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!

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