Week 8: Tipi or Not Tipi?

I’ve asked myself this question for several months, and today I pulled the last stake from the ground and dismantled my tipi.

Often times when people want to make a decision they will make a pros and cons list. My mother often instructed me in this exercise as a child. Today I rarely, actually never, physically write down a list. I just think about things in my head… and maybe I think about them a little too much.

In order to fully understand why I needed to dismantle the tipi, I needed to look back and reflect on why I got it in the first place. Why the fuck did I get that tipi? Well, my original plan involved camping in various backyards of friends. I wanted to build underground scout shelters in these yards and just hop from one to the next. I nice idea, but way off base. After building one scout shelter in my friend Al’s yard and seeing it become an instant pond, suitable only for the loch ness monster, I knew I would need to change my strategy. Erin suggested a tipi and though I thought it may look terrible, I also found humor in the irony. So I ordered a small childs size (hell I have short legs!), constructed it and learned a lot more about tipis.

Fast forward several months. I know the natives of this region did not use tipis. I know that the moisture of the northwest encourages all kinds of mold to grow. I know that they lived in cedar houses here, which have rot resistant properties. I even figured that a tipi would end up getting moldy. But I never thought it would happen so fast!

I began sleeping in the tipi in early April. I slept there about 50 percent of the time and over at Sasha’s the other 50 percent. I’ve read that indians had fires constantly going in tipis, keeping them warm and dry. Because of the size of my tipi, I could not have a fire in it comfortably. I rarely had a fire in it, and even then not for very long. For this reason, the ground under the tipi remained somewhat damp. I put down cedar bows hoping that would discourage mold and rot. I sewed a wool interior or “lining” as some call it. The cedar bows lay between the wet ground and the wool lining, however the lining never seemed to dry out. Though it didn’t seem to mold either.

When Sasha and I broke up I started sleeping at Erins house, only not in the tipi, but in the guest bedroom. I wanted to re-evaluate why I chose a tipi and if it has helped me get where I want to go with this project, at all. So a few weeks of depression, confusion and trips out of town with my family, kept me from checking on the tipi. During this time the average daily high-temperature rose from 55 degrees to 65 degrees to around 70 degrees. The other day my friend Melani took some pictures of me for a ReadyMade magazine article (comes out in a few months, I’ll post which issue up here) and we shot a few in front of the tipi. When I lifted the door I found a surprise: THOUSANDS OF EARWIGS! Yes, like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I climbed inside and found another surprise; Mold. LOTS OF MOLD.

Insects hatch, mold blooms. Ah, I just love springtime in the Northwest. No seriously, I love it. But this… I don’t know. I realized the time had come to throw in the tipi and move inside.

I have problems with moving inside… The first obviously problem I see involves paying rent, which wraps me back into the monetary economy. The second problem involves the lack of primitivism or perceived primitivism in living in a house that remains hooked to the grid, the water, the internet. I mean, I need those things, but I feel weird getting them this way. I feel like civilization has yanked my leash and reeled me back in. And maybe it has. But really, I have to keep referring back to my own writing on what it means to live primitively.

You see, I have this Tom Brown Jr. shit engrained so fucking deep in my head I find it near impossible to dig out. Though I spout that primitivism involves people living comfortable lives in their bioregions using thousands of years of traditions… I still have this idea that primitivism means “walking into the woods with only the clothes on your back.”

Primitive peoples of the Northwest lived in houses. So why do I insist on sleeping in moldy, non-bioregion specific shelters? Oh yeah, I thought it would make people laugh. Well, I guess you can have the last laugh. I’ve moved indoors…

I took some pictures as I dismantled the tipi that I’d like to share with you. This first one shows you how the lining works.

This next photo only reveals a glimpse of the number of earwigs I found in here. I guess they had mostly dispersed by the time I took this. Though they seem spread out and in a small cluster, the whole tipi looked like this. Gross! But also… fascinating!

Next we’ve got some of the mold. Remember, none of this existed 3 weeks ago.

You can see in some of those pictures that the mold actually ate through the wool! I planned to throw the whole interior lining away, but Erin encouraged me to save what I could. The wool that did not touch the ground seemed fine, so I walked around the tipi and trimmed it off, leaving the moldy part on the ground:

Then I threw away the moldy wool and put the cedar bows in a pile to burn. Underneath the cedar I found another world of crazy insects and spiders, like these gems:

Ever seen a tipi track before? Check out this one:

Okay, and now I give you…

Urban Scout’s Weekly Laundry List: Week 8

I think I got that one covered already.

Still drinking from the tap.

Played with fire. I mean, metaphorically.

Flora Food

Sandy River Score

1. Broadleaf Plantain – My friend Shaun Deller says you can eat these. I always just thought they worked well for bee stings.
2. Dandelion Leaves – A good standby. Bitter, but I mean, all this shit tastes bitter.
3. Chickweed – I hear this gets women totally fucked up, yo.
4. Miners Lettuce – Another good standby.
5. Young Salal Berry leaves – I don’t know. They looked good, so I ate them.
6. Stinging Nettle – I picked this shit barehanded, using the pinch technique.
7. Salmonberries – I made these into a smoothie!

Fauna Food
Delicious store bought meat. I need to go fishing or something.

Walk and bike. Bike finally working okay.

Before, I used to take a shower every morning. No I shower maybe once a week. Mostly because I don’t have a towel and don’t want to keep borrowing shit from Erin. I mean, it feels hot enough now to shower with rain water in the backyard. I’ll try that one this week.

I’ve had some alcohol here and there and in between. I got into a show for free at the Doug Fir… I still don’t know how that happened. Know the right people I guess. Other than that, biking for fun, writing for fun and cooking for fun. Real exciting, no?

I haven’t had much time to think about practicing awareness. Now that I’ve moved into Erin’s though I feel like my new routines will work well for this.

Did I meet last weeks goals?

Well… Since I didn’t even have any goals last week… Yes! I met last weeks goals! Finally, a score of 100%.

Okay, but seriously… These goals I set the week Sasha and I broke up, so I will try to have these goals finished for Week 9:

* Burn Bowl. Make one dammit! (I got the bowl but not the burn)
* Boil spearmint tea with hot rocks. (Nope)
* Set up a dead fall, work on a snare.
* Work more on stone axe.
* Make spear blade.
* 5 more entries in the Rewild Field Guide

Okay. Thanks for reading!

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11 Comments on “Week 8: Tipi or Not Tipi?”

  1. I once worked at a porno shop three days a week and lived in my woods the other 4. Quit the job when they wouldn’t let me cut it down to 2 days a week since I didn’t need that much money. A single guy needs a membership at the Y for showers and a beat up hatchback for delivering pizzas, sleeping during the night between two shifts, and transport to the nearest suitable woods.

    Don’t get stuck worrying about using civilization if it gets you out of it. Worrying somehow just makes it harder to leave the asphalt. Hunter/Gatherer is not Earner/Planner.

  2. I am glad to hear you snapped out of your slump, Scout. I was worried(sort of) about you.

    Tipi: It sounds like it pretty much sucked, but I am glad you went through. First, b/c I had thought about a tipi, but after seeing you I changed my mind. It is very wet and humid here too. Second, adversity builds character, not that you are lacking as a character.

    Civ reeling you back: This one sucks, but this is the world we live in now. I think the biggest secret to rewilding/primitivism is to realize we can’t be them(real H-Gs). We can be the halfway or intermediate steps. All you can do is try, and remember: Trying is more than anything anyone else is doing.

    You know we’ll all be there for you, bro. Good Luck!!

  3. plantain leaves are nice. they have sort of a nutty taste.

    chalk the tipi up as a Feral Failure and get some credit in Penny’s club. i’m glad you tried it. it would have been awesome if you could have made it work, but even though you couldn’t, you still learned things and you still stretched yourself away from the civilized norm.

    i’m with rory on the “Trying is more than anything anyone else is doing”. we’re fighting a huge machine in trying to break free from the civ. snap-backs are part of the fight. so you get your water from the tap. just because you live in a house instead of a tipi doesn’t mean you have to drink from the faucet. you can still shower and drink from rain barrels if you want to.

    by the way, i like the numbered foraging picture. very instructional. if i ever become a foraging and rewilding teache… I mean a “fine, upstanding high school teacher” (looks around to make sure nobody heard the subversive slip up) then I may use your idea for some instructional slides for our Yummy Yummy Yard Munchies lesso… I mean our “Microecology of the suburban lawn” lessons.

    now go make your fucking burn bowl already.

  4. Haha. That picture dissappeared because they might use it in ReadyMade magazine and it can’t be posted here yet. If they don’t use it I’ll post it again.

  5. i don’t think you had a choice really, that thing was just way too small for you. Have you ever been in an actual tipi? they are very comfy, cozy and dry. I honestly believe that if you had the proper sized tipi, you would be maxin and relaxin as we speak. oh yeah, and why not build a little cedar hut? you can’t tell me you can’t find some somewhere out there? get on it.

  6. I agree Kurtz. It was just too fucking small. From what I have read, a larger tee-pee would have worked much better. Though I still think that a communtiy would help keep the tee-pee going.

  7. Sorry to hear about your Tipi disaster,
    Why not try a small yurt made from found/recycled materials.
    To keep bugs at bay I smudge the lodge daily,though I’ve been told some plants are naturally bug repellent. I have no clue as to which though as smudging has always worked for me here in Pa and even in eastern Oh.

  8. Next time build the tipi on a raised floor. Scavenge some decent pallets and a few sheets of used plywood for the job. Lay a tarp or something else waterproof over the pallets, but don’t cover the ends. This will allow ventilation under the tipi which keeps mildew to a minimum. Leave a small opening for a fire pit in the center of your tipi or use a hobo stove. Very easy to make a hobo stove. I have two. Safer than a campfire IMHO and uses a lot less wood. Cook full meals with just a few handful of twigs and thumb-sized sticks. Google the instructions. YouTube has good videos of hobo stoves.

    With all the rain you talked about, make a rain catcher and store the water. Rain water is worm and virus and bacteria free. Rain water is considered soft water and won’t have the minerals that tap or well water will have though.

    A mild solution of bleach and rainwater sprayed on mold spores kills them and keeps them from colonizing.

    Native Americans lived in tipis, yet traded for white man’s goods and there was no shame to it. You could do the same. Trade yardwork, etc for bleach or other items you need.

    Wood ash contains lye (hard woods contain the most potash lye) and spreading the hard wood ash around the exterior part of the raised floor of the tipi might keep the earwig problem to a minimum. Salt water would kill them, too. Salt water kills grass though. Old motor oil kills bugs, but pollutes ground water. Use very sparingly, if you do use old motor oil.

    I’m not too concerned about bugs in my tipi. It’s rattlesnakes and copperheads that concern me. I keep anything that might attract anything a snake eats sealed up or burn it in the fire. I roll up my bedding and stuff it in a sack that I seal, so a snake can’t get into the bedding while I’m out running a snare or dead fall line either day or night. I keep a cat around to run off snakes, too.

    Pitch the tipi with a bit of a slant towards the bedding area. This gives you more room in your bed without butting your head on a pole. Even a tiny tipi like yours could use an ozan ( a tent within a tent ) to make sleeping more comfortable during a rain storm. Plus you could put a mosquito net up around the ozan, too. I live in the Deep South and the West Nile virus is killing more people every year. My sister’s ex-mother-n-law died last summer from WNV. My tipi will always have the mosquito netting around the ozan.

    Hope that helps. My tipi isn’t much larger than yours, but I live in a much dryer climate. Oh, and never pitch a tipi directly under a tree or have large tree roots exposed under the tipi. Trees attract lightning and widow makers can fall off a tree at any time and pierce right through canvas like a sharp knife.

    Woods Woman and Bubba the Cat
    Semi-fictional short stories about our lives over at Writing.com

  9. By the way, use dead falls in the city limits, if you are going after rabbits. Rabbits trapped in a snare can scream LOUD and it sometimes sounds like a child screaming LOUD from being terrorized. Cops showing up with you having a blood on your hands from killing a rabbit might keep you in lock up with wEiRd people who think you’re cute and easy despite your protests. The cops will have the blood tested to see if it is human or animal and that might take a day or so. Probably laws against hunting/trapping within a city limits, too.