Living as Stone Age: Tanning a deer hide

Jane Robertson is in training to live as Stone-age. I found her in the woods tanning a deer hide, along with her colleague Pete who was working on a rabbit skin. Jane and her friend Jessie have already lived primitively in the Pacific Northwest, learning to live with nature. She also attended a course in Washington DC to learn from Lynx Vilden, who teaches living in wilderness practical skills (based on ancient knowledge) workshops, such as felting, foraging, bone work, tanning and primitive pottery. 

Jane has always had a strong affiliation with nature.  She once chose to live outside for three years.  When asked why she wanted to learn to live this way, she spoke of how she liked to examine the impact humans were having on the earth, and how to live with as little impact as possible. She's looking to see "if there was there a time when we fit into the food chain as one of many creatures on the earth, in balance". Jane goes on to say "I also love the simplicity, sun rise, sun set, the mind slows down, and time starts to change shape. I become insignificant and death is less scary". She learnt about inter-dependence of the clan community and how by taking away the buffers of modern camping, you get to feel a part of raw nature. 

"When I open my eyes outside amongst the leaves on the forest floor, it is exactly the same as a woman from ancient times opening her eyes, to see the forest floor, the plants stretching up to the sky and drinking in the first light, the birds flitting and singing. They come right up close, i am not a stranger to them, we just spent the silence of the night together.  For a brief moment, if i'm really lucky, I fall outside of time..., all I know is what my eyes can see and what my ears can hear. For those first seconds the beauty catches me and i am in total awe" 

After such expeditions, integration back into modern life is always a challenge.  "When I walk into nature, it’s like I walk through something invisible, the perfect place in space and time and I become a little bit more complete . I remember what it feels like to be a whole human being... but (when I return) I forget and inevitably I walk back through the vales.. and I am left with a screaming hole which will leave me forever unsatisfied and empty"

Jane is off to Sweden in the summer, to live once again as stone-age with her clan.

© Images & text: Heidi Laughton

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Jane Robertson and her colleague Pete, tanning deer and rabbit hide in preparation for living as stone-age

Tanning the deer hide involves rubbing the skin in a solution of water mixed with the brains of the deer which helps soften the leather.  

Jane Robertson keeps working the deer hide by softening and stretching it into a workable form.