Building a Solar Still

by Jason Akers from The Self Sufficient Gardener is a blog and podcast about growing your own food and living off the land.

For some reason, when I was a kid, I made it my business to know as many bushcraft skills as I could possible learn. One of the first I picked up was actually from a young-adult fiction book called Deathwatch. In the book, the protagonist is being pursued through the desert and must rely on his survival knowledge to evade and finally dispatch his pursuer. One of the things that allowed the book’s hero to do this was a device called a solar still from which he “made” fresh water. The book did an inadequate job of describing the still so I was forced to beg and plead my uncle (a member of the ANG) out of a copy of the military’s survival manual.

As I held those pages in my hand reading about how to build a solar still I knew immediately that I had learned one of the most valuable survival skills possible.

A solar still is nothing as magical as perhaps stories of my childhood makes it seem. Simply put, it is a hole in the ground with a cup at the center and bottom of the hole. Over the hole plastic is draped and a small rock is placed in the center. The plastic is secured at the edges. Newer versions actually have a drinking tube from the cup to the user. Who has a drinking tube at a time like this?

The solar still works through properties of evaporation and condensation. The water in the air and in the ground evaporates and forms a mist which floats upwards. The plastic traps the mist and the water collects on the plastic until it becomes heavy enough to drip off the center and into the cup. This process can be amplified by placing moist plant material in the bottom of the hole as green plants transpire and release water through pores. If I understand correctly you can even place saltwater in the hole and the still will desalinate it as it evaporates.

It must be said that there are disadvantages to this system. For one, it takes a lot of energy to build one. For another, the water you gather is only in amounts that will barely keep you alive in most cases. In addition, it must stay put for some time (overnight is best) to allow it to work, so its hard to travel.

However, in dry climates or in areas where freshwater is hard to find the solar still provides a means to sustainable fresh drinking water.

Thank you for participating in the Survival Gear Bags Giveaway Contest!

Survival Gear Bags was generous enough to donate a bunch of really cool giveaways our giveaway contest. A HUGE thanks to everyone that sent me ideas.

I’m going to do my best to address each and every idea of the course of 2011 and the remainder of this year.

The voting page to vote on your favorite idea will be up as soon as I can manage it, hopefully tonight.

I’ll be announcing the random facebook fan drawing later today as well so if your not already a fan of Save Our Skills be sure to “like” us by clicking the button in the right hand column of the website or by going to our facebook page.

Episode 6: Raising Rabbits for meat with Marjory from Backyard Food Production

This week I was lucky enough to talk with Marjory Wildcraft from Backyard Food Production. If you haven’t picked up a copy of that DVD yet you really are missing out. The resources DVD that accompanies the product is worth the cost of the entire product.

I picked Marjoy’s brain about raising Rabbits for meat.

  • My rabbits might be the best meat source for the small homestead
  • What do you need to get started
  • % of feed you can grow vs store bought feed
  • how to select a variety
  • shelter and space needed
  • how doing your own butchering connects you with your food in a profound way

There is a lot more besides.

Also I owe everyone an apology, I cut off the last 2 minutes of this file, there was a software glitch. We recorded it again but it didn’t take.

At the end of the video Marjory mentioned that Rabbits are more than just meat, you can make fine hats out of their pelts, and they also make great dog food.

I hope everyone enjoys the interview. If there is more topics you would like to hear Majory cover she has agreed to do a follow up Podcast.


How to grow your own Shiitake mushrooms

Growing Shiitake mushrooms seems to be one project where a little bit of effort has a huge payoff. For a one time investment in some minimal equipment, a bit of foraging for wood, and a small amount of time you can have your own Shiitake mushrooms for years to come.

Unlike a lot of mushrooms, Shiitake’s dehydrate exceptionally well, which make them ideal for long term storage. In fact this is the most common way I see them sold.

I learned that most Shiitake Mushrooms available for purchase at stores are grown in a sawdust mix. This method of growing mushrooms diminishes both the taste and medicinal qualities of the mushroom, furthermore sun dried Shiitake mushrooms can yield up to 20,000 international units of vitamin D per serving vs 100 units if a dehydrator is used.

Again we see how growing your own food is not only an economical choice, but is also a higher quality end product.

I posted this article about how to grow Shiitake mushrooms to Jason Akers website at Jason has been a great contributor to save our skills with his great article on how to build a low budget top bar bee hive and his $10 cheese press.

Link How to grow shiitake mushrooms

How to use and maintain a chainsaw

Just a super quick post today about chainsaws. Sort of a halloween theme right? Well I suppose saws are more useful than chasing screaming children around a corn maze.

Like many people I spend a fair amount of time sawing dead fall and pruning every year. Previously I had always taken my saw to the dealer to get service done and to get my blades sharpened, however I am very interested in starting to learn how to do these myself.

I purchased a chain saw sharpening tool that attaches to the end of a dremel and I will be reviewing that in an upcoming video, so watch out for that.

eHow definitely has the best collection of videos on using and maintaining a chainsaw.

Keeping your saw maintained will greatly increase the lifespan of your saw, definitely worth the effort

How to use and maintain a chainsaw