Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
When we think of our lives today, we have it pretty easy compared to what our grandparents and their grandparents had. We panic if we lose power for a few hours.
Everything we want and need is readily available. Society has become dependent on convenience. It has left us at an extreme disadvantage.
Preppers know these conveniences are not a guarantee. They are preparing themselves by learning skills and tricks that our ancestors used to survive long before the push of a button took care of everything.
The following are some vintage life hacks that still work today and are valuable skills to learn. It’s a ride in the wayback machine to a time when people had to put some effort into getting things done. A time when electricity and convenience didn’t exist.
Back in the old days, people didn’t have a gadget for every purpose. They had to get creative and think outside the box. The hacks below are basic and don’t require any additional equipment. It’s all about having the knowledge and know-how.
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1. Lighting a Match in the Wind
Lighting a match in the wind is difficult if not impossible. Using a blade, gently run it across a wooden match to create some splinters. The moment the match ignites, the thin splinters will catch as well, giving you an additional few seconds to use the match to start your fire before the wind blows it out.
2. Use a Watch as a Compass
A watch can act as a compass in a pinch in the middle of the day. Turn the watch to point the hour hand at the sun. Use a blade of grass, wire or whatever laid over the face of the watch between the hour hand and the number twelve. The end of the wire is pointing due south.
3. Make Your Own Fire Extinguisher
Put out a fire without an extinguisher by making your own. Combine two quarts of water, one pound of salt and half pound of sal ammoniac. The latter is available on Amazon.
Keep your homemade fire extinguisher in a gallon-size jar. If a fire breaks out, toss it on the flames. This is a necessity when you can’t call the fire department to save you.
4. Find a Gas Leak
If you’re worried about gas escaping a hose or pipe, rub or spray on some soapy water over the pipe. Look for any bubbles as well as listen for a soft bubbling noise. That will indicate a hole. It might be the size of a pinprick, but the releasing air or gas will bubble the solution.
5. Create a Perfect Circle
Create a perfect circle without a compass or other tools. Tie a length of string around the top of a pencil. Tie the other end to a stick or stake. Plant the stake and extend the string to the size you need your circle to be. Keep the stake in place and move the pencil around to draw the perfect circle.
6. Build an Animal Water Dispenser
Create a small animal water dispenser out of a two-liter bottle, beer bottle, or a wine bottle. Fill the bottle with water. Attach it to a stake or something sturdy with rope or wire. You’ll need some kind of basin to hold the water.
Put the mouth of the bottle just inside the basin and turn upside down. The basin will fill and stop the water from coming out until the water level drops below the lip of the bottle which will trigger the water to flow until the right level is reached again.
7. Cut Thinner Slices of Bread
Homemade bread is delicious, but getting thin slices can be difficult. Put the knife in hot water, wipe dry and then slice the bread. It will cut through the bread easily enough to get thin slices that can stretch a loaf of bread.
8. Fit a Large Candle into a Small Candlestick
If you stored candles that are too wide to fit into your candlestick, you don’t have to waste wax by shaving off the bottom or risk the candle falling over and starting a fire.
Put the bottom of the candle in hot water until it is soft. Gently push the candle into the candlestick when it is pliable. It will harden in seconds and be nice and sturdy in the candlestick.
9. Get Rid of a Tree Stump
A tree stump can be a problem if you need the land to build animal housing or your own shelter. You can kill the stump which will make it easier to remove and will prevent new sprouts popping up.
10. Keep a Compress Cold
A sprain can be treated with cold compresses. Unfortunately, that isn’t always easy to keep up with. Soak a cloth or ace bandage in cold water. Wrap the injury leaving one end loose.
Put the loose end in a basin of cold water. It will keep the bandage cold and wet. When the basin is empty, refill with cold water.
11. Make Sure Your Bed is Dry
Being wet or damp can be deadly in a cold weather situation. Before getting into bed, you’ll want to make sure it’s bone dry. There is being cold and there is being damp. It can be hard to tell by touch alone.
Place a mirror under the blankets. Leave it for a few minutes. If there is any blurriness or mist on the mirror, the bedding is damp.
12. Clean Out a Bottle
Bottles, water or otherwise, need to be cleaned, but it can be difficult to reach the bottom. Add a little sand to the bottle and some water. Give it a good shake to get all the edges at the bottom. Rinse out with clean water.
13. Regrow Veggies from Scraps
Regrow your lettuce, celery, and onions instead of tossing them into the trash. Suspending the bottom of the lettuce or celery in water for a week will promote root sprouts. Once roots have been started, plant in soil (or use hydroponics) and you’ll get fresh produce.
14. Prevent Boiled Eggs from Cracking
Boiled eggs are a great snack for when you are on the go. Boiling eggs that don’t crack can be a crapshoot. Adding a little vinegar to the water while boiling can help prevent the eggs from cracking and losing some of the egg white.
15. Keep Cistern Water Clean
Storing water in a large cistern or catching rainwater can lead to some contaminants getting into the water. Adding alum powder to the cistern will help filter out contaminants.
The powder causes the contaminants in the water to clump together and sink, leaving the good stuff on the top. Alum powder is cheap and easy to find and can be stored for water purification.
16. Get Something Out of Your Eye
If you get something in your eye that you can’t get out, a tiny drop of castor oil in the corner of the eye will do the trick. The thick oil will grab the offending object and you can simply wipe it away.
The oil will also lubricate the irritated eye after being invaded by a foreign object. A drop of castor oil can be used as a lubricant for dry, itchy eyes that can be a problem when your sight is crucial to your survival.
17. Preserve Eggs Without a Fridge
Food preservation without refrigeration can be tricky. In the old days, they preserved fresh eggs in salt. The technique has been improved over the years. Gently rub olive oil over the eggs and carefully place in a container filled with salt.
The eggs cannot touch, and the eggs have to be completely submerged. The container must be sealed tight with no air allowed in. Depending on how brave you are and how well you sealed the container, the eggs will be preserved anywhere from six months to a year.
18. Keep Flies Away
Without regular sanitation services, flies can be a huge problem. Sprinkling a little borax over garbage in a can will help keep the flies at bay. They’ll still come around, but they won’t congregate and breed as much as they normally would. Flies are a safety concern that must be taken seriously.
19. Preserve Metal Tools
Preserve your metal tools and keep them from corrosive rust. Fill a bucket with sand mixed with a cup of motor oil and store your tools in it. This hack will keep your hammers, shovels and so on free of rust.
20. Remove Air from Food Storage Bags
Air is the enemy when it comes to food preservation. You might have plenty of Ziploc bags, but they can still trap air inside when sealed. Seal the bag leaving just enough space for a drinking straw. Suck the air out of the bag and seal completely.
21. Upcycle Old Hoses
Old hoses that are no longer useful for their intended purpose can be used in other ways. Hauling buckets of water or food can be made a little more comfortable by cutting a hose and threading the handle through it. The rubber hose will save your hand. The hoses can also be used as sheaths for saw blades.
There are many, many things our ancestors did that were considered normal back in the day. With modern technology and the ability to run out and buy whatever we needed, we’ve forgotten those old ways.
Our grandparents and their parents learned to do with less. It’s important we learn from them and continue to pass down the old ways to future generations.
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