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29 January 2013
I was answering a question about pine oil on one of the forums I frequent and thought I would collate the various resources mentioned here.
It has something of the character of an essential oil and has disinfectant and antiseptic properties. It isn't for internal use however as it can be poisonous. It is made through steam distillation - the oil is too fragile to be distilled like tars. If you've ever made pine needle tea I'm sure you've observed the slight oil that comes out of the needles - what you need is some method of condensing the steam to collect this oil.
Pine tar is made through destructive distillation - think along the lines of making charcoal and collecting what is a kind of liquid smoke from the container. The most resinous bits of pine seem to be most favoured in its manufacture - you can see Ray Mears watching it made here from 8:15 in.
It was used extensively for preserving timbers and ropes in the days of sailing ships and is at the root of referring to navy sailors as Jack Tars and North Carolinans as Tar Heels. Pine tar is also used in some all natural soaps.
Is made from the distillation of pine sap. It also has cleaning and antiseptic properties but is not safe for consumption. It has actually got some similar properties to pertoleum products and was used in Honda motorbikes in post war Japan. It's not as efficient but it worked. It was also burned in lamps, though the smell can be rather strong. There are a series of videos looking at pine tar soap and turpentine here.
Birch Bark Tar
This was one of the great inventions of the mesolithic age and there is still a lively debate as to how it w\as extracted in that era as pottery was not yet in use. There are some modern day primitives making it with containers as seen here
It was also used as a chewing gum and there are modern ethnographic techniques for distillation (PDF)
If you want to try making it the best tutorial I've found is at Jon's bushcraft.
I shall include a couple more similar resources as they're also good, Primitive Ways and Practical Primitive are two sites I visit often anyway.
Birch tar is also used in the production of "Russian Leather" which I've not found a wealth of information about apart from this PDF.
Aside from it's use as a spluttering and spitting fuel for fires and torches pine pitch, the hardened resin from old wounds of the tree, can be used as a glue or varnish. There's a good primitive tutorial here for the glue - it's usually mixed with charcoal as otherwise it's too fragile to use. The varnish is apparently made through dissolving the pitch in alcohol or turpentine, although it seems to be used more by violin makers than bushcrafters.
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26 January 2013
I'm interested in selling the following books as I continue my attempt to cut down on the amount of stuff I have. My goal is to be freer and I've read and digested the majority of these books. Rather than having them gather dust or need to be moved back and forth I'm offering them for sale.
All the prices are including postage in Europe, add £2 for other continents. Payment is also only via paypal. If there's something you'd like then just drop me an email at email@example.com
Braiding and Knotting: Techniques and Projects; Belash £3
Wilderness Survival; Pewtherer and Elbroch £5
After the Ice; Mithen £10
Camping for Boys, H. W. Gibson, £5
The Ax Book, Hood. £13
The Weather Wizard's Cloud Book £5
Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife shop £9
Green Woodworking Pattern Book, Tabor £15
Practical Pole Building £8
How To Build and Furnish a Log Cabin £6
Latitude Hooks and Azimuth Rings, Fisher £7
Native American Crafts and Skills £2
Mountainman Crafts and Skills £2
Flintknapping, Whittaker £10
Native Art of North America, Feest £3
Craftsmen of Necessity, Williams £14 (not great condition)
Secrets of Eskimo Skin Sewing, Wilder £8 (not great condition)
Basic Wilderness Survival Skills, B. Angier £6
Prehistoric Cooking, J. Wood £9
Celebrating Birch, Wright, £10
Bush Arts, Kochanski £40 (I bought this 2nd hand)
Stone Age Hunters, Clark £2
Building Outdoor Gear, Gilpatrick £40
Bushcraft, National Mountain Safety Council New Zealand £5 (very old, 1960s?)
Keep your eyes open for some bushcraft kit on here in the near future.
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22 January 2013
Lets face it, there are times when the world and its wife seem to feel that they can produce a good survival manual yet they end up producing the same, tired, old rubbish. Mostly they are thinly disguised copies of old military manuals, often Lofty Wiseman's, and to be frank they offer nothing new or helpful. I must have owned or read at least 50 of them and there's so little difference between the great majority you'd be hard pushed to tell which is which.
A Different Style
On alternative approach is that of Cody Lundin's 98.6 Degrees - The Art of Keeping your Ass Alive! - he's now better known as the barefoot bush-hippy on the Dual Survival TV show.This is a manual which not only strips away all the unnecessary but also concentrates on what you need. Gone is a reliance on food; instead we concentrate on water, temperature and psychology.
Indeed, the mental aspect is dealt with very well in this book. In general the author looks at what is likely to kill you in a stereotypical 72 hour survival situation and then on how to combat it.
The style is informal and a probably a little crude for some tastes but it gets the point across well. It is probably a book of interest for any bushcraft bibliophiles such as my self but I think would be of most use to the adventure sports crowd. The tone and down to earth approach would likely strike a cord with them.
Some of his tips, how not to die, can be seen on this clip. I also have the companion volume When All Hell Breaks Loose which focuses more on preparation and survival in urban disasters. After watching the havoc wreaked in New York and New Orleans it's pretty clear that you need to plan to look after yourself as much as you can.
For the more traditional approach we can look across the pond to the Maine department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I know it is a shock but a government agency actually managed to do something of use for the bushcrafter! They produced a downloadable manual entitled
"You, Alone in the Maine Woods"Primarily aimed at hunters it contains lots of sensible but traditional advice and I first saw it recommended, partly due to the bright orange colour, by an article in Tactical Knives. It's definitely worth a download but remember the advice is both seasonally and geographically specific to Maine in the Autumn and Winter.
The next manual is more of a mixed bag. It is called the "Complete Illustrated Book of Survival" and is wide ranging in the extreme. It goes from long term survival techniques to using stone tools to how to fight off an attacker.The bushcraft bits with stone tools are great and really fresh and original. A chunk of the material has appeared in other books though - the book admits to 2 others with similar content in the cover but I'm sure I've seen some of the pictures in knot books and other places over the years. I'm really against putting self defence advice in books - you need to practice and learn in the flesh. If you want to do this find an instructor who knows what you want and has similar size to you - there's no merit learning from a 6'4" 17 stone instructor if you are 5'5" and 10 stone - what works for him isn't going to work for you.
Overall it is a book which will mostly stay on the shelf - not sure quite where to pick up a copy as it was a present. My parents said they got it in a garden centre! This type of glossy compendium is fairly common and this is a good example of it. That said, there's not enough which is innovative or unique in it for it to make it through my minimalising process.
The Logic of Survival
The last manual I'll mention is Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It isn't a simple manual, nor a how to book. Instead it's a an investigation into survival situations. The writer has looked at many situations and how people reacted within them and the outcome - as the tag line says "Who lives, Who dies and Why".
It's a vitally important read for anyone involved in planning outdoor activities or anyone who wants to avoid a survival situation. It isn't simply an inspection of the statistics or psychology it's a really holistic look at the whole phenomenon of survival. It's one of the few genuinely unique books in the genre and I can't believe it's not mentioned more often.
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20 January 2013
Leaf wrapping food is a technique which has no doubt been used since not long after the dawn of cooking. The leaf generally serves several purposes. Firstly, it keeps the food in one bundle if it is grainy or fragile. Secondly, the right leaf can add its flavour to the food being cooked. The moisture in the leaf also allows a steaming effect whilst it can also serve to keep ash off the food.
It's even a technique favoured by Ray Mears in his wild food series, as you can see from 3:47 onwards in the video below.
The technique is used in a variety of modern day food, perhaps the best known being the Greek dolma dishes wrapped in vine leaves. There are a variety of east Asian dishes using pandan leaves, banana leaves and reed leaves. There are whole page of natural versions from around the world, together with a few that are man made, at the Cook's Thesaurus.
What's made me all think of this is watching my wife making golabki, a Polish dish that would translate as little pigeons. She's posting it on her blog at http://home-made-happiness.blogspot.com/ . In essence they are little parcels of minced pork and boiled rice, wrapped in a cabbage leaf, which are steamed in a pan - a temporary lid of other cabbage leaves can be added to keep in the moisture.
What To Do
The easiest introduction to this variety of cooking is one I often used as an American Civil war reenactor - namely corn on the cob. The corn is simply put in the hot ashes or coals whilst still wrapped in its husk. The corn then steams inside the leaves and most of the corn silk should just burn off. It's very juicy when finished - we did used to use a bayonet to turn them with but you could do just as well with a metal fork or even a sharpened stick.
In this part of Europe burdock leaves are a good idea - you may need to wilt them quickly over a fire but otherwise they're easy to use as seen in this video below.
Of course, it's not just burdock that can be used. One variety of dock, Rumex obtusifolius, was known as butter dock as it was used to wrap pats of butter in to help keep them. Any non-poisonous broad leaf could be used, though some might affect the final flavour. Remember that lots of leaves will contain less tannin early in the year and
A Fantastic Idea
For those of us of a more Tokleinesque persuasion there's always the question of Lembas bread. Whilst I've not many many people who love hard tack or hard biscuits I have known someone give it to a teething baby - not exactly light and delicious stuff though. The Geeky chef has tried a kitchen recipe which is interesting but far from bushcrafty. At the other end of the spectrum in practicality in the woods is Kindling forest school's take on the idea - a honey macaroon wrapped in a hazel leaf!
The book Abundant Living in the Coming Age of the Tree lists several tree leaves for direct consumption, beech, hawthorn, lime and chestnut. The book is available free from this Permaculture shop.
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17 January 2013
I've decided to reduce the amount of unused kit I have - I've decided that the maxim below is right for me in life, not just in bushcraft.
To this end I have a few sales running.
Over at my favourite bushcraft forum Natural Bushcraft I have a sale of a few knives which includes my custom Nessmuk and a lovely Canadian belt knife.
I'm also selling off the first six issues of the out of print and hard to find BCUK bushcraft magazine from 2006/7 on ebay.
I've also got a copy of Earth Knack, a good primitive skills book up there.
There's going to be a fair bit more over the coming weeks and months that I'll post here and tag Sale.
If you're interested in something you've seen on the blog or any bushcraft book then drop me a line!
I'm also working on ideas for a couple of small bushcraft ebooks over the coming months.
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2 January 2013
As is my personal tradition I went out for a walk on New Year's day - sadly it was rather short as despite a week of +4 degree temperatures there was hard packed ice on all the paths and frozen snow amongst the trees. Rather than falling over I cut things short and was only out for about an hour.
I did manage to see what I think was a mouse hole - I've no idea what else is tiny and lives in the leaf litter or just underground. They also leave very fine tracks if you see them in soft snow.
There were some very velvety horsehoof type fungus on a dead tree.
I also saw a plant in the sunshine that I'm not quite sure of the identity of. Here's a patch of them in sandy soil, and it's an unshaded area which was probably once agricultural, so it's most likely a coloniser plant. The seed heads would back that up. It's probably part of the umbilliferae family, but I don't know which.
Next time I'm out I'll try the seed heads as a spark tinder - a bunch of them might work but in my experience seed heads burn through very very fast.
The stems were also long, straight and pithy - maybe worth a play as a hand drill shaft? Next time out I'll investigate more thoroughly. If any of you can identify the plant I'd be very grateful.
(sorry the last one's blurry - I ran out of hands!)
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