Wilderness Skills Apprenticeship 2009-10

The Wilderness Skills Apprenticeship has been in full swing since August.  This is the pilot year fCoil Pot in the makingor the 9 month program that runs from August 2009-April 2010.  This year we have two participants, Josh and Jason.   The participants ares scheduled to meet 4 times a month and are automatically registered for the scheduled skills workshops during the nine month period.  Our weekly meetings are 3 hours long in the evenings.  At these weekly meetings the participants are introduced to new skills and work on them is started.  These skills continued at home, basically homework (dirt time).  The skills progress is checked at each meeting, guidance is given and new skills are introduced or work  is continued or completed.

grinding greenstoneThe idea of this program is to introduce the participants to as many skills as possible, provide them with comprehensive instruction, hands on experience, and  projects for dirt time.   Once we have a plethora of skills to work on, focus is directed toward skills of choice for each participant.  Individual dirt time and the passion to complete a given project is the key to success.  I like to make sure there are 4 skills to choose from at all times.   This way the participants can switch gears when they need to seek change, without limitations.  As the program progresses and the basics are covered, I focus on each participants passion, focusing on the skills that they really enjoy.  My goal is to have a satisfied, well rounded, and experienced student that can do or learn any skill out there with out any difficulty.  Dirt time is the key.

It has been fun using each meeting to build up to the point of being overwhelmed with the amount of skills to work on.  We started by harvesting clay from the creek, fresh hand drill stalks, and bundles of cordage materials from my racking a deer hidedogbane warehouse.  We spent hours in the creek mastering bipolar blade production. As we smashed and bashed both rocks and bones, the technique is refined and identifying material selection is honed.  It’s amazing how every rock is different in quality and fracture dynamics.  Each shape and the holding position dictating the outcome.buckskin bag

There have been several workshops that have run since the beginning of the program, including Wild edible and useful plants, Flint knapping, survival weekend, and hide tanning.  During the weekly meetings we have been learning the basics to ancient life ways and preparing for what is taught in the workshops.  This gives the participants a better handle on understanding what they are about to learn during the advanced skills workshops.

During the hide tanning workshop we worked on several hides.  Both wet scrape and dry scrape were taught.  Of coarse we all know that dry scraping takes the most skill and turns out the most beautiful hides.  All of the stages of producing buckskin were taught including skinning; fleshing, dehairing, racking, scraping, braining, softening, and smoking.  We were lucky enough to be able to teach the skinning portion on a road killed bear cub.

pecking greenstoneAfter the hide tanning class I went on a buckskin sewing binge and created some of the nicest two greenstone celtsapparel ever.  I can’t wait to make some clothes for hunting.  I hope to have time to tan more hides with Josh and Jason so I can teach them how to sew up some items with all buckskin lacing and bone tools.

Currently these guys are working on many feet of cordage, primitive pottery and greenstone axes and adzes.  Jason will start working on a bow soon and Josh has really went to town on his pottery and temper experimentation now he wants to work more hides.  Baskets are in the near future and we will be collecting all the material for that as soon as I heal my broken leg.

For more information about this program check our the Wilderness Skills Apprenticeship web page.

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