Practically Seeking

March 2008 (Issue 10)

Hey there,
Welcome Spring!
Winter has officially come to a close and here in New Jersey there are signs of spring everywhere. The robins have returned, the groundhogs have come out of hibernation, the deer are changing over to their spring travel routes and the dandelions are sprouting in abundance.
We're getting pretty busy here too. The World of the Hunter-Gatherer program has begun and our first weekend went great! You can follow their progress over the next six months through the Blog they are using to stay in touch with us and with each other.
Don't forget to check out our new schedule for this spring and summer. We've got a lot of Skills 2 You trips coming up over the next few months, and Events season is beginning again with Primitive Skills gatherings, Knap-ins and Traditional Archery Rendezvous' almost every month. If we're coming to your area we hope you'll come out to say hi. And remember, if you have four or more folks that want to learn, we'll be happy to come to you!
Oh, and thanks to the success of January's Advanced Skills class in North Carolina, Richard Cleveland is already planning another one like it for October at which I will once again be Guest Instructing. Check out the Earth School website for more info.
Enjoy the warmer days!


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

What's New

Eddie's FIRST Video!

Inspired by your response to the Night Vision Bowdrill video we posted last month for a bit of fun, Eddie decided it was time to begin serious work on our "Virtual Instructor" program.
He spent the last several weeks learning our new video editing software package and after more than a few late nights (and many colorful exclamations that I can't print here) completed his very first instructional video!
It corresponds with the Skill of the Month project, taking you through each step of How to Build a Log Cabin Fire Lay in just under four minutes.
We will be making more videos each month as we begin developing our online training program, and we would love to hear your suggestions and feedback as we experiment with these first few simple topics.
Check it out on YouTube to see for yourself, and let us know what you think!

Upcoming Events

West Coast Tour

May 20 – June 15
The details are really coming together for our trip west this spring. Here's a rundown of things so far:

Our available time is rapidly filling, but if you'd like to set up some one-on-one instruction with Eddie let us know and we'll see what we can do!
For more information on the WCT Round-Up or any of our other West Coast Workshops, give us a call or send an e-mail to We'll see ya there!

Free Open Skills Nights

April 16
May 14
June 18
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!

Upcoming Classes

Our 2008 schedule is up on the website and we hope you'll check it out.
In the mean time, here's what's coming up over the next couple of months&helip;

March Workhsops

     29    The "GO" Bag
30–31   Tracking Essentials

April Workshops

10–11   The Atlatl
     12   Percussion Knapping
     13   Stone Arrow Points
18–19   Survival Bows
     20   Fire

Skill of the Month

Log Cabin Fire

Making Fire: The Log Cabin Fire Lay

The Log Cabin Fire Lay is a very versatile structure and exhibits properties that can actually be superior to the teepee in many instances. Because of the open and airy style of this fire lay it radiates heat readily, and can be adapted to produce a great deal of heat and an outstanding bed of coals — great for cooking or firing pottery, and an excellent design for a wood-burning fireplace! As you are building your structure it is of special importance to concentrate on the core. In most instances, if you don't get the kind of fire you were expecting it is related to not establishing a good, hot core. So next time you're out building a fire give this one a try!

Want to learn more?
Join us for our upcoming workshop on Making Fire.

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


To see Eddie's first video showing how to construct this fire lay in detail, see our most recent YouTube offering!

How to build a Log Cabin Fire Structure::

  1. Select an area of clear ground and excavate a shallow trench just deep enough that you can slip a tinder bundle underneath. The trench should lie in the same direction that any wind may be blowing.
  2. Frame out your trench on three sides with larger pieces fire wood, about wrist thick. The open end should be on the downwind side.
  3. Place a row of substantial sticks (about thumb diameter) on top of the large parallel pieces. These will become the base on which your tinder will sit, so keep them close together, but not touching — air must be able to flow through freely.
  4. Place a thicker stick on each side of your structure, perpendicular to the last layer and, alternating placement so each row rests across the previous level. Continue this pattern three or four more times to create walls that are a couple of inches high. This creates a hollow, sheltered area in which to place your tinder.
  5. Fill this hollow with fine, dry, fluffy tinder material.
  6. Place a closely spaced row of smaller sticks (about pencil thick) over the tinder layer. On top of this layer place a larger piece on each side, perpendicular to the smaller sticks. This will form a support for your kindling.
  7. Carefully place your fine kindling pieces in a thick, loose layer between your larger frame pieces. Your kindling should all be very dry and about the thickness of a pencil lead. It is always best to gather your kindling from standing dead wood, or from the tips of dead branches. It should break with a clean snap.
  8. Repeat steps six and seven one or two more times. This will help to ensure that your fire will light quickly and burn hot from the start.
  9. Begin adding "fuel" layers with smaller sticks placed in the center and thicker fuel sticks on the outsides. Each level should be perpendicular to the last, creating your "log cabin" effect.The upper-most layers may all be thick fuel sticks.
  10. Ignite the structure by placing your tinder bundle, lighter, match or other flame down in the trench. This lighting method protects the initial flame from the wind and other elements, allowing the tinder layer to catch easily. Then, as the fire grows, each layer serves to ignite the one above.

So try something new, stay warm, and have fun!

Eddie's Bookshelf

Tree Identification Book

The Tree Identification Book

— George W. Symonds

Believe it or not, early spring is one of the best times of year to study trees. Last fall's foliage is still on the ground, the trees are just starting to bud, yet will still retain their winter profile for a few more weeks. This gives you every possible way to identify any tree, which The Tree Identification Book will help you to do with ease. The days are warming up and, thanks to our extra early Daylight Savings switch, the evenings are already getting longer. As we begin to emerge from our winter hibernation and become more excited about spending time outside, this excellent identification book is a great resource to have around.

With separate sections on each different aspect, this guide has everything you need to identify a tree in any stage of growth, at any time of year. Starting with Broad-leaved trees, there are pictoral keys for leaves, thorns, flowers, fruits (including nuts, pods, seeds and berries), twigs & buds, and bark. A separate section for needled trees is tremendously helpful for learning to differentiate between those in the coniferous family.

The second half of the book contains the "Master Pages", where trees are grouped together by family (oaks, elms, maples, cedars etc.), bringing all the identification aspects of each tree together so they can be easily compared. ŔWhen looking up a tree in the index, the page number for the Master Pages is shown.) This section also includes a full-length photograph of the entire tree without leaves. This profile shot can be of great help when trying to discern between two similar trees and is, to my knowledge, unique to this guide.

The trees covered in this book grow mostly from the east coast of the United States and Canada, west to North Dakota, south to Texas, and includes only Northern Florida. While this is not a comprehensive guide, the over 1500 photos make it easy, even for folks who have no experience, to begin learning and identifying the trees in their area.

We have used this guide all through the winter, which is difficult or impossible with most others. While the set up takes a bit of getting used to, it is well worth taking the time to figure out. If you live in the areas covered by this book I highly recommend adding this one to your reference shelf.

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

Practically Speaking

Spring Flowers

The Power of Participation…

I'm not going to elaborate much this time, only suggest that if you get a chance, you watch the episode of American Masters called Pete Seeger: The Power of Song on PBS. This man's influence has touched us all in ways that we do not even realize, far beyond the thousands of songs that he has written and recorded over the past 50 years. Many of these, including "If I Had a Hammer", "Where Have all the Flowers Gone", and "Turn, Turn, Turn" (made famous by The Birds), have become classics of folk and rock music and are the first songs sung when people come together for a worthy cause.

Pete has been a controversial figure throughout his life — he was one of the artists unfairly blacklisted during the McCarthy era and was banned from network television for almost 20 years — but his passion for grassroots change and for the equality and fair treatment of all people is inspiring and motivating on every level.

Whether or not you are a fan of his music or his politics, the story of his life is an amazing example to us all on how one person really can affect amazing and positive change in the world, on both a local level and a grand scale. One of the early proponents of the philosophy, "Think Globally, Act Locally", Pete Seeger was the driving force behind cleaning up New York's Hudson River, which no one believed could be done. By bringing small and large groups of individuals together in a fun, song-filled atmosphere, he has shown time and again that we can accomplish anything if we simply refuse to believe that it can't be done.

Change is possible — and our world is in desperate need of change.

"The difference will not be made by one big organization, the difference will be made by millions of small organizations."

"Participation, that's what's going to save the human race."

One Final Note

Were heading off this morning to Nova Scotia for our 4 day Flintknapping workshop in Wolfville, so if we're a bit slow returning calls and e-mails we apologize in advance. It's my first trip to Canada's east coast and I'm looking forward to checking out some of the beautiful scenery and amazing heritage that I've heard so much about.
Spread the word: Nature, Don't fear it, get near it !

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

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