Firemaking, roadkill-cooking, primitivism: photos from a "rewilding" camp

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The Firefly Gathering is one of several "rewinding" or "primitivism" camps for learning self-sufficiency and wilderness skills and crafts like fire-making, mushroom hunting, canning, diaper-free parenting, trapping, and cooking wild game (and, er, road kill). Turnstyle's Mike Belleme brought his camera to camp. (Warning, some of the photos of animal "processing" may be upsetting to some.) From Turnstyle:

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Tanning a hide and making buckskin shorts is hard work, and making fire by rubbing sticks together is frustrating and tedious, but participants say the result is a profound sense of understanding the materials that you work with. Firefly co-founder Natalie Bogwalker explained, “Firefly is here to stave off the amnesia of modern technocratic culture…When normal people come here they are really inspired and feel that things are possible…"

To some who attend the Firefly gathering, the primitive skills that they learn simply serve as a novelty or a fun way to spend a weekend. To others, the skills that are taught and shared at the gathering are a part of daily life and survival. If the predictions of many of the primitivists at Firefly are accurate, the imminent collapse of civilization will soon make these skills a matter of life or death for us all. If there is one theme that seems to permeate all aspects of the gathering it is connectedness. “It’s all about rooting ourselves deep into the earth and into our connections with each other,” said Bogwalker. She continued, “…when we look all around us and people aren’t interacting with each other, they’re like, looking at their iPads…they’re all like robots, half human half machine… it’s really creepy to me.”

"Rewilding: Primitivists Take it Back to Basics"


  1. yes it sure is useful to know how to trap and cook wild animals, but not half as useful as this shotgun and ammo, now hand over the venison before I am forced to unleash my dogs of war.

        1. You’re willing to bet your life on that assumption?  Might as well, considering you’re also assuming he’s alone…

          1. in this post apocalyptic hypothetical scenario where my band of road warriors happen upon group of hippies trained in  Firefly revivalism  I will command my dogs of war to kill the weak enslave the rest and steal their food. Yes.

          2. I hope your dogs of war like booby traps cause my tribe only has one VHS in the VCR hooked up to the bike-generator: Rambo First Blood.

            When the little ones come of age, they are sent into the woods to fight cops and make ponchos out of truck upholstery.  This strengthens their spirit.  When they return they are considered adults and are privileged to sit at the council fire.  Also they do not have to pedal the bike-generator anymore.

            Think less Wavy Gravy, and more Ho Chi Minh. Invaders make good fertilizer.

      1. Who do you think Humungus was before the Australian apocalypse? That bastard attended every Australian Comic Con till the bomb dropped.

        Yup after the dust clears the only people left will be B-Movie fans and red necks, and Patton Oswalt strapped to a Doombuggy.

  2. ” If the predictions of many of the primitivists at Firefly are accurate, the imminent collapse of civilization will soon make these skills a matter of life or death for us all.”

    Yes, because with the collapse of civilazation will come the disappearance of firearms, ammunition, cans, can openers, lighter, lighter fluid, alcohol. All of our modern trappings will sink back into the Earth and we will all be naked and empty handed.

    This sounds like a fun weekend and probably will empart some usefull information on how to survive in the woods if you get lost, but please stop saying that it will be vital after civilization collapses.

    1. Firearms, ammunition, cans, can openers, lighter, lighter fluid and alcohol are all things that be depleted, destroyed or taken from you by force.

      Gear is no substitute for skills.

      1.  and if you don’t have a gun and skills with that all your training will just make you stringy and slightly unpleasant for the cannibal tribes of the irradiated wastelands that is the inevitable future.

    2.  All of those things will disappear for many, particularly those who don’t have them right this minute. How many people who spend their leisure hours at the local Galleria Mall, would be able to easily source any of these things?

      1. You mean those things that are readily available at every gas station, strip mall, grocery store, big-box store in every community in the US and many other countries?

    3. I wouldn’t rely on wild animals for food either.  We’ve destroyed the habits for most animals bigger than a squirrel and heavily reduced the populations where they are left.  If current human populations relied on them, what animals we do have would have their populations driven down quickly to near zero.

      1. Deer are pretty prolific in some parts of the US.  We’ve killed off most of their predators and they do well in suburban environments.

        My survival plan is a massive plot of potatoes.  You can easily get over 100lbs from a small garden.

          1.  One can only assume they intend to trade potatoes as well for other foodstuffs until they can get other things going.


            Mine involves hoarding small metallic objects such as needles, safety pins, ammo (and bottlecaps, of course) in order to sell to the women who will be creating civilization from the ashes.  Every settlement is going to need sewing implements and ammo and the small, compact nature means that I will be free to continue roaming the desolate wasteland increasing my karma until I can be allowed to get power armor training.

          2. Statistically speaking, potatoes worked pretty well for a substantial number of Irish for a substantial period of time. It’s in no small part the substantially increased population that the potato made possible that the blight ended up starving or driving off…

          3. That’s a good reason to grow more than one variety of potato.  The potatoes in Ireland were all of one kind, and so were ripe for an epidemic. The potato itself is no more prone to disease than a lot of other crops.

        1. How much vodka can you make from 100 pounds of potatoes and what can you get by trading the vodka?

          1. It is reported, by producers of the same, that Cassava roots at 22% starch can be turned into 200 liters of ethanol per metric ton of root input.

            So, call that .9L per kilogram, and a potato is ~ 15% starch, your hundred pounds of potatoes gives you 6.8 kg of starch or 6.1L of ethanol.

            Vodka is usually sold at 40% ABV, so call it 15L.

            Now, you’ll probably want to whack at least half off that number for sub-optimal tools and process, and any disruptions of your distillation procedure by wandering radscorpions.

          2. The issue is that distillation in any sufficient quantity requires a lot of heat energy.

          3.  It is for those exact reasons, fuzzyfuzzyfungus, that I will always encourage people to move onto producing snake squeezins instead.

          4.  2.2 pounds (or one kilogram) of potatoes to make one liter of vodka.

            Man, i’m going to miss the internet when society collapses.

  3. If civilization collapses I wouldn’t count on roadkill as a major source of nourishment. Just sayin’.

    1.  I’m guessing you’ve never seen a massive brown bear convoy speeding down the highway. Horizon to horizon.

  4. “When normal people come here they are really inspired and feel that things are possible…”

    I wonder how many “normal” people are inclined to go to something like this in the first place. My guess is not that many. You have to be somewhat off the “normal” trajectory to be doing this as opposed to all the other activities the normals gravitate towards.

    1. I’m guessing normal people would just watch the reality version of this on TV…

      I’d be up for it, minus eating roadkill.  (I’m will to hunt, prep, and eat something…I just don’t want to worry about chipping a tooth on some gravel.)  In reality I’d probably never do it, I mean it sounds a like an interesting thing, but kind of like you said there are other things on my list of stuff to do higher than this.

  5. “Firefly is here to stave off the amnesia of modern techno-cratic culture…When normal people come here they are really inspired and feel that things are possible.”

    Oh thanks! When NORMAL people come to see real, SUPER-SPECIALS in action they really get the sense of inferiority that you know to be true.

    “It’s all about rooting ourselves deep into the earth and into our connections with each other,” said Bogwalker. She continued, “…when we look all around us and people aren’t interacting with each other, they’re like, looking at their iPads…they’re all like robots, half human half machine… it’s really creepy to me.”

    Lady, you’re about two and a half seconds from singing that song from Disney’s Pocahontas about how Whitey sucks because he can’t “hear” nature.

    1. Where did the writer say it was a “new idea”? In fact, in his article accompanying the photo essay he refers to the Rabbit Stick Gathering that started in 1976.

  6. There isn’t anything to worry about. Major civilizations take hundreds of years to “collapse”, if they actually do collapse and not evolve/devolve into another type of culture. It looks like it would be a fun weekend, though.

    1. You’re getting your ideas about collapse and civilization from history books. You’re supposed to be reading post-apocalyptic fiction or talking to people who would really rather everything go away.

      1.  In a war civilization can go down the drain in a couple of hours. 

        Also the world has become so interconnected that we simply don’t know what would happen if something happens. Just imagine Tokyo or New York had to be evacuated.

        1. I know some of what happened during WW2, and the evacuation of New Orleans. The important survival skills may overlap with living in the wilderness, but there is a lot I would worry about before tanning.

          Like carrying first aid kits, because in those cases the most important thing is helping each other through until you can get to civilization again. Then you don’t have to do everything by yourself.

          I’ll know people are really serious about preparing for disaster when they assume there will be lighters, and worry about using splints. The rest is role-playing.

        2.  “Civilization” may go down the drain, but things don’t dematerialize nor do trees suddenly spring up in their absence.  Teach people how to evacuate actively shelled urban environments, now that is a useful wartime survival skill. If your enemy isn’t raining death from above, but is actually present in your city, your problem isn’t hunting and gathering, it’s “not being shot” and THAT is either plain stealth and flight, or using your social skills.

          And then you walk out of the war zone with the rest of the refugees.

          “Global war” is a fantasy invented in the 50s when people still thought WWI and WWII meant that we’d have Great Wars every decade or two until we immolated ourselves.

          1.  By my definition there is global war right now, but mostly of the asymmetric kind. And I think you underestimate the adversities persons can be exposed to.

            But then, chances are high you won’t have to worry because you will be dead right away.

    2. It is true that (barring the hypothetical global-thermonuclear-nanite-zombie-plague) nobody just shuts out the lights and announces that civilization is over.

      However, rarely in human history has roughly a third of the population been alive only thanks to Haber–Bosch nitrogen compounds and the supply chain associated with that. ‘Collapse’, perhaps not. Epic body count? Sure. 

      Of course, for exactly that reason, having l33t primitive skillz might help your chances of survival, it is difficult to escape the fact that anybody rhapsodizing about the coming collapse is being surprisingly calm about the 2 billion+ people who exceed the carrying capacity of a pre-industrial earth…

      1. We’re closer to 5 billion over what the world was at before 1900, although admittedly a good majority of the planet was still playing industrialization-catchup at that point. I’d still say 2 to 2.5 billion is a much safer carrying capacity though.

        The idea that the world will suddenly universally forget how to make nitrogen based fertilizers is laughable, as is every factory, railroad, ship, highway, transport truck, and mine being bombed/zombie’d/plagued/alien’d at once. But if that happened, we’d rebuild them and in a damned big hurry too.

        The Fertilizer Crisis, like the Oil Crisis and the Global Warming Crisis, is one of these things that doesn’t happen instantaneously. The resource crisis of your choice that leads to a restriction of transport will take time, it will be a slow grinding failure, not “boom”.

        Barring comet strike/zombies/etc., and even then odds are better it’s a regional problem and the region would get humanitarian aid from outside.

        1. My point isn’t that anything in particular is going to disappear overnight(indeed, that seems quite unlikely). My point is twofold:

          1. Because of the productivity improvements of industrial society, any system less productive(whatever its other advantages and/or necessities may be) has at least a couple of billion spare people to get rid of.

          2. Because people presently exist on a rough continuum from ‘plutocrat’ to ‘imminent risk of starvation’, even modest supply movements have effects almost immediately, though typically among the world’s weak first.

    1.  Canning in this context means preserving food in reusable glass jars/bottles, or if you’re old school, ceramic jars/pots.  They likely do not cover aluminum canning. 

  7. “amnesia of modern technocratic culture…”

    “Much of the spread of information and networking within the movement is now done via the Internet, cell phones and all types of modern gadgetry. The newfound ability to spread information about gatherings and primitive skills classes is a large part of what is keeping the movement alive. ”

    Oh.  So, use the internet except for when it’s bad?

  8. Sounds like a weekend for people who took “The Hunger Games” a little too seriously.

  9. A relevant bit from Patton Oswalt.  Gotta be ready for when the motorcycle cannibal mutants take over:

  10. “…they’re all like robots, half human half machine… it’s really creepy to me.” 
    If only… That’s MY idea of a lifestyle change!

  11. I think my background gives me a little perspective on this. I grew up on a farm, really just a step ahead of the notions these folks are learning. We had wood heat, an outhouse, and plenty of canned food. We milked cows, butchered pigs and chickens, and raised a huge garden. We worked hard. Every day. Dairy farmers do not take vacations.

    Do I want to go back to that? Ummm…no… f*&# that shite.

    That’s why I am a very happy, city-dwelling web developer.

    “Primitivism” is not better, funner, or in any way happy making if you have to do it.

    1. ” i spent the last 10 years living on a farm, raising pigs, goats, cows, chickens, vegetables. eating meals consisting of all things i raised .
      “we worked hard. Every day.”
      & “f*&# that shite.”
      ring too true for me.

  12. The world really went downhill when technology came around. All the kids these days talk about is ‘agriculture’ this, and ‘sanitation’ that. It’s depressing.

  13. I’m pretty convinced that those disparaging this haven’t read the classes offered:
    It’s really quite diverse and a lot sound interesting.
    About a quarter sound like hokey new age claptrap, half sound like maker stuff that ranges from the impractical to the esoteric to the quite handy, and an eighth are  artsy and another eight are mayhem based.  If nothing in the list interests you, I wouldn’t want to be your friend. 

  14. I yearn for the times when our primitive forefathers gathered animals killed by road traffic and cooked it to survive.

    There was heaps of trucks and buses back then, right?

  15. I actually have a pair of friends who attended Firefly Gathering last year and, while the event has its fair share of hippie ceremony and woodsy silliness, I’ve gotta admit it really is a cool endeavor by BB/Maker standards. It’s less of an apocalyptic bootcamp than it is an opportunity for people (especially those with an eye to environmental sustainability and simple, communal solutions) to trade/build knowledge of (largely) tried & true or experimental means of living. Sure, they have classes on harvesting wild plants and bowhunting, but there are also sessions on home solar energy, baking, brewing, car repair, wilderness first aid, and NVDA; it’s real, relavent, useful stuff. My friends came back with a mildly-annoying zen glow, but that’s about the worst of it; they’re certainly not about to try to go off the grid.

  16. “…they’re all like robots, half human half machine… it’s really creepy to me.” That sounds really awesome to me!

    Also, good luck with those apocalyptic predictions Firefly – the collapse of civilization has been imminent for several thousands of years.

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