Falling Leaves Rendezvous and Wildroots

I left Koinonia for about 2 weeks in October and then went back until just before Christmas and then I went up to Chicago to visit family for a while.  This post will be about the two weeks in October when I wasn’t at Koinonia.

So, the Falling Leaves Rendezvous is a gathering of folks from all over to share their skills and their lives for 5 days.  The skills that are the focus of the rendezvous are primitive skills or earth skills.  These are the skills and technologies that humans perfected and used to survive and to thrive for the vast majority of human experience until the advent of agriculture and civilization 10,000 years ago.  These skills were developed and perfected using natural materials that were readily available in the local areas in which the primitive peoples lived and/or passed through.

Here is a quote from a book I read a little while ago:  “Primitive.  The very word has come, to many, to connote brutishness or backwardness.  That is only one interpretation of a very formative word.  Look at the dictionary definition:

primitive – 1a. Of or pertaining to an earliest or original stage or state. b. Archetypal.  2. Characterized by simplicity or crudity; unsophisticated: primitive weapons.  3. Of or pertaining to early stages in the evolution of human culture: primitive societies.

The negative words that stand out are crudity and unsophisticated.  But when we look closer at these words used to define “primitive”, the definition of the word takes on a new light.

sophisticate – 1. a sophisticated person. -v.t.  2. to make less natural, simple or ingenuous: make worldly-wise.  3. to alter; pervert: to sophisticate a meaning beyond recognition.  sophisticated – 1. altered by education, experience, etc., so as to be worldly wise; not naive: sophisticated travelers.  2. appealing to cultivated tastes: sophisticated music.  3. complex; intricate: a sophisticated electronic control system.  4. deceptive; misleading.

I, for one, would much rather be labeled primitive than sophisticated.  Primitive implies first not worst.  When looking at the degree of understanding and mastery of manipulation of simple materials to solve complex problems, we moderns have no advantage over those who, by design, choose to live a simpler life.”  – David Wescott

Amen, brother.

Some of the skills that were taught at the rendezvous were: friction fire, flintknapping or making sharp tools from stone, knife-sharpening, brain-tanning buckskin, identifying edible wild plants, tracking and stalking animals, arrow making, basket making, carving wooden utensils, how to make mocassins, blacksmithing, and many others.

The first people that I encountered there were at the registration tent and were immediately very welcoming and engaging and friendly and helpful.  They also looked like young radicals, so I fit in reasonably well.  It was a diverse group of about 100 people at the event with people from all ages and lots of different backgrounds.  The people were really great to be around and were really open to meeting new people and including them and teaching them and learning from them.  A really good group dynamic developed during the 5 days and I really enjoyed it.  Lots of people stayed up late hanging out around the camp fire, but since I wanted to learn everything, I decided to go to bed early so I could keep my energy up during the day when the classes were being taught.  I am totally exaggerating when I say I want to learn everything, because I know that it is impossible, I just think its funny to say that I want to know everything and learn everything.  The classes that I participate in at the rendezvous were brain-tanning buckskin, flintknapping, friction fire, arrow making, knife sharpening, and carving wooden utensils.  The brain tanning class was really awesome.  We made buckskin from fresh deer hides over the course of 2 and a half days, it was awesome.  It is really amazing to me that using the brains of an animal and a lot of hard work can result in such a beautiful, soft, strong, and durable fabric.  I plan to tan some more hides on my own and start making some work clothing for myself.  The rest of the classes were really great and I learned a lot.  I met a really cool couple, Todd and Talia, at the rendezvous that lived at this place called wildroots, which is a 30-acre homestead in rural western North Carolina.  Their focus is on experiential learning and living, while practicing, developing, and sharing primitive skills for rewilding and reconnection.  It sounded like a really cool place and they were very interesting and friendly people so I figured I would go spend some time with them on their homestead and help them out and learn more.

Todd had converted an old truck to run on waste vegetable oil that he gets from restaurants so he basically doesn’t have to pay for fuel anymore and that is how he and Talia and some of the other wildroots folks get around.  They spend most of their time at the homestead, but use the vehicle to go to town occasionally to dumpster dive, buy food and other things, use the computers at the local library, travel, etc.  They have very few expenses since many of their needs are met from the land or they get things free from what other people are throwing away.  There were several buildings on the land and they were all really cool.  Most are constructed mostly of natural materials harvested from their land and a few were constructed solely of natural materials harvested from their land.  The land borders a national forest, so they have access to a lot more that just their 30 acres.  There is a small creek that runs through their property and it originates in the national forest, so it is pristinely clean and that is where they get their drinking water.  It tasted great and they’ve never had anyone get sick from it and they get quite a few visitors coming through.  They had gallon glass jugs to take down to the creek and bring back up for drinking water and for other uses.  Carrying water was a very educational experience for me.  Its so easy to just turn on the faucet and get water from there, but when I had to carry a jug or other container to a water source and carry it back to where we were living, it totally changed my perspective.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  What I did to help out while I was there was helping with the construction of a building with a bark roof and waddle and daub walls, I made an axe handle, split wood, carried water, harvested chestnuts, cleaned and butchered and cooked a road kill raccoon, started some fires with a bow drill friction fire set, and cut and split fire wood.  There was a lot of leisure time and it was a pretty relaxed pace of life, which was very different from what I’m used to so I actually felt a little uncomfortable and antsy for some of the time I was there.  It wasn’t bad in that respect, just different.  We talked a lot while we worked and while we cooked and ate and hung out by the camp fire and that was really great for the most part.  They only thing that I didn’t like about the conversations was Tod and Talia didn’t really have any hope for humanity.  They thought that humans had done so much damage to the planet and were going to continue to do so until something horrible happens and everything is forced to change and lots of people die.  I can understand that perspective to a certain extent, but I have hope that humans are capable of changing things around before they get too bad.  It might be a fools hope, but I do have hope.  Even though they have no hope or very little hope, they continue  living the lifestyle that they are because they find it more enjoyable and fulfilling and satisfying than the industrial, modern lifestyle.  Thats great.

I spent a week at Wildroots and learned a lot and had a good time and helped them out with some stuff, it was a good experience overall.  Then I went back to Koinoinia.  Stay tuned for more on that.

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