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Hobo School

For those drawn to the nomadic and often solitary (as well as carfree) life, certain skills will come in handy. This is about some opportunities I've had to learn some of those skills.

Added by colin #442 on 2003-08-30. Last modified 2008-03-05 07:23. Originally created 2003-08-30. F1 License: Attribution
Location: World, United States, North Carolina
Topics: activism, anarcho- and neo-primitivism, community, diet, ecovillages, education, health, live power, log or journal, nomadism, Our Culture, permaculture, philosophy, primitive skills, route information, walking


Beginning hobo school (pre-Earthaven)
Beginning hobo school (Earthaven)
Walking with Frank
Frank Cook

Walking alone
    Madison County to Asheville
    The decline of the choral dance
    Asheville to Old Fort Road
    Old Fort Road to Earthaven

Reading Sally Fallon (or: learning how to eat)
    Sprout and rinse grains
    Nutrition and physical degeneration
    Related resources
    The hobo stove
    Sister Ivy
    Sally Fallon on the road

What next?

    Your own hobo school

Thoughts on Earthaven
    Rod and Kimchi
    Some pictures


I'm here to write about some recent experiences in North Carolina, and how I and others might build on those experiences. You might know that I've bicycled from Washington, DC to Earthaven ecovillage in North Carolina near Asheville. I plan to leave Earthaven next Monday (September 7, 2003) and become a bicycle hobo once again, perhaps for good.

What I've found at Earthaven is that I do not have the desire to remain in one place, or at least in this place (at least right now). Nor do I seem to need the "people" aspect of the community here, although I have benefited hugely from it. I enjoy being alone a lot.

So, the only mass movement I could ever be a part of, perhaps, would not be a mass movement of people to ecovillages, but a large increase in the number of economads, or hobos.

Now, if you're like me, you:

  • Like being alone.
  • Like living outside.
  • Prefer to walk, bicycle, canoe, sail, or roller-skate, to where ever you might wish to go.
  • Do not like working for others (except under certain circumstances).
  • Enjoy waking up in a different place every morning.
  • Enjoy the chance encounters and exploration that occur while traveling.
  • Enjoy finding your food in nature, without having to buy it.
  • Value feelings of isolation, aloneness, even loneliness; when you've been around people too much, you start to pine for solitude.
  • Love going to bed early and getting up early.
  • Resist accumulating more possessions than you could easily move by backpack or bicycle.

Admittedly, not many people seem to be that way-- or if there are many people like that, you're not likely to know them. A broader base of people seem to be interested in a generally economadic lifestyle: they would like to be migratory, perhaps moving from wild food harvest to wild food harvest, without owning land, building buildings, or having any more tools than what they can easily carry on their backs, bicycles, or a pack animal. Perhaps my appreciation of solitude has to do with something that I may grow out of, or will change in different circumstances.

Given this desire for a nomadic, neoprimitive lifestyle, whether solitary or more communal, what skills are necessary and how can we obtain them?

I do think this line of reasoning will be of interest to the larger carfree movement, because once one starts asking, "What would life be like without cars?" it is not a huge stretch to ask what life would be like without buildings, without computers, without bicycles, health insurance, rent, girl/boyfriends and so on. Conceivably you too could someday be interested in the anarcho-primitivist critique of John Zerzan and others, and begin to apply some of that philosophy to your own life. The story of how I came to make a goal of not paying rent and so on is told elsewhere. After further thought, what I'm after with all this simplification may be freedom to listen to my body-mind and to feel what it wants, avoiding putting it to the service of anyone's schedule but its own? Also I seek adventure, openness to danger, mystery, and magic? I want to see dragons going down the street, and to encourage others to make dragons go down the street. I want myself and others to create fantastic, wonderful experience, every moment of which rivets our full attention.

Beginning hobo school (pre-Earthaven)

When I left my parents' home in Northern Virginia this July 7, one of my goals was to learn to live closer to the earth. Earlier, in New York City, I had begun practicing some primitive skills, following the work of Tom Elpel and Tom Brown. On a weekend trip in January to Harriman State Park, I ate a squirrel I found frozen in the snow (previously gutted by a crow), made a hot coal bed to help me stay warm, observed animal tracks, drank water from a stream without purification, and began looking around for edible plants.

I had earlier been on long bicycling trips where I simply found a place to sleep where no one was likely to bother me when it got dark. I had been partly inspired by Peace Pilgrim. I also practiced being homeless in New York City, USA, and Prague, Czech Republic, for a total of two weeks before beginning a bicycle trip from NYC to Washington, DC.

In all of these, however, I was mostly dependent on food I carried with me or bought along the way. I hardly knew how to collect edible plants or to get the nutrition I wanted from some place other than the supermarket. While still at my parents house, I practiced gutting and skinning some roadkill I had found, and foraged around the area for wild fruit and deserted gardens. I also began to plan a long cross-country bicycle trip and ordered books on survival skills: David Alloway's Desert Survival, the Army survival manual, and Petersen's guide to edible plants. I began trying to implement some of the ideas I had read about... such as eating worms, for example.

In addition to this, I felt, and in some ways still feel a lack of energy that I attributed mostly to poor eating habits. And, as it was, I made it to Earthaven powered mostly by Skippy or Peter Pan peanut butter and soft bread, because that was easy to find in the small stores along the way. However, at my first stop (Bellehaven Marina), I found an old fishing pole in the mud, and was given some fishing pointers by a friendly marina resident. I carried this pole along with me and did stop to fish once, but only succeeded in feeding worms to the fish.

Beginning hobo school (Earthaven)

By the time I arrived at Earthaven, I was quite happy to be homeless- sleeping anywhere on the ground at night, but I was still very lacking in skills to feed myself.

Earlier, prodded by my feeling that I was not eating right, I had researched and tried diets like fruitarianism... just before I began my trip I had found out about the Weston A. Price foundation, and the raw paleo diet. Finding out about the raw paleo diet was enough to make me throw up my hands in frustration, because, by that point, I heard people advocating just about every way to eat imaginable, but I still wasn't happy with my way.

Interestingly, at Earthaven I found quite a few people on the raw paleo diet (primarily Aajonus Vonderplanitz' approach (Aajonus pronounced Awgenous)), and comparatively few vegans or vegetarians! I was also encouraged to read a copy of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. Kimchi, who I ended up doing work exchange for, lent me her copy, and she also lent me Susun Weed's Healing Wise and Eliot Coleman's Plant Spirit Medicine. I was invited to a rabbit dinner. I found that Kimchi had been on the raw paleo diet for a while. Also, Kimchi had eaten worms, and another person here had eaten a raw lizard (during a survival training). (Regarding raw worms: I recommend swallowing them whole. Same with slugs. Chewing a worm often results in a mouthful of dirt. Contrary to one web source, soaking worms in water doesn't get them to clean their dirt out-- it just kills them slowly).

I had also been practicing walking around barefoot, partly inspired by the information on Ofek's economad site regarding barefooting, and partly inspired by my shoes chafing when they got wet, which was often because it rained so much then. Mildew and no-see-ums were also annoying-- the no-see-ums more than anything else (they are small flies that fit through ordinary window screening and which bite).

Initially, I participated in communal meals at the Earthaven Hut Hamlet kitchen, but after a while, as is my nature, I began to try to find ways to feed myself without participating there. I really wasn't that successful (I tried eating a lot of peanut butter). I should note that Susan (from Maine) taught me that Orpine and Smartweed were edible-- I had already been eating dandelion, plantain, and blueberries, as well as the tips of hemlock (pine) branches.

Fortunately, the Permaculture Gathering occurred (good meals were included), and partly from Kimchi's encouragement, I went to the workshop on making herbal elixirs led by Frank Cook. Here's the workshop description:

Herbal Elixirs with Frank Cook

Come join us for a day of connecting with the plants that empower our beings when consumed as Elixirs (fermented honey herbal drinks) and Tonics (herbs that tone, rejuvenate and nourish the body). Through plant walks, discussions and demonstrations, we will grow in our understanding of this important branch of herbalism. There will be ample opportunities to taste elixirs and a wild foods lunch is included.

Frank Cook is currently continuing his quest to meet the 5000 genera of plants in the world while traveling in Africa. In 2001, he walked across North Carolina supplementing his diet with wild foods. He was trained as an herbalist at the Northeast School of Herbal Medicine and has been fermenting drinks for over a dozen years.

Basically, in addition to learning some more wild plants and how they affected me, I also learned how to make wine and beer, and it is not hard! But more exciting was that Frank was planning to walk from Earthaven to an herb school in Madison county (at least a two-day walk). I checked with the people I was work exchanging for, and it was ok for me to leave for a week (I wanted to be able to practice walking back on my own).

Later at the gathering Frank led an edible plant walk and a mushroom walk. I was facilitating the carfree ecovillages affinity group during the mushroom walk, but I remember learning about green-eyed cone flower (edible) and pennyroyal (insect repellent) during the plant walk.

One other helpful thing that occurred at the gathering was Anya Syrkin's morning yoga and Christian's Guynecology affinity group. Morning yoga got me in the practice of going to the council hall to do my daily exercises in the morning, which I had (gradually) gotten in the habit of doing while bicycling, but had let fall by the wayside for the most part once I arrived at Earthaven. At the Guynecology discussion, I mentioned sadness at my perceived lack of focus on physical fitness at Earthaven (or something along those lines). The result was for me to decide to stop whining and to take responsibility for my exercise. Combined with a lack of energy from something inadequate in my diet / nutrition, and an early start time (8 to 8:30 a.m.) for doing work exchange with Rod, this wasn't easy at first.

Walking with Frank

This is not the route we went, but gives you a general idea. 41.3 miles; driving time: 1 hr 5 mins. Additionally, according to yahoo, it is 28.4 miles from Asheville to Earthaven and 44 min. driving time.
It was an historic moment for Earthaven: a group of walkers (all non-members) walked to Asheville from Earthaven. There was talk along the way of honorary membership for Frank, making walking to Asheville from Earthaven a membership requirement, and how Earthaven isn't really a village because it is a closed community... But, mostly, we walked slowly, stopping to hear what Frank had to say about this and that plant, and we made fires to cook tea and greens (both from wild plants) at lunch and dinner time.

The purpose of the walk was to get from Earthaven to the North Carolina School of Holistic Herbalism.

That first day we stopped just up the hill from Earthaven (we left around noon) for lunch at another guy named Frank and Pam(?)'s house that is topped with a tin dome roof and is mostly empty space that is open to the breezes. There we were introduced to spider plant, lamb's quarters, dock, and some other plants I've forgotten-- ah, we had chanterelle mushrooms and some bolete mushrooms as well. These plants were supplemented with some potatoes, tomatoes, pickled green beans, and some cultivars from that Frank's garden. After lunch, and after a three mile walk down Old Fort Road, we got in some bushwhacking (and trespassing) to get over a ridge and avoid some road walking. Frank was guiding us using a book of the topo maps of all of North Carolina from 1993. That night we had a memorable camp fire and supplemented our wild greens, mushrooms, and rock tripe with quinoa, sunflower seeds, and some apples and pears we'd found along the way. After dinner, at Frank's prompting, we shared how we got our names and what they meant. At my suggestion, we shared why we were here in the middle of a rhododendron thicket on a ridge around a campfire instead of in an office building under florescent lights.

The next day we did not cook breakfast, but did stop in an area off the roadside to cook some lunch (over a fire again... though Amber and Michael used a stove for frybread with dock leaves). The walkers to this point were Frank, Colin, Tenasi, Sully, Cheryl, Michael, Amber, and Freedom. Freedom turned back at this point, knowing that the road walking was about to get worse (we went into Asheville along a major highway). Footwear was a major issue for the walkers-- I was still working my bare feet a lot, but Amber's sandals were cutting her feet, as were Michael's boots. Approximately inside city limits, in the late afternoon, Tenasi, who had been carrying Ambers pack for her, found someone to hitch with. Tenasi, Cheryl, and Amber rode into town via car, leaving Sully, Michael, Colin, and Frank to walk the rest of the way, energized (or supposedly energized) by some special leaves from Peru, that are chewed in the cheek with some charcoal from a fire.

Some of the plants introduced that Wednesday were St. John's Wort, Indian Cucumber, Hog Peanut, Elderberry, Violet, Grape leaves, Heal-All (prunella vulgaris), Woods Nettle (and the nettle pill- made by rolling the raw leaf up and eating the pill, but only if the plant wasn't flowering yet), russian olive (it's a red and white speckled berry, not at all olive-like), and others. Frank was briefly stumped by a few roadside plants, until he realized that they were plastic, and from a nearby graveyard.

That night we refilled some of our supplies from the French Broad Food co-op (which has a walk-in, cycle-in discount of 5% that I forgot to ask for that time), and found our way into the USDA experimental forest. Only Michael, Colin, and Frank continued on from Asheville.

Thursday was a long, hot day, and we walked until we made it to our destination, just across the border of Madison county. One highlight was finding a free flowing fountain of spring water. The following days involved some more formal plant education with Frank (how to use plant identification books, parts of plants, hierarchy of plant families, species and such). But by Saturday afternoon, I began to miss my own voice in my head (I'd been hearing mostly Frank's for all of that morning), and was a bit restless from being in one place all of Friday and most of Saturday, and I began my walk back to Earthaven.

I neglected to mention, that partly at my urging, every morning during the walk and Saturday morning at the herb school we shared morning exercises. These included the Integral Transformative Practice exercises (ITP Kata) led by me, and breathing, meditation, and other practices shared by Tenasi, Sully, Amber, and Ben. Frank thought this was important (and did his own yoga as well), and encouraged me and gave me suggestions in my efforts to share the ITP Kata (go slow, don't rush).

The others besides Frank on the walk were interesting people. Tenasi and Sully had met at Eartheart (http://www.eartheartmountain.org/), and Tenasi had an incredible story about how he got his name (indian spirits, and more). Tenasi had a master's degree in some sort of environmental remediation, but now is a didjeridu-playing, urine-drinking (former), breatharian (attempted), vibrational-yogaing, chi-kung practicing member of the rainbow tribe. He is cool- this is not to make fun of him. I wish I had the chutzpah to try being a Breatharian, etc.. He had the foresight to bring a machete, and helped us get through the rhododendron thicket. By the way, Tenasi recommends http://curezone.com. Sully is 19 or so (21?) and impressive because he has escaped to the hobo way (or more accurately, Rainbow way? Rainbows are not necessarily carfree or neoprimitive, and I just saw an Asheville EarthFirst! flyer declaring that EarthFirst!ers are neither Rainbow nor "Woo") so young. Sully told a memorable story while we were walking: Cheryl had been teaching him and Tenasi an African walking song, and an old woman and man had asked from their porch what they were singing and then said, "Why don't you sing God Bless America?" (Keep in mind that Tenasi has dreads and a red beard and Cheryl has dreads of sorts as well). Someone's response was, "Well, God bless all countries." And the couple on the porch thought that sounded good. Freedom's website is http://freedomsong.net. He is 60, I think, and an aspiring bard, and the son of the first guy to sell bottled spaghetti sauce in the US. Cheryl is a member of the Forestry Cooperative at Earthaven, and had been to South Africa to study drumming. She may get the FC into horse-logging. Michael and Amber had met at Spirithaven (or did they meet before that?) which is in the process of closing. Both had been to Hawaii at various times and studied permaculture or interned there. Michael had worked for Trey or Steve Spangler at Exotica Rare Fruit Nursery in San Diego.

The people I met once I got to the herb school included Rafter, Max, Ben, and Deedee. Max grew up in Indonesia, went to Stanford, and now teaches at a Waldorf School in Patagonia. He was at Earthaven for a kleiwerks program. Ben was converting his delivery truck to biodeisel for the FTAA protest in Miami this November. Deedee is an awesome musician with an annoying white puppydog (Alba), who is an incredible activist and a prime mover behind Wildroots. Rafter was an apprentice with Peter Bane (of permaculture activist fame) and is now in Asheville making puppets or something before heading to South America. If Rafter would send in some pictures of Frank, that would be great!

I forgot to note that I had made a sign advertising carfreeuniverse.org and carfreecity.us and a display at the permaculture gathering on "carfreeness" that included my recumbent bicycle. I had also made a smaller sign with only "carfreeuniverse.org" on it to take with me on my travels. This I strapped to the back of my pack and I had it with me the whole way. Sometimes I switched the pack (a day pack) around and wore it on my front for a change. Using a day pack without a hip belt caused some compression in my spine and discomfort in my lower back. By the end of my walk back to Earthaven, it seemed I was adapting to it, but this was an issue I did not face with bicycling.

One fun thing I did at the Madison County herb school that weekend was tether myself to the side of a 10' (or so) diameter pond with my exercise band and some small rope, and get some swimming in (I had brought goggles). And then make a grass skirt for myself and walk down and eat wild greens and wild rice with the others.

Frank Cook

Frank is a striking guy. The irises of his deep eyes are a light light blue, although he has dark hair in long dreads, and tanned skin. He is tall, at least 6', and most likely taller than I at 6'3". He was a competitive distance runner in high school and college and had a best mile time of 4:39 or so. Frank seems fairly at peace and has a way of talking that people enjoy listening to. He knows a lot about plants and handled well my asking (on occasion) of the name and use of plant after plant along our walk. He seems thirty something, but did just turn forty. He went to Duke, majoring in zoology and computer science, I believe, after having grown up on military bases around the world (including Iceland!). But while entertaining job offers after college he realized he did not want to enter that world, and instead wound up caring for some gardens on the Duke campus. He later (or before gardening?) began an MBA program, but quit it. Eventually through his involvement with a food co-op, he began finding out about other ways of being. Somewhere in there he got a job at a bookstore and read like a maniac (or, perhaps, maniacal reading is something he always did). And sometime after that, he got a VW bug and hit the road, eventually making his way to a rainbow gathering (http://welcomehome.org) where he met the herbalist 7Song, whose herbal school in upstate New York he later attended, only in the mid 90's I think. Frank is an example of what one can learn in a short time with focus (or of how ignorant all the rest of us who are awed by his experience). Somewhere in there Frank also got a one way ticket to India, and studied Ayurveda and other things, being a yogi apparently (I think-- not sure what that means), and eventually came back to the U.S. with help from his family. He also mentions a healing crisis after (or before?) being caught in a rip-tide in Hawaii, and several dietary / yoga experiments he'd undertaken. He's also apprenticed to a shaman in Guyana, I believe. In addition to walking across North Carolina, he's walked across California (width-wise) near the 39th parallel.

Frank said that he had been inspired by the book Survivial into the 21st Century: planetary healers manual by Viktoras P. Kulvinskas. Frank mentioned the idea that there is no reason for people to starve, if only they knew how to use the weeds that grew around them; for example, no grasses are poisonous, and one can suck on the grasses for nourishment while spitting out the fiber... Mary Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" wasn't referring to birthday cake, but yeast cake, a product discarded by breweries. Frank says his focus has changed over the years from focusing on plants as food to focusing on plants as medicine, and most recently to focusing on plant spirit medicine, which is, in a sense, meeting the plants as wise beings who have been on this planet much longer than we have. One of the questions that interests Frank is, "What is the global healing system that will evolve, and what are the plants that will be in our common knowledge and vocabulary?" Frank is working for a future where all children learn what (most of) us adults are amazed to learn from him... "we're learning the stuff of children..." Long ago, the names of all the plants in the area and their uses would be common knowledge to all twelve-year-olds. Frank doesn't have a formal school and works only for donations (except when teaching in formal settings). He does have a group of people he's been working with over the years (a dozen or so, including Luke Christina, Matthew, and Chad), with whom he's gone on long walks on the Appalachian Trail. Here's a ditty he taught me (going through my notes here) "Rushes are round, sedges have edges, and grasses have joints when the cops aren't around". Once you get to Frank's more advanced classes, there his goal is to get a language started (more familiarity with botanical terms and concepts) so that we can talk about plants in different ways than simply talking about common names and common uses.  

The past few years Frank has been keeping busy writing and researching for 7 books, two or three of which are already written. To order these books email Frank at newworldrising at hotmail.com.

  • Plants & healers of Peru and Ecuador
  • Plants & healers of India and Nepal
  • Plants & healers of Southern Africa
  • Plants & healers of Japan and China
  • Plants & healers of Europe
  • Plants & healers of ?????
  • Plants & healers of North America
  • Plants & healers of the Dream World (my idea, I don't think he'll write that one)

The first two are done, and I'm not sure if the Southern Africa book is done or not.

Some books/experiences that Frank recommended to me and to others include:

  • Something by / about Herb Van Roepel or John Olmstead regarding walking across CA near the 39th parallel
  • visiting the Kew gardens in London, which have 40,000 species of plants
  • Survival into the 21st century (see above)
  • Work by Wolfgang Goethe
  • The natural mind and Father sun, mother moon by Andrew Weil
  • The 5th sacred thing by Starhawk (an eco-pulp fiction novel similar in a way to Ecotopia, apparently)
  • Moksha by Aldous Huxley, which he said was about being one of the first people to drive a motor car around Italy.
  • Sacred and herbal healing beers: the secrets of ancient fermentation by Stephen Harrod Buhner
  • Male herbal heath care for men by James Green (though the radical faerie Christian finds it faerie ignorant)
  • Sandor Katz' Wild fermentation
  • Tom Elpel's Botany in a day
  • Newcomb's wildflower guide by Lawrence Newcomb, which has a better key and is less conservative with regard to what is edible than Petersen's Guide.

The most memorable point that Frank made to me during the time I was with him was that group harvesting and preparation of food seems to be one of those things that our biology / soul / bodymind values. He mentioned this idea with respect to harvesting acorns during the edible plants walk at the Permaculture Gathering, and also with respect to harvesting blueberries for elixirs (during the workshop)... And already Deedee has got a "First annual Acorn Festival" on the calendar at Wildroots. This thought fits in very well with John Zerzan's anarcho-primitivist writings.

It didn't surprise me, but Frank generally does not eat animal products (though he's quick to point out that even vegans are eating animals: an armful of air contains over 200 species of yeast) and wasn't too enthusiastic about using animals for work or transportation. I should probably spend some time with some people who know hunting and trapping-- Frank is not out there to teach how to get all one's nourishment from the woods around you, whereas most primitive skills practitioners do incorporate eating of wild animals into the skills that they use / teach. Finally, I was surprised that Frank didn't walk more gracefully- sometimes he seemed to shuffle. But some of this is due to my interest in Sally Fallon's work, and my tendency to stereotype non-animal-eating people as lacking vigor. Of course, lack of physical grace and enervation are qualities that when I see them in myself remind me that I'm dying, or that I'm doing something wrong (not eating right, not doing my exercises). I'm especially drawn to people with physical grace and vitality as people from whom I can learn better how to live.

Frank teaches anyone, for whatever (money and otherwise) they are willing to give, even if nothing. When teaching in formal situations, though, there will often be a fee associated with the workshop he is giving. Frank is going to India (Kerala, I believe) this January with 20 people to show them some of what he found when studying Ayurveda there during his previous trip. There will be one month with him, and then at least a month for solo travel. He thought people should have $2,500 for the trip which would include transportation there and back. If you'd like to go, email Frank at newworldrising at hotmail . com. You'd probably want to get to know Frank ahead of time, and it looks like he's on the schedule a lot at wildroots. He does travel a lot, so email him to find out when he'll be near you, wherever you might be in the U.S. or the world. When he's not travelling, he lives part of the year in Carrboro, NC, and another part of the year near Lake Tahoe, CA.

Walking Alone

Madison County to Asheville

The walk back alone by myself was to practice walking alone and to practice the way of gathering food and cooking teas and meals that Frank had shown me. I was used to biking places, but was always more impressed with those patient enough to walk, like Frank, Peace Pilgrim, and John Francis (http://www.purl.oclc.org/net/cfu/s/walking), the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales, and most people throughout history throughout the world. Back in 1998 I'd met a guy on the bus from Richmond to Arcata (California, USA) who told me that one of the hardest things for him to do in his years of traveling around was to give up his bicycle. I knew it would be hard for me to do as well. Unlike Frank and the guy on the bus, however, and like Peace Pilgrim on her early walks, I do not wish to hitchhike, bus, train, or fly... I am seeking to re-enchant space by exerting the effort and taking the time to physically move myself through it. And I ride a bike because I do not enjoy being sedentary in cars, planes, and trains, so hitching rides defeats my purpose. I still think of myself as a dancer, and my dance is often a very repetitive motion of moving myself on foot or by bicycle through significant distances, and all the other accompanying actions (bicycle maintenance, finding places to sleep, preparing meals, talking with people met along the way, experiencing others' enthusiasm or insecurity (i.e., harrassment) for what I am doing).

That first Saturday afternoon walk was very nice. I had my mind back to myself, the weather was beautiful, traffic sparse, and I knew the way without needing a map. As I walked I remembered what had occurred in the places we had passed through before, as I returned to them (the route was inhabited by memories). I nibbled plants along the way seeking spice bush and other leaves that would be good for tea. Because of what I'd learned with Frank, the walk was populated by many plants along the way that I could look for and that I knew something about-- I had many more "plant friends" than I had started out with on Tuesday, and they were with me all the way. Also, I discovered a blueberry bush in someone's yard with big juicy berries, and mounds of overripe blueberries below it, where they had fallen, unpicked and uneaten. That blueberry bush was near a big black dog with dreads (lots of long, matted hair)... Frank had said it needed brushing, I had said it looked like Frank, and Frank said, "R-r-r-rasta dog!"

I found a place to sleep that night that had a bit too much poison ivy for my taste, but I was fine. I'd learned to refer respectfully to poison ivy as "Sister Ivy" from Frank. Our campground at the herb school had a lot of sister ivy. Ben said that he thought warm thoughts about thriving fields of sister ivy as he cleared her from where he was building his debris hut. Walking around my campsite that night were some daddy-long-legs. I ate one and it tasted like peppermint. I ate the other, and it didn't taste so good. Some days later I either ate or smelt another daddy-long-legs that tasted like peppermint.

The next morning I waited until I had made it to a wood we had stopped to rest in (near and industrial plant nursery) to practice my first cooking over fire along a road by myself! I had collected Kudzu leaves and blossoms earlier, and the woods happened to have a lot of many different kinds of mushrooms. I harvested the ones I knew and wished Frank was there to help identify the others. I was a bit too close to a house and a dog that started barking, but I finished cooking and eating (Lentils, Kudzu, mushrooms) without a deputy sheriff being sent to investigate.

I discovered an excellent pear tree with ripe pears on the ground below it that we had missed. And I stopped at a gas station to call my parents and sister and see what was up.

Later that day I swam in the fast-moving French Broad River, and visited the Asheville Arboretum. Some of the plants I recognized there looked much less happy than their brethren in more wild locations. I resupplied at the French Broad Food coop, again forgetting to ask for the walk/bike-in 5% discount. Inspired by what little of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions I'd read, and Michael's comments, I bought some kefir. I met some of the people from the kleiwerks natural builders' workshop (Kirti and Leslie), and as I was heading out of town towards Beaucatcher Tunnel, I met Deedee and Ben from the plant workshop that weekend! Deedee took me to the ACRC, which is way cool. Ben gave me another hug goodbye (thanks!), before I fled to avoid getting sucked into that interesting place. But not before jotting down some notes on primitive skills classes taught through the Asheville Free School, and grabbing a free copy of EarthFirst! Journal, the Summer, 2003 Edition (Vol. 38 #2 (361)) of fifth estate, and the Winter-Spring 2003 (Issue 13) Primary feathers: the journal and course catalog of the Earth Mentoring Institute (http://hawkcircle.com). One of the Asheville Free School classes was on dance / community dance, by Karl Rogers and Cassie Meador from Ohio State University on Saturday August 30th, phone 828 252 8999... I wanted to go to that, but didn't, and would love to hear from anyone who did! Also Patrick has a wildfoods workshop the 1st Saturday of every month in Black Mountain? 828 686 3196.

On my way out of town I stopped by Wal-Mart to buy some more of the little notepads that I take notes on.

The decline of the choral dance

After some horrid highway walking along 240, I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway (heaven), and quickly found an entrance to the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea hiking trail. I had not expected that, and it made me very happy. I slept along that trail that night, and read the papers I'd picked up at ACRC till late into the night by the light of my LED bike light. Most wonderful to read was "The decline of the choral dance" essay by Paul Halmos that had been reprinted in fifth estate. Peter Werbe had written an introduction to the essay, which he had excerpted from the full version of the essay that appears in Man alone: alienation in modern society (Dell 1962). Someday I hope to find that essay online and link to it here, or to have the time to type it in and publish it on this site. After spending some time thinking about what the essay means to me I came up with the following:

It means this: To think about and be aware of the choral dance as being one of those things, like group acorn harvesting or food preparation, that should mean a lot to me and to others simply because we're human.

The essay also serves as further support and elaboration of John Zerzan's anarcho-primitivist ideas. Which I also should put a web page up about, but for now, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OurCultureOurCapitol/message/56 and other messages on that list. The web page I'll write about it on will eventually be here. As to what the choral dance is, here is an excerpt from the article:

Whether the ostensible purpose of these primitive dances is animistic-religious or magical-material, one constant feature in them is that they are group performances and not solo or couple acts. The main crises of human life are dramatized, couched in movement and shared by all who participate in the dance.... The choral dance is the physical manifestation of groupward drives. Whatever vital experience the primitive group has to face, its sharing by every member is made possible by the translation of that experience into rhythmic, muscular movements simultaneously executed by all. The speech-less eloquence of posture and gesture supplemented the primitive vocabulary of prehistoric humanity and became a powerful medium of social intercourse... After all, the hypertrophy of audiences is just another symptom of desocialization, a symptom which calls for specific study.

I also spent time considering how my late night reading of these magazines was not that different from compulsive internet use, and how reading is or can be escapist, and how the introduction of written and printed material would have affected human experience in a way similar to how the internet and access to it affects experience. Why am I not participating in choral dances? Why am I reading magazines late in the night alone? What if I did not have internet or printed material, and all storytelling was done by living beings?

Asheville to Old Fort Road

(Monday morning, 2003-08-18-0600) I rose at first light and came out of the woods on someone's driveway, walked down the road and refilled my water bottles stealthily from the side of another person's house. I began heading uphill towards a ridgetop. When the walking group had split up in Asheville before heading to Madison County, Tenasi, Cheryl, and Sully had intended to try to walk the ridge on the way back instead of taking the highway (240 and then 74A). I'd heard they had been at the contra dance at Warren Wilson College Friday night, and assumed they'd given up on the ridge route, but I wanted to try. So I headed up and east. Eventually I found a place to get off the road without going through someone's yard, and headed into the brush amidst the noise of barking dogs in the early morning.

There wasn't much of a trail, the route was mostly very steep, and I soon came to a no trespassing sign attached to a band of plastic webbing strung between trees. In the past I'd made it a policy to heed no tresspassing signs, but after walking with Frank, I decided to return to my pre-18th-year ways and press on. It got steeper, with more brambles, and I had to move very slowly, a step at a time, to have secure footing. The last house went out of view, but I could still hear the rush of highway 74A down to the south. I put on my work gloves, which I've made it a habit to carry, to protect my hands from brambles and sister ivy. I thought I heard voices up ahead, but they did not persist. My progress became so slow and the way ahead seemed so steep and brushy, that I stopped, repeatedly, and considered if I should press ahead or turn back. I remembered Frank's comments after we had bushwhacked to that ridgetop through the rhododendrons, "Wow, imagine was it like before there were roads..." I remembered why I was walking, to learn how to go more slowly, and to learn how to travel in a manner (walking) that could take me to where there were no cars more readily than cycling could. And I knew what it would be like if I turned back. I didn't know what it would be like if I continued.

Slowly, I found my way to a slight impression on the mountainside, heading straight up (turning to the north to do so-- east was the direction I wanted to head in general), an old logging road. I followed this to a ridgetop where there was a reduction in the undergrowth, and... a ten-foot chainlink fence topped by barbed wire running east-west along the ridgetop as far as I could see. I was amazed to find this, amazed that it was maintained (trees had fallen across the fence, but the fence had been repaired), and impressed that it was here on this ridgetop. There was a well-traveled dirt road on the other side that had the appearance of roundup being used to control weeds along its edges. I imagined what it must have been like to build the thing... a sort of mini Great Wall of China or Berlin Wall here on a wild ridge east of Asheville, North Carolina. I continued east along the fence, assuming that the people on the other side probably didn't want me over there (and as I did not have wire cutters, and the fence was well-maintained, getting over would not have been easy). The going was not much easier than it had been earlier, but the fence gave me more of a reference point in the wildness than the distant noise of the highway off to the south. 

Eventually I came to a scenic overlook. There was a gate in the fence that led to a rock outcropping on my side of the fence, upon which had been planted some aluminum benches on metal posts stuck in concrete. Maybe it was some sort of vacation or resort center. I appreciated the view for a bit before continuing on, down, and then to a vehicle gate leading to an old lumber road overgrown with some still-dew-laden jewelweed and a lot of smartweed. Thinking my bushwhacking time had come to an end I happily continued east on the road until out of site of the gate and sat down to rest, eat some (raw, organic) cheese, peanuts, toasted buckwheat, and read more of EarthFirst! Journal.

Having finished my breakfast and my mental vacation from the wilderness, I continued east on the overgrown road, crossing a fallen tree, but the road turned back west, switchbacking down the hillside. I turned back and cut back up to the fence through a field of jewelweed over my head. Something stung me on my elbow, a sting that did not cause swelling but persisted for most of that day.

The terrain next to the fence headed almost straight up to a rocky peak, through patches of sister ivy. I found some excellent rocktripe (a lichen with a black bottom that you cook like big lasagna noodles). Along the fence there had been trails where the brush had been pushed down. I thought it had been due to deer, since if Tenasi had been this way there would probably have been machete marks and cut brush, especially through the seven-foot-high jewelweed. Below the rise to this peak there was a wooden national-park-like sign facing away from me, so I couldn't read it. There was a bit of a space to park and then stairs leading to a wooden observation deck facing to the north-northwest. At the top of the peak the fence turned more to the northeast. I followed along for a bit and among the tall jewelweed, found some fruits hanging from stalks a foot or so tall where the top of the plant had withered off leaving only a single stalk and a single green fruit. I picked a fruit about the size of a lemon and bit it. The inside was white and slightly sweet. It sort of reminds me of passion-flower fruit, but only now that I'm thinking about it. I ate most of it, saving a bit for identification in case I had a bad reaction to it.

I soon turned to follow my compass to the east, and away from that reference, the ten-foot fence topped with barbed wire. I could still hear the highway to the south. I tired of walking on the edge of the hillside.

The next part of this saga involved wandering through fields of above-the-knee sister ivy, climbing down steep hillsides through members of the rose family (they had thorns) mixed with sister ivy in attempts to follow old logging roads, wondering whose land this massive forest could be, and stopping occasionally to appreciate being in a place where people hardly ever go, a place where I could stay and not be found. I also collected many mushrooms, chanterelle and bolete.

After some time, I decided to cut my losses and head down the hill with an eastward bias to get out of the thickets, brambles and land without trails. I found a stream, the first I'd seen, and replenished my water, without purification. There were some decaying red vinyl seats from a car, and an overgrown ring of stones where a fire-circle had been. While refilling my water I found a bit of quartz with a milky cross in it. I gave it as an offering to a sister ivy, for keeping me safe. Frank had taught us to give something to plants as we picked them, whether it was a bit of tobacco, a prayer, thanks or just a breath. The car seats were the first trash I'd seen. Steering to the east, rather than down the more traveled road, I eventually found a bit more trash (old bottles, cans), a box turtle, and then, after following a small streambed, a clearing.

Old Fort Road to Earthaven

I came back to pavement at Chinquapin Trail, by Humminbird Road and Rosebud Lane. This is on a turnoff from Old Fort Road before it intersects with 74A--I think the road starts with an 'R'. Chinquapin Trl is a private road bordered by two stone gateposts and two large oaks. There were huge (foot tall, 6" diameter top) orange chanterelle-like mushrooms growing out of the base of the oaks. Later, Rafter told me these were probably the poisonous Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms because they were so big and growing on wood. If you walk towards 74A on the unnamed road and turn right after the second gatepost and walk (probably) west off the road and into the clearing, and then into the forest from there, you will have come in to the forest where I came out. It was about 1 p.m. when I came out of the forest. I had started around 6 in the morning.

The walk back on Old Fort Road was not terribly pleasant due to no sidewalks and fairly frequent traffic. I did stop along the way to sit in a creek with the hopes of rinsing off any of sister ivy's oil I had on me, cooling off (it was hot), and cleaning off. My shirt is quite dirty (not been in a washing machine for over two months!) and when it gets sweaty, especially when wearing a backpack I get a sort of prickly sweat rash that isn't pleasant. A woman stopped to talk from the bridge while I was in the creek. I made a wrong turn trying to find a shortcut to Flat Creek Road, but was way off, and returned to Old Fort. One guy on his porch asked if I was walking the Daniel Boone Trail. He had seen the group of us on our way to Asheville the Wednesday before. As I walked I picked jewelweed stalks, giving them a breath as I did so, and chewed and crushed the stalk, rubbing the juice on any places I had that itched. By the time I turned south on Flat Creek Road, the sun was lower, there was a breeze, the traffic was almost nonexistent and the day was beautiful. Right near that turnoff on the west side of the road are signs that say, not "no tresspassing," but "please enjoy our creek; no bicycles or motorized vehicles; pack out what you bring in." Further down there are the blueberry bushes you can pick from and send in money ($5/gallon) to:

Linberger Cancer Center
PO Box 2411
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

But the bushes are old and not as fecund as the ones at Earthaven. One passes a barn made into a house on the east side of the road, and then on the west side there is a turnoff that heads up to the ridge. Under the stop sign there is another sign that says, "and pray." Further up that hill there is a church where you can refill water bottles (around the side), and pick some apples. Past the church the road turns to gravel, and watch out for plastic flowers from the graveyard. Continue up and up through a development under construction, past some ponds, past a no tresspassing sign or two and through two gates across the road (only one was closed when I went by). At the top of this ridge, in the fading light, I searched for where we had come up from the rhododendron thicket. After wandering around on one ridge that looked like it, I found the right one, where Tenasi had carved a tunnel through the thicket with his machete. I had that feeling of wandering around in a place where no one goes, and of being sort of lost. The route I was about to take was one pointed out by Frank, but not the one we had taken. I returned to the ridge top road and built a fire. This time I made a tea with some spice bush and ragweed, but it didn't taste like the teas I had with Frank, and I burned my tongue a bit. I had been collecting greens on my way up to the ridgetop. The mushrooms from the forest had been baking in a plastic bag in the sun most of the day, but they were still good. For dinner that night I cooked:

  • creamy brown boletes
  • orange chaterelles
  • rock tripe
  • green eyed coneflower (the favorite green of the Apaches)
  • thistle
  • plantain
  • dandelion
  • violet
  • soaked (briefly) red lentils
  • kamut

As I went to bed that night, enjoying the greater daylight in the clearing of the road, I was happy with how I felt and how I'd eaten, and how I'd been able to practice what Frank had showed me and find my way back from memory the way we had come. I felt a bit foolish sleeping in the middle of that slightly-traveled road, since someone might drive along it at night, but there had been a closed gate down below, it dead-ended up above, and I figured they'd have their lights on and be driving slow, and it wasn't likely.

The next morning I packed up the leftovers from the night before for breakfast later, and walked down the old lumber road that Frank had thought he had wanted to come up when he had selected the route he had (we hadn't been able to find the trail). It was good for a while, passing an old cinder-block structure, but eventually became hard to follow, and in one memorable field of sister ivy below tall trees blowing in the wind with a clear understory the road remnant disappeared almost entirely. And I had that feeling again of being someplace no one ever goes. The slight depression continued at the far end of the clearing, and went steeply downhill. There was a creek where I refilled my water bottles (without treatment).

Not long after that I came to a fence with a cattle field on the other side. I climbed over the gate, and followed the road toward a stream and larger fields that I remembered from our walk up, passing a "no trespassing" sign facing the other way. I crossed the stream, the rest of the field, dogs in the distance started barking, and was back on the gravel road we had walked up on. The signs on the fence said, "no hunting or fishing without permission" and there was an address to contact. Coming down that gravel road, a man in a pick-up drove up, and I said, "hi." He said hi and asked where I'd been and where I was going. I told him I'd come down from the ridge and was heading to Earthaven. He asked why the ridge? I told him I took the ridge to avoid the road walking on Flat Creek and Morgan Hill, but that I didn't want to go that way again.

Coming down the gravel road I passed the old house that a guy we'd met on the way up was restoring. I also saw the teepees he'd offered for us to stay in at the far end of a field. The gravel road intersects with Route 9 (west side) near a church with a water fountain, less than a mile north of where Old Fort intersects with Route 9. From there, I was almost home-- 3.1 miles or so to Earthaven. I stopped before heading down Stone Mountain Road to gather some kudzu. It was a longer walk down Stone Mountain Road than I had remembered. As I arrived at Rod's barn on Lower Rosy Branch, Paul was digging a ditch with the excavator. It was 12:00 or so and I worked that afternoon with Rod on his site.

Reading Sally Fallon (learning how to eat)

Because of my satisfaction with the way of eating I had learned from Frank, I decided not to join one of Earthaven's community kitchens, and to cook for myself over a fire on Rod and Kimchi's site where I was staying. I would collect wild greens, cook them with grains from the village trading post, and eat worms and slugs and other animals. Not totally unexpectedly, I soon hit the wall-- having gone straight from walking to resuming physical labor with Rod. From my earlier time at Earthaven I knew that a feeling of enervation and not wanting to do physical work meant, in part, that I didn't have enough calories. I thought I might have to join a kitchen for things like eggs and butter. But I went to the trading post and got some olive oil and oats, an old standby I had long ago weaned myself from after encountering the Newstart approach (I highly recommend the Newstart cookbook). A basic Newstart principle is "whole foods eaten whole"; the principle being that you want to eat plants (it is a vegan diet) with all their parts, as opposed to an extracted oil or a refined grain. The olive oil saw me through a day or two, and by that point I had gotten around to asking how I could obtain eggs and dairy from a farmer at the ecovillage. Due to the informalness of the arrangement and my thoughts that the farmer would have more customers than product, and simply not wanting eggs and dairy enough, I had avoided doing this earlier.

Throughout this period of trying to be able to eat from what I could obtain from nature and from members of the ecovillage without joining a community kitchen, I had re-read the beginning of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, and begun to read through the whole of that 675-page book in order to become familiar with the recipes and to get all the tidbits that are found on the far right and left margins of the pages. In doing so, I was encouraged (as I had been when I'd earlier read the beginning of the book) that I could, and in fact should, eat large amounts of animal cholesterol and animal fat in certain forms, yet not be damning myself to an early death from atherosclerosis. I started buying sticks of frozen organic (pasturized and salted, unfortunately) butter from the Earthaven trading post. That butter, combined with eggs (4-6/day), goat yogurt (pint/2 days), soaked and sprouted grains cooked with wild greens, and the occasional worm, slug, snake, and rabbit (thanks Kimchi and Rod!), began to give me the feeling that I could comfortably live and do physical work at Earthaven without needing to join a community kitchen. I also put in an order for a $10 pint of organic raw unsalted butter from a secret source, just to give it a try.

I am not doing a good job stressing here how much reading Sally Fallon's book has meant to me. In the past I bought, hook, line, sinker, the low cholesterol, "soy is good" thinking. Since I have a tendency to eat lots and lots, I've designed my whole approach to diet on using only things that I could eat a lot of without hurting myself. I consider now that the reason I ate lots and lots was that I needed something I wasn't getting. Some of that is not only physical nutrition, of course--eating as a substitute for rewarding relationships and things like that perhaps. I had been near-vegan for about two to four years, not for ethical reasons but for health reasons and a wish not to have as much body fat. I've also had spring allergies (so bad I had to leave Austin, TX), that have been a factor in my dietary experimentation and choice of where to live. When I started lifting weights,  I found veganism untenable, and began to regularly incorporate animal products, but only tentatively, and with a fear of cholesterol and fat. I already spoke of my feeling of enervation and of "dying." I've felt the most alive when doing physical labor or exercise (dance, swim, windsurf) for long periods, but when I felt I could not maintain that level of activity--while in my highschool days (eating differently), I did that and more--I felt I was dying. Of course, I am dying, but the ideal is that you maintain form until you die, not that you slowly decay over a period of 60 to 80 years. I'm only 27. Someday I may have the time to put journal entries online at purl.oclc.org/net/ea/ (formerly experienceart.org) that document my past dietary distress. Some of what is already there touches on it, I believe.

Sprout and rinse grains

One important mistake I've been making that Fallon has made me aware of is attempting to eat many grains and nuts raw. My goal was, in part, to minimize time spent preparing food. I would eat things like millet, oats, buckwheat (toasted), sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, and quinoa raw. I would grow sprouts, but not rinse them. Fallon points out that raw grains contain phytic acid, a compound that binds nutrients needed by the body. There are also other toxins that seeds release while sprouting to keep animals from eating them, hence the importance of long soaking and rinsing. Oats especially have a chelating effect, binding nutrients as well as toxins. I ate a lot of oats. I have followed Fallon's advice this past week, and for the first time, sprouted buckwheat. I pay attention, as Frank and Tom Brown suggest, to the way a food affects my vitality, and I am appreciating the difference between the soaked, sprouted, rinsed, and (usually) cooked grains and the way I used to eat them.

Nutrition and physical degeneration

In addition, Sally Fallon's trumpeting of the work of Weston A. Price has addressed some of my longstanding questions about growing up in our society. As a kid in the orthodontist's chair having braces put on, or having molars removed, the questions came to me,
"Why do people have children if they know their child must go through this?"
"What of the people who lived before there were dentists and orthodontists?"
"Why doesn't an organism that has evolved over millions of years have teeth that are fine without braces?"
The reasons, Weston A. Price suggests, are that our diet is wrong. Our diet is lacking in important nutrients, enzymes, activators, and so on. Dr. Price went to study traditional cultures to learn how they ate, so that we might learn how to get the nutrition we need. I highly recommend Sally Fallon's book.


The near-term result is that this past week and a half I have pulled through with more energy and with a generally better attitude and significantly more vigor than I've had for most my stay at Earthaven. I can say that I've learned some of what I'd hoped to learn. My focus for this four-month period (starting July 7) was to be on listening to my body and on physical health, and on learning to live more close to the earth. Frank, Sally Fallon, and all the others at Earthaven with similar goals who have introduced me to their ways and to these teachers have helped me get much closer (time will tell) to the feeling of health and vigor I used to know than I have been in a long time. One memorable summer in highschool, I rose at 4:30 a.m., bicycled 30 min to longcourse (olympic-distance) swim practice that ran 1.5 hours, bicycled 30 min to Washington Sailing Marina or Bellehaven Marina on the Potomac where I taught sailing during the day, then bicycled an hour home, went to sleep, and repeated. I feared, and in fact experienced, that in being at Earthaven and having to submit to the schedule of a work exchanger (24 hrs/ week labor), I would not be able to spend the time focused on my body (doing exercises and such) that helps me to feel good. And I am looking forward to being on the road again where I can spend hours doing my exercises when I wish to. The diversity and intensity of physical activity here has been good for me (in spite of the amount of time I've managed to spend on the computer typing this thing), better than only cycling would be, and I have learned a way of eating at Earthaven that I'm happy with and could return to, and will miss (knowing my farmer and the animals that feed me). I may be back.

Another near-term result is that since last Sunday, when I made it into Asheville to do some shopping at the French Broad Co-op (I remembered to ask for the 5% walk/bike in discount!), I've eaten 10 sticks of organic butter (all but two unsalted, all pasturized, unfortunately) with 800 calories each! Previously I'd been eating lots of peanut butter, but this was much better. I did eat more than my stomach could hold on occasion, but my desire to eat and eat seems to be calming down as I learn how to eat to sustain physical (and mental) labor throughout the day using way more animal fat and animal products that I have since those high school days. I was a bit afraid that with so much butter I'd be getting fatter (Sally Fallon says not), but so far as I can tell, I'm not! I do wish I could get raw butter though. I also had the chance to kill, cook and eat a copperhead that Brandon found in the shed behind his hut. I skinned and gutted it but ended up cooking and eating the skin and most of the guts as well. It writhes around a lot even without its head, espescially when you add salt.

I would love to hole up somewhere and go through all of Fallon's book, making every recipe, and getting all the best ingredients. If I can do that at your place, let me know!

Related resources

Now I'll list some of the URLs mentioned in her book for our reference (I'm taking these from Appendix C of her book):

The hobo stove

Another adaptation during these past weeks at Earthaven was the construction of a hobo stove: basically a large tin can (64 oz? the commercial size for canned tomatos and beans and such), with holes around the bottom middle and top (cut with a hammer and chisel), which I built the fire in and cooked over, instead of setting my pot on two stones as Frank had done. I later added a hole to the center of the bottom of the can for ease in lighting and for additional air intake. I then made a version to take with me while cycling out of my old aluminum camping pot that I'd replaced with a stainless steel pot. The new version is better: it weighs less, and the hobo stove is better when it is not as tall as the can I'd been using earlier.

Sister Ivy

I did get some poison ivy in random spots several days after finishing the walk. Probably oil on my shoes or gloves that I managed to spread around. Amazingly, Tenasi got none, nor did Sully, I believe. Cheryl had it though. Cheryl mentioned that Tenasi said that if you're in tune, you don't get it... Tenasi was here the other day and shared some sage smoke, very neat.

Sally Fallon on the road

This article is called "hobo school," but much of what Sally Fallon suggests requires products and resources often not  available to a walker, biker, or small boat captain. Some of her advice can be carried over:

  • If you can't find raw dairy (illegal to sell in states besides New Mexico, Connecticut, and some California counties, I think), use cultured milk products made from pasturized milk: yoghurt, piima milk, kefir, cheese.
  • Unrefined sea salt, and some of the supplements she recommends (cod liver oil) can be obtained and carried.
  • Grains can be soaked the night before and then the water emptied during the day, although using and carrying lots of water while on the road is often not desirable.
  • To take a page from the raw paleo diets: roadkill animals can be found and cooked or eaten raw.
  • Simply changing one's orientation to not avoid cholesterol or animal fat from organically fed animals (eat lots of eggs, butter, fat, liver when you have the chance)
  • Some hunting and gathering can be done: snakes and toads (I haven't eaten a toad yet) are often catchable, as are fish, slugs, worms. With more skill, more animals may be caught.
  • Elaborate week-long fermenting routines probably aren't possible unless you are stationary and have containers.
I hope to eventually write an article on this site called "diets for carfree people" once I've had more experience on the road with some of my newfound awarenesses. For me, I plan to carry sticks of butter with me, unrefridgerated, and also eggs. I'm not sure what I'll do when faced with country stores with no organic cultured dairy or eggs. I'll definitely be soaking and sprouting my grains and nuts as much as I can, and continue to collect wild greens and mushrooms for my cooking pot, and trying to learn more edible plants in the areas I pass through.

What next?

I'm leaving Earthaven this morning, Sunday, September 7. I plan to visit the Light Center before heading into Asheville to go to the ACRC and put new bearings and grease in my axles. Then I'll probably meet a friend I made here at the gathering, and Monday, I'll ride to wildroots. Possibly I will stay there for a while to learn more primitive skills, and if I stay long enough that Frank shows up, maybe I'll learn some more plants from him. I need to buy or find a small knife and a whetstone, and maybe a larger knife (useful for larger animals). I lost my small knife at Earthaven. I should probably get a folding saw to make it easier to cut wood to fit in my hobo stove, but as that is something I'll wait on. Long-term I'll be heading west and south, past the Farm, Moonshadow, and maybe a twelve tribes community, depending on how social I feel. If it isn't too cold, I may head to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in eastern Missouri, but otherwise, I'll head south to Louisiana and Texas. I may continue to San Diego, where I have relatives and visit Madre Grande, near there, or I may head into Mexico.

What other skills do I need to learn? Many.

Your own Hobo School

That was my "beginning hobo school." I hope it gives you some idea how to start your own hobo education. You might want to hook up with Frank and Deedee, or maybe Earthaven.

Thoughts on Earthaven

I have only 30 min. to write this section, but that's fine. What's happening at Earthaven and other ecovillages around the world is historic. I think we may be so fortunate as to one day look back at what these people were doing with as much respect for their foresight and leadership as many still have for the Founding Fathers of the United States.

I'm happy to leave Earthaven because in my arrangement here I had to work for someone else approximately 24 hours / week. While I enjoy working with others, my being resists being obligated to work for others. I love to have all my time at my whim, this is why I'm drawn to the hobo life. It is true I'm living off savings to buy food, but to the extent I will still need money in the future, I'll either get hungry enough to appreciate working for others, or find other ways of getting what I need.

Earthaven is also a mini-civilization, even though they are rewriting many of the rules. I love the wildness, and freedom from buildings, stress, and activity involving motor vehicles.

After having been away from Earthaven for some time will be a better time to write about what it has meant to me.

Earthaven is exciting because there is such a range of people here, and so many people. Many younger people are staying on and seeking to become members. They have been successful in creating a village environment that I could live in fairly comfortably without a car. I think they have the critical mass, or are near it, and I'm excited to see what occurs with their future growth.


I'm not optimistic with respect to their ever being a carfree ecovillage. There are noises in that direction, but no commitments, and those who wish a more car-free environment visit Earthhaven and leave. However, Earthaveners are open to learning from mistakes. The Village Terraces Cohousing Community, one of the most exciting things happening at Earthaven, was originally planned to be almost a mile (or more?) from the center of the village. Once Corinna and Otter's son Dillan was born, they realized the unwiseness of this and selected a site right near the center. If the population of Earthaven continues to rise, and if private cars continue to be allowed, the misery of being in a car-infested environment will probably become more apparent (it already is fairly apparent), and some degree of change will probably occur. As Ofek suggested to me, it is probably best, if your interest is carfree living, to find a community that is already that way or try to start a new community with likeminded individuals. However, I think that one reason Earthaven appears to be growing and successful is that they have not done away with the automobile. Optimistically, they can use the cars as a transiton technology until their village economy is larger and more established, and then the cars will be less necessary within the village and for villager's lives. As Earthaven exists now, it excites me tremendously for one aspect: I could see my car-driving coffee-drinking parents living and learning (perhaps to not drive or drink coffee) here. If Earthaven had been from the start carfree, it would probably be in a different location, and might not be in the beautiful natural setting that it is, and it would not have appealed to those who founded it.


I did not like being bit by no-see-ums (biting flies so small they fit through normal window screens), being stung by council hall bees, and mosquitos (though few).


I hope to have a picture of the goats I helped to take care of here eventually. I fear they may be eaten very soon. One reason I wished to work with Rod and Kimchi Rylander is that they have goats and rabbits. I've also read posts like this one on the Atlanaz yahoo group, that encouraged me to learn more about goatpacking. I had a lot of fun with the goats at first, but then I got sick of worrying about them, trying to find a good place to put them, trying to screw the stakes in that they're tethered to, trying to get them to come when they didn't want to, getting bits of poison ivy here and there, probably from handling their tethers,  and them getting in the way. By the end of my time with the goats I'd adapted well /found ways of dealing with to all of that but the sister ivy, and screwing in the stakes. I do appreciate no longer having to worry about them. But I did have fun watching them inhale plants, watching them fight eachother, giving them wading lessons (they fear water otherwise), and how their bellies puff up like balloons when they've had a good day eating. It can be nice to feel needed by them as well.

Rod and Kimchi

Really, I'm out of time. The only thing I didn't really like was that my work exchange situation often involved a situation very similar to what I had in New York City: working for an older guy, who is very laid back and cool, but I'm often left to work alone. I don't think I had to work alone that much, and sometimes I liked it (as when putting in the stone steps), but I also had a hard time putting in good effort when I was feeling enervated before I got my diet straightened out.

But, as in NYC, I ended up working for and incredibly nice and helpful person. Rod shared his tips on how to stay awake while driving (brush teeth), how to brush teeth, how to cure tourista (tourist's disease (diahrreah)), how to cure flu/sore throat. They were very helpful in letting me use their computer for work on carfreecity.us, and also this article. Rod is also very into the carfree vision, and also is the/a main person behind the Library that is starting here (libraries are important to me). And his style of building and design an agriculture is something I can appreciate and relate to more than anyone else's here. We started our own "un-permaculture" club, poking fun at the whole permaculture workshop industry, while recognizing its value. If they can tell you what the Dao is, it is not the Dao...

I was also eager to work with Kimchi and Rod because they are Kimchi and Rod, not one single person. As you've seen from the diet section of this article, I've benefited hugely from Kimchi's influence and enthusiasm for dietary experimentation.

Rod is a very cool guy, and like many people here, fairly accomplished in the more mainstream world.

Rod in front of earthship

But I am a person who's never grown up to the point of deciding to use a car, drink coffee, get married, own a house, and so I don't relate as well to these people here settling down and having families, as I do to the more nomadic and uncivilized, like, perhaps, Frank.

The community work requirement (or Earthaven tax), also didn't feel good to me, especially because you pay it whether you're there or not. I see the reason for it and appreciate its value, but I didn't like it.

One last note:  Not many people here have health insurance, unless through something like the V.A. (one of the things my parents taught me to do was to always have health insurance, only since March have I disregarded that, but I have yet to tell them, and don't really want to).

Who knows what's next?


Were wonderful to sit in. And a wonderful part of my time here.

Some pictures

Where I lived (Rod & Kimchi's barn) (photographer: Rod):

More wabisabi architecture from New York City's east side.

Colin Leath <>    

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   Hobo School, by colin on 2005-03-20 17:13:06

This doc is ripe for corrections/ updates.

One is Plant Spirit Medicine: The Healing Power of Plants was written by by Eliot Cowan, not Coleman.

Second, that fence at the top of the ridge was thanks to the Billy Graham Training Center

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