Archive for the ‘primitive skills’ Category

Kinds of Fire and Their Uses

One of the important things about camping is a campfire. There are two kinds of campfires, the “warming up” fire, and the “cooking” fire. Of course there are others, such as the “smudge” to drive away mosquitoes, and the “friendship”—the kind you just like to sit around and talk or silently watch the flames shape themselves into fantastic forms. The most useful since man discovered fire is the cooking fire—flames for the pot and coal for the pan.

Select a sheltered and safe place to build your cooking fire, where no wind can blow it out or into the surrounding dry brush, ascertain the direction of the wind, and then build your fire so that the smoke will not blow into your face when you are doing the cooking. Next in importance is the wood. Certain kinds of wood, such as hickory, oak, beech, birch, hard maple, ash, elm, locust, longleaf pine, and cherry, have fairly high heat values, and laboratory tests show that one cord of seasoned wood of these species is equal to one ton of good coal. Short leaf maple, hemlock, sycamore, cedar, poplar, Norway pine, cypress, basswood, spruce, and white pine, have a comparatively low heat value. These woods ignite readily and give out a quick hot flame, but one that soon dies down. The principal disadvantage of the resinous, pines is their oily black smoke.

The woodsmen of British Columbia have a wood-chopping trick that keeps nicks out of the axe blade. When chopping the wood, instead of laying it on a block or on the ground where you have a chance to miss and put a nice nick in your axe, just stand it on end, holding it with the left hand at a convenient angle and strike a glancing blow into it, turning the branch till you have gone all the way round. It will then break with a blow from the head of the axe and you have a nice feathery end to catch fire easily.

You can make make what are called “fuzz-sticks” or “firelighters,” by taking a dry, resinous stick about an inch thick and shaving it with a good sharp knife into thin slivers, which remain on the stick. Three or four of the “fuzz-sticks” will insure the starting of a fire.

Gather dry twigs and dead branches and plenty of birch tinder. When the wood has been gathered and prepared, you are ready to begin building the fire. Time is saved by having everything on hand and within reach. Haste always wastes time in making a cooking fire.

The simplest and handiest all-round cooking fire is that made of two green logs laid parallel on the ground. Level off the top with an axe. Place them a few inches apart, so that a frying pan or coffee pot can rest upon both. Between the logs scrape a trench about six inches deep. In placing the wood in the trench, pile it in such a way that allows plenty of air space. Place several “fuzz-sticks” first, then dry twigs, and keep adding heavier wood as the fire progresses. When it is blazing well, start your water boiling. For broiling, or frying, or baking, scrape the hot ashes and live coals evenly, and you will have a wonderful fire for such purposes. Never add more fuel just before putting on your stuff to cook. Avoid too big a fire. Remember that you do not cook with flames, but with hot coals, which give a greater heat and one that is steady. Never use soft wood if you can get hard wood. Soft wood is smoky, covers the food with flaky soot, and produces a ruffled temper. A windbreak or fender will add to the convenience during chilly or windy weather.

A simple camp-fire crane that may be used in connection with any kind of an open fire can be made by cutting a sapling of hard wood about three inches in thickness. Drive sapling firmly into ground.

A common method of building a cooking fire is to take flat stones and put them together in a sort of fireplace. Grates may also be purchased for outdoor cooking. Toasted bread just reaches the right spot. A useful toaster can be made from flexible withes bent and tied in the shape similar to that of a miniature Wikiup. Bread will toast better when placed before glowing embers. Turn the bread frequently.

Making Fire Without Matches

There are three distinct ways of building a fire without matches. The simplest, but most difficult, is by the rubbing of two sticks or hand drills together; the second, by use of a bow drill, which is an improvement over the first, in that it gives a more rapid movement and increases the friction; and, third, by the use of flint and steel. Every good camper should be able to accomplish all three, and by all odds the last two.

Fig. 8 is a good illustration of the simplest sort of fire drill, one used by the Indians of Washington and the Northwest. Following is a description of the set, quoted by special permission from the Smithsonian Report, “Firemaking Apparatus in the United States National Museum,” by Dr. Walter Hough:

“It consists of a hearth, two drills, and a slow match. The hearth is a rounded piece of cedar wood; opposite the fire-holes, it is dressed flat, so as to rest firmly on the ground. There are three fire-holes with wide notches. The drills taper to each end, that is, are larger in the middle (Fig. 8). The powder, a fine brown dust, collects at the junction of the slot and fire-hole, where they form a lip, and there readily ignites. This side of the hearth is semi-decayed. No doubt the slots were cut in that side for the purpose of utilizing this quality. The drills are bulged toward the middle, thereby rendering it possible to give great pressure and at the same time rapid rotation without allowing the hands to slip down too rapidly, a fault in many fire drills. The slow-match is of frayed cedar bark, about a yard long, folded squarely together, and used section by section. Mr. Willoughby says:

“The stick with three cavities was placed upon the ground, the Indian kneeling and placing a knee upon each end. He placed one end of the smaller stick in one of the cavities, and, holding the other end between the palms of his hands, kept up a rapid, half-rotary motion, causing an amount of friction sufficient to produce fire. With this he lighted the end of the braided slowmatch of cedar bark. This was often carried for weeks thus ignited and held carefully beneath the blanket to protect it from wind and rain.’

“Fire is easily produced with this set. It takes but a slight effort to cause a wreath of aromatic smoke to curl up, and the friction easily grinds off a dark powder, which collects between the edges of the slot. When this ignites it drops down the slot in a little pellet, and falls upon the tinder placed below to receive it. Both drill and hearth are eighteen inches long.”

Fig. 9 shows a second set, reproduced from the same book, and shows the method the Indians used to keep the precious hearth dry. The entire length is carefully wrapped with a strip of taut buckskin.

Fig. 10, also from “Firemaking Apparatus in the United States National Museum,” and shows an interesting feature. The handle by which the hearth is fastened to the Indian’s belt also shows the spliced drill, the hardwood point spliced into a favorite or especially desirable handle.

Probably when the simple hand drill was used, the grinding of the powder was facilitated by adding a small pinch of fine sand to the bowl of the hearth.

The next method is that of intensifying the friction by means of using the bow drill. This is the more common method, and is found in general use, from the Indians of Alaska—who use bone instruments, except the hearth, which is usually white pine—to the Indians of South America. The principal law, however, is the same in all; only the material used changes with the locality. See Fig. 11.

Ernest Thompson Seton, the master of woodcraft, declares that the best results are obtainable by having the hearth and the drill of the same material. But others are not so agreed. There is one thing certain, however: the wood used must not be too hard nor too soft, but hard enough to make very fine brown grindings, and soft enough to make a sufficient quantity to hold the spark. The tinder and carefully prepared pile of slivers should be ready before the drill is set going.

No matter how carefully the process is described, you will never be able to make a fire without practice and personal experimentation. Study the cuts here reproduced, then adapt what you have to the principle. You are sure to succeed if persistent.

Third method, building fire with a flint and steel. Note carefully the implements in Fig. 12. To be successful you will need a select piece of absolutely dry punk wood, the longer the fibers the better, a piece of hard steel fashioned so as to get a good striking surface without injury to the hand (a large, stout jackknife can be made to work well), a selected piece of flint—it will take much experimenting to find just the right piece, but when found you have a prize. A small tin can may be used for a tinder horn, but the tip end of a cow’s horn is better and safer. Prepare the tinder, place it in the horn, then dash the sparks into it. When a tiny bit of smoke rises, blow carefully into a flame and apply the burning tinder to the twigs previously arranged for the fire. Anyone can become expert in this little trick with persistent effort. If not successful, ask some neighboring old-timer to come in and aid you until you see how it is done.

Things to Remember:

The sportsman in the field or mountains without matches can start his campfire by the aid of his shotgun. It has been successfully experimented upon and is both simple and feasible. First, make preparations to start your fire from the flame by building up your wood ready to light, standing kindlings up on end against the larger sticks wigwam fashion, leaving an opening at the bottom for the tinder, shredded bark, dry pine slivers or any dry splinter pounded between two rocks, any of which make good tinder. After removing the shot from the cartridge, sprinkle the most of the powder on the tinder, leaving only a few grains in the shell.

Then tear a bit of dry cotton cloth with fluffy edges (a bit of lining from your clothes if nothing else is available), fill this loosely into your emptied cartridge. Put the shell into your gun and fire straight into the air. The cloth will drop close to you and either be aflame, or at least smouldering, so that you can easily blow it into a blaze. Drop this quickly into your tinder and your fire is made.

The Scout Camp Fire

By L. B. Robbies

THE Innocent person who carelessly drops a smoldering match in the woods as he passes along is often the cause of one of the destructive forest fires which rage each dry season and burn thousands, yes, millions, of cords of wood. Yet, give that same person a half-dozen matches and a wheelbarrow load of firewood and the chances are he will have to beg for more matches before he can start a fire outdoors in proper fashion. The chances are his “fire” will start with a quick blaze, flicker and die out in a choking smudge.

Building a campfire means a great deal more than grabbing up a handful of dead leaves and a few twigs, piling them up in a scraggly heap and setting fire to them.

Instead, it means constructing a fire for its intended purpose, building it properly, and tending to it after it has once started. It takes only a glance at a camper’s fire to determine the kind of a woodsman he is.

Scouts are supposed to be versed in the art of woodcraft and many of them indeed are well schooled in its essentials with the exception of the campfire! That is usually the stumbling block. It is not simply a fair weather proposition. It means building a serviceable fire in summer, or winter, spring or fall, blow high, blow low, in rain, sleet, snow or hail. Without matches; perhaps with no “dry tinder or kindlings he must have a fire to warm himself or cook his food.

I have taken the liberty of consulting the works of both George R. Sears, better known as “Nessmuck,” and that lover of the woods, Horace Kephart, for a great deal of the following data.

While one kind of a fire can accomplish both things it is well to know at the start that there are really two kinds of fires: the campfire to furnish light and heat and the cooking fire to prepare our food.

Kephart divides the campfire into three kinds: The Hunter’s fire, the Trapper’s fire and the Indian’s fire.

The Hunter’s fire affords quick heat and a good all-night fire when the weather is not too severe. Two green logs about six feet long should be laid side by side about fifteen inches apart at one end and half the distance at the other.

Lay rows of small sticks across the middle of these logs and lay the tinder on them. Lay a heavier green stick at each end of the tinder and place dry sticks on them parallel to the logs. Build this up cob-house style of short dry wood. When lighted, the upper wood will soon burn through and will drop to the ground between the logs and set the inner sides to blazing. Before retiring, pile on plenty of fresh wood and in the morning there will be a nice bed of hot coals to start the breakfast fire going.

The Trapper’s fire is intended for a fixed fire in more severe weather and is built to shed its heat into a lean-to or shanty tent. Either find a boulder or rocky ledge or build a wall of rocks about six feet in front of the shelter. Slant the wall backwards. If no rocks can be found drive two stakes in the ground and lean three or four green logs against them and set two short logs on the ground in front of them to serve as andirons. Plaster mud or clay between the logs and around the andirons; in fact, any part of the structure that is liable to be attacked by fire.

The fire proper is built in the usual manner upon the andirons. Such a fire reflects the heat forward and carries the smoke upwards. It also serves as a windbreak to the camp. This fire is not good for cooking purposes but is intended solely for warmth.

The Indian’s Fire is for “one night stands” or where the camper has few cutting tools to prepare firewood.

Cut several hardwood saplings and lay three or four of them on the ground, butts together radiating them like the spokes of a wheel. Build a small, hot fire on and around this center and place the butts of other saplings on this. As fast as the wood burns away, shove the sticks in towards the center, keeping them close together. The fire continues to burn as long as the fuel lasts. A windbreak helps to throw the heat back and if the camper lies down between it and the fire he soon knows what solid comfort means.

Upon the Cooking fire depends a good portion of the pleasure of the campers. Nothing is so disconcerting as to eat smoky food or rations half done due to poorly constructed cooking apparatus. The Indian’s fire can be used in an emergency but an outdoor range is the proper thing for a fixed camp. It is made similar to the Hunter’s fire.

Cut two green logs about six feet long and eight inches thick and lay them side by side; about three inches apart at one end and eight to ten inches apart at the other. Flatten the top and inside faces with the ax. Drive a forked stake in the ground, near Teach end of the logs, and about four feet high. Lay a cross stick in the forks to suspend the kettle hooks from. Kettle hooks are made by cutting several green forks, driving a nail in one of the small ends and inverting the crotches over the cross stick. Pots and kettles can then be hung from the nails. When the fire dies down, different sized dishes can be set along the logs to simmer. Build a small hot fire of bark and hard sticks from end to end of the range. A shallow trench will serve the purpose of the logs where timber is scarce. Leave one end shallower to allow for draught.

Notwithstanding the fact that the scout may be well supplied with portable grates, ovens, etc., he may get caught out sometime without these utensils and then comes the time when he will want to know how to get along with the materials Mother Nature offers. In a fixed camp an oven is practically a necessity and in lieu of a patent one the following will be found to bake with the “best on ’em.”

Select a steep knoll or clay bank nearby and cut the front down vertically. About four feet back from the front drive down a large stake about five or six inches in diameter to a level representing the bottom level of the oven. Then draw the stake out carefully leaving a hole for the flue. When this is done, start at the vertical face and dig back into the bank until you reach the flue. Keep the entrance small but enlarge as you dig back thus forming a sort of arch. Smooth out well and then wet the whole interior and build a small fire which will gradually ‘dry and bake it into shape. Find a flat rock with which you can cover up the entrance as needed to reduce the draught.

When you wish to bake in this oven build a good fire in it of hardwood split sticks letting it burn hard for an hour or two. Rake out the embers; lay the dough on green leaves or on the bare floor and close the door with the stone.

In a case where you can find no knoll, build a frame of green sticks like a lot of croquet wickets placed close together and weave other sticks across them like a thatched roof. Set up a round stick at the rear for a chimney form. Then plaster wet clay or mud over the entire structure except the door and let dry in the sun a couple of days. Then build a small fire and let simmer along slowly until the entire oven is hardened sufficiently. Fill up all cracks and openings which have formed; plaster over again thinly and give a final firing.

Now a word regarding fires in general.

First comes the tinder. This is the foundation of any fire and should be selected with care. Dry toadstools, dead wood found in trees and stumps, dry moss and willow catkins and dry puff-balls are good natural tinder. Perfectly dry grass can be used also as well as dried dung and leaves. These things will not burn with much of a flame but serve to hold fire until the more inflammable kindling’s can be fired from them.

Kindlings can be found in dead wood, dry bark, pine knots, shavings, wood chips, dry laurel twigs, or cloths soaked in grease.

Practically every kind of wood will burn but some with much more life than others. Therefore, it is well for the scout to know that soft woods furnish the kindling while hard woods give body to the fire and furnish heat. Many pages might be written on hard and soft woods but that is hardly necessary in this article as every troop is confined to a small area and the members are probably familiar with the woods in their immediate region.

A good general rule for building a fire is:

First lay two green sticks on the ground as a foundation. This allows air to circulate underneath and is of prime importance. Across these two sticks lay a course of dry kindlings. Then lay your tinder on these. Put two other cross sticks over the tinder and then build up a “cob-house” of wood, increasing the size of the sticks as you build up. The same rule applies in building all fires: a space for air underneath, then tinder, kindling and lastly the layers of firewood.

In wet or windy weather build a windbreak to shelter the fire.

If out of matches and fire making materials you may be able to strike sparks from flint or quartz by striking them with the knife or other steel implement. Use the rays of the sun through your camera lens, field-glass or telescope lens. Tinder may be ignited by using a watch crystal half filled with water in place of a better lens.

Last but not least. When leaving a fire be sure and trench it and see that it is entirely out. Don’t neglect that. It may save thousands of feet of valuable timber from being destroyed. That is a scout’s duty.

Modern day conveniences provide us with a plethora of goods, all made with high tech materials, and yes, in many ways today’s products are far superior than yesterdays. But not everything is superior, especially when the crap hits the fan and you cannot find a place to repair that fiberglass canoe that you damaged while duck hunting. Natural materials are far superior in these instances, and you can actually repair a hole in your fiberglass canoe temporarily by melting pitch, and covering the hole with a small sheet of thin birch bark. It is temporary, but it will get you home in an emergency.

Birch bark canoes were the Chevy of the woodland waterways over a hundred years ago and have since largely fallen by the wayside, along with the skills it takes to build one. I came across this letter to the editor of the defunct Forest and Stream magazine from the November 3, 1906 issue that describes the basic steps in building a birch bark canoe. It may be a fun project to learn how to build one of your own, and it may even turn into a second source of income to help you get through the coming times. Things are only going to get worse, financially, and there seems to be a growing cadre of re-enactors and survivalists that want only the original product when it comes to going back in time.

Building a Birch Bark Canoe

I am sending to you by this mail photographs of Micmac Indians building canoes on the Wild Cat Reservation in Queens county, Nova Scotia. I believe that only a small proportion of persons who have used birch canoes have a fair general idea of how they are made.

The builder first secures his bark, and this itself requires experience and good judgment or all the work will be in vain, as it is not every big birch tree with smooth bark that will yield the desired article. Next, the gunwales are dressed and the ends fastened together, and crossbars put in place. Then come the ribs; they are fashioned from fir splits and whittled into proper shape with a crooked knife. Taking one for the exact midships of the canoe, the two ends are drawn nearly together, near enough to leave them the width of the canoe in the widest part, and tied there. Into this bowed-rib, another is bent and fitted, and another and so on till the end is reached. Another midrib is prepared in the same way and filled in like manner as the first. These are well soaked before being bent and they are left to dry, when they will retain the shape as they were bent.

Meantime a slightly dishing place is prepared on the ground, and upon it is laid lengthwise the gunwales and cross bars tightly fastened together. All around this frame stout stakes are driven deep in the earth, about one foot apart, and left to stand above ground about two feet. The gunwale frame is then removed; and the bark, now all in one piece, sewed with spruce roots, is snugly stowed away into the space surrounded by the stakes, and there arranged nearly as possible into the required shape, fitted tightly against the dishing ground to give it the proper upward curve of the extremities on the bottom. The frame is then replaced with the edge of the bark on the outside of it next the stakes. The ends of the gunwales, already securely lashed together, are made fast to two stakes, one on each side at the proper height from the ground, and on the middle crossbar is hung a stone of sufficient weight to sag the frame into a graceful curve. The edges of the bark are then tacked to the gunwale, and a thin wooden ribbon is nailed the entire length to the gunwale, and on the top of them both another thin ribbon is nailed. Once they were all sewed with roots, for nails and metal tools were not to be had for love or money.

The next step is to line the whole inside with thin strips of fir that have been dressed smooth with the knife. They are to be held firmly in place by the ribs with which a beginning is made by placing the ends of the middle rib under the gunwale and against the bark, and then forcing by hand the lower part as tightly as possible into place; but even then it will remain slanting. The next rib is placed in like position; and so on with them all till both ends are reached. By the use of a bit of wood and a hammer the ribs are, by slightly tapping them one after another, driven into a perpendicular position, and thus the bark is stretched tightly over them and takes the desired shape. If at any place the bark is unyielding, and the rib is prevented from going into proper place, this portion is treated with the application of a warm stone to the rebellious spot, when the desired result is soon secured. This is done, as a matter of course, after the canoe is taken from the stakes when it must be made water tight by the application of pitch on the seams over which narrow strips of cotton are placed. At each end are fitted heads of thin boards beyond the last pair of ribs, and behind them the space is stuffed tightly with dry shavings to prevent the bark from shrinking inwards. If there is a suspicious place that looks like a crack, it is tested by placing the mouth over it and sucking; if air comes through, a little pitch will be the remedy.

This in brief is the manner of making the birch canoe. There are great differences among the builders; some of them are born mechanics and have an eye for a good model, and have a painstaking desire to make a “thing of beauty.” that if not a “joy forever” will at least gladden some owners while she lasts. To have seen one made before tools of metal were in the hands of red men would have been an interesting performance.

R. R. Mcleod.

Brookfield, N. S.

Beaver Mat Shelters by DAN BEARD

The Outing magazine, 1904

Ever since our aboreal ancestors with prehensile toes scampered among the branches of the pre-glacial forests men have built brush shelters for camps or temporary refuge, and I make no claim to inventing this time-honored style of forest home. The truth is that no contrivance of any description is ever invented at once in its entirety, but everything is evolved from something else, everything grows. Not only is this true of plants, animals and men, but it also holds good with men’s clothes, tools and houses, all are products of evolution.

Our birds never invented their wonderful nests, they have but modified and improved the cruder nests of their more undeveloped ancestors.

So the brush huts here given are evolved from the shacks and camps familiar to everyone who visits our north woods, but the application of the beaver-mat and the mat itself is new.

These camps are shingled with birch bark, spruce bark or covered with brush. Even a novice can cut birch bark, but might fail to get the same results from the spruce tree. Let the beginner hunt through the wood for a comparatively smooth spruce tree, and when a suitable one is found, cut a ring around the bottom and another about five feet above the first; then cut a perpendicular slit connecting the two rings; it is now a simple matter to peel off the section of bark by the careful use of the hatchet and the help of a comrade to hold on to the edge of the bark.

In this way enough pieces can soon be secured to roof the shack, but it is to be supposed that you know all this and also how to lay the bark, beginning at the bottom and working up, so that each layer overlaps the lower one and breaks joints with the ones below it; also, it is to be supposed that you know how to weight down the bark with poles laid from the ground at intervals so that their top ends protrude over the open front of the camp. Loose brush is used in the old-time camp to set up against and inclose the two ends of the shack, leaving the broad front open. This is the well-known Adirondack camp of former days, now generally superseded by structures of similar form built of logs, but unless logs are used a much neater, more durable and a better protection from the rain and weather can be obtained by building

A camp of beaver mats similar in form to the one shown by Figrs. 1, 2 and 3. The roof, by the way, should be much steeper than Fig. 1 and more like that shown in the profile view of Fig. 3. After you have erected the framework or skeleton of the camp, shown in the above diagrams, make four triangles to correspond with ABC (Fig. 3); do this by fastening the ends of three poles together, Fig. 5.

Next nail some branches from side to side of the triangle, as shown by Fig. 6, then, with the triangle flat on the ground, cover the frame with selected brush, being careful that it is placed in an orderly manner, with the tips pointing down and, overhanging the stick, AC, as is shown at D, Fig. 7. Over this lay another layer of brush in the same manner (E, Fig. 7), and, over the second layer put a third (F, Fig. 7), as one would shingle a house. Continue in this manner until you have a triangular mat a foot or more thick.

Next make a duplicate frame (Fig. 6), but with the cross sticks placed up and down in place of horizontal, as in Fig. 6. Fit the second triangle over the first, Fig. 8, and lash the corners together, using sufficient pressure to make the mattings between the two frames hard and compact. One side of your camp is now ready to set in place, but another beaver mat must be made for the opposite side, and then both can be set up against the ends of the camp, where they were intended to fit. The roof may be made of a beaver mat of rectangular form constructed with diagonal braces, like those shown by G H F E L M K J, or D C B A of Fig. 10.

After the mats are in place the whole thing should be thatched by inserting the end of a layer of small flat brush near the bottom of the mat, then one above overlapping the first and so on until the top is reached. A carefully built beaver mat lean-to, with thatch of palm leaves, if in the South, or pine, spruce, hemlock, or sweet-smelling balsam thatch, if in the North, can shield you from a hard shower of rain, and in cold weather offer a wind shield which will be appreciated by the tired hunter.

It does not take long to make beaver mats, but it does require care to make good ones; however, one who loves woodcraft will love to work with the twigs of evergreen, and one who loves his task may be trusted to do good work. If the reader is indolent he had better keep out of the woods altogether, or travel with a valet and a bunch of guides, being careful to sleep only in the well-built houses paradoxically called camps. But this sort of man will probably not read this sort of an article, and I can assume that the reader loves the woods for their own sake, loves the hardships and exertion of travel and making camp, loves the glow of the campfire and the nights under a birch-bark roof, or even with no shelter but the trees overhead, where he can watch through the interlacing branches the twinkling of the distant campfires of heaven.

But even the true-hearted woodsman and seasoned camper may wish to make a more artistic abode than that offered by a brush lean-to. He may expect to receive ladies at camp, his mother and sisters, for instance,
possibly accompanied by some other fellow’s sister, in which case he can exercise his artistic ability by constructing a beaver mat cottage for the ladies, which will be certain to find favor and win the feminine approval of the woods for a vacation. Fig. 4 shows a very plain and simple beaver mat hut, but one which can be embellished with quaint little hooded windows, a comfortable veranda, and as many other improvements as the time and inclination of the builder will allow.

The Wicks Frame shown by Fig. 9 is suitable for a detached open dining-room, a general camp assembly-room, or it may be made of smaller dimensions and used as a camp cottage.

The rafters (F) may be cut off just below the eaves (G), and the frame covered with beaver mats, or the sides may be used for the front and rear ends of a hut, in which case the two uprights on one side may be made tall, for the front, and the two rear ones cut short for the rear, which will give the colonial type of roof (Fig. 4), such as the old Dutchmen of New York used on their quaint dwellings, and such as may still be found on ancient houses both in New England and on Long Island.

To make the beaver mats very large is not a very practicable idea. Rather make them smaller and build your house as a child does a house of blocks. Fig. 10 shows a wall of four mats with a window opening. Fig. 11 shows a bow stick, pointed at both ends, to be used for a window hood. Fig. 12 shows the frame work of the hood, and Fig. 13 the hooded window when finished.

The window hood sticks are held in place simply by forcing their ends into the compact mass of the beaver mats, the hood is then thatched by forcing the ends of branches in above the window, so that the twigs rest on the hoops as the plain sticks do in Fig. 12. Over these first row of branches a shorter lot is laid with their ends thrust into the beaver mats like the first, and over these a still shorter lot until the hood is covered with a thick, green thatch.

I picked up a copy of Les Stroud’s book Survive, and found it to be a very good read, so good in fact I’ve placed it into my keeper library of prepper and survival literature. There are a couple of reasons for it, one of which is that Les doesn’t dwell on the fast paced hype that many ‘survival gurus’ want to push.

This book is divided into 15 chapters, plus author notes and some good checklists in the back. Les starts out with chapter one being on trip planning and preparation. Funny, but a lot of so called experts usually gloss over the basics of trip planning, if they even address it at all. Of course, this just falls into the ADD method for your preparedness and survival planning, so it makes sense to start from the beginning. ADD: Analyze, Develop and Deploy. Works every time provided you follow the concept in full.

Seriously though, trip planning requires more effort than packing a bag and grabbing a map and compass. You have to develop your mindset, accept what you are and make sure others know where you’re going, and when you’ll be back. Preparation is one of the key elements to having a successful plan no matter what you are planning for a project.

The chapters themselves are set to examine separate needs and skills that you should be learning, if you already haven’t done so, to survive any incident that leaves you in a position that most of us would rather not be caught up in. Survival skills are best demonstrated as being the result of proper planning, and each of these chapters need to be gone through as first; separate subjects, and secondly; as an intertwined, comprehensive philosophy. Everything you need to possess by way of knowledge can only be acquired by learning and practicing what you have learned.

I won’t go into a detailed description of each chapter here. I tried, but the piece simply grew into a book of its own discussing each of these points and ideas presented by Les Stroud in this book. Suffice it to say, I paid $19.99 for the book, but you can get it cheaper by shopping around, but no matter what you eventually pay, it’s worth the cost for this extra voice in your planning regimen.

The chapters in this book are;

1;    Trip Planning and Preparation

2;    Survival Kits

3;    Psychological Aspects of Survival

4;    Signaling

5;    Water

6;    Fire

7;    Shelter

8;    Food

9;    Survival Travel and Navigation

10;    Dangers and Hazards

11;    Weather

12;    Clothing

13;    Survival First Aid

14;    Essential Survival Skills

15;    When Disaster Strikes Close to Home

One of the things I like about this volume is the way Stroud looks at an issue from varied viewpoints, such as in chapter 9, where he addresses the issue of traveling in a survival situation. Most writers have one opinion or another, they stick to it, and they fail to examine both sides of that same issue. This chapter looks at the question of “should you stay or go” and looks at the pros and cons of both aspects.

From tips on navigation, fire starting, sheltering and more, I think you’ll find the entire book a worthy read if you are really serious about learning to survive when the crap hits the fan. If you’re into the hype part of surviving the coming times, you won’t be satisfied with it. Les Stroud doesn’t discuss end time scenarios, but real world survival skills.

Les Stroud: Survive

Published by Collins

ISBN: 978-0-06-137351-0

List price $19.99