Monday, June 29, 2015

Outdoor Survival Class

On Saturday, June 27th 2015, 8 ladies met for the first time in the parking lot at the Scuppernong Trail Head. It was a beautiful day.....sun shine and in the 70's....perfect weather to do a 2.5 mile hike to our camp site. Along the way we discussed wild edibles which were the trailhead we munched on mulberries while I pointed out a half dozen more edibles or medicinal plants. From plantain, the wilderness band aid, to mullein, a powerful decongestant, the participants paused and jotted notes as we moved from plant to plant.

In between stops, the ladies paired up and exchanged brief life histories beginning the bonding that would be sealed up later at the camp site. Everyone was in great spirits and was enthusiastic for the material.

Three hours later, we exited the trail and ate lunch at a park in Pine Woods Campground. After refreshments and a five minute siesta, the ladies got down to business again. We brought out grass we'd gathered on the trail and I taught them how to make cordage as we discussed the importance of mental fortitude in a survival situation. Then I handed over each participant a piece of paracord that they later weaved into a bracelet. We headed into the woods again to make a survival shelter from the materials we found around us. Everyone was busy and got down to the task at hand and in just a half hour we had put together a shelter that would be a comfy little home for someone faced with an overnight in the woods. Pleased with the work, the ladies gathered around their little hut for a photo shoot and off we went to camp. The tents were already set up and they gathered their gear and transformed the tents into a home away from home.

Supper arrived in about an hour....a wild edible course served up around a fire. Soup featuring bee balm, garlic mustard, dandelion, nettle, wild spinach, turkey and quinoa...gluten free and delicious! Followed up with a mulberry cobbler and rhubarb tea.

Free time followed dinner and later we headed to our tents listening to the coyotes call around us. The stars popped out and the temp dropped for perfect sleeping weather.

The morning brought another beautiful day. We focused on matchless fire making skills and got some hot water going for coffee and tea. Breakfast was eggs and wild edibles to spice it up along with a gluten free bannock bread made over the fire. Delicious!! We wrapped up the event with a healing salve workshop where we talked about infusing a medicinal plant into an oil and combined it with beeswax to preserve the medicine for year long use. Everyone went home with a tin.

We gathered up for one more group photo and packed up as clouds were closing in. Everyone was safely back to their cars before the first drops fell!!!

Next Outdoor Survival Class planned for October 17th, 2015. Mark the date!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Quick Way to Make Acorn Flour

Acorns provide protein, fat, vitamin B3 and B6, folate and pantothenic acid, plus the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese! Plus its a easy to collect food source!

I started my morning today with acorn pancakes with acorns collected from this past summer. I have learned a quick and easy way to leech acorns. Follow these easy steps and you'll be cooking with your acorn flour within a few minutes:

1.) Collect the acorns. Don't pay any attention to holes or the quality of the acorn. Go for large quantities.
2.) Toss them in a bucket of water. Toss the ones that float.
3.) Dry the ones that fall to the bottom of the bucket. They are the good ones that haven't been invaded with insects. To dry them, simply lay them single layer somewhere warm with moisture free. Allow to dry at least a week to make shelling them easier.
4.) Shell the acorn. Crack with a nut cracker and peel the thin outer layer off. You can freeze any nuts that you don't use immediately.
5.) Take a cup of the acorn and put in a blender. Fill half blender with water. Put it on high for up to two minutes or until the acorns are cut finely.
6.) Pour mixture into a thick nylon sock (a nylon dress sock works quite nicely).
7.) Tie a knot at the bottom of the sock where the majority of the nut milk is. You will notice that the water that is coming out of the sock is whitish brown. That is the tannin in the acorn that must be leeched out before you can eat the flour.
8.) Put the sock under running water and squish the acorn nut meat between your fingers until the water runs clear and no longer whitish brown.

Taste the nut meat. Do you taste a bitterness? If yes, continue to run under water until the nut meat tastes very bland. When that happens it is ready to use!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Greenfield Soap Making Class

Soap making can be one of the most empowering skills you can learn. With one batch of soap you can provide your family with enough soap for an entire year! Once you know how to make your own soap you can also create your own laundry soap which is not only fun but can save tons of money! Every season I teach a soap making class for the Greenfield Recreation Department and the Milwaukee Recreation Department. The classes are in-expensive and fun...a great time to meet other people also interested in a life of self-reliance. Go to my website at to find the next Soap Making Class!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Body Butter Class!

First class of the 2015 season started out with a fantastic group of ladies at the Greenfield Community Center. We made up a batch of body butter and everyone was able to choose their own essential oil to create a unique product to take home. The great thing about these classes is the community and networking that occurs while we are "cooking" up a body care product. Strangers become friends over the course of a two hour class.

Many more classes coming up for Greenfield! Next week we will be doing a Medicinal Tea class and the week after that Cold Process Soap making. If you are interested in making your own products and becoming more self-reliant, these are a great series of classes to take. I will also be teaching how to make your own laundry soap, healing salve, insect repellent and so much more!!

Head to for a full list of class and how to sign up!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Overnight Outdoor Survival Class

Hosted by: Shannon Francis of Resiliency Training LLC
When: Saturday, June 27, 2015
Where: Ice Age Trail located near Waukesha, WI
Age Requirement: 18 +
Skill Level Required: Ability to hike 4.6 miles in and out of base camp
Participants: 8
Cost: $165 per person
Includes: Tents set up at base camp, wood for cooking fire, supper first night, breakfast second morning and all class materials

I have received many requests to host an overnight outdoor survival class that will allow for more in-depth discussion and skill development and so I will be offering what I think will be an incredible experience for a small group of outdoor enthusiasts.

We will be meeting at 10:00 am at an Ice Age Trail head on Saturday, June 27th. After a group meet and greet, we will begin the 4.6 mile hike to our campsite. Along the way we will be identifying edible and medicinal plants and discuss various uses. We will also be gathering materials to make cordage (rope) and learning various knots. We will discuss priorities in a survival situation and water procurement. We will stop for lunch along the trail that will include some wild edibles.

By early afternoon we will reach base camp that will be set up in advance of the group's arrival so we will have more time to discuss and create the perfect overnight survival shelter. We will break for matchless fire making skill session that will lead into creating the perfect cooking fire for supper. After supper we will practice making cordage from various grasses collected during the hike.

The evening will be reserved for more relaxed social time and trying out the shelter that the group created. Participants are free to sleep overnight in the shelter but tents will be provided for those that seek a little bit more comfort.

We will be up for an early am skillet breakfast featuring wild edibles and review skills from the previous day. Participants will also create their own paracord bracelet and take one home with them. After packing up the camp, we will journey back the 4.6 miles and review the edible and medicinal plants discussed the previous day.

If you would like to participate in the trip, contact Shannon Francis at or 262-515-5331.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Midwest Wild Harvest Festival

Pat Armstrong, foraging instructor at the Resiliency Institute in Naperville

Evening potluck with wild foraged food featured.
I just got back from the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival that was held at the Badger Camp near Prairie du Chien. This annual event gathered nearly 130 people all interested in learning to live a more self sustainable lifestyle by incorporating wild foods into their diets. The weekend event takes place at the Wisconsin Badger Camp and features top rate foraging instructors from the area as well as a guest speaker from New York. This is a family friendly event where the kids go to day care while their parents go on classes to learn to identify, process and store wild foods.
With five outstanding instructors it was really hard to choose from the classes offered. I have a pretty solid grasp of identification of plants so this year I focused on learning new recipes and ways to store the food that I gather. My favorite class was a food preservation class given by our guest speaker, Leda Meredith. She discussed the main ways to preserve food and then went into specifics. I now feel comfortable and confident to begin using fermentation as a means to preserve the wild edibles I gather. She also introduced us to a wonderful new way to eat plantain. You take the plantain leaves and dip them in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Then put them in an oven at 250 degrees for up to 10 minutes. Delicious!
The weather was chilly for this time of year but we still got out and did quite a bit of walking and collecting wild edibles. Sumac was in its prime as well as wild grapes, apples, and ground nut. Soon it will be time for the roots such as Jerusalem artichoke and burdock. Another amazing event and I am already looking forward to next year!

Monday, August 25, 2014

May Apple Banana Ice Cream

I am an enthusiastic forager and this time of year features a truly fun fruit to forage, the may apple. I first read about may apples from the infamous Euell Gibbons who wrote about the wonderful flavors of may apples in his book Stalking the Wild Asparagus. He claimed they tasted like ambrosia which instantly peaked my interest. The forest across from me has a bounty of these fun and beautiful plants. It is a fun plant to forage for because the leaves themselves are easy to identify but the fruit is much more like a scavenger hunt. The fruit are ripe when they are yellow and they can still be attached the plant sprouting two leaves or laying on the ground recently dropped by the plant. But you will be will competing with the deer for this delicious treat so you have to keep an eye on them as they progress into ripeness.

Now at the end of August of 2014, there are in peak season and soon they will all be gone either from the deer or they will be turning brown and will be of no use. Collect them when they are yellow and slightly soft or when slightly green and just keep them on the counter until they ripen. It took only a couple days in a paper bag to turn from a slight green to yellow and be ready to go.

Euell Gibbons talked of making a marmalade out of the may apples but the 5 cups of sugar was a definite turn off for me. A friend and I had made some wild grape jam the previous fall without any sugar or sure-jell at all so I wanted to see what would happen with may apples under the same process. I quartered my may apples and tossed them into a pot under low heat. Within a half hour they became very mushy and I took a potato masher to them to speed up the process. After another half hour I put them in a steel colander and pushed the pulp and juice through and separated them from the seeds. You do not want to eat the seeds - they are toxic. These I tossed back into the woods to continue the cycle of bountiful may apple fun.  On the heat again for another half hour and the sauce thickened right up. About 2 dozen may apples produced about a cup of this thick may apple jam. And the taste was MARVELOUS. Like nothing in the grocery store which makes the whole process even more worth it.

Next I put this mixture in the freezer. In my house we have a special treat called Banana Surprise. It is simply a frozen banana in the vitamix along with about a half cup of coconut milk. Voila you have a healthy ice cream like treat. For a completely dreamy ice cream delight combine the frozen banana, coconut milk and two heaping tablespoons of frozen may apple puree and your taste buds will explode!!!