Sunday, January 31, 2010

Creative Energy

This weekend, I was privileged enough to attend a workshop on 2012.  The intent was that there is not necessarily an apocalyptic event on the horizon, as all of the media hype and fear would have us believe.  December 21, 2012 is about a change.  Many cultures support the belief that change it brewing.  Our collective global attitudes and beliefs shape whether those things will be positive, years of peace and prosperity, or negative, apocalypse.

During this workshop, I not only re-charged my shamanic batteries, but I was also reminded of this ancient wisdom - we are all an integral part of everything.  This gyst was that we are all connected to everything and can/do manifest those things we envision.  Shamans in many culture knew this to be true, in spite of all attempts at societal conversion.  Unfortunately, society tells us today that this is simply impossible.  Personally, I have experienced this first hand.  For me, part of re-learning primitive skills is an attempt at reconnecting to nature.

Regardless whether you believe that you can directly affect global change, we all know that we are capable of manipulating our immediate surroundings and sphere of influence.  Your change will impact others even if it is small - learning to hunt rabbits later in life can affect your childrens feelings about preserving the environment.  Which, in turn, may affect someone elses's belief and so on, until a large enough chunk of society feels the same way.  This type of shift can be seen today with the environmental movement as compared to the early part of the 1900s and the industrial revolution.

Be mindful about your feelings, attitudes, and beliefs.  Even if you do not believe that your attitudes or beliefs can cause change, we all know that our actions do.  A little kindness goes a long way toward making someones day.  Fear need not rule your life. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cordage And The Scared Dog

One of the steps in making buckskin, or hide tanning in general, is stretching the rawhide on a rack to dry. This requires large quantities of string, cordage, or other binding materials. Of course, larger hides, require larger racks and hence more cordage. You'll notice the cords still attached to the hide in the previous post.  This past fall, I used parachute cord, which is very strong and fairly inexpensive.

Over the course of the homeschool survival classes in the last year, we have made cordage a few times.  Homework from the last class was to make as long a piece as you can.  To complete the task, we were given a pile of bass wood bark strips.

So, this evening, I was sitting in the rocking chair by the woodstove working on my cordage.  I have completed about 16 feet or 5 meters, depending on your particular measuring philosophy.  It is getting to the point where it is starting to tangle, so I've wrapped it around a stick.

In time, I will supplement, or replace, all of my purchased hide working tools with primitve ones, including any cord.  I may find that it is easier to use the modern tools, but I would like to complete at least one buckskin in a completely traditional manner.  I guess that means that, at some point, I will need to learn something about making stone and bone tools.

It occurred to me while working that yarn is simply cordage made from the fur of an animal.  As luck would have it, I have a chow chow who, in the spring and fall, sheds quite prolifically.  So, wheels turning, I borrowed some fur.  The fur is pretty well attached this time of year, but she had a few loose spots.  Regardless, she did not like where this was all going.  Here is the 5.5 inches, 14 centimeters, piece that I was able to fashion. 

All will be forgiven come feeding time tomorrow.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How It All Started - Part 4 - Hides and Apprenticeship

So, I am nearing the end the history lessons.  Within the last year, I have been led to really start digging in.  This fall, I was given a number of hides - moose and deer.  In the interest of full disclosure...I was given three moose hides, four deer hides, eight deer legs, one racoon hide, and two deer heads.  I must say that there is a very large gap between tanning a rabbit hide and a moose hide.  Rather than using Back to Basics, I decided to follow the more traditional method in Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth.  I will follow up in several posts with all of the details.  If you are going to brain tan hides, or want to learn any number of primitive skills, I would highly recommend picking up Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth.

Brain Tanning, In Process

Rendered Racoon Fat

Through a strange turn of events, I finally decided to meet with some local shamans for a medical issue.  Prior to my visit, I did a little digging around on the web.  I found that they teach an apprenticeship course.  I toyed with the idea before my visit, but was not completely convinced.  After the visit, during which I mentioned the idea, I received a call about the rapidly approaching class.  After some discussion and coaxing by two particularly wise women in my life, I decided to enroll.  I am sure there will be a few posts about this too.

So, now you are as up to speed as I can get you without completely driving you away screaming in bored agony.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How It All Started - Part 3 - Bowhunting, Survival Skills Class, and Maple Syrup

So, we skip forward a couple of years to the last few.  While plant identification has had a few instances of practical application, it has been mostly an academic exercise.  In my opinion, knowledge gained without use is pretty useless.

Over the last few years, I have taken up a few more practiced skills.  We started sugaring.  It is incredible!  The first year, we tapped only two trees and were rewarded with a few quarts of our own maple syrup.  The following year, we tapped ten trees and harvested about two and a half gallons of syurp.  This year we will prbably only tap ten again, but more on that later.

Later that same year, I started bownhunting.  First, let me explain that I had never hunted in my life.  I still do not rifle hunt.  I figure that if I am going to hunt, I should require myself to earn the privilege of harvesting an animal.  This is why I chose to hunt with only a bow...I was in the military and feel perfectly capable of taking aim and hitting a deer with a rifle at 300 yards, but that can't happen with a bow.  My effective range with a bow is a mere 30 yards.  I have had some incredible encounters in spite of my limited experience.

We then stumbled upon a perfect opportunity...homeschool survival class.  The class, "The Earth Is Our Home", is taught by some folks who believe that it is possible to blend primitive and modern skills and tools in an environmentally responsible manner.  The class is primarily for the kids, but the parents are encouraged to participate...I think I might get more out of each class than they do.  We have learned how to build fires in any conditions from wood gathered at the time...the first day was a snowy wet day.  We have since learned wood carving, cordage making, and how to build shelter.  We have foraged plants and cooked meals with those plants.  We've also built a wigwam frame for our permanent meeting spot.
Big Little Sister at the Wigwam

Hold on...we are almost through the introduction!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How It All Started - Part 2 - Plant Identification

My real awakening had not really arrived.  Life gets, kids, bills, work.  I did occassionally find time to take walks with the kids and/or the dogs.  One day, I passed by a plant and absolutely knew it was "sweet fern".

I can't tell you how I knew...childhood memory resurfacing, the plant told me, (insert other).  Regardless, it was the catalyst for learning some plant identification.  Which morphed into investigation into herbal/plant medicine.  I found we started to gather books like Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Foraging New England, and Edible Wild Plants.

Real awareness of the natural environment around me was born.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How It All Started - Part 1 - Tanning

So, as I've said, I have been fascinated by wilderness survival skills for some time. The path started taking shape shortly after we bought our house. We have always talked about being self sufficient. But one of the first steps was raising meat rabbits.

We were initially given three adult rabbits - two bucks and a doe. Let the education begin. Within four months, the number had grown from three to more than twenty. And, it didn't take long for us to pick up Raising Rabbits to try and figure out how to manage this endeavor.

Over time, we became more skilled at actually harvesting, and controlling the population of, the rabbits. I have never really enjoyed killing animals (I had never hunted) and wanted to use more of each animal than the meat.  So, I began learning to tan the furs.

Not being quite as internet savvy at the time, I relied on Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition.  I also didn't have the equipment recommended, so I fleshed the furs with a butterknife.  I would not recommend this method (I now use one of these).  The tanning solution was a simple alum and salt mixture.  Regardless, they came out great...of course, I still have not put them to any use.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Welcome to MooseBoots.

I am starting this blog as a means of documenting my progress toward re-discovering ancient wisdom and knowledge. While I have been fascinated with wilderness survival skills for years, I have only begun this journey. Metaphorically, my goal is to make my own moose hide boots...from tanning the hides to strapping them on. There is much to learn. Enjoy!