once constructed an in ground solar distiller…

View original post 690 more words

10 Skills Every Survivalist Should Learn

A lot of people who are just getting into survivalism, whether they’re the Average Joe putting back extra groceries or a someone who just become interested in a self reliant lifestyle. A lot of these people believe that all you need to make it is an AR-15, 10,000 rounds of ammo and a bunker full of food. Nothing could be more from the truth!

If you’re looking to move into rural America or you planning on staying put where you are in the suburbs, there are a few skills that will become very helpful to you should the SHTF.

These skills can be learned rather easily and may provide beneficial to you beyond your dreams. Some can be learned by reading a book or watching a video while others will require you attending a few classes at your local community college. Here’s my list of skills every survivalist should learn.

#1. Stick Welding

stick weldingLearning to stick weld is not that hard. You just want to get proficient enough to be able to know which rods to use or which amp setting to use so you can join two pieces of metal. It’s not like you’re planning on making welds on the Alaskan Pipeline. Are you?

Many community colleges now give classes on Welding. And they are very reasonable. Once you own a welder, you’ll find a million and one uses for it. Not to mention should you ever need some extra cash, you can barter or start your own small welding business on the side.

The little Lincoln cracker boxes are 220V welders that can be picked up cheap in a lot of places such as Pawn Shops or Craigslist. These are great for nearly any situation you’ll find yourself needing a welder in a survival situation. But they require a 220V power source. A better choice for the Self Reliant family is a portable generator/welder combo. This way you can take your welder with you plus have the convenience of a portable generator. Honda, Lincoln and Hobart as well as others all make excellent combo units. Just stay away from the cheapies, especially if they’re from China or Indonesia. They may be fine or they may leave you swearing.

#2 Small Engine Repair

how-to-repair-small-enginesKnowing how to repair your generator motor or any other small engine (such as Garden tractors, cultivators, trimmers,pumps, etc) is a must. Sure, you could either take it into town or call a repair guy out to your place, but in a crisis situation, do you really want to put yourself at that risk? Once again your local community college will come to the rescue. Many have classes over basic and advanced small engine repair. Once you’ve learned the basics, the rest is a piece of cake.

So the next time your butterfly sticks closed or your magneto isn’t firing, you’ll know why and more importantly, you’ll know how to fix it!

#3 How To Fish

how to fishNo, I’m not talking about grabbing a can of worms and heading off to a stream. I’m talking about putting up a ton of fish quickly. If you even live remotely close to a large body of water such as a lake, river or pond, you should learn how to catch a lot of fish and do it quickly.

Learn how to make fish traps, nets and trotlines. Then learn how to use them properly.

Many fish have seasonal spawns where they will congregate in schools and move in mass to spawning areas. Most everyone knows that Salmon do this, but fish that live in lakes and rivers do this as well. Stripers, White Bass, Crappie, Walleye and many others spawn this way.

There are many fine books on the market that will teach you these skills. Memphis Net and Twine has a wonderful catalog that includes trawl and gill nets plus many supplies to help you achieve this goal.

Be warned, many of these techniques are illegal in a lot of States. Be sure to read the regulations for your area before trying any of these techniques out. Of course, in a survival or emergency situation, you’ll probably be more worried about eating than getting a fine!


#4 How To Butcher Animals

how to butcher nimalsThis skill will come in very handy for those of you who wish to raise your own livestock and to take advantage of the Wild Game in your area. You may need to connect with another like minded individual who already knows how to do this and convince them to show you as well. Learning how to properly cut up an animal, whether it’s a Deer, Cow or Chicken, is a valuable skill that every survivalist or person wanting to be self sufficient should learn.

Many butchers in my area charge 50 cents per pound on the hoof to kill, butcher and package a Steer. If you’ve got a 800 pound steer to put up, that can add up to a lot of money. I’ve even heard some butchers charging 75 cents per pound or more to do this!

Deer typically cost at least $50 and many times more to have processed.

Save yourself some money and learn to do it yourself!

#5 Learn To Trap

traps and snaresTrapping gives the self sufficient person or survivalist a whole other avenue for procuring fresh meat.  Unlike hunting, traps that you set are working for you around the clock. You can also set a lot of traps in order to cover a wide area. This increases your chance of catching something for the Supper table.

What’s more important is knowing what type of trap to use in order to catch your intended target. If you’re wanting to catch a Wolf, then you’ll be sorely disappointed if you use a trap or snare intended for a Mink.

The Survivalist needs to know how to use Snares, Live/Box traps, leg hold traps and body gripper traps. All have their use in the Survivalist tool shed!

Snares can be used in a survival situation to catch everything from Rabbits to big game animals like Deer and Bear.

Most States have a Trappers Association. They routinely have meetings or weekend get-togethers where there are seminars on basic and advanced trapping. There’s always something for beginners. Look yours up and get on the list today.

#5 Gunsmithing – Learn To Repair Guns

gunsmithingIf you’re living the Self Reliant lifestyle or you’re a Survivalist, then chances are good you have some firearms around, or you should! But do you know how to fix those guns if they break? Can you disassemble your guns, clean them and reassemble them and have them work properly? Sadly, from what I’ve seen, most people can’t. Some believe they can, but their idea of cleaning is spraying a half can of WD-40 into the action and calling it clean.

Do you keep spare parts around for your guns? Probably not. But you should and you should learn how to fix a firearm if it breaks, especially the military type firearms.

Brownell’s has a huge library of Video’s and Books on Gunsmithing. Grab yourself some that cover your type of guns and learn how to clean and repair guns.


#6 Learn Basic Carpentry Skills

carpentry skillsCan you plumb a wall, build a barn, square up walls or plumb a house? If not, these skills are easily learned. Your local community college may come to your rescue again. If you’re the type that can learn from a book, then you can find many fine books on building and carpentry at If you live near a Barnes and Noble, they have a decent list of books as well.

These skills are necessary should we face a long term crisis. Carpentry, Electrical and Plumbing skills will all be in demand and you could make a lot of friends quickly if you the one in your area who knows how to fix things.


#7 Auto Repair

auto repairThis is close to the Small Engine repair skills you’ll need, but on a much larger scale. You’ll need to learn basic maintenance and repair skills and obtain some advance skills like possibly being able to rebuild an engine or transmission. If you have a newer computer controlled vehicle, then these skills will be more important. Older, non-computer controlled vehicles are much easier to work on than those built today.

Also, depending on who you listen too, these older vehicles may give you some protection from EMP attacks. No sensitive electronics to be fried in case of an attack.

At the very least, you should be able to change a tire, break a tire down and repair it with basic hand tools, change out starters, alternators, water and fuel pups. If you can’t do these simple chores, you’d better have money or another vehicle to rely upon should one go down.

You should also be able to tune an engine and adjust carbs and troubleshoot your vehicle. This may all sound intimidating, but all are easily learned skills.

#8 Operate a HAM Radio

ham radioI have to confess. This is one skill I don’t have right now, but I’m certainly going to work on it very soon. In the case of a disaster, a HAM radio will allow you to communicate with the outside World to find out what’s going on.

There are plenty of books and courses on operating a HAM radio, all that is required is a little time and effort.

After Hurricane Ike struck, we were without power for two weeks. At the end of this time, I was really getting use to not having a TV blaring every day or phones ringing. I was very content to hang around my home while cleaning up the debris left by the Hurricane. Once we got power back on, I was amazed at how much news I’d missed out on. I was also amazed at how much useless information we have coming at us everyday without realizing it!

Learn to use a HAM radio. Get your license, find out what type of equipment you really need and get going!

#9 Hunting Skills

hunting skillsIt’s easy to assume that all self reliant families or survivalist know how to hunt. But that isn’t the case. Many don’t even have the skills to find and harvest squirrels or rabbits, not to mention big game. To be successful on a regular basis, these skills will have to be learned and will usually take some time. It’s not as easy as going out to the City park and pot shooting city squirrels.

You can bet that when the SHTF, others will be out putting food on the table. The same food that should be headed to your table!

Most hunting skills can’t  be learned from a book or video. Your best bet is to find someone who is successful and tag along. have them show you what to look for and specifics on each game animal. At the very least, you’ll need to get out in the woods and watch how animals exist in their part of the World. Once you understand how animals move and use the woods, you’ll be on the right path to being a good hunter.


#10 Advanced First Aid

first aid skillsYeah, there are other important skills I could have used at #10, or any number for that matter, but knowing advanced life saving first aid skills should be the goal of every person who is prepping for the worse. It’s just good common sense that you should know these skills. And I’m talking about skills that go above and beyond those taught in basic first aid classes.

You should know how to treat major wounds, such as a sucking chest wound, until help can arrive. Could you set a broken bone? How about removing a bullet? It’s not as simple as some macho guy on TV makes it look. You’ll have to assume at one point during a crisis, you’re first aid skills will be needed. If not by you, then possibly by a family member or friend. You may be their only hope for surviving.

This is my top 10 list. If you don’t know these, then you should be working on learning them. If you do know these skills, then start your own top 10! Remember, these are only the skills you’ll need to start if you want to be truly self sufficient or become a true survivor.

Have You Considered A Solar Generator For Emergency Backup Power?

solar generatorOne of the ironic consequences that I saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike is people running out of gas for their generators and then leaving them without electrical power. You see, when they went to get gas at the store, the stores didn’t have electricity to run their gas pumps plus the gasoline distributors were only delivering gas to the stores with power, which were on the edge of the storm path, some 1 1/2 hours or more away. It really hit home why I needed a Solar System or at least a solar generator for emergency backup power.

How Are Solar Generators Different From Traditional Solar Systems?

The main difference between a solar generator and a solar system is that the solar generator is generally more portable. Your standard solar generator will consist of solar panels, deep cell batteries and a converter/controller. This is a highly portable unit since the batteries and controller will generally be attached in a single unit.

The smaller of the solar generators will generally be capable of running things such as laptops, small fridges, microwaves, lights, etc. The larger units will power regular household appliances such as refrigerators and large TV’s.

In addition to the all-in-one controller/battery box, the solar generator obviously comes with a solar panel. This makes the entire unit very portable and is one reason this smaller systems are so popular with those living off the grid.

The traditional solar system is generally permanently mounted to either the home or a supports system. It’s not unusual to have an entire room to store huge industrial deep cell batteries with a controller costing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Solar Generators?

sovereign solar generatorWell, in my opinion, what some people may consider disadvantages of solar generators are another person advantages. Some people point out that solar generators are too small to power an entire home. In most cases they are correct. But you have to remember, solar generators are designed to supply emergency power when the main power goes out. Just like your gas powered generators.

Others point out the smaller batteries that most solar generators use. Again, this could be an advantage. These batteries generally last around 5 years or so and they are easily replaceable. If you’ve ever tried replacing the industrial sized batteries of a traditional solar system, then you’ll definitely see the advantage of the smaller batteries.

When used properly, I really don’t see any disadvantages of the smaller, portable solar generators unless you have several large appliances to run when the power goes out.

Gas vs Solar Generator

When comparing a traditional gas powered generators to solar generators, there’s really no comparison at all. To run your gas powered generator, you’ll have to have a supply of gas. As stated earlier, if you have no electric after a natural disaster, chances are good that the store that carries gas will not have power to pump it. And let’s not forget about the price of gas these days!

Also, once your supply of gas runs out, you’re out of power.

With the solar generator, you’re able to store power for a few days if you plan well. A few days without sun light will not affect you unless you run to many appliances and fail to plan well.

When it’s all said and done, I feel a solar generator will be far more useful for supplying your home power after a natural disaster or blackout than a gas or diesel powered generators.

Survival Seeds Bank – Save Money By Making Your Own

fresh organic vegetablesIt seems that everywhere you look, someone is offering Survival Seeds or a “Survival Seed Bank” for sale. I don’t know which is more unbelievable. The prices they’re asking for these Survival Seeds or the Survival Seed Banks or that there are actually people willing to pay the asking price! Many of these offers don’t have $10 worth of seeds in them and they’re being sold for $50 to $150!

Buying and storing seeds for survival is not hard and not expensive, certainly not as expensive as some of the survival seed packs being offered on the Internet.

How To Make Your Own Survival Seed Bank

First off, you want to use only heirloom seeds, not hybrid seeds. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated. You will get the same type of plant year after year by saving the seeds. With hybrid seeds, the plants are derived from two different plant varieties. The problem with seeds from hybrids is that when you save the seeds and replant them, you typically get one variety and not the other. That is, if you even get anything from the hybrid seeds.

You can find good quality heirloom seeds on the Internet. Several places that I re3commend are Heirloom Seeds, Baker Creek and Victory Seeds. Another good source of heirloom seeds is Seed Savers. Seed Savers is an exchange where people can share and trade heirloom seeds.

Before you start ordering any kind of seeds, sit down and figure out which varieties you want to plant and which ones you may want to plant in the future. Make a list before you start shopping for seeds.

For example, here are the seeds I buy, plant and put back in my seed bank.

Corn (sweet and field varieties)
Beans (pole, green and pinto)
Tomatoes (southern varieties that do well in the heat)
Onions (bulb and green type)
Potatoes (I prefer the red and Yukon golds)
Cucumbers (pickling and slicers)
Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe)
Greens (spinach, turnip, etc)

The seeds that you’ll want to fit your situation will probably be different, but at least this will give you an idea of what types I put back. Make sure that you’ve actually grown the variety in your area to ensure that it grows well in your local climate. Here in the South, many Tomato varieties don’t handle our heat well, so we have to be selective in what we plant. For example, the heirloom variety Brandywines are great tomatoes but they don’t tolerate the heat near as well as Arkansas Travelers. So which one do you think I plant and put back the most of? You guessed it, the Travelers!

Now that you have your own list of heirloom seeds made out, go shopping. Depending on the variety, I try to buy all my seeds in bulk. I like to have at least several hundred seeds of each type in my bank at any one time. I will also add seeds throughout the early Spring as they become available and I also add some of my own seeds that I saved.

By saving seeds this way, you’ll soon find out that your survival seed bank grows quickly!

How To Make a Survival Seed Bank

Now let’s say that you have your survival seeds and you want to start your seed bank. I personally do not like to store seeds in the packets they come in, but I have done it without any ill effects. I normally put them into a plastic bag, put a label into the bag with the name of the plant and date I put them in and then vacuum seal the bag. Once I have a good variety of seeds, I will then store them in several manners.

My favorite way is to put all the vacuum packed seeds into a mylar bag and seal it. Once that bag is sealed, I then put it into a plastic bucket (2 gallon or larger) or a PVC pipe sealed at both ends (one end with a threaded cap seal).

Another way I store my seeds after I’ve vacuumed packed them is in a surplus ammo can with a good tight seal. These are normally seeds stored away from my home in remote locations that I can retrieve at a later date if I need them.

If this all seems over kill, just remember, moisture and air are your seeds enemy. Once your seeds get soaked, you’ll need to plant them right away or risk damage. Some may be okay by drying them quickly, but then again, you’re not generally around when your stored seeds become water logged!
Why Store Survival Seeds?

Many people question why anyone needs to store seeds for survival. If you find yourself asking this, you need to do some more research on hybrid seeds. I’ll just quickly give you my opinion here.

First, many genetically enhanced hybrid seeds produce great food. But I’m not real big on genetically enhanced anything and I prefer food from good ole heirloom seeds.

Some will argue that food from genetically enhanced food is not as good for you as food grown from heirloom seeds. I don’t know this to be true and have never read any hardcore evidence supporting this theory.

I know this to be true of many varieties. Heirloom seeds produced vegetables taste better than vegetables grown from hybrid seeds. This is true for Tomatoes, Melons, Corn and others.

Some also point out the controversy behind the so called Terminator Seeds or GURT seeds. These seeds are designed to be sterile and not reproduce. Although I can find nothing saying these seeds have ever been sold commercially, there’s always the thought in the back of some people’s mind.

So before you shell out big money for a survival seed bank or small packets of vacuum packed survival seeds, save yourself a lot of money and do it yourself. You’ll save money and come away with a lot more seeds for the money!


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