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Saturday, 12 October 2019

Chorda filum - dead mans rope

One of the common thong like seaweeds found around our shores and can be easily confused with other strap or lace like seaweeds.

Normally found in the low to middle intertidal zone it's quite easy to see around the northern European coastlines. It's also called whip weed, mermaids tresses and boot lace weed. It is edible and high in antioxidants but not often consumed by people, it's ok and worth a try if you're feeling peckish. It can be dried and then broken up and added to stews and soups to provide a deeper saltier flavour. 


Saturday, 5 October 2019

Butterburr basket and hazelnuts

There is such an abundance of high fat foods this year and all the little furry critters are stuffing themselves that it's making me wonder what sort of winter we are in for. So not to be outdone and to give the squirrels a little competition I happened upon a great little hazel coppice near a lough and decided to take a few nuts for myself. I wasnt expecting to find anything so I didn't bring a bag but I did find a few nice butterburr leaves..

A couple wrapped into a cone shape and fixed in place with a twig made a very acceptable container

And another 10 or 15 mins collecting saw over a pound of hazel nuts gathered. They are still a little white but on the turn and will further ripen if kept inside. 
Thinking of BlackBerry Charlotte for pudding. Yum.


Monday, 30 September 2019

An audience with ... Bob Harper.

It seems to be the season for meeting really inspiring characters. I was recently privileged to hear sir Ranulph Fiennes give a lecture and he was such a witty and inspiring chap. This weekend I got an invite to meet with Bob Harper and his lovely wife Christine.
I'm sure some of you will already know of these wonderful people, newspaper columnists, authors and most especially, round the world sailors.
I spent a wonderful afternoon in their company being told stories of wild weather, pirates, cannibals and hilarious mishaps. He shared some great stories of survival at sea, meeting indigenous tribes, weird food and local primitive skills and customs, I could have picked his mind for ideas for hours.

Bob, christine and oscar.

He also took the time to show me round his property and it had some of the most beautiful ancient trees I have ever seen including this magnificent specimen of an irish strawberry tree, the biggest one I have ever seen. 
I have no doubt our paths will cross again soon.


Sunday, 22 September 2019

Home made fish smoker

I found a couple of pieces of metal that seemed to fit together quite well, I've no ide what they are from but I figured I could put them to some use. So I reckoned a fish smoker would be ideal,

I think it'll work quite well, I can use a gas heat source or even charcoal and I'm pretty sure the result will be tasty smoked fish either way, time to get the mackerel rods out again !


Sunday, 15 September 2019

A visitor to the garden

It's been a long time since I've seen one of these little fellows alive and well, but it was nice to see him wandering around the garden doing damage to the slug population.


Monday, 9 September 2019

The Admiral, the peacock and the painted lady.

It's been a wonderful year for butterflies and the 3 which seem most prevalent are the red admiral, the peacock and the painted lady. So nice to see such a wonderful display of colour from mother natures palette box.

The Red Admiral

The Peacock

The Painted Lady.


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Home made wheat flour.

No matter where I've been lately, along the coast, hedgerow or mountainside I seem to see wheat growing everywhere, I've been noticing it more and more over the past year or so, so I thought I'd have a little trial just to see how easy it is to grind my own flour. I'll do it on a small.scale first then increase the production later.

Wheat stalks with kernels dry and ready to harvest.

Just to show the kernels ready before winnowing 

4 heads produced this much wheat, I gathered more but I'll keep it for later.

I'll start with a little at a time in the pestle and mortar 

Doesn't take too long to grind it up

Didn't take too long to grind it up. The flour is still a little coarse but I'll grind it further. I've another 6oz of wheat to be milled, when I've done that I'll try making something with it. I'm happy with it so far.


Friday, 30 August 2019

Unusual coastal forage finds

I was out along the coast recently prepping for a walk and was expecting the usual saltwater type plants to appear, but as chance would have it I came across some really unusual finds;

Tomatoes in flower! Loads of these

Wheat, been finding this everywhere too

What I think may be marrow leaves

And possibly sunflower.

I just couldn't believe these were in the sand just above the high water mark and doing well, I hope anyone else who finds them will allow them to grow fully and if so I'll report back with pics.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Start of foraging season again.

It's my favourite time of the year when nature's larder really starts to produce, from fruits and nuts to roots and seeds and fish and meat, it's time to take advantage and start to prepare for the dark winter ahead. My first haul of wild apples this year isn't too bad, 14lbs, that should be a start for jams, chutneys and puddings to come.


Wednesday, 21 August 2019

A stark day on the rocks

I'd heard that the shoals of Atlantic mackerel were in around the coast so I thought I'd see if I could track some down. Not a great day, windy and overcast with quite a few heavy showers, I did manage to end up with 2 mackerel and a coalfish, not a complete waste but hopefully a sign of better things to come.


First one of the year!

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Puff ball and Bacon

Was out on a forage recently and found quite a few puff balls. Most were the usual fist size but I found two quite large ones probably about the size of my head, we split them between the three of us so two thirds of the big ones each and the others were left to grow on a bit.

This was the biggest one, a bit slug eaten on the outside but perfectly edible still.

This was one single slice from my portion and it nearly filled a 14" skillet!

And what a feast fit for a forager, the rest was preserved for future use in casseroles or stews depending on what mother nature brings my way..happy foraging everyone.


Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Gathering

Was at the annual gathering festival in Armagh recently, great time hearing stories of the Ulster cycle and realising the importance of fire to us. To those wonderful new people I met and some old friends too, here's looking forward to seeing you again in the near future..


Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Has anyone seen my Barn Owl?

I was at the Armagh festival of fire recently and had hoped to see a barn Owl, but with fewer than 13 pairs left in the country it was doubtful I'd have seen one..

Search as I may I couldn't find one anywhere, though I had a funny feeling one was watching me.

This little beauty is called Bowie and is from the World of Owls who put on a great display at the festival, many thanks for taking the time and lovely to meet you all, hopefully we'll see you again soon.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Bushcraft Bushido - Loyalty

Well we've saved the best for last, loyalty..  does it even exist anymore? It's funny how people change over the years and I find I was loyal to the person I once knew but not the person they've become. Once warm hearted and caring people now become cold, aloof and more interested in getting likes on Facebook than dealing with real world issues. It's funny how when ego moves in loyalty moves out. Betrayal comes not from enemies but from those we hold dear yet I see that those who betray us never even show the least amount of remorse or guilt, what does that say about a person? What makes them change in such a way?
I'm a very loyal person, well to those who deserve it that is and I'm not afraid to declare that loyalty openly but what if it's not returned? Well that old maxim holds dear " there is something wrong with your character if opportunity controls your loyalty."
What should you do when you reach out to someone multiple times and they turn their back on you and don't even respond never mind have the courage to meet you face to face, what does that say about their character? Unfortunately I've met a few people like that in my life as I'm sure we all have. I bear them no ill will and wish them every fortune for the future, but how much richer would that future have been if we could share it with those who cared.
Fear not for there is always forgiveness and a way to make amends, do you have the courage to do so or will you live in regret?

Peace and love to all of my Buzzard brothers and sisters, what ever troubles you're facing take heart for you are not alone and someone out there genuinely cares for you. Stay Strong.

Don't let your loyalty become slavery
If they don't like what you bring to the table
Let them eat alone.

The disloyal hide from the truth
They cannot bear to hear it spoken.

Those who are unaware they walk in darkness will never seek the light.
(Bruce Lee)

"I have sinned" he said " for I have betrayed innocent blood" " what is that to us?" they replied " that is your responsibility"
Matthew  27 v 4.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Bushcraft Bushido - Honesty

Probably the easiest of all the virtues to achieve but the one you can be sure very few will ever use.. ' is everything alright ' and the answer.. 'Yes, fine... when you know in your gut you've just been lied to. Why do people do it? well I guess they are just too cowardly to tell the truth. There's no excuse for not being honest and it will end up making you look like a fool.. the truth will always come out.. and then those who lied will run and hide in shame.. should have just been honest in the first place.
Nature can be nothing but honest, no lies no hiding in shame no hidden secrets, if only mankind could follow her example. Nature won't lie to You, if you find yourself being lied to then walk away, never be in the company of the dishonest.

Honesty is a very expensive gift, don't expect it from cheap people.
(Warren Buffet)

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Bushcraft Bushido - Compassion

Of all the virtues I guess this is the one I need most practise with. It's easy to have compassion for those you love and care about but it's not so easy to have it for those who have wronged you or you simply don't know. It's a battle I often face and I wonder if others do too, or do they just turn their empathetic feelings off and feel nothing?
It leads me to that old legend which I believe is a modern interpretation but nonetheless provides a good metaphor for this struggle;

An old Cherokee grandfather was telling his grandson that inside each person are two wolves, a black one which is evil and a white one which is good, and they fight for dominion over the persons character.
"The black one," said the grandfather, "is full of hate, jealousy, pride, anger, bitterness, betrayal, resentment, ego, pain and deceit.
The white one on the other hand is full of love, forgiveness, understanding, gratitude, diligence, honour, kindness, benevolence, empathy and compassion"
"But grandfather, said the boy "which one wins?"
The grandfather looked solemnly at the child and said " whichever one you feed"

Which one do you feed?

I love when people who have been through hell, walk out of the fire carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the flames. 

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Bushcraft Bushido - Honour


The quality of knowing and doing what is morally right.
"There is no honour among thieves" we are told and it's a revealing maxim, as you can always discern how much honour a man has by an examination of his life. Does he cheat, steal, lie, claim money or valour illegally, backstab, treat others with disdain, break promises, is untrustworthy, has an over inflated ego, has no integrity or compassion, no courage to speak up, does he hide away when times get tough, does he get together with those of a like mind to plot revenge and whisper disparaging words simply to make himself feel better, does he belittle others?. Any of these traits would lead me to believe he has no Honour, it's a wonder the weight of his guilt does not crush him.
Though all the bushido virtues are quintessential to a moral existence this is the one most easily ignored, such a waste that men who were once sincere should fall so low.
 Nature has honour, she has to have to exist in the way she does. She is as you see her, no hidden lies or whispered words just open and challenging for all to see, you either love her or hate her but her honour is obvious, we could learn a lot from her, she seeks no glory or ego from others and just does what is right, just is herself. That is honour.

For those who try to keep their honour intact, hold your head high, you'll make yourself a target for knaves and fools, you will be mocked and ridiculed by the many but that will only prove you are on the right path and you should carry no burden of guilt, I salute you for standing tall in a world of weak willed men.

Better a brief spell of honour than a long rule of shame (laxdeala saga)

Honour is simply the morality of superior men (H.L. Menckcen)

To sin by silence... makes cowards of men.
(Abraham Lincoln.)

To lose your words is to lose your honour, for there is shame in silence.
(Attributed to Diogenes)

Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Cowards die many times before their death but the valiant die only once. (Shakespeare)

There comes a time when silence is betrayal
(Martin Luther King)

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Bushcraft Bushido - Courage

People are very quick to raise their fists in anger but not their hands in peace. I think Mark twain said it perfectly in the above quote. I can understand why people are afraid of bombs and bullets but can't understand why they're afraid of words, rather than face up and discuss things they often run and hide, I guess it's nothing more than moral cowardice.
Courage is being able to admit your weaknesses and ask for guidance, courage is being able to offer help humbly to those in need, your courage is your strength, both moral and physical but both should be practised equally. There's no shame in admitting you're wrong and there's no shame in accepting an apology but there is shame in silence.
Winston Churchill said 'courage is what it takes to stand up and speak but courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.'
Seek nature's path, see her in all her glory and realise she is courageous in all ways and never silent, the plants and animals around us will show us true courage as they fight every day for survival. Be courageous, be the best you can but do it for yourself, follow your own path not that of the crowd.

It's better to live one day as a Lion than 100 years as a sheep.
(Roman proverb)

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Bushcraft Bushido - Respect.

Do you demand respect? If you do demand respect then surely that's an oxymoron. Respect, we are often told, is earned not expected, though just as often it's lost just as quickly.
When you go into the woods or any wild places for that matter, do you leave litter, or a fire scar, do you cut down living trees for no real purpose, do you sit round the fire getting drunk? Surely the nature deserves a little bit of respect too. If a friend invited you to their house would you tear up their furniture, light a fire in the middle of their living room or get drunk and defame their character after their invitation? Surely then, the nature deserves the same courtesy, we are entering her house, it's her grass and trees and wood and scenery, treat it with respect and she will respect you in turn. Be still and quiet, listen to what she has to say and she will draw close to you, for she is as curious about you as you are about her, disrespecting the gifts she has led out for you will simply cause her to retreat beyond your knowledge, such a waste that would be.

I am at home among the trees.
J.R.R Tolkein.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Bushcraft Bushido - Integrity.

As the years go by and I get a bit more life experience, though maybe not wisdom, I find myself ruminating on matters of morality and conscience. I recall hearing Ray Mears talk one time and two things he said stayed with me, one that the bushcraft path is spiritual and not just a physical journey and two that the path breeds stoicism and fortitude.
I often think in moralistic terms and would probably say I'm rather old fashioned and would consider myself to have traditional values to those akin to the values of chivalry or those of Bushido.
In fact I think the Bushido way typifies the way we should dedicate ourselves to our craft and to our home lives also. The Bushido way consists of seven virtues all of which are woven in a web and they do not stand alone and to ignore one would be to have a detrimental effect on the others and as a result on our bushcraft journey and also on our personal lives.

The first of these is Integrity.

Integrity is being bound to the truth at all costs and being willing to stand alone for what is right if that's what the situation demands, even when facing an onslaught which you feel is out of place or against what you believe to be right. Facing this builds character and fortitude and stoicism, exactly the attributes Ray was talking about, be true to your self and your craft, even if others are baying around you.
But it also means being able to reach out and offer an apology when needed, and I am as guilty as everyone else of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, we all are fallible. However if you feel you have spoken the truth then stand tall, but if in that stance you know you have hurt someone then never be too proud to say I'm sorry, to be gracious enough to reach out and offer a way to ease the hurt,  but only to those who are deserving, there's no point offering an apology to those whom you know will throw it back in your face, those that berate or shun you lack this most precious of virtues, nature does not do this, scold you she might, but it will be so as to teach you a valuable lesson, learn it.  So it is with our bushcraft path, be humble in nature, we are learning from her, she is teaching us, not the other way around, be ready to fail and yet ready to try again and succeed, dedicate yourself to an open mind and the pursuit of knowledge, pick up the pieces and continue on with your integrity intact and pity those who have none or if they do posses it just simply ignore it.

If you can keep your head when all about you 
are losing theirs and blaming it on you
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies
or being hated, don't give way to hating
and yet don't look too good nor talk too wise...(Kipling)


Friday, 12 July 2019

New steel striker.. it's a bit special.

Thought I'd treat myself to a new steel striker, it is one of the nicest steels I've seen, and it throws sparks like a , well like a dragon lol.
Just need to find a few pieces of nice red jasper to compliment it..what do you think?

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Roasted cattail roots

It's one of those plants that has a multitude of uses, from fire to cordage to woven mats to shelter building and not least of all food. The roots are particularly tasty when roasted on the campfire. Obviously make sure you identify the plant correctly first, the new growth can be eaten raw and has a cucumber texture with a slight bitter aftertaste but the roasted rhizome tastes like potato. Give it a try.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Lough Erne expedition

Myself and quite a few of the guys spent a great few days on a mini expedition on Inish Davar on Lough Erne , although a few skills were practised and a few old ones recovered this was mainly a break for the guys after all the hard work they've put in at events in the first half of this year, here's to the second half.