Near Twin Lakes, Colorado, there is a group of people who have formed a community called Five Families, named after the five extended families that settled the area (The Donners, Troys, McKyles, Smiths, and Collins). They are a small community with a population of about 360 people.

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Their problem is they need some fundamental supplies. They have water, but they need to find a way to obtain or get around the need for three things:

Building materials All the trees died and the dead trees have all been scavanged. Trees are regrowing, but they need something to build with now.

Crops They need crops that can survive in the mountainous region.

Livestock They also need a type of animal or protein to survive in the area.

What can fill these three needs?

  • $\begingroup$ Can't they use dead trees? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    May 23, 2018 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ No, all the dead trees have been hauled away by the mountain men $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    May 23, 2018 at 23:59

3 Answers 3


Building materials

  • They could begin with adobe.
  • Then graduate to ceramics (they need pots anyway), think ceramic cinder-block.
  • Finally, once they've stabilized, they can use quarried stone.


Colorado has already addressed this problem to some degree. A great many crops can be grown in high-altitude, mountainous regions. Add greenhouses and it's even better. Winter wheat is already grown in Colorado and is a very hardy plant. If your community has access to water, and as small as they are, food shouldn't be their main problem.


I have one word for you, just one word... sheep. Sheep are kept almost everywhere, including the high altitudes of Tibet. And if sheep aren't enough, try goats. Goats will eat almost anything and are almost as hard to kill as cockroaches.

  • $\begingroup$ Pot making requires fire. And the wood is gone... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 24, 2018 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch You can sun-dry pots. It does not work nearly as well, and the pots will be much worse with liquids than properly fired pots, and they will need to be handled carefully and replaced frequently, but it could be done. But, to support your comment, this answer does say "ceramics," and that does sound difficult to achieve given the parameters. Hopefully they have lots of mirrors, aluminum foil, or something reflective still available to make a huge solar kiln. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Oct 24, 2018 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ To @L.Dutch JBH and OP: OP did not require that the people never leave their area. It should be added that they might need to go on occasional quests for wood. That would help the wood shortage. For firing needs, you might need to use the wood where you find it instead of bringing it all back to home. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Oct 24, 2018 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Aaron, the OP didn't specify the technology level, time line, predators, weather conditions, local banditry, capabilities of the residents, available gods, angels, demons, natural disasters, psychic abilities of the residents, or a great many things, either. I answered the question as-asked with no assumptions and the OP appears to have appreciated that. If you believe that was inappropriate, you could always post an answer of your own. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 24, 2018 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH OP shouldn't need to specify all those; else it would not be possible to make questions that were not too broad. Also, my comment likewise does not make any assumptions. It would be an assumption to assume that people could never leave the local area. As for inappropriate; I never accused your answer of being inappropriate; on the contrary, I thought it was a good answer. In fact, I should have up-voted it but forgot to... done. I still think getting out for wood would be great addition, and not enough to warrant a new answer. If you disagree, so be it - it's a comment here now. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Oct 24, 2018 at 21:15

Sod and stone would be strong and well insulated. Houses could be built underground or even partially underground so they remain warm/cool all year round.

As for livestock, you would want sheep or goats. They're small and hardy. They can be milked or killed for meat and they can produce fiber for clothing as well as leather.

Poultry is the next option for meat and eggs.

Preferable livestock would be small enough to keep inside with you during the dead of winter. The extra warm bodies (ignore the smell) would keep everything warm when you don't have wood for heating.

If your survivors have any level of technological knowledge, they could build a bio digester to turn the animal dung and other waste into gas for cooking and the waste from the digester into fertilizer.

Guinea pigs would also work. In South America, they live in the walls of the homes and are eaten as a protein source. They breed quick and live on grass which can be stored over winter.

Crops you would need is stuff you can preserve/store easily. Corn is your staple. Tomatoes can be dried and are quick growing. Sunflowers are a good source for oil for cooking as well as lighting lamps. Beans also dry and store well.

Basically think Mexican cooking. All the staples store well and is easy to produce.


Building materials - Stones and clay. Clay mixed with leftovers of your second point.

Crops Any winter cereals. Of which canola is part of (for that good good oil) and Hordeum, hordeum is so nasty that sometimes it's considered as weed. It also have good grain for making clear alcohol.

Livestock - If you are there to stay (see building) you don't need to worry about livestock. You can herd anything. From Lama to pigs. Of course every type have it own pros and cons (pigs need same amount of food as adult human while goats need to reproduce every years, Sheep give nice wool but cows give more meat and milk).

You main concern at the start wold be to recognize what type of soil you have. Acidic or not. Do you need to fertilize it to an exceed or not. Because from this you can make decision about A) crop and B) livestock. If you need phosphorus and nitrogen (and to be honest you need that always) you need to introduce that to your livestock diet. Those elements are not well digest so animals excrete them. Excrement is then used as fertilizer. But again - phosphorus comes naturally in plants BUT monogastric (like swines or poultry) animals don't have enzyme to digest it (so they shit with it but don't absorb any so it's have no impact on their grow). Ruminants (like cows) have that ability so they are not only able to absorb this element but also create source of it for your crops. Of course you can "force" monogastric to produce more phos and nitro by lowering their energetic intake. But that will result in their slower grown and less meat.
So you need to make a decision if you are able to feed some type of animal not for food but as a creator of fertilizer.


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