Nature’s chewing gum

I can recall as a small boy when out walking with my uncle he asked “do you like chewing gum?” “Yes” I replied ” do you have any?” “It’s all around us he replied!”

He was referring to the wheat we were walking through.

I you pick a couple of ears of wheat, rub them between your hands and then gently blow away the husks you will be left with the wheat grains.

Chew the grains and after a short time they will change to a consistency almost identical to chewing gum. I assume the is the gluten being released.

False Tinder Fungus Amadou

I am sure you all know that amadou is a thin layer of velvety material found between the spore tubes and cortex of Fomes fomentarius False Tinder Fungus. Rather than collecting large fully grown specimens, I go for the young small ones which are almost all amadou and need very little work to prepare.

I just beat the fungus flat with a stone, then cut it into strips and allow it to dry. I then char one end of a strip which greatly improves its efficiency to take a spark.

For this demonstration I used the edge of a flat chainsaw file to achieve a spark with the flint

Once the amadou is ignited I place it inot a tinder bundle and blow until I achieve a flame.

The smouldering amadou can then be snuffed out and used again.

Sausages in bannock

This morning I cooked sausages over the campfire

Once the sausages were cooked I wrapped bannock dough around the sausages and cooked them again.

An interesting observation for natural navigation today was this pond sedge.

The sedge having been regularly blown by the prevailing wind (coming from the south west) was pointing in a north easterly direction.

The Talking Stick

A friend asked me to find a nice stick for him to use as a “Talking Stick” when facilitating meetings for Ecological knowledge gathering and sharing.

A friend at work said she had found an ideal Hazel stick and with a bit of trimming and rubbing with fine wire wool to smooth it, it was just perfect.

The Talking Stick was used by many Native American tribes at council meetings. The chief or leading elder would hold the stick and begin a discussion and when he had finished speaking he would hold out the stick and the person who took the stick had the right to speak while others listened. The stick was often decorated to show its importance and significance.

Using supplies from Waken Tanka Native American Products I decorated the stick.

The rabbit fur on the end of the stick reminds the user that their words must be soft and warm.

I used four different colours of thread in a four-strand round plat and placed four beads onto the thread. The four colours of beads represent the seasons, the main points of the compass and – yellow for sunrise, red for sunset, white for snow and green for the earth.

The shells remind the user that all creation changes – the seasons, people, and the years.

And finally using a thin strip of reindeer hide I attached four feathers also used in traditional decoration.

If anyone knows more about this item any information would be gratefully received.

Essex gathering

Last weekend I was at an annual gathering of green woodworkers at a private woodland in Essex. I arrived Saturday evening and set up my bed.

and was fortunate enough to arrive just in time for the evening meal

The rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking and chatting. It rained heavily Saturday night but I did not wake up until 9am when the rain had stopped.

Some people wanted to try carving kuksas so after breakfast

we headed off in search of a suitable Birch tree to fell

which we then cut into short lengths and split in half ready for people to use.

Some spent the day carving kuksas while others where making shaving horses and furniture.

Unfortunately I had to leave at 4pm so did not get my cup completed, but it will be finished soon.

Stone Curlew

Last week I was assisting the RSPB Stone Curlew team with trying to locate and catch chicks.

The Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) is a rare summer visitor, arriving in March and departing again in October. They can be seen during the day but are more active at night.

There is a breeding population of about 300 pairs in the UK (two thirds of which breed in Norfolk and Suffolk). The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground with usually 2-3 eggs laid in it.

The chicks are captured, weighed, various measurements taken and then given a unique combination of colour rings on the legs, which allows individuals to be identified at some distance with binoculars of a telescope.

You can find out more information at the links below;

Pump-drill experiment

While out the other day I decided to try and make a pump-drill with items I could find in the wood and then make fire. Firstly I collected some pieces of dead hazel by breaking them from coppice stools.

Using a piece of flint I cut them to the required lengths

I found a plastic bread bag and filled with soil to use as the weight for the pump-drill and lashed at the top and bottom to secure it in place.

I used Wych Elm bark to lash the parts of the drill together.

Here is the completed pump-drill.

Unfortunately when I started to use the pump-drill to try and make fire, the spinning momentum of the drill shaft split the plastic bag open and the soil fell onto the coal that was starting to form!…..oh well, maybe next time.