Practically Seeking

September 2008 (Issue 15)

Hey there,
Farewell to Summer — Welcome to Fall!
We have had some of our best Open Skills Nights ever these last couple of months, and we'd like to invite you all out to visit. These are free, open house nights here at Practical Primitive, and anyone is welcome to come on out and join in the fun. There's no telling who may be here, or what all kinds of skills stuff may be happening, but we will be having fun!

Our travel schedule has finally slowed down for a few weeks, giving us a chance to at last start working on a few projects that we've been wanting to begin for some time. Watch for a couple of new things on the website over the next month, including some fun new t-shirt designs and other new products that will be available for purchase through The Trading Blanket — including custom-made flintknapped knives!

World of the Bow is now well underway and we are busy making bows, arrows and more in preparation for the Primitive Hunt in November. We're planning a trip out to the Pennsylvania camp in a couple of weeks to see what hickory might be ready to turn into some primo staves, and are looking forward to our two brand new workshops in October — Building a Reed Boat and Working with Grasses.
Oh how I do love the Fall!


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

What's New

Obsidian Knife


Eddie is now offering custom-made Flintknapped knives, stone points and eccentric pieces.
Knives can be made of Obsidian, Dacite or Flint and are sinew-wrapped into handles of antler or Spanish cedar. Points and Eccentric pieces are available in a variety of materials and colors, depending on the size of piece desired.
These are high-quality pieces, and will make beautiful gifts and/or collectors items. (Or can, by request, be made to be usable stone tools and points.)
More information on availability and how to order will be posted soon on The Trading Blanket. Until then, call or e-mail to place your order.


In conjunction with Two Wolves Braintanning, we are considering adding a "Using the Whole Animal" workshop to this year's November schedule.
This would be a week-long, hands-on workshop covering the process of using an entire animal, from butchering to braintanning. Drying/smoking meat, processing sinew, removing antlers and hoofs, preparing bones for use, using the internal organs — all of this and more will be covered during this intensive workshop. The cost of the week would be about $700, and the deer and all other materials and supplies will be included. As always, you can stay on-site and meals will be provided. We will only go ahead with this one if we have enough people express serious interest, so if you would like to take this one please let us know asap!

Upcoming Events

Advanced Wilderness Living Skills Intensives

October 18–24 and 25–31
Tryon, NC

Eddie is heading back to North Carolina to team up with Earth School for these Advanced Skills classes. The program has been extended from 10 days to 2, one-week sessions, and you can sign up for either one or both. Eddie will be instructing during the last half of the first week and the first half of the second, and is looking forward to hanging out with another group of great folks.

For more information on these Advanced Skills classes check out the Earth School website.

Hunter-Gardener "Skills 2 You" in Nova Scotia

November 6–12
Sherbrooke Lake, NS

Another trip to Nova Scotia is on the calendar for November, where we will be working with a group of folks who want to learn how to transition to a Hunter-Gardener type of lifestyle. So if you live in New England, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia and would like Eddie to stop off in your area for a workshop or some mentoring, send us an e-mail or give us a call and we'll see about adding it into the trip.

Texas Workshops in November

November 28–December 1
Clifton, TX

We're off to the home state for Thanksgiving and will be running a few workshops while we're there:

We have made a few extra days available during this trip for some one-on-one instruction time with Eddie. So if you would like to schedule some Mentoring time let us know!

Free Open Skills Nights

October 15
November 19
December 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. We look forward to having you here!


Practical Primitive Logo

Application Deadline Coming Soon!

Secrets in the Stone

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

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 has been posted!
Here's a look at what's coming up over the next couple of months…


      10   NEW! Making a Reed Boat
11–12    Tracking Essentials
18–19   NEW! Working with Grasses


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

Skill of the Month

Anasazi Shelter Wall

Medicinal Plants: Pine Needle Tea

We had such a good time at the Medicinal Plants workshop that I decided for this month's skill I would introduce you to a simple tea that is delicious, healthy and a great immune booster. For those of you who are new to the world of plants, a safe and simple tea can be made from the common Pine trees that surround us.

Pine Needle Tea has long been a favorite of traditional and indigenous peoples, both for it's refreshment and for it's medicinal values. You may not realize that Pine Needle Tea contains 4-5 times the Vitamin C of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and is high in Vitamin A. It is also an expectorant (thins mucus secretions), decongestant, and can be used as an antiseptic wash when cooled. So not only does it taste good, but it's good for you!

Each varietal of pine has it's own flavor to impart, so experiment and see which needles you like best. And feel free to mix and match! My personal favorite is a combination of 1 part white pine with 2 parts pitch, where Julie prefers straight balsam. Just remember that while all Pines are evergreens, not all evergreens are Pines! So head out to the back yard or park, positively identify your pine trees, bring back some needles and give this one a try!

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

How to make Pine Needle Tea:

  1. Collect a small bundle of green needles, the younger the better. (A small handful will be plenty.)
  2. Remove any of the brown, papery sheaths that may remain at the base of the needles.
  3. Chop the needles into small bits, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long.
  4. For a Rrefreshing Tea:

  5. Heat about a cup of water to just before boiling.
  6. Pour the hot water over about a tablespoon of the chopped needles.
  7. Allow to steep (preferably covered) for 5-10 minutes, until at least most of the needles have settled to the bottom of the cup. Enjoy your delicious tea!
  8. For a Medicinal Tea:
    (This process releases more of the oils & resins that contain the medicinal compounds, and tastes a little like turpentine.)

  9. Bring about a cup of water to a full boil.
  10. Add approximately one tablespoon of chopped needles to the boiling water and allow the needles to boil in the water for 2–3 minutes. (Most of the needles should sink to the bottom.)
  11. Remove from heat, cover, and allow the tea to continue to steep until it is cool enough to drink.
  12. Drink this tea several times a day for maximum medicinal effect. (Make it fresh each time.)

With cold and flu season approaching Pine Needle Tea is truly a gift of health as well as an enjoyable experience.
And since Pine is best when used fresh, it's a perfect excuse to get out and enjoy the change of seasons!


Eddie's Bookshelf

The Herbal Home Remedy Book

The Herbal Home Remedy Book

— Joyce A. Wardwell

If you are interested in beginning your journey into the world of medicinal plants this book is an excellent place to start. Ms. Wardwell sticks with 25 safe, easily identifiable and readily obtainable plants and herbs, and walks the reader through the entire process — from getting to know the different plants and gathering & storing them, to preparing many different tinctures, salves, decoctions, vinegars, tonics, syrups and more. And though an advocate of single plant preparations (which are extremely effective and a good way for the novice to begin) she also includes many recipes using multiple herbs in combination. And her inclusion of a section on the Basic Elements of Herbal Home Medicine Chest are a welcome compliment to pharmacy-bought items.

I think that the most appealing thing to me about this book is the non-intimidating manner in which it is written. The conversational tone of the instructions makes the recipes easy to follow, and the "Medicine Stories" on everything from How Rose Got Her Thorns to The North Wind's Gift are a wonderful reminder that the lineage of plant and herbal medicine stretches far back into pre-history, and should not be feared.
In her introduction, Joyce reminds us that about 80% of the world's population still uses traditional medicine as their primary source of healthcare, and that about 30% of prescription drugs are derived and synthesized from plants!
I have personally used preparations from this book and found them very helpful. It is one of the books that use and recommend in our Medicinal Plants workshop and I strongly encourage you to add it to your own bookshelf (and medicine cabinet!)

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

Practically Speaking

GO Bag

Preparing For Emergencies

Those of you with whom I have had this conversation know how much I hate to dwell on "doomsday" scenarios as a reason to learn skills, but the truth is that things can and do happen.
And recent events have served as a reminder that severe and changing weather patterns are not the only reasons we need to be prepared. The upcoming "bail-out" of major investment banks has troubled me greatly. It seems as though each night some new pundit or government official is talking about how it is necessary in order to avoid a "complete collapse of the U.S. economy". And yet, for such gross mismanagement, the talk in Washington seem more focused on how much of their salaries these CEOs will get to keep rather than how much jail time they should do!

Abdication of personal responsibility may seem to be an epidemic in today's society, but this will definitely not serve you in a survival situation. We never know when disaster or unforeseen circumstances will strike. What is becoming a consistent pattern, however, is that those government agencies charged with helping the populace during such disasters — whether natural or economic — have proved themselves impotent and incompetent time and time again. The only one you can truly count on to take care of you in such circumstances is you.

So ask yourself honestly: Are you prepared?
A little bit of advanced planning can go a long way in keeping you and your loved ones safer should something unexpected happen.
I STRONGLY recommend (and do indeed carry close to my person at all times) what I have come to call a GO Bag.
There is no need to construct a bulky, heavy or expensive pack of supplies to lug around, and your kit need not cost a bundle to put together. A wool blanket, tarp, coffee can, metal match, some 550 Paracord, a Rucksack model Swiss Army knife, a candle and a few other items (and even more important, the knowledge of how to use them!) is all that you need to keep safe, warm and healthy without having to rely on "someone else" to save you. Keep one in each vehicle and you should be able to access whatever you need within 2–3 minutes regardless of where you are. Should an emergency arise, you will always have options on which you can draw.

Lastly, and most importantly, take the time to go out and "camp" using only the items in your GO Bag so you will know exactly where you need to improve your kit and/or your skills. Forget the romanticized notion of going out with "nothing but the clothes on your back". Most people will never take the many years of practice, dirt-time and skills experience this requires. And I can tell you for certain and from personal experience that those who do have the skills would still much rather have a few things to start with if they had the choice!
So get prepared now. Take responsibility for your own safety. You may only have one chance for success. Give yourself an edge.

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

One Final Note

I heard a great quote at Flint Ridge that I would like to share:
"Wisdom is the scar tissue of experience."

At Practical Primitive we are all about gaining "scar tissue" by getting our hands into new things at every opportunity. It is by not only learning, but knowing these skills that we become more self-reliant and more independent.

A special thanks to all who helped make this such a fantastic summer, and to the new old friends we met this past season.
And remember, the time to gather Acorn is rapidly approaching, and those black walnut hulls are really starting to drop! So take the time to try something new, and pick up a little more scar tissue while you're at it.
Happy Fall!

Be Well,
Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

Top of Page