Burdock hanger

I saw one of these hanging hooks in a Blackhouse museum on the Isle of Lewis and thought it would be, equally, useful

in camp for keeping clothes or cooking equipment off the ground.

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Burdock ‘skeletons’ are still evident right up to Spring but the hanger is best made in Autumn.

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Find a good stout one, cut off at the base and trim the leaf stalks to roughly 3-4″. Completely remove the weaker stalks as you rise up the main stem.

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You can either tie cordage around the top or,as I have done here, form a loop from the top growth by twisting the stem to loosen the fibres,bending it over to make an eye and binding with cordage.

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It’s surprising how robust this hanger is!

Incidently, when ‘harvesting’ your burdock stem collect up all the burrs into a ball- they make an excellent scouring pad for cleaning pots. They hold together so well you can wash them out and reuse them again.

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New guest blogger

JemSeeleyMy name is Jem (freebornjem) and I’ve been invited to contribute,occasionally,to Fenlander’s blog. So, to introduce myself…I have a lifelong interest in the natural world. I’ve been practising  skills under the ‘bushcraft’ banner for many years. Bushcraft neatly encompasses all my interests and has become more than something I just do at the weekends.It is a mindset enabling me to look at the world around me in a different light and to fully engage with it rather than experience it as an outsider.

In my spare time I am also an illustrator, running a graphic design company with my wife, look after 2 children and I am a woodsman on a local estate. Particular interests include permaculture and green woodwork.

I look forward to sharing some of my expriences with you.

Bird survey

It’s a busy time of year for surveying and monitoring species.  I was up early the other morning to do a dawn survey of the birds on one of our reserves

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Each species of bird in the United Kingdom has its own unique code .  In the case of this Song Thrush the code is ST

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Standing at a specific location for 15 minutes

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I record all the birds I see and hear around me on a sheet of paper using codes

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If a species is singing I put a circle around the code, if it is calling I draw a line under the code, if it is flying I draw an arrow to represent its direction of flight

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This is repeated at 15 locations on the site, 6 times during the spring.

Bee swarm

I was on one of our reserves the other day when I noticed a large number of insects flying around in front of me.  As I approached I realised they were a swarm of honey bees.  Presumably the queen had landed because as I watched, the swarm began to land on the trunk of a Birch tree

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I am told that bees rarely sting when swarming but due to public access, as a precausion I called our local beekeeper to come and collect the bees.

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I believe a swarm is formed when a queen decides to leave the hive and find a new home.  Scout bees are sent out to dry and locate a suitable home and the rest of the bees follow the scouts waiting for then to return with a suitable location.  Hopefully Robin (Treewright) will correct me if I am wrong.

Alan the beekeeper a nice coiled basket which had been locally made, to collect the bees in.  He swept the majority of bees into the basket (ensuring he had the queen)

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He then proped the basket up, turned upside down on a cloth and all the remaining bees graually moved into the basket and they could then be taken away.

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To find out more about honey bees take a look here BBA

Special Forces self sealing basha

I was recently given a British army desert pattern basha to test,

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but this is no ordinary basha.  Issued to special forces, it is made with a special material which appears like any other basha material until the material is pierced or punctured by something sharp (in this case a pen)

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and here is the resulting hole

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Now you take the material between thumb and forefinger, rubbing from both sides.

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Due to the unique design of the material, as you manipulate it and create heat as you rub, the material “heals” itself

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I am told you can cause significantly more severe damage and it will repair but as it was only on loan I did not have the confidence to do so!!

Be warned that these basha’s are pretty much identical to standard basha’a and even have the same contract number on the label so don’t go piercing your basha assuming you have one of these!!

If anyone knows more about this material I would appreciate any information.

Military training area

Recently I have spent some time  on one of several military training areas in the UK.  This particular site covers an area of more than 30,000 hectares and was established in 1942 when battle training was required for troops fighting in the second world war (including the run-up to the D-day landings).

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The area now looks pretty much as it did then.  Those living in the area (including the residents of at least four villages) were given one weeks notice to take what possessions they could and leave their homes.  The MOD moved them to new homes outside of the training area.  Once a year families are allowed in to visit their homes and tend the graves of their loved ones.

I was there to assist with monitoring of rare plants and habitats within the area

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Ensuring that many small and delicate plants were not being swamped by more dominant species such as Bracken Pteridium

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Because this site is used as a live firing area there are only certain periods when it is possible to get permission from the MOD to gain access.  As a live firing area we had to take special care when walking around to avoid standing on or touching small and large ordinance, such as this old artillery shell.

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I noticed the belly of this shell exposed in the grass and so we called out the diposal team to deal with it.  Fortunately it was not dangerous and was subsequently removed from site.

Primitive skills weekend – Part 2

After lunch there were more workshops including cordage making

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and by mid afternoon we were preparing food for our evening meal.  On both days the main meal was cooked in a pit.  A pit had already been dug and into this we made a fire.

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Once there was a good bed of embers a layer of wet hay was put over the embers (on Sunday Nick cut a large amount of Stinging Nettles which were used instead) and the meat, having been wrapped in hay was then placed in the pit (we had Roe and Muntjac deer and some Wild Boar)

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Another layer of wet hay/Stinging Nettles were then added and finally another fire was made on top

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The pit was then left for four hours.

A piece of lean meat from the Roe Deer was held back, sliced into thin strips and hung by the fire to make jerky.

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After 14 hours by the fire with the smoke keeping insects away, it had dried just right as venison jerky.

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As dusk approached the meat was removed from the pit

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Everyone enjoyed the evening meal and afterwards there was a primitive fancy dress competition

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and the rest of the evening was spent eating more and drinking some very strange concoctions.

On Sunday morning after breakfast there were more activities and I ran a bow-drill and wet tinder workshop for a small group.

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Hannah from Natural Pathways was keen to try the wet tinder oven.

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I spent a lot of time chatting with Hannah and her assistant instructors Lief and Sal.  I would highly recommend there survival and nature awareness courses held in Kent.

By early afternoon people were starting to leave and after the final workshop I also headed home