The Trying Woodsman visits Finland!

Here’s a riddle for you: What do you call a Dutchman living in Sweden who visits an American living in Finland? A new friend! Actually, calling him a “new” friend is a bit of a stretch, as I had known Ron online for several years through our blogs and, before that, by way of bushcraft forums. But virtual friendship is only friendship to a certain degree, as some of the most important aspects of human interaction require, well, actual human interaction! That’s why I was very happy to host Ron of The Trying Woodsman blog in Finland for several days last month.

Since Ron did such a fantastic job at chronicling our visit at his blog, I will link to his blog posts below rather than rewriting the story. However, there are a few small things I’d like to add, as well as giving my impressions of our visit.

Being interested in outdoor pursuits, as well as homesteading, self-sufficiency, nutrition, world events and a wide variety of other topics, Ron and I never ran out of things to talk about. He possesses a wealth of knowledge about a lot of things, a zeal for healthy and thoughtful living and a big heart. Ron is the kind of man who does not accept what is spoon fed to him, but instead finds out the truth of things for himself and lives by it. He was a fantastic help around the cabin, keeping the wood stove humming, cooking delicious food, helping to keep the place tidy and lots more, which was a luxury for me. Our long conversations allowed me to get more of a feel for who Ron is as a “real life person,” as opposed to someone you just know on the Internet. I want him to know that he is welcome to visit me anytime here in Finland and that I will certainly be visiting him in Sweden (and/or Norway) in the future, and that I am proud to call him a new friend. 🙂

Before I provide the links to Ron’s blog posts, I wanted to thank him again for the great gifts he gave me during his stay. One item which will come in very handy starting this winter is a Swedish snow anorak, a large, thin canvas garment with a hood which blocks the wind and keeps the snow out.

An anorak very similar to the one Ron gave me. (linked image)

Ron also left me a book, One Man’s Wilderness – An Alaskan Odyssey, which is an adaptation of Dick Proenneke’s journal about building and living in a cabin in the rugged Alaskan wilderness in the 1960s (he ended up living there around 30 years). This book is such a joy to read, both when I’m out at the cabin or in the city. My personal story isn’t a tenth of a percent of what Dick Proenneke’s is, yet there are enough similarities that I feel like I can relate to some of his experiences on a certain level.

(linked image)

Finally, the links to Ron’s outstanding account of our visit this fall. I hope you enjoy it!

Part 1: A Dutch guy from Sweden in Finland…

Part 2: Living in a cabin with a “stranger”…

Part 3: The third and final day…

Part 4: The final stretch of the trip…

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Northern Woodsmanship and Skills Forum

In the past, I have brought your attention to a number of forums, blogs and YouTube channels focusing on outdoorsmanship, primarily in Finland, but also elsewhere in the boreal region. Today, I’d like to introduce you to a fine forum started by Ron from The Trying Woodsman Blog. He wanted to create a place where folks could discuss woodsmanship, bushcraft, primitive and traditional skills and anything else having to do with outdoor life in the north.

This primarily English-language forum is small, but growing (it has been experiencing a surge in activity lately). So far, there are members from Finland, Sweden, Norway, the northern US, throughout the British Isles, Germany and a host of other countries. As far as I know, this is the only north-centric forum of its type out there!

If you would like to learn from and contribute to a growing knowledge base on woodsmanship in the north in a relaxed and open atmosphere by sharing stories, projects, ideas and experiences and make friends in the process, be sure to visit the Northern Woodsmanship and Skills Forum!

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. 😉

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. 🙂

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… 🙂 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. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this short early spring outing!

Latest consignment shop finds

I haven’t had any time lately for outdoor trips due to work, preparations for moving and being a bit sick, but I did get a chance to peruse a nearby consignment shop in the hopes of finding some good deals. I was not disappointed. 🙂

Here’s most of the haul:

  • Two stainless-steel camp utensil sets: €0.20/$0.26 each
  • Eight aluminum tent pegs: €1.50/$1.95
  • Wood-handled fire steel: €1.00/$1.30
  • 70s-era Marttiini “Lapp Knife 230”: €18.00/$23.50

The utensil sets will probably go to the Woodsbabe and Woodsboy, and the tent pegs will replace the thin and weak ones I’ve been using. The fire steel will accompany my BushProwler knife in place of the plastic-handled one I have on it now. The pièce de résistance, i.e. the leuku-style puukko knife made by Marttiini in the 70s, will soon be subjected to an extreme makeover by your’s truly. The plan is to restore it to match the leuku I fixed up last May. It should serve nicely as a small companion knife to the leuku, and the fact that they’re both from the same manufacturer and time period is a nice bonus. I noticed that the pommel cap is missing from the puukko, so I’ll have to pick one up the next time I’m at an outdoor/knife show.

The last thing I picked up, which isn’t exactly an outdoor item, is a vegetarian cookbook. Now, I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch, but I am keen on expanding my culinary repertoire, so for only €2.00/$2.60, I couldn’t pass it up (if the dishes really need it, I’ll just add meat ;)).

Total price for this mini-haul: €22.90/$29.80. 🙂

Stay tuned for a late-winter ice-fishing trip with the extended Woodsfamily!

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! 🙂

Interested in Finnish bushcraft?

When I moved to Finland, I was happy to find that bushcraft, woodcraft, knife making and other traditional skills have a long history here and are still alive and well today. Since sharing a few blogs and other websites with you almost a year ago, I have learned of several more and some significant changes to others. This post is intended to be an updated list of bushcraft/outdoor-related blogs and websites in Finland (most of which are in English). If you know of any others, please let me know! By the way, please also give the “in Finnish” blogs a chance, even if you don’t speak Finnish. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. 🙂

Blogs

Blacksmiths/Knife makers

Forum

  • Bushcraft Finland: This is the main (and only, as far as I know) forum for bushcraft in Finland. It was recently moved to a new server/provider and is now advertisement-free. It also has a great new appearance and layout. Both English and Finnish speakers are welcome.

Other

Last, and definitely not least, I want to point you in the direction of some videos from yesteryear showing a variety of Finnish crafts and old-timey ways (click one of the “Isien Työt”s on the left-hand side and then scroll down and click “Katso nyt” to watch a video).

Enjoy!

“Woodsmanship” by Bernard Mason

If you’re interested in books about traditional, pre-power tool woodsmanship like I am, you should check out the book “Woodsmanship”, by Bernard Mason. It’s available for free in PDF format HERE, HERE and here: http://www.canteenshop.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/woodsmanship.pdf

First published in 1945, “Woodsmanship” is a classic reference work with plain and simple text and good illustrations. In this book, Mason covers aspects of woodsmanship such as:

  • Axe types and nomenclature
  • Axe care, maintenance, rehandling etc.
  • Axe safety
  • Proper chopping technique
  • Traditional and modern saws
  • Tree felling, limbing, bucking and splitting
  • The names and proper use of other woodsman’s tools
  • Logging lingo and more

The information in this book is just as valid today as when it was first published. It covers many aspects of woodsmanship which I have not seen in any other reference, including paperback books I have purchased. I consider this book to be at or near the top of the list when it comes to books on this subject.