Saturday, November 27, 2010

Inspiration comes in many forms

I am not quite sure that this post fits into the topic of useful.  If nothing else maybe it will inspire you to get out there and make some shit from the crap that you have lying around.  Everything has a use in Survivology but the real talent lies in recognizing the potentional in something and having the knowledge to make it fit the need or live up to its potential.  It is a life long persuit and many of the skills learned can be useful in other areas.  for example; there is a crooked knife that I made from a hoof knife that I found.  I used the crooked knife to make a spoon and  a kuksa.  Now I have  a tool that I made and learned how to use.  I hope that this thread inspires some of your own creativity but if not at least you know that I practice what I preach.

If you double click on the pictures it will give you a view of the full size image.  If the image dosent display correctly then right click on it and click on the "show image" tab.  It should reload the image without reloading the entire page.

Various leather working crafts and projects.

Two leather (one piece) knife sheaths.  In a pinch this type of sheath can be made out of anything you have lying around from cardboard to birch bark.

My 12 hour knife project.

Two more leather knife sheath projects, the one on the right has a custom kydex insert, the knife is from Luke Swenson.

Two axe projects with handmade leather sheaths and handmade handles, the large one is a home depot hatchet that I re hardened and temperd then added a hand made hickory handle and leather sheath.  The small one is handmade from Norway, I made the zebra wood handle and the leather sheath.
A pine kuksa that I made with my home made crooked knife.

A belt holster wet formed for a WSI firestarter and a Case Trapper knife
A deer tine ceramic sharpner, I used the deer tine as a tool to wet form some leather projects.

Some arrow points that I made from flakes found while wandering the forest. 

My zebra wood light bushcraft kit.

A gourd bowl that I made at Dirt Time 08, it is filled with obsedian flakes that I found around the forest. 

This is my primative fire kit, I made the striker from an old file.  I made the leather bag from some scrap that I had lying around.

Zebra wood handle scales that I made for my ATAX.  I just thought that it needed a little custom flare, it was a gift from Ron and Karen Hood so it required a little special treatment.

A crooked knife that I made by re shaping a hoof knife that I found.
Various projects fire striker, steel cloak pin, ceramic sharpner, and a net needle.

A couple of spoons, the top one was coal burned and the bottom was made with my home made crooked knife.

A zebra wood spoon and a net needle that I made last night with the knife that I made on Thanksgiving.

I don't know if this inspired you do something or not.  I get alot of inspiration from seeing the projects completed by other people so I just thought that I would give a little back and showcase some of my own.  Rather you found this post useful or not; thanks for looking and come back soon.  I am sure that I will have something useful for you on here soon.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The birth of an old classic (knife making project)

Well its not actually an old classic but my goal was to make a useable bushcrafter that resembled something that you might see in an old western movie.  I have an afinity for antiquities especially of the sharp bladed variety.  So this Thanksgiving project I set out to make my very first knife from scratch.  The only thing that I had for usable stock was a piece of S30v carbon steel, or more accuratly a broken cold steel kukri blade.  I sketched out the basic design and cut it out with a three inch angle grinder.  Then I cleaned up the basic shape on the belt sander and bench grinder.  My plan was to stay out of the kitchen so my wife could cook and complete this project in one day.  Keep in mind that this is the first knife that I have made from start to finish, although I have completed most of the steps on other projects. 

The first thing that had to be done was to anneal the metal so that I could drill the holes for the pins and work the metal a little easier.  I dont have the proper equipment so I just tossed it into the wood stove and got a cup of coffee. 

When I was pretty sure that it had been heated enough I removed the stock from the stove and set it on top of the stove to cool slowly.  When it reached the temp of the stove I removed it and put it in the vice to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled I tested it with a scribe to ensure that the metal had been softened.  It worked well and was remakable how different the hardness actually was when annealed.

I carefuly layed out the marks for the holes and viced the stock on my Smithy.  Using the drill press I first made a starter hole with a center drill then drilled it to the final size .25 inch. to match the brass rods that I intend to use as handle pins.

All drilled with the pins in place to check their size and alignment.

I used a transfer punch to transfer the exact holes to the handle scales then carefully drilled the scales and pinned them in place to do some finer work on the handle scales and shaping.  The wood that I used for the scales was a piece of scrap African Zebra Wood that I had lying around. 

After the basic shape was completed I disasembled the knife and did some fine sanding on the scales.

With everything rolling along at a good pace I started the hardenenig process for the blank.  Before hardening I ground the single bevel scandi grind into the stock.  I did not sharpen it I just got the grind close to what I wanted.

I heated the metal to critical temperature (non magnetic) three times placing it back into the wood stove each time it regained its magnetic properties.  The third time that it reached critical temp I quenched it into a bath of warm water that had been sitting on the stove.  I dunked it in with the tip and cutting edge first then slowly submerging the rest of the blade.

I tested the hardness by trying to cut the edge with a file, the file would not cut.  All hardned and ready for tempering.  I simply placed the bade into my large shop vice clamping the actual cutting edge all the way through the tip.  I did this so that the vice would absorb any heat before it could be transfered to the hardned edge.  I used a small propane torch to apply controlled heat to the spine of the blade until I could see the slight straw color moving through the steel.  Then I let the blank cool naturally to room temperature.  When it was cool I cleaned it up with sand paper down to a 600 grit polish.  Then I put the stock in the kitchen sink and degreased it with dishsoap and warm water.  The next step is to apply a petina and basically force it to rust.  I used a solution of Hydrogen peroxide and salt. 

With the two large bottles of peroxide and a container of table salt.  I poured all the peroxide into a stainless steel pot and brought them to a boil.  Once boiling I added about 3/4 the container of salt to the mix and tossed in the clean and grease free metal.  (use tongs)

It started to oxadize immediatly and began to turn the solution a rusty brown color.  It is actually an amazing process to watch.

After a couple of minutes I removed the stock and cleaned it in the sink with warm water and a tooth bush.  after this I put it back into the pot and repeated the above step multiple times until the stock recieved the desired ammount of rust.

Next I cleaned the piece throughly and sanded the tang lightly to remove enough scale to allow the epoxy to form a good bond.  Then I mixed up the epoxy and applied a smooth even coat to both handle scales and the tang of the knife and re-assembled the project. 

I clamped the work with a pair of vice grip clamps and gave the 5min epoxy about an hour to cure (that was one long hour to wait.)

After about an hour I cleaned it up sharpened it on my wetstone grinder, stroped it to a razor finish and cleaned up the excess epoxy on the handle and the tang.  I dug up an old sheath that I had wet formed for another knife but it never fit quite right so it fell out of use.  It fits this new knife like a condom. 

So there you have it all oiled up, a brand new classic trappers blade, perfectly suited for bushcraft about 3/16 thick S30v rusted to perfection and weighing in at exactly 6 oz.  The entire project was completed in about a 12 hour Thanksgiving day.   Want to know what I am thankful for? TIME, TOOLS, TALENT, and INSPIRATION. 



Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Well I guess that it has been a while since I posted here.  After my last post I left to get in a late season trip to Mt Shasta,  I have done some bear and bobcat hunting and completed many projects in the home and shop.  Sometimes life and work seem to get in the way but I hope that I can detail some of this past months experiences in the days to come.  The snow has fallen and winter has officially begun up here in the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  Likewise it is ski season and I intend to get as much out of it as I can.   

Recently I have had an article published in Survival Quarterly Magazine titled Survivology101 and I encourage you to read it.  It is sort of a primer for the things that I have already discussed and some new concepts and thought processes as well. 

I seem to have broken my camera which was supposed to be shock prooof with all kinds of other durable features.  I droped it off at the "Geek Squad" to get it repaired.  Long story short they put in a bunch of new parts and apparently didn't bother to try and take a picture with it because the original problem was not fixed.  I guess that I will be borrowing my wife's camera but she wont let me take out in the field (for obvious reasons)  when I get mine back I will resume with the pictures and videos on here and on YouTube. 

That about sums up my absence so check back every couple of days and see if I got off my ass and actually posted something that you can use. 

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Survival VS Bushcraft side by side

I recently did a piece on the difference and similarities between survival and self reliance.  Now I intend to show a comparison between survival and bushcraft.  Keep in mind that these are my opinions and you may disagree or agree, its all good.  When I say survival in the context of this article I am referring exclusively to wilderness survival training, not actually surviving an event or any of the other survival training scenarios like urban or TEOTWAWKI.

Survival and Bushcraft do share some similarities but the differences are probably at least as great.  It is like comparing football and futbol, sure there are guys on a field with a ball but that is about it.  The main difference between the two is that survival focuses on meeting your needs to sustain life.  Bushcraft focuses on refining skills, and building comfort in the wilderness but not necessarily for survival.  Essentially it is the mindset of the person doing the training.  If they were occupations I would list survival as a mechanic and bushcraft as an engineer.  Where the mechanic will get the car back on the road and occasionally engineers a solution to a complex problem, the engineer develops and refines a concept to create a car in the first place, while relying heavily on his own mechanical ability.

When folks head out to the hinterland in search of knowledge and adventure they usually bring a specific load out.  The bushcrafter will rely heavily on the small nimble knife like a Mora and usually a good quality axe.  The survivalist will have a tendency to lean toward a pair of knives, usually a heavy chopper and a smaller blade like a hunter not quite as small and nimble as a Mora.  This is not a rule it just happens to be the most usual mindset that I have observed, and both variations have merit.

The rest of the kit seems to be too variable to categorize but it seems to me that the bushcrafter tends to lean more toward traditional or more modest and/or natural looking products.  The survivalist will lean more toward multiple use items and lightweight, durable modern solutions although many prefer to lean in the direction of primitive and native American items as well.  Both will more than likely have many items that were crafted by hand and some are down right ingenious uses of natural or scavenged materials. 

Both schools of thought are heavily dependent upon your skill with a knife.  Both survivalists and bushcrafters in large part are gearaholics or recovering gearaholics.  Most have a ton of gear that they have tried and found to be not reliable or not what they desire.  Conversely, they both probably have a specific few items that will always accompany them out for training or recreation.  These few special items are usually  highly prized over everything else in their kit, and very often have a story or two that go with them.

If you are in a conversation with a survivalist or bushcrafter look for the most used but well maintained piece of gear they have and ask them to tell you the story behind it.  Many will tell you a story or two without skipping a beat. Or you may end up looking like a weirdo, you never can tell.

There are obviously a lot of similarities between the two and I think that is because the survivalist will eventually evolve into the bushcrafter.  When he has developed the core survival skills and a confidence to use them coupled with the experience to know what works.  He will start the evolution and begin to engineer better solutions for his survival and comfort.

I think that the largest separation is that bushcraft is primarily in the bush, and survival is anywhere you need to meet your needs.  In essence most of us are both survivalist and bushcrafters, the label that we hang on it depends what we are doing at the time.  Hope this helps to settle a few of the arguments.


Friday, October 1, 2010

The gift of PTSD

Today I was sitting outside the shop observing a squirrel raiding a garbage can.  While I watched him dart in and out in a hyper alert frenzy something occurred to me.  That squirrel has  PTSD.  I have seen the afflicted move just like that in a hyper alert situation.  The little rodent seemed to be aware of every little rustling leaf or even hint of movement.  He never let his guard down until he had thoroughly searched the entire trash can.  Then he scurried off and disappeared into the treeline.  I have been there and done that.  But when it was over I got to smoke a cigarette and relax, this little squirrel never had that opportunity.  That got me thinking!  Are we supposed to develop PTSD as an awareness tool for survival?  Most wild animals move and act just like this.  It is not until they become domesticated like the sheep or cow that they lose this hyper alertness.  Is it that war and traumatic events are so primeval that they awaken a survival trait that we as a domesticated society no longer have a use for and look at as a disease?    It makes me wonder if our ancestors had this ability and awareness of everything that surrounds them.  It also makes me wonder at what point in human history did we unlearn a survival skill that has managed to keep our people safe for thousands of years.  What other gifts were we born with that we discarded so long ago that we can no longer recognize them for the superhuman gifts that they truly are.  If you are the fortunate recipient of this gift learn to embrace it, listen to what it has for you and take pride in the fact that you have re-learned a skill that mankind decided to live without.  Don't let anyone tell you that you have a disease or a disorder, it cannot be treated only repressed.  Learn to use your gift not repress it, it just might save your life if it hasn't already.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fire test

Here is a fire test that you can put yourself through in your environment. GOOD LUCK!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The king of the rats

Like I mentioned earlier I have been having a little problem with rodents around here.  I showed you how to build the bucket trap and that is really effective against those mice.  When I went out to the garage and seen that the can was pushed all the way to one side then licked clean of peanut butter I realized that I was not up against a little mouse.  So I set up the figure four alternative that I made out of rifle and pistol cleaning rods (you can see this in my video SUNDAY SCOUT).

 Of course it was a success and I killed the king of the rats.  I will continue to keep it set up but only at night with the garage door shut because this will kill my cat if it decides to investigate.  Who would have thought that all that work in the field trapping rabbits and squirrels for dinner would pay off at the house in an everyday situation to make the quality of life a little better.  That is what it is all about, learning how to transfer those skills around all aspects of your life and recognizing when they are useful .  That's Survivology!

I  don't know how it wormed out the backside of the brick, but that goes to show that this WAS one strong SOB.  No wonder Sierra (my cat) didn't want to stay out in the garage alone.  Do you remember the loony toons cartoon where Silvester goes in after the little mouse and the kangaroo kicks his ass, this is something like that. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Survival VS Self Reliance

Survival VS Self Reliance:

What's the difference? This has been a debate among survivalists for a long time. I now hope to clear up these commonly confused topics. To be placed into a survival situation you are caught off guard and generally unprepared for what has just happened. Sometimes it is a slow process that is fed by personal denial of what is going on such as becoming lost while out hunting or hiking. By the time the reality of the situation sets in you must work to meet those immediate survival needs in order to maintain life. Other times the situation can be thrust upon you swiftly and violently without warning, often this results in injury, shock, trauma or even death. This is accompanied by a host of other survival stressors that must also be overcome. Regardless of the manner in which the situation developed the end result is you meeting those two basic needs IE: survival and comfort.

This phase of the scenario can be overcome quickly or extremely slowly, sometime in the direst cases they are not met at all and the result is almost always death. Rare is the occasion that rescue arrives just on time. However if successful in meeting the basics and creating a system to meet them on a regular basis you will have entered into a self reliance situation. For a trained and dedicated survivalist this can come very quickly and the self reliance situation seems almost automatic. That however, is not the case, it simply seems that way because the scenario is well rehearsed and the survivor is mentally prepared to meet his needs.

Long term survival needs: Although we refer to it as long term survival it is truly self reliance. The main difference is that in a true self reliance situation the survivor can slip back into a survival situation with nothing more than a change of the weather. After an extended period of time the survivor learns to read the patterns, the animal movements and is more like an indigenous tribesman than a survivalist. In that case he has moved into a long term survival situation or more appropriately a tribal lifestyle until such time as rescue or recovery occurs. In a SHTF situation this could mean the recovery of the normal support systems. In the most extreme situations this could be small communities reestablishing trade and commerce even if only on a local level. Eventually this will happen and when it does you will have moved to level three on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Mountain Man

I just like this video clip and thought that I would share it with you.

It is from the movie "Jerimah Johnson" Loosly based on the book "The Crow Killer" the saga of Liver eatin' Johnson. I highly suggest the book!

What is a survival NEED?

Before you can begin to meet your survival needs it is important to understand what those needs are and the order in which they become important.  Sometimes these are self evident and sometimes they are not.   Judgment can become clouded from boredom or preoccupation with other things in life.  Sometimes there is no doubt exactly what is needed for survival.  The difficult part is to anticipate those needs and provide for them in advance.  

Probably the most recognized albeit oversimplified is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  There are five different levels in Maslow’s model, these are often displayed in pyramid form with the most basic needs at the bottom.  As you fulfill these needs your focus goes up the pyramid while transferring from more physical needs to psychological ones.  The pyramid at its upper most tier is comprised of purely psychological needs that focus mostly on personal growth and enlightenment.  Upon initially entering into a survival situation your first priority will be those lower physical needs on the pyramid.  These needs often come with indicators such as physical discomfort or even death when they are not met.  The higher ones manifest as psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.  By understanding this model and placing your personal needs within the scope of its design you can avoid some of the pitfalls associated with failure to meet them at the appropriate time.  If you’re NEED does not fall in to this model then it should be reexamined, it may not be a need at all but a want and that can be dealt with later.

In a survival or a SHTF situation the first two needs are the most immediately important.  Of course there are more than you see in the example but they will require immediate attention.

Basic needs
These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met. Your basic survival needs are most commonly referred to as the rule of three’s.  In the rule of threes it is said that you can only live for three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food and in some examples three months without companionship.  The timelines given are not necessarily what you would experience and there are an unlimited amount of variables to consider for each need.  What this does is provide a simple recipe for retention to help prioritize your orders of work for a given situation. Of course you did not see fire in that recipe so it becomes apparent that fire is not a need, however it is an important tool that will help you to meet and maintain those needs.
Safety needs
These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighborhoods and shelter from the environment.   As any good woodsman knows there is a certain comfort that is felt when you have your weapons close at hand.  This is the comfort of security and it is much the same as the comfort that is experienced around the fire at night.  The ability to keep the animals at bay or at least the illusion of such gives comfort and security.  In reality a sharpened stick would not do you much good from the sneak attack of a cougar.  What it does is take away the feeling of helplessness and exposure that you feel in an already uncomfortable situation.  Safety goes beyond just security but it is the safety of have a reliable water source, reliable food source and a sturdy comfortable shelter. 

Safety needs are also the driving force behind comfort.  In a survival scenario you are off your center and all the provisions that you generally take for granted are no longer at your finger tips.  Once these needs are met it is automatic to want to improve the situation.  This is accomplished by beefing up your shelter and adding to your sleeping platform.  Anything that you can do to reduce the physical stress and discomfort will be classified as a safety need. 

Keep your priorities straight and you will certianly survive anything that life throws at you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Swenson Custom Knives Review

Well the testing is complete so it is time that I offer a review of a very special set of knives hand crafted by the master blade smith, Luke Swenson.

Back in February I received an email from Ron Hood and he told me to keep an eye on the mail because he had sent me some stuff and he needed to know when I got it.  Obviously I was excited, I was thinking test gear, I love testing gear and it is even better when you didn’t have to work anybody to get it.  With my excitement overflowing the package finally arrived at the post office in the form a little yellow card in my box that said you have a package” well the counter was closed so the next day I rushed out of work early to get to post office before it closed.  It was a moderately sized package but considerably heavy for its size.  Rather than open it I drove home and let my imagination run wild.  Not too wild mind you, it had to be knives or a bomb but I was pretty sure that I had not pissed Ron off so I settled on knives.  I busted through the front door, tore past my wife and ripped into the package.  KNIVES!!

Not just any knives these were custom beauties cased in custom leather.  Not fancy ordainments and leather work just simple beauty in a functional form.  With the anticipation of undressing a super model I unsheathed these babies.  And etched into the blade was the inscription “To Norseman, From Ron Hood” my stomach sank.  Keep in mind that these were not some custom creation from the mind of the master blade smith; they were of my own design.

A few months back I had sent off some wooden knife designs to Ron for his review.  I had been designing and refining them for many years.  They had evolved in to what I would call the perfect knife for me and the ways that I use them.  I had no ideal that this is what was in the package, or even in the works.  They were identical to my wooden prototypes and every bit as comfortable and balanced as I had imagined.  I immediately emailed Luke and Called Ron to let them know that I received the package and that I was eternally grateful.  Being that I was at that time, in the middle of an intense mountain leadership course I immediately began to put them to the test.

Upon completion of the course I had a few weeks off then I was off to Norway for a winter survival course where they would be my only tools for survival.  I was sure that they were up to the task and had no issues choosing them as the only tools that I was allowed to bring.  This pair of knives are of different size blades and a slightly larger handle on the larger one.  The handles were designed to function the same and provide a variety of holds and grips for survival tasks.  These are not your usual survival knives; these were refined over a very long period of time as I developed my knife handling skills and awareness of blade geometry.

“These knives were made for a true American hero, a real life marine scout sniper they are both 01 tool steel, the large blade is from 1/4 inch stock, and the smaller blade is from 3/16 stock. Both are hand rubbed to a 600 grit finish and have convex edges. Both blades also have green canvas micarta handles and stainless fittings. The larger blade is a slick 9.75 inches and the other comes in right over 4 inches. The hand stitched 9 oz leather sheaths complete a durable dependable package. Hardcore adventure indeed!” –Luke Swenson

The handle design and function:  The shape of the handle was intended to fit comfortably in the hand forward and backward as well as upside down, basically comfortable in any position that you can hold a knife.  It also had to have a shape that offered good grip without any sharp edges knurling or jibbing.  This was accomplished very well and as an added bonus it is also easy to hold while wearing mittens.  The handle has no hard edges so using it for extended periods of time does not create any hot spots.  The pommel has a large hole that can accommodate a small carabineer.  This provides a sold griping location for heavy chopping when using a pinch grip on the rear of the handle.  Both the front and rear portions of the handle are slimmed down to lend great control when using the pinch grip.  Toward the front of the handle is a small relief carved into the flat of both sides.  This is for the thumb to sit while using the side grip, it offers greater control and almost eliminates any friction hot spots on the thumb.  The handle is of green canvas micarta and it is held in place by three stainless steel pins.  The set is finished with custom leather that makes them look like historical replicas.   

Summary:  This is an heirloom quality set of knives that will be passed along to my children.  Luke Swenson is truly a master of his trade and I would not hesitate to contact him for future projects.  The precision and attention to every detail of the design was flawless.  He inserted his own experience in the choice of steel and the type of grind on the blades without any reservation.  His expertise enhances the design and completed the pair where my experience was limited. The knives perform almost magically when the proper techniques are used during cutting chores.  From light camp tasks to felling larger trees this pair is up to the task.  They have been used on large and small game, many camp chores in desert and forest, in the frozen north of Europe to sunny southern California, and the Brutal Sierra Nevada’s. In the sun, or rain, or snow I could not ask for a better pair of sidekicks.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Eyes on me!

I found this article on the web and it seemed to me to be an interesting one that relates directly to survivology, more specifically to communicating during a stressful situation.  This technique as described in the article is a time proven one that you may recognize.  Also notice that the author discovered how effective it was by "reflecting back" on the past season.  Remember that reflection is how we make sense of all the day to day frustrations that we encounter.  Read the article and try it out you will be surprised how well it works.  It is simple human psychology.  Do you remember your drill instructors saying "EYEBALLS" and answering "OPEN SIR" It is the same thing for the same reason.  Another one that I often use is "FOCUS" although it is more to maintain attention than to gain attention.  ENJOY!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hunting season

Hunting season has begun, they shoud have an open season on the idiot that wrote this.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The eight R's of observation

These are the eight R's of the observation process and they are an important step in the development of the survival mindset and the ability to recognize the patters that are all around you.  This seems like a difficult process but with a little practice it will become second nature.  If you miss some steps in the process or simply do not have enough time to complete it that is OK. The beauty is that simply recognizing that this is an event in that you are required to pay attention will put you ahead of most of the people around you.   

Realize, recognize, record, recall, review, recite, respond, reassess.

Realize what is going on and how it affects you, your mission, your objective and your situation or safety.

Recognize the pattern that is going on, how it is developing and what options that you have to manipulate the situation or just observe and learn.

Record information from general details to the specific details.

Recall those details and relate them other similar experiences to see where the overlaps are.

Review the total information for a complete accounting of the situation, review for retention.

Recite those details and vital information to implace them in you memory.

Respond appropriately to the current situation. (if required)

Reassess the entire event to refresh the memory and pick out the actual pattern, do not do this until you are completely removed from the event and you are no longer emotionally invested.

If nothing else the first and last steps will get you head and shoulders above most of the drones moving about in their daily routines.  There is a certain liberation that you feel when you pay attention and manage to remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation because you picked up on the ques or recognized how a situation was developing before your eyes.  That is on a micro level but the patterns repeat themselves on a macro level as well.

Take a look at the events leading up to the American revolutionary war, by my observation we are somewhere in between the Townshend acts and the Boston Massacre right now.  Keep a  watchful eye out for the next event and follow the pattern.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dont ASK like an asshole!

Here is the lesson for the day.

If YOU or your department screwed up and you need help to make it right don't ask like an ass hole. Do not act like it is the other guys' fault.  Sometimes people need help fixing their mistakes and you will not get help by playing it off and blaming others because you are incompetent.  Man up, admit that you are an idiot and humbly ask for help.  If you do anything else then you are a bonifide ass hole and you deserve every problem that comes from your mistake.  The reality is that your mistake was probably caused because you were too lazy to inspect what you expected in the first place.  This is especially important if it is a holiday and in order to help you the other party really has make YOUR problem their problem.

Semper Fi!

Tracker up!

My kids left the gate open yesterday afternoon and my dogs ran off.  I figured that they would come back in a couple of hours and its a holiday weekend so the dog catcher has the day off I'm sure.  Besides, one of them is half coyote so I figured that she was just out chasing rabbits.  By the time that I came home from work today (yes I had to work on Labor Day) they were still not home.  I drove around the the back roads to see if I could spot them and had no luck.  I went home for a while and then decided to go track them. 

Its not every day that I get to go out a get some tracking practice.  I figured that the most likely place to start was the scrub forest behind the house so I set out to find some spore.  I moved about halfway up the hill and came to a fence line.  I systematically checked the fence for signs of a crossing and eventually located the spore.  I immediately identified it as my two dogs primarily from the first set of prints.  The bigger of the two dogs has a lot of hair between her paws and she has a limp on the rear right leg.  I followed their tracks for a while and they seemed to be just curiously checking everything out and moving randomly around with no purpose.  I then came to a spore separation point and decided to follow the bigger dog.  The bigger dog is the mother and I knew that the other would not stray too far.  I also figured that she was easier to follow  and her tracks were more identifiable.  After the spore separation point there was evidence of a "shotgun start"  they were not wandering they were hunting.  I did not find and carcass so they must have lost their prey.  The tracks came back together and headed out deep into the forest on a deer run.  I had guessed that they wandered out on the deer run and that they would be gone for a couple days.  I headed back home and decided to stop with a  great view of the valley to quickly reflect back on the event.  This is what I have found.

1) My dogs seem to work well as a team but the big ones limp cost them a meal.
2) Family pets are easier to track than wild animals.
3) Pets are predictable.
4) Every track has a story to tell and the better you know the quarry the easier it is to follow.
5) Reading sign and spore is just like reading a book but you have to learn the written language first.
6) Never give up!

After my reflection I headed back to the house to find that the dogs returned home in my short absence.  Either they knew that I was on their tail and decided to go home, or they just couldn't get a meal this time out.  In any event if I had stayed on the tracks I would have found that they were still in the area and I might have found or at least spotted them before they went home. 

I think that we are going to have to leave the gate open more often that was good training.  I don't know if this does anybody any good but I thought that I would share the experience. 

I hope that you all had a good labor day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The University of Life

Life has a certain few lessons that you MUST learn. The sooner that you learn them the easier the blow.  If the lesson is not hard won then it will soon be forgotten and the next time life rotates that lesson back to you it is a little more destructive. Eventually, it will be learned and the consequence can be great, where it would have been inconsequential if learned the first time around.  Sometimes you must ignore good advise, go out and learn the lesson the hard way.

If you are a five year old on the play ground and you mess with a "big kid" and get knocked on your ass; lesson learned.  Fast foreword 20 years and that same lesson could cost you a hospital visit.

I'm just running around the playground punching big kids in the face to get the lessons out of the way before the consequence is too great. I would hate to learn these lessons when my livelihood depends on my success.  So for those that are too afraid to experience life get out and make some mistakes.  Likewise let your children make their own mistakes, it does not serve them well to lay out all the answers for them.  Sure you are older and wiser but you had to learn those lessons the hard way and so do they. 

I figured out the patterns and the lessons that I know now sitting alone in the wilderness analyzing where I went wrong.  You will come up with answers to questions that you didn't even know you had.  Doing a 12 or 24 hour sit out is a great and ancient way to clear your head when life gets you bogged down.  Bring nothing for entertainment, just a blanket and some water,  sit on the blanket and observe nature and let your head settle down.  The problem with most people is that they never learned how to sit back and analyze when the shit gets to heavy to bear. I have a system for working this out and now so do you.

Some times you have to deal with assholes against your better judgement, fortunately it helps to learn the finer points of recognizing them in the future, all assholes smell the same. A wise old man named Ron Hood once told me "never trust a perfumed man in a stinky society" now that is some great advise but for that to work you gotta know what perfume smells like. Its all part of the pattern. I consider it the University of Life and the class is Survivology 101, you can't cheat because the answer key does not hold the answers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The wisdom of the ancients

Today was another one of those days that was both uneventful and uninspiring so rather than leave the blog empty I have decided to revisit some ancient wisdom.  I have included a few different translations of the Hávamál.  The Hávamál is an ancient Norse text that contains 168 stanzas of simple truths.  These are guidelines for life and survival.  A lot of the things that I have found to be simple truths in the world are contained in this text.  Most of the time I didn't understand it until I had experienced it first hand.  So in the absence of being inspired I have a couple different translations of the first stanza.  In the future I will do the same with other stanzas when it seems appropriate.  The reason that I have included multiple translations is to give you a little taste of how the information can be interpreted differently by the translators but still keep the same theme and spirit. 

If you would like to read the entire document or other old Norse text I recommend:

They have a very nice library and a variety of text, to include about eight translations of Hávamál.

--Original in Old Norse (Author Unknown)
Gáttir allar
áðr gangi fram
um skoðask skyli
um skygnask skyli
því at óvíst
er at vita
hvar óvinir
sitja á fleti fyrir

--James Hujka Coulter
Keep your senses keen
When you enter the hall,
Take care and look around you-
You never know when you may
find and attacker hiding in wait.

--W.H.Auden and P.B. Taylor
The man who stands at a strange threshold,
Should be cautious before he cross it,
Glance this way and that:
Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
Awaiting him in the hall?

--Lee M. Hollander
Have they eyes about thee when thou enterest
be wary alway, be watchful alway,
for one never knoweth when need will be
to meet hidden foe in the hall.

--H.A. Bellows
Within the gates / ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows / where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

The gist of stanza 1 is to never let your guard down, there is no way for you to know if someone has a secret grudge against you.  Likewise you have no way of knowing if you have accidentally offended anyone within and they are just waiting for a good opportunity to get you.  Make yourself a hard target by staying alert and attentive.

Later stanzas in Hávamál give warnings against drinking too much or running your mouth in mixed company.  Those later stanzas compliment this one very well.  Ancient wisdom is timeless!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We gotta take the title back!

The new survivalist, the modern survivalist, bushcrafter, and prepper are just some of the terms used by SURVIVALISTS to explain the lifestyle that they live.  I use the word survivalist proudly even though that name has been preverted over the years.  The brand survivalist has often been reserved for one of two different types of people and neither is accurate.  The first mislabeled survivalist is the wacko in the fringe groups that lives alone or in some colony counting down the days until the end of the world.  His entire concept of survival is to simply continue breathing.  I just can't seem to figure out why a person would want to live separated from all the joys that are out there to be had. All to often they are full of hate and bigotry or irrational fear of the government, FEMA death camps, the Illuminati, aliens and mind control.  These people have also been referred to as "the tin foil hats" which is more accurate.  The other mislabeled survivalist is the outdoors man, hunter, backpacker or any other group that seeks recreation in the outdoors.  When occasionally one of these people gets caught unprepared and ends up in a survival situation.  We have all heard about the guy that wandered off the trail, fell off of a cliff, broke both legs and lived off eating ants and licking the dew off the grass for a week.  Maybe not that exact story but there are many tales of the untrained, unprepared outdoors man surviving against the odds.  While they do have a strong will to survive,  they are not survivalists either they are simply survivors. 

The true survivalist is the person that lives a full life and enjoys as much of it as they can.  They do not hide from daily conflicts nor do they welcome it.  They are smart and attentive to the world around them.  They recognize the dangers in everyday life and use their knowledge to navigate through the turbulence.  When they do get caught up they do the best that they can and learn from the experience to avoid having that happen to them again.  They analyze patterns leading up to events and learn where the similarities are in daily life.  Now here is the important part.  They train plan and prepare for likely problems and learn to recognise them early and deal with them.  They also understand that the knowledge and skill to prevail do not come cheap.  They take considerable time, energy, study, practice, and discipline to learn their craft.

A master of lithic arts is useless if he doesn't know how to hunt. A master hunter is useless if he cannot prepare game, A butcher is useless if he cannot sharpen a knife, A blade smith is useless if he cannot start a fire.  A chef is useless if he cannot acquire food. All these things are related and the ability to recognize and develop complementary skills is the key trait of the survivalist.  He does not seek mastery in many of these disciplines only competence although he is often a master of a few.  Competence in a hundred skill sets beats out mastery of one hands down.  As R.A. Heinlein put it "Specialization is for insects".  So the next time someone ask you "What are you? Some sort of survivalist or something?" tell them you are the only kind of survivalist.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The romance of survival

To the uninitiated it may seem romantic and sexy to be lost or isolated and have to survive on your whits and ingenuity.  Using only the knowledge and skills that you have acquired over years of practice and training to maintain health and move back to civilization.  The truth of the matter is that the true survivalist will have developed a mindset for predicting possible problems and make preparations to minimize the effects of a hazardous situation.  This is not to say that they cannot be caught off guard, no one is perfectly prepared all the time.  Even the most diligent prepper has an off day once in a while. 

The ideal of being dropped off in the desert with an empty canteen and a knife to test your skills is absurd.  The better way to approach that would be to go camping in the desert and practice those skills while you still have the means to back them up if they fail.  I myself spend allot of time alone in the forest but I have learned that as a sole provider of a family of seven I would be stupid to not bring a backup.  When I go out to the forest my pack always has too much stuff in it and I always carry a Spot II transmitter just in case I get into a situation that I cannot get out of without a helping hand.  The spot also gives my wife a little piece of mind at night when she gets that email and text saying that I'm alright. 

I have trained for survival in some pretty harsh environments around the world and I would not want to have to survive in any of them.  From the frozen forests of Norway to the mean streets of LA I have tested my skills.  In all cases I have prevailed but I have always had an emergency backup and a contingency plan.  If you plan to go train for survival be smart about it, make a plan and have a backup.  Running off to the wilderness with reckless abandon is not the way that professionals hone their craft.  It is how amatures get themselves killed.  So how then do you know when you are ready and able to survive?  You can never truly be ready or you would not be in that situation. If nothing else, remember this, you will know that you are ready when you know from experience that you do not want it to happen to you.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Balance is the governer of the world

I thought that I would share something with you that falls in line with all of my ramblings about reoccurring patterns and learning to pay attention to them. 

Well my last post was about killing those damb pesky rodents that are invading my home.  While out this afternoon I was chopping wood in my front yard to prepare for the coming winter.  My wife said that she had seen a snake and I ran over there to discover what looked like a rattlesnake.  It even moved like a rattle snake.  I grabbed a rake pinned its head down and cut the head off of it.  When it was dead I realized that this snake didn't have a rattle but it sure looked like one.  As it turns out is was a Pacific gopher snake.  It was one of my best allies in my war against the rodents and I killed it.  So for the two mice that I killed last night now I have saved at least that many more.  It is a strange world that we live in when it can balance itself out so perfectly every time. 

I just thought that I would share that with you.

Build a better mousetrap

It is once again the time of year that the rodents come out of the forest and invade my home.  For years I have invested in glue traps and various other contraptions.  Poisons are not an option as I have five children three dogs and a cat.  Poisons also have a bad habit of leaving dead rodents in the walls which stink and attract other critters. The only reason that I have the cat is to help with the mice but I think that my wife keeps her to well fed to bother with chasing rodents.  Now the other day I found mouse scat in my pantry, and this is unacceptable.  So I figured that it is time to build a better mouse trap.  So rather than run to the hardware store and ask for the latest and greatest in rodent traps or "YIKES" pay an exterminator I did my homework.  What I found was a simple device that seemed to me to be flawless.  So I built one.

The materials are a tin can, 5gal bucket, water, bleach, some kind of dowel,  a little peanut butter, and a couple of sticks.

Drill a hole in each side of the bucket near the top.  Then cut the top and bottom out of the can and insert the dowel through the bucket and the can.  The can should be suspended on the center of the dowel.  Spread a row of peanut butter around the center of the can and put the sticks up on the ends as an access ramp.  Put a few inches of water in the bucket and a little bleach to keep the smell down.

It doesn't hurt to put a little peanut butter on the ramps to draw the rodents in.  They move up the ramps and out on the can.  They will start licking the peanut and when they get out a little off center the can turns and dumps them into the the bleach water.

Some may not approve of this method and to them I say tufshit.  I am protecting my investment and securing a better future for my family.  I cannot have a rodent infestation nor can I have my dry goods decimated by the little pests.  This may not be the type of information that you would think of when you think of survival but you must protect the investment or why even bother to do the work.  I hope that this helps you all out a little.  I built it before bed last night and found two dead mice in the morning.  That is the most efficient trap that I have ever used.  My brother just pointed out that one advantage is you never have to reset it, just add bait occasionally and scoop out the rodents and toss them in the trash.

I used a square bucket and a piece of copper pipe but whatever you can find should work out just fine.

Here are the little swimmers in all their glory, good riddens!
"Tell your buddies to stay the hell out of my pantry."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Winning hearts and minds for barter and trade

In the world of personal relations there are a few simple truths that I though that I would let you in on.  For starters remember this; people naturally think that everybody else is like them.  That means a kind hearted person thinks that everyone else is deep down kind hearted as well.  The thief and the liar will think that everyone else is like them also.  So far starters put aside who you are, and  figure out who you are dealing with, it may not be the person that you think it is. 

Once you have decided that this person is someone that you may want to continue to associate with either personally or professionally you can proceed to the next step.  If this is a person that you do not fully trust but must do business with anyhow then you can get that done also using the next few tips.

To gain the trust of most people remember that they will initially think that you are like them.  Use this natural tendency to your advantage.  If they create distance and keep their hands in their pockets when talking with you do the same.  If they are the kind of people that are a little too close for comfort then you must resist the urge to create space.  If they are the type to touch your shoulder or arm during conversation then you must do the same.  If they are the type that talks a lot with their hands, try to do the same.  Take caution not to mimic their exact actions but to be that type of person.  It takes practice to do this and it can even be pulled off in small groups but do not attempt that until you can use this skill on a one to one basis.  They key is learning how to remain emotionally detached and pay attention to the person that you are dealing with.  If you can initially get them taking about themselves you will get a good opportunity to observe them.  People enjoy talking about their own accomplishments, if they do not give up the information willingly do not press it or they will be put off.

What this does is create familiarity with the person and they are quicker to let their guard down and feel comfortable with you.  This allows you to manipulate your interaction to you advantage.  This is not hypnosis and they will not hand over their wallet, it is not for scams.  It is a communication technique that allows you to connect to people on their level and build a better relationship for mutual gain.

Pay attention to the type of verbiage that they use in conversation and attempt to use the same types when speaking to them.  This is really tricky when talking to groups because you have to be able to direct your conversations at the individuals without making the others feel left out.  It takes alot of practice but it will help to make you a person that people enjoy dealing with and will become a very useful tool when the time comes to barter goods and services instead of trading useless currency like we do now.

The ability to barter for goods will be a  very useful skill and while you may get away with the occasional scam the word will get around quickly that you are not to be trusted.  The better way to approach a barter situation is be willing to give up some ground and the barter should be mutually beneficial.  No one wants to walk away from a trade feeling that they have just been taken for a ride.  Remember this,  because every bridge that you burn will not be available for use in the future and if you burn all the bridges you are left alone to fend for yourself.  Now is the time to develop these skills before you have to rely on them for your own survival.    

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do it yourself for independence

One tenant of Survivology 101 is doing things yourself as much as possible then using those lessons to enhance other disciplines until it all comes together in a blanket of know how.   I am a machinist by civilian trade and I have a hobby machine shop in my garage.  This allows me to stay current in machine technologies as well as perform basic maintenance around the house.  Having that ability comes with a general knowledge of metals and their properties.  This can be used to gravitate into forging or casting replacement parts and then finishing them in the machine shop.  My artistic abilities as a tattooist, airbrush artist, sculpter and carving ability allow me to conceive and carve the blanks for casting.  Along with being a machinist there is a fair amount of mechanical ability that accompanies it.  This provides me the opportunity to trouble shoot problems and determine the faulty part in the first place.  Perhaps all this will come together and I may find a better way to make the part to limit wear and future breakage.  All of these seemingly unrelated skills combine in a package that allows me to step away from the normal support systems and provide for myself. 

The ability to do these few things provides one with a confidence to overcome problems and I will always attempt to fix things before I would even consider hiring a "professional".  Even in areas that I know very little about, I can usually make due because other skills bridge the gap and give me some room to figure it out.

I am not putting out a resume here I am just trying to make a point.  What we do for ourselves has a much greater value than just the money saved or the resource recovered.  It has a value in that there are always lessons learned that will relate to other things in our lives.  As an added bonus, in these times we can usually avoid the critical mistakes by researching our projects on the Internet. You must be cautious when doing this because I have made many a things work because I didn't know the rules and therefore had no preset boundaries in doing so.  Many great things have come from the imagination and ingenuity against the odds and against the rules according to the "experts".  So go forth and do great things and if you mess them up at least there was a lesson to be learned if you stop occasionally and reflect back on the experience.

I have included a couple of resources in the side bar to help you get a leg up on some future projects.
The web sites "Instructables" and "WonderHowTo"  are great resources from everything from crafting your own solar dehydrator to making a para cord bracelet.  Anything that you create will enhance your survivability in uncertain times.  You just might need an off the wall skill to get through a sticky situation.