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From the Library

March 25, 2019

Aids to Scouting for NCO and Men by Baden-Powell

This was, if I recall correctly, B-Ps first book, and while it might seem odd to recommend a book on scouting, written in the 1800s, it is still one of the best overall looks at the skills needed for reconnaissance and surveillance, from an irregular perspective. Obviously, you’re not going to get any recommendations on night-vision devices, drones, and other techno-marvels, but the fundamental skills of observation, tracking, and fieldcraft will be discussed, along with interesting ways to train and practice those skills.

The American Rifle: A Treatise by Townsend Whelen

Whelen was one of the great American outdoor writers. This is one of the quintessential manuscripts on American rifle marksmanship and handling. Even though it is written around the 1903 Springfield, the fundamentals of application herein apply whether you’re shooting a bolt gun, a muzzleloader, or the latest iteration of the AR15. Many of the drills are pertinent with only minor modifications, and the underlying science behind how trajectory, rifling, and accuracy v. precision actually work would be a huge boon to the modern shooting community.

I believe I read this when I was a teenager, from the local library, but I could be misremembering. I do know that my current edition I ordered from (sadly defunct) Paladin Press, back in the mid-oughts, when they did a reprint.

Human Scale: Revisited by Kirkpatrick Sale

This is one of my favorite books I discovered in 2018, even though it is older. Many of the arguments Sale puts forward in this book could have been taken from my own Forging the Hero, or The Reluctant Partisan books. It is simply a look at the fact that we are being overwhelmed, even when we don’t recognize it, and browbeaten into submission, by the sheer, inhuman scale of government and industry.

From the readily understandable idea that you can’t possibly understand and know the codified laws and regulations of the United States, which inadvertently leads most of us to unintentionally commit crimes daily, to the less understandable, but more addressable, idea that the metric system isn’t the panacea that it is often made out to be. This is something my grandfather pointed out to me in my teens, when I was parroting my teachers, advocating for the metric system.

It’s a completely arbitrary system, from the perspective of human scales. The Standard system however, is at least relatable to human scales. For example: each joint of my pinky finger is one inch long (and yes, I’ve verified this). My forearm, from the point of my elbow to the tip of my extended fingers is 18” (again, verified). The inside of my forearm, from wrist crease to elbow crease, is exactly 12” (the other two measurements are within 1/8th of an inch).

The width of my palm, without my thumb, is four inches. With my thumb, it is five inches.

While these are my specific measurements, and yours will probably be somewhat different, the point of the arguments in the chapter relevant to this example, Sale makes the point that Standard measurements just make more sense, on the human scale. The rest of the book discusses the same thing regarding food production and transportation, and commerce, etc. It’s really just a great, great little book. Seriously, of all the books I am recommending this week, this one tops the list.

Medieval Children by Nicholas Orme

This book does two important things, in my observation. First, it dispels some of the myths about medieval child-rearing that are prevalent in modern society, such as how horribly tedious and miserable it was. Children in the medieval period, even among the peasantry, were loved by their parents, and had play time and recreational time. While they undoubtedly had chores and tasks they were expected to perform, some of which we might consider absurd for a child, no one was intentionally placing their kids in harm’s way out of malice or lack of consideration.

Second, it does a pretty good job of illustrating that, despite the fact that many families, for various reasons—generally necessity–had their children partaking in activities that we would consider horrifying for children, those children were not stunted or damaged by the experience. Instead, they simply matured into useful members of their local community sooner.

I suspect studies like this are going to become increasingly important to understand and know, not because they will encourage us to marry our daughters off early, to establish alliances, but because they will give us tools to ensure our children are adequately educated, regardless of what social circumstance throws at them.

Silvopasture: A Guide to Managing Grazing Animals, Forage Crops, and Trees in a Temperate Farm EcoSystem by Steve Gabriel

I’ll be honest, I’ve only skimmed this one so far, even though I had it pre-ordered for several months before it was finally published. Our farm is 30 acres, and all but about two of those are forested, and I don’t want to—read, “won’t”–clear cut it. I like trees too much. So, silvopasture, as a management tool, appeals to me.

So, with the caveat that I owe the book a more thorough read, I didn’t find it particularly useful. It seems to be written specifically for someone trying to build or redesign, a commercial-scale farm. That’s not us. I’m happy with raising enough to feed my family, several of the families in our clan, and having enough left over to set some aside each year.

Ultimately, what we did was go in with a brush hog, to clear a lot of the undergrowth, leaving sentinel trees, and a lot of the young hardwood growth. After the low-growth was mown down to a couple inches, we left it alone. I’ll need to go back again this year, at least once, but most of the growth we’ve gotten to replace the undergrowth has been grass. This has been extremely useful to us so far, not only for access, but for wildlife. Both of the deer I shot last fall were shot from within ten feet of the house (I was standing next to the back corner of the house for one. I was going to shoot it from the kitchen window, but the kids wanted to watch, so I let them watch from the window, and I went out and around the corner. The doe was standing 50 yards away. The second I shot while sitting on the front door step. She was at 120 yards, across the front yard and pond.). Anytime we need to replace grass, we replace it with perennial clover and things like turnips that are good feed for wildlife or grazing animals.

I’d like to put feeder hogs in hog tractors, and move them around to work the woodlots. It would make maintaining control of them and their feeding habits simpler, and would probably increase the productivity and soil fertility of the woodlot, as well as—potentially—drawing in the occasional feral hog for harvest as well.


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  1. David Winters permalink

    You might consider using portable electric net fencing instead of a ‘hog tractor’. It would be more flexible and cover a larger area with less management needed. Try Premier1fencing for a good catalog. If the tree overstory is not solid you can use solar chargers, or battery supported chargers.

  2. TheSpartanMonkey permalink

    I remember getting those Paladin catalogs. They were like an encyclopedia of mayham.

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