The DIY World Store

Make your own solar panels for $1 per watt
Get the book
The Complete DIY Solar Panel Book

Help us keep posting valuable experiments.

Archive for September, 2012

PostHeaderIcon Antique Singer Treadle Sewing Machine – A fine treasure and a great survival tool

I just got a 1917 antique treadle Singer sewing machine the other day for only $35. I have spent years looking for a good quality Singer treadle machine with little damage. Most of them have bad wood damage or the detail is so worn off it is no longer valuable. This machine is a real gem of a find. These are also great survival and off grid living tools (more below).

1917 Antique Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

So far I have only cleaned off the dirt and oiled the top surface of the wood. I will do some research on cleaning the machine itself before I even touch it. It needs some serious cleaning due to many years of collecting dust. I vacuumed it for an hour before I could even bring it into the house. Then I oiled just the top of the wooden table for now. I will finish oiling the rest of the wood with protective wood oil later.

The detailing on this Singer machine is near perfect. It has the least amount of wear that I have ever seen with my own eyes in many years of searching for a good machine to keep at home. You can see the detail in the photo below. You can click on any photo for a larger view.

Very good antique Singer sewing machine

Back in the day, manufacturers took pride in their equipment and put a lot of fine detail in the machines they put out. I have theorized that one of the reasons we no longer have that detail is in part due to our fast paced lives and the desire for low priced goods. We no longer have the time to care for such fine pieces of art. We just want to have TV dinners and automated machines and be done with it. Also the demand for low priced disposable products reduces the market for fine machines like these old Singers.

Take a look at the fine engravings in the metal on the end of the old sewing machine. It brings to mind the old Winchester hunting rifles of the past (another dream of mine).

Fine metal engraving on the old Singer sewing machines

Sewing machines for survival and off grid living

These old antique treadle powered sewing machines are perfect for off grid living. They are already people powered and require no electricity to run. In an off grid or survival environment, electricity is a valuable commodity and needs to be saved for the most important functions. The more items we can power ourselves, the better. And in our fast paced world today any exercise is good for you, including treadle powered sewing.

Another great advantage of having an old treadle machine is that it can be adapted to run other power tools as well. Just about any rotary type of power tool can be converted to be powered by a treadle machine. By running a separate belt to another table with a grinder or a table saw, you can perform tasks off the grid that you would otherwise not be able to do. When you think of an environment totally devoid of electricity, such as after a power outage or a complete economic collapse, you think that running a table saw or a grinder is impossible. Not so with the right equipment such as human powered adapters.

For thousands of years the Human race has survived without electricity just fine and were probably healthier for it. When the time comes, we can just as easily get back to basics.

See a video here:

Watch for updates after I clean and polish this fine machine.

PostHeaderIcon Vehicle Bug Out Bag – Shtf survival gear

This is a list of items you should always keep in your vehicle in case of emergency. A vehicle bug out bag, also known as a GOOD bag (Get Out Of Dodge), contains everything you need to survive for 3 to 5 days in case of emergency. In northern climates, for example, you can be stuck in a blizzard suddenly and may need to survive on your own for a day or so until help arrives. You may be on a vacation trip in the mountains and have a vehicle break down. Other natural or man made disasters can occur at any time without warning. This is why you should carry a BOB (bug out bag) in your car.

A vehicle bug out bag is different than a normal bug out bag. Your vehicle bug out bag should help you survive long enough to escape immediate danger and get to a shelter or meeting point. A standard bug out bag should be larger and meant to support you for a longer duration. Some prepare for a week while others plan to survive indefinitely on their full sized bug out bag. A full bug out bag will be covered in a future post.

Vehicle bug out survival bag

Your vehicle bug out bag contents will vary depending on the climate where you live. In colder climates you will need a blanket, gloves, hat, scarf and heat source. In hotter climates you will need lots of water.

One more important point before we go on. A vehicle bug out bag is also different than the tools you should have on hand for emergency repairs. The vehicle tool box will be another future post.

The vehicle bug out bag should include the following:

Primary Items

  • A backpack to hold everything.
  • Fresh water or water purification or filtration methods. Fresh water should not be kept in plastic bottles in a vehicle due to the extreme summer temperatures inside. Plastic bottles will leach out chemicals into the water when it gets hot. Iodine tablets are good to keep on hand to purify water as it kills most harmful microbes. A good, high quality water filter is another option. Each person requires at least 1 quart per day but a gallon per day is better. You need more in hot climates.
  • Food for three to five days. This should be able to withstand the extreme temperatures of the vehicle as well. Keep it rotated out and fresh. Freeze dried food is best of course, but not affordable for most. Beans are great survival food. Ramen noodles, although not really good for you, are shelf stable and light weight. Individual oatmeal packets are good survival food. Nuts and dried fruits (keep rotated for freshness). Simple heat & eat meals are shelf stable and light weight.
  • Compass and map of the area you are in. Always keep good maps of anywhere you go so that you can find your way out in an emergency. It is a good idea to get high quality topographic maps of the area where you live and the path to your shelter.
  • Signal mirror and whistle.
  • Matches, magnifying glass or cigarette lighters to start fires for warmth and cooking. See video here: Simple Survival Fire Starters. Also read the blog post here: The Best Survival Fire Starters – Cheap and Simple
  • Flashlight with batteries. Keep the batteries OUT of the flashlight until needed or they can destroy your light. It is best to keep batteries in a separate zip lock bag in case they leak. Keep batteries rotated out and fresh.
  • Emergency blanket and poncho.
  • First aid kit with plenty of antiseptic or alcohol swabs and bandages.
  • Pen and paper for taking notes and drawing your path as you go. Can also leave behind notes for others.
  • Pocket knife and sharpening stove. A multipurpose Leatherman type of knife is even better.
  • Small pocket radio with spare batteries (stored outside of the radio).
  • Ziplock bags (put everything in its own bag) can be used to carry water.
  • Trash bags. Cover your bug out bag to make it waterproof. Use as an emergency rain jacket. Hang up food in the trees at night.
  • Plastic tarp 2x. These are light weight and you can put one underneath you at night and one for a shelter. Can also be strung up between trees to catch rain water for drinking.
  • Rope or cordage of some kind. To hang up food away from predators or secure your shelter and tarps for rain water collection.
  • Small light weight 1 quart pot to boil drinking water and heat food. A single spoon for eating and stirring.

Comfort Items

Comfort items are not necessary to your survival but will make life much nicer on the way to shelter. A suggested list follows:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Toilet paper or tissues.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • More food and snacks.
  • Sewing kit with needle and thread.
  • Fishing gear with hooks, weights, line and some rubber worms.
  • Dust masks (it may be after a major storm or a nuke).
  • Duct tape and electrical tape. For fast repairs.
  • Sleeping pad.
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Cooking gear – pot, pan, silverware, plate and bowl.
  • Spare flashlight in case one dies.
  • Spare batteries.
  • Survival knife – big, tough and mean.
  • Field survival book. Should include how to improvise shelter, stay warm, provide safe water, trap animals, basic field medicine.
  • Safety pins.
  • Rubbing alcohol for cleansing wounds or sterilizing needles.
  • Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning wounds.

Survival is not always comfortable. But if you take at least the barest essential items listed here, you should be able to survive from 3 – 5 days. Food is not even necessary for immediate survival, but adds to the comfort level, which increases moral and boosts your chances for survival.

In colder climates you may be able to survive a winter night with the bare necessities, if you know how to keep warm. Wrap yourself up in layers of loose clothing, then in the emergency blanket. Then use a sleeping bag if you have one. Place something on the ground underneath you or the ground will zap your warmth fast. Then use a tarp over top of you to protect from wind and weather.

Always have an escape route planned ahead of time. Have a meeting point prepared with your family or friends in case you get separated.

And practice your plans. Practice using your bug out bag. Become familiar with the contents so that if you need it one day, you will know what you have and how to use it.

This article will be updated from time to time, as new information and better ideas arrive. Check back often.

PostHeaderIcon The fastest way to hang peppermint to dry

I have discovered a very fast way to hang peppermint to dry. Normally everyone advises you to use twine and tie peppermint plants in bundles and hang them upside down to dry. I have a better and much faster way.

Lemon balm plants from the peppermint family

First harvest your peppermint plants by cutting them off just above a pair of leaves. Leave a few inches of stem and a couple pairs of leaves on it. The mint will regrow at the cut and branch out into two stems. Above is a large mass of lemon balm, from the mint family, waiting to be harvested.

Now get some chip clips or metal office clips from the dollar store. Get some large safety pins and a wire coat hanger as well.

Take 3 or 4 of your plant clippings and gather them together in your hand in a straight row. Clip them together with the metal office clip. Now take a safety pin and attach the clip to a coat hanger with the pin.

Hanging Peppermint To Dry

Thats it. Your peppermint can be easily hung up to dry now. Just hang the coat hanger in a warm, dry place until the plants are fully dried.

Click on any image for a larger view.

Peppermint Hanging To Dry

Watch a short video here:

Keep watching for more food tips and wild edibles.

PostHeaderIcon Wild Foraging Series – Staghorn Sumac

Another wild edible plant of North America is the Staghorn Sumac, also known as Rhus Typhina, which belongs to the cashew family. This plant ranges from a shrub to smallish tree, up to about 15 feet high.

Identify The Staghorn Sumac

The Sumac is another plant that was used by native American Indians for its medicinal properties. It has mostly fallen from the spotlight in modern times though.

The Staghorn Sumac can be recognized by its very hairy branches and fruit. The edible version has red fruit. There is a poison Sumac but it has white fruit. (Click on any image for a larger view).

Identify the hairy branches on the Staghorn Sumac

You can make a very nice tasting tea from the berries of the Sumac tree. The tea has a sweet and lemony taste, sort of like a lemon tea. As with any natural food, try just a tiny sip of it at first to be sure you are not allergic to it. You can also take a single berry in your mouth and chew off the outer flesh, spitting the seed out.

To make a tea out of the Sumac berries, steep them for 15 minutes in near boiling water and then drink. You can also soak them for a couple hours in cold water for a cold drink. Due to its lemony flavor, many suggest that it might contain vitamin C, but there are no nutritional tests to be easily found.

The fruit of the Staghorn Sumac

It has been claimed that the Sumac berries contain lots of antioxidants. The tea has traditionally been used to treat sore throats, female disorders, tonsillitis, worms and for colds. Sumac may help fight blood sugar problems as well.

Watch the video here:

Check back often as the Wild Foraging Series continues.

PostHeaderIcon The Off Grid Project has moved to a better location

The Off Grid Project has been moved to a 36 acre plot of wild forested land. The original location was on 90 acres but it was mostly swamp land. The biggest problem was the amount of deer ticks on the property. You could not walk outside without getting a tick on you. It was really limiting projects and slowing things down. Lyme disease is very common in this area. Many children get it while out playing. So the project has been moved to a much nicer place and so far not a tick has been seen in days.

This new property has many other benefits as well. There is a pretty cottage on the property which I will be taking off the grid next year. But one of the biggest things that drew me to this place is the beauty of it all. The property is riddled with trails that the landlord blazed out many years ago when he was younger. There are also many ponds stocked with fish all over the place. The trails wind around between ponds in all directions.

There are deer and turkey, rabbits and squirrels. There is an abundance of wild edible foods. I have been eating many different foods off the land every day. Just walking around and foraging as I go. That is natural living.

About half of the land is wild and untouched. The other half is beautiful with the trails and ponds. The owner also has a very huge garden which will be good for next season. I also now have a container where I will set up a work shop outside with solar power to run my tools. Next season there will be many new projects while I set up an off grid work shop.

Juicy wild grapes hang from trees all over the forest. These grapes range in size and flavor. There are multiple varieties of them. Wild grapes are one of my favorite foraging foods. Some clusters are almost the size of the grapes you see in stores. But these are pure and organic.

Another nice advantage of the new property is that the owner keeps bees. Thousands of them. He has multiple hives and produces honey, natures sweetener. Honey never goes bad, is natural and not processed. Honey is very healthy for you, especially if it is unpasteurized and raw.

The off grid camper is now located half way back on the property, in a forest meadow. There is a small rugged barn nearby, which can be used for storage if needed.

The rent is higher at $300 a month but it is worth it. Still not a bad price to pay for living off the grid.

Follow The Off Grid Project

Learn how to get your own home off the grid on a budget.

See the video of the new property here: