Project status update

Where does the project stand?
Video Blog: On January 1st I will post an hour and a half talk I gave about the project to the staff of the Meyer Memorial Trust, the largest foundation in Oregon.

The Tipi: I was planning on building an underground shelter in my friend Erins backyard when she suggested, half serious, that I just live in a Tipi. I laughed, and then thought, “what the hell?” It’s such an Indian cliché that I didn’t want to go there, but I thought the irony of it was funny. And I like funny things. So I bought a Tipi, actually called the “Scout Tipi” by the manufacturers. Haha. It’s about 8.5 feet in diameter. I built a fire pit in the middle and started a fire. Almost immediately the Tipi was full of smoke, suffocating everyone inside. Luckily I’m not the only ascetic person Erin knows; that night she had a friend over who makes his living building wheelchair accessible tree houses around the world. He had once lived out of a Tipi and told me that I needed to get a “liner.” I did some internet searches and found out there is a lot more to Tipis than I, and most people, think. I found a book called, “The Indian Tipi” that my mom actually gave me a few months ago, before I was even thinking about living in a Tipi. It’s a great book that covers so much more than Tipi’s. From the outside, a Tipi looks like it’s just a canvas or buffalo skin cover wrapped around some poles. The Liner is a piece of fabric or leather that hangs inside the Tipi adding more insulation and providing a draw of air in the passage between it and the cover, pushing the smoke out at the top. It also creates a shield so there are no shadows cast on the cover of the unsuspecting insiders. I am sewing a liner for the Tipi out of wool, which was not recommended anywhere, so I’ll let you know how it goes. When I am done this is going to be one dope Tipi.

The Scout Pit: Me, Pete and Kyle built an underground scout shelter in my backyard at one of my Sunday Schools a little while ago. Turns out it’s filled with water now. We couldn’t find enough thick branches to cover the whole all the way across, so we filled the spaces with a lattice of twigs. There weren’t many twigs so we put leaves on top of the twigs, then the soil back on top of that. I’ll probably end up tearing it apart when I have more time later in the year, and once it dries out I’ll test it out.

Solar Power: I have assembled a solar kit; solar panel, charge controller, battery, female cigarette lighter adapter, and a power inverter that fits into that. I’m not quite sure what I can power with from the battery.

Video Gear: I have all the video gear, except I accidentally ordered a 6 to 6 pin fire wire cable, and I need a 4 to 6 pin cable. I’m working on the second Video Blog. Don’t know when that’ll be up yet.

Shit Bucket: I’m reading “The Humanure Handbook.” It’s about turning human shit into a nutrient rich soil through thermophilac composting. Many people have asked me what I’m going to do about shitting. I’ll get back to you on that, but I’ll tell you that the Humanure Handbook is really making me think that shitting in a bowl of fresh water that you then dump into rivers is a really gross and unsanitary thing. More unsanitary then say, shitting in a bucket and dumping that into an outside compost pile.

Other gear: I bought a small hand axe, a saw that disassembles, a small cast iron dutch oven. For some reason I have this incline against modern tools. A voice says, “That’s not primitive!” But I’m ignoring that voice now, as I’ve learned it’s bullshit to think you can survive without tools until you’ve had the security of them already there.

Philosophy: Sasha and I were walking to a Thai restaurant the other night in the bitter wet cold of the Northwest. As we walked in bundled silence I began to wonder… what the fuck am I going to eat? You know the indigenous people who lived in the Northwest mostly slept through the winter, occasionally eating some salmon they had smoked weeks or months before or eating dried berries and probably some fermented food. I keep thinking, what the hell am I going to do? They had a routine that was thousands of years old. I have a few skills gathered here and there. It made me realize that to the indigenous person, there was no such thing as “wilderness survival.” They had all the time to make tools and find food. They knew where it all was, had caretaken it for thousands of generations. No wonder their lives were so laid back. Seeing it in this reality feels daunting to me. Old emotions of anger come boiling up. Why did Civilization have to fuck this all up? Why did I have to be born during the worst age for humans? I guess it’s just more clarity for what I am trying to do with this whole project, which is to find a way to return to that life. To start a routine that will be carried out and transformed each generation until there are again more salmon in the river than there is water, to use one example. I especially like the sleeping through winter part, especially right now.

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3 Comments on “Project status update”

  1. Hey, cool, I’d not thought of doing scout pits as an option, the underground-ness seems to be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. Is water typically a problem when they’re more solidly constructed? How far down do you dig? Do you have any suggestions for minimizing the amount of work in constructing them? And lastly, or maybe firstly, is there a resource I can use to find out more about scout pits?

    What are you thinking about the logistics of having a compost bin for your “humanure”? Mostly, where are you going to keep your bucket and compost bin? I’ve thought about doing some sort of a mixture of the Teaching Drum practice of “Da’i” (giving back) and humanure, but my parents are uncomfortable with me doing either on their land. And I don’t really have any other place to put a compost bin, and I can’t really see carrying a bucket with me everywhere: “What’s that?” “Oh, that’s my shit bucket.” Hmmm.

    I’m probably going to buy very similar items — a small hand-axe and a small cast-iron dutch oven are on the top of a very short list. I’m not sure what I’d need a saw for yet, exactly. How are you imagining it being useful in a way that the hand-axe wouldn’t be?

    What you wrote for “philosophy” really resonates with me. I often question just what the hell I’m doing, how the fuck I imagine I can do any of this stuff when I’m so far removed from everything that was before. But this anger is a drive, and it’s empowering. I’m glad I can feel the anger instead of just numbing it away like I used to. I’m using the fire to blaze a trail back home.

  2. Hey, I was wondering if you got this comment in the flurry of my other comments. If you did already then I apologize for being redundant.

  3. Scout pits. Hm. I think Tom Elpels guide to Participating in Nature has got some really good tips for them. I’m thinking they work best in sandier soils, not clay soils like the one I made. I’m not sure there are quick ways of doing it. Sand is quicker than clay. Sand drains water, clay doesn’t do much. I think it’s about soil, placement, depth, and good construction. The one I built should have taken us another day of digging and log collecting. The problem is… it’s too much work. Doesn’t really follow the “art of nothing.”

    As far as the Humanure thing goes. Willem has one of them already at his house. He has a bucket in the bathroom, and when it gets full, outside it goes. As long as your sprinkling some sort of thing like saw dust on top of it, it won’t smell. I’m trying to figure out what I’ll do when I’m not near the bucket. I’m going to make another one near my Tipi I think. Otherwise, if I’m in the bush, I’ll dig a little cat-hole. If I’m in Downtown portland, I’ll use a public bathroom.

    A hand axe might be all you need, but a hack-saw can cut through metal. It might be quicker and quieter than chopping wood with a hand axe as well. I don’t know.

    The anger drives me too. But you have to let yourself freak out and cry about it sometimes, otherwise it can get held up in your body and make you sick I think.