Visit to the Alabama Gulf Coast

It’s amazing how we are drawn to the abundance of the water. There’s some primitive pull towards the ocean waves that keeps us enchanted by the beauty of rolling waves and white sand. In nature the most abundance can be found on the edge. Last week I had the privilege of visiting such a place where freshwater meets the sea causing an interactive edge full of diverse life.

Interactive Edge: Freshwater meets the ocean.
Interactive Edge: Freshwater meets the ocean.

So, I am sorry for the lack of posts over the past two weeks! As you can see, we were enjoying our time in the wild and chose to limit the distractions of technology. I will be posting some big news related to this part of the world and our journey towards rewilding in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Sunset in Fairhope, Alabama
Sunset in Fairhope, Alabama

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Eating to Rewild: Ancestral Nutrition for the Modern Hunter-Gatherer

Indian custom of eating one meal a day

Nutrition is a topic filled with fads, junk science, multi-level marketing schemes, government propaganda, and corporate marketing. We’re told for decades that fat is bad, but now fat is good. Sugars bad, then artificial sweeteners are worse, then their okay again.  Breakfast is the most important meal, but wait, no we should be fasting! Butter or margarine? White meat or dark meat? Organic or GMO? BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, and I am not making health recommendations in this blog. Nor would I want to. I find most nutritionist with their institutional, one-dimensional thinking to be a part of the problem. These people go to university where they are told what to think, then they get into the professional life and parrot whatever the government and corporations are saying is good nutrition at the moment. There are a few good ones out there, and I am not deriding the whole profession as junk-science. Just like any other career field in our society, the really talented ones will not find success within the institutions of their profession. Most of the good nutritionists are going to be found running small consultancy businesses instead of holding down a job at the hospital.

So here is what works for me when it comes to nutrition. I look at the evidence from existing hunter-gatherer tribes, and what we know about the diets of our ancestors. You can research Primal, Paleo, Weston Price, or any of the other marketing buzzwords used to sell ancestral diets. I personally got my feet wet in this subject by reading Mark’s Daily Apple. The idea is simple. We have evolved over thousands of years to eat a certain balance of macronutrients. Diets varied based on location and culture, but a few things remain the same in all tribal societies:

  1. Food was not always available, leading to intermittent fasting
  2. Meat and vegetables were primary sources of food
  3. Grains and legumes were fermented
  4. Salt is used liberally to ferment everything.
  5. Fats and organ meats are prized

About four years ago I tried the Primal diet. I spent the first few weeks consuming less than 50 grams of carbs each day. I worked back up to 100 grams. After six weeks, I had lost 45 lbs! Then the problem began. My initial surge of willpower was over, the weight was off, and I was constantly surrounded by a culture that revolved around cheap, unhealthy grains. I gained most of the weight back. The two biggest challenges are time and willpower. If you can find the time to prepare foods and overcome the cultural fixation on carbs, you can experience the hunter-gatherer diet.

If I can make it work, Primal is the best diet I have found for my own personal health. Eating a diet rich in meat and vegetables with little grain seems to work best for my personal genetics. I believe our ancestors went through periods of ketosis in the winter time which regulated their weight and prevented metabolic syndrome. In temperate climates, there is very little vegetative growth between December and February. It only stands to reason that stored foods eventually ran out for Balok‘s tribe, and they were forced to subsist primarily on meat until the spring. For millennia we evolved while eating different macronutrient profiles based on the time of the year. It was only after the introduction of factory foods and modern distribution systems that fruits and sugars became available in the deep winter. As a species, we have not had time to adapt to this new reality.

So, how do we limit the damage of agricultural foods, and eat more traditionally? How do we eat the best foods without burning ourselves out with a purist mentality? It’s often tempting to sacrifice the good for the perfect, which eventually leads us to fall back into poor eating habits. Find balance and understand that you will never eat a diet that is 100% healthy for you. Make small changes and incrementally alter your habits.

  • Remove or ferment all grains and legumes in your pantry
  • Remove packaged snack foods based on sugars or grains.
  • Plan and freeze healthy meals on the weekend
  • Ferment foods you can eat as a snack or garnish
  • Keep healthy snacks in the house, car, and office
  • Make compromises or you will fail
  • Learn foods you can eat at restaurants that are less bad
  • Make social settings your cheat days
  • Shop at local farmers markets and CSA’s
  • Produce some of your own food. It will be the healthiest part of your diet

As always, I am a proponent of moderation when it comes to rewilding. Find ways to make your diet better. Never seek perfection, or you will always fail.

Pack or Herd: Are we apex predators or cattle?

Community. We hear the word often enough: “Gated community with homes starting in the $400’s”. But does the word even have any meaning anymore? We wake up early to drive our metal coffins to work, so we can pretend to be someone we are not, in front of people we really don’t like. Then we shuffle out as soon as we can to rush our coffins back to a home we will never pay off. All so we can quickly figure out dinner and chores. We go to bed exhausted, knowing we will wake up and do it all again tomorrow. Wash, rinse, repeat. We never really have time to interact with people, with the exception of boring pleasantries or meaningless conversation about sports and politics. Our coworkers, the people we spend the most time with, are equally bored and just trying to get by without making waves. We toil away to make others rich, never working with those around us to enrich our own lives.

The homes we live in are increasingly larger, yet packed closer and closer together than ever before. Proximity does not equate to togetherness. I challenge you to tell me three details about your neighbor’s week! Did they get a raise at work? Did their kid make the honor roll at school? Do you even know more about them than their name and where they live? You’d think that with ever increasing population densities and the return to urban life, we would be closer to each other than ever before. It seems the opposite is holding true. We are more interconnected with technology and geographically closer in proximity, yet we are all strangers to each other.

If we had to compare this behavior of modern humans to an animal, what species would we choose? In contrast, what could we best compare our hunter-gatherer ancestors to? Why have we allowed our very behavior as a species to be altered this radically?

Today we:

  • Wander without direction on autopilot
  • Stay busy
  • Never work with others unless required to, or if threatened
  • Are confined into small areas in unnatural densities
  • Consume food that was pre-packaged

Our hunter-gatherer kin:

  • Communicated and traveled with a purpose, often seeking prey
  • Spent hours relaxing after basic needs were met
  • Worked as a cohesive unit with the goal of bringing down large prey, building a shelter, or harvesting/planting food
  • Spread out and managed vast territories
  • Ate a wide variety of foods, few of which were grain-based

Today our behavior mostly resembles that of cattle. We are herded from place to place. We are constantly focused on tasks that distract us from long-range planning. We only collaborate because the job requires it. Often, we don’t really enjoy the company of others, but we simply have no choice in the matter. Voluntary association is an unaffordable luxury when you have to put glyphosate-laced bread on the table! We’re confined in dense urban zones, which could only be described as people-CAFO lots. We’re miserable cohabitants of a crowded prison. Our food is deleterious to our health and well-being. We are all but human cattle residing on a feedlot.

By contrast, our ancestors were the masters of their own lives, choosing which direction to take. After a large kill, they could spend days relaxing and enjoying the company of friends and companions. They worked together by choice for common goals. Spreading out and managing vast territories allowed them to eat nutrient dense meats, fats, and vegetables. We were apex predators. We were wolves.

If we ever want to escape the farm and embrace our heritage as keystone species, we must rebuild our sense of community. We must give up the herd mentality, quit going along to get along, and embrace the cohesive togetherness of the wolf pack. It’s often said that, “many hands make light work”. If we could simply learn to work together in voluntary communities, the goal of rewilding would be within our grasp. So, take back your time, find a few like-minded individuals, and get busy! With many hands, you could:

  • Build a Permaculture food forest
  • Preserve large batches of fermented foods or alcohol
  • Build sustainable, low-cost housing
  • Share tools and resources most individuals couldn’t afford to purchase alone
  • Get in on group buys of basic survival goods and primitive tools
  • Install a composting toilet
  • Build alternative energy systems
  • Help those less fortunate by teaching skills and providing basic necessities

Returning to a sense of community and togetherness, is an important step in the right direction. Create your modern tribe and rewild your local community one project at a time. Feel free to share your results in the comments section!

The slavery of agriculture

Something changed about 25,000 years ago.  A once proud and free people were dominated. Their descendants were shorter and weaker with each passing generation. Their children contracted illnesses with increasing frequency. As they grew older, they developed chronic conditions unknown to their parents.  Lives spent enjoying the company of others and creating art were traded for endless toil under a burning sun. Wild humanity was domesticated by the slavery of agriculture.

It wasn’t a choice or a great leap forward as we have been led to believe. Agriculture was adopted for one reason alone, control. Non-perishable foods were a rare commodity in the ancient world. In many cases they were used as a form of currency. Obtaining large quantities of these goods could result in great wealth for the individual capable of producing it. Therein lies the problem. No one person is capable of the work necessary to produce vast reserves of grain crops without automation. It was necessary to employ people in backbreaking work for long hours to achieve this goal of commodity control.  The challenges our budding feudal lords faced was a population of wild humans who were fiercely independent and mostly capable of caring for their own needs. Without a way to voluntarily encourage participation in this new enterprise known as agriculture, slavery was adopted.

The anthropological record seems to indicate a time of peace and prosperity for humankind leading up to a dark time beginning around 25,000 years ago when agriculture was adopted on a large scale.  We fell from grace, and we can see what we lost by examining the lives of modern tribal cultures. An article in Discover Magazine takes a look at modern hunter-gatherer tribes who are surprisingly peaceful people living a life of leisure and abundance:

“Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn’t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, “Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?”

While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a better balance of other nutrients. In one study, the Bushmen’s average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size. It’s almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s.”

So, contrary to popular belief, resource security is much easier to achieve in a hunter-gatherer society. Additionally, a study by (Ember and Ember, 1997) found less incidences of internal and external violence on foraging societies. According to this Yale article hunter-gatherers societies also had less social stratification and lacked an exploitative political system:

“Based on the ethnographic data and cross-cultural comparisons, it is widely accepted that recent hunter-gatherer societies

  • are fully or semi-nomadic.
  • live in small communities.
  • have low population densities.
  • do not have specialized political officials.
  • have little wealth differentiation.
  • are economically specialized only by age and gender .
  • usually divide labor by gender, with women gathering wild plants and men fishing and almost always doing the hunting.

Some cross-cultural findings are less widely discussed:

  • Compared to food producers, hunter-gatherers are less likely to stress obedience and responsibility in child training. On the other hand, hunter-gatherer cultures that emphasize hunting are more likely to stress achievement in children. (Barry, Child, and Bacon, 1959; Hendrix, 1985)
  • Compared to food producers, hunter-gatherers show more warmth and affection toward their children. (Rohner, 1975, pp. 97-105)
  • The songs of hunter-gatherers are less wordy and characterized by more nonwords, repetition, and relaxed enunciation (Lomax 1968, pp. 117-28)
  • In contrast to food producers, hunter-gatherers are less prone to resource unpredictability, famines, and food shortages. (Textor 1967; Ember and Ember, 1997:10)”

Sounds like an okay life, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you prefer to work about 4 hours a day and spend the rest of your time enjoying life?  Wouldn’t it be great to eat a large variety of foods and enjoy excellent health well into old age? That’s what we gave up when we adopted the master-slave paradigm of agriculture. Specialization dulled our minds and overuse of a single food source weakened our bodies. Over time, we were easier to control as we lost the skills of self reliance, hunting, and foraging. Far from a revolution or a great leap forward, agriculture brought about slavery and dominance.

25,000 years later and the systems of control are still in place. We still toil away for the benefit of others, but automation and the interconnected nature of modern communications are loosening the shackles. Unfortunately, the practice of agriculture has devolved into an exploitative nightmare that treats the soil as a resource to be strip mined. In fact the #1 export by raw tonnage out of the US is…wait for it…TOP SOIL! It’s not like we are loading up our farmland on barges and shipping it to China. No, thanks to the techniques of modern industrial agriculture, our farms are literally blowing into the Atlantic Ocean with prevailing winds. It takes nature around 1,000 years to create an inch of topsoil. At this rate, it won’t be long before the industrialization of agriculture completely fails. We will be left scrambling to feed a population incapable of independently thinking and acting on the problem. I don’t think this will happen overnight, and you shouldn’t panic or take rash measures. What you should do is work to build your own resiliency by learning skills and producing some of your own food. There are steps we can all begin taking today to avert this disaster. We all need to start small, and rewild ourselves over time:

  1. Grow your own food. Even if it’s a conventional vegetable garden, you are producing healthier food than anything in the store and reconnecting with natural systems
  2. Learn to hunt and forage
  3. Identify edible and medicinal plants in your region
  4. Learn everything you can about Permaculture and Regenerative Agriculture. We will have to rebuild soil if we want to survive
  5. Learn a broad variety of skills. Specialization is great from an economics standpoint, but we are about to turn those tasks over to the robots. Humans create! We were never made to do the same thing over and over like insects.

If we reconnect with natural systems and learn to produce a variety of food, we can take the first steps towards breaking our bondage to the agricultural model.  Start small and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

 

Resources:

Ember & Ember, 1997

Yale

 

Systems Level Critical Thinking

We often hear about critical thinking being scarce in our society. It must be true on some level, since colleges offer courses on the subject. Somehow, people manage to go through twelve years of education in government schools without mastering the skill. This seems shocking since you have to have some level of critical thinking just to cross the street! There is a growing sense among many of us that the skill of critical thinking is in decline. Pessimistic prognosticators in alternative media foresee certain doom in our future due to a lack of this skill. Just watch the movie Idiocracy if you want an example.

While I won’t argue against the idea that critical thinking is in decline, I am not here to point out that idea or analyze possible reasons.  I will say that I believe specialization has been contributing to this decline for a very long time. There are many causes. Take a close look at any you can identify, and I bet you can trace it back to the domestication and pacification of humans all those millennia ago. What we really need to focus on is reversing the decline in thinking skills on an individual level. That’s why I advocate for systems level critical thinking.

Let me begin by saying that I am borrowing a lot of these ideas from the design science of Permaculture. Specifically, we are interested in the principles of function stacking and whole systems design. We need to look at our environment as a managed system we interact with. After all Balok did.

We are often taught to think of our ancestors like Balok as primitives struggling to make a life for themselves through endless toil and 16 hour days of back-breaking labor. Supposedly they lived short, miserable lives. While that might have been true of our recent ancestors who were enslaved by agriculture, anthropological evidence indicates life was quite the opposite for our hunter-gatherer kin. We can even look at modern tribes living free today and see superior health and a higher quality of life. Instead of constant toil, we were designed to work with nature a few hours a day and enjoy leisure time with those close to us.  Our fictitious character Balok is the perfect example of this. He didn’t plow fields or sow a single crop into them only creating one yield. He didn’t toil and he didn’t simply subsist. Balok THRIVED by using systems level thinking to take on the role of keystone species in his environment. Balok could identify dozens of edible and medicinal plant species in the forest or savanna. Many of them he actively managed by helping to propagate. He could hunt, fish, and might have even raised livestock.

Balok observed and interacted with his environment on a daily basis until he was able to manipulate the system to produce positive outcomes. One day he saw a certain herb growing greener in a spot he had kept his chickens the last month. Without understanding the science behind an NPK ratio, he understood the cause and effect relationship. Balok began using his chickens to clear large areas on the edge of the forest down to bare dirt. As he moved them across the forest perimeter, he followed the cage with a mix of seeds that would benefit him later on. Instead of the usual scrub brushes that normally advanced the forest in this area, Balok had created conditions ideal to grow food for himself on the forest edge. The abundance we can achieve by working with natural systems is amazing. We only have to understand that it is a system of interdependent parts. We have to THINK about these parts and find a way to benefit from natural interactions in our environment. Balok intrinsically understood this. Instead of just getting eggs and meat from his chickens,  he was also able to create fruit, nut, shade, and increased game animal yields by growing a forest in a manner that suited him. He was a part of nature, not an elite bunch of overlords excluded from natural systems as we tend to believe of ourselves today. Over time, he was able to design a forest system that provided for all his needs.

Most of us aren’t ready to live like Balok. Many of us couldn’t identify a single edible plant in our local woods. We might die trying to find out which ones were safe without the proper education. So how do we start thinking on a systems level like our ancestors did? We can certainly learn more about wildcrafting food, but the easier way to get started is to take a moment of introspection and examine your daily life. Find areas you can improve with function stacking. Thinking on a systems level isn’t just for regenerative agriculture systems. We can use this principle to improve all aspects of our lives from business and finance to gardening and home security. Speaking of gardening and home security, you can plant rosa rugosa under your windows. The hardy roses will provide hips that are high in Vitamin C and can be used to make herbal tea. The thorns will help deter break-ins. Planted them next to a south facing wall will help shade your home and contribute to energy savings. Planting on the northern side might provide a windbreak against cool arctic air. This is a perfect example of function stacking: getting multiple yields out of one product.

So, our challenge today is to return our minds to a state where we can look at a problem and analyze the whole system to find a solution. that provides multiple benefits  We need to be able to see relationships in systems and produce solutions that don’t just address the problem but improve other parts of the system as a side-effect. Every time we expend energy it should return multiple yields back to us over a long period of time. A perfect example of this would be content marketing. Like creating a food forest, you input a large amount of labor up front. If you are successful and grow an audience, you can see great success with little effort later on. At least I hope that’s how it works out with Rewilding Blog! In a similar manner, Balok put forth a lot of effort up front to kick off a massive change in his local ecosystem. His great grandchildren were literally enjoying the fruits of his labor decades after his death. See patterns and observe interactions. Be like Balok!  Rewild Yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: $21 for 5-gallons of red wine in 10 minutes

What does wine have to do with rewilding you ask? Well let’s ignore the fact that ancient man discovered wild yeast and fermentation as a means of preserving things millennia ago. Let’s focus on two things: time and money. I’ve argued in the past that time is the main thing holding us back from rewilding. Let’s also consider money for a moment. If you are already spending money buying alcohol in your grocery budget, this will save you a lot of it over time. How much you ask? Let’s run the numbers:

First we need to convert from liters to gallons. This recipe creates about 5 gallons of wine. There are 3.78541 liters in a gallon, so we are making 18.92 liters of wine. Assuming this recipe I am sharing with you totally sucks and compares to cheap wine at about $6 a bottle, you have made $113.56 worth of wine. Let’s hope you like this better than a cheap wine. I do! The ingredients in this recipe will cost you about $21 total. How is this possible you ask? One word, GOVERNMENT.

Remember those people whose ideology and behavior descended from the feudal lords and petty kings who enslaved our hunter-gatherer ancestors? Yea, those guys. Liquor is considered a sin to some, so government sees it as an easy target for their taxation schemes. The cost to produce alcohol is stupid cheap when you take out the sin tax. You can legally avoid this taxation system by making your own wine here in the US. If you’re outside the US, check to make sure it is legal to make homebrew. If you’re good to go, you should switch all your alcohol consumption to homebrew. Doing so starves the systems used to keep us domesticated by denying them tax revenue. It also saves you money and gives you more control over what you drink. You can use this recipe to get you started, but you will soon want to branch off and create your own recipes.

DISCLAIMER: If you are a homebrewer, this is probably going to bother you a bit. I am keeping everything simple to make a 10 minute wine. Steps are skipped and ingredients are not optimal. I KNOW! The finished product is still good, and it only takes 10 minutes.

IMG_20160123_1851173_rewind

Ingredients:

  • 6 bottles of grape juice from Costco (juice must contain no preservatives except for citric acid)
  • 1 packet of Pasteur Blanc wine yeast which you can get here for 80 cents when you buy 10
  • 2 cups white sugar

Materials Needed:

Total cost for materials – $77.46

Yea, that’s less than the money you would save on your first batch!

Directions:

You can sanitize your equipment with a product like Star San, but this is 10 minute wine, and I have never had any problems with wild yeast somehow overcoming the billions of Pasteur Blanc cultivated yeast we’re pitching. It just doesn’t seem to matter as much as we think it would. I just rinse everything in warm water. The juice comes pasteurized, so no need to heat if it is unopened. Again, we are going for fast, easy, and pretty darn good. You won’t be making a $200 bottle of wine. What you will make is something you could enjoy with dinner after work one Thursday.

IMG_20160123_1856480_rewind

  • Rinse bucket with hot water
  • add 2 cups sugar to 2 cups water and heat on stove to dissolve sugar
  • Once sugar is dissolved, dump three containers of grape juice into bucket, then dump half the sugar water and the remaining three jugs of juice
  • In a separate, clean container mix the remaining sugar water with an equal part filtered water. When the water is less than 100 degrees, Pitch the dry yeast in and stir well with an egg beater
  • Add yeast to bucket 10 minutes later and cover with lid. Attach airlock
  • Store in a room temperature environment for three weeks
  • Use your racking cane to transfer to glass carboy, being careful not to pick up any sediment from the bottom
  • Attach bung and airlock to carboy
  • Allow to sit and age in glass carboy for one month
  • Rack off any sediment and bottle

There you have it! Expect to spend about 10-20 minutes total getting your fermentation started. Racking will take about the same time, but bottling might take 30-45 minutes. For $21 you will get $113+ worth of wine that took you a little over an hour to produce. For an easy variation on this, double the sugar. You will get a higher percentage of alcohol in your finished product. Please comment and let me know what you think. Also feel free to share your own recipes!

 

Specialization: A Double Edged Sword

It’s a blessing and a curse. The miracle of specialization increased our productivity exponentially. Adam Smith‘s discoveries are responsible for helping to lifting billions out of poverty. Specialization is truly a miracle, and I am not suggesting that we return to the days before the assembly line. I will argue that specialization brings with it several problems.

Specialization leads to a populace ill-equipped to solve problems and think creatively. Doing the same task or related tasks over and over does not help our problem solving skills. I worked a factory job once for about three months. I made plastic interior car parts like dashes and floor runners. Every day we would stand in front of one machine shaving mold flashing off and rushing the part to a bin so we could back it back to the machine in time for the next part. We were all like machines ourselves for the entire 8-hour shift. My mind would wander and I would use it to escape the drudgery. The repetitiveness didn’t seem to bother many of my co-workers. I also noticed that many of them were not the DIY type. They were more of the type that would just call a guy when something broke.

I can’t say I really blame them. The work was exhausting, and to add insult to injury we had just bought a foreclosure that was in bad shape. It really wore me out to work 8-12 hours in the factory, then go home and remodel! I think I was one of the few working there who was actually building skills and knowledge outside work. It’s amazing to think that someone can do work equivalent to making 2-3 cars per month without the ability to run a 1/2″ PEX line or patch a hole in drywall. Let that last part sink in a bit. We were all making about $12 an hour for enough productivity to build 2-3 $18,000 cars each month!

As productive as specialization may make us it has led to a dramatic loss of skills. Our ancestors were not specialized. Sure, there was the guy who could make a kick-ass arrowhead and the gal that tanned hides to make everyone clothes. There always has been and always will be specialization as long as the laws of economics hold sway. However, the arrowhead maker could also hunt, fish, start a fire, preserve meat, tend to plants, or repair damage to his home.  Wild humans had talents and abilities that were unique to each individual, but they also learned a variety of skills in addition to what they were really good at. Specialization and the comfortable lifestyle it provides, can be a trap. Escape the trap by mastering a diverse skill set just like your primitive ancestors did.

Here’s the challenge: dedicate yourself to learning new skills every day. It would be best if it relates to rewilding somehow, but just take time to learn something new. Try to master a new skill each month. Be the guy your friends call when something breaks instead of calling someone else to fix your own problems. We have no excuse! Our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not have Google or YouTube. You do! You can literally learn to do just about anything you could dream of doing for free, in the comfort of your living room. So, what are you waiting for? Go learn something!

What is the one thing that keeps us domesticated?

As domesticated humans, one of the first things we need to ask ourselves is what exactly prevents us from being free. While it might be important to study how we got here, or try to point fingers at those responsible, the most important thing is to take proactive steps to free yourself. The first step to freeing yourself is to identify the one thing that is most responsible for your domestication. It might be different for everyone, but I think there is one commonality behind everyone’s domestication. I’d like to explore that. I’d like to find the root cause for all of us, but first let’s look at some of the other stumbling blocks to rewilding.

Peer Pressure – Let’s face it, bringing fermented veggies and organ meat to the office for lunch probably won’t help much on your next performance review. Anytime you do something out of the ordinary, be prepared to face criticism. While I would love to pretend that we’re all supermen living in some Randian novel designing skyscrapers however the hell we want to, most of us do care what others think of us on some level. Peer pressure can definitely be a stumbling block to rewilding, but it isn’t a deal breaker. You can find ways to blend in while still working towards rewilding. Instead of offal and kraut, why not pack grilled chicken, veggies, and some of this awesome fermented dip? No one has to know it isn’t ordinary bean dip! Instead of telling your co-worker that you’re getting in tune with your natural self on a foraging trip, just say you enjoy hiking. You might find that your friend enjoys hiking too which might open up the conversation a little more. Before long, you might find a few like-minded rewilders you can open up to at work. There are ways we can deal with peer pressure. This is not the one thing that’s keeping us on the farm.

Health – It might be difficult to chase down small game, start a fire without matches, and build a shelter with nothing but a pocket knife. Especially if you suffer from chronic illnesses caused by a lifetime of glycation and inactivity.  I get it! We all have to start somewhere, but we can improve our health to a point where spending more time in the wild is possible. Start with the seven principles of hunter-gatherer fitness if you doctor gives you the go-ahead. If you stay consistent and eat a hunter-gatherer diet when practical, you will reach your goals in no-time. Health is more of a temporary roadblock. It’s might be keeping you domesticated right now, but YOU are in the drivers seat here. Take the wheel and move towards a healthier life.

Money – Sometimes you’re just BROKE! I get that, and I’ve been there. Many of us struggle to earn a living. Rewilding doesn’t have to be some lofty goal you achieve after you get out of debt or attain some level of financial independence. No, rewilding is a means of reaching your financial goals. A big part of my rewilding philosophy revolves around the need to learn a diverse array of survival skills using both modern and primitive means. Ancient man built and repaired his own shelter. When we apply that idea to our own life, we spend time learning to hang drywall, repair plumbing, install flooring, and repair HVAC ducts. This might not be as sexy as building a primitive dwelling with hand tools, it saves you money and it is far more hunter-gatherer than calling a guy. Similarly, when we grow a small annual garden we reduce our food bill, send less money in the form of taxes to politicians that domesticate us, and learn primitive skills all at the same time. It’s stacking functions! It might not be on the same level as building a swale based silvopasture to paddock livestock through, but growing a small garden puts you a step above the family that buys everything at the store. As we are beginning to see, money is not the stumbling block we think it is. Oftentimes, rewilding leads to us having more of it!

Obligations – If your answer to the question posed in this post is obligations, you’re getting warmer! Work, school, family, bills, cooking, cleaning, all of these things can take away from our rewilding efforts. What we are looking for is root causes, not symptoms. Obligations are not always bad for us. When they take away from our path to rewilding, it is simply a symptom of an underlying disease.

Government rules and regulations – Wear your seatbelt! Don’t drive over 65! You can’t grow THAT plant, but tomatoes are perfectly fine! You cannot operate a business without a license! Hunting? Fishing? You need the state’s permission to do those basic human activities. I would say that this is the root cause. Coercive government is the thing that enslaved our ancestors after all. Civilization is the thing that brought us away from our natural state during the agricultural revolution. Large, centralized systems that dominate individuals and families would not be possible without coercive force.  But is government really holding us back from rewilding, or are we just not clever enough to take our liberty back? Is this the one thing preventing us from reaching a level of Nirvana last seen in the life of Grok and his tribe? No, I say it isn’t. I say government may be the root cause of every ill on the planet, but it is not standing in your way. You can outwit them at every turn if you understand the most evil tool at their disposal. That tool is the only thing that stands in your way!

Alright already! What the heck are you getting at here?

So, now we know what isn’t holding all of humanity back. The question remains. What is one problem that we could solve and hasten humanity’s return to a wild state? What is the one way the state is still able to dominate our lives? Why are our obligations holding us back? Why does our health decline as we age? Why are we always chasing more money just to survive? Why do we give a flying rats behind what Bob from accounting thinks about the contents of our damn lunchbox? What can we do? How do we attack this problem? How do we rewild? Alright, at this point I am approaching peak reader fatigue, and I just need to get to the point already! Let’s get right down to it. There is a root cause of all our woes. It relates to some, if not all, of the problems we discussed above. It has many different causes, but these causes all result in the same outcome. That outcome is that we do not have the free time our ancestors did.

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Time is the primary tool used to control us. When we transitioned from hunter-gatherer to peasant farmer, we transitioned to a lifestyle of constant toil. Industry and automation brought some relief, but most of us still spend 8-10 hours a day working for the benefit of someone else. Without idle time, most people don’t contemplate things like the Federal Reserve and fractional reserve banking. Most of us don’t have the time to start businesses and create multiple income streams. We often do not have much time for family at the end of the day, and we surely don’t have hours to spend gardening or hiking through the woods. Our masters keep us busy and distracted, least we might rediscover our wild nature.

Well we are discovering it. If you are reading this, you are part of a growing movement to free humanity from our domestication. Your first step is to reclaim your time. Here are five concrete steps we can all take towards rewilding:

  • Pay off your debt. Without it you will be less dependent on a 9-5
  • Automate your life
  • Start creating passive income streams
  • Find work you can do from home or mobile
  • grow your own food

Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Rewilding Bean Dip

All the evidence from archaeology and anthropology seems to indicate that grains and legumes should not make up the bulk of a human diet. We simply did not evolve eating these foods in high quantity. However, there is a way we can remove the anti-nutrients and turn a bad food into a source of healthy probiotics with fermentation. The fact is, ancient man DID store and use these foods, especially during cold months. What he DID NOT do was cook and eat beans as-is. No, the best way to prepare these foods is through soaking, sprouting, and fermenting. These methods will break down anti-nutrients that damage your gut, make vitamins and minerals bio-available, and turn your food into a probiotic supplement.

There are about fifteen beneficial bacteria on just about everything around us. The problem is, we often kill them before we eat anything. Now that we understand gut health a little better, people are spending a fortune on probiotic supplements and raw sauerkraut from the health food store. Instead of spending money on another supplement, I choose to harness the bacteria already sitting on my food. My probiotic supplementation costs me about four dollars a month, the cost of a few heads of cabbage.

The secret is salt. Our ancestors discovered this amazing, low-tech method of preserving food by advantaging the beneficial lactobacillus against harmful bacteria in a salt rich environment. Then our bacteriological allies produce lactic acid as the fermentation process unfolds, which preserves our food. When we make sauerkraut at home, we sometimes get tens of trillions of bacteria per teaspoon. It’s literally like eating a bottle of probiotic supplements all at once when you eat a few spoons of fermented foods. Which reminds me, be cautious! The first few times you eat fermented foods might cause, well…gastric disturbances. Build up SLOWLY to a couple of teaspoons of fermented foods each day.

Why should you bother to do this? Well, you want to rewild yourself right? Did you know that you are mostly made up of bacteria? It’s a fact that bacteria outnumber your cells by a large margin. You need a healthy balance of bacteria to enjoy the good health of the rewilding lifestyle.

Well that’s probably more background information than you wanted to know. On with the recipe so we can rewild our gut bacteria!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups black beans
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 2 dried Anaheim peppers
  • 3 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 tbsp powdered garlic
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 lime
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 cup purified water
  • 1/2 cup liquid from previous sauerkraut ferment

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Preparation:

  • Soak black beans overnight, drain, add fresh water and 1/4 tsp salt, then soak another day
  • Rinse beans
  • Cook beans at least six hours, or until well done
  • While beans are cooking, prepare cilantro and chop up peppers in a food processor
  • Rinse and cool the beans to room temperature, place them in a large bowl and smash them (you MUST break open beans you plan to ferment)
  • Add water, spices, lime juice, peppers and salt to the bowl, stir well to combine
  • The last step before you transfer to your fermenter is to mix your sauerkraut juice well throughout your bean dip. This will ensure proper fermentation
  • IMPORTANT: make sure you have at least four inches of head space and that your beans are completely cooked

Fermentation:

I use a half gallon mason jar setup with an airlock similar to the instructions on Northwest Edible Life. I cannot recommend Erica’s blog enough for those of you interested in food preservation.

You want to place all your bean dip into your fermentation container and secure with an airlock. I would not recommend trying this recipe without an airlock. You need an oxygen free environment to ensure proper results. Place your ferment in a dark place at room temperature for two to four days. Use a clean spoon to check for flavor beginning on day two. When you like the taste, place your ferment in the refrigerator and enjoy with some sprouted grain tortilla chips. This dip should keep for up to a month if properly refrigerated.

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As you can see, the bean dip fits perfectly into a half gallon jar. It is ready to sit on the counter-top and ferment for a few days. Be sure to follow all the steps exactly and only use sauerkraut juice from a home ferment that you KNOW contains live lactic acid bacteria. How about some comments? Did you like this recipe?

The Seven Principles of Hunter-Gatherer Fitness

Fitness is a subject I’m almost afraid to delve into. There’s so many differing opinions, scientific studies, self-proclaimed guru’s, and fads in this space that it can be a daunting task to filter through all the noise. However, our pursuit of a rewilding lifestyle demands that we take a look at fitness. After all, you can’t truly enjoy a hike, visiting the park, going on a hunting trip, afternoon gardening, or a trip to the beach if you’re out of shape. So, let’s take a look at an average day in the life of our pre-agricultural ancestors.

You wake up early on a late summer day to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Around you the rest of your tribe is already getting prepared for the  morning hike. You have a five mile trek ahead of you, and no food reserves to start your day on. No one seems to be in a panic over this fact, and there’s a good reason for that. This is the time of the year the berries on the mountainside come into ripeness. This morning the tribe will be practicing the first two principles of hunter-gatherer fitness: intermittent fasting and low intensity-long duration exercise.

By noon all the berries have been picked clean. You won’t be back to this area until the cold months when it will be time to grow out the berry patch by clearing small trees for firewood and planting hardwood cuttings in the cleared spaces. There are enough berries left over that you will be making a wild ferment later on with some of the others skilled in this art. During the hike everyone spread out and filled satchels with tubers. Everyone is careful to leave a few in the ground. You even take a moment to spread smaller pieces into a wider area for next year. Another group went out to hunt small game which will provide much needed fats and proteins for a later meal. The other group will likely be chasing game to exhaustion, using their superior endurance and coordination to run down the small animals.  This is the next principle of hunter-gatherer fitness: jog for moderate distances. They might have even had to practice the fourth principle towards the end of the hunt, which is to sprint or do some other high intensity-short duration cardio.

Later in the year, the tribe changes its focus to tasks more appropriate to the cooling weather. Fuel must be stored for the coming winter. Felling small trees with hand tools required a great deal of strength, which brings us to the next principle: Moderate strength training. Our ancestors were not pumping iron for hours in the gym, but they did use their muscles intensively once or twice a week. We should all strive to do the same.

As the days grow shorter and the cold sets in, there is little carbohydrate food to be found in your temperate environment. This is the time the tribe shuts down. Smaller prey have gone to ground or face more pressure from other predators. This is the time of the year to conserve energy and stalk big game. With a precious reserve of salt from the nearby ocean, you can make enough Biltong to feed the tribe for a week off a large kill. When you’re not hunting you spend time with the tribe socializing and planning the next year’s activities. Due to limitations of natural resources, everyone goes through a time of low activity and ketosis. Subsisting primarily on animal fats and proteins during the winter months allowed our ancestors to maintain healthy weights effortlessly, even into old age. This is the final principle we will discuss today: Maintain weight by entering ketosis once each year

By studying the habits of our enlightened ancestors, we can better understand our bodies and the steps we can all take to make them more healthy. At this point I should probably make the lawyers in our tribe happy by mentioning that this is not medical advise. You should seek a health professional for any illnesses or injuries. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s list each principle of hunter-gatherer fitness in order:

  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Low Intensity-Long Duration Exercise
  • Jogging Moderate Distances
  • Sprinting
  • Moderate Strength Training
  • Yearly Ketosis
  • Eat Real Food

That last point wasn’t really mentioned in our example from above, but it should have been self evident! The tribe didn’t stop off at a fast food place on the way up the mountainside. I will go into full detail on nutrition in a later post. For now, just think of the things that would have been available to a tribal civilization and try to stick to those foods. Eat lots of pastured meats, fresh vegetables, fermented vegetables, beyond organic fruits, seeds, nuts, and small portions of sprouted or fermented grains and legumes.

Again, I am not qualified to give medical advise in this blog, but I can tell you what worked for me. Remember to consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program. I will be honest. I’m not at the level of fitness I should be at today. I was in great shape two years ago when I discovered these principles. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s tough and I have not devoted the energy to my health I would have liked to since then. So what happened when I applied these seven principles you ask? I immediately realized I was carrying too much weight. I went into a period of ketosis and lost 60 lbs in 45 days! I slowly reintroduced carbs focusing on whole foods and limiting sugars and grains. I took practical steps to walk more. I ran three miles a day four times a week, sprinting at the end. I lifted weights twice a week. That was the best I have ever felt in my life, but “civilized” life got the better of me, and I slipped back into old habits.

I have come to the realization that we should all take immediate steps to improve our fitness and the seven principles of hunter-gatherer fitness is a great guide to get started. It’s not enough though. You will never find the time to go 100% hunter-gatherer while working a day job. That’s why we all need to strive to meet 50% of these benchmarks now, while working to increase our independence for the future. These principles will be much easier to uphold one day when you are the master of your time. So, work to build passive income streams, and follow the principles you can manage today. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. Do what you can now, and stay positive. We’re all on this journey to rewilding together.

Practical steps to everyday rewilding