8 Primitive Skills That Could Save Your Life
Primitive skills refers to prehistoric handicrafts and pre-industrial technology. Primitive skills are those skills that relate to living off the land, often using handcrafted tools made from naturally gathered materials. Examples of primitive skills include:
1. Foraging native plants and animals for food. This skill set often includes medicinal herbalism, edible wild plants, making and deploying primitive traps, snares, fishing rigs, and bows and arrows.
1. Black Mustard – The mustard leaves are eaten raw when they are young and tender. The leaves can be minced and used in soups. Mustard flowers and the unopened buds add a pungent flavor to other raw greens.
2. Wild Oats – The grains of every grass plant can be eaten. The seeds can be roasted and ground into flour. Then, it can be soaked in water and boiled into mush.
3. Sheep Sorrel – Only the leaves are picked. It can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves have a tart taste due to a high concentration of oxalic acid when eaten raw.
4. Bull Thistle – When thistle is young and the leaves are still in a basal rosette, the roots are edible. The stalk can be lightly cooked or eaten raw. Simply peel the thorns off the young stems and leaves and eat it like celery. Being related to artichokes, some of the thistle flowers have small edible “hearts”.
5. Manzanita Berries – The red berries are gathered and ground into a coarse meal. Water is added and allowed to steep to make a cider. The red berries can be picked and chewed to draw out the sweet taste from the rind.
6. Yucca – The flowers and bulbs are edible raw, although light cooking (such as steaming or boiling) improves their flavor. The raw fruits are edible, but the flavor is improved by boiling or sun drying. The young, first-emerging stalk is also palatable cooked.
The fibers of the leaves (or the leaves themselves) were made into sandals, mats, whisk brooms, string/rope, baskets and soap.
7. Gray Pine Nuts – The cones are gathered to extract the nuts. The shell is cracked and the seed is eaten.
The pine needles can be steeped in hot water to make a tea. Dried pines needles can be gathered to provide a layer of cushion and insulation between the cold ground and you. Pine resin can be gathered on the bark for making an adhesive or pitch filler material. The resin has anti-bacterial qualities and can be externally applied to small cuts.
8. Blue Dicks – The underground corms are dug up and eaten raw or lightly roasted over coals.
9. Miner’s Lettuce – The leaves, stems and flowering stalks are palatable raw. It can also be cooked or steamed.
10. Stinging Nettle – Gather only the tender nettle tops. Be careful of the hair-like needles on the plant that can sting you. The nettles have formic acid. If you have gloves, use them. Or wrap your hand in a T-shirt to pick the leaves. The leaves are cooked to make a delicious and nutritious soup.
The dry stalks contain silky fibers that can be made into cordage. The best fibers are gathered in fall.
11. Yarrow – The leaves and stems can be crushed and used on wounds, cuts, scrapes, rashes and burns. Yarrow can be applied on the spot to help stop bleeding and aid in healing.
Learn to identify and prepare the plants you can use for food, medicine and tools in different regions. Their unique characteristics can supply you with raw materials to construct shelters, build fires and make cordage, as well as provide for other necessary needs.
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Finding Food in the Desert
They did not have summer rain or a dependable water supply, so they could not grow corn or other field crops. They had to keep moving about, seeking food–thus they could not live in villages.
During their yearly march they found an amazing number of things to eat. Tribes of southern California used 60 different plants. Preparation of the food was hard work. Thus, they had to crack acorns, remove the kernels and pound them into meal, then treat the meal with hot water to remove the poisonous tannin. They beat the tiny seeds from flowering plants and ground them into flour on a metate. The women made gruel from these meals and flours. They cooked it by dropping hot rocks into a tightly woven basket that held water and meal. The thick gruel could be eaten in the hand.
They pried up bulbous roots of the camas lily and baked them overnight on hot rocks covered with earth. Berries, seeds, and nuts were dried for use the following winter.
The Seed Gatherers ate quite a few things which other people would think unpleasant. These included crickets, grasshoppers, insect larvae, ants ground into flour, and certain lizards and snakes. When bigger game was scarce, hunters were glad to dig out a nest of pack rats or to trap ground squirrels, rats, or mice.
The tribes in northern California and in the foot-hills found deer, antelope, or elk. Elsewhere rabbits supplied most of the meat. The men made fiber nets to trap them. They stretched a net across a feeding patch and drove the rabbits into it. The animals became entangled in the net and could be killed easily. A curved throwing stick was more effective than a bow and arrow in hunting rabbits, quail, and ducks.
Tribes near the lakes, the salmon rivers, or the sea caught fish with nets or used spears with stone points or bone barbs. Sometimes they threw a poisonous plant into the water to stupefy the fish.
Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters. They are found in brooks, streams or lakes where there is fresh water running and have shelter against predators. Crayfish are omnivorous, eating just about anything they can find or catch. They feed on living, as well as, dead animals and plants.
The easiest method to catch crayfish is by hand. All you need is a piece of string long enough to cast out to where the crayfish are hiding or crawling on the bottom of the stream.
Various traps can be constructed to catch crayfish. Secure the trap with heavy stones. The rocks will keep the trap on the bottom and from drifting away. Also tie the bait deep inside the trap and attach a cordage or stick to the trap for easy retrieval.
Crayfish traps made from willow.
A crayfish trap was improvised from a netted carrying bag. Flexible willow branches were tied with willow bark to the four corners of the netted bag. The willow branches kept the net structure open. Stones were tied to the net to weigh it down and cordage was attached to the bag strap to haul it in.
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2. Skinning and preparing game, including hide tanning with bark or brains, harvesting parts of the animal like sinew for bow string and sewing thread. Primitive cooking methods include rock pits, spits, and open-fire.
Food historians generally agree the first cooking method was roasting over an open fire. Discovery is attributed to happy accident. Boiling was no accident. It was a carefully considered process achieved with tools crafted specifically for the purpose.
Early primitive methods
“Although the accidental discovery of roasting would have been perfectly feasible in the primitive world, boiling was a more sophisticated proposition. According to conventional wisdom, prehistoric man went to a good deal of trouble for his boiled dinner. First he dug a large pit in the ground and lined it with flat, overlapping stones to prevent seepage.
Then he poured in large quantities of water, presumably transported in skin bags. Other stones were heated in the campfire and manhandled by some unspecified means (possibly on the bat-and-ball principle) into the water to bring it to a simmer. The food was then added and, while it was cooking, more hot stones were tipped in from time to time to keep the water at the desired temperature. it is possible. There is no law that says thing have to be done the easy way, and the method is still used by modern tribals. But, in terms of discover, it makes sense only if the idea evolved, imitatively, in some isolated part or parts of the world blessed with hot springs–as in New Zealand’s North Island. Hot water being a rare natural phenomenon, both idea and method would subsequently have to be disseminated by migrating tribes–which could explain why there is no indication of the technique being used before 5000 BC.
One reason for the anthropological popularity of the pit-boiling theory is the belief that until the advent of pottery, cooking potential was severely restricted; that, lacking containers that were both heat-proof and waterproof, boiling was impossible except by the pit method. But that is not the case. Several perfectly viable alternative containers have been available for thousands of years, and the idea of boiling could well have been suggested by the fact that when meat or vegetables with a high water content were crammed into one of these containers over the fire, they sweated out an appetizing liquid.
In many parts of the world large mollusc or reptile shells were used for cooking in, as they still were on the Amazon in the nineteenth century…In Asia the versatile bamboo supplied hollow sections of stem that could be stoppered with clay and one eng, filled with chopped-up raw ingredients and a little liquid, then stoppered again at the other. The method is still used in Indonesia today. In the Tehuacan Valley of Central America, in about 7000 BC, the people who lived in rock shelters and gathered wild maize for their food had already begun to use stone cooking pots.
These, once made, were cited in the centre of the hearth and, too heavy to move, left there permanently. Long before the advent of pottery and bronze there was one kind of container that was widely distributed, naturally waterproof, and heatproof enough to be hung over, if not in, the fire. This was an animal stomach…With the advent of cooking, the notion of simmering the contents of the stomach in the stomach-bag itself would emerge quite naturally…By about 13,000 BC leatherworking techniques had improved so much that skins had come to replace many of the older containers. After skins same pottery, which was succeeded by bronze and then iron, from which most cooking pots continued to be made until the twentieth century.”
The hand drill is a similar tool, but uses a longer, thinner spindle; and instead of a bearing block and bow combination, the downward pressure and spinning is achieved by rubbing the hands together around the spindle. As the hands move downward to the base, where the drill is pinched and the hands are brought quickly to the top one at a time. This can be made unnecessary by cutting a nock at the top of the drill, tying a cord through this, and then putting your thumbs through loops in the cord. However, skilled operators can either maintain pressure with their hands almost stationary vertically; or, in a movement comparable to floating, can “float” their hands back to the top of the drill. There is a more limited choice of materials to use with this method, needing much softer materials, such as mullein, yucca, cattail, and root wood.
A pump drill is a simple tool used to make holes in light materials by hand and has been in use for centuries. The drill itself is composed of: the drill shaft, a narrow board with a hole through the center, a weight (usually a heavy disc) acting as a flywheel, and a length of cord. The weight is attached near the bottom of the shaft and the hole board is slipped over the top. The cordage is run through a hole near the top of the shaft and affixed to either end of the hole board so that it hangs just above the weight. The end of the shaft usually has a square hole made to fit certain sized auger bits or a simple triangular bit made to cut while rotating in both directions.
To use, one hand is placed on the hole board while the other turns the shaft to wind the cord around its length, thus raising the hole board to near the top where the cord becomes taut. Placing the tip against the material to be drilled and held upright, a smooth downward pressure is exerted on the board, causing the drill to rapidly spin. Once the bottom is reached, the weight is relieved and the drill allowed to rebound re-winding the cord around the shaft and the process is repeated. It is a skill simple in concept, but takes some practice to master and greatly speeds up the process of making small holes.
4. Basketry includes the identification and harvesting of appropriate materials, and many basket and weaving types. Popular primitive basket materials are pine needles, wild grape vine, and split oak bark.
5. Pottery can include the gathering of native clays, shaping and decorating raw vessels, and firing the clay in an open fire
6. Weaving including finger weaving, netting, back-strap looms make up a large art-form in and of itself.
7. Pigmenting fiber, leather or pottery with natural dyes like the yellow of goldenrod.
8. Flint-knapping is the art of lithic reduction, or breaking rocks at specific angles and places to form working tools like arrowheads.
Choosing the proper materials
The best stones for making arrowheads include flint, chert, obsidian, jasper, quartzite and other stones that are somewhat brittle and have a fine-grained, uniform texture that is free of cracks, fissures, and fractures. Glass and porcelain can also be used. You can also tap the stone and listen to the pitch. Stones that produce a higher pitch when tapped are generally better for knapping.
To break apart and shape your material you will be using some simple tools for percussion and pressure flaking. These tools can be made out of antler, soft metal, soft stone, bone, or very hard wood. The best pressure flaking tools are made with an antler or copper tip.
Interest in primitive skills has coincided with a resurgence in interest in natural and self-sufficient living techniques.
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