W:64,65: A-Team Camp!

For the last two weeks I have worked as a staff member for “A-Team Camp.” It felt nice to come home just now, to find a little cash sitting in my tip jar. Thanks to Locke and Steven for the tips. I really appreciate it! So many exciting things and experiences happened for me, it feels difficult to choose what to speak about first…

My new friend Brian (a new import rewilder to Portland) acted as lead primitive skills instructor. He comes from several years of focusing on such elements as flint-knapping, bow & arrow making, etc. His skills and his passion for teaching made the camp more fun for me as I got to learn a ton from him as well. Most of the cool primitive skills stuff I learned from just hanging out with Brian and watching him do his thing. Thanks Brian!

While hiking up a creek I found a chunk of Jasper, a kind of native stone that an archaeologist friend told me the natives used for making arrowheads. I took the stone back to Brain and he flint-knapped an arrowhead in about an hour, which he gave to me as a gift and said he just felt good to knapp some native stone. Many knappers use mostly obsidian gathered from far away volcanic sites. Rarely do you see people knapping stones they find in a creek bed near there where they live.

Brain had the kids build Bows out of vine maple, which worked really well. I had tried to make a bow three other times, once with vine maple, and had felt discouraged and defeated by my failure. With Brians expertise I felt like I finally understand the basics of bow-making. I made a bow but the maple itself warps too much; though now I just need to steam the wood and shape it better. I’ll work more on that later.

Joe (one of the students) and I experimented with making a bow-drill from scratch. For cordage we tried using the bark of fireweed, an annual wildflower which Penny Scout had read native peoples used for making fish nets. I showed Joe how to split the stalk with your thumb and strip off the bark. Brain saw us painstakingly removing the bark and showed us a really amazing technique for removing the bark very quickly that I will demonstrate on video in a later blog. After that I tried wrapping the cordage while the green bark. It broke very easily and I felt discouraged that anyone used it for cordage. Than the next day Brian said he tried some of it after it dried and it felt pretty strong. Penny Scout said that the book said the natives had dried it first but she didn’t really believe the books that much, and I don’t blame her; many of the books seem to fill themselves with bullshit. I did a quick reverse wrap and found that I could not break the dry fibers, even the thin string I had made. I had expected it to have strength green like nettles, but it gained strength as it dried. Crazy! Brain also showed me how to do the leg-roll reverse-wrap method for making cordage (something I tried to figure out for myself a million times) in about 30 seconds. I’ll shoot some of that on video soon too!

While harvesting the fireweed I came across a new moral dilemma for rewilding; now that I know the proper time to harvest fireweed to ensure its growth next year (right after it goes to seed), I feel lame harvesting it before that time. I took several plants that did not even have flowers yet, this means that those plants did not have time to reproduce and would not add to the seeds to ensure they come back next year. This works as a moral dilemma because I have the inspiration to learn about fireweed right now, and it sat before me right than… But if I didn’t do it right than, I probably wouldn’t have done it later. Where does the line between following your learning inspiration and sustainable harvest times match? Does it make that big of a difference? I made sure to only experiment with a few plants, leaving behind a large majority to flower and seed… but still. I felt a little lame.

One of the days Penny Scout led a plant walk down some old railroad line in Molalla. She had them make an oil and tincture with St. John’s Wort. Along the way we ate some of the ripe berries like these Service Berries.

Brian built a quick sweat lodge made out of vine maple saplings and a few plastic tarps. He didn’t seem worried about using rocks from the river bed, so I went with it too. About half of the rocks exploded, but as long as we covered most of them with heavy wood and stayed tucked 30 feet away for the first hour and a half, they didn’t hurt anyone. I always imagined an exploding rock to act like a grenade and blow all to hell, but these rocks more “popped” than exploded. They didn’t travel very far from the fire and didn’t have much force to them. Inside the lodge Brian led a casual, non-traditional appreciation/thanks-giving session for the campers, which they really liked. I never imagined building a sweat lodge could feel that simple!

The climax of the camp involved 3 days of paintball. We camped out at Splat-Action Paintball in Molalla. Paintball gives the non-military enlisted rewilding an excuse to practice stealth drills and combat in a safe and legal environment. It felt great. I can’t wait to lead some more games in the future.

I realized something at this camp; I have reached adulthood. I mean, I know that, right. I’ve felt like an adult for a while now, but at 26, my late 20’s something has really changed that I didn’t feel in my early 20’s. It hit me pretty hard at this camp for several reasons. The first instance occurred when we watched a movie where teenagers battle “grown-ups.” At one point the main character says, “We have to fight back against the grown-ups!” Soapy (a nick name of one of the students) turned to me and said, “Hey Scout, you better watch out!” I didn’t understand and I asked, “Why?” He looked at me sheepishly and said, “Cause… You’re a grown-up…” The students also pointed out that I had aged the most of anyone at the camp; no one had authority over my own. I hadn’t realized that at all. In fact, in the back of my perception I still think my Boy Scout Master lurks just over in the other side of the camp. Definitely in spirit.

The main rite-of-passage that happened to me occurred when I sent two of the boys home from camp. As I drove them back to the office from our campsite I realized the weight of this action and the distance this action created between my role at the camp and theirs; a responsible adult giving consequences to young adults. It feels slightly weird, scary and empowering at the same time.

Now, back at the Moho it seems like I have so much to do! The garden needs weeding, I’ve got to collect the camas seeds and plant them in my yard, the cherry trees near my house have ripe berries all over them, I’ve got to plan my survival basics class for next weekend, and a class for Echoes in Time next month, plus lots more. The summer time feels hella busy.

Keep on Rewildin’


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12 Comments on “W:64,65: A-Team Camp!”

  1. Hey, im glad things are looking up for you! Isnt it strange how life deals ya? I know how that is! But I’ve always had this philosphy that we should be grateful for what we have. Becuase there are a lot of other people who has worst luck. Which is sad. But you notice these people seems to do well on their own. Cuz they know that it’s not worth fretting over nothing. Just enjoy what you got, becuase life is precious.

    Have a great summer dude! And btw I think youre cute!

  2. Hey man, I’m glad the A-team was not just the negatives you said. You should return next year so I can shoot you more in pain– errr, enjoy your company.

  3. Sounds like a great week and a great idea for a class to really get kids into rewilding. I don’t see a dilemma with harvesting plants during all season. A different part of the plant is useful each season. Just harvest in a caretaking manner. Find diseased or damaged plants. Find plants in heavy competition and take one of those. By removing some plants you may make the whole group stronger.

  4. Urbs,
    Regarding the fireweed, i think you acted responsibly…you said you left enough to keep the plant going for next year, which is very much a sustainable practice for almost any example. In fact doesn’t that pretty much describe exactly the practice of most native american tribes?

  5. Beautiful photos Scout!

    Great that Brian “flint-knapped a beautiful arrowhead” out of a piece of Jasper, within an hour.

    I have a Serviceberry Tree in my backyard, but usually the birds and the squirrels beat me to it. I settle for the blackberries along the trails, my dog enjoys a few as well!

    Looks like you had a great time!

  6. I wouldn’t worry about the fireweed cause its seeds can really travel far and since it loves clearcuts,there is plenty.Perhaps it was the only one around?I’ll never forget taking my native friend out on an herb walk with Nancy Turner.Everyone was being so careful which,I could tell,was getting to him.He gave an example of native harvesting techniques which involved ripping a huge section of moss covered licorice fern off a tree like a bear.It spiced up the class,Nancy smiled,and really gave me the confidence to be more of a force in nature.

  7. Aloha bro! I love the site and thanks for the reviews. This camp kicked ass and I’m happy you had a blast, I know I did. I couldn’t have done it without you and you taught me some really important knowledge I have taken to heart. Looking forward to working with you some more and keep in touch!

  8. As far as the fireweed goes, you might help more fireweed to grow there by burning the place. It’s a pioneer species that mostly comes in after disturbance. If the place is left untouched, over time there will be no fireweed there.
    When I worked in the bush, there was more fireweed in burned clearcuts than anywhere else. In an unlogged forest you don’t see much fireweed unless there has been a wildfire.

    Not advocating for the logging industry here just saying that what is seemingly destruction is what creates the right conditions for fireweed to flourish.

  9. Oh, by the way the new shoots of fireweed, (when they kind of look like asparagus spears) are pretty tasty. So you might want to selectively kill some baby fireweeds sometime.