How to Prepare for a Life Closer to Nature
It can be daunting to think of the many things that allow us to survive, live in nature, or simply live a lifestyle more in tune with our surroundings. Likewise, we don't want to rush into things headlong, without learning the basics to the fullest that we need to survive and thrive.
The basics: survival
Whether you want to enjoy camping out in the wild. want to be prepared for a disaster, or are interested in switching to a more natural life, the basics lie in survival. This means being able to get water, food, shelter and fire and thus not die.
This is a harsh truth, but most people who read a few sites, watch some youtube videos and then rush off into the wild are going to find themselves underprepared and possibly in mortal danger.
You want to follow a good instruction course in survival, preferably from a certified trainer, where all these basics are covered. Every country will have their own groups or companies providing these courses. A good rule of thumb is to choose one where the trainer has a wide range of natural interests (ecological living, survival, rafting, hunting, etc.) and experience so that they have anecdotes to share, which contain an equal number of good lessons.
After all, every lesson you learn from someone else is a (potentially fatal) mistake that you can avoid.
Such a course comprises really the basics, and it helps to find one where you will actively spend a day or two with a group out in the wild, camping, and seeing everything being used in action.
Deepening knowledge: Bushcraft
The term Bushcraft covers a lot of semi-traditional crafts and techniques used to survive and subsist in natural environments. Often rediscovered or learned from native populations, such techniques cover foraging for food, making more advanced shelters, and crafting equipment from natural sources with natural tools.
Here it can help to join a group or a course on crafting techniques, but here you can actually learn a lot from youtube or online sources - the key here is practice. It can really pay to simply go out camping and find new uses for materials you come across, identify plants and animals, and practice setting snares, carving wood and weaving strands and fibers.
Not only will this pay off in case you ever need to survive for a longer duration, but it can push down a lot of costs you would otherwise make, increasing your day-to-day self sufficiency.
In case of a calamity, loss of network or economical problems, you can rely on having a backup craft such as leatherworking, blacksmithing, agriculture or forestry to allow you a functional (and potentially comfortable) existence.
Be safe, carry substitutes
Important to keep in mind is that when you are actually caught in a survival situation, you cannot rely on a store to get new supplies. If something important breaks or is lost, it's gone.
Always make sure to carry two or three ways to make fire, shelter, carry water and find food. Also make sure that they are not all stored in the same pack, so that you lose all your food if your pack is lost.
Futher reading on survival and bushcraft
Bush Craft allows you to master the skills required to not just survive in the outdoors, but thrive there. Going from being able to survive long enough to be rescued in a short while to being able to exist at a comfortable level for a long period is quite an undertaking, but it builds character and life skills you will never regret learning.
Out on a limb: hunting and fishing
Another step in being prepared is to know how to hunt and prepare food. This can mean fishing with a fishing kit (a standard in most survival kits) or a self-made fishing spear. It can mean making a bow and arrows to hunt, or learning how to use a hunting rifle.
Make sure that you know how to use such tools ahead of time, don't wait until you are caught out in the wild alone before trying to figure out how to reload a gun or fire a bow. There's good sense in joining a firing range, archery club or going fishing - just to learn the skills to make survival that much easier.
And who knows? This may earn you a new hobby on the side!
Hunting with weapons
Make sure you are aware of your country's laws on weapon possession and use! If you country does not allow the possession of a hunting rifle without a license, it pays to acquire one ahead of time and practice your skills.
Rifles and game
When hunting with rifles, you need to be especially aware of the law; many countries do not allow you to hunt without both a firearms and a hunting license. Make sure all of these are in order when you go on a camping expedition and carry your firearms along.
Also make sure you are aware (and trained) in using the proper weapon for the game you expect to hunt:
- Buckshot for birds
- Small rifle (.22) for small game and predators
- Medium rifle (.300, .308) for medium game such as deer and small boar
If you expect to run into moose or bear, most often you are better off avoiding them. If you cannot, expect to need several shots if not using a large caliber weapon, since these are massive and tough beasts.
In all cases, survival is about avoiding danger, not shooting it!
Further reading - hunting
Steven Rinella's books are seen as the definitive guide on becoming a successful and responsible hunter. Not only will this book tell you how to hunt wild game, but also how to skillfully butcher and cook it for consumption. I would still advise joining a hunting club, or taking a course or diploma, in addition - for any situation other than sheer survival.
At home - the home grower
A greener life isn't always about moving out, it can also mean deepening your connection to nature at home. Even a "square foot garden" can already provide you with herbs and vegetables year-round, reducing your spendings significantly.
A rule of thumb here is to focus on vegetables that are very expensive in your area, as well as herbs (which are often expensive to buy but cheap to grow). That way you will have fresher food and a better taste, while spending less.
There are plenty resources online on how to build a vegetable or herb garden, and even the smallest homes can have their patch of green.
Further reading - home growing
Square-foot gardening is a great way to feel proud of maintaining a small, high-yield growth that will also press down your grocery bills. Don't focus on common and cheap vegetables like onions and carrots, but look into more expensive herbs or ever-growing vegetables like lettuce and rutabega.
Hobbies and good deeds
If you happen to have a more sizable patch of land, my recommendation would be to check out options for keeping animals. A medium garden can easily hold a few chickens, and the Buff Orpington breed is quiet, docile and lays plenty eggs. If you have a pasture, consider keeping a goat for the milk (which you can make cheese from).
A great way of improving your standing with the natural world is to keep bees. Becoming a beekeeper is a bit of an investment, both in the colony as well as all the gear, but the rewards are plentiful honey and contributing to the wellbeing of flowers and trees around you. After all, trees and flowers are often pollinated by bees, and their number have been on the decline in recent years. Keeping bees helps balance the natural order, preventing a dearth of flowers and plants which would be very bad for our own future as well!
And finally, there are plenty hobbies that are very rewarding to someone with a backyard forest; dead trees can provide plenty firewood for a summer barbeque once properly dried, and if you grow hops along the forest edge (where their punguent smell can harm no one) you have the resources to experiment with homebrew craft beers!
Explore your options nearby first, and set a few careful steps before leaping in - but I can assure you that there are many wonderful activities and hobbies hiding out in the wild!
Further reading - beekeping
Beekeeping is not just for honey and wax, it's also a way of sustaining our planet's ecosystem. Pollination is an important, if not critical, aspect of gardening. So make sure yo combine a beekeeping hobby with a flowering herb garden.