A little quiet on the WW front…

It’s been a bit quiet here lately, as some of you may have noticed. The main reason for this has been the copious amounts of work I have been doing to keep the coin rollin’ in. It has zapped a lot of my energy and free time, which means less dirt time, fewer projects etc. Luckily, my work situation is back to normal now, so I should be able to post more often!

Ideas in the pipeline:

  • Multiple overnighters in different locations, both solo and with other bushcrafters
  • Sleep system update
  • Stove modification project
  • Gear giveaway
  • Traditional cooking how-tos
  • Tips and tricks (i.e. lessons learned the hard way)

Plus:

  • A new multi-part series involving other bloggers from around the world…

Hope you stick around!

Took a nuu friend to Nuuksio National Park

On Sunday, I had the esteemed pleasure of being accompanied on a hike in the forest by a native Indian living and working in Finland, far from his ancestral home. We went to Nuuksio National Park, the same park recently visited by the Woodsbabe and I. This time around, the weather was colder, -10*C/14*F, but much sunnier. It was determined that a short hike would be a good way to help my friend become accustomed to outdoor activities in the winter, so we did the 2 km/1.2 mi Nahkiaispolku loop trail.

Bunny tracks:

Squirrel tracks?:

Here’s where a bull moose (I believe) rubbed its antlers to shed the velvet from them after they stopped growing:

Tweety bird tracks (There were fox tracks nearby as well, but I forgot to photograph them):

Horse hoof fungi growing on a dead birch tree:

After our short hike, we were both ready to eat, so we started our fire prep. Here’s my native Indian friend splitting some wood. Did I mention he’s a native of Delhi, India? Perhaps you were thinking Cree or Cherokee? ;) He was a great hiking companion and very keen to learn about Finnish nature and “grilling traditions”. Hopefully he’ll join me again sometime soon.

Our main tinder for the fire would be birch bark.

The other tinder component was birch wood shavings:

You’ll probably recognize this cooking shelter from my last outing. In addition to my friend and I, a father and daughter team showed up after a while and grilled some sausages as well. More about them and their knife mishap later…

My personal favorite way to build a fire is first to lay down the tinder:

Then I like to place a piece of fuel wood on either side of the tinder and then lay on two or three layers of kindling in a grid-like pattern:

Then I light it up:

And finally put on some fuel wood, also in a grid-like pattern. Seems to work every time.

After enjoying the warmth of the fire for a while and letting the birch wood burn down to coals, we threw on some chicken sausages and toasted buns for them as well. I made some white tea after lunch, which is my favorite outdoor drink in the winter. Well, campfire coffee isn’t bad, either.

The father-daughter team which showed up while we were grilling and eating also had the same thing in mind. I watched as the father split some knotty pieces of birch by batoning them with some sort of Mora knife knock-off with a light-blue plastic handle and then…SNAP! A section of the handle broke off and the blade fell out. That’s when I offered him the use of my axe instead, which he readily accepted. Later on, my friend mentioned something about having the right tools for the job. Indeed. I have nothing against batoning wood with a knife to split it, but it’s got to be a good solid knife that can stand up to that kind of use, like the BushProwler knife I’m using above to make the wood shavings.

We said adios to the tool-breakers after finishing our food and drinks and chatting for a while and then headed back to the parking area. Altogether, we covered about 3 km/1.8 mi. As always, I’m already thinking about the next trip out, which will probably be an overnighter or weekend trip soon, so stay tuned!

The world aslumber

Afternoon in Eastern Finland, December 24th, 2012. Photo courtesy of the Woodsbabe.

In the north, mid-winter is a peculiar time. It’s dark, quiet, cold and in some ways, life has ceased. It’s as if the world itself is deep in hibernation. In the wild, strange mixed feelings arise in me. At times, there’s a feeling of being the only person in a hostile world, with no-one else around but an icy mother nature who’s more than willing to dispatch me should I make a serious mistake. At other times, there’s a sense of intense peace and perfection in my surroundings. Winter in the north is a time for both quiet reflection and exciting new endeavors. Once resisted and ignored, I have come to embrace it.

Winter hike at Nuuksio National Park with the Woodsbabe

On Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of being accompanied by the Woodsbabe for a winter hike at Nuuksio National Park in southern Finland. “The Woodsbabe,” you ask? Yep. That’s the new moniker of the “artist formerly known as Woodswife”. :)

Having placed the Woodsboy in the safe care of a local relative, we drove out to the park and hit the trail. The Haukankierros trail, to be exact. This is an easy 4 km/2.5 mi loop trail which encircles Haukkalampi pond and provides some pretty impressive views thanks to the geological formations and varying forest types of the area. Most of the following pictures were taken by the Woodsbabe. Thank you, Woodsbabe! ;)

It has been unseasonably warm lately, and I don’t know if this stream has frozen over at all yet this winter.

The Woodsbabe running away with the map.

The wily and elusive Woodsmanicus Weekendus.

We weren’t quite sure what tore this tree apart.

More of nature’s ice sculptures.

The sun peeked out from time to time.

A steep drop-off close to the trail accompanied us on the last leg.

Evidence of the recent thaw and re-freeze: frozen water droplets.

Upon completing the loop trail, we struck out in a different direction down a short trail leading to the Haukanholma fireplace and open shelter on a cliff overlooking Haukkalampi pond. Here’s the nearby wood shed.

And the pond below.

The open fireplace was deserted, but I noticed smoke rising from the open cooking shelter nearby, so we headed that way. Expecting to find some other hikers there, we were surprised to find the place empty, yet a small fire and hot coals were still burning in the fireplace.

It was a good thing, too, because we were running low on time and were hungry to boot. I split up some wood to put on the small fire to create more coals so we could grill some sausages.

The ambient temperature was -4*C/25*F, i.e. not very cold, but a warm fire is always welcome in the winter. :)

In all, we hiked about 5 km/3 mi. A short distance, to be sure, but still a great chance to get some fresh winter air, see some beautiful scenery and spend a little time just the two of us.

The Council Tool Jersey Classic Axe – Part 2

If you haven’t already done so, check out Part 1 for my overview of this axe and the modifications I made to it.

Before I tested the Jersey Classic axe from Council Tool, I decided to paint the phantom bevels because I could not get the patina dark enough to match the rest of the bevels. Hence the different appearance in the pictures below as compared to the previous pictures. Ultimately, I decided to remove the paint and smooth out the bevels to remove the drop-forging marks entirely.

I started the testing with bucking. The tree I chose was a spruce which blew down in a tornado a few years back and was well seasoned. It was also completely frozen (the temperature was about -17*C/1.5*F). The part of the tree I bucked measured 20 cm/8″ in diameter. It took about 50 chops to get through the spruce (I was not very experienced with an axe this large when I did this initial testing, which was about 2 years ago). I ended up bucking another section of the log half-way through in 20 chops. For good measure, I bucked another piece almost completely through. The axe showed itself to be quite accurate. The slight head misalignment proved to be a non-issue.

Next up was limbing. Most of the 2.5 – 5 cm/1 – 2” limbs were sliced off in one swing.

While cutting off the last limb, I heard a noise that made me cringe: tink! It was the blade kissing a rock.

Tsk-tsk-tsk. I thought there was only snow underneath the tree, but unfortunately this was not the case. To my delight, the metal deformed instead of chipping…and at -17*C/1.5*F! I’m sure some axes would have chipped. When I got home later, I spent a minute or two with a file to fix up the edge. I couldn’t fix it out in the woods, though, but I pressed on anyway.

I proceeded to split one of the bucked bolts next. This went really quickly, and I had six pieces of split wood from a total of 10 swings.

Finally, I decided to fell a small dead tree. The tree I picked was a 9 cm/3.5”-diameter dead frozen pine. I didn’t fell a larger tree because I was running out of daylight, couldn’t find a larger dead tree and didn’t want to fell a larger live tree without the landowner’s permission. Suffice it to say, the axe made short work of the pine. 3 – 4 chops on each side and it was down.

Throughout this testing, the axe performed well, was easy to handle and was less fatiguing to use than I had expected (having mainly used smaller/lighter axes up to that point). I was very pleased by how deep the blade bit into the wood thanks to its thin (in comparison to hardware-store axes) profile. Overall, I was very pleased with this axe.

In the months following this initial testing, I used the axe to process several similar trees into firewood. On one particular winter outing, I noticed that the head was creeping up the handle. After working some more, I managed to move the head halfway off the handle! I contacted Council Tool about this, and while my contact person was talking to the management, I got impatient and decided to fix the problem myself. Even if they had offered to fix it for me, I didn’t want to go through the process of boxing it up, sending it overseas, having them fix it and then wait to receive it (again). I had to cut a few inches/centimeters off the top of the handle after drilling and prying to get the aluminum wedge out, but this length difference didn’t seem to affect the axe too much. Since fixing the tool, I haven’t had any more problems with the head moving (I used wooden and steel wedges for the job).

It’s hard for me to say whether or not I recommend this axe, not because of the material quality (which is high) or the overall workmanship (which is good), but for the obvious reason of the head-attachment problem I experienced. If you can fix something like this yourself, then it’s no problem. If you can’t or don’t want to, it’s a different story (though if you use an axe a lot, you should be able/willing to). Hopefully, mine was just a dud! If this problem is not common on Council’s axes, then your money is definitely well spent when you buy one!

Christmas loot!

The time leading up to Christmas and New Years is usually very busy and hectic for me because of work and preparations for the holidays. I often don’t have a whole lot of time for winter outdoor trips until things have settled down in the new year, hence the recent lack of snowy trip reports (and the ridiculously warm temperatures we have been experiencing haven’t helped things much). This will be rectified soon, as I am planning a tandem day trip for next weekend. :)

In the meantime, I thought I’d show you some of the gifts I received from Santa and family members this past Christmas. Although the first two items (which I have shown previously) weren’t technically Christmas presents, I received them so close to Christmas that I consider them to be such.

Thick wool socks knitted by my grandmother-in-law:

The fantastic crooked knife made for me by OZme, written about here.

Among other things, my Woodsparents gifted me a selection of exotic jerkies/meat sticks:

A bright, multi-function headlight:

And “Bushcraft” by Mors Kochanski (I had owned this book previously, but traded it to someone last year):

From one set of grandparents-in-law, I received this kuksa topped up with liquor- and liqueur-filled candies (it reads “Merry Christmas 2012″):

From the other grandmother-in-law, I received another pair of hand-knit wool socks! :)

Word must have gotten around that I needed new gloves, because I also received these thickly lined leather gloves and mittens from my in-laws. I’ve decided to use the gloves for my outdoor activities and the mittens for city doings, since my “bushcraft gloves” are falling apart and I already have “bushcraft mittens”:

The last two items I picked up for myself after Christmas at this quaint little mom-and-pop place called “Ikea”. The first is a stainless-steel cutlery strainer which I have seen used as a hobo stove. I also intend to use it for this purpose, as it is much sturdier than an empty food can. Cost: 4 Euros.

Finally, may I present to you the latest addition to my winter-weather gear. It consists of two faux-fur lamb fleeces sewn together by your’s truly to form a single piece measuring about 6.5 ft/200 cm long. It will be placed on top of the two thin foam sleeping pads I’ve been using. Last winter I tried a real lamb fleece for this purpose and it worked wonderfully. The faux-fur fleeces are only about half as thick, but they both roll up to the same size as a single real fleece and weigh only a fraction of the weight of one real one. Being only half as thick, they won’t work quite as well as the genuine article, but I think they will be good enough. We’ll see! Cost: 2 x 15 Euros.

Last, but not least, was a gift card to Finnish military surplus store Varusteleka from the Woodswife. :)

Thanks family and Santa!

Hope you all made out well, too! Happy New Year! :)