Are You Ready?

.  Good Morning!This is my third article about “Are you ready?”  Perhaps it’s just me — I do tend to worry a bit — but it seems to me that it might be a good idea to look ahead and see what might be around the corner.

As I’ve mentioned, with a drought in the south, flooding in the north and the flooding along our Mississippi Valley region, it might be a good idea to look ahead.  What would you do if the worst happened?  Would you be prepared?  Interestingly the last time I blogged about this topic, we had an incredible post from someone who was in Hurrican Katrina and so had lived through a time when preparedness was essential for survival.

I’ve asked her to come today and to post about Hurrican Katrina and all the things that were needed.  But in the meantime, I thought we’d have a look at another survival essential…fire.

Fire is needed for cooking of course, but as you know, in a survival situation, it is also needed for warmth.  Fire can also be a very needed element in keeping safe — i.e. fighting off animal like wolves.  I’m not so certain fires might keep bears away, but I loved this picture.

But how to make fire without matches.  Unless you are very well prepared, you might find yourself without matches.  I may not be able to teach you to start a fire in this article, but we can certainly go over the basics. I do believed that most Indian tribes used the drill and twisted it by hand or with their bow, the string  the bow wrapped around the drill or wood made into a rod.  At least this is what my studies show.

The rod would fit into a socket in a piece of wood.  Placed beneath this was some tinder that could easily catch fire.  The bow was held at right angles and was twisted, producing friction.  The motion also would pulverize the small particles of wood, which are there to catch fire.  The tinder would eventually begin to glow, meaning that it was ready to produce fire.  Of course there was a very human element involved in making fire.  If the bow wasn’t kept at an utter right angle with the wood, it would often slip, frustrating the person making the fire.  However, with practice, most Indians could start a fire within minutes.   Now once the wood was ready to ignite, it was important to add oxygen, thus one blew on the embers, putting dried grass or moss on the fire in order to get it to ignite.  Needless to say, the type of timber that one used was very important, also.  However, this isn’t the only way to make fire.

Late at night, one might not be able to find the exact tools needed to make a fire in the way mentioned above.  There was also the stone method.  This requires two needed things, which one should carry at all times:  1) flint — 2) lump or crystal with iron pyrites.  This kind of stone is available all over the US.  All that is needed to create fire with this method is striking the stones together.  Sparks will fly and one should have dried grass or dried moss available to catch those sparks, and by adding oxygen (blowing on the sparks) one can create fire.

OF course there are other ways of creating fire — one of the best is lightning.  But one doesn’t always have that available on a cold, snowy night.  It takes a great deal of practice, but it’s a skill that might become handy at some time or place.  The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts used to teach this skill and perhaps they still do.  It’s a skill worth practicing — even if you don’t see the use of it right now.  As the boy scout motto goes:  “Be prepared.”

I should also note that the Indian kept his fires small and as smokeless as possible.  He also scattered his ashes the next morning so as to prevent others from seeing exactly where he had been and what he was doing.  It was a safety precaution. The American Indian way was ingenious.

I will be gone most of the morning, so if you don’t hear from me until afternoon (Pacific Time) don’t be worried.  Now for my questions of you.  Have you ever had to make a fire without matches and if so, how did you do?  Camping stories would be most welcome, also.  There was a time when being without a hair dryer was “camping” for me.  But I’ve come a long way from there.

The story here to the left had quite a bit of camping stories in it.  The Spirit of the Wolf.  If you don’t have a copy, just go to Amazon and pick up your copy today.

Do come on in and let’s talk preparedness, camping and making a fire without matches…or whatever else you’d like to chat about today.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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17 thoughts on “Are You Ready?”

  1. Hi, Karen. I’m one of those crazy people who enjoy watching Survivor, and reading through your post today, I couldn’t help thinking about all the trials and tribulations the different castaways have had over the years with building fire. It really is essential for cooking and even drinking clean water, not to mention keeping warm.

    I think my favorite method is using a pair of glasses to filter sunlight into a hot spot. I can remember doing this with a magnifying glass as a kid. And since I wear glasses, I’ll always have them on hand. Doesn’t do much good in the middle of the night, but come morning, we’ve got a chance at making some flames.

  2. Thanks for asking to have me repost! I will repost as well add a little here. Reading your post today, what I have posted is more toward a “what if” we regressed in the economy more so than surviving a hurricane.
    Like I mention at the beginning of my repost, the only thing you need for any circumstance is survival skills and common sense. After that, everything falls into place.
    As far as for surviving a hurricane, if you are going to live next to the ocean, it is almost a guarantee you will have to face a hurricane, if not yearly in most locations. Learn the history of the area and how high storm surges got and choose a home well out of that radius. That will insure you have a home to come back to . . . in most cases.
    Other than that, insurance is also important. I couldn’t stress it enough to be covered for the inevitable. If you are going to live there, you have to be prepared for anything. With hurricanes coming annually, having disaster insurance is crucial. A lot of people had a wake-up call post Hurricane Katrina as well as insurance companies. Now, companies are putting in their clauses they will not pay for more than a certain percentage of the damage if the hurricane coordinates fall within a certain range. Be careful of this and have a backup plan if you are going to have a company like this. Having 50,000 in damage and only having 5,000 covered will put you in a world of hurt.
    Past that, preparedness does depend on your location. If you still wanted to live on the beach regardless of horror stories (common sense factor at a low unless fully prepared), then having a year supply of food or money tucked under the mattress will not help if its under a 20ft storm surge. Heeding warnings (good common sense) to leave the area as soon as they are issued will insure your safety, not to mention avoiding the days long trip it will take to get only hours away from the coast if you decide to leave with the rest of the procrastinators. Take what you will need to survive if worse comes to worse. Photos, important documents such as your house deed, birth certificates, insurance papers, utility bills or at least phone #’s, passports, marriage licenses, computers, etc. Not that you can get it all replaced… if your documents are not in an office in the same effected area. Many people lost deeds etc. because they trusted someone else to have hold their important documents, and when their archives go under water, paper becomes to mush and hard drives corrode from the salt. DON’T TRUST OTHERS TO TAKE CARE OF YOU! You must learn to fend for yourself!
    What most people don’t understand about a natural disaster is Help will come, but to the individual person who did not heed warning to leave, it is their own fault for being there and not having a plan of action to leave in case a major hurricane is headed their way. The Help, both personal and government, came at an amazing speed after Hurricane Katrina, but their concern was getting power and supplies to the hospitals, and any other care facility, as well as the utility companies and the emergency buildings. Then the help is stretched to locating people, unblocking roads, etc.
    I have to say even now, I’m getting chills just thinking about that time. Not because of the scare factor, but from the Power Of The People. Most people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast understood, thanked God for their lives, and got to work rebuilding. We not only worked day and night to get ourselves back on our feet, but extended our help to family, friends, and neighbors. Days later, many others from countless states came to help, but it also came at a price. With so many people there to help and see the destruction, it took residents a lot longer to get places and to do things. I am forever grateful for the people who stopped their own lives to come down, don’t misunderstand me. But, there comes a point, when you have to ask, is my presence really needed? Am I willing to work from sunup to sundown and then some for those people, or do I just want to sightsee? People who stayed home helped just as much, whether it was collecting items and sending it down, or raising money.
    Anyway, my point is to be prepared to take care of yourself. If you are stuck and “can’t” leave the area, ride with someone, get a bike, ride a horse, or start walking. Don’t depend on anyone else to take care of you but you.
    If you stay and your house stands, be prepared for no gas stations, no power to stores, no utilities for weeks, no access to a lot of roads for several days unless you have a really large truck with 4×4 drive and even these got stuck in surge water. In best case, leave. If you stay, have a water source, either water stored or water well. Generator for power and LOTS of gasoline (gotten well before hurricane season). Gas stations love to price gouge when supplies get short. Or they will cut the pump off at $20 and tell you to move along so everyone else lined up for miles can get gas too. MRE’s are great to have for storage but like I say in my repost, a couple of weeks of disaster is good to get through on stored food, but a economic depression, this could takes years or decades so common sense and survival skills are needed more so than a years supply of food.
    I could go on and on about this but I’ll end this here. You will get the understanding from my other post things to consider for any disaster.

  3. I can’t say I have ever tried to make a fire without matches but I can remember as a child my brother starting a fire with a magnifying glass. He was just playing around though.

  4. Hi Karen, We lost power for several days earlier this summer and were able to cope pretty well at home because we had emergency supplies of food, water, meds, matches, etc.
    If we ever had to relocate or were caught in a disaster away from home the situation would definately not be as cozy. In a strange way, the challenge of doing without can be a lot of fun, but only if you have the luxury of knowing it is for a limited time.
    I have recently been rereading the Little House books and they describe a lot of early survival skills. In The Long Winter, Pa laments the fact that everyone has become too progressive, depending on coal and kerosene and such, so I guess that idea has been around for a while. 🙂

  5. I would be ready for most things, but I think nothing can help when there is a Tornado. A town just north west of me in Ontario, called Goderich, was completely devastated by a Tornado Sunday night. Thousands of people are left homeless and people’s lively hoods are gone. Schools, churches, Clinics, everything is damaged or beyond repair. Sure people can rebuild, and it is hoped they have money in the back to help to do so, but in this economy I wonder how many of them have a little next egg..

    You can be ready for rain, snow or ice storms, power outages, and the like. But a Tornado is a completely different story. My heart goes out to my neighbors to the west of me and I will try to contribute were I can. Our government has deemed this a disaster site and aid will be available, but that could take weeks, even months to come about. The wheels of government turn very slowly…

  6. Luckily I don’t live near an ocean and where it could flood, but of course one never knows about anything for sure. As to making fire, I’ve seen them try on Survivor and it looks terribly hard. I live in the northeast and we don’t have a fireplace so in that respect there’s no way we could keep warm in winter. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to survive if something really catastrophic happens – I’ll leave that to the young!

  7. Hi Kay,
    Wow, this is certainly food for thought! I never got to be a Girl Scout growing up, but did lead a troop for my daughter for about 3 years. I learned all kinds of survival stuff during that time! LOL My co-leader was very good at it all–she’d been a Girl Scout her entire life and it all just came naturally to her. One thing I remember doing was making the “buddy burners” on metal coffee cans and using tuna cans inside them with a kerosene wick. We cooked bacon and eggs and french toast on those. Very ingenious! Thanks so much for a great post. No, I still wouldn’t know how to start a fire without a match. I think I need to learn that…
    Cheryl P.

  8. I think I’d have never made it in the wild west. Though I come from pioneer stock, I have a feeling that I’d have fallen off the covered wagon the first time they forded a stream and drowned.

    I’m not real tough. I really LOVE air conditioning.

  9. My repost from an early article (sorry a little late, had a doctor appointment):

    Having “survived” a few natural disasters in my 30 years, the biggest
    influence was Hurricane Katrina. My experience taught me that more matter how prepared you are, it really depends on your location. What’s that phrase when buying a house: Location! Location! Location!
    If you are talking being prepared for a natural disaster, a garden or house full of food under a hurricane surge is not going to help you at that moment in time. A person needs survival skills and a lot of common sense.
    Most of what is needed can be learned, but one should always learn to trust their instincts. Be prepared for the circumstances of your location.
    Since your post is not regarding natural disaster but an economic one, my family too has discussed our future in this country and I was intrigued by your post to hear that so many others are starting to see the danger our society will be faced with ‘when’ our economy crashes. Our background in a natural disaster has helped break down priorities and necessities.

    Things to Think About:

    Shelter: If you are renting, would your landlord be able to provide you further shelter if something drastic were to take place? Are you comfortable having someone else provide that kind of security for you and your family? (I will tell you that there was a lot of issues with this after Hurricane Katrina with so many homes destroyed and a lot of renters with no place to go) I would also stress renter’s insurance. So many people think that their personal property will be fine and trust that a landowner will keep their place in top notch. Doesn’t happen. Protect your own stuff!
    I know insurance wouldn’t help an economic crash, but until it does, insurance is the best for all other circumstances.
    For homeowners, if the economy was to fail, where is your property, would you be able to become self sustainable? Do you have insurance on your home and the things in it? Do you cover what natural disasters may come your way? Again, not for economic.

    Heat: If you are in cold climate, if you had no power, how would you keep warm? Do you have a fireplace or wood stove and access to wood? Propane heaters or a propane tank? Blankets, thick clothing?

    Water: I found that gathered water works in so many ways. My husband and I have bought plastic barrels to catch rainwater from our gutters. We currently have plans to use it for our garden and greenhouse, but if it came down to it, we would have water to flush toilets and clean with. It could also be used to drink if it is sterilized by boiling it or they do sell tablets you can put in water now to sterilize it. In a icestorm I was caught in for 2 weeks, we melted snow in buckets, caught dripping water from the melting snow on the roof, and even siphoned water from a nearby pond with a garden hose. It is also good to also have several gallons of drinking water stored. These do have to be replaced every so often. Nothing lasts forever. But for quick use in an emergency, they are good to have.
    But like I said at the beginning, to get through a hard time, most people need to learn survival skills and common sense to get them through. The depression lasted longer than a year. A year’s water supply would be nice, but let’s face it, no one has that kind of room. One other investment that we are looking to get one day (hopefully sooner than later) is a water well. It doesn’t require electricity to have. So if for some reason you didn’t have power, you still have water

    Food: a year’s supply is great and would help, but like said, the depression lasted longer than that and so will another economic hardship.
    Other countries that have fallen and still trying to pick themselves back up decades later. Start learning how to garden. Even though my grandparents had a farm and grew crops, I as an adult, still find myself completely ignorant to gardening in some aspects. Learning what you want to grow, how it grows, for how long, at what time, etc are essential to gardening. Then there is understanding what you can do with the produce once you have it, ie canning, drying, freezing, and storing. I do all of it. Self taught.
    There is tons of information everywhere that can teach you the life skills you need to know to be self sufficient. We live in a suburb so our space is limited, but we use our small amount of land the best possible way. All our trees are fruit trees. Also a good source of fresh produce and canning for later. If we had the land we would have livestock, unfortunately, we are limited to chickens. We have 2 layers and they keep my family of 4 quite fed with 2 eggs a day. We don’t eat a whole lot of eggs though so that amount suits us and they are very cheap to raise. They would also be a good source for meat and we have discussed future plans if we were close to the inevitable to get a rooster and raise chickens for the meat. Right now it’s not necessary. Also, learning how to game hunt is another way to keep your family fed. I also have collected lots of recipes, and I’m not really talking entree dishes, I’m talking, how to make salad dressing, ketchup, breads, tomato sauce, etc. Things that you know are easy to get now, but if you couldn’t get them, would you know how to make them?

    Medicine: Vitamins, cold meds, anti-fever, or any meds you need to survive until you are able to get some more. Over the counter meds are easier to stock up on, but if you don’t use a prescription drug as often or have leftovers, store them instead of throw them away, until they expire. Your health is the most essential and every decision or prevention made is based on your health. Keep yourself in mind when prepping. Don’t think you can go without for the sake of the family. The family needs you to be healthy in order to help them survive. Becoming a liability or sickly will not help anyone.

    Light: Not a big issue but one to think about. Daylight of course, but if you didn’t want to go to bed in the winter when the days were terribly short, do you have lanterns? Kerosene? Gas lanterns and propane? Candles and matches? Do you know how to make candles or melt down old candles to make new ones? Flashlights and batteries?

    Money: Money will never be understood or predicted. Your $1000 can be worth nothing tomorrow. It could be nothing but paper like the Confederate money after the Civil War, or lose considerable value, or people may want to trade gold like the Cali Gold Rush years, etc etc. It will basically come down to your ability to trade. What do you have to offer that someone else would want? Not everyone in the city can have a farm, so you as a city dweller, what would you be able to give the farmer that he couldn’t get? That way everyone wins. Do you sew? cook? clean? mechanic? Mr. Fix it? Craft? What service or product could you provide to sell for the things you need? THAT will be what runs this country. No money value.

    Protection: Absolutely agree with this. People get desperate in desperate times. No one should allow themselves to become a victim because they were afraid of thinking of the possibility. Have a way to protect yourself: gun, knives, taser, pepper spray, baseball bat, a piece of wood with nails stuck through the end, bean bag gun, pellet gun. There are so many things that could be used. The idea is to know where it is if a situation called for it and how to use it.

    Information: Do you know addresses? Phone numbers? What if you didn’t have a cell phone, and for some this would be a very hard time for them!
    Our society has become so dependent on them that its scary to realize the “what if” If you didn’t have a computer, where would your life go? Do you have books, information on survival, info on life skills, or how to fix a machine you own but don’t have the manual, info on anything it is you think you would need in the time where you may not have it easily at the end of your fingertips? We are blessed in this day in age to have it and it is taken advantage of and not appreciated, so “what if” we didn’t have the WWW anymore? Do you have a battery operated or turn crank radio in case you needed information you couldn’t get normally from the outside world?

    Recycle: I lot of people don’t think about it because it’s so easy just to go to the store and buy another one, but what if the store didn’t stock as much as it does? Could you use items in your house for other purposes?
    Example, I cut the bottom off an emptied milk jug to use as a starter planter for my seeds for my garden. I start them early in the planter and then transfer them when they are bigger. The tops can be used as funnels (same for 2 liter bottles). Fabric: it can be used over and over again until it falls apart for so many things. And if you know how to sew, you’ve got an advantage because you can make anything you need like bags, curtains, make hats and gloves from old shirts, slings, scarfs, etc etc. I also use containers and buckets from products. When we bought cat litter, I save all the buckets because buckets are always a good thing to have around a house. Jars I save because you can always use them to organize anything from bathroom and office supplies to cooking supplies, or hold old grease, or for my boys’ sake, to catch bugs! Going back to the recipes, you need a container to put those items in, so old jars or plastic squeeze bottles are always good things to keep on hand. Squirt bottles from cleaning supplies are fun to save too and when washed out really well, are good toys for kids. But containers have TONS of uses, not just for bulking your trash can.

    And this is not a priority but a “Think About” because I know there are so many people out there:

    Entertainment: Let’s say there is no more internet, no phones, no tv.
    Most people would be saying “My life is over!” because they don’t anything other than that. When my family and I weren’t gathering water or wood, there was a LOT of down time. We learned REAL quick how boring it can get without a hobby or something to do. Have board games, cards, books, drawing pencils, lots of batteries for things that would require it, a hobby like crocheting or crafting, reading or writing, etc. Most of a person’s time will be taken up by trying to “survive” the situation, but what about the moments where you don’t have something to occupy the boredom?

    These are my opinions and experiences. Just thought I’d give some more Food For Thought and I’m so glad this has been addressed because so many have not considered “WHAT IF”

  10. How about 5.9 earthquake in VA. Wikipedia says normal hi is 4.6. Who’d of thunk. My rescue dog wants to go back to Greece, particularly as THEY are talking hurricane too.

  11. I live in earthquake country (E. Calif) and I was amazed to hear about the east coast getting a 5.8! Wow! That’s a good one. Since we do live in this high prone quake area, we have been prepared for years. Most of the time we forget that we have these things put away. But periodically we do go through them and check the “use before” date. That’s when we have a picnic. Using all the things up before that date. We try to keep flint or a dozen or so cigarette lighters on hand. We have tried the “old Indian trick” ways and even for Indians—it’s hard.

  12. Well, my morning turned into afternoon and then late afternoon and then…

    Sorry I’ve been out of touch. I have read over your emails and want to thank you all for coming here today — please forgive for my not answering individually.

    Corri — Wow! Wow! And double Wow! Having lived through something like this — I want to actually read again all you wrote. And thanks for coming here and reposting.

    Again, wow! I’ll be doing a drawing by the way to give away a book — my way of hopefully making up for not being here today.

    Have a super evening, everyone!

  13. Kay, terrific post. We are fairly prepared here in Southern California earthquake country. I cannot begin to imagine facing down a hurricane or tornado. Yikes! …I am sure we learned how to start a fire at girl scout camp but I don’t think I ever did it. We are having a big family campout soon -our son in law has never been! But I’m certain we will bring matches lol .

  14. Great suggestions, Corri. Experience as always is the best teacher.

    Karen, I have started fires without matches or lighters. Have tried the fire drill, but it isn’t as easy as people make it sound. We have a small flint and steel setup that works pretty well and fits on a key chain. It is a small cylinder of flint material and a metal striker. With good tinder it works pretty well. Back in college (way back in college) when lenses for your glasses were glass not plastic, I used mine to start campfires. It took no time at all to find the focal distance and concentrate the light beam enough to have things flame up. We keep zip lock bags of drier lint in our hiking packs. It works as great starter.

    I am a Red Cross volunteer. When the tornadoes cam through earlier this year and I was called to work a shelter, the first thing I did was load my car. Children’s books, puzzles, games, puppets, coloring books and crayons as well as my small TV with the built in DVD and a stash of videos. Boredom can cause many problems. Keep them busy and things will go a bit more smoothly. Of course that was just for the short term to keep the kids distracted and let the parents deal. If it were our family and for the long term, we have enough to keep us busy for the next 100 years : )

    Thanks for another helpful and thought provoking post.

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