Practically Seeking

December 2010 (Issue 34)

Our last newsletter of 2010 — where has the year gone?
We made it back from our November trip to Texas, and though we somehow managed to take the Jersey temperatures down there along with us, it was a fun weekend of workshops, a great Thanksgiving with family, and we snuck in some extra time for Eddie to spend with his daughters. All that and the BIGGEST acorns we have EVER seen! (When you're picking up acorns the size of peaches... it's a good day! :-)
Our final workshops of the year have come to an end, our last Open Skills Night of 2010 was this past Wednesday, and we are now officially on Hiatus until the New Year. Plenty to get done during our "holidays" though, and we will be hard at work on the 9 Step Knapping DVD, our 10 Steps Outdoors skills sampler and our forthcoming book on Fire, as well as a couple of new YouTube videos. Okay, so not so much a holiday after all! :-)
But with 2010 wrapping up, and having been such a great and fun year, we are looking ahead to 2011 and all of the exciting new projects that will finally be coming to fruition!

Speaking of 2011, we are currently working on our Spring & Summer workshop schedule so if you have been thinking about hosting a Skills 2 You workshop in your area this coming year, now is the time to get in touch. Our year is filling up quick and we will soon be booked through September so don't delay!

Last but certainly not least, it's that time again at last! We are now accepting applications for our 2011 World of the Hunter-Gatherer Intensive Skills Program. It's an amazing 6 months and remember, each tribe is made up of only 4 people, so be sure to check out the details below and give us a call if you have any questions at all.

Enjoy the Holidays everyone, and we'll see you in the New Year!

e & j


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

What's New

January – March 2011 Workshops
Schedule is Now Online!

Our January through March workshop schedule is up on our website and the "Winter" skills are all represented. "GO" Bag, Bone Working, Arrow Making, Pack Baskets, Atlatl, Adhesives, Cordage, and many more, including our newest workshops, Winter Shelters!
Check out the schedule, and if you have any questions give us a call. We're looking forward to seeing you again in the New Year!

Practical Primitive Gift Certificates
A Great Gift!

Still looking for a gift for someone who has everything? Why not a Practical Primitive Gift Certificate? They can be purchased in $20 increments, or for a specific Workshop or Mentoring session. Each certificate is personalized and can be sent to either you or the recipient via e-mail, making this a perfect last-minute gift for the Holiday Season.

Seeking Interns for 2011 Terms
Practical Primitive Internships Available for Next Year

We are currently seeking new Interns for the coming year to help out with the day-to-day aspects of running Practical Primitive. Designed in the style of a work-exchange program, our Internship is meant to allow successful applicants the time to participate in workshops and to practice and perfect their skills, while also learning what it takes to run a successful primitive skills-style business. If you are interested in taking advantage of this amazing opportunity, please check out the website for further details and to apply. We're looking forward to hearing from you!

Skills 2 You 2011
Now scheduling Skills 2 You wokshops for Spring & Summer

If you've been wanting Practical Primitive come to your area to run a workshop for your group, now is the time to let us know! We are currently booking our April – September travel schedule so if you would like to set up a Skills 2 You workshop for your group of 4 or more, send us an e-mail and let's talk!

Free Open Skills Nights

January 19
February 16
March 16
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!)


Practical Primitive Logo

Now Accepting Applications for the 2011 Tribe!

It's that time of year once more — we are now accepting applications for our signature Intensive Skills Program, The World of the Hunter-Gatherer!
This 6-month program begins in March and participants will meet one 3-day weekend each month for intensive instruction and practice in the skills required to survive and thrive as a Hunter-Gatherer.

Remember, this program is limited to four people, and all applications must be received by midnight January 31 in order to be considered so don't delay!
If you have any questions about the program feel free to call or e-mail and we'll be happy to chat. It's going to be a GREAT year and we're looking forward another fantastic tribe experience.

Location: Great Meadows, NJ
Program Length: 6 months (March – August 2011)
Application Deadline: January 13, 2011

Upcoming Workshops

Our 2011 Winter Workshop Schedule is Online

Our 2010 workshops are now finished, but our January – March 2011 schedule is online, with many popular favorites in the mix so be sure to check it out. (Spring & Summer workshops will be posted shortly!)
Looking forward to seeing you at our new place soon, so here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months…


2          The "GO" Bag
7          Melon Baskets, Twined Baskets & Bags
14        Bone Working
15-16   Adirondack Pack Baskets
28-30   Winter Shelters (Begins 7pm Friday EVENING)
31        Out of the Darkness: Primitive Candles, Lamps & Illumination


4          Burned Bowls & Bark Containers
5-6       Introduction to Bow-making
11        Making & Using Natural Cordage
12        Natural Glues & Adhesives
13        The Atlatl
25        Arrows: Harvesting, Straightening & Curing Shafts
26        Arrows: Points, Hafting & Fletching
27        Arrow Points: From Bottle Bottoms & Beyond


Skill of the Month

Vaseline Cotton fire-starter

Sure-fire Fire Starter: Vaseline Cotton

I've been practicing Primitive skills and survival for a long time now, and am confident of being able to create fire under pretty much any circumstance. But, if you look in my GO Bag you will find no less than 5 different ways to create fire.
Vaseline Cotton
is one of my favorites to have on hand since it is water proof, always lights incredibly easily, is an infallible additive for a tinder bundle (especially a damp one) and easily takes a spark directly from a ferro striker or metal match. Not only that, it can  be used as an occlusive wound dressing, smokeless fuel for a hobo stove, to ease chapped lips and dozens of other things as well.

Simple to make and easy to store, this is a sure-fire fire-starter that should be a part of everyone's kit.

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


How to Make Vaseline Cotton:

Method #1:  Using in an Emergency Survival situation

  1. Fluff open your cotton ball, then take a pea-sized dab of any petroleum gel based product (i.e., Vaseline) and rub it thoroughly into the cotton.
  2. In an emergency situation, use alternatives to petroleum gel that you may have easy-to-hand, including (but not limited to) such things as lip balms (many of which may also contain wax), antibiotic ointments and lip stick. Use them in exactly the same way you would petroleum jelly.
  3. Ignite when ready!

Method #2: Pre-prepared for your GO Bag or Fire Kit

  1. Melt about a quarter- to half-teaspoon of petroleum jelly per cotton ball in a small metal container, using ONLY enough heat to melt the gel.
  2. Place your cotton balls in the melted liquid and stir them until they are well saturated but not too sticky to the touch. You CAN over-saturate which make them harder to light, not easier!
  3. Allow the cotton to cool and store in an old pill bottle or tin to keep in your GO Bag and/or Fire Kit. If, as you are stuffing the cotton into it's container, you discover you have over-saturated your cotton (lots of liquid is oozing out) you can add a dry cotton ball into the mix to soak up the extra petroleum jelly.
  4. To use, place one of the cotton balls in the center of your fire structure and ignite. Each cotton ball will burn for about 5-10 minutes.
  5. To use as an additive for a tinder bundle you plan to light with a ferro striker (metal match), fluff out the cotton into the center of your tinder and strike directly on to the cotton. This can be a great help with damp or sub-standard tinder.

NOTE: When using Vaseline Cotton always be careful, as the melting gel can drop flame onto unintended surfaces!

Additional tips & ways to use Vaseline Cotton

  1. When using a ferrocerium rod, fluff out the cotton ball to increase surface area as much as possible. (Remember, PULL the rod, don't push the striker.)
  2. The saturated cotton ball (or a piece of one) can be wrapped just below the head of a wooden or paper match to assist with lighting. Don't wrap too tightly and don't let the cotton touch the match head or it will saturate the chemicals and/or smother the flame, and won't light. (This is especially true with paper matches.)
  3. Wrap a cotton ball around the end of a small stick to use as an extension for lighting your fire structure and protect those fingers!

Want more good tips on Fire and other Emergency Equipment?
Come on out to an upcoming GO Bag workshop — there's no excuse not to Be Prepared!

Until next time, keep practicing that fire-making, and Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species

Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species

—S. David Scott and Casey McFarland

At last, at last, at long, long last a clear, easy-to-use, beautifully photographed guide to bird feathers is available!
In the interest of full disclosure, I have known one of the authors, David Scott for many years. As long as I've known Dave he has been intensely interested in nature and I am thrilled that his avid training has resulted in such a well-documented and much-needed addition to my library. :-)

Scott and McFarland worked with 120 different museums, wildlife rehabilitation centers, universities and other organizations to bring together the thousands of feathers from almost 400 different bird species, represented in over 500 photos. The result is this one-of-a-kind field guide that allows the user to identify a "found" feather with an ease that I have never seen before.

The beginning of this guide provides several extremely interesting insights on the evolution of feathers, and flying vs. flightless birds. The author's look at the muscular and skeletal structures of differing types of birds, as well as the way their bones are constructed had me thinking about birds in a more detailed way than I had ever considered them before. For instance, though I knew that the "wishbone" is an important aid to flight, I did not know it functions in a way that is strangely similar to a bow releasing an arrow! Dave and Casey also get you thinking about how each bird "makes it's living" and how that affects the way in which it's wings, and therefore feathers, are shaped. By asking yourself a few simple questions laid out in the beginning of the book you can immediately begin to narrow down your choices and get you well on your way to discovering your bird.

As with learning to identify anything using a field guide, the beginner will find feather identification slow going to start. But by breaking the entire "Bird Family" down into four distinct groups, then further categorizing the wing and tail feathers for each group, the authors have done as good a job as I have seen of presenting a coherent way in which to identify a feather through morphology. The addition of range maps, clear color photos of all the available feathers (from flight-feathers to down-feathers) feather measurements, and information on the size ratio of male-to-female, gives you, in my opinion, the best chance in the world of discovering what bird left your found treasure behind.

This is a great addition to any skills library, and will be an enthusiastically welcomed gift for birders, naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts alike. So check this one out!

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


Practically Speaking

Battling Misconception

I heard a story on the news this morning, then subsequently saw a similar article on Facebook, taking about how Echinacea does nothing for curing colds — or at least, nothing that was scientifically measurable during this most recent study. That people who took echinacea while they had a cold only shortened that cold by, on average, half a day over people who took a placebo. The implications were made quite clear by the medical doctor presenting the story on the morning news — anyone who is silly enough to take "herbs" or gullible enough to use "so-called natural healing" methods instead of going immediately to their doctor for the appropriate pills is living in a fools paradise and only wasting their money.

There is only one problem here. The entire study, indeed, the entire premise of echinacea curing a cold is completely flawed. I have yet to find a single well-trained herbalist, natural medicine practitioner or medicine man or woman who will prescribe echinacea to treat a cold, or even it's symptoms. No one I have ever met in the realm of natural medicine has ever told me that echinacea can cure a cold. Or end it faster. Or ease the symptoms. Echinacea is an immune-system builder that helps to kick your bodies own defenses into high gear and is meant to be taken when you are feeling run down, are over-tired, or have come into contact with a person who may (or may not) have passed their germs on to you. Echinacea can help you to AVOID GETTING sick by by providing your body with the tools it needs to better fight the invading virus or bacteria and stop it from multiplying. Once you are already sniffing or sneezing or running a fever or have a sore throat or swollen glands, by that point your immune system has already been overwhelmed by the now quickly multiplying bug and it's time for your body to move on to it's second line of defense. Echinacea is, at best, a small supporting player at that stage of the game. As a respected herbalist told me about 15 years ago, if you're already showing symptoms, it's too late for echinacea.

But the misconception of this miraculous natural cure for the common cold took hold in the media many years ago, and it's grip has not slackened, despite the attempts of the actual herbal experts (not drug studies or traditional physicians) to set the record straight. The same holds true for many medicinal plants and nature-based treatments. We live in a world of immediate gratification and magic pills to cure whatever ails us. Bigger is Better. More is Better. If it comes in a Pill, it's going to make me Better. Today!!
The concept of small, regular dosing and treating in a preventative manner has gone the way of the dodo and is a completely foreign concept in the average household.

Now please do not get the impression that we are in any way "anti-doctor" or against traditional medicine. Not even close! But as some of the many for whom going to the doctor is a luxury, we do our best to stay healthy in the first place. And the echinacea tincture that we make and keep in our "Medicinals" cabinet gets a real workout this time of year, and more often than not is one of the major tools in our toolbox to help keep us on the healthy side of the equation.

I've used this most recent echinacea study merely as an example of battling misconceptions, but in the Primitive/Traditional skills world we see them everywhere and battle them constantly. One only has to check out the plethora of "Survival" shows and YouTube videos to see them in abundance. From Dave Canterbury's assertion that friction fire can't be counted on because it is "only about 30% effective" (seriously Dave, if friction fire-making had only a 30% success rate do you really think we would all BE here today?!?!) to the idea that a door is an "option" on your shelter (how warm would your house be if it only had three walls?) to the idea that there is no Nature to study if you live in the city, to the concept that herbal medicines are only for out of touch hippies and old school hillbillies… the list goes on.

Misconceptions can be harmless, but they can also be dangerous, debilitating, or just plain hold you back from making some pretty amazing discoveries about the world and the people around you. As we approach the transition of one year to the next, Eddie and I want to really encourage you to seek out the truth of the things and ideas (and people) with which you surround yourself. In the old words of the Fox Mulder, The Truth is Out There, but you must seek it for yourself.  Ask questions. Trust your gut. Rid yourself of misconceptions and stay healthy — on every level.


One Final Note

So the decorations have all been hung, the cards have all been sent, the presents have all been wrapped and the cookies have all been baked (and eaten, and baked again!)
We've had an amazing and hectic year, and thank you all for such a great 2010.

We are loving our new location and are looking forward to  the many exciting new developments we have planned here for the coming year   and we know full well we could not have done it without you. So here is a little video we stumbled upon that makes us laugh and remember some of the fun and joy of the Christmas season. Presenting… Straight No Chaser — The 12 Days of Christmas

All the best to you and yours, and wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, a Happy New Year, and may you spend the Holidays in the way that makes you most Happy.

Merry Christma-Hannuk-Qwanz-Festiv-Solsti-Yule to All!
(And to All, a Good Night.)

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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