Beekeeping and Fur Trapping at Your Retreat, by Chris L.

I am a dentist with approximately 20 years experience.  My hobbies are eccentric by many modern people’s standards.  After reading many of the  articles on the survivor blog I thought that I might have a unique perspective to add to the wealth of undervalued information posted on the site. 

While reading James Wesley Rawles book I was not surprised to find out that Honey maintains stability for years in storage. This did not surprise me as I am a hobby bee keeper myself.  This in and of itself makes long term storage of honey a wonderful glucose reserve.  Few people realize that Honey was found in King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  Scholars believe that the honey was still stable and edible.  A recent article in Bee Culture magazine discussed the issues surrounding natural bacterial static properties of honey as well as  botulism  toxin and raw honey.  This might be a good time to reinforce that raw/natural honey should never be fed to infants under the age of two.  As adults we all have resistance to botulism toxin due to long term slow small quantity exposure to the toxin.  Infants, young children and immuno-compromised adults can not break down the toxin and metabolize it.  That same article discussed the fact that honey has natural immune properties that lice or kill bacteria in situ.  For that reason many homeopathic doctors utilize honey in the way that we utilize triple antibiotic ointment in today’s culture.  Obviously this antimicrobial nature associated with honey allows for its long term storage without degradation. 

Enough about the health benefits of honey…Let’s talk about the real interesting part… The bees!  Many people fear bees due to lack of understanding.  Few people understand how enjoyable beekeeping can be with great benefits.  For instance consider the value of an average years honey flow at about 90 lbs of raw honey.  In many areas of the United States wintering over of bee colonies is simple and low cost. Even in an area like Northern Michigan where it feels like we only have three months a year without snow, many bee hives winter over well to propagate stable hives year after year.   What’s in it for you besides the occasional bee sting? When one considers candle use in situations WTSHTF beeswax has many valuable considerations.  For the novice candle maker who has only dealt with paraffin and stearic acid, beeswax offers simplicity and highly superior results.  Keep in mind that both products are side effects of animal husbandry (bee keeping in this case) that many of us overlook.  Many of us urbanites take for granted the volume of sweets and deserts offered in our modern world.  Products like honey and maple syrup were obviously delicacies of times gone by. 
A single beehive offers the gentleman farmer or recreational hobbyist great enjoyment with wonderful personal return on investment. Pollination of fruit trees and garden vegetables is the real bonus.  Since I began beekeeping 10 years ago our orchard, grapes and flower gardens have produced far beyond expectation.  Growing a garden may be important but a bountiful harvest of apples, plums, grapes and pears would surely be like winning the progressive jackpot at one of our local casinos in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  While on the subject of overproduction barter and trade come to the surface.   I defy any family to utilize 90lbs of honey in a year’s time.  You won’t get rich but you might have in your possession a commodity in great demand WTSHTF. 

For the basic individual with hobby level carpenter skills building a beehive is but a weekend project with a minimal investment in lumber. Bees are very forgiving as to wood butcher carpenter skills. Minor holes, less than perfect joints will be sealed up by the busy bee attempting to make up for the carpenters shortfalls.   Purchasing wax foundation and frames is minimal in cost for a single hive.  Ordering a starter package of bees with a queen to fill the hive initially only costs about 60.00.  From there you need a veil, smoker and some form of coverall and gloves if one has great fear of bees.  A basic book on bee culture can be obtained along with supplies from great suppliers like Dadant and Rossman Apiaries. 

Enough about the bees…As I sit before my laptop typing this informational entry for SurvivalBlog,  the History Channel is airing a documentary on the mountain men of North America during the fur harvesting era of the great northwest.  As a young man with enthusiasm for the great outdoors I will agree with James Wesley Rawles when he cautions in his book to think twice about going it alone in the woods in the event of TEOTWAWKI.  Few people can begin to imagine how uncomfortable and unforgiving nature is in its average event.  The point I am trying to make is that the theory all looks good on paper  until you have broken through the ice of a beaver pond or stream in -20 degree  weather three miles from modern transportation. With this in mind few of us can begin to rationalize uncomfortable. When your feet are too numb to take another step and the matches are wet you have only begun to experience nature’s wrath.  In summary, nature lacks sympathy for the unprepared.  I digress because the intent of this goat path was to direct your attention to yet another hobby.  Fur harvesting and trapping! We occupy a 200 acre parcel of land that we call home.  On an average year that parcel of property nets 15 coyote, 20 raccoons and 10-12 fox of varying species.  Muskrat and mink abound.  I realize that many people think that a meal comprised of any of the following may not seem palatable.  To the contrary, muskrat, and beaver can be prepared on the level of delicacy.  Until you have tried smoked beaver jerky and sausage I would advise reconsideration.  Few people understand that beaver meat is high in protein and sought after by sled dog races for the high quality meat it provides.  Don’t forget the value of rendered beaver fat for leather sealing and other uses.  While I have not partaken in consuming raccoon, when one applies the concept of you are what you eat, I would consider that a raccoon harvested from a Oak or Maple forest could be quite delectable in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  We recently watched the latest edition of the Terminator series, Terminator Salvation. At one point in the movie a young survivor was asked what he was eating and he responded “Two day old coyote, beats the hell out of three day old coyote”!  With all humor aside one reflects on the old statement of what will be left in the event of a major disaster: coyotes and cockroaches!  I am by no means advocating a diet rich in fox, coyote and cockroach protein. 

I advocating is considering becoming a recreational fur harvester to hone one’s skills and understand what little it takes to harvest a bounty of fur and protein.  For those of you who have never had the opportunity to wear fur in extremely cold weather, I can assure you that animals are not cold!  Fur even as a trim element attached to ordinary clothing offers great warmth from frostbite in that the hollow nature of the hair creates a thermal barrier and draws moisture away from exposed skin allowing for greater comfort.  Minnesota Trap products offers a wealth of inexpensive books for the novice woodsman to add to his library.   A minimal investment of 12 fox and coyote traps and a few connibear traps are really all that one needs for production of an additional line of protein and textiles.  Learning to use snares for catching and restraining animals could be utilized not only in a fur harvesting concept but also in a security detail.  At one time in my life I felt I had a wealth of knowledge relevant to the world of hunting and fishing.  Trapping makes one aware of how little one knows about wildlife activity and habits.  That knowledge can be transferred to human nature and predictability of ones adversary should the need arise.  While I am in no way advocating learning the concepts of how to snare white tail deer for use as a current recreational hobby, I am suggesting you put to mental record the basic understanding of the process.  Purchasing a few dozen snares of varying diameter and sizes could offer a tremendous value in ways not obviously thought of. Consider that gun shots to harvest deer in western states bring wolves to prey on hunters while dressing out the catch.  My point is that if wolves and coyotes can come to single firearm report used to harvest an animal, wouldn’t you consider that your fellow urban refugee might apply the same mental prowess?  Trapping and snaring allow for game to be quietly dealt with without attention being drawn to one’s activity. WTSHTF one would be better served to be quiet and discrete about your activities.   With that in mind I would recommend one consider researching RAM Power Snares. (also available from Minnesota Trapline Products).  Please understand that different states have different laws defining the use of snares and traps.  Notwithstanding is the use of the RAM power snare! My recommendation is ownership with use limited to TEOTWAWKI situations.  Understanding of how they are used should be limited to extrapolation from legal snaring techniques. 
Trapping is slowly becoming an art lost to the elders of our society.  However, there are still many old timers and young individuals with a wealth of knowledge that they are happy to share.  As Mr. Rawles so eloquently notes in his book, Skills are the items of the greatest value in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Hone them as you would the edge of your best knife. 

Fur prices have dropped to unfortunate levels over the past few years, so don’t get into this hobby for any other reason than education. You will certainly not become the next John Jacob Astor or owner of the next Hudson Bay Company.   Many of the people sharing information in the community about trapping will direct the novice fur harvester to a market during the education process to sell their catch. 

I hope the information provided in this article offers those who choose to read it some perspective on subject matters that might come from a different direction.  With that in mind I would welcome an entry on the basis of producing high quality whiskey through a safe distillation process..  If I am going to be here after TSHTF I want to be sure that either Jack Daniels makes it through with me or that I have refined the formula for production of whiskey.  Good Luck and God Bless.