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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

Japanese Knotweed was brought to the U.S. in the 1800's for use in landscaping, specifically, erosion control.  It has since proven to be largely ineffective for that purpose and, furthermore, has become an invasive species that is so prolific that it covers and blocks out favorable growing conditions for native species.  Whereas its cultivation is not recommended, it is useful to know of its availability and uses in a survival or self-reliance situation.

Habitat:  Hardy to zone 5.  Tolerates a wide range of soil and light conditions.  As it prefers moist soil conditions, you will find it easily along creeks, streams, rivers, etc.  Because of its unique tolerance and ability for proliferation, it is a pioneer species meaning that it will grow easily in disturbed soils such as roadsides, utility line clearings, and crop fields.

Distribution in Missouri:  All over the state.  Currently infesting 19 counties.

Physical description:  Perennial.  Young shoots appear similar to asparagus spears with reddish leaves developing at the top.  Growing up to nine feet tall and 16 feet wide, its leaves are broad and its green and red-speckled stem zigzags.  It flowers from July to October and the seeds ripen from August to October.

Edible uses:  In early spring, young shoots are broken off and cooked much like asparagus.  Acidic flavor; can be used as a rhubarb substitute in pies, fruit soups, jams, etc.  Older stems become more woody, but can also be cooked.  The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked or can be ground into a powder and used as a flavoring and thickener of soups or added to cereals when making bread.

Nutrition:  Rich in vitamins A and C and is also a source of essential minerals.

Medicinal uses:  *Missouri Survival is not responsible for any individual's decision to use plants medicinally or the result thereof without consulting their doctor first.  Compounds have been found in Japanese Knotweed that are linked to heart health and recent research has shown that some tumor fighting compounds also exist in the plant.  The leaves can be crushed up and applied directly to burns and cuts to expedite healing.  It has also been used to stimulate circulation, as an antimicrobial, to treat arthritis, joint pain, menstrual pains, boils and abscesses, snakebites and even appendicitis.  Creams have been made from the dried root to treat a variety have skin conditions.

Other uses:  Attracts wildlife due to the dense cover it provides.  A yellow dye can also be extracted from the root.

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Young shoots in early spring (mid-April) Author's original image.


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Zigzag stem.  Image source.


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Mature plant.  Image source.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Trial and Error Experience with Igloo Building

The first day of spring was on the 20th of March which was six days ago at the time of this writing. As is often the case with Missouri weather, the season really doesn't mean anything at all in the way of expected weather conditions and we received 12 inches of snow on the 24th. On the morning of the 25th, which was my Saturday regarding my work schedule, I decided that it would be fun to take advantage of my day off and all the snow to build an igloo to go over with all of you the details thereof. Also, my kids were off school for spring break, so they were just as excited as I with the prospect. Here is the experience thus far...

I began with observing that the consistency of the snow was perfect for building.  Snow that is too dry just won't stick together well; too wet and it's just slush.  I then proceeded by outlining the outside circumference of the igloo. I did this by having my son hold one end of a length of 550 cord in the center with me holding the other end and walking in a circle to outline it with my feet. I then removed the snow from inside the circle which further helped with outlining and added to brick making material.  I then began making snow bricks by packing snow into a plastic bin and dumping them along the outline of the circle as seen below.

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Once I had the first level in place, I sealed the blocks together by chinking the cracks between the blocks with loose snow.

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This is where I began to run into problems, though.  The first problem was melting snow.  Although the consistency of the snow was perfect for building and was sticking together very well, the high temperature for the day was 37 degrees which quickly turned 12 inches into about two inches.  Despite that, I decided to press on through counting on dropping temperatures in the evening after sundown keep some workable snow around.

The second problem was time, so about an hour before sunset, I reassessed the situation as I severely underestimated the sheer amount of time it takes for one person to build an igloo of this size.  With that, I decided to cut the size of the circumference by at least a third of its original size in an attempt to have it finished before I had to turn in for the night.  I then cut the existing foundation into blocks with a hand saw and reformed the igloo to a smaller circumference and added another level of blocks as seen below.

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At this point, however, the temperature had dropped below freezing and the snow become very difficult to work with.  Whereas it was moist, sticky and easily shaped throughout the day, it was now frozen brittle and would not stick together well at all.  I then decided to recognize futility and call it a night.

My plan was then to begin working on it the next day in hopes that the daytime temperature would get the snow back to the consistency I needed.  Upon awaking the next day, however, I found that the temperature had risen to the point of all but completely melting the available snow I had to work with as seen in the image below.

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Needless to say and unfortunately, we'll not be seeing a completed igloo.  My plan was to continue forming new levels of snow bricks with each succeeding level sloping slightly inward to ultimately form the dome.  I was then going to construct a four to five foot tunnel at the entrance.  I positioned the entrance to face the direction of the prevailing winds to create a venting draft.  I also was going to cut a three to four inch diameter vent hole in the back side and at the top.  A Dakota fire pit was going to be dug to accommodate a small fire and I was going to use a couple sleeping pads to provide an insulated barrier between body and ground.

Although things did not work out for me in this experience, I did learn a lot from he experience which was the point to begin with.  I learned that the snow has to have just the right amount of moisture in it to be workable for building.  Also, this approach for shelter in an immediate survival situation would not be feasible unless you have a couple other bodies to help expedite the construction.

In an immediate survival situation in cold weather where there is an ample amount of snow, simply making a large pile and then hollowing it out for just enough space to fit your body will, indeed, keep you warm due its amazing qualities of insulation and keep you out of the elements as well.  An igloo would best be served if there were no expectations of rescue in a couple day's time only.  Always keep in mind all extenuating factors which include energy you must expend to build, weather, prospects of rescue, tools available, etc.  Maybe next year we'll get an appreciable amount of snow to give this one another test run.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interactive Missouri Fall and Spring Turkey Harvest Maps

Interactive Missouri Fall Turkey Harvest Map



Interactive Missouri Spring Turkey Harvest Map



Missouri Turkey Season Dates

Turkey: Fall Firearms - 10/01/2013 - 10/31/2013

Turkey: Spring - 04/15/2013 - 05/05/2013

Turkey: Youth - 04/06/2013 - 04/07/2013

Interactive Missouri Deer Harvest Map


Missouri Deer Season Dates

Archery - 09/15/2013 - 11/15/2013
                 11/27/2013 - 01/15/2014

Firearms (Main Portion) - 11/16/2013 - 11/26/2013

Firearms, Alternative Methods - 12/21/2013 - 12/31/2013

Firearms, Antlerless: In Open Areas - 11/27/2013 - 12/08/2013

Firearms, Urban: In Open Areas - 10/11/2013 - 10/14/2013

Firearms, Youth - 11/02/2013 - 11/03/2013
                              11/02/2013 - 11/03/2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Free LifeStraw® Giveaway!


                        Would you like a chance to receive a free LifeStraw®?

Just follow the simple instructions below, and you could have your own LifeStraw® absolutely free!

Some facts about LifeStraw®...

Called "Best Invention of 2005" by TIME Magazine, LifeStraw® is a plastic tube designed for individual use as a portable water filtration straw.  Using a patented filtration system designed by Swiss-based Vestergaard Frandsen, it filters water particles down to 0.2 microns effectively removing 99.99% waterborne bacteria and parasites including giardia, cryptosporidium and E. coli.  It has a shelf life of 3 years and can filter up to 264 gallons of water which is enough drinking water for one person for one year.  LifeStraw® has gained much favorable publicity in recent years for its humanitarian role in developing nations and in major natural disaster such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake, 2010 Pakistan floods and the 2011 Thailand floods.  Measuring only 9 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, it is very easily stored and could easily be considered as a backpacker's best friend.

How to get your own LifeStraw® for free...

It is of the utmost importance to the Missouri Survival team to maintain 100% transparency at all times.  We care about every individual within our readership and have it within our principles to treat people with respect and integrity.  With that said, we want to be honest about what we hope to achieve with this free giveaway event.  Quite simply, like most new endeavors, we'd like to increase upon our readership so that we can continue to deliver quality information and education to people interested in learning basic life-saving skills.

Details:

Just go to the Missouri Survival Facebook page and you'll see this post linked as the first post on the wall, 'pinned' to the top.  Simply 'share' that post on Facebook and your name will automatically be included into the drawing for a chance to receive your own LifeStraw®.  This giveaway event will run from the time it is posted until 11:59 PM central time on Friday, April 12, 2013 at which time a name will be randomly drawn from all names compiled from 'shares' of that post.  Also, as we do not want to exclude those who 'like' our page as a result of this giveaway event, all new page 'likes' we receive throughout the duration of this event will also be included in the drawing.  Once the drawing has been conducted, the individual will be contacted via Facebook and/or email for shipping details.

If you have any questions about the details of this event, please do not hesitate to comment below, send us an email at MissouriSurvival@gmail.com, our Contact Us page or even comment/message on our Facebook page.  All of us here at Missouri Survival look forward to announcing the lucky LifeStraw® recipient and we hope that all of you enjoy this event and continue to come back to us for future giveaways and information and education on basic survival skills in the state of Missouri.  ~ Puck

Bears and Bear Safety in Missouri

As a young boy growing up, I would have said you were crazy if you told me there were bears in Missouri.  For some reason, I always thought bears were a 'northern' thing.  I have been throughout the Missouri wilderness on countless occasions and never saw one bear or even signs of one.  That was until I was in the Sullivan area on the Meramec River around 1997 and heard one late at night.  I still didn't see it, but the sound was unmistakable.  The fact of the matter is, there most certainly are bears in Missouri.

Black bears are the only species of bear that exist in Missouri, but last estimates place their numbers as potentially being up to 500 in the state and they are currently the largest mammal in Missouri weighing upwards of 900 pounds.  Their population is mostly concentrated south of interstate 44.  Despite that, however, they are seen on rare occasions in central and northern Missouri.  Apparently, they love the higher elevation and the dense woods the Ozarks and Mark Twain National Forest provides.

Black bears in this region were once thought to have been the largest black bear population in all of North America. That was, however, until their numbers began to decline rapidly in the 19th century due to excessive hunting for fur, fat oil and meat.  They were considered to be rare in Missouri in 1850 and, by 1931, were virtually eliminated from the state.  That was until  the state of Arkansas stepped in.

What does Arkansas have to do with the Missouri bear population?  Well, first and foremost, we share our southern border with Arkansas and the Ozarks are found within that region between the two states.  Also, in 1927, due to an apparent decline in black bear populations, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ended legal hunting of black bears.  Then, in 1958, the AGFC began reintroducing black bears to the region from Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada at a rate of about 260 per year for the following 11 years.  Their reintroduction efforts are still known to this day as being one of the most successful wildlife reintroduction efforts in history.

Now that we know that black bears do, indeed, exist in Missouri, the following image from the Missouri Department of Conservation will put the sheer volume into perspective for us.  Also, when viewing this image, be sure to keep future population growth in mind due to laws in place conducive to their proliferation and what it means for your and and your children's experience in the Missouri outdoors in the years to come.

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Most will say that black bears tend to be the most docile and least likely to attack, but think of this statistic, of the 26 recorded bear attacks from 2000 to 2010 in North America, black bears were responsible for 16.  They were responsible for 8 attacks of 22 from 1990 to 2000 and five of 17 from 1980 to 1990.  Realistically, we can not count on the purported docile nature of the black bear in the wild.

Since black bears most definitely exist in Missouri at considerable and increasing volume, it is certainly justified to be totally prepared in the potential event of an encounter.  Should you encounter one, let's take a look at how you should behave.  Here is Missouri Survival's list of Dos and Don'ts...

When in known bear territory...

DO

...learn about black bear behavior, physical capabilities and how they attack.  For example, black bears are known for false charges when they feel threatened.  Due to their physiology, it is difficult for them to effectively attack you from the side.  They will side swipe with their claws and attempt to use their weight to overcome you, etc.  Learn how they think, their strengths and their weaknesses.

...be very aware of your surroundings paying special attention when close to certain resources like a berry patch, stream, river or cave where bears might also have an interest in being around.

...pay very close attention to your food waste.  The idea is to reduce the scent of food as much as possible.  Granted, it is almost impossible to completely eliminate, but the more of an effort you put into reducing the scent of food around your shelter/camping area, the more you'll reduce the chance of drawing a bear in with the prospect of something to eat.  This means properly cleaning utensils that have touched food as well.  Furthermore, dispose of all food waste in an airtight, bear-proof container.

...carry some sort of defense/deterrent implement like bear mace or, at the least, a straight, sharpened branch, six or seven feet in length and no thinner than your forearm.  If, in a bear encounter, and the bear presents aggressive behavior and attempts to get close for an attack, it is much better to fight them off than to run.  Bear's noses are very sensitive and a good poke to the eye will deter most creatures.  If you feel an attack is inevitable and the bear is close enough, stand up tall, raise your arms above your head, yell at the bear loudly and be prepared to use that spear pole to hit those sensitive spots if the bear advances for an attack.

...always make noise when hiking on trails.  Making noise will alert the generally timid black bear to your presence long before an encounter could ever take place giving them the chance to move out of the area.  If you surprise a black bear on a narrow trail especially, they can easily feel threatened and then your encounter begins.  They may vacate the area or they may attempt to scare off or eliminate their perceived threat.

...avoid eye contact with a bear at all times.  All bears perceive eye contact as a sign of aggression and are then more likely to respond in kind.

...try to position yourself on the upward side of slope from the bear so as to put the bear at a disadvantage and prevent them from being able to effectively stand up and use their weight against you.

...if, after a few effective swipes from the bear, curl up in a shell.  Hopefully, if you had a back pack on, you left it on.  This will help to shield you and make you look bigger.  If, however, the bear start's licking your wounds, get the hell out of there any way you can.  Punch, kick, bite, poke or whatever else you can do to physically get away from the bear and end its interest in you... you DO!  If a bear starts licking your wounds, it is noticing how tasty you are.  At this point, it definitely intends on having you for dinner, and not in the cordial sense.

DON'T!

...find yourself in bear territory without being knowledgeable about them and prepared for them.

...EVER feed a bear.  This may seem to be an awesome moment of communing with a part of nature, but it is an animal and will always remember from that point forward that you and every other similar animal like you means food.  If you do not have food, they might respond with aggression or see YOU as the food source.  Feeding bears in the wild is NEVER a good idea.

...find yourself careless and inattentive of the ever-present risk.

...burn or bury your food.  If you burn it, not only will it enhance the scent of the food and send it off on the wind, but the residue and scent will still remain in the ashes.  Remember bears have an awesome sense of smell, so they can pick up the scent from a simple burial of food scraps as well.  Just don't do it.

..misunderstand a bear's behavior and respond incorrectly effectively instigating the encounter towards a negative encounter.  For example, when a bear stands on it's hind legs, that is not always a sign of aggression.  They do this when simply sniffing the air and trying to get a better grasp on what is going on around them.  This goes back to knowing their behavior!

...disrespect nature with ignorance.

If you follow these general guidelines, then you should have a pleasant experience while camping or hiking or whatever in bear territory.  Remember what to look out for and remember how to respond appropriately and, I assure you, the bear attack statistics mentioned above could be reduced considerably.

For further reading on camping in Missouri bear territory, check out the Missouri Department of Conservation's recommendations.

Image credits:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Canadian_Rockies_-_the_bear_at_Lake_Louise.jpg
http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/wildlife-reporting/bear-reports

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Missouri Flora: Alternate-Leaved Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)



The Alternate-leaved dogwood Cornus alternifolia, also known as pagoda dogwood and green osier, is a lower forest canopy level deciduous shrub growing to heights of 19 to 25 feet tall.  As seen in the distribution map, it can be found throughout much of northeastern United States.  In Missouri, it is found in the northeastern, eastern, central and south central portions of the state.

The alternate-leaved dogwood is known for its unique branching pattern which is almost layered.  This unique quality in itself provides a great safe haven for many species of birds.  In addition to its sheltering qualities, birds also eat the fruit of the shrub and use it to build energy for fall migrations. Black bears are also partial to the fruit of this dogwood and rabbits, white-tale deer and beavers will partake of the leaves and bark.

There is no known edible value for humans in this dogwood shrub.  Despite much research, I was unable to find any source that even alluded to edibility for humans.  That does not mean it is without its practical uses, by any means.  Its unique branching system provides a natural cover in moderate rains and, being a hardwood, it can be utilized to fashion tools and will also burn longer than softer woods of comparable size.  The drier the hardwood is, the hotter it will burn and the embers it leaves behind have more radiant heat and last longer than embers of softwoods.  A light to dark-brown dye can also be obtained from the roots of the plant.

Regarding the alternate-leaved dogwood's medicinal value, there are quite a few benefits.  Most of its known medicinal uses was learned from Native American's use of the shrub in their daily lives for healing various ailments.  For example, its astringent bark was used for the treatment of diarrhea, but also applied topically to treat a number of skin conditions.  The inner bark would be boiled and the subsequent solution would then be used  for several things such as eye wash, enemas, an area wash for venereal diseases and even drank as a tea to treat diarrhea, loss of voice, reduce fever, headaches and treat symptoms of the flu.  A poultice can also be made from the dried and powdered bark and applied to the skin to treat inflammation, blister, bug stings and other skin problems.  I have not tried using this plant for medicinal purposes myself, so I can not personally attest to its reported medicinal benefits.  The above was merely what I found through extensive research.

This shrub, despite no real edible value, is certainly not without its uses in a survival situation or even in a homesteading environment.  Even forsaking any medicinal use, thinking creatively still makes this a very useful plant as outlined above. We'll be happy to keep this one in our state.  ~ Puck

*Missouri Survival is not responsible for any negative effect of the user's choice to use a plant medicinally without consulting a doctor first.

Image credits:

http://www.naturallandscapesnursery.com/cornus.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cornus_alternifolia_range_map.jpg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Plant_5.JPG
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jk-cornus_alternifoliaflower.jpg