Large Alder Bur Kasa/Kuksa – Part 2

Unfortunately as I carved into the wood I found a flaw inside

It’s rather more obvious from the outside

Based on previous experience, I was certain that the kasa would crack here as it dried so I decided not to carve any thinner but instead worked on the shape.

Even if it did crack it was worth continuing to increase my knowledge and skills in working with bur wood and carving.  And after another hours work the shape was looking good.

A couple more hours of sanding and polishing with cotton cloth and it was just about completed

I completed it by cutting in some minimal patterning with a knife and then oiled it to lift out the patterns in the wood.  The kasa holds 3/4 litre of liquad.

I had a small piece of bur left over so I also made four year old Emma her first kasa

and engraved an “E” on the handle to personalise it for her

Large Alder Bur Kasa/Kuksa – Part 1

I’ve wanted to try and make a large kasa for some time and after an area of trees had been cleared on one of our reserves I found a large bur on an Alder (Alnus glutinosa) stump, which I removed with a chainsaw.

I removed the outer bark and using my Fiskars hatchet cut cut away faults and flaws until I reached good wood.  Then I marked the size and shape of the kasa I wanted to carve from the bur.

Using my gouge

I began to shape the inside of the bowl and after a couple of  hours work it looked like this

and after another hour it looked like this

I continued using my hatchet to shape the underside

The patterning in the bur is beautiful

and after another couple of hours work the kasa was really starting to take shape

Singing the “Blue’s” again

Last year I wrote about an evening I spent being entertained by The CC Blue’s Band featuring primitive skills instructor John Lord.

Like last year the band again featured guest guitarist Phil Harding who is more familiar to viewers of the Channel 4 series Time Team.

It was a really enjoyable evening with some great music like this

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and this

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Navigation via moss on trees

Many books tell you that in the northern hemisphere you can find north by looking at trees on moist ground and the side of the tree on which the moss grows highest will indicate north because  of the assumption that all mosses require cool, damp, shaded locations and this can often be true, but not always as you can see in the picture below.  The picture was taken 1 hour after midday and the moss (on the south-easterly side of the tree) is growing about 1 metre up the tree (in this case an Ash tree).

Mosses have no roots but instead have tiny threads called rhizoids that serve to anchor the moss and to supply moisture and nutrients.  Their leaves are thin and cannot retain water so instead they obtain water from rain
and dew and for this reason mosses tend to grow best in wetter places.  You can learn more about mosses here.

So when using mosses on trees for navigation look at a number of trees and take an average to give a rough idea of north but not rely on it.  I would also recommend getting a copy of this book “Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass” which teaches you how to recognise many natural signs and events  to use for navigating.

My first trip to Lapland

I thought I would take a step back in time and write about my first visit to Swedish Lapland in September 2006.

My friend Eckhardt had invited me to visit him and his family and spend some time at his cabin in the forest

This was the first view I had of his cabin and I never imagined that nine months later I would be buying it

I spent time walking in the forest and exploring

helping with work around the cabin


fishing and rowing on the lake (didn’t catch anything of course!)

and tracking animals

Ekhardt also taught me how to drink warm, salt water through my nose to help treat congestion and cold symptoms.

I had such a great time and was determined to return again soon.

Common Darter Dragonfly

The Common Darter Dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum) is one of the smaller British species of dragonflies.  The male is a rich bright red in colour

and the female varies from shades of green to orange and even red when mature.  This individual has just emerged from life as a larvae living below water.

The Common Darter is on the wing from the middle of June here in the East of England and when I first became interested in wildlife and nature conservation, books stated “June – October” and it is the last dragonfly species you will see in the year.  In the early 90’s I can remember recording this species into the first few days of November and this year 16 -17 years later my last date was 26th November and I expect within the next 5 years they will be recorded into the first few days of December.

In late autumn they are always looking for somewhere bright and warm to sit and absorb the suns heat

Walnut gathering

I thought this year was going to be pretty hopeless for walnuts. I had gathered a good crop from the one decent tree on my land last year and had not expected the same again in 2009. I had also taken my eye off the ‘resident’ squirrel population so when I was gazing up into the branches back in August I was not surprised when I couldn’t see many. I was delighted,therefore, after strong winds one night at the beginning of October to find the ground littered with nuts. I hastily gathered then up and took them back indoors to process. One of the downsides to gathering walnuts is the tannins in the husks. Despite wearing gloves this year my hands were still stained, first a yellowy brown rapidly becoming nearly black! It doesn’t wash off,takes weeks to,quite literally, wear off and receives horrified looks when you go to shake someones hand! This does ,however, remind you just what an effective dye plant it is and I had been asked to save the husks for this very purpose.Here are some of the walnuts and the husks (to the right) drying by the woodburner.

Scraping dead wood to make fire

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.

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but you can use this scraping method on most dead woods to achieve either a flame or and ember (depending on the type of wood and/or weather conditions).
For this demonstration I used a dead Ash tree and light rain was falling.  I found a fallen tree, where the bark had gone leaving exposed and weathered dead wood.  I scraped the surface of the wood with my knife (discarding the wet outer material and scraping the drier inner material into a pile)
Each time you use the firesteel you are creating heat which helps to remove moisture from the scrapings and after using the firesteel five times the material began to smoke
On a dry day I am confident I would have achieved a flame but today had to make do with an ember
This ember can be treated exactly the same as a friction-fire ember and blown to flame using a nest of dry material.