Friday, 27 December 2013

Foraging and scavenging

 First, just for your joy and delectation, this video of pure delight sent to me by Jon and Rosie (my daughter and partner) from their Christmas holiday in Switzerland.  It's nice with the sound on.

Sigh.  That’s how everyday life should be.

Then, the business of New Year Resolutions.  Some people don’t find these helpful; I do.  They assist me in focusing.

So for 2014, I have two things planned, one for the regular everyday, one just for Lent.

In Lent 2014, I plan to take the opportunity of the custom of giving something up, to abstain from opinions.  I am so used to opinions that I think for more than six weeks I would find it unrealistic and exhausting to give them up.  And it might turn out to have a downside I haven’t thought of.  But I am going to try it for six weeks to see what difference it makes.

Then for the everyday, during 2014 I am going to be more serious about foraging and scavenging.  My skills in this area are dull and shoddy, and need improving.

I sometimes wonder what we will all do when the economy collapses and the oil runs out.  Of course such a turn of events will be preceded by unfortunate bright ideas by the government like tar sands, fracking and huge building programs to boost flagging economies, and accompanied by unprincipled and unrestrained destruction of the wilderness that offers our only hope of wellbeing and survival as a species – clear-felling the forests, polluting earth air and sky and raiding the oceans for everything that lives we haven’t killed.   But before and until we destroy ourselves and every source of hope and healing entirely, I imagine there will be a time when it will benefit us to be resourceful and able to live lightly.

When I read of otherwise enlightened souls planning for economic collapse by hoarding food, I always feel disappointed, because it betokens a failure of intelligence.

To have a store cupboard for tiding one over short stretches of need (unemployment in one’s own life or a neighbour’s, or a bad patch of difficult weather, for example) makes good sense.

But if the economy collapsed and the grocery stores were empty, who really imagines they could sit at home with their hoard saying “Well, I’m okay.  Shame about you”?

If you had food while your neighbour had nothing, surely you would share it?  And if you didn’t, they’d probably come in and take it anyway.  Looting and scarcity do go together.

Besides, in desperate times, packing down small and travelling light would grow more and more essential as life de-stabilised and sharing became essential.  To a greater or lesser extent, we have already reached that place.  For many families, the cost of accommodation has already outstripped the income they are able to generate, and extended family homes are much more common now than forty years ago.

So having 200 kilos of flour and the same of rice and lentils, with similar quantities of long-life milk, juice, spices, fat etc etc would be a dubious advantage.

But the ability to scavenge and forage would not only stand one in good stead in any scary future scenario, it would also be a usefully frugal modus operandi right here and now.

Therefore through 2014 I will be concentrating on scavenging and foraging, to see what I can learn and how I can improve those useful skills.

One of the easiest starting points will be wooding.  What kind of sense does it make to pay for gas and electricity, buy in wood or coal, while littering the ground in parks and pavements are the fallen twigs, fir-cones and broken-up dead small branches that would make excellent kindling and even generate all the heat needed to boil a kettle?    Right at this minute the winter rain is falling heavily, and I don’t relish the thought of taking my wooding bag out on the hunt.  But I have foraged a wonderful basketful of pinecones from just one stand of trees, and it’s hanging up from a rafter under the eaves of Komorebi, lying in wait for the installation of my quietly patient little wood stove.


Rachel marsh said...

Back to what we did when children then, collect wood from the woods to heat the house, pick all manner of berries and wild fruits, trap rabbits (can't see you doing that, Pen!) and grow a garden full of veg (that put me off broad beans for life).
Anything knitted and worn out was unpicked and the wool used to make baby clothes or squares for the blankets we all needed in a uncentrally heated house.
I'd do OK come the apocolypse :-)

Rapunzel said...

Oh, Pen, You are going to love your 40 day fast from Opinions. I tried it myself long ago, and it is amaziingly liberating. I had been brought up to KNOW and to BE RIGHT, and I actually consciously had to practice saying "I don't know" and "I haven't the slightest idea, and the dreaded "You may be right about that." I blush to admit it took awhile to get the hang of it, and there were some bits if opinionated backsliding but once I got to 'beginners mind' it was like having a very heavy burden lifted off my shoulders.
Your wee hut of happiness is looking splendid, the pic of your 'kitchen' made my heart go pitty-pat.

Ganeidaz Knot said...

Wood is easy. We burn just to clear the fallen timber ~ especially in winter when we cook over the fire as well. And we have used our fire pit when we've lost electricity to boil a kettle & have hot food. Unfortunately our council considers wood fires a pollutant so you have to have a good reason to burn. They prefer the fallen timber go to the tip.

I planted both an ordinary veggie garden & have *wild food* growing in the garden. I don't think it would ever support us but would help stretch things ~ though in extreme times I expect we would be robbed anyway. *sigh*

My sons are excellent fishers & crabbers, though neither Cait nor I eat seafood. In extremity we might have to. I hope it never reaches that point.

I don't find resolutions helpful so have nothing planned. I expect just dealing with life's surprises this year will be as much as I can manage. ☺

Anonymous said...

How do you live without having an opinion? I mean if you open the curtains and think, 'Wow, the sky is beautiful' that's an opinion...isn't it? Or am I missing something?

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi friends.

Rachel, you are quite right, I could NOT trap a rabbit. But I wouldn't mind eating a rabbit someone else has trapped, and maybe trading skills or some of our fruit or herbs from the garden in exchange.

Rapunzel - that's encouraging! x

Ganeida - I think we are really meant to have outside fires after 6pm, though where we live people are quite easy-going - live and let live sort of attitude.

Deborah - you aren't missing anything - that's why I think I can attempt it only for a short time!!

Anonymous said... you aren't going to be able to worship God either? Coz telling God he's awesome is an opinion too...hmmm...I think I'd only manage a few minutes, if that. LOL :-D

Jenna Caruthers said...

I like it. I have a new neighbor friend who rather shyly showed up with a box of dumpster dived stuff--great stuff, well-wrapped, perfectly fresh yet. I welcomed both her and her offering, privately envious that she understands this scavenging skill. My own resolution is to learn sour dough bread-making and ultimately give up my Freecycled bread machine. Happy 2014, Pen!

Pen Wilcock said...

Debs - I won't be able to offer God my opinions in worship, but I will still be able to praise and adore him :0)

Jenna - hello! I've been wondering how things are going for you! I love sourdough bread - it's a good foraging/scavenging thing because you can (in fact I think you have to) make your own starter. xx

Nearly Martha said...

This is very interesting, if a little scary. We made massive strides in our very wasteful house by using grey water to flush and switching the heat off early and pulling throws over our legs. Not much but made a huge difference to energy and water bills. I am looking for other things to do but foraging is perhaps too far up the scale for me at the moment. Time is an issue as well. Thank you for this though. As always you make it seem achievable without me having to cope with too much moaning about us becoming one of "those" households.

Pen Wilcock said...

Well done on the grey water! We have created the *possibility* of such an installation in our plumbing, but not taken it through to completion.
A small but pleasing (to me) thing I do starts with having a hot water bottle in bed at night. In the morning it's still warm. So I pour the water from it into a bowl for washing, then use said water to flush the loo after I've washed. Given the shocking amount of water we have to run before the hot comes through, that saves quite a lot.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to the blog entry that shares how you got on, Pen as just thinking about it makes my brain hurt. Which probably says wayyyy more about me than the concept :-D

I'd love to make sour dough bread too but I'm not sure if the starter will grow in a cold house...does anyone know? I can never find a definitive answer when I've googled it.

Pen Wilcock said...

You could try putting the bowl on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Or make it in a wide-mouthed thermos flask.

Rebecca said...

Abstaining from opinions?!? I wonder if I could do this????

Meanwhile, your resolution sounds practical and intriguing. Sure hope to hear more from you on the subject (foraging, etc.).

Grace & Mercy to you (and ALL of us) in 2014, Pen.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) May your walk through 2014 be blessed xx

Anonymous said...

My dear husband feels that God will take care of his own if we cannot do it for ourselves. Remember there was enough manna to last for 40 years! Personally, I pray that Jesus will come and get us before then, but, of course, we have no guarantee of this....

Sure doesn't hurt to be a bit more self reliant :)

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) I agree with your DH, and I want to be on God's team, right there helping Him. xx