Posts Tagged With: Mark Warren

Secrets of the Forest: The Best Outdoor Education Book I’ve Read

by Todd Walker

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I recently began working with at-risk youth in our county’s alternative school, Rise Academy. My “job” is to offer project-based learning opportunities to develop self-reliant skills in our students.

My curriculum guide is a blank slate. There are no state approved guides for Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance in academia. I must write my own. Out of necessity, I began to pull from my own experience and those of my mentors. Fortunately, one of my teachers, Mark Warren, director of Medicine Bow, recently published the first in a series of four books, Secrets of the Forest.

Secrets of the Forest, Volume 1, is broken into two parts:

  1. The Magic and Mystery of Plants, and…
  2. The Lore of Survival

I ordered and quickly devoured Volume 1. If you’ve ever wondered how to transfer lost knowledge and skills to our next generation, this book series is your guide. Mark is no newcomer in the world of primitive skills and nature study. He’s been passing on his knowledge to young and old for over a half century. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of his classes in Dahlonega, Georgia. Mark is a walking encyclopedia of earth-lore and the skills required to call Nature home.

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Mark showing an impromptu lesson on stringing a bow during a Winter Tree Identification class.

Part 1: The Magic and Mystery of Plants

Students at Medicine Bow are fully submerged in experiential, hands-on learning. Reading Mark’s book is no different. Over 200 original activities are included to engage one’s senses in the forest. Making your own Botany Booklet, written and illustrated by you, is worth the price of this first volume. It only consist of six sheets of folded paper (12 pages) but will set a student on a path of discovery in the amazing green world surrounding us.

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Sassafras

“Plant study is the foundation upon which all survival skills are built.” ~ Mark Warren, p. 16

Mark is quick to point out that modern humans have lost the instincts of our paleo ancestors regarding plant usage. Therefore, we must approach our study of plants on an academic level. Eating the wrong plant, or wrong part of a plant, in the wrong season can be deadly. However, embracing the study of plants and trees for food, medicine, and craft is worth the time and effort.

I’ve read many online discussions of outdoorsy people expressing their desire to become more proficient in plant identification and use. Many have purchased botanical field guides specific to their locale. These guides are helpful for identification but rarely offer hidden secrets of a plant. In Chapter 6, 100 Plants ~ And Their Many Gifts, Mark offers insight into plants/trees of southern Appalachia which I’ve never read in other botanical books. Color photos of each plant await at the end of this chapter to aid in identification.

Chapter 10 is devoted entirely to Poison Ivy. Anyone spending time outdoors will appreciate the information on this rogue plant. From identification, protecting ourselves, treating the rash, and even making oneself immune, Mark covers it all.

Part 2: The Lore of Survival

“If you get lost out there, the world around you may seem your enemy, but it’s not. It’s just that you’ve forgotten what your ancestors knew a long time ago.”

~ Natalie Tudachi, Blue Panther Woman of the Anigilogi clan, Let Their Tears Drown Them (p. 167 – Secrets of the Forest)

Reading this volume will give you knowledge, but knowing is not enough – there must be urgency in doing the stuff. As with Part 1, many hands-on activities accompany The Lore of Survival section. Chapters include:

  • The First Step ~ getting started in survival skills
  • The Ties That Bind ~ cordage
  • Oh Give Me a Home ~ shelter building
  • Sticks and Stones ~ the multi-use rabbit stick
  • Water, Water Everywhere ~ water purification
  • Hors D’oeuvres of Protein ~ adventures with larvae
  • A Kitchen in the Forest ~ cooking in the wild
  • An Army of Silent Hunters ~ traps and snares
Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Describing the finer details in a tracking class at Medicine Bow.

Mark’s approach to wilderness survival centers around the primitive technology used by the Cherokee who called Southern Appalachia home. Our relationship with “the real world” (forest) becomes intimate as we integrate primitive survival skills. This may seem overwhelming, depending on the forest to provide your needs, so take one skill of interest and practice until proficiency is developed.

Of particular interest to me, since I’m allergic to yellow jacket stings to some degree, is the section on making yellow jacket soup. Larvae, not adults, are used to make a nutty flavored, protein-packed soup. Mark gives detailed descriptions on how to “safely” dig and harvest larva from a yellow jacket nest. My experience with the business end of these stinging insects has prevented me from attempting a heist. However, after reading his experience, it sounds doable even for me.

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hands-on learning in a creek studying animal tracks and sign.

I respect Mark Warren a great deal, not only for his passion to share this lost knowledge, but more so because he lives what he describes his book. He traded theory for action decades ago. When purchasing his book or attending his classes, you’ll quickly discover that Mark is the real deal with a depth of experience sorely lacking in the world of outdoor education.

If you teach wilderness living skills, scouts, school children, or just interested in expanding your own outdoor education, I highly recommend Secrets of the Forest! Order yours at his site: Medicine Bow.

Update 08/11/2017: Calling Up The Flame – The Art Of Creating Fire -and – Feeding The Spirit – Storytelling And Ceremony : Vol. 2 – by Mark Warren just became available.

While you’re there, check out his class schedule. I’ll be attending The Art of Archery class in September. Mark knows a thing or two about archery. He was the World Long Bow Champion in 1999.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

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Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

Stalking: The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals

by Todd Walker

The art of getting close to wild animals has been replaced by high-powered rifles and telephoto lens. Like other lost skills of self-reliance, a revival is in order.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

One man fanning the primitive fire is Mark Warren. A soft-spoken man, reverence and passion for nature and her bountiful resources flows from his life like a refreshing mountain stream. My time at Medicine Bow, Warren’s Primitive School of Earthlore near Dahlonega, Georgia, challenged not only my physical abilities, but awakened my mind and spirit.

As young boys, my brother and I spent countless hours re-enacting exploits of woodsmen we either read about or watched on TV. Fiberglass bows in hand, we’d crawl through fields of broom sedge and pop up as close to a cow or flock of robins as possible. Our cows would give us their usual stare and continue grazing. Farm animals were easy to stalk.

Why learn this lost skill?

The obvious benefit is for hunters with primitive weapons. Harvesting animals with a hickory self bow requires that you be as close as possible to the intended target for a clean kill. You owe that much to the animal for providing meat and resources for sustainability.

Observers and photographers of wild animals would do well to practice stalking techniques. Doing so may revel phantoms of the woods you’ve only dreamed of capturing in your lens.

The main benefit I personally received under Mark’s instruction was the complete immersion in nature. Slowing down to a snail’s pace uncovered small, “invisible” wilderness details unnoticed when trekking full speed ahead. Connecting to our ancestral roots always feeds my soul and waters the primal tree.

An analogy Mark often used was that of a rock tossed into a pond. The impact ripples to every shoreline. The idea being to minimize your wake in the animal’s living space.

To increase your chances of getting close to wild animals, stalking employs the following elements…

  • Patience
  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Camouflage
  • Scent Control

Follow along as I break down what I learned about making a successful stalk.

Patience

Native Americans learned to stalk by observing interactions between predator and prey.

Drab colored animals like deer, rabbit, and fox have evolved away from color vision to survive. Their ability to blend into their surroundings as predator or prey renders color recognition unimportant for survival. Now the rods in their eyes dominate to detect motion in their field of vision.

Working the wind correctly and being camouflaged helps conceal your presence but movement is the worst offender of blending into the forest.

Sound may alert wild animals, but our movement is what causes them to vanish into the brush like smoke. This is the main reason the forest appears void of wildlife when we thrash along in our human gait.

We must s-l-o-o-o-w down to ultra-slow motion and take a form not easily recognized by wild game. Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the movie Jeremiah Johnson.

Here’s the exchange…

Bear Claw tells Johnson, a mountain man wannabe, to step out on the side of his horse to shoot an elk. Jeremiah asks, “What if he sees our feet?” Bear Claw responds in common sense wisdom and wit…

Elk don’t know how many feet a horse has! No, you durn fool, slide it up over the saddle.

Stalking is a game of practice, and practice makes permanent. One stalking step, done correctly, should take about two minutes on average. To be honest, my steps take about one minute when my legs are fresh… less as my stalk continues.

Balance

Think and walk like a fox. Its gait is like walking on the baseline of a gym floor. No right-to-left swagger or bobbing up and down… just a narrow, smooth, streamline glide.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A rear view of stalking

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Human locomotion demands that our body be thrown out of balance to one side or the other. And then there’s our heel strike. Lift one foot and move it forward until our heel impacts the earth sending alarm waves throughout the forest.

When I run for exercise, which is rarely these days, I prefer to run barefoot. This method of running will quickly teach you not to strike your heel first on each landing. My posture and foot strike necessitates a smooth, floating motion… which is the goal when stalking.

To demonstrate our unbalanced movement, Mark assembled our class in a straight line facing him. From a balanced position, feet shoulder-width apart, he gave the command, “walk”. Within a nanosecond, the command “freeze” was given. Our side-to-side shift was obvious. Try it yourself with a friend. Animals know this distinctive sway as human and avoid the lumbering figure in the woods.

This technique of walking like a fox is very demanding. Here’s a short video of my fox walk. Notice the shakiness in my front leg. And this demonstration wasn’t even in ultra-slow motion. I have a new appreciation of all who’ve come before us who stalked within a few feet of wild game… Mark Warren include.

No matter how delicately I placed my forward foot on the forest ground, my novice stalking legs would lose balance and crack a twig or crunch leaves from time to time. Sounds alert animals. But sound is not always a deal breaker when stalking. The forest is full of sound. Keep your eyes focused on the target the duration of the stalk so you can freeze at a moments notice if animal stares in your direction to investigate the sound.

Strength

There were many times during the class that students had to hold a stance in awkward positions. One exercise included Mark mimicking a deer. We encircled him at a distance of 15 yards or so and had to stalk towards him as he foraged and pawed at wild food. His mannerisms on all fours were amazingly similar to white-tailed deer I’ve observed.

If Mark spotted us cutting corners on our technique to the point of alerting him, he would snort and wheeze like a deer and point at the offender to go back to the starting line. If he lifted his head in our direction we would have to freeze like a heron hunting in knee-deep water… no matter the cycle of ultra-slow motion. Quadriceps and hip flexers screamed silently hoping the “deer” would bow and graze again.

I enjoy Primal/Paleo workouts. The level of functional fitness needed to stalk wild animals is different from any sport or recreational activity I’ve ever experienced. My legs and hips were sore for days after the class. Mark told us that martial artists found the most success of anyone attending his stalking class. Even more so than professional athletes.

Camouflage and Scent

It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on expensive camouflage clothing. Wear quite, loose-fitting clothes of natural material with a varied pattern that will break up your silhouette in the forest. Avoid the swish of synthetic material rubbing together. Oh yeah, the sound of clinking metal is a sound made only by humans in the woods. Check your pockets and gear before heading out.

Remembering what we learned about the role of rods and cones in wild animal eyes, even the popular pink camo patterns will work for stalkers. A bit of cooled campfire charcoal smeared on your face and exposed skin may appear too Rambo for some but will certainly dull the shine.

A wise stalker prefers a position with the wind blowing his human scent away from the animal. Even with the wind in your face (upwind), a cover scent such as natural plant material crushed and rubbed on clothing helps hide your human odor. You could also go the commercial route and apply cover scents and scent blockers.

The best teacher is the one who always remains a student. Mark Warren’s appetite for woodslore and primitive skills is demonstrated by his passion to inspire others to get out there and experience nature firsthand.

I think I’ll keep my student status.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

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Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hunger Games: Find this Wild Food and You’ll Never Starve

by Todd Walker

Hunger Games: Find this Wild Food and You'll Never Starve - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two weekends ago I spent two days learning from a walking encyclopedia. Mark Warren operates Medicine Bow, a primitive school of Earthlore, in the north Georgia mountains near Dahlonega. Though I attended his Stalking/Tracking class, Mark’s willingness to veer onto other paths and integrate useful plants in the Eastern Woodlands only enhanced my learning experience.

One edible plant we discussed was Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia). Other common names include ~ Duck Potato, Arrowhead, Wapati, or Katniss.

I had an ‘ah ha’ moment with the common name Katniss

As a fan of The Hunger Games, I always wondered how the arrow-slinging heroine, Katniss Everdeen, received her unusual moniker. Now it makes perfect sense on two levels.

  1. Sagittaria in Latin means “arrow”. It also refers to the archer constellation Sagittarius. The obvious one, right?
  2. A lesser known botanical reason can be found in her deceased father’s words which Katniss recalls early on in the trilogy…

As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.

In keeping with the Hunger Games theme of this article, we’ll use the common name Katniss when referring to this wild food.

Katniss (Sagittaria latifolia) tubers were a staple in nature’s pantry for indigenous peoples of North America. Mark told us that the Cherokee of Appalachia cultivated this wild plant in wetland habitat as a sustainable food to feed their families. Roasted duck and duck potato sound delicious!

Katniss the Plant

The day before our class I snapped a few photos of a wetland near my school with a closeup of a toxic plant which resembles katniss. Mark took our class to a wetland area near a meadow to observe a patch of katniss. After comparing both plants, one can easily distinguish between the toxic Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica) and edible katniss (S. latifolia).

Identification: Palmate vs. Pinnate

The leaves of katniss are palmate and arrow arum are pinnate. Leaves can vary greatly in size.

  • Palmate – leaves where the nerves radiate from a central point like a curved star burst.
Hunger Games: Find this Wild Food and You'll Never Starve - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Palmate pattern on Katniss

  •  Pinnate – leaves that have a main nerve (midrib) with other nerves branching off the full length of the midrib like a feather plume.

Pinnate pattern on Arrow Arum

A closeup of the pinnate pattern on Arrow Arum


A look at the entire Arrow Arum leaf

Arrow Arum leaf

Arrow Arum’s arrowhead-shaped leaf is often mistaken for katniss. With the side by side comparison above, it’s easy to see which is edible by the distinct difference in the leaf veins.

Arrow Arum found near Katniss

Arrow Arum in Katniss habitat

Katniss Habitat

Katniss can be found along shallow edges of ponds, streams, swamps, and bogs. Beaver habitat is another prime location for this aquatic plant.

A large beaver-manufactured wetland habitat near my school

A large beaver-manufactured wetland habitat near my school

Their range extends across North America in wetland areas except in extreme northern climates. Large colonies can be found in the shallows of lakes. Larger broadleaf arrowheads typically produce larger tubers.

Harvesting Katniss

Mike Rowe should do a Dirty Jobs episode on harvesting this aquatic food. Nothing about the process is clean. You can’t “cheat” by just pulling on the green stalk to reach the tubers. So roll up you sleeves and get ready for some mudslinging.

I trust and respect Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager’s Harvest. He’s been harvesting wild edibles since he was a kid. I tried his stomp method described on page 111.

Once you become an ‘expert’, you stop learning. There are many people with more foraging knowledge and experience than this novice forager.

But here’s the thing…

You and I will never deepen our knowledge or experience until we trade theory for ACTION. I’ve read books and articles about locating, identifying, and harvesting katniss. But this plant’s starchy tubers are more elusive than I had anticipated.

I have the locating and identification part down on katniss. Putting duck potatoes in my skillet has me stumped… for now.

I now know a few methods that do not produce desired results. Here are a few dirty lessons learned from my recent foraging foray in hot August humidity… waist deep in a Georgia mud bog.

Stomp Method

Traditionally, Cherokee women would wade barefooted into a colony of arrowhead and stomp around freeing the tubers from their muddy bed so they would float to the surface for easy pickings. Days of litter-free waterways and pristine shorelines are long gone. You may opt for an old pair of tennis shoes or waders to protect your feet from painfully locating Bubba’s broken beer bottle.

Fails, in my experience, are instructive. So are experienced foragers. I trust and respect Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager’s Harvest. Unlike me, Mr. Thayer has been Doing the Stuff of foraging wild food since his childhood. I tried his stomp method described on page 111.

Based on my personal experience, you’ll never fully appreciate this method until you’re waist deep in muck hoping you can break the Earth’s suction on your feet and return to solid land. Thayer’s harvesting accounts produced tubers consistently. All I got was muddy… and a bit smarter in the process.

Stomping in progress

Stomping in progress

Armed with hip waders and a walking stick I made my way to my friend’s property where a thick stand of katniss grows in the swampy end of their pond. The walking stick served two purposes: To move weeds in front of my feet to check for snakes; and, as a horizontal support on top of the bog surface to aid in my rescue from the jaws of waist-deep mud holes.

How hard can it be, right? Just jump into a thick clump of katniss and start stomping a man-size hole in the marsh. The embed tubers are supposed to break free from their rhizomes and float to the top of the water.

After an exhausting hour of thrashing and spinning in muck, not one tuber floated to the surface. In a long-term self-reliance situation, my haphazard expenditure of calories, with no return on investment, could be costly. This is the main reason we should trade theory for action to develop skills and techniques that actually work when it counts.

One other thought about harvesting wild food. Functional fitness should become a priority for anyone pursuing self-reliance. If modern systems fail, imagine the physical dilemma you’ll face harvesting food and performing daily tasks without an established base of fitness. Just a thought.

What went wrong?

Timing

After more research and asking online friends, my problem may stem from bad timing. That is, the tubers on our Georgia plants may not haven’t developed yet. We’re in the dog days of summer here. Katniss plants develop tubers later in the fall as a source of starch for the winter months.

More experimental foraging will take place in the same location in September and October, possibly as late as November. Once the arrowhead leaves turn brown and die back, larger tubers should be hiding in their mud beds under cold water. I image a campfire will come in handy on this adventure.

Other Methods from The Forager’s Harvest

  • Potato Hoe – Use a four-prong hoe to rake down into the mud bed to break the tubers free. From what I read, you have to rake a deep hole to reach the “tuber zone.” Thayer used the hoe while in a canoe and standing in the water with good success.
  • Hands – Locate the rhizomes and carefully trace down to the end to find the tuber. I attempted this method a few times as well.

I will not be tuber-less. I have faith that this wild food colony will give up her hidden treasure. Stay tuned for updates in my soggy saga. I will find this elusive Katniss tuber and not starve! Recipes will follow.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, Food Storage, Functional Fitness, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Real Food, Self-reliance, Survival Skills, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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