Camping

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap

by Todd Walker

If you never experienced an angry creek lobster clamped to the end of your finger as a young creek-walker, you missed a childhood rite of passage. If the crawfish was of sufficient size, bleeding would soon follow. But that taste, oh, that wonderful, heavenly tail meat, boiled up in your tin can hobo stove by the creek side, made the pain a distant memory.

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My brother and I were well acquainted with these woodland decapods (ten-footed crustaceans). Craig and I would catch them by hand, mostly. A cane pole with a hunk of blue gill or tadpole hooked at the end of the line would be employed to coax larger mud bug from hideouts when neither of us were brave enough to go in bare-handed. Clamped to the bait, a greedy crawfish will usually hang on until you drag him slowly out of the water and into your tin can.

Another successful method came in the form of a “scavenged” window screen. Sorry about that one, Daddy. But it worked. Tie strings to the corners of the slightly bent frame and knot them a few feet above the center. Tie bait to the middle of the screen and lower it in the creek. Pull the trap out when you see crawfish on top of the trap. You’ll lose a few but will catch enough.

You may never run across a window screen or hardware cloth in the woods but hollow logs are plentiful…

Hollow Log Trap

While collecting resources in the woods last month for my river cane fish trap, I ran across a hollow log. Mr. Steve Watts shared a diagram of a simple fish trap crafted from a hollow log in his book, Practicing Primitive. If it worked for fish, it could be modified to catch crawfish, I thought. Even in his recent passing, his legacy and influence lives on.

I chopped a section of the log and hauled it back to base camp. It sat there for a few weeks as I conjured a way to catch mud bugs in a hollow log. Here’s my adaptation of Steve’s simple trap design…

Material

  • Hollow log section with an opening just larger than the size of my fist
  • Vines and sticks to craft an entrance funnel
  • Rock or stick to plug the opposite end – or weave two funnels for both ends
  • A rock large enough to keep the log submerged
Surviving Large on Small Stuff - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A hollow log about 2 feet long with a 4″ opening.

Weave a Funnel

I have an abundance of wild grape vine near my shelter. The honeysuckle patch was further away but would also be well suited for the task. Any flexible vine or material would work. With little effort, I found several young vines stretching up a nearby tree.

On larger diameter grape vines you’ll often find long, stringy tendrils hanging down from the main vine. Not sure what their proper name or function is, but you’ll recognize them when you see them. They remind me of hippy beads hanging from the doorways in my past. I used a few of these in the weaving.

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Weaving the vines through the river cane ribs

Take and odd number of sticks (5 to 9) about eight inches long and shove them into the ground at an angle to form a one to two-inch circle at the base. This allows you to weave vines between the ribs which will save you large amounts of frustration. I used split river cane for my ribs which were left over from my recent fish trap project.

Begin weaving vines at ground level alternating between the uprights. Continue this weaving pattern until the funnel is large enough to cover the log opening.

Attach Funnel

Insert the funnel into the opening of the log. For this test, I closed the smaller end by driving a wrist-size stick into the opposite opening.

Hunt-Gather-Eat- Identifying Plants the Real Food Eats - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The woven funnel is inserted in one end of a hollow log with the other opening plugged to create a bushcraft crawfish trap.

You’ll want to secure the funnel(s) to the log. On my first test, I used a few long vines as cordage to wrap and secure the funnel to the log. This method was not as secure as using commercial cordage but did work better than a friction fit only.

Bait the Trap

As for bait choices, I’ve found crawfish prefer fresh bait and lots of it. Fish heads, frogs (not toads), fresh entrails, chicken liver or gizzard work. They also seem to love bacon! Who doesn’t, right?

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Plug the smaller hole with a stick or rock. You could also craft a funnel for this opening. 

Before closing the trap ends, place your preferred bait inside the log. I cut a chunk of my homemade, dry cured bacon and tossed it into the hollow log, secured the trap ends, and set the trap in the creek.

Set the Trap

Find a spot near the edge of a creek or pond you can easily reach. For creek or stream use, a weak current or eddy current is preferred. The water needs to be deep enough to completely submerge the trap.

How to Bushcraft a Hollow Log Crawfish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A flat rock holding the trap under water

Most wood is less dense than water and therefore floats. To sink the log tarp, I leaned a heavy, flat rock on top to keep it submerged. I then went about my day working on some fire craft skills at base camp. An hour later I had two creek lobsters in my pot.

Surviving Large on Small Stuff - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A few crawfish in the bucket for dinner.

This type trap has limitations. Unlike commercial traps, you’d have a difficult time submerging a wooden trap in deeper lake water. My main purpose was to craft a trap from items found in the woods. But make no mistake, the hollow log trap is more than a novelty item. It will catch a delicious woodland delicacy!

Related Resources

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hunt-Gather-Eat: Identifying Plants the Real Food Eats

by Todd Walker

At our spring Georgia Bushcraft campout, Chris Noble began his Plant I.D. class with seven wise words written on the white board…

“Plants are what the real food eats!”

Wild edibles are popular among survivalists and outdoorsy types. Would you survive the learning curve if you were dependent on wild food only?

Hunt-Gather-Eat- Identifying Plants the Real Food Eats - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

We have several articles parked on our Foraging Feral Food page. However, foraging is a hobby of mine and is used to supplement my diet and knowledge base. The supplementary part (knowledge) is what the average person, like myself, should concentrate on when learning to forage. More specifically, which plants are favorites of your local Real Food (animals)?

The idea of long-term survivability as a vegan without our modern food delivery system would be, in my mind, starving times. Even omnivores would be hard pressed to feed their family if semi-trucks stopped rolling. If you’re reading as a vegan, this is not a slam on your food choices. I have nothing against vegetarians or vegans… except for the occasional radical who bashes bacon. In my wild foraging experience, learning to safely identify wild edibles takes time, experience, and preferably guidance from someone with actual expertise in the field. This is not to say living off the landscape can’t be done by hobby foragers. It’s just unlikely.

Crop cultivation signaled the beginning of the end of our hunter-gatherer lifestyle 10,000 years ago. Today, the domestication of our species seems to be complete… almost. Our wild genes remain but must be reprogrammed.

Like any other skill, harvesting the Real Food (non-farm raised) will require hunting and trapping wild animals. Ethical practices should be followed. This is not about killing “trophies.” This is about feeding your family Real Food in hard times.

Favorite Plants of the Real Food 

Most creatures in the Eastern woodlands with fins, fur, and/or feathers are edible, with a few exceptions, and, of course, personal bias. Crawlers and scaly critters aren’t off the menu either.

Having knowledge and familiarity of which plants wild animals prefer can help supplement your food supply. Understanding their habitats and patterns is also important. Even if you’ve never hunted or trapped wild game, or choose not to at this point, find these plants and the Real Food will follow. Below is a list of critters and their favorite munch-ables.

Whitetail Deer

Anyone who has ever grown a garden knows the damage deer can cause. Rows of young butter beans can turn into match sticks poking from the earth overnight. Farm land is a white-tailed deer smorgasbord. With no agriculture in an area, deer browse on a variety of foods available in different seasons.

IMG_0402

  • Browse: Twigs and leaves of woody plants, vines, and shrubs
  • Forbs: Broad leaved flowering plants (herbaceous)
  • Mast Crops: Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, walnuts, pecans, etc.- In my experience, white oak mast is preferred over other oaks
  • Fruit: Apple, persimmon, muscadine (wild grapes), blackberry, mayapple, etc.
  • Fungi: Mushrooms
  • Grasses: Makes up less than 10% of their diet
A power line full of forbs.

A power line full of forbs.

White-tailed deer are typically most active during morning and evening hours. The “rut” (breeding season) in the fall causes bucks to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of receptive does. Conventional hunting wisdom is gone with the wind as well.

Bear

All bears are classified as carnivores even though most of their diet is plant-based. They are not shy about scavenging from trash cans, carrion, campsites, and landfills. Meat and fish, when available, add needed protein and fat to their diet.

This big boy drug our son's trash can to the edge of the woods to help himself in Florida.

This big boar drug our son’s trash can to the edge of the woods to help himself in Florida.

Seasonal plants, especially high-energy fruit, are favorites for bear.

  • Spring: First sprouting grasses and roots in areas where bears hibernate. Grubs and insects under decaying logs.
  • Summer and early fall: Blackberries, huckleberries, persimmon, blueberries, and, near human developments, fruit trees.
  • Fall: As berries disappear, foraging turns to fish and dead carcasses of animals.

Feral Hogs

In Georgia, and many other states, there is no closed season on feral swine. This non-native animal was introduced in North America in the 1500’s by explores. Wild hogs are opportunistic omnivores who can also play the role of predator. Not only a nuisance to landowners, they compete with native wildlife for food sources and destroy natural habitat.

Wild hogs are known carriers of disease and parasites which can be transferred to humans when butchering and consuming. Precautions should be taken when handling/processing a carcass. Wear rubber gloves, dispose of waste properly, cook meat to an internal temperature of 160ºF, wash hands with soap and warm water, and clean/disinfect surfaces/tools after butchering with a bleach solution.

Hogs range to find a wide variety of food in different seasons. Recognizing sign, habit and food sources is your best bet for locating wild hogs…

  • Tracks are more rounded with blunted toes than deer. Dew claw impressions are wider than the toe prints of white-tailed deer.
  • Wallows and tracks in creeks and ponds
  • Bedding areas created by rooting to find cool soil
  • Agriculture crops: corn, peanuts, soybean, watermelon, etc.
  • Large wire traps are used successfully by landowners to control pig populations

Small Game Animals

Part of developing a Possum Mentality applies to not only salvaging resources but trying new food sources. Are you willing to eat meat from mink, otter, raccoon, fox, coyote, opossum, muskrat, skunk, bobcat, and weasel? Sounds disgusting to our refined palate but many of these are abundant.

This post is already getting too long. We’ve only got space and time to cover one of the most prolific of small game animals…

Squirrel

This member of the rodent family deserves the nickname “tree rat.” Squirrels don’t just eat nuts and seeds from your bird feeder. They’re omnivores, and, at times, cannibals. Their favored habitat is deciduous forests but aren’t shy of pine trees. Their diet and habitat are very similar to deer.

  • Soft and Hard Mast: Acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, winged seeds of maple, tulip poplar blossoms (one of their springtime favorites), black cherry, fruits, mushrooms
  • Meat/Protein: Baby birds, eggs, lizards, insects, frogs
  • Picture what rats eat (most anything) and add a bushy tail to your mental image

Large rat traps are effective for passively harvesting squirrels. I’ve used peanut butter as bait in the past.

Fun Survival Fact: A squirrel’s nest may appear to be built in the same manner as a bird’s nest with an open roof when viewing from ground level. Not so. Squirrels need a roof over their head as shelter from the elements. Nature’s design for squirrels, an orb shaped home, can be modified for humans caught in the woods unexpectedly without cover. We will address their design in detail in an upcoming post on debris shelters.

 Birds

All birds are edible. However, not all birds are legal to kill and eat. They also produce another good survival food, eggs.

Wild turkey

Wild turkey

All birds do not eat seeds. Fish and insects make up the diet of many birds. Birds need water for hydration and bathing. The water’s edge is always a prime location to find food with fins, fur, and feathers.

To have a realistic chance of trapping a bird, understand their habits and fly patterns. Pellet rifles, sling shots, and bow and arrows were weapons of choice for me growing up to hone my hunting skills. Check your local laws first.

Fish

No worries about eating poisonous freshwater fish. To my knowledge, there are none. They all contain protein and fat and are fun to catch.

The 4 W’s of Wilderness Campsite Selection | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rainbow trout on fly rod!

I’ll refer you to our article on fishing techniques for more ideas. Also, consider making a fish trap.

Snakes and Reptiles

I know, I know. People have an innate fear of slithers. But snake meat is tasty and can supplement your diet. Properly prepared, the meat does taste similar to chicken.

This water snakes is often times falsely accused of being a water moccasin.

Water snakes are often times falsely accused of being a water moccasin.

I have dispatched a water moccasin or two in the woods within striking distance of my dog (“Moose”) when my only options were a vet bill or a dead cotton mouth. Snakes are part of nature’s balancing act and are best left alone to do what they do… unless you really need to eat to survive.

A word of caution here. Snake metabolism is really slow so they die slowly. A rattlesnake may be cut in half by your garden hoe, but it can still deliver a strike and envenomation. A large number of people are bitten by venomous snakes after they’ve “killed” the serpent and pick it up to show their buddies.

Where to find snakes…

  • Where you least expect them but should… under the tarp in your woodpile.
  • In a wilderness setting, streams, swamps, ponds, lakes, dead logs, brush piles, etc.
  • Wherever rodents, birds, large insects, frogs, and lizards are plentiful
  • Warm/hot months in daytime hours: brush piles, holes, under fallen trees.

Other reptiles like alligator and turtle (MRE on the half-shell) are also good eating.

Really Small Eats

Opportunities to eat Real Food in the form of small stuff occur more often than finding a large four-legged meal. Again, the water’s edge is a smorgasbord in the wild.

Crawfish

The exoskeleton of crawfish (AKA – creek lobster, mud bugs, crawdads) encase some of the tastiest meat you’ll find in the woods. They can be trapped or caught by hand. I’ve caught them with a piece of bacon on the end of a string. They latch on and you pull them out of the water before they release. Trap bait can include fresh fish or animal guts or any form of fresh meat. I’ve discovered that they love bacon! The key is to load lots of fresh bait in your trap to keep ’em coming.

The woven funnel is inserted in one end of a hollow log with the other opening plugged to create a bushcraft crawfish trap.

The woven funnel is inserted in one end of a hollow log with the other opening plugged to create a bushcraft crawfish trap.

Insects

The most abundant non-plant edible on our planet. I’m not a bug eater, but I’d eat them if my survival were on the line. A rule of thumb when eating insects is…

Red, orange-yellow, forget this fellow. Black, green or brown, wolf it down.

To kill parasites, cook the protein-packed creepy-crawlers.

Additional Resources:

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Frugal Preps, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance, SHTF, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Spring Camping: 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia

by Todd Walker

One of the top concerns of winter outdoor activities is hypothermia. We are well aware of that possibility and prepare accordingly. With summer approaching, what’s the worry?

Spring Camping- 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I’ve been chilled to the bone on a few spring camping trips in Georgia… especially in wet conditions. One I’ll never forget was a fishing trip my brother-in-law and I made on the Flint River in mid-March of 1981. We motored up river, set trot lines, and made camp near a sandbar. We woke to a heavy frost blanketing our lightweight summer sleeping bags under a freezing Georgia sky. We were unprepared for the evening temperature change. It was springtime!

A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice. ~ Edgar Watson Howe

Our mountain temperatures in June are sneaky and cold enough to drain your body heat by morning. On planned overnighters, having the means and skill to regulate core temperature is critical to enjoying your camping trip. On unexpected stays, it could mean staying alive.

We tend to associate hypothermia with frigid winter temperatures. However, people can die from losing body heat with temperatures in the 50 degree range. Why?

Most people take day hikes or camp in late spring and early summer unprepared for this unexpected threat. Body heat generated from hiking a mountain trail is a double-edged sword. Yes, you’re warm while active… and sweaty. The mercury drops and the wind picks up at higher altitudes. Evaporative cooling is a wonderful to a certain point. Dressed in minimal, sweat-soaked clothing, you may find yourself on a slippery slope of suffering from exposure. You must be prepared to take steps to protect from further cooling.

Hypothermia Warning Signs

Hypothermia is subtle. No matter how experienced you may be in outdoor adventures, core temperature control should be a top priority on every outing. Sadly, just two summers ago, a well-known and experienced hiker succumbed to the elements in Washington. It can happen to anyone.

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. ~ John Muir

There are inherit risks in outdoor activities. Heck, just rolling out of bed holds its own risks. That doesn’t keep adventurous types out of the wilds. Managing risks successfully keeps us alive out there.

Here are the stages and symptoms signaling a drop in your core temperature.

Mild Hypothermia

(Body temperature between 89-95F/32-35C )

  • Constant shivering
  • Tiredness
  • Cold, pale, blotchy skin
  • Numbness and tingling skin
  • Blue fingers and toes
  • Fast breathing

Moderate Hypothermia

(Body temperature between 84.2-95F/28-32C)

  • Ability to think clearly and attention suffers
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Lose of judgement and reasoning ability
  • Stiff muscles and cramping
  • Shivering stops
  • Slow or irregular pulse
  • Drowsiness

Severe Hypothermia

(Body temperature below 84.2F/32C)

  • Unconscious/unresponsive
  • Pupils dilated
  • Irregular or no pulse
  • Undressing and terminal burrowing occurs in 1/4 of the people who freeze to death
  • Bodily functions and organs begin shutting down

Immediate medical attention is needed to stay alive.

Reduce Your Risk

Being unprepared this time of the year is hypothermia’s power. Dirt Road Girl and I have passed many day hikers happily enjoying mountain trails in early spring and summer wearing shorts, t-shirt, and maybe a water bottle with no contingency day pack in sight.

Who knows, these folks may possess skills and fitness levels to able to construct an emergency shelter from leaves and sticks to stay warm if an unexpected stay in the wilderness happens. Unless you’re on a self-imposed survival adventure, always carry a minimum of core temperature control gear.

Shelter

No matter what clothes you’re wearing, pack a 5 x 7 foot emergency space blanket. Add a cheap plastic painters tarp and you have two items used in constructing Mors Kochanski’s super shelter. My experience with this design is very favorable if you’re able to maintain a fire throughout the night.

best-emergency-core-temperature-control-gear

Super shelter

A bright orange tarp is also useful as a signaling device. Large contractor garbage bags weigh little but offer many uses in core temperature control. I pack two.

Fire

Fire is the most forgiving of all survival skill. Even without proper cover, a good fire can keep you alive.

Carry a fire kit with redundant ignition sources: Open flame – Bic lighter, matches; Spark ignition – ferrocerium rod, flint and steel; Solar ignition – magnifying lens.

Spring Camping- 4 Keys to Avoid Unexpected Hypothermia - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fire and hydration

There is dry tinder material even in a wet forest. However, be prepared and carry a proven source of dry tinder in your kit. It doesn’t have to be natural material either. Commercial or diy fire starters are highly recommended when fine motor skills have said bye-bye to cold hands. Also, duct tape burns long and hot. Here’s a compact method of carrying several feet of duct tape.

For more fire craft basics, check out our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

Keep in mind that a person’s early-stage shivering may stop after being warmed from radiate heat around the fire, but their core temperature may still be dangerously low. If one person in a group is experiencing obvious signs of hypothermia, it’s very likely that others are in early stages as well. Watch out for each other and take action when needed.

Hydration

A well hydrated person has a better defense against hypothermia. More fluid increases blood volume and conserves heat in your core longer than if you are dehydrated.

Carry a metal water bottle which can be used to boil water in the fire you’ve built. A hot cup of cocoa adds some warmth to the core while hydrating the body simultaneously.

Prepare for Extremes

Check the local weather report before heading out. I just returned from a weekend with our Georgia Bushcraft group. I planned to bring my sleeping bag (MSS). The weather report showed temperatures in the 80’s to the low 60’s with rain on Saturday. I typically only use my poncho liner in those temps in my hammock. However, I wanted to over-prepare. When setting camp, I realized I’d forgotten my sleeping bag. That’s why checklists are helpful… most of the time. I made do but was rather chilled the first morning.

The lesson on this trip was to double-check the checklist. Extra layers I had packed came in handy for warmth in the hammock. Plus, I had my closed cell foam ground mat which I employed. Coupled with my emergency space blanket, the cool, rainy Saturday night in Georgia posed no problem to a good night’s sleep.

Summer temperatures are headed our way. Under normal circumstances, hypothermia never crosses most of our minds this time of the year. We welcome cool breezes and rain showers. By following the above mentioned points, core temperature control shouldn’t be an issue.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap

by Todd Walker

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day… teach him to make a fish trap and he feeds himself and his tribe!

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

On the heels of our last post on river cane, I thought you may be interested in how to build a traditional fish trap. The beauty of any kind of trapping device is its ability to passively gather protein while you spend valuable time doing other stuff. Set it and forget it.

This funnel trap is not a “survival” trap. Your time would be better spent in a short-term survival scenario than burning calories collecting resources and lashing cane. However, for a long-term, consistent fish-catcher, take your time and build it to last.

Admiration and many thumbs-up signs go out to all aboriginal people who built one of these from scratch. The sheer amount of cordage needed is daunting enough using modern bank line. If my only lashing option was natural cordage, I’d choose to make a woven basket to eliminate the cordage requirement. Raw hide may have been used by our ancestors. I had enough bank line, so I used it.

Building a River Cane Fish Trap

Before you get your taste buds riled up, check your local game laws regarding fish traps. In my state of Georgia, you must have a commercial fishing license and traps have to be built to meet certain standards with respect to materials, size, and use. This trap fails the state standard. Chicken wire is required and does not grow naturally in the eastern woodlands. River cane does and was used to construct this self-reliance experiment for educational purposes only.

Our video tutorial is up for those who like this format:

Material and Tools

  • River cane of various lengths and diameter (thumb-size to pencil-size and at least 6 feet long). Non-native bamboo is a good substitute.
  • Cordage ~ Bank line, jute twine, or raw hide and natural cordage for the purists.
  • Knife or pruning shears

You’ll need lots of time, patience, and knots once you gather the river cane.

Build 3 Hoops

Either use freshly cut cane or other flexible branches. In my experience, cane cut over a week ago won’t bend for the hoops without heating. All I had was older cut cane at my shelter when I began this project. I improvised and tested two pencil-size species: Tulip Poplar and American Beech. Tulip poplar worked for the largest hoop (15 inch diameter) but was too brittle for the medium (12 inches) and smallest (8 inches). All three of the hoops on the larger funnel are beech limbs.

River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cut lengths for your desired diameter. Overlap the ends and lash together. I started the lashing with a bowline knot and terminated the lashing with a clove hitch. Apply gentle pressure to the hoops to create round supports for the river cane ribs to be attached.

Harvest and Prepare Cane Ribs

Harvesting river cane has inherent risks. Snakes, chiggers, and ticks make canebrakes home. Prepare accordingly.

River cane has two leaf types: Clum leaf and branch leaves. Clum leaves form a protective sheath which hug the clum upward from each node. The branch leaves grow from the end of the new branches coming off nodes.

To remove the clum leaves, grip and twist the sheath-like leaf at each node. It’s not necessary to remove these leaves if you’re pressed for time. Then again, if you’re pressed for time, this project may not be for you. The branches protruding from the upper nodes are easily removed by pulling them down towards the base of the clum.

Trim and blunt the ends of the cane to avoid accidental puncture or cuts while building and using your trap.

Attach Cane Ribs

Use four of your more robust canes to start framing your trap. It’s not that important which knots/lashings you use. They just need to hold the ribs securely to the hoops. I used square lashing with bank line on most of the ribs initially. However, as more cane is added to the frame, space becomes limited. Get creative with knots.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Attach the larger ends of the tapered cane to the largest hoop at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 with about a couple of inches overlapping past the hoop. Repeat the process about halfway down the four canes with the medium hoop. I found that laying the frame on the ground to attach the remaining hoops speeds up the process.

Lash the smallest hoop about 18 inches from the middle hoop. With the three hoops attached to the four canes, you have a steady framework on which to add the remaining ribs. Don’t worry about cutting all the ribs to the same length at the onset. They can run wild and be trimmed even at the end of the project.

Add more cane ribs… Add more cane… Add more… you get the picture. This labor of love eats up most of you time. As the spacing between ribs narrowed, I began tying a modified diagonal lashing. On tight spaces, I simply wrapped the cordage around the cane and hoop and tied a square knot.

The spacing between canes at the opening of the trap are naturally wider than those at the tip end. After testing, I may have to weave cordage between the ribs to add rigidity to the funnel and lessen the chance of smaller fish escaping. I’ll update you after the field test.

Build the Inner Funnel

On this day, I had freshly cut river cane. I used it to make two hoops. I can say that it is better and more flexible than the beech used in the larger funnel.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The interior funnel hoop is slightly smaller in diameter than the opening of the large funnel. The small hoop of the interior funnel was about 7 inches in diameter.

Build the frame of this funnel in the same manner as the larger one. Use smaller diameter cane with the large ends attached at the larger hoop (opening end). Allow the smaller, more flexible ends to run past the smaller inside hoop by 6 to 7 inches.

In theory, doing so will allow fish to swim through the flexible funnel end but prevent them from leaving. Kinda like a line from the Eagles hit song, Hotel California… “you can check in anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

Connect the Two Funnels

Once the interior funnel is complete, insert it into the larger funnel opening. Lash the two hoops together so that the inside funnel is somewhat straight and even with the large funnel. Secure the hoops at several points around their circumference in a permanent fashion.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Inner funnel secured

You’re almost done!

Close the Trap Tip

Gather the cane at the tip of the trap at a point with about 6 inches of cane remaining. Lash this point with a knot that is secure but can be easily untied. This is the end you will untie and empty your trap of all the fish you’ve caught… fingers crossed.

How to Make a River Cane Fish Trap - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Once the tip end is lashed, trim the wild ends. One whack from a machete on a chopping block and your done.

One last detail you’ll need to take care of if you use nylon bank line. Cut and melt the ends of all those tag ends of cordage. If you have a soldering torch (not very primitive, I know), simply burn the tag ends so they don’t unravel. Take care not to melt the lashings or set the cane on fire. Melted nylon is no joke on your skin. Be careful.

Bait the Trap

Wrap your bait of choice in panty hose or cheese cloth and suspend it from the inside of the trap. Catfish like stinky stuff like chicken liver, dead fish, and commercial blood bait.

Attach a sturdy line(s) to a larger rib/hoop junction for lowering and raising the trap. You’ll also want to attach an anchor to sink the trap as river cane floats. Use a jug at the end of the line to mark your trap in deep water. Near the bank you can tie the line to a tree or limb. My experience with chicken wire traps in my childhood was that I caught more turtles than catfish in shallow waters.

Leave the trap submerged for several hours or overnight. Check the trap regularly and follow local game and fishing laws.

 

An update will be coming on the functionality of the trap. Max and I didn’t have time to get it in the pond. If it’s anything like the chicken wire traps we used years ago, we won’t go hungry if we ever have to depend on this river cane trap.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Knowledge vs. Knowing: 37 Woodlore Lessons

by Todd Walker

I sat in the front of our aluminum jon boat as my daddy silently paddled us down Little Echeconnee Creek from the wooden bridge. A seven-year old boy with his daddy’s single-shot 20 gauge in his lap… I was living every country boy’s dream. Daddy had killed wild game with this same Stevens shotgun since he received it as a gift on his 14th birthday. My love of woodlore began that cool autumn day.

Knowledge vs. Knowing- 37 Woodlore Lessons - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Going to the woods has always meant going home for me. Among the trees, rocks, animals, and streams I find peace. The reality is that we are all dependent on nature no matter how domesticated we’ve become. Our wild ancestors coaxed all the resources needed to live from the same trails you and I walk.

Many woods lessons came to me the hard way. Mistakes make us wiser… if we live to tell the stories around the campfire. You may know these lessons in your head, but until you’ve experienced them, your knowledge is not knowing. You must get out there.

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” ~ George Washington Carver

Knowing is different from knowledge. Knowledge is acquired intellectually. Knowing equals knowledge plus experience. Knowing is the spiritual and emotional connection… the stuff that sticks with us and becomes second nature.

Woodlore

What is woodlore?

Woodlore ~ “skills relating to living in a woodland environment; woodcraft.”

Woodcraft ~ “skill in anything that pertains to the woods or forest, especially in making one’s way through the woods or in hunting, trapping, etc.”

There is no graduation date in the school of woodlore. Our journey to knowing will take a lifetime. Below are a few lessons I’ve learned. My hope is that you find these helpful on your journey of knowing woodlore.

  • Walk slowly and make frequent stops to observe your surroundings. Like a leaf softly landing on still water, try to send faint ripples in the woods not tidal-waves.
  • Take notice of the story nature is telling: Bird songs, animal behavior, weather patterns, etc.
  • Step on top of fallen logs/obstacles in your path before crossing. Step and look back to see if a snake rests underneath.
  • When selecting a camp site, give attention to the 4 W’s: Wood, Water, Wind, and Widow Makers.
  • Collect resources as you go. These may not be available at your destination.
  • Conserve resources. A forked tree can process firewood saving the edge of your saw or ax.
top-tools-for-mechanical-advantage-bushcraft

This forked tree caught the firewood as it broke

  • Learn to find dry fire-making material in wet conditions.
  • Go light when packing. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Leave the shiny survival objects home. Practicing skills with multi-purpose gear lightens your load.
  • Whether in a group or alone, leave a detailed itinerary with a trusted friend or family member in case you need to be rescued.
  • Carry easily accessible no-cook trail food for energy boosts while hiking. Click here for my pemmican, jerky, and parched corn recipes.
  • Stay hydrated, especially on winter trips.
  • River rocks hold water. When heated around a fire, the water expands rapidly and may blast shards of stone in all directions.
  • Layer clothing in such a way that you can regulate core temperature. Don’t sweat it! If your clothing becomes wet on winter trips, build a fire to dry them.
  • Learn to sleep well in the woods. Carry a pair of wool socks dedicated for sleeping.
  • Take care to clear your camp area of debris for fire safety and tripping hazards.
  • Stow your weapon close at hand as you sleep in camp.
  • Eat well. Pack food and comfort items for an enjoyable trip. Coconut oil and hot cocoa not only give me comfort but add calories and energy to my meals. You can’t go wrong with home cured bacon! Supplement meals with wild foods if available and only when sure of their safe use.
Knowledge vs. Knowing: 37 Lessons of Woodlore - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dry-cured bacon in a metal frying pan

  • Coals are for cooking, flames are for boiling.
  • Listen to your gut. If you get a gnawing feeling something is not right, pay attention and proceed with caution.
  • Always offer the best seat around the fire to others.
  • Don’t do stupid stuff you may have seen on “reality” survival shows. How do you know if something is stupid? Your knower will tell you. Physical injury in the wilderness turns camping into survival.
  • Carry at least two knifes. If one is lost or fails, you have a spare.
  • Practice situational awareness. Sounds mean something in the woods. A twig snapping could be an approaching animal (four or two-legged) or a falling limb. View the landscape with relaxed eyes to detect movement in a wide-angle. Once movement is spotted, your eyes will focus on that point.
  • Listen more than you talk around the campfire.
  • Keep a small amount of dry tinder in your pack and some kindling and fuel under your shelter for the morning fire in the case of rain. Heavy-duty garbage bags are modern marvels. Carry two.
  • Ax work is a daylight job.
  • Maintain sharp cutting tools in the field.
  • Water is life. Fill your water container(s) at every chance. You’ll not only find hydration at the water’s edge but many food sources… both small and large.
  • Carry a pair of leather work gloves. Nicks and cuts to your two most useful tools is not advisable.
  • That goes for your only means of conveyance, too… your feet. Wear comfortable, reliable footwear. Waterproof boots are non-breathable and eventually lead to sweat-soaked feet.
  • Never walk through the woods with an un-sheathed ax.

How to Make a Hands-Free Ax Carrying System | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

  • Resupply your tinder box with charred material for your next fire as needed.
  • Learn to administer self-aid with common items on the occasion you have no dedicated first aid kit.
  • Spend more time collecting/processing tinder and kindling material than fuel size wood. Fire needs to eat small stuff before consuming larger wood.
  • A wax candle conserves fire ignition sources and aids in drying damp tinder.
  • Even on “short” hikes in the woods, carry these tools as a minimum: Knife, fire starter, poncho or emergency space blanket, water bottle, cordage.
  • Go prepared with modern gear and equipment but practice primitive skills.
  • Always remain a student.
  • At age 7, never shoot a shotgun directly overhead while leaning backwards in a jon boat. You’ll end up laying on the bottom of the boat. Just saying.

Woods wisdom comes with time. Spend more time in the woods to turn knowledge into knowing. These are a few lessons I’ve learned by spending time in the woods. Share your woodlore and let’s learn together.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

How to Carve 7 Pot Hooks for Classic Camp Cooking

by Todd Walker

How to Carve 7 Pot Hooks for Classic Camp Cooking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

You’ve probably heard the adage, “Practice makes perfect.” This statement is misleading. The truth is…

Practice makes permanent!

In other words, the more you use your knife, correctly or incorrectly, the more permanent your skill becomes. Use poor technique long enough and you’ll be a danger to yourself and others.

 

If you’re new to camping and outdoor self-reliance, learning to safely handle a knife is essential. Even old-timers like myself can learn new tricks. I covered some basic knife safety issues in our recent article if you’d like a refresher.

Today we’ll covering a few basic notches which not only hone knife skills but create functional camp comforts… mainly for your camp kitchen.

Knife Selection

For an all-around camp carving knife, look for one that has the following features.

  • Simple ~ Gadgets look cool but aren’t practical. The only true way to build knife skills is to practice with a simple blade.
  • Grind ~ For carving tasks, I prefer a blade with a Scandinavian grind. Here’s a link with diagrams comparing multiple grinds from L.T. Wright Handcrafted Knives. There is not one perfect grind for all camp/woodcraft tasks. It’s hard to beat a Scandi grind for carving, though.
  • Length ~ My dedicated carving knife (Mora 120) at home measures 2.5 inches. In the woods, my Mora knives, either the Companion (4″) or Classic 2/0 (2-7/8″), are excellent for fine carving tasks. These knifes are inexpensive yet build to last. A blade length of 3 to 4 inches is ideal for fine carving in the field.
  • Handle ~ After hours of carving, you’ll find a smooth, round handle which fits in your hand to be more comfortable than fancy textured handles.
L to R: LT Wright Genesis, Mora Companion, Opinel No. 8, and Mora Classic 2/0

L to R: LT Wright Genesis, Mora Companion, Opinel No. 8, and Mora Classic 2/0

My main belt knife (pictured at far left above) is larger and more robust than the knives previously mentioned. However, it too can be, and has been, employed in fine carving tasks. Skills learned with smaller knives are easily transferred to a larger blade.

The Pot Hook Notch

Eating a hardy breakfast and dinner cooked over a campfire requires proper tools. With these basic notches, your camp kitchen will be well-equipped for cooking.

There are several ways to craft a pot hook. This article illustrates techniques using both straight and forked sticks.

Straight Stick Pot Hook

Find a straight stick measuring elbow to finger tip just larger than thumb diameter. Seasoned (dry) or green wood works, with greenwood carving easiest. A soft hardwood like Tulip Poplar, Basswood, or any sapling fortune sends will work.

The location of your pot hook notch should be a few inches (3 to 4 fingers width) from the end of the stick. Any closer to the end and you risk breaking the notch while hot dinner dangles over the fire.

The quickest method is to baton an “X” pattern on the stick using your knife. The blade should penetrate the wood at least half to two-thirds deep. Carve out the upper half of the X-pattern where the two lines of the X intersect. You’ll also carve out the wood next to the bottom, outside portion of the X. This will create a raised V pattern resembling a bird beak as you look down the stick. Hence the name, Beak Notch.

How to Carve 7 Pot Hooks for Classic Camp Cooking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The Pot Hook or Beak Notch

Carve out the wood under the point of the beak where the bail of your bush pot will rest. Test the fit by placing your empty pot on the hook and give the stick a sudden twist. If the pot doesn’t fly off, your notch is deep enough.

Care should be taken in stick selection when hanging cast iron cookware. Use a robust stick and only carve the notch to the pith (halfway) for added pot hook strength.

Hanging the Straight Pot Hook

There are a few options for hanging your newly carved pot hook. Since you’ve got the pot hook notch technique down, carve another notch at the other end of the stick so that the beaks are pointing towards each other. However, for balance, carve the additional notch on the opposite side of the stick at 180 degrees from the first notch on the other end of the stick.

The Speygelia is a long stick used to suspend pots over a fire.

The Speygelia is a long stick used to suspend pots over a fire.

Depending on stick length, you’ll want to carve 3 or 4 additional notches to adjust pot height over the fire. These notches will rest on a longer stick (Speygelia) with a chiseled tip propped over the fire. This longer stick is anchored in the ground by an inverted Y-stake or simply wedged under a rock or log.

My basecamp pot hanging from a tripod.

My basecamp pot hanging from a tripod.

A tripod also works well for straight pot hooks with a hole notch on the end.

The Hole Notch

Mors Kochanski teaches a method of carving a hole in the end of the pot hook for hanging. This notch is also helpful with camp construction projects.

The steps to carving a hole in a stick are:

  1. A few inches from the hanging end, remove stock from both sides until one third of the original is left in the center.
  2. Score a line an inch from the end of the 1/3rd piece with your knife. Score another line 1/2 inch up the stick. Between these lines is where the hole will be carved.
  3. With the butt/pommel of your knife in the palm of your hand, cut a quarter inch section across the grain on the score mark. This is done best by rocking the point of your knife perpendicularly across the wood grain. Repeat this cut on both score marks and make matching cuts on the opposite side of the stock.
  4. Make a rectangle by scoring a line which connects the crosscuts. Repeat on opposite side.
  5. Insert the point of your knife in the middle of one long side of the rectangle you created in step 4. Pry the wood up and out. Repeat on the opposite side. The thickness of your stock may require more prying and crosscutting but the rectangle should pop out to create a hole.
  6. Clean up the inside edges of the hole with your knife point. Insert cordage or wire for hanging the pot hook. I like this application for my camp tripod.
Hole notches in both straight and forked pot hooks.

Hole notches in both straight and forked sticks.

Toggle Method

A down-n-dirty method Dave Canterbury teaches for hanging a bush pot over a fire is to use a simple wooden toggle. Cut a shallow V notch in the middle of a finger-size stick about hand length. Tie a piece of cordage to the middle and hang from a tripod. Slip the toggle through the bail of your bush pot and your ready to cook.

How to Build a Bushcraft Tripod for Your Outdoor Kitchen

Toggle holding a cast iron squirrel pot

Forked Stick Pot Hooks

The Pot-Claw

The most expedient pot hook may be what Daniel Carter Beard called the Pot-claw in The Book of Camp-lore and Woodcraft (1920). The Pot-claw requires only one beak notch to be functional. However, more beak notches may be added for raising or lowering pots over the fire. Crave a pot lifter for removing the pot from the fire (details at the end of this article). And remember, we’re practicing knife craft so add more notches.

A variety of pot hooks hanging on a waugan stick. L to R: Straight pot hook with hole notch, Pot-claw, and Gallow-crook.

A variety of pot hooks hanging on a waugan stick. L to R: Straight pot hook with hole notch, Pot-claw, and Gallow-crook.

Select a sapling or tree limb with a Y-branch with similar diameters mentioned previously. Trim the smaller Y-hook to four-finger length. Carve a pot hook notch a the end of the stick so that it is pointing up on the opposite side from the Y-hook.

The Gallow-Crook

This pot hook in classic camping literature is basically a pot-claw with a twist. Cut a sturdy sapling which has a small, flexible Y-branch attached. Bend this branch to form a loop and lash it to the larger sapling to form a loop. Carve a series of beak notches opposite the loop. Place the loop through your waugan stick for a secure pot hook.

A Gallow-crook hanging from a waugan-stick with a bipod, which is adustable both horizontally and verically.

A Gallow-crook hanging from a waugan stick with a bipod which is adjustable both horizontally and vertically.

The Gib

One other pot hook used in the Classic Camping era was called the Gib. This hook requires two forked sticks spliced together. It’s not a slight on your woodsman prowess if you use two nails to make the Gib. Old timers often carried a few nails when camping. No beak notches are needed when using metal fasteners. You pot hangs from the nail.

Using a beak notch to splice two forked sticks together

Using a beak notch and V-notch to splice two forked sticks together

Cordage is another option for joining the two forked sticks. With either fastener, carve away half of the stock from the ends of both sticks the length of your hand. The flat parts are located on the opposite sides of the forked branches so the hooks are on opposite sides of the Gib.

Carve a beak notch on the rounded part of one stick opposite the flat area on one end and a V-notch on the other end of the other stick. Mate the flat surfaces together and lash with cordage. I’ve found tarred mariner’s line works well even over a fire.

Start with a timber hitch or clove hitch over the beak notch. Wrap the remaining cordage and tightening as you go. Wrap to the V-notch and terminate the lash with a clove hitch.

The Gib is useful at a more permanent basecamp when you have more time to set up your kitchen. On the fly, simply drive a nail in the end of a forked stick… no notching required.

Hanging Forked Pot Hooks

Traditional woodcrafters and classic campers used a Waugan stick atop two Y-sticks driven in the ground. On frozen ground, two tripods or a tree and a bipod can be employed to support the waugan cross stick. The bipod can be lifted and moved so the waugan stick and pot hooks are completely away from the fire if the need arises. Maneuverability of this setup offers a drying rack for wet camp clothing and gear near the fire when the meal is done.

Your pot-claw and all other forked pot holders are hung on the waugan stick over the fire. For versatility, several hooks can be employed when cooking camp dishes when more company is expected.

Pot Lifter and Pourer

I first saw these last two ideas employed by Chris Noble from Master Woodsman. Hot bush pots can be safely carried and poured using a forked stick. Cut the tops of the Y so they fit through the bail of your pot. Carve a beak notch just above the Y with the beak pointing toward the handle. Flatten the two ends of the Y-stick with your knife for added stability when pouring the pot.

Lift the pot bail in the beak notch. To pour, tilt the pot slowly until the Y makes contact with the pot rim for safe pouring of hot soup or beverage.

 

IMG_5031

Lantern Hook

One last idea for the pot hook notch comes from Chris Noble who made and installed one like this on our Georgia Bushcraft shelter. Cut a Y-stick and shave the back flat. Carve a beak on one end and a V-notch on the other. Lash the piece to a tree or post at basecamp for a lantern hook.

Coat hook or lantern stand using a pot hook notch.

Coat hook or lantern stand using a pot hook notch.

Developing competence with a knife can only be achieved through practice. And the best part is you can practice these skills in your own backyard or anywhere sticks grow.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft

by Todd Walker

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Foraging wild food requires practice, knowledge, and experience on your landscape. Notice I used the word your land. What you’ve read in books and watched on YouTube may not apply to your locale. While survival principles may never change, self-reliance is local.

Many of us are self-taught in skills of wilderness living. However, one way to shorten your learning curve is to find an experienced skills practitioner in your area who is actually Doing the Stuff. After receiving instruction, you gain knowledge. Knowledge weighs nothing but is not enough. You make knowledge applicable through time and experience and context. There is no substitute for time in your woods.

I had the recent pleasure of attending my third class at Medicine Bow, A Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains. If you look up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, Mark Warren’s bio should appear, but won’t. He’s not only a walking encyclopedia of woods-lore, he won the U.S.National Champion in Slalom/Downriver combined and the World Championship Longbow Tournament in 1999. On top of his wealth of outdoor knowledge, he is also a musical composer and published author.

Mark’s knowledge of the Cherokee uses of plants and trees is the foundation for anyone interested in wilderness living and self-reliance. I wrote him an email after the class asking assistance on a question for this article. I wanted to know the degree to which Cherokees depended on domesticated crops verses wild foods.

Mark’s response:

“Everyone knows about Cherokee farming and the 3 sisters (corn, squash, and beans), but the wild growth of forest and field was actually “farmed” too, by pruning or clearing for light. For example, swamp dogwoods were pruned to encourage survival shoots for basketry and arrow shafts. Large areas along flood plains were burned to help create a monopoly of river cane (for the same two crafts). A lot of those “brakes” can still be seen. The same is true of foods. I have a sense of why Amicalola was sacred to the Cherokee. I suspect it was for the prolific sochani that grows there. It’s also called green-headed coneflower. Cherokee women in NC still harvest it in spring and freeze for the year.”

Click here for more information on Sochani (Green-Headed Coneflower).

Think about this astounding bit of research…
“The Cherokees of the 19th century are listed as having around 800 plants in their repertoire (Mooney, 1992). This from a pool of about 2,400 species of plants to work from or about a third!” ~ Source

Every year I add more plants and trees to my food-medicine-craft list. But 800! I’ve got a lot to learn and experience.

“In the school of the woods, there is no graduation day.” 

~ Horace Kephart

Trees of Southern Appalachia

Wild plant foragers get excited this time of the year. Green shoots make their way through the soil for another growing season. Autumn turns to winter and the smorgasbord disappears. But trees, they stand ready to share their resources year-round.

Winter tree identification would not be challenging if trees would stop dropping their leaves. Mark taught winter botany lessons which I had never been exposed to. Sharing all I learned would take several articles. For our purposes today, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.

Tulip Tree

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) it is not a poplar at all. It is actually in the Magnolia ((Magnoliaceae)) family of flowering trees. There are many common names for Liriodendron tulipifera besides Tulip Poplar… Yellow Poplar, Canoe Wood, Yellow Wood, and Tulip Tree. That is one reason it is important to use scientific names of plants and trees… if you can manage to pronounce them. This will remove any confusion over common names.

Related Resource: Trees for Self-Reliance

Food

The Tulip Tree, while not a nutritional powerhouse, is a favorite of mine mainly for craft and outdoor self-reliance. Tulip Tree blooms are a main source of nectar for honey bees which produces a dark, amber honey loaded with antioxidants.

  • The only part of a Tulip Tree that I know is edible is the nectar in the flowering blooms.
  • Edit: Darryl Patton, The Southern Herbalist, sent me a message saying he collects, dries, and pounds the inner bark into flour for baking in his spring classes. Thank you, Darryl.

Medicine

Tulip Tree’s inner bark and leaves were used medicinally by the Cherokee and settlers in Appalachia for treating…

  • Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores.
  • Inner bark tea for periodic fevers, diarrhea, pinworms, as a digestive aid and for rheumatic pain.
  • Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac.
  • The bark could also serve as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria.
  • Tooth aches.
  • Used as a tonic to induce perspiration to treat fevers.
  • Root bark and seeds useful as a wormer for the body.
  • Cough syrup from bark.

Craft

  • Fire Craft ~ Wood for friction fire, inner bark for tinder, hot, quick burning firewood which does not produce long-lasting coals like other hardwoods.
  • Cordage ~ Inner bark fibers can be processed into cordage and rope.
When Primitive Skills and Prepping Have Sex | www.TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Indigenous cordage: Clockwise from 12:00 ~ Dogbane; Tulip Tree; Okra, and Yucca.

  • Containers ~ Outer bark crafted into berry baskets, arrow quivers, and larger pack baskets.
  • Carving ~ The soft hardwood lends itself to easy carving of spoons, bowls, pottery paddles, canoe paddles, and even the canoe itself. One common name of this tree is Canoe Wood.
This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

This design will be carved into the Tulip Tree paddle and used to imprint designs on primitive process pottery.

  • Insulation ~ Shredded inner bark can be stuffed between layers of clothing to create dead air space to retain body heat in a survival situation.
  • Roofing/Siding ~ Outer bark slabs used for shingles and siding on shelters.

Hickory

Hickories make excellent wildlife resource as squirrels and feral pigs love to eat their nut meat. Pignut (Carya glabra), Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), and Shagbark (Carya ovata) are the three hickories I’m most familiar with in Georgia, Mockernut being the most common.

Food

  • Sap ~ Sap water from hickories can be consumed without treatment.
  • Nuts ~ Contains fats (18g/serving), protein (3.6g/serving), and carbohydrates (5 g/serving) – Serving size = 1 oz.
  • Hickory syrup from crushed and processed nuts.
  • Cooking oil from nuts.
  • Kunuche (ku-nu-che) ~ A traditional Cherokee hickory nut soup.
  • Nuts with exterior husks are useful as charcoal for cooking food.
Scott Jones using hickory nuts as charcoal

Scott Jones (Media Prehistoria) using hickory nuts as charcoal.

  • Hickory Milk ~ “They pound them to pieces, and then cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers, preserves the most oily part of the liquid; this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is as sweet and rich as fresh cream, and is an ingredient in most of their cookery, especially homony and corn cakes.” – Source

Medicine

  • Infusion of boiled bark for arthritis pain.
  • Inhaling fumes of young shoots on hot rocks as a treatment for convulsions.
  • Cold remedy
  • Liver aid
  • Gynecological aid
  • Dermatological issues

Craft

How to Handcraft a Custom Ax Handle from a Tree - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This ax handle started out as the hickory tree pictured in the background

Hickory was used by the Cherokee’s for…

  • Stickball sticks
  • Crafting bows
  • Handles – (Here’s my tutorial on carving an ax handle from hickory)
  • Firewood
  • Smoking meats
  • Furniture
  • Inner bark of Mockernut and Shellbark Hickory used to finish baskets
  • Ashes from hickory were used by settlers to make quality lye for soap.
  • Inner bark used for cordage. Mark described a method of slicing down a hickory limb to remove the bark and twisting it to make a strong rope. I’ll explore that method in a later post.
  • Green nut husks used as dye – (My bed sheet tarp was dyed with hickory and black walnut dye)
  • Nut oil mixed with bear fat as an insect repellent.

Pine

There are 36 pines in North America to choose from. These evergreens are easy to spot for anyone. To narrow down the species, count the needles. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is the only species in Eastern North America with 5 needles in the fascicle sheath (the paper-like sheath surrounding the base of the needles).

How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hemlock is a part of the pine family and grows in southern Appalachia. Like other pines in our region, the inner bark is edible.

Food

  • Pine nuts are edible and tasty.
  • Inner bark was eaten when other foods were scarce. Should be boiled/cooked since it is high in turpenes. Can also be dried and ground into a flour.
  • Pine pollen can be collected and is edible and used like flour.
  • Long strips of inner bark can be boiled to make pine noodles.

Medicine

  • Pine needle tea has the following medicinal properties: antiseptic, astringent, inflammatory, antioxidant, expectoranthigh in Vitamin C for colds – flu – coughs, congestion, and even scurvy.
  • Shikimic acid, the main ingredient in Tamiflu, is harvested from pine needles in Asia.
  • Pine resin applied to skin conditions.
  • Arthur Haines describes on his YouTube channel how pine pollen provides multiple avenues of protection against radioactive cesium.
  • Warm poultice of pine resin will draw splinters and foreign matter from skin.
  • The inner bark can be fashioned as an antiseptic Band Aid for cuts and scraps
  • Chew softer sap straight off the tree like a gum for sore throats and colds. You could pre-make “gum” with these ingredients: bees-wax, pine sap, and honey.

Craft

See more useful fire craft articles on our Bombproof Fire Craft page.

  • Wood for shelters and bows for bedding.
  • Rescue Signals ~ A pre-made signal fire built with green pine boughs on top will generate enough white smoke to be seen for miles.
  • Pine needles were used to make baskets and resin was used as a sealer.
  • Logs were used in home building.
  • White pine and hemlock are both good wood for friction fire.
  • Dried and ground hemlock inner bark used as flour.
  • Dried pine “flour” is useful when rubbed on the body to cover human scent while hunting.

Mark says that Cherokees called trees “The Standing People.” Trees do not walk to new locations like animals in search of food. They are always in the same spot. Learning to identify trees and their resources will put you in a better position of appreciation and stewardship of your natural environment.

To mention all the trees used by the Cherokee would be better addressed in book form. In this article, we’ve highlighted three of my favorite trees in our woodlands. I’ll write future blogs covering more. Here’s a teaser on future posts… Dogwood, Sourwood, Basswood, Black Walnut, Persimmon, Beech, Black Cherry, and the list continues.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Herbal Remedies, Lost Skills, Medical, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance, Survival Skills, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log (Rope Vise Plans Included)

by Todd Walker

My uncle Emmett introduced me to woodcarving in grade school. He taught me to carve a “ball in a cage” from a single block of balsa wood in the church basement. Years pasted as did my interest in wood carving. It’s funny how our interests come full circle in life.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

After 40 years, I was reintroduced to the traditional skill of greenwood carving. Local, sustainable trees are used to make objects for everyday use while learning old-world skills. Handmade spoons, cups, and bowls are hidden within these renewable resources.

For over a year now, I’ve been whittling on wood to create something more than a camp pot hook. It’s all part of my addictive journey of self-reliance and…

Freedom from Electricity

Do I love and use electricity? You bet!

However, my personal space in the woods is my favorite location for carving… or doing most anything else. Dependence on electricity is not an option. Out there I’m transported back to a time of Doing the Stuff with cordless-tools held by hands, my hands. My collection of simple hand tools overshadows my skill level. I’ll keep Doing the Stuff until my skills catch up.

One tool my semi-permanent shelter was missing is a dedicated carving bench. Add this to my Paring Ladder, and a future pole lathe, and my no-electric-power shop in the woods will be fully functional. The forest provides the raw building materials. It’s my job to collect them.

I’ve included a video tutorial for those who prefer moving pictures.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own…

Carving Bench from a Log

Material and Tool List

  • A hardwood log about 2 to 3 feet long and 10 to 12 inches in diameter
  • 4 poles for legs and a few other sticks along the way
  • Wooden pegs for the peg holes – again, more sticks
  • Cordage – something for the rope vise and smaller stuff for lashing
  • Chainsaw or crosscut saw – depending on how vigorous of a project you desire
  • Ax and knife – a drawknife is optional but really useful if you’ve built a paring ladder
  • Auger – 1 inch minimum

Ideas for this design came from photos of two Facebook groups of which I’m a member:

I highly recommend both groups if you’re on Facebook and pursuing self-reliance.

Step 1: Cut a Log

The reason I carried my chainsaw to the woods that day was to cut some dead cedar for a couple of sitting bench projects. Another heavy cutting project was a huge dead pine, not within reach of my shelter, but adjacent to a spot boy scouts camp. It needed to be felled. I also needed a hefty log for a carving bench.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The pine widow maker is down. Talk about a fat lighter’d resource!

I cut a limb off a red oak downed by a storm a year ago and hauled it back to base camp. Whatever tree you use, it should be hardwood and about the dimensions given above.

Step 2: Cut Notches

Make three perpendicular cross cuts almost halfway through the log. The first cut will be about 5 inches from one end. Now cut at a 90 degree angle from the end of the log to the base of the first cut to remove this section of wood. This will be the end shelf of your bench and platform for the rope vise.

Make the second cross-cut 5-6 inches from the first cut. The third cut goes in about 18 inches (depends on how much flat work space you want) from the second cut. The space between the second and third cut will become your middle bench area.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Save the half-moon sections for spacer blocks… or firewood.

Score a line connecting the bottom of the second and third cuts along the sides of the log. Make several cuts about 2 inches wide on the middle section of the log down to the scored lines. Strike the 2 inch sections with the butt of your ax or maul to break them loose. Remove and save these half-moons as spacers for wedging stock on the bench.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A good smack with an ax usually removes the half-moon blocks.

The base of the middle section will be uneven after removing the half moons. Use your ax to hew this section of your bench smooth. Use a wooden maul to hammer the ax through hard-to-reach sections until the surface is relatively flat.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Hewing the work surface.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Ready for holes.

Step 3: Bore Holes

Use a timber framing auger or brace and bit to bore a hole all the way through the center of the end shelf. This hole will serve as part of your rope vise. My auger is a vintage 1-1/4 inch timber frame tool DRG and I found at an antique store. I’d say one inch holes would be the minimum for this kind of project.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two parallel logs work well to hold the bench steady when crafting.

Lay the bench down on two other logs as supports. Bore 4 to 6 holes in the middle section of the bench. Make these peg holes about 2 knuckles deep. I marked my auger bit with duct tape at the two-inch mark as a depth gauge. Two holes should be about 4 inches from one wall in the middle section and about 4 or 5 inches apart crosswise. Repeat the hole spacing on the other interior wall of your bench. I added two more peg holes in between these four holes for added adjustability.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The best shot I had of the peg holes.

Debark the log with your ax. Turn the bench over with the work surface parallel to the ground on top of the support logs. Bore holes at each of the four corners to accept your bench legs. Use the same depth gauge for these holes you used for the previous holes. However, you need to angle these leg holes out from the center line and middle of the log.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A leg for each corner.

Here’s a tip for keeping the legs in line with one another. After boring one leg hole, cut and prepare a leg and insert in the first hole. Now you have an angled leg to visually line up the opposite leg hole as you bore the remaining holes. Move the leg to another hole as needed to sight your angles.

Step 4: Make Legs

Since I have a good supply of standing dead cedar, I used 2 to 3 inch diameter poles for my legs. Plus, cedar is rot-resistant. I cut my four legs longer than I thought was needed and trimmed them to proper length later.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I used my paring ladder and my new foldable draw knife to taper the narrow end of each leg. An ax and/or knife is all you really need, though. The tapered end should fit in your leg hole snugly at the one inch mark. You’ll drive the legs into the holes later for a secure fit.

Step 5: Cut Legs to Height

When your satisfied with the final leg length for your bench height, pound the legs into the holes with an ax or maul. Chamfer the ground-end of the legs to help prevent “mushrooming” as your strike these ends.

I cut my legs so that my bench is about waist height. This may prove to be too high. I can always trim the legs but can’t add wood back to the legs.

Step 6: Build the Rope Vise

I had originally thought I’d use a loop of rope held down with my foot to secure stock on the end shelf. However, the tensioning device for my take down bucksaw came to mind as I kneeled on the ground measuring my rope.

Ah ha!

Cut a cross brace and attach it to the two end legs under the end shelf. Tie the two intersections with square lashing  about a foot off the ground. Tarred mariners line works great for this application.

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fully assembled rope vise holding stock on the end shelf.

Feed a loop of rope through the end shelf hole from the underside of the bench. Place a stick in the loop on top of the end shelf to prevent it from dropping out of the hole. Tie the loose ends of the rope around the cross brace. I used a fisherman’s knot. Leave enough slack in the loop for spoon blanks to fit in the loop on top of the end shelf.

Next, cut a stick that will serve as a winding paddle in your rope. The paddle needs to be long enough catch on the bench legs, but not so long that you can’t twist it between the legs. Insert the paddle in the middle of the rope with stock in the loop on the end shelf. Now wind the rope tight and allow it to rest on one or both of the legs.

If the stock on the end shelf is loose, twist the rope a few more times. This rope vise allows you to hold down wood very securely. This vise is not a quick release system but it will hold what needs to be held.

Step 7: Cut Pegs

Cut two to four pegs measuring about 4-5 inches above the work surface when inserted in the peg holes. Taper each peg end as you did the legs. The only difference is that the pegs are smaller in diameter. 

How to Build a Carving Bench from a Log - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Pegs with wedges shimmed to hold a large block of cedar firm. I started gouging a bowl on this stock. 

The adjustable pegs on the middle section gives you options for a variety of wood sizes. Simply move pegs to fit the width of your work piece. Cut a few wooden wedges and shim the stock tight between the pegs and end wall. You could also shim pieces between any configuration of pegs on the work bench surface. This center section will be an excellent way to hold larger projects like bowls and kuksas. Plus, I now have another flat, horizontal surface which always comes in handy around camp at supper time.

Your bench is ready for work!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Number One Knife Skill for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

The Number One Knife Skill for Wilderness Survival and Self-Reliance - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Humans have employed six simple machines throughout history to reduce the amount of work required for tasks. Of these six, my favorite for outdoor self-reliance is the sexy and sleek wedge!

Huh!?

Sleek and Sexy? A wedge sounds rather dull and useless.

Hold on a second. You may change your mind about the humble wedge.

A wedge is an incline plane sharp enough to cut and separate stuff. Stuff like wood, meat, and even metal need to be divided into smaller parts in a civilized manner. No need to gnaw your steak like a caveman.

You see, like all our cutting tools, a knife is a wedge. Hence my love affair with this simple machine!

“I learned how much of what we think to be necessary is superfluous; I learned how few things are essential, and how essential those things really are.” ~ Bernard Ferguson

It’s not just the aesthetics of forged metal that attracts my attention. The wedge may be the most useful tool a person can carry in a pocket or on a belt.

Why?

Knives are designed to do more than spread peanut butter! In skilled hands, stuff can be made. Important survival stuff. Developing knife skills is the best way to replace all those shiny-object-survival kit items. Safely wielding a sharp wedge has always been a top priority for woodsmen and woods-women throughout history.

Survival vs. Self-Reliance

Somewhere along our collective outdoor journey, survival took on the connotation of simply staying alive. I personally don’t get too caught up in the latest terminology… Woodcraft vs. Bushcraft, Survival vs. Self-Reliance, etc., etc. All I know is that spending time in the woods is my passion.

Survival is part of self-reliance. A big part. You can’t develop outdoor self-reliance skills if you’re dead.

Look up a few old “Survival” writers in the 60’s. Survival was much different from how we view it today. These early survivalists taught us more than just making it through a 72 hour scenario. Survival was wilderness living skills back then.

Dial back to the golden age of camping and woodcraft and you’ll find that the knives of Nessmuk, Kephart, Seton, and Miller played an essential role in all their tramping and wilderness adventures. This simple machine (wedge) was a value-adding tool for, not only survival, but for camp comforts and wilderness living skills.

Before addressing skill, let’s begin with safety…

Knife Safety

A sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knifes take more force for cutting and increase the risk of injury. You want your knife shaving sharp.

Below are a few tips for basic knife safety for outdoor self-reliance…

  • Cut in a direction away from your body. That’s good advice for beginners and seasoned woodsman. However, there are safe methods to cut wood towards your body when carving spoons that can transfer to outdoor self-reliance skills. Experience and band aids will teach more than reading.
  • Work with your knife outside the triangle of death (an imaginary triangle between your knees and crotch).
  • Work within the blood circle when others are nearby (a circle made with your outstretched arms as you turn 360 degrees).
  • Grip and body mechanics ~ standard grip, reverse grip, chest lever, knee lever, and thumb assisted grip for push cuts in fine carving tasks. (These will be covered in detail in a later post.)

#1 Knife Skill ~ Fire

No matter the season or environment, a solid belt knife rides on my hip. If I’m ever separated from my main pack, my knife is on my body. In this case, it is now my one tool option. A good fixed blade knife is your number one tool in a wilderness setting.

Why such a bold statement?

One word… Fire!

Fire covers a multitude of survival sins. That sharp, metal wedge attached to your hip may be your only hope for fire. Campfires are certainly mesmerizing. We build them for much more than to simply stare into the flickering flames. Fire is your best sleep aid. And sleep is the most overlooked skill in outdoor self-reliance.

“The quality of a survival kit is determined by how much it can help you when you need to sleep.  If you can sleep well at night, you have it made.” ~ Mors Kochanski

Which is more important, knife or ax? I totally agree with Mr. Kephart’s statement below.

The thought that a heavy hunting knife can do the work of a hatchet is a delusion. ~ Horace Kephart

However, stuff happens! Situations can relieve you of a fine ax. In that case, you’d be wise to have a knife able to process enough tinder and kindling for fire. In my woodlands, an abundance of small kindling material is available without ever removing my knife from its sheath. However, when it comes to tinder material, a knife really speeds the process.

Processing Wood

Feather sticks are all the rage in bushcraft and an excellent skill to practice. Pretty little curls bunched up on the end of a stick are created by controlled wood removal. Surface area created from these fine curls is what makes them burn so easily.

The classic feather stick

The classic feather stick with a twist

I found a down-n-dirt way to make feather sticks over at Toms Backwoods channel using a spoon knife pictured above. If you have a spoon knife in your kit, use it to process tinder/kindling if you need to do so in a hurry. Here’s a quick video demonstration of the process…

Feather sticks are pretty and all, but my favorite way to make tinder material is using the dull side (spine) of my knife instead of the cutting edge. This technique takes less skill than feather sticks but is a super quick and easy way to produce wood shavings for tinder. Scrape the outer bark of a cedar tree in the same manner to produce a bundle of fine and coarse tinder material. Georgia fat lighter is my all-time favorite, though…

Ax-less, a solid knife can process firewood using the baton method. The baton technique is frowned upon by many in the outdoor community. But as mentioned previously, beating a knife through a piece of wood is my Plan B if I don’t have a proper wood processing wedge (ax). A full-tang knife with a 4 to 5 inch blade should be robust enough to produce tinder, kindling (smalls), and fuel size wood from a single wooden round.

A funny note on smalls: A fellow bushcrafter from across the pond wrote me confused over the term “smalls”. In his part of the world, “smalls” referred to skivvies. I’m not advocating the burning of your underwear. Smalls are pencil lead to pencil size sticks (kindling) used in fire craft from where I come from.:)

Knife and Spark Ignition

The steel in your main carry knife is another fire resource. That is, if you carry a high carbon steel blade. The thought of striking the spine of your expensive wedge with a sharp piece of rock to produce sparks is an abomination to knife junkies. However, knowing that your blade can serve as a backup flint and steel ignition source may one day give you fire if that’s all you have available.

I’ve written a few times about using my favorite spark ignition source, flint and steel, here and here. While ferro rods create hotter sparks, they are consumable. A fire steel should last you a lifetime and then be passed down for the next generation to enjoy… like a good knife.

Remember, fire is life out there. How much is your life worth? I’d say way more than an expensive cutting tool!

To further you fire craft skills, I’ve got an entire page dedicated to this outdoor self-reliance skill. Your wedge (knife) is an essential tool for creating fire.

More knife skill articles are on the way. Stay sharp, my friends!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods

by Todd Walker

Ever wonder about the height of a tree on a nature walk? Or how far you’d have to climb to summit a rock face? Curiosity may be the only reason you’d ever need to know or use these techniques mentioned below.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Without being overly dramatic, accurate estimations could save you in the outdoors. Take campsite selection, for instance. You find what seems to be a perfect spot to camp. Water and firewood are close at hand. There’s even a fire pit with a bit of wood laid up from previous campers. Being smart, you look up to scan the horizon before dropping your pack. You’re scouting for the 4 W’s. You spot in the distance a very tall, very dead tree. How tall? And could it reach your campsite if it fell?

Do a quick estimate on the height so you can sleep without worry of that tree crashing through your tent.

Here are 4 accurate ways to estimate the height of trees and other structures if you don’t have a compass. By the way, always carry a quality compass!

Lumberjack Stick

This is the easiest method with no math calculations involved. Grab a small stick or twig. Ax handles work, too.

Put some distance between you and the tree or object. Facing the tree, hold a stick/twig vertically so that a 90º angle is formed between your outstretched arm. Align the tip of the stick with the top of the tree. Move your hand up or down on the bottom of the stick until your thumb aligns with the base of the tree while the tip is in line with the treetop.

Now rotate the stick ninety degrees clockwise, for the left-handers, or counterclockwise if the stick is in the right hand. Be sure to keep your thumb on the pivot point (origin) – base of the tree. Make a note of where the tip of the stick appears to touch the ground. If you have a partner, they can stand and mark the spot with your directions. The distance from this spot back to the base of the tree is the approximate height of the tree.

This is an easy method to determine the path of a tree you want to fell in your yard or camp. Check out the video of two of these methods in the woods…

Portrait Method

Knowing the height of a cliff could help you decide whether to climb the obstacle or not. Place an object of known height at the base of the cliff. This object could be a person or walking staff. Stand back away from the rock face. Hold a small stick, as described in the Lumberjack technique above, so that the tip is aligned to the top of the person or walking staff and your thumb is sighted on the base of the known object.

4 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Portrait Method

Move this known unit of measure, thumb to tip of stick, up the cliff face to give you an estimate of its height. Let’s say your obstacle measures 4 units. Multiply the height of your known object (person or walking staff) times 4 to determine the height of the cliff. [Ex: 6′ x 4 units = 24 feet]

Use Your Shadow

On a sunny day, a tree casts a shadow. The shadow on the ground is one side of a right triangle. The distance from the top of the tree to the end of the shadow is the hypotenuse. The tree forms the third side of the right triangle.

Remember how we used Pythagorean Theorem (right triangles) to determine distance? Well, we’re using two right triangles again. This time we are using two triangles of different size yet proportional.

Here’s how it works and what you’ll need…

Measure the distance of the tree’s shadow. Now place an object of known height (yourself or walking stick) in the sun. Observe where this shadow ends and measure the distance or length of the shadow.

Now we have three measurements:

  • Tree shadow
  • Your shadow
  • Your height

What we want and need is the missing measurement – the height of the tree “x”.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Set up a proportion using the corresponding sides of each triangle as illustrated in the diagram above. Be sure to place the corresponding sides across from each other. For instance, the shadow lengths are the numerators (top numbers) and the height measurements are both denominators (bottom numbers). You can flip-flop these numbers as long as the sides correspond to each other.

Cross multiply and divide to find the missing length. In the example given, the height is 24 feet. If you do your math right, this is a very accurate method.

Eleven + 1 Method

Here’s another accurate way to determine height which only requires a stick.

3 Easy Ways to Estimate Height in the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

11+1 Method of Estimating Height

From the base of the tree, measure 11 equal units straight away from the tree. The key to using this method accurately is to make the 11 units about the same distance as the object you wish to measure. For instance, you may estimate that a tree appears to be about 30 feet tall. 30 divided by 11 gives you a rough estimate of about 3 feet per unit. One of my walking steps would work for my unit of measure. For a tree double that height, I would use two steps as my unit of measure.

Mark the spot of your 11 unit on the ground. Drive a straight stick in the ground so that it is vertical/plumb. Measure one more unit away from the stick and mark the spot.

Bend down to the ground with your dominate eye as close to the ground as possible at the 12th unit. Sight in the base of the tree to the bottom of the stick. Now look up the stick until your line of sight crosses the stick at the top of the tree. Mark this spot on the stick. The distance between these two points in inches equals the height of the tree in feet.

Your Body as a Measuring Device

It’s always helpful to know your personal measurements in the event you are without a measuring device. The most common way is to measure with steps.

Other personal measurements you should know are…

  • Thumb to pinky finger (8 inches for me)
  • Elbow to finger tip (19 inches)
  • Arm pit to finger tip (28 inches)
  • Height standing flat-footed with hand extended above head (88 inches)
  • Finger tip to finger tip with arms spread forming a “t” (73 inches)
  • Outside boot measurement (12.5 inches)
  • Personal height (5′-10″)

Another clever way to know certain lengths is to know the length of your ax or other bushcraft equipment. The Plumb BSA Ax I carry is 26 inches long. Adding marks to the ax handle in one inch increments will also save time and calculations should the need arise. Don’t forget that Leatherman Multitools have both inch and centimeters marked on the side of these tools.

Each of these methods can be used without any special equipment. All you need is a stick and some basic math skills.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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