Pack Basket

In a fit of energy I got around to putting proper and better shoulder straps on my pack basket made last summer.  The pack is willow and the leather work is approximately 10 oz. Hermann Oak harness leather.

Once the leather ages a bit they will be beautiful and rustic-looking.

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping

Sounds like a great time. Wish I were there!

Survival Sherpa

Guest post by Kevin Bowen

Horace Kephart Days: The Revival of Classic Camping - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

First off, I must thank Todd Walker for the opportunity to write this piece for his blog. He really wanted to attend Kephart Days this year but an even more important event took place the same weekend that required his attendance, the birth of a beautiful, healthy grandson. Congratulations good buddy!!!

I first met Todd online about a year or so ago and then had to chance to meet up with him and Bill Reese at one of the Workshop in the Woods classes, hosted by primitive expert/teacher/author, and all around great guy, Scott Jones. If you regularly follow Todd’s blog, you have been introduced to Scott already. Since then, I have garnered a great respect for Todd’s attitude, an affinity for his ideas and work ethic, and more than anything, a love for his friendship. It’s truly an honor to help him out…

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Early Style Camping Gear

Some of my camping gear mostly inspired by the period from 1745-1812, prior to major industrialization.

Some of my real-life camping gear mostly inspired by the period from 1745-1812, prior to major industrialization.

Starting in the upper left and moving more-or-less clockwise: small tomahawk, portmanteau, stoneware jug, braided buckskin cord, patch knife, buckskin bag for brass sundial compass, wool bonnet (tam o’shanter), trade bead necklace, small gourd for salt, pewter beer mug (could possibly hold water too), canteen gourd, Knife River flint blades, needle case and bone needles, strike-a-light and char-cloth box, wooden bowl and spoon, buckskin bag, bone handled eating knife, waterproofed leather bag, bark tanned belt pouch, buckskin neck bag containing spare fire kit, net shuttle holding hemp line, sewing kit in buckskin bag, wooden needle case with needles, argillite pipe with buckskin bag, fine hemp line, extra blanket pin, belt, pampooties (ghillie shoes), bamboo container containing larger bone awls and other bone tools, in the center, shoulder bag.

How to make a ‘medieval style’ possible pouch; more traveler’s gear

Here is a great little instruction set on how to make a European Medieval-style belt bag. You see these in paintings and illustrations on just about every traveler. Not only will you come out with a nice bag but it is a fine and simple introduction into leather working and sewing. All makers need to start somewhere and this might be the right project.

Wild Tuscany Bushcraft

Old style bushcraft: a medieval possible pouch Old style bushcraft: a medieval possible pouch

During the Middle Age was common carrying small items like coins, keys, inside pouches or purses attached to the belt.
There are many archaeological and iconographical documents, you can search for your favorite patterns, but there is a model that in my opinion, is one of the best for a bushcrafter.

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Making Containers via Primitive Process Pottery

I wanted to re-blog this excellent post about functional pottery construction from “Survival Sherpa”. I’m no great pottery maker but appreciate the craft for sure. Have a look.

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Survival Sherpa

by Todd Walker

Making Containers from Primitive Process Pottery - www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Coffee drinkers like myself usually have a favorite mug or cup. My all-time favorite “tankard” developed a crack and DRG trashed it. A sad day indeed!

My sob story may seem petty, but there’s nothing trivial about not having a way to “contain” stuff. Think of all the ways you use containers daily. Then imagine all your modern containers being gone… poof, no more. Welcome to the Stone Age!

Here’s what else disappears with your containers. Your ability to…

  • Cook stuff without skewering it on a stick
  • Collect, disinfect, transport, and drink water
  • Raise plants and livestock
  • Store food without stuffing it in an animal stomach
  • Dispose of waste
  • Personal hygiene
  • Ferment food and drink
  • Make medicinals
  • Gather food
  • Keep stuff clean
  • Organize stuff
  • etc., etc., etc….

This is why containers are king! 

After attending a local two-day primitive pottery class, my respect and appreciation for the humble container grew…

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Magnetic Compass, a Gimme from an Iron-Rich Earth

Compasses

Starting as a field scientist in the heady days when men were men and GPS was not available to common civilians, I learned my way around a compass pretty well.  I thought I knew something coming out of Boy Scouts but putting those skills to the test mile after mile in order to locate a distant waypoint or build a map by hand honed those skills and etched them indelibly on my brain.  Friendly competition arose amongst colleagues testing our pace and compass work over miles of rough ground in the eastern woodlands.  The West is easy in comparison with open forests, plains, and grand vistas for taking long sightings.  To this day, I generally prefer a pocket compass to a GPS and if I could choose only one, it would be one of these wireless beauties.Compasses2A surveyor’s sighting compass can just about perform miracles in the right hands and my trusty Brunton Pocket Transit, after all these years, still finds it’s way into my field bag for big jobs.  Get a compass, learn to really use it.  Keep it handy, and you may never be truly lost.

Edwardian Camp Equipment

This is a re-post from an earlier entry.  Say what you will about British imperial policy of the 19th and 20th centuries.  They certainly worked out minimalist travel with a fair amount of style and comfort on a very personal level.  These old catalogs give some great ideas for camp living.

From The Army and Navy Co-operative Society Store, London 1907

1907-11907-21907-31907-41907-61907-71907-51907-91907-101907-11There are some excellent items here that should give some inspiration for fabricating some classic and classy gear.  From an era before the activity of “camping” was fully segregated from “regular living”.

Much more of this to come…

Ancient Dutch Ovens and the Ceramic Hibachi

“A good meal ought to begin with hunger.” French Proverb.

All animals need to eat.  All the time.  As humans, we eat every day if we are lucky.  An average Westerner will have about 275,000 meals in a lifetime, not including snacks, munchies, and other nibbles.  Once upon a time, we all caught, gathered, and ultimately made food for ourselves and our families.  If we had some extra, we might have provided for the needy, the unlucky, or even the lazy.  If we were entrepreneurial, we might have even exchanged our food for other stuff or services we needed. We cook our food to release nutrients, to make it easier to digest, and ultimately, to make it more delicious.  After all, “A clever cook can make good meat of a whetstone” Erasmus.

rats

…or so they say.

Throughout our evolution here on Earth, food never came from an assembly line or even a grocery store.  As time went on, we could choose to put some effort into our cooking and make delicious stuff.  For this we developed cooking apparatus beyond the simple fire and we adapted just about every food into some sort of cooked dish.  As true meat-loving omnivores, humans eat just about anything.  “If it has four legs and is not a table, eat it!” Cantonese proverb.

Enough digression, on to some minimalist cooking!

Cook of the SMS Ranch_ near Spur_ Texas_ Lee Russell_ 1939-600Every cowboy, Boy Scout, and classic camper in North America knows the amazing versatility of the cast iron Dutch Oven.  Why “Dutch” you say?  Well, those clever craftsmen from the Netherlands perfected sand casting for vessels such as this in the 17th Century and by the first decade of the 18th Century the English copied them perfectly and the name stuck (at least in England and America).

dutch-oven-breakfastThis was not even remotely a new design for cookware, just a new material.  A heavy thermal barrier to spread heat and hold a high temperature without drying out the food is a useful innovation.  Moving farther afield you can find kindred spirits around the globe serving the same purpose including the Bedourie, the potjiekos, Sač oven, and the Nabemono.

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The clibanus or Roman clay Dutch oven.

Over on the British Museum Blog Sally Grainger has been writing about her experiments with, among other things, the Roman clibanus (a.k.a. clay Dutch oven).  I had no idea that the rimmed lid for holding coals was such an ancient innovation but, of course, it makes perfect sense.  Our ancestors were cooking on coals every day after all.  There seem to be many variants on this design but the example here is something of an inverted version of our modern oven.  The entire lid lifts off to expose the tray or shallow bowl lower portion.  This makes for a serving vessel as part of the cooking apparatus.

mt_5_charcoal_544Just like it’s modern counterpart, an oven like this can be used to cook a wide variety of dishes, from meats, to stews, to breads.

traychickenSee her write-up of the experiments HERE.

TajineThe descendents of this style oven may be seen in the tajine and it’s cousins found all around the Mediterranean, especially in North Africa.

And finally, a relatively simple project for the primitive camp.

A simple, slab-built portable grill could be a useful addition to one’s camp kitchen.  Perfect for cooking a Mediterranean meal of shish kebabs and perfect for simple meals anywhere.  Recent archaeological work has brought this back to light.

GreekGrill

Replicated souvlaki pan from Mycenae ca. 3,500 B.P.

These are a relatively recent discovery in that their use is finally understood.  Experimental archaeology is a great thing.  Sometimes we can readily predict the answer we know to be correct, but sometimes the process teaches us something and clears up misconceptions lost to time.  In this case, a type of artifact called a souvlaki tray of ancient Mycenae (Crete).  These date to a period from over 3,200 years ago.  These are rectangular ceramic pans that sat underneath skewers of meat, and are generally discovered in fragments.  Prior to experimentation, archaeologists were not sure exactly how these were used, whether placed directly over a fire, catching fat drippings from the meat, or if the pans would have held hot coals like a portable barbeque pit.  Attempting to cook on them directly over a fire proved useless, as the clay was too thick to allow efficient heat transfer, however, placing coals in the pan made an efficient hibachi-like portable grill.

A short article on the experiment may be found here: Mycenae Portable Grills.

References:

C. Grocock, and S. Grainger 2006. Apicius: a Critical Edition with Introduction and English Translation. Totnes: Prospect Books. Grainger, S. 1999 Cato’s roman cheesecakes: the baking techniques, Milk: beyond the dairy, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on food and cookery, Prospect books Totnes, pp.168-178.

Online:

The Medieval Spanish Chef  – Looking for a perfect peacock recipe or interesting ways to cook a horse?  Have a few extra rabbit hearts and don’t know what to do with them?  Check out Suey on her blog for some really interesting, well-researched Medieval recipes.