There’s still some snow to be found here and there, and there isn’t too much plant growth yet, but the days are long, the sun is warm, the bugs are buzzing and the sap is flowing. I spent Sunday afternoon and evening in the forest, and as you will see, quite a bit has changed since my last trip there.
I was out from about noon to 7 p.m., and the temperature was about 11*C/52*F most of the time. When no breeze was blowing and I was in direct sunlight, it almost felt hot! I think I’ve grown “Finnish skin” since moving here. 😉
Most of the snow is gone in many places.
The lake nearby is still closed.
In some cooler places that don’t receive much sunlight, the snow is still almost up to my knees.
On the way to my campsite I saw some cladonia lichen and ate a little. It had no taste whatsoever (Disclaimer: Eating wild edibles is done at your own risk. I am familiar with this lichen and know that it is safe to eat).
Looks like a moose had been here recently.
I picked up some dry grass to use as tinder later on. It burns easily, but very quickly.
The streams are swollen because of all the melting snow and ice.
Knowing that the birch sap is flowing at this time of year, I decided to tap a tree for the duration of my outing. First, I carved a spout with a groove running the entire length (By the way, my dry, weathered hands make me seem older than I am ;)).
Then, I used the awl in my Swiss army knife to drill a small hole into the tree (about 1.5 cm/0.6 inches deep).
I pushed the spout into the hole with the groove facing downward, rather than up (I know this seems counter-intuitive). The groove serves to draw the sap along the spout.
Finally, I tied my canteen cup under the spout to collect the sap. I ended up with about 2 deciliters/7 ounces after 4 hours or so (it was a small hole and a slow drip). I drank this invigorating spring tonic with my dinner later on. It was very refreshing! To close the hole, I whittled the spout into a plug, knocked it in and cut off the excess.
After setting up the birch tap, I wanted to head out to the pond to look for signs of spring and retrieve a piece of wood for a simple project. First I came upon a big anthill.
More signs of spring: a bud on a sapling.
I found some horse hoof fungus (fomes fomentarius) near the pond and decided to take one with me.
When I got to the pond, I saw that it was still frozen as well.
I looked around and found the spot where I camped the last time. Looks a bit different, eh?
Then I located what was left of the birch sapling I used to make my snowshoeing pole. The plan was to make this into a hiking staff.
When I got back to my campsite, it was time to grab a beer from “nature’s fridge” and eat some lunch as well.
While relaxing, I snapped a pick of the area around my kota. As you can see, there’s still a bit of patchy snow around.
Now that the weather is warmer and drier, I have started carrying my hatchet instead of the axe because I don’t have to process as much wood for heating fires. This little pocket axe is plenty enough for chopping and splitting wood for small cooking fires etc.
Here are the adjustable pot hangers OZme and I made last autumn. By tying a loop of cordage around the crossbar and making several notches in the upper part of the stick and one at the bottom, a pot or kettle can be hung at the bottom and then adjusted over the fire both left and right and up and down.
I stripped the bark off the remnant of the birch sapling, except at the top, and beveled the top and bottom ends of the wood. I ended up removing the rest of the bark later on because I want to do a cord-wrap grip or something like that.
After laying in the sun for a while and doing a few more little things, it was time to make a fire to bake my bannock. Unfortunately, my battery power ran out while I was preparing the fire, so I couldn’t take any more pictures. I really need to get out of the stone age and buy some rechargeable batteries. Either that, or hide the camera from the Woodswife so she doesn’t use it to view pictures instead of transferring them to the computer first. 😉 I managed to get a picture of the platform for the fire I made using remnants from the last fire.
Here’s what the bannock looked like (the one on the right; photo stolen from autumn trip with OZme). The only difference was that I used whole-wheat flour for a healthier meal this time.
It was good to get out again after a few weeks. The long, warmer spring days are fantastic, and I feel much freer at this time of year because I don’t need snowshoes and 10 layers of clothes. 😉 Spring certainly has arrived, and with it a “new world” of outdoor possibilities.