Learning Opportunities

We do not have scheduled classes. We just live our lives, doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done, and we welcome you to join us and experience that with us so that you have a first-hand, hands-on, in-context learning opportunity.

The advantages to this approach are that
  1. You get the real thing, in an actual living environment;
  2. You get to experience the whole process, from gathering raw materials to using the product made instead of getting a pre-packaged deal to fit within a limited time frame;
  3. You learn the rhythms associated with the tasks and not just the tasks themselves;
  4. You get to do things alongside with us so that you can learn by watching examples instead of just being told what to do.
Some of the tasks we do are seasonal while others are done on a regular basis. And yet other things get done whenever we get around to it. Following is a list of the kinds of things you could learn with us, roughly arranged by seasons so that you have an idea of what to expect. Check out Xavier's blog to see some highlights of what our lives look like, and Rosalee's blog to see what she's got brewing.

Daily life

We live with no indoor plumbing or refrigeration and we heat our cabin with a wood stove on which we do most of our cooking. Some regular chores are associated with that, like:
  • Bringing water in and out of the cabin. We set up a good gravity system inside that allows us to wash dishes and such.
  • Dealing with the composting toilet inside and the compost piles outside. We do not poop in water! We use the bucket system to compost our excrement. With a little sawdust and straw we turn waste materials into safe, nutrient-rich organic matter! This is a great way to give back to the earth; all other beings gift their excrement to the earth.
  • Cooking on the wood stove. It can be tricky to cook on a stove with no way to modify the temperature!
  • Make sure food doesn't go bad. We always have to be aware of where the coolest part of the cabin is and we use coolers placed either inside or outside to store food.
  • Bucking and splitting firewood throughout the winter months. I buck all my firewood with a bow saw during the winter months (a great way to warm up on cold mornings!) and split it to feed our wood stove. It requires quite a bit of stamina to be able to do that a couple of times a week.
  • Mapping good gathering grounds and restoring them to their optimal capacities. To me this is one of the most important things to be done for a successful semi-nomadic lifestyle: find good village sites.
  • Thinking with a native mind. Indigenous people spent much time talking about where they should go, what resources to gather and when, whether the area needed to be tended in any way, etc. We need to reclaim this way of thinking by nurturing an intimate relationship with our area.
  • Whatever comes up! That's the nature of a simple life: taking care of our needs, no more, no less.


Spring

  • Identify and collect wild greens and root crops. Unlike other sustainability programs who focus on farming, our primary focus is on wild foods. The surrounding hills offer both abundance and diversity of wild foods that sustain us year round.
  • Identify and collect wild medicinal plants and make various medicinal preparations with them. Likewise, incredible medicinal plants are available from the valley and up in the nearby mountain meadows. Rosalee is an excellent herbalist and crafts many herbal remedies from our plant allies.
  • Learn the ethics and practicalities of tending, harvesting, and interacting with wild plants. Our civilization's approach to the wild has been one of either 'conquer and destroy' or 'don't touch the pristine wilderness.' Thankfully, we are relearning the old ways, which consist of interacting with the plants around us with respect. We exchange gifts as they give us food and we spread their seeds and bulblets and aerate the soil for them to renew themselves and prosper. A win-win situation that has been going on for thousands of years!
  • Learn how to preserve what you have gathered. Drying foods is an incredible way to preserve them: it preserves most of the nutrients and is the most efficient way to carry food around.


Summer

  • Identify, collect, and preserve wild fruits. We have tons of berries for all tastes. Drying them into cakes makes them incredible treats.


Fall

  • Hide tanning. We gets lots of hides from hunters and I spend much time turning them into buckskin for clothing and bags.
  • Safely and efficiently fell trees for firewood. I spend hours cutting all my firewood by hand with a bow saw. When you're out in the woods with huge beings that can crush you if you're not paying attention, it is crucial to know what you're doing so that you keep yourself safe. It is also important to have good body mechanics so that you can get the job done, which takes many hours over several days.



Winter

  • Crafts like making buckskin clothing. Winter is a perfect time for projects that require many hours of repetitive tasks.
  • Story telling. I've been fascinated by the use of stories and myths as active shapers of society and we can talk about how to craft meaningful stories as well as tricks to improve story telling skills. Read some stories I wrote.
  • Games. Our culture thinks of games as a waste of time (it's not productive!). However, Native people spent much time playing various games, especially during the winter months. Similarly to stories, games can also reinforce cultural values and, therefore, we can craft games that reflect the values we want to see in our community members.

As a part of building community and living in an environment where all things are rhythmically and intricately interwoven, I have come to use Jon Young's Eight Shields Model as a way to organize groups of people and promote understanding of the energetics of life, both between humans themselves and in nature in general. Depending on how things go in our group, and if people are interested, we could use that model in our interactions. You can read a bit more about what that's about here.

And although our main focus here is about "taking care of business," we can also explore several issues together, such as:
  • What is thinking the native/sensible way?
  • How important is commitment to a place in regards to living sustainably?
  • What is the power of prayer/intention/thankfulness?
  • What does it mean to be the best human being you can be?
  • How does our "Mother Culture" create barriers in our mind and how do we faciliate smooth transitions into a different way of living?
  • How important are rites of passage and how do we make meaningful ones?
  • What does it mean to live sustainably in a time of transitions?
  • How do we deal with the realities of this society (land ownership, hunting regulations, etc) and changing these realities?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of Nomadic vs. Sedentary lifestyles? How do we tune in to the land for optimal living?
  • What does it mean to do whatever is necessary to reach the big picture goal? Is using modern technology in the short term acceptable? Where is highest leverage in the system (effects at local levels vs. systemic levels)?
  • How do we promote change around us? Importance of motivation in meeting basic needs.
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of reading vs direct experience?



Additionally, there are primitive skills that we don't use everyday but we think are important to pass on for the benefit of
future generations who may have to rely on these skills more heavily. We can teach these skills on the side depending on what people here are interested in doing. These include fire by friction (bow drill and hand drill); cordage from plant and animal fibers; pitch glue and hide glue; containers; primitive hunting, trapping, and fishing methods; tracking; shelter building; stone and bone tools; basic survival and scouting skills; etc.