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!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

The Earth Connection family wishes everyone who attended our classes in 2008 a wonderful and happy holiday. Those of you who could not make it to an EC class this past year... well, we wish you the best too!!
Survive Smarter, Not Harder!
Why learn primitive skills from the not-so-in-touch with their primitive self? Learn from the best... Earth Connection. 250, 000 years of hunter-gatherer skills in one school. Now that is cool.

You choose!

Tim, Hue, Wes, Hardee and Todd -- the original cavemen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fire Palooza in a Family Basket

EC recently held thefirst triple deluxe set of classes contained by one entire weekend at Earth Connection school in VA--Fire Palooza, Primitive Basket Making and a EC family friendly class with Kate's family.

Wes Massey, a Fire Plow Boy, conducted Fire Palooza, Earth Connection's friction fire making extravaganza, with Hue's help. Tim taught the basket making class with the help from Jamey's dextrous fingers.
Despite the cooler weather and some moisture in the air the Palooza class actually make fire the island way--fire plow. Wes was a proud fire father coaching the crew on to a coal and nuturing into full flame. Hand drill was more challenging that day than the fire plow, but Wes pushed one out anyway. He's a stud when it comes to hand drill technique.

Baskets materials were provided for the first coil basket. Later in the day the group collected local wisteria vines to make their own wild baskets. If it was spring all would have been annoyed with the constant pounding for the production of oak splints. But, the pounding always produces a fine burden basket.

The family class took place in the new wicciup Tim made for Kate and family. Stories and tales punctuated the clay bowl making and other skills that were presented. The kiddies had fun even though the cold was a little uncomfortable.

Monday, September 22, 2008

North Carolina Games and More

On Saturday, EC-NC hosted its first survival workshop. The participants used a few pieces of equipment they might have with them in a survival situation to create shelter, build a fire, boil water, and even do a bit of fishing and trapping (everyone escaped their own traps unscathed).

As always, Wes Massey impressed the group with his ability to make fire seem to appear out of nothing. He also showed courage by demonstrating his faith in iodine tablets for water purification by drinking the water Hardee Merritt obtained "from somewhere." We expect him to make a full recovery.

The group came away with a greater appreciation for the elements needed to survive in the wilderness, and the reassurance that the necessary resources are available to them, if they just know how to look.

On Sunday the intrepid band of EC-NC instructors took on twenty-two even-more-intrepid young warriors. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta squads raced through the woods, swinging over a perilous chasm, walking a rope bridge, and encountering numerous obstacles in their path to be the first groups to return to base.

Later, armed with swords and armored for battle, these promising fighters defended their group's flag to the death on the field of glory. Returning to camp after a bloody afternoon, they had the opportunity to improve themselves with lessons in fire safety and other wilderness skills.

The highlight of the afternoon was an unusual repast of copperhead snake (minus the head), roasted over the fire by chef Massey.

Everyone had a great time, and returned home to tell their valiant tales.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Earth Connection - North Carolina's First Fire

EC-NC, the newest addition to the Earth Connection family, held their very first classes on 23-24 Aug, Emergency Fire Skills (half-day) and a youth survival class.

The inaugural Emergency Fire Skills class enjoyed a beautiful afternoon on Saturday. Wes Massey led the class through a wide assortment of fire skills from identifying and locating good tinder to appropriate location and construction, to the proper use of modern and primitive fire starting tools.

Walking around the woods, Wes showed everyone how to identify trees such as tulip poplar, cedar and birch, and how to harvest resources from each. Discussing the best way to get a fire started in the rain, Wes gave an impressive illustration of the value of "fat wood" from a dead pine.

By the end of the day, everyone had tried their hand at using a bow drill, had given a lot more thought to carrying fire tools, and had enjoyed a few hours in good company appreciating the variety of natural resources available if they need them.

On Sunday, the youth class had an exciting time exploring the woods. The group built a sturdy shelter out of readily-available materials that would have protected them from the elements easily in an emergency survival situation. Throughout the class, the instructors emphasized ways of avoiding becoming lost, staying safe, and enjoying the outdoors.

There was one interesting character visiting the school that provided the band of survivors with some excitement and laughs.

Our wily crew easily caught a fish from the pond, and learned how some primitive fishermen might have done that work. This valiant band of young woodsmen had a great time, and are looking forward to seeing more wildlife at the next EC-NC class.

All of the attendees were present and accounted-for at the end of the class, and in mostly the same condition in which they arrived.

This weekend will go down in Earth Connection history!!

Monday, August 04, 2008

EC @ Ninjutsu Mountain Quest

Tim MacWelch, An-shu Steven K. Hayes, Rick Hueston

This past weekend Earth Connection participated at North Carolina Quest Center's request in their annual Mountain Quest seminar. Mountain Quest seminar, unique to the North Carolina Quest Center, consists of a three-day event in the North Carolina Mountains at a location reminiscent of the original Togakure mountain training ground of the ninja warriors of the past. It is here they learn new skills and promote their newest black belts.

The founder of the To-Shin Do Ninjutsu An-shu Steven K. Hayes provided seminars in special martial arts skills that were not only impressive, but also inspiring. Earth Connection staff provided friction fire demonstrations and participated in the seminars.

Stephen K. Hayes was the first martial artist in the western world to be taught the secrets of Ninjutsu by the 34th generation Grand Master Masaaki Hatsumi in Japan. Mr. Hayes organized these teachings into an easily understandable curriculum called To Shin Do.

The North Carolina Quest Center is the first to open in North Carolina. It was founded by cardiologist and martial artist Richard S. Stack, M.D. Dr. Stack practices Cardiology at Duke and and has lived in Chapel Hill/Durham for the past 20 years. He is a fifth degree black belt and a Master Instructor in Ninjutsu. He is the personal student of both Stephen K. Hayes and Grand Master Masaaki Hatsumi, with whom he has trained extensively in the United States and in Japan for the past 14 years.
Tim and Hue were honored to be gifted this unprecedented experience. We met so many wonderful people that will hold special memories in us both. We are also looking forward to offering our brand of survival and wilderness skills training to more of their students. In a way, we compliment each others goals of self-development and self-sufficiency.

Other links of interest:
Steven K. Hayes Dayton Ohio Quest Center

Friday, August 01, 2008

Earth Connection - North Carolina Ribbon Cutting

Tim MacWelch, EC founder, and Wes Massey, EC-NC head instructor

It is official, the Earth Connection branch near Raleigh/durham North Carolina (EC-NC) is open for training.

Welcome to the family!

This new Earth Connection affiliate is run by Wes Massey, Hardee Merritt & Todd Magers; along with the help from many of their colleagues at the North Carolina Quest Center.

Tim and Hue visited the property EC-NC purchased to train Earth Connection's newest students recently for the ribbon cutting. It has so many possibilities. The site has a pond with fish (hmmm... primitive fishing skills), access to a large stream that feeds into a larger lake (hmmm... kayaking survival adventures), 10+ acres of trees (hmmm... area for a ropes course) and many, many resources for primitive skills classes.

Attend a class and experience the difference that EC-NC is making.

BTW, these guys are good. We are not telling you this because we have to, but because we know they are. We trained them. In particular, their friction fire skills are impeccable. We expect this affiliate to grow beyond all expectations. Sign up for a class soon!

Earth Connection - North Carolina 2008 Class Schedule

August 23rd – Emergency Fire Skills - Half Day

A well constructed fire can dry your clothes; increase your core temperature, cook your food, purify your water, and light your way. This course will cover skills including fire safety, proper fire materials, fire lay construction, and many methods of starting and maintaining fires, both modern and primitive.

September 20th – Survival Strategies I - Full Day

Do you know what constitutes a survival situation and how to properly navigate it? In this course we go over both modern and primitive skills necessary in any survival situation. Topics of instruction include: priorities of survival, survival kit construction, fire strategies, and building and using tarp shelters.

October 11th – Friction Fire - Full Day

This course will focus on the Bow Drill and the Hand Drill methods of Friction Fire. Proper construction and implementation of fire making equipment will be emphasized along with fire safety, tinder and firewood selection, and the construction of a primitive fireplace.

November 1 – S
urvival Strategies II - Full Day

Like Survival Strategies I, this course covers crucial skills to ensure your safety and well-being in any survival situation. You do not have to attend Survival Strategies I to attend Survival Strategies II. Topics include: Priorities of Survival, leaf hut shelter construction, tracking, stalking, primitive fishing, trapping skills, primitive cooking, using fire to make wooden dishes and making string using plants and bark.

Here is Earth Connection - North Carolina's Staff:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

EC T-Shirt/Bag/Thong Sale

Beginning on July 28, 2008 CAFEPRESS will be implementing Base Price increases to some of EC products.

With the rising cost of goods and labor modest, price increases became a necessary business decision for CAFEPRESS.


We at EC will not raise the price for EC products until 1 January 2009. We'll take it in the pants for you. Helping you survive the economic downturn with a price hold. Think of it as a SALE.

Visit the EC CAFEPRESS Store to get your T-shirts, mugs and hats. Even the EC thong is on price hold.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Two New Week-Long Classes @ EC

We have just added 2 new classes to our summer class schedule. They are jam packed full of smart and realistic skills.

We have combined several very practical and popular classes to offer a 5-day Primitive Skills Week and a 5-day Ultimate Survival Week.

PRIMITIVE SKILLS WEEK - July 21-25, 2008

This course is a 5-day immersion in the Primitive Skills world, living much like our ancestors have lived before you or I. Get ready to see if you can leave the modern world behind!

Students will learn how to build a leaf hut shelter, without tools or cord. We will spend an entire day learning and practicing our vital fire making skills, including the ways to collect and prepare tinder and kindling and how to do friction fire making with the bow drill and hand drill.

We will learn the following skills: primitive tool making, primitive water gathering and purification, four primitive traps, how to make a rabbit hunting stick, primitive fishing, primitive cooking, food preservation and storage, wicker basketry from vines, plant and tree bark string, and burning out wooden bowls and spoons. Finally, an entire day will be devoted to Wild Edible Plants, the food source that can't run away.

ULTIMATE SURVIVAL WEEK - August 11-15, 2008

This is a brilliant 5-day combination of our Primitive Skills and Wilderness Survival classes. If you're not ready for the outdoors after this one, you weren't paying attention in class.

Our information packed class will cover modern wilderness survival skills with primitive skills as the ultimate back up plan. You may not have any modern survival supplies in an emergency, but you've always got sticks and stones (and we'll give you the knowledge of how to use them).

The curriculum includes: The Priorities of Survival, how not to get lost in the first place, how to signal for rescue, what to put in survival kits, building and camping out in one of the many tarp shelters to be covered, collecting and purifying water with several modern methods, and basics of making and utilizing fire (including flint & steel, batteries, magnifying lens, waterproofing matches and tinder). Food gathering instruction will include collecting and preparing nutritious edible plants, four different traps unique to this course, how to make a rabbit hunting stick and survival fishing. How to sharpen a knife with a stone, knots and string making will also be covered.

Students will learn how to build a leaf hut shelter, without tools or cord, how to collect and prepare tinder and kindling, how to make a friction fire with the bow drill, primitive tool making, primitive water gathering and purification. Primitive cooking, food preservation and storage, wicker basketry from vines, plant and tree bark string, and burning out wooden bowls and spoons will also be covered.

Please call or email for more details and availability.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Primitive Trapping - New Class

EC held their first Primitive Trapping class this past weekend. We learned how to work with simple traps; like the basic wire/cordage snare, simple bent sapling trigger, Graves trigger, and Paiute deadfall. Each student was able to practice the selected primitive traps before we continued instruction that included local trapping regulations, animal behavior and habits, baiting, trapping safety, non-lethal practice trapping and trap descenting.

We taught as much information as we could, limited by the one day class, that would give the basic skills need to understand the art of trapping primitively. Although these skills are mainly for survival, there is much to learn from practicing trapping skills; like animal behavior and tacking.

Vickie sets her paiute deadfall

EC highly recommends obtaining a state trapping license to practice modern trapping for all the lessons we could not teach in our one day class.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Attention EC Locavores - Organic Gardening Class is Coming 18 May

Eating locally and the 100-mile diet are becoming familiar and vogue concepts in recent times. rising food prices and the burgeoning food shortages worldwide, mostly due to ill-advised political decision to support plant based fuel production and Weather induced crops loss (possibly attributed to global warming trends) leave many of us one trucker strike (probably from the fast rising cost of fuel) away from helplessness and hunger.

A locavore is someone who eats food grown or produced locally or within a certain radius such as 50, 100, or 150 miles (your own backyard). "Locavore" was coined by Jessica Prentice from San Francisco Bay Area on the occasion of World Environment Day 2005. The locavore movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to produce their own food, with the argument that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Local grown food is an environmentally friendly means of obtaining food, since supermarkets that import their food use more fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.

The New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore as its word of the year 2007. Some locavores draw inspiration from the 100-Mile Diet or from advocates of local eating like Barbara Kingsolver whose book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" chronicles her family's attempts to eat locally. Barbara is quoted, "...if every American citizen would eat just one local and organically-grown meal a week, the savings in fuel [alone] would amount to 1.1 million barrels of oil every week."

You are what you eat... but, what is at the end of your spork and how it got there is most important.

What's a family to do? I'll tell you what... take Earth Connection's organic gardening and wild edibles classes to find a partial solution to what might seem as a bleak future.

Besides the benefits to your dinner table there are added benefits to local sustainable growth including the encouragement and support of small local farmers. Learning wild edibles provides food for just the energy expended in finding and preparing, while planting your own small organic garden increases the size of your brain...

Yes, you have to learn a whole new skill, but it is good for you just like food from your organic garden or your backyard.

Ref: Local food. (2008, May 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:28, May 6, 2008, from

Monday, May 05, 2008

EC Primitive Trapping Class - 17 May

Trapping is an art. The most important thing an artist should know before applying his artful techniques is to see; in other words, the trapper must know the animal he/she intends to trap and I mean all of it's habits and traits in detail like you were the animal itself. This takes much study and observation, including tracking dirt time.

Tangently, and less important, you need to know how to create a trap that will capture your target animal.

Knowing where to put your trap to catch an animal is trapping.

Also, in this modern world of laws and regulations, knowing the local trapping laws that govern the art is important (like many primitive traps are illegal). In class we show non-lethal primitive traps so you can practice them without the jail time.

We advice students who are interested in learning how to trap primitively to obtain a state trapping license and practice the art of trapping with modern trapping techniques. There is not much difference from modern trapping and primitive trapping other than the style of trap.

In our class we teach only a few simple, but effective primitive traps for use in survival situations. The idea here is repetition learning three or four types of traps that can be modified to serve various purposes and situations. Learning the animal is a self-study homework assignment.

Knowing animal behavior and how to make and use one or two traps is so much better than knowing how to make all kinds of primitive traps and not knowing the animal.

See you in class

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Spring Edibles @ Abram's Creek Lodge and Campground

It's early afternoon on 3 May and the sun is waining behind some ominous clouds coming over the mountains that are west of Abram's Creek Lodge and Campground. The Wild Edibles class will go rain or shine and RAIN it did. We didn't get too wet. But we identified and tasted many wild plants that day.

There were even some very knowledgeable students this time who contributed greatly to the class... especially Doc? Thanks for the hints and the 318 mb CD reference on useful wild plants.

We covered the usual edibles but we were all there for the Ramps (wild leeks). We collected enough for an awesome dinner feeding nine or so students and lodge residents. The favorite was the Tasty Ramp and Potato Soup.

Tasty Ramp/Potato Soup
  • 4-6 slices of bacon (they make anything taste great, but in this case it was for the salty oil it leaves behind after cooking)
  • 4 cups of chopped ramps (mostly greens)
  • 4-5 cups diced potatoes (use your favorites... I like the Idahos)
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of HEAVY cream (Yeah!!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Prep: In a large skillet, dutch oven or deep pan, fry bacon until crispy; set aside. Add Ramps and potatoes; fry on medium-low heat until the ramps are tender. Sprinkle in the flour; stir until absorbed. Sir in Chicken broth; simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4-6.
Due to an unseasonable warm spring ramp season came early this year to Abram's Creek and we almost missed out. We were on the tail end of the harvest this year and they had already started to brown on the tips. This wild edible is one of the finest you will ever come across. Mountain people of the Southeast have honored these onion/garlic flavored plants for decades. They celebrate with festivals all around West Virginia. We just had our own small personal Ramp festival in the Abram's Creek kitchen.

EC will be conducting more classes at Abram's Creek in the future. They are growing into a thriving campground with so much to do and see. I recommend camping there.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lost? Not EC Students... Land Navigation

On 26-27 April, EC conducted its first Land Navigation class with 11 eager to get lost students. I am proud to say, no one got lost. But, that is not to say that they didn't try. I won't even mention the student who demonstrated extremely well the tendency for everyone to circle when lost.

Land navigation requires the use of many tools; the more experienced the navigator, the more tools he will utilize. Obvious examples of the simpler tools available are the protractor, map, compass, and pace count. Less obvious examples, that will take experience to appreciate, are the terrain, sun, stars, the direction water flows, wildlife, etc. As with any skill, proficiency in land navigation is based upon a firm knowledge of basic "tools."

This two day class covered all the basics tools of land navigation, including introduction to topographical maps and map symbols, pace counts to find distance, compass with and without a map, expedient direction finding (sun, stars, watch... all the standards and a few more), and a hands-on exercise in Shenandoah Mountain bushwhacking near Old Rag Mountain. We went over time in the first day's instruction. Despite the rain on both days we all learned to use map and compass.

The instruction that offered the most difficulty was declination adjustment. We are modifying this for next year. The handout was the most comprehensive we have made to date (over 24 pages). This too will be modified for next year to make the class even better, though everyone admitted that the class was not only educational but fun too!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Earth Connection Private Classes

Earth Connection continues to offer a limited number of private classes (One-on-One or Small Group with Tim MacWelch) during weekdays, Monday thru Friday (9am to 4pm), but not weekends cause that is when we hold our regular classes. You pick your class from our website or customize your own, schedule the date with Tim MacWelch, and then attend the class at our camp near Somerville, Virginia. Prices remain the same as regular classes… mostly cause Tim likes to give bargains to supporters of Earth Connection.

One day classes are currently available at $80 per person, run from 9am to 4pm and include the following classes - Friction Fire Making - Winter Wild Edible Plants - Tracks and Sign - Basketry - Friction Fire Materials Identification - Or your own custom class!

Custom classes are available for a slight $20 per day price increase for extra planning. Two day classes with overnight campout are $200 per person, run from 9am on the first day to 4pm on the second day and include the following classes - Wilderness Survival - Primitive Skills (condensed 2 day version).

These Private classes are the only time that Teenagers accompanied by a parent can attend our classes… call or write for more info.

We also offer special professional grade classes for US Government, Military and Law Enforcement personnel. These courses are also open to The Department of Defense; Game Wardens; Wildlife Management personnel; State and private Search and Rescue teams; Professional guides and outfitters; High risk government and civilian employees; Instructors and staff for outdoor intervention programs... just to name a few.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Are You Missing the Friction Fire Articles?

The Mini Tinder Bundle

I know this is kind of random, but I was thinking fondly of some old friends the other day. I remembered a very fun little contest we used to have. It was the "Mini Tinder Bundle Contest". You probably have already gotten an idea of how it works. Who can produce a flame with the most tiny tinder bundle possible?? We all got quite good at working small bundles of premium tinder. It was typical to see one little spurt of flame that lasted about 3 seconds from a cotton ball sized tinder bundle.

What's the point of playing such a game?? Well, foremost is the practice of frugality. There are usually many fires contained in the wood of the average fire kit. But there are only so many fires in a bag full of tinder. We always had plenty of fire kits lying around, but we made so many fires that we were always running out of tinder. That's how the contest was born.

We made lots of coals, and couldn't bear to just crush them out or let them starve. So we always made a little flame somehow, before letting the coal go out. Call it an offering to the Creator if you need to qualify it. We rarely spoke of such lofty things. It just never seemed right to try too hard to explain the Chain of Fire Command. Which is, if you were wondering… More

The Arctic Mouth Drill

The Arctic Mouth Drill technique and accompanying fire kit are remarkable adaptations in extreme cold weather Friction Fire Making. They are also testaments to the creativity, toughness and artistry of our northernmost brothers and sisters. The Arctic fire kits in the Smithsonian Institute collection range from raw and elegantly simple utilitarian fire kits - to beautiful and yet functional pieces of art.

These kits were often made from a very limited supply of materials, like bone, leather and driftwood. Sometimes that driftwood was even Oak! A brutal wood for drills and boards! Some would say an impossible wood for friction fire. The kit in the drawing above was collected in the 1800's near the Anderson River in British Columbia by C.P. Gaudet, then added to the Smithsonian collection in Washington DC.

The kit was later examined, drawn, described and possibly tested by Walter Hough. Mr. Hough then wrote a document called "Fire-Making Apparatus In The U.S. National Museum" which was published in a Smithsonian internal document in 1888. This rare document yielded jewels of information like… More

Visit Tim MacWelch's Field Guide to Friction Fire website for more friction fire articles.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lashings Make Your Shelter Secure

We often get questions on how to build safe and secure shelters.

Well, building a tee-pee, a lean-to or any substantial sheltering structure requires a few simple knots and lashings, rope or cordage (lots of it) and of course the wood or poles. Knots are used to make loops, to connect rope together or to join rope to other objects.

Lashings, however, are used to bind two poles that cross each other at 45 to 90 degree angles, which usually occur in larger shelters. The square lashing is considered one of the most secure methods to lash poles that are relatively the same size.

Below is a lashing how-to and suggestions for safe and secure effort:

Position the poles at 90 degrees angles to each other.

A clove hitch is generally tied on the vertical or load-bearing pole at the bottom to support the horizontal or cross piece.

The end or tail of the clove hitch is twisted around and then tucked under the running end to lock the hitch and finish the knot neatly.

Wrap the rope in a square fashion three times around the poles: over the cross pole, the top of the vertical pole, the other side of the cross pole and the bottom of the vertical pole. Three neat revolutions will provide a solid and strong connection. Crossed turns 'pinch' and may damage the rope.

Make a frapping turn by wrapping the rope over the top of the vertical pole to point the rope in the opposite direction.

Now wrap the rope 3 times in the same square fashion in the other direction.

End the lashing with a final clove hitch or two half hitches on the vertical pole.

If extra rope remains, finished end with a half hitch or two.

Once complete you are on your way to constructing a safe and secure structure.

Happy shelter building. --Jamey

Monday, February 18, 2008

Field and Stream Columnist Learns Wild Edible Plants

Field and Stream’s columnist, Bill Heavey, is learning mid-Atlantic wild edibles jointly from our own Hue through Ancestral Knowledge and Earth Connection. Bill Heavey has come to learn from our hard gained wild edible knowledge to build on his own knowledge-base. Who knows, maybe Ancestral Knowledge and Earth Connection will give him some material for his column.

Bill Heavey’s Column

Bill Heavey has been a professional journalist for over 20 years and our favorite type of journalist too—full-time freelance outdoors writer (there are so few of them left these days).

Bill is currently an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, where he has written since 1993. He has also contributed to Modern Maturity, Readers Digest, National Geographic Traveler, Field and Stream, Men's Journal, Outside, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Best American Magazine Writing and Washingtonian Magazine. He has been recognized for his written work with two prestigious National Magazine Award nominations and awarded the American Pain Society’s (APS) first journalist award, the Kathleen M. Foley Journalist Award. I even hear he was nominated for president of the United States in 2008 by one of his fans. The only one I know personally besides him being nominated is my Grandmother (okay, so I nominated her in 2000).

Field and Stream has seen fit to bundle some of Heavey's best work into a single volume, If You Didn't Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat? (Atlantic Monthly Press, $23). Amazon’s note on his book states, “[Field and Stream’s] first collection of Heavey’s sidesplitting observations on life as a hardcore (but often hapless) outdoors man. Whether he’s hunting cougars in the southwest desert, scheming to make his five-year-old daughter fall in love with fishing, or chronicling his father’s slow decline through the lens of the numerous dogs he’s owned over seventy-five years, Heavey is a master at blending humor and pathos—and wide-ranging outdoor enthusiasms that run the gamut from elite to ordinary—into a poignant and potent cocktail. Funny, warmhearted, and supremely entertaining, this book is an uproarious addition to the literature of the outdoors.”

Funniest outdoor book we've read in a long time. Recommended.

Hue, the LoneNomadic.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Organic “Victory” Gardens Fight Climate Change

Let’s bring back the Victory gardens. Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, are vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted in home yards and city lots to change local food habits and help fight climate change. These gardens are in the spirit of our grandparents gardening efforts during World War I and World War II that helped to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. Since most of our food travels a minimum of 1500 miles to get to our tables, locally grown seasonal foods reduce the amount of carbon used to produce, package and ship our food supplies. Grow your own food and help save the planet.

Let’s just look at a two small examples, strawberries and butter cookies.

First, Strawberries. It’s January… I have to ask, why do you need strawberries in January? Do you know where they come from? Eighty percent of commercially grown strawberries are from California's farms, where each acre produces about 21 tons of berries. Approximately one billion pounds of strawberries a year are grown in the state. They have to be shipped from California which is over 3000 miles away. Or they likely came from south of the equator like Chile or Peru, which is infinitely farther away than California. Do you really need strawberries? Then, grow them yourself and freeze or dry them for the winter months.

Second, butter cookies. I have seen in the supermarkets butter cookies from Norway. Okay, so we have a great international relationship with Norway, but do we really have to waste precious fuel to ship butter cookies from Norway to the United States when we can make them here? We are killing our grandchildren to feed our children… the death of a thousand cuts. Reduce your reliance on this off-kilter system. Dig up your lawn and plant an edible garden. No lawn??… put plants in pots on your patio or balcony. Live in an a high-rise with no balcony?… use your rooftop, sprout some seeds, or visit your local farmer’s market. The bottom-line is changing your eating habits, eat with the seasons and find ways to beat the food system that is contributing to climate change and global warming.

Let’s fight global warming with a victory garden.

So, with all that said… what if this doesn’t work? What if the change is inevitable? Well, then you are even better off with organic gardening knowledge to help you through the tough times ahead. Expect changes in weather to change temperature and moisture patterns nationwide. The global ecosystem exists in a finely tuned state of balance, and warmer temperatures will dramatically change the playing field for all plants, domesticated and wild. The North regions of the United States are expected to gain as much as a whole hardiness zone or even more.

The National Arbor Day Foundation (NADF) released in 2006 an updated version of the U.S Department of Agriculture’s hardiness zone map, which was last updated in 1990. They have an animation that illustrates the general warming that has occurred from 1990 to 2006. Go to the NADF website to view the updated climate zone map. You can also look up your own climate zone, or compare the old USDA climate zones to the new NADF ones.

Though this may result in the extinction of numerous indigenous species as their growing conditions are modified it will also bring more possibilities for differing plant species. However, change also brings many differing pests and pathogens not seen before because our previously cold winters kept them at bay. Develop strategies to take advantage of the changes like planting more and differing plant species every year.

Adapt, experiment, overcome, and survive.

Learn more with Earth Connection at our Organic Gardening class 18 May.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Friction Fire with Conifers?

Last weekend I (Wes from Earth Connection – North Carolina) and my daughter (age 11) headed into the mountains of NC where I have a cabin for some cold weather friction fire training. My original idea was to try out three types of conifers, found almost everywhere here, as friction fire components; boards, spindles, and hand-holds.

“Conifers?” you say… Well, I know they are not the normal choice for friction fire kits because of the resins in the wood, but what if it is all you got? The three trees species I was planning to work with on this trip were the Carolina Hemlock, Eastern Hemlock and the White Pine that are indigenous to the higher elevations in the north western part of NC.

As I got closer to the mountains the temperature dropped to a frigid 13 and there was a slight wind that brought frigid down to bone chilling. Six inches of snow still covered the ground from precipitation earlier that week. I took a two-mile hike into the mountain woods and along the way I gathered my materials.

I decided early on to go without gloves to simulate a potential survival scenario and test myself. It’s so much harder to grab and hold on to things when your hands are affected by the cold. I remember Tim’s MacWelch’s class on hypothermia and performed the hypotheria check--tapping a one handed tune between fingers and thumb… yup, no problem. I remember as a kid coming in after playing hard for hours in the snow that I couldn’t unzip my own jacket. Tim says, “that the first sign of encroaching hypothermia is loss of dexterity in your hands along with shivering.” I wasn't shivering, but still I was cold.

As I gathered my friction fire kit materials I also gathered my tinder and kindling giving me lots of stuff to hold that kept my hands out of my warm pockets. My daughter was very helpful in finding and gathering and preparing the tinder bundle that ended up working perfectly. After about one and half hours of collecting we returned to the cabin to begin the friction fire experiments with the three types of conifers. My hands and fingers were mostly numb by then making this exercise most difficult. The only tool I used to make the kit was a small Swiss army knife that I carry on me at all times.

I spent about half an hour making a few boards and spindles with cold numb hands before beginning to spin with my ready-made bow. I was surprised with the results. I was successful at making a coal and blowing into flame using both types of Hemlock as either board or spindle. However, the White Pine was not much of a success. My observation is that the Hemlocks have far less pitch than the White Pine affecting coal creation.

My daughter also gave the bow drill kit a go, but all she was able to get was smoke... no coal formed. I think she had only hot chocolate on her mind, and to be honest, I did too; my hands were freezing by this point. Time for cocoa.

Learning note for the friction fire crew: You should try all different types of wood as various parts of your friction kit and have your own database on available wood material that work in your area. Or, as I like to call them, my “Go-To” wood. In addition, try your skills in adverse conditions because if you are ever in a survival situation it will probably not be 75 degrees and sunny. Oh, and have the hot chocolate already brewing on the stove before you get started. ;-)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wild Oyster Mushroom Soup

Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) usually appear in a cascading shelf from the surface of dead hardwood trees after the first rains of the fall season. I was lucky to have found a small crop growing from a small fruit tree stump near my home in Baltimore. I immediately snarfed them up into the plastic bag I had in my pocket that was originally intended for cleaning up after the dog. Someone else had to deal with the dog pile that day. I admired the mushroom up close and smelled them to be absolutely positive that it was an Oyster Mushroom. Yup, there was the slightly delicate asian aroma of what some describe as anise that is typical of this mushroom. I’m off to make lunch!

The Oyster cap is, not surprisingly, oyster or scallop shaped, sometimes with wavy edges, has a variable color from white to gray or tan to dark-brown and has a slight anise-like aroma. Oyster mushrooms contain a small amount of arabitol that is know to cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. The likely culpret is arabitol, a sugar alcohol similar to xylitol, manitol and sorbitol that are widely used food additives. What makes this such a prized mushroom is that this sweet quality is not lost in cooking.

Cleaning. Cut off the lower part of the stems of all oyster varieties to remove any shreds of wood or debris. The stems tend to be tough, so discard them unless you are processing your mushrooms in a blender. Be certain to flush out the gill spaces with water because they can be filled with soil and, especially, insects (unless you want that kind of extra protein in your food). Use a minimum amount of water and gently dry with paper or cloth towels. All species of Pleurotus are cleaned in the same manner.

Cooking. Asian chefs are famous for using Oyster mushrooms in stir-fried dishes, since the cap is thin and cooks quickly. You can tear the mushroom into minute sizes before adding it to your oiled wok or pan at the last stage of cooking whatever stir-fry you have going, they cook quickly. I particularly like them in a blended soup.

Preserving. Oyster mushrooms will dehydrate quickly and store easily in your pantry. When used dry, they are usually added to a dish without rehydration.
What’s for lunch? Well, I like a hot creamy soup during the cold months to keep me warm from the inside and we still had some surviving thyme in our herb garden that might not survive much longer if the temperature falls again. Taking what I had in the herb garden, pantry and fridge, I easily decided on wild mushroom soup with thyme.

Here is what I prepared:


· 4 tablespoons butter ( ½ stick) – I like butter too much
· 1/3 cup minced shallots – you can use wild onions or wild garlic
· 1 ½ pound fresh wild mushrooms – we had some shiitake and crimini in the fridge that I added
· 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
· 3 garlic cloves minced
· 8 or so cups chicken broth
· 1 pound potatoes, peeled and chunked
· ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms – we had these in the pantry which were added for additional flavor
· 2 glugs of Madeira – cooking wine with an interesting history (Madeira a particularly stable wine with a shot of brandy, designed to last long ship voyages, was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and it was used to toast the Declaration of Independence.)


melt butter in large pot. Add shallots and saute 1 minute. Add fresh mushrooms; saute until tender. Add thyme and garlic; saute another 15 or so minutes. Add 6 cups of broth, potatoes and died porcini, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered until potatoes are falling apart, maybe 25 minutes. Puree in a blender and return to the pot. Add Madeira and the rest of the broth. Season with salt and pepper… bring soup to simmer and serve.

This article is making me hungry for Oyster Mushrooms again... Happy oyster hunting!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

EC Blog Now Open for Comments

We have decided to open our blog to comments from anyone who desires to leave them. Tell us what you think, tell us what you want us to write about, tell us what you are up to in skills development, tell us... well, you get the idea.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Earth Connection Field Training

On December 27th some of Earth Connection’s Staff (Tim, Wes and Hardy) hit the road to do a little field training in the mountains of North Carolina near Grand Father Mountain. The weather was very favorable for December. At 4000 feet it was sunny and a balmy 60 degrees. We hiked into the wilderness and headed down to a known water fall about one mile from where we parked the vehicle, descending about 1200 feet. On the way we saw lots of wildlife sign, but few wild edible plants. Typical for a forest with little edge area.

After a short stay at the waterfall we noticed the waning daylight and decided to locate a good camping site. After another hour or so of hiking we found a great little overhang to make camp. We built up one side of the overhang to act as a wind break, then we did what we do best, make friction fire (maybe).

The problem was that our fine sunny 60 degree day turned into overcast and damp, which was not totally unexpected because we were in is a temperate rain forest. But, it is a good place to put your friction fire making skills to the test. Things started off well with a coal in the first few minutes. But, it went south from there.

The first coal was very small; we added degraded wood dust to extend its life and decided to go with it. No luck and no flame because our tinder was too damp. Also, to add to our troubles, no more coals. After a couple of hours with no coals and broken down bow drill kits we decided to use a less then primitive way to start a fire (a ferrocerium rod, the magic sparking metal-match or "flint" found in lighters).

Remembering Tim MacWelch’s friction fire class adage, “And that is why you should always have two or more ways to start a fire on you at all times!”

The night was quiet and uneventful, mostly because Tim would not let anyone give up ghost stories. As morning came so did the steady rain. The over hang we had slept in worked great we were all dry as a bone due to making shelter as our first priority even before the hours of the friction fire fiasco. After a quick bite to eat we hiked out and headed out of the high country.

“Survive smarter not harder.”