Sunday, 31 August 2008

Nature's chewing gum

I can recall as a small boy when out walking with my uncle he asked "do you like chewing gum?" "Yes" I replied " do you have any?" "It's all around us he replied!"

He was referring to the wheat we were walking through.

I you pick a couple of ears of wheat, rub them between your hands and then gently blow away the husks you will be left with the wheat grains.

Chew the grains and after a short time they will change to a consistency almost identical to chewing gum. I assume the is the gluten being released.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

False Tinder Fungus Amadou

I am sure you all know that amadou is a thin layer of velvety material found between the spore tubes and cortex of Fomes fomentarius False Tinder Fungus. Rather than collecting large fully grown specimens, I go for the young small ones which are almost all amadou and need very little work to prepare.

I just beat the fungus flat with a stone, then cut it into strips and allow it to dry. I then char one end of a strip which greatly improves its efficiency to take a spark.

For this demonstration I used the edge of a flat chainsaw file to achieve a spark with the flint

Once the amadou is ignited I place it inot a tinder bundle and blow until I achieve a flame.

The smouldering amadou can then be snuffed out and used again.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Sausages in bannock

This morning I cooked sausages over the campfire

Once the sausages were cooked I wrapped bannock dough around the sausages and cooked them again.

An interesting observation for natural navigation today was this pond sedge.

The sedge having been regularly blown by the prevailing wind (coming from the south west) was pointing in a north easterly direction.

Friday, 22 August 2008

The Talking Stick

A friend asked me to find a nice stick for him to use as a "Talking Stick" when facilitating meetings for Ecological knowledge gathering and sharing.

A friend at work said she had found an ideal Hazel stick and with a bit of trimming and rubbing with fine wire wool to smooth it, it was just perfect.

The Talking Stick was used by many Native American tribes at council meetings. The chief or leading elder would hold the stick and begin a discussion and when he had finished speaking he would hold out the stick and the person who took the stick had the right to speak while others listened. The stick was often decorated to show its importance and significance.

Using supplies from Waken Tanka Native American Products I decorated the stick.

The rabbit fur on the end of the stick reminds the user that their words must be soft and warm.

I used four different colours of thread in a four-strand round plat and placed four beads onto the thread. The four colours of beads represent the seasons, the main points of the compass and - yellow for sunrise, red for sunset, white for snow and green for the earth.

The shells remind the user that all creation changes - the seasons, people, and the years.

And finally using a thin strip of reindeer hide I attached four feathers also used in traditional decoration.

If anyone knows more about this item any information would be gratefully received.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Essex gathering

Last weekend I was at an annual gathering of green woodworkers at a private woodland in Essex. I arrived Saturday evening and set up my bed.

and was fortunate enough to arrive just in time for the evening meal

The rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking and chatting. It rained heavily Saturday night but I did not wake up until 9am when the rain had stopped.

Some people wanted to try carving kuksas so after breakfast

we headed off in search of a suitable Birch tree to fell

which we then cut into short lengths and split in half ready for people to use.

Some spent the day carving kuksas while others where making shaving horses and furniture.

Unfortunately I had to leave at 4pm so did not get my cup completed, but it will be finished soon.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Stone Curlew

Last week I was assisting the RSPB Stone Curlew team with trying to locate and catch chicks.

The Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) is a rare summer visitor, arriving in March and departing again in October. They can be seen during the day but are more active at night.

There is a breeding population of about 300 pairs in the UK (two thirds of which breed in Norfolk and Suffolk). The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground with usually 2-3 eggs laid in it.

The chicks are captured, weighed, various measurements taken and then given a unique combination of colour rings on the legs, which allows individuals to be identified at some distance with binoculars of a telescope.

You can find out more information at the links below;

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Pump-drill experiment

While out the other day I decided to try and make a pump-drill with items I could find in the wood and then make fire. Firstly I collected some pieces of dead hazel by breaking them from coppice stools.

Using a piece of flint I cut them to the required lengths

I found a plastic bread bag and filled with soil to use as the weight for the pump-drill and lashed at the top and bottom to secure it in place.

I used Wych Elm bark to lash the parts of the drill together.

Here is the completed pump-drill.

Unfortunately when I started to use the pump-drill to try and make fire, the spinning momentum of the drill shaft split the plastic bag open and the soil fell onto the coal that was starting to form!.....oh well, maybe next time.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Amazing properties of spider silk!

I went to measure the weekly rainfall total and didn't notice a spider in the bottom of the tube until I filled the tube with water. The spider (one of the clubiona family) had spun a protective web over it and amazingly this proved to be waterproof and the spider remained dry!

You can see the water sitting on the web in this picture.

There is more information about spider silk here;

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Owl pellets

I was out walking the other day and flushed a Barn Owl which had been perched in an Ash tree.

When I looked around the vegetation below the tree I found this pellet.

I put some water in a shallow dish and soaked the pellet for a couple of hours and then using a pair tweezers I separated the bones from the fur. I then allowed the bones to dry and glued them onto a piece of card.

There were five different mammals within one pellet. The top row are skulls, then jaw bones, scapulars, thigh and leg bones and finally vertebrae.

Here you can see both Shrew and Vole skulls.

There is a really nice site here with a key to identifying skulls.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

A pleasant weekend

I spent Saturday in the woods and cooked a vegetable curry for evening meal.

I was sleeping on a pole-bed and using my US Modular Sleep System.

There was a beer festival with a band playing nearby, so we headed there for the evening.

I went walking with friends today and we found a really large Hazel bur (the first Hazel bur I have ever seen).

An even more impressive find was the largest Blackthorn that we have ever seen (this "Blackthorn" was subsequently identified as a Crab Apple)!

I wouldn't even like to try to guess as to how old it might be.