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Monthly Archives: August 2014

At Trackers we strive to live by a Code of Common Sense. We root all our camps and programs in this. It guides how we learn from nature and thrive as a community.

Common sense is no longer common. As our world grows more disconnected, our children’s education is literally boxed in by walls and tied to desks. Yet children long ago (all our ancestors) felt at home in nature. They could light a fire with no matches, create tools from stone, and find shelter on the land. Those abilities still live on within all our kids.

Tapping that ability takes time, practice and care for the children we work with. It requires a Code of Common Sense.

Four Guilds divide Trackers and each Guild teaches a code:


Push the edges of your awareness: eyes, ears, and all your senses. Keep an open mind and heart. Don’t restrict yourself with a narrow view of things. The challenges and opportunities Nature provides often go unseen. Pay Attention to the spaces and places most people ignore.


Understand the difference between what you believe is helpful and what is Truly Helpful. Complaining about being cold and hungry is not helpful. Building a campfire or catching fish is helpful. When you put the needs of your community first you become Truly Helpful.

Mariners Guild RESPECT

Many think surviving in nature means struggling against it. Yet, like a Mariner sailing the currents of the sea, we can Flow with nature. Take the time to experience the true way of things: creeks, plants, animals, birds, trees, wind, clouds, stars, sun, and moon. By giving your time, appreciation and respect, you become part of their Flow.


Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. There’s no perfect way to shoot a bow or weave a basket. There is only progress. Be excited that you’re always doing it wrong and there are countless ways to improve. Like the plants, animals and even mountains, you never stop growing. You always do it better!


Part 3 in our Kids + Parents series for Woodcarving With Knives. Start with the Part 1: 8-blades of Safety and Care when using a bladed tool.

For both parents and kids we often start with carving stances.  Carving stances form the foundations for guarding one’s Outer and Inner Blood Circles (keeping the carving action away form the body). Before supervising your child carving, we recommend you try these positions and techniques to better understand their safety features.


Ask your child to stand with feet shoulder width apart. They can loosely bend their knees and sink slightly at the hips. They then extend their hands and arms out—keeping the carving action away from their body (Inner Blood Circle).

Kneeling Tall

This stance is also shoulder width apart but they instead stand tall on their knees. Because their body stands vertical from the knees up, this also keeps the carving action off of their lap.

Safety Note NO ONE DIES

Remind children (and adults) to resist the temptation to rest back on their heels or sit down and place the carving action on their lap. If, while in this position, the blade slips, you risk cutting a major artery of the leg—which can lead to serious injury.

The Twist

If your child has developed basic competency with a blade and wants to sit down while carving, show them how to twist their torso to the side of the hand holding the knife. This takes the carving action away from their lap and out of their Inner Blood Circle.


Modify The Block

Kids can use a solid surface such as log round or table to help stabilize the wood. This even allows them to sit on a chair or stump as it places a solid wood block between them and the carving action. As always, keep everything out beyond the knees (away from the inner thigh).

Refinement DO IT BETTER

As your kids learn from more mentors and teachers, it’s guaranteed that they’ll see different carving positions and techniques. These are not necessarily wrong. They may simply be more advanced than the basic stances described here—even a different style. For example, we ask beginners to twist while sitting since they lack experience keeping the carving action out of their lap but proper extension or mastery of more advanced cuts changes this. As your child’s technique improves their stances can become more flexible. Your job is to watch their work while guiding them to think for themselves. Then, they begin to understand how they can safely and functionally apply any new skill.

Kids learn more about Woodcarving & Forest Craft at our
Rangers Apprenticeship



Part 1 in our Kids + Parents series for Woodcarving With Knives. Parents commonly ask us how to bring our wood-carving curriculum home from camp. With sound judgment and a thoughtful approach you can supervise your kids and safely support their new skills.  At first we recommend full adult supervision. As you and your child both grow in experience, you can better judge how much supervision they require. A structured approach to woodcarving with knives helps kids develop the responsibility to use tools safely on their own.

The 8 Blades

The 8 Blades are essential principles for working with cutting tools. A Ranger knows the 8 Blades backward and forward. Like many Rangers Guild skills the 8 Blades follow the Four Cardinal Directions (East, South, West, North) and the Four Wind Directions (Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, Northeast).


Safety The 4 Cardinal Blades

  The Cardinal Blades (East, South, West, and North) are important practices for safety and competency.


With every cut imagine any potential path your blade might take—be willing to shape and reshape your position and plans to assure complete safety. Stay alert. Injuries happen when you stop Paying Attention. Avoid carving when tired. Don’t look away or get distracted, always keep your awareness on the cut. This extends beyond what you see—use all your senses to feel and hear the knife moving through the wood.


Your Outer Blood Circle is a safety zone you guard whenever using a blade. Imagine circles as wide as you can reach with your sheathed blade—up above and all sides. Don’t let anyone step into your Outer Blood Circle in case you slip while carving. If someone steps into your Blood Circle, immediately stop using your blade and sheath it if necessary.


More force in a cut often leads to less control—especially for beginners. The less control you have, the greater the risk of injury. The value of self-control is a Ranger’s first lesson in flowing with nature. When using blades, consider how much control each technique gives you. As you get better with a blade you achieve a balance—optimizing both control and force.


Consider your Inner Blood Circle. In addition to watching out for others while you carve, take care with your own body. Your body is filled with blood—cutting into your flesh will cause you to spill red wet, sticky stuff all over the place. Remember to imagine any potential path of the blade—keeping your body, hands and fingers well out of the way of any cut.   


Care The 4 Wind Blades

The Wind Blades remind us how we care for our blades and the Village.

Southeast Blade STAY SHARP

“Sharpen your knife, sharpen your life” is a Ranger’s motto. A dull knife can be dangerous, requiring more force and potentially slipping to lose control. Maintaining a sharp edge requires less effort than fixing a dull one. A Ranger keeps her blade honed and ready–always prepared to be Truly Helpful.


Choose wood that closely resembles your finished project. Wood straight and free of knots requires less effort to carve. Don’t hack mindlessly with your blade. Think of the animals who call the trees home. When you cut a living branch or tree, it must have Great Purpose—caretaking for both  Village and Forest. RESPECT You might be able to fall a tree in a short time, but it takes years for another to grow.


Accept full responsibility for your blade and everything that happens with it. Always keep it clean, and sheath your blade when not in use. Before using any blade, make sure the handle is secure. If you must set down a live (unsheathed) blade, treat it like it could cut at any moment—maintaining both Outer and Inner Blood Circles. When storing your blade, make sure less experienced children and adults cannot get to it.


A Ranger protects, caring for the woods, plants, animals and people of his community (the Village). He does not show off his blade. Today, many people see a blade as a frightening weapon instead of a useful tool. While a Ranger knows better, she must learn and follow all local rules. Research what type of blade you can have and leave it at home when required by culture and custom.

Mission: 8 Blades – Do It Better

Help kids become responsible for your own safety and competency.

  • Have the learn the 8 Blades and describe their meaning in your own words.
  • Ask them to teach the 8 Blades to another Ranger-in-training.

As kids gain more experience with bladed tools, revisit the 8-Blades. You’ll be impressed how much their understanding changes over time.


A has been telling all kinds of stories during the camp week, from hunting boar to how to not get lost in the forest. He is a veteran in summer camps (start going to summer camps from 3 years old), but this is his favorite so far.
-Tianyi (SE Portland)

August 10, 2014 – 4617 SE Milwaukie Avenue, Portland, OR This Monday began our first official week of camp in our new location. It’s only 4-blocks from our original location but with twice as much room, superior parking (!!!), a larger archery range (starts in September) and thoroughly updated facilities. Also mark your calendars and join us for our Grand Opening of this location on September 27, 2014. Check out some pictures of moving in and our first day of camp at the new headquarters:


He was so thrilled each day to come home and tell us about his days, practice his new skills, and fall into bed each night after a full day romping and stomping in the woods. It was his favorite week of the summer! “Best week ever,” direct quote.
–Emily (NE Portland)


J is having a great time! Everyday he has a story to tell! My favorite is about the baby bunnies they found, he said they found several babies bunnies and the mommy in the forest. What a great experience for him!

– Melissa (Hillsboro)

Get kids to eat their vegetables with wild edible plants!

wildwood-may-2014_40A few winters ago, my three-year old son Robin started to grow finicky about the veggies on his dinner plate. Yet as spring rolled around, we began to harvest wild plants on our forest wanderings. Once the boy learned about succulent miner’s lettuce and clover-like wood sorrel, foraging quickly became our little guy’s favorite hobby. Robin’s newfound enthusiasm motivated me to brush up on many wild edible plants. Now afternoon grazing is a large part of our garden chores. Mustard flowers with greens, lamb’s quarters and, to a more bitter extent, dandelion have become favorite snacks while tending to our little patch of Earth.

I had started to worry that my kid would forever balk at veggies but it’s like a switch was flipped. Robin’s grazing habits now follow him into the house as he willfully rummages through the vegetable crisper to nibble on broccoli and raw spinach. The other day, I watched him show Annie, his younger sister, the ripe thimbleberries and how to find wood sorrels that are still tasty green in late summer (look for the shadiest spots). As I noticed him eagerly passing his newfound wisdom I reminded them to “ask first”—for safety they only eat a plant after getting permission from mom or dad.

It’s beautiful to witness another reminder of how connecting to nature can keep our kids healthy in very practical ways. While one could claim I’m overreaching, I choose to feel that in some small way we choose the path of a Wilder living one wood sorrel at a time.


Molly Deis
Trackers Earth

Remember Know your wild edible plants before harvesting. Understand identification well enough to not mistake a safe edible with a poisonous lookalike.


Hunting and foraging the Portland wild

Free community lecture with Trackers Earth

August 16, 2014, 6:30pm
At Trackers Earth’s new flagship 4617 SE Milwaukie Avenue, Portland, OR

PORTLAND, OR – August 5, 2014 – In recent years there has been a resurgence of people who forage their food from the land. This is not only limited to rural or wild areas: There is a new movement of urban gatherers who eke out a living that includes gleaning city fruit trees and hunting invasive nutria.

Tom Prang, Lead Instructor for Trackers Earth, has lived the subsistence lifestyle for nearly 30 years. After teaching himself to hunt and trap as a teenager, he got a degree in archeology and started his research in Alaska. It was there Tom and his wife Julia Pinnix lived from the bounty of nature—hunting their own meat, bottling cellars of wild wines, preserving fruits, mushrooms, and roots, and even making stone and bone tools.

Community Lecture: Tom will be presenting a free lecture titled Subsistence Hunting and Foraging: How to Get Started at 6:30pm on August 16, 2014. This is also the first public event at Trackers Earth’s new Portland Headquarters for their Outdoor Skills and Folk Craft School. The new location features one of the largest indoor archery ranges in Portland which will be open to the public before the event begins. Attendees of all ages and experience levels are welcomed to come and hear Tom discuss ways, ethics, and regulations of hunting and foraging for food.

About Trackers Earth: Trackers Earth teaches “common sense skills” that are no longer common. This includes old-time outdoor skills of Forest and Folk Craft that include wilderness survival, wild plants, homesteading and blacksmithing. Each year they serve over 12,000 youth through their award winning camps as well as providing a range of adult programs. With creative
themes such as zombie survival, bow making, and even the official Hellboy camp, they’re not your typical nature school. 2014 starts a yearlong celebration for the 10th anniversary of Trackers Earth.

Visit the Event Page

Please contact the Trackers Office for more information: (503) 345-3312


Remember the Scout Pit

Today we saw the last day of camp to ever take place in the original “Scout Pit”; the basement room we moved to in 2007. We still have a few more days of camp upstairs at the old location of 5040 SE Milwaukie Avenue, but down those soon empty steps will always be the place Trackers first set roots.

The places in our lives are more than land, wood and bricks. They become characters, silent friends who hold our Village. Now we’re moving, but more than that, we’re changing. It doesn’t make us better, nor are we worse; just different, more interesting for wear, and simply part of life (you know, that bittersweet series of great and mundane events).

Can a scrappy old concrete basement hold memories? We’re not sure. But we can and we will. It is a place where many incredible Epic Journeys and Grand Adventures set forth. It is a Cave where quite a few Heroes have quested. It is a Kingdom where a brown bunny named Charlemagne once ruled (mostly seriously). Here at Trackers we’ll always Remember the old school magic of this unexpected place that we shall always call, through legend and lore…

The Scout Pit