Jillian Liebl gives a little air to a tinder bundle

Earth Knack instructor Jillian Liebl gives a little air to a tinder bundle of cottonwood bark as the final step in making a friction fire. She and her husband, Sam Liebl, will instruct three friction fire classes starting Saturday. Participants will learn how to identify and use material in the wilderness to make a fire from scratch.

To promote the most basic of survival skills, primitive skills instructors Sam and Jillian Liebl will be coaching a series of friction fire classes over three Saturdays beginning Saturday.

Other classes will take place Feb. 7 and 28. Each class will run from noon until 3 p.m. at Riverside Park in Salida. The class series costs $20.

“Making fire from next to nothing doesn’t just happen on television shows like ‘Dual Survival,’” said Sam Liebl. “With good form, the right tools and a little patience, anyone can learn to start a fire without matches or a lighter.”

While knowing how to start a friction fire will come in handy in an emergency situation, that doesn’t mean it’s the only time you could use it, he said. “There’s no reason you can’t use it in your backyard or on a camping trip.”

The Liebls recently signed on as instructors for Earth Knack, a Crestone primitive skills school that teaches a variety of classes such as animal skinning and processing, shelter building and blacksmithing. As the only Earth Knack instructors in Salida, the Liebls are looking to expand the school’s class offerings to interested Salidans.

Earth Knack was founded in 1990 by Robin Blankenship, who’d already been teaching in outdoor education since the 1970s, Jill Liebl said. Originally based in Boulder, Blankenship moved Earth Knack to Crestone 18 years ago and has been operating almost exclusively from the Crestone area since then.

“We teach the science, the step-by-step process, that enables you to gather and make everything you need from your surroundings,” said Blankenship. “After an Earth Knack course, you’ll understand the possibilities awaiting you. You’ll realize these skills are just as sustainable and viable today as they were in the Stone Age.”

“Every indigenous culture has had their own way of starting a fire,” said Sam Liebl. But two methods are the most common. For their friction fire classes, the Liebls will focus first on using bow drills, the more accessible method of the two. “Using a bow drill you have more of a mechanical advantage,” Sam said.

Then the class will move on to hand drilling to start a fire. In addition to technique, they’ll focus on teaching their students what material works best, so they can gather for themselves what they’ll need for a fire kit.

“Everything we’ll be using – yucca, cottonwood bark, deer bones – will be things that can be found in this area,” said Sam.

The Liebls plan to offer other primitive skills classes in the Salida area, but they’re starting with friction fires as a foundational starting point. “Most primitive skills end up using fire,” said Sam. “It’s a useful tool once you’ve taken metal tools out of the picture.

“It’s a magical thing the first time you actually see how it’s done. It’s a logical process, and anyone can do it – not just men in loincloths,” he said.

“There are many moments when you’re learning primitive skills that are just mind-blowing. It makes you see the world differently. The natural world around you isn’t just wallpaper; we want people to see themselves as part of that world.”

When the weather warms up, the Liebls plan to put on more classes in both the Salida area and Crestone. Visit earthknack.com to see their class schedule.

Register for the friction fire courses at earthknack.com. Walk-ins are also welcome, and the classes are open to all ages.

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