2015 begins just like 2014 finished

Just before Christmas I was diagnosed with Pneumonia and given a course of anti-bionics.

On Christmas Day Kelly had a diarrhea and sickness bug and of course four days later I caught it.  I had diarrhea the whole of last week and was not able to keep any foods and liquids inside me.  Our health helpline recommended that i eat rice, carrots and sweat corn as these help to block up the stomach and digestive system.

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It helped for 24hrs but then the problem returned again.  Then the doctor gave me Vi-Siblin testa ispaghulae which are granules that you mix with water and drink.  After a bit I research I found that this is made from the seed husks of plantain (plantago sp), one of my favorite herbal species of plants https://naturallore.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/greater-plantain/.  This has been very effective and I am feeling much better now, however the pneumonia unfortunately persists and so I was unable to travel to England yesterday as planned.

When i did some work with the US Airforce in 2005

airforce

they taught about using different types of ash from a fire to help the digestive system by using the saying….”tight – white, black – slack” which means if you have constipation, mix white ash from the fire with water and drink to relieve symptoms and if you have diarrhea, use black charcoal from the fire mixed with water and drink to relieve the symptoms.  These methods work very well.

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Bushcraftage – Fire

Whenever bushcrafters get together sooner or later the talk always turns to the subjects of fire and food. I believe that there is something in all of us that loves to look into the flames of a fire, especially when we have a full tummy. When you have prepped a fire, lit it, managed it and cooked your food over it you always want to sit down and stare into the heart of this woodland TV.

This post will focus on the activities we undertake in the art of fire making.

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Woodland TV

I work with many children from London and this experience is so rarely these days given to them. Our cadets generally experience sitting around a campfire when they come camping with us for the first time. They have to learn to cook their food on stoves first and the only food that they may get to cook over the fire to begin with are marshmallows. It is at these times we talk about their highs, lows and learns of the day they have just had. Afterwards I like to steer the conversation onto the subject of bushcraft and what possibilities are available to them in the Sea Cadets.

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Flamer – a bit more tuition required

On a bushcraft course I will try and give the cadets a number of experiences of lighting a fire. I always ask them though at the beginning of their first lesson on lighting a fire the following question:

“What is the first thing you need before lighting your fire?”

After much humming and haaahing and answers such as water, first aid, wood and paper I give them a clue by asking “Who owns the land we are on?”

Very quickly they answer the first question with “Permission”.

Some may say I am being a bit over zealous on the health and safety angle but it is the first question I ask and the last point I recap on at the end of the lesson.

Usually we start with firesteels and different types of tinders (man-made and natural).

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Firesteel class

With the younger ones we talk about creating Fairy Lights. Once they realise that they can create a stream of sparks from the firesteel without hurting themselves there is no stopping them.

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Fairy Lights

Weather permitting I have always found the sun to be a popular tool, focusing its power with the use of parabolic mirrors and magnifying glasses.

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Parabolic mirrors

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Magnifying glasses

Whenever we are out and about foraging or doing navigation I will get the cadets to forage for tinder. Thankfully where we operate Birch bark is always plentiful.

Birch collection

Foraging for tinder

Cadets are taught to ‘build’ their fires. I like to use parts of the body to relate scale to the cadets when collecting tinder and kindling. Tinder needs to be as fine as their hair (scraped birch bark, honeysuckle bark, Usnea, Common Reed heads etc), kindling of various sizes which should be no bigger than their pinkie (as long as it snaps easily), wood no thicker than their thumb to help the fire sustain (again it should snap easily) and finally cooking wood, which should be no thicker than their wrist (it should be able to be sawn easily).

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Sawing ‘cooking wood’

Here the cadets are being tested in lighting their fire to a point where it is self sustaining and the flames can burn through a piece of cord (thanks to Charlie Brookes for this idea).

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Building your fire

Another skill that we teach is that of the group bowdrill. To teach a cadet to create a fire on their own using a bowdrill is quite a feat, although certainly possible if you have the time. As we never have enough time and also because I personally feel that the art of using a bowdrill is communal activity, I prefer to use the group bowdrill method. I like to have two cadets holding a large bearing block and two cadets using the bow. Not only does this create good team work, you are (with good supervision) guaranteed a higher success rate.

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Group bowdrill

Whatever way you create a fire it always leads to happy fire faces.

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Happy fire faces

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Happy fire faces

Depending on the time available, I like to get the cadets to construct a flaming candle. I have heard them referred to as both Swedish and Finnish candles. Swedish is the more common term but they are also known as Finnish candles because soldiers in the Finnish/Russian war in the winter of 1939/40 used this method for cooking. I like the fact you can boil a kettle on one of these candles and you only need an axe to make one.

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Swedish/Finnish fire experiments

With all these methods, teaching them in a safe and fun manner is paramount. Cadets are taught to respect their environment: to forage from a wide area and always to put out a fire thoroughly so as to leave no trace that the fire had ever been there.

The next instalment of the Bushcraftage series will be on some of the foodstuffs the cadets cook over their fires.

Cheers

George

Bushcraft Days

Jokkmokk’s Historic Marknad 2013

Yesterday I was at Jokkmokk’s Historic Marknad (this is a small market held each year from Sunday to Wednesday, prior to the main market starting on Thursday), where I spent quite a bit of time demonstrating making fire with the bow-drill.

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fire making jokkmokks marknad

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One Sámi man was really interested to see the bow-drill in use and I ended up giving him my bow-drill set so that he could practise making fire with it at home.

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Testing my reindeer horn ice fishing rod

On Saturday I went ice fishing with my neighbour Folke.  The snow is very deep and it was not easy to travel with snowmobiles.

folke with snowmobile

It was 12kms to the lake where we intended to fish and once we arrived there we started boring holes in the ice to fish through.

ice fishing

After only a few minutes of fishing (using a worm and a piece of shrimp for bait) Folke caught an Arctic Char!

arctic char

I was fishing with my Reindeer horn fishing rod

fishing with reindeer horn rod

It took a little longer for me to catch my first fish; a Rainbow Trout

trout and reindeer horn rod

We made fire and cooked some coffee

coffee break

We then continued fishing.  Folke caught 2 Arctic Char and I caught 2 Rainbow Trout and 1 Arctic Char.

days catch

At pleasant evening beside a lake

Yesterday evening I took Emma out fishing with me to a local lake.

Emma played in the forest while I was fishing, but then I gave her some matches and asked her to try and make a fire.  She thought I was joking at first, as this is something she had not done before.  She had already gathered tinder as we walked to the lake and there were lots of dead branches laying around, so she had everything she needed.

Just as she started preparing the fire, I caught a Rainbow Trout, and suggested we cook it directly over her fire.  “But we have no cooking utensils she said”.  “We don’t need any I said, you will see once you get the fire going.”

Emma made fire successfully and while she was tending the fire I prepared the fish

Emma was so pleased that she had made her first fire

I placed the fish over the fire

and after 10 minutes it was cooked

We ate the fish with fresh picked Hjortron/Cloudberries.

Signal fire

It is snowing again today and the temperature is 0 degrees with a cold north wind!  Spring is going to be very late this year.

Recently I demonstrated an emergency signal fire to a group from Austria.  It was only a small version but still worked very well.  This type of fire is used to help emergency services locate your position from the air.

Firstly I dug a hole in the snow and then laid two pieces of Birch across the hole.  Across the two lengths of Birch I laid a large amount of small, dry, dead Spruce branches.

Over theses dead branches I thatched a thick layer of fresh, green Spruce branches.

Finally I pushed dried grass and Birch bark up underneath the pile as a fuse to light the fire.  Once the grass was lighted, smoke began to appear very quickly

Soon there was thick smoke bellowing out

Unfortunately at this point the battery ran out in my camera, but here is a picture of a larger version made in Canada 2006.

Jokkmokks Marknad 2012 part 1

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).

Photographs by Mike Lenzner

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.