Practically Seeking

November 2010 (Issue 33)

Welcome to our first newsletter from our new location!
We have been crazy busy cleaning and painting and fixing and mowing lawns (thanks to Kenton!) and we really appreciate all the help we've received from friends and family these past weeks. Special thanks to Tracy, Doug, Tom McDonald and Ed (Julie's Dad) for all your hard work — we couldn't have gotten this far without you!
For those of you in the NJ, NY, PA area, our next Open Skills Night will be coming up November 17 and we're looking forward to showing off all the work we've been doing so we hope you'll come on by.
We've posted lots of photos of what we've been up to but we hope you'll come check things out in person soon!

Since we were so delayed in taking possession of our new property we had to reschedule our Survival Bows workshop to this coming weekend — November 5-7. Always a fun one, you'll build 3 bows in just 3 days — lots of work but a GREAT weekend so come on out and join us!

With American Thanksgiving just around the corner we're getting ready to embark on our final trip of the year trip. We'll be off to Texas at the end of November for our annual Thanksgiving Skills Weekend, and this time around it's Fire Making and 9 Step Knapping. If you'd like more info on either of these, or any of our other upcoming workshops feel free to give us a call at our new phone number or send us an e-mail, and we'll answer any questions you may have.

Oh, and we finally uncovered the camera and posted the photos of our intrepid New Jersey Hunter-Gatherers on their Outing in the Adirondacks back in August. So if you've been hearkening back to those lazy, hazy days of summer, see how the H-Gs rocked it in the ADP.

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, big thanks to Doug Meyer for coming up to offer both his Blowguns & Thistle Darts and his River Cane Tools & Gadgets workshops in October. They were GREAT days and if you missed Doug this time we're looking at having him come back in the Spring so let us know that you're interested!

We also had a great couple of workshops up in Toronto over Canadian Thanksgiving — Thanks to Andrew and the P.I.N.E. Project for hosting us and we're looking forward to heading  back up there again soon for more. Check out this Acorn workshop blog posting from one of our T.O. students and don't miss the NJ Acorn wksp coming up Nov 12!

I don't know about you, but we can't believe that it's November already. We've been taking advantage of this unseasonably warm streak to finish off some of our outside projects and get ourselves all settled in for a great winter of workshops, but laying our first fire in fireplace last evening and waking up to our first frost this morning have been a very obvious reminder that winter is just around the corner.
Speaking of which, that wood isn't going to split itself, so better get back to it. :-)
Enjoy these rainy/sunny/warm/cool days of Autumn!

e & j


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

What's New


Practical Primitive is now located at:
14 Sussex Lane
Great Meadows, NJ
and our NEW PHONE NUMBER is:

Great Meadows is a lovely little village in the Hackettstown/ Washington/Oxford area of Central New Jersey, between the I-78 and I-80 corridors. An hour west of NYC, an hour northeast of Allentown, 90 minutes north of Trenton and easy to get to from every direction — come on out and see us soon!

CALLING ALL TEXANS — Workshops Coming Your Way!
November 26-28

It's almost time again for our Thanksgiving Trip to Texas, and this year we've got a couple of highly requested workshops coming your way:
November 26         Fire Making
November 27-28   9 Step Knapping

As always, you are welcome to stay overnight on the ranch — there is plenty of room to pitch a tent, or you can put down a sleeping bag in the (heated) classroom.
It will be great to be back down south again, and we're looking forward to seeing you all there!

Free Open Skills Nights

November 17
December 15
January 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 Facebook page!)


Upcoming Workshops

Fall & Winter Workshop Schedule is Online

Our Fall/Winter workshop calendar is now up online, with many popular favorites and a couple of exciting new courses, so be sure to take a look!
We're headed back to Texas in November, and you can also check out what's coming up January - March 2011.
Look forward to seeing you at our new place soon, but in the mean time, here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months…


5-7      Survival Bows: 3 Bows in 3 Days
12        Fire Making
13        9 Step Knapping™
14        Acorn Processing
26        Fire Making — Clifton, TX
27-28  9 Step Knapping™ — Clifton, TX


10        Felt Making
11        Natural Dyes
12        Soap Making
13        Medicinal Plant Preparations


Skill of the Month

Finished Bowdrill

Making Fire: How to String a Bowdrill

It may seem fundamental, but I am frequently surprised at how much difficulty some folks go through in trying to attach a cord to their bow drill bow. There are many ways to do it, and any method that produces the desired result is fine!

For those of you who struggle to keep your cord attached, or are tired of tying and untying so many knots, here is a simple technique that works well with both modern nylon cordage as well as stone tools and most natural cordage options. 

Best of all it requires no knowledge of knots (which, for some, is considered a blessing : ) 

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


How to String a Bowdrill:

  1. Find yourself a stick that is about finger to thumb size in diameter and about the length of your arm from arm pit to finger tips.
  2. Carefully split one end of your stick to a depth of about one inch. (On most folks that is about the length of the middle bone of the index finger — between the two knuckles.)
  3. Cut or make a length of cordage that is about one and a half times the length of your bow.
  4. Decide which will be the "inside" of your bow, which is the side your spindle will be on. Work one end of your piece of cordage into the split, leaving about an inch of cordage facing the outside-side of the bow. (If the cord is too tight to fit, expand the opening by either lengthening the split another half-inch or so, or by carving the split out into a narrow "V" shape.)
  5. Now, (and this is the important part) with the split end of your stick facing up, wrap your cord around the split, passing your wrap BELOW the cordage that is inside the split so that it can not slide down any further. Be sure to go around the bow at LEAST one and one-half times (two and a half is better) so that the long end of your cord finishes on the same side of your bow as the short tail. Keep this wrap tight, or the split will lengthen and your cord will get loose.
  6. Pass the cord back through the split. Once you've done this the long length of cordage will be on the opposite side of the bow from the short end of the string.
  7. Leaving a small amount of slack in your string, secure the other end of your bow using this same "split-and-wrap" technique, once again paying particular attention to wrap below the cordage within the split, and wrapping at least one and a half times around the bow before passing your cordage back through the split.
  8. Any excess cordage can now be simply wrapped around the end of the split to keep it out of your way and held in place with your hand, or you can pass it back through the split once more to make sure it stays secured.
  9. Tension on the string can easily be adjusted by simply loosening the cordage on the "holding" end of your bow and pulling the cord tighter or looser until it is the perfect size for your spindle and no slippage occurs.

See? A perfectly secured, easily adjustable Bowdrill string with No Knots!

Until next time, work on that bow drill form, and Have Fun!

Want to learn more about Bowdrill, and about Fire in general?
Come out to our upcoming Fire Making workshop on November 12.
We guarantee you'll be successful with Bowdrill that very day!


Tasteless humor section:
"Build a man a fire, warm him for a night.  Set a man afire and he is warm the rest of his life."


Eddie's Bookshelf

The Survivor's Club

The Survivor's Club

—Ben Sherwood

Have you ever wondered how you would react in a life-or-death crisis? I mean, we all practice these sorts of traditional and survival skills with the idea that they will come in handy should a bad situation arise, but how many of us ever find ourselves in a truly harrowing situation in which our very lives are hanging in the balance? Thank the Creator, not too many. But what if it did happen? How would you react? Would you have what it takes to Survive?

Ben Sherwood spent many years of his professional life studying mass accidents, trying to figure out what went wrong and why so many people had died. One day he had an epiphany of sorts, and realized that he was looking at the whole question backwards. The real puzzle was not why 99 out of 100 people involved in the ferry accident died, but rather, why did that one person live? What was it about that person that helped them to make it out alive when every other person around them perished?

The Survivor's Club was born. Sherwood now spends his days traveling the world taking to Survivors, digging deep into the tragedies that befell them and breaking down just what qualities each person possessed, which they were able to draw on while, say, being attacked by a mountain lion while bicycling, or having acid randomly thrown through their car window while on a road trip, or tripping on a doorstep and having a knitting needle plunge into their heart, or finding a way off of a sinking ferry in the dead of the night in middle of a freezing cold body of water, or not only escaping a crashed and burning airplane, but returning to the flames to rescue several other passengers, or waking up alone, in the dark, in the middle of the ocean, with no life-jacket and no memory of falling off the cruise ship that is no longer anywhere in sight…

The stories he relates are extraordinary, but the people are not. They are regular folks, just like you and me, who found themselves in terrible situations and simply did what had to be done and discovered a way to make it through to the other side alive.
Sherwood has broken down the characteristics of these Survivors into several different groups, and has developed a highly sophisticated test — The Survival Quiz — that will help you to discover what "type" of Survivor you would be. He goes to great pains to explain that no one type is any better than another, and people in every one of the categories Survived. It is simply a tool — and an excellent and very revealing one in my opinion — to help you better understand yourself and how you might react under extenuating circumstances such as those related in his book.

We learned several extremely useful facts from the experts Sherwood consulted in his research, and from the hands-on training he took in multiple survival techniques and scenarios with the military. But one of my favorites, and one of the things that stuck with me the most was this:
Those of you who have studied survival skills have probably heard about the "Rule of Three" — a person can survive 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 hours without shelter (when wet, or in cold or adverse weather) 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. According to Sherwood, the Marines have an addition to that rule: 3 seconds without hope.

And if there is one thing that I learned from this book, that last Rule is, without question, the only one that really matters.

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


Practically Speaking

Heeding the Still, Small Voice

We've all been there; busy doing some thing or another when a niggling, nagging voice in your head tells you it's time to stop. When that feeling that just won't go away tells us to change direction, to move forward, to watch out, to be careful, to stay still...
Sometimes we listen. Sometimes we don't.
Almost every time we are either very glad that we did, or really wish that we had.

The Still, Small Voice…
It doesn't matter if you call it intuition or instinct or second sight or angel voice — if you believe that it originates in this world or from another plane. The truth is that we would all be better off if we learned to heed that tiny voice in our head.
So why don't we? In my own life it is most often because I just don't want to! I'm having fun, or I'm sure that I'll get it right if I give it "just one more try" or that way will take too long, or I'm feeling stubborn or tired, or I'm simply not ready to let go. And it is those times when I simply refuse to listen that things go the most horribly wrong! (Of course, those are also the times that tend to make the best stories too! :-)

It is when working on a Skill, be it primitive, traditional or modern, that I hear this still small voice most often. And when I am out "in nature" it speaks to me almost every time. In fact, it seems that the closer I am to the earth, the stiller I am in my head, the easier it is to hear.
And while to some folks who are less acquainted with "the ways of the woods" I suppose it must sound faintly disturbing to hear me talk about the voice in my head, I am of the opinion that those who can't/won't hear or heed this little voice, those who ignore or dismiss it, do so to their detriment. This is the same little voice that tells me there is a deer bedded down just ahead, or a fox watching me from over that rise, or a tree branch getting ready to fall right where I am standing… it is my direct line to nature, to the Earth, to all that swirls and whirls around us that takes more than just our eyes to see.

Eddie and I often repeat a phrase he coined years ago: Religious people talk to God; Spiritual people listen. But no matter what your spiritual or religious affiliations or tendencies are, or if you have any at all, I don't think that anyone could argue that the idea that if we all spent a little less time talking and a little more time listening — to each other, to nature, to the animals and birds and trees and the world that surrounds us — it would go a long way to making this earth a better place.

And isn't that something we can all get behind? So next time "that little voice in your head" starts whispering in your ear take a moment to listen, to consider, to hear what it has to say. You might just be pleasantly surprised.


One Final Note

HugoAs some of you have heard by now, we at Practical Primitive recently lost a very special member of our family. Our dear and beloved Hugo passed over to the Rainbow Bridge on October 14 and we miss him terribly. Those of you who had the good fortune to meet our incredible boy will, we hope, fondly remember the "click, click, click" of his nails as he patrolled the house at night, the "hughosts" of hair that rolled around the house, the "constellations" of kibble he would leave on the floor that Kfir was sure must be a map to his home world, the lumbering pace of a walk that earned him the nickname "Hugo-bear" and all of the many other wonderfully endearing quirks and foibles that caused us all to love him so very much. His 14 years were good ones that enriched our lives in countless ways, and he knew that the time had come to leave us, even if were not ready to let him go.

If any of you would like to remember our boy in some small way there is an animal sanctuary we support down in Texas called Smiling Dog Farms that does great work and could certainly use your help, either as a donation in Hugo's memory or with a daily vote in The Animal Rescue Site $100,000 Holiday Challenge, where they are currently in 8th place and rising.

The house is much quieter and emptier without you buddy, and we all love and miss you so very much. Thank you for all the wonderful memories, and we'll see you again at the Rainbow Bridge.

"At night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of lazy summertime,
 Of old dogs, children, and watermelon wine..."

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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