Catch 22

Catch 22 (wild food year week 9)

Nature’s abundant treasures, the heart’s treasures as well as the infinite wealth of time – both everywhere and nowhere, throw up a reality at once both as rich in meaning and significance as in the solidified phantoms of an anxious mind.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner: What will they be? Where will they be found? How long will it take – today, tomorrow, the next day, next week, next month? Relentless! Relentless! Relentless!

Catch 22: I have no money. Foraging takes a long time. I need somewhere to live: I can’t afford the rent and am in debt, therefore I have had to put on extra foraging courses and write more magazine articles in order to pay the rent. Having put on more foraging courses to pay the rent I now have no time to forage. Not putting on more courses and writing more articles would, of course, free up plenty of time for foraging but, then, no money and, hence, nowhere to live. Catch 22. The project is over.

A Buddhist parable.
Sometime long ago there was, there still is and, sometime in the future, there will still be, a poor and very troubled man. He had grown so deeply and inescapably in debt that in sheer mad frustration, exasperation and desperation he ran away to hide in the wilderness. One day while wandering there in search of food he came upon a large chest that had been filled with rare, beautiful and exquisite treasures. Whoever had placed the treasure inside the chest had also attached a large and brightly polished mirror to the inside of the lid. When the poor man saw the chest he was overjoyed. Without hesitation and with great excitement he immediately set about opening the chest, but as he lifted the lid and pushed it to rest upright on its rusty hinges he saw his own face and become agitated and extremely frightened. He nervously wrung his hands together and said to the face before him, “I thought the chest was empty and did not belong to anyone. I didn’t know that you were inside. Please, sir, I beg of you, don’t be angry with me. I shall leave you in peace with your amazing treasures and be immediately on my way.” He then dropped the mirrored lid and with even greater desperation than before, fled further and deeper into the impenetrable wilderness………

The Mirror in the Treasure Chest, adapted from the Bayu jing – the Chinese Buddhist One Hundred Parable Sutra

21 Comments on "Catch 22"

  1. Try foraging for money – stick up a PayPal donations box and see what comes your way :)

  2. But I would have thought that when you are doing the foraging course you are foraging and would have your food from that?

    Hope you manage ok.. it would be a shame to abandon your Wild Year.

  3. Thanks Emma. Don’t know how to do such technically proficient things! Anyway, stopped the project now so…..
    Lyssa, if only it were that simple. There is a big difference between educating and entertaining people in the context of running a course and collecting and processing for yourself. Also it takes 2-3 days of prep to run a good course. Thanks for the support but, alas, the project is finished. I may still continue the wild food blog at intermittent intervals….
    Fergus x

  4. Oh no!!! That is such a shame… maybe think of this as your trial run… if it has failed… have a look at why and spend a while thinking of ways around it… maybe better preparation? Nothing about “living on wild food for a year” says it has to all be freshly collected… you might be able to collect and preserve for the remander of this year and keep to use when you try again… try not to give up on it completely as it is a loverly idea and it opens so many people watching you as you go along to also forage for their lunch…. certainly has inspired me and I’ve spent alot more time searching… even rubbed off on my 5 yr old.. we only just make it to school intime as she insisted on collect a whole load of edibles that she the insisted on taking into school to show everyone, lol.

    And do please keep the blog updated… especially the photos… so many of your photos I suddenly recognise something I’ve seen and not realised I could eat, lol!!!

  5. I admire you for even attempting this, Fergus, especially on your own. It seems to me that it would be much easier to do with other people, both for moral support and to help with all the labor.

    I look forward to the day when the inhabitants of Earth go back to working together, instead of living in isolation, believing we have to go it alone. It is my hope that we do this by choice, rather than being forced into it by catastrophe.

    Thanks so much for your inspiration! I first got into foraging because of you.

  6. Whitewave, you are surely right. I couldn’t agree more. Community level cooperation is the way forward – by choice. I have my I on somewhere…..See my friend Mark’s inspirational blogs; in regard to what we’re saying his latest one especially:
    Sat Sept 12th blog:Life in an intentional community

  7. I enjoyed your friend’s blog, thanks. I’m floundering around in between worlds right now wondering how I can take the next step without money. It’s encouraging to know there are people out there living my dream.

  8. Consider a boat…
    You can pick up a small yacht very cheaply, look out for cheap/free moorings, put in a wood burner, lots to forage on the sea shore. Think the winter would have been hard for you without a prior season foraging and storing like someone else said. We forage quite alot, but I agree, its very hard t survive, we just dont have enough wild areas to forage anymoe!

  9. fergus, i stumbled upon your blog as i was wriitng about foraging in france – i agree with the idea of foraging this season and either save those writings for your blog next year. or post them as you go along. it IS a wonderful idea – i posted your link to my blog, planting cabbages. do hope you’re well and well fed. and merci!dorette

  10. This may seem random but I would like to suggest doing a Vipassana meditation course. Payment is voluntary donation.


    Thanks for your blog.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I really admire your foraging skills. However, I find it impossible to believe that any active human being could obtain the necessary daily calorific intake throughout the year solely from self-foraged (vegetable) foods. Our ancestors were HUNTER gatherers… as far as I’m aware, no human being has ever existed purely as a “gatherer”? The story goes, we invented agriculture, and that’s when civilization began…

    I do not believe it is possible to sustain a vegetarian diet without agriculture. (Human) Vegetarianism is thus an artefact of civilization – it cannot, and never has existed “in the wild”. Therefore I contend that if one wishes to be truly self-sufficient with respect to food, then one must either hunt, or one must *grow* (in addition to foraging).

  12. Hey….you will be back and more organised next time and we all can’t wait till you do!!

    It ain’t easy for anyone and especially someone with your knowledge just proves it!! Getting more people involved in this and working together with you would be a great start to create….possibly in the future??

    Darling your an inspiration….keep shining Brightly!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is certainly interesting for me to read the post. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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  16. come back! I want more ins on your incredible knowledge. I miss your self-deprecating humour and incredibly in-depth forage tales. waggghhh!

  17. come back! I want more ins on your incredible knowledge. I miss your self-deprecating humour and incredibly in-depth forage tales. waggghhh!

  18. Just found your blog this morning looking while trying to identify a wild allium I foraged this morning (along with wild salad greens, poke shoots, and the years first wild grass and rice.)

    I live in the Midwest US (Illinois) and here I think it’s quite possible for a single person to eat 100% wild.

    Especially if storing and cellaring are allowed. One can produce quite a few delicious greens throughout the cold Illinois winter using old-tech cellar methods.

    I disagree with the post about agriculture being necessary, at least if your definition of the thing is modern industrial Ag.

    “Food forest” permaculture is the vision that inspires me the most, with large portions of “wild” land for foraging, meditation and learning.

    Anyway, thanks for the awesome blog! I’m sure I’ll forage through your posts over the next few months.


  19. Picking up on what another commenter said, have you considered an allotment? Apologies if this doesn’t suit your circumstances or if you’ve covered the subject in a much earlier post. However the cost is very low, it’s possible to get a vast amount of advice, seeds and cuttings for free through the generosity of other growers, and it may offer a more forgiving ratio of work to food harvested. And you can take on a half-plot if a whole one seems daunting, bringing it into cultivation at your own pace. A wide range of growing styles are tolerated these days – you don’t have to plant everything in straight lines and eradicate every weed. One possible downside is that it can take a very long time to reach the top of waiting lists – a good reason to plan in advance. But worth the wait – allotment gardens are oases of peace and tranquility in our busy lives. Good luck, however you go forward.

  20. Read the Ringing Cedars Books, Fergus. Anastasia explains why this didn’t work – in a country where everything has been arranged to prevent people from being wild and free. She lives on fresh wild (not planted by people, that is) food all year in SIBERIA … but she has no need of money. She also doesn’t have to spend much time gathering it because of the thoughtful preparations of generations of her ancestors who lived in that place. 9 books that will change the way you think about life and this planet.

  21. Hi Jeremy. Thanks for your comment. Quite a number of people have recommended I read those books. One chap I met stood recounting the story solidly for a whole hour. I shall try to get around to it soon. Thanks. Fergus

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