We spent February 2014 in Menomonie, Wisconsin at ReWild University where we studied all manner of interesting things with Kenton Whitman and crew.
While there we learned how to:
Build different types of shelter
Make a fire using a hand drill, bow drill, and flint and steel
Make char cloth
Bake bread using “ancient grains”
Coal burn wooden utensils
Scrape and tan hides (I’ll explain this process in greater detail later)
Identify useful plants in deep winter
Survive a fall through ice
Reverse wrap cordage
Make pitch glue
An incredibly brief description of our time:
There is no electricity or running water in the 16′ yurt where we stayed. However, there is a great little wood stove with a soapstone cooktop and a catalytic converter (which is my first time using something like that). We carried a water container a short distance every day for washing and drinking.
We arrived during an especially cold snap, so the nights were between -30 and -25. I stoked the heater two or three times a night and we all bundle up under the covers, so it’s really not as bad as you might think. Luckily we both have experience cooking on wood stoves and rocket stoves. Otherwise we’d have been pretty hungry!
The lack of media and the constant barrage of marketing messages was blissful.
In addition to learning “old skills”, we also had the good fortune to see other people raising children using the same methods we’ve chosen (I’ll explain our choice of attachment parenting some other time). Priceless.
Because we’re trying to build a house this summer, we need money. The folks at the farm were very supportive and made sure that I had a temporary office and all the bandwidth I needed. I worked 3 days a week for about 4 hours a day. My clients were intrigued and supportive of my irregular hours (I also worked in overdrive to clear my plate in the weeks prior to leaving).
By candle light we read many books. We each chose books based on our interests – Manijeh went mostly with plant books (both informational and spiritual), I chose to read about Buddhism and the Zen mind, and Orin sampled a little of everything before napping.
On waking, we prepared breakfast and geared up for our daily trip outside with the instructor for that day. Once the instructor arrived at the yurt, we discussed the day’s lessons and shared any questions or observations from the previous day.
We hunted for chaga and other wild edibles. Here’s Kenton harvesting chaga with Orin strapped to his back.
Once a week or so we shared supper with all of the people who lived on the farm, usually at the home of the matriarch, Dotty. Each home was hand built by the residents from wood harvested on the land. Meals were usually made with meat, fruit and veggies grown on the farm. Here are a couple of rabbits I dispatched and braised. Made a fine meal with lentils and kale.
The last week we were there, I built a little snow playground for Orin and Kenton’s little girl, Mirabelle. The two had a grand time going down the slide and crawling into the little snow cave.
Late one night as I lay in bed, I had the idea to pick apart the Flower of Life symbol. I imagined pulling it apart in strands and I suddenly saw it as intertwining strands of DNA. The following morning I sat down to try to capture the idea in a piece of art. Two hours later I produced this image:
If you’d like a copy, shoot me an email and I’ll have a high res print made.
It will take some time, but we’ve decided that it is important to share the things we’ve learned – both in and out of the classes. Our 5 year plan is to develop the infrastructure needed to begin teaching some of the things we’ve learned in recent years.
If you’d like to live a little, I can’t recommend this experience enough. Drop Kenton a line and work something out. You wont regret it.