Monday, August 8, 2022

Foraging for your food after SHTF

Rare photo of Lawdog in-the-wild
Larry Dean Olsen, one of the most respected people in the field of "primitive survival" has been quoted as saying that modern humans cannot survive on a wild, vegan diet.

Olsen's argument boils down to caloric density. The activities of modern humans demand very few calories. Modern foods are grossly dense in calories. Eight, standard sized Snickers bars supply a day's worth of calories for the "average" modern, first world human.

Seeds are the most calorie-dense foods in-the-wild. Let us ignore "nuts" for the moment because they are much sought after by wild-life and are available for harvest for short periods of time. Whole wheat flour is approximately 10% fiber. Consider the trials and travails of Jim Dakin who shares his adventures of trying to make whole-wheat breads his staff-of-life. It caused him huge amounts of digestive distress. Funny as told by Dakin. Not so funny if you have to remain functional when the SHTF.

The hunter-gatherer with his distended belly might be able to eat, digest and defecate that amount of bulk...but the modern human who has eaten calorically dense foods since birth has little chance of stretching their digestive system in any meaningful way after SHTF.

Internet, arm-chair commandos

Now, consider that you might be at a party and you are cornered by somebody who excels at extracting information from the internet.

He (almost always an XY) informs you that he is ready to take to the field and forest and survive on Box Elder and Curly Dock seeds and cattail shoots/roots.

My hat is off to the fellow. He picked "food" that is likely to be available. Dock is related to that makes a certain amount of sense. Box Elder is easy to identify and it hangs on to its seeds all winter that makes sense.

The problem is that you while need to consume 60 grams of fiber to get 2000 Calories of energy from whole wheat you might need to consume 900 grams of fiber to get 2000 Calories of energy from dock or Box Elder seeds.

Let me belabor that point. The internet expert is telling us that he plans to eat 15 times more fiber every day than what incapacitated (temporarily) the highly regarded Jim Dakin.

Eat shit, then die

If that isn't enough to nudge you toward domestic crops supplemented with animal products after SHTF, consider the report out of Scotland that tells us that wild fox consume dog feces as a major portion of their diet because "Researchers found that dog feces have a calorific content on par with the foxes' wild prey but are far easier to "hunt" and are consumed especially when wild prey is naturally scarce."  Source

That is right. Post-SHTF dog shit will look appetizing if you depend on "foraging" for your food.

You cannot make this stuff up.


  1. Before I started mowing my front valley field it was lousy with wild Jerusalem Artichokes . I have quit mowing now for about the last ten years and they are starting to return nicely . They have a root that tastes very much like a potato with just a touch of celery added . Probably only one fourth the size of a good Morrow County tater though . I haven't tried them but I have read you can dry them and then grind it into a flour . At one time we had a growth of wild potatoes on the north facing hill but sadly I needed the north drive to go up that hill . I found one that was a good ten feet long when I bulldozed the hill drive . Maybe use those omnipresent dog turds here on the old homestead for a flavoring . I dare not reveal that secret to the tribe though , heh . Those Box Elder seeds I can supply by the ton . Did not know they were edible though . Hats off to ya ERJ !

    1. I forgot who said it 1st, but their advice pertaining to clearing / removing existing plants was know what you are giving up before you eradicate. Oftentimes, the replacement is less beneficial.

  2. Yeah, wild and vegan just don't go together. The food is too low quality, not enough nourishment. Take those cattails (please) which are heralded as being high in carbohydrates. An ounce of cattail root will provide 7 calories, meaning that if you're going to get 2000 calories from cattail, you're going to have to eat over 17 pounds! Talk about starving to death while eating constantly.

    Jerusalem artichokes are more than double that. Still an awful lot to eat, though. Sunchokes give me incredible gas, so my wife banned them from our table. The effect was diminished if cooking them, but it was not enough to escape her wrath.

  3. I’ve been interested in this topic/idea since I was a boy (long before Ray Mears became the face of such here, and have all, dog-eared and falling apart now, of Richard Mabey’s works).

    In The UK, calories (as such) are surprisingly easy to find/obtain (except in winter, where even the ultimate larder, the sea-shore becomes barren) but … protein is limited and hard to find (fish/trap*), vitamins are likewise (and intensely seasonal), carbohydrates are a stone cold b*tch (and what is available is either small, so requires masses of time gathering, or requires often multiple stage ‘processing’ to remove toxins/make it edible – often you expend more calories obtaining than you gain from consuming it. People always massively underestimate how much they will actually need - that meadow may be overgrown with tubers, but ... what will you eat next week/tomorrow?).

    … and that’s in the here and now, where there’s limited competition for the resources (70 million population in this small island, our hunter-gatherer ancestors are estimated as in the low hundred-thousands at best), in a best-case (only the nicest weather, and best parts of the year), on my own, for short periods (and I still manage to lose weight).

    You ‘might’ be able to survive from foraging alone (for a period. You expect to have excess to store to over-winter? Really? And you know how to do that of course?).

    In the Boreal, protein (from hunting/trapping/fishing) is relatively easy to obtain. There the issue is carbs and vitamins, and unless you’re well stocked, winter is … a long, cold, painful death without reserves. (I have Saami friends – don’t call them Lapps, that’s the same as calling a Scot a Jock – still raised with ancestral knowledge of their environment, and without the community and herd, even they admit such survival is ‘unlikely’).

    Our ancestors, the ultimate experts on every available source of nutrition available locally, had entire communities working sun-up to sun-down, 24/7/365 finding, gathering, processing and storing just to (barely) survive. Those (Hollywood) mountain-men did manage to provide a great deal of what they needed, but relied (heavily) on trading posts and civilisation to survive.

    Nope, anyone who dreams/fantasises of a “sustainable long-term existence foraging” is living a delusional pipe-dream (unless they live in a jungle, which ‘is’ doable, depending on the jungle of course) ... and doing so in a purely vegetarian/vegan manner ... (sorry I hurt myself laughing - two weeks and they'll be scoffing worms, frogs and anything else alive, or dead, they can lay their hands on).

    [* I remember the first season of “Alone”, where almost all the contenders took some article for ‘hunting’ … and not one ever succeeded. The smart ones took fishing and trapping materials, and still had relatively limited success].

    And yes, after a few weeks alone in the Boreal, when the Blå Band has all run out and the hunting/fishing is bad … you’d be amazed at what you’ll eat, and just how delicious it will taste (don’t ask me how I know).

  4. This is a worthwhile topic.

    Another aspect of the 'foraging plants for survival' strategy is that you will absolutely, positively, develop scurvy. The first sign of it, long before your teeth start to fall out, is that when you press your fingertip into the fat of your thigh, the indentation stays. Like the Pillsbury dough boy.

    Captain Cook was amongst the first to identify diet as a cause of scurvy. The English are called 'Limeys' for a reason.

    Also; seeds are calorie dense, but meat is the most nutrient dense of all foods. Fishing is good, even if you are reduced to catching minnows in a seine or net. Hunting is good, even if you are reduced to shooting sparrows at a bird-feeder. It enriches the ramen or rice. After that comes rat traps. A country boy can survive.

  5. When I eat rats Chuck Norris will start puffing Oscar Mayer weiners . Mickie on a stick ain't for Americans .

  6. I have no shortage of rats, rabbits, opossums (Possum stew anyone?), birds, coyotes, wild onions, purslane, pecans, Moringa trees (Planted and return like clockwork in May), dew berries, briar and bamboo tenders, dandelions, mulberries, Muscadine grapes, etc. Fish is sketchy and usually requires someone's stocked pond to overflow up-river during heavy rains. Plenty of stuff I may have forgotten but Texas is a pretty rich land for wild food and a man would be hard pressed to starve to death in winter.

    Good to know that fiber might very well be toxic and add that to my mental notes. I suppose this gives a new meaning to eating a balanced diet.

    If people have prepared like they should, then most will be fine supplementing their stored food with what they can grow/breed, forage/hunt, and buy from time to time when availability is there. Space the stored stuff out by it's expiration date and replace it based on availability.

    Potatoes are my go-to calorie crop when SHTF since they can be powdered and preserved; followed by beans. But potatoes seem to be more reliable overall here. Sunflowers are a relatively low-care crop to grow, as well as Okra, the seeds of which can be ground into a protein rich flour. Okra is very drought tolerant and you will get a crop out of it even on a bad year.


  7. There was an important reason farmers in the north planted rhubarb, and fostered and harvested rose hips. Both are excellent sources of vitamin C to harvest and preserve 6 months apart. Here (FL) it is citrus and acerola cherry. No scurvy.

  8. Can you increase calories relative to fiber by making grain into beer? I've read that through much of history and prehistory beer was a staple, not just a luxury.

  9. It's not just a 2000 calorie intake in a SHTF scenerio. The minute you go to hunter gatherer calorie needs nearly double

  10. Any chance you’ve heard from Bison Prepper? It’s been 2 months since I’ve heard from him.