Thursday, 30 November 2006
First you need pitch. Old dry, crumbly stuff is not very good. Use as soft and fresh pitch as possible. Here are some small lumps on a Norway spruce.
Have a flat rock by the fire, finely crush some charcoal and melt the pitch ontop of it. Mix it together when properly melted.
Though the name is pitch glue, my most frequent use is as a sealant. On fishing hooks to avoid knots and lashings loosening in water. Smear the glue over the binding you want sealed and quickly run over the pitch with your moistened fingres to smooth it over. Repeat the process until all is covered.
If the results aren't satisfyingly smooth and/or the layer is too thick, pull the rock out of the fire and use one of the hotter sides to gently roll it against so the pitch will even out and the excess run off. While it is still hot, quench it on your moist fingers to achieve an even smoother finish.
The rest of the pitch can be rolled up around a stick and be stored for later. Here is an image of the pitched hooks. The pitch stick is on the right.
Wednesday, 29 November 2006
The body does, in addition to energy, require a lot of different other substances to function. Though this may initially seem like a deal breaker for living a life in the wild, it isn't. After all, that is what the body is designed for. If avoid the nutritional faults outlined here, chances are you will have an a lot healthier diet than most people today do.
Though this isn't normally considered as nutrition, it is a major element of the body's composition and need to be given some attention as well. Drinking a lot of water is important to keep healthy. And that is equally true in winter, opposite common belief. How much you need to drink is variable to activity. Many say that drinking when you are thirsty too late and that your body is heavily dehydrated already. That may be so, but I trust that the body tells me when I need to drink more. To compensate , I drink a little more than I feel like when I drink.
If the water is likely to have a lot bacteria, which it rarely does in Norway, you should boil the water before drinking it. To this date, I have yet to boil water for drinking. Charcoal can supposedly filter out heavy metals and other dangerous substances, but do not take my word for it as I have never done it myself.
To stay healthy, you need vitamin C. Lack of vitamin C, when well progressed, will ultimately result in scurvy. A condition causing loss of teeth and various other unfortunate consequences. Vitamin C is fortunately quite common in nature. It is found in many green plants, such as nettle and in great quantities in many berries, such as cloudberry. But what do you do in winter? Luckily, the organs of animals carry a lot of this vitamin. Not only mammals, but fish and fowl too. (Johansson 1991)
It is worth noticing that vitamin C is very intolerant of heat. That means that the food needs to be eaten raw, including meats and organs. Some people would rather drink pine needle tea, which also contains this vitamin. But if there are no pine, or you don't like pine tea (like me), then you don't have a choice in wintertime.
The trichina worm and other parasites
Getting parasites is a very serious matter. To a hunter-gatherer, life will often be sustained at the margins of energy surplus. A parasite will literally zap your energy and also deprive you of important trace elements. Tapeworms and other common internal parasites can be expelled by ingesting tansy (Chrysanthemum vulgare). Do however use this plant with caution, it is toxic to a degree. (Mabey 2001)
The trichina worm is a particularly dangerous parasite. It is harboured in muscular tissue of carnivores and omnivores. Of that reason: Never eat raw or poorly cooked meat of an animal that occasionally eats other animals. To be safe the meat needs to be heated to the temperature of 62C or until clear juices run from the meat. (Wikipedia)
Rodents (including hares) should not be consumed raw, because of the danger of tularaemia. If a hare looks ill, leave it alone. Better safe than sorry.
Salt and ionide
Two composites that are often of limited availability, especially in areas far from the sea, are salt and iodine. Plants contain little salt. Too little to sustain humans with enough without input of pure salt. If you have a high degree of vegetables in your diet you will need to have a way of getting salt. Salt is usually unevenly spread out. This is the reason why salt was a major trade commodity in southern areas already a long time ago. Herbivores accumulate salt through their diet. Consequently, by eating a lot of meat, you are probably getting enough salt. (Tulloch 2004)
There are many areas of this world with deficiency of iodine. Iodine is found in sea water, so the deficiencies are rarer there. How well this need is covered by eating meat I don't know, but I have heard nothing about inland Inuits and Siberian reindeer herders having goitre. A disease commonly caused by iodine deficiency. Icelandic lichens contains iodine, but in very small amounts according to unconfirmed rumours. In a primitive lifeway, especially if your diet is high in vegetables, it is probably wise to spend a longer period foraging and fishing by the sea.
Carbohydrates and fat
Except from the stomach contents of herbivores, there are little easily available carbohydrates in the northern areas. The further south you get, the more you have available to you. But no matter where you are in the temperate zone, there will not be much to find in winter. A consideration in this regard is protein poisoning, you need to eat quite a lot of either fat or carbohydrates or you will in essence starve. (Goring 2006, Kochanski 1988) The only solution left then, is fat. There is no point in even consuming lean animals as your energy level will still go down. Hares and other rodents are particularly lean as a rule. To avoid poisoning when subsisting primarily on these animals you need to boil the whole animal, intestines and all. (Kochanski 1988) Whether it is really necessary to throw away the skin, I am not sure of. I would assume though, that if you take off the skin but throw the little fat there is on the skin into the pot you would be fine.
Next Wednesday: Important food plants
Kochanski, M. (1988), Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival. Edmonton, Lone Pine Publishing.
Johansson, T. (1994), Mat. Forntida Teknik. Issue 2, 2006, pp. 41-47.
Mabey, R. (2001), Food for Free. London, Collins.
Tulloch, A. (2004), Salt. Bulletin of Primitive Technology. Issue #28, Fall 2004.
Goring, S. (2006) The Reality of Food in the Bush (Part 2). Bushcraft. Issue 2, Summer 2006, pp. 18-21.
Tuesday, 28 November 2006
Was out where I knew there are some felled rowans yesterday. The rowans are of quite impressive size, but that seems like poses little problem to the beavers. It is nice to have someone do most of the work for you. :-)
The part of this mess I liked the most was this bundle of splinters. They can be made into varius gear with little work. Many of them will probably be utilized as arrow foreshafts.
Here is the bunch of splinters along with a batton, though really unrelated to this picture, and the antler axe I used to chop them off.
One of the wider pieces I chose to make an ice fishing stick from. I have made such before with metal tools and like them a lot. The only place I have seen such sticks elsewhere is among the Saami, where I first observed it.
The first task is to chop it to a fairly uniform thickness. The wood was fairly dry. Not optimal for chopping with an antler axe, but it still worked fairly well. Notice that the piece is supported against a log while working, instead of ontop of the log as commonly done with metal axes.
When I got home, I used my beaver teeth knives to whittle down the blank to become even more uniform.
When the blank was acceptably even, I used the same knives to cut off one end. These tools are remarkable when cutting notches. I can't wait to use them on the stone-age bow I have plans for this winter.
Monday, 27 November 2006
The legalities around gathering wild plants and fungi aren't very complicated in Norway. The general rule is that you can pick whatever berries and nuts you want as long as they are wild. The same goes with fungi and herbs. Herbs can be uprooted, but protected species are of course not to be touched. There are two moderators of this freedom:
Nuts can only be gathered in quantities to be eaten on the spot without permission from the landowner.
In Troms and Finnmark counties cloudberries are only to be gathered in quantities to be eaten on the spot without permission from the landowner.
Unripe cloudberries are illegal to pick.
In practise, very few gather nuts today. I strongly doubt that anyone will object against you harvesting as much as you like of that resource.
Cockles, mussels and sea weeds are to my knowledge legal to gather, but I was unable to verify this.
Rocks, antlers, bone are illegal to gather. It is however commonly accepted that gathering small amounts of such worthless materials, without the permission of the landowner, is legal.
Next Monday: Hunting
Sunday, 26 November 2006
The bindings are probably too flimsy like this, but that will easily be fixed by adding a string around the foot, keeping them up. I didn't have any more string right now, so I will use a snare or something if it will be needed. Now, I just have to wait for the snow to return.
Saturday, 25 November 2006
A topic greatly neglected by most primitivists, including me. Most outdoors people seems to look upon being dirty as a proof of masculinity. I am now of another opinion. If you were living permanently in the wild, especially along with several other people, it might have gotten rather uncomfortable, not to say hazardous to your health. It is amazing how good it feels to clean up properly in the wilds, I'll say it is even better than showering at home
The most obvious consideration when it comes to staying clean is washing the body. Washing the genitals and anus should preferably be done every day. Either with a wet piece of cloth or with your hands. Soap isn't really necessary to become clean. If you wash every day, you will never get so dirty that you need more radical means. That is however an utopia. Most people don't have the discipline to wash every day. To clean properly up you then need to sweat it out and plunge into either water or snow to remove it before it sets back into the pores. This can either be done by exercise or a sweat lodge. In winter, sweating in your clothes can be dangerous, so the only alternative used should be the sweat lodge.
I have built and used a sweat lodge a couple of times and I love the way you feel after a sweat-bath. Slightly prickly on your skin, but glowing.
When cleaning it is no point in heating any water,except for comfort. You become cleaner with cold water. Most bacteria thrive in normal bath-temperature. Warm water is however more fat-soluble, so there you have another reason to use the sweat lodge. How to build a sweat lodge will be covered in a later article.
When I was saying that bathing is the most obvious task with hygiene in the wilds there is an subject that really deserve that position. However, from experience I can tell you that this is not the case for a great number of people. Washing your hands after going to the “bathroom” is very important to prevent stomach upsets etc...
When it comes to wiping, there is usually an order of preference. I prefer sphagnum moss, with other mosses coming second and grasses and leaves third. In winter, none of these are usually available. As rather uncomfortable substitutes I use pine or spruce branches (with the needles!). To clean up properly afterwards I resort to snow. Sometimes, if there is nothing else around, I will use snow all the way. It is a good thing that the diet offered in the wild usually is full of fibre....
Nails and hair
That the hair gets all fatty is quite annoying. Personally I have never gone without soap long enough for this effect to disappear, but from what I have heard it disappears after a few months. To avoid the hair becoming like a cake of dreadlocks, you should comb it every day. Making a simple comb isn't all that hard. You just need some pointy sticks tied together. Alternatively the hair can be braided. When the hair needs trimming (I wear mine long), you can either use a flake or a glowing coal. I have tried neither, but I assume that with some training the results can be satisfying. Especially if someone else does it on you. Beard can be cut or burned, but both seem too hazardous for me. I would rather braid mine.
The nails can be cut in one end and carefully ripped off. I have tried this and the results are a little too unpredictable for me, but it may be all due to lack of skill. Alternatively they can be abraded down on a stone. A slow task I'd assume, but if done every day it may not be so bad.
Tooth rot that goes too far can actually be lethal. Because of that, preventing this problem is essential to long term survival. As long as you eat wild food only, it will probably not be much of a problem, but to be on the safe side I would suggest to brush your teeth with a chewed twig or a finger with wood ash on. Especially if you have eaten lots of carbohydrates. Pitch is sometimes recommended is pine/spruce pitch, but keep in mind that the taste will linger on for the rest of the day and ruin the experience of that fine venison you have for dinner.... Fine fibres, and sinew in particular, are suitable for flossing the teeth.
I also located what I will turn into the shaft of the ice pick and pitched two of my fishing hooks.
Friday, 24 November 2006
This style of snowshoes is quite close to the traditional Scandinavian style.
After the hoop is made, the next task is to groove the sticks so they can be broken in a controlled fashion.
The sticks are split with an antler wedge.
Some splits are tied on. Make sure they are tied on properly. Sinew isn't ideal as it stretches when wet, but I have little choice as there isn't much plantfibre around now.
The sticks going under the foot are tied down. For additional strength, I will tie the crosspoints soon. After that, I have to make some cordage to tie the shoe on with.
Thursday, 23 November 2006
Wednesday, 22 November 2006
Wild Food Economics
Economics is a part of every person's life, regardless if you live in the wild or in the modern money economy. For a private economy to be healthy, you have to be spending less resources than you are generating. The main difference between the modern system and when you are living in the wild is that the modern system is based on money, while for a person craving to be self-sufficient, it is all about energy. If you through a long period of time have a lower intake of energy than you are spending, you will die.
How long time you need to go before dying of starvation is dependant on your level of activity. If you are in a lot of activity you need proportionally more food to be able to survive. In extreme cases, it may in fact be impossible to consume enough food to recuperate that same day. You may have to rest for a day or two and, through that time, consume more food than you really need to rebuild the reserves. Expending as little as possible on any activity can be vital in a pressed food situation. The Art of Nothing as proposed by Elpel (1995) is a mindset quite unfamiliar to the modern industrious worker. When there is nothing else to do, the moral is to rest and consequently spend as little energy as possible on activities that doesn't bring food.
While harvesting food the main goal (away from nutritional demands) should also be to expend as little energy as you can. What gives highest output of gathering, fishing and hunting/trapping will vary from environment to environment. The economic concept of alternative investment is valid here too. Although you can subsist on foods with lower input to output ration energy wise there are two reasons why you should always choose the easiest food source:
Tomorrow is never certain. If you can build up a stockpile of food or put on some body fat, that will make tomorrow a day of food security.
Food gathering is rarely the most exciting activity imaginable, leisure time will always be more desirable.
This way of thinking does not serve to bring any species to extinction. Because, as the specie become more scarce, there will always be easier food sources available. Though, this is only true as long as a technological innovation, that make harvesting easier, doesn't happen.
What is the easiest food will also change on the base of what tools you have available and your level of skill in procuring specific types of food. In a short term survival situation, the most desirable food may be unattainable due to lack of tools to accomplish this. As an example is a fishing net. Making a fishing net require a lot of investment in time and energy. But when it is finished you have a reliable way of getting lots of desirable food: fish. As your situation progresses into long term survival, the food requiring little tools and skill to gather, like vegetables and clams will become less and less important. That is because they generally offer less energy than trapping and fishing versus time and energy expended. Because of this, it is also important to be aware of what you are putting your effort into. If there is something that is meant to be expendable, like throwing or digging sticks often are, there is no reason to make them anything more than serviceable. If a tool require lots of effort to make, but is meant to last only a short time, it may not be worth making.
This brings us over on traps. A trap (nets are really traps too) often require little effort to make and leave you free to attend other business, such a setting more traps. Hunting is normally not a worthwhile activity and hunting tools will most of the time either be for protection or exploiting opportunities that may present themselves.
Although protein poisoning mostly a nutritional problem, it carries some relevance to the economics of food. Rodents often provide easy meat for a primitivist. The problem is that rodents' flesh is normally very lean, containing virtually no fat. Without consuming quite substantial amounts of fat or carbohydrates with the meat, that will result in a type of poisoning that can kill as quickly as any starvation. (Goring 2006, Kochanski 1988)
Next Wednesday: Nutrition
Kochanski, M. (1988), Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival. Edmonton, Lone Pine Publishing.
Elpel, T. J. (1995) The Art of Nothing. Bulletin of Primitive Technology. Issue #10, Fall 1995.
Goring, S (2006) The Reality of Food in the Bush (Part 2). Bushcraft. Issue 2, Summer 2006, pp. 18-21.
Tuesday, 21 November 2006
So, instead I ground the blank to it's finished state. When the last hole is drilled, the antler working part of this project is finished.
Monday, 20 November 2006
This is a series in my new blog. It will be published every Monday until I don't have more to write about. The series is meant to show Norwegians themselves (if someone is reading) that there is an excellent opportunity for this type of living in their own land. Also it is meant to be a guide for primtivists that want to go to Norway to practise their craft.
The first part will deal with the right to move about.
The Norwegian concept of "Allemannsretten" is also to be found in Sweden and Finland. To some degree also in Scotland. (Wikipedia).
The law gives you right to:
- Move about in private and public land at your will. Without requiring permission from the owner. Exceptions as mentioned below.
- The same accounts for using horses, although there may be restrictions some places.
- Use a watercraft wherever you like.
- Walk on lakes or rivers covered with ice.
- Bathe whereever you like, in a reasonable distance from occupied houses.
- Camp everywhere, exceptions as mentioned below.
The law doesn not give you right to:
- Walk through fields and other production areas. With fields there is an exception. When there is snow and the ground is frozen. But eitherway, not between 30. April until 14. October.
- Take a nude bath where there are other people close by that seem offended.
- Camp or rest in a field. Regardless if the ground is covered in snow or frozen.
- Camp closer than 150m from occupied houses. But if you are going to make noise, go longer.
- Camp for longer than 2 days in a spot. That only applies to areas close to settlements.
- Leave garbage and cause unneccesary damage.
Fences are normally not legal to put up for the landowner. You supposed to be able to move around freely.
Most of these rules can be bypassed if you have permission from the owner. It is commonly accepted that it you can gather dry firewood and break fresh branches for sitting on. Small birches are also generally accepted that are cut. They are often considered a weed and the land owner will be happy for you to clear them out a little.
Campfires are not to be lit between 15. May and 15. September. Personally I refuse to follow this rule as it complicates primitive living too much, but if the ground is dry I am particulary carful of where I build my fire.
Next Monday: Gathering plants, materials (stone, antler etc...) and fungi.
A core for flakes.
Throwing sticks (not that I will be using them).
Beaver tooth knives.
Pike skin tinder pouch.
Need to be made:
Barbs for a fishing spear.
Bow and arrows (not that I will use those either).
A loincloth of grass or fibres as I don't have any hides (to not scare the German tourists).
More fishing lines and hooks.
Pouch of elk (moose) ear for storing fibres and string.
Big container of either grass or bark.
Maybe a few smaller containers.
Maybe a birch bark kettle.
Maybe a small net.
Non primitive stuff:
To make the learning experience better I will bring relevant identification books.
Mobile phone. To call my girlfriend every once in a while.
Camera and batteries. I need to take some pictures for the blog.
Sunday, 19 November 2006
Scoring antler. Seems tedious, but if you have a rectangular edge on your piece of flint it is surprisingly fast. To speed things up soak the piece every few strokes in hot/warm water. I often resort to saliva and that works fine too. A tip on getting a straight line, start the groove by guiding it with your opposite thumb-nail.
Score right through to the pith. That will make splitting or breaking easier, but it is possible to get a fairly dependable break with out having scored perfectly.
Breaking is self explainatory so I will jump straight to splitting. First, make a some indentions with an antler wedge where you want the split to start. To not ruin your antler wedge or blank (hard against hard is bad) use strong wooden wedges instead. They can be easily made from any hard wood, with little effort. While good antler wedges can take hours of scoring and grinding. continue until you are through. If the blank is hard to split, you may have to hammer in wedges from the sides as well or if the starting wedge wasn't thick enough; hammer in one more from the starting point. Also, make sure your blank is well soaked in before you start and soaking it every now and then throughout the process will help a lot.
The current antler project in display is the Ice Pick. Photo of the stage I am at here. The piece is a little curved to one side. So to make sure that the force of the blow (when chopping the ice) will go straight into the shaft, I decided to make the edge go over at one side. It was scored through, mostly from one side, but a little from the other too and broken off easily against a hard object.
Next step will be to drill holes for the hafting.
Picture number one is of my hide bag (1.) where I carry most of my smaller tools. It is made of brain tanned roe deer hide. The two sticks (2.) are throwing sticks for killing small game. Very effective, or at least, so they say.... Made from rowan.
Picture number two is of most of my stuff.
1. A string for bowdrill. Twisted from sinew.
2. Braided fishing line from nettle.
3. Sinker, just a long stone.
4. Two fishing hooks. The big one is of birch, the small one of sheep bone.
5. Three fishing hooks and a spoon lure. One of the hooks is composite (aspen, sinew and halibut bone). Two are made from reindeer antler. The spoon lure is made from elk (moose) antler, with an elk (moose) antler barb attached. All of them have leaders attached.
6. Bowstring of sinew.
7. 3 wedges of elm wood.
8. Bone arrow head.
9. Three pieces of antler to be made into barbs of a fishing spear (unfinished)
10. Pike hide bag.
11. Leader of nettle.
12. Double axe of red deer antler. Worked well, despite a rather thin handle of wild rose. Needs a lot of repair (grinding.
13. Two beaver tooth knives.
14. Two needles. One from a leg bone of duck. One is reindeer antler.
15. Hare snare of sinew.
16. Flint knife with reindeer antler handle. Birch bark sheath.
17. Wish bone hook. Bone is from ptarmigan.
18. Pressure flaker. Split from reindeer antler.
19. Pressure flaker/hammer. Elk (moose) antler.
20. Wedge of elk antler.
21. Four flint arrow heads.
22. Rimmed birch bark eating bowl. A little assymetrical and cracked.
23. Antler axe of red deer antler.
24. Unfinished arrow point of antler.
25. Two celts of pecked and ground stone. One finished and one not.
26. Reindeer antler needle blank.
27. (Two of them it seems, this one is the left one.) Blank of reindeer antler, half finished ice pick.
27. Unfinished deer snare.
28. Elk (moose) antler axe. Big and heavy. Needs a shaft and more grinding.
29. Soon to be split out antler wedge. Elk (moose).
Two hoops to be made into two survival bear paws. No fancy stuff, just to keep afloat. I will make better ones another time.
I can't promise that all of my posts will be very long and informative, but if I will give a summary of the primitive stuff I have done during the day none the less. If there is any significant progress I will post pictures.
A little about me first. I am originally from Fyresdal, Telemark in Norway. Currently I live in Trondheim, Sør-Trøndelag in Norway (a city :( ). My interest introduction to primitive skills was when I was about 9, when my grandfather made me a bow. I had been carving and fishing for a long time before that, but that was when my interest in more historic crafts was sparked. But it wasn't until I was in my teens that I started using stone tools.
From there and until today, I would say I have built quite an expertise in trout fishing. Both primitive and modern. I have successfully trapped ptarmigan and red squirrels. Have also hunted trush and duck (With what weapons you say? I won't tell, but you can assume it was a gun ;) ). In these skills I must state though, that I am an absolute novice. And being in a city, there is little room for practising it just now anyway.
Regarding crafts I have made lots of things of antler, bone, wood and sinew. Not much, but a few things of hides as well. My current gear will however fit in a photo. I will try to take that photo tomorrow.
My short term goal is to make all of the basic gear I need for 14 days on an island called Hitra south-west of here. I will compile a list of gear I have and gear I need, and from time to time I will post how much I have left to make.