A look from my back porch as dawn breaks behind me. Last night two great-horned owls hooted in the woods pictured and several pauraques whistled until far past midnight….
Trying to keep a blog going while living in the woods is not without its problems. There’s the availability of suitable Internet connections, for one. And then there are the logistics of keeping a homestead going and still finding enough daylight to write blog posts. You see, it’s not as if we have the complete array of conveniences available to those living in towns or cities. For example, we must supply our own water, take care of our own garbage, defend ourselves (we have no access to immediate police protection this far into the woods), and also keep watch for the ever-present dangers that might precipitate medical emergencies.
Over the last few days we’ve been busy drilling a new water well. While nowhere near as hectic as building a house in the backwoods, the process of digging a well in this locale is still problematic. It’ll be another week before we can switch over to the new water source assuming there are no “events” in between that slow the process. This morning my son and I were up at dawn preparing the pad where we’ll place a large storage tank. We also needed to fill a 200 gallon holding tank for the well driller to use. As I write these notes I can hear the rumble of his drilling machine about 200 feet from the house.
Winds are blustering through as another norther whips overland. I’m grateful for the winter we’ve had. In the last ten years we’ve experienced very little resembling winter and though we’re still suffering from a severe drought there have been some nice periods of rainfall which means this year we’ll have abundant wildflowers. Last spring the entire region ranged from khaki brown to burnt umber with nary a flower in sight.
There are tens of thousands of blogs and it’s presumptuous for me to think that I have anything noteworthy to say to anyone. What, after all, does a desert rat share with a society that is essentially urban, glued to television, infatuated with consumption, politically partisan, conservative, liberal, and otherwise so removed from the life I live as to either abhor it or romantically idealize it? But perhaps the one who’s actually been educated in this blog is not you but me. My contemplations on bushcraft, nature preservation and low-impact living are indeed subjective and perhaps a bit esoteric. You see, I’m one of those oddballs who thinks we ought to fight (as in fight!) to save nature. In other words, nature preservation is a really big deal for me. I also view the subjects of bushcraft and low-impact living as both compatible and even synergistic. That last statement is worthy of an entire blog post or perhaps even a book-length manuscript and perhaps I’ll tackle it someday. Let it suffice to say here that bushcraft is far less invasive of nature than the process of mining, manufacturing and transporting materials across the world so that some naïve camper can “leave no trace” when he ventures into his favorite piece of woods. Oh how I love stirring the pot.
I am a student of population ecology. I’ve concluded, based on my analysis of the data, that we humans have far surpassed our maximum carrying capacity. That makes certain issues like exponential human population growth and unrestrained immigration critically important. This, however, is a good example of where political ideologies and economic “theories” collide headlong with science, particularly biology and above all nature preservation. Let it suffice to say here as well that we cannot cram more and more people into any box without suffering some sort of cataclysmic event. This is a non-refutable truth. But in the world beyond my deep woods enclave emotions steer the boat far more than empirical evidence. We are therefore stuck in a political and “market driven” climate that ignores biological realities. Perhaps we’ll also stir the pot on this subject a bit more down the road.
Your emails and blog stats have taught me a lot about your personal interests. Take knives for example. Don’t get me wrong: I really like knives. But it’s not the alpha and the omega for me. I’m not a knife collector nor am I one of those who dreams knives. I enjoy making knives and, in fact, I’ve got a number of knife projects in queue. So in that sense I collect my own knives. None of these knives are for sale. Please understand that I am honored and deeply grateful for the dozens of requests I’ve had for one of my knives. But it would become a chore—a genuinely stressful chore—if I had to go out to the shop to build knives for people. And besides, I don’t want to deal with the litigious aspects of selling dangerous handmade tools nor am I all that gung-ho about spending long hours around metal dust. I take all the necessary precautions from respirator to eye and ear protection but it’s still a risk. So I make knives as I please and there is no pressure doing it that way. If I want to make a knife then I make a knife. Otherwise, I have gobs of knives on hand from crooked and hook knives to skinning knives to the large Woods Roamer knives and I could stop making them today and still have enough for my great-grandchildren to use.
A Few of My Crooked Knives
Woods Roamer Knives
My life in the woods, however, has taught me that though a knife is a nice tool to have it’s not really of maximum importance in a survival situation. The fact that so many “survival experts” make the claim that a knife is the paramount item to possess is based, I believe, on repetition and not actual experience. Yes, give me a knife and I’m very content. But your classic “bushcraft knife” is not the knife I would prefer to have on hand if I were in a “survival situation.” I’ll take a machete in desert or tropical regions and a small axe in the northern latitudes over any four-inch, Scandi-ground etc. etc. blade. My second cutting tool would be a pocket folding knife. Just remember that humans lived without any steel knives for about 40-thousand years. And they managed to survive. Also recognize that owning a knife does not bestow expertise. I know a couple of fellows who own dozens of expensive bushcraft knives and neither one knows much about the woods other than how to make feather-sticks and scrape a blade over a ferrocerium rod. I did, however, teach one of them how to make a fire using a bow-drill. That’s all good to know but bushcraft is far more than making fire with sticks.
My next post, by the way, is on variations of the Apache Foot Snare. I think you bushcraft types will find it interesting. I’m going to discuss the way I think the Apache Foot Snare was really made…or should’ve been made. And one more thing: We’ll keep this blog going a bit longer if you’d like to know more about Brushland and Southwestern bushcraft and nature preservation. A lot more things on native plants and ethnobotany too….So keep in trouch.