Making a feather fishing float

I found this swans flight feather yesterday so decided to make a fishing float, using the feather, a piece of flint and a piece of Stinging Nettle stem.

First the feather needs to be trimmed to leave just the quill. There are two methods of doing this; One method is to cut them off with a piece of flint

and the other is to start at the top of the feather and pull removing a thin strip of membrane along the edge of the quill

When you are left with just the quill decide one the length of float you require and then this down the quill by scraping or cutting it with the piece of flint.

Then fold the quill at the point where you have thinned it

I used a piece of nettle stem as a lashing to hold the two pieces together (the nettle should be waterproofed with resin or something similar).

The float is now completed

and ready to use

Spruce Tipi – Part 2

Four Birch poles were lashed together and set up as a quadro-pod and then other poles were laid between.

After a simple doorway was constructed we gathered Spruce boughs and began inserting them between the poles.

We put the boughs on the opposite way up to which they had grown, with the end of the bough that was nearest to the tree, pointing upwards.

The top of the structure was left open to allow smoke from the fire to get out.

Here’s a picture taken inside with a fire.

and it was still in good condition when we returned the following winter.

Spruce Tipi – Part 1

On a trip to Lapland myself and my friend Heiko decided to make a Spruce tipi.

We began by finding an area of flat open ground in the forest

where there were small Birch for the frame and Spruce boughs to cover the shelter.

Using a stick we exposed Spruce roots

and gathered them.

We removed the outside of the roots and then split

and used as lashings for the framework

Fresh Water Sponge

One of our reserves is fed by underground spring water. The water is of such good quality that we have fresh water sponges living in the ditches.

They come in many shapes and sizes and surprisingly they are actually animals. These sponges are a mass of cells within a porous protein skeleton which contains silica and calcium. They feed on tiny organisms by filtering them from the surrounding water.

You can find out more about sponges here;

Little Egret

An nice surprise yesterday was a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) feeding around one of the pools on the reserve. This is only the third record for the reserve.

The Little Egret is a member of the Heron family

Little Egrets used to be a rare migrant in Britain but as a result of our milder winters they are now a resident and are breeding in many places.

Here’s a video grap from one I filmed previously

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There is more information here;

For those interested in tracks, here is the print of a Grey Heron

and here’s the Little Egrets

I’m not using Cherry again!!!!!

You may recall in the past that I have made several items from Cherry wood. Unfortunately there is always a significant risk with Cherry and it’s not one I’m willing to take any more.

I roughed out four of these Cherry cups over the weekend (about 2 hours work for each)

and all four have split!

In my experience far more items made from Cherry split than do not and although you get beautiful patterning in the wood, it’s just not worth the risk for all the work.

A butterfly and beetle

During a cool cloudy spell the other day I managed to get some nice pictures of insects sitting around waiting for the sun to reappear.

This is a male Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni). The females are much paler.

In my experience this butterfly almost never sits with its wings open, so I only ever get closed wing pictures.

The Brimstone is most likely the first butterfly you will see in spring. Those on the wing now will be from the second brood of the year. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of Buckthorn.

This orangey/red beetle is a Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

They are carnivorous and feed on other insects. The larvae feed on the larvae of decaying wood feeding insects.

For those interested in food from the wild

I have just added some new links.

The first two are the website and blogspot of Fergus Drennan AKA Fergus the forager.

Here you can find out about his wild food courses based near Canterbury and lots of useful information including; recipes, useful links, what he has been up to recently and lot’s of other useful information.

And then we have a link to my friend Marcus and his Wild Food School, based in Cornwall.

Here you can find out about courses, many recipes, books and other publications he produces for sale and much more.

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass By Harold Gatty

Harold Gatty has a unique knowledge of pathfinding by natural methods on both land and sea. Born in Tasmania, he was placed in charge of Air Navigation Research and Training for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1931. During World War II his first book “The Raft Book” was part of the standard equipment in U.S. Airforce life rafts, written to help men who were adrift at sea.

This book covers the marine material from the previous book with the addition of pathfinding on land. Applying methods used by primitive peoples from around the world and early explorers he shows how to navigate by observing natural features, birds and other animals, weather patterns, vegetation, patterns of both snow and sand and positions of the sun, moon and stars, without having to rely on a map or compass. Much of the advice and information in this book is not available elsewhere.

I have found this book so fascinating that it really is difficult to put down. The reader is encouraged to look at paintings and photographs of landscapes and using skills learnt from the book look for natural indicators of time of day, orientation of the picture and the direction of certain natural features.

Also of interest to me was the observational use of migrating birds as a directional indicator by early explorers such as the Polynesians, as migrating birds travelling over sea were known to be heading for land. Some even carried large birds such as frigate birds on their boats and released individuals during a sea crossing (knowing they would fly to land) and observed the direction they flew in and headed in the same direction.

The book can be viewed here

or purchased here