By Richard Bogath
Why the hell do dogs bury things?
I keep meaning to ask my Vet the answer to that question. Often I watch the dogs digging up parts of the yard and attempt to bury everything from a brand new chew toy to a tv remote to a stolen sock. As I run after them, metal rake swinging threateningly, I consider how stupid they are—hoarding little treasures here and there with no way to find them again unless they begin to putrefy and let off an odor that can be detected from above ground. And while raking out the last piece of a buried chewed-up wireless mouse, dumb dog #1 comes up along side me and nonchalantly digs up a chunk of cow femur, a dog treat given and subsequently buried in weeks past.
“Gross,” I think to myself. “I’m not touching that thing. The kids can clean it up.”
But as I looked at it—a filthy lump of bone—it came to me that aside from being dirty, it was perfectly intact and probably changed little in the time it was buried.
Know what happens to dried or preserved foods that are packaged carefully then sealed in a screw-top plastic container with plastic wrap or other thread-locking-insulator between the opening and the threads of the cover?
Nothing. The food stays perfectly cool and dry and as completely edible as if stored in your kitchen cabinet, basement, root cellar, or bug-out bag.
The same goes for ammo. The same for rope, batteries, knives, blankets, clothes, guns and water. So long as there is protection from outside influences like ground water, insects, other animals and the sprinkler guy coming to dip up one of your broken lines.
Crafting Your Survival Cache Plan
In actuality, anything and everything that maintains the storage caveat of “Keep in a cool, dry place” will work perfectly when sealed from the elements and buried underground. Can’t get much cooler and dryer than that—well, cooler. The “Dry” part is going to be all up to you. Hard plastic will be your best friend in these situations. One of my favorites are the gigantic pretzel containers that you get from big-box stores. They work great—especially when you melt beeswax between the bottom of the cap and the container after sealing.
Well… you can place your survival cache anywhere really. Just be sure that you somehow make a record of the exact location of your buried goods. Can you imagine having to excavate your entire property looking for some buried snacks and ammo when you need them? Markers a fine but temporary. VERY temporary. The softball sized piece of granite with a stick poked into the ground next to it is guaranteed to be moved and lost within one day. One hour if you have kids and dogs like me. Measured coordinates from permanent structures are much better. For example; five feet diagonally from the corner fencepost on the northwest corner of the yard, hole dug was approximately three feet wide in a circle.
A few inches will do it for your survival cache, but for a high-traffic area a few feet is much better. Some find great success in building a cheap wooden frame with scrap wood into an open-ended rectangular box and sinking that vertically down into the hole, filling it with your sealed storage materials and then filling it in with fill dirt. This will aid in keeping your items from being crushed there are spaces unfilled as well as any foot or vehicle traffic above. Obviously vehicle traffic is subjective. Bicycles vs. tractor trailers represent different kinds of issues.
So just how long will items remain unspoiled? Well, foods obviously have an expiration. A half-gallon of milk buried out in the flower beds will not serve you well by any means. Jerkey, however, will probably last through the next ice age so that alien races can learn about us through examination of your teriyaki venison jerky recipe. Rule of thumb will be that if it can “live” on a shelf then it can probably live well sealed in the ground.
So if you live in the northeast like I do or anyplace that gets cold enough for the ground to freeze—you’re going to have a heck of a time digging through permafrost to get to your buried Froot Loops if disaster strikes. Short of a flamethrower, what do you do to gain access to your frosty treats a few feet down? Well…build a fire.
You thought I was kidding about the flamethrower, right?
Seriously, since you have the exact location marked carefully and you know approximately how large the hole was when you dug it and hopefully you didn’t dig down fifteen feet, you build a nice, toasty campfire right over the place where your stuff is buried. Get it good and roaring without setting the kids on fire and surround it with nice big rocks (see past articles on building fires) that will hold heat for a good long time. Even in the middle of winter, if that fire burns for enough hours, it will defrost its way down through the frozen ground and at least give you the chance to dig your way to the supplies. Not saying it will be easy—just possible.
While the winter blues might have your fingers and toes numb trying to get at your entombed items, the hot weather presents different challenges. Where spoilage can be an issue any time of year, you’ll have to make sure that your buried goods are deep enough so that the heat cannot have an adverse effect, but at the same time groundwater can also find its way to seep into your sealed containers. Multiple seals from multiple wrappings or containers are a sure fire way to help prevent this. I always recommend a plan be in place and for this one you’ll want to do some warm-weather tests of your containers and seals by burying a few inches down and they really saturating the heck out of the ground with a garden hose for a few days. Dig it all up and see if your seals held.
Burying important survival items may seem a little outlandish or even paranoid to some, optional and covering all bases for others. Whatever your take on it, it never hurts to explore all the options when prepping for whatever may come.It’s also entirely possible that dogs are smarter than I give them credit for. Watching my dog puke up a sock that she ate the day before though, gives me doubts.