Earthwork Wilderness Survival Training School | 413-340-1161

Make Your Own Pack Basket Workshop

$60/adult, $30/child with adult–MUST BE PREPAID (materials included)

Basswood Splint Basket by Barry Keegan
In this 1-day long workshop, we will weave splints of pre-prepared basswood outer bark into rectangular baskets of a height of 10 inches. The splints can be facing either way, if you chose to have the outer bark facing out or inner, or a combination for a checkered look. The base is woven like a place mat, and a rectangle formed by hand without wood block forms.

We will loosely weave the weavers for the first 4 rows, which are non-continuous, with an even number of spokes,  placing overlaps of weaver ends at different sides as we weave upward. After the fourth row, all previous weavers will be tightened and the next rows of weavers added up to the final 10 inch height. Then we will double up weavers to make a thick rim. This we will lace back and forth in an X pattern with basswood inner bark to complete the baskets. Weaving pattern for base as well as sides are over one and under one.


WHO: Adults, Teens & Families
WHERE: Haydenville, MA
HOW MUCH: $60/adult, $30/child with adult–MUST BE PREPAID (materials included)

MONDAY, 4/18 & TUESDAY, 4/19–we will be building a wigwam at Valley View Farm. It’s a community event–time to gather and practice skills together! Please contact Frank if you are interested in helping out!

Winter Tracking Workshop (WS 4)

$45/adult, $25/child with adult prepaid


Have you ever been in the woods and wonder “who’s been here?” Join us for the art and science of tracking. Learn how to read signs and tell the stories of the landscape and learn terminology so you can have a common language for wildlife conservation efforts. In our tracking classes, throughout the year, beginner and expert trackers come together and are immersed in ancient and modern teachings. Explore your understanding of the natural world through the eyes of a tracker. Bring your field guides, journal and sense of wonder.

There’s no better teacher than experience…learn and practice,
* the 5 arts of tracking;
* the art of questioning;
* 3 perspectives of tracking;
* mind’s eye training;
* field journaling!

For Adults, Teens, Families
$45/adult, $25/child with adult prepaid (add $10/person if pay day of)

Register online at or call 413-340-1161 for more information.

Saturday, 2/27 & Sunday, 2/28

Sat, 9-12: Winter Shelter
Sat, 1-4: WinterFire

* Stay overnight in a tent or shelter you built…$5/person; rustic cabin…$8/person (very limited space)

Sun, 9-12: Ice Safety
Sun, 1-4: Winter Tracking


Ice Safety Workshop (WS 3)


Ice Safety

Attention: Skaters, Ice Fishermen, Snowmobilers, Skiiers, Hikers, Children Just Playing on the Ice

Would you know what to do if you fell through the ice, or one of your loved ones…perhaps a family member…plunged into the excruciating frigid water? This is a terrifying thought, and people have lost loved ones in this scenario; it is a REAL concern. However, taking the time to educate yourself and your family gives you an incredible edge that can make the difference between life and death.

Although this situation seems grim, we can help you understand that ICE SAFETY training is an extremely important SKILL that you can acquire. You and your friends/family can be prepared and know exactly what to do.

Being prepared and knowing how to respond provides a comfort and security that nothing else can. With this new-found knowledge and skill, you know what to do for yourself, as well as if someone you witness falls through the ice. In this class, you will learn:

  • how to approach the ice
  • how to read the ice while travelling over lakes, rivers
  • how to determine ice thickness so you know what places are safe on lakes, ponds, rivers
  • how to deal with the initial first minute of submersion–one that you can be prepared for in this class
  • how to determine which direction to swim as the ice breaks under you

Learn the different strategies and rescue procedures for what to do before, during and after someone goes through the ice.

For Adults, Teens & Famlies
$45/adult, $25/child with adult prepaid (add $10 if pay day of)



Saturday, 2/27 & Sunday, 2/28

Sat, 9-12: Winter Shelter
Sat, 1-4: WinterFire

* Maybe stay overnight in a tent or shelter you built…$5/person; rustic cabin…$8/person (very limited space)

Sun, 9-12: Ice Safety
Sun, 1-4: Winter Tracking


Winter Shelter Workshop (WS 1)


Winter Shelter Building

The art of staying safe & warm in the cold


Building a winter shelter is both a needed survival skill and a great way to enjoy the outdoors this season.

In this family- and adult-oriented class, you will learn the basics of making three kinds of winter shelters:

  • The Quinzee
  • Tarp Craft
  • Thermal Mass Shelter

We will also concentrate on how to stay warm in the winter without shelter and techniques to prevent hypothermia, frostbite and other cold related injuries.Come away from this class with practical tools for staying safe and enjoying all of what winter has to offer!

For Adults, Teens & Famlies
$45/adult, $25/child with adult prepaid (add $10 if pay day of)



Saturday, 2/27 & Sunday, 2/28

Sat, 9-12: Winter Shelter
Sat, 1-4: WinterFire

* Maybe stay overnight in a tent or shelter you built…$5/person; rustic cabin…$8/person (very limited space)

Sun, 9-12: Ice Safety
Sun, 1-4: Winter Tracking

Winter Outdoor Skills Adventure Weekend of Workshops (2nd Annual!)

$45/Workshop/Adult, $25/Workshop/Child with adult PREPAID


* Learn about specific winter skills– discuss winter shelters (& maybe build quinzee), make a fire on layers of snow, do “warm” camping, learn ice safety, track winter animals

* Practice your wilderness living skills with various levels from beginner to experienced!

For Families, Adults & Teens
All in Conway, MA

Winter Shelter (9-12 Sat), WinterFire (1-4 Sat)

* Maybe stay overnight in a tent or shelter you built…$5/person; rustic cabin…$8/person (very limited space)

Ice Safety (9-12 Sun), Winter Tracking (1-4 Sun)

$45/Workshop/Adult, $25/Workshop/Child with adult PREPAID
(add $10/Workshop/Person if pay day of)


Seeing the Forest for the Trees

F&M Great Swamp FallAs we walk into the forest, we see all the different types trees, and we know, somehow, that they all have a purpose in life, just like we do. We notice many have lost their leaves this time of year, and the forest looks completely different—kind of empty because you can see so far, and it is very open. However, that is just the surface; let’s look closer.

The conifers take center stage with their deep green and contrast to the snow; while they do shed their needles, they are primarily green all year, which is why they are called “evergreens.”

Using touch—reach out and feel the needles

hemlock branchWhen we reach out and feel the needles, and when we rubbed them in our hands and smell, there is that amazing pine scent reminiscent of a Christmas tree—that strong aroma that can remind us of the holidays.

Visual things to watch for

As we look even closer, we notice really short needles (less than an inch) that are flat and on the underside, there are distinct white lines like racing stripes; this is an excellent identification characteristic. It also has the tiniest little stem you can barely see. In botanical terms, when you look it up in your field guide, this is called a “petiole.”

Feel the texture of the bark

These trees have really smooth bark when very young, and as they get older, it becomes stiff and deeply furrowed (creating indented grooves). Look at many different trees—young and old—and compare the feeling of the bark, and how the young ones are really tender and the older ones are like a rock.

hemlock 2Natural history viewing our past

In the 1800s, Eastern hemlock (Tsuga Canadenses) was used heavily; these trees would be anywhere from 250 to 800 years old. They were harvested in great numbers and were sought after for a special quality they possess: great amounts of tannic acid—up to 12%—used for tanning hides and preserving leather; the outer bark was used and soaked. Some of the hides were kept in vats (barrels of soaking tannins) for up to six months in order for them to turn the dark tea color and create a preserve and coloring for the produced leather. Hemlock tanneries were all over the Northeast, and they shipped the hides from here all over the world.

What I have personally seen, and you can too!

hemlock 1In the picture, you can see the needles and the bark. You can see underneath the very outer light brown bark, there is a dark purple color; this is a great characteristic for being able to identify Eastern hemlock.

What use are these trees now? They are a tremendous resource for wildlife: the needles create shade to give animals and birds cover. So they are used for nesting, denning and protection from the elements.

I often find many deer and moose in these areas…tracks, signs and tons of “browse” (feeding sign). This is where deer “yard up” (all stay in same area communally); this helps create safety in numbers and helps avoid being surprised by coyotes. It also makes it easier for them to move, because they pack down the snow to conserve their energy during these hard winter months.

I’ve also found coyotes’ beds, which look like circles; the heat from the coyote’s body melts out the impression of its nose where he/she is melting snow with the breath.

Outdoor challenge and scavenger hunt you can do with your children

See if you can find the interior bark that is purple. Hint: When you look around at the base of the tree, you can see the flakey bark chips; look under there.

Tracks and sign: if you look on the very tops of the branches, close to the trunk, you will often see squirrel territorial teeth marking sign, or going up a mature tree, you can see the claw marks and sometime bite marks of our black bears climbing since they use Eastern hemlock as babysitter trees (mama sends her cubs up them in times of danger or when she is away for long periods).

And at the bottom of the hemlocks, underneath the dense needles protecting from the wind and elements, you can find deer, fox, moose and bear beds. Let’s not forget the calling cards of raccoon and porcupine too—scat!

If you find little holes and black powder on the ground and through the roots, it’s possible you have found Truffles (fungus).

Can you find the little Hemlock cones that look like little tiny pine cones—about ½ inch. Can you find the racing stripes on the underside of the needles?

Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids While Creating ADVENTURES in the Winter Wilderness!

tracking familyThe winter is such a fun time—sledding, skiing, building snow forts and taking wanders in the woods.

The winter wilderness holds so much mystery. From that first moment that each unique snowflake drifts down from the sky, there is a certain awakening that happens…an inspiration that we have as we are curious of what’s happening outside of our walls. There is a pull—as one of my mentors, Joseph Campbell, would say: “A call to Adventure!” As we venture out of our comfort and embark on that calling, we leave the house—whether it is to go for a walk or even more daring, heading for the trails in wild nature.

As a family moving through the land, we hear the snow crunching under our feet and we see our own tracks, and we cannot help but think of the wild animals leaving clues of where they have been traveling, hunting, playing and sleeping and ultimately, surviving. So, as we continue on our way, we notice that first break in the pure white glistening expanse of snow and excitedly approach our first set of animal tracks.

As we get closer and see the trail left behind, we wonder what it is. There is a primal spark growing in us, and this connects us to our ancestors who lived close to the earth. This is like being a detective and we have our first clue.

mentoring tracking snowWhen the children of the indigenous cultures in the far north (like the Sami people who live their lives by the Caribou and take care of the herd) see a set of tracks, the Elders would not tell them what they saw. They would mentor them by helping to foster a relationship with the animals by asking questions and getting them in their senses. “What do you see?” the Elder might ask. The child might say, “Animal tracks.” The Elder would then kneel down and look closer and say, “Hmm.” The child would then copy and also kneel down. Then the Elder would say, “How many toes do you see?” The child might answer, “Four.” The Elder continues, “Are there any claws visible in these tracks?” Child would then reply, “Oh yeah, right there!” (pointing) Elder, “Can you point which direction it is heading?” Child points and says “That way!” Elder, “What direction is that?” Child, “North…?” (questioning)

This is an example of a similar dialogue I often have with my students. This is so they put the “quest” back into “question” and build upon the knowledge they have, not only as trackers but in their lives.

Let’s look closer at this. The Elder does not GIVE answers; they are earned. There is a place for children to have their own unique self expression and for them to think outside of themselves, which creates deeper knowledge. The Elder then may explain the depth of what they saw. “This wolf is traveling alone early this morning, and you see here, where the tracks are slightly melted out, it stood here to gather information, and then headed north in a faster gait of a trot. There is a herd of Caribou that was crossing the open plains up there about a quarter of a mile north.”

The Elder knows the land intimately; his/her survival depends on it in the home of the wilderness. He is bestowing the wisdom to this child so that he, when he grows up, can contribute to the health and well-being of the land, the herd and his family. This also creates self confidence and understanding of how life is around him and their deep nature connection.

So, as we go back to our wilderness adventure, we want to ask important questions to create an “experience.” Experiential education is one of the highest forms of engagement…of learning—not rote memorization of what we think someone might want to hear, but actually reaching down and picking up the snow, looking at the tracks and allowing our imagination to dance with our physical reality.

The best way to do this is to build your own skills to start learning together and be able to take someone from the edge of his/her knowledge further. This is the ultimate goal of a mentor through self empowerment and self awareness; we ALL grow in our experiences and what we can contribute in our lives.

See you on the trail,
Frank and Arianna Grindrod

Nature Mapping

Maya Quest Map (2)How do we get to know our place? By exploring it! Do you remember as a kid creating a treasure map? You and some friends may have had a can of special objects that you decided to hide together. The question, after deciding where to hide it, was how to find it again. You had to create a map. What did you put on your map to give you clues on how to find your treasure? You may have drawn it out and labeled, “41 paces to big rock with eye.” “Bear right at the messy grey squirrel nest in old sugar maple tree.” “Turn left at big oak tree with the large woodpecker holes” “25 feet to muddy stream with raccoon tracks.” You may have created a key with symbols you made up to equal what something was. A wavy line was a stream. A pile of dots was a large sand mound. A connected line of circles was stone wall.

Mapping your yard or a special place with you child(ren) is a delightful activity that, in addition to providing time to explore together, also teaches valuable skills learning directions, map reading, counting, line of sight, and gaining a deeper understanding of place.

The Basics

Winnie-the-Pooh says it best when learning your right from you left; quite an important skill in knowing which way to turn: “When looking at your two paws, as soon as you have decided when of them is the right one, then you can be sure the other one is the left.”

“In what direction does the sun come up?” Can your child point and show you the direction of east? “Where is north?” If they are still pointing straight up then it is time to teach your child direction. When I used to teach map and compass, one of the phrases I learned as an instructor was, “Never eat soggy Wheaties.” Not one for cereal, it wasn’t my favorite but the kids seemed to think it was funny.

Once you child understands direction, it is time to look a map. In fact look at several different types together. Depending on the scale you can find all sorts of variety in the types of information the map is providing. You can look at an aerial view of you property, a town map, a road map, a geographical map. In examining the various maps, look at what types of information each map provides. Some questions to think about are: What direction is north on this map? Can you point to where are you on this map? Does this map provide a key? Does is it give you an indication where people live? Where wildlife live? What do you notice most on this map?

A family that maps together…

Together, go out into the woods and hide an object of value to each of you. Then decide how you will find it again. Be sure to bring paper and crayons or colored pencils. Sit together and draw the area you are in. You can decide together what a variety of symbols in your key will mean. Five green triangles is a white pine stand. A blue circle is the pond and the blue circle with green sticking out of it is the marsh. Allow you and your child’s creativity to really come out. Next work together to how you are going to get back to the spot. Take notes as you back track and the retrace your steps. Ask your child if she wants to count in feet or paces. A foot is one step. Agree whose step – yours or hers? A pace is two steps. Plot out the trail and decide what natural features will help you remember how to get back to your treasure. Make sure your child can get back to the treasure. Then leave it out there, being sure it is protected and hidden and then wait a few weeks and then, creating a special time, go back and see if you can find it again with the map you both created.

Do you know the song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd”? Before the Civil War, this was a song-map to help slaves find their way to freedom. If your child is more interested in writing then drawing, mapping out the treasure hunt through a song or story is also a fun way to learn about your surroundings. Together decide on what natural features are prominent and then create a story or song to map out the trail to your treasure. I remember one year while working camp, my co-worker and I created a song-line scavenger hunt, “Follow the Rocky Road” to the tune of “Follow the Drinking Gourd” that led to a special place. Each camper was responsible in remembering a line of the song that provided a hand rail to the next land feature. We told them the order that they needed to sing the lines in and everyone had to be on lookout while the one camper sang the line and repeated it until we found that particular natural feature. It was great fun and the girls were enthralled to discover a kiva as the surprise. We all clambered down into it and sat and sang the song all the way through in the dark.

As your child increases mapping skills

Map reading can provide a sense of empowerment. Next time you are on a family trip, tell your child the destination and ask him to follow the lines on the map to figure how to get there. Let you child know, “As the navigator, you are in charge of plotting out the best possible course to our destination.” See what your child comes up with. Be sure he is looking at the correct lines, else you may be paddling your way along a blue ribbon.

By allowing your child to participate in getting to a destination, you are engaging their mind. Your child is actively looking for markers that help in knowing where and when to turn. They are developing their awareness skills. By practicing mapping skills they develop confidence and competence in trusting themselves. They also learn how to feel safe and comfortable in a variety of habitats, whether traversing a foot trail or bicycling to the ice cream stand or a taking trip to Grandma’s house.

So have fun! Be creative! And see in the outdoors!

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