Practically Seeking

June 2011 (Issue 37)

Am I the only one who can't get enough of all this green???
The world looks so different than it did even just a few weeks ago — the first Spring plants are already exploding their seed pods and the neighbors place is once again hidden behind a veil of leaves... ahhh Spring...
As we move into the height of the season we have been working our butts off getting gardens built and planted (if you haven't seen the pics of our new Keyhole garden check them out!) and trying to keep ahead of the growing grass. Not easy with all the rain we were having, let me tell you!

We also wanted to remind everyone that our Intern, Dan Farella, will be conducting Edible Plant walks on Open Skills Nights throughout the summer. (More details on that below.)
Speaking of which, we have so many projects underway that we are now looking for additional Summer Interns, so if you are interested in applying for our Intern program we would love to hear from you!

We've got several of our brand NEW workshops coming up over the next couple of months, like Boomerangs, Medicinal Plants, Constructing an Outdoor Kitchen, Hot Rock Cooking, Food Storage & Preservation and Primitive Soap Making. Then of course there area your regular summer favorites, including Knots & Lashings, Survival Skills 101, Traps Simplified, Emergency Shelters, Stalking & Camo, Front-yard Foraging and Archery Fundamentals (the full 2 day version!) Many of these are filling up fast — Primitive Pottery is already closed — so don't delay in getting signed up!

Lots of new and exciting stuff coming up this summer, but we can't say too much too soon :-) so we'll just let you know that our newly redesigned Ultimate Hunter: Spirit of the Hunt Intensive Skills Program will be starting in September (the new information page will be up later this week) and the 9 Step Knapping DVD is headed off for final edit next week — We will be sure to let you know as soon as we have a release date!

Hope you had a safe and fun Holiday weekend and a wonderful Summer kick-off!

e & j


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

What's New

Practical Primitive t-shirts back in stock — New Styles!

Our Practical Primitive t-shirts are back in stock and have been selling so fast at workshops that we're going to have to place another order very soon! Along with our traditional logo t-shirt we have introduced the first of our new "line", that has one of Eddie's favorite quotes  from a Wyoming Mountain Man named Bill Atkinson:

"Civilization Has Nothing to Offer a Man
Once He Has Become a Savage." 

Shirts are available in both regular and womens styles and in a variety of colors. We are working on implementing a new Shopping Cart module on our website to make online ordering of t-shirts (and all our other Practical Primitive items) faster and easier so you will be able to purchase your shirt directly off the website soon.
In the mean time, if you just can't wait, give Julie a call and we'll see if we can't hook you up with one over the phone!

Practical Primitive Online — Webinar Workshops
Interactive Online Workshops Coming Soon

So many of you have told us how you've "wished you could be here" for a particular workshop or for Open Skills Nights and we've decided it's high time we found a way to make that happen!
In keeping with our Mission of providing teaching that is Accessible, Affordable and Achievable, beginning next month Eddie and Julie will be holding online workshops on a variety of different skills and subjects. These will take place on a weekday evening and we expect them to last between 1 and 2 hours, depending on the number of questions folks have.
We are VERY excited to begin offering these webinars, and in order to make sure we get it right we would LOVE to hear some of your thoughts and get some of your input.
We have put together a VERY short (12 question) survey that will help us to better know what subjects you would like to see offered and what format would make these new offerings work best for you. You don't need to enter your name or e-mail or give us any identifying information unless you want to, and since all but one of the questions are "Yes/No" or "Chose which most applies" we promise you can be done in about two minutes!
Click here to be taken to the survey and Thanks Alot! We really appreciate your input! (The link has been removed, as this survey has been closed.)

Plant Walks coming to Open Skills Nights!
June 15th, 6 - 7:30 pm

We are very excited to announce that Dan Farella of Return to Nature will be conduction his Edible Plants Walk here at Practical Primitive at the beginning of every Open Skills Night throughout the summer! Dan has spent the past 15 years learning about wild plants and has followed that passion into his own business, through which he has been conducting walks and teaching about plants throughout the tri-state area for the past several years. Dan incorporates wild plants and mushrooms into his regular diet and has experimented extensively with using wild edibles in everyday cooking. We know this for a fact because, as a Practical Primitive Intern, Dan is constantly cooking up tasty wild treats right here in our kitchen!
You are welcome to come just for the Plant Walk then be on your way, or to stick around afterward for some Open Skills Night hang-out time.
You can find out more about Dan on his website, Return to Nature, and if you have any questions about the evening feel free to send us an e-mail of give us a call.

Free Open Skills Nights

June 15
July 13
August 17
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!)

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…


10        Tying it All Together: Knots, Lashings & Putting Cordage to Use
11-12   Survival Skills 101
17        NEW! Non-Returning Boomerangs
18        NEW! Medicinal Plants
19        Traps, Simplified
24        Immediate Need & Emergency Shelters
26-27   Primitive Pottery (FULL)


Skill of the Month

Tincture Press

Medicinal Plants: The $12 Tincture Press

When making tinctures and infused oils you want to be sure to get every last drop of goodness from the plant materials you are using. For most of us, the traditional "solution" has been to put our plant material into fabric or cheesecloth and then proceed to squeeze by hand as hard as we can!
While this method does work, it leaves a LOT of precious liquid behind. Commercial presses are available, but they cost anywhere from $50 to $500 and for most of us home herbalists this is just not cost effective.
Now you can call me cheap if you want to, but after a little pondering and a bit of good ol' southern engineering I created my own press (which works remarkably well) out of a couple of scrap pieces of 2x4, two metal bowls out of the kitchen cupboard, and a couple of nuts and bolts from the hardware store. Total cost to me: $11.34. 
Now that's more like it!

Here is what I did....

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

How to make a Tincture Press:

  1. You will need to pull together the following items that can be found in any hardware store:
    – Two pieces of 2x4, each 10 1/2 inches long
    – 2 - 1/2" hex bolts, 10 inches long
    – 4 - 1/2" fender washers
    – 2 hex nuts
    – 1 - 6" x 3/4" hex bolt
    – 2 - 3/4" hex nuts
    – 1 - 3/4" fender washer 
    Now head over to the Plumbing department around the iron pipe fittings and obtain an Iron "1/2 inch flange". (Your looking for a flat metal thing with 4 holes in it.) You will also need two small stainless steel bowls of the same size — inexpensive kitchen bowls or pet dishes work great.
  2. Take your 2x4 pieces and measure in 1 inch from the end and mark that point with a line, then measure and mark the center of that line. Do the same thing at the other end so that each piece as two marks on it, one at each end. These are your drill points. Now drill out a 1/2 inch hole all the way through your board on each mark. You should have a total of 4 holes, two on each board, and they should line up when you place one board on top of the other.
  3. On one of your 2x4 pieces draw line diagonally from corner to corner in both directions, making an "X". Drill a 3/4 inch hole at the center point of your "X".
  4. Place a 1/2" fender washer on to each of your 1/2" bolts and then insert the bolt through the drilled holes in each end of the 2x4 that has only 2 holes in it. Put a hex nut on each bolt and screw it about two inches down the thread.
  5. Slide the 2x4 with 3 holes on the bolts on top of the other 2x4 and place another fender washer on each bolt on the outside of the piece of wood. Screw a hex nut on each bolt. You now have a fender washer on the outside of each piece of wood, and a hex bolt holding the pieces together. You do not need to tighten the hex nuts down at this point.
  6. Put your 6" long, 3/4" bolt down through the center hole of your top 2x4. Put on the fender washer and both hex nuts. Tighten the top hex nut up against the bottom side of the 2x4, holding the fender washer in place against the wood.
  7. Screw the 1/2" flange onto the 3/4" bolt until the bolt is flush with the bottom of the flange, then tighten the lower hex nut down against the flange.
  8. Put your 2 stainless steel bowls under the flange. Place your plant material in your bottom bowl with the second bowl sitting on top. Adjust the center 3/4" bolt as needed to seat the flange and upper bowl firmly down on the material to be pressed.
  9. Tighten the nuts on the two OUTER bolts, evenly and a little at a time, causing the flange to press down on the top bowl squeeze down on your plant material. (Use a wrench as necessary.)
  10. Continue to slowly tighten down on the two outer bolts and pour off the resulting liquid a little at a time.
  11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 until you can no longer get the nuts to tighten down any farther. THEN, open the press by loosening the center bolt to raise the flange high enough to remove the bowls, re-bundle the plant material and repeat the process another time or two until you are not extracting any more liquid.
  12. By the time you finish your plant material should be virtually dry, and can be tossed in to your compost to help nurture future medicinals. I have successfully used this press to extract an additional half cup to almost a full cup of liquid that would have otherwise been lost — what can be the most potent part of the medicine!

Note: Keep in mind that the two end bolts in to your bottom 2x4 this press will not be flush to your counter top and will need to be held straight. But in my world, stabilizing my $12 press is well worth the price.

Interested in learning more about Medicinal Plants?
Come check out the workshop on June 18!

Until next time, Enjoy the bounty of Plants, and Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Pandora's Seed

Pandora's Seed: The Unintended Consequences of Civilization

—Spencer Wells

I first heard about this book almost exactly a year ago when Spencer Wells was interviewed on The Daily Show. A huge fan of Mr. Wells first book, The Journey of Man, I picked up his newest offering as soon as I had the chance — and it did not disappoint!
Pandora's Seed traces what has happened to the human race since we made the fateful decision to turn from our Hunter-Gatherer past and begin to create our own food supply through agriculture. This desire to control rather than cooperate with nature altered our lives dramatically and irrevocably, and in ways which our ancient ancestors could never have conceived.

As a geneticist, anthropologist, leader of The Genographic Project and Explorer-in-Residence for National Geographic, Wells has traveled the world and looked through the lens of history in a way almost no one else can. Using discoveries made in the Genome Project as well as the most recent archeological and anthropological research, Wells clearly and succinctly draws direct lines from the decision of populations around the world to give up their nomadic existence and begin growing and cultivating their own food, straight to some of our current world's most pressing problems, including the rise in obesity, the prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other newly common diseases. And, while we have made amazing technological progress as a species, Wells contends that we have paid for that progress in unintended and unforeseen ways; that the unprecedented and continually rising levels of anxiety and depression in the developed world today are, at least in part, a result of our Hunter-Gatherer brains longing for the free and unfettered life we evolved to live. Of course, the flip side of that switch to a sedentary and specialized existence is the creation of art — the first examples of which appeared only after our ancestors settled down.

"Civilization" has had many consequences, some positive, many more, not so much. Wells' excellent and profound insights regarding the past, present and future of the human race and the world we inhabit are well-worth the read. This is one of those books that I will read and read again, gaining new insights of my own each time. 

One of my favorite things about this book is that Wells ends it on a positive note, looking toward the future with a sense of optimism that Eddie and I both appreciate and share. The hope that as a species we can work to move toward a new "mythos". That,
"While we can never go back to the preagricultureal era, we can perhaps take as a moral guide the mythos of the world's remaining hunter-gatherers: we can learn to want less."  

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


Practically Speaking

Hidden Depths: The Rainbow Obsidian Story

If you will Slow down, be still, and listen, Nature will teach you things. We just do not. Many indigenous peoples look at rock as the keepers of the wisdom, of such an incredible age that they have seen and know all. They are the Elders. In my experience learning and perfecting Primitive Skills over the past 35 years I have found that each material, each skill, has it's own rhythm, and to be successful we have to seek to understand each particular rhythm. Attempting to impose ones own will leads, ultimately, to failure.
I have been working with stone for more years than I care to share, and it ALWAYS teaches me something. Once, I was sitting around with some other flintknappers and everyone was chatting about what kind of rock they were knapping. The variety was amazing! Someone asked what it was that I was working on and I replied that it was a piece of rainbow obsidian.

Now, for some knappers obsidian is just not "sexy" enough. It often just looks like black glass and is passed over for more "charismatic" materials with distinct colors, banding, etc.
But to me, Rainbow obsidian is one of most beautiful types of stone you can find. See, the cool thing with Rainbow is that, when exposed to bright sunlight, at just the proper angle, it suddenly... changes. It will become beautifully iridescent and vivid purples, blues, yellows, and greens will literally appear to flare from the surface of the stone to create some of the most beautiful rock you will ever see.

There is a lesson here. How frequently do we dismiss things at first glance, for instance as a piece of plain black rock, never taking the time to change our perspective, our view point, our environment just a little -- just enough to discover the true beauty that is hidden and just waiting to emerge?
More importantly, how often do we do that with people?
What would our world be like if we took the time to change our perspective, just a little, oriented ourselves to the light just a little, to see the hidden beauty that can be found in most everyone?

Rocks are the Keepers of the Wisdom and the Holders of Hidden Beauty -- they were here for eons before us and will remain for eons after we are gone. There is much that we can learn from them, not the least of which is that if we take the time to stop, look, listen and seek the Light, perhaps we too can begin to turn our world away from "just plain black" into a Rainbow of color, light, laughter and love.

And who couldn't use a little more of that?  


One Final Note

With Spring in full swing, the days heating up and Summer rapidly approaching it's easy to forget that in what will seem the blink of an eye the leaves will be starting to turn, sweaters will return to our wardrobes and the flannel sheets and wool blankets will once again be pulled out of the closet.
As we always say, the time to begin preparing for the coming Winter is at the end of the current one! We encourage you to get out there and discover the amazing bounty that lies within the "wall of green" just outside your door. Get yourself some field guides, come to a plant walk or workshop and start learning all the wonders that the Earth has to offer.

Our dehydrators are running 18 hours a day, almost every day as we gather, prepare and process greens and flowers and seeds as they come into season. If you start to do the same you will quickly develop a closeness and intimacy with the natural world around you that can not be gained in any other way.
Working with nature is an amazing joy that is, in the words of the Ontario Tourist Board, Yours To Discover, so go for it!

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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