Practically Seeking

May 2009 (Issue 22)

By golly I think summer may have decided to come this year after all! Hooray for warm days at last!
So once again this month has just FLOWN by. 
We had a great time at the traditional shoot in Baltimore, and we had much fun with plants at last weekend's workshops. Our 3rd Hunter-Gatherer weekend has come and gone and the group is making fantastic progress, as they've been busy weaving all of their projects into the fabric of their "normal" lives. (To see what they've been up to check out photos of our weekends on Flickr and our new Facebook Page.)

June has us heading down to Texas for three days of workshops (one of which is already full, and there are only a couple of open spaces in the other two) so hopefully the summer heat will hold off just a little bit longer for us! The remainder of the month has some of my most favorite workshops — Bows, Archery, Pottery and Cooking — looking forward to a great month!
So it's shaping up to be a busy summer for us once again and we're looking forward to new friends, new places and new projects, and plenty of great workshops in between. I hope you get a chance to join us!


Quote for the month: "Civilization has nothing to offer a man once he has become a savage." — Bill Atkinson

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

What's New

Are You a Practical Primitive FAN?
Check out our new Facebook Page!

It's up at last! After much frustration Julie has finally managed to post our new Practical Primitive Facebook Page, and we hope that you'll head over and "become a Fan".
You can check out photo albums from our workshops, Hunter-Gatherer programs, Open Skills Nights and other events, as well as our YouTube videos additional video snippets, and other Facebook kinda stuff.
We'll also be posting events we'll be attending, upcoming workshops and dates for upcoming Open Skills Nights.

SURVIVAL SKILL 101 Workshop Added in August
August 15-16

Due to the number of "I just found you guys" and "I can't make it this weekend, when is the next one?" phone calls and e-mails we received in the week before our May workshop, we've gone ahead and added another Survival Skills 101 weekend to our August schedule.
You'll get hands-on experience building a shelter, making fire-by-friction with your own bowdrill kit, creating stone tools, finding & purifying water, identifying and preparing basic edible and medicinal plants, learning to follow animal movements and much more.
A great 2-day workshop where you'll learn all the basics, so come on out and open the door to a whole new relationship with the Earth as you prepare yourself for any possibility that you and your family may face.

Using the Whole Animal workshop Returning this Fall!
October / November 2009

Due to the fantastic success of last year's program, we are considering offering another Using the Whole Animal workshop sometime between mid-October and mid-November. This week-long workshop will once again be limited to 8 participants, so if you think you may be interested in coming out let us know, and tell us what time frame works best for you.

Premium Osage — Seasoned, Straight & Ready to Go

This well-seasoned, straight-grained Osage has been split into 72" staves and is now available for sale on our website. Having been "burned by wood before", Eddie has been taking the bark off of each stave and brought it down to a ring (mostly), to make sure that you know what you're going to get.
Each stave has been numbered and photographed and posted with a description of distinctive features, so choose the stave you want, then give us a call or send an e-mail and we will get it shipped to you.
Or, if you're heading to one of the Archery shoots or Knap-ins at which we're going to be exhibiting, we'll bring it along for you to pick up there. (See our Events listing or 2009 Schedule to see where we'll be this summer.)
If you're in the Toms River area and want to come by and see them in person just let us know.
We have already sold several, so don't delay!

Upcoming Events

Clifton, TX — June 12,13, & 14

There are only a couple of spots left open in both Medicinal Plants and Traps, Simplified so if you are planning on coming out for either one of these be sure to get your registration in right away. Backwoods Hygiene & Improvised First Aid is now full, so if you'd like to be advised if a spot becomes available please e-mail Julie and she'll add you to the list.

Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous
July 23-26
Ski Denton — Coudersport, PA

This event was an amazing experience for us last year, and we are definitely planning to make it a regular stop on our Summer Events tour. One of the largest Traditional-Only Archery shoots in the world, 'Denton' draws shooters and their families from across the eastern half of the United States, down from Canada, even over from Europe.
Eight courses with over 200 3-D targets spread across 700 acres, the Eagle Eye Competition Finals and the likes of Byron Ferguson and G. Fred Asbell participating — this one is "The Show"!
Eddie has once again been asked to do an evening seminar this year, and will be talking about and demonstrating Natural Camouflage Techniques so if you're going to be at the shoot we hope you'll come find us!
(For more info check out the Events page on our website.)

Free Open Skills Nights

June 24 (4th Wednesday, due to Texas trip)
July 15
August 19
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 Flickr and Facebook pages!)


Practical Primitive Logo

World of the Hunter-Gatherer — Texas
Now Accepting Applications

We are currently accepting applications for our Hunter-Gatherer, Texas program!
Like it's NJ counterpart, H-G Texas will be limited to 4 people and taught in a hands-on, integrated learning style, with the projects and homework for each month building on the last.
Participants will meet for 3 days every other month — September, November, January, March and May, (probably over the 3rd weekend but this will be somewhat dependent on participant's personal schedules), 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 31, 2009

Secrets in the Stone
September – November 2009

We are also still accepting applications for our next Secrets in the Stone program, 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 31, 2009

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

Upcoming Workshops

Our Spring/Summer schedule is well underway!
Be sure to check out the great workshops available on our  new Spring and Summer schedule, and here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


     12  Medicinal Plants (Clifton, TX)
     13  Traps, Simplified (Clifton, TX)
     14  NEW! Backwoods Hygiene & Improvised First Aid (Clifton, TX)
21-22  NEW! Intro to Bow-making
     23  Shooting the Longbow
     26  Acorn Processing
27-28  Primitive Pottery
     29  Primitive Cooking


10-11  Tracking Essentails
      12  Stalking & Natural Camouflage
      18  Foraging & Gathering
      19  Woods Wisdom: Outdoor Basics
      20  Fire Making

Skill of the Month

Working with Pitch

Working With Pitch: Hafting, Bonding and Waterproofing

A pitch stick is your storage device and applicator all in one. Pitch can be used to cover cordage or other porous materials as a waterproofing agent, or to bond pieces together such as hafting an arrow point onto a shaft. Now that you have a collection of prepared pitch sticks based on last month's instructions, here is the way to use them to secure arrow points or other blades.
The adhesive qualities of pitch are minimal, as it acts mostly as a filler, but following these instructions will help achieve maximum bonding.

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

How to Use Pitch Sticks:

  1. Begin by slowly heating the items you want to bond together. I prefer to use indirect heat, such as a very warm stone, but direct heat, such as flame or a stove burner, will work as well. Heat the pieces until they are very warm to the touch — hot enough that the pitch will begin to melt a bit when touched to the objects. This will allow the pitch to penetrate the surfaces, improving the bond.
  2. Heat your pitch stick until it begins to melt just slightly and becomes almost gummy. Do not allow the pitch to become to hot so that it starts to drip as this makes it much harder to control application. 
  3. Apply a small amount of pitch to each of the surfaces you want to bond together. Notches need to be filled about half full and flat surfaces must be well coated.
  4. Put the pieces together and align them into their finished position. Hold them carefully in place until the pitch and the pieces have cooled.
  5. Scrape away any excess pitch using a stone flake or knife blade.
  6. Heat a small stone or other object with a rounded edge and use it to blend and smooth the joint. Be careful not to overheat, as you don't want to change the bond or allow the pieces to slip. The objective is to only make the surface nice and smooth.
  7. Scrape away any remaining residue and wrap the join with sinew or other material, if appropriate. 

This basic technique can be used to join a whole host of materials
from bone for fish hooks and tweezers to bark for basketry.  The uses are almost endless.
So,  experiment with this wonderful  material and Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Back to Basics

Back To Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, 3rd Edition

—Abigail R. Gehring (for The Reader's Digest)

I remember seeing the first edition of this book (it had a yellow cover) when I was in my 20's, and how excited I was to have such a plethora of information on primitive and traditional skills! We only recently re-purchased it and, as I went through the now 3rd edition for this review that same excitement was rekindled.
I cannot honestly say what, if any, differences there may be compared to the original version, since it is no longer in my possesion, but what I can say is the parts I remember are all still there. Going back through it , I recall how much I really learned from this book — it was my first introduction to so many skills!

Back to Basics is divided into six sections, covering Land and Shelter, Power and Water, Raising Food, Preserving Food, Homestead Crafts and Skills, and Recreation. It contains literally hundreds of skills projects with enough information to get you through each one with at least a modest level of success. Designed to help folks get back in touch with traditional living skills, this book is an excellent guide, a fantastic resource, and offers great ways for families to get involved in new projects together.

So if you have an interest in learning how to build a cabin from scratch, from logs, or from adobe; how to create a methane gas generator, build a greenhouse, raise animals or make jerky; if you'd like to learn to spin and weave, build a forge and work with metal, or just about anything else, then this book is for you.
I love this book, and am thrilled to have it back on my bookshelf. A classic that is worth adding to any library, I hope you'll consider adding it to yours!

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

Practically Speaking

Managing Expectations

Managing Expectations:
A Kata for success in the Non-martial arts!

One of the reasons we include this column every month is to help provide insights into ways you can practice and integrate primitive skills in today's world with all the demands thereof. A perfect example of this is learning to manage expectations.
I have observed many times how people come to a new skill (or to the "primitive" arts in general) with differing sorts of expectations that are, oftentimes, somewhat misplaced. Either they have failed so often (or seen others fail so often) that they do not think a skill can be easily learned, or they expect to be able to be successful working at the same pace and speed as someone who has been practicing and honing their skills for a very long time. Neither expectation can be lived up to!

During our workshops I do expect every student to be successful with fire-by-friction on their very first attempt, and most every one thereafter. I do expect every student to be capable of producing a completed and sharpened biface with at least a 3:1 width-to-thickness ratio by the end of a 2-day knapping workshop. I do expect every student to be able to shoot aerial targets by mid-day-two of an Archery Fundamentals workshop, no matter if they had ever held a bow before or not. And we meet all of the above expectations every time.  Where these often differ are that many times the student attempts to knap at the same speed after 2 hours as I do after 20 years! Or believes that they too should be able to create and fire a pot within half a day, without having taken the necessary time to work with clay to understand it's properties and needs.
Fundamental principles practiced in a deliberate manner create success. Speed comes with careful and methodical practice of those techniques, repeated over many, many trials. 

Many of you have heard me say that "Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." This means that every step of the process is taken deliberately and methodically. Strict attention is paid to every applicable principal and you strive for absolute precision with every attempt.
Yes, this is more than a little contrary to our modern culture, which seems to be more and more based around promises of instant gratification and push-button results. But I don't want to see us produce nothing better than a generation of  what I call "Guitar Heroes" (after the video game) — those pretend rock stars who have never actually learned to play an instrument.
In many indigenous cultures a person wishing to learn a new skill would not be permitted to just ask to be taught. Instead, they would make their desire known simply by being around when that skill is being practiced. Then if "accepted", they would then be required to spend long periods of time silently observing (not just watching) an elder at their task until the principals and techniques were absorbed into their very essence. Only at that point might the teacher begin to allow them some menial participation, which would slowly increase until their physical abilities were on par with their mental understanding. This often took place over many months, even years, before the student was considered competent to work the skill on their own.
I recently had the opportunity to observe a friend who is an amazing (ok, I will say it, a Master) bowyer in order to learn his tillering technique, and I am presently assimilating what I was privileged to observe. I do not expect to be able to bring my next half dozen or so bows into absolutely perfect tiller in the same 3 hour time period as he did, but I do expect to perfectly tiller them as well as he does by carefully and deliberately applying the techniques and principals I learned.
The speed will come with time.
I encourage each of you to seek out an area in which you wish to improve your skill. Strive for application of principals, perfect form and flawless technique. A Kata, if you will, for these non-martial arts.


One Final Note

Since we last "met" it seems that the news has turned to how the "worst financial disaster since the Great Depression" is now resolved (or perhaps just forgotten in the latest news cycle) and the latest scourge or swine flu has been narrowly averted, meaning the "A-pork-alypse" is no longer upon us as prophets had prophesied and pontiffs had pontificated, leaving many with only a sigh of relief and slightly lighter wallets.
The days are getting longer and though the mornings still require an extra layer (and it is almost June!) the mid-days and evenings are spectacular. A perfect excuse to get out and forage, play, clean things up, surf, and sunbathe. (Heck, some of our neighbors actually came out on their deck for 2 afternoons in the same month!)
Take full advantage of these warm sunny days to practice your skills, for the warmth will wane soon enough, and you never know what you might need to know to get ya through the next aporkalyptic event :) 

Find a reason to commit a random act of kindness and, in all seriousness, Have fun!

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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