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Friday, February 20, 2009

Whatcha Need? Whatcha Got?

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To admit that we might go hungry without the benefit of a grocery store would seem ludicrous to many of our grandparents. Have you noticed that simple, creative solutions escape us when we accept the thinking that without "A," "B" cannot be done?

This point was driven home for me as I visited a village a few years ago. We stopped to watch a canoe being made. The artisan explained that no metals tools were needed for the task. Of course, with a chainsaw and some carving tools, the project could be finished in a day with the help of some skilled friends. The artisan admitted that this was true. Everyone nodded in agreement.

THEN this wise man noted that there were limits to such assembly line thinking. The team working with modern tools would be limited by their brute strength, speed and the number of hours in a day.

He went on to describe how that even children could fell a stand of trees and simultaneously produce a fleet of canoes within a matter of weeks (or days) -- all without modern tools. Even working around the clock, the team of strong men couldn't match that.

His methods were both simple and reproducible.

* Locate a source of water and mud.
* Pack the mud around the tree on all sides -- about 6 feet high (or as high as you could reach) -- and leave an open space to expose the trunk on the downhill side of the tree.
* Build and tend a HOT fire at the open spot in the clay.
* Periodically, pull the fire away from the tree and scrape away the charred part of the tree.
* Repeat this process until the tree falls. Tend the flames carefully so that the tree does not catch fire. This can be done with more than one tree at a time if you are industrious. http://www.native-art-in-canada.com/fellatree.html

* Place wet clay beneath and around the sides of the felled tree.
* Keep this moistened throughout the process.
* Chip away at the topside of the bark and create a flat surface.
* Build a fire along this topside of the tree and keep it smoldering.
* Several times a day move the coals off of the surface and scrape away the charred parts of the tree trunk.
* This can be done with clam shells, hard wood, or other homemade scraping tools.
* Repeat until the log is hollowed out, creating the canoe shape.

Once you have become experienced, several canoes could be made at the same time using any person old enough to know how to tend the fires -- enough to barter or trade for other goods/services. While the strong team of men with modern tools could produce a finished product faster, they could not match potential numbers produced by the less labor intensive method.

The point of this article is not to teach you the finer points of tree felling or canoe construction using alternative means. Rather, it is to encourage you to think outside the box. Instead of thinking "I cannot secure shelter, food, clothing without money to secure tools, cloth, lumber, or whatever," we may be better served by taking inventory of what we DO have and finding ways to utilize that. If you don't have the manpower for a large task, harness the power of the raw materials at your disposal -- water, fire, clay, sand, plants, animals, etc. -- and work efficiently rather than just intensively.

We may not be able to build a factory and mass produce identical products for wealthy consumers, but -- just as the natives without modern metal tools and a team of strong men -- we can find alternative ways to secure what we need.

If you have a skill that you enjoy, make yourself valuable to others and trade your time for the items you lack. You might need a cabinet. The local carpenter might benefit from the wild grapes you harvested, or the jelly you made. You may not eat ham, but your local vendor might be offering you a free ham with your purchase. You could trade your free ham with your neighbor for a couple of his free-range chickens. Your talents and abilities, used wisely, can be traded for the items you lack. Has there been a giveaway on surplus thingamabobs and you haven't ANY use for them? SOMEONE has a use for them. With a couple of trades, you might be able to put yourself in a position to negotiate for a needed item.

Kyle MacDonald is a young man that decided he wanted to become a homeowner. Starting with a paperclip he began to 'trade up' hoping to reach his dream. Fourteen months later, he traded for a house! Click on the video below to see a news report about Kyle MacDonald and how he became a homeowner.

The ability to think about using time and talents as currency is definitely a skill worth having in today's economy. You may find that all of that 'useless junk' you've got laying around is valuable to someone that holds a treasure -- at least it's a treasure to YOU. It's worth considering.

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a perpetual student of things I find interesting and (I hope) helpful to others. Feel free to use and apply all information with a healthy dose of common sense. :-)

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