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Have You become One with Nature Yet?

Coldwell Banker created a video to show prospective home buyers some activities in Western MA…and the filming crew visited one of our Homeschool Programs in Spring of 2019.


Would you or your kids like to learn a little more about wilderness surviaval? Would you like to just get your kids off their phones and outside this summer….?

Meet Frank Grindrod, he started a school called Earthwork Programs. Frank has been teaching people about his passion for living in and preserving the beauiful forests we have in our surrounding communities. He teaches everything from fire building, animal tracking, shelter building and much more. Clients of all ages have enjoyed learning from his immense knowledge and passion for nature. Learn more about his program here.

WILDERNESS LIVING SKILLS & NATURE AWARENESS Programs are experiential and teach true sustainability; how to live with nature in a way that benefits us and our environment. This creates a natural balance in our lives

Website: http://www.earthworkprograms.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/earthworkprogramsfan/

 

Daily Hampshire Gazette: Youngsters learn outdoors skills in the Conway wilderness

We’re so excited to share this article that was recently in the Daily Hampshire Gazette!

We offer thanks to Carol and Greta for coming out and capturing the magic of what we do (which we do in ALL our Programs–Summer Camps, Homeschool, Weekends of Workshops)!

 

 

Youngsters learn outdoors skills in the Conway wilderness

CONWAY — On a recent Thursday evening, 13-year-old Emmet Eichacker slept in the woods under an A-frame shelter he constructed from branches and twigs, just large enough for one person.

Sleeping on the ground outside might not sound comfortable, but Eichacker was well-rested the next day. In fact, he said, “I overslept.”

Eichacker is a leader in training with “At Home in the Woods,” a youth day camp from Earthwork Programs. As part of that training, he spent one night in the wooded area where the camp is held on Route 116 in Conway. Earthwork offers wilderness skills training for children, adults and families. It also puts on expeditions to places like Alaska and workshops on everything from animal tracking to medicinal plants.

On a recent Friday afternoon at the youth program, the campers’ “home” was in a small clearing inside a wooded section of the camp. There, kids climbed trees, carved wood, crept through the woods and wore dirt and clay as camouflage.

Tree branches served as makeshift hooks for water bottles and backpacks to dangle from. Nearby, there was a small circular shelter made from sticks in addition to Eichacker’s triangular one.

“This is like a little home away from home,” said Frank Grindrod, the director and founder of Earthwork Programs.

The weeklong youth camp, offered most weeks in the summer, teaches outdoors skills, including how to carve with a knife, build a fire, make utensils and identify wild edible plants.

In Grindrod’s outstretched hand, he held a branch with red berries on it. “This right here is a chokecherry,” he said, popping one in his mouth. The bitter berries were gathered from the forest.

“Fox walking” is a favorite skill for many campers. “It’s a stealthy way to move through the woods,” explained Serena Rooke, camp director. One walks slowly and feels the ground before putting their foot down, Rooke said, “so you’re not stepping on a stick and cracking it.”

Creeping through the forest like this, “Their brain chemistry and body changes,” Grindrod said, “Then they don’t want to be on their phone.”

Reconnecting with nature at Earthwork is a central goal. “It’s only recently that we’ve been disconnected,” he said.

“With all the anxiety and depression and things that kids are dealing with,” Grindrod said, “it totally affects them … They just become more connected with themselves.”

Building shelters like Eichacker’s is another skill campers learn, though they do not stay overnight. It’s Eichacker’s fourth year involved in programs at Earthwork, including camps and home school programs during the school year. He keeps coming back for a reason. “I get to be outside and learn skills you don’t usually get to normally learn,” he said.

Eichacker’s lives in Warren, about an hour from Conway. Joyce Eichacker, his mother, thinks the camp has taught him useful outdoors skills, and also everyday ones.

“He has learned the gift of patience. Everything about bushcraft requires a little bit of patience,” she said. “To light a fire with a bow drill,” she said, referencing a wood tool that uses friction to start a fire, “It’s not easy.”

For Grindrod too, the camp’s goals go beyond outdoors skills.

“EarthWork is really about mentoring people through the challenges in life … in a way that basically develops self-reliance and self-worth and respect for the environment and themselves,” he said.

Not a ‘normal camp’

Nearly 20 years ago, Grindrod started Earthwork Programs. “I thought I could add value to people’s lives. And I could help the earth,” he recalled.

His interest in nature started early in life. Growing up, Grindrod’s father would tell him a story about his late aunt, who would hand-feed birds. “That’s impossible. They’d be afraid of her,” he recalled thinking. “Then I was like, ‘OK, well what if it is true?’”

Around age 9, he started to test it and spend more time outside. Eventually, the birds did eat from his hand. “Then I had a fever for just finding every possible way to connect with nature,” he said.

He worked at a wilderness camp for five years, starting as an intern and working his way to assistant director. He also trained with Tom Brown, a well-known naturalist and tracker. Then, Grindrod decided to start his own camp, Earthwork.

Now, he’s publishing a book about how to start a wilderness camp with Storey Publishing, a company in North Adams, that is slated for release in the fall.

In addition to its summer youth camp, which costs between $350 and $410 for the week, Earthwork offers a Friday outdoors program for homeschoolers and themed weekends of programming for families. Adults can take workshops like “The Art of Fire” and “The Skill of the Knife.” The organization also takes people on outdoors trips. Grindrod recently got back from leading an expedition in Alaska, for example, where he taught leadership training.

At the “home” in the woods earlier this summer, a group of young people sat with their knives carving wooden spoons while their instructors stood by watching. Liam Wallace, an 11-year-old leader in training, explained that coals from the fire are used to burn the wood and then it’s carved with a knife. He made a wooden spoon at Earthwork and has used it at home for soup, he said

Wallace has been coming to the camp for several years. “You get to do things you wouldn’t at a normal camp,” he said.

Jude Dan, 7, also worked diligently on his spoon with a knife. He said he’s itching to go on a backpacking trip and his newfound carving skills would come in handy.

Nearby, first-time camper Quinn Bonham, 7, sat carving his spoon.

Did he like the outdoors before? “Barely,” Bonham said. Even at the end of the week, he said, “I don’t like camping, I like staying in hotels.”

As Grindrod sees it, the adage, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” applies to outdoor education. “One of the things about being a mentor is that you salt the oats through storytelling and inspiring experiences and sensory involvement and developing awareness to where all the sudden, they want to drink — they want to learn about this plant … they want to learn more about the story of this particular animal.”

That seemed to be working. Sitting on the ground focused on their carvings, their hands sooty and faces dirty with camouflage, the campers looked happy.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

Fantastic Video – Wilderness Extravaganza! Experiences

At the recent annual Wilderness Extravaganza! –our September Weekend of Wilderness Skills Workshops–a long-time supporter of Earthwork Programs’ vision, T.J. Loughlin videotaped the Workshops. And then created this amazing, fantastic, beautiful video! Thank you so much T.J.! It really shows the excitement of learning that happens at our Workshops!

“The Pharmacy Is All Around Us”

On November 11, 2013, Frank Grindrod made his first primetime appearance! Here’s the segment from Chronicle, Main Streets episode (you can scroll in about 2:49 minutes to see Frank’s portion about wild edibles; or you can watch the whole segment to see some of our community).

Wild Edibles with Frank Grindrod of Wilderness Survival Training School Earthwork Programs in the Hills of western mass from Frank Grindrod on Vimeo.

Re-Awaken a Long-Lost Tradition of Gathering Wild Food as a Family!

Let’s Get NUTS!!

Hickory HarvestThere are all kinds of fall events. In addition to going for a hike and seeing the foliage, how about harvesting some nuts to prepare and eat?

There’s an amazing tree in the forest right here around us that will help us develop a stronger connection to the natural world. This is such an important part of our patterning on nature that plants seeds for the rest of our development and our ch
This tree is strong, majestic, camouflaged and blends in well with the other trees and not well known by sight, but totally worth the effort in recognizing how to find it…once you can find it. Next you have to figure out which one tastes the best because there are different kinds of hickory trees.ildren and how we will interact for years to come.

It’s not often that you hear people talk about hickories—they are not well known—so let’s go over some identification details that will be helpful in being able to develop the secret to finding this tree and some wild edible foraging skills too.

As we get started, direct your focus on looking at the different habitats in your area and aspects of the trees, bark, leaves (on the ground which may be easier to reach) and up in the tree, note branching structure and nuts and outer coating (husk). Find an area that has a lot of oaks, because we are looking for an oak-hickory forest type. Trees need to be older than 40 years for producing nuts; the younger trees will not.

Hickory TreeMichael Wojtech has a fantastic book, Bark: a Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. I highly recommend it, and this will help give you some really great images and great detail on what to look for. We are fortunate that he has shared an image with us here in the article. I am feeling very grateful for all his research and his graciousness in sharing the knowledge.Most the time when you find hickory nuts they will be right under your feet. They are likely to be in an area that has a lot of squirrel activity; also blue jays are active in eating and caching (storing) them too. There are many kinds of wildlife feeding on this bounty: deer, bears, turkey, raccoons. You may find tracks and signs of their feeding, climbing and presence. You might even find the nuts on the pavement of the roads, parking lots, and other parks, golf courses and recreation areas. (Be mindful of the use of pesticid
Start to create maps of the area of your favorite spots and begin to look forward to visiting those special places around harvesting times every year. As a forager, this is a good thing to pay attention to and develop the habit of. Create special names and stories about these places, and soon you will want to return often, whether you are harvesting or not.es where you are harvesting food.)After gathering for a little bit, you might want to add a little excitement, if necessary.GAME: Nutty Squirrels–In this activity, you are a family of squirrels. By noticing the types of trees, are you able to find from where the hickories are coming (which is the parent tree?)? This is a great way to utilizefield guides and general observation skills. How many nuts can we gather as a group in a certain time limit? Ready set go!
You can always weave in predator-prey dynamics; lots of animals and birds eat squirrels!

Hickory in ShellBack to figuring out which nuts we have. Once you have the nuts in your hand, you can find out whether or not they are hard hickory nuts or soft? Why is this important? This will help in identification and to help you be successful in picking the best tasting ones and which to gather.

Look closely at the features of the nut. Is the husk thick or thin? When I say “thick,” I mean like a quarter- to half-inch thick. “Thin” is similar to an acorn shell, sometimes thinner.

Next, you need to shell and crack your nut. If it cracks really easily, you have what’s called a “soft hickory.” If it cracks really hard and the shells are like rocks, you have a hard hickory. There are two different groups of hickories: hard and soft.
Since there are no poisonous hickories, you can experiment and may be lucky enough to find Pignut Hickory, which is a thin-husked hickory with a hard shell similar to Shagbark but a little bigger in size and more nutmeat inside. This is the PRIZE one that can double your harvesting efforts.This is really helpful because the hard hickories with the hard shell have the sweet nutmeat inside. The soft hickories have the bitter nutmeat; at least it needs to be leached (take out tannins) and can still be edible. We are going to focus on the ones that do not need the extra step of leaching. These are the Shagbark and Pignut Hickories

Hickory Shell.

I have found that Shagbark and Pignut together are excellent. There is some information out there that says Pignut is bitter, but I think they’re confusing that with Bitternut. It can be a little confusing, so let’s focus on the hard and sweet hickories this time.

You can crack nuts i

ndividually, similar to the walnuts you get in the store, using a pick and getting the nutmeat out (which really makes the effort worth it when you taste the goodness). It can take about 20 minutes, and you can have a generous handful.

Teagan Crushing Hickory NutsThere is a learning curve of breaking the nuts to access them. You will find that some of them are hard to hold and hit just right, (watch those fingers) break the nut and try to open it; you have to be careful how much force you use because too much force just smashes it then you have the shell mixed in with the nutmeat and it can be challenging to get that out.

Learning traditions from our past and developing seasonal harvesting routines for free food creates an enriching future

A Recipe from our Past Called “Powcohicora” (Algonquin Language)

Historically, the native people used hickory. The way they did it was to pulverize the nuts, crushing the shell and nutmeat together, and place all of it in a container and boil it with a watchful eye. The shells sink and everything else rises to the top and they skim the heavy liquid off the top, which is called “decanting.”

Crushed HickoriesImportant: They got a special cream off the top which is hickory nut cream, and the rest of it underneath the cream is hickory nut milk (sweeten to taste, but not necessary).

This is not only sweet but it also can be very good as a soup broth or for a stew; it’s full of oils and healthy fats (very high in calories as an easy to digest oil including the high-quality essential fatty acids shown to prevent heart disease), and it’s a good source of vitamin B1 and magnesium. They also provide protein, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, potassium, trace minerals, and vitamins A and C
I hope this has inspired you to get out into the fields and forest, and in a sacred way, harvest from these great beings. I also would love to hear about your experiences learning about wild food. May we meet each other underneath a beautiful hickory tree…

Welcome to the Hickory Club.

 

Wild Edibles & Medicinal Plants

LEARNING FROM THE PAST AND PRESENT

There are many different plants that offer potential foods for us to experience. Our ancestors all over the world remind us to share a deep relationship with plants and the importance of a sacred balance. There are cultural tracks left behind for us to follow and learn this deep knowledge that may come directly from indigenous elders around the globe as well as a plethora of information in Ethnobotany and wild food literature.

I have had an opportunity to study with a number of authors and specialists and have integrated foraging into my life for more than a decade. These wild foragers, each coming from there own unique perspective, share many commonalities – passion for sharing their love of plants, eating wild food as a lifestyle, and the tremendous depth of knowledge they share. I have been able to integrate many of their best practices so as to add to the living book of eating wild.

Inspiring foragers with whom I have trained with include: Doug Elliot, Sam Thayer, Arthur Haines, Blanche Cybele Derby, Rosemary Gladstar, Walt Gigandet, Russ Cohen and John Kallas

As people discovered the gift of fire, many parts of the plants became available as food. It has been scientifically documented that the nutritional value in wild plants is beyond their cultivated counterparts.

There are many cycles in the natural world, and many of our classes are designed by what is available during these seasons. These cycles are all different in what they yield with many species of plants and the many parts, such as;

• seeds,
• shoots,
• corms,
• rhizomes,
• petioles,
• leaves,
• biennial stalks,
• buds,
• flowers,
• pollen.

The forager knows this and looks forward to the amazing diversity of food available in early spring, late spring, early summer, late summer, early fall, late fall, and even into the winter. Through this knowledge, we learn to develop a personal relationship with these plants and the special places that they grow.

THE NEED IS GREAT RIGHT NOW TO EAT LOCAL

For ultimate health and wellness, eating WILD is the best health care insurance you can have. With these changing times that we are living in, it is important to supplement our cultivated harvest, supporting our local farmers, with a WILD harvest.

Wild Edibles

BOOKS ARE GREAT RESOURCES BUT DIRECT EXPERIENCE WITH A KNOWLEDGEABLE PERSON IS INVALUABLE.

Earthwork Programs has designed a Wild Edibles and Medicinal Plant IMMERSION SERIES to share this valuable knowledge. Join us for this unique experience in WILD FOOD and allow it to complement your current culinary habits and lifestyle.

 

Acorns,Acorns where are you acorns

This year I started to notice the oaks producing nuts and them dropping in late august.  Now coming onto the end of October I am noticing hardly ANY acorns dropping. There have been only a few individual trees where I have seen a good crop.

Last year we were swimming in acorns.It was a mast year!

Mast Year: a phenomenon when the fruit (mast) produced by trees in a given year is exponentially higher than the average; by extension, a year in which vegetation produces a significant abundance of fruit

 

However this year there are hardly any.

another great reason as a forager to learn about storing food.

Dry your acorns for a few weeks by a wood stove and they will be shelf stable for a year or so.

 

Next time there is a mast year stock up so you have acorns for the year where hardly any drop.Watch the cycles.

All the best

Frank

Free Food Falling from the Sky…Acorns!

Going into the outdoors in the mid-autumn we notice the leaves carpeting the ground in a beautiful all natural mosaic. Earlier in the season, we noticed the leaves changing colors–scarlet, orange, yellow and flame colors like a fire. As we continue to walk in the forest, we are surrounded by these majestic beings that connect the earth to the sky. These trees, in their transformation, are signs that let us know something is happening…a transition is taking place. When there is a slight breeze, we see a few leaves blowing here and there, and when the breeze is really strong, it is like it is snowing leaves. There is a primal urge to run underneath them and catch them as it makes us feel alive and connected and WILD. We also hear the sound of rocks pelting the ground and off other trees. They are not rocks at all but they sure sound heavy when you notice that THUMP. This is a great sound…it is raining food. Free food from the sky…ACORNS abound the oak trees surrounding us.

During late summer, we noticed the acorns dropping, and if we take a closer look, we are aware that almost all of them have caps attached no matter what types of oaks they are. Ancient teachings passed on from our ancestral trackers and foragers, we know this means these acorns were released early by the tree because they are parasitized or have been damaged in some way. In some cases, this means the acorn weevil got to them first before they could be used as food for us. As our awareness deepens, we realize that there is a second time the acorns fall…in October.

This is the perfect time for harvest! Look there are a lot with NO CAPS! These are the ones we want! Before we gather these acorns, let’s pause for a moment of gratitude and thanks. Here is a view from the past of these majestic beings.

The largest white oak was measured at 24½’ around in Paris; this tree is 118’ tall and has a spread of branches 127’. Its rival–the great oak at Wind Mills–is measured with the spread of 148’…a dimension unequaled by any other oak.

It is said that “six generations of the same family have played here, where two thousand children could probably be gathered in this patriarch’s shade. The supply of Indian arrowheads discovered in the soil in which it grows seem never quite exhausted. In the probable life span of this tree have been born, have mightily wrought, and died, William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson, Peter the Great, Napoleon, and Beethoven. Thrones have crumbled and new empires arisen; great ideas have been born and great pictures painted, and the world revolutionized by science and invention, and still no man can say how many centuries this Oak will endure or what nations and creeds it may outlive.” (Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America, 1977.)

Have you heard about being able to eat acorns and making flour from them?

Gather the acorns, preferably from red oaks, which are more plentiful here in Western Massachusetts than our white oaks. Once we gather these acorns, we fill a bowl of water and do the “float test.” Put a handful of acorns in the bowl and watch the results. What did you notice? Did any sink? Hopefully most of them did; that means they most likely do not have any acorn weevil larvae in them (that’s good–potential food).

Do you have some floaters? Open them up and inspect them and what do you find? They are occupied; someone is using them for a home and a spaceship to get from the tree to the ground.

Now that we have the RIGHT acorns (they sank), we need to crack open the shells; rocks or nut crackers work. (My favorite way is lay them out in pairs on a towel and tap them with the end of a log. This way you can crack 50 in a couple of minutes.) Crunch, crunch, crunch…LOTS OF FUN…especially when the acorn hits another one and so on. It is like nature’s pinball game.

Time to leach out the tannins! Why?

Acorns have natural tannins in them, which are anti-nutrients. In all nuts, grains and seeds, and beans and legumes, there are phytochemicals. This is one of the reasons why we soak beans before using them. In acorns, the unprocessed tannins bind (attach) with zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium, and pull them out of your body. These are healthy minerals we need. That is why we must soak them.

What do we do with the tannins? This is great medicine for many things. It is an astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Perfect for healing POISON IVY, in particular, once you have the rash. (So keep the water that you soak your acorns in; don’t just throw it out).

Ground up your acorns into pebble size or smaller. The smaller, the better and the quicker tannins will be leached out.

Cold leaching (no fire necessary; just time):
1. Put acorn meal in cold water and let it sit for a day.
2. Pour out the water at the end of the day and refill with fresh water.
3. Repeat for 10 to 12 days; there will be no more tannins in your acorn meal…it is now leached.
4. Pour off water; put in pan, spread out ¼” thick and put in full sun a couple days (bring in at night before the dew) and repeat till dry. Or use a dehydrator.
**Refrigerate for storage**
Cut with other flour to allow your acorn flour to last longer.

A couple of my wild food mentors eat acorns throughout the whole year. Thanks for all your research and sharing Arthur Haines and Sam Thayer

Acorn Bread Recipe
1 cup acorn flour
1 cup wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 egg (1 1/2 is better)
2 tablespoons oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup milk

 

 

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