Posts Tagged With: fire craft

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins

by Todd Walker

From the biblical perspective, sin is “missing the mark.” In wilderness survival, not hitting your target in one skill doesn’t have to mean certain death. However, fall short in these three critical survival skills, and, dude, you’re screwed!

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins -

You may not get a second chance to see your family again if you can’t stay warm and hydrated. Having the ability to regulate body temperature brings redemption.

Cold and Wet: The Perfect Storm

Your body does a remarkable job regulating core temperature. However, add moisture to the equation, drop the temperature slightly, and you’ve got a perfect storm for hypothermia.

Water saps body heat 25 times faster than air. And 70 to 80% of your body heat is lost through your head and neck. The remaining heat loss goes through your fingers, hands, and feet. The simple act of breathing in cold air and expelling warm air will chill your body.

A slight change in core temp, even by a degree or two, will affect your bodily functions. Shivering, lack of coordination, slurred speech, and numbness in the extremities are signs of hypothermia. Decrease to 91.4ºF (33ºC) and you lose consciousness. Complete muscle failure occurs at 82.4ºF (28ºC).

Core Temperature Equipment

This article is not addressing wilderness living skills or long-term self-reliance. We’re talking about staying alive in an unexpected stay in the woods. You can’t very well pursue long-term stuff if you’re not equipped to survive the short-term storm. And, by storm, I mean – when you need immediate help and none is available – in a wilderness setting.

The first step to being equipped is to always carry equipment. No matter how many debris huts you’ve built, you’d be a stupid survivalist, and possibly a dead one, to not pack some sort of emergency shelter option, fire kit, metal container, cordage, and a knife.

Below is my emergency kit I carry no matter how long I plan to be in the woods.

  • Emergency Space Blanket ~ The best 12 ounce item in my kit for core temperature control. I also carry two contractor grade garbage bag and a painter’s tarp  – too many uses to mention here.
  • Fire Kit ~ Three different ignition sources which I’m comfortable using – open flame (Bic lighter), spark ignition (ferro rod), solar ignition (magnifying lens), sure fire (diy and commercial), duct tape, and a bit of dry tinder material.
  • Knife ~ There is no such thing as “The Best Survival Knife”. Beware of the marketer’s hype surrounding these ultimate survival tools.
  • Metal Container ~ A metal water bottle can be used to boil water, make char cloth, cook meals, and perform self-aid duties.
  • Cordage ~ I carry both 550 paracord and tarred mariners line.

These items are my bare bones kit and go with me camping, hiking, backpacking, and hunting. Don’t think you’ll ever need these kit items? Think again. Read this real-life survival story of an injured hunter in the Idaho wilderness.

Core Temperature Control Skills

Conserving body heat is the key to survival. Your body produces heat from biochemical reactions in cells, exercise, and eating. Without a furry coating like lower animals, insulation to maintain a body temperature at 98.6 degrees F is critical.

It all starts with…

Skill #1 ~ Shelter

Sins of Sheltering: Not carrying an emergency space blanket and wearing improper clothing.

While having an emergency space blanket is important, your shelter is built before you ever step over the door sill of your warm and cozy home. Your clothes are your first layer of shelter.

Thermal energy always travels from warm/hot (your body) to cool/cold (the environment). To trap body heat, layer your clothing. Layers create dead air space much like the insulation in house walls and attics. Layering is activity-dependent. But the basic concept applies to any outdoor cold weather activity.

Here’s my layer system…

A.) Base Layer ~Your base layer should fit snuggly to your body. Long sleeve shirt and underwear made of polyester blend for wicking perspiration away from my body. Sock liners go on first before wool socks. Thin wool glove liners are worn inside my larger leather mittens.

B.) Insulation ~ Yes, I wear cotton, and sometimes fleece, on top of the base layer. This is dependent upon my activity. If I’m really active in really cold weather, I wear a wool sweater. Wool is my favorite insulation layer. Here’s why…

  • Wool fiber absorbs up to 36% of its weight and gradually releases moisture through evaporation.
  • Wool has natural antibacterial properties that allow you wear it multiply days without stinking up camp. Not so with synthetics.
  • Wool wicks moisture, not as well as synthetics, but better than cotton.
  • Wool releases small amounts of heat as it absorbs moisture.
  • Wool contains thousands of natural air-trapping pockets for breathable insulation.

Remembering the importance of dead air space, your insulation layer should fit loosely and be breathable. Apply the acronym C.O.L.D. to your insulating layer…

  1. C – Keep CLEAN
  2. O – Avoid OVERHEATING
  3. L – Wear loose LAYERS to create dead air space
  4. D – Keep DRY

C.) Outer Layer ~ Waterproof is not your friend. Yes, it will keep rain and wetness out, but it will also seal perspiration in eventually soaking your insulation. Wear a weather-resistant shell that allows moisture to escape. The main concern for this layer is to block wind.

Your head, hands, and feet are included in this layer. I’m partial to wool hats to keep my bald head warm. In subzero temps, I wear my shapka, a Russian red fox winter hat, I bought in Siberia in the early 90’s.

Cold feet are deceptive. Frostbite can happen before you know the damage is done. Wear polyester sock liners with wool socks inside your footwear of choice.

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins -

Our local BSA troop learning how to set up an emergency tarp shelter.

3 Skills that Cover a Multitude of Survival Sins -

A cheap painter’s painter’s tarp creates a micro-climate with a fire burning in front. See the Mors Kochanski Super Shelter below…

D.) Waterproof Shelter ~ Again, for emergency essentials, you can’t beat a good space blanket to block wind, rain, and reflect heat back to your body. Combined with a plastic painter’s tarp, a Kochanski Super Shelter can keep you warm in subzero condition in street clothes.

Use two large contractor garbage bags filled with leaves, wet or dry, for an insulating ground pad. This emergency shelter weighs ounces but offers pounds of insurance against a long cold night in the woods.

There are many more options for waterproof covering. The above items are for your emergency kit.

Skill #2 ~ Fire Craft

Sins of Fire Craft: Not carrying multiple ignition sources and all-weather fire starters.

Fire covers a multitude of ‘sins’ in your survival skills. Even if you deliberately commit the offense of not packing emergency shelter, fire forgives your lapse in judgement. Scantily clad in the wilderness? Fire covers your wrongdoing. No matter how you “miss the mark” in skills or equipment, fire can save you.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the woods I’m sure you’ve heard Mother Nature humming these classic lyrics…

“… Like it always seems to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Are you a fair-weather fire crafter?

That’s a good place to start. Nothing wrong with learning in the most fire-friendly conditions. You’ve got dry tinder, kindling, and fuel to burn. This may not be the case when your life depends on making fire in the wind, rain, and snow.

Cheating is NOT a Sin

There is absolutely no such thing as cheating when it comes to building a life-sustaining fire. Who cares what Bushcraft purists think! Your loved ones aren’t worried about style points in fire craft. They want you home alive. So cheat!

For the weekend camper or woodsman, carry these foul weather fire cheats…

Fire Cheat #1 ~ Ask yourself this question, “Could a five-year-old start a fire with my emergency fire kit?” Don’t get too bushcrafty. I know  ferrocerium rods are popular, but you can’t beat a thumb drill fire (Bic lighter) when you really need fire.

Fire Cheat #2 ~ One of the most overlooked fire starters that should already be in your pack is duct tape. Loosely wad up about 2 foot of tape and ignite it with an open flame. A ferrocerium rod will ignite duct tape but don’t rely on sparks. You have to shred the tape to create lots of surface area. This isn’t your best option if your fingers are losing dexterity in freezing temperatures.

Fire Cheat #3 ~ DiY fire starters made of wax-soaked jute twine or cotton makeup remover pads. I also carry commercially made sure fire that will burn on water.

Fire Cheat #4 ~ Always carry enough dry tinder material to start a fire in sucky weather.

Fire Cheat #5 ~ Know where to find the best possible tinder material and how to process it to create surface area. Dead hanging branches, pencil lead size to pencil size, provide kindling even in the rain.

Fire Cheat #6 ~ Fat lighter’d (aka – fatwood, resin-rich pine wood) is my lifesaver in the south. Discover your best natural fire starter wherever you’re located or plan to travel. I keep this stuff in all my kits. It’s abundant where I live.

Fire Cheat #7 ~ Dry wood is available in all weather conditions if you know where to look. Standing dead Tulip Poplar (Magnolia) is one of my go-to fire resources. The trick to getting to the dry wood is splitting the wood down to tinder, kindling, and fuel size material. The inner bark makes excellent tinder bundles!

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

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

And that brings us to the next skill that forgives survival sins…

Skill #3: Knife Skills

A knifeless man is a lifeless man.

The “survival” knife market is full of gadgetry. Gadgets are for gawkers. You don’t need a Rambo knife to survive. You just need a solid knife and some skill. 

Carry a good knife and practice with what you carry. Your knife may become your one-tool-option. Most importantly, your knife should feel right in your hand as you use it.

Knife Sins: Carrying a knife but never becoming competent with your blade.

You’re not going to be carving spoons and bowls in a short-term survival situation. Your edged tool will be used to make shelter and fire to control core temperature. I’ve written about the number 1 knife skill here.

Have Knife, Will Burn

Even if you’ve committed the first two survival sins, your blade can save you. A knife in skilled hands can create fire from scratch. I don’t rely on friction fire as my first choice but do practice the skill in case I run into unknown unknowns.

With my buddy Bic in my pocket, I still need to process sticks to make fire quick. Both the cutting edge and spine of your knife are used to create surface area needed for ignition.

When cold and wet, your fine motor skills are probably suffering. Pretty feather sticks are for style points. Style won’t save you. Fire will!

Split a dead wrist-size stick with a baton and knife into thumb size pieces to get to the dry stuff. Split a few of those pieces into smaller kindling. Grip your knife with a reverse grip (cutting edge facing up) and use the spine of your knife to scrape a pile of fine shavings off one of the larger split sticks. If you’ve got fat lighter’d, scrape off a pile of shavings the size of a golf ball. Ignite this pile with a lighter or ferro rod and feed your fire its meal plan.

Here’s a demo of a one stick fire in the rain…

Knife and Shelter

Debris shelters can be built without a knife. Sticks can be broken to length between two trees without a cutting tool. Keep in mind that this type of shelter will take several hours and lots of calories to construct correctly.

The role of the knife in emergency shelter building is secondary compared to its importance in making fire. You won’t even need a knife to set up a space blanket shelter if you prepped your emergency kit ahead of time.

Blades are expedient in cutting cordage, notching sticks, harvesting green bows for bedding, making wedges to split larger wood without an ax, and a number of other self-reliance tasks.


All three of these survival skills are needed for emergency core temperature control, but I’d place fire on top of my forgiveness list. Fire can make water potable for hydration, warm poorly clothed pilgrims, cook food to create body heat, smoke signals, illuminate darkness, and comfort the lost.

What’s your top skill for controlling your core temperature? Share if you don’t mind.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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, equipment, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Survival Education, Survival Skills, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 39 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 |

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.


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.


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 ~

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 |

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 ~

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.


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 ~

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 ~

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 ~

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,


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: , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Bombproof Fire Craft: 8 Unorthodox Fire Resources Hidden in Your 10 Piece Kit

by Todd Walker

If you haven’t had a chance to read Part I of our Fire Craft series, I recommend that you start here.

8 Unorthodox Fire Resources Hidden in Your 10 Piece Kit |

You depend on your “Next Fire” kit in all weather conditions. It’s your go-to resource for building sustainable, repeatable fires.

But here’s the thing…

You can never have too many fire resources!

Get creative with your 10 Piece Kit and you’ll discover many items are hidden fire resources. As a refresher, here are the 10 Piece Kit items:

  1. Cutting tool
  2. Combustion device
  3. Container
  4. Cover
  5. Cordage
  6. Cotton bandana
  7. Cargo tape
  8. Cloth sail needle
  9. Candling device
  10. Compass

The second C above has “captain obvious” written all over it. Combustion equals fire, right?. But the beauty of the 10 C’s of Survivability is that each piece should have a minimum of three uses to help meet the following survival priorities.

Having the knowledge and skill to use these resources creatively in fire craft might end up saving your life.

8 Unorthodox Fire Resources

Know the capabilities of the resources within your kit. This takes Doing the Stuff  to build Self-Reliance with your gear. No need to tell you this but UPS will not deliver skills to your door step.

Here’s how to use items in your 10 piece kit as a fire resource, excluding your orthodox combustion devices of course.

#1) Cutting Tool

A high carbon steel knife doubles as a flint and steel set. Simply find a rock harder than the knife steel and strike down the spine to scrape tiny metal shavings off which oxidize quickly and spontaneously combust.

Plus, your cutting tool can craft primitive friction fire sets to create an ember which ignites a tinder bundle. There’s too much a good knife can do to list here.

#2) Container

Metal containers can be used to char material to make next fire easier. Place 100% natural cloth or plant tinder in the empty container and place it in the fire. Be sure to seal the lid with a metal nesting cup or flat rock that will starve the process of oxygen. When the smoke stops coming from the container, remove the container and let it cool before opening the lid.

Test the charred material to see if it will take a spark from a ferro rod or flint and steel set. If not, your char material is not cooked enough. Repeat the process.

8 Unorthodox Fire Resources Hidden in Your 10 Piece Kit |

Also makes a mean cup of hot cocoa!

A sturdy stainless steel container can also be used to carry burning coals for a couple of hours if the need ever arose. I personally carried a cup of coals in my SS nesting cup for two hours while constantly blowing the coals to keep them alive… and then built a fire with what was left to boil 64 ounces of water. Not bragging, just letting you know the capabilities of a good metal container. Try that in a Nalgene bottle.

#3) Cordage

This item can be made from material off the landscape. However, it’ll take some skill, considerable time and energy. Carrying commercial cordage in your kit allows you to have sting for a bow drill set to make fire.

Friction Fire: The Art of Rubbing Sticks Together

Bow and bow string

#4) Cotton Bandana

This kit item has so many uses. In fire craft, a 100% cotton bandana or even pajamas makes excellent char cloth to help ensure your next fire.

Here’s a thought though…

There are too many other valuable uses for a bandana than char cloth if suitable plant tinder are available for charring. Charred plant tinder will be part of this Fire Craft series… stay tuned.

#5) Cargo Tape

Duct tape, like bandanas, have crazy amounts of survival uses. One being it burns like napalm.

Loosely roll a two foot section into a ball. Now light the tape with an open flame, if you have one, and it will burn for several minutes to ignite tinder and kindling. Very useful as a fire extender to dry damp tinder material.

Caught without a Bic lighter or other open flame ignition source, rip 1/8 inch strips from a one or two foot strip of tape (I assume you remembered to pack your best ferro rod). I’ve found Gorilla Brand tape to be the bomb. It’s more expensive but you get what you pay for.

With every strip, you’ll notice hair-like threads hanging off to create surface area. We’ve already discussed the importance of surface area in tinder bundles – see Part I of the series. When these narrow strips are piled loosely into a bundle, you can achieve ignition with a good ferro rod.

Here’s one of our video demonstration of this technique:

#6) Candling Device

When choosing a flashlight or headlamp, it’s wise to choose a torch powered by standard AA batteries. Even AAA batteries will work as an ignition source. I also have a cool little LED camp light that snaps on top of a 9 volt battery that I keep in my pack.

To achieve ignition with batteries, we need to move past the 10 piece kit. Steel wool is not a part of the 10 C’s of Survivability. However, as a cleaning and tool maintenance item, make it a habit to pack a bit of AAAA steel wool. You can find it at most any paint or hardware store.

Each AA or AAA battery has 1.5 volts. That voltage alone will not achieve ignition with steel wool in my experience. Daisy chain two batteries, head lamps and flashlights usually have at least two, by taping the junction of a positive and negative end together with Gorilla tape.

Now tear off a small strip of steel wool (1/16th inches or smaller) just longer than the two batteries. Fray the ends of the steel wool strip to create surface area. Hold one end of the steel wool to the negative pole. With the other end, touch the opposite pole while simultaneously touching a small batch of steel wool which will ignite and can be added to a tinder bundle. Steel wool is an excellent way to ignite marginal or damp tinder material.

For those that know me, I love to enjoy a fine, organic dark chocolate. The bars I buy are wrapped in foil. The foil can be used as a conductor if steel wool is not available. See, another redundant use for chocolate bars.

#7) Compass

Your compass is a source of solar ignition if you have a quality base plate compass with a 5x magnifying lens. I invested in the Alpine Compass before I attend the Basic Class at the Pathfinder Learning School last year. The magnifying lens on this compass will create embers on char cloth via solar ignition all day, every sunny day.

8 Unorthodox Fire Resources Hidden in Your 10 Piece Kit |

My instructor, Brian Manning, explaining details on my Alpine Compass

Now we’re officially out of the 10 piece kit. But here’s a bonus… my 11th C of Survivability which I’m never without in the woods.

#8) Cocoa Powder

Hot cocoa! The key word being hot. To make a hot cup of this luxurious, energy drink, you need fire.

And cocoa powder can give you the assist in your next fire!

Here’s how make Fire by Cocoa

[Note: I carry 100% raw cocoa powder not the Swiss Miss packets. I’ve not tried the pre-packaged hot chocolate mix full of sweeteners with solar ignition.]

Place a small dime to quarter size amount of dry cocoa powder on a “welcome mat” (leaf, leather or wood chip) as you would when creating an ember with a bow drill set. Whip out your magnifying lens or quality compass on a full-sun day. Align your lens perpendicular to the sun’s rays so that it focuses the solar energy in a tiny, burning spot on the pile of cocoa. You’ll begin seeing smoke rise from the cocoa in a few seconds. Hold the magnified sun spot steady for 30 to 60 seconds.

Remove the lens and watch the smoke rise from your smoldering ember as it grows in your cocoa pile. Transfer the ember onto a finely processed natural tinder bundle and blow the ember into flame.

Our quick video tutorial shows you how to start a fire with cocoa powder:

By the way, you can achieve solar ignition with dry coffee grounds and tea in the same manner.

After placing the burning tinder bundle under your kindling, boil some water in your stainless steel container, add the desired amount of cocoa powder (sweeteners optional), and enjoy.

Fire from cocoa for hot cocoa! One of the many unorthodox methods of fire craft.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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: , , , , , , , , | 11 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 -

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 -

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)


  • 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.


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.


  • 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)


  • 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.


  • They are consumable.

C) Magnifying Len (Solar Ignition)


  • 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.


  • 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!


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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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!

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 -

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 -

Remember… fire is life out there but never automatic!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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: , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Gnawing Solutions to Self-Reliance: 18 Beaver Habitat Resources

by Todd Walker

North America’s largest rodent may be considered a nuisance to farmers, landowners, and highway departments. From a self-reliant perspective, this fury critter offers more benefits than damage in most cases.

Gnawing Solutions to Self-Reliance- 18 Beaver Habitat Resources -

Last weekend our family gathered to fulfill my brother’s request. After spreading most of his ashes in the lake behind my parents house, Kyle, my brother’s oldest son, and I took a small container of his ashes to the feeder creek where my brother and I spent many childhood hours catching crawdads and reenacting the Daniel Boone TV show.

Childhood memories were as fresh as the day our jack knives carved “CW” and “TW” in the paper-like bark of a massive Beech tree on the creeks bend. Kyle and I searched for the tree with no success.

I felt lost. Not just because my brother would never tramp these woods by my side…

The entire landscape surrounding what was once a creek full of boyhood memories and misadventures was unrecognizable. The stream which once flowed unobstructed under a thick hardwood canopy between two ridges was now a decade old beaver pond.

My eyes witnessed a complete transformation. Twenty-five yards to both sides of the creek grew a lush, green landscape of grasses, cattail, and other aquatic plants. The scenic vista stretched 100 yards with dead standing timber scatter intermittently. Our life had changed much like my beloved creek.

Self-Reliant Resources Gnawing to be Discovery in Beaver Habitat |

Kyle and ‘Abby’ walking on beaver pond sediment collected over the years. The creek of my youth had split which once ran three times the size on this spot.

Inspired by Scott Jones, Georgia native and author of A View to the Past – (and a recent roadkill beaver on my drive home) – this article highlights the importance of the fury woodland engineer. For further research on the role beavers and their habitat played in pre-history, read his book.

Jones pegged it when he wrote that the beaver is…

“next to fire and human activity, one of the premier agents of landscape and habitat alteration on this continent.”

Our upland creek had morphed into new ecosystem. Presented with a smorgasbord of new resources, the beaver pond could be viewed as a gnawing problem or…

The Gnawing Self-Reliance Solution

It’s a dam good idea! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.

Seriously though, when a beaver couple selects their home site on a free-flowing stream or creek, landowners may look despairingly upon the beaver colony and the accompanying swimming hole. However, with a view to long-term self-reliance, one should consider leaving it to the beavers.

Here’s why…

With the wetland area comes a host of new and beneficial resources for the homesteader, farmer, woodsman, foragers, primitive technologist, hunter/fisherman, wildlife, and the land itself.

Below are the top 18 resources available in your local beaver-built wetland habitat…

The Beaver (Castor canadensis) 

Beavers were once near extinction in Georgia and the United States due to over-trapping and habitat loss. A reintroduction program in the 1940’s successfully repopulated our state and nation. In fact, they’re thriving to the point in Georgia that there is no closed season on harvesting beaver.

A harvested animal can be used for

  • Meat – prepared correctly, beaver tenderloin, back straps, hams, and even the tail makes a tasty and nourishing meal.
  • Pelt – composed of long, coarse hair with wooly undercoat, beaver pelts were luxuriously warm winter hat and mittens.
  • Teeth – the chisel-sharp incisors make great primitive scrapers for wood carving tasks
  • Castor glands – used in the perfume industry but are most valuable for trappers as a universal furbearer attractant. For those interested in trapping, check out this informative article on harvesting castor glands and oil to make your own attractant.

Not crazy about the thought of eating a large rodent? No problem. A beaver colony is full of southern hospitality. Their engineering feats offer accommodations for fury, feathery, and finned appetizing meals.


In mature beaver ponds, many species of fish are available. You may not catch one as large as the one I’m tangling with below, but rest assured, you can feed yourself and family from beaver ponds.

A large grass carp

Landing a 25 pound carp

Limb hooks, fish traps, and trot lines are great for harvesting fish while you attend to other tasks of self-reliance. However, don’t discount cane poles! My brother and I pulled many a mess of fish from fishing holes with a homemade bamboo or sapling pole.


Venomous and non-venomous snakes are fond of wetland habitat.

Didn't get close enough to identify this one but we think it was a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) by its behavior

Black snake resting his briar hammock

We didn’t get close enough to positively identify this one but we think it was a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) due to its behavior. Racers like to climb and lay on vegetation. This guy/gal was using a clump of dead blackberry bushes like a drying rack.

Water moccasin

Water moccasin is a venomous snake common in and around beaver ponds in Georgia

Watch your step when scouting for resources in beaver ponds. The only venomous snakes in our area of Georgia to be concerned about are rattle snakes, cottonmouths (water moccasins), and copper heads.

Turtles and beavers go together. And, yes, turtles are edible.

This snapping turtle is next to a size 12 shoe for comparison

This Common Snapping Turtle is next to a size 12 shoe for comparison

Foraging Flora and Fauna


False Nettles growing in sediment build up along the creek

River cane, Willow, Tulip Poplar, Arrowhead, Cattail, and other plants and trees that thrive in wetland habitat are available in and around beaver ponds. Always, always, correctly identify wild edibles before consuming.



Woodcraft and Primitive Skills

Debarked wood for tool handles, digging sticks, bow drill sets, shelter, and rabbit sticks can be found in beaver habitat. Wood removed from a dam will quickly be replaced with freshly gnawed logs. Some of my favorite walking sticks were removed from beaver ponds.

Flooded timber in our beaver pond was home to many wood peckers

Flooded timber in our beaver pond is home to many woodpeckers

Try removing bark on a log using only primitive scraping tools and you’ll have a new appreciation for beaver-chewed wood.

Beaver damage to a maple on a small pond at the property

Beaver damage to a maple on a small pond at the property

Firewood is plentiful, too. Beavers eat the bark off large diameter trunks killing the tree to open the canopy above. Standing dead, they eventually fall from wind storms or get gnawed down.

The spillway in the middle of one of the dams

The spillway in the middle of one of the dams

Exercise caution tramping through beaver dams and ponds. Watch for hazards while admiring the beauty.

Wetlands and Stored Water

The natural way to create beneficial wetlands costs no money and is built by Mother Nature’s best engineer… the beaver.  The beaver pond at the head of our lake provides critical habitat for waterfowl.

Even without the beaver pond, we have a deep water lake. However, landowners and farmers without a man-made lake or pond could benefit from a beaver-built watershed for irrigation.

  • When water tables drop during drought, water will be available in beaver ponds.
  • Dams also serve to naturally filter water and remove silt.
  • Stable water supply for wildlife, livestock, and vegetation.
  • Elevates ground water table.
  • Formation of fertile beaver meadows after being silted in.

Beaver Facts

  • Lifespan – 5 to 10 years in the wild
  • Size – 30 to 50 inches from head to end of paddle tail
  • Weight – 40 to 60 pounds fully grown; the Ice Age beaver, Castoroides, was said to have weighed 400 pounds… that’s a big beaver! (Source:A View to the Past)
  • Diet – Southeastern beavers eat tree bark: Sweetgum, Willow, Dogwood, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Cottonwood, Maple and most any tree available. They also dine on aquatic plants, roots, fruit, and tubers and stems of plants in the beaver habitat. Beavers will also venture into corn fields for meals.
  • Identification – large rodent with orange teeth, coarse outer hair with a wooly undercoat, webbed feet with claws, and a paddle tail used as a rudder, warning signal when slapped on the top of water, and a prop when standing to gnaw trees.
  • Natural Predators – Bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, and humans
  • Shelter – Beavers build dens in lodges in the ponds they’ve created. They burrow into banks mostly in my area and not the typical beaver lodge. On deep water lakes and larger rivers, bank dens are their homes. We call these critters bank beavers.

The gnawing solutions are worth consideration by every student of self-reliance for long-term sustainability. What do you think? Benefit or nuisance?

Though I lost the Beech tree containing our initials due to flooded beaver habitat, our property has gained a valuable wetland resource. Plus, Kyle, part of the next generation of Walkers, found his initials he’d carved in a smaller Beech tree and forgotten about. I think I’ll go add “CW” and “TW” to this new family tree.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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