Practically Seeking

July 2007 (Issue 3)

Hey there,
We've had a lot going on behind the scenes of our website this past month, meaning all kinds of things to cover in this issue so let's get right to it.
First off, for those of you who, like us, are "financially challenged", here's the biggest news!

Class Prices Reduced

One of my main objectives with Practical Primitive is to make learning the skills of the earth as practical and as accessible as possible.
We've been hearing from many folks who would like to be able to take a class but are having a hard time setting aside the extra cash. So, we've looked at our expenses, tightened up our belts and found a way to reduce our regular workshop prices by about 25%, starting immediately.
It's my hope that this reduction will make it a little bit easier for the average Joe and Josephine to come and join us as we strive to return to a closer relationship with the Earth.


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

What's New


Along that same line, in the spirit of teaching and sharing in as close to an indigenous manner as possible, and to help reach as many people with the Sacred skills (all skills of the Earth are Sacred wisdom to me) as I can, I have decided to implement a new program for all you newsletter subscribers: Share a Skill, Get a Class.

Here's how it works:
1. Write up easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions that teach a skill, or an aspect of a skill.
2. Take photos of you or someone else completing the project. Be sure that your photos are in focus and clearly show the most important elements.
3. E-mail your article and the accompanying photos to
4. If we select your article to be featured in the newsletter we'll send you a coupon that you can use for a free one-day class or mentoring session. (You can also use it to pro-rate the cost of a multi-day workshop.)
(All selected articles become property of Practical Primitive LLC and are subject to editing for spelling, grammar and content.)

One of the things I enjoyed most about working together with other highly skilled instructors like Kevin Reeve, Ruth Ann Colby Martin, Billy McConnell, Kristy McConnell, Joe Lau & Tom McElroy was the fact that we were all constantly learning from each other.
We all have things to teach and to share, so grab your camera and let's all learn together!


Our new Shopping Cart makes it even easier to sign up for your class.

Our new system is secure, keeps your information safe, and allows you to use PayPal if you want, but no longer requires that you set up an account when you sign up online for your workshop. We hope this new setup makes all our lives a little easier!

See the new Registration page


We've posted photos of our new colors & styles

so you can better decide which you like best. Practical Primitive t-shirts are now available in Hemp, Mocha, Smoke, Brick, Sky & Avocado. (In other words, Green, Khaki, Grey, Maroon, Light Blue & Light Green.)

Already have your Practical Primitive t-shirt?

Send us a photo of you wearing your shirt while working a skill and we'll post your "action shots" on our website!

See the new T-shirts


Previous issues now available online

We've begun to archive our past issues of Practically Seeking on the website. The previous month's newsletter will be posted once the most recent issue is sent out.
Check Out the Archive

What's in a Logo?

Practical Primitive Logo

We've had so many positive comments on our new logo

that we wanted to let you know more about how it came to be.
Each element in the design has an important meaning to Eddie, and we hope that knowing more about the symbolism behind our logo will help you understand a little bit more about us.

Logo Deconstructed

What's in a Logo?

Wilderness Way magazine has chosen an article of Eddie's for their forthcoming summer issue — a "How-To" on Cooking with Claybake.
Claybake cooking is a fun alternative to the BBQ, and a great way to get the kids involved on a camping trip. We hope you'll give it a try!
(Thanks to Larry and Adrienne for the use of their photos!)

Upcoming Classes

July Workshops

20–22   Hunting Skills 1
27–29   Bamboo-Backed Bows

August Workshops

10–12   Survival Skills 1
     17   Foraging & Gathering**
     18   Trapping, Simplified**
     19   Fire by Friction**
24–26   Baskets, Bowls, Bark & Pottery

**Weekend Special —Take any 2 classes, get 10% off the second class. Take all 3 & get 20% off the third!

Upcoming Events

Free Open Skills Nights

July 18
August 15

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!

Patuxent Encounters

August 4–5

Eddie was very psyched to be asked to run the Atlatl range at this fantastic 2-day event honoring the lasting contributions that Native Americans have made to the cultural fabric of the nation. It's going to be a great weekend for the whole family -- maybe we'll see you there!
More Information on Patuxent

Flint Ridge Knap-In

August 31–September 2

One of the big ones! It makes no difference if you've never picked up a rock before or if you're an avid knapper. Flint Ridge is one of the largest gatherings of flintknappers in the United States. Learn, Knap, have fun!
More Information on Flint Ridge

Skill of the Month

Melon Baskets

Making a Melon Basket

Baskets are an often overlooked survival skill. But think for a minute; how many times a day do you use a container? A cup, a bowl, a tote, a jar, a box, a bag, tupperware... If you didn't know how to make containers how would you gather your food? In what would you store it? What about your water? Or the rest of the supplies you need to set up your camp? Without containers we would not get very far.

The Melon Basket is a simple basket that can be made quickly and from a variety of materials. It can be small or very large, depending on your specific needs. This month we will make a basket about 6" in diameter. (Perfect for picking the wild raspberries out back!)

Just a note — This one is much easier to understand when you can see the pictures. For photos to go along with these step-by-step instructions check out our website.

Here's how to do it

  1. You will need to collect material for hoops, ribs, and weavers. Vine-like materials (such as honeysuckle, grapevine, greenbriar, wild rose and wisteria) work best, but flexible branches or anything "bendy" can work.
    Be careful to avoid toxic plants like poison ivy!
  2. Cut two pieces approximately four feet long — these will make your hoops. Take one of the pieces and make a hoop about six inches in diameter (the size of your finished basket). Take the excess vine and wrap it in a twisting fashion around the hoop to secure the shape. Make an identical hoop with the second piece and place one hoop perpendicular to the other at about the halfway point.
  3. Now we will make the "God's Eye", which is central to this basket's construction. Cut two six-foot lengths. (If you are using a thicker vine like grapevine or wisteria you can split your piece down the center and use half for each eye.) These are your first weavers.
  4. Decide which of the four hoop sections is going to be the handle of your basket. With your basket handle at the top, place the end of a weaver behind the junction point of the two hoops, bring it around to the front and wrap it diagonally up over the outside, across the joint, then behind upright hoop of your handle (try to cover the loose end on this pass), and down diagonally across the front of the joint again. This should give you an "X" on the outside of the joint.
  5. Now pass your weaver across the back of the bottom section of your "handle" hoop (below the rim), then up across the joint again, diagonally, then bring it down behind the left half of your "rim" hoop, then diagonally up to the right, behind the top of the handle hoop, diagonally down to the right, behind the right side of your "rim" hoop, diagonally across to the bottom left, then behind the bottom half of your "handle" hoop.
  6. Continue this pattern for several passes around, always working clock-wise. The rule of thumb I use is to go six times around for a six-inch basket, ten times around for a ten-inch basket, and so on. Be sure to keep your weaver pulled tight, and have each pass of the weaver sit immediately next to the last. This wrap will form the supports for your basket's ribs, so needs to be of an adequate size. When you have the size you desire just tuck the free end in at the next juncture, pull it tight and trim off the excess vine. Make another God's Eye at the opposite end.
  7. Cut four pieces, each about one foot long, for the ribbing of your basket. Place the end of one rib into the God's Eye, bend it so that you can place the other end into the opposite God's Eye. Place the other ribs (two on each side of your bottom hoop) so they are evenly spaced. You have cut these pieces long on purpose, and now must carefully trim them down so they maintain the curvature of the basket bottom and have some spring against the sides of the God's Eye.
  8. Now we begin the weaving process. Cut your weavers about the length of your outstretched arms. Starting at one end, as close to the God's Eye as you can, begin by weaving over the rim, under the first rib, over the second rib, under the bottom hoop, over the third rib, under the fourth, then over the rim, under the rib — you get the idea. Continue on with this weave, making each row as tight to the last as you can. The "over/under" of each row will be the opposite of the last. When this first weaver runs out, switch to the other end of your basket and repeat the process. This will secure your ribbing and make it easier to finish your basket.
  9. When you come to the end of a weaver, the simplest method to continue is to lay another one along side and continue the pattern. Or, you can stop weaving a few inches before the end and tuck it into the weave. Tuck the first two inches of your new weaver into the same weave, and continue with your pattern. This is more difficult, but will make for a stronger basket and finer finished product.
  10. Continue your over/under until the basket is completely woven. When you come to the rim of your last row, cut your weaver with about two or three extra inches, wrap it around to the inside and tuck the final end into the weave just below the top hoop. Trim any loose ends and enjoy the finished product.

Now let's go pick some raspberries!

Learn more about making all types of containers, including several styles of baskets, coal-burned bowls, primitive-fired pottery, and other containers at our upcoming Baskets, Bowls, Bark-work & Pottery workshop!

Ready to try your hand at baskets but don't know where to find your materials?

We're now offering complete wisteria basket kits in small, medium and large. Each kit contains all the wisteria vine you will need, dried and cut to the appropriate lengths, along with instructions on how to rehydrate your vines.
E-mail to order yours.
6-inch Basket Kit $ 9.99
9-inch Basket Kit $14.99
12-inch Basket Kit $19.99

Basket-making Challenges


Make your basket as described above, doing your best to make your weave as tight as possible.


Change the shape of your basket from a shallow oval to a deeper, round basket.


Make your basket our of a different type of material. Try grasses, split reed, or making your basket entirely from scrub oak. Now modify the design to turn this into a storage basket.

Eddie's Bookshelf

Kinship With All Life

Kinship With All Life

—J. Allen Boone

While it may not appear so from the outside, the amazing series of stories that comprise this book make it one of the best field guides I have ever come across.

Beginning with a re-telling of the time in which he shared his home with possibley the finest canine actor in history, a German Shepherd named Strongheart, J. Allen Boone relates how a multitude of animals, including dogs, skunks, rattlesnakes, flies and even bacteria taught him the most valuable lessons he could ever learn. By seeing all forms of life, both animate and inanimate, as things that have a "particular and needed job to do in the Universal Plan and Purpose", any of us can go far beyond the boundaries of what is today considered "normal" communication.

Many of you will be able to recall an experience where you were working intently on a skill, or spending some quiet time with a favorite pet, or walking silently through the woods — thinking about a question you could not seem to answer, or a problem you had not been able to solve. Then suddenly, seemingly from no where, the answer just popped into your head. While our rational natures will most often have convinced us that this was mere coincidence, or the inner workings of our subconcious mind, or evidence of how clever our giant human brains are, in the Forward of his book, Boone notes:
"In this connection it is interesting to recall that people of certain ancient times appear to have been...particularly skilled in the delicate science of being in right relations with everything, including animals. These people recognized the inseparable unity of Creator and creation. They were able to blend themselves with the universal Presence, Power and Purpose that is forever moving back of all things, in all things, and through all things. Life...was an all-inclusive kinship in which nothing was meaningless, nothing unimportant, and from which nothing could be excluded... Every living thing lived for everything else, at all times and under all circumstances."

This book is short and easy to read. It is written in simple stories and plain language. It is not cryptic or mystical or in any way trying to be something that it is not. But for those of you who are looking for a way to establish a new kind of relationship with the world around you, this book will be your guide to re-learning the seemingly lost universal language that will bring you back into kinship with all life.

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

Practically Speaking

Julie Doing Something!

Do Something!

I think that the question I am asked more than any other, both from new students and from those who have been practicing Primitive skills for years, is "What should I do now?"

When I was an Instructor at the Tracker School we would often be asked to offer a final suggestion to students at the end of their first class. My advice was almost always the same: Take 10 minutes each day and Do Something! Choose a skill that interests you — ANY skill — and for 5 of those minutes, just do it.
Carve a bow drill spindle, twist some cordage, flint knap, collect the materials for a fire structure, build a fire structure, flint knap, have a go at a hand drill, go find a plant you don't recognize and identify it, flint knap, closely observe a 2x2 foot section of ground or a tree trunk, work with some clay, flint knap... You get the idea.
Then, take the next 5 minutes and write down what you learned. Were you successful? If not, why not? What could you do differently next time? Remember — there is no failure, only failure to learn. (And I have had some infamous learning experiences!)

To many people this advice seems almost too simple. What can be accomplished in such a short time? But you see, experience has taught me that if people just follow this easy-to-implement advice, several things will begin to work, and to change, in their lives.

First, I know we all must make a conscious effort and a daily commitment to fight our ruts. So much of our lives are swallowed up by routine; the mindless activities which we repeat ad infinitum. The idea of finding hours or days to work on something new is just too daunting in our over-scheduled lives that are filled with obligations to family, friends, and work. But 10 minutes? That can be squeezed in to a coffee break at work, when the kids are taking a nap, while you're waiting for the bus, before you go to bed...

Second, I know that 5 minutes spent working a skill will soon not be enough. Slowly certain priorities begin to shift (television, video games, internet...) and 5 minutes stretches out to 10, then 30, then an hour, then a day.

Third, journaling your experience not only challenges you to think about what you did, but provides additional input as you re-live your experience.

Fourth, I know that by following this process it is virtually impossible to fail to learn. No matter how long you have been working a particular skill, there is always something new to discover. It is so easy for us to think we know a skill, only to fail at it when one of the variables changes. (Have you ever tried spinning up a bowdrill coal outside in the absolute dark of a moonless night?) The only way to truly know a skill, to have it become a part of your being, is by controlling those different variables yourself.

Remember, we do these things because they are fun! These skills connect us with the Earth, with Creation, and with our deepest selves. They bring something tangible and real into our increasingly artificial living environments and our online lives.

So this month, for just 10 minutes each day, make the commitment to have fun, reconnect, and Do Something!!

One Final Note

Our first Open Skills night was a very enjoyable experience, with plenty of flintknapping and storytelling. Come join us on July 18th for our next gathering, or on August 15th, for an evening of skills-sharing, fun and tasty snacks.
To those of you who stopped by to visit us in June, it was great to see you all; be welcome here! I hope you left us with more than you had when you arrived.
And remember that the more darkness you face, the brighter your light should shine. Do good to all your fellow humans and you will have much less to answer for in this life and the next. To paraphrase the sign on a little church in California, "some hear your words but God sees your deeds".

Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

P.S. We're going to be adding a Blog and some Forums to our website and would love some input from any of you who have experience working with those types of software packages. Julie's been checking out lots of different programs, but if you have any personal experience in what's good and what's not, she would LOVE to hear from you! Email her at

P.P.S. Don't forget to check out our new Shopping Cart and let me know what you think. We're always working to make our site better for you.

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