Posts Tagged With: wild edibles

Gnawing Solutions to Self-Reliance: 18 Beaver Habitat Resources

by Todd Walker

North America’s largest rodent may be considered a nuisance to farmers, landowners, and highway departments. From a self-reliant perspective, this fury critter offers more benefits than damage in most cases.

Gnawing Solutions to Self-Reliance- 18 Beaver Habitat Resources -

Last weekend our family gathered to fulfill my brother’s request. After spreading most of his ashes in the lake behind my parents house, Kyle, my brother’s oldest son, and I took a small container of his ashes to the feeder creek where my brother and I spent many childhood hours catching crawdads and reenacting the Daniel Boone TV show.

Childhood memories were as fresh as the day our jack knives carved “CW” and “TW” in the paper-like bark of a massive Beech tree on the creeks bend. Kyle and I searched for the tree with no success.

I felt lost. Not just because my brother would never tramp these woods by my side…

The entire landscape surrounding what was once a creek full of boyhood memories and misadventures was unrecognizable. The stream which once flowed unobstructed under a thick hardwood canopy between two ridges was now a decade old beaver pond.

My eyes witnessed a complete transformation. Twenty-five yards to both sides of the creek grew a lush, green landscape of grasses, cattail, and other aquatic plants. The scenic vista stretched 100 yards with dead standing timber scatter intermittently. Our life had changed much like my beloved creek.

Self-Reliant Resources Gnawing to be Discovery in Beaver Habitat |

Kyle and ‘Abby’ walking on beaver pond sediment collected over the years. The creek of my youth had split which once ran three times the size on this spot.

Inspired by Scott Jones, Georgia native and author of A View to the Past – (and a recent roadkill beaver on my drive home) – this article highlights the importance of the fury woodland engineer. For further research on the role beavers and their habitat played in pre-history, read his book.

Jones pegged it when he wrote that the beaver is…

“next to fire and human activity, one of the premier agents of landscape and habitat alteration on this continent.”

Our upland creek had morphed into new ecosystem. Presented with a smorgasbord of new resources, the beaver pond could be viewed as a gnawing problem or…

The Gnawing Self-Reliance Solution

It’s a dam good idea! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.

Seriously though, when a beaver couple selects their home site on a free-flowing stream or creek, landowners may look despairingly upon the beaver colony and the accompanying swimming hole. However, with a view to long-term self-reliance, one should consider leaving it to the beavers.

Here’s why…

With the wetland area comes a host of new and beneficial resources for the homesteader, farmer, woodsman, foragers, primitive technologist, hunter/fisherman, wildlife, and the land itself.

Below are the top 18 resources available in your local beaver-built wetland habitat…

The Beaver (Castor canadensis) 

Beavers were once near extinction in Georgia and the United States due to over-trapping and habitat loss. A reintroduction program in the 1940’s successfully repopulated our state and nation. In fact, they’re thriving to the point in Georgia that there is no closed season on harvesting beaver.

A harvested animal can be used for

  • Meat – prepared correctly, beaver tenderloin, back straps, hams, and even the tail makes a tasty and nourishing meal.
  • Pelt – composed of long, coarse hair with wooly undercoat, beaver pelts were luxuriously warm winter hat and mittens.
  • Teeth – the chisel-sharp incisors make great primitive scrapers for wood carving tasks
  • Castor glands – used in the perfume industry but are most valuable for trappers as a universal furbearer attractant. For those interested in trapping, check out this informative article on harvesting castor glands and oil to make your own attractant.

Not crazy about the thought of eating a large rodent? No problem. A beaver colony is full of southern hospitality. Their engineering feats offer accommodations for fury, feathery, and finned appetizing meals.


In mature beaver ponds, many species of fish are available. You may not catch one as large as the one I’m tangling with below, but rest assured, you can feed yourself and family from beaver ponds.

A large grass carp

Landing a 25 pound carp

Limb hooks, fish traps, and trot lines are great for harvesting fish while you attend to other tasks of self-reliance. However, don’t discount cane poles! My brother and I pulled many a mess of fish from fishing holes with a homemade bamboo or sapling pole.


Venomous and non-venomous snakes are fond of wetland habitat.

Didn't get close enough to identify this one but we think it was a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) by its behavior

Black snake resting his briar hammock

We didn’t get close enough to positively identify this one but we think it was a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) due to its behavior. Racers like to climb and lay on vegetation. This guy/gal was using a clump of dead blackberry bushes like a drying rack.

Water moccasin

Water moccasin is a venomous snake common in and around beaver ponds in Georgia

Watch your step when scouting for resources in beaver ponds. The only venomous snakes in our area of Georgia to be concerned about are rattle snakes, cottonmouths (water moccasins), and copper heads.

Turtles and beavers go together. And, yes, turtles are edible.

This snapping turtle is next to a size 12 shoe for comparison

This Common Snapping Turtle is next to a size 12 shoe for comparison

Foraging Flora and Fauna


False Nettles growing in sediment build up along the creek

River cane, Willow, Tulip Poplar, Arrowhead, Cattail, and other plants and trees that thrive in wetland habitat are available in and around beaver ponds. Always, always, correctly identify wild edibles before consuming.



Woodcraft and Primitive Skills

Debarked wood for tool handles, digging sticks, bow drill sets, shelter, and rabbit sticks can be found in beaver habitat. Wood removed from a dam will quickly be replaced with freshly gnawed logs. Some of my favorite walking sticks were removed from beaver ponds.

Flooded timber in our beaver pond was home to many wood peckers

Flooded timber in our beaver pond is home to many woodpeckers

Try removing bark on a log using only primitive scraping tools and you’ll have a new appreciation for beaver-chewed wood.

Beaver damage to a maple on a small pond at the property

Beaver damage to a maple on a small pond at the property

Firewood is plentiful, too. Beavers eat the bark off large diameter trunks killing the tree to open the canopy above. Standing dead, they eventually fall from wind storms or get gnawed down.

The spillway in the middle of one of the dams

The spillway in the middle of one of the dams

Exercise caution tramping through beaver dams and ponds. Watch for hazards while admiring the beauty.

Wetlands and Stored Water

The natural way to create beneficial wetlands costs no money and is built by Mother Nature’s best engineer… the beaver.  The beaver pond at the head of our lake provides critical habitat for waterfowl.

Even without the beaver pond, we have a deep water lake. However, landowners and farmers without a man-made lake or pond could benefit from a beaver-built watershed for irrigation.

  • When water tables drop during drought, water will be available in beaver ponds.
  • Dams also serve to naturally filter water and remove silt.
  • Stable water supply for wildlife, livestock, and vegetation.
  • Elevates ground water table.
  • Formation of fertile beaver meadows after being silted in.

Beaver Facts

  • Lifespan – 5 to 10 years in the wild
  • Size – 30 to 50 inches from head to end of paddle tail
  • Weight – 40 to 60 pounds fully grown; the Ice Age beaver, Castoroides, was said to have weighed 400 pounds… that’s a big beaver! (Source:A View to the Past)
  • Diet – Southeastern beavers eat tree bark: Sweetgum, Willow, Dogwood, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Cottonwood, Maple and most any tree available. They also dine on aquatic plants, roots, fruit, and tubers and stems of plants in the beaver habitat. Beavers will also venture into corn fields for meals.
  • Identification – large rodent with orange teeth, coarse outer hair with a wooly undercoat, webbed feet with claws, and a paddle tail used as a rudder, warning signal when slapped on the top of water, and a prop when standing to gnaw trees.
  • Natural Predators – Bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, and humans
  • Shelter – Beavers build dens in lodges in the ponds they’ve created. They burrow into banks mostly in my area and not the typical beaver lodge. On deep water lakes and larger rivers, bank dens are their homes. We call these critters bank beavers.

The gnawing solutions are worth consideration by every student of self-reliance for long-term sustainability. What do you think? Benefit or nuisance?

Though I lost the Beech tree containing our initials due to flooded beaver habitat, our property has gained a valuable wetland resource. Plus, Kyle, part of the next generation of Walkers, found his initials he’d carved in a smaller Beech tree and forgotten about. I think I’ll go add “CW” and “TW” to this new family tree.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Feral Food: Maxing Out on Milkweed Pods

Editor’s note: Crunchy Mama‘s wild food adventures continues. For those unfamiliar with this feral food, it has so many other virtues. Not only is it edible, it makes great cordage, stomach tonic, and candle wicks. 

“A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

DISCLAIMER: This information is offered for educational purposes only. Do your own due diligence before foraging wild edibles of any kind.

Originally published on her site The Crunchy Mama’s Urban Homestead and reprinted here with her permission.

A NEW favorite wild edible: green milkweed seed pods!


Milkweed with green seed pods

It’s been a few months since I walked on a nearby path where I have spotted many a wild edible.  Busy with the homestead garden, ya know!  Anyway, I was thrilled to walk the path yesterday and find two wild edibles that I have been wanting to try: green  (immature) milkweed seed pods and staghorn sumac berries (blog post forthcoming).

So, I picked about 9 milkweed green/immature seed pods to try for the very first time.  When i got home, I referred to my copy of Sam Thayer’s The Forager’s Harvest to find out exactly how to prepare them.  He says that some people can eat milkweed raw but other people cannot tolerate them raw.  I did taste a bit of the raw silky white and a bit of the raw green part.  The silky white part was pretty good raw and the raw green part was decent but I decided that I would cook the rest.   Generally, when I try a new wild edible, I like to keep it simple so that I can really taste the plant.  I steam/sautéed the pods, cut in half, for a few minutes in some butter (with a tablespoon of water) in my pre-heated cast iron skillet.  They were very good!  I now have yet another favorite wild edible!  They taste mild and delicious.  According to what I’ve read, you can put these pods in casseroles, stews, stir-fry’s, etc.  They are so versatile!  And, did I mention that they are delicious?!

What I did find out after I had picked them and come home is that I picked them a bit too big.  According to Thayer, pods that are 1 – 2 inches are best.  HOWEVER, I thoroughly enjoyed the pods that were 3 – 4 inches long.  I have some that are slightly bigger and I will try them later.  You should know, though, that once they turn brown they are no longer edible.  As with all new foods, please do your own research and, if possible, consult with a local wild food “expert” to make sure that you are following the “rules” of eating wild edibles: 1. positive identification of the plant, 2. eating the correct part of the plant at the right time of development and 3. proper preparation(can you eat it raw or do you have to cook it to make it safe to eat?)

Green (immature) milkweed seed pods (a bit bigger than “prime” according to Sam Thayer but still good in my opinion!)

Milkweed seed pods cut open to expose the silky white middle

Steam/sauteed green milkweed seed pods with butter, salt and pepper

If you are looking for my other posts on wild edibles, they are here:


Wood sorrel (shamrocks)


Ostrich Fern Shoots (fiddleheads)

Wildcraft! board game review 

I hope that you have enjoyed this post.  Please consider subscribing via email or in your favorite reader.  I’m also on Twitter and YouTube!  Have a great day!

Update: I did try the bigger ones and they were fine for me!

4-inch milkweed seed pod boiled in some savory broth and served with some grassfed beef ribs, green beans and lacto-fermented sauerkraut.

Author bio: The Crunchy Mama is a libertarian unschooling mama to three sons, married to her husband since 1998.  They live on their Midwestern homestead of 2 ½ acres with chickens, ducks, dogs and an ever-growing organic vegetable garden.  She is an avid wild food eater.  In general, she’d rather be outside enjoying creation. If you’d like, you can connect with The Crunchy Mama on Twitter @thecrunchymamaYouTube, or on her blog Crunchy Mama’s Urban Homestead.


Categories: Bushcraft, Primal Skills, Primal/Paleo Lifestyle, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Free Feral Food ~ The Missing Link in Prepper Pantries

by Todd Walker

Before the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago, our ancestors hunted and gathered feral food. The plants they foraged contained phytonutrients absorbed through the ground, sun, moon, and air.

Before you click away to search for a conventional way to obtain vital nutrients to supplement your pantry, you need to know the benefits foraging feral foods.

What do I mean by feral food?

The dictionary defines feral as: not domesticated or cultivated; uncivilized, untamed, uncontrolled.

You get the picture. Feral + Food = Nutrient Dense Food

But I like sweet corn! Do I have to give it up?

Nope. Just know that this mutated weakling has little nutritional value compared to its wild cousin.

Source: Nutritional Weaklings in the Supermarket

A New York Times opinion piece by Jo Robinson demonstrates that modern agriculture has breed nutrients out of our food. Open the graphic above and take a look at what’s missing in your pantry of conventionally cultivated foods. Don’t be fooled by Madison Avenue’s slick ads for BigAg and our Industrial Food Machine and its mono-crops. It may look like it’s loaded with nutrition, but it’s just imitates real food.

I’ve interviewed U.S.D.A. plant breeders who have spent a decade or more developing a new variety of pear or carrot without once measuring its nutritional content. We can’t increase the health benefits of our produce if we don’t know which nutrients it contains. Ultimately, we need more than an admonition to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables: we need more fruits and vegetables that have the nutrients we require for optimum health.” 


Benefits of being a feral foodie

Instead of putting your survival and health on the line, you should build redundancy in your foodstuffs. We all know and understand the danger of depending on only one source for anything. Two is one – one is none. So, start supplementing your dinner plate with wild stuff.

Here’s a few benefits of our free feral food.

  • They’re everywhere. An entire industry has been created to stop their spread. The manicured lawn owner shrieks in horror when the neighbor’s child blows her freshly picked dandelion seed head from across the street! It’s a losing battle trying to tame these wild things.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals that are absent in conventional, tamed food.
  • In a survival situation, these foods can not only keep you alive, but help you thrive.
  • Low maintenance. Unlike their civilized garden cousins, feral foods don’t have to be watered, fertilized, or cultivated. They just do what they were bred to do – grow wild – even in extreme conditions.
  • Here’s the best part – they’re FREE! They also can supplement expensive vitamins. A local organic farmer even makes money selling dandelion greens at our local farmers market. But you can harvest your own and save money. Just make sure the area hasn’t been contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals.

Don’t Plow Under Your Garden

What am I suggesting? Ditch your garden and let the weeds take over?


I’m not delusional. I totally get that our modern lifestyle doesn’t allow us to spend hours harvesting wild food. Feral foods don’t grow in office cubicles where many of us spend most of our working lives. You’re doing good just to grow a garden now a days.

What I am saying is…

Get in touch with your wild side – one weed at a time. Gradually adding feral foods is the strategy.

A teaching buddy of mine and I often wonder who was the first human to eat stinging nettles. The conversation may have gone like this.

“All righty then. Grok, you drew the short straw. Try this one!”

Not a recommended edibility test! You might wind up dead.

First, learn to properly identify edible feral food. There are several books and resources that can help you get started. The best method would be for you to find a local wild food expert and learn from him or her. My buddy Durable Faith has found such an expert a few miles from his home and is learning from her. He’s also practicing permaculture – caring for wild spaces that already exist to benefit his family.

Crunchy Mama has contributed articles here that will help you connect with your true nature on her wild food adventures. There are video tutorials available as well on your web surfing machine. I like Eat the Weeds.

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Even More Feral Food Resources

Start adding feral foods to supplement your family’s eating plan. If an event happens that stops the food delivery system to your super market, you’d be one step ahead if you’re already practiced in eating feral foods.

Here’s my usual disclaimer: You should never eat feral foods without checking with a local wild food expert.

There! I feel better.

What do you think? Are feral foods a viable food option for optimizing your preps and health? Let us know your wild thoughts in the comments, please.

Keep doing the stuff,



As always, if you like what you’ve read, please share it if you think it will add value to your tribe!

Categories: Bushcraft, Natural Health, Primal Skills, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

Wood Sorrel: A Vitamin C Rich Wild Food

Crunchy Mama, one of our guest contributors, serves up another wild food you should add to your hunt-gather-eat list. Be sure to check out her bio at the end of the post on how she and her family are doing the stuff!

DISCLAIMER: This information is offered for educational purposes only. Do your own due diligence before foraging wild edibles of any kind.

Green Sour Butterfly Leaves (Wood Sorrel; Oxalis) — Crunchy Mama’s Wild Edible Adventures


Greetings, friends!  Next up in my wild edibles series is wood sorrel.  Wood sorrel might be mistaken by new foragers for clover but after reading this post you will know how to distinguish it from clover.  It is similar to clover in that it has three small leaves coming from the end of a small stem.  Wood sorrel, however, has three heart-shaped leaves and the veins in the leaflets radiate out from the base whereas clover has three egg-shaped leaves and the veins in the leaflet come out from various points from the center vein.  The wood sorrel flowers have 5 petals and the clover flowers have “lots of tiny pea-like flowers clustered together on flower heads” (Kallas).  Click here to see images of clover flowers.  Both clover leaves and flowers and wood sorrel leaves and flowers are edible but the taste difference is very distinct.

Wood sorrel between my fingers

Wood sorrel has a bright, sour, lemony flavor.  Clover does not have this sour flavor.  The sour flavor comes from a mixture of acids including oxalic acid; a common warning to those with kidney problems, gout, etc. is that they should avoid plants with oxalic acid.  Everyone should be aware that consuming vast amounts of foods with oxalic acid might cause problems (see below for more links regarding oxalic acid).  Many “normal” foods have oxalic acid but there are no big warning labels on them regarding oxalic acid (spinach, swiss chard, and beet greens, okra, figs, peanuts to name a few, according to  John Kallas writes, “[i]n spite of many authors claiming so, oxalates are not a problem for normal healthy humans eating a normally diverse diet.”  You will need to do your own research and decide what works for you. 
One of its nutritional benefits when consumed as part of a varied diet and in moderation (whatever THAT means — sarcasm) is that it is high in vitamin C.  Another source says that it is high in vitamin A.  Kallas reports that it is high in iron and calcium.
Other names it might be called are: sour grass, shamrock (although clovers are sometimes called shamrock so I would avoid calling wood sorrel shamrock), yellow oxalis, sour clover, or oxalis (after the genus that it belongs to).
I have personally only eaten wood sorrel as “trail nibble”, meaning that I just picked some leaves and ate them then and there.  Because of the oxalic acid, the surface of your teeth will feel strange for a few minutes.  It’s the same feeling that you would get after eating raw spinach leaves (for the same reason: oxalic acid). 
Poisonous look-alikes? No
Here is the itemization for wood sorrel:
Identification: Herbaceous (non-woody) plant with slender rhizomes; each leaf (green or plum-colored) is made of three heart-shaped leaflets that are an inch or less in length and they grow out from one point at the end of the leaf stalk (aka the petiole, pronounced PET ee ohl) and each leaflet has a crease along the middle and the leaflets can open and close depending on the weather (like a butterfly); the small flowers can be yellow or violet and have 5 petals. 
Time of year: spring through fall
Environment: Found in the lower 48 States. Likes partly shady areas and moist soil.
Method of preparation: You can eat the leaves, flowers and pods raw or cooked.  John Kallas recommends that when you snip off the leaves and flowers that you snip about 1/2 inch down the stem (from the leaves and flowers).  The stem is fibrous so you do not want to include much of the stem.  You can include some wood sorrel in your salad (maybe 20% of your greens) or you  can add them to soups or make a tangy sauce with them (see Kallas’ book for the recipes).  You can dry the stems, bundle them together with some clean string and make a tea by seeping the dried stems for a minute or two in hot water, according to Kallas.

Additional resources for learning more about wood sorrel:

John Kallas’ Edible Wild Plants pages 177-190 (This book is one of the BEST books on wild edibles! Go read the reviews!)

Green Deane’s

Steve Brill’s

More reading on oxalic acid: (“ORGANIC oxalic acid is essential for our body. It is the INORGANIC form of
oxalic acid that we need to be aware of.”)

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for updates to her blog or following her on!

Author bio: The Crunchy Mama is a libertarian unschooling mama to three sons, married to her husband since 1998.  They live on their Midwestern homestead of 2 ½ acres with chickens, ducks, dogs and an ever-growing organic vegetable garden.  She is an avid wild food eater.  In general, she’d rather be outside enjoying creation.  She can be followed on Twitter @thecrunchymama or on her blog Crunchy Mama’s Urban Homestead.

Categories: Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: