Friday, September 28, 2018

Survival on the Sea -- a Current Story

[for details on Classes and Books by Nyerges, see]

On September 24, 2018, the Jakarta Post reported how an Indonesian teen, Aldi Novel Adilang, had been drifting in the sea for 49 days since July 14.

Aldi worked on a fishing boat, known as a rompong, lighting lamps to attract fish. But the rompong has no navigational devices or oars; it’s a fixed boat, anchored to the seabed with ropes, where he lived for a week at a time, with supplies meant to last a week.  A storm in July cut the ropes and Aldi floated out on the sea. 

He did have his limited food and water supplies, which were used up in the first few days.  Then he caught fish and drank seawater.  Generally, one does not drink seawater straight because the high mineral content results in vomiting and diarrhea, a net water loss.  However, Aldi states that he soaked his shirt in the sea, and was able to suck the palatable water out of his shirt.

Eventually, after he tried to flag at least 10 ships that sailed by, one was able to rescue him and take him to shore.


There are a limited source of foods from the sea, especially if you’re stranded on the open ocean.  There are fish, birds, turtles, and possibly some crustaceans, especially closer to the shore.  Aldi, who worked with fishermen, managed somehow to capture and eat fish.


Since you cannot safely drink straight seawater,   you have to process it somehow if that’s all you have to drink.

I pointed this out in my book, “How to Survive Anywhere” in the Water chapter.  For example, I recounted the story of Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki expedition, where he sailed across the ocean using a primitively-built raft, with supplies carried as they would have been a thousand years ago.  When his water supplies ran low, he found that he could mix 60% fresh water with 40% ocean water, with no ill effects whatsoever when they drank it.

Distillation is the best way to purify ocean water from its high mineral content, but you must have the tools and supplies to distill, something that Aldi did not have when adrift.  (See “How to Survive Anywhere” for distillation methods).

For his water, Aldi reported that he soaked his shirt in the ocean water, and sucked the water out of the fabric.  Presumably, the fabric of his shirt absorbed enough of the mineral and salt content that he could safely drink the ocean water.

Otherwise, if adrift on the ocean, your water sources would be the rain, dew, and possibly the liquid inside the floats of seaweeds, and inside fish.

Back on shore, there are several ways to purify/distill water, such as the desert still (a hole in the ground covered with plastic), or a solar tabletop still (see illustrations). [Illustrations from Nyerges' "How to Survive Anywhere" book]

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Mia Wasilevich Speaking in Sierra Madre 09/27


Speaking in Sierra Madre this coming week
[Nyerges is an educator and author. His web site is]

Mia Wasilevich is a chef, photographer, and naturalist who has learned to combine wild foods with her love of cooking. She is the author of a cookbook focusing on invasive and naturalized weeds entitled Ugly Little Greens (Page Street Publishing 2017). She's currently a food stylist in Los Angeles, California.   On Thursday, September 27, you can listen to her talk about local wild foods at the Sierra Madre CERT meeting, 7 p.m. at the Hart Building in Memorial Park.

 As a young child, Mia traveled to many countries, including Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.  It became evident to her that what Americans consider "weeds" or wild plants are often regarded as food in many parts of the world.
Mia noticed that weeds and invasive plants make an appearance as food in many cultures. For example, morning glories in Asia, various types of nettles in Africa, and lambs quarters in India.
Mia began to wonder why this art of wildcrafting had faded from our own culture, except for in a few vintage cookbooks. Eventually, she met a prolific set of teachers, foragers, and “foodies” in the Los Angeles area and it inspired her to use weeds in everyday cooking.   She calls these  "everyday weeds" which she attempts to make into recipes as interesting as possible, while keeping it simple.
She’s experimented with unique dishes made from many wild foods, but mainly focuses on invasive plants, non-native plants which were brought here or have migrated here, or whose seeds hitched a ride on travelers inadvertently.  Some of the native wild plants she uses include the acorn.  One of her first creations was the acorn burger,  which is a substantial and tasty meat substitute.  She also developed elderberry ketchup and barbeque sauce that have become  yearly staples of hers when the berries are abundant.
Among the invasive green plants she uses, most can be used interchangeably and can substitute familiar vegetables such and spinach, lettuce and mustard greens. For example, chickweed (Stellaria media) and miner's lettuce  (Claytonia perfoliata) are two greens that pop up seemingly everywhere whenever it rains in the early spring and winter and carpet most backyards and hillsides. They have a lovely, delicate texture and can replace lettuce or anywhere you want a cool, fresh, and green taste. They are excellent raw but can be cooked as potherbs, as well.  The chickweed is a common European plant, while miner’s lettuce is a native.
"My favorite plants to harvest are drought-tolerant black sage (Salvia melifera) when it grows profusely and, of course, the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) which many people forage when they are first learning to identify plants,” she explains.  Mia likes to infuse creams and chocolates with black sage for a wonderful heady, mint-like experience. She also likes the nettle plant, which she says is  “completely unique and I refuse to believe it tastes like spinach.”  Mia describes nettles as a plant which embodies "medicine as food," lending a complex green flavor to whatever dish it graces. She also makes a  "Nettle-ade" which uses dried nettle tea, preserved lemon, sparkling water and a bit of honey or agave.
She has created menus for special events that have included  cactus and tequila paletas (popsicles) with habanero ants, lambs quarters (Chenopodium ) seed croquettes with corn milk and sweet white clover (Melilotus albus), white fir (Abies concolor) sugar beignets and cream among other creations.
MMia, who is half Native American (from the Southwest) and half Russian (via Argentina),  grew up in Nevada and Southern California. “That’s a lot of food culture right here,” she explains. “During my many childhood travels, the very local ingredients made the foods of various places we traveled very special and memorable to me.”

She points out that living in the Los Angeles area, she doesn’t have to drive far to have an authentic ethnic food experience from just about anywhere in the world.
“Once I reached adulthood and was introduced to wild plants and foraging, I couldn’t think of a reason not to use them for food as long as it was sustainable. Foraging is  a practice in being self- reliant.  In addition, the plants that are in my book are authentic to my environment, and they are also universal. This means that these plants grow in many places all over the world and are used by so many cultures in so many different ways. I think that’s neat.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

Can Anything Be Learned from TV?


Can anything be learned from TV?

[Nyerges is an educator and author of nearly two dozen books, such as “Extreme Simplicity,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Self-Sufficient Home,” and others.  His web site is]

I took a short lunch break today, sitting down on my couch and turning on the TV.  I wanted to hear the weather forecast, which I never did.

I first learned about a bicyclist who was killed in Torrance, and the killer simply drove away in his Toyota truck.  Shocking!  How is that  a person can run down someone on a bicycle, kill them, and then just drive off into the wild blue yonder?  As someone who looks at the non-sustainability of the Los Angeles area “machine,” I know that more and more of us should take to our bicycles and become a part of the solution.  As I sat shaking my head, I thought about my own lifetime of bicycling, and how I just started bicycling more, in part, inspired by a female friend who wrote about her bicycling to her job in Azusa from Highland Park. Wow!  I used to have difficulty biking to my job  in Pasadena from Highland Park  because I’d show up dripping in sweat and had no way to change or shower.

Drivers need to wake up, and realize that the bicyclist is your friend, and is a friend to the sprawling mass of Los Angeles County.  Don’t treat them as an irritation, or a fly to be swatted.  And bicyclists – some anyway – also need to wake up to the fact that their total 150 pounds of small mass is nothing compared to a minimum 2000 pound car.  I have never figured out why some bicyclists taunt auto drivers, and bicycle far from the curb in a way that makes them a target in a confrontation they can’t win.  As Rodney asked, “Can’t we all get along?”

Then, when I was about a third done with my soup, the news program began showing the wreckage of the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.  OMG! It was clearly not good for my digestion to see whole neighborhoods half underwater, houses turned into splinters, people crying for help, families in need of food and fresh water.  And I watched some of the remarkable rescuers who came out on boats and took people to dry land and brought supplies to those who needed it the most.  There were also showing a convenience store in some town that was being looted, and a few people were arrested. 

As C.S. Lewis so insightfully pointed out in the Screwtape Letters,  times of great stress and disaster brings out the worst in mankind, but somehow it also brings out the very best as well. Heroes are made and lives are changed.  I watched these dramas being played out on my TV screen as I pushed my empty soup bowl to the side and started for my half-sandwich (Subway vegetarian).

Floods of memories flowed through my mind as I recalled two of the best bits of advice for anyone preparing for disasters (or old age, for that matter):  Develop useful skills, and develop deep meaningful relationships with people.  Not “gather lots of stuff,” and not “make sure you have the biggest knife,” etc. ad nauseum.  Yes, stuff is important, but look what Florence did to all that stuff!  You can’t predict the weather, but we should be able to rely upon our own hard-earned skills and our deep friendships.

I didn’t have much time to watch TV, and my sandwich was nearly done, so I flipped around to other stations, and came up with a few ironclad rules of life, though of lesser importance than what I’ve already mentioned.

Number one:  If you have a small claims court case to settle, and you’re guilty, never, ever, under any circumstances, have Judge Judy try your case. She will not only expose you but will humiliate you as well. Try your luck with one of the local judges in a local, non-televised court.

Number two: If anyone from the Jerry Springer show ever calls you to come onto their show to meet some mystery person of your past, don’t even think about calling them back.  It will not turn out well.

Monday, September 03, 2018

The Four Illusions of Money


[Nyerges is the author of several books including “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Extreme Simplicity,” and “Self-Sufficient Home.”  He has lectured, taught, and led field trips since 1974. He can be reached at or Box 41834, Eagle Rock,CA 90041]


During the early 1980s, I participated in the monthly WTI Plenary sessions which were held in Highland Park. These were all-day events where participants shared accounts of specific research they had been doing. I had been giving presentations on money-related topics, such as “What is money?,” “What is the Federal Reserve?,” “What is the IMF,” etc.

The money-related lecture that stirred up the greatest emotional response was “The Four Illusions of Money.”  I loosely based by presentation on an article by the same name that appeared in the winter 1979-80 issue of Co-Evolution Quarterly., written by Raspberry.  The presentation and discussion lasted about two hours, covering many facets and dealing with the comments and objections from the audience.  Here is a condensation of that presentation.

When people are queried, almost everyone says that they do not have enough money, and would like to have more. Furthermore, one of the most commonly-cited reasons given by people who continue to work at a job they dislike is to “make a lot of money.”  The reasons that this is such a ubiquitous goal – to make a lot of money – can be summed up in the four following rationales:

  1. A lot of money will let me be free to do what I want to do.
  2. People with a lot of money command more respect from others.
  3. I need more money for my family.
  4. Money is necessary for my security in old age.

Yes, there are many more such “illusions” that dance around money, but these four seemed to fairly concisely address all the secondary and corollary illusions.

These four statements are illusions about money. That means, these represent false perceptions of the world.  That is to say, when we embrace any or all of these four illusions, we are prevented from seeing the NON-monetary realities about our life and the choices that we make.

So let’s explore these one by one.

A lot of money will let me be free to do what I want to do.

One way to see through this illusion is to make a specific list of all your carefully-considered goals. These can be short-term and long-term goals. These can include travel, projects, achievements, possessions, skills (learning a new language), etc., but the list cannot include money.  Money cannot be a goal. Next, you should examine the list you made and begin to delineate precisely how you can go about achieving that goal.

Yes, of course, money can help accelerate the achievement of the goal.  Still, once  your goals are clearly established in  your own mind – and clearly differentiated from “passing wants” – you can steadily move forward, step by step, toward the achievement of that goal.  Money is incidental to this process, and must not be allowed to determine the choices you make and the steps that you take.

A large part of achieving a goal – perhaps the most important part – is to learn valuable life-enhancing skills that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

And many of the essential steps toward a goal involve working with other people. Working with other people develops strong friendships and relationships, and this requires that you must be – or become – reliable and trustworthy yourself.  This manner of pursuing and achieving goals should represent a true freedom from our enslavement to money, and should open you up to some truly life-enhancing experiences.

Remember, this perspective is offered as an alternative to “going out to make enough money so I can be free to do what I want to do.” 

One of the amazing insights that I gained while sharing this at our seminar was how many people actually had no clearly-defined goals at all. 

People with a lot of money command more respect from others.

This is demonstrably and abundantly false.  There is no reason to believe that people with “a lot” of money automatically command genuine respect (in fact, they don’t), or that people with “a lot” of money command respect because of the money. 

People who invite respect do so because of their personal qualities, talents, character, experience.  It may be the case that these very qualities are the reason a person has been able to earn “a lot” of money.  But money itself is not the basis for real respect.

How do I know this?  Look at what happens to those who claim respect for someone when the money is gone.

And also just try the following experiment for yourself.  Make a list of 25 people whom you respect. These must be people that you know personally and you interact with in some way, not just people that you know about from the TV or newspapers.  Do your best to attempt to “score” how much you respect them, using a system for example of listing each from 1 to 100, 100 being the highest level of respect.  Next, do your best to list the income (or net worth) or each of the individuals on your list.  In cases of genuine respect, you will rarely find  a correspondence between how much you respect that person and how much money they make.

I need more money for my family.

All too often, people use this fallacy as an excuse for doing something they would rather not do.  This rationale is especially typical of “bread-winners” who work extra hours and on weekends so they can pay for possessions and vacations that they believe their family needs and deserves. 

If you are getting more and more out of touch with your own family members because you are spending more and more time away from them supposedly so you can provide something more for them, then you are falling for this illusion.

It would be far more valuable for everyone if these bread-winners instead spent valuable time with their family members, and finding a way to re-orient the job and financial choices.

Sometimes the most valuable time spent with one’s children is the time  spent to teach and work with them to develop their own businesses. 

As for the myth of “quality time” over “quantity of time,” don’t believe it!  Your notion of “quality time” means very little to young people.  The best way to have quality time is to assure that you have sufficient time together.

Money is necessary for my security in old age.

I had barely spoken these words in my seminar presentation when the groans and loud objections were voiced.  Two men got into an argument over this point before I’d barely gotten started, and I had to tactfully break it up.  Yes, we have a lot of baggage about money, and getting older doesn’t make this any better.

Money is needed in many ways, of course, but personal security, inner and outer, cannot be purchased.

The real security that is most needed by elderly can be enhanced by money, but it can never be built solely upon money.   Inner security arises with the development of deep friendships, and with learning to be flexible and adaptable, for example, and these are not things that are in any way dependant upon money. 

In fact, one of the best ways to “prepare for old age” is to become the type of person – inwardly and outwardly – that other people will want to be around and work with. 

This means being competent, helpful, flexible, honest, moral, curious, always willing to learn and to share, generous, and so on.  And note that none of these virtues are either the intrinsic or exclusive virtues of the wealthy.  

Developing one’s character is clearly one of the best ways to prepare for the calamities that might strike any of us at any age, such as wars, depressions, social chaos, as well as a whole host of personal difficulties.

The discussion went on for another hour – heated at times – and fortunately no chairs or windows were broken.

[A continuation of this discussion of money can be found in Christopher Nyerges’ “Extreme Simplicity,” book available at bookstores, Amazon, and]