SURVIVAL TREES: BASSWOOD – Amazing survival resources from the Basswood Tree

As spring quickly approaches, I’d thought I share with you why the BASSWOOD tree is one of my favorite Survival Trees!

Introduction

Trees can provide a survivor with elements from all four core survival priorities:  Shelter, Water, Fire and Food.  Trees can be used for warmth, hydration, food, tools, and self-defense.  It’s crazy to think that one can use a tree to start a fire, take shelter under it, and then find themselves able to eat and drink from it.  Trees provide an immeasurable number of materials essential to survival, and studying the different species, as well as what they offer, is a worthwhile endeavor that will pay major survival dividends time and time again.

This article is an except from my much more extensive POCKET FIELD GUIDE titled SURVIVAL TREES that will ship (autographed) in the APRIL FORAGER EDITION APOCABOX.  Each tree is accompanied with illustrated drawings of its leaves and (on occasion) other identifying features, such as fruits, nuts, barks, or buds.  The guide (nor this article) is not designed or intended to be a tree identification guide. Rather, it should act as a supplement to other guides on the subject, offering survival specific information and insight that typically is not covered (or even mentioned) in the average identification guide.  

The use of each tree type is broken down into some or all (if applicable) of the following five survival categories: Shelter, Water, Fire, Food, and Tools & Miscellaneous.  The information contained in these categories has taken me nearly two decades to compile, learn, and test.  Yet, I am sure there are still uses and resources for each tree that I do not know.  It is my hope that this article deepens your knowledge and appreciation for the amazing BASSWOOD tree.

Basswood (American Linden) : Tilia americana

The American Linden, or Basswood, is one of my favorite survival trees.  Not only is it entirely edible, but the Basswood also provides a surprising number of other survival resources.  In Britain, this species is often referred to as the Lime Tree, though it is not the source of the lime fruit.

Shelter

The Basswood tree is not a particularly good tree for shelter.  However, mature Basswoods are notorious for sending up a slew of smaller sucker Basswood trees from their base.  This is one way I am able to identify Basswoods in the winter when their leaves are gone.  These sucker trees are usually very straight, tall, and easy to harvest.  Although not very strong, like oak or maple, they still make great shelter poles if fallen branches aren’t available.  Basswood is a very soft wood and a favorite among wood carvers. Even 2-3” diameter saplings can be cut easily with just a knife.  Consider this option before spending significant calories on a tree of a different variety.

Water 

Basswood trees can be tapped just as a Maple can be tapped.  Although not nearly as high in sugar content and not worth boiling down for a sweet syrup, Basswood sap is incredibly refreshing and is one of the fastest sap trees I’ve ever tapped.  Young sucker trees, as well as 1st season growth on branches (1/2” in diameter or smaller), can provide a survivor with a very functional spile.  The centers of these two are very pithy and can quickly be reamed out with a wire or a thin branch with a sharpened point. I’ve used many a Basswood spile while gathering drinking sap from Basswoods, Maples, and Birches.  Friends of mine who make tobacco pipes will often use a young basswood sucker for the tube because of its hollow nature.

The Basswood is also a sign that you are probably near water, as they prefer moist, water-rich environments.  If you’ve found a Basswood tree, keep looking because there is likely a water source close by.  

Fire

Basswood is not a great wood for extended warmth and heat, but it is without question my favorite wood to use for friction fire kits such as Bow Drill and even Hand Drill.  Basswood, especially sucker trees and 1st year growth branch wood, is the perfect consistency for friction fire lighting.  The light-weight, porous wood generates a nice hot ember very quickly.  Sucker trees at the base of mature trees are my favorite for this, but fallen limbs and branches will work just fine as well.  Regardless, it is one of the softest woods available.  When available, I use Basswood to make both the hearth-board and spindle for my Bow Drill fire kits (see POCKET FIELD GUIDE:  Master the Bow Drill).

Food

Young Basswood leaves are my favorite wild edible green.  I eat a basswood leaf salad at least two times a week from March-May.  When their flowers are in bloom, I will add them to the salad, as they are edible too.  The leaves are very mucilaginous and may pose a texture issue for some.  While edible all throughout the summer, Basswood leaves are best when young and smaller than a silver dollar.  I also like to steep 10 or so flowers in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes to make a fragrant tea that I very much enjoy.

The seeds of the Basswood are edible as well, though, they are time consuming to collect.  They dangle from underneath the leaves in small clusters and are attached to a tongue-shaped bract.  The hard, outer shell must be cracked away to access the edible seed. I simply do this inside my mouth and spit out the hull, although I’ve been known to chew it up on occasion.  When green, before the hull turns hard and brown, these can be ground into a paste or added to soups and stews.  Basswood seeds, leaves, and flowers can all be added to soups and stews.

The inner bark of Basswood (the whitish layers between the rough outer bark and the solid wood) is edible as well and has a very refreshing texture and flavor.  It reminds me of cucumber.  It can be scraped away in handfuls and eaten raw or boiled to break it up and soften it for chewing and digesting.

Basswood leaves can get quite large and make perfect natural tin foil for baking meals in earthen pits or in the coals of a fire.  Wrap food in at least 5-6 layers of green leaves and tie with the peeled bark from young basswood suckers or branches.

An old-timer once told me that he heard of families in the Great Depression who added basswood sawdust to bread-mix as a filler to make rations last longer.  The wood is not poisonous, so it’s something to at least file away in your brain.

Tools & Miscellaneous

As mentioned previously, the hollow tubes from basswood suckers and young branches have many uses.  Some of these include: 

  •        Spiles for tapping trees
  •         Drinking straws
  •         Blowing tubes for making coal-burned containers
  •         Smoking pipes (not necessary for survival but interesting nonetheless)
  •         Trap systems that require a hollow tube (yes, there are some)
  •         Bobbers/floats for fishing

Basswood is a very soft, nonpoisonous wood and makes an excellent medium for a variety of cooking utensils including spoons, ladles, forks, chopsticks, stirring sticks, and spatulas.  Most of these can be carved with just a knife in very little time and with little effort.  Using basswood for such tools also reduces wear and tear on your knife blade.  Due to their fast and straight growth, basswood sucker saplings also make excellent quick and dirty arrows for bow and arrow or atlatl.  They are lightweight, have few branches, and very easy to fire or heat straighten.

By far the most incredible resource the Basswood tree provides is cordage.  That name “BASS”wood is actually derived from the word BAST, which means plant fiber.  The inner bark of the Basswood tree is one of the most easily accessible fibers I’ve ever gathered from the wild.  It is best gathered when the sap is running heavy during the spring months.  With saplings that are 3” in diameter or smaller, the tree can be scored from left to right.  A knife can be used to pick at the score line and once a piece large enough to grab is available, entire strips that are many feet in length can be pulled from the sapling.  If care is taken, saplings can be cut down and the entire sheath of outer and inner bark can be removed in one piece by carefully peeling from the bottom.  Pounding the bark with a wooden mallet (metal will damage the inner bark fibers) will help it to loosen and will be necessary to process trees much larger than 3” in diameter.  I’ve seen sheets of bark pulled from basswood trees (with many hours of careful peeling and pounding) as large as 2 feet wide by 15 feet tall.

The inner bark fibers, just beneath the rough outer bark, can be processed into cordage that can be used to make nets, clothing, baskets, traps, or any other accoutrement necessary for survival.  On the younger saplings with a thin layer of outer bark, the freshly peeled strips of bark can be used right away as crude cordage for shelter building or rough bindings.  In my courses, I’ve seen two adult men pull on opposite sides of a 2” strip of basswood bark and not be able to break it.

For a finer, more pliable cordage, the bark must be soaked (called retting) in water for at least a couple weeks.  The rotting process loosens the inner bark fibers from the outer bark.  It can then be easily pulled away in long ribbons that can be used as is or stripped down into thinner cordage.  The soaking can be done in a container or at the bank of a pond and river.  This process of retting works for many varieties of trees including, Walnut, Willow, Tulip Poplar and Cottonwood to name a few.

Because Basswood bark can be removed in large chunks from the tree (typically during spring months only), it is an excellent candidate for crafting bark containers.  Below is a basic pattern for making a seamless bark container.  The dashed lines represent fold lines.  

 

Conclusion

If you’re like me and like to learn how to glean food and resources from trees and plants, consider subscribing to the APRIL APOCABOX called the FORAGER EDITION.  It is all about foraging and includes an exclusive signed copy of my POCKET FIELD GUIDE titled SURVIVAL TREES where I detailed the survival uses for many more incredible trees on the forest.  To subscribe to the FORAGER APOCABOX, CLICK HERE:  http://www.myapocabox.com

For more of my Pocket Field Guides, please visit my Amazon.com page at: https://www.amazon.com/Creek-Stewart/e/B0076LIRK6/

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

CR///EK

APOCABOX Holiday Survival Challenge Series: Challenge #2 – Holiday Popcorn Tin Grill/Smoker/Oven

Challenge Series Overview

As APOCABOX subscribers already know, a big part of each box is completing my Survival Skills Challenge issued in each box.  Unlike the APOCABOX Survival Skills Challenge, this survival skills challenge series is open for everyone to participate.  I’ve teamed up with two survival buddies of mine (Hank Gevedon of Reptile Toolworks and Dave Mead of Mead Longbows) to issue a series of THREE Survival Skills Challenges to take place in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  The purpose of this challenge series is to not only hone your survival skills but to also utilize holiday products/materials that might traditionally be thrown away.  As I always say, your most important survival skill is the ability to IMPROVISE.  These challenges will call upon those skills and hopefully strengthen them.

And, YES, there are awesome prizes.  Prize details and descriptions below.

Challenge #1: Holiday Popcorn Tin Grill or Oven

popcorn-tin

Using an empty holiday popcorn tin to make a survival style grill or oven may sounds crazy…but you’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how efficient the result can be!

Challenge Instructions, Tips & Tricks

** IMPORTANT NOTE **

Be sure to burn off the “stink” of any improvised survival grill before actually cooking food on it.  The gases and chemicals that come from the paint and lining of some holiday tins can cause illness.  Once burned off you’re good to go!

GRILL DETAILS

popcorn-grill

popcorn-tin-grill-top

Poke ventilation holes (1/2″ to 1″) about an inch up from the bottom every 3-4 around the perimeter of the holiday tin.  A nail, awl, screwdriver, hammer & needle nose plyers will all make nice holes.

Use wire hangers for grill grates.  Poke holes to feed wires through about 2 inches down from the top of the can.  Bend ends to keep in place.

popcorn-grill

Make a fire on the bottom or place hot cools in the bottom and grill!

popcorn-grill-actual

OVEN DETAILS

tin-oven

This method requires no fire in the tin.  Instead, you will use the tin with or without the lid as an oven by placing it beside a fire.  Very simple concept but difficult to control food burn.  You can also place your meat on a stake and place the tin on top of it and build a fire around the tin.  This has been done with a small game bird in the photo above.

** Remember, 1st fire should be used to burn the “stink” off! **

Learn a new survival skill every other month with the 

APOCABOX SKILLS CHALLENGE! 

HOW TO ENTER THE CHALLENGE

Myself, Hank and Dave will be the judges of the completed GRILL/OVEN photos submitted for the challenge.  As you can see by the prize details below, there will be three prizes awarded per challenge: an overall winner, a runner up and an honorable mention.  To enter, you must submit a photo of your improvised Christmas Tree Survival Bow using one of the following:

1:  SUBMIT on INSTRAGRAM using the hash-tags: #apocabox AND #holidaysurvivalchallenge

2: Post photo on the APOCABOX FACEBOOK page at: http://www.facebook.com/apocabox

3: Email photo to me at creek@creekstewart.com if you don’t use social media

CHALLENGE DURATION:  Challenge starts 12/28/15 and Submission deadline for this challenge is 1/01/16.  Prizes will be announced on 1/02/16.

PRIZE DESCRIPTIONS (All prizes must be mailed to someone 18 years of age or older):

OVERALL GRAND PRIZE

DIY TURKISH ARROW KIT

arrow-kit

Build your ow3 Beautiful Turkish style arrows!

This kit includes traditional Turkish knocks, cast tool steel trilobite hunting points (see detail on these below), exquisite bamboo shafts and slick and silent turkey feather fletchings.

The trilobite arrow tips used in this kit with the three bladed shape, internal socket and cutting capability are considered the apex of ancient arrowhead technology.  The nomadic Scythian group fully developed the use of lost wax technology to produce these arrowheads in easy to cast bronze.

Hank Gevedon had the vision of a three bladed Trilobite arrowhead that would have evolved if the nomadic tribes had the technology available to cast the heads in a super tough tool steel alloy.

With this vision, Hank hand carved a wooden model and made a three piece mold exactly as the ancient metalsmiths would have done.  Then, he had a modern silicone rubber mold produced from a hand poured bronze original that he made from the hand carved wooden pattern.  Finally, the waxes produced from the silicone molds are used to produce an extremely high quality tool steel casting from the wax model.

This arrowhead pattern is the forerunner of almost every three bladed arrowhead that we currently use.  Hank and Dave are proud to bring this ancient technology back to life.

For more details on this DIY Turkish Arrow Kit visit http://www.facebook.com/meadlongbows or for additional photos email meadlongbows@gmail.com

RUNNER-UP PRIZE

1 Month Subscription to Creek’s Subscription Survival Box – APOCABOX

urban-box

HONORABLE MENTION PRIZE

IshWash Emergency Eyewash Kit + 1 puck of Instant Bowstring

runner-up

CONCLUSION

Good luck!  1 more Holiday Survival Challenges to be announced in the coming days!

If you’re like me and like SURVIVAL HACKS, consider picking up a copy of my next book: SURVIVAL HACKS on AMAZON at:

http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Hacks-Everyday-Items-Wilderness/dp/1440593345/

survival-hacks-creek-stewart

creek-stewart-survivalist

FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Lever Rabbit Snare

It may have been a little tricky to follow the exact details of how to make the Lever Rabbit Snare in the very first episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS with Matt, Ben and Jesse.  I thought a clean instructional diagram might make it easier to understand.  I don’t think the diagram requires explanation but if you have any questions at all, feel free to post in comments.

The snare is engaged by a large weighted lever stick which is tied to a trigger stick.  The trigger stick is attached to a noose which is placed in line with a game trail or over the entrance to a burrow or nest.  When the noose is pulled, the trigger stick dislodges and the lever is released – thus suspending the animal in the air.

Below is a wide angle diagram of the snare:

lever-snare-wide

Below is an up close diagram so that you can see the trigger system a little better.  It’s important to note that you can increase the sensitivity of the trigger system by tying the leader line closer to the Y-stick along the trigger stick.    The pressure of the trigger stick against the notched stake decreases the closer the leader line it tied to the Y-stick.

lever-snare-close2

And now, an up close photo of one of the actual snares we made on the show.  This one was placed in front of a hole in a tree where we found signs of squirrel activity.

 

 

lever-snare-live

 

When it comes to making snares, you are only limited by your own creativity.  There are only a few trigger systems but they can be used in hundreds of different unique ways.  Remember, INNOVATION is one of your most important survival skills!

creek-stewart-bug-out-book

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Live Capture Box trap

Many of you have asked for more details about the Live Capture Box trap that Bill, Dave, Andrew and I used to catch the Quail.  To my knowledge, this is a trap style that originates in Asia but versions of it exist all over the world.  It’s very unique in that it can be constructed from all natural materials.  Below I detail the trap design as well as the trigger I normally pair with it.

texas-trap

It all starts with 2 pieces of cordage and 2 sticks…

A length of cordage is tied between the ends of two sticks.  When tied, the length of rope should be a little longer (6 or so inches) than the sticks.  The shape at this point should be somewhat rectangular because the cordage sides are longer than the stick sides.  The length of your sticks will determine the size of your trap, in this case about 18″ x 18″.

box-trap-pretwist

Now, twist each stick so that cordage forms an X in the middle.  At this point, your trap should look fairly square.

box-trap-x

The coolest thing about this trap is that it’s held together with tension.  You start by sliding sticks one at a time in a log-cabin pattern UNDERNEATH of the string.  The string will be loose in the beginning but will start to tighten as you build up the walls underneath with sticks.  It is this tension that ultimately will hold all of the sticks in place.

box-trap-starting

Below is a trap almost finished using a natural reverse wrapped yucca leaf cordage – just like we did in the episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS.

box-trap-almost

Here the trap is finished with the trigger set.  Now, let’s discuss the trigger system that I use with this trap.  It’s awesome AND simple!

box-trap-finished

 

 

THE TRIGGER

illustrating-trigger

This trigger system is very simple and is in essence a double trip line.  There is a pretty cool trick to making the trigger stick.  I use a pencil below to illustrate:

First, cut a slice in the middle of the trigger stick that is about 1/2 of the way through.  The saw from a multitool works perfect for this.

trigger-cut-one-side

Now, turn over the stick, move 1/2 inch down and make another cut 1/2 way through on the opposite side.

trigger-cut-both-sides

Then, with your thumbs at each cut, firmly snap the stick in half.

trigger-snapped

Nine times out of ten the stick will snap as shown above with 2 perfectly mated notches.  This completes your trigger stick.  The only remaining step is to tie two thin trip lines to one half of the trigger stick.  I typically tie them around the top of the bottom half.

trigger-tied

The other ends of the trip lines should be tied to the back 2 corners of the box trap – in this case, an egg crate.

trap-egg-crate

Now, assemble the trigger stick and prop up the front of the box.  You can see that the two trip lines are impossible for a small game animal to avoid when trying to get the bait that is located toward the back of the trap between the trip lines.

egg-crate-set

In the episode when we caught the quail, we used rose hips as bait and thin yucca fibers as trip lines.  The trip lines don’t have to be very strong because the trigger stick is very sensitive.

box-setting

 

CONCLUSION

The basic principle of this trap design can be applied in all types of environments, both urban and wilderness.  Use your creativity when it comes to cages – even a cardboard box will work!  Innovation is one of your most important survival skills!

creek-stewart-bug-out-book

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Paracord Survival Net

survival-fish-net-close

One of my favorite skills of the entire 1st Season of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS was when Zach, Opie, Joe and I made a paracord survival net and used it in conjunction with a hand built rock weir to catch fish in a Tennessee river valley.

Methods of catching fish similar to this have been around for centuries so I take no credit for the concept.  In fact, remnants of stone fishing weirs still exist all over the world today.  A “WEIR” is simply a word that mean an obstruction in the water to help guide the fish where you want them.

Below is a well preserved ancient stone weir in China (more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-Heart_of_Stacked_Stones)  Pretty awesome, right?

ancient-w

photo credit: http://thescuttlefish.com/category/art/page/6/

Below is a less extravagant Native American stone weir in Wabash County, IN.  Stone weirs were literally used across the globe to funnel fish moving down stream into basket or nets, much like we did in the episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS.

s-w-i

photo credit: http://americanindianshistory.blogspot.com/2013/05/native-american-fish-weirs.html

The Choke Point

Opie, Zach, Joe and I were able to find a perfect choke point in the river upstream from where we were camped to give this ancient time-tested method of catching fish an honest shot.  The river formed a natural choke point that allowed us to build a double layer stone weir with only a few hours of hard labor.  Stones were plentiful and readily available so it seemed like the perfect plan.

The Net

The plan was to funnel fish through the weir into a net – EXCEPT WE DIDN’T HAVE A NET.  The most time consuming part of this process was hand weaving our own net from scratch.  We did this using paracord.  Paracord is awesome stuff.  It has 7 inner stands that are perfect for net weaving.  These inner strands can be effortlessly pulled from the outer sheath – called GUTTING paracord.

paracord-7-strand

gutted-paracord

Once we ‘gutted’ some paracord, it was now time to start weaving the net.  It’s not difficult, but it is time-consuming!  We decided to make a circular shaped net that we could fit into the funnel portion of our weir.  I made the frame by wrapping a stout and flexible vine around itself in a circular shape.  I’ve made nets that are circular in shape and also ones that are long and flat.  The long and flat ones are gill-net style nets that are meant to be stretched across a stream or river.  These are much larger and more time consuming.

The knots I use are very simple.  The first knot, called a Lark’s Head, fastens the paracord strands to the frame.  You can see this knot in the photo below.

survival-dip-net-0

In the case of a circular dip net, these paracord strands are tied all the way around the frame about 1″ apart.  Below is a photo showing 3 strands fastened using a Lark’s Head knot.

survival-net-step-1

The next step is to tie (using a simple granny overhand knot) the inner strand of one hanging pair to the inner strand of the neighboring hanging pair and do this all the way around the frame.

survival-net-step-2

Once an entire circle has been made all the way around the frame you can move to the next row of knots, then the 3rd, etc…

survival-net-step-3

Below are some photos from one of my courses at Willow Haven Outdoor of students making both circular dip nets and flat gill nets.  These photos really help to illustrate the stages of net making.

Below, Lisa is working on her second row of overhand knots.

dip-net-survival-2

Below, Justin starts the 3rd row of a very ambitious gill net project!

flat-1

Kevin just finished his first row on his gill net.

IMG_2196 paracord-survival-fish-net

Lisa, just finishing the 1st step of tying all the strands on with Lark’s Head knots.

paracord-survival-net

Lisa, working her way around with overhand knots.

survival-dip-net-1

Lisa in the photos above made an awesome handled dip net that she left behind at Willow Haven.  (Lisa – I’m still hanging onto it your you !!!!)  Below are a couple photos of her finished dip net.

dip-net-survival-paracord

creek-edge-net

Here’s a shot of me working on our net during FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS.  Patience is NOT my best virtue and this skill is certainly an exercise in PATIENCE and DETAIL work.  Notice how we have suspended the net frame with paracord so that we can work all the way around while it is hanging.

creek-net

Below is a photo of Zach, Opie, Joe and I stacking our double layer stone weir.  Notice how each weir funnels the fish exactly where we want them to go in a DOWNSTREAM direction.

making-survival-weir

Below is a photo of the finished system for you to study.  The first weir is basically an insurance policy.  Only the 2nd weir has a net at the choke point.

double-weir

CONCLUSION

Hopefully these extra detailed photos and descriptions make this skill easier to understand and practice at home.  Like I said earlier, it’s not difficult but it is time consuming.  Expect to spend several hours weaving a dip net like we did on the show.  If you’re like me, you’ll be tempted to rush.  Resist the urge, as the quality of the net will suffer if you do.

 

creek-stewart-bug-out-book

 

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

How to Field Dress & Butcher a Rabbit

rabbit-hands

When my grandfathers were my age, they went through the field dressing and butchering process nearly every time they ate meat. The modern conveniences we enjoy today didn’t exist, nor did the commercial meat industry. Though I don’t necessarily enjoy the butchering process (and certainly not the killing part), it’s important to me. I feel connected to simpler times and, on some level, to my ancestors. It’s also a reminder that the meat I eat comes from a living, breathing animal. I never want to take that for granted.

I’ve written an article packed with photos over at ARTOFMANLINESS.COM titled How to Field Dress and Butcher a Rabbit.  If you’re interested in reading it, here’s the link: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/04/16/how-to-field-dress-and-butcher-a-rabbit/

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

PS-  For an excellent rabbit recipe, head over to GAMEANDGARDEN.com. Stacy has an amazing Fried Rabbit and Sage Buttermilk Waffles Recipe: http://gameandgarden.com/cooking/fried-rabbit-and-sage-buttermilk-waffles/

The truth about eating insects: Can you eat bugs to survive?

We’ve all watched the scenes on survival television shows when the host chomps into the most disgusting bloated white grub for the sake of “survival.” Most of Western civilization cringes at the thought of it, while many in the East lick their lips in jealousy.

Eating insects for survival isn’t taboo for the majority of the world’s population. In fact, over 1,000 different insects are eaten by 80 percent of the world’s nations. This comes as no surprise if you’ve ever been to an Asian street market. Eating insects is so common that a word even exists to define it – entomophagy. With a scientific sounding name like that, it must be legit.

Like most reading this article, I have zero interest in eating grasshoppers for lunch today. However, as a survival instructor, it’s a topic that comes up rather frequently and one that warrants discussion.

plated-hoppers

All primitive cultures I’ve studied, including Native American Indians, ate insects. All primitive cultures still in existence still eat them as well.  In survival, all edibles are fair game, and I wouldn’t hesitate for one second to eat creepy crawlies when starvation is the alternative. I had an uncle who ate insects while held capture in the Korean war. He ate other unspeakable things that kept him alive as well.

Insects may sound gross at this moment. That’s because you’re not starving. Perspective is the first to change when hunger sets in. Things you’d never consider as food start looking edible. In the case of insects, not only are they edible, many taste good and are incredibly nutritious.

Believe it or not, most insects are edible. There are, however, some major classes that are more popular than others. Beetles rank in at No. 1. Caterpillars, bees, ants, wasps, cicadas, grasshoppers, termites, locusts, crickets, larvae and grubs fall closely behind. Insects are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and fats. They are surprisingly comparable to beef and fish in the amounts of these nutrients.

I’ve personally eaten a variety of unknown beetle grubs (raw and cooked – the cooked ones taste like bacon fat), crickets, larvae, earthworms (which taste like chicken skin cooked), bees and bee larvae, ants and snails.  I’ve found all of them to be surprisingly good.  It really is a mental challenge more than anything.

Regardless of what’s shown on television, there are some basic guidelines that should be observed when dining on insects in the wild.

Guideline No. 1: Avoid brightly colored insects. Typically, bright colors are warning signs in nature. This is no exception when it comes to insects. A brightly colored insect is nature’s way of saying back off. Choose insects with natural earth tones if given the choice.

Guideline No. 2: Avoid hairy insects. Hairy insects can irritate the mouth and throat. Oftentimes, hairs can also be disguised as stingers. It’s best to avoid insects that appear to be fuzzy or hairy.

Guideline No. 3: Avoid smelly and pungent insects. Scent is another natural warning. If the insect stinks or sprays some kind of stinking liquid, then avoid it all together.

Guideline No. 4: Cook all insects. Though some insects can be consumed raw, it’s always best to cook them (and any other wild game). Many insects contain parasites, and cooking can put your mind at ease. Cooking also softens hard shells and helps to eliminate the “ick” factor of squishy guts.

Guideline No. 5: Avoid insects that feed on poisonous plants. Snails and slugs are notorious for dining on poisonous mushroom and fungi.  While they themselves are edible, the stuff in their system might not be and could end up causing you problems.  The solution is to starve them for a day or so or purge them on other edible plants.  Don’t take any chances.  The calorie reward isn’t worth the risk.

Humans can survive for over three weeks without food. In fact, it is our least important survival priority. Shelter, water and fire are all more important. Survivors are opportunists and should never turn down an easy snack, even if it’s a cricket. Gathering food in a survival scenario is oftentimes a collection of many different sources, and the occasional insect could very well be a part of that mix.

Remember, it’s not IF, but WHEN.

creek-stewart-survivalist

 

How to Make a Primitive Funnel Fish Trap that keeps on giving.

Passive trapping versus active hunting is almost always preferred in a survival scenario.  Not only does trapping typically require less energy, but it also enables one to focus on other important survival tasks such as shelter, fire, water, foraging and signaling.  Passive fish traps are among some of the oldest documented relics from indigenous cultures all over the globe.  Stone weirs built many hundred years ago in rivers and low tide areas still exist today.  Funneling fish for easier capture was a strategy used to put food on the table in almost every primitive culture.  While different trap designs exist, there is one design that seems to be universal – the woven funnel trap.  Whether made from bamboo in the wetlands of Asia, reeds on the coast of New Zealand or grapevine in the forests North America the funnel basket trap varied only slightly in design across multiple continents and cultures.  This speaks to its effectiveness in the field and I can confirm first hand that it is one of the most effective primitive methods for putting fish in the frying pan.  Below is one method I use to build a classic Primitive Funnel Style Basket Fish Trap.

catfish-in-trap

There are essentially two parts to the funnel basket trap: the body and the inverted cone cap.  The concept (as can be seen by the schematic below) is simple.  Lured by the scent of bait, the fish enter the main trap body through the inverted cone shaped cap.  Once inside they aren’t smart enough to figure out how to get back out.  It’s not at all uncommon to catch other types of water critters in these traps as well including crayfish, crabs, shrimp and even small turtles.

basket-trap-schematic

It all starts with building the main trap body, which is typically in the shape of large cone.  The size is based on the type of fish you’re attempting to catch.  I’ve had great success with traps that measure 4-5’ long and the main body opening in the 20-24” range.  To build the main body framework you’ll need 7 to 11 small saplings a little longer than your intended main body trap length.  The main body must have an odd number of ribs.  This is necessary for the over/under weaving pattern that we’ll discuss later.  The number you use isn’t important.  I normally use 7.

willow-staves

If you have cordage then this process will be easier.  In this example I’ve used willow bark cordage exclusively.  During the spring and summer months you can easily strip the bark from willow saplings in long strips.  These strips make perfect cordage for lashing together a funnel trap.

willow-bark-stripped-on-sapling

willow-bark-stripped

I start by lashing one end of my willow staves around a stick about 12” long x 2” in diameter.  This keeps the staves in a nice uniform circle.  Then, using a piece of grapevine and some willow bark I create a hoop to form the opening for the main body and quickly tie it to the inside of the other end of the willow staves.  This helps to create the main cone shape to the trap body.  The hoop will be removed after the trap is about ¼ woven.

base-lashed

base-lashed-bottom

grapevine-hoop

frame-hoop

Now is time for weaving.  I’ve used all kinds of different materials for weaving traps.  It really comes down to what is available.  In this example I start with some left over willow bark and then move to some cattail leaves.  I finish it with a variety of grapevine and Virginia creeper vine.  I’ve even used long pieces of grass before.  In some environments and seasons it can be difficult to find enough of what you need so it doesn’t have to be entirely woven from the same material.  Mine often are not.  The weaving pattern is simply an over/under pattern repeated.  When I weave in a new piece I normally overlap the previous one by at least one rib.  It’s important to pull everything nice and snug.

grapevine

trap-one-quarter-side-back

trap-one-quarter-top

trap-three-quarters

trap-three-quarters-inside

Once you get about ¼ done with the trap you can pull out the grapevine hoop at the top and the weaving will go much, much faster.  The hoop is just to hold the shape temporarily while you get started.  You can expect the weaving process to take at least 1-3 hours, depending on the size of the trap.  You can extend the length of the trap if you wish by shoving in longer ribs alongside the existing ones and continuing to weave.

When you come to a finishing point, simple lash the last three wraps together in a few spots with some willow bark or cord and trim off the jutting ribs about 1 inch above the rim and the body portion of the trap is finished.  It’s now time to weave the cone which will form the cap/entrance of the trap.

cone-top-lashed

trap-done-lashed-top

The easiest way to form the cone/cap of the trap is to stick an odd number of stakes (ribs) in the ground to form a cone shape.  The bottom (smaller hole) of the cone should be large enough for your target fish to fit through.  In this case I’ve made mine about 4 inches in diameter.  The top (larger hole) should be right around the same diameter of the open mouth of the trap body you’ve just woven.  This cone will be a cap for the trap body and you want the two larger holes to mate up nicely.

cone-sticks-in-ground

Once you have the cone shape staked in the ground, it’s time to start weaving again.  I prefer smaller vines over larger hard to manage ones.  The ones in this example are about ¼ inch in diameter.  Weave them to the very top of the cone shape and lash them to finish it off just like the end of the body.

cone-side-view-not-finished-1\

cone-side-view-not-finished

cone-side-view

cone-finished-topview

Pull the cone from the ground and trim off any protruding ribs from the top and bottom holes.

cone-pulled-out-of-ground

cone-trimmed

This concludes all of the hard work.  Now, the trap is ready to be baited and set over and over again.  This is a self sustaining trap.  Each time something is caught, the inedible and unusable parts such as the intestines and some organs and bones are used to bait the trap again to catch more food.  Each caught fish provides food and future bait.  I’ve found that native fish parts and pieces produce much better results than store bought items such as chicken livers, bread or peanut butter.  All animals prefer to eat what they naturally would.

As you can see from the photos, the cone shape is inverted to cap the larger opening of the trap body.  Fish can easily swim inside but don’t have the logic and reasoning skills to find their way back out.  After baiting, I tie the cone cap on in three spots to ensure it doesn’t come loose.

finished-front

finished-front-angle

I’ve found it’s a good idea to contain the bait inside of something rather than just random tossing it inside the large trap body.  I’ve used all kinds of methods.  I’ve created little bait balls wrapped in a scrap piece of t-shirt and tied it hanging from the inside.  I’ve also used little wire cages.  Pinecones are a good primitive solution.  You can wrap and stuff your bait inside the stiff pinecone bodies and it keeps the bait in one place.  Then, this ‘bait ball’ can be hung from the back of the trap.  Using this method, fish have to come inside to get the bait rather than nibble it through the sides when it’s free-floating randomly inside the trap body.

pinecone-hanging

Now, it’s time to set the trap.  I don’t personally like getting in water when I don’t need to so I set this trap by tying it off to a stake or tree near the water’s edge and simply throw it a few feet off shore.  These traps will often float so you may need to toss one or two big rocks inside to weigh it down.  I had to do that to this one.  For bait, I sacrificed a small bullfrog and smashed the bits and pieces of him into the pinecone (except I kept the legs for dinner).

american-bullfrog-1

trap-floating

I checked the trap early the next morning and had a small bluegill.  I gutted it and kept the meat for dinner.  I stuffed and wrapped the guts, fins and head into the pinecone bait ball and threw the trap back in.  Some of the frog was still left over but the fresh scent is necessary.  Later that day I caught a larger bluegill.  I repeated the gutting and bait ball process.  The next morning I checked the trap again and found a large catfish.  Honestly, I’m not even sure how this monster wiggled its way into the trap.  His head was almost as big as the entry hole.  I didn’t set the trap a third time but you can see by the gut pile next to the catfish that there is plenty of bait to do so.  Like I mentioned, this is a self-sustaining trap.  It will keep giving and giving and is an amazing way to passively gather food in a survival scenario when saving calories is imperative.  I’ll choose passive trapping over active hunting all day long.

bluegill-first-small

bluegill-trap

catfish-in-trap

catfish-gutted

Below is a photo of Kevin from my SurviVacation II course with the first basket trap he ever made.  It’s a monster and he also caught a bluegill in an overnight set.  Experience isn’t necessary but patience is.  He spent several hours making sure it was woven well.  It’s important to pay careful attention to detail when weaving the trap.  Every fish inside counts – even the ones only 2” long.  A 2” fish can lead to a 10” whopper but the trap must be well made in order to catch even the smallest fish and crayfish.  This is one skill you just can’t rush.

kevin-trap

 

If you like learning primitive skills like this one, consider reading my latest book The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide which can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Unofficial-Hunger-Games-Wilderness-Survival/dp/1440328552

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

Creek

5 Non-GMO Edible Plants In Your Back Yard : Eat Weeds, Not Chemicals

If given the choice of eating naturally grown veggies or those that have been unnaturally genetically modified to withstand massive doses of pesticides, I think any rationally minded human would go the natural route. The proponents of GMO foods are fighting against GMO labels on food products for that very reason – they know people don’t want to put that crap in their body.

I wonder what new disease, condition or allergy will surface this week? As the human body adapts to ingesting and absorbing more chemical products and GMO foods than ever before, cancer continues to skyrocket and new wacky conditions rear their ugly face in the children of a chemical- and GMO-induced generation.

So where is a good place to look for chemical-free and GMO-free fresh veggies this time of year? Your back yard!

Information is power. Not only could wild edible plants help to save your life in a survival scenario, but they can also be used to supplement meals at home, involve the whole family in hunting and gathering exercises and reduce the weekly food budget.

Below are five very common wild edible plants that are easy to identify and easy to gather. And, they won’t wage war against your body.

Dandelion: Taraxum officinale

I’ve never met someone who can’t positively ID dandelion. This common weed is one of my favorite wild edible plants of all time. It is also incredibly versatile. The blooms, buds, leaves and roots are all edible. The blooms and buds are best when batter fried. The greens are excellent prepared as a potherb like spinach but also make a welcome addition to any fresh salad. They sell for several dollars a pound at a local organic food store. Don’t you dare buy them! The older leaves can be bitter, so the young spring greens make better salads. The roots can be peeled, sliced and cooked like boiled carrots. Unless you treat your yard with weed killers or live in the desert, you’ll have no problem gathering dandelions in spring and summer.

For more photos of this GMO-free food visit WillowHavenOutdoor.com/dandelion.

Chickweed: Stellaria media


Chickweed is a delicious wild edible green. Sailors used to store in on ships to supplement their diets to prevent scurvy because it’s rich in vitamin C. The leaves and stems are the edible bits. They can be added raw to salads but are also delicious when added to stir fries and pasta dishes. Chickweed loves backyards. Find it along fence rows, rocks and concrete walls. It grows low to the ground in dense mats. The stems can sometimes have a reddish hue and it grows one thin line of ‘hair’ down each stem. Chickweed sap is clear.

For more photos of this GMO-free food visit WillowHavenOutdoor.com/wild-edible-chickweed.

Garlic mustard: Alliaria petiolata

Garlic mustard is an invasive weed and prevalent in much of the United States. It is a biennial flowering plant, which means it grows two years. The first year it grows as a low forming rosette of leaves and stems. The second year it grows tall (3-4 feet) and blooms. The leaves are edible both years and make excellent flavor additions to a variety of dishes. It has a heavy garlic taste and flavors other cooked greens and soups very well. It has heart-shaped, deeply veined leaves. It also has an amazing ability to photosynthesize even in very cold temperatures. Garlic mustard is one of the first wild edibles to pop up in the spring and can even be found in mild winter months.

For more photos of this GMO-free food visit WillowHavenOutdoor.com/wild-edible-garlic-mustard.

Wild violet: Viola species

Want to make any fresh salad or dessert look really fancy? Add in some wild purple violet blooms. They even have a sweet floral flavor. The blooms brushed with egg white and dusted in sugar are as good as any candy I’ve ever had. The heart shaped leaves are edible as well and can be added raw to fresh salads. Wild Violets love to grow in slightly sunny and moist wooded areas, but I’ve found them right in the middle of my lawn before as well.

For more photos of this GMO–free food visit WillowHavenOutdoor.com/wild-edible-wild-violets.

Wild bull thistle: Cirsium species

The bull thistle may look like a formidable foe, but in fact is one of the most substantial wild edibles available. Like Garlic mustard, it is a biennial plant. The first year produces a big round rosette of prickly toothed leaves. A tall stalk grows the second year and is adorned with purple puffer-fish looking blooms. In this second year I call the Bull Thistle “the cactus of the Midwest” because it is protecting a vital resource – water. The thick juicy core of the Bull Thistle is not only edible, but also lush with water. It has been called “survival celery” because of its texture and refreshing fluids. The root becomes too hard and fibrous during the second year growth but is an excellent root vegetable during the first year – especially in spring and fall when the large tap root is packed with nutrients. Cook it like a potato or parsnip – boiled, baked or fried. It is one of the rare wild edible plants with enough substance to be filling and serve as a full survival meal.

For more photos of this GMO-free food visit WillowHavenOutdoor.com/wild-edible-bull-thistle.

The knowledge to identify, gather and prepare wild edible plants is not only a fun hobby, but also a step toward food independence. Being 100-percent dependent on someone else for 100-percent of your food is 100-percent insane.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

How to Raise Backyard Chickens

If anyone is interested in a quick Backyard Chickens Primer, check out my guest article at: ART OF MANLINESS

In this post I cover the basics of getting started with Backyard Chickens, or as I refer to them – My Lovely Lady Lumps.

 

Full article at: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/03/26/how-to-raise-backyard-chickens/

Do you raise backyard chickens?  If so, I’d love to know what breed, or if you have a favorite breed?

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

Creek's new survival fiction novel, RUGOSA, now available on Amazon.com!