Practically Seeking

April 2010 (Issue 30)

Welcome to Spring!
The plants and flowers are going crazy and our dehydrator could be running 24 hours a day with all of the bounty to be gathered. We even put up our first batch of experimental pickles for the year — Japanese Knotweed! We've never seen them before, and couldn't find a recipe, but think they should be pretty tasty. Those of you at Open Skills Night tomorrow may just get to offer your opinion! :-)

We've finished our second Hunter-Gatherer weekend and are so pleased with the way this year's tribe is shaping up. They are working very hard and learning some huge lessons already. It's shaping up to be a tremendous 6 months! Be sure to check out the photos on our Facebook page to see all that they've been up to so far. (FYI, this is a direct link — no Facebook account required!)

We're getting prepared for our first Event of the year — the Whittingham Traditional Archery Rendezvous in Newton, NJ this weekend, which is our traditional "kick-off" to event season. It's been a very busy spring so far, with several workshops filled to capacity and beyond which has been great! Our first 9 Step Knapping workshop of 2010, coming up in May, still has a few spaces available, and will cover the full process of spalling your rock, reducing and shaping your biface and pressure flaking your finished point. Eddie's signature teaching method will take you farther than you can imagine in those two days so if you've been wanting to learn to flintknap, or are currently frustrated with your efforts, be sure to come on out!

Well, the violets are in full bloom and the knotweed is ready to be cut again and the dandelion flowers are going crazy and the poke is starting to poke up — time to grab the gathering basket and head back out!

Enjoy this wonderful time of year, and make the most of the bounty of Spring!

e & j


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

What's New

SRWK Prototype

First run sold out

We wanted to let you know that the first run of our Starnater Reliant Woodsman's Knife has now sold out. We will continue to accept deposits only as pre-orders on the second run, but we do not yet have dates from the knife-maker as to when the next batch will be ready.
For those of you who have already placed your order, we hope to receive them in the next couple of weeks and will let you know as soon as they arrive!

Whittingham Traditional Archery Rendezvous
April 23-25
Newton, NJ

Hosted by the Appalachian Bowmen of Sussex County at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Newton NJ, this Traditional-only shoot is always a fun weekend. With 3-D Ranges, Archery Golf, Stump shoots, a Flying Disc range, on-site camping, Eagle-eye Qualifier, and plenty of really nice folks, this is a great event that just keeps growing.
This will be our 3rd year attending Whittingham and we're looking forward to another fun weekend hanging out with the "home town crowd". We'll have some Osage staves, Bowdrill kits, home-made soaps, salves, our new Paleo Bars, and hopefully even a few of the Starnater Reliant Woodsman's Knives. Plus, we'll be doing Fire-Making demos, flintknapping, and other fun stuff throughout the weekend, so stop by our booth and say hi. We look forward to seeing you there!

For more information on this and other events we'll be attending, check out our 2010 Events & Appearances calendar.

Texas Workshops  in June
June 19-20 in Clifton, TX

Our Hunter-Gatherer Texas tribe is heading out on their Survival Outing in mid-June, and rather than driving straight back to New Jersey we are taking the opportunity to stay a few extra days and offer a couple of one day workshops, including one of our brand new offerings:
June 19   The Cutting Edge: Using Knives, Axes, Hatchets & Machetes
June 20   Shooting the Longbow

Both workshops are being held at our Clifton location, about 40 miles north of Waco, and central to DFW, Houston and Austin. If you'd like more information about either the workshops or our Texas location feel free to send us an e-mail or give us a call.
Looking forward to seeing you then!


We're Looking for an Intern!
Flexible Intern Program beginning this Spring/Summer

Thanks to your support Practical Primitive has been steadily and continually growing this past year, and we now feel ready to begin a program that we have been wanting to start for some time.
The Practical Primitive Internship has been designed in the style of a work-exchange program, allowing successful applicants the time to participate in workshops and learn, practice and perfect their skills while also learning what it takes to run a successful primitive skills-based business.
Based on a "one-for-one" model, Interns will earn one workshop day for each 8 hours of work they put in here at the school. This will include (but is not limited to) yard work, indoor and outdoor facility maintenance, workshop preparation, assistance and clean-up, administrative and office work, e-mailing, filing, on-line and off-line research, and anything else that needs to be done. And believe me, we've got lots that needs doing!
The website has all the available details about the program, including the application. If you have any specific questions feel free to send us an e-mail.
As with all of our programs, we don't care what your primitive skills experience levels are, we just want someone who is honest, hard-working, enthusiastic, self-motivated, doesn't need to be watched over, can see what needs to be done and does it, and most of all, likes to learn cool stuff, meet people, and have fun. We're looking forward to hearing from you!

Free Open Skills Nights

April 21
May 26
June 30
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 to meet us and spend an evening hanging out.
It's fun, it's free, and everyone is welcome. We never know who will be here, or what folks will be working on, but we do know that it's always a great evening.
We look forward to having you here!

(Check out photos of some past Open Skills Nights on our Facebook page!)

Upcoming Workshops

April — September Workshop Schedule is Online

Our Spring & Summer workshop calendar is filling quickly, with many popular favorites and some great new courses, so be sure to take a look!
In the mean time, here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months...


7-8       9 Step Knapping
9          Spring Foraging
22        Bushcraft Basics: Setting Up Camp
23        Cooking with Clay
24        Survival Baskets
28        Fire Making
29-30  Primitive Pottery


19         NEW!  The Cutting Edge — Clifton, TX
20         Shooting the Longbow
26         NEW!  Advanced Firemaking: Bowdrill Beyond the Basics
27         Tracking Fundamentals
28         Woodland Basket Quiver


Skill of the Month

Paleo Power Bars

Paleo Power Bars

Just over a year ago we had a recipe for Hard Tack Trail Bread as our Skill of the Month. (One of those cakes is sitting on our kitchen shelf & still doing great over a year later!)
This spring we've decided to take the idea one step further and show you how to make your very own Paleo Power Bars.
By adding vitamin- and mineral-rich ingredients that we gathered and dried very thoroughly, we have made our own "Primitive" Power Bars that are tasty, healthy, and will last and last and last with no packaging or refrigeration.
As with Trail Bread, these will get quite hard with time, but can be easily softened by re-warming or being dipped into a hot drink, or just enjoyed as they are. We left our batch sitting on the counter after making them a few days before the Self Bows workshop this past weekend, and even as they hardened these tasty bars and cookies were a big hit with students and friends. The fact that they are already long gone is a big "thumbs up" indicator on this one; folks couldn't get enough!
So here's how you can make yours...

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


How to Make Paleo Power Bars:

  1. Using a grain mill, blender or food processor, grind each of your chosen WELL-DRIED materials as close to a powder consistency as possible, for a total of 1 cup. In the Paleo Bars shown in the photos, we have added 1/4 cup each of well-dried mixed wild violet leaves and dandelion greens, acorn flour, mixed walnuts and almonds, and beef jerky. (The greens and jerky were both dried to the point were they would snap when bent by hand.)
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and gather your base ingredients of 3/4 cup white flour, 3/4 cup wheat flour, 3/4 cup cornmeal and 2 cups of (preferably local) honey. Feel free to experiment with different types of flour, just be sure they contain enough "binding" agents (e.g. gluten) that your finished product will not crumble.
  3. Mix together your white flour, wheat flour and cornmeal.
  4. Add your additional dried ingredients, and combine into the flour/cornmeal mixture until all are evenly disbursed.
  5. Carefully heat your 2 cups of honey until it becomes thin enough to run easily off a spoon. This can be done in a microwave or in a pot of water on the stove, but either way, do not allow the honey to boil!
  6. Add the warmed honey to your dry ingredients and combine thoroughly until your mixture has a consistency similar to cake or brownie batter. If the batter is too thick, add hot water a little at a time to loosen.
  7. Grease a jelly-roll pan or baking sheet that has sides, and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread evenly over the pan, as with brownies.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the cake has turned a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool, then slice into bar-sized portions and enjoy!
  10. COOKIE OPTION: Alternatively, you may choose to make a thicker batter by adding about 1/2 cup of additional flour/dried ingredients OR by reducing the amount of honey used by about a 1/4 cup. This thicker batter is ideal for making cookies instead of bars — just spoon the batter onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes. Delicious!

These are great for a trail snack, a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or a filling breakfast on the go.
Make them using whatever flavors appeal to you,
just be sure your ingredients are well dried before using!

Until next time, Be Well and Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf


Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-mile Diet

— Alisa Smith & J.B. Mackinnon

Tomatoes from Ontario… 442 miles. Broccoli from Mexico… 2483 miles. Cucumbers and Mixed Greens from California… 2930 miles and 3023 miles, respectively. Red Peppers from Israel… 5740 miles.
Average distance each ingredient traveled so that I could eat "fresh" salad in mid-March: 2,923. Total miles: 14,618.
Thanks to the red peppers, this mid-week lunch was taken well above the estimated "farm-to-plate" average of 2,500 miles.
2,500 MILES?! How (and when) did that happen? This book does more than just endeavor to find that out.

Plenty has been on my "one of these days" book list ever since I heard the last few minutes of a radio interview with the authors back home in Ontario two years ago. I wish I had not waited so long.
James MacKinnon & Alisa Smith, a couple of thirty-something, somewhat naive and amazingly overly-ambitious freelance writers from Vancouver, B.C. decided to put themselves and that 2,500 mile statistic to the test and eat only what grew within a 100-mile radius of their small downtown apartment for one full year, beginning on March 21, the first day of Spring. (Did I mention naive...?)
Intended to be a (deceptively) simple foray into a new world of old-style eating, what Alisa and James discovered during that year, and what they were able to convey so beautifully in this wonderful book, was far more than what they ever imagined. And, frankly, a million times more than I ever dreamed when I first picked it up.

The story of what they went through to find their local food sources was interesting, fascinating, and sometimes frighteningly hard to believe. And the back and forth, 'he talks about one month, she relates the next one' manner in which they relate their story gives it a truthfulness and emotional honesty that one rarely sees in books anymore.
But for me, the "year of eating locally" was the supporting player in this story. This is so much more than a book about "local food is good for you" and "getting to know your farmers can enrich your life". While these concepts are both very true and valuable lessons in and of themselves, a far deeper and infinitely more important thread runs through the whole of this volume as the authors discover and relate in their pages some of the most important lessons of my life.

Plenty is a book about who we are, what we are in danger of becoming, how much we have lost and saddest of all, that we are in real and immediate danger of succumbing to the "double disappearance" effect by forgetting what all of that even was. Following their journey from a realization that "the weather and the seasons had become strangers" and their determination to do something about it, through to a time when "it was winter outside, but summertime in the freezer", took me on a journey of my own.
I could have filled this entire review with nothing but quotes that I underlined during my second read-through of Plenty (which began immediately after finishing it the first time), and I thank James & Alisa from the bottom of my heart for their willingness to share more than just a factual account of their eating adventure, but a factual, philosophical and visceral mixture of all they learned that year, on every level. And for finding a way of relating those discoveries in a way that is thought-provoking, uplifting and delightful; never preachy, or depressing, or apocalyptic.

I could have filled this review with a multitude of quotes, but instead I will leave you with just one, along with the highest recommendation to read this book and discover the rest for yourself:

"This thing we call nature is not, as a tree can be, just something to look at on weekends out of the city.
It is what keeps us alive. This is so basic a fact that it seems tedious to say it, and yet,
this understanding is not among the founding principles of civilization as we know it.
There was a time, though, when we felt this knowledge every time we ate."

  — Julie

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

Practically Speaking

Distance is the Enemy of Awareness

"Distance is the Enemy of Awareness." When I first read this sentence it hit me so hard that I almost felt as though I had been slapped. I stopped reading, shook my head, went back to the beginning of the paragraph and began again. "Distance is the Enemy of Awareness." Tossed so casually at the end of a chapter that it seemed an almost barely connected afterthought. "Distance is the Enemy of Awareness."

If there is one truth that I have learned over these three years since Eddie & I began Practical Primitive, it is that virtually everything we teach comes down to one concept: Awareness. What is Tracking but the awareness of that which is different from what is around it? Fire Making but an awareness of the laws of physics that govern heat and friction? Flintknapping but an awareness of where and how and with what to hit a rock? Everything we do is a manifestation of one aspect or another of Awareness. It is in showing and leading and teaching people how to close that Distance and discover that Awareness for themselves where Eddie's true skill and mastery as a teacher shines.

But how does this idea of Distance vs. Awareness affect other areas of our lives? The thoughts that first come to mind are the most obvious: Physical distance prevents us from being aware of what is happening in the day-to-day lives of family and friends. Emotional distance precludes us from having a truly intimate relationship with those whom we love, or from allowing us to see how our words and actions affect others.

But what about Environmental distance? Political distance? Intellectual distance? Artistic distance? Distance from our food sources? From the people and animals and insects and plants and things which provide us with our everyday needs? Not just our cars and our cell phones and our oil (the hot topic of the day), but our shoes, our teddy bears, our elastic bands and our honey. Where do they come from? Who makes them? What are they made out of? What is the environmental impact? Who harvests it? Do they make a living wage? Under what conditions do they work? Can we, here in this Google-everything-faster-than-the-speed-of-light Internet age, even find that out? Probably not. And we have become okay with that. We have, as a society, reconciled ourselves to the fact that we do not have family cobbler, nor will we ever likely see the factory (or even the country) in which our shoes are made.

It's no secret that we live in a world today that most of us do not really understand, and that races forward with a technological speed that is truly staggering. In this global age of 24-hour-everything, we are almost forced to create some sort of distance, for fear of being overwhelmed. An overload of information has virtually required us to envelop ourselves in a cocoon of ignorance that, lets face it, makes our lives much easier to survive. But that same distance leaves us Unaware of the truth of many situations and circumstances that we should not be. The further distant we are from our awareness the easier it is for others who do not share our goals or interests to manipulate us to their own ends, which may be completely contrary to our own.

Take, for instance, toilet paper. Yes, that's right, the humblest of all domestic servants, toilet paper. Until recently I used to be right there at the check-out line with my giant Costco-sized package of 3-ply super-soft, ultra-quilted toilet paper. We go through an awful lot of the stuff, what with workshops and all, and I admit that I had never given much thought to where it came from. Never, that is, until I had the startling revelation that it is, in fact, paper, and it does, in fact, come from trees. Among the most sought-after TP trees? Big, beautiful, majestic Douglas Fir trees — Giants of the forest that I sit in front of in awe and wonder when I travel to the west coast.
Sure, my old 3-ply, ultra-quilted paper was a little softer, but come on, do I really need to wipe my butt with virgin forest Douglas Firs, Maples and Oaks? And yes, our new 100% recycled paper does cost a little more. But no matter what the price, I ask again, do I really need to wipe my butt with virgin forest Douglas Firs, Maples and Oaks?
Seriously people, do I even need to answer that question? What I wonder at now is, how is it that I had never asked that question before?
Hundreds of thousands of trees would be saved, countless acres of animal and insect habitat, who knows how many gallons of water unpolluted, thousands of species left to live their lives as they were meant to, and all we would have to do is switch to recycled butt-wipe. Instead, the major brands continue to use up the virgin forests — OUR virgin forests — and insist that "the public" (that's you and me by the way) would never tolerate recycled material in our toilet paper. We, apparently, have already spoken. With our dollars. Did you know that?

Distance is the Enemy of Awareness.
In the month or so since this phrase has come into the lexicon of our home I can not begin the count the number of times it has been shouted out as applicable to one situation or another. It seems to come up in an alarming number of conversations, underscoring how the "Art of Remaining Unaware" has permeated so many aspects of our collective culture. Becoming Aware is a wonderful, exciting, liberating, and sometimes very uncomfortable process. Because when you remove that Distance, when you become Aware, you may learn things that very often you wish you did not know. Things that force you to make choices that you do not want to have to make. To choose to live your life in a way that is, well, less convenient. But as hard as you might try, you can't "un-know" something. And to steal a quote from Oprah, "When you know better, you do better."
And while it is just my humble opinion, I am of the belief that the planet was not put here for our convenience; that we have a responsibility to be aware of what we are doing to this Earth, and what effect the manner in which we choose to live has upon it.
While changing to recycled toilet paper might be a relatively small change to me, I'm pretty sure that it is a very big deal to one particular Douglas Fir that will now get to grow to the majestic fullness of its intended life span of perhaps a thousand years or more. Any my butt is quite content with that.

Distance is the Enemy of Awareness.


One Final Note

"The garden is a constant reminder that our depleted global environment is linked to the gap we have constructed between our food and ourselves, but a deeper truth is rooted in paleoecology." 
"On a paleoecological time scale, the separation between us human beings and the landscapes that sustain us is brand-new. It has widened in the blink of an eye. For almost all of our history as a species, we depended on our surroundings and abused the environment at our peril. The sudden death of a local river was not a saddening sound bite; it was a life-threatening catastrophe."
(J.B. MacKinnon, Plenty)

Distance is the Enemy of Awareness...

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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