earthskills is a natural skill share gathering where people with a background in natural building, creation care or traditional skills come together to trade knowledge through experiential learning. these hands-on activities range from learning to create fire by friction to tanning hides and from permaculture skills to cooking and survival skills.

the gathering is a three to four day event where most people tent camp, though some drive in from town or stay in buses or tepees. last weekend, we headed north to attend the gathering, held in hawthorne,fl just outside of gainesville.

the amount of energy that went into preparing the land for this influx of people amazed me. since the focus is on being kind to creation, skills like permaculture and natural building led the design for establishing temporary infrastructure. some folks had come up two weeks in advance to help build some of the eight composting toilets, the traditional cooking ovens and the fire circles.

the weekend started off rainy and stayed moist and cold until the last day. we ended up borrowing jackets from a friend in gainesville and a girl at the gathering, emma, gave me a pair of warm socks to get me through the weekend.

highlights of the gathering for me were watching the cob oven being constructed (while asking probably a million questions), and learning from an herbalist who goes by Seven Song.

in the afternoons, after the classes had ended for the day, Seven Song sat on a bench with a small crowd gathered around him. he chose people out of the crowd to talk through a health issue. he then proceeded to tell them, and us, what he might recommend as a herbal remedy for them (often a combination of herbs and tea blends). he did this while conversing back and forth with the “patient” and allowing others in the crowd to ask questions. as many of us are not as practiced in herbal medicine, we were, for the most part, silently absorbing the information.
what impressed me most about these sessions was the interest and capacity to learn of those in the crowd. we all wanted to see the sick person be well. i can’t remember the last time i saw someone teach and command a crowd in that manner. it made me wish that all of my schooling had consisted of discussion groups like this, with one leader but everyone equally invested in learning.

not to mention: contra dancing, bon fires, delicious meals, herbal medicine, edible plants walks, moccasin making, salve making and camping.