On Discovering Self

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

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.