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Other Set-Ups for the Plow Point Tarp

The Pole Framework Set-Up

I wouldn’t waste the time or energy to do this set-up for a one night stay, but if you have a lot of materials available and if you are going to be in the same location for several nights, you may want to set up a pole framework for your tarp.

To do this set-up you will need a ridge pole that is a little longer that the diagonal length of your tarp, and you will need a couple of forked sticks that are about six feet long.  You don’t necessarily have to have forked sticks as you should have plenty of cordage in your kit that can be used to lash together some straight sticks into a bi-pod that supports the ridge pole.  You will also need a short piece of cordage to  attach the front of the tarp (one of the cords used to tie around your kit will work for this), and you will need seven tent stakes.

First set up the framework as pictured below.

Here is how you can lock the forked sticks and ridge pole together.

Now you drape the tarp over the ridge pole and stake down the back of the tarp.

Pull the front of the tarp up and tie it off to the ridge pole and forked sticks then stake down the sides.

 

The One Stick Set-Up

If you are in a situation where you have very limited vegetation you can set up your tarp with only one stick.  In the example below I have pitched the tarp using only my walking stick which is about five feet long.

In addition to the single stick you will need two of the six foot pieces of cordage from your kit and all of your tent stakes.

First you need to stake down the back of the tarp.

Then you need to attach the front of the tarp to your stick.  In this instance I used the lanyard on my walking stick and looped it through the front grommet on the tarp and then back over the walking stick.  If you use a found stick you will need to use a short piece of cordage to tie the tarp off to the stick.

Now pull the tarp forward to tighten up the ridge line and attach your two, six foot pieces of cordage to the top of the stick.

This next step is easier to do if you have two people so that one person can keep the stick in place while the other person sets the tent stakes, but you can do it alone as I did in this instance.  So, what you do is drive in a couple of tent stakes that are about 45 degrees on each side of the stick.  The stakes need to be about four feet out from the stick. 

Tie off your guy lines to the stakes to hold the stick upright.  Make sure that the ridge line of your tarp is tight.  Use your remaining tent stakes to stake out the sides of the tarp and you’re done.

The Plow Point or Diamond Fly Tarp Set-Up

I started using this particular tarp set-up years ago.  At the time everyone I knew called it a diamond fly.  Today the term plow point seems to be more popular, but which ever name it goes by this is definitely one of the quickest and easiest set-ups that you can use.  If you tie off the front of the tarp to a tree you can create a good, rain proof shelter in ten minutes or less.  If you don’t have a convenient tree to use it may take a few minutes more.

Here’s the equipment you will need from your shelter kit:

You will, of course need your tarp.

You will need one of your small, pre-made loops and your bungee cord

You will also need one long stake and six short stakes.

Lastly, you will need a couple of your six foot long guy ropes and one of the little two inch sticks.

Now let’s set up our diamond fly:

First lay out your tarp as pictured below.  It’s best if you can find a location with one tree at the front of the tarp and another tree at the back.  In this case the front of the tarp will be attached to the tree on the left.

Next, attach your small loop to the front corner of the tarp.

Use your bungee cord to attach the front of the tarp to the tree.  You can vary the height according to conditions, but I usually set the front at about chest height.

Grab the back corner of the tarp and pull it back toward the back tree.  Use your long stake to stake the tarp down good and tight so that you have a nice diagonal ridge line.

Use your six short stakes to stake out first one side of the tarp and then the other.  You want to pull the sides out as far as you can without making the ridge line start to sag.

You could stop at this point and call it home, but it only takes a minute to make your set-up a little better. What we’re going to do is attach a guy line between the center loop of the tarp and the back tree.  This will pull the ridge line up a little bit and keep it from sagging down in the middle.  If it’s very far to the back tree you may need to tie two guy lines together to make a long cord. Here’s how you set up the guy line:

Attach one end of the guy line to the tarp’s center loop as pictured below.

Pull the other end of the guy line back to the back tree and wrap it around the tree a couple of feet higher than your bungee cord is attached to the front tree.  Tie the guy line off using the simple quick release knot pictured below.  Notice that the small stick is inserted into the finished loop to prevent accidentally untying the knot.

That’s it.  You’re ready to move in for a good night’s sleep, and the next morning you can break camp as quick as you set it up.

 

My Bug-Out Shelter Kit

When some people are camping they like to be in a tent; other people like to sleep in the open or under a tarp.  I am in the later group.  If the weather is nice, I like to sleep in a hammock or a sleeping bag and bivy sack under the stars.  If the weather is threatening rain or if it is cold; I like to sleep under a tarp.  There are several reasons that I prefer a tarp.  For one, tarps are very light to carry.  My tarp set-up including lines, stakes, etc. weighs 3 lbs. 10 oz.(that’s about 1.65 kilos for my non-American friends).  For another thing, a tarp is very versatile as far as different set-ups.  A tarp can be set up to take advantage of a fire for additional heat in the winter, and it can be suspended overhead to allow better air circulation in the summer.  A tarp also allows better exterior visibility than a tent.  And lastly, a tarp can be used in conjunction with a hammock, something that is not possible with your average tent.

I’m going to do a couple of posts on my favorite tarp set-ups; but before I do that, I thought it might be good to show you my bug-out tarp kit.  Some might say that I include too much in my kit.  Some of the items could be foraged or manufactured in the wild.  This is true.  You could, in fact, build your entire shelter from foraged materials, and I encourage you learn how to do just that.  But, everything about survival is a trade-off.  You have to constantly be thinking about how much space you have in your pack, the weight of items that you carry, the time necessary to locate and/or make items in the wild, and the calories burned carrying items as opposed to the calories burned making items.  I consider the small amount of added weight in my kit to be negligible compared to the time and calories used to do things like cutting tent stakes.  My whole tarp kit weighs three pounds and ten ounces and rolls up into a nice 24” by 6” bundle.

Using the items in this kit I can make my three favorite tarp set-ups without any additional materials. So anyhow, this is what’s in my kit.

Item number one is my tarp.  It is an inexpensive vinyl tarp that you can get at Harbor Freight or Wal-Mart.  The tarp is about eight by ten feet.  I used tarps like this for several years; but I recently modified it, as outlined in the previous two posts, by painting the inside with reflective aluminum paint, and I have added a center loop to the outside.

Some set-ups require a ridge line.  I carry a twenty-five foot piece of 550 para-cord to use as a ridge line.  It has permanent loop tied into one end.  The ends of all of my cords have been melted to prevent fraying.  Be sure that you use good, military grade para-cord, not the cheap stuff from the craft store.

A 40 inch long bungee cord is handy for quickly setting up plow-point shelters (more on that in the next post).

I carry eight guy lines that come in handy for some set-ups.  Each guy line is six feet long with a permanent loop in one end.

My kit includes eight tent stakes.  Two on them are about eleven inches long and made of steel. 

The other six are seven inches long and made of aluminum.  These are actually aluminum nails that are used to hang rain gutters.  You can buy them at the hardware store for about fifty cents each. 

I keep them bundled together with one of those thread covered rubber hair bands.

Some small loops of para-cord come in handy for certain set-ups.  I carry six pre-made loops bundled together with a hair band.

I carry four little sticks that are pre-cut to about two inches long.  These are used for tarp attachments and to secure easy release knots (more on this later).

All of the lines, stakes, and etc. are stored in a small stuff-sack.

The last item in my kit is a piece of camo netting that I can drape across the front of my shelter to help conceal it.

So, that’s my tarp kit.  In subsequent posts I will show you how to make several tarp set-ups using the items in this kit.

Adding a Center Loop to your Vinyl Survival Tarp

Most vinyl tarps have grommets around the outside edges but few, if any, have loops on the back of the tarp.  A center loop can be very helpful with tarp set-ups like the diamond fly, also called the plow point.  The center loop allows you to attach a line in the middle of the tarp and give a little lift to take the sag out of your ridgeline.  But, my $15 Harbor Freight tarp didn’t have a center loop; so I decided to attach one myself.

I have added loops to canvas tarps by stitching and then re-waterproofing the affected area, but I was concerned that this wouldn’t work on vinyl.  I was afraid that it would either leak or tear out too easily, so I thought that maybe I could glue the loops on for a stronger and more leak-proof bond.  I found a You Tube video by a young fellow who goes by “Brave the Wilds” in which he glued on tarp loops (check out his You Tubes at www.youtube.com/user/bravethewilds), so I followed his lead and proceeded as follows.

To do this project you will need the following:

Tape measure

Marking pen

Woven nylon webbing

Scissors

Ice pick and heat source

Straight pin

Sewing machine or needle and thread\

Medium grit sand paper (one small piece)

Rubbing alcohol

Cotton ball

Two part, five minute epoxy

Some weights

First cut a piece of nylon webbing that is about six to six and one half inches long.

Next, heat the ice pick in a flame and use it to gently melt the ends of the webbing.  This will keep it from unraveling.

Fold the webbing in half and pin it about an inch from the loose ends.

At this point you can sew across the loop by hand of with a sewing machine.  My wife sewed it for me on her machine, and she went back and forth about three times to make it good and strong.

So now you have your loop and it’s time to prepare for gluing.

Lay your tarp out on a flat, hard surface and set the loop down on your center mark.

Use your marking pen to outline the area to which the loop tabs will be glued.

Use the sandpaper to very lightly rough up the surface of the tarp and the tabs of the nylon webbing.  This will help the glue adhere better.

Dampen the cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and clean the surface of the tarp and the loop tabs.  Let them dry for a few minutes.

Mix the five minute epoxy according to directions.

Apply epoxy to the tarp trying to stay inside the outline that you have drawn.  Get a good coat of epoxy but don’t overdo it.

Apply epoxy to the loop tabs

And press the tabs into place.

Place some weights on the top of the tabs to press them down but don’t get epoxy on the weights or you may end up with them glued to the tarp.  A couple of small pieces of wax paper between the tabs and the weights might help prevent accidental gluing.

Note that 5 minute epoxy sets in 5 minutes but it is not cured and strong.  You should leave the weights in place for at least over-night to make sure that the loop is firmly attached.

When you remove the weights you will have a nice web loop attached to your tarp.

Here are a couple of pictures of the tarp loop in use.  It seems to be firmly in place and doing its job.

Make an Inexpensive Reflector Tarp for a Warm Survival Shelter

The wilderness survival community has, of late, taken a keen interest in using reflector blankets or reflector tarps to help create warmer lean-too shelters.  The idea is that if the inside of your lean-too has a reflective surface, it will reflect the heat of a campfire onto you as you lie in the shelter.

This is not really a new idea.  I can recall Mors Kochanski advocating for this quite a few years ago when he developed his concept of the “super shelter.”  Mors suggested placing a shiny Mylar survival blanket on the inside of your tarp to reflect radiant heat into the shelter.  More recently I have seen several companies selling survival blankets/tarps.  These survival tarps are made of more durable material than Mylar and they have a reflective surface on one side and grommets to aid in set-up of a shelter.  One problem with these commercial tarps is that the ones I have found are fairly small.  What I am going to show you here is how to make any size vinyl tarp into a reflective tarp that is pretty durable and quite a bit cheaper than a commercially made model.  Let me emphasize that I have only done this with vinyl tarps.  I don’t know how it would work with nylon or other fabrics.

The idea for this tarp came to me in a blinding flash of the obvious when I was working on one of the out-buildings on my farm.  The building in question is about 25 years old and is covered in corrugated sheet metal.  The metal was starting to look a little on the rusted side, so I decided that I would paint it with some Rust Stop metallic aluminum paint from our local Ace Hardware store.  I bought a gallon of the stuff for about $30 US.

They also had quarts for about $10, but I knew that a quart wouldn’t be enough.  So, anyway, here I am standing up on a ladder painting this building when the sun comes up over the trees.  In about ten minutes I started feeling like a rotisserie chicken.  Man, I thought, this stuff really reflects some heat, and that’s when it hit me.  I wonder if I could paint this stuff onto a vinyl tarp?  Well, sure enough, I had about a half-gallon of paint left when I finished painting the building, so I decided to try a little experiment on a tarp.  I got an old tarp and painted a couple of square feet with the aluminum paint.  It flowed on smoothly and covered with one coat. It also didn’t appear to be damaging the vinyl in any way.  So far; so good.  I let it dry in the sun for a couple of hours before I gave it the durability test.  When it was dry I scraped it with my finger nails and there was no peeling.  I folded it into a crease, wadded it up, and just generally tried to make the paint crack or peal.  The tarp seemed to be completely flexible, and the paint adhered beautifully.  I thought to myself, “We may have a winner.”

I unstrapped the 8’ x 10’ camo vinyl tarps that my wife and I have attached to our bug-out bags and went to work.  I laid a tarp out on the ground and used a three inch foam brush to apply the paint.

It went on easily and took about 45 minutes to apply.  I left the tarp out in the sun for a couple of hours to dry.

When it was nice and dry I gave it another round of durability testing, and it seemed to work great.  Even better, painting the two 8’ x 10’ tarps barely made a dent in my half gallon of paint.  I bet a quart would paint three or four of these tarps, so if you have friends that are into this kind of thing you could share the cost of the paint.

I did learn a couple of lessons from the first tarp that helped make the second one a little easier.  First of all, do this in the shade or on a cloudy day.  These things really, really reflect a lot of light and heat.  Second, use some tent stakes to stake down the corners before you paint.  This keeps the tarp from moving around as you paint it.

So there you go.  An easy way to turn a $15 Wal-mart tarp into a high dollar reflective survival tarp.

Dried Peas from the Survival Garden

When you start talking about peas, people from the Northeastern United States are picturing English Peas; but people in the Southeastern United States are picturing blackeyed peas, purple hull peas, crowder peas, cream peas, lady peas and any of the dozens of other field peas which have long been a staple in the South.  My personal favorite is the pink eyed purple hull pea.  The pink eyed purple hull is an heirloom, bush pea.  It loves hot weather, doesn’t require a lot of water, doesn’t need fertilizer, is an abundant producer, is easy to pick, and it tastes delicious.   As an added bonus, it puts a lot of valuable nitrogen into the soil.  In our area you can get two plantings over the summer; so we get two to four bushels of this pea out of the garden each year.  You pick fresh purple hulls when the pods are dark purple but still soft.  They are great when fresh shelled and fresh cooked, and the fresh frozen ones taste almost as good; but in a grid down situation frozen peas won’t last long.  You could can the fresh peas, but that is sure a lot of work.  In pre-refrigeration days the way to long-term store peas was to dry them.  When dried and stored in dry, air-tight  containers they are edible for years and remain viable for seed easily for two or three years.

Drying peas requires no shelling and no dehydrator.  All you have to do is just leave them on the vine and, when the plant dies, they will dry nicely on their own.

The dried pods will be brittle and a light brown in color as opposed to the soft, pliable, dark purple pods of fresh peas.

Dried peas are also much easier to shell than fresh peas.  The following photos illustrate how I thrash and winnow a small quantity of dried peas.  The time to trash and winnow is on a dry, sunny day when a good wind is blowing.

First I spread a tarp on a table top and lay out my dried peas on it.  A couple of hours of hot sun will drive the last of the moisture out of them and assure that the pods are nice and brittle.

Next step is to use your hands to start crushing up the dried pods.  The vast majority of the peas will separate from the pods at this point.

To further separate the peas, pick up handfuls of the pods and rub them between your palms.  Continue this rubbing until the pods have been reduced to small fragments.  This will complete the trashing process.

Now you need to separate the chaff (crushed up pods, etc) from the peas.  To do this you need a good stiff wind, or if it’s a calm day you can set a fan next to the table and turn it on high (obviously this won’t work in a grid-down scenario).

Pick up a double handful of peas and chaff, raise your hands a couple of feet above the table, and let the peas and chaff slip out from between your hands.  The peas, which are heavier than the chaff, will fall straight down onto the table.  The chaff will be carried away by the wind.

Continue winnowing over and over until most of the chaff has been removed.

Now set a wide pan on the table and, using small quantities of peas at a time, drop them down into the pan. 

You should end up with a pan full of pretty clean peas.  You may have to pick out a few pieces of chaff from the pan, but it shouldn’t be too many.

Store your cleaned peas in air-tight containers and you will have a good long-term source of protein and seed for next year’s planting.

If you are processing a lot of peas, the same principles apply; but instead of a small tarp on top of the table, you can lay a large tarp out on the ground.  Instead of crushing the pods in your hands you can walk on them.  Just make sure that your shoe soles are pretty flat and don’t have lugs or deep treads.  For winnowing you can place a few handfuls of broken down peas and chaff in a wide shallow basket or an upside down trashcan lid and toss the stuff up into the air and let the peas fall back into the lid.  You will have to toss the same batch several times in order to remove the chaff.  Be sure and stand over the tarp when you are winnowing so that any peas that you don’t catch will fall back onto the tarp.  This takes a little bit of practice, but after the first bushel you’ll be doing it like an old pro.

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls from the Garden

The three main garden ingredients for these cabbage rolls are cabbage, new potatoes, and green onion tops.  I make cabbage rolls this way for one very simple reason; all three of these ingredients are available from my garden at the same time.  These cabbage rolls are actually a combination of two different Polish dishes; golabki, which are cabbage rolls stuffed with a meat and rice mixture; and pierogi, which are a wheat dough dumpling stuffed with a mashed potato mixture.  I came up with this recipe on my own, but I’d be willing to bet that it already exists in some European folk cuisine.  After all, I’m not the first gardener in the world that has potatoes, cabbages, and onions all come ready at the same time.  So let’s make some cabbage rolls.

If you have a garden; start off in the garden.  If you don’t have a garden, start off at the produce market. You will need about two pounds of fresh new potatoes,

a good sized head of cabbage,

and a few green onion tops.  You can use chives, but I just pull a few smaller green onion tops and then cut them up with my kitchen shears.

I also like to add a little diced canned jalapeno to my rolls to give them a little zing.

In addition to these ingredients you will need a couple of tablespoons of butter, a heaping tablespoon of sour cream or plain yogurt, some shredded cheese of your choice, and a little salt and pepper.

Peel your potatoes and put them in a medium pot. Cover and boil slowly until done.

When potatoes are done, drain them and leave the potatoes in the pot.  Use a potato masher or a fork to roughly break the potatoes up.

Add your butter and sour cream and mash the potatoes until they are pretty creamy.

Add shredded cheese and stir in well.

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir again.

Lastly add your green onion and jalapeno and stir until evenly distributed.

Now the filling is finished.  Set it aside or put it into the refrigerator and let it firm up a little while you prepare the cabbage.

To prepare the cabbage first rinse it and then cut out the core.

Put two or three inches of water into a stock pot and place it over high heat.

Put your head of cabbage in the stock pot with the core end down.  You are going to steam the cabbage for a few minutes to soften the leaves and make them easier to remove without breaking.  About five to seven minutes ought to do it.

Turn off the heat and remove the cabbage from the stock pot.  Be careful.  It’s really hot.  I use a couple of big wooden spoons to do this.

Carefully remove the cabbage leaves one at a time and stack them in a pan.  The dark green outer leaves are a little tough, so you are better off using the light-green inner leaves. You will need eight leaves, so remove ten just in case.

Now take a sharp paring knife and shave off the top portion of the rib on each leaf.  By thinning the rib down you will have an easier time rolling up the leaf when the time comes.

Now take your filling and divide it into eight equal portions.  I just flatten it out in the pot and use my knife to slice it into eight wedges like you would a pizza.

Lay a cabbage leaf out on your cutting board with the rib side down and place one of your eight portions of filling at the bottom of the leaf.  I kind of shape it into a little oblong mound.

Roll the leaf up to cover the filling.

Fold the sides of the leaf in even with the ends of the filling.

Now finish rolling up the leaf.

Place the finished cabbage roll into a lightly greased baking dish.

Now repeat this for the rest of the rolls.

When your dish is full cover it with aluminum foil.

Place the covered dish into a preheated 375 degree F. oven and bake for about 20 minutes.  Remember, everything is already cooked.  All you’re doing is heating it up.

I like to top these with butter and sour cream when I serve them.  Note that there’s already a bite missing.  They’re so good that I couldn’t wait.