The Survival Course- I took Five Years Ago

nothingcoursecertificateI posted this under this year, as this blog is being redone and truly there were no posts until September except one because I deleted my old site. Yet this was worth sharing. I am posting unedited.
Below is all about the nothing survival course I took- at least the parts that are grabbing me to share. Feel free to ask me questions. I’ll answer what I can. It was originally written on June 16, 2009.

There was 6 of us in the class and Cody (our guide/trainer). First of all the 6 of us composed a tribe for the weekend. We needed to work together and come to a consensus on the decisions made. (We actually all worked very well together and even when we didn’t initially agree on what needed to be done, a consensus was reached fairly easily, especially after Cody would give us the pros and cons of the various aspects. Remember we went out to start with nothing back to the time of modern human’s earliest ancestors- we had nothing but the clothes on our back, a bottle of water and iodine (brought by Cody so we all didn’t get sick drinking the water) and a trash bag.

When we got to the site Cody had us all drink as much water as we could hold as water is essential in keeping the body temperature at 98.6 degrees (See Cody Lundin’s book 98.6 degrees and The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive. ) We went over how to make our drinking water safe- we had no containers per se and unfortunately our modern water is very polluted an not considered safe for humans to drink otherwise Cody said we wouldn’t even have been given the water bottles. A note iodine is NOT a safe way to treat drinking water for pregnant women and those with thyroid issues. If either of those conditions are true try an alternative method such as bleach. All that is needed to make water safe to drink is 5 drops of iodine to a U.S. Quart or European Liter left to sit for 30 minutes (2 fingers movement of the sun). Each finger equals approximately 15 minutes with a fist equally an hour. For instance to know how much sunlight is left in a day one would find the horizon and then take their fists and measure from the horizon using one fist on another until one reaches the sun and that will tell them approximately how much time is left until the sun sets.

After the initial discussion we decided the first thing we should do is explore where we were going to be. Lucky for us there was an extremely small creek for our water… yeah! Ok just so you know running water is no better than any other water, Cody insists this is a myth. So we were showed the proper way to sanitize our water. If we had been more advanced we could have boiled it (all that’s necessary is to bring it to a bowl but we hadn’t discovered containers yet…. Ideally if our water wasn’t so polluted and not safe to drink he said he would have made us lean over and drink out of the creek but its not safe to do that.

Then we went back and discussed what we should do next and explored the pros and cons. It was decided that although shelter was important and supposed to be the first thing we do that our clothes were some shelter and we might need tools like knives to make shelter, so since we didn’t really have what we needed to make shelter we decided to first make what we needed to make the shelter which was knives- this is where we learned very rough and basic flint knapping! Yes I was able to make a basic knife but its not easy and I must practice this skill A LOT! The good news is I get how it works!

Ok so we got knives and one guy even successfully made a kind of hand ax! Yeah! So we discussed what to do next and we decided it would be best to find out where we were going to set up camp. We split in two teams to find a place, we decided on a tree that had lots of cover above and lots of various windbreaks- trees, vines, shrubs… around for our shelter- it had layers of leaves above us which would help block rain if it should rain.

So, what were we going to sleep on- we didn’t want to sleep on the green grasses below (we were in a Riparian area- it was gorgeous) as they hold water and would get us damp and make us cold so off to collect dead desert grass for bedding- that was truly a job there’s not as many in any one place as it appears- very deceiving! So after we had at least enough to keep our core heat loss areas off the grass and decided it would do for the night we discussed what we should do next. We decided we needed fire.

Fire… that wasn’t easy and we almost didn’t get fire. As Cody went to demonstrate all sorts of unexpected issues came up so as Cody tried we all started trying. Cody says this is where so many experienced people make mistakes you never know what might happen. Willow is supposedly a good fire starter as a spindle not this night! It was to wet, it just wasn’t cutting it and it was what should have been perfect and felt that way to the outside touch. Well, we got our money’s worth on the course because we advanced beyond the friction method to a more advanced method and still hadn’t conquered friction with two pieces of wood. Someone needed to sacrifice a shoestring- then we could have a bow to start the fire. I didn’t have any so it wasn’t going to be me… someone sacrificed their shoe string and Cody starts working the bow drill while we still keep trying with the friction method. Oh no, the shoe string breaks before the fire starts! Its almost dark- we may not have fire. Then someone else offers a shoe string, it starts fraying and before it breaks we get fire! Yeah! After all that, Cody gifted us with his fire! A really good suggestion as it’ll pay off in a survival situation replace your shoe laces with parachute cord! Its much stronger!

Now its dark, we talk for a bit and review the day. Cody tells us we may want to us our trash bags to keep warm but to be careful as the hold moisture as it evaporates off the human body which happens- cold or not! Trust me! It got very cold, our bed wasn’t the most comfortable but better than being on the green ground. The temperature dropped to 44 that night. 14 degrees colder than what I expected when I checked it before going but we were an hour away from where I checked and the climate was a bit different with it being a Riparian area. We huddled and kept the fire going through the night. We slept in our trash bags, which helped but remember that moisture thing. Another thing is never put off getting up to going to the bathroom because you’re cold, it makes you colder if you’ll get up and go you’ll warm up. I forget the reasoning but my experience says its true!

With not tons of sleep we made it through the night! We get up and Cody asks how we are doing. Most are pretty hungry and we’re all kind of tired. Somebody was really looking out for me or maybe it was all that water. I never did get hungry. Then Cody asks if we’d like to learn to make ash cakes to eat. We agreed not knowing what we were agreeing to. Then we get a gift! A one pound bag of flour Cody brought! What? We thought there would be no food- research what you can use to make flour in your area these are yummy and will get you some nutrition in a survival situation. Ok, so we have flour what are we going to do with it we can’t just dump it on the fire… Cody opens the bag and shows us. Being extremely careful not to get the bag wet as then you’ll have a mess he makes a depression in the flour and adds a little water and you make a small dough ball and press it out like a tortilla if there are currants or berries available they can be pressed in, you don’t want it sticky at all as you are going to lay those babies on the coals! They are good and you can keep the extra in your pocket for later.
Don’t go wash your hands in your water you’re just putting muck in it use your drinking water and wait to make more or just pick off what you can and let the rest wear off!

I forget when we gathered the Dog Bane the day before- maybe before the fire. I really don’t remember. We gathered year old Dog Bane (not the green and not the brittle two year dead stuff either- it was a brownish red color). Now we are going to learn to make cordage! That was really cool! I loved it! Research the plants in your area that you can make cordage out of, try it and get the principles and then look around to find on your own what you could use… you could make strips out of clothing…. You can practice the wrapping with yarn and thread but you need to practice making the fiber too! Then you can make all kinds of neat things clothes, sleeping mats and covers, baskets, traps… all the things you need cordage for.

Then we made the rock trap I forget what it was called. I learned a lot including how important the selection of sticks for this is… take it slow and pay a lot of attention to each step it’ll save you time. Don’t just rush to get to the end.

Then we had a nature walk and Cody told us about all the edible and medicinal plants that he knew in the area. Then we came back to camp and hydrated and discussed how we were feeling and such so we would remember when it was all over.

Time to clean up- we learned to leave no trace. Down to how to properly leave no evidence of our fire- including yes getting rid of the carbon properly, getting rid of our bedding and our work materials and such!

Also I didn’t mention don’t make a white man fire, use no more fuel than you need. A good rule take and use no more than you need, you’re wasting precious calories that you need to survive. Practice the skills so you spend less calories in a survival situation. Learn some plants in your area you can eat. Learn these basic skills! The more you know the less you need!

For me I was amazed to realize at the end I was reluctant to leave but I always loved being in the woods which may be why I struggle with this high desert environment. In the end we agreed that working on shelter (namely bedding first) the second day would have been a priority if we were to be there another night and obviously various other things if the stay was extended. Its a much slower pace of being and attention to what you are doing is important or you may waste those precious calories. It was a very empowering experience as I succeeded at some things and some thing will take practice but now I know how it works and can practice and plan to. I also learned knowledge areas I would need to work on for better survival probabilities. Cody pointed out in our time the problem is we don’t have in our families any longer the wise elders that teach us these things as children. It really helped me see the wrong dream we are in and how the fast pace of our lives keeps us from being truly present and we aren’t paying attention really to what we do and buy any longer.

It also got me to thinking maybe I don’t have to kill off my salt cedars they may just be a fiber source and never grow big enough to take all that water… I can make cordage, baskets, maybe even shelter with them in a creative way. Its changed how I look at so many things in my environment, like we could have eventually weaved grass mats or something to sleep on… it also makes me more aware of the life and symbiosis of all around me. Its touched me on a level I can’t say. Once I got home last night and got a chance to chill I had so much coming to me as I started remembering- the primal remembering is what I speak of.

I want to take his nine day course where the whole process evolves a bit further!

May you walk in beauty!