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From the Library

February 11, 2019

(I don’t have an Amazon Affiliate account. The bold-faced, underlined book titles in this series are NOT hyperlinks.)

Building With Earth: A Guide to Flexible-Form Earthbag Construction by Paulina Wojciechowska

This is the fourth or fifth book I’ve read now, specifically on Earthbag building. I’m really looking forward to building some earthbag structures on our farm, for various applications. This was one of the earliest books on earthbag building, from way back in 2000. With the exception of her chapter on cob and earth/clay plasters—which was excellent—this was probably the least useful of the earthbag books I’ve read thus far. The technique has advanced enough in natural building circles since the publication of this book that the newer books have a lot more technical information to share. The chapter on plasters however, made the price worth it on this one.

The Way of the Wise by JT Sibley

This is an ethnographic study of traditional medical practices of Norway. Including both herbal remedies and mechanical interventions (think splinting a broken bone or sprain), as well as magical healing methods like rune magic and incantations, this is an interesting book so far. While I suspect magical healing is largely psychosomatic/placebo effect (I don’t KNOW it is, but I suspect it is…), the use of herbal and mechanical interventions was particularly useful. When combined with other references like Sam Coffman’s The Herbal Medic Handbook, I suspect books like this will find increasing relevance for many of us, especially anyone who suspects they will find themselves in a healer role in their community, as the decline continues, and allopathic medical care becomes increasingly unaffordable for many people.

Get Tough! The US Special Forces Physical Conditioning Program by Tom Fitzgerald

This is an older book. First published in 1985. Mr Fitzgerald is a Vietnam-era SEAL, and this is a straight calisthenics/endurance book. I picked it up for two reasons. One, I was trying to come up with some alternative PT ideas for some of our guys that don’t have access to a regular weight-lifting gym, won’t/can’t drive to my farm and use my gym daily, and/or have injuries that they feel currently preclude them from weight lifting seriously. Two, this is the book I used, way back in the early 1990s—when it was NOT an “older” book—to prepare myself physically for going into the Army on a Ranger contract. It worked pretty well back then, and it still looks good today.

I would recommend this one, even if you are weightlifting regularly, just for the running program, if you’ve not done much, or any, distance running. His progression for running is still solid, and can be utilized for building ruck-running/conditioning as well, simply by doing it while wearing a rucksack.

The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival by Selco Begovic

I’ve been reading Selco’s blog off and on for a number of years now. Someone sent me a copy of this book, asking for my thoughts on it, because, according to the sender, “this seems like something out of a horror movie. Surely it won’t be this bad here, right?”

For folks who have spent time with the locals, in war-torn and failed-state environments, there will be nothing novel or revealing here. For most others, including a number of people I know with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with conventional forces, this will be eye-opening. One of the things I’ve noticed, in conversations with Big Green guys, is that they tend to have not really interacted with the locals nearly as much as they might think they did. Returning to the FOB regularly, and being surrounded by other Gis, even in a patrol base, living out of rucks and gun trucks, does not provide the same impression of local events, as spending weeks on end living with the locals, and even eating their food.

If anything, I suspect Mr. Begovic’s descriptions are tame compared to some of what many people will see in the near future.

Life in a Medieval Village by Joseph and Frances Gies

The Gies have written a LOT on medieval life and society. This is part of a series (I have the individual volumes, as well as a combined version with this one, Life in a Medieval City, and Life in a Medieval Castle as well as several of their other books). This is an area of interest for me personally anyway, but I find, the more I consider the ongoing decline, the more I turn towards ethnographic and archaeological studies of medieval and Iron Age societies, looking for hints of models to follow in our community-building efforts.

One thing that most modern westerners don’t know is that life in a medieval village was arguably not as unpleasant as we’ve been led to believe. From the fact that the average medieval serf actually had far more time off than the modern wage employee, because of holidays (look at a calendar of Catholic Church Saints’ Days sometimes), to the fact that many—if not most—serfs actually had a better chance at advancing their socio-economic position than the working poor in America today do, for a variety of reasons, I tend to think the village model of the Iron Age and medieval periods, is one that folks looking at building community for surviving and thriving during the decline should look at seriously. Additionally, a well-organized village community, with genuinely shared traditions, values, and interests, has the potential to develop into something far bigger and greater than most would initially imagine, even—perhaps especially—under post-grid conditions.

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  1. LargeMarge permalink

    After the disasters with the Fitzgerald and the Guardian and Liberty, I read the novel MECHANICAL FAILURE: PLEASE RESTART YOUR WARSHIP by Joe Zieja.

    After reading the reports by the re-called admirals concerning their concerns about the ‘readiness’ of the fleet, I read it again.

    The only way our military could be in this situation is through sabotage. Dereliction of duty couldn’t result in this.

  2. Stan Ford permalink

    What’s your #1 recommended book for a beginner interested in getting started with earthbag construction?

    My first inclination was to buy all the earthbag books you mentioned recently, as well as The $50 & Up Underground House Book. Then I remembered your “Be Like Mike” blog post. So now I’m looking for one book to guide me building a root cellar using earthbags.

    After I have that experience under my belt, maybe then I’ll buy and read more books on the subject. If so, I’ll be able to filter their advice through my experience, with my soil conditions, in my climate. A lot of the earthbag evangelists seem to be in California or the High Desert, whereas I live in the South Eastern US. .

    • I think any of the current generation of them would be a good one to start with. Essentials Earthbag Construction by Kelly Hart, or his other book, Earthbag Architecture: Build Your Dream with Bags would be what I would generally recommend, but I really liked Earthbag Building by Kaki Hunter and and Donald Kiffmeyer as well. I’d probably say satart with one of Hart’s books, and the Earthbag Building book, and then go from there.

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