Packed for my Camping Trip!

I have packed for my trip down to New Hampshire. Everything - and I mean everything, from my tarp tent, to my Thermarest mattress, my sleeping bag, my folding chair (without legs), my axe, my bucksaw, food for 4 full days (mostly dehydrated but some tins), stove, cooking pot, and everything in between fits into or onto my exterior frame knapsack.

Including knapsack, it all weighs 43 1/2 pounds. I think that's pretty good for an all-inclusive pack. I wore it around the house, and it actually doesn't feel too heavy - the knapsack fits really well and the belly strap takes the weight down into my legs.

I am sure I could shed 5 - 10 pounds of the load if I was to be ruthless - but I think I'll be fine. For a 4 day trip, this is not bad. I brought cans of tuna, meat and stew and had I bought (expensive) freeze-dried meals, I could easily lose 6 to 7 pounds of the load.

Anyway, 43 1/2 pounds. Not bad! Up in Northern Ontario, with the supplies I have, I could live for a month alone in the woods. Just as long as I was able to catch fish and forage for the right plant foods and do some deadfall trapping.

It wouldn't be that tricky. At work we have a 1-mile track around the campus. It leads through some overgrown wild(ish) areas of Scarborough, Ontario. I have been walking this with a colleague over the past few days to get a bit of exercise and to decompress from work somewhat. Over the past week, I have eaten Bee balm, wild carrot, wild grape, rosehips, wild onions, dandelion leaves (but not the root - but I could have), plantain leaves (but not the root - but I could have), and could have but didn't eat cat tail shoots and cook up the rhizomes. The most thrilling discovery (and I infrequently use the word thrilling, so please make note of the importance of such a term) was that the wild carrot root, although fibrous and pale and gritty, tasted just like, well - it tasted like an amazing tasting carrot. With a little celery flavour mixed in as well. It was as thick as my index finger, and I figure that I could have dug up a dozen or more of them in the area where the first one was. That would make a meal - boiled or roasted up, there would be more starches and sugars made available. Better than the cafeteria food on some days.

My point being, if I can find these wild foods on a scratchy trail leading past discarded industrial equipment and under chicken gravel paths, then I am quite sure that I would be equally or more successful in the boreal forest.



Mora Knife Handle

I have completed my Mora knife handle. A couple of weeks ago I bought a Frosts Mora laminated carbon steel blank from, and decided that instead of putting on scales, I would affix a solid piece of wood. I selected Locust wood, for its hardness, rot-resistance and - I realized after cutting into a log of it - the beauty of its grain.

The thick branch I used appeared to be solid - it had been trimmed by tree surgeons from the neighbour's tree. I used my Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe to trim off the bark and sublayers and then to roughly hew the edges out.

Sitting in my newly built shed yesterday, I got to work.

In order to get the tang through the piece, I used my cordless screwdriver/drill and used something like a 1/4 inch drill bit to drill out a passage. I played with the tang until it fit in tightly, such that it wouldn't even go all the way down. That way I could be assured it would tap in snugly later.

I asked my dad to cut out a slot in a Turkish coin I got from Spring, as he has the tools for his model-building at his home.

Then I assembled the coin as a ferrule (I think that is the term) and put the tip of the blade into a 2x4. Mixing some 5 minute epoxy, I ran the glue up and down the tang, and dropped some into the handle. I gently tapped the rough handle onto the tang until the coin was seated tightly against the blade shoulder.

I carefully wiped the glue from the blade and handle where it had overflowed, and waited for about an hour until I returned. I then stealthily extracted a small box of Baklava from the kitchen, along with a can of Coke and sat in the shed munching and sipping away and enjoying the day.

After an hour or so, I leaned a rasp against a hole in the top of my work bench, wrapped the blade in a thin sponge to protect my fingers and began to wear down the handle until it seemed to be the right dimension. From time to time I would give it a quick sand to help me reveal any pits or grooves, and after an hour or so I had the handle in mostly the correct shape. I simply tested it by grip to get the right contours, and sanded it using 400 grit all-purpose sandpaper.

I wore the coin down also using the rasp and finally with the sandpaper and soon it matched the contours of the handle at the blade shoulder.

Finally after another careful sanding with 800 grit sandpaper, the tight, hard grain revealed itself. The red heartwood contrasts with the honey colour of the main grain. There is a wonderful swirl across the top and bottom of the handle, reminding me of swirled ice-cream.

I drilled a hole in the back for a lanyard, and put in a length of 550 paracord, and tied it off roughly. I am thinking of making a Turks-head decorative knot to finish it off.

The final step is to coat it in boiled linseed oil, find a sheath for it and give the blade a good strop.



Plants in the Backyard - Autumn is on the Way

I spent some time this afternoon puttering about the backyard. I worked on the shed, and worked on finishing up my knife.

As the day wound down, I began to poke around the garden and the colours of fall and the smells got to me. This is my favourite season of the year.

The spiky bush has gone all red, the leaves and berries are bright and shiny.

Monty keeps an eye on things through the fence, and picks up all kinds of smells. As the squirrels and other animals wander through the yard, they leave scents, and Monty is a beagle hound after all.

I tasted a berry and it doesn't have much flavour. I don't recommend you try it, as it just isn't very satisfying.

Some leaves are turning bright red, some are yellowing, and seed pods and berries are drying up on their boughs.

I'll need to mow the lawns, and mulch the leaves into the soil - getting it ready for a long winter's sleep.

The grape-vine basket I wove in June has dried up and is catching leaves as they fall. One day I will learn how to weave a proper basket and I will make a bird's nest out of it.

The Creeping Charlies are still radiant, and small flowers continue to burst.

In the tussle of weeds sprouting by the fence I found two edible plants - dandelion (leaves) and plantain. You can crush, winnow and cook the plantain seeds, and I believe that the starchy root is edible. The leaves are also edible, but not bitter like those of dandelions. I'll snack on dandelion leaves, but prefer the younger ones as they have not yet developed the bitterness. I guess you'd need to pick an armful of both for a decent meal.

The day was cool, but the sun stayed out and warmed us.

In a few days I will be in the mountains in New Hampshire - I suspect the weather will match what we have here today.

Monty won't be coming along, but then he has the whole back yard to explore and to guard.

Dried seed pods hold fast against the fence.

Yellow flowers remain.

Dried seed pods are beginning to brown, and dry up - waiting for gravity or something walking by to spread the seeds for the spring time.



A Quick Roundup of Bushcraft, Primitive and Camping Blogs & Sites

Decado has hit upon a simple, yet brilliant way of constructing a camping kit essential - a container for everything from salt to tinder to pills and more. Drop by and bookmark his site! He has posts on carving and bushcraft, and tipis and camping gear reviews - brilliant.

Torjus Garren has a free e-book on his Living Primitively blog. Brilliant piece of bushcraft and woodcraft exposition. Drop by and consider donating to his cause.

Samuel Chapman of Woodcraft in Poland mentions Mors Kochanski, the fellow who will be teaching the course I'll be attending in November in New Hampshire - drop by and see his great blog.



How to Make a Tarp Shelter - A Tutorial

There's nothing quite like a comfortable dry place to lay down and relax. Monty has his old standby 'Tigger' to snuggle up with.

I figured that I'd like to get a free standing tarp shelter set up, so Monty, his monkey toy, and I hung out in the back yard figuring it all out.

I arranged all of my gear and puttered about getting it all ready. Finally I got the damn thing figured out! The 'Forester' layout described in my previous post did not work in the end. I needed a ridge-line that was to be attached from a high point - like a tree, and my backyard is rather free of trees.

The reason I want to set up my tarp as a free standing shelter is to limit the amount of weight that I normally carry on a canoe trip.

Sometimes I go on solo canoe trips and have to portage all of my gear in my knapsack, plus portage my canoe over land. My tent weighs about 10 pounds with fiberglass rods and the tarp I have weighs just under about 1 1/2 pounds.

Under the watchful eye of a Red Tailed Hawk, I set out to figure it all out. So after a couple of hours of not getting it to work earlier in th emorning, and sweating in the hot sun, I went inside to consult the oracle. I did a search on YouTube and found a great short video showing how to put up a tarp with 6 pegs and a pole.

My tarp has 8 connection points or grommets for guy lines. The example provided showed a tarp having an additional 2 grommet points for attaching guy lines or simply putting in pegs or stakes.

First step is to add the extra two grommet points to the tarp, as shown in the diagram below.

I drove off to Canadian Tire (a building supply franchise in Canada) and from the camping section - which is running short of supplies due to the time of year - I picked up a grommet kit.

The grommet kit contains a jig and grommet pieces.

The grommet kit contains a cutting die, which is basically a sharpened tube.

You use this to punch a hole through the tarpaulin, by resting the tarp on a piece of wood and then tapping the tube down onto the tarp.

Ideally you should punch through 2 or more layers of material in order to get the strength needed to prevent the material from ripping.

This will leave a sharp, clean hole in the fabric. While the tarp is made of rip-stop fabric, it is best to start off strong.

Then you place a rounded jig onto the ground, and place one of two parts of the grommet into a recessed die.

Slip the hole you made in the tarp over the grommet piece,

and drop a grommet washer over the grommet base which extend up through the hole.

Next, using the rivet tool, rivet the two pieces together by hammering down against the base.

Gently pound the rivet tool with a hammer until the two grommet pieces have mated securely and snugly.

Now that I had the two new grommet points added to the tarp, I staked down the tarp through the two new points at the back, and then slipping pegs through the front left and right corner.

I aligned these as wide as the back connection points (which are of course 1/4 of the way in from the left and right of the full length of 9 1/2 feet.

The slack at the front of the tarp allows for me to push (into the grommet hole in the center of the front) a 5 foot high tent pole.

I staked down a guy line to give this extra stability at the front.

Then it was simply a case of pegging off the center grommet points of the sides, and tucking in the loose corners at the back (remember that these were not pegged off, as the new grommet holes 1/4 of the way in from each corner were the connection points on the ground).

The front of the shelter is open, but this will suffice even in a light rain. I can stake the front lower if needed, using guy lines, and using a shorter tent pole.

I think I will need to figure out how to stake it down all around in case of inclement weather, but that'll need to wait for another day. Perhaps I will bring another light tarp to lay over the tarp shelter.

Anyway, this configuration should be fine for my trip to the woods and mountains of New Hampshire. Hope this tutorial was helpful.



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