First thing, thank you everyone who attended the Oct. 22 and Nov. 5 workshops. Both days had really good groups and we all left with more knowledge than when we started. There are no winter workshops scheduled at this point but I am always up to doing a private workshop if you have 6 or more people.
Below is my latest Master Naturalist plant article.
'The Basswood tree ( Linden )
The Basswood is by far my favorite tree. The Basswood has edible parts all year long, it can be used medicinally and has many utilitarian uses. This tree grows from the western Piedmont, there are a few in the Cville area, all the way to the W. Va. line. It likes moisture and rocks and seems to like slopes best. In the summer, you can see pockets of them literally a mile away by their silver/dark green leaf color.
In the spring, you can drink limited amounts of the sap, it is very high in sugar, or you can boil the sap down into a usable syrup. The young leaves and buds can be eaten raw or the leaves can be cooked. During the summer, the flowers can be eaten raw or cooked and the nectar is one of the better honey producers ( upstate NY mostly depends on Basswoods for its honey crop ). Late summer/fall the seeds/nuts are edible and in the winter/early spring, the inner bark can be eaten raw, cooked or dried to be used as flour later on.
Medicinally, bark tea or poultices can be used to treat burns. The flowers have flavonoids and are a mild sedative. The leaves can be used to treat fevers and cellulitis. There are other uses for this great tree but please do your own herbal homework. The soft, light wood was used for the first prosthetics.
From a primitive technology viewpoint, this tree is nothing short of amazing. The wood is the number one material for the friction fire fire board. The bark makes great bast ( a fibrous material, hence the tree's name ). Plus, the wood is used commercially for veneer and crates/boxes. The inner bark makes a very useful, prolific but not strong cordage used for mats, belts, baskets and bags. The wood can be carved into bowls/spoons.'
I always have folks coming to my workshops who don't own a knife. I really recommend the Morakniv brand of knives and the Companion is a very good introductory knife. It is not a heavy duty camp knife but it is inexpensive, sharp, rust proof and easy to carry w/o a belt. You can also get it with a small ferro rod in the handle. www.industrialrev.com/morakniv/companions/
This is a great time of year to practice your fire making skills, try different methods of starting fires and go out after a hard rain and try your luck ( or skill ).
The next Wilderness Survival workshop is October 22, 2022 and there are still a few slots open and it looks like I'll have another on Nov. 5 for the folks who cannot make October's.
The Advanced Friction Fire workshop for this weekend is now closed. The next Wilderness Survival workshop will be Oct. 22, 2022 in Fluvanna county at the Pleasant Grove Park in Palmyra ( 22963 ).
I do a monthly utilitarian plant article for our local Master Naturalist newsletter and here's this months column, on the Mullein.
"This month's plant, Mullein, is another one that has many uses. Mullein is not native to North America but it is to Asia, Africa and Europe. It was first brought to this country in the mid-1700's as a fish poison ( more on that later in this column ), but it was widely naturalized by 1800. It is one of those introduced plants that is not an enemy but an amazing plant to have around.
Medicinally, the Mullein has too many uses to list here, but there is so much info online. Personally, I use the dried leaf as part of my 'bad cold' tea cure ( mixed with 1/3 Elderberry flower and 1/3 Yarrow plant ). Many years ago, pre internet, my very young son suffered from chronic, severe ear aches. All the docs wanted to do invasive procedures so we did our homework in all the available books at the time and found a natural cure. Get a small jar and fill it with the yellow Mullein flowers ( fresh or dried ) and top this off with olive oil. Let this sit, ideally for several weeks, but in an emergency overnight does adequately. Strain the olive oil, warm in a pan and then use a dropper and put several drops in each affected ear. It worked within one week, and he had no more ear ache issues.
Looking at the Mullein through the eyes of a primitive technologist, it would be one of the top plants to have around. The dried flower stalk works for the spindle in friction fire. For fishing, the dried seeds, mixed in small dough balls, thrown into the water and digested, will temporarily stun fish. The fish do not die or suffer long term effects, but they are easy to catch by hand for a short period of time. Our DWR would frown on this type of harvesting, but in an emergency.... The stalks w/seed heads can be used as torches, the leaves make insulating inner soles for shoes, and I have read that the leaf actually has a chemical that stimulates foot circulation. Europeans prized the leaves as TP, but I have too much respect for this plant to use it in that manner.
If this plant sounds good to you, just harvest some seeds and broadcast. The new rosettes will appear the first season, and the tall flower stalks/blooms will appear the second year and then the plant dies after seeding out."
Foraging has been good the past few weeks. I have harvested Pawpaws and several mushrooms ; Chicken in the Woods, Golden Chanterelles and Lions Mane. The acorns, hickories and Beeches all seem to have a good crop this year if you want to try them. There are many ways to use nut meats in flour, oils or eating them as they are.
The next workshops have been scheduled. The Wilderness Survival 101 will be October 22, 2022 and the Advanced Friction Fire will be September 17, 2022. Go to the 'workshops' tab to view or sign up.
I have started writing a column for our local Master Naturalist group, it is titled 'Natures Bounty. I hope you enjoy.
Pre 1600 AD just about every plant, animal, tree and rock had a unique purpose, there were some plants and trees that filled multiple roles and the Pawpaw tree ( native here ) is one of them.
The fruit speaks for itself and will start ripening here late August/early September and it packs a pretty good nutritional punch. The fruit can be eaten raw just like a peach or any other fruit. It can be used in any recipe that banana is called for ( they have similar taste ), custards, breads or my favorite way is making smoothies with them ( 60% frozen pawpaw, protein powder, chopped ginger, touch of maple syrup and fill the remainder of the blender with vanilla oat milk ). The pics show the process and tools for making frozen Pawpaw pulp. After processing the pulp I scatter the discarded seeds through my woods and it's amazing how many will germinate on their own.
The wood of the Pawpaw is one of the best materials for friction fire fireboards. The inner bark makes a very serviceable cordage ( rope ) and the shredded bark will make an adequate tinder bundle.
The dried and powdered seeds make a natural head lice control and some modern lice control treatments still use the same compounds ( Purdue University ).
Lastly, for you butterfly folks, the Pawpaw leaves are the only food source for Zebra Swallowtail larvae to feed on.
The Pawpaw’s range seems to be spreading, there are quite a lot of them now in Central Va.
Hi all, the next Wilderness Survival workshop will be April 16, 2022 at Pleasant Grove Park in Palmyra, Va. 22963. It's a great location, suitable for any weather, has good cell service and restroom. I hope you can join us !! www.stevepullinger.com/wilderness-survival-workshop.html
Thank you Facebook followers for reaching 500 !! I hope to continue posting useful information regarding wilderness survival and primitive technology. www.facebook.com/primitivesurvivalskills
It is still cold and snowy but this is a great time of year to practice friction fire, cordage or hide work. Go outside after a rain or snow and try your fire making skills. Remember the 5 P's... Prior Practice Prevents Poor Performance
Stay tuned for a basket making 101 workshop and an edible/medicinal/utilitarian plant walk, hopefully I will have these scheduled for mid spring. Look for an Advanced Friction Fire workshop in May or June.
If you've been watching the news of the I95 winter traffic snarl and the large swath of people who still do not have power after 3 days ( me included ) then this article is a must for you to read. I wrote this page quite a few years ago but it is still very relevant today.
Everyone talks about BOB bags, EDC kits,etc. I want to discuss a 'car' bag that will cover the needs of the soccer mom, average Joe who is on the road. Winter is coming on and that ups the ante even more in having one of these in your vehicle. Look at the natural disasters of the past 6 months that have hit our country, think back to the winter of 2009 when central Virginia residents were stranded on the road for days without help/supplies. You never know when or where you may be stranded away from home. How do you get back ? How do you survive for days ? That's where I think a car bag will come in handy.
To start with, lets look at the 4 requirements needed to stay alive. 1) shelter/warmth 2) potable water 3) fire 4) food. Fortunately a 'car' bag doesn't have to be as compact/light/efficient as a BOB bag. We can afford to carry more supplies/tools than you could easily carry on your back. However, a backpack to consolidate supplies to head out on foot is highly recommended.
When reading this blog just remember that this is only my opinion of what to carry, there are many options/ideas when it comes to making these bags. 1) to cover shelter/warmth, I would carry a good sized tarp ( with plenty of cordage ) and a quality sleeping bag. Between your vehicle, a tarp and the sleeping bag you should be able to stay warm and dry. 2) for water I would have several bottles of water, ( maybe some coffee ), a metal container that you could boil water over a fire and carry a Sawyer mini-straw. The Sawyer mini-straw is very light weight water filter that is easy to carry in a small fanny pack. 3) for fire, I carry 2 lighters, 2 packs of matches in double zip locked bags, a 9V battery with some 0000 steel wool and several types of tinder/paper. 4) to supply your caloric needs I take cereal, protein bars, GORP, jerky. These are good food choices that do not need refrigeration or cooking. Everyone has favorites of course but be sure it will stay good in the car without care. Remember the average person needs 2,000 calories daily to maintain weight.
Adding to the 4 basics above: I would pack extra clothes if you get wet, a poncho or rain gear, hiking shoes and a good outdoor hat, bandana and gloves. Some type of protection, small pistol/pepper spray or whatever you feel comfortable carrying. Take extra meds, glasses, Aleve, vitamins, bug spray and sun block to cover your health needs. A sturdy camp knife/hatchet for firewood or cutting a small tree out of the road. A quality multi tool, there are tons of good, used Leatherman tools on Ebay. A small first aid kit. Several flash lights and extra batteries. A hiking staff if you have to walk it out. Phone chargers/cords.
This looks like a lot of stuff but it will easily fit into the old suitcase you no longer use or a duffel bag/back pack. Be sure to always, winter or summer, keep your gas tank at least half full.
My next Wilderness Survival 101 workshop will be held in April 2022, the exact date will posted this weekend. www.stevepullinger.com/wilderness-survival-workshop.html
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