SurviveLA Food Review: Mary Jane’s Farm Organic Buttery Herb Pasta

This guest review from one of the SurviveLA compound sistas, is the first in a look at long term food storage options. Freeze dried food like this is marketed both towards backpackers and holed-up-in-the-bunker paranoid types. Exceptionally long shelf life makes freeze dried food a good, though expensive, option for your emergency pantry.

Field Tested July 22, 2006 on Mt. Silliman

The name of this dehydrated entree is somewhat misleading. It is in fact a form of your classic boxed mac n’ cheese: elbow pasta in cheesy powder sauce, only sans the bright orange coloring. It is good, being similar to the upscale Annie’s Mac & Cheese. Maybe Annie and Mary Jane smoke pot together somewhere in OrganicVille?

I did not notice the herb flavoring, and did not miss it, because I find when you are exhausted and camping at 10,000 feet your palette is not as adventurous as it might be ordinarily. This is comfort food, and works very well in that capacity.

That said, it is ripe for doctoring, because it is so very basic. I brought along a handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes from the SurviveLA gardens (and dehydrated in the compound’s solar dehydrator – more on that in a future post), and that added the perfect amount of interest. Nuts, canned tuna, fresh veggies if you wanted to carry them, all would work well too.

You cook this entree in its own bag (a paper bag instead of a foil pouch, which is nice). All you do is add 3/4 cup of boiling water, reseal the bag and wait for ten minutes. I used a Pepsi can stove to boil the water, incidentally. It cooked well, with only a couple of the elbow noodles escaping hydrating and ending as crunchy surprises on my fork.

The pouch claims that it holds 1.5 servings: a Mary Jane’s Organics eccentricity. I scarfed the whole thing down without difficulty and I’m a girl. I think Mary Jane intends us to buy more than one dish and share them on plates like civilized beings, rather than selfishly wolfing them out of the bag. Oh well.

Security

A neighbor stopped me while I was walking the dog last night to tell me that they had an intruder the night before who crept around the house Manson family style but did not steal anything. This comes a week after another neighbor found some crackhead in their side yard. Now before having a yuppie-style freakout here, it’s important to note that Los Angeles’ crime rate is down significantly since the early 90s and is much lower than many other large cities in America. In fact the crime rate in LA is on a par with Denver and nowhere near the high rates of cities like Detroit and Washington D.C. But while we ain’t the gun-toting survivalist types here at the Homegrown Evolution homestead, we do have a security system. It’s a security system developed in the 19th century by tax collector and dog pound proprietor Louis Dobermann – the notorious Doberman Pincher.

Last popular with coke dealing pimps and players in the late 1970s, Dobermans are powerful, fast, hyperactive, and combine occasional bad-assness with extreme sensitivity. Our Doberman, “Spike” a.k.a “Dieter”, has a bark so loud that it vibrates our poorly constructed compound and his hackles go up at the drop of a hat, or the visit of the particularly hated UPS deliveryman. At the same time, fireworks and sprinklers can send him cowering. Now, we strongly advice against running out and getting any kind of big protection dog. So-called “working dogs” like Dobermans and Rottweillers require a tremendous amount of training and are a great responsibility. We would have been in big trouble raising this beast without the assistance of a friend who is an experienced dog trainer and dog show handler. That being said, things feel pretty secure around here with a 95 pound Doberman and his presence seems worth it despite those moments when we find ourselves dealing with the smelly results of the annual backyard skunk hunting season.

So here’s the SurviveLA home security advice. First of all don’t own anything valuable. Get all your stuff at thrift stores and, like the Buddha, lose your attachment to material things. If you decide to get a dog, make sure that you have the time to invest in obedience training. And I don’t mean shipping them off to some overpriced con-man who charges thousands of dollars to train your “dangerous” dog. You, the owner, are the one that actually needs the training. You must be the one to learn to handle and communicate with the dog. Find a local obedience club like Pasanita, which has classes outdoors at the Rose Bowl. It’s difficult to get the hang of working with a big spirited dog and Dobermans, like other large protection dogs, require an owner who is confident, and both firm and gentle all at once.

More advice: Make sure to socialize your dog with lots of different kinds of people, young and old. A dog like this will always guard the house – what you don’t want is one that is psycho with guests and people on the street. A Doberman belongs indoors, not chained up in the back yard. And lastly, please – no more fat dogs – you don’t want a Doberman that looks like most Americans.

Survival Chic

It would seem that preparedness is now hip, with SurviveLA’s mention in a Los Angeles Alternative article entitled “Duck and Cover”. While the article correctly states that we at SurviveLA are on the more eco-crunchy side of things, we think it’s important to restate what we are not – we are not part of what Setha M. Low, an environmental psychology professor calls the “new emotions of home: fear and paranoia and insecurity.” You see, the Man wants us to live in fear. And in response to that climate of fear we think it’s important to prepare ourselves and our communities, so that we can be free to stick it to the Man. To fear we offer fun – to paranoia we say party – to insecurity we say independence!

Preparedness Now!

SurviveLA staff attended a fabulous survival salon hosted by the Process Media/Feral House revolutionaries to promote Aton Edwards hip new book Preparedness Now!

Aton’s informative and well designed book is a fresh look at a subject that is usually the domain of nutcase libertarians and Mormons. Aton is neither and the book has many useful tips for us urban dwellers with chapters on shelter, transportation, self-defense, and a collection of possible disasters we should prepare for. Two things we especially liked – Aton’s advice to start biking, and his advice against running out and buying guns. Plus there is a hilarious passage recalling how he cleverly dealt with some thugs on the A train that’s worth getting the book for.

And while we’re in the pluggin’ mood, check out a little feature on the SurviveLA parkway survival garden on the Preparedness Now! blog.

Tomato Can Stove

Here’s another stove based on the Penny Wood Stove by Mark Jurey for heating up that pot of coffee when the gas and electricity go out. It’s a bit simpler than the Pepsi can stove and doesn’t require fuel other than some sticks or small scraps of wood. The stove works on the same principle as a charcoal chimney starter and it is simple to build.
1. Use a 28 ounce can – I used a Trader Joes tomato can. First, drill a bunch of 1/8 inch holes in the bottom.
2. Next, drill eight 1/4 inch holes about 3/4 of an inch from the top and bottom of the can.

3. Lastly, thread three pieces of heavy wire up through the 1/4 inch holes in the top and bottom to function as a stand for the pot. The wires should extend about two inches above and below the can to allow air to move freely.
4. To light the fire pack the can tightly with pencil sized sticks about one to two inches in length. The idea is to create a slow, controlled burn with a minimum of soot. The looser you pack the wood the faster it will burn, which is not as good. Put some newspaper in the bottom or douse the top with some denatured alcohol or lighter fluid and toss in a match. In just moments you’ll have a toasty fire.

Thong Theory

As author Daniel Pinchbeck suggests, we’re in a time when technique is more important than technology. Take the Homegrown Revolution Thong for instance. A friend and fellow “thoughtstylist” posed the question last night, what else could the real survivalist do with a thong in an emergency situation? It’s all about the brain my friends, so get out there and innovate – that thong has many uses – tourniquet, bandage, face mask . . .

Make a Pepsi Can Stove

Preparedness means having a backup system for all of the things we depend on. If the gas goes out in an earthquake how are you going to cook? Thankfully the world of backpacking offers a number of solutions. Our favorite is the Pepsi can stove which you can build using these incredibly detailed instructions. [Editor's note 7/27/08: looks like the author of that Pepsi can stove site failed to renew the url and, sadly, the link no longer works. We'll try to find an alternative.] [Editor note 10/5/11: The instructions are back! In PDF form.] The stove uses denatured alcohol solvent, sometimes called shellac thinner which is available at any hardware store. The stove is fabricated with the bottom of a Guinness beer can and the bottom of a Pepsi can and the end result is incredibly light. I cut the top off of a 24 ounce Heineken can to make a pot and I used some chicken wire and aluminum foil for a stand. Basically this setup is good for boiling a cup of water, so don’t plan on making any complex balsamic reduction sauces. You can use the stove for coffee and for simple things that need boiling water, i.e. instant soups. Light and compact, this stove is ready for when the shit hits the fan.