So you're going to move out into the woods and build you a cabin. You're going to trap that fresh spring water. Hunt and live off of the land. What a great life! It is if you're on a Hollywood set somewhere. I'm sorry. Hate to burst anybody's bubble. But it's just not going to happen.
Most of us have seen the older movie, Jeremiah Johnson. It's a great movie about a man that is not happy with the way life was and, "It should have been different." Like I said, great movie,
beautiful scenery, good story line, but that's the Hollywood version of it. The book version, Mountain Man, by Vardis Fisher goes into more detail about the story. In the book, on occasion, he has contact with and trades with the Indians. He goes to a town for items like flour, tobacco, whiskey, black powder and the whole gamut of things that a person cannot make for themselves.
necessary to forge an axe head on the back of a horse heading up the side of a mountain. Don't get me wrong, it would be nice to be totally self-sufficient, but man has been trading with other men since the times of Cain and Able.
So. I think a person could do it for a couple of years. But it's still going to be real, real difficult. You have to have vegetables. What I mean by that is a lot of us tend to think that man lives by meat alone, and I happen to
be one of them. But I remember reading an account of Lewis and Clark when they were just shy of the Pacific Ocean and were holed up for a winter. The men complained about only having elk meat to eat. In our time right now, elk is considered one of the finer meats of the deer family. But can you imagine eating it for every meal for weeks and weeks? These guys weren't a bunch of little, sissy boys. The Lewis and Clark team were veteran, experienced outdoorsmen.
A number of years back, we were camping with another couple in an extremely remote part of Alaska. This guy was a biologist with the Federal Fish and Game in the area. I was about to drink from a fresh stream flowing from the melting snow when he advised me, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." It seems that most wild animals have been exposed to man and the viruses and parasites that he carries, and that there are very, very few safe streams to drink out of anywhere. So I took his advice and filtered my water.
Now what about that log cabin you're going to build? Do we even need to talk about nails, screws, windows, doors, flooring? So, let's say you don't build a cabin and you have a nice little homestead. Do you know how to garden? I know it seems that you stick a seed in the ground and when it grows up it will feed you. But did you know that rabbits like squash? And so do deer. And I'm not sure, but probably even elk like a nice, tasty squash. Not to mention the gazillion bugs that also like squash. Okay. So. Too much water. Too little water. Too hot. Too cold. Give it some thought. What kind of fertilizer are you going
to use? Are you going to buy it by the ton at the local co-op? Are you going to scrape it out of your chicken house? Oh, by the way, chicken manure has a very high nitrogen content and you can't apply it directly to your future squash plant, it will burn it. That's assuming you have a chicken house and you have chickens and you have chicken feed.
Yesterday I doctored a chicken's hiney. There is a gland right at the top of the tail of a chicken's hiney. And for some reason, I don't know why, chickens like to peck this area. Occasionally, when pulling out a feather
there will be a little blood spot. The color red to a chicken is similar to a matador's cape to a bull. Which is the reason you don't see ranchers wearing red shirts, but that's a different story. I just made that up about the rancher. But the chicken blood, is real. Chickens will obsessively peck at the color red until they eat that chicken. So, do you have Pick No More in your pocket to treat that chicken's hiney? Didn't think so. What are you going to do?
Okay, but, back to the chicken manure that you can't put in the garden because it will burn the seed. What are you going to use? Compost?
Yep, compost will work. I'll just get me one of those little green barrels and fill it up with organic matter and twirl it around once a week. Through the magic of mother nature and decomposition, you have compost. But you open up your little plastic barrel and it looks just like it did when you put it in there. Well, gee willickers! I guess mother nature is smarter than I am. I have tried to compost unsuccessfully for decades. I know the guy on the TV gardening show makes it looks easy, but remember they have the ability to edit, I don't. Could I learn how to compost? Probably. Have I ever been successful? No.
That squash looks a little tougher to grow all the time, doesn't it? When I'm spending all day long trying to forge that ax head, I'm probably not going to have a lot of time for that squash seed. And I'm getting real tired of eating elk meat, but by golly, I'm going to get that ax head made if it's the last thing I ever do. And it might be the last thing you ever do.
Okay. So we decide to give up and we're going to drive down the hill in the car where the gasoline came from the Middle East, transported in a
super tanker made somewhere in Greece, with an electronics navigation system made by a Japanese company outsourced to China. And what about the tires on that car? The good Lord only knows where the tires were manufactured, but the rubber for the tire came from somewhere in some jungle that I can't say. Gettin' hungry yet? By the way, the Lewis and Clark expedition was complaining about eating boiled elk, not barbecued. So, how is that squash seed doing?
Now what I've done here is taken two items, a squash seed and an axe head. Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of items that are in our houses and cars everyday that we take for granted? Nuts, bolts, thread, wires, metal, plastic, wood, and the list is endless. If you want to read a good series, read Laura Ingalls Wilder - about seven or eight little books. It will give you a pretty good idea and perspective about a self-sustaining type of living. These were tough, tough people.
Okay. So. Let's say you have a house, a chicken pen, you've got some goats, your garden's growing, you've had some water wells dug and they're producing. Now you've got a chicken pen for your chickens. For your goats you've got a barn, corral and adequate fencing. And you're good at repairing your fence that your neighbors cut during deer season. Life is good.
Then one day here comes walking up the tax man. You will never, ever be totally self-sufficient. Not to mention all of the items that you use every day of your life. At some time or another, most will need to be replaced. And that is if you have good health, no problems, you never need to go to a dentist or doctor or a psychiatrist. Okay.
But I want to let you know that it is fun trying to be self-sufficient. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
We'll talk more later. Frank