Sunday, February 27, 2011

Survival Resources 7: Learning the Land

Tracking (see my post of 2/9/11), Winter Tree ID (see my post of 1/18/11), and Foraging (see my post of 1/11/11) are all about seeing what is around you, about re-learning our connections to the land in which we live. If our survival depends on the earth, we need to pay attention to it.

There's a lot that has been written about this. Starhawk's The Earth Path (see my post on One with Nature 2: The Path, 12/28/08) gives a pagan perspective on learning the land. Bioregionalism (see my post about this from 12/11/08) is another way of trying to pay attention to what is around us. There is a great quiz that was originally in Co-Evolution Quarterly and Home! A Bioregional Reader that can now be found online. There's what looks like a photocopy of the Home! version as well as an adapted Australian version available. Working through these questions will get you thinking about what is going on around you in the natural world.

I started a book on that I thought was on tracking by tracker Paul Rezendes, called The Wild Within. It really doesn't have much about tracking (he's written another book called Tracking and The Art of Seeing, that I'm sure does), but is more about paying attention to nature around you. The book begins as a journal of his explorations of the forest ecosystem but eventually becomes a spiritual book--because we, too, are part of nature (something we tend to forget, particularly those of us who live in cities).

Of course, the best way to learn the land is not from any book. Walk into the woods. Pay attention. Look around. Listen carefully. Sniff the air. Feel the bark on the trees and the breeze on your cheeks. Taste anything you forage. The best way to learn the land is to go to out and learn from it directly.

Quote of the Day: "Everything around us is always speaking. We can heal only by first learning to hear, to understand, and, in time, to respond. As we do, the world becomes richer, a more complex and vibrant place." - Starhawk

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Survival Resources 6: Tracking

(For regular readers: Sorry about the long delay in posting. Life is busy these days--but I have lots I plan to post on. Posts just may be coming out slowly.)

Tracking is the art of identifying animal tracks. This is a useful survival skill for several reasons. If you are desperate for food, you can track animals to hunt. I know some committed vegans who are also very survival oriented that were talking about hunting rabbits if necessary to survive. A different reason is to know what might be stalking around in the woods where you are--instead of being the hunter, you might be prey for some other critter. It's good to be aware of what's around you.

I think the best reason for learning tracking is to learn about what lives in whatever area you do. I will talk more about learning the land in my next post but I do think that the more that you know about the natural world (see Survival Resources 3: Back to Nature, 1/6/11), the better your survival chances may be. In spite of the fact that a lot of eco- and agricultural literature focuses on plants, there are many nonhuman animals that we share the world with and this is a great way to begin learning about them.

I think that one of the best resources that I've found to begin learning tracking is Tom Brown Jr and Brandt Morgan's piece on Animal Tracking. It starts with what they call the ABC's of tracking--looking at families of animals and the common tracking patterns within those families. In fact, the website that I got this from is an incredibly useful resource for tracking--it's called Wildwood Tracking.

Another resource that I would recommend is Track Finder: A Guide to Mammal Tracks of Eastern North America which can be gotten from Nature Study Guild Publishers[ for $4.95 or (as I mentioned in my last post) as part of the Winter Finders Set (which I mentioned in my last post) for $12.95. They also sell Mountain State Mammals for the Rocky Mountain Region and Pacific Coast Mammals for the Pacific Coast.

Of course, the best way to learn tracking is to do it. Many state parks, adult education programs, and nature study centers offer programs on tracking (I recently attended one offered through a Boston natural areas association). Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get.

Quote of the Day: "It is difficult to identify an animal by a single print. A print's shape is influenced by the surface it's made on and by the animal's gait. Front and rear prints of the same animal may differ. ...
"(Remember that even human foot sizes vary!) A footprint may look different on sand than it does in loose snow. Be observant..." -Dorcas Miller