My Tarp, an Igloo, Several Super Shelters, and Mors Kochanski

Okay - having thought about it, I guess I won't be asking for the Grand Shelters Igloo tool for Christmas. Dan, Clare and Badgerman have all convinced me that it is best not to use a specialized tool for this. Alrighty-then: I will make an igloo from scratch in my backyard, snow willing, weather permitting. Yes, I actually just wished for a huge downfall of snow, and very cold temperatures here in Toronto. If I can make a good one in the backyard, I'll spend a night in it. That's a promise. I will post photos too.

Speaking of shelters, Decado and I drove down to New Hampshire last November - we were a convoy of two vehicles driving madly through the Adirondacks for 15½ hours. Decado is a lucky man. He recently bought 70 acres of wooded land and will be doing quite a few outdoor recreational activities.

He recently put together a Super Shelter. This design originates with Mors Kochanski. He's a clever fellow. Go check out Ben's Backwoods to see one of Mors' pamphlets entitled 'Tools of Survival and Survival Training'. With experience living in the boreal, the sub-arctic and arctic lands of Canada, he introduced architectural concepts from igloos into a shelter designed for mid to long term living in the boreal forests. Without getting too much into detail, it incorporates simple woodcraft construction, requires very little cordage, and features a cold-sink to trap the cold air at the base of the shelter. With the addition of a sheet of plastic, a tarp (or simply woven boughs), heat can be trapped within the shelter making it habitable and quite comfortable.

I slept under tarp in the cool November air. Decado slept in a Super-Shelter.

You can see images here of Super Shelters that students at Tim Smith's Jack Mountain Bushcraft and Guide School had built earlier last fall. Mors Kochanski is teaching us about the concepts that underly the construction.

Have a look at Decado's three separate posts about his shelter construction. Very nice.

As long as a person had a bit of fire outside of the shelter, he or she would be set in the coldest weather that Canada's boreal forests could throw their way. I'm the guy above coaxing a flame from a tinder bundle, ignited from an ember developed from a spark created from a steel blade and flint.

My addition to the Super-Shelter concept is a wool blanket or two. Maybe it could be used in lieu of the sheeting. Just a thought.



I Went to the Army Surplus Store Today

I went to the Army Surplus Store today. I wandered about and looked at things.

I wanted to buy a Goretex bivy bag - but it was $125. So I left it alone. That's a water proof cover that you use for your sleeping bag. You don't need a tent if you use one of these, just a small tarp over your bag.

I found a shelter for $19.95. But didn't buy it.

I found several chemical MRE heaters - 12 for $14.95. They might have been good.

And in the end, after some banter with the strange old woman who runs the place, I left.

I left with sweet nuthin'.

But that's okay. It gave me ideas for camping in the woods.


Sweet Nuthin' - The Velvet Underground


I Want to Build an Igloo

A couple of days ago we had some snow here in Toronto.

It has been rather chilly here since then. No snow on the ground, of course. The leaves haven't even fully left their roosts in the branches. But... it has got me thinking about a little camping and bushcraft.

I want to build an igloo.

I could build it the old-fashioned way:
How to Build an Igloo
Douglas Wilkinson, 1949, 10 min 27 s
But browsing the old inter-web, I came across a site. And now I know what I want for Christmas. I want a Grand Shelters Icebox.

The ICEBOX® igloo construction tool is used for igloo building by creating sequential blocks in place. You set the clamps on the form then fill it while packing. after you have filled it you unclamp it and slide it to the next position. A pole with 8 adjustments, 1 for each layer is used to build igloos with the correct catenary shape and to help support the weight of the snow and form while packing the snow. After finishing 6 rows of the igloo you remove the outside of the form as the wall is now leaning in far enough so the snow can be packed from the outside. The snow only needs to hold its form well enough to stay in place until you start the next block. 8 total rows are built including the final cap.

I am listening to some music tonight. Please join me in the enjoyment of some knee-slapping, toe-tapping ditties.

Led Zeppelin - In My Time Of Dying

Neil Young - Don't Let it Bring You Down

Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii - Echoes (Part 2)

Porno For Pyros - Cursed Female

Hope you're having a nice evening.


Pinetree Lake Algonquin Park Solo Trip - Part 7: Lichens, Mosses, Mushrooms, Fungi & Berries

On walks in the woods, accompanied by my trusty beagle Monty, I came across some little life forms.

Sphagnum moss is soft. You can use it as an antiseptic dressing - in WWII battlefield medics used this. If you get athlete's foot, or just good old fashioned stinky and irritated feet (or groin - oh yes), then you can apply a poultice of this lichen to your bits and pieces.

Gills are above and look very nice. This mushroom smelled nice. It was a Tawny Pluteus - or Putée de cerf. Edible. Cook it up with a little butter, a little pepper and a little onion.

This one looked like someone had scattered sulphur on it. It was some kind of a Bolete - I am sure. Edible likely.

Wintergreen berries. It is a bland tasting, mealy berry. I ate a hundred. It contains methyl salicylate . I made that once in high school chemistry. It is a pain killer. You'll find it in muscle rubs. Oh, and in chewing gum. Mmmm.

The berries are nice, but you'll need a lot. To get enough 'essence of wintergreen' from this plant, you need to pluck a million leaves, and let them ferment a little and then distill out the essential oils. It is easier to create raw methyl salicylate in a beaker.

I don't know what these little green guys are. They might be martians, disguising themselves as little mushrooms. Good job, guys.

My favourite AC/DC song is "A whole lotta Rosie". This one above is Rosy Russula, or Russula sanguinea. You can see that a red squirrel has nibbled away on this one. These little fellows grab 'em, carry them up into trees, dry them and then nibble on them during cold winters.

Little mushroom hanging out in the Sphagnum. Let's leave him be and move on to the next photograph.

This cupola-shaped mushroom is a Split Gill, or Schizophyllum commune. Suited for and adapting to alternately dry or wet weather, on dry days, the cup clams up on itself, and seals in the spores (because it's better to drop spores on wet days) in thin ridges that comprise the gills. Hence the name Split Gill. I'm not showing the underside of the cap, but trust me. After all, I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

I'm not sure what this one is. It might be Poison Paxillus or Paxillus involutus. Bad things will happen to you if you eat this type of mushroom, assuming this is Poison Paxillus.

This one looks mouldy.

Dunno what this one is. I like the look of the cap.

Ah - Witches Butter, or Temella mesenterica. Probably not a good idea to toast up an English Muffin, and spread some of this on it. It isn't poisonous, but it isn't really edible. Probably rubbery and nasty.

I would like to take a course on mushrooms.

As an aside, the following song reminds me of an apartment that I had when I used to work as a butcher. The kitchen was part of the main room. There was also a bathroom. It cost me $225 cash a month to rent. It had cockroaches. The floor was piled high with books and I slept on a mattress. I listened to a lot of music and lost myself in books.



A Walk in the Valley - How to Build a Simple Lean-to Using a Wool Blanket

This afternoon after lunch I headed down into the valley.

I brought a backpack containing my Gransfors-Bruks small forest axe, a Mora #510 Carbon Steel knife, a stainless steel cup, some powdered milk, instant coffee and sugar, some string, a steel kettle, my ferrocerium striker rod, a sliver of fat wood, and a wool blanket.

I saw a few mushrooms on the way down the path into the valley.

The one above is a polypore - don't know what one.

These were beautiful mushrooms, growing out of a dead trunk.

I need to take out my mushroom book and figure out what these are. They look edible. I'll bet that they are.

The stream was rushing.

Farther and farther along I trekked, with a walking stick in hand.

The flat valley bottom shows fields where the deer live.

I looked carefully and didn't see any deer.

I did see a pair of Mallard ducks, fishing in the rapids.

I had hoped to see Salmon jumping, and wandered up and down the gravel beach to see if I could see any in the depths.

Nope. I saw no Salmon. Just the two very busy Mallard ducks.

They seemed to be nibbling on algae that was growing on the stones.

Perhaps they were going for grubs that anchored themselves to the stones.

Or maybe - just maybe - they were hiding out and waiting to ambush the Salmon. Not likely, though.

So I wandered into the pine woods.

I put down the blanket and sat for a little. In the picture above, you can see my cup, kettle, chair, axe, sliver of fatwood, bags of sugar, coffee and milk powder, the $2 knapsack and the $4 wool blanket that I bought from Value Village (a thrift-shop in Canada).

Wandering nearby, I cut down several dead-standing saplings - rotten at the bases. I trimmed off the little branches and soon I had a pile of poles.

I lashed a ridgepole to two strong trees, and attached it with some string that I found laying around the woods.

I pulled a piece of rope half-buried under the leaf litter, and pulled apart the constituent threads to find more cordage.

I tied vertical, leaning poles to the ridgepole and tied them firmly off.

With quick knots, I attached my wool blanket firmly to the framework.

I lay down underneath and relaxed for a while, eating a biscuit. I decided against having a fire, so never used the kettle or cup. But it was fine, and nice and warm where I was.

After a while I got up, and walked on home.



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