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Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Foragers Diary; March 2019

Today's post will be dedicated to wild greens that can be found at this time of year in early spring;


Jack by the Hedge is also called hedge garlic and garlic mustard. It has a pleasant garlic taste and should be used sparingly in salads or added to nettle soup.

Navel wort

Early ramson leaves

Bitter cress

Opposite leaved golden saxifrage





You'll also be able to find sorrel, jelly ear fungi and the last of the scarlet elf cups to add to your salads at this time of year. Try what I call the salad dressing challenge; head in to the woods with nothing but some salad dressing and see if you can put together a decent salad to put it on.





Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Review; Extrema Ratio Scout 1


This months review is of the Extrema Ratio Scout 1. 

I had always wanted an Extrema Ratio knife but most of their products are on the expensive side, are clearly designed for tactical applications or were too large for what I was looking for in a bushcraft knife. When the Scout came out in 2017 though I saw something a little more affordable, the right size for bushcraft tasks and it was marketed by some sellers as a knife suitable for bushcraft;

"The Extrema Ratio Scout 1 knife is their version of a bushcraft, camp, scouting knife but what separates it from all others is the exceptional build quality and pure, functional design." Heinnie Haynes

If you look at Extrema Ratios website though they describe the knife as a 'back up knife' and don't mention bushcraft at all. 

So what is a backup knife?

In the everyday sense it might just mean a knife that you have 'just in case' for opening boxes, cutting tape or string but really that's an edc knife. From a tactical point of view a backup knife might be carried in addition to a concealed firearm for situations when it's impossible to reach a primary weapon perhaps because a fight has become so close quarters that the firearm can't be bought to bear or because it's been lost or has malfunctioned. They might just be used to wound or scare an aggressor into backing off far enough to allow you to draw a gun or retreat yourself. 

It is described as a backup knife but Extrema Ratio also produce a more aggressive version of the scout called the Defender with a pronounced guard and deep blood groove. 

So whatever it's design rationale and intended function my intended use for the scout was as a bushcraft knife. I got one back in early 2017 so mine has been used over the last two years and I'm confident in the opinion that I have formed of it. It honestly hasn't seen much use in that time compared to a lot of my other knives and that is telling; there are reasons that it hasn't been used all that much. 

Probably because it was never designed to be in the hand for all that long the handle is not comfortable for extended use. The distinctive Extrema Ratio handle with the rectangular indent might be the product of work between Extrema Ratio and the Motor Sciences Department of the University of Perugia in Italy and the result is a knife handle design perfectly suited to the human anatomy. It’s a much skinnier handle than most survival knives but sits in the hand beautifully, however bushcraft knives were never designed to sit in the hand and when you start to work hard with this knife it does become quite uncomfortable. Because it is so skinny it starts to twist in the hand during extended use and cause hot spots on the pinky and ring finger and palm of the hand. 


The blade is perfect for feather stick making and other buschraft tasks but if you've got to make more than two or three you will start to feel the discomfort.
The handle is made from foreprene, a material common to most of Extrema Ratio's knives and is extremely hard wearing, the handle does also feature a small divot, I think it's really a divot to allow you to easily find the handle and grip it securely in the dark or under stressful conditions but it could also be pressed to use as a divot for a bow drill. I'm not really a fan of using a knife as the bearing block for a bow drill as the risk of using an unsheathed knife very close to your leg while you work your bow seems unnecessary to me. Additionally the heat of the friction between the drill and handle seems to have damaged my handle a bit and the divot is quite shallow and flat which causes the upper point of the drill to flatten quite quickly causing unnecessary friction.  

Unfortunately the handle lets down the other great features of the knife, the blade shape is reminiscent of Horace Kepharts knife and is perfect for woodcrafting and basic backwoods tasks. I did replace the sheath on mine though for a more 'rustic' option; while the MOLLE compatible sheath which can be reversed for left or right hand carry and which retains the knife with a retaining strap closed with two buttons would be great for tactical use attached to a plate carrier or webbing the belt loop is quite low down on the sheath so the handle protrudes quite a long way above the belt line and due to the angular exposed tang is very uncomfortable to carry. I replaced the sheath with a sharpshooter leather pouch sheath.

 


The scout is available with a black blade but the version I have has a stonewashed blade made from N690 stainless steel, the N690 steel is a great choice but can be had in other knives for significantly cheaper. The full length narrow tang is very strong and would be great to use in cold weather as it leaves no tang exposed and in constant contact with the hand. The texture on the first inch or so of the spine is not uncomfortable and does provide some extra grip but the swedge and 'false edge' along the spine from where the texture ends to the tip does make supporting cuts for whittling and wood craft very uncomfortable and leaves no sharp edge for striking a fire steel with. 

An excellent feature of the scout is the fact that with the removal of a single bolt the whole handle can be slipped off for cleaning or perhaps with a bit of ingenuity the fitting of a replacement handle which would be more comfortable.

Extrema Ratio Scout with handle removed. 

So while certain features of the scout make it a great choice for bushcrafting others unfortunately let it down badly and I can't really recommend it in the form that is comes from the factory. A few modifications would make it a very strong contender for bushcrafting but as it is there are much better choices. 

TODAY'S LESSON

I promised a lesson attached to every review; today's is a lesson on how I go about reviewing knives. To make sure I don't just ramble about a knifes performance I have specific criteria that I judge every knife on so that the reviews are consistent and relevant. All the reviews I do are based on basic bushcraft criteria although I don't limit the testing to 'bushcraft knives' at the end of the day whether a manufacturer chooses to use the word 'bushcraft' to market a knife or not doesn't make it more of a bushcraft knife than any other so some of the knives I test might be combat knives or hunting knives but the idea of a dedicated bushcraft knife is relatively new and knives obviously are not.

To show you what I do to test each knife that features in the monthly reviews here on the blog I've included to hand written notes I made about the Extrema Ratio Scout 1 as I used it over the last two years or so.




I will include these notes for each knife in future reviews. 

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Foragers Diary; February 2019

I missed a post last week, you should have been able to read a little about the history of bushcraft last Wednesday but an insanely busy schedule of teaching and other writing projects has kept me from the blog recently and may do so again over the next few months. I will try to keep posts as regular as possible but unfortunately sometimes I have to prioritise my day job and paid writing jobs. I hope you enjoy this instalment of the foragers diary though and you can expect the history to hit the blog in a few weeks time. 

This time of year is known as the 'hungry gap' for wildlife; there is a shortage of food and the same can be true for humans foraging for food.

Part of that shortage is wisely self imposed, the end of the shooting season for game birds such as partridge and pheasant on the 1st of February, ducks and waterfowl on inland waterways on the 31st of January and on estuaries and foreshore on the 20th of February protects those birds as they begin to search for mates and prepare to breed. It's a long established custom that wildlife be protected at certain times of year to ensure they are not depleted by hunting and it is important we respect those seasons. Luckily we like our hunter gather ancestors have the intelligence to store food for times when food is short. Nowadays freezers are the main form of storage used but, salting, drying, pickling and other methods are available to us. 

During February I often end up using up a lot of the pheasant thighs that go into the freezer during the shooting season, they make great broth which is perfect for this months often cold weather. 



 A couple of goose, duck and pheasant thighs from the freezer, some diced peppers, swede, leeks, some frozen birch boletes and dryads saddle from last years mushroom foraging, pearl barley, red lentils, salt and pepper all done in the slow cooker will feed the whole family


At the beginning of the month the last few fresh game birds will be eaten, a couple of days in the larder since the last shoot of the season is a great way to tenderise older birds and saves preparing them for the freezer strait away. A few partridges from the last shoot made a great meal. 


One of my favourite recipes that Sallie and I came up with a couple of years ago is a sausage and partridge pie;



Six partridge breasts, a pound and a half of sausage meat, a large onion, half a pint of gravy and some puff pastry is all you need for a great pie, and it wouldn't be complete without chips.





Next month you'll start to see more plant based wild foods returning to the table in the foragers diary. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Bushcraft Heroes; Robert Rogers

This will be a new regular series on the blog about significant people in the history of bushcraft and survival skills and you will find a permanent link to the series in the menu on the left of the page. There won't necessarily be monthly additions to this series but you can expect a steady trickle posts about inspirational figures from modern and ancient history this year. Today's subject is Robert Rogers;

RobertRogers.jpeg
By Thomas Hart (publisher); Johann Martin Will (artist) - From the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection. Call number: UMP1776mf-6 (ASK Brown Call No.), Public Domain, Link

Robert Rogers was a British Army officer and served during King Georges War, The French and Indian Wars, Pontiacs Rebellion and the American Revolution, made famous by the unit named after him; Rogers Rangers, he is considered by many to be the father of modern special forces and achieved great success by implementing backwoods and native skills to make raids deep behind enemy lines.

Born in 1731 to Scots-Irish Settlers in Massachusetts Rogers and his family relocated to New Hampshire when he was eight. Hew Grew up near modern day Concord and by 1946 was a private in  Captain Daniel Ladd's scouting company and later in Ebeneezer Eastman's scouting company and served along the New-Hampshire frontier during King Georges War.

Later under the command of Colonel Wilmslow Rogers took charge of recruiting soldiers for the Crown after the commencement of the French and Indian Wars in 1755. He formed a force of 'rangers' soon  to become known as Rogers Rangers and commanded them with considerable success.

Rogers Rangers in the their green uniforms carrying tomahawks; Army Artist Team XXII [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rogers Rangers were the latest in a long line of New England ranger companies that had been active since the 1670’s. Rogers Rangers and their precursor Gorham’s Rangers, established 1744, were both active throughout the French and Indian Wars and were both originally established by a William Shirley, a British Administrator and Governor of Massachusetts, who in the face of mounting tensions between the British, French and Indians in the region established several volunteer militia companies including these and other ranger companies.

Of all of these ranger companies though it was Rogers Rangers that are the most famous and Rogers himself who first codified what have become known as the ‘rules of ranging’. He wrote them and issued them to his rangers in 1959 while stationed on the Hudson and those rules have stood the test of time and have been adapted to modern day warfare and are still issued to and followed by US Army Ranger recruits today.

Rogers rules of ranging were;

  1. All Rangers are to be subject to the rules and articles of war; to appear at roll-call every evening, on their own parade, equipped, each with a Firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet, at which time an officer from each company is to inspect the same, to see they are in order, so as to be ready on any emergency to march at a minute's warning; and before they are dismissed, the necessary guards are to be draughted, and scouts for the next day appointed.
  2. Whenever you are ordered out to the enemies forts or frontiers for discoveries, if your number be small, march in a single file, keeping at such a distance from each other as to prevent one shot from killing two men, sending one man, or more, forward, and the like on each side, at the distance of twenty yards from the main body, if the ground you march over will admit of it, to give the signal to the officer of the approach of an enemy, and of their number,
  3. If you march over marshes or soft ground, change your position, and march abreast of each other to prevent the enemy from tracking you (as they would do if you marched in a single file) till you get over such ground, and then resume your former order, and march till it is quite dark before you encamp, which do, if possible, on a piece of ground which that may afford your sentries the advantage of seeing or hearing the enemy some considerable distance, keeping one half of your whole party awake alternately through the night.
  4. Some time before you come to the place you would reconnoitre, make a stand, and send one or two men in whom you can confide, to look out the best ground for making your observations.
  5. If you have the good fortune to take any prisoners, keep them separate, till they are examined, and in your return take a different route from that in which you went out, that you may the better discover any party in your rear, and have an opportunity, if their strength be superior to yours, to alter your course, or disperse, as circumstances may require.
  6. If you march in a large body of three or four hundred, with a design to attack the enemy, divide your party into three columns, each headed by a proper officer, and let those columns march in single files, the columns to the right and left keeping at twenty yards distance or more from that of the center, if the ground will admit, and let proper guards be kept in the front and rear, and suitable flanking parties at a due distance as before directed, with orders to halt on all eminences, to take a view of the surrounding ground, to prevent your being ambuscaded, and to notify the approach or retreat of the enemy, that proper dispositions may be made for attacking, defending, And if the enemy approach in your front on level ground, form a front of your three columns or main body with the advanced guard, keeping out your flanking parties, as if you were marching under the command of trusty officers, to prevent the enemy from pressing hard on either of your wings, or surrounding you, which is the usual method of the savages, if their number will admit of it, and be careful likewise to support and strengthen your rear-guard.
  7. If you are obliged to receive the enemy's fire, fall, or squat down, till it is over; then rise and discharge at them. If their main body is equal to yours, extend yourselves occasionally; but if superior, be careful to support and strengthen your flanking parties, to make them equal to theirs, that if possible you may repulse them to their main body, in which case push upon them with the greatest resolution with equal force in each flank and in the center, observing to keep at a due distance from each other, and advance from tree to tree, with one half of the party before the other ten or twelve yards. If the enemy push upon you, let your front fire and fall down, and then let your rear advance thro' them and do the like, by which time those who before were in front will be ready to discharge again, and repeat the same alternately, as occasion shall require; by this means you will keep up such a constant fire, that the enemy will not be able easily to break your order, or gain your ground.
  8. If you oblige the enemy to retreat, be careful, in your pursuit of them, to keep out your flanking parties, and prevent them from gaining eminences, or rising grounds, in which case they would perhaps be able to rally and repulse you in their turn.
  9. If you are obliged to retreat, let the front of your whole party fire and fall back, till the rear hath done the same, making for the best ground you can; by this means you will oblige the enemy to pursue you, if they do it at all, in the face of a constant fire.
  10. If the enemy is so superior that you are in danger of being surrounded by them, let the whole body disperse, and every one take a different road to the place of rendezvous appointed for that evening, which must every morning be altered and fixed for the evening ensuing, in order to bring the whole party, or as many of them as possible, together, after any separation that may happen in the day; but if you should happen to be actually surrounded, form yourselves into a square, or if in the woods, a circle is best, and, if possible, make a stand till the darkness of the night favours your escape.
  11. If your rear is attacked, the main body and flankers must face about to the right or left, as occasion shall require, and form themselves to oppose the enemy, as before directed; and the same method must be observed, if attacked in either of your flanks, by which means you will always make a rear of one of your flank-guards.
  12. If you determine to rally after a retreat, in order to make a fresh stand against the enemy, by all means endeavour to do it on the most rising ground you come at, which will give you greatly the advantage in point of situation, and enable you to repulse superior numbers.
  13. In general, when pushed upon by the enemy, reserve your fire till they approach very near, which will then put them into the greatest surprise and consternation, and give you an opportunity of rushing upon them with your hatchets and cutlasses to the better advantage.
  14. When you encamp at night, fix your sentries in such a manner as not to be relieved from the main body till morning, profound secrecy and silence being often of the last importance in these cases. Each sentry therefore should consist of six men, two of whom must be constantly alert, and when relieved by their fellows, it should be done without noise; and in case those on duty see or hear any thing, which alarms them, they are not to speak, but one of them is silently to retreat, and acquaint the commanding officer thereof, that proper dispositions may be made; and all occasional sentries should be fixed in like manner.
  15. At the first dawn of day, awake your whole detachment; that being the time when the savages choose to fall upon their enemies, you should by all means be in readiness to receive them.
  16. If the enemy should be discovered by your detachments in the morning, and their numbers are superior to yours, and a victory doubtful, you should not attack them till the evening, as then they will not know your numbers, and if you are repulsed, your retreat will be favoured by the darkness of the night.
  17. Before you leave your encampment, send out small parties to scout round it, to see if there be any appearance or track of an enemy that might have been near you during the night.
  18. When you stop for refreshment, choose some spring or rivulet if you can, and dispose your party so as not to be surprised, posting proper guards and sentries at a due distance, and let a small party waylay the path you came in, lest the enemy should be pursuing.
  19. If, in your return, you have to cross rivers, avoid the usual fords as much as possible, lest the enemy should have discovered, and be there expecting you.
  20. If you have to pass by lakes, keep at some distance from the edge of the water, lest, in case of an ambuscade or an attack from the enemy, when in that situation, your retreat should be cut off.
  21. If the enemy pursue your rear, take a circle till you come to your own tracks, and there form an ambush to receive them, and give them the first fire.
  22. When you return from a scout, and come near our forts, avoid the usual roads, and avenues thereto, lest the enemy should have headed you, and lay in ambush to receive you, when almost exhausted with fatigues.
  23. When you pursue any party that has been near our forts or encampments, follow not directly in their tracks, lest they should be discovered by their rear guards, who, at such a time, would be most alert; but endeavour, by a different route, to head and meet them in some narrow pass, or lay in ambush to receive them when and where they least expect it.
  24. If you are to embark in canoes, battoes, or otherwise, by water, choose the evening for the time of your embarkation, as you will then have the whole night before you, to pass undiscovered by any parties of the enemy, on hills, or other places, which command a prospect of the lake or river you are upon.
  25. In paddling or rowing, give orders that the boat or canoe next the sternmost, wait for her, and the third for the second, and the fourth for the third, and so on, to prevent separation, and that you may be ready to assist each other on any emergency.
  26. Appoint one man in each boat to look out for fires, on the adjacent shores, from the numbers and size of which you may form some judgment of the number that kindled them, and whether you are able to attack them or not.
  27. If you find the enemy encamped near the banks of a river or lake, which you imagine they will attempt to cross for their security upon being attacked, leave a detachment of your party on the opposite shore to receive them, while, with the remainder, you surprise them, having them between you and the lake or river.
  28. If you cannot satisfy yourself as to the enemy's number and strength, from their fire, conceal your boats at some distance, and ascertain their number by a reconnoitering party, when they embark, or march, in the morning, marking the course they steer, when you may pursue, ambush, and attack them, or let them pass, as prudence shall direct you. In general, however, that you may not be discovered by the enemy upon the lakes and rivers at a great distance, it is safest to lay by, with your boats and party concealed all day, without noise or shew; and to pursue your intended route by night; and whether you go by land or water, give out parole and countersigns, in order to know one another in the dark, and likewise appoint a station every man to repair to, in case of any accident that may separate you.

There are many modern military outfits which claim direct descent from Rogers Rangers including The Queen's York Rangers of the Canadian Army, the U.S. Army Rangers, and the 1st Battalion 119th Field Artillery.

Rangers-pointe-du-hoc.jpg
US Army Rangers at Pointe du Hoc during the D-Day Landings; By Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. -  Public Domain, Link

Robert Rogers hero status for me doesn't necessarily come from his military victories though, and there is actually a fair bit of evidence that some of the claims of his success were exaggerated considerably, particularly the famous raid on St. Francis where conflicting reports offer estimates of between 30 and 200 enemy killed many of whom were women and children.

Crown-point1.jpg
Fort Crown Point, the starting point for the raid on St. Francis in modern day New York State. 
What is admirable about him was his skill as an outdoorsman and his ability to lead his men through difficult terrain with limited navigational equipment and to be to fight when he arrived. During the St. Francis Raid, probably the single thing Rogers Rangers are most well known for Rogers Rangers travelled for hundreds of miles at times with only the food they could forage, a few fungi, leaves berries, scraps of meat from beaver skins and even the boiled up leather of their own belts and pouches.


New hampshire in autumn.jpg
New England is famous for it's beautiful autumn colours but during the retreat from the St. Francis raid even this beautiful countryside offered little in the way of food to forage. By Someone35 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
What makes Rogers noteworthy even among his own men, who were a hardened and experienced group capable of incredible feats of endurance and possessed of incredible outdoor skill, is the way in which he travelled and moved his men. He was not a typical officer of the time and used irregular tactics and adapted very well to frontier life and campaigning. He used native skills and a sound knowledge of the land to move deep behind enemy lines where survival of large military formations used to the support of porters and supply companies would have been impossible. He and his men travelled light and relied on their knowledge rather than their equipment and they are examples to both military and civilians nowadays of fortitude and endurance.

During the French and Indian Wars, as well as the raid on St. Francis he and his men contributed to many other significant battles and engagements including;

Battle on Snowshoes (1757);

A skirmish fought against French and Indians in which Rogers troops were at an advantage due to their snow shoes while the french troop floundered in knee deep snow. 

Battle of Fort William Henry;

Montcalm is depicted wearing a uniform and three-cornered hat, facing an Indian who has raised a tomahawk over his head, as if to strike at Montcalm, while stepping over a wounded soldier. Bodies lie about, and an Indian is seen holding a white baby away from a woman who is trying to reach for it.
General Montcalm tries to prevent attacks on British Troops after the surrender of Fort William Henry; By Wood engraving by Alfred Bobbett, ca. 1824-1888 or 9, engraver, based on painting by Felix Octavius Carr Darley, 1822-1888. Public Domain, Link

Famously, and inaccurately depicted in the book and film Last of The Mahicans by James Fennimore Cooper Rogers Rangers were present during some of the events of the siege, surrender and massacre at Fort William Henry.

Battle on Snowshoes (1758)


A defeat for Rogers and his rangers from which Rogers barely escaped with his life, he was reported killed as his jacket and commission papers were left at the scene of the skirmish and he was said to have slid four hundred feet to the frozen surface of lake George before escaping. His force of 180 was decimated by 700 French and Indian troops after he set out on a scouting mission and successfully ambushed a combined French, Indian party only to encounter a much larger party when they gave chase to their original targets. Most of the rangers were killed but a few including Rogers escaped.

Battle of Carillon


The British attack on what is now known as Fort Ticonderoga was a major military failure and one in which the Rangers took part, they opened the battle with the 80th Regiment of Light Armed Foot by pushing the French Skirmishers back behind their defences before the battle started in earnest.

TiconderogaJeffreys1758.jpg
A map of the battle of Carillon; By Thomas Jefferys - The image is from the Library and Archive of Quebec. Call number: G 3804 T5 1758 J4 CAR Iris catalogue: 0002663195 Document URL at download time: link, Public Domain, Link

Rogers Rangers would latter participate in the Pontiac Rebellion and the Revolutionary War fighting for the British. His reputation as a leader of the rangers is now much greater than the sum of his modest military victories and he is remembered as a pioneering and influential soldier and commander as well as a great example of how frontier skill can be adapted to warfare.


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Real Steel Bushcraft Knife



The word 'bushcraft' attached to any product seems to drastically increase it's price but unfortunately often not it's value. That's not to say that more expensive equipment isn't good, sometimes it's very good but at other times the gulf between the prices of kit, most particularly knives, is not always as vast as the quality and performance.

The Real Steel Bushcraft knife may not be as low cost as the ubiquitous Mora Companion but it is full tang, has a thicker blade (at 3.5mm instead of 2.5mm) than a Mora and a micarta handle. It certainly looks the part of a bushcraft knife with a Scandinavian grind and in this case coyote micarta handle slabs. At less then £60 the D2 steel is a bargain and will hold it's edge well, I had mine for well over a year and used it regularly and only needed to give it the most basic of care and sharpening. 




The Scandinavian grind enables this knife to excel in in wood processing tasks, from making feather sticks for fire lighting to carving and whittling duties. While some might criticise it as having no chopping power the same could be said of any bushcraft knife of ideal size. Between four and five inches is a good size for general craft chores, food processing and gentle batoning; all the tasks required of a general purpose outdoors knife. 
Light duty batoning to make a kazoo. 
And that will be the lesson that accompanies this review; how to make a kazoo;

First take a strait stick, willow or hazel are normally good choices. Score two parallel lines on it about an inch apart.

Once you have scored your lines all the way around the circumference of the stick split it lengthwise. 

Now using those scored lines as markers (removing the bark is optional) carve out a few millimetres on each half of the stick so that when you place the two half's back together you have something like this. 

Now take a 'reed' a strong piece of grass a slice of a leaf or something similar is ideal, you can use an elastic band if you struggle for something natural.

Once places back together you can now blow through the gap you carved for a musical note. 

The kydex sheath with drain hole might not be quite as rustic as a more traditional leather sheath but that does mean that the blade is better protected from the elements than in a leather sheath that gets damp and holds water. I attached my sheath to a drop leg panel for belt carry although it does come with a kydex belt loop,  I wasn't a fan of the way it carried with the belt loop it came with though there was no flex in it and it hung bellow the belt line like a dangler sheath and because there was no flex it kept getting caught on things and jabbing me, so I first replaced the belt loop with one of TOPS spring steel belt clips and later the drop leg panel. 

All in all this knife is hard to beat on price or performance as a general bushcraft knife.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Foragers Diary; January 2019



January is the start of the hungry gap, all the larger edible fungi are finished now, even the blewets and oysters which will persist a little longer into Winter and which I was still finding in good numbers in November and December are all gone now and for my fungi fix I have to rely on smaller more unusual species such as Scarlet Elf Cups.



Slightly damp mossy woodland is the best place to find these colourful fungi and you can often pick leaves from a variety of wild cress species from close by. 





A bag full of cress and scarlet elf cups. 



Combined with a bit of cream cheese or pickled beetroot or chutney they make a delicious treat. My daughter thinks they might be the kind of thing fairies would eat so she loves them.

As we are still in the shooting season there is plenty of game meat to be eaten and I very rarely have time to pluck birds so more often than not I take the breasts and thighs from them without plucking to save a lot of time and mess. The breasts often get roasted wrapped in bacon, pan fried or even minced for sausage and other recipes depending on the species and I normally use the thighs for casseroles and curries. The following recipe makes for a great game curry;

4 pairs of partridge legs and thighs
2 pairs of pheasant legs and thighs
1 pair of duck legs and thighs
1 pair of goose legs and thighs
2 jars aldi thai green curry sauce
250g natural yoghurt
2 big handfulls of spinache
2 large peppers sliced
250g Baby sweetcorn

With rice this was plenty for a dozen people at a family gathering but unfortunately it all got eaten before I could take a picture.


Wild food can always be improved by eating it out of doors and as fresh as possible, fresh roe liver from a deer shot that morning and a pan full of eggs makes a very hearty campfire breakfast after an early stalk and to prepare for a full day in the woods.



In the run up to Christmas and through to the end of the wildfowling season I always try to give away some goose to family members who might not have such ready access to it as I do and judging by this picture from my brother it gets put to good use;



Goose crowns bagged up and ready for distribution. 
Check back next month for some more recipes, foraging tips and stories of wild food.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Bushcraft Art and Crafts (Fungi Spore PrintsFungi all )



In the Northern Hemisphere we all hope for a white Christmas, unfortunately for most of us in the UK we will be disappointed and our dreams of practising winter bushcraft and survival skills, like building a quinze, will be postponed for another year.

With or without snow though crisp, cold Autumn and Winter days are my favourite time to be outdoors but with or without snow it can sometimes be a challenge to get young people enthusiastic about being out of doors when the weather is cold. Here is one idea for you though;

Fungi all leave a spore print and these can be used in children art projects
 All fungi produce spores, these are the equivalent of seeds in plants in that from those spores new fungi can develop although they are biologically very different. These spores can be used to produce very interesting pieces of art work with children. Spore prints can also be used to help identify fungi the colour of the spores varies just as much between species as the physical appearance of the fungi.

At this stage it is important to make that warning that should accompany any fungi foraging or activity that involves fungi, BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL, although you aren’t necessarily going to eat these fungi that doesn’t mean you can be any less careful. All fungi produce spores even poisonous ones and do you want your children handling poisonous species at all?

The safest approach with fungi is just not to touch species you aren’t 100% sure of. 

The spore print from a bollete
Once you have picked some fungi you can arrange them carefully on paper or card that will show of the spore deposit best, you will need a few different colours of paper. The fungi we collected this time included some inedible species but nothing really poisonous. This variety allowed us to make some different patterns using the different colours of spores. 

It won't take long to leave a spore print, a few minutes is often enough but if you leave it an hour or so, or potentially overnight you will get a darker print.

A tractor with field mushroom spore wheels
An excellent benefit of this activity and others which involve opportunities for children to work with natural materials gathered from the wild is the chance to help children engage with nature and the countryside environment around them.

This is one of the greatest benefits of practising Bushcraft with children, the hard core bushcraft skills can come later but it's the experiences of nature and the environment, an appreciation and general knowledge of local wildlife, imagination, self reliance and confidence that are the greatest benefits to young children.  

Bushcraft Education Videos