On Discovering Self

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Flint And Steel And Milkweed Ovum

   As it turned out, last Sunday was a beautiful and sunny day to get out and enjoy a hike on the snowy Sakatah "Singing Hills" State Trail. My bush buddy and I decided to head out for an afternoon of exploring and to practice a few bushcraft skills.
   He worked on identifying natural tinders such as milkweed seeds and cattail fluff and easily identified sumac for its red berries and wild rose hips for the tiny "apples" they presented, even in winter.
   We worked on direction finding and some tree identification as well. He spotted some willow trees along side the trail and remembered an earlier trip we had made out there and how we had made a willow whistle and a small toy raft and used goose feathers for a sail.
   He also used his firesteel to ignite the trangia alcohol stove and mixed up the hot chocolate for us both of us. I was very proud of him.
   We happened upon a small herd of about ten whitetail deer just as we were about to reach our destination and we both just stood there in awe, as they looked at us and we looked back at them. It was inspiring and a good moment to share together.
   I worked at getting fire with my flint and steel and using milkweed ovum instead of charred cloth. I had succeeded many times before with this combination, but I had never tried it in winter. It felt good to succeed with the milkweed ovum and felt even better to have gotten it done in the winter and the snow.
   After a quick and delicious brew of hot chocolate, made on a recipe my bush buddy had concocted, we packed it up and headed home. It was a great day for a son and his father to enjoy some time together.
   So here is the video of our afternoon adventure.

   Bushcraft is such a good thing to practice with your kids and the adventure never stops. Going out to explore with a child, opens your eyes to see the world in a better way. I hope you get the chances to do so as often as I do. I am a very lucky guy to have such a good friend in my bush buddy. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

Monday, February 25, 2013

On Keeping It Simple, Short And Sweet

   On this particular Saturday, both my friend Sticker and I did not have a lot of time to spend on an outing like we usually do, so we decided to get out in the newly fallen snow for a little while anyway and just practice a couple skills and get a few moments of peace and quiet.
   We had received about four inches of snow the previous day and the temperatures now were around 12°F as we headed out.
   We had a lot of fun following the tracks and trails made in the snow by the deer, rabbits and squirrels and busied ourselves trying to figure out where they were all going and what they were foraging for.
   After we got down by the river, we decided to make a quick fire and try using some of the inner bark of a cottonwood tree as a natural tinder to start our fire. But we failed in that attempt as it was still a little moist and we probably should have collected more.
   Not to be dissuaded in any way, we fell back to plan "B" and used some jute twine with good success. After the water was heated, cups of hot chocolate were consumed and we sat peacefully and soaked up the quiet and enjoyed the nice weather. I can hardly wait until spring.
   So here is the video of our quick little trip and how we used some of our tools to make a split wood fire, start it with flint and steel and use for the first time a wooden spoon I carved with a newly acquired crook knife from Mora Knives.

   As always, my friend Sticker and I had a good time and are now really looking forward to getting out for more adventure this spring.
   I have been contacted by a very new member of BushcraftUSA, who lives a couple of hours away in Hastings, MN and he has mentioned that he would like to come, with his two sons, and join our little merry band of bushcrafters. So hopefully in a couple weeks, we will be able to introduce some new members and continue and further our adventures in bushcraft.
   Until then my friends, get out and enjoy the days and Happy Exploring.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Another Go With Natural Tinder In The Cold

   Saturday, February 16th, brought with it a chance for redemption for my friend Sticker and I. On our last outing together, we failed to get fire using natural tinder gathered on site and the temperature was in the single digits.
   We also did not expect the snow and ice conditions that would make our day trip such a hazard. We had experienced a few days of thawing weather so the snow in our area had started melting to slush. Then it thawed even further to form large puddles and rivers of flowing water which began running over all the hiking paths and trails. Then in a manner of hours and overnight, it froze. Finally it had started snowing and we were left with this very hidden danger at every turn and on every trail we encountered. I could not help but think of Paul Simon's song "Slip Slidden' Away". We danced a few times on the ice, but in the end neither of us "biffed" it.
   My friend Sticker gathered some cedar bark for tinder on our way out to the new campsite and we continued to pick our way out alongside the trail, following in the footprints of some rather large deer that had gone before us. They too had discovered the trail was slippery and had chosen a different path.
   We worked on making a split wood fire and practiced good fire prep and enjoyed using our latest knives, Sticker with his BK2 and myself with a Becker BK17. Both were excellent tools and got the job done in fine fashion.
   After laying down our fire base, we got it going with flint and steel and then Sticker worked at melting some snow for a cup of tea. We talked of knife mods and how he really would like a heavy cover from Rob Simpson at the Canteenshop, which has of this writing is still out of stock, be we are hopeful there will be some in stock soon.
   We enjoyed the quiet, listened to the birds and enjoyed the comradery and fellowship that comes with finding a good friend. We also enjoyed the tea and in the end, found our way out of the hazardous icy trails and frozen little ponds that made for such a fun and challenging day.
   Here is the video of that outing and I you enjoy the adventure.

This time I practiced a little more with using two video cameras. This did make for a little longer story to tell, but I think it is entertaining. If anything, it is a record of our adventure and I hope any of you my friends, will excuse the length and that it will make you want to get out and enjoy the weather and a little bushcraft adventure, no matter what the conditions. It is fun to try things and to practice and to make new friends. Until then, Happy Exploring.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Having Some Fun At A New Camp

   There was nothing special about this particular Saturday, as I headed out for the usual 9AM meet-up at the local park. I decided to change things up a bit and strike out for a new camp location, just to be different.
   I was pleasantly surprised at all the bird activity, as the temperature was around 22°F and promised to get a little warmer. There were dozens of chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and cardinals. The cacophony of sounds was a delight to hear.
   As there was a slight breeze bringing me a cold chill, I decided to find a spot that would provide a windbreak and a little shelter. I found it in a stand of three very large cottonwood trees standing side by side. It made for a great wall against the wind.
   After fashioning a place to sit, and erecting a couple poles to act as camera stands and later support for a tarp or two, I set to work to make a batoning station and to get the split-wood made to make a fire.
   I chose to use flint and steel with charred cloth and the fire came easy. Soon it was time to boil some water for tea and I sat and enjoyed the bird calls and the scenery.
   Another purpose I had in my outing was to play with using two video cameras instead of one. I had done this on a previous outing, with my friend Sticker. I am still polishing my technique, but I still have a ways to go in figuring the logic behind starting camera A first than a short time later, starting camera B and then reverse the process to turn off camera B first and then camera A.
   You see how that can get confusing? Especially when you are cold and clumsy and bundled with gloves and mittens and so many things to guard against the cold?
   I did manage to get the video I wanted and even played with a video effect towards the end of the video. I used a "clear circle" matte and reduced the alpha channel of the mask to increase its transparency to create a focus point to draw the viewers eye to the white tail deer in the distance. When you see it, you will know what I mean.
   So here is the video of the adventure and I hope you enjoy watching my "not so special" kind of day out.

   I am hoping to make a lot more of the two camera kind of videos and to just have fun with what I have on hand. So much to learn, so little time. Until next time, Happy Exploring.

A Cold Groundhog Day And A Try At Natural Tinder Again

   As this is my first post for the month of February, I thought it fitting to share some of the success I've had in learning how to deal with natural tinder, found on site, and their use in extreme cold temperatures.
   As posted in my blog of the last adventure we had, my friend Sticker and I wanted to get a fire going with natural tinder, found on site and getting it to ignite to flame using flint and steel. This is a very old method of lighting a fire and with it comes special considerations.
   For one, the ember or spark that you get in the charred cloth is very weak. Nothing like the 5500°F you get with a ferrocerium rod or fire steel. (e.g. the Gobspark). And when you are dealing with temperatures near 4°F, as was the case on that outing, it takes a lot of heat to raise the tinder to the ignition point, which is around 400°F or more.
   The suggestion was made by my friend Pine Martin, on the BushcraftUSA site, that we try pre-warming the tinder by wrapping it up and storing it in an inside pocket. This has the effect of not only warming the tinder by nearly 100°F, but it also helps to dry it out, as any moisture that is frozen and locked up in the tinder fiber, begins to thaw and evaporate and get absorbed by the layers of wrapping.
  So on this outing, with temperatures about -2°F, I decided to gather my tinder early and wrap it up in my bandana and put it in an inside pocket for safe keeping.
   When it came time to light the fire, I carefully prepared all of my kindling and when the time was right, I took out my tinder and worked quickly to get the ember from my charred cloth to ignite the fibers.
   With special care, and a little help by blowing some air continually into the bundle, I was able to get my fire going. The tinder caught the shavings and the shavings caught the split-wood kindling.
   Here is the video of that outing and my success with flint and steel and natural tinder found on-site and with very cold temperatures.

    I hope you enjoyed the video and that you get a chance to try for the cold challenge of using only flint and steel and charred cloth to get a fire going in the very cold temperatures of winter. It is something I will continue to practice.  Until then, Happy Exploring.