Learning Native Plants

Posted on: June 27, 2013

Learning about the plants in your area that provide food, medicine and other useful items is a must if you want to be self sufficient or obtain and edge in a survival situation. Almost all plants provide something useful.

The common Day Lily, (Hemerocallis fulva) provides food in early spring, early summer and late fall. It also provides weaving materials and medicine. The common Day Lily is found in almost all US states and the domesticated varieties can be grown in those states which do not have the wild variety.

Where I live the Day Lily is blooming which means we are having great
salads when the petals are added to the greens and lettuces from the
garden. Dehydrating the petals allows them to be used later on in the
summer or over the winter. In a survival or off grid situation air drying is possible and less time consuming than vegetables or fruits since the bugs are not as interested in the petals as they would be a piece of fruit or tomato slice. Drying fruits and vegetables in a primitive setting requires someone to keep a close eye on them, shooing away bugs and in many cases setting them out in the day and bringing them in at night.

If a person can tie their shoes they can weave fibers into rough cloth. Skills such as weaving improve over time. The more time you spend on an activity the better you get. Weaving fibers into cloth is easy for me but weaving baskets has never been one of my top ten skill sets. Making a functional basket is one thing, making a symmetrical, evenly woven, aesthetically pleasing basket is difficult for me.

Easing into self sufficiency is easily accomplished by adding edible
landscape to the yard or importing some of the useful wild plants. In some cases bringing wild plants into the yard may provide an added bonus. Security is something everyone thinks about regardless of whether you live in a rural, urban or metropolitan environment. A few years back a lone raspberry popped up in the front flower garden. We had planted a grape at the edge of the bed to help provide shade. Today there is a bramble thicket intertwined with grape vines all across the bed. If an intruder tried to gain access to those windows they’d be scratched, gouged and tripped up before getting close. The large grape leaves and dense thicket allows those windows to be open during most of the summer thunderstorms since the water is diverted before it makes it to the windows. The Barberry bush, which was here before we arrived, at the corner of the porch is just an added deterrent. Barberry, including it’s domesticated cousins, has food, medicine and utilitarian uses. Most Barberry bushes have needle like thorns that sting if you’re poked by them.

The Raspberries were joined by Blackberries compliments of the local bird population and provide a less bug infested way to gather food and medicine. Both can be dried, canned or frozen although freezing makes for a lot of time consuming work should the power go out.

Providing an alternative method to home can food with is a necessity as far as I am concerned. One hot July day back in the late 80’s our very large chest freezer quit working. In addition to keeping five children cool and content, the youngest was an infant at the time and still breastfeeding. I had to cook, can and dry the entire contents of that freezer. In addition there were multiple hides to scrape and salt or loose them. Needless to say that was the last time months of food and piles of hides were kept in a freezer.

Today we have a small, seven cubic foot freezer that holds no more than a few days of human food and a few gallons of goat colostrum and
first milk. It only takes once to learn a lesson the hard way!

Learning to be self sufficient starts by looking at what you have, what you really need and what the labor costs of trying to salvage things should an emergency arise. The 14 cubic foot freezer might contain a few gallons of water but think about how you would salvage the remaining contents. Would you be capable of canning the vegetables and meats without an electric range? Would you be able to set up a solar dehydrator for fruits and vegetables? Does eating ice cream for 24 hours straight SOUND feasible?

There are many low impact methods that can help you become more self reliant. Start looking around at what you have, where it is and what it can be used for. Do you keep more than 3 days of food in your freezer? If so, do you have an alternative way to preserve that food if the power goes out? During the ice storm of 09, hundreds of thousands of pounds of meat not including dairy, vegetables and fruit were tossed into dumpsters.

Considering that the county had opened a shelter all that food could have been easily prepared into healthy meals on a propane grill instead of being thrown away.

My neighbor canned the contents of her freezer and prepared hot meals for her parents and other seniors within walking distance. Her teenage son walked food to many houses every day to ensure that they got a hot meal.

We helped the neighbor de-ice his non-propane brick barbeque and they
delivered to us half a roasted turkey in exchange.

Alternatives exist in all situations if you know how and where to look.

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