"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Friday, 24 July 2015


RMan and I have been watching the series "Alone" on the History Channel.

For those who haven't seen it, it is a series documenting how 10 individuals handle being alone for the summer - having to fend for themselves on Vancouver Island with only the 10 survival items they are allowed to take with them apart from a change of clothing.

The one who stays out in the wilderness the longest will receive $500 000.

The latest episode we watched here was # 4 and the 10 guys are now down to 5.

To me it has been fascinating to watch their initial reactions when being placed alone at their different sites on Vancouver Island.

Unanimously, they all immediately tried to provide very basic shelter and then set about organizing heat and warmth for themselves.

Some were more successful than others.  Some didn't succeed at all.  Those that didn't left the show in the first and second episodes.

The next hurdle they tried to overcome was their fresh water requirement.  Most of them resorted to boiling water collected from nearby streams at low tide, or "straining" water through sorghum (sphagnum?) moss.

I was fascinated, whilst simultaneously irritated, that not one of them thought to use their tents for rain water collection.  It seems to have rained in every episode so far.  As it's not falling from a residential, tiled roof area and down into gutters, whilst collecting bird poop along the way, but directly from the heavens, momentarily onto their tent / shelter roof, they wouldn't even need to boil it, for goodness sake!

In the last episode we watched one of the contestants finally provided food for himself (how have the others survived for 6 days with nothing to eat - apart from the one guy eating seaweed and a couple of small crustaceans?)  Mitch managed to snare a fish in his net on the 5th day, and clean it and cook it.  The commentary was that high tide only happens at night thus that was the only time that he could inspect his net and collect whatever it had trapped?!?  Surely the tide rises and recedes twice a day?  It does where I live.

Also, why does Mitch collect the fish from the net at night, when predators prowl?  And cook it at night - thereby attracting predators (cougars) with the smell?


And these are survivalists?

I'm not, but even I know better than that.

Surely they should've done some research prior to taking part in this competition?  That would've made them more methodical, prepared and able to face the hardship which they suddenly experienced  e.g. what plants can be eaten?  How can they trap small animals / marine life?  How will they handle their shelter to protect them from the elements / predators?  And, shouldn't they (couldn't they?) have taken a large chunk of biltong (jerky) as one of their 10 items - which would've provided them with an all important source of protein / energy / nourishment whilst they orientated themselves in their unfamiliar surroundings / situation.

Don't get me wrong.  Hats off to them for being brave enough to take part.  I could not imagine being alone anywhere at night - on my own - unless it was inside my house.  I also don't envy them their "exposure" to bears, wolves or cougars.  I do understand the psychological impact of suddenly being completely on your own.  I have no problem being on my own - I enjoy my own company, and will always try and keep myself busy.  But they all knew that they were going to be on their own, and would have to survive on their own when they entered the competition.

Didn't they?

Given my (mostly mild, but at times intense) irritation, watching the series has been interesting as it has highlighted man's immediate need when out of their comfort zone / lost in the wilderness / in an unfamiliar situation for whatever reason.

Man's immediate requirements are:

1  Shelter and warmth / heat / fire (comfort / food preparation / protection from the elements and wild animals)
2  Water (to prevent dehydration)
3  Food (to feed their bodies / encourage / uplift their spirits)
4  Purpose (to keep the mind occupied and busy)

To my inexperienced mind, if they had concentrated on building themselves a strong, secure as possible shelter using the wood / tree trunks in the forest (which was evident around each and every one of them) together with the tents they took with them - and they completed that on their first day, they would've been better off when they started their 2nd day - searching for food.  I'm presuming here that they would've allowed for their tents to catch their drinking water - which they didn't.

My 10 survival items would've been:

1   Waterproof tent / tarpaulin
2   Waterproof sleeping bag
3   Knife - and a substantial one at that
4   Firestarter
5   Cooking pot - for heating water / cooking and eating whatever I managed to forage for / catch
6   A (preferably) large coil of nylon rope (30 - 50 mtrs?)  It doesn't weigh that much, and would just be bulky)
7   Ax or saw (not sure which one would be more useful, but, after some thought, my choice would probably be an axe)
8   Bright LED torch - for sparing use in emergency situations only in order to prolong it's battery life
9   Collapsible spade / shovel to dig for roots / holes / or fixed on the end of a piece of wood with some of the nylon rope as an additional form of defense against predators.  (Ditto the (substantial) knife could also be used as a harpoon / spear / weapon)
10  This will probably be a controversial one - a big slab of biltong (jerky), or a 5kg mixture of flour and dehydrated or powdered eggs (with which I could make some sort of flapjack / biscuit and which would provide me with protein and carbohydrates whilst I settled in to my new surroundings.)  If that was not allowed according to the "game rules" then I would probably replace that with a notebook and pencil - to record experiences I want to remember / internal feelings that occur on the spur of the moment and are then lost after that moment has passed.  How else can one learn from the experience? 

Alone provides a good lesson in preparedness for all of us I guess - be that for calamitous natural disasters, substantial unrest or a complete collapse of the grid.  The "predators" may be different, but the threat and emergency situation, especially in towns, would be enormous.  Town dwellers would face a completely different set of challenges, wouldn't they?!

In the event that life as you knew it was thrown to the wind, would you know what to grab in a life and death situation to help you fend for yourself for an potentially extended period of time?

What would you do, and how / what would you prepare or take along?  Have you taken any steps already to ensure your continued existence in the case of a major natural disaster, substantial unrest or complete collapse of the grid?

Thought provoking - no?

We have episode 6 to watch tonight...


Kris said...

What I've learned from 'realty' shows like this is that there are always people who want to be on TV. Period. I tune in to see them make idiots of themselves in so many venues.

Sue said...

It's kiind of funny/scary how "lost" this generation has become.
I always think most people will go crazy without their cellphones for 10 minutes.
Hubby and I joke that the phones are telling them----breathe in, breathe out.
I couldn't watch a show like that. I see enough jackasses on a regular basis when we go to town.

Dani said...

Kris - Yeah, they do not appear to be the "expert survivalists" as is stated at the beginning of the show, do they...

Dani said...

Sue - Yeah, reckon you and hubby have a point there - people would be lost without their cell phones lol

I started watching from a point of view of what would be of paramount importance to them initially - for survival. And would that apply to mankind per se?

Have noticed that for people who are supposedly "on their own" how did the one guy takes pics of himself from the shore when he first ventured out in his boat...?

Sigh - continuity is always the downfall, isn't it!?

Harry Flashman said...

I'm hoping the guy from North Georgia wins, as he is from my neck of the woods.

It seems to me that much of the issue is attitude. The people who lack emotional control are not going to make it. All the crying and boo hooing has been disgusting and more than once I almost quit watching the show I was so revolted.

I think some of the show is faked. I know in one instance a contestant was shown hacking away at a big tree with his ax, but when it fell it had been cut cleanly with a chain saw!

I read a magazine article on this show. The producers intentionally did not pick people who were dyed in the wool survivalists. One reason was that the show has a limited budget and they didn't want to be sitting out there for months waiting for the winner to appear. Another reason appears to be that they were looking more for "characters" who would hold the attention of the viewers rather than people who might be top flight in the woods but would be boring.

Even my favorite , the North Georgian, is quite a character. I would never have thought about laying in my tent quoting Edgar Allen Poe, myself!

Quinn said...

I haven't had a television since the 90s. I really, really don't miss it. ;)

Dani said...

Harry - Yeah - I haven't seen the tree chopping / sawing, continuity is definitely a problem. History Channel had a good name whilst they focused on quality documentaries...

Dani said...

Quinn - Wow, that's amazing. Do you get your news from the Net or radio?

Vicki said...

I'm with Quinn. I have a TV but I'm not sure it is even plugged in. Son will take it with him when he moves to his own place.

I have not seen the show you refer to, but I do know that I have sort of developed a way of thinking about people based on how well they could survive. The northern part of my state is heavily forested. I picture folks set down in the middle of the woods. There are some I think would do just fine and others who I believe wouldn't last 24 hours. Unfair, perhaps, but the ability to survive without all the conveniences is becoming more important each day in this crazy, upside down world we live in.

Being alone has never bothered me. At present my son is living with me until he saves enough for his own place. The only reason I don't mind is because we are on the same page as far as preparedness goes and we have always helped each other when the need arose. But I gotta admit, it will be nice to have my space to myself again. Sometimes I think I might have made a really good hermit! :)

Bill said...

I haven't seen the show, but your post has me thinking about what my ten items would be. We host a monthly gathering of folks interested in homesteading and sustainability. It's a potluck meal followed by discussion. In October the topic is going to be basic emergency preparedness. I'm looking forward to learning. In this age many of us have lost the basic survival skills and become completely dependent upon fragile systems that we cannot control. Good food for thought this morning.

Dani said...

Vicki - You're right, the ability to survive with the mod cons would be a challenge to too many people. Quite sad actually.

Enjoy having your son with you - once they leave, they're gone - to their futures ;)

Dani said...

Bill - Thank you for getting the message I was giving. We all live in our comfort zone(s) but how would we fair out of that comfort blanket?

kymber said...

Dani - great post! although we are still on the grid, we don't have "tv" per se - we have netflix so i haven't seen this show. we haven't had tv since we moved here and we do not miss it. our first long, horrible, cold winter here in a 3 season cottage - we had no tv - not even netflix. in the evenings we sat and read through 12 years worth of magazines that jam's parents gave us. those magazines were wonderful and were a canadian publication of "back-to-the-landers" from the 70's and 80's. we learned so much from those magazines!!! we re-read them every winter - that's how good they are!

i really like the thought that went into your 10 items.

we try very hard to not ever put ourselves in a situation where we would ever be out there and alone. we live in a very small village and are very happy with the people here, our land, all of the stuff that can sustain us. we feel incredibly blessed that we live in the middle of nowhere, and although we are on the grid (electricity/phone/internet/netflix), we could learn quickly enough to do without those things.

we have studied and learned about spring-houses (for storing food that needs to be kept cold) and during the winter we have enough snow for an ice-house. we have enough forest for heat. blah-blah-blah.

neither of us ever travel farther than an hour and a half from our land. and when we do travel that hour and a half - it is only for appointments and supplies. and then we scramble back home to our privacy as fast we can!

i took some pics of the piquante peppers and the bird's eye chili peppers that i am growing. i put the pics on the blog. they are all just flowering now. i can't wait to harvest them and try them!

are there any seeds that i have that you might want? just let me know. sending much love! your friend,

Dani said...

kymber - Sounds like you and jam are sorted on your little piece of heaven :)

Love the pics - am blown away to see my piquante peppers growing in your part of the world lol

kymber said...

Dani - i am very proud of my South African pepper plants. i plan to save seeds from them and to overwinter them indoors. can i send you some lupins? they are native flowers to north america, they'll grow anywhere in any conditions, they are beautiful...and then you could have something growing in your garden from half-way around the world too!

Dani said...

kymber - Thanks for the offer, my friend. Our summers are so hot, and so long, that the only flowering plant I grow is marigolds - in with my veggies. I try and reserve our precious water for only the necessary plants, if you get my drift...?