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, 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.