Practically Seeking

November 2009 (Issue 26)

What a month!
We finished our Using the Whole Animal workshop so tired we all felt like we could sleep for a week, but instead we pressed straight on into Secrets in the Stone, then headed off to Texas for the second get-together with our World of the Hunter-Gatherer tribe. We'll be heading back to New Jersey in the morning, but wanted to be sure and get our November newsletter out to you, albeit just under the wire once again! (Well, on the west coast at least :-)

As you'll see below, we are now accepting applications for our 2010 World of the Hunter-Gatherer program, beginning in March in New Jersey. We are looking for 4 enthusiastic and dedicated folks who want to empty their notebooks and fill up their hands with real experience in the skills needed to actually live a Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle. We're only accepting applications until January 31, so don't miss that deadline!
If you are interested in setting up a Skills 2 You workshop in your area, we are now beginning to take bookings beginning in March, so send us an e-mail with your interests and let's see what we can figure out.

We've also posted our 2010 schedule for January, February and March and have added a couple of pretty cool new workshops to the mix. We are in the process of trying to put together an incredible new Intensive Skills Program that we hope to launch later this spring, as well as a couple of traveling Skills 2 You workshops, and will post our April-June schedule as soon as we have those dates nailed down.

All right, time to head off to the river bank with our buckets and bags to collect as many of the HUGE and abundant Burr Oak acorns as we can before the sun goes down. Those of you who are coming to our Acorn Processing workshop on Dec 11 will get to see (and taste) them for yourselves. Delicious!

e & j


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

What's New

Virtual Instructor Now Online
New on our website!

Now you can see all of our Practical Primitive videos right on our website! Our brand new Virtual Instructor page is up and running, with all of our YouTube videos together in one place. We've sure appreciated all of the positive and encouraging comments we've been receiving in response to our instructional videos and are working on pre-production for our next one, which will be posted in time for next month's newsletter.
(If you would like to be notified whenever we post something new be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.)

2010 Schedule Now Available!
January - March Workshops

Our schedule for the first quarter of 2010 has now been posted and we've got some great new workshops coming up next year, including:

Natural Glues & Adhesives (Feb 7)
Out of the Darkness: Candles, Lamps & Illumination (Feb 26)
Arrow Points: Bottle Bottoms & Beyond (March 12)
Arrows: Harvesting, Curing & Straightening Shafts (March 13)
Arrows: Points, Hafting & Fletching (March 14)
Black & White Cooking: The Art of Cooking over Coals and Ash (March 21)

We hope to have our April-June workshop dates decided soon, and will post them as soon as we have our Intensive Skills and Skills 2 You workshops finalized. In the mean time, be sure to check out our full schedule and look forward to seeing you in the new year!


World of the Hunter-Gatherer
March – August 2010
Now Accepting Applications for New Jersey session!

We are now accepting applications for our 2010 World of the Hunter-Gatherer Intensive Skills Program. This is a 6-month program during which participants will meet at our main location in New Jersey for one 3-day weekend each month for intensive instruction and practice in the skills required to survive and thrive as a Hunter-Gatherer.
Remember, this program is limited to four people, and all applications must be received by midnight January 31 in order to be considered. For more information and to apply, see the Intensive Skills Program page of our website.

World of the StoryTeller
An Amazing New Intensive Skills Program!

We are currently in discussions with one of the greatest living Native American storytellers about offering a new Intensive Skills Program for 2010 — The World of the StoryTeller.
We are sooo excited about the possibility of running this program, which will be like nothing we've ever offered before, and frankly, like nothing we've ever seen offered before! Without saying too much too soon, it is our hope to help pass along the Art of True StoryTelling through this unique Intensive Skills Program.
You will learn how to make your drums and rattles and other visual and auditory aids, and how to use them to their greatest effect. You will discover and fashion your own regalia and, most important of all, how all of these things come together to bring out the StoryTeller that is you in order to teach, to share, and to pass along to new generations. Nothing is set in stone yet, and there are still many things that need to be worked out, but the more interest we have the more likely it is that we will be able to go forward. So if you are interested in the opportunity to be a part of this unique program please let us know so we can pass your excitement along.

Free Open Skills Nights

December 16
January 20
February 17
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!)

Upcoming Workshops

January – March 2010 workshop schedule posted!

We've been working hard putting together our new workshop calendar for 2010, with some great new workshops and programs in the works for the coming year. While we finalize some last details we hope you'll check out the schedule for the first quarter of 2010!
In the mean time we look forward to seeing you for the remainder of our 2009 schedule


11         Acorn Processing
12         Felt Making
13-14    Adirondack Pack Baskets


16       Fire Making
17       Bone Working
30       Medicinal Plants


5          Making & Using Natural Cordage
         The "GO" Bag
         Natural Glues & Adhesives
20-21   Introduction to Bow-Making
26        Out of the Darkness: Candles, Lamps & Illumination
27-28   Drum Making


Skill of the Month

Sticky dough on hand

Sticky Dough: The Handy, Hair-removing Helper

Okay, I'll admit, this isn't so much a "Skill" of the month as it is a "Tip" of the month, but when this came up during our Using the Whole Animal workshop a couple of weeks ago it had enough of a "Cool!" factor that we decided to share it with you all in this month's newsletter.
This is one of those things that falls under the "That's so easy — why didn't I think of that?" category. And with hunting season in full swing we figured that it might come in handy to all of you out there who are dressing, quartering and storing your next year's meat.
Those who have attended any of our cooking or edible plants workshops will have heard our mantra that "sand is not a food group". Well neither is hair! And this handy little trick will make it easy to remove any hair that sticks to the meat as you dress your deer or other animal.

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


How to Quickly and Easily Remove Hair from Meat:

  1. To make a small dough ball take about 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of cold water.
  2. Add about half of your water to the flour and begin mixing it together with your hands. Slowly add the remaining water to your mixture until all of the flour holds together into a sticky ball. It should be tacky enough that the dough begins to come off of your fingers and stick to the ball, but wet enough that it pulls away with a little bit of reluctance. (If your dough is flaky and does not want to stick, add an egg to the mixture to help it bind.)
  3. You'll know you have the correct consistency when you can slightly flatten your ball and the dough will stick to your hand for at least a few seconds. If it does not stick, carefully add small amounts of water until you reach the desired texture.
  4. Carefully look over your meat to find the places where hair is sticking on.
  5. Take your dough ball and press it firmly on to the meat over top of the hair.
  6. Remove the dough and voila -- the hair is now attached to the sticky dough!
  7. Continue to press and release the dough over the rest of your meat, removing all of the stray hairs.
  8. If your dough loses it's stickiness, just add a few more drops of water and continue until you have removed all the hairs you can find.

An easy, safe and quick way to leave only meat on your meat!
I hope you'll find this tip to be as useful as I have over the years.
Until Next Month, Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf

The Useful Wild Plants of Texas

The Useful Wild Plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico  (Volume 1)

—Scooter Cheatham and Marshall C. Johnston (et al)

This book has been one of the "staples" on my shelf since it was first published in 1995. I am glad to say that, after many years of waiting patiently, Volume 2 came out not too long ago, and Volume 3 has just been published!
I doubt you will find a more thorough compendium of information on edible and useful plants than this series. Just to give you an example, Volume 1 (which covers Abronia-Arundo) has 34 pages just on Agave alone! Tell me another book that goes into that much fully researched depth on each and every plant it covers.
Each volume is extensively and comprehensively researched, and includes regional maps, excellent photos and probably more information than you ever wanted to know about every plants therein.
Best of all, and one of the reasons I LOVE this encyclopedia, the authors cite all of their own personal experiences with preparation, consumption and use.  

Please don't get put off by the title. The Useful Wild Plants of Texas is a valuable book for anyone who studies or has an interest in plants. Texas covers such a vast and diverse geographic area that the majority of the plants listed can be found all the way over to the east coast and up into Canada, and across the desert southwest into the Rockies and beyond.
While the price may seem a little steep, the information and quality are worth the investment. This series is being researched, written and published by the Useful Wild Plants project of Austin, TX. This dedicated group of professional and lay-people have been working since the early 90's to complete this 12-part encyclopedia that will ultimately cover over 4000 plants.

The mission of Useful Wild Plants is "to advance stewardship of the wild and naturalized plants of Texas and surrounding regions. To that end we are dedicated to the sensitive tasks of promoting the economic development of underutilized renewable native botanical resources in an ethical and responsible manner and preserving wild plant populations and their habitats from extinction."
And considering how much I have learned from just the first volume of their work I think that is a mission worth supporting. Volumes 2 and 3 will soon be on their way to our house, and with the Holidays just around the corner, here's hoping they might just be headed to yours as well.

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

Practically Speaking

Adaptation, the Lost Art.

Sometimes the discussions I have with my dad are fascinating, sometimes, not so much. (You all know how it goes :)
The other day we were talking about a sustainable gardening project he is working on with a colleague here on his property in central Texas. The conversation was geared toward what would be the best things to plant in order to produce the largest yield with the highest nutritive value.
My argument was, rather than planting things and trying to force them to grow in a labor intensive garden, why not just encourage the natural habitats of the native plants (also known as "weeds") and allow them to grow where they want in a way that will ultimately provide a prolific, much healthier, and more nutritive plant that does not require nearly as much time and intensive care. This was not something that had ever occurred to him.

We as a society are so accustomed to trying to alter the world to fit our wants and needs that we end up creating a landscape that can do neither one in any sort of sustainable manner. Instead of adapting ourselves to our surrounding environment as hunter-gatherers have done for millennia, we keep trying to force the environment to adapt to us. It's sort of like bashing a new hole in the wall every time you want to exit a building rather than walking over to the door that already exists a few feet away. 

The current issue of National Geographic (December 2009) has an article on the Hadza — one of the oldest, and one of the last remaining, Hunter-Gatherer cultures on the planet. The author points out that with the rise of agriculture came epidemics, social stratification and large scale warfare, amongst many other costs to the planet and to it's inhabitants (that includes us!) That, however, is an argument for another time. In my opinion, the important message of the article is that, by adapting to their surroundings the Hadza expend far less effort to exist, and that even after 100,000 years, they have left a minimal impact on their environment. 
Now I am n.ot trying to suggest that we all move back to a completely primitive lifestyle; that is no longer a realistic expectation for today's world. I do however, suggest that we adopt some of same attitudes that have served the Hadza and other hunter-gatherer peoples so well throughout history. Look to the native plants in our areas and encourage them to grow. Use lambs quarters instead of spinach, Acorn and amaranth instead of wheat, that which is native and local and sustainable in lieu of merely convenient and consumptive.
We should think first of how we can adapt ourselves to what our world should naturally be, and enjoy life a bit more.


One Final Note

We've only just passed Thanksgiving, and the Holidays are still a few weeks away, but already our thoughts are turning toward the New Year. As Practical Primitive continues to grow we are excited to be starting to develop our new Internship program that we hope to launch in the first quarter of 2010. We'll be writing more about it in the next newsletter, so if you think you might be interested, let us know what would be of the most value to you.

As the Holiday Season gears up into full swing we just wanted to offer a quick reminder that it is the people in our lives that make these days special. Not the things they give us, or the things we can (or can not) afford to give them.

Julie's favorite Christmas memory is one of walking through the woods late at night on Christmas Eve with her older brother. There was a beautiful blanket of snow covering the ground and the moon was almost full. Even though the sky was completely overcast, the combination of the reflection of moon and clouds and snow made the woods so bright that there were shadows everywhere. That walk through the bright, cold forest on a silent night, with snow crunching beneath their feet and owls winging above has nothing to do with things, and everything to do with a special time shared with a person special to her.

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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