Earth Connection is a school of primitive skills and wilderness survival located in Northern Virginia and North Carolina (Raleigh/Durham area) that has been in existence for over a decade. Our hands-on classes are reasonably priced because we don't believe in big price tags for primitive skills. That's just not natural!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Primitive Skills (10-12 Nov)

The contrasting weather brought an Indian Summer with sun and warmth the first day when we constructed our leaf debri huts followed succinctly the last day by the usual cold fall rains we encounter this time of year... you know the kind that wake you up warm and cozy in your leaf cocoon to the pitter-patter of rain falling on your leaf roof.

Well... if you made the debri hut properly only then would you wake up warm instead of cold and wet. Ask Earth Connections newest Primitive Skills Class graduates that were taught primitive wilderness survival skills. Although the rainy weather on the last day caused us some consternation, we persevered through the cold to the grand finally of basket making indoors. That's right, we wimped out to have limber hands and dry backsides to make beautiful baskets out of material we collected on site.

Note worthy:
Many of our students for this class are instructors from the Quest Center where they focus physical, mental and spiritual study in the ancient art of Ninjutsu which includes the topics that Earth Connection teaches.

What our students experienced:
Leaf hut shelter constuction, without tools or cord; friction fire making with the bow drill; primitive tool making; primitive water gathering and purification; primitive traps; rabbit hunting stick; edible plants, primitive cooking, wicker basketry from vines, plant and tree bark string, and burning out wooden bowls.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Huge 2006 Acorn Crop

This year's Fall Wild Edbile Plants class on 14 Oct covered quite a few "delectable edibles... mmmm," as Tim commented early that morning. But, the main item of discussion was this year's abundant acorn crop.

We talked, gathered, processed and ate acorns. Jen (Tim's much better half) made delicious acorn/peanut butter cookies and acorn/pumpkin muffins that were the hit of the class.

Interesting Oak facts: A mature Oak tree can produce up to 1,000 pounds of acorns in one growing season and this year was one of those years. In fact, Oak trees produce an abundance crop only every 3-5 years depending on the species and local weather conditions. Acorns have been used as a main food staple more than any other nut or grain over the course of human history. White Oak is the most common of the Oaks and good thing too, because they tend to have less of the tannic acid that makes processing acorns somewhat laborious. The nutrition of one handful of acorns is equivalent to a pound of hamburger making it an excellent food.

Hue brought his usual edible findings for all to taste... Jerusalem Artichokes, Persimmons (fermented slightly, but still good), Acorn meal (leached of its tannins), Autumn Olive sauce, and dried Nannyberries.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves

We found an on-line edition of a classic bushcraft text now out of print, 'The 10 Bushcraft Books' by Richard Graves. Richard Harry Graves, 1898-1971, is a former Commanding Officer of the Australian Jungle Survival & Rescue Detachment of the Austalian Air Force and well know Austalian survival book.

'The 10 Bushcraft Books' are considered the seminal texts on bushcraft and this on-line edition is brought to you by Chris Molloy from New Zealand who has the passion like us for the outdoors. Originally written as wartime information for conducting rescue missions, the notes were later revised and prepared for a School of Bushcraft which operated for nearly 20 years.

See the Resources List to the left. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fading Tracks

The tracks and sign of raccoon, deer, mouse, cat and lots of dog (Chagi-ya) encapsulated Earth Connect's (EC) first ever Tracks and Sign class.

"So much information to cover and so little time" was our mantra. The students (nine) were eager to learn the basics and very much appreciated the macro to micro lesson plan along with hands-on activities. Practicing the gait patterns on our hands and knees really drove home the way animals move. The "wisdom marks" sandbox really demonstrated how some tracks can age because there was a rain that occurred a week ago that obscured a fourth of the marks. We even had some great examples of aging mud/gravel deer and racoon tracks under the water of a slow moving stream.

One tracks and sign story told of how mice climbed a Autumn Olive tree and chewed through many of the branches that were ladden with ripe fruit. We surmized that it was a combination of efficient use of energy by reducing the amount of climbing and to make it less dangerous to eat the fruit. Eating them on the ground instead of the tree keeps them safe from owls.

EC's next class is fall wild edibles on 14 October. Sign up soon so we can prepare the right amount of wild edible goodies.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tracks and Sign (23 Sep)

Tracks and Sign, Earth Connection's newest class.

This class will give you a basic background in identifying animal tracks and signs. You will learn the basics of animal sign, clear print identification, animal gaits and track patterns, distinguishing track age, and how to read body movement in a track. We will also apply tracking knowledge to survival skills in small animal trapping. We begin with lecture; reinforce your learning with demonstrations of animal movement, track and sign study techniques, plaster casts and group “dirt time.” All will culminate with an individual field assignment. “Dirt time” provides the best and quickest learning method and is the primary tool for learning the art of tracking.

Register for the Tracking and Sign Class here!

Tracking is a highly evolved art and science that can encompass all subjects of study from each and every physical sciences to quantum mechanics, from biomechanics and the study of motion to global and micro weather patterns, from animal behavior to human awareness, from a life born to its demise. Tracking is the one art that calls to ones soul to follow that which past by here.

It is the Art of Questions!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Fire Plow Boys

Looks like we had another successful weekend with Earth Connection's FIRE PALOOZA.

We had Fires all around us... from hand drills (including w/thumb assist), bow drills (using differing wood for fire boards and spindles), pump drills, fire plow, flint and steel... shall I go on?

There was success in every fire method. We even had a few surprises as Tim showed his soon to be famous (and patented) one armed technique and Hue got a fire with a charred Oak fire board.

The Fire Plow Boys make their debut at FIRE PALOOZA
(Five fire plow fires successfully made in less than 20 minutes... Tim got one too!)

Fire Making Process


Spindle recipication motion on fire board creates friction heat. The thermal decomposition
starts in the range 120-200 degrees Celsius is caused by friction heat and results in wood mass loss, moisture content release and the non-combustible degradates release into the combustion space. At 200-280 degrees Celsius, mainly endothermic reactions occur while the heat energy of the ignition source is taken up by surrounding materials. At 280-500 degrees Celsius, the exothermic reactions of decomposition products are progressively accelerating as the primary process, while carbonization occurs. In this temperature range, sustaining combustion has already developed.

Glowing Ignition

The carbon in the char combines with oxygen producing heat, a much slower reaction than flaming ignition. Glowing ignition is self-sustaining until all carbon fuel is used up. Glowing ignition is about 500 degrees F (260 degrees C) for wood. At tempuratures exceeding 500 degrees F (260 degrees C), the wood char forms residues. During its additional glowing, ash containing solid, inorganic material is produced, and the process has come to an end

Flaming Ignition

The coal is introduced to tinder and more oxygen is added. This produces the gaseous volitile organic compounds needed for flaming ignition or combustion. When the volatile gases are hot enough (about 500-617 degrees F (260-325 degrees C) for wood), the compound molecules break apart, and the atoms recombine with the oxygen to form water, carbon dioxide, soot and other products.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey, We Salute You Steve Irwin

Stephen Robert Irwin (22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006), also known as the Crocodile Hunter. Shortly after 11:00 a.m. local time (01:00 UTC) on 4 September 2006, Irwin was fatally pierced in the chest by a short-tail stingray barb whilst snorkeling in Batt Reef, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Port Douglas in Queensland. Irwin was in the area filming his own documentary, to be called The Ocean's Deadliest, but weather had stalled filming. He will be sadly missed.

Steve Irwin was an Australian naturalist, wildlife expert and television personality, best known for the television program The Crocodile Hunter, an unconventional wildlife documentary series broadcast worldwide and co-hosted with his wife Terri Irwin. The pair owned and operated Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland. Irwin was a passionate conservationist and believed in promoting environmentalism by sharing his excitement about the natural world rather than preaching to people. He was concerned with conservation of endangered animals and land clearing leading to loss of habitat. He considered conservation to be the most important part of his work: "I consider myself a wild-life warrior. My mission is to save the world's endangered species."

Animal Planet will rename the garden space in front of Discovery's world headquarters in Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland to the "Steve Irwin Memorial Sensory Garden." They are also looking at the creation of the Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter Fund, which they will call "The Crikey Fund" which will "allow people from across the globe to make contributions in Irwin's honour to support wildlife protection, education and conservation."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fire Palooza (9-10 Sep)

Fire Palooza is Earth Connection's two day Fire Making class. The curriculum is fast paced as we have a lot fire making methods to cover and only two days to do it. Fire Palooza is designed to teach you how to make a WIDE variety of friction fire making devices from wood, string, and stone. We will do advanced bow drill and hand drill techniques and equipment, pump drill and some similar technologies, arctic mouth drill, fire plow and MORE!! Participants will go home with some nice fire making kits.

Register for the Fire Palooza Class Here!

Fire (fir) (noun) Eytmology: Anglo-Saxon fyr

Definition: A fire is a rapid and self-sustaining chemical exothermic oxidation process of combustible gases ejected from a fuel that releases heat and light. Fire is the naturally occurring companion of energy release in the form of heat and light when oxygen combines with a suitable material at a suitably high temperature to convert it to a combustible vapor or gas. The physical manifestation of a fire starts by subjecting a fuel to a heat source until initial ignition and is sustained by the further release of heat energy. Creating and manipulating fire was one of humankind's first great achievements.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

American Indian Heritage Day at JPPM

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) hosted American Indian Heritage Day on Saturday, August 12 and Earth Connection was there. The weather could not have been any better than it was, not too hot with a slight breeze off the bay.

The event featured educational sessions and entertainment highlighting American Indian culture and history through hands-on activities, demonstrations, exhibits, and live performances. Days before the event Governor Ehrlich Jr. encouraged "… all Marylanders to attend American Indian Heritage Day and learn more about the history and culture of our great state's original inhabitants," which I suspect a few took his encouragement to heart.

Although it was a slow start out at the Indian village, many made it down to our humble village of demonstrations.
There were over 1500 visitors over all. Those 1500 or so guests experienced traditional and contemporary expressions of American Indian cultural heritage, including music, storytelling, arts, and crafts. Many of the visitors explored the hands-on activities in pottery, finger weaving, archery, hide tanning, primitive cooking and stone tool making. The event also featured the continuing construction of replica woodland Indian village with a wigwam and work shelter where the primitive cooking was set up.

The Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills Group (MAPS) provided demonstrations on primitive cooking, cordage and hide tanning for the event in the woodland Indian village still under construction. Oregon Ridge Nature Center provided stone tool making. Earth Connection (EC) provided some of the primitive cooking demonstrations with MAPS.

EC provided a green stick grill, pit cooking and clay pot oven demonstrations. We cooked up croaker and spot fish, buffalo, venison, game hen, quail, corn on the cob, plenty of vegetables, but only the demonstrators could partake of the bounty. Guests were bound to the food provided by the event concessionaires. That was good for us.

There were also many folks that stopped by to say hello during the event that have come to EC classes in the past. I hope to see more of them out at EC in the future.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Heatwave Cooling Off

Now that the Heatwave is essentially over, EC wants to pass on some heat coping skills and lessons learned to help us outdoor freaks that spend too much time outside.

Here are some easy tips on Staying cool:
  • Take a mid-day siesta. A simple countermeasure to extreme heat is not play in it... take a break. Avoid exertion during the hottest time of the day. Putting your feet up and resting in the backyard shade is very effective and environmentally friendly.
  • Use a wet towel or hankerchief around your neck. This will cool your core down more effectively than you might think. There are even commercial versions you can purchase for you and your dog, but a hand towel is cheaper.
    • Open a window. When your fan and air-condition is not working due to a power failure... open a window. But, do it right. Most of us have forgotten how to open our sash windows to maximize airflow (if you have this style... we do). If you understand the fluid mechanics of natural ventilation and have a sash window in the right place and right height then go for it. It is best to have your sash window open equally top and bottom. The cooler (relatively) air flows into the room through the lower opening and flushes the warm air out through the top. If you can, leave sash in this position overnight for best results. The cool external air also cools the walls, floor and ceiling that have absorbed the days heat.
      • Change your diet. Avoid heavy protein foods like meat and dairy products that tend to increase metabolism and raise body heat and fluid loss. Of course, drink plenty of fluids... like WATER! Eat more cold food like salads and fruit that contain water.
        • Avoid the Sun. Avoid direct sunlight if possible. Use sunscreen as a sunburn will limit your body's capability to cope with the heat. Wear light-weight and light-colored clothing that is loose and porous, and a wide-brim hat.
          • Know the symptoms and treatment for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms include: headaches, nausea, an intense thirst, sleepiness, hot red and dry skin, a sudden rise in temperature, confusion, aggression, and convulsions and a loss of consciousness. Treatment: immediate cooling of the body in anyway that is feasible.

            Saturday, July 29, 2006

            Wild Edibles of Abram's Creek

            Earth Connection (EC) welcomes eight new students to our family. About 40 edible plants were identified at Abram's Creek Campground this weekend in a four hour wild edibles class. Hue taught the class with excellent side comments and assistance from Jamey and Chagi-ya (the furry one), the ever-by-his-side companions.

            There were plenty of "ooohs" and "aaahs" with the Poison Water Hemlock encounter, not to be confused with the Hemlock forest in which the campground is located. Milkweed and Burdock were abundant. But, beebalm was the reigning favorite of the campers for its showy flower and flavor (used in a tea). EC is planning to do more out at Abram's Creek in the future. Keep your eyes open!

            Thursday, July 27, 2006

            Velcro Weed... Gobo... Call it good to eat!

            Here is a plant we discussed briefly during our class but did not get to taste... Too bad! It is one of our favorites.

            Common Burdock (Arctium minus)

            Burdock has mildly sweet-tasting flesh with bitter leaves and sprouts. The exterior of the large, dark, woody-looking root belies the sweet, nutty, delicate, crunchy flesh within. Although its bark-like skin looks thick, it is actually tissue-paper-thin, able to be scraped away with a fingernail or light scrubbing. Burdock is a root commonly used in Japanese dishes. Gobo is the Japanese word for burdock, which is considered an intensely "yang" vegetable. One of the characteristics of yang is heat generation. For the Iroquois, burdock was an important winter food. They dug it in the fall, dried it, and then ate it throughout the long cold months of winter.

            Good pictures of stages of growth except for the root.

            Also check out our "Useful Resources" Link to the left for more pictures

            You can harvest the large, deep, beige taproot from the basal rosette form (as soon as the flowerstalk appears, the root becomes tough and woody) from early spring to late fall. Its hearty flavor is a little like that of potatoes, although it’s related to artichokes. Scrub the root with a coarse scouring pad, but don’t peel it. Slice it razor-thin on a diagonal.

            Simmer 20 minutes or until tender. You may also sauté it, but add liquid and cook it in moist heat another 10 minutes afterwards, or it may not get tender.

            You may also harvest the immature flower stalk in late spring, before the flowers appear, while it’s still tender and very flexible. Peeled and parboiled for 1 minute to get rid of the bitterness, it tastes like artichoke hearts, and it will enhance any traditional recipe that calls for the heart of artichokes. Cook this another 5-10 minutes.

            Young leaves can also be boiled in two or so changes of water to remove the bitterness.

            Wednesday, July 26, 2006

            Jamey's Wild Green Quiche

            We have recieved an overwhelming response to post our wild edible feast recipes. Let EC begin with Jamey's Wild Green Quiche. She used Lamb's Quarters this time, but has used Stinging Nettles successfully in the past and wants to try Orach given the chance.

            We will post more recipes as they are complied. Enjoy!

            Jamey's Wild Green Quiche

            - 1 9-inch pie crust (make this crust homemade… see your recipe books)
            - 2-cups of cooked wild green
            (Steam lightly until limp, add some butter for added flavor if you like)
            - 1-cup shredded Swiss cheese Gruyere
            - 1-cup whole milk
            - 2 egg whites
            - 2 whole eggs
            - 1 teaspoon tarragon, crumbled
            - 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (to taste)
            - ½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
            - 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

            • Line a 9-inch pie plate with the crust. Bake crust in a preheated oven at 450 for 7 minutes. Cool crust and lower oven to 350.
            • Place Wild Greens on the bottom of the crust and then the shredded cheese.
            • In a small bowl, beat together the milk, egg whites, whole eggs, tarragon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour this mixture carefully over the cheese.
            • Bake quiche for 30 minutes or until the custard has set.

            Thursday, July 20, 2006

            EC Edible Plants Class at Abram's Creek

            EC is giving another session of its summer edibles class at Abram's Creek Retreat & Campground in West Virginia on Saturday July 29, 2:00 - 6:00pm.

            This Seasonal Wild Edible Plant class focuses on the different plants and plant uses of each season. There will be a guided walk through different habitats, identifying, collecting and frequent sampling wild plant foods, and pointing out harmful plants to avoid. It will cover approximately 40 plants, shrubs and trees. It will cover proper identification and use of these plants, whether plants are native or introduced, when and where to safely collect plants and conservation techniques.

            EC Primitive Cooking Demo at JPPM

            Earth Connection (EC) in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills Group (MAPS) is giving a primitive cooking demo on August 12, 2006, 11am - 5pm, at the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum's (JPPM) American Indian Heritage Day (there is an entrance Fee).

            Ever wonder how life was along the Chesapeake Bay over 500 years ago? Come to JPPM and enjoy modern interpretations of this rich cultural heritage through visual and performing arts by American Indians from around the region. Get a glimpse of everyday life through hands-on activities in basketry, archery, stone tool making and much more. This event is co-sponsored by the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs. For more information contact JPPM at 410-586-8501 or email

            Wednesday, July 19, 2006

            16 July -- Summer Wild Edible Plant Class

            Earth Connection's Summer Wild Edible Plant class was a great success despite the oppressive heat wave we were having.

            Appetites for the wild plant tasting feast at lunch were not hindered one bit. The blackberry cobbler was the favorite followed by the blackberry cobbler. Everyone taste tested day lilly buds sauteed in butter and dried flowers, milkweed pods sauteed in butter, lamb's quarters quiche, black cherry and blackberry spritzers, raw soloman's seal root, red clover flower flour tortillas, black cherry fruit leather, plantain seed couscous... Shall I go on?

            Tim and Hue's instruction along with Jen and Jamey's cookin' help provided an educational smorgssborg in wild edibles for all the participants.

            Does anyone remember what two types of "blanching" were discussed?

            Tim and Hue want your comments and questions.