· Dates: 8/8-8/14
· Max. Size: 12
· Tuition: $1050
Off-Grid Systems & Skills For Living Well With No Infrastructure & Edible Wild Plant Intensive
Course Calendar Register Now
The Future Will Be Decentralized
I don’t know what will happen in the future. I don’t believe anyone does. But there are a few trends that I believe are headed our way as climate change accelerates. Systems will break down. Not all at once, but over time. The future will be decentralized. Whereas now we rely on others to take care of our needs (electricity, water, sewage, heat, etc.), in the near future many people will be on their own to provide for their loved ones for at least part of the time.
The truth is, these events already happen. Summer blackouts when the power grid goes down, winter snowstorms when the power goes down, etc. Having no backup plan to the ease of modern life is not only foolish, it’s dangerous.
Ask yourself a question: Do you have the knowledge and skills needed to take care of your loved ones when the grid goes down? How much time have you invested in learning to be self-reliant, just in case the need ever arises? Now ask yourself how much do you pay for insurance, knowing that the value of money is questionable in a grid-down situation? This course is an opportunity to invest in yourself. If insurance is an investment that makes sense for an uncertain future, surely so does investing a week to develop knowledge and skill that can keep you and your family safe.
These are not things you should learn to become prepared for an unknown future; These are things you should learn to be an educated person in order to live a good life today.
We teach people to live well on the land using a few simple tools and traditional skills. We’ve been doing so in our 21 years of running semester-length bushcraft courses. One definition of bushcraft that I like to use is life without infrastructure. We are not doomers, and don’t think the end of the world is coming. However, we do believe that knowledge and skill will keep you safe, and are the antidote to fear. The more you know, the more you are part of the solution. The less you know, the more you are part of the problem.
Wild Food Intensive
Many of the plants that surround us are edible. Some are even delicious! In order to include these wild foods in your diet, there are two steps to the learning process:
First, you have to get a positive field identification in order to be sure it is the plant you think it is, not the potentially poisonous lookalike that field guides and online articles scare you with. That’s where we come in – helping with positive identification in the field. The second step is to learn how to process and use the plant. While we believe it is always better to learn in person, this is where books on edible wild foods shine. Once you can positively identify a plant in the field, you can use the wild food literature to learn about processing and uses of the plant. But it all begins with a positive field id.
Our system for learning and teaching wild plants began in 1996 when I was a student on Boyd Shaffer’s course titled The Flora Of South Central Alaska at Kenai Peninsula College. It was an amazing course where I learned so many things that are incorporated into Jack Mountain programs. You will learn this system, as well as spend an afternoon in our library cabin examining a wide variety of books on wild foods and foraging. Some of these are amazing (see books by Samuel Thayer and Arthur Haines). Some are not. Some I had in my childhood in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But don’t go buy a bunch of books until after the course; see which ones you like first.
Mid-August is the best time of year for wild foods in Aroostook county. The cherries are ripe, the apples are ripe, and we still have a lot of the herbs and old-field plants and flowers. Also, the hazelnuts are getting ripe, the greens are still in the field (although bitter), and we can still find a part of the cattail to eat.
We’ll be taking a plant walk every day where you’ll learn about the plants of the different habitats. In addition to food, we’ll discus other uses of plants in the bushcraft realm, such as friction fire woods, what is good for shelter construction and why, etc.
About Medicinal Uses Of Plants
The instructor-student relationship needs to be based on honesty and verifiable facts. If someone asks me a question as to whether I’ve eaten a certain plant, I can tell them yes or no, as well as what I thought about it. If someone asks me about the medicinal properties of a plant, the waters are much more muddied. There are a variety of plants we use for first aid that I have a long history using and can say definitively that it has effect X, Y or Z. With herbal medicine, though, things are usually not so cut and dry.
Herbal medicine operates under a different philosophy of medicine and healing than our modern, allopathic system. In our modern system, if a part of the body is determined to be bad or diseased, we cut it out of the body, or take some a drug to kill it or minimize it’s effect. It is very cause and effect oriented.
Herbal medicine comes from an older and different understanding of healing. Called vitalism, it is believed that if we make the whole organism healthier, the malady will take care of itself. Sort of along the lines of a rising tide lifts all boats; a healthy body will heal all illnesses. There is a modern type of herbal medicine that operates more like our allopathic system, but I’m not familiar with it.
So, imagine we’re out on a plant walk and someone asks me a question about a tea made from dried yarrow and raspberry leaf. The lore is that it will tone a woman’s reproductive system and is good for women’s reproductive health. I can relate to you that I’ve read this. I can say that I was told by a female friend who is an herbalist that it works really well. But as I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this, I won’t pass it off as true because I haven’t experienced it. I feel strongly about approaching herbal medicine like this as it minimizes falsehoods being passed down.
I’ve studied plants and herbs all of my adult life. However, I don’t have an ego-based need to be the expert. I’m entirely comfortable saying I don’t know. I can tell you what I’ve read. I can tell you what I’ve heard other people say, but if I haven’t experienced it personally, I won’t pass it off as if I had. Again, I feel very strongly about the teacher-student relationship being based on honesty. This is how that manifests itself during the learning process.
Recalibrate your baseline by learning about the following topics:
Off-Grid Solar Energy: Simple systems, portable systems, panels, batteries, low-tech water heaters, solar ovens.
Water: The difference between sanitizing and purifying water, wells and pumps, simple hot water systems, ponds.
Food: Living without refrigeration, living out of a cooler, fermenting (sauerkraut, wine, sourdough, etc.) and drying foods. Cooking on an open fire, pot suspension systems, making and using rocket stoves, thermal cookers, and more.
Foraging & Wild Foods: Wild plant identification and use for food, the forest farm concept: surrounding yourself with resources and the knowledge to use them.
Gardening: Some perennials you can grow that take minimum effort for maximum return, starting and maintaining a garden.
Fire: Building fire with modern and primitive materials, fire management for cooking and warmth, wood stoves, cook stoves, etc.
Sanitation: The simple humanure composting system we’ve used since 1995 to compost what comes out of our bodies daily. Bathing and keeping your body clean, laundry solutions.
Shelter: Improvised shelter design and construction, living in tents, living in cabins.
Tools: Maintaining hand tools. Choosing and using the axe, hand saw, knife and scythe to make a life on the land.
Other Homestead Skills: Making and using rope instead of metal fasteners, useful knots, useful handcrafts.
Who This Course Is For
People who want to learn to be more self-reliant, are interested in purchasing some remote land and want to develop the skills needed to live there, and people who are interested in learning to decrease the impact their lifestyle has on the planet by doing things themselves.
This is a basic course. You won’t become a master at the skills included (axemanship, for example), but it will give you a blueprint for mastering them.
What This Course Is Not
This is not a doom-fest. We are not paranoid, paramilitary, religious, or any of the other stereotypes sometimes associated with self-reliance training. We are outdoor educators who spend 7 months each year off the grid, and have developed systems to make this easier and more fun. During this course we’re sharing those systems in a lighthearted manner. This course will not teach you how to get out of the city in a grid-down situation. It will teach you how to live peacefully with the land in a remote location.
To get the most out of this week, we recommend people read the following books before arriving in Masardis.
Course Calendar Register Now
Travel Information and Directions: Travel information is located here. After you register you will receive local driving directions to our site.
Arrival and Departure: Plan to arrive on sunday afternoon, between 4 and 6. We’ll have dinner, a group introduction and a tour of the grounds starting at 6. The course is over on Saturday at 8 AM.
Accommodations: Bring a tent, tarp, or other shelter. It will be your home for the week. For summer programs please consider bringing a bug net if you don’t have noseeum netting on your tent. There are also cabins available through Blackwater Outfitters, located five minutes away. They can be reached at: 207-540-4101.
Meals: For information on food and meals, visit our Food and meals page.
Cancellation and Refund Policies: Please visit our School Policies page for information on all of our policies.
What is included with the tuition: Included in the tuition are all camping fees, group meals, instruction, and group gear.
What is not included with the tuition: Not included with the tuition are personal gear, items from town and any foods other than those specified.
Course Insurance: Adventure travel and wilderness education are not inexpensive, and anything can happen when we’re in the bush. We recommend that all participants have medical insurance. We also recommend you protect your investment with travel insurance for trips and tuition insurance for courses.
Tobacco: Smoking is not permitted in or near any buildings. All cigarette butts are to be placed into the metal can provided.
Vehicles and Parking: We’re located .6 miles down a gravel road. During the winter and spring the road can be impassable for 2-wheel drive vehicles, and sometimes for any vehicles other than snow machines.
Telephone: We don’t have a phone or electricity. If you need to be in constant phone contact please consider bringing a cell phone, and if you need to charge a phone (or other electronic device), please look into getting a charger or bringing extra batteries.
Other: Please don’t bring any pets, alcohol or illegal drugs.
Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
We reserve the right to include or omit any of the course topics listed due to class interest, availability of materials, inclement weather, or other factor that makes them impractical or unsafe.