Even if you’re not a hardcore survival enthusiast, it’s wise to have some basic bushcraft tricks up your sleeve for living off what nature provides. Weather-related emergencies can happen in mere hours, or a major shift in your financial situation may push you to get creative with your resources. You can even make the most of your skills for living off the land on an ordinary day. Living off the land can help you save time and money, especially if you live in a rural area and don’t want to have to drive into town for things constantly.
You can live completely off the land if you want, but most people find it more practical to use a hybrid approach that maintains modern comforts and a backup system in case of an emergency. You can even minimize your utility usage and store-bought food while transitioning to a more off-the-grid lifestyle. Using the latest tools like mirror deer blinds and high-tech well systems can make your long-term investment worthwhile.
Choose Your Land Wisely
The resources of the land around you are the ultimate predictor of success in living off the land. Even if you’re out in a rural area, your ability to live off the land will be compromised if there is no fresh water, game to hunt, or good soil to grow plants. Look for forests, streams, quality soil and other indicators of abundant resources on or near the property you want to use.
Also, keep in mind that land or water contaminated by industrial pollutants is dangerous. Runoff from factories can travel a surprising distance and, although there is usually an odor or lack of plant life, some pollutants aren’t detectable until you test for them. Get independent testing from a local environmental consulting company before deciding to buy or live off a plot of land.
Figure Out Your Energy Source
Although living off the land is not synonymous with going off-grid, solar and wind power are feasible options for living off the land. They take time and money to install, but they are highly reliable and require little maintenance once they are in place. Generators require a fuel supply, which means occasionally stocking up on propane, diesel or another fuel source. However, they are an excellent option for when you’re first starting out and trying to save money for a solar or wind power system or as a backup option.
It is difficult to live fully off the land for water, especially since improperly purified water can make you sick. However, using natural water can be a huge asset if your municipal water access is ever compromised. Well pumps require a large amount of electricity, but they can pump water from hundreds of feet below ground. Rainwater collection is also a great way to store natural water and requires minimal filtration or purification. Do some basic research on rainfall amounts in different seasons in your area.
The reliability of these methods depends on the region in which you live. Well water may have water pressure problems, especially once the water table drops, and rainwater collection is rarely enough to completely replace municipal or well water. However, being smart about your water sources and usage can make it possible to go completely off the grid if desired. And always have a backup plan for times when local rivers, rainfall totals or the underground water table end up lower than usual.
Hunting long-term for sustenance requires knowledge of the types of game available within your location. Larger animals tend to provide more meat, but the quality of the meat and the difficulty of the hunt is a factor. Bears and feral hogs can even be dangerous to hunt.If there is a public place to hunt near your property, see about your options for setting up a hunting blind; many public hunting locations limit blind placement to certain days before the season starts. If you’re hunting on your property, you can set up your blind anywhere that animals tend to congregate or travel through, including bedding and feeding areas.
The earlier you can set up and brush-in your blind, the better since this allows animals to get used to its presence. However, you can help reduce this issue by using a mirror deer blind, which reflects the surrounding ground and foliage without reflecting the animal. The phenomenal concealment created by these blinds makes them a stellar portable option for hunting in almost any environment.
Making a Garden or Farm
Although it’s possible to forage your food, the variety and quality of plants available to you year-round can vary enough that having a garden or small farm is also essential. At a minimum, you’ll want root vegetables that are hardy and nutrient-dense and don’t spoil quickly. For long-term sustainable growth, you need healthy soil. Test your soil pH and nitrogen levels, and prepare garden beds with organic fertilizers, manure or compost to adjust the soil to the correct levels.
Invest in several evergreen crops, such as rosemary, sorrel and artichokes, as well as seasonal produce. To ensure that you harvest vegetables throughout the season, stagger your planting season; for some fast-growing crops, such as onions, green beans and spinach, you can even plant twice per season for double the crop. Pests come in all shapes and sizes. Put up chicken wire or chain link fencing to help keep out larger animals like deer or hogs, and invest in organic pesticides or make your own to eliminate creepy crawlies.
Supplement Your Harvest with Foraged Produce
Though gardens are reliable sustenance in the warmer months, your options for fruits and vegetables become much more limited in the winter. Familiarizing yourself with local mushrooms, berries, nuts and greens, such as dandelion leaves, nettles and ramps, can keep you supplied with fresh food year-round. However, some plants are poisonous, and these may closely resemble edible varieties. Greens are less likely to be poisonous than mushrooms or berries, but poison ivy and poison sumac are a problem in many areas of the country. Study field guides to wild flora closely and talk to locals to familiarize yourself with any local poisonous plants. If in doubt, don’t eat it.
Keep It Sustainable
One of the keys to living off the land long-term is to minimize waste. Reducing or recycling your waste products, such as food scraps for compost and greywater for irrigation, minimizes your environmental impact and makes for a more energy-efficient way of living. Plan to make the most of seasonal vegetables, and educate yourself on new and creative ways to cook and preserve them. Invest in a large freezer to make the most of your hunts. Learn how to process and cook organ meats such as the heart, kidneys and liver, as these parts of the animal are nutrient-dense and ensure that no part of the animal goes to waste.
Starting Your Adventure
Living off the land may seem like an extreme challenge, but it’s rewarding to learn to use new, natural food sources and test your skills at designing your living environment. With the right combination of hunting, foraging and farming, you can create a lifestyle that maximizes your independence.