On Discovering Self

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

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