The Struggle of Lyme

It was at Primitive Technology Weekend this May that the discussion was brought up.  Many of us would probably contract Lyme Disease at some point, especially considering our lifestyle.  Ben and I shrugged it off, however.  We didn’t think it was that serious.  Lyme just seemed to be something that you take medicine for and then it goes away.  No one seems to talk about it much.  Unfortunately, it is much more serious than all of us are led to believe.

As it happens, it is likely that at that event, one of us did end up with a tick bite and did contract Lyme.  And that person was me.  I’m one of the lucky ones to have had it figured out so quickly.

It started with panic attacks roughly two weeks later.  I’d never had one before, but I knew what they were.  What I didn’t know is that they aren’t supposed to last an entire day.  Following the panic attacks came the depersonalization, or feeling like you aren’t attached to yourself.  For me, I felt like parts of my body were disappearing, or were not attached to me anymore.  It also felt like I was watching a movie instead of living my life.  It was during the worst of these symptoms this years MAPS Meet occurred.  By this time I was in therapy regularly and taking medication for the anxiety.  I struggled to enjoy it.  I don’t regret going, I only wish I could remember more about it.  By the time we returned from MAPS, I had a whole slew of symptoms, from being excessively tired, having crying fits, head numbness, pressure in my head, twitching of body parts, double vision, hallucinations, loss of appetite, neck pain, muscle weakness, less exercise tolerance, night sweats, dizziness and so much more.  I was sent to a Neurologist who told me I was having migraines due to my anxiety.  I took medication for migraines, but that just made the panic attacks worse.  I had my blood work done 4 different times.  Everything came up normal beyond the fact that I was becoming anemic over time.  

I do not remember when Lyme came into my head.  I suppose I grasped onto it like a lifeline.  A faint possibility that I was not going crazy.  I was seeking out support groups online for some of my different symptoms, particularly the depersonalization.  It was on one of these sites that someone suggested that anyone with feelings of depersonalization get checked out for Lyme.  

Over time I became more convinced that I wasn’t crazy the more the doctor’s told me I was. One day I came across a list of Lyme symptoms and found that every single symptom I had happened to be on that list.  Then came the struggle to actually get tested.  

It was by this time that I had stopped mentioning new symptoms, though I would have a new one every few days.  It felt like everyone around me was thinking I was making up my pain, or thinking I should just get over it.  So I stopped talking about it and struggled through my life.  

The quest to get tested was a hard one.  I was told repeatedly that I just needed to see a psychiatrist, and since I didn’t have arthritis, I didn’t have Lyme.  I devoured any reading material I could find on the subject of Lyme and found that almost everyone who suspected Lyme were told to seek psychiatric help.  It apparently is so common, that those who are told that should count it as a diagnoses for Lyme.

I eventually did get tested, and unlike so many others (the testing for Lyme is horribly inaccurate), mine came back positive on the first try.  I have just started a two month course of Doxycycline and I have to see a doctor once a month to check out my progress.  If this doesn’t work, I will be given antibiotics through an IV over the course of a few months.  Here’s to hoping that wont be needed!   We will be trying some herbal remedies as well, but I wont list them here until I have tried them myself.  

I’d write more about the controversy surrounding Lyme, and perhaps someday I will, but for now I just want all of you out there reading to know how serious it actually is.  Lyme can turn your life upside down.  It can make living a struggle.  And the bug that causes it is typically no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.

I believe that most reading this probably spend a great deal of time outdoors.  I urge you to be careful.  Do tick checks, twice a day if need be. You dont have to give up what you love, just be aware.  If you get bit, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you didn’t end up with a rash, you don’t have Lyme.  The rash occurs in less than 50% of the victims and it is rarely in the shape of a bulls eye.

 I was told by some fellows lymies that I was crazy for wanting to continue on spending my time in the woods, working on primitive skills, whenever possible.  Not crazy.  Just wanting to live.   

– Miranda Vivian

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Paleo: Staying on the Wagon

I will be the first to admit that changing your diet is hard.  Cookies, chips, candy, ice cream…they all scream, “Eat Me!”  That is a little creepy if you think about it.  Typically it takes at least 14 days for a new habit to form.  Once the habit is formed, will power is much stronger against anything keeping you from that habit. Once, when Ben and I hit an all time low on money, we decided to go off of Paleo.  What we found is that we actually spent more money than we typically did on Paleo.  We found that we were hungry more often, and so we ate more often.  We “satisfied” our hunger by eating cereal as a snack, eating pasta for almost every meal, and having sandwhiches to satiate us.  We never stayed satisfied for long.  Beyond the hunger issue, we also found our energy levels were way down.  Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, we went back on Paleo. What I am going to share with you are some tips and recipes to at least remain paleo-style. 

Always eat breakfast!  Have leftover dinner if you have to.  Have a piece of fruit.  Just make sure you’re eating something, and not a doughnut as you walk out the door.   

Snacks are good!  Snack on veggie sticks.  Snack on fruit.  Snack on meat.   

I personally enjoy a good salad for my lunches.  Not just a few pieces of lettuce, but a substantial salad with a lot of vegetables.   

Have someone around you that is on Paleo as well.  At the very least, have someone around you that will support you.  It is much easier in pairs. 

Don’t skip meals.  Unless you are fasting, which actually is healthy on occasion, skipping meals “just because” is never a good idea. 

For dinner have a meat and a vegetable.  Have a salad if you are still hungry.  Still hungry after that?  Have fruit. 

You can have as much meat, vegetables, and fruit as you want!  There is no limit on these. 

We have found that a package of strawberries costs rougly the same amount as a bag of chips.  Do yourself a favor…buy the strawberries and snack on them.  Don’t feel guilty about eating all of them at a sitting either.  

Drink throughout the day.  If you like juice, good!  But try to limit it to one glass of juice a day.  Water and tea are your friends.   

Exercise.  You’ll be amazed at how much energy Paleo gives you. 

Stock up on meat when it is on sale!  In the long run it will save you a bundle.  Do the same with frozen vegetables.  They are not as good as fresh, but you’ll feel better having eaten them.  

There are several meals we do that have become regular meals for us. 

Honey Chicken – We like to do this one for camping especially.  Just cut up pieces of chicken, pour honey over the chicken, and cook!  Add fruit in there if you like.  I personally like putting pieces of pineapple in with this dish. 

Sausage, Mushroom, and Onions – This is a favorite when we have little time to cook.  Grab sausage (I know, it is a fatty meat, but it is paleo-style), cut up onions, cut up mushrooms, and broil. 

Spiced Chicken – You may notice that chicken is frequent in our diets.  Well, it is cheap and it is paleo.  Just grab chicken legs, chicken wings, chicken thighs, or any other kind of chicken and spice them with whatever spices you like!  If it is white meat you can pour eggs over top of them before spicing and you will have a very juicy meat.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.  Serve with a vegetable or salad (or both!)  

Orange Chicken – I typically use chicken legs for this recipe.  Spice up the legs with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger.  Pour orange juice over the legs and bake, same as above.  

Crab Soup – One day I would like to make my own base for this, but for now I use golden mushroom soup for my base.  Add as many kinds of vegetables as I want, typically onions, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and mushrooms.  Add crab, from a can would probably be cheapest but if you can afford it, by all means go out and buy some crabs!  Spice it up, cook, then eat!   

Stew – Soups and stews are pretty easy.  Whatever kind of vegetables you like and whatever kind of meat you like, just throw it in the pot.  Use a tomato sauce or use a soup base.  It doesn’t really matter here.  Spice to your taste and you have an all inclusive meal!  I love having stews and soups for dinner. 

Stir Fry – The same as with soups and stews, this is a very “to your own personal taste” kind of thing.  Try to avoid the soy sauce though!  If you have a wok, that’s great!  If you don’t, a large skillet will do just fine. Recently we had a shrimp stir fry with zucchini.  That is certainly something we will do again in the future!  

We like to vary up our vegetables.  Some of the more common vegetables in our diet include asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and spinach.  When we want to be “bad” or want to watch a movie with something snacky, we make artichokes with a mayonnaise dip. Artichokes are quite tasty and very fun and involved to eat.     

Fruit happens to be my salvation on Paleo.  We typically keep bananas, pears, apples, and oranges in the house.  When on sale we buy grapes and strawberries, though we actually do have a strawberry plant that bears fruit. Occasionally we’ll get a pineapple to slice up and eat, which I enjoy immensely.  We’ll do the same with watermelon in the summer. Infrequently, though it does happen, we get more exotic fruit, such as the star fruit.  On hikes during the spring and summer, we will pick blackberries when we see them.   

As long as you have enough willpower, paleo isn’t hard to stick to.  You just have to try. 

Anyhow, I hope that I’ve helped someone out there at least a little bit. Happy eating!

– Miranda Vivian  

In Memory Of…

JetOf all of the animals humans commonly associate with, only two can be said to have a true symbiotic relationship. Most of the animals we use: birds of prey, horses, cows, sheep, etc were “broken” to the lifestyle. The word is far too often aptly chosen. However, cats and dogs are different. Cats and dogs domesticated themselves. We like to focus on the ecological niches that civilized humans have destroyed over the millennia. In a way it gives us a perverse sense of pride. But I would like to, for the moment, talk about the ecological niches humans have created by their existence.

The domestication of dogs actually predates civilization by most accounts. And it surely functions as a very effective hunting partnership. The help of a dog makes hunting far easier on humans who cannot follow a scent trail, but must instead rely on other secondary signs like broken twigs and disturbed earth. In the mean time, a group of humans can kill prey at a distance, greatly reducing the danger the dog would otherwise face in bringing down the prey itself.

Cats have the dubious distinction of being the only animal that willingly allied itself with civilized man. When civilized man began to store large quantities of grain, most particularly in Ancient Egypt, he attracted rodents by the bucketful to the readily available grain. The rodents attracted small cats who delighted the Egyptians by being quite willing and able to kill and eat the rodents that would otherwise have taken all of their grain. The partnership was so beneficial that the Egyptians venerated cats, and made one of their most important goddesses a cat. The goddess Bast’s job was to guard Ra, the sun god, from an evil serpent as he rowed the sun across the sky each day, which also suggests the Egyptian cats found river snakes to be delicious as well. And while the medieval Europeans certainly took a dislike to the cat, most cultures across the world have found their inclusion to be beneficial. As do we.

We had a cat. Jet. Our relationship with her was mutually beneficial. She gave us comfort. We gave her shelter. She brought us bugs. We gave her other foods. We had hoped that she would be with us in our life after civilization. She was a natural hunter, mostly hunting for bugs, but we planned on getting her a mouse to “play” with. There was a hunting experience in which she jumped in the air to catch a fly. We were quite proud of her for that one. She was always full of energy and life, and very young on top of that. She was with us for such a short time, but despite that she had a full life. It was difficult to say goodbye to her, as it would be to say goodbye to any family member. It may be hard to understand for anyone without a cat or a dog to love, but they are part of the family. They connect with you. You get attached. You bond. And one day you have to say goodbye. But is it worth it? In a word, yes.

– Miranda and Ben

On Communities and Families

Warning: This will dive into personal areas of my life.

Grief pulls communities together. I never truly realized it before, but families are communities. Some more than others, granted, but if you are lucky, a family is a true community. I never considered my family to be much of a community, but this past holiday season changed that.

In December of 2005, right after Christmas, my grandmother went into the hospital and died days later. This past holiday season certainly had the makings to be quite depressing. Oddly enough, it wasn’t. I would have thought that losing the “glue” that seemed to hold our family together would have tore us apart. It did something surprising that I probably should have expected. We came together more than ever before in our mutual grief. Mostly we came together for my grandfather, to cheer him up, to keep him company, and to make him laugh. Frequently we would be in conversations with one another, laughing and joking, when those laughs would turn to tears. When someone felt down, the others would go to cheer them up and make sure they were doing alright. A true community. I’ve never felt closer to my family than I do now.

A community is family. To survive, a community is a must. Ben talks about the importance of communities frequently. While I’ve always agreed with him on this subject I never realized firsthand how important a community can be. For me, it helps to survive grief. While a community does much more than that, for myself, it is enough for the moment.

– Miranda Vivian

On Depression

The past six months for me have pretty much been a constant lesson in the true power of depression. I began the year dealing with the death of a woman who raised me. My grandmother. Following almost immediately after this, I moved. The move was particularly hard, since I found out I was moving on the day that the funeral took place, as well as having to move only days later. Being separated from my family at this time was also difficult This certainly was an interesting time in my life to be sure.

For the first time in years, I sought out psychiatric help. This proved fruitless and did nothing lessen the pain of depression. I was doing something that I had been so excited to have the chance to do, and yet there was no joy in it. Every moment of every day was a hardship. There was very little sleep to be had and the sleep I did manage was nightmarish.

In the past two months I have managed to move past much of this feeling of depression and hopelessness. Experiences of community certainly helped. Experiences of making objects, shelters, food, and the like from things found on the ground helped. If I stayed focused on the future and the hope that might exist there, depression, while still there, was lessened.

Civilization makes us sick. Sick of the mind and of the body. We struggle to pay bills, to find and keep friends, make ends meet, find jobs, and even to be happy. I struggle in my daily life to figure out how exactly I am going to pay my rent for living in a structure with a roof for the coming month. Just weeks ago I had the experience of building a shelter with just sticks and leaves. It wasn’t a hard thing to do and since it was a group effort, it was actually fun to do. I still think to myself, “Okay, what food can I afford to buy this month?” At the same time I can go outside and immediately recognize the edible and medicinal plants staring me in the face. While foraging for these items occur, they are thus far supplementary. Daniel Quinn told us the food is locked up. This is true, in our minds. Apple trees dot the landscaping here, and I for one am looking forward to the fruit they bear. Yet, still, I am so incredibly locked in to civilization. The hold is lessening, and as time goes by I feel it less.

My goals are simple in life. Most large decisions from now and until my goals are met will largely be because of these goals. This includes the very classes that I may take, which trips I go on, gatherings attended, to whether I live in a house or an apartment. I have noticed something when I made this decision. The depression lessened. Sure, there is plenty of stress, particularly recently due to a variety of reasons. The depression, though, is in hiding. My feelings on this is that having a goal and knowing you are actively working towards it gives hope.

In many primitive societies groups work together to bring about a goal. While it is work, it does not often feel as such. Building a hut, cooking dinner, gathering or hunting food, or the making of items is done with laughter, talking, and discussions. During our recent trip to learn many needed skills we discovered this. We built shelters, we made weapons, we tracked, we foraged, we made fire. Much of it was exhausting, true, but it was also fun. What many would call work was enjoyable. It was enjoyable because it was part of a community.

Many with depression either do not have hope for much or do not feel they are part of a community. Or perhaps both. It has been recently that I felt the hope and the power of community. My hope is that others will feel the same as I have.

There is always hope.

– Miranda Vivian

Practical Skills: Medicinal Plant Walk

One of the workshops that I attended at the Maps Meet was the Medicinal Plant Walk. Taught by an herbalist named "Doc," all the attendants ended up with a wealth of information. Now, believe me when I say that information and discussions on plants and their medicinal and/or edible qualities do not end here, but for now I am concentrating on information that was received at this gathering.

We started our walk underneath a pine tree. Pines (any kind) happen to be full of vitamin C, and when used topically may be used to cure sores, cuts, and rashes. Pine needles, as well as firs, have similiar qualities to willow, which means they may be used as aspirin.

What did we discuss next? No medicinal plant walk would be complete without dandelions! Dandelions are chock full of vitamins A, K, and C, and the leaves and root of the dandelion will actually help to grow back an unhealthy liver.

Mint is also a common one you might hear about. There are over 50 species of mint and all can interbreed with one another. All may be used as insect repellent, as well as a stomach soother and taken for mild fevers (as a tea is best). You may also use heavy doses for headaches and menstrual pains. You may also use the leaves as a wash for muscle aches and sores. Note: A wash is when you boil the plant down and then apply topically, sort of like a tea for your skin. To help stabilize blood sugar, for diabetics and those with hypoglycemia in particular (though good for anybody), adding mint leaves to your water in the morning and drinking mint water throughout the day will help.

Next up we examined some blackberry plants. Blackberry is useful as it is used as a cure for dysentery. In a survival situation with perhaps a limited water supply, having a cure for that particular problem might just save your life. You use the leaves of the plant and boil them for the cure. Use as many as you wish to, and depending on how serious your condition is, the color of the water will end up differently. You will want the water to be green for mild cases of dysentery, brown for somewhat serious cases, and dark brown or black if you are close to death. If the leaves don't happen to be in season you may use the root. Of course, if you wish to use the entire plant, leaves, root and fruit, you can always make yourself some nice blackberry jam!

Strawberry has a great deal of vitamin C hidden away in its roots. George Washington's troops dug in the snow to dig up strawberry roots and headed off scurvy.

Plantain, every-ones favorite medicinal plant. "The plant that thought of everything," is how Ben describes it. To be used topically, the plantain (roots or leaves) must be crushed up, not chewed (you would be asking for more trouble than it's worth), and placed on the wound. Plantain will help to stop bleeding and may even reverse blood poisoning. An example of this is of a man who had a septic cut that resulted in blood poisoning. Not being in an area where he, and his companions, could head off to the hospital quickly, they had to deal with it themselves while traveling. His companions took shifts and placed crushed plantain on the wound every 20-30 minutes. When they arrived at the emergency room, the doctor wanted to know what was wrong. When they showed him the wound, the doctors reaction was one of "Yeah, so what? It's a cut!" The blood poisoning had reversed itself.

Jewelweed, one of the most interesting plants that I encountered on this walk, has leaves that shine like silver when they are underwater. The leaves may be crushed into a juice and rubbed on the skin to be used as a cure for poison ivy and poison oak. Not only is it a cure, but it is also a preventative medicine. If you happen to be in a area where you know you will come in contact with poison ivy or poison oak, rub jewelweed on your skin and you will be fine for approximately 2 hours.

Yarrow is used primarily for the stopping of bleeding. The blossom of the yarrow is the best part for this use. If the blossoms are not in bloom, use the leaves instead. You may also make yarrow tea out of the leaves to help break fevers and get rid of headaches.

Wild Ginger, not related to common ginger, grows low to the ground and if crushed will produce a ginger-like smell. The root and the leaves of this plant may be used to help the breaking of fevers and to help reduce the effects of menopause. It may also be used as a tincture, using the entire plant, to help with coughs. It is not an expectorant, but rather will break up the mucus, making it easier for you to breathe.

Comfrey leaves may be used on burns, placing on the area after crushing it up well. Comfrey has the interesting property of accelerating cell growth. It may be placed on cuts, wounds and even on areas where a bone is broken, as it is transdermal (goes through the skin). It is excellent in helping with stomach ulcers. Comfrey has gotten a somewhat bad wrap for it's cell growth acceleration properties, however, it will not accelerate abnormal cell growth, such as cancer cells.

Well, that is all for now. Look back for more of our experiences and what we learned at the Maps Meet!

Pines
Firs
Dandelions
Mint
Blackberry
Strawberry
Plantain
Jewelweed
Yarrow
Wild Ginger
Comfrey

– Miranda Vivian

The MAPS Meetup

We have just returned from the Mid-Alantic Primitive Skills Meet (MAPS), held at Catoctin Quaker Camp. Over the next week or so we'll post some details of the skills we've learned in the Practical Skills section. If our descriptions make you want to learn more, next years MAPS should include many of those skills again, and more.

Reflecting back on the days we were there, we both realized that even with having known only a few of these people for any length of time, a sense of community still pervaded that we were not excluded from. We made fast friends with many of the participants, and strengthened friendships will some of the people we had met at the Primitive Technology Weekend.

At one point, as Ben is prone to doing, he got into a rather intense discussion about social structures and their comparative efficiency and what affects they have on the people in them. The details of the discussion are not really the point, the point is that two people who had not previously known each other were able to have a very intense debate without confusing the person and the argument. In our experience, and probably in most of your experiences as well, it is fairly rare to find people willing to have such a debate without becoming…irritated. He had to leave before we had really finished articulating and comparing our opposing views, but it ended with a handshake and an agreement that both were both pleased with the outcome and that they were pleased to have met each other.

The people we met were also welcoming in another way. It is rare, even with this knowledge becoming increasingly mainstream, to find people who we can speak with on the issues we discuss on Aftermath without having to begin at the most basic level of the argument. At the MAPS meet we could start at even the most theoretical elements without causing confusion.

We have emails for several people we met, and spread around the web address for Aftermath, the shameless self-promoters that we are. We are also planning on meeting up with at least two of the them again soon.

The sense of community at the MAPS meet was invigorating. It reminded us both of what it is we are working towards. Survival is fundamental. Community is worth while.

Look for posts on fire-making, shelter, black-smithing, and more!
– Miranda Vivian and Benjamin Shender 

Horses, Assateague, and Relaxation

Recently we took a trip to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and had a camping vacation at Assateague Island State Park. Assateague Island is interesting in the respect of its wildlife. As some legends go, a Spanish ship wrecked off the coast of Assateague, a barrier island a few miles from the mainland. The ship's cargo? The ancestors of those horses that live on the island today. While not a widely believed story in comparison to the story that settlers let their horses graze the lands of Assateague and those horses that are now there are decedents, I choose to believe the shipwreck story myself. It certainly has more flair!

We had the chance to live amongst the wildlife of Assateague, and in fact had to dodge droppings at every turn on walks away from the campsite. In a way, it was heartening. Every campground I have ever been in has warned of bears and other wildlife, yet besides birds and maybe a quick glimpse of a deer, there has been no encounters. On the first full day we were there, a windy and chilly day, we decided to relax with books on the beach. After a while being there, I heard Ben saying my name. When I read I completely phase out to the world around me, so it took him a few tries before I finally looked up. What did I see when I looked up? A wild horse making its way down the beach, slowly, and very sure of himself. Of course, when I imagine a wild horse in my imagination, it is typically of a stallion running wild in the wind, so this relaxed and calm horse was a bit of a surprise. We came to realize that the island does that to creatures. It makes them calm and relaxed. Not a care in the world is how I felt for the time we were there and I know Ben certainly was more relaxed. We spent most of the trip swimming, reading, and sleeping. Never once were we on a time schedule.

The day before we left is when we saw the deer. Two deer of very small size came up towards the campsites and stopped at the one next to us. Unfortunately we figured out it was because those campers had never figured out what, "leave no trace" means. Leaving food and garbage in their fire pit, the deer decided to have a snack. We ended up getting most of it on video and we were close enough to reach out and touch them. Before we left the next day, they came back to visit with three others. As I was packing up and getting ready to go, they came by the tent and the larger one peered inside before moving on, the rest following him.

If you ever have the chance to visit this tiny barrier island, which is only a few miles from Ocean City, you should definitely do so. You will find yourself more relaxed than you have been in years. It is an experience like no other and I know I plan on returning while I still have a chance. As I write this I remember that as the climate changes, so will the coast line.

We will be out of contact for a few days as we attend the Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills Meet. We will be sure to let everyone know how it went!

– Miranda Vivian

Primitive Technology Weekend: Miranda’s Account

It certainly is a long time coming, but it is finally here.

The first week of May brought us many interesting experiences, including foraging and a weekend at Oregon Ridge Nature Center to participate in their Primitive Technology Weekend event.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and quickly set up camp. Experience has taught us that the sooner camp is set, the less stress we would have later in the day, such as when the sun goes down and the temperature drops. Ben started a fire with little to no problems and did such a good job that we had a cooking fire within the first hour and a half. My job was to set up our temporary housing and I did it in record time, for me at least. Ironic, as the day we left I broke down our shelter and I joked to Ben that I was both the home-maker and the home-wrecker. It was just as not funny then as it is now!

The next day brought us demonstrations and talks with some of the experts of Primitive Technology, as well as an unexpected meeting with a friend: Ming. First on the agenda was bark-basket making. The idea is to peel off the park from a tree, carefully, and bend it and sew it to make a basket or a very unique handbag. Next up was Blowgun making. A very interesting, and I'm sure useful, skill to have, and a tedious one as well. To start with you need a River Cane, something similar to bamboo. In order to ensure you shoot straight, every piece of the cane must be straightened. It sounds easy, but it is a process that technically should take around four hours, but since we were on a schedule, we rushed through in two. To straighten the cane, it first must be heated up to the point of not being able to touch it. It becomes more pliable that way. Then you begin to bend it, carefully, as suddenly it is much easier to break. Once the cane is straight, it needs to be hollowed out. Not an altogether easy process either, but certainly easier. Next up is the actual dart making. We used thistle for the ends of the dart to make it fly easier, much like feathers are used on arrows. Once the process was complete, it was time for target practice. Ben amused himself greatly by knocking the tops off of Dandelions repeatedly. His aim was incredibly precise and became more so as the weekend went on.

Later in the day we attended an incredibly interesting presentation on flint knapping and history. I wish at this point that I had remembered more of it.

The following day had us watching in awe the expert flint knappers at work, more target practice with the blowgun, and archery. Ben and I set up a mini competition against each other on the blowgun, something that made quite a few people watch, in fascination or amusement. At the end of the day it was time for archery, something we both had been wanting to do since we got there. Target practice. A site was set up with fake animals, balloons, and a tennis ball dangling in the air, swaying with the wind. Having been quite fond of archery when I was younger, I was thrilled to be doing it again, though I had forgotten some the finer points of the skill. The highlight of this experience would have been the hitting of the tennis ball for me, a total of 5 times, two of those times being when the tennis ball was swinging back and forth from the last time I had hit it. For Ben, I'm sure it would have been the time he hit the boar's eye after aiming for that exact spot.

We talk from time to time about increasing our "hard core" level. The weekend of this event certainly increased that level, as did the foraging experience days before.

The next event like this that we are attending will be the Maps Meet at the Catoctin Quaker Camp.

– Miranda Vivian 

Foraging, the First Rite

Earlier this week I went foraging for the first time.

Miranda and I have decided to detox starting at the end of the month. Therefore, we went out to collect burdock, an herb known for its ability to cleanse a person’s blood. I had previously identified a likely looking spot. It was in the woods, away from roads and back off the path. Digging out the burdock was troublesome, until then I did not recall how deep burdock root stretches: up to six feet. I have to admit, I gave up after a little more than one and handed the spade over to Miranda, who added another half-foot or so before we decided to simply break it. We collected another, smaller, burdock plant before continuing on.

In these woods there is another plant that is incredibly populace: mustard garlic. Like its name implies, it is a spice using in cooking. Ironically enough, it has a mustard flavoring with a hint of garlic. For this plant foraging was easy, it was only the leaves and flowers that were of interest. Despite the commonality of the plant (it is an invasive species), we chose not to kill them, because it was unnecessary. The root was not of interest and each plant had many leaves, so only a few were taken from each one.

While out there we noticed that there was a large amount of wild onion growing as well. And they were growing well, some of them were over a half-inch in diameter. The most amusing part of this venture is that I went to supermarket yesterday. Apparently they were selling onions just like the ones we foraged for $1.29 a pound. Considering my salary and the amount of time it took to gather them, purchasing onions is now intensely uneconomical.

The onions are in a jar waiting for use (probably in next week’s stew). The garlic mustard is waiting to be dried. The burdock leaves have been dried and are now in 80 proof grain alcohol, which, in another week and a half, will be a usable tincture for blood purification. The roots are in the refrigerator waiting to be roasted up, I’m told the taste is similar to hamburger. I’ll let everyone know soon.

In the beginning of this experience I felt guilty that I was going to go out and kill these plants. I knew that this reaction is cultural, and thought about it some. Why did I feel guilty now when I never used to? I realized that I never used to before I started walking this path. My reaction to pulling out these plants was a reactionary one from my old civilized memeset. I told myself that this was different, I was not killing “weeds” in the garden, to be thrown in the trash later. I was foraging, an ancient and sacred rite from time beyond memory. And I would thank the plants and the land that grew them before departing. While I was there, the trails through the area were full of athletes running. Though I was not hidden, and only a little off the path, they did not see me. But I had already decided that, if they had questioned me, I would not be embarrassed for acting like a human.

-Benjamin Shender

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