by Todd Walker
Having options and being flexible leads to new discoveries.
This was supposed to be a review of a new piece of gear. But the best laid plans of mice and men tossed a welcomed monkey wrench into my machinery.
I headed out to my proving grounds, an undisturbed slice of heaven in the woods, owned by a good friend. I took my walk-in-woods kit and the new shiny object.
The plastic bag in the foreground contains Micro Inferno fire starters. A nice addition since we’ve experienced massive raining for a month. Very uncharacteristic in our state.
I gathered tender from hanging dead wood and lit a fire with the ferro rod that came with the kit. I clicked a few pics and went to gather more ‘dry’ wood.
Movement to my right caught my attention. Trespasser was my first thought. Nope. It was my friend’s adult son coming to run off what he assumed was a trespasser.
I’d only met ‘Andy’ once in passing even though I’ve spent lots of time with his dad. Funny how things go that way. But this impromptu meeting proved valuable, for me at least.
We walked down to the fire to rescue it from that ‘dry’ wood. As we stood on a rock in the creek, our makeshift classroom, woods lore took over: wild food foraging, fly fishing, hunting, shaving with a straight razor (may not be considered a bearded woodsman skill – but worthy of manly talk), and all manner of bushcraft.
Our fire was next to the stream Andy had spent his life running. He knew all the freshwater springs feeding the creek – and the location of its edible plants. Bingo!
I filtered some water from a spring feeding into the creek. An unnecessary step according to my new friend who drank from these springs his whole life. I wanted to be safer than sorry. He indulged my added safety step.
With water on to boil, I added pine needles for a cup of tea. Andy jumped from rock to rock across the creek and returned with a single leaf of wild ginger (Hexastylis arifolia) for our brewed concoction. Neither of us had tried the combination of pine needles and ginger. We’re both glad we did this trial-and-error tea. The ginger added a sweetness to the pine needle tea and made it very drinkable.
“I wish I could bottle that aroma!” I told Andy.
“You can. I’ve made essential oil from wild ginger for a friend for his soap making hobby.”
Is there nothing my new bushcraft buddy can’t do? was all I was thinking. His dad had told me about Andy’s tinkering skills. He makes beautiful bamboo fly fishing rods (even made a bamboo bicycle), phenomenal photographer, archer, and now, essential oils from wild plants! And with no institutionalized ‘higher’ education degrees to hang on the wall!
How did he learn so broadly and so thoroughly without those bragging papers professors and corporations and governments say are necessary?
Life changes without notice. It’s random like that. Institutional, factory schooling is rigid. And it stifles, if not completely kills, the natural curiosity encoded in our DNA. Andy immersed his adult life reading what interested him, explored his curiosity, and, as a natural consequence, he’s doing the stuff. Flexibility allows him to stay current on his many skills that give him options.
Options lead to anti-fragility and sustainability.
Talking to smart and interesting people is one of the best educations available. And it’s free!
I never would have known Andy existed if it weren’t for me striking up a conversation and meeting his dad at a dinner party a few years back. Parties are great places to get educated. We became best buds and meeting his son has just widened my scope of things to learn and stuff to do!
On our way out of the nature’s classroom, we picked these for dinner.
And the Big Green Egg didn’t let us down…
The Pathfinder review will be forthcoming. For now, I’ve got chanterelle to dehydrate.
Keep doing the stuff,
As always, if you found this useful, please pass it on to your friends. And thanks to all who checked out our new FB page and gave us a ‘like.’
That is awesome that you met up and got to have good conversation! I think that that green plant is Virginia creeper (not edible; berries are toxic).