Thursday, June 22, 2017

Staying Cool in the Heat After The Stuff Hits the Fan

We were enjoying a lovely spring here in Northern California and then in one week our weather went from 75 degrees to 110 degrees. As many of you know air conditioning is very expensive. Not only do you have to pay the power costs of running it but there is constant maintenance and once and a while the units go kaput. We have two units for our home and the one that cools the lower floor of our home has done just that. While the kids bask in the coolness of the upstairs air conditioner, my husband and I get to enjoy the little bit that trickles down and roast in the evening heat.

One night on our balcony, he looked to me and asked, "so Mrs. SHTF girl, what do we do when the stuff does hit the fan and we have no air conditioning?" I was feeling a little stumped but my brain immediately started thinking about what our ancestors would have done. I needed to do more research before I could give him some solid answers.

Thinking about cooling without power got me thinking about things we already do to stay cool. This year we got an outdoor pool. It was just a cheap little structure, easy to put up, but it made a huge difference. It wouldn't be too clean without the power running the filter but it would be wet. We also have many covered decks that help to obstruct the direct sun from the windows. We invested in an insect netting to protect our balcony that enters our master bedroom so we could help cool our room by utilizing the nighttime air. This way we can leave the doors open in the evening to help with the cooling. Air flow is key. Our log cabin was not built with air flow in mind so we have fans pumping the air all around in the house but again without power we would be back to hand held fans. Another trick my husband does to stay cool is he wets a towel and drapes it over himself. Hydration is key in the summer and I always make sure we have plenty of fruit and especially melon. It is packed with hydrating liquid that is yummy to eat and essential for the body.

Knowing what we do to stay cool, I started wondering what do other people suggest? I visited a site called and found some solutions for night time heat. They suggest using lightweight cotton sheets. We always trade up the flannel for the light cotton in the summer and it is a big help. Using a damp towel or sheet as a blanket is another solution for night time heat but they warned that you may want to have another towel to help absorb the moisture so your mattress does not get wet. Going nude or wearing loose fitting cotton jammies was another possible solution. I know some husbands who will think this is a great idea but hold on one second guys. Another tip was to sleep alone or in a big bed with ample space to spread out. The cuddling will have to wait for cooler weather. They also suggest drinking water before bed to make sure you are properly hydrated. Cooling off in water or at least putting your feet in it was another suggestion. Get low, heat rises so the lower the better. Hang wet sheets in open windows. This is a great grid down suggestion. Do not cook indoors or consider sleeping outside all together. Finally a straw or bamboo mat for sleeping was suggested because sometime our mattresses do very little to help cool us in the summer. also had some notable suggestions in one of their articles. You can DIY a swamp cooler. Yes, it will take power but it's still fun to craft your own projects. They have some tips on how to do that at their site. Using blackout curtains was another good tip. Utilizing outdoor awnings or planting shade trees is a great idea. Out here in California it is hard to plant shade trees because of the wild fire risk but still a good idea. Utilizing dampened bandanas, wrist wraps or having your own wet t-shirt contest was another suggestion (here comes the cheering from the guys again). Use a mister to dampen yourself and make sure you are drinking lots of liquids.

Now that I had all of these solutions to the problem, I was still wondering how our ancestors used to stay cool. has some fun info on how our ancient ancestors used to beat the heat. The cave dwellers were the first to utilize geothermal technology. They lived in caves and dug burrows that would protect them from the heat of the summer. Egyptians used to hand wet reeds in front of their windows to cool their homes. The Chinese created the fan. The Victorians needed some powerful cooling technology for all that get up they used to wear. They build buildings with high ceilings, covered porches, and large recessed windows for cross ventilation. Who would have thought, that same vaulted ceiling that I curse all winter for losing heat is helping to keep me cool in the summer.

In the more recent past, describes, some clever tips were employed. Building community structures in hot areas on hill tops and elevated areas was one way they took advantage of the natural air flow. These structures, and houses in general, were built with breezes in mind. Windows on one side were always accompanied by windows on the other to allow for air flow. Going to bed, damp after bathing was a norm as was sleeping in sheet that had been soaked in ice water. The attic fan was developed and people used to take to the balconies to escape hot homes.

Staying cool in extreme heat is just as important as staying warm in extreme cold. With all these tips on how to beat the heat, hopefully that won't be as miserable of an experience. Comment below with all the great tips you have on how you beat the heat. Trust me...we need them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Emergency Shelter: Building a Debris Hut

Episode 101; Season 3, ep 20

Description of Today's Episode: The Walls of Freedom adventure continues as Erika, Vince and their children build a shelter from the rain to take a much needed break. Here to discuss building a debris hut is James E. Hart, author of Urban & Wilderness Survival, Emergency Preparedness.

Featured Chapter Quote:
"I have to stay strong for them."
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Debris Hut Building Lessons From James

A great shelter for a short stay is a lean to structure. You can always keep adding to it. Make a canopy on the front or enclose the sides to make the shelter more permanent. 

Check out how the Native Americans were living in your area for a clue on how to build a survival shelter appropriate to your weather. 

If you build a debris shelter right, large enough, and maintain it, you could survive four to five years in it. If you use the right materials and keep adding to it, you could eventually have a permanent home.
To build a debris hut, you start with larger logs and limbs to construct the frame. Then you use smaller limbs as cross members that are weaved into the larger ones. After that use small bows, leaves, grass and mud over the top to start forming a barrier from the weather. As a final step you can cover it with sod harvested from the surrounding area. This should add a water proofing that will keep you dry and concealed.

When harvesting sod, be sure to brush debris over the areas you have harvested it from to try and return the forest to the original state. Using this sod, scraped from the ground, and packing it in tight will create a rain barrier and help keep it cooler in hotter temperatures. 

When you are building this shelter you are going to get muddy, cold and wet if it's raining so make sure you have someone starting a fire as soon as possible. Fire can be a source of danger around the debris hut so you need to exercise caution. The lean to is a good shelter because the fire can be build outside with a backstop behind it to direct the heat back into the lean to. Figure out which way the rain is coming from and put the back of your lean to into the wind and rain. Then you can build a cover that extends from the lean to so the fire is partially protected from the wind and rain. Your wood pile can be stacked on one side. That way it will help to create a wind barrier and give you a place to hang wet clothes to dry. The inside should be dry and snug, reserved for blankets and sleeping purposes. 

Carrying a tarp helps to make your shelter building task much easier. You can make a lean to and use the tarp as cover. If you are worried about camouflage, cover it with debris so it is hidden. 

Using a small trench to supply oxygen to an inside fire is a useful idea, as long as your shelter is big enough to accommodate a fire. Dig a small trench that extends to the outside of your debris shelter and cover it with small sticks, tightly packed together. Then cover that with mud. Traditionally this type of trenching system was used with Native American dome shelters that were twenty foot in diameter, give or take, depending on the side of the family. 

Dakota fires, digging two holes and connecting them with a tunnel, are better for small shelters because the flames are located in a hole in the ground. make sure your secondary, outside hole, is not downhill where it will collect rain water.

You will need to use wood that is strong but bendable for your debris hut. Cottonwood, Willow, Birch and other soft woods make great shelter material.

Teepees are also easy structures to build, especially when you have a good sized tarp. It is easy and safer to maintain a fire in it.

Review Time - Day After Disaster
Five Star - "This was a very good story. There were a few parts where I thought the author could have done a bit more research, but that did not take anything away from the story"

Five Star - " I am looking forward to reading the next book. Wonderful story . Strong characters and many interesting on survival in the event of a catastrophe"

Four Star - "I thought the book should have a lot more diverse characters,and the idea that mostly whites survive is insulting especially in California. Do only heterosexual white people survive the chaos? Are the only pretty people in the world blond hair blue eyes or can authors visualize a world with a few Asians, Latinos, blacks, native Americans-oh and how bout some Buddhists, Sikhs, and Muslims surviving as well? Realistically, a lot more blacks and Hispanics would be in the mix and surviving-including little brown orphaned kids named Kumar, May Lin,and Hakeem. It would have been cool to have a survival book that doesn't blanche America and only leave a few tokens of ethnicity. On a positive note, I did love the plot, the setting, the female heroine, and the story line which makes me want to read the other books. I also liked it was a different spin on the event of the apocalypse."
James E. Hart
A veteran of 2 tours of duty in Vietnam, James began his survival training at the age of 7 when he was stranded in the Mojave Desert for 7 hours without food or water during a family move in 1954. Since then he has been through the scouting program where he attained Life scout, served as Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, Venture Advisor, and earned the Badden Powell Award. An avid outdoors man, he has winter camped in Utah and northern Quebec, Canada, snow shoed in upstate New York, Utah and Quebec, and camped in the Mojave Desert of California, the Uintah Mountains of Utah, and the Piney Woods of East Texas, among numerous other locations. James has traveled and been through 42 of the 50 states of the US. Three provinces of Canada, sailed the Pacific Ocean, and crossed the Equator and 35 countries from jungles of South America to the Himalayas of Nepal. Having earned an Associates of Photography Degree from Houston Community College, he has beautifully captured many of his travels with his camera.

Now retired from a career with the Trinity River Authority of Texas, James resides in Dallas, TX, where he lectures on Wilderness and Survival Training. He is the author of SWET Survival & Wilderness Experience Training, Urban & Wilderness Emergency Planning, 35 other booklets on wilderness training, monthly articles for Survival Life Magazine, and a column and articles for The Garland Messenger Newspaper. James also does workshops and speaking engagements.

"Urban & Wilderness Emergency Preparedness":

Sara F. Hathaway 

Sara F. Hathaway is the author of the The Changing Earth Series: Day After Disaster and Without Land. She also hosts The Changing Earth Podcast which blends her fictional stories with educational survival tips. Sara grew up in the country where she developed a profound interest in the natural world around her. After graduating with honors from The California State University of Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, she launched into a career in business management. In her fictional novels her research and experience with survival techniques and forgotten life-sustaining methods of the generations past come to the forefront in a action packed adventures. She has used her background in business management to pave new roads for fictional authors to follow and she delights in helping other achieve the same success. She currently lives with her husband and two sons in California where she is at work on the sequel to her first two novels. For more information and a free copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” featuring everything you need to have to leave your home in a disaster visit:


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Audio Book Giveaway!

In celebration of my 100th episode of the Changing Earth Podcast I am giving away copies of the audio book of The Walls of Freedom.

There are 20 codes to giveaway. 10 will be given to my news letter subscribers but I want to know that you want them and confirm when you get them. In order to do that I need you to message me on this blog. 

I'd love to hear about your favorite part of the books, an issue that is concerning to you, or topics you would love to hear about on the podcast.  

I am also giving ten codes away on Facebook. Head over to Facebook and comment on the 100th episode post for another chance to win. 

Thanks for coming with me on this journey! 

Contest Ends 7/1/17

Aternate Energy: The Gasifier

Episode 100: Season 3 ep. 19

Exhausted from their northern trek, the Moore family receives a ride from a friend in a gasifire as The Walls of Freedom adventure continues. Here to talk to us today about the gasifire and it's applications, among other topics is Johnny Jacks author of Absolute Anarchy.

Featured Quote:

"A beautiful forested mountainside awaited them."

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Gasifire Lessons from Johnny

A gasifier requires some mechanical aptitude to build. It is a device that you can build yourself but there are some companies that offer a build kit. is one of the companies offering a full setup for purchase. 

A gasifier takes wood and extracts gasses from the wood to use to power an engine. The engine could be gasoline or diesel powered. The gasifier works similarly to a steam engine but instead of using steam you use the gasses that the combustion of the wood produces.

Imagine sitting around a campfire, you put a log on the fire and it heats until it begins to sizzle and pop. When this begins to happen the wood has reached a temperature where the internal gasses begin to release. A gasifier can capture and control these gasses. Then they are inserted into the engine to power it. The engines can be used to power vehicles, tractors, generators, etc.

Technical details from Wikipedia:
" In a gasifier, the carbonaceous material undergoes several different processes:
  1. The dehydration or drying process occurs at around 100 °C. Typically the resulting steam is mixed into the gas flow and may be involved with subsequent chemical reactions, notably the water-gas reaction if the temperature is sufficiently high (see step #5).
  2. The pyrolysis (or devolatilization) process occurs at around 200–300 °C. Volatiles are released and char is produced, resulting in up to 70% weight loss for coal. The process is dependent on the properties of the carbonaceous material and determines the structure and composition of the char, which will then undergo gasification reactions.
  3. The combustion process occurs as the volatile products and some of the char react with oxygen to primarily form carbon dioxide and small amounts of carbon monoxide, which provides heat for the subsequent gasification reactions. Letting C represent a carbon-containing organic compound, the basic reaction here is {\rm C} + {\rm O}_2 \rarr {\rm CO}_2
  4. The gasification process occurs as the char reacts with steam to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen, via the reaction {\rm C} + {\rm H}_2 {\rm O} \rarr {\rm H}_2 + {\rm CO}
  5. In addition, the reversible gas phase water-gas shift reaction reaches equilibrium very fast at the temperatures in a gasifier. This balances the concentrations of carbon monoxide, steam, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. {\rm CO} + {\rm H}_2 {\rm O} \lrarr {\rm CO}_2 + {\rm H}_2read more...

Image from:

The technology for the gasifier has been around since the creation of the internal combustion engine. Europe used the gasifier extensively during the great depression to power vehicles. 

Volvo has a gasifier powered vehicle in commercial production at one time.

Where you locate the gasifier in relation to the engine is only limited by your imagination. Folks have installed them in truck beds, bumpers, trailers, etc.

In a grid down situation you will need to grow a very big garden to sustain your group. Without gasoline your tractor will be useless. However with a gasifier to power it you are back in business.

You do not need huge logs to power your gasifier. Wood chips and forest debris work just fine. However, you will need to make some engine modifications. The fuel from the gasifier can't be put into your gas tank. The gas needs to be fed directly into the engine.

There is an element of danger as well. You are dealing with volatile gasses. The system needs to stay sealed. If you develop a leak and have a spark nearby it will result in an explosion. You do not want to breath the gasses from a leaky gasifier either. If you use the gasifier to power a generator you may consider building a berm between your home and the gasifier system.

The gasifier can also be used in tandem with water pipes to create a hot water system for your home.

In a SHTF situation the gasifier is quiet but the engine it runs will not be. This may be a red flag for refugees during the "die off," the first 60-90 days. After that you could use it to effectively power all kinds of machines.

The gasifier is one of the practical exercises Johnny presents in his book, a prepper guide called Absolute Anarchy. It is written based on just that, a state of absolute anarchy. He has written the book in five parts: 1. What can happen 2. How to prepare - prepper questions, survival needs, bartering, etc. to get you trained with 49 practical exercises to accomplish that goal 3. Group survival considerations 4. Militia organization and operations 5. Supplemental reading with much more information on how the executive branch of government got so out of control and overpowered the rest of the government. Johnny also provides fact checks, additional exercises and additional information for each chapter at

Additional Topics Discussed in the Interview:
  • National Debt
  • New threats since Absolute Anarchy was completed
  • Community survival
  • Maintaining Judeo-Christian beliefs after the fall
  • How did the US get to the social safety policies it enforces today
  • Current teachings about the history of the US to today's youthful citizens
  • How the federal government uses social programs to control states.
Sara's Survival Tip
Raise your kids to exhibit:
  •  Courtesy 
  • Integrity
  • Perseverance
  • Self-Control
  • Indomitable Spirit
Johnny Jacks

Johnny Jacks is a product of WWII. Born in Alabama in 1944 five months before D-Day to semi-literate sharecropper parents. In the 1940s and early 1950s, he lived self-reliantly, off-grid, off city water, without indoor plumbing, and without assistance from a welfare state, which, of course, didn’t exist in those days.

On his seventeenth birthday, Johnny enlisted in the Air Force, later transferring to the Army, where he became a Special Forces soldier, a Green Beret, and began a career serving on Special Forces A-teams in Europe, Asia, and Central America, including an assignment to Special Forces A-team 102 in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. He has lived or spent extended amounts of time in third world areas in Asia, Central and South America, and Africa, interfacing with people who live on the edge of survival.

After retiring from the Army in 1982, he worked for several government agencies over the next twenty-five years in significant positions involving high-level national security and emergency preparedness programs. These positions provided him with knowledge of continuity of government and continuity of operations at the senior level of national leadership.

This combination of off-grid, self-reliant living; guerrilla warfare expertise; and national security policy, which gives him a unique insight into today’s individual and group prepper survival needs and requirements.

Johnny wrote Absolute Anarchy, The Preppers Guide to Surviving the Coming Collapse. Absolute Anarchy is available on Amazon, in paper and Kindle versions, and is the most comprehensive prepper information resource available today.

The books website,, contains a gateway to a large set of web links related to each chapter that vastly expands upon the book’s instructional information. The first four chapters and the supplemental reading are posted on the website.

Johnny is currently making the final editions to Saving Shannon, the first in a series of dystopian novel that he will release in the spring of 2017.

Sara F. Hathaway
Sara F. Hathaway is the author of the The Changing Earth Series: Day After Disaster and Without Land. She also hosts The Changing Earth Podcast which blends her fictional stories with educational survival tips. Sara grew up in the country where she developed a profound interest in the natural world around her. After graduating with honors from The California State University of Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, she launched into a career in business management. In her fictional novels her research and experience with survival techniques and forgotten life-sustaining methods of the generations past come to the forefront in a action packed adventures. She has used her background in business management to pave new roads for fictional authors to follow and she delights in helping other achieve the same success. She currently lives with her husband and two sons in California where she is at work on the sequel to her first two novels. For more information and a free copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” featuring everything you need to have to leave your home in a disaster visit: