Practically Seeking

April 2011 (Issue 36)

Welcome to Spring!
I know they say "April Showers Bring May Flowers", but would a few more days of sunshine in between really be so bad?? :-)
Now that the snow as (finally!) all gone away we've been spending our sunny days cleaning up the new property, planning and planting gardens, and preparing for all the exciting new projects we will be implementing over the coming seasons. Our rainy days have been filled with replenishing supplies, ordering new t-shirts, making soaps and salves, and working on our upcoming instructional DVD series. Needless to say we've been busy, but always strive to take at least a few minutes every day to enjoy the miraculous changes going on right outside our door with the beauty of the Spring green-up — something new poking up out of the ground every few hours it seems! Doncha just love this time of year?!

Speaking of Spring, due to the incredibly popularity of our Spring Foraging workshop this past weekend we have added an additional date to the calendar for May 7. It's already half-full so if you want to come out and join us be sure to register soon!

Our World of the Hunter-Gatherer program has begun and we are SOO excited about this year's Tribe — you can check out photos of Steve, Ryan, Gina and Kevin as they progress through their Hunter-Gatherer experience.
We also want to welcome our newest Intern, Dan Farella. You'll probably see him around a lot over the next few months helping us to get things done around the Hacienda — plus Dan will be conducting Edible Plant walks on Open Skills Nights throughout the summer! (More details on that below.)
If you are interested in applying our Intern program we are still looking for assistance over the summer and fall so be sure to apply soon!

It's hard to believe that Events season is beginning this weekend as we head to the Whittingham Traditional Archery Rendezvous in Newton, NJ. That is the surest sign of Spring being well and truly here, and we are looking forward to a beautiful three days of weather (knock on wood) so if you are in the vicinity we hope you'll come out and say hi to us at our booth and shoot a few arrows at this Jersey great event.

Well, time to get back to packing the Traveling Road Show — Enjoy the joys and wonders of this amazing season!

e & j


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

What's New

Whittingham Traditional Archery Rendezvous
April 29 -- May 1
Newton, NJ

The official start of our "Events" season, the Whittingham Rendezvous is one that we look forward to every year. Hosted by the Appalachian Bowmen of Sussex County, this weekend promises to be, as always, a fun time. 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 is now in it's 20th year and just keeps growing.
We've had a fantastic time the last couple of years and always look forward to hanging out with the "home town crowd" of New Jersey Traditional Archery enthusiasts. We'll be doing Fire-Making demos, flintknapping, edible plants walks and other fun stuff throughout the weekend, and we'll have soaps and salves and bowdrill kits and more for sale, so stop by our booth and say hi — we look forward to seeing you there!

For more information about this shoot, see our Events page.

2nd SPRING FORAGING Date Added to Schedule
Saturday May 7

Due to the EXTREMELY high demand for this workshop we have added a second date to the schedule!
With so many people on the waiting list we decided to go ahead and add an additional Spring Foraging workshop to our calendar on Saturday May 7.
This workshop is already half full, so if you'd like to join us for this fun and delicious day don't wait, register now — we're looking forward to seeing you then!

Plant Walks coming to Open Skills Nights!
May 20th, 5 - 8 pm

As an exciting new addition to Open Skills Night, our newest intern, Dan Farella, will be conducting edible plant walks here at Practical Primitive on the third Wednesday of every month. Dan has been learning and practicing with plants for many years and regularly conducts plant walks all around central New Jersey. We are thrilled to be able to offer this fun new option to our local community and hope that as many folks as possible will come take advantage of the opportunity!
You are welcome to come just for the Plant Walk then be on your way, or to stick around afterward for some Open Skills Night hang-out time.
You can find out more about Dan on his website, Return to Nature, and if you have any questions about the evening feel free to send us an e-mail of give us a call.

Free Open Skills Nights

May 18
June 15
July 13
Come on out and join us for our FREE Open Skills nights the third Wednesday of each month at our new location near Hackettstown. 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. Things generally start up after work (6-ish) and folks come and go throughout the evening. We never know who will be here, or what folks may 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

2011 Spring/Summer Workshop Schedule is Online

Our 2011 workshop schedule for Spring & Summer is now posted online, with several great new workshops the we are finally able to add here in our new place, as well as your Summertime favorites — Be sure to check it out!
In the mean time, here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months…


7          Spring Foraging (Added due to popular demand!)
20        The "GO" Bag
21-22   9 Step Knapping
23        Burned Bowls & Bark Containers
27        The Cutting Edge: Proper Use of Knives, Axes, Hatchets & Machetes
28        Bushcraft Basics: Setting Up Camp
29        NEW! Campground Cookery: Dutch Ovens, Skillets, Griddles, Grills & More


10        Tying it All Together: Knots, Lashings & Putting Cordage to Use
11-12   Survival Skills 101
17        NEW! Non-Returning Boomerangs
18        NEW! Medicinal Plants
19        Traps, Simplified
24        Immediate Need & Emergency Shelters
26-27   Primitive Pottery


Skill of the Month

Serving Wrap

The Tale of the Malfunctioning Camera

So here's the thing… our camera crapped out this month and we just got a new one! Unfortunately with our past weekend of full and busy workshops we did not get the new camera in time to put together a brand new Skill for this Month. :-(
Soooo… instead, we are going to bring back one of our most unexpectedly popular Skills from back in 2007 — The Serving Wrap!

The Serving Wrap is a technique that you will find useful in many ways. This protective/finishing wrap can, for example, be used to serve bow strings (protect the string from the friction of the nock), install nocking points, wrap fish hooks, fletch arrows, wrap bow handles, finish basket handles and much, much more.
You can use almost any flexible material as your wrap; leather, rawhide, bark, cordage, vine etc.
In our example photos we are using wisteria vine, and using the word "cordage" as a catch-all term.

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


How to complete the Serving Wrap:

  1. Place your desired cordage at the spot you wish one end of your serving wrap to finish, and wrap once around your object, leaving a "tail" long enough that you will be able to pull your wrapping tight (about 3-4 inches).
  2. Go around once more, again wrapping over top of the protruding tail to help keep it in position, and snug it down good and tight.
  3. On your third wrap, slide the cordage underneath, so that this time the tail is laying on top.
  4. The fourth time around, once again wrap over top of the tail, and pull tight to lock it into place.
  5. Continue to wrap around your object as many times as you need to complete your project, being sure to keep the wrap snugged down and tight at all times. (You can wrap your "tail" completely under, or if you prefer, wrap over the tail enough times to ensure it will not come loose then cut the rest off.)
  6. Once you are close to the desired length, it is time to finish your wrap. On your next time around, bring the cordage down several inches away from rest of your wrap, leaving enough slack to create a large loop.
  7. Bring the cordage up and THROUGH the loop. Continue wrapping in the same direction, but now from the bottom up - back toward your original wrap. Wrap at least four times around, back up the piece, each time going under the loop.
  8. Bring the end of your cordage up to the original section and hold it down tightly against this portion of your wrap.
  9. Grasp the large loop with your other hand and bring it down against your object so that it is snug against the main wrap, holding down the end of your cordage.
  10. Continue the wrap by moving the large loop around your object. As you do this you will see the small section unwrap as the main side wraps down. Be sure to keep the end of your cordage held in place, and your wrap pulled tight.
  11. When all you have left at the far end of your wrap is your big loop, pull the end of your cordage as tight as possible. Using your knife or scissors, cut of the rest of your cordage as close to the wrap as you can. So long as you've kept your wrap good and tight there's no need to worry about it coming undone!

Enjoy this great looking finishing touch to your project!

Until next time, keep practicing, and Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Practicing Primitive

Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills

—Steven M. Watts

In the world of Primitive Skills there is one name that everyone knows — or at least they should! Steve Watts has been practicing, discovering, learning and exploring the world of our ancestors for decades and his Practicing Primitive is an excellent compilation of the knowledge and skill he has achieved and is passing on.

A founding member of the Society of Primitive Technology and director of Aboriginal/Native Studies at the Schiele Museum in North Carolina, Watts' passion for both learning and teaching primitive skills is well known. His Handbook of Aboriginal Skills is a fantastic compilation of articles, diagrams and instructional offerings that chronicle his "search for hands-on communication with that stone age past."  Though we have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Steve personally we share the common goal of getting people out there trying things and learning through experiences.

One of my favorite things about this book is the great variety of skills it covers. Going far beyond the usual fare, Watts draws from every aspect the primitive skills spectrum. From bullroarers and fishing floats to thrusting spears and cattail houses, this book, organized by categories such as "Woven through Time" and "Sheltered in Prehistory" will provide you with plenty of great projects to work on. Filled with plenty of helpful diagrams and photos, and well-written, easy-to-follow instructions, Practicing Primitive deserves to be on every primitive practitioner's reference shelf.

Steve's 20-plus years of constant questing for the knowledge of our ancestors has given him a unique and philosophical perspective on primitive skills that permeates this book in a very special way. His inclusion of personal notes and thoughts and memories takes the enclosed information far beyond a simple "how-to" and engages the reader in a much more personal way. Unlike many other similar books I never got the feeling that Steve was trying to show off or prove how much he knows, but rather, that he was sharing what he has learned with the hope that the reader would follow in his footsteps, try what he has tried and then continue beyond to discover a truer and more authentic version of themselves.

The final lines of the Preface of this book sum up it's purpose beautifully in Mr. Watts' own words from 1985:
"The 'stone age' is the great common denominator of humanness. Primitive ('first') skills are our shared inheritance."

If you wish to journey backwards and discover our common past, Practicing Primitive is one of the best books I know to help you along the way.

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


Practically Speaking

Pessimism is the New Black

Over the past several months the news has been filled with the unrest, trials and tribulations of a world in turmoil. But while the news networks and cable channels have been doing their best to sow the seeds of fear and anxiety for some version of a coming apocalypse and/or zombie war, Eddie and I have seen many of these stories as  beacons of hope for the future!

I want to pose a question to you all: Why are we so certain that the inevitable change that comes with today's unsustainable world lifestyle must degenerate into chaos, anarchy and unruly turmoil? Why are we so certain that it MUST be so?
This past December there was a Twilight Zone marathon on television. One episode, titled "The Shelter", ended with a quote that all of us would do well to remember:

"For civilization to survive the human race must remain civilized."

The peoples of Egypt and Japan have shown us that this IS possible!

Throughout the month of February we all watched as the people of Egypt rose up in a peaceful revolution to change their country. While the results of their desire for a better world are still in flux, the fact is that the people chose NOT to allow things to devolve or circumstances to degenerate. Eddie and I watched in awe and pride when, as protesters streamed past the Library at Alexandria and the Egyptian museums, individual protestors broke off from the main groups to ring these institutions to protect them and refused to allow any looting of their cultural treasures. The protestors themselves demanded that the situation remain civilized!

A few weeks later the terrible earthquake(s) and tsunami hit Japan. Thousands dead, homes, families and lives destroyed, a nuclear plant on the verge of complete meltdown... yet film clip after film clip showed the people affected by this terrible tragedy comporting themselves with dignity; patiently waiting in line for food and water, refusing to allow their world to deteriorate any more than it already had. Once again there was no looting, no plundering, no man-made destruction.
We found it to be less than encouraging to watch as people on the west coast of the U.S. panicked more over the perceived threat of a possible hazard potentially coming in the future than did the citizens of the prefecture in which the actual nuclear crisis was taking place.

I ask again, why are we so determined that it MUST be so?
Let us take a lesson from these two very different cultures in two very different circumstances, both choosing to remain civilized under incredibly trying circumstances.
And when the "prophets" and the media try to convince us that we must, for some reason, abandon our civility and our communities and our humanity let us all remember the wisdom of a 50-year-old television show and the example of our brothers and sisters half-way around the world and choose to, always, remain civilized. 


One Final Note

It sometimes felt it would never arrive (and sometimes it feels like it still hasn't!) but the trees and plants and flowers don't lie -- Spring has definitely Sprung! So "Go Slow and Look Low" as you keep your eyes out for all of the amazing bounty that nature has once again begun to provide now that the "Green up" is in full swing.

Until next month, we leave you with the words of Margaret Atwood and hope you will take up her challenge!

"In the Spring, at the end of the day,
you should smell like dirt."

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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