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Is hunting a way to make homesteading viable?  RSS feed

 
Benton Lewis
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Seems homesteading focuses on the gathering aspect like planting the plants you can gather food from.  That is a good thing; however, I think the way homesteading can really be sustainable is through focusing on the hunting aspect.  I think its all about wildlife management.

Wild plants can't really reliably sustain people and farming is a negative calorie input, if trying to grow enough to survive on without utilizing oil.

In areas where there are plenty of large wild animals, like moose, or plenty of fish, like oceans and rivers, and nobody to stop you from hunting and fishing, seems to be the best models of self-sufficiency i see.

Wild animals take care of themselves and hunting and fishing are calorie positive today just like they were for our ancestors. 

Wild animal and plant foods are the key to sustainability, with wild animal foods being the staples and making it calorie positive.
 
Galen Young
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Location: out in the woods of Maine
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We homesteaded in an area where we believe offers the best variety of flora and fauna for survival [Maine], in the continental USA. We know many locals who have hunted all their lives. Today those who can consistently bring in the meat will put in more time and effort into hunting than if they simply had a full-time job in town and bought meat at a grocery store. We know Maine Guides [these are men who have graduated from survival schools and professionally guide hunting trips]. Last bear season one out of every eight guided bear hunts got a bear. 1 out of 8. I am not a hunter, I raise pigs instead. I am not impressed with these guys ability to bring in the meat.

Most of the year a person can forage for food in the forests of Maine and fill your belly.  There is plenty of edible flora.

I have been told many times that 50 years ago, the fur trade was stronger, fur prices were better and every teenager was actively out in the woods hunting small predators for their pelts. But today nobody is doing that. As a result, there are more predators now, and all the rest of the small game is nearly gone.
 
Benton Lewis
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Location is key, it seems, and Maine sounds great.  I say it seems because i have not lived off the land without oil before so I cannot say.  I watched a documentary on YouTube about a tribe in Mongolia that lives off reindeer and that seems viable to live without oil.  Native Americans followed the buffalo.  Most civilizations in the past were based around the rivers and large bodies of water, which sustained enough fish and game for humans without them having to produce food, just hunt and gather.  This put a cap on human population but oil enabled a population explosion. 

The ocean seems to be the best source of sustainable, calorie positive food for humans.  Trapping both terrestrial and aquatic animals seems much more calorie positive than hunting and fishing.  I could imagine, in the right location, a calorie positive situation if people managed wild game in the right way.  No over hunting and fishing and doing things to increase the food supply for the wild animals, like increasing the natural supply of nut trees.

 
Wj Carroll
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Location: near Athens, GA
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There are many places where game is so prevalent that hunting can make the difference in securing protein/fat... meat.  Where I come from, in a very rural part of the Appalachian mountains, bears are very common.  I can easily take a bear a year and have far morre meat and fat than I need, plus a nice fur.  An average family could subsist on 1-2 bear, maybe two deer, a few wild birds... grouse, turkey, doves, etc could feed a small community.  Just across the mountain, people could live on ducks and geese, easily.  But, a bear is 300+ lbs of meat.  A deer, butchered, averaged around 75 lbs (white tail) of meat.   Most folks do not live in bear country.  That said, trot lines and net traps can yield at least as much catfish and snapping turtles in many places.  If you live in moose or elk country, then you can absolutely live on hunting.   Regardless, with very few exceptions, you cannot only live on wild game, but have enough to share, in most parts of both North and South America..... anywhere rural.  IF, and ONLY IF, you target small/medium game via trapping.  Too often, hunting does not secure meat.  Traps work while you do not.  Modern traps are humane.  Modern traps will fill your freezer or larder with beaver, groundhogs, raccoon, possum squirrels, rabbits, etc, etc.  And, I haven't even mentioned trapping wild hogs.... that, where I live, could feed most of the state would laws allow it.  Bill Mollison was a trapper.  Embrace it!  Then, there are frogs, crawfish, snails, salt water fish, shellfish.... etc.  Crows and pigeons are mighty fine meat.  Food is everywhere, but trapping will always yield more than hunting, with the exception of big game.
 
Harry Soloman
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Grew up hunting in Pennsylvania on state game lands.  Today that deer population is low due to mismanagement of the deer population over a period of time.  Mostly due to PA over selling licenses and mismanagement of the land, the two stresses make hunting today far different than in it was in my youth.  Today in the area you have to shoot at least a 5 point I believe.

Now, a friend of mine has land and camp and they only allow the shooting of 8 point bucks and they get them.  They manage the land effectively and care.  In comparison if we saw an 8 point today on the state land it is a rarity. 


I would think that hunting and homesteading would require a management practice that works towards ensuring a positive environment and population of the animals you will hunt with the land you have.   

Harvesting meat via hunting is a source of food but I believe you are better served raising animals for meat rather than depending on the amount of meat from hunting.  It has a place in my view but not as something to depend on.  Last year I did not get a deer nor did I even get a shot at a legal deer.  They do flaunt in the protected zones and I do not blame them.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I don't have a problem with hunting for meat.  I could easily be wild protein sufficient on my land  if I wanted to eat Rocky Mountain Ground Squirrel (a large gopher type critter), but I choose at this time not to.

I would argue any day that farming is not calorie negative if you have the systems in place.  A person can sufficiently rotate crops and animals to great caloric benefit as well as benefiting the soil, and these can surpass what would be produced on the same land in a wild setting.  This is particularly true with small animals like rabbits and chickens and farmed trout.

While hunting might seem to be caloric positive, big game is not always so easy to procure, particularly in hunting season, and particularly not if you don't have the right tags which go by lottery draw.  It has been proven that during hunting season many animals have adapted to rapidly escape into the concealing edges of the forest when humans approach... at least the ones who survive long enough to learn from the wise elders.  While it is generally easy to get a bear, many do not like to eat bear, and would rather a trophy sized bull moose or an elk, but trophy tags are hardest to get, and less than trophy sized creatures do not sustain the family for long without a garden or supermarket to supplement. 

I am a big fan of wild foraging, and spend time every year gathering berries, mushrooms, and greens from the wild, and these give a lot of great nutrients that give great value to my diet, but the bulk of my food comes from my garden; enough to eat, sell, and trade for bear meat.

I know plenty of hunters, and the ones with gardens are always happier and healthier then the ones without.    
 
Jese Anderson
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I live in Middle Tennessee.  We have a very healthy deer population.  So healthy that we can harvest a deer a day during the entire 5 month season. Since I own my own property I do not need a hunting license or deer tag.  I typically harvest 2 whitetail per year.  I end up with around 40lbs of meat per and the rest goes to the dogs and chickens.

I've probably taken over 100 whitetail over the past 30 years.  The last one I took literally died beside my woodpile.  I guess I shot it 60 yards from the house and it ran right towards the house and expired within 30 yards of the house.  Every evening I have 8-14 deer cross my property to get to a neighbor's farm.  Last year I only harvested one and it was on my first attempt and took 20 minutes.

I thought of raising meat goats and then looked at my wife and said: "With all of these deer running around why would  ever want to put up fencing and deal with meat goats".

2 deer per season is a lot of meat (around 80lbs) for a family.  This year we will be putting in a hog lot and intend on growing out 2 per season to add to the freezer, toss in our New Zealand White Rabbits, young cockerels, and hens that are not productive and we'll have plenty of meat for our family and the critters. I butcher everything myself also.

I don't consider myself a permie (although I do practice a lot of the theory), a homesteader, or a survivalist.  I am all about self-sustainability. I only own 12 acres but it's a perfect 12 acres with 4-5 acres that are tillable and the rest wooded...plus I have a spring fed creek literally running through my yard. I have no neighbors in sight and I'm 1/4 a mile back in the wood off the county road.  I can literally harvest deer and wild turkey from my yard during nearly every day of the seasons.  I take advantage of what mother nature has to offer.

My son and I also like to fish.  We love eating shell-cracker bluegill (some call them red ear) and it's nothing for us to take the boat to the lake that is 10 miles away and catch our limit (50 each) in about 2 hours.  They average in size from 9-11 inches and make the perfect filet.  Chickens and dogs love the scraps also.

If you are going to live the homesteader lifestyle, then I suggest you take every advantage of what mother nature offers.  I have access to my neighbors 500 acres for foraging.  Mainly I mushroom hunt for morels and chicken of the woods. 

I was raised by two "back to the country" wanna-be hippies in the early 70's.  Our property backed up to 15K acres of National Forest.  My parents turned me lose at the age of 12 to hunt (with a gun). I lived in the woods and consider myself to be a woodsman, this knowledge helps a lot when it comes to harvesting wild game.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Deer are abundant here. My tenant Randy, fired two shots last year and got two nice deer. He dragged  one of them 30 ft, with the truck, and the other one was shot on the road, so he backed up to it. One neighbor shoots his from an upper deck of the house, with his crossbow. That's pretty efficient, and stray arrows hit the dirt.

When my brother lived in Haida Gwaii which was then the Queen Charlotte Islands, he bagged 8 deer in one hour, two short of the limit. When the hunting is that good, there's no farming system that could possibly compete.

All of my growing is calorie positive. I don't use any petroleum, just shovel and rake. My wild harvesting is far more productive, giving me more production per hour of labor, than I get with time spent gardening. I'm not wandering around looking for things, I know where the blackberries, plums and apples are.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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My wild harvesting is far more productive, giving me more production per hour of labor, than I get with time spent gardening. I'm not wandering around looking for things, I know where the blackberries, plums and apples are.
  Agreed.  I know where I'm going and the places are generally more reliable than the garden, especially nettles.  I get far more enjoyment out of being out in the woods harvesting then I do in my garden as well, which I know is not a caloric thing, but it serves to take the place of getting out in the bush/hiking/exploring, so it saves those calories.
All of my growing is calorie positive. I don't use any petroleum, just shovel and rake.
Mine too.  I do use a truck sometimes to haul manure or hay.
When my brother lived in Haida Gwaii which was then the Queen Charlotte Islands, he bagged 8 deer in one hour, two short of the limit. When the hunting is that good, there's no farming system that could possibly compete.
  I too lived on Haida Gwaii for a time, but never hunted deer.  I did have a inter-tidal harvesting permit that allowed me to take clams and have a crab trap.  That and my garden plus deer traded in kind for labor was enough for me with the staples provided by commercial harvesting chantrelle mushrooms.  I lived like a king on a tiny fraction of what most city people live on. 
 
Jim Fry
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I think your thread headline is the problem. Hunting/gathering is not THE way to make homesteading possible. Hunting/gathering is ONE way to (try) to make homesteading possible.

We humans have existed for thousands of years hunting/gathering, ...when the gathering was good. We have also died when it wasn't. Folks have to be extremely knowledgeable and hard working to be a successful hunter/gatherers. Unless you are a person who can do what has almost never been done before (except of course in the Clan of the Cave Bear novels) being good at hunting/gathering takes generations of teaching and learning to be successful. You need to learn/be taught the how and why weather and seasons affect animal movement, how to read the weather so you are not caught out away from shelter from a sudden storm, learn how and when to harvest plants, how to preserve the extras of hunting (now that you've eaten the buffalo heart and liver, what do you do with the rest of it? You need to know proper salting, drying, smoking.). And if you don't butcher right, the meat is tainted or spoiled. If you pick the wrong plant, or the wrong part of the right plant, you can die, or have a failed medicine.

Hunting/gathering is a great way to feast or famine. Farming is better for a regular year around diet. Hunting/gathering gives you huge amounts of nuts at certain times, huge bar-b-cues on the occasions of success, lots of mushrooms when the rain and temp. is correct. But not so much of most things in deep winter. ....Plus hunting/gathering is not so much happily walking into the woods and harvesting natures bounty whenever you wish. There is actually a great deal of "agricultural" management required. To really be a good h/g you need to spread nuts in favorable areas to get new nut trees, help the crab apple trees to get enough sun light, not shoot a female deer just because its an easy shot, and rather wait for the harder to take buck. You need to occasionally move the watercress plants back upstream after a storm washes them downstream. --You need to know and manage your environment just as much hunting/gathering as farming, to be successful. And, of course, you need to know what to eat to keep yourself healthy. You can fill up to overfull everyday by eating rabbits. but you will die if you do. You can eat lots of muscle meats to feel satisfied, but your teeth will fall out from lack of certain vitamins.

There is no easy way, or magic bullet to keep food on the table. Its all work. Its sort of a question of do you feel lucky, or do you like to hoe. For more info. you might want to visit www.survivalschool.com. By some accounts its the best such school in the U.S. Its a giant first step to learning what you need to know. You wrote, "...just like they were for our ancestors.". Well, most of our ancestors died when they headed off to the easy promised land. It was actually only the really knowledgeable ones who had hopes of making it. ---P.S. And that was long before the natural "resources" were so drastically depleted as they are now.
 
Wes Hunter
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Benton Lewis wrote:Seems homesteading focuses on the gathering aspect like planting the plants you can gather food from.  That is a good thing; however, I think the way homesteading can really be sustainable is through focusing on the hunting aspect.  I think its all about wildlife management.


I think it'd be more accurate to say that homesteading focuses on food acquisition generally.

Wild plants can't really reliably sustain people and farming is a negative calorie input, if trying to grow enough to survive on without utilizing oil.


Humans farmed for a very long time before the advent of petroleum.  I don't think they all died out, so it can't be entirely calorie negative, can it?

Hunting is a great way to acquire food, for a variety of reasons, and I greatly enjoy hunting, but to claim that hunting is THE way to survive, for all people in all places at all times, is missing the mark (pardon the pun) by a wide shot.
 
John Weiland
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Benton Lewis wrote:

Wild animals take care of themselves and hunting and fishing are calorie positive today just like they were for our ancestors. 



Even more so if you don't have to expend the energy to hunt them:  http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/winter-01012015/article/study-lends-new-support-to-theory-that-early-humans-were-scavengers
 
Jarret Hynd
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As a few people have pointed out, the title and arguments put forth in the OP are a bit off with assumptions on homesteading.

Wild plants can't really reliably sustain people


This comment is confusing, as Homesteading is domesticating a piece of "wild land" to gain reliable security for one's well-being. I'm wondering why this quote would assume a homesteader would attempt to rely onNature exclusively, when that seems to be the opposite of what is normally done which is creating a static home/yard + a food system to provide for yourself.

farming is a negative calorie input, if trying to grow enough to survive on without utilizing oil.


If you are talking about exclusively farming Annual plants, which even includes things like tomatoes, corn etc, it could probably be said to be a hesitant yes. (though the quote made has many potential angles and is to vague in general to gain any real context from)

But permaculture general focuses on perennials which reduces the workload of an individual overall which Homesteaders have no grievance with. As a quick example, pretty much every farm yard here has rhubarb, asparagus and crabapples. I collect 25 pounds of asparagus from one unmanaged 4'x40' row and this happens every single year for the last 20 years. (so I'm told by the previous owners)

Then when considering nut shrubs or nut trees, this calorie problem you bring up is not hard to achieve at all.

Wild animal and plant foods are the key to sustainability, with wild animal foods being the staples and making it calorie positive.


I would argue animal meat is one of many staples, such as potatoes, (wild) rice, taro and Jerusalem artichokes etc, which are all ways to get plenty of calories.

As a basic system, give me 20 chickens, which I can fit in a small, manageable area next to my house, and I not only have plenty of eggs to eat, but a couple of chickens to eat a year. To give you a different world perspective, as your mindset seems to be only on North America: in Vietnam people make small ponds and grow enough fish/prawn to feed themselves along side vegetable/rice production. There is no need to rely on The Wild when you can create your own reliable system(cattle/pigs/chicken) of food production.

---

I'm not against hunting to feed yourself, but the title brings forth the idea that vegetarians have little chance to successfully homestead, or even people who don't want to do any hunting, which is simply not accurate.
 
Benton Lewis
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Yes I am thinking of North America here.  To me, homesteading means trying to be self-sufficient on the smallest scale possible, i.e, a small property management by one family or individual.  Or at least that is the angle of how i am thinking of homesteading now.  With domesticated animals like chickens, you have to bring them food and I have not found a way to keep an animal in a fenced area fed without relying at least a little on the world outside a person's homestead. 

Humans can only eat a small percentage of the plants in the world.  The animals we eat can, in aggregate, eat a much higher percentage of plants.  Traditional farming, to a large degree, has focused on farming foods for humans.  Are any homesteaders/permaculturalist focusing on breeding/planting semi-wild staple crops for wild animals with the goal of feeding the animals so they can feed humans?  I know about mainstream hunters putting out food plots and such to fatten the deer up for trophy hunting, but I'm talking about homesteaders doing it to increase there food supply, not just casual hunting.

I respect non-meat eaters.  I was thinking of myself, a meat eater, in the OP.  The OP would be better to ask how much easier would homesteading be if the hunting opportunities on a homestead are maximized.  That way, i don't get into the situation of making it appear like those who answer the question think hunting is "the" way to do homesteading. 

Like many people, I dream of living off the resources of just the small amount of property I own with no outside resources being brought in.  Don't know how small that area could be for me in my areas given land I can get and afford. My thought process is that keeping food as wild as possible seems to make homesteading easier and maybe if more focus was put on wildlife management (maximizing the amount of wild game in an area), instead of the domestication of animals, maybe things would be easier.
 
Wes Hunter
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Benton Lewis wrote:Yes I am thinking of North America here.  To me, homesteading means trying to be self-sufficient on the smallest scale possible, i.e, a small property management by one family or individual.  Or at least that is the angle of how i am thinking of homesteading now.  With domesticated animals like chickens, you have to bring them food and I have not found a way to keep an animal in a fenced area fed without relying at least a little on the world outside a person's homestead.


This seems a strange comment.  Plenty of people have homesteads with enough land to grow feed for a variety of livestock, without relying on the outside world.  And plenty of people don't have enough land for that, or do but don't utilize it that way, and so purchase feed from elsewhere.  This is not an inherently bad thing, nor is it historically abnormal.

The funny thing about hunting in this context is that you are by default dependent on the "world outside" the homestead.  A deer's home range, for example, will far exceed that of the average small homestead, so if hunting is THE way to make homesteading work, then homesteading, as you have defined it, isn't working.

In other words, with hunting you'd be willing to rely on the "world outside" for acorns, but not for corn.

I think you're making the mistake of assuming that "homesteading" is about drawing an arbitrary boundary and saying that you're going to rely on just what can be produced within that boundary, which is both historically abnormal and probably impossible to boot.  Self-sufficiency is a nice idea (sometimes), but there is a reason traditional groups (of all sorts) lived in communities and not individually.  "True" self-sufficiency tends to be a response to an incredibly adverse situation, such as being stranded in the wilderness, and not a volunteer effort, doesn't it?

Maybe I'm interpreting this all wrong, but it sounds like you have an idea of what you want to do, and you're trying to figure out how to do it within certain confines (real and imagined).  If that's the case, I would suggest starting a new thread with exactly what it is you're looking for, which would probably be much more helpful for you than threads on general overarching ideas whose bases seem inaccurate to start with.
 
Benton Lewis
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Responses help me to refine my question so I know exactly what to ask.  Thanks! Native groups of people and wild animals they ate had a range they lived in, which could be viewed as a boundary.  I wander how small a range/boundary you would need to produce all food needed in it.  I'm trying to think of how to do it myself in my area so that leads to a bunch of unspoken assumptions/limits to my thinking. 

You say "Plenty of people have homesteads with enough land to grow feed for a variety of livestock, without relying on the outside world."  Who?
 
David Livingston
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Whom
Well I could if I wanted to
Chickens are quite productive and the little darlings could if I so wished live on the Berrys chestnuts walnuts hazel nuts acorns and bugs on the two hectares here at La Ravardière .
I don't because I quite like other meats but I could if I wanted too . It's a question of choice as well as need and circumstance same as veg production .
I could plant potatoes and survive on those with some herbs and the occasional pig as my ancestors did for generations .
Would it not be easier to decide what you want and then work out how to get there ?
 
Wes Hunter
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Benton Lewis wrote:You say "Plenty of people have homesteads with enough land to grow feed for a variety of livestock, without relying on the outside world."  Who?


You want all their names?

How about a generic example?

One acre of corn, producing a conservative 60 bushels per acre, at 56 lbs. of shelled corn per bushel, would be 3360 lbs.

One adult laying hen requires about 1/4 lb. of grain per day (assuming one is feeding grain).  Twelve hens would thus require 3 lb. per day, or 1095 lb. per year.  That'll get you plenty of eggs, plus a little meat besides.

Now you've got 2265 lb. left.  Two hogs, fattened to butcher weight, will consume about 1600 lb. of this.  That's no small amount of pork.

Now you're left with 665 lb.  That's a lot of cornmeal.  Or add some more livestock.

And that's all assuming a rather modest yield of 60 bushels to the acre.  (Commercial yields, using hybrid seed and applied fertilizers, are often going to be in the ballpark of 200 bushels per acre.)

And I haven't even mentioned the possibility of intercropping beans and squash to further increase total yield from that acre.

And that's all from one acre.  Add in another acre for housing, kitchen garden, and orchard, and that's a lot of food.  Another acre of good grass will keep a milk cow and her calf.  A three acre homestead, and you're doing rather well.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Benton Lewis wrote:farming is a negative calorie input.


At my place, 3-5  hours of labor spread over a growing season, provides enough rye flour to feed me for a week.  So that works out to less than an hour of labor per week of food. Rye is the easiest low-input low-maintenance high-calories crop that I can grow on my farm. It grows feral in my community, and can easily be wildcrafted or grown horticulturally.

 
r ranson
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Benton Lewis wrote:farming is a negative calorie input.


I'm curious what this means.  If it was, humanity would have died out as soon as we adopted agriculture.  I can't see how this applies to all farming.  Perhaps it refers to a specific style of farming?

A couple of years back, I calculated out how much land I would need to provide fuel, food, and fodder, clothing, and enough income to repair buildings and infrastructure, for my household in my climate.  It came to just over one hectare.   Not included in this calculation was salt, trace mineral supplements (our region is dangerously low in some of these) and the electricity to run the well.  Since then, I've worked on developing ways to grow food in our climate without water (in a region with 6 months of zero rain most summers) which, at the moment, double the space needed to produce the same calories.  With some more earth works, I hope to get that down to half again.  If I were to gather seaweed and other salt water resources, I could avoid importing minerals and salt.

Labour wise, it takes about one hour a day plus more for big projects (20 minutes for planting here, 1 hour for harvest there).  A total of about 10 hours a week averaged throughout the year.  

I didn't think to include hunting in my calculations.  Hunting in my mind is an emergency source of food.  We could eat the bullfrogs in the pond.  Snare rabbits.  Hunt venison.  But we don't eat a lot of meat.  The aged or injured livestock provide enough meat for us that hunting doesn't factor into our calculations for making a homestead viable.
 
Benton Lewis
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Wes Hunter wrote:One acre of corn, producing a conservative 60 bushels per acre, at 56 lbs. of shelled corn per bushel, would be 3360 lbs.

One adult laying hen requires about 1/4 lb. of grain per day (assuming one is feeding grain).  Twelve hens would thus require 3 lb. per day, or 1095 lb. per year.  That'll get you plenty of eggs, plus a little meat besides.


How many eggs can you get if you are only feeding them that much corn?  Chickens are fine on corn diet alone as pigs are too?  Just an acre of grass is all you need to feed a cow and her baby?  Your corn will reproduce on your land and you can keep saving the seed of the corn and keep your corn alive through the generations without acquiring outside corn seed once you get the initial corn seed to start?
 
David Livingston
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Benton
We would all like to help you on your journey I think but I personally feel a bit unclear where you want to go ?
What would you like to do ? What is your ideal situation and how can we help you get there ?
What do you mean by viable ?

David
 
Benton Lewis
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David Livingston wrote:Whom
Well I could if I wanted to
Chickens are quite productive and the little darlings could if I so wished live on the Berrys chestnuts walnuts hazel nuts acorns and bugs on the two hectares here at La Ravardière .
I don't because I quite like other meats but I could if I wanted too . It's a question of choice as well as need and circumstance same as veg production .
I could plant potatoes and survive on those with some herbs and the occasional pig as my ancestors did for generations .
Would it not be easier to decide what you want and then work out how to get there ?


Two hectares is about 5 acres.  Nuts and roots are key being well fed.  How many pounds of nuts are produced on your five acres?  How would you feed the nuts to the chickens?  Grind them all up and throw them in the pen?  You can buy potatoes once and then propagate them through the generations without having to buy more seed potatoes?  How would you ensure you had enough potatoes for the rest of your life without getting some from the outside world?  Can you just live off hogs and potatoes and some herbs?  Who is feeding the pigs?  Your nut trees produce in succession (because they don't produce each year) enough each year to provide you with a steady supply of food?
 
Benton Lewis
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r ranson wrote:
Benton Lewis wrote:farming is a negative calorie input.


I'm curious what this means.  If it was, humanity would have died out as soon as we adopted agriculture.  I can't see how this applies to all farming.  Perhaps it refers to a specific style of farming?



I know they survived but I don't know how?  Was it just domesticated agriculture alone?  I just have a hunch they had to be helped by wild food, primarily fish in the large bodies of water and big game that take care of themselves and in america, the wild american chestnut. 
 
David Livingston
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I have five Walnut trees they produce at the moment about 40kg a year my oaks produce over 100 kg of acorns ( I hit them with a hammer and they make chicken feed ) I could also feed pigs on these that plus the 40 plus fruit trees ( apple pear plum medlar keep me going and would keep chickens going too never mind feeding my veggie waste to them

David
 
Benton Lewis
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David Livingston wrote:Benton
We would all like to help you on your journey I think but I personally feel a bit unclear where you want to go ?
What would you like to do ? What is your ideal situation and how can we help you get there ?
What do you mean by viable ?

David


Well there is some land i am thinking of buying near a creek with lots of fish.  That seems like it would be the main way I could live on that land without any outside help besides the creek with leads to the river off my land and so forth.  I would like to live there and bring in plants that i could just plant once and they take care of themselves and me after that, no saving seed and planting anymore.  I could hunt on that land too, but I don't think its big enough to really maximize the wild game population there.  So I thought the wild game issue is what I am missing for my version of viable which means survive on my property without outside input beyond the initial set-up.  If I had all kinds of wild animals come on the land, that and the fish, I could live there "viably". 

I don't know how large of an area it would take, but increasing the amount of food for and population of wild game that you eat seems the easiest way to do what I would like to do.  Wild game can eat more types of vegetation than we can as I think we can only eat a very small amount of the available vegetation in the world.  Wild game eat the rest so maybe it would be easier to breed and plant plants that maximize food for wild game rather than directly for ourselves.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Benton: Rather than trying to answer your questions mathematically, I'll answer with my life experience.

I grew up on a small farm. We fed ourselves from the farm and the surrounding wildlands. It was a very typical rural farm with honeybees, chickens, geese, sheep, horses, a milk cow and her calf, pigs, pigeons, rabbits, rowcrops, pasture, orchard, hay. We hunted deer, and gamebirds. We fished the nearby river. We foraged for greens and fruits. We ate an occasional rattle snake, sparrow, or squirrel. (Family policy was that if you killed an animal that you had to eat it.)  With moderate labor, we grew an abundance of food to feed a very large family, and had plenty left over to gift to the community and sell at the farmer's market. And we did it with very little labor (an hour or two per day, and a half day on weekends).

Another anecdotal example: At my place, a colony of bees produces about 110,000 calories of harvested honey per year, so if that was the only thing I ate, it would supply enough calories for about 2 months. The yearly labor cost is a few hours. Similar returns on labor are very common with many of the crops that I grow.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Benton Lewis wrote:I could hunt on that land too, but I don't think its big enough to really maximize the wild game population there.  


Offer the wild game food, water, and shelter, and they will flock in from miles around. Most of the deer that we harvest from our farm do not live there full time, they are just passing through. Same with the game birds.

My apiary only occupies about 200 square feet. I provide shelter and water to the bees. They collect food from about 12 square miles around my place and bring it home with them.
 
Wes Hunter
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Benton Lewis wrote:
Wes Hunter wrote:One acre of corn, producing a conservative 60 bushels per acre, at 56 lbs. of shelled corn per bushel, would be 3360 lbs.

One adult laying hen requires about 1/4 lb. of grain per day (assuming one is feeding grain).  Twelve hens would thus require 3 lb. per day, or 1095 lb. per year.  That'll get you plenty of eggs, plus a little meat besides.


How many eggs can you get if you are only feeding them that much corn?  Chickens are fine on corn diet alone as pigs are too?  Just an acre of grass is all you need to feed a cow and her baby?  Your corn will reproduce on your land and you can keep saving the seed of the corn and keep your corn alive through the generations without acquiring outside corn seed once you get the initial corn seed to start?


It sounds like you're just barely starting out and know very little about a lot, so I think, honestly, you'd be much better served by going to your local library and checking out a bunch of books on homesteading.  Or buy John Seymour's Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency.  Do a bunch of reading, get a better grip on the concept as a whole, then check back to have specific questions answered.
 
David Livingston
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Ok Benton that's a bit more concrete for folks like me
Why don't you share some pics and ask for folks ideas
For instance I know it's hard work to start but I am a bit fan of deer parks once set up the deer come to you or even a heligoland trap for wild fowl .
Like Joseph I am a big fan of bees .
Tree crops are great but take time to mature - read some of the threads here on apple trees , how some folks are very intensive whilst other very extensive .

David
 
Su Ba
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Another aspect to consider is diet variety and sustainability.

Sounds like your location has fish, but how many months of the year? And if you eat one a day, is the population great enough to support that harvest? Other meat sources could be.....if they exist in your area.....deer, beer, coyote, raccoon, opossum, rabbit, squirrel, snake, rat, mice, birds. Again, you'd have to monitor the population to see what would be sustainable. Then there's things like insects, slugs, worms, etc to fall back on.

Fruit and nut trees are a good option, but you'll need to match the varieties to your location and figure out how many you'd need for your annual needs. Berries are another good option. But there are plenty of other perennials that you could add, depending if they'd do well. Besides the usual ones that people often plant, you could think outside the box and add asters, hosta, day lily, that sort of thing. But again, sustainability is a key factor. How much would you need to initially plant to support yourself year around?. In my own experience, the plants that I forage from are not nearly as productive as those that I tend in my garden plots. And besides, if it's the roots that you're harvesting, it will require that you replant.

Now consider variety. How much variety do you need in your diet to be content? Would eating acorn flour/venison stew for three months straight drive you insane? My own hubby needs variety to stay in a good mood. Thus I grow a good variety of things on this farm.

While I forage, I don't hunt. But I trade with hunters, thus bringing meat to my farm by trading my excess vegetables.
 
r ranson
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Benton Lewis wrote:
r ranson wrote:
Benton Lewis wrote:farming is a negative calorie input.


I'm curious what this means.  If it was, humanity would have died out as soon as we adopted agriculture.  I can't see how this applies to all farming.  Perhaps it refers to a specific style of farming?



I know they survived but I don't know how?  Was it just domesticated agriculture alone?  I just have a hunch they had to be helped by wild food, primarily fish in the large bodies of water and big game that take care of themselves and in america, the wild american chestnut. 


It depends on where in the world, ecological resources and cultural structure.  In the areas I've researched, hunting was relatively unusual.  Much of Asia had no hunting in the general population but did do wild crafting.  (see the book "Just Enough" for a starting place)

The part of England where my family came from, most of the population got their calories purely from farming, as well as providing about half the food for the city of London.  Maybe 10% of the population hunted (land owners, game keepers, and poachers).  By the Victoria Period, more of the food came from overseas, like sugar and grain, but transport was still mostly by sail boat and grown by hand with the aid of draft animals.  A good starting place to understand what food was like in pre-industrial England is Mrs Beeton's book of household management.    Many of her recipes are variations on medieval meals. 

Much of understanding how to make a homestead sustainable is understanding that our current day thinking of food, calories, and cooking is historically abnormal.  Change the way we think about these things, and it quickly becomes obvious how people thrived in a pre-industrial context. 

Hunting can help in some context, but is it necessary?  I don't think it is.
 
Marcus Billings
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This thread has covered a lot of ground, but it seems the original post is putting forth the idea that hunting "might" be more or at least "as" effective for homesteading than traditional gardening?  Homesteading in itself has evolved as a word, and especially in regards to permaculture.  A hundred years ago homesteading meant striking out for the unknown wilds and carving out your little piece of the world.  Those folks didn't really look at it as being "self sufficient", they just had to do it to survive until enough people populated the area and a mill opened up and they could begin to specialize.  (I'm speaking primarily about North America here).  Today it seems we've merged homesteading and self-sufficiency into one thing, which is fine.  The comments that follow are in that vein, hunting as it relates to self sufficiency.

I came into permaculture from kind of a side street--deer hunting.  As I became aware that better habitat would afford me better deer hunting, I invested a lot of time in food plots, hinge-cutting, planting perennials, mineral supplements, etc. Learning how a climax forest is really a food desert for deer had me changing a lot of the areas on my property so that the food energy was at a level deer could access.  I've spent the last ten years making the property I'm on a deer heaven.  I take one to two deer every year by bow.  During that time I also learned the holding capacity of different types of land. If you want more deer, increase the biomass that they prefer.   I originally increased the biomass of the property for the deer.  Now I plant a lot of stuff for me as well.

I've said all that to preference this: Regardless of where you talking about, you can very quickly deplete the hunting resources of a given area if that is your primary food supply. 

If storage is available, one deer would last me and my wife about three weeks if that was all we were eating (depends on deer size). That's a lot of deer if we stretch that out to a year.  Even if you take a few days off to eat squirrel (good), birds (good), rabbits (good), raccoon (not very good), turtle (okay, but not a big fan), I would still wipe out most the indigenous animals within 12 months on the 100 acres I look after.  And if there was a SHTF situation where every person is hunting anything they can catch, we're talking about two months before you wouldn't even see pigeons on the streets of Chicago.  You can over-hunt an area much faster than you would believe.  Not saying there aren't areas that don't have a lot of animals, but if you're hunting less than a thousand acres and you're dropping the hammer every other day, those are going to be some pretty quiet woods after a couple weeks. As the world stands now, there are property lines that will stop you from expanding your hunting zone, and the animals will eventually steer clear of your area.

Hunting and fishing are GREAT "supplements" to a more natural eating regimen, but it starts with the sun and the flora.  Everything you're hunting is eating something that's green or is eating something that ate something green, so plants and land management really need to be a part of the equation if you want to be self sufficient.  For me that involves planting perennials like chestnuts, clover, cherry trees, apples, pears, hazelnuts, lamb's quarter, etc. and mixing it with wild plants and animals.  My chickens are silvo-pasture.  I have them mainly for eggs and they're fun to watch.  Might add pigs in the future, but regardless, the plants are necessary for all of it to work. Just my thoughts on an interesting dialog.


 
Travis Johnson
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I will say that my Grandparents were the most self-sufficient people that I ever knew, and I have seen a lot of people come to our area of Maine to try. They did it primarily through farming and diversity.

Hunting is not a bad thing, but here in the USA at least, having a farm means a lot more lenient laws regarding hunting. The average homeowner or even hunter is not allowed to kill a fox, but a farmer can always claim they are killing his chickens and put it down, or a crow, or most any animal under the excuse of protecting your way of life. In Maine they are now pushing through laws that will allow farmers to shoot deer out of season! It is a way of protecting deer for veggie farmers!

The other aspect of hunting and fishing that no one has said yet has more to deal with time than calorie burning. I had a friend that thought he would try hunting, walked out and in 5 minutes shot a record weighing deer on his first attempt at hunting, but I have known far more that have hunted for years and never shot one at all. Hunting takes time, but in the same time it would take to hunt a deer, I can put up sheep fence and have the maximum pounds of lamb per acre sustainably raised. Considering that fence that took two days to put up will last 3 years, and it quickly becomes apparent, calorie and time wise, it is a very efficient fence.

Pastures are inefficient however compared to greenhouses. Even in Maine greenhouses can provide food year around. The cost for return on value is so cheap, especially with the cheap hoop houses of today, more people should have them. Our outside micro-garden alone produces amazing amounts of food, and this is Maine with a very short growing season. We live well, partly because of planning. We grow (2) rows of about everything. One row being for harvest at peak, ideal times for canning/freezing, but the other, those are for summer meals. Yes the carrots are short, the potatoes small, but its fresh tasting summer meals!! The secondary rows can feed us in the winter. All this sounds like a lot of work time, but really is not, not in comparison to grabbing a gun and going hiking through the woods in hopes of finding wildlife in which you can get a killing shot off. Or spending lots of time casting a fishing line into water that no fish are willing to bite at. In fact the latter is the reason the Irish had the Great Potato Famine. The fish stayed farther off shore during that period, and weakened by a lack of food, the Irishmen could not row so far out to sea and catch them. Depleted soil and a peasant-hierarchy type of system added to the death toll.

My grandparents were a great inspiration, but even as a full-time sheep farmer, I fall well short of being fully-sustainable. Still I can tell people this, we all have 24 hours in a day, it is what we do with it that matters. In self-sufficiency, it better be every hour meeting some need.

 
Benton Lewis
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Marcus Billings wrote: Learning how a climax forest is really a food desert for deer had me changing a lot of the areas on my property so that the food energy was at a level deer could access. 


Could you elaborate on this?  If by climax you mean old and mature, I always assumed mature oaks were how deer really thrived. 

 
Benton Lewis
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So would the consensus be that if one planted nut trees and all the other high calorie nutrient dense foods, domesticated animals could make better use of them for humans than could wild animals like deer?  Deer and other wild animals should not be farmed as they make use of unfarmed land and are just bonuses you can kill for extra meat?
 
Wj Carroll
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Every element should provide at least 3 functions and every process be supported by at least 3 elements, if memory serves.  So, land can produce plant food for humans, plant food for livestock, plant food for wild animals, plant food for plants (mulch, compost, etc).  Livestock produces food for humans, manure for plants and pest control.  Wildlife can be food for humans, manure/browse/pruning and Zone 5 inspiration/relaxation/beauty.  Does that sound about right?  I prefer trapping of fish and game, trot lines, etc to hunting to conserve energy...  but, I think that is the general idea in Permaculture terms.
 
Marcus Billings
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Benton Lewis wrote:
Marcus Billings wrote: Learning how a climax forest is really a food desert for deer had me changing a lot of the areas on my property so that the food energy was at a level deer could access. 


Could you elaborate on this?  If by climax you mean old and mature, I always assumed mature oaks were how deer really thrived. 



Hi Benton, yes, that's what I mean, mature hardwood forest.  Oaks, Beech, Hickory, mature enough for a closed canopy in the summer, etc. 

Deer really only hit Oak ridges as a food source for a week to a month depending on the species of Oak tree, timing of the acorn fall, and what kind of acorn drop it had.  As the winter progresses they will return intermittently to hunt for acorns that they missed in the fall or ones that squirrels buried.   In those closed canopy forests where you can see for 50 to 100 yards, they lack the cover to feel secure and there's not really a lot of browse for them to eat.  It's a common misconception that these park-like settings are good habitat for deer, but they aren't.   Deer pass through these forests, but the best habitat for deer is three to four years after a clear-cut.  At that stage there's a whole bunch of woody browse right at the 2 to 6 foot level for them to eat.  In most areas without man-made sources of food (food plots, corn and soy bean fields, etc.) most a whitetail deer's diet is comprised of the bud ends of small bushes and trees.  That's why hinge cutting trees works so well for creating deer browse.  It brings edible bud wood down to their level and promotes new growth by opening the canopy.
 
Mark Tudor
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Hunting and fishing are both "bonus" resources in modern day USA, and you can't rely on them for food in a consistent manner. Remote homesteads might do better, because they are remote and not the norm. But as mentioned before if everyone were doing it like in a SHTF scenario, most of the deer and elk and bears, oh my, would be wiped out in the first year.

Domesticated animals fed on a permaculture-based property can be much more reliable with far less or no external inputs. You could also build an aquaculture or aquaponic system to raise your own fish if you wanted, and if you had a way to keep the fingerlings from being eaten by adults and your temps didn't kill them off it would be sustainable.

Just my opinion, but I think you would do well if you planted a variety of fruit and nut trees/bushes for your area, companion planting to improve soil fertility for them, perennial vegetables throughout, a wide range of flowering plants for pollinators, an apiary, and a square-foot garden for annuals you would eventually have a productive, low maintenance property. Toss in some chickens and ducks and work out a rotation to feed them from all the established plants, and you have reliable eggs and meat for the amount of work. Having to milk a goat or cow puts you on a specific daily routine, so having several people that can be available for that would be important.

All of that takes planning and design and time, or lots of money if you want to use less time. Trees from seed= lots of time, 25' tall trees brought in on a semi and planted by crane=lots of money! Hunting itself can be helpful. My dad grew up really poor, so after school he would hunt birds off phone lines that ran along railroad tracks, or rabbit. Once he got a pellet gun that was easy, and was the only way they had reliable meat on the table but it was just a supplement.

I agree with other suggestions to read up on the many books out there on various homesteading topics, canning and preserving is a big one for year round food too. What is your time frame for buying land? Will you still be working a 9-5 job for income to supplement your income for food etc?
 
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