Practically Seeking

January 2011 (Issue 35)

Happy New Year!
Well it's definitely Winter! We've been shoveling and plowing and salting (and sledding!) since Christmas, and tracking the deer and fox and turkey and squirrels... ya gotta love the snow! :-)

So much has been going on here since the New Year I hardly know where to begin! Let's see...

— The 2011 Spring/Summer workshop schedule is now online and there are several new workshops (and a few that will only be offered this once) that we hope you'll come out to enjoy.

— The World of the Hunter-Gatherer application deadline is fast approaching so if you've been thinking of applying don't wait too long. And be sure to check out the brand new Hunter-Gatherer page for lots more details and FAQs on this program.

— The most recent shipment of Starnater Reliant Woodsman's Knives have just arrived and will be shipping out this week.

We've also been working on some new Practical Primitive t-shirt designs, skills books, videos and other cool stuff we hope you'll like, that will be showing up over the next couple of months.

The New Year has started off with a bang and we're already running to stay caught up — but we're glad to be running with you all and hope your 2011 is off to a great start!

e & j


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

What's New

Spring & Summer Workshops Now Online!
Schedule now posted through September!

Our Spring/Summer workshop schedule is now up on our website and we're definitely looking forward to some of our favorite warm weather workshops!
In addition to our summer schedule regulars like Stalking & Natural Camo, Survival Skills 101, Front-yard Foraging, Archery Fundamentals, Tracking and many more, we've added some new workshops that we are very excited about, like Non-Returning Boomerangs, Primitive Soap Making, Food Drying, Storage & Preservation and Woodland Foraging to name a few.
We have also added a whole new feature to our schedule — our One-Time-Only workshops. As we begin to really create our new facility here we will be doing certain projects and building specific structures that will, in all likelihood, only happen once. Since many of these projects are things you've asked us about, we decided to create workshops around them and give you the chance to discover how to make and create them, hands-on. This season brings Seeps & Springs, Building a Sweatlodge, Constructing an Earth Kiln and Creating a Primitive Outdoor Kitchen.

So check out the schedule, and if you have any questions give us a call. We're looking forward to seeing you soon!

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!

Free Open Skills Nights

February 16
March 16
April 20
Come on out and join us for our FREE Open Skills nights the third Wednesday of each month at our new location near Hackettstown. 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. Things generally start up after work (6-ish) and folks come and go throughout the evening. We never know who will be here, or what folks may 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

Application Deadline Fast Approaching for 2011 Tribe!

If you've been thinking about applying for this year's World of the Hunter-Gatherer you have less than a week to submit your application!
This 6-month program is limited to four people, 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 to thrive as a Hunter-Gatherer.

We've fielded a lot of questions this time around, so we've built a whole new page dedicated just to the Hunter-Gatherer program where you'll find lots of additional information, plenty of photos, and some thoughts from Hunter-Gatherer alumni about their time in the program.
We hope it answers your question and, if you are sitting on the fence about applying, encourages you to take the plunge and become a part of this amazing program!
If you have any questions 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

2011 Spring/Summer Workshop Schedule is Online

Our 2011 workshop schedule for Spring & Summer is now posted online, with several great new workshops the we are finally able to add here in our new place, as well as your Summertime favorites — Be sure to check it out!
In the mean time, here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months…


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

The Happy Rock

The Happy Rock

There is something incredibly exhausting about a bad night's sleep, and a bad night's sleep in the cold is even worse. To those of you who can relate, say hello to your new best friend — The Happy Rock!
I've been been using this handy little trick for a loooong time now and it has kept me warm on more nights that I care to remember. I've shared this one with a number folks over the years, but it's such a simple concept that I'm constantly amazed more people don't know it.

Warmed stones can make all the difference in a survival situation as the calories you would have had to burn just to stay warm can be used for other activities. How many times have I yelled at the television while watching "Survival Experts" suffer needlessly when such a simple thing could keep them warm and leave them much better prepared to face another day. There is no need to suffer and no need to be unnecessarily cold! A couple of warmed rocks inside your sleeping bag or in your shelter are enough to keep you cozy through the night, and make you Happy! (They can also be tucked inside your clothing to ward off a chill.)

The Happy Rock works on the same principle as the hot water bottle or Victorian Bed Warmer, can be easily used indoors or out and requires no special equipment — just a rock, and a sock.

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


How to Make a Happy Rock:

  1. Get a good fire going, either in your fire pit, fire place or wood stove.
  2. Choose a rock that is about fist-sized or larger, and relatively smooth-sided. (Sharp corners are not nice to roll over on in the middle of the night!) The stone should be able to fit readily into a sock.  Hammer stones work great for this, as does soap stone, which holds heat for a long time and can be easily worked into the perfect size and shape.  Denser, heavier stones will usually hold and disburse heat over a longer period of time.
  3. Place your rock about 6-8 inches from the edge of your fire. You want it to be close enough to really absorb a lot of heat, but not so close that you can't reach in to where it sits. On top of or just inside your fire ring is often a good place, as is the inside edge of your fireplace mantle.
  4. Let your rock sit and absorb the heat.
  5. Turn your rock every few minutes, allowing it to absorb heat from all sides. BE CAREFUL when reaching in to touch your rock! Don't just grab it with your whole hand — check quickly first with a finger or two, making sure it has not already become "too hot to handle".
  6. Your goal is to heat your rock to the point where has become JUST too hot to touch with your bare hand. You don't want it to be so hot as to burn you, but hot enough that you will automatically jerk back your hand from the heat. Since the temperature of your rock at this point is only around 150 degrees you don't need to worry where you found it, as any internal moisture will not come remotely near a boiling point. (Just don't forget about it in the fire, or you could have a very loud, very nasty surprise if it reaches 212!)
  7. Pull your sock on over your hand, with your fingers all the way down into the toe.
  8. Use your sock-covered hand to pick up your rock, then quickly pull the sock off of your hand and over the rock, allowing your rock to drop down into the toe.
  9. Give the sock a full 360 degree twist just above the top of your rock, then pull the sock back over the rock once again, giving you two layers of protection from the heat and providing your rock some good insulation to hold on to it's heat even longer. (NEVER use the hot rock uncovered and never use a towel or other unsecured wrapping! The sock is for your protection — use it!)
  10. Voila! Happy Rock! Now take your bundle of heated joy to your sleeping bag or bed and tuck it down by where your feet will be and let it do it's warming thing. You may want to come back after 10 minutes or so and move your Happy Rock to a different spot, allowing it's wonderful warmth to seep into your whole sleeping area. Feel free to crawl in at any time -- your rock will keep you warm and toasty for many hours, even all night!
  11. If you're going to be outside on a cold day you can create a portable Happy Rock by using smaller stones (you can fit a couple into the same sock if you want) tucked into your jacket pockets, or dropped down the back of your shirt to ride near your kidneys, warming you from the inside out!

Want more good tips on staying warm out in the cold?
There are 2 Spaces left in this weekend's Winter Shelter workshop!

Until next time, keep warm, and Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Root Cellaring

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

—Mike Bubel and Nancy Bubel

You may remember that last January's Book of the Month was Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning. Well this January, as I once again peruse my seed catalogs and imagine my summer garden in full bloom, I am keeping with the theme of simple and traditional food preservation; this time in the guise of the old-fashioned Root Cellar.
I grew up with a root cellar in the basement of our farm house — it was the cold corner of the basement that still had a dirt floor where mom put up all of the canning every summer and fall. As a little girl I hated going down there — it was dark and scary and there were spider webs! But now, as a grown woman, I can't WAIT to have a root cellar of my own.

And this is the book to show me the way. Root Cellaring lives up to it's name as it tells you step-by-step how to effectively use Natural Cold Storage for your fruits and vegetables. The authors do not generalize, but draw upon their own experiences — decades of storing their harvest throughout the winter months in all sorts of extraordinary ways. One of my favorite things about this book is that they have expanded the term Root Cellar to include a whole range of "ingenious vegetable-saving techniques"; from in-the-garden solutions like row storage, plant tents, and hay bale fortresses, to time-tested under-the-garden ideas such as clamps, buried refrigerators, below-ground storage barrels and earth pits, to more traditional root cellars in stand-alone outbuildings, under porches and in basements. They even discuss the "root cellar for the city dweller", and how to turn an attic space, extra closet or cupboard-under-the-stairs into your very own winter cold storage.

Starting at the very beginning with a discussion of which varieties of which fruits and vegetables will store the best, this book takes you through the entire cellaring process. There are chapters on how to harvest your vegetables, how to prepare them for storage, dealing with spoilage, and how to care for your bounty while it waits patiently to be retrieved.
I learned so much from this book, including some excellent tips on cold storing salad greens and tomatoes, how much of a difference temperature and humidity can make to successful storage, some very clever ways to store nuts and seeds, and countless other tips, tricks, and good solid wisdom.
The final section of the book gives detailed examples and instructions for twenty different root cellars used by people the Bubel's have met over the years. Such inspiration! We are looking forward to building our own Root Cellar this year and I know that this book will be a constant reference point and invaluable companion, from choosing our seeds through enjoying our summer's bounty as we pull it from the ground a second time to enjoy a taste of summer freshness this time next year.

As food prices continue to rise and food quality continues to plummet, we hope that this book will provide the knowledge for you to begin taking responsibility for some of your own food needs as you are able, whether you are growing your own garden or purchasing fruits and vegetables as they are in season and at their peak — and the inspiration to experiment with cold storage, where ever you may be!

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


Practically Speaking

Re-discovering Lost Knowledge — That Should Never Have Been Lost

I love quotes. Little tidbits of knowledge or insight — tiny windows into the most profound, funny or intelligent aspects of people's thoughts. Quotes are often the impetus for the Practically Speaking column, and this month is no exception. Originally from an article that organic food guru Jerry Minnich wrote titled "Energy-Free Food Storage" for Countryside magazine, it struck me when I first came across it in the Root Cellaring book, and it continues to provoke and inspire me to do what we do here at Practical Primitive:

"Our children...should enter adulthood with a basic knowledge of how to store food over winter without the cooperation of a nuclear power plant a hundred miles away. Ever animal in the forest is taught this skill; we owe our children no less."

Such a basic skill! One that has been known and passed down from parent-to-child through countless generations. Truly, the very essence of Survival: How to store food through the winter.
Yet, for how many in this country (and many other "modern" countries around the world) has this knowledge been completely lost? How many people do you know, do you work with, who would have the faintest idea how to keep apples or potatoes or leeks or cabbage or squash or peppers or tomatoes or greens or broccoli or carrots or anything(!) for months on end without a refrigerator? If we lost all of our electrical power today, right now, in the dead of winter, how many of your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues would have enough food put by to last more than a week? A few days?

It was not so very long ago that virtually every family had a food storage area, and stuffed that larder as full as they could manage in preparation for the winter's lean times. But in just the short span of my own life this knowledge has been lost to almost everyone of my generation. And their kids? Grandkids? Forget about it. This most basic knowledge, of vital necessity to sustain our very lives, gone.

Too many of the most basic skills to sustain life are headed in this very same direction. Too many people have given over the power of their most basic needs to incredibly long supply chains that depend on cheap oil, cheap labor, cheap corn, and peace. If any part of that supply chain gets disrupted they have no option, no recourse, because they have no knowledge of how to live any other way. How to grow food. How to husband livestock or hunt game. How to preserve fruit or vegetables or meat or nuts. How to make clothing. How to use tools. How to cook over a fire. How to start a fire without matches. How to build a fire!!

We have built a society, and are rapidly working on building an entire world, that has no idea how to care for itself. And until we return to ourselves and our children that basic knowledge of how to sustain our own lives how can we hope to have any real understanding of what is truly required to sustain our planet?

This is a new year. A new chance. A new beginning. Let's take it! Look around you and choose one aspect of your basic livelihood about which you know little or nothing at all, and make the decision to LEARN. Talk to parents, grandparents, elderly neighbors, people of your acquaintance who are originally from "less developed" parts of the world and find out what they did, how they accomplished said task without the benefit of "modern technology". Seek out as many sources of information as you can and then, well, give it a go! Not sure where or how to start? Come take a workshop, or find one in your area that let's you get your hands dirty, not just watch or take notes. Try things! Learn by Doing! Our entire Hunter-Gatherer program is built around this very premise, and it's why we believe so strongly in the program. If we are going to survive as species, don't you think it's time we learned how?

This year, Resolve to give yourself the gift of knowledge that is the birthright of every animal on earth: How to live.


One Final Note

So the decorations are all down, the Resolutions have been written, and abandoned, the days are (slowly) getting longer, and if where you live is anything at all like where we live, the plow, the snow blower and the shovel have been getting what feels like daily workouts.
It. Is. Winter.

But hey, it won't last forever. Six weeks from now the world will be a whole different place! So hunker down, drink hot drinks, and venture out every once in a while and have some fun in the snow — skate, sled, track, ski — and remember that from this time of hibernation will come a beautiful renewal.
And when Winter gets you down, remember the words of the immortal Thoreau:
 "Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary."

And then, if I might be so bold as to add, come home, heat up a steaming crock of hearty soup, brew a pot of spicy tea, and enjoy the company of family and friends beside a warm and crackling fire. After all, It...Is...Winter!!!

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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