Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Needs & Wants for our Land & Tribe

Theressa and I came up with a list of our needs and wants for our future vision. The Needs list states the things we think we require in our physical set up and in our social tribe. We'd prefer to also have the items in our Wants list, but feel much more flexible about those.


Solid water supply

Enough land to, in theory, feed at least everyone we start with / 10 people via horticulture.

No debt

10 years of taxes, hunting/fishing licenses, and other living expenses set aside

Community members into hunting/gathering - enough for a viable group

Not super hot, or some way to escape the heat.

Feel connected to our tribe -- people not spending too much time not in community (20 hour/week max?)

All tribe members committed to disconnecting from civilization

Wide age range - children to elders

All tribe members committed to practicing Nonviolent Communication-type communication, conflict-resolution.

Income-sharing and wealth-sharing.

Safey for our lifestyle, including hunting & gathering.

Available land for hunting & gathering.

Sufficient ability to heat ourselves.

Out of reach of city - 100 miles from large cities? 50 miles from smaller cities?

Tribe committed to improving land (our own & surrounding land).

Fredom of living within constraints of other needs.

Tribe members committed to healing from civilization.

Tribe members to give more to our community than they take.

All tribe members reasonably well-versed in all survival skills

Easiest climate possible for growing food & living

Communal living - shared shelters & infrastructure.

Tribe committed to raising children tribally - Continuum Concept ideas

As little contact with civilization as possible

Adjacent to national (or other public?) forest

As much acreage as possible

Healthy ecosystem for hunting & gathering

Encourage & inspire neighbors / nearby community(s) to disconnect from civilization

Encourage like-minded people to settle nearby

Tribe members to be able to grow/gather food in their preferred ways

Tribe members to be able to live in their preferred ways

Some sort of commitment from and to tribe members - for example, buy-in & guarantee of tribal membership?

Starting tribe with 6+ contributing adult tribal members / 3-5 family groups

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Post-apocalyptic weapons

The other day, Corum asked:

Scrub, i wanted to ask this for a while, are you going to practice with weapons too?
If your tribe is going to be the only ones with food in the area, or even if you are going to have just more comfortable lives than other people... you sure as hell will need to defend your way of life.

I/we haven't put a whole lot of thought into this, and at this point my sole experience with guns involved missing a soda can with my one shot from an air rifle. I may well change my mind about what I write tonight, but I might as well start brainstorming somewhere!

I expect us to have weapons of some kind, if for no other reason than for hunting. Beyond that basic decision, I see two immediate next questions:

  1. What sort of weapons?
  2. What emphasis will we place on defense rather than simply hunting skills?

For question #1, I see two general approaches to hunting given our desire to ultimately depend on primitivist skills: 1) start off using all the heavy equipment, guns, and ammo we want to buy, and incrementally replace them with more and more primitive tools and techniques; or 2) start from scratch with primitive tools & techniques, using civilization-dependent technologies only if and when we need them.

For question #2, two aspects of our envisioned way of life help mitigate against a need to explicitly prepare for defense: our focus on learning skills such as nature awareness, silent stalking, and tracking; and our preparedness to rely entirely on mobile hunting & gathering. Those first skills should give us an advantage in many situations of conflict, assuming evenly matched weapons and numbers. I have no idea though to what extent those skills can compensate for an uneven match of weapons and/or numbers! Unfortunately, to whatever extent we carry out horticultural food procurement (permaculture) in one or even multiple fixed spots, we will present an attractive target to others if the shit seriously hits the fan. We do expect to involve ourselves with the community to whatever extent they welcome our input, to share our thoughts (and especially successful experiences once we have them worked out) with whomever will listen. Hopefully we can make ourselves too valuable a resource in knowledge and community support to leave anyone who knows us wanting to knock us off for a mere partial-year harvest. And if worst comes to worst, we hope to have developed the skills to disappear into the woods to hunt and gather (perhaps from plots we tend to some extent) in a roving lifestyle, where we never have enough accumulated food or other wealth for anyone to bother with us.

So, my practical plans for the next couple of years include:

  • Buy a slingshot and learn to use it
  • Practice throwing a rabbit stick
  • Maybe experiment with other weapons - atlatl, those twirly bola things, nets, others?...
  • Try to actually kill some squirrels (and eat them, of course)
  • Make and/or buy a bow, and learn to use it
  • Buy one or more guns, take a gun safety class, and start learning to shoot. (I might wait on this until we live rurally and can practice shooting without needing to pay at a city shooting range.)
  • Practice body skills - fox walking, balance, etc
  • Keep learning about bird language, learning from my sit spot, learning tracking, etc
  • I don't feel really inspired about this, but maybe I'll start again with some form of martial art

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book review: The Nature Handbook by Ernest Williams Jr

I picked up this book from the library on a whim, and enjoyed it enough to think I should mention it here: The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors, by Ernest H. Williams, Jr. The book gives readers insights and shortcuts to understanding various patterns in nature, from bird/animal/insect behavior to plant/tree characteristics to patterns seen across entire landscapes.

The author divides the book into 14 chapters, categorized under three broad headings of Plants, Animals, and Habitats. Each chapter describes about a dozen patterns, and each pattern includes multiple illustrative photos.

I had already picked up some of the plant information from reading other sources, and a smaller amount of the animal and habitat information, but I learned a lot of new stuff across the board. I especially enjoyed learning about:

  • "puddle clubs" of butterflies, mostly males, who gather at wet muddy spots, or carcasses, or animal excrement, or urinals, to drink up sodium, a mineral they have a hard time acquiring otherwise. In at least one species, the males offer sodium to females along with their sperm, a sweet little nuptial enticement.
  • "sun and shade leaves", where trees have larger leaves towards the shaded bottom, and smaller leaves at top where sunlight strikes with more intensity. Makes sense, but I'd never noticed that!
  • "leaf retention" of many oaks and beeches, where the trees hold onto dead deciduous leaves for months into the winter, possibly to keep the nutrients from leaching away all at once over the winter. Trees tend to keep leaves at the bottom more often than the top, possibly because lower leaves will more likely fall close to the trunk where the tree can easily recapture the nutrients. Right after reading this chapter I started noticing the retained leaves on the oaks at the local park.
  • Wind-pollinated deciduous trees flower before they make leaves which would block the movement of air and thus pollen. Makes sense! I had noticed that all the catkin-trees have their catkins over the winter, instead of flowering with the insect-pollinated trees. Now I know why!

The book doesn't have enough hardcore details that I need to have it in my library as a reference book, but I feel very glad that I found it and read through it once. I highly recommend it to anyone at a beginner or intermediate naturalist level!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Post-Apocalyptic Vision

With one exception, I can pretty easily see how future tribe and I can meet all our physical needs and substitute hand-made items for civilization-dependent, or adapt to going without. But I haven't really known what to do about my dependency on glasses! I have five ideas:

  1. Figure on going without glasses. This would suck, since I have very poor eyesight and without my glasses I can't make out any details of anything more than a foot away from my face.
  2. Make my own glasses from remaining fragments of glass. I haven't read of anyone experimenting with this; I worry that if it doesn't work out well impaired vision will permanently handicap me. Perhaps not as badly as with option #1, but any impairment in vision will significantly impact my ability to hunt and gather, and even to grow food.
  3. Practice natural vision healing techniques, such as those pioneered by Dr. William Bates. Ran Prieur has done a lot of work on this with significant results, but his progress has taken quite a while and he still has a long way to go before he could discard his glasses altogether. I have heard and read some encouraging testimonials as to the effectiveness of healing your eyes, but I have also seen at least two accounts of case studies showing no improvement in vision tests from months of eye excercises, even when the subject felt his or eye eyesight had improved. All in all, I feel reluctant to depend on healing my eyes back to normal vision with no backup plan.
  4. Eye surgery such as Lasik or PRK. I really like the idea of walking in with my current crappy vision and walking out with normal vision. The pricetag (maybe $1000-$3000 range for both eyes?) definitely crimps my excitement. Most of all, my uncertainty as to the long term effects of eye surgery scare me off from wanting to try it. Doctors have only been performing these surgeries for 20 years, so no one knows what happens 30, 40, 50 years down the line. I fear some unexpected side effect that leaves my vision in worse shape than if I'd never had them cut open my eyes, or chronic dry-eye or something even more painful.
  5. Stockpile glasses! Ran Prieur mentioned Zenni Optical, an online store which sells complete glasses (frames & prescription lenses with UV protection and anti-scratch coating) starting at $8, plus a $5 flat shipping cost.
I expect to follow a strategy combining #3 and #5. I will experiment with eye excercises to see whether I can improve my vision, and I'll probably order a bunch of glasses. For $165 I could get 20 pairs of glasses with a wide range of prescription strengths from weaker to stronger than my current need. I can stash glasses in multiple places so that if a disaster breaks, burns, or buries one stash I'll still have others available. Ideally I'll find a frame that meets my normal frame needs (basically lenses as big as possible so I don't lose much of my peripheral vision but still attractive for Theressa to look at), plus has interchangeable left and right lenses. I'll order that frame for all the pairs, and have even more options for mixing and matching lenses to customize my glasses for years to come! Basically I'll have (say) 20 frames and 40 lenses to use, mix up, cannibalize for parts, and so on.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Resolution

I didn't make an official New Year's Resolution, but the changes I started in my life a few weeks ago could count! I don't know whether writing this up will have any value for anyone besides me, but I don't have the energy to tackle anything else tonight so this will have to do.

Diet: Getting back towards the Paleodiet, especially cutting out wheat and sugar. I know I have had a sugar addiction for the past 10+ years, and I feel pretty suspicious that eating wheat messes up my body, so I've detoxed from wheat & sugar. I felt miserable for the first week, then OK for the second week, then a little more energetic for the third week. Two nights ago I ate a lot of corn and felt somewhat miserable yesterday, so now I wonder whether I should just take the plunge and commit to a fully grain-free diet. Or maybe I just ate too many carbs at once and that adequately explains feeling crappy yesterday, or maybe...

Schedule: I want to kick the internet addiction as well, and direct my time and energy into more useful pursuits. About a week ago I decided to reimplement the idea of a schedule I stick to as best I can each day. (I tried that earlier this year but didn't stay with the idea for long.) Basic schedule:

  • Wake up
  • Eat
  • Go to my sit spot, figuring about half an hour travel time and one hour sitting/exploring time.
  • Come home and work on projects until:
  • Eat
  • Work on more projects until:
  • Eat
  • Finish eating by 6:30 to do the following in roughly this order:
  • Write something for the blog, 1/2 hour
  • General internet email & waste-of-timing, 1 hour
  • Research naturalist stuff (read Arthur Bent's life histories of birds I see, look up pictures of different birds or mammals to try to identify unknows or answer questions that came up at the sit spot), etc, 1 hour
  • Process food (crack nuts, extract acorns, peel wapato, etc), 1/2 hour
  • Get in bed by 9:30, maybe read a little longer especially if I don't feel tired yet.

It hasn't worked out quite so cleanly so far, but I have actually made it to my sit spot every day (before I only went every other day or maybe two days out of three), I have gone to bed earlier and awoken earlier, and I think it has helped me cut down a little on computer time. And I have posted more to the blog the past few days!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

National Plant Germplasm System

For those unaware of its existence, I wanted to point out a resource I have found very valuable: the National Plant Germplasm System, at http://www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/index.html

NPGS preserves genetic diversity of plants, and makes germplasm (ie, seeds and cuttings) available to scientists, organizations, and individuals conducting research. I have requested various rare seeds and cuttings over the last two years to integrate various plants into our food forest and find out what works well together. I plan to request many more species this year, some of which I've only been able to find at NPGS!