Today I learned some "primitive survival skills" in rural Virginia from outdoor Renaissance man Tim MacWelch (who writes for Outdoor Life here). This class assumes you've been plopped in the woods with no modern tools whatsoever and have to get by on stuff you can gather in nature. We learned how to build a warm shelter of leaves and twigs, make rough stone tools, start a fire with a bow drill and boil water, among other things. Starting a fire was by far the most difficult task, although Tim made it look easy:
Everyone was watching so quietly as Tim sheltered the embers. It really is magical when the fire blooms. Tim completed the whole process in maybe three minutes. It took me about 40 minutes, all of them sweaty and sprinkled with cuss words. The drill kept popping off the rope. Or the drill would slide off the tulip poplar sham. Or the rope wasn't turning the drill properly. Eventually I found a groove with the encouragement of some nice ladies.
Boiling water with hot rocks that had been heated in the fire pit. Ingenious!
Making rope with Dogbane twigs. The woman in the photo, Jen, told us about a Lakota wedding preparation she'd attended where the women of the tribe made Dogbane rope to tie around the hands of the bride and groom during the ceremony:
My Dogbane rope:
I only attended the "crash course". Most of the others stayed for the whole week, sleeping in tents or in the rough shelters we'd made and taking additional classes. At some point I'd like to take some overnight hiking trips. One of the students was a nurse with foraging skills who set up hammocks for her daughter and herself. A hammock under the stars - just added it to my bucket list.