Off-Grid Winch: Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope

by Todd Walker

The power of simple machines, smartly employed, are capable of moving most anything. Over the years I helped my daddy move really heavy stuff in his plumbing/welding business and on our farm. He once moved and installed a new 3,000 gallon metal water tank at our elementary school using only ropes, pulleys, and levers… by himself.

Daddy didn’t possess superhuman strength, he simply understood the power of simple machines.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

Archimedes

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I first discovered this ingenious flip-flop winch from a YouTube demonstration by Mors Kochanski, the Godfather and author of Bushcraft. A search of flip-flop winches on YT will garner several clips demonstrating the power of using two logs and some rope. So why would I add my video to mix? Because it’s only theory until you put it into action by Doing the Stuff!

The flip-flop winch combines two simple machines, lever and pulley (wheel and axle), as a force multiplier to free vehicles stuck in the mud, safely dislodge hang-ups when felling trees, and/or move heavy rocks. I decided to pull my truck up a slight incline in a field.

Flip Flop Winch

In an emergency vehicle kit, weight and space are not an issue – unless you tool around in a Smart Car. For this winch, all you need are two logs and some rope. Of course, you’re not hauling eight foot logs in your vehicle. You will have to cut those with your truck ax or takedown bucksaw.

Material and Tools

  • Ax or Saw – cut two logs about 8 feet in length
  • Rope – non-elastic is preferable for safety reasons
  • Cordage – enough to make two loops about 1 foot in diameter
Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

L to R: Green paracord loops, 100′ of rope, truck saw, truck ax. Top pole – lever pole. Bottom pole – pulley pole.

Cut Two Poles

You’ve hit a ditch or snow bank (rarely happens in Georgia) in the hinter-boonies and need to get unstuck. Reach into your vehicle emergency kit and fetch your saw or ax. You have an emergency vehicle kit, right? Be sure to add 100 feet of strong rope to the kit if you haven’t already. A tow strap won’t be useful with this winch unless it’s really long.

Scout for a straight tree (dead or live – it’s an emergence) to cut. Anything between 4 to 6 inches in diameter is suitable. Cut two lengths in the 8 foot range. De-limb the poles by chopping any branches off with your sharp truck ax. You can saw them off but proper ax-manship makes quick work of the de-limbing. This process is best done by cutting from the trunk end to the top end of the pole. Keep the pole between your body and the moving ax.

Lever and Pulley Pole

Now that you’ve got two poles, one will be used as the “lever pole” and the other will be your “pulley pole.” I noticed in my video that I called the drum pole a “barrel” pole interchangeably. In this written tutorial, I will use “pulley pole” to hopefully clear up the verbiage. The terminology is not that important. What you need to know is that the pulley pole is where the rope will coil similarly to that of a modern come-along.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Using Rig 2 causes the rope to coil on one side of the pulley pole

A larger diameter pulley will winch more rope with each revolution. The pulley pole I used was a standing dead pine which was a bit lightweight for the job. I was forced to drive two stakes in the ground to prevent the pulley pole from swinging in towards the tensioned rope in our video. With two people available, the stakes wouldn’t be necessary. A heavier pulley pole will solve the issue as well. I wanted to simulate and experiment with the lowest quality wood I could scavenge. The lever was a smaller dead cedar but the most solid of the two poles.

Locate an Anchor

The base of a live tree is perfect. A dead tree is not a good candidate. You’ll risk toppling the tree down if the object you’re pulling is really stuck or heavy. Wrap the rope around the base of the anchor twice and tie it off with a tensioning knot.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The base of a Sourwood tree was used as an anchor point.

Ideally, you want the anchor point and the object you’re pulling to form a straight line sighted down the rope.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Both truck and anchor point are lined up for optimal pull.

2 Rigging the Systems

Midway between the anchor and object lay the two poles perpendicular to one another. Run the rope on top of the pulley pole about a foot from the larger end of the pole. Pull the rope back under the pole to form a loop. Insert the lever pole into the loop from the side of the pulley pole where the loop is formed. Give yourself about a foot of lever sticking through the loop.

 

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The loop formed to receive the lever pole.

There are two methods of rigging the winch. Rig 1: One causes the rope to coil on both side of the pulley pole where the lever pole crosses (demonstrated on the video). Rig 2: This technique causes the rope to spool on one side of the pulley pole. I’ve found that the latter method causes less side-to-side torque since the rope remains in a straight line.

With the winch rigged, pull the slack out of the line and tie to the object you’re pulling. Another tension knot will work.

Start the Flip-Flop

Flip the lever pole up and over the pulley pole. Once on the ground, check the first wrap on the pulley pole. This is the time to straighten the loops around the pulley before real tension begins. Try to keep the rope from spooling on top of the previous coils as this may weaken the rope. With each flip-flop, the rope will begin coiling on the pulley pole.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rig 1: This set up will spool rope on both sides of the pulley pole (shown in the video)

Note: I’ve watched others spool rope on one side of the pulley pole only. This technique decreases the swing of the pulley pole towards the rope under tension. To use this method, place the rope attached to the anchor and the object on the same side of the lever pole before flip-flopping.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rig 2: One revolution with the rope spooling on one side of the pulley pole

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice how the rope coils to one side of the lever pole (Rig 2). With the rope in line, the pulley pole is less likely to torque in towards the tow rope..

Now, flop the pulley pole over the rope for the next flip of the lever. If the pulley pole was magically suspended off the ground, no flop would be required. This would become a Spanish windlass. You’d simple spin the lever around a wheel and axle. The earth prevents this continuous spin. But the ground is what keeps the system from unraveling. The flop of the pulley pole is necessary for the lever to make another 180 degree revolution.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The rope spooling down the long end of the pulley pole (Rig 2).

Continue this of flip-flop action until the object is freed. Six full revolutions around the pulley is what it took to inch my truck up the incline to level ground in the video.

Flip-Flop Tips When Alone

If you practice the technique with rope coiling on the pulley pole on both sides of the lever, you’ll find that the pulley has a tendency to swing in towards the rope as tension increases. My fix was to drive two stakes on opposite sides of the rope where the pulley pole lands on each flop. If the ground is too hard for stakes, a heavy rock or object may prevent the slide. As mentioned above, a heavier pulley pole would decrease the chances of this happening.

Experimenting with the rope spooling on one side of the pulley pole remedied the torque issues. I recommend using this method (Rig 2) vs. the rope spooling on opposite sides of the lever pole (Rig 1).

Also, under tension, the lever pole can rise off the ground with either method. Attach a loop of cordage on the tow rope where the flipped lever lands. Slide the loop over the lever on each flip once a good amount of tension is present.

Off Grid Winch - Incredible Power from Two Logs and a Rope - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A Prussic Loop is a quick way to connect to the standing rope

Disconnecting the Rig

Obviously, once a vehicle is freed, the rope is no longer under tension. However, when pulling a tree or rock, tension can be released by reversing direction of the flip-flop. Once tension is removed, the spooled line can be handled safely.

Safety Concerns

There are inherent dangers when tension is applied to a rope or cable. If the rope has elasticity and snaps, the potential energy turns to kinetic energy moving like a slingshot or bow and arrow in opposite directions. Use rope without elasticity, nicks, abrasions, and a working load suitable for the task.

If you’re alone, you must cross over the rope in this process. Minimize the risk from flying rope by laying a heavy coat or blanket (if available) on the rope at both ends. With two people, nobody has to step over the taut line.

Another safety precaution is to wear leather gloves and eye protection. A smart thing to have handy is a knife handy to cut the rope if you somehow manage to get a hand pinched between the rope and pulley. Not sure how that might happen but better safe than sorry.

This powerful simple machine takes practice to perform properly. With a minimum of tools and some rope, the flip-flop winch can be a life saver on the homestead or in the backcountry. Add it to your preparedness toolbox. Give it a try and share your results.

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, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saving Judgement: Three Guys Go to the Woods

 

On the heels of our Bloated Bushcraft article, some of you may find this useful. While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jeff face to face, I hold him in high esteem for his woodsy knowledge, love of family, and zest for life. Hope you enjoy his thoughts on saving judgement…

Saving Judgement- Three Guys Go into the Woods - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

by Jeff Heigl

Three guys go out in the woods. The first one sets up a canvas tarp that he bought online, rigging it with paracord. He unfolds his wool blankets, takes his Swedish ax, and gathers firewood, He unpacks his gear and places a stainless pot of water on the fire he made with flint and steel to boil water and makes tea.

The second opens up a tarp made from a bed sheet and erects it with line made from natural plants. He takes a ‘hawk he forged and likewise gathers wood and builds a fire using a bow drill. He heats rocks and drops them into a birch container made waterproof with a mixture of pine sap and charcoal. When the water boils he dips in with a hand carved wooden cup and makes a tea from chaga and wintergreen.

The third guy rigs a plastic tarp from Walmart. He uses baling twine for stringing it. He lays out a sheet of plastic and places his sleeping bag on it. He takes his Estwing ax, and, like the others, he gathers firewood. He lays the fire but doesn’t light it. His stainless frying pan and Sierra cup are placed at the ready. Taking up his rifle, he goes hunting.

Which one got it right?

To my way of thinking all three. They came into the woods confident in their equipment and skilled at what they wanted to be skilled at. Each was where he wanted to be, doing as he chose. In the eyes of ‘plastic tarp guy’, the first two had limited themselves by lighting a fire. They had chosen to stay in camp while he was free to hunt and explore. Homemade tarp guy was confident to the extreme. He knew how to make do with what he could make or procure with his own hands. Canvas tarp man knew that his equipment was up to the task, and even though he purchased it, he had what he needed to do what he wanted.

That’s how it is here as well. Doing it all isn’t feasible for 99.9% of us. Bills to pay, college, jobs. Face it, a lot of us live in urban areas that frown on fires, much less forges. Those of us that do live in rural areas or even close to true wilderness are too busy going out to enjoy our ‘backyards’ to knap flint for each arrow just so we can hunt. We still have bills to pay, homes to maintain, families to raise. So we take our experiences in small doses when we can get away. Lol! Seems like there’s never enough time!

To those that are truly in the .01%, I say Great! To be able to afford that lifestyle as a hunter/gatherer must be wonderful. But again, for most of us… not feasible.

So, at the end of this little ramble/rant, let’s not be too hasty to judge one another’s skills. Some follow Nessmuk, some follow the Native American route, and others grab a few cans of beans, some flour, and whatever firearm they need and light out into the wilderness.

Just a few thoughts from an old man sitting on a stump in the woods waiting for shootin’ light.


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: 180 Mind Set Training, Bushcraft, Camping, equipment, Gear, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 16 Comments

A Beginner’s Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft

by Todd Walker

A Beginner's Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Growing up as a simple country boy in the 60’s and 70’s, we camped. We made forts (aka ~ survival shelters today) from forest resources. We hunted, fished, and ate things we found in the woods. We learned woods lore from elder family members and friends. There was no internet. There were only books and young boys with a pocket knife and a cheap hatchet sleeping under an open southern sky.

I later discovered that my childhood adventures had a proper name. What we called camping and having fun in the woods is now known as bushcraft. I’ve spent my life avoiding labels. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll use the term bushcraft but could easily be applied to some other labels below.

Whether you choose to call your outdoor life – bushcraft, woodcraft, camping, survivalism, primitive skills, scouting, wilderness living, etc., etc. – we all share a common desire to be comfortable, connected, confident, and more self-reliant in the wilderness.

I recently received this message on our Facebook page…

“What would you recommend for someone who is interested in learning about bushcrafting… for a beginner?” ~ DW

My suggestion to you, DW, and anyone starting out, is to remain a student and stay away from “experts” promoting bloated bushcraft. The beauty of bushcraft is hidden in simplicity. Start with skills, not elaborate gear.

You may be unfamiliar with the life and writings of Horace Kephart, so allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite authors and a quote from his book, Camping and Woodcraft (1917)…

“In the school of the woods… There is no graduation day.”

Bloated Bushcraft

Somewhere along our modern journey, going to the woods became complicated. You may be under the impression that you need a specific list of “bushcraft” gear to get started. Beware of the wiles of marketers. You’ll need some gear and we’ll address the non-bloated bushcraft gear required to get started.

Bushcraft knives, bushcraft books, bushcraft gear, bushcraft YouTubers, bushcraft schools, and lots of shiny survival stuff are begging for your attention and money. Internet experts have a way of confusing beginners by using the bushcrafty buzzwords yet some have little field experience. Be careful who you listen to and learn from.

The journey to any aspect of self-reliance begins by Doing the Stuff. This will take time and experience in the field. Your “wilderness” may be your backyard. No shame in that. The bushcraft-purist’s protocol is not important. Practicing skills wherever you are, with the equipment you have, is where experience is gained. Experience carries more weight than head knowledge.

Fundamental Bushcraft Skills

Bushcraft encompasses a deep and wide field of knowledge. For the beginner, information overload has the real possibility of stopping you before you can even start this new hobby. To avoid bloated bushcraft, build a firm foundation by developing these two core skills outlined below.

A.) Fire Craft

How to Extinguish Your Child's Fear of Fire with a Single Match | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Max, my grandson, igniting a pile of fat lighter scrapings

Non-Bloated Fire Recommendations

  • Cigarette lighter
  • Matches

Harnessed fire changes everything. It disinfects water and the 21st century soul. For paleo people, life was sustainable because of fire. The same holds true for us moderns – only our fire is fed through convenient copper wire behind walls. Learning to build a fire lay from what the forest provides and then successfully lighting and managing the fire is your first fundamental skill.

I’ve covered many fire craft fundamentals in the article links below which may help you with fire craft…

Recommended Reading:

Practice Makes Permanent

Practice does not make perfect. It will, however, make skills permanent. With that being said, an ugly fire lay that ignites and burns still achieves your goal… Fire!

“Fire don’t care about pretty. It eats ugly. In fact, fire loves chaos.”

Now it’s time to practice.

Look to your local forest (or backyard) to provide you with the necessary fire resources. This is where context and locale come into play. Your fire resources may differ from mine. But rest assured, indigenous people once lived in your neighborhood and created fire in your woodland.

Gather your first fire’s meal: Breakfast (tinder), Lunch (kindling), and Dinner (fuel).

Breakfast – You may not easily find natural tinder material in your backyard. If not, use a commercial fire-starter or make a diy alternative. You can learn to find and process plant-based tinder as you have access to them. You can also use your knife to create tinder material from a single stick.

Lunch – Collect an arm-load of dead, small twigs (kindling material) hanging off the ground. Each twig should give a distinctive snap when broken. If not, the wood is not dry and shouldn’t be used. Look for the smallest twigs available – pencil lead in size to pencil-size.

Dinner – While your out collecting kindling, gather finger-size to wrist-size branches to fuel your fire once the twigs ignite. Organize your wood into kindling and fuel in separate stacks.

All fires need three items to come to life; oxygen, fuel, and heat. Your heat source will be a lighter or matches. Even with an open flame the fire lay must be properly prepared. With your fire lay built, light the tinder and observe. Did it ignite the kindling, and eventually, the fuel? If not, what do you need to do different? Experiment until you have a sustainable fire.

B.) Knife Craft

No other area of bushcraft holds more potential for bloating than knives. However, you don’t need an expensive cutting tool to get started in bushcraft.

Mora makes cheaper (under $20.00 US), durable blades worth your consideration. By the way, I’m not affiliated with or receive compensation from any products/company I mention on our blog. However, when I find a product that I like, I’ll share my thoughts with our readers. Simply put, I highly recommend Mora knives for beginners. I gave my grandson his first fixed blade knife last year – a Mora Companion.

Once you have a knife that feels good in your hands, it should be able to spread peanut butter and slice meat, whittle sticks, carve wood, make notches, butcher animals, clean fish, and many more camp tasks.

“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

Yes, knife craft will help you achieve a good nights sleep in the woods. Click here to read how.

Non-Bloated Knife Recommendations

  • Mora knives
  • Old Hickory butcher knives
  • The above knives can be purchased for under 20 bucks
A Beginner's Guide to Avoiding Bloated Bushcraft - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My grandson’s Mora Companion (top left), a smaller Mora with a bark neck sheath, and butcher knife – not Old Hickory.

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 safety tips for using your knife…

  • Cut in a direction away from your body. That’s good advice for beginners and seasoned woodsman.
  • 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.

Two knife skills I recommend for beginners relate to fire craft. Find a dead soft hardwood or pine limb about arm’s length and thumb to wrist-size in diameter with no knots. Grip your knife in a standard grip like you’d hold a tennis racket. Lay the cutting edge against the wood and cut down along the wood surface. Keep your elbow slightly bent but stiff and use your shoulder to push the knife. After each thin cut down the wood, move the blade slightly to shave the ridge of the previous cut. Keep the knife perpendicular to the wood with each pass.

Use this exercise to get the feel of how your blade profile engages (bites) the wood. Learn to tilt the knife for finer or thicker shavings/curls. The object is to produce surface area that will easily ignite with an open flame. Ugly curls are not a problem. They’ll burn. I rarely carve feather/fuzz sticks since my woodland has other abundant tinder options. This is still a good way to practice your knife skills. We called it whittling as a child.

Another really quick method to produce tinder with lots of surface area is to scrape the wood with the back (spine) of your knife – my preferred method. Try this using the same technique described above. Collect the fine shavings for your fire lay.

Below is a quick video demonstrating this technique with a piece of fat lighter (fatwood).

Once you feel more confident with safely handling your knife, move on to making notches to further enhance your skills. Mr. Kochanski recommends carving basic notches by creating a Try Stick.

A pot hook made with two notches: Pot hook or beak notch (bottom) and hole notch at top.

A pot hook made with two notches: Pot hook or beak notch (bottom) and hole notch at top.

Learning to carve notches develops knife skills which enables you to craft useful items for camp and outdoor self-reliance.

Continuing Outdoor Education

Good books, blogs, videos, and instructors with field experience who encouraging independent thinking is of more value to beginners than regurgitated information. The more time you spend gaining experience in the field the more confident you’ll become. For continued education, check out one of the best online resources I’ve found by going to the Resources Page at Master Woodsman.

This article is not a comprehensive guide for all you’ll need to get started in your journey to outdoor self-reliance. It is, however, my advice to beginners pursuing the simple art of non-bloated bushcraft. Now… get out there and get some experience!

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, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

Camp Craft Challenge: The One Billet Boil Up

by Todd Walker

Camping is a time to renew friendships and experience the fellowship of kindred spirits. There is no other place quite like the glowing sticks of a campfire to rejuvenate my soul.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Fun times at Georgia Bushcraft campouts are often around a fire. Fire challenges, to be more specific. Most competitions consist of bringing a container of water to a rolling boil. There are other ways to gauge the woodsman’s or woods-woman’s firecraft skills, but none are more important (or fun), in my mind, than boiling water in the woods. With hot water, a camper can disinfect creek water and cook squirrel stew while sipping hot coffee, tea, and cocoa.

To prepare for these fire challenges, I’m known for collecting a trash bag full of “smalls” (pencil lead and pencil size twigs). Gathering enough twigs to boil water in under three minutes can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on how sidetracked I become in the woods. Squirrel! 

Collecting resources on woods treks is wise. However, you won’t find me walking through the woodland with a 55 gallon bag of sticks unless I know there’s an upcoming water-boil competition. With that being said, I’d like to introduce, and challenge, our readers to a time-honored way to boil water which incorporates ax, knife, and fire skills…

One Billet Boil Up

One-stick-fires are not new to me. However, I discovered the interesting history behind this challenge on Chris Noble’s site, Master Woodsman. Chris is always willing to share his wealth of woodsy knowledge at our campouts and his website. Find more on the history of this challenge here and here.

Challenge Guidelines

Here’s what you’ll need. Keep in mind that these are challenge guidelines not competition rules. You’re only competition is you for the sake of testing your skills.

  • One dry wood billet (species of your choice) around 6 inches in diameter and about one foot long – I used a standing dead red cedar billet for my challenge
  • Sharp ax or hatchet
  • Sharp knife
  • Bush pot or tin can large enough to hold one quart of water (32 ounces)
  • Kitchen matches (strike anywhere type)
  • Timer and camera (optional) if you’d like to share with us

I filmed the challenge on our channel if you’d like watch. The previously mentioned Master Woodsman links have useful video examples. Those guys and gals are fast!

Disclaimer: I’m well aware of the competitive spirit among my camping buddies. Should you take the challenge, know that you are using sharp cutting tools which do not discriminate about what they cut… fingers, shins, and hands included. If you are new to ax and knife work, spend time learning to properly handle these cutting tools. You are responsible for keeping appendages if you take this challenge, not us. No prizes are involved, so keep it safe.

Challenge Strategies

With my normal twig fire for water-boiling, surface area is guaranteed. Not so with a solid log. You must create surface area from the log as quickly and safely as possible. Split off a few one inch shingles from the round with your ax. Cut one of the shingles into smaller pieces. Immediately create shavings or fuzz sticks with your knife or ax from one of the smaller pieces. Light these shavings/fuzz sticks with a match as soon as possible. If you’re match goes out without achieving ignition, you’re allowed another match.

Split down more wood to begin building a log cabin fire lay around the fire. Use the smallest split wood to lay over the fire inside the base of the fire lay. The object is to build a couple of layers of burning kindling inside the log cabin.

Place the water container on top of flames supported by two of the cross pieces of the log cabin. Blow the base of the fire as needed to fan the flames.

Build the log cabin up to the top of the container with more split wood. Use what’s left of the original billet to split off four shingles. Lay the shingles against the fire lay in teepee fashion to trap and funnel the heat around the water container.

Just as a blacksmith billows air into his forge to increase the temperature, lay on the ground near the base of your fire and blow. This should only be done if your container is positioned on a steady log cabin structure. You wouldn’t want hot water falling and hitting any part of your body… another inherent risk.

Camp Craft Challenge- The One Billet Boil Up - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

My tin can is somewhere in there.

Once you’re satisfied the fire lay is sustainable, stand back and get your timer ready. Stop your timer once you have a rolling boil in your pot. Side bubbles around the edges of the container does not count as boiling. The entire surface of the water should be dancing and rolling with bubbles.

If you take the challenge, be sure to let us know your results. On social media, use the hashtag #OneBillitBoilUp so we can find you. Remember, the only prize you’ll receive is enhanced camp craft skills. Have fun and be safe!

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, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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?

Surviving Large on Small Stuff - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

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: , , , , , | 8 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… 

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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: , , , | 12 Comments

River Cane: 25 Self-Reliant Uses for “Cherokee Plastic”

by Todd Walker

Bamboo can quickly takes over yards and even entire fields. Though it has many uses world-wide, non-native woody grasses are not our topic of discussion. Today we’ll cover what some describe as the Cherokee Nation’s equivalent to modern plastic… River Cane.

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

River cane (grass family, Poaceae) is the only native bamboo in the eastern woodlands. Three have been identified: River cane (Arundinaria gigantea), Switch cane (Arundinaria tecta), and a newly discovered (2007) native bamboo called Hill cane (Arundinaria appalachiana). Source

Historical accounts of vast canebrakes stretching for miles along river floodplains were noted by early explorers of the New World. William Bartram, America’s first professional botanist, described clums of river cane “as thick as a mans arm.” John Lawson (1674-1711) recorded that one culm (hollow stem) of river cane could hold “about of pint of liquor.” Cheers!

Without delving into the botanical differences, which would require more space than this article allows, the historical use of cane is well documented as a rich resource for self-reliance. It’s uses are not lost on modern primitive practitioners and experimental archeologists.

Below are three books on primitive skills and technology which have helped me on my journey of experimental archeology and the practice of primitive skills…

I never had the pleasure of personally meeting and learning from Steve Watts but he treated me like a good friend through our online communications. His recent untimely passing spurred me to re-read his book, Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills.

I’m fortunate to have Scott Jones, a student and colleague of Mr. Watts, less than an hour from my Georgia home. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of his Workshops at the Woods. I have both of his books, A View to the Past, and his most recent work, Postcards to the Past: Context and Continuity in Primitive Technology, gifted to me by my good friend, Kevin Bowen.

My pursuit of primitive technology and skills is largely due to these two authors. Outside the modest cane fishing pole, most of the cane projects within this article come from Watts and Jones.

Though my cane craft is limited, every Georgia country boy I know is intimately familiar with catching blue gill from ponds and creek banks with a homemade cane pole. The use of river cane extends far beyond boys fishing and raising cane on hot summer days. Below I’ve listed 25 traditional uses for this amazing plant.

25 Uses for River Cane in Self-Reliance

Hunting

  • Arrow Shafts ~ A preferred material for Southeastern Native American tribes.
  • Atlatl and Darts ~ Cane was used to make darts for these spear throwing tool. Jones describes in Postcards from the Past (pg. 193) and has made spear-throwers entirely from cane.
  • Knife ~ Some tribes made fire-hardened knives from cane capable of skinning game. I have a deep cut on my knuckle which is finally healing from a brush with sharp river cane.
  • Blow Gun ~ Nodes (joints) were removed to form a long, hollow tube of cane to blow darts from. These were effective in hunting small game animals and birds.

Fishing

  • Fish Trap ~ The Cherokee used a funnel style trap at an opening of rock dams and weirs in steams to catch fish.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Cane fish trap in progress

  • Split Cane Gig ~ Easy to carve and fire-harden harpoon style gigs for fish or other aquatic species.
  • Floats ~ A small clum between both nodes can be used for a line float on a cane pole.
  • Jug Fishing ~ Bundle several lengths of cane together with a line and hook attached for passive jug fishing.

Containers

  • Baskets ~ Cane was split into splints and woven into baskets for food gathering and storage, clothing storage, ceremonial uses, and day-to-day containers. Natural pigment were used to dye and decorate.
  • Mats ~ Woven mats were used for covering walls, floors, bedding, burial, and seating.
  • Cane Vial ~ The hollow portion of a clum makes a great container for storing liquid, salt, pepper, medicine, needles, etc.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A vial for my repair kit

  • Sheaths ~ I traded with James Gibson (Knob Creek Forge) for this handy antler-handled awl with a river cane sheath.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A simple but effective sheath

Wildlife

Canebrakes are an ecosystem unto themselves.

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

A small canebrake

  • At least 23 mammal species, 16 bird species, four reptile species and seven invertebrates that occur within canebrakes (Platt et al. 2001). Source
  • Swainson’s warbler builds it’s nests in dense canebrakes.
  • Canebrake Rattlesnake (endangered) live and hunt in canebrakes.
  • Whitetail deer eat young shoots in the spring.

Farming

  • Food ~ Attractive to many grazing bovine, young cane was the highest yielding native pasture in the Southeast. Indians managed large canebrakes by controlled burning every 7 to 10 years. For humans, boil and eat young shoots in early spring and summer.
  • Riparian Buffer ~ Canebrakes improve water quality by filtering ground water nitrates/phosphates, trapping sediment, and stabilizing erosion.
  • Tomato Stakes ~ If river cane isn’t abundant in your area, use bamboo instead.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bamboo or cane is a great garden companion

Construction

  • Shelter ~ Cane and other flexible saplings were used in wattle-and-daub walled houses.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The crew from Georgia Bushcraft constructing a shelter from river cane’s cousin (bamboo).

  • Watercraft ~ Bundles of hollow river cane lashed together to form pontoons.
  • Pipes ~ Stem for smoke pipes.
  • Blow Tube ~ Perfect for making burn and scrap containers and spoons.
River Cane- 25 Self-Reliant Uses for -Cherokee Plastic- - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A burn and scrap spoon made while camping with Bill Reese (Instinct Survivalist)

  • Furniture ~ Chairs, beds, tables, etc.

Crafts

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

Two excellent resources: A river cane handle on a tulip poplar bark berry basket.

  • Paint Brush ~ A short, hollow portion of river cane will accept animal hair or plant fibers to form a brush.
  • Jewelry ~ Necklaces, bracelets, and pendants can be made from cane.
  • Burnishing Tool ~ Used to burnish leather edges or other craft items.

Music

  • Flute ~ A famous poet from Georgia, Sidney Lanier, was also a flutist. It is said that he made his first flute from river cane collected on the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia.
  • Whistle ~ Hank at Sensible Survival shows you how to make a simple survival whistle.

We are fortunate to have such a rich native resource growing in our Southeastern woodlands. Efforts are being made to reestablish river cane on land once covered with native bamboo. Keep stewardship in mind when harvesting from canebrakes. Select only what you need without over-harvesting. Non-native bamboo can be substituted for many of these projects mentioned.

In what ways have you used cane for self-reliance?

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, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gardening, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 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: , , , | 9 Comments

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