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.                

1 comment:

  1. Hey this is awesome! I am surprised I knew some of that ( building fire and working with an axe - I guess my dad was my instructor) , but I might reference you on the other subjects for my school papers! :) Keep up the great work!!!!!