Playin’ hookey

Scandic Woodsman and I decided to play hookey from work last Wednesday, instead opting for a day in the woods. We drove to his 2 hectare/5 acre property and shortly thereafter began shooting our longbows. It was the first time I ever shot mine, and boy was it fun (and powerful). It was at that time that I realized my urgent need for my own arrows, quiver and other various accoutrements. Hmmm…I think I know what I’ll be getting myself for Christmas. :)

After a brief hike, we reached our destination: Scandic’s permanent campsite. I took this shot at the edge of his property. Nice view, huh?

One of our plans for the afternoon was to set up his kota (tipi-like shelter) for the winter, but we just didn’t get around to it. Time just seems to work differently in the woods, doesn’t it? The work we had planned to do, plus fire prep, eating etc. took up all of our time. Anyhoo, Scandic had recently felled a number of small spruce and pine saplings around his campsite to thin out that part of the forest a bit. The high density of small saplings meant that eventually most of them would die off anyway, being crowded out by larger trees, so it’s simply good forest management. Our task for the day was to strip the saplings of their branches and lean them up to season for later use as poles for shelters and other projects. I used my Ilkka Seikku BushProwler knife, while Scandic made use of a vintage (but near perfect-condition) Strømeng samekniv:

After a while, we had built up a good-sized stack of poles.

By this time, I thought my stomach was going to consume itself, so we began preparing some firewood for heating our lunch. Scandic Woodsman used his samekniv/leuku once again to bust up a dead and dry pine branch for firewood.

Meanwhile, I got the idea of testing whether live birch bark would be good tinder. We’re all familiar with using dead and dry birch bark, but what about wet, “green” bark? I used my knife to slice off the inner and outer bark from a still-fresh birch sapling felled by Scandic a week or two prior.

At the same time, Scandic was busy splitting up some of that birch for use as firewood. We didn’t have a whole lot of dry wood to use, so the plan was to get the fire going with dry wood, while at the same time drying out the green wood close to the fire, which would then burn easier. Standard operating procedure.

Here are our materials awaiting placement and a flame. At the top left, you can see SW’s Roselli axe in the background. It’s a splittin’ machine. You can also see the tripod of small poles over the fire place used for suspending a pot or kettle.

I laid down several pieces of wood on the wet leftovers of the last fire, upon which I placed the green birch bark.

It didn’t take long after touching a flame to the bark that I realized we were in business. Apparently, the flammable oils in the bark still burn well despite the water also contained in the bark.

I threw on the dry twigs and small fuel to really get things rolling.

Scandic then placed the split birch on top to dry out. It started burning after a short time. It was at this time that we started roastin’ some sausages. Not quite diet food, but filling and hearty on a cool day.

Here’s SW bucking up some more of that birch.

After we had both consumed two sausages each, it was time for another Finnish delicacy: “lihapiirakka”, i.e. meat pie. Think of a jelly doughnut, except leave out all the sweet ingredients, and fill the doughnut with a mixture of ground meat, rice and spices (as well as other ingredients, in some cases). They’re heavenly, especially when the outside is toasted by your fire. :)

Seemingly before we knew it, it was time to head back out. I guess the fact that we didn’t get everything done that we wanted to is a good excuse to head out there again soon. :)

Birch gluts (wooden wedges)

First off, a correction of sorts: In my anniversary post, I forgot to give credit to OZme of Bush n’ Blade for two pictures which he took. His pictures are now credited there. Sorry OZme!

Now to today’s post…

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Several years ago, a diseased and weakened birch tree near Scandic Woodsman‘s house snapped and came crashing down in a storm. The dark and light brown discoloration and different wood texture indicate disease.

A few days later, I helped him bring the rest of the tree down. To aid the felling process, I made two gluts, or wooden wedges, with my axe. To make each glut, I tapered a section of small birch log over about 75% of its length. I then beveled both ends of the glut to prevent it from splitting while being pounded on. As you can see, I did not taper the sticks down to a completely sharp edge (again, for strength).

After I notched the tree with my axe, Scandic Woodsman made the cross cut with his chainsaw. If I remember correctly, he deepened it further after this picture was taken.

The remainder of the diseased tree came down after Scandic pounded the gluts in with the poll of his axe. I was pulling a rope secured to the top of the tree to help guide it. You can see the gluts at the bottom right where they dropped out after the tree fell.

I’m happy to say that after 2.5 years and a fair amount of splitting by Scandic, at least one of the gluts is still going strong. :)

(All images shown here are from Scandic Woodsman’s camera. I can’t remember who shot which pictures, though!)

Daytrip to Birgitan Polku (Birgitta’s Trail)

A week ago, I met up with Scandic Woodsman and OZme from Bush n’ Blade for a little woods time on Birgitan Polku (Birgitta’s Trail) near Tampere, Finland. It had been a few months since I took to the woods with either of the chaps, and with the weather getting colder, the time was right for some early-winter woods wandering.

After driving a short distance to SW’s house, he drove us northward for about 1.5 hours to the designated meeting point. From there, we followed OZme to the trail head, parked the cars and decided to shoot a few arrows and sling a few rocks before hitting the trail.

We took turns shooting SW’s Estonian-made Falco bow at a target he made, and tried our hand at OZme’s homemade slingshot. Here I am giving the bow a go. (The “fat belly” is my heavy old camera weighing down the front of my jacket…really!)

Next up was a short hike to a fire pit, where we would be warming up near the fire and cooking some grub. We chose to hike the shorter of two possible trails due to our arriving later than anticipated, the limited daylight of this time of year and our growling stomachs!

There was a light dusting of snow in the forest on the way.

We spotted a moose feeder-type thingamajig.

This stream wasn’t frozen over yet.

Upon our arrival at the site, I snapped a pic of what has to be the coolest outhouse I’ve ever seen.

This shelter was nearby as well. It’s kind of like two laavus facing one another and connected to one another. You could also see it as a small hut with a hole in the roof. Depends on your perspective, I guess. In any case, it looks like it’d be warm in the winter!

Since the nearby pond was frozen over, we had to break the ice to get water.

Here’s OZme checking out the scene with two of his three ladies who accompanied us that day.

I dropped my German army alpine rucksack on a bench near the fire area. Over the past 4 years or so I have alternated back and forth between this pack and the Swedish army rucksack. Just can’t make up my mind!

After OZme and SW brought some wood from the shed, SW and I started splitting it up. SW used his hukari (a large Finnish chopping knife), and I used my Wetterlings axe. Here’s SW getting the fire started with his ferro rod.

It didn’t take long until it was going full-blast!

OZme and SW lined up split logs outside the fire pit to act as a wind break, which worked well.

Our first course for the afternoon meal would be campfire pork ala Scandic Woodsman. I lent him my frying pan and gave him some olive oil, salt and pepper to get the job done. He had decided it was time for something a little finer than the old standby of sausages. After tasting the first round of juicy-on-the-inside, slightly-crispy-on-the-outside pork seasoned with just the right amount of salt and pepper, we agreed. :)

Next up was my secret-recipe bannock (camp bread). OK, the recipe is no secret. It’s bog-standard bannock. :) I use 4.7 dl/2 cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of baking powder, “some butter” (several tablespoons) and enough water to make a dry dough. I mixed the ingredients, kneaded the dough a little and threw it in the pan. The secret to good bannock is to let it bake slowly. Make sure it’s not too close to the fire. Give it time to rise. Rushing it will just ruin it. The burn marks on the bannock in the picture below are not from the baking process, but rather from my attempt at the end to brown the exterior a little. Guess I left the pan on the coals one second too long!

By this time, it was totally dark out and felt pretty cold. The air temperature was 3*C/37.5*F, which isn’t cold at all, but the constant wind coming off the lake, coupled with the on-and-off drizzling rain made it feel chilly. We let our fire burn down to coals and then finally extinguished the dying embers.

A short hike later, we were back at our cars, ready to head home. This trip was a great chance to get out and shoot the breeze with the guys while enjoying some fresh air and early winter scenery as well. Thanks for the great company, Scandic Woodsman and OZme! (and thanks for letting me use some of your pictures, as well :))

One year of TWW

One year ago today (11/11/11)  I started The Weekend Woodsman blog. Since then, I have published 93 posts (on average, one every four days) and answered almost 500 comments from readers. The blog has been viewed over 40,000 times, and 66 people have subscribed. I have written before that my motivation for having this blog is not to see how high I can get these numbers (I would have way, way more subscribers if I wrote about Justin Bieber, for example). Rather, I maintain this blog to share my experiences, projects and ideas with like-minded and other interested people in the hopes that they get something out of it, whether it be information, entertainment or just a look at something a little different. Naturally, I also enjoy answering comments and getting feedback. The fact that the blog has grown as much as it has is great motivation for me to continue going with it. So thank YOU for reading, subscribing, commenting etc. By doing this, YOU keep the blog going!

I have a long list of ideas and plans for outings, both solo and with other bloggers (like yesterday’s daytrip with Bush n’ Blade and Scandic Woodsman, which I’ll write about soon) and projects, so stay tuned!

I’ll close by showing a selection of pictures I’ve published over the past year. Hope you like them…again ;).

(This image was shot by OZme of Bush n’ Blade.)

(This image was shot by OZme of Bush n’ Blade.)

Mors Kochanski on axes

Mors Kochanski is seen by many to be the “godfather” of modern bushcraft, and his book “Bushcraft” is a common sight in many bushcrafters’ libraries. To my delight, Mors started making videos for YouTube relatively recently. He puts out videos fairly regularly and covers a wide range of topics.

In a new video, he covers some of the axes in his collection and their uses, as well as his favorite type of axe for bushcraft and survival: a 3/4 axe or boy’s axe (which has been my favorite as well since I restored and rehafted one in 2010).

Enjoy. :)

Update: Mors has now put out a second video on axes.

*Any similarity between this post and a post on the same subject (with the same name) at a bushcraft forum is purely coincidental (honestly). When you have multiple people writing about the same thing, this kind of thing happens.

Juhannus (Midsummer) 2012

Riddle me this: If you lose a camera, what’s the best way to find it? Buy a new one, of course! As I mentioned a few months ago, we lost our camera during the summer while moving to southern Finland. There was no sign of it for several months, and we figured we were unlikely to find it, so we bought a new one. Naturally, several weeks after that, my mother-in-law told us she found our old camera… Well, at least now I have a dedicated blog camera. :D To be honest, I like the older one better anyway!

Now that I have the old camera back, I can show you some pictures I took during this year’s Midsummer (called Juhannus in Finnish) celebration which I thought were lost to the ages. Rather than covering the history of the celebration or a full account of the day’s activities (which are now mostly lost in the mists of time), I’ll pick out the best pictures from the day and tell you about them.

First, a few shots of the area around my mother-in-law’s cabin. It’s almost hard for me to look at this pictures now that we are in the depths of autumn, teetering on winter!

Being ever on the lookout for wild edibles, I searched around the yard.

Broadleaf plantain:

Mugwort:

A Midsummer tradition at the cabin is to cook a roast in an earth oven. I think it was lamb, but my memory is fuzzy. In previous years, this had always been done in a simple pit dug in the ground. This year, my wife’s ingenious step-father and step-brother dug a new pit and then lined the bottom and walls with bricks. I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures of the pit before they started the fire inside it.

While the pit was busy heating up and filling up with coals, the meat was seared in a muurikka (a Finnish wok) over a fire.

It was then wrapped in aluminum foil, baking paper, more aluminum foil and finally wire mesh.

Back at the pit, the coals were nice and hot.

Half of the coals were then removed from the oven, some sand was put in and the meat was laid on. This was followed by more sand, the other half of the coals and then lots more sand.

(The rest of the pit was filled with sand.)

Altogether, the meat roasted for about 5 hours and was deeelicious!

Meanwhile, more cooking was going on at the muurikka. Here you can see the cheese-filled and bacon-wrapped mushrooms being cooked. Mmmmmm!

And the final spread on the food table: two kinds of meat, stuffed and wrapped mushrooms, garlic potato casserole, boiled potatoes, dark break, salad, salmon and more.

Can’t wait for Midsummer 2013!