December in Basketry

This month’s Basketry Intensive Program was a focus on traditions surrounding flat twined bags of the Columbia Plateau Peoples.  Our students gained a new appreciation for the makers of these bags, along with the beauty of dogbane, as they transformed the stalks of these woody plants into soft silken fibers.  These were then twined into the foundations of their bags.  Students will continue twining, creating unique patterns in the false embroidery technique using dyed corn husks.  Karen is eagerly anticipating student’s return next month to finish the rim and see the beautiful bags her students have completed.

This group is quite ambitious, and they are also finishing their plaited cedar tool kits as is shown in the photos.  Students have done a remarkable job and taken to heart the teachings of honoring cedar and her many gifts.

December in Basketry

Catch and Release

With warm spring weather finally upon us, the thoughts of grabbing our fishing poles and heading to our favorite secret holes are here.  Sometimes we fish for our dinner, and sometimes we fish to catch and release.  Knowing how to properly release fish that you are not going to keep is very important.  Taking the proper steps will help them to live another day.

To give released fish the best chance of survival, I recommend the following:

  • Touch the fish as little as possible.
  • Keep the fish in water. The fish can be injured by flopping on the bottom of the boat or on the shore.
  • Wet your hands. Wet anything that will come in contact with the fish so that you don’t remove their protective slime coating.
  • Remove the hooks quickly. Hemostats or long-nosed pliers are easier, safer and less damaging to the fish than your fingers.  If the fish swallows the hook you could either cut the line with clippers right above the hook and leave the hook in the fish.  Or if it’s a lure and you have wire cutters, you could cut the books free from the lure.
Hemostat, line clippers, and needle-nosed pliers
  • Don’t touch the gills. Gills are very sensitive and are easily damaged.  Always hold the fish gently by cradling near the head or tail or mid-section.  Bass can be safely handled by holding the lower jaw, thumb in the mouth and forefinger under the chin.  Fish that are bleeding from the mouth and gills don’t have a good chance of surviving so they should be kept.  If you find that more of your fish are bleeding, keep practicing these releasing techniques.
  • If using a net, use a knotless net or a fine mesh one. They aid in reducing the time to release the fish and keep it from thrashing against the boat or on shore.
  • Use barbless hooks. They remove much easier than barbed hooks and do less damage.  Pinching down the barbs with needle-nose pliers will make them barbless.
  • Hold the fish upright underwater after you’ve removed the hooks and let it swim away on its own.

If you’re keeping fish, it’s a good idea to chill them on ice for better flavor!

-Frank Sherwood


Catch and Release

Forager’s Forecast – Spring 2016

Happy Spring!  Spring is a wonderful time to harvest leaves and buds as plants place their energy into new growth.  Here are a few of the wonderful plants we have been gathering with our Ancestral Living Skills and Ethnobotany students.



 Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Now is the perfect time to harvest the young, tender leaves of stinging nettle!  Nettle is rich in vitamins and minerals and packed with protein.  Nettle leaves can be used like spinach in recipes ranging from omelets to soup to lasagna.  (Cooking or crushing the leaves destroys the stingers.)  If you don’t like being stung, wear gloves while harvesting!


Cottonwood buds

Cottonwood (Populus balsamifera)

Cottonwood buds are harvested at the end of winter/beginning of spring.  Cottonwood buds make an all-around useful salve for cuts, abrasions, blisters, chapped skin, athlete’s foot and nearly any compromised skin condition. Cottonwood bud resin (propolis) is a wonderful antimicrobial, reducing infection and creating a protective coating for compromised skin. Cottonwood also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities applicable for the above conditions.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed – which even has “weed” in its name – is abundant this time of year.  We use it in grilled cheese sandwiches and make it into pesto.  It also makes a great anti-itch salve.  Don’t have it growing in your yard?  Check out your local organic farm and offer to do some free weeding!

For more detailed information on identification, harvesting techniques, and ethics as well as additional suggestions for preparations, here are some of our favorite foraging books.  We carry these books in our school store.  Please call our office (425.746.7267) or email ( to order.  We appreciate your support!

  1. Discovering Wild Plants, Janice Schofield Eaton
  2. The Forager’s Harvest, Samuel Thayer
  3. Nature’s Garden,Samuel Thayer
  4. The Boreal Herbal, Beverley Gray

Happy Foraging!

Forager’s Forecast – Spring 2016

How to Properly Clean Your Knife

A knife is an extremely useful and critical tool in a survival situation and outdoor setting. In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of properly caring for your knife. Ideally, you are doing those small but important tasks like keeping it oiled and storing it appropriately. Sometimes you can just wipe your knife down with a damp rag to keep it clean.  For heavier jobs, use the following steps to clean your knife.

Regular Cleaning

  1. For lockblades and pocket knives, blow out the pivot points by mouth or with compressed air.


  1. Wash knives in warm soapy water just long enough to remove dirt and grime. IMPORTANT:  If you soak your knife too long in hot water, the handles can warp, loosen, and/or lose their finish depending on what type of knife you have.
  2. Let the knife dry completely, including any movable parts.
    IMPORTANT:  To avoid rust on your folding knives, remove all moisture by blowing out the pivot points.
  3. Once dry, lightly oil blades and/or pivot points. Do not use too much oil as the oil will collect dirt and debris.

Rust Removal

The number one rule in rust removal is: Don’t Let It Rust!  Once rust starts, it tends to stick around and you will find yourself continually battling to stay ahead of it.  To prevent rust, follow these simple dos and don’ts.  But sometimes, despite your best intentions, you pull your knife out of its sheath and discover that it has rusted.  Could it be because the knife had been in its sheath for 6 to 8 months?  Not that that scenario has ever happened to me – or not more than a few times at least.

In that case, here are a few safe, simple ways to remove rust:

Knife cleaning

My preference is to use 0000 steel wool with a light oil.
– Any type of oil will work (e.g., 3-in-One, WD40, honing).
– Using a light pressure, sand back and forth.  CAREFUL:  If the pressure is too heavy,
you will scratch the finish.
– Wipe off the dirty oil often and change it frequently.


Other ways to remove rust:

  • Use a toothbrush with Flitz metal polish or toothpaste (mild abrasive). Brush back and forth.


  • Use cork with dry, white wood ash.  CAREFUL:  Using wet ash can create a lye and cause skin burns.


NOTE:  You can also use aluminum foil with any of the above (oil, polish, toothpaste, ash).

Remember to store your knife out of its sheath and keep it lightly oiled to remain rust-free!

-Frank Sherwood

How to Properly Clean Your Knife

On the Horizon – Upcoming Classes

Some of our most popular classes are fast approaching this spring. They often fill to capacity, so if you are interested in signing up, please send in your application soon!

Twined Salla Bag

March 5 and 19, 2016 | $95 | Issaquah, WA

baskets 116

Description: Salla bags are soft-sided bags, woven with a unique full-turn twining method long practiced by Native Americans of the mid-Columbia River region. The bags were traditionally used for gathering roots, acorns and medicines. In this class, we continue exploring the techniques of full-turn twining as we create salla bags of our own.

Beautiful patterns emerge as students weave the sides of their bags with alternating colors of wool yarn. Students also prepare and use dogbane as one of their finishing rows. A false braided rim completes the basket. Finished bags measure about 5 x 7 inches and are completed in two classroom sessions held several weeks apart.

Note: Anyone wishing to repeat this class will be given an opportunity to create a new pattern called Spotted Fawn.

Course is two non-consecutive days with “homework” in-between.

Flintknapping: Techniques and Tool Kits

April 2, 2016 | $135 | Issaquah, WA

flintknapping 2010 042

Description: Early humans perfected the techniques of rock working to craft beautifully shaped and functional arrowheads, projectile points, spear points, and knife blades. Join this class and learn the techniques of making these extraordinary tools.

We demonstrate the entire process, beginning with material selection, spalling, and direct and indirect percussion flaking. In addition to learning the fine art of knapping stone, each student makes a tool kit including leather hand pad, “Ishi” stick, and flake tarp. These are yours so you can continue to refine your flintknapping techniques at home.

Wilderness Survival Skills

April 15-17, 2016 | $375 | Shelton, WA


Description: With the explosion in the number of “reality” survival shows, come learn what is real and what is not!  Learn to not only survive but also live comfortably in wilderness by learning the foundation skills to keep you alive. In this information- filled weekend, you learn the essential skills of shelter building, safe water collecting, fire by friction, and harvesting wild edible plants. Nature awareness, cordage from natural fibers, and the use of rocks as tools are also covered.

If you are interested in becoming more comfortable and self-sufficient in the wilderness, or want to experience the magic of your first bow and drill fire, this hands-on weekend is for you.  This program makes a great refresher course for those who wish to review their wilderness survival skills.

Students camp on-site.  Cost includes all meals.


On the Horizon – Upcoming Classes