Posts Tagged With: doing the stuff of self-reliance

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires

by Todd Walker

Forgive me for butchering the pronunciation of tonteldoos in my video below. No matter how it’s spoken in Afrikaans, this portable tinderbox just became my favorite fire-starter for spark ignition fires. Simple, yet effective!

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Tonteldoos is a small town in South Africa who’s name actually means tinderbox. Information on the traditional tinderbox itself was a bit scarce as I researched. I was fortunate enough to find a description of a tonteldoos in a Facebook learning group shared by a gentleman (Eben) raised in South Africa. I built mine based on his helpful instructions.

Thank you, Eben, for sharing some history and the idea of making this pocket tinderbox!

Tonteldoos History

The tonteldoos was introduced in South Africa by European settlers in the 17th century. The tinderbox was an effective and portable method of creating fire up until the introduction of stick matches in the mid 1800’s. As wars tend to do, the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) created a scarcity of stick matches causing people to revert back to the traditional tonteldoos to start fires in homes and afield.

Even after the war ended and matches became widely available, the use of this traditional tinderbox continued through to the mid 20th century. Testing my pocket tonteldoos, I can certainly see why. It’s easy to make, easy to use, and employs one of man’s time-tested ignition sources – flint and steel.

Tonteldoos Testing

Consistent ignition with flint and steel requires a dry source of charred material. Once the material catches a spark, the glowing ember is placed in a tinder bundle and blown into flame. With marginal or damp tinder, I’ve gone through several pieces of char from my fire kit before reaching ignition temperature.

This pocket tinderbox offers a controlled solution to eating up all your charred material. Here’s how…

With the tonteldoos, the only material consumed is at the end of the tube. The remaining un-charred material is preserved within the cylinder. Saving this valuable next-fire resource is the smart move.

I tested two methods…

  1. Char all the cotton material before inserting in the tube
  2. Char only the cotton material protruding from the end of the tube

By far, the best results came from charring the end of the material (method #2).This is the traditional method used for tonteldoos.

Method #1 failed, as I suspected, due to the fragile nature of charred material. It’s difficult to push crumbly material through a tube without turning it to dust. The charred rope provided an awesome glow but was consumed too quickly.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Make Your Own

After reading Eben’s description, my possum mentality kicked in as I walked to my shop. I needed a metal tube and cotton material. I considered using a small, gutted Maglite but the diameter would not allow me to push the material up with my finger. The same goes for 1/2 inch copper pipe unless you’ve got really skinny fingers.

I dove into my scrap copper from previous plumbing jobs. If you don’t have copper lying around, home improvement stores sell all you need.

Here’s what I came up with for my tonteldoos…

Stuff you'll need

Stuff you’ll need

Material and Tools

  • 3/4 inch copper pipe about 4 inches in length
  • Two 3/4 inch copper caps – bought new for about $1.50 each
  • 100% cotton material – several strands from a mop head works well
  • Cordage is totally optional
  • Scissors or sharp knife
  • Copper wire if you make a loop through the end caps like mine
  • Drill and drill bit the diameter of the wire used to make the loop
  • Pipe cutter
  • Flint and steel

Step 1: Cut Pipe

Cut a 4 inch section of 3/4 inch pipe. Ream each end of the pipe with the attachment on the pipe cutter – or use a file. This removes burrs from snagging the cotton material as it passes through the pipe.

Pipe reamer attachment

Pipe reamer attachment

Step 2: Pack the Pipe

Any 100% cotton material would probably work. I had a new industrial mop head lying around I had intended to use as char rope. Perfect!

Cut several strands off a mop head and feed them through the pipe with a twisting motion until 1/4 inch of material is sticking out of the top end of your cylinder. Let the bottom end run wild. You can remove the excess later.

IMG_3389

Char the 1/4 inch of material with an open flame. I used my new Mullein Slush Lamp… just because! Any open flame will do.

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Charring the cotton mop head strands

Once the end is charred, pull the wick down from the bottom end so the charred end is even with the top of the pipe. Place the cap on the smoldering end to extinguish the embers. Now cut the excess material from the bottom end of the tinderbox.

IMG_3411

Step 3: Attach Wire Loops to Caps

This is completely optional. I added loops to my caps for three reasons…

  1. Tying cordage to connect the two loops may aid in keeping the caps found in the field.
  2. A steel striker can be attached to the cordage.
  3. Cordage can be tied to keep the end caps secured if you actually carry your tonteldoos in your pocket while tramping through the woods.

If the end caps fit loosely, tweak the pipe ends by lightly tapping them with a hammer to take them out of round. Not too much or your cap won’t fit (square peg in a round hole). Another way to tighten the cap connection is to solder the caps on and then remove them. The layer of solder would make the caps fit tightly once cooled.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The blood knot before tightening

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Blood knot tightened to secure caps

Or just tie them securely with a blood knot (how to tie a blood knot video here) as mentioned in #3. For this part, you’ll need a loop on each end cap…

Drill two holes in each cap the diameter of a piece of copper wire. I stripped a section of scrap 12 gauge wire to form my loops. Needle-nose pliers are most helpful for this task. I opted not to solder the wire inside the cap since bending them down inside each cap held the loops in place securely.

How to Make a Pocket Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Fires - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Copper wire bent in the bottom of the cap

How to Use Your Tonteldoos

As with any charred “next-fire” material, keep the tonteldoos in a dry place in your haversack or fire kit. I keep a couple of pieces of chert/flint inside my square tinderbox (pictured below) with other charred material and finely processed tinder material. The tonteldoos fits perfectly inside this large tinderbox.

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

Every thing fits in the tinderbox

To ignite the charred end of the tonteldoos, push the wick from the tube bottom with your finder so that 1/8th inch of the charred wick is exposed. Hold the cylinder in your non-dominant hand with your pinky and ring finger. Hold a sharp piece of chert/flint between your thumb and pointing finger. The tinderbox should be below the flint so the sparks have a better chance of landing on the wick – unlike the photo below.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Dirty hands and dirt time!

 

Strike down lightly and repeatedly over the edge of the sharp stone so that sparks are produced and hopefully land on the charred end. The tiny shards of metal oxidize and spontaneous combust to produce 800 degree sparks hot enough to create a glowing ember on the charred wick.

Spontaneous combustion from flint and steel

Flint and steel showering sparks on the tonteldoos

Once a spark finds its mark, a glowing ember appears. Blow the ember to spread the glow over the end of the wick.

How to Make a Portable Tonteldoos (Tinderbox) for Flint and Steel Ignition - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Should look like a lit cigar when ready

 

Of course, you’ve prepared fine to course tinder material beforehand and shaped a stellar tinder bundle (a.k.a. – birds nest). I use two methods to ignite tinder bundles with my pocket tondeldoos.

First, place the glowing end of the wick directly into the finest part of your tinder material and blow to ignition. Be sure to push the wick out of the tube a bit so as to make good contact with the fine tinder.

The other method is to use the glowing end of the tonteldoos to ignite a fire extender like punk wood, black sooty mold, etc., etc. Then place the fire extender in your bird’s nest and blow it to flame.

Here’s our video demonstrating my DiY tonteldoos…

If you want a portable, long-lasting, reliable source of char for flint and steel ignition, give the tonteldoos a try. I think you’ll be pleased.

Be sure to let us know your results and any other creative ideas to build one.

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, Frugal Preps, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 35 Comments

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf

by Todd Walker

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

 

Full credit for this hack goes to our Georgia humidity, a buddy of mine, and my fondness for fire.

Trading theory for action is the only way to prove for yourself if something you’ve read or watched will work in real-life. For instance, will dry mullein (Torch Plant) leaves ignite with a ferro rod. I tested the theory and found that they smolder when 3,000 degree sparks landed on their dry surface. Dry is a relative term in Georgia humidity.

Noticing the properties of the once velvety leaves and their ability to hold an ember, an idea lit in my mind. I stripped the dry leafy portion off to expose the pinnate vein. The main vein became pliable with a light coat of coconut oil and absorbed the fuel like dry sponge.

Bingo!

I’ve made mullein torches with my grandson before.

backyard-bushcraft

Mullein torch in the backyard

Soaking the dry seed head in oil, resin, or wax makes a great tiki-type torch for night-time illumination. Hence the name Torch Plant. But burning a mullein torch inside a shelter or tent is not advisable. You’ll need a safe, controlled source of light.

Hummmmm…

Could the Torch Plant leaf serve as a slush lamp wick?

Yup!

Remember to never leave an open flame unattended.

How to Make Your Own Slush Lamp

Here’s the stuff you’ll need…

  • Small container – Altoids tin, sea shell, aluminum foil, etc. – more container ideas below
  • Fuel – coconut oil, olive oil, cooking oil, rendered animal fat
  • Mullein leaf(s)
  • Beer bottle cap (optional)

IMG_3343

Step 1: The Wick

Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has many practical uses for self-reliance. I’ve listed 27 here. Other natural fibrous plants can be used as well. However, with mullein, you won’t have to twist any fibers into cordage. Simply remove the dry leafy portion from the vein and saturate the wick in oil.

The tallest mullein stalk leaning against my shop measured 9 feet 9 inches

The tallest Torch Plant leaning against my shop measured 9 feet 9 inches

Fashion the bottom of the vein in a simple overhand knot forming a lasso-like loop as the base of the wick. Bend and form the tag end of the wick so that 1/4 to 1/2 inch is above your oil.

The wick in the top corner is two veins twisted together

The wick in the top corner is leaning against the tin’s side

Richard, a friend of mine, recommended using another technique to support the wick. Punch a hole in a bottle cap, feed the wick through and place it on the bottom of your container.

This camp hack is worth the price of admission…

An Emergency Slush Lamp Hack Using a Torch Plant Leaf - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Brilliant!

Thanks to Terrapin Beer Co. and Richard’s brilliant idea, my slush lamp took on a new form of awesome!

Step 2: Fuel

I used coconut oil from my bushcraft mess kit. It liquefies once it touches your skin (melting point is 76º F). Apply a generous coat to the leaf vein. Add 1/4 inch of oil to your container.

Place the looped wick in the container with the tip above the oil level. Lean the wick over the outside edge of the container if additional support is needed and there are no bottle caps available.

WARNING: Seems like common sense but I need to add this disclosure. Do not use flammable liquid like white gas or gasoline. It will explode and ruin your day! If this does not compute, take up another hobby.

Step 3: Container

An Altoids tin works fine for this application. Unlike olive or vegetable oils, coconut oil solidifies in colder weather preventing it from leaking all over your pack while on the move.

Simple makeshift containers can be found in nature or crafted from supplies in your pack. Ideas include:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Rocks with an indention
  • Wood with knot holes
  • Dehydrated food pouches
  • Large leafs from sycamore trees laid in a small indention in the ground
  • Duct tape fashioned into a bowl… yep, a crazy amount of uses for this stuff!

Wicks can be added to the long list of uses for this plant. Over a thirty minute test, I had to adjust the hight of the wicks a couple of times. Other than those few tweaks, the slush lamp provided a steady, reliable source of light.

Torch Plant and Fire Craft

Mullein is my most dependable spindle material for friction fire via the hand drill. Below is a picture of two pieces of mullein stalk lashed together to form a hearth board. My old faithful mullein spindle, cracks and all, created a coal in the crevice between the two-stick hearth board.

Mullein on mullein hand drill coal

Mullein on mullein hand drill coal

The take away from this tutorial is to stay curious and observant as you practice self-reliance skills. You never know what you’ll discover!

Hope this helps if you ever need an emergency source of lighting.

What other natural plant material have you used for slush lamp wicks?

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, Frugal Preps, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Number One Skill of a Good Woodsman

by Todd Walker

Every item in your kit should ultimately help you develop this top skill.

The Number 1 Skill of a Good Woodsman - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

“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

I’ve shared coffee over campfires with some tough guys in the past. It’s easy to spot who is experienced in the art of smoothing it in the woods by a simple question uttered after that first sip of joe…

How’d ya sleep?

Ah yes, the moment of truth. On the second morning it becomes very apparent who’s sleeping well and who’s ready to pack up and head home to their pillow-top mattress and warm flannel sheets.

We all have our bad nights sleeping in the woods. But an experienced woodsman has developed hacks to obtain what novice campers only dream of… restorative sleep.

Owls screech, coyotes howl, and curious critters come to visit. What did we expect? We’re sleeping on makeshift beds in their “living room.”

The larger woodland animals are often deemed sleep saboteurs. Proper camp hygiene will keep most of the big guys away. Not giving attention to little details invites malicious mischief all night.

Sleep Saboteur #1: Mosquitos

There’s nothing more annoying than the distinctive, tormenting buzz around your face in the dark. Left un-swatted, one tiny mosquito in a shelter will ruin any chance of sleep.

Get the picture…

You lay motionless, radar on, to detect its airborne location before the nighttime bombing raid commences. The constant hum gets closer and stops when the bloodsucker lands. You swat – and miss – and swear. The dive bombing continues till dawn. Itchy welts on your forehead, the only exposed human tissue in your shelter, resemble a measles outbreak by morning.

Here are few modern and primitive ways to get a good night’s rest in bug season.

Bug Netting

Defensive maneuvers can be deployed to defend your skin. Modern mosquito netting adds little weight to your pack and provides protection from even smaller no-see-ums (biting midges).

ENO Guardian Bug Net

ENO Guardian Bug Net

Dirt Road Girl bought me a ENO Guardian Bug Net to use on our trip to Eagle Rock Loop this summer. I only used it the first night. The net stopped the bugs. But it also stopped some of the breeze. I hate sleeping hot.

Bug Dope

The industry standard to keep bugs off is DEET. The problem I have with this chemical is ~ if will melt plastic, I don’t want it on my skin. I opt for natural bug-off protectants.

BugShot even works on ticks

BugShot even works on ticks

One all-natural repellent I’ve been using this summer is called All Natural BugShot. I love this stuff! Here’s a quick video of my thoughts on BugShot…

The plant world provides a natural defense against biting insects. Here are a few that I’ve used and found effective in my area. Simply crush the leaves to release the oils and smear the material on your skin and clothing.

  • Wax Mertle (Myrica cerifera) – abundant on our middle Georgia family land and used often
  • American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) 
  • Paw Paw (Asimini triloba) 
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – found along open fields and hedgerows before you hit the deep woods
IMG_3220

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Smudge Fire

Even if you can’t find these natural bug repelling plants, you have woody plants in various stages of decay no matter where you are. Look for a dead limb or stump containing punk wood; decaying wood that is spongy but not rotted to the point of crumbling to dust.

You knew I’d highlight the importance of fire craft in wilderness self-reliance, right?

Once you have fire, light a chunk of punk wood and let it begin to smolder. If you have a metal container, add a layer of burning coals to the bottom of the container. Then add the punk wood on top. Now you have a smudge pot that can be moved to take advantage of wind direction in your shelter area.

A few holes in the bottom of the container will add just enough oxygen to keep the smudge smoldering for hours. However, you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good metal container with holes. Use an old tin can or other container using your possum mentality.

A shallow hole in the ground with smoldering material will serve the same purpose – only it’s not mobile. Animal dung, composted plant material, pine needles, and other weeds on top of coals will create long-lasting smoke. Let’s not forget about the usefulness of smoke to rid natural bedding material of my arch enemies in Georgia… chiggers and ticks!

Sleep Saboteur #2: Bedding

Staring at my mid 50’s, the need to impress others has departed like the hair on my head. I’ll take smoothing it over roughing it any night in the woods!

Personal preference dictates whether you hang in a hammock, sleep on the ground, use a sleeping bag, or a wool blanket. I’ve used all of the above. Given the option of ground or hammock, I choose to hang around camp!

Tarps and hammocks on Eagle Rock Loop

Tarps and hammocks on Eagle Rock Loop

Go Light

Weight isn’t an issue when car camping or RV’ing. Even canoe camping will trim your load considerably. Bushwhacking on foot takes a bit more thought on your sleeping arrangements. Long before today’s modern camping gear and gadgets, our ancestral woodsmen slept in the wilderness comfortably.

The temptation is to buy this or that indispensable camp kit has been too strong and we have gone to the woods handicapped with a load fit for a pack mule. This is not how to do it. Go light, and the lighter the better so that you have the simplest of material for health comfort and enjoyment.  ~ Nessmuk

pine-tree-uses-self-reliance

When your body comes in contact with cold or wet ground, heat transfers (conducts) away from your 98.6ºF body. Sleeping cool is one thing, sleeping cold can kill.

I use a cheap closed-cell foam sleeping pad in both my hammock and on the ground when temperatures drop. This insulates my backside from the effects of convection in the hammock and conduction when sleeping on the ground.

Other primitive insulators are available in the forest if you ever find yourself in a situation without modern gear. A six-inch layer of compacted leaves, pine bows, or other fluffy stuff can serve as a barrier between you and the cold ground.

“It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.”  ~ Horace Kephart

Sleep Saboteur #3: Heat Loss

I sleep best in cold weather. To do this, I take steps to control heat loss.

Here are key terms to know for core temperature control:

  • Conduction – The transfer of heat when ‘hot’ molecules collide with neighboring cold molecules. Heat travels from hot to cold via touching.
  • Convection – Air or water moving over skin removes heat from your body.
  • Radiation – The process where energy (body heat) is transferred in space from our body and absorbed by a colder environment. Heat, light, and sound travel by waves, particles, or rays.
  • Insulator – Materials that are poor conductors of heat. Air, cloth, and wood are poor conductors but make great insulators.
  • Heat transfer – Thermal energy (heat) can be transferred via conduction, convection, and radiation.

To sleep cozy in the woods, pay particular attention to the following…

Shelter  

Your most important layer of shelter is the clothes you wear. Without feather or fur, humans wear clothing to trap a warm pocket of insulating air being radiated from the body. Our head and neck are responsible for radiating about 75% of our body heat into the environment. That’s why wearing a hat keeps your feet warm.

Outside the clothes you’re wearing, another layer of shelter can be made from tarp, tent, or natural material. It’s worth noting here that attention to the 4 W’s of campsite selection (Wind, Water, Wood, and Widow Makers) increases your chances of peaceful sleep. I’m fond of tarps due to their flexibility in configurations. Other advantages of tarps include:

  • Lighter than tents
  • Quick to set up if caught in a rain storm
  • Can be set up to passively collect said rain water
  • Perfect companion for hammocks
  • Cheaper to buy than tents
  • Easy to configure to block wind, rain, or snow – or open up to take advantage of wind in hotter climates
  • You can make your own
  • A radiant fire out front adds warmth and offers wilderness TV entertainment as you nod off to sleep

A few modern shelter/cover options in my sleep system are…

Flying the bed sheet tarp in the backyard

Flying the bed sheet tarp in the backyard

  • ENO ProFly – lightweight (1.4 pounds), compact, and easy to set up
  • SOL Emergency Space Blanket a 5 x 7 space blanket used in the Kochanski Super Shelter design for extreme cold and little gear
  • Trash Bags – two contractor grade trash bags stay in my kit and could be used for emergency shelter or stuffed with fluffy debris for bedding
  • US Military Modular Sleep System (MSS) – this system consist of two sleeping bags, GoreTex bivy bag, and compression stuff sack – I only take the components I think I’ll need, never the whole system

Other Sleep Aids

The first thing I do when making camp is to build a fire. I’ve made it a habit to wash my body before going to sleep. After bathing I stand by the campfire to dry off. This one act helps me sleep the sleep of babies. A little nightcap never hurt either.

IMG_2899

A poncho liner (A.K.A. – woobie) has saved me a time or two in what I expected to be warm camping weather which turned cool unexpectedly. My nephew, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, always carried a woobie. Leaving this piece of gear behind, he was told, would ensure that you “woobie” cold.

Dedicated wool socks for sleeping accompany me on overnight trips. These clean socks are only worn in bed.

“One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp”. ~ Warren H. Miller

Experience in the finer aspects of woods lore can only be learned by Doing the Stuff in the wildness. Fall temperatures haven’t arrived in Georgia yet, but I know they’re coming. I for one can’t wait to get out and sleep in the woods!

What’s your best tips for sleeping soundly in the woods?

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, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Hunger Games: Find this Wild Food and You’ll Never Starve

by Todd Walker

Hunger Games: Find this Wild Food and You'll Never Starve - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Two weekends ago I spent two days learning from a walking encyclopedia. Mark Warren operates Medicine Bow, a primitive school of Earthlore, in the north Georgia mountains near Dahlonega. Though I attended his Stalking/Tracking class, Mark’s willingness to veer onto other paths and integrate useful plants in the Eastern Woodlands only enhanced my learning experience.

One edible plant we discussed was Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia). Other common names include ~ Duck Potato, Arrowhead, Wapati, or Katniss.

I had an ‘ah ha’ moment with the common name Katniss

As a fan of The Hunger Games, I always wondered how the arrow-slinging heroine, Katniss Everdeen, received her unusual moniker. Now it makes perfect sense on two levels.

  1. Sagittaria in Latin means “arrow”. It also refers to the archer constellation Sagittarius. The obvious one, right?
  2. A lesser known botanical reason can be found in her deceased father’s words which Katniss recalls early on in the trilogy…

As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.

In keeping with the Hunger Games theme of this article, we’ll use the common name Katniss when referring to this wild food.

Katniss (Sagittaria latifolia) tubers were a staple in nature’s pantry for indigenous peoples of North America. Mark told us that the Cherokee of Appalachia cultivated this wild plant in wetland habitat as a sustainable food to feed their families. Roasted duck and duck potato sound delicious!

Katniss the Plant

The day before our class I snapped a few photos of a wetland near my school with a closeup of a toxic plant which resembles katniss. Mark took our class to a wetland area near a meadow to observe a patch of katniss. After comparing both plants, one can easily distinguish between the toxic Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica) and edible katniss (S. latifolia).

Identification: Palmate vs. Pinnate

The leaves of katniss are palmate and arrow arum are pinnate. Leaves can vary greatly in size.

  • Palmate – leaves where the nerves radiate from a central point like a curved star burst.
Hunger Games: Find this Wild Food and You'll Never Starve - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Palmate pattern on Katniss

  •  Pinnate – leaves that have a main nerve (midrib) with other nerves branching off the full length of the midrib like a feather plume.

Pinnate pattern on Arrow Arum

A closeup of the pinnate pattern on Arrow Arum


A look at the entire Arrow Arum leaf

Arrow Arum leaf

Arrow Arum’s arrowhead-shaped leaf is often mistaken for katniss. With the side by side comparison above, it’s easy to see which is edible by the distinct difference in the leaf veins.

Arrow Arum found near Katniss

Arrow Arum in Katniss habitat

Katniss Habitat

Katniss can be found along shallow edges of ponds, streams, swamps, and bogs. Beaver habitat is another prime location for this aquatic plant.

A large beaver-manufactured wetland habitat near my school

A large beaver-manufactured wetland habitat near my school

Their range extends across North America in wetland areas except in extreme northern climates. Large colonies can be found in the shallows of lakes. Larger broadleaf arrowheads typically produce larger tubers.

Harvesting Katniss

Mike Rowe should do a Dirty Jobs episode on harvesting this aquatic food. Nothing about the process is clean. You can’t “cheat” by just pulling on the green stalk to reach the tubers. So roll up you sleeves and get ready for some mudslinging.

I trust and respect Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager’s Harvest. He’s been harvesting wild edibles since he was a kid. I tried his stomp method described on page 111.

Once you become an ‘expert’, you stop learning. There are many people with more foraging knowledge and experience than this novice forager.

But here’s the thing…

You and I will never deepen our knowledge or experience until we trade theory for ACTION. I’ve read books and articles about locating, identifying, and harvesting katniss. But this plant’s starchy tubers are more elusive than I had anticipated.

I have the locating and identification part down on katniss. Putting duck potatoes in my skillet has me stumped… for now.

I now know a few methods that do not produce desired results. Here are a few dirty lessons learned from my recent foraging foray in hot August humidity… waist deep in a Georgia mud bog.

Stomp Method

Traditionally, Cherokee women would wade barefooted into a colony of arrowhead and stomp around freeing the tubers from their muddy bed so they would float to the surface for easy pickings. Days of litter-free waterways and pristine shorelines are long gone. You may opt for an old pair of tennis shoes or waders to protect your feet from painfully locating Bubba’s broken beer bottle.

Fails, in my experience, are instructive. So are experienced foragers. I trust and respect Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager’s Harvest. Unlike me, Mr. Thayer has been Doing the Stuff of foraging wild food since his childhood. I tried his stomp method described on page 111.

Based on my personal experience, you’ll never fully appreciate this method until you’re waist deep in muck hoping you can break the Earth’s suction on your feet and return to solid land. Thayer’s harvesting accounts produced tubers consistently. All I got was muddy… and a bit smarter in the process.

Stomping in progress

Stomping in progress

Armed with hip waders and a walking stick I made my way to my friend’s property where a thick stand of katniss grows in the swampy end of their pond. The walking stick served two purposes: To move weeds in front of my feet to check for snakes; and, as a horizontal support on top of the bog surface to aid in my rescue from the jaws of waist-deep mud holes.

How hard can it be, right? Just jump into a thick clump of katniss and start stomping a man-size hole in the marsh. The embed tubers are supposed to break free from their rhizomes and float to the top of the water.

After an exhausting hour of thrashing and spinning in muck, not one tuber floated to the surface. In a long-term self-reliance situation, my haphazard expenditure of calories, with no return on investment, could be costly. This is the main reason we should trade theory for action to develop skills and techniques that actually work when it counts.

One other thought about harvesting wild food. Functional fitness should become a priority for anyone pursuing self-reliance. If modern systems fail, imagine the physical dilemma you’ll face harvesting food and performing daily tasks without an established base of fitness. Just a thought.

What went wrong?

Timing

After more research and asking online friends, my problem may stem from bad timing. That is, the tubers on our Georgia plants may not haven’t developed yet. We’re in the dog days of summer here. Katniss plants develop tubers later in the fall as a source of starch for the winter months.

More experimental foraging will take place in the same location in September and October, possibly as late as November. Once the arrowhead leaves turn brown and die back, larger tubers should be hiding in their mud beds under cold water. I image a campfire will come in handy on this adventure.

Other Methods from The Forager’s Harvest

  • Potato Hoe – Use a four-prong hoe to rake down into the mud bed to break the tubers free. From what I read, you have to rake a deep hole to reach the “tuber zone.” Thayer used the hoe while in a canoe and standing in the water with good success.
  • Hands – Locate the rhizomes and carefully trace down to the end to find the tuber. I attempted this method a few times as well.

I will not be tuber-less. I have faith that this wild food colony will give up her hidden treasure. Stay tuned for updates in my soggy saga. I will find this elusive Katniss tuber and not starve! Recipes will follow.

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: Doing the Stuff, Food Storage, Functional Fitness, Preparedness, Primal Skills, Real Food, Self-reliance, Survival Skills, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Best Practices for Your Third Most Critical Survival Priority

by Todd Walker

Using the “B” word will automatically rain hell and brimstone on any online discussion. What’s the Best knife, sidearm, rifle, or water filter? Try it for kicks and giggles. Type that four-letter word in front of any piece of gear and watch the internet explode.

Best Practices for Your Third Most Critical Survival Priority - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Photo courtesy of Iris Canterbury

When it comes to survival priorities, the same spirited debate rages.

In the Pathfinder System, Dave Canterbury ranks water as the third wilderness survival priority. Self-Aid and Shelter take the top two spots respectively. Of course, survival priorities are always dependent on the situation and shouldn’t be written in stone.

Here’s Dave’s full list…

  1. Self-aid
  2. Shelter
  3. Water
  4. Fire/heat
  5. Signaling
  6. Food
  7. Navigation

The subject of this article is the third priority – the substance which every system in the human body is dependent. A dehydrated body can not help you do all the stuff needed to keep you alive if you’re day hike turns into a week-long survival scenario.

Water is easy to find in the eastern woodlands. But it may not be fit for consumption.

That crystal clear stream you’re about to sip from may hold a rotting carcass 100 yards upstream. Also keep in mind that, yes, bears (and other critters) do crap in the woods along rivers and streams… which eventually washes into the pristine creek and into your cupped hands.

Introducing waterborne pathogens to your gut is a sure way to decrease your survivability in the wilderness. You need to assume that every water source in the backwoods contains the following invisible nasties (and more)…

  1. Giardia – A single-celled, microscopic parasite which causes a diarrheal illness called giardiasis. The parasite is passed through the feces of infected animals and humans. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, bloating, gas (not your normal campfire baked-bean induced gas), weakness, and stomach cramps. Symptoms show up within 1 to 2 weeks.
  2. Cryptosporidium – Crypto, as it is commonly known, is a parasite responsible for causing the most waterborne illnesses in the U.S. according to the CDC. Symptoms of watery diarrhea, dehydration, stomach pain and cramps, fever, and vomiting begin in 2 to 10 days of infection and may last up to 30 days.
  3. Escherichia coli (E. coli) – Some E. colia bacteria are beneficial to your intestinal tract. Then there’s the pathogenic, diarrhea kind transferred through water and food contaminated from human or animal feces. Remember that bear fact? Unfortunately, s**t happens. And ignorant humans have the bears beat!
  4. Salmonella – Most folks infected by this bacteria develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps within 12 to 72 hours. Not good for a 72 hour survival scenario. Oh, and it can spread to other body systems causing more long-term damage.

Bottom line… Don’t drink untreated water! … unless you have no other option in an emergency survival scenario. Dying of dehydration is worse than giardiasis after you’ve been rescued. But we’re talking camping not survival, here. Consider all backwoods water sources contaminated. Period. Even when brushing your teeth at camp, use disinfected water.

We’ve established the fact that the human body needs water to function properly. So what are the best (yeah, I used the B-word) practices to make water safe to drink?

Boiling Water

We took our youth group to a Catholic church in the early 80’s as a cross-cultural field trip. The priest met us at the door and invited us in. One of our really, really country boys asked the priest how holy water was made.

In all seriousness, the priest told us that they pour water in a pot, place it on a hot stove, and…

“boil the hell out of it.”

My Basic Class partner, Dave Williams, boiling 32 ounces of water

My Basic Class partner, Dave Williams, boiling 32 ounces of water in under 5 minutes

Boiling Times

There are lots of confusing, un-scientific info floating in the preparedness pool. So how long should you boil water to make it safe to drink?

a.) 10 minutes, b.) 5 minutes, c.) 1 minute, d.) depends on altitude

Answer: None of the above.

I’m not certain how long priests boil water before it becomes holy, but all you need to do is bring water to a boil to render the parasites, viruses, and bacteria harmless. In fact, 185º F for a few minutes will deliver the damage needed to kill the nasties. We boil in the backwoods because thermometers aren’t convenient to carry. Bubbles tell us when it’s done.

Research from the Wilderness Medical Society states that keeping water temps above 160º F for 30 minutes kills all pathogens through pasteurization. Bet you don’t carry a cooking thermometer in your pack. Even at high altitudes, once your water reaches the boiling point of 212º F,  you’re done. Boiling past zero minutes is a waste of fuel and life-giving water via evaporation.

In a perfect world, you whip out your metal container. Fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Take it off the heat immediately and allow the water to cool. Now you have potable water.

Water boiling challenge

Water boiling

What I carry is the Pathfinder Stainless Steel Cook set. The 32 ounce bottle nests inside the 25 oz. cup for easy storage in my haversack or backpack.

If you’re ever in a situation without a metal container, ask yourself this question…

What would MacGyver do?

Creative Containers

There may be resources in your pack which you’ve never considered could hold water for boiling. These items will help channel your inner MacGyver.

Dave Williams' duct tape water bottle at the Pathfinder School

Dave Williams’ duct tape water bottle at the Pathfinder School

  • Duct tape
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Trash bag
  • Backpack cover
  • Tarp
  • Rain suit or poncho
  • Dry bag
  • Hat

These pieces of kit will melt over a fire quicker than the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. But the important thing is that they hold water and you can make fire… and rocks litter the ground. Now you’re ready to boil water.

Stone Boil Method

Hot rocks from your campfire will boil water. Be sure to not use river rocks in the fire. The trapped moisture inside these stones are prone to explode when heated sending hot, sharp shrapnel flying. Use dry rocks.

Below are a few fellow YouTubers I respect demonstrating the stone boil method with improvised containers.

Hats off to IHatchetJack for this one…

Master Woodsman using a trash bag to boil water with stones…

Larry Roberts using a burn and scrape wooden container…

No-Boil Methods for Clean Water

You can’t boil water without a heat source. This fact places urgency on the need to carry at least 3 different methods to start a fire. We covered my favorite methods here.

However, even without fire, potable water is available in nature.

Water from Trees

Here are 4 trees found in the eastern woodlands that can be tapped in the same manner as our northern neighbors harvest sap for maple syrup. This hydration source is available when the sap is running in early spring.

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

A young Sycamore (Right) and River Birch (Left) growing near the roadside

Sap from the trees contains sugars and clean water that can be consumed without filtering or boiling. Collect the sap by boring a hole or notch about a 1/2 inch into the tree. Insert a 4 inch spigot made from a hollow stick or river cane as a conduit for the sap. Use a container underneath the spigot/spile to catch the runoff.

Use your Possum Mentality and collect any plastic water/soda bottles you come across. They can be used to collect sap without ever tapping the tree with a spigot. Darin from East Woodland Survival has an interesting technique I really like…

Water from Plants

Another great seasonal (spring, summer, and fall) source of clean water is found in wild grape vines. Sever the end of a large diameter vine near the ground over a container. It’ll start slowly dripping water into the container. Speed up the process by reaching as high as possible up the vine and cut a notch in the vine. The notch breaks the vacuum in the vine to increase the water output.

Don’t forget that your mouth is a container. Lay under the vine and drink directly from the plant. Be sure you can accurately identify grape vine from poison ivy and oak!

Rain Water

Rainy weather is a two-edged sword. It makes fire craft difficult but can provide needed emergency hydration.

With access to a tarp or rain gear, configure a “V” shape to collect rain and funnel it to a container.

John McCann of Survival Resources shows you how to do this in a homesteading situation easy enough. The same can be done in a survival scenario with sticks and ingenuity. His contraption collects and amazing amount of rain water!

A more primitive rain catchment technique is to harvest tree bark in half-pipe sections set up like a bicycle rim configuration with a collection device positioned at the axle. Tulip poplar, willow, and other non-resinous tree bark can be used.

Water Filters

Modern water filters are convenient and effective for removing parasites and bacteria but not viruses or chemical contaminants. I personally carried the Sawyer Mini on our recent backpacking trip on Eagle Rock Loop. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and effectively removes 99.9% of pathogens and is rated to clean 100,000 gallons of water.

sawyer squeeze water filter

DRG’s new squeeze! This is the larger Sawyer filter pictured.

Filters can be constructed from natural materials in the backcountry. My friend, Joshua Shuttlesworth, has a tutorial on building a Tripod Water Filter you should check out.

Remember to always assume wilderness water sources are contaminated. Drink without disinfecting water in the woods and you could pay a hefty price. Don’t trust what you read here or watch on YouTube videos. Get out and develop the skills needed to quench your thirst!

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, Potable Water, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

The Beginner’s Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft

by Todd Walker

[Part IV of our Bombproof Fire Craft series]

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A primal scream erupts from deep inside your body the first time you successfully coax fire from two pieces of dead wood.

Welcome to the Primal (first) Fire Club!

Experienced first fire practitioners make it look easy. It’s like they have secret pyro powers.

Not really. The secret to success with friction fire depends upon detailed attention to three things:

  • Materials for the bow drill set
  • Crafting details on the bow drill set
  • Technique and practice

There are no magic formulas for friction fire. The key is to find wood in your area that swallowed fire and practice the fundamentals persistently. I’ll offer suggestions on wood characteristics that work in our Georgia woodlands.

Gathering Materials

Not every tree will give up fire. Of course, as soon as I make that statement, some determined soul will demonstrate a bow drill fire with Osage Orange. For those new to friction fire, look for fast growing trees with dead but not rotten limbs. If your thumb nail leaves a slight depression in the wood, you’ve found a good candidate.

However, the easiest “cheat” is to stop by a lumber store and buy a kiln dried 1 x 4 cedar board. Also pick up a 5/8 inch poplar dowel rod while you’re there… or carve a spindle from the cedar board. Take them home, craft your set, and practice on your back porch or yard.

backyard-bushcraft

Our son’s first friction fire on the back patio with store-bought wood

Soft wood is more porous and is often found in lowland areas near water. Seems like a contradiction that water-loving trees have swallowed fire. Porous soft wood actually acts as an insulator to retain heat to help the charred dust reach ignition temperature during the friction process. Ignition temperature is 800ºF, give or take, depending on the fineness of the dust particles.

Here are a dozen trees and plants you can coax fire from:

  1. Tulip Poplar
  2. Cottonwood (roots work as well)
  3. Cedar
  4. Sassafras
  5. Basswood
  6. Pine – you may have been told that resins in pine prevent friction and cause a polish to form instead of dust. I’ve made friction fire with pine wood. It can be done. White pine may be the best pine wood for friction fire.
  7. Sycamore
  8. Yucca
  9. Mullein
  10. Mimosa
  11. Buckeye
  12. Willow (roots too)

In my woodlands, my favorite bow drill wood comes from the Tulip PoplarThis species drops lower limbs as it reaches for the top of the forest canopy. Fallen limbs often are hanging off the ground dry on undergrowth. You can also toss a line over dead, bark-less limbs and yank them down. If at all possible, I avoid limbs in contact with our humid Georgia ground.

Crafting Your Bow Drill Set

To begin, here’s the terminology I use for my bow drill set…

  • Hearth Board – a slab of wood placed on the ground which is notched to receive the friction from the spindle. This junction is where the magic happens. (AKA – “fire board”)
  • Spindle – a straight, cylindrical piece of wood of even thickness, carved or naturally straight, fashioned into a pencil-shape with an eraser end and a pointy end. (AKA – “drill”)
  • Bearing Block – a piece of bone, antler, rock, fat lighter’d (self-lubricating), hard wood, glass bottle bottom, knife handle divot, or any number of item used to hold the pointy end of the spindle in place while bowing. (AKA – “socket”, “hand hold”)
  • Bow – a slightly curved, inflexible dead branch (hardwood) which reaches from arm pit to fingers.
  • Bow String – non-stretchy cordage which secures at both ends of the bow with enough slack to receive the spindle. I’ve found real  tarred bank line (not the Wally World stuff) grips the drill very well.
  • Welcome Mat – a small piece of bark, leather, thin shaving of wood, or any other material available which is placed under the hearth board notch to catch/welcome the charred dust and protect the baby ember.

I’ll be explaining the process of building the set in the order listed above. However, you’ll need to make the spindle before you can finish the hearth board. So skip around the sections as needed.

Let’s build a bow drill set…

Hearth Board

With a round piece of wood, split it down with a cutting tool so that it measures about two fingers across, index finger to thumb deep, and long enough to place your foot to hold the board securely on the ground.

Tulip Poplar split to make a hearth board

Tulip Poplar split to make a hearth board

Now you’re ready to carve a pilot hole on one end of the board. Since I’m right-handed, my instructions can be flipped for any lefties reading this.

Place the eraser end of the spindle near the right end of the hearth board with about 1/4 inch of the hearth board showing to the outside edge of the spindle. Use the tip of your knife to start a pilot hole where the center of the spindle was placed on the board. In a drilling motion with the point of your knife, cut in a dimple that will accept the eraser end. The dimple should be about the same size as the spindle diameter and about an 1/8 inch deep.

Down-N-Dirty Tip: To help seat the spindle in the divot, leave a small 1/8 inch point in the center of the eraser end. This way you’ll only have to drill a matching 1/8 inch hole in the hearth board with the tip of your knife. I picked this tip up from Joe Mobley, a friend and friction fire savant. His channel is linked below under Additional Resources.

Spindle

I like my spindle to be 10 to 12 inches in length. I’ve found this length saves my posture and back when bowing.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This spindle is about as long as my Mora Companion

The spindle diameter can range from index finger size to thumb size.

Carve one end to a pencil point. This pointy end has less surface area resulting in less friction in the bearing block socket.

Carve the friction end into the shape of an eraser. I chamfer/bevel the edges of the eraser edges. This will be the business end where the friction heats the board and creates an ember. Try to use wood from the same tree for both the board and spindle. Rubbing wood together from the same tree gives good traction and grinds dust evenly from the spindle and hearth board.

Both the spindle and hearth board can be made from one limb. Carving the spindle this way will require more whittle work though. If available, use a straight stick to save time and energy.

Bearing Block

My favorite hand hold is on my Red Barn Forge knife. It offers a ready-made socket for the spindle to sit while bowing. However, I don’t always carry that particular knife in the woods.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Notice the socket in the middle of the handle

Many bearing block options are available to you in the woods. A split piece of hardwood can serve as a bearing block by cutting a dimple into the flat side. The dimple needs to be large enough so that the pointy end of the spindle will not wallow out and hit the sides of the dimple causing friction. You want little to no friction on this end of the spindle. Lubricate the bearing block dimple with crushed, green plant material, ear wax, facial oil, chapstick, or Fixin’ Wax if you have some.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Antler, cupped dime, and epoxy makes a great bearing block. Put a dime over a 9/16″ socket and squeeze the round end of a ball peen hammer into the dime with a vise.

I’ve used my char tin lid, broken beer bottle, rock, and my canteen cup as a socket. Pad the top of thin metal with a bandana to prevent heat transfer to your hand.

Bow

Find a dead but strong curved limb about the length of your outstretched arm. Carve a notch in both ends of the bow where your cordage will be attached.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The butt end of this bow is notched so the cordage can be leveraged with the tag end wrapped around the handle notch

Attach a length of cordage to the top of the bow in the freshly carved notch. Run the other end to the bottom and secure in the other notch. Feed the pointy end of your spindle between the cordage and bow and twist the drill into the rope. If the spindle flies out of the cord, try using both hands. Brace one end of the bow on the ground and the butt end against your waist/pelvis. This will allow you to use both hands to load the spindle into the bow.

The spindle should snap snuggly into the cordage with the spindle to the outside of the cordage with the pointy end facing up when the bow is horizontal.

Burn In the Hearth Board

Again, these are instructions for right-handers.

Place the hearth board flat on dry ground. Kneel down with your right knee on the ground and place your left foot on the board about an inch from the pilot hole on the board. Your right thigh should be near perpendicular to the ground and in line with your left foot.

Load the spindle into the bow. Place the eraser end in the pilot hole divot with your left hand and hold it steady. Sit the bow on the ground and hold the spindle with your right hand. Place the bearing block on top of the spindle and grab the bow with your right hand. This may seem like overkill, but I’ve seen many beginners who needed three hands to get their bow drill ready to go.

Before you begin bowing, brace your left wrist against your left shin when the spindle is in the pilot hole. The drill should be perpendicular to the board. Catch your breath and reflect for a moment on what you are about to create from nothing.

With the spindle braced against your left shin which is vertical over the hearth board, start moving the bow back and forth in a slow, controlled sawing motion. Use the entire length of cordage and not short strokes. Be sure to keep the bow moving horizontal over the ground. The bow string should be at a height just above your left boot, shoe, or bare foot as it spins the spindle on the hearth board.

Continue this controlled bowing until you’ve burned in a ball and socket joint where your spindle and hearth board meet. In plumbing terms, the male end (ball) has successfully mated with the female end (socket). The resulting hole should look like a dark, circular pie.

Slice the Pie

Now that you have a round pie hole burned into the board, you need to cut a slice out of the pie. Score the outside edge of the board as if you were cutting the pie in half. This score mark will be the center of your slice of pie. Move to the right and left the center mark about a 1/4 inch and begin cutting into the center point of your pie hole. Rocking motions with your knife help cut across the wood grain.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The socket on the right burned through the hearth board during bowing. On the right, a new hole burned in and notched.

The notch or slice of pie should be a 45 + degree wedge cut almost to the center point of your pie. Take your time and make the notch walls as smooth as possible. This notch is where the charred dust will collect while bowing.

One additional tip. Chamfer the bottom of the board’s outside edge an inch or so on both sides of your notch. This allows extra air to flow to the dust pile. Fire needs air, fuel (dust), and heat (friction) for ignition.

Bowing Technique

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of prepping your tinder material before you start bowing. A double handful of your finest, driest tinder should be prepared before bowing begins. Nothing kills your primal fire enthusiasm like working to create your first ember and then have it fail due to marginal tinder prep.

The Beginner's Step by Step Guide to Bow Drill Fire Craft ~ TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jamie’s left arm is straight relieving the work load from his forearm and upper body

Place the hearth board flat on the earth with the notch facing towards you or away. Either position is fine. Place your Welcome Mat under the notch. Load your spindle into the bow and assume the same stance used to burn in the hearth board.

Crouching over the set with your chest resting on your left thigh will cause your left arm to bend and require more forearm exertion to place pressure on the socket and drill. Keeping your back straight allows the left arm to be extended while anchored to your left shin. Increased pressure can be applied by leaning your bodyweight forward saving your forearm.

Grip the bow with your right hand and begin smooth, long strokes. Your heating the “ball and socket” joint only at this point. Smoke will begin to appear and thicken. Speed up the bowing and apply more downward pressure on the drill.

Charred dust will accumulate in the notch and spill onto the Welcome Mat. When the collected dust begins to smoke, stop bowing. Congrats! You’re male and female connections have created a baby ember!

Don’t celebrate yet. Keep your foot on the board and gently remove the spindle and set it and the bow aside. Hold the board in place with your hand as your remove your foot so as to not disturb the baby ember.

Tap the top of the board lightly to loosen the dust from the notch and lift the board away from the Welcome Mat. No need to rush. The baby ember will smolder and eat the charred dust as its first meal. A few fanning motions with your hand will make it glow and weld the dust together.

Carefully transfer the smoking pile of dust and ember from your Welcome Mat to the center of your tinder bundle. Swaddle the ember with the sides of the tinder material with cupped hands so that your precious baby ember doesn’t fall out. Hold the bundle face-high, pucker your lips, and blow through your gently cupped hands as if your were whistling quietly.

Continue to blow until the baby ember ignites the tinder material and you’re holding a handful of burning stuff. Place the flaming bundle under your prepared fire lay, step back, and let it eat.

Now you can give us your best primal scream!

Common Bow Drill Problems and Fixes

  1. The drill flies out of the bow string ~ Fixes: a) the bearing block socket may not be deep enough; b) the pie hole in the board may be too close to the edge or not deep enough; c) your notch is too big – carve a new notch with less angle; d) the spindle is not kept vertical – brace it against your shin vertically; e) the pointy end of the spindle has dulled and should be re-sharpened.
  2. Wobbly drill ~ Fixes: a) brace your wrist against your vertical shin over the board; b) the pie hole in the board is too wide – burn in a new ball and socket joint.
  3. Smoke but no ember ~ Fixes: a) the notch may be too narrow or not deep enough into the socket of your hearth board – widen and deepen the notch; b) moisture may be present in the hearth board – dry it in the sun, or – do slow bowing until you see smoke then rest… repeat this process several times and test the board – or find a dry board.
  4. Smoke coming from the hand-held socket ~ Fixes: a) lube the socket; b) sharpen the pointy end and make sure it is not rubbing on the edge of the bearing block socket.
  5. Can’t blow the ember to flame ~ Fixes: a) you may have marginal or damp tinder – place a fire extender such as char cloth, sooty mold, or 0000 steel wool in your tinder bundle with the ember on top; b) make sure the baby ember hasn’t fallen out of the bundle – it happens.

Persistence will pay off. If you fail, walk away and try another time or day. Keep learning and follow these fundamentals and you’ll join the Primal Fire Club!

If you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Additional Bow Drill 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, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Makin’ Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly

by Todd Walker

Vegetarians fear bacon. It’s the “gateway meat”. The temptation heightens with the mere aroma of this sizzling strip tease. Only the most hardcore herbivores can withstand the maddening scent in the olfactory receptors!

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

From a bacon-lovers perspective, preserving this fat-laden meat is a Doing the Stuff skill “worth it’s weight in salt.” However, if you believe the Big Fat Lie, go ahead and brace yourself for some disturbing news…

Your grandparents had it right… bacon fat won’t kill you. You need healthy fat in your diet.

Whether for health concerns or just to build a self-reliant skill, making bacon is a simple process anyone can do.

The recipe I used was given to me by Brian Manning, my instructor at The Pathfinder School. He made a video called “Hog and Hominy” where he carves up a side of his dry cured bacon to fry over an open fire. I had to make my own.

That's Brian Manning hamming it up

That’s Brian Manning hamming it up

I asked and he shared his recipe in the description box under his video. Be sure to check out his channel – Snow Walker Bushcraft – for some great tutorials and 18th century living skills.

I also found a helpful video by Steve Davis on his channel, “woodcrafter76“.

Here’s what you’ll need for makin’ your own bacon to cure what ails you…

The Bacon Cure

  • Find a fresh pork belly, pasture raised if possible. I bought mine at a health-food grocery store called Earth Fare. Your local butcher shop may have fresh pork belly or can order it for you. Of course, the freshest route is to butcher a hog yourself. My pork belly weighed 12.6 pounds and was on sale, half-price!
  • Buy salt and brown sugar. Lots of it. Three pound boxes of course salt. I used about 12 pounds of salt and 12 pounds of brown sugar. I’d probably use less on my next batch of bacon.
  • Brian used cracked black pepper for an outside coating. I did not but may add some for taste.
  • A large plastic bin with lid. No need to be air tight. You’ll also need a second large container to combine and store the cure mix.
  •  A dark, cool place. A refrigerator, root cellar, or cooler works.
  • Butchers string or stainless steel meat hooks. Don’t have any meat hooks? Use string and a needle for hanging your cured bacon to air dry.
  • Patience. My pork belly took 14 days to cure.

Step 1 of Makin’ Bacon

In a large container, combine equal amounts of salt and brown sugar thoroughly. In hindsight, I should have used a larger mixing container. Sugar ants made a visit to our kitchen because of the spillage from my smaller container. You can never clean all those tiny granules off the cabinets and floor.

Step 2 of Makin’ Bacon

Rub the pork belly with the cure. Make sure you don’t miss any of the crevices on the flesh side. It’s like applying a rub on a pork butt for smoking… rub it good and cover it all! These little hidden hideaways need cure applied to prevent moisture build up. Moisture is your bacon’s enemy.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The first light coat of cure

Place the coated sides in your container(s) and stick ’em in the fridge or a cooler with some ice blocks. I used a large cooler since there wasn’t much room in DRG’s fridge. Plus, I don’t trust Moose and Abby, our two rescue dogs, to be in the house alone with bacon sitting about.

I found that frozen water bottles worked better than those blue freezer blocks. I even added a 4-year-old glass jar of frozen chili to the rotation. Simply swap out melted water bottles with 4 or 5 frozen bottles in your freezer each time.

Leave the curing container in the cool place overnight and let it work.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The morning after… Drain and rub more cure mix

Drain the collected liquid and re-apply the cure. Only this time you’ll want to add a thicker layer. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of cure in the bottom of your container and place the skin side on top of the cure. Now add a generous amount of cure to the flesh side which is facing up. Remember to hit all the creases with the cure. I added a 1/2 to 1 inch layer on top. In hindsight, that much was probably overkill but Brian said I should add more cure. So I did.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

About an inch of cure covering the meat

Put the lid back on the container and place it back in your cool place.

Step 3 of Makin’ Bacon

Repeat step 2. Drain the liquid and re-apply cure mix. After a few days you’ll notice the amount of accumulating liquid on the flesh side decreases. The cure on the bottom (skin side) will still be wet and should be replaced with new/dry cure mix.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Late in the process you’ll have little accumulation of liquid in the container bottom with wet spots on top.

At that point in the curing process, you can scrape off only the dissolved cure mix and apply a thin layer to the area. I didn’t chance it. I basically re-coated the entire pork belly for 10 of the 14 days of the process.

Step 4 of Makin’ Bacon

Once satisfied that the liquid had stopped draining from the meat, I gave it a couple more cure applications. On day 14, I examined the belly and found no liquid had dissolved the cure mixture on top or underneath.

Step 5 of Makin’ Bacon

Wash off the remaining cure mix under cold water. Use your hand and fingers to scrap off any stubborn cure mixture from all sides of the pork belly.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Getting ready for a wash and smoke

Pat the pork belly dry with paper towels or a drying towel.

Step 6 of Makin’ Bacon

This step is optional but I prefer a good smoke flavor in my bacon. Smoke is also an added preservative in meats.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Keep the temp very low… below 200 degrees

I used my Big Green Egg and applewood chips for smoke flavor. You want to smoke the belly not cook it. Keep your smoker temperature under 200 degrees. If you have a cold smoker, even better.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Applewood smoke engulfing my bacon

It took some doing to get my BGE to hover between 150 to 175 degrees. Once regulated, I smoked the pork belly for about 5 hours. I gotta admit that I was a bit worried when I saw the belly looking all sweaty after the smoking process. It was supposed to be dry to keep bacteria from forming on and in the meat.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I hoped that the next step would remedy the wet, flimsy looking sides of pork belly.

Step 7 of Makin’ Bacon

And it did.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Use a large canvas sail needle or leather working needle threaded with butcher’s twine

String up the cured bacon with butcher’s twine and a needle or use meat hooks if you have some. Hang the slabs of goodness in a room in your house to air dry. You’ll want to cover them in a breathable fabric to keep flies and insects off the meat. I was in the process of hand-sewing a canvas bag when DRG, in her common sense tone, suggested using an old pillow case.

Makin' Bacon: How to Dry Cure Pork Belly | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The bacon hangout

And the rest is history, folks. I love my smart wife!

The two slabs of bacon are air drying from a shelf in our laundry room encased in cotton pillow cases.

If you took your time and followed the process, the dry cured bacon will last several months at room temperature. I plan on dividing the belly into sections and freeze all but one part for immediate use and save the rest for future outdoor adventures… if it doesn’t get eaten beforehand.

Now go enjoy the intense flavor of your homemade bacon over a campfire! Or your kitchen. Or anywhere you can!

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, Food Storage, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Real Food, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

9 Ways (Some Illegal) to Catch Fish for Self-Reliance and Survival

by Todd Walker

Outdoor adventures can turn into survival scenarios without warning. If we knew of the crisis ahead of time, we’d simply take steps to avoid it.

But that’s not always possible. 9 Ways (Some Illegal) to Catch Fish for Self-Reliance and Survival - TheSurvivalSherpa.com The title of this article mentions two terms, self-reliance and survival, which need to be defined. I want to make the distinction because some of the fishing methods listed are illegal and should only be employed in a true survival situation not to stock your freezer for the winter.

Self-reliance is dependence on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources. The opposite of dependence upon others.

Let’s put survival into context…

Survival involves any situation where death is imminent if conditions do not change.

Running out of trail mix on a day hike is NOT a survival event.

Which begs the question… how long can you live without food? Conventional wisdom, which I seldom agree with, tells us about 3 weeks. You’ll eventually have to eat to stay alive in a long-term situation.

In a 72 hour survival scenario, you may be better served to fast and drink water.

But let’s face it, the majority of us will never be in a long-term wilderness survival scenario. But it never hurts to have a few survival fishing tricks in your tackle box.

If you’re not in a life or death situation in the backwoods, you’re simply backpacking, hiking, or camping. Looking at your short-term survival priorities, food is way down the list. However, eating becomes more important the longer you’re not found. And you don’t know if 72 hours will stretch into weeks.

There are also possible events where major disruptions happen or the rule of law goes bye-bye. Practically speaking, learning to legally catch fish now before an event can reduce your grocery bill and build food independence. Eating is part of being self-reliant. If you’re preparing for a disruptive event, hopefully you’ll have a portable water craft, nets, and heavy-duty fishing gear available and ready to go.

Canoes and kayaks are portable.

Canoes and kayaks are portable and maneuverable

In a wilderness survival scenario, you’ve got your shelter, fire, and water squared away. Now you can give attention to that calorie depleted body of yours.

The water’s edge is your first survival fast food stop. All lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams are home to a rich resource of edible aquatic life. Don’t overlook the small stuff. Survivors are opportunists without a picky palate. Fish, large and small, are in the water. You have to convince them to join you for dinner.

Here’s how…

Pack Emergency Fishing Tackle

The ideal situation is to have a fishing kit with you in the backwoods. Fishing line, hooks, and sinkers aren’t going to add much weight to your pack.

I’ve seen many kits in Altoids tins that weigh very little and would serve to procure fat fish. I went a different route. My Cigar Fishing Kit allows me to use the aluminum sleeve as a hand fishing rig. The line is wrapped on the outside of the tube to allow me to cast into the water. However, in a 72-hour survival event, your time and energy would be better spent meeting other priorities than sitting on a bank hoping a fish hits a single hook.

Trapping animals is a numbers game. So is fishing. The more hooks you wet, the better your odds are of eating. That’s why I carry a more substantial fishing kit on longer backwoods trips. My minimalist Cigar Fishing Kit rides along in my haversack… always.

Screw cap taped

My Emergency Cigar Fishing Kit

For a larger fishing kit, include these items…

  • Pack plenty of hooks (30 to 40) in different sizes. Use small hooks to catch smaller fish which can be used to bait larger hooks for the big meal fish.
  • A spool (200+ yards minimum) of fishing line. Spiderwire offers braided (super strong) and monofilament fishing line in many strengths. 10 to 12 lb. line is multitask line.
  • Lead sinkers/weights. Yes, they add weight but are too convenient not to pack.
  • Snap Swivels. Saves time re-tying hooks.
  • Artificial lures and a jar of salmon eggs… when digging/finding live bait is not an option.
  • Tarred bank line (#12 and #36). This cordage is in all my kits. It works especially well when setting up multiple hooks.
  • Multi-tool. Useful for removing hooks from fish and too many other uses to mention here.

Fishing Techniques

Warning: Should you decide to use any illegal fishing techniques mentioned, do so for survival purposes only. While I don’t advocate breaking laws, the State’s rules go out the window when your life is on the line. Research your federal and state fishing laws.

Limb Hooks

Locate trees with low branches overhanging the water’s edge near cover. Most fish hang out in cover like weed beds, lily pads, and fallen debris. Casting into cover usually results in snags or lost tackle.

A boat or canoe makes tying limb hooks easier but isn’t necessary. Simply grab a green limb with your hand or a hooked stick and pull it to you on the bank. Tie a line with a baited hook on the limb and easy it back into the water.

For a larger fish, use bank line with a circle hook – my preferred hook for catfish. Setting 15 to 20 of these limb hooks dramatically increases your odds of eating and frees you to attend to other survival priorities.

Jugging

The idea is to tie a baited line on a floating device. It’s a sad fact that plastic bottles litter our woodlands. Other people’s trash is a survival resource if you develop a Possum Mentality.

One effective technique our neighbor used when he’d fish in our lake was to make a cane pole “jug” fishing rig. He ran a bamboo cane pole through a chunk of styrofoam and tied a line to the pole just to the side of the foam. Bob would bait the hook with a small pan fish and toss the rig into the middle of the lake and continue fishing with his spinning reel. When the pole stood on end, he’d haul in a lunker Large Mouth Bass!

Bamboo

Bamboo “Jug” fishing rig

It’s not likely you’ll find styrofoam and cane poles in the wilderness. However, you may happen upon a patch of bamboo or river cane. If so, cut a 8 foot section of bamboo 1 to 1/2 inches in diameter. Find a larger diameter (2-3 inches) and cut a piece with two compartments in tact. You could also bundle several smaller diameter sections together for the float if larger diameter bamboo is not available.

Lash these sections to the middle of the longer pole and tie on a baited line to one side of the rig. Toss the rig into a lake or pond and forget about it. When a fish takes the hook you’ll know it. The rig will stand on end.

Note: You probably won’t have a water craft to fetch the rig from the water in a wilderness survival situation. Tie a length of cordage or fishing line to the pole to retrieve the rig once a fish is on. Always carry a roll of bank line in your pack.

Trot Line

This method works in rivers and still water. A trot line consist of several baited lines dangling off one long line suspended between two anchor points (trees or limbs usually). Bank line is excellent for this application.

Secure the dangler lines (#12 bank line) along the long line with enough space between each dangler to not tangle under water with live bait swimming on the hooks. Of course, you’ll need live minnows, crayfish, or small pan fish to bait the trot line. You could also use rotting, stinking stuff as bait.

Spear Fishing

Metal fish and frog gigs are available and can be kept in your pack. Just cut a sapling for the handle. However, a down and dirt gig can be crafted from a green sapling alone.

diy-survival-gig

Used about 6 feet of cordage here

Find shallow water and wait for fish to pass by – even snakes and frogs – then spear the critter. Take into account the angle of light refraction when spearing a target under water. It’s not as straight as it seems.

Herbal Stunning Agents

Native Americans and indigenous people around the world have used fish toxins to harvest meals. Common plants used in my area by the Cherokee are Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and Polkweed (Phytolacca americana). The plant material was crushed and introduced to slow-moving streams or pools which stunned fish and cause them to float to the surface. They were easily harvested by hand, nets, or spears.

How to Build a Cigar Survival Fishing Kit - TheSurvivalSherpa.comHow to Build a Cigar Survival Fishing Kit - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Harvesting Black Walnut leaves

The bark and green husks on black walnut trees contain saponins which fish intake through their gills and stunning the fish. The same goes for Polkweed berries and leaves. Research your local plants to find which plants were used to stun fish.

Netting

You don’t pack gill nets or seine nets in your backpack probably. However, for long-term self-reliance, nets are a proven method of catching fish for large numbers of people. Store away a few for emergency food procurement.

Circular cast nets have weights on the outside edge that is thrown and used to catch bait fish in coastal areas. In the hands of a skilled net caster, a cast net can harvest a bucket of fish in no time.

Traps

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.

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… like the crawfish trap pictured below.

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.

Blast Fishing

Using an explosive device to stun or kill fish for easy collection is illegal for sure. It also destroys and disrupts other life in the ecosystem. A small M80 (small stick of dynamite) will stun and kill fish in a pool of water. Survival use ONLY.

Chumming

This method is used to attract fish to easy food sources. You’ve likely seen it used as an attractant on Shark Week. It’s like feeding ducks at the park. Word spreads because fish love an easy meal.

Rotting animal flesh, insects, worms/grubs, or fish guts can be cut into small pieces and scattered into the water. This technique works best when done on a regular routine. You may not have this luxury in a short-term situation. Drop a baited hook into the chum area to increase your chance of snagging a fish. Or you might even catch a turtle.

Again, before using these proven fish catching techniques for long-term self-reliance, do your due diligence. For survival, do what you have to do to stay alive.

You got any survival fishing tales? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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, Economic Collapse, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, SHTF, Survival, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Bombproof Fire Craft: Build a “Next Fire” Kit that Cheats Death

by Todd Walker

Of all the outdoor self-reliance skills, fire is king. Many will argue over my statement.

Bombproof Fire Craft- Build a -Next Fire- Kit that Cheats Death - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

You know fire is life out there! No one can deny its usefulness as a survival tool.

Here are my reasons it tops the list of wilderness survival skills…

  • Potable water via boiling for hydration – essential for Core Temperature Control (CTC)
  • Cooking  (especially hot cocoa)
  • Create charred material for your Next Fire
  • Fire hardening wooden weapons/tools
  • Burn and scrape wooden containers
  • Wilderness clothes dryer
  • Making pine pitch glue, straighten arrow shafts, bending wood, etc., etc.
  • Smoke for preserving meat
  • Hygiene – take a smoke bath to kill bacteria on skin and clothing and repel insects
  • Making medicinal concoctions
  • Emotional camp comfort and defense against uninvited wild visitors
  • Illumination
  • Hypothermia’s antidote (CTC)
  • As a southern Chigger magnet, the fact that smoke drives these tiny biting mites out of debris shelters is reason enough to make fire my #1 wilderness survival resource in the South. If you’re not personally familiar, they can cover your body with red, itchy welts that can drive you to the brink of insanity!

Fire is even a survival tool in modern homes. The crackling oak logs in your fireplace, the blue pilot light in the furnace, even your electric hot water heater and night-light in the baby’s nursery makes fire indispensable to every home.

To the modern mind, access to fire’s life-sustaining value is automatic. Press a remote for endless hours of TV entertainment flowing from coal-burning power plants.

Unfortunately, fire is not automatic in wilderness survival.

For this reason, and the chigger thing, your Next Fire kit should contain at least three different ignition sources to help you build a sustainable fire.

Ignition Sources

Bombproof Fire Craft- Build a -Next Fire- Kit that Cheats Death - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Plant tinder and ignition devices going clockwise from 12:00: Cottonwood inner bark, Tulip Poplar bark, Horseshoe Fungus, Flint and Steel w/ Char tin, Magnifying Lens, curls from feather sticks, and in the middle is Fat Lighter’d shavings, Gorilla Taped Bic Lighter, and Ferro Rod.

Depending purely on primitive combustion methods like a bow or hand drill is reserved for primitive living experts or backyard bushcraft practice sessions. Failure is always an option with friction fires. Heck, even modern ignition sources doesn’t guarantee fire in all conditions.

I’ve listed the advantages and disadvantages for the items in my Next Fire kit. Each device is easy to use with practice.

A) Bic Lighter (Open Flame)

Advantages

  • A new Bic will give you thousands times more open flames than a box of kitchen matches. A wet match is useless… well, except for picking your teeth.
  • Submerge a Bic and it can be back in service within a minute or so by blowing the moisture off the tiny ferro rod striker.
  • Easy to use. Even a young child can use a lighter (Tip: always remove the child safety device from Bic lighters in fire kits to make them easy for you and a child to use in an emergency).
  • Even an empty Bic is a useful combustion device. More on that later in our School of Fire Craft series.

Tip: Wrap Gorilla tape around the lighter and you have a built-in tinder and fire extender – a walnut-size ball of duct tape will burn over 10 minutes.

A-Waterproof-Tinder-Bundle-Hack-That-Guarantees-Fire

Use a carabiner to attach the duct taped lighter to your pack

Note: I only use matches for specific fire challenges. They are not a part of my Next Fire Kit.

Disadvantages

  • It’s difficult to monitor the fuel level unless the housing is clear like the cheaper, rectangular lighters. I only carry Bic lighters.
  • Extreme cold will kill a Bic. Warm it in your arm pit or crotch to get the butane flowing again.

B) Ferrocerium Rod (Spark Ignition)

Advantages

  • Scraped with a sharp flint shard, broken glass, or a 90º knife spine, 1,500º F to 3,000º F sparks spontaneously combust to ignite tinder material.
  • Sparks even in wet conditions.
  • The average outdoors person will never wear a ferro rod out.
  • Can ignite many tinder sources, even non-charred material.
  • Beginner skill level needed to learn to use one.
  • For more info on ferro rods, click here.

Disadvantages

  • They are consumable.

C) Magnifying Len (Solar Ignition)

Advantages

  • Beginner skill level. Ever drive ants crazy with one as a kid?
  • Ignites different tinder materials.
  • Saves other ignition devices on sunny days.
  • Self-contained – no assembly required.
  • Never wears out. Always protect your lens from scratches and breakage.

Disadvantages

  • Depends on sunshine.

D) Sure Fire – Not an ignition device but…

I consider this item essential to every Next Fire kit!

InstaFire: Lights in Wind, Rain, Snow, and on Water!

InstaFire burning in the creek! No toxic chemicals in this sure fire.

I carry commercially made chemical-based sure fire starters as well as DiY sure fire. There is no such thing as cheating when it comes to making fire in an emergency scenario. Practice primitive but prepare modern!

Advantages

  • Works with spark ignition or open flame.
  • Burns several minutes.
  • Burns when wet.
  • Easy to ignite.

Disadvantages

  • Sure fire is never a disadvantage.

D) Flint and Steel (Spark Ignition)

This primitive method may seem outdated or useless by some but I include it in my Next Fire kit because options in fire craft make us anti-fragile.

Advantages

  • Lasts virtually forever.
  • Any rock harder than the steel can drive sparks from the steel.
  • That same rock can be used on the spine of a high carbon steel knife to ignite charred material.
  • Intermediate skill level. Easy to use with prior practice.
  • For more info on flint and steel, click here.

Disadvantages

  • Sparks in the 800º F range – significantly less than ferro rods.
  • Charred material or specific un-charred plant tinder are needed to catch sparks.

E) Charred Material

Partners with flint and steel but is works with solar ignition and ferro rods.

Advantages

  • It only takes a spark to create an ember. Works with solar ignition too.
  • Easy to make and use – even without a metal container.
  • Any natural material (cloth or plant tinder) can be charred.

Disadvantages

  • Must be dry to use

With the exception of the magnifying lens and flint and steel, the other devices mentioned are modern. I’m bypassing friction as an ignition source but will cover the basics of ancient fire craft later in this series.

None of the ignition devices, modern or primitive, will build a sustainable fire without a proper pyre (pronounced the same as fire) – a.k.a. fire lay.

No matter how you construct your pyre, these common denominators must be present for a fire to grow.

Like all living things, fire must eat to live.

The Meal Plan for Fires

Mistakes I’ve made and seen others make when practicing fire craft, even with open flame ignition sources, were more times than not due to poor preparation and taking short cuts. This is especially true with primitive methods. With only a small ember to ignite a tinder bundle, choose the most finely processed combustible natural material available.

The following three-meals-a-day analogy may help you feed your next fire.

Breakfast: Tinder

This meal is truly the most important meal in a fire’s life. To help the flames rise and shine, feed it what it loves… a hearty helping of fluffy, dry, dead plant material.

We eat grits for breakfast in the south. My Yankee friends eat other disgusting mush.

Like food, tinder varies by locale. Your job is to spend time Doing the Stuff to test different plant tinder and find the best local breakfast to feed your fire.

Plant tinder, when processed or broken down to create surface area, will accept a spark or small open flame from a match or lighter to produce fire. In the eastern woodlands, the Piedmont region of Georgia in my case, we have an abundance of plants and trees which can be processed (shredded) down to create tinder the size of hair stands.

It’s all about the surface area!

Some of my Georgia favorites I’ve had success with are…

  • Tulip Poplar inner bark
  • Red Cedar bark
  • Cottonwood inner bark
  • Fat Lighter’d, fat lighter, lighter wood, non-Georgia natives call it fatwood (resin-rich dead pine stumps, knots, and limbs) – more fat lighter’d info here. Make a quarter-size pile of lighter’d shavings with the spine of your knife to create the Breakfast of Champions for any fire!
backyard-bushcraft

Fat lighter’d shavings lit with a ferro rod

  • White fluffy stuff – cattail heads, dandelion clock, and Bull thistle gone to seed are a few flash tinder that flame up quickly and should be added to other substantial tinder material for longer burn times.
Bombproof Fire Craft- Build a -Next Fire- Kit that Cheats Death - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Flash tinder (Bull thistle)

  • American Beech leaves die and hang around on branches well into spring just before new growth appears offering months of easy-to-reach seasonal tinder material.
Live Wild Where the Pavement Ends

Beech tree leaves

  • Pine needles – dead pine needles crushed and rolled (processed) in your hands will create nice bundles of tinder material. Look for mounds of pre-processed pine needles on roadside curbs courtesy of vehicle tires. Collect them and practice your backyard fire craft.
  • Dry grasses (flash tinder) – I like to use broom sedge to form a tennis racquet shape with a handle to hold my finest tinder material. A word of caution on grasses in humid climates like Georgia… they tend to hold moisture. Harvest grasses that have died naturally and are as dry as possible.
  • Black Sooty Mold – I first discovered this fire extender on American Beech trees and found it will take a spark from ferro rods and produces an ember via solar ignition. Click here for how to find and harvest this fire resource.

Lunch: Kindling

Nothing is more discouraging than watching your fire consume all its tinder and not eat the next meal… kindling. Your fire was hungry but didn’t like what you offered for lunch.

The best bet is to feed your fire the smallest and driest twigs available. This material is called “smalls” for a reason. Collect pencil-lead size to pencil-size material. The smaller the surface area the faster it reaches combustion temperature. If you have fat lighter’d or other resinous wood available, by all means, process it to use for kindling.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

One 2 inch stick of poplar made this: L to R: Thumb, pencil, pencil lead, and bark tinder

If “smalls” are not available or rain-soaked, create them by splitting a larger stick or limb with your cutting tool. You’ll find dry, combustible wood inside larger dead wood. Click here for a tutorial on creating a One Stick Fire.

Now practice it in the rain…

Dinner: Fuel

After eating lunch (kindling), feed your fire progressively larger fuel. Finger-size up to the size of your wrist tops off your fire’s diet. Your fire will let you know when it is ready to eat more fuel when flames being licking up and through the pile of kindling. Add too much too soon and you’re in danger of choking the fire. Heimlich maneuvers must be performed to free air passages to nurse the fire back to life.

Fire loves chaos and randomness. However, fuel should be laid, not thrown, on top of young fires. As it grows and matures, kick back and let it eat.

Bombproof Fire Craft- Build a -Next Fire- Kit that Cheats Death - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Remember… fire is life out there but never automatic!

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, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

How to Make an Arrow Quiver from Tree Bark

by Todd Walker

How to Make an Arrow Quiver from Tree Bark - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The Tulip Poplar is the Swiss Army Knife of woodcraft and self-reliance. The properties of this Eastern Woodlands tree lends itself to many self-reliant uses…

  • Primitive fire – bow drill sets and tinder material
  • Inner bark for natural cordage
  • Spoons, bowls, cups, and tools
  • Medicinal uses
  • Material and building uses which we employ today

The best time to harvest the bark is late spring and early summer when the sap is rising.

Obviously, you don’t want to cut down the only tulip tree in the forest. I scout my woods to find an overcrowded stand of poplars and harvest one out of 3 or 4 which are close together. The rest of the tree doesn’t go to waste. What’s not used for containers is used for natural cordage, tinder material, spoons and bowls, and primitive fire sets.

Trees under 6 inches in diameter are felled with my take down buck saw. I use an ax for trees over 6 inches. Need felled a tree?  Click here to learn how.

Arrow Quiver

The entire process can be done in the woods. Or, do as I did… cut the log into 6 foot lengths and haul it to the vehicle for transport home. Actually, I did part of the project in the woods and finished up at my shop.

Below are a few tools used to make my quiver…

How to Make an Arrow Quiver from Tulip Tree Bark | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Bucksaw is not pictured

Cut and Remove Bark

On a straight section with few knots (or eyes), measure off the desire length of your quiver. Cut through the bark to the white sap wood on both ends in a ring fashion. A saw makes quick work of this task but can also be done with a knife.

How to Make an Arrow Quiver from Tulip Tree Bark | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

The whole sleeve removed. The bucksaw is 21 inches long.

With your knife, cut a straight line from both ring cuts down the length of the log all the way to the sap wood. Be sure to cut through the outer and inner bark.

Work your knife or a wedged stick under one edge where the parallel cut meets the ring cut and begin gently prying the bark free from the sap wood.

Take it easy. Going too fast will cause the bark to crack and ruin your resource. You’re not cutting the bark loose as you might skin a big game animal. The knife is a pry bar now. Free the bark about an inch or so on both edges of the center cut.

Wedge your fingers between the freed bark edge and the sap wood and slowly begin separating the bark. Work your way around the entire log from the center cut. Be careful not to prick your finger on any small prickly points on the sap wood.

Once disconnected from the sap wood, the flexible bark sleeve can be removed. Now your ready to make lacing holes along both sides of the center cut.

Bore Holes

Now that the bark is off the tree, slip it back on. The log will be used as an anvil for boring lacing holes along both sides of the center cut. You don’t have to use the log as an anvil but it’s a bit more convenient to do so. A wheel punch used in leather work is another option for making holes in bark.

How to Make an Arrow Quiver from Tulip Tree Bark | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Stitching holes bored into both sides of the parallel cut

With a bone awl or modern awl, bore a line of holes about 1/2 inch from the edge of both center cuts. I spaced my row of holes about 1.5 inches apart – starting at about 1 inch from each end. Try to keep the holes matched up on both sides of the center cut.

Lacing

Rawhide, natural cordage, or synthetic string are all options. Your choice depends on what’s available and how primitive you want your quiver to look. Tarred bank line is a down and dirty option that will work… forever.

I used artificial sinew and leather work needles to stitch the seam in a ‘X’ pattern. Measure and use about 4 times the length of the quiver in cordage. This allows enough leftover cordage to attach a carrying sling when the stitching is done.

Plug End

Cut a 1/2 to 3/4 inch section of wood off the log to be used as a plug for the quiver. The plug cut should come from where you made your ring cut.

Once the seam is laced (loosely), insert the plug into the end of your quiver. Tighten the lacing. Stand the quiver vertically and tap the plug end on a flat surface to ensure a flush fit. The lacing will hold the plug via friction but needs a more secure method.

I used about 8 small nails spaced around the plug end. Drill evenly spaced pilot holes which are slightly smaller than the diameter of your nails/tacks. Hammer the nails into the pilot holes to secure.

As the bark dries, it curls in on itself. The plug prevents this on the bottom end. However, on the open end, stuff some newspaper, bubble wrap, or other material a few inches down tube to hold the cylindrical shape as it dries. The drying time takes a few days to a week depending on weather conditions.

Shoulder Sling

You should have the long tag ends of cordage leftover at the plug end. I laid a two foot length of leather thong evenly between my two tag ends of cordage. Secure the thong to the quiver with a simple square knot (right over left, left over right).

How to Make an Arrow Quiver from Tulip Tree Bark | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

This sling is similar to the hands-free ax sling I made only more narrow

I did the same thing at the opposite end and attached a piece of scrap leather (25 inches long) to the thongs. The thongs allow me to adjust the length of my quiver much like the sling I made for my hands-free ax sheath.

You may also want to add a strip of fur on the inside rim to prevent arrows from banging against the bark quiver when walking the woods. It also adds a great primitive touch to your functional work of art!

This Tulip Tree will provide enough bark for more containers and other resources of self-reliance. Here’s a bonus berry basket made from another 22 inch section of bark…

How to Make an Arrow Quiver from Tulip Tree Bark | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

A berry basket for Dirt Road Girl

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

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

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, Doing the Stuff, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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