Monday, July 26, 2010

I've Been Re-Wilding At Firefly

Guess where I have been since Thursday??? Re-Wilding classes at the annual FIREFLY!Firefly is a local Western North Carolina 'gathering' of people (all ages) who want to learn how to do amazing re-wilding, primitive, homesteading, crafting & earth easy skillz --- it consisted of 4 really intense days of classes taught by lovable teachers who don't just know the skillz but live them every moment of their lives.
I arrived at Camp Pinnacle wednesday night for registration, where i was given a canvas name tag and a little wooden bead on hemp string bracelet to show I was now part of the re-wilding tribe. I was then handed a map, with a LONG list of classes to choose from--- so many classes that it was literally agonizing trying to decide....

Classes available were an expansion on primitive ways of life, and survival knowledge... wild mushroom, tree & plant walks, building rafts, tanning animal hides, carving wooden spoons and bowls, basket weaving, slaughtering chickens & goats, trapping animals, debris shelter & friction fire making, flint knapping, sewing with buckskin, making bows and arrows, DIY Oil lamps, pottery (should I really go on?... you can see the list here cause you will want to go next year! )
Before any classes began, there was a short & sweet orientation where a man walked out to start a ceremonial fire with a bow drill, using friction (see pic above) - I seriously thought we'd be there for 30 mins waiting for the fire to start but it could not have been more then 5 minutes that he started a whole bonfire, using just friction & his breath into the smouldering kindling. It was f-en incredible!
The first class I attended was spoon carving - a technique that was not easy, but also was shockingly simple. The teacher (Barron, see guy in jumpsuit above) started with just a simple small piece of fresh cut green wood and a hatchet to split it into a thinner piece to begin carving with.
We used tools he had handcrafted himself & our personal knives (cause at this event everyone carries a KNiFe!!) Starting buy gouging out the spoon center, then carving around it....
this is my spoon below, almost finished. Chunky, but oh my gawd I was sooooo proud & love it.
I was really into learning how to tan animal skins, so that I can use them to make clothing and other long lasting I took a BARK TANNING class with Todd (the rad guy who can start fast friction fires!)
This class was also simple, chemical free yet a hard working process - I learned how to use hemlock tree bark & red oak to tan animal hides--- the bark has to be pounded into a powder and then either boiled down or soaked in water. He said if the water is cold sometimes with Hemlock it brings out the astringent tannins instead of the bitter ones, and FOR realZ he had everyone in the class taste the tannins so they could know the difference because the bitter ones work better! I totally only sniffed it... ;)
People not only tasted the tannins he had in jars, but they even tasted the tannins holding the animals skin in the bucket - the tannins are so strong, they kill everything (germs, foot fungus) - the color from the bark made a soothing shade of red on the leather...
He showed us animal skins tanned with and without the fur on too - the smaller critters needed a stronger quicker solution, while the bigger ones, start out with weaker solutions. The coolest part was it's REALLY hard to fuck up this process, the part that is most likely to get messed up is during the skinning and scrapping that is done before the tanning.
A favorite class of mine (mainly cause i was totally loved by my teacher Laura) was the Pine Needle Baskets!!! I have been waiting to learn how to weaves a nice tight basket for along time- and this method was a fairly easy coiling method, using long pine needles. You can use other gathered materials too (I am hoping to make some out of grass, devil's vine, and kudzu).
Using just hemp twine and a needle, we were taught to coil & weave the basket together, in a patterns of circles.
Later on during the night, when I went to decorate my basket with beads, Laura was nice enough to show me how to make OLIVE OIL LAMPS (which can also be done with animal fat and other slow burning oils). Simply by filling a glass or ceramic jar/container with the oil, then taking a wire, coiling it around a nail, then pull the nail out and shove in a cotton wick. Make the large wire circle at the bottom and handle at the top to make it easy to pull out and stand up...
Have you eva' heard of Brain Tanning Animal Hides? A process different from bark tanning, but brain tanning makes the leather so buttery soft (without using any chems) it's hard to believe --- I took a class on how to Sew With Buckskin that had been brain tanned!
Not using needle and thread, but using cordage made from the skin itself and an awl to poke the holes to lace it through - following the contours of the animals natural curves to decide it's best use (AKA does it make a good shirt, skirt, top, or purse). Parts of the hide are stronger then other, like the neck, spine and bottom - and the outfits need to be made with symmetry in order for them not to get out of shape only on one side.
I am still working on my project, but it's going to be a fringe skirt (shown below) and a bikini top(not shown)! wooo!


FireFly was at a place called camp pinnacle, that had been a summer camp in Hendersonville, NC for the last 80 years. There was a beautiful and warm 17 acre lake to swim, canoe, kayak, dive into- and for some designated areas to even skinny dip in!
At night there were 3 fires going, with drumming, hoola hooping (fire on the hoola hoops!), dancing, singing, and even some fiddle playin'!

Watching the people go absolutely tribal and bazzzurk around the fire made me feel like i was Britney Spears on the side lines of something really different then myself. I stayed an observer, but one who could hardly stop looking.Other types of evening activities consisted of primitive potluck & cookoff, barter fair, and my very favorite the "trade blanket"! No money allowed at the trade blanket, everyone who had something to trade sat in a circle, one by one placing what they wanted to trade on the blanket in the center. Each person had a chance to offer a trade or refuse, some people offered stuff like herbs, mead, massages, fudge, juggling lessons, animal furs, animals antlers, handmade jewelry, feathered earrings, drums, books, clothes....
Firefly runs on a sliding scale ($$$) for classes, and you can go for the entire event or just for a day... It was totally worth every moment, every penny, and every missed wink of sleep (and even the long drive which was difficult for me)!
I highly recommend this event to anyone interested in learning how to really live in union with nature, our natural biology, and our deep need to be true survivor.


Stephanie Rogers said...

I wanted to go so bad - sadly no cash for it this year but I'm definitely going to be there next year! I had no idea that 'bark tanning' existed, I thought the only natural option was brains (yuck!) Looks so fun, and there's sooo much to learn!

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Stephanie!
I found out once I was there that they had a work exchange program - where you did some chores (i think stuff like painting signs) in order to be there for free, or discounted. I don't have alot of $ either, and paid the lower end on the sliding scale.
Another option is just to go for one day, which costs less too.
Bark tanning was really awesome- and it totally smells like a weird BBQ (the tannin liquid) - which may smell better then boiling brains, but I am sure that is a matter of personal taste (so to speak!) ha!

Urban Scout said...

This is awesome! I'm so glad you had a good time. It was basically paralleling my experience at echoes... only I was teaching the bark-tanning class this year, which was scary and fun. How many people were there? I know what you mean about standing on the sidelines. I have a hard time dancing to drum circles... I prefer 80's dance tunes. Lol. Did you make any new friends to come hang out with you on your land?

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Urban Scout! :)))

How cool that you were teaching, I wish you could come teach some classes at firefly next year... hint hint!
ha - they should make the drum circles include some 80's tunes, i kept thinking 'if this shit could just turn a lil more beyonce', a lil' more rap star I could shake my ass' !
There seemed to be TONS of people - 200-300??? certainly more then 100, the lines to sign up for classes to make sure someone got a spot would be an hour long! Talk about revolution. :)
I mostly made friends with teachers- i was so focused on learning to do stuff- also many students were from out of town. I do wish some of those peeps would come out here anc camp or teach/share more things!

Lou Cheese said...

That sounds really interesting, and a lot of fun. Before you go back, just make sure that it wasn't called "Camp Crystal Lake" before.

Surely with the skills you already have, you could barter for some more classes or start a new one, like with the treatment you gave the wood in the Luck Cabin.

Liberty said...

so so AWEsome Leslie!
that sounds like my dream getaway!
i was so interested in every single thing you shared :-)
I'd love to see a close up of your finished basket
your skirt so far looks so wicked! such straight stitching! wow :-)

I loved this post :)

Everett said...

Why didn't you tell us about this BEFORE it happened? I am signing up RIGHT NOW if I can for next year. Thanks!

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey My Lou Cheese!
it was very interesting, on alot of levels.
WHat is Camp Crystal Lake? Is it something nasty? Tons of people swam in the lake and it seemed fine, but i got sick after.

Liberty -
I will put up a pic of my finished basket and soon i will try and do a post on how to make them :)))
I can't wait to finish the skirt!

Everett! - dude, i soooo totally told ya'll about this before hand, but it was like one of those posts nobody seemed to notice ;)
You can sign up for next year probably right before it happens... but also, go to the firefly website, and see the other site that is advertised, because other people teach indiviual classes throughout the season. Also i heard people talking about another one like this coming up in GEorgia, real soon.

Eric A said...

This seems like an amazing experience. I haven't tanned a skin since I was a boy, and your post makes me long for the simpler days of childhood.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hello Eric A :)))
That is exactly the point of something like this- to see how good it feels to live a simple life. I did not grow up living a simple life like this, but i certainly thrive in it now.
How cool you tanned hides as a kid! I wanna know what method you used!??

Elizabeth said...

Very good blog post covering the event. I did not take any pictures so it's great to see them on your post. It was a fantastic gathering and I am already in withdrawal.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Elizabeth!
I think everyone who went is probably in withdrawel - such a friendly and nuturing, and educational environment doesnt seem to be something I come by often... i learn things in my daily life from who ever I can, but this was like the utopia for learning these kida skillz.
So glad you can enjoy the pics i took - there are more on my facebook page which is not set to private!!/album.php?aid=182923&id=639293413

Lou Cheese said...

Camp Crystal Lake is the fictional setting for the Friday the 13th movie series....except for the one where they sent Jason, the axe-wielding killer that terrorized CCL into space, and I think one movie had him in New York. But the lake was his hunting ground.

Chase Hamblin said...

My friends and I from Texas had an incredible time at Firefly, thanks for the post! Definitely will be back next year.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Chase! So glad you had fun... me and Bort thought it rocked too! See ya next year!

dandelionlady said...

Wow! I didn't even know events like this existed. I just happened by your blog, and it's amazing! Good luck with everything, thanks for opening my eyes to all the cool things people are teaching out there.

Tramell Forney said...

Nice pictures of Firefly! I can't wait until this summer's firefly. I'm not sure if you've been to the Earthskills gartherings in Georgia in the spring and fall but they're very interesting also, you should go if you haven't.