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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Top of the Food Chain , really?

Man is so arrogant we dont seem to see the truth in front of our face. Man is only at the " top of the food chain" in a super market with a pocket full of cash or a wallet crammed with credit cards. We have slipped a long way from being able to make the claim 'Top of the food chain". In the wild the "top" is questionable for most who venture into the wilderness. Out of 100 humans who trek into the wild how many would know how to trap game, or even how to hunt with a rifle, a bow , name your weapon ,how many would know how to prepare the game. I will go so far as to say out of 100 humans maybe one would be able to not starve to death . In todays world without the farmers our top of the food chain  is on shaky ground. Disrupt the food train to the markets and stop the flow of cash and we sink to the bottom very fast. 

 How to safe guard against  this condition is up to you and your willingness to learn to be a hunter gatherer type to save your collective butts.
 all over these United States are primitive schools and instructors , hunting classes  and related schools of instruction. Classes  on edible plants will be a good move .  Some of the best salads I have ever had are from the wild, free for the harvesting. 

The markets are shut, closed , now what? If you have stashed some food in reserve that will last a while,not forever , no one wants to see the kids starve because you do not know how to provide. Learning the basic primitive skills will go a long way to staving off that problem lurking in the wings. WE dont want "long pig" {man} to be on the menu. My suggestion is to get crackin with some classes to ensure your survival . And to own some self reliant skills. The proper way to clean and prepare a critter is a must have skill, it isnt that hard.Far easier than you might think. Dont end up having to eat Fido.

 The next time you are being herded from aisle  to aisle in the market think about how it would be if those shelves were mostly bare.  Think about all the products that never will show up on the shelves because they cannot afford to pay for the shelf  space to place a new product . We are force fed by the big food giants who hoard the shelves because they do not want any competition , it is a buy out, sell out of the market chains How many still have basics to make food from scratch , flour , oils,  baking soda soda,  and so forth. Dont know how to cook , well with the thousands of cook books at the ready that is not a valid excuse. Many cook books lay it out in simple terms.  The worst that can happen when you cook is burning it or under cooking the food .. it might taste like crap but you will have something to eat. If you call that the top of the food chain , so be it. Choke. 

 being able to secure or  at least supplement your food by foraging  and some small game hunting , you are extending your quality of life and eating choices , as they say in England "you are streets ahead" and that is the name of the game . Wild game cooking books are all over the net. buy a few  , even the cooking road kill books have their place . 

 Reach for the top of the food chain by knowing how to do it. Reality is,  if it gets that bad the crowds will have to be avoided if you are to have a chance at any wild foods. Trapping  with snares is a valid way to go . but you have to know how to set up and where the critters have a run. 
 Learning the wild edible plants is a great boost and  will be a skill set you can use the rest of your life and something that if nothing ever disrupts our system , you can gain pleasure and a variety  of foods not found in any market . And in most cases more healthful . 

My suggestion is do not keep living in a dream state of,  we are at the top of the food chain right?. it really isnt true. 

by Dude McLean 

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Fire

Fire gives us warmth, cooks our food, gives us light and is a comforting magic to keep away the night.
Having the ability to create fire instills a confidence factor that all will be okay, it can be a life saver or out of control. Many feel one of the great pleasures is a camp fire and gives us a connection to our primal self. A camp fire is a place to tell stories and relax.
The training to create fire is a base skill, the foundation of your skills you need to own—The where, when and the why of fire.
In today’s world, we have at our convenience many fire starters that would be true magic to our ancestors. Most of the devices work just fine, some are a little on the gimmicky side. So, if you stick to the simple means of fire starters you might be better off. I feel the Bic lighter, or other brands, are perfect devices; get a wind proof one, if you can. Matches are wonderful, if you know how to use them—takes practice. Carry them in a “match safe “, or in plastic baggies They also make windproof matches that are excellent. I like to carry matches with a long handle and water proof them with wax or paraffin. Carry those in a waterproof container. Metal matches works well also, so does flint and steel.
The rule of thumb is to have at least 3 ways to make fire. My friend, Alan Halcon, who is a master at the ancient fire drill, when asked how he likes to make fire, his answer is “with a Bic or some sort of lighter”. Owning the skill to make fire, with a hand drill or bow and drill, is a good backup. However, if you are down to that one method (friction fire) you are in deep poo poo and up the creek without a paddle, but it could still save your sorry butt. Some carry a can of Sterno, Cotton balls soaked in vaseline or other tinders… All are good. Learn to make charcloth. Cattail fluff at the right time of year is good, as well as the fluff from cotton wood trees, willows and others. There is more you will find, as you study and gain knowledge of fire
Learn to start fires with the various tools at your disposal. Practice in your yard. The time to practice is not when you are desperate for fire.
Always prepare your tinder, kindling and fuel first. Be ready! when the tiny spark is created, you do not want to be rushing around trying to find the right sized woods as your fire is dying in front of you—you might not get another chance. Always be aware of what is around you that can catch on fire. Fire can get out of control in a heartbeat. What is overhead and around the fire? Make a pit or at least surround the fire lay with rock. Clean away any duff on the ground, away from where the fire will be. Be aware of any root systems and stay away from them. Keep your gear away from the fire as well. You don’t want to burn up your stuff. Having water nearby is always good. If not, pile up some dirt close by, ready to throw on the fire if it gets just a bit out of hand. Once the fire is safe, don’t let it fail. that’s why you have prepared the proper woods in advance.
Fire fails by you trying to progress too fast. Add the right size of wood in a logical manner—small stuff first. Many like to start with a tepee fire or cabin lay that you can add the larger wood to as the kindling gets stronger. Kindling snaps when dry. If it is wet, it kind of bends… that’s your test. My suggestion is to split the kindling, it ignites better. The type of wood available will dictate your fire success… Experience will teach you this. Hard woods are hard to ignite and burn slow creating great coals. Softer woods ignite fast and burn fast. Coals are not as good as hardwood. So if you do not know the wood how do you test it? You can try the thumbnail test and see if it leaves a dent , or stab a knife into it. If it goes in really easy it is a soft wood.
In movies, they always show someone cooking over flames. That is just for a visual effect, because coals don’t film well, no dynamics, but you always cook over coals. you can cook just about any critter. over the coals by skewering the beast and wait for the yum yum.
For fire lays, I like a keyhole fire lay. It has the main fire area. From that point, you make a longer trench or line with rock, about 6 inches wide so the coals are concentrated, and about 2 feet or so long or so, where you move the coals so you have a cooking area as the fire continues to make even more coals, place your cookware over the coals. If you are going to cook in the morning, bank the fire with dirt and ashes, then the morning cooking will be fast and easy.
Always play it safe. Never leave any hint of a spark when you leave make sure it is dead out. Add water by the bucket. Pile dirt on it… make sure twice. Many of you already are fire experts but we always have new campers., and even old hands might need a reminder.

By Dude McLean


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How Do You Cheat Death In The Desert?

The answer to that question is simple.
Knowledge is everywhere about survival in the deserts. Books, videos, and survival courses are all over the place. On the Dirttime forum you will find in-depth information.
A few basic items and forethought , called “planning”, is what is needed.
A few yaers ago, from the date of this article, two people died in the Joshua Tree National Park. The word “park” is a little misleading for this area. First it is larger than the state of Rhode Island, some 1200 square miles, that is not a walk in the park. Sure riding along in your air conditioned car/truck you are protected from the full force of the summer heat. In reality it is a thin security blanket and it is a false sense of security, really. Those horror stories would never happen to me! Really?
They were a young married couple, the Van Hove’s, spoke German, and were here on vacation.  At each entrance to the “park” is information in several languages, including German. I have run into many German folks in the “Tree” over the years. They seem  in awe of these deserts. He was found about five miles from his wife. The spot where Van Hove died is very near the place where a very famous Dutch photographer shot U2’s album cover for “Joshua Tree” in 1986. Friends said he wanted to visit this spot. This road is clearly marked ” Off Road Vehicles”
I did not know this man, but I knew of him as he was a music promoter in europe. He was driving a rented Dodge Charger, and how he got to where he did is beyond me. About a week before this preventable deadly situation I drove my Tahoe right by the road they were found on.
First, not many are ready for this kind of intense heat. It can take days to acclimate, up to a week in fact. The reports say they died from exposure, heat exhaustion, at 105, or more degrees, can equal dehydration starting in minutes. What has to be measured is the heat on the ground that is reflecting up your body, that can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter that the air temp. If you find yourself in a place/situation like this pay attention to the little signs like a slight headache, dizziness, can lead to fatal heatstroke, and it can happen in only a few hours. Find shade and rest, wait until night fall.
Cell phones do not work in large areas of this “park” and being from another country they may not have known who to call or how, even if they did have cell coverage.
My own experience in the “Tree” goes back to the early 1950s. Then, when I was in the Corps I was stationed in 29 Palms, or the “Stumps” to those in the know.
Not far from the park. From the time I was about 12 years old until, and right up including now, I have hiked, camped, tramped, off roaded, and batted all over the “Tree” and adjoining deserts. I know much of the area very well. I do know exactly where these two were found.
A real shame they died,  a few simple tricks could have saved them.
Number one, set a tire on fire. That black smoke would have been seen for miles, and help would have been there in a heartbeat. By heeding the advice at the entrance and having water it could have saved them. Even waiting until night might have been a huge difference. I have no idea if they had water or cokes, or beer, but it seems they had nothing. Stock what you feel is a prudent amount of water for the deserts, then times that by four. Not soda, not beer, not juice , water. Some will add Gatorade, that's okay but have more water. Then stash some more water.
One book that can help you, and you should have on your shelf,  is the late David Alloway’s book ” Desert Survival Skills” , one of the best , if not the best book and info on the deserts I have ever read. This book was gifted to me by a Dirrtimer, Magna, many of you know Lou,  in 2000, and it is signed by David Alloway, with a very kind inscription about my(so called) skills. This book is still available and  I feel it is a must have. David,  covers information , in this book on the deserts, that I have not seen anywhere else. Before his untimely death, I had several conversations with David on the phone, he was a very modest man and great guy, we had planned on hooking up in the AnzaB desert and it never happend.  He packed his book with hard earned knowledge. His sense of humor and the added stories are a treat.
One other book is not a survival book on the deserts but in a way it is , it is a learning experience about how to see the landscape with a fresh eye , and how to enjoy being in the deserts. When this book came out in 1968 it hit like a bomb. Many of you already have read it , I have no doubt.
” Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey, has never been out of print. It is really a series of essays , observations that are  deep, profound and original. It gives you a ride that is tough, rough and combative, just like Abbey, his look at the deserts is “beauty”, harsh , hostile and unique. Plus you will learn from the many object lessons in the book. In a word  “eloquent”.
For most who wish to venture into the wild deserts, go in the winter, the fall and the spring, never in the middle of summer. Although that is when I go many times, because no one else is there. And I am a little crazy.
Do not be a victim, a little bit of common sense and knowing what to do is easy to learn.
The deserts offer a rare beauty, moments, hours, days and weeks that are amazing. You just have to know how to see.


By Dude McLean

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What Some Have To Say

After reading for many years, books produce a wealth of certain truths. Some very smart folks wrote what they thought was important, not only for them but as a message, to us. I feel they make many of us believe we are alone in and with our thoughts.
” An interesting fact to consider is that a battery requires fifty times more energy to produce than it will ever return to the user. Once they are produced and used they are off to the landfill and more resources are mined to make more. It seems like a well built fire would be the simplest way and least damaging way to light the camp at night” . From “Camping in the Old Style” by David Wescott.
A campfire that is used and taken care of will end up leaving little trace it treated in the proper manner.
” Go light; The lighter the better so that you have the simplest material for health, comfort, and enjoyment” Nessmuk. Of course, how easy is that? Going light is nothing new, and if you study some old school you will find we have not improved the weight by much, maybe 2 pounds. And in many cases not even that. However, in order to go light you have to “own the skills” , you have to know your “DirtCraft”
” Mentors, a life in the open air calls for knowledge which a very large number of human beings, because of their environments, cannot gain, except when the same is imparted by some more fortunate one who has learned from experience”. E. Kreps. We all learn from someone else. A little here and bit there. The shared knowledge that comes to life on the Dirttime forum acts as a mentor for all of us. Any class on the Dirt is and should be an adventure and learning experience. Sure sometimes much is repeated, ” I have heard that before” kind of thing. I think that is okay. But just because something is read, repeated over and over does not always make it right. Always consider the source. Like the “universal taste test” , not really a smart idea with one exception, and that is extreme as a pow etc, and you are dying anyway. Some will have a different opinion.
” The industrial way of life leads to the industrial way of death. From Shiloh to Dachau, from Antietam to Stalingrad, from Hiroshima to Vietnam and Afghanistan, the great specialty of industry and technology has been the mass production of human corpses”. Edward Abbey. That's about right on. Trying for a life that is closer to the earth and living a more simple lifestyle at the least gives us distance from this advancing into a fresh new brave world of high techocrapny. Progress , I feel is the wrong word.
” What's the difference between a whore and a congressman? A Congressman makes more money” Edward Abbey. A little political truism that we should always be aware of.


By Dude McLean

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Skool At Home For Your Kid

Do you or have you ever given much thought about how you would teach your kids at home, if by chance , we were in a situation where going to school was not an option? The schools are shut down for an extended period of time.
Sure for a while you could get by having them read some books you might have on hand. You might teach them some skills and from your teachings they they will own many skills. But schooling is more than that. No matter what your education is, it is not transferred to your child by some wave of a wand.
Math is a tool that will help. Reading comprehension is a must in a society that may be lacking in a formal education. Looking back in history we are led to believe that men like Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton were just primitive woodsmen. Well that is one view but they knew how to survey and read those instruments. They knew how to read and write. Not so primitive.
We can tell the kids stories about our country and our families, and any number of tales. That is all well and good. However, the learning of history with a real direction will give them a true sense of our  history. Knowing  history helps instill a sense of self and pride. Spelling for clarity is a communication skill. English writing skills with some idea of grammar is a good idea. ( I know my grammar sucks but I make up for it in other ways, ahem)
You can start out with some history books even those books that use history in a novel form to help keep it interesting. Some science would be nice, nothing over the top but even the simple science one learns in the 5th grade and middle school is really more than many adults know. Having a microscope would really be cool, knowing how to use the slides and so on is good knowledge to own.
Having some of these supplies stashed might be part of your self-reliance in a collapsed society, even if it is only for a short term, 90 days, six months, a year or more.
As part of an education I would add music, an instrument and books on how to use said instrument. Check into this as there many courses that can be had. Check into the instrument of your choice and then back it it with spare parts.
What you need to know is how to design a home school curriculum, pre-school through high school . Details on the length of the study, how to teach study habits, and how to give a meaningful test.
I feel the importance of these schooling  items should be near the top of your supply list. In order to pass on then collected knowledge after we are gone is all in the books. The classics were read over and over again by many of our forefathers. Read by the pioneers, and much knowledge is gleaned from these reads. Lots of info can be found with a google and etc. Now go out and slap some sense into that kid.

By Dude McLean


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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Lifestyle, Survival, & Self-Reliance

Is the survival , self-reliance “bug” taking over your life? Can't wait to get on a computer and charge into all the forums you like and to catch up on what you missed during the night or day. Reading magazines, and books all dealing with some aspect of “survival” . Watching DVDs and TV shows , going to events and classes, how to this and that. Wow that is a busy sked you have set out for yourself.  On top of all that you are working a job, hopefully.   You always seem to be in a semi panic to buy more stuff that any sane normal paranoid should have? Right! Right!!
I hate lectures so this is not a lecture. A few suggestions , if you will . Back off for a weekend, pick a night you and do not turn on your computer. Read a novel not dealing with , you know what, go out and have a nice meal with your family. Go to a movie. Hey, go see a play. Visit old friends, remember that? See some relatives just because and not for some birthday or special deal. Chill.
With any “interest” one may have , and no matter how much you love it, we all tend to have a “Burnout”. Over time it slowly builds to the point that some will crash and burn then  turn away from the very thing, in this case, that could make the difference between life and death for them, their family, and friends. It is a healthy thing to back off, take a breather , step back and smell the roses, no really go out and smell a flower. It doesn't even have to be edible.
Look back on your life, what things did you have a passion for at one time? And you spent countless hours deeply involved learning, and collecting , the doing whatever it was . And then at some point it ended. Once in a while you might have gone back to take a look  but it was not in you anymore. You crashed burned out, and never really recovered. Well that is  part of life and we grow, and outlive certain things in our lives. Too bad on one hand, and okay on the other hand. We all grow and change. What is constant is, “survival” , it is always with us. Because it is us. Life.
Too guard against a burn out , and I am going to call this a survival deal a “hobby”, for want of another word, we need to step out of the “mode” and do something else for a minute. Enjoying the simple things, discovering areas this society has to offer is one of the reasons we are trying to preserve ourselves and this way of life in the U.S.A.  in the first place. It is a survival lifestyle. But survival means you grow to thrive and enjoy life. The goal is you will be ready for whatever life throws at you. By still being involved in other aspects of life besides training, collecting, learning what you need next or the whole thing is not worth it, I feel we cannot be blocking out everything else.
 Stepping back  is a refreshing and healthy thing to do. It helps to calm you down, and reminds you what you are doing and why.
If a break down happens , hopefully you will be as ready, prepared as you can be. Not every little item the experts say you need is needed, not every book , not every DVD, and so on .  No one can cover every situation that could, can, will, and  most likely happen or not. Having the basics down is the stuff of survival. All the rest is the frosting that can help make it easier.
Take a moment to reflect what you have learned over the last year, the gear you have as a part of your plan. Celebrate the fact you are this far  ahead, good for you . Now take a break. A day, and evening once a in a while. In other words do not over train like many athletes complain about.  Keeping yourself sharp is really important. By backing off a few times a week or so, just might give you a new thought about what you are doing, perhaps a different approach or a solution is now in sight.
Life is more than just getting ready for the future. Life is about living right now as well . Have fun, slow down for a minute. Why? Because this is one “hobby” you do not want to ever burnout on. No crashing and burning allowed. Now I’m going to a movie and have some really expensive popcorn.

By Dude McLean


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Updated Training

Training for any skill set is very important. Once you learn it and own it most move on,  once in awhile practice what they have been taught. That is the average person. Sometimes a person really keeps up that skill with practice on a regular bases.
The fighting arts, in all of the different forms are enjoyable to practice and the incentive for many is moving up in whatever belt system your “art” dictates. All well and good.
Same with weapons training. As they say and has been proven, as you train is how you will act or react in the field.
As time marches on , the older we get time goes by faster than we realize and suddenly it has been years since we took a refresher class/course. I feel strongly that a refresher course should be with someone you have not trained within the past. You will find another point of view, a different approach and perhaps what you feel is a better way, an updated way, new tactics. That is refreshing as well. That is not to say what you learned in the past is discarded, on the contrary, you move the chess pieces in a proper manner and incorporate your own mix and match.
I recently took a refresher course and was reminded of the time frame that had passed since I last took instructions from someone else in a formal manner. By paying attention to what the instructors had to say by keeping my focus on their method, and not pooh poohing their approach but just going along with it, keeping an open mind, I learned a lot. I had fun and did not a challenge some of the  things I didn't agree with but tried it out. In other words I did not fight their system. That was for me to work out at a later date.
What was apparent is, I was a little “rusty” with some things. Not really up to speed, close but I was not happy with myself. By adjusting to their methods I became a happy guy again.
Mind you in this area I have had extensive training over the past 50 years. Have tried to keep up with new “stuff” and been to many classes and reading etc.  Practicing on my own. However, we need to get out and really do it to keep sharp and realize it could mean our life, and our loved ones lives as well.
So what am I talking about? I did a 4 day handgun self-defense course. I was happy with the end results. Not my first dance by any means not even my tenth dance, but I updated myself and my abilities, and self-confidence.
Take a long hard look at yourself. Is it time to update? Yes it is! Go for it.

By Dude McLean


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Some Things Are Not Always What They Seem

This is a story that has been told to me more than a few times by good friend Terry Smith. I feel it is too good not to be passed on because the lesson is such a cliché and so real, because it was. In Terry’s words.
Every summer I used to go visit my grandpa and grandma deep in the Ozarks on their working farm, I was maybe 7 or 8 and always looked forward to spending the time on the farm. I had a few highlights I always looked forward to. Hunting in the woods with Grandpa and his old hound dog , Bill. Bill was a big old mixed hound about the size of a Treeing Walker Hound, he was all black, tan and white. The yard around the farm house had a wire fence , but in the corner was a hole about 15 by 10 or so, and old Bill would run to this hole and dive and twist sideways and somehow slide that big hound body through it, heck I couldn't wiggle through it as an 8 year old.
Each year that passed Grandpa and Bill would take me in the woods and we hunted cotton tails and bushy tails, all the while Grandpa was passing on the woodslore to me. I loved it and soaked up the information, he showed me how this kind of leaf always turned to point to the north. And how the streams ran from the north west to the south east, that would help me get my bearings. This plant is always found by this kind of tree, an oak, how the bunnies made those little trails, and where the cattails grew and how to eat the roots.
As I got older I became more and more impressed with grandpas knowledge and no matter how long we were out in the woods he always was able to make a bee line for the farm. I was still lost and had no clue how Grandpa  did it. I felt I would never unravel the mystery of finding my way home to the farm .
I must have been pushing 15 years old and Grandpa and I were hunting in the woods with the by now, really old hound dog, Bill, we had been out for hours and the game bag was full. I looked at Grandpa and wondering to myself just where were we, the woods were starting to get dark and a wind was brewing all was in shadow, no sun to be seen.  Now all in one fell swoop  I learned how Grandpa always got us home straight as an arrow. Grandpa  turned to the old hound who was getting bit deaf by now and I heard him say,” Bill, take us home” , the old hound turned around and like a bee to honey went straight as Robin Hoods arrow, he led the way to the farm.
Here I thought my grandpa knew the way and all those years it was old Bill who always knew the way. Mystery solved. I said to Grandpa , ” Grandpa I always thought you were leading us home” Grandpa said ” Hell boy without old Bill here I would never find the way home,” a pause.”Some things are not always what they seem.”


By Dude McLean


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The Original Man IN Black: Clothes and Color

Johnny Cash was known as the “the man in black” but the first real man in black was Daniel Boone. You betcha, Boone was known for his very black braintan buckskins. They were so black few could duplicate the color. He never shared how he got his “skins” so dark. He liked black because he felt he faded into the shadows of the great trackless forest while wearing them. I have read several biographies on this true master woodsman. The more you study about him the more in awe one becomes. He was asked many times about his black outfits and the answer was always the same. As an aside an organization for boys, called the Sons of Daniel Boone , founded by Dan Beard in 1905 was the precursor to the Boy Scouts of America.
We know the braintanned skins of various brown shades were also good in the forests. Most who hunted and or were hunted and those who fought in the many battles of early America had little choice of color, but they all knew what worked for them.
Nessmuk to Kephart to Whelen,and Rustrum, White, and Angier all suggest the same basic color for the outdoorsman and that is the color gray. A dark gray, they felt it also blends well and does not show the dirt much. Gray in fact does work well as an outdoor color.
After WW2 camo became popular because many returning GI's had camo. It was cheap and already paid for. So it became the thing to wear. As we moved into the Korean “war” and slid head first into ‘Nam camo was really coming into its own. Movies and TV shows made it kind of a daring thing and suggested a real man in the clothes. Camo worked in the forests and the deserts. Many hunters, hikers and outdoorsmen also wore work clothes, from gray to denims, blue , tan, brown and such.
As we continue to engage in brush wars and wars that are not called wars colors, and more sophisticated patterns emerge. Black and white, muted  and checks, etc. All of these are used by the avid outdoor crowd.
By the 60s the explosion of hiking was on us as well, camping became a bigger deal as the 60s ended. We were then overcome by commercial clothes industry, marketing boomed as an industry itself,  and colors went nuts exploding by the 90s and into the right now with a rainbow of choices.
Color and materiel has to do with function. At least it should. What are you dressing for? Most know about wool, the pros and cons of cotton, and what the synthetics have to offer or say they offer. If you are a hiker the color for the most part is really no big deal. Black in the heat of the desert might not be smart but purple seems to be okay, what?. White might be a better choice.
Depending on the function, the potential function and always present “cool” look factor we have lots of choices today. Some for whatever your function is are better choices than others.
Hunters have many options open to them. We are still on point about color and not what the garment is made of.
I know from observation at the many Dirttime events we see all kinds of choices being made. From hi-tech camo to desert tans, white, red, and black to coyote brown. We all have our colors we seem to be drawn by. I feel what we have to keep in mind is the function or end use of the color and how that will benefit us. Do you want to enhance or blend into the background.
What I find interesting is how the color suggestions have changed over the years for the general outdoorsman.
Blue jeans and a white T-shirt will work some of the time. I favor plaid shirts in all colors except yellows. The right blend of colors in a plaid shirt are very much like camo under the right conditions. Pants I favor range from black to gray to tans and browns. But that's me as I tend to like the “traditional” .
I have noticed the difference in how men dress for the bush from the time I was a young boy in the 40s and watched my Dad and his friends head out for a day or so of fishing. They wore mostly work clothes. In the 50s it was much the same way, but with more gear and color for the hunter and fishermen.
Oh yes the “High” end user clothes were always there, and the colors were sometimes a subtle difference from the run of the mill. Today many high end clothes have their label plastered all over the clothes.
In Wyoming at Dirrtime 10 we did a test with color for identity and how far a certain color could be seen. That was real eye opener. I would like to conduct a test, an eye test, in different terrains to see how a dark tan , a plaid shirt and black outfit in the shadows would show up or not. We know that movement is key in spotting anyone or any critter. Many birds have bright coloring but can't be seen until they move.
Color will be with us, is with us and will always be with us, those of the outdoor school seem to like and be drawn to the earthy colors, I think that's good. I like it.



By Dude McLean

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Management Of DirtCraft Skills

You have put in a lot of effort, hours building into weeks, trying to perfect a skill. Let's take fire, trying to master the hand drill can be more than frustrating, at last though you are pretty good. You worked hard on the bow and drill, and then it came to you. Flint and steel was a bit of work but you got it. In the process you learned about the different woods, and the tinder's. You also earned a few blisters along the way. Fire was your life during that time period. Then you moved on to other skills like building shelters, where to set up and where to not setup. Which direction the opening should face, the kinds of materials that work best in your part of the dirtclod. Not too close to the water, not in that gully, and not on top of the hill. Learned to gage how long it would take to build a water tight shelter, and through some experience it wouldn't leak, much.
Perhaps you attended classes and learned many of the basics from an informed instructor, spent hours reading the books, and watching videos. All time well spent, and even more so if you were able to learn with a friend who was into it as much as you are.
Then you moved on to the gear one needs,  that opened up a world of confusion and frustration. What a mess to wade through, but through study, and seeing what others used, reading the books again, and attending classes you were able to make some solid moves into the gear.
That is just the start of learning real DirtCraft, lots of other skills yet to learn, and take your time away from the early skills that you have , maybe not mastered, but you are pretty good with. Now your interest has turned to learning the wild edible plants, trapping the critters, hunting weapons, in other words feeding yourself.
STOP. Take a step back and slow down , reflect on the “skills” you feel you own at this point in your DirtCraft Life. When was the last time you made fire with the hand drill? , the bow and drill? As you moved on to the other skills have you been keeping the edge alive with the maintenance of practicing those hard earned skills or have you let it slip a bit. Easy to do, it is human nature after all. “Next”, is always on the agenda and a new interest takes the lead.
Building a maintenance plan , an overview of the learned, and hard earned skills is an essential part of remaining sharp, and on top of the game. Easy to say, harder to do.
My suggestion is to mark on a calendar at least every 2 to 3 months a run through for an hour or more of certain skills. Fire, is very important and the nuance is an easy thing to lose. However, by having a regular practice time setup you can get down and use the hand drill the bow and drill , flint and steel. Bring them to a flame. Practice with  the correct tinder's, experiment with other tinders. You do not have to be in the Dirt , do it in your backyard, in the garage, or if you can get the Dirttime, go for it with the goal in mind to practice and maintain those hard earned skills.
All of the other DirtCraft skills can be put on a calendar as a practice day, even an hour or so. Go to classes that you think you already have  down. I’ll bet you my best broken rusty knife you will still learn something new. Always remain the humble student, and if you learn one new thing from the book, the same instructor,  you are the winner , again.
A skill is a fickle critter, just a few years ago you had this down, now you are in a pickle because the damn wood must be damp, or it is the wrong stuff, you are having an off day. Refreshing yourself is a great habit to make a part of your life, you refresh yourself by building a maintenance program and “owning the skills”. This is a sure way to keep that ownership.
DirtCraft and owning the skills should be kept fun, don't make it a drudge. But like everyone who has a talent, they train, and by building that maintenance calendar and refreshing yourself , you will keep those skills sharp.


By Dude McLean


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How Do You Prepare?

The question is how do you prepare? Really, how do you do it? Do you have a plan, have you made a list of what you need, or what you think you will need in the case of an emergency of any kind. Weather in the extreme , rain for 3 weeks as it wreaks havoc and traps you for days, weeks on end. Leaks spring up in your home, your home is going to be flooded and all could be lost. Extreme cold, snow, so deep it breaks all records. Heat, why don't they call it a “heat storm” , when the temps hit 105 , 115 , and up , and it lasts for days. Weeks.
Seem unlikely, yes and no, these things happened in the history of the world. Over the last 400 years we have been in a relative “nice” state of weather for this whole continent. The weather has allowed this country to grow and has been a huge deciding factor in the positive growth on all fronts. What if it reverts, changes back to the past  history of what weather was over 400 years ago. From what has been found in studies, this was a very volatile and violent place for weather all across the country. Severe storms last for weeks, both rain and snow, heat, twisters, winds, earthquakes flooding, and such were all in the extreme. Some feel we are riding that horse once more. The ride has just begun.
How fast these changes  may occur is a question the future will tell us. It could be rapid, or build slowly over the next several years. Back to the question, how do you prepare?
Almost impossible. The “extremes” is what we have look forward to and make an effort to stand up to those extremes.
One extreme to think about is the unplanned problem.
You lose all of your “goods” , fire, theft, floods, you are run out and glad to get away with your life . How do you prepare? Do you really have a single cache? A series of said caches, setup for your use. No car, no truck, can you, in reality, get to that cache with your family? Oh you haven't been able to get around to it?!  Too bad. If you have and you are able to get to the location is it still safe to recover the cache? How do you prepare! Make a plan.
I know a lot of badass talk goes on about how if “you” are left with nothing, you will go out and  take it. You might be able to do that a few times. Or not even once because for every badass there are 100 more who are more badass than you are. Those who have will want to keep it as much as you want it, if you can find them. You are not the only one with plans.
All communications goes down. Everything is out. EMP is way worse than anyone ever thought. How do you prepare for contacting your loved ones, and those you are counting on as a group? Have you planned meeting places? alternative meeting places, a time line, how long do you wait. What if you cannot wait due to an unfriendly atmosphere. What do you do to prepare. Make a plan. Better be a very good one, it might be your only chance.
Having been a consultant for many groups over the years, here are a few things that are fact. First is having these “survival” conversations take place . Another fact is, the obvious is easy. Most groups are like a single mind and are very predictable, even those who feel they have covered everything. Not. Easy things are glossed over, non interesting subjects are  on the back burner. Those things could be the key to your puzzle of surviving and thriving.
The fact is most if not all groups  fall right in line with singular thinking. One direction.  Throw in a some fantasy for color. The staples are easy. What is hard are the extremes , and seeing the flaws in the plan of the group. Being able to see the weakness of not only the plan but in the timing of action. Being able to look like collective fools because you “collectively ” pulled the plug, and sent up the flare. You all react as is the plan. Except for few who hang back because they do not really see it it yet. And it turns out “collectively” you are wrong. A lot of time and effort were expended. Your jobs could be at risk, and you all look like idiots. Thats when a group will fall apart. Premature decisions have to be counted on. Willingness to take the plunge is how you prepare. Those who held back will be forced out of the group.
Group dynamics demand a few strong personalities. Leaders of such groups most of the time are not the real decision makers you want to count on for your life. Most are too combative. Part of the secret is stealth. Emptyness. A shadow is what you want.  Under stress, and the longer it goes on, it will build, unless plans have been made to cope with the situation and “jobs” are well defined. Not fantasy jobs. Condescending  attitudes destroy more groups than anything else I have seen.
How do you prepare? With extreme care covering the unknown circumstances that may arise. What? So how do we know what those are. Ah, that is the rub isn't it! By study and research eliminating the B.S. and after a while you begin to see a bit more clearly.
You have all heard the expression “think out of the box” , forget the damn box. Forget what is outside of the box. None of that counts, that is what I have found. How to prepare?
Innovative thinking and truly creative thinking, both are rare , hard to find in one person and even more so in a group. All groups tend to think they are different. In fact they very much the same, with minor differences.
The problem is a lot of yes men.  ill informed members. Getting along to get along and be a part of the group. Most do not have any or very little experience in dealing with complex planning working with a group. A defined active thinking through the problems no one has even thought of . If you a part of a group, the number one rule is: Do not be afraid to say/ask something really stupid. The why, the how, and the when, those questions will lead you to a better understanding and  cohesive planning. You have to be comfortable enough with your group so that each one of you can deal with the other laughing at you, because that will help you be one. Not one person in the group should be excluded. Never be afraid to ask anything. How do you prepare. Make a plan.
How do you prepare? Make a plan, write down. Whether you are a family, by your lonesome, or a group. Try to cover anything and everything. A plan of attack,  and by attack I mean all fronts, from food, shelter, escape, and all else that goes with it… How do you prepare! Make a plan!

By Dude McLean


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Learning The Plants For Life

Learning the plants, how to I.D. them and how to live with them, how they help us, how to prepare them, and the plants to stay away from.
Learning about the plants is really a lifelong commitment. Best learned in the field from an experienced teacher, instructor, and or mentor. Not always easy to find. When you do find one your job is to dedicate the time to learn. Books can help you along the path. Videos can help guide you. However, nothing beats a true plant guy, who not only can I.D. the plants but tell how to prepare them and what the properties of the plants are.
In my personal quest I had several “teachers” , many of which knew a little more than I did, and I knew I was sadly lacking.
About 20 years ago I met Christopher Nyerges. I had read many of his articles, I knew people that knew him, so I began taking his classes. I never looked back. Far and away the best plant guy I ever ran into. The only instructor who could I.D. a plant from the time any given plant is an inch out of the dirt through the time the plant is a dead critter. How to key out the plant without the flower, very different. That is more than useful. However this article is not about Christopher but it is because of him I have learned more than a few things about plants.
Just to clear up something that is a mistake for many just getting into plants… Herbs, and Medicinal plants are many times common plants that we eat. It depends on the application, how you intend to use the plant.
What follows is a very small list of books in no special order. This is a partial list from my collection of books about plants. There are many not mentioned, this is not intentional, just that these books are very good. And we only have so much room here. Besides reading a really long list gets boring very fast. And I have a very extensive collection.
Some have color plates, some have line drawings. A few even show the plants at different seasons. Keep in mind that plant book photos are examples of the best, the most perfect plant they could find. In your reality they can be very different, depending on soil, sun, shade, altitude, amount of water, a dry year and other factors.
A book that reached out and grabbed my attention in 1973 is : ” Of Men And Plants” by Maurice Messegue’. The first half of the book is in a novel form and tells the story of how this man became the plantman in France ” he grows miracles” , how he found fame and fortune with remedies handed down through generations of his own family, offers instructions for growing, successful diets and the medicinal uses of plants. Great book.
” Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West” By Gregory Tilford.
” Edible Wild Plants” A north American Field guide” by Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman
“Herb Identifier and Handbook” by Ingrid Gabriel.
Of course some of these books are older, plants dont change much so the old books are always worth having.
The more books you have the more you can cross reference, that can be very important and helpful. You can find many plant books in used book stores, flea markets and garge sales. Many of these book when new were very pricey.
” Free For The Eating” by Bradford Angier, 100 wild plants 300 ways to use them. Very informative book.
” National Audbon Society Field Guide to North America Wildflowers” . A great deal of these plants are edible and have other healing qualities.
” Weeds Of The West” by a whole list of well known plant people. This is a great book because of the color pictures and three views of the plants. Many of these plants are found in the midwest and the east. They might have a mid-western and or an eastern version out by now.
Some of these books do not tell you if the plant is edible or not, but that is why you have collected other books to check them out, the point is they I.D. the plant.
I went to a seminar at USC one night and watched a film about this lady, and she was there and gave a talk. Rosita Arvigo is an amazing lady. She wrote this book with Nadine Epstein. The book covers common ailments and tells how to cure them from your kitchen, garden and grocery store. Any time James Duke puts his name on a book saying that it is good, grab it. ” Rainforest Home Remedies” The maya way to heal your body and replenish your soul. The healing qualities come from the rainforest of the Maya.
“Growing California Native Plants” by Marjorie G. Schmidt. You do not have to live in Califorinia to grwo these helpful plants. This might be hard to find, not sure.
Dont freak out at the authors name here. ” Medicinal Plants of the desert and canyon west” by Michael Moore, not the same MM. This is just simply a great book.
” Guide To Wild Foods” in the footsteps of our ancestors by Christopher Nyerges, not only I.D.s plants but in most cases informs you how to use the plants, and eat them, or not.
Help yourself with this book. ” Herbs, thier culture and uses” By Rosetta E. Clarkson. Informs you on the planting, propagation and culinary preps of all kinds of herbs.
” Herbs for Health and Healing” by Kathi Keville. Another fine book reccomended by Jame Duke.
” Mother Nature M.D. ” by Eric Meyer. A forward by James Duke. He is a PH.D kind of guy.
“The Green Pharmacy ” by James Duke PH.D. Get it..
This is a list to get you going. If you do not have some of these books they all belong in your house. I have read them them all and practice what they preach.
By combining live treks with a few of the books you will begin to learn about the plants.
Never ever eat any plant you not 100% , that is one hundred percent sure of what it is, that  in all the meaning of the word “Identified” that plant. There is no such thing as a “universal taste test” . Some think there is. NOT.  Well one day the trap door will open and zing, bye bye. Or you will get deathly sick, at the least. Not to be fooled around with.
I hope this will put you on the path to the plants. Remember you learn one plant at a time. If you can learn two new plants a month at the end of a year you have 24 plants down. After you start to learn it gets eaiser to learn more plants, at a faster clip.
Now lets find some tender lambs quarter, some young curly dock, a few wild berries and some Trader Joes dressing and add a chopped tomato and we are eating large.
By Dude McLean

By Dude McLean


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In Light Of Recent Events

Recent events in the L.A., California area, namely the winds and the damage they caused. The aftermath , the reaction from the population because of no “power” caused by downed telephone poles, and massive trees that took down all the wires that carry electricity were in a maze of tangles. Now after 5 days many are still without power.
People sound like little kids having a tantrum, making snide comments about how slow things are , and what the hell are “they” doing. A little understanding of the monster that has been created by the wind storm might , you would think , give them a little perspective, does not seem that way. Then to make matters worse the temps here dropped to record lows in many places. People lost all the food they had, and many had no place to go. Motels, and hotels were booked solid in the surrounding areas. Confusion for many of these folks.
What we have seen is these victims do not know what to do. They had no plan if something like this happened. Well it happened and now they are whining and sticking out their lower collective lip.
In So Cal the media makes a point that you should prepare for an earthquake. This was not an earthquake, but much of the damage was the same. Homes wrecked, no power meant no cooking, and no heat for many. As I have stated many times your warm , cozy , well lit home can turn into a dark , cold unfriendly place very very fast.
Being in the dark is something most , it seems, cannot cope with. No TV as a distraction from real life. Boring, and cold , dark and you cannot even cook. What we see here are thousands upon thousands of unprepared proof that most are not listening to the warnings. Failing to act to help themselves.
If this had been an earthquake, much more would have been affected. No gas in the homes for one thing. And most likely no water, the rest is a given, no power. And slower help.
The cold factor, is not fun, however it seems many are not thinking at all. It is only recently in our world that heat and air conditioning are so common. You can see old motels here in the southwest, with many old signs are proclaiming, ” we have air conditioning in every room” , those date back to the 1930s, 40s, and even the 50s, slipping into the 60s. Heat was always a problem. If you look at old pictures of folks in their homes most were dressed in layers. The men's clothes were wool for the most part, the women's dresses were long, they helped to contain the heat. Everyone wore a hat. It was a way of life, and we have lost touch with it on a huge scale. Witness the local news .
The status quo never remains stagnate for long, things change. It doesn't take a lot to help yourself help yourself.
It does not take any real brain power to put away some lighting systems that do not need power. Most should have enough blankys to add a few more to the bed. Close off rooms, shut the damn door, and stay in one room. Open the windows and let the sun warm the room, then when the sun goes down hang blankets over the windows, simple things.
Speaking of simple things.. ” I lost all my food in the freezer” Why? Ever hear of dry ice? Lacking dry ice, ice blocks would have saved much of it. One thing that helps prolong the life of the foods is to cook them. Oh never mind, most didn't have any means to cook or so they thought. Ever hear of a campfire? In truth most of them could have cooked in their backyards. Most already have BBQs.
How about getting a camp stove and putting that away for “just in case” I want to cook if for any reason the power should fail. Or I might be hungry.
Seems to me many of these folks are set up or set themselves up to be victims. A poor pitiful me pity party that with a little planning, and foresight beyond nothing will happen here, and most surely not to ME.. could have prevented a lot of anguish, wringing of hands, and worry, and not being complete victim. Waiting for someone to save them.
The mindset on the news was so glaring , in your face, with the self-importance these folks wrapped themselves in as to be sickening. The demands were childish and absurd.
For those who really had no way to take care of themselves, the very elderly or the ill, the very young, I feel for them. Otherwise how the hell have you  made it this far in life?
Most of us here , I would hope , will not find themselves in such dire shape and are prepared to handle these small setbacks in life. Dirttime , self-reliance, survival, all in comfort because you, “own the skills”

By Dude McLean  On December 6th 2011


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