Practically Seeking

August 2008 (Issue 14)

Hey there,
I'm finding it hard to believe that Labor Day is just around the corner and the summer is almost over! We're back from the big Survival Outing (check out some photos from the trip), meaning this year's Hunter-Gatherer program has officially finished and World of the Bow will be starting in just a few weeks. I hope to culminate this Intensive Skills program with a primitive hunt at our Pennsylvania camp in pursuit of the humongous whitetail deer we saw there last week! It is my sincere desire that the participants in this program find it as educational as the Hunter-Gatherer folks did.
Speaking of which, we have already begun receiving applications for next year's Hunter-Gatherer program so if you are interested I encourage you to begin working on your application now. We will only accept 4 participants, but I am entertaining the idea of running two concurrent groups, with each one meeting on different weekends.

We have also had several people express an interest in doing a workshop on Using the Whole Deer. In conjunction with Two Wolves Braintanning, we are contemplating this as a possible addition to our November workshop schedule. If you are interested in participating in a week-long workshop on this topic please send an email to let us know so we can get it on the schedule. Cost would be about $700, and as per usual you would stay on-site and meals would be included. We would tan hides, process and preserve meat, dry sinew, do bone work, and much more.

We're off to Flint Ridge this weekend and are looking forward to ending the summer Events season spending time with old friends, meeting new people, flintknapping and "Ooga-Booga" in this beautiful and historic environment. It's going to be a fantastic weekend, and I can't think of any better way to celebrate the end of summer, so if you're in the area we hope you'll stop by and say hi.


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

What's New

Fall / Winter Schedule Now Available!

As you may have already seen, our Fall/Winter schedule is now posted on the website. We've added some brand new workshops this time around — some of them inspired by skills the Hunter-Gatherer group enjoyed and found useful, and some in response to the questions and requests we've gotten from y'all.
Here's a quick list:

Look forward to seeing ya soon!

Upcoming Events


August 29–31
Flint Ridge Park, Brownsville, OH

The largest Knap-in in the Northeast, Flint Ridge is the place to go for experienced knappers and newbies alike. We had a great time at this event last year and are really looking forward to heading back and spending time with all the great folks we met.

For more information on Flint Ridge check out the Special Events page on our website.

Advanced Wilderness Living Skills Intensives

October 18–24 and 25&dnash;31
Tryon, NC

Eddie is once again heading to North Carolina to team up with Richard Cleveland's Earth School for these Advanced Skills classes. This time around Richard has decided to extend the program from 10 days to 2 one-week sessions and you can sign up for the first, second or both weeks. Eddie will be instructing during the last half of the first week and the first half of the second week, and is looking forward to hanging out with another group of great folks.

For more information on these Advanced Skills classes check out the Earth School website.

Texas Workshops in November

November 28–December 1
Clifton, TX

We're off to the home state for Thanksgiving and will be running a few workshops while we're there:

A trip to Nova Scotia in November and the first weekend of Secrets in the Stone at the beginning of December makes this a quick trip, but we think you'll enjoy the workshops we've scheduled, and look forward to seeing old friends and new faces.

Free Open Skills Nights

September 17
October 15
November 19

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. We look forward to having you here!


Practical Primitive Logo

The application deadline for The World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter has now passed and we're looking forward to getting started in a few weeks!


Secrets in the Stone

Beginning with the Nine Basic Steps of Flintknapping, you will learn everything from how to fashion the most basic of stone tools, through the advanced flintknapping techniques of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, all the way up to current methods used by modern knappers around the world.
December 2008 — February 2009
Application Deadline: October 31

World of the Hunter-Gatherer

During this six month program you will delve deeply into the skills and resources needed to thrive in a Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle. Learn in a wholistic manner, leaving the randomness of individual skills behind. Discover a whole new way of truly becoming a part of the world around us all and test what you have learned in the full survival outing that is the culmination of the program.
March — August 2009
Application Deadline: January 31

Curious about the programs? Give us a call at 732-276-8159 or send us an e-mail. We're happy to answer all your questions! Or check out the website for all the details and to fill out your application.
We look forward to working with you!

Upcoming Classes

Our Fall/Winter schedule has been posted!
Here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


11–12    Medicinal Plants
13–14    Intermediate Flintknapping
      19   Nature Observation & Awareness
      20   Making Fire
21–27    Advanced Bow-Making: Recurves, Bamboo- and Sinew-backed bows
      28   Shooting the Longbow


      10   NEW! Making a Reed Boat
11–12    Tracking Essentials
18–19   NEW! Working with Grasses


      21   NEW! Processing Acorn
      22   Primitive Cooking
      28   The "GO" Bag
      24   Flintknapping Basics (Clifton, TX)
 29–30   Survival Skills 101 (Clifton, TX)

Skill of the Month

Anasazi Shelter Wall

Survival Cement

One of the most useful substances to use outdoors is Survival Cement.
This mixture of mud and grasses can be used for a multitude of projects, from construction of shelters, cooking structures, kilns and food caches, to wrapping food for clay baking and much more. (As seen in my articles in Wilderness Way magazine on some of these subjects.)
Survival cement has been used in many ways, throughout countless eons of history. It's simple to make, the ingredients are easy to come by, and it is one of the most durable resources available in a primitive situation. In fact, during a trip to Utah a couple of years ago we encountered some Anasazi ruins that were many hundreds, if not thousands, of years old where the survival cement was still intact. (Check out the photos.)
How many modern buildings will be able to say that?!

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

How to make Survival Cement:

  1. Find a source of mud with a high a clay content (if you smush some of the mud into a ball and it retains it's shape, you should be good.) and fill up a bucket with it — more if you are planning a large project.
  2. Harvest an armful of grasses, preferably dry — more if you are planning a large project.
  3. Cut your grasses into lengths of about 6–12 inches.
  4. Hydrate your mud to a point where it will squish, not run, easily through your fingers. The consistency must be wet enough that it can be molded, but not so watery that it will not hold it's shape. Wetter mixes are good for mortar between stones, firmer for making bricks and solid survival cement structures, firmer still for wrapping food.
  5. Spread a tarp on the ground and place the bucket of mud and the grasses at the edges of the tarp.
  6. Dump the mud out of the bucket into the center of the tarp and place about half of your grass on top of the mud.
  7. Get barefoot, and begin to stomp the grasses into the mud. (Or, if you're not interested in getting your feet dirty, do like Eddie and fold part of the tarp over and stomp on that!)
  8. Once the mud/grass mixture has spread out and flattened, step off the tarp and fold it in half, turning the mixture back onto itself. Do this a couple of times until it has formed back into a sort of ball, then add the remaining grass and start stomping once again.
  9. Repeat this process until all the grass is added and has been thoroughly combined into the mud. You want the grass to be between 40% to 60% of your mixture, depending on the project.
  10. Begin your survival cement project immediately, as once it begins to dry the mud will harden and be difficult to mold.

Now Get Muddy, and Have Fun!

Eddie's Bookshelf

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass

— Harold Gatty

A navigator in World War II, Harold Gatty got used to staking his life and the lives of others on his ability to find his way home under all sorts of circumstances. After leaving the service, Gatty continued studying, learning and practicing all types of navigation and quickly became the preeminent expert on the subject. And though published in 1958, the information in this book remains extremely relevant and useful today.
By applying the methods used by primitive peoples and early explorers, Gatty shows how you can determine your location by studying wind direction and reflections in the sky. He reveals how your senses of smell and hearing can help you to find your way in the wilderness, the desert, the snow, and on the ocean. Observing birds and animals, weather patterns, vegetation, shifting sands, patterns in the snow and the position of the sun, moon and stars can all help you learn to estimate distances and find your way without having to rely on a map or compass.

I found this volume to be extremely interesting and informative, and learned several new things. Did you know that you can point your finger while looking through one eye, switch eyes, and use the parallax to accurately estimate distances? Or that horsetail can be indicative of the presence of gold (and it can contain up to 4 oz per ton of plant material?) How about the fact that the commonly taught method of using a watch as a compass can be off by as much as 24 degrees?
There is a lot of information in here that will take years to master and the techniques will require much observation and study. But for those who take the time to practice, the resulting improved awareness will quickly and easily spill over into your other skills, and all aspects of your life. While I personally found it a bit difficult to get through some of the maritime applications, that's just not my cup of tea.
Overall I enjoyed this book thoroughly and recommend it highly for the hunter, hiker, outdoors person and primitive skills enthusiast alike. After all, no matter how good your GO Bag is, if you can't get to where you're going (or home again), you're just plain lost.

Of course, that could be just where you want to be…

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

Practically Speaking

Hunter-Gatherer Frank

Survival Is as Survival Does

It's been almost a week since we returned from our dynamic Survival Outing with the Hunter-Gatherer '08 class. We spent the week at our 350 acre Allegheny Mountain camp in southern Pennsylvania and I want you all to know how proud of them I am! They walked into a completely unfamiliar environment with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few things they made themselves, and they walked out six days later safe, healthy, and secure in the knowledge that they were able to shelter, feed and care for themselves in a practical and self-sufficient way that many people THINK they can, but few people have actually tested.
(You can see some of the photos from the trip here.)

What they learned and practiced over the past six months very quickly left the realm of theory during their time in the woods. They took with them only items they had made during the program — clay pots, baskets, stone tools — and they caught fish, set traps, foraged for greens and tubers and spices, and learned first hand the challenges that come with feeding yourself in a new environment, especially at this time of year. But in spite of a cold first night (until the shelters where tweaked*#41; and learning to live, work and compromise with fewer calories under the belt, they had an overall good experience and I am really proud of all that they accomplished. And now that they are home again, back to "real life", and contemplating their actual success and the actual lessons they learned from the trip I have no doubt that they will have the confidence to continue working on their skills and head out to test them again and again.

The purpose of the outing was to show them how far they had come and how far they can still go; to push personal limits and peak out onto new horizons. There is a very big difference between thinking you know how to build a shelter or make a bow drill fire when you are comfortable and well-fed in your own environment and there is really nothing at stake, and having to perform those same feats in an unknown environment with little or no food in your stomach and dark coming on.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and, let's admit it, frightened by the idea of heading out to test your skills in a planned survival situation. (Key word being PLANNED!) But the plain truth is that no matter how many pages of notes you write, or books you read, or classes you take, or even times you try things in your backyard, until you stop contemplating and take that leap, it's all just theory.
And there is a big difference between theory and experience. Remember, when theory and experience disagree, always trust experience.

It is quite an accomplishment to start out with limited (or no) skills and learn to provide for yourself fully — whether it's been just a few months or many years in the making. For this group, I feel it is a testament to their hard work that they were able to adapt to an unknown environment and thrive.
Well Done crew — You folks Rock!

One Final Note

With Autumn just around the corner, the time is now upon us to start seeking out the seeds to help propagate the plants for next year. It is also the time to collect and process the seeds of grasses like my favored foxtail, and to begin watching for nuts that will soon begin to fall.
Waste not a day contemplating what you may do at some future time; get out and do it now for the resource may no longer be available when you finally get back around to it. (As we learned once again last week with a bush that was full of delicious berries one day and bare, thanks to the bear, the next.)
Take full advantage of these last long days of summer and observe and enjoy this wondrous transition time as the seasons prepare to turn once again.
Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

Top of Page