Survival Gardening Top Crops
May 31

How to Grow Your Own Mushrooms, Survival Gardening for Food Self Sufficiency

By Chris Gilmour | Prepared Lifetyle , Survival Gardening

Interested in Food Self Sufficiency? Grow Your Own Mushrooms!

​If you are interested in ​how to grow your own mushrooms for food and medicine or how you could achieve​ partial or full food self-sufficiency, this ​post on survival gardening is for you!

There are two videos embeded in this post. Video one is a summary of why mushrooms are great for survival gardening and food self sufficiency. Video two (at the bottom of the page) is a step by step on how to grow edible and medicinal mushrooms on logs. ​

Learning how to grow your own mushrooms is a significant step (for many reasons) in this direction and may be easier and more practical then you realize. Let’s talk food security first or scroll down to learn why they are such a practical crop to grow and how to do it.

How would you and your family fair if the world entered another “Great Depression,” like the big one that lasted from 1929 - 1939? 

Tens of millions of people lost their jobs across North America and almost half the major Banks went bankrupt. Back then many people still had vegetable gardens and new basic homestead and self-reliance skills to help them weather the hard times. Today is a different story.

I commonly hear people mentioning how they dream of being able to “live off the land” or grow their own food. The reality is, there is a lot to learn to be able to do this effectively. If you wait till the next great recession to plant your survival garden, you may have a rude awakening and a steep learning curve.

I first started learning about growing edible mushrooms back in 2006 when I did a permaculture apprenticeship on 7 Ravens Farm out on Salt Spring Island. I have been growing them on my homestead for the past seven years. During this time I have learned a lot of tricks that will hopefully save you time and get you better results quicker. Let’s dive in!

With climate change and a lack of stability in global food security, this is a great time to learn to grow your own mushrooms and start survival gardening!

Why Mushrooms are Great for Survival Gardening, Food Security & Your Health

In my blog post “Growing Your Own Food; Survival Gardening in a Changing Climate”, I list six considerations to maximize your time and efforts to achieve food security. Growing edible mushrooms meets all six of these considerations and a few more important ones… Heck ya, go mushrooms!

1) Low Maintenance = More Time 

Inoculating mushroom logs is a fair bit of initial work, although not significantly more than creating a garden bed from scratch. BUT… Once they are inoculated, they produce food for many years with minimal upkeep and additional work beyond harvesting & processing.

Put them in a shady place, keep them moist, and let nature do the rest. Depending on where you live, you may need to spend a bit of time each harvest pulling slugs off your logs before they eat too much of your crop. 

2) High Yield = More Food in Less Space

My shiitake logs produce half to a full pound of delicious mushrooms per season per log. Depending on the species of fungus and type of wood they are inoculated on, they can produce mushrooms for 3 - 8 years. This makes the initial work well worth it, especially if you take a year off from inoculating new logs and are still reaping the harvest from past years.

Grow Your Own Mushrooms for Food Self Sufficiency

If you live in the country or have a big yard, I recommend doing 10 - 20 logs per year. After a few years you will be putting A LOT of mushrooms away for the winter, and as your old logs pass their peak fruiting performance, you will have newer logs ready to go to replace the yield. This will keep your crop sustainable long term. 

We have over 300 logs but have built that stash up over six years. The patch now produces WAY more than we eat in a year which makes for great gifts for friends and family. 

3)  Hardy to Extreme & Unpredictable Weather

If you are growing Tomatoes and an extreme storm rips them out of the ground, or you get a heavy hail, you have to start over again. If your Mushrooms are fruiting when the storm happens, the worse that is likely to happen is you lose that months crop. If you lose the spring crop, they will still fruit again in the summer or fall and again the following year. 

The primary concern with mushroom logs is letting them dry out. If you are in a drought, you need to water them once or twice a week during the first year and a few times a month in future years. If they dry out, the mycelium will die eventually and stop producing. I keep mine next to a pond so I can toss them in overnight to rehydrate from time to time.  Or put a sprinter on them assuming you have power. 

With the stark realities of climate change it is time we start to consider how we adapt they way we grow food. Here is a article on top points to consider in growing food in a changing climate.

4) Store & Preserve Well

Growing edible mushrooms can provide food year-round leading to REAL food security. My favorite technique is to slice them thin and dry them in the sun for a few hours then a food dehydrator. Putting them in the sun first has been shown to significantly increase the Vitamin D levels in them according to studies referenced in “Mushrooms Demystified” by David Arora.

We use our dried Shiitake mushrooms in soups all winter long or rehydrate them for stirfry. You can also fry them for a few minutes then freeze them to use at a later date. This way they do not need to be rehydrated. We cook ours with butter, tamari sauce and garlic. 

5) Can be Grown Indoors
Grow Mushrooms Indoors Food Self Sufficiency

​You can also grow mushrooms indoors in bags and other containers. I have done this with Reshi Mushrooms (Ganoderma Lucidum), and I intend to experiment with different varieties soon.

The book, “Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation” by Trad Cotter, goes into lots of detail about many different techniques to grow edible mushrooms both indoors and outdoors.

6) Nutrient Dense, Healthy & Medicinal

I remember being blown away when I first learned about how nutritious mushrooms were. For some reason, I had always assumed they were nutrient poor and just a treat for extra flair in a meal. Wow, was I wrong! Mushrooms have been a staple food source of indigenous peoples, farmers, and wildlife for thousands of years for a good reason. 

  • This will vary a bit from species to species but here are a few general highlights:
  • Often high in vitamin B’s. D, K and some species even vitamin A & C
  • Many are high in protein and are some of the highest non-meat proteins we can eat
  • They contain many essential micronutrients and minerals such as Selenium, Calcium, Potassium, Copper, Iron and many more.
  • High source of dietary fiber

There is also a ton of scientific studies on the medicinal value of various mushroom species. Many are natural antibiotics, antivirals and many are showing promising research in helping prevent and helping assist in the treatment of some cancers. They are also used for people with immune disorders and diabetes. 

This section is not intended to make any specific medical claims; it is to highlight that many clinical studies are demonstrating the nutritional and medicinal properties of Mushrooms. Many of the highlights I referenced come from the books:

Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets. See an excellent table on the nutritional properties for different species on pages 198 & 199.

Mushrooms Demystified by Davis Arora.

7) They can be Grown in Rural, Urban & Off-Grid Situations

One of the reasons I love mushrooms for survival gardening is that they can be grown in an urban backyard. They can also be grown in your kitchen or even while living off-grid.

In Trad Cotter’s book, “Organic Mushroom Farming & Mycoremediation”, Chapter 12 is on growing mushrooms off-grid or in low power situations.

In my video, I also reference what tools you can use to inoculate mushrooms without electricity or modern amenities, 

If you are living in the city, the biggest challenge may be finding logs to inoculate. If you have had a recent ice storm, windstorm or even a tornado and there are lots of tree’s and branches down, then this is a great time to go and collect branches. Collect logs and branches between 3” and 6” in diameter of freshly cut or fallen trees.

If you have a neighbor getting a tree removed by an arborist, you could also ask them to have some of the thicker branches instead of them being hauled off. 

In the city and on a balcony another primary concern will be keeping you logs moist. If you have a pond, a creek nearby you can drop the logs into them for a couple of hours a few times a month (if it is hot and dry out) to rehydrate them. If you have rain barrels set-up, you could also drop your logs into the rain barrels to soak from time to time. 

How to Get Started - ​Step by Step How to Grow Your Own Shiitake Mushrooms

​The video shows you step by step how I inoculate logs with Shiitake Mushroom spawn and suggests other options for growing other mushrooms and in different set-ups. 

There is also a great step by step article with pictures in one of my new favorite blogs "Practical Self-Reliance"

​Mushroom Inoculation Tools & Resources


I highly recommend getting a good book so you fully understand the lifecycle of mushroom mycelium & all the steps.

My favorite book for growing is Trad Cotter’s book, “Organic Mushroom Farming & Mycoremediation

My favorite book on the food, medicinal and all other amazing things mushrooms do is Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets. ​

** Please note all the book links in this post are through Amazon Affiliates. I greatly appreciate you using these links first if making ANY purchases on Amazon as it helps support this blog... at least a little!

​Mushroom Growing Supplies in Canada

​I get my inoculation equipment from Mycosource, in Ontario, Canada.​​

If you live in another country just do a Google search and I'm sure you can find a local distributor. 

​Check out this list of key points to consider when growing food amidst Climate Change and for food self sufficiency. 

​Do You Have Questions or Tips​?

Please Comment Below!

​Also... Please Share!

If you are interested in growing edible #mushrooms or how you could achieve​ food #self-sufficiency, this ​post on survival gardening is for you!

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Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist
Apr 14

Ice Storms – Storm Preparedness Checklist

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorised

​How to Prepare for an Ice Storm

​If you would like to skip right to the action list, ​​then scroll down to the ​Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist, below the ​intro.

​Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 & Ice Storm of 2013

Do you remember the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 or the Ice Storm of 2013? If you do not or were not even born yet, ​these ice storms are worth searching for online. Check out some of the incredible photos, I bet you have never seen anything like it. No one expected it to be that bad and few went through their Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist first.

​The short of it is, eastern Canada, parts of the eastern United States, Quebec and Ontario had an ice storm like none other. ​​

Imagine waking up to 2 - 5 inches (12+ cm) of ice over top of your house, car and entire community?

The power is out (for weeks for many people), the heat is off, the phone lines and internet are down and you can not even get out of your house because the door is frozen shut from the outside. On top of this, even if you had a medical emergency and needed an ambulance, they can not get to you because the streets are frozen solid. 

Ice Storm 2013

​Th​ese ice storms were real scenarios that happened in North America a little over 20 years ago. And it could happen again. Ontario ice storms do happen and they can happen across the entire Northern Hemishpere. Unfortunately, many people died or had very negative consequences as a result. I suspect many of these deaths and challenges were avoidable if people were better prepared.

As I write this on April 14, 2018, there is the potential of another significant Ontario ice storm hitting a similar area. At this point, there is no reason to suspect it will be anything like 1998, but you never know, and a storm like this will strike again eventually.

As I researched government, NGO and other sites on ice storm preparedness, I realized a lot of the information out there already is very basic and common sense. I read things such as, don't go outside, don't drive, stock up on food and water, get a flashlight, etc.

That is all good advice, but so many important considerations are missing. That is why I wrote this post, Ice Storms, a Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist.

I hope you enjoy and find it useful. So let us learn from the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 AND how to prepare for ice storms. Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments at the bottom of the page!

Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist

General Ice Storm Tips:

​1) Take a quick scan around the perimeter of your property at the trees and consider moving your car or doing some quick pruning.

Storm Preparedness Checklist

Look for limbs that could cause damage to wires, your car/house or other infrastructure if they cracked under the weight of ice. Consider pruning them now.

Certain species are also more prone to breaking under the weight of ice than others. This is where having good naturalist skills and a connection with nature can really be useful in navigating extreme weather and potential emergencies.

​For example, Manitoba Maple, Willow species & Poplars species tend to shed branches easily if weighed down by ice. They have relatively soft wood and are common culprits for taking out wires and breaking windows with fallen branches.

Also consider where ice could slide off your roof and cause damage. Our friends car had significant damage from a smaller Ontario ice storm in her driveway this winter from ice sliding off of the roof.​ 

During the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 and the Ice Storm of 2013, Manitoba Maples were responsible for ALOT of lost power and damage.

On the other hand, species like Oak and Sugar Maple have quite strong and hardwood and are less likely to break under the weight of ice. 

​2) Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a real issue if the power is still on and any of the off-gassing vents get blocked by ice.

​Know where your different appliances such as your furnace, wood stove, backup generator and clothes dryer vent out of the house. Make sure the opening of these do not get blocked with ice and cause fumes to travel back into the house.

If the power goes out, make sure you turn off anything run on gas or propane. If they get damaged while the power is out (from ice) then come back on suddenly, you may not realize they are damaged. This poses the risk of explosions, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

​This was another leading cause of deaths during the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 and Ice Storm of 2013. 

Storm Preparedness Checklist

​3) Have a few escape tools in your house in case the ice gets really thick and you need to escape your own house.

A crowbar and a chiseling device may be useful to have on hand and accessible inside your home. Having a pair of safety glasses and heavy-duty leather work gloves in your kit is very useful as well.

​4) Fill up a few pails with sand or buy a couple of bags from the hardware or garden store.

After the storm, these can be used to help melt the ice and make pathways safer for travel. You can also get a big bag of salt. We mix a small amount of salt into our sand bucket to save on expenses and be more environmentally friendly.

​5) Call friends and family before the power goes out to check in and let them know you are prepared and ready. Check that they have they gone through their Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist and know how to stay safe during ice storms.

The last stress you need during a storm is to be worrying about others or knowing others are worried about you. Make sure your close friends and family are ready to go and share this post with them! #IceStorm #GetPrepared

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​6) Remember to leave the windshield wipers up on your car. It will be way easier to scrape the ice off the windshield afterward. 

​7) Consider buying crampons that slip over your boots.

Crampons are small spike o the bottom of your boots that prevent slipping and falling. I suspect you could get these at the local outdoors store and you can order a pair online. It is kind of like putting chains on your tires.

​8) Do not forget all the basics

Get a kit together with items such as an emergency flashlight with extra batteries, candles, extra food, and water, etc. There is a ton of information on basic emergency kits already out there which is why I chose to write about these tips instead. This kit can be used for a lot more than just ice storms. Search "Basic Emergency Kit" or "Ice Storm Preparedness" of "Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist".

​9) Read my other post on Winter Storm ​Preparedness & Lessons From Nature in Being Cold Resilient.

​Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 1 - Lessons from Nature

​Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 2 - Check List

Tips for when the power goes out during Ice Storms:

​10) Drain your water pipes if you think the power could be out for a while.

If it is possible that it may drop below freezing in your home, consider draining all your pipes so they are not damaged and do not burst.

11) Fill your bathtub, sinks and kitchen pots with water before the power goes out.

This water can be used to flush the toilet if your taps stop running! #IceStorm #GetPrepared Learn How @

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​If you pour approximately a gallon of water into the toilet, after you have gone, the pressure of this water being poured in quickly should manually flush the toilet. Try a practice run before the power goes out with a clean toilet bowl in case it take a bit of practice to get the technique down.

 If this water is clean, it can also be used for drinking or hygiene and cleaning.

​12) ​If you think the power could go out for more than 48hrs, consider filling ziplock bags with water and filling your freezer with them.

The dead air space in your freezer will heat up the quickest and cause things to start to melt and eventually spoil. Filling the dead air space with homemade bags of ice will keep your freezer cold much longer and prevent food spoilage a little longer.

In an extended blackout/emergency, these bags can also be melted for drinking water.

​13) Turn off and unplug electrical appliances to prevent a power surge when the power comes back on.

Also, turn off gas and propane. If these get damaged by the ice storm, and you do not realize it, they could cause a severe accident such as an explosion or fire when the power comes back on come back on.

​14) One great piece of gear is a hand crank radio with the NOAA Weather Band & AM/FM radio.

I bought mine at an electronics store for around $50. This allows me to listen to the news while hunkering down without power. It is helpful to get an idea of the scope of the storm and when the power will be back on again.

Having a backup USB charger for your phone is an excellent idea as well. Make sure the backup charger is fully charged before the power goes out!

​I hope you enjoyed this winter storm preparedness checklist.

Please share your thoughts and your own tips in the comments below so we can all learn from each other!

​And don't forget to check out:

​Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 1 - Lessons from Nature

​Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 2 - Check List

​And let's remember to learn from the ​Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 and the Ice Storm of 2013. Have you gone through your Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist? Ice Storms do happen!

Survival Gardening & Climate Change Adaption
Mar 17

Growing Your Own Food; Survival Gardening in a Changing Climate

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorised

​Some Food for Thought & Practical Food Growing Tips for a Changing Climate & Self-Reliance

​Since my late teens, I have dreamed about self-sufficient homesteading, survival gardening, and asked myself what can I do about climate change and food security? I also wanted to have a real connection to where my food came from. ​

If you have considered these questions then I think you will enjoy this post. If you have not, consider reading the next couple paragraphs about why you may want to reconsider.

For me this dream has turned into an ever evolving adventure and lifestlye.​

Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

​Harvesting from our Shiitake Mushroom Logs

​This post if for complete beginners, experienced gardens, people who want to grow all their food on a farm, or a tiny amount on a balcony in the city.

I know a lot of people who would like to grow some or more of their own food but have various reasons holding them back. No time, lack of space, and not knowing how can all feel like barriers.

In this series of blog posts, I hope to make growing some of your food and adapting to climate change feel doable. If you already garden and grow food, you may find this post thought-provoking. I would love to hear your thoughts, tips, and suggestions on the topic in the comments below.

Growing Your Own Food

I want to help you get quick results through high leverage choices in how you approach survival gardening. Growing food is for fun, health, and resiliency.

​Growing your own food can be very rewarding. The process of tending the land, as well as eating from it, nourishes the mind and body. It can bring enjoyment to life, connect us to nature, and can save money. We know exactly what we are putting into our bodies and reap the health benefits of this. In a changing climate and this often unpredictable world, it has many other benefits as well.

Have you ever heard the saying, "we are only four days from anarchy"?

​This may sound like an extreme statement, and it may or may not be truly accurate depending on where you live. The premises of this statement is that most grocery stores would be empty in less than four days if traditional supply chains were shut down.

Does this sound unlikely? Well, it is happening right now (March 7, 2018) for hundreds of thousands of people in the United States from a recent string of back-to-back Noreaster storms.

Disaster Survival and Growing Your Own Food

#Gardening can be part of your #DisasterPreparedness plan and a healthy resilient lifestyle. Learn how..

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6 Tips on Growing Food for Climate Change, Food Security ​and Disaster Survival​

​​1) Grow Low ​Maintenance​ Foods; Leverage your time ​and choices for maximum effectiveness

Perennial Vegetable Asparagus

​To accomplish this, consider planting foods that are relatively low maintenance yet still produce high yields. You want foods that once the initial work is done, mostly just grow themselves with minimal tending.

An example of this would be planting low maintenance perennial crops. We planted twenty-five asparagus plants when we first bought our homestead and twenty-five more a few years later. 

There was an initial bit of work to prepare the beds adequately. Now we have more asparagus than we can eat each spring with very minimal upkeep. It comes back on its own every year. Another bonus is that Asparagus comes up in early spring before many other plants are ready to harvest and it is a very nutrient dense food.Another high yielding perennial crop that is very resilient is Jerusalem Artichoke. It is incredible how much food they will produce in a small space. They take almost zero maintenance once established. Be careful where you plant them though, they can spread rapidly and can take a bit of work to remove from an area permanently.

​If you are looking for a great book on planting perennial vegetables, I recommend this great resource:

​** Please note, if you purchase it through this link I get a very small % of the sale to help fund this free resource blog!

​​2) ​Maximize Your Space & Time with High Yielding ​Crops

Growing Kale and Survival Gardening

​If you are thinking about growing your own food, self-sufficient homesteading, and survival gardening, you want to make the most out of your space.

Whether you are growing on a balcony in the city, or a hundred acre farm, the more you leverage physical space, the more food you have to eat and preserve. ​\

​Vegetables such as brussel sprouts, eggplants, bell peppers and certain types of squash, are nutrient-rich, but the plants grow very large and take up a lot of space. They often only produce a couple of meals worth of food per season, per plant (at least where I live in central Canada). There are techniques to create better yields on all of these but remember, we are talking survival gardening. Thus we want maximum efficiency of our time, efforts, space and resources.

Bush Beans, on the other hand, are relatively small plants. Beans produce a ton of food in a small space. One of the best parts is they will keep providing new beans for several weeks up to two months depending on the species and region.

 They also help improve soil quality through nitrogen-fixing reducing the amount of work you need to put into soil building. Climbing beans and peas are similar.

Kale & Broccoli are two of my other favorites for high yields in small spaces. We let our broccoli produce a full head first, usually by late July. It continues to provide smaller edible shoots that are very tasty and nutrient dense right up until October. It keeps on giving!  

Growing Your Own Food Broccolli

​Six to eight kale plants will also produce a lot of food as they are very fast growing and can be harvested over and over again. Keep in mind that these plants are pretty susceptible to specific pests like cabbage moths. You will have to see if they do well in your area.

Zucchini is another excellent option. They grow and produce prolifically.

3) ​Plant for Extreme and Unpredictable Weather; Consider How to Prepare for Climate Change and Food Security

What can I do about Climate Change?

In my region, South Central Ontario, the short-term predictions for climate change are already revealing themselves. We have seen lots of unseasonable weather, more period of intense rain, floods, more hail, mixed with periods of drought. Spring may come earlier some years, but then we get a frost way past the usual last frost date.

So how do the predictions and effects of climate change influence the way we garden and grow food in the future?

Make sure at least some of what you plant is cold hardy and can survive a late frost. Make sure some of your crops are drought tolerant, and that some can handle lots of rain and wet soil. Diversity is key here with a mix of plants that are hardy and resilient to inclement, unseasonal or extreme weather.

​An example of another perennial plant that is very hardy is Day Lily. You can eat the flowers and bulbs; they produce a fair bit of food over a month or more, they can tolerate poor soil, drought, and wet conditions.

Do some research on the best drought tolerant, cold hardy and wet tolerant plants for your region and plant a mix of them!

Edible Plants and Wild Food Foraging Day Lily

​4) ​Plant & Harvest Things that Store and Preserve Well ​

Survival Gardening Tomatoes and Acorn for Food

Many major disasters would have a good chance of wiping out a lot of your current year's crops. This is why storing food is so essential in a changing and unpredictable climate.

Pick foods that store well and still maintain nutritional value when preserved through drying, canning and fermenting.

Potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and garlic are four great plants for over winter storage when prepared correctly.

​5) Learn to grow food indoors for year-round nutrition and as part of your Disaster Preparedness Plan

Sprouts and Survival Gardening

There are lots of options for growing indoors. From advanced hydroponic set-ups to very simple micro green and sprouting set-ups. The beauty of this is you can grow year round and even in an urban landscape. Some techniques can even be done when the power is down.

A lot of research has come out in recent years around how nutrient dense sprouts and microgreens are. Sprouts and microgreen are the sprouted seeds of plants such as kale, broccoli, radish, mustard, peas and many other plants. You can grow these indoors by a window or under lights and produce high-quality food year round even when the power is down (as long as they stay warm enough and you have some light).

This is a great survival gardening food and a fun and healthy year-round food option. There is a ton of research out there on how to do it. Consider ordering yourself a big bag of bulk seeds to sprout now or put them in your home disaster supply kit.

Many species of mushrooms can also be grown indoors such as Oyster Mushrooms, Shiitake, and others. Mushrooms are very nutrient dense, have protein in them and can be a great supplement to your diet. There are more materials involved and a little more work than growing sprouts, but it can be a pretty fun experience as well.

​Want to get started in indoor Sprouting , Micros-greens or Mushrooms? Here are three products I recommend:

​​​** Please note, if you purchase it through this link I get a very small % of the sale to help fund this free resource blog!

​6) Learn about Permaculture, Forest Gardening ​and Wild Food Foraging

Permaculture and Climate Change Adaption

If you are serious about being resilient, self-sufficient and adapting to a changing world, then permaculture should be on your list of things to learn about.

Permaculture is too vast a topic to dive into in this post. The essence is setting up self-sustaining closed loop systems for producing food and energy. From increasing yields in small spaces to building soil to making the waste of one product the fuel of another. From reducing the amount, you need to water crops and thus helping you prepared for droughts. Permaculture and climate change adaption should go hand in hand.

Forest Gardening is about working with nature in the original garden of life. It is about tending and harvesting food from the wilds while leaving ecosystems intact to fulfill the many other essential functions they fill in the world. Forest gardening can include things such as foraging for wild foods and medicines, pruning native trees & shrubs to get better yields, planting and propagating seeds and plants in the forest and growing mushroom logs or collecting maple syrup.

You can
learn more about wild food foraging and medicine at

​If you are interested in ​Permaculture & Forest Gardening, I recommend the following books:

​​** Please note, if you purchase it through this link I get a very small % of the sale to help fund this free resource blog!

​I hope you enjoyed my latest post. Please share your thoughts, questions and own tips in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy reading: Getting Started in Personal & Family Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness Plan
West Coast Tsunami
Feb 24

Traveling to Tsunami & Earthquake Zones – Part 2

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorised

​In part one I told a story about a sea kayaking trip in Haida Gawii that taught me "ignorance is NOT bliss."  This experience changed my life and set me up to be a better naturalist, a more aware and educated world traveler, and better prepared for earthquakes, tsunamis and the unexpected. 
​If you have not read post one, check it out here

In this post, I will share a contrasting story with some real clear takeaways you can apply to your next vacation or in everyday life.

Contrary to what many believe, being better prepared and more aware of hazards does not need to take up much of your time. If approached with the right attitude it can grow your knowledge of the natural world, enhance your travels and build tremendous confidence, thus reducing the need for fear.
​This past fall I went back out to Vancouver Island (literally two weeks before the tsunami warning and evacuations). I took a little bit of time to make sure this next trip was blissful, but that I was not ignorant like I was during my sea kayaking adventure and past trips to the coast.
Tofino Tsunami

​Here are 6 tips for traveling safer, enriching your ​ experience, increasing knowledge & having fun!

​​** P.S.  This list is a starting point and not all-inclusive. Please do your own research around your unique needs. ​Help others by sharing your findings, travel tips and experiences in the comments at the bottom.

​1) Print local tsunami zone maps & register for local alert systems
Tofino Tusnami Map
​Before flying west, I took 10 minutes to visit the Emergency preparedness websites for the two areas I was visiting, Victoria & Tofino. Both had maps of the Tsunami evacuations zones and routes. I printed both.

Victoria also had an emergency alert system I could sign up for online that would send me a text if there was an emergency warning. This would still be useful if I were in Tofino.
​I also have an earthquake and tsunami alert app on my phone. You can see which ones I use here.

It is also important to know what the different levels of warnings mean. Do you have to start evacuating when there is a tsunami advisory? Do you know the answer?

For many disasters there are:
1) Special Information Statements
2) A particular Hazard, Watch
3) A particular Hazard, Advisory
4) A particular Hazard, Warning

Take a few moments to look up the meanings of these different terms and how you need to respond (or do not need to) under each. To get started, visit your local or provincial/state governments emergency page. Large organizations such Public Safety Canada, FEMA, Red Cross, etc., will also have this information available.

​2) Put a basic travel emergency kit together
​Again, this does not need to take long or be a lot of extra weight. Consider the variables and imagine what that situation might look like. What essential gear may you want to have on you? This should be light and able to e carried on your back if you need to evacuate fast.

Here are a few of the items I brought with me:
Shelter: rain poncho, emergency blanket, Sol Bivvy bag, wool blanket, rope
Water: 2-liter water bottle and water purification tablets
Fire: lighter in waterproof container and a Ferro rod with cotton balls soaked in vaseline, ​headlamp with extra batteries

Food: 8 cliff bars, 3 can of sardines, 2 cans of salmon, 1 block of coconut oil, emergency fishing kit
Emergency Travel Kit
​Travel & Communications: apps on phone, emergency hand-cranked radio, maps of tsunami evacuation zones, maps of the island, a paper copy of important phone numbers.

​Tools: knife, ​folding saw, multi-tool, more rope, $200 emergency cash

​Health & hygiene: basic first aid kit, pain medications, small bottle of bleach, soap, perscriptions meds and contact lens if needed
Travel Emergency Kit
​This entire kit fits into ​the small blue 5-liter dry bag on the left. The rest of my clothes for the trip fit into a 15-liter dry bag. Keep in mind the kit should be relative to where you are going and your skill sets and training. 
​To view some of my recommendations ​​for emergency gear ​I use personally, visit the ​gear section.

​3) Know the hazards and the variables they could create
​​​It's one thing to know your in a potential earthquake or tsunami zone, but what many forget to consider is the multiple ways this disaster could play out and who this could change your planning and options.
West Coast Tsunami Preparedness
​Going to Vancouver Island, there were several variables I considered. ​​Multiple different faultlines on the west coast of North America could trigger an event, each would have a different impact on the coast and thus my survival stratgey. The ​most relevant possible scenarios to me were​; 

1) The active Juan De Fuca fault line under Victoria & Vancouver. ​This could trigger massive earthquakes, but likely would NOT trigger a tsunami

2) The fault line between The Juan De Fuca Plate and the North American Plate off the coast of Tofino. This would be likely to cause an earthquake and a tsunami with only 15 minutes warning in Tofino and along other parts of Vancouver Island.

3) The fault line between The Juan De Fuca Plate and the North American Plate off the coast of Alaska. This is where the most recent large earthquake and tsunami warning occurred (Jan 23, 2018). This earthquake may not be felt in Canada (although it may be felt in Alaska) and the tsunami may take several hours to reach Vancouver Island (it may reach Alaska very fast though).​
I hope you can see how all three of these are very different situations which require different responses on your part.

If you ​were on Vancouver Island when this happened, consider the following:

In situation one, you would have no warning and a potentially massive earthquake. But you do not need to evacuate to higher ground directly afterward. You can expect to have no power, running water, and lots of physical infrastructure damage. It could be weeks before necessities are restored. You need to be self-sufficient.
Earthquake Damage

In situation two, You would feel the quake and need to act very quickly and evacuate if you are not on the high ground already. There may be no time to grave supplies or contact friends and loved ones. There also could be damage from the earthquake affecting your evacuation route so a plan B & C are essential.
Once on the high ground, stay there for at least 12 hours. Ideally, you have adequate clothing, water, required medications, etc.

In situation three, the likelihood of immediate physical damage to your evacuation route is a lot less. You also may have a couple of hours to get to high ground. Get there as soon as you can, but take time to grab essential gear, communicate with friends and family and get plans in place. Where will you meet up with people after the tsunami passes if the phone lines are down? How will you coordinate to work together to survive until help comes?

** Please keep in mind that this a very basic and simplified summary, and I am not a geologist. Other variables are at play that could change my suggestions on what would happen next. Take some time to do your research on the faults and the variables. What do local professional emergency agencies advise? You may find studying the geology and science behind it to be quite fascinating. I sure did!

​4) Orientate yourself to the lay of the land. Look for the "holes" in evacuation routes, local emergency plans and what your options are
​Upon arriving on Vancouver Island, I graved an island map from the airport to study the layout of the island and general topography.
Vancouver Island

This is not the map I used. Fins one with elevation lines and more detail!

​Now, most of the time I was looking at the map, I was thinking about where I wanted to visit and explore. I was also learning about the different ecological regions of the area and the beautiful way nature shaped and influenced this landscape. But I also spent a couple of minutes considering the general layout of roads in and out of the places I was traveling.
I mentally mapped high and low regions, where I may want to go/be in various situations, and my options for getting there after a disaster. This did not take long but made me feel WAY more prepared.

One of my most significant realizations in doing this exercise was that the government recommended evacuation route for me in Tofino may not work in some scenarios. How many people consider this? Would you have?

Imagine this; it's the middle of the night and you are awoken by a shaking building. A few minutes later the tsunami sirens go off. You just woke up so you are a little slow to react. You get together with everyone in your building. By the time you do this, I bet close to five minutes have passed.
Now you need to evacuate to higher ground, you had 15 minutes, but now you are down to 10. Here are two problems:
Earthquake Photo
​1) Everyone else from your area is evacuating too. What if the road is damaged, in a traffic jam, or moving too slow for you to make it in time?

2) There was just an earthquake, the road you are supposed to evacuate on may have down trees or even structural damage. Does following the "official" evacuation plan even make sense in this situation?

As soon as I realized this, I downloaded an altimeter app on my phone. ​
We spent the next few days hiking for recreation, that was part of the reason I was out there. As we were hiking, I was continually noticing the high points, checking their approximate height with the altimeter app on my phone (keep in mind the margin of error on your app and shoot for quite a bit higher), and considering how long it would take me to get to these points.

Could I get to any high places on foot from my accommodations in less than 10 minutes? It turned out there were two other high points I could get to very quickly.

 This did not take additional emergency planning time. I just integrated this into the recreational activities we were already performing. Very little work for high leverage options if I needed to use them.

Now please note, I am NOT saying to not listen to local evacuation plans. They likely are very well thought out. What I am saying is to assess if there are any situations where they may not make sense? If there is, you may want a plan B. 

5) Imagine the various variables playing out, play the game!
​​I took a class with an excellent survival and tracking instructor named Tom Brown Jr many years ago. He suggested turning preparedness planning and growing your situational awareness but continuously playing the "what if game."
Tsunami Survival Tips

Pretend you are a character in a movie like Jason Bourne from Bourne Identity or Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games. What would they do (be realistic with your own skill set, don't get too imaginative) if a particular scenario happened right now? Make it fun, ask lots of questions, observe your surrounding and think of all your available resources and options.

I do this all the time and find it a fun and educational way to pass the time. After a long day out hiking along the ocean, I laid back on a comfy couch, and I imagined a few different scenarios playing out.

"Ok, I wake up to the house shaking, what do I do first? I get my family together. Then what? I grab the car keys, my raincoat and emergency kit and head outside to start driving. What if I get in the car to drive and the road is untravelable, then what? Time for plan B, and so on..."

Going over these scenarios a couple of times in your head will make them more second nature if you have to use them.

Now here is the kicker, for some people the act of doing this may get you stressed out. If you know you are one of these people, the likelihood of the event happening may not be worth doing this. You do not want to ruin your vacation over n event that is statistically unlikely to happen.

Here are some suggestions for you:

1) Consider doing this at home before you go where the immediate risk is not real. Once there, stop.

2) Know that the risk is real whether you think about this or not and statistically it is incredibly unlikely to happen in the short window you are.

3) By doing this, you can feel better and safer, not more afraid. Remeber my first post; ignorance is not bliss. Doing this makes you significantly more prepared, and thus this should allow you to sleep better at night knowing you have done your best and have options and tools to work with if an event occurs.

4) You know you better than I do. How else could you set yourself up for success and less stress? Maybe this is a mindset you develop over time with baby steps. What is the first step for you in doing this?

​6) Study and Observe Nature
​​Remember, nature is always teaching us if we are ready to listen. Nature also sometimes has early warnings of potential hazards around the corner and a plethora of resources to help us thrive in tricky situations.
Pay attention to the changing weather, is the wind blowing from a different direction today then it was yesterday? Do all the birds seem agitated?, are they silent? or are they all singing?
Bird Language

There could be animals watching you right now that you do not even see, where would a raccoon, coyote or deer hide if it needed to avoid human danger in your current landscape. How would a mammal stay warm or dry in this landscape?

Maybe studying the geology and topography of an area for emergency preparedness alone feels excessive... I get it. But what if the emphasis is on understanding what makes this region of the world unique? How has the landscape changed over time? How did this affect wildlife and human culture? AND... how is this useful for your safety and preparedness?

Adding these fun questions about ecology and animal behavior can add to your vacation enjoyment, make you a more educated person, while simultaneously help you be more aware, prepared and resilient.

Tsunami Survival Tips
Feb 04

West Coast Tsunami’s & Vacation Planning; Lessons from Nature – Part 1

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorised

​What a Scary Sea Kyaking Trip Taught me about Awareness and Preparing for Tsunami's & Earthquakes ​

​Can you imagine living in a state of "ignorant bliss", then one day being on vacation with your family, hearing the tsunami warning sirens go off, and not having a clue what to do?
​Or not knowing what the game plan is for the days that follow with no electricity, running water or help? 
Prepare for traveling
​​​Last weeks (Jan 23, 2018) Tsunami Watch​ on the west coast of North America ​made this situation real for thousands of people. My Mom happened to be on vacation in Victoria, BC when it occurred... with little idea of what to do next and what the options were.
How to prepare for tsunamis
This may surprise some of you, but when she contacted the lobby of her hotel to ask what to do, all they could do was repeat generic warnings from the news, "get to higher ground". They did not know either.  And the irony was that they were already on the higher ground, yet this is what they told her.
If this is not a case study to show you need to take your safety into your own hands, I don't know what is!
​A lot of people choose to live in "ignorant bliss" when it comes to these kinds of topics, I know because I used to be one of them.

Many people feel thinking about these matters is scary, uncomfortable, and what is the likelihood of it even happening? But again I ask, is it not WAY more terrifying to be ignorant and then hear the sirens ringing or feel the ground shaking with no game plan?

​​Let me share a quick story about a wake-up call I had
​In my early twenties, my girlfriend (now wife) and I made a trip up to Haida Gwaii, a remote island, eight hours by ferry out into the Pacific Ocean. You can see Alaska from the Northern tip. It is one of the wildest and most beautiful places I have visited in my life.
Picture long ocean coastlines with a convocation of twelve to twenty Bald Eagles feeding on fish. Local folks harvesting crabs on the beach, misty rolling mountains and the silhouettes of black bears and mule deer moving through the northern rainforest habitat. It is an absolutely stunning and invigorating place to visit.  
Bald Eagle in Haida Gawii
BC Earthquake Preparedness
Sea Kyaking safety
Coastal Rainforest Survival
​To make a long story short, we rented sea kayaks one morning, headed out across a still and sunny inlet to tour the coastal shores of some of the nearby islands. We were in ignorant bliss.

Well, our bliss turned to fear and potentially deadly consequences on what felt like the turn of a dime. While heading back across the inlet, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and suddenly we were out on open ocean water. Four foot plus rolling waves were quickly growing larger.

We could not paddle straight across the 2km stretch as this would leave us broadside to the quickly growing waves. We had to paddle in a zig-zag formation continually turning into and away from the waves to avoid flipping our boats. This was exhausting and time-consuming. Every turn had to be timed perfectly to avoid capsizing. Keeping our kayaks close to each other was very difficult.

Both of us became mildly hypothermic, and we were well aware that if we flipped;
1) We would become severely hypothermic quick and 
2) No one would be likely to even see or notice until hours later. We were in serious trouble, the consequence of flipping was possible death. There was also the risk of the waves taking us further out to sea.

So, in the end, we made it to shore. We were in shock and disbelief. The lessons from this experience were nothing short of life-changing for me. Ignorance is NOT bliss! Hazard awareness is well worth considering and can lead to more enjoyment of the natural world. I still take risks at times, but now I take calculated risks. I know the hazards, the indicators of things getting worse, and I almost always have a plan A, B, and C.
​​​​I am also always growing my ability to read the signs of nature. I'm sure on that day in Haida Gwaii there were many signs from nature telling us of the shift in weather, but I never used to consider things like that or their importance to my survival.
reading the weather and clouds
​I have come to enjoy the process and the amazing learning that comes from considering hazards and learning to read the signs of the natural world. Whether sea kayaking on the ocean or traveling to coastal areas where earthquake and tsunamis are a real threat, we can use these hazards as opportunities to enrich our experiences and be better people.

We can learn about ecology, grow our awareness and knowledge, build our confidence in our ability to weather storms and the unexpected situations thrown at us. We can become more adaptable and resilient humans like our ancestors and the explorers that have come before us.

I have learned a lot in the thirteen years since my sea kayaking adventure. In part two of this post, I will share how I recently prepared to visit a place where the threat of Tsunamis is real. Where statistically and geologically we are "overdue" for a MASSIVE earthquake.

Want to be better prepared while having fun and learning about the ecology and beauty of the world? Part two has actionable steps you can integrate now and into your next vacation.

Stay tuned, part two will be out later this week with how I planned for tsunami's and earthquakes on my recent trip to Vancouver Island. 

preparing for extreme cold and winter storms
Jan 06

Preparing for Winter Storms & Extreme Cold, Part Two; 8 Less Known Tips to Thrive

By Chris Gilmour | Preparedness

​As I write this post, a HUGE winter ​"Bomb Cyclone" is walloping the east coast of North America called winter storm Grayson. Extreme cold blankets the continent and it is snowing in North Carolina and Florida.

In this post (part two), I share some less common tips and things to consider in preparing for a winter storm.
​In Part one, I chat about lessons from nature in becoming hardy to cold weather and preparing for winter. Click here to read part one.

Scroll down to read post two.
learning from deer

​8 less common, but important things to consider if you want to ​THRIVE in #ExtremeCold, Winter Storms & Survive the #BombCyclone, #BeSafe.​​​​

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learning from nature
Jan 06

Preparing for Winter Storms & Extreme Cold, Part One; Lessons from Nature in Resiliency

By Chris Gilmour | Nature Inspired , Preparedness

​What ​lessons from nature teach us about being prepared for winter storms and extreme cold?

Part one of this post will focus on lessons from nature in being more cold hardy, adaptable and prepared for extreme cold, winter storms and bomb cyclones. If you prefer to skim articles, watch for the bold text highlighting key points.

In part two (scroll to the bottom for the link) will cover winter storm preparedness tips that people often do not consider. These can take you from surviving to thriving!​

Part one of this post will focus on lessons from nature in being more cold hardy, adaptable and prepared for extreme cold and winter storms.

In part two (scroll to the bottom for a link) I cover winter storm preparedness tips that people often do not consider. These can take you from surviving to thriving!
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Oct 22

Top Apps To Help You & Your Family Stay Safe & Prepared

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorised

SCROLL DOWN to go directly to the list of top emergency preparedness apps or check out the intro video (differnt information than the blog post) or read the whole post to get the most!

​In today's post, we are going to look at ​my top 10 apps for emergency preparedness. These could be incredibly helpful and even save someone's life in the event of an emergency or disaster. ​
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Oct 13

10 Lessons We Can All Learn From The Recent String of Natural Disasters…

By Chris Gilmour | Disaster Events , Preparedness

​I had the great fortune of conducting an interview with Emily Ruff from the Florida School of Holistic Living and the Herbal Action Network. Emily was in Orlando, Florida during Hurricane Irma. We spoke in the days before the storm and again the week after about her lessons in disaster preparedness and community resiliency.
​During our conversation, we debriefed her experience and all the lessons that came from it. ​The intent was for her, myself and you, to be able to learn from her experience and implement these lessons proactively into our own lives.

This blog is a summary of 10 lessons from our conversation.
Enjoy AND… Take Action!
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Ready for Climate Change Adaption
Oct 05

Manifesto for Adapting to Climate Change & a Changing World

By Chris Gilmour | Uncategorised

    ** Warning: The next three paragraphs recap recent world events. They may at first seem pessimistic ​or heavy, this is not AT ALL the intent. Their is a need for ALL of us to create climate change adaption strategies for ​our lives and communities. Please stick around until paragraph four, when I shift to staying optimistic, proactive, and helping you in taking steps that can make a difference in your personal safety and world outlook.**

​Adapting to Climate Change & a Changing World

​     I wonder if you can relate to this? Over the past week, friends, family members, people I have never met, even high school mates I have not spoken with in close to twenty years have been asking for my thoughts. How can they can be better prepared in an unpredictable and not-so-stable world? Are people in your community or family asking these questions yet?
climate change adaption needs to start now
The planet has experienced a string of major natural & human caused disasters. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; two massive earthquakes in Mexico; record-breaking monsoons in India and Nepal, out-of-control wildfire fires; (and next to some of the indigenous massacres) the largest mass shooting in the United States to date in Las Vegas.  ​
These stories have been dominating the news one after the other and are ​happening in our communities. On top of all this, it feels like there is a rising domestic divide ​and increase in civil unrest. In North America & Europe we have a vocal Alt-Right movement taking to the streets. They are clashing with anti-racism protesters. Riots are happening across the United States as a result of inequality. NFL players are protesting the United States National Anthem (symbolically, this is a big deal in the context of the greater narrative). As if this were not enough, we also have world leaders and the media speaking about the threat of Nuclear War. It’s no wonder that many people are feeling on edge.

If these and other recent events have you on edge, or feeling overwhelmed, then I write this blog for you.
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