Rick's Journal

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back on 2009

It's my last blog post of 2009, and I wanted to share a few highlights from this past year's adventures!

One: The Ca
mp Bonfires.
This year we had some really great bonfires that lit up the night and burned high, sending sparks over twenty feet high into the sky! It was magical and powerf
ul and exciting, and one of my favorite memories of the year.

Two: Gathering Hickory Nuts, Acorns & Autumn Olives.
It was a bumper crop of hickory nuts, which was fantastic beca
use it has been a few years. We had fantastic weather, warm, sunny, with winds blowing the nuts down on our heads and all around us. Javi liked picking up the nuts and husks, which Trista and the Fall Apprentices used for dying yarn. The autumn olives made the most amazing tart jam that is the best wild jam I have ever tasted.

Three: The Natu
re Fashion Show from Painted Arrow Camp.
The staff and campers created clothi
ng, jewelry, accessories and props out of natural materials (bark, leaves, feathers, plant fibers, wild flowers, cattails and more!). It was awesome!

Four: The Timber Fr
amed Beds.
This fall, the Apprentices here at Hawk Circle made beautiful hand made beds for their rooms, which they crafted using hard wood pegs carved from white ash. The head and foot boards were made with larch and pine, and everyone sanded and carved them carefully to last for decades of use in the farmhouse! Thanks, Joel,
Miles, Virginia and Nate!

Meeting all of you is a powerful memory.

Finishing a couple of sets of our timberframed bunk beds for the cabins is

What about cooking meat over the fire in the Winter I
ntensive last January?

All of the school groups and school visits were awesome.

The CROP Afterschool Program partnership with Hawk
Circle was a highlight.

Going to Wintergreen Gorge was a highlight.

Teaching many of you to make pegs, chop wood or throw tomahawks was a highlight!

Tracking Bobcats was a highlight, too, and seeing the baby bobcats hunting eastern cottontail rabbits in the brush while bow hunting was totally awesome!

Timberframing in our barn was a highlight, listening to good music and teaching others about carving pine, larch, hemlock and white oak beams.

Seeing my son Javier growing up, learning to read and seeing him change and mature is an ongoing favorite of mine. It hasn't always been easy with all of his special needs, but this year, he hasn't had any big issues or anything. For that, I am always grateful.

As always, I am loving the amazing wildlife, nature, plants and trees, sunrises and sunsets, thunderstorms, snowstorms, flowers, fruits, smells, fresh air, beautiful animals and birds.... man, I could go on and on and on!

Thank you all
for your support, encouragement,
friendship and hard work. It is a blessing having all of you in our lives.

Ricardo Sierra & Trista Haggerty
Hawk Circle Wilderness Education

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Hawk Circle Annual Appeal. Just a few days left in 2009!

Well, 2009 is just about in the books, and it has been a good year for us at Hawk Circle. Hard in some ways, but we are still here and we are poised to make 2010 great too, as a year and as a decade, even. There is a lot of work to do, but we are on our way!

I wanted to share a letter that one of our camper parents wrote in support of our work, as part of our annual appeal, etc. Thanks Colleen! We really appreciate your efforts on our behalf, and for the youth and adults too.

Here is the letter:

December 7, 2009 Dear Hawk Circle Family,

There is a place where people, young and old alike, gather around a camp fire. Sometimes they sing, sometimes they talk, often they are silent, feeling the awesome companionship of nature and one another. This is a place where children and teenagers learn to create from the gifts of the wild and adults learn new ways to survive using natural resources that have always been there. Time slows down and thoughts deepen. Senses quicken and lives are set on new paths.

Hawk Circle has been providing quality programming in wilderness education for two decades. They have been working hard to ensure that these experiences are available for children and adults alike. Their small community of mentors is dedicated and committed to creating an environment where students can come and study; to reaffirm the interconnectedness of the human world and the wild world of nature.

My name is Colleen Langdon. My family and I met Ricardo Sierra several years ago when we attended a one day workshop outside of Baltimore. It was a memorable experience for my family. The children made wooden spoons, learned to build a fire, learned about knife safety and listened to Ricardo tell stories about nature. The activities were meaningful, engaging and deeply satisfying to my children. I picked up a camp flyer from Ricardo and knew we’d find our way to Hawk Circle soon. As so often happens, events in our life prevented us from going for several years, however, I knew one day we would find a way there. The summer of 2009 was that time. My two sons were scheduled to attend camp and I came at the last minute when my youngest son asked me if I could come and stay also. Trista graciously allowed me to come and the next thing I knew I was pitching my tent in the Caretaker field. As my sons went off with the counselors, I wandered around the camp. Wandering lasted about five minutes. Why is it so hard to do nothing? I almost felt a sense of panic at not having a purpose. My children’s needs were being met by the camp and I was so used to cultivating busyness. The previous six years had brought plenty of challenges to my family and I had not taken the time to rest and reflect. I was spinning and I felt like I could not find solid ground to stand on.

I was soon comforted and gently rooted by the rhythm of the day that the staff and community
create. I had a unique position to see the staff and youth as I was able to weave in and out of various activities from sitting in on a fire circle, to helping out in the kitchen or garden. I was able to observe from many angles the magic that Hawk Circle offers. During my visit I was impressed by the high level of teaching done by the staff. The counselors were passionate men- tors who took the time to teach the students with patience and dedication. They engaged each student yet allowed them space to explore their own abilities. I was amazed at the creativity in which the counselors wove stories throughout their teachings encouraging the students to develop critical thinking and to see the relationships between themselves and all living things.

Hawk Circle intentionally keeps their camps small to insure safety, high quality mentoring, and authentic bonding among campers and staff.

By the end of the first week I noticed that students were excited and more confident. From building a fire and a campsite to tracking and hunting, the students knew the work they were doing was authentic and it showed in how they carried themselves. Engaging in these activities allowed the natural world to come alive in a real way for these students.

Children who immerse themselves in nature have a deeper sense of awe and wonder for the world.

After my experience this summer, I am recommitted to this belief. But not only for children. For all of us. Stepping out of the b
usy world I had created and into nature awakened in me the power of healing and creativity. One special night, Trista offered a women’s circle that was simple, powerful and transformative. There was a true sense of connectedness to these women I had just met only days ago. There was no false sense of ‘spiritual rightness’, no forced rules of what it is to be sacred. There was only the simple but powerful quality of being embraced.

Without a doubt, Trista Haggerty and Ricardo Sierra have created a special community where they offer a respite from the hectic modern world and a place to rejuvenate and deeply nurture our essential selves. They are incredibly generous, have a well-thought
out vision of the future they are creating, and the leadership to move forward.

Please support this awesome work.

After twenty years, Ricardo Sierra continues to pass on his stories of survival, adventure and magic in the wilderness to the ‘eager to learn’ , next generation.A donation to Hawk Circle is an investment in a rich program that offers young and old alike a place to make deep connections to the earth, to one another and to ourselves. Without this connection our future would be truly uncertain.

Your donation will help to insure the protection of the earth and its beauty by supporting our youth in establishing passionate and reverent relationships with the natural world.

If you have also experienced the power of Hawk Circle--its people and its land--please take this opportunity to honor that experience and safeguard it for others. Make an investment, any amount will help, towards the future of Hawk Circle.
Please consider a donation to Hawk Circle Wilderness programs this year. Your donation will help fund the education programs that profoundly affect our children, the community and our future. With much love,

Colleen Langdon
Hawk Circle Parent

Hawk Circle Wilderness Education (The Earth Mentoring Institute) is a
501C3, not-for-profit organization. Your donation is fully tax deductible as allowed by law.

Hawk Circle is the kind of place that needs to exist. It is essential for people’s psychic and emotional well-being. If there aren’t institutions that offer this kind of education, we are lost.
---Earth Skills Student

Thanks for reading, and many blessings for you and your families/communities in the new year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Survival Decoded: The Hawk Circle Winter Intensive

There is a big difference between knowing about how to do something, and actually doing it. Theory vs Experience counts in the wilderness, and no where is this more true than in the winter season. Everything is more intense and when it is 14ºF outside, and you are trying to make a fire, you can feel that the need for that fire is real. Your hunger is more like a growling wolf in your belly, and you know you need food. Energy rich food, too. Water is key, both tea, hot chocolate and clean spring water. Your gear, and your mind and your body is all that comes between you and sure, frozen death.

But one thing that I like to keep in mind is this: As hard as it seems like winter is, all of our ancestors knew how to get through just fine. And aboriginal peoples have been living in extreme environments for thousands of years. Not hundreds. Thousands. Seriously! Isn't that a little comforting?

So, about seven years ago, I put together a course that I tried out on my apprentices and staff, and later evolved into The Hawk Circle Winter Intensive. In it, we put together as many skills of winter earth skills as we could pack, and made it in January, so there would be snow and cold and it would be real! We even put together a little trek to put the skill in action, too.

So, the dates are January 3-16, 2010. What better way to start the new year than by roasting chestnuts by the fire, making winter teas, learning to track winter predators and stay comfortable no matter what the temperature! Join us if you can, because after that, it's time to get ready for maple syrup season, and start timberframing again, too....

One of the things I like about this course is that it is gentle on new winter neophytes. We aren't going to just throw you into the cold without being prepared, and we take it step by step. So you can learn without feeling like you are being pushed too fast, too far, too soon. Which is important. On the other hand, if you want to go further, faster, more intense, we can do that for you too.

Another thing I like about being part of a class like this is the fellowship, the community of students and staff that is formed when we all come together to learn and grow. After all of my years of study of skills and practicing, I know how it feels to work on my skills alone, by myself, and then to experience it in a group, at a class or a circle of good friends. It is one hundred percent different, more fun, amazing, with a group of friends and the learning is just accelerated too. Sometimes it is hard to tell what is more awesome, the class or just cooking great meals and hanging out by the woodstove, enjoying the evening carving crafts and drying meat or making cookies!

Feel free to write or call us for more info. 607-264-3396. And if you aren't up for the winter adventure, have fun in your own way, and enjoy it as best you can. Set up a bird feeder for the winter birds, or catch up on your reading, or get your seeds ready for next year's garden. I know I will be trying to do all of those things too. Have a great winter!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Raising the Frame in the Snow

Earlier this month, we raised the cabin I was building for the last two months. Nate Johnson, Miles McAllister, Joel Haines and I spent a good number of days making pegs, carving rafters, moving heavy beams and checking everything to make sure it was all set, and then we delivered them. Then, the raising happened. We were just in time, too. The warm weather held out as long as it could, but as we were putting it together, it started to snow. You can see it in the pics.

Anyway, it was a great raising, and took two days, but it looks great. Let me know what you think! It was great to see how it all came together, fitting tenon and mortise with hand carved pegs, etc. I am just glad it was done before it really started snowing!

Now I am back to getting the barn ready for more winter framing, sealing up cracks in the siding, installing a woodstove to let my workshop area be semi-warm, and making lots more pegs for the coming frames!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Timberframing: Strong, Sustainable, Longlasting and fun to build!

As I am sure you probably already know, I have been doing a lot of timberframing lately. We started building cabin frames about eleven years ago, and made a few as part of our workshops in framing. Simon Mayer, Chris Marx and a few other staff members carved wooden pegs by the boxload one winter, selling them to other timber framers for food money. There were mounds of shavings all over the farmhouse floor. (Once you have made a few hundred pegs yourself, you really don't get the same thrill at making pegs, frame after frame! Buying them isn't always a bad idea!)

Anyway, learning to cut frames has been really important here at Hawk Circle. Not only have we used it for our garden shed, our staff cabins and three student/camper cabins, we have also built our bridge using framing techniques, and lately, cutting frames for people who have wanted one for themselves or their families. This has helped support our Earth Skills Apprenticeship, and our camp scholarship fund, too, by providing income to offset housing/utilities and all kinds of different expenses that come up at a wilderness education program. Plus, it gives us more wood for carving, making bunkbeds, cabins and other framing projects that really help teach the art of framing to our students.

We put our first set of bunkbeds up this summer, with a lot of help in the making of them from many caretakers and Abigail Liss, who carved almost a full set by herself in the three weeks she was here last summer. There were lots of students making pegs and helping out in a lot of different ways.

Lately, the Apprentices are making their own timber framed beds, for the farmhouse, so we can get the mattresses off the floor in some rooms, and replace some shaky old frames on others... Joel, Virginia and Miles are doing great work and the beds are coming out great!

Timberframe structures are amazingly sturdy. They are cut from local wood, so they are super sustainable, and they are made using very little power, as we cut and shape them with mostly hand tools. They bring a community together in the raising, and the buildings are more than just an amalgam of wood and shingles. They are a home, be it for animals, or artists, or a family.

The barn here at Hawk Circle is full of beams, shavings, sawdust and finished braces and posts. It feels good to be in there, with our great view out the barn doors looking down the valley, listening to some good music, and cutting massive wood.

Framing is hard on the body, though. I go home tired, sore and ready for bed. Elbows, shoulders and back muscles get used a lot in sawing, chiseling or lifting. It is definitely not something that I can do every day, day in and day out. It helps to take a day here and there to teach skills, mow the lawn or gather hickory nuts!

Last weekend we raised a frame in the southern Adirondacks, well, actually, it was the base of the frame as the structure is being built on the side of a hill. We were just making the first level, so we can put up the full frame/roof on top of the deck. It was great to see it come together without a hitch, and it felt immensely satisfying to see the heavy oak beams pegged together, solid and strong.

We are cutting the rest of the frame now. Much of it is white pine, so after the white oak, it is almost like cutting the frame out of a stick of butter. Seriously! The white oak builds up some serious strength and muscle, which makes it great to work with pine.

I love cutting frames. It is awesome working with wood and it is great sharing it with others, both in teaching and in building. I like it because, honestly, after nearly twenty five years of teaching wilderness skills, it is great to be doing something different. It is great to take one beam at a time, and see my work done at the end of the day, there, stacked neatly and ready for some future assembly. It is great to just experience a change, in some ways. It also keeps me strong, as I need to be able to lift my son, Javier about four or five times each day. And it is cheaper than going to the gym!

Don't get me wrong. I still love teaching wilderness skills, and I do it almost every day. But it is really nice to cut wood and be part of this other skill, and learn new things, too.

If you get a chance, come to the raising of the full cabin in a few weeks. I would love to have your help, plus it is an amazing experience to see it all come together... If you want to be part of it, let me know. And if you are in the area and you want to come check out our frames and our workshop, please do.

Okay, back to work....

And if you are interested in having us make a frame for you or your family, either as an addition, or as a barn or retreat cabin or whatever, give us a call. I would be happy to talk to you about your project!

Enjoy the fall!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Coming Up: The Sacred Hunt and Wolverine Survival...

Two weekends. Two workshops. Two experiences that will change the way you see the natural world.

This fall, we are offering The Sacred Hunt: October 16-18, 2009. It is more than a simple hunting skills class. It's about learning to hunt in an honorable way, in a way that is connected to the heart, to the soul, not only of you but to the deer, and nature itself.

Hunting is a culmination of need, awareness, tracking and being human. It is part of us, our thousands of years of living close to the land. It isn't something that I take lightly, and it is far more than simply attempting to kill an animal.

Hunting provides food for our families, hides for our clothing, all kinds of tools and a way of challenging our skills to the very limit. It provides me with a bridge to the spirit and the sure knowledge that we all live and we all offer our lives as a gift to the earth, to the spirit that moves in all things, to the people, and to our families. We offer ourselves to the people we love.

Wolverine Survival
October 30-November 1, 2009.

The wolverine brings up all kinds of different feelings in people. In the old days, trappers hated wolverines, calling them gluttons, raiders that followed their traplines, taking their marten and foxes and fouling the area with a rank musky stench.

To the native people, wolverines offer a model of warriorship, of ferocity, of unbridled intensity that matched the massive grizzly, or a full pack of wolves. They can travel the most remote wilderness areas with ease, preferring to climb over a glacier or mountain pass than go around it. Their fur stays frost free even down to -50ºF and they sleep pretty much anywhere they please. Wolverines were the model for fighting spirit, for tenacity and power.

Modern science has found wolverines to be caring parents, and not always living up the ferocious loners portrayed in comic mythos.

In this course, we study the skills of survival that are necessary to living close to the earth, providing ways of making shelters, fire, tools, hunting weapons and utensils. We will learn to walk with awareness, hear more, see more and understand more about the natural world, where you will view the natural landscape as your ally and friend.

We have great discounts, great food, great cabins and you will never see the natural world the same way again.

Actually, I already said that!

Anyway, hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Inspiration: The Ongoing Battle Continues

It's easy to get inspired. I mean, anyone can catch the inspiration bug, by reading something, or watching something or hearing someone share a story.

It's staying inspired that is tough.

Inspiration is a tricky thing, because it is elusive. It can evaporate in the face of reality. In the presence of the health department, or a board of directors, or a financial statement, it might hit the trail, or leave you with a rock in your stomach, your tongue in knots. It can sometimes make you wish you had never been inspired!

I am not saying this because I am down on inspiration. Far from it! I am saying this because it is important and it is a reality. For every inspired person that attempts to learn to make a fire, or a bow or to track animals, there must be close to ten who never get off of the couch, or go outside.

On the other hand, inspiration gets us going, and keeps us going when the chips are down. It touches us deep in our souls, in our heart's desire.

I have written about how I started Hawk Circle, our origin story and more, in previous blog entries, but when I saw this video, I really liked it. It arrived typically, in a moment where I really needed a boost, and it touched me. It is so simple, so short, but it was effective in reaching that part of me that is connected to my vision and mission. I won't spoil or paraphrase it to let you enjoy it's full impact, and you might not even be touched by it. It doesn't matter. We all have our own ways of connecting.

But it made me remember that it takes constant effort, year after year after year, day after day, to keep going. Because it is tiring to walk a vision, to push and work and think and plan.

Doing Hawk Circle is full time, every second of every day, it seems, sometimes. For Trista, for myself, for our staff and friends and supporters. We are constantly seeking and finding new ways of doing this work to try to make it better, to reach people, to grow in impact, if not in numbers, and to grow it the right way, whatever that is. We also find ourselves searching for our own inner strength, to keep going.

It helps to remember that we are doing this for love, for the children in the photo, to give them the skills they need to survive whatever might come down the road for them.

We are doing these things for love of nature, to help the people of the world be more connected it it, to share it in such a way that they feel close to it and understand it, and can help all life here on this earth.

We do it for our families, our communities and for ourselves....

I wish you the best in your daily search for inspiration! One step at a time....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Difference between "When" and "If"

This world is beginning to accelerate in ways that go beyond our control. They may already have years ago, but our ability to understand this is still in infancy. However, there is little doubt among scientists and educated peoples across the globe that we are seeing the last shreds of stability on a planetary scale, and that the future is highly uncertain.

The whole issue of 'if climate change occurs' is moot. It's now a question of 'when' and 'how much'.

At Hawk Circle, we are beginning to make a change in our approach to teaching wilderness leadership, survival skills and awareness. For the last twenty years, we have tried to avoid any philosophical tones that might be construed as alarmist, fear based or manipulative, for obvious reasons. Most students are simply unable to do anything about it, for one thing. The other is that it was uncertain that the 'worst' was yet to come, so to speak.

Starting in 2010, our approach is going to be one of trust, love, compassion, and highly practical in nature, one that features skills that will be crucial and necessary in the coming years. We also will begin to talk openly about the changes and what these might look like and how to observe and respond to them in a way that can provide the optimal outcomes for our students and their families.

We aren't talking about packing up three years of food in the basement, or getting firearms and ammunition. We aren't talking about heading out to live in a bunker in Idaho, or herding fifty goats in Wisconsin. No, no and no! (If you are into that sort of thing, go for it, but we aren't advising that!)

We are going to begin talking about these changes and these skills in a 'when' conversation, rather than a hypothetical 'if'.

I don't like doing this, but I can't see any other way that has integerity. I also think that young people do 'get it' as to what is going on with climate change and the very real threat to our world as we know it, and it will probably be refreshing to be able to talk about it directly, rather than skirt around it or pretend it isn't happening.

I don't claim to know the future but I can sure take a look at the present and make some simple predictions and know that things are about to get a lot crazier in the coming ten to twenty to thirty years!

I welcome your feedback and would love to hear what you think about this approach and if you agree or disagree.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Living without Fear: Swine Flu and the Natural Person's Strategy

Well, if the stock market and economic reports haven't got you down, the worry about the up and coming 'pandemic' of swine flu should send you over the edge, right?


Because you are smart and you know you need to put everything in perspective before you get crazy.

The fact is, normal flu virus/illness kills over 36,000 people every year in the United States. That's a lot of people, most of them with pre-existing medical issues such as impaired immune systems, diabetes, premature birth or elderly decline. The idea that we should panic over one or two or even three deaths doesn't add up. At least, not yet. H1N1 is probably going to be here to stay for a little while, but we don't have to panic.

Death is part of life, and my heart goes out to everyone who has died, and to their families who live on beyond them. It doesn't matter if someone dies of swine flu or cancer or a car accident, I can empathize with the loss and grief that all of us feel when there is a loss to our circle of family, friends and community.

Perspective doesn't mean we don't care, but we can't cower in our basements and hide either. We have to find a way to live, and be smart and reduce our risk. Like in a wilderness situation, we always want to be safe, and not do crazy things that are unnecessary, so it is great to stay informed as things progress.

So, what can you do to stay healthy? We know that viruses and bacterias are around us daily, constantly, and our bodies keep us alive and functioning naturally. We just need to keep this system working in optimal condition! Here are a few ideas:

One: Take off your shoes and socks and walk barefoot on the lawn. Studies have shown that getting your feet in contact with the earth directly has a powerful effect of boosting your immune system by many percentage points, as the ground stimulates your nerves in your feet, which are connected to all the other nerves in your system. Get out there when there is dew on the ground, and move slowly so you don't hurt yourself if your feet are tender.

Two: Gather some dandelion greens and make a salad. Dandelions, chickory and other 'bitter greens' are often the first plants up in the spring, and they are loaded with all kinds of vitamins and nutrients that act as a tonic to our bodies immune, digestive and circulatory systems. It is kind of like a 'flush' to the system, as well as a stimulant through it's bitterness to our livers, gall bladders, pancreas and other internal organs. It is a good idea to make sure you get a few leaves in your mouth and to chew them slowly, to achieve the full benefit, as an important part of the stimulation of your internal organs comes from messages that your body recieves as you chew and taste your food. If you smother them in sugary or intensely spiced dressings, you will be missing out! (Note: Only gather and eat plants that are in areas that aren't sprayed for poisons, or other chemical or pollutants, and avoid gathering on roadsides where plants can concentrate the exhaust and other chemicals. Be sure you can positively identify every single leaf of the plants you are gathering and make sure there are no other species of plant hiding in the foliage!)

Three: Stay Positive. Your attitude is huge in this. It is a known fact that people who are happy, lighthearted and positive have much stronger, healthier immune systems than those who are depressed, negative and fearful. Put a note on your refrigerator or make a drawing that you can put on your steering wheel that reminds you to be positive each time you see it. Maybe put something on your computer or a leather thong around your wrist... Smile as much as you can. Take negative thoughts and turn them around until they are positive. Give other people compliments and give your self a few when you look in the mirror once in a while, too.

Four: Wear Clothes that Help You Feel Good. This is self explanatory, but don't be afraid to show a little color, and be bold! Get your mind and your families' or friends' minds off of fear and worry and let them focus on you and your crazy hat or whatever!

Five: Pomegranates, Cranberries and Blueberries. All of these foods are amazing super foods, that can help you stay healthy and support your bodies attempt to be as strong as it can be. Make pomegranate juice popsicles for your kids, or blueberry smoothies, or cranberry teas... You can even nibble on dried cranberries or blueberries, too. They are delicious and amazing and even a handful will make a difference in your life and the lives of your family and friends.... Share them with your co-workers, too! We all need to stay healthy!

Six: Take a Walk Outside. There is nothing that helps our bodies stay healthy than good, vigorous movement, or a relaxing stroll in nature. It helps the mind stay positive, it feels great, and awakens our senses of smelling that fresh spring air, all of those growing plants and listening to the blasts of birdsong. You don't have to go far to get the benefits, either, and it helps to put everything in perspective, too. Enjoy the sky, the stars, the moon, the sun, the trees, the perfect beauty and symmetry in a leaf, a stone, a feather, in life itself...

Seven: Meditate on Perfect Health and Strength. Find a spot where you won't be disturbed, and take fifteen minutes to run through a guided meditation. Imagine yourself relaxed, in your favorite natural place, with perfect health, getting stronger with every breath you take. Take the time to thank your body for doing so much work for us, for carrying us throughout our day, doing so many tasks, and taking whatever we dish out and trying it's best to fulfull our needs. Sometimes your body will talk to you, and tell you to eat a specific type of food, or to get more sleep. Sometimes your body will let you know things that will help it become better and healthier. Listen carefully to those indications and remember to be thankful and appreciative for all it does. Our bodies are beautiful and amazing and we need to give ourselves some real, outright love, because sometimes, we are the only ones who will! (That is modified from a quote the John Stokes, director of the Tracking Project, likes to share about how one of his native elders loved to tell everyone who would listen. I love it!)

If you have any other suggestions of how we can stay healthy and positive for ourselves and our families, please add them to the post, with a comment or two, especially if you find that these are helpful!

Late Additions: Have a joke of the day and send it to your friends/family. Tell a funny story to someone. Have a game night each week and connect with your family. Make a point to say something positive to each person you see tomorrow. Make a healthy meal and take it on a picnic to someplace you have never gone before....

More to come, people! Stay healthy and positive!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sean Rowe: The Troubadour Scout of Hawk Circle... with new music, too!

Check out this article in the current issue of Metroland in the Capitol District, featuring our own Sean Rowe, about his experiences with music and wilderness, with much training from here at Hawk Circle.... Way to go, Sean! Can't wait to hear the album and sample some of those mushrooms, too.

(You can get a copy of the CD Magic here.)

Sean did an extended survival stay here in the fall of 2007, and worked hard at his fire skills, foraging skills, plant identification, shelter skills and so many more skills of awareness, tracking and survival... He also blew us away with his music and depth, and just overall presence and strength.

Check out the post and I will try to get the audio file that Luke Gaillard did with Sean after his trek, so you can listen and hear it all for yourself! More to come, people!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Signs of Spring, in Upstate NY

I knew spring was coming when I saw a flock of robins descending from the sumacs across the lawn, in a red-breasted frenzy, searching for the first worms...

I knew spring was coming when we were tracking by the stream, and the heavy back feet of a doe told the story of the fawn she was carrying, as she headed for the rich meal of alfalfa shoots and sharp pointed blades of grass.

I knew spring was on it's way when I heard the ladder backed woodpeckers chasing each other around and around our sugar maples, fighting for the prime nesting place and the best territory to win a mate... They made a huge cackling and melodious racket, hammering on dead trees and then flying in their undulating patterns, like three teenage boys jockeying for position at the dance...

I knew spring was coming when the curled, purple-red-green tops of skunk cabbage poked up in the dead grass by the river, with their shiny smooth skin and pungent smell.

I knew it was spring when the snow comes in thick from down south of the valley, covering the trees with wet clumps of gray-white snow that will last for an hour or so before slowly sinking into the earth and the tannic brown vernal pools where thousands of tiny frogs peep and croak in rhythm, in an orgy of mating and egg laying and exploring their watery world.

I knew it was spring when I walked outside and didn't need a coat or even an extra sweatshirt.

I knew it was spring when the snow melted and I could see all of the crap that accumulates after a long winter of covering snow, all over the yard and the trails and lawns. Sticks, small bits of peeling paint, wood chips, ashes from the woodstove, bits of bark and scraps from the wood pile, or the occasional lost mitten or glove.

I knew it was spring when I saw my first woodchuck of the season, licking salt in the side of the highway. A hundred yards further, my first dead woodchuck of the season....

I knew it was spring when the camps begin to fill up, with friends and students and the promise of summer begins to awaken like a seed, ready to take root.

You take a long time to get here, Spring, but we are sure glad you are getting closer!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting behind the Social Media curtain: Rick's Journal, for real!

Navigating social media is tricky. There aren't a lot of rules, but you can read lots of blogs or e-Newsletters with people who barely have been on FaceBook or Twitter for three weeks, giving out their professional opinions. And we have all heard of the college student who goes looking for a job but gets turned down when the boss Googles him or her and sees pics of drunken debauchery in the photo albums. Blah, blah, blah.

But what good is all of this Social Media crap if you can't be real? If you only get the slick, brochure version, the media massaged and scripted Rick? I mean, how do you get behind the facade?

I wouldn't call Hawk Circle all that bad of a facade, really, and it is pretty much from the heart and all that. But let's face it, it is still tailored to a larger audience, not wanting to offend anyone and perhaps turned down a notch or two, just to be, well, maybe a little more relaxed. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

But when people who run organizations, or businesses, or causes are on Social Media, how do you know when you are getting the real person, and not the "safe Rick"? When is it just a line from Madagascar, you know? "Cute and Cuddly, Boys, Cute and Cuddly!" (The penguins. For those of you who are living in a debris shelter, forget it.)

So, here is where it gets real. I don't need to misspell a bunch of words to let you know that I am real, either, and I am going off the script, and skipping telling you about my thoughts on American Idol, or how Javi and I like to look up at the night sky for the moon or shooting stars. We are going off road.


I have been driving to a couple of schools in Delaware County, where I teach kids in an afterschool program twice a week. It is probably an hour and a half each way, so I have a lot of time to think, to drive, to scout for spears or arrow shafts, or fresh road kill, or any number of great wilderness resources that you can find along a country road side if you keep your eyes open. But mostly, I've just been listening.

Collapse, by Jared Diamond. Among other things. But mostly the audio version of his book.

People, friends, past students and campers, family, I've got to tell you: We've got some serious changing about to happen, and it is coming up very fast.

I know this isn't that ground breaking. I mean, anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention in the past six months to the financial collapse knows what I am talking about. If you watched an Inconvenient Truth, you know what I am talking about. If you have paid attention to the increasing rates of extinction, you know what I am talking about. If you think Monsanto is a bad idea, you know what I am talking about.

Do I need to go on?

But, what do we actually do? I mean, what can we do? When do we get up off the couch or table and begin to make changes? What changes should we make first? What is the best way to make the most impact? How should we do it?

If there is one thing I have seen a lot of in the past five years of teaching that is new and scary, is the 'deer in the headlights' syndrome, where students, when asked to do something that they might not be sure of how to do, will exhibit. They will freeze, and just wait until told what to do. They won't take initiative, and their fear of doing something the wrong way, or making a mistake, is so great that they will instead do nothing. They will wait and wait and wait.

Isn't that the same thing that is happening now? Aren't we waiting to see what someone else is going to do, to be inspired, or instructed or told so we can be sure to be on the same page and not make a mistake?

Why don't we trust our own inner voices, that are probably pretty hoarse from screaming at us, to get a move on, little doggy? Why can't we just make the jump and, if, five years, ten years from now, someone says, ha ha, wow, aren't we glad that the world didn't end yet, we can just smile and laugh along with them, while we pick our own beans, corn or apples? Heck, we can talk all the way to the root cellar, or the cider press, or whatever.

There is one thing that I got from reading his book that is particularly chilling: The concept called Creeping Normalcy, where the changes are happening but they happen so slowly, over so many years, that everyone sort of just goes along with the crowd and by the time they begin to fight against the current of society, it is too little, too late.

Maybe it is too late already. I will hold that that could very well be true. Seriously. There may be nothing that we can do to stop the events that are set in motion. In that case, all of the preparation in the world can't help you feed five hundred thousand hungry refugees and take care of your own family when the collapse happens.

I struggle to write this and put this out there to all of you, because for a long time I have not wanted to create fear in people. To have everyone think I am against society, or using fear to get people into programs or whatever. Because maybe, I just didn't want to admit that the inner voice I have is right, and that I am scared myself for the future.

I do know that the skills we offer can help, so I trust that. Skills are like a vaccine against fear.

But I am just sending this out there to say that it is time to start listening to your own inner voice, in whatever way you choose, and then, act.

You know. Do Something!

And then listen some more and act again.

I can't say it will save the world, but it just might. And I will add that in any case, it will feel good to listen to your own inner self and that is not a relief taken lightly. Listening and acting will bring you into alignment with your own personal vision, your purpose for being here, on this world, right now. It gets you on with why you are really here.

Okay, I guess I am done for now and my inner voice needs to go to sleep.

Good luck, to all of us. I think we are gonna need it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Barry Keegan's Friction Fire Intensive April 3-5, 2009

You know, most people don't really know Barry Keegan. This guy surprises me all of the time, even after knowing him for about eight years! Barry is a very unique kind of instructor, combining extensive knowledge of survival and native skills, with detailed research of historical references of these same skills.

Take canoes, for example. I mean, we've all heard about the native style birch bark canoes, right? Sure. Got it. No problem.

But Barry, well, he makes Elm Bark Canoes. Hickory Bark. Spruce Bark.

Spruce Bark? Really?

Really. I mean, we have an elm bark canoe upstairs in our barn right now, that he made with our Earth Skills students. It is the coolest thing ever.

Barry loves to track down the earliest known references to those canoes, or stone celts, or the original shape of bows made with stone tools. The bow he helped me make, which I just finished tillering two weeks ago, is styled from a stencil he made of a stone tool made native bow in Sudbury, MA, which he was able to view first hand in his research on bows and native hunting implements.

It's obvious that he loves learning, and he loves to make stuff. Everything. You can feel it when you hold anything he's made in your hands. Smooth. Functional. More than just a stone or a piece of wood, if you know what I mean.

He also loves to share his knowledge in classes with students, and while much of that information goes over the heads of beginner students, they come to appreciate it after the fact too.

Barry works harder than anyone I know to perfect a skill in every detail. His pottery is exquisite. Barry's bows just gleam with rich lustrous wood grain, strength and form. Don't even get me started on his arrowheads and projectile points!

It's not easy to get all of the knowledge that Barry holds in one place. I'm not just saying that, either. He doesn't teach what he doesn't know, and he provides meticulous references, too. They aren't the same old recycled books, either, but articles, journal entries from early settlers, even archeologists and researchers in Europe and beyond.

If you get a chance to come take Barry's Friction Fire Workshop, or the Native Clay Pottery Workshop, or the upcoming Flintknapping Intensive in September, you won't be disappointed! Write us for more information, or check out the Hawk Circle website....

Gotta run, but I will write more about the Spring Earth Skills Semester and other news as soon as possible!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Facing the Unknown: Healing and Growth in the New Economy

This post could be titled "What I've been doing for the last three weeks", if I am being totally honest. And you know what? I could easily just say that I have been boiling maple sap, going to schools, ice fishing, tracking and painting the farmhouse. All of which are true.

But that wouldn't be exactly honest, now, would it?

I mean, it makes for a great newsletter, you know. Wilderness guy takes the brush and roller in hand, makes maple syrup, goes tracking and ice fishing and all that homey stuff you come to expect from Hawk Circle and me, maybe.

Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is really good stuff. Usually.

But in this case, it isn't good enough. No. Not nearly good enough. Because if I tell you all that good stuff, you know, how we tracked some fisher, some foxes, or bobcats, or had fun trying to catch fish through the ice, whatever, it wouldn't be real. It would feel fake, or more correctly, like a half truth. And I can't do that this time.

The whole story is that I have been going through a lot in the last three weeks. A lot. Feelings of all kinds have been ripping through me like waves, and I have been working hard to understand and integrate what has been going on.

You see, I am a guy. A man. And we don't have the reputation for a huge emotional range, or familiarity with the five thousand different shades of emotion and depth. (Think: A hundred different words to describe snow, or something like that!) Which doesn't mean we don't feel them all. We do.

It's just that we are hard wired to be more fight or flight types. Rather than communicate all of those feelings.

So, why all the feelings? What is going on?

Well, it's the economy. The uncertainty. The fear. That is definitely creating a fight or flight response. Except there is no where to flee too, and usually no one to fight with.

I see it in the faces of the men I play basketball with. A lot of them are scared. Nothing is predictable anymore, and things that seemed rock solid and sure have evaporated like the morning mist. It doesn't feel good, for a man, who wants to be able to tell his family that things will be all right, and feel sure about it, and for them to know they can trust him, to feel that way in this new world we are living in.

Trust me, most men are wired to get food, provide, and lead their families, their band or tribe, through the cold and the dust to a good place. A place where we can all feel good and positive and build something beautiful for this life, for this world. But I know I can't do that right now. Many of the instincts and senses still work, but the messages are conflicting. And so much of our lives are based on connections and relationships that intersect and make each other stronger and better.

I know all the stuff about the wolverine and everything, and that is good stuff. It is good to focus on that when we are preparing for action. But when you are painting for hours on end, or sitting in the cold wind boiling sap, you start to think about things. And feel those feelings. At least, I know I have.

It is hard right now for us. Enrollment in our camps is very slow. Scary slow. We have afterschool groups going on, and a small semester program, too, but the flow of income and energy is trickling and we are an organization that doesn't have vast resources of cash reserves, or an endowment, or anything like that. So we take action, we work hard, we leverage our resources, all that good stuff, but in the end, we wait to see what happens. We can't really add to our debt right now, and most of the banks aren't lending either. We do what we can, like everyone else in the world right now. We pray. We are thankful for what we have. We offer our mission and our lives and our vision to the Universe to help guide us through these times.

I know that if nothing else happens in this crazy world but this, I will be thankful. Because this experience has opened me to healing and my own growth that is so powerful and profound that I can't express how grateful I feel about it. It has been an opportunity that is like the perfect storm, if you know what I mean. The right conditions, pressure, winds, whatever, to create the energy and will to heal, to grow, to change. For me! Of all people, me. Which I have needed for a long time.

I am not getting too personal here, because when healing happens for me, it happens across the full spectrum of my life, not just in one area or another. Everything. And I have been waiting for a long time for this. A long, long time.

Most of it surrounds the fact that I have worked and worked and worked, as hard as I know how, as I am able, to help Hawk Circle and the circle of staff, students, campers and community, to grow and prosper and find hope, renewal and light in this world. And I have struggled with myself as much as the challenges that lay before us, working against myself, ironically enough, to find a way to grow. The feelings of despair, of disappointment, and frustration usually are there, just under the surface of my consciousness, for not being able to bring Hawk Circle to a stronger place, a more secure future, or to be more successful than it is.

(Just a side note: I am proud of all that we have accomplished in the last 20 years, and I feel great about where we are going, too, and how so many people have believed in us and still support us in many different ways, it is overwhelming at times too!)

However, the threat of the slow economy and the realities of low cash flow has only served to accenuate my fear, my own inability to be better than we are, etc, and opened my whole self to letting go of my own expectations and stress, and look within. Which has been very scary. And good too, at the same time. I know it sounds crazy, but things are crazy right now, so it kind of fits.

We still need campers, and support. We aren't giving up on our mission, our vision. I know we stand ready to serve, to teach and to guide, in the best way possible, without fear and with love and respect and thankfulness. I know I am afraid, but also filled with gratitude and hope.

The rest of this story has yet to be written. What happens next?

Time will tell. I will let you know, too. Stay tuned!

By the way, I finished my bow that I was working on for the last six years or so, really slowly! Thanks to Barry Keegan for all of his time and support! And Barry is helping Connor with his bow tillering in the pics here. And I am adding some pics of our maple processing and Trista with our baby rabbits! So it wasn't all healing and growth for the last few months. There was some ordinary Hawk Circle type stuff too!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Note: New blog to follow!

Hey everyone!

I have a short announcement to make about the blog our current Earth Skills Circle the Seasons student Connor O'Malley is writing about his year here at Hawk Circle. He has some great photos and is going to post about his experiences and skills training too. Check it out! It's called, oddly enough, Circle the Seasons.

More info to come soon about 2009 workshops, camps and programs!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Help from the Wilderness: My new eBook Wolverine Survival.

I just finished my eBook Wolverine Survival: Ten Secrets of Wilderness Survival to help you Survive the Economic Storm.

It was hard to keep it short. It was hard to cut out all kinds of stories and examples of each principle, to make it clear, to the point and get it out in a timely way. It was good to write, and see how these secret principles are woven throughout every part of my life and outlook on the world.

I don't know if you are in trouble, or worried, or what. It doesn't matter. The bottom line is, these principles can help clear through the fog that fear creates, and offer something of power. A path. A direction. Allies and partners....

I hope you and your family, your business, your community, are ok. I know that even if you are, you are still feeling it. The storm is vast and reaching across the globe in it's scope and impact. If you don't feel it right now, you will.

And it is a good thing, too. We need a wake up call. We need to make some adjustments, and change. It will force us to think in different ways. To work together to find solutions. To see the world a little differently. To recognize, grow and thrive.

I don't like to be afraid. What is the opposite of fear?


In the long run, it's the mental game that gives us the ability to weather storms, whether they are actual blizzards or just storms of change. It is our mind and our hearts and our faith in the world that gives us strength to find a way to survive. So that is what I focused on.

Well, I hope it helps.
Let me know what you think.

Thanks and keep walking the good road.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Winter Intensive 2009 Down the Frozen Rabbit Hole!

We started with snow shelters and moved on to fire. Lots and lots of fire! Tinder studies. Tipi fires. One Match fires. Flint and steel fires. Wet tinder and wood fires, after rain and freezing rain for 24 hours. Then, it was bow and drill, followed by hand drill and even some fire plow just for fun!

Fun Fact: Doing a hand drill or bow drill in the snow with below zero wind chills is not as easy as it sounds! It really takes a lot of time to get that board, the drill and the tinder warmed up enough before you can start to make a coal, and the uneven snow does keep things interesting too!

I am having a blast. The students are totally into every thing we do, including making traps, setting up bait stations to see what types of buds and twigs the rabbits prefer, and all kinds of crafts, too. We even tried our hand at ice fishing, although we didn't get any bits, so that wasn't as fun!

Tracking has been good, and it has been frozen and cold all last week. We made a fire in the snow one day and it was a good sized fire, about the size of a thirteen gallon trash can. At 0ºF, I needed to be about eight inches away from the flames to actually feel the warmth from it, in the open air. Water bottles and food freezes solid in an hour if left exposed. Have you ever tried carving up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! That's what I'm talking about!

Trista has made powerbars, energy bars, pine needle tea, birch beer and even a birch healing salve for our dried and cracked skin. We enjoy sitting around the table, sharing meals and talking about our experiences, our stories, kicking back around the woodstove and drying our mittens and socks... (Someone has to do it!)

We dried meat for the trek, but most everyone ate all of the meat while we were drying it, because it was so good. We have some good coal burned spoons, and the soapstone sculptures are really nice too. Everyone is supportive, positive, motivated and hard working. I couldn't ask for a better group of students to teach and enjoy the winter days.

We have a week left, and tomorrow they are heading off for the four days. I will be there most of the time, and we should get some good tracking in, and maybe do some new things with fire, or some birch bark crafts, or even snow goggles!

When we return, we have some community celebrating to do, as well as a sweatlodge ceremony, to ground our experiences together in spirit and the earth.

I am going to miss everyone when this class is over.