On Discovering Self

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflections On Passing Into Fall

   I couldn't let the month of October pass without blogging about some of my latest adventures. Not that I haven't been doing anything lately. On the contrary, getting out in the wilderness, practicing bushcraft skills and just enjoying all the wildlife preparing for winter and everything else that is going on around me, is always on my mind.
   Back in August, my good friend and brother in bushcraft, Sticker, finally got a job. He had been searching long and hard for one. I am very happy for him. He's glad to be back at work, but it has not afforded him much time for bushcraft, working swing shifts and all. I know he misses it and I miss having him join me on Saturdays for some great bushcraft adventure or mis-adventures. I miss the comraderie and the fellowship that comes with sharing that common interest. I can't wait to see what his next knife will be, or his next pack, or to share with him my latest kit build and some new finds.
   I miss my friend. But I can't help but to continue to go out into the wild and to explore and to search and to find and to play and have fun. I need the dirt time. I need to get out. I want to show my brother all the new things I've found out there, in the wilderness, passed all the civilization, down by the river, or out on the prairie. I am happy to just be out there. But I still miss my friend. I hope he makes it back to bushcraft.
   Out on a recent hike, I passed by a part of the prairie that is in the state park I frequent. Earlier in the year, around the 4th of July, this part of the prairie was ablaze with a fire that had been set by the use of fireworks by one of the patrons of the park. He didn't know any better and set the fire by accident with a stray bottle rocket.
   In a curious turn, as I hiked pass on this occasion, the prairie was ablaze again only this time by the changing colors of the sumac plants that had recovered enough from the July fire and were now turning their glorious fall colors. Truly the prairie was starting to recover.

   As fall was fast approaching, my thoughts turned to continuing to discover just what wild edibles were still left after a summer of enjoying all the great black raspberries, wild strawberries, basswood leaves, cattail, nettle, wood sorrel, crab apples and many other trail side treats too numerous to mention.
  This time of year the black walnuts are just at their peak. They are so tasty and I cannot remember a time that they were this sweet. You can make an entire meal out of them, they are so very filling.

   On yet another recent Saturday hike I came upon a wild rose bush. The bush was absolutely covered with bright red rose hips. They were so large, they could have almost been crab apples.


   After collecting several and shucking the seeds out of them, I ate until I was satisfied and wondered if I should collect even more to make a spot of tea later. I will definitely keep that bush in mind for the next hike, as the rose hips will remain for some time and be good even into winter and after the first snowfall.
   Even though the fall brings with it the beauty of its changing leaves, there is also the golden shades of colored sunlight as it filters thru the autumn birch leaves. The ever changing skies remind us of the passing summer, with its stormy looking clouds while at the same time can also change to show us the high, icy cirrus clouds that will accompany winter.

   By now, even some of the more dangerous plants of summer, begin to show a beauty that tends to deny their evil nature. I have found that even poison ivy likes to join in the party by changing its colors.

   All things considered, it has been a great fall so far, and I have continued to enjoy all of it and its splendor. I think fall to be my favorite time of year for the most part, though spring in Minnesota would follow as a close second.
   Bushcraft of course helps me to enjoy it. It draws me to woodlands, it works to complete me and give me peace of mind. The kinship I have found with the landscape as I have found it, has made my little part of the wilderness my home. It does not matter what season it is, I have lived and experienced all of them here in my woodlands.
   Winter will be here soon enough, and yet I know I will find life out there. Not a cold and barren landscape, but something inviting. There will be new things to see, discover and to bring back and share. And I promise to bring you along my friends. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On Craftin' Some Spoons

   Well here it is, September already, and actually the bushcraft adventures have continued, I have just not slowed down long enough to blog about them.
   My good friend and brother in bushcraft, Shonuffisthemaster, continues to have some success in getting a regular attendance at his Saturday morning meet-ups at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, MN.
   A few Saturdays ago, I decided to leave my usual Saturday 9AM meet up at the Minneopa State Park, and head up to the twin cities to see just what kind of activity my friend had going on up there.
   I met four very nice people on that day. Well, actually closer to 3.5. Let me explain.
   In the morning, I met Appleshoe and her husband and their baby, Edric. (I think I got that right.) Anyway, we had a great time, with Shonuff' and I showing them the wonders of friction firecraft. After which, we all went out for a hike, looking for wild edibles and medicinal plants, before the afternoon session would get started at 1pm.
   I really look forward to meeting them again. We all shared a great enthusiasm for the outdoors and learning and practicing primitive ways. As a family, they were very much involved in self reliance and sustainability and will bring much to our little group.
   You can read a comment from Appleshoe posted in my previous blog article about "Backyard Bushcrafting."
   Then in the afternoon, I met Donnie. Donnie demonstrated some very good skill with friction fire and cooking and other things. I hope he is able to meet more of the others, including some of the BushcraftUSA members, who have said they plan on coming out on some Saturday.
   As Donnie and Sho' prepared for lunch, I decided to see just how long it would take to craft a wooden spoon out of some basswood that I had harvested while we were out on our hike. My goal was to finish it in the time it took to prep the fire, start the fire, prep the food and cook the food and then serve it up. I hoped it would be done by then.
   I got to work on it and after a bit, with only my SAK Farmer and my Mora spoon knives to work with, I had this rough image of a spoon...

      Within a few minutes after finishing the spoon, lunch was served and the spoon performed perfectly...

   I was really glad to have my Mora spoon knife in my kit and I have decided that it will become part of my essential gear, for with it I can forge containers and those are hard to come by in the wilderness.
   Flash forward a couple more weekends, and it is now Labor day. I had the privilege of getting out on a Saturday morning as usual and meeting with my friend and fellow bushcrafter, Sticker from BushcraftUSA. He and his family were spending a weekend in the same state park where we hold our meet-ups. So naturally I had to visit.
   While I was there, I stumbled on a great piece of basswood that was just begging to be made into a spoon. I decided that I would try for something a little larger, maybe a soup spoon or a ladle and really try to sand and finish it up nice. Here is what the roughed out version looks for now.

   This is still a work in progress and as of right now, I am slowly finishing the outside and am beginning to shape the bowl for just he thickness to allow good soup eating or ladeling.
   I have to say, making a spoon is a great bushcraft project and it sharpens your knifecraft skills to allow you even more control when it comes to making other things.
   I guess next I need to tackle the chicken stick. More on that later of course. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On The Value Of Backyard Bushcraftin'

    There is just something that is always adventurous when it comes to spending time with my bush buddy Christian. He is all of nine going on twenty and keeps me thinking young. He challenges me and helps me to see that bushcraft and being in the woods is all about being a kid.
    We all know that kids don't have a lot of fun if they are uncomfortable or feel left out or are left alone with their own fears and doubts. So if being in the woods and having fun is like being a kid, and getting in some dirt time is also about being a kid, then it presumes that we are getting comfortable with the bush.
   That is why I do not underestimate the power of the back yard when it comes to bushcraft. It is a taste of the familiar, with a mix of the wild and it works as a place to practice and walk thru the rite of passage into the wilderness. It just takes some imagination and most kids have it in spades.
   A kid just gets really only one "first time" to sleep out under the stars, before he realizes that the next time he does, it won't be his first. It will just be another night, maybe special in its own right, but not like the first. So it was with that in mind, I decided to build a small fire pit in my backyard, line it with some rocks and sand and begin to setup a camp.
   I was going to ready the camp for Christian's first night out under the stars and to spend some time with me bushcrafting, cooking, whittling and in general just having some boyish fun. I knew he was going to like it.
   As I said, I started with making a fire pit, which looks something like this...

 I had gotten the fire going with my bow drill set, as I figured it is the first fire in the pit I would start it with something special. Here is the bow drill set I used, a little basswood on basswood...

Then I started on some water to heat up for a good cup of tea which seemed like a good idea...

I used my stainless steel "Little Jon" grill which was made by a good bushcraft friend of mind that knows his welding. Next I put together a pot hook and setup one half of a USGI canvas shelter or "pup" tent...

After making final arrangements to pick up my bush buddy, we went out for a hike along some local trails and then returned to the backyard to cook up some good food for supper. We made vegetable shish kabobs and chicken fillets...

The chicken was looking fine...

After a pleasant evening and eating and chatting and telling stories, we both settled into our open shelters for the night. The temperatures got down to about 53°F and there were very few mosquitoes.
My bush buddy tried to sleep in, but I got him roused and awake for breakfast. He seem to roll off of his mattress pad during the night and got a little cold, so I wrapped him up in my wool blanket...

 We soon had the fire revived and hot water on to boil so we could make some cocoa and hot oatmeal for breakfast. He decided he wanted Campbells Double Noodle soup instead, go figure, but the pot hook worked great with the 10cm Zebra Billy can...

   In the end, it was a great time and we grew closer together. I know this will be something we will do again and again and as he gains confidence, we will be able to make that transition to the woods and the wilds and who knows, someday he may just decide to make a solo trip of his own and begin to learn the things that I have learned and to feel the kinship with the landscape and to begin to feel at home with the wilderness wherever he may go. I want him to feel the things that I have felt and to someday, share those with his son. Then I know I will have done him right.

   As the saying goes...

    A USGI Shelter Half... $20
    A 10cm Zebra Billy can...  $30
    Spending a night out under the stars with my son... priceless.

Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, August 12, 2013

On Lessons In Knife Sharpening: The Mora Flat Scandi Grind

   If you have followed my blog as of late, you will know that I have recently been attending a few meetups at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, MN hosted by my good friend and brother in bushcraft, fellow BushcraftUSA member, Shonuffisthemaster.
   I soon learned after a few meetings that Sho' has a particular knack for getting a scary sharp edge on his knives, and especially the beloved Mora.
   The Mora knife has a wide and flat scandi grind that lends itself perfectly to being sharpened on a flat grinding stone, such as the Japanese water stones.
  Eventually, Sho' and I talked about how he wanted to create a few videos that would cover the basic processes of sharpening knives, and that he wanted to start with the Mora and the scandi grind.
   So on our last outing together, we started on making the first video in what I hope will be a series of very practical lessons on knife sharpening.
   My good friend Sticker and I got together on that Sunday, to head up to the cities to spend some time at the park reserve and it was also the first time that Sticker and Sho' met.
   As you can guess, most of the skills practice was about knife sharpening. We did get out for a hike and some wild edibles foraging and later did some practice with constructing some figure four deadfall traps.
   Here is the video trip report and a shortened version of Sho's knife sharpening lesson, which is actually about 27 minutes long and can be found here, Knife Sharpening Lesson 1

   I heard later from Sho' that another member of BushcraftUSA, that lives in or near the Twin Cities, had seen this posted video on the BushcraftUSA Trips and Expeditions section or Minnesota section and decided to join him and his friend on their recent Saturday get together. So I guess the videos are having a great effect on getting some members going out for some skills practice.
   Well I hope you enjoyed the video and I look forward to sharing my next adventure with you all. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Simple Sheath For The SAK Farmer

   It is not very often that I get the chance to blog about a project that really adds to the utilitarian nature of my kit, but recently I put together a knife sheath based on a design presented by IA Woodsman on the BushcraftUSA forum site. Here is a link to that post and the video of his DIY-SAK-Farmer-Pouch-Sheath .
   I had acquired a long piece of a seat belt as a discard from a vehicular extraction training exercise that was held during our Fire School training weekend at the college where I work. So this project was a perfect way to use that webbing. It just seemed like I had all the right pieces, so I set to work on it.
   Before sharing the photos of my finished project, I have to share that of all the knives I own, I seem to get the most our of my SAK Farmer. It is about the most used tool I have in my kit when I am out and about in the wilderness.
   I am not saying this by any means as an outright endorsement or knife review per se, but simply stating that it is hard to go wrong if you choose a SAK Farmer for your bushcraft kit. I use the knife blade for all kinds of fire prep and carving needs and the saw blade for harvesting all manner of woods for various projects, and the awl is near perfect for drilling holes and using with my fire steel to get sparks and an ember going in my tinder bundle.
   The SAK Farmer has been a long time friend for me in bushcrafting and for that reason it holds a special place in my kit. So it only seemed fitting to make a sheath for it to make it easier to get to and to add even more function combining it with a lanyard and fire steel for fire making.
   I used the seat belt webbing for the main body of the sheath, one of the seven core strands of an eight foot piece of paracord for the whipping and stitching and a three sided sail cloth needle to push thru the three layers of material. Also the metal "D" ring was welded up and made by a friend of mine who used some O1 tool steel, because he was out of stainless, so now with the right piece of flint it throws a few sparks. The "D" ring will work perfect to hold the lanyard for my fire steel that will go in my pocket, while the knife sheath goes on my belt. What a nice addition to the mix.
   Here are a few photos of how the project turned out.

The finished sheath...

The knife length for comparison...

Tucked away and a view of the belt loop...

   The belt loop is just wide enough to accommodate a wider pack frame waist belt if needed or even a USGI canteen belt.

   I think it turned out pretty good and as I understand it, this little project may be one of the next electives offered for the BushclassUSA classes. I guess that means I have the elective done now, I hope. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Simple Time, Simplest Things, Simply Fun!

   You know how there are times when you are out and about in your place of wilderness, and you really have no particular bushcrafting kind of skill thing in mind?
    But you just want to have some fun anyway? So you follow your whims, make it up as you go along, try to invent something, improvise a tool or an item of use?
    Well, that's what I did on this days outing. I think it was just one of those days.
    I didn't have much time to spend on the trail, so I conjured up a simple item that allowed me to practice some natural cordage processing skills and to dust off some not so often used weaving skill.
    Every time I go out exploring, I find myself looking for resources. Once you are familiar with things, everything you see takes on a whole new meaning.
   Trees are just no longer for shade, they become sources for food, tinder, cordage, water, shelter, fire making materials, fuel for fire once its lit, landmarks, direction indicators, potential camp chairs and tables and poles for rigging tripods and making pot hooks. I think the list seems endless.
   All manner of plants, both edible and non-edible (and the poisonous) become important for sustenance and materials for making things like cordage and spindles and tinder and for medicinal uses and the like.
   Everything you see around you on the landscape takes on a new perspective as you find that kinship with it. And with the familiar, comes comfort and security, knowing that it will provide for you if you take care of things.
   So it was on this particular day, I was looking at cattails. I have been spending lots of time with the cattail lately, learning what it has to offer in all its seasons.
   I've eaten it's roots, stalks, pollen and the pollen making parts so it seemed only right to explore using the tall grassy part of the plant for something. I decided to weave myself a place mat.

 I had found the reeds and some willow stalks nearby and sat down to the business of making up some cordage from the willow, so that I could tie together my "venetian blind" as it were.
   Next I weaved some additional reeds into one end to reinforce it, so that anything heaving would not fall through.

Next I rolled up one end to for a "scoop-like" basket that could hold a few items.

Then it was time for testing it out, by collecting some very "sticky" sumac berries that are just starting to come into season and will be ripe for making into sumac-ade or "pink tea." It is a great summer time treat.

  I was thankful that I did not have to use my bandana, as the berries were beginning to weep some of the sour juices that make it such a good choice for a beverage. Later, I used the scoop basket to collect some pencil lead sized twigs to use in my Emberlit stove.

   It was a good time to just play around, and knowing the basics of weaving with reeds, gives you options for making even more containers and fish traps and the like. Weaving is an essential and often over looked bushcraft skill. I really need to play around with it some more.
   I hope my friends that this will give you a quick idea on what you can try the next time you are out there and looking for something fun to do. I think it would make a good project to do with kids and the natural cordage processing is a very valuable skill to have for a lot of other things.
  Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Sharing Bushcraft With Others

   If you have been following along with my recent adventures, you will know that I have been visiting my new found brother in bushcraft and friend Shonuffisthemaster, for his hosted meet ups at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, MN. As of July 14th, 2013, I think he has held six meetings so far and had three individuals show up on three of those meetings, not of course counting myself.
   I feel his frustration. He told me at this last Sundays meetup that he has counted 18 BushcraftUSA members and other friends, who have expressed interest in coming to the weekly meetings, many who want to practice skills and get in some dirt time. Some say they want to come to introduce their family members to bushcraft and are looking for a good days adventure. Yet others want to start on bushclass lessons and pick up a simple skill here or there.  For reasons unknown, few make the journey, even when he has offered to give them a ride.
   I know that life can interfere sometimes with other things in life. Adventure comes more easily with convenience. Sometimes dirt time just has to take a back seat and so it goes with bushcraft.
   It is within our human nature to take the easy way out, conserve energy, rest up when it is needed, taking the time to nurse the aches and pains of the previous days demands and to roll over and go back to sleep when the alarm goes off on Saturday morning reminding you that there is a bushcraft meetup at 9AM and you wanted to go for sure on Friday night, but the movie lasted way into the night and the dinner was heavy and now you just feel... well, sort of our of sync with it all.
   I think of these things, as I am sitting in my car, in the parking lot, on a Saturday morning at 9AM, with the rain coming down, and the clouds getting blacker and thicker and the wind is blowing. I think of what it is that is in me, that drives me to get out of bed every single Saturday and get into my "greens" and load up my kit and go to the meet up point for a mornings and afternoons worth of dirt time. What drives me to do this? Am I insane? Do I really like bushcraft and the outdoors that much? And why isn't anybody else wanting to do what I do? Where are all the interested bushcrafters who talk about coming to practice skills and to get involved? Yes, I do feel his frustration, we are a rare breed indeed.
   So when I arrived at the Sunday meet up, I was glad to hear from Sho' that a friend of his was going to be arriving for the afternoon session and that she was bringing her 4 year old son. She was interested in learning more about what bushcraft was all about. I knew we would be able to demonstrate several things for her, and help her to make her own bow drill set and try a few more things.
   As it was, Sho' and I went out for our usual walk about and then later returned to the meet up point for more skills practice. Here is a list of the things we did throughout the day.

Morning Session and Hike -
•Cordage practice - square laying, parallel lashing
•Improvised simple compass with magnetized sewing needle
•Knife sharpening - mora
•Wild edibles ID - black raspberries, wild crab apples, wild grape ( non-ripe)
•Medicinal plant ID - white yarrow, plantain, willow inner bark
•Non- edible ID- bush honeysuckle, buckthorn, Virginia creeper
•Poisonous plant ID - poison ivy, virginia creeper
•Practiced animal tracking - studied dog tracks and measured and direction
•Sourced natural cordage material - willow bark, basswood, nettle

Afternoon Session with Guest and son -
•Bow drill fire - red cedar spindle and hearth, jute tinder, shavings
•Built fire for lunch with splitwood
•Knife Safety and assisted guest to build bowdrill set
•Hand drill with chemical assist- sugar and potassium permanganate
•Flint and steel - demo and assisted guest
•Practiced deadfall setup with promontory peg trigger
•Made a Digging Stick
•Cooked kabobs over fire

   All the activities were fun as usual, but the highlights for me were making the improvised compass, as seen here in this picture,

    and demonstrating the use of the hand drill for getting fire with a chemical assist of potassium permanganate and sugar.
   It was a great day and in the end, I was glad for Sho' that he was able to have a friend come and enjoy the time he spent hosting a great meet up. I sure hope he is able to get more people to come. Maybe as word gets around and more trip reports are share, others will see how fun it is and want to come.
  I know I have wished for the same thing for my little band of bushcrafters, if only they were as excited and passionate about bushcraft as my friend Shonuff and I are. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Willow Hand Drill, A Box Elder Hearth Board And A Little Modern Chemistry

   Although this is not your usual bushcraft idea for starting a fire, it does involve at first creating a hearth board with a good sized divot and a suitable sized hand drill that will roll easily between your hands and produce a little friction.
   By adding to this fire making solution a little modern chemistry, you can get fire relatively easily.
   Potassium Permanganate is the prime ingredient added to the hand drill and hearth board combination, along with some common sugar that might be part of any bushcraft or survival kit.
   Potassium Permanganate is a controlled substance in some countries, I believe that Canada is one of them, but here in the United States it can be purchased in bulk at any Lowes, Home Depot or Menards store in the section where water treatment supplies are stored.
   It is commonly used in the treatment of water as a de-ironing agent and for treating water in hot tubs, aquariums and pools and backyard ponds. It is used to combat algae growth and bacterial growth.
   It is commonly found in larger first aid kits and when mixed in the right ratios can act as a wound wash, although there is a lot of information out now that says this should no longer be used and to seek alternatives.
   Some people will have a small amount of potassium permanganate in their survival bag or kit, to use as a water purifier, wound wash and trace maker (if mixed in high enough concentrations it will write a message in the snow in purple).
   Although there are several risks with any chemical, having an awareness of the possibilities of its use in the event of an emergency, can give you just one more thing to try, if you need to make fire.
   So here is a video of my little experiment in mixing a little bushcraft with a little modern chemistry.

   I do not always carry potassium permanganate in my kit, but having used it a few times over the years, it does give a good emergency option. I hope you enjoyed the video and thank you for watching. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Bushcrafting A "Compass" To Draw A Circle, Make A Clock Face, Find Direction With Digital Watch

   I have always been intrigued with ways of finding direction and the means to navigate. I simply like maps. I love looking at all kinds of maps. I enjoy making maps and possess a lot of different types of compasses to use with maps. Maps speak to me sometimes of unexplored territory, or undiscovered resources and even far away lands that I will probably never see but can only imagine.
   The world of maps and cartography is so vast that you can get lost in all the pictures and drawings and historic content that has been recorded in the volumes of maps that have been created since the dawn of recorded history.
   We humans like to record where we have been. We want other humans to follow us, to know that we existed, there and in that place. Maps are a way of leaving our mark, of giving ourselves a measure of significance, if only for a short time. We want others to know we were there and maps record our passage thru time and space.
   So if I have waxed a bit poetic, it is because maps and navigation and pictures and the stories we tell of how we got out there and made it back, all of this speaks to the heart of bushcraft. Maps, whether in our heads or on paper, or on bark, or on a rock and whatever, they are our way of finding the connection and kinship with the landscape the helps us find our place in the world of bushcraft.
   It is no wonder I have a small love affair with maps and finding direction and knowing where I am. It helps me feel at home, it brings on the familiar, it brings a level of comfort knowing that I can always find home because I am there already.
   So this is why I like playing with methods of finding direction. It helps me to feel at home and it brings comfort in the knowledge that all of natures resources are within my grasp if I know where I am and know where those things are.
   I took the time on a recent Sunday outing to explore how to make an analog clock face, to be able to translate the time on my digital watch to it, so that I could align the hour hand with the sun and get a bearing for north and south.
   Here is a short video of my experiment in learning to draw a precise circle with an improvised "compass" and to divide that circle into a clock face, that would be re-usable and transportable.

   It was a great little project, and a lot of fun and in the end gave me even more ideas about how to create accurate circles and angles and compass roses and other thoughts on geometry and well, I guess now we are back to maps and map making again. We've come full circle and that's what it's all about. Finding our way home. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Foraging Wild Edibles: Cattail Pollen Stalks

   When it comes down to eating, there is nothing I like more than free food. Well, almost nothing more, except maybe finding free and wild food, specifically wild edible plants.
   On this particular day, July 4th, I decided to go on a hike out to one of my favorite spots. Along the way, I gathered some cattail pollen stalks that had not yet begun to shed any pollen.
    After cutting them to length to fit into my canteen cup, I boiled them for about 10 minutes with my Trangia alcohol burner and Canteenshop grill top stove.
   By the way, this was the first time I had the chance to try out my new Canteenshop stainless steel canteen and it's nesting stainless steel cup and grill top stove. It is a great combination and the perfect piece of kit for summer time use.
   The canteen holds a whopping 39.5 oz which is nearly 8 oz more then my regular USGI stainless steel canteen. During the summer, it is great to have the extra water along. The wide mouth of the canteen is also a great benefit and makes for easy cleaning or for packing it with snow in the winter for thawing and boiling.
   The cup has an internal measurement marking scale for easy mixing and cooking and is a very sturdy cup indeed.
   The grill top stove works like a charm and accommodated my Trangia alcohol burner with no problem.
   When all is said and done, this combination made for the making of a great little meal along with some lemonade mix and jerky.
   It was a lot of fun and a great way to past the time. The rest of the hike was spent on more edible plant ID and medicinal plant ID along the trail. Here is the video of that short, but fun, adventure.

   I have always enjoyed the spring and summer months for all the goodness that comes with foraging for wild edibles. The cattail is a good source year around, but the pollen stalks have to be found and used early as that stage of plant development does not last for very long. About this time of year, in this area, that time is nearly past.
   I hope you will be able to enjoy a little wild edible foraging this summer and be able to take advantage of nature's bounty. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ah Yes... The 4th Of July Weekend... Lots Of Bushcraft

   Well, it wasn't suppose to happen this way, but I decided to put in a very late request for some vacation time, that is for the Friday after the 4th of July on Thursday. I wasn't expecting to get the time off, but the manager said on Wednesday, around 3:30pm, "Get out of here, we'll see you Monday."
   Woo Hoo! I had a four day weekend ahead of me. Now, what to do, what to do?? To the woods!!
   Wednesday after work, I pretty much vegged, thinking about how I could sleep in on the 4th. It was too late to get a campsite at the local park, besides I have more fun during the daytime hours anyway, sleeping in a tent is sometimes just a nuisance.
   I would rather be awake and out and about and when you live that close to the woods, well it just seems to be a no brainer. Sleep good, and play hard the rest of the day out in the woods where you can put in some day long dirt time.
   So after sleeping in on the 4th, I headed out on the trail and that afternoon did some playing with the new canteenshop grill top stove and canteen and cup. You can see that adventure earlier in this blog.
   On Friday, the 5th, I headed out to the local stomping grounds for just some good alone time and a good long hike that would eventually end up being a great work out, with a few surprises and I learned the tale of a tragic event for the state park.
   It seems some campers were using illegal fireworks, and they succeeded in setting several acres of prairie and grassland on fire. The DNR officers I spoke with, said the culprit was lead away in handcuffs and fined heavily for his actions. They said he was ignorant to the point that he did not even think of reporting it at first and just sat and watched it burn for quite awhile. He admitted setting the fire "accidentally" but did not feel any urgency in notifying anyone of the park officials.
   Everyone was very sad, but we all know that the prairie will recover and life within it will go on.
   I finished my Friday hike and started again to look forward to Saturday and my regular meeting with some Minnesota members of BushcraftUSA.
   I met up with my friend Shonuff' at 10AM and it was already about 75°F by that time. We worked on some knot tying practice and then went out on a long hike to visit the fire scared prairie and to work on some edible and medicinal plant ID.
   We ate some wild black raspberries and gooseberries and watched for other edibles.
   Here is a list of most of the things we played with during our dirt time:

• Practiced knot tying including:
square knot, sheet bent, double sheet bent, directional figure 8 loop, alpine butterfly knot, siberian hitch, canadian jam knot, two half hitches, tautline hitch, prusik knot, klemheist knot, bowline, bowline on a bight, figure 8, double fisherman's, and finally the one handed bowline.
• Worked on Wild edibles ID: black raspberries, gooseberries, burdock, greater plantain, cattail (pollen stalk), lambsquarters, smooth solomon seal, salisfy (goats beard), canadian thistle
• Also worked on non-edibles ID: bush honeysuckle, false solomon seal
• Practiced on medicinal plant ID: jewelweed, white yarrow, greater plantain
• Practiced on utility plant ID: mullein (both 1st and 2nd year plants), wood nettle, stinging nettle
• Worked on Tree ID: found ash for making bowdrill spindle
• Demonstration of practical sling by Shonuff: as a primitive weapon, possible food procurement tool
• Worked on firecraft: split wood for kindling, scrappings for tinder, bowdrill with ash on basswood, some hand drill practice
• Prepared full meal: kabobs with chicken, veggies and a rice dish on the side cooked with improvised pot hook

  Here is a video of most of our activity and adventure and I hope that you like it.

   It was a great time as usual and we finished up around 5pm. A good long day of skills practice and good camaraderie has had. I only wish we could convince more members to stop by and join us, but I think that day is coming.
   Sunday brought yet another bushcraft project day, but I am going to tell that story in yet another blog post, as I work to catch you all up on my latest adventures. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Another Day In The Hyland Lake Park Reserve

   On June 30th, I once again made my way north to the Twin Cities and the Hyland Lake Park Reserve to meet with my friend Shonuff' for his regular 10AM meetup and skills practice.
   The weather was perfect to begin with, but I could tell it was going to be a warm day eventually and we would be thankful to be in the shade and in the picnic area on the hill, where the wind would keep us cool.
   As we hiked the trails, we worked on edible and medicinal plant ID, tree ID, some navigation and also some direction finding techniques.
   We eventually arrived at the Nature Center where we explored some debris shelters and their construction.
   Here is a list of most of the days activities in a nutshell:

•Land Nav- used park maps
•Direction Finding- used daytime moon to find "South"
•Worked on Medicinal Plant ID- white yarrow, greater plantain
•Worked on Edible PLant ID- wild strawberries, cattail, basswood leaves
•Observed wildlife- wild turkeys, osprey, various chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits
•Visited debris shelters and studied construction and visited 2 year old winter shelter
•Worked on Tree ID- Basswood, Willow, Red and White Oaks, Elm, Ash, Box Elder, Maples, Birch
•Practiced Friction Fire- bowdrill: basswood on basswood, 2 stick hearth board, natural and man-made tinders, false tinder fungus
•Practiced Fire by Magnification- sun to false tinder fungus to cedar bark tinder to flame

   Towards the end of the day, we were able to give several demonstrations of firecraft to a group of kids that were attending a birthday party celebration in the picnic area adjacent to ours. It was a lot of fun and the kids had a great time trying out the bowdrill and using flint and steel. Three of the boys worked together to get an ember with a bowdrill which Sho' was happy to help bring to flame for them.
    Here is the video of that days great adventure.
   As I did not have permission to be taking video of the kids, I was not able to capture their surprise and amazement on camera, but all around they were smiling and having a good time with learning about bushcraft. We shared the contents of our kits and talked also about the essentials and important skills to practice and also about the "rule of threes" and the sacred order.
   I have to call that outing and adventure a complete success and I look forward to going up there again. Hopefully we will begin to have some regular attendance and get to meet a few more Minnesota BushcraftUSA members so that we can begin to plan a multi-day event in the future.
   Thank you my friends for following along on my adventures and I hope you enjoyed the video. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Some Good Minnesota Dirt Time: On Natural Cordage, Land Nav And Cooking Kabobs

   On June 9th, I had made my way up to the Hyland Lake Park Reserve, in Edina to meet with my new friend and fellow bushcraft enthusiast, Shonuffisthemaster. You can read about that trip in a previous blog going back about 2 weeks ago. Sho and I hiked around the reserve and had a great time hunting resources and just getting to know each other. He was a great host, and I liked the area he had chosen for having future outings and meet and greets.
   On June 22nd, it was my turn to host a meetup and Sho came down from the cities to see where we have our regular meetings. We had a great day of it, and hiked about 4.5 miles, with temps in the low 80's by midday. We drank lots of water and worked on several skill sets along the way.
   I started by introducing him to processing and using nettle for natural cordage. Once he had some in hand, he processed an 18" piece in no time at all. Natural cordage is always fun to work with during the summer months, as there are so many choices.
   We worked at identifying some edible and medicinal plants and doing a little tree ID as well.
   At one point we stopped and I walked Sho thru the process of setting up a "shadow stick" so that he could see how to find direction using the sun. We also worked on some land navigation and practiced taking compass bearings and finding our position by using triangulation.
   We worked at getting a fire going with flint and steel, which was a challenge in the high humidity.
   He also gave me a lesson in knife sharpening that eventually had me shaving hair off of my arm with my BK14. He has quite the mad knife sharpening skills and I greatly respect him for that.
   We finished our day with kabobs on the grill and they were delicious.
   All in all, a very fine day and I think in the end, the stories and the photos and the video of our adventure will encourage others to join our group. It is our hope that it can become the great community of bushcrafters in Minnesota, that it can be.
   Here is the video of our adventure and I hope you enjoy it.

   It was a lot of fun to just get out and get in some dirt time. We could just be kids again and see things with wide eyes and amazement. I hope that more can join our respective groups and that they too will see that getting out and getting dirty is what brings life to their worlds of bushcraft. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sometimes It's Not About The Skills, But Rather Friendship

   Once in a great while, I get a vacation. It's great to get away from the usual grind and the week that followed this past Memorial Day, 2013 was a good time for that.
   The plan was to travel to Cheyenne,Wy and to visit my father there and to spend some time with my brother, who would also meet me there in Cheyenne.
   It turned into a great week, spending some time with my mentor, my dad, and helping him to organize his wood working shop and making things a little easier for him to get around in. At 82 years of age, things start to get a little more challenging, but it was sure great to see him in his element. He is a craftsman, and a jack of all trades and when we gifted him a new tool box to organize his tools, he was so excited to find some old "friends" and to put them to work. I know he is going to have a great time in the shop once again.
   After a few days of working together as family, my brother and I got a chance to slip away and do some hiking and exploring in the Curt Gowdy State Park, about 30 miles west of Cheyenne on the way towards Laramie.
   As kids, I remember always being at odds with my brother. He was the athlete and involved in all the school sports and as for me, I just liked being alone in the woods. Most times, we tolerated each other and he had his set of friends and I had the woods.
   Flash forward to our adulthood years and now we are the best of friends. I am not sure when I came to realize how much I appreciate my brother, but I now really enjoy spending time with him.
   So when we got the chance, we headed out for an afternoon of exploration and finding our way around the wilds of Wyoming.
   Here is a short video of our afternoon adventure. I have to apologize for the heavy amount of wind in the audio track most times, as we were experiencing 50 to 60 mph gusts with averages in the 30-40 mph range. Our altitude was around 7500 feet above sea level, so that might explain a little of what we were getting for winds.
   To the west of us, near Laramie on that day, they experienced a blizzard and received several inches of snow. Where we were, we got lucky.

   As I started out with the title, our trip was more about the friendship and just being brothers and even kids again, rather than doing to much that was "bushcrafty." Although we did find some pine pitch and some bone fragments that might have come in handy. It was a good trip and I will remember it with fondness.
   As always, thank you for watching and following along in my adventures.
   Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Getting That First Bow Drill Fire

   It is always good to share in your friends triumphs and for my pal and fellow brother in bushcraft Sticker, this is no exception.
   On our last Saturday's outing together, I encouraged him to try his hand again at getting a bow drill friction fire. He thought about it for a bit and with just a slight reluctance in his voice he said, "Sure, let's give it a try."
   Now I have to say on the onset that we were both looking to redeem ourselves after our last attempt together at friction fire, when we visited the Richard J. Doerer Memorial State Forest a few weeks ago, (see my earlier posting on the part II of that adventure).
   I got out all the necessary components for making the hearth and spindle set and Sticker set to work making a burn in divot and then carving his notch.
   We went over the mechanics of how to work the bow and also his body mechanics and finally settled on a longer spindle and a better hearth board. The whole time, I was so involved with helping him thru it, that I did not even get the video camera out of my pocket.
   It wasn't long though before he had a good pile of dust and that it began to cherry up and soon he was able to get the ember into some jute twine tinder and bring it to flame. His first ever bow drill fire and we had not gotten a single second on video.
   I know though that it wasn't as important as the experience and that he will always have that in his mind and muscles, but I was certain that if he could do it again and we could catch it all on camera, it would be just as sweet.
   So he set to work again, getting his spindle tension just right, working on his body mechanics, finding his rhythm, and slowly building up to speed while I diligently got it all on video. He had a couple false starts as the bow string was a bit loose, but have some minor adjustments and switching up the bow he was using, he was well on his way to his second "flame on."
   Here is the video of that second attempt, along with a few of the other things that we were able to do on that day and I hope you will enjoy the story of how my friend Sticker entered a whole new realm of bushcraft with his first of many more friction fires.

   Like I said, sharing in the joys of your friends triumphs is always a good thing. It sure boosted our morale for the day, and he can add one more method of making fire to his skill set. I am sure we will be playing with this now for the rest of the summer.
   If any of you my friends also know Sticker, be sure to give him a hearty "Congrats" on a new milestone for him in bushcraft. Just wanted to share the adventure. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, June 17, 2013

On Foraging Wild Edibles: Cattail, Nettle And Lambsquarters Soup

   You know sometimes you just have to get out. There is no stopping the urgency, you feel the compulsion to throw on your greens, lace up the boots and hit the trail. You look at the weather and it is about perfect. The need to get away and just be,  is well, overwhelming.
    It was those conditions that I found myself in, that compelled me to head out and explore and to get inspired to try something different. I decided to make soup along the trail.
    I have hunted wild edibles for many years and even though I do not consider myself an expert by any means, I know enough to get by. I know the things I like and can eat, and have eaten, and I have my favorites. There is a lot you can do with wild edibles and a pot to cook in or pan to fry in or even sometimes you just eat them all raw with a little oil and vinegar or a good raspberry vinaigrette. I'm talking about the many different edible plants that are so plentiful for most of the spring, summer and fall months.
   On this particular day, I saw many wild edibles including:
• burdock (for its rootstock)
• cattail (for its starchy root and the base of the stalk)
• dandelion (for its leaves and flowers)
• wild rose (for its petals this time of year)
• lambsquarters (for its leaves)
• greater plantain (for its leaves)
• purslane (which appears almost to be a "succulent")
• wood sorrel (a lemony flavoring)
• clovers (for the blossoms)
• stinging nettle (for the leaves)
• salsify or goats beard (for its root and flowers mostly)
• canandian thistle- second year (for its flower and inner parts)
(quite a few edibles available to me on that day and all are favorites of mine)

   And on this day, I was also looking for some wild asparagus that I had seen a patch of in previous years, but saw none so I settled for just some cattail stalk bases, lambsquarters and some stinging nettle leaves.
   I decided to take a little video of my foraging efforts and how I turned my gatherings into a delicious soup. So here is the video and I hope you enjoy it.

   It was a fun hike and a good chance to get away for awhile and to enjoy one of things I like about the passing of winter and the abundance of good things to eat. As you might have noticed, there was a lot for me to choose from and I know that there will be a lot more soon. I could see the wild strawberries were starting to bloom, and soon the wild crab apple blossoms will be out. There were even some wild violets to harvest and even the box elder trees were still running with sweet sap. Later the sumac berries will be coming out as well. There will be some much more to forage for as the summer goes on.
   Yes, it is a safe bet I will be eating a lot of wild edibles for the rest of the summer and I hope to increase my knowledge of even more wild edibles in my area as time goes on. It takes practice, but it is well worth the time.
   I hope this will encourage you to begin to learn at least a few of the wild edibles in your area and as always, be sure to check with a local expert before harvesting and eating any wild edible. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Outing In Hyland Park Reserve... Bloomington, MN

   On Sunday, June 9th I made my way north to the city of Bloomington, MN and to the Hyland Park Reserve for a "meet and greet" with fellow BushcraftUSA member "Shonuffisthemaster."
   Sho' and I had never met before this, except for exchanging some brief info on the BushcraftUSA forum site. Here is a link to that growing conversation thread, started by Sho' and a carried on by a few others who wanted to get this going. A Regular Meeting In The Twin Cities
   He has been interested for some time in getting a regular meeting going for local bushcraft enthusiasts, just like I've been trying to do here in southern Minnesota for the past year or more.
   I decided to meet with him, and offer my encouragement and to spend some time getting to know my fellow bushcrafter and together maybe practice some skills and pass on some ideas for up coming meetups. 
   Here is my trip report as I posted it on the BushcraftUSA forum "Minnesota Section" site.

  "First off, I would like to give a big thank you to Sho' for putting out the invitation and for taking the time and coming out to meet me and show me around his great park reserve. Hyland is a big place with lots of good resources and places to explore. I know we will all have a lot of fun out there in the future.
    For those of you who could not make it, you missed a great time. As it was just Sho' and myself, we pretty much followed our whimsy when it came to exploring and followed a lot of the trails looking for things of interest.
    Here is a list of the things we did, or practiced, or studied or just plain shared for show and tell and the learning and the joy of bushcraft...

• We worked on Tree ID which included the basswood, cottonwood, aspen, willow, green ash and elm and assorted oaks.
• Practiced natural cordage with harvested basswood inner bark.
• Searched for local wild edibles and ate some basswood leaves. Found basswood, burdock, dandelions, some cattails, out of season raspberry bushes, some wood sorrel and violets.
• Practiced some animal tracking with found deer tracks.
• Observed animals in habitat- wood ducks.
• Observed local fisherman catching pan fish. (food source)
• Harvested dead standing basswood for bow drill spindles and hearth board.
• Calculated pace for 100 meters for use with pace beads and map making practice.
• Practiced with compass and map making, pace count and pace beads, and estimated distances and use of triangulation.
• Made basswood spindles and hearth board and succeeded with making bow drill fire for each of us.
• Discussed kit components, (show and tell)
• I showed him my Ottomani Sun Compass constructed on a previous outing, as an idea for another Saturday meetup.
• I showed him an improvised steel and a flint and he tried his hand at getting an ember in some charred cloth.
• And finally there was a great demonstration by Sho' of field expedient sharpening of knives to hair popping sharpness. It was funny to see all that arm hair piling up on the edge of his knife. (It was amazing and I learned a lot and want to learn more. He has some excellent ideas and some mad knife sharpening skills.)

    I arrived at 4pm and left around 8:30pm and it was a great 4.5 hours of bushcraft fun and skills practice and I am sure we could have continued sharing more time and experience.
    I hope you are all jealous and now wondering why you did not make it.
    I will definitely try to make the next meetup and it will be even better if more will show up. There is so much we can do.
    Through the whole time, I gained a new brother in bushcraft and made a new friend and all of that thru the kindredness that is found in the joy and practice of bushcraft."

   I have to say, it was a very fun trip and well worth my time traveling the hour or so to get there. I will definitely go again and hopefully meet a few more members of BushcraftUSA from the Twin Cities area.
   I hope Sho' and his friends are able to get something regular going. I hope that it grows and flourishes and that many more like minded people will join in the fun. I hope that I can be a part of it on many occasions and look forward to getting a grand Minnesota meetup together with a few overnights to share with so many who call themselves "Bushcrafters." Until next time, Happy Exploring. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Bow Drill Fire... An Emberlit Stove... And Nettle Soup...

   Wow, is it June already? I guess I came up short on my blog postings for the month of May, but it was not for lack of adventure. On the contrary, I have been busy with traveling and vacation time and doing some bushcrafting and camping out in Wyoming and Nebraska respectively.
   I will try to finish up my video of the adventure I had in Wyoming and share that with you all a little later this month.
   After finally getting back to work, and getting back to a more regular schedule of things, I was able to get out to my usual wilderness area for a Saturday morning meetup. After waiting around for about thirty minutes for any other BushcraftUSA members to show, I decided to strike out on my own.
  I hiked out about a half mile and decided that on this day, I was going to go with practicing a bow drill fire, get something going in my Emberlit Stove and then try to make use of all stinging nettle that was making its way into the sandy soils that define the river flood plain where I was at.
   Though I do enjoy practicing bow drill and friction fire methods, I have not really ever focused on the process for the sake of making video, but on this outing I decided to make an exception and tried to show the process I go through.
   I had only my SAK Farmer for wood prep, which made it a little more difficult to "baton" the larger pieces, but it was not impossible and with a little care I got it done.
   So here is the video I would like to share of my adventure and I hope you enjoy it.


    Well, I hope that this will peak your interest in going out and trying to make a bow drill fire and to not just do it to get a flame, but to actually use it to cook something or boil water or craft something. So many times I see my fellow bushcrafters practice to get fire with their respective bow drills and spindles only to just put the fire out and never use it. That is all fine and dandy, when it comes to practicing, but it is even more fun when you realized that the fire you made for making lunch came out of your pocket knife and your boot lace. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Saturday Adventure And The Ottomani Sun Compass

   About one month ago, so even before the bushcraft trip that I made to the Richard J. Dorer Memorial State Forest with my pal Sticker, I went out for a regular Saturday morning meet up. After waiting around for a bit I found myself more then ready to go on a solo adventure.
   As it is with most of my solo adventures, I try to focus on practicing skills along with the chance to get out and observe and relax and to think about the things that matter most.
   Now recently, my focus has been on boning up on my navigation skills along with those needed for direction finding and map making. And on this particular Saturday, although it was overcast and just a bit on the chilly side, I decided to make myself an Ottomani Sun Compass.
   The Ottomani Sun Compass is basically a portable "shadow stick method" of telling which way is east to west and from there "calculating" north and south, that is to say "solar" north to south as opposed to "magnetic" north to south. One advantage to this method is that you do not need to wait for the sun to move thru the sky in order to establish an east to west line, that part is built into the "compass." All that is needed is to line up the point of the shadow of the compasses vertical indicator with an already established "east to west" calibrated line on the compass base. The calibrated east west lines drawn on the compass are to adapt to the changing seasons and the rise and fall of the sun above and below the equator as it moves thru the year.
   As you can see thru the following video, I harvested the pieces I need to construct the compass from the materials I found in the bush and fashioned them in to the compass base and pointer. Then later I went out on a clear and sunny day, actually it was on Mother's Day, and calibrated the compass using the "shadow stick" method.
   So here is the video and I hope you enjoy it.

      Having the ability to find your direction with a number of different methods is a good thing to add to your bushcraft mentality. Finding the right materials and improvising with them is key to making the tools you will need to be comfortable in the wilderness.
   I hope you found this little adventure with the Ottomani Sun Compass inspirational and that you  will want to try making one the next time you are out on the trail. Thank you for watching and until next time, Happy Exploring.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Improvised Gravity Feed Water Filter

   In large part, survival is about conserving energy. With Bushcraft, if you have found that kinship with the landscape that is often spoken of by Ray Mears, you have the resources and the energies you need available to you, right in your most immediate surroundings.
   Bushcraft holds many of the answers to the "Rule of Three For Survival" that are so often talked about in survival courses and self reliance training.
   To review those intervals of time that have to do with your survival, they are:
Three Minutes needed before you need breathable air.
Three Hours to regulate body heat and to mitigate hypothermia (cold body core temp) or hyperthermia (body core temp is to high) thru shelter or other external means.
Three Days to solve the drinkable water equation.
Three weeks before starvation and maybe ultimately...
Three months before psychological help is needed to address the slow madness that creeps in with isolation from other humans.
   These needs are also sometimes addressed with what is called the "Sacred Order of Survival" which is basically: shelter first, then water, then fire, and then lastly food.
   Everytime I head out on a bushcraft adventure, I go out with the idea of practicing bushcraft skills and addressing some part of the "Rule of Three" or the "Sacred Order." I also focus on using and improving my relationship with the top five of what some would call the"10 C's." Those top five are: Cut, Combustion, Container, Cordage and Cover. And with those in mind, nearly every adventure includes some knifecraft, firecraft, boiling or collecting water, playing with natural cordages and building or improvising shelters.
   I find that even if I am in a group of people, with friends like you who are interested in bushcraft, that if I work to have everyone focus at some point on these five things, on the Rule of Threes or the Sacred Order, that we come away from every adventure with having learned the most important of the basics that allow us to be at home in the wilderness. It is then that we can begin to thrive instead of survive.
   On a recent hike out to one of my favorite places by a lake, I decided to experiment with a water filter that I purchased for around $20 called the Aquamira Frontier Pro. Usually I connect a Platypus folding water bottle to it and with slight pressure, force the water thru the filter and into my water bottle or canteen or canteen cup. It is effective, but requires that I pay attention to it.
  On this day, I decided to filter my water unattended by building a simple tripod, connecting a sacrificial plastic bottle to it so that I could cut some "vent holes" and letting gravity do the rest.
   Here is a video of my simple project and my way of conserving my energy and letting it do the work for me.

  After practicing a few other skills I was ready to head home and felt that at least for this adventure, I had addressed my water needs with a simple bushcrafted solution. I will do this setup again. Having a water filter along for the summer will prove invaluable and I am going to try next my MSR Miniworks filter. I will let you all know how that works. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Even More Adventure In The Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest

   As mentioned in the previous blog post, my friend Sticker and I had a good long day of it, exploring that portion of the state forest. We were having so much fun, that time just flew by. It would have been even more fun, had there been some other Minnesota or Wisconsin or even Iowa BushcraftUSA members there to join in. It was a near perfect day for getting out.
   We had the chance to meet a few people who were out on the trails getting in some hiking and walking their dogs. The first of the people we met were two women and their dog, whose name escapes me at the moment, but they were making the long trek up the hill to get to their vehicle and it was at that point that Sticker and I realized there would have been an easier way up to the look-out, but probably not as fun. They asked us about wild edibles and other signs of nature and we made them a quick walking staff to help in their climb and we wished them well.
   Later we met another hiker, a man our with his short hair dog and he seemed a nice fellow and we talked a long time about the forest and about bushcraft and primitive skills and how we were collecting resources for friction fire and for using improvised flint and steel. He told us that the mosquitoes get pretty bad in that area and he did not understand why that is. He was a local native and we listen intently.
  Finally we met one last hike and his dog, as we were headed back to the nature center. We talked for awhile about bushcraft and he mentioned that he had seen and heard of BushcraftUSA and that he was a knife collector. He showed us his new Bark River knife that was a little smaller then my Aurora but a little bigger then the Little Creek model. I was not sure what model it was, but I liked it and was going to have to look that one up after I got home.
   So here is part two of our adventure and it is a little longer, but shows we had a lot of fun and practiced a few good skills.

   I am so looking forward to going back one day and hopefully doing it with a larger group of bushcrafters. As I posted up this same report to the BushcraftUSA forum site, I mentioned that I hoped it would make a lot of the Minnesota guys jealous that they did not go. Some of them were jealous, so my plan worked.
   I hope my friends that you enjoyed the video and the story line and I look forward to bringing you the next adventure. It's going to be a great summer. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Recon Of The Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest

   Well as promised, I finally made it to the RJD Memorial Hardwood State Forest and had the chance to spend a good nine hours playing in the woods. In that time, my friend Sticker and I covered a lot of ground, including both over land and the landscape that is bushcraft and some of the required skills sets. Here is a list of nearly all the activities we touched on in our time at the woods.
    We worked on navigation with our topo maps and compass, gathered tinders, found chert for improvised strikers for improvised steels, practiced with magnifying lens and chaga, gathered false tinder fungus, and gathered pine needles for tea. Then we gathered basswood and ash for bow drill and spindle parts, looked for water sources, practiced tree identification, looked for wild edibles (found some near ready fiddle heads), worked some knifecraft with batoning and carving, practiced shadow stick method for direction, played with making natural cordage made from basswood inner bark (not in the video), used flint and steel to start fire, and finally made some pine needle tea and relaxed.
   The established campground was on a hill nearby and had plenty of trees to hang hammocks, open areas for tents and fire rings and vault toilets. There was also a hand powered pump that worked for water.
   We got there at 9AM and stayed until 6PM. The weather was perfect for an outing, with sunny skies, temperature high near 40°F and little to no wind.
   As Sticker put it when we got there, "We needed to get out of our comfort zone." and he was right, we had gotten really familiar with things back in our usual stomping grounds.
   But we discovered as always, that bushcraft and bushcraft skills travel with you, and before long we were comfortable here in this new place, and we were soon gathering resources and having fun like a couple of boys playing in the woods.
   So here is Part One of our great adventure.

   Later, I will post up Part Two showing even more of the fun and I know I will be looking forward to doing even more adventures in bushcraft this year and meeting up with some really fine people. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Most Recent Bushcraft Adventures And A Planned Recon Of State Forest

   Well, it has finally arrived and by that I don't mean Spring or some new piece of gear or even the myriad number of robins that have populated our yards and woodlands. What I mean is that it is Tax Day 2013. April 15th, some of us dread it and some, well let's just say they probably have their refund already and have already bought their new knives and other gear for the coming spring and summer adventures.
   I realized too that it is the 15th of April and I have yet to post anything in my blog for this month. Where has all the time gone? It's not like I haven't been busy enjoying several bushcraft adventures.
   The following Sunday after my last posting on the "Sights and Sounds of Spring," I met up with my buddy Sticker and we headed out for a long hike to explore some of the places that he had not seen in our area before.
   Along the way we discussed ways of finding directions without a compass and how to tell approximately which direction was "south" by looking at which side of a tree has the most branches, we looked for any large ant hills that might have been built, usually on the south side of a tree, we examined the growth patterns of moss on the usual north side of a tree in the deeper woods, and later we used the shadow stick method to really nail down the east west line and determine north and south, once the sun came out. Sticker had never seen that done before and was very impressed.
   We also practiced some tracking skills, examined mullein stalks as possible sources for a hand drill spindle, looked at several types of scat, found a deer carcass, bushwacked thru some thick brush, and in the end made a small dead fall trap using a promontory peg trigger. I could tell that my friend Sticker was having a good time.
  In the end, we had hike 4.5 miles or so and spent about 6 hours in the woodland soaking up what turned out to be a great day. It was a lot of fun and I didn't take a single minute of video. Sometimes you just have to let it go and be more in the moment.
   Part of our conversation that day was on making plans to recon the Richard J. Dorer State Forest here in southeastern Minnesota for an upcoming three day meetup with several other interested bushcrafters in our area.
   We decided to make the recon a Day Trip and are planning on meeting in the Easy Wheeling Nature Area which is part of the Kruger Forest Management Unit.  We are planning on spending about 9 hours in the area exploring, practicing bushcraft skills and getting the most out of what should be a great day. Here is a link to a map of the area. Easy Wheeling Nature Area
   Hopefully soon, I will complete the video I am working on, on how to make an Ottomani Sun Compass and I will post up my report on the day trip to the Richard J. Dorer State Forest and our day of recon and bushcraft adventure. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

On The Sounds And Sights Of Spring

   It started out being a very rain filled morning, but by 9am it had begun to tamper off and all the birds started to become very active. I decided on making it more of a hiking and exploring kind of day, rather than a bushcraft skills practice kind of day.
   Since I was going solo, I knew I could take my time and just enjoy my surroundings. It turned out to be just what I needed to clear my head and absorb the peace.
   It has now been one year since I committed to meeting every Saturday at 9AM, any of my friends who are interested in studying bushcraft and other skills together.
   I have gained a few faithful friends who come pretty regularly and share the expirence and I have seen a few who have faltered but may return with the now fairer weather.
   As for me, I will always continue to get out and explore and to learn and practice my passion for bushcraft. And I will also continue to make videos and share the experience with all of you, my friends. Here is the video of my great day out. I covered about 4 miles total and it felt good to get in some exercise.

  It was good to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of spring. I am looking forward to yet another good year of learning and practicing at the art of bushcraft. Until next time, Happy Exploring.