Archive for March, 2014

ImageThere are quite a few species of dock, but one of the most widespread is curled dock (Rumex crispus), sometimes called yellow dock. Curled dock can be found in most states and many provinces, but it isn’t native to North America. It came from Europe and Asia. This plant is considered to be a weed in North America and Europe, but it has good food and medicinal value. It is also now found in South America, New Zealand and Australia.

This wild herb can be found in places where the ground has been disturbed, including waysides, fields, gardens, vacant lots, forest borders, fence lines and along trails. The leaves are several times longer than they are wide and they taper to a point. There is a strong mid vein in the leaf and in Rumex crispus, the edges of the leaves are wavy, hence the common name. The plant puts up a flower stalk from the center of a rosette of leaves and this can become several feet in height. The flowers aren’t appealing, but dock produces copious numbers of seeds.

Once fully mature, the plant becomes deep reddish brown or burnt orange. The edibility is confined primarily to the leaves of young plants. Once they become older, the flavor becomes strong and bitter.

Caution: Like the closely related sorrel, this plant contails oxalic acid. It should not be eaten in large amounts and should not be eaten by nursing women. (Oxalic acid is what makes rhubarb leaves poisonous.) In sensitive people, oxalic acid can cause stomach distress and kidney stones.

The young leaves are sometimes added to to salads, and the leaves can be boiled or steamed as a potherb. Boiling the leaves in a couple changes of water helps to remove some of the oxalic acid, though this is seldom an issue in the young leaves as long as the helpings are moderate. The flavor is pleasantly sour, almost lemony, because of the acid. The seeds can also be dried and ground into flour.

Though the plant can be useful as a food for someone who is trying to survive a calamity, the biggest value is medicinal. While the older leaves are usually too bitter to eat, they can still be used for medical purposes.

A tea made from the leaves is very high in iron and has been used for a very long time to treat people who are anemic, including pregnant women or women who are menstuating. The tea can be helpful for people who have lost blood, as it can encourage the production on red blood cells. Unlike many high-iron sources, dock doesn’t usually cause constipation.

The crushed leaves can also be applied directly to rashes and stings, for fast relief. This property is mentioned in an old saying: Dock in, nettle out, dock rub nettle out. The reference is to the rash of stinging nettles. Rubbing dock leaves against the burning rash caused by the nettles causes relief almost immediately. Interestingly, dock can usually be found nearby where stinging nettles are growing. Externally, the leaves are also used on cuts and sores.

Dock roots are laxative, and a strong infusion or tea of the roots, mixed with vinegar, has been used effectively to treat ringworm.

Survivalists and others can take advantage of this plant, both as a food source and medicinally. It usually isn’t too hard to find or to identify. Some people also enjoy the flavor of the young leaves, myself included.

The last survival food in this series:


This plant, sometimes called the common thistle, is considered to be an invasive weed nearly everywhere it grows. That is saying a lot, because it grows almost everywhere in North America except for in a few places in the deep southeast. It is also widespread in Europe.

This is a biennial plant that can grow up to six feet tall in its second year, producing the blossoms on branched stems. The leaves are deeply lobed, with spines at the end of each lobe as well as on the midvein, on the stem and around the flower. The flowers are pink to dark pink or nearly purple in color and they are actually quite attractive. The leaves at the base of the plant form a rosette that can be over a couple feet across.

The herb grows in sunny areas that have from damp to dry dirt. It is sometimes seen in waste areas, roadsides, empty lots, trails, pastures and even occasionally in gardens. The plant has a thick, tapering tap root but propagates by seeds.

Looking at one, a person might easily dismiss it as something not worth eating, even for a survivalist. This would be a mistake, however. It is actually a healthy and good tasting wild plant, with a flavor that is similar to celery, though bland.

A sharp knife can be used to remove the spines from the leaves and the leaves can then be eaten raw, steamed, boiled or added to other foods such as soups and stews. The leaves are best when they are harvested during cooler times of the year, like spring and autumn.

The thick tap root can also be peeled, sliced and either boiled or fried, stir-fry style.

A personal favorite is to collect the flowerheads before they’ve totally opened and to peel off the thorny outer skin. These are then boiled. Once done, the flavor is similar to artichokes (which are also members of the thistle family). I like slicing the cooked flowerheads and dipping them in mayonnaise. The downside is that they aren’t usually very large, so it takes a lot of them to make a meal.

This plant is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, iron and fiber, which makes it a nutritional powerhouse. It also contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, so it has value because of the anti-oxidants.

Medicinally, Asians have used bull thistles for a long time for the treatment of internal bleeding and hemorrhages. American Indians also used the plant to treat bleeding gums, inflammation and stomach ulcers. The plant has properties that help with almost any kind of internal bleeding.

For the survivalist, this is a plant to remember. It is common, healthy and can help sustain a person in the case of an apocalypse or even after a natural disaster. Don’t let the thorny appearance fool you. Just remove the thorns.

ImageThis plant gets its common name from the flat, heart-shaped seed pods that were thought to resemble the change purse used by shepherds. Shepherd’s purse is quite common where the ground has been disturbed, including fields, along roads or trails, in gardens and in waste places. It isn’t hard to identify, with lobed or toothed leaves, similar to dandelions, that seldom get more than a couple inches long. The flowers are white and have four petals, with the flower stalk arising from the middle of the plant. The stalk continues to grow with blooms at the top and seed pods lower on the stalk. The pods are actually fruits and they contain the seeds, which are also edible.

The entire plant is edible, though it is most often the young leaves that are harvested, prior to the time the plant blooms. The reason for this is that shepherd’s purse is a member of the mustard family, and like most members of the group, the peppery flavor becomes much more pronounced when the wild herb starts blooming. (This is also common of the other members of the mustard family.)

For a survivalist, this is a plant of good value. Not only is it common and easy to find in most of North America and Europe, it is also quite high in vitamin C, calcium, sulfur and iron. Additionally, it contains acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. The plant is also balanced in regard to the amount of carbohydrates and proteins it contains. The flavor is peppery but good, reminiscent of watercress, which is also a member of the family.

The plant is eaten either as a cooked potherb, as a raw addition to green salads and to flavor other foods, especially soups and stews. It goes great with most wild game, especially venison, bear, grouse and quail. It is also good with fish.

This herb has medicinal properties, though it isn’t commonly used in the United States for that purpose. It is good for use to stop internal and external bleeding, it is reputed to lower blood pressure, it is used to treat diarrhea and it has been effectively used by women who are on menstruating, to help control flow. It can also be used as a diuretic for people who are retaining water. Some American Indian tribes also used it as a mild analgesic. For medicinal purposes, shepherd’s purse can be dried, but it doesn’t retain its medicinal properties long, so it is best to use it fresh.

This is yet another survival plant that is great to eat for hikers and campers. The peppery taste can even be used to great effect on bland foods, to make them more palatable.

Previous survival plants in the series:

The picture is by H. Zell, creative commons share alike 1.2 attribution

There are many species of wild onions but they all have something in common with the store-bought variety: All of them are edible. Most wild onions don’t have hollow leaves like garden grown varieties, though. Instead, the grass-like leaves are flat, narrow and taper to a pointed tip.

Some species also lack a noticable bulb like domestic onions have, and they may have thick rhizomes instead. Like regular onions, however, both the leaves and the roots are edible, raw or cooked, and both have a distinct onion flavor and aroma when crushed. The scent is a major identifier for these wild plants, too. There are quite a few look-alikes, but none of those look-alikes smell like onion when a leaf is crushed. Most wild onions have blossoms that are varying shades of pink, sometimes so light that they appear almost white.

These plants grow from lowland to high altitude and in forests, river valleys and prairies.

Wild onions have about 64 calories per cupful, raw. They are high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and manganese. This is all good news for someone attempting to survive an apocalypse. They are even good for lowering cholesterol. After all, nobody said that you couldn’t survive and be healthy about it at the same time.

Medicinally, American Indian tribes used the juice to treat insect bites and to reduce swelling and puffiness. Cooking wild onions in a thick simple syrup or honey can be used to treat coughs and colds. The juice acts as a natural tonic, too. Like other members of the onion family, the juice is also an insect repellent, especially for biting insects such as mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks.

They can be cooked by simply chopping and adding to other foods, or by boiling or baking. The roots can also be dug up and used any time of the year if the survivalist knows where the wild onions are growing. The flavor is good enough that it can be used with fish, wild game or even grubs and other soft bodied invertebrates. Additionally, wild onions can be used to flavor other survival foods, especially those that are bland.Image

Like other survival plants, this is a good one to include in meals even if you are simply out camping.

Other survival foods:

The picture of wild onion blossoms and buds is by George F Mayfield, creative commons share alike 2.0 generic attribution.

ImageOne of the necessities if you are trying to survive an apocalypse of any sort is to make sure that you have something nutritious to eat. Thankfully, there are a lot of different wild plants that are quite edible, widespread, easy to identify and even tasty. Among this is a plant called Mallow, also known as Cheeses or Cheeseweed.

There are quite a few species of mallow, which means that one species or another can be found in most habitats and climates. They are also distributed nearly worldwide, excluding only Antarctica. In fact, as many gardeners will attest, once established, it is very hard to get rid of these plants without poisoning the soil.

Common mallow (Malva neglecta) is representative of the mallows. They tend to be low growing plants with a roundish leaf, deep green in color. The tap root is stout and long, and a new plant can arise from even a small piece of the root – part of the reason it is despised by gardeners. The blossoms are usually pinkish-white, normally with five petals. These give way to seeds that are arranged in a segmented circle, not unlike a round of cheese, hence their alternate name. A well-known member of the family is the garden hollyhock, which has a similar appearance to mallow, though usually much larger in all respects. (Hollyhock is also edible.)

The entire mallow plant is edible. Many kids have experienced munching on the raw cheeses. The leaves can be added to salads, raw, or they can be cooked as a potherb. Additionally, they can be added to soups and stews. The cheeses and the roots can also be cooked. When these are cooked, they release a sort of mucilage that can thicken soups or stews. This trait is one of the uses of a member of the family: Okra. The flowers can add a splash of color to salads.

Mallow also has medicinal properties. It is an expectorant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and very mildly laxative. For these purposes, it is often made into a tea at a rate of one tablespoon of the leaves to a cup of boiling water. The leaves can also be dried for this purpose. The flavor is bland and the tea can be sweetened with honey. Externally, mallow is emollient and demulcent, so it can be rubbed on dry or chapped skin as well as on cuts, scrapes, insect bites and punctures.

This is a multi-purpose plant for survivalists and others. The plant is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. This makes it useful for hikers and campers, as well as for people who are just trying to stretch their meals.

It is good to become acquainted with this wild herb and to learn to identify it on sight. That way, should you ever find yourself in a survival situation, you will have at least one identifiable source of usually-plentiful food.

(The picture is by Soulignac (Gironde, France) 2004 – GFDL, creative commons share-alike, unported)

I was reminded that I haven’t yet posted an introduction here. My apologies for the oversight. It wasn’t intentional.

To begin with, I’m Cat’s dad. I’m also a writer, currently focusing on informational articles that cover a wide range of interests. I also do quite a bit of editing of articles written by other writers (which definitely doesn’t mean that my own won’t have errors in them).

Most of my professional training is for either computer software technology or restaurant management and operations. The two aren’t very similar, but it just worked out that way.

When I’m not writing and editing, I’m likely to be out in the garden, out fishing or out camping. All of these are interests and I write about all of them on occasion. Other articles tend to be about wild animals and care, owing to the fact that I’ve been rehabilitating wild animals for nearly a half century. It wouldn’t be understating it to say that I have a keen interest in wild animals. This is something Cat has inherited and she is quite knowledgeable in regard to animal care, though she might deny it.

The first 12 years of my life were spent at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The love of animals probably came from that experience. For those who aren’t familiar with the park, it is a mountain national park with beautiful vistas, lots of plants and a huge number of wild animals. It also gets plenty of snow. There is usually snow on the ground about nine months out of the year and in the middle of winter, it is quite common for there to be snow banks in excess of 10 feet (over three meters).

I learned survival from an early age and that included snow survival, survival in the woods and plant lore. I took survival courses and also ended up teaching survival. Being an herbalist and in keeping with also being a survivalist, it is wonderful to learn about new plants that can be eaten or used for medicinal purposes. In fact, when we do get to go out camping, I like to supplement meals with wild fare, including mushrooms. (Yummy!)

I agreed to help keep a watch on Cat’s pages because she is going to college and working, too. My writing brings in a bit, but her income is the most that comes into the household, so I’m hoping that this relieves a bit of the pressure that is on her right now.

Incidentally, very little of my writing is first person, though this introduction is almost entirely FPS.

It is nice to meet everyone, and please don’t be afraid to say hello, ask questions or to make suggestions.

Imagine yourself where the snow is many feet deep, snow is falling, the wind is blowing and the temperature is dropping. This situation would be dire, but certainly one you could survive, especially if you had a little preplanning.

The first step would be to build a shelter. In the stated situation, Mother Nature has already supplied you with building supplies: The snow. Snow is a surprisingly good insulator.

Dig a hole into the snow, preferably on a slope. Basically, you are making a tunnel slightly larger in diameter than your body. If it is on a slope, you are burrowing slightly upward so that the snow and wind are less of a factor. When you’ve dug in between six and 10 feet, excavate a ‘room’ that is a little longer than you are when you recline and about triple your width.

Poke a hole from the side edge of the room to the surface at an angle. This is for ventilation and it should be just an inch or two in diameter. Without ventilation, the shelter can hold in the carbon dioxide that you exhale, until it reaches toxic levels.

The next step is to get tree boughs and pull them into the shelter, on the bottom, to keep you off of the snow. Otherwise, your body heat will start melting the snow, you’ll gradually get wet and when the water refreezes, you’ll be in trouble. Fir boughs are especially good for a bedding cushion. Even if it isn’t especially comfortable, at least it keeps you off the snow.

Okay, so what’s the bit about the candle, mentioned in the title? The candle serves a triple purpose. First, it supplies light. You wouldn’t believe how dark it gets when you are 10 feet inside a snow bank.

Second, it provides a huge amount of warmth. There is little worry that the snow will all melt, because the heat simply melts the facing edges. The snow that is behind it causes the thin layer of melted snow to freeze into a layer of ice. In turn, this reflects the heat back into your little room, making it even warmer. The ice also lends strength to the structure. You might note that neither the light nor the soot is usually visible from outside the snow cave.

The third purpose of the candle is that candle wax is both waterproof and flammable. Sooner or later, you are probably going to want to build a fire and the candle wax can be quite helpful is helping you get it started. It can generate enough heat that even damp twigs can dry out and burn. A tiny fire can be built inside of the snow cave, provided that the room is large enough, however even if a warming fire is built outside the cave at a later time, any candle drippings can be used to start it and they should be saved.

Though the building of snow caves is often part of winter survival training, this is something I’ve been doing since I was seven years old and living at Crater Lake National Park, where I grew up. The difference is that we did it for fun rather than survival. Our tunnels were also often much more elaborate than what I’ve just described, so there is room for the imagination.

Have you ever built or been inside a snow tunnel?

There are a number of things that most survivalists keep in their emergency kits. A lot of people who haven’t received any survival training are kind of surprised at one of the very handy tool’s though: A plumber’s candle.

As a nation, the United States just came through one of the most bitterly cold winters on record for at least the last 50 years. This would have been a perfect time for people to have kept a few plumber’s candles handy, and there really isn’t a bad time to have a few in the ekit (emergency kit).

These are the candles that are usually less than a half foot tall and a bit less than an inch in diameter, sometimes sold as ‘8-hour candles’. I’ve never seen one actually burn that long, but the point is that they produce a surprising amount of heat and light. It is important to note that we weren’t talking about the little decorative candles or those that will burn up fast. Here are just a couple scenarios where they could be life savers:

You and your family are home, temperatures are sub-zero outside and the power goes out. You get the family into the smallest room in the house, probably the bathroom, with blankets and such, knowing that it is easier to heat a small space than a big one. You open the window just a little, also knowing that venting is important to get rid of excess carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, then you light the candle. The candle provides heat and light, and can actually keep the room above freezing, despite the outside temperatures. (Body heat would also help.) This could keep everyone from freezing to death before help arrived.

Another scenario: You are driving along the highway with the family, on icy roads and with snow falling. The snowfall turns into a blizzard and unavoidably, you find yourself stuck in a snow bank with snow rapidly covering the car. Help will probably arrive, but it might take hours before it does. You know that running the car so you can use the heater is a bad idea. You’ll soon run out of gas, and in the process, the carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfate from the engine would reach toxic levels in less than a half hour.

So you roll down the window just a little, again for ventilation, turn off the engine, and pull out the handy candle. Burning the candle can keep the compartment warm. It can also be used to heat food, if there is any (a good emergency kit will have at least some food in it). It can also be used to dry out clothing, such as socks. It can even be used to melt some snow in order to have water to drink.

In both cases, you’ve turned a potentially deadly situation into merely an inconvenient and frustrating one. Your chances of survival increase many times.

All of this is possible because of including a candle in the emergency gear. A lot of people don’t think about including one. There are many other great ways that candles can keep you safe, too, and I’ll be writing about some of them.

The question is, do you have one or two 8-hour candles in your emergency gear for the home, office and car?

Thoughtfullyprepping commented on my last post which made me think a little harder on it.

All playfulness aside, any of the weapons I have mentioned would take training to use as a weapon. People believe that they can just pick up a hammer and go at it, but that isn’t the case. You have to train for it, work at it, for any weapon to become useful.

I still believe that ammunition could become a problem in the zombie apocalypse and that it may be a good thing to move on to combat weapons, but thoughtfullyprepping brings up several good points. The fact is that many people who are faced with the undead images of their loved ones may not be able to raise a hand to stop them from taking a bite of them.

But there is one thing you need to consider when faced with the zombie version of the person you love: Do they want to hurt someone else? Maybe you can’t hurt them to save yourself, but you could stand up to them to save them. No one I know would willingly step up and hurt someone that they love. The same is true for the zombie version. Ok, maybe not, but the fact remains that if they were still them, would they want to hurt someone else? I doubt it.

If my mom became a zombie, I know I would make a point of making sure that she wouldn’t hurt someone else. Why? Because I love her. Because I know that she would never do anything to hurt someone else if she was alive. Because I know that she would want it that way. I may hesitate, I am human after all, because I love her very much. But in the end, I would do it. I would pray that someone would do it for me if I became a zombie.

Why would I ask someone else to do it for me? Because I am afraid of pulling the trigger myself. I would rather have someone take me out, make sure I couldn’t hurt someone else. I don’t know, maybe I could do it myself. I would hope that I had the strength to.

What do you think? Would you take your own life if you were becoming a zombie? Would you ask someone to do it for you? Could you take the unlife of someone you loved in order to prevent them from hurting others?

Go Back to All Things Zombie

I have noticed in my strolls through the net that many people rave about the weapons that they would use in a zombapoc. Sadly, I started noticing a pattern in these tools. More than half of the recommended tools are guns. Now, I have been thinking that while they are undoubtedly wonderful to use in the zombapoc there are a couple problems that will occur sooner or later.

1)      The sound will undoubtedly draw more zombies. So it’s fine to use a gun if you are already being chased by a mass of zombies but not for individual take outs.

2)      Bullets will eventually become extinct. Think about it. No one is going to make more, unless you are lucky enough to know someone who can make bullets. Sad fact: you will eventually run dry.

So if no guns, what can you use? Actually, there are a lot of things that can become a tool in the hands of someone who is a little creative and willing. So what are they?

machete photo: Machete Machete.jpg The Standard Machete – Ok. You probably know this one, it’s kind of a duh statement but still. This is a good tool for severing spines. Just remember that the head is still dangerous. Until the brain is destroyed, the zombie can continue to live. Its body may even still move until the brain is gone. So just remember that.

baseball bat photo:  baseball-bats.png The Baseball Bat – On its own, the bat can be a formidable tool. But if you want to spruce it up a bit for more damage, find some nails and a hammer. Yup, pound the nails in enough that they bite the wood and aren’t likely to come back out on flesh impact. You can do the same thing with a piece of lumber or a thick branch.

rake photo: Concrete Rake Concrete-Rake-002.jpg Metal Rake – You can use this bad boy as it is. Those tines can be pretty nasty. You may need to saw it down to a reasonable length for best force of impact, but otherwise, this is just as handy as a shovel.

shovel photo: Shovel shovel.jpg Shovel – Yup, this bad boy can sever the head clean off or it can be used for blunt object impact to the head.

axe photo: axe axe.png Pickaxe and Axe – Do I need to say more on these guys?

hammer photo: hammer darkhammerleft.jpg Hammer – Use the claw for the best results.

rope photo: Rope rope.jpg Rope – Yeah this can be used. Try stringing it across a doorway or between trees. It trips up the zombies for a few minutes and allows you the chance to dispatch the zombies or gives you time to get away. (If you are in a forest, this gives you extended time to get up a tree or to regroup so you can turn attacker instead of victim – in a house or building, allows you the extra moments to get out the window.) The rope can also be used to set up other traps but I will save that topic for another date.

For those weapons enthusiasts:

mace photo: Mace Heavy-Flanged-Mace.jpg Mace – Oh yeeeeaaaah. This baby can do some good damage.

sword photo: sword sword.jpg Sword – Nuf’ said.

flail photo: flail two_ball_medieval_flail_s3.jpg Flails – Also good for destroying zombies. But be careful, it is known to damage its user as much as its intended victim.

What tools can you come up with? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas!

Go back to All Things Zombie