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, December 31, 2007

Earth Connection North Carolina (EC-NC)

Some of you who have been following the posts on this blog are probably wondering... who are those two we don't recognize in the holiday greetings picture that are part of the EC Family? Well, we have great news!

Earth Connection is expanding!

Starting 1 January 2008, Earth Connection will have a budding satellite school in North Carolina.

Wes Massey andHardee Merritt (not in the holiday greeting picture) will be offering EC classes in 2008 near the North Carolina Raleigh/Durham area. Their classes will have the same Earth Connection tried and true curriculum, but flavored with the kind of wild spice only these three gentlemen can offer.

Wes and Hardee
See their introduction bios here.

Stay tuned for more about EC-NC in future blog posts।

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sleeping Bags For The Homeless

Drop- Mail-Bring a Sleeping Bag for the Homeless

Hundreds of people in Earth Connection School area rely on urban survival skills to stay fed and warm. We are making a choice to help provide a warm sleeping bag for the New Year to those less fortunate.

The local shelters that we are donating sleeping bags to have requested 0 degree bags, new-or-used & washed, and in Child-to-Adult sizes. The sleeping bags should be synthetic fiber fill that stay warm even when wet (unlike down), but any bags will do.

You can help in three ways:
  • Drop off a bag: Sunday,December 30 from 12 noon to 4pm at our Earth Connection camp near Fredericksburg, Virginia
  • Mail in a bag: to Earth Connection, PO Box 32, Somerville, VA 22739
  • Bring a bag: to one of our classes in January, February or March
Please email to RSVP if you are coming out on December 30.

We will have hot chocolate and roast marshmallows by the campfire. There will be coupons for discounted EC classes and other tokens of our thanks for each bag donated.

We will be thinking other ways to help throughout the year.

Stay Warm... and Help Others Stay Warm Too.
Tim and Hue

Friday, December 28, 2007

EC Bumper Sticker On The Road

We are working hard to keep your car bumper covered with either mud or EC stickers. I prefer both EC Sticker and mud, in that order.

Earth Connection operates mostly by word-of-mouth advertising. Here is your chance to help us spread the word every time you go on the road. Heck, you don't have to limit yourself to your car bumper; plastering them all over the mid-Atlantic region on street signs, city bill boards, homeless shelters, the neighbors car, your bike, and even your front door is a better option.

Get your own EC Bumper Sticker here!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from the Earth Connection Family

Thanks to all that took Earth Connection classes in 2007.
We are all excited about next year's classes and look forward to seeing you again.

Survive smarter... not harder!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

2008 EC Class Schedule is Posted

Hot off the press... 2008 class schedule is up on Earth Connection's website.

Lots of new classes and all the favorites.

New Classes Offered:

19- 21 Jan - Winter Wilderness Survival (16-18 Feb is no snow backup date)
Experience winter firsthand and learn to stay alive and comfortable in Earth Connection’s Winter Wilderness Survival class. This new 3 day long winter version of our trusty old Wilderness Survival class will include basic principles of cold weather survival, cold weather survival strategies, dressing for the weather, winter fire (making, using, and living with), shelters applicable to the winter environment (including snow shelters like the Quinzee), making improvised snowshoes; useful wild plants available in winter; frostbite and hypothermia awareness and treatment, and more. The Winter Survival Class will be held at Abram’s Creek Campground near Mount Storm, West Virginia to take advantage of snowfall not normally found at the Earth Connection’s School in northern Virginia.

7-9 Mar and 26-28 Sep - Primitive Village
This class has been a dream of ours for years. We have always wanted to offer a venue for our students to have a primitive survival experience, in which they can practice their skills, pick up some new ones and do it all for REAL. The Primitive Village course offers students a chance to practice their skills, and still benefit from our coaching and guidance in a structured survival scenario. Prerequisites - Earth Connection's Wilderness Survival or Primitive Skills courses - or any two of Earth Connection's other courses.

26 Apr - Land Navigation
This class provides the basic skills required to navigate cross-country day and night using modern (sorry no GPS) and primitive techniques of direction finding, and how to use these skills in the field for day hikes or long-range outings. The class includes basic navigation principles (maps, compasses, declination, the forms of navigation, and route planning, day and night land navigation techniques), as well as advanced instruction in the skills of intersection and resection (triangulation), hand-drawn maps and using terrain features like "road signs." We are also currently making plans to add an optional cross-country course in the Shenandoah Mountains as a group the next day, Sunday April 27, that may include possible diversions like wild edible foods, water procurement, and sight seeing. There will be a small additional fee for this learning opportunity.

17 May - Primitive Trapping
Earth Connection’s Primitive Trapping class will teach you how to put your hard earned tracking skills to task by constructing simple traps to secure wild animals for food. Students will learn the basic principles behind traps and how to construct them focusing on the more familiar (and using less cordage) deadfalls and snares including the figure-four, Paiute deadfall, wire snare, and their variations. In addition, more complicated trapping methods using kinetic engines (and much more cordage) will be demonstrated including many variations of the toggle stick and spring pole traps. This class harms NO animals and all local trapping laws are adhered to.

26 Jul - Nature Observation
This Nature Observation class will return you to your senses and to the vivid experience of living in the moment, experiencing nature with a sense of awe and wonder. The skills taught in this class are the foundation for all nature studies and primitive skills classes that we offer. The class includes nature observation through heightened senses, self awareness/observation, methods of immersing oneself in nature, natural movement techniques, camouflage and blending, understanding animal senses, animal/plant transition zones, pattern association and life long learning exercises. Making field notes and basic sketches in a field notebook is an essential part of this class.

27 Jul - Avoiding Nature's Dangers
Avoiding Nature’s Dangers class is like a mini how-to-survive anything class. We face a multitude of dangers every minute of our life, but recognizing and avoiding them takes education and, sometimes, active mitigation. This class highlights the dangers/risks found in nature and how to mitigate through Risk Management (the human activity which integrates recognition of risk, risk assessment, developing strategies to manage it, and mitigation of risk using managerial resources). The class covers a variety of risks from poisonous plants, insects and animals, contaminated water, animal attacks, knife/axe/machete safety, wildlife diseases, surviving extremes (hypo/hyper-thermia), fire behavior, and much more.

For the personal touch, Tim is still offering private classes as well.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Primitive Skills Weekend - Venison Fest

2-4 November Primitive Skills Class was a perfect weekend for rekindling knowledge in the old ways of living.

This course is designed to provide skills for living primitively in the wilderness; a student and staff favorite every year. The course includes building a leaf hut shelter that most slept in each night; friction fire making with the bow drill that everyone had success in making; primitive tool making; primitive water gathering and purification and we drank our purified findings too; primitive trapping; hunting with the infamous rabbit stick; and the skinning, cleaning and cooking game (thanks for the venison). The course also covered edible plants, primitive cooking, food preservation and storage, wicker basketry from vines, plant and tree bark string, and burning out wooden bowls and spoons.

Hue and Jamey, running a day late, made a tragic error. They forgot the squirrel for the wild game butchering demo and subsequent squirrel feast in the freezer. We had to quickly adjust our teaching plan and schedule. Tim gave a frantic call to his cousin, the mighty hunter, and by evening we had fresh hunter culled venison hanging from our primitive camp. We demonstrated butchering into the wee hours by lantern and flashlight. Everyone got to eat some venison ribs the next day and each took home some fresh venison for home cook'in. All I can say is... "I'm going to conveniently forget the squirrel again next year."

All in all a VERY successful weekend. New skills learned by all. Plenty of venison and a great night of campfire conversation.

Note: EC had two new instructors from the future expansion of EC, Wes and Hardee, and a very energetic helper, Russell, who has attended most every class we teach that deserve much thanks for the successful weekend!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Monkeysee-dot-com meets Tim and Hue

James from MonkeySee-dot-com came out to EC to film a few how-to video clips to Earth Connection's "Living in the Outdoor" series.

MonkeySee is a new destination website providing free access to a large collection of professionally-produced and user-generated how-to videos. Soon you can SEE how the experts (Tim and Hue) do it, through a collection of professionally-produced "how-to" videos on the Web.

Hue even help James start a friction fire the Earth Connection way!

Check us out on MonkeySee in about three weeks.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hide Tanning Class - now every other year

Fleshing, racking, drying, scraping, braining, stretching, and smoking... lots of 'ings," make for lots of work... and it is that four letter word "w-o-r-k" too!

EC's Brain tan buckskin class is a very physical and demanding exercise that, as a primitive technology, has a sole purpose to clothe yourself. All the work is for creating a soft and comfortable cloth from the deer hides left over from the hunt that fed your family.

Speaking of spelling words out... It is also an exercise in R-E-S-P-E-C-T, where we use all the animal, wasting nothing. Ask anyone who took our class about how much work went into making their buck skin. You got to respect the animal. Life is not cheap!

Actually, in a manner of speaking, none of our hides were bucked (soaked in lye) in a process called wet scrape tanning. We used an older method of dry scrape tanning that uses the brain from the animal. Even more so, we actually used egg yolks instead of deer brain because we had no access to deer heads this year. It serves the same purpose.

We even had a fur-on tanning piece to the class this year with one student (Stu) tanning a beaver pelt.

This class takes so much work and preparation that we have opted to offer it only once every other year during the fall season when deer hides come available due to hunting season or by private class . Call three weeks in advance for rates and schedule your class (minimum of two people).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chronic Wasting Disease Risk?

The good news…

There is no evidence that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is linked to disease in humans or domestic livestock other than deer and elk.

According to 2004 research, the risk, if any, of CWD transmission to humans is low. There have been no documented human cases of prion disease with strong evidence of a link with CWD.

To date CWD has not been found in Virginia. The closest eastern state is West Virginia, next is New York.

What is CWD?

CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy in the same genetic family as mad cow disease, scrapie (affecting sheep) and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (affecting humans) that is found in White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Mule Deer (O. hemionus), and Elk (Cervus elaphus) populations mostly in the western states. Visible manifestations of CWD include weight loss over weeks or months, behavioral changes (show little fear of humans) and excessive salivation (may look like slobbering). In some animals, head tremors may occur. Most animals gradually die within several months of illness.

The disease has forced the slaughter and incineration of thousand deer and elk in the West since 2000. CWD is known to occur in free-ranging deer or elk in Alberta, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. CWD also has been diagnosed in captive deer and elk in Alberta, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The bad news…

The 2005 discovery of CWD in New York is causing immense fear and loathing amongst Eastern State's wildlife resource officials, hunters and primitive skills enthusiasts. This should serve as a warning to those of us primitive skills practitioners that regularly harvest deer by hunting and occasionally by picking up fresh road kill for either hide or meat. It would be wise to look for the signs of infection before butchering and using the animal, especially in the case of using the brain for primitive hide tanning.

Furthermore, research “evidence suggests that, provided sufficient exposure, the species barrier may not completely protect humans from animal prion diseases including CWD. CWD does not appear to occur naturally outside the cervid family. However, the passing of CWD to a secondary host (domestic animals, such as cattle and sheep) by infected deer could not only increase the extent and frequency of human exposure, but also alter its infectious properties, increasing its potential for becoming more pathogenic to humans. Because CWD has occurred in a limited geographic area for decades, an adequate number of people may not have been exposed to the CWD agent to result in a clinically recognizable human disease. Because of the long incubation period associated with prion diseases, convincing negative results from epidemiologic and experimental laboratory studies would likely require years of follow-up. In the meantime, to minimize the risk for exposure to the CWD agent, hunters should consult with their state wildlife agencies to identify areas where CWD occurs and continue to follow advice provided by public health and wildlife agencies. Hunters should avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or test positive for CWD. They should wear gloves when field-dressing carcasses, bone-out the meat from the animal, and minimize handling of brain and spinal cord tissues. As a precaution, hunters should avoid eating deer and elk tissues known to harbor the CWD agent (e.g., brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes) from areas where CWD has been identified.”1

1. Belay ED, Maddox RA, Williams ES, Miller MW, Gambetti P, Schonberger LB. Chronic wasting disease and potential transmission to humans. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2004 Jun. Available from:

What you need to know about Earth Connection Brain Tanning Classes:

The hide itself will not be infected and can be used for hide tanning. All the hides used in our classes come from local sources and are not affected by CWD. We will make the decision whether to use the deer’s brain for the traditional hide tanning class or some other hide tanning alternative like pig brains or egg yolk after consulting local wildlife officials of the current risk.

Recommended precautions outside of class:

  • Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that is abnormal or appears to be sick. If you see a sick deer, please contact the local Wildlife Department immediately.
  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer carcass.
  • Bone out meat from your animal. Do not saw through bone and avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone).
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues or fluids.
  • Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
  • Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes of deer. Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most, if not all, of these body parts.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall Edibles Class Hampered by Southeastern Drought

The normally water rich south-east region of North America is drying up, so the weather forecasters have commented. So much so, that the drought conditions have impacted Earth Connection's wild edible classes, minimally this summer and gravely this fall. The plants we rely on for fall survival are suffering from lack of moisture on the Earth Connection School's land which is usually so close to the water table that we are not be able to dig a hole without water seeping to fill it almost as fast as we dig. Now the water seeps not.

Hue and Jamey attempted to teach a wild edibles class for Ancestral Knowledge in Maryland, but the drought has effect the wild edible crop there too. It is a sorry state when a class cannot happen because the weather conditions effect nature in such a way. All they got for their trouble was a million chigger bites and two weeks of intense itch. No fun!

Despite the harsh conditions and lack of any indication of coming precipitation there still were a few choice wild edibles available to talk about for the EC Wild Edible class on 13 October. Only Acorns were in enough abundance this year and we took advantage of this making this our main attraction. Drought also produced a pretty good wild grape crop this year.

For the wild food offerings this year we made Acorn Bread and Wild Grape Jelly (picture is of green spring grapes). Jen also made us all a sweet Acorn Pumpkin bundt cake that was delicious.

What can we expect in the future?

Weather forecasters are not offering much rain for the winter and are predicting a warmer and drier winter than what is usually expected. The dry conditions that range from Washington DC into Maryland down to the tip of Florida and out to western Tennessee are designated as severe. The Department of Agriculture's drought monitor indicates that 32% is in exceptional drought not seen but once or twice in a century. We wonder what this will bring for our next crop of wild edible that are normally hardy enough to survive a few weeks without much moisture. Maybe there is some validity to our fear that global warming will make droughts more common.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What Classes Do You Want to See EC Teach in 2008?

EC staff are currently working on the 2008 Class and Adventure Schedule. No worries, we will have the same curriculum as always, but we looking to give a wider variety and increased value to both our new and returning students.

We are kicking around many new ideas and are looking for what you want to see us teach or what you want to experience. Send an email with your ideas or what you like below to Hue and Tim at earth-connection.

Here are few we have been thinking about:

-- Primitive Trapping Class
-- Basic Land Navigation
-- Winter Survival Weekend
-- River Living Kayak Weekend
-- Shennandoah Walkabout Weekend
-- Primitive Pottery with professional potter Gernoble
-- Coastal Beach Survival at Assataegue 3-4 days
-- Homesteading Skills (soap, beer, canning, candles)
-- Primitive (knife and blanket) Living or Survival Week 5-6 Days
-- Primitive village (similar to above just shorter)
-- Wild Edible Plant Banquet; Free - all bring a dish and a story to share
-- Scout Skills Weekend
-- Tracking Intensive - 1 day - Off site
-- Sweat Bath (non-religious) Lodge construction and use
-- Plants for medicine (very basic)
-- Nature Observation and Awareness
-- Primitive Hunter
-- Avoiding Nature's Dangers
-- Wandering Skills Weekend
-- Survival Combatives

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Primitive Cooking or Primitive Glutony -- You Choose!

Gluttony -- Derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow, gluttony is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or intoxicants to the point of waste. In the Christian religions, it is considered one of the seven deadly sins. We are dreadfully sorry for the sinning part, but that is unfortunately part of the primitive cooking class... we eat and eat and eat. Just cannot stop. Especially when we are cooking for eight hours... biscuits anyone? We had so much food this past weekend that I will have to go on a diet to get back to fighting weight.

I cannot wait for next year so see how much food we will prepare over a green stick grill, in a steam pit, or a "Snowbear" oven, by clay baking, or in a stone oven, rock boiling, or just plain throwing it in a fire.

Get your ash cakes and hot biscuits!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

2nd Annual Fire Palooza - So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

The 2nd Annual Fire Palooza was full of flaming surprises this year. Everyone achieved some sort of pyro spectacular flame-out, especially our resident caveman Tim. There was even a feminine touch this year that brought the fire birthing story new meaning. Next year will be even better with more friction surprises.

Two days of friction fire is all we can handle. We attempted quite a few types of friction fire methods from hand drill to fire saw. We even broke out the fire piston. The return of two Fire Plow boys (Wes and Hardy) showed us all how to make fire the intense islander way... FIRE PLOW is for real men.

Steven made a heroic attempt at it too.
Congratulations to all those who created new life (fire) that weekend.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

EC Meets Capt John Smith on the Chesapeake

Recently, Earth Connection (EC) participated in Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum's (JPPM) commemoration of Captain John Smith's voyage on the Chesapeake Bay on August 4th & 5th of 2007. The event gave an opportunity for the public to learn about pre-colonial American Indian culture at the time of European contact and offer visitors an educational experience of this critical time period in Southern Maryland's history.

The two-day event featured music, dance, storytelling, traditional crafts, vendors, exhibits, and the landing of Captain John Smith's shallop; not to mention Earth Connection demonstrations on friction fire and primitive trapping.

Tim, hue, Jamey and EC guest Cindy attended the event demonstrating primitive skills through the heat (.. and we are talking Africa hot, people) and selling their wares; including EC T-shirts, friciton fire kits, Jamey's famous gourd canteens and Cindy's fantastic gourd art.

Tim taught many budding young enthusiasts primitive friction fire. He didn't need any help with the heat as it was 120 degrees that weekend, but still he added a few of his own degrees with his great friction fire skills.

We met quite a few new people interested in EC and some old friends. Fun and sweat was had by all!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Smokey says... Use fire wisely!

This week we are conducting a new class--Fire Materials Identification Class--and later in September is the 2nd Annual Fire Palooza class where friction fire methods are king.

So, what are we doing here on the EC-Blog to prepare you for these classes? Did you know where there is fire, there is smoke? Have you considered the value of the smoke that fire produces? Despite the bad reputation smoke has gotten, it is the source of our first food preservation technique. Who has not tasted and subsequently enjoyed the smoky flavor of smoked meat or fish like salmon--right?

Smoke preservation originated in early societies and is still used today to preserve mainly fish, meats and grains. It works by drying and dehydrating the food, as well as by neutralizing harmful elements with chemicals such as tars and phenols, that attach themselves to the food and are toxic to microbes and insects. These chemicals can also become harmful (carcinogenic) to humans if consumed in too large amounts. (See the Pryolysis Products of Wood below)

There is archaeological evidence that smoking was known as a method of food preservation at an early date. An archaeological site near the River Bann, Ireland that is thought to have been a fishing camp used in the second millennium B.C. The site bears the remains of several hearths over which their fish are thought to have been smoked. Evidence exists that the Romans probably used smoke to preserve food and to enhance its flavor (Wilson 1991, pp. 15-6).In colonial times, many households had smokehouses which were used to smoke beef, ham, and bacon (Earle 1899, p. 150). Smoking is still sometimes used to preserve fish and meat (Forbes 1955, p. 185).

In developing countries today, it is common to find grain bags hanging from the ceiling in a primitive hut near central fire. The heat and smoke from the open fire can then preserve the stored grains in a cheap manner. Smoked food often has a unique and robust flavor, and is still widely produced because in many situations is the fastest way to preserve food without the use of specialized equipment that may also need sources of energy that requires cash payment, such as gas or electricity.

Pyrolysis Products of Wood
Product - Percent in Mixture
  • Acetaldehyde - 2.3%
  • Furan - 1.6%
  • Acetone - 1.5%
  • Propenal - 3.2 %
  • Methanol - 2.1%
  • 2,3-Butanedione - 2.0%
  • 1-Hydroxy-2-propanone - 2.1%
  • Glyoxal - 2.2%
  • Acetic acid - 6.7%
  • 5-Methyl-2-furaldehyde - 0.7%
  • Formic acid - 0.9%
  • 2-Furfuryl alcohol - 0.5%
  • Carbon dioxide - 12.0%
  • Water - 18.0%
  • Char - 15.0%
  • Tar (at 600˚C) - 28.0%

Earle, Alice Morse. Home Life in Colonial Days. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899.
Forbes, R.J. Studies in Ancient Technology. Vol. III. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1955.
Wilson, C. Anne, ed. Waste Not, Want Not: Food Preservation from Early Times to the Present Day. Edinburgh University Press, 1991.

Risk Management Series: Chiggers and the Dreaded Two-Week Itch

Chiggers, also known as "red bugs," are larvae of mites belonging to the Trombiculids family of insects. Trombiculids are predatory mites related to ticks and spiders. The adults are known as harvest or scrub mites. They feed on insect eggs and small invertebrates in soil or decaying wood. Depending upon the species, it takes fifty to seventy days for the mite to develop from egg to larva to nymph to adult.

Trombiculids are found in temperate and tropical areas worldwide--according to some of our students, a large population of these mite larvae live in North Carolina. The Trombiculids larvae are parasites that wait on the ground and/or on low-growing vegetation near where they hatched. When an animal passes by, the larvae leap on it and search around for a feasible feeding spot. Notably, they do not have to search far on you or I for a suitable place. For me it is anywhere and everywhere--I must have sweet fluids just under my skin.

The larva generally prefers a skin pore or hair follicle. It inserts its mouth parts and injects a digestive enzyme into its host. The digestive fluid allows the parasite to feed on a resulting liquid mixture of lymph, dissolved skin tissue and a few stray blood cells--yup, sweet stuff. A chigger normally feeds for two or three days on the protein-rich liquid, then drops off to molt into the nymph stage. A localized rash or swelling called trombidiosis continues to itch for up to two weeks, even if the chigger was only attached for a few hours. The itch is intense and I found the only way to minimize this is a very hot shower which mixes itch, pain and pleasure. Actually, the hot water (just under scalding) triggers anti-histamines that naturally and temporarily diminish the intensity of the itch just long enough for some much needed rest.

Humans are incidental hosts, chiggers are more frequently found on birds, lizards, and rodents. Chiggers prefer to attach on parts of the body where clothing fits tightly or where the flesh is thin, tender, or wrinkled. For this reason, chiggers locate in such areas as the ankles, waistline, knees, or armpits. Some people exhibit an allergic reaction to the fluid which may result in severe swelling, itching, and fever. People mistakenly believe that chiggers embed themselves in the skin or that the welts contain chiggers. Often scratching at the welt results in secondary infection.

Chiggers are easily removed from the skin by taking a hot bath or shower and lathering with soap several times. I have even shaved my legs in severe infestations. The bath will kill attached chiggers and others which are not attached. Since symptoms of contact may not appear for several hours, it is not always possible to completely prevent welts caused by chigger bites. Antiseptic should be applied to all welts which do appear. Temporary relief of itching may be achieved with nonprescription local anesthetics available at most drug stores. Studies have shown that meat tenderizer, rubbed into the welt, will alleviate itching.

If you are going into areas suspected of being infested with chiggers, wear protective clothing and use repellents. Dusting sulfur is often used as a repellent. Repellents should be applied to legs, ankles, cuffs, waist, and sleeves by clothing application or directly to the body or clothing as directed by the label.

The Risk at Earth Connection? Well, we have a few Chiggers in the fielded area, of that I can attest from personal experience. So, yes, we have them, but not as bad as they could be. Prepare yourself for class with repellents.

Source: Chiggers, ENY-212, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), Accessed on 28 July 2007 at

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jamey's Sorrel Soup --Another Favorite of the Edibles Class

Yellow Wood Sorrel, Oxalis Stricta within the family Oxalidaceae, is a charming and delicate little plant that grows abundantly in woods, disturbed and shady areas. Each leaf is comprised of three heart shaped leaflets, which fold at night, and in adverse weather conditions, including full sun. Yellow flowers, which bloom in the spring and are about a half-inch in diameter.

The plant has a wonderful lemony or acidy taste which accounts for its botanical name Oxalis being derived from the Greek oxys, meaning sour or acid. The leaves, flowers, and immature green seedpods are often eaten as a trail nibble or can be added to salads, sauces, soups or as a seasoning. Wood sorrel is high in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and binoxalate of potash, a special salt, which produces the acidity.

Medicinally, in moderate dosages, wood sorrel is a refrigerant, febrifuge, diuretic, stomachic, astringent, and catalytic. It's also attributed with blood cleansing properties and is sometimes taken by cancer patients.

Caution: Some literature suggests that kidney damage may occur from the combination of the oxalic acid contained in the wood sorrel with calcium oxalate found in the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts.

Jamey’s Sorrel & Potato Soup

  • 7 oz. Wood or sheep sorrel leaves
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large potatoes - peeled and cut into julienne strips (1-1/2 inches long/1/4 inch thick)
  • 7-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  1. Remove the stems from the sorrel
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onion, stirring, until lightly colored.
  3. Add the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes or until lightly colored. Stir often.
  4. Add 7 cups of the broth and salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Add the sorrel and reduce to low heat.
  6. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  7. Puree the mixture and place back on heat.
  8. Whisk the egg yolks and sour cream together in a small bowl.
  9. Pour a spoonful of the hot soup into the egg/sour cream mixture and whisk to combine.
  10. Pour the tempered eggs back into the soup while whisking the soup constantly.
  11. Cook the soup over low heat and stir continuously with wooden spoon to slowly thicken. Do not allow the soup to boil.
  12. Add Salt if necessary. Thin with remaining broth as necessary.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Curried Cattail Soup - a Summer Edible Class Favorite

Tim absolutely loves the exotic flavors of Indian food. If he believed in reincarnation he would want to be reborn in India so he can partake the spicy Indian goodness daily. But for now, he will have to do with Hue cooking up some spicy delights at the wild edibles classes. This last wild edibles class had Hue work up a batch of his now famous Curried Cattail Soup. He says he started with a recipe that he doctored up with some special Indian spices he had brought back from a trip to India, but some say this is just him being modest about his ability to wear an apron in the kitchen.

Curry is an English word that comes from the Tamil word Kari that refers to the spicy pungent southeast Asian side dish that accompanies rice. It actually refers to masala (meaning spice) which comes in quite a variety of mixtures. In so being, there are many differing styles of curry dishes and that means you can be creative.

Wikipedia references that, "most commercial curry powders available in Britain, the U.S. and Canada rely heavily on ground turmeric, in turn producing a very yellow sauce. Lesser ingredients in these Western yellow curry powders are often coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, chili, black pepper and salt. It should be reiterated that curry powders and pastes produced and consumed in India are extremely diverse; some red, some yellow, some brown; some with five spices and some with as many as 20 or more. Besides the previously mentioned spices, other commonly found spices in different curry powders in India are cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon (especially in garam masala), white pepper, ground mustard, ground ginger, etc."

With that said, here is a starter recipe for Curried Cattail Soup

  • 3 tbsp butter (or slightly more vegetable oil if you are vegan)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (you choose the style of curry here)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are vegetarian)
  • 12 cattail shoots or inner tender flesh of summer cattails, minced or sliced (If you don't know what I'm talking about, take our class)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)

  1. Melt butter in a sauce pan and cook onion over medium heat until almost soft.
  2. Add curry powder and flour. Cook a few more minutes while stirring in the curry and flour.
  3. Add stock and cattails. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy hot or cold. (Hot is better)

Risk Management Update - Ehrlichiosis Warning

Ehrlichiosis chaffeensis, is an acute disease of humans and animals caused by bacteria called Ehrlichia that attack white blood cells. The bacteria are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick--deer tick, the dog tick and the Lone Star tick. Ehrlichiosis is found in almost any area of the United States and in many foreign countries as well. In fact, it is probably on EC's property as evident by Hue and Jamey's dog, Chagi-ya, being diagnosed with the disease.

The first human case in the U.S. was reported in 1986 and since then more are being reported every year. If you have ehrlichiosis you would generally pay a visit to your physician in the first week of the illness--the incubation period is about 5-10 days after the tick bite. Initial symptoms include the sudden onset of moderate to high fever, headache, malaise, and muscle aches. Other signs and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, joint pains, confusion, and occasionally rash.

Does'nt sound fun does it?

Unlike Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a rash is not very common. However, rash has been described in approximately 60% of pediatric patients infected with E. chaffeensis.

Appropriate antibiotic treatment should be initiated immediately if you have these symptoms. Chagi-ya, Hue and Jamey's dog, is on antibiotics and is doing well in response to the treatment.

After every class as well as every wilderness outing EC recommends you conduct a thorough tick check either individually or, even better, with a significant other--to check those hard to reach spots.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer is a Berry Good Season

Blackberry cobbler... hmmmm! Its mid-July and summer berries are in full swing. Time for Earth Connection's Summer Edibles class. The class was small, but that meant more to eat for all that attended.

"What say you?" you cry in disbelief. "More for you to eat?"

"Yes and a cornucopia of wild edibles too." EC instructor's Tim and Hue boldly claimed in unison.

"You had wild edibles to eat?" You sigh in more disbelief and facial anguish. "Say it isn't true?"

"True... oh, so true." Tim taunts. "We had two cold soups, Jamey's sorrel soup and Hue's curried cattail soup. They were accompanied by milkweed pod drenched in butter. We topped it all off with Jen's blackberry cobbler and Hue's wine/black berry pan cookie."

You are salivating profusely while listening intently.

Tim continues, "Not to mention all the tasty edibles we sampled on our study walk. Hue even brought the cherry bim--banned in forty states--for sampling. We really had the time of it."

Sadly, you ask, "Will you have the class again next year?"

"Of course! Better yet, why wait another year? We have another seasonal edibles class--fall wild edibles--coming up this October 13th."

Stay tuned for this year's recipes.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

EC @ MAPS Meet 2007

The Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills (MAPS) Meet has developed from the activities of the Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills Group and the growing primitive technology community of the Greater Washington D.C. area of which Earth Connection has been a part.

This year, the sixth for the event, was a transition, as the primary responsibility for the Meet was assumed by Ancestral Knowledge, with MAPS as an important sponsor. Earth Connection was on hand to provide a variety of EC instruction. Tim's taught his all time favorite subject--FIRE, while Hue provided the always popular and dirty Scout Class and Jamey focused on the well received cordage and gourd canteens classes. Jamey and Hue taught a few extra classes on Water in the Wilderness and the Sunday Morningstarr Medicine Wheel.

Fun was had by all, I assure you. We cannot wait for next year's event.

It was also a transition of sorts for Hue as well... he is passing the MAPS scout class to a new instructor, Owen, and moving on to bigger and better classes next year. We expect great things from this fine young man.

You go get'em dirty Owen!

Visit Owen's Blog

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sticks, Stones, and Broken Bones

One of our class favorites is the two day Primitive Tools, 2-3 June. Here we learn how to make stuff to make more stuff all using what is available from mother nature. Lots of skills come to play in this class... from working stone, wood, bone and antler. Cordage and natural glues were also taught.

Percussion and pressure flaking fundamentals took us into the world of flintknapping where we produced a variety of stone tools for a variety of uses. Scrapers, knives, arrowheads, and in many cases, making larger stones into ever smaller ones. Stone tool making tends to be the class focus, but plenty of time is spent on all the other tools we can make.

Tool-man Tim, Hue and Jamey worked hard to make sure everyone had some time with all the tool making skills. Our weekend was split between a perfect weather day on Saturday and a raining day on Sunday... experience in both weather conditions provided a unique experience demonstrating the finesse needed in the skills.

Jen brought the growing MacWelch family down for a visit and were a welcomed break from bashing and cutting up our fingers. No major injuries occurred over this weekend--thank you--even though the risk is high when you are whacking rocks against rocks.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Its Organic Baby!

19 May 2007 marks our very first Organic Gardening Class.

Our vision is to bring basic organic gardening for beginners into our budding self-sufficiency course menu. The EC Organic Gardening class is designed for folks interested in the purest form of producing ones own food. We covered topics like soils and soils structure, soil amendments, organic pest control, composting, disease control, container gardening, and much more... all for the beginning organic gardener, no matter if it is in your backyard or on your balcony.

Keep watching for more classes on self-sufficiency and watch our garden grow.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

2007 Rabies Risk

The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild carnivores (raccoons, skunks, and foxes) and bats, but any mammal can get rabies. Small rodents (such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and chipmunks) and lagomorphs (such as rabbits and hares) are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. However, from 1985 through 1994, woodchucks accounted for 86% of the 368 cases of rabies among rodents reported to CDC. Exceptions abound in the natural world.

Risk: In the1990's, the number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States was only one or two per year. The precise number of rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatments in the United States is unknown, but is estimated to be approximately 40,000. Therefore, the estimated risk of dying from rabies in the United States is very small.

Although non-bite exposures to rabies are very rare, we put ourselves at risk by handling roadkill animals which we do not know is infected, say in a hide-tanning class. It is possible that our scratches, abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth) could become contaminated with saliva or other potentially infectious material (such as brain tissue) from a rabid animal. Other contact, such as petting a rabid animal or contact with the blood, urine or feces (e.g., guano) of a rabid animal, does not constitute an exposure and is not an indication for prophylaxis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

Here's the rub... There is no approved treatment for rabies after symptoms of the disease appear. You must determine ahead of time if there is a possible exposure and the need for postexposure prophylaxis. Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful. In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure.

There is a new experimental treatment recently discovered for individuals that do not get the PEP shots in time. This treatment requires a very risky week long or more induced coma to allow the human immune system to catchup with the virus without the brain activated systemic shutdown that normally kills the patient. But, there is only one person who has been treated in this way and it was by chance this treatment was discovered.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fresh Water Fishery Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV) Risk

Continuing our Risk Assessment Series...

The viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV), which causes anemia and hemorrhaging in fish, first detected in the Great Lakes in June 2006, has now been identified in 23 species and is approaching epidemic proportions. This could have a devastating impact on sport fishing and aquaculture industries, not to mention our much smaller primitive and wilderness skills community. Fish biologists do not know how the disease is transmitted making it very difficult to prevent. There remains no way to vaccinate fish against this disease, and any measures to control its spread require people to apply procedures that existed prior to the discovery of vaccines, such as monitoring outbreaks and trying to isolate fish so they don't spread the disease.

Three new fish kills have occurred in 2007 in New York waters since the virus was identified in the Great Lakes Basin in 2005. In the St. Lawrence River, hundreds of thousands of round gobies have succumbed to the disease; gizzard shad die-offs from VHSV in Lake Ontario west of Rochester and in Dunkirk Harbor on Lake Erie also have been reported. Adding to concerns about the spread of the virus, walleye in Conesus Lake have tested positive for VHSV. Conesus is the westernmost Finger Lake and is the only New York Lake where VHSV has been found in a body of water other than the contiguous waters of the Great Lakes.

Other species from the Great Lakes Basin area that have tested positive by Cornell include bluegill, rock bass, black crappie, pumpkinseed, smallmouth and largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, channel catfish, brown bullhead, white perch, white bass, emerald shiner, bluntnose minnow, freshwater drum, round goby, gizzard shad and burbot.

Risks: The Great Lakes VHSV is not related to the European or Japanese genotypes and poses no health threat to humans. However, as a general rule, people should avoid eating any fish (or game) that appears abnormal or behaves abnormally. Not all infected fish, however, exhibit symptoms. Some may be carriers, and visible signs of the disease may vary from species to species. The virus has been detected in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia or West Virginia water sheds.

Cornell University Cronicle OnLine article by Krishna Ramanujan.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

EC Spring Wild Edible Road Show

Earth Connection (EC) took its popular Spring Edibles Class on the road this spring serving eastern West Virginia and Washington DC areas. Our seasonal Wild Edible Plant courses focus on the different plants and plant uses of each season. Each course is a guided walk through different habitats identifying, collecting and frequently sampling wild plant foods, and pointing out harmful plants to avoid. It covers approximately 40 plants, shrubs and trees of the mid-Atlantic region depending on the biomes available on site. It includes proper identification and use of these plants, whether they are native or introduced, when and where to safely collect plants and conservation techniques.

On 28 April, EC conducted the class at Abram's Creek Retreat and Campground in West Virginia. We covered many spring edibles, but the star of the show was Ramps (Wild Leeks) that abundantly covered the mountain sides. I'll be honest, it was my first experience with Ramps and I am SOLD. They are amazing. I even brought some home to conduct mad culinary experiments.

All leeks belong to the lily family, containing about 325 species, and are close relative of the onion, garlic, shallot and chives. Their genus, Allium, is Latin for garlic which is what their flavor resembles to me rather than onion. Not to mention that there was an enormous quantities available. We harvested mostly a leaf or two from each plant and only a few bulbs to practice good conservation techniques.

Although the weather was initially uncooperative it cleared rapidly and made for a very productive class. EC will teach at Abram's Creek again this year. We can recommend their newly developed campground as pristine and mostly untouched. There is an abundance of flora and fauna, especially wild edibles.

On 5 May, EC conducted a class in Greenbelt Park, Maryland near Washington, DC for Ancestral Knowledge (AK), a 501(c) non-profit educational organization operated by a community of naturalists who specialize in native life skills. We donated our time to the AK mission. The class was small which allowed for more one to one with the instructor.

We even rescued a mud puddle full of tadpoles. Steve, one of the students, commented later, "Thanks again for the guided plant tour down in MD two weeks ago. Adria and I both learned alot. The tadpoles we rescued from that puddle are growing bigger every day."

Greenbelt Park is one of the largest natural sanctuaries of recovering mixed evergreen-deciduous forest located within the metropolitan Washington area. The land that is now Greenbelt Park was roamed before colonial times by the Algonquin Indians and other tribes with whom they competed for the area's natural resources. The arrival of European colonists drastically tipped the balance of nature that the Native Americans had for the most part maintained. Most if not all of the trees fell to open up farmland for the new settlers; the native wildlife and the Indians retreated.

For 150 years, farming was the dominant use of the land. The settlers, however, did not give back to the land as much as they took from it. Farming gradually ceased as soild quality declined and erosion scarred the land. Since the early 1900s, the area has been recovering from this overuse. Its current cover of mixed deciduous and evergreen woods is mute testimony to the land's ability to come back. Within a few decades, as small-scale replica of the original hardwood forest will have fully returned. The pines that now cover a large parcels will have disappeared -- an important toward an eastern climax forest.

See you at the next edibles class!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

2007 West Nile Virus Risk

Third in our Risk Management Series is West Nile virus.

West Nile virus is not a river in Egypt…

West Nile virus (WNV) is established as a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. WNV is mainly transmitted by the well known blood-feeding arthropod, the mosquito.

The risk of West Nile virus in Virginia is low.

WNV first appeared in North America in 1999, with encephalitis reported in humans and horses. WNV has emerged in recent years in temperate regions of Europe and North America, presenting a threat to public and animal health. The most serious manifestation of WNV infection is fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans and horses, as well as mortality in certain domestic and wild birds. Not until early 2002 has WNV been a significant cause of human illness in the United States—only 5 Virginia cases reported in 2006. West Nile virus was first identified in the West Nile District of Uganda in 1937 and only became recognized as a cause of severe human meningitis or encephalitis (inflammation of the spinal cord and brain) in elderly patients during an outbreak in Israel in 1957.

  • Arthropod-borne viruses (termed "arboviruses") are viruses that are maintained in nature through biological transmission between susceptible vertebrate hosts by blood-feeding arthropods (mosquitoes, sand flies, ceratopogonids "no-see-ums", and ticks). Vertebrates can become infected when an infected arthropod bites them to take a blood meal.

WNV Symptoms?

People typically develop symptoms between 3 and 14 days after they are bitten by the infected mosquito.

  • Serious Symptoms in a Few People. About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
  • Milder Symptoms in Some People. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
  • No Symptoms in Most People. Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.

The easiest and best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites.

  • When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Follow the directions on the package.
  • Many mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
  • Make sure you have intact screens on your tent windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Earth Connection staff will throughout the year attempt to rid the local area of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, buckets and barrels. However, there are many small swampy areas, natural cavities and unruly neighbors that might harbor a very significant population of mosquitoes.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

2007 Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI) Risk

Second in the Risk Management Series

Here at Earth Connection (EC) we see a lot of lone star ticks. The "fear factor" talk of the camp is about Lyme disease and how many people they know have had it or suffer from its untreated affects. Accusations directed toward the lone star tick is far from the truth though.

FACT: The lone star tick does not transmit Lyme disease.

However, what causes the confusion is campers bitten by lone star ticks will occasionally develop a circular rash similar to the rash of early Lyme disease. The rash may even be accompanied by fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle and joint pains. The cause of this rash and its early Lyme disease like symptoms has not yet been determined; however, studies have shown that is not caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Instead, this condition has been named southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). In the cases of STARI studied to date, the rash and accompanying symptoms have resolved following treatment with oral antibiotics. STARI has not been linked to any longterm arthritic, neurological, or chronic symptoms like Lyme disease.

The mild 2006-7 winter will bring us lots of these critters this year. I have seen more lone star ticks out at Earth Connection than any other type of tick. Be prepared for an onslaught of insects while attending our classes.

Any tick-borne illness may be prevented by avoiding tick habitat (dense woods and brushy areas), using insect repellents containing DEET or Permethrin, wearing long pants and socks, performing tick checks every 12 hours, and promptly removing ticks after outdoor activity. Persons should monitor their health closely after any tick bite, and should consult their physician if they experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pains, or swollen lymph nodes with 30 days of a tick bite.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

2007 Lyme Disease Risk

First in our Risk Management Series is Lyme Disease.

The 2006-7 northern Virginia winter was very mild. The lack of a long freeze to kill off a healthy percentage of insects over-wintering in the leaf litter, including ticks, will definitely increase the number of biting insects this year. Since we are talking about Lyme disease, what that means for our 2007 classes is the increased risk of suffering from tick infestations and a risk of infection by the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Although the risk of being infected by the bacterium carried by deer ticks that causes Lyme disease is low for the area surrounding Earth Connection, there is still a risk.

Facts: The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, harbors in mice, squirrels and other small mammals. It is transmitted through the bites of specific species of ticks between themselves and to to humans. In the northeastern and northcentral United States, the blacklegged (deer) tick (Ixodes scapularis) is known to transmit Lyme disease. Other tick species are not known to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi.

Blacklegged (deer) ticks live for two years and have three feeding stages: larvae, nymph, and adult. When a young tick feeds on an infected animal, the tick takes the bacterium into its body along with the blood meal. The bacterium then lives in the gut of the tick. If the tick feeds again, it can transmit the bacterium to its new host. Usually the new host is another small rodent, but sometimes the new host is you or me.

Most cases of human illness occur in the late spring and summer when the tiny nymphs are most active and human outdoor activity is greatest. Although adult ticks often feed on deer, these animals do not become infected. Deer are nevertheless important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations.

Any tick-borne illness may be prevented by avoiding tick habitat (dense woods and brushy areas), using insect repellents containing DEET or permethrin, wearing long pants and socks, and performing tick checks every 12 hours and promptly removing ticks after outdoor activity. Persons should monitor their health closely after any tick bite, and should consult their physician if they experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pains, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of a tick bite. Failure to medically counter the bacterium can result in debilitating health issues.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spring Wild Edibles Class

On 21 April, Earth Connection held its Spring Edibles Class. The course focused on the different plants and plant uses of the spring season. Earth Connection instructors, Tim and Hue, walked six inquisitive students through different habitats, identifying edible plants as well as pointing out harmful plants to avoid, collecting safely with proper conservation techniques, and frequently sampling many of our wild plant foods.

These modern natives wanted the knowledge about plants as a source of food, medicine, cordage (string or rope), building materials, tools, firewood and last but definitely not least - what poisonous plants to avoid. We covered almost 40 wild edible plants, shrubs and trees. Proper identification including Latin nomenclature.

Can anyone tell me who Tim looks like here?

Wild edible snacks were served as a bonus to christen and entice our newly educated wild edible enthusiasts. July 14 is our next Wild Edibles class where we will be covering the next season... SUMMER.

19 May is Earth Connection’s next class. Our new Organic Gardening course will show you the ins and outs of certified organic gardening for the home gardener. Whether you have a farm, backyard or just a sunny patio or balcony, you can grow your own food in the safest way available. Learn about location, soils, soil amendments, composting, animal free gardening (no animal parts or ground up bones in your soils), tools, garden beds, container gardening, irrigation, seed selection, growing your own seedlings, transplanting, garden plans, crop rotation, pest control, seed saving and much more!!! Each student gets an Earth Connection gardening handout with full color photos and written plant information. If you care about the food you are eating and want to grow your own, then this class is for you.

Register Here for either class!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Managing Wilderness Adventure Risks

In the coming weeks, Earth Connection will be publishing a series of blog-articles on Wilderness Adventure Risks. Experiencing the wild places exposes each of us to many risks to our health and well-being. Risk and uncertainty are central to the concept of adventure and understanding these risks from the onset of your adventure will help you prepare and mitigate the possibility of contracting a debilitating disease or injury.

Just ask Tim about risk; he'll tell you about all of them... for instance, the likelihood of eating bird droppings or snail snot in a wild edible salad.

In this series we will be identifying some of the commonly-asked-about adventure risks and factors to help you decide how to mitigate the risk.

First, before we begin the series, let's cover the basics of Risk Management and Assessment.

What is Risk?
A common definition of risk is identifying a specific hazard and the likelihood that the hazard occurs (probability) x (hazard) = risk. That likelihood may be expressed as a rate or a probability. For example the risk of a wilderness accident (hazard) can be expressed as one accident per one hundred adventures (likelihood).

What is Risk Assessment?
Risk assessment is the process of analyzing potential losses from a given hazard using a combination of known information about the situation, knowledge about the underlying process, and judgment about the information that is not known or well understood.

What is Risk Management?
The process of combining a risk assessment with decisions on how to address that risk is called risk management.

Five Step Risk Management Process
Step 1 - Identify hazards
Step 2 - Assess hazards to determine risks
Step 3 - Develop controls and make risk decisions
Step 4 - Implement controls
Step 5 - Supervise and evaluate

There, now you know all about risk management, right?

Probably not, so now we have to discuss some of the specific risks you might encounter in a daily outing... say, at one of Earth Connection's classes. We will not discuss the simple risks like cutting yourself with your knife, but probably should with as many times we have seen students hack away at their own fingers at our classes. But, alas, I will keep on track.

Stay tuned for more five steps of risk management at Earth Connection classes.

If we do not discuss the risk you are concerned about then let us know so we can address it.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Only 12 Plants of 500,000 Supply the World with Food

I recently found a very interesting fact published on Killerplants dot com

FACT: Five hundred thousand is a rough guesstimate of the number of plant species on the face of the Earth.

Of this 500,000, there are 3,000 species that provide some edible portion to humans. Edible food portions include, leaves, roots, nuts, and fruits.

Of these 3,000 species, only about 150 are regularly cultivated by humans.

(I wonder how much of the 3,000 are in the Americas?)

Of the 150 cultivated plants, only 12 supply most of the food our world consumes.

The critical 12 cultivated plants are...


  1. corn (Zea mays)
  2. rice (Oryza sativa)
  3. wheat (Triticum aestivum)


  1. common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
  2. soybean (Glycine max)

The roots:

  1. white potato (Solanum tuberosum)
  2. sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)
  3. cassava (Manihot esculenta)

Sugar sources:

  1. sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum)
  2. sugar beet (Beta vulgaris)

Pan-tropical fruits:

  1. coconut (Cocos nucifera)
  2. bananna (Musa Spp.)
Add to your wild edible knowledge and supplement the critical 12 cultivated food plants.
Register HERE for Earth Connection's:

21 April Spring Edibles Class
19 May NEW Organic Gardening Class

Killerplants™ is a website for gardeners, plant lovers, collectors, and people interested in the natural world. Killerplants attempts to instill a way of rethinking our world adding a bit of respect so that it will not be lost forever. Killerplants publishes five newsletters that might be of interest to those of you who desire to learning more about the plant kingdom.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Joys of Spring Edibles

The popular Earth Connection Spring Wild Edible Plant class is rapidly approaching (April 21). This course focuses on the different edible plants available in our region during the spring. We will spend copious time guiding students through our school's different mid-Atlantic habitats identifying, collecting and frequently sampling wild plant foods, as well as pointing out harmful plants to avoid.

The class will cover approximately 40 plants, shrubs and trees. Proper identification and use of plants include, whether plants are native or introduced, when and where to safely collect plants and conservation techniques. Each student will receive an Earth Connection plant handout with color photos and written plant information with plenty of room for notes. Wild edible snacks are a part of each course regardless of season and spring is our favorite time for wild food snacks. Many of the wild plant snacks are prepared ahead of time, using some modern ingredients. The wild food menu may contain some items with dairy, eggs and/or meat.

Sign up here

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Survive THIS!

Over the March 24-25 weekend, Earth Connection (EC) held its popular Wilderness Survival course that instructed 11 students on a variety of year-round life saving wilderness survival skills using modern gear and some historic & primitive outdoor skills. Tim, Hue and Jamey gathered their knowledge and delivered a two day educational smörgåsbord on how to keep your three pounds of meat (brain) alive when lost in the wilds.

Instruction included survival's rule of fours, tarp shelters, basics of making and utilizing fire, collecting and purifying water, wilderness food, staying found (not getting lost), signaling, and survival kits... to give you just a hint of the topics that were covered.

Sean B. who attended the class gave this testimonial, “Just wanted... to say again how much I enjoyed the class. The info was well presented and you struck just the right balance between serious instruction and hanging out… you guys are like the proverbial heroin dealer; i.e. get’em hooked and keep’em coming back... [BTW,] was stuck on the beltway this morning in a suit and tie looking at the roadside weeds and thinking about cordage!”

Food gathering instruction, always a favorite topic when you are hungry, include collecting and preparing nutritious edible plants, four different traps unique to this course, and survival fishing. We even dined on Jamey's delicious squirrel stew.