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Thursday, 30 June 2016

What is Bushcraft?

I want to announce the publication of the first of our new 'Bushcraft Basics' pages on the BushcraftEducation blog and share the content of the first page here.                     I originally started this blog to share ideas of how to use bushcraft in education to enhance learning for students and to share ideas of how teachers can engage learners with the countryside and the natural world through bushcraft activities.                       Over the next few months we will gradually publish more 'Bushcraft Basics' pages on topics such as fire, tools, shelter and water to name just a few and they will all be available here. This 'What is Bushcraft' page is already available. 

Cooking out in the woods is just a small
part of bushcraft.
Bushcraft is almost impossible to define in just a few words, it's such a broad topic and is open to so much individual interpretation. But I like to sum it up by saying;

"Bushcraft is a collection of skills which make subsisting in the natural environment without modern conveniences possible and sustainable"

Ray Mears offers a brief definition in his 2002 book 'Bushcraft' and says that it's a topic which includes botany, zoology, hand crafts and outdoor leadership but trying to give a list of 'bushcraft skills' just as difficult as trying to offer a simple definition and can be very controversial. 

For example I don't think anyone would argue that gathering food from the wild should be considered part of bushcraft but a couple of years ago I carried out a simple survey to determine the level of interest from bushcrafters in the UK in using firearms as part of their bushcraft practice, bearing in mind that to take a deer from the wild to eat it, use it's skin for making clothing, sinews for cordage, bones for tools (all part of bushcraft?) your only legal option in the UK is to use a rifle of the appropriate calibre (we write a lot about deer on this blog, if you're interested check out some past posts here). I was really surprised to find that a lot of people who responded to my questionnaire, not a huge number in the grand scheme of things but a large enough proportion to cause me some confusion, felt that firearms had no place in bushcraft. Now I can understand that using firearms is not to everyone's taste or within everyone's comfort zone but to declare that their use is not part of bushcraft seems a bit odd. Especially as everyone would agree that gathering wild food is 'bushcraft.

Now I'm not trying to say that your practice of bushcraft is incomplete if you don't use firearms, what I'm trying to illustrate is that 'bushcraft' is different things to different people and I cant really do any more than offer you some examples of skills I regularly use which I believe are part of 'bushcraft', And because bushcraft is largely practised now as a recreational past time rather than relied on for day to day survival and subsistence it can be exactly what you want it to be. 

I will offer some examples of skills I use regularly which I would consider part of my practice of bushcraft, they include;

Fire Craft
Knife and tool use and hand crafts

Wild Food

These are just a few examples of skills that I associate with bushcraft but beyond that the beauty of recreational bushcraft is that you can make it exactly what you want it to be and take it to as advanced a level as you are comfortable with. Yes there are many professions which apply bushcraft skills to their work and we have run a whole series of posts on these skills which we are constantly adding to and you can find here but...

..if 'backgarden bushcrafting'; Building dens, lighting fires and doing simple work with knives and tools with with your children is as far as you want to go you are still a 'bushcrafter', if you want to go on long distance expeditions with modern, light weight equipment but use your bushcraft skills to prolong your expedition that's fine too, if you want to live off the land with nothing but a flint knife and some buckskin clothes you are still a 'bushcrafter' if that's what you want to call yourself.  

Friday, 10 June 2016

Adapt and Improvise; Shotgun Shell matchbox

These matchboxes are really simple to make and are great for keeping small items safe and if you can get a tight enough fit between the lid and the container they are waterproof too.

First select some cartridges which have a high brass base, these make better lids. You will need to heat them until you can pull the base off. Make sure you don't allow the plastic case to actually begin to melt away or burn as that will make the next step harder. 

Now pull the base off, use pliers so you don't burn your fingers you need to aim for a result like the one on the right in the picture below.
If there is plastic left in the brass base it wont fit tightly as the lid of the matchbox and it will be very tricky to remove the remaining plastic. 

Next select a cartridge that will form the body of the matchbox, it's not as important that the brass base is as high on this part of the matchbox. Cut the crimped portion from the top of the cartridge so that the lid you have just made will fit tightly. 
The last thing you need to do is fill it with matches, fish hooks, potassium permangenate or whatever other survival gizmo you want to keep safe and dry.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

#bushcraftbabies private Bushcraft Show

This year my children weren't able to come to the Bushcraft Show with me as they usually would as they all had the chicken pox, so after I got back from the show as I had some time off from teaching over the half term holiday we had our own private bushcraft show in the back garden;

Lillie spent quite some time learning to use a pocket knife safely and used it to cut the bark off a log looking for woodlice.  

They painted some wooden mushrooms just like the visitors to the Bushcraft Education stand at the real Bushcraft Show did. 

They made some charcoal pencils in our washing machine fire pit and did some drawing with it;

They used their knife skills to prepare lunch;

Michael choice of a banana and salami combination for his kebab was an unusual one. 

Some less unusual kebabs on the grill.
We made some paracord fobs for their fire steels too.

Even the youngest bushcraft baby Peter got involved in the quality controling some whittled spoons. .

Although they may have missed the real thing we really did have a good time at our own little bushcraft show and the best thing about it is that we can have one whenever we want. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Bushcraft Show 2016

This time last week I was on my way back from the Bushcraft Show and had a really great time. We were lucky enough to share a stand with Reaseheath College where you will soon be able to study a course in Environmental Archaeology and Primitive Skills which combines Bushcraft and Academia in prefect harmony to prepare you for a career in archaeology, outdoor education or countryside and land management.

This year on the Bushcraft Education stand we offered opportunities for children to do a little bit of fungi ID and paint their own wooden mushroom to take away with them.

Fly agaric was by far the most popular subject for painted mushrooms at this years show. 
This activity proved really popular and by half way through Sunday all our mushrooms had been used up, we really hope that the children who got a change to paint a mushroom of their own learned a bit about fungi ID even if it's just not to touch them until they learn more about them. 

We also did some owl pellet dissections and were able to tell just from the contents of the pellets what small mammals were living almost 100 miles away, in the hedges and ditches of the Cambridgeshire fens where the barn owl which produced these particular pellets lives on the edge of Riddy Wood.  
Owl pellets don't look like much at first glance but if you look closer at just some of the things we found inside this one;

Here we have two field vole skulls and a shrew skull, the red teeth on the skull and jaw at the bottom of the picture distinguished it without any doubt as one of our three shrew species; common, pygmy or water. This one happens to be a common shrew although over the course of the weekend we did find some tiny pygmy shrew remains as well.

We also ran a workshop on trapping and looked at some of the changes in legislation that may soon affect those who use traps in the UK countryside as well as the knowledge we need to effectively and legally use traps.

 For those of you who want to learn more about trapping in the UK book a place on one of our upcoming courses; HERE.

We also did work on the camp fire over the weekend and despite many people commenting that they thought "the char cloth was done" what we were actually making was charcoal pencils; 

It will take some time to use up all the golden syrup we bought so we could use these tins for charcoal making. 

We were also able to show off some of the products made from the wood harvested from our ancient woodland site; Riddy Wood which you will be able to order via our online craft shop, whistles like these will be available to order soon;

Geoffs children normally accompany him to the bushcraft show but this year Michael was unable to attend as he had the chicken pox, but he has enjoyed playing with this whistle and he and the other #bushcraftbabies had great fun at their own private Bushcraft Show in the garden  last week which you will get to read about in tomorrows post on the Bushcraft Education blog. 

It was a great show this year with Ray Mears headlining the event, even if we were too busy to go and listen to his talk on the main stage, combined with perfect weather and a great venue at Beehive Farm Lakes.   

We're already looking forward to next years show.

Bushcraft Education Videos