Sunday, June 1, 2014

Primitive Living Skills and Back to Nature

I can't remember when I first saw Mother Earth News, but it was a long time ago. Maybe as long ago as when I was in college in the early 1970's.  Back then everything was aviation for me, but while I was looking at Air Progress and Air Combat magazines at the drug store across from the campus, I am pretty sure I saw Mother Earth News.

  At the time, it was a counter culture magazine. Their articles focused on rather bizarre topics like living in yurts, or growing the best "hemp."

But I notice now that with the large numbers of people trying to get out of urban environments and be self sufficient, it has become far more practical in nature.

These "Back to Nature" people aren't survivalists. They aren't even preppers, for the most part.  Instead, they just want a lifestyle change. Even if they live in the city and have no hope of escaping it because of their work, they dream of "some day."

I don't buy Mother Earth News, even though there is an overlap between the survivalist and "Back to Nature" philosophies. I have given some thought to picking up a few of their CD based anthologies, but haven't done it yet.

I suppose there have always been people who wanted to keep all the amenities of modern living, but who also wanted the "feel" of a more simplistic life style. These people are about appearances, not substance.

Lots of magazines cater to these folks. The magazines  are primarily oriented towards interior decorating, antique furniture, and areas where this kind of thing is much in vogue but not too far from the latte shop.

I think of these magazines as catering to people on the fringe of the "Back to Nature" mind set.  They don't have anything at all to do with self reliance, gardening, solar power or any other really useful aspects of simplified living. Primarily this class of magazine is just to thumb through and think "well, when I move out to the country I have to make my kitchen look like this."  No harm in them,  just not much help.

   There are a lot of new magazines out now that are designed for people who are really serious about going back to rural living, or who are already there.  I have looked through this one and it has some value. In fact, even though it has no content that could be construed as survivalist, it does have a lot of information on self sufficiency.  I'm considering buying these.  I'm not a farmer, but there are issues in The New Pioneer that I'm interested in.  New ideas and new sources of ideas are always welcome.

The very name of this magazine is off putting to me. I think they could have done a lot better, because the people who buy it are not, as far as I can tell, rich people with little farms to potter around in.

The folks I see scanning the magazine at the store, and buying it, look a lot more like individuals who have a little land around the house. People who are interested in doing their own gardens, having their own chickens, but don't have a huge amount of space for it.

Since I've had animals up here for years, and don't do much gardening, it's not one I buy. But if I had , say, a two acre lot in suburbia, it might be just the thing.

Backwoods Home Magazine  is right in between the "Back to Nature" people and the Prepper/Survivalist sphere.  It's very old.  Some of the articles are written by staff writers who have become well known in the self sufficiency sector.  Massad Ayoob does firearms related stories. Jackie Clay is another staff writer, well known for food preservation and gardening stores.   Many of the articles are written by readers with some special knowledge or experience to share.

Then there are the "primitive skills" folks.  I'm not sure what to say about this group. They aren't survivalists or preppers. They aren't "back to nature" people .  Instead , they tend to focus on a period of history and try to replicate it.  Some of them are part timers, but some of them go the whole hog and do this year round.

They tend to fall into two categories. There are the 1820-1887 (roughly) time period practitioners. The mountain man period (1820-1845 approximately) is the most popular in this category.  Then there are the Stone Age practitioners.

American Frontiersman  is designed largely for the mountain man crew.  There are articles that would be useful to both the "Back to Nature" people and to the self sufficiency person. I almost bought the last issue of this magazine, because there were articles that I found interesting.  I didn't because too much of it was related to the mountain man lifestyle in which I have zero interest.  I should mention that these magazines are not for the people who like to reenact and get together for the weekend rendezvous , although I suppose they would be useful to people who do that.  They're really designed for the actual application of skills essential to that period of history.

The Backwoodsman is a strange little magazine that you find on the shelves at the grocery store magazine rack at odd intervals.

It is comprised primarily of articles written by the readers, and it's a skills magazine. How to make a knife from old iron, build a canoe, black powder weapons, buckskin clothing are the kinds of things you find here.

I do buy this one, when I find it, because the people who write the articles are the real deal. I may never forge a Bowie knife in a homemade blacksmith shop, but it's interesting to see how it's done.

I consider this more recreational reading than survivalist research, but you never really know. Sometimes I've learned useful things reading this magazine.

Then you get to the furthest extreme in this whole spectrum of the self sufficiency - back to a simpler time range of people.  These are the primitive skills aficionados.  There are more of them than you might suspect in the United States.  Essentially these people follow a neolithic life style. No metal implements, no modern fabrics, tools, medicines.  They barter with others of the same mindset for what they can't make themselves. It would be natural to say "no, nobody would do that" but it would be wrong.  The new member of the Dual Survival series is touted as one of these people, having lived exactly this way for 26 years in the Utah canyon country.  Or, so they say. You know how Discovery Channel is.

I  met some of these individuals up in the  mountains, some years back. I'm at a loss really, when I try to describe them.  About all I can say is that there have always been people who chafed at any kind of constraints, and living this way removes that problem. If you live so far back in the desert, or mountains, or forest that you never run across people, you can live how you like. If you never need anything from a town, it doesn't matter how you dress (or don't dress).   I've always thought it was a little weird that there are magazines for these individuals, because I can guarantee you the real deal type primitive living persons aren't hiking into Walmart to pick up a copy. So who does read them?

One thing about this group.  If the society does implode, they'll never even know it. Nothing will change for them. The last day of the old age will be exactly the same as the first day of the new age.

That's a thumbnail sketch of the different philosophies of life and the varying life styles that are all close to but not the same as the self sufficient way of living.  We're all similar, in some aspects, but different in others. Lots of the people whose blogs I read are not survivalists or preppers, but I learn some useful things from them. I suppose in the end, ideas useful to one set are often of value to the others.

Post addendum:  I added Self Reliance after someone reminded me of it.


  1. The ten dollar price tag keeps me from purchasing a couple of those magazines.

    1. Ouch - translated that equates to ZAR96.00 - that is way expensive for a magazine over here!

    2. Some of the magazines I buy are a bit pricey, but I enjoy them. I also keep them for my reference library. Lately I've been buying digital magazines when I could. They usually cost the same as a paper copy, but are easier to file and to access.

    3. Unique Outdoor Survival Skills

      Don't you find it ironic that even with all this scandalously expensive education, people today know so little?

      If they can't even fix their car, how are they supposed to handle a - let's say - long term food shortage?

      You can't possibly hope they'd know how to garden and produce their own food, save seeds for next year, and use leaves plowed under to fertilize the soil.

      Not to mention trapping, catching, skinning and cooking a rabbit...

      These may seem advanced outdoor survival skills now, but back in the days, they were merely called "Living".

      Watch this short video now and discover a set of unique and fantastic survival skills used and perfected by our ancestors.

      Don't wait for the next crisis to hit and live to regret you had the chance to learn these skills but didn't.

      Click here to watch video!

      Thanks again.


  2. I reckon that the magazines are read by people who they are applicable to, and who will apply the ideas discussed therein to their own situations, but, as you say, not necessarily by the people who are living remotely and basically shunning society. That issue of MEN appeals to me - is it recent? Also, the BHM. Such a pity those magazines are not available here :(

    Yeah, I also find that helpful hints and tips from other blogs are great - the beauty of blogging is easily being able to share what one knows / discovers, and, if it helps someone else, so much the better. Makes it all worthwhile.

    1. Dani, Mother Earth News has been around forever and always will be, it has a big following. They were smart enough to recast the magazine to take advantage of the growing "Back to Nature" and prepper movements here.

      Backwoods Home Magazine is a good one. I didn't like the old editor, but they have a new editor now and she is much less abrasive. You have a Kindle? You can get both Mother Earth News and Backwoods Home delivered digitally to a Kindle no matter where on earth you are.

  3. I have met a few guys who bragged about being primitives, either in hunting particularly or overall and on close examination their "primitive" outings weren't all that long nor successful. Maybe I just found the fakes but I take that type with a grain of salt anymore.

    1. We participate in re enacting the fur trade era. A few people stay primitive but most just hide their modern conveniences. I for one like having my food stuffs in a cooler.

    2. Spinnersaw, my brother was into civil war reenactment. He had a great time. Some folks do this mountain man thing full time. I knew a fellow here who did that. I think he liked being "a character" but I also think he liked living in a cabin with no power, black powder hunting, smoking a clay pipe and it just kind of worked out he lived that way more than him trying to consciously do it. He got cut and got gangrene and died though.

    3. PP, I can't see why anybody would want to live that way, but the people I met were the real thing. I wonder why the mountains attract all these extreme people? I like a little comfort in my life, running around in a loin cloth and eating mice has little appeal for me.

    4. I actually wasn't referring to the reenactment crowd. They are usually up front about things being a weekend only and what they do to hide certain things. The civil war guys are usually more straight period only than the others. No the ones who claim they are complete primitive living types and try and hunt with adaladals or however that is spelled. I have met a few of them and have never been overly impressed.

      re-enactors ont he other hand have often impressed with their skills and abilities.

    5. Hippies with bows and flint arrowheads.

    6. I knew what you meant. I'm not referring to re-enactors, I'm talking about the people who actually try to live that way. Don't see it, myself.

  4. Harry thank you for your input to these magazines. It saves me time and money. I have bought other magazines in the past only to be disappointed in the article, or too many ads.

    1. Rob, you never know by the cover, do you? I've bought a few in my time that didn't pan out as well.

  5. Harry - i always enjoy your reviews on books, magazines, products, etc. they are always very thoughtful and unassuming so please keep them coming.

    back when jam and i were living in the city, people called us tree-huggers and hippies...simply because we were practicing urban gardening in order to move here and do it full-time. i don't care what anyone calls us - we helped out on the American Preppers/Canadian Preppers Network for several years and took it very seriously until it became too commercial.

    i would like to see any so-claimed "survivalist" come out here and shovel our driveway by hand, as jam has had to do for so many years. as for the hard-core - try boiling snow over a fire and bathing in a bin for over a month in an uninsulated house!!!

    i don't know what category we fall into and i really don't care about names and titles. as for loin cloths - well we garden naked - bahahahahahah! honest to goodness - i think we might be primitives - bahahahahah!

    all this is just joking and just to say that i don't care for names, groups, titles. and like PP (and oh how i hate to admit that i agree with him) - some of these primitives are what we call weekend warriors. i do agree with you that some of these people exist, but i tend to think of those types as hermits...and hermits have been around since the beginning of time.

    much love to you and yours always. your friend,

  6. Kymber,
    You wouldn't be primitives because you and J use modern technology. I think you would be a survivalist because you couple natural living techniques and self sufficiency with political and cultural awareness. Also, and this is a big factor, you acquired self defense technology and training.

    I tend to classify the folks who are not worrying about anything in particular, don't follow events, but would just like to live a simpler life in a rural environment as back to nature types. There's nothing wrong with that. They'd still be better off in a collapse, assuming they didn't immediately become victims of predation. Most of these people don't own firearms, or know anything about them. Again, that's not said in a derogatory manner, it's just a fact. I think that a good many of them who make the jump and move out into the country have their eyes opened and change some of their beliefs to fit reality rather than the "Kumbaya" teachings of the television news.

    Isn't running around in the buff a bit awkward when you have unannounced visitors? Seems like you'd have to get back to the house before they got within visual distance?

    I don't think I want to come shovel snow, I've done that and it wasn't fun. As for bathing in a bin, I like my big cast iron tube and hot water from the hot water heater. I suppose I'm a bit soft in my old age, and I could live rough if I had to, but I wouldn't want to! You two are improving your place and adding comforts pretty fast, so I know you feel the same allure of an easy life!

  7. Hey Harry,


    I got a plan. I will go beyond "Neolithic Skills" and go back straight back to "Homidid Skills" (you know ancient homided's like the "Lucy Skeleton)

    Yeah' I want to be one of those dudes on the first "20 minutes of 2001, A Space Odyssey"

    I want to kill a saber tooth tiger with a jawbone of a dead horse and then throw my jawbone 20 feet in the air and jump up, all around and beat my chest (Maybe I will get lucky that night with one of the females:)

    Maybe I will put an add out in craigslist (cave woman wanted)

    The next magazines I'm sure will be:

    Ice Age Skills
    Jurassic Skills
    Triassic Skills
    Cambrian Skills
    Pre-Cambrian Skills

    As per what Kymber said, If I had a girlfriend or a wife. There is "No Way" I could garden naked with her....

    I would not get anything done. I get too easily distracted by naked women.

    On a side note' Jambaloney, (kymbers husband) try shoveling sand (and removing tumbleweeds) from a from a house that's covered in sand and tumbleweeds during a West Texas sandstorm.

    1. Did you ever see the remake of the scene you are referring to that was in Mel Brook's History of the World?

      I guess you might get into trouble in a nudist camp, eh? My middle brother tried to go to a naked beach in California, fell down the cliff and seriously skinned his rear end. He told me when he finally got down there to the beach, all the women were ugly and he got sun burn on some parts of his anatomy not normally exposed to the sun. Didn't work out too well for him.

    2. Hey Harry

      No' did not see that 'Mel Brooks History of the World"

      However I did see "Space Balls" about 200 times.

      (the last part on Spaceballs that played homage to the first 'Aliens" movie was one of the funniest parts ever on any movies I ever did see)

      I would get into trouble at a Nudist Camp. I was in the Navy' Enough Said.....

  8. There's a pretty funny parody of the scene in the History of the World. Check it out if you see it on tv one of these days.

  9. I know some folks who are into the all-nature deal. The Wilderness Way reader has a day job, but probably lives (or wants to) in a tiny little cabin in the woods. They strike me as being of the neo-hippy set. Their politics is informal but seem to fit in more with being liberal libertarians rather than outright anarchists.

    1. That's what I told PP. They are hippies with flint tipped arrows. The people I met were harmless enough, but the lifestyle seemed pretty marginal to me.

  10. We get Mother Earth, an occasional Backwoodsman and I also get Mary Jane's Farm because it also has things for crafts, camping, etc. She was a forest ranger so this isn't just a girlie magazine but does include other items of interest. I would get the New Pioneer but these new magazines are almost $10 and I just can't pay that much, even for a quilt magazine with patterns. Hobby Farms was too farmish but I like it so Hobby Farm Home would interest me except I see so much of the same thing on line that I don't subscribe.

    1. Magazines do cost a lot, but reading them is one of my minor vices. I spent a lot of time looking through magazines. I enjoy the advertisements as much as the articles most of the time.

  11. Ah, good ole' Wilderness Way, its gone the way of the dodo I'm afraid. I was a subscriber and was stuck with only a partially filled subscription.

    Self Reliance Illustrated is still alive and well, well known Dave Canterbury is still at the helm. Sort of mix of old and new, they do seem to advertise a lot of 'bushcrafty' items. Backwoodsman is more my style.

    1. I forgot Dave Canterbury was associated with Self Reliance Illustrated. I should have included a picture of the magazine in this post.