On Discovering Self

"Walk in Peace... Learn from Nature... Find Yourself...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Little Fun With Four Basic Knots

   One of the requirements needed for BushclassUSA is to demonstrate four basic knots used in bushcraft. These are the tautline, which is used in tensioning tarp and tent setups most often when stakes are involved. The advantage is the tautline can be "slipped" into position and it will stay there under tension. The sheetbend, used to join two different sized ropes or pieces of cordage. Then there is the two half-hitches, used to tie cordage to anchor points as is a general slip not. Finally, there is the "Figure 8 on a Bite" which is used to make a none-slipping "eyelet" to act as an attachment point for other devices such as caribiners or toggles or even other pieces of cordage.
   The lesson plan for BushclassUSA is to complete 13 requirements and 5 electives out 7 possible, (your choice) before you can continue to complete the course by doing 5 "outings", one of which must be an overnight. I have personally been doing these kinds of things in bushcraft for a very long time, so I guess my outings to practice the required student lessons have been more or less unsanctioned. Oh well, it is hard to keep a good bushcrafter down. I just have to be out there in the wilderness.
   Since the "Student Practice For Four Basic Knots" was my last one "required" before my "outings", I decided to have some fun with it. I hope you enjoy the video.

   My hats off to "Red Green" and all our pals in "Canoodia" as they say, for their fine comedic sense and I hope that this gives you some ideas about learning some basic knots and will help you in your pursuit of the BushclassUSA Basic Certification. Knots are a lot of fun to learn, and will stay with you for a very long time. They are needed in bushcraft, so please learn them. As always, Happy Exploring.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Improvised Spoon

   As I have touched on this before, improvising is at the heart of bushcraft. Finding the materials you need to make tools and shelter and clothing in the bush and then discovering other uses for the things you do have on hand, becomes part of your mindset as you adapt to the wilderness. Solving problems is also part of that mind set, as new challenges present themselves. A common slogan amidst survivalists and preppers is "Adapt, Improvise and Overcome." A strategy born out of the military mindset that is taught in all survival schools.
   But bushcraft is more than survival, it is about living and thriving and finding your way and your "home" in the wilderness. It will present it's challenges, it will test your wits, but knowing that bushcraft also provides that treasure trove of wisdom and the answers to these challenges, is the key to adapting and to living.
   Last Saturday I had the opportunity to spend a little time with a new member of BushcraftUSA as I helped him to work on his "Student Practice for a Twig Fire." Here is a short video of a part of that outing, as we cooked a quick meal of rice and spent the time practicing our bushcraft skills.

I hope that Joseph will have even more fun as he continues to practice his bushcraft lessons and continues with BushclassUSA. I am sure there is more adventure to come. As always, Happy Exploring.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Some Of The Trees Of Bushcraft

   As I have quoted Ray Mears on the subject of Bushcraft in the "About Me" section of this blog, he speaks of finding that treasure trove of knowledge that allows us to find a kinship with the landscape. Part of that knowledge is learning about the trees that are on your landscape and how they are important to Bushcraft. I really enjoy learning all I can about the trees of Minnesota, and I use the book "Trees of Minnesota - Field Guide" written by Stan Tekiela. I have mentioned this and many of his other books in a previous post.
   Recently, I created a video for Bushclass USA for the lesson "Student Practice for Tree Identification". It required that the student identify five trees, give their common name, the scientific name, define what identifies that tree, like whether it is coniferous or deciduous, hardwood or softwood, leaf types, etc. Lastly, give at least two uses for each tree, preferably as it relates to Bushcraft. Here is the video I submitted for that class. I hope you like it.

   There are of course many more trees that are important to Bushcraft, but I just had to share a few of my favorites. I encourage you to also find time to learn the trees in your area, for in time as the wilderness becomes more known, the trees will become familiar friends. Learning how they are such a resource will make your landscape more like home. Happy Exploring.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Now About Those Personal Survival Kits

   Recently I had a chance to go thru my main survival kit and modify a few things with some new ideas and products. The overall effect was that the kit became smaller and more compact and even just a little lighter. I also got more of the kit together in one place, rather then divided over two or three pockets. So at the request of a couple friends and because I wanted to complete the elective lesson for Bushclass USA "Student Practice for PSK" I put together this video. Actually, it was done all in one take, so there was no real effort in putting it together. It addresses the needs of shelter, water, knife, sustenance, signaling and travel, first aid and of course fire. These things are at the heart of bushcraft, so I would encourage you to consider putting your own kit together with some of these ideas. I hope you enjoy the presentation.

I hope that will help you to prepare for your next outing. Happy Exploring.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Some Modern Bushcraft and Improvisation

   Today, while eating lunch, I re-watched a video I've seen many times. It was Ray Mears series "Bushcraft" and the episode about the American Prairies. He spoke of Jim Bridger, mountain man extraordinaire, who ventured into the mountainous regions that are now known as Yellowstone National Park, in the northwest corner of Wyoming. He said that the mountain men of that time, like Jim Bridger, did not start out as bushcrafters, but had to learn all they needed to know even before the first winter. They needed to be quick learners. They learned to improvise and adapt as they went about their daily lives. At the very heart of bushcraft is the ability to use the materials on hand, those things that you bring with you, and the things that the wilderness can provide. You do not need to bring all the tools you can, because you can make what you need as you go along.
   As more modern bushcrafters, we are drawn to the same core of bushcraft, to learn what we can about the landscape around us and to improvise the tools we need to adapt to that landscape. So with that in mind, and yet another lesson needing to be completed for Bushclass USA, the "Student Practice to Improvise A Cooking Implement From Metal" I set about designing and improvising a piece of gear that has been missing from my kit for a long time. This speaks to the "modern" side of bushcraft, but touches on a primitive need. Cooking with fire and metal is always a challenge. I hope you enjoy my lesson video.

   That should give me a piece of gear to play with for awhile. I can hardly wait to try some stir-fry.
Happy Exploring...

A Day Out With My Bush Buddy

   Today was a good day to get out, and so my best bush buddy and I headed out to practice some bushcraft and to test out our preparedness for cold weather outings. If you are active in the practice of bushcraft and have the chance to share that experience with kids, do it. It is a great opportunity to teach them skills that will last them a life time, and carry them forward to even more adventures and a continued love and curiousity for the wilderness and the out-of-doors. I hope you enjoy this short video of our expedition.

   Winter is still a great time to get out and enjoy the wilderness, but be prepared for any changes in the weather and plan ahead, should your conditions change. I will try to address the issues of winter preparedness in a later post and some hints as to how to handle certain conditions. It is all about what you have in your bushcraft kit and what you can improvise along the way. Happy Exploring.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cooking Bread With Fire

   So the weather forecast was for snow today. I looked at the little weather app I have on my Ipad and it said that it would start snowing in my area around 2:30 pm. Hmmmm, seems that if I could get out the door and into the bush for a little dirt time, say around 1 pm, I might just be able to do yet another Bushclass USA required lesson. Getting it done before it snows. This one is called "Student Practice for Cooking Bannock with Fire". Sounded like fun. Of course I was required to take pictures or video and since I have found it easier lately to make the videos, I packed up the video gear and headed out for the adventure. I have cooked a lot of various foods in the wilderness over the years, but I still like cooking or making bread the most. It is a staple, when it comes to food in the bush. Having a good flour mix for making some kind of bread, is always a good thing. So here is the video of "How I Do It" and I hope you enjoy it.

   I have but three more lessons to complete, before I get the go ahead to do some more extensive outings that will combine or feature most of the skills demonstrated or learned in the Bushclass series.So I will have more videos and pictures yet to come. I hope you find them informative, my friends. Happy Exploring.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sharpen Your Knife

   So I decided to get one more Bushclass USA basic requirement out of the way. This one was for "Student Practice to Sharpen Your Knife". But first before I get you to the video link, I would like to take the opportunity to invite you to check out BushcraftUSA and consider joining this great online community. There is so much information to be found within the threads and posts of this forum site. Also, the online Bushclass will guide you thru many lessons that will help you to improve your skills and give you a better understanding of bushcraft.
   So here is my "How I Did It" video on sharpening your knife.

More after the jump.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Now To Cook Something Over The Fire

   Today was a good day to get out and enjoy some of the wilderness and finish up yet another Bushclass USA lesson. The one I did today was the "Student Practice for the Pot Hook". This is a means of hanging your cooking container, such as a billy can or pot, over your fire and then being able to control the temperature of the cooking pot by raising or lowering it over the fire. So here is a short video of my adventure today. I hope you enjoy it.

   One of the best parts of today's expedition was towards the end when I came upon a Great Horned owl perched in a tree. He saw me at first and left his perch for another a short distance away. I took the opportunity to get out the video camera and tried really hard to get close, but it was getting dark at that point and I could not zoom in quite close enough. But it was great to get that close just as I was getting back to the parking lot. What a great day. Til next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More On The Subject of Firecraft

   Recently I needed to complete another lesson for BushclassUSA on the BushcraftUSA forum website. This particular lesson involved the gathering and lighting five man-made tinders. Part of the lesson was to have fun, I decided to approach the process as if the tinders had to be found in the wild, even though they are really "man-made". So here is the resultant video I made and I hope you enjoy it.

More after the jump...

Monday, November 21, 2011

On the Subject of Firecraft

   So yesterday, I woke up, looked at the digital weather station hanging on the wall next to my bed, and the outdoor thermometer said "16° F" and I just knew I wanted to got to the woodlands. It would be brisk, and I would have to bring the right gear, but it would be a perfect day to work on Firecraft. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am a member of BushcraftUSA and I am working on the Bushclass requirements for the online classes found on their forum website. One of the requirements is "Student Practice for Feather Sticks and Shavings" which requires you to post a picture of your practice, which is a hat or cap full of shavings. But first, I need to get out to the wilderness. I decided to do some more "One Stick Fire" practice, as this is a good skill to keep well practiced for those rainy days or snow days. More after the jump.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When You Just Have To Make A Tool

Wood Spoon Blank
Okay, so sometimes you just have to have the right tool for the job. On a recent bushcraft outing, all was going well. The fire was made, the water set in the canteen cup to boil, soup in the offing. It was Chicken Double Noodle after all, and one of my bush buddies favorites. So he gets out his mess kit, and his Light My Fire plastic spork and his soup bowl now at the ready. All I need is my trust LMF Spork also and I will have my soup right out of the canteen cup. We will divide it up, and chow down. I reach for my kit, open the flap on my utensil pocket and lo and behold pull out half a spork. That's right, a spoon bowl with a one inch handle. Hardly enough to do the stirring, even tougher to eat with. What to do? More after the jump.

Bush Buddy and Biscuits

Time sure flies when you are having fun and it sure has been fun lately, doing all kinds of bushcraft stuff. I have especially appreciated the time I have spent lately with my bush buddy Christian. Christian is my all around good kid and cubscout. He is seven going on eight and has a keen eye, enjoys all kinds of nature, likes hiking, exploring, learning things and will make a fine bushcrafter someday. He has gotten real good at starting fire with both man-made and natural tinders. He has learned to identify these things in the wild and collects them with a vigor. His backpack "tinder pocket" is full of birch bark, thistle down, milkweed fluff, cattail and some dryer lint and jute cord, just in case. He has practiced with his fire steel so much, he has worn a curve into it. I guess I need to teach him to rotate it occasionally. But is he ready for more?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fire by Friction

   One of the most primitive bushcraft skills is being able to make fire by friction. Most would call it rubbing two sticks together. Many believe that every boy scout or girl scout learns to make fire in this fashion. But the truth is, fire by friction is one of the most difficult things to get right, and it is a very select few that ever get the hang of it. I believe it is still something worth chasing if you have never done it before and something that you need to continue practicing once you do figure it out. I enjoy trying out many different types of wood and materials for the spindle and the hearth board. One of my favorite setups is using willow for a spindle and box elder or cottonwood or aspen for the hearth board. Pairing willow with any of these three gets me a successful ember nearly every time. But what about the rest of the parts? Are there any other tips to finding the right kinds of wood? More after the jump.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kitchen Knife To Bushcraft Knife Mod

The $1.50 Thrift Shop Bargain Knife
 In my last article I talked about the importance of cutting tools and how they are the single most important piece of the bushcraft kit. Cutting tools were a large part of aboriginal and bushcraft life. And they were made from any material at hand, that would lend itself to holding an edge. Our paleo ancestors adapted and improvised and so it is with us as bushcrafters today. A knife gives us power, it can grant us energy, it can be used as a weapon, serve to help heal us, to build a shelter, ensure we have sustenance, reduce our fears, allow us to make and build other tools. It is an extension of our imaginations. The more we can relate to our knives, the more we can learn to relate to ourselves because it becomes part of us and links us to our past.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Of Cutting Tools and Pottery of the Past

Some cutting tool artifacts from the Mankato, MN area
 It is said that the most significant tool for survival is a cutting tool, and in modern bushcraft terms that means a knife. There is so much discussion about knives and knife making and the benefits of this kind of steel or that kind of blade geometry, or what blade length is best, etc. on the bushcraft and knife forum websites. As I thought about this, I thought it would be an interesting notion to look back say 2,000 years and wonder what was the discussion like back then. Did our aboriginal forefathers and mothers have the same discussions and arguments over who made the best flint knife or spear point? Did they argue over whether certain kinds of flint were better then chert or quartz or obsidian? Was blade length also a discussion point? Did they have celebrity knife "knappers" who held bragging rights over who made the best cutting tool or spear points? Did they have swap meets for their stone knives and scrappers? Did they form social groups and clubs dedicated to certain styles of knapped knives? Could a good flint knapper charge outrageous prices for his or her work? Did they offer any life-time warranties? (tongue is in cheek now) Let's look some more after the jump...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Simple Debris Shelter

   The day started out looking like rain, but you know when you just have to get out there and get in some dirt time, a threat of rain is not going to stop you. I had it in my mind to throw up a debris shelter because number one, it seemed like a good idea and number two, it's just plain fun. I found a good location in my favorite area and set about gathering up the dead tree poles I would need to construct the lean-to. I took advantage of a natural rock outcropping on the side of a small hill slopping from there to a steep decline to the valley floor below. So it is located on a flat area just over the ridge line, but before the fall off. It looks larger from the front and looks like this from the back.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tools of the Trade?

   Within the world of photography, it is often said that "the best camera is the one you have with you." What this basically means is that any camera, with enough knowledge of how to use it, can take really great pictures. Even the simplest of cameras, the "pinhole" camera, can take some of the most amazing pictures with the right hands and mind behind the lens. The greatest photographers practice their craft all the time, so that they can take great pictures with any camera, anywhere, under any conditions, at anytime. They work to perfect their craft. They work at it until it comes naturally. Their hands know their cameras every adjustment, every nuance, and they also know the cameras limitations and they learn how to work within those limits or right at the "cutting edge" of those limits (forgive the pun.) Perfecting their craft, that is the key. So it is with bushcraft. Let's look at some tools...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Flora, The Fauna, The Good Books...

   As part of my effort to feature Minnesota as a great place to practice bushcraft, I would like to call your attention to a great set of books by award winning Author, Naturalist, Wildlife Photographer , and Purveyor of Gee-Whiz Nature information, Stan Tekiela. Stan has written and photographed over a hundred state-by-state field guides and other books on nature. These five books, plus two additional volumes,

"Birds of Prey of Minnesota" and "Ducks and Geese of Minnesota" will give you one of the most complete reference libraries concerning the flora and fauna of Minnesota. The clear and detailed photographs, the descriptions, and the maps and diagrams, will bring you hours of enjoyable reading while exploring the many species that are covered in these volumes. For Minnesota, these are far and away the best field guides you can carry. There is yet one more book I would like to recommend and that is...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Three Tool Buddies...

   So it has been awhile since I last posted to the blog, and since then a lot has happened. The State of Minnesota has settled on a budget and the state is open for business. What this means is that the state parks are again open for adventure. Yeah!! So game on...
   In the middle of July I headed out to Cheyenne, WY to visit my father for his 80th birthday. One of the days my father, my brother and I spent wandering the trails in the Medicine Bow National Forest in the Laramie Peak Range. This is a beautiful part of Wyoming that is home to black bear, mountain lion, elk, antelope and of course open range long horn cattle. I will try to post a picture or two and talk about the trip in a later post. So why this picture you are asking? More after the jump.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Minnesota's Favorite Nasty Plant

   I don't know about you, but when I come across a leaf of Poison Ivy nearly 5" across, I usually take notice. We tend to grow 'em big here in Minnesota and you have to be constantly watching out for the leaves of three when hiking any of the most used trails. It is a curious thing about poison ivy, it seems to be most prevalent in areas that are touched by man. Usually disturbed soils, cut trail ways, well traveled paths and roads of many types, all will lend themselves to helping poison ivy get a foot hold. The worst thing about the plant itself is the oil. It's all about the Urushiol.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Canteenshop Stove and Thistle Soup - A Simple and Quick Review

Ok, so there were these thistles, and they were just standing there, the very tops of the stalks looking all tender, ready to eat. Well, you know you just have to go for it. You have that canteen full of water, the canteen cup and of course that Canteenshop Grilltop Stove Stand that just happens to nest around all of the others. Put it all together and you have fresh veggie soup for dinner. Seems really easy, right?

Minnesota Closed it Doors

   On July 1st, 2011, the State of Minnesota closed it's doors and stopped doing business. This was a historic event that has had far reaching effects, all brought on by this shutdown. Most of it you can read about in the news or online. The most immediate affect was the furloughing of over 20,000 state workers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sometimes It's the Little Things

   As they say, sometimes it's the little things. I think what draws me to the wilderness, and for that matter what draws us all out into the bush, is the wonder of it all. Having that sense of wonder and curiousity has always been a driving force with me. I just have to know what's changing out there, what's happening to my familiar friends in the woodland. I just have to know about it all... like which trees still stand after the wind storm, or whether the wild turkey are still roosting where I last found them, or whether the mother coyote has had her pups. I just have to know... I have so many questions that need to be answered.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Glacial Drift and the Rocks That Got Left Behind

   So I am scouting the landscape in the Minneopa State Park near Mankato, MN when before my eyes there appears this lone boulder just sitting on the forest floor like some massive beast, taking rest in the shade of the day. I could imagine a  large bison, with it's legs folded underneath it, slowly breathing in the cool air, watching the day go by, not caring at all about the threat of coyotes, or wolves or any other carnivorous predator that would come it's way. It seemed in that moment that the boulder was at rest and at peace with itself and where it had come to lay.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Discovering Signs of Bushcraft

   This is an interesting discovery in the wilderness that is the Minneopa State Park in southern Minnesota near the city of Mankato. I have spent many hours and days of "dirt time" in this state park, and on occasion I come across some evidence of someone practicing their bushcraft skills. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Found this Inspiration in a Poem...

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more..."

-Lord Byron

I have this poem written in my "Rite in the Rain" notebook that I carry in my backpack and it never fails to inspire me and remind me, why I spend so much time in the wilderness. So as a good tip for the day, be sure to bring a good notebook, preferably one of the waterproof-rainproof kind that you can keep good notes about all your dirt time. I bring along a small pack of colored pencils and make simple drawings of things I observe. With this practice, along with taking digital photos, you gain a more intimate relationship with the wilderness and nature around you. And that is what it is all about.... Happy Exploring.
Rite in the Rain

Welcome to Minnesota Bushcraft

Welcome to Minnesota Bushcraft. The art of bushcraft is about learning the ways to live in harmony with nature and the wilderness. No matter where you are in the world, nature gives us the means to adapt and live in whatever climate and environment we find ourselves. This site is dedicated to discovering those ways by studying both aboriginal and modern techniques of bushcraft and comparing various systems of self-reliance and survival to help you find your own path to the best of Bushcraft.