pioneer provision list and lessons

Pioneer Lessons
Forgotten Lessons of Self-Sufficiency from the pioneers

Forgotten skills of self-sufficiency...
Preppers can learn much from the American pioneers. From the
pioneer provision list, to seed saving and their cooking equipment
and recipes, preppers are wise to take note of techniques and
tools used by the pioneers who "bugged out" West from 1840-
1890 along the Oregon Trail.

Mormon pioneers were the emergency preparedness and food
storage masters of their time! Author Caleb Warnock, in his book,
The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon
Pioneers
, shows you the first hand skills you'll need. Learn to
cultivate the pioneer's independence to provide against lost
wages, harsh weather, economic recession, commercial
contamination and shortages, as you strengthen your family's self-
reliance.  

Pioneers Provision List and Survival Ideas
How did pioneers survive life along the Oregon Trail? Here is the
short list of lessons to learn from them...

Pioneer Lesson #1: Make a provision list.
Pioneers knew they could not depend on foraging for food or
hunting alone along the trail, so before heading on the journey,
pioneers relied on the knowledge of fur trappers to guide them on
foods and supplies to bring.

Pioneer women didn't write much about food along the trails, as
they felt food was a rather mundane topic. Thankfully, however,
men found food a worthwhile to write about, so we know pioneers
packed plenty of dried goods, including dried meats, sugar,
molasses, salt, and spices, as well as flour, cornmeal, oats, dried
apples, coffee and tea. The following is an actual provision list.

Provisions for the six-month journey included:

Lesson #2: Fire and cooking.
Cooking over an open fire was dangerous for pioneer women and
the children who gathered around the fire. Pioneer women, and
the girls who tended the cooking, wore their hair tightened in a
bun. Additionally, pioneer women wore bonnets not only to keep
their unkempt hair as orderly as possible, but also to cook over an
open flame. They also wore heavy wool clothing to protect
themselves from flying sparks.

  • Scouting tip: Gather long hair into a pony tail before starting
    a fire. Secure loose clothing, such as sweatshirt strings, so
    that when leaning into the fire they don't get caught up in
    the embers.

What methods did the pioneers use to cook their food?
There were several methods pioneers cooked their foods. Mostly,
pioneers cooked from cast iron pots over open fires. Kids were
assigned the task of collecting dung from oxen or buffalo to fuel
the fire. It became a bit of a sport to fling dung like a Frisbee.

Pioneers baked bread daily in a fire pit by digging a shallow
trench, which sheltered the flames from the wind. If they had
wood, pioneers used it for fuel, but in the flat terrain of the
prairie filled with short grass, they found little wood, so they soon
discovered buffalo dung was a source of fuel.

  • Reflector oven. Those lucky enough also brought along a
    "reflector"oven, which was simply a medium sized container
    made of tin with a hooded dome and shelves to bake pies
    and breads. With a campfire reflector oven, pioneers could
    bake using an open fire and capturing the radiant heat. The
    modern day reflector oven, pictured left, is a cooking method
    enjoyed by scouts.

  • Charcoal making. Pioneers brought with them charcoals for
    their next stop along the trail. Here's how to make charcoal,
    so you'll have an endless supply.

  • Fire pit and a dutch oven. At minimum, pioneers along the
    Oregon trail baked bread over a campfire in a dutch oven, a
    cast iron pot with three legs and a lid. (Well, a few minors
    brought only their gold mining equipment, which also served
    as a cooking pot.)They did this almost daily by digging a
    shallow trench, which sheltered the flames from wind. If they
    had wood they used it for fuel, but in the flat terrain of the
    prairie filled with short grass, they found buffalo dung.

  • Wood fired iron cook stoves. The wealthiest few brought
    cast iron cook stoves; however, this proved too heavy for
    oxen to carry for the entire 2000-mile journey, so often
    families had to depart leaving their cook stove at the
    campsite.

Lesson #3: Know you "knead" to have bread.
Baking bread is an essential survival skill. Get a dutch oven  and
learn to make hard tack, biscuits, bread, cornbread and pancakes:

Learn to bake bread in a fire pit.
Grain was an important food source in pioneer life, and bread was
the primary grain eaten. Pioneers enjoyed several varieties of
breads on the trail as staple:

Hard tack (pilot bread). Baked in advance of the journey,
pioneers brought along hard tack, which could last almost
indefinitely. Hard tack is essentially flour, salt and water a baked
into a thick cracker. Today's modern equivalent is
pilot crackers.

The pioneers ate this extremely dry bread by dipping it in coffee
to get the bugs out, frying it up with lard to flavor it, or dipping it
into their soups to moisten it. Sometimes they added water to
the hard tack and baked it again over a fire to make a "fresh
bread." If moisture got into the supply, it wasn't much of a
problem: the pioneers just broke off the moldy pieces.


Quick bread. The pioneers baked quick breads (flour mixed with
water) over the fire by wrapping the wet dough around a stick
when the day was getting short and bellies needed filling. A quick
biscuit was made with a quart of sour cream and a spoonful of
saleratus and just enough salt and flour to make the dough stiff.

Biscuits and bread. If they had time, pioneers kneaded yeast
biscuits and breads on the trail, by supper the bread had risen
and was ready to bake in a cast iron dutch oven over the fire. Dry
yeast wasn't available until 1870, so they made their own yeast.
To make their yeast, they brought saleratus (the pioneer version
of baking soda, which made the bread rise). Saleratus needed to
mix with an acidic food or chemical, such as cream of tartar to
activate the leavening process.

Corn bread. Much more like pancakes made with ground corn
meal, pioneers made Johhny cakes. Here's a homestead recipe on
how to
make pioneer style corn bread.

Pioneer Lesson #4: Get a Grain mill.
Bread was an extremely important staple for the pioneers;
however, grinding the grains was a difficult and tiresome job
made easier at the town's grist mills. A water wheel helped
turned the gears and rods. Who did the work? A miller of course.

You can "mill" your own grains with the use of grain mill. A grain
mill is good for grinding hard wheat into flour as they are for
grinding your coffee beans. A wheat grinder (grain mill).


Pioneer Lesson #5: Stock up on 50-75 lbs. of fats and
oils per person.
Preppers should find the best cooking oils for long term storage.
Bacon, (called sowbelly) was the food most consumed by pioneers
(next to bread, of course), so pioneers brought plenty of it along
their journey. Bacon and lard was an excellent provision choice for
pioneers because it burned at very high temperatures and with
less smoke than other oils. Bacon, a prepper favorite, is a
surprisingly healthful cooking fat.


Other healthy oils to consider in addition to bacon are coconut oil
and olive oils. Olive oils can last up to three years. Purchase olive
oil in cans to protect the oil from light. Crisco, arguably not the
healthiest ingredient in a prepper's pantry, has an indefinite shelf
life and so it has a place in the prepper's pantry to help survive a
long term off-grid scenario. If not to eat it, then to burn it as a
fuel for a candle.

Pioneer Lesson #6: Add oats to your pantry.
Third on the list of pioneer foods were oats. Pioneers ate mostly
steel-cut oats (not the flat rolled stuff). The proportions were 2
tablespoons oats to 2 cups water! It was an arduous process to
cook and stir, but the result was a creamy, silky smooth porridge,
and not the nutty flavor you might expect. As corn gained in
popularity, porridge made from oats became less a part of the
diet. Pioneers then preferred corn mush!

Pioneer Lesson #7: Stash corn and cornmeal, but
avoid GMO.
Pioneers along the Oregon trail packed parched corn (for soups)
and corn meal (for mush porridges eaten with milk for supper).
Cold mush was sliced and fried in brown butter. As a simple meal,
Pioneers baked skillet cornbread with six slices of bacon chopped
inside.

Of course none of it was genetically modified. Today, preppers
have many other options! Popcorn is an easy to store food.
Consider also polenta (Italian corn that's often baked or fried),
and masa harina, (flour for making corn tortilla). These corn
products offer essential vitamins. At all costs, however,
avoid
GMO corn.

Pioneer Lesson #8: Look at your inventory of
imported goods.
Pioneers loved brown sugar, molasses, coffee, salt and spices.
These imported goods were certainly treats, and for this reason
are top priority items to stockpile. Many of these products are not
something homesteaders can grow in North America, and they
simply won't be available for purchase. For this reason, it's
important to stock up.
  • Sugar. Stock sugar in food grade bucket. Consider molasses
    as it can help you make your own BBQ sauce and more.
  • Salt. Stock up on salt for preserving.
  • Spices. Spice up your prepper's pantry with spices
  • Coffee. Coffee was important tin survial.The pioneers who
    drank coffee were the ones to survive the 2000-mile journey!
    Contaminated water brought water-borne disease of cholera
    with symptoms of high fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Pioneers
    did their best to prevent sickness by drinking coffee. It was
    the process of boiling water that helped purify the water!  If
    no coffee was available, pioneers made a coffee-like
    substance from acorns, dandelion roots or chicory. During the
    civil war the soldiers made substitutions with cotton seed or
    peanuts.

Pioneer lesson #9. Get a butter churn and some
powdered milk
.
Got powdered milk? Pioneers brought with them a milking cow or
two for fresh milk along the trails. They'd put the milk in the back
of the wagon and allow the wagon to movement to churn the milk
into butter. Right is a
butter churn, so you can make butter
yourself from powdered milk. Your family will love the prepping
upgrade of adding fresh butter to your meals.

Other
options for butter include canned butter or butter powder.

Pioneer Lesson #10 Consider drying your meat and
hunting.
Meat spoiled quickly, so the settlers smoked, dried and salted the
meat prior to leaving on their journey. Not as tasty as beef jerky,
because it tasted more along the lines of shoe leather, but it was
nutritious just the same.

Pioneers hunted and trapped wild game (venison) and small
animals (squirrel, hare and in lean times mice) to supplement the
dried meats they hauled in their covered wagons. They hunted a
variety of fowl from partridge and pigeons to geese and ducks.
They also caught fish as they travelled rivers and lakes. They ate
a lot of sowbelly, which is what we call bacon today.


Pioneer Lesson # 11: Stock dry fruits and forage.
Pioneers subsisted on mostly dried peaches and apples, but along
the trail they also foraged for berries and dandelions.

  • Apples. Apples were a staple and were routinely dried to last
    the Winter months. An apple peeler helped make the job
    easier. From apples came applesauce and apple butter. From
    dried apples came stewed apples and apple pasties (small
    apple pies). While nothing could be more American than
    Apple Pie, the pioneers actually loathed the thought of
    eating yet another bite of dried apple pie, especially towards
    the end of their journey.  They would sing, "Spit in my ears
    and tell me lies, but give me no more dried apple pies!"

    Apples will likely return as a staple in an off grid world, as
    they grow easily in North America and they can dry easily. An
    industrial apple peeler will be useful if your property or
    neighboring ones have apples to harvest. Pack plenty of dried
    fruits in other varieties so as not to tire of them the way the
    pioneers did.

  • Berries. Back home, the pioneers foraged for strawberries,
    blueberries and blackberries, which were all ideal for jams
    and jellies. Along the trail, pioneers gathered berries;
    however these treats were few and far between. Blackberries
    were treasured finds in the forests; however, the dangers
    were bears who were foraging for them as well! They also
    found wild grapes, gooseberries, cranberries and salalberries
    for their pies. Blackberries and blueberries are a good
    foraging choice. In Hawke's Special Forces Survival Handbook,
    Mykel Hawke has this to say about berries: "90% of purple,
    black and blue are good for you...50-50 on the reds, could be
    good, or could be dead!" (page 126).

  • Dandelions. Flowers are fruit in disguise, and a favored food
    to forage along the trails! Fighting scurvy was an issue for
    pioneers, as they had a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables on
    their journey. Fresh greens, including dandelions provided
    healthy doses of calcium and iron. Dandelions also provided
    the pioneers with folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, and
    Vitamin E, along with the all important scurvy preventing
    dose of Vitamin C. What's more, dandelion roots are as high
    as 14% protein! Who knew? Pioneers often tossed
    dandelions into soups and stews for flavorings. Eat dandelion
    greens and dandelion roots and make them part of your
    preps! In addition to offering iron, protein, and calcium
    dandelions are loaded with antioxidants and minerals. Why
    wait until an apocalypse?

  • Plums. Plums sweetened many dishes. They brought sacks of
    sugar plums. Stewed prunes were also popular.

Lesson # 12: Establish a root cellar.
Back home, pioneers grew carrots, onions and potatoes and
stored them in a root cellar. Along the trail the pioneers gathered
herbs and roots and berries.

  • Potatoes. Potatoes filled stew pots and soups. An apple
    peeler helped make the job easier. Eat potatoes and butter!
    A healthy diet of potatoes supplemented only with milk or
    butter, which have the two vitamins not in potatoes,
    (vitamins A and D) is all a human body needs to sustain
    proper nutrition. Preppers have three options:

Lesson # 13: Learn how to distill and purify water.
Water is the most important lesson of any survival skill overview.
Often pioneers had no choice but to drink water made by human
and animal waste. Coffee made it taste better. They could either
drink foul water or die of dehydration, which wasn't much of a
choice. They "cured" sickness and disease with peppermint,
whisky and rum. Vinegar was also a medicinal tonic to help ease
their health woes. What a life!

One in ten travelers died the journey. Clean water was hard to
find and the pioneers often died of dehydration or the perils of
bitter alkaline water (too high ph), parasites in water and disease
borne mosquitoes.


Lesson #14: Bring or store what you can, and barter
for the rest.
Know that your provisions are also bartering items! Learn the art
of bartering, so you can extend this resource. You see, pioneers
filled their wagons with food and precious belongings. Some even
brought pianos! The prairies were littered with these treasures
and heirlooms as they soon realized that the weight was too
much for the oxen to bear. Since the pioneers didn't have much
money, they bartered quite a bit back home, trading their extra
crops for goods. Pioneers put their skills to use with Native
Americans who welcomed them along the Oregon trail. They
sometimes traded their wares for food. A popular trade for their
wares, such as a mirror or a knife, was dried meat,or acorn bread
baked with crickets. Of most value to pioneers (items not up for
barter) included:
  • Weapons, including a rifle, shotgun or pistol. A Colt revolver
    and a Winchester were customary possessions.
  • Knives, including a good hunting knife, a butcher knife, a
    skinning knife, and a small antique paring knife.
  • Farm implements taken on the trail included a plow, shovel,
    scythe, rake, and a hoe.
  • Carpentry tools, such as a broad axe, a mallet, and a saw.
  • Seeds for corn, wheat and other crops.

  • NOTE: Your bugout bag should be around a third of your
    weight. If you have the luxury of transportation, don't over
    pack. Food and water should be your top priority.

Lesson #15: Make your own.
Whatever supplies you don't have and can't barter, make your
own or make do without. If you sew, then sew your own clothes
and even menstrual pads. The following are some pioneer created
items you can learn to make:

  • Pioneer wool. While men and boys often did the sheep
    shearing, the woman washed the wool and spent hours
    carding, spinning, dying, making cloth, then fashioning the
    wool into garments.

  • Pioneer candles. Tallow (lard or rendered fat) from a hog
    created the basis of pioneer candles (and then sometimes
    the drippings from these candles would be recycled into
    creating soaps). Pioneers also sometimes made candles from
    beeswax.

  • Pioneer Soaps: Before they left on their journey, pioneers
    made soap from wood ashes (a homemade charcoal), lard
    (animal fat from cattle, sheep and hogs), and lye water.


When it comes to provisions for food, preppers and pioneers have
lots in common. Advanced preppers who are homesteaders are
much like the pioneers who grew their own fruits and root
vegetables (mostly carrots, onions and
potatoes). They farmed
their own
grains (mostly corn, oats and wheat). They raised pigs
as they enjoyed salt pork (and it preserved well). They kept
chickens, ducks and rabbits, and ranched cows and goats for meat
and dairy. Pioneers also hunted and foraged for herbs, berries and
roots. Drying and cellaring these foods helped keep them through
the Winter months. As a prepper, you may have a pantry of
similar provisions. You may like to reference our modern day
provision
list of 37 shelf stable foods to hoard to see how your
supplies stack up.

  • Press your own cooking oil:



















Happy endings...
Your little house in the suburbs can benefit from lessons learned
during Laura Ingall Wilder's time.

Preppers are hungry for good information about these people and
many books abound:

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