Thursday, March 18, 2010
Homemade huaraces with used lawn tractor tire soles
I've never really been a runner. I ran track for two seasons in junior high, but I always preferred bikes and skateboards to moving on my own two feet. This changed last week, at least for the moment. I came across this blog while checking out this blog that a friend told me had a link to my blog, whew! It turns out that there is a whole counterculture of runners who believe that the modern running shoe and the way we run is unhealthy, and that running barefoot or in very thin huarache sandals, like the Tarahumara of Mexico, is the way we were built to run. Supposedly the Tarahumara are know for their ability to run "hundreds" of miles without a break and with ease.
I got all excited when I read this because I like inexpensive sports and human-powered ways of transportation. Bikes are human-powered but definitely not inexpensive. So, while I will always remain a cyclist, for now I am toying with the idea of running barefoot. I have been practicing in the field where I live and even on the city sidewalks. So far I feel great. My muscles are a little sore but this is, I think, only because I rarely run and I am finally using those muscles.
The sandals of our early ancestors. Buffalo rawhide soles with brain tan buckskin lacing. I made these last month before I even got into the idea of running in sandals. I'll have to see how they hold up. The soft fur makes them look like primitive bathroom slippers.
Monday, March 15, 2010
In my wilderness survival and primitive living skills workshops that I teach through TrackersPDX, one component is wild edible and medicinal plants. I've been taking photos of certain edible plants that can be confused with very poisonous plants. The reason I do this is that at certain times of year these plants look very different from one another but at other times in their life cycle they can be easily confused. For example, wild carrot (Daucus carota) and poison hemlock, (Conium maculatum). No relation at all to the conifer called hemlock. The carrot family (Apiaceae) contains many cultivated edibles such as carrots, parsley, fennel, celery, parsnip but also some very poisonous plants such as poison hemlock and water hemlock. As you can see from this photo taken in mid-February, both look very similar at this point. As the poison hemlock matures it grows much larger than the wild carrot and is easy to distinguish the difference. Unfortunately the time of year when it is best to harvest wild carrot, is now, in the spring when both plants are similar in size. It is easier to see the differences when the wild carrot and the poison hemlock have flowered, but at this stage the carrot's tap root is no longer a tender carrot but rather a tough, woody root because it has sent it's energy from the root up into a flower. In the photo above, wild carrot is on the left and poison hemlock on the right. Click on the photo to get a closer view. See if you notice any distinct differences. A few determining factors for me is that wild carrot usually (occasionally not) has tiny hairs all over it, poison hemlock doesn't. Poison hemlock has hollow leaf stems and stalks, wild carrot doesn't (kids making straws or blowguns from these hollow stalks could be a cause of accidental poisoning). Wild carrot smells like a carrot, poison hemlock doesn't (but doesn't necessarily smell bad). I imagine that there is a taste difference too but I won't try that because I have read that even a little pea size amount can kill an adult. Supposedly, Socrates killed himself with a drink made from poison hemlock in 399 BC. This post is in no way a guide for identifying these two plants. My advice is to find an area where both of these plants grow together, they usually grow side by side in fields and roadsides, and watch them both through their life cycles. See how they change with each season and how they differ from one another. Before I attempted to eat wild carrot I spent about two years observing these plants and familiarizing myself with every detail.