Practically Seeking

May/June 2010 (Issue 31)

So here we are in June already, and "Holiday Weekend Season" is well under way!
Hunter-Gatherer Texas has officially finished up and Eddie and the Tribe are currently out on their Survival Outing! Eddie has them out at a great spot that will be both challenging and fun — can't wait to see what comes out of their final "testing ground"!
Speaking of Texas, we found out that Eddie's son Jimmy will be home on-leave from Afghanistan during the very week after the Outing. As such, you may have seen on the website that we decided to postpone the workshops we had scheduled in Clifton to our next Texas trip in September. Our apologies to all of you who were planning to attend, but we hope you understand Eddie's desire to spend some time with his soldier son, and we promise to make it up to you next time!

So much to do and so little time — there are several "summer favorites" coming up in the next couple of months, including Tracking Fundamentals, Stalking & Natural Camouflage, Shooting the Longbow (which have only 1 or 2 spaces left in each) and many more, including some being offered for the very first time, like Advanced Fire Making and Knots, Lashings & Putting Cordage to Use, so be sure to check out our Upcoming Workshops and get signed up soon, as several have begun to fill up already.

Lastly, if you've been wondering how the New Jersey Hunter-Gatherer Tribe has been faring, be sure and follow their weekends in pictures on our Facebook page. (FYI, this is a direct link — no Facebook account required!) We'll have details about our Fall/Winter Intensive Skills Programs in the next newsletter, and the info will be up on the website soon.

Hope you are all enjoying this crazy Spring, and as we move toward the official start of summer, remember to let the sun, wind, rain and warmth combine to lure you out into the wonderful outdoor world that is Life.

e & j


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

What's New

SRWK Prototype

First run begins shipping Monday!

We wanted to let you know that the first run of our Starnater Reliant Woodsman's Knife has arrived and will begin shipping out on Monday. Back-ordered handle material slowed things down for a while, but we are back on track and for those of you who are patiently awaiting your own S.R.W.K. watch your inbox for the e-mail letting you know that yours is in the mail and on its way!
We have begun taking orders for the second batch, which we hope to have in stock around the end of July/beginning of August. The last ones sold out quickly, so be sure to get your order in this time around!

Internships Now Available
Flexible Intern Program beginning this Spring/Summer

The Practical Primitive Internship has been designed in the style of a work-exchange program, allowing successful applicants the opportunity to participate in workshops and practice and perfect their skills while also learning what it takes to run a successful primitive skills-based business.
Based on a "one-for-one" model, Interns will earn one workshop day for each 8 hours of work they put in here at the school.
See the website for the details about the program, including the application. After you've read it through, if you have any specific questions feel free to contact us.
So if you are honest, hard-working, enthusiastic, self-motivated, don't need to be watched over, can see what needs to be done and do it, and most of all, like to learn cool stuff, meet people, and have fun we're looking forward to hearing from you!

Free Open Skills Nights

June 30
July 21
August 18
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

Summer Workshop Schedule is Online

Our Summer workshop calendar is filling quickly, with many popular favorites and some great new courses, so be sure to take a look!
In the mean time, here's a look at what's coming up in the next couple of months...


26         NEW!  Advanced Firemaking: Bowdrill Beyond the Basics
27        Tracking Fundamentals(2 spaces left!)
28         Woodland Basket Quiver


2          NEW!  Knots, Lashings & Putting Cordage to Use
3          Immediate Need & Emergency Shelters (2 spaces left!)
4          Stalking & Natural Camouflage (2 spaces left!)
17        Shooting the Longbow (1 space left!)
18        Front-yard Foraging: An Intro to Wild Edibles
19        Gathering Baskets
30        Nature Observation & Awareness
31-1    Survival Skills 101


Skill of the Month

Charcoal Water Filter

Water Purification: Improvised Charcoal Filter

"Water water every where and not a drop to drink".
In a survival situation water IS life, and yet so very much of it is potentially contaminated. It is ALWAYS best to assume the ground water is not safe to drink straight from the source, and to take the appropriate actions to purify any water you obtain.
The ONLY way to be absolutely sure that all potential pathogens in your water have been neutralized is to boil it. However, the use of an improvised charcoal filter is a great way to remove sediment, remove many potential contaminants, and to improve taste. Charcoal is used in many household and back-country water filters, and in my experience with primitive filtration methods, it is also the easiest and most effective method to use in the field.
In the photos we are using a 2-liter plastic bottle for the "see through" value, but many other options are available to you, such as a sheet of tree bark rolled into a cone, a clay pot with a small hole in the bottom, a length of bamboo or cane, a glass bottle with the bottom removed (see our YouTube video)… Besides, these days, sadly, there is almost always plenty of usable refuse out there on the landscape :(

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


How to Make an Improvised Charcoal Water Filter:

  1. Obtain FRESH charcoal that has cooled completely. To create a good supply of charcoal, create a camp fire and when you have a good coal bed, bank your fire by covering it with dirt or ash and come back in a day or two. Uncover the charcoal and allow to cool completely before removing.
  2. Crush your charcoal into small bits, from powder up to the size of aquarium gravel.
  3. Obtain or fashion a cylindrical container. Taller is better than wider. In the photos I'm using a 2-liter soda bottle with the end cut off.
  4. Fill the smaller opening with tightly-packed grass or a piece of fabric (if both ends are the same diameter choose either one) to prevent the charcoal from falling out or running through with the water. If you are using a bottle that still has it's cap, poke a small hole in the cap before placing your fabric or grass.
  5. Pack the crushed charcoal into the container TIGHTLY. The idea here is to create as fine a matrix as possible for the water to DRIP through slowly, thus trapping more sediment and "wee beasties". If the water runs rather than drips through the filter, you need to pack your charcoal tighter. You should have enough crushed charcoal to fill your cylinder up about halfway.
  6. It is a good idea to place a couple of inches of packed-down grass or sand, or another piece of cloth on top of the charcoal to prevent it from becoming displaced when you add your water.
  7. Place your filter atop a catch-container for your water. In the photos we are using a glass jar so you can see the changes easily, but in a wilderness situation it is a good idea to filter directly into the pot you are going to boil the water in rather than the one you will be drinking from (in the event they are not one in the same).
  8. Slowly pour the untreated water into your filter (being careful not to displace your sand) filling the remainder of your cylinder with water and allowing it to slowly percolate through. Remember, the water should DRIP SLOWLY out the bottom of your filter.
  9. After all of the water has run through the filter, pour it back through as many times as needed to make it clear. I usually run it through at least two, preferably three, times.
  10. Once the desired clarity has been achieved, bring the water to a boil for a few minutes in order to make sure it is completely sterilized. Remember, boiling is the only way to ensure safety from pathogens. (Taste can be further improved by adding a small lump of charcoal to the boiling water.) Enjoy your clean water!

Remember, you stake your life on your water source and contaminated water
can cause debilitating effects that can prove fatal in a survival situation!
Never take chances and always use the absolute best filtration methods available to you
under the circumstances.

Until next time, Be Well and Have Fun!


Eddie's Bookshelf

Nature's Garden

Nature's Garden

— Samuel Thayer

Wow, all I can say is Samuel Thayer has done it again! Only this time, he has done it even better.

I have spent a great deal of time over the last couple of decades learning about plants and foraging, and yet due to Mr. Thayer's research I have learned many new things about that place he so aptly refers to as Nature's Garden.
I guess that's one of the things I like about Sam Thayer's books — his refusal to accept the established myths that are continuously purveyed and constantly repeated throughout the survival and primitive skills industries. (Such as the myth of the "Big 4", among others).  Thayer writes from HIS EXPERIENCES, unlike so many other plant "experts" and authors who simply offer a re-writing of existing literature. He frequently questions the prevailing wisdom of the Edible Plants community, to all of our benefits!

Just like his previous book, The Forager's Harvest, Nature's Garden is both entertaining to read and informative. All of the information presented is extremely well-researched, and it is easy to see just how fully knowledgeable Thayer is in this well-documented guide. As an example, I had accepted the cautions of the "experts" all these years regarding solanum nigrum albiet — unnecessarily it turns out, and I am looking forward to a new edible experience very soon now.

Nature's Garden features extensive information on 46 edible plants (all different from those profiled in Forager's Harvest), including an outstanding section on one of my personal favorites, Acorn, in which I was delighted to see that he offered scientific confirmation on some theories I have held for many years. The color photos are outstanding, vividly showing key identifying characteristics of those plants that are discussed. 

Lastly, I am happy to say that Sam Thayer and I have the same philosophy about plants: The fact that a plant is technically "edible", in that it has no toxic effects, is not a good enough reason for the plant to be considered food. It must also be available in quantity, and most of all it has to TASTE GOOD! Many of you who have attended workshop have no doubt heard me repeat Thayer's mantra that "Sand is not a food group".  :-)

I was so impressed with this work that I immediately added it to the required reading list for our World of the Hunter-Gatherer programs. I highly recommend that you add it to your required reading list as well -- you will not be disappointed.
Big thanks to you Mr. Thayer, and Well Done!

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

Practically Speaking


My water comes from plastic jars on local Quickie shelves.
My thermostat caused tritium to poison all our wells.
My foot accelerates the gas that pours into the sea.
So when you ask me, "Who's to blame?"
I'll say, I am BP.

They drill to fuel my plastic life
'Til all the fuel is gone.
So I can fight my endless wars
So I can mow my lawn.
They drill so I won't have to walk six blocks for groceries.
They drill so I can watch the spill right on my own TV.

The oil spills and kills so we can wrap our food in foam.
It kills the Gulf so we can bulldoze woods to build a home.
It kills so I can buy cheap clothes from workers who aren't free.
Big Easy Life is leaking death, because I am BP.

Our air is choked, our water spoiled, more chaos is in store.
The murky waters of the gulf bleed greed upon our shore.
I stare into those waters, whose reflection do I see?
A man whose lifestyle spins the drills.
It's true — I am BP.

— Frank Domenico Cipriani


One Final Note

The above poem was written by our good friend Frank Cipriani, head of The Gatherer Institute and writer for the Riverside Signal newspaper, where it was originally published. He e-mailed it to us the other night and we were all so moved, humbled, and inspired by its message and eloquence that we wanted to share it with you in the hope that it would affect you in the same positive and motivating way it has affected us.
Thank you Frank.

As in, I expect, pretty much every home across the continent, much of the talk around our house has been about the horror that is going on in the Gulf.
Yes, BP, Halliburton and a host of others are without question at fault for this catastrophe and must be held accountable.
But this poem reminds us that the reason they were drilling there in the first place is because we want oil. You, me, all of us, require insane amounts of crude to fuel our daily lives and make our plastic grocery bags. While "they" are indisputably at fault, in order for real and lasting change to occur we must all take responsibility.

Okay yes, this was a soapbox moment, so take it for what it's worth. And for those of you who may be offended, we are sorry for that, but hope you will consider these words in the manner they are meant —

as a call for real change, and an earnest desire to make the world a better place.
And that's all we have to say about that.

With our Summer Schedule in full swing we are looking ahead to our Fall/Winter workshops. If you have any favorites that you'd like to see in the coming months now is the time to "place your orders"!

In the mean time, it's all about long days, warm nights and treasuring the beautiful dog days of summer.
So get out there and enjoy!

Be Well,
Eddie & Julie
Practical Primitive

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