Posts Tagged ‘primitivism’

Midsummer Foraging Fun with Garlic Mustard!

[Editor’s note: I originally wrote (and promptly forgot about) this back in June. Ah well, better late than never!]

If you’re not involved in invasive species control, you might not be very familiar with garlic mustard. Which is too bad, because everybody should know about it—this European plant is a major problem in North America these days. Luckily, unlike a lot of the nastier (usually Asian) imports, this one is at least good for something!
In fact, g.m. is one of the oldest known cooking spices—its use dates back all the way to the Old European Neolithic!

Since we’ve just passed the summer solstice, now is the perfect time to get out in the woods and kill two birds with one stone—help rehabilitate our local environment, as well as harvest a tasty seasoning! Earlier in the spring, g.m. can be gathered fresh and the leaves used to flavor dishes, but by now most of the plant has died back, leaving the seed pods for easy identification.

I took a quick barefoot woods-walk this afternoon, and in about twenty minutes managed to gather a good bundle of dried stalks:
Garlic mustard plants (June)
Because the delicate dried pods (or “siliques” for all you botanists out there) that contain the seeds will break open if you look at them the wrong way—and since we’d also like to prevent the spread of g.m.—it’s best to take extreme care while you pull the plant up by the roots to keep the seeds from shooting everywhere.
Garlic mustard pods
Once you have your bundle of plants, you can ‘shuck’ or strip the pods off the stalks; from here, it’s a simple matter of agitating the pods to release the seeds (I ground them around in this stone mortar before rolling bundles between my hands, and then winnowed away the chaff:Garlic mustard chaff
Garlic mustard seeds Now that I’m left with an ounce or so of pure seeds, I’m going to experiment and keep some plain and roast some others (to facilitate easier grinding), and then do some living history and season some venison with it. The seeds by themselves smell deliciously savory, with a hint of horseradish!

Doomsday Preppers: David Nash

Our other Tennessee prepper this episode is David Nash, who is also concerned about the likelihood of a modern New Madrid earthquake.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentDavid explains how he and his wife Genny have “chosen careers that fulfill us but don’t necessarily leave us with much in the bank”, ergo he is DIY all the way! Which is great—less is more! I like it!
He starts off by showing Genny his homemade ‘saline converter’ to turn saltwater to bleach, which he could then add to contaminated water to make potable.
I’m not totally sold on the chemistry(NaCl+H2O -> NaOH + Cl ->bleach?), but if it checks out, that’s not a bad little system!
And because David thinks ahead, he DIY’s himself a stringtrimmer motor/wood-burning steam engine contraption to charge the battery he’ll use to run his bleach-maker. I’m not sure how all that comes together—I have little mechanical knowledge of anything more complex than a forge-bellows, but if he can indeed charge a battery by burning sticks and small wood, that’s a winner.

After that, David reveals his build project: a geodesic dome shelter to resist the shaking expected in an earthquake.
He cuts the aluminum pipe framework pieces in his shop, assembles them with his dad’s help in the woods, and then drapes it with a big heavy-duty piece of signage tarp. The dome gets draped in three kinds of wire mesh (probably could have gotten by without the chickenwire), and is coated by sprayed concrete and then given a camouflage paintjob. It looks solid, if a bit melty organic, but to make sure they give us another requisite DP tannerite explosion test, with dad inside! (the shelter appears to survive).

I had a friend in the UP who built a shack along similar lines some years back—except he used steel cattle panels and reclaimed plastic sheeting and old carpeting, all bermed with soil, to make a sort of ‘longhouse’. Apparently it was pretty much invisible once the woods grew up around it.

Oh, and for lighting inside his dome, David installs a two-liter ‘light bottle’—a really genius DIY lighting system—and some DIY gutters for water catchment.

Anyway, geodesic domes (yay, Buckminster Fuller!) are always awesome, and I love the use of the reclaimed billboard tarp. For a non-mobile DIY bugout shelter in the woods, the sprayed concrete shell is probably pretty hard to beat (I wonder if their concrete sprayer would be compatible with any of the alternative ’cretes—something with more solar mass for passive heating/cooling?)

After watching this episode and about the same time coming across this art exhibit, I got to thinking about the utility of combining modern materials like David’s tarp (which already exist in great numbers) with traditional indigenous building shapes and materials. I can pretty easily imagine a band of neotribal folks walking or riding (horses—no Ancient Sunlight Juice for these sustainables) across the post-Long Emergency landscape (or even the Right Now landscape, if you can imagine such a thing!), towing their travois loaded with a couple of these waterproof billboards (emblazoned with images of golden arches or sports mascots or other similar logos that must have once held great significance to the old ‘uns of the Fourth World, but are now no more than mysterious runes) and a bundle of tentpoles, all ready to set up camp at the next watering hole.
Just something to think about, it’s always fun to combine ‘new’ and ‘old’ and imagine different ways of doing thing. After all, there is no One Right Way to Live!

How-to: Hurdles for Hobbits

Well, it’s High Summer once again, and you know what that means for we horticulturalists: gardening time! As you might expect, high-quality fencing can really come in handy—for partitioning crops, keeping unwanted critters out, or keeping wanted critters in.
Given the general state of The Mess these days, I feel it’s only appropriate to take a second look at those skill-sets that fell by the wayside in the course of our culture’s drunk-on-fossil-fuels bender of industrialization. Of course, the ‘old’ ways of doing things were—by their comparatively low-impact nature—far more sustainable than the way most do things now, and so are definitely worth checking out.
And so, we’re going to learn how to make WATTLE!

But for starters, what is wattle?

1 a : a fabrication of poles interwoven with slender branches, withes, or reeds and used especially formerly in building.

Believe it or not, ‘wattle’ is one of the oldest building materials known to man. The technique dates solidly back to Neolithic Old Europe, and conceivably could even have been used in the Upper Paleo/Mesolithic (as a very field-expedient fire-reflecting or windbreaking addition to a shelter?).
Although these days, most people’s only exposure to wattle is in a basic history class (where it is paired with ‘-and-daub’, usually in an off-hand reference to medieval peasant building techniques – in the same way that cob or adobe construction might get glossed over as ‘mud bricks’), this valuable skill is luckily still kept alive by village elders in those quaint corners of Britain where petroleum culture never fully caught on or was resisted.

Traditionally in Britain, wattle was built of coppiced hazel and willow, but since I live in the Ohio valley, and strongly believe in using materials native to one’s area, I am very fond of using river-cane (genus Arundinaria). A grasslike relative of bamboo, this wonderfully sustainable resource once choked the banks and bottoms of old Mississippia in the form of nigh-impenetrable ‘canebreaks’, providing a number of valuable materials to the locals. From this one plant can be made such a diverse list of items useful to Mississippian Hobbits like myself: atlatl darts and arrow shafts, musical instruments, drinking straws, needle-cases (and other tube-y containers), bedding, roofing thatch, and our focus today, wattle!

Fresh-cut river-cane

Fresh-cut river-cane

The same quantity of river-cane, with the leaves removed. Stuff an old-time mattress with them!

What you’ll need:
-raw natural materials (hazel, willow, cane, basswood, &c): a big pile of long pieces (~eight foot or so) for the horizontal weaving, and a handful of thicker pieces for uprights (~four foot tall).
-a hammer or post-driver
-a suitable outdoor workspace
-a free hour or two
-an open mind

(Note: While ‘wattle’ is the general name for woven wooden material, our finished unit is known as a ‘hurdle’.)

While most traditional hurdlers will start from a mould-board (a long, slightly-curved piece of wood to hold the stakes), for my quick-and-dirty uses I found that pounding the sharpened uprights about six inches to a foot into the ground works just fine. This leaves about three or four feet above ground for the height of the hurdle. Keep about twelve to eighteen inches between the uprights, and I’ve found that mimicking the slight arc shape of a mould-board works well.
*In my examples, the uprights are either apple wood, or leftover bamboo. If you use something like apple, make sure to orient the stakes opposite to how they grew (the thinner end should be in the ground), as the nubs of pruned-off branches really helps to ‘lock’ each course of material in place.

Note: the benefit of using traditional woods like hazel and willow is that they are very bendable. This ability comes in handy every few rows, when you want to bend the excess length back upon itself to keep the outermost uprights in place. Unfortunately, cane doesn’t lend itself to this tricky maneuver very well, so if you’re doing a cane hurdle you may have to use a row of one of these more flexible materials every now and then.

Once your uprights are in place, there’s really not much to weaving wattle, and pictures are worth a thousand words:

wattle-weaveDIGITAL CAMERA
Basically, just keep alternating weaving your long pieces behind and in front of your uprights, and twisting the ends back upon themselves every few rows. In an hour or two or so, you should wind up with something like this!:

A finished hurdle of apple-wood

Or this!

A finished hurdle of river-cane, with the leaves left on.

Or this!

A finished hurdle of river-cane, with the leaves removed.

As you can see, attractive—or at the least, utilitarian!—wattle hurdles like these can be assembled quite easily with only a little time and effort, and they make great ‘primitive’/’traditional’/’rustic’ accents to a garden plot or small livestock paddock.
However, as easy as they are to make, the one thing required for building them which most folks might have trouble finding would be the raw materials themselves! For those of you in the States who don’t have access to a private woodland, you might start by asking around at your local greenhouse or nursery.

Doomsday Preppers: David Lakota

We go from one extreme to the other, leaving Alaska for a visit to Hawaii, and a look at David Lakota. As the show describes him, David is a ‘New Age Spiritual Prepper’. Ohboy.
david-lakotaSo, not unreasonably, David has fears for a mega-tsunami that might hit the island. Hey alright, it’s Hawaii, center of the whole Ring of Fire thing, I get it.

Then there’s something where he talks about how he wants to get away and live “free of violence, pollution, hypocrisy, and the self-destructive nature of people.”
Look close, dear reader. Within that sentence hides a single word that holds the Big Lie of Our culture. Do you see it?

It’s people.

You see, David—like most of the folks in Our culture—is a victim of what has been called ‘the Great Forgetting’. The short version goes something like this: by the time aggressive agricultural (“civilized”) cultures started showing up in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ several thousand years ago, so many years had passed since the pre-agricultural times that folks forgot there ever was such a time: when they looked back on their dirty cities, miserable workers, corrupt officials, and intensifying warfare, they saw only farmers! They naturally assumed that farming and city-dwelling were the natural way for humans to live, and that humans had been born as such only a few thousand years before! They assumed that the wretched way they lived was just the way humans were meant to live, and all the bad stuff was just a result of some unsolvable flaw in ‘human nature’.
Of course, discoveries in the field of archeology have showed us that this notion is completely untrue, so the sooner Our culture can rid itself of this fallacious thinking, the better.
The truth is, not all people live a self-destructive life of violence, pollution, and hypocrisy. It’s not Humanity that needs fixing, it’s just one culture—Ours. /soapbox.

Now, should said Big Wave be forthcoming, how will David learn about it? Does he leave his NOAA weather radio switched on all the time? Does he get text-message alerts from the Pacific Seismographic Institute? Nope! He plans on predicting the wave based on his “mystical connection to the land”. Or, alternately, “in a bad dream” the night before. Ohboy.

So, if I lived near the ocean and was worried about a 300-foot-high tsunami wave, my plan might sound something like ‘live at high elevation, away from the coast’. If I heard about a tsunami warning, and happened to be near the coast, my reaction would be something like ‘grab my pack; get to the highest possible elevation by the fastest possible means’. David’s approach is quite different – because he apparently plans on outrunning the incoming wave with a fifteen-mile-long kayak trip! And with no supplies, to boot!
Now, based on what I know about how this show works, I’m pretty sure David’s profile is probably just ‘minimalist kayaking/hiking/rockclimbing canyon-adventure’, spun as a barefoot bugout…but I wish they would just come out and say so. As hippy-dippy as he seems, I have a hard time believing what we see is anyone’s disaster-escape plan.

And so, David—together with his partner Rachaelle—start their adventure with some sea kayaking, followed by some seaside stick-sparring of which we only see a few snippets. Somehow in the course of that, or landing the kayak, David cuts his foot, and their lack of first aid supplies means Natural Remedy Time! Yay! Rachaelle uses a noni plant to clean up his wound, which hopefully won’t become infected. Believe me, foot infections suck.

They continue moving—barefoot—upwards through the jungle, coming across a little waterfall. Before he whets his whistle, David explains that when doing anything—picking plants, hunting animals, drinking water, &c.—one should first ask permission of Nature, quieting one’s mind to hear the answer and such. Now, I’m totally onboard with that kind of stuff (in my interpretation, animism—because it seems that’s what we’re really talking about—is an underlying core of my Bendu-Jedi philosophy), and David is free to do so, but why does such stuff just sound phony coming from bearded white guys? I touched on this last season in my look at Ed Peden, but such stuff would sound totally authentic coming from an Amerindian, or a Pacific Islander, or pretty much any non-haole, really. Of course, there have been white cultures in history from whom this peaceful, ecocentric sort of thing would sound authentic, but unfortunately it seems they got Kurganized about six thousand years ago.

As I’ve said, they don’t have any supplies or food, so they’re probably getting pretty hungry when Rachaelle comes across some wild berries. Apparently it’s not a species that they’re familiar with, but don’t worry, because David has an incredible method for determining if they’re safe to eat. Now, he doesn’t follow the Army Universal Edibility Test, and he doesn’t carry a Petersen’s Field Guide for tropical plants. His method is as follows:
Option 1) Ask your Intuition, “Is this edible?”
Option 2) Ask Nature, “Is this edible?” Because “your body is an antenna”, or something.
Option 3) Just eat it! Because edible things taste good.


Alright, I’m going to attempt to speak David’s language. Dude, I will now use my mystik Third Eye to channel the essence of the great Atlantean high priest Nur-Ab-Sal to predict that YOU WILL EAT SOMETHING TOXIC AND DIE.

Seriously. Sure, I would bet the first Homo habilis or whoever started learning plants did so through trial and error (“Hey Grog, whatcha eatin’?” “Purple berries.” <Grog dies> “Hey everybody, don’t eat these berries!”), but once they knew, the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation. Injuns and extant hunter-gatherer groups know a whole ton of edible plants, but they don’t learn which ones are safe by just pulling the answer out of the air, they learn by being taught by their elders. So until you’re a member of a functioning tribe, you’re better off with a field guide.

By this point, they’re high up the canyon and getting pretty thirsty (remember: by the time you’re noticeably thirsty, you’re already two percent dehydrated). I guess they had already drunk what little water they collected at the waterfall, because David decides the best hydration source for him is his own urine. Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a prepper drink their own piss, but it is the first time they’ve drunk it straight—usually they’ll run it through a purifier or something first. But not David! He just whips it out, fills up a bottle, and takes a sip. Rachaelle says she’ll pass. At this point I have to wonder how much the producers paid him for this stunt?

Eventually, after some more hiking, scrambling, and free-climbing they reach the top of the canyon cliff. Yay, grungy hippy hug!

The experts tell David to consider storing food at his bugout location. Personally, I think for this kind of contingency it’d probably be best to keep it flexible and not have one set location to be heading for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hike with at least some food or supplies! I’m all about minimalism and foraging as you go, but even natives would carry some parched maize or jerky or whatever:
“they brought with him in a thing like a bow case, which the principal of them had about his waist, a little of their corn pounded to powder, which put to a little water they ate.” See? Injun cornmeal fannypack. Yum!

The experts also tell David to LEARN PLANTS, and for once, I can’t agree more.

 David gives us a post-filming update, in which he announces that “even more threatening than tsunami, government shutdown, or other natural disaster, is boredom, complacency, and indifference.” And so, with some Thoreauvian quotation (“in wildness is the preservation of the world”) I guess he heads into the wild with his knife, rope, tarp, lighter, and big white dog. Whatever, dude; good luck.

Doomsday Preppers: Snake Blocker

With the last couple of episodes, I’ve started to notice a trend of each episode only focusing on two groups (compared to the usual three per episode last season). And instead of splitting each episode cleanly down the middle, the segments have been coming out a little uneven – in fact, this segment received only about a third of the time devoted to the Seven Trumpet crowd.
This episode’s second individual is one Snake Blocker, jack-of-many trades currently operating from around Denver, Colorado.
snake-blockerHe’s of Apache descent, and seems pretty in touch with that side of himself, which is good to see. Too often modern Native Americans get lured in—and ground down—by the call of White culture. Nice to see Snake’s kept his head.
As our narrator introduces him, we hear how he always tries to emulate his ancestors’ ways of life, and uphold their traditions. Apparently this includes interpreting dreams and prophecies, which leads him to conclude that the US economy is bound for collapse. Wait, he had to interpret his dreams to deduce that? Hell, I know it’s assured, and I’ve never had an economic dream (tons of dreams about air- and spacecraft falling out of the sky, though, for what it’s worth). I’m sure his Apache forebears could’ve told him the same, based purely on observations of our culture’s counter-to-the-laws-of-ecology foundation of infinite expansion in a finite world.
Of course, when it comes to holding onto your ancestors’ lifeways, it’s pretty tough to get by on hunting-and-gathering in the impoverished ecosystem this culture has left in its wake. Then again, when your ancestral lands are stolen by a genocidal culture who believes Their way is the only right way for people to live, what do you expect?

Snake’s biggest motivator—and challenge—is his new wife Melissa. He wants to be able to provide for her in any contingency, but isn’t sure if she’ll be able to ‘rough it’ when the time comes.
And Snake has a novel strategy of survival, one this bunkers-and-guns-heavy show rarely features: when things go south, he plans on grabbing his partner, hopping on his motorcycle, and going nomad.
(While I agree with his reasons for choosing a motorcycle—primarily the ease of navigating congested roads—it’s important to remember that a bicycle has the same advantage, is only like, 1/10th the weight, and requires zero fossil fuels).
So to put themselves to the test, Snake and Melissa head for the hills, where they’ll try out some survival skills to see if they’re up to the challenge.
First up is staying hydrated. They come across some stagnant puddles, which they drink using some of those third-world-water filter straws. I like the idea of having a disposable way to suck water directly out of the source, but they have their disadvantages too. First of these is capacity—each straw is only rated to filter something like, twenty gallons. Second, they’re based off that ‘activated carbon’ stuff, which I’m pretty sure don’t handle the two big guys when it comes to dirty water—giardia and cryptosporidium. To take care of those, you’re better off boiling water, or passing it through a heavy-duty Katadyn filter or the like. Actually, the Lifestraw is probably the optimum for short-term outings (what with its’ 1,000 gallon capacity, ability to filter the important critters, and light weight).
There’s a shot of Snake trying to swish water from the puddle into the narrow neck of what I swear is a Red Stripe bottle. Ideally, you’re better off with a wide-mouth bottle, but if you don’t have one, an empty ziplock-type bag—or a condom, in a pinch—can make a handy water-scooper.

Next challenge is staying fed. Obviously not nearly as important as water (after all, you can survive for three weeks without food but only three days without the wet stuff), but nobody likes to be out in the woods on an empty stomach. Snake finds a monstrous ant mound and digs out some six-legged snacks. He eats some of the ants, but unless you’re in an area with those honey-assed ants, I wouldn’t bother. Instead, focus on something that can’t crawl away or bite you—larvae! Ray Mears demonstrates a great way to collect larvae (get the bugs to work for you!) in his Belarus bushcraft film.

After Melissa passes on the creepy-crawlies, Snake decides to try for something more meaty, and actually shoots a nice big jackrabbit, right through the eye. Better yet, he doesn’t use some big, ugly, black plastic gun, he uses a wooden bow! Finally! Man, I really mean it when I say there’s not nearly enough archery on this show!
Like I said, there was a time when you couldn’t throw a stick west of the Mississippi without hitting a buffalo or elk or something sizeable to eat, but not anymore, so they have to make do with the rabbit. Snake skips his knife and skins the rabbit with the teeth in a coyote skull (somehow), whips up a fire with a bow-drill, and roasts the whole critter, eyes and all. And major thumbs-up on thanking the Great Spirit for the nourishment the rabbit will give them. I was kind of surprised he didn’t do it when he shot it, but he made up for it at suppertime.

With water, food, and fire taken care of, I’m disappointed they didn’t have time to tackle Shelter. Especially since the couple passed a little wikiup framework when they reached their camp, I would’ve liked to see how he made it sleepable, but alas, we run out of time. Like I said at the beginning, Snake really gets the short end of the stick in the episode, which is too bad because I would’ve liked to see more of him, particularly because folks with his kind of survival approach are criminally under-represented on this show. As he says, folks with alternate methods of supporting themselves (in other words, those who don’t have to rely on the locked-up food at the supermarket) are the ones who will really be able to survive.

In their assessment, the ‘experts’ suggest that Snake get familiar with snares and traps (they say hunting is too much work), and I’m inclined to agree. Of course, there’s no reason to keep everything primitive; you can throw a couple of large Victor traps in your pack, and a medium-sized Havahart trap on the back of the bike, and you can catch anything from packrats on up to cats!
However, despite the fact that he seems perfectly competent to handle himself in the wilderness, in the end the ‘experts’ give Snake just 48 points for four months’ initial survival (which is the second-lowest score yet).
This is just further proof that these so-called ‘experts’ are unable to objectively evaluate someone who operates under a paradigm completely different from theirs. I shouldn’t be surprised, though; I first started leaning towards this conclusion when I tried the ‘How Prepped Are You’  feature (what the experts supposedly use to calculate the scores) at the NatGeo site; clearly, the brains behind the show—victims of our culture’s myth of Progress—cannot imagine a world in which one’s odds of survival have nothing to do with how much one has stockpiled (whether of food, water, paramilitary guns, or high-tech gear).

In his update, Snake sounds like they are setting up the makings of a nice homestead at Melissa’s parent’s house.

Doomday Preppers: Derek Price

The second group featured in the ‘superbunker’ episode is Derek Price of Bear Grass, North Carolina.
Daniel, Haven, and Derek PriceDerek and his family run Deadwood, a Wild West-themed park that they use as a profitable cover for their prepping activities.

Price is worried about a solar flare and/or EMP that will “end civilization and send us back to the wild west!” A bit later on he says something about how he fears a disaster that would be responsible for “sending our way of life at least back to the wild west.”
There are a couple of things that need to be dealt with in those statements. First off, our conception of the so-called ‘Wild’ West is largely a result of Hollywood Westerns and dime-store novels.
Second, as long as people keep thinking like this, the only result of something like a massive solar flare or EMP would be a regression in our level of technology; Derek’s statements reveal Our Culture’s assumption that civilized people in our past somehow lived differently than we do today. The fact of the matter is—technological inflation aside—our ‘way of life’ is the same as that of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, English, and just about every other Empire of the last 6,000 years or so. The Old West, even in its non-Hollywood reality, was still Civilized.

However, yet again, the real fear isn’t having to live without juice, but the “lawless days that might ensue if society breaks down due to loss of electricity.” I wonder if learning to live with less electricity would be a good start? Y’know, wean ourselves off?, so that when the effects of peak oil (which already happened, by the way) dramatically rear their heads, we’ll be used to it? I’m a big fan of the Transition Town movement.
So, while his driving concern is the same as everyone else’s, in a departure from others on the show, Derek is at least able to admit and possibly embrace his paranoia and obsession. It’s a nice change of pace from the suburban folks who look at the camera and say, “I’m not crazy!” as they stack cases of astronaut food; Derek just shrugs and says, “Eh, maybe I am.”

Derek gets together with his brother Daniel (ex-military type) to review possible sniper positions around Deadwood. To patrol their property, they use their miniature train powered by biodiesel. That’s pretty shiny. Then they cut some bamboo punji sticks. Some folks will say, “Bamboo in North Carolina?” It’s not native (though related to native river-cane, which once choked the banks of all the big rivers in the Ohio valley) but I say it’s a sustainable, sturdy material; go for it.
They stick the punjis in the ground, test ‘em out with some kind of dummy, and determine that the intruder would be lethally wounded. Daniel seems pleased, and remarks, “…that person’s dead, and that’s what we want!” WOW. I don’t think we’ve yet heard such blatant death-mongering on this show. Along the same lines, earlier one of the Prices remarks that “If an EMP were to hit, this is where I’d want to make my final stand.” Right, because like everyone else in this terminal death-culture, you’re at war with the world.

And then they wheel out the CANNON. Yes, you read that right. Cannon. I guess they have several around the park for demonstrations and ‘atmosphere’, and they want to see about using them for defense. So, to test the shot spread (to find out if it’s an effective defensive weapon?) they load it with plastic BBs and Pydrodex-type ‘gunpowder’, and then take about five tries to get it to fire. No wonder! Swap the modern powder for some good old-fashioned Black Powder, none of that needs-open-flame-to-ignite junk.
The whole cannon Charlie Foxtrot leads Derek to conclude that “vintage weapons are unreliable.” Hmm, do I detect the voice of Our Mother Culture and her myth of Progress (newer is always better)? If you think vintage weapons are unreliable, I suggest you visit your nearest frontier rendezvous shooting-match, and watch some of the old-timers use their handmade flintlocks to reach out and touch small targets at ridiculous distances.
Also, I understood the cannon was supposed to be part of their wild west show? If so, why do they act like they’ve never used it before?

As part of their anti-intruder techniques, Derek is teaching his son to “patrol in the dead of night”, which is funny…because it looks like the middle of the day the way they seem to have every light in the place switched on. What I don’t get is this: if they’re supposedly preparing for a scenario where the grid doesn’t exist, you’d think they would practice in a situation that approximated what they expect to deal with. Y’know, like with the lights off?

So, they want to do an invaded-by-marauders drill. They divide up into two teams and make their battle plans. Our narrator informs us that they’re wielding “real weapons…but the safeties are on.” Doesn’t matter; firearms should always be assumed to be loaded, and if they are (I swear I heard someone chamber a round), relying on a manmade mechanical device still doesn’t mean they’re safe.
Then there’s the bit when Derek’s eleven-year-old says he’s going to “get his assault rifle”. Ohboy. That’s exactly the sort of thing—especially in this post-Newtown environment—that will give the anti-gun lobby some very potent ammunition (pun…intended?)

In their analysis of his preparations, the experts tell him to beef up his water storage; Derek counters that he can filter (what’s already naturally-occurring on his property?). In the end, he gets 68 points, which now somehow works out to twelve months (funny, the last guy got eleven months for the same amount)?

In the post-filming update, Derek and his dad demonstrate the hand-pumped well they’ve put in. Nice to see a slightly more Appropriate level of technology to get their necessary liquids (compare to Bryan Smith who insisted on hooking his aquifer up to electric pumps and fossil fuel-dependent generators).

Doomsday Preppers: Bryan May

This episode ends with a look at Bryan May and his wife Lacey, who live somewhere in Indiana.
bryan&laceymayThey’re shall we say, entrepreneurs (they own a car stereo business, breed bearded dragons, and run an adult toy website—how diverse is that?), and even though I have it on good authority that the family ‘preps’ for general disasters, their producer-enforced single issue is a New Madrid quake. There’s a bit where they look at a map of the continental US with a hundred-mile-wide ocean running straight through it; it’s intriguing but pretty much geologically-ignorant.
At one point Bryan looks into the camera and says, “If there’s a quake, we’s going back in the Stone Age for most of us.” I’m sure the producers had something to do with that, but it’s still totally wrong. If a long-term disaster goes down and the three-day grocery store supply chain is disrupted, most people won’t be going back to the Stone Age (and blerg, how I hate that term and the whole Three-Age system as a whole), because that would require a functioning method of passing on Stone Age lifeways and skills, something Our Culture has been determined to obliterate since we decided that totalitarian agriculture is the only way for people to live. Damn the Eurocentric Myth of Progress!

Bryan’s big thing they focus on in the segment is bartering. As he says, “Bartering should be done a lot more. Bartering pretty much built the world we know as it is—and then we got sidetracked with paper money without backing.” I would generally agree. As for creating ‘the world as we know it’, as an unrepentant primitivist, I’m obliged to ask if that’s necessarily a good thing. The shift in Our Culture from a tribal-support-as-wealth economy (a flatter, more egalitarian social organization) to one based on shiny-rocks-as-wealth (pyramid-shaped society) allowed for the first time for wealth to be concentrated in the hands of an elite few (today’s One Percenters). However, unlike in the prior three million years of human evolution, once physical Stuff became wealth, a person could become ‘rich’ by acting purely selfishly, whereas in our tribal days, one amassed wealth by acting in the interests of the whole tribe. Going back to using the material on which our system is based (even if you’re cutting out paper notes as Bryan does) won’t necessarily make that system work any better. Using shiny rocks is silly anyway, ‘cause you can’t eat ‘em! I’m all about a Barrelhaven-style eggs-as-currency economy.

Like the Sellers from the end of last season—a couple with whose preparedness approach I had big objections—Bryan converts the bulk of his earned money into hard gold and silver. However, unlike John and Christine, Bryan actually uses his hard currency—incredibly, this segment should’ve been called “Gold and Silver: Not Just For Hoarding!” Bryan shows off his sweet rooftop solar-power setup—paid for with 23-and-a-half ounces of silver—which he hooked up diy-style along with a wind turbine to a series circuit of 40 car batteries in the basement. Major thumbs-up on emission-free energy! (Thumbs-up on the rainwater-catching tanks, too!)

Like most on the show, he’s interested in getting a shipping container (I guess to expand his already-jaw-dropping amount of canned food?):The guys come by with a container to let Bryan check it out, and he asks if they’d be interested in bartering for it. Before the commercial break, the producers edit this to seem all dramatic, like the guy selling the container thinks Bryan’s crazy for suggesting barter, but after the break the guy is totally interested and not at all weird about it. Producers making drama everywhere. Bryan ends up trading the guys some gold cards and an old SUV for the container, which is a pretty sweet deal.

The never-contented ‘experts’ give him 71 points for 13 months, and tell him to keep up with the Joneses and get HAM radio.