Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Pawpaw Tree

Looking for a native fruit tree to plant in your forest garden?  If you are in North America, let me suggest the Pawpaw.

The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a small deciduous fruit tree most commonly found near creek banks and river bottoms in the understory of rich broadleaf forests of the eastern United States. It has the largest edible fruit native to North America, with a flavor somewhat similar to banana and mango. It is notable for having more protein than most other fruits.

"The fossil record indicates that the pawpaw's forebears established themselves in North America millions of years before the arrival of humans. The Native Americans were great lovers of the pawpaw and introduced it to European explorers: the DeSoto expedition of 1540 reported encountering tribes that cultivated the fruit. In 1736, Quaker botanists John Bartram and Peter Collinson arranged for specimens to be sent to England." -- The Pawpaw Foundation

The Pawpaw tree fits in as excellent understory tree in a large forest garden, or even as the main fruit tree in smaller forest gardens. The fruit is both tasty and highly nutritious, containing a surprising amount of protein. 

Another advantage of the Pawpaw is that it has few pests and requires little or no pesticides in its cultivation. In fact, its leaves, twigs, and bark contain natural insecticides known as acetogenins, which can be used to make an organic pesticide.

Pawpaw seeds also have these insecticidal properties. Native Americans dried and powdered them and applied the powder to children's heads to control lice, and today specialized shampoos for eliminating lice are made using compounds from pawpaw seeds.

Pawpaw flowers are pollinated by carrion beetles and blowflies, but have a weak scent which can limit production. Some growers place rotting meat near the trees to increase the blowfly population to help with pollination. 

The Pawpaw tree is the only larval host of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly, so by planting Pawpaws you are helping the survival of the Zebra Swallowtail. 

According to The Pawpaw Foundation, "since 1900, numerous individuals, including the renowned botanist David Fairchild, have collected superior clones from the wild and worked at improving the pawpaw. Roughly a dozen named varieties exist; most notable are Sunflower, Overleese, and Taytwo."

(This article is from an old blog of mine, originally written in 2010.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get your church involved in prepping

Let me start by quickly addressing the question of should churches be involved in prepping, or anything other than worship for that matter. The biblical answer is yes, in my opinion. After all, church isn't something that was intended to be confined only to the four walls of a building on Sunday mornings. Church, as it is shown in the New Testament, is a community of believers that transcends buildings and time slots. The New Testament churches didn't just worship together, they loved one another and helped each other.

Christians are a family. We often call each other "brothers and sisters" even when we are not related by blood or marriage. Jesus has taught us to love one another, to help one another. This is what I mean when I suggest churches get involved in prepping - that we help each other as we struggle to survive tough times that may lie ahead. It is the Christian thing to do.

The wise store up choice food and olive oil,

    but fools gulp theirs down. -- Proverbs 21:20

Much more can be said about this, but it is not my intention to "preach" a sermon at this time. Instead, I will jump straight to my suggestions on how churches can be centers of prepping:

1) Start Talking About the Need for Prepping - You don't even have to call it "prepping." Emergency or disaster preparedness are legitimate names for what we do, and may be more acceptable to your fellow church members. Still, the important thing is to get people thinking and talking about preparedness.

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. 
The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. -- Proverbs 22:3

2) Community Gardening - If your church has, or can get access to, some land, then start a community gardening program. There are many ways this can be done, from one massive garden that everyone works and shares its harvest, to individuals & families being provided smaller plots to garden as they see fit. The garden could be limited to church members only, or it could be opened up a larger community. The community gardening program would also provide encouragement and education to folks wanting to garden in their own yards.

3) Classes and Sessions in Food Storage and Canning - Churches could encourage and educate their members to store food. Chances are your church has a number of older members who would love to pass on their knowledge of canning and other food preservation techniques. If not, check your your local agricultural extension office.

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household,
has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. -- 1 Timothy 5:8

4) First Aid and CPR Courses - Your church could offer its members courses in first aid and CPR. You many have members already qualified to teach those courses. If not, contact your local fire department or EMS. Many will be happy to work with your church to provide first aid training.

5) Financial Courses - Encourage and educate church members on personal finances, budgeting, and becoming debt-free. There are a number of ministries which educate and encourage folks in their personal finances, and a lot of free and low-cost programs and bible studies available. Check out Dave Ramsey's website, books, and radio program. Also, Money Matters with Ken Moraif. And Crown Financial. There may be others.

6) Scout-like Youth Groups - You church could host various types of scouting and scouting-like groups, including Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA. Some denominations even have their own groups similar to these. Scouting programs, of whatever type, are a great way to young people the values and skills that will help them no matter what life throws their way.

7) Store Food and Other Supplies - A church I attended many years ago had a small room where they stored old coats & jackets, blankets, canned and dried food, baby supplies, and other similar things. These were then given to the homeless or other people in need that would show up at the church from time-to-time asking for help. Your church could do something similar - buying and storing supplies that could be distributed to either church members and/or needy folks in an emergency.

8) Preparedness Classes and Seminars - Churches could provide occasional seminars or on-going classes in preparedness. How to do this and what subjects to cover are limited only by your imagination. Your church members could also work together to buy supplies in bulk, combining your individual purchases to get the best prices possible.

9) Communications - Your church could also act as a communications hub during emergencies. Many churches already have prayer chains and other means of communications set up.

10) Prayer and Discipleship - Our country is in need of prayer. Although we were founded as a nation based on Christian principles, we are no longer a Christian nation. Chances are most of our neighbors are unchurched, many are not Christian, and some have never truly heard the Gospel message. It used to be that America took the Gospel to places that had never heard it, such as Africa and Asia. But now, America itself has become a field in need for missionary work. The Great Commission doesn't just apply to professional missionaries in the far-corners of the globe. It applies to all of us in dealing with our friends and neighbors.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
-- Matthew 28: 19, 20
What churches can do to help their members and communities prepare is in no way limited by this short list of ten things. There are many, many other possibilities, and most make terrific opportunities to reach out to the unchurched in our communities with the love of Jesus.

You can follow Tim Gamble on Twitter at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Prepper's Guide to Junk Silver

It is common advice within the prepper community to have some "junk" silver as a hedge against inflation and an alternative means of exchange in case of a collapse of the dollar. This article is meant as a Prepper's Guide to Junk Silver.

Precious metals, such as gold and silver, have been widely accepted as a form of economic exchange (currency) for all of human history. Unlike paper currency, gold and silver cannot be mass "printed" by governments and therefore cannot be "devalued" by inflation or government policy. If governments try to outlaw the use of gold and silver as a means of economic exchange, even banning private ownership, its long and universally recognized history as a form of currency ensues a robust black market. Therefore, gold and silver are seen as a solid hedge against inflation, a safe storehouse of wealth, and an alternative means of economic exchange during and after any economic crisis, including the collapse of the dollar.

What is Junk Silver?  The term junk silver is a bit misleading. Coins described as junk silver are by no means "junk" and can be quite valuable due to their silver content. The term is only meant to distinguish coins with little or no collectible premium above their silver content from coins that do have a collectible premium (rare coins, higher grade coins, key dates, errors, etc.).

Junk silver coins are mostly circulated coins (which show wear) from before 1965 and which typically contain 90% silver. Most coins minted in 1965 and later contain no silver. There are a few exceptions, which are noted on the chart below.

Remember, junk silver coins are those with little or no collector premium above the silver content. Many high-grade coins, rare coins, key dates, and errors have a collectible premium, and therefore are not true "junk" silver since they may be worth considerably more than their silver content.

How much is Junk Silver worth?  The price of silver changes almost daily (actually constantly throughout the day). You can check financial websites for the current price. Or just bookmark this website ( where you can find the price of silver (and gold, oil, and natural gas) in the upper right-hand column.

You can figure out how much you are being charged for the silver in junk 90% silver coins by applying the .715 rule (there is .715 troy ounce of silver per $1 of face value of 90% silver US coins, of any combination). First, divide the amount being asked by the face amount of the coins to get the amount being asked per $1 of face value. Then divide that amount by .715, and the result is how much per ounce of silver is being asked.

Example: Ten Washington silver quarters are being sold for $43. How much is being asked per ounce of silver? Face value being sold is $2.50 (10 X .25). Asking price of $43 divided by face value of $2.50 is $17.20, which is the amount you are paying per $1 of face value. $17.20 divided by .715 is $24.06. Therefore, you would be paying $24.06 per ounce of silver.

Please note that the .715 rule doesn't work with war nickels, 40% Kennedy halves, 40% Eisenhower dollars, and Silver Eagles because the silver content for those isn't 90%.

Another way to find out the melt value of coins is to look on the website

When you sell to coin dealers, you can expect them to offer you less for your junk silver coins than the silver content is actually worth. Remember, this is how the dealers make a living, so you cannot expect full price from them. Most dealers will offer between 60% and 90% depending on several factors, including what exactly you are selling and the demand for junk silver that they are currently experiencing from there customers. If you feel their offer is too low, make a counter offer or try a different dealer.

Why Junk Silver?  In case of an economic crisis, including a collapse of the US dollar, there will be a need for an alternative to the dollar as a means of economic exchange. Barter (I'll give you a dozen eggs in exchange for a gallon of milk) will be one means of exchange, but there are difficulties with barter, which is why coinage developed in the first place.

Gold will be useful for large purchases (such as a home), but will be too valuable to be practical for small purchases (such as a dozen eggs).

Silver coins, on the other hand, will be much more convenient for smaller purchases. And since the value of junk silver coins comes mostly from their metal content, and since they come in denominations and designs the general public are already familiar with, they will be quickly and easily accepted as a form of currency.

How much do I need?  How much you junk silver you need to include in your preps is something you will need to figure out for yourself, and will depend on what your personal concerns and circumstances are, and how much you can reasonably afford. I will say that acquiring a lot of junk silver is something you should only do after covering the basics of your prepping (food, water, and other supplies), and that you should never go into debt to buy junk silver.

What types of silver coins should I get?  That is up to you, but I stick with circulated US dimes, quarters, and halves that are 90% silver. These are easily recognizable by the general public, and I avoid any possible confusion over the 35% and 40% coins. I also don't have to concern myself with any collectible premium.

Morgan and Peace dollars would also may be good choices, but are somewhat less recognizable by the general public. Silver Eagles (which I do also collect, but don't consider part of my junk silver) aren't circulated and carry a collectible premium.

Foreign coins and commemorative coins may contain silver, but will be much less recognized and accepted by the general public, so I avoid them.

Where do I get Junk Silver?  There are a lot of places you can get silver coins. Start by looking through the change you already have in your pockets, piggy bank, or that jar you drop loose change in when you empty your pockets at night. Be sure to always check the change you get everyday. Though uncommon, there are still some silver coins in circulation.

You can buy rolls of dimes, quarters, and halves from your bank. You can then search the rolls looking for silver coins, then return the rest. There is no risk in this method, since even if you find no silver coins, you still have the same face value that you bought. It is a bit of a hassle for the banks, so some banks/tellers may be a bit grumpy about it, but most will work with you. Search You Tube for Coin Roll Hunting for more information.

You can also buy unsearched rolls of coins from coin dealers and off of eBay, but these will usually charge a slight premium over face. Also, how do you know if the rolls are truly unsearched? I personally would not buy unsearched rolls unless I knew and trusted the dealer very well.

Visit local coin dealers. They will have a lot of junk silver coins you can buy, both loose and by the roll. You will pay a slight premium over the price of the silver content (but that is how the dealer makes a living). How much a premium will vary from dealer to dealer, and will depend on how much and what exactly you are buying.

Shop on eBay. Do an eBay search for Junk Silver and you will get pages of results to shift through. Be cautious! Especially with dealers who are not local to you. Pay attention to their customer reviews and feedback score; deal only with established dealers with very high scores. Read carefully the written description of the item and make sure you know what you are bidding on (don't go just by the photo). Make a small test purchase from a dealer first to see how it goes before making any larger purchases from that dealer.

Visit local flea markets, antique shops, and yard sales. You can often find coins being sold by non-dealers who don't pay close attention to the daily fluctuations in the price of silver. The opportunity is for some really great bargains.

You can also buy from the many large gold and silver brokers that often advertise on talk radio and the financial cable networks.

So, Junk Silver is a good investment?  Maybe. Maybe not. I am not discussing junk silver as an investment, but rather as a storehouse of wealth, a hedge against inflation, and a potential alternative to paper money as currency. I buy junk silver in order to protect my purchasing power, not in hopes of making a return on an investment.


1) This article is an introduction to junk silver as a part of preparing for difficult times. It is not an article on coin collecting as a hobby or investment. 
2) I am not a financial professional, and nothing presented here is meant to be taken as professional advice. Should you need or desire professional financial advice, I suggest seeking a licensed financial professional, who will provide personalized advise based on your own concerns and circumstances. 

Follow Tim Gamble on Twitter at