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. :)

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13 comments on “Playin’ hookey

  1. freedlife says:

    Great fun. Time IS different (indifferent) in the woods, your own or wild.

  2. I would never have thought to try the green bark. Good for you!

    • I don’t know how/why the thought came into my mind, but I’m glad it did! Now, I’m not going to run around stripping bark off live trees, but it is good to know that it does work (e.g. it could really help in a survival situation).

  3. That meat pie looks like a great treat for both indoors and the woods! In Maine, we would call it tourtiere pie.

    • Thanks for the comment, Peter. I looked up tourtiere pie, and it does look similar, albeit a bit larger. ;) Maybe you could experiment by wrapping up some of the filling in a thin crust and fry or bake them instead of cooking it in a pot. It might catch on there!

  4. Great outing, time well spent away from the grind!

    Love the look of that meat pie, perhaps you could put up a full how to on making them? Would love to see that!

  5. OZme says:

    That property looks really nice! and seems you have had fun chopping time out there.
    some time I should find some time to join you guys in south :)

  6. Ron says:

    Looking good, guys!
    + 1 on the meat-pie-how-to!

    As for the birch; nor trouble with smoke? I used fresh birch on several occassions, but the smoke was an issue.

    And time…. out there, there are just 3 times; sunrise, sunset and hunger…

    • Thanks for the comments, Ron. :)

      Well, there’s going to be some smoke, but it wasn’t bad for us. Maybe it was because we used small pieces. I think the trick with burning green wood is to make sure that the established fire is already really hot, preferably with a good bed of coals, because it will speed up drying immensely.

      Hehehe, you’re right about the “three times of the forest”! :)

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