Survival Harvesting – Stocking Up at the Store

Years ago I came across two books that left a big impression on my ideas about buying and storing things that you need. They have both informed my regular purchase strategy, even if I don’t follow them to the letter.

The first book was called “Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half” by Barbara Salsbury. The book was written in 1983. The copy I have is a discard from the Peterborough Public Library that I bought at a book sale. It is essentially a grocery shopping planner. The first couple of hundred pages of the book explains how the average consumer shops and how grocery stores work.

The last hundred pages of the book describes the steps you take to effect the promised cost savings in your grocery bill. There are worksheets, tables, checklists galore in the book but let me simplify it for you.

Survival Harvesting philosophy extended to the grocery store.

Most products in the grocery store go through sales cycles. An item that normally sells for $4.00 will be reduced to $3.50 once every three weeks or so, down to $3.25 every two months and as low as $2.25 a few times a year. These aren’t exact, just a simple example. Salsbury advises you to start recording the cost of items in a workbook or on a spreadsheet. You don’t have to run around to all the different stores, just look through the sales fliers, or subscribe to get their email copies. And record the prices. Different stores will be in a different location in their cycles, so in a few months you will have a really good idea of what the likely best price for a product is going to be.

I am skipping over consideration of store brand, national brand and generic products, but you obviously want to compare apples to apples. For instance, there is a name brand of coffee you like, and a generic that you hate. There’s no point in comparing the prices on these two items. Focus on the one you love the taste of. If the two pound can usually sells for $10.00 and your records show that it goes down to $5.50 three times a year, then whenever it goes down to the low price, you purchase enough for four months (or longer). That’s it. Track prices, determine the cycle timing, train yourself to only buy when the cycle is at it’s lowest price and then buy enough to get you through to the next low.

The book goes into things in more depth and discusses meal planning and substitutions of basic items for more expensive ones etc. But the summary above should allow you to seriously start saving, and stocking up. Barbara hasn’t stopped writing. Go over to Amazon and look her up. She is obviously into prepping and has written eight or nine volumes on the storage and stocking up theme.

Harvesting deals on food items by being smart with your purchases and following sales cycles

Actually, while doing a little research for this article as I was writing it, I think I discovered that the book to the left of this paragraph is a newer version of “Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half.” Judging from the reviews, it covers exactly the same material in the same depth and structure.

You can currently get a copy at for eight bucks or as low as five bucks including shipping on


The second book I want to talk about was written in 1980 by John A. Pugsley.

Put your money into hard goods that you know you will use over the next decade and stop worrying about inflation.

It is called “The Alpha Strategy – The Ultimate Plan of Self-Defense for the Small Investor.” Pugsley wrote in a time of inflation and the eroding value of the dollar was a huge concern. At the same time the dollar was going down and able to buy less each year, wages were rising and pushing people into higher tax brackets. It was Pugsley’s view that the dollar you had in your hand today would never be worth as much as it was right then.

He reasoned that under those kind of conditions (which were widely expected to continue for decades) instead of putting money into savings where it lost value, or investments where traders constantly skimmed off the top on every transaction and the government taxed you on every gain, why not just buy things that you knew you would need in the future?

The book is available as a PDF here.

The book cautions the reader that things go out of date, fashion trends change, technology moves on, some items deteriorate with age and you need to assess what the cost of storage actually is. Nonetheless, it essentially lays out just what is required for you to think long term in your buying plans. This book fits in well with the thinking above. Hard items go through sales cycles as well. And bulk buying on non-perishable goods can dramatically lower the cost of goods.

Pugsley covers how long various items will last in storage.  He talks about buying things in bulk to lower the unit cost. That certainly makes a lot of sense in specific instances. OTC medicines and vitamins are good examples. “But what about expiration dates,” you say. Well, read what the Harvard Medical School has to say about that in an online article about the stability of drugs and what their expiration dates might actually mean.

“Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.”

Technology can throw curves at you in your stocking up Alpha Strategy purchases. Take razor blades. When I started shaving, a razor blade was good for about five shaves. Today I use a multi-blade cartridge for over a month. I’m not sure if buying thirty years worth of “Gillette Blue Blades” would have been a good deal, even if the price was fantastic.  But the concepts are worth keeping in mind.

Combining the purchase of hard goods with the sales cycle knowledge in the grocery shopping book can lead you to some excellent buys. I used just this strategy when I went shopping for a snowblower a couple of years ago. I went shopping in the spring, just as winter was over. I found just the model I wanted, at about 60% of retail price. A small one family operation, selling small gas engine equipment, didn’t want to go through the summer with money tied up in stock. So I got my purchase at wholesale or below. Sales cycles are a thing for any seasonal equipment of products, not just soup and dishwashing detergent.

Together, these two books, “The Alpha Strategy” and “Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half” (or “Beat the High Cost of Eating”) compliment each other very well. They arm you with strategies to maximize your purchasing when you are buying things that you just need to buy. A little forethought, some planning and recognizing that almost all consumer goods go through sales cycles can save you big dollars, can ensure you have what you need on hand when you need it and will also see you better able to cope with emergencies.

Pages From the Past – Tidal Fish Traps

The images below are taken from the Encyclopedia of Diderot, a 32 volume work, assembled by over 140 contributors between 1751 and 1777. It was meant to be a broad summation of existing knowledge and was composed of 70,000 articles and hundreds of engravings covering commerce, agriculture, domestic activities, the arts etc. We can be thankful for the articles and illustrations because a lot of contemporary writing of the time did not cover such subjects as the construction of a working fishermans nets, for instance. These topics were deemed to be too mundane to be dealt with.

In this post I have three examples of tidal fish traps. All three of these are fixed in place and depend on the receding tide to leave fish behind, captured in the different obstructions the fishermen have created. The beauty of tidal fish traps is that they are very low maintenance once they are constructed, particularly if stone is used in their construction. You simply need to check them after the tide has gone out, and pick up your catch.

Siting them requires familiarity with the way the currents run as the tide moves out. Selecting a bay sheltered from prevailing winds means that your structure is less likely to be prone to storm damage. And finding a stretch of shore that is habitually used by feeding fish, whether due to structure, vegetation or the effects of currents is important.

Let’s take a look at three tidal fish traps I have selected for this post.

Structural uprights are driven into the sand and then pliable vines or willow (or similar) branches are woven between the uprights. The V shape funnels the fish to the collection point as the tide flows out.

This trap takes advantage of a slightly sloping beach to increase the funnel effect. It uses natural materials that are almost everywhere close at hand. The same principles could be used if you had rebar and netting available. Or loose rubble to form the wings.

Here we see two examples of the same form, constructed of two different types of material.

Two styles and construction methods, but the same baffle and funnel combination. The long straight section channels the fish to the open mouth of the trap and the inward curving walls directs them away from the opening. The fish trap on the  left in the picture is constructed of vertical supports and pliable branches of vines woven together.

Dry laid stone blocks prevent fish from escaping and small outlets allow water a path out.

You can just make out the outlet openings low on the horizontal walls, on the water side of the trap. They could have gratings in them to prevent fish from escaping. Obviously this tidal trap could stand the pounding of waves or a storm surge. Of particular note is how this trap takes advantage of natural features of the landscape. Blocking off the relatively narrow opening between the two rock outcroppings takes advantage of the much wider expanse of seaside shore line potentially occupied by fish at high tide.

So a couple of takeaways from the images above. The range of materials that can be used for constructing this type of fish trap are wide ranging. These are just a few examples. Think of the various kinds of fencing material that could be used. Everything from chain link, to poultry, to the various sizes of mesh could work, depending on fish species targeted. Uprights could be posts, rebar, piping etc. Walls could be loose stone, any of the various types of blocks, logs, or even plastic piping secured between uprights.

Familiarity with the specific section of coastline is important. Water flow paths during tides, species available for harvest, and seasonal changes in fish behaviour etc. all will affect your potential catch.


Bird Clap Net

If you check the “Bird Traps” category you will find a post about the “Clap Trap.” It is an ingenious idea that has been around for a long time.  In my post I reference it being used in a study of sandhill cranes, in Florida. I didn’t mention it in the post but the researchers invited a well known bird trapper from India to come and demonstrate the construction and use of the clap trap.

Bird Clap Net

I was recently on the Vintage Traps and Collectibles website and found two very interesting vintage photographs; one shows a “Clap Net” and the other has a newspaper clipping and a separate advertisement of the “Kings Lightning Trap” which looks like it might have been a spring loaded take on the clap trap. The image and advertisement are from a New Zealand newspaper

Below is the photo of the Clap Net.

The Clap Net was a one person managed net that would locate on the opposite side of a tree from the drivers

When the person on the opposite side of a tree created a commotion, many birds wound up flying into the net which was then closed and lowered to the ground to harvest the birds.

What made it possible for one person to manage the clap net was the belt and pouches which supported it. Take a look at the enlargement.

Supporting the weight of the net and poles on the operators waist allowed him to control it.

Powered Clap Net?

The King’s Lightning Trap appears to be from around 1919. It  is very interesting because it used a spring and trigger to cast a net over the birds it targeted. It appears to be patterned after the clap trap. It is hard to make out details from the image, but when I first learned about the clap trap I almost immediately thought about how it might be powered.

From the caption in the newspaper article:


The enormous bird-trap here illustrated is made of iron and steel, is 24 feet long, weighs 50lb. and covers an area of 192 feet.  Bait is spread on the ground between the open jaws of the trap, and when sufficient birds have been attracted to this the operator pulls a cord, releases the springs, and causes the nets to spread over the birds and bait.   So effective has this snare proved to be that as many as seven hundred and ninety-seven birds have been caught in it in New Zealand between seven o’clock in the morning  and six o’clock at night.”

For additional details on both of these traps, head on over to the Vintage Traps and Collectibles website. While you are there, take a look at their wide selection of photos and examples of various traps. Some very good stuff is on hand and I am sure what you see will generate numerous ideas. They also have some great books on sale.

Fish Traps and Fish Dams on the Caney Fork

I was doing some research in the process of gathering material to update my book “Survival Fish Harvesting,” which is currently available on Amazon and I found a reference to fish traps found on the Caney Fork of the Cumberland River in 1769. Actually they found a series of traps or fish dams and presumed that they had been placed there by the natives. This incident is described in the book “The Caney Fork of the Cumberland” uploaded on a website maintained by Daniel Hanston who graciously gave me permission to use the info and image from his site.

The Need for Multiple Traps

What is of particular interest to me is that the book describes how there were a series of traps, reinforcing the concept that it’s not enough to have one trap, one source of vegetables, one source of fruit, water, energy or whatever. A harvester has a range of planned sources of anything that is essential to them.  Bestselling author Robert Allen wrote the book “Multiple Streams of Income” promoting the concept of not putting all of your income eggs in one basket.  This is the same idea.

Early deeds that describe the land along the Caney Fork of the Cumberland describe at least nine different locations, typically in shallows, where the traps were constructed. They were of a unique design as well. Check the image below.

One of a series of fish traps found on the Caney Fork of the Cumberland in 1769.

The gently angled slats in the center allowed the current to push fish up out of the water. The water current was strong enough to do that because the rock dikes diverted a higher level of flow towards the slats. Here is the description from the book:

“Loose rock dams were built out from each bank of the river to a wood structure supporting poles or slats at an angle of about 30 degrees, spaced about 2” apart.  Even though the rock dams were not water tight, the level of the river was raised so that the velocity of the water through the slats was quite rapid.  Small fish passed through but the large ones were caught on the slats and due to the water pressure could not get away.  As Jim Baker of Campaign used to say, “It was just a matter of walking out to the trap and picking up a mess of fish for supper.”

As the book states, these traps “…were fragile and easily washed out. ” I don’t see the slats surviving spring runoff. O the other hand, it wouldn’t have been too hard to reproduce the center portion. The rock dikes weren’t going to move.

Harvesting Bullheads

I wanted to let you know about a website devoted to catching bullheads. Many fishermen look down on bullheads, referring to them as “mudcats” and disdaining them as bottom feeders. The website I am going to point you to will dispel that notion.

Check out a few quotes from the “About” page of Bullhead Fishing 

“While conservation and common sense limits to harvest are important, bullheads breed at such a rate that they are one of the most sustainable fish species for harvest in America.  In many instances they are under harvested in many small bodies of water leading to stunted growth.  So sensible harvest can actually be helpful to many populations”

“Due to how prolific the bullhead is, access is available to almost anyone that will extend a bit of effort.  Unlike many forms of fishing that can be extremely expensive, bullhead fishing can be done by anyone at any income level.  Gear is minimal and in general while they can be helpful boats are simply not required”

“To encourage the use of bullhead in sustainable food production systems.  While the bullhead is highly unlikely to be farmed on commercial scale, its toughness, ease of breeding, food value, growth rate and willingness to eat just about anything makes it  great species for hobby and small scale aquaculture and aquaponics.”

Now all three of those quotes strike me as hitting pretty close to what I would call Survival Harvesting principles.

Just for your interest, the Bullhead Fishing website was created and is run by Jack Spirko, the voice and owner of “The Survival Podcast.” Jack has been running his podcast since 2008. It is pretty much the most successful podcast in this field. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jack and his site has a ton of info you would probably be interested in. Look him up and give him a try.


Trapping Squirrels

Squirrels are common and a relatively easily trapped mammal.

Almost no matter where you are in a survival situation, you probably have access to small game of some type. Squirrels are among the most common and widely distributed species of mammals in the world. They are members of a family of rodents that includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs amongst other rodents. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, and were introduced by humans to Australia.
Squirrels can be caught several different ways.

Squirrel Pole

You have probably seen the “squirrel pole” many times since it is featured in so many survival manuals. Below is an illustration from the “US Army Survival Manual.”

Squirrels are used to pushing their way through tight cover so this pole snare set will not put them off.

You can see from the above image that there is nothing complicated about this setup. Snare wire is typically 20-gauge in either brass or stainless steel. The legality of using snares, the material used and the gauge of snare wire required varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you intend to try snaring methods out, check your local requirements.

Rat Traps for Squirrels

It is also a simple matter to catch squirrels in a rat trap, particularly the smaller red squirrels. Find a location with a population of squirrels. Nail the rat trap to the trunk of a tree, high enough that it cannot be reached by dogs. Smear peanut butter onto the bait trigger. Use multiple traps.

For the larger varieties of squirrel, like the grey, some modifications may be necessary. Take a look at the image below. You can see the common mouse trap, made by Victor, and the less frequently seen rat trap.

The rat trap is obvious by it’s larger size. Notice the enhancements possible to improve it’s killing power.

Notice the two brace ends of the trap springs? One way to increase the power of the trap is to pry these ends up and wedge something underneath them, thereby tightening the coil. This imparts additional power to the kill bar when it snaps shut.

Additionally, a small piece of wood or a wooden dowel can be screwed to the trap at the indicated spot in the image. This helps ensure a killing blow by helping the kill bar deliver greater trauma to the neck.

Rat traps are discussed in greater detail in the Kindle book “More Than Just a Rat Trap” by Blake Alma. He discusses camouflage methods, how to remove the human and manufacturing scent from the trap by burying it, adding teeth to the trap and using the rat trap on different target species. The book is under $5.00, so it’s tough to go wrong.

Squirrel Snares and Bait Station

While looking for squirrel trapping info online I ran across an article discussing squirrel snaring at

The article suggested setting a pole up between two trees and mounting a bait station in the center. Multiple snares were set up at the ends  of the pole closest to the tree, so the squirrels had to pass by the snares twice. The baiting station was constructed from a 4″ grey plastic pipe with a couple of wooden half plugs screwed onto either end.

                   The bait station forces the squirrels to run a gauntlet of snares for food

Check Your Local Trapping Regulations

I have tried to keep this as simple as possible. Of course, there are any number of snares or deadfalls that could be made to trap squirrels, but the three methods I have shown here take the capture methods right to the squirrels habitat; the trees it lives in. This helps make any of these methods more effective.

Observation is important to success in any trapping or hunting effort. The traps need to go where the squirrels are.  Pre-baiting will make all of these traps more effective. The pole snare put in place with wires attached but no loops, and kernels of corn spread strategically around will help the local squirrels become accustomed to the object. Same suggestion goes for the baiting station. And a few days of peanut butter served up on the trigger of a rat trap that hasn’t been set will likely ensure a higher level of success.

As always I am not advising you to try any of these methods of catching squirrels without checking exactly what your local laws allow. I am presenting methods of acquiring food that you may need in a survival situation. I don’t believe any court would charge you with a penalty if you were in a survival situation and used these techniques to feed yourself. But I’m no lawyer. Before trying any of this in a non-survival circumstance, do your due diligence and understand your local trapping and small game regulations.

Nothing like fresh food cooked over an open fire

Bird Trapping with the Clap Trap

Harvesting birds with traps has been practiced since well before recorded history. There are multiple reasons why birds have been targeted.

  1. They are easy to kill, relatively speaking. Simply because birds must be light enough to fly, their bone structure tends to be delicate. Consequently it doesn’t require great force to kill or cripple a bird.
  2. Many birds are migratory, and/or flock together for much of the year. There are opportunities to grab multiple individuals in one location.
  3. Bird feeding locations tend to be easily visible and you can count on  birds returning there to feed repeatedly so trap locations can be scouted out.
  4. Birds don’t tend to be the sharpest tools in the shed. It can be far more difficult to trap mammals than birds. “Bird Brain” is not a compliment.

The trap I am going to write about in this post is the Clap Trap. It is quite simple to construct and is suitable for use on larger birds as long as you use stronger material. It lies flat on the ground and requires little metal or wood so it is not conspicuous. It can be operated by one person, but probably will be most successfully used with two people. If there is only one person available, you will have to make a slight accommodation for that.

First up let me give a tip of the hat to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. They produced a report called “Techniques Employed to Capture Whooping Cranes in Central Florida” for presentation at the 2008 North American Crane Workshop Proceedings.

Whooping Cranes were being reintroduced to Central Florida. This necessitated periodic trapping to band, attach transmitters, check the health of and more or less monitor the birds. The report mentions that they used six different methods of crane capture. The clap trap was responsible for 42% of their captures.

This six page document, with complete instructions on building and use is available here.

Below is an example of how the trap looks after operation and also some lower resolution images of the trap construction.


Clap trap used to live trap cranes

As you can see the materials used for construction are quite simple. The netting they used in their efforts was multifilament nylon gill netting with a string diameter of 0.55 mm. They also used two 15 metre long braided nylon ropes, threaded through the top and bottom of the net sections. In addition, to form the trap they used four 1.2 m long, 1.3 cm diameter ( 1/2″) dowels. In the illustration above the dowels are in pairs, standing vertically. The white pieces of rope stand out from the gill net by virtue of their greater diameter. The two diagrams below show the arrangement of the pieces.

The component parts of the Clap Trap bird trap.

As you can see in the photograph, and as indicated in the drawing, the trap must be operated by an observer, who must maintain tension on the trigger wires to keep the top edges of the trap closed. If the trigger person was near a solid object ( a sapling, sturdy stake in the ground etc.) then a couple of quick turns could secure the trigger wires and the observer could leave cover to collect the bird. Otherwise, a second person is necessary.

The rope placement and trigger wire attachment points are obvious in this drawing.

The trap works on tension and geometry and is simple to replicate in different sizes. Several stakes are required to be driven into the ground to hold the bottom ropes and dowels in place, but everything is explained in the report. I encourage you to download it.

The authors report, when speaking of the clap trap design “One of its most appealing features was its ability to safely catch multiple cranes at once. The traps were fairly easy to build and inexpensive (each under $40)…”

They further note, “Though productive, the clap trap was not perfect. Traps
were time consuming to set up, and if we did not take great care to set them up properly, the traps would not trigger correctly.”

The traps proved to be their most successful method of capturing birds. “We triggered the clap trap a total of 17 times. Six of those 17 times we caught 1 bird, 5 we caught 2 birds, and 4 we caught 3 birds. On 2 attempts we caught nothing. Of the 17 attempts made, we caught birds on 15, resulting in an
88% capture probability. ”

I have several thoughts on this trap. First, it seems as if it could be made with expedient materials. If you had a volleyball net or a tennis net or protective netting for a fruit tree or possibly even lightweight wire mesh, I think you could construct one of these. The authors note that they did colour the net and rope to camouflage it. I expect that leaf litter or other vegetative material  could be used.

I also wonder about the ability to put two of these traps in a line, both connected to the same trigger wire. The opportunity to capture multiple birds is one of the very attractive features of this arrangement. The speed with which the trigger wires are pulled must be fast enough to trap the birds. Perhaps a spring mechanism and release would improve over a simple tug from a trigger person.

I hope you have found this post on the Clap Trap informative. Keep your eye out for more in the near future.



Stone Fish Traps or Weirs

Stone fish traps are among the most ancient of structural harvesting techniques. The fact that the oldest known manmade structure on the planet is a fish trap should tell you something about their ability to provide protein.

A series of hand laid stone barriers and ponds have been dated back to a period of 40,000 years ago. The traps stretch across a bend of the Barwon River near Brewarrina in New South Wales and were in use until 1968. A concrete weir was put in place to create a reservoir of water for the local area, which was prone to drought. It did prevent drought but it also put an end to the travel of fish upstream, and that stopped the regular catching of fish in the traps.

The stone fish traps of Brewarrina, New South Wales are reported to be 40,000 years old

Finally, in 2012 a fish ladder was installed that allowed the weir to be bypassed by spawning fish, and once again the traps are in use, allowing locals to harvest perch, Murray cod, black bream and other species.

Traps are  frequently repeated. River weirs or traps require shallow water. If a shallow stretch of river occurs, you might as well make the best of it. See the image below.

Maximizing production from a stretch of shallow water on a river requires multiple trap locations

This image from the Darling River in New South Wales provides a different example of multiple trap placement.

Multiple stone fish traps designed to maximize catch from this shallow stretch of the Darling river

In the image above, fish enter from the upstream side and are funnelled down into the narrow catchment area to the left or downstream end of the trap.

Stone fish traps come in different types and styles. Those found on rivers or shallow areas in lakes typically serve the purpose of funnelling fish into smaller and smaller areas where they can be grabbed, netted or speared.

After funnelling fish into a smaller area, they are easier to spear.

One of the most unique stone fish traps of the world is to be found in Penghu County, Taiwan.

By padai – photo, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Designed to take advantage of the daily changing tides, with this trap it is easy to see how fish coming ashore with the rising tide are funnelled into the catch area and can be much more easily be harvested as the water recedes. It is only necessary to visit the stone trap at specific times of the day to take advantage of it’s working.

The stones form a broad walkway over a meter wide and can handle the daily tide change and even heavy seas.

It is not uncommon for a narrow strait to separate two sections of land. When the tides flow into and out of the strait, depending on the rise or fall of the land, simple weirs can provide traps to catch ocean creatures.

Two simple lines of stones effectively cut fish off from the deep water as the tide rolls out.

It is not hard to extract principles of operation from these examples. Using moving water to assist in concentrating fish numbers into smaller areas or to strand them completely makes it far easier to harvest them. All that is required is access to shallow stretches of water or tidal flats and portable stones.

Of course, fish traps can be made in multiple ways. In future posts I will cover both older and contemporary techniques of fish trap manufacture. Check back again for more info. Fish Harvesting

Where Do My Survival Harvesting Techniques Come From

This site is dedicated to what I call “Survival Harvesting.” That is, harvesting methods that you can use in disaster or emergency situations, or during good times, to maximize your self-sufficiency and independence. If you have achieved a larger degree of self-sufficiency in the areas of your specific needs, then you are far more resilient, no matter what happens.

Most of us face a “survival” situation at different times during our lives. Losing a job to an economic downturn is a survival situation. If you go looking for a definition of the word “survival” on Google, you will get “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.” Well, losing a job is a pretty good example of “difficult circumstances.”

There are also the more commonly accepted conditions that most of us automatically think of as requiring these particular skills. Weather disasters, societal disruptions, being stranded in the wilderness, etc. All of these circumstances require us to have or be able to acquire food, water, shelter and energy when our normal access is interrupted.

Neighbourhood flooding
Urgent needs: water, food, shelter and energy

Historic Survival Skills

Well, there have been times in the past, and particular circumstances, when  people had to manage without integrated national and regional distribution systems. People for whom a grid down emergency would have had no impact. Of course I am talking about people from an earlier time, different societies, or people with different requirements for access than you and I normally have.

Think of societies hundreds of years ago. Despite having some access to technology, they had no electricity, no fast transport, and not much access to plentiful energy sources. Yet in 1600, London England had a population of 200,000 people. Beijing, in China, had a population of between 700,000 and 1 million people. These cities existed in highly structured and hierarchal societies, where the lords and masters scooped up the bulk of the countrysides production. The serfs and peasants frequently had to make do with the leftovers. But they survived. They developed methods of using the bounty of the surrounding countryside. They used plants and animals that were ignored by the higher strata of society. And they had to be as efficient as possible or they and their families would starve.

I have been researching and collecting old methods and processes and examining them for their utility for you and I. Some of these methods would be familiar to our grandparents or great grandparents. Some are familiar to todays homesteaders. I am looking for the best of the best of these skills and techniques.

Net fishing in ancient China
Net fishing has existed as long as cordage has been around.

Aboriginal Survival Skills

Outside of historical methods from Europe and Asia, there have been a wide spread of native or aboriginal methods of survival harvesting practiced. Each bit of knowledge and each skill was honed and improved to suit a particular area, flora and fauna.

Some highly developed societies depended on early forms of “food forest” management. Hunting and gathering continued to be used, but large population depended on organized systems of harvesting. The peoples who were already here had wrested knowledge from the landscape through life and death struggles to survive over the previous 15,000 years or more. This has been another source of inspiration for me and a target of my research.

Aboriginals developed and used specific techniques at allow them to harvest the bounty of the land.

The Development of Bushcraft

In the sixteen and seventeen hundreds, large sections of Europe were still forested. Many of the people who headed west to the New World were well used to trapping and fishing to supplement their food supply. Farmers, rural folk and everything from gamekeepers to poachers wound up crossing the ocean to land on the shores of what is now Canada and the United States. Rat traps are referred to in European literature as early as the 1170’s. The new settlers did not ignore or forget the skills and knowledge they already had.

The movement of Europeans into Australia, South Africa and North and South America resulted in creative minds resurrecting traditional skills or inventing  new ones that used the materials at hand to provide for human requirements. Bushcraft is synonymous with the techniques the Europeans learned and borrowed from the aboriginals, converted from existing knowledge they brought from home to new lands,  and  developed on their own.

Much of this knowledge started appearing in books about trappers and mountain men in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Authors like W. Hamilton Gibson, A. R. Harding, and Ernest Thompson Seton helped popularize this knowledge. The rapid rise of camping as a recreational activity resulted in a growing demand for books on the topic of outdoor living, trapping and survival .

Developing Nation Survival Harvesting Techniques

Then there are different methods of harvesting being practiced right now by people in what are called “developing nations.” Typically these techniques are low dollar cost, inclusive of more current knowledge and sometimes incorporating more recent technological innovations. Think “rocket stove” and “rocket mass heater” for good examples from the energy sector. Starting in the sixties and seventies there was a huge push by the Peace Core, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and others to provide solutions to the then current problems around shelter, food, water and energy supply. My research has taken me through hundreds of publications by these organizations and I am sifting through the material and preparing articles using some of the best of these resources.

Current Technology Survival Techniques

Today, with our improved technology and the many advances in current knowledge, there are improved opportunities to do more with less. Water supplies have become much less problematical with the latest water filter technology. The possibilities for storing electrical energy continue to expand. The latest lightweight gear expands what is possible in terms of travel and in terms of how much you can travel with.

So there you have it. My harvesting Techniques come from:

  1. Historical skills, tools and methods.
  2. Aboriginal skills tools and methods.
  3. A collection of techniques grouped loosely under the term “Bushcraft”
  4. Low cost tools and methods developed for use in Developing Nations starting in the sixties.
  5. Methods based on the latest knowledge, materials and hardware.

Please check out the various posts grouped together in the categories for your specific interests.