Thomas Elpel

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since Oct 17, 2014
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Thomas J. Elpel had the rare opportunity as a child to spend hundreds of hours with his grandmother exploring the hills and meadows of Montana. Tom’s grandmother helped him to learn about the native plants and native skills, igniting a passion for nature that has inspired Tom ever since.
Tom is the director of Green University, LLC and Outdoor Wilderness Living School (OWLS) in Pony, Montana, and the author of several books, including Participating in Nature, Botany in a Day, Direct Pointing to Real Wealth, Roadmap to Reality, Living Homes, and his first children’s book, Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99. He has also produced a video titled “Slipform Stone Masonry,” as well as four volumes in the “Art of Nothing Wilderness Survival Video Series”.
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Recent posts by Thomas Elpel

We built our pond in sandy soil and lined it with bentonite clay, then covered the clay with rocks. That was only two years ago, but it is holding water very well so far!

4 months ago
Here also is my Wild Plant Foraging video:

5 months ago
Thanks so much for the mention! Here is the Botany in a Day Tutorial on YouTube for anyone who hasn't seen it:

5 months ago

Practical Permaculture: Grow your own Food Intensive
Weekend Workshop and Design Practicum
April 22-24, 2022 | Sage Mountain Center, Whitehall, Montana

Transform your land and your life...

A weekend workshop covering cold climate design strategies for gardeners, homesteaders, and those who want a little more self-reliance.

Learn how to design a property that captures water, improves your soil and produces healthy organic food, all while regenerating the land and life around you. Participate in an intensive weekend of class sessions, tours, and a design practicum to get all the tools you need to start growing in the spring!

Permaculture stands for permanent agriculture or permanent culture and is a design approach for sustainable living and land use, rooted in the observation of natural systems. If you want to be more self-reliant, grow your own food, and create a sustainable future for yourself and your family then join us!

The course takes place at Sage Mountain Center, an off-grid, sustainable learning center in the Montana wilderness, near Whitehall. Illustrating straw bale and cordwood construction, passive solar design, high altitude gardening, and wind and solar energy, the center is an ideal location for our Practical Permaculture Course.

This design practicum is intended to give participants an introduction to permaculture concepts while engaging them in the actual design process of Green University's River Camp garden.

Instructors Include:
Kareen Erbe, Owner Broken Ground
Linda Welsh and Christopher Borton,
     Co-Founders Sage Mountain Center
Tom Elpel, Founder and Director of Green University

Cost: $450 (includes food & lodging at Sage Mountain Center)
Or $350 (Includes food. Lodging off-site)

Learn more:


You're son will love the card game, and he will kick your butt. The deck includes rules for several games, including:

- Memory
- Slap Flower
- Crazy Flowers
- Wildflower Rummy
- Shanleya's Harvest (based on the story in the book)

Here's the link:

Shanleya's Quest Game



4 years ago

I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

Have you played the card game too?

I'll have a sequel book and game out shortly, covering eight more plant families:

Shanleya's Quest 2: Botany Adventure at the Fallen Tree

I will also be teaching at Paul's PDC this June, so come join the fun!


Thomas J. Elpel

4 years ago
Hey, I'm new to the badges, etc., but I do know plants and foraging, so please fire away with any questions you have.

My book Botany in a Day is used worldwide for plant identification based on plant family characteristics. For example, when you know that plants of the Mustard family have 4 petals and 6 stamens (4 tall, 2 short), then you can recognize 3,000+ species of plants around the world as mustards, and they are all edible. It's pretty simple, so I also wrote a kids version of the book called Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99, plus a related plant identification card game. And for serious foragers, I wrote Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat. Here are the links:

Botany in a Day:
Shanleya's Quest:'s_Quest.htm
Foraging the Mountain West:

Let me know if I can do anything to help!

5 years ago
It really depends on the players. In my experience, the competitive spirit is strongest playing with other adults. I bet your son will be ready for it when he is old enough to read the cards. :)
5 years ago

Yes, you will have a great opportunity to practice while your kids are young. Wildlife Web is a fun adult game, and it can be highly competitive when players try to eat each other before anyone can reproduce. Practice now, knowing your kids will have an innate aptitude for the game when they come of age in the not-to-distant future. Maybe you will stand a chance! :)
5 years ago