Sunday 30 October 2011

Hallows Eve.

Wishing all this blog's followers a happy All Hallows Eve.
Article here: http://www.cultureplanet.com/news2.htm

I think I will have to organise a Hallows Eve Party next year!



The Gunner's Daughter.


"With All the Grace of the Sex" Women doing Men's Work.

An interesting article and an online audio tape about women doing what is assumed to be traditionally men's work.


I note that this young lady is wearing men's clothing. Makes sense.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Australian and New Zealand Possums.

Bob Mc has left a new comment on your post "How to cook Black squirrel.":

I’ve never heard of black squirrels either, but I grew up hunting grey squirrels and still do. Incidentally, from pictures I’ve seen and from nature shows on TV, what they call a possum in New Zealand is not the same animal we call a possum over here. I assume the possum in Australia is the same critter found in New Zealand.

New Zealand possums were introduced by Europeans from Australia, and have become a pest over there. The bad side is that these possums in New Zealand eat the native birds eggs. The good side, if you see it that way, is that hunting and trapping possums for their fur has given some residents an alternative income.


How to cook Black squirrel.

Pioneer and settlers handbooks.

Hmmm, looks a bit like our Mountain Brushtail Possum!

Thursday 27 October 2011

More On The Snapsack. 18th Century Images.

Above images from a 1760 sketch by Paul Sandby. British soldiers arresting Jacobites.

More On 18th Century Belt Pouches.

Many historians and costume experts will tell you that the belt pouch went out of fashion in the 17th century and was no longer being used in the 18th century. My arguement has always been that items from earlier periods were indeed worn and used because of practicallity and not fashion. A waistcoat per se may not survive 50 years of hard wear, but the style will. If a person on a frontier wants to wear a long 17th century waistcoat in the 18th century, then he/she can do so.
Below is a sketch from 1760. You will note that he is wearing two belt pouches. One large one in front, and a smaller one on his left side.

By Paul Sandby 1760ad.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Frontier Women. A Link.


A Short Story For Survivalists.

The End Of Our World As We Knew It.

A short story by Keith H. Burgess.©

I struggled on, the weight of Lisa and our supply of water on the travois felt immense. Only mind over body was keeping me moving forward now. It was hot and my boots felt as if they had lead soles. I dragged the travois into the shade of a large rock, and after giving some water to Lisa, I sat down to rest.

What had happened? Where were the rest? We had arranged half jokingly to meat at Rays place if it all went to hell in a hand cart, not really believing that Armageddon would happen. Well it had all gone to hell, slowly at first, and then push came to shove. But no one was there, Ray and his family were gone and the place had been ransacked. Lisa had the little Berretta .22 auto, and I had my customised 308. The ammo weighed a ton for the 308 but we had plenty of .22 ammo.

One shot kills with the 308 were not difficult, but we wasted a lot of the meat. It just didn’t keep in the heat. Cooked meat lasted a little longer, but we both got very sick at one stage unable to travel for several days. After that we weren’t game to carry meat for more than a day. The 308 ammo didn’t last long so I ditched it and fell back on the .22. But one shot kills at the distance I was shooting were not possible, and once again the ammo was going fast; funny how you can be content to shoot one round at a time with a repeater, but as soon as you pick up a semi-auto you just can’t stop pulling that trigger.

Night must have come and gone but I don’t remember. I lay there in the sun not able to move. I called to Lisa but she did not answer. First had come the hike in food prices so more and more people were scavenging the grocer’s throw out bins. Then there were no bins, it was all for sale. There were more people living on the streets, I figured we could go and camp out at Ray’s parents place if it got any worse. Then overnight it all changed. Food prices and accommodation were no longer an issue. The worst had happened and we had to get out of town.

I remember movement, I was moving. I was being carried. My face was covered by a wet cloth but I could not move my arms. Then darkness and then I was in a supermarket. All the shelves were empty and covered by dust. My mother was there saying “there is nothing here Rob”, and then Lisa was taking me by the hand and leading me outside into the bright sunlight.

I heard voices but could not open my eyes. I felt….I don’t remember what I felt, heavy maybe, tired, then I was in my parent’s garden. Finally I woke to find Lisa stroking my hair. I lay on a bed of bracken fern up off the ground. What happened I asked where are we? “They say a Ranger found us and then a group of them brought us back here”. I tried to sit up but couldn’t. Lisa said “Lay still and rest”, but I kept trying to sit up so eventually she put her hand behind my shoulder and neck and helped me up. My first thoughts were “my God, I have gone back in time”. I could not have told you what time exactly, I could not understand what I was seeing, but I did know that this was not the 22nd century.

There was a rock ceiling, and a dirt floor. There were fires but no smoke or very little and I racked my brain to think where had I seen people dressed like this before, and then it came to me! Way back when I was searching YouTube for “militia”, I came across videos with people dressed very similar to this, but my first recollection of people like this was when Lisa and I went to the cinema and saw The Last Of The Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis as Natty Bumpo. My head reeled and I lay back down and slept.

When I woke again it was night time. The only light came from the glowing fires. There was a fire near me now and Lisa was sitting cross legged in front of it eating something she held in her hands. The smell of roast meat came to me and I was suddenly very hungry. Then thirst overcame my need for food and I asked Lisa if there was any water. The meat was varied and all tasted great. But they would not let me eat my fill. Over the coming days I regained some of my strength and was able to get up and wander around my new home.

The open part to this rock overhang was blocked by young trees that had been only partly cut at the base and laid back against the rock to conceal the living quarters. There were racks of meat drying slowly over fires and animal skins on frames leaning against the walls. Each fire was a separate group site, but there was a communal camp fire over to one side of this cave like home. Wandering around was like being in a museum display, part stone age and part 18th century. There were bows and flintlock guns, people knapping rocks and making arrows. There was a constant coming and going of people bringing in firewood and water. As I gained more strength I was able to go outside but was warned not to go far and if I heard the sound of sticks being hit together I was to get into the cave as quickly as possible.

Most of the meat came from trap lines, but some hunting was done also. People, men and women they called Rangers ranged the surrounding areas every day as a precaution against intruders. It was one of these Rangers who had found Lisa and I. There were gardens, but they were out of sight and not easily found unless you knew where to look. Not far away was a creek in which could be found turtles and eels. Large stands of Cumbungi or what I called cattail grew along the creek banks. These apparently supplied a variety of foods and the reed stems were used to make arrows. As soon as I was well enough to get about at a normal pace, we were asked if we wished to stay or leave. We decided to stay.

Each day I was taught a new skill and got to practice the skills I had learnt. I took my turn at various chores including gardening, water carrying, standing guard, foraging for firewood far from our shelter, scraping and stretching animal skins, tending the fires that dried the meat, and digging toilet holes in the gardens. I longed to tend the trap lines and hunt with my .22. But I was told that the .22 Berretta was not to be used for hunting, and instead kept in reserve for defence. This brought back the realisation that this seemingly idyllic lifestyle is always under the threat of being destroyed by others that are also trying to survive, if not by the enemy itself, then by our own people.

I learnt to make traps and how to trap. I also learnt how to get close to animals, something I had never been able to do before. I learnt to look for sign and started accompanying the Rangers who were sometimes gone for days. Once a Ranger and I spotted a group of people camped. We scented the smoke from their fires before we saw them. We watched them until they broke camp and moved on noting the direction they were travelling. Then we returned home to make a report.

Chapter 2. The Diary one year later.

I don’t know if anyone will read this, but it gives me some satisfaction being able to record the details of my life here. Lisa and I have a son now. My old clothes have been cut up to make baby clothes and nappies, the washing of which is a major undertaking using hot rocks in a rock basin not far from our shelter. It took us sometime to get used to sharing the same space with everyone else and we were not used to having to keep quiet when having sex. Many couples go bush for sex and only work and sleep in the shelter.

My clothing now consists of mostly leather except for a cloth breechclout and a shirt. Lisa and I made our own moccasins and leggings and frock. Our sleeping bags were of no use under these living conditions and were stripped down for the material. This went to making our undershirts. We have furs made into what are called “matchcoats”, but these are only worn in winter. Our bedding of bracken fern is also covered in furs.

I don’t miss electricity or anything else about my old lifestyle. Truth be told this life seems a lot easier than the life we had before the invasion. We still live with the constant knowledge that we may one day be found by others, but it no longer scares us. We are confident that we will be able to handle whatever comes our way. I am running out of room on this page of parchment, and the lead pencil hammered out of a round ball needs re hammering to a point, so I will stop writing for now.

Summer 2013.

Modern Period Art.

Coming Home No More By John Buxton.

Ranging, Pathfinding, Bushcraft & Survival Notes: What “X” do you recommend?

Ranging, Pathfinding, Bushcraft & Survival Notes: What “X” do you recommend?

Period Movie.

I have not seen this one before, might be worth checking out.

Monday 24 October 2011

Making Moccasins.

This is the introduction to moccasin pattern making and making moccasins, all of which are on the Primitive Skills 2 DVD plus other skills.

Thursday 20 October 2011

More On The Jerusalem Artichoke.

Jerusalem Artichoke.

The misnamed Jerusalem artichoke has no real link with Jerusalem, and isn't related to other artichokes. It looks a bit like a knobbly pink-skinned ginger root and has a sweet, nutty flavour, reminiscent of water chestnuts.
Although not widely used (perhaps because of its awkward appearance or anti-social effects - see NUTRITION), it is an inexpensive and versatile food that can be used both raw and cooked and makes a delicious soup.

Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain brought them to Europe after coming across them at Cape Cod in 1605. He described them as tasting like artichokes, and is likely to be responsible for this part of their name. The Jerusalem part is thought to be derived from girasole, the Italian for sunflower to which they are related. Another theory suggests the name is a corruption of Terneuzen, the Dutch city from where the root was introduced to England in 1616.

The Jerusalem artichoke plant (Helianthus tuberosus) is related to the sunflower and produces edible tubers. It is hardy and grows readily in cold climates.

Jerualem artichokes are very rich in inulin, a carbohydrate linked with good intestinal health due to its prebiotic (bacteria promoting) properties. These health benefits come at a price; the food can have a potent wind-producing effect.
Jerusalem artichokes also contain vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and are a very good source of iron.

Roots should be free from soft spots, wrinkles or sprouting. Knobbles and uneveness are unavoidable (and not indicative of quality), but smoother, rounder artichokes are easier to prepare.

Jerusalem artichokes will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Like potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke can be served with or without the skin - scrub clean and leave it on for maximum nutritional benefit.
Cook as you would potatoes - roast, sauté, bake, boil or steam. If peeling or cutting, drop pieces into water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Unlike potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke can also be used raw (e.g. in salads) or lightly stir-fried.

Nutritional Information
100g provides as percentage of recommended daily allowance

18% Iron
17% Potassium
& Calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper and traces of other minerals.
4% Protein
6% Vitamin C
13% Thiamine
6% Niacin
& small amounts of other B vitamins

Pinole. A Request From Bob.

Thanks for asking the question Bob.

Their Psindamooan or Tassmanane, as they call it, is the most nourishing- and durable food made out of the Indian corn. The blue sweetish kind is the grain which they prefer for that purpose. They parch it in clean hot ashes, until it bursts, it is then sifted and cleaned, and pounded in a mortar into a kind of flour, and when they wish to make it very good, they mix some sugar [i.e., maple sugar] with it. When wanted for use, they take about a tablespoonful of this flour in their mouths, then stooping to the river or brook, drink water to it. If, however, they have a cup or other small vessel at hand, they put the flour in it and mix it with water, in the proportion of one tablespoonful to a pint. At their camps they will put a small quantity in a kettle with water and let it boil down, and they will have a thick pottage.

With this food the traveler and warrior will set out on long journeys and expeditions, and as a little of it will serve them for a day, they have not a heavy load of provisions to carry. Persons who are unacquainted with this diet ought to be careful not to take too much at a time, and not to suffer themselves to be tempted too far by its flavor; more than one or two spoonfuls, at most, at any one time or at one meal is dangerous; for it is apt to swell in the stomach or bowels, as when heated over a fire.

“History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations” By John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder. Published in the early 19th century.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Popcorn. Trail Food.

The fact that Indians popped corn is well known, it is also said that they used it as a trail food. How they popped it is a matter of discussion. Some say it was popped on hot rocks in the fire, others say it was hot sand in the fire. Others still say clay pots were used. It is my opinion that any or all of these could be true, but I will bet that they were also popped on the cob. Why? because that is the way we roast our corn, it seemed the natural way to do it. No cleaning, no fuss and best of all no containers needed.

I made some fresh popcorn today in an iron kettle. We use it as an inexpensive breakfast cerial.

However, when carried on the trail a lot of all ready popped corn can take up a lot of room, so I personally would like to carry loose corn and pop it in camp. I am going to try growing some this year and do some experimenting. I don't want to have to carry a clay pot about with me, that is not practical. I can't use my tin lined kettle because I could damage the tin lining. I don't know how much heat it can take without liquid in it. So I am going to have to come up with another natural method. Perhaps heated rocks in a earthen hole covered with sticks? Sounds like it might be a goer.

Stories from the Stone Age

Ranging, Pathfinding, Bushcraft & Survival Notes: The Naked Ape in the bush...

Ranging, Pathfinding, Bushcraft & Survival Notes: The Naked Ape in the bush...

Karl is right, few people have a true understanding of what it is like to go naked into the wilderness. Yes it can be done, but it can also be very hard and painful to get started.
The skills:
My first priority in such a situation is to construct a shelter, or find a natural one summer or winter. My second task is to make fire, or at least have the materials ready to make fire. For me this means finding a grass tree with a healthy flower stem, two if possible with different size stems. This can sometimes take a lot of searching but if it is winter and you are in a place where it gets very cold, this is a must.
Once you have a shelter and fire and have found a water source, you can relax a little. Not comfortably so, but there is not so much urgency at this stage. You need to have the ability to get close enough to a wild animals to touch it before it knows you are there, either that or you need to know how to make and use snares and hunt with a spear or bow. This too means that you need the skill to be able to make cordage, make spears, and make a bow.
Now I can do all this, but it has taken me a long time to learn, because as Karl said, there are other things in our lives that take up the time. Even so, just because I have the knowledge and ability, that does not mean that it is easy for me to accomplish. It is hard, painfull at times, uncomfortable and in the beginning it really gets you down. It takes a lot to keep going, at least it does for me.
Priorities may change from the above, depending on where you are and the time of year, present weather conditions and the time of day.  If you are in an unknown area and have the time, your first priority may be finding water. Being able to think clearly in such a situation can also be very hard. But the skills are worth learning if you have the drive and the time.
Now I suggest you go take a look at Karl's post for some very good advice and suggestions.

Seven Steps to Folding Your Own Condom. A Link.


This may or may not be of interest to living historians, but I am well aware that many followers of this blog do so for reasons conserning wilderness survival. It occured to me that this subject may well be of interest in regards to long term wilderness living.

Traditional Hunting with Longbow and Flintlock. Or The Need To Carry Gun or Bow.

In some ways I understand the way this man feels. I have a strong need to carry my flintlock in the woods. The difference between us is that I don't need to kill something to feel good, in fact unless we need meat then I don't see the point in hunting. But this need I have to carry my flintlock is not understood by many, including my own wife. I would love to go exploring beyond my own forest, and I have and will, but it is not half as much fun without my gun. I just have this constant feeling that something is missing.

Monday 17 October 2011

Choosing The Right Tools and Equipment. History and Survival.

Choosing The Right Tools and Equipment. History and Survival. © Keith H. Burgess.

As occasionally happens, the articles that Karl, Ross and myself come up with are often connected in some way. No doubt that is because we think in much the same way. The difference between myself and them is 300 years, but even so these two woodsmen still think in terms of practicality and often look to the past for inspiration.

Before I even read Ross’s blog today I had decided to post on survival, equipment and how to approach one’s choices of same. Ross made the comment that more and more people go into the bush equipped as if they are going into a life and death situation [or similar words]. Now personally I think that is how one should approach the task of selecting one’s equipment and tools, why? Because [A] one never knows what could happen out there and I think it is better to be prepared for the worst [as it happens I have found myself in several survival situations over the years and have been very glad I was equipped to handle the situations!], and [B] because I am an 18th century living historian, and that is exactly how a woodsman in the mid 18th century should be thinking. To think any other way would be folly.

So those of you who wish to emulate an 18th century woodsman or woods-woman, whether you be a Ranger or a militia member, hunter or trapper, you need to carry the tools and equipment that these people carried 300 years ago. Yes there is room for personal choice, but those choices must be within the realm of authenticity. If you want to carry a 1lb throwing knife, then do the research. Because most woodsrunners carried ordinary butcher knives.

I have said this before; your tools have specific uses. You do not need a knife that is capable of cutting down trees, you need a hunting knife that is capable of skinning and butchering, and perhaps at times used for fighting. You need to throw something? Throw your tomahawk/axe. It is designed to do the heavier work. You want to carry more than one knife? Fine, this is documented. I myself carry a hunting knife, a back-up legging knife and a jack knife for making kettle hooks and trap parts. All three have a purpose and they are light and useful.

Do not carry a percussion gun because a flintlock makes you flinch! Get over it. I have no doubt that some woodsrunners flinched 300 years ago until they got used to it. The fact is that the flintlock is the most practical arm to use, and it is a good survival tool. Woodsrunners and Mountain Men did not use percussion guns or rifles. Do you think they would risk running out of those percussion caps knowing that they had to wait a full 12 months before the traders returned to the mountains? No matter how many of those caps you have, if they get damp they won’t work [same goes for modern primers!]. But a piece of rock can be found anywhere that will create a spark, and if the lock breaks and you have run out of spare parts you can easily convert your flintlock into a matchlock or a tinderlock.

Good practical inexpensive second hand butcher knives.

Don’t go overboard with “spare” items, the chances of you losing tools, providing your equipment is well thought out, is minimal. You will need to make some compromise between minimum weight and maximum self-reliance. Look after your tools, and instead of carrying two of everything, learn the primitive skills that you would need if you were to lose those tools. If like my gear your equipment and tools are also your “Bug-out bag”, then by all means stash a spare fire steel and a spare butcher knife aside ready to be picked up on the way out the door. But rather than carry extra weight in tools, carry the weight in gunpowder, food and water.

Keep your foods simple, choose from those items that have been documented. Dried peas, dried corn, flour, popcorn, oats and dried meat. If you carry any fresh foods make sure you eat them first. If your gear is your modern survival pack, then pack some vitamin tablets if you have to “bug-out”. Vitamin C should be on the top of the list. Always carry your personal medication. There were pill containers in the 18th century and they carry easily in your weskit pockets. Carry a kettle, because it can be used for catching rain water, boiling water, cooking, foraging for berries, and preparing a brain mixture for tanning skins.

Think about how much lead you are going to carry. Mostly you will find that your round ball can be retrieved from shot game and remoulded using a ball mould and a light lead ladle. You can make your own gunpowder in the wilderness providing you can find the ingredients, but this is not likely. So I suggest you carry extra gunpowder. I have several leather gunpowder wallets/bags. When empty of gunpowder, this wallet contains spare plant tinder. I also have several large powder horns for other people to carry. Think about any others who might accompany you on an historical trek [or bug-out]. Though I think that most should be fully equipped and self reliant, there may be some members that you can use as “baggage carriers”.

Junior tomahawk. My three children learnt how to use and throw an axe using this small tomahawk/axe.

The woodland Indian women were baggage carriers, why? Because the warriors could not afford to be too encumbered with heavy items if they were expected to protect the women and children. The warriors carried their tools and weapons, and very often a small pack & a blanket. The women and children carried the rest. Likewise colonial settlers would travel in the same way. Scouts could not afford to be too burdened with baggage. Mostly it was the men who carried the guns and perhaps some other tools. The women carried what they could. This is not to say that women did not carry guns, I have no doubt that if there were an extra gun then a woman would carry it. Women like Mrs Pentry dressed as her husband did in woodsrunners clothing and she carried her gun and other equipment. Likewise Mad Ann Bailey was well known to be totally self-reliant in this respect and often acted as scout herself.

A no-frills English trade gun.

So think hard on what you and perhaps your family carry. There is no need for the purchasing of expensive items; in fact the opposite was far more common in the 18th century. Damascus blades and carved gun stocks would have been out of place 300 years ago. Most woodsrunners were not wealthy in regards to money, but the majority were probably very practicle.

Another no-frills flintlock in .32 calibre. No patchbox, just a grease hole in the stock.

When the Forest Ran Red

Bushcraft-the Life and Death Struggle to Make our Lives More Exciting

This post over at Ross's Blog: http://woodtrekker.blogspot.com/2011/10/bushcraft-life-and-death-struggle-to.html

Powder Horn Auction – Oct 25


Sunday 16 October 2011


When I skin and butcher at home I use a Gamble to hang the animal. In the woods if I can hang the game I use a stick as a Gamble.

My home made Gambrel.

Field Dressing Game.

Whenever I can I prefere to hang the animal from a tree limb and dress and skin it off the ground. Buffalo I skinned first starting the first cut along the back bone. In this way I could fold the skin toward me giving me a clean inside skin spread on the ground and I could butcher and lay the meat on the inside of the skin.
With an animal the size of the one in this video, I field dress much the same as shown except that I use a tomahawk instead of a saw, and then carry the game out either on my back, or hanging on a pole if there are two of us to carry. I have also constructed a travois to get heavier game out of the woods.

Rope Making.

Foraging In Tamworth NSW. Birds, Ants and Vent Quills.

Recently I accompanied my wife on a trip to Tamworth, New England NSW. Whilst she was attending a management course in "The Dome" Sports Centre, I took the opportunity to do some foraging.
A trail made by ants leads to an ant nest.

There is the nest at the end of the trail. These meat ants [as I call them] can bite, so stay clear of these nests. Bull Ants nests are very similar and also to be avoided.

Our local Magpie, except for the colouring, quite different from those found in England or America.

Crested Pigeons.

Crested Pigeon in a tree.

This bird looks much like a smaller version of the magpie, and interestingly enough it bares a American woodland Indian name, Peewee, meaning "Little One".

What I think is a Scaly Breasted Lorikeet and another Peewee.

This reminds me of a Green Ant nest, but I am not sure what it is. Looks like it should be avoided anyway!

A Pigeon feather. I found two of these and one Magpie feather. All three just the right size to be used as vent quills.