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Real survival series

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posted on Apr, 26 2013 @ 10:46 AM

This is the cabin I built and stayed in alone for 8 months in 1994 on 550 acres in east central Tennessee. The series runs some 1200 pages and until now I have never really put it all together. The survival diary that the series is based on was a small part of a much larger, more ambitious, reason for the solitude that was based on the stupid idea that I had something to prove to myself. At the time I really had no idea what I was getting into and although prepared I was truly alone and the mental adjustment was something I have failed to see addressed anywhere in this forum.

I am just going to post parts of this long, long work and see if there is interest enough to continue.

This cabin was built entirely out of split cedar logs taken from the land and the only power tool used was a chain saw. During the 3 months of summer/early fall construction I spent considerable amounts of time locating things I would need and planting various seeds and crops in open areas along with marking trails which was one of the smartest things I did in hind site.
This is family owned land that is somewhat useless as it is mostly cedar groves, bedrock limestone exposed on the surface along with countless crags, draws and steep dangerous cliffs. This land is similar to what one would find up and down the Appalachian chain and is normally rented as a hunting preserve. Four hunters have lost their lives on this land mainly because they had no business being in the woods at all made worse by the fact that they had a gun in their hands.
I knew I would not run out of water as this type of land is loaded with natural springs, inviting but oh so dangerous caves of every size and shape, and I had enough basic food that I could survive without having to kill anything. I started with a 55lbs pound sack of gritted corn, 30lbs dried wild turkey meat and basics that only the natives, settlers and solders would have had. I knew how they survived and food would not be a primary concern as I had planted more that I could eat. I had 8 gallons of kerosene and 2 lanterns along with a 1887 vintage .410/22c over and under shotgun/rifle that the solders called a squirrel gun except theirs were black power. I never fired a shot.
Here are a few of the topics:

Attitude. The most important part of any survival plan yet I have failed to see it addressed in any of the threads I have read here. The most dangerous aspect of wilderness survival is the mental anguish brought on when you finally are forced to accept your situation. Depression can be fatal before any real challenges are faced-and no one is immune. All the bluff and bluster about your abilities(mostly to yourself) can come crashing down in a fatalistic plunge into self doubt. Food, water, shelter and personal safety mean nothing if your not programed to adjust your attitude and remain calm, avoiding panic and understand the real time solution begins with one simple fact-that you are alive.
In military training survival motivation is always wrapped around Esprit de corps (disambiguation)and being part of a team. The thought that your death-coming from mental anguish and the depression that always follows-would endanger your fellow comrades is a huge motivating factor taught to military men through time.
This same disambiguation could come into play if, perhaps, you were in a situation with a child that there only chance to survive was that you remained calm and let the depressing affects of an uncertain future pass and remain positive.
One of the main projects I had planned was a long, long essay on fear that was a derivative of real life events I had written about in the past. These fears, and how they correlated through these events, and had real life psychological effects that can, and do, predispose a big part in survival situations. The human mind is simply too complex to avoid stimulation for any self imposed amount of time. Meaning-you have shelter, food and the basics to survive-however what about feeding your brain all the stimulation it is so accustomed (addicted) to receiving. This essay is over 8000 words and shows examples of how survival training can focus the mind to occupy itself based on experiences from prisoners of war, individual that went into hiding for long periods, self imposed recluses, mental ill but highly intelligent persons, military training manuals and interviews with persons who have endured long periods of time without mental and psychological stimulation.

Basically, it's a modern day take on cabin fever and how easily fear can be internalized, in survival situations, with tragic results.


The area I was in really made fire production a simple matter even in total snow cover. Red Cedar grooves with exposed bedrock limestone made producing an ember from a spark somewhat effortless once you got the hang of it. I have buckets of horse shoes I have found over the years and I had one with me that I found while constructing the cabin. Skinning the cedar bark and allowing it to dry then shaving( with a very sharp edge) the outermost edges to produce a hair kinder that can be made into a small ball. Hunting around the exposed bedrock until I found a spoon like indention and placing the cedar hair in the indention with a separate rock as a backstop. Then grinding the horseshoe until I got it down to the primitive iron-with a serrated hunting knife-I simply struck the spooned area with the exposed iron and made a spark that landed on the backstop rock and fell on the tender. It worked the first time I tried it although the fiber burned much quicker than I thought so I had to modify. The second attempt resulted in the spark landing on my right hand and burned it like only crudely made iron can. Once you have done it-and most importantly have confidence you can do it again-it is never will a problem afterwords. That method was for the wood I was in at the time and a different situation I would require a different method. The point I discovered was that an old horseshoe-the more primitive the metal the better-can start a fire in most situations.

The Kaskinampo Indians that were native to this area were a brutal, warlike and fearsome tribe that dated back thousands of years and generations. Fortunately, most of their murderous aggression, was focused on themselves and other offshoots of the Cherokee Nation. They traded and intermarried with the White man and some skirmishes took place however they thought the settlers were quite pitiful warriors and basically ignored them. Dissemination of smallpox lead to their destruction by the start of the 20th century.
They perfected a food known as pemmican that basically was pounded dried meat, wild berries, steamed roots with fat and bone marrow compressed into a rawhide pouch. This food pack was about as nutritious a thing you could eat and would keep indefinitely. During my 8 month survival excursion I had some success with this product using dried wild turkey meat, bone meal, blackberries, wild strawberries, boiled pear sap and hog fat. The skin side of the fatback made a good pouch however I never found a good way of sealing the pouch as they did.
Both Confederate and Union solders spent many winters here and-especially the Confederates-had constant supply issues. They made do with what they could find around them. The root of the endive plant, the French called chicory, which originated in Ancient Egypt was a staple grown all over the south and had dozens of uses, and still grows wild today. Mostly know as a coffee substitute and as a vermifuge it also added to the solders ladium potions-which I was also able to make however the process is somewhat complex.
To my experience, realistic survival gardening, begins and ends with what you can find in your area that is already established since any real survival situation has no guarantees that tillable land will be an option.
Some examples:
Whippoorwills- A southern country name for wild peas. A cross of blackeye and purplehull peas once established in the flora they reproduce at an amazing rate-3 or sometimes 4 crops a year. Like all podded peas-Pisum sativum-they are unhealthy for cattle and horses and eradicated in pastures when possible. Still they grow everywhere and are only kept down in areas of high deer population.
Wild turnips-The worlds most prolific tuber-actually a false tuber- is without a doubt the most hated to those who were forced to survive on them-and nothing else for months at a time. The green fecal matter they were the end result of for both Union and Rebel solders became a focal point for all their sad drinking songs along with pittance for their commanding officers, who often ate much better than the common solder.

Survival medicines

Although I gave up alcohol over 25 years ago I did allow myself to make a supply of ladium for emergency use and I was able to make about 8 ounces that really helped with injuries that are going to happen regardless of how careful you are. I started planting poppies along with fall turnip green fields and allowed them to winter over and they mature in early spring along with the greens. Of course the Confederacy was so dependent on both ( turnip greens and gritted corn along with whatever meat they could harvest sustained them through out the winter months) and some of the wild poppies here are decedents of the Army's efforts to do with what they had, rather than what the could have delivered. Of course, widespread addiction to opiate potions was a huge problem for both Union and Confederate Armies. I steamed and mashed sassafras root and using a primitive distill method was able to produce an active agent(in place of grain alcohol which the Armies used) to combine with the opiate paste to produce a powerful narcotic. The 8 ounces made 4 portions in which I used 3 and saved the rest to add the the next seasons brew-therefore eliminating the need for an active agent. 1 of the doses were used for a bad foot sprain and 2 other were consumed during a time of bad depression around Christmas. I go into detail about this production of what Milton called "the giver of pain and delight" in his translation of this primitive vice. Dried poppy pods were found in the Valley of Kings burial chambers and among the Mayan ruins. They may have been used by the earliest of our ancestors as cave paintings in France suggest.
Gofer grapes-The fruit of the Virgina creeper vine can be fermented and distilled into a powerful medicine. While not a narcotic like ladium it was used as an antiseptic and taken orally as a painkiller for tooth extraction, childbirth and of course drank for intoxication.

I am out of room on this post if interest is shown I will post more of it.

posted on Apr, 26 2013 @ 10:50 AM
reply to post by spooky24

I read your first paragraph and am already very interested...keep going.
Most could never do it...I can't wait to read the rest of it.

Ok just read all of it...keep going.
Also,do you have any more pics to post??
edit on 26-4-2013 by DrumsRfun because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 26 2013 @ 10:58 AM
reply to post by spooky24

Holy crap, that's awesome! Can't wait to hear more, subbed.

posted on Apr, 26 2013 @ 10:59 AM
reply to post by spooky24

very interesting reading so far! I alway's wondered what a solo bug out would do to the mind.Maybe a dog would help keep some sanity.Please post more of your tales

posted on Apr, 26 2013 @ 05:33 PM
did you have a wood burning stove?
did you have toilet paper?
where did you...go?
what about trash?
fight any critters?

posted on Apr, 27 2013 @ 11:18 AM
reply to post by spooky24

Oh, please do continue on with this real life experience of survival.
I am so intrested in folks actual encounters with sustaining life away from
modern tech./resource.

I want to read and learn more.

Encore ! Encore !

edit on 27-4-2013 by azureskys because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 12:18 AM
Where are all of the survival enthusiast people ?
I thought they would be all over this thread.

posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 08:37 AM
Longtime lurker here.

Just signed up to say yes please continue !! Enjoyed that first bit of writing very much .. Would be great to hear about some real life experiences.


posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 08:44 AM
damm you got my hopes up when i read the title.
i was seeing a real reality show like i thought survivor was going to be. where "teams" or even single people competed to see who could actually survive the best without all the political bs and infighting that we were brought with the "survivor" series. something i would love to participate in. oh well my hopes are dashed. :cry:

still a good read, look forward to more.

posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 09:39 AM
more pics please,.
like to see the results,.

posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 10:36 AM
reply to post by azureskys

your "real" survivalist's won't bother to read this.He didn't carry his 6 AR 15's,or even 5 AK's.And where are his 10,000 rounds of ammo in "full capacity" magazines?No mention of gold or silver,not even nickels.Where are his 500 pounds of rice,beans and wheat? And no cases of MRE's?No paracord,no 200$ knive's,no body armor,nightvision,motion detectors? According to the "real survivalists",this guy would be a goner in a half hour tops.
That was sarcasm,by the way.
On a serious note,this is a true survival series,so far.If you read the survival blog,you can see what they recommend you MUST have,at a ten percent discount from they're friendly advertisers.I swear,you can paint an old rusty musket black,and call it a black powder assualt rifle,for when ammo runs out,and sell a ton of them!How did mankind ever survive the 1800's?

posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 11:53 AM
reply to post by spooky24

I loved reading your story. Please continue. I do have to say that I personally could not live like this if I was alone. I would have to have someone dependent upon me for survival to go thru all this hell. But then Im a woman and I hate bugs and nits etc. I wouldn't last two days unless I was doing it for someone else. Please continue with your story.

posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 01:30 PM
reply to post by Magantice

I understand,but bugs and such are part of life.That's why I suggested at least a dog for companionship...or sanity! I could talk to my dog better than my ex!...won't say which one was smarter,but the dog lasted longer than my marriage........

posted on Apr, 28 2013 @ 07:29 PM
I was involved with flood issues all day-the old folks called 'cows on an island'.

By the way if any of you are holding Ag futures I would suggest plotting yourself a short position as nothing has got planted this spring by anyone and it is getting worrisome for everyone-not just farmers. Here we are near the first of May and not a single kernel of corn, soybeans or even cotton is in the ground in most parts of the south. First the ground was too cold now it's flooded. It's my understanding that the corn belt is just now thawing out and could see 3-4 even 5 inches of rain next week and that is after it snows again. Those guys haven't even broke ground yet much less plant. Knee high by July is a pipe dream if things don't improve.

The thing is that the control of the media by the powers to be in Washington is simply amazing. No bad news-Peroid. Everyone from those guys in Brooklyn, who hack slices of pizza for 3 dollars each, to housewives in Seattle need to know just how bad of a start our farmers have gotten off too- and the very real effect it could have on them later on. Instead the public is fed Boston this Boston that, who wants to marry who, who has offended who and what some poor drug addicted actress has been up too.

It wasn't always like this. This should be headline news, for the better of the people-the devil you know is, most assuredly, better than the one you don't. Yet everything is great! Recovery Summer-II. Borrow and spend yaw the government will feed ya.

Our farmers are the best in the world at productivity-no other country comes close. However, crop insurance and farm subsidy only count if you can get something in the ground. This could be the start of one of you guys SHTF scenarios that is very real.

I'm beside myself with the notion that political ambitions outweigh the sound policy of being honest to people about what is going on.

You can bet the commodities traders know what is going on. In about 12 hours from now they will be setting up short on cattle futures, corn and soy, not to mention the fact that half of our corn crop-that is not even in the ground yet will go to ethanol production on contracts that were signed 2 years ago.

If anyone here is from the corn belt or the upper plains has anything got planted yet?

My My

The series will continue, I have some editing to finish up first-for which I'm the worst and slowest editor ever to touch a keyboard.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 08:44 AM
I need to continue to point out that my knowledge of this area, the prehistory, the geology, meteorologic history, the flora, animal life along with the day to day existence of the natives, settlers and solders was most profound.
This gave me confidence that I would get few surprises and surviving in this area would be mostly mental and that is the approach I took. This, of course, begs the question that if persons who read this are truly serious about planning for rudimentary survival, how well do you know the area you live in?

For instance:

I knew the amount of building materials, and what I could build from them, was only limited by my imagination and the skills I had with simple hand tools. The never ending supply of what the old timers called 'river rock'-limestone and sandstone of every conceivable size and shape, that could be molded with hand tools, was available to myself, just as it was to all that had lived here before. Where did it come from?

As hard as it is to believe now this area was once hundreds, if not thousands, of feet underwater for million and millions of years. The Appalachian mountains are some of the oldest on the globe and have been battered down by a millennium of rain, wind and storms, not to mention countless visits from rocks from outer space. The Mississippi river abatement covered all of Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and as far north as central Kentucky. This is, of course, why there are no fossil records anywhere in the south-they simply were washed out to sea. How could this knowledge help me?

I knew that as the mountains dissolved they created drain basins and flow crags. The unstable silt and soil eroded and left deep cuts in the surface-called 'draws' in the South. I knew that if I built my cabin (notice the steep position as related to the slope in the picture) in between the draws, on land that has not eroded because the bedrock limestone is just below the surface, I would never need to worry about a landslide no matter how hard it rained. Every winter, at some point, flooding rains will loosen the soil in a torrent of water flowing down and filling the draws as they drain. These rain masses are unpredictable (On May 2nd and 3rd 2010 this area got 16 inches of rain in 36 hours). However, sitting in the dark on January 8th of that year, as 9 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, I knew the cabin I built was anchored to the bedrock just below the surface, and would never slide down the slope. This sounds some what melodramatic however at the time it was a mental lifesaver knowing I was safe-safe because I knew the area and it's prehistory. This patch of surface had not slid in millions of years-and it was not going to slide that night.

I also knew what the old farmers called 'broomsage'-nothing but the mature brown stalks of Kentucky fescue-could be chopped fine, soaked in hot limewater, then kneaded into a very strong adhesive and mortar. That is how the settlers built their homes-using river rock and broomsage mortar for fireplaces and chinking between the cedar pole they cut and split. That is how I built my cabin-just like they did-again my profound knowledge of the areas past gave me confidence that I could emulate anything they did.

Again this begs the question of how well do you know the area that you live in or plan to 'bug out' in? What is it's history? Is it glacial? If so when was the last sheet, how thick was it?, what did it leave behind when it retracted? Could it happen again? The list is endless of things you need to study and know.

I knew that there was no animal in this area that could physically attack me and cause trauma that would be life threatening-if I understood just what types of creatures called this area home, and their habits. The very real possibility was that something could frighten me into injuring myself. Topping the list are the 2 pit vipers that are legendary in these forest. The eastern timber rattlesnake is a somewhat big, slow and lazy snake. It can be seen stretched out over the countless boulders warming itself in the fall and spring however the uplands are not it's habitat. It prefers the thick bush areas at the bottom of the drain basins and I made sure never to go off the game trail (deer mostly) when I was down at the level areas at the end of the draws that feed the creeks. The Copperhead-Agkistrodon contortrix-or 'muledancer' as the oldtimers called it is a different story. They can be aggressive and are know to follow plowmules and pounce on the ground mice plowed up by the plowshare. I never saw one, and quite frankly I was worried that I might encounter this snake, as they are unpredictable and don't have a steady habitat although their poison is weak compared to the rattlesnakes or even various spiders. The thought of one frightening a 1600lbs mule into a stampede was enough to put them out of site and mind.

To continue.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 02:22 PM
reply to post by spooky24

Thanks for this thread, and fair play for going through with it

it must have been quite difficult, mentally, on your own
i'd have to have my dog with me for company and protection (not that it sounds like you needed protection)
As posted above do you have any more pictures of where you were ?
Please do continue as I look forward to reading about the rest of your adventure...


posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 02:48 PM
reply to post by spooky24

Thank you Spooky for an excellent thread and follow up posts. I subscribed and will be looking forward to more posts. S+F

I was wondering if any local news/sites are reporting the ag situation where you are and if you had any links for more details?

posted on Apr, 30 2013 @ 08:29 AM
I thought I would post some pictures taken recently from the area as I have only one photo of the cabin from 20 years ago. The contemporary pictures are somewhat disappointing as the area has changed and it's hard to get real perspective as I remember it. However I do have some of the graveyard/burial site that was a big part of my stay and despite many months of study I never could make any sense of it. It's still a 150 year old mystery.

This is typical of the area. Bedrock limestone on the surface with Birch, Oak, Maple, Locust and Cedar. The deadfall is from diseased Elms that have fallen from Dutch Elm Disease. This is looking north up the slope.

Down the slope south/southeast as the landlay converges on one of the steep draws.

One of the graves from the burial site looking north. A large grave presumed to be a man dated 1800-1870?

Another large grave angled east/west with sandstone markers instead of limestone. The only grave of the 18 that marked with sandstone. I spent months trying to attach some significance of that and came up with nothing.

Looking due south with 7 of the graves marked.

A Child's grave-there are 9 of them.

The burial site was discovered by my grandfather in 1908 when he was 11 years old. Curious and studious to a fault he spent a great amount of time as a young boy trying to find information on who might be buried there. It didn't take long for him to discover-as he told me later-that the 'who' was somewhat impossible so he focused on the biggest mystery-the why.
There are 18 graves all marked in a haphazard fashion that is as mysterious as the reason to bury this many people in one of the worst-hardest to dig in-places to intern anything.

Before I go on I need to point out that John Bell-who lost the Presidential election to Abraham Lincoln in 1860 as a representative of the Constitutional Union Party had a house near here-his house that he was born in-built in 1799- still stands about a mile from where I am now. His niece is the center stage of the legend of the great Bell Witch and persons who promote the legend have always pointed to bizarre burial sites as a linkage to that woman. My Grandfather, the teams of archaeologist that have looked at this very strange site, and myself after 40 years of study can find no evidence of 'witchcraft' or any connection to the Bell family and the Witch legend. However this site is very, very odd. Tennessee was a slave state at the time and the powerful Bell family had hundreds.
If one was going to bury several people-it is believed that most, if not all, were buried at about the same time-they could not have picked a more difficult patch of ground to dig in. What would have taken ten men several days to prepare the site could have been accomplished in a few hours by merely relocating 50 or 100 yards east or west away from the bedrock and into the soft drain basin. Of all the perplexing things about this graveyard I can never get past that one point-why here, of all places?
This is a not a graveyard of the Natives nor was it related to the war in any way. The triangle between the Battle of Stones River(one of the saddest places on the planet), the Battle Of Franklin and Hood's retreat all have defined graveyards for the solders. There are 26,819 graves of Confederate solders in the triangle and every single downed solder has been accounted for.

I will continue....

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