Primitive skills are essential for an independent and autarkic life. They are fun to practice, easy to master and have a playful character.
Most of the time we still combine primitive techniques with more sophisticated methods, our two adobe houses are the best example for this. The walls are build without modern technology of any kind, with bare hands and materials easily available locally, but the roof tiles and structure is crafted from and supported by regular materials such as nails, screws, wooden planks and cement poles.
If you use natural materials, they have in many cases a better overall performance, produce no trash since they are 100% biodegradable, but are very limited in their durability. A roof made from natural materials such as various palm leaves, grasses or bamboo pieces blocks off the heat of the sun very effectively and is therefore much better than metal sheet roof tiles. Poles and walls from wood and/or bamboo look beautiful, are lightweight and can easily be replaced, but are subject to termite attacks and rotting when exposed to humidity.
Primitive construction techniques
For the roof of the canteen we use a leaf called “bai thang”, which is durable and very easy to process.
It grows in front of one of our neighbors house and therefore doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t require transportation and is also used to maintain and repair all other roofs.
Primitive rope and cord
We make rope from the fiber of tree bark which is strong enough to build hammocks from it (even though we need a lot more rope for an actual hammock). This is the first rudimentary try of making rope:
This plant fiber based rope has a durability from a few months to one or two years, depending on the plant you use. A very strong fiber can be obtained from the bark of the “phak miang” (LINK) tree – the rope is so strong that people used it for fishing nets and rods, it even withstands being used in sea water (see ‘Primitive fishing methods’ below).
A short term rope can be made made easily from the fiber of a banana trunk (see Rare Banana Collection).
Primitive fishing methods
Many hunter-gatherer tribes use plant poisons to fish in small streams, it is a very effective method to catch many small to medium sized fish in a short time.
We tested a primitive fishing method using plant poison from the root of a tree called “yaan sao dam”, which is crushed and thrown into a small river. It contains a chemical that depletes the water of oxygen, forcing the fish to come to the surface for breathing, where you can easily just collect them by hand. After 5-10 minutes it begins mixing with the arriving fresh water and soon loses its effectiveness.
Soon we will try to make a fishing rod from the bark of the “phak miang” tree, which is very tenuous but strong and durable even in sea water.
Harvesting pure fresh drinking water from bamboo
Inside the segments of the bamboo stem water is collected that can easily be used if there is no other water source around during a walk in the jungle – or as an exclusive refreshment. It is very pure, since it got filtered through the whole bamboo plant. The best time to obtain water from bamboo is in the morning (6-10am), when the plant pushes water from its root system to its leaves. Usually the most water is contained in the older trees which are already spotted.
Building primitive instruments is easy, quick and a lot of fun – whether it is a drum or a simple flute from bamboo. Mostly it takes only a few tries to produce a beautiful sounding quality instrument
PHOTO BAMBOO FLUTE
Building a bow
For building a bow we use rattan wood, which is easily found in the jungle. It is very flexible, yet hard to break. If you soak rattan in water it becomes even more flexible, and you can harden it in the desired position by heating it carefully over a fire. The first version of the bow was a little too thin, and was therefore not very strong (low pulling force required to draw the bow), but it worked.
The hardest part is not making the bow itself, it is making the arrows. They have to be perfectly straight, smoothly finished and need to be feathered at the back end to ensure a straight flight.