Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ultralight Bushcraft?

Whether you are a history buff of ancient cultures, or perhaps you enjoy the contemporaries of bushcraft/woodcraft like Ray Mears, or maybe you just enjoy the impressive antics of Bear Grylls or Les Stroud when out in the wilderness without gear, at some point you've probably given some thought about how you'd fare if you needed to start a fire by unconventional means or perhaps you needed to carve something useful. I've already made fire from sticks, so I know that I can do it given the right conditions and perseverance. Well, I decided to revisit carving, something I haven't done literally since making wooden envelop openers during scouts while in my youth.

About two years ago we had a nasty storm roll through my neighborhood which partially toppled some trees in my neighbor's yard. A total of six large trees were all in a partial state of falling down, some worse than others, but all being held up by two of them which weren't quite as damaged. The problem, it all looked pretty terrible. My neighbor, an elderly couple, talked about getting them cut down by a professional and constantly said their son, the actual owner of the house, planned on dealing with it. A few weeks ago my neighbor and I were talking and she mentioned the unfortunate trees and apologized for them being an eyesore. Being a fan of nature in just about every form, I honestly didn't care, but sensing her distress I volunteered to use whatever I could dig up to at least get the trees on the ground.

About 5 years ago, my wife decided to pick up a small chainsaw during a yard sale. I'm not quite sure why she bought it, but she did. It has sat in my garage ever since. With my neighbor's trees offering the challenge, I took out the chainsaw for its maiden voyage. Over the course of several hours and accompanied by a bow saw and hatchet, I dropped the trees and cut off most of the limbs. After the fourth time the chain of my chainsaw came off and coupled with a solid amount of exhaustion, I decided to have a seat and ponder the destruction in front of me.

About that time my neighbor came out with cake in hand and endless appreciation. As we talked, she reminisced about her love of nature as a child in Sweden. She talked about making tools out of wood and all the various things she did in nature as a child. I also learned her husband was a famed jewelry designer from Egypt and her son was a Congressmen. Funny how it takes a bit a nature to find the time to have a human conversation and learn.

As she talked, she gave me the idea to go into my garage and grab an old Mora knife I had laying around which I used for yard work. Grabbing a log about the diameter of my thigh, I started whittling away. It was only after I was committed and a couple hours deep that I realized my choice of wood would play a role in the quality of my work and that I should have paid more attention to the core of the tree as well as branches...not to mention the huge log I used merely to make a spoon meant only more work for me.

By the time it was all said and done, I had officially made a spoon. Considering it was made from a sizable piece of wood with a quite simple tool and not much attention to detail or quality, I'm pretty happy with it. Turns out it made me a cool Dad too as my kids marveled at something they would no doubt want to break as quickly as possible.

Funny thing about the spoon is how light it was. I didn't weigh it, but dried wood is extremely lightweight. I couldn't help but think of lightweight backpacking as a result.

1 comment:

Philip Werner said...

I've been thinking along these lines too. Plus there are endless things to learn how to do. I like the idea of just-in-time gear too, which you make, as needed.