What are your plans for a sustainable food source after SHTF / TEOTWAWKI? In other words, what are your food sources going to be during a long term disaster? Lets define long term as a disaster lasting at least 6 months. This could be a new disease, long term civil unrest, nuclear war, financial collapse,,, something that disrupts modern society.
This article will attempt to divide gathering food during a long term disaster into 3 categories: foraging, growing or raising food, and a combination of the two.
For this article, foraging is defined as hunting, fishing, trapping, picking berries, digging roots,,,. Anything having to do with the collection of wild growing plants and animals.
Every year a buddy of mine and I spend three days camping on the Angelina River close to Jasper Texas. During those three days we go fishing, look for food, scout for wildlife,,, just try to put our Bug Out to the Wilderness skills to the test.
In a real life, most people that bug out to the wilderness will probably end up starving to death. Or, will be driven back to society in the search for food. That is if the person does not contract some kind of waterborne disease and die of dysentery.
There is a lot of food in the wilderness – squirrels, rabbits, berries, roots, fish, wild hogs, deer, birds, ducks,,, and so on. One of the problems is the time and effort involved in foraging, and, depleting the resources in a given area. Prehistoric man migrated with the herds, or he would run out of resources and starve. Prehistoric man faced a lot less competition then modern man. During the great depression of the 1930, whitetail deer and wild turkey were hunted to extinction. It took almost 60 years for turkey flocks in southeast Texas to recover. Whitetail deer had to be imported from other parts of the nation to repopulate areas that had been decimated by overhunting. Why were people overhunting? Because there were no jobs and people were hungry.
From the example set by the 1930s depression, foraging during a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation will deplete the natural resources in a given area rather quickly. As the population has grown over the past thousand years, so has the competition for food. Our civilization depends on modern farms to meet the growing demands. The needs of society can not be met by foraging, hunting or fishing alone. The population has grown past what a hunter gather lifestyle can support.
Growing Food After SHTF
For this article, growing or raising food is anything connected to farming, gardening and general homesteading.
What made mankind move away from the hunter-gather lifestyle? At one time our ancestors roamed the plains and mountains looking for food. What made mankind form settlements and put down roots?
My personal opinion on why mankind moved to hunter-gathers to farmers, was due to population growth. As communities grew larger, it became impractical for hundreds of people to move. People would get sick, women would be giving birth and have newborns,,, moving became difficult as tribes grew larger. To meet the growing needs of the community, people stopped moving and started raising livestock and planting gardens.
Could we imagine the logistics needed to move a community of 1,000 people, or even 5,000, or what about 10,000 people? The hunter-gather lifestyle could never support communities of that size. As population grew, so did our need for food. We eventually outgrew what hunting, fishing and foraging could support.
What were the best types of livestock for a village? This is one the problems our forefathers faced, and its an answer we as survivalist must ask again.
Lets focus on three types of livestock – fowl, goats and pigs.
For those of you that have been following my blog, I imagine yall are getting tired of me talking about my chickens. My wife and I have put a lot of time and effort into our chickens, so why not show them off?
Fowl, such as chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea hen have been domesticated by mankind for several thousands years. Humans benefit from fowl in several ways: the fowl are mostly self-sufficient, they produce eggs, can forage for food, some types do well in captivity, when butchered, a chicken can feed a small family with very little meat going to waste.
Eggs are a good source of fats and protein, and can be kept for several days without refrigeration. During a long term SHTF survival situation, eggs and chicks can be used for barter items. Eggs are a universally recognized food. Its not like someone is going to say “what is that and what do you do with it” when you show them an egg.
Eggs and fowl have a benefit of a massive amount of recipes – be boiled, scrambled, over-easy, fried (as in fried egg sandwich), deviled, breakfast burrito, omelet, sunny side up, poached, used in baking,,, only to name a few.
Fowl can be roasted, barbecued, baked, canned, gumbo, soup, stew,,, to only name a few.
One of the benefits to fowl is given a chance, they will find their own food. Given the opportunity, chickens will scratch around in the grass and leaves to find bugs, seeds and other food sources. This will help keep bugs out of your shed, home, barn and other places you do not want pest.
One of drawback to fowl is that other animals will try to make a meal of your birds. When given the chance, coyotes, opossums, dogs, rats,,, will kill your flock.
Goats are another livestock that has helped sustain mankind for thousands of years. It is estimated that mankind domesticated our first goats 10,000 years ago. This estimation is based on bones and DNA from archeological digs.
Goats provide humans with a wide range of benefits – milk, meat, fur, dung,,,.
Throwing a party and need more meat then a chicken or a duck? Butcher a goat for the pit and you are good to go.
If you have enough land for goats to forage on, they can be self-sufficient. After the goat has a kid, the goat can then be used for milk. Goat milk has probably sustained mankind longer then anyone knows. Then there is goat cheese and goat butter.
In my opinion, and I am sure a lot of people will disagree, I believe goats are a better choice then cattle for a small farm. If you have 200, 300, 400 acres of grass land, then cattle might be a good choice. But if you live in wooded areas, why not get goats and let them forage on the undergrowth. Goats are going to be easier to transport then cattle, goats will be easier to butcher and process then a cow. With a cow you will have to process several hundred pounds of meat at one time. How many people have the jars, smoke house and sausage stuffer to process a whole cow at one time?
Some of the benefits of pigs is that they are omnivores and will eat just about anything. Pig meat (pork) is easier to store then beef. Early sailors would bring barrels of salted pork on their trips. Piglets (baby pigs) can be butchered and eaten at just about any age.
Some of the drawbacks to pigs is that they do not produce a byproduct, like chickens do with eggs and goats do with milk. Pig pens also attract a lot of flies. Flies land on the mud filled pig waste, then the flies fly into your home and land on your food. Flies are a vector of disease transmission between pigs and humans. Pigs do well in cramped and filthy conditions. If a human tried to live in conditions like pigs do, we would die. Some pig related diseases can be transmitted to humans, such as swine flu.
Pigs are one of the few animals that if they escape their enclosure, they are gone. Goats and chickens will stay in a general area, and chickens will return to their coop to roost at night. Pigs on the other hand, if they escape their enclosure, they will revert to being wild.
Gardening has to be the one thing that sets homesteading apart from foraging. We taken control of the types of foods that we want to eat, work the fields, plant the seeds and grow what we want. Foragers are left to whatever they happen to find.
Taking control of the fruits and vegetables also opens the door to controlling your nutrition intake. When you take control of nutrition, then you can hopefully ward of certain diseases and conditions, such as scurvy.
Gardening and livestock can go hand-in-hand. A Roman historian noted that greens help protect man and livestock from famine. Much of the produce that farmers grow can be fed to people and livestock, such as grains and corn.
Some of the drawbacks to growing your crops is that you have to have fertilizer, rain, seeds, and hopefully disease and pest will not wipe your crops out. A few deer in a pea patch will eat the pea plants down to the ground. Rabbits raiding the pea patch night after night can devastate crops over time. Raccoons will bend corn stalks over to get to the ears. Wild hogs will also help themselves to your crops. Lack of rainfall will cause crops to wither and died.
But on the other hand, if animals like deer, hogs and rabbits are eating your crops, maybe you can go hunting and get some fresh meat for the table.
Combination of foraging and homesteading
I suspect that during a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation, people will have to forage and homestead to meet their nutrition and food needs. Instead of butchering a chicken or a goat, a hunter will bring in a wild pig, couple of squirrels, rabbits,,, etc.
From my chicken project, I realized that its going to take at least 6 months to develop a working farm from scratch. From the time my wife and I bought the chicks, to the time they started laying good, has been right at 6 months.
Goats have an average gestation period of around 150 days. If you are lucky enough to get a couple of goats directly after SHTF, and those goats breed, its going to be right around 5 months before the doe throws the first kids. Then you are looking at another several months before the kids mature.
From the time the crap hits the fan, you get your chickens and goats, you are looking at least 5 months before you start getting eggs and goats milk. What are your food sources going to be during those 5 months?
And that 5 months is “if” everything goes ok. If you have problems finding livestock or people to barter with, you are looking at who knows how long.