Practically Seeking

July 2008 (Issue 13)

Hey there,
The heat wave has broken! I don't know what the weather is like where y'all are but here in Jersey it has been HOT and HUMID for the last week. But today it's supposed to drop down into the high 80's, giving us a bit of a break as we pack up to head off to the Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous in PA this weekend.
We've made a couple of adjustments to the schedule for the next couple of months to account for some time that has freed up and some that has filled up. Turns out we're not going to be able to get away for the weekend of the Letchworth knap-in, so have added some workshops near the end of August. The first weekend in September has been reserved for the upcoming World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter apprenticeship, so the workshops that were on the schedule for that weekend will be moved onto the Fall and Spring calendars. But, we have also been able to add a couple of extra workshops later on in the month.

Our Fall/Winter schedule will be posted on the website in the next week or so — we'll do our best to have it up before we leave for Canada, so keep an eye out for that.

And wish good things to our World of the Hunter-Gatherer participants as we finish up that program and they head off on their Survival outing in mid-August to test what they have learned and discover for themselves how far they've come over these last six months. I'm so proud of you all!

Well, better get to packing. Have a great month, enjoy the summer, and hope we'll see ya soon!


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

What's New

T-shirts & Ball Caps & Mugs, oh my!

For all of you who have been waiting impatiently for us to get more t-shirts in stock there is good news at last!
With all of the traveling and workshops and other general administrative stuff that has to get done by just the two of us, t-shirts and other logo-type items just kept getting pushed to the bottom of the list. We finally accepted that we can't do it all, and since acceptance is the first step to recovery, began to look around for other options.
After much research we decided to go with that wonderful online store, CafePress!
Now you can get Practical Primitive T-shirts (both Standard and Women's styles), Ball Caps, Tote Bags and of course, Coffee Mugs (there's even an Eddie-sized mug for all you other caffeine addicts out there :-) without having to wait on us anymore!
We'll be adding more cool, fun t-shirt designs soon, and are working on other product-type stuff as well.
So we hope you'll check it out, and send us a picture of yourself decked out in your new Practical Primitive gear!

August & September Workshops Added!

Since we're not going to be able to head up to the Letchworth Knap-in, we've gone ahead and added a few more workshops to the August schedule, and included a couple more onto the September calendar as well. We've listed them in the "Upcoming Workshops" section below, and hope we'll see you then!


Practical Primitive Logo


We are currently accepting applications for our upcoming
3-month Intensive Skills Apprenticeships.
(Each program limited to a maximum of 4 participants.)

The World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter

Immerse yourself into those skills which were second nature to the ancient hunter. Delve fully into the arts that ruled the hunter's life: bow-building, arrow making, flintknapping, stalking, camouflage, game patterning, hunting skills… Culminating in the heart of bow season, this program will prepare you for a hunt unlike any other!
September — November 2008
Application Deadline: August 15

Secrets in the Stone

Beginning with the Nine Basic Steps of Flintknapping, you will learn everything from how to fashion the most basic of stone tools, through the advanced flintknapping techniques of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, all the way up to current methods used by modern knappers around the world.
December 2008 — February 2009
Application Deadline: October 31

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 Events


July 24–27
Ski Denton (Coudersport, PA)

This is the big one! One of the largest Traditional-Only Archery events in the world, "Denton" draws shooters from the U.S., Canada and Europe. Eight courses with over 200 targets spread across 700 acres means no shortage of stuff to shoot at!
We're really excited about heading up to this event. Eddie has been asked to host a seminar on Friday evening, so he'll be spending an hour or so talking about Primitive Hunting Skills. It will be our first time there and we are very much looking forward to four days of barely controlled chaos. If you're up that way be sure to come by our booth and say hi!

For more information on ETAR, or any of our other upcoming events, check out the Special Events page on our website.

Tracking & Flintknapping in Ontario

August 3–5
Toronto–Muskoka–Bancroft areas

We're headed to Ontario for a family gathering this summer and have scheduled a couple of workshops while we're there.
August 3 & 4 — Flintknapping
August 5 — Tracking Essentials
We're heading up to the cottage for a couple of days on July 30, so if you'd like more info on these workshops, or about the possibility of setting up some one-on-one time, give us a call soon, or send an e-mail to


August 29–31
Brownsville, OH

The largest Knap-in in the Northeast, Flint Ridge is the place to go for experienced knappers and newbies alike. We had a great time at this event last year and are really looking forward to heading back and spending time with all the great folks we met.

For more information on Flint Ridge, or any of our other upcoming events, check out the Special Events page on our website.

Free Open Skills Nights

August 20
September 17
October 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 to meet us and spend an evening hanging out. We look forward to having you here!

Upcoming Classes

Our Fall/Winter schedule will be posted shortly…
but here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


   3–4   Flintknapping Basics (King City, ON)
      5   Tracking Essentials (King City, ON)
22–23  Shelter 1: Survival & Immediate Need Shelters
      24  Flintknapping Basics
      25  Pressure Flaking


11–12    Medicinal Plants
13–14    Intermediate Flintknapping
      19   Nature Observation & Awareness
      20   Making Fire
21–27   Advanced Bow-Making: Recurves, Bamboo- and Sinew-backed bows
      28   Shooting the Longbow

Skill of the Month

Picking Blackberries

"We Be Jammin": How to Make Wild Blackberry Jam

This past month has seen a bumper crop of all kinds of berries in our part of New Jersey, as the folks who have been snacking on them during recent workshops will attest! So with a freezer full of blackberries and more to be picked every day we knew that Wild Berry Jam would be the perfect skill for this month.
Home-made jams and jellies are fresher, more flavorful, and best of all, no additives, preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup!
We're lucky enough to live in an area that has a plethora of berry bushes all around, so can pick our own, however there are plenty of other options for those in the city, or other non-berry-filled environments so don't let that stop you! "Pick Your Own" farms, Farm Stands and Farmer's Markets are almost everywhere this time of year, and in a pinch even your local supermarket can provide the necessary berries.
The recipe we're using is a variation on one from an old copy of the USDA's "Complete Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Freezing". However, pectins vary, so be sure to check the recipes that are included in your box of pectin and adjust based on that.
Now let's get Jammin!

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

How to make a Wild Blackberry Jam:

  1. Get yourself some good glass canning jars with new lid closures and well-fitting bands to ensure air-tight seals. We are using some 4 oz jars (great for gift-giving) and some 1 pint jars.
  2. Prepare the jars by washing them in warm soapy water and rinse well to remove all the soap, or run them through the dishwasher. Also wash and rinse all the lids and bands.
  3. Keep the jars hot, either in a warm oven or hot water, until they are ready to be used. This will help to prevent thermal shock and keep the jars from breaking when they are filled with hot jam.
  4. Prepare your fruit by sorting them to remove any stems, caps or under-ripe berries, then wash the ripe fruit. Crush the berries thoroughly (a potato masher, which we do not have, works great for this). If your berries are extremely seedy you can put some of them through a sieve to remove some of the seeds.
  5. Measure 5 cups of crushed blackberries (about 3 quarts) into a saucepan. Add one package of powdered pectin and stir well.
  6. Put the saucepan onto high heat and bring the berry and pectin mixture quickly to a full boil, stirring constantly. Make sure you get bubbles over the entire surface. Quickly add 7 cups of sugar while continuing to stir.
  7. Return the mixture to a full-bubbling boil and boil hard for exactly one minute, stirring constantly.
  8. Remove from heat and skim any foam off the surface.
  9. Fill your jars with the hot jam to 1/8" from the top. Wipe the jar rim and threads clean and place the metal lid on the jar with the sealing ring touching the rim all the way around.
  10. Screw the metal ring down as tightly as you can and set the jar aside. Work quickly at this point, as it is vital to get all the jam packed and sealed before the mixture cools.
  11. Place the sealed jars on a canning rack and lower the rack into the canner. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to cover the jars by at least 1-2 inches. (We don't have a canner, so just carefully placed the jars in an enamel stock pot.) Cover and bring the water to a gentle boil for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove the jars and place them on a towel or drying rack to cool. As they cool you should begin to hear the "pops" as the seals affix. After the jars have cooled completely, check the seals by pressing down on the middle of the lids. If the lid springs back the jar is not sealed and you'll have to either re-process or refrigerate it.
  13. Label each jar with the kind of jam inside and the date it was packed, and let it cool thoroughly —at least 24 hours— before breaking out the toast. (Some jams may take several days to a week to fully set.) Keep the jars stored in a cool, dry place out of any sunlight. The shorter your storage time the better, as fresher is always tastier!

If you've never made jam before don't be intimidated, jump in and give it a try!
And remember that this is only one example of the hundreds of recipe variations out there, so talk to your mother, grandmother, aunt or neighbor and try their favorites too.
Now Jam On, and Have Fun!

Eddie's Bookshelf

Surviva Wisdom & Know-how

Survival Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Subsist in the Wilderness

— From the Editors of Stackpole Books

"The bow and drill is often used when the spindle and baseboard materials are not good enough to create a char using a hand drill technique."

This is the first sentence I read in this book, and the heads of shoppers all around me turned at the expletives I uttered. The instructions go on to give one-size-fits-all dimensions, absolutely terrible technique, and materials examples suitable only for those in the southwest. The instructions on Hand drill are no better, and by the time I got to the section, "Steps to Building a Fire" there was smoke coming out of my ears.
This book is a perfect example of a bunch of people throwing together a load of information without experience, dirt-time, or any of the "Survival Wisdom & Know-How" they are selling to poor consumers who don't know any better.

The worst part is that this book is not all bad! It does contain some good information, even some excellent information, which is mixed and interspersed with the bad, making it difficult to impossible for the average person to discern what parts of this book are of value.
For example, there is an excellent "Selection of Edible Plants" that lists many delicious, nutritious and readily available wild edibles. However, on the previous page the "Universal Edibility Test" explains how you should place a small part of the plant on your tongue and hold it there for 15 minutes, then thoroughly chew it and hold it in your mouth for another 15 minutes, all without swallowing! One page tells you to avoid all mushrooms in a survival situation (sound advice!), then 3 pages later you find "The Foolproof Five" mushrooms that are always "safe". None of "Emergency Natural Shelters" they describe will keep you keep you even close to warm on a cold night, the instructions on how to make cordage are confusing at best and the idea that 90% of all purple berries are edible could be deadly under the wrong circumstances.
Make No Mistake — this is one of those books that can kill you!

Sadly, there are too many volumes like this one out there, so before you hand over your cash to purchase a book from which you hope to learn good skills, make sure that the person (or in this case, group of editors) who wrote it has actually spent some serious time practicing and honing their own skills in realistic situations and are not just teaching from a notebook or regurgitating what they were taught. There are many great books out there that have excellent information, good technique and solid experience behind them, which is why it drives me crazy when I see garbage like this being passed off as Survival Wisdom. And if you do end up with a dud like this in your library, remember that paper burns, and if you follow the instructions they give you on how to build a fire, you'll probably be glad to have a lot of it!

To find information on recommended books, see our website.

Practically Speaking

Words of Wisdom, Actions for Change

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys."
— Chief Dan George

The days have been long and the weather hot, but not unbearable. In the workshops over this past month we have spent time with the plants, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, squirrels and each other, all outside. We have been covered in natural camo, fired pottery, built numerous bows and shot many arrows. Every day brought something new and exciting.

But in all that time in the housing development behind us, of which we can see the big backyards of almost a dozen houses, I saw people outside on only 3 occasions, one of which was July 4th. I'm pretty sure that this gated community is not alone in it's indoor seclusion. How sad!
The people who live an all those perfectly climate-controlled little boxes may be comfortable on the outside, but my bet is that they're missing something on the inside.
One need not spend a week in full survival to talk to this earth we inhabit. A connection is established the instant you choose to slow down and notice the world. I encourage you to be an example to all those isolated folks living their indoor lives. The gift of a small jar of jam you made can become an invitation to accompany you on a berry picking venture. Along the way you might point out some edible plants, or animal tracks, or wildlife sign they do not notice. And perhaps a small spark may begin to kindle and they might venture out on their own next time to see what else is "out there".

I was out with a student just a couple of days ago tracking a fox to it's den, and we were on our way back to the truck when we met a guy carrying some binoculars. We introduced ourselves and he asked if we had seen any wildlife. We talked about the foxes, which he told us he had seen on a couple of occasions, but imagine his surprise when I advised him he was less than 25 yards from the den! We chatted some more as I showed him the den and we built an "altar of friendship" so to speak, that I hope will encourage him to spend more time with the foxes and other creatures with whom he shares his neighborhood.

In the words of Chief Dan George, "…what you do not know, you will fear." The more we can encourage people to get outside, to touch nature, to remember our ties to Mother Earth, the more they will care what happens to her, and to all of us.
Let's work together to break down the walls of fear and indifferece that our society has built up around the "wild woods" and the animals that live there. These wild places are not "ours" — we can not spend our lives trying hide and "protect" them by attempting to drive others away for fear they might "ruin" them. Rather, perhaps it is time to put ourselves out there, to approach, include and invite others to see what we see and love what we love.

Let's drive out the fear, not the people, and perhaps we can begin to build up. Not destroy.

One Final Note

It's hard to believe that the summer is already half over. We've been so busy these last few months that it's been a real struggle to take time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of these days. Big thanks to everyone who came out to my "Birthday Edition Open Skills Night". I had a great time and hope you'll all come back again, even if there isn't cake. :-)
We'll be up at the cottage for the first few days of August, resting, regrouping and wishing Julie's mom a Happy 75th birthday, so if we're a bit slow replying to phone messages and e-mails we hope you'll understand.
We're working on the new Fall/Winter schedule and will get it up as soon as we can get a couple of our travel dates set, and hope you'll enjoy the couple of new workshops we're adding.
And lastly, don't forget that the application deadline for our World of the Bow: The Ultimate Hunter apprenticeship is fast approaching, so if you'd like to join us for this amazing three month program be sure to get your application in by August 15. And if you have any questions about what we'll be doing or how it all works, feel free to give us a call any time.
So stay safe, keep hydrated, have fun, and look forward to seeing ya soon.

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

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