Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book review: Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger

This is a most wonderful book.

I have read this book nearly from the first page to the last, and looked at the over 400 handdrawn wonderful illustrations, and contemplated the ways and means that people in the past survived and thrived in the wilderness.  This book has been my late-night companion before my eyes close for sleep for maybe a month or more, and it has been a great read.

Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger was published in 1945, and has recently been reprinted by First Shelter Publishing, a company that specializes in 'keeping worthy old books in print'.  Jaeger also provide all the amazing and lovely illustrations.

So, what is the book about?  It is about how to survive in the North American wilderness pre-1950s, before nylon, Goretex, GPS, cell phones, and all the fancy equipment we have today.  It builds a lot on Native American tools and techniques, as well as the European trappers and explorers of the 1700s and 1800s.

It is a how-to-book for anything you might need to know while living outdoors.  How to start a fire?  Jaeger presents a dozen ways.  How to skin a skunk? No problem, just be careful and cut off the skunky glands by the tail.  How to make snowshoes?  It is here too.  Food, shelter, bathroom issues, edible and toxic plants, making buckskin and pelts, stalking animals, building shelves out of tree fungi, and how to cook over open fire - just open and read.  And admire the illustrations...

Everything is practial and with exact enough detail that you can copy the methods and sew your own buckskin coat, make a pancake on a hot rock, or built a tepee (see image to the right).  I learned so much from this book; things I might never need to know, but that I love to know.  Today someone at work said - "you are like a sponge soaking up knowledge, and that is so wonderful", and I feel just like that.  THere is so much interesting things out there, from the past, from today, from the future, and real things, hands-on things that exist.  I am not sure things on the internet really exist, but an ax or a pancake, they do really exist.

So, for anybody that goes camping, kayaking, or hiking, this is the book to get them for Christmas.  It works in Europe too, even if you don't have skunks, rattlesnakes, or poison ivy.

The only thing I noticed that was wrong was some of the information about edible fungi.  Some of the mushrooms that were considered edible in the 1940s have now been reevaluated to 'Don't ever think about eating these'.  Otherwise, the book is a true goldmine of great information.  Get it while you can!


Anonymous said...
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LS said...

Sorry - had to delete your spam comment, spammer!