Living in the wilderness is not like living in the city. While a small amount of calories might do for a basic sessile lifestyle, being sessile in nature is not an option. In other words, if you don’t burn calories, you’re not going to get any in return. However, movement in The Wilderness Living Challenge is something that has to be done in a measured and calculated way.
In modern life, we often use money for investments. When we do, we expect to receive a return in excess of our initial investment. This compensates us for losing access to our money for a set period of time, as well as compensating us for the risk associated with the endeavour. While money is out, it does work for us, but it can also be lost or misused, and rather than actually adding productivity, could be forever lost. In other words, sometimes money is put into a bad investment.
In much the same way, calories are consumed in our bodies in order to do work, and it’s expected that we receive as many, or hopefully more calories in return. Otherwise, each running day becomes an effort in futility, and rather than investing calories, we’re simply throwing good calories, ones we’ve already gotten, in exchange for no, or fewer calories in return.
In investing, we call this throwing good money, after bad money. If this continues long enough, an investor runs out of money and goes broke. In wilderness living, if a person continues to throw good calories after bad, a person will starve to death because he’ll eventually run out of calories to spend.
It wasn’t long into the challenge where this theory became an important reality. The basic framework of The Wilderness Living Challenge is to put more into our bodies than we took out. Unlike other survival challenges where the goal is to merely delay or postpone starvation, the goal of our challenge was to theoretically live forever from spoils taken from nature. This is a wholly different perspective, and it’s based on the premise that we should still be able to live off the land because this was something done by our ancestors.
The question is whether or not modern people can go back in time and relive our past and do as they did – forage, hunt, and fish as a livelihood.
While calories were inevitably burned, we hoped to use them to better our position. Regardless, we knew one thing for certain; we could burn calories at a slower rate if we were more idle, but we knew that if it was part of our main strategy, we’d surely lose the challenge, and come out much lighter and leaner. If we merely “survived” the ordeal, and conserved what we already had, we would have done nothing to solve the wilderness living riddle, and would lose the challenge outright.
We had no choice but to explore all our food options. So after first checking and re-setting our passive traps, the next order of business – was more pike.
While our main focus always came back to pike, we were careful to explore all our food options and keep our diet as diverse as possible in case there was some food items that we were not initially noticing. As we were foraging in the North, not all food items were available at the same time. We were short on carbohydrates, except for those found in berries. Roots and shoots were virtually non-existent due to the peak of summer. Jeremy would suggest that these were things that all had seasonal abundance, and he was correct.
Collecting acorns in mass was likely a ritual of much importance. Women and children of a village likely spent enormous amounts of time collecting and preserving this high calorie item for later use.
Acorns are loaded with fats. In fact, of all the wild edibles, it can produce enough daily calories from just 2 pounds of processed flour. That said, acorns need to be dried and stored properly or they will spoil. To be consumed, they must be crushed and leached of their tannins by soaking, boiling or by being left in a running stream for some length of time. There is very little in nature that is immediately ready to be consumed. Anything we ate needed to be found, collected, and prepared. Fish needed to be caught, cleaned and cooked. All of this required time and also an initial input of energy. With no one else to help, it was up to us.
As the challenge proceeded, I would have done much to get my hands on some high calorie nuts such as acorns.
One Wildcrafter (Jeremy):