Saving free range chickens

We just picked up eight hens from the chicken rescue. We were excited as these were ‘rescued’ from a free range chicken farm, so we figured they would be in pretty good condition. The thought of letting them live out their lives with the rest of our well looked after flock was nice. What a shock we got when we saw these hens! Okay perhaps not as bad a rescued battery farm hens, but considering these are from a free-range chicken farm we are appalled.

Ebola, the ongoing issue

The Ebola scare has not yet gone away, if anything it is getting more pertinent for Western society with the first case now officially declared in New York. We don’t know if it will hit our shores, and if it does how wide spread it will be. Ebola is not airborne and, at this stage, only spreads through bodily fluid. Of course this includes being momentarily airborne in the particles released by the body when people vomit or sneeze. What we do know is that some disease, someday will be widespread and detrimental to all the world’s population – including New Zealand.

Amazing Willow

Spring is in the air and the Willow trees are getting their first leaves. I have a love/hate relationship with willow. Willow likes moist soils and temperate climates and has a large and aggressive root system. It is due to this extensive and strong root system that willows can be so problematic. They are known to lift man-made structures (drainage systems, garden tiles and pathways).

What I love about willow is the many, many positive uses it offers. Willow wood is fabulous stuff and has been used for manufacturing things by humans since the earliest of times. The medicinal properties of willow are well known by many cultures across the world.

Tinder and kindling for a fire

Following on from my last fire blog, you should now have the basics right: the right amount of fuel ready and a good area cleared. Getting these basics right will get you a long way to having a successful fire. But there are a few more tricks that will help ensure you have a fire for survival and possibly cooking.

Using wood and shrub that is dead and preferably has had air circulating through it is better than wet, waterlogged or living branches. I don’t have a particular type of wood I favour, as it depends on where you are and what is available to you. But generally there is always something that is dry enough, even if it is something as simple as shredded bark.

Manuka as a medicinal plant

Wild foods not only provide free, nutritional food that bonds us closer to nature, many of them also have amazing medicinal purposes. Much of our modern medicine comes from knowledge gained from medicinal plants. Using medicinal plants instead of man-made pharmaceuticals is gentler on the body, cheaper for the wallet and potentially prevents you from getting adverse side effects.

Having said, that we are not advocating for ignoring medical advice or refusing modern medication.  We do recommend trying a natural approach first, for those ailments that don’t require urgent medical intervention. We also recommend gaining knowledge of medicinal plants for survival situations when there is no medical help available. New Zealand is fortunate to have the amazing Manuka growing freely.

Fire lighting basics

The secret to surviving in comfort is to be prepared.  While it is important to know how to make a fire from scratch and in all conditions, being prepared is the smartest thing you can do. In my case being prepared is always having some fire starters in my survival belt. Sure I know how to make a fire with almost nothing, but let me tell you that day in Te Urewera National Park with very little but tree bark to start my fire, the fire starters were great!

Real survival skills are not about being Rambo, they are about being smart, practical and well prepared. It is vital that you take a moment to gather your thoughts and use your resources that you have available to you for the greatest good. Because once they are gone or have been used frivolously you can wind up in big trouble. Always remember if what you are using doesn’t work, stop and think about why it’s not working and then adjust what you are doing.

Fire lighting

Fire is an essential part of being able to comfortably survive in most terrains. In some situations it can be the difference between life and death. While this sounds dramatic, the value of fire should not be underestimated. Over the next few weeks we will offer many tips on fires, how to build, light and use them.

But before that, let me share an experience I had during a hunting trip in Te Urewera National Park late last year. I like going to this magnificent part of the country for a hunt on a regular basis. I drove through Rotorua, it was a balmy 23 degrees. Arriving at my favourite spot near Lake Waikaremoana just after lunch, I set off into the bush. The weather was fine but a South Westerly wind was picking up and sinister clouds were gathering on the horizon. After three hours walking, the temperature had dropped considerably and it was spitting. Soon it was raining and within a short space of time it became a torrential down pour with a fierce South Westerly chucked in for good measure. I had to make some quick decisions.

Starting the journey with wild foods

Finding food and eating it can be a great pleasure in life, as well beneficial for your health and wealth. There are over 300 edible wild plants in New Zealand, with close to 200 of those being native. Then there are many plants which can be foraged in the wild, although they may be ‘escapees’ from cultivated gardens. It is not the lack of wild food that is the challenge for most of us. Not knowing what is edible and how to use or prepare the edible plants that is the challenge for many people.

Identifying and preparing locally, naturally grown wild food is a learning process that requires time and dedication. But it is a journey that is good for the body, good for the soul and good for the planet. It is a about the journey, not the destination. Follow the seasons, eat locally and reconnect with your innate ability to know what is good for you. If it seems overwhelming just remember that Lao Tzu said, “The Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

Will ebola be the one?

Ebola is on a lot of people’s mind at the moment. It is a pretty scary thought with a possible 50-90% mortality rate. We don’t know if it will spread and we don’t know if it will reach New Zealand shores. Probably not. But we pretty much do know that there will be a pandemic at some point in the future. All experts agree that it is not a matter of if, but rather when. So get prepared now and if Ebola hits you are better prepared. If Ebola does not become a pandemic, you will be better prepared for the next potential pandemic.

Although Ebola is a gruesome disease and has a high mortality rate, it is not thought to be airborne it is passed through bodily fluids. At this stage the disease is said to be non-contagious until the first symptoms appear (early symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, fever, chills and vomiting usually starting from between 2-8 days).

Clothing in a cold weather survival situation

New Zealand is advertised worldwide for its lovely climate, but the truth is it can get wet, cold and windy very quickly. Four seasons in one day is not unusual for this beautiful country. This kind of weather means you need to know about protection against exposure. Exposure (excessive heat loss or hypothermia) can rapidly become very dangerous. Protection against exposure includes shelters and fires but also a less often discussed method of clothing.