Here is a picture of some of the things I make to sell here in Nattavaara.
On the far left are firesteels, then Birch bark containers, at the front is a Birch wood container, a Birch spoon and finally a Birch cup.
Last week I spent two days at Jokkmokks Marknad as part of my job as a wilderness guide at Solberget Vildmarks Byn.
My first day at the marknad was on Tuesday at the old, traditional market where I was fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with John Stokke, a Sámi reindeer herder who has his own chapter in the Sámi book of fire “Eld, Flammor och Glod – samisk eldkonst”. The chapter is about the “Nuorssjo” and it was this fire that he was demonstrating at the market (he is in the centre of this picture).
The Nuorssjo is a fire used for two people to sleep next and will burn for 14 hours with very little maintenance. 20cms of Spruce branches are put on the ground as insulation to lay on.
In addition to translating his life as a reindeer herder for our German guests, I also spent a lot of time discussing fire making with him. He even cooked coffee for our guests to drink.
He wanted me to return the next day to talk more and show him how to make fire with the bow-drill but unfortunately this was just not possible, but I have promised to do it next year.
Fire making with flint and steel was also being demonstrated, and visitors were able to try for themselves.
On Wednesday we had the first snow fall of the winter here in Nattavaara By. The snow is only a couple of centimetres deep but it is better than nothing. As you can see in the picture below (taken a midday yesterday) the sun is only just appearing above the horizon now, for about 1 hour. Next week it will disappear completely for about 4 weeks.
Last week I wrote about a wooden container that my friend had made for and now I had had a go at making one myself, using some scrap pieces of wood I had lying around in my workshop. Both the top and bottom are root bur from Sallow.
I made the top by glueing two pieces of wood together, one slightly smaller to fit inside the pot
I stitched the side together with sinew, but unfortunately as you can see below the side has split when it dried.
I am working on more containers with different designs and will put up the pictures when I have finished.
I already have some shops up here that will sell my Natural Lore Fire Sets, but interestingly they prefer the plastic container because it is easier for people to carry in their pocket.
We are all familiar with the method of scraping the surface of Birch bark and igniting the scrapings with a firesteel due to the high content of natural oils in the bark.
Another item I recently purchased was a small hatchet to use for carving as I left my Elwell axe at my cabin
Ignore the Wilkinson Sword stamp on the handle because the hatchet is actually made by a Finnish company called Fiskars. Other companies such as Gerber and Stihl have also put their stamp on Fiskars axes.
Its a very will balanced tool and good for splitting logs (the way the axe head is fitted into the carbon fibre handle means you can use a baton on the back of the head), carving such things as cups and spoons (with a little re-profiling of the cutting edge) and chopping
The axe head produces a really nice shower of sparks when used with a firesteel.
The sheath is rather disappointing and so I set about designing and making a leather belt sheath
Unfortunately I didn’t take a series of pictures during its construction to enable me to produce a tutorial.
The handle of the hatchet is hollow and while initially I considered fitting a survival kit inside, I decided to put a chainsaw file inside instead to remove burs or nicks when sharpening the blade.
I split down a piece of Ash and carved it to the shape of the handle and so that it would fit inside the handle.
I then carved out a groove into which I glued a cut down file.
When I used the hatchet, the file hit against the inside of the handle so I had to carve this piece of Ash to glue halfway up inside the handle to prevent the file moving around.
I paid £17 for this hatchet and think it is worth every penny!!
Teres’s children had been given time off school to join us at the cabin, to learn more about nature and improve their English. Before driving back to the cabin I visited the Dollar Store to buy a variety of items with which the boys had to build boats to sail across the lake.
In addition to the items I purchased they could also use any natural resources.
Seb and Emma where keen to try out my hammock
Emma spent more time trying to fall out of the hammock with much success I might add!!!
Ingvar had purchased a new axe shaft to replace one I had split
so we went to Anki and Ingvar’s cabin to fit it and to have some lunch
While splitting logs my chopping block had split in half and so Ingvar cut me a new one…..the easy way!!
Having spent some time teaching Seb how to use a firesteel he spent a lot of time trying to make fire and I was impressed at his determination to achieve fire…..and he did.
In the evening the boys put their boats on the lake
and once the wind caught the sails we watched them race across the lake.
We had the perfect end to the evening with a nice display of the Northern Lights at about 10pm (unfortunately my picture isn’t as good as those of Tricia)
There was a lot of dead grass around the cabin presenting a potential fire risk, so I raked the whole area and bagged up the dry grass for firelighting demonstrations in the future.
Even after the heavy rain of the last few days the air is so dry that everything dries incredibly quickly. As another example of how dry the air is compared with the UK I can leave packets of biscuits open for months and they do not go soft. Try that at home and they will usually be soft in about a week.
I had been invited to Anki and Ingvar’s cabin for lunch. I’m not so sure that Emma was so pleased to see the mad Englishman again!!
The family had brought with them some curtains to put up in my cabin to make it look “more homely”
and to also make the cabin looked lived in when I am not there.
I went walking in the evening and took this picture to write about.
The dead leaves of the Tussock sedge you can see in the background are very good for making fire. They will easily ignite with the sparks from a firesteel.
The plant in front of the tussock is Labrador Tea (Ledum palustre). There are similar poisonous plants so it is important to ensure there are brown hairs on the underside of the leaves. As the name suggests it can be used to make a refreshing tea which is incredibly high in vitamin C. The tea can also be applied to the hair as a treatment for head lice.
The leaves can be used as a substitute for Bay Leaves in stews. The flowers however should be treated with caution.
The sent has been described as a narcotic and falling asleep in a patch can produce an intense headache in many people. The plant should not even be dried in a confined space as the fumes can cause problems. The leaves are also high in tannin and are used to tan leather.
A new bird species today was two Swifts flying west giving their characteristic “screaming” call.
Rowed to the far end of the lake first thing this morning and went walking in the forest, but very quickly it clouded over and really heavy rain fell. I was soaked by the time I got back to the cabin and it’s times like that when I really appreciate have the cabin and a warm fire to go back to.
I collected the rain water from the roof of the cabin for drinking and cooking
While it was raining I carved some hooks from pieces of Pine
to nail up around the cabin to hang things from.
After the rain stopped I decided to go into the forest to begin cutting small Pine trees for poles to make a traditional style tipi or kåta. I was careful in my selection, taking a tree where two were very close together and only one would survive, or trees that did not look so healthy.
Once I had cut down a tree, I removed all the branches with my axe
To remove the bark I drove the tip of a knife into a wooden batten to make a simple draw knife
I tried eating the inner bark which was surprisingly tasty and quite sweet.
I was having lunch and some coffee at my cabin when I heard the voices of children in the forest
It was the grandchildren of my friends Anki and Ingvar who were coming to visit me. The children are taught survival skills in school in Sweden and they were keen to learn new skills from me. Particularly making fire without matches.
I began by demonstrating the bow-drill to them and then we headed into the forest to collect different tinders for them to experiment with using firesteels.
We also experimented with flint and steel to make fire with True Tinder fungus
The boys were also keen to teach me things as well. Here they are explaining how to navigate in the forest using Wood Ant nests
and here Simon is demonstrating how to eat the ants without being bitten.
They were actually quite pleasant to eat.
We spent the evening fishing though no one caught anything.
New birds; Redstart, Song Thrush, Mallard, Teal, Whimbrel, Capercaillie and two groups of Black Grouse lekking on the edge of the marsh.
I am always seeking new tinders to add to my tinder pouch for use with flint and steel……char cloth, true tinder fungus, false tinder fungus and so on. Recently I have discovered a new addition which is certainly not as messy to carry as char cloth and doesn’t disintegrate like fungus. I know it works fine with a battery and a firesteel but had never considered it for use with flint and steel. As you may have guessed by now it is of course very fine grade wire wool! I bought two large rolls of 0000 grade wire wool on Ebay last week.
Tease the wire wool apart and then place on the flint and use as you wood with char cloth.
My friend Jeremy was keen to try once I had demonstrated it to him.
This is how I made my half leather, half wood sheath but I am sure there are many other ways.
The piece of bur you have selected for your sheath must first be cut in half (I used a hack-saw), then draw round the blade and carve out the wood on both halves to the thickness of your blade and mark out the shape for the finished sheath.
Glue the two pieces of wood back together and once dry carve the wood to the desired shape. Drill a small hole in the end of the sheath that reaches to where the blade will sit and this will allow any moisture out.
Using newspaper pack out any narrow parts where leather shrinkage would prevent the knife being withdrawn. Then cover the handle with foil which will prevent leather dye staining the handle and make it easier to withdraw the knife after the leather has shrunk and dried.
Soak the leather until it is soft and pliable and if you want to make any pattern in the leather now is a good time to do it. Place the knife in the sheath and then wrap the leather around and secure the ends with bulldog clips.
I used “saddle stitch” to sew the sheath together, using an awl to make holes in the leather. Once sewn together mould the leather using the rounded nail and work the leather into the two grooves. The leather is then left to dry and of course shrink and then any excess can be cut off.