This article is a guest post by Daphne Nelson. Daphne homesteads in the Northeastern US. With interest growing in self-sufficiency and self-reliance, many are looking to move out of the cities and suburbs to rural communities. Being an experienced homesteader, Daphne points out some of the important things that you can consider. You can also view Daphne’s previous post, Buying a Homestead.
Each environment a person lives in has its pros and cons, but if one knows how to look at the land, and familiarize themselves with their surroundings, a person can survive even in the roughest of environments. Knowing the plants in your area can at least guarantee you won’t starve, and many plants can be used in a variety of ways, not just as food. Many plants have medicinal value as well, and some are poisonous. Learning how to tell the difference can be very important. In addition, plants and other basic materials found in nature can mean the difference between survival and disaster.
Ask yourself, if I were suddenly on my own and had only a minimum of resources, would I be able to survive? If your answer is yes, I could, then congratulations, you are ahead of the game. But if you answered no, then there are a few basic things to know that could really increase your chances. They aren’t hard to remember and really could make all the difference.
When I move to a new area, I always purchase a field guide to the local plant life. I do this mostly as a short cut, after all, somebody has already done the research. But if I don’t have a guide available, I can use this one little trick to let me know if something is safe to ingest. I take a very, very tiny piece of the plant, and I do mean a very small piece, and put it under my tongue. If my tongue becomes slightly numb, I spit it out and avoid that plant. That numbing sensation indicates the plant is toxic. Some toxic plants have medicinal value, like nightshade, but unless you are skilled herbalist and know what you are doing, you do not want to ingest any of it! So, a very simple trick like this will tell you if something is safe. [Editor’s note: I don’t agree with the “under your tongue” method. Click here for another view of testing wild plants.]
Now, I live in the North woods, and there is another little trick that does not require a lot of skill to remember and use. Birch trees! These trees are nature’s messengers! Anywhere you find a stand of birch, including Aspen trees and “quakies”, which are the white barked trees, there is water! You might have to dig down a little ways, but they only grow on top of a water pocket. Additionally, Birch has many other attributes. The extreme outer layer is very thin and paper like and can be harvested to use as fire starter. The thicker bark, which includes the thicker red part, can be boiled for 20 minutes to give you a decoction for headaches and other basic aches and pains, much like willow bark. This decoction can also be used as a broth base, to which you can add harvested pine nuts. A few pine needles and any types of old fruit could/might be found on trees. Living in Apple country guarantees that I can find at least one apple in the dead of winter. Mother Nature is good about that, leaving an apple or two on a tree.
Another thing I have learned over the years in the North woods, a person can always find dry tinder close in to the trunk of pine trees. About two inches down, under the wet top layer, one can always find dry pine needles. They are basically the trees way of mulching itself for the cold winter months, and knowing this can make a huge difference in whether or not you will have a fire if you are stuck out in the cold! Pine trees can also provide you good shelter, as many of them have low hanging branches and there always seems to be a certain amount of debris around to help with the construction of a lean-to. Just make sure you knock the snow off the tree before you build your fire!
Having a field guide to local plants can make a huge difference in your survival, but just knowing these three things could mean the difference between surviving or not. The taste test can be used anywhere, in any environment. Birch trees and their cousins seem to be a northern or alpine type of tree, and so the info is more pertinent if you are in this type of climate. But I know that assorted pine species grow worldwide, and the information should be good for any of them. Mother Nature always manages to leave a certain amount of fruit on trees for the animals to survive the cold winter months, and in a survival situation, just cut them up and add them to a broth.
If you are you looking to purchase a homestead, please consider this one. For pictures, see Daphne’s previous post.
FSBO: 6+/- remote but accessible lakeside acres in Northeastern Washington State. 3,000 s.f. homestead. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, ¾ basement, large pantry, office, all appliances stay. Large 2 story barn, older shop, storage shed, wood shed. Large fenced garden. Fenced and cross fenced, so bring your livestock. National forest close, 12 miles to Lake Roosevelt, 100 miles North of Spokane, Washington, 100 miles west of Idaho Border, 10 miles south of Canadian border. Perfect bug-out location or a great place to raise a family. Good schools close, good community close. Lake is seasonal, but property also features a year round creek. Remodel halted due to death of husband, so kitchen will require some attention, but it is usable. Wood floors throughout.
Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org