Not sure what you’ve been up to, but around here a lot has been happening. As such, I’ve had to think for a moment about what I wanted to post for this month. Normally, I try to choose a project I’m learning that I’ve found fun or something useful that would be helpful for others. . . but this month, hands down, my favorite thing has been the fact that I finally got the podcast published!
I’ve been working on it for awhile (amazing how long things take when you’re learning and have limited time to devote to them….) and I am super excited that it’s finally up. Check out the episodes on the website here or over at apple podcasts/itunes here and let me know what you think. I’d love feedback on how it’s going and any recommendations you may have for me.
As a runner-up monthly favorite, I must mention that I attempted my first cured meat this month! It’s something I’ve never done and I did a really simple recipe so it may not have been terribly interesting for anyone else, but I’ve really enjoyed reading up on meat curing and taking my initial step into it. I’m sure more on this will be covered in the future. . .
Do you ever feel like you’re the only person out there who enjoys learning traditional skills? I do. Seems like a pretty frequent thing actually. In today’s day and age my passions and interests are definitely a little odd. . . Who wants to learn how to do something so outdated and unnecessary?
Me for starters, but sometimes it would be nice to connect with other people who have similar interests. The first time I went to Tracker School was a revelation to me, I had never been to a gathering or school before then and had somehow existed under the impression that– even though people were writing the books I read to teach myself things– I was the only person in the world who had an interest in learning and practicing these skills. Definitely not true! It bears reminding every now and then though, hence this months favorite– Rabbitstick Rendezvous.
Rabbitstick is a week long primitive skills gathering held in September only a couple hours from my house. What’s nice about this gathering (and multiple others across the country), and what sets it apart from period reenactment, is that it has a focus on teaching and learning, there are multiple classes every day all week long, giving you a chance to learn quite a bit. Rabbitstick is the oldest primitive skills gathering and I grew up reading about it in various books and have wanted to attend for the last 15 years or so….. but somehow have never made it up. Time to change that this year! For me, it’s been a few years since I took the time to go to a school or connect with others that are interested in traditional skills so it was a much needed reset to remind myself that there are other like minded folks out there. I could only get away for a day and not the entire week, but I had a great time nonetheless and highly encourage people to consider going to a gathering! Get out and spend time learning and connecting with other people who have similar interests!
You might have expected this based on the fact I have a site and podcast devoted towards traditional skills and crafts but I’ll tell you anyway…. I love a good museum. To see the history and how people used to live is just amazing. Needless to say, I was looking for some examples of Shoshone (the tribe native to my area of the U.S.) work for a project that I was about to start and discovered that the Utah Museum of Natural History has an online, searchable, database (anthropology department available here). Not surprising in this day and age I guess. Still it was a wonderful discovery for me!
But that got me thinking. . . If the state museum has an online database, why wouldn’t one a little bigger? So I looked at one that I figured would be of more use to the majority of you. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (link to the anthropology dept here). And their collection is MASSIVE!! Want to see examples of ancient copper knives before you make one? 66 results. Bone needle? 544 results. Bow?? 2842 results! If you can’t find examples here that give you ideas than I’m not sure you’ll ever be inspired. This contends with Youtube for the ability to capture your attention with serious time-drain capabilities. It’s just fascinating to see it all!
That being said, unfortunately, the entire catalog has not been photographed yet. Sometimes it will tell you something exists in their archives. . . but you don’t even get a description. Disappointing yes, but their collection is extensive enough that I think you can probably find an example or two to study regardless. So if you’re wanting to find some inspiration, or just want to check out cool stuff, go wander their archives for awhile!
Tapping trees for syrup! I’ve never really considered myself to be in an area where making maple syrup was an option…. But reading an old pioneer account of syrup/sugar making in this area when it was originally settled changed my mind. No, we don’t have loads of Sugar maples like the northeast does (or any hardwood for that matter), but we do have some Box Elder trees in the creek draws at the base of the mountains. Besides, I have since done some reading, and from what I can tell tapping trees (not just maples either) was done across the U.S as it was one of the only sources of sweetner during the 1800’s. Did maple syrup just become “maple” syrup due to the abundance of them in the hardwood forests of the east? Regardless, it’s been a ton of fun trying something new and I can tell this will become an annual tradition for me!
I read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz a little while ago and it has definitely inspired me…. Who isn’t drawn to the idea of crocks of vegetables spoiling on their kitchen counter?? Realistically though, if you’re a beginner to the fermentation world his book is a great starting point, I recommend you read it. It provides enough background to allay your fears that this is nutso and provides you with the reassurance that people have indeed been fermenting food for millenia, and in fact they form a traditional staple for many cultures (think sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, salami– and all alcoholic drinks). What you see pictured is a jar of carrot pickles (been going about a week) and a jar of orange vinegar (about one month in) that I currently have fermenting…. Can’t wait to taste them! I can tell I’m going to be doing this with a lot of different ingredients in the future, it’s fun, easy, and the result is food!
I just finished reading The Winter Wilderness Companion by
Garrett and Alexandra Conover, it’s one that is for sure going on the suggested
reading list! It’s a fascinating book about traditional winter travel on foot
in the far north. They are snowshoeing guides with decades of experience in the
boreal forest who take extended excursions on a frequent basis (the book often
mentions things like “the time we were on a 5 week walk across Ontario” or “we
found during our 400 mile walk around Maine…”). Coincidentally enough, for
extended winter travel (vs recreational weekend experiences) they tend to
recommend traditional gear in place of high end modern outdoor gear. Ie,
traditional woven babiche snowshoes, buckskin and wool footwear, and homemade
canvas wall tents. They find it performs better, lasts longer, and is easier to
repair if something happens. This is the
only book I’ve ever seen plans for making your own wall tent in…..Something
you will undoubtedly see as a future project on this site! If you live in a
northern clime and are interested in winter living, working, and recreation
(and have a bent for traditional skills)
you’ll find this book fascinating. I highly recommend reading it!