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Wednesday 30 November 2011

Fox Moth Caterpillar

These pretty hairy fellows are hard to miss and when we were out recently there were hundreds of them about, so many we had to be careful were we walked as we could easily have stood on them, apparently the reason for this is that they like to sunbathe a lot!!

Huge big brown and black hairy critters they are very impressive indeed!

They have a tendancy to curl up when disturbed

But give them a slight and gentle tickle and they unravel to a serious 3 inch length!

They feed on heather, brambles and bilberries and are found on heaths, bogs and coastal dunes and are one of our most impressive native moths after they have hatched.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Harlequin Hedgerow Baskets

I'm the sort of person that needs to practice something before I forget it, so after the basket course I went out to find wild hedgerow growth that would be suitable for simple baskets

So over the past couple of trips out I've been gathering bits and pieces like dogwood, willow, dog rose and bramble all with the intention of invention!

Start with the base in the usual way

Upright stakes added and begun weaving with the 3 rod wale, now this is were I started to differ from conventional teaching, instead of adding 24 stakes I only put in 12, the reason is simple, the first basket I made took 8 hours, way too long to be of much use in the field, so I cut the uprights down in number to half and this saved time and resources

First hedgerow basket I made  (on the left) was done with 24 uprights and french randing, total time to make was 4 hours, not bad but I still want something faster, so next one made was the one on the right using just 12 uprghts and english randing, this I found much more convenient for hedgerow materials as it's difficult to get very uniform lengths and thicknesses from the wild, the weave is not as neat but it's faster, this one was made in 2 1/2 hours, I nicknamed them "Harlequin baskets" due to the colours and mix of different materials used in their construction.

Last one made was the slightly bigger one in the middle using 12 uprights and English Randing, total time to make 1 1/2 hours!!! Now I'm very happy with this, the right amount of time to make using natural materials in a simple fashion, they may make most professional basket makers blanch but I just want something simple and easy, when Bushcrafting it should always be FUNCTION OVER FORM!! They also seem plenty strong enough, I actually sat on the small one and if it can take my weight it must be tough!! The good thing about the English randing is that the lengths of material can be quite small yet still usable and if I need to repair one or if it shrinks and I need to add extra weavers in it should be simple enough..
My mum actually stole the big one and put a pot plant in it, so I know I've done something right if she lets me put something I've made on public display!!

Thursday 24 November 2011

Bamboo fish spear

Thought I'd have a go at making a quick bamboo fish spear, nothing technical or beautiful just something functional

I split the bamboo, separated the tines with twigs and bound it with lime bark cordage

Sharpened the tines and tweaked them to make sure there was one in the centre and 7 all around the outside

One easy peasy 8 ft long bamboo fish spear, dead simple and about 15 minutes to make.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Woods Walking

We went out to a new spot today just for a look see as we tend to get very fed up looking at the same trees all the time, as the old addage says a change is as good as a rest and we at Buzzard certainly find that to be true.

There's a path on the way into this place and it has a great wee apple tree on it, still had lots of apples left and we knocked a few down as we intended to roast them in the fire with a little sugar and cinammon for a lunchtime treat, however as we were picking we found out we were being watched...

These two friendly neighbours looked at us longingly each time we got an apple from the tree and we noticed that the braches that overhung their field had all been stripped bare of fruit so these lovely animals had obviously got a taste for apples

so we did the honourable thing and fed our apples to the horses, I think they wanted them much more than we did!

last apple greedily being chomped!

Further on we found an old beech that had some fantastic artists fungus on it, and some of them were huge!

We only took the one specimen but it weighed 9 pounds!!!!

And it ended up producing over 6 pounds of amadou!!! I don't think we'll have to worry about fire lighting for a while!!!!!

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Sea Aster

One of the prettiest seashore plants and a useful one for the forager as it tastes great! Aster comes from the greek meaning Star referring to it's flower, as a result it has also been called Starwort..

A beautiful shade of purple, it really lights up the shore line almost reminescent of a hippy daisy.
This plant along with samphire is actually classed as a sea vegetable and has a pleasant light flavour and not at all over powering like some wild greens can be.

Folklore.. Gerard said that this plant changed the colour of it's petals "thrice a day"
In ancient Greece the leaves were burnt to ward off serpents and evil spirits while Pliny the elder said a tea of aster cured snake bites while wearing a sea aster amulet prevented sciatica. The plant was supposed to have appeared on earth after Virgo looked down and shed tears each one falling to the earth and turing into the sea aster flower.. Virgil wrote an ode to the plant

There is a useful flower
Growing in the meadows, which the country folk
Call star-wort, not a blossom hard to find,
For its large cluster lifts itself in air
Out of one root; its central orb is gold
But it wears petals in a numerous ring
Of glossy purplish blue; ’tis often laid
In twisted garlands at some holy shrine.
Bitter its taste; the shepherds gather it
In valley-pastures where the winding streams
Of Mella flow. The roots of this, steeped well,
In hot, high-flavored wine, thou may’st set down
At the hive door in baskets heaping full.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Shoreline wander

I need my monthly fix of salt air and seaweed so we headed down to portmuck to see what we could see! The sea kale was gone so either it has died back or someone has dug it up, but this is a good place for flint and we found loads.

It's a lovely wee place and sort of a spiritual home to me as I love it's history and placidity. You can see the old lime kiln in the background (some say it was a fire house to show the herring fleet their way home) and in days gone by a small herring fishery thrived here using old sail boats to catch their prey.

The mainstay of the pebble beach is chalk, flint and basalt, but I have found some granite, jasper and quartzite here also.

Logan wanted to have a go at flint knapping but as it's something I have no interest in I wasn't able to help him very much

I think he did very well for a first time and certainly much better than I could have done!!

We were visited regularly by the Rock Pippits who skitted round about us, feeding and keeping a close eye on us

As I was combing the beach I noticed this nice stone, it had a small indentation right in the centre and fitted perfectly in my hand

A quick dip in the sea and it's revealed in all it's glory, this would make a perfect bearing block for the firebow, not something I will use very often but it's nice to see that mother nature always provides for any need you can imagine.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Last of Autumn's Hazel nuts

There aren't too many left on the trees but Davy and I managed to forage a few for a quick snack while out recently

About 10 minutes foraging produced a small handfull of nuts, a good source of plant proteins and fats with little energy having to be expended in their collection

Normally we just crack open the shells and eat them, but we decided to roast them this time, just a little until the shells go that gorgeous golden colour

The nut softens and tastes just like sweet chestnut, a warm and tasty treat on a cold autumn day.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Hacksaw Blade Knife

I thought I'd have a go at making a knife from an industrial hacksaw blade, these blades are very hard ( around 62RC) and so should hold a good edge for a long time, on the down side being so hard means they can be brittle and they will take a lot longer to process, however I like the challenge

I cut the end 6 inches from the blade and roughly shaped it on my stone bench grinder

I then ground on the bevels, this was tricky as I was doing it free hand on an upturned belt sander gripped in a vice, the blade also being so hard took ages to grind down and it had to be cooled every few seconds to prevent the temper of the blade being lost

I gound in a small hole with my dremel tool to allow for the pins, then glued on two pieces of oak from scrap solid flooring pieces, they were secured simply by 2 brass screws. I then shaped the handle into a basic round shape which I find very comfortable

I then varnished the handle and put a micro bevel on the edge with my sharpmaker and it really does hold a very good edge, it gets exceptionally sharp. The blade is thin probably just over 1mm thick but this makes it very light and great for a little neck knife

I liked this wee knife so much I made another from the other part of the hacksaw blade

Being so thin it makes a great food prep knife, it's very nicey slicey

I think I'll have to make some more