| Madeline Bachner

Earth Knack Primitive Skills with Colorado Academy: Thoughts from an Instructor

Colorado Academy Primitive Skills Course at Earth Knack was a huge hit. One of the Cottonwood Institute instructors, Clark Patton, lived in a tipi at Earth Knack for nearly a year. Here are his thoughts about the Primitive Skills trip:

CA-9group“Earth Knack is located in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, the largest alpine meadow in the world.  Your eyes reach so far there, that you can see storms and dust devils 30 miles apart scattered out in front of you.  As the group drove up, it looked like a ghost was having a temper tantrum in one spot because an invisible wind swirl was picking up tumbleweeds and tossing them 30 feet in the air over and over again.  It wasn’t even windy that day.

The first night they arrived, Robin Blankenship, the owner and director of Earth Knack, showed them how to make a primitive dinner of ground acorns, home-churned butter, ground corn, hunted elk and much more…the most important rule: only take what you will eat, and no leftovers.  “As you have found out, it takes an amazing amount of energy to harvest and process food.  We don’t waste here!” she explained to the kids.  And she would know, she worked in wilderness therapy at back in the days before insurance, where the groups would live off the land, and got hungry enough to trap and eat mice roasted over a fire.  In America today, each bite on the fork travels an average of 1,500 miles, each calorie costs 15 calories to make. What Robin tells us is sustainable wisdom.

The group visited the nearby sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park and learned the basics of tracking animals in theCA-9Dunes easiest substrate: sand.  This was the same advantage shared by amazing tracking cultures such as the Apache of the southwest, Bedouins of Saudi Arabia, Bushmen of Namibia, and Aborigines of Australia.  The students also made their own tracks taking 30 minutes to climb one of those dunes and 1 minute to run down it.  They had a day of camouflage surprises, from people popping out of scout pits dug in the ground, to having someone camouflaged into the wilderness and surprising one of the students…try and find him for yourself in the picture below.  The group made the best teen debris hut shelter Cottonwood has ever seen, and they made friction fire using only sticks.

CA-9CamoThe last day, they visited a local Yak farm.  The yaks were imported all the way from southern Asia! Unlike the slothful bovines we are accustomed to seeing, these animals were not only shaggy, but energetic and friendly.  They ran to greet the students when they entered the pasture, and ran behind the vehicle like puppies when the group drove out.  They are raised for the local restaurant in Crestone that takes pride in serving as a “Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) free zone.”  With this farm, as with Robin’s space at Earth Knack, there is a philosophy of practicing what you preach. While Robin does not claim to be a purist, she follows a model of sustainability and community that few other people are practicing in the United States today.  No waste; even the bathroom is used to make fertile soil.  Her house is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, it’s insulated with straw-bales and she raised her family in it…the total cost? $6,000 and no mortgage to pay off.  Hmmm…”

Written by Clark Patton

There are so many lessons to be learned and experiences to be had at places like these. The Cottonwood Institute is continually grateful to have a wonderful working relationship with Robin and Earth Knack. Many thanks to all of our partners, leaders and the schools and students that make these trips so successful!

See more pictures from this course by Clicking Here.



Categories: Notes From The Field

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