This article describes how foraging can provide many of the things we need.
In today’s world, the idea of foraging for one’s existence is deemed beneath most of us. In fact, I personally have encountered many individuals who believed themselves to be so far above me that they had already decided what laws I was breaking, what wrongs I was committing and gone so far in some cases as to call law enforcement to stop me from foraging from discarded trash. And before anyone gets any ideas, the individuals who got upset, were a mixture of backgrounds. One notable individual recently was driving a truck with a Trump 2020 flag attached, and another called the police and tried to get them to take my child while flaunting their “United – Never Defeated” shirt. It always amazes me to see how ridiculous people can be.
Foraging and gleaning are age-old traditions that kept humanity alive and allowed us to thrive as a species. For myself, the tradition was adopted from my parents before me. They taught me how to seek out ripe berries, wild onions, tubers, and how to clean small game so as to use all the available meat. More importantly, my Ozark-bred parents helped me understand that while we rarely asked for help, we could in fact subsist quite easily on the fruits of our own labor. And labor it is, foraging.
Learn about the edibles in your specific area. A hint: these tend to vary quite a bit, sometimes drastically, over just short distance or a difference in ekevation. Understanding what is edible, what is tasty, and what is simply filling is important. There are plants that offer medicinal benefits to varying degrees. Meanwhile, other plants can poison you slowly, or almost instantly. And there are plants that can be both poisonous and healthy depending on how they are prepared. Where I reside at this time we have a rather high alkaline content in the soil, this translates into high alkalinity in the plant life as well. Limits and balance are your friends when eating, regardless of what you eat.
Some foraged plants require a good amount of soaking and others require boiling. Still more require drying, and others must be either young or old. In all, our plant life, while less abundant in many ways; compared to other locations is still a solid source of fiber and vitamin intake for the family. Our local animal life consists of rabbits, ground squirrels, javelina, deer, sheep, antelope, bobcat, mountain lion, black bear, elk, turkey, and a few dozen species of snakes and small birds. To be fair I rarely hunt small birds, generally using a shotgun for dove or quail can be tedious when cleaning. I prefer instead to use live traps we build for this very purpose.
Unlike the intelligent crows, ravens, jays, magpies, and the rest of the Corvidae family, dove and quail are quite easy to lure and trap with regularity. Just 3 or 4 are enough to supplement a meal with solid protein servings. The traps are simple tubes of chicken wire, with a small funnel inside them to prevent the escape of the trapped creatures. Spreading a bit of grain or other tasty leftover treats around the trap with a large amount inside ensures they pour in with ease and regularity. To build up a good trapping area I scatter grain with a closed trap, leave it like this for a few days to build up the message that it is a solid spot to get fat. Birds are notorious for telling their entire world about your bounty they now believe they own. Make sure you tour around during their feeding so they become accustomed to seeing you. When I open the trap, I allow a few to get in, and shut it up. I bring another closed trap with me and swap them out. For a few minutes or sometimes a few hours the birds will leave the area, but they always come back. Needless to say, consult our state’s fish and game laws before hunting or trapping.
There are ways to trap snakes as well, most snakes donít like to climb, therefore small semi walls will easily guide them into traps. The traps can be small nooses, deadfall type traps and even live traps. Though you will want to use smaller mesh than chicken wire. Snakes rarely move backward except when recoiling to strike or avoid problems. They will, like sheep and cattle attempt to force their body through the trap, thus ensuring they become hopelessly entangled in your trap. Snakes have far less meat than say a rabbit, however, a 4 foot+ long rattlesnake or bull snake can easily provide 2+ pounds of good quality meat.
Having a good-sized compost pit ensures regular animal traffic, it feeds the chickens and brings in rabbits, quail, and doves with regularity. Never trap right the compost pile, always place traps 20 or more yards from this area. You do not want the animals to fear coming around. You are simply using your scraps to ensure you are able to keep discarding scraps. After all, if you don’t eat, you really will die.
Harvesting local plant life is a bit more difficult in some ways. Much of what we have locally is quite thorny and even more is unappetizing at best in its natural state. If, however, you know what you are looking for, it is easy to make it all into really creative and delicious looking and tasting dishes. For flavoring, we grow many different varieties of herbs. However, we are not able to grow all of our seasonings and so must buy those in bulk. My ancestry is Norse/Scottish and to be fair this prepping journey has allowed me to see why my ancestors have the reputation of low seasoning. After all, its not like we could grow most of the seasonings that are used with regularity the closer you get to the equator. Many of the spices we enjoy daily will not grow in our region. As a result, I do bu and stock these in bulk.
Over the years I have lived in several cities around the globe. While I generally avoid cities, there are a large number of foraging opportunities available during normal times in cities. While it is severely reduced during times of chaos such as our recent media-initiated, politically motivated events over the past year. Between this virus that has a 99% recovery rate and the various groups causing chaos in the streets, cities have become more limited in what is available for foraging. There are still plenty of opportunities, from food to gear.
Some cities have laws in place restricting dumpster diving. However, in many cases a bit of work will allow you to look similar to the great numbers of homeless currently roaming the land. Once this is done, the potential for being stopped for foraging is greatly reduced as most cities also have mandates in place to protect the homeless. Grocery stores often discard just barely out of date foodstuffs, the fresh produce should be washed thoroughly and the other items checked, but for immediate use, these can be valid options.
Every city in the USA where I have resided has selected times every month for various sections where they take what is known as bulk/brushy trash. Keep an eye on the dates, and tour those areas of the city. I have found enough lumber and lightly-used furniture to furnish multiple houses and build all of my garden sheds, chicken coops, rabbit hutches, and more with these trips. Americans are truly addicted to what is new, in fashion, or simply out of their price range, to buy on credit. This benefits those of us willing to look a bit and scrounge a lot. When it comes to furniture I check closely for bed bugs and lice. Otherwise, grab it, clean it, and use it!
As previously mentioned, the computer and monitor I use for these articles and for reading SurvivalBlog daily are both reclaimed. The monitor was a brand new Dell 21.5î SS240T that was reclaimed from a local business. They had just stacked several boxes next to a dumpster. I asked, and they said “Sure!” So now I am up one amazing monitor and sold some others for a hefty profit. While this is relatively rare, if you watch the printed local papers you will often see bankruptcy sales and the like, it is amazing what people would rather throw away than attempt to sell.
Some Amazing Free Books
Foraging is a time-honored, amazing way to feed your family and these days gain things that I would not have spent the money on, back when I was working! Over the years I have rescued entire home libraries that were being discarded. In one case I was able to rescue the entire First Edition series of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift. These were the original printings beginning in 1927. I rescued several early edition and even first edition works from before the Civil War and even our founding fathers! For an avid reader and amateur historian these were especially amazing.
As a result of some of my book rescues I was able to generate enough funds selling on eBay that I converted some of the library into books of note, from The Writings, Letters, Miscellany of Thomas Jefferson (compiled in 1817) through the written letters and papers of Lincoln and more. My collection of actual first hand writing from the founders is quite extensive and from what I have been able to gather, one of the more robust collections in the United States in private hands. This of course allows me to easily put to rest the idiocy my children and their friends have picked up from government indoctrination camps with the many things over the years that have been incorrectly assumed, taught, and promoted by the left.
Our entire library of handyman books was rescued. So were many books on foraging including the fabled original print Foxfire series. That is a true gem that really should be reprinted! Of course, we have rescued many other books, including but not limited to textbooks for math, science, history, and more. Often I find myself questioning the intelligence of people who discard books that could save their lives. But, I am also grateful for their foolishness, as it means that our library is now quite extensive and well-rounded.
Other Gems I’ve Found
A few other things we have foraged over the years include: food-grade buckets with lids, pallets, tools, and lawnmowers. (Yes people throw lawnmowers out when they stop working, or if they decide they want a newer one a little TLC and most can be reclaimed easily.) My gun storage cabinets are all reclaimed. One was a nice stack-on that had a key and the other was a chemical storage cabinet from a local business. It also had a key! If you know about chemical storage requirements you will know that these are actually a bit more durable than typical storage cabinets!
Many items we have reclaimed we have also been able to clean up and sell. The extra money is welcome and has continued to fund our firearms and ammunition inventory. In one rare instance, we were able to recover quite a bit of reloading equipment. The relatives of a recently-deceased individual were in process of throwing away all of it. I asked nicely if my children and I could retain it, and told them I would gladly clean it up and load it, so that they could take a break. The result was more equipment. Sadly much of it was for calibers I no longer own and honestly could never afford again. However, the benefit was more money generated for things that I do use and need.
Some Foraging Guidelines
So a few things to remember when foraging in the city:
1. Ask permission. It is amazing how easy and nice people can be, just as it is amazing how many insane people exist in our world. While cities tend to draw this aspect out, the country is not immune!
2. Never leave a mess. Just as with camping, shooting, and hunting, if you leave a mess then people will stop allowing it.
3. Think about what is in each location, I have found the upper-middle-class neighborhood grocery stores are best for reclaiming foods. Upper-middle-class people are rather snobby in many ways, as is reflected in their shopping and trash habits.
4. Ultra-rich or super poor neighborhoods are not good areas to forage.
5. State and federal forest land are great places to forage edibles!
6. Private land is also a good place to look for wild edibles or to glean from filed or orchards that have already been harvested, but only IF you ask for permission first!
7. While I have not always used gloves, it is recommended. Dumpster diving can expose you to some sharp corners and edges! I use a stick to move things around.
8. Always, always wash your hands and the foodstuffs well! This includes the wild greens that you harvest!
9. Use your head. Seriously, think things through before jumping in with both feet.
10. Stay hydrated.
Well, I know I ramble quite a bit, it is the downside of being of Norse/Scottish ancestry. We are storytellers. If you have any questions, then ask in the Comments section. I will gladly try to answer your questions.