On Discovering Self

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

Monday, December 31, 2012

On Minnesota Bushcraft's 2012 Adventure Highlights

   As it is the last day of the year, I thought it fitting to look back at a few of this years bushcraft adventures by sharing some of the highlights with some chosen videos.
   It has been for me a phenomenal year with so many adventures in bushcraft. It has also been a great year for personal growth and learning and for making a lot of good friends, many of whom I can now call brother or sister and feel the camaraderie that comes with sharing our love and passion for bushcraft.
   The start of 2012 saw me trying vigorously to finishing all of my lessons for BushclassUSA Basic certification and I finally finished that with the completion of my Outing #5 on February 18th. Here is the video of that outing, although it is a bit lengthy, it is one of my favorite adventures.

     My goal was to have the Bushclass Basic course completed before attending the Second Annual Hardwoodsman's Meet 2012 in the state of Missouri in April. It turned out to be the experience of a lifetime and I made some great friends and look forward now to many more meetups and adventures with them. It was fun to finally put some faces to some of the user names I had come to know and respect. Here it is again, a musical highlight video of that great gathering of brothers.

   With April, came my commitment to meeting up with some friends who were interested in learning bushcraft. On April 2nd, we would begin meeting every Saturday at 9AM in a local state park. Little did I know that even 9 months later, I would still be going to the park every Saturday, rain or shine and meeting someone or anyone who would care to come and share the adventure.
    I have met many BushcraftUSA members now, all from Minnesota, who have found my little piece of wilderness and they have come and enjoyed meeting up and sharing the time and practicing and learning the ways of bushcraft. We just get together and have fun and share the dirt time. Here is a video of one of the larger gatherings we had on a Saturday morning.

      I have also found a great companion and friend and fellow bushcrafter in my nine year-old bush buddy, my son Christian. He and I have actually spent the last two years together on various adventures and expeditions and he has grown with every turn. He will one day, make a very fine bushcrafter in his own right. He helps to remind me how to be a kid again and to keep the sense of wonder and imagination. Here is a video of one of his latest accomplisments, of which I am very proud of him. He made fire with his fire steel, using natural tinder, that was in itself a little moist, and he did it without my coaching. He figured it out on his own.

   With the hot summer months of July and August, I was able to play with many more new things. I continued to polish my firecraft skills, including many bow drill fires and working on one stick and split wood fires. I have also come to appreciate and enjoy my flint and steel kit a whole lot more than I ever did in the past and choose to use it more often then any other method, and especially trying to always use natural tinders. Here is a short video of using the power of the sun to ignite some false tinder fungus. This method has now become an elective for BushclassUSA and I will have to do it again real soon to submit a fresh video entry for the elective credit.

   I have found a good friend in a BushcraftUSA member who goes by the user name "Sticker" although I now know him as Terry. I met him and his wife, "CallmeKris", as a result of my commitment to the Saturday morning 9AM MeetUps. He and I are about the same age and share the same love for bushcraft. I think he gets out about as often as I do, and we have met now several times and most of those times, it is just the two of us, having fun with him working on completing a Bushclass lesson or two and with me just playing and practicing and having fun showing him stuff he can try. Here is a video of one of my favorite outings with Terry. I thought it was at first going to be just me, heading out for a solo trip, in the rain. But as I got out in the bush a little ways, I slowed to take some video and low and behold, Terry caught up to me and we had a great time, in the rain, just doing bushcraft.

   Which, as you can see by the snow in the last video, brings me to the last couple months of the year 2012.
   I know that I have grown, and I have found deeper meaning for myself in the art of bushcraft. I know that I have been able to improve on my story telling about my adventures both alone and with others and recently I have been refining my video style and adding music and getting more creative about the way I see things and the ways that I want to tell it.
   So here finally is a video of a solo trip that I am very proud of, with a lot of effort given to trying to emulate my bushcraft story telling hero, Les Stroud. I like his style and will continue to study his videos and then work to refine my own brand of story telling.

   Of course, there is the last and final bushcraft trip of the year and I went out with a new christmas toy I gifted myself, a 1" Scotch-eye Auger. It was fun to be able to use a tool to make another tool.

   The year 2012 has been a great one for Bushcraft and looking forward to 2013 it looks like it will be even better, with even more adventures in store. I look forward to sharing it all with you and look forward to hearing from many of you as you follow along or maybe perhaps even join us here in south central Minnesota. So until next year, Happy Exploring.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Improvising A Mallet And The Scotch Eyed Auger

   As it was the last Saturday of the year, I decided to take advantage of it and get out for some dirt... or ah rather, make that snow time.
   As I arrived at the park, snow started to come down in beautiful and sparkling flakes. The freshly fallen snow and still morning air made for a surreal quiet that set the mood for what would be a great solo trip.
   I didn't feel the best when I first started out, so I was not going to push it. That's why I at first decided on a simple twig fire. But as usual, once I got out and about, things started to improve and I started to feel better.
   I have discovered that most of my outings usually involve some sort of firecraft practice and some other bushcraft skill practice or lesson. And once the fire is going, I usually will boil some water for a meal or a hot beverage.
   I like to experiment with different fire methods and today it was to make fire with a flint and steel, charred cloth and natural tinder gathered on site. The cedar bark was just a little on the moist side and I thought with packing it in my bandana and warming it up inside my jacket, I might be able to coax it into flame. It took some time to get it warmed up and dried enough, but in the end I prevailed.
   I also got a chance to make a mallet using a christmas gift that I gifted myself and that was a 1" scotch eyed auger that I ordered from a seller on ebay who was based in Great Britain. It took a few days to arrive, but I am very pleased with the 1" auger and look forward to using it on many more outings.
   So here is the video of my last solo day trip for the year 2012. It has been a good year for me bushcraft-wise and I am very pleased with the number of posts I have been able to share with you my friends here at Minnesota Bushcraft, and I look forward to sharing many more adventures in 2013.

   I had a lot of fun today, making this video and I am still working on my style. I am excited about discovering more of what I can create with my video equipment and will hopefully soon be able to work with multiple cameras. Thanks for watching and until next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, December 28, 2012

On Making A Handle For The Cold Steel Trail Hawk

     It was December 22nd, a Saturday, and the temperature was around 17°F and there was very little wind. A perfect winter day for getting out and having some bushcraft fun. It was also partly cloudy and the fresh fallen snow made a good crunching sound under my boot print. As I hiked out to my usual camp spot, I enjoyed the sun on my face and I could not help but feel there would be a lot of animal activity to be seen and heard. I was not mistaken.
   Shortly after heading down the hill towards the Minneopa Creek, I spotted a large buck just a short distance away. He snorted vigorously and trotted off in the direction of the creek, looking over his shoulder and wondering just who this interloper was that was invading his morning browse.
   I watched for awhile and got some video the best that I could and then headed further down the trail. I had it in mind to get a good fire going, make some hot water for cocoa and try my hand at improvising a handle for my Cold Steel Trail Hawk tomahawk head that was stuffed in my satchel. It proved to be a great adventure and I think the tomahawk worked great for all of my efforts. I know that I can definitely do this again and it will be fun to try over and over.
   Here is the video of my adventure and how things came together. I hope you enjoy it.

   It was a very enjoyable solo trip for the day and I am only sorry that some of the rest of the BushcraftUSA members could not make it out for the fun. Maybe next time. Until then, thanks for watching and Happy Exploring.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Cold And Wet And Rainy Day... What Fun.

   This last Saturday, I was determined to get out no matter what. The prediction was for rain and I didn't care. The prediction was for it to be cold, around 35° F, and I didn't care. It goes without saying, things were going to be wet with all the previous day's snow and ice. But I was determined to go, even if it meant going alone. But as luck would have it, I have found a hardy soul in my friend and fellow bushcrafter Sticker. He managed to catch up with me heading down the trail in the rain as I was taking video for what I thought would prove to be an interesting story of me going it solo in the rain.
   As we got further down the trail, the rain slowed to a slow drip and then a spattering and we decided to work on some skills together. He would work on putting up a tarp shelter, so that he could complete his "Student Practice for a Tarp Shelter" lesson for Bushclass and I would work on making a split-wood fire with shavings and feather sticks for tinder, just because that seemed like a logical choice considering the wood we had available. Everything was wet.
   I managed to get the wood split, and found it to be still a little moist but not too bad and figured I could get it lit with some good tinder prep. I tried two different types of wood for shavings, some from the ash wood that I had harvested and split and some shavings from a much lighter wood, probably some basswood on the verge of going punky. It was very light weight and made good shavings and was pretty dry compared to the ash shavings.
   I had mixed the shavings together and when it came time to try to light it, the ash shavings were just not taking a spark as well as I had hoped. The basswood shavings however, seemed to take a spark and burn pretty good and were the trick in the end, in getting the fire going. In hindsight, I should have not mixed the shavings together, so that I could have switched it up right away and not spent so much time experimenting to find the "sweet spot" of the driest and lightest.
   It was a great adventure and a lot of fun and I would not have missed my time in the wood with my pal Sticker for anything. I was glad he showed up and was willing to give it a go, even in the rain.
   So here is the video of our adventure and I hope you enjoy it.

   It was fun in the cold and the wet and the rain. Sometimes you just have to get out, no matter what. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Snowy Solo Day Trip

   This last Saturday started out as usual, as I headed out to meet any Minnesota BushcraftUSA members that might arrive for our regular Saturday morning meet-up at 9 o'clock.
    I arrived at the park, and waited the usual half hour until 9:30am, and when it looked like I was going to be the only one, I decided to head out for a solo day trip.
    It had snowed the night before, so the freshly fallen snow was perfect for seeing all the deer, fox, coyote and rabbit tracks and many others too numerous to identify.
    It looked like it was going to be a fun day, and the temperature was just right for a crisp mornings hike. Another thing that made it nice, was that there was little to no wind. It was completely calm and it was easy to hear all the birds and other animal sounds. I even heard and saw a few deer wondering the woodland, but were too fleeting to get any video.
    It turned into a good day to practice skills, so I thought I would try for Mr. Black's "Student Practice To Build and Use A Fire Reflector" elective that is part of the BushclassUSA forum.
    I had only very briefly read the requirements and after I got back home, I discovered that I failed to notice the shelter requirement. So since I missed that part, I will have to go with this elective once again, at a location where I have a more permanent camp with the lean-to I am building.
    I decided to make a split wood fire, as it was the easiest way to find dry wood. Then I used flint and steel with charred cloth to ignite it. Then I put some water on to boil for hot chocolate and when that was done, sat for a relaxing time listening to all the sounds of the woodland.
    Then it was time to head back. It was a great time and going solo always has its advantages and adventure.
    So here is the video of my adventure. My video style, when doing any solo trips, is heavily influenced by Les Stroud, of Survivorman fame. His visual cut-aways, long distance shots of himself, special speed up effects and general environmental perspective shots work to give a sense of what he is experiencing and draws the audience into his story. I can only hope to one day, get as good as he is and to improve on it with my own style and means.
   I hope you enjoy it.

   I am sure to make a lot more solo trips in the future, so I know there will be a lot more videos like this.  But this blog site is dedicated to sharing bushcraft adventures, and not just about me and my adventures, but about having the adventure with others. Until next time, Happy Exploring.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Bush Buddy And A Natural Tinder Callenge

   Last Saturday, Dec. 1st, I had the chance to get out with my eight year bush buddy, Christian. We've been getting out in the bush together for nearly two years and to look back and see just how far he has come with his knowledge of bushcraft is amazing.
   We decided on this particular day, that it might be fun to see if he could take on the challenge of building a twig fire and lighting it using his fire steel and natural tinders. He would try this completely by himself, without any coaching from me.
   I must say, it was a little frustrating, trying to not interfere, trying not to do the "dad thing", but in the end I was so very proud of him and his success.
   With that in mind, as you watch the video, you too might feel a little frustration as well. If you have ever struggled with making fire with your fire steel and natural tinders, you will understand what he is going thru.
    On this day, even the tinder (inner cottonwood bark) was not ideal and was just a little moist as he prepared it.
   But he persisted, and I held my peace and he prevailed.
   So bear with him, as I did, and I hope you will enjoy the video.

   We had such a good time, and I would encourage any of you my friends to get out and include any kids you have in your life,  in your bushcraft adventures. Happy Exploring.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Just Doing Some Cookin'

  This month has started off with a couple of good bushcraft adventures. I am going to change it up a bit and share last Sunday's adventure first and save last Saturday's adventure for the next post.
   The reason for this is that I sort of pushed myself to get the video done for Sunday's adventure first, so that my friend Sticker would have his part of the video to post up for his latest BushclassUSA lesson.
   We got together on Sunday, so that he could complete his "Student Practice for Cooking Bannock with Fire." The weather was near perfect for a good hike out to the new campsite. Sticker and his wife, member "CallmeKris", myself and my girlfriend, decided to get together with the idea that we were going to do some cooking. Making it a "hot" lunch for change of pace. My girlfriend brought some chicken fillets marinated in lemon oil and some seasonings and she also brought some potatoes which I diced and boiled. I brought a vegetable to heat up and the pack grill, which is a gift from my friend and fellow member "Little Jon."
   Sticker and CallmeKris fried up some pork chops and baked some potatoes and in the end, we all had a pretty good meal. Then it was on to the lesson and cooking the bannock.
   So here is the video of that afternoons adventure. I hope you enjoy it.

   In my next blog post, I hope to share what a great adventure I had with my eight year bush buddy, Christian, on this past Saturday. He has come a long ways in developing his bushcraft skills and this time around showed me how he can get a fire going, using natural tinders and under some not so ideal conditions. 
   Until next time. Happy Exploring.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Bushcraft Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend

   It is hard to believe that November is nearly over. We have yet to receive any significant snowfall here in south central Minnesota. Yet, the wind and the colder temperatures feel like the promise of snow. I have busied myself with getting my warmer bushcraft clothing out of storage and started to improve on some of my options. This year, there is a lot more wool in the mix.
   I have managed to score a couple pair of wool pants off of evil-bay, one is an army issue (olive drab of course) and the second pair are some vintage Woolrich heavy wool hunting pants. They can be used with or without suspenders, but I chose the suspender route, so that I can get a good exchange of air and moisture from the heat generated by the major muscles in my legs. It is also important not to restrict blood flow thru to your femoral arteries, as this is the major source of warming blood that arrives at your feet. A tight fitting belt to keep your pants up can restrict this blood flow, thus the suspenders.
   I have also gotten an army issue wool shirt in an 80% wool 20% nylon blend. That shirt is a great piece of gear and makes an excellent second layer over my base layer of moisture wicking "Under Armor." Topping this all off, I have a 100% wool pull over Woolrich sweater, that has a good thick weave and will be great for those days when it is just around freezing and I am by the fire.
   Thanksgiving day, turned out to be a great day for getting out for some adventure and my girlfriend and I headed out for a good hike after turkey dinner. We visited a new campsite area that I hope to feature in an up coming blog post. I am pretty excited about the opportunity to use this piece of woodland. Stay tune for more on this latest development.
   On the Saturday following Thanksgiving, I had even more bushcraft adventure as I was able to meet up with a good group of Minnesota BushcraftUSA members for our usual Saturday morning meetup and daytrip. We worked on BushclassUSA lessons and looked at some alcohol stoves and gear and had a great time getting to know each other.
   Here is a video of that great meetup and all that we did. It is a little long, around 25 minutes, but I think it is entertaining and shows a lot of the activity a group of friends can have when it comes to sharing bushcraft.

   As you can see, we braved the cold, enjoyed the weather and did it all with Minnesotan enthusiasm. We do enjoy our great Minnesota outdoors, no matter what the time of year. It is all in how you prepare.
   I hope to cover more of how I prepare for winter and to let you know what gear is working for me and for others. For now, all I can say is that wool has become my friend. Happy Exploring.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A New Friend Learns About Old Fire Making Method

   It was the regular Saturday morning meet-up and my friend Sticker and I waited the usual thirty odd minutes for any other members to show up. But to no avail, no one else did. We decided to head down to the river and we were already thinking about the next Bushclass lesson that he was going to work on. That was the "Student Practice for Making a Pot Hook" lesson. This was going to be fun.
   The weather was nearly perfect and we were both joking about how, as we walked thru the woods, we were looking for resources. Soon he had a good piece of birch bark from an old dead fall, which in the end we never did use. He told me how it is with him now, when he comes out of the woods, his pockets are full of natural tinders and things to try for fire starting. I could not help but smile. I do the same thing.
   Today, his partner in life, member "Callmekris",  had decided to sleep in or at least to take it easy and get some more rest after working a late shift and I could not help but start to wonder how we could now make her jealous of our trip and leave her wishing she had come along. Sticker said she likes "playing with fire" and that was the perfect queue for me to suggest that he get the fire going with my flint and steel and some of the charred cloth from our last adventure. I also mentioned that I would get it on video, so he could show her later. I think we had hatched the perfect plan. Smiles all around.
   So here is the the video of our latest adventure and it covers our fire prep, his flint and steel work and the pot hook lesson. I also tried an experiment with charring some natural tinder. You can see how that turned out. I hope you enjoy watching.

   We definitely had a great time and in the end, Sticker had a good piece of video to submit for his lesson and we were able to make Callmekris quite jealous. He told me later that she said she was "definitely going to go next time" I guess that means mission accomplished.
   I am hoping to that given enough time, even more members will begin to wish that they too had joined in on the adventure. There really is so much to do and so many things to learn together, no matter what the situation is like. The BushclassUSA lessons make it easy to share the experience.
   I am hoping one day to have a video of several members all working on various lessons and skills, to essentially showcase what we are accomplishing here in Minnesota and that the members here are getting out and doing it. Until next time, Happy Exploring. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On Bushcraft and Strangers... Part III

   So it was about this time, the husband started to ask about knives and wanted to know what a good brand was and he also wanted to know about "flint and steel." I suspected he meant "ferro rod" or "firesteel" so I proceeded to make up some tinder from some jute twine I had and explained a little about what knife brands I was familiar with and why I prefer a fixed blade.Then I brought out my ferro rod on the lanyard and my trusty SAK Farmer. In no time at all, I had that nest of jute twine burning in flame. It was impressive and everyone was amazed.
   Well at least they had seen one modern way of making fire, the old reliable, "Don't Leave Home Without It", works in the rain, throws molten metal and sparks to 5500° F, takes a licking and keeps on ticking Ferro-Rod!! But now I had to focus on getting fire the really old fashion way, by rubbing two sticks together.
   As it turned out, I got a very excellent ember on the second try. And as everyone looked on, it cherried up nicely and would be an easy start from there. By this time, I had made a second bundle nest of jute twine and carefully transferred the ember to blow it to flame. It worked perfectly, to everyone's amazement. I felt pretty good. I had the chance to share something fun and unusual with some perfect strangers and it did not matter where we had come from, or who we were. We had all felt the kinship with the past, of the discovery of fire in a primitive way. It felt a lot more satisfying than using the ferro-rod that's for sure.
   After the young man got the video he needed, I shared the fact that I have a YouTube channel and invited them to visit the site and this blog to see and read more about bushcraft and some of my adventures. I spoke to them about BushcraftUSA and about the membership and the Bushclass lessons. I hope they look it up. I hope I hear from them again or maybe see and visit with them and get the chance to share some other things about bushcraft that I love.
   Soon the husband and wife couple and I said our good-byes to the young men and started out on our hike again. I promised to bring them up to the top of the ridge and show them a large rock on the ridge line, that works as a nice look out and a place to stop and have a lunch. Once we arrived there, I showed them yet another bow and drill set that I had left behind. She asked me if I do that a lot. I smiled and said, "Yes, I try to leave them anyplace someone might find them and wonder what they are for and how to use them and I hope that they will take them home if they want."  I think she may just go back to the Sakatah Trail Eagle Lake bridge sometime to take home what she missed.
   We walked the ridge line over to the campground and thru it all the way to a park bench that overlooks a scenic area and bend in the river. We sat and chatted for awhile and I started to show them things in my kit and why I have them. Then it occurred to me that they had not see yet the use of flint and steel. If I showed them that, they would have a larger understanding of the methods of making fire down thru the ages.
   So I opened up my tinder kit and got out some charred cloth, some flint and my trusty steel striker. In no time I had a spark and the charred cloth caught the jute tinder to flame almost instantly. Again, they were impressed.
   I finished up the show and tell and we headed back towards the vehicles. It had been now about 4 hours and I was just then getting around to introducing myself. I found out their names were George and Terry and they had been in and around Mankato over the years and were re-visiting some sites they had not been to in awhile.
   As we arrived back at the vehicles, we said our good-byes and they thanked me for all the fun that they had. I did have a good time. It was a good day. I wished them well, and it is my hope to meet with them again, so that I can share the adventure that is bushcraft.
   Even if I did not get the chance to practice bushcraft with my usual suspects, I did get to practice it with strangers and maybe they will remember me and want to learn for themselves more about that wonderful thing we can Bushcraft.  Happy Exploring.

On Bushcraft and Strangers... Part II

   Now normally I am pretty cautious and on this day, even more so, since I was already in the company of two people I just met. At this point I did not even know their names. And now we were about to go into an even more unknown situation. Looked like a time to be real friendly.
   As the three of us approached the three young men, I noticed right away that they all had commercially made blow dart guns leaning against the trees. One of the guys was wearing OD green and muted natural colors and the other two wore blue jeans and a mix of "hunting" type garments, but not a lot of camo.
   I asked right away if they were "bushcrafters" and if they were out just practicing skills. They said almost in unison that they were not really bushcrafters, but were out for the morning to cook up a couple pounds of bacon and to maybe try to bring down some small game with their blow dart guns and to use their small game licenses. They wanted to kill some small game, dress it and prepare it for a meal right in the field. One of the guys said that he had seen almost every survival show on television and that he and his wife and family were thinking of moving to Alaska to try homesteading. He had watched a lot of Yukon Men on the Discovery channel along with Alaskan Frontier and all the Dual Survival shows.
   After a few interesting moments of getting acquainted, they asked if we would like to see a demonstration of their blow gun prowess. We said sure and one of the guys succeeded in putting several darts in a small group about 10 yards away. I was impressed. I could see why they wanted to see if they could bring down some small game. They mentioned that most of the small game they saw so far, seemed to scatter anytime they tried to move up on it. They would continue to practice.
   They had a pretty good fire going by now and the fry pan was on. They started on the first pound of bacon and invited us to have a few other breakfast treat items. They seemed like pretty good fellows and were family guys and were out to just have an adventure. I could not fault them for that, though I did inform them that they were still on state park property and would have to get a lot closer to the river for that to change.
   Of course, once the subject of survival TV shows and the like came up, I steered the conversation towards bushcraft. Since they had a fire going, we naturally got onto the subject of methods of making fire. I offered to demonstrate the use of the bow drill to start a fire by friction and quickly set to working finding the pieces I needed near by. It wasn't long and I had a spindle carved and a hearth board made and was starting to hunt for what I would need for a bow. Soon I had all the pieces together and set to work making the first burn in divot.
   One of the young men was very interested in the process and asked if he could take some video with his phone for reference later. I said I didn't mind and started to explain the process a little more for the camera.
   Well the burn-in revealed what I suspected was going wrong and that was that I was not getting any good black dust, but rather a brown and cooler dust then I had anticipated. I suspected some moisture, but went ahead and cut my notch and tried again to coax an ember out of the spindle and hearth board I had made.
   Failure. Sometimes that happens. It started to smoke, but would not cherry up. I could tell from the squeaking sound it made as I spun it up, that the hearth board was just a little moist. But the spindle looked good, so I would have to try a different hearth board. I found one, carved it up nice with my knife and set work. But now the pressure was on, and all eyes were watching. Could I really get this to work? Will the hearth board be dry enough this time? Will I succeed in even getting the tinder to work, after I get a coal?

   Read more about this adventure with strangers in Part III... Happy Exploring.

On Bushcraft and Strangers... Part I

   So it was, a Saturday. November 10th, to be exact and as I rolled out of bed, I readied myself for a regular meetup of BushcraftUSA Minnesota members at 9am at the local state park. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know the details of my trying to get something going with these members on a regular basis, to practice skills, complete some BushclassUSA Basic lessons and to get out and explore and have some fun.
   I usual do not know what to expect when I arrive at the meeting point, though I always have high hopes of finding someone there. It has been getting better as of late. A new acquaintance, member "Sticker", has shown some real interest in making it a regular thing for himself and his wife, "Callmekris." I have also been surprised when "Steene" and his son, "CamperTater" show up, and this has been more often than I thought they would.
   But on this last Saturday, no one showed. I busied myself for a little bit, getting my kit ready and then strolled over to talk to the park ranger, who had showed up to check on the group campsites and the outhouse facilities and such.
   The ranger and I have spoken before and today I found out his name was Greg. Greg and I spoke about the park, some of the wildlife and my reasons for being there. I told him about the regular meet up of bushcraft enthusiasts and how we try to get together to practice skills. He remembered seeing me working on doing a friction fire one time and seemed very interested in the various activities. I told him about BushcraftUSA and its membership and how it was growing and how we had a growing number of Minnesota members as well.
   Just as we were about to part company, a husband and wife drove into the parking lot and began to ready themselves for a hike. They wanted to know how to get down to the river trail. They had been there a long time previous and wanted to hike the trails. I offered to take them for a "tour." We parted company with the ranger and headed out.
   As we hiked along, I showed them the lookout area, to view the valley below and the Minneopa Creek. We talked about the trees and how to identify them and what types there were high on the ridge as we hiked down to the valley. Soon the Red Oaks, Paper Birch, Eastern Red Cedar and Ash gave way to the Elm, Black Walnut, Cottonwood and Basswood of the valley floor, near the creek.
   I shared with them my interest in bushcraft and my reasons for coming to the woods. I shared how the trees have many resources for bushcraft. I mentioned the use of the cottonwood tree to make friction fire with a bow drill set and how I liked to practice with friction fire methods.
   It was then, that the woman shared something amazing. She said that she and her husband had been on a hike on the Sakatah Trail, out to the Eagle Lake bridge. As they were sitting around the picnic table near the bridge, she had found a hearth board and a spindle and a bow laying by a tree. She saw that it had been used to make a friction fire, as it had a burn in divot and notch. She said she was tempted to take it with her as it was a very interesting find and looked primitive and "artistic."
   It was at that point that I revealed to her that the bow drill set that she had found was mine. That I had made it out of some willow found on site and that I had used it to make a friction fire. We were both amazed at the coincidence. What are the odds of two separate individuals finding such a connection, thru bushcraft.
   We continued to hike closer to the river, when the husband and I noticed the smell of smoke. It was then, that I noticed a group of three young men, in their 30's, working around a campfire at trying to prepare some breakfast. The three of us decided to stop and say hello.
   Then it got interesting.
   Read more in part II....  Happy Exploring.


Monday, November 5, 2012

On Learning Bushcraft By Doing Bushcraft

   So on Saturday, November 3rd, at the beginning of firearms deer hunting opener here in Minnesota, I met up with my new bushcrafting friend, Sticker, for a few hours of skills practice and some plain old fun just getting out there and exploring. He was wearing his blaze orange cap and I was well, regretting I had forgotten my blaze orange vest. Anyway, Sticker wanted to get another BushclassUSA lesson out of the way and I thought that tackling the "Student Practice for Five Man Made Tinders" would be a good one to try.
   When we first met up at 9 o'clock, he found me working at trying to get a bow drill fire out of some grapevine wood I had harvested for a hearth board. I tried using at first an oak spindle, but found that it was just to hard and drilled thru the grapevine with lots of "shredded" and "stringy" dust. No matter how I tried to finesse it, I could not sustain a ember.
   I then swapped for yet another spindle made of basswood, but still could not get a sustained ember. I so wanted to keep trying different woods, but it was time to get out on our hike and get on to other things.
   Here is a video of our day trip, with Sticker getting his Five Man Made Tinders lit and both of us heating some water and making some charred cloth and charred punk wood.

   On our way back to the vehicles, we searched the Minneopa Creek bed for pieces of chert to use with an improvised steel. Sticker and I tested a few, but found nothing really large enough. I gave him a piece of an old file I had started on, so he has something to use when he gets the chance to search on his own.
   It was a very good bushcraft adventure and he told me that his wife is working on building her bushcraft kit and looking forward to getting back out there and trying a few more things. I know she is going to love it.
    I hope you enjoyed the video my friends and until next time, Happy Exploring.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Friends Meet Thru The Love Of Bushcraft

    I had the very great privilege of meeting for the first time, BushcraftUSA member "Sticker" and his significant other on Saturday, Oct. 27th for a regularly scheduled meet up of bushcrafters. "Sticker" aka Terry, has only been a member for a little over a week now and they both decided that it might be fun to meet up and start working on the BushclassUSA Basic lessons. We met as usual at 9AM in the Group Camping Parking lot of the Minneopa State Park, here in southcentral Minnesota. After waiting for about a half hour to see if any other members would arrive, we headed out on our hike.
    I decided to help them work towards their first lesson "Student Practice for a Twig Fire" by going over the basics of gathering natural tinders, discussing the use of ferro rods, using man-made tinders and the mechanics of building the twig fire. Once we arrived on site near the river, they set to work gathering their materials.
    Here now is the video of our day trip, and all the fun we had meeting up for the first time and becoming friends for the experience.

   Along the way, we talked about friction fire methods and then the discussion turned to other ways of making fire. I took the opportunity to demonstrate a bow drill fire using some basswood for a spindle and some cottonwood for a hearth board. I could see that Terry was watching the whole process pretty carefully, so I gave him the proven set to take home and try on his own if he liked. We also looked at starting fire with flint and steel and now I am sure we will be building some tinder kits soon. It was a lot of fun.
    After some hot chocolate, we headed back to the vehicles and called it a day. I have to say, it was a fun way to make new friends. We definitely have some new members to BushcraftUSA and have set them on the path of enlightenment.
   Terry has since shared with me in a PM that they are now working on getting together a couple of kits using the Finnish Gas Mask bags and that they have ordered some new ferro rods. Way to go, you two!
    I hope you enjoyed the video. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, October 29, 2012

To Define Bushcraft or Not Define Bushcraft... That Is The Question

   There has been a lot of discussion as of late, about the necessity to define Bushcraft. It has been the topic of discussion in more than a few threads on the BushcraftUSA forum site. Here is a link to one of the longer threads, that has since been closed in part for all of the surrounding controversy, Why should we define Bushcraft?  It was also part of a topical discussion at this years Annual Woodsmoke Gathering 2012. Here is a link to a Youtube video of that presentation. Defining Bushcraft Woodsmoke 2012
   For the most part I have stayed out of the discussion, because for me, it really has held no relevance. Bushcraft for me, just seems to define itself and it is a different definition on just about any given day. It is more of a living thing or rather more about living in general, then something you can put a description to, so that it can be bottled and sold. I for one will resist the urge and temptation to define it. I would rather live it.
   There is one key idea though that I came away with, when looking at how people are trying to define it. I took the liberty of re-dressing the Venn diagram presented in the Woodsmoke video and I would like to share it with you here.

  The part that spoke to me most was that piece of the Venn diagram in the very center. It is called "Core Bushcraft Skills" and speaks to the very heart of what Bushcraft is all about. 
   The way I have it figured, if I understand the center of it all, the core skills, the things that all the other areas have in common, I can explore all the other areas at will and become comfortable being in any of them. So than I have to ask myself, what are the core skills?
   I believe them to be related to the 5 pieces (some folks will expand this to 10) of bushcraft kit that are essential for living in the wild.
  The first thing is a Cutting tool. Whether it is stone, copper, iron or steel, you need a means to cut things and the skill to use it effectively.
  The second is a means of Combustion. Whether a hand drill, bow drill, flint-steel or ferro-rod, you need a means to make fire and the skill to control it. With fire, you have heat, protection, a means to purify water, cook, shape and make things and many, many more uses. 
  The third thing is access to Containers. Whether you make a clay pot, hollow out a piece of wood with fire, make birch cups and trays, weave a basket or carry a stainless steel canteen, whatever it is, you need a thorough knowledge of containers and how to make or use them.
   The fourth thing is Cordage. Whether you carry man-made cordage such as paracord, or use other types like jute twine or manila rope or if you have none of these, you need the skill and knowledge to make natural cordage and then a thorough understanding of knot tying and lashing with these materials to be able to construct things, such as shelters and pack frames and the like.
   And finally, the fifth thing is Cover. This involves a thorough understanding of the materials necessary to make clothing and shelter and bedding and other items. Just knowing the properties of wood and leather and wool and canvas and nylon and many other materials and the skill to use them in multiple settings is key to protecting yourself and your environment.
   Some would call this the "5 C's", others would continue to expand on it, but I think that they cut to the very core of Bushcraft. They are all very hard to come by in nature. To have the ability to create these things or to gather them as essentials and to understand how they relate to the "core skills", that experience is what I believe will help to define Bushcraft for you in your own way. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Confessions of a Canvas-oholic

Ok, I have to admit it. I am a canvas-oholic. At least the urge to buy canvas items for my kit does not strike me often. But then along comes this gun show and well, you know how it is.

And I don't really consider myself a traditionalist in any way, but I think that ever since my Dad bought me my first canvas boy scout pack, "the Yucca", I have always associated canvas with being in the out-of-doors and being in the wilderness in a real way. So I added this latest find to my collection, which includes my Yucca (still have it), a couple Duluth packs (a #3 and a #4), two USGI shelter halves, a Boyscout Voyager tent (which I just may convert to a hot winter shelter like IAwoodmans did), a Finnish Gas Mask bag (I love that thing and I blame BushcraftUSA member Panzer, thanks a lot brother.) and a couple of miscellaneous canvas pouches of unknown origin for tinder and other gatherings.

So now that you know the extent of my "illness", I still have not pulled the trigger on anything from Frost River nor have I considered any kind of 12 Step program. I don't really have a problem, yet. I console myself with the fact that there are many others who have it far worst than me. I could never pretend to compete with some of them, on any level, for their love of all things canvas.

With that said, here are a couple pictures of my $15 deal from a recent gun show and if you are as fond of canvas and leather as I am, you are probably already trying to think of a few good modifications for it. I will need to repair the shoulder straps a little, but otherwise it is in pretty good shape. I just might have to get the cargo pack that goes with it next. (You see how insidious canvas can get.)

Combat Field Ruck M1945
And yet another photo from the shoulder strap side...

  I think I will have to raise the should strap attachment points a little bit and possibly find a way to make the straps removable so that I can add an "over the shoulder" type strap like I have on my Finnish Gas Mask Bag. I will also consider some padding for the straps and some leather tie downs. This will be a fun pack to take out for some day trips.
   I hope this gets you considering what kind of pack works for you, whether it be a ruck for simple day hikes, something larger for the occasional overnight or the even larger 3 day packs. Whatever you consider, some kind of a container for all you stuff is an important piece of gear to consider and it is a very personal matter. In my opinion, you cannot go wrong with canvas and leather. Happy Exploring.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On Bushcraft Friends And Bushcraft Adventure

   On Friday, October 12th, I had the privilege to meet up with a good friend and fellow bushcrafter, BCUSA member "XMP" from the Twin Cities. Steve and I had met at the second annual Hardwoodsman Meet 2012 back in April. We had kept in touch thru BushcraftUSA with friend messaging and PM's and finally worked out a time to meet up once again. He had arrived on the previous day at the Minneopa State Park and had already explored most of the seven miles of trails that park has to offer. I had told him that I would come out Friday after work, and we could share a good camp fire and talk bushcraft and tell tall tales.
   We had a great time and it was good catching up and having a bit of a show and tell and just enjoying the warmth of the fire. It was totally overcast and there was a threat of rain in the forecast, so I was hoping it would not last long if it did. The plan was to get together again on Saturday morning for what I would like to call a regular Saturday morning meetup of bushcrafters at 9am in the Group Camping parking lot. I had invited some other members to come and meet Steve and I the following morning and as we parted company, we both figured that either way, we would make a good day of it, just exploring the park and taking time to practice some skills and the like.
   Saturday morning came and I arrived at 9am and Steve showed up a short time after in his black Jeep Wrangler. I remember thinking how much I like that Wrangler. I need to get me one of those some day. Nice bushcraft vehicle for sure. We wandered over to fill our canteens and in short order member "Steene" and his son "Camper Tater" arrived and it was game on.
   We got acquainted by getting our respective alcohol stoves going and making up some tea and hot chocolate for everyone. Then as we coped with a little drizzle, we headed out on a hike. Wade and his son Chris would not have a whole lot of time, but as we prepared to go out for a hike we worked on some natural cordage using fibers from some "Button Weed" that Wade had brought. Wade also showed Steve and I a hammock and a net he had made. He is very good at making nets. I hope he can teach me about this skill one day.
   We soon headed out and worked on plant and tree ID and I quizzed Chris on identifying some plants we found and what their uses were; cattail for natural tinder, thistle down for the same and mullein leaves for "toilet paper". We also stopped for a short time as I demonstrated using the scrappings of the inner bark of the paper birch to get a flame with a ferro rod. The guys liked that idea.
   Wade and Chris soon had to part our company and Steve and I continued the journey to explore more of the park. I was determined to bring him to some of the sites I frequent. Along the way, as often as I could think of it, I would take some video to record some of our adventure. We were having so much fun, it was hard to stop and think of making a video record of our adventure.
   We visited a debris shelter I had made in haste. (The one featured in the previous blog post) We examined various samples of animal scat, most likely coyote. We found an animal den, possibly fox. We explored some stream beds, saw birds of prey, and came upon a small garter snake trying to get warm.
   Here is the short video of our day trip adventure and I hope you enjoy it.

   We sure had a good time. I am so hoping for more expeditions and more time with my bushcraft friends. It is always fun to get together to explore, practice skills and to show and tell and tell tale tales. This is how you truly find the heart of bushcraft, by sharing it with others. Happy Exploring.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Re-Visit: A Simple Debris Shelter

   On August 28th, 2011 I posted a short story in this blog about a debris shelter that I had built out of a real necessity to stay dry. It was a rather cloudy and stormy looking kind of day and I really thought I might get dumped on by an incoming rain storm. So I set to the task of throwing up a lean-to just above an outcrop of rock and piled on some leaf debris to a depth of about a foot. This worked to give me a "temporary" shelter from the wind and the rain.
   As it happened, the rain never did appear and so I left this debris shelter setup in this remote location, in the event that I should need it again. I took some pictures and some short video clips and later put it all together for my very first video that I ever posted up to my Youtube channel. In retrospect, it is all kind of cheesy, with music and a couple of "walking in, walking out" kinds of shots and just very horrible production values. But for a first attempt at trying to create some content, it has stood as my benchmark so that I can look back and see just how far I have come in trying to create something better. I even got my first "copyright" warning from the fine folks at Youtube for using some music that might not be viewable in some countries (Germany).
   I have actually visited this debris shelter many times since than, and I thought it of some interest to capture some video yet again, after a year or so, to show you just how this kind of shelter has stood up. I have not refurbished it in anyway, and have been very fortunate that it has not been destroyed or vandalized, despite evidence that it has been visited by individuals other then myself.
   So here is a short video of how it looks today.

Thanks for watching and I hope this will encourage you to try building a simple debris shelter. It is a lot of fun and can give you a good idea of just how much time and energy it takes to build one. Happy Exploring

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Day Trip With My Bush Buddy

   It is always a pleasure to get out for a day trip and to explore with my bush buddy Christian. He always reminds of what it is like to be a kid. That makes for some really good bushcraft adventure. We really get in some good dirt time. He enjoys learning the things I can teach him and he teaches me things about being curious and observing and about getting dirty and wet and close to the things that really make it fascinating. He never gives me any excuses why he does not want to go. He always wants to be outdoors and on an expedition. He has told me flat out, he will never refuse an invitation to go "for a hike". I like that. He is faithful to his word. He is always good to go. He is my son and I love him.
   He challenges me to keep honing my skills, no matter what the subject might be some days. As he is learning more about bushcraft, he is challenging me in other ways. One example came up on this latest trip.
   We had sort of reached the end of our trail, following a stream bed and decided to stop, fire up my trangia alcohol stove and boil some water to make a couple cups of hot chocolate. As I was getting that going, he found a lost "Bic" lighter and wanted to see if he could use that resource to start a fire. I was sitting under a tree along the shore and asked him what kind it was. He said basswood and he was right. We then discovered a part of the tree was a deadfall, so he harvested some of the inner bark for tinder and challenged me to make a bow drill fire with some of what was left. I accepted the challenge. It was fun.
   Here is a video of our adventure that morning. It is a little long, but I think entertaining and especially if you like spending time with your kids. I hope you enjoy it.

   I am sorry that I did not get his success in getting a twig fire going with the tinder he had made up, but he did succeed in getting a fire going with the found lighter, all on his own. Just before the trip began, he was able to run a 7 point compass course that lead him to a water source and I thought he did quite well in that for a first timer.
   He is fast becoming a good bushkid and I look forward to many more trips and learning a few more things from him. Take the opportunity to get out with a kid and enjoy what "real" dirt time is all about.
Thanks for watching and Happy Exploring.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Finally A Meetup: BCUSA Minnesota Members

   I was quite excited on Labor Day Weekend, 2012 to finally meet up with some Minnesota members of BushcraftUSA. One of the members, "Steene" and myself have been playing email or personal message tag (PMing) on the BushcraftUSA forum site for some time, trying to arrange a meeting. But to no avail, we just could not make it happen. Then this Labor Day weekend came along and he said he could make it. I quickly contacted two other members, Gager and Little Jon and they agreed to meet us as well. We were on for what would be, at least for me, a first time "Meet Up" of Minnesota members.
   I let the guys know that I would be bringing what we would need to practice some skills and that I thought it would be great to work at friction fire and bow drill sets. I also brought some compasses to run a 7 point determinate compass course and if time allowed, we would hike out to find parts for a bow drill set to build from scratch and maybe work on some natural cordage skills.
   Well the friction fire practice was a lot of fun and here is a video of two of the guys and their very first attempts at getting a friction fire with a bow drill set.

   As you can see, both Steene and Gager were successful in their attempts and I must say it was well worth coaching them thru it, to see the smile on their faces. It was fun to be kids again.
   Next we went on to run a determinate compass course, which really was a set of 7 compass bearings they had to follow, each bearing they walked until they hit a barrier, such as a tree or a rock or landmark. The whole course did not take long and led them all to a source of water. It was a fun time, and if I had not been so involved walking thru it with them, I would have had more video. Maybe next time.
   Around noon, Little Jon and Gager had to leave, and Steene and his son and myself went on for a hike to gather for him some parts for a bow drill fire set. We settled on some boxelder and basswood and he tested it with a little burn in. He will be good to go for some practice. We also stopped long enough to harvest some wood nettle and make some cordage. Steene was very interested in that, as he is very adept at making nets. I am hoping to talk him into teaching how to make netting one of these next times we meet up. That will be fun.
   After we returned to the parking lot, we said our farewells and both agreed this will have to happen again. It was just to good of a time to let it happen but once. All in all, we made good friends and I know that this kind of adventure will continue and grow. Now I just need to get some more members to visit us here for our Saturday 9am meetups in the Minneopa State Park. Come and join us if you can. Every Saturday, 9am in the Group Camp parking lot to start.
   Happy Exploring my friends.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

So What Happened to August?

   Hello my friends and it is good to be back. The month of August was not without it's bushcrafting adventures. Quite to the contrary, I did in fact have a lot of adventures, but was very focused on enjoying the time with my best friend and bushcraft mentor... my Dad.
   For the entire month of August, every weekend and even for the first full week, I got to spend a ton of time with my father. He is still quick with a story, full of woodsman-like wisdom and still a boy scout at 81 years of age. It was absolutely the greatest to spend all that time with him. I really did want to write something up for the blog, but every moment just seemed so precious. So here I am finally to tell the tale.

Dad and I Visiting the Garrison, MN Walleye

   He told me stories of working his trap line as a kid going for mink and weasel and rabbit and about getting geared up to go fishing with his dad in the wee hours of the morning as his dad was getting off the night shift and about how he and his buddies use to just go out camping and spending time out in the woods, just for the fun of it. They were bushcrafting long before it would be called bushcraft. We recalled together a great number of boy scout camporees we had done together, and spoke of various canoe trips and hiking adventures.
   I even shared with him a number of videos of my most recent adventures in bushcraft. He was very eager to get back to Cheyenne and share them with his old boy scout buddies. They meet a few times a month to share and talk about scouting and he was sure that they would like to see what it was that I was doing. (blush)
   Now I really will have to work at making even better videos because I will have an even wider audience then I would imagine.
  Before he left to return home to his place in Wyoming, we worked to put together a good improvised "Flint and Steel" kit for him in an Altoids tin. We also put together a bow drill set, consisting of a basswood hearth board and spindle, paracord and a specially made bearing block handhold with built in bearing scrounged from a set of roller blades we got for $1.50 at a thrift store. I can only imagine what that might have looked like on the x-ray monitor at the airport when he checked in for the flight, with that in his carry-on.
   While we were spending time together, he tried getting an ember with the bow drill set. He came very close to succeeding. He had lots of smoke and lots of dust, but because he was still working on the mechanics of it all, just ran out of energy towards the end and could not get the final push of speed towards the end. But he is going to continue to practice and I know he will get it. He practiced several times and was getting down the body mechanics quite well the last time he practiced. Not bad for an 81 year old.
   He was also able to, on three occasions, to get a spark onto some charred cloth and then fold it into a tinder bundle of jute twine and bring it to flame. Awesome. He even made some charred cloth in his altoids tin from some denim cloth I provided him.
   We also worked on natural cordage and carvings and even a wooden spoon. We took a few short hikes and did some exploring and it was just good to feel the presence of my dad and to be a kid again.
    The best part was to be able to tell him how much I appreciated him teaching me all the bushcraft skills and things that he knew, as I was growing up. That I had become the woodsman that I am today because of him. That he had a legacy in me and that I was going to pass it on, and keep it alive by teaching my kids. I know he is proud of me.
   I am pretty proud of him. For one incredible month, I got to be a kid, a student, a mentor and most of all, a son. I had time with my dad. We had time to get aquainted again. We had time to do together, the things we both loved doing. We had time for bushcraft. I love you Dad!
   Happy Exploring my friends...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summertime Treat: Sumac-Ade! Pink Tea!

   Had some good dirt time on Sunday, despite a little rain, and so decided to treat myself to one of my favorite summer time drinks by harvesting some Sumac berries. They are just now getting to full ripeness around here and I just could not resist gathering some for a good, tart "lemonade" or rather "Sumac-Ade" kind of drink. This beverage, once finished, contains a lot of vitamin C and electrolytes and is a good energy boost when you need it.
   So here is a short video of the process I used and I hope that if you are in an area that has sumac and it has ripe berries, you will give this a try. It only takes a couple cups and an all purpose bandana to work as a filter.

 Dirt time is always more fun when food and drink is involved. Happy Exploring!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fun With The Summer Sun

   I always enjoy playing with different methods of starting fire and today I decided to experiment a little with the magnifying glass I have in my kit.
   First I found a piece of "false tinder fungus" or "horse's hoof fungus". Ideally it should be as dry as possible. I have found and used some in the past that was too moist and it would take a spark, but would not grow a coal. But today what I found was good and dry.
   Next I created a coal with a focused beam of sunlight with the magnifying glass. Next, after the coal had grown, I used some eastern red cedar bark as tinder and used it by pressing it gently against the growing coal. With a little coaxing from short breaths, it eventually caught a flame. Success! and a lot of fun.
   So here is the video of the process and I hope you enjoy it.

   A good reason for playing with false tinder fungus is to learn just how it will react and what are the ideal conditions for using it and for transporting a coal. It was not necessary to cut out the coal to put it in the tinder. This kept the fungus intact and this would allow easy transport and use later if needed.
   Be sure to give it a try. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bushcraft Is Not Just For Boys Part II

   Recently, I was once again able to meet up with some friends who are interested in learning bushcraft. We are now regularly meeting Fridays at 4pm and on Saturday mornings at 9am, for 2 to 3 hours, in a local state park to study and practice bushcraft skills.
   On this particular friday afternoon, fellow BushcraftUSA member "Emorgs" and her boyfriend joined me and my eight year old bush buddy, Christian, to practice firecraft skills. I started out by introducing them to friction fire methods and they had a chance to attempt getting a coal with a bowdrill and spindle. Then I demonstrated how flint and steel works with char cloth and finally I had Christian demonstrate the lighting of five man made tinders. He is very proficient at it for an eight year old, and gave a very good demonstration that Emorgs would then try to duplicate for her BushclassUSA lesson "Student Practice for Five Man Made Tinders". Here is the video I captured for her lesson. I hope you enjoy it.

   As I started out with the title to this blog entry as "Bushcraft Is Not Just For Boys Part II" because it was Emorgs and her bushclass lesson "Student Practice for A Twig Fire" that was featured in Part I. Young women are interested in bushcraft, and she is very committed to learning all she can and graduating Basic BushclassUSA.
   I hope even more young people will discover the fun of getting in some dirt time and learning bushcraft skills. The good news is, now her boyfriend is interested. I hope they keep coming to the friday meetups. The adventure will continue. Til next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, July 13, 2012

For Friction Fire Tuesday...

   Well, as it was Friction Fire Tuesday at BushcraftUSA, I decided to join in the fun and try my hand at it. More specifically, I wanted to try a wood combination that has been giving me trouble for quite awhile. So today it was Norway Maple on Norway Maple.

   To preface this, I would like to go back to the Hardwoodsman Meet 2012 that I had the privilege to attend back in April. Before the meet, I looked upon friction fire methods as something to know and to try occasionally, and I did have successes over the years, but it was nothing that I would "practice" on a regular basis. It was just "back pocket" kind of knowledge and more like an occasional party trick to pull out on a camping trip with friends.

   But at the HWM, I learned that it was something to be practiced, and studied and favored as one of the best and most advanced of skills you could learn as a bushcrafter. My eyes were open. I was hooked.

   On Thursday night, just before the Meet started on Friday, two guys came by my tent as I attempted to try a hand drill fire with a piece of mullein I had harvested and a piece of box elder for a hearth board.

   One of the guys, if I remember correctly was "Scooter" who I later would learn, would be the winner of the skills competitions for the Meet. The other guy was Ross or aka "Redmech", who I would later learn, was a friction fire wizard in his own right and had been studying friction fire methods almost exclusively since the last Hardwoodsman Meet in 2011. These two brothers, stopped long enough to help me get some finger loops fashioned and attached to my hand drill spindle. In the end, they helped me to succeed in getting an ember. Whoo Hoo!!

   I later discovered Ross had a great collection of wood types for spindles and hearth boards, all organized in what I think was a couple of large cases that made moving it all around, easy to setup, and to practice a great number of combinations. He showed me that organization was key to building a good practice  set. So from this, I started to label all my wood types. I am still looking for a case like his. I think it was something for storing a compound bow perhaps? Maybe a large gun or rifle case? I am not sure. Long, flat, wide. Something.

    Anyway, back to Friction Fire Tuesday. I just had to have some fun and got this video in the process.

   Before I wrap this up I would just like to say, "Where has the month of July gone?" Here it is, July 13th or rather Friday the 13th, my lucky day! and this is my first posting for the blog this month.  I have been really busy with lots of bushcraft adventures, I just need to stop long enough to just share it all with you, my friends.
Hopefully I can get some more video taken about some upcoming adventures. I will be meeting with some bushcraft friends soon to help them with bushclass lessons and I know that will be fun. Also, there will be more fun with friction fire. Until then, Happy Exploring and remember to get out and get dirty.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Failed Bowdrill Friction Fire

   Okay, so sometimes things just do not go as planned. Practice anything long enough and you will discover how many times you fail. You can not get good at anything without practice.
   Many years ago, a preacher friend of mine would tell this simple story. He had a friend who could sit down at the piano and play just about anything you put in front of him music-wise. He could play all the tunes and all the classics. He could even improvise for jazz, the blues, rock and any different venue. Then my preacher friend would say, "How do you suppose he had the freedom to play just anything he wanted?" It always came back to the same answer, lots and lots of practice and the learning of all the fundamentals. Personal discipline focused on the goal of learning everything he could about playing piano had given him the freedom to do what he wanted to do.
   Now flash forward in time to me, struggling today to get a bowdrill fire going. I know all the fundamentals, I practice friction fire methods all the time. As of late, I have been practicing almost everyday. I am almost addicted to making fire by friction. It is so primitive and yet feels so right. Yet, I know that I cannot get better at it without testing myself over and over again with different kinds of wood in different situations. I need to challenge myself with friction fire all the time to find the freedom to make it work more consistently. I am trying to build a collection of experiences both successful and failures, to teach me what works and when.
   Every friction fire attempt is different. Some days, the combination of woods fails utterly and then a couple of days later, you will get success almost immediately with the same combination.
   So earlier this month I attempted to challenge myself with making a bowdrill friction fire constructed from one single piece of dead standing willow I found along the trail. The only thing I allowed myself was one knife, one rope and my bearing block. The rest had to come from that one piece of willow. I fashioned my spindle, my hearth board and my bow and set to work, trying for an ember.
   So here is the attempt.

   I don't think I failed completely, because out of this I learned that my choice of cordage makes a big difference under certain conditions. The failure raised more questions for me, that I will have to explore yet in another outing, trying to do the same thing, the "One Stick Challenge."
   So until the next time, I will keep practicing and hope that this will encourage you to not give up on any friction fire challenge you set for yourself. It is truly a big part of the bushcraft adventure and well worth mastering. Until then, Happy Exploring.

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Having A Minnesota Bushcraft Anniversary

   First of all, I would like to thank all my family and friends who stop in to visit my Minnesota Bushcraft blog. This past year has been full of adventures, and in looking back, I can see that I have grown thru the practice of bushcraft as well as many of my friends.
   This site has grown and moved thru many changes as well. Looking back to the beginning, I can see where I struggled to find my audience, where I faltered at using my format and that I was just plain timid about putting anything of good content into my posts.
   But that has all changed and the new challenge of adding video and pictures and including my friends in some of the adventures has made this a much better place.
   As of this moment, Minnesota Bushcraft has received 4,062 visits over the past year. That I would never have imagined. Though I can only see 16 subscribers, I know there are many of my friends at BushcraftUSA that stop in to read my meanderings and to see the latest goings on from my place here in southern Minnesota.
   Since joining BushcraftUSA (also about a year ago), I have completed the Basic BushclassUSA Certification thru the online BushclassUSA courses and have had the privilege to lead some of my friends into the BushclassUSA classes and they too have completed a few lessons, which has given much fodder for sharing their adventures here at Minnesota Bushcraft.
   This past year's Minnesota Bushcraft highlights include the coverage of the BushcraftUSA sponsored 2012 Hardwoodsman's Meet Up in April held in the great state of Missouri. The completion of my BushclassUSA course with an overnight on the fifth outing, in 20° F weather in a debris shelter. The many lessons and outings for BushclassUSA, which helped to fill many of my postings. And of course, the chances to share what some of my friends are now doing with bushcraft which even includes my post about "Bushcraft is Not Just for Boys."
   A special thanks has to go out to my bush buddy and constant wilderness companion Christian, for all of his energy and excitement and enthusiasm. He never refuses to go out in the wild with me and would give up TV and all the video games and sometimes even his other friends, just to get out and explore the wilderness and to learn all that he can. I hope someday he is a bushcraft master and can teach me a thing or two. For a kid of just eight years of age, he sure has learned a lot about bushcraft in the last year.
   Lastly, I would like to thank my Dad, for giving me the chance to learn from him all those many years ago. First as a scout and then secondly as a leader and mostly as his son just learning bushcraft, even when we didn't know to call it that back then.
   This next year I know will be filled with even more adventures, and I am hoping you will continue to share in them with me. Please feel free to comment, and to let me know what you are doing with bushcraft, especially if you are living in Minnesota. We have it wild here and Minnesota is a great place to practice bushcraft. It has in it's very heart and in it's history the very soul of bushcraft.
   Until next time, Happy Exploring.