Earthwork Wilderness Survival Training School | 413-340-1161

A Summer Wander with Our Friends: the Plants

(Let’s Get to Know a Couple of Plants, in Depth…)

Summer and What Is Happening

Summer. What a fantastic time to get outdoors! This is the time of vacations—when we can take a break from our busy lives, spend time with family; the kids experience summer camp where lifetime memories are created.

So what’s happening in the summer in the natural world?

Birds are nesting all around us and raising their young. This is a great time to see lots of bird behavior…to see the parent birds teach their young how to fly. It is also a time to find baby birds out of their nests. The birds of prey are very active, seeking out those young birds to feed their young too.

The trees are in full leaf, creating shade for the plants below…also creating shade for us. There are so many different leaves: shapes, structures and textures that help to create photosynthesis, capturing the sun’s light with the pigment in the leaf called chlorophyll combining with carbon dioxide and water creating energy. These are little sugar factories.

The animals are rearing their young. A great time to be outdoors is around dusk or dawn—times of twilight (the magic hour)—to see the young foxes learning to hunt in the nearby fields.

The wetlands are exploding with life: newly-hatched frogs, turtles laying eggs, herons actively fishing, humans actively fishing; trout, bass and pickerel abound. Insects of all shapes and sizes—butterfly, moth, beetle, dragonfly, mosquito and more—are abundant. Birds and mammals, especially bats, and fish are delighted with the foraging potential.

Let’s Start Our Journey

Let’s start from our house. Go out the front door into our lawns. There is a plethora of wild edibles on many lawns. However before we go to the individual plant species that we will exploring, let’s pause to learn a little bit about foraging.

Historically, we’ve been foraging since the beginning of time. Our ancestors lived by their means of foraging as we are originally “hunters and gatherers.” As I make my way around interacting with native cultures and with mentors who have studied with them, I discovered that there is a deep relationship with the plant nations—from all types of food to fiber for rope, baskets and crafts, wild medicines for tinctures and salves, first aid and overall health. Every time you study and use a plant, you develop a deeper relationship with the natural world. The plants can be the foundation that connects us with all the things that are intertwined with which we are in relationship.

The Power of Native Knowledge

As we learn to look deeper at our neighbors, the plants, we also can recall how ancient peoples had an intimate relationship with plants as teachers and mentors, and many rites, stories and ceremonies were born through this connection. What I find as an incredible testament to our past is the deep knowledge of place that was, and continually is, fostered.

The Cherokee people had a deep understanding of 600 plants and their uses. The children, by their teenage years, knew 200 plants AND their uses. How many do we know?

Harvesting and Giving Back, What Is Our Intention?

When harvesting, it is important to realize that it is to be done with great care. Some people make an offering—tobacco, corn meal, a prayer, song or story. The Anishinabe use tobacco, but when Grandmother Lillian shared with me and others, she said to have the children use dry leaves that they can crush up to create a kind of fertilizer, and it was important for the children to get in the practice of an exchange.

In our classes, we let the children chose what to exchange, and sometimes it is a little bit of water or a hair from our head. With this kind of intention, there can be a link to help foster appreciation and respect for all species, not just plants. I strongly feel that if we pause in thanks and take the time to tune into our unspoken connection, we will learn much from our neighbors. To help put things in perspective, I like to point out that we wear plants and animals.

The Five “R’s”

It is important to remember where not to forage. This list will help:

  • Roadways: Highways, busy back roads, etc.
  • Rights of Way: Power lines and other easements.
  • Residences: If you don’t know if pesticides are used.
  • Railroads: There can be heavy toxins used to control growth of plants.
  • Rivers and waterways that use motor boats frequently.

Introducing the Plants

A friend of mine, Jeff Gottlieb, who teaches primitive skills, likes to categorize plants in three different ways. We have the “Grocery Store,” “Hardware Store” and “Drug Store.”

So let’s get back to our journey and meet some new friends, and if you already know these, let’s deepen that knowledge and reinforce the story we have that we can share with others.

In our yards, we have two wild plants that we will talk about in depth:

Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)—Leaves of this plant are more nutritious than many things you can buy [GROCERY STORE]. They’re higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn. The root contains the sugar inulin, plus many medicinal substances [DRUG STORE]. The specific name, officinale, means that it’s used medicinally. The decoction is a traditional tonic. It is supposed to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder, where it promotes the flow of bile, reduces inflammation of the bile duct and helps get rid of gall stones. This is due to its taraxacin. It is good for chronic hepatitis; it reduces liver swelling and jaundice; and it helps indigestion caused by insufficient bile. Don’t use it with irritable stomach or bowel, or if you have an acute inflammation. (Taraxacum comes from Arabic and Persian, meaning “bitter herb.”) Dandelion leaves’ white, milky sap removes warts, moles, pimples, calluses and sores, and soothes bee stings and blisters (excerpt from Steve Brill). There is so much more…

Cattail (Typha latifolia)—The cattail is one of the most important and common wild foods, with a variety of uses at different times of the year. This is commonly known as the “supermarket of the swamp.” As my mentor Tom Brown taught me, and I continue to share with kids and families in our classes:

• The leaves, flower heads, shoots and rhizomes are food [GROCERY STORE].
• You can make rope, baskets, hats and visors with it [HARDWARE STORE].
• You can use it for fire making for the tinder and the stalk for a friction fire named hand drill (personal experience…Earthwork Programs) [HARDWARE STORE].
• The mucilaginous juice is a barrier to protect from Giardia and also is a numbing agent [DRUG STORE].

You can easily recognize a cattail stand: white, dense, furry, cigar-shaped, overwintered seed heads stand atop very long, stout stalks, even as the young shoots first emerge in early spring. People sometimes confuse cattails with the very common grass-like non-poisonous reeds (Phragmites species), which form dense stands twelve feet tall. But reeds have flag-like flowers, and leaves originating along the stalks. When the two species compete, reeds tolerate more salt, and wins out on land. But they can’t grow in shallow water, like cattails. Caution: Young cattail shoots resemble non-poisonous calamus (Acorus calamus) and poisonous daffodil (Amaryllidaceae) and iris (Iris species) shoots, which have similar leaves (excerpt from Steve Brill ).

For more information on wild plants and their uses and classes, visit our website.

In the News!Wilderness Survival, Primitive skills and Nature with kids

Earthwork Programs is grateful for all the press we received this Summer! The Recorder and the Daily Hampshire Gazette visited our At Home in the Woods and Way of the Scout Summer Camps and captured the moments…

“Research shows that kids can’t identify many common plants or trees in their environment, but they can identify 500 corporation logos,” Grindrod said. “Imagine what they would know if learning about the environment was instilled in our culture rather than learning how to be good consumers.”

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Hitchcock Center, Earthwork Programs connect children and environment

By FRAN RYAN Gazette Contributing Writer
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
(Published in print: Wednesday, August 6, 2014)

On a hot summer day in mid-July, Rainier Jewett, 8, of Florence rose up from the underbrush in the woods of Conway covered in mud and forest debris and sporting a broad, sly smile.

Then several more young campers, including Caleb Schmitt 13, and Ari Benjamin 10, both of Williamsburg, also emerged from the forest. They were all participating in a summer day camp run by the Earthwork Programs.

Frank Grindrod, is director and founder of Earthwork, which offers wilderness education programs and teaches emergency survival and self-sufficiency skills. Grindrod described how his programs help people of all ages learn to broaden their ways of seeing, in order to understand, survive, and thrive in the natural world, and along the way he paused to talk about plants that were native to the area.

…click here to read rest of the article…


Honing skills that work beyond the wilderness

Recorder Staff
Sunday, August 24, 2014
(Published in print: Monday, August 25, 2014)

CONWAY — Frank Grindrod has noticed a trend that disturbs him deeply. To see it, he said, all one must do is compare a child’s ability to recognize corporate logos to their capacity for identifying wild plants and animals.

“You show them a ‘Hello Kitty’ logo and they’re like, ‘Oh, I know that one,’” he said, as we walked through a dense pine forest in Conway. He stopped to bend down and examine a patch of leafy green plants on a plot of land, which had sprung up under a rare, sun-soaked gap in the canopy. Cupping the leaf of one plant in his hand, he said, “But you show them one of these, and they say, ‘Uhh … a fern?”

That trend — one he defined as a decline in knowledge of and appreciation for nature among young people — is one he is determined to change.

“A lot of the nature education is on the surface,” he said. “Some of the kids are good with their hands, and that’s great, but for the ones that aren’t, we feed them stories that they can then share with the group. That way, everyone gets a specialization and it grows exponentially.”

…click here for the whole article…


“I began to wonder why some kids weren’t out in the park or playground and needed to have everything spelled out for them and facilitated,” Grindrod said, noting that when he was growing up, that type of thing wasn’t as commonplace. “We spent most of our time in the woods, and everyone just had a special call or bell when it was time to come home.”

Learning naturally: Nature programs take the classroom outside

Story by Tom Relihan & Fran Ryan
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
(Published in print: Saturday, August 30, 2014)

As he crested a densely wooded, moss-covered hill in the middle of Conway’s pine forest, Edwin Anderson, 13, of Greenfield yelled, “Wow, come and look at this!

At his call, a half-dozen other kids scrambled up the hill. Some dropped to their knees as they examined a huge brown mushroom protruding from the pine needles on the forest floor. Moments later, Frank Grindrod of Conway knelt in the middle of the group and began to inspect the fungal wonder.

“See how it’s all shaggy on top and on the stipe? This is called ‘The Old Man of the Woods.’” he said. “Oh, and look at this one!” he said, picking up a piece of bark with a couple of fuzzy, pink mushrooms growing on it.

“It looks like the Lorax!” exclaimed one of the campers.

That day, the kids were out in the woods as part of Grindrod’s Earthwork Programs summer camp, which he runs to teach children about nature and develop skills that they can use in their everyday lives.

…click here to read more of this article…


Frank & Helpers Make Fire at EMS Club Day!

Emergency Survival & Self-Sufficiency Skills Workshop

(prepay & save $10! $50/adult prepaid, $60/adult if pay day of)


Be Prepared…Not Scared

The weather in New England can be robust. We’ve seen tornadoes and microbursts, hurricanes, freak snowstorms in October and severe thunderstorms after winters of an abundance of snow. Maybe the ice storms of Winter 2008 or Halloween Snowstorm 2011 brought an “emergency” to your door step? These storms are powerful teachers. We are reminded that we need each other and need to have certain awareness and skills.

This hands-on, engaging workshop will demonstrate the practical skills you need as you learn how to:

  • Create warm shelter in or outside your home;
  • Stay healthy through safe hygiene and sanitation practices;
  • Make water safe to drink;
  • Make fire when matches are wet or lighter fluid doesn’t work due to extreme cold;
  • Find the best food sources when grocery stores are wiped out or you can’t get to them;
  • Prepare food when the stove or microwave doesn’t work;
  • Use your car as a shelter, for cooking food and making a fire.

Shelter, water, fire and food will be covered.

Our classes are experiential and teach foundational skills for true sustainability; how to live with nature in a way that benefits us and our environment. This creates a natural balance in our lives. We will have time to explore, learn, play and gain new perspective for seeing the world in a changing time.

WHO: Adults
HOW MUCH: $50/adult PREPAID; $60/adult if paid day of Workshop


(Winter Animal Tracking is today at 1-4 pm)

southwest expedition

Igniting the Fire Within–Earthwork Expedition

$250 discount for full payment received by February 11! So, only $2,749/person for 8 days/7 nights in New Mexico…learning wilderness skills and “igniting the fire within”

EXPEDITIONS ARE BACK! Earthwork Programs in partnership with Blossom Journeys presents:


“Igniting the Fire Within”

Ancient Landscapes & Skills in New Mexico

8 days & 7 nights
Hiking, Practicing Survival Skills, Kayaking & so much more!
Limited to 16
Does your spirit soar when you disconnect and get out into nature? Develop self sufficiency and confidence in the great outdoors with 8 days of personalized instruction by Wilderness Survival Expert, Frank Grindrod and his Earthwork Team.
This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to join a small group of like-minded individuals and discover the skills that allowed ancient cultures to live in harmony with Mother Earth.

Take Action Now! Book before February 11th to take advantage of the $250 price reduction.

Tour Inclusions:
  • Daily wilderness skills building with Frank Grindrod
  • One-on-One skills building with 2 additional Earthwork Team Leaders
  • Tracking in White Sands National Park
  • Day hike into Santa Fe National Forest
  • Guided Kayaking trip on the Rio Grande
  • Locally guided exploration of the ruins at Pecos National Historic Park
  • Visit to Petroglyph National Monument
  • Tour the Mescalero Apache Cultural Center with a tribe member
  • Round-trip airport transfers
  • All local tour related transportation
  • 4 nights’ accommodation in a Santa Fe National Forest area lodge
  • 3 nights’ accommodation in a Ruidoso area lodge
  • 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches & 6 dinners
*Rates are based on double-occupancy. Does not include travel to New Mexico.
Blossom Journeys will make every attempt to match singles with a roommate. If a roommate is not available, a single supplement will apply.
REGISTER BY EMAIL TO frank @ . Subject line: “Southwest Expedition Registration”
You can also contact Jenn Suprenant of Blossom Journeys (774-402-0861jennsuprenant @
(note: remove spaces between @ sign in email addresses)

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!


Making a BowMonday, August 8-Friday, August 12, 2016, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
$315-$375, sliding scale; $150 nonrefundable deposit required.
For Preteens & Teens

Introduction to hunting and gathering.
Learn how to skin an animal, process wild food, primitive cooking, make net bags and cordage, primitive fishing (stone and bone tools). As time permits, we may work on bows.



ALL Summer Camps (Leader in Training, At Home in the Woods, Way of the Scout and Hunter-Gatherer) are held in Conway, MA.

All weeks are Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EXCEPT JULY 4 WEEK–Tuesday, 7/5-Friday, 7/8.

June 20-24: At Home in the Woods SC1, ages 7+
June 27- July 1: At Home in the Woods SC2, ages 7+
July 5-8 (Tuesday-Friday): At Home in the Woods SC3, ages 7+ ($252-$300, sliding scale, for 4 days)
July 11-15: At Home in the Woods SC4, ages 7+
July 18-22: At Home in the Woods SC5, ages 5 to 7 AND 7+
July 25-July 29: At Home in the Woods SC6, ages 7+
August 15-August 19: At Home in the Woods SC7, ages 7+

(As weeks fill, we will note **FULL** and will start waitlists for those Programs.)

Unless noted, all weeks are $315-$375, sliding scale, per child per week ($150 nonrefundable deposit due upon registration)



Leader in Training 2016–July 5-8 (Tuesday-Friday): Leader in Training*, ages 12+. $252-$300, sliding scale, per child (FOR 4 DAYS) ($150 nonrefundable deposit due upon registration).
* Leader in Training: Specifically for those interested in becoming a peer mentor (see below for more)
Way of the Scout—August 1-5, ages 10+ (pre-requisite: child must attend At Home in the Woods or an Earthwork Programs weekly seasonal Program prior to attending). $380-$430, sliding scale; $150 nonrefundable deposit required.
Hunter-Gatherer—August 8-12, ages 12+. $315-$375, sliding scale; $150 nonrefundable deposit required.

Berries, Baskets & Brook Trout Weekend! 2nd Annual!

Attend All, Some or Just One!

(Workshop fees vary…see below)

A Weekend of 4 Wilderness Skills Workshops!

For Families, Adults & Teens

All Workshops are in Conway, MA


Saturday, August 6, 2016
WS1: Birch Bark Basket Making 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
WS2: Wild Edibles & Medicinals 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 7, 2016
WS3: Primitive Fishing 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
WS4: Intro to Wilderness Survival 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.



Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Join Basket expert Barry Keegan and Earthwork Programs for a day-long, hands-on Workshop!

We will learn:

  • sustainable harvesting techniques,
  • birch bark processing,
  • pine root sewing.

And, we will use raw materials from the land to create one-of-a-kind pieces that will be beautiful and functional.

$60/adult, $30/child with adult–materials included (must be prepaid)


Saturday, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Join us for this unique experience and come away with skills in correct identification of wild edibles and medicinals you can find right outside your back door. Because we specialize in certain plants in depth, there are certain ones we’ll be reviewing from last class as well.

You will learn how and when to harvest by season and in what habitat to seek out your favorite wild edibles.

Possible Focus: Black trumpets, Chanterelles, Chrome foot, different type of suillus mushrooms and field plants, cats ear, dewberries, knotweed, horsetail, milkweed pods, sumac, dock, heal all, etc.

$50/adult, $30/child with adult prepaid (add $10/Workshop if pay day of)


Sunday, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Have you ever wondered how our ancestors were able to sustain themselves…not only surviving, but actually thriving? Primitive fishing has been one of the cornerstones of how it is done.

In this Workshop, learn

  • how to make a fish spear and techniques of stalking,
  • a way of making a fish net,
  • designing your own hooks and gorges, and
  • a tried-and-true method of “hand fishing” where we can catch and release and have had great success.

This is a real “game changer”–being able to go from nothing and making all of your own fishing lines, spears, gorges, lures, weirs, hooks and traps with all natural materials.

Join us! This class is for participants of all levels–no prerequisite required!

$60/adult, $30/child with adult prepaid (add $10 if pay day of)


Sunday, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Are you a hiker, skier or just walk in the woods with your kids? What do you do if you get disoriented or some other unexpected situation arises while you’re out and about? Do you have a survival kit? What are the top 10 things you bring with you when you’re in the wilderness?

Earthwork Programs has been teaching these skills for more than 10 years.

  • Make fire with confidence in wet conditions as well as dry.
  • Learn the power of plants and their uses.
  • Discover ways to bring yourself closer to the land through tracking and awareness.

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


10% discount if register and prepay for all 4 Workshops!

Want to stay overnight Saturday? Camping $5/person (bring your own tent & supplies), rustic cabins $8/person (limited). Register by 7/29.



primitive fishing wilderness skills weekend of workshops Earthwork Programs

Primitive Fishing Workshop (WS 3)

$60/adult, $30/child with adult prepaid (add $10 if pay day of)


Have you ever wondered how our ancestors were able to sustain themselves…not only surviving, but actually thriving? Primitive fishing has been one of the cornerstones of how it is done.

In this Workshop, learn how to make a fish spear and techniques of stalking, a way of making a fish net, designing your own hooks and gorges, and a tried-and-true method of “hand fishing” where we can catch and release and have had great success.

This is a real “game changer”–being able to go from nothing and making all of your own fishing lines, spears, gorges, lures, weirs, hooks and traps with all natural materials.

Join us! This class is for participants of all levels–no prerequisite required!

$60/adult, $30/child with adult prepaid (add $10 if pay day of)

Berries, Baskets & Brook Trout Weekend! 2nd Annual!


WS1: Birch Bark Basket Making 9:00-3:30
WS2: Wild Edibles & Medicinals 4:30-7:30

WS3: Primitive Fishing 8:30-12:30
WS4: Intro to Wilderness Survival 1:30-4:30

For Families, Adults & Teens

Want to stay overnight Saturday? Camping $5/person (bring your own tent & supplies), rustic cabins $8/person (limited); kitchen, shower, toilets are available. Register by 7/29.


Earth Skills Workshop

with Frank Grindrod & Jeff Hatch!

Spend the day learning basic bushcrafting skills, wild edibles and medicinal foraging, friction fire with bowdrill, natural cordage & more!

Steadman Pond, Monterey, MA



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