Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
Wild Wanderings Blog – March 8, 2012
This week I want to continue with a bit more detailed info on finding clean drinking water in the wilds and also start the discussion on fire-making. I mentioned getting water from grape vines and various trees last week, but I didn’t provide any detailed info. Grape vines, in the early spring, pull lots of water out of the ground to feed the growth of their newly forming leaves. They are relatively common and easy to identify. I recommend lower areas closer to the water table or near streams. I look for vines that are roughly 1 to 2 inches in diameter. After following the vine to the point where it comes out of the ground, I’ll sever it clean through about 2 feet up. This gives me the opportunity to bend it over into some kind of container. Water isn’t always present immediately, so be patient. I’ve had as much as a gallon collected in just a few hours, but results are going to vary. Since this water is naturally filtered through the ground it’s safe to drink, unless you’re in a contaminated area of course:)) It may start to develop a gooey scab that will constrict the water flow, so make sure you keep removing that.
Tapping trees is another emergency source of water. We normally think of maple trees when we hear the term “tapping trees,” but sugar maples are scarce in my neck of the woods. Down here we have red maple, striped maple, silver maple, sycamore and box elder (ash-leaved maple). Precious liquid (sap) can be obtained from any of these, but sugar maple is clearly the best. Don’t expect to hang a bucket on these other trees. More than likely, you’ll be licking the sap as it oozes out. In the late Winter / early Spring experiments I’ve done, I simply used to knife to drill a 1 – 1 ½ inch deep hole into the tree to acquire the sap. I’ve read that the South facing side of trees, on sunny days are better, but honestly I’m no expert on tapping trees. I’m sure there are folks on here that know quite a bit and I invite them to contribute to the discussion. As mentioned last week…birch and hickory can provide some fluids too.
Water is plentiful in the Smoky Mountains, where I live, and obtaining water here is not that difficult. Just about every nook and cranny has some water available. I frequently find spring heads that I’ll dig out to form small pools that I drink from after the sediment settles. Another great source I look for are vertical rock formations. These frequently have water dripping directly from the side of the rocks themselves. I’ll drink that all day long!
When people get springs tested for quality here, the lab usually only tests for two things… “fecal E-coli” and “total Coliform.” Fecal E-coli (poop from warm-blooded critters), being the REAL dangerous one here! Total Coliform from cold-blooded creatures, which include salamanders, insects and such, is not a concern to me. People will often treat the latter with ultra-violet light, but again I don’t worry about that. When the early settlers came to the mountains they actually looked for the presence of salamanders as an indicator that their spring was clean. The skin of salamanders is permeable and any kind of pollution or chemicals will kill them. I’ve drank my share of salamander poop from springs and though my friends might disagree, I’m totally fine!:)) HA! Once again, when in doubt boil it!!
Fire is next on our Survival list. Not only do we need it for warmth, cooking our food and purifying water, but also for the making of tools. It can also be quite a companion. All of us have spent countless hours contently sitting around a campfire gazing at the flickering flames. I’ve observed over the years that sitting around a campfire is one of the few situations that a group of people can comfortably share space with each other, without feeling the need to utter a single word. Have you noticed? Hmmm… Fire is a powerful thing indeed…
The exact origins of man’s relationship with fire are unknown. Estimates are generally between 300,000 to 500,000 years ago. Early humans learned how to keep fire (lightening strikes and such) long before they could actually produce it via friction. Of all the primitive methods of fire by friction, the “Bow & Drill” (bowdrill) is probably the most universal. It’s been found throughout the entire World. I remember seeing a photo of a bowdrill kit found in King Tut’s tomb. Presumably so young King could stay warm in the afterlife. Who knows? Certainly however, one thing is very clear…If it were not for the ability of our Ancestors to make fire, WE probably would not be here today. And, if we were, more than likely we would be a lot hairier. Clearly a bikini waxing nightmare! Just kidding:))
When people think about making a fire today, it almost always involves paper, cardboard and lighter or matches. Have you ever seen someone light a campfire using gasoline as well? NOT a wise practice if you value your eyebrows. I’m sure more than one person, through “natural selection” has been removed from the gene pool this way. Just saying…:)) Seriously, most people can’t even start a campfire, using natural materials with a lighter! I’ve witnessed it more times than I can count.
"Fire is a gift. Fire-making is an art form. It’s something you build a relationship with. Over time you learn the subtleties of how it breathes, what it needs and when."
Once again, I’ll continue this discussion about fire next week. As always thanks for reading my Blog. I welcome your thoughts and input. Also, I started a group called “Traditional / Primitive Living Skills” and invite you to join and contribute. In the meantime, you can watch two different primitive methods of fire-making…”The Bow-drill” and the “Hand-drill” on my video page by following this link… http://www.lovetheearth.com/videos.htm
Richard Cleveland lives in Asheville, NC. He is the founder and director of Earth School. A self-trained Naturalist, fishing and nature guide, he has taught traditional native skills to thousands of people, of all ages. For info about his programs visitwww.LoveTheEarth.com
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