Returning to the Earth – Between the Rivers Gathering

By K.S. Brooks 

Nowadays, everyone is so focused on looking forward that sometimes we forget the past. We get caught up in thinking that we need certain tools to accomplish things – like we can’t move a 3,000-pound kiln without a forklift. Patrick Farneman of Valley, however, relocated his kiln without one, using nothing but manpower, a few logs for rollers, and the same technology that the people who built Stonehenge used to move their big stones. It wouldn’t occur to many of us to do that, but Patrick has a bit of an advantage; he’s a bit of an expert in primitive technologies. For over 20 years, now, Patrick has been teaching skills from early paleolithic all the way to early metal days.

“The self-sufficiency is amazing,” Patrick admitted. I would have to think the satisfaction is, as well.

While many equate primitive skills to end-of-days, that’s not the case with Patrick. Since he was a child, he enjoyed the mystery of the history and figuring out how people lived before electricity and modern technology. And, it turns out, there are a huge number of people from all around the world who share this interest. Many of them will be converging on Valley, Washington during the last week of May to be a part of the Between the Rivers Gathering.

Instructors from as far away as Israel and Scotland will be in attendance this year to teach classes such as archery and bow making; basketry; blacksmithing; buckskin tanning; fibers, cordage, and weaving; friction fire; flintknapping; fur brain tanning; lithic (stone) tools; navigation; primitive pottery; shelters; survival skills; tinsmithing; weapons; wild edibles and medicinals; woodworking; a kids’ program; and more. Currently, 60 instructors are slated for the event and a couple hundred attendees are expected.

Between the Rivers Gathering, which is named for its location – equidistant between the Columbia and Pend Oreille Rivers – is in its seventh year in 2019 and will take place from May 27 through June 1. Full week-long passes are available, and the cost of those covers two full meals per day, camping, parking, access to all classes, evening activities, bathroom facilities, and potable water. Day passes are also available, but you won’t get the full experience, since a lot of the camaraderie happens in the evenings.

“It’s a much more enriching experience to have that immersion,” Patrick explained. “And you’ll end up learning things you wouldn’t normally learn. The nightlife is good.” The “nightlife,” just like everything else at the Between the Rivers Gathering, is family-friendly. During the evenings, there are presentations and there are also games, including highland games which are currently scheduled for Thursday evening after dinner. “There’s a variety show Friday evening … with a lot of homegrown entertainment. People bring their instruments and play. There’s campfires and a lot of good times. Not a lot of sleeping. There’s drumming and dancing,” Patrick said.

If you’re not sure about attending this year, Patrick encourages folks to stop by to see what it’s all about. After all, there’s always next year – or you may just like it so much that you end up purchasing a day pass. In any case, make sure you come by for 8:30 AM so you can hear about what will be going on that day. By 9:15 AM everyone will have dispersed to classes and workshops.

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