A meal in the late-autumn forest with my woodsman-in-training

In the Finnish language, November is “Marraskuu”, which literally means “death month”. I think it’s an appropriate name for this dreary time of year. I usually like to wait the month out because of the wet, cool and dark days and then resume outdooring when the bright winter snow has come for good, but I decided this year to stop that silliness! Looking at the month from a different perspective, I realized that it has advantages all its own. The cool weather means there are no mosquitoes, black flies, midges, horse flies or deer keds like in the summer, and since it’s not full-on winter yet, I don’t need the extra clothing, snowshoes/skis, etc. Besides, if you are lucky enough to be able to spend time out with people who are important to you, the weather doesn’t really matter that much in the end.

This winter, the Woodsboy (WB) will turn 5, the age at which sons “move from the sphere of women to the sphere of men” in some traditional cultures. I can understand why they picked this age. Eager to learn and having a sharp mind like a sponge, not to mention a greater level of maturity, I feel that the Woodsboy is ready to spend more time with me doing “real” outdoor activities. Fortunately, he has shown great interest in coming along and learning all he can. Besides being a chance to spend quality time together, our trips will allow him to pick up wilderness skills and knowledge, as well as an understanding of outdoor safety and good practice, from a young age so that they will be second nature to him later in life.

The first Sunday this November, the boy and I drove out to the old farmhouse woods for a meal and to explore the property some more. The first order of business was to set up the Holden tent for him, complete with wool blanket-insulated floor, his gear-filled backpack and plenty of outside toys. πŸ™‚

As you can see, he elected to wear the blaze orange baseball cap (his “safety hat” as he called it), which left me with the orange vest. Instead of looking for standing dead wood for our fire, we decided to speed up the process and get some wood from the chaotic wood shed behind the barn and carry it back to the campsite.

Before splitting the wood with my axe, I had WB stand clear of the area and explained to him the potential dangers of sharp tools, flying wood chips etc. He stayed put at a safe distance and practiced some “splitting” of his own.

Once the wood was ready, I laid down two larger fuel wood pieces and put some shavings between them. WB helped me to put small fuel wood on top in a grid fashion, and we lit up the fire.

All throughout the process, I made it very clear that the fire was potentially very dangerous and that he was never to get too close to it, put anything on it or run around nearby it. Just like with sharp tools, I want the Woodsboy to have a solid understanding of the potential dangers of fire years before he is even allowed to work with it himself.

It was high time for some grub, so I gave WB a sandwich and some water and then set up a little rig for roasting mini-sausages over the fire. I prepped a stick to hold the sausages and laid it on the forked stick from my last trip. To keep the stick level, I put the other end through a knot-hole in one of the pieces of firewood.

While we were eating, WB said his sandwich was getting cold, so I stuck it on the same rig. πŸ™‚

When the temperature started to drop and he felt cold, I set him up near the fire on his little folding-chair backpack with food on one side and water on the other. He had worked up quite an appetite and ate a banana and peanuts in addition to two sausages and a sandwich. πŸ™‚

I also let him “roast” his sandwich by himself a little. πŸ™‚

We packed up our stuff, let the fire burn down to coals and I then poured plenty of water on the remnants of the fire and told WB about why it’s so important to make sure it’s out completely before leaving.

By the way, I used the Swedish LK-70 pack for this outing because of its large capacity. It really comes in handy for day trips when you have to lug around extra stuff!

WB’s focus, eagerness to learn and good behavior during this trip were encouraging to me, so I’m really looking forward to our next trip out!

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21 comments on “A meal in the late-autumn forest with my woodsman-in-training

  1. Neat arrangement for the franks. It’s nice to see a youngster interested in the outdoors.

  2. Bill says:

    It is good that you have the time and desire to do this. Your son will remember these times when he grows up.

  3. Gary - NmUK says:

    Great read – love the little guy!! LK70 and LK35 between the two I think all bushcraft carrying needs are covered!! Hope your well – Gary (NmUK)

  4. Awesome. Purely, simply, awesome.

  5. OutdoorEnvy says:

    Great time out! That’s awesome your boy is taking to the outdoors. Good job getting him out

  6. Going good, dad!
    I just love posts like these. Somehow they make me smile all the time.
    And I absolutely agree with you that you can not emphasise the importance and dangers of sharpies and fire, but he will get burned one day and he will cut himself. These are the hardest, but also the best lessons.
    Untill then enjoy as much time with him out there as possible, because that interest might fade soon…. I noticed myself..

  7. I enjoyed this post very much (have subscribed recently). I’ve two children who I’ve endeavored to introduce to the great outdoors so there’s a lot of resonance in your piece.

    I am not a ‘bushcrafter’ (though done a couple of courses, I live in England’s bushcraft hot spot with Ray Mears’ Woodlore only down the road), more a hiker but respect the skills you are passing on. Myself, I took great pleasure in the first hike I took with my son when he was four and daughter aged 6. We travelled over four days through Swedish Jamtland and just the way they reacted to the freedom of the bush was reward enough. My son, even at such a young age, took great pride in looking after our gear and ‘got it’ that if we broke or damaged something we were not placed to replace it. His job was counting the tent pegs and rolling up our sleeping bags for packing, he did both well. I was really pleased!

    Enjoy your time outdoors with you son. I look forward to more posts.

    • Thanks Mark! Glad to hear you’re exposing your young ones to the outdoors as well. πŸ™‚ Sounds like you are “on the right track” with them. πŸ˜‰ I can’t wait until I take longer hiking trips with WB. I’m sure he’ll just love it.

      Thanks again for the comments. There are plenty more posts to come!

  8. roger says:

    Not long subscibed to your blog,really enjoy reading them. Great to see you taking your little un out into the woods. Make the most of it, they grow up so quick. My kids grew up around campfires, hit teens and beyond and gadgets taking them over.But the woods still in them as one of my boys started carving himself some spoons recently, whilst younger brother is making himself a bow.
    We all enjoyed your blog about different ways to set up a tarp. Thanks for sharing, its inspirational.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Roger! Glad to hear you like the blog. πŸ™‚ I’m hoping that if my son has at least a solid foundation, he’ll always be able to come back to it if he strays away, like you mentioned with your boys. Sounds like you did a fine job with them. πŸ™‚

  9. A boy in the woods with his father is a wondrous thing, likely stretching back to the dawn of man in this world. Formative bond in the making that will span lifetimes. Good stuff WW, I’m envious as usual.

  10. BelgianBirkebeiner says:

    The kid is so cool πŸ™‚

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