Monday, October 21, 2013

The romance of the swag.

After several trials (and errors) I needed to redesign my outdoor sleepingfacilities.
What stays are the materials; canvas & wool. That mix works great.
What goes; the existing US sleepingbagcover and the buttons and loops. These do not work, as they constantly open up and let in the cold air and mosquitos. It was a lot of fiddling and fumbling in the dark too, to tie and untie them...
I'll be using the swag-idea; an envelop of canvas around a woolblanket insert. How I'll do that is not quite clear right now. I am still planning......
So keep your eyes open for some DIY-swag-bedroll-sewing coming autumn or early winter.....

In order to wet your apetite, here's some inspiration;

Thought this would be an nice introduction to share a piece of literature  came across, whilst browsing the net for info on swags;


The Australian swag fashion is the easiest way in the world of carrying a load. I ought to know something about carrying loads: I've carried babies, which are the heaviest and most awkward and heartbreaking loads in this world for a boy or man to carry, I fancy. God remember mothers who slave about the housework (and do sometimes a man's work in addition in the bush) with a heavy, squalling kid on one arm! I've humped logs on the selection, "burning-off," with loads of fencing-posts and rails and palings out of steep, rugged gullies (and was happier then, perhaps); I've carried a shovel, crowbar, heavy "rammer," a dozen insulators on an average (strung round my shoulders with raw flax)--to say nothing of soldiering kit, tucker-bag, billy and climbing spurs--all day on a telegraph line in rough country in New Zealand, and in places where a man had to manage his load with one hand and help himself climb with the other; and I've helped hump and drag telegraph-poles up cliffs and sidings where the horses couldn't go. I've carried a portmanteau on the hot dusty roads in green old jackeroo days. Ask any actor who's been stranded and had to count railway sleepers from one town to another! he'll tell you what sort of an awkward load a portmanteau is, especially if there's a broken-hearted man underneath it. I've tried knapsack fashion--one of the least healthy and most likely to give a man sores; I've carried my belongings in a three-bushel sack slung over my shoulder--blankets, tucker, spare boots and poetry all lumped together. I tried carrying a load on my head, and got a crick in my neck and spine for days. I've carried a load on my mind that should have been shared by editors and publishers. I've helped hump luggage and furniture up to, and down from, a top flat in London. And I've carried swag for months out back in Australia--and it was life, in spite of its "squalidness" and meanness and wretchedness and hardship, and in spite of the fact that the world would have regarded us as "tramps"--and a free life amongst men from all the world
The Australian swag was born of Australia and no other land--of the Great Lone Land of magnificent distances and bright heat; the land of self-reliance, and never-give-in, and help-your-mate. The grave of many of the world's tragedies and comedies--royal and otherwise. The land where a man out of employment might shoulder his swag in Adelaide and take the track, and years later walk into a hut on the Gulf, or never be heard of any more, or a body be found in the bush and buried by the mounted police, or never found and never buried--what does it matter?
The land I love above all others--not because it was kind to me, but because I was born on Australian soil, and because of the foreign father who died at his work in the ranks of Australian pioneers, and because of many things. Australia! My country! Her very name is music to me. God bless Australia! for the sake of the great hearts of the heart of her! God keep her clear of the old-world shams and social lies and mockery, and callous commercialism, and sordid shame! And heaven send that, if ever in my time her sons are called upon to fight for her young life and honour, I die with the first rank of them and be buried in Australian ground.
But this will probably be called false, forced or "maudlin sentiment" here in England, where the mawkish sentiment of the music-halls, and the popular applause it receives, is enough to make a healthy man sick, and is only equalled by music-hall vulgarity. So I'll get on.
In the old digging days the knapsack, or straps-across-the chest fashion, was tried, but the load pressed on a man's chest and impeded his breathing, and a man needs to have his bellows free on long tracks in hot, stirless weather. Then the "horse-collar," or rolled military overcoat style--swag over one shoulder and under the other arm--was tried, but it was found to be too hot for the Australian climate, and was discarded along with Wellington boots and leggings. Until recently, Australian city artists and editors--who knew as much about the bush as Downing Street knows about the British colonies in general--seemed to think the horse-collar swag was still in existence; and some artists gave the swagman a stick, as if he were a tramp of civilization with an eye on the backyard and a fear of the dog. English artists, by the way, seem firmly convinced that the Australian bushman is born in Wellington boots with a polish on 'em you could shave yourself by.
The swag is usually composed of a tent "fly" or strip of calico (a cover for the swag and a shelter in bad weather--in New Zealand it is oilcloth or waterproof twill), a couple of blankets, blue by custom and preference, as that colour shows the dirt less than any other (hence the name "bluey" for swag), and the core is composed of spare clothing and small personal effects. To make or "roll up" your swag: lay the fly or strip of calico on the ground, blueys on top of it; across one end, with eighteen inches or so to spare, lay your spare trousers and shirt, folded, light boots tied together by the laces toe to heel, books, bundle of old letters, portraits, or whatever little knick-knacks you have or care to carry, bag of needles, thread, pen and ink, spare patches for your pants, and bootlaces. Lay or arrange the pile so that it will roll evenly with the swag (some pack the lot in an old pillowslip or canvas bag), take a fold over of blanket and calico the whole length on each side, so as to reduce the width of the swag to, say, three feet, throw the spare end, with an inward fold, over the little pile of belongings, and then roll the whole to the other end, using your knees and judgment to make the swag tight, compact and artistic; when within eighteen inches of the loose end take an inward fold in that, and bring it up against the body of the swag. There is a strong suggestion of a roley-poley in a rag about the business, only the ends of the swag are folded in, in rings, and not tied. Fasten the swag with three or four straps, according to judgment and the supply of straps. To the top strap, for the swag is carried (and eased down in shanty bars and against walls or veranda-posts when not on the track) in a more or less vertical position--to the top strap, and lowest, or lowest but one, fasten the ends of the shoulder strap (usually a towel is preferred as being softer to the shoulder), your coat being carried outside the swag at the back, under the straps. To the top strap fasten the string of the nose-bag, a calico bag about the size of a pillowslip, containing the tea, sugar and flour bags, bread, meat, baking-powder and salt, and brought, when the swag is carried from the left shoulder, over the right on to the chest, and so balancing the swag behind. But a swagman can throw a heavy swag in a nearly vertical position against his spine, slung from one shoulder only and without any balance, and carry it as easily as you might wear your overcoat. Some bushmen arrange their belongings so neatly and conveniently, with swag straps in a sort of harness, that they can roll up the swag in about a minute, and unbuckle it and throw it out as easily as a roll of wall-paper, and there's the bed ready on the ground with the wardrobe for a pillow. The swag is always used for a seat on the track; it is a soft seat, so trousers last a long time. And, the dust being mostly soft and silky on the long tracks out back, boots last marvellously. Fifteen miles a day is the average with the swag, but you must travel according to the water: if the next bore or tank is five miles on, and the next twenty beyond, you camp at the five-mile water to-night and do the twenty next day. But if it's thirty miles you have to do it. Travelling with the swag in Australia is variously and picturesquely described as "humping bluey," "walking Matilda," "humping Matilda," "humping your drum," "being on the wallaby," "jabbing trotters," and "tea and sugar burglaring," but most travelling shearers now call themselves trav'lers, and say simply "on the track," or "carrying swag."
And there you have the Australian swag. Men from all the world have carried it-lords and low-class Chinamen, saints and world martyrs, and felons, thieves, and murderers, educated gentlemen and boors who couldn't sign their mark, gentlemen who fought for Poland and convicts who fought the world, women, and more than one woman disguised as a man. The Australian swag has held in its core letters and papers in all languages, the honour of great houses, and more than one national secret, papers that would send well-known and highly-respected men to jail, and proofs of the innocence of men going mad in prisons, life tragedies and comedies, fortunes and papers that secured titles and fortunes, and the last pence of lost fortunes, life secrets, portraits of mothers and dead loves, pictures of fair women, heart-breaking old letters written long ago by vanished hands, and the pencilled manuscript of more than one book which will be famous yet.
The weight of the swag varies from the light rouseabout's swag, containing one blanket and a clean shirt, to the "royal Alfred," with tent and all complete, and weighing part of a ton. Some old sundowners have a mania for gathering, from selectors' and shearers' huts, and dust-heaps, heart-breaking loads of rubbish which can never be of any possible use to them or anyone else. Here is an inventory of the contents of the swag of an old tramp who was found dead on the track, lying on his face on the sand, with his swag on top of him, and his arms stretched straight out as if he were embracing the mother earth, or had made, with his last movement, the sign of the cross to the blazing heavens
Rotten old tent in rags. Filthy blue blanket, patched with squares of red and calico. Half of "white blanket" nearly black now, patched with pieces of various material and sewn to half of red blanket. Three-bushel sack slit open. Pieces of sacking. Part of a woman's skirt. Two rotten old pairs of moleskin trousers. One leg of a pair of trousers. Back of a shirt. Half a waistcoat. Two tweed coats, green, old and rotting, and patched with calico. Blanket, etc. Large bundle of assorted rags for patches, all rotten. Leaky billy-can, containing fishingline, papers, suet, needles and cotton, etc. Jam-tin, medicine bottles, corks on strings, to hang to his hat to keep the flies off (a sign of madness in the bush, for the corks would madden a sane man sooner than the flies could). Three boots of different sizes, all belonging to the right foot, and a left slipper. Coffeepot, without handle or spout, and quart-pot full of rubbish--broken knives and forks, with the handles burnt off, spoons, etc., picked up on rubbish-heaps; and many rusty nails, to be used as buttons, I suppose.
Broken saw blade, hammer, broken crockery, old pannikins, small rusty frying-pan without a handle, children's old shoes, many bits of old bootleather and greenhide, part of yellowback novel, mutilated English dictionary, grammar and arithmetic book, a ready reckoner, a cookery book, a bulgy angloforeign dictionary, part of a Shakespeare, book in French and book in German, and a book on etiquette and courtship. A heavy pair of blucher boots, with uppers parched and cracked, and soles so patched (patch over patch) with leather, boot protectors, hoop-iron and hobnails that they were about two inches thick, and the boots weighed over five pounds. (If you don't believe me go into the Melbourne Museum, where, in a glass case in a place of honour, you will see a similar, perhaps the same, pair of bluchers labelled "An example of colonial industry.") And in the core of the swag was a sugar-bag tied tightly with a whip-lash, and containing another old skirt, rolled very tight and fastened with many turns of a length of clothes-line, which last, I suppose, he carried to hang himself with if he felt that way. The skirt was rolled round a small packet of old portraits and almost indecipherable letters--one from a woman who had evidently been a sensible woman and a widow, and who stated in the letter that she did not intend to get married again as she had enough to do already, slavin' her finger-nails off to keep a family, without having a second husband to keep. And her answer was "final for good and all," and it wasn't no use comin' "bungfoodlin'" round her again. If he did she'd set Satan on to him. "Satan" was a dog, I suppose.
The letter was addressed to "Dear Bill," as were others. There were no envelopes. The letters were addressed from no place in particular, so there weren't any means of identifying the dead man. The police buried him under a gum, and a young trooper cut on the tree the words:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

More food for thought

I have been writing about food before and I'll be doing it again....
                                                                                            and again....
                                                                                                           and again....

I mentioned in a previous post that large industries are trying to claim plantspecies as their own, claim that water is not an every man's right, but should be commercially exploited, that companies genetically alter our food and that politicians do their master's bidding by creating laws that stop or at least make it harder for people to fend for themselves. Here and here.
I find many sources showing, exposing and uncovering the dirty laundry our "leaders" want to keep hidden. The Worldwide money scam, bio engineering in all its forms (monsanto & Co. ring any bells?), 10 methods of mind control on every level and by all means available.... And, more often than not, it seems that the defenders of the old ways are somehow related to either government or large corporations and those opposing it are individuals, who put info and facts together to make up their own picture and mind and spread the word. This pattern is appearent on every critical subject in our world and society and is becoming more and more widespread.
Right here in Sweden there is a foodrevolution going on, where honest vs fake food and true vs false information about that, is in all the media every single day. Two sources who make themselves quite heard are kostdoktorn and Matfusket. More and more people here are waking up and seeing that what we have been told and taught all these years ins't necesserally always true and good! More and more people are actively taking part in this debat and claiming real, honest food and information, dismissing the large scale official propaganda.

And now that we ourselves have been busy producing, receiving, buying and processing local foods it all made sense to me. I now know why those "big boys" are so scared of people asking questions, looking for and finding answers, fending for themselves, why they do not want us to do that and why they'll do anything in order to prevent us from doing that!

It will simply take away their power and control over us commoners!!
It will end their rule!!

And it is quite easy to make the first step.
Buy local, buy ecological if possible, but support local farmers and smallscale foodproducers.
Grow your own, if possible. And instead of using money; trade! Create a local foodsystem.
The easiest way for us?
Instead of having a concrete backyard like I know many use to have, where I come from, have a green and living one, even if you think you are to tired or to busy for that. It'll revive you, just by being there and you automatically will start taking care of that little green patch.
Throw out those rhodondendrons that only bloom once a year, for a very short period and plant berrybushes, that bloom, attract life and give you free food. Instead of having decorative plants, have a vegetable garden or even blend the two. Why have coniferous trees if you can have fruittrees instead? Not only will the latter provide you with healthy fruit, but it'll also help the native birds and insects. It's also a much more interesting tree, giving you the thrill of budding leaves and blossoms in spring, shade in summer, fruit and colouring autumleaves in autumn.
But it will take some time and effort...

Now this is the part where the "Yeah, but..."s come in.
Yeah, but I haven't got the time......
Turn off your damn tv or iphone for half an hour a day and you'll have all the time you need! Too tired? I promiss you that half an hour spent in your garden will cure a great deal of your officestress and -fatigue.
Yeah, but I haven't got the money....... 
The most expensive bag of ecological saladseeds you can find will set you back for about €2, but you'll be eating fresh salad all through summer for practically everyday untill you're sick of it! A head of lettuce will cost you about €1 in the supermarket. Same goes for carrots, beets and other easy crops.
And if you show interest in this, you'll meet other people who share that interest and they are often more then willing to not just share the interest, but also excess seed, knowledge or even tools! Good for your wallet, body and social life. (Here's where some of the real social networking takes place. Better then those socalled "social" media)
Yeah, but I do not have a garden....
You can grow crops ANYWHERE! In the soil, in pots, in a rented patch of vegetablegarden or on your balcony. You can even have lettuce on a windowsill!
Yeah, but I do not have green fingers....
Utter nonsense! No one has at first! But if you are interested, you'll learn.
But it will take time and effort!

Unfortunately there is a large group of people for whom this writing is not meant; the no-brain couchpotato. Those people that are to lazy, to dumb or to preoccupied with the latest, greatest, fashionable thingies or simply just do not care. Those tv (or any other screen) junkies that believe and do anything they're told to... The socalled "sheeple".
However I do think that there is a portion within that group that just needs a wake upcall. And if messages like this one will be send out often enough, then some of those people will be reached, get triggered and start searching and exploring for themselves and will flee from the herd. Those that do not...... Well, let's just say that they brought onto themselves what ever happens to them and they probably still claim it's all just a conspiracy theory. I personally do not feel sorry for them....

If you look around you'll see more and more people waking up, showing their ideas, their solutions, but also often their fight. Those in power also show their true face more and more and resort to more and more extreme or violent measures. More and more the vile truth is showing it's ugly face and the respons in order to keep this face hidden is more desperate. more determined and more forcefully empowered.

I am convinced that we, as a species and as a world as a whole, are facing a turning point, a crucial moment in our existence and I, for one, have chosen my side.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Daily doings - empty lands and heartwarming gifts

The lands are going empty; the harvests have been done, the fields are empty. The birds of summer are leaving; the skies are becoming empty, too. And so are the trees. In a final, spectacular display of colour they show their grandeur, before shedding the leaves on a massive scale, leaving the branches empty as well. According to the weatherreports winter's on its way....

A picture taken from our balcony last week.
There are no leaves left now.....
Picture take by Johanna van Mullekom, one of the other Dutch people, who live in the municipaly. She and her husband are retired and have the luck to live in the middle of the fields, regularly visited by cranes, geese, deer and other wildlife.
It beautifully shows what we can see here.
What else have we been up to....
Well, our youngest daughter had here first outing and overnighter with the scouts too, last week and had the luck of doing so on one of the very rare rainy days! She had a wonderfull time and there was no need for a parentalert or for a "please come and get me"-call.

It also seems to be a season of gifts!
Well, not really, but many people we have come to know around here seem to be thinking of us, whenever they are about to get rid of something they no longer need, weither it is ripened fruit, clothing or firewood.
The following picture needs a bit of explanation. During summer there was a large possibility of me going to be working in Kiruna during the winter and I talked about that to a local artist and overall absolutely loveable guy, Jonas. He's the one I bought those oldschool skipoles from, by the way. A couple of days later he contacted me and said he had some clothes for me in order to keep warm up there. It was a insulated winter coverall pants and a wintercoat. If I wanted them?? Of course I accepted. I only had to promiss I would send him a picture of me wearing them.
Well, Kiruna turned out to become Borlänge and since there still is no winter around here......

From a former coworker of Esther, Inger, we got a large bag with clothes. There was something in there for all of us in there, Inger said. Well, the girls were spoiled again and even for me there was a little something. apart from a bodywarmer I found a small 100% woolfelthat and a Swedish army woolen jumper in exactly my size! The fit is very comfortable, the zipper a nice touch and the extended sleaves with thumbopening a nice feat! The fireplace gets used as an inbetweenrestingplace a lot these past days/weeks by the way. Whenever I pass it for some reason, and often for no reason at all, I sit down and enjoy the sun, the birds, the falling leaves or what ever there is to see, hear and feel. It has truely become a central point in the garden.
As a final gift and job at the potatoefarm I worked there was a load of wood to be split. They had a couple of treetrunks lying around and wanted to get rid of those. I could have the wood if I wanted to. Only had to split it myself. They'd cut it and transport it home to me. I even got half a dozen pallets to build me a woodshed! So now I have a bunch of free firewood for next year, since it isn't dry, half a dozen trunkpieces to make seats around the fireplace, a new cuttingblock for cuttingfirewood old fashioned style and a few large appletreebranches I might be able to use on my new, old lathe.

You guessed it; it is a busy time. Many chores have to be done befor winter comes. The parkingarea is usable, but not quit ready yet. What you see on the picture is the remainder of some 20 tons of gravel... I fixed a armrest/fence next to the stairs, so we have something to hold on to when everything is covered in snow and ice and the pile of wood looked so small in that tractorcart... but I was guessing it'd be more then 2 m³. Now that it is stacked, it is almost 3m³. That'll keep us warm for a while next year.
There is a collection of woodpieces seasoning for later use, such as (a lot) of apple- and pearwood, juniper, ash and birdcherry.
I also (re)planted a rhubarb, strawberries, garlic and half a dozen blackberriebushes. I've sown several species of summer- and woodflowers and together with my youngest daughter  planted acorns too.
But even due to all the chores we had to do, only a few handfulls of the apples we received or picked have spoiled and the vast majority ended up in the applesause and applepies my wife made. Yet that is an important lessen for next year; make sure all the work is done BEFORE harvestingseason. We'll be busy processing the crops!
Last night we were busy making jam and applesauce again. Our "loot" was 16 large jars with strawberry/rhubarb, with and without apples and 4 large and 1 small jar with applesauce. We also kept ourselves busy with filling our freezer with meat, mushrooms and bellpeppers.

I must say that this kind of work is the most satisfactory of all to me. You are busy preparing the most essential things, like food, for yourself and you have a direct result. The same goes for the wood; I split it and stacked it and my reward for that work will be about 2 months of warmth and hot water in the house. Using some of our old fashioned kitchenutensils is fun too. No fussing with cables, batteries and such. And no noice!

                                   FIRST SNOW!
And while we stood there, at the kitchencounter, peeling, cutting and cooking we saw the first snow of the season drift by the kitchenwindow!
At our place the snow did not last the night, but at my parents-in-laws place, 14km further down south, it was still white around 15:00. The coldfront did not push on enough to reach us, I guess.

What we were "left with"....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Investments for winter

We have been investing a part of our resources in things for coming winter. One of the most important things is keeping warm feet! I remember the trouble I had with that last winter, so in order not to go through that again, we bought woolsocks. That will cost you for a family of five, but we feel that that is absolutely worth that and thus necessary. We all have at least one pair of thin socks and 2 pair of thick ones. For myself I also bought 2 pairs of woolen ex-Swedish army footwraps. I've read quit some good comments on those, so I want to experiment and experience that myself. They came dirtcheap, by the way.

Over the past summer I also bought some other stuff. A pair of sticks that go with my old fashioned skis! Set me back a whopping 60kr. It is not just for show or use, but also to serve as a on hand example of how to make things like that myself. It is fine to have a picture and a description in a book, but having a real example in your hands makes it a lot easier, at least for me.

I just love the simplicity of this construction; thin twigs (or in this case bamboo) bend in a circle, tied together with leather straps and belts, fixed to a metal ring, pinned to the stick end...

Another item I wante to have for this winter was a sled to learn and train hauling a heavy load, like a tent, stove and sleepingsystem. Instead of going for the 2 meter armysled or pulka, I went for the dogversion. I figured that would be large enough for me to begin with, but also keeping the future purchase of a dog in the back of the mind. We do not just want a petdog, but one that loves to work and be usefull, too.                                 I got this one for 250kr, but it is in need of a few repairs, such as the edge of the, unfortunately nylon, cover and the front connectingsystem with pullingrod. The back needs some work too, but it is pretty much good to go otherwise. It is a wooden sled with bronze strips screwed to the outer ribs left and right and as I was taking pictures of it today, I saw it was a segelbadenpulka, dating back to the days that these were locally made! Säter is 25km away from here...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

bushcraft is no survival is no bushcraft

I found this article in the LILI-site (Low Impact Living Initiative), explaining pretty much the difference between the two.
Might make it easier to explain it to others. I still try to learn and use bushcraft, allthough I have come to dislike the term, since it has become so commercially abused and used by gearhoarders, knifemakers and -collectores and all kinds of groups vaguely related to the subject. Pitty realy....
And for me the bushcraft-idea or -principle goes much further than here stated. It effects the choice of lifestyle, material, mindset, etc.

The terms “survival” and “bushcraft” are often used interchangeably and yet sometimes treated as separate, even competing, disciplines. As a bushcraft survival instructor I obviously have my own views but I wanted to take a step back and look at these terms anew.  It set me thinking about what these expressions really mean, how they relate to each other, and in fact whether they are discrete entities or perspectives on the same subject?
Here are some dictionary definitions I found for “Survival”:
“The process of remaining alive or in existence.”
“The process of carrying on despite hardships, trauma.”
“The act of perseverance or remaining functional or viable.”
“The act or fact of surviving, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances.”
These definitions cover all forms of survival and not specifically wilderness survival, nevertheless they are useful.
Bushcraft on the other hand is defined as:
“Skill in anything pertaining to bush country, as in finding one’s way, hunting or finding water.”
“Ability or experience in matters concerned with living in the bush.”
“Skills gained by, or necessary for, living in the bush.”
Important distinctions here are those of duration and adversity. Wilderness Survival is about methods and psychology for dealing with unexpected and adverse circumstances that threaten our lives outdoors. More often we are talking about a relatively short period in which we either return to safety or perish.
From the above definitions for bushcraft, one of the operative words is “living”. This implies a long-term strategy and not necessarily an unexpected situation, or an immediate threat to life.  The longer duration implicit in the term “bushcraft” also sheds light on another important distinction – the knowledge of natural resources and their sustainable use.  Our ancestors and modern day aboriginals were expert bushcraft practitioners – they would have possessed a profound knowledge of their natural environment, passed on from their forebears. In a survival situation however, use of natural resources may have less of a significance and sustainability would be low priority.  The longer time span allocated to bushcraft would also allow the development of tools, community effort and greater levels of comfort in the wilderness.
So on the surface there appear to be fairly neat distinctions between wilderness survival and bushcraft. Put simply survival methods are about unexpected emergency situations, keeping yourself alive and getting back to the safety of civilization. Bushcraft is about using nature to sustain yourself for protracted periods in the wild, often voluntarily.
So how do these ideas relate to bushcraft and survival training in modern society?  Most of our lives are relatively disconnected from the aboriginal hunter gatherer lifestyle, some city dwellers dramatically so.  To be thrown unexpectedly into the wild would for many be a hostile and life threatening experience. People want to know how to deal with such a situation – practical advice on what to do and how to think.  I suppose you could regard this as a kind of defensive strategy which fits well with the ideas of preparedness that extend to urban survival. In my view these are perfectly useful and valid approaches.
There is however another perhaps complementary approach which is to embrace the wilderness, seek it out and learn to understand and live in it.  This can be as simple as spending a few days living in the woods, collecting your own water and lighting your fires with sparks and supplementing your food with foraged items.  The motivation to learn these bushcraft skills is often a little different from the motivation to learn survival skills – it may be more about the satisfaction of re-connecting with nature, interest in learning crafts and gaining some level of self-reliance in the wild.  True enough some people attending bushcraft courses are concerned about the changes in society and climate change and want to be able to rely more on the land for basic necessities.  It is interesting that in some ways survival can be seen to look to modern civilization for short-term salvation, whereas bushcraft looks to the wild for long-term salvation! Personally I think both views are valid and not conflicting. The possession of both skill sets and attitudes make for a rounded approach.
Although I have made some distinctions between bushcraft and survival it is important to consider that some of the key skills are common to both approaches.  For example,  the four pillars of survival – fire, water, shelter, food contain skills that are central to both disciplines.  It is in the objectives that differences may be found.  For example, in a short-term survival situation food may be a lower priority, but for bushcraft, food is fundamental because by definition we are looking at a long-term situation. More to the point, with correct bushcraft knowledge, food is all around us in the wild!
Also the kind of shelter we would build in a bushcraft living scenario would be more elaborate than a simple overnight survival shelter.  Fire again can be very important in both survival and bushcraft but the number of uses for fire in a bushcraft living situation would be greater. In survival we might use modern materials to ignite and establish our fire, but in bushcraft we are looking to do this with natural materials. Again we are looking at a longer time span – modern fire lighting materials would eventually run out, however there are unlimited combustible materials in nature if we know where to look and harvest them sustainably.  Navigation is also an important bushcraft and survival skill, but it is the objective that is different. In bushcraft it is knowledge of your home range and the ability to move around to collect resources, in survival it is usually about getting back to civilization.
Perhaps it is because many of same skills apply, that distinctions between bushcraft and survival have become blurred and confused. If we have those skills we can use them to fit our objectives.
Of course it is possible for a survival situation to become protracted when rescue doesn’t arrive.  In this case survival often turns to bushcraft with a concomitant shift in mindset. Typically the survivor stops expecting someone else to rescue them, focuses on their immediate environment and gets on with plans to improve their lot.
Equally we could be happily practicing bushcraft in the wilderness when a change in circumstances throws us into a survival situation!
In the end, it is good to understand the distinctions of the two disciplines, but also where they overlap and complement each other.

Winter Footwear by Paul van Horn

I am going to share another article by Paul van Horn, author of the importance of traditional woodcraft I shared earlier. This time it is, as said, about winter footwear and it also has a traditional background. Given the season that is approaching I thought it might be appropriate.

This painting is from Jean Taylor and it's called;
Snowshoes Mitts and Mukluks 

Principals of Winter Footwear Design

One of the most important (if not the most important!) items of winter clothing is footwear.  Inadequate or poorly selected footwear will, at best, dramatically decrease your comfort level, and at worst, threaten your health.  When selecting winter footwear for snowshoeing or camping, consider the following information:

The warmth of winter footwear will be heavily influenced by the following factors:

  1. Effective moisture management (both from internal and external sources)
  2. Appropriate materials used in insulation
  3. Adequate thickness of insulation
  4. Flexibility
  5. Conductive insulation from the ground
  6. Roominess
The usability of winter footwear in the backcountry will be influenced by the following factors:
  1. Weight/Size
  2. Removable components (i.e. foot beds and liners) to facilitate both drying and versatility
  3. Support adequate for your foot type, and anticipated activity
  4. Durability, and a design that allows field repair
  5. Sole and tread design
  6. Suitability for dry or wet cold environments  
A:  Moisture Management:
Managing personal and environmental moisture constitutes the single biggest challenge for a footwear system.  You must ensure that the insulation in your footwear stays dry!  Managing environmental moisture means learning how to deal with the fact that most winter climates in the United States vary wildly in temperature and snow conditions.  One day may produce cold temperatures and dry snow while the next will be warmer and wetter.  In “dry cold” (generally, temperatures less than 15 degrees Fahrenheit) this equates to one word: breathability.  Your footwear (both the shell and the insulation) must strike a perfect balance between heat retention, and heat loss to facilitate the elimination of moisture from the insulation.  If your system allows adequate transfer, you will experience little moisture buildup, even under strenuous work, but will stay warm in all but the coldest temperatures once activity ceases.  Footwear designed for dry cold will have a shell made of non-waterproof material such as uncoated nylon, soft-tanned leather, or cotton canvas.  For dry cold, even the sole of the shoe may be of such material (such as a traditional native mukluk), although it may be slippery depending on the material… buckskin works very well, but nylon is dangerously slippery).  This type of construction prevents moisture buildup underneath the foot by allowing the dry, subzero snow to “wick” moisture away from the boot. 
In “wet cold” (generally, temperatures above 15 degrees Fahrenheit), your challenge increases because you now must also contend with environmental moisture such as snow, ice, water, and slush.  In this case, the best option is a waterproof boot that will keep you dry, even if you happen to step into a puddle of water and stand around for a few minutes.  The problem with this solution is that now your foot’s perspiration is trapped inside the boot, where it will eventually dampen your insulation and lead to cold feet.  To contend with this solution, you have three basic choices:  Ignore the problem, and attempt to dry your liners each night; choose  a “vapor barrier” boot, such as the military bunny-boots; or create your own vapor barrier system.
source; rockymountainsurvivalinstitute traditional mukluks
Because wet cold conditions are, by definition, relatively warm, ignoring the problem is an option if the following conditions can (without a doubt) be met:  You will always have a spare set of liners with you, and you can dry them out (ideally with a carefully-monitored heat source such as a stove or fire) each night.  If these conditions cannot be met with any degree of certainty, you should opt for the second or third option.
Vapor barrier boots, such as the military bunny boots, or climbing double boots are designed so that wetting the insulation is virtually impossible due to the fact that it is completely sealed, both inside and out, inside a water and vapor proof barrier.  The only part of your system that can get wet, even under a situation of total submersion, is your sock.  Multiple spare pairs can be carried, and they typically dry easily in the sun, or in your sleeping bag.  The downfall of such systems is weight (especially the military boots), and cost (climbing boots are expensive!).  Additionally, climbing boots are very stiff, and confining (see notes below under “flexibility”).
The third option is to design your own vapor barrier system.  First, begin with a pair of wool socks.  Over these socks goes a plastic bag, or waterproof neoprene socks (check the hunting section of a department store for these).  This confines your sweat to the sock layer which is easily changed and dried.  The boot itself will have a waterproof outer layer, and adequate insulation inside.   The only real problems with this system are that your foot will get damp, but that’s a small price to pay for dry insulation!  In addition, if you choose to use plastic bags, some people find them to be uncomfortably slippery inside the boot.  With any vapor barrier system the foot mustbe dried completely at night and dry socks put on for sleeping.  Failure to provide nighttime dryness for the foot can result in painful and debilitating immersion foot! 
The above system can be created with commonly available “pac” boots, or (my favorite) by using the inexpensive, lightweight rubber overshoes made by the Tingley Company.  Inside of these thin, flexible overshoes goes a foam insole, a felt or handmade blanket liner, and the plastic bag-encased foot and wool socks.  This results in a fantastically lightweight, flexible, warm boot.  Alternatively, the Neos Overshoe can be used.  These are more durable, but wider, more “clunky”, and much more expensive than the Tingleys.
B, C: Insulation type and amount
The rule for insulation is to choose a material that absorbs little water.  Wool, or synthetic polyesters, such as fleece, or fiberfill will work fine.  Such materials are either felted (most common), woven (such as a blanket-type fabric), or enclosed in a thin outer fabric, similar in construction to a sleeping bag.  Whatever insulation you choose, avoid any system that relies on cotton or open-cell foam (which is becoming very common in winter footwear).  These materials readily absorb water, and are difficult to dry out.  For dry cold conditions, anticipating a mix of active and inactive pursuits, 2 inches of insulation should be more than adequate.  Avoid any type of vapor or waterproof barrier built into the insulation, or enclosing it (i.e. Gore-tex), as it will only serve to retain moisture in the footwear.  ** Forget advertising to the contrary… if you wear any so-called “waterproof/breathable” barrier on your feet, your insulation will get wet!
D: Flexibility
Flexible footwear encourages proper blood circulation in the foot.  Traditional native footwear was always very flexible (think slippers or moccasins!).  The trend in modern footwear has been to increase “support” (as though the human foot is incapable of walking without “support”!).  Unless you have some type of medical foot issue (i.e. abnormally high arches, or a previously damaged foot) that would make extremely flexible footwear untenable, go for maximum flexibility!  If your feet do get cold, warming them in a mukluk is quite easy simply by walking around.  Warming cold feet in stiff pac boots or hiking boots, on the other hand, is nearly impossible!  The only other situation that might mandate more rigid footwear is your anticipated activity:  If you plan on ice climbing, mountaineering, or telemark skiing in your footgear, you will of course need a specialized boot that will inevitably be stiffer.  For snowshoeing, or general winter camp wear though, flexible footwear will be warmer.
E: Conductive Insulation
A thick Ensolite-type (closed cell) foam or felt pad underfoot is also critical, especially in subzero temperatures.  Without this insulation, the sole of your shoe will conduct warmth away from your foot at a tremendous rate.  This insole should be removable to facilitate drying.  An old camping pad will yield enough insoles to last a lifetime.
F. Roominess
Warm winter footwear must allow your foot to move, as well as allow for more insulation if needed.  Tight, form-fitting boots are a recipe for disaster!  On the other hand, boots that are too big will be uncomfortable, and may lead to blisters.  The ideal shoe (i.e. a mukluk) allows the user to add or subtract volume from the shoe simply by loosening or tightening the laces.  Some boots do not allow this, but at the very least, you should have a comfortable amount of space around your foot when wearing a heavy winter sock.

Warmth is important, but if your footwear is of a design not suitable for the task at hand, you will have problems.
A.  Weight/Size
the infamous bunny boot
or Mickey Mouse boot
Extremely heavy footwear equals exhaustion in the winter backcountry.  Although some designs are common (such as the “pac-boot” with the rubberized bottom, and the leather or nylon upper), or extremely warm (such as the military “bunny boot”), they can often be very heavy.  An old adage (backed up by a bit of research) is that “a pound on the foot is worth 5 on the back”.  Bottom line?  Avoid excessively heavy footwear like the plague.  If you will not be active, then go ahead and wear those 10 lb. super-whammy–arctic-heavy-equipment-operator boots. 
In addition, if your boot’s dimensions are too large, they may not fit in your snowshoe binding, or may get hung up in the boot hole on the snowshoe.  This will usually only be a problem with very large, arctic-quality boots.
B.  Removable components
Despite your best efforts, you will experience some moisture buildup in your footwear.  Liners and foot beds should be removable to facilitate drying.  This feature also allows you to add or subtract insulation, experiment with different liners or foot beds, etc…
C.  Support… or Not??
Some people need support in their footwear, some don’t.  I don’t believe the majority of the population needs overly supportive footwear, but if you need it, then by all means select your boots accordingly.  You’ll be spending lots of time in them, so make sure they are comfortable.  Mukluks take some getting used to, but once your brain (and possibly your feet) get used to idea, you’ll never go back to foot prisons!
D.  Durability
In general, manufacturer’s warranties are utterly meaningless in the backcountry.  Look for boots that can answer to one fundamental question:  “if this thing falls apart in the backcountry, can I mend it with a needle, thread, and some duct tape?”  Also look at the quality of construction, simplicity of design, stitching, etc. 
E.  Sole and Tread Design
If you are on snowshoes, this is not as critical, but once you start walking around camp, you’ll appreciate something with a little grip on the sole.  Smooth nylon, or leather soles will have you falling on a constant basis.  Some kind of grippy-thingies on your soles are good.  Surprisingly, smoke-tanned buckskin soles are not bad, especially on the dry-cold snow they will be worn on.  Anyway…. ‘nuff said about soles.

Schnee pac boots
If you can’t afford a two-piece system to cover both wet and dry cold, then go for a pac-boot, or Tingley overshoe-based system with a vapor barrier liner, and manage it well in the field.  Remember that maintaining dry feet at night is absolutely critical, so carry three or four pairs of extra socks, and dry your barriers out each night.  If I had to choose one boot for all temperatures, this would be the one.  It'll function well in subzero temperatures, but keep out environmental moisture during warmer spells.  Use of the Tingley overshoe yields a feather-light, ultra flexible shoe that lends itself well to snowshoeing and camp wear.
For completely specialized versatility, my personal system usually consists of buckskin mukluks for dry cold, and a pair of Tingley rubber overshoes for wet cold (with neoprene socks of course).  The liners I use interchange between the two, so I avoid carrying the weight of two complete boot systems.  
I’ve avoided mentioning lots of specific brands for a reason:  I want to encourage you to largely ignore advertising and instead use good, informed judgment to make your purchases.  Feel free to ask about specific boots, but rely on your own evaluation first and foremost.

wilderness survival arts

Friday, October 4, 2013

Daily doings - September has come to an end...

As september has come to a close and october marched into the calender, the weather played along and gave us some serious autumnvibes with a hint of winter! The first nightfrosts of the season are a fact.
I do not have the time or the energy to go out into the woods these days, but I have the privilige to experience the change of season from late summer to early autumn to late autumn while being out all day every day!
Yes, I am still working as a farmboy harvesting potatoes. Working days are roughly from 7:00 till 17:00 5 days a week and I must admit that at the end of the day and the week I am beat.... Which is no wonder, given my workexperience these past few years; No work, little work and no fulltime job for at least 10 years!
Anyway as I said I am totally emerged in the changing seasons and I see that everyday. I see the trees change their colours and what amazing colours they show this year! The extraordinary summer, the likewise autumn and the sudden shift in temperature have set the trees ablaze! Everyday I see the flocks of geese, cranes, finches, crows, pidgeons etc. grow, meaning more flocks and larger flocks. They pass overhead so low that I can clearly see their characteristics and can even see the difference between individuals! Their loud calling gives me time to spot them in time and if I had had a huntingrifle my freezer would fill up easily and fast! I also see large numbers of other wildlife. Groups of deer coming out to feed on the fields, while there still is food there. They stand there, the golden autumn rays of the sun catching the brown fur making them light up in a bright copper. I see the older deer and can easily distinguish the young ones. They do not seem to be disturbed with the close presence of man and machine, not even if the wind is blowing our scent directly over to them. They lift their heads and go on doing what they do. Only if we come very close (within 20 meters or so) do they move into the shrubs only to emerge once again after we have turned. Here too that vision of hunting comes to mind. I can not help but wondering how much meat one deer would give and if I could have hit them with a one shot one kill pull of the trigger. Based on my experience many years ago I figure it would not be much of a problem at these ranges with stillstanding animals showing their flanks so readily.
On one occassion I could witness how one roe started chasing another one; a bright copperred chasing a duller grey one and they ran over the field, coming up to the harvester! Then they stopped, looked at us amazed as if they were thinking:"How did they get here so fast?" We were less than 15 meters away!!

An added benefit of starting early is that on your way to work you can see the most amazing landscapes, draped with morningfog, whitened with frost, the rising sun casting amazing light across the land.... it is simply magical... During one of these trips we ran into some moose; a family of three. Well, at least they were a cow and a calf and the bull, with 4 points on each side of the head, was a bit further up the field, right next to the road and crossed that as we came closer. They, and especially the bull might not live very much longer, since hunting season has begun last week. Of course no camera, only a smartphone (not mine) and that did make lousy pics. The very next day, on that same strip of dirtroad, we ran into a group of deer and right in the middle of them, there was a fox; a large, light copperred, very healthy anf fluffylooking. We disturbed their morningbusiness and they took off, but seeing the fox dart away was a sheer pleasure. His/her fluent moves, the fluffy tail waving like a.... well... tuft of fur. My wife and I just sat there, our faces to the carwindow. We must have looked like small kids with the noses stuck to the glass. Delighted as we were we carried on, only to be met by....moose. Again. This time only a cow and calf, but right next to the road! We approached slowly, turned of the headlights and with the car making as less noice as possible, grinding over the gravel under the wheels, tearing the morningsilence to shreds.... We could "sneak up" to them as close as about 20 meters, but then they felt that was enough. So they turned and trotted off, while we desperately tried to "shoot" them...

I can honestly say that I never did see, and had the possibility to actually look at and watch, so much wildlife in such a short timespan nor did I see the land change so dramatically and was able to follow that on an everydaybasis. The weather played along too with very little rain, much sun, but also with cold northern winds and night frosts.
Was it all sunshine and happiness?
No.... we did have some rain. ;) But not much and even that little rain had more than the gift of much needed moisture in store; amazing rainbows! What was very noticeable was the sheer violence these rain showers showed. It didn't just rain, but the weather would shift dramatically all of a sudden, going from a sunny day into a storm with fierce gales and downpours in less than 10 minutes!
The picture shown was taken right after our oldest daughter had here first footballmatch ever.

Apart from all these overwhelming displays of nature there also were some traditional happenings to experience. One such event was the take down of the charcoalkiln on saturday the 14th of september. We opened her up and were greeted by a substantial amount of heat and glowing embers, even after 2 weeks! The covering layer was taken away, the coal was broken up, seaved and spread out to cool down, so it could be packed on sunday. Any emerging fires were met by a group of people with watercans. As you might expect that was a dusty event and the kiln gave a substantial amount of coal; 192 bags of 70 liters!
These were packed on sundaymorning, but without me being present,.the Mss took over on that part.  I really needed a day off... Two of these bags are residing at our place now, waiting to be used, preferably in a blacksmithingproject.
the coalersgroup or as my wife called us "her men"...
The kiln, which was named after my wife, (and I am not suggesting that it has anything to do with the name it bore... ;) ) did not behave exactly as it was supposed to and did have a little surprise in store for us, right at the end..... For some reason and in some way a bit of the glow managed to seep into the ground, smoulder away for a few hours and suddenly resurface in the middle of the following night. On sundaymorning, at 04:00 am, the 2 men, who stood watch suddenly had to jump into a frenzied action in order to fight and contain a blaze! The fire had come up from underground, right underneath a pile of halfcoaled timber, igniting that, consuming the adjacent firewoodshed and wheelbarrow, scorching some of the pinetrees and burning up some of the coal that was spread out to cool off.
We were lucky! Given the series of forestfirewarnings we had and the fact that many municipalies around us had them again, it was sheer luck this did not turn into a fullscale forestfire! We also still had plenty of water on site to extinguish the fire. They evnb had to dig out some remaining treestumps!
Maybe we did become a bit negligent and this was a stark reminder to check, check and check again!

the resulting damage.
Another event, which I did not take part in, but the mss. did, was a timetravel.
This means that third graders from several schools are invited to our hembygdsgård or local history museumfarm. There they are educated in the old ways. They are shown how people lived 100 years ago, when there was no running water, no electricity and no modern machinery. The kids get to experience this first hand by washing clothes, ironing them and splitting wood the old way. My wife was asked to assist the teachinggroup and was dressed in suitable attire, as did the other members.
The the kids were shown and taken into a roleplay, and felt first hand  how the people back in those days did their laundry; washing, scrubbing, rinsing, pressing, heating the iron on the stove befor ironing etc.
The are also shown how to saw and split wood, since the stove and the waterheater do not heat themselves.
That is the way you should teach kids; let them do it instead of telling them how it was done.