Material Culture of Origins Program: Everything We Used to Keep Us Alive, Fed, and Content for a Week in the Stone Age

The Origins Program is a journey over nine months where we practice and build a variety of traditional skills, with the goal of going on a weeklong trip into the woods and utilizing them.  The rules for the final trip are simple; no metal, no glass, no paper, and no plastic.  The food brought must be gathered or grown by us.  These constraints cause us to ask ourselves the basic needs of our life, and the technologies required.  We need to reconsider clothing, shelter, food, water, how to carry water and our harvest, use to make light, start fires, tools needed, and more. 

This is no bleak survival equation, but an experience in subsistence living in a Stone Age context. In these limits we can push ourselves to discover some of the beauty found in a life tied to the land and what you can make of it. There are challenges within, yet it holds an allure of living life with a changed perspective. One that is fresh with knowing  there is more to learn, enlivening in connecting with the more than human world, and enjoying  the beautiful.  

It is noteworthy, that through the years we see that our basic needs as humans are the same person to person, but that the landscape determines what materials are used and style of hand craft is unique to the individual.   I think of the food people have brought telling of where they were from; seaweed from Maine, pecans from Texas, acorns from Vermont.  These foods then needed containers to be carried; be it in birch bark that has been folded, and woven straight or diagonal, in stake and strand willow, folded buckskin, wrapped in leaves, in bark containers, clay pots, sections of bamboo, and so on.  The questions are the same, while the answers can be many, and it is beautiful to see what comes to be by each student.  It is our hope that the focus of the final trip motivates people to work hard on these skills.  We also hope that this trip serves as a catalyst and that each student finds inspiration in this knowledge base to affect them for the rest of their life in simple yet powerful ways.  That tracking natural becomes a part of their walks, that oak trees (plants at large) carry a different and more personal meaning, that not having light at the flick of the finger encourages you to not take that for granted and that the dark and stars are important elements in our life.  That knowledge, resourcefulness, and ingenuity run deep in what makes us human.

Origins informs us of who we are as humans in the projects we work on, as well as the interaction and relationship with such a broad array of plants and animals.  There can be a lot of talk ascribed to living closely and intimately with the land, but in this it is experienced firsthand.  This engagement of holding these materials in our hands and having them support us fosters an ethic of caretaking the land in a way nothing else can.

Take a look below at the list of what constituted our food and material culture in 2012.

 

Origins 2012 List of Materials

 

Food & Medicine

Winter squash; acorn, pumpkin, hubbard, delicotta,
Nuts; Black walnuts, Acorn flour, butternuts, hickory
Dry blue corn
Wild Rice
Kale
Ramps
Wild carrot roots
Solomon seal roots
Sun chokes
Evening primrose
Dandelion
Burdock
Yellow dock rt
Apple dried and fresh
Crabapples
Blueberry
Raspberry
Blackberry
Grapes
Nettles
Tomatoes (dried)
Sunflower seeds
Amaranth seeds
Wild plums
Cherries
Pears
Clover
Yarrow
Creeping snow berry
Yellow Birch
Turkey Tail
Gold Thread
Colts foot leaves
Wild ginger
Wood sorrel
White lettuce
Partridge berry
Wood nettle
Plantain seeds and leaf
Wild cucumber root
Hemlock
Basswood
Beans; yellow and red
Seaweed: Dulse, Kelp, Nori
Rock Tripe
 
Tea Blends
Mugwort, Mint, Yarrow
Mullien, Sumac, Mint
Black Birch, Sassafras
Chicory
 
Black walnut biscuits
Sunchoke, pork lard, and maple syrup cakes
 
Jerky; beef and venison
Fat: beaver, beef
Red squirrel, Gray Squirrel, Garter snake, Bluegill
 
Mushrooms:
Dried: Chicken of the woods, maitaki
Freshly gathered: Oysters, Lactarius deliciosis, Hedgehog, Puff ball, Honey, Yellow foot chanterelles, Black Trumpets, Chanterelles, Late fall oyster, Bear tooth, Shaggy mane, aborted entaloma, corals, gypsy, blewit
 
Sea salt
Maple Syrup
Honey

 

Stone

Monkton quartzite
Keokuk
Dacite
Greenstone
Steatite
Obsidian
English flint
Ft. Hood
 

 

Mammals

Woodchuck
Fox
Bear
Beaver
Raven
Turkey
Sheep
Buffalo
Mink
Cow
Squirrel
Mole
Ocelot
Moose
Rabbit
Skunk
Whitetail Deer-brain tan, bark tan, raw hide, antler, bone, sinew & hide glue
Horns of cow and bison
Elk talus bone
 

 

Plants for Utility

Dogbane
Milkweed
Wood nettle
Hemp
Birch bark
Elm & Elm Bark
Basswood
Willow
Hickory
Osage Orange
Bamboo
Cedar
Viburnum
Grape vine
Maple
Red Osier
Spruce roots and resin
Horseweed
Ash
Dogwood
Plum wood
Blue berry wood
Chaya cactus
Balsalm fir pitch
Gourds

 To Find our more about the Origins Program check us out here!

 

 “Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it the more we will awaken.”

Stephan Harold Buhner in The Secret Teachings of Plants

 

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