Thursday, October 28, 2010

Skill Building

As a family, we do a lot of activities together.

For example, while Deus Ex Machina and I don't (usually) take dance classes with the girls, we are very involved in the whole dance experience with our girls, and not just as a proud Mama and Papa sitting in the audience and clapping (although we're definitely that, too, usually with a big, stupid grin and a couple of tears streaming down our faces :). I make costumes for them. At this year's dance recital, Deus Ex Machina did the sound (and danced with them in the Father/Daughter dance ... and as he was the only dad dancing with *three* girls, he and the girls made quite an impression ;). We also work in the concession stand whenever we get the chance and participate in other fundraisers and events, because we earn a share of the profits to go toward the girls' competition team expenses.

Our family unit is just that - we're a unit, and so far, we've been very lucky that Deus Ex Machina and I have both been able to be a very integral and very present part of our girls' lives. It's easier for me, because I'm a full-time stay-at-home mom (a.k.a. chauffeur), but because nurturing our family bond has been paramount to me, I have always looked for activities in which Deus Ex Machina could join us.

Of particular interest to us, especially in the past couple of years, has been developing the skills that will allow us to be both comfortable and successful in the wild, and ever since I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, I knew that I wanted my daughters to learn those skills, as well.

So, when I heard about a once-a-month outdoor skills class, we jumped at the chance to take it, and Deus Ex Machina took the time off work so that he could come too.

We've been taking that once-a-month class for a couple of years, now, and recently, we added a second, weekly class.

Both classes are amazing, and we're learning so much.

This week's lesson was particularly exciting for me, because the lesson was fire making. If you know much about our lifestyle, then you know that I know how to build a fire. I mean, we heat with wood, and if I couldn't build a fire, I'd be in trouble. In fact, everyone in the family (except, maybe, Precious) knows how to build a fire and has done so on many occasions (Precious can stoke up a fire if it's died down to coals, but I haven't witnessed her building one from a cold start). In our weekly outdoor skills class, in fact, our Little Fire Faery passed the "start the fire with one match" test.

So, the lesson wasn't just fire building and then lighting with a match, and it wasn't fire building and then, lighting with a magnesium firestarter, either.

I learned how to light a fire using a bow drill ... and yes, I did. I actually started a fire using a bow drill.


Then, working as a team, Deus Ex Machina, our instructor, and I started a fire using a hand drill.

Deus Ex Machina was impressed. After all of the years we've been together, it is so totally cool to know that there are still things I can do that will impress him. My only worry, which I expressed to him, is that he'll think I'm all self-sufficient and hardcore and independent, when, really, I'm still just a wimpy, wussy girl ... and it's nice to have my man around to keep me warm.

But if he can't be here, for whatever reason, at least I know I can keep the home fires burning ... literally ;).


  1. You, my dear, have never been a "wimpy, wussy girl". I told you bow drilling was fun!

  2. I am too! Now, come over here and give me a hug 'cause I'm cold.

    And, you were ... um ... not wrong about the bow drill being fun ;).

  3. Where do you take your classes? I'm in seacoast NH, so not *that* far from you. :)

  4. Mary - Both of our classes were organized by local homeschoolers. The monthly class is with Chris and Ashirah Knapp, who run Koviashuvik and are located in Temple, Maine.

    Our weekly class is with a delightful young man who has studied at the Maine Primitive Skills School (and the woman who organized the class actually studied with Tom Brown, Jr. - and she's pretty amazing, too). Maine Primitive Skills School has a location in Wells, Maine, which is probably pretty close to you.

    If I had to pick one or the other to recommend to you, I couldn't because both classes are incredible and both teachers have so much information and wisdom to impart, but for where you are, you might want to check out the Primitive Skills school. Our experience with them has been completely positive, and from what I can glean from their website, they have a lot to offer.

  5. You guys are so lucky to have a group close to you. I have been taking bushcraft skills tutorials online. I watched the bow drill technique several times but have yet to attempt it. Very cool that you made fire! :)

  6. I can totally relate about being a capable woman, who must then wonder if her mate, seeing she can do those things, does less for her...better to pretend to struggle sometimes, I think, and get that extra help from our manly men!

  7. Thanks, Patrice! It really was very cool. I was so shocked when I actually got smoke, and then, when I realized I'd made a coal ... and then, when I put the coal in a tinder bundle and actually made fire - Woo Hoo! It was a pretty exciting moment ;).

    Leigh - I do feel very fortunate to be where we are and having an actual teacher does make a difference. I've tried those tutorials for different things, too, and I usually have better luck with someone to help me. One hint: use cedar for your spindle and fire board ;).

    Julie - You hit it right on the head. It's like I know I can do all of these things, and usually it's no problem for me to do them, but occasionally, I just need someone to take care of me. To Deus Ex Machina's credit, though, he's pretty good about "getting my back" if I really do need help with something ;).