Lost Skills

River Cane: 25 Self-Reliant Uses for “Cherokee Plastic”

by Todd Walker

Bamboo can quickly takes over yards and even entire fields. Though it has many uses world-wide, non-native woody grasses are not our topic of discussion. Today we’ll cover what some describe as the Cherokee Nation’s equivalent to modern plastic… River Cane.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

River cane (grass family, Poaceae) is the only native bamboo in the eastern woodlands. Three have been identified: River cane (Arundinaria gigantea), Switch cane (Arundinaria tecta), and a newly discovered (2007) native bamboo called Hill cane (Arundinaria appalachiana). Source

Historical accounts of vast canebrakes stretching for miles along river floodplains were noted by early explorers of the New World. William Bartram, America’s first professional botanist, described clums of river cane “as thick as a mans arm.” John Lawson (1674-1711) recorded that one culm (hollow stem) of river cane could hold “about of pint of liquor.” Cheers!

Without delving into the botanical differences, which would require more space than this article allows, the historical use of cane is well documented as a rich resource for self-reliance. It’s uses are not lost on modern primitive practitioners and experimental archeologists.

Below are three books on primitive skills and technology which have helped me on my journey of experimental archeology and the practice of primitive skills…

I never had the pleasure of personally meeting and learning from Steve Watts but he treated me like a good friend through our online communications. His recent untimely passing spurred me to re-read his book, Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills.

I’m fortunate to have Scott Jones, a student and colleague of Mr. Watts, less than an hour from my Georgia home. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of his Workshops at the Woods. I have both of his books, A View to the Past, and his most recent work, Postcards to the Past: Context and Continuity in Primitive Technology, gifted to me by my good friend, Kevin Bowen.

My pursuit of primitive technology and skills is largely due to these two authors. Outside the modest cane fishing pole, most of the cane projects within this article come from Watts and Jones.

Though my cane craft is limited, every Georgia country boy I know is intimately familiar with catching blue gill from ponds and creek banks with a homemade cane pole. The use of river cane extends far beyond boys fishing and raising cane on hot summer days. Below I’ve listed 25 traditional uses for this amazing plant.

25 Uses for River Cane in Self-Reliance

Hunting

  • Arrow Shafts ~ A preferred material for Southeastern Native American tribes.
  • Atlatl and Darts ~ Cane was used to make darts for these spear throwing tool. Jones describes in Postcards from the Past (pg. 193) and has made spear-throwers entirely from cane.
  • Knife ~ Some tribes made fire-hardened knives from cane capable of skinning game. I have a deep cut on my knuckle which is finally healing from a brush with sharp river cane.
  • Blow Gun ~ Nodes (joints) were removed to form a long, hollow tube of cane to blow darts from. These were effective in hunting small game animals and birds.

Fishing

  • Fish Trap ~ The Cherokee used a funnel style trap at an opening of rock dams and weirs in steams to catch fish.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cane fish trap in progress

  • Split Cane Gig ~ Easy to carve and fire-harden harpoon style gigs for fish or other aquatic species.
  • Floats ~ A small clum between both nodes can be used for a line float on a cane pole.
  • Jug Fishing ~ Bundle several lengths of cane together with a line and hook attached for passive jug fishing.

Containers

  • Baskets ~ Cane was split into splints and woven into baskets for food gathering and storage, clothing storage, ceremonial uses, and day-to-day containers. Natural pigment were used to dye and decorate.
  • Mats ~ Woven mats were used for covering walls, floors, bedding, burial, and seating.
  • Cane Vial ~ The hollow portion of a clum makes a great container for storing liquid, salt, pepper, medicine, needles, etc.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A vial for my repair kit

  • Sheaths ~ I traded with James Gibson (Knob Creek Forge) for this handy antler-handled awl with a river cane sheath.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A simple but effective sheath

Wildlife

Canebrakes are an ecosystem unto themselves.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A small canebrake

  • At least 23 mammal species, 16 bird species, four reptile species and seven invertebrates that occur within canebrakes (Platt et al. 2001). Source
  • Swainson’s warbler builds it’s nests in dense canebrakes.
  • Canebrake Rattlesnake (endangered) live and hunt in canebrakes.
  • Whitetail deer eat young shoots in the spring.

Farming

  • Food ~ Attractive to many grazing bovine, young cane was the highest yielding native pasture in the Southeast. Indians managed large canebrakes by controlled burning every 7 to 10 years. For humans, boil and eat young shoots in early spring and summer.
  • Riparian Buffer ~ Canebrakes improve water quality by filtering ground water nitrates/phosphates, trapping sediment, and stabilizing erosion.
  • Tomato Stakes ~ If river cane isn’t abundant in your area, use bamboo instead.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bamboo or cane is a great garden companion

Construction

  • Shelter ~ Cane and other flexible saplings were used in wattle-and-daub walled houses.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The crew from Georgia Bushcraft constructing a shelter from river cane’s cousin (bamboo).

  • Watercraft ~ Bundles of hollow river cane lashed together to form pontoons.
  • Pipes ~ Stem for smoke pipes.
  • Blow Tube ~ Perfect for making burn and scrap containers and spoons.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A burn and scrap spoon made while camping with Bill Reese (Instinct Survivalist)

  • Furniture ~ Chairs, beds, tables, etc.

Crafts

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two excellent resources: A river cane handle on a tulip poplar bark berry basket.

  • Paint Brush ~ A short, hollow portion of river cane will accept animal hair or plant fibers to form a brush.
  • Jewelry ~ Necklaces, bracelets, and pendants can be made from cane.
  • Burnishing Tool ~ Used to burnish leather edges or other craft items.

Music

  • Flute ~ A famous poet from Georgia, Sidney Lanier, was also a flutist. It is said that he made his first flute from river cane collected on the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia.
  • Whistle ~ Hank at Sensible Survival shows you how to make a simple survival whistle.

We are fortunate to have such a rich native resource growing in our Southeastern woodlands. Efforts are being made to reestablish river cane on land once covered with native bamboo. Keep stewardship in mind when harvesting from canebrakes. Select only what you need without over-harvesting. Non-native bamboo can be substituted for many of these projects mentioned.

In what ways have you used cane for self-reliance?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

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Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gardening, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft

by Todd Walker

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Foraging wild food requires practice, knowledge, and experience on your landscape. Notice I used the word your land. What you’ve read in books and watched on YouTube may not apply to your locale. While survival principles may never change, self-reliance is local.

Many of us are self-taught in skills of wilderness living. However, one way to shorten your learning curve is to find an experienced skills practitioner in your area who is actually Doing the Stuff. After receiving instruction, you gain knowledge. Knowledge weighs nothing but is not enough. You make knowledge applicable through time and experience and context. There is no substitute for time in your woods.

I had the recent pleasure of attending my third class at Medicine Bow, A Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains. If you look up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, Mark Warren’s bio should appear, but won’t. He’s not only a walking encyclopedia of woods-lore, he won the U.S.National Champion in Slalom/Downriver combined and the World Championship Longbow Tournament in 1999. On top of his wealth of outdoor knowledge, he is also a musical composer and published author.

Mark’s knowledge of the Cherokee uses of plants and trees is the foundation for anyone interested in wilderness living and self-reliance. I wrote him an email after the class asking assistance on a question for this article. I wanted to know the degree to which Cherokees depended on domesticated crops verses wild foods.

Mark’s response:

“Everyone knows about Cherokee farming and the 3 sisters (corn, squash, and beans), but the wild growth of forest and field was actually “farmed” too, by pruning or clearing for light. For example, swamp dogwoods were pruned to encourage survival shoots for basketry and arrow shafts. Large areas along flood plains were burned to help create a monopoly of river cane (for the same two crafts). A lot of those “brakes” can still be seen. The same is true of foods. I have a sense of why Amicalola was sacred to the Cherokee. I suspect it was for the prolific sochani that grows there. It’s also called green-headed coneflower. Cherokee women in NC still harvest it in spring and freeze for the year.”

Click here for more information on Sochani (Green-Headed Coneflower).

Think about this astounding bit of research…
“The Cherokees of the 19th century are listed as having around 800 plants in their repertoire (Mooney, 1992). This from a pool of about 2,400 species of plants to work from or about a third!” ~ Source

Every year I add more plants and trees to my food-medicine-craft list. But 800! I’ve got a lot to learn and experience.

“In the school of the woods, there is no graduation day.” 

~ Horace Kephart

Trees of Southern Appalachia

Wild plant foragers get excited this time of the year. Green shoots make their way through the soil for another growing season. Autumn turns to winter and the smorgasbord disappears. But trees, they stand ready to share their resources year-round.

Winter tree identification would not be challenging if trees would stop dropping their leaves. Mark taught winter botany lessons which I had never been exposed to. Sharing all I learned would take several articles. For our purposes today, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.

Tulip Tree

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) it is not a poplar at all. It is actually in the Magnolia ((Magnoliaceae)) family of flowering trees. There are many common names for Liriodendron tulipifera besides Tulip Poplar… Yellow Poplar, Canoe Wood, Yellow Wood, and Tulip Tree. That is one reason it is important to use scientific names of plants and trees… if you can manage to pronounce them. This will remove any confusion over common names.

Related Resource: Trees for Self-Reliance

Food

The Tulip Tree, while not a nutritional powerhouse, is a favorite of mine mainly for craft and outdoor self-reliance. Tulip Tree blooms are a main source of nectar for honey bees which produces a dark, amber honey loaded with antioxidants.

  • The only part of a Tulip Tree that I know is edible is the nectar in the flowering blooms.
  • Edit: Darryl Patton, The Southern Herbalist, sent me a message saying he collects, dries, and pounds the inner bark into flour for baking in his spring classes. Thank you, Darryl.

Medicine

Tulip Tree’s inner bark and leaves were used medicinally by the Cherokee and settlers in Appalachia for treating…

  • Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores.
  • Inner bark tea for periodic fevers, diarrhea, pinworms, as a digestive aid and for rheumatic pain.
  • Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac.
  • The bark could also serve as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria.
  • Tooth aches.
  • Used as a tonic to induce perspiration to treat fevers.
  • Root bark and seeds useful as a wormer for the body.
  • Cough syrup from bark.

Craft

  • Fire Craft ~ Wood for friction fire, inner bark for tinder, hot, quick burning firewood which does not produce long-lasting coals like other hardwoods.
  • Cordage ~ Inner bark fibers can be processed into cordage and rope.
When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage: Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Tree; Okra, and Yucca.

  • Containers ~ Outer bark crafted into berry baskets, arrow quivers, and larger pack baskets.
  • Carving ~ The soft hardwood lends itself to easy carving of spoons, bowls, pottery paddles, canoe paddles, and even the canoe itself. One common name of this tree is Canoe Wood.
This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree paddle and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

  • Insulation ~ Shredded inner bark can be stuffed between layers of clothing to create dead air space to retain body heat in a survival situation.
  • Roofing/Siding ~ Outer bark slabs used for shingles and siding on shelters.

Hickory

Hickories make excellent wildlife resource as squirrels and feral pigs love to eat their nut meat. Pignut (Carya glabra), Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), and Shagbark (Carya ovata) are the three hickories I’m most familiar with in Georgia, Mockernut being the most common.

Food

  • Sap ~ Sap water from hickories can be consumed without treatment.
  • Nuts ~ Contains fats (18g/serving), protein (3.6g/serving), and carbohydrates (5 g/serving) – Serving size = 1 oz.
  • Hickory syrup from crushed and processed nuts.
  • Cooking oil from nuts.
  • Kunuche (ku-nu-che) ~ A traditional Cherokee hickory nut soup.
  • Nuts with exterior husks are useful as charcoal for cooking food.
Scott Jones using hickory nuts as charcoal

Scott Jones (Media Prehistoria) using hickory nuts as charcoal.

  • Hickory Milk ~ “They pound them to pieces, and then cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers, preserves the most oily part of the liquid; this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is as sweet and rich as fresh cream, and is an ingredient in most of their cookery, especially homony and corn cakes.” – Source

Medicine

  • Infusion of boiled bark for arthritis pain.
  • Inhaling fumes of young shoots on hot rocks as a treatment for convulsions.
  • Cold remedy
  • Liver aid
  • Gynecological aid
  • Dermatological issues

Craft

How to Handcraft a Custom Ax Handle from a Tree - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This ax handle started out as the hickory tree pictured in the background

Hickory was used by the Cherokee’s for…

  • Stickball sticks
  • Crafting bows
  • Handles – (Here’s my tutorial on carving an ax handle from hickory)
  • Firewood
  • Smoking meats
  • Furniture
  • Inner bark of Mockernut and Shellbark Hickory used to finish baskets
  • Ashes from hickory were used by settlers to make quality lye for soap.
  • Inner bark used for cordage. Mark described a method of slicing down a hickory limb to remove the bark and twisting it to make a strong rope. I’ll explore that method in a later post.
  • Green nut husks used as dye – (My bed sheet tarp was dyed with hickory and black walnut dye)
  • Nut oil mixed with bear fat as an insect repellent.

Pine

There are 36 pines in North America to choose from. These evergreens are easy to spot for anyone. To narrow down the species, count the needles. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is the only species in Eastern North America with 5 needles in the fascicle sheath (the paper-like sheath surrounding the base of the needles).

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hemlock is a part of the pine family and grows in southern Appalachia. Like other pines in our region, the inner bark is edible.

Food

  • Pine nuts are edible and tasty.
  • Inner bark was eaten when other foods were scarce. Should be boiled/cooked since it is high in turpenes. Can also be dried and ground into a flour.
  • Pine pollen can be collected and is edible and used like flour.
  • Long strips of inner bark can be boiled to make pine noodles.

Medicine

  • Pine needle tea has the following medicinal properties: antiseptic, astringent, inflammatory, antioxidant, expectoranthigh in Vitamin C for colds – flu – coughs, congestion, and even scurvy.
  • Shikimic acid, the main ingredient in Tamiflu, is harvested from pine needles in Asia.
  • Pine resin applied to skin conditions.
  • Arthur Haines describes on his YouTube channel how pine pollen provides multiple avenues of protection against radioactive cesium.
  • Warm poultice of pine resin will draw splinters and foreign matter from skin.
  • The inner bark can be fashioned as an antiseptic Band Aid for cuts and scraps
  • Chew softer sap straight off the tree like a gum for sore throats and colds. You could pre-make “gum” with these ingredients: bees-wax, pine sap, and honey.

Craft

See more useful fire craft articles on our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

  • Wood for shelters and bows for bedding.
  • Rescue Signals ~ A pre-made signal fire built with green pine boughs on top will generate enough white smoke to be seen for miles.
  • Pine needles were used to make baskets and resin was used as a sealer.
  • Logs were used in home building.
  • White pine and hemlock are both good wood for friction fire.
  • Dried and ground hemlock inner bark used as flour.
  • Dried pine “flour” is useful when rubbed on the body to cover human scent while hunting.

Mark says that Cherokees called trees “The Standing People.” Trees do not walk to new locations like animals in search of food. They are always in the same spot. Learning to identify trees and their resources will put you in a better position of appreciation and stewardship of your natural environment.

To mention all the trees used by the Cherokee would be better addressed in book form. In this article, we’ve highlighted three of my favorite trees in our woodlands. I’ll write future blogs covering more. Here’s a teaser on future posts… Dogwood, Sourwood, Basswood, Black Walnut, Persimmon, Beech, Black Cherry, and the list continues.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Herbal Remedies, Lost Skills, Medical, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance, Survival Skills, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything

by Todd Walker

Read the next two lines and stop. Look around you. Make a mental note of all the useful stuff produced from two resources… wood and metal.

Really, stop reading for a second!

Okay, come back now.

What did you come up with? If you only noted the obvious wooden and metallic items, go deeper. With a little thought, your list should grow exponentially.

Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The fact is, wood and metal were directly or indirectly responsible for building your house, mailbox, wall clock, sofa, and the electronic device you’re reading from this very moment.

Wood and metal go together like peas and carrots. Metal tools are used to shape wood. But wood creates fire to heat metal for making said tools. And don’t forget about the useful wooden handles attached to metal tools. There’s a relationship between the two resources in which both benefit from the other. In biology, we call this mutualism.

For long-term self-reliance, learning to manipulate and exploit these resources will make you an indispensable asset to both family and community.

Blacksmithing: The Master of All Crafts

Except for harnessing fire, nothing in human history compares to the discovery of metal and its ability to be molded, formed, and poured into useful shapes. Blacksmithing is the only craft that makes their own tools and the tools of other craftsmen.

DSCN0592

Traditional Appalachian Smithy at Foxfire Museum

You don’t have to dial back in time too far to find Bob the Blacksmith being the most prominent tradesman in town. In need of a gate latch? Go see Bob. How about that crack in your froe? Bob can forge weld it and have you back splitting cedar shakes for your roof in no time. Making a hammer for your flint-lock rifle could be done by Bob.

Basic Smithing Tools

To build a functional smithy, you’ll need a few tools. No need to spend a boatload of money to get started either. Shop yard sales, flea markets, scrap yards, farm auctions, estate sales, and antique stores – the highest prices are usually paid at antique stores.

Here are the basic tools needed for beginners like me…

  • Anvil ~ A real blacksmithing anvil may be your largest cash outlay. A common man’s anvil can be a section of railroad track or large block of metal – 100 plus pounds mounted to a wooden stump.
  • Forge ~ Charcoal, coal, or gas-powered, the forge will heat your steel for shaping and tempering metal. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A hole in the ground will work. Some sort of blower to increase heat in your coal or charcoal. Blowers are not needed for a propane forge.
Propane forge at Red Barn Forge

Dave’s new propane forge at Red Barn Forge

  • Hammer ~ A 2 to 3 pound hammer to work hot metal. You can add to your hammer collection over time. There are four basic types of hammers for moving metal: straight peen, ball peen, cross peen, and sledge.
  • Tongs ~ Long handle pliers used to grip hot steel while hammering.
  • Vise ~ A bench vise mounted on a sturdy work bench. I’ve yet to acquire a blacksmithing post vise.
  • Files ~ Flat and half-round
Learn These 2 Pioneer Skills to Produce Almost Anything - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

File and file card

  • Quench Bucket ~ Container large enough to hold about 5 gallons of water to cool hot metal and for tempering.
  • Safety Equipment ~ Eye protection, ear protection, leather boots, natural fiber clothing, welding gloves, fire extinguisher and water bucket/hose, first aid kit.
  • Like other crafts, there are almost endless numbers of tools and items you’ll want to acquire as your skill level increases.
The "anvil" is a solid piece of steel I'll mount to a stump.

The “anvil” (lower right) is a solid piece of steel I’ll mount to a stump.

Though I’ve always known the importance of this craft historically, my dabbling has only produced a few items. However, after a recent Georgia Bushcraft camping trip, I realized it’s time to get serious about hammering steel.

Stephan Fowler of Fowler Blades spent two hours in the rain demonstrating, in less than optimal conditions, the process of turning a file into a functional cutting tool. The blade was not his best work considering he used a crumbly rock as an anvil, an air mattress pump for a billow, and burning chunks of hardwood on the ground as his forge.

I was honored to have won this file knife which Stephan made in a fire challenge during the campout!

I was honored to have won Stephan’s survival file knife in a fire-building challenge during the campout!

Check out what Stephan produces when he has access to his real forge → here.

And now for the video of Stephan making a knife from a file, in the rain, on a rock anvil…

Your skill level doesn’t have to be superior to be useful for long-term self-reliance. The more you hammer steel and study metallurgy, the better you become.

Blacksmithing Resources

Blacksmithing in America was hot and heavy during our pioneer days in North America. Not long after the Industrial Revolution, the art of blacksmithing survived only as a specialty craft. Thankfully, the secrets of metallurgy, once guarded in guilds, is being passed on through modern-day blacksmiths. Here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful in connecting with local craftsmen.

Woodworking

The craft of woodworking compliments blacksmithing more so than any two trades I know. Developing the skill to make handles for metal tools or mill lumber from a tree to accept the nails you forged on your anvil could one day feed your family in hard times. I’ll bet your master gardener neighbor would be willing to barter food for tools and repairs on her homestead.

If you’re like me, you find yourself dabbling in all sorts of pioneer skills. One skill I’ve become proficient at is carpentry. However, take away my power tools and my skill level drops several notches.

A mix of modern and pioneer tools

A mix of modern and pioneer hand tools

Working wood with pioneer tools is based on the same principles as modern woodworking… with a steeper learning curve and physicality. Don’t abandon your power tools. Here’s my list of basic wood working tools, both modern and pioneer style.

Modern Tools

  • Hammers ~ A 16 oz. claw hammer and a larger framing hammer (20 oz.) to get you started.
  • Saws ~ Circular, chop/miter, table, jig, reciprocating – cordless and corded. Cordless 18v batteries can be charged via solar chargers if the need arises.
  • Drills ~ Cordless impact driver and drill, corded drill press, and an assortment of drill bits (wood and metal), screw bits, and socket bit adapters.
  • Squares ~ Tri-square, combination, speed square, and carpenter’s square. Used to mark and test angles. Buy metal squares to use with hot metal work. Plastic melts.
  • Levels ~ Torpedo, 2 foot, and 4 foot bubble levels keep things plumb.
  • Measuring and Marking Devices ~ 25 foot steel tape measure, wooden folding ruler, carpenter’s pencil, chalk line.
  • Utility Knife ~ One of my most used tools on my belt.

Pioneer Tools

  • Hammers, Mallets, and Mauls.

  • Saws ~ Hand saws: crosscut, rip, compass saw, coping, and bucksaw.
  • Drills ~ Brace and bit, augers, bits of various sizes.
  • Squares ~ Same as listed above; Tri-square, combination, speed square, and carpenter’s square. Used to mark and test angles. Buy metal squares to use with hot metal work. Plastic melts.
  • Levels ~ Torpedo, 2 foot, and 4 foot bubble levels keep things plumb and work as straight edges.
  • Measuring and Marking Devices ~ 25 foot steel tape measure (roughing work), wooden folding ruler, steel drafting ruler (bench work), pencil, chalk line.
  • Smoothing Planes ~ Both long and short. Stanley makes great planes and can be had inexpensively but may need some TLC to make them useable.
  • Chisels ~ A variety of sizes kept super sharp… which I’m known not to do.
  • Draw Knives ~ Draw knives for roughing wood to shape and spoke shaves for finishing form.
  • Shave Horse ~ Holds stock freeing both hands to work wood with a draw knife or spoke shave.
Pioneer tools at Foxfire Museum

Pioneer tools at Foxfire Museum

  • Froe ~ A simple tool used to split (rive) wood into shingles, boards, and staves.
  • Rasp ~ Both flat and half-round. A 4-in-1 rasp is utilitarian.

Notice I didn’t delve into the actual skill sets needed. That would take a long time and lots of bandwidth. However, I do recommend that you begin stockpiling metal and woodworking tools. They may be useful one day.

Oh, and never pass up scrap metal. Collect lawn mower blades, leaf springs, bar stock, round stock, pallet wood, hardware (nails, screws, nuts and bolts), old files, tool steel, sharpening devices, sheet metal, saws, etc., etc.

I made this end table for DRG from pallet wood, 150 year-old house siding, an old yard stick, and sheet metal.

I made this end table for DRG from pallet wood, 150 year-old house siding, an old yard stick, and sheet metal.

Real stuff, almost all stuff, can be made from skilled hands with metal and wooden tools. Learning to work these two resources may start as a hobby or pastime but could very well insure your livelihood in hard times.

Did you think of anything that was made without metal and/or wood being directly or indirectly involved in the process? Bet you didn’t.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

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Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, equipment, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Resilience, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires

by Todd Walker

Forgive me for butchering the pronunciation of tonteldoos in my video below. No matter how it’s spoken in Afrikaans, this portable tinderbox just became my favorite fire-starter for spark ignition fires. Simple, yet effective!

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tonteldoos is a small town in South Africa who’s name actually means tinderbox. Information on the traditional tinderbox itself was a bit scarce as I researched. I was fortunate enough to find a description of a tonteldoos in a Facebook learning group shared by a gentleman (Eben) raised in South Africa. I built mine based on his helpful instructions.

Thank you, Eben, for sharing some history and the idea of making this pocket tinderbox!

Tonteldoos History

The tonteldoos was introduced in South Africa by European settlers in the 17th century. The tinderbox was an effective and portable method of creating fire up until the introduction of stick matches in the mid 1800’s. As wars tend to do, the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) created a scarcity of stick matches causing people to revert back to the traditional tonteldoos to start fires in homes and afield.

Even after the war ended and matches became widely available, the use of this traditional tinderbox continued through to the mid 20th century. Testing my pocket tonteldoos, I can certainly see why. It’s easy to make, easy to use, and employs one of man’s time-tested ignition sources – flint and steel.

Tonteldoos Testing

Consistent ignition with flint and steel requires a dry source of charred material. Once the material catches a spark, the glowing ember is placed in a tinder bundle and blown into flame. With marginal or damp tinder, I’ve gone through several pieces of char from my fire kit before reaching ignition temperature.

This pocket tinderbox offers a controlled solution to eating up all your charred material. Here’s how…

With the tonteldoos, the only material consumed is at the end of the tube. The remaining un-charred material is preserved within the cylinder. Saving this valuable next-fire resource is the smart move.

I tested two methods…

  1. Char all the cotton material before inserting in the tube
  2. Char only the cotton material protruding from the end of the tube

By far, the best results came from charring the end of the material (method #2).This is the traditional method used for tonteldoos.

Method #1 failed, as I suspected, due to the fragile nature of charred material. It’s difficult to push crumbly material through a tube without turning it to dust. The charred rope provided an awesome glow but was consumed too quickly.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Make Your Own

After reading Eben’s description, my possum mentality kicked in as I walked to my shop. I needed a metal tube and cotton material. I considered using a small, gutted Maglite but the diameter would not allow me to push the material up with my finger. The same goes for 1/2 inch copper pipe unless you’ve got really skinny fingers.

I dove into my scrap copper from previous plumbing jobs. If you don’t have copper lying around, home improvement stores sell all you need.

Here’s what I came up with for my tonteldoos…

Stuff you'll need

Stuff you’ll need

Material and Tools

  • 3/4 inch copper pipe about 4 inches in length
  • Two 3/4 inch copper caps – bought new for about $1.50 each
  • 100% cotton material – several strands from a mop head works well
  • Cordage is totally optional
  • Scissors or sharp knife
  • Copper wire if you make a loop through the end caps like mine
  • Drill and drill bit the diameter of the wire used to make the loop
  • Pipe cutter
  • Flint and steel

Step 1: Cut Pipe

Cut a 4 inch section of 3/4 inch pipe. Ream each end of the pipe with the attachment on the pipe cutter – or use a file. This removes burrs from snagging the cotton material as it passes through the pipe.

Pipe reamer attachment

Pipe reamer attachment

Step 2: Pack the Pipe

Any 100% cotton material would probably work. I had a new industrial mop head lying around I had intended to use as char rope. Perfect!

Cut several strands off a mop head and feed them through the pipe with a twisting motion until 1/4 inch of material is sticking out of the top end of your cylinder. Let the bottom end run wild. You can remove the excess later.

IMG_3389

Char the 1/4 inch of material with an open flame. I used my new Mullein Slush Lamp… just because! Any open flame will do.

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Once the end is charred, pull the wick down from the bottom end so the charred end is even with the top of the pipe. Place the cap on the smoldering end to extinguish the embers. Now cut the excess material from the bottom end of the tinderbox.

IMG_3411

Step 3: Attach Wire Loops to Caps

This is completely optional. I added loops to my caps for three reasons…

  1. Tying cordage to connect the two loops may aid in keeping the caps found in the field.
  2. A steel striker can be attached to the cordage.
  3. Cordage can be tied to keep the end caps secured if you actually carry your tonteldoos in your pocket while tramping through the woods.

If the end caps fit loosely, tweak the pipe ends by lightly tapping them with a hammer to take them out of round. Not too much or your cap won’t fit (square peg in a round hole). Another way to tighten the cap connection is to solder the caps on and then remove them. The layer of solder would make the caps fit tightly once cooled.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The blood knot before tightening

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Blood knot tightened to secure caps

Or just tie them securely with a blood knot (how to tie a blood knot video here) as mentioned in #3. For this part, you’ll need a loop on each end cap…

Drill two holes in each cap the diameter of a piece of copper wire. I stripped a section of scrap 12 gauge wire to form my loops. Needle-nose pliers are most helpful for this task. I opted not to solder the wire inside the cap since bending them down inside each cap held the loops in place securely.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Copper wire bent in the bottom of the cap

How to Use Your Tonteldoos

As with any charred “next-fire” material, keep the tonteldoos in a dry place in your haversack or fire kit. I keep a couple of pieces of chert/flint inside my square tinderbox (pictured below) with other charred material and finely processed tinder material. The tonteldoos fits perfectly inside this large tinderbox.

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

To ignite the charred end of the tonteldoos, push the wick from the tube bottom with your finder so that 1/8th inch of the charred wick is exposed. Hold the cylinder in your non-dominant hand with your pinky and ring finger. Hold a sharp piece of chert/flint between your thumb and pointing finger. The tinderbox should be below the flint so the sparks have a better chance of landing on the wick – unlike the photo below.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dirty hands and dirt time!

 

Strike down lightly and repeatedly over the edge of the sharp stone so that sparks are produced and hopefully land on the charred end. The tiny shards of metal oxidize and spontaneous combust to produce 800 degree sparks hot enough to create a glowing ember on the charred wick.

Spontaneous combustion from flint and steel

Flint and steel showering sparks on the tonteldoos

Once a spark finds its mark, a glowing ember appears. Blow the ember to spread the glow over the end of the wick.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Should look like a lit cigar when ready

 

Of course, you’ve prepared fine to course tinder material beforehand and shaped a stellar tinder bundle (a.k.a. – birds nest). I use two methods to ignite tinder bundles with my pocket tondeldoos.

First, place the glowing end of the wick directly into the finest part of your tinder material and blow to ignition. Be sure to push the wick out of the tube a bit so as to make good contact with the fine tinder.

The other method is to use the glowing end of the tonteldoos to ignite a fire extender like punk wood, black sooty mold, etc., etc. Then place the fire extender in your bird’s nest and blow it to flame.

Here’s our video demonstrating my DiY tonteldoos…

If you want a portable, long-lasting, reliable source of char for flint and steel ignition, give the tonteldoos a try. I think you’ll be pleased.

Be sure to let us know your results and any other creative ideas to build one.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 29 Comments

Stalking: The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals

by Todd Walker

The art of getting close to wild animals has been replaced by high-powered rifles and telephoto lens. Like other lost skills of self-reliance, a revival is in order.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One man fanning the primitive fire is Mark Warren. A soft-spoken man, reverence and passion for nature and her bountiful resources flows from his life like a refreshing mountain stream. My time at Medicine Bow, Warren’s Primitive School of Earthlore near Dahlonega, Georgia, challenged not only my physical abilities, but awakened my mind and spirit.

As young boys, my brother and I spent countless hours re-enacting exploits of woodsmen we either read about or watched on TV. Fiberglass bows in hand, we’d crawl through fields of broom sedge and pop up as close to a cow or flock of robins as possible. Our cows would give us their usual stare and continue grazing. Farm animals were easy to stalk.

Why learn this lost skill?

The obvious benefit is for hunters with primitive weapons. Harvesting animals with a hickory self bow requires that you be as close as possible to the intended target for a clean kill. You owe that much to the animal for providing meat and resources for sustainability.

Observers and photographers of wild animals would do well to practice stalking techniques. Doing so may revel phantoms of the woods you’ve only dreamed of capturing in your lens.

The main benefit I personally received under Mark’s instruction was the complete immersion in nature. Slowing down to a snail’s pace uncovered small, “invisible” wilderness details unnoticed when trekking full speed ahead. Connecting to our ancestral roots always feeds my soul and waters the primal tree.

An analogy Mark often used was that of a rock tossed into a pond. The impact ripples to every shoreline. The idea being to minimize your wake in the animal’s living space.

To increase your chances of getting close to wild animals, stalking employs the following elements…

  • Patience
  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Camouflage
  • Scent Control

Follow along as I break down what I learned about making a successful stalk.

Patience

Native Americans learned to stalk by observing interactions between predator and prey.

Drab colored animals like deer, rabbit, and fox have evolved away from color vision to survive. Their ability to blend into their surroundings as predator or prey renders color recognition unimportant for survival. Now the rods in their eyes dominate to detect motion in their field of vision.

Working the wind correctly and being camouflaged helps conceal your presence but movement is the worst offender of blending into the forest.

Sound may alert wild animals, but our movement is what causes them to vanish into the brush like smoke. This is the main reason the forest appears void of wildlife when we thrash along in our human gait.

We must s-l-o-o-o-w down to ultra-slow motion and take a form not easily recognized by wild game. Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the movie Jeremiah Johnson.

Here’s the exchange…

Bear Claw tells Johnson, a mountain man wannabe, to step out on the side of his horse to shoot an elk. Jeremiah asks, “What if he sees our feet?” Bear Claw responds in common sense wisdom and wit…

Elk don’t know how many feet a horse has! No, you durn fool, slide it up over the saddle.

Stalking is a game of practice, and practice makes permanent. One stalking step, done correctly, should take about two minutes on average. To be honest, my steps take about one minute when my legs are fresh… less as my stalk continues.

Balance

Think and walk like a fox. Its gait is like walking on the baseline of a gym floor. No right-to-left swagger or bobbing up and down… just a narrow, smooth, streamline glide.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A rear view of stalking

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Human locomotion demands that our body be thrown out of balance to one side or the other. And then there’s our heel strike. Lift one foot and move it forward until our heel impacts the earth sending alarm waves throughout the forest.

When I run for exercise, which is rarely these days, I prefer to run barefoot. This method of running will quickly teach you not to strike your heel first on each landing. My posture and foot strike necessitates a smooth, floating motion… which is the goal when stalking.

To demonstrate our unbalanced movement, Mark assembled our class in a straight line facing him. From a balanced position, feet shoulder-width apart, he gave the command, “walk”. Within a nanosecond, the command “freeze” was given. Our side-to-side shift was obvious. Try it yourself with a friend. Animals know this distinctive sway as human and avoid the lumbering figure in the woods.

This technique of walking like a fox is very demanding. Here’s a short video of my fox walk. Notice the shakiness in my front leg. And this demonstration wasn’t even in ultra-slow motion. I have a new appreciation of all who’ve come before us who stalked within a few feet of wild game… Mark Warren include.

No matter how delicately I placed my forward foot on the forest ground, my novice stalking legs would lose balance and crack a twig or crunch leaves from time to time. Sounds alert animals. But sound is not always a deal breaker when stalking. The forest is full of sound. Keep your eyes focused on the target the duration of the stalk so you can freeze at a moments notice if animal stares in your direction to investigate the sound.

Strength

There were many times during the class that students had to hold a stance in awkward positions. One exercise included Mark mimicking a deer. We encircled him at a distance of 15 yards or so and had to stalk towards him as he foraged and pawed at wild food. His mannerisms on all fours were amazingly similar to white-tailed deer I’ve observed.

If Mark spotted us cutting corners on our technique to the point of alerting him, he would snort and wheeze like a deer and point at the offender to go back to the starting line. If he lifted his head in our direction we would have to freeze like a heron hunting in knee-deep water… no matter the cycle of ultra-slow motion. Quadriceps and hip flexers screamed silently hoping the “deer” would bow and graze again.

I enjoy Primal/Paleo workouts. The level of functional fitness needed to stalk wild animals is different from any sport or recreational activity I’ve ever experienced. My legs and hips were sore for days after the class. Mark told us that martial artists found the most success of anyone attending his stalking class. Even more so than professional athletes.

Camouflage and Scent

It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on expensive camouflage clothing. Wear quite, loose-fitting clothes of natural material with a varied pattern that will break up your silhouette in the forest. Avoid the swish of synthetic material rubbing together. Oh yeah, the sound of clinking metal is a sound made only by humans in the woods. Check your pockets and gear before heading out.

Remembering what we learned about the role of rods and cones in wild animal eyes, even the popular pink camo patterns will work for stalkers. A bit of cooled campfire charcoal smeared on your face and exposed skin may appear too Rambo for some but will certainly dull the shine.

A wise stalker prefers a position with the wind blowing his human scent away from the animal. Even with the wind in your face (upwind), a cover scent such as natural plant material crushed and rubbed on clothing helps hide your human odor. You could also go the commercial route and apply cover scents and scent blockers.

The best teacher is the one who always remains a student. Mark Warren’s appetite for woodslore and primitive skills is demonstrated by his passion to inspire others to get out there and experience nature firsthand.

I think I’ll keep my student status.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Beginner’s Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft

by Todd Walker

[Part IV of our Bombproof Fire Craft series]

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A primal scream erupts from deep inside your body the first time you successfully coax fire from two pieces of dead wood.

Welcome to the Primal (first) Fire Club!

Experienced first fire practitioners make it look easy. It’s like they have secret pyro powers.

Not really. The secret to success with friction fire depends upon detailed attention to three things:

  • Materials for the bow drill set
  • Crafting details on the bow drill set
  • Technique and practice

There are no magic formulas for friction fire. The key is to find wood in your area that swallowed fire and practice the fundamentals persistently. I’ll offer suggestions on wood characteristics that work in our Georgia woodlands.

Gathering Materials

Not every tree will give up fire. Of course, as soon as I make that statement, some determined soul will demonstrate a bow drill fire with Osage Orange. For those new to friction fire, look for fast growing trees with dead but not rotten limbs. If your thumb nail leaves a slight depression in the wood, you’ve found a good candidate.

However, the easiest “cheat” is to stop by a lumber store and buy a kiln dried 1 x 4 cedar board. Also pick up a 5/8 inch poplar dowel rod while you’re there… or carve a spindle from the cedar board. Take them home, craft your set, and practice on your back porch or yard.

backyard-bushcraft

Our son’s first friction fire on the back patio with store-bought wood

Soft wood is more porous and is often found in lowland areas near water. Seems like a contradiction that water-loving trees have swallowed fire. Porous soft wood actually acts as an insulator to retain heat to help the charred dust reach ignition temperature during the friction process. Ignition temperature is 800ºF, give or take, depending on the fineness of the dust particles.

Here are a dozen trees and plants you can coax fire from:

  1. Tulip Poplar
  2. Cottonwood (roots work as well)
  3. Cedar
  4. Sassafras
  5. Basswood
  6. Pine – you may have been told that resins in pine prevent friction and cause a polish to form instead of dust. I’ve made friction fire with pine wood. It can be done. White pine may be the best pine wood for friction fire.
  7. Sycamore
  8. Yucca
  9. Mullein
  10. Mimosa
  11. Buckeye
  12. Willow (roots too)

In my woodlands, my favorite bow drill wood comes from the Tulip PoplarThis species drops lower limbs as it reaches for the top of the forest canopy. Fallen limbs often are hanging off the ground dry on undergrowth. You can also toss a line over dead, bark-less limbs and yank them down. If at all possible, I avoid limbs in contact with our humid Georgia ground.

Crafting Your Bow Drill Set

To begin, here’s the terminology I use for my bow drill set…

  • Hearth Board – a slab of wood placed on the ground which is notched to receive the friction from the spindle. This junction is where the magic happens. (AKA – “fire board”)
  • Spindle – a straight, cylindrical piece of wood of even thickness, carved or naturally straight, fashioned into a pencil-shape with an eraser end and a pointy end. (AKA – “drill”)
  • Bearing Block – a piece of bone, antler, rock, fat lighter’d (self-lubricating), hard wood, glass bottle bottom, knife handle divot, or any number of item used to hold the pointy end of the spindle in place while bowing. (AKA – “socket”, “hand hold”)
  • Bow – a slightly curved, inflexible dead branch (hardwood) which reaches from arm pit to fingers.
  • Bow String – non-stretchy cordage which secures at both ends of the bow with enough slack to receive the spindle. I’ve found real  tarred bank line (not the Wally World stuff) grips the drill very well.
  • Welcome Mat – a small piece of bark, leather, thin shaving of wood, or any other material available which is placed under the hearth board notch to catch/welcome the charred dust and protect the baby ember.

I’ll be explaining the process of building the set in the order listed above. However, you’ll need to make the spindle before you can finish the hearth board. So skip around the sections as needed.

Let’s build a bow drill set…

Hearth Board

With a round piece of wood, split it down with a cutting tool so that it measures about two fingers across, index finger to thumb deep, and long enough to place your foot to hold the board securely on the ground.

Tulip Poplar split to make a hearth board

Tulip Poplar split to make a hearth board

Now you’re ready to carve a pilot hole on one end of the board. Since I’m right-handed, my instructions can be flipped for any lefties reading this.

Place the eraser end of the spindle near the right end of the hearth board with about 1/4 inch of the hearth board showing to the outside edge of the spindle. Use the tip of your knife to start a pilot hole where the center of the spindle was placed on the board. In a drilling motion with the point of your knife, cut in a dimple that will accept the eraser end. The dimple should be about the same size as the spindle diameter and about an 1/8 inch deep.

Down-N-Dirty Tip: To help seat the spindle in the divot, leave a small 1/8 inch point in the center of the eraser end. This way you’ll only have to drill a matching 1/8 inch hole in the hearth board with the tip of your knife. I picked this tip up from Joe Mobley, a friend and friction fire savant. His channel is linked below under Additional Resources.

Spindle

I like my spindle to be 10 to 12 inches in length. I’ve found this length saves my posture and back when bowing.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This spindle is about as long as my Mora Companion

The spindle diameter can range from index finger size to thumb size.

Carve one end to a pencil point. This pointy end has less surface area resulting in less friction in the bearing block socket.

Carve the friction end into the shape of an eraser. I chamfer/bevel the edges of the eraser edges. This will be the business end where the friction heats the board and creates an ember. Try to use wood from the same tree for both the board and spindle. Rubbing wood together from the same tree gives good traction and grinds dust evenly from the spindle and hearth board.

Both the spindle and hearth board can be made from one limb. Carving the spindle this way will require more whittle work though. If available, use a straight stick to save time and energy.

Bearing Block

My favorite hand hold is on my Red Barn Forge knife. It offers a ready-made socket for the spindle to sit while bowing. However, I don’t always carry that particular knife in the woods.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice the socket in the middle of the handle

Many bearing block options are available to you in the woods. A split piece of hardwood can serve as a bearing block by cutting a dimple into the flat side. The dimple needs to be large enough so that the pointy end of the spindle will not wallow out and hit the sides of the dimple causing friction. You want little to no friction on this end of the spindle. Lubricate the bearing block dimple with crushed, green plant material, ear wax, facial oil, chapstick, or Fixin’ Wax if you have some.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Antler, cupped dime, and epoxy makes a great bearing block. Put a dime over a 9/16″ socket and squeeze the round end of a ball peen hammer into the dime with a vise.

I’ve used my char tin lid, broken beer bottle, rock, and my canteen cup as a socket. Pad the top of thin metal with a bandana to prevent heat transfer to your hand.

Bow

Find a dead but strong curved limb about the length of your outstretched arm. Carve a notch in both ends of the bow where your cordage will be attached.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The butt end of this bow is notched so the cordage can be leveraged with the tag end wrapped around the handle notch

Attach a length of cordage to the top of the bow in the freshly carved notch. Run the other end to the bottom and secure in the other notch. Feed the pointy end of your spindle between the cordage and bow and twist the drill into the rope. If the spindle flies out of the cord, try using both hands. Brace one end of the bow on the ground and the butt end against your waist/pelvis. This will allow you to use both hands to load the spindle into the bow.

The spindle should snap snuggly into the cordage with the spindle to the outside of the cordage with the pointy end facing up when the bow is horizontal.

Burn In the Hearth Board

Again, these are instructions for right-handers.

Place the hearth board flat on dry ground. Kneel down with your right knee on the ground and place your left foot on the board about an inch from the pilot hole on the board. Your right thigh should be near perpendicular to the ground and in line with your left foot.

Load the spindle into the bow. Place the eraser end in the pilot hole divot with your left hand and hold it steady. Sit the bow on the ground and hold the spindle with your right hand. Place the bearing block on top of the spindle and grab the bow with your right hand. This may seem like overkill, but I’ve seen many beginners who needed three hands to get their bow drill ready to go.

Before you begin bowing, brace your left wrist against your left shin when the spindle is in the pilot hole. The drill should be perpendicular to the board. Catch your breath and reflect for a moment on what you are about to create from nothing.

With the spindle braced against your left shin which is vertical over the hearth board, start moving the bow back and forth in a slow, controlled sawing motion. Use the entire length of cordage and not short strokes. Be sure to keep the bow moving horizontal over the ground. The bow string should be at a height just above your left boot, shoe, or bare foot as it spins the spindle on the hearth board.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A blurry Jamie Burleigh, Lead Instructor at The Pathfinder School, burning in his hearth board at the 2014 Blade Show

Continue this controlled bowing until you’ve burned in a ball and socket joint where your spindle and hearth board meet. In plumbing terms, the male end (ball) has successfully mated with the female end (socket). The resulting hole should look like a dark, circular pie.

Slice the Pie

Now that you have a round pie hole burned into the board, you need to cut a slice out of the pie. Score the outside edge of the board as if you were cutting the pie in half. This score mark will be the center of your slice of pie. Move to the right and left the center mark about a 1/4 inch and begin cutting into the center point of your pie hole. Rocking motions with your knife help cut across the wood grain.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The socket on the right burned through the hearth board during bowing. On the right, a new hole burned in and notched.

The notch or slice of pie should be a 45 + degree wedge cut almost to the center point of your pie. Take your time and make the notch walls as smooth as possible. This notch is where the charred dust will collect while bowing.

One additional tip. Chamfer the bottom of the board’s outside edge an inch or so on both sides of your notch. This allows extra air to flow to the dust pile. Fire needs air, fuel (dust), and heat (friction) for ignition.

Bowing Technique

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of prepping your tinder material before you start bowing. A double handful of your finest, driest tinder should be prepared before bowing begins. Nothing kills your primal fire enthusiasm like working to create your first ember and then have it fail due to marginal tinder prep.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jamie’s left arm is straight relieving the work load from his forearm and upper body

Place the hearth board flat on the earth with the notch facing towards you or away. Either position is fine. Place your Welcome Mat under the notch. Load your spindle into the bow and assume the same stance used to burn in the hearth board.

Crouching over the set with your chest resting on your left thigh will cause your left arm to bend and require more forearm exertion to place pressure on the socket and drill. Keeping your back straight allows the left arm to be extended while anchored to your left shin. Increased pressure can be applied by leaning your bodyweight forward saving your forearm.

Grip the bow with your right hand and begin smooth, long strokes. Your heating the “ball and socket” joint only at this point. Smoke will begin to appear and thicken. Speed up the bowing and apply more downward pressure on the drill.

Charred dust will accumulate in the notch and spill onto the Welcome Mat. When the collected dust begins to smoke, stop bowing. Congrats! You’re male and female connections have created a baby ember!

Don’t celebrate yet. Keep your foot on the board and gently remove the spindle and set it and the bow aside. Hold the board in place with your hand as your remove your foot so as to not disturb the baby ember.

Tap the top of the board lightly to loosen the dust from the notch and lift the board away from the Welcome Mat. No need to rush. The baby ember will smolder and eat the charred dust as its first meal. A few fanning motions with your hand will make it glow and weld the dust together.

Carefully transfer the smoking pile of dust and ember from your Welcome Mat to the center of your tinder bundle. Swaddle the ember with the sides of the tinder material with cupped hands so that your precious baby ember doesn’t fall out. Hold the bundle face-high, pucker your lips, and blow through your gently cupped hands as if your were whistling quietly.

Continue to blow until the baby ember ignites the tinder material and you’re holding a handful of burning stuff. Place the flaming bundle under your prepared fire lay, step back, and let it eat.

Now you can give us your best primal scream!

Common Bow Drill Problems and Fixes

  1. The drill flies out of the bow string ~ Fixes: a) the bearing block socket may not be deep enough; b) the pie hole in the board may be too close to the edge or not deep enough; c) your notch is too big – carve a new notch with less angle; d) the spindle is not kept vertical – brace it against your shin vertically; e) the pointy end of the spindle has dulled and should be re-sharpened.
  2. Wobbly drill ~ Fixes: a) brace your wrist against your vertical shin over the board; b) the pie hole in the board is too wide – burn in a new ball and socket joint.
  3. Smoke but no ember ~ Fixes: a) the notch may be too narrow or not deep enough into the socket of your hearth board – widen and deepen the notch; b) moisture may be present in the hearth board – dry it in the sun, or – do slow bowing until you see smoke then rest… repeat this process several times and test the board – or find a dry board.
  4. Smoke coming from the hand-held socket ~ Fixes: a) lube the socket; b) sharpen the pointy end and make sure it is not rubbing on the edge of the bearing block socket.
  5. Can’t blow the ember to flame ~ Fixes: a) you may have marginal or damp tinder – place a fire extender such as char cloth, sooty mold, or 0000 steel wool in your tinder bundle with the ember on top; b) make sure the baby ember hasn’t fallen out of the bundle – it happens.

Persistence will pay off. If you fail, walk away and try another time or day. Keep learning and follow these fundamentals and you’ll join the Primal Fire Club!

If you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Additional Bow Drill Resources:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Makin’ Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly

by Todd Walker

Vegetarians fear bacon. It’s the “gateway meat”. The temptation heightens with the mere aroma of this sizzling strip tease. Only the most hardcore herbivores can withstand the maddening scent in the olfactory receptors!

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

From a bacon-lovers perspective, preserving this fat-laden meat is a Doing the Stuff skill “worth it’s weight in salt.” However, if you believe the Big Fat Lie, go ahead and brace yourself for some disturbing news…

Your grandparents had it right… bacon fat won’t kill you. You need healthy fat in your diet.

Whether for health concerns or just to build a self-reliant skill, making bacon is a simple process anyone can do.

The recipe I used was given to me by Brian Manning, my instructor at The Pathfinder School. He made a video called “Hog and Hominy” where he carves up a side of his dry cured bacon to fry over an open fire. I had to make my own.

That's Brian Manning hamming it up

That’s Brian Manning hamming it up

I asked and he shared his recipe in the description box under his video. Be sure to check out his channel – Snow Walker Bushcraft – for some great tutorials and 18th century living skills.

I also found a helpful video by Steve Davis on his channel, “woodcrafter76“.

Here’s what you’ll need for makin’ your own bacon to cure what ails you…

The Bacon Cure

  • Find a fresh pork belly, pasture raised if possible. I bought mine at a health-food grocery store called Earth Fare. Your local butcher shop may have fresh pork belly or can order it for you. Of course, the freshest route is to butcher a hog yourself. My pork belly weighed 12.6 pounds and was on sale, half-price!
  • Buy salt and brown sugar. Lots of it. Three pound boxes of course salt. I used about 12 pounds of salt and 12 pounds of brown sugar. I’d probably use less on my next batch of bacon.
  • Brian used cracked black pepper for an outside coating. I did not but may add some for taste.
  • A large plastic bin with lid. No need to be air tight. You’ll also need a second large container to combine and store the cure mix.
  •  A dark, cool place. A refrigerator, root cellar, or cooler works.
  • Butchers string or stainless steel meat hooks. Don’t have any meat hooks? Use string and a needle for hanging your cured bacon to air dry.
  • Patience. My pork belly took 14 days to cure.

Step 1 of Makin’ Bacon

In a large container, combine equal amounts of salt and brown sugar thoroughly. In hindsight, I should have used a larger mixing container. Sugar ants made a visit to our kitchen because of the spillage from my smaller container. You can never clean all those tiny granules off the cabinets and floor.

Step 2 of Makin’ Bacon

Rub the pork belly with the cure. Make sure you don’t miss any of the crevices on the flesh side. It’s like applying a rub on a pork butt for smoking… rub it good and cover it all! These little hidden hideaways need cure applied to prevent moisture build up. Moisture is your bacon’s enemy.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The first light coat of cure

Place the coated sides in your container(s) and stick ’em in the fridge or a cooler with some ice blocks. I used a large cooler since there wasn’t much room in DRG’s fridge. Plus, I don’t trust Moose and Abby, our two rescue dogs, to be in the house alone with bacon sitting about.

I found that frozen water bottles worked better than those blue freezer blocks. I even added a 4-year-old glass jar of frozen chili to the rotation. Simply swap out melted water bottles with 4 or 5 frozen bottles in your freezer each time.

Leave the curing container in the cool place overnight and let it work.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The morning after… Drain and rub more cure mix

Drain the collected liquid and re-apply the cure. Only this time you’ll want to add a thicker layer. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of cure in the bottom of your container and place the skin side on top of the cure. Now add a generous amount of cure to the flesh side which is facing up. Remember to hit all the creases with the cure. I added a 1/2 to 1 inch layer on top. In hindsight, that much was probably overkill but Brian said I should add more cure. So I did.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

About an inch of cure covering the meat

Put the lid back on the container and place it back in your cool place.

Step 3 of Makin’ Bacon

Repeat step 2. Drain the liquid and re-apply cure mix. After a few days you’ll notice the amount of accumulating liquid on the flesh side decreases. The cure on the bottom (skin side) will still be wet and should be replaced with new/dry cure mix.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Late in the process you’ll have little accumulation of liquid in the container bottom with wet spots on top.

At that point in the curing process, you can scrape off only the dissolved cure mix and apply a thin layer to the area. I didn’t chance it. I basically re-coated the entire pork belly for 10 of the 14 days of the process.

Step 4 of Makin’ Bacon

Once satisfied that the liquid had stopped draining from the meat, I gave it a couple more cure applications. On day 14, I examined the belly and found no liquid had dissolved the cure mixture on top or underneath.

Step 5 of Makin’ Bacon

Wash off the remaining cure mix under cold water. Use your hand and fingers to scrap off any stubborn cure mixture from all sides of the pork belly.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Getting ready for a wash and smoke

Pat the pork belly dry with paper towels or a drying towel.

Step 6 of Makin’ Bacon

This step is optional but I prefer a good smoke flavor in my bacon. Smoke is also an added preservative in meats.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Keep the temp very low… below 200 degrees

I used my Big Green Egg and applewood chips for smoke flavor. You want to smoke the belly not cook it. Keep your smoker temperature under 200 degrees. If you have a cold smoker, even better.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Applewood smoke engulfing my bacon

It took some doing to get my BGE to hover between 150 to 175 degrees. Once regulated, I smoked the pork belly for about 5 hours. I gotta admit that I was a bit worried when I saw the belly looking all sweaty after the smoking process. It was supposed to be dry to keep bacteria from forming on and in the meat.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I hoped that the next step would remedy the wet, flimsy looking sides of pork belly.

Step 7 of Makin’ Bacon

And it did.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Use a large canvas sail needle or leather working needle threaded with butcher’s twine

String up the cured bacon with butcher’s twine and a needle or use meat hooks if you have some. Hang the slabs of goodness in a room in your house to air dry. You’ll want to cover them in a breathable fabric to keep flies and insects off the meat. I was in the process of hand-sewing a canvas bag when DRG, in her common sense tone, suggested using an old pillow case.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The bacon hangout

And the rest is history, folks. I love my smart wife!

The two slabs of bacon are air drying from a shelf in our laundry room encased in cotton pillow cases.

If you took your time and followed the process, the dry cured bacon will last several months at room temperature. I plan on dividing the belly into sections and freeze all but one part for immediate use and save the rest for future outdoor adventures… if it doesn’t get eaten beforehand.

Now go enjoy the intense flavor of your homemade bacon over a campfire! Or your kitchen. Or anywhere you can!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network. P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Food Storage, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping

Guest post by Kevin Bowen

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

First off, I must thank Todd Walker for the opportunity to write this piece for his blog. He really wanted to attend Kephart Days this year but an even more important event took place the same weekend that required his attendance, the birth of a beautiful, healthy grandson. Congratulations good buddy!!!

I first met Todd online about a year or so ago and then had to chance to meet up with him and Bill Reese at one of the Workshop in the Woods classes, hosted by primitive expert/teacher/author, and all around great guy, Scott Jones. If you regularly follow Todd’s blog, you have been introduced to Scott already. Since then, I have garnered a great respect for Todd’s attitude, an affinity for his ideas and work ethic, and more than anything, a love for his friendship. It’s truly an honor to help him out with this project. This article will have neither Todd’s articulate nature, prose, or flow. But, please bear with me and I will try not to bore you and attempt to deliver at least a sliver of the respect this event deserves.

If you missed the 2015 annual Horace Kephart Days event held May 15th-16th at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, North Carolina, you missed an amazing and well run event complete with imparted knowledge, new friendships, relaxation, discovery, and fresh respect. The purpose of the event was to bring awareness to Horace Kephart “The Dean of American Camping”, his life and legacy, contributions to camping, woodcraft, preservation, and enduring spirit. In addition to this purpose was to observe and interact with Steven Watts, David Wescott, and the Acorn Patrol Classic Camping Demonstration Team.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Steve Watts and David Wescott sharing the knowledge

Even the most novice outdoorsman should be familiar with the name Horace Kephart. Many have heard of the Kephart knife which was named after the style of knife that he preferred when enduring long spells in the outdoors. Even more so, his book Camping and Woodcraft, is one of the most definitive manuals for outdoors enthusiasts. There is an abundance of information on Kephart, even though there may be even more mystery surrounding him. I would suggest researching this great individual to seek the benefits that you would surely reap from it. Fortunately, conversations were already being had for next year’s event. Personally, I can’t wait to see what it will bring.

Having only Saturday to attend, I had to fit as much into 8 hours as possible, even though a full immersion into the subjects would have required much more time. Upon arriving, I immediately knew I was at the correct place even though I had yet to see a classic camper face. My senses went into overload with the whiff of the fresh air accompanied by that wonderful wood smoke and campfire aroma that we all love. It didn’t hurt that waves of the morning’s breakfast cooked over the fires were still lingering. Well, except enhancing my appetite.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

What’s not to love about this camp!

Walking up to the campground, there was a beautiful scene of different shades of canvas set up meticulously all about the backcountry farm grounds. The tents were in perfect agreement with the old farm buildings and would make one feel as if they went back through a portal in time. Amongst the canvas were whelen lean-tos, baker tents, wall tents, diamond shelters, wedge tents, and others. The period representative items amongst the campers ranged from a few to an abundance, all stoking visitors inquisitive nature. The best part of the camp, however, was the warm and welcoming personalities there. Finally, after speaking only online, I was able to meet Steven Watts, David Wescott, and Horace & Laura Kephart’s great granddaughter, Libby Kephart Hargrave in person.   Also, in attendance were Georgia Bushcrafter’s Bobby O’Quinn and Master Woodsman’s Christian Nobel, along with Bobby’s son and Christian’s daughter. It is amazing to see the kids joining in on the fun.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A classic camping bed in order

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

“Smoothin’ it” with a well equipped nightstand

After quick introductions and hellos, we headed over to the main museum building and auditorium. Just as welcoming inside the museum as on outside were other Kephart enthusiasts and lecturers. Some had even come from states away, even California. Speakers on Kephart and his contributions to woodcraft, conservation, and the Smokey Mountain National Park were Jason Brady, Bob Plott, George Frizzell, George Ellison, and Libby Kephart Hargrave.   After the lectures, descendants of Horace Kephart were on hand for autographs, discussion, and pictures. Participants of the event were also welcomed to participate in a documentary being filmed on Kephart, when walking around the campground, by providing one word that comes to mind when pondering Horace Kephart. Libby’s personal word was “complex” while my thoughts conjured up the word “reflective”.

When leaving the auditorium, we were also invited to stop by Mr. Bill Alexander’s bark basket display. Mr. Alexander was extremely inviting and you can easily see that he has a passion and artistic nature for his baskets. Fortunately, I was able to gain a little insight and tips for some that I plan to make as well. He is also an author, poet, hiker, and researcher as well as a great guy to have a long conversation with.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Wash stand outside a tent

Back outside, the fellowship and enjoyment continued. Along with Mr. Watts and Mr. Wescott were the amazing Acorn Patrol members, who displayed an amazing 1920s demonstration camp. All of the members were not just displaying camping in the old style but exhibiting an old style neighborly attitude where all were welcomed into their homes away from home like old friends. Included in their displays were some extremely expensive items and priceless heirlooms. However, all were invited to touch, experience, and ask questions. Even offered were food, treats, drinks, and a constant willingness to sit down for a friendly chat. I also noticed in their displays that all of them had high quality tools, which was a tenant of Kephart. These are just a few testaments to their willingness to share their passion. These were also skilled artisans and exquisite researchers. Needless to say, they are enthusiasts of history, which is abundantly evident in their displays as they strive, and succeed, to be accurate. If any of you read American Frontiersman or The Backwoodsman periodicals, you would have surely enjoyed the research and writings of some of the Acorn Patrol members.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Period cooler to keep food fresh

Speaking of past articles in the aforementioned periodicals, two items really caught my eye. One was the axe sheath featured in American Frontiersman #175, in an article by Watts & Wescott. It is a sheath/sling combo that allows a camper to have his axe securely on him at all time while retaining the use of both arms and hands. The other was a period representative cooler, also featured in a piece by Watts & Wescott in The Backwoodsman Vol. 36, No. 3. Amazingly, this cooler that one could put together for $35 dollars or so, will rival $300-$500 dollar coolers or similar size and keep ice in them for 3 days! All one needs is an enclosed wooden box,a #10 can (5lb vegetable or bean can), filled with frozen water, placed inside a larger pot with about 2-3 inches on each side for your “freezer” compartment, pack wheat straw all around this pot for your “refrigeration” section, and a canvas bag filled with about 2 inches thick of wheat straw to lay on top of the inside before closing the lid. Upon touch, Steve’s meat packages were still frozen and the eggs as cold as if they had just been removed from a refrigerator, even though the lid had been off for about 30 minutes upon my inspection.  Unfortunately, I missed seeing Acorn Patrol member, Thomas Ray’s ML Kephart knife and other blades that were loose representations of Kephart’s personal knife discussed in his article in American Frontiersman #175.

   In the afternoon, we attended the “Sermon on the Mount” presented by brother of divinity, David Wescott and brother of re-creation, Steven Watts. The lecture combined a pleasant mixture of information and comedy. The main topic was of classic camping and how it relates to Horace Kephart and also to our story of a nation and our legacy. First off, Mr. Watts and Mr. Wescott gave the back story of classic camping. In particular, how it became extremely popular from 1880-1930 due to a combination of the frontier being closed, a yearning to get out in the wild, and new technology including the automobile. Mr. Watts hit on it perfectly with the idea that “it was age of Daniel Boone meets the age of Henry Ford”. They also explained how the classic camping movement is on an upswing from the year 2000, no doubt in major part from the research, publications, and efforts of these two fine gentlemen and the Acorn Patrol as well. It’s no mistake that Camping in the Old Stylewas first published in 2000. In addition, they touched on how classic camping relates to modern and car camping today.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Wescott’s tent and book, Camping in the Old Style

Mr. Wescott brought a new term to our attention as well, neoteny. Neoteny is defined as the retention of juvenile characteristics in the adults of a species. Well, needless to say, we get accustomed to and trained as adults to forget ways to think outside of the box, especially with survival and enjoyment as well. Case in point, how many of you created a tree house or fort that was sustainable at a young age just from construction scraps or whatever you could scrape up? Now, if you were tasked to create the same today, how many of them would hold up to the first step you took on it before collapsing? Personally, I’ve been looking for a term for some time now to describe this theory. Now, I have it. Furthermore, it really illustrates why we have a juvenile desire to just be in the woods and somewhat away from modern civilization that we’re accustomed to.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Steve Watts with Suzanne Simmons, one of the Acorn Patrol “Original Eight” and the director of the 18th century lifeways program at the Schiele.  

Mr. Watts touched on the fact that what they are doing is not just recreational camping but re-creational camping, as in recreating the style that was at a per capita peak in about 1920. The idea was to head out in your Model T Ford for a weekend in the wild, in comfort, with your skills as a woodsman but with many comforts and luxuries of the day. Honestly speaking, I can now see how enjoyable and relaxing this camping can be. The furnishings may look old style but are deceptively comfortable. The tools are such quality that you often could finish a task in less time than you could with modern tools of a similar design but a sense of pride and enjoyment. We already are aware that anyone reading this article understands the enticing lure of the campfire and an honest meal cooked over it, as well as fellowship with your friends by the same fire before retiring to a nice slumber away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Steve did touch on, however, that there is no substitute for the knowledge in your head. The more knowledge of camping and woodcraft that you have, the less you have to carry with you and tasks are achieved more easily through an understanding and efficiency as opposed to confusion and struggle. He encourages us to research and participate ourselves.

The “Sermon on the Mount” lecture was one of the focal points of the events for me and really got me thinking. How many of our forefathers enjoyed this type of camping? Of course, miners, frontiersmen, soldiers, scouts, railroad workers, explorers, traders, etc. had to. But, how many after that did this because they truly loved and enjoyed it. Families would go out together to enjoy time together as opposed to substituting electronic devices for meaningful, wholesome interaction. One of my personal favorite historical figures, Theodore Roosevelt, specialized in this type of camping. He did so not just for his adventures and safaris, but because he loved it and the outdoors.

If you did not get a chance to attend Kephart Days this year, you surely missed a treat and I strongly recommend a trip to see these wonderful people and their craft next year. To that point, if you would like to see Steve Watts and the Acorn Patrol in person sooner than the 2016 Kephart Days, they will be having an event in The Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah Forest, NC in October. That too, I have no doubts, will be worth the trip, especially in the beautiful October weather. The entire group and all participants put on and together an amazing display. I have no doubt that Horace Kephart would have enjoyed this event and be proud of what his legacy represents as well as the movement it has spawned with these wonderful people.

To put some scenery to your imagination, I have included some pictures. However, you can also find pictures online that are surely captured with much better photography equipment and an eye than I have provided.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Kevin with Libby Kephart Hargrave, great-granddaughter of Horace Kephart

There are too many thanks to go around for the enjoyment that I received at the event and new friendships/bonds created, but I would like to especially thank the following: Libby Kephart Hargrave for organizing and putting on a great event to celebrate “The Dean of American Camping”, Horace Kephart. Steve Watts and David Wescott for their relentless study, effort, and desire to educate and encourage this movement, as well as their generous hospitality and warm nature. The Acorn Patrol: Thomas Ray, Tom and Jennifer Mancke, Steve Maxwell, Jim Green, Michael Eldridge, Kim Niedert, Cindy Carpenter, and Eve King. This group put a lot of time and effort not only to create an immaculate display but also had the most inviting personalities while doing so. George and Elizabeth Ellison, Bob Plott, George Frizzell, Bill Alexander, Joe Flowers, and Jason Brady for their lectures and invaluable contributions to the event. Janet Deyer who serenaded us with lovely, period violin music. All of the Kephart descendants and Libby’s amazing husband, John Hargrave, who came out to attend and support the event and cause. The Schiele Museum for hosting the event and having other great exhibits to tour as well. The camera and production crew documenting the event and working on the amazing Kephart documentary that will be coming out. Last but certainly not least, everyone who came out from near and far to the event or who just happened to drop in out of curiosity and stay for a spell. Without you, this event would not exist. I sincerely hope to attend and see some of you there next spring. Hey, if you notice, should your name be Tom, Bob, or George, you are a shoe in to be accepted. Just be prepared to participate in the “Hello” echo when your name is called!

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Steve Watts, Kevin Bowen, and David Wescott

[I’d like to thank Kevin for sharing his experience and photos with us. Hopefully we can share a campfire and canvas at next years event. Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance! – Todd]

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Lost Skills, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Be Anti-Fragile: Prepare Modern but Practice Primitive

by Todd Walker

Skills get swallowed by survival gear. Depending on the latest knife, gun, or shiny-survival-object may seem like a smart plan.

The thing is…

Plans and reality are not the same thing.

Be Anti-Fragile: Prepare Modern but Practice Primitive | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Nothing’s wrong with reliance on modern survival gear. I own my fair share of modern tools of self-reliance. Thousands of fires can be started with a butane lighter. But what happens when modern equipment and gear fail? And it will fail. And rust. And get lost. And wear out.

Abrupt Changes Ahead

To handle change, you’ll need skills that gain from disorder and disaster.

There may come a time when our instant gear gratification mentality can’t be satisfied and you have to depend on your own hands to make what you need. From cordage to cutting tools to combustion… these skills won’t rust or wear out with use!

Practicing primitive goes beyond building redundancy in gear. Stone age technology connects you to your ancestral past, no matter which part of this dirt ball your family tree grew. In this context, you appreciate the deep understanding of “primitive” people, their skills, and their knowledge required to use available resources.

It takes time and energy to develop these skills. Take fire craft as an example. Once you practice friction fire or flint and steel, the skill of building a proper tinder bundle to blow your primal ember into flame makes your modern fire craft efforts more successful.

The Burning Secret of Flint and Steel Fire | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Flint and steel is a long-term fire-making option for your kit

Shortsighted moderns discount flint and steel as antiquated. Precisely! Practicing primitive gives you options and options make you Anti-Fragile.

Anti-Fragile Skills

Anti-Fragile didn’t originate with me. Taleb coined the term in his paradigm shattering book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. This book causes…

Altered thinking.

Considering the fragile world we’re in today, we need a new blueprint for self-reliance. One that benefits from disorder, randomness, and shock.

Just as fire feeds on obstacles, so do skills. Anyone who owns a skill faced high barricades that made them stronger. Anti-fragile people are much better at doing than talking.

Doers do. Talkers talk. The two are clearly unequal. Doers become anti-fragile.

Knowledge, Skills, Resources

Doing the Stuff  of Self-Reliance with your modern gear, with your knowledge, with your resources, in your area is the only way to build resilient skills. But we want more than resiliency. As Taleb explains,

“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Dirt time with modern tools aids in future, unpredictable survival events. Hours of practice and testing with your cutting tool of choice shows little deviation in the outcome. The modern space blanket in your kit is a proven emergency lifesaver. With use, you’ve discovered your gear’s limitations and abilities.

You need dependable, bomb-proof gear. To some degree though, predictable equipment and tools lull us into fragility. Meaning… we become too gear dependent.

To be clear, I’m an advocate of carrying a basic kit before heading into the woods… or anywhere else for that matter. But, again, could you benefit from the harm of lost or broken tools in the wilderness?

The answer depends on whether or not you have the knowledge and skills to use available resources from your environment. There’s no substitute for investing in skills and knowing how to use local resources. As much as I’d like to try white birch bark as tinder, heard it’s good stuff, we’re fresh out in my neck of the woods. No worries… you can’t walk far in my woods without finding resin rich fat lighter littering the forest floor.

Understand that specialized skills and specific resources are needed to replace the 5 C’s of Survivability (Cutting Tool, Combustion, Cover, Container, Cordage). These tools are the hardest to replicate from the landscape. However, it’s doable.

A.) Cutting Tools

Would I willingly trade my fixed blade knife for a stone tool? Not a chance! Unless I’m forced into that situation, I’ll always choose the modern knife as my primary cutting tool. However, stone age technology paved the way for us moderns.

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scott Jones demonstrates how to make an arrowhead from glass

Without mad flint knapping skills, you can create stop-gap edged tools from bipolar flaking. So easy a caveman can do it!

B.) Combustion

Modern sure-fire is packed in all my fire kits. They’re consumable. Mother Nature provides unlimited primitive sure-fire if you know where to look. Your anti-fragile pine responds to shock by exuding flammable resin to protect its life, and, in turn, gives you fire and life.

What’s your local go-to natural sure-fire tinder?

Do I start all my fires with a bow drill? Nope. I carry a lighter and ferro rod. Do I practice primitive fire with different, local wood? Yup. I’ve found pine, poplar, and cedar to be my favorites.

Here’s my personal primitive skill of the month… hand drill fire. I’ve harvested dry mullein and yucca stalks for this experiment. Dirt Road Girl just smiles and watches patiently in the car as her wild husband gathers resourses in the right-of-way. I love my wife!

Be Anti-Fragile: Prepare Modern but Practice Primitive | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mullein and Yucca stalks for my hand drill experiment

The hand drill should be a comfort zone buster. Stay tuned for my blister update!

C.) Cover

Caught in the elements without manmade cover will quickly drain your core temperature. To combat heat loss, build primitive shelters with available debris. Calories will be burned, but if this your only shelter option, it’s worth it.

Be Anti-Fragile: Prepare Modern but Practice Primitive | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rock outcrops and ledges are ready-made shelter

You may get lucky and find a rock outcropping or cave for hunkering down. Even with ready-made natural shelter, add a 4 to 6 inch layer of compressed leaves or natural material in your bedding area as a barrier against conduction.

D.) Container

Keep an eye out for other people’s trash. Sad to say, folks are trashy in the woods. But this could be a bonanza for your survival. Glass bottles, drink cans, and plastic are all useful and should be grabbed up.

Again, crafting or burning natural containers from wood takes time, resources and skill. Expedient containers for water can be made from bamboo, if available. Turtle shells make great bowls. Baskets can be weaved from plants or crafted with tree bark. If you’re so fortunate as to find a vine of gourds, you’ve just located container heaven. Of course, gourds are a cultivated crop that originated in the wilds of Africa. If you locate a gourd vine, you’re probably close to civilization anyhow.

E.) Cordage

Many natural fibers can be made into functional cordage in an emergency situation. Simply twisting fibers together without fancy reverse twists will provide strong cordage. Roots and vines can be used to lash shelters.

Be Anti-Fragile: Prepare Modern but Practice Primitive | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Yucca plant behind my school

 

Learning to make natural cordage is a skill every outdoors person should undertake. Get in the habit of collecting natural material when trekking or hiking through your woods. Inner fibers of trees like Tulip Poplar, Red Cedar, and Black Locust make excellent cordage. Nettle, Dog Bane, and Yucca are great cordage plants in my area.

Be Anti-Fragile: Prepare Modern but Practice Primitive | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Down and dirty yucca cordage

The skills that give you options when modern gear fail will be of the primitive type. My journey into learning primitive skills continues. You never master primitive skills. There’s always something else to learn from thousands of years of history!

Taking the sage advice of Dave Canterbury to Prepare Modern but Practice Primitive has given me options… and made me a little more Anti-Fragile.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube and Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Lost Skills, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex

by Todd Walker

Which word in the title lured you to this article? That’s a rhetorical question really.

Whatever the reason, thanks for reading!

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

We’re not analyzing all the different labels related to preparedness. That’s a waste of time. If you believe your label (bushcraft, prepper, homesteader, survivalist, etc.) is superior to all others, stop reading now. Other venues are available which encourage you to crawl onto a pedestal of superiority.

Tess Pennington, author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, addresses the preparedness community’s cubical mindset in the intro of her book:

“Once again, we have compartmentalized ourselves. Well, I hate to break it to you all, but we are all one in the same. That’s right folks, same group; different names. Potato, potahto. There are however, varying degrees of preparedness and this is where the difference lies. Preppers range from people who have a first-aid kit in the car to those who have an underground bunker. That said, it’s about time that we start embracing one another as a preparedness community and be more positive and uplifting towards one another’s endeavors.”

With that out of the way, let’s get started with…

Primal (First) Skills

If you started your journey to self-reliance as a prepper, why should you be interested in mating primitive skills with prepping?

My philosophy of preparedness is in a constant state of evolution. Reliance on gear and tools has always been a key component. Humans have always been tool junkies. We’re really no different from our Stone Age ancestors. The difference is that their survival depended upon their ability to make said tools.

For instance, imagine your popularity if you were the first human to make fire by friction repeatable. Now your tribe’s mobility isn’t tied to carrying smoldering embers nestled in dry animal dung and plant fibers. The game changed. Grok can now make fire from materials found on the landscape. No previous fire required. This new technology expanded his survivability in a big way!

There in lies the conundrum with new discoveries and technologies…

For most of us, we’ve forgotten our roots. Domestication occurred. We’ve grown dependent upon modern tools and gadgets. Nothing wrong with modern stuff. I’ve got Bic lighters scattered throughout all my kits. The challenge is to practice primitive while carrying 21st century gear. To do so…

“We need to see ourselves in prehistory.”

– Scott Jones in A View to the Past

I’m I saying replace your carbon steel cutting tools and synthetic cordage and stainless steel water bottle for flint knives, nettle cordage, and deer stomach containers? Nope! Not even close. But you’ve gotta admit, owning the skills to do so would give you options. And options make us Anti-Fragile.

Here’s a truth Dave Canterbury drills into our self-reliant mindset. The 5 C’s of Survivability are the most difficult to reproduce in nature. To do so, you need knowledge, skills, and resources –  which may not be readily available. These five; cutting tool, combustion device, cover, cordage, and container, most directly affect our number one priority in wilderness survival – core temperature control. So don’t hit the wildness without them.

But what if… you dump your canoe or lose all your stuff? Your belt knife is still attached but that’s about all. Will you be able to reproduce the missing 5 C’s from the landscape… even your cutting tool?

Primitive Skills Reduce Survival Stressors

Mors Kochanski’s bushcraft motto is, “The more you know, the less you carry.” Caught without modern gear in a survival situation can add lethal stress.

Knowing how to deal with the stress of having no cordage to lash a shelter together can be reduced if you know how to make cordage from plant and tree fibers. More time and calories are required to make natural cordage, but owning this skill gives you one less thing to worry about.

Learning primitive skills can be done at two speeds… incrementally or total emersion. I’ve chosen the incremental approach. Most moderns will.

Bill of Instinct Survivalist, another new buddy, Kevin, and I spent last Saturday at a local (Georgia) primitive skills workshop taught by Scott Jones. The class focused on fire, cordage, and sharp stuff (stone cutting tools) – 3 of the 5 C’s of Survivability.

This is a small fraction of the knowledge and skills our ancestors passed down for outdoor self-reliance and wilderness living. With that said, it’s a good place to start.

Primitive Skills Every Prepper Should Know

1.) Natural Cordage

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

18 indigenous cordage fibers Scott Jones has on display for demonstrations

Primitive skills take practice. Learn to identify, harvest, and process the local resources nature provides. Scott’s board (pictured above) revels a sample of 18 natural fibers suitable for cordage.

From L to R:

  1. Red Cedar
  2. Bald Cypress
  3. Atlantic White Cedar
  4. Red Mulberry
  5. Black Locust
  6. Yellow (Tulip) Poplar
  7. Winged Elm
  8. Paw Paw
  9. Basswood
  10. False Nettle
  11. Blue Star
  12. Milkweed
  13. Dogbane
  14. Evening Primrose
  15. Spanish Moss
  16. Button Snakeroot
  17. Yucca
  18. Cattail

We made 2-ply cordage from Yucca, Tulip Poplar, Okra, and Dogbane. Yup. Don’t compost all those okra stalks in the fall.

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage I made this weekend. Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Poplar; Okra; and Yucca. Moose, our dog, thought the okra and yucca were chew toys.

I filmed a video on making cordage with Dogbane Sunday. The fibers were too small to add much instructional value. I’ll use a larger material next time. Until then, you may find Dave Canterbury’s cordage video as helpful I did…

2.) Fire by Friction

I’ve made fires using a bow drill many times. However, Scott ruined my previously held belief that resinous woods like pine are not suitable for bow drills. That theory went down the drain as every student created glowing embers with a pine hearth board and pine spindle. Here’s a quick video of the fun…

3.) Stone Cutting Tools

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bipolar Flaking technique… wear eye protection and watch those fingers!

The simplest way to create a sharp edge comes from bipolar flaking. All you need is an anvil (large base stone), hammer stone, and a smaller rock (chicken egg size) to crack like you would a nut. Place the egg sized stone upright (pole to pole, hence the term bipolar) on the anvil and strike it with your hammer stone. If you miss hit, expect blood, swearing, and possible tears. Wear eye protection.

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This crude technique takes little skill and provides sharp tools like scrapers, sharp flakes, and small stone drill points. You could make and use these simple tools even with no flintknapping knowledge.

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Scott Jones demonstrates how to make an arrowhead from glass

Practicing primitive skills develops a Possum Mentality. You’ll become keenly aware of raw resources, especially other people’s trash. For instance, bottoms of glass bottles can be made into arrowheads and cutting tools.

Pictured below are a few products of my Possum Mentality over the years:

When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Possum Mentality: Top row is a sample of points I’ve found over the years. Bottom row are multi-functional products of bipolar flaking.

Be True to Your Nature

We preppers and self-reliance technicians love gear. But all gear and tools eventually fail. Having the knowledge and skills to use available resources to make stuff from the landscape is essential for both short-term and long-term survivability.

What happens when prepping and primitive skills have sex?

The offspring of this union breeds a self-reliance trait found only in prehistory which expresses our true nature. To tap into your true nature, I recommend Scott Jones’ book, A View to the Past: Experience and Experiment in Primitive Technology.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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