Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tying It All Together.

August  27th  -  Day #2

(Natural Cordage & Rope, Bow Fire Drill Set, Plant Walk, Snack Time)

Woke at 0630 for an Oats, honey & raisins breakfast which is great energy for the morning and seems it will be part of my routine throughout the fall semester. I brought along an entire case of Yukons' Gold, so the class will have plenty of orange blossom honey for teas, coffee, biscuits, oatmeal etc. I don't believe I've ever been so excited to learn such useful knowledge!

Natural Cordage & Rope

If you're in need of securing or fastening something together there are many solutions in the natural world. Creating cordage out of grass, roots, saplings, and even the fibers of plants such as dogbane, nettle and velvet leaf. The plant fibers are much easier to process after the first frost when the plants are dying. We all made 2 ply cordage out of tall grass found on the roadside and when a piece was big enough two students would play tug of war to demonstrate how durable it can be. I harvested about 8 dogbane plants to remove fibers on the inside of the stalk. Very tedious work as the material is much smaller then bundles of grass yet surprisingly one strand of dogbane fiber is nearly impossible for one person to tug on and break. Impressive stuff!  I decided to make a bracelet after making a few feet of cord then doubling it over on itself, came out great (since this is back logged) I've never taken it off and the dogbane bracelet thus far has lasted over 3 months on my wrist.
Following the natural cordage instruction we all made our own 30ft ropes using bale twine and an old fashioned hand cranked rope making machine. Three pieces of twine were doubled over and stretched between two parts of the rope making device. As the crank was spun the three individual pieces of twine tightly spun themselves together then by sliding the rope divider tool it would allow the three peices of twine to wrap around eachother creating the rope. We tied knots on both ends which holds the braiding work from becoming loose. This rope making technique is over 200 years old and first appeared in the American Midwest in the 1800s as farmers needed a more efficient way to make replacement hoist rope for lifting harvested hay into the upper floors of the barn for storage.

Fire Bow Drills
We are not creating fire by friction today, just harvesting the material for our Bow Drill sets and getting into the fire making later. We began by learning how to section & limb speckled Alder trees using just our knives and utilizing a "rose cut", you can accomplish A LOT with quality knife.  So, there are four parts to your Bow Drill set, the fire board, spindle, hand hold and the bow. The bow should be light, sturdy and the length of your shoulder to fingertip (a natural arc in the bow is also helpful). In theory any string would work but nylon would be best, so tie your string from one end of the bow to the other.  For your spindle and fire board you want to use a soft wood such as Alder, Cedar, Poplar, Basswood, Willow etc. Keep in mind, If the wood is green "alive" then you need to wait a few days for it to dry. The spindle should be about 6 inches in length & thumb width as you whittle it into shape and the fire board should be flat on both sides in a rectangular shape and about 1 inch thick. For the hand hold you can use anything such as a hard wood, a rock, or bone (the idea is to use something that will give little to no friction). In a few days after these components have had a chance
to dry in the sun we will come back to them for fire by friction instruction.

Plant Walk

On our  plant walk this afternoon we talked about, identified and pressed 8 plant species :)

Sheep Sorrel:
Lemony, tangy tart flavor.
Delicious in a salad :)
St. John's Wort
Known Herbal treatment
for depression.

- Plantago major  (Plantain)
- Rumex Acetosella  (Sheep Sorrel)
- Chrysanthemum leucanthemum  (Ox-eye Daisy)
- Taraxacum officinale  (Dandelion)
- Abies balsamea  (Balsam Fir)
-  Hypericum perforatum  (St. Johns wort)
-  Prunus spp.  (Pin-Cherrys)
-  Usnea cavernosa  (Pitted Beard "old mans beard")


Grasshoppers glazed with a honey & brown sugar mix, fried up in a pan for a delightful afternoon snack.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My First Po-Em...

"On Top Of My Mountain"

The path in which my journey has taken,
Over the years brought many things to light. 
Always sensing there was something more,
More to life, more than survival, more than a fight. 

On top of my Mountain,
Stillness sinks in every breath of fresh air, 
Here on this earth, a magical place for everyone to share.
All things in common, all beings are one,
Be kind to another; be proud for all you have done.

Through the battles in Afghanistan and battles in Iraq,
My eyes opened to a broken way and no man should ever go back.
 Sickens me their intentions corrupt, benefiting only but a few,
See behind the curtain, see we are one and your eyes will open too.

On top of my Mountain,
Witness to a world we do not own, yet divided by all,
Finding freedom and happiness I have answered my call.   
Here to serve as well as to give, no greater joy,
No higher purpose for this life I do live.

Twelve thousand miles I drove, unsure of what I was seeking,  
Something profound discovered, myself I was meeting. 
Crossing many paths along this journey,
Enlightened by you all and the oneness for eternity.   

On top of my Mountain,
Never had I known these levels one could reach,
My light shines from here in hopes one day it will guide, and it will teach.
More truth than anything else, so simple to me now,
I shall spread this vision and wisdom, please guide me how.  

2,000 miles I hiked up the mountainous coast,
Only to be reborn, I have been diagnosed.
Be grateful for the gift we have, this gift that we share,   
Love thy neighbor, show the world that you care.

On top of my Mountain,
Now only a smile takes form, an awareness flows through,
As pure consciousness consumes my being admiring the view.
A sight not to be missed, the clutter has finally ceased, 
No judgement is passed as I sit here in peace...


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


"There are some things in life money can't buy, for everything else there's......wait, Nothing else really matters."


Monday, November 18, 2013

Bushcraft Journey Begins!

August 26th   -  Day #1

(Weather, Axe, Plants, Humanure & "One Match Fire")

Today marks the starting point of my 9 week fall semester of a living education in the Northern Maine Woods. I've been awaiting this moment so patiently for many years and now as a student of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School and the natural world, I couldn't be more excited, anxious and passionate to embark on this year of studies.

This morning I awoke in my two man tent at 0730 to a light drizzle and gathered with the other students for breakfast. Eight out of the ten students are Veterans from all branches of service, there is clearly a want and a need for this type of education that seems to have brought us all together. Our morning discussion dealt with understanding the weather without the weather man. If you are living amongst nature, being able to predict a storm or when it's going to clear could be extremely helpful or life saving and it's been done for thousands of years prior to our generation but with the use of technology most of these skills have been forgotten. Some would say we are the most uniformed generation as to what it is to feel or be aware of such basic human skills due to tech savvy advances in which we now EXPECT all the answers from. Clearing winds will come from the West/Northwest and veering winds will come from the South/Southeast moving clockwise bringing in the front. Every morning and evening we are keeping weather journals, logging cloud types, wind direction and precipitation along with our predictions for the next 12 hours. After a few weeks I should have a general idea of what the forecast will bring.

Tim Smith (Founder, Maine Guide Master & lead instructor at JMB) then went over the basic uses/safety for the axe, a tool that will become a very close friend of mine. The four basic uses are 1. Felling (how to bring the tree safely to the ground) 2. Limbing (removing the branches from fallen tree) 3. Sectioning (cutting the tree into smaller pieces) 4. Splitting (splitting the sections for other uses) These may sound self explanatory but I can assure you, there are proper, safe and effective ways for each that will benefit you and your axe blade. The five safeties are 1. Begin your cut at least 8 inches up from where the tree meets the ground  2. Be sure to stand the full axe length away from selected tree  3. Clear Zone, Look at where your standing and ask yourself  "if I swing and miss, will the follow though put this steel axe head into my shin?" also ensuring nothing is within distance of you and your axe, 360 degrees around and remove smaller trees, branches, rocks etc. 4. Chop at a downward angle, again an upward angle could land the axe in your forehead, on the good/bad scale this would be BAD... And 5. Escape plan, if something should go wrong such as the tree falling in your direction, where is the safest place to move quickly. We had plenty of trees for practical application as all materials were used for later skills & crafts. I was using the 26" Wetterlings forest axe, a hand forged Swedish carbon steel head with an American Hickory handle and I must say I have never used such a fine tool. I like the term "like a hot knife through butter" and that's just what it reminded me of. I understood the process and fundamentals quickly but with a little more practice the accuracy will follow.

Latin Family: Caprifoliace
English Family: Honey Suckle
Species & genius: Viburnum lentago
Common name: Nanny berry
Habitat: Wet soil, borders forest
Collected  08/23/13

Plants are surrounding you in nature, each one being unique and having something to offer. The basic understanding of how to identify, document and press a plant species into our log book was a skill I was eager to learn. Using a sticky transparent film we pressed the plants onto large note cards and documented the following information- Family English & Latin name, Species (Caps) & genius (lowercase) in Latin, Common name in English, Date gathered and Where it was gathered (habitat not street address)    

"One Match Fire"
Paul Sveum (Maine Guide & Assistant Instructor at JMB) gave a period of instruction on the "one match fire." If all you had was one match what is the most efficient way to make it count? Begin by gathering your tinder to create a "twiggy bundle", using the smallest twigs your can find that have a nice snap to them. You do not want green twigs that will bend or rotten wood which will smother and we were not allowed to "cheat" by using birch bark which contains oils and is used as a fire accelerant (that will be covered later)   

                         Humanure To conclude Day #1                                     We gathered around the restrooms to discuss  Humanure (composting waste cycle). The benefits, efficiency, practicality and simplicity should make a light bulb turn on in EVERYONE'S mind. It can be a restroom like any other, with a door, sink, mirror, toilet seat and can be as clean and sanitary as you want! The only difference is, your deposit goes into a container that has just a few simple steps to process 1. With each use, scoop just enough saw dust or leaf duff (top layer of soil in the forest) to cover, this will completely eliminate smell  2. When container is getting full, bring it to the compost pile where you   dump it in the center  3.
Cover with a few handfuls of hay and DONE! *Try to water a tree, urine does not help this process...Here it immediately begins to compost, it will heat up to over 150 degrees, over time    (1 year-ish) it will be nutrient rich soil with ZERO Oder. The size of the compost can be as large as you want it to be and when one becomes full, begin another while the first one ages. Are you seeing the cycle? When its done ageing you can plant flowers, trees, grass and even gardens, life will begin to jump out of the ground! Most everyone likes to push the little lever on a toilet, wasting a gallon of pure water so they don't have to even look at it and IT'S GONE! Mean while others dont have enough water to drink... Out of sight out of mind, it doesn't exist anymore after you flush it right? Because you can't see it, IT'S GONE? WRONG! At this point you have broken the cycle, now you have created waste and furthered the need for chemical fertilizer. We are humans, we all must use the restroom, we all know it, no matter how shy you want to be about it. Make it work for us and for the planet by not breaking the natural cycle. Here is a great book if you want to learn more :) The Humanure Handbook.                

Friday, November 15, 2013


This thought came into my mind while pondering the fact "listen" and "silent" are formed out of the exact same letters. A Thank you to my friend Bam Coleman who brought light to this inspired thought :)

"To just be... Just listen  &  Be silent."


Thursday, November 7, 2013


I've decided to begin sharing some of my short, snippets of original thought if you will. This will be called YU-KON (you can) QUOTE ME:  Enjoy...  #1

"Should we cross paths today, I'm going to infect you with a smile."    :)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A 12 Year Old Boys Philosophy


            I have often been asked, "what inspires you to do this, create this space?" Or, "when did you know or decide this is what you wanted to do?"  Well, I was going through some boxes the other day and came across this envelope with a "letter to myself, in the future..." inside. 17 years ago this letter had been filled out when I was just 12 years old and in the 6th grade. Most of the answers I gave were what you'd expect 12 year old boys to write haha, my favorite subject being girls? Reading Goosebumps and I absolutely do love moms home made macaroni & cheese :) but when I got to the bottom question, "My philosophy of life is...?" and in the biggest letters I could write, my answer was, "BEING KIND TO PEOPLE."  Would this be most responses from a 12 year old? I don't even remember knowing what a philosophy was at that age. My mind wanders as I look at this letter from my 12 year old self and I guess my response to the question "what inspires you to do this, create this space?" and "when did you know or decide this is what you wanted to do?" My answer would be, I've always been inspired, I've always known and I decided a long time ago.

T-shirts!!! A simple message from my 12 year old self...