I wish I had $1 for every time I heard someone say something like “If I had more land I would have better survival skills,” or “If I had more land I would practice my survival skills more.” Of the 1000s of hours I have spent practicing all kinds of different survival skills I would venture to say that 80% of that practice has been in my own back yard.
The time to practice a survival skill is not on a survival adventure or on a 2-3 day camping trip – those are the times to USE the skill that you’ve already practiced and mastered. Your practice time is done at home in your own BACK YARD. Perfecting any survival skill, whether is be fire by friction or preparing wild edibles, takes an enormous amount of time. It really is amazing all that you can actually do in a very small back yard space. From wild edibles to fire building to knot-work to traps and snares, there really aren’t very many critical survival skills that can’t be studied and practiced just steps out your back door.
If you’re stuck in a rut where you think you need a lot of land to get some dirt-time in – think again! Below are just a few things I’ve got going on in my back yard that might help get your creative survival juices going. Ultiamtely, it’s about not being lazy…
The first thing you should know about my back yard is that I live on a RIVER. I specifically chose to buy a home on a waterway. It was either a river or a runway and I don’t have a plane. Call me crazy but I like the 2nd optional BUG OUT Route. If something were to ever happen where I could not get out of dodge by vehicle, I have the option of traveling by canoe to a spot about 60 miles down river where I can then continue on foot to my predetermined Bug Out Location. I know…I know… it all seems a little extreme. I love the wildlife that the river offers me anyway – from fishing to duck hunting to crayfish trapping – there is never a shortage on wild game. I see beaver, blue heron, geese, snakes, raccoon, turtles and muskrat on a daily basis. At the edge of my property line sits a huge weeping willow. I harvest branches from this willow on a regular basis to practice making baskets and traps. I’ve also used it for hand drills and bow drill spindles to practice fire by friction.
There are only 2 trees in my yard. One is a HUGE maple tree. I tap this monster maple each spring for sap. It yields about 4 gallons for me believe it or not. After boiling, that ends up being a small jar of syrup. It is really great practice.
I also have a ropes climbing course set on this tree to practice my climbing and knot skills. I have hand-holds about 30 feet up the tree. This helps to prepare me for a myriad of rope-work and climbing situations that I might be faced with one day.
My 2nd tree is a dwarf peach tree which yields about 1 bushel of peaches each year. It’s one heck of a producer.
My neighbor has a huge pine tree that borders my property. I am always scavenging pine resin to make pine sap glue and pine cones to burn in one of my multi-fuel back pack stoves when I practice cooking in the yard. I regularly brew some pine needle tea as well.
One of my favorite survival categories is WILD EDIBLES. I am absolutely amazed at how many wild edibles grow in my very small back yard. I never use pesticides or fertilizers in my yard because during the spring, summer and fall I have wild edibles from my yard for at least 2 meals per week. And, I graze from my yard almost on a daily basis. Below are just a few highlighted edibles:
Other edibles that grow in or around my yard are POLK, CLOVER and CATTAIL. The list goes on and on – too many to mention. Besides the wild edibles I do my fair share of trying to grow my own food as well. I am currently experimenting with a 4 foot x 4 foot Survival Garden to see just how much produce can be grown in a 4×4 space. If you plan it out, you’d be surprised at how many veggies you can get from such a small area. I’m currently growing radishes, tomatoes, yellow squash, string beans, snap peas, asparagus, onions, carrots, rhubarb and cantaloupe. Not too bad for a 4×4 space. I’m trying to perfect it.
On the fence-line I also grow a variety of berries, currants and grapes. I often use these to practice canning.
I also keep an herb garden that has oregano, chives, mint and strawberries.
And… one rose bush which I harvest rose hips from each fall. Ever made Rose Hip Trail Mix? Try it sometime.
Finally, I have a huge lavender bush. I harvest the lavender throughout the summer and dry it to use around the house and in my laundry. There is no better smell than fresh lavender.
I burn wood to heat the house so I also keep a wood pile. I use this wood for all kinds of projects from fire building to carving. You can see my pot of what I call CRAFT WOOD. This is a collection of branches, bark and sticks that I use to build cooking tools and frames and/or snare sets, etc…
Bottom line—————- if you live in a place with a small yard – don’t let it get you down! You can get plenty of dirt-time in while you are saving up for your dream acres. Below is a small list of skill sets I practice in my yard so that I can enjoy them when I’m on an outing:
- Primitive cooking: Earth oven and Open flame (at least once a week)
- Fire building: Every way imaginable
- Traps and snares (just watch out for the neighbors cat!)
- Carving: almost daily
- Gathering wild edibles: almost daily
- Rope work and climbing
- Fishing: Primitive and modern
- Water traps: crayfish, turtle, primitive fish
- Rain water harvesting: Experimenting with gutter collection system
- Primitive cordage: from milkweed and giant ragweed which grow by the river
- Flint napping: I keep a big block of flint by my fire pit to practice
- Target practice: I practice shooting my recurve bow
- Water collection: rain, snow, dew
- Misc.: Any other miscellaneous thing I can think of…
Hopefully this post has been encouraging to someone. There is NO EXCUSE not to practice your skills. The time to learn them IS NOT when you NEED them.
Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,