Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bushcraft Sverige - basic bushcraft course

Friday saw me grabbing my gear in a hurry!
I had been quite negligent  the days before, but had a pretty good idea on what to bring. There was little or no need for equipment like cooking sets and such, just some basics like spare clothes, eating utensils, a knife and other standard bits 'n bobs. I also promised Tobias, one of the organizers/instructors to bring my army tent. There were 2 guys that needed a place to sleep, possibly one more person, besides me and Olli. And when I bring the tent I need not watch the extra weight and room, so my field cot came along as well. Temperatures were looking to be higher than on the festival, but there was a forecast of rain on sunday.
Unfortunately a few hours before leaving, Olli contacted me and told me he had to cancel his attendance! That meant driving south for 4,5 hours alone and back home again. Plus the costs would be all on my head. Damn. And as usual I was starting to get cold feet. I always have the tendency to back out in the period prior to such an event, but once I get going, that is no longer an issue. Certainly not as much as it used to be, so I am making progress there. What ensued was a long, tiring drive. It was countryroad to about halfway, where I would pass the city of Örebro and from there on much motorway. I hardly recognised the country we had passed through 20 years ago and large parts reminded me of the Netherlands; flat countryside with occasional buildings, industrial or shopping sites or residential areas. Not until the final stretch did the view change back to forests and country
I arrived late afternoon and after the initial greetinground I set out to raise the tent. I was assisted by one of my new "roommates", Mikael, who was so kind as to show me how to properly set up the damn thing! I had managed so far with reasonable success, but it turned out it was not the entirely correct way. Now we had much more room on the inside and taught panels, since the sides sloped out somewhat as well instead for being straight and floppy. Tack Mikael!

More and more people started gathering around the campfire as they started arriving and at about 19:00 (guessing here) the official kickoff was given. Our hosts/instructors welcomed us and gave a quick rundown of the programme in the days to come. The evening was meant for getting to know each other and for discussions on bushcraft and allemansrätten. Such discussions are a good way of getting a feel for one another. Also Elle from Elles utematwould attend and supply us with an array of snacks during the evening. I had met her at the festival and was already looking forward to those treats!! She has a great knowledge on mushrooms as well, which she would be sharing with us both piecemeal and on a tour.
The rest of the evening was spent mingling, talking, discussing, having a drink or 2 (or a bit more), lots of laughter and just having a good time together. I ended that day far later than I had anticipated and slightly more intoxicated than I had hoped.

Picture by Morgan Borén

Picture by Salima Voloscuka
Saturday; before breakfast I made a little tour around the site. A wonderful place....
I had slept relatively well, but got woken by an alarm, probably from a telephone, going off somewhere nearby. Not once, but twice with a longer interval. Since the planning was that breakfast should be done at around 07:00 and we be ready by 09:00, I figured I might as well get up. Making breakfast would be a solo affair for me, since the options given, like the classic oats porridge, most certainly did not appeal to me. All I would be using would be some hot coffee and a warm, boiled egg. The morning was chilly and very damp, making it feel even colder still.

This was a day that mainly Johan did the talking. The subjects were basic skills on knife and saw (no axes on this course), some explanations and instructions on some very basic other skills; fire, camp and gear.
The first subject was the proper use of a knife and carving techniques. He demonstrated us how to do things and why, after which he set us the task of carving 2 tentpegs. He had shown us how to take down a sapling thicker than a thumb and how to process that into said 2 tentpegs, using different techniques. Also the use of a bowsaw was taken up. Some techniques I already knew and use practically daily, but another one was new; setting the bow on the ground and using it to cut short pieces. During class a stiff, chilling breeze had picked up and I noticed a number of attendants freezing. Scarfs, hats and gloves came out and I had put on my buff, the one I had gotten at the first national meet. I was not too pleased with its performance, since it rolled up into a roll, exposing the neck, with the wind blowing down it. Useless.....
Picture by Salima Voloscuka

While everyone was working there was time for other things as well.
Some inevitable geartalk, like me asking Andreas all about the fjellduken.
Picture by Salima Voloscuka

Or clowning around with instructor Tobias....
For this course we were given new Mora knives in this year's colours, as can be seen dangling from a cord around Marcus' neck.
Picture by Salima Voloscuka
Picture by Morgan Borén
Picture by Salima Voloscuka

After everyone was done, he proceeded on the subject of firemaking, covering everything from using a match to a firesteel and even flint and steel. By paying close attention (very close) I was able to see what I was doing wrong in getting the sparks to land of the tinder. Now I need to practise!! He also addressed several firestarters both natural and manmade and we got plenty of opportunity to test and practise.
What an immaculately timed picture!!
Picture by Salima Voloscuka

Picture by Salima Voloscuka

Picture by Salima Voloscuka
By now it was getting around lunchtime, so time for a break.... Elle had whipped up a very tasty meal, containing vegetables and mushrooms.
All that social activity is demanding and the wind was kind of cold.
What better way to relax then to rest in the sun?
Picture by Marcus Östlin

After lunch Johan picked up where he left.
Now he turned his and our attention to basic camp skills; how to pick a spot, what to pay attention to when having a fire plus some easy DIY projects like a packframe, a bowsaw or a bucksaw. After this lecture he took us on a planttour, showing some edibles, finished off by an explanation on how to purify water, using a cloth and chemicals. You could spend a whole day on either of these subjects and not be done with them, but these were just the very basics.
He emphasised the importance of selecting and preparing your fireplace, always lining it with rocks to prevent the fire to spread into the underground and enhancing the flow of air from below at the same time. The issue of making fire on bedrock was addressed, since I brought that up. Had gotten into a bit of a discussion about that and Johan explained that it not only is not ethical or unacceptable in Sweden, but that it even is prohibited by law. Many of the foreign guests visiting this country for outdoor activities either do not pay attention to it or simple do not know about it, causing damages on a regular basis.

Picture by Morgan Borén

Picture by Marcus Östling

After this the concentration of the group pretty much was used up as an incident during Johan's filtering lecture showed. One of the attendants had spotted a crayfish in the river and had picked it out of the water. It was as if a group of elementary school kids had been shown something exciting. Everyone flocked toward the place where the crayfish had been released, scouting out the bottom to see if it was still there.... So Johan did the wise thing and called it a day.

This evening we were supposed to make dinner ourselves. There was a basic array of ingredients, pots 'n pans and we were pretty much left to our own devices. There was beef in cubes, carrots, pasternak, onions, white cabbage, broth cubes, quorn, herbs and spices. I decided I would make a stew, having done that before and in comparable quantities and so I did, using the beef, carrot, pasternak, onion, flavoured with laurel, salt and black pepper, seasoned with the distinct flavours of open fire woodsmoke and being-outside-appetite.
I thought it turned out pretty ok, got one confirmation, no complaints and the stew was gone in no time. Also the stir fried cabbage and vegetable stew without meat were pretty much gone. No idea about the quorn really. Not exactly my area of interest. It was remarkably quiet during dinner, actually....
What made things a bit more challenging was that we had to make a multiple dish dinner for a large group (20+) on an open fire. That did require a good deal of coordination, adaptation and improvisation.

Together with Henrik and Johanna
Picture by Marcus Östling

....tasted better than it looked!!!
After this everyone was pretty much done for. Most gathered around the fire once more and Henrik treated us to a real campfire story. It's been a long time since I heard one of those and it always creates a special atmosphere, I think. Something many of our ancestors did as well, creating a connection to those roots.
I had a good long, heart to heart talk about my blog and writing with Ric Nagualero, an outdoor enthusiast and artist, whose paintings I previously had admired at the festival. He rattled my cage. He stated I had the talent, but that I was held back by my own resistance. That resistance either being fear of failure or fear of success...... The night did not last long. before 22:00 there were but a few remaining at the firesite, the rest having retreated for the night already. I retired early too, but with something to think about.

Picture by Salima Voloscuka

Sunday; once more I woke early this morning, but not as rested as the day before. Somehow I had had a wrong sleeping position, waking up with aches in shoulders and neck, causing a splitting headache. It took 2 painkillers to get rid of that, before I could get into the car and head back home.
But before that there was breakfast and I followed the same routine as the day before, eating my own food and sharing some tastingsamples of some of the Dutch goodies I had brought, like cheese and applesyrup. The first chemical physical condition enhancer went down with the first coffee and a little while later the agony lessened.
Johan continued his lectures with one final one; knifesharpening. He showed us the techniques he uses. He also brought materials for us to make our own sharpeningblocks, containing slabs of plywood and several grid sandpaper plus double sided tape. I still have the one I made at the first national meeting and found out that the more I use it, the better it works. So I made another one....
After this lecture Elle was taking everyone for a dedicated mushroom walk, which I skipped. Still not feeling "top o' the world" and I had my packing to do, including that large tent. I took my time and by the time I had to take the tent down, the group was back again and Mikael lent me a hand. A final round over the campsite and everything was done.
The morning was concluded by the official handout of the diplomas and badges, after which many of us made one last round over the entire campsite, picking up pieces of scrap that had been missed. I said my goodbye's and around 13:00 I returned home, having downed the second painkiller. After 4,5 hours on the road I was glad to be driving up my driveway. Tired, but satisfied.....

Picture by Morgan Morén
The badge with the blue edge is the course badge

Picture by Salima Voloscuka

A big thank you to all who attended for making this a successful event. And an extra big thank you to Nenne Thorin, Tobias Karlsson and Johan Forsberg, acting as instructors. (But not only for that!!) Well, the first 2 mainly as observers, but with a special reason. This course is the first step to becoming an ambassador for the association with 2 more courses to go, before you can apply for that ambassadorship. In which case you need to do an extra course/exam, when they deem you suitable for that position.....
If I understood correctly.

In hindsight I have to say that I pretty much knew much of the basics, but still I learned quite a few new ones or enhanced/refreshed my knowledge of them. It never hurts to go over the basics, because it shows what you have forgotten or have started to do in a way that needs improvement.
It, surprisingly, was also fun to help and show others that were struggling with things. To show them tips and tricks or give them suggestions is rewarding in itself. And I was taught that if you can explain it to someone else, you have learned it yourself too.
I guess my social skills are improving as well, but after such an event I still feel exhausted.

Picture by Salima Voloscuka


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