Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"The Universal Tool Kit," Paul Campbell's last book

“THE UNIVERSAL TOOL KIT out of Africa to native California”

This is the last book written by Paul Campbell, released September of 2013, a year before he died. 

“The Universal Tool Kit” refers to taking a rock and turning it into a tool. Some of you may think this is not a very interesting subject, but believe me, it's an incredible insightful look at how ancient man survived. This is not the theoretical charts and arrows and categorization you might get in an anthropology class. Campbell brings it alive, and makes it relevant. 

As with his previous books -- "Survival Skills of Ancient California" and "Paints and Pigments" -- Campbell thoroughly investigates his subject matter. Campbell gives us a review of stone tools in primitive cultures around the world, and how extreme simplicity was the name of the game. If you’re looking for a book about how to flint-knap, this is not that book.  Rather, this is a book that describes Campbell's personal research and experimentation in making quick and simple stone tools -- what some call “pick-up knives” -- and how he went about using those tools to make bows, atlatls, and other necessary products. It seems that too many people have made all the basic survival skills all so complicated. Too many folks are telling us you must have this huge knife and this big compass and that big weapon. Why? Because for the people selling all the survival paraphernalia, it helps to put their daughters through college. 

But if you really want to get simple and get basic, a stone is the ultimate survival tool.

And guess what? When you're done reading this book, you'll agree with Campbell that you really don't need the stone, per se. The greatest skill is your knowledge, and your ability to transform natural resources into the tools of everyday life and survival. Campbell gives you a thorough background in the subject in a readable way. You'll know far more than the average anthropologist after reading this.

When Dude, Alan, and I went with Paul into the bush, we’d be collecting willow for arrows and bows, but Paul would be off to the side hurling a big boulder that he found onto another boulder.  He was experimenting with the way the rock fractured, and then he’d find the sharpest pieces from those experiments and he then use those to make his arrows, or bows, or primitive rasps and sandpaper.  Paul pointed out that the different shapes of rocks lent them to specialized functions, but it was also the skill in using those rocks. 

Once Paul was showing us how to make the foreshaft for arrows.  Though you can make a fine arrow from a single piece shaft, Paul pointed out that many people of the past did use foreshafts for a variety of reasons.  The foreshaft would be the shorter end of the arrow, typically made from a harder wood.  Paul took some wild cherry branches that were the approximate length for the foreshaft, and trimmed them to size with the sharp edge of a rock, using it like an axe.  Then, to make them evenly thick, he rolled them between two flat rocks that he’d created to use as crude grinders, or crude sandpaper.  It was amazing to watch him roll the wood, and then to produce the foreshaft piece that now only need the points and some refining.

When people used rocks for everyday jobs, they used specific rocks in specific shapes to perform the functions.  And they kept it as simple as possible.  Rocks were used as anvils, as axes and knives, mauls, grinders and shapers, as well as all the tools needed for cooking. Rock vessels were somewhat common, though it took considerable time to hollow out rocks by pecking.  Small round rocks were used for cooking, by heating them and then carefully transferring them to a vessel of water or soup.  

Rocks were used for arrow points, as well as the weight on the atlatl which increases its efficiency. 

Using the rock tools, Paul has made one-day willow bow, atlatls and spears, flakers, and more.

Paul’s book is the equivalent work of a doctorate degree, of which Paul Campbell rightfully earned in my mind. 

Fully illustrated with hundreds of photos and drawings, this is the book you will want when you do the research that matters. Top quality hard cover, 316 pages. This is a $30 retail book, and we’re still selling it while it lasts.  Dirttimers can get a postage paid copy for $25 from School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.  

The book is also listed on our website at the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Where the Water Once Flowed -- a review


During all the recent record rains, some of the analysts, while wringing their hands, tell us that most of the rain that’s falling just flows to the ocean. And though we generally think of Los Angeles as a land that gets all its water afar, such wasn’t always the case.  

Once, the entire Northeast L.A. – though described as “coastal desert plain,” was a land where streams and rivers flowed, and where water could be readily obtained. The story of why so much water now goes to the ocean is not a simple story, but to get a full understanding, it’s helpful to turn back the clock 150 years or so, and look at the water stories of the Northeast.

 “Myriad Unnamed Streams” is a series of historical vignettes by local environmentalist Jane Tsong to show where the water once flowed throughout the Northeast. You can read them 
Tsong explores a waterway

Tsong explains what happened to the free-flowing water, as the decades rolled by.  The totality of her research makes us look again at our familiar landscape, and realize that lots of water once flowed through the region.

Tsong is an artist who took an interest in the waters of Los Angeles after her family first moved to West Los Angeles in 1997. They hear rumors of a freshwater spring by the high school sports field next door. When she visited the site, she was mystified by how the water flowed naturally through a well-groomed miniature landscape,” before unceremoniously disappearing into a drainage grating.”  She later learned that this was the historically significant Kuruvungna Springs, since been revived by the Tongva people.

She moved to Highland Park in 2003, and discovered many of the stories of local springs, and past streams, that were found all over the Northeast. Tsong was surprised. After all, weren’t we told that this is a desert, and that all our water came from afar?

 Finding that most of these springs and seeps and streams were never named, and largely unknown today (if they still exist), she began to research these.  Along with standard research, she interviewed many people from 2006 through 20098, receiving answers and guidance from Eric Warren and Jessica Hall.  Eventually, she catalogued her information on a web site media book, called Water, CA, and presented it as a tour that one could actually take by bicycle. At the very least, pull out a large map now, click on to her website, and re-discover some of the hidden water history of the Northeast.

 Her tour begins with the intersection of Figueroa Street and the westbound onramp for the 134, once the site of Eagle Rock Creek, now mostly cement. In the 1880s, visitors could have walked in the stream, and found wild roses, blackberries, and tiger lilies, like so many of the mountain streams. With the purchase of much of Eagle Rock Canyon by Henry Huntington, the development swallowed this up so that most residents are barely aware that a stream still flows along the entrance to the Scholl Canyon dump, and is mostly underground near the iconic “eagle rock.”

A view of Eagle Rock Creek, north of the Eagle Rock. Vignette 1.

An altered remnant of the creek is still visible behind the businesses located northeast of Colorado and Figueroa, and then the stream is hidden in cement until it flows into the Arroyo Seco. 
Behind the sycamores is a remnant of the Eagle Rock Creek. Photo by Tsong.

Back in the 1880s, the Eagle Rock Creek continued to flow roughly in the proximity of Lanark Street and turned west toward Yosemite Drive. This temporary stream flowed eventually along Yosemite, causing flooding until the 1930s when the large underground drainage pipe was installed.

Springs and creeks flowed from the Verdugo Mountains to the north, irrigating many early orchards and providing water for local residents. These were gradually sealed over, cemented shut, or routed into underground pipes.

What's left north of Dahlia in the Verdugo Hills.  Vignette 5.

If you study a map of the Eagle Rock/ Highland Park area of the 1880s, you’d see numerous waterways that flowed from the hills to the north, meandering south. Some flowed along Figueroa, east along La Loma, and into the Arroyo Seco. Springs and lakes were common. Springvale (off Figueroa) was the source of a significant tributary to the Arroyo Seco, called the North Branch.

Springdale Drive at Figueroa, where a spring once flowed from the hills in the west. 

Other streams formed in the foothills above Colorado. Their water kept the water table in Eagle Rock high, feeding springs at Eagle Rock Springs and Sparkletts. At Eagle Rock Springs Mobile Home Community off Argus, cattails and willows once abounded. In 1912, this site was described as “approximately one acre of tree-covered grounds with a small artesian lake supplied by several flowing artesian wells.” Water from these springs flowed all the way to Eagle Rock Blvd., and then to York, where watercress and willows lined the way.

Eagle Rock Springs Mobile Home Community where springs once flowed. Vignette 6

Further south, near York and Eagle Rock Blvd., artesian waters were abundant enough to support multiple water companies (including Sparkletts) to sell the bottled water. The York and Eagle Rock Blvd area was known in the past as “Cienega del Garvanza,” was described by Ludwig Luis Salvator (in 1876) as “a small green swamp with clumps of bunch-grass and at the bottom, Sacate de Matico, which never dries out.” The area was drilled by 1880 and water flowed from the wells without the need for wind or steam.

Sparkletts Water. Vignette 11.

The northeast had numerous springs, wells, rivers, streams, and lakes, including a lake-like depression near Sycamore Grove park, before the water flowed into the Arroyo Seco.

In researching the water of the Northeast, Tsong researched many of the historical accounts of our area, including talking to many of the old-timers who shared their stories.

At the source of San Rafael Creek.  Photo by Tsong.

As Tsong points out, most of the wells were sealed – some ordered to be sealed by the City of Los Angeles when they annexed Eagle Rock. Flowing water was diverted underground, into pipes and directed to the Arroyo Seco or the L.A. River, because they were considered safety hazards when it rained, or simply nuisance water. 

Today, at least 75% of the area’s potable water comes from one of three aqueducts – two bringing water from Northern California and one bringing water from the Colorado River. And an increased population using ever-more water has resulted in lowering water tables. Additionally, in these modern times, with small yards and no way to process one’s own water, water from baths and dishes and household use no longer goes into the land, to soak into the water table, but rather simply flows into the sewers and out to the oceans.

There are many little solutions to our growing need for water, and they can be implemented by individuals and cities. But it’s important to see how the growth of the population of Northeast L.A., and the many choices that were made all along the way, are responsible for our water landscape being largely invisible today, and for so much of the water which unceremoniously flows out to the ocean.

I strongly encourage you to check out Tsong’s web site, and then actually travel from site to site to experience the not-that-distant past water history of our Northeast area.

[Nyerges is the author of "How to Survive Anywhere," "Self-Sufficient Home," "Extreme Simplicity," and other books. He can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]

Monday, April 22, 2019

Earth Day: Excerpts from "Extreme Simplicity" book


[Nyerges has been teaching self-reliance classes since 1974, and has worked with nearly all of the well-known environmental organizations.  He is the author of “Extreme Simplicity,” and other books. He can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]

"Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City" is perhaps my favorite of the books I have written because it is like a personal diary of how my wife Dolores and I worked towards our goal of "living lightly on the earth," even though we had a small budget and lived in a small suburban Los Angeles home.

We were doing what our Appalachian friend used to describe as "living country in the city."  We pursued all aspects of self-reliance, and wrote about it. Starting as soon as we moved in to our new home in 1986, we began task by task with limited income.  We used our front lawn  to grow food, we recycled our wash water, collected rain water, had chickens, a duck, bees, and a pig, had solar water heating and solar electricity, a wood stove, and we planted fruit trees and food everywhere.

We describe our efforts to do "integral gardening" on every bit of usable land, to produce food (for people and wildlife), medicines, fragrance, shade, and useful tools. We describe the details of what it meant to raise earthworms, chickens, rabbits, bees, a goose, a pig, and our dogs in their typical suburban back yard.

Though there is much "how to" in this book, it is full of personal stories and rich reading of the learning they experienced along the way. There is a section on recycling, and a unique section about the economics of self-reliance.




Many people today believe that they're spending all their time working, yet with very little in return. Unfortunately, such realizations may come too late to be remedied.

We think that the Amish people have the right idea when they keep their schools and work close to home. They don't have to go a long way to a job, thereby avoiding wasted time and energy, unnecessary expenses, and disconnection from their community. They can protect their families from undesirable influence, and there is the added bonus of having youngsters nearby where they can learn a trade from an early age. The Amish are firmly committed to valuing "quality of life" over all the stuff that our modern society deems important or indispensable - car, home entertainment system, fancy clothes, foods bought for "convenience" and prestige rather than fresh garden flavor and nutritional value.



Once, during a period of homelessness before we were married, Christopher was engulfed in thoughts of "poor me" and "I'm destitute," and he could scarcely see a way out of the darkness. Dolores provided him with a simple set of practical tools that anyone can use if only they choose to do so. Here are four "magic" ways to improve your financial situation:

    1. Never waste anything.

    2. Continually improve your personal honesty.

    3. Leave every situation or circumstance better than you found it.

    4. Tithe to the church (or organization) of your choice.

We know that these are genuine practical solutions. We have heard people say that they cannot make these efforts - such as tithing, or improving an environment - because "we are poor." Our perspective is that they have their reasoning backwards. They are poor because they do not engage themselves in the world in these ways. Logical thinking leads to erroneous conclusions when the premise is false.



1. You can do without some electrical devices.

This will probably involve changing your behavior, for instance, thinking twice before switching on an electrical tool or appliance when a non-electric alternative will work just as well or better.

2. You can learn to use your existing devices more efficiently.

 This step, too, requires changes in habit, but once you've understood the extra expenses caused by inefficiency and waste, you'll feel good about it - plus you'll save money by practicing efficiency.

3. You can purchase new appliances that render your household inherently more energy efficient.

 This step requires initial outlays of money, and in some cases higher short-term expenses, but with certain especially wasteful appliances, the best way to save energy and money is to immediately replace the old, wasteful model.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Easter, and the Man Behind It

In Search of the Real Historical Jesus


[Nyerges is an educator, and author of such books as “Extreme Simplicity,” “Enter the Forest,” and “Self-Sufficient Home.”  You can learn more about his classes and activities at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]

Jesus!  What a man he was!  He is a man who is known and worshipped by at least a third of all humanity, and around whom our system of reckoning time revolves.  Amazing! Perhaps the most amazing thing about Jesus is that there is still so much debate about who he was, what he did, how he lived, and what he believed.  Hundreds of differing sects are stark testament to the fact that though Jesus might have had “one message,” that message has been widely interpreted over the centuries.

Let’s work through some of the most basic facts. As an historical person, he can be placed in a specific time and location.    All historians concede that they do not know the birthday of Jesus, but it is widely acknowledged that the birth date is not  December 25.  Most scholars suggest that Jesus was born in either April or September, in 4 B.C. or 6 B.C. of our current reckoning.

“Jesus” was not his name!  Really? Then why do we call him that? “Jesus” is the English rendering of Yeshua. Did he have a full name? Yes, of course, and it was not “Jesus Christ,” either, which is a title, meaning Jesus the Christ, or Jesus the Annointed.  Historians say that the actual name was Yeshua ben Josephus, that is, Jesus son of Joseph.  Another version says it is Yeshua ben Pandirah, Jesus son of the Panther.   In Indian literature, he is referred to as Yuz Asaf, and when mentioned in the Koran, he is Isa (or Issa).   Diletante “historians”  have suggested that “Jesus” didn’t actually exist because they were unable to find “Jesus Christ” in other contemporary historical records.


Ethnically, culturally, and religiously, he was Jewish, by and large.  But occasionally, a writer will suggest that Jesus was actually black, with such evidence as the preponderance of the “Black Madonnas” found throughout Europe.  The only Biblical evidence on this are the two lineages of Jesus provided, which uncharacteristically include women. Look them up yourself.

The key genealogies of Jesus listed are Luke 3: 23-31, and Matthew 1:1-17.  In these lineages, we are told of at least four of the women in Jesus’ genealogical line.  These are Rehab, Ruth, Tamar, and Bathsheba.  Rehab (also spelled Rahab) was a Canaanite.  Tamar was probably a Canaanite.  Bethsheba, often referred to as a Hittite, was more likely Japhethic, that is, not a descendant of Ham. (However, this is not clear).   Ruth was in the line of Ham. Now, who was Ham?  Who were the Canaanites and Hittites? 

According to Genesis 9:19, all mankind descended from  Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Ham’s descendants became the black people who settled in Africa, and parts of the Arabian peninsula.  His sons were Cush, whose descendants settled in Ethiopia, Mizraim, whose descendants settled in Egypt, Put, whose descendants settled in Libya, and Canaan, whose descendants settled in Palestine. The descendants of Cush were the main populace of the Cushite Empire, which extended from western Libya to Ethiopia and Nubia, all of present day Egypt, and the Arabian peninsula into the mountains of Turkey.  They spoke several languages and had skin pigmentation ranging from dark black to medium brown. 

It takes a bit of study to ascertain who these people were – and there were other possible African women in Jesus’ lineage as well – but, in general, when we are speaking of Cushites, Canaanites, descendants of Ham, etc., we are speaking of Africans.  It is entirely possible that this wasn’t a big deal when the scriptures were written since Jesus’ racial background was common knowledge.

So, although Jesus had some African ancestry, his physical appearance was such that he fit right in with the Jews of that era, based on  several passages that indicate that Jesus not only looked like every one else of the day, but was also very average and normal looking Middle-Easterner, not sticking out at all. 

Though politely referred to as “rabbi,” his ideas about life, family, death, and relationships did not always mesh well with the religious elite, who viewed Jesus as innocent, but nevertheless a trouble-maker to the establishment.


It is worth noting that the Persian Kings (the so-called 3 kings) who sought out the infant Jesus were engaged in very much the same search that the Tibetan priests employed when seeking the embodiment of the next Dali Lama.  The Bible speak of the young Jesus talking to the Rabbis in the Temple, sharing his youthful wisdom with the elders to the surprise of his parents.  Then there is no Biblical record of what he did as a teenager, and during his 20s.  We don’t hear from his again in the Bible until his appearance on the scene at about age 30, where he turned water into wine at a wedding feasts, and is depicted as a healer, prophet, and fisher of men. 

His religious observations would have been the regular observations for Jews of the day, and almost entirely different from the observations of most Christian sects today.  (The reasons for this are well-known and found in any encyclopedia on the history of the Church.)

Growing up as a Catholic, I studied Jesus, and wanted to be holy like him. I wanted to be like Jesus -- but what did that really mean?  There was so much about this person that was beyond my ability to research.  For example, what Holy Days would Jesus have observed? Was he an Essene?  Was he a Nazarene? What did these groups believe and practice? Did he have any Buddhist influence?  Who were his closest followers, the apostles?  What did he actually teach his close followers, beyond what is known from his various public talks?  Were his miracles and public healings actual events, or were they symbolic stories?  These and other questions have always swirled around this man called Jesus.

As a student of the real and historical Jesus, here are just a few of the many books I have found to be useful.

Garner Ted Armstrong of the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena, wrote a book about the “Real Jesus,” and Jesus was described as a hard-working, athletic, health-food eating powerful man, a sort of health advocate Gypsy Boots of the past who also spoke about the Kingdom within.

Holger Kersten in his “Jesus Lived in India” book presents a very different Jesus, one who is depicted on the Shroud of Turin, and one who traveled to India and studied from the Buddhists.

According to Harold Percival in his “Thinking and Destiny” book, Jesus succeeded in re-uniting his Doer and Thinker and Knower, his internal trinity, which put him in touch with his divinity, which made him, effectively, a God.  Though Percival’s terminology is unfamiliar to most Christians, he is less concerned about the historical details of Jesus and more concerned about what Jesus did, and became, that made him a focal point of most societies on earth over the last 2000 years. According to Percival, the virgin birth, the miracles, and the resurrection should all be studied to find the inner meanings for our own individual evolution.

Regardless of your religious background or belief, you are likely to be richly rewarded by delving deeply into the nuances of who Jesus was.  When everyone’s mind is upon Jesus and the Mysteries during the Easter season, I have found great value in viewing the “Jesus of Nazareth” series, and I even in such depictions as “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  Unlike so many who purport to follow in his path, I find a real Jesus emerging who was not dogmatic, but one who knew that only when we recognize each other’s humanity do we rise up into our own divinities.

 According to Holger Kersten, “Jesus did not supply theories to be ground in the mills of academia, about his path and message – he just lived his teachings!  Tolerance, unprejudiced acceptance of others, giving and sharing, the capacity to take upon oneself the burdens of others, in other words, unlimited love in action and service for one’s fellow human beings – this is the path which Jesus showed to salvation.”

                                    30  --

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Considering Palm Sunday and Easter...

[Nyerges is the author of numerous books such as “Extreme Simplicity,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and others. He can be reached at www.Schoolof Self-Reliance.com or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]

It is a time that millions of people the world over look forward to – the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.  What day is that, you ask?  Easter, the day (and season) that Christians worldwide commemorate the trial, death, and resurrection from the dead of Jesus. 

I grew up in a Catholic family, going to a Catholic school, and know well the Easter motif, beginning with the “giving something up” for Lent, and then Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (in fulfillment of scriptures).  When Jesus turned over the tables of the vendors, he sealed his fate because he attacked the god of most eras, money.  Though Jesus had been welcome to speak in the Temple, he was still regarded by those priests as an upstart, someone who seemed to know “the Truth” in a way that they had forgotten, a man who didn’t have the Temple training and no formal training to become a Rabbi.  Yet, there he was, in all his innocence, attracting crowds, purporting to heal, seeming to organically know the answers to life’s deepest questions. His trial and death were almost predictable, as most societies do not like the rabble-rousers among them. 

Every Easter I have enjoyed the inspiring messages that movie-makers have given us in their efforts to interpret the practical meaning of the Jesus message. I have particularly liked the six hour-plus presentation of “Jesus of Nazareth” produced by Franco Zeffirelli, starring Robert Powell as Jesus. It is a rare presentation that brings the story alive, and takes it out of the pages of dry church reading.  You cannot help but cry, and laugh, when viewing this unique presentation.  I have kept a Bible (Lamsa translation) handy when viewing this to see how well Zeffirelli brought alive these ancient writings. You will likely agree that he did a great job. Actor Robert Powell said once in an interview that this role “changed my life.” Indeed.

Though too many of us have gotten lost in the pre-Christian “Easter” symbolisms of eggs, bunnies, chocolate, pastel spring clothing, etc., it is still worth fighting to realize that there is still a real story here, about someone who worked hard, was ridiculed, laughed at, even killed, in order to  help us to save ourselves.   I have chosen to see the Easter story as a pattern that each of us should find and follow in our own lives.

And are there other stories out there which show this pattern in the so-called secular world?  Movie-makers have given us many such stories, but we don’t always see them for what they are.  If we consider the themes of the Easter story – humble birth, hard work, trying to rise above mundanity, showing The Way to others, some sort of “death,” and rising up again – then there are some excellent movies that give us this tale.

For example, you can’t go wrong with the classic “Whale Rider”.  If you’ve not seen it, get it immediately.  The grandfather of the  traditional village is hoping for a grandson to carry on the ways.  A girl is born, and grandpa figures he’ll  have to wait some more.  But the girl is “the one.”  She persists in  her path of learning the  traditional ways.  And when a test is given to the boys to see which one will become the new spiritual leader, the girl nearly dies, but passes the test.  She is the one.  You have to see it, and feel it, and experience that Saviorness can occur at any time, anywhere.  Of course, there are certain requirements, but chief among them is the willingness and desire to do the work required, and then doing that work.

“Powder” is another excellent movie that somewhat depicts the elements of the Easter theme, though not precisely.  It has been described as a secular story of a Savior, and his departure. It’s also worth watching to see how most of us treat our fellow man.

Yes, some of you will read your Encyclopedia and learn about the pre-Christian roots of Easter.  There is no denying that the Holy Day, as practiced generally today, has so-called “pagan” roots, because the Catholic Church chose to overlay their new traditions over older prevailing pagan traditions.  This may bother you, or it may not.  Either way, you can still observe this day and find the way to use the major themes for your personal upliftment, and for the upliftment of those around you.