The Earth Skills Correspondence Course is a ten block course that leads students through the skills of wilderness survival, in your own bioregion. It emphasizes the mastery of shelter, water, fire, camp skills, plants and trees, cooking, safety & hazards, attitude & philosophy and instructor training. Ricardo Sierra mentors the course through e-mail, this blog and a private Facebook Group, and students are self-guided. The course provides a wealth of skills and a powerful foundation from which to build and grow in any personal or wilderness study direction.
Get more information about this learning tool here: The Earth Skills Correspondence Course

Friday, October 24, 2008

Passion and Commitment

Most of you who are reading this blog are committed in many ways to learning earth skills, to getting closer to nature, to finding your vision and walking a strong path. I would bet that all of you are passionate about learning and growing, too.

At Hawk Circle, I haven't really pushed the whole 'Passion and Commitment' thing, because I think it can be overused. I think people can beat themselves up over going out to dinner rather than staying home and making acorns. I have seen students become almost immobilized by their worry that they aren't passionate enough. Or committed. Have you seen this?

I guess the bottom line is, for me, anyway, that I don't want someone to feel bad about themselves. I don't think that is the way we are going to really learn our skills. Or atleast, it shouldn't be that way. Because it just doesn't feel good. And if you start to associate not feeling good with wilderness skills, or getting outside, then it is a bad trend.

Guilt trips don't really work. Boot camp doesn't really work, long term. What I have seen work is being inspired. Connecting with that spark that comes from sweet discovery of a new track, or finding an awesome new berry, or making a superb bow. Hearing a story about how native people lived can be inspiring. Hearing stories about one of your friend's camping trips, or newly learned skills, definitely is inspiring!

When I am feeling low, or flat, and I don't feel like I am all that passionate, I do a couple of things. I go visit people I know who are passionate. Like Michael McCarthy, the artist/blacksmith/gardener...(the list goes on and on) and just being around him gets me excited to work on something, anything, again. Or hanging around with Barry Keegan, making any number of crafts. Or just hanging out in the barn with our students, who are always working on a ton of different things.

If no one is around, I will pull a book down that particularly spoke to me, like Barry Lopez's "River Notes" or Ed Abbey's "Desert Solitaire". Rereading certain passages definitely lights a fire under me, and gets me in the right mindset or mood. It just takes a little 'shot' and off I go....

Commitment is just a larger part of this. It says, "Don't give up!" even after I have just blown off a weekend to have down time with the kids. With commitment, it helps to have a long range view rather than looking at every little bump in the road, and to just give yourself a break.

As Carey Odes once said "It's not like the earth got screwed up in a day, or a week or a year. It has been happening for generations, even hundreds of years. We aren't going to say, 'Hey, the earth will all be perfect on Friday. Now what are we going to do next week?'. It just isn't going to happen like that. So everyone just settle down!"

Carey is pretty funny, but he does make a good point. We all need to settle down, and just be committed for the long haul. Recognize that it takes all of us a long time to make effective, real change, and that we will get there sooner by being inspired and loving ourselves, rather than beating ourselves up or feeling guilty.

Okay, I wish that I could magically wave a stick and everyone would change and be passionate instantly, but in the long run, we need to take care of ourselves, and do our best and take it day by day.

Another bit of good advice is something John Stokes, of the Tracking Project, in New Mexico once told me when I was learning my own skills. He said "Just try to practice one thing, a small thing, each day, and you will find that knowledge growing larger and larger, rather than pushing to do everything all at once. It just takes one or two small things to add up fast."

I listened to his words and I started to make a fire with a bow drill, every day. Just one fire, and in six months, I was starting to learn something about fire! I made fire with cedar, with sycamore, with milkweed bowstrings, with cottonwood, willow, alder and elderberry. It was an awesome time and I learned a lot.

That advice is definitely something I am happy to pass on.

Let me know if this helps!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Falling Leaves, Bow Season and Preparing for Earth Skills Training....

Bow Hunting Season just started here in New York, for deer. I have been spending just a little time out there so far, but the season just gets better and better as it goes along! I am enjoying being outside, away from the computer and all of the details of running Hawk Circle and just feeling the woods, smelling the leaves and listening to the sound of geese winging overhead.... I love this time of year! About seventy percent of the leaves have fallen, and winter is coming. Now is the time to get out in the woods!

First of all, we are just wrapping up our Earth Skills Fall Semester here at Hawk Circle, and it has been a great course. The students have made amazing bows, primitive pottery, ash splint pack baskets, beautiful buckskin, and lots more crafts and skills. Today I taught them how to make rawhide lanterns using willows, rawhide and bark, to light their shelters or path through the woods... Good times.

The main thing I wanted to say in this post is that you should make an effort to get out to your shelter and spruce it up for the colder weather. If you get a good awning, a reflector wall, some cattails and dried grasses set up for your shelter and backrest, you should be able to stow some firewood and be ready for camping out even in the coldest weather.

Tip: Bring about 15-20 feet of strong cord that you can use to tie up bundles of grass or firewood lengths, to make them easier to carry. If you use a strong stick (throwing stick?) and tie the bundle to this, you can carry the whole thing over the shoulder, holding on to the stick and not just a bit of string. It lets you walk and see in front of you, so you don't trip, and you can even drag the bundle behind you if it is large and heavy. Safe, easier and smart!

Another thing you can do is to collect moss, dried ferns or even leaves, and stuff them in between the logs in your reflector to keep the wind out. It is not as cold as trying to make survival cement with mud/clay/grass mixtures! Believe me, the time for that type of construction is really behind us. Of course, you can use any unseasonably warm weather is fine if you get it..... and the mud/grass combo is definitely superior to just leaves.

Another tip: Don't leave containers of food in your shelter, if you want to keep mice from chewing it all up looking for a good meal. You can dig a storage pit in the ground near your shelter, covered with a large rock, if you really want to store food and gear out there, but in your shelter, you are just asking for trouble, either from small rodents, bears or even kids crawling in there to check it out.

Okay, that's it for now, but get your shelters done, people, and work on your tree journals, too! Those are always good to get done and they go fast if you just sit down and crank them out after getting your field journals going....

Take care and see you in the woods!