Category: Survival Skills

Bringing a Vision to Life — PARADISE!

Tender ones.

Tender little ones.

Visions are evolving things.  As we journey through life we are drawn to things that interest us.  I have often wondered about my vision in life because my view of anything in the future, other than children, has always been vague.  The present always felt intense and exciting or scary depending on what was going on.

Lately, with the freedom to create my reality thanks to all the supporting factors, I am finding things are beginning to come together.  As I have been working on this website, revamping everything about it, I am finding the process to be a vision quest of sorts.  Over and over, as I explore different themes, I find my focus changing, moving toward several facets I am extremely passionate about:  children, animals, plants, art, survival skills, building, writing, and teaching.

If my list seems a bit long, blame it on attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which my daughter says I have.  You could say I am a Jill of all trades.  Throughout my life I have had so many interests, each of which I have pursued with obsessive intent until I feel I understand and can create within it to my satisfaction, then I find myself drawn to something new.

I will admit, with a bit of embarrassed pride, that I am an explorer.

As my new website design takes shape, so does my vision for the near future:

  • A petting farm for the most wonderful of humans — children — and their adults.
  • Workshops in primitive wilderness survival skills. like friction fire and survival shelters, for older children and adults.  I love to teach friction fire.  Friction fire was, in my opinion, the most important thing to learn when I went to Tom Brown Jr’s trackerschool.  Where else could I learn this.  Before trackerschool I thought friction fire was a myth!
  • Art workshops like felting wool and spinning wool, because I would not be happy if I couldn’t share this skill which brings me so much joy and bliss and peace all at the same time.
  • This blog space because writing is a large part of my vision and I love sharing my stories and perspective with others.  I believe each of our stories essentially belong to all of us because we are all connected.  As we share our stories, all those who hear are changed in some way.  One person’s story becomes another person’s story, and consequently moves them forward along their path.  They progress.  One person’s success is everyone’s success.  Their pain is everyone’s pain.  Their lesson is everyone’s lesson.
  • My store so I can offer my designs and art to others to enjoy.
  • The business that goes along with all these things.  The ability to work with my family, the animals, the plants, and the structures we have built here on our little hobby farm; to create an income to help provide for the costs of living while doing what I love and sharing that with others.

My desire is to offer the many things I have enjoyed learning. To pass on the knowledge that has come to me.  To complete the cycle.  I hope you enjoy what I am creating and that somehow you can benefit from what I have to offer.

Paradise is the name I have chosen for this new venture, and there is a story behind the name.  Maybe a year ago, my grandson was sitting in our back yard with his grandfather, my son in law’s dad.  He looked up at his grandfather and exclaimed with glee, “This is just paradise, isn’t it?”  Looking around at our disheveled process of building and growing this space, his grandfather, who may not have previously described our little bit of heaven that way, looked at his grandson with fresh eyes and said with a twinkle, “Yes!”

Child learning to lead a horse

A child or an adult can feel the connection between themselves and a horse as they learn to communicate though cues such as leading and riding. Very empowering!

Red Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) compared to Heal All (Prunella vulgaris)

Red Dead Nettle

Red Dead Nettle

The plant on the bottom front of the pile in the photo below is from my yard and is called Red Dead Nettle, like the plant in the photo above.

The first time I saw this plant in my yard I became curious.  Was I seeing the little plant that is so great for healing called “Heal All”?  I looked up Heal all online and could see this little plant was obviously different . . . but still looked similar in my opinion.  Plants can be so difficult to identify without a name to use for looking it up!!  Finally I searched Heal All look alikes, and there was my little plant!


Red Dead Nettle is my little plant’s name.  Yay!  I found out what the plant was!!!  –Unless you have tried to figure out what plants are when you or your friends don’t know, you have no idea how difficult it can be, so I was thrilled to have found out this plant’s name so easily–  Now I could look up more about the plant in my yard.  Is it edible?  Is it medicinal?  Turns out it is both.

Red Dead Nettle is not a true nettle and does not sting.  That is why it is called “Dead nettle.”  Red Dead Nettle is a member of the mint family.  Some of the other common names for Red Dead Nettle are Purple Dead Nettle, Lavender Dead Nettle, Purple Archangel, and Velikdenche  (according to Wikipedia).

Heal All

Below are two photos of Heal All.  Another common name for Heal All is Self Heal.  Heal All is also a member of the mint family.  Heal All is both edible and medicinal.

When we were camping a couple summers ago, one of our party got a nasty infection under her big toenail when she was injured.  Her toe was swelling and very painful.  We made a poultice of Plantain (a drawing herb which brings the infection to the surface of the skin) and Heal All (good for any healing).  She said the poultice stung like the dickens but she kept it on for awhile.  By morning, the infection had come to the surface and could be cleaned out.  One more application a couple days later, when her toe began swelling again, completed the cure!

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Thank goodness for these gorgeous plants that voluntarily appear for our benefit!  Plants are such a God given gift!

Glorious Dandelion!

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen as gorgeous a dandelion as this one right here. A volunteer in my small raised garden I’m grateful this enormous dandelion showed up. Hopefully the seeds of this huge plant will spread all over my garden, Providing me with lots of super nutritious greens.

There are many dandelion look-alikes. According to what I’ve read, there are no poisonous look-alikes, but it’s good to know when you have the real thing. Some of the look-alikes here in Oregon, called cats ears, are very bitter. 

Probably the best way to tell a true dandelion is to look at the flower and it’s stem. The stem will be hollow with white milky substance oozing out when it is broken. There will be only one flower to a single stem and the stem of a true dandelion does not branch as many look-alikes do.

Dandelion flowers are edible as well as the leaves and the roots. Some people roast the roots and make a hot drink out of the ground roasted roots.  I personally have only tried the flowers and the leaves. 

I find the flowers very pleasant to eat raw and I put the leaves in my smoothies. I have read that these are some of the most nutritious greens on the planet.

I simply love how I can walk into my yard and find wonderful things to eat without having to do any work at all!

Spring Greens

I wonder . . . when our ancestors spoke about spring greens, did they mean these?

No need to wait for your garden to come up when you have plantain, clover, dandelions, and heal all look alike: Purple Deadnettle – Lamium purpurem (also edible).  Also in this bunch are a few greens I kept covered with a sheet over the winter to keep them from dying: celery tops, parsley, beet greens, and thyme.

These will be thrown into my smoothie this morning, to which I will add wild blueberries from the freezer section of the grocery store, frozen strawberries, frozed sweet cherries, banana, water, and a can of coconut milk. Yummy!

This combination will probably fill my blender and produce four large glasses of smoothie which I will save in the refrigerator until I drink them, one at a time. Probably will last me a couple days at least.

And the greatest thing is the wild greens have much more nutrition than your average garden greens!  Most people don’t realize that dandelions are one of the most, if not the most nutritious green vegetable there is!!  The yellow flowers are edible too, as well as the root can be used for roasted root tea (haven’t tried that yet though).

Planned workshops have passed. If you are interested in a workshop, please communicate with me. There is a workshop questionnaire on the workshop page.

Wet Felting Workshop — Passed

I love felting and I love teaching others to felt!  It is very relaxing and fun!  I am offering several workshops as the holidays approach.

Each participant will make a personally designed super soft merino and silk scarf or wrap.  I provide all the materials as part of the workshop fee.

Who can register:

Participants must be 16 years or older, unless special permission is given.  A parent and younger child, (12 or older) could work together on one scarf as a single participant.


Cost is $75 per participant at least 24 hours ahead of class start time.  I must have at least  one participant registered 24 hours in advance to run the class.

Due to space constraints, each workshop is limited to four participants.  Preregistration is encouraged to secure your place.  There are no refunds, but I can get you into a different class if, for a good reason, you cannot make the one you registered for.

What to bring:

Participants must bring their own meals and snacks.

Class dates and times are:

Monday  Nov. 28, 2016     11 am – 6 pm or until finished.

Monday  Dec. 5, 2016     11 am – 6 pm or until finished.

Thursday Dec. 8, 2016   11am – 6pm or until finished.

Saturday  Dec. 10, 2016     11 am – 6 pm or until finished.


Workshops will be held in my home 1717 Sonya Dr. SE Salem, OR 97317.  You may call or text to register at 407-766-2588, or email me at  Please give me your name, and the name of any other participants, and the date of the workshop you would like to attend.  After registering and I have let you know there is an opening for you in the workshop, you may drop your registration fees off at my home.  Call to make sure I am home.  I take cash and checks only at this time.


Friction Fire Workshop — Passed


Fire in my earth oven in my spiral cabin in the Cascades.

Fire is a blessing and a wonderful friend.  Learning to make friction fire really gets you in touch with fire and creates a relationship between you and fire you may never have felt before.  I love to teach others to make fire in this ancient way.

I will provide the materials for you to make your own friction fire kit of cedar wood.  I have knives I can loan you to use or you can bring your own non folding sheath knife good for carving.  To carve a kit and make fire takes humility, skill and coordination, and seldom comes easily.  I allow many hours for a workshop because people’s abilities vary widely.  I cannot guarantee that YOU will make fire at this workshop, but I can let you come to future workshops until you make fire yourself.  We will discuss knife safety and take every precaution to keep everyone safe.

Once you know fire in this way, what a great gift to pass on to your family and friends.

Who can register:

Participants must be 16 years or older unless accompanied by a parent to assist them.  Participants must use knife safety rules at all times.  Participants (and their parents if a minor) must realize that though all precautions are taken to keep people safe, injuries can occur and by attending this class you will not hold me or my family liable for your injury.  Each participant or parent of participant must sign a release of liability and take responsibility for their own safety.


Cost for this 7 hour workshop is $75 per participant at least 24 hours in advance.  I must have at least one participant registered 24 hours in advance to run the workshop.

What to bring:

Participants must bring their own meals and snacks.

Participants must dress for the temperature outside as we will be working under cover outdoors.

Class Dates and Times:

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016   11am-6pm

Monday, Dec. 12, 2016  11am-6pm


Workshops will be held at my home 1717 Sonya Dr. SE Salem, OR 97317. You may call or text to register at 407-766-2588, or email me at Please give me your name, and the name of any other participants, and the date of the workshop you would like to attend. After registering and I have let you know there is an opening for you in the workshop, you may drop your registration fees off at my home. Call to make sure I am home. I take cash and checks only at this time.

My Amazing Crew of Young Men!

 Digging out a bush is hard work! With my health so poor that exertion makes me winded and my heart race, having a crew of young men is an amazing thing.
When my two young grandchildren begged to stay with me for a couple days, I warned them I would put them to work. They eagerly agreed so today we are creating a space for the next vegetable herb garden.

I am very proud of them. I give them breaks every hour to play games for 30 minutes, and then we get back to work. We will have ice cream treats when we’re finished.

Update: after trying to pull the stump out with the truck, and having the rope break, my grandson put his back against the wall and pushed with his feet and knocked the stump loose. It was only a matter of minutes until they had pulled it completely out.

Camouflage Capture The Flag In the Dark Game

Who is that having so much fun?

You won’t see me tonight!

When I had a bunch of homeschool families over to play capture the flag in the dark, trackerschool style, I had fun demonstrating to the kids and adults how to use mud and oily charcoal to camouflage yourself for the game we were about to play.  ONE of the most fun parts of the night, for me, was the look on people’s faces when I dipped my hand into the coconut oil/charcoal mix and rubbed it across my face and shirt!  I should have gotten it in my hair too, that would have been even better.  I have to say, my face felt silky soft and smooth after I washed this mix off!

The BEST part of the night was, however, when one of the kids, a beaming boy of about 6, came up to me afterwards as we were cleaning up, and with a face as happy and shining as the sun, exclaimed to me with the utmost joy, his escapades of the evening!  His friend, who was about his same age, echoed every point, as he stood by adding his two cents when he could get a word in edgewise!  Unforgettable!

This past couple months, I was privileged to teach a group of 8 to 12 year olds at our homeschool group, Life Academy of Salem.  We had 9 enthusiastic students who loved learning to make fire with friction; a debris hut; cordage; a deadfall trap and a snare; hunting practice with bows and arrows (and a little pink stuffed bunny); making bowls with raku clay (and firing them in a campfire); awareness games; and hearing stories about my teacher, Tom Brown Jr. and his best friend Rick, as they learned from their mentor, an Apache Scout named Stalking Wolf.

I hope I get to share these fun skills, and more, again next school year!

Kids and Bows and Arrows!

In 2010 the kids and I attended Rick Berry’s 4 Element Earth Education class in Northern  California, and had a great time.  Rick is one of the original people in charge of Coyote Tracks, an appendage of Tom Brown Jr.’s Trackerschool, in New Jersey.   One of the activities the kids liked best was hunting each other with little “quickie bows” Rick made for them out of branches and other items (see above photos).  The great thing about the bows he made was that they were kid safe because they had spongy rubber balls on the tips of the arrows for safety, in case the kids actually hit one another.

In the homeschool class I have been teaching, I made similar bows and arrows for the kids to play with.  I used cherry limbs I had pruned off our cherry trees in February for the bows, and cedar for the arrows.  I cut up the end of a pool noodle and hot glued the tips of the arrows into little holes I made in the spongy material of the noodle pieces (I found out later, though, the little rubber spongy balls would have been better if I could have found some because the pool noodle material isn’t strong enough to hold up under multiple hits).  The fletching I made with packing tape, shaped and cut to be like feather fletching.  I used paracord for the string.  I learned to wear leather gloves while notching the ends of the bows . . . because I cut myself not following knife safety rules making the awkward angled notches.  That was a lesson for the kids too, even the grown ups get cut when they don’t follow the safety rules.  The kids in my class were in a church parking lot, and after chasing each other around with their bows for awhile, I had the kids hide in the bushes around the edges of the church property, then I came along with a stuffed bunny dragged behind me on a cord for them to try to shoot.  It was more than some of them could to to stay hidden.  When they missed the bunny some couldn’t help  wanting to chase after me, shooting over and over!  It was a little chaotic trying to keep them in their places as I moved from one hidden student to the next down the bunny trail.

It was a good lesson in how much practice it takes to get good with a bow, besides just being a lot of fun!

Wilderness Survival Workshop going well.

This past January I joined a homeschool group.  The administrators have allowed me to teach a group of 10 kids ages 8 to 12, and in class I have been sharing some of the most fun things I learned in survival school.  We have played some stalking and awareness games, made clay bowls that we fired in a campfire, made a debris hut, played blindfold games, made cordage, made bow drill kits, made fire, made a snare, and will be “hunting” with quickie bows and throwing sticks this week.  To top it off, we will have a camouflage, capture the flag game, in the dark, trackerschool style, this weekend!

I’m so pleased with how enthusiastic these amazing kids have been.


Melanie and Ryan after they lit the fire.


Melanie working with a student.


A mother watches her child work the bow drill.

Gardening With Kids!

IMG_1970IMG_1971IMG_1974These kids really impressed me.  The 3 older boys practically fought over who was going to shovel the bedding mix out of the truck!  We had to set a timer so they could switch out every 5 minutes so they could each get a turn.  Of course, getting a tiny little tootsie roll when they switched out of the truck each time didn’t hurt either.

The younger two, who weren’t old enough to be shoveling from the truck were nonetheless fully immersed in the project.  From digging with a trowel to dodging the flying dirt, they had a ball.

I am really seeing a positive turn in the kids as we adhere to the work ethic for the younger kids in this Thomas Jefferson Education program.  We read together every day, and we work every day, and they have plenty of free time to play outside, interact with each other, and work out issues with our guidance.  Video games are allowed a small fraction of the play time in the evening after the house is clean and chores are done.

My older daughter is studying most of her day, as she is in the “scholar” stage.  They study the theories and philosophies of the great thinkers in history.

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