Welcome to Project Gridless!

Hello! Project Gridless is dedicated to off the grid living, foraging / hunting for food, traditional survivor skills and modern tips for off the grid living. To join Project Gridless and become a contributor email cardiotrek at gmail dot com.
Sign up for archery lessons in Toronto by visiting CardioTrek.ca

Learn more about archery in Toronto by visiting the Toronto Public Archery Range Facebook page
or by joining the Canadian Toxophilite Society.

It's not about the bow, with Cameron Hayes

I particularly enjoyed watching the video further below which includes a few bowhunting / archery tips.

Cameron Hayes also has other archery tips, geared towards bowhunters who prefer to hunt with compound bows, available on his YouTube channel.

For compound bow archery lessons in Toronto visit CardioTrek.ca to book lessons. Compound bow not included, you will need to get your own, because the bow needs to be set to your draw length and preferred draw weight.

In the video he really emphasizes it isn't really the issue of what kind of bow you use, rather it is more important that:

  • You are happy with the equipment you are using.
  • He does recommend a longer axle to axle bow because they are more forgiving in terms of accuracy.
  • He also recommends using a bow string that does not stretch (or barely stretches, because technically all strings stretch a little).
  • That you practice regularly at double the distance you plan to hunt at. eg. 60 yards if you plan to be hunting at 30 yards or less.
  • That you practice regularly, in general - even if it is only one round per day sometimes, it matters more than you are still practicing out of habit.
  • He favours a heavier poundage than necessary because his goal is to have the arrow go right through the animal.
  • The archer should be able to pull their bow back straight - without using a upward or downward shoulder angle to pull the bow back to full draw. (Using a weird angle on the shoulder is bad for your shoulder.)
  • Practice often to shore up your confidence that when you do get an animal in your sights, you "know" it is going to die.


The Survivor Bow during a Nuclear Apocalypse

For fun I decided to Google the words:

archery nuclear apocalypse usefulness

And then I clicked image search. At the time I did this I got a number of different results, several of the images that popped up which were my own website - Project Gridless, proving that I have talked previously on this topic. Some of them were even photos of myself doing winter archery practice.

One of the other things that popped up frequently in the Google image search was the survivor bow made by SAS. Also known as:

The SAS Tactical Survivor Bow.

Unfortunately I have also shot the SAS Tactical Survivor Bow before, and I can tell you that it is a cheap piece of crap as far bows go. Yes, it is a handy little folding bow that is fun to shoot for practice - but I would not use it for hunting and I certainly would not use it during a survival situation. But the arrow rest on it is horribly designed and hurts its accuracy, the release is sluggish which hurts arrow speed (the company claims to get high arrow speeds on their website, but having shot their bows multiple times I would say that their claims are made up nonsense) and accuracy, and the ultimate result is a bow that is really only accurate at 15 yards or less.





Note - The 5th photo shown here is not the SAS Tactical Survivor Bow. It is the Primal Gear Compact Folding Bow, which suffers from many of the same design problems as the SAS. Having shot both bows, I can tell you they are both cheap and suffer a loss of accuracy due to poor design. I wouldn't recommend either of them as a survivor bow.


The next problem is the arrows.

The arrows that come with the SAS Tactical Survivor Bow are 2 piece arrows that screw together in the middle. This effects the spine of the arrows (the flexibility of the arrow) and also the FOC point of the arrow (effectively the centre of gravity of the arrow). Taken together these two factors makes the arrows less accurate.



The bow and kit sells for $199.95 currently, so it is cheap, so it is to be expected that the results should be similarly dismal, as cheap things are often dismally bad. Basically the bow is designed to be compact, but in doing so it has sacrificed accuracy with the horrid arrow rest, the sluggish limbs, the badly spined arrows, and FOC is off. That combination makes it extremely tricky to achieve any kind of long range accuracy with this bow. At 15 yards or less, it is accurate enough, but at 20 yards or more you would be better off using a different bow.

The SAS Tactical Survivor Bow does make a decent and solid beat stick however, so when in doubt just beat your enemies with it.

The SAS bow thus would be handy for shooting ducks, rabbits and small game if you can get close to them - but horrible at hunting any larger game where you have difficulty getting within 15 yards of the critter.

Another thing that comes up frequently is:

Compound Bows

Both in the traditional compound bow variety and also the Oneida hybrid compound recurves, like the two images below:

Hoyt Compound Bow

Oneida Hybrid Compound
Unfortunately there is a problem. Compound bows are very accurate, but they are also notoriously easy to break. Dry firing the bow, dropping it off a short cliff or out of tree, hitting a zombie/mutant/crazy person with it like a club, etc - anything like that will quickly damage the fragile cams (pulleys) on the compound bow and render it useless and make it very difficult to fix it.





Whereas the SAS Tactical Survivor Bow was very durable and not very accurate, the average compound bow is the opposite - accurate and easy to break. Don't believe me? Dry fire your compound bow a few times and see how easily it breaks.

The prices for compound bows are also quite expensive. A decent one costs between $300 to $600. A really nice one between $700 to $2500. They are all quite easy to break however and you will note that the warranties on compound bows only cover normal wear and tear, they do not cover things like being dropped from a tree and landing on a rock or being dry fired.

During a short term survival situation the compound bow will likely serve you quite well, providing accuracy as long as it not put through any durability tests. During the long term however a compound bow's durability is going to be tested again and again, and it eventually fails the test - often failing on the first whoops. Because stuff is bound to happen during a nuclear apocalypse or any other kind of apocalypse, that lack of durability is going to really matter.

During a short term survival situation the average compound bow thus beats out the SAS Tactical Survivor Bow, but during a long term survival situation the SAS bow wins because of its durability - but at the expense of long distance accuracy.

So if the SAS Survivor Bow and the average compound bow both come up short due to lack of accuracy or lack of durability, is there another kind of bow that is both accurate and durable?

Yes, yes there is.

The Traditional Recurve or Traditional Longbow

Not all bows are made the same, but some are definitely more durable and accurate than others. I will cite some examples.

eg. Any recurve or longbow made by Bear Archery, known for making their high quality bows which are exceptionally durable. Drop it, get it wet, leave it in a closet for 20 years and forget to unstring it, Bear Archery's products are notoriously durable and keep their accuracy.

There are similar manufacturers to Bear, like Browning or Ben Pearson or Blackhawk - many of them being companies that dated back to the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and continue to make bows today. Antiques of such bows are part of the collections of archery enthusiasts and still shoot as good today as the day they were purchased.

Left to Right:
1942 Ben Pearson Lemonwood Longbow, 20 lbs;
1965 Ben Pearson Collegian, 35 lbs;
2011 Bear Grizzly, 45 lbs;
1975 Browning Wasp, 50 lbs;
1967 Ben Pearson Cougar, 35 lbs;
1972 Blackhawk Avenger, 40 lbs.
For example, I have a 50 lb Browning Wasp from 1975. It is 41 years old but still shoots amazingly well and looks like it is practically brand new. I bought it on Amazon.ca for $100 CDN. It is very durable and has a thick lacquer on the wood to prevent water damage. If faced with a bear or similar large game, the 50 lb Browning Wasp would do the trick. It would be overkill on small game, but would still get the job done.

I also have a 45 lb Bear Grizzly I purchased a few years ago, basically brand new - made of "DiamondWood", which is basically a wood polymer that is immune to water damage. Variations of the Bear Grizzly have been made over the decades with different types of wood or wood polymer (the newest is called "FutureWood"), but the basic design has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s. My 45 lb Bear Grizzly is perfect for shooting deer or smaller game. On larger game I better have good aim or else I might have to shoot it twice.

Between those two bows, I would have no problem shooting large or small game, rain or shine

Basically what it comes down to is that any of these traditional style recurves will serve you well both in terms of durability and accuracy. Their own downside is that you need to practice with them and learn how to do archery properly. That means that if you haven't figured out how to do archery yet, then you should probably sign up for archery lessons.

You can get a relatively cheap traditional recurve for $150 by purchasing a Samick Sage. I recommend getting 25 lb limbs to practice with and 45 or 50 lb limbs for hunting with. 35 lb limbs would also be good for hunting small game or bowfishing. Because it is three piece takedown it is easy to store and pack away. It is a way more accurate bow than the SAS Tactical Survivor Bow, not quite as durable but reasonably durable. If you want more durability then get a Bear Grizzly or a Bear Takedown.

Samick Sage
With Traditional Longbows (or Flatbows or Pyramid Bows) there is an added issue. Because the bows themselves are all wood or mostly wood, then you need to be oiling the bow regularly to prevent water damage. Traditionally people used animal grease, such as deer grease, bacon grease from wild hogs, but it is also possible to use other kinds of oils such as: Mineral oil, tung oil, linseed oil, etc. Note that not all longbows need such maintenance. eg. See the Bear Montana mentioned further below.

Longbows are, for the most part, pretty durable. You can drop them and under most situations they won't break. Run them over with a truck however, and they might survive or they might not. Deliberately try to snap it in two, well, that is your own fault. They're not indestructible.

It is also possible to get Two Piece Longbows, which come apart in the middle and that makes them easier to transport. They typically cost about $50 to $100 more than a normal longbow, but if you want something that is easier to transport that is certainly an option.



Longbows are harder to learn how to shoot properly compared to recurves, so I definitely recommend archery lessons if you want to learn how to shoot longbows.

If you are not sure what longbow to purchase, I recommend the Bear Montana. I have shot that model several times in the past and know multiple people who own that model of longbow and all love it. The other advantage is that because it is made by Bear, the wood will be either DiamondWood or FutureWood, which means you don't need to oil it like you would a normal wood bow.

Below is a photo of a man posing with his Bear Montana and the deer he took with it.


But wait! What about other kinds of bows? Like crossbows or horsebows (aka shortbows) ???

Crossbows are awesome. I love crossbows.

However I should note that compound crossbows (just like compound bows) break easily. Get a recurve crossbow like an Excalibur if you want a crossbow that is nice and durable. Super accurate, durable and easy to restring. In contrast if you damage the cams on a compound crossbow, it is basically garbage (hypothetically you could retrofit it to make it into a normal or recurve crossbow, but otherwise it is garbage). Also if the string ever breaks on a compound crossbow, good luck restringing it without a bow press.

Excalibur Axiom SMF Crossbow
 And as for horsebows/shortbows, well, there is a problem. Horsebows are great for shooting at enemies at close range, or shooting volleys at enemies who are either short or medium range. They are not fantastic for hunting as they are not well known for accuracy beyond 20 yards. Yes, you could still hypothetically hunt with a horsebow - but that style of bow is really designed for shooting from horseback at a target which is close range.

eg. Shooting at buffalo or bison while on horseback. Sure, that makes sense.

Trying to get near a deer and shoot it with a semblance of accuracy - ideally you want to be 20 yards or less. At 30 yards you will be pushing your limits of accuracy with a shortbow.

Now don't get me wrong. I also love horsebows. I would also love to own a horse and practice equestrian archery. It is just a situation that the design of horsebows are such that they come with a loss of long range accuracy.

Bear Archery does make smaller recurves like the Bear Kodiak Magnum, which are smaller and easy to move around with when surrounded by branches and twigs - but they come with a loss of accuracy at longer distances. My 1972 Blackhawk Avenger falls into the same shape and design - a shorter recurve that is easier to get around branches with, and it would be okay for shooting at a deer - but I would still try to stick with 20 yards or less with it. 30 yards would be pushing it. Ideally I would probably use that bow for shooting ducks or small game, and use the Bear Grizzly or Browning Wasp for larger game.

1972 Blackhawk Avenger, 40 lbs.

What about Firearms???!!!

Honestly, the whole problem with firearms is the issue of ammunition. Bullet casings you could reuse in theory and if you knew how to manufacture your own bullets, you would be okay. But the vast majority of people don't know how to manufacture their own bullets. In any long term survival situation, you will eventually run out of bullets.

Arrows on the other hand are reusable. And relatively easy to make your own arrows and arrowheads. You could even make your own longbows if you needed to. Archery, spears and swords would then become the norm until society figures out how to get itself back to normal and manufacture bullets.

For hunting purposes archery is also relatively quiet, whereas a bad shot with a rifle will scare all the other game away. A bad shot with a bow and you simply spooked one animal, you then retrieve your arrow and try again.

The usefulness of archery in combat situations with other humans also means you could hypothetically take out enemies quietly. Be too noisy and the enemy will hunker down and fortify themselves, thus ruining any element of surprise. That is a situation where you be better off throwing Molotov cocktails in there and smoke your enemies out.

What Benefits Does Archery Have Over Firearms???

#1. A Takedown Recurve Bow or Longbow is relatively light weight and easy to travel with.

#2. Affordable. Archery is cheaper than firearms.

#3. Versatile for both warfare and hunting.

#4. Less government red tape. You don't need a gun license to buy archery equipment.

#5. Relatively silent and deadly.

#6. Arrows are reusable and easier to manufacture.

#7. Less likely that people will try to steal your bow. A rifle however, that could easily be stolen by less than trustworthy traveling companions.

#8. Simple design, simple materials. Easier to repair too.

#9. Anyone who is a good shot with a bow commands respect amongst other survivalists. Garnering respect means you are of value as a hunter and as a warrior, whereas other people would be expendable.

#10. Knowing how to shoot a bow is a lifelong skill, even if no apocalypse ever happens. Although with Donald Trump running for president, anything could happen.

Donald Trump Archery Target
#11. Archery can be used to signal allies using whistling arrows or a burning arrow.

#12. Archery can be used for setting fire to enemy fortifications.

#13. Less likely your kids will shoot themselves or neighbours, compared to firearms.

#14. Learning bushcraft skills is handy for many survival situations, and you are more likely to learn those skills using archery than you are if you take the lazy route and focus on firearms.

#15. A bow never jams up on you. But a jammed firearm will be the death of you if it jams at the wrong time. A firearm can also misfire and hurt the user.

#16. Less damage to surrounding objects or to the animal. Ever shot a squirrel with a shotgun? Not much is left. But with an arrow there is plenty left to eat. Archery keeps collateral damage to a minimum.

#17. No gun control limits. You can own as many bows and arrows as you want. No government rules on making your own arrows or bows either.

#18. The typical archer over time develops a collection of bows, which means that in a situation wherein they meet other like-minded people they can loan out their bows and teach other people how to shoot - thus increasing the survival chances of your entire group so that they can all become hunters. Some of them might be limited to hunting smaller game, but having a variety of hunters who can hunt both large and small game allows a hunting group to increase their survival chances.

#19. An archer can always switch to shooting a firearm in a situation that demands it, but a person who only knows how to shoot a rifle will be confused as to what to do if they are asked to shoot a bow. Knowing how to hold a steady shot with a bow is a skill that comes in handy when shooting a rifle, but the skill doesn't translate as easily for someone who has never shot a bow before and doesn't know how to aim or proper archery form.

#20. Archery is the ultimate survival skill. For centuries the archer was the most feared combatant in warfare, and the most skilled hunter. Gunpowder may have given the average person with no skills an upper hand, but people with guns tend to be trigger happy and waste their bullets needlessly. An archer goes for one shot, one kill. Their goal is to make every arrow count.

Learn how to be really good with a bow, and every arrow should hit the target within a doughnut sized area. Roughly the size of the human heart. Get really good at archery and you can shoot even tiny moving targets at 20 yards.

Ontario Bowfishing Season, May 1st to July 31st

Bowfishing season in Ontario started a few days ago and in preparation I have been practicing with my bowfishing kit recently.

And for fun I also found some interesting Bowfishing DIY kits that other people have made or retrofitted.

Like the example shown here on the right, wherein the broke the container for the line and replaced it with a can instead. Which I found to be amusing.

Bowfishing Season in Ontario is from May 1st to July 31st - but you can only bowfish for carp, which means you need to be looking for carp in the shallows since this is their spawning season. Make sure your fishing license is up to date and you read up on the laws and by-laws surrounding bowfishing in your region of Ontario.

 Carp are quite large and somewhat resemble catfish, but without the giant whiskers.


Now if you have never done bowfishing before, there is a trick to it. The light refraction of the water makes the fish look like it is closer to the surface than it really is - which means you need to aim about a foot or maybe 1.5 feet lower than you normally would.


Below is more examples of Bowfishing DIY ideas, for both reels and how to make your own bowfishing arrows.







And if you want to go really old school, skip the reel and just use a really long and heavy arrow.


If you are looking for archery lessons in Toronto I recommend visiting CardioTrek.ca.

Bowyer Lessons with Mike Meusel, Part Two

During yesterday's bow making session we finished the tips and began working on tillering the bow. We had to do the tips first so the bow could be fitted with a tillering string, which in this case is made from fast flight bowstring and knotted with a flemish twist on one end and a bowyer's knot (aka timber hitch) on the other end.

Bowyers Knot aka Timber Hitch

Unfortunately the photos below also have the back of my head in the way. Oh well. You can see glimpses of my rather robust winter beard.

At present the bow is currently pulling approx. 35 lbs at 14 inches or approx. 38 lbs at 15 inches. Our end goal is for it to be pulling 35 lbs at 28 inches (or 38 lbs at 29 inches).




The trick to tillering is to get both top and bottom ends of the bow to be bending evenly - both near the handle, near the middle of the limbs and at the midpoint near the tips - but with zero bend in the tips. (A "whippy tip" reduces the speed of the arrow, whereas a stiff tip makes arrows travel faster.)

Thus tillering is a slow gradual process. We start by tillering to 3 lbs over our desired draw weight at 10 inches, and work gradually on each stage on keeping the bow bending evenly on both sides and in all the locations where it should be bending (and bending the proper amount). Once this is done it is a matter of slowly removing layers of the belly wood (ignoring the tips) so that the length of the bow bends evenly, checking regularly to make sure there is no spots which are not bending evenly and fixing those spots.

In the above example the flatbow-longbow I am making will have a bendy handle - which means when drawn back the handle also bends a tiny bit. When shot a bendy handle will have more "hand shock", but the bow also save on size and weight - which makes it faster. So there is a trade-off for speed in exchange for reduced hand comfort. Depending on how much bend there is the handle there will be more/less hand shock for the user.

Want more? Subscribe to Project Gridless or bookmark Project Gridless for more bow making tips.

Is Hunting more Ethical than Livestock Farming?

I would argue YES and NO.

But let me explain.

I have many vegan and vegetarian friends. Friends who are aghast that I am pro-hunting. For them they have chosen a vegan lifestyle due to often religious reasons and/or health reasons. So to that group of friends, the concept of hunting is basically a sin. They cannot comprehend it and see it as murdering animals.

However I am an omnivore. I like eating meat. I also don't have any emotional hangups about it either. I am pro-hunter and pro-farmer. I grew up on a farm in a community that frequently saw the comings and goings of various hunting seasons. As such I am quite accustomed to such things. To me, hunting, fishing and farming are natural ways to get food. And anything that is natural cannot be wrong.

I also don't believe in any higher powers. We die and it is just oblivion. I am not going to be reincarnated and punished for my actions. Karma is nonsense and superstition. No god either. Just oblivion.

Therefore I see nothing wrong with wanting to hunt and taking personal responsibility for where my food is coming from. If I buy my meat from a grocery store then the responsibility is out of my hands, as I was not involved in the killing or butchering of the animal. That is effectively lazy and shows a lack of responsibility for understanding where your food is coming from.

If someone were to give me a lamb, a cute little cuddly lamb, I would be faced with two choices:

#1. Eat it now (or soon), because I have zero interest in keeping a lamb as a pet.

#2. Raise it to adulthood and then eat it. Option 2 requires more work to raise it, but I get more meat as a result.

Honestly, I am leaning towards option 1. Lamb is very tasty. True, mutton tastes good too - and you get more of it, but it is a bit of a coin toss. It would be like asking me to choose between 1 lb of bacon and 2 lbs of pork chops, but I have to feed the darn pig to get the pork chops. I think I would choose the bacon in that scenario because it A. Tastes better and B. Requires less work.

So that lamb is probably going to be slaughtered and eaten. Poor little lamb. Why did you have to be so tasty and convenient?

Option #3. Raising it to adulthood and breeding more lambs is always an option I suppose, and then eating the older sheep / new lambs... well that would certainly be lots more meat, but also way more work. Not my priority unless I decide to deliberately become a shepherd.

Which brings me to the topic of livestock farming for feeding yourself (as opposed to selling the meat for money). I don't see anything wrong or unethical with farmers raising their own livestock, slaughtering / butchering them and then eating them. Makes total sense. They are intimately involved with the whole process and are taking personal responsibility for their own food.

Lets say I was a deer hunter and one day decided I wanted to become a deer farmer. My goal therefore would be hunt for and tranquilize deer, transport the sleeping deer to a fenced in farm built just for deer, feed the deer, give the deer a barn to sleep in during the winter, pamper the deer so they get nice and big... and eventually slaughter / butcher / eat them for my personal consumption (or my family's consumption).

True it is much more work that hunting the deer, but I would get way more reward for my efforts. And I have zero problems with ethics of deer farming.

Conclusions?

Livestock farming is not unethical.

Hunting is not unethical.

Because both of them take personal responsibility into where they are getting their food. However people who are lazy, get their food from a grocery store all of the time and never learn where their food really comes from and the process it takes to get there, then they have ignored that responsibility.

So when then do PETA / animal rights activists / vegans / etc always claim that livestock farmers and hunters are unethical?

Well to them they see animals as pets / companions / friends as opposed to a possible source of food. In truth they are both. A horse is both a companion and a possible food source. It is a duality.

Most animals however are not particularly friendly to humans. For the most part humans avoid eating animals we consider to be friendly: Dogs, cats, horses for example are often kept as pets and humans rarely eat them (although this varies by culture).

Animal rights activists also make a big deal about the whole "cruelty to animals" issue, claiming that farmers torture their livestock and are deliberately mean to them... And the analogy I am going to use here is the concept that "egg farmers are satan worshippers who torture their chickens in satanic rituals to get them to lay more eggs"... which is of course utterly false.

And why is that? Because there is nothing to be gained from torturing chickens. Happy chickens (hens) lay eggs. Unhappy hens don't lay eggs. So egg farmers have a primary goal of keeping their chickens warm, well fed and happy, which means they lay more eggs. Those eggs are then collected, sold and eaten. A few of them are sent to a chicken hatchery to be incubated and made into more chickens, perpetuating the cycle.

Now ask yourself, where is the torture or animal cruelty in that cycle? There isn't any. The eggs are unfertilized and will never become chickens. The chickens are warm, well fed and happy, which means they are laying lots of eggs.

Some chickens are eventually so old they stop producing eggs, so they are butchered for their meat.

And the butchering process is quite humane, because fear (which triggers adrenaline and other hormonal chemicals) will make the meat taste bitter. Thus the chickens are killed quickly and humanely so that they taste better. There is nothing to be gained by torturing the chicken before killing it, because that would just make the meat taste bad.

The same goes with hunting. A good hunter never lets their prey experience fear. The bullet or arrow kills them so fast that the animal is dead before it hits the ground. That way the meat tastes better. It also means the hunter doesn't have to track the animal over (possibly) long distances to try and get a second shot at it.

So again I don't see a problem here with the ethics of either livestock farming or hunting.

But the vegans do. And that is really a matter of opinion, not a matter of ethics.

Vegans are taking personal responsibility for their food, some even insisting on having organic produce which has not been exposed (directly) to pesticides. The problem is that organic food is often indirectly exposed to pesticides anyway, from neighbouring farms. But regardless, that is up to them to take personal responsibility for their actions with respect to food.

Farmers and hunters are doing the same thing. Taking personal responsibility for their actions with respect to food.

So what about the lazy people who buy their food at grocery stores, thus providing a living for farmers? Are they completely irresponsible? No. Because most of them have probably either visited a farm or seen a video of what it is like inside a slaughterhouse. So they at least have an idea of what is going on in there and yet still choose to eat meat.

Why?

Could it be because it tastes good and that weighing the options of either:

A. Eating meat and being happy about it.

or

B. Not eating meat and being unhappy about it.

They somehow decided to choose A, because happiness was considered to be more valuable to their own personal ethics, which means it comes down to the issue of freedom of choice.

Vegans obviously are unhappy with the slaughtering of livestock / hunting of animals, and they have chosen to exercise their freedom of choice by not eating meat. Not eating meat makes them happy.

However for us omnivores, the vast majority of humanity, eating meat does make us happy, and we have a freedom of choice to do so.

On the contrary however someone who comes along and says "No, you're not allowed to eat meat." or "You have to eat meat." that person is now behaving in an unethical manner because they are trying to rob people of their freedom of choice.

People have freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of choice - and those freedoms apply to their food choices and their thoughts / beliefs about what foods they should eat.

For example I choose to eat bacon and lamb. They both taste great and I have zero ethical issues with where the meat is coming from. Pigs and baby sheep, huzzah, give me more of that.

But what I do have a problem with is people asking me to watch a slaughterhouse video because they are vegan and trying to convince me to become a vegan too. To which I respond:

Why are you trying to rob me of my freedom of choice by trying to force me to do something I don't want to do?

It is my life. Not yours. Let me take personal responsibility in exercising my freedom of choice with respect to what I choose to eat.

Good day to you!

Bowyer Lessons with Mike Meusel, Part One

You may recall an earlier post I made titled Bowyer Lessons with Mike Meusel, Part Zero. It was called Part Zero because I was all excited about the bow making lessons, but it had not actually started yet.

Well yesterday it started. We got the basic shape of the bow done, which will be a hickory flatbow-longbow with purpleheart hardwood tips.

Next time we will be decreasing the width of the limbs and starting the tillering process.

No photos of the bow at this time, although in the future there will be. Next lesson is next Thursday.

Subscribe to stay tuned!


And FYI, in case you are wondering the bow-making lessons are $300 for 3 lessons. Each lesson is approx. 3 to 4 hours long.

An Off Grid Living Guide

Submitted by Sam Jacobs. Written by Jake Beaty. Editing Additions in Red.

Living Off-Grid: A Guide to Self-Sufficiency

Do you dream of living off-grid? You might want to live off-grid to be prepared for economic collapse or a viral pandemic. Perhaps you're worried about a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake or tornado. Maybe you're fed up with the rat race of life in the concrete jungle, and just want to try your hand at living off the land, as our ancestors did.

It's a romantic notion, however, the realities of it can be much more difficult than most people realize. Modern society has let us specialize in such a way that most of us lack many of the basic skills necessary to survive off the grid for an extended period of time.

Before you make the jump, consider how far off the grid you truly want to go. Keep in mind that going off-grid is an on-going process, so you'll need patience and resourcefulness to make it work.

Written by an Eagle Scout who helped his father build his own log cabin off the grid in Eastern Washington, the family then lived in the cabin for six years in the '80's, and the son returned to live from 2007 to 2012. Our guide gives you a realistic assessment of what it takes to thrive off-grid, and how to acquire the skills to succeed.

How to Choose Where to Live Off-Grid
  • Primary Factors
  • Secondary Factors
  • Water
  • Food Production
  • Clothing
  • Access

The Off-Grid Home
  • Exterior
  • Interior
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Communication
  • Food Storage
  • Heating and Cooking

Off-grid living experiences vary along a continuum of intensity. At one end of the spectrum is a longer commute into town, part of which is on a dirt road. At the other end is a house only accessible on horseback or by float plane that restocks provisions once a month or less. Consider these factors to determine where on the spectrum you want to be.

Primary Factors

General Region - Think first about the general area of the country where you'd like to live. Each region has pros and cons from weather to wildlife or the people who live there.
  • Northwest - large game animals, like-minded individuals, and natural splendor, but a cold climate
  • Southwest - warm weather, game animals, freedom-loving people, but risk of drought
  • Great Plains - space and climate for growing your own food, but risk of tornados and limited self-defense options
  • Mid-South - mild climate, variety of game animals and low-population density, but risk along New Madrid fault
  • Mid-Atlantic - mild climate for growing your own food, and friendly people, but risk of hurricanes and flooding
  • Alaska - long regarded as the final frontier, it has a deserved reputation for difficult living conditions, but the hardiest do make it happen

Annual Weather – Season weather variations will have a daily impact on the off-grid living experience.
  • Harsh winters mean extensive preparation for staying warm. Longer periods of cold also shorten a garden’s growing season.
  • Hot summers mean dealing with the heat. Off-grid power systems are not able to supply air conditioning.

Natural Disasters – What is your risk tolerance for these sorts of disasters? Are you willing to take the extra steps necessary to prepare for these possibilities?
  • Is the location you’re considering prone to hurricanes or tornadoes or flooding?
  • Is the location safe in the event of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions?
  • Are you willing to accept any danger from wildfire in the summer months?

Secondary Factors

Terrain - This is related to the specific piece of property you're considering.
  • Do you want flat land or hills? Steeper hills will add a level of challenge every day.
  • Do you want to live on the plains, or in the woods? In the northern hemisphere, the north facing side of a hill will see less sunshine and be cooler than a south facing hillside. Conifers grow more densely on northern slopes.
  • Do you want a stream on your property? Do you want to be near a lake or a pond?

Seclusion
  • How close do you want to be to your nearest neighbor?
  • Do you want to find a likeminded community or live in complete isolation?
  • How far do you want to be fro the nearest town? You will most need to obtain some provisions - what level of convenience do you require?
  • Is your location defensible?

After you’ve decided on the general and specific requirements you want and need for your off-grid dwelling, your search will be more efficient. Remember, however, that you will likely need to be flexible and make some concessions on smaller issues in order to get what you want on the bigger issues.

Water

Water is essential for life and you must have access from your property. There are several requirements a water source must meet to be suitable:

  • Cleanliness - the water must be clean for drinking, ideally without requiring filtration or purification.
  • Proximity - the water source should be close to the dwelling. You don’t want to walk half a mile to a spring if you can avoid it.
  • Supply - the volume of water and replenishment rate must be sufficient for regular daily use through all the seasons.

Different locations lend themselves to different water source types.

  • Well - a vertical shaft drilled to access underground water. Wells are common because they are generally safe and reliable, but they can be expensive to drill. Determining where to drill can be done with electro-seismic technology, or by dowsing.
  • Spring - where subsurface water emerges to the surface. Cost is low, but the location may be far from the dwelling.
  • Surface water - stream, river, lake or pond. Cost is low, but such sources are subject to contamination and seasonal variation.
  • Rain water harvesting - rain water itself is safe to drink, but collecting surfaces may be polluted. Unpredictability and low volume mean that rain collection will likely be a supplement to other sources.
  • Melting snow - the amount of water obtained from the snow is often small, and is not available year round. It’ll do in a pinch.
It is worth time and effort to make sure there is enough water for your off-grid home. It is wise to have more than one source as backup for true self-sufficiency. Many scenarios from drought to freezing can lock up valuable water – be prepared for any possibility. It even pays to have an emergency supply stashed in barrels or jugs.

Food Production

An important component of increasing your independence is producing your own food. You can't be self-sufficient if you rely on the grocery store for your most basic needs. Consider the following choices:

Grow your own food in a garden

Local climate determines which plants you can grow and when, so spend some time learning about your plant hardiness zone, earliest and latest expected frost dates, and summer heat impacts. This will help you make the best choices for the food you want to grow.
Be aware that pests large and small, from insects to deer, will be interested in partaking of the fruits of your labor. Spend some time researching preventative measures for insects and be prepared to erect a fence around your garden for deer and other large animals.
In a garden of sufficient size, watering can present a challenge when living off-grid. Energy is required to pump water, and that energy comes at a premium. Consider rain harvesting and buried seep systems to reduce water waste through evaporation.

Gather from local sources

There may be foods in your location that grow naturally and can be gathered to supplement your garden. Local berries and seeds, honey, and fruit make nice additions to the menu.
Visit the local farmer’s market for more options.

Go hunting

Learn about the game animals that live in your area and what methods are available for harvesting.
Deer, upland birds, waterfowl and other wildlife help the off-grid family live in greater independence.

Raise domestic animals for food

  • Chickens are a staple on most homesteads – they’re easy to care for and provide both eggs and meat.
  • Turkeys and ducks provide meat and eggs.
  • Goats can be used to help clear shrubbery, and can be milked. Be aware that their milk will taste like what they’ve been eating, this can be good or bad.
  • Cows are labor intensive and expensive to keep fed (buy the land or buy the food), however, they produce abundant milk and meat.
  • Pigs have been a staple on farms, but take care when cooking and eating to be safe from the diseases they can get and pass on to humans.

Finally, there will be foods that are too labor intensive to be grown, grow in a different climate than your home, or compete with other demands for your time. These foods might include, among others, wheat, oats, sugar, salt, fruits, nuts, coffee and spices. You may need to purchase these items directly or find someone with whom you can do some bartering.

Clothing

Not often discussed in many guides to off-grid living is the topic of clothing. It is mentioned here as a reminder of its importance and acknowledgement of the continuum of self-sufficiency. Clothing is effectively go-everywhere shelter, and as such, is critical for life and health.

  • Buy it - Stock-up on items that will wear out and need to be replaced. Depending on how long and how far off the grid one intends to live, this could become an expensive prospect.
  • Stitch it - Buy the cloth needed for clothing, and then taking the time to cut and stitch it together.
  • Kill it - Use the hides of harvested wildlife or domestic animals for leather. You must tan the leather before you can use it. Coats, pants, shoes and more can be made with leather. The original North Americans did this for centuries and lived well doing it.
  • Grow it - Raise sheep or llamas for wool, shear them, and make your own clothing from scratch. The skills and time required put this out of reach for most people, just one example of how specializations have made our lives more convenient. How far off-grid do you want to go?

Clothing requirements will vary with the local weather. A hot summer, cold winter and wet spring will all require different apparel. Off-grid living means hard work, and your clothes should be up to the task.

Access

Snowy RoadOne challenge of living off-grid often includes just driving home. By the nature of the experience, the distances are longer and the roads are primitive. This means dirt, gravel, mud, ruts, bumps, washboard, steep stretches, blind corners and limited passing room. There may be little to no maintenance.

Get a 4x4
  • An older four wheel drive vehicle with locking hubs and limited slip differentials is really only two wheel drive in 4x4 mode, but should be able to pull you through up to ten inches snow and a couple inches of mud.
  • A modern vehicle with traction control and the ability to lock all four wheels will go through considerably deeper snow, but that’s just a short cut and not a long term solution.
  • You do not want your vehicle to be a weak link. Are parts available? Can you do repair work yourself?
  • Consider ground clearance, vehicle size, cargo capacity, power and fuel efficiency.
Get a Snowplow
  • This is recommended if living in a location where more than ten inches of snow may accumulate at any point through the winter.
  • Alternatively, mount a snowblower on a tractor.
  • Snowplowing is fantastic fun, but it’s hard on a vehicle. You can pay someone else to have all the fun and wreck their truck, but you trade away your independence in the process.

Alternate Transportation
  • Snowmobiles go far and go fast, good for locations where there's too much snow to remove.
  • Motorcycles are more fuel efficient than cars or trucks, but can't carry much.
  • Cross-country skis but calories instead of petroleum, but there's only so much time in the day to get everything else done.
  • The same thing can be said about a bicycle for summer travel.

Every choice has consequences. The farther away you live from population, the more complicated transportation becomes. Remember Richard Proenneke and his story One Man's Wilderness? He obtained supplies by monthly visits from a float plane. How far off-grid do you want to live?


The Off-Grid Home

Exterior

The form of an off-grid home closely follows its function. There is less room for decorative or energy consuming features than there are in a grid-tied home. Off-grid homes derive their beauty from their efficiency and mindful construction.

Basic Protection
  • A home is shelter from the elements. It must protect from heat, cold, wind, rain, and snow.
  • A home should protect from natural disasters, especially those possible in the area of construction.
  • A home should keep out human invaders - build a burly door and use deadbolts.
  • Off-grid homes must keep out the local critters, from bears to chipmunks.

Home Construction
  • Costs are related to the materials used for construction and the skills required to do the building.
  • Build you own log home and save money with some training, ingenuity and time.
  • Use shipping containers. Forty foot containers and abundant and cheap, but require expense or help to get in place.
  • Build your home of bricks, blocks or hay bales.
  • Build a frame house.
  • Bury a rebar reinforced cement bunker into a hillside.

Self-Defense

Criminal activity is related to population size – more crime happens where there are more people. Criminal activity is also related to population density – more crime happens when people live closer together. People are at their best when few and far between.

Off-grid living does not guarantee safety, however. The wise person living off-grid will prepare for the worst and hope for the best, the same reason we have fire extinguishers.

  • Firearms are great equalizers. Pistols, rifles, and shotguns all have their place in home defense.
  • Practice weapons handling and use.
  • You may have enough room for a range – be sure of your target and what lies beyond. Have a good backstop.
  • Buy more ammunition than you use, and maintain a stash as you would with food.
  • Get a backup weapon in case you run low on ammo. eg. Compound bows or crossbows are pretty easy to use with minimal practice required. Longbows and recurve bows require more training to learn how to use properly, but are more versatile.

Sentry systems can provide early warning of any visitors, although there are power supply challenges for off-grid homes. You may decide it is worth a separate dedicated power system, or a larger primary system. Mechanical systems are possible, but complicated and of questionable reliability.

For those anticipating the worst, some people build hidden structures with secret entries or escape routes. Others build these spaces directly into their homes.


Interior

All homes are designed to provide some interior comfort. People need space to sleep, areas for cooking and eating, and bathroom space for bathing and toilet functions. Homes must also provide some space for reading and talking, playing games and thinking, a space for recreation and downtime. A fireplace can make this room especially lovely.

Before beginning construction, sketch out some floor plan ideas. In an off-grid home, efficiency is key. Bigger is not better. Large homes cost more to build, take more effort to maintain and more energy to keep warm. Off-grid living naturally requires some adjustments, and learning how to live in a smaller home is one of them.

Plumbing

Living off-grid means increased independence – this is true regarding liberty and responsibility. Practically speaking, you will probably be doing much of the work on your home, including internal systems. If you’re not doing the actual work, you will at least be providing guidance. Study up!

  • Conventional grid-tied homes are plumbed with metal pipe and threaded fittings for water supply. Installation requires knowledge and experience, and these plumbing systems burst if frozen. Neither lead, copper or steel are ideal for an off-grid home.
  • PEX tubing comes in flexible coils or ten foot long “sticks,” is easy to cut and bend, and fittings can be tightened by hand. PEX won’t burst when frozen, though when it does freeze, it can’t be thawed by pouring boiling water on it like a steel pipe because heat doesn’t transfer well.


Drainage plumbing is not very exciting for any home – grid-tied or off-grid, the simple, functional choice is ABS plastic. The key is to provide adequate support and maintain a consistent drainage angle – you do not want to deal with a plugged drain line of any sort at any time. Do it right the first time and then forget about it.

Heating water requires a great deal of energy, good for our planet as the oceans do so well at moderating temperature extremes, but challenging for the off-grid dweller.

Electric water heaters are impossible in 99% of off-grid configurations, so other options must be considered.
Tankless propane water heaters have the best combination of efficiency and convenience, but they do burn through a great deal of propane.
Solar water heaters, from the simple black plastic bag hung on a tree branch to the more elaborate glass tube systems used in South America have great potential, but are only viable in certain climates or during certain times of the year.
It is possible to heat small batches on the stove. This works for cooking, cleaning, and bathing, if you have the patience for it.


Electrical

Off-grid means not connected to the electricity grid, so this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of the living experience. In town, you can plug in your toaster, microwave and hair dryer and run them all at the same time. Off-grid, you may not be able to use even one of these energy hogs.

Electrical systems need to balance two factors: supply and demand. Off-grid systems are only able to provide so much supply, so the living experience requires many compromises in demand. If you find value in the overall experience, these compromises will only be minor inconveniences.

Off-Grid Electrical Power Supply Solutions
  • Solar Panels (photovoltaic cells) – Solar systems are common, advanced, and the price generally drops every year. They work well and knowledge about them is widespread. Solar panels are a great option for off-grid power.
  • Windmills – To live where wind alone is enough to power a house, it would need to be blowing more than half the time. Windmills must be distant from any obstructions including trees or buildings. For most locations, a windmill makes a nice supplement to a predominately solar powered system.
  • Generators – They can be powered by gasoline, diesel, and propane. They are used when power demand temporarily exceeds supply, for example, when pumping water from the well to a higher elevation storage tank. Demand may exceed supply when there is a period of rainy or cloudy weather, or during the winter months when the sun doesn’t spend as much time in the sky. Reliance on a generator and the fuel it burns is a measure of dependence on the System.
  • Hydroelectric plants – These efficiently convert the mechanical kinetic energy of falling water into electrical energy. They require moving water of sufficient volume, and not all properties have an adequate stream or river for this purpose.
  • Bicycle – The average recreational cyclist can sustain an output of about 170 watts, and peak at 220 watts. (For reference, Tour de France cyclists sustain 400 watts and peak at 450 watts.) An off-grid home cyclist can power a laptop and a CFL blub.
  • Additional components of all systems include batteries, charge controller, wires and inverter.

Off-Grid Electrical Power Demand
  • Electrical power demand is expressed in watts, which is equal to volts multiplied by amps. Off-grid living requires basic electrical understanding.
  • All electrical appliances have a label that includes information about power demands. Look for the number that precedes the “W.”
  • A stereo might draw 40W, a laptop 70W, a toaster 1500W.
  • Light bulbs are named by the amount of power they pull: 40W, 60W, 75W, etc.
  • Not found in off-grid homes: electric water heater; electric clothes dryer; electric stove; or air conditioner.

Off-Grid Electrical Power Calculations
  • Add up all the wattage numbers for appliances you want to be able to run at the same time, and add 50% to that total.
  • The 50% fudge factor allows for peak loads which may exceed your expectations and conversion losses.
  • Off-grid power systems become prohibitively expensive when trying to attain the numbers of a grid-tied home, so demand must be reduced.
  • Peak power for a small cabin system is about 2000W.
  • You won’t notice much difference between living off-grid and downtown with a 6000W system.


Energy is power use over time – watt-hours, or kilowatt-hours. Energy demands determine minimum capacity of the batteries and solar panels. To calculate, multiply the power used by each appliance times the amount of time the appliance is in use, and add the resulting products.

To determine the requirements for a solar array, more math is required that considers the amount of sunshine each day on a monthly and annual basis. Consult more detailed guides to assemble your off-grid electrical supply system.

Communications

Most people who live off-grid still want to be able to talk to family and friends across the distance.

  • Depending on the distance from a community, it might be possible to install a landline phone. A basic corded phone requires no additional electricity to operate.
  • Cell coverage is often spotty in places where people live off grid, and purported signal boosters are not always as helpful as they claim – buyer beware!
  • Satellite phones and systems which also include TV channels and internet are increasingly the choice for people living off-grid. Among their downsides are the continual electric draw and the exchange of some privacy and anonymity for convenience.

Food Storage

Refrigerators and freezers have only been available for the household since the 1920’s, but today we can’t imagine life without them. Low temperatures slow bacterial action and keep food safe for extended periods.

  • Standard electric refrigerators and freezers require too much energy to be used off-grid
  • Specially made solar powered refrigerators tie into a dedicated photovoltaic cell and battery bank, but they are expensive to set up.
  • Propane refrigerators use a flame to compress the refrigerant, and work splendidly, but they are expensive to buy and expensive to operate.
  • It is possible to use the sun as the source of heat for a thermal compressor, but the method is not available to the household consumer. It’s possible to do it yourself or pay mega bucks.

Today we enjoy the relative luxury of food in cans with multi-year long shelf lives. Buying food in cans is a valid component of a long term food storage plan, but not the whole solution.

  • Home canning is a process for preserving food in glass jars that is still practiced today and is a good choice for people living off-grid and growing their own food.
  • Cellars are a nice compliment to canning. Surrounded on four or five sides by earth, a cellar maintains a consistent temperature of 55ºF (plus or minus about five degrees ) throughout the year. This slows bacterial action somewhat.

Before refrigeration, salting, pickling, smoking and drying were used to preserve food.

  • All of these processes remove or replace the water in which bacteria grow, and protect the food from spoiling.
  • All of these processes reduce nutritional value, including vitamin C, which is why sailors eating food preserved this way suffered from scurvy.
  • These methods are time consuming and difficult - how far off the grid do you want to live?

A wise off-grid food storage plan includes redundancy and variety.

Heating and Cooking

Off-grid dwellings do not use electricity for heating or cooking. Pellet stoves are not often used in off-grid applications because they require electricity. The most common solution for heating is burning wood.
  • Wood was originally burned in a fireplace, usually built of stone or brick, but they are notoriously inefficient.
  • A fireplace insert is a stove that sits inside the fireplace opening and increases the heating efficiency by collecting and radiating heat back into the room that would normally have just escaped up the chimney. A large faceplate helps even more. Inserts often, but not always, use a fan to spread more heat by convection.
  • A third option is a free standing wood stove that radiates heat from all sides. They do not use fans, but they require more floor space as they must be placed away from walls and furniture on all sides.
  • Wood cook stoves reduce dependence on the System, and have a long history of use. It's a greater challenge to cook a turkey, but that much more satisfying when done right. Wood cook stoves do extra duty in adding heat to the home and providing a backup in the absence of propane. No self-respecting off-grid home should be without a wood cook stove.


Wood warms you when you work it, and warms you when you burn it. Every step is joyous. The smell of fresh cut wood mingling with saw exhaust, the sight of big chips pouring out beneath a sharp chain, the satisfying “whack” of a well-placed swing of the splitting maul – these are the rewards of using wood for heat, and that's before you set it on fire.

Some off-grid homes use a propane furnace to supplement wood burning.

  • This makes sense when other appliances such as water heater, fridge, and cook stove also use propane.
  • Cooking with propane is superior to even electric in many ways, so much so that many grid-tied homes have made the switch. It’s no sacrifice to use propane for cooking in an off-grid home.

Conclusion

Life is good off the grid. It's harder, but the victories are sweeter. Those living off the grid will have an advantage when the country goes sideways. Take your first small step toward independence today.

:)

How To make a Self Feeding Fire


Need a way to feed a campfire over a longer length of time?

The above method will keep a fire going for many hours, and require only 4 longer posts and 4 shorter posts to set up. Once going it can burn for 12 to 16 hours before requiring additional logs to keep going.

Bowyer Lessons with Mike Meusel, Part Zero

I will soon be taking lessons in bow making with Mike Meusel, a local bowyer in Toronto who teaches bow making. For each lesson I am planning to post photos of the progress made, and possibly videos of the process.

For those people who like DIY projects, learning to make your own bow for archery is a pretty good skill to have, and an enjoyable experience in my opinion. Having made bows since the age of 10 (many of my early bows broke easily) I have never NOT enjoyed making a bow. Even if it breaks I still enjoyed making it.

Thus it will be interesting to be making bows and have actual lessons in the craft.

For those who don't have a local bowyer to help you out, I recommend the following books:

The Traditional Bowyer's Bible - Volumes I, II, III and IV. Yep, four volumes of amazing-ness. Worth every penny.


12 Architectural Types of Off Grid Homes

Below are 12 different architectural styles of Off Grid Homes that are part of the growing trend of "Off Grid Living".


The Redneck Camper

The Found Pieces Home

The Modern Architecture Home

The Shipping Container Home

The Stonemason's Home

The Greenthumb's Home

The Gypsy's Home on Wheels

The Hobbit Home

The Treehouse Home

The Underground Bunker

The Traditional Cabin

The Sandbag Home

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