Practically Seeking

December 2008 (Issue 17)

Hey there,
Well, once again we did not manage to get out a November newsletter! (Didn't the same thing happen last year?!) My apologies for not staying in better touch.
Since mid-October I have been on a constant run from North Carolina to Nova Scotia to Texas to New Jersey, teaching virtually non-stop and lovin every minute of it. But I must admit I'm happy for our Christmas break!
I would like to officially welcome Nick, Sarah, Kati, and Tracy to our Secrets in the Stone Program. We had our first weekend at the beginning of December and they each show tremendous promise! 

For the New Year we plan to continue bringing you the high quality, hands-on workshops you have come to expect, and look forward to seeing each and every one of you again, so feel free to stop in for a visit or come out to our free Open Skills Nights the third Wednesday of every month. (You don't need to have taken a workshop to be welcome here!)
We'll be spending our year-end break putting together our 2009 Spring/Summer workshop schedule, so if there's something you want to see be sure to let us know soon.


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

What's New


Now available through our website in increments from $20 to $100, these personalized Gift Certificates can be sent by USPS or e-mail, and used toward any Practical Primitive workshop, Individual Mentoring session or Skills 2 You course. If you would like a Gift Certificate for a specific amount or workshop just give Julie a call at 732-276-8159 and she will be happy to customize one for you.
A great gift idea!

All Natural — All Vegetable — Small Batch Soap

Handmade and hand cut, each bar of this all-vegetable soap is approximately 4 to 4.5 ounces. A perfect way to counteract the dryness that comes with cold weather, this soap will keep your skin soft and smooth all winter long. Long lasting, with a luxurious lather, this soap is meant to be used! You may never go back to commercially-made soaps again.

Upcoming Events

Scout Skills Workshop Weekend

February 21-22
We've had a lot of requests about Scout training, but our friend Kevin Reeve already runs great Scout classes so we've decided that, rather than teach the basics, we would hold the first Scout Skills Workshop Weekend this February.

For those who have already taken a Scout class or had Scout training, either traditional or urban, this workshop weekend will be built completely around the Scout Skills you want to learn, practice and improve upon.
Here are some skill that participants have requested so far:

Anything that falls into the "Scout" realm is fair game!
The true Scout lives in a very different sort of world. I am dedicating this weekend to those of you who have begun to take steps into this world, that you might learn to move there more freely, fully, and with confidence.

Free Open Skills Nights

December 17
January 21
February 18

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 new and growing Flickr page!)


Practical Primitive Logo

Currently Accepting Applications For:

World of the Hunter-Gatherer

During this six month program you will delve deeply into the skills needed to thrive in a Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle. This is not a "class" or large-group, lecture-based program!
You will learn your skills as part of a small "tribe" in a completely hands-on and wholistic manner, leaving the randomness of individual skills behind. And finally, you will have the opportunity to test what you have learned in the week-long Survival outing that is the culmination of the program.
Designed for people who are ready to move beyond watching and note-taking, and discover the joys of integrating the "primitive" into their real life.
March — August 2009
Application Deadline: January 31

We are still considering running 2 concurrent programs as I will not have more than 4 people in each — you simply can not learn what you need in a larger group! So if you are interested in being considered be sure to send your application without delay!

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 Workshops

Our Fall/Winter schedule is well underway!
Here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


   9–10  Drum Making
       11  Rattles
      16   Bone Working
 17–18   The 9 Steps of Flintknapping
      19   Stone Arrow Points
      24   Adirondack Pack Baskets
      24   Primitive Lighting


13–14  Winter Tracking
     15  Making Fire
     20  The "GO" Bag
21–22  NEW! Scout Skills Workshop Weekend
 27–1  Survival Bows: 3 Bows in 3 Days


Skill of the Month

Anasazi Shelter Wall

Making Pemmican

During "Using the Whole Animal" last month we did all sorts of stuff with all kinds of animal parts. But one of the things the folks in the workshop found most surprising happened near the end of the last day:
"Hey, this tastes pretty good!"

Believe it or not, when made properly Pemmican does not taste too bad. Okay, you probably wouldn't want to serve it for Sunday dinner, but I bet you'd be surprised at how "not bad!" it actually tastes.

Packed with calories, which is what you need in a survival situation, pemmican is way up there on the "bang for your buck" food scale. It also travels well, can be stored for a LONG time, and can be made with many different variations so feel free to experiment with the extras that you add.
And next time you cook a pot roast or make some stew, save that stuff that hardens over on the top (that's rendered fat!) and try your hand at a batch of pemmican.


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

How to make Pemmican:

  1. Take equal parts of rendered fat, dried meat (jerky) and dried berries. (If you don't add berries the amount of meat can be as much as doubled, to taste.)
  2. Chop up the meat into small bits and crush it into a powder. (A blender works well.)
  3. Crush the dried berries down to a powder of similar size.
  4. Take about a third of the fat and mush it in your hands so it is pliable. Place the fat on the pile of meat powder. Turn it over and place it on the pile of berry powder.
  5. Begin working the meat and berries into the fat, disbursing them as evenly as possible.
  6. Add some more fat to the ball and place it again onto the meat and berries and work it all together. Continue this process until all the fat, meat and berries are worked in.
  7. Knead the mixture until it is thoroughly and completely combined.
  8. If you can see any white "spots" or clumps of fat, continue kneading until these have all been eliminated.
  9. Pemmican does not require refrigeration. Simply store it in a cool place in an air tight container when possible. Traditionally the intestine was used to form sausage-like links, each one being a complete portion. 
  10. Pemmican is energy dense, slow to digest and should be consumed  slowly in small  portions. So long as the fat has been properly rendered there should be no problem with it going rancid.

So Have Fun, Be Brave, and Give Pemmican a Try!

Eddie's Bookshelf

The Foxfire Book

The Soap Book: Simple Herbal Recipes

— Sandy Maine

Having been on a soap-making binge these last couple of weeks I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about one of the smallest, yet most frequently referenced, books on our shelf.
The Soap Book is a simple, straightforward guide to the art of cold-process soap making. The step-by-step instructions are written in such a way that even first-time makers should have no trouble coming away with a beautiful batch of home-made soap.
Founder of the Sunfeather Natural Soap Company, Sandy Maine has been making soap for almost 30 years. The knowledge and experience that she distills into such easy-to-follow instructions makes this one of the best books on the subject I have come across. For those who are interested in some background knowledge, she includes a brief history of soap, as well as an understandable explanation of the chemistry that creates it. There is also a section on how to use fragrance oils and botanicals to personalize your soap, as well as some of the more advanced techniques like marbling, layering and using glazes.

The entire last half of the book is filled with recipes, and Maine has included some of her company's most popular soaps, as well as some personal favorites. From Spicy Shaving Soap to Forest Garden Soap, from Bug Away to Chocolate Love-A-Lot, you'll find soaps for babies, mechanics, grandmothers, and everyone in between. The soaps you will learn to make in your own kitchen with this book are so luxurious and will keep your skin moisturized and soft -- you'll never go back to store-bought again!

Want to try it out before making a batch of your own?
Check out the handmade, all-natural soap now available through our Trading Blanket!

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

Practically Speaking

Calls from the Wild

Preserving the Future of the Past…

I recently had a long conversation with my friend Doug Meyer about our role as practitioners and teachers of these ancient skills. We talked of how we are place holders for the future generation; learning from, adding to, and building on the work done by such pioneers as Dr. Errett Callahan, J.B. Sollberger, Paul Comstock, Jim Riggs, Larry Dean Olsen and so many others. The current revival of interest in the old ways is a direct result of their curiosity, determination and dedication, and as members of the next generation--the ones who learned directly from these folks--Doug, myself and the others of our age have been trusted with the fruits of their trials, errors, successes and research.
But what will happen to the physical examples of all of their work?

So much has been lost once already with the destruction of indigenous cultures around the world; now is the time to begin taking steps to ensure that we do not lose the work of these seekers. Out of this conversation evolved the idea of working to establish a research library/museum type of facility where skills from these early Masters can be preserved and accessed by subsequent generations. A place available to students, seekers, teachers and researchers alike.

If any of you would be interested in discussing the establishment of a non-profit directed toward this end, or know of other people or organizations may have an interest in helping us make this come to pass, please give me a call at 732-276-8159 or send me an e-mail.
I believe that taking action to give back what we can for the future good of all is a gift beyond measure. And the least we can do, both for those from whom so much was stolen, and those who spent their lives re-discovering the ancient knowledge; all of those from whom we have learned, and continue to learn, so much.

One Final Note

We have crossed the treshold again at last, and the days are once again getting longer. Cause indeed for celebration!
It is no coincidence that so many philosophies and religions the world over celebrate this time of year. We can all be thankful that the sun has once again returned and slowly but surely the days will once again be getting longer.
Whatever your philosophy or belief, we wish you well and all the best for the coming New Year!

We do ask you to consider the animals of the woods out there who may have a tough time this winter (particularly on the east coast) and may really need your help to survive until the spring green up.
We all know the weather has been getting crazy and it appears that other aspects of the ecosystem are beginning to be affected. Please check out this article from the Washington Post about this year's acorn crop, and if you live in a similarly affected area remember be watchful of the animals that count on these nuts as a major energy and nutrition source over the cold months, and please, do what you can to help.

Julie & I wish you all a Safe, Happy and Healthy New Year!

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

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