FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Friday, 30 October 2015

Resilience: How prepared are you?

What precautions do you have in place to take care of your family in the event of an emergency?

Today we face our own micro disaster at Fast-SoS HQ, National Grid have been replacing the gas lines on our road and from the road up to the meter, so we knew the supply would be on and off during the day, which isn't a problem. However once the work had been done and the engineers tested the system, they discovered that there is a leak somewhere in our property which is above the legal threshold, so they had no choice but to leave the gas disconnected as the engineer deemed that "There was significant and immediate risk of explosion!"  Quite how immediate the danger is we'll never know since we have been explosion free for the last year that we've lived here, but with young children in the house gas leaks are not worth the risk.
So at 5pm last night I came home from work to be told the gas was off. Luckily we still had electric so we can heat the house with a couple of oil filled radiators, national grid gave us a couple of electric hotplates to cook on but I am a bit of a stove hoarder so we had plenty of camping stove alternatives that we could have used if the worst came to the worst. Generally life won't be interrupted too much before the problem is sorted, but it does serve as a reminder that things can and do go wrong.

So many people live in a bubble thinking that an emergency will never happen to them, with most houses unprepared for a short power cut, let alone a disaster that puts the supply out for a couple of weeks. Gone are the days when every house had a decent torch with spare batteries, a box of candles and matches. Our grandparent would always have all of the above, plus a fully stocked larder and a stack of board games big enough to see you through the worst days, and although we now have limitless access to technology and information it seems to have only made us as a society more fragile. We have lost our resilience to adversity and hardship, and those few people that are prepared are seen as the crazy minority. Will they still be the crazy ones when they have light in a street full of darkness? Will they still be lunatics when they have warmth and food whilst others are cold and hungry? It is well within everyone's power to put away a few supplies to make life easier and more comfortable during minor emergencies like a power cut, and it's a great place to start if you haven't looked in to preparedness before. A simple Blackout Box/Bag can be started with a torch and candles and expanded on from there. Maybe you'd like to add a small gas stove? Or maybe you don't mind eating a cold dinner but you'd like to include a camping heater because you feel the cold. Each home/person's needs are different, so try not to get too caught up with lists of items that you find online, as the person that wrote them is likely to have totally different circumstances to you. It is far better to decide what you personally do and don't need, as the internet is filled with as much bad advice as there is good. But don't take my word for it, I'm just a guy on the internet ;)

In a future post I'm going to talk about the "Bug out Bag", why I think everyone should have one, what I think should be in one, and why I don't think you need one. That will all make sense when you read the post, so stay tuned folks.

We'd love to hear from you, what measures do you have in place for when disaster strikes?


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Beardology: Viking Beard Stuff Review

This week I've had the pleasure of trying out some of the products from the guys over at Viking Beard Stuff and wanted to give an honest review on their items:

Viking Beard Stuff Oudh Musk Beard Oil
First up I opted to try their Oudh Musk Beard Oil, which is a limited edition to VBS. The beard product market is saturated with companies selling "Woodsman" and "Citrus Blast" beard oils that are mostly just cheap scented argan or coconut oil, so it was refreshing to see a unique offering from VBS with their Oudh Musk.

Viking Beard Stuff combine a special blend of 100% pure Moroccan Argan Oil, Jojoba Oil and Sweet Almond Oil.

The Oudh scent comes from a resin derived from Agarwood, known in English as Aloes wood. It is the most expensive wood in the world that has acquired worth and value in many cultures for its distinctive dark, rich, mystic fragrance.
Oudh Musk smells good in the bottle, but once it's on and your body heat warms it up it is an amazing unique masculine smell. It is a deep, musky, bitter-sweet and woody scent. The oil has a great consistency and a few drops is plenty to get the job done, it soaks in quickly and doesn't leave your beard greasy, just gives it a natural healthy shine. Even on my Coarse barbed wire beard it has managed to soften the hair a bit and prevent the dreaded beard itch,

Viking Beard Stuff Nordic Breeze Beard Balm
Nordic Breeze was the scent of the beard balm that I tried, according to Viking Beard Stuff the scent "captures the aroma Vikings experienced when breathing in the fresh sea air with background hints of lavender and rosemary from the Heathland." I found it to be quite a sweet herbal scent, pleasant and almost minty, a good contrast to the musk scent I tried in their beard oil. 

Slightly different ingredients list for the balm, it contains a blend of pure Beeswax, Solid Coconut Oil and Sweet Almond Oil.

The beard balm is a good consistency, not too hard so it isn't a chore to use. Although most balms are sold in vaseline type tins, VBS balm comes in a small 30ml jar, it will be interesting to see if this makes it difficult to get to the balm when it starts to run low and that would be my only criticism, other than that it absorbs well, the scent is great and not overpowering.

Viking Beard Stuff Pearwood Beard Comb
Lastly we have the BEAST that is the Viking Beard Stuff Pearwood Beard Comb. Measuring in at a whopping 14cm this is the biggest beard comb I have ever encountered, and whilst it is by no means a pocket comb, it is the best comb I have ever used on my beard. The problem with some beard combs is that the teeth are cut too fine, so any kink in a hair catches and rips out the hair or snaps it, but that is not an issue with the VBS comb which goes through the thickest of beards without a problem. I like that it is a natural material that genuinely could have been used by the vikings. The wood gets coated by excess beard oil/balm so will be well preserved and will season over time to have its own scent unique to the owner based on their preference in products so I'm looking forward to seeing mine evolve. I'd like to see a smaller pocket version to compliment it, I'd also love to see a VBS genuine horn comb to complete the Viking theme. 

To summarise, Viking Beard Stuff make some of the best quality beard products I have come across so far. They have some cool unique scents, are reasonably priced and have great customer service, your beard will be in good hands if you entrust it to their products. I'm looking forward to trying their Earl Grey scent and a little birdy tells me they are just about to bring out a festive beard oil in time for Christmas, so get your orders in guys before they sell out!

At the time of writing this review, the code FACEBOOK10 will get you 10% off your first order, I promise you won't regret it

You can find the Viking Beard Stuff guys at:



Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Beardology: Affairs of the Face

Beards are like manly Marmite, you either love them or you hate them.
For the last couple of years I have beards on and off, it was a constant battle between me and the wife as she hated it, so periodically she would win and the razor would come out. My beard grows incredibly coarse and rough when left to its own devices, so when kissing the fairer sex it is like subjecting them to a scrub with a brillo pad. 

In order to tame my man mane and save it from the dreaded shave, I decided to give some beard products a go and see if they made any noticeable difference. In this modern day and age there is no shame in a man taking care of himself, and nothing could be more manly than a well groomed and well looked after beard. 
I have now tried various brands and different types of products and have a pretty good idea of what does and doesn't work and how to make the most of them, so every now and again I'll be throwing a cheeky beard related post or product review into the mix on the blog

So lets start with the basics: 


This is the easiest thing in the world for those that are able to do it and yet so many men get it wrong.
The sheer number of people that comment when you have a beard with things like "I've always wanted to grow a beard but it just itches too much when I try to grow one" or the classic "I'd love to grow one but my wife/girlfriend hates them"

Gentlemen, you are doing it wrong. 
The stubble itch goes away once the hair gets past a certain length, and it can be greatly alleviated by using oil from day one to keep the skin moisturised so that it isn't irritated as easily.

Speaking of easily irritated, lets get back to the subject of the women. Most women only dislike beards because they are so rough and scratchy on their softer. more sensitive skin, so to stop your beard being public enemy number one, look after it and it will get softer. A lot of men wait until they already have a beard before they think about using oil/balm on it, but the best time to nourish and soften the hair is whilst it is growing.

To summarise, how to grow a great beard: 

Step one: Stop Shaving. 
Step two: Apply beard oil from the start, just a couple of drops a day
Step Three: WAIT. Just wait. Do not be tempted to attempt to trim it prematurely, just wait and you will be rewarded with your beard's full potential.

It's that simple! Now go out and fell some trees, ride a motorcycle and sail the seven seas and all those other things that a bearded man spends his free time doing.

Future Beardology posts will contain product reviews, beard maintenance tips and recipes for creating your own home made beard oils and balms from natural ingredients. You will have to get your own lumberjack shirt, I can't do everything for you.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

DIY Project: Drinks Can Meths Stove

If you want a cheap, easy and super efficient camping stove that you can make yourself for pennies then this DIY project is for you! Perfect for Festivals, Rallies, Camping and Backpacking Adventures

I've been threatening for a while to do a DIY drinks can stove, and I did finally get round to it!

I went for the penny stove design in the end, tested this evening and it is pretty good for the minimal effort expended. They say a picture paints a thousand words so i'll show you step by step how I did it, there will be a link at the end explaining exactly what to do in each step, here we go:

surprisingly quick and easy to cut the pieces once you get the hang of it.

I cut it with a mini snap off blade, knocked the holes for the jet in with a small brass nail from a picture hook and then crimped with the pliers on the multitool. Then before I assembled it I just quickly ground the burrs off the underside of the jets with the dremel as I read online somewhere that it adversely affects the vapour flow.

et voila! 

onto the burn test....

Having not used one of these before I wasn't exactly sure how much meths it would hold, so may have been a bit over enthusiastic when I filled it! next time I'd put less as this much really wasn't necessary but at least it gave the stove a good test run.

The meths instantly took a flame and burst into life

This went for a couple of minutes before the priming flame died down and the jets ignited. I opted for 6 jets as it is easier to add more holes later than take them away! I think I will make one with many smaller jets to compare and see whether size or quantity is better for boiling water in my set up.

From the time of lighting, it had a continuous burn for around 30 minutes before extinguishing itself once the fuel had run out, and although it looks like a lot of meths it was the smallest splash, it barely looks like any has been used from the bottle.
Once I've made a pot stand at the correct height I'll play with a few other designs/jet configs to see what will boil water in a crusader cup quicker and keep you updated. I'd be interested to see how it performs against my bioethanol crusader cooker unit, a propane gas stove and the bog standard issue hexicooker. I'd like to make one from a smaller red bull can and see if it fits in the crusader base unit. I can see that this pennystove thing will consume me if I'm not careful! 

All in all there are a lot worse ways to spend an hour, its a cracking little stove that will cost most people a penny to make as there are cans everywhere waiting to be upcycled :)

I followed the instructions from this link, very good site, they touch on the size and number of jets in the FAQ:

DISCLAIMER - do as I say not as I do! it is a terrible idea to play with fire and drink alcohol at the same time, I am a delinquent and should not be emulated by anyone!
all joking aside, whilst I may find it amusing, if you cut off your arm, burn down your house or poison yourself on the fumes I take no responsibility, Darwin can take all of the credit for such events!!


Winter Frenzy

Hi folks, 

We've been fairly quiet online of late as we are majorly busy getting Fast-SoS HQ ready for winter and trying to get everything shipshape before the frosts are on us.

We've almost finished fitting the new kitchen, re-decorating it and tiling it out etc, The father-in-law has been worked to the bone! but things are starting to come together now so very soon all should be well and we'll be back to business as usual.

The state of affairs in the vegetable garden at the moment is:

The runner beans are now finished for the year, we had so much produce from this plant that we were giving them away by the bag load as we got sick of eating them in the end! next year we'll hopefully be using them as part of the feed for our quails and chickens.

The peas didn't do very well but I suspect it was down to overcrowding, we still managed to have a couple of meals out of them though and they were the most delicious peas we'd ever eaten, full of flavour.

The leeks are coming along and doing well, we're looking forward to when they're ready.

The pumpkins are all ready just in time for Little Logan's birthday around halloween and we think we might make a pumpkin cake from them.

The cucamelons came up out of the ground but didnt bare fruit, they were planted late and didnt pay off.

Our Spinach grew like crazy and is still growing now, another green that we're hoping to throw to the poultry to give them some variety.

The Carrots and Parsnips have formed a miniature forest in their raised bed so we're hoping to have some delicious roots out of there in the near future.

A friend of ours recently journeyed over to France and came back with some real French garlic bulbs and has given us some to plant, they smell absolutely divine and are bursting with flavour so we'll be getting some in the ground later this month and potentially won't need to buy any again, more on that in a future post.

How did your gardening efforts go this year, how did your garden grow?



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