contact us at Buzzardbushcraft @

Thursday 31 December 2015

Where did it all start for me?

When I meet people on various occasions I'm often asked where did I get my knowledge or how did I become interested in this type of life, well for me the answer is easy, its always been a part of me and it started long before I ever realised what foraging or bushcraft or primitive living ever was.

You see being born in Belfast when the 'troubles' were bad my family wanted a way to keep us all safe and away from harm, so my grandfather (whom we all called Nanger) bought a Nissen hut along the coast in rural County Down, and that is where quite a few of our extended family spent our formative years.

This is a Nissen hut, developed by George Nissen from Norway..(pic taken from
It's a corrugated iron structure with wooden panelling and was originally used to Billet soldiers during the war.

We called it home.

Now pictures from this time of my life are scarce but there are a few..

This is a picture of my grandmother with me in the pram, (shows you just how young I was when this all started) and you can just make out the Nissen huts behind her.. the blue one on the left was ours..

this is a detail taken from a photo more than 40 years old (my cousins pictured) showing the huts in the background..

Life in these huts was strange, there was no electricity and no running water, that came from a pump at the top of the field that was shared by a number of families.. the loo was outdoors at the bottom of the garden. As I mentioned before the hut was made of sheets of corrugated iron, it was heated by a coal or wood fired range and lit by tilley lamps and it had to be tarred on the outside every year to keep it waterproof and stop it from rusting through, there where 4 double beds and 6 bunks inside all sectioned off, so it could hold a lot of people.. we lived this way for years and years.. as a matter of fact we only had to sell the hut about 20 years ago as the owner of the land wanted it to build houses on.

We foraged on the seashore for crabs, seaweed and whelks ( we called them willeeks) and the hedgerows for wild apples,berries. nuts and fruit which my grandmother would have used for jam, apple cakes and other sundries.. I often could be found on the edge of farmers fields digging up the remnants of potatoes left by the farmer, they were then taken home to thicken out a huge pot of what my uncle Freddy called see-through stew, usually made with a tin of corned beef and used to feed 14 people, supplemented with big thick lumps of homemade soda bread smothered in butter... !

On a friday evening we would all head round to the local harbour to watch the fishing boats coming in and see them unload and sell their catch, any thing left in the boxes after that we were allowed to take home, usually gurnard, lemon sole and prawns !! the food was simple but we ate well.. (and I won't mention the seagull soup !!).

Great memories of a time that I took for granted but that sowed the seeds of what I would become afterwards, wild places, wild food and simple living.. you really don't need much to be happy,

Friday 25 December 2015

This year's wreath

A very happy Christmas to all buzzard bushcrafters and we hope you all have a very healthy and bushcrafty new year

Friday 18 December 2015

Tramontina Bolo Mod

I recently got a couple of tramontina machetes, these are brilliant for light bush work and basic shelter building, if I need to cut anything thicker than about 3 inches I revert to an axe but these days I rarely need to build primitive shelters so for the likes of framework for benders or tripods etc I can get away with poles less than 2 inches thick and the machete deals with these admirably.
However there are times when I need something even a little smaller than a machete, and if I don't have my Leuku with me I tend to revert to a modified machete..

I started by marking out the shape of the mod and how much I want to take off the machete

then got to work with a dremel and cutting wheel to cut the machete to shape

the tramontina is quite thin, about 2mm thick so it doesn't take long to cut through 

I then finish the edge, sand down the handle and wipe with linseed oil then drill a lanyard hole.

Here you can see the original tramontina bolo with the modified version above, I guess it looks more like a parang now but has nowhere near the thickness that a parang has, it's a cross between the two so I suppose it's a Marang !

It's very light indeed, you can swing it all day and it cuts way above it's weight, the blade now being about 11 inches rather than 14 is now more day-packable too.. and for the price these cost theres no reason not to have 4 or 5 of them !!

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Hultafors HY20 axe Disappointment.

We all know Hultafors produce some decent knives, they're rough, ready and cheap, though often poorly finished with uneven grinds and in need of a touch up. However I've heared good things about their axes so I decided to take the plunge and went for the HY20, probably similar in size to the GB Scandinavian forest axe. It arrived in good time from the superb service of Heinnies and I took it out of the box for a quick look over.

First thing I noticed was the poor finish on the head, it had been badly ground to shape leaving seriously large grind marks and a very uneven edge profile

Looking closer at the edge showed a massive burr that had been left on with no signs of it having been taken to a finished edge, even the burr was uneven proving the grind was anything but neat.

The face of the axe has been covered in a silver lacquer and I always thought this was the natural steel colour but obviously not, I tend to believe that a paint job on a hand made item is there to hide something and not to embellish it.

next disappointment was the profile of the edge, the heel of the head has been seriously ground away leaving a very distorted looking profile, not that it is unusable but just disappointing for what is supposed to be a handmade item, it doesn't look like the craftsman has put much care and consideration into the product.

Here you can see just how much of the heel has been ground away and also the grind marks left during manufacture.

Now all these niggles do not render the axe unusable just maybe a little disappointing. I've often heard that Hults Bruks is good competition for Gransfors Bruks but after seeing this tool in the flesh I'd have to disagree.

For the price it's a decent enough tool and will do what it's supposed to but if you want quality in fit and finish you'll need to spend more than twice the price of this axe for a Gransfors, is it worth it? Well only you can decide that.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Himalayan Balsam Snack

I don't like invasive species of plants particularly ones that tend to take over, I have little time for them unless they are particularly useful, like bamboo, but generally they are anathema to me.
One that I really dislike is Himalayan Balsam, it grows everwhere even through the cracks in the pavement, but we can get our own back in a small way.. eat the seeds.

The seed pods of these plants pop, scattering the seeds over a fair distance so you have to be careful harvesting the seeds, not to shake the bush and thus help it propagate. Gently cup your hands round the pods and gently squeeze, when the pods are ripe they will pop in your hand

you can see here the tear drop shaped pods and the curls after they have popped to disperse their seeds

It doesn't take long to gather a handful and they are very tasty indeed and make a great wild food snack and they taste a little like pumpkin seeds. It's a good way to get your own back on this plant and get some wild food at the same time.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Fire with Spruce Resin Candles.

In coniferous forests it can be hard to find tinder but it shouldn't be hard to light a fire.

Find a tree with lots of readily available resin
get a few dry sticks and rub them in the resin to form a coating at one end, a spruce candle.
if you can add more resin do that, and align the sticks so that the resin is all in the center

scrape your ferro rod gently and gather a pile of the scrapings in the middle of the resin, once you've got a decent pile strike the rod onto the pile to ignite the scrapings
it may take one or two goes but once you get experienced at it you can do it first time most of the time.

once the resin is burning well you can move the sticks around like little candles or pile them in an area where you intend to have your fire and just add the kindling.

Monday 28 September 2015

Smile for the Camera!

We did an event at the weekend at the end of which we had to pose for a professional photographer to get our pictures taken for publicity for a particular nationwide organisation, I don't particularly relish getting my picture taken, as I'm sure you can tell...
doesn't look staged at all does it? Lol.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Rush Brush

There are times when a small brush comes in handy for sweeping flour off the griddle or for basting a haunch or even sweeping some ground and this is a simple little item to make.

Cut a handful of soft (field) rush and have a little nettle cordage to hand to bind them

Bind them tight around the thick end of the rush, it doesn't have to be neat, just functional

Trim the top into a dome so it doesn't stick into your hands and cut the brush end to the desired length

and once it's complete you have a very versatile and efficient little brush for many different tasks.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Chanterelle's on a stick.

It's a great time to find one of the nicest types of fungi out there, relatively easy to identify and tasty to boot. Chanterelles.
they are easy to i.d. with their egg yolk yellow colour and a very mild, slightly sweet smell
but the false gills, looking more like folds or wrinkles than traditional mushroom gills, are a give away as to the fact you've found a chanterelle, (though just exactly what sub species of chanterelle is a different matter!)
I'm not one for fancy recipes, preferring to actually taste the mushroom itself rather than a whole mishmash, so make a skewer, slice the 'shroom, impale it and roast it over the fire, it starts to release it's juices quickly and once slightly crisp just eat..
one mushroom that tends to have a few more calories than most fungi, but to be honest as a survival food, you're not going to get a huge amount of calories from fungi.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Obama on Bear Grylls

Look who's appearing on the Running Wild show with Bare Gyrls, I could go into a diatribe about this but I'll leave others to do that. I don't often like to report or comment on the politics surrounding bushcraft and survival I'll leave that to others, but this is getting beyond the pale..
there are plenty of google links out there, but here's one from the BBC here

Puffball on Toast.

It's that time of year again when the nicest mushrooms start to make an appearance, not something I spend a lot of time going after due to their poor calorific content and chance of a misidentification but those that are easy to identify can add a nice change to our wild food larder.
I found these while out on a wild flower bimble and thought I'd take advantage of a present from mother earth.

They weren't very big but I wasn't going to leave them as I found a few others that had been smashed up either by kids or careless adults, pity as there were quite a few of them.

Taken home and cut up into slices ready for cooking in the pan

and after cooking in wild garlic infused olive oil, they were very tasty indeed.

Monday 31 August 2015

Northern Ireland Bushcraft Club

Just came back from the inaugural meeting of the recently formed Northern Ireland Bushcraft Club. This gathering was held in the beautiful county of Donegal, over looking the wonderful wild Atlantic way

It was situated in a lovely wood that had a little of everything, and provided great inspiration for exploring.

various set up's were allover the woods from tents, bivvi's, hammock and tarps and even a natural willow bender that I spent a very comfortable weekend in!

The parachute provided a great communal area for chats and discussions, but the best area was the "cookhouse" where Davy spent most of the time cooking and supplying all us hungry backwoodsmen (and women) with food, we certainly didn't go hungry.

Not so much bushcrafting as an entire base camp set up that could have catered for all the woodsmen on the island, it was simply magnificent.

A few activities were organised including fungal forays for Amanita's like the Blusher above, so called because it's flesh bruises pink when crushed as you maybe able to just make out in the above pic..

also plant ID walks where we did find the real and genuine St Patricks cabbage which is only found in western Ireland ( see previous posts regarding hybrids of this plant)

also willow work were we made baskets from bark and created simple working tools, also for those just starting out we practiced some primitive fire skills.

The ethos for this club is to encourage and promote Bushcraft, Survival and Backwoodsmanship where ever we can, to offer a skill sharing service where you simply request some help and someone in the group assists in that particular skill. It aims to be an all encompassing club where groups, associations or individual members can all be part of something bigger and better and create a bushcraft network of like-minded individuals. This is all in a free and friendly environment were all we ask is that you respect Nature, Wild Places and each other and we welcome everyone regardless of age or ability. Meets will be held regularly and Full gatherings twice a year. So if you feel like you'd like to come along and see what it's all about, to try out something new, practice skills, or just make some good friends then we would encourage you to get in contact through the Northern Ireland Bushcraft Club ( NIBC) facebook page or email me here and I'll pass your details on.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Congratulations to Alan Kay - Alone

I've just finished watching Alone on the discovery channel and it was an ending I had expected, as I'm sure most of you did too, that Alan Kay has won the Alone challenge that was aired recently on the discovery channel.
What made him a victor? Well essentially it was his mind set, he never fell down into his destructive thoughts..
Too often we allow our mind to control our rational thinking, allowing silly little destructive thoughts to enter in which take root, flourish, grow and end up suffocating out every other thought and paralysing us from common sense and affirmative action.
We saw that at the start of the series when other contestants allowed their mind free reign and thus it ended up beating them before they'd even really started. No other bushcraft/survival presenter has ever managed to put that across, relaying all too often that old adage that it's skills alone that get you through, but the show proved that's not the case with the amount of men who dropped out in the first two weeks, all capable men but no control over that little voice in their head that they give into and let take control.
The bit I loved the most were his philosophical musings about life, existence, love and family and I have to agree with every syllable he uttered, that love family and friends are all that counts in life.

 For some reason it seems that true introspection comes most clearly to those who slip back into nature and allow the natural rhythm of the earth to course through their spirit and it did that with Alan, I could listen to his philosophies for ages and I hope it's not the last we see of him.. congratulations brother, you have won my admiration and I do not give that out lightly.
Discovery Channel... give him his own series !!!!
( and to Sam, man you are a true woodsman and human being, well done and I salute you.)

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Hacksaw Blade Neck Knives

I had a couple of pieces of power hacksaw blades left from a project I was doing so I thought I'd put them to use.

They are both around six inches long and just over a millimeter thick ( nice mix of imperial and metric there !!)

took a lot of work to get them to this stage, the steel is unbelievably hard and I had to use a stone grinder to work these while keeping them cool at all times..

and with a SAK alox farmer for scale, not sure if I'll leave them like this or do a paracord wrap or wooden handle...maybe one of each!

Sunday 16 August 2015

Oilseed Rape - Brassica Napus

Another one of the crucifers that is easily confused with the ones I've posted about before. A very common agricultural plant that is now often found naturalised in roadsides, hedgerows and field edges, commonly cultivated for the oil from it's seeds it is actually an edible too.
this plant was found growing on a verge at the side of a wood, a tall plant nearly 3 feet tall and very attractive actually.
the leaves also clasp the stem as do those on brassica rapa, but notice the colouration of the rapeseed plant, how distinctively blue grey green it is, much more so than wild turnip, it almost has that mealy appearance.
also notice that generally (though not always, it depends on the subspecies) as a deciding factor in identification  the flowers are higher than the buds, whereas in wild turnip it's the reverse.
Though I have often been told that all crucifers without exception are edible I find this difficult to believe as research into certain brassicas tends to say otherwise (with certain parts of the plant anyway) and the above plant is an example of this.
The seed contains a substance called Erucic
 acid and there have been a number of reports of animals being poisoned after eating this plant. At one point in time oilseed rape contained 40% erucic acid and this would have had profound detrimental health impacts on those who consumed it, with modern intervention and genetic modification it now contains less than 2% erucic acid.
Although the glucosinolates in the seed (those substances that can have toxicological effects) have been reduced significantly the same can't always be said for the compounds in the foliage.
Though classed as edible, can you be sure that the plant you're eating is the correct cultivar? There are a tremendous amount of subspecies of this plant all with differing properties and all classed as edible, but do be wary, like many things in our wild larder any toxicity involved will tend to be cumulative, so eat sparingly and you shouldn't have a problem, the young leaves and the flower buds are the best, personally I give the seed a miss after all it is used for biodiesel and was once one of the finest machine oils available!

Sunday 9 August 2015

Wild Turnip - brassica rapa

Another member of the brassica family from which so many of our familiar vegetables derive, things like broccoli, kale, turnips and swedes even things like bok choi.

younger leaves clasp round the stem as can be seen here, and they have a bluey green colouration but it's not as distinct as that of Brassica napus ( oilseed rape) and is not as emerald green as that of charlock.
as the plant grows it produces the standard yellow crucifer type flowers, and the ID can be difficult between the various species, subspecies and cultivars of Brassica rapa, though there are a few tips to look out for..
The bluey green colour is one give away but so is the fact that the buds often grow slightly higher than the flowers!!! though obviously you'll need to see the plant in flower to use this trick, but the last hint is one of the best....
.. if you check the basal leaves and it has lots of little raised warts or spots then that's generally a dead give away for wild turnip.
Although due to the fact that there are so many subspecies of this genus I realise identification can be difficult and using just one of the tips above can give you a good idea of what you've found though you might still not be 100% sure as the tips are not always fool proof, however find a plant that fulfils all the criteria above and you've found Wild Turnip.