One of the most intimidating aspects of the outdoors for novice campers or beginners is very basic: Where’s the bathroom? Where will you do No. 2?
Story by Leon Pantenburg
When you gotta go, you gotta go. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the shopping mall or in the backcountry – when nature calls, you must answer. Generally, if you’re in established permanent campsites, there will be some sort of toilet available, so that’s probably not an issue.
If you’re camping, or setting up a campsite, one of the first and most important tasks is to set up the latrine.
Here’s how to build one, using re-cycled or commonly available stuff. This “technology” has been around Boy Scout and hunting camps for years.
Toilet seat: One of my favorite places to shop for building materials is the local Re-Store, where discounted building materials are for sale, with the proceeds benefiting Habitat for Humanity. Look around – scrap lumber and other things you need are easily found.
Plastic lawn chair with four straight legs: This can be the basis for the “throne.” Cut the middle out of the seat and replace it with your toilet seat. A box made out of scrape lumber is also popular. Make the height whatever you want. Dig a hole and place this structure over it. I could have gotten a toilet seat and lawn chair for $5 last week at the Re-Store.
Posts or some sort of uprights to attach tarps: This is the basis for the privacy structure that goes around the throne. Drive the posts in around the toilet structure and string the tarps on them. Obviously, trees, rocks or whatever can be improvised into the screen. If stormy weather is possible, you might want to rig a tarp over the whole setup to shed rain.
Small shovel: Use this to dig the privy hole and throw the dirt outside. Privy rules state that after each use, a shovelful or two of dirt should be thrown in. This eliminates smells and keeps the privy from attracting flies.
Waterproof toilet paper holder: This can be a coffee can with a lid, or large plastic bag. You really don’t want the rain to soak the toilet paper.
Your camp will establish its own privy use protocol, but here is one that works.
The shovel and toilet paper container are left on the path to the privy. Participants take these items with them as they go to use the facilities. When these items are gone, that is a sign the toilet is occupied. All campers call out when within hearing distance of the privy .
Once everything is done, the participant uses the shovel to toss some dirt in the hole. Then, all the implements are returned to the path for the next person.
When it’s time to move camp, the structure can easily be removed and the hole filled in.
Building a privy structure is easy and doesn’t take much time. In addition to keeping your camp more sanitary, the privy is also a comforting thing to newcomers. It can also provide one more familiar aspect to an unfamiliar environment.
Author’s Note: Here’s a quick backcountry toilet story:
In 1977, I was about four days into a 14-day backpacking solo through the Thoroughfare Creek area of Yellowstone’s backcountry. I hadn’t seen another person in two days, and the frequent bear tracks on the trail were making me really edgy. I got to the established campsite that evening, and found a nice picnic table, a brand new, immaculate Porta Potty and enough fresh bear prints to scare the crap out of me.
It was approaching dusk, so moving on was out of the question. I ate supper quickly and hung everything on the bear bag racks. But I still had to find a safe place to sleep.
A strong smell of antiseptic hung around the toilet. Reasoning that the smell would cover up my scent, I went inside the Porta Potty and twisted the latch to “occupied.” I got into my sleeping bag, sat down on the closed toilet seat, and leaned up against the wall to sleep. I dozed and slept fitfully until dawn, awaking at every imagined noise.
This story would be better if I had heard bears moving around all night, but thankfully, I didn’t hear a thing!
This story first appeared on Leon Pantenburg’s blog, Survival Common Sense. It has been reprinted here with permission from the author. Photos and video are courtesy Leon Pantenburg.
Lessons from the past: Surviving an economic meltdown
Story by Leon Pantenburg
When the stock market crashed in 1929, the economy tanked, farm prices dropped, and my grandfather, Peter Pantenburg, lost the family farm in central Iowa. My people have been in that area since my great-great-grandfather, James Hallowell got a land grant after the Civil War and homesteaded in the late 1860s. My great-grandpa, Charles Hallowell, plowed the prairie for the first time in the 1870s with a John Deere breaking plow.
My dad’s family went from being prosperous farmers to homeless in a matter of months.
My mom’s family had a similar story. Grandpa Leo Wirth also lost a farm, and he had a large family to feed.
Both families were destitute, but they weathered the storm and stayed intact. There were a lot of lessons learned about coping with economic disaster.
To put this in context: By 1930, according to history.com, four million Americans looking for work could not find it; that number had risen to six million in 1931. Meanwhile, the country’s industrial production had dropped by half.
By 1933, when the Great Depression reached its nadir, some 13 to 15 million Americans were unemployed, and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed, according to history.com.
The United States didn’t come out of the depression until 1939, at the beginning of World War II.
Despite the hard times, both families stayed intact. All their children turned out to be upstanding, successful people.
Here are some of the lessons learned:
Never give up: Leo moved his family to Wesley, Iowa, because he found work managing a gas station/garage at a Standard Station. Pete and Leo took whatever work they could find and did any jobs that were available. Neither sat around waiting for someone to help them out. Nobody expected any government help, and both men would have felt it demeaning to take assistance from anywhere.
Figure out your resources and come up with a plan: Even though it was a good crop, Pete’s corn was not worth harvesting in 1930 with the low prices, so the family burned corn for heat one winter.
Some of the displaced farmers headed west or to other areas to look for work. Others tried to stay in place. Take an inventory of your resources and assets and use that list to decide what to do next.
Subsistence hunting and fishing: My dad was 11 in 1929. He was too small to be much help farming, but he was an excellent small game hunter. Dad hunted all the time, and frequently, the rabbits and squirrels he killed became the main course for the evening meal.
His marksmanship got really good. Years later in the Army, that skill got dad a job training troops and teaching rifle and pistol. Dad’s primary hunting firearm was a single shot .22 rifle. He used .22 shorts, because of the low price and noise, and he only shot once before moving along. (It’s difficult to locate a single shot by sound.) Still, he got caught poaching once.
But don’t depend on hunting or fishing. Hunting and foraging can supplement the food supply, but heading for the hills and “living off the land” won’t work. Have other ideas and plans to put food on the table during emergencies.
Have a skill or supplemental job: All farmers, it seemed, had some sort of side occupation. Leo was a butcher, and he would travel to farms to process cattle and hogs. He frequently got paid in meat. (Leo died when I was 7 or 8, but I remember him skinning a pig and tending his bees.)
Charles Hallowell and his daughter, Alice Johnson, used their musical skills to survive. Charles played the violin at bars, dances, parties and other social events. Alice accompanied him on the piano or played another violin.
They made enough to keep ends meeting and to take in Pete’s family temporarily. (It’s in the DNA – today, I play Charles’ fiddle in an old-time string band. We do some of the same tunes Charles did. Check out how grandpa’s fiddle sounds on “Over the Waterfall.”)
Everybody, including the kids and old folks, had a job they could do based on their abilities. These tasks could be anything, from gathering eggs to snapping beans to helping with the harvest to working in the garden. Every little bit helped.
Stick together: Pete’s family moved to another farm north of Ames and got a new start. I grew up on that farm, and my dad bought it in the 1960s. (I hunted the same hills and timber he used to hunt as a kid, but I never had the pressure to be successful!)
Other neighbors were not so fortunate, and many of them had to hit the road (think “Grapes of Wrath”). Our next-door neighbor, Jo Stahlman, was born in Foley, Ala., when her family moved south to find work.
Make do: Fix, repair, recycle and reuse. Clothing was patched, handed down and used up. When it finally reached the rag stage, it might be made into a quilt.
That went for just about everything. Money was scarce and fixing or mending something didn’t cost anything.
Garden: While millions of Americans went hungry, my relatives gardened like they always did. Every farm had a large plot, and many families were largely fed off the produce. Fruit orchards and berry patches were common.
There was virtually no market for livestock, but farmers could and did raise animals for their own tables. As far as I know, places like Iowa and other Midwest states, which didn’t have the severe droughts of the dust bowl areas, fared better than many other areas.
Raise chickens and rabbits: Farms back then were more diversified, with a variety of food-raising activities. Every farm had a flock of chickens for the eggs and meat.
Rabbit meat is one of the most nutritious meats available, according to Rise and Shine Rabbitry, and rabbits can produce six pounds of meat on the same feed and water as it takes a cow to produce one pound of meat.
Both animals can be raised in small spaces and are productive and prolific.
Preserve food: Every farm wife knew how to can and preserve vegetables, and every farmer had a pantry. My relatives, being of mostly German extract, made lots of sauerkraut and pickled many other vegetables.
Canned and smoked meats were also important. Just about every farm had a smoke house, where meat was preserved by smoking. This included hams, of course, but bacon, sausage and other smoked meats last a long time and could get you through the winter.
This probably explains why bratwurst and sauerkraut is one of my favorite comfort foods. That’s also in my DNA.
Build a root cellar. These were the family’s food insurance policy. They were generally an area under the house, like a basement, where canned foods could be stored. The temperature, being underground, was pretty consistent, and it allowed for long-term storage of root vegetables. Hence the name.
The root cellar was an essential way to keep carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, potatoes and other root vegetables fresh through the winter months. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, to work properly, a root cellar must be able to hold a temperature of 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and have a humidity level of 85 to 95 percent. Ground temperature stabilizes at 10 feet deep, according to the almanac.
My aunt Irene, 86, recalls that Grandma Sophie Wirth frequently ended up feeding extra mouths at the table.
“He (Leo) was known for supporting siblings in any way he could,” Irene told my cousin Lisa Faust Swenson. “On weekends, anywhere from one family to all his siblings’ families would show up for dinner. Grandma would just keep taking food from the root cellar to make sure all were fed.”
It took World War II to bring the country out of the Great Depression. There are still arguments over what caused it, and who is responsible. That discussion can take place somewhere else.
We’ve all heard that cliché: Those who don’t learn from the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them. I think the lessons learned from my families’ survival of the depression are valid today.
Here’s the bottom line: You have to be part of a tribe, family or larger group that cares about the individual. Stick together. Learn how to produce, preserve and store food. Learn job skills and how to get by.
And maybe the most important lesson: Never give up!
This story first appeared on Leon Pantenburg’s blog, Survival Common Sense. It has been reprinted here with permission from the author. All photos are courtesy Leon Pantenburg.
Your old cellphone isn’t a toy, plus: tips for emergencies
Several times each week, area first responders are dispatched on calls when children dial 911 from disconnected cellphones.
By law, phone carriers must allow these calls to go through. This allows people whose service has been disconnected a way to call for help.
Unfortunately, many people give their old phones to children to play games or use as a toy. Remember: If they dial 911 on your old phone, you could get a visit from law enforcement and be held responsible for a false alarm.
Here are some tips on using cellphones in an emergency:
Use a landline if possible. Cellphones can’t accurately pinpoint your location. FCC rules require nationwide carriers to provide tracking capabilities to 911 dispatchers that are accurate within 50-300 meters (164 to 984 feet), depending on the technology the carrier uses.
That could mean up to a 984-foot radius (not quite three times the length of a football field), which could result in a difficult search in high-density areas. FCC rules also allow up to six minutes to determine a location. If you can imagine how far a car can travel in six minutes, you’ll see how that could be problematic.
Recent updates to Android and iPhone operating systems have improved smartphones’ ability to automatically share exact locations with emergency dispatchers, but this technology doesn’t cover older or non-smart phones.
If you call 911 from a cellphone and hang up, operators will attempt to return your call to follow up. If they can’t retrieve your number, they are likely to send an officer to your estimated location, which may not be accurate.
If you do use a cellphone to call 911:
- Provide your location as near as you are able and the type of assistance you need.
- Try to stay calm and speak clearly.
If you need to call 911, you can use any smartphone even if you can’t unlock it. Here’s how:
- Press the home button to launch the screen that asks for a passcode or fingerprint.
- In the bottom lower left of the screen, tap “Emergency”
- Dial 911
In some areas, you can text 911. Hinds county added the service in 2015. If you think you might need to text 911, contact the local police department to see if the service is provided.
Smart speakers, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home cannot call 911, but iPhone’s Siri and Android’s Google can. Check with your carrier or vendor to see if you have tie-in options for your home system.
New Year’s resolutions will have you looking forward to reaching a goal
The coming of the New Year means room for new opportunities, new ideas and maybe, a new you.
New Year’s resolutions trace to ancient Roman mythology and the god Janus, where we get January. Janus had two faces. One of the faces looked to the future and the other face looked to the past. Romans believed that Janus could forgive them for their past actions while blessing them for the future.
Over 66 million people make New Year’s resolutions in the United States, and those personal promises can lead to big improvements. Whether the resolution is to save money, get better grades or work out more often, looking forward to a goal can make each day purposeful. Making a promise to reach the goal makes it more likely that you will get there.
Here are a few tips to making resolutions and sticking to them:
- Be realistic. Make the goal specific and achievable. Big goals are great, but don’t set yourself up for failure.
- Start with one goal, not several.
- Make a plan. What steps do you need to take to achieve your goal?
- Tell someone about your goal. Don’t keep it a secret. People will want to support you.
- Track your progress. Keeping a daily journal is one way to keep the journey real.
- Celebrate milestones along the way.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Change is hard, and slip ups are human. Instead of seeing them as failure, try to see them as learning opportunities.
- Keep trying. Take it a step at a time, recommitting to the goal every day.
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