Like many of the modern conveniences that will be left behind after the SHTF, the ability to cook on gas or electric stove top or in an oven it something that will likely be missed. Depending on your set up, you may have continued operation of a gas stove for quite some time provided you have a full propane tank to fuel it. Electric stoves, however, will be a thing of the past when the power grid goes, forcing you to move on to alternative means of food preparation.
Although certain foods can be consumed raw or straight from a can, it is not safe to eat all food items without the thorough application of heat. The meat of game animals and livestock, for example, needs to be heated in order to kill bacteria. This means it will likely be necessary to cook over a flame that is fueled by wood.
Wood, once burned, breaks down and turns to charcoal, or ash (not to be confused with commercial charcoal). If you are living off the grid and using wood to fuel a campfire for warmth or cooking, you will come to notice an accumulation of ash in areas where you maintain a fire. Though it may be tempting to discard this as it collects, a better choice would be to keep it and put it to good use as part of your survival plan. Wood ash/charcoal can actually serve many survival purposes, such as those listed below.
1. If composting is part of your survival plan, adding ash to the pile should be as well. It only takes a little bit of ash to enrich compost and bump up levels of nutrients as well as adjusting pH to keep your garden healthy. Simply sprinkle some ash into compost before spreading in the garden.
2. Speaking of the garden, ash can help with pest control. In order to deter harmful insects, create an ash barrier around garden edges to keep insects from trespassing where they are not wanted and can harm your plants. Ash also works on ant beds, forcing them to relocate.
3. Yet another garden use for ash is to fuel the growth of certain plants that need calcium. Since charcoal contains calcium, add it directly to the areas in which tomatoes, peas, beans, spinach, etc. are being planted. Not only will this help plants thrive, but it will also help prevent conditions such as blossom end rot. You can even prevent the formation of frost on plants during winter by dusting them with ash.
4. Create safe drinking water through the use of wood charcoal. Combine a piece of cloth, charcoal, and sand or grass in a plastic bottle to filter out potentially harmful organisms to make water safe for drinking. Detailed instructions can be found here.
5. Remove odors by adding charcoal. If your TEOTWAWKI way of life includes an outhouse, keep the smell manageable by dumping ash over waste as needed. This also works in coolers, fridges, or even your shoes.
6. Speaking of smells, if you have a dog that is no longer being bathed regularly, dusting him or her with ash will help keep coat odors at bay. This is especially useful on skunked dogs. Ash also repels lice, ticks, and fleas on pets, especially when combined with vinegar to make a paste. If you raise chickens, charcoal is a good addition to their dust bath that helps fight parasites.
7. If you have a problem with rodents in your home, ash can help deter those creatures as well. Sprinkle it in corners and other dark, damp spaces that ordinarily appeal to such animals and serve as entry ways in order to keep them away.
8. If your vehicle gets stuck in snow and ice, charcoal can come to your rescue. Since it contains ice, charcoal is a natural adversary to all things frozen. Simply sprinkle ash around tires to melt ice and gain traction. It is also not harmful like commercial deicers are.
9. Use ash to create homemade lye for soap making. Start by first creating lye water and then adding animal fats in order to produce soap. Detailed instructions can be found here.
10. Last but not least, use ash to put out fires. At the end of the day when the cooking is done or for any other reason that you need to extinguish a flame, simply pour ash over it and the flame will douse.
In the future, think twice before discarding any charcoal or ash produced by your campfire and instead put it to work for you. These 10 uses for charcoal ash are only the beginning as ash has proven and is proving more and more useful in new ways every day. Set yours to the side and call upon it as needed to aid with your survival needs.
Are you a believer in the powers of charcoal ash? For what purposes do you use yours? Let us know in the comments.