Practically Seeking

November/December 2007 (Issue 7)

There's no getting away from it — the holiday season is upon us! Virtually every culture on earth has found a way to acknowledge the "return of the sun", so no matter how you choose to celebrate this season, Julie and I wish you and your families all the peace and joy and happiness your lives can hold!

On another note, classes in Texas were great, and we have entered discussions to develop a 60+ acre educational/skills facility-wildlife sanctuary-indigenous peoples cultural interpretive center. We're planning another trip down in the spring to do some further work on the property (and some more workshops as well). I'll keep you advised of future developments as the 501(c)3 gets set up. It's a very exciting project, and we're hopeful that it will move forward quickly and smoothly!
In the mean time, we're busy here in New Jersey getting ready for our upcoming Winter-themed workshops. We hope you'll check out our schedule and come by and see us soon!


P.S. We're off to the 10-day Advanced Skills class down in North Carolina and will be gone for almost two weeks. We'll be checking messages and e-mail, but if we're a little slow getting back to you we hope you'll understand!

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

What's New

Practical Primitive Logo

Now Accepting Applications!

We have begun receiving applications for our Intensive Skills Studies Program.

Rather than jumping from class to class and skill to skill, this all-encompassing six month program will provide a real structure to the learning of skills, and guide you to an holistic understanding of primitive skills and survival. Students will meet one weekend each month for intense instruction, an outline of the accompanying lessons, and a debrief of the previous month's exercises. Participants will also have up to four individual mentoring sessions each month, and the opportunity to attend any of our workshops during the six months.
There are no minimum (or maximum) skill requirements, only a sincere desire to seek a new way of learning the ancient skills, and a commitment to putting forth your best effort.
More information and the application form are up on the website.
It's going to be an incredible journey — are you ready??

Road Trips


December 15 & 16
We're traveling to CATONSVILLE, MD (west of Baltimore) this weekend for our Baskets 1 and Baskets 2 workshops.
Melon baskets, twinned baskets, woven baskets, burden baskets and coil baskets will all be covered over the two workshops. It's going to be a fun weekend. If you're already signed up for this class, we're looking forward to seeing you there!


May 2008
We're starting to plan our "West Coast Tour" for May/June 2008 and are currently considering doing workshops in Survival Bows, Arrows, Flintknapping, Fire and Tracking. If you're in California, Oregon or British Columbia and would like us to add another topic, let us know. We'd love to hear from you, so give us a call or send an e-mail and let us know what you'd like to learn!

Upcoming Events

10 Day Winter Advanced Skills

January 18–27
Tryon, NC

This is going to be an incredible program, and a lot of fun to boot! Eddie has been invited to be a Guest Instructor at this skills-packed class, being hosted by Earth School.
A few highlights of this 10 day workshop: This is the ultimate "Hands On" advanced skills program. Instructor to student ratio will be 1 to 5 or better!
For more info see our website, or go directly to Earth School to register.

Free Open Skills Nights

December 19 (Special Holiday Season Treats!)
January 16
February 20

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!

Skill of the Month

Ash Cakes

Primitive Cooking: Ash Cakes

Nothing satisfies the soul as much as food prepared on a campfire. And it's easier than you might think!
One of my favorite fire-friendly treats is the Ash Cake. They are easy to make, fun to prepare, a great family-friendly activity, and can be made from almost any flour (acorn being especially good) at any time of year. Plus, they're delicious!

Here is how we make these tasty treats…

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

How to Make Ash Cakes:

  1. Build a fire and let it burn down to a thick layer of coals. If the weather has been cold or wet, be sure your fire has burned long enough to thoroughly heat the ground beneath.
  2. Allow the coals to burn down to white ash.
  3. Use your favorite flour to make a thick dough, adding only enough water so the dough does not stick to your hands. (Not sure how to make a good dough? Check out one of our favorite recipes.)
  4. Adding chopped nuts, berries or other sweet morsels to the flour mixture can be very tasty! You can also add an egg to help with binding.
  5. Roll the dough into small balls, golf ball size or smaller.
  6. Pat each ball into a tortilla-style patty, about &14frac; inch thick.
  7. Place the dough carefully onto the hot ash (NOT the coals) and let it sit until browned to your liking, usually about 3-4 minutes.
  8. Carefully flip the patty and cook the other side.
  9. Remove from the ash with care, as they can fall apart easily at this point! Brush off any remaining ash with your fingertips or a pastry brush.
  10. Top with butter, honey, maple syrup, powdered sugar, your favorite jam/jelly or crushed fresh fruit and enjoy this delicious treat!

This Christmas, why not give Santa a little variety and leave Ash Cakes instead of cookies?!

Eddie's Bookshelf

Survival Arts of the Primitive Paiutes

Survival Arts of the Primitive Paiutes

— Margaret M. Wheat

Written in 1967, this book is the culmination of a labor of love that began almost 20 years earlier. In 1949 Margaret Wheat began recording and photographing the Northern Paiutes of western Nevada, in the hope that the skills and techniques of the Old Indian People would not be lost. She spent hours upon hours with those who knew the Old Ways, who willingly told and re-told, demonstrated and explained all that they knew, that a record of the Old Ways would be preserved for their own descendants, and for the white man.
The result of that dedicated research is this remarkable and unparalleled look at what life was like for the Northern Paiute tribes when prospectors and pioneers began crossing their lands on their way to the California gold rush.

As she states in the introduction,
"It is a story of a people whose parents hunted with bows and arrows in a non-pottery culture and whose children watched the launching of a space probe on their TV sets… This is the story of the way people survived using only tools made from bone, sinew, and hides of animals, from the fibers and stems of plants, and from the stones of the desert."

I found this book to be, simply put, amazing! The details included from interviews, photos, and descriptions make it possible to replicate the skills of a people who lived and thrived in an area that most would (and still do) consider uninhabitable. Beyond that, it delves into the psyche of those who lived so simply before, and how they adapted after, the coming of the white man.

The skills and lessons passed down from these Old Ones reach far beyond the boundaries of their home lands — I have already begun incorporating several of their techniques into my own skills repertoire.
From processing pine nuts and working willow to building houses and weaving water baskets, I completely enjoyed this book from start to finish and recommend it as a MUST HAVE for anyone interested in practicing skills.

(Thanks to our friend Tom W. for introducing me to this great book!)

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

Practically Speaking

13 Dogs & 33 Cats

Doing Unto Others…

Teddy Roosevelt said something to the effect of "You have to do what you can, where you are, with what you have." Excellent advice in terms of survival, as well as for life!

Our trip to Texas last month was far more eventful than we had anticipated it would be. Little did we realize we would be walking into quite so busy a situation. Upon arrival, we found ourselves initiating the rescue of 33 cats and 13 dogs who had been hoarded by an elderly couple over many years. My father and his wife had been providing basic care for these animals for almost three months, since one of the owners passed away and his 87-year-old spouse was placed in a nursing home. When we arrived there were only days remaining before the county took possession of the house, and these faultless animals would be destroyed.

Julie really got busy, working to exhaustion to get the word out about these poor guys, finding new homes and placements for them, and coordinating pick ups and transports. The conditions they were living in were beyond deplorable. You can see some photos of the animals and their house in the blog Julie started. (Nothing graphic — thankfully, the animals were all well fed.)

Now before you condemn or criticize (as we all are prone to do), please know that these were not wholly bad people! Ray was a veteran who was in the Army from WW II through Vietnam, and was known for his altruistic behavior. I was told that, as a Mess Sergeant during WW II, he made sure that enough food and supplies went "out the back door" that a group of Nuns could care for an orphanage in the war-torn town where he was stationed. And according to my dad, his life was like that all along. But in the end, his spouse was home-bound and unable to care for herself, they were on a meager fixed income, the ravages of old age and cancer had taken their toll, they had no family, and frankly, they were in too deep. It hurts my soul to think how many elderly in this land are in the same shape, along with how many animals are kept in similar circumstances.

The outpouring of support and assistance we received in finding new homes for those 46 animals was incredible, and has done much to support a resurgence in my faith in this woeful species of ours.
During this season of giving, we are encouraging our family and friends to forgo one present this Christmas morning, and instead, to donate the money they would have spent to one of organizations who provided such willing and selfless assistance to these pups and kitties who had no other hope. We would like encourage all of you to do the same — if not to one of these organizations, to another that is close to your heart.

Many of us spend much of our time learning and perfecting skills for the "just in case" days that some fear may lie ahead. But in the mean time, let's not forget about those who need our help, our time, our prayers and our hands in the here and now.
For it has also been written, "that which you do unto the least of these, so also you do unto me".

One Final Note

Instead of trying to find my own words to leave you with this holiday season, I want to share with you the last verse of John Denver's Christmas poem, Alfie: The Christmas Tree*. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, something else, or nothing at all, the tale of this thoughtful little pine with no desire to leave the woods and become a Christmas tree holds a message for all of us.

You see life is a very special kind of thing.
Not just for a chosen few,
But for each and every living, breathing thing,
Not just me and you.
So in your Christmas prayers this year
Alfie asked me if I'd ask you,
Say a prayer for the wind,
And the water,
And the wood,
And those who live there too.

I hope you'll take Alfie's advice to heart…

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Yule, Kwanzaa Greetings, and a very Blessed New Year to you all!

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

Top of Page

*© 1979 Cherry Lane Music Publishing Company, Inc.