How to Make Lucky Sherpa Plantain Salve

by Todd Walker


When you’re Doing the Stuff of self-reliance, you’ll have the scars to prove it!

There seems to be no end to the things that attach to and attack my skin. Ticks, chiggers, cuts, burns, and poisonous plants seem to find me in the woods and backyard. My go to herb to treat these nasties that slip past my defenses is plantain. Chew a leaf of two and apply it to the area.

But what if plantain isn’t available?

Today is your lucky day!

I want to share with you an all-natural DIY ointment you can conveniently carry while practicing your Doing the Stuff skills. No need to chew the weed into a spit poultice. Just open the container, apply, and heal! I pack Lucky Sherpa Salve in all my kits now. It’s on the front row in my herbal medicine cabinet too.

There are store-bought salves available with ingredients you can’t pronounce. I like to know exactly what goes on (and in) my skin. Plus, I’m a cheap Doer of the Stuff.

Here’s how to create your own luck…

Lucky Sherpa Salve Recipe


  • 3/4 cup of coconut oil
  • A handful of fresh plantain leaves
  • 1 ounce of beeswax
  • 2 Tbs of local honey
  • 1 tsp of Vitamin E oil
  • 2 Tbs of Almond oil (optional)
  • 8 drops of Tea Tree essential oil (optional)
  • 8 drops of Peppermint essential oil (optional)

How to Make Your Own

This is a topical recipe for external use only.

I’ve been battling a cyst for a while now. Plantain is an effective drawing agent. However, it grew tiresome traipsing into the yard after showers looking for fresh plantain. No one is more thankful for this convenient salve than DRG!

In a hurry to treat the cyst, I whipped up a batch. Gather a large handful of plantain leaves, broad leaf or narrow leaf will both work. The narrow leaf variety is plentiful in my area.

Place the harvested weed into a blender with a 1/2 cup of virgin coconut oil. Blend until it turns into a green liquid. I added two tablespoons of almond oil to help liquefy the mixture. It should look like a dark green smoothie when properly mixed.


Scrape the sides to get it all!

Pour the mix into a pan and place over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes to infuse the good stuff with the oil. Stir the simmering pot occasionally.

After the concoction is infused, strain the mix through cheesecloth over a wire strainer into a clean boiler. I twisted the cheesecloth into a ball and squeezed it with tongs to extract the infused oil quickly.


Place the pot of strained oil back on low heat. Add one ounce of grated beeswax to the mix. Beeswax is flammable. Keep the heat low or melt the wax in a double boiler before adding it to the plantain oil. Now add two tablespoons of local honey and one teaspoon of Vitamin E oil.


Once the beeswax is melted, remove from heat and stir in the essential oils (optional). This step isn’t necessary. I added Tea Tree and Peppermint essential oil because of their healing properties. Tea Tree oil is also an effective insect repellent.

Test the consistency by placing a drop on a plate or wax paper and place it in the fridge for a few minutes. If it’s too thin after cooling, add more beeswax. Too thick, add oil until it’s right for you.


An eclectic mix of containers for my Lucky Sherpa Salve

Use your Possum Mentality and round-up several containers with lids. Pour the liquified concoction into the clean containers and allow the mix to solidify. This recipe makes about 12 ounces of salve.

Benefits of Lucky Sherpa Salve Main Ingredients

Selecting ingredients for any recipe will determine the quality of the product. Start with the best stuff nature has to offer. Here are the benefits of my ingredients.


Plantain may be the best utility player in the world of wild weeds. Check out plantain’s healing properties here.

Coconut Oil

This natural powerhouse contains super benefits.

  • Anti-bacterial (kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum diseases, and other bacterial infections)
  • Anti-carcinogenic (coconut oil has antimicrobial properties so it effectively prevents the spread of cancer cells and enhances the immune system)
  • Anti-fungal (kills fungi and yeast that lead to infection)
  • Anti-inflammatory (appears to have a direct effect in suppressing inflammation and repairing tissue, and it may also contribute by inhibiting harmful intestinal microorganisms that cause chronic inflammation.)
  •  Anti-microbial/Infection Fighting (the medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides found in coconut oil are the same as those in human mother’s milk, and they have extraordinary antimicrobial properties. By disrupting the lipid structures of microbes, they inactivate them. About half of coconut oil consists of lauric acid. Lauric acid, its metabolite monolaurin and other fatty acids in coconut oil are known to protect against infection from bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi and parasites. While not having any negative effect on beneficial gut bacteria, coconut oil inactivates undesirable microbes.)
  • An Antioxidant (protects against free-radical formation and damage)
  • Anti-parasitic (fights to rid the body of tapeworms, lice and other parasites)
  • Anti-protozoa (kills giardia, a common protozoan infection of the gut)
  • Anti-retroviral (kills HIV and HLTV-1)
  • Anti-viral (kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other viruses)
  • Infection fighting
  • Has no harmful for discomforting side effects
  • Known to improve nutrient absorption (easily digestible; makes vitamins and minerals more available to the body)
  • Nontoxic to humans and animals



Local raw honey has been used for thousands of years for its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Honey can be applied to burns, cuts, and scrapes for wound care. More sweet benefits can be found here.

Vitamin E

This antioxidant promotes healing of the skin and scar tissue.

  • Removes free radicals
  • Promotes blood circulation
  • Speeds cell regeneration
  • Reduces oxidation rate
  • Improves skin hydration
  • Studies on rodents show promise for vitamin E’s reduction of the risk of skin cancer caused by UV exposure.

CYA Disclaimer:

I’m not a medical professional. I’m just a regular guy busy Doing the Stuff of self-reliance with calloused hands. This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant to be advice on treating, curing, preventing, or diagnosing diseases or conditions. Do your own due diligence with our information as it may not be complete.

With the above CYA taken care of, I can report that the drawing action of the plantain has made a huge impact to reduce the soreness and size of the cyst over three days. I apply Lucky Sherpa Plantain Salve to a gauze pad and tap it to the affected area twice daily. On the second day, the nastiness is oozing out. Sorry, that’s as delicate as I know how to put it. This stuff works for me!

No-see-ems and mosquitos were out last night while I was grilling. My ankles took the brunt of their bombing raids. I rubbed a dab of the salve on and the itching stopped almost immediately.


This tin fits nicely in my haversack

If you want to get lucky and make your own, we’d like to hear how it turns out!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.



Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, First Aid, Herbal Remedies, Natural Health, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Herbal Medicine Kit: Bleeding

Part 5 in our Go-to Herbal Medicine Kit series.


by Kat Yorba

Today we continue on with our series with looking at “Bleeding.”  We will discuss the herb Agrimony and Yarrow.  Make an Herbal Compress to stop Bleeding and a Tincture of Yarrow.


Some people can handle the sight of blood, some can’t.  I am one of those who can’t.  But I find that being prepared…knowing ahead of time what to do and having my supplies on hand enables me to feel better about the whole issue.

 Let’s better understand what bleeding does.  Bleeding has it’s advantages.  It’s the bodies way of cleaning dire and foreign particles from a wound, and when exposed to air it forms a fibrous substance called fibrin.  This fiber creates a netting that entangles other blood cells so that they clot into a scab…your bodies natural band-aid!

So, you’re in a serious situation and bleeding needs to be stopped right away.  Certain herbs can be applied directly to the wounded area.  If this does not stop the bleeding, apply an herbal compress with pressure.  While administering herbal remedies, you should also try to slow the flow of blood by raising the injured area higher than the heart.

Agrimony, plantain and yarrow are versatile herbs that can arrest bleeding and encourage scabbing.

Keep in mind that treatments made with these herbs in the form of powders or poultices are an emergency tactic only.  Although herbs quickly arrest bleeding, they are not antiseptic enough so proper cleaning and disinfecting will also need to be done.  Use your discretion but seek medical attention when necessary!

Herbal Compress to Stop Bleeding

Click HERE to print recipe! 

 Herbal Medicine Kit   Bleeding 


 Herbal Medicine Kit   Bleeding


Agrimonia gryposepala: species native to North America commonly known as tall hairy agrimony was used by the Among the Iroquois people, Cherokee, The Ojibwe and other ingenious peoples for much the same purposes of the common agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria which was naturalized from europe. Hemp Agrimony, Eupatorium Cannabinum (Linn.)and the Water Agrimony Eupatorium Aquaticum mas, have somewhat similar properties but are not botanically related.

Therapeutic Uses

Agrimony’s astringency is effective against diarrhea, especially in small children, and because of its low toxicity, the herb is particularly suitable for children’s illnesses. Agrimony stops irritation of the urinary tract that may increase a child’s urge to urinate and, therefore, may be useful in the treatment of bladder leakage (cannot hold urine), bed-wetting and adult incontinence.

Agrimony is perhaps best known as a wound herb used on medieval battlefields to staunch bleeding. This same property helps to staunch heavy menstrual bleeding as well. Agrimony is most used in modern herbal practice as a mild astringent and a tonic, the tannins it contains tone the mucus membranes making it is useful for alleviating the symptoms of coughs and sore throats. The combination of being a bitter tonic as well as an astringent herb make agrimony a valuable tonic for the digestive system and a useful remedy for healing peptic ulcers. The bitter principles in the plant support the function of the liver and gallbladder. The herbal tea can be used as a skin wash; it is thought to improve minor injuries and chronic skin conditions.


Skin Wash/Tea/Infused Liquid for Creams or Gargle :

Standard brew using 1 teaspoon of dried herb to each cup hot water. The longer you let it steep, the more tannins are extracted. Make a stronger decoction for external use in baths and skin washes Drink 2 to 3 cups per day. Used in ointment form for skin rashes, and as a gargle for sore throat.


 Herbal Medicine Kit   Bleeding


Yarrow was once known as “nosebleed”, it’s feathery leaves making an ideal astringent swab to encourage clotting. Yarrow skin washes and leaf poultices can staunch bleeding and help to disinfect cuts and scrapes; taken as a tea it can help slow heavy menstrual bleeding as well. Yarrow is a good herb to have on hand to treat winter colds and flu; a hot cup of yarrow tea makes you sweat and helps the body expel toxins while reducing fever. The chemical makeup of yarrow is complex, and it contains many active medicinal compounds in addition to the tannins and volatile oil azulene. These compounds are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and help relax blood vessels. Yarrow should be on everyone’s list of remedies since the herb makes itself useful for everything from brewing beer to a hair rinse to preventing baldness. In China, yarrow is used fresh as a poultice for healing wounds. A decoction of the whole plant is prescribed for stomach ulcers, amenorrhoea, and abscesses.

Side Effects: 

Avoid in pregnancy, can cause allergic skin reactions in sensitive people who suffer from allergies related to the Asteraceae family. Moderation is the key to safe use, the thujone content can be toxic over an extended period of time


Yarrow Spritzer

For a tonic that soothes the nerves and uplifts at the same time, this is a good combination for an aroma lamp or mister. Also use as a facial steam for the benefits of yarrow that is skin healing and for spruce that helps the respiratory system.

Variations: Use lime instead of orange.

3 drops-Orange

4 drops-Spruce

2 drops -Ylang-Ylang

6 drops -Yarrow

How to Use:


15 to 20 drops of a blend can be used at a time in most standard sized aroma lamps.

 Mist Spray:

As a general rule use 15-30 drops per cup (8 oz.) of liquid for mist sprays, depending on your preference and the strength of the essential oils.

Yarrow Tincture

Click HERE to print!

  Herbal Medicine Kit   Bleeding


Recap:  That concludes our look at “Bleeding”.  Today we learned a little more about the herbs; Agrimony & Yarrow.  We made a Herbal Compress to stop Bleeding and also Yarrow Tincture.

Looking ahead:  Next post we will be learning all about “Bruises”.  We will first talk about Arnica, Witch Hazel and Chamomile.  Then move on to several recipes; Bruise Compress, Tincture of Arnica & a Herbal Ice.

Reminder:  Have on hand St. John’s wort flower tops, Witch Hazel Bark, Chamomile Flowers, Lavender Flowers, Lavender Essential Oil, Distilled Water, Washcloth for Compress.


About Kat Yorba: Hi, I’m Kat. I’m a wife, mother, friend, massage therapist, writer, gardener, and child of God. I LOVE coffee, chocolate, essential oils, good books, cats, motorcycles, guns, drag racing and living in the USA! Learning to be more self-reliant & self-sufficient in a semi-homemade, homesteading way! Connect with Kat on her blog, Simply Living SimplyFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Herbal Remedies, Medical, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Plans Fail → Skills Endure

by Todd Walker

All the Survival Blogs in the world… cannot save you!

Coming from a fellow survival blogger, this may seem a bit strange. Hang with me as I explain.


My good friend, Daisy Luther – owner and writer at The Organic Prepper, wrote an article recently about reality checks in the prepper world. My favorite line in her article came from someone who is all too familiar with punches in the mouth…

Everyone’s got a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.

~ Mike Tyson

Like him or not, Tyson lands a stiff right hook in the mouth of every person who has ever attempted to plan for the unknown. You don’t have to be a professional boxer to understand that when life punches you in the mouth, Plan A goes bye-bye.

The self-reliant skills you, your family – and ultimately – your community possess will get you through the unknown unknowns. Your Plan B of getting out of dodge with your bug out bags loaded – children and pets in tow – is sound on paper. Have you actually put it to the test? Do you have a pre-determined destination besides the remote National Forest “teaming with wildlife and wild edibles?” No worries, there will be other desperate “like-minded” people in the hills willing to “lend” a helping hand.

Not so fast!

This popular SHTF survival plan has refugee written all over it.

Dirt Road Girl and I both have bug out bags and vehicle kits packed just in case. But we’re also realistic about our survivability if we ever need to get to our retreat on foot. And we don’t have young children tagging along for the hundred mile hike – just our two rescue mutts. Our Plan B only goes into action when a true SHTF scenario prevents us from staying put.

Young children changes the plan. Immediately. This point was driven home on my recent bushcraft trip with my second grade grandson. What you think might be a 72 hour trip would likely turn into a week or more. Packing enough food for that length of time would be prohibitive. You’re best bet would be to have several pre-planned, well stocked pit stops (friends and relatives) along the way and…

a fist full of skills!

We’ll cover two today – one for each fist.

Plan B Skills Go Beyond Your Bag of Stuff

The less you know, the more you need. No slam here. Just stating the facts.

In the early stages of my journey to self-reliance, I packed so much shiny survival stuff that I needed a pack mule for conveyance. Funny thing is, as my skills increased, my pack weight shrunk like it was on a late-night infomercial diet.

Plan B Skills transcend your stuff. You’ll never regret spending more time watching YouTube tutorials, reading how-to articles, and practical preparedness books. But here’s the catch…

You must practice the skills for yourself. That’s how trading theory for ACTION becomes personal!

Here are two essential skills that go beyond your bug out bag…

Fire Craft

Yep, I listed it first. Fire is life. So is water. Prioritizing your self-reliance skills is like playing the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. You throw paper and Mother Nature throws scissors. You lose.

It’s simple. You can’t physically carry enough water on a physically demanding  journey. Water weighs over 8 pounds per gallon. A Bic Lighter weighs nearly nothing. Fire creates potable water.

Plan A for water is a commercial water filter. It’s in my bag of stuff. Plan B relies on fire craft skills and a container.

Fire is beautifully redundant. With fire, you now have the ability to…

  • Purify water
  • Cook food
  • Stay warmth
  • Add comfort and security
  • Keep bugs and wild critters away
  • Signal rescuers if you want to be found
  • Boost morale – an overlooked commodity
  • Make stuff
  • Brew coffee – arguably its most important use ;)

If you’ve hung out here for any length of time, you know I love fire craft. If fire is life out there, carry modern fire tools (Plan A) – but Practice Primitive (Plan B) fire craft. Plan B is not for the faint of heart. But every self-reliant man, woman and child can – and should – have fun building primitive fire skills.

Plan A Fire Craft Kit:

Plan B Fire Craft Skills:

  • Friction based – Bow drill, hand drill, fire plow are a few options
  • Flint and steel – char material needed to catch a spark

Shelter Craft

Develop and practice the skill of creating cover. A dry cover protect you from the elements to prevent hypothermia and hyperthermia.

Many options are available in the shelter category. Buy, make, or barter for a durable Plan A covering for thermoregulation. Consider space, weight, quality, and redundant uses for your shelter.

  • USGI poncho – This poncho is military issue and very tough. It can be used as a tarp shelter, cover your body and pack, and can even be made into a mini canoe.
Think Outside the Tent for Shelter

Poncho and hiking poles for a quick shelter

  •  Silnylon – a lightweight covering that is water and wind proof
  • Contractor Trash bags – Good for emergency shelter and collecting resources
  • Waxed canvas – a more traditional shelter which weighs more but bomb proof
  • Oilskin cloth tarp – cotton fabric treated with oil and wax
  • Walled tents
  • Space blanket
  • Proper clothing offers shelter
  • Natural rock ledges, caves, and hollow trees
  • Build your own shelter – hone your cutting tools and build a shelter

A roll of tarred bank line, used billboard, natural material, a saw, axe, and knife were used to build my Trapper’s Shelter

The importance of setting up shelter – especially in the dark – shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re a hammock sleeper, do you remember how to tie the knots to hang your tarp and hammock in the dark? Practice tying a few useful knots until they’re automatic.

Plan B Skills are Your Knock Out Punch

I’ve been punched in the mouth many times – literally and figuratively. Both jabs hurt. But at the end of your bout, in the flurry of flying fists, the skills you’re Doing, not the stuff you’ve read about, will keep you from tapping out when your life is on the line.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Grease the Groove for SHTF

by Todd Walker

Personal SHTF events are more likely to happen than TEOTWAWKI.


Here’s a fresh example.

I decided to take my 7-year-old grandson on a bushcraft trip with two other grown men last weekend. We hiked about a mile into the woods to practice a few Doing the Stuff outdoor skills for an upcoming survival class.

We set up, built a fire, and then it happened… a personal SHTF for my grandson.

The trip was too demanding for Max. Poor planning and judgement on my part. He needed to go back to the cabin. I ended up carrying him most of the way through fields of hip-tall grass and briars. Had he been injured and unable to walk, I would have had to carry him the entire trek.

Be Strong to be Useful

Developing physical strength is a skill, not just a part of fitness programs. Are you physically prepared to deal with a SHTF event – personal or otherwise?

It makes sense to prioritize for probable scenarios over cataclysmic-end-of-world stuff. But hey, if you’re totally convinced a Zombie Apocalypse is in your near future, this post will help you defeat your un-dead attackers too!

For the rest of us non-zombie believers, we’ll keep doing the practical stuff of self-reliance.

One skill utilized everyday, that is often taken for granted, is functional fitness. If carrying a loved one to safety, changing a flat tire, lifting a toddler, walking two flights of stairs, or hoeing a row is out of the question for you physically, it’s time for you to Grease the Groove.


GTG pushups while hiking.

I first heard the phrase Grease the Groove (GTG) when I started living a Primal/Paleo lifestyle over four years ago. My once athletic physique was 50 pounds overweight and my middle-aged body was a wreck. Mirrors were my enemy. Achy joints were my constant companion.

The Grease the Groove concept came from Soviet Special Forces trainer Pavel Tsatsouline. The idea is to perform a specific exercise frequently throughout the day without reaching muscular failure (max repetitions). Perform 50% – 75% of maximum about 4 to 5 times a day. Keep this up GTG routine up for a few weeks and test you max again for the exercise you’ve chosen to strengthen.

For me, GTG and my new lifestyle changed my pitiful pull up numbers when I couldn’t eek out one stinkin’ pull up.

I’ll confess, I’ve let my numbers slip. So I’ve started greasing the groove again. My goal is to do 15 pull ups – with proper form – before I attend the survival school in a couple of months. I’m guessing I could make it through the course at my present fitness level, but I’m fond of  personal physical challenges.

Here’s my GTG plan…

Install a pull up bar in my classroom. Between class change and breaks (my cue or trigger), I’ll knock out 3 to 5 pull ups. No sweat involved. This would put me in the 20 to 25 pull ups per day range at school for the next eight weeks. The pull up bar behind my shop will be used every time I grill out or fetch a garden tool. These quick reps will all be sub-maximal effort.

I’ll continue my normal bodyweight exercises; push ups, squats, sprints, lifting heavy stuff, and walking – but grease the groove with pull ups only. I’m sharing my pull up challenge for accountability and progress monitoring I suppose. I’ll do my best to update my progress for y’all.

Smash Plateaus with GTG

The principle of Greasing the Groove offers benefits in several areas of self-reliance. This technique can be employed in firearms training, food independence, habit training, self-defense, situational awareness, and all our Doing the Stuff skills.

Repeatedly performing a specific movement causes your nervous system and muscles to work in unison. With enough time and repetition, the movement or skill becomes more natural and easier to perform. Automatic!

Focus on one movement or skill in 2 to 4 week cycles. The key is to remain fresh without reaching fatigue. If you want to shoot more accurately but can’t afford range trips daily, practice drawing and dry firing your unloaded sidearm 3 or 4 times a day between range trips.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Whatever skill you want to strengthen, greasing the groove is a simple technique to get crazy numbers of reps.

Smash your plateaus and be the hero in all your SHTF events!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.


Categories: Doing the Stuff, Functional Fitness, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Unstoppable Self-Reliance: The Tree is in the Seed

by Todd Walker


Ever judge a book by its cover? As a teacher, this happens more times than I’m comfortable to admit in my vocation. We tend to forget our youth.

I’m reminded of the agony I dished out to select teachers. Apologies, Mr. Holmes, for the skunk scent on the radiator heater in your room in ’73. You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve reaped many of the seeds I’ve sown in my own classroom!

I’m sure some of my teachers wrote me off after many of my school antics. Thankfully, a few looked beyond the seed and saw the tree.

I’ve been fortunate to have mentors in my life. The best ever has been my father. He did more than simply pass our genetic code down at conception. Daddy witnessed all my flaws – up close and personal – but never quit nurturing the potential in his seed.

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

Mark Twain

Here’s the thing…

I’m not naive enough to think that everyone has an awesome mentor in their life. The fact that you’ve read this far shows that you’re interested in becoming less dependent on others by growing independent roots.

The Tree is in the Seed

Here’s another fact: Everything you need to become self-reliant is already in your DNA.

The DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in a seed is a recipe that determines the size, shape, fruit, and usefulness of each tree, weed, plant, and all living organisms. This hereditary code is stored in chemical bases that form a twisted ladder called a double helix. The seed’s task is to grow and transfer these characteristics from one generation to the next.

What if you inherited bad self-reliance genes? You may have never attempted a DIY project in your life. Here’s the good news…

DNA doesn’t have to determine your destiny. Genetic code is a recipe, not a blueprint etched in stone. You can change the outcome by tweaking ingredients to suit your taste. Granted, you can’t un-freckle your face – thanks to grandma’s generous gene sharing. But you can influence how your self-reliance gene is expressed.

Self-reliance DNA isn’t about physical appearance. Our actions, the stuff we do, the ground we grow in shapes our self-reliance. In a nut shell, it’s about taking responsibility for your own life through the choices you make.

5 Choices for Unstoppable Self-Reliance

Choice #1: Start

Your journey to self-reliance begins with one step… the first one!

Click here for a list of skills fellow DTS members are learning.

Pick a skill, any skill… and START. You’ll be sloppy at first. That’s part of the process.

Our Trusted Resources Page is a great place to build some background knowledge to ease you into self-reliance skills or help you hone the skills you possess.

By taking that first step, you’ll begin creating a new identity. Each tiny choice to do for yourself weakens the chains of dependency. Here are some skills you can start doing in the comfort of your home or backyard.

Being completely self-sufficient may not be your ultimate aim. Your location my be limited by pesky restrictions or space. Even if you live in an urban apartment, you can take small steps towards self-reliance by growing some of your own food on a balcony or community garden.

Here’s the formula: Start – Repeat – Start – Repeat…

Choice #2: Hours

That’s how long it takes to own a skill. Reading about the stuff is nice, but not enough.

I’m an avid reader. Right now I’m midway through John McCann’s book, Practical Self-Reliance: Reducing Your Dependency on Others. The reason I mention John’s book is to illustrate how he and Denise are committed to living an independent life. The self-reliant skills they’ve acquired have taken thousands of hours. Check out his site for some featured how-to articles and tips.

This quote from John will resonate with our Doing the Stuff Networkers:

Being Self-Reliant is not a pastime, but a way of life.

~ John D. McCann

There are no short cuts to self-reliance. Plan on logging many hours with dirty hands. But the satisfaction of knowing you growing into an independent “tree” is so worth it!

Choice #3: Student Teaching

Taking advice from instant-experts is not only dangerous, but can be deadly. In the blogosphere, all you need to do is read 3 books, regurgitate the info, and bam, you’ll amaze your fans… until the Q&A session begins without a teleprompter. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular. But if the shoe fits…

Find teachers who are students of self-reliance. To teach the stuff, they maintain a humble student mindset. I’ve known teachers who have taught for 30 years and only gained one year of teaching experience. They repeated that one boring lesson for 30 years.

We all have expertise in certain areas. A true expert is never satisfied. They’re always learning, exploring, discovering, and questioning. Learn from people who have unquenchable curiosity.

Choice #4: Own the Skill

It’s easy to think rubbing two sticks together will produce fire. You saw the technique on YouTube. But unless you’ve actually created several embers from friction, you don’t own the skill – you know about the skill. Experience is the best teacher!

I was humbled in front of my students as they stood around watching smoke billow from my bow drill. These two pieces of wood had produced several embers for me at home. The schoolyard was a different story. They got a lesson in friction but not fire. Not that day at least.

This fail illustrates how, even with practice, in a low-stress environment, you won’t always succeed. To be honest, I had a bit of performance anxiety. Stress impaired my circulation, judgement, and fine motor skills. I didn’t own the skill at that point – at least not when people (my students) were depending on me.

Playing out survival scenarios in your mind is helpful, but mind games will only get you so far. Owning a physical skills will alter your perception and move you from uncertainty to confidence. Meaning, your skill set matches your mindset.

Practice until you own it!

Choice 5#: Share the Stuff

Once you own a skill, share it. You have value to add!

Fear of failing or being rejected is normal. Share the stuff anyway!

Writing has taught me to overcome my fear of rejection. Will people read my stuff? Will it add value? I never know until I hit “publish”. There are no masterpieces here. If I waited for my magnum opus to be written, this site would be empty.

Perfection is way overrated.

With each new skill I teach or post I write, I add more value to myself than my students or readers. Risk rejection and start sharing your stuff for unstoppable self-reliance.

Time to pass on some self-reliance DNA. Remember, the tree is in the seed!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: 180 Mind Set Training, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: | 5 Comments

Why Being a “Tree Hugger” Builds Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker


I’ve never considered myself a “tree hugger” as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

noun: someone who is regarded as foolish or annoying because of being too concerned about protecting trees, animals, and other parts of the natural world from pollution and other threats [Emphasis mine]

Yesterday I annoyed a few motorists crossing a narrow country bridge on a tree hugger outing. Not intentionally, mind you. It’s just that I needed to photograph a beautiful American Sycamore stretching its molten limbs over a muddy Georgia river. One trucker let me know how foolish I looked by blaring his air horn as I perched on the bridge railing snapping my shutter. Unaffected, I continued my craziness.

The thought of being a tree hugger, as previously defined, may not describe you, but every person on the journey to self-reliance and preparedness would benefit from hugging a tree or two.

You’re conflicted, right? Well, don’t be.

It’s our responsibility to protect, use, and conserve our natural resources. We’re stewards of this land. Our Appalachian ancestors understood the properties of trees and how to use the wood, bark, leaves, and roots to build a sustainable life. There were no box stores with stacks of dimensional lumber to build a house. If a handle shattered, they knew the best wood to use for re-hafting an ax. Tulip Poplar was abundant and used to build houses and hand-hewn log cabins. The Appalachian pioneers knew their wood!


A young sycamore growing near the roadside

There are boat-loads of info on edible weeds and medicinal plants. I’ve found a lack of printed material on the medicinal/edible uses of trees. I have many of the Foxfire book series and always look to add more to my self-reliance library. Clue me in if you have more tree resource books, please. So, like any good Doer of the Stuff, I’m embarking (pun intended) on a tree education journey as part of my Doing the Stuff Skills list. Who knows, maybe you’ll be convinced to embrace your inner tree hugger.

Ready, set, hug!

The first tree to wrap your arms around is the American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). It can reach heights over 130 tall, over 10 feet in diameter, and grow to be 600 years old. George Washington documented in his journal in 1770 a sycamore with a diameter of 14 feet (45 feet in circumference). Trees this large usually have hollow trunks that house animals of all sorts. It’s been reported that settlers even used hollowed Sycamore trees to shelter livestock.

The rapid growth rate of this deciduous tree causes the bark to shed in molten fashion like a birch tree. Its camouflage pattern of light green and brownish gray with creamy white background splotches causes the trunk to stand out in late fall and winter when forest leaves lay on the ground. The exfoliating bark and coloration makes the sycamore one of the easiest deciduous trees in the eastern woodlands to identify in the winter.


The Sycamore and Self-Reliance

The fast growing American Sycamore likes wet bottom land near streams, rivers and ponds in full sun. Their leaves are similar to maple but not as spectacular since they turn a boring brown in the fall. Beavers find the bark appetizing.

In Bushcraft 

Bushcraft refers to the art of crafting in the bush (woods) with minimal tools and lots of skill.

  • Sycamore’s fibers intertwine making it an excellent wood for spoon and bowl carving. The wood tends to warp in the drying process, so use dried, seasoned wood.
  • Not rot resistant and shouldn’t be used for longterm structures exposed to the moisture.
  • The sap offers a year-round source of hydration in warm climates.
  • The sycamore can also be tapped like a maple tree for syrup or sugar. However, it takes a lot of sap to make small batches of sycamore syrup.
  • Shade-casting crown of large trees offer shelter from the sun.
  • Large leaves (up to 10 inches across) can be used as a wrap for slow cooked food over coals for an added sweet flavor.

This green leaf measured almost 9 inches across

In Woodwork 

  • Sycamore is grown commercially for pulp and rough lumber.
  • Interlocking grain makes nice accent pieces for woodworking.
  • Turns easily on a lathe for bowls.
  • Beautiful specking on gun stocks.
  • Music boxes; guitars and violins.
  • Hard to split which makes sycamore an excellent butcher’s block.
  • Quarter sawn makes this wood more stable for projects. Flat sawn tends to warp.
  • It gets one of its nicknames “Buttonwood” from it ability to create durable wooden buttons.
  • The wood is food safe and was used for food crates and barrels in the past.

In Medicine

Inner bark tee was used for a wide variety of treatments by Native Americans.

  • Colds, coughs, and lung ailments
  • Measles
  • Emetic – cause vomiting
  • Laxative
  • Astringent properties to treat skin issues and eye wash
  • Sweet sap on the inner bark used for wound dressing
  • Sap can also be used to make wine

The American Sycamore is a pioneer species. About forty years ago, we stopped cultivating a small field on wet bottom land on our family farm. Today we have a large stand of native sycamores growing wild.


What was once several acres of corn we pulled by hand

Being a “tree hugger” should not carry a negative stereotype or denote a political affiliation for those of us building self-reliance skills and pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. Embrace your love of trees and learn to be stewards of these towers of the forest!

Have you hugged a tree today?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.





Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Medical, Natural Health, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

How I Preserve Food: Modern Mountain Man MRE’s

by Todd Walker

Humans have been preserving their harvest well before modern conveniences like pressure canners and deep freezers were invented. Preserving the harvest was the art of delaying nature’s natural effect on food – spoilage.


Being resourceful… and just plain hungry, our ancestors figured out ways to make food safe to eat long after living food was dead. Fermenting, smoking, drying, grinding, pounding, salting, and/or curing were preservation methods Native Americans, frontiersmen, long hunters, mountain men, and pioneers used.

None of the above, are you?

Maybe you hike, camp, or hunt. What I’m about to share will even be useful to hungry desk jockeys looking for a  protein-rich, healthy snack you won’t find in the processed-food vending machine at the office.

The vast majority of us are not mountain men/women or Amazon explorers (not the online store). We’re simply on a modern-day journey of self-reliance. You have to eat now and later. Learning to preserve foods with traditional methods is a skill you’ll be glad to own when the power grid fails.

In the meantime, let’s make a Mountain Man MRE (Meals Ready To Eat). The MRE will consist of four items; pemmican, jerky, parched corn, and dried blueberries. Here is another article on our site for pemmican with dried fruit mixed in. Parched corn is being added to the MRE with a brief tutorial. Today’s post will focus on making jerky in traditional fashion – over an open fire.

Modern and old ways will meld together. For instance, I used our electric Excalibur dehydrator for drying corn to parch and made jerky over a fire pit. This is my modern version of traditional trail foods eaten by Native Americans, fur traders, and mountain men.

Our Mountain Man MRE’s need to meet the following criteria:

  • Convenience – similar to pre-packaged, processed fast food – only ours is whole food and healthy
  • Storable – long-lasting without modern refrigeration
  • Transportable – dense, compact, and light-weight (less than 1/2 pound)
  • Tasty – an acquired taste by some but I love this primal stuff

Onto the first item of your MRE…

How to Make Jerky

If this is your first attempt at making jerky, you may want to read how to safely dry meat in my Definitive Guide to Making Jerky.

Being a Mountain Man MRE, this was a fine opportunity to dry meat over an open fire. I’ve cooked many meals over campfires but never made jerky this way.

What new stuff did you do today?

Every new preserving technique we own, no matter how small, is one step closer to food independence.

Step 1

Start a fire with hard wood to create a coal bed. A fire pit is nice if you have one. A charcoal grill may work for you.

Step 2

Design a way to hang the meat. I used poplar and sweet gum saplings lashed to my outdoor kitchen tripod.

How to Make Modern Mountain Man MRE's

Step 3

With a bed of coals underneath the rack, place the meat over the heat. The rack was about two feet over the fire.


Jerky hanging

Then the rain came down. I improvised and wrapped a tarp around the tripod which did two things; protected the fire, and created a smoke chamber accidentally.


Smoke house teepee

Step 4

Wait. The meat took about 4 hours to dry on the fire. I keep the coals going from time to time by adding wood at the back of the fire pit. The key here is to keep a constant heat (shoot for 225-250º F) inside the smoke house. Low and slow. You not cooking the meat.

Step 5

Check for doneness. If the jerky strips bends and no fibers are exposed at the bend, it’s not ready to be used for pemmican. You want a very dry meat that can be ground into powder.


Now you’re ready for the next item on our MRE package…

How to Make Traditional Pemmican

Down and dirty (traditional) pemmican consist of dried meat and rendered fat. I’ve seen a few fat-free pemmican recipes on the internet but that idea is just plain ludicrous and feeds the big fat lie. Stick with healthy, grass-fed fat for a satiating trail food. Ever heard of rabbit starvation? If you hate the thought of eating fat, substitute honey as a binding agent instead of tallow. Peanut butter pemmican is another option.

For today’s recipe, we’re using rendered tallow and jerky made over an open fire – mountain man style!

Disclaimer: This was my first attempt at jerking meat over a fire. Not an easy task in the rain – but doable. After the jerky was ready over the fire pit (approximately 4 hours), for added safety, I tossed it into our Excalibur for an extra hour. Also, modern kitchen appliances were used to grind and prep the jerky. The old school method is to place the dried meat on a stone and pound it to a powder. Gotta gather me some stones next time!

 Step 1

You’ll need equal parts of tallow and ground jerky. Here’s how I render tallow. You may add dried fruit to the mix if you like. I prefer the taste without the fruit.


Jerky dried over an open fire

For time’s sake, I used our Vitamix blender to turn jerky strips into a fine powder. Dump the powder in a mixing bowl while your tallow is warming on the stove.


Jerky powder!


Pre-made tallow melting

When heating the tallow, don’t allow it to get so hot that it smokes/burns. Low to medium heat here.

Step 2

Pour a small amount of tallow into the powdered jerky and stir. Don’t pour all the tallow in at once. It’s easier to add more tallow than to grind more jerky.


It took two pours of tallow for the correct consistency

Step 3

You’ll know when you’ve got enough tallow mixed in with the jerky when it compresses without crumbling.


Needs more tallow

Add too much tallow and the pemmican’s jerky flavor will be overwhelmed by tallow. Mix while your tallow is warm to better saturate the meat powder.

Step 4

When the right consistency is achieved, add mixture to a loaf pan. Press it down evenly into the bottom of the pan. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and, with one motion, drop the upside down loaf pan onto the paper. Lift the pan and you should have perfect pemmican. Another option is to form pemmican patties or balls. I’ve thought about sprinkling powered sugar on top and slipping these on the snack table at faculty meetings. ;) I’ll video the response and get back with you.


Pemmican loaf!

Wrap the wax paper around the loaf and place it in the refrigerator until the tallow hardens. Slice into individual serving sizes and wrap in wax paper. Place in a container (ziplock bag or paper bag) for your next adventure. Wax paper and ziplock baggies have redundant uses… wax paper = fire starter; ziplock bags = container.

Or – go fur trader style and stash your fresh pemmican in a “parfleche” – an untanned animal skin bag. For further reading on the benefits of this amazing trail food, check out my article on Bread of the Wilderness.

Pemmican may be eaten as stand alone snack/meal or added to beef up wild onion soup for a hot trail meal.

Add the third item to your MRE…

How to Make Parched Corn

Dried corn that has been roasted is called parched corn. Removing/reducing he moisture content makes the corn last a long time. Parched corn is easier on the teeth than plain dried corn. You’ve bitten a popcorn kernel before, right?

Ideally, you’d walk out to your corn crib and grab a few ears. If you’re like me, you may not have access to dried corn on the cob. Dirt Road Girl and I took a road trip looking for dried corn. We stopped at a local organic farm we buy from, but their corn crop was gone and stalks plowed under.

We ended up buying two green ears for this experiment. I shucked them and tossed them into our dehydrator as a test – along with a bag of frozen organic grocery store corn. The bag corn was cut from the cob. Traditionally, you’d want the whole kernel. We adapted and used the cut corn. Dehydrating corn on the cob was a big waste of time.

Step 1

Heat a pan/skillet over medium heat. You can parch corn in a dry pan or with oil added. I tried both and found the dry pan batch tasted the best. You’d think bacon fat would make anything taste better. Not with the corn.


Parching with bacon grease

Add salt or other spices (optional) to the pan and cover the bottom of the pan with a single layer of dried corn. Shake the pan to keep the corn from scorching. A spatula is also helpful for stirring. Keep the pan and corn moving for a few minutes until it turns golden brown. Dump that batch and add another.

Step 2

Allow it to cool and bag and tag your snack. Pretty simple.


The completed Modern Mountain Man MRE!

Pictured above is the full-meal deal: Two bars of pemmican, one bag of parched corn, one bag (about 8 pc.) of water buffalo jerky, and a bag of dehydrated blueberries. The entire Mountain Man MRE weighed less than 1/2 pound (0.418 # to be exact).

Where’s the bread? Since I don’t eat bread, I didn’t include traditional hardtack in the MRE. Survival News Online has a great how-to for your reference if you’d like to make your own.

Hopefully, this light-weight, nutrient dense MRE will keep you moving on your next outing. Toss it in your coat pocket or haversack and you’re set for mobile fast food on the trail!

To see how a few of my Prepared Blogger friends preserve foods, check out our “How We Preserve Foods” round robin below with over 20 articles to help you achieve food independence!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


The Prepared Bloggers - How We Preserve Foods

Join us as we share different reasons and methods of how we preserve food to create a long-term storage plan for our families. Click on each link to be taken to a new blog with helpful information and tips.

Mom with a PREPHow to Dehydrate Ginger and Make Ginger Powder

Preparedness MamaMake Jam Without Pectin

Mama KautzDehydrating

Busy B HomemakerFreezer Jam

Ed That MattersAnyone Can Do It: Fool Proof Food Storage

The Apartment PrepperEasy Marinated Mushrooms

The Homesteading HippyHow to Use Your Pressure Canner

Montana HomesteaderMaking and Preserving Cherry Pit Syrup

Are We Crazy or WhatHow to Dehydrate Cherries

Your Thrive LifeHow I Preserve Food: Meals in a Jar

Melissa K NorrisRe-Usable Canning Tattler Lids-Do They Really Work?

Real Food LivingPreserve and Store Grains wiith Dry Ice

Cooke’s FrontierSmoking

Homestead DreamerWater Bath Canning

Evergrowing FarmHow to Preserve Red Chile

Survival SherpaModern Mountain Man MRE’s

The Backyard PioneerFermentation

Trayer WildernessHow We Preserve Food

Living Life in Rural IowaVegetable Soup

The Organic PrepperHow to Make Jam without using added Pectin

Homesteading MomHow I Preserve Broccoli and Goat Cheese Soup

A Matter of PreparednessHow I Preserve Using Mylar Bags


Categories: Camping, Doing the Stuff, Food Storage, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

How to Make Firebricks (logs) and Wood Stove Logs for Free!

Today we’re proud to present another DIY project from a fellow Doing the Stuff Networker. Jamie Burke is a master at repurposing trash and junk. His latest project shared on our DTSN Facebook Group not only saves money, but would be very useful both now (free is always good) and after a SHTF event.

If you’d like to see more of how he and our other members are Doing the Stuff, join us on our journey to self-reliance and preparedness!

Here’s Jamie’s down and dirty tutorial…


Firebricks and Wood Stove Logs Tutorial

This process only requires: Two buckets, a drill (or stabbing weapon), piece of wood (or bottom of another bucket), kinda a custom drill bit, water. + your TRASH!

Out of all of the physical spam you receive in the mail, leaves you rake, dead foliage, paper towel rolls, paper plates, napkins, beer boxes, egg cartons, etc., etc., etc., (any biomass material you can think of) – why not turn it into useable logs for your furnace, campfire, or cooking? Just don’t use the plastic coated things.

I’ve seen ‘devices’ you can buy that makes ‘newspaper logs’, but they never seem efficient, require you to pre-shred, take way too much time and the logs are not very solid. This is a much better method and doesn’t really cost anything.

Step 1

Get two 5 gal buckets. $3 each at walmart. Drill a lot of holes in it, about 2 inches down from the lips and around 3/16 size-ish. I used a soldering iron. You can use a screw driver and stab holes all in there. Go around all the bucket and on the bottom. [Todd's note: Buckets can be had for free at bakery's and construction sites]


Holy bucket


Un-holy and holy

Step 2

Place the holy bucket inside the other normal bucket. Start putting your papers, leaves, bio material in it. Add your water and fill’r up. Doesn’t really matter if you have too much water. You can leave these buckets of water setup by the mailbox, then just walk by and toss stuff in.


Don’t judge my trash

Step 3

You need a custom drill bit, which I have. A good thing to do is find an old table saw blade and weld it to s shaft of steel. This is “the hardest” part of this setup. Drill away and in seconds you will have a nice pulpy wet mess.


Drill attachment turns it into mulch


New and improved stirring attachment/zombie slayer

Step 4

Next, pull out the holy bucket and let it drain. I put the draining bucket on top of the other bucket to save the water – you can re-use the same water many times.


Reuse this water for your next batch

Step 5

You should have a press that goes far down into the bucket to press out the remaining water. I found a bucket that someone cut the bottom off.. well perfect. But you will probably want to place a bucket down on some wood, trace around the base and cut out that piece of wood to use as a press.


Pulp on the left. Found this next to my house (press). Or just trace a bucket on wood and cut out the wood piece for a press.

Step 6

Set your press inside the bucket over the pulp. Then I set the re-used water bucket inside of that bucket (because water is heavy). That will work over time. I also sat on it.. put my anvil on it.. and stood in it. It’s pretty quick. whatever heavy you have for the top.


Step 7

Now once most the water is pressed out – take it out to a sunny/dry place. Turn over the bucket and tap on the top. It will take some time to dry, depending on your location. We live in the desert so this will happen fast. If you want it to dry faster, cut these logs as you would a pizza, into sections.


The wet fire cake ready for drying

Once dry, these will burn a long time.. and cost you ~ nada.


Free firebricks dried in the desert!

Todd’s note: Hope you enjoyed Jamie’s tutorial. He’s a fine example of people who have traded theory for ACTION! Come check out all the other folks busy Doing the Stuff!

If you try it yourself, we’d like to know how it turns out.

Keep Doing the Stuff of self-reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 40 Comments

The Top 3 Tools for Mechanical Advantage in Bushcraft

by Todd Walker

Part of our Self-Reliant Summer series


Survival TV scripts promote the “get out alive” theme – as they should – it’s survival. The idea of survival conjures up roughing it, eating nastiness or not at all, sleeping on muddy ground under leaky cover, and drinking your own urine until rescued. Sounds fun, right?

Not so much.

I’m a student of the art and science of bushcraft, not to merely survive, but to live comfortably, even thrive in a wilderness setting. As George Washington Sears (“Nessmuk”) put it in Woodcraft and Camping,

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. [Emphasis mine]

Bushcraft is primal (first; original; fundamental). The craft extends far past modern survivalism, prepping, hiking, and camping. It criss-crosses all the preparedness circles and powers the survival mindset circuitry. Self-reliance through basic, simple machines (tools) is the central theme of bushcraft.

If you hang out here for any length of time, you know how fond I am of vintage tools. In a natural/wilderness setting, tools in skilled hands can give you the mechanical advantage (MA) needed for “smoothing it” in the woods.

Here are my top 3 tools and few ways to use these simple machines while learning to “smooth it” in the woods.

Number One

In the world of simple machines, all cutting tools are wedges. The cutting tool is primary since a sharp knife, machete, saw, or ax can be used to create other simple machines. The wedge shape of your knife creates a mechanical advantage when removing material for notches, carving spoons, or dressing animals.

For instance, I wasn’t pleased with my fire reflector wall in front of my shelter. It had served its purpose as a temporary fix for my semi-permanent shelter but had begun to char with all the fires built there. I needed something more permanent.


Thirty yards from the shelter lay a massive, flat rock perfectly shaped for a centerpiece in my reflector wall. Only one problem. Distance, time, and my physical force and capability to get it from point A to point B. Work equals force times distance. Work smart!

I didn’t want to expend too much energy remodeling my campfire. How do I get a 200+ pound rock to my camp? I remembered my daddy moving heavy objects by placing smaller pipes underneath – a technique I’d used before – just not in the wilderness.


Top Tools for Mechanical Advantage in Bushcraft

Rock and roll!

A folding saw (Wedge) gave me a mechanical advantage (MA) in processing the cedar rounds (Wheel and Axle) used to roll the huge stone up a slight incline to camp. Though there was no real axle involved, the solid wood wheel worked got the job done. Less physical force saves calories. Flipping rocks this size while doing functional fitness workouts is fine. However, we want to save energy/calories to enjoy the fruits of our labor at base camp.

Your cutting tool can also be use to carve a wooden wedge for felling larger trees. Wedged tools make wedges. None of these methods are exhaustive. I’m only giving a few suggestions. You can add your own creative ideas in the comments if you’d like.

Number Two

Levers are powerful tools for creating mechanical advantage in bushcraft. There are two types of levers that give MA: First Class Lever and Second Class Lever.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. ~ Archimedes

Levers trade distance for force. To get the stone started onto the wheel and axle logs, I sharpened the end of one of the discarded saplings from my old reflector wall to use as a lever. Once on the rollers, I was able to push the rock to camp with less work on my part.

Levers can be counted on to save resources like the cutting edge of your ax. Dull cutting tools are dangerous. Here’s an example of a First Class Lever.


This forked Beech tree caught the firewood as it broke

Find a forked tree or two trees close together and place your stick of wood between the two trees. Now apply force on the lever and break the piece where it contacts the fulcrum (point where lever pivots). Stand with a wide stance and pull the lever toward your body. As your lever grows shorter, more force is required to break the wood.

This sweet set up stacked the firewood for me!

A travois is an example of a Second Class Lever. It’s basically a wheel barrow without the wheel. A travois consists of two long poles lashed together with cross braces or netting to form an isosceles triangle. Yep, geometry and physics are part of bushcraft. Native American plains indians used this as a method of conveyance for heavy loads.

Here’s Dave Canterbury’s tutorial video on making a travois in the bush.

Number Three

Cordage, whether crafted in the field or commercially made, offers MA when used as a pulley, another simple machine. My favorite knot in bushcraft for creating mechanical advantage is the Trucker’s Hitch.

While the two loops in the Trucker’s Hitch are not true-to-form block and tackle pulleys, this is a great way to apply extreme pressure on cordage for ridge lines, hanging game from a branch, or any time you need a taunt line.

Mechanical advantage is quickly achieved with cordage when making friction fires with a bow drill. Cordage wrapped around the spindle forms a primitive pulley system which decreases the amount of work required to produce a burning ember. [Work = Force x Distance] The bow drill combines several simple machines – pulley, lever, wedge, inclined plane.


Simple machines create mechanical advantage

Wrap Up

Learning to “smooth it” with simple tools helps erase the “rough it” aspect of bushcraft, camping, and adventures in nature. Now you can sit around the fire on your rustic camp furniture and stare, without uttering a word to your friends, at the awesomeness you’ve created with minimal tools. You’ll also admire and appreciate your connection to the land as you sip on a cup of camp coffee or pine needle tea.

Mechanical advantage is your friend out there!

Keep Doing the Stuff of self-reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

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Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

by Todd Walker

Doing the Stuff of self-reliance takes time, resources, tools, and want to. More important than any of these is ACTION! With only 24 hours in a day, you can’t always trek to your personal space in the woods to practice wilderness survival skills. Hectic schedules and time constants eat away at your availability.

You’re family needs quality time… and no, staring at the TV or computer screen doesn’t count. No better way to hang out with your loved ones, even the indoors lover, than to introduce them to outdoor self-reliance skills in a controlled setting. Your adventures await one step over your door sill – no wilderness required!

Convenience just destroyed all the excuses.


Our Self-Reliant Summer series is intended to keep us motivated with common sense ideas for Doing the Stuff. Stay with us to learn how to strike self-reliance gold in your backyard.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

It would be great if we all had a picturesque wilderness for a backyard. That’s not likely. Driving hours to reach one is not practical for busy people. The solution is to bloom where you’re planted.

Fire Pits and BBQ Grills!

Making fire is a critical skill many of us take for granted. In ideal conditions, fire may be easy. Just flick your Bic and, poof, you have flames. It’s wise to practice several ways to achieve a sustainable fire.


A BBQ grill is a good tool for practicing fire making!

Fire is simple. All that’s needed is…

  • Air
  • Heat
  • Fuel

These elements make up the fire triangle. Take away any one of these and you no longer have fire. Starve the fire of air and you’re making charred material for your next fire.

You can practice your fire making skills with the available resources out back. No wood? No problem. Dirt Road Girl and I are known to walk our neighborhood, wagon in tow, collecting dead wood conveniently stacked at the edge of neighbor’s yards. We get our walk in and employ our possum mentality for free resources.

Fire Project 1: Make char cloth and charred material.

Fire Project 2: Practice making fire using 3 different methods: friction (bow drill, hand drill, fire plow), heat (fresnel lens, lighter, matches, etc.), and sparks (ferro rod, flint and steel). You’ll need your homemade char material for the flint and steel.


Our son’s first friction fire on the back patio

Fire Project 3: Make a fire from one stick only.

If you’re neighborhood allows open fires in a fire pit, consider building or buying one. If not, practice inside a charcoal or gas grill. If grills aren’t allowed, call the moving van! Build fires directly on the grill grate or use a board or other flat object as a support.

Be curious. Try new tinder materials. I discovered an excellent coal extender growing on beech trees near my shelter. [That's me - two photos up - at the Weber grill lighting dry sooty mold from a Beech tree with a ferro rod]

What’s for Dinner?

After building a fire, why not use it to practice cooking over an open flame. Since you’re in the backyard and conveyance is not an issue, break out that cast iron dutch oven granny passed down to you. Once your fire burns down a bit, suspend the pot over a bed of coals with a bushcraft tripod. Experiment with cooking methods other than stabbing a tube steak on the end of a stick.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Campfire chili!

Practice using twig stoves like the Emberlit. A handful of twigs can boil water for a pre-packaged meal in a stainless steel camp cup.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Tied in Knots

Do you remember how to tie that nifty knot you saw on YouTube? Probably not. Find two trees in the yard and practice tying out your tarp and hammock. Repetition is the mother of all learning.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Dirt Road Girl and Abby testing knots

Basic knots should become second-hand. You won’t need to know 41 knots to survive and thrive in a survival scenario. Knowing a few simple knots will save you time and cordage. The knots I use most while bushcrafting are the timber hitch, trucker’s hitch, Siberian hitch, bowline, clove hitch, and tension hitch. Learn knots with a specific purpose and tie them repeatedly until you’re able to do so even in the dark.

Sharp Skills

The cutting tool is fundamental for bushcraft. Safe use of knives, saws, and axes should be learned before heading to the big boy woods. The backyard is the perfect classroom.

Passing Down Self-Reliance Skills to a Seven Year Old

Teaching ax safety to my grandson

Wielding sharp tools has risks. You never really know your cutting tool personally until it bites you. Accidents happen to even the most skilled bushcrafter. Practicing in a controlled setting like your backyard builds confidence and skills for times when your life may one day depend upon sharp stuff. Plus, first aid is close by.

Sharp Skill 1: Make a feather stick for your backyard fire. Bracing your knife against your knee with the cutting edge facing away from your body, pull a piece of wood towards your body to curl shavings on the stick. You can also place the stick on another wooden surface (anvil) and slice curls using the full length of the blade.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Fatwood feather stick and shavings

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Fatwood shavings lit with a ferro rod

Sharp Skill 2: Baton wood with your knife. This skill is useful when a camp ax is not available. This method can produce pencil lead size, pencil size, thumb size, and larger fuel from logs. I prefer batoning for the one stick challenge and when creating bow drill sets. More precision in woodcraft can be achieved by practicing your preferred method.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Processing the round via the baton method

Sharp Skill 3: Notches add stability when joining and lashing woodcraft items. They’re also essential for the hearth board on your bow drill fire set.

Got Cover?

There may not be enough resources to build a debris hut out by the kids swing set, but you can practice tarp and tent set up.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Tarp and hammock set up

Common man/woman cover can be an affordable tarp or poncho. Start with the resources you have. Practice different cover configurations to find out what works for different situations.

Sticks and Strings (Archery)

Archery has been given a huge boost by the recent Hunger Games books and movies. Capitalize on the interest with your children or grandchildren.


Killing spuds in our backyard

Archery has been practiced for thousands of years by hunter-gatherers, indigenous groups, and self-reliant folk. This tool can be used for harvesting game quietly and an effective addition to your SHTF arsenal. Zombies beware! The place to hone this skill is in the backyard. Once hooked on stick and string, you and your entire family can enjoy this as a family sport and survival skill.

Make Your Own Stuff

Simple machines in bushcraft can be used to build stuff to aid in self-reliance and survivability. Here are three projects that are doable in the backyard.

Project 1: Build a simple cooking tripod for your backyard kitchen.

Project 2: Torches. Gotta have torches. Kid’s love them and they’re fun to build!

  • How to make a fatwood torch
  • Miner’s torch (pictured below) made of a dried mullein stalk and soy wax (pine sap or tallow can also be used) – Warning: burning close the base of the seed head will burn through the stalk quickly

Mullein torch

Project 3: Make a bow drill set from one piece of poplar or other suitable wood


A bow drill set crafted from one piece of tulip poplar

Eat the Yard

Every backyard lawn has weeds. Learning to safely identify wild edibles for nutrition and medicine is smart. Like every other skill mentioned above, wildcrafting can be done close to home. We place value on what we name. Before I knew the name of Mullein, it was just a weed growing along the fence row of our pasture. Now it’s a valued item in our herbal medicine kit.

There are many resources available to help you identify wild edibles. One that I’ve found most helpful is The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer. Thayer didn’t just regurgitate what other authors wrote about, he spent years of actually Doing the Stuff in the field of wild edibles.

You can check out our Foraging Feral Food page and Herbal Medicine Kit series if you’d like to dig deeper into wildcrafting.

Doing the Stuff of self-reliance through bushcraft should start in your backyard. 17th and 18th century woodsmen forged their skills close to home. Owning these essential skills was necessary to survive the wilderness treks with minimal gear. That’s the essence of bushcraft – dependence on skills more so than the latest shiny object and technological gadget.

What happens when technology fails? Hopefully your skills will get you through. Your journey to self-reliance starts in your own backyard!

Keep Doing the Stuff,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.








Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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