Ultra Minimalists, Part 3

For the Ultra Minimalists, Part 1, click here.

More Historic Minimalists – religious wanderers from the East

Japanese_pilgrimWandering Monks part 1 – The Buddhist monks that travel much of the year throughout Asia are about as minimalist as one can reasonably get.  Early Buddhist monks were instructed to own, as based on the Pali Canon, a very simple set of eight items.  Things have, of course, changed over time and religious wanderers have changed with it.

  • outer robe
  • inner robe
  • thick double robe for winter
  • alms bowl for gathering food and eating
  • razor for shaving
  • needle and thread for repairs
  • belt
  • water strainer for removing impurities from drinking water

Everything thing else was communal or gifted to them, including food.

ThaiMonkWandering Buddhist Monks part 2 – Things have changes in the past 2,500 years and the natural hardships of a traveler’s life warranted a few additions to an allowable kit of possessions.  A revised and more modernized version adds a few more necessities (not everyone is up to the task of living in real poverty or misery; also, the communities of non-mendicants have some expectations about cleanliness, etc.).  So in addition to the above eight possessions, the monks carry:

  • Bowl
  • Three robes, inner, outer, and warm
  • Bathing cloth
  • Umbrella, some sects mention a small tent as well
  • Mosquito net
  • Kettle for water
  • Water filter
  • Razor
  • Sandals
  • Small candles
  • Candle lantern

It should be remembered, these monks were part of a Sangha (intentional community of Buddhists) so there were communal objects for the rainy season when they weren’t traveling and there is a long tradition of charity towards holy men that we no longer practice in the West (other than tax exemption for churches and the National Football League).

PilgrimslargeWandering Buddhist Monks part 3 – Of course, the world changes and the esoteric lifestyle adapts with it.  Modern Buddhist mendicant monks might carry a few extra things in order to live reasonably within the modern world.  This becomes a very realistic list for the modern traveler.  Over many centuries, it became apparent that being acceptable and able to fit into society in general was an important thing.  Good appearance, cleanliness, and preparedness helps one not be a burden on the community.  I understand the need to fit-in and remain incognito when appropriate.  After all, isn’t that what our daily costumes achieve?

Later realists again modified the kit of the wandering Buddhist mendicants in eight types of personal utensils or belongings (adapted, in part from RAHU website, Singapore).  There are a total of 8 necessary requisites of the Buddhist monk garments and utensils. I big part of the teachings of the Buddha are concerned with an intentional, non-harmful, and simple life.

  • Mantle Robe – Traditionally made by the acolyte himself, but may also be a gift.
  • Sarong (Sabong) – This is a simple, unadorned under garment and is worn 24 hours a day.
  • Cotton Belt or Girdle
  • Shoulder Scarf – It is a long thick brownish-yellow scarf and regarded as a monk’s multipurpose cloth and is generally large enough to use as a blanket in winter. During a long trip or visit, this thick Sangkati can be folded and used as a cushion.
  • Black Alms Bowl with Lid
  • Razor
  • Needle and Thread
  • Water-strainer

In addition the initial eight things, some items have been added, not just for survival, but for the comfort and convenience as monks might find themselves as guests in a temple, in major cities, suburban settings, or the wilderness.

  • Three amenities are added for convenience: undershirt,  a small bathing loincloth for modesty, and a bath towel.  One cannot be filthy in a tight, modern setting.
  • Bedding – Still considered luxury items for the monk: grass mat, pillow, blanket, mosquito net, and a cushion for sitting.
  • Necessities for the traveler: hand bag (for carrying all this stuff), handkerchief, knitted hat, palm leaf fan, umbrella (for sun as much as rain), and sandals.
  • Eating utensils: Dish, Bowl, Spoon & Fork, Hand Towel, A set of Food Trays containing plates and bowls, Tiffin Carrier.
  • Hygiene and cooking – Drinking water must be cleansed of dirt and germs.  This is critical for good health.  Water is the only thing a monk can freely ask for or take as needed.  In that vein, several other tools are allowed and encouraged: stove, pot for boiling water, mug for hot water/tea, water glass, water jug/bottle, tea kettle, Thermos bottle for ice or hot water as needed.
  • Toiletries – Buddhist monks should be clean and have pleasant personalities. They need some necessary objects, the same as other people water container, soap, soap container, tooth brush, tooth paste, body towel, tissues, spittoon, medicinals.
  • Domestic Objects: These items should be available to help monks in case of emergency. lantern or electric lamp, flash light, alarm clock or watch.

The latter list is a very complete list of real essentials.  Having a codified list to pack from can be comforting, just like the lists the Boy Scouts still make for High Adventure programs.  Looking at a little knowledge gained by our predecessors goes a long way.

russkie-palomniki

Pilgrims on Pilgrimage – Vasily Perov (1834-1882)

Why  did I choose the Buddhists specifically for this example? Europeans have our own traditions, just without as much documentation.  We’re a free-form lot.  These folks certainly can sleep rough as need arose on a holy pilgrimage and don’t appear to be overburdened with stuff.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report that Jesus taught his disciples; “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.

Coming next – Ultra Minimalists, Part 4 – Modern Minimalisma re-blog from Joshua Fields Millburn.

New Quiver

Finished up the quiver.  It’s been unfinished for at least a year and this weekend finally saw some completion.  It’s a time for closure on unfinished projects.

Quiver

Bucksaw Again

For this project I moved my little operation into the living room of the house.  Creating sawdust and wood chips for the dogs to track around in their boredom is a real bonus.  But, on to the show…

Making a Bucksaw for carpentry, bushcraft, or just because they’re cool.

DSC_0901The little bucksaw I built last winter had never been “finished” even though I’ve been using it for a while now.  Having a few hours to spare I pulled out the knives, rasps, and scraper and decided to finish this once and for all before getting down to the next project.

DSC_0904

The curves are merely aesthetic and can be ignored completely for a serviceable saw (if you can live with it).

I hope to put this together soon as a sort of “Instructable” for making frame saws, buck saws, and turning saws but for now, this will have to do.  Although common enough for the last couple millennia, frame saws have lost their place in the tool kits of carpenters and craftsmen, having been replaced by sabre saws, band saws, and the like.  There is a lot of beauty in the old design and a serviceable saw can be built in a short time with very few tools.  In fact, the one pictured here cost about $4 for the partial band saw blade, maybe a dollar for the screws and a few bucks for the long-toothed firewood blade.  The lumber was created from a less-than-perfect bow stave; a well-seasoned shagbark hickory bodged down to about 7/8″ thick.  The genius of this design is that it allows for an extremely thin blade to be stretched very tight for ease of work and a very clean cut.

DSC_0905

A file for cutting (top), a store-bought 20″ bow saw blade (middle), and a band saw blade ready to be cut (bottom).

A new, high quality band saw blade can be purchased for under $14 from a decent hardware store.  The above is a Delta brand 1/2″ blade with 6 teeth-per-inch (TPI) and is only 2/100ths of an inch thick.  That makes for very little waste which can be especially valuable when working harder to acquire materials like antler or bone.

DSC_0906Band saw blades are made in a continuous loop and are great for what they do but the first thing we need is to break the loop.  The metal is extremely hard, and fairly brittle which works to our advantage.  The edge of a sharp bastard file, like that pictured above can be used to score cross the blade.  You don’t need to cut all the way through, but just make a solid scratch across the surface.  Then the blade can be snapped by hand, making sure to not put any unnecessary bends in the blade.  Drilling the holes in the ends is the tough part.  As I said, the metal is very hard so, either you can use a punch to make a starter spot and drill through as is (but this will severely dull most drill bits), or the ends can be gently annealed in a forge or with a torch and drilled soft.

DSC_0909Here are all the components of the new buck saw with the new linseed oiled surface glaring in the sun.  The tensioner can be made from any strong cord (in this case 550 paracord), but any strong line can be built up or bailing wire will work (but is a little low-class and ugly and difficult to remove quickly).  The spreader bar (the horizontal piece) is morticed into the legs but is not fastened by anything other than the tension on the whole system.  Thus, the whole saw can be taken down in a few seconds and stuck into a toolbox or backpack for easy travel.

DSC_0910Above is the assembled saw under tension and ready to cut.  A good question was already asked as to “why the spreader is curved in this case?”  Because this was made from real wood, split with and axe, following the grain.  I could have worked to straighten it for looks but I like the fair curve it created and, as it has no bearing on the function, left it as is.

Hope this helps anyone wanting to make a saw like this.  Maybe I can offer this as a short, one day class at Rabbitstick or Winter Count soon.

Up soon: a turning saw.

Backyard Chickens

I’ve been lucky as a chicken owner for quite a few years.  Very few have been stolen by predators, and we’ve had very little illness.  Right now, with a dozen chickens both old and young, I get between three and six eggs per day with the occasional bonanza of eight.  That is, if I can keep the Gopher Snakes out.  I catch the snakes when I can and take them a few hundred meters away and hope they find new homes to rob.  With limited free-ranging in a pretty poor environment they cost me no more than $10-$20 per month and a few minutes work every day.  In the winter, they need a bit more tending, especially to keep the water unfrozen.  I can’t see how suburban America has so lost it’s way that there is a fight to keep chickens in your own yard.  I recently heard a politician refer to them as “gateway livestock”.

LuckyChickenI love my dogs, but to hear people speak of chickens as annoying, smelly, and dangerous is ridiculous.  Dogs bark, and often attack people (which are the jobs we bred them for) so the double standard is apparent.

DomPulletIf you have lived with chickens, you know how excellent they are at virtually eliminating small vermin; especially ticks, grasshoppers, crickets, and even the occasional mouse or snake.  They are wonderful pest control, especially around the perimeter of the garden and their manure is a potent garden additive.

BuffOrpMaybe not as cuddly as a dog or cat, they are certainly part of our history for thousands of years.  If you are considering chickens for eggs or meat, they are a simple, inexpensive investment that takes little time or money and are a great addition to the household food supply.  Mine survive well on kitchen scraps including almost daily doses of broccoli stems, carrot tops, fruit peels, and even chopped weeds from the garden.  They work better than composting for most waste.

LuckyThey come in many varieties, builds, temperaments, and fortes, but nearly all will help out the small homesteader.

Varnish

The next step in finishing the pack frame…

Packframevarnished

Here’s a detailed photo of the naked frame with an initial coat of oil & pine-tar coating.  This will weatherproof the whole thing and make the rawhide less appealing to critters (I caught my dog licking one of the lashings this morning).  This mixture is about 60% boiled linseed oil and 40% Stockholm pine-tar, an ancient coating used on just about everything in pre-industrial northern Europe.  It should dry in a day or two and be ready for a second thin coat later in the week.

Wooden Pack Frame

One of many projects happening around here this yule-tide season.  A new classic-style rucksack is being sewn, much leatherwork is occurring, and this pack frame is being finished.  The wood is shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) made from a bowstave section and some other scrap from the pile.  All was split before finishing so the grain is perfectly aligned with the lumber.  This made for easy steam bending.  As I was working from many examples but no actual plan, there was a lot of mock-up and tweaking of the design to fit my size and intended needs.  There’s no metal in the construction.  The freight bar and cross members are half-lapped and lashed with rawhide.  The bar is also pegged to prevent slipping under load.  More to come as it gets finished and field tested.

packframe

Image

Here’s a few older frames I could find around the ‘net:

gamepackframe2alaskanpackboard

packboard2

DSCF4607

Sandals of the New Kingdom, Egypt

Some shoe solutions from the Bronze Age, North Africa.SandalMaker

Sandal maker – New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty from Thebes ca. 1504–1425 B.C.  Like a Diderot illustration this gives a good look at the workshop of an artisan with the essentials of his trade.  There’s the stool, which is useful in leatherwork as it gives a good lap to work on.  A beam, probably implying that the leather is made on-site.  A couple of awls in handles are shown and what is probably a curved awl, made from antelope horn, useful when weaving leather (my speculation based on huaracheros and other traditional weaving tools).  The sole of the sandal looks to be leather and is being punched with the awl.  Other sandals are made from fiber, probably by a different artisan specialist, while burial sandals were likely a specialty industry and are often made from wood or precious metals.

Sandals2

Papyrus fiber sandals.  Second Intermediate Period–Early New Kingdom, 17th-18th Dynasty, Thebes ca. 1580–1479 B.C. These are constructed using a coil basketry technique which involves wrapping a soft fiber around a thicker, linear element while “sewing” into the adjacent coil.

Sandals

Papyrus fiber sandals.  Second Intermediate Period–Early New Kingdom, 17th-18th Dynasty, Thebes ca. 1580–1479 B.C.

SandalsRed

Red ochre stained calfskin leather sandals.  New Kingdom 18th Dynasty during the joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III ca. 1473–1458 B.C.  These are interesting as they are tooled to look like woven sandals.  The leather might be harder-wearing but the woven style may have denoted more wealth (i.e., flimsy shoes equates to more wealth or less need to labor).  A very simple design used for thousands of years and well-illustrated in the sandal maker panel above.  This is a good survival sandal that could be made quickly in the field from many materials today.

two pair

SandalsAu2

Finally, a couple pair of golden burial sandals (women’s) from Thebes, New Kingdom 18th Dynasty during the reign of Thutmose III ca. 1479–1425 B.C.  Note the embossing to imitate stitching.  A simple design that could be made up in a very short time.

SandalsAu

All of the above images are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and clicking any of the photos will take you to the appropriate page for the artifact.  I chose these sandals as I believe the best survival solutions are tried and true and generally exhibited in the archaeological record if the material survives.  Make yourself a pair of shoes.  With a little practice, basic footwear can be made that is serviceable and fit for public wear.  Our ancestors did this for thousands of years, we can too.

Everything you build, every entertainment you make, every meal you procure yourself frees you from the market economy and liberates you a little more from the consumer system.