The idea of just packing everything up and heading out into the wilderness to start anew, is becoming more appealing to the modern man. With the high cost of living, the stress, constant rush of the rat race, overpopulation, and pollution, more and more people are choosing to just sell the old suburban home, pack the car up, and move to a more rural area. And you can't blame them, who wouldn't want a more peaceful existence? Live a life that not only brings you closer to nature, but to your very family?
But letting go can be hard. It's definitely more than a little scary to just quit your job, and throw yourself or your family into a life more in common with the pioneer days, than it does the technology-mad realm of this day and age.
In this article, you'll be armed with the knowledge on keeping those grocery store strips to a minimum, by living off the land. Whether you've already been living this way, or are only considering going rogue, this guide will hopefully offer new insights and ideas, and make you think about something you may not have thought about before.
You'll also find in this article, suggestions on what fruit and vegetables to plant, what animals to keep, and an assortment of other tips and handy hints.
Living off the land is no vacation, but the benefits you can gain from it are incontestable. Also included in this article, will be information having to do with the urban dweller. Vegetable gardens, fruit trees, beekeeping, and canning food can all be done in the typical suburban house and garden.
- A FEW THINGS TO CONSIDER -
Following, are a small handful of ideas to consider when looking at, or already, living off the land. Also, read as much as you can on the subject. The more you read, the more you'll learn, and you're going to want to be armed with as much knowledge as possible. It will make life a lot easier when starting out.
The Land Itself
Choosing the right piece of land is of extreme importance. You will be working on, living on, and enjoying this ground for a long time. It is not something you want to rush into unprepared. You want to find the land that is exactly right for you.
Read, research, talk to people who are already living off the land. Ask them what they looked for when they were in the market for land. What to look out for, what to avoid. It's not just as simple as buying a few acres and building a log cabin. You're going to need to think about a water source, electricity (or lack of, depending on how feral you want to go), accessibility, how far the nearest stores and hospitals are, and local weather conditions.
Water is vital to our existence. And even though the same can be said of food, the human body can survive far longer without food than it can without water. A well or stream on your land is an absolute necessity.
If you flat out refuse to have anything to do with guns, then you're going to be in trouble when it comes to living off the land. You're going to need a rifle for protecting the property - livestock, family, possessions. Also for hunting and taking care of sick animals (yes, sometimes it is better to put them out of their misery, and a bullet is the most humane method). If a wild animal comes down from the hills and starts attacking your lambs, you're going to have to know how to use that rifle.
More often than not, you're not exactly going to be next door to the ER. Medical knowledge is crucial. For example, if your son cuts himself with the axe while splitting wood, you're going to have to know how to patch him up and have the necessary medical supplies on hand.
The root cellar needs to be built correctly. This is what's going to save your skin come winter. Used for storing food - especially tuber vegetables, the root cellar is your subterranean larder. This is where you will be keeping your canned goods too (more on that later).
There are many options when it comes to choosing a dwelling. The main thing is warmth. Whether you go with a house bus, or a yurt, you need to stay dry and warm. This is where you will be sleeping, after all.
Don't fret too much about size in the early days. Many folks who are living off the land end up building additional structures around the property. Workshops, barns, sleep-outs, animal shelters, garages, and sheds will likely sprout up over time. And you will have time. Living off the land is not something you will be doing for only a few months. Unless you have tried it out and swiftly found that you have had a significant change of heart.
You will need a reliable method of communication in case of emergency-satellite internet, phone, or radio.
- FOOD -
Being self-sufficient as possible when it comes to food is where living off the land is going to help to keep grocery store trips to a minimum. There are countless options on what fruit and vegetables to grow, and what animals to keep for meat and other animal products. But there are also other ways...
- A Vegetable Garden (town friendly) -
Vegetables are a go-to option when it comes to being self-sufficient. Easy to grow, easy to harvest, potentially long shelf-life (depending on the type of vegetable and method of preserving, but we will get to that later).
Here are several kinds of vegetables you can plant:
- Corn is a great option for your garden. Easy to grow and harvest, and it handles most weather conditions. Planted in spring, harvested in the fall. It can be canned.
Some Favorite Ways To Enjoy Corn
- Corn on the Cob
- Cornmeal (used in baking)
- Creamed Corn
- Pumpkin has been a farm favorite for years, and for good reason. This versatile vegetable requires very little care while growing, and can keep for long periods of time. Planted in spring, harvested in the fall.
Some Favorite Ways To Enjoy Pumpkin
- Roast Pumpkin
- Pumpkin Soup
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Probably the handiest vegetable to grow, the potato is an absolute must. Planted in spring, harvested in autumn.
Some Favorite Ways To Enjoy Potatoes
- French Fries
- Lettuce may not have the longest shelf life, but is a wonderful green for salads and sandwiches. Planted in spring, harvested throughout summer.
Some Favorite Ways To Enjoy Lettuce
- With Roast Meat
- Onions are a versatile vegetable with a long shelf life. Planted in spring, harvested in the fall.
Some Favorite Ways To Enjoy Onions
- Stuffed inside poultry
- Sliced and Fried
- Garlic is a godsend. It tastes great, is near-miraculous for the immune system and lasts for a long time. Garlic not only is a culinary favorite, but it is also an effective weapon against colds and the flu. Planted in winter, harvested in summer.
Some Favorite Ways To Enjoy Garlic
- In Just About Any Savory Dish
- An Orchard (town friendly) -
Planting fruit trees is another great way to cut down on your grocery bill. And the older your tree gets, the more fruit it produces. Have you ever seen the amount of windfall fruit beneath a mature plum tree in late summer? More than you know what to do with.
But fruit needs not be wasted. It can be canned, stored in a cellar, or used to make jams and alcohol. Planting fruit trees always helps attract bees to your garden. Bees are vital for fertilization, without bees, you will not be enjoying fruit and vegetables, that's for sure.
Here are a few different fruit trees to consider planting.
The list of what you can do with apples is long indeed. While we won't be going over all of them, here are a few to get your juices flowing.
- Apple Pie
- Hard Cider
- Stewed Apples
Plum trees generally produce a substantial yield. And a yield that can be enjoyed all year 'round with the correct preparation. Sauces, jellies, wine, stewed or fresh off the tree, the plum is a fruit tree worth having in the orchard or back yard.
- Plum Jam
- Plum Wine
- Plum Sauce
Apricots are wonderful fresh, and just as wonderful dried. Try using your apricots for the following.
- Apricot Cobbler
- Apricot Jam
- Fresh Off The Tree
- Nut Trees and Berry Bushes -
It's also a good idea to plant nut trees and berry bushes/plants. Nuts keep for a good period of time, and berries can be canned or used to make wine or jam.
Hazelnut bushes don't take too long to start producing nuts (about four years), and once they do, you'll be enjoying them in cakes, muffins, brownies, and roasted.
Almonds grow on attractive, deciduous trees. Almonds can be used for baking and also be turned into almond flour.
Raspberries are grown on bushes similar in look to the blackberry. They are generally ready to enjoy in the summer months. Raspberries are a favorite to make jelly or jam from.
Blueberry bushes are definitely a favorite of gardeners and homesteaders alike. Make blueberry cobbler, enjoy them with ice-cream or on cereal, make jam, even wine.
Canning is the process of preserving food, so it lasts a much longer time. Canning is a very old method, reliable method. Here is how it works:
You can almost anything. Vegetables, meat, fruit, pie fillings, sauces, pickled eggs, apple butter, spaghetti sauce - the list goes on and on.
Canned produce is generally best consumed within a year, year and a half. But in saying that, it can last a lot longer than that if needed.
Canned goods make great gifts for outdoors and survival fanatics.
- Keeping Animals -
Keeping a menagerie is a brilliant way to save on trips to the grocery store, and a staple of living off the land. Not only do animals provide us with meat, but they also give us a steady supply of animal products. Following, you will find a small handful of animals worth keeping.
Goats are great. They keep the grass down, and will eat a lot of the weeds that other animals won't touch. Though, be sure to keep them away from the flower garden.
Goat meat is delicious, and their milk is commonly used for both drinking and cheese making.
Pigs mean bacon. Need we say more? But they do actually serve a greater purpose than our breakfast plates. Pigs are the best waste disposal units around. They'll take care of any food scraps you have laying around.
Not only are chickens one of the best tasting birds around, but they are reliable layers of eggs. They also do their part around the yard, eating bugs, and generally scratching around, clearing the areas around bushes and hedges. Their poop is also a great fertilizer.
Cows make for good meat and good milk. They also keep the grass down exceptionally well.
While not ideal for eating, horses can be used for a variety of jobs, as well as transport, saving fuel and the environment. Their dung also makes for good fertilizer.
Animals will provide you with meat, milk, butter, fat for cooking, manure, and good company. Also, if you own a rifle, you can hunt your own meat. Deer is well worth eating.
- Firewood -
You are going to need a fireplace. For warmth, cooking, and boosting moral. Humans have huddled around fires since their humble beginnings, and it still does not cease to be an integral part of living off the land.
Bonfires also play a huge part in life on the ranch. They are used to incinerate smaller branches and brush.
So, you are going to need a steady supply of firewood. If you're out in the sticks, there's generally plenty of fallen branches, boughs, and boles about. Or you can always take a tree or two down, if needed.
- Bees -
It's worth getting a beehive or two. Bees will help out with pollination in the garden, and their honey is an invaluable asset. You will save considerable amounts of money, and gain a great food source. Honey is also used as a natural sweetener.
- Trading -
If you do have neighbors near-by, get to know them. They will be one of your first ports of call in emergencies, and there's a lot to gain by forging strong relationships with others close to you. They'll likely lend helping hands where needed, and you'll do the same. Giving spare jars of jams, canned fruit, meat, etc., goes both ways.
- Planning -
The main thing is making sure you're going to have enough food for the winter. Plant more than you need in the spring. Preserve as much food as you can by canning. Make sure there's always a stockpile of long-life food in storage. Especially in colder climates. When the snow comes, you don't want to be stuck without food or water.
- Living Off The Land - A Conclusion -
There is a lot to gain by living off the land. A simpler life, devoid of the unnecessary, and useless distractions that the modern world throws at us daily. A greater sense of purpose and family. The knowledge the toil you put into work is directly benefitting people you care about, not some schmuck in a suit on holiday in the Bahamas.
For those of you living in civilization, remember this: you can always start small. A few rows of carrots here, a couple of pumpkin plants there. Gardening's easy once you get the hang of it. And your food will both taste better, and be better for you. It's an absolute joke how much the grocery store charges for fruit and vegetables these days. The good news is: you don't have to buy into it. You can grow your own. The choice is yours.