The Woodsboy’s first visit to my campsite

I’ve been visiting the same campsite on my mother-in-law’s property since 2009, back when the Woodsboy was a mere “Woodsinfant”. Having decided that the boy is now old enough to safely visit that area with me, I brought him along on my latest visit last Sunday. But before I tell you about that, I’ll share some pictures from the area around the cabin, since we hung around there first.

As you can see, spring has solidly sprung (actually, it’s pretty much full-on summer here):

Rowan/European mountain ash:

Alder (not sure if it’s black or gray):

Downy birch:

The Woodsbabe asked me to get the muurikka (Finnish wok) ready and start a fire in the fireplace so we could fry some pork chops, so I split some wood with my diminutive Wetterlings Mini Axe (not to be confused with their Small Axe). It’s a fantastic tool for chopping and splitting smaller-diameter wood and rough carving.

I also made some wood shavings with it to get the fire started:

The muurikka was put in place, and then the fire was started. The muurikka spends all of its time exposed to the elements, so it has to be prepped first by throwing some water on it when it’s hot, scraping it with a metal spatula, getting rid of the water and then wiping it down with olive oil. Here’s the boiling water cleaning the surface:

After it was fully cleaned, the Woodsbabe threw on the marinated chops:

We also grilled some sausages. This cooking area has been around for a long time and its days are numbered. You can see the beginnings of the new and improved cooking area in the background.

We ate a nice lunch with my in-laws and then, after letting our food settle, the Woodsboy and I got ourselves ready for our hike. His little backpack has a stool integrated into it. We picked it up at a consignment shop for 2 Euros.

Can you tell he’s excited to go?

I threw on my pack, and we headed out. The terrain proved a bit too rough for the little tyke, so I ended up carrying him most of the way. When we arrived, we had a little tree and plant identification quiz. He identified spruce:

Pine:

And birch:

Next, I introduced him to fireweed:

Then he spent some time checking out the campsite:

It had been promised to the Woodsboy that we’d roast sausages, so I started that process going. I set him up with a forked stick and two small sausages.

On that day, I was carrying my refurbished leuku/puukko knife duo and used it for the cutting and splitting tasks of the day.

Leuku (larger knife)

Puukko (smaller knife)

Then I got the fire materials set up. It had to be a small fire due to the relative dryness and heat of the forest. Speaking of heat, I brought along my thermometer as usual, and although I don’t quite trust the reading of 111*F/44*C (in direct sun), it was without a doubt hot that afternoon.

We ate our sausages and then some small pastries and drank juice and water, which the boy doled out.

By this time, both the Woodsboy and I were getting sick of the heat, so I made him a shelter out of dead spruce branches and my poncho after very thoroughly soaking the fire pit and surrounding area with water. I realized then that I should have made the shelter right after we arrived so he could have a place to get out of the sun, although I did keep him in the shade of trees most of the time. Lesson learned.

Chillin’ with a juice box.

Our trip lasted about 2 1/2 hours, and I was very proud of how the boy held up, especially considering the heat and the swarms of blackflies which pestered us the entire time (fortunately, they didn’t bother the Woodsboy as much as they did me.). By the way, we did bring a net hat along to keep the bugs at bay, but he didn’t want to wear it. After a while, he asked if we could go back to the cabin, so I packed up our stuff and we headed out. He enjoyed telling mommy, grandma and grandpa about what we did and is looking forward to going again soon. So am I. ๐Ÿ™‚

On another note, a little while back I mentioned that we were hoping to be able to make use of an old house, farm and forest (belonging to the Woodsbabe’s extended family) in the country after our move. It turns out that the house, which is 120 years old, has been abandoned for 40 years and is in poor condition, isn’t quite up to snuff for use (earlier, we didn’t know what kind of condition it would be in). So unfortunately, we won’t be able to use the house, but we are still planning on reviving the garden plot and using the forest for camping, bushcraft, berry/mushroom picking etc. There’s also an easy access point to one of the large lakes of the Lakeland District about 150 yards/135 meters from one edge of the property, so we’ll be able to make use of that as well. My first trip exploring that property will probably take place over the next few weeks, and I’m really looking forward to it!

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“35 L, K”-model Swedish army rucksack (and a little bonus)

In my last post, I showed a few pictures of a pack I picked up before our recent move from Helsinki.

It’s a “35 L, K”-model Swedish army rucksack, and I got it for about 25 Euros at a discount tool/home store.

A few specs (courtesy of Webbingbabel):

  • Pack material: polyamide
  • Pack capacity: 35 liters (40.5 liters with the top flap at its uppermost position)
  • Frame material: steel tube
  • Weight: 2.3 kg/5 lbs (according to my bathroom scale)

Anyone who’s familiar with the M39 Swedish army rucksack (and who isn’t, really?) will notice right away that the “35 L, K” is a more modern pack, both in materials and design. It’s more comfortable (thanks to two webbing straps which keep the frame off your back, padded shoulder straps etc.), more versatile in use (thanks to the external frame design and attachment straps) and just all around better. You can really see the amount of progress that occurred in pack design between these two packs. Incidentally, there is also a 70-liter version of this pack, called the “70 L, K”, amazingly enough. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It uses the same frame and shoulder straps, but a larger-volume pack is attached to it.

Using the pack a few times has confirmed its superiority over the M39, at least in my mind. It’s much more comfortable, can hold much more gear (plenty of attachment straps all the way around) and is more water-repellent. Although there is a clever and convenient way to attach one’s axe to this pack (one of the horizontal straps can be seen on the lower part of the pack), my 3/4 axe is a bit too long to make use of this, so I just slip it into one of the loops at the top of the pack and it stays put just fine. Another nice feature is the ability to adjust the top attachment point of the shoulder straps to make them closer together or further apart to fit your body better. The shoulder straps themselves are also very easy to adjust thanks to clever tabs on the straps. One of my favorite things about this pack is that I can cinch down the attachment and closure straps if the pack load is small and use it as a day pack, or loosen the straps, fill the pack to the brim, attach my sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent to the outside and have a fully capable pack for multi-day trips without stretching the limits of what the pack can and should do.

When I bought mine, there was a bunch of surface rust on some parts of the frame, so I sanded it off and will repaint those spots sometime soon. This kind of thing comes with the territory of military surplus gear. Other than the rust, the pack is in great shape and seems rugged enough to stand up to quite a bit of hard use. To make it even more comfortable to wear, I added a waist belt scavenged from another rucksack. This really helps take some of the load off the shoulders (I’ll probably add some padding to this belt later on).

I will continue to try out this pack for day trips and overnighters over the coming weeks and months to really put it through it’s paces, but I think it’s a winner!

And now for something completely different: a few shots of the Woodsbabe’s grandparents’ farm from last weekend. What a difference two weeks make, eh? Not only has spring sprung, but we’ve almost hit full-on summer! Hope the weather has been this nice where you are, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sauna, gazebo and stream:

And finally, no trip to the farm is complete without a tractor ride for the Woodsboy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Early spring afternoon in the woods

Interested in winning a Gerber multi-tool? Check this out!

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It’s been over a week since I did this daytrip, but I hadn’t been able to find the time to write about it until now. Our first week of “normal life” at our new location was pretty busy!

Anyhoo, I hopped in the car the first Saturday of May and headed out to “my preeeecious” campsite and surrounding woods near my mother-in-law’s cabin. I wanted to check for signs of spring, as well as any last remnants of winter. My first stop was the lake. There was no ice left whatsoever, but no leaf growth on the trees, either.

Normal hiking boots are usually OK for this area at this time of year, but I decided to wear my rubber boots as a precaution, seeing as how spring has come late this year. It was a good thing, too, because the ground was still water-logged in some places.

I noticed a few tiny patches of snow here and there.

And some very wet areas, as well. As you can see, a little water was also coming from the sky at this point.

Otherwise, the forest was snow-free.

Plenty of cowberries from last summer/autumn could be found. I believe they contain a lot of natural preservatives, which is why they last so long.

When I reached my campsite, I dropped my new old pack and snapped a few pics of it. By “new” I mean new to me, and by “old”, I mean military surplus. I picked it up at a discount store and am putting it through its paces now. Stay tuned for an overview and preliminary review.

I continued on through the forest. Here’s a big anthill teeming with ants.

Here’s a shot of a swampy area nearby where cloudberries are said to grow. I’ll be sure to look for some this summer.

Water-logged mossy ground at the edge of the swamp.

The drainage canals are still swollen due to the recently melted snow.

When I got to the pond, I saw that it was still partially frozen.

On my way back to the campsite, I spotted this birch, which I had not seen before. For some reason, a minority of birches have a lot more bark peeling off them than others. I try to remember where these trees are so I can collect tinder there from time to time.

Since I’d be making a fire soon, I collected some of the bark.

Close by, I discovered a spruce tree which had been damaged at some point and then oozed resin to seal off the damage. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this before.

I snapped off a few of the pieces for future use.

Having recently learned that spruce resin can be chewed like gum, I picked off some of the cleanest amber-colored pieces I could find on the tree and popped them in my mouth. The flavor took some getting used to, but the texture was great (much better than store-bought gum, in my opinion). Looks just like any other gum!

Needing kindling for my lunch fire, I snapped some dead lower branches off another spruce tree.

Back at my campsite, I split some of the spruce from my wood pile to serve as the fuel for my fire. There are two main ways I like to split wood in the forest. Like this:

And like this:

When doing it the first way, be sure the point of impact is no further forward than directly between your feet. Otherwise, you could get hit by the axe if it glances!

While splitting the wood down further, I found a surprise! I saved it for later use as fishing bait.

Finally, lunchtime had arrived. I set up near one of the fire places.

Lunch for the day would be the contents of two mystery packages and a banana. ๐Ÿ˜‰

One mystery package contained bannock mix.

I got a bakin’ stick ready and then mixed some water into the bannock mix to make it into a dough.

I squeezed it into a long strip and wrapped it around the stick.

Now to get the fire started. I used the wood-handled firesteel I bought for 1 Euro and modified so it would fit better in the loop in my sheath. Here’s the slimmed-down profile.

I shredded the birch bark and lit it with the firesteel. After that, I quickly put the dry spruce branches on and then some fuel wood. The fire got started in no time.

In just a short while, the bannock had baked through and was done. My favorite part about doing it this way? No pan to clean up. ๐Ÿ™‚

What about the other mystery package, you ask? I recently picked up some dry cured sausage from a specialty shop in town with the intent of using it as a meat source for my outings. I cut off some pieces and wrapped them in paper before leaving home.

Lunch for the day:

After lunch, I checked my thermometer: 14*C/57*F…perfect temperature… ๐Ÿ™‚ I started bringing along a thermometer one winter to see how cold it was and now I do it out of habit.

I kicked back and enjoyed a bit of outdoor reading.

After a while I packed up, soaked my fireplace to make sure it was out (this forest is like a tinder box in early spring, so you can’t take any chances) and headed back to the lake. On the way, I passed this rock with red lichen growing on it. Looks like paint!

Back at the lake, I whipped out my fishing gear: ultralight reel with travel rod and lures on top, hobo fishing rig on the bottom.

Speaking of the hobo fishing rig, I recently added a few more items to mine. In addition to hooks, line, sinkers and two bobbers, it now also contains a small slipjoint knife and matches.

I put together the spinning outfit and put on my favorite spinner for this lake (seems to attract just about everything).

Unfortunately, the fishing portion of the day was more of a tragicomedy than anything else. I hooked the grub from the spruce on the hobo fishing rig and, on the very first cast, sent the bait zooming off the hook and into the lake. I used an artificial worm next and got a few good solid bites, but had too much slack in the line and didn’t hook the fish. After a while I tried the spinning rig. No bites at all, but I did manage to snap the line on a particularly violent cast, sending the lure and a leader into the woods across the way (time to replace the line!). I put on another leader and similar lure, only to have it get hopelessly stuck in a log on the bottom of the lake. Most of this time I found myself repeatedly mumbling things like “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” and “Good job, Ricky Retardo”. We’ll see how I fare next time out. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hope you enjoyed this short early spring outing!

A short video by Ilkka Seikku

My favorite knifemaker extraordinaire, Ilkka Seikku, who’s based in Sammaljoki, Finland, has recently put out a short video on his signature knife, the BushProwler. He briefly covers the knife’s specifications and materials and then demonstrates the versatility of this bushcraft/outdoorsman’s blade. Ilkka is backlogged for about a year and will start taking orders for knives again in June should you be interested in getting one.

I bought my BushProwler almost a year and a half ago, and it has definitely been my go-to blade since then. It’s tough as nails and looks good, too. Here are a few pics of mine (slightly different from the standard version) in action:

Making a snowshoeing pole.

Shaving off green (fresh) birch bark.

Processing stinging nettles for cordage-making.

Making shavings for kindling.

Cuttin’ up bacon for woodsman stew.

This is only a fraction of the things I’ve used it for. It’s a real all-rounder!