Survival Water Harvesting – Rainwater

In a previous post I talked about going through a very dry spring and watching the level of our dug well drop almost out of sight. We made some changes to our lifestyle. Showers had specific phases. The wet yourself down phase which was about 15 seconds of running water. The lather up phase which didn’t use any water and the rinse off phase which used about thirty seconds of water with my buzz cut, and a little longer for my wife whose hair was shoulder length.

We were getting bulk water from the local water treatment plant for a rate I was willing to pay and we were doing our laundry in town. As a final step we added a trickle tank to our water system and that made things much easier.

The stand lifts the water supply thirty inches off the ground so we have a gravity supply for our garden watering

The last thing we did was set up a rainwater harvesting system. The image a left shows one of our totes now, in the depths of winter, with the downspout removed and the tote empty. Replacing the downspout  will have to be an annual ritual until I add some additional downspout and a bypass line.  This was kind of a quick and dirty job and I learned my lessons along the way. The tote will have to be covered to prevent algae growth. I need to fabricate a dirt diverter to keep the interior of the tote a little cleaner and I am going to install a proper hose and piping system to make the garden watering process simpler and hopefully automated.


There are tons of online instructions on how to set up a simple system like this, and lots of info for more complicated ones, so I will just let you know about my experiences and then give you some links. As I already said, a simple set of covers to block out the light would pretty much eliminate the growth of algae. Some lightweight plastic sheeting would work. Something that can be zip tied to the framework would allow removal if necessary and would be handier and last longer than plywood. Located out in the country, with my totes out of sight behind buildings, I don’t have to worry about looks too much. But if I wanted to fancy it up, I know a source of rough sawn cedar planks where I can get seconds. I also know a source of cedar slabs from a lumber sawing process that I can get for free. I would be tempted to go that way. In addition there are made for purpose covers available or it wouldn’t be hard to make your own. See the link at the end of this post for an example.

The concrete blocks on edge present the strongest surface to the 4″ x 4″ load spreaders

My garage (shown in the photo above) is relatively new and the soil around the foundation is not particularly compacted, so I took an extra step to ensure the weight of the tote wouldn’t cause any settling. You can see in the photo that I used patio stones as bases for the concrete blocks I used under my 4″ x 4″ pressure treated legs.

Placing the blocks on edge provides the strongest foundation for the load spreading blocks. I do not expect any shifting of my tote support with this arrangement.

The final height of the tote gives me an excellent flow rate, just from gravity. You can see in the first picture that it is easy to stick even a five gallon plastic pail under the nozzle. Below is a closer look at the way I constructed the tote support.

The legs go inside the 2 x 8’s and there are two additional cross beams under the tote.


There are plenty of different ways to get your own tote rainwater harvesting system. Here are some links to different ideas:

Large Rainwater Harvesting System

Collect Rainwater with a DIY 275-Gallon Rain Cube

Rain Harvesting Setup Completed: 2,300 Gallon Capacity

Full Bore System – Solar Powered

Tote Cover, Hand Made

Survival Water Harvesting – Trickle Tank

I never really worried about water supplies until last year. On our couple of acres in the country we have a dug well. It’s only twelve feet deep, but normally holds six feet of water. We’ve been here for four years and never had any problems, but last spring it was very dry in our part of the country.

Running water, when you need it. One of your top three survival priorities

Our well got down to about 13 inches of water. We were able to get bulk water from our local towns water treatment plant for $10.00 for 1,000 imperial gallons. That’s about 1,200 US gallons for $8.10 US. I was okay with that. We used it for the garden. We went into town for laundry. We managed okay.

We finally got some rain, but I was a little concerned about how close we came to a dry well. Of course, the problem isn’t really the well drying out, though that was always a possibility. The big concern is having a demand for water that outruns the ability of the well to replace the water flowing out of it. They do have a solution for that. You install a trickle tank. 

The image below shows you what it is, but check out the link above to get the finer details.

The trickle tank fills with a slow draw on your well and has a 150 gallon reservoir to meet your daily needs.

We could use water during the day and as soon as we used more than a few gallons, the system would start drawing water from our well at a very slow rate. The 150 Gal. tank could meet all of our shower, laundry, washing needs and it refilled at a slow enough rate it never outpaced our wells ability to refresh itself.

Of course, we do store water against power outages. I always have a couple of full 15 gallon food grade containers. And we have a hot tube outside. I know for a fact the water in it will stay at least warm for a couple of days…good for washing. And if push comes to shove, we have a little garden fish pond that holds about 1000 gallons. The veggies and flowers would just love to get a taste of that water I am sure. However I must admit that I really like the idea of of that 150 gallon trickle tank full of water that has gone through the filter and UV light. Even in a power outage, the water has already been treated.

Just to be sure I have covered off all of the obvious I will mention that you can access the water in your hot water tank, if you have no power. Best to get a short length of garden hose a few feet long. That will allow you to conveniently fill water containers even though the tank outlet is only a few inches off the floor. The tanks tend to be full while the power is on so you have a lot of head. If you have a 30 gallon tank, you will probably be able to easily get 25 or more gallons out of it.

I also try to have one or two cases of bottled water on hand. Single serving bottles of water are extremely convenient for quenching thirst, moderate hygiene maintenance requirements and are easily transported.

Next post I’ll talk a little more about the rainwater harvesting system I installed, using two 250 gallon totes. And we will look at what you can do if you have no rain gutters, or even no roof.

Wild Geese – Corral Trap Capture

The Canada Goose has been an important food source for indigenous peoples for millenia.

Wild geese have been an important food item for people from the earliest times. They are found around the world. Geese remain a common target of hunters, wherever the taking of geese is permitted. Typically they are hunted with shotguns. However I am going to be talking about methods of taking geese that were used prior to the arrival of gunpowder, specifically the corral trap.

Shortly after breeding. for up to three weeks in mid July to August, geese (and other waterfowl) moult. That is they lose their flight feathers. During this time they typically take to the water. At this time it is possible to herd them towards a previously constructed corral consisting of long wings, extending into the water and funnelling down into a corral pen. You can see the general form of the corral pen in the image below. The three illustrations below are from  the FAO. 2007. publication, Wild Birds and Avian Influenza: an introduction to applied field research and disease
sampling techniques. Edited by D. Whitworth, S.H. Newman, T. Mundkur and P. Harris. FAO Animal Production and Health Manual, No. 5. Rome. (also available at

The geese can be herded by individuals in small boats, people wading in shallow water or walking on land, as the case may be.

The geese naturally follow the wings into the funnel. Wings should be up to 2.0 m (6 ft) for geese.

The number of boats or people will depend on the spread of the wings. Herders should move at a steady pace so that the birds simply keep moving forward. Poles and/or nets can be used to foil escape attempts.

Indigenous peoples of northern Canada would use bow and arrows, bird darts or nets to take their prey. Bird darts were spears with three pronged heads typically used with a “throwing board” or atlatl to provide more distance and force. Sometimes the birds were simply clubbed to death. As can be imagined, numerous birds in a small area made taking them a much simpler matter than hunting individual members of the species.

Large numbers can be taken at the right time of year.











Obviously it would be very difficult for a single person to manage this method of survival bird harvesting. Not impossible, but difficult. In some ways, this is very similar to game drives, used in the past to take jackrabbit, antelope, deer and buffalo in North America. Evidence for European prehistoric game drives has been report. It would seem to be an obvious technique, though once settled in an area, people may have been more careful to preserve a significant portion of any prey animal population for their own benefit.

Waterfowl being captured for survey and banding purposes by naturalists.










Taking birds is simplified during their moulting  period because they can only operate in two dimensions and their speed is drastically reduced. Advantage hunters. Because of the number it is possible to take, it is necessary to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of people available to process the catch and preserve the meat, or to use it immediately. An alternative is to allow some birds to remain alive inside the pen, to be used as required. However, the corral pen must then be constructed sturdily enough so as to keep other predators out.

The technique discussed above has many similarities to the techniques used in fish traps and in game drives. Long wings, angled towards a collection spot. Large numbers of prey herded into a constricted area that make collection simple and efficient.

If you have any thoughts, don’t hesitate to comment, or to go over to the Survival Harvesting Facebook page to engage with others who have similar interests.




Animal Drives – Jackrabbits

Animal drives, in their various shapes and forms, have been and continue to be part of human animal harvesting technique. Today they are still seen in aboriginal harvesting, typically under agreed upon terms, in animal tagging efforts which are not focused on harvesting but in tabulating, recording and tagging, and in animal population control efforts.

Cooperative efforts resulted in massive catches of jackrabbits in early drives to control their populations. Idaho

The image at left illustrates the results of an effort to control jackrabbit induced losses of crops.

Historical accounts of jackrabbit drives provide some incredible numbers. A report in the Chicago Tribune dated October 1, 1893 claimed 20,000 dead jackrabbits in a drive outside of Fresno, California.

A 640 acre ranch in Bakersfield, California was driven and the take was 1,126 jackrabbits.  Two more drives of the same field, the same day netted another 796 rabbits.

There were aboriginal tribes that depended heavily on the jackrabbit and were essentially “rabbit cultures,” making use of the meat and skin for food and clothing. Drives by natives were witnessed and reported on by John Townsend, in 1839 and by John Fremont in 1844. In both cases the tribes had fabricated nets which were then managed by individual tribe members stationed 5-6 feet apart. Each person had a club. The net was used to enclose a large area. A group of natives entered the enclosed area, walking close together. Then they separated and started walking outwards toward the net, beating the bushes. The rabbits rushed away from the disturbance and got caught in the net where they were quickly clubbed to death. As many as two hundred or more natives took part.

Rabbits being driven along 2 miles of wings that converge into the final 100 foot diameter corral.

A rabbit drive was organized in Lamar Colorado in 1893 and quickly became an annual event. A holiday was declared for the town.

“Wire netting some three feet high is divided into portable sections, and set up in the form of a wide-spreading V. These wings often extend two or three miles in each direction. They converge in a circular corral about one hundred feet in diameter.” (January, 1899 issue of “Outing” magazine)

Animal drives were used by local tribes in the American Midwest to catch antelope while they have been used by northern tribes to catch deer, and buffalo. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, outside Fort McLeod in Alberta, Canada shows evidence of having been in use as early as 6,000 years ago.

The cliff ends in a 30+ foot drop. Members of the Blackfoot tribe created funnels, using lines of rock cairns, that converged on the thousand foot wide cliff . Buffalo were driven into the funnel and over the cliff by specially trained “buffalo runners.” The drop was enough to stun or break the legs of the buffalo that were forced to take the leap. Warriors stationed at the bottom of the cliff finished the stunned or immobilized animals off.

California rabbit drive.

On a smaller scale, a drive could be managed by just a few people if they had access to fencing (snow fencing or rolls of wire mesh) and/or netting. By setting sections of fence into place, with short gaps and then leaving it alone for the animals to acclimatize themselves to it, you avoid the “new – danger” signal. When it is time for the drive, the gaps could be closed and the animals either driven down the funnel into nets or to kill zones.

In future posts I will take a look at large game animal drives in more detail. There are numerous prehistoric remnants of drive lanes, and plenty of early reports of drives being used by cooperating indigenous groups.

Survival Tree Crop Harvesting – Nut Trees

What feeds people, horses, cows, pigs, sheep and goats, produces a by-product of wood, anchors soils, preserves moisture in the soil, creates plant material that breaks down into compostand creates microclimates with shade and windbreaks? Nut trees, in particular the chestnut tree, according to J. Russell Smith in his 1929 book “Tree Crops – A Permanent Agriculture.”

Food for humans and livestock, plus it attracts game

Smith championed tree crops used in a planned and integrated way long before Robert Hart stated talking about “Forest Gardening” in 1980.

Low Work Feed for Livestock

In his book Smith describes the efforts of Georgia farmer R. O. Lombard who eventually had a wide variety of nut trees and other fruit producers including”two hundred everbearing mulberries,  two hundred hog plums, two hundred wild cherries, three varieties of haws, and mock oranges.” In all he had twenty-six crops growing wild and cultivated on his three hundred acres. In addition to those mentioned he had huckleberries, blackberries, acorn bearing oaks, hickory nuts, chestnuts, chinquapin nuts and hazelnuts.

A range of nut trees ensures a range of tolerance to conditions and a spread of harvest times

These plants required little care from him and they kept him with a continuous supply of food for forty hogs who fed on the fruits of these trees throughout the year. YOU don’t need three hundred acres to take advantage of tree crops. A lot can be accomplished using a regular suburban lot. With some research, some careful thought and planning, you can start taking advantage of the space above the soil. This is a broad topic but in this post, as I suggest in the first paragraph, I want to narrow our focus to nut trees because of their special nutritional attributes.

Nutritional Values of Common Nuts

There are a wide variety of nut bearing trees and bushes. Stretching from northern lands down into southern latitudes nuts have provided food for man and beast alike. There are about a dozen nut trees that have become important from an agricultural point of view.

Nuts can be an excellent source of protein, essential fats and carbohydrates

For a technical paper on the impact of nuts on cholesterol and cardiovascular disease see this.

First Steps in Raising Nut Trees

No matter where you are you can probably find at least some these trees and their hybrids available from local nurseries. By crossing different cultivars growers have produced varieties with a wide level of tolerances to varied climate zones. Your local providers will be a big help in making the correct choices. Most areas, provinces or states also have nut tree growers associations. Meeting and talking to other growers right in your locality will give you a strong start with nut trees. In my province of Ontario, the Society of Ontario Nut Growers has a host of information that is directly applicable to me. You can find local or regional associations by doing a simple Google search for “<your region> nut tree growers” or some variation.

Smith referenced the Georgia farmer Lombard who wisely diversified his plantings. You should consider doing the same to the best of your ability. Most nut trees need two varieties for best production, yielding hybrid vigour in offspring and in nut production. Some trees come in male and female types, so you will need to pay attention to this after having selected what nut trees you want to raise. Talking to local nurseries or growers is an important way for you to receive advice tailored to your local conditions.

No Land, No Problem

Don’t forget to assess trees off your land and in your immediate area. You may be able to harvest from neighbours trees. Coming to an arrangement with the folks next door or down the street in which you gather some of their tree’s nut harvest and you give your neighbours some of your tomatoes or the use of your rototiller each spring  is good for everybody. It might be worthwhile to encourage neighbours to plant nut trees of their own. Increase varieties, diversity and the likelihood of produce in any given year. Some trees produce large harvests once every two or three years, as opposed to consistently on an annual basis.

Are you close to crown or state or federal land? If there is open access land near you, what are the requirements around harvesting. Most jurisdictions are very liberal if your harvest is for personal use. What about empty lots or acreage? If you spot some nut trees on land that is not currently occupied, the absentee owner might be willing or even happy to have you harvesting nuts from his trees. Possibly you can exchange some kind of labour for the right to harvest.

Nut trees are infrequently thought of when people look at the “fruit of the soil.” But they were an important food crop in earlier times, in advanced societies as well as developing ones. They could be again. I highly recommend you consider downloading Smith’s book, “Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture.”

Note: Let give you some information about the source for this download. Here is a statement from their “Home” page:

“This website provides free downloadable e-books about radical agriculture, natural hygiene/nature cure and self-sufficient homestead living. There are secondary collections involving social criticism and transformational psychology.

There is no fee for downloading anything in this library.

The library’s topic areas connect agricultural methods to the health and lifespan of animals and humans. A study of these materials reveals how to prevent and heal disease and increase longevity, suggests how to live a more fulfilling life and reveals social forces working against that possibility.”

They do accept donations. For a one time payment of 9 Euros, through Paypal, you can download as much of their library as you like and you can avoid future requests for donations. Certainly a fair request. I paid without thinking about it.

A tremendous resource of downloadable books on agriculture, Health and more






When talking about “tree crops” there is a lot more to cover, especially if we also include shrub and bush providers of fruits and berries. We will be covering some of these topics in future posts soon.