Practically Seeking

October 2008 (Issue 16)

Hey there,
What a difference a day makes!
It seems as though we have a new view out the windows every morning, with the leaves changing and those vibrant yellows, oranges and reds flaming across the forest. With the turning of the leaves comes the cooler weather and, for the majority of us, the warm days are coming to an end. Enjoy them to the fullest!
With the shorter days upon us the blocks of time we can spend working outdoors are becoming premium items, and it is now time to turn our attention to all of those indoor skills.

But don't forget that Fall color is more than just leaves! The prickly pear tunas are purple, the acorns are ripening, the mullein is drying, and the dogbane stalks are turning their classic rust color.
The spring green-up and the fall color-fest have much in common, as they are both busy times of harvest. So take advantage of the crisp autumn days and discover all the bounty this transitional season has to offer!


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

What's New


November 15-20
Over the course of this six day, hands-on workshop you will learn the full process of using an entire deer, from butchering to braintanning, preserving the meat to processing the sinew, removing antlers and hoofs, preparing bones for use, how to use the internal organs --- all of this and more will be covered during this intensive workshop.
The cost for the week is $700, and the deer and other materials and supplies are included. As always, you can stay on-site and meals will be provided.
Enrollment will be strictly limited and only a few spots remain, so be sure to sign up asap!

NEW on YouTube!
Improving Your Strike Accuracy

Since several of you have mentioned that you would like to see video information on Flintknapping, Eddie took some of the footage we filmed for last September's Skill of the Month, edited it together and posted it on our YouTube channel. So head on over and discover how you can begin reducing your breakage by Improving Your Strike Accuracy. We hope you'll check it out!

Stalking & Camouflage

Our friend and student, Michel Scott, an extremely talented documentary filmmaker, brought his camera along to the Stalking & Natural Camouflage workshop we held in Texas in June and put together this very cool "commercial" for us. While they are harder to find in this highly compressed YouTube version, look very closely and see if you can spot the person in EVERY shot!
(To see more of Michel's fantastic work check out the trailer for his current project, Over the Hills and Far Away, which has just been accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. Congratulations Michel — We can't wait to see this film!)

Upcoming Events

Central Texas at the end of November

November 28 – December 1
Clifton, TX

Our Texas workshops are beginning to fill up, so if the current world climate is making you concerned for the future and you're ready to begin learning how to take care of yourself and your loved ones without having to rely on someone else then don't miss out.

This series of workshops is geared toward self-sufficiency under any circumstance — in the woods, at home or on the road. We never know when adversity will hit or what form it will take, so take a few days to learn the skills that will make you confident and self-sufficient, no matter the circumstance!

Free Open Skills Nights

November 19
December 17
January 21

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!


Practical Primitive Logo

Secrets in the Stone

Due to the great applications received for this program we have already begun accepting participants and there is now only one space remaining. We are still accepting applications for that spot until October 31, so if you want to be considered be sure to send in your application ASAP! It's going to be an amazing three months and you will come away from this program a better flintknapper than you think possible. We have just finished putting together the final outline for this program and believe me when I tell you that if you are interested in or have been struggling with the Lithic Arts, you do not want to miss this!

Beginning with the Nine Basic Steps of Flintknapping, you will learn everything from how to fashion the most basic of stone tools, through the advanced flintknapping techniques of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, all the way up to current methods used by modern knappers around the world.
December 2008 — February 2009
Application Deadline: October 31

Also Accepting Applications For:

World of the Hunter-Gatherer

During this six month program you will delve deeply into the skills and resources needed to thrive in a Hunter-Gatherer lifestyle. Learn in a wholistic manner, leaving the randomness of individual skills behind. Discover a whole new way of truly becoming a part of the world around us all and test what you have learned in the full survival outing that is the culmination of the program.
March — August 2009
Application Deadline: January 31

Applications have been arriving steadily.
If you are interested in being considered for this program be sure yours post haste!

Curious about the programs? Give us a call at 732-276-8159 or send us an e-mail. We're happy to answer all your questions! Or check out the website for all the details and to fill out your application.
We look forward to working with you!

Upcoming Classes

Our Fall/Winter schedule is well underway!
Here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


 15–20  NEW! Using the Whole Animal
      21   NEW! Processing Acorn
      22   Primitive Cooking
      28   The "GO" Bag (Clifton, TX)
 29–30   Survival Skills 101 (Clifton, TX)


       1  Making & Using Natural Cordage (Clifton, TX)
   8–9  NEW! Short-term Shelters
     12  Melon Baskets & Twined Baskets
     13  Soap Making
     14  Making & Using Natural Cordage
     15  Working with Rawhide
     19  Natural Dyes
     20  Burned Bowls & Bark-work
     21  Coil Baskets


Skill of the Month

Anasazi Shelter Wall

Natural Dyes: Black Walnut

Now is the time to head out and collect those wonderful green (and dark brown) spheres from the ground underneath the Black Walnut trees! The dye they produce is color-fast and light-fast, and makes a wonderful earth-tone brown that is a fantastic base for natural camouflage on clothing.

Black Walnut hulls make an extremely strong dye. And in many ways this makes it easier to work with when using cellulose-based fibers (i.e., cotton, basket materials, cordage) than many other natural dyestuffs. The down-side, however, is that you must be very careful when making the dye, as it can be somewhat caustic and IT WILL STAIN!
(And here's the proof!)

CAUTION! Always wear protective gloves whenever you handle the hulls or the dye!
If you do not wear gloves, be very sure to wash your hands FREQUENTLY throughout the process!

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

How to make Black Walnut Dye:

  1. Collect about 10-15 Black Walnuts. This is enough for about one gallon of dye.
  2. While wearing protective gloves, remove the husks. This can be easily done with just your fingers, though with green hulls, my preferred method is to place the walnut on a stump or other "anvil" and pound the walnut with a rock to break open the hull.
  3. The husks can be used right away or dried for later use. (While they are drying, make sure they get plenty of air circulation or they will mold.) As the opened hulls are exposed to air they will quickly begin to oxidize and turn a dark brown. This is the color that it stains, so wear gloves, wash frequently or be prepared to have brown fingers for several weeks!! (See the proof in pictures!)
  4. While still wearing your protective gloves, crush or crumble the hulls into pea size bits.
  5. Using either a stainless steel or enamelware pot, heat one gallon of water to a full boil, add the crushed hulls and stir. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour. While the dye is simmering, scour the material you plan to dye. (This step is especially important for cellulose-based fibers!)
  6. To Scour: Using an enamelware or stainless steel pot, add 1 TBSP of washing soda and 1/2 tsp of detergent per 1 gallon of water and stir to dissolve.
  7. Bring to a boil, then add the material you plan to dye and stir it into the water until it is fully saturated. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for an hour or two.
  8. Rinse your materials thoroughly to remove all the soap. The water will have turned a mucky brown color from all the oils etc. that have been scoured out of the fibers.
  9. Wring out the excess water and add the damp, scoured material to the simmering dye bath.
  10. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the material is at least one shade darker than your desired color.
  11. Remove the material and rinse thoroughly, until the rinse water runs clear. Not rinsing out all the excess dye at this stage it may cause it to come off on your skin when you are working with or wearing the materials. (If, after a thorough rinsing, you decide the material is not dark enough, return it to the dye bath and continue to simmer.)
  12. Once the dye bath has cooled, pour the excess dye into a glass container and store it until next time. Allow your materials to dry completely before using — the color will change somewhat as they dry, and the dye oxidizes.

Want to learn more about making dyes from all-natural materials?
Sign up for our Natural Dyes workshop this December.

NOTE: Dyed clothing should be washed separately the first time in case you did not rinse the item thoroughly enough. Excess dye WILL stain any other clothes! After that, wash as usual with other like-colored items.


Have Fun, and Go Nuts for Natural Dyes!

Eddie's Bookshelf

The Foxfire Book

The Foxfire Books

— Eliot Wigginton and his Students

I have to thank my Mom for first introducing me to this fascinating series of books back in my high school days, oh so many years ago. There were only two or three Foxfire volumes then, but I devoured them all and have been a huge fan ever since!

For those of you unfamiliar with this series, the Foxfire Project began in 1966 as an English class project in a rural Appalachian town in Georgia. The full story can be found on the Foxfire Fund website, but suffice it to say that for over 40 years now the Foxfire books and magazine have created a "portrayal of the previously-dismissed culture of Southern Appalachia as a proud, self-sufficient people with simple beliefs, pure joy in living, and rock-solid faith [that] shattered most of the world-at-large's misconceptions about these "hillbillies"."
Sending concentric rings both forward and backward in time, Foxfire preserves the knowledge of many traditional Appalachian skills. I am thrilled that someone had the foresight to preserve the stories and skills from these folks before they passed on and it was lost forever. This is not a book filled with hearsay and speculation. It is the knowledge of skills, arts and talents, passed on by the people who lived them everyday.
I have been learning from these folks for about 30 years now by experimenting with all sorts of the instructions found therein. (Including, to my parent's chagrin and my high school buddies' delight, "How the Best of the Best was made, as told by the Men who Made it" in the chapter on Moonshining as a Fine Art :) And I can tell you from experience that the information is outstanding!
There are instructions on everything you can imagine that is required to live an off the grid, self-sufficient lifestyle — from raising and butchering animals to building log cabins and banjos — but I think it is the interviews with and the stories told by the "old timers" that I like the best. 

Several years ago I purchased an original copy of The Foxfire Book (volume 1) from a school library that had banned them for containing instructions on how to make a still and alcohol. (Heaven forbid a youth might discover information on a means of getting into trouble amid all the other excellent knowledge!)
But in spite of the wonderful irony that one school banned what another had created, I have recommended these volumes for years and am continually surprised at how many people have never heard of them.

There are now 12 books in the Foxfire series, as well as many other companion volumes, including cookbooks, teaching aides, a 40th Anniversary book and A Foxfire Christmas. And the Foxfire Magazine, still being published by high school students, is still going strong.
My personal favorites are volumes 1, 3, and 4, but it really doesn't matter which one you start out with, because they will suck you in!
So check these books out, and learn "the best of the best" from the folks who lived (and are still living) it!

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

Practically Speaking

Calls from the Wild

Calls from the Wild

Unless you've been living in a cave for the last several weeks you've undoubtedly noticed that the political season is in full swing.
Campaign ads are everywhere, with each politician telling you what they think you want to hear and too many people hearing only what fits into their personal world view. What energy we spend on such things!
I would still rather be flintknapping.
I know I've said this before, but with all that is going on in today's world I feel like I can't stress it enough. Regardless of what "they" say about fixing the economy or healthcare for all or entanglements abroad, the only thing you can truly rely on is yourself, and the knowledge and skills that you have internalized.

I was watching a DVD the other day in which Brewer Chablis told the story of his first stay with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon. Mr. Chablis was asked by one of the older tribe members about how to make canned food, and so he went through the process as best he could. When the man then asked to be shown how to do it, Chablis had to explain that it was simply not possible without the necessary materials. The elder remarked "so you cannot really do it then?" to which Brewer admitted that no, he could not. With this realization, the old man began questioning Brewer further — could he make a basket? a hammock? a net? and so on, and each time the response was "no". Finally the exasperated elder asked "How is it you are alive? You do not deserve to be alive! You are as an infant!"

With this humbling realization, Chablis left his expectations behind and began the journey to adulthood. It was one of his proudest days when, after much struggle and much time learning and practicing the everyday skills of the tribe, the old man at last told him that he had grown up much, and would now be considered as his younger brother.
Take a moment to think about all of the items you use each day, and all that you take for granted in this modern world. Then consider what would happen if things like electricity and water and fuel were no longer automatically there. Or if you could not call someone to come repair an appliance or tool, or run to the store or to Google to buy a replacement bowl or pen or chair. How much would you be able to do for yourself? In contrast, how much could your grandparents or great-grandparents have done? How much we have given up in such a short time!

Let's face it, we all need to "grow up" and be prepared to be responsible for our own needs. Ya just never know when the Amazon will call.

(For information on upcoming Survival Skills 101 and GO Bag workshops in New Jersey and Texas, check out our website.)

One Final Note

Soldier JimmyWith all the traveling I'm doing this fall, the next time I look up it will be almost Christmas!
I'm currently in North Carolina as a guest instructor for Earth School (and having a blast.) Then it's home for the final weekend of World of the Bow before I'm off to Nova Scotia for a week, returning to Jersey just in time to start Using the Whole Animal, which heads directly into the Acorn Processing and Primitive Cooking workshops, after which we're off to Texas for our Self-Sufficiency series (and to pick up some osage!), then road-warrioring home for the first weekend of Secrets in the Stone.

Why do I put all these miles on both myself and my truck? Yes, it's part of our mission and vision to make it as practical as possible for you to learn these skills, but in addition to that…
Every place a I travel I learn something new. Every new location, new season, new eco-system in which I practice my skills I hone and perfect them just a little bit more. And by continuing this journey of learning and perfecting in so many new places with new materials and new people, I continually work to prepare myself for any situation that may arise. Push yourself, push your skills, practice what you know, try, fail, learn, and always be prepared.

Last but not least, I just want to say how proud I am of my son Jimmy (pictured above with my lovely daughters, Stefani & Shelby) who just completed his Basic Combat Training and is now stationed at Fort Eustis, VA for his Advanced Individual Training in helicopter repair. I'm so proud of you Jimmy! And to all of those who serve, and to the families and friends who support them, Thank you.

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

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