Monday, May 13, 2019

Painted Mountain Johnny Cakes

Most of us are familiar with the Thanksgiving-themed story of how the Pilgrims, after landing at Plymouth in 1620 and after having lost their cache of wheat carried from England due to spoilage, began starving during the first winter in their new settlement. And how the local Indians, the Pawtuxet tribe, came to the Pilgrims bearing gifts of corn which they taught the Pilgrims how to grind into cornmeal and cook over an open fire.

Today when most Americans think of corn, they’re thinking of the common supermarket yellow variety that has been bred over the years to achieve a superior sweetness. Sweet yellow corn is high in carbohydrates but somewhat lacking in other nutritional categories when compared to higher nutrition corn varieties. Rest assured that the corn the Indians grew and depended on as their primary food staple was NOT sweet yellow corn. The corn grown by the Pawtuxet and other Indian tribes of the unsettled American continent was highly nutritious, containing all ten of the primary amino acids needed by the human body and a significant amount of additional minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants vital to human health.

As we all know, the Pilgrims survived that winter and the rest is history.

High nutrition Indian corn continued to play a major role in early American frontier development, providing an easy to transport, easy to preserve and easy to prepare high nutrition food staple.

The Lewis and Clark expedition into the Oregon Territories carried a grain grinder and two barrels full of dried Indian Corn kernels. This was their primary food staple, one which “provides a man energy for the entire day” according to notes taken from the journal that chronicled the Lewis and Clark adventures. Along the way, the expedition found itself continually in need of replenishing their corn supply, so they traded with Indian tribes they came into contact with during their travels to obtain more of the vital food source.

During the Civil War Indian corn again played a major role, feeding armies on both sides of the conflict, but the Southern Confederate army especially developed a keen appreciation for “johnny cakes” prepared from the corn kernels – simple, fast, nutritious and tasty combined with easy long-term food storage.

Pioneers and no doubt many a mountain man heading off into the western wilds nearly always carried Indian corn kernels in large quantities to sustain them during their long treks across dangerous lands. Indian corn was something that could absolutely be depended on to keep well and to provide plenty of nutrition and energy.


You begin to get the idea. Indian corn was an indispensable “super food” for pioneers and settlers of the early West and remains so to this day for many people worldwide. It is still being grown as the primary food source for many people in developing or third world nations today.

Unfortunately, in the modern world of fast food dinners, processed food and take-out restaurants, the glorious past of Indian corn has been largely forgotten (or never known at all) by the general population. I'm on a mission to change that! I strongly believe that these high nutrition corn kernels are THE ULTIMATE survival and self-sufficiency food, for all the reasons stated above and more.

Around here, we prepare and eat johnny cakes frequently. I had a couple for lunch today. Very filling, healthy and nutritious, and tastes good too when prepared correctly.

NOTE: Here at the mini-farm, we are diligently preparing for a time of great emergency that we know is coming.  We are focused on growing our own food, and not just any food.  Our primary crops are Painted Mountain Corn, potatoes, carrots, onions, honey, nuts, garlic and berries.  We focus on these crops because a) they are highly nutritious, b) they are easy to preserve for long term storage and c) these are among the primary food staples that generation upon generation of our ancestors survived on before "the age of fast food" and associated advertising promotions convinced people to forget traditional staple foods and begin consuming food that was processed, preserved and colored with chemical additives.  We believe that the time is rapidly approaching when economic and physical reality will force humans, primarily those of us living in "advanced" economies, to return to the basic food staples.  We're trying to get a head start on a very uncertain future here, and trying to re-learn what our ancestors needed to know in order to survive.  Growing high nutrition corn and learning to prepare it in ways that make it enjoyable to eat is one of the many steps we are taking.


There are of course other recipes for johnny cakes on the internet.  I think I've tried most of them. The recipe I'm describing here is my favorite.  My additions to the basic ingredients (cornmeal, salt, water) are one egg and two spoonfuls of honey.  Maybe some pepper sometimes.  I use dried Painted Mountain corn kernels that I grow and grind myself.  I'm still working on a crop of kernels that I grew five years ago -- and they still taste great!

Here on the mini-farm we use a hand crank grain mill.  It takes a pretty good arm to crank it sometimes, but I like the exercise.  Alternatively, I could transform the dried corn kernels into cornmeal the “old fashioned way”, the way that Indians and many other people around the world still do, and that is by pounding them. For that, a granite mortar and pestle like the one we have works fantastic.


1 cup of freshly ground cornmeal (one cup of whole kernels grinds down to about 1 1/3 cups of cornmeal flour)

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups water

1 heaping kitchen spoonful of raw honey (maybe 2)

1 fresh egg

Light cooking oil or butter

NOTE: Do a search on Google for “johnny cake recipes”. You’ll find many that recommend frying your johnny cakes in bacon drippings. Give me a break! I tried that and guess what? My johnny cakes tasted like bacon grease! I imagine that if you’re in some kind of survival situation and bacon grease (or bear, or whatever) is all you have, then your johnny cakes are going to come out tasting GREAT regardless. The hungrier one gets, the less picky one gets, isn’t that the general rule?  I’m trying to give you a recipe here that you can use regularly at home and enjoy the result.


1) Put cornmeal, salt, honey and egg into a medium size bowl – honey will be sticky, no need to mix yet

2) Bring water to a rapid boil in a medium size saucepan, remove from heat.

3) Slowly mix hot water into the cornmeal/salt/egg/honey stirring constantly – resulting mixture should be rather thin but not runny

The Painted Mountain Johnny Cake batter should be a little on the thin side.

4) Heat oil in frying pan over medium to low heat for a slow fry – too high heat and you’ll have grease/oil splattering all over the place and your johnny cake will burn before the inside gets sufficiently cooked.  Too low heat and you'll be waiting longer than needed for it to brown.

5) When the pan is sufficiently warmed up, pour or spoon the batter into the pan. The batter should be thin enough to spread out mostly on its own.  Directly after pouring the batter into the pan, use a spatula to gently smooth the top of the Johnny Cake so that the thickness is uniform over the entire area that the Johnny Cake covers in the pan. 

NOTE: Some recipes call for thicker batter, and squashing the batter down to a thickness of one fourth inch once in the pan. But I tried that multiple times. I always ended up with a johnny cake that was browned on the outside but still wet and gooey on the inside. That doesn’t work for me, the texture is unappealing. That’s why I go with thinner johnny cakes.  

6) Fry until the down side is golden brown, then flip it over and brown the other side. Slow to medium fry is the key here – too fast and you’re likely to get “too brown” (i.e., black) and a still moist inside

7) Serve hot as you would a pancake – with butter, syrup, jam – however you prefer. Or just eat plain which is my preference.  Any Johnny Cakes remaining I always store stacked between paper towels, then I eat them "cold" as the day progresses and I feel a need to eat.

The resulting johnny cake will be rather thin and should be a little on the crunchy side. The edges should definitely be crunchy.  It will be somewhat sweet, taste a lot like regular cornbread with a touch of honey. It will be firm and appealing.  Think flat bread!

Notice that the johnny cake at the bottom looks a little different than the other two.  That's because I used no oil to cook that one, just a medium hot pan.

Here's the side view -- they should be less than 1/4 inch thick, maybe 1/8 inch is closer. They'll be firm but flexible, just like flat bread, and have a honey-sweet hint of flavor.

Suggestion: Try putting some pepper in your batter to spice things up, or maybe some crumbled blueberries to really liven up the taste!

I get five Johnny Cakes for every cup of corn kernels ground to corn flour.  That's enough to keep me fed and energized for hard manual labor all day long!  I often eat these with slices of meat and sometimes a salad.  They're great with coffee too.

One thing I do know for sure.  And that is, when the supermarkets run out of food and I'm forced to rely exclusively on the food I've grown and preserved, I will have no problem surviving on Johnny Cakes and other dried/dehydrated vegetables and fruits that we grow and preserve right here on the mini-farm.  That's real food security!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Emergency Survival Food Face-off

Scene at local supermarket one day after SHTF

Wherever you are and whatever your SHTF plans may be, it is certain that one of the key components of your plan is long term emergency food storage. 

Emergency food supply is Big Business these days. It's grown into a multi-billion dollar industry and is projected to grow even more. 

Offers of emergency food supply "ready to go" buckets stuffed with an assortment of various entrees are proliferating across the internet. 

If you look closely, you'll notice that there are significant differences between the emergency food supply kits offered by various distributors -- differences in caloric content and cost per day. 

How does a doom-driven prepper go about deciding which emergency food supplies to purchase?

That's what this post attempts to answer. 

Per Day Calorie Requirements

Calories per day is the most critical aspect of any emergency food supply. While overall nutritional content is vitally important -- vitamins, minerals, protein, etc. -- the one thing that every person is going to absolutely need in an emergency food supply is sufficient calories to maintain energy and strength.

How many calories per day does a person need to maintain energy and strength in an emergency situation?

The general guideline printed on food nutrition labels is 2000 calories per day. But that is only a general guideline based on average needs of a diverse population which on the whole tends to be rather sedate. 

Men generally need more calories than women because they tend to have larger frames and more body weight. Adults tend to need more calories than children for the same reason. 

Activity level is also a key consideration when considering daily caloric needs. Active individuals need more calories than inactive individuals. Athletes or people who exercise regularly need far more than the average 2000 calories per day.

How Many Calories Do You Need

One rule of thumb is that for people with high activity levels, the caloric need is 18 calories per pound of body weight. For a 200 pound man, that would be 3600 calories per day. A 150-pound man would need 2700 calories per day. 

According to dietary guidelines published in 2015, a 154 pound active man age 36 to 40 needs 2600 - 2800 calories per day to maintain weight and muscle mass. A 126-pound active woman of the same age needs 2000 to 2200 calories per day.

Calculate your anticipated daily caloric need here

2000 Calories Per Day May Not Be Enough

The main point here is, in a SHTF emergency, you're likely to be highly active and in great need of more than the minimal 2000 calories per day. 

There are of course other factors to consider when choosing an emergency food supply besides calories per day.  For example: 
  • What is the shelf life of the food supply
  • How easy or difficult is it to transfer the food supply in case of the need to bug out
  • Ease or difficulty in preparing the food for consumption
  • Chemical additives
  • How appetizing is the food
  • How filling is the food -- usually boils down to quantity consumed 
While those are all important factors to consider, caloric content of food intended for an emergency situation is the most important factor.  Not enough calories = diminished energy and strength.  Calories provide the ENERGY that powers a human body.


For this comparative analysis, four emergency "food kit" products currently on offer via online purchase from four different emergency food supply companies are highlighted. Each of the four product offerings were randomly selected from the corresponding company's website.

1) The first emergency food provider selected is Wise Company.  The product selected for comparison is the 360-serving Wise Emergency Survival Food Storage pack found at this link:

Number of days food supply: No claim made
Price: $777.99
Number of servings: 360
Price per serving: $2.16
Total Calories: 83640
Days supply for 1 person 41.82 days
Cost per day: $18.60

  • Days supply is calculated as Total Calories divided by 2000 calories per day
  • Cost per day is calculated as Price divided by Days supply for 1 person

2) The second emergency food provider selected is Augason Farms.  The product selected for comparison is the Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Pail Combo found at this link:

Number of days food supply: 20 days for one person
Price: $139.99
Number of servings: 254
Price per serving: $0.55
Total Calories: 41250
Days supply for 1 person 20.62 days
Cost per day: $6.79

  • Total Calories of 41250 is stated on website.  Per-serving calories and nutritional content is unable to be independently verified
  • Days supply is calculated as Total Calories divided by 2000 calories per day
  • Cost per day is calculated as Price divided by Days supply for 1 person

    3) The third emergency food provider selected is Patriot Supply.  The product selected for comparison is the 4-Week Emergency Food Supply found at this link:

    Number of days food supply: 28 days (4 weeks) for one person
    Price: $197.00
    Number of servings: 252
    Price per serving: $0.78
    Total Calories: 56140
    Days supply for 1 person 28.07 days
    Cost per day: $7.01

    • Days supply is calculated as Total Calories divided by 2000 calories per day
    • Cost per day is calculated as Price divided by Days supply for 1 person

    4) The fourth and final emergency food provider selected is Mountain House.  The product selected for comparison is the Just in Case...® 4 Day Emergency Food Supply found at this link:

    Number of days food supply: 4 days for one person
    Price: $91.99
    Number of servings: "About" 24
    Price per serving: $3.83
    Total Calories: 6650
    Days supply for 1 person 3.325 days
    Cost per day: $27.66

    • This company claims a 4 day food supply, but based on 2000 calories per day the actual supply is for only 3.325 days
    • Days supply is calculated as Total Calories divided by 2000 calories per day
    • Cost per day is calculated as Price divided by Days supply for 1 person


    • Cost Per Day of the emergency food supply one decides to purchase can vary greatly between different emergency food suppliers and the products they offer
    • All four companies featured here are clearly targeting a 2000 calorie per day emergency diet

    • What if you need MORE than 2000 calories per day, an almost certain possibility?
    • Are you okay with consuming the preservatives, food coloring and other chemical additives that are in some (or most) of these food packages?


    Maybe it would be a better option to secure a supply of emergency long term storage food that provides not 2000 calories per day, but 3874 CALORIES PER DAY at a per day cost of $9.71?

    Here's how, but first:

    It used to be that humans relied exclusively on basic foods for their sustenance: grains, beans, honey, dried vegetables, dried fruits, nuts and meat or fish when they could get it.  Our ancestors knew how to raise and preserve these foods for long term storage and future consumption -- they HAD TO because their survival depended on it. 

    Don't be surprised to wake up one day in a post-Economic Collapse world to find that there are few if any restaurants, frozen dinners or long term storage emergency food kits still available.  

    INEVITABLY, humanity is returning to a time where we will once again be forced to rely on the basic foods for our sustenance because these are the foods that are the MOST energy-efficient and are practical to grow and preserve for long term storage.

    Number of days food supply:60 days for one person
    Price:$582.67 (plus shipping)
    Number of servings:N/A
    Price per serving:N/A
    Total Calories PER DAY:3874
    Days supply for 1 person60+
    Cost per day:$9.71

    25 pound bag: $16.84 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 189 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 710

    15 pound bag: $105.76 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 100 grams
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 341

    Two 2-pound 1 ounce cans: $27.99 each, total 55.98 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 5 tablespoons (2 egg equivalent)
    Total Servings: 71
    Calories Per Serving: 80

    2 pound plastic jar: $15.59
    Serving size: 1 tablespoon (twice per day)
    Total servings: 129
    Calories Per Serving: 35 (70 per day)

    4 pound pail: $17.99 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 1 tablespoon (used for frying/cooking -- 2 tablespoons daily)
    Total Servings: 140
    Calories Per Serving: 120 (240 per day with 2 servings per day)

    15 pound bag: $141.60
    Serving size: 100 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 372

    25 pound bag: $16.09 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 189 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 618

    15 pound bag: $108 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 100 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 372

    15 pound bag: $84 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 100 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 341

    25 pound bag: $21.60 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 189 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 730

    Add salt, pepper, dehydrated garlic/onion powder and other dried herbs/spices at minimal cost for seasoning and a little extra nutrition.


    Number of days food supply:60 days for one person
    Price:$277.06 (plus shipping)
    Total Calories PER DAY:4798
    Cost per day:$4.61

    If you're thinking that this might be the way to go, don't forget one of these so you can make bread, cornbread and other stuff: Hand Crank Grain Mill

    Two 25 pound bags: $16.84 times two for total of $33.68 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 378 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 1420
    Quick Prep Recipe

    Two 25 pound bags: $16.09 times two for total of $32.18 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 378 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 1236
    Quick Prep Recipe

    Two 15 pound bags: $84 times two for total of $168 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 200 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 682

    Two 25 pound bags: $21.60 times two for total of $43.20 (plus shipping)
    Serving size: 378 grams per day
    Total Servings: 60
    Calories Per Serving: 1460
    Quick Prep Recipe

    NOTE: Nutritional and caloric attributes per food product for most items listed above were obtained from this website:

    Thursday, May 2, 2019

    Self Sustainability And Preparedness

    Self sustainability is a term that's getting a lot of attention these days.

    A search on Google for "self sustainability" returns 232 million results. That many results can only mean one thing: a whole lot of people are searching for information related to self sustainability.

    How do we explain the growing widespread interest in this topic?

    Easy. It's due to an ever increasing number of people becoming aware of how dangerously fragile the global economy is and by extension, how precarious their own lives are within it. People are picking up on inconvenient facts, they're adding two plus two together and they're coming up with an answer that looks a lot like economic collapse somewhere in the not too distant future. Seeing that, they are preparing, looking for ways to become self sustainable.

    Being self-sustainable is all about growing one's own food, taking necessary measures to insure security, guaranteeing a plentiful water source and so much more.

    What level of preparation is required to be self sustainable through a potentially long and catastrophic emergency?

    13 Recommendations

    1. Develop a means to generate sufficient income from your property

    Even those of us who are debt-free are still most likely going to have to pay property taxes. That requires money. We need money to buy gas and diesel, to get our cars serviced and repaired, to take the kids to the doctor, to visit the dentist when a toothache strikes. Money is required to buy tools, home security items, replacement parts -- the list of "might need to's" is long indeed. All require money.

    Recommended Reading

    2. Develop the knowledge and acquire the assets needed to produce and preserve 100% of the food you need

    Possessing the knowledge, experience, seed, land and tools required to grow and preserve food for long term emergency storage is essential to self-sufficiency.

    Recommended Reading

    3. Secure a substantial source of renewable drinking and irrigation water

    Next to oxygen, water is the most important resource required for human survival. A human can survive for up to three weeks without food, but only three to four days without water. For those contemplating total self sustainability, a plentiful and replenishable source of water is imperative.

    Recommended Reading

    4. Build your collection of essential tools and materials

    Even our pioneering forefathers needed tools and implements to survive. Without them they could not have been self sufficient. And either can those aspiring to self-sustainability today. There is some stuff that you're just flat out going to need.

    Recommended Reading

    5. Maintain health and develop physical strength

    Given that the ability to grow one's own food is a prerequisite for self-sufficiency, it follows that so also are good health and sufficient strength. Anybody who has practiced farming or large-scale gardening knows how physically taxing that work can be. Soil must be prepared and maintained. Seed must be sown. Holes must be dug. Weeds must be picked. Compost piles must be turned. Harvested crops must be transported from one place to the other. All of this requires manual labor involving sometimes significant levels of physical assertion. Reasonably good health and a bare minimum level of fitness are imperative for self sustainability.

    Recommended Reading

    6. Develop handyman knowledge and skills

    It finally hit the fan and the world has turned insane. You're on high alert. Something breaks and needs to be fixed. No spare parts available. Hey, you're self sufficient. What are you going to do, call a contractor? No. You're going to make that repair yourself with whatever materials you have access to, using whatever tools you've accumulated to hammer bend and twist that material to serve the intended purpose. You're going to have to think hard and figure something out. Lots of trial and error. You're going to need some tools.


    7. Protect yourself


    And you think you won't need to take extreme measures to defend yourself and your family?

    Think again.

    Recommended Reading

    8. Learn and practice beekeeping

    Beekeeping has been around since recorded history. There's always been beekeepers and there always will be as long as the bees keep making honey. It is a valuable skill. Honey is a valuable product. It's highly nutritious and tastes good too. You also get beeswax for candles and many other practical applications. Total win.

    Recommended Reading

    9. Get a heat source for protection against cold

    Depending on where a person lives, heating a residence through winter months without the aid of electricity or natural gas is a prime concern. A wood burning stove is the most efficient method. A fireplace might also do the job, just not as well. Don't forget to stockpile one or more effective hand saws and/or axes to cut down trees and buck them up. Don't depend on a chainsaw since they need gas and oil to operate, and there might not be any gas or oil available.


    10. Secure fire starter equipment and materials

    Cooking. Sterilizing. Heat against the cold. You're going to want to make sure that you can strike up a fire whenever and wherever you have the need


    11. Get set up to make moonshine

    If you're growing fruits, grains, potatoes or corn, then a still and the knowledge of how to use it could prove invaluable. In the event of economic breakdown you'll be able to use home brewed liquor as a barter item. Alcohol is an effective disinfectant. It can be used in lamps, stoves and other devices specifically designed to operate on ethanol.


    12. Obtain required food preparation equipment and accessories

    So you've got a three month emergency food kit sitting in your closet. You're good to go.

    Just one little problem. After three months have passed and all your emergency meals are gone, what next?

    If only you had purchased some dried corn kernels, whole wheat berries and maybe some whole oats instead, you could have eaten just as good or better and still have seed to plant. Think about it this way. In a true SHTF scenario, once all the emergency kit meals are gone, what are you going to eat after that?

    Same thing that all pre-industrialization civilizations ate, if you can get it. They stuck to the staples because it was what they could grow, it was healthy and nutritious, and they could preserve it for long term storage -- grains, corn, dehydrated vegetables and fruits.

    A good idea would be to get set up early to process and prepare the staple foods because that's what people have always eaten, and what they'll be back to eating again post-collapse.

    Recommended Reading

    13. Prepare to treat common medical ailments and physical injuries

    It is very important that you or someone else in your family or tribe are able to treat medical ailments, physical injuries and take proper care of wounds. Preventing infections is something you have to be able to do. Nobody wants to play doctor, but sometimes there isn't any choice. When that time comes, knowledge and quality medical supplies will make a big difference in the outcome.


    Tuesday, April 30, 2019

    Rain Capture Water Tanks

    Here's a question that anybody interested in preparing for future SHTF-style emergencies ought to be asking themselves.  What good is a robust stash of long shelf life emergency food, an arsenal of weapons with thousands of rounds of ammo and a secured location if there isn't a guaranteed water supply?  What happens if the public water system becomes contaminated or simply stops working?

    Got a well?  Great!  But how good is that well going to work if the electricity suddenly goes off?  No problem you say, you have a generator or perhaps solar.  Awesome!  But how long will they remain operational?

    Got a year round creek or lake in close proximity, or maybe a gravity fed spring straight into your house?  Good for you -- it doesn't get much better than that, and this post probably isn't for you.  But I hope you read it anyway!

    For those of us contemplating emergency preparation and not having the luxury of living within close proximity to a naturally occurring source of potable water, it might be worthwhile to put some thought into how we are going to secure a substantial, reliable, potable and replenishable store of water.

    The bright idea that I came up with to solve this dilemma is what I call a "rain capture water tank" -- a BIG one.

    Below is a picture of the first rain capture water tank that I built in my backyard mini-farm at my previous address -- not the best photo, and the tank is still in the process of being completed at this point, but it is the only photo I can find unfortunately.  I ended up painting it.  And after the first year of service I sunk 4x4 posts into the soil around the tank and cemented them in place, firmly bracing the walls against the enormous outward pressure exerted by the weight of the water held in the tank.

    Rain capture water tank, 2000 gallons, next to chicken coup in backyard mini-farm
    Features of this water tank:

    1) The inside tank liner is 4 feet by 15 feet by 4 1/2 feet in height.  The bottom foot and a half is beneath the soil surface -- I dug the base into hard clay to give the bottom of the tank solid support, knowing that the weight of the water pushing down and outward would be too much for the rather flimsy wood frame and sidewalls to handle without that support.

    2) The sheet metal roof extends roughly six inches past the tank on all four sides.  This is to protect the tank from rain of course, but just as importantly the extra roof surface area captures more water than if the roof surface area were to exactly match the tank.  For every inch of rainfall received, my tank will get an inch-plus of rain water runoff.  With the 4' x 15' dimensions of that tank, based on 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, the tank gets 448.8 gallons for every 12 inches of rain water captured.  Divide that by 12, and according to my calculator the tank collects 37.4 gallons per inch of rain capture.  Not too bad.  Due to the fact that my geographical area receives on average 48 inches of rainfall per year, I could count on that water tank filling up every winter.  As it turned out in practice, due to the extended roof surface area, it actually filled up every year by mid-January at latest and I had to disconnect the downspout to prevent overflowing.

    3) The tank has a sealed cover made of plywood that is attached to 2x4s fastened across the top of the tank to prevent sagging.  The cover, or "lid" as I call it, is very important for the following two reasons:

    • Prevents dirt, debris and bugs from getting into the water (especially mosquitoes)
    • By preventing light from getting in, mold is unable to form, the water remains pure and crystal clear like a spring-fed underground cistern.  If even a single small shaft of light were to shine on the water for a few days it would quickly mold up, and we don't want that.

    4) It has a hand pump installed on top of the cover, reinforced at the base with 2x4's, that pumps water at the rate of one quart per full pump.  The pump output has a garden hose attachment which enables pumping water to all areas of the backyard via the hose.  I never found time to hook up a drip irrigation system to it.

    If you're capturing rain water to irrigate the garden or to serve as a backup potable water supply, you're probably going to want a hand operated water pump.  Hose attachments can be added to this pump for minimal additional cost -- hook your irrigation system up to the output and use the pump to water your garden.  Much better than having to carry water from your tank to where the plants are growing.  A duel hose output fitting with on/off switch for each output can be attached -- use one output for watering the garden and the other output for pumping water into the house or other area.

    Example of hand operated water pump for watering the garden and pumping water to where you need it -- $160.90
    5) The frame of the tank is actually rather flimsy.  Built of 2x4 douglas fir and 3/8 inch cedar plywood inner walls, this frame was only intended to provide the scaffolding and encasement for the custom tank liner.  At first I assumed that with almost two feet underground, the top two feet of water would not exert enough outward pressure to stress the frame -- I thought it would hold rigidly.  I thought wrong.  I got bulging around the top of the tank, and the 2x4 side supports definitely came under too much pressure.  So I kept it only half full for the first year, then the second year I added perimeter supports of 4x4 posts cut to size, four on each side and two on both ends (not shown in photograph as I hadn't completed that work yet), and sunk directly into the clay next to the tank with rebar and concrete to make it as solid as possible against the water pressure.  The concrete-sunk posts did the trick -- no more bulging or stress on the frame.

    6) The liner is a custom-made potable water vinyl liner made by American Brand Products, Inc.  I ordered the liner to my specifications, received a quote, paid for it and the liner was shipped to my front door.  If you are thinking about getting a custom tank liner, these guys do it very well.  I never had any issues with my liner for this tank, or with the liner for my newest water tank.  Here's the link:

    My first water tank worked extremely well, as good or better than envisioned when I had the "bright idea" to build it.  During the five years that the tank was in service, I had the comfort of knowing that should SHTF, I had my water source one hundred percent secured.

    Then I decided to move out to a rural location.  I immediately set out to build ANOTHER custom water tank.  Only this time, I went BIG -- 10,000 gallons!!

    Rain capture water tank, 10000 gallons
    Another view
    Above are two pictures of my new 10K gallon rain capture water tank, put into service October of last year.  Working off the success of my first water tank, I did it basically the same way.  Except this time I hired an excavator to come out and dig the hole.

    This new tank is 4 1/2 feet tall, same as the first one, but is 20 feet by 15 feet in dimension -- 5 times larger than my first tank.  It has all the same features as the first one -- minus the hand pump -- with a couple of extras.

    First, it is located at the highest point of my sloping property.  It is about a 40-foot drop to my ten thousand square foot grow area, so instead of pumping the water I can let gravity do the work for me.  At the bottom of that 40-foot drop I get a really strong stream of water coming out of the 1-inch PVC that I ran from the tank to the grow area.  Plenty of pressure for the drip line irrigation system that I'm currently in the process of putting the finishing touches on.  Hopefully not too much pressure.  I buried the 1-inch PVC pipe a few inches under ground (fair amount of digging), except for where it passes through the chicken yard.  At the midpoint of that approximate 200-foot PVC pipe run, close to my house, I installed a 2-way garden hose adapter with open/close valves.  This way, from that midpoint next to my house, I can turn the water off or on to the garden area without having to walk down to it, and if desired I can route the gravity flow into my house.

    Ten thousand foot grow area surrounded by deer fence that the rain capture water tank services
    Second, the frame for this monster water tank is not built of 2x4's.  Rather, it is built out of 4x4 treated redwood.  The walls are not plywood, but 3/4 inch particle board -- extremely tough stuff.  The 4x4s are attached with metal bindings and 4-inch screws.  Where the 4x4s meet at the corners I used 7-inch long, 1/2 inch thick hex-head "bolt screws" to ratchet them tightly together.

    Third, I installed an overflow outlet pipe on this tank so that I wouldn't have to worry about the water level rising past the liner.  The overflow works great -- last rain we had a week ago, I went out to the tank and observed the overflow water gently trickling through the overflow pipe and into the crushed rock retainer wall, where it seeps down to the ground and then down the hill right along with all the rest of the rain water.

    Finally, the lid (or cover) is heavy duty -- I can walk on it.  Supporting the eight 4-foot x 8-foot sheets of plywood that form that cover are two rows of cedar 2x4 "T-supports".  Each T-support is set on a flat 8-inch square paver with rounded corners, which itself rests on a half-inch bed of fine sand.  This way the pressure of the weight on the cover will not damage or otherwise impact the bottom of the tank liner.  I bolted 16-foot 2x4s to the T-supports just under the cover for additional support.  The 4x8 foot plywood sheets that form the cover are attached to not only the T-supports but to the 16-foot 2x4 cross-supports also.  It is very firm and solid.

    There were about six to eight inches of free space on all sides of the frame once I got it completed because I asked the excavator to carve out a little extra working room when he dug the hole.  After I finished constructing the frame, I used my tractor to pour and pack crushed rock into that free space, then mounded up a couple of additional loads of crushed rock retainer around the front and sides where, due to the slope, more of the tank was above ground.  Due to the "bulging" issues I had with my first 2000-gallon water tank, I went full-retard on making sure this tank had all the side support required to prevent any outward pressure from putting undue stress on the frame.  It is currently topped off and no bulging.  But I'll continue to keep a close eye on it, ready to pack more crushed rock around the sides if needed.

    But that's not the end of this long-winded story.  I felt like I needed even MORE water.  I came across a local company that had a special deal going on 5000-gallon prefab vinyl potable water tanks.  I picked one up for $2000 including delivery.  I put it on top of the crushed rock pad where the previous owners had installed a mobile horse stall.  Then I rerouted the west-facing side of my barn roof's rain runoff through the downspout, into a 3-inch pipe which I attached to a tension wire for support, and ran that to the top water tank input.  You can see it in the pic below.

    Rain capture water tank, 5000 gallons, with 3-inch pipe routing water from barn downspout
    Another view
    Due to the large surface area of the west-facing side of my barn roof and the large amount of runoff it captures, it took less than two months for the 5000-gallon water tank to fill up.

    At the bottom of the tank is the output spout which I opted to have installed with a garden hose adapter.  I don't get much gravity feed pressure in my grow area from this tank due to it being only ten feet higher in elevation, at most.  I'm going to use this tank to water my small hazelnut orchard this summer, and as time goes on and circumstances allow, I'm probably going to plant some cherry, peach and pear trees next to the hazelnut trees.  I'll have plenty of water in that 5K tank to keep them all well-watered.  Maybe even put some goats down there, who knows what else.  I have enough water to handle it all!

    Garden hose attachment at base of 5000 gallon rain capture water tank
    One final critical piece of equipment I thought I would mention is this hand pump shown below.  I took it to the nearest Home Depot where I found the correct fittings to adapt the intake and output of the pump to standard garden hose male and female fittings.  I mounted it on 3/4 inch particle board.  When I'm ready to start pushing water through my new irrigation system-in-development, I'll go to the midpoint 2-way hose adapter, hook my pump up to the free outlet and start pumping.  I did it for the first time last week and it took about five minutes of pumping to get the water flowing to that midway point.  Once there, it already had significant pressure.  I closed the valve on that outlet, opened the valve to the garden irrigation PVC line, then hauled ass down the hill to watch the water come out.  It was a thrill to see how powerful the jet stream was.  Gravity can work FOR you sometimes.

    Hand pump used to pull water from rain capture water tank into main line and start gravity feed
    In closing, an opinion.  No matter what steps you are taking to prepare for an uncertain future, guaranteeing an adequate water source should be a key consideration.  I only bring this up because I've talked to several people about their SHTF plans who seem to have overlooked the possibility that public water systems might stop working in an extended emergency situation.  If that happens, a case or two of bottled water is not going to be enough.  Not even close.  Everybody needs water -- LOTS of water.

    Here's the bottom line: A substantial guaranteed source of water is still no guarantee against all future unknown threats, but if we don't plan and take action now then we're damn sure guaranteed to be unprepared when everything goes to hell.

    Thanks for reading.