Thursday, 31 July 2008

Making a feather fishing float

I found this swans flight feather yesterday so decided to make a fishing float, using the feather, a piece of flint and a piece of Stinging Nettle stem.

First the feather needs to be trimmed to leave just the quill. There are two methods of doing this; One method is to cut them off with a piece of flint

and the other is to start at the top of the feather and pull removing a thin strip of membrane along the edge of the quill

When you are left with just the quill decide one the length of float you require and then this down the quill by scraping or cutting it with the piece of flint.

Then fold the quill at the point where you have thinned it

I used a piece of nettle stem as a lashing to hold the two pieces together (the nettle should be waterproofed with resin or something similar).

The float is now completed

and ready to use

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Spruce Tipi - Part 2

Four Birch poles were lashed together and set up as a quadro-pod and then other poles were laid between.

After a simple doorway was constructed we gathered Spruce boughs and began inserting them between the poles.

We put the boughs on the opposite way up to which they had grown, with the end of the bough that was nearest to the tree, pointing upwards.

The top of the structure was left open to allow smoke from the fire to get out.

Here's a picture taken inside with a fire.

and it was still in good condition when we returned the following winter.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Spruce Tipi - Part 1

On a trip to Lapland myself and my friend Heiko decided to make a Spruce tipi.

We began by finding an area of flat open ground in the forest

where there were small Birch for the frame and Spruce boughs to cover the shelter.

Using a stick we exposed Spruce roots

and gathered them.

We removed the outside of the roots and then split

and used as lashings for the framework

Friday, 25 July 2008

Fresh Water Sponge

One of our reserves is fed by underground spring water. The water is of such good quality that we have fresh water sponges living in the ditches.

They come in many shapes and sizes and surprisingly they are actually animals. These sponges are a mass of cells within a porous protein skeleton which contains silica and calcium. They feed on tiny organisms by filtering them from the surrounding water.

You can find out more about sponges here;

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Little Egret

An nice surprise yesterday was a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) feeding around one of the pools on the reserve. This is only the third record for the reserve.

The Little Egret is a member of the Heron family

Little Egrets used to be a rare migrant in Britain but as a result of our milder winters they are now a resident and are breeding in many places.

Here's a video grap from one I filmed previously

There is more information here;

For those interested in tracks, here is the print of a Grey Heron

and here's the Little Egrets

Monday, 21 July 2008

I'm not using Cherry again!!!!!

You may recall in the past that I have made several items from Cherry wood. Unfortunately there is always a significant risk with Cherry and it's not one I'm willing to take any more.

I roughed out four of these Cherry cups over the weekend (about 2 hours work for each)

and all four have split!

In my experience far more items made from Cherry split than do not and although you get beautiful patterning in the wood, it's just not worth the risk for all the work.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

A butterfly and beetle

During a cool cloudy spell the other day I managed to get some nice pictures of insects sitting around waiting for the sun to reappear.

This is a male Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni). The females are much paler.

In my experience this butterfly almost never sits with its wings open, so I only ever get closed wing pictures.

The Brimstone is most likely the first butterfly you will see in spring. Those on the wing now will be from the second brood of the year. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of Buckthorn.

This orangey/red beetle is a Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

They are carnivorous and feed on other insects. The larvae feed on the larvae of decaying wood feeding insects.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

For those interested in food from the wild

I have just added some new links.

The first two are the website and blogspot of Fergus Drennan AKA Fergus the forager.

Here you can find out about his wild food courses based near Canterbury and lots of useful information including; recipes, useful links, what he has been up to recently and lot's of other useful information.

And then we have a link to my friend Marcus and his Wild Food School, based in Cornwall.

Here you can find out about courses, many recipes, books and other publications he produces for sale and much more.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass By Harold Gatty

Harold Gatty has a unique knowledge of pathfinding by natural methods on both land and sea. Born in Tasmania, he was placed in charge of Air Navigation Research and Training for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1931. During World War II his first book “The Raft Book” was part of the standard equipment in U.S. Airforce life rafts, written to help men who were adrift at sea.

This book covers the marine material from the previous book with the addition of pathfinding on land. Applying methods used by primitive peoples from around the world and early explorers he shows how to navigate by observing natural features, birds and other animals, weather patterns, vegetation, patterns of both snow and sand and positions of the sun, moon and stars, without having to rely on a map or compass. Much of the advice and information in this book is not available elsewhere.

I have found this book so fascinating that it really is difficult to put down. The reader is encouraged to look at paintings and photographs of landscapes and using skills learnt from the book look for natural indicators of time of day, orientation of the picture and the direction of certain natural features.

Also of interest to me was the observational use of migrating birds as a directional indicator by early explorers such as the Polynesians, as migrating birds travelling over sea were known to be heading for land. Some even carried large birds such as frigate birds on their boats and released individuals during a sea crossing (knowing they would fly to land) and observed the direction they flew in and headed in the same direction.

The book can be viewed here

or purchased here

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Hardwick Wood

I have been at Hardwick Wood near Cambridge today with other green woodworking friends.

Activities included bowl turning on a pole-lathe, spoon carving, cordage making and of course eating and drinking. I was carving as small cup using my spoon gouge.

Unfortunately it cracked before I had finished it!

Friday, 11 July 2008


Now is a good time to be looking for various species of orchids.

This is the flower of Marsh Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

which gives off the most beautiful aromatic cent.

This is Green-winged Orchid (Orchis morio)

and this is a very rare white form of Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris - palustris meaning "of the marsh") that I found a couple of years ago and the population are still doing well now.

A good on-line resource to British Orchids (which is also available as a field guide) is;

British Orchids

Hope you find it useful and interesting.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Birch Bark Sheath

Having spent the afternoon a few weeks ago collecting Birch bark with friends
I recently taught my friend Sue how to make a sheath for her Frosts carving knife out of the bark and here is her end result.

I have never seen Birch bark with such a beautiful red colour before.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Common Lizard

Now is a good time to spot Common Lizards (also known as the viviparous lizard because it gives birth to live young) as they bask in the sun.

They average about 14cms in length and colouration can vary from shades of brown, grey and/or green. They have the ability to shed their tail in order to fool predators when threatened.

They can live almost anywhere, but they prefer reasonably warm, sheltered places with good basking sites. They feed on insects and also snails.

The female gives birth to 3-12 young from June - September and the young feed actively from birth and disperse quickly. Common Lizards hibernate from October - March.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Making a kuksa

I have just finished making a couple more kuksa's and thought I would show how I made them.

Firstly I split a log in half and check that there are no knots or faults in the wood. Then I mark out the shape and use may axe and folding saw to remove excess wood.

Now I use my knife and a gouge chisel to do a rough shape and hollow out the cup.

Once I have a shape that I am happy with, I shape the handle and either use my knife or a drill (if available) to make the two finger holes.

When I am happy with the shape and thickness of the cup, I then start to sand it, starting with a very course paper and progressing to a very fine wet and dry paper.

I then apply several coats of oil until the oil stops soaking into the wood.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

To answer Treewrights question.....

I clear the embers away to expose bare ground and place the pot on the ground (the ground is very hot having absorbed heat from the fire), then I surround the pot with embers and also place some on the top and this creates an oven.

I find it takes about 30 - 40 minutes to bake an average sized loaf.

This one has cheese and sun dried tomatoes in it

and this one is an oat bread stuffed with chocolate