On Discovering Self

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Partial Solar Eclipse 2012

   Although not particularly bushcrafty, I would still like to share with you a short moment in time, when I got to observe this years Solar Eclipse. In this part of the country, southcentral Minnesota, the eclipse happened starting around 6:30PM local time and ended for us around sunset at 8:40PM.
   It was a great and wondrous sight and a very rare thing to have enough of the sun's light attenuated by the atmosphere at sunset that you could see the 60% coverage by the moon with a fleeting and quick glance.
   It made me wonder how are paleo-ancestors might have felt if they saw part of the sun being "swallowed up" by some unseen celestial monster or demon. Would they feel cursed? Would there be much fear? Or would they see it as a sign of good fortune and know that it was the moon and the sun dancing together in some kind of celestial romance?
   Whether a good or bad sign, I took it for what it was, a great chance to get out and see how celestial mechanics works first hand. Although, I did call my girlfriend to share the moment and felt a little romance.
   As for the scientist in me, I set to work setting up my Canon SD800 with the "hacked" firmware CHDK and a working script to capture some time-lapse photos. I also used the newer firmware options to set my shutter speed up to 1/1600 of a sec so as to get only the solar disk, with none of the flair. Focus was a bit of a problem, even as I had it set for infinite and total digital zoom.
   In the end, I was able to capture the last 10 minutes of the sunset and then later compress it to about 10 seconds of video. So here is that short clip and I hope that you too had a chance to get out and see this event. Enjoy.

   So the next time you are out doing some bushcraft, and you experience some great natural phenomena, let your imagination travel back in time and try to feel what your paleo-ancestors felt when such a thing happened. Find their mindset, and enjoy the learning and the emotion that was theirs to live. It will help you to find again that great kinship with the landscape that is bushcraft. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tarp Shelters: Should You Have Some Sort Of Cover?

   When I first started on my BushclassUSA Basic lessons in the fall of 2011, what I soon discovered was that the lessons not only gave me a chance to continue to polish my skills in bushcraft, but they also gave me a good list of things to do while I was out in the bush. Each adventure came with a challenge and the effort and energy I had was used to focus on accomplishing something. It gave some needed structure to the activity. Not that I don't enjoy going out in the wilderness, with no plan in mind. In point of fact, a lot of my best adventures come from the unplanned explorations and discovering what skills I need to use along the way.
   But if you are going to go out with a purpose, then following the lessons for BushclassUSA is about as good a plan as any. Besides, you get course credit and that makes it a lot more interesting especially when you have to record the event for future postings to the Student Practice threads.
   One of the very first lessons I completed, really came about as a whim. I had my USGI Poncho with me, and I had some paracord of various lengths in my "line" kit. As I was out and about, and it was a little cloudy and looking like it might rain, I thought maybe I would just setup my poncho as a shelter and in so doing, accomplish yet another lesson for bushclass and maybe in the process figure out some other things I could put together in my "line" kit, like toggles and tent stakes and such. I also wanted to see just how fast I could create a shelter from what I had on hand. Here is what it looked like, once it was up.

I discovered that once I had all the pieces together that it took about four minutes to hang the poncho (or a tarp in any case) between a couple of well placed trees. The nice thing about the USGI Poncho is that it can also double as a piece of rain gear or if the poncho liner is tied into it, can act as a light duty sleeping bag with pretty good water repellency, almost like a bivy sack.
   I still carry my poncho around in at least one of my day bags, but since that time I have purchased the Bushcraft Outfitters M.E.S.T.
   That is the Multipurpose Emergency Survival Tarp . It is an amazing piece of gear and now goes with me on nearly every outing, freeing my poncho to be what it was meant to be.
   Flash forward to one of my latest adventures shared with some new bushcrafters practicing their BushclassUSA lessons. My good friend, Little Jon, decided to accomplish his "Student Practice for a Tarp Shelter" by hanging his newly purchased MEST for the first time. He also got to learn some valuable knots at the same time, and will most probably post that lesson up as well, just as soon as he can get some pictures taken. Here is a short video I made covering Little Jon's lesson this last Saturday. (I mentioned his other lesson of that day in the previous post)

   Shelter building is an essential part of the bushcraft skill set, and it is one that needs mastery in many different forms, from the simple tarp shelter to the simple debris shelter and then to even the larger wiki-ups for many more individuals. It begins with a good grasp of necessary knots, cover materials (nylon versus canvas, etc.) and a good understanding of natural materials and their insulating and waterproofing characteristics.
   I am sure we will explore more of these things in future posts, but I wanted to share what we have been doing lately and encourage you to try a few things yourself. Consider get the MEST as I posted the link above. It is a good piece of gear at a good price. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Friends and FireCraft and Fun

   Wow, it has been two weeks already into the month of May and I have yet to share any of my recent adventures in Bushcraft. But I have not been slacking, no way. This is prime time in this part of Minnesota to get out and enjoy the weather and the wilderness. Maybe I have just been to busy to write anything or maybe just having too much fun. Whatever the excuse, it has all been worth it. The adventures continue.
   As I have shared in previous posts, I have given a standing invitation to some new BushcraftUSA members to join me every Saturday morning at 9AM, rain or shine, to go out for 3 or 4 hours and practice bushcraft skills and for them to work on BushclassUSA Basic lessons. I have been leading them thru the various lessons that require some outdoor activity and so far we have been having a really great time of it.
   On this past Saturday's adventure, I was joined by my young bush buddy Christian, member Little Jon (who is a teacher at the college where we work) and a friend of his from school, actually a college student of Jon's who also happens to be named Jon (spelled the same he says) and New Jon's son Taylor, who happens to be seven years old and a good companion for my eight year old bush buddy. Got all the players straight?
   Anyway, we started out meeting in a parking lot near the wilderness we were going to explore and I decided while I was waiting on Little Jon to finish a phone call, that I would practice some firecraft of my own and got out my hand drill, hearth board and finger loops and knife. Shortly, they were all gathered around as I was working diligently to get an ember out of the mullein hand drill and the box-elder hearth board. Soon I had a coal, which rested on my knife and I was able to gently transfer it to some tinder (shredded cottonwood inner bark) and blow that to a flame. I was amazed as usual.
   But the expression on Little Jon and New Jon's faces was worth even more, as they both said that they had never even seen that done before, except in the movies. I know at this point you might be thinking, "no pictures, so it didn't  happen" but if I had not been actually doing it, I might have been taking pictures so you will just have to ask Little Jon on this one, or trust me, either way I was pretty excited to show them this way of making fire.
   A little while later, we were all headed out to our usual campsite to practice some more firecraft. Little Jon was going to try for his "Student Practice for Feather Sticks and Shavings" and maybe get in another lesson. New Jon and his son Taylor busied themselves by watching me go thru various fire starting methods with Little Jon.
   It was at that point, I decided to demonstrate yet another fire making method by using my flint and steel and some charred cloth. Soon the cedar bark tinder was burning and we had yet another method for making fire.
   After demonstrating to Little Jon how to make feather sticks and shavings, I had a pile of shavings which were just ripe for a spark from my firesteel. So, you guessed it, I touched off that little fire with shavings alone and was able to demonstrate yet a third method of starting fire.
   Now these guys are really excited and New Jon was seriously looking into joining BushcraftUSA and getting started on the Bushclass lessons. Big smiles all around.
   It was finally time for Little Jon to do his lesson and so I set to the task of trying to capture it with photos and video. He has got to start doing some of this for himself, and I know he will, but here is a video of Little Jon's adventure in bushcraft doing his lesson "Student Practice for Feather Sticks and Shavings." I hope you enjoy it.

   We had a great time at all of this and Little Jon was able to complete yet another Bushclass lesson after doing his firecraft lesson, but I am going to share that little adventure in my next blog post.
   Until the next time. Happy Exploring.