Tools And Tips For Living Off The Land
by Tony Nester
Living off the land is a skill that can pay off in large dividends if you are stranded in the wilds long-term; want to add more variety into your daily diet at home and reduce food bills; or be prepared in the event of a grid-down situation where the grocery shelves empty.
Having taught extended bushcraft courses during the past 26 years, I’ve found the area of procuring food in the wilderness to be the most challenging skill in the field of wilderness living. Once learned and regularly applied, you will gain greater confidence in the backcountry and know how to obtain food from a land that has much to offer, to those who know where to look.
The following material intends to convey practical methods that a person, with little experience in the outdoors, can use to get started obtaining food from Nature’s Kitchen. The emphasis of this article is on small game and not big game animals like elk, moose, and deer. On any given day in the wilds, you are going to come across a greater concentration of rabbits, squirrels, woodchucks, marmots, raccoons, and other smaller critters. For the survivor, these animals will provide sustenance until you can procure the larger game.
Food procurement has a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding it however. The idea that one can simply grab their bug-out bag and head into the hills to live off nature’s kitchen for a few months has been perpetuated in the reality shows and can get you into trouble. It took a tribe to feed a tribe and our ancestors relied on sheer numbers to obtain wild food not on a lone-wolf mentality.
I’ve had the opportunity to eat just about everything that crawls, flies, walks, or slithers- from snakes and coyotes to rats and grasshoppers. Under conditions where hunger is constantly gnawing away at the body (and mind), my food prejudices quickly fade after a few days and you will eat anything that runs in front of you. My success is also greatly increased by having a few key hunting and trapping tools with me at all times. Keep in mind that game laws vary tremendously from state to state so research your region of the country to determine what’s legal.
The Challenge of Living Off the Land
Procuring food in the wilderness can be a challenge because of some or all of the following reasons:
1) Few people subsistence hunt or trap like they did a generation ago and the skills and knowledge base in the community have been reduced or completely disappeared in some regions.
2) When many people hunt today, it is mostly for Big Game trophies which means sport first, and meat second. Plus, the sheer number of hunters taking to the woods each season is staggering. As a result, state game laws are becoming more restrictive and the pressure from often ill-informed animal rights groups have all but eliminated certain practices such as trapping from many states.
3) The geographic region (desert, mountains, etc…) may not support much life to begin with. It is far easier to make it as a hunter-gatherer in the lush, Pacific Northwest than in the desert lowlands of the parched Southwest.
4) It may have been a particularly tough year for your region. Perhaps the drought is severe or wildfires are wreaking havoc, and thus the animals and plants are suffering.
5) Modern game laws are much different than when our ancestors walked the planet and could harvest any species of animal in any season, day or night.
6) Subsistence hunting and gathering is best performed as a group (tribe) and not as a solo pursuit. The more eyes, ears, and hands out on the land the greater the odds of obtaining wild meat, fish, and plants. Many of us today have little choice but to go solo which reduces “caloric efficiency.”
7) Finally, one cannot discount the TBH Effect- “Trained By Hollywood Effect.” There is a constant barrage of romantic notions that we receive from movies and “reality” shows depicting how people are supposed to live in the wilds. If you trek into the wilderness like Jeremiah Johnson, then have realistic expectations of your own skills, what the land can provide, and what is reasonable (and legal) for your region. Even then, don’t expect it to be easy.
Four Areas of Study for the Modern Hunter-Gatherer
In today’s world, if you want to feed yourself reasonably well in the backcountry, you must focus on the following four areas of study:
Proficiency with a .22 caliber rifle or pistol.
Basic fishing methods such as angling.
Knowledge of the ten common edible plants in your region.
How to use traps and snares.
Granted, there are other methods of procuring wild game such as bowhunting, slings, bolas, etc… but the above four represent the core skills to set your sights on as a beginner, in my opinion. If you are a skilled archer then by all means work with what you know. The more skills you possess in this realm, the more options you have.
If you are new to firearms and hunting, then seek out an experienced family member or friend who can show you the basics of firearm safety and marksmanship. I highly recommend taking a Hunter Safety class. This will provide the foundation skills of safety and basic gun handling skills as well as covering game laws specific to your state.
Homesteading Income – Fourteen Ways You Can Earn Money From Your Land
Want homesteading income? The secret to successful homesteading is to simplify and diversify. Keep your costs low and learn to sell several things. If you are wondering how you can make a profit off your land, here are fourteen money-makers you should consider:
Those the supermarket sells can be a month old by the time they hit the shelves, and the hens that lay them are given antibiotics which are then transferred to the eggs. Small wonder then that people will be eager to buy the jewels laid fresh from your homestead. Keep your hens in a chicken tractor – a moveable chicken coop – so they can have access to fresh grass and insects every day. Your eggs will be free range and far more valuable. You can sell them for twice what the supermarket charges.
Got an acre or two with grass? Consider buying a calf in early spring. He will keep your grass mowed. Then in the fall let friends and coworkers know you have a steer ready to be butchered. You won’t be able to sell individual portions of meat, but what you can do is sell the steer for a certain amount per pound on the hoof. That way, several people can go in together, buy the steer, pay for the butchering costs and divide the meat. They get fresh, grass-fed beef at a great price and you kept your grass mowed all summer and got paid to do it.
Consider keeping a bee hive on your land. Not only will you get delicious, raw honey, but also those busy bees will pollinate your garden and make it more productive. Raw honey grown locally is also a boon for those with allergies. Take a tablespoon per day and it will help you become immune to the pollens that grow in your area. Like fresh eggs, local raw honey is more valuable than the store-bought brand, and you can sell it for a higher price.
4. Raw Milk
Babies who are lactose intolerant thrive on raw goat’s milk. And now many advocates are speaking out against pasteurized cow’s milk as well, arguing that the raw version is more nutritious and surprisingly safer than the pasteurized product you see on supermarket shelves. Find your own Bessie, milk her, and customers will come.
5. Grow A Fruit Orchard
If you have land with a few extra acres, you could consider planting an orchard. This is a long-term investment that could pay off in five or ten years. People love picking their own fruit for canning, freezing or just plain eating. By letting them pick, you keep your costs down and they get the satisfaction of picking their own fresh fruit right off the tree.
6. Grow Grapes
Even in Oklahoma – where I am from – there are several wineries that are looking for locally grown grapes. Provide those grapes and earn some extra income off your land. Or if you don’t want to pick them, charge people to come in and pick their own fresh grapes.
7. Keep A Greenhouse
Sell vegetable and flower plants in the early spring. In the winter, raise tomatoes and lettuce to sell.
8. Sell Fresh Produce
Dig an extra garden and sell organically grown tomatoes, squash and corn. Nothing beats fresh, locally grown produce, and again, people will often pay double what they would pay for supermarket fare.
9. Homemade Soap
If you have dairy goats, you can use some of the fresh milk to make wonderful soap that nourishes the skin. You can sell your soap at craft fairs and the local farmer’s market.
10. Have A Pumpkin Patch, Corn Maze Or Petting Zoo
Hitch a wagon up to a tractor and offer a hay ride. Keep rabbits, a donkey and lambs. Hang a swing from a tree so city kids can experience country life for a day.
11. Sell Chicken Tractors, Complete With Hens
Build small chicken tractors and sell them to city folk complete with a few laying hens. Raise the hens from fertilized eggs hatched from your incubator, and you will keep your costs down. This is a boon to people who live in town and would love fresh eggs, but don’t have much space.
12. Offer Homesteading Classes
Many people are yearning for simpler times and would love to become more self-reliant. You can show others how to milk a cow or goat, how to can vegetables, grow a garden or make cheese.
13. Dried Herbs
These can be used for cooking, for medicinal purposes or just to smell good. Make and sell sachets or tea. Write a small booklet describing the benefits of the particular herb you are selling and attach it to the packet with a ribbon.
We have wild blackberries on our property, usually enough to make several pints of jam. Or make jam out of something unusual, such as garlic or rose petals. Sell the jam to co-workers and at craft fairs, etc.
These are just a few of the ways you can make money off your land, and I suspect there are many more. All it takes is some imagination and energy. Opportunities await. Go for it!
Sue Merriam is author of the website, Organic Gardening and Homesteading.http://www.organic-gardening-and-homesteading.com
How to Live off the Grid
It is estimated that 200,000 people live off the electrical grid in the United States. It also includes living outside of power and sewer grids. For most people, this is a choice to reduce energy consumption and live in a more natural setting. You can find out how to live off the grid by considering the home and lifestyle choices below.
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Choose a place to live that can provide wind or solar energy. If you plan to use any energy in your home, then you will need a power source. Choosing a sunny or windy location is essential before you choose an off-the-grid home.
- If you can find a place that can provide both sources, you will be even better suited for the task.
Come up with your initial investment. Most off the grid living requires you to build your own energy efficient home or buy into a place that already has independent energy sources. You can add $10,000 or more for just the initial energy investment of a home with independent electricity.
Choose an off-the-grid community. If you cannot find land that fits the requirements for solar and wind power, then choose 1 of pre-made communities catering to this type of living.
- Consider living in Oregon. Three Rivers Recreation Area near Bend has a gated off the grid community. Breitenbush is another area with very few residents near Salem.
- Research income-sharing communities. These include Dancing Rabbit in Missouri, Twin Oaks in Virginia or Earthhaven in North Carolina. These communities do income-sharing, off the grid living.
- Consider Greater World Community near Taos New Mexico. Their Earthship houses are built entirely from natural and recycled materials. Properties cost between $75,000 and $350,000. Arcosanti Ecovillage in Arizona uses natural building methods as well.
- The Possibility Alliance in Missouri aims to live a stripped down lifestyle, where community members do shared work, farm the land and cook with sunlight. While most people in the community live here only a portion of the year, a small percentage call it home all year.
Buy land where you can get water from a well and install a septic tank. These are essential for water and waste management.Advertisement
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Invest in a plan to produce 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. This is the energy required for a typical American household. Research solar panels, wind energy and other electricity storage options.
Invest in generators and other storage devices. You need to store the energy you harness. You also need to have back up systems, such as propane generators.
Drill a well. You will need to use well water for household uses, but you may also choose to buy cisterns to collect rainwater, especially if you plan to grow crops. Initial investments range between $3,000 and $15,000 for the drilling and pump.
Install a septic tank. You will need an initial investment of several thousand dollars for this device that is buried underground.
Build your home or refurbish it with heat in mind. If you live anywhere that gets cold in the winter, you should consider fireplaces and insulation. Some building companies specialize in using efficient and green building materials.Advertisement
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Decide if you can reduce your overall electricity consumption. If your livelihood relies on electronics, then installing energy backups like generators is essential.
Limit the number of electrical appliances in your home. Get rid of blow dryers, clothes dryers, microwaves, video game consoles and anything else that is not essential.
Start composting. Living away from the grid means providing your own garbage service. Composting and recycling can get rid of the majority of waste, and you will need to take the rest to a local dump.
Rent a PO Box in a nearby town. Since you will likely be off the postal service grid, you should arrange for a way to get mail when you go to town.
Be ready to adjust water usage. During times of low sunlight or wind, you may need to flush, use the shower or wash clothing less frequently.
Consider becoming a farmer.Planting your own crops and preserving food can help you avoid going into town for groceries. It is also cost efficient and rewarding.
- You may also want to keep a cow, goat or chickens for protein sources.
Things You’ll Need
- $25,000 to $100,000 initial investment
- Location with solar/wind energy
- Off the grid community
- Septic tank
- Propane generators
- Green building materials
- Post office box
- Farm plots
- Domesticated animals (cows, goats, chickens)
January 14, 2016 • By DaNelle WolfordGarden trellises.
They’re the stuff of dreams, man.Well, gardener dreams at least.
A few days ago I woke up with a plan. And like normal, I gathered the family into the living room and presented my case for that day’s spontaneous project, complete with sketches.
They weren’t impressed. At first.
But as soon as we got to work, they realized this was a really EASY and FUN project and it would solve a lot of problems for us in our garden space.
See? Mom knows what’s up.
The biggest culprit in our garden is the abundance of bermuda grass that infiltrates the north side each summer. We live in Arizona and we water our entire acre of land with irrigated water that comes out from the canal at the back of the property.
It’s a great, cheap resource for us here in the desert. But it also brings in a lot of weeds and makes our bermuda grow like, well, a weed. (Bermuda is actually a weed instead of a grass.)
I always hesitated putting a large raised garden box in this area because I just knew the influx of bermuda would take over each year and cause mayhem. Even black fabric isn’t enough to stop it.
I needed a growing area that would stay primarily off the ground.
And this trellis & raised garden box combo is just the solution for us!
We only will have to water in the raised box area and as long as we don’t water too far down those boxes, it shouldn’t be a water source for the bermuda.
We also plan on packing a good foot of leaves and wood chips around the arch to keep the bermuda at bay.
Plus, it’s purdy. (Psst, that’s farm talk for pretty)
And for a gardener, that’s important!
Trellis & Raised Garden Box Combo
Step 1) Gather your supplies
The overall size of the structure is 57 inches wide x 8ft 2 inches long x 6ft 4 inches tall
The size of each box is 1 ft wide x 8 ft 2 inches long
- 9 (2inx8inx8ft) planks of wood. We like to use Douglas Fir wood for our raised garden boxes. You can read more about the best material recommended for raised garden boxes here.
- Star bit (where to buy) and accompanying deck wood screws (where to buy)
(We like using the star bit, it makes it a lot easier to drill)
- 1/8th inch drill bit (where to buy)
The arch is 6 ft 4 inches tall and we the opening is 32 inches across
- 2 (4ftx16ft) cattle farm panels (where to buy) – we had them cut to 12 ft. long, but later on we realized we could have kept them the full length and attached them to the bottom of the boxes instead of at the top.
To attach the arch trellis to the raised garden boxes
Step 2) Cut and drill pilot holes in the short end of the boxes.
Since the boxes are double-deep, this means you’ll be making FOUR boxes, TWO on each side.
Take one (2inx8inx8ft) plank of wood, and cut it into 1 ft. sections. This will give you all the short ends you need for each of the boxes.
Next, mark the holes and drill pilot holes with the 1/8th inch drill bit into the ends of each 1 ft. section.
(TIP: This is a great job for kids!)
Step 3) Put together your raised garden boxes
Using the star bit and wood deck screws, go ahead and screw your boxes together!
You’ll be making FOUR boxes total, TWO on each side.
Step 4) Stack the boxes and attach them to each other
Stack one box on top of another and attach. Do the same to the other side.
The easiest way to do this is to drill a screw at an angle hitting each box.
Step 5) Bend the cattle panels into an arched trellis.
We found the best way to bend these 4 gauge cattle panels is to grab a log or a piece of wood and hold that down as you bend it over.
Step 6) Now it’s time to attach the trellis to the raised garden boxes
We used u-nails and a hammer and tacked the trellis easily to the raised garden boxes.
NOTE: We placed the trellis about 4 inches below the top of the boxes because we had our cattle panels cut to 12 feet long. If you left them at 16 feet, you can attach them at the bottom of the boxes.
Whew! Not too bad, right?
Okay family, you can take a break now.
That is, until my next project…