Sunday, 29 September 2013

Bushcraft Practice - Part 3

Last part of the trip to the woods, and crafts started to dominate my time.

After eating up the roots I had some time to kill as it was dark, and the fire was burning nicely after collecting lots of firewood and kindling to see me though the night. During the days forage, I managed to get some still fresh Birch Bark from a recently fallen tree. Just enough to kindle a few fires, and make a container.

The bark ready to go, and some round sections of seasoned Oak for the bottom and the lid.
I whittled and trimmed up until bedtime, and managed to finish it

Took some pictures in the morning, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.
The double tabs were an accident as it peeled off the tree like this due to a knot in the wood, so I worked with the shape.

The medulary rays, and staining in the Oak were a pleasant surprise, and I'm glad a persisted with the handle, as I would normal place in a strip of leather, which I didn't have to hand.

Today's task though, was to try out different materials for weaving. I'm an amateur at weaving baskets and the like having only made a couple from material growing in the countryside, but I like a challenge.
Above are the Hazel wands I experimented with. Great for withies, and making woven hoops.

I tried Ivy, Hazel, honeysuckle, and here in the picture spruce roots. By far the best though in terns of flexibility, ease of gathering/processing, and quantity available, was the Bramble.

I ended up making a Mellon Basket for future foraging using Hazel for the frame. The end sections were tied together at one end with spruce root, the other bramble. The root was more flexible, but harder to gather requiring more energy and a longer walk. This is when the penny dropped, so back to the bramble patch it was. They even feed you plenty of sugar at this time of the year as you strip off the spines.

Fruit sugars wearing off, it was time to raid the rations. Wholemeal bannock made in the billy can, and some soup to prepare for weaving.

DaDa! Quite chuffed with it. Especially as it absolutely chucked it down with rain the minute I started weaving and didn't stop for around 15 hours. I Stoked up the fire and quickly gathered a load more firewood including seasoned Oak, and was confined to quarters, but one of the best experiences I've had. Loved it! 

The roof finally met its match with three wet days and this final downpour, so I ducked into the bivi bag. Just shows you how much time you need to spend on the shelter. The next day was the start of the deer in a day course but I still wanted to stay in my shelter that evening. When time allowed after the course, I sorted things out a bit more by adding more material to the roof, and getting even more firewood and kindling in. Everything was soaked, but through the use of feather sticks and the remaining dry wood stored at the back of the shelter I got things roaring again for the last night in the shelter. 
 It was the first clear night, a little chilly with a gentle breeze, but the blanket and fire was enough to keep warm for a few hours at a time with a few stokes of the fire on each waking. 
Moon and stars were in full show with the Owls hooting away.

A cracking trip and looking forward to the next.

Bushcraft Practice - Part 2

Carrying on from Part 1, I decided it was time to eat some of the countryside!
Now that I had got to know my way around and had seen some interesting resources, I set off with my hardened digging stick, and billy can

These blackberry's were particularly sweet, and the brambles had given me another idea too...

The badgers have a tough time digging as there is hardly any soil on this chalk and flint ground. It dosent seem to stop them and just shows you how strong they are.

Feeling humbled by the badgers, I thought I'd dig up a Burdock root in this chalky ground.
I picked an area of ground just off one of the tracks through the wood thinking it would be easyier, that the track surface. 

It's hard work wherever you do it! Loads of calories in the root though, so there was a gain.

Silverweed. These tiny little tubers are much easier to gather, but to gather plenty takes about the same amount of time as digging up a large burdock root. I think they taste nicer though, especially when cooked.

Only company for that last couple of days was the military, using me as a target. Must have stuck out like a sore thumb on the heat cameras.

Back for a break, and brewed a spruce tea.

I kept finding the Hazelnuts on the floor. I assumed they were nibbled off early by the grey Squirrels, but though I'd give them a whirl anyhow.

Roasted in a scrape under the fire within the Ashes, they revealed empty shells or very undeveloped nuts. Shame, as I eat them most days at home and they are a great source of fat in the wild.

          Later on as it got dark, I prepared and boiled up the roots gathered. Very nice they were too
Then I setted down for the night in the debris shelter. I had a great nights sleep compared to other blanket camps using large fires. The reflector really worked well, It rained in the night, but not as heavily as the previous one, and all was well.

Bushcraft Practice - Part 1

I recently escaped to the woods for several days, the first three to camp and practice skills as much as possible and the last two were part of a weekend course running on the site I was using. The woods are the stomping ground of Joe O Leary from Wilderness Survival Skills, and as I was making a trip down from the north for the weekend courses, he was very generous in letting me camp on my own in the woods leading up to them.
A quick meet up and tour of the main site, and I was left to my own devices.

Its a really nice woodland, dominated by Hazel coppice, Oak standards and many more mixed deciduous trees of various age class. Just for good measure there were blocks of coniferous trees. Materials were not on the short side here! I really like camping out on my own when I have a lot of things I want to practice or try out for the first time. I can just dedicate every minute of the day to them with no distractions. The complete opposite of my normal day to day life. Meeting up for a laugh and a joke with other folks later on is equally enjoyable, and balances things out nicely.

First job was to set up a tarp to dump my rucksack full of modern gear, while I got started on building a natural shelter. I didn't quite get the job done by the first night getting easilly distracted by other things, so kipped under here for ease.

Next day I moved in. Fire reflector, cooking/drying tripod, bed and roof made.
Just a blanket for the evening as it was fairly warm and I planned on a large fire too.  

Used a well supported fallen Ash tree for the roof support. 

Ferns for the roof over the hazel rafters, trapped on by the larger limbs

Then I decided to go for a walk and check out the local area. 
Great chance to practice map and compass work, and pacing out to track junctions.

Reaching the edge of the woods, and very nice it was too.
Started to glimpse a few of the other resources on site as I moved around.

Getting back to camp with some wood, feeling hungry and needing a brew, 
I carved a spoon burning in the bowl so I could eat and stir in style :)

Other parts coming up....

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Spoon carving demonstration and my Painted Wooden Cooking Spoons

I recently demonstrated Wooden spoon carving with Axe and Knife, at the 2013 Chatsworth Country Fair. It was part of a larger green-woodworking, Flint Knapping and Countryside promotional event for Derbyshire County Councils Countryside Service.

We even got judged, and won the best educational stand!

Quiet moments and some whittling while the coffee gets to work.

Most folks were interested me axing out the blanks for the spoons.
It was a good opportunity to interest folks in carving and promote courses and other greenwoodworking events such as the one I've been helping out on for several years. The Elvaston Castle woodland Festival.

John and Val Lord were with us again, promoting flint knapping and Creswell Crags visitor centre.
Its great being able to work with such lovely and skilled people. They are hoping to make the festival too.

I really like this simple design of cooking spoon I've been working on designing. They are made from Cherry and work really well in the pan, food, and hand. Nothing all that revolutionary about the design, but getting the angles, bowls and handles to work well and then replicate several times is quite rewarding. 

Once a few more were made, dried and finished I made up some home made egg tempera paint using natural ochre pigments, and set too jazzing up the handles. 

If you like them , pop along to a show and have a fondle!