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.



The Harvesting Mentality

This image of two apple trees standing alone in a field is very close to the scene I saw that helped coalesce in my mind the concept of survival harvesting.

I was sitting on my front deck, watching a small red squirrel struggling with an apple it had picked up off my lawn. The apple came from a scraggly looking  loner in the verge of bush separating our property from our neighbours. This apple tree had not been pruned, cared for or sprayed in decades. Yet here it was, still reliably providing fruit each year for at least one grateful fruit lover.

I started thinking of all the abandoned orchards I have seen over the years. And all of the apples that hit the ground every year and then lie there and rot, even with the deer, squirrels and other animals that come to feed on them. Like the tree on the edge of my property, whose apples I had carelessly been pushing aside, into the scrub growing along the fence line.

Why didn’t I do a little pruning on that tree? In fact, why didn’t I pick up a young tree of a different variety,in the fall when nurseries had their sales on and plant it in the front yard. Placing it not to far from the old one would  work to improve pollination and personal apple choices. Then I thought of my Uncle Bill, who had a tree onto which he had grafted 5 or 6 different varieties of apples. Clearly there were possibilities available to me with just a little effort.

My thinking was further stimulated while listening to an episode of “The Survival Podcast” by Jack Spirko in which he talked about supplementing your groceries with active fishing. I live in the water rich environment of the Northumberland Hills, of Northumberland County in Ontario, Canada. I am a ten minute car ride away from rivers and lakes that have a plentiful supply of fish for those willing to take the time to catch them. Thinking of fish as a resource to be harvested as opposed to simply a means of enjoying an outdoor sport was a bit of a mental shift for me. It lead me to write and publish “Survival Fish Harvesting.”

Even as I was writing the book, thoughts of tackling different topics in the same manner were chasing themselves around in my head. We had just been through a very dry summer, and had to truck in water for our garden, as our well level shrank and shrank.What could we do to ensure we didn’t run out in the future?

Doing the book research and adding a section on edible seaweed got me thinking of the collection of edible wild plant index cards I created during my teens. A little careful looking around our two acre lot reaquainted me with numerous varieties of plants familiar to foragers.

There is nothing wrong with collecting knowledge, skills and gear to help ensure your individual survival. It is a potentially useful or even life saving effort. But along with that effort, what if you incorporated the harvesting concept? What if you focused on efficient collection of what you needed to survive, as well as actions to improve the potential harvest, when harvest time comes around? That is the direction I would like to explore with this site and any future books. I invite you to come along and share your thoughts and ideas with me.