Practically Seeking

February 2009 (Issue 19)

Are we there yet?
Spring, I mean. I know it's technically still winter but we've had so many days here in New Jersey recently that LOOK so nice out the window (though it was actually about 12 degrees outside) that it just FEELS like Spring should be arriving any day now!
I suppose it's also because we've been so focused these last weeks on putting together our Summer Events calendar and our Spring/Summer workshop schedule, both of which are now posted on the website. We've got some very cool new workshops premiering over the next few months and we hope you'll come and check them out.

Our new Hunter-Gatherer tribe will be meeting for the first time next weekend! We are very excited to get started with this great new group, and look forward to introducing you all to Adam, Apor, Nick & Nick through plenty of photos over the next six months.
Also, some exciting news to announce!
The phenomenal amount of interest this program has generated has led us to create a whole new version — Hunter-Gatherer Texas — beginning in September 2009 at our location in Clifton, TX! (More details below.)

With all the great new stuff going on around here these days, I am very glad to be finally OVER the bug I've been fighting since before Christmas. Many thanks to those of you who were affected for your understanding when I was forced to reschedule the Scout Skills and GO Bag workshops. I really hated to do it, but could not in good conscience allow them to go on without being able to give you my all. And I'm very much looking forward to being at my best on the new dates!


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

What's New

Three New Workshop Subjects Added

At last, at last, you can check out all of the great workshops we have scheduled for this Spring & Summer. Along with the usual warm weather favorites like Foraging & Gathering, Primitive Cooking, Pottery, Survival Skills 101 and many others, we've added three brand new workshop subjects:

So check out the full schedule on the website, and we look forward to seeing you soon!


We're heading to Texas again this June — a little later than usual but still early enough to catch some of the "cooler" early summer days and escape before the full heat of the season hits. (We hope!)
We are very excited to be premiering one of our brand new workshops, Backwoods Hygiene & Improvised First Aid, on this trip and hope to have a special Guest Instructor who's battlefield experience will allow us to take the Improvised First Aid portion of the workshop far beyond what we had originally imagined!

NEW ON YouTube!
Arrow Points from Bottle Bottoms: The Reduction Sequence

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, we hope you'll check out our most recent YouTube Video.
Julie is the "star" of this one, and she takes you through the entire Bottle Bottom Reduction Sequence, from getting the bottom out of the bottle all the way through to your final point.
So check it out, then get out there and raid your recyclables box and give it a try!

New Knife Still Needs a Name

The EMK1? The EMXK (Eddie's Most Xcellent Knife)? The Woodsmaster? The Bushmaster? The Beast? Fred?
These are just some of the excellent and much appreciated suggestions we've received so far, but we're still searching for more cool yet simple names as we await the arrival of the final prototype of Eddie's knife. A stretch of bad weather and a glitch in the final touch-ups delayed shipping, but it is scheduled to be here by the end of the week and we'll post a photo and description as soon as it arrives.
For those of you who may have missed it last time, Eddie is once again using the current proto-version in this month's Skill of the Month photos: How to Carve a Perfect Notch.


Upcoming Events

Scout Skills Workshop Weekend Postponed

Rescheduled to March 28-29
Due to illness, our Scout Skills Workshop Weekend had to be postponed, so there's still time to get in on this one!
If you've taken a Scout, Urban Scout, Escape & Evasion, Stalking & Camouflage, Scout Protector or other "Scout-type" class from another school in the past then we invite you to come and give your skills a workout!
Remember, this weekend will be built around what YOU want to work on, and anything that falls into the "Scout" realm is fair game!
(And if you haven't taken a Scout class yet, Kevin Reeve's onPoint Tactical has great intro classes, so be sure to check them out.)

Free Open Skills Nights

March 18
April 15
May 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 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

World of the Hunter-Gatherer: Coming to Texas!
Applications Accepted Beginning March 1

For the last several weeks we have been considering running a version of the Hunter-Gatherer program in Texas and, after receiving responses from quite a few of you expressing further interest, we have decided to go for it!
We are still working out the final details, but our current thinking is that this program will run slightly differently from it's New Jersey counterpart.
The same information will be taught, and in the same small group, hands-on, integrated learning style, but participants will meet for 3 days every other month (September, November, January, March and May), probably over the 3rd weekend of the month, with the Survival Outing taking place in June.
We're so excited to be able to offer this amazing program to a whole new group of people in a whole new area of the country, and we hope you're excited too!
Application Deadline: July 15, 2009

Secrets in the Stone
Coming in September 2009

We've decided to offer the Secrets in the Stone program beginning in September this year (September, October, November) in order to take advantage of the warmer weather and the ability to knap outdoors.
If you are interested in seriously learning to work with stone then you need this program. This past group of participants went from having little to no experience when we began in December, to fluting points and understanding artifact reproduction by the beginning of February!
And, since I now have a better understanding of just how much we can accomplish together, I plan to cover even more ground this time around!
We will be accepting applications beginning March 1, so get yours in soon!
Application Deadline: July 1, 2009

Remember, this program will be limited to only 4 participants to assure the highest quality of instruction.

Upcoming Workshops

Our Spring/Summer schedule has been Posted!
We've got some great workshops available on our Spring and Summer schedule, and here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


       2    Survival Arrows
 13–15   Bow Making: Self Bows
      16   NEW! The Woodland Basket Quiver
28–29    NEW! Scout Skills Workshop Weekend
     30  The "GO" Bag


   4–5  Traps, Simplified
      6   Making & Using Natural Cordage
     17  Fire Making
     18  NEW! Gathering Baskets
     19  NEW! Spring Foraging


Skill of the Month

Ishi Sticks

Fire: Preparing a Perfect Bow Drill Notch

To be successful with Bow Drill you simply have to do more things right than you do wrong.
To make it fast, easy and effortless, you must do all things in the manner of a quest for perfection.

I have watched literally thousands of people struggle unnecessarily with this fire-making technique. Virtually every time, the problem was one of three things: poor form, imperfectly constructed components, or a bad notch. Perfect Form will be addressed in our next YouTube Project, and your kit's components should always be carved as perfectly straight and vibration free as possible.
Right now, we are going to focus on carving a perfect notch.

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

How to carve a Perfect Bowdrill Notch:

  1. A perfect notch is just about the size of a 1⁄8 pie slice. There are 360 degrees in a circle, so 1⁄8 is an angle of 45 degrees, and this is pretty much the perfect-sized angle for your notch. It must also have smooth sides, be cleanly carved, and run almost (but not quite) to the center of your burned-in socket.
  2. Once you have burned in your socket to the full diameter of your spindle, take anything that has a square corner and is pliable enough to bend easily (such as a dollar bill) and fold it on the diagonal. Voila! Your template for a perfect 45 degree angle!
  3. Place the point of your template at JUST the center of the burned-in socket on your fireboard.
  4. Make an outline of the perimeter by pressing down with the edge of your knife alongside your template on the top of your fireboard.
  5. Now use your knife again to mark straight down the front of your fireboard, where the scored "V" from your template meets that edge.
  6. Begin removing wood from within the notch by simply pressing inward with your knife on the CORNER of your fireboard, not on the flat front or top. Keep your blade angled inward so it matches the outline made with your template. The resultant cut will be at an angle sloping toward the center of the notch itself.
  7. Carefully repeat Step 6 on the opposite template line, also following the inward angle. This second cut will allow you to "flip out" the center portion of wood between the two cuts, easily removing a large chunk. ALWAYS keep the hand that is holding the fireboard well away from where you are cutting!!!
  8. Turn your fireboard over and repeat Steps 6 and 7 on the underside of your fireboard. 
  9. Having removed a chunk of wood from both the top and bottom corners of your fireboard, repeat these same steps coming in from the flat front, on the much smaller and more easily manageable amount of remaining wood.
  10. Return again to the top corner, pushing your knife in on one side first, then the opposite side, and again remove the resulting loosened chunk. Then do the same again from the bottom corner, and then again from the middle. Repeat these steps as necessary, always working the corners first,
    until you reach the point you made with your template.
  11. Remove any excess material along the sides of the notch so that they go straight down, and are perpendicular to the flat top of your fireboard. Make the sides of your notch as smooth as possible, cleaning up any remaining rough areas or unevenness where the dust may be able to catch. Be sure to check the size by re-fitting your template into the notch, and remove any remaining material as needed.

A Perfect Notch is one of the Main Keys to Fast and Effortless Bow Drill Success!
So Have Fun, Carve Safely, and Continue to Practice your Bow Drill!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Shelters, Shacks & Shanties

Shelters, Shacks and Shanties, and How to Build Them.

— D.C. Beard

Though I have flipped through this book many times over the years, this is the first time I sat down and read it cover-to-cover. 
First published in 1914, this book is a trip back into a bygone era when men were men, boys were Scouts and most women would not even have considered becoming involved in a construction project of this nature. Despite this arcane view, Beard's knowledge is extensive and impressive, and this book still holds some very good information on many of the basic shelter-building techniques, and covers other useful basics such as how to properly use an ax, lay a fire in a fireplace, and other similar items.
Beard skips over some aspects that are always included in more recently published books, taking for granted that many of these skills are already known and understood and require no explanation, as was true during that era. However, these same skills are sorely missing in today's world — allowing the reader an interesting comparison between the "common sense" of Beard's time and our own.
Novice shelter builders will find the instructions helpful, provided they think carefully through the directions provided.

Though it is not a hugely entertaining read, this book is informative and useful. The drawings are small, but upon careful analysis, contain a fair amount of detail. Shelters ranging from the simplest of lean-to's all the way up to complex log cabins are covered, using tools ranging from a large knife or tomahawk, to an ax.
Also covered are interesting ancillary topics like peeling birch, building bedding, and making shingles and gutters.

One of the best things about this book is that it has rekindled my desire to construct a log cabin at the earliest opportunity. And for a book on shelters, that's the best recommendation of all!

Learn hands-on how to build a variety of different shelters during our upcoming
Immediate Need & Emergency Shelters and Short-term Shelters
workshops in May.

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

Practically Speaking

First Greens of Spring

Groundhog, Shmoundhog — It's time to Spring into Action…

Well, considering the number of false starts we've had with the weather this month, I guess ya just can't rely on a groundhog these days!  (And really, what do they care — all the smart ones are still cozy in their dens!)
Personally, I have been going stir crazy with "cabin fever" these past weeks and am soooooooooo ready for the flurry of activity that comes with warm weather and more time spent outdoors!
Now is the time to finish repairs to gathering baskets, dust off the ol' dehydrator, and take stock of what supplies will need to be replenished for the coming year. Now is also the time to begin planning just what (and how much) you will need to put back — because as the saying goes, "failing to plan is planning to fail".

So how much do you actually need to accumulate in the coming seasons of plenty?
Most likely more than you realize. The easiest way to find out is to keep a simple record of what you consume over an extended period of time.
Pick up a small notebook — one that is easy to keep with you — and use it to keep track of, by estimated weight, the core staples you consume on each day for a full week, one week each month. Divide your notebook into categories: Meat, grains, greens, root vegetables, etc., and guesstimate the weight or volume of each item you take in. For example, a hamburger will have about a tablespoon of flour, 4-8 ounces of meat, and a quarter ounce of greens.  1⁄4 cup of dried beans and rice can also make a good meal.
Our diets change as the months progress, so use the other three weeks to gather, dry and store ample amounts of that month's foods.
By tracking what you consume over the course of the seasons you can begin to extrapolate what additional food you will need to gather in order to carry you through the coming winter. The more of these provisions you are able to store in advance, the less dependant you will be on having to supplement your diet during any unpredictable lean times.

In a full primitive living situation these accurate predictions mean all the difference in whether or not you are able to avoid the "starvation moon" (the second moon after mid-winter — the one we are entering now), and instead look forward to the glories of Spring.

Dehydration and storage in clean glass jars is a great way to preserve a whole variety of foodstuffs. So know your needs, know yourself, know your resources, and HAVE FUN!


One Final Note

The warmer weather comes earlier here on the Jersey Shore than it does in most other parts of the cold-locked country, and it's been a real joy to see tiny sprigs of green already making their way up through the carpet of winter brown.
Spring is on it's way once again — a wonderful reminder that, even as we face the depressing headlines, news stories and crises of these difficult days, the natural world continues on her constant and unchanging cycle. The ups and downs of the stock market are of no consequence to Mother Earth, and she will always take care of those who take care of her.

As we once again begin our own preparations for the coming warmer weather we invite you to stop and take notice of the little things — the miniscule changes — that will soon be taking place all around you. The tiny buds appearing on trees, the unhesitant call of the returning songbird, the bright new greens of the first tentative shoots…
The world continues turning, and the more we notice the significance of these little things, the more we will see the truth of everything, within it's proper context.

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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