Bush safety

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If you are new to an area, there are several basic steps to protect yourself and others while harvesting. The first step is knowing where you are going and what you will need to wear and what to take with you. Common sense around fast moving water, swamps and steep inclines is a basic requirement.

Hazards on your harvest: weather, insects, plants and animals.

In remote areas one of the greatest hazards is getting lost, so go with someone who knows the area, buy a compass and learn how to use it or get a personal navigator, also called a GPS receiver. The GPS will be useless if the batteries die or you don’t know how to use it. In most rural areas you can usually find a road or hear traffic. Depending on where you are, hazards will be different. Local knowledge is very useful, so ask.

Always wear comfortable and practical clothing. Your clothing, including your footwear should be durable and able to protect you from rocks, thorns, water and extreme temperatures. Insects can sometimes make you day a misery. Black flies and mosquitoes are the most obvious but a good bug jacket or head net can often give adequate protection. Or you can use the various insect repellents and hope you are not damaging yourself. Insects are often drawn to smells, so use non-perfumed shampoos, soaps and deodorants. Although walking through a field full of wildflowers with many bumble bees and honeybees is safe enough, walking on a wasp’s nest can ruin your day. If you come close to a large grey paper hornet’s nest, just keep on walking, fast. Some parts of the country have poisonous spiders and others have ticks whose bite can give you, in rare cases, Lyme Disease. Other places have sand fleas, others mites. Wearing good footwear, socks and pants that tuck in can prevent most contact.

Plants themselves can be problematic if you are not careful. Poison ivy and poison oak are perhaps the best known. Familiarize yourself with what these plants look like and avoid them. There are many field guides to wild flowers and wild foods, some of which are regionally specific. Plants have all sorts of ways of protecting themselves, and thorns are one of the most effective. If you are harvesting foods such as wild rose blossoms, rose hips, barberry, black raspberries and hawthorn, make sure that you have eye protection. Avoid pushing aside dead trees and branches as you might just be surprised what will fall on you.

Of all the animals that feared in the bush, the bear takes first place, unless you live in an area with lots of cougars. In cases where these animals are common, get local advice. And maybe get some bear spray. However, the animal that can be the most dangerous, after humans, is the dog, especially if it thinks it is defending its territory.

Finally, you may want to be sure to have a bottle of water to avoid dehydration and maybe some trail mix or a chocolate bar in case you do get lost. A pack of waterproof matches in case you need a fire for warmth and a clear plastic drop sheet in case you need shelter from the rain are both worth having. They will take up little room in your packsack and are worth it if you need them.

 

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