Anyone that has given much thought to what would happen during a societal collapse has surely had the fantasy of bugging out to the wilderness and carving a living out. Its a noble thought, and exciting to contemplate. I know I’ve spent more than enough time thinking about it and playing out scenarios. It really isn’t our fault that we dream about it. Countless books have been written about it, and a lot of them geared toward children. One of my favorite books as a kid was My Side of the Mountain. In this book, a boy runs off to the Catskill Mountains and manages to live off the land. He even survives the harsh winters of upstate New York. If it was so easy for this kid, why can’t we? The realm of fiction rarely has to deal with the harsh realities of life.
Over the past two years, I’ve had plans to preserve some of nature’s bounty here in north Texas. We are blessed with an abundance of wild fruits, berries, and nuts. It should have been easy to do with all of the means I have at my disposal. I have access to abundant energy to run a pressure canner and a dehydrator. I have a truck to get me to the growing location, and plenty of room to haul these food home. I’ve had visions of huge sacks of dried plums and pears, dozens of jars of preserves and jams, and big bottles of Mustang grape wine. In reality, I don’t have any of this. It wasn’t from lack of trying. I was primed and ready to go gather everything up and get to work preserving. Mother Nature decided otherwise both years. Last year, we had a very late freeze, late enough that most of the fruit trees and vines had already bloomed. The results were heart wrenching. Blooms dropped from everything. To say that fruit was scarce is a massive understatement! This year the entire state of Texas has been in the grips of a drought. It’s been hotter and drier than anyone can remember. There was a little bit of fruit that made it, but a very little bit. Grapevines that would normally be heavy with beautiful purple grapes only put on a fraction of what they did in years past. Those few grapes quickly cooked into raisins in the 105 plus heat. The plums didn’t do much better. I can’t even remember what a wild blackberry tastes like. Overall it was a dismal year for wild fruit production. Had I needed to rely on fruit production to make up any real percentage of my diet, I would be on the brink of starvation.
I know what a lot of people are thinking at this point. Fishing and hunting!! On its surface, its a really good idea to supplement the diet. Supplement would the key word in that last sentence. We’ve all been out for a fun day of fishing only to come back with an empty stringer. Its been even more depressing this year. All of the lakes are low and stagnant. There have been some algae blooms, but we’ve been lucky that we haven’t had massive fish kills. Even Lake Texoma, a very large lake fed by a very large river has been deemed unsafe for swimming because of water quality issues.
So no fruits and pretty poor fishing. Hopefully we haven’t starved to death already! Hunting season is getting ready to kick off, and I certainly hope it does better than our other means of living off the land. I’ve had some friends already partake in dove season, and they are reporting a mediocre season so far. They are bagging some birds, but they are smaller than normal and there aren’t as many. As cooler temps move in, there should be birds coming in from Kansas and Nebraska. We can hope they have been well fed and watered up there. Deer season will be opening up in a couple of weeks, and hunters all over Texas are hoping for a great season. I fear the drought will have taken its toll on the deer populations as well. I’ve even noticed a decrease in cottontail rabbits and squirrels. But I suppose if we were living off the land, hunting season won’t matter. We probably starved back in July when the land turned brown and dried up.
Luckily, we weren’t required to live off the land these past couple of years. Resources and been meager, and that was with no competition. In a massive collapse (and I don’t see one coming soon), competition for any resource will be intense. When someone is starving, they’ll do anything to feed themselves and their family. Distances will be traveled, on foot if necessary. Fights will be fought for anything available. All in all, it would be an ugly time even in bountiful years. As fun as it is to dream about, hacking a living out of the wilderness isn’t very likely. Hopefully you are prepared so that it wouldn’t be necessary. In upcoming articles here at Surviving Modern Life, I’ll be covering food storage and preservation, as well as producing our own food. If things go bad, our goal should be to still maintain a decent lifestyle, no matter how the rest of the world is doing.