Practically Seeking

April 2008 (Issue 11)

Hey there,
Ahhhh spring!
I must say, this has been the hardest letter of the year to write — the sun is shining and the temperature has hit the mid-70's, and here I am sitting inside on the computer!
There's just something about the warmth and renewal that comes with spring that brings out the creative in me. Over the past two weeks Julie and I have made two bows, a half dozen pots, a "meal-size" gathering basket, a woven fire bag and a quiver, been foraging for all the tasty wild edibles in and around the yard, been off exploring new territories both in the Catskills and closer to home — oh yeah, and doing workshops, mentoring, the World of the Hunter-Gatherer program, website updates and new videos.
Thanks to the Creator that the days are getting longer! Hope you all are enjoying the spring warm up as much as we are. So let's see what's up this month…


What's New Upcoming Events Skill of the Month Eddie's Bookshelf Practically Speaking Final Note

What's New

Eagle Spring on YouTube

On a recent walkabout in the Catskills with my friend Mark, we came upon a muddy area near the top of the mountain on which their family lives. Mark commented on how it stays wet there all year round, meaning that even at that high of an elevation we had a water source on our hands!
Mark mentioned that he had been wanting to dig out this seep for years, but never got around to it. So figuring there was no time like the present, I grabbed us a couple of diggin' sticks and we got to work!
We came back the next day with shovels to finish the job properly and line the spring with rocks, and when an Eagle flew over just as we were finishing up we decided to name the spot Eagle Spring. The water is clean, delicious and COLD, and since it's flowing straight out of the mountaintop, is about as safe to drink as you can get. Mark e-mailed to tell us that the critters of the mountain have been loving it, making good use of the place from day one.
You'll learn more about digging out a seep below in our Skill of the Month, and can see video of the project on YouTube.
Many thanks to Wright Mountain, Brother Eagle, and Mother Earth for providing us with such a beautiful and bountiful reminder what is there for us, if we just take the time to look.

Upcoming Events


April 24 – 27
We're headed up to Newton, NJ and are very excited to be meeting the "home town crowd" of New Jersey Traditional Archery enthusiasts. With 3-D Ranges, Archery Golf, Stump shoots, a Flying Disc range, on-site camping, Eagle-eye Qualifier and much more, this promises to be fun weekend. So if you're in the area stop by our booth and say hi. We look forward to seeing you there!

West Coast Tour

May 20 – June 15
In less than a month we'll be on the road west to Oregon! We're very excited about the whole trip, though we can't stay as long as we had originally planned.
A family event in Texas (congratulations Jimmy!) means a swing down to the old home state, and we're just beginning to plan for a couple of workshops in the Dallas/Waco/Austin areas.
Then it's off to Chicago for a long weekend of classes before we hit the road for home just in time for Open Skills Night!
For a full itinerary you can check out our Events page, but here's a brief run-down of where we'll be:

To sign up for any of these workshops head to the Registration page on our website. It's going to be a great time — We'll see ya there!

Free Open Skills Nights

May 14
June 18
July 16
Come on out and join us for our FREE Open Skills nights the third Wednesday of each month. Bring a project you're working on, a plant ID guide, an animal tracking book, or just come meet us and check out our new place. We look forward to having you here!

Upcoming Classes

You can see our full 2008 schedule on the website…
but here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


      9    Foraging & Gathering
     10   Primitive Cooking
11–12   Primitive Pottery
     25   Flintknapping (Bend, OR)
     27   Beginner Tracking (Shelton, WA)
     28   Flintknapping Basics (Shetlgon, WA)
29–30   Archery Fundamentals (Portland, OR)
31–1    Tracking Essentials (Portland, OR)


      2    Stalking & Natural Camouflage
7–10    Texas (workshops will be posted shortly)
     13   Foraging & Gathering (Aurora, IL)
14–15   Tracking Essentials
23–24   Hunting Skills 1
27–29   Bow Making: Self Bows
     30   Arrow Making

Skill of the Month

Drinking from Eagle Spring

Finding Water: Digging Out a Seep

When working to obtain water in a wilderness setting one must always question the purity of the source, particularly with any sort of surface water. One way to greatly improve your chances of not ingesting any parasites is to dig a seep.
A seep can be constructed almost anywhere the ground is wet, damp or muddy on a consistent basis. By allowing the water to filter through the earth you greatly reduce your chance of contracting a case of the "nasties", and provided there are not excessive minerals in the soil, the water may be some of the best you've ever tasted! Digging out a seep will often bring new life to an area, and is an easy project to complete in half a day.

(For photos to go along with these step-by-step instructions check out our website.)


To see video of our recent seep digging project in the Catskills, check out our new Eagle Spring video on YouTube!

How to Dig a Seep:

  1. Locate an area of damp ground. In the photos and video we are on a "bench" near the TOP of a mountain. Low lying areas are often more productive, as water flows downhill, but don't neglect those higher elevations!
  2. Adjacent to your damp area, dig a hole about the size of a basketball. This will hold several gallons of water. You can also dig a seep next to a lake, stream or pond by digging back from the edge. Sandier soil will require the hole to be farther back (5–10 feet) than clay soil (3–5 feet).
  3. If at all possible line the hole with stones, as this will be very helpful in preventing sediments from being stirred up in the water. Line the bottom as well as the sides, matching the rocks as closely as possible in jigsaw puzzle fashion in order to keep the majority of particles out of your seep water.
  4. Allow the hole to fill about one-quarter to one-third full.
  5. Scoop out the dirty, muddy water in order to remove as much sediment and flotsam as possible. Allow any remaining sediment to settle out completely until the water is clear. You may wish to repeat this process several times, stirring up the sediment before beginning to scoop, as each time the water is removed less sediment will remain. Depending on the rate of water flow, this process can take several hours or can be done over several days.
  6. Once the water has settled clear in the rock-lined hole, skim any remaining organic material off the top. The water extracted from the seep, after it has settled, will contain far fewer particles that may potentially clog your filters.
  7. Good judgment and prudence are always required when dealing with water sources. As a safety precaution, treatment by filtering or boiling is always recommended before consumption. If you plan to use your seep on a regular basis you may also choose to have the water tested.
  8. A seep will be found very quickly by the local wildlife, and may bring new birds and animals to the area. When you return to your new water source, it is always best to scoop out the majority of the water and allow the hole to refill before taking your drink. (Added bonus: the area around your new water source may become a great tracking spot!)

Safe, clean water is our most valuable, most necessary, and arguably our most threatened natural resource. Knowing how to find water is a skill that you can not practice too much!
So watch the earth carefully and see what you can discover…

Eddie's Bookshelf

The Essential wild Food Survival Guide

The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide

— Linda Runyon

What would spring be without an edible plants book review?
No matter how much time you spend, there's no way that one person can learn everything about the plant kingdom in a single lifetime. That's why I'm always on the lookout for good information based on EXPERIENCE, and this book delivers — 15 years of foraging for a family in the mountains kind of experience! (For more on Linda Runyon see February's newsletter.)

The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide is not a plant ID book, though it does have many useful photos, drawings and descriptions. What this book does have that I like very much, and why I'm recommending it this month, are the many recipes Linda has included and even better, the specific nutritional information on 59 common and easy-to-identify wild edibles, which is rarely found in other wild edibles books. (If you have additional sources please let me know!) She also has valuable information on various means of using and preserving plants in multiple ways that are not readily found elsewhere.
Linda also includes information on potential layouts of wild food "gardens" that you can do at home. We, of course, LOVE this idea!

This is a self published book that, believe it or not, isn't available on Amazon! Instead, you can get a copy directly from Linda on her website, (tell her we sent ya) and aid in supporting an individual who earns her living teaching others about the earth.

For more information on this and other recommended books, see our website.

Practically Speaking

Wild Edible Salad

Go Slow, Look Low…

As you get outside and enjoy the season, take time to closely observe the changes going on all around you. Here in New Jersey the spring green-up is in full swing, the landscape is changing daily and new plants are practically exploding out of the ground! So take advantage of this amazing time of year and don't miss an opportunity to learn something new.

But take care…
As one of our more enthusiastic Hunter-Gatherer participants found out the hard way, it's important to acclimate your body slowly to all those tasty new flowers, roots, twigs and greens! Wild edibles are PACKED with nutrition that your body may not be used to getting, and you may be sensitive to certain plants, so GO SLOW and eat IN MODERATION until you know how you are going to react!

While loose bowels can make for funny stories, if you eat (or sometimes even touch) the wrong plant the consequences can be far more dire than a stomach ache or an extra load of laundry. Be absolutely certain what you're harvesting by always making a positive ID from 3 separate sources.
Before tasting for the first time test the plant externally by crushing some up and rubbing it on the inside of your wrist or elbow. Wait about half an hour and if there is no reaction (burning, tingling, itching, rash, headache, anxiety, difficulty breathing, etc.) rub a little on your gums and wait another hour. If you still have no reaction then consume a small amount and see what you think.

If you find it tasty and decide to add a new plant to your regular diet, remember that because of the high nutrient content you won't need to eat nearly as much as you would of a store-bought green. Only gather about one-third to one-half the amount you think you will eat. And stay far away from roadsides and areas that have been sprayed.
Wild edibles are everywhere now, and will be for a while — so go slow, look low, be aware, notice, and enjoy the bounty of Mother Earth!

One Final Note

I've been everywhere man, I've been everywhere…
Like the song says, I've been everywhere this past month, logging over 2000 miles on the truck, and the season is just starting! Thanks again to the folks in Nova Scotia for the honor of having us up to do a knapping workshop at their new Mi'kmaq Cultural Center. The people were great, the hospitality was outstanding, we had a fantastic time, and will be very excited to see the facility grow.
Our schedule is just about booked for the summer and includes trips to Oregon, California, Texas, Chicago, Baltimore, Pennsylvania, Ontario, New York and Ohio. There is a limited amount of room left, so give a holler if you want to get in on one of the workshops, or set one up in your area. And be sure to check out our Events page to see if we're going to be in your area. Stop in and say hi if you're nearby. We'd love to see ya!
So until next month, go slow, look low and Be well.

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

Top of Page