Yesterday I put up a post on the subject of living off the land and how hard it can be. Now by living off the land I am not talking about homesteading, I am talking about living the life of a hunter-gatherer. Today I want to add some additional information on the subject of living off the land. I know some people disagree with the statements, I made yesterday about how hard it is.
In 1803 when the Lewis and Clark expedition crossed from what was then the United States to the Pacific Ocean they kept excellent records of many things including what they ate. Now admittedly this was a hard trip and they burned a lot of calories.
The group consisted of 33 men with an occasional additional person for short periods of time. They started the trip with nearly 7 tons of dry foods, including flour, salt, coffee, pork, meal, corn, sugar, beans, lard and 3 bushels of salt. This included 193 lbs of portable soup, which was made by boiling down beef, eggs and vegetables into a thick past and drying it.
William Clark stated the following about their needs for food, “It requires 4 deer, or an elk and a deer, or one buffalo to supply us for 24 hours”. Each man consumed nine pounds of meat per day, when available.
Raymond Darwin Burroughs tallied the quantity of game killed and consumed during the 2 years and 4 months the trip took. This included the following.
- Deer (all species combined) 1,001
- Elk 375
- Bison 227
- Antelope 62
- Big horn sheep 35
- Bears, grizzly 43
- Bears, black 23
- Beaver (shot or trapped) 113
- Otter 16
- Geese and Brant 104
- Grouse (all species) 46
- Turkeys 9
- Plovers 48
- Wolves (only one eaten) 18
- Indian dogs (purchased and consumed) 190
- Horses 12
This list does not include the smaller animals that were killed and eaten by the Corps, such as hawk, coyote, fox, crow, eagle, gopher, muskrat, seal, whale blubber, turtle, mussels, crab, salmon, and trout. It also does not include the food provide by the Indians.
The Mandan tribe of North Dakota provided them with corn, squash, and beans; the Chinooks who lived along Washington’s Columbia River introduced them to wapato ( a starchy tuber), and the Clastops from the Oregon coast traded elk, wild licorice root, and berries. The 3 bushels of salt that they carried with them was insufficient and they had to extract salt from seawater by boiling it to cause evaporation. They needed the extra salt for food preservation.
The expedition included experienced hunters and traveled though thinly populated areas where game was relatively plentiful and still had periods of hunger. On many nights, they went to bed hungry and sometimes went days without eating.
Living of the land is not an easy existence. It takes work and experience. I believe that you need to stock a substantial supply of food and learn everything you can about gardening and living off the land as a means to supplement your food storage and life may still be hard.