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How to Purify Drinking Water

In our everyday lives, we don’t often give the purity of our drinking water a second thought. We just blindly assume the water from the tap is safe, and we have even more confidence in the bottled water we buy from the store.

But in an emergency situation like a natural disaster, or being out in the woods without access to pure water, the cleanliness of our drinking water takes on a heightened importance. As ingesting water from a source that harbors dangerous pathogens and/or heavy chemicals can bring on rapid sickness that can lead to death, knowing how to purify water is an absolutely essential skill that everyone should have.

Methods for Purifying Water

So if you’re on a hike or lost outdoors, or in an urban environment where flooding/water main break has contaminated the water supply, you shouldn’t trust any water source that wasn’t already prepackaged. But you’ll only survive a few days at most without water, so you’ll have to drink eventually. In the meantime, here are several ways you can purify your drinking water.

  1. Boiling – This is by far the safest way to ensure the water you’re drinking is free of harmful bacteria. Although water reaches a boil at 212 degrees, it’s been said that you can kill any bacteria at just 158 degrees. To be safe, bring the water source to a boil and let boil roll for at least 2-3 minutes. There may still be sediment or particulates in the water depending on the source, but at least you’ll know it’s free of potentially deadly pathogens. Use a cup, canteen, bottle, or any container you have around for the task. It also helps to have some sort of fire-starting implement on hand to speed up the boiling process.
  2. Purification via pumps and/or filters – You can find all kinds of pumps and filters at sporting goods and camping stores. So if you happen to have a store-bought filter with you, you’re in luck. These work by forcing the non-potable (undrinkable) water through filters of either charcoal or ceramic, and also treating the water with chemicals. Even if you don’t have a readymade filter, you can use some of the key elements to partially purify your water in a pinch. Filtering water through regular charcoal, for example, is excellent for removing particulates. A regular coffee filter works well also. But you’ll still need to boil the water to ensure no bacteria is present.
  3. Purification drops/tablets – This method uses chemicals such as iodine 2% and potassium permanganate added to the water in drops or tablets to purify it. After treating the water this way, be sure to give the chemical at least 20 minutes to work. Yes, the water will taste bad, but it will be safe to drink.
  4. Evaporation – What you’re trying to do here is get the water source to evaporate, which leaves the bad stuff behind, and then capture the evaporated drops somehow. One way to do it is wrap plastic around a branch or living greenery, and then collect and drink the condensation. Or you could create a still and capture a few evaporated drops, but either way the amount is really insignificant. So employ this method only in the most dire emergencies.
  5. UV Light – Did you know that UV light can kill bacteria? If you have a clear, plastic bottle on hand, fill it up with water and set it out in the sun for about five hours, double that time if it’s cloudy or overcast that day. It’s not the most optimal method, but it’ll work when you can’t boil the water.

Lastly, whatever you do, don’t drink your own urine or any salt-water like that found in an ocean or lake. The salt will bring on dehydration much faster than if you weren’t drinking anything at all, and it will kill you in short order. And if you absolutely must drink untreated water, try to locate a clear, running stream to sip from until an alternative source can be found.

How to Build an Emergency Shelter

You could be out in the woods on a hunt when you discover that your ATV won’t start. Or perhaps you’re driving along a rural road and your car stalls or catches a flat. Maybe you’re doing some canoeing and it overturns on the lake, forcing you to swim to shore after which you find you’re many miles away from your camp and anyone else.

Regardless of the situation, when you’re stuck outdoors away from civilization, lodging, or nearby help, you may need to build an emergency shelter. Especially when the weather conditions are cold and wet, or will be soon due to an approaching storm or nightfall, an emergency shelter could literally be a life saver. Here’s how to build a good one that will offer you protection from the elements and hold you over temporarily until you can get to safety or get rescued.

State of mind

Before you get started on a suitable shelter, though, you must be in the right frame of mind. Okay, so you’ve gotten into a sticky situation. The first thing you must resist is the urge to panic, or make a hasty decision that makes a bad situation worse. Rather, do this instead:

  • Stop and breathe slowly for a couple of minutes. Accept the situation as it is, and calm yourself. Think clearly and rationally.
  • Assess your surroundings. What kind of environment are you in? Forest? Mountains? Countryside? What’s the weather and temperature like? How much daylight remains?
  • What materials do you have with you? What’s out in the environment that you can use?

Choose a suitable location

Now that you’ve gotten your mental bearings, you can begin planning your shelter. And that first requires picking a location. This is the part where the evaluation you performed earlier comes into play. You’ll want to set up your shelter on dry ground, out of the wind if possible, and near resources such as trees and bushes. If a stream with clean drinking water is nearby, even better.

Assess your materials

The purpose of an emergency shelter isn’t to be all fancy and super comfortable. It’s to get you through the night alive, and stave off hypothermia. So don’t worry about having the perfect materials lying around, since all you need is the basics. First, check your own belongings. Do you have a weather parka/poncho? Emergency blanket? Any kind of tarp or plastic bags that can act as covering?

Assess your environment

Now look at the surrounding environment. Do you have tree branches, boughs, ferns, dead wood, leaves, and bushes around? Is there any “natural” shelter around such as an overhang, rock wall, or cave that can act as part of, or all of the shelter?

Decide what kind of shelter to build

After you’ve evaluated your location, materials, and environment, now it’s time to decide what kind of shelter to build. Keep in mind that it may be cold, dusk may be approaching, or you may be tired, hurt, or ill. So again, nothing fancy, just a quick overnight shelter to protect from the elements. There are dozens of outdoor shelter types you could build ranging from simple to complex, but the one of the quickest to construct is a basic double lean-to, or A-frame shelter.

For an A-frame, you’ll need to start with a long, thick branch or log about one and a half times your body length. This is the backbone of your shelter. Then, either prop one end against something sturdy like a fallen tree or an upright tree at a low angle, and the other end into the ground. Next, place smaller branches along the sides to form “ribs.” The ribs, or the walls should be lined up along both sides so that the skeleton of the shelter takes on an “A” shape.

Once the frame of the shelter is erected, you then begin filling in the space with leaves, branches, moss, and ferns. Keep working until you have the entire shelter covered, as you’ll need to keep the wind and rain out, and also trap heat from a fire if you can manage to build one. If you have a tarp, garbage bag, or poncho, you can drape it over the shelter for added insulation. And make the shelter as compact as possible, to help retain body heat. Of course, if there are others with you, then alter the size accordingly.

Try to be comfortable

You’ve got a shelter that should keep the wind, rain, and snow off of you, but it will still be quite cold.  So be sure to insulate your body from the cold ground, which sucks away body heat quickly. Lay down a bed of the same materials you used for the frame right on the ground to lay atop of. Bundle up under an emergency blanket or anything extra on hand, And of course get a fire started if at all possible. Be sure to build the fire close enough to the shelter so that you get some of the radiant heat, but not so close that your shelter catches fire.

When dawn breaks, you might be a bit worse for wear, but you’ll be alive. You feel a sense of accomplishment that you were able to take care of yourself (and others if they’re with you). And you can reassess your situation anew, and determine the best plan to get back to safety.

How to Build a Practical Emergency Kit for your Vehicle

While people will readily build a disaster kit for their homes, few will equip their vehicles in the same way. This is especially true of urban city dwellers, believing help is never more than a few blocks away. But what about people who live in, visit, or travel through rural, sparsely populated areas? Or individuals who are indeed living in cities, but in locales where weather extremes can quickly escalate into an emergency situation that leaves them stranded in their vehicle?

No matter where you live, all it takes is a blown tire, blown gasket, or other mechanical failure to bring your excursion to a screeching halt. So for city and country dwellers alike, not prepping in the event of a vehicular emergency is not only short-sighted and risky, but potentially a fatal mistake.

How to Build a Vehicle Emergency Kit

Stuck in a blizzard, marooned on a dark road, or dealing with a flat on a scorching day far from help, you’ll wish you had an emergency kit in your vehicle. So don’t make the mistake of not having one on hand at all times. With that in mind, here are some of the essentials your car/truck/camper emergency kit should definitely contain:

  1. Gloves – Gloves can protect your hands from burns while working under the hood of a car with a hot engine, or from the cold while trying to put on a spare in the wind and snow. They’ll also protect your hands from cuts and scrapes.
  2. Flares– Flares are used to signal for help and alert others to your vehicle’s position on a dark road. Flares are also good for starting fires when heat, light, and warmth is necessary.
  3. Jumper Cables – Just because a stranger in a working vehicle has happened upon your location doesn’t mean they’re carrying jumper cables. So be sure to stock a good quality pair in your kit.
  4. Flash Light – Especially for night emergencies, having a flashlight in your car is absolutely essential. Incandescent bulbs burn brighter than their LED counterparts, but don’t last as long. Pick the one you think would best fit the most likely emergency situation you’d find yourself in.
  5. Multi-tool – These generally have things like screwdrivers, scissors, knives, and can openers built-in. Extremely useful for all sorts of tasks.
  6. Duct tape – Can be used to cover up, bind, or repair many types of materials. Really, a ton of uses for duct tape.
  7. Emergency Food Rations – You don’t know how long you’ll be stranded, so having some rations on hand is a good idea. The best choices are foodstuffs you don’t have to cook, like MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), canned goods, or packaged fare such as trail mix or jerky.
  8. Water– For drinking, boiling, or temporarily filling an overheated radiator that’s out of anti-freeze. Be sure to have at least a few bottled gallons in jugs or bottles on hand.
  9. Blankets – Blankets not only provide warmth, but can be used to cover a victim who has lost blood and is in shock. A blanket can also form part of a makeshift tent.
  10. First Aid Kit – Bandages, medical tape, peroxide/rubbing alcohol, and common medications should be included in your first aid kit.
  11. Maps – Your cell phone may be damaged or low on power, leaving you unable to access its GPS feature.
  12. Fire Starter – Matches and lighters are okay, but it’s best to have a specialized emergency fire starter tool. Fire-starting tools are simply more dependable and last longer.
  13. Weather Parka – You may have to leave the vehicle and brave the elements, which is why you should have a waterproof parka on hand. Also can be used as part of a makeshift tent.
  14. Extra Batteries – For any electronic devices you carry, such as cell phones, GPS devices, flashlights, and radios.

There are literally dozens more items you could carry, but these cover the essentials pretty well. And no matter how well-stocked your kit is, routine care and maintenance on your entire vehicle from regular oil and fluid changes, tune-ups, and tire checks should always be first and foremost.


How To Make an Emergency Signal Fire

Each year, millions flock to the outdoors for wilderness excursions like hiking, fishing, and camping. And while most outings go off without a hitch, trouble can strike quickly and unexpectedly. Vehicles break down, maps/compasses get misplaced and damaged, and hikers wander too far from trails and signposts. An ordinary situation quickly becomes an emergency, and it happens all too often. Just ask busy forest rangers.

So if you’re one of the unlucky ones who finds themselves stranded, lost, or incapacitated outdoors, you’ll need a way to alert rescuers to your precise location. Shotguns, flares, and whistles will do the trick if others are close by, but the smoke from a signal fire covers far more distance and can be seen from the air.

Read on to learn how to build a proper signal fire, as one  could be the difference between imminent rescue and certain disaster.

Choose The Right Location

Ideally, you’ll want to build your signal fire on an elevation, such as a hilltop, peak, or ridge. But if you can’t reach elevation, a flat clearing should suffice. Next, clear a three foot radius of ground area so that it’s free of combustible branches, twigs, and leaves. The last thing you want is your fire accidently spreading beyond your control, making an already urgent situation worse. If it’s impossible to clear your area of combustible debris, at least line the area with rocks and stones to contain the fire.

Gather the Necessary Materials

All fires need three elements: heat, burning materials and air. First, gather the burning materials, beginning with tinder, which is the easiest to ignite. Dry grass, pine needles, paper scraps, cotton, wood shavings, and even an old bird’s nest makes good tinder. Then look for kindling, such as small sticks and branches. Finally, collect your slow-burning, long-lasting fuel in the form of full-sized branches and logs. The dryer, the better.

Additionally, once your fire is ablaze, you’ll want to add materials that create thick or dark plumes of highly visible smoke. Living, leafy, and wet branches, rubber, peat moss, and oil work great here, so gather those as well.

Arrange The Gathered Materials

Layer your materials in a pyramid shape, with the tinder on bottom, followed by the kindling, then the fuel on top. You may need to use tree branches or sticks to create a makeshift rack, to separate the burning materials and allow air to flow through unobstructed.

Light the Fire

Once the materials are in place, it’s time to light the fire. You can generate the necessary spark with a variety of implements, including:

  • Ordinary matches
  • Cigarette lighters
  • Flint and steel strikes
  • Torch lighters
  • Magnifying glass or prescription glasses
  • Flares
  • Fire Starter Tools

If you happen to be without any of these essential wilderness items, forcefully and rapidly scrape a rock with an axe or knife to generate a spark for igniting the tinder. Also, protect the initial sparks by blocking any incoming wind. Once the flames grow and the fuel is ignited, your fire should last a long while.

Apply the Smoke-Producing Materials

Depending on your situation, you may either want a continuous signal fire, or a just a quick one when you think rescuers are close by but you need to conserve materials. Either way, apply your wet leaves, living branches, and rubber when ready. The thick plume of smoke will rise above thick forest canopies, and will be visible for miles.

Don’t forget to fully extinguish your signal fire when rescuers arrive or you depart your location. This where the aforementioned rock barrier will come in handy, as it will block any smoldering embers you missed. The last thing you want is a raging forest fire resulting from your attempt to get to safety.

For more information on how to start an emergency signal fire as well as our emergency fire starter selection that is designed for these situations, please contact at (866) 506-7053.

How to Build an Emergency Survival Kit

Many folks out there simply don’t believe survival kits are all that essential. Even as they watch disaster after disaster play out on TV and in the news, they assure themselves, “Oh, that would never happen here.”

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as a bona fide survival situation can spring up literally anywhere, at any time. Consider the following emergency scenarios:

  • Power grid failure
  • Snow emergency / Ice storm
  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Tsunami
  • Flood
  • Earthquake
  • Forest / Wildfire
  • Nuclear plant explosion
  • Chemical spill / leak
  • Disease outbreak / pandemic
  • Terrorist attack – bombs, biological attacks, etc.
  • Massive solar flare (could knock out electrical systems – not unprecedented)

So again, where exactly are you safe from a potential survival situation? Well, unless you live in a cave, the answer is nowhere. Bottom line, you need a survival kit.

Building an Emergency Survival Kit

During a survival situation, you have to consider that many of the things you usually take for granted – electricity, heat, clean running water, access to fresh food, emergency medical services, and even reliable shelter – may be totally unavailable. If your locality is fortunate, the hardship will last hours rather than days or weeks. Either way, you’ll need to be equipped with some essential supplies to provide for yourself and your family until rescued, evacuated, or the emergency ends and order is restored. To that end, here’s a list of the most basic supplies any emergency survival kit should contain:

  • Food – Non-perishable items, preferably canned or packaged foodstuffs that can be consumed with little to no additional preparation. Also consider infants and pets in regard to their unique nutritional needs.
  • Water – Running water may be cut off or contaminated. The general rule of thumb is one gallon per day, per person. If you need to evacuate, carry as much bottled water as your party can comfortably transport.
  • Fire starting tools – Fire is an absolute necessity in an emergency scenario. It can be used for so many things: cooking, heat, boiling water, sterilization, as a wild animal deterrent, and signaling. Matches and lighters will work in a pinch, but specialized fire starting tools are best in emergency situations.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries – You could even go with an LED headlight, which is brighter, consumes less power, and can be more easily propped on a surface.
  • Basic medical supplies – NSAIDs, bandages, rubbing alcohol, anti-biotic ointment, etc.
  • Prescription medication – For those who must take prescription medication at regular intervals (i.e., insulin, heart medication), there should be an extra allotment for emergencies when access to a doctor’s office / hospital is cut off.
  • Cell phones – With portable chargers and extra batteries.
  • Personal care items – Including items for sanitation purposes.
  • Multipurpose tool – The tool should have the basic multipurpose implements such as can opener, wrench, knife, pick, etc.
  • Extra cash – ATM’s, banks, and POS machines may be closed or nonfunctional, and you might need cash to obtain essential emergency goods.
  • Important documents and contact information – This will include ID’s, medication lists, deeds, insurance paperwork, passports, and emergency / relative phone numbers.
  • Maps of the locality or region – The more detailed, the better.
  • Additional clothing – Stock items that can be worn and removed in layers and are well-insulated.

Additional Tips

Remember the rule of threes: Three minutes without oxygen, three hours in extreme heat or cold, three days without water (less if in a hot climate or with increased physical activity), and three weeks without food. So be sure to set up your emergency survival kit based on these priorities.

Additionally, there are many more survival items you could stock, like garbage bags, work gloves, whistles, and water purification tablets/containers, for example. Your best bet is to evaluate your locality for its most likely disaster scenarios, and then stock your kit accordingly. Lastly, have “on the go” or “bug out” kits ready in a backpack for every able-bodied person who can carry one, in the event that you have to evacuate your location.

For more information on how to build an emergency survival kit, call at (866) 506-7053 or shop Live Fire Gear’s store for emergency fire starters, kits and more.

Wild Edible Safety Test


If you’ve seen the movie “Into the Wild” than you know just how tragic improper plant identification can be. That poor guy died a horrific slow and painful death due to improper plant identification! Wild edibles are probably the most challenging aspect of survival. Many plants have poisonous look a likes or poisonous parts and edible parts. I have read and explored and still question whether I am identifying a plant correctly. Another common misconception with wild edibles is, it’s safe for human consumption if animals can consume it. NO! That is simply not true. Many animals have a digestive system that is resistant to toxins that could be harmful and/or fatal to humans. The bottom line is- if you are NOT 100% certain of a plants identity and safety-DO NOT EAT IT!!!!!


If you’re in a TRUE survival situation-meaning real life or death- there is what is called “The Universal Edibility Test.” Although this test is suppose to be able to determine a plants safety, I honestly am still somewhat reluctant if I am not 100 percent   certain of a plants identity and uses. But, I guess if I was starving and had no alternative food source, then I would probably choose to use the Universal Edibility Test. This test DOES NOT APPLY TO FUNGI.


How To Perform The Universal Edibility Test

Before doing this test, have a clean water source near by in case you need to wash your skin or flush out your mouth.

1) Avoid consuming anything for approximately 8 hours to ensure accurate results

2) Divide the plant in question into parts. Leaves, stems, flower, root.

3) Smell the parts for any foul, acidic or unusual odor. Sometimes crushing parts will release or strengthen any scent or acidic odors. If it smells odd or acidic, toss it. This is somewhat confusing to me because “what is the criteria for smelling unusual?” A lot of flowers smell pretty, but they are not edible, so I am unclear on how to define “smells unusual” other than smelling acidic.

4) Place a piece of the plant on the inside of your wrist or elbow for approximately 15 minutes and check for any adverse reaction such as a rash or blisters. Be sure not to place the sample on an open cut or scrape.

5) If there was no adverse reaction, move the piece to the outer portion of your lip for 3 to 5 minutes to check for burning or itching

6) If the lip check was good, move the piece to your tongue for approximately 15 minutes, without chewing

7) If that went well, start chewing but do not swallow. Chew and hold the broken down pieces for about 15 minutes

8) If your still showing no signs of adverse reaction then swallow. If you begin to feel ill in ANY way, induce vomiting and drink plenty of water. You should know within approximately 8 hours if it’s safe or not. If it’s safe, be sure to prepare it in the same manor as the test.


Some plants are easier to know to avoid due to certain characteristics they have.

1) Avoid any white or yellow berries. Yes red berries can be bad, however; some red berries are safe, such as those on the Manzanita tree. Manzanita berries are tastiest when purplish red. We have an abundance of Manzanita trees here in Northern California!

2) Avoid any type of bulb

3) Plants with barbed hairs on the leaves and/or stems

4) Any obvious dead or diseased looking plant

5) Three leaved structured plants

6) All plants with a milky white sap EXCEPT the dandelion. All parts of the dandelion are edible and frequently used in salads to brighten them up.The dandelion is also loaded with nutrients and makes a great tea. I have yet to try the dandelion, but I plan on it just to see what it tastes like.

7) Avoid any Almond scented plant. This scent indicates a cyanide compound. Eek!

8) Any fruit with fungus or mildew..obviously you want to avoid that!

9) Avoid plants growing near obviously polluted water


Well there you have it. I would still urge you to be as informed as possible before consuming any plant or berry. Blue and black colored berries are usually safe, however: nightshade has black berries and is deadly. So you can see how complex and dangerous wild edibles can be. Looking at pictures in a book is NOT fool proof. Please do your homework before eating anything in the wild.

Thanks, Dayna


Photo used with permission by M a n u e l

The Lone Star Tick

While researching deer ticks and Lyme disease for an article I had planned to post, I came across another nasty little tick-The Lone Star tick. Being a Northern Californian, I had never heard much about the dangers associated with this type before because they are primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. According to the CDC, Lone Star ticks do not carry Lyme disease but they do carry three other potentially dangerous diseases- Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). STARI is often referred to as Southern Lyme Disease. Another disturbing fact I came across, was the CDC released a warning in regards to the main drug used to treat these ailments,  Doxycycline.  Apparently there is quite a shortage of doxycycline (doxycycline hyclate) and tetracycline. Both are used in the treatment of tick-borne illnesses. Dated June 12, 2013 and as of yet have not confirmed any resolve, or perhaps they just haven’t updated their website.




• transmitted by lone star tick bit
• 1-2 week incubation period
• may require intravenous antibiotics, prolonged hospitalization or intensive care.
• fatal if left untreated or treated incorrectly due to misdiagnosis
• Fever
• Headache
• Chills
• Malaise
• Muscle pain
• Vomitting
• Diarrhea
• Nausea
• Confusion
• Red eyes
• Rash (in up to 60% of children, less than 30% of adults)

Ehrlichios is diagnosed based on symptoms, clinical presentation, and later confirmed with specialized laboratory tests. The first line treatment for adults and children of all ages is doxycycline.


Tularemia is transmitted via tick, contaminated water, skin contact with an infected animal (usually  rabbits, hares, and rodents) and inhalation of contaminated dust (as when handling dead animals) Because of the various methods of transmission, symptoms may vary and the illness can be mild to life threatening. The only common denominators are high fever and swollen lymph nodes. For further research on the various forms of Tularemia visit the CDC.
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness aka STARI

• rash similar to the “bulls-eye” associated with Lyme
• rash will appear within 7 days of bite
• headache
• fatigue
• fever
• muscle pain

STARI is diagnosed based on symptoms and your location when bitten. There isn’t a blood test and the cause is unknown. Because of this it is still unclear if antibiotics are effective, most physicians will prescribe antibiotics because the rash resembles that of Lyme. Researchers are still trying to determine if the antibiotics speed recovery or if it dissipates on its own.

Distinctions between STARI and Lyme disease symptoms 

In a study that compared physical findings from STARI patients in Missouri with Lyme disease patients in New York (Wormser et al, 2005), several key differences were noted:

• Patients with STARI were more likely to recall a tick bite than were patients with Lyme disease.
• The time period from tick bite to onset of the skin lesion was shorter among patients with STARI (6 days, on average).
• STARI patients with a “bulls-eye” rash were less likely to have other symptoms than were Lyme disease patients with “bulls-eye”
• STARI patients were less likely to have multiple skin lesions, had lesions that were smaller in size than Lyme disease patients (6-10 cm for STARI  vs. 6-28 cm for Lyme disease), and had lesions that were more circular in shape and with more central clearing.
• After antibiotic treatment, STARI patients recovered more rapidly than did Lyme disease patients.

The best treatment for any tick-borne illness is prevention! If you’re going to be in an enviornment that is going to expose you to ticks, take precautions. Wear repellent containing DEET or permethrin. There are supposedly natural alternatives to these two chemicals, but I have not tried any so I honestly don’t know if they work. If you’ve tried any of these alternative methods, please feel free to share in the comments to help inform others. Also, wear long pants, socks, perform tick checks and promptly remove ticks after any outdoor activity.

If you happen to discover a tick, monitor your health closely and consult a physician if you experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pains, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of a tick bite. These can be signs of a number of tick-borne diseases.

Thanks, Dayna

Image used with permission by Katja Schulz

Pine Needle Tea



Pine Needle Tea has been a common beverage in the survival and outdoor community; however, new studies suggest it may be even more beneficial than originally thought!


Researchers have recently discovered that pine needle tea is loaded with vitamins A & C! This is good news for anyone in a survival/disaster situation who has limited nutritional resources or anyone who prefers natural teas to pills and chewables. Vitamins A and C are crucial to the proper function of the human body. Most of us have already heard the scurvy horror stories that befell sailors who were stuck aboard ships for long journeys across the ocean. It was later discovered that consuming oranges kept the mystery illness at bay. This, of course, was the result of the powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C, found in those oranges.


Antioxidants are required to maintain a healthy immune system, skin, eyes, cardiovascular health, bones, teeth and proper healing for wounds. Basically everything necessary to sustain a healthy body. So you can see how having Vitamins A and C would be, could be, a lifesaver in a survival situation, and that could be from pine needle tea! According to the Nutrition Data web site, the amount of Vitamin C in pine needle tea is reported to be 5 times the amount of just one lemon!

In addition, pine needle tea is also packed with Vitamin A, a necessary part of healthy immune function, healthy vision, skin renewal and aids in the prevention of infections. Because of those anti-infection properties, pine needle tea is also commonly used as an expectorant and an antiseptic wash by herbal healers.


Researchers are still exploring other benefits and uses of pine needle tea and other pine based foods including the bark, seeds and resin. I’m sure they are plentiful considering Native Americans have been consuming & utilizing these gifts for generations.



Preparing Pine Needle Tea is pretty simple:

1) Bring water to rapid boil.
2) Add collected and cleaned pine needles.
3) Steep until needle color begins to pale.
4) Filter out needles and drink


According to several sources the Yew contains taxine, deemed toxic to humans, Norfolk Island Pine is found to be toxic to animals, so human consumption is questionable. The Pondersa Pine is unsafe for pregnant women as it causes the uterus to contract.
So many pine trees look alike, please do extensive research before you run outside and grab a handful of random pine needles. As with all posts, use at your own risk.


Image courtesy Laurynas Mereckas, with permission

Wildlife and Rabies

2089232298_17ddd7c7e7_zWith the warm weather upon us, more of us are likely to be outside enjoying everything nature has to offer. These outings increase our chances of encountering wildlife. While most of us prepare for the obvious dangers, such as a bear encounter, it’s actually the less threatening wildlife that can be the most lethal. How you ask? Rabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 90% of reported rabies cases are wildlife. The most common wildlife infections are found in raccoon, skunks, foxes and bats.The majority of human rabies reported are due to close contact from pets. This is mainly because an animal may be infected with rabies for quite some time before they start developing symptoms, anywhere from two weeks to two months.
Not only is there a variable incubation period, not all wildlife exhibit the same symptoms. Skunks, foxes, raccoon and dogs usually display what is called “furious rabies”



“Furious Rabies” symptoms:


• agitation
• restlessness
• unprovoked aggression
• animals may attack anything that moves and even inanimate objects


BATS often display what is referred to as “dumb rabies”


“Dumb Rabies” symptoms:


• unusual friendliness
• may be found on the ground unable to fly
• animal may stumble
• appear disoriented
• uncoordinated
• wander aimlessly



Other common rabies symptoms:
• depression
• paralysis, often beginning in the hind legs or throat• drooling and frothing at the mouth.
• vocalizations ranging from chattering to shrill screams.
• nocturnal animals may become unusually active during the day
• raccoon have a tendency to walk as if they’re on very hot pavement

There are several other illness that may mirror rabies, such as distemper and toxoplasmosis. Unless you are certain, stay away! Avoid the animal and keep your pet away from the animal too! Treatment for human infection is painful and if you do not receive treatment in time, it will likely be fatal. Not just fatal, but an excruciatingly painful death. I myself have only had one rabies encounter. Animal Control brought in a German Shepard that was infected. I will never forget the sight of that poor dog and how disgusted I was with the owners for not having him vaccinated in the first place.The poor dog was in pain and just so far gone. He obviously had to be euthanized. There is no cure for rabies but the good news is rabies is preventable. Vaccinate your pets and stay alert when outdoors.


Photo courtesy of R0Ng, used with permisssion