Practically Seeking

March 2009 (Issue 20)

Talk about "In like a Lion"!!
I don't know about where you are, but here in Jersey the weather this month has been a real roller coaster ride! From a foot of snow on the 1st, to t-shirts & sandals on the 7th, back to snow and parkas and gloves on the day of the Spring Equinox, we're having a hard time telling if spring has arrived or not! But, if the old saying holds true the "out like a Lamb" should be back again this week, so let's all keep our fingers crossed. :-)

We had beautiful and perfect weather for our first World of the Hunter-Gatherer weekend, and what a weekend it was! Julie & I are very excited about the drive and passion of this new tribe and are looking forward to seeing just how far we can take them in developing and perfecting their skills. It's going to be an incredible six months, and you can watch the progress of Adam, Apor, Nick & Nick in the  Hunter-Gatherer 2009 photo set on Flickr, where we'll be posting new pictures each month. They're already working to give last year's group a run for their money!
This great beginning has us looking forward even more to the brand new Hunter-Gatherer Texas program beginning in September, so to those of you who live down in that part of the world be sure to submit your application soon.

You all have been so supportive of what we're doing, and so interested in what we have to teach and the manner in which we've chosen to teach it that we have begun looking at how we might be able to expand to a larger facility and begin moving toward our future vision. If any of you know of a property that might be for use, rent, lease, or sale that would help us to build the collaborative and cooperative vision we are working toward, please contact us -- we're looking forward to taking that next step!


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

What's New

Premium Osage Staves Ready to Go

Some of you know (or have heard stories of) our good friend Tom McDonald. We've been talking with him since last fall about the beautiful, straight-grained, seasoned Hickory and Osage to which he has access in Ohio, but no way of getting to market.
Well, a couple of weeks ago Tom showed up with a truck full of the nicest, straightest, most beautiful Osage that Eddie has seen in a very long time. You won't believe how straight-grained this wood is! He and Eddie spent a morning splitting out the staves, and Eddie has been working them down and categorizing them as to their quality.
They are very well-seasoned with great rings, and ready to turn into some gorgeous bows. So if you or anyone you know is looking for some seriously nice Osage, choose your staves and we'll get them shipped!

(If you're going to be in our area, or at one of our upcoming Traditional Archery events, be sure to stop by and pick one out.
There are some nice flex-bow-sized pieces as well!)

What You've Had to Say About Us…

Since we started Practical Primitive almost two years ago many of you have been kind enough to write and let us know how much you enjoyed the workshops you attended.
For those of you who are still considering signing up but aren't sure what you might find when you get here, we hope you'll check out our new Student Comments page and read what some other folks have had to say.
And if you have attended a workshop in the past we would really appreciate your feedback too; both in what you liked and think we're doing right, and about where we could improve things for next time.

Braintanning with Two Wolves
Classes coming up in Maryland & New Jersey

Our friends at Two Wolves have a couple of Braintan classes coming up in April and we wanted to let you know where and when they're going to be. Kfir Mendel has been braintanning full time for a couple of years now, and produces beautiful hides. So if you've been wanting to learn how to braintan we heartily recommend that you check out these classes!
April 10-12Wet-scrape Braintan (Catonsville, MD)
April 18Hide in a Day (Toms River, NJ)

Upcoming Events

Special Guest Instructor for June 14!

We're looking forward to our next Texas trip in June and are thrilled that Eddie's good friend and retired US Navy Independent Duty Corpsman, Mark "Doc" Wright is set to be the Guest Instructor for our new Backwoods Hygiene & Improvised First Aid workshop. Mark's 20 years of  submarine, ship-board and battlefield medical experience will take the Improvised First Aid workshop to a whole different level, and provide you with real-world, "anyone can do it" solutions to those problems, from the mildly annoying to the majorly serious, that can occur on any camping trip or backwoods outing. This one is not to be missed!
June 12Medicinal Plants
June 13Traps, Simplified
June 14Backwoods Hygiene & Improvised First Aid

Whittingham Traditional Archery Rendezvous
April 24-26 — Newton, NJ

Events Season is about to begin! We had a great time at this weekend last time around and are looking forward to "hanging with the home town crowd" again this year. Hosted by the Appalachian Bowmen of Sussex County, this shoot has 3-D Ranges, Archery Golf, Stump shoots, a Flying Disc range and Eagle-eye Qualifier. We will also have several of our gorgeous Osage staves along — straight, seasoned, and ready to sell. It's going to be a fun weekend, so if you're in the area we hope you'll come by and say hi!
(For more info check out the Events page on our website.)

Free Open Skills Nights

April 15
May 20
June 24 (4th Wednesday, due to Texas trip)
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.
It's fun, it's free, and everyone is welcome. We never know who will be here, or what folks will 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 new and growing Flickr page!)


Practical Primitive Logo

World of the Hunter-Gatherer — Texas
Now Accepting Applications

We are now accepting applications for our brand new Hunter-Gatherer Texas program!
The same information will be taught as in the New Jersey version, and in the same small group, hands-on, integrated learning style, but participants will meet for 3 days every other month (September, November, January, March and May), probably over the 3rd weekend of the month, with the Survival Outing taking place in June.
We're so excited to be able to offer this amazing program to a whole new group of people in a whole new area of the country. We hope you're excited too, and look forward to seeing your application!
Application Deadline: July 15, 2009

Secrets in the Stone
September – November 2009

We have already begun receiving applications for this Fall's Secrets in the Stoneprogram, beginning in September.
No matter what your current knapping skill level, if you been wanting to begin seriously learning to work with stone then this program will take you far beyond your current goals and expectations.
Our last group of participants went from having little to no experience when we began, to fluting points & artifact reproduction just 3 month later! (Check out a sampling of their work on our Flickr page.) And with a better understanding of just how much can be accomplished, Eddie plans to cover even more ground this time around!.
Application Deadline: July 1, 2009

Remember, these programs are limited to only
4 participants, to ensure the highest quality of instruction.

Upcoming Workshops

Our Spring/Summer schedule has been Posted!
We've got some great workshops available on our Spring and Summer schedule, and here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


   4–5  Traps, Simplified
      6   Making & Using Natural Cordage
     17  Fire Making
     18  NEW! Gathering Baskets
     19  NEW! Spring Foraging


    2-3  Survival Skills 101
       4  Stone Tools
     22  NEW! Front-yard Foraging: An Intro to Edibles
23-24  Medicinal Plants
     29  Immediate Need & Emergency Shelters
30-31  Short-term & Small Group Shelters

Skill of the Month

Ishi Sticks

Hard Tack Trail Bread

Imagine a bread that is healthy and nutritious, easy to make, simple to carry, requires no refrigeration and will last indefinitely on a shelf or in a backpack. How handy!
Of course, it also happens to be as hard as rock.
A staple of cowboys, hikers and backwoodsmen alike, Hard Tack Trail Bread is called hard for a reason! But when you're on the long trail, out in the back country, or putting back emergency stores, this is exactly the sort of food you'll want to have on hand.
Made from flour, cornmeal and honey, this quick and easy bread can be made plain or jazzed up. In the bread we're making in the photos, we've substituted some of the white flour for Amaranth flour to increase the nutritional content and add a nice, nutty flavor. (You could also use acorn, millet, cattail, or any number of other "wild" flours to the same effect.) We are also using a blue cornmeal, just to see what color the bread will turn out!
We've had some sample pieces sitting in our kitchen for almost six weeks now, two open on a shelf and one sealed in a ziploc bag, and none have shown any sign of mold or deterioration.
The key here seems to be the honey. The more honey you add the harder the bread will get and, presumably, the longer it will last. It appears to act as a natural preservative and stabilizing agent, the natural antibacterial properties preventing any unwanted "growth" on the bread. When you go to finally eat your Trail Bread, dipping it in a warm liquid like coffee will soften it up and make it chewable once again.

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

How to make Hard Tack Trail Bread:

  1. Gather your ingredients of 1 cup white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup cornmeal, and 2 cups of honey, and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. (Feel free to experiment with substituting different types of flours.)
  2. Grease a muffin⁄cupcake tin in preparation for the batter. This will keep it from sticking. (You could also use paper cupcake liners so long as you spray them well with a good no-stick cooking spray. Otherwise you'll never get the papers off!.)
  3. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the white flour, whole wheat flour, and cornmeal.
  4. Take the 2 cups of honey and heat them carefully until the honey has become thin and runny. Do not allow it to come to a boil.
  5. Pour the honey into the flour mixture and combine until the honey has been completely mixed in with the flour.
  6. If the batter is too thick, add some hot water, a little at a a time, until the batter is of a thin enough consistency to drop off a spoon.
  7. Fill each greased cupcake holder about 1⁄2 full with batter. (Makes about 18 cakes.)
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  9. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. This bread requires NO refrigeration and will last almost indefinitely — but once it hardens be sure to soak it in some milk or coffee or some sort of liquid first, or your teeth will regret it!

So take some Hard Tack along on your next hike for a little trail-worthy sustenance,
and Have Fun!

(Many thanks to our friend Dan Atkinson for sharing both his Trail Bread and his recipe with us, so that we could pass it along to you!)


Eddie's Bookshelf

Shelters, Shacks & Shanties

Weeds of the Northeast

—Richard Uva, Joseph Neal & Joseph DiTomaso

Love This Book.
Though not remotely why the authors would think I do! I originally discovered this book quite by accident while searching on Amazon for a field guide that was more specific to plants in New Jersey. While reading the mediocre reviews for another book we had been considering, I came across a reviewer who recommended purchasing this book instead, and when I checked it out I was hooked. One of the most unique and helpful plant books I have ever come across, Messrs. Uva, Neal & DiTomaso would probably be mystified and horrified to find out why everyone we've shown it to loves their book so much!
Written by Specialists of Weed Science, this is actually an invaluable book for all foragers in the Northeast U.S., southern Canada, and beyond. While it's true purpose is to assist horticulturists, agronomists, landscape managers and pest specialists to identify and remove⁄destroy all those pesky weeds that are out to ruin their crop⁄garden⁄lawn, it is, in fact, a wild plant lover's dream.

So why am I giving such glowing praise to a "let's kill those blasted weeds" book?
Two words: "Seedlings" and "Seeds".
For almost every plant listed in this book there is not only a photo of the full grown plant and the flower, but a photo of the seedling stage, and of the seed itself! And let me tell you, these are GREAT photos. Carefully and beautifully taken, the photos make it easy to see and discern the minute details required for proper plant identification.
Additionally, the identification key does NOT rely on any flower characteristics, as is common to almost every other field guide. The authors have developed a completely structural- and vegetative-based identification key that will allow you to identify any of the multitude of edible, medicinal and utilitarian plants and grasses (yes, grasses!) outlined in the book, at any stage of their life cycle.
Meaning that you no longer have to wait until a flower appears in order to discover what that mystery plant might be. Instead, you can take this book and go out right now and identify any of the 299 common "weeds" in this book. Among the "undesirables" listed are Wild Garlic, Wild Oats, Foxtail grass, several varieties of Millet and Amaranth, Milkweed, Yarrow, Chamomile, Burdock, Chicory, Jerusalem Artichoke, Chickweed, Lambs Quarters, Velvetleaf, Woodsorrel, Pokeweed,  Plantain, Purslane, Mullein, Violets and many more.
We purchased this book back in December and have been impatiently waiting until March to share it with you in the hope that you will be as excited as we are by the opportunity to head out now, at the very beginning of the spring green-up, and begin marking those tiny seedlings to remind yourself where NOT to mow as the grass begins to grow.
Personally, I rather like the idea of taking a book designed to destroy plants and increase the monocultural agri-industry, and instead using it to find, nurture and fully enjoy those wonderful, healthy, helpful and delicious "Weeds".

Ready to try your hand at discovering wild foods this year?
Come join us for our upcoming Spring Foraging and Front-yard Foraging: An Intro to Edibles
workshops in April and May.

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

Practically Speaking

First Greens of Spring

Practically Phenologising — Awareness for the Good of Science!

Those of you who read this column each month will have noticed that one of the recurring themes we stress is the idea of increasing your awareness of the world around you in every possible way.
So imagine our surprise to discover that this sort of observational awareness actually has a name: Phenology.
Phenology is "the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle events...such as leafing and flowering of plants, maturation of agricultural crops, emergence of insects, and migration of birds." Sound familiar?
It was just a few weeks ago, when I tuned my car radio to NPR's "Science Friday", that I found myself searching for paper and pen to get the unfamiliar word written down. The Executive Director of the USA National Phenology Association was being interviewed about their new program that is working to enlist as many "Citizen Scientists" from the general public as they can find to record information about each individual's observations of specific plants. This information will then be available to scientists, students, educators, agencies and others the world over that are working to discover the actual and practical effects that climate change is having on our eco-system.

We've already signed up for the program and will be posting our observations on a few of the different species on their Plant List. Since we were already keeping a log of these things anyway, we are glad to be able to put our skills to a practical use that can be of real benefit to all. And with such specific information being requested, and the online form for inputting your observations, the USANPN has really made it simple to be a part of this new and worthwhile effort.

So take this opportunity to get out there and USE your skills! Check out the plant list for your state and choose a couple of plants to observe and report on over their life cycle.

Observation and Awareness for the good of the planet AND a chance to put our skills to solid and practical use...
Now that's a cause we can all get behind!

(You can hear the full NPR interview with Jake Weltzin on the Talk of the Nation website.)


One Final Note

Over the past couple of months we have been talking with several old friends and colleagues about ways in which we might bring together our complimentary visions in the creation of a collaborative and cooperative overall mission.
Since before Julie & I started Practical Primitive almost two year ago, I have been dreaming of building up a facility that will be of benefit to everyone who has the desire to pass on the skills they have worked to perfect.
We are now coming to a point where we feel the time has arrived to begin to move forward and take concrete steps toward the fulfilment of this dream. To that end we will soon be adding a new page to our website about "Our Future", that will begin to outline our plans for this facility, and ways in which anyone who might have some interest in seeing this vision fulfilled can help.
The first thing we need to find is the right location, so if you know of an appropriate place or piece of property that is (or could be) available for use, rent, lease or sale, we would love to hear about it! Especially ones that are in our current general vicinity (NJ, NY, PA).
Thanks to all of you for your continued support, and we wish you a wonderful spring!

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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