Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Satchel and my kit

Here is the satchel I have carried everyday for 7 or 8 years now. It is tin cloth, but not Filson. I picked it up from Piragis Northwoods in Ely, MN when I was a Wilderness Ranger there.

In it I carry:
small belt pouch w/ 6 nails, German army folding knife, magnesium fire starter, p-chord, small note pad & pencil

RX bottle with cotton batton covered in bag balm

Sewing awl

Silva Ranger compass (do you know what the mirror is for?)

Metal water bottle

Large enamel mug w/detachable wire bail

Tea in a flip top glass jar

Large stainless steel screen tea infuse

Bar of mexican chocolate

Carved wooden spoon (black locust)

Small sharpening steel

Mini-mag w/replacement LED head

Scharade vise-grip

2 dogwood fids

Crooked knife (aka hoof knife)

Small ruler

Blank journal w/pencil, mech. eraser, 360 degree protractor

New Testament (you never know how bad it will get!)

A week from now what I carry will probably change, but not by much. Let me know if you have any suggestions, or if you would like to know more about why I carry certain things.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Three Flintlocks

Here are some photos of two of my muzzleloaders, and one of my fathers.

The first is my "plain jane" .50 cal Cabela's Blue Ridge rifle. We picked it out of the Cabela's Bargain Cave in Kearney, NE back when I was 16 or 17 for $150 bucks. My Dad does an amazing job of haggling. I have been loading it with 65 grains of FFg and a .490 Hornady sprue-less round ball with .010 patches. After this past deer season I have decided to up my charge to 90 grains of FFg, and my Dad has put a new silver front sight on it to improve the sight picture in low light conditions.

The second is my .62 cal smooth rifle. I won it as a kit in a shoot about the same time we picked up the Blue Ridge. I had the gun custom built from the kit by a very talented gentleman from Indiana. It is called a "smooth rifle" instead of a fowler because it has rifle mounted furniture and a front and rear sight. I load it with 65 grains of FFg and a .610 round ball that I cast myself with a .010 patch. The smooth rifle is very versatile as it throws a round call as well as it casts shot.

The final smokepole is my Dad's Dixie Gun Works Tennessee Mtn. Rifle that was customized by a friend of the family over 20 years ago I suppose. The amazing thing about the carving on the stock is that he did it all with a jack knife (I'm not kidding). Dad loads it with 90 grains of FFg his deluxe .490 round balls from a specially fabricated popcorn bottle, and .010 patches. Dad also tends to use a felt wad between the powder and patched ball to limit any scorching of the patch.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I lead a class today for a local community college and I had a couple of folks request that I post the links to a few sight I recommended for picking up inexpensive quality gear.

For army surplus I go with Sportsman’s Guide.

For knives I like to go through Smokey Mountain Knife Works.

Finally for kit I don’t make myself I go through Ben’s Backwoods.

If anyone that was at the course today (or anyone else for that matter) has any questions or request for my blog PLEASE leave a comment and let me know. Also if you attended and have requests for future course topics let me know.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Deer Camp 2008

Here are a couple of picture from deer camp. The first shows most of this years hunters. My Grandpa is seated in front, he is still hunting at age 97! I hope I can hunt for that long. The other is a pic of one of the deer I got. She was a pretty good sized doe, she had close to three inches of fat on her back!

My Dad is pointing to where I hit her, which was exactly where I aimed. We were pretty impressed because it was a 130 yard shot (he measured it three times!).

I used a .50 caliber flintlock rifle with a patched round ball and 90 of FFFG black powder.

I got another deer (a button buck) a couple of days before at about 35 yards. We processed both of the deer ourselves. I would have to say that my favorite part of deer hunting is the butchering process. There is something exceedingly satisfying about providing food for your family literally from field, to table and doing all yourself (with a little help from your Mom and Dad of course!). Thanks Mom and Dad!

I didn’t use my smoothrifle as much as I would have liked because it was shooting 18” low ad 50 yards after we got it back from the gunsmith. I just didn’t have the time to try to sight it in so I used my old Cabela’s Blue Ridge Rifle.

Besides the great deer hunting with my family (there were four generations at deer camp) I got to do some of the best wildlife watching I’ve done in my life while waiting for the deer to come by. I saw…
1 Woodcock two different times (My Dad saw three)
1 Brown creeper
2 Red fox
2 Coyotes
5 Pileated woodpeckers
15 Gold-crown kinglets
and 1 Sharp shinned hawk that flew within 6” of my right elbow.

Why can’t deer season be 365 days long?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Heading for Deer Camp!

In about two hour my family and I will be heading to Iowa's East Coast (the Mississippi River) for early muzzleloader deer season. We will be hunting Whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and we have the potential of getting 3 deer this year (we have three tags). We plan on doing the butchering ourselves, but we will have a local meat locker make up some ring bologna and maybe some jerky for us. Here is a picture from last year’s successful hunt.
I carry a .62 caliber flintlock smooth-rifle that was custom made for me by a gentleman from Indiana. I won it in a shoot when I was about 16 or 17 years old. I like using a smoothbore flintlock because of the versatility and added challenge. Since it is not rifled I am limited to around 100 yard shots, but once I have my deer I am able to load it with shot and hunt small game.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

First Basket

Here you can see the product of my first basket weaving attempt. The whole project from collecting the materials to the assembly took a little under an hour.

I was on a hike when I came across a tree top down across the trail and I noticed that the top was full of wild grape vines (Vitis riparia) pg.13. As I was removing the tree top from the trail I started to mess around with the grape vine and I noticed the the vines that were the diameter of a pencil WITH shaggy bark were very pliable and could be tied in knots.

I thought to myself "Self, you could make a basket out of these vines". Which I promptly did. The ribs are made from a small Grey dogwood (Cornus racemosa) branch split into sixths.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pot Hook

This is an improvised pot hook that I made a while back. It is held together by placing a small wedge into a carved notch at the center of the two hooked pieces. The hooks are made from ironwood/hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) branches, and the wedge is chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).

The next time I make one of these I plan on using a much softer wood. The ironwood/hophornbeam was difficult to carve smoothly, and I think I could make something like basswood (Tilia americana) fit more tightly together. Also the ironwood/hophornbeam checked and warped so badly that the pot hook no longer stays together.

This was a really fun project to work on and helped to improve my dexterity with my knife. Let me know if you have tried anything similar to this, or if I motivate you to try something.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

For Mungo...

Mungo, of Mungo says Bah fame, recently requested that i take some close up pictures of the bucksaw I made a while back, but I haven't gotten around to it. In the mean time I thought i would post a link I stumbled upon the other day that has a step by step tutorial on making a similar buck saw.

I hope you find it helpful…

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wild Plum Adze

DIY Adze
Here is an adze I cobbled together recently. The blade is a copy of an 18th century British Light Infantry tomahawk. The handle is a Wild plum (Prunus americana) branch that I had to trim from over a trail. I lashed the head on using a nylon cord, but rawhide would have worked better. For being an improvised tool I was impressed with how well it worked.
I was inspired by the journals of Lewis & Clark becase they mentioned that they made most of the tool handels they needed on thier journey to the Pacific from Choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) trees that grew along the Missouri River.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Roycroft Packframe

This is Roycroft packframe that I made for a recent class. The frame itself is made from Gray dogwood and is lashed together with jute twine. The shoulder straps are bandanas. (I usually carry at least four bandanas with me because they have so many uses.) I have often used packframes for backpacking, and for hauling trail building materials over the years and I have always been impressed by what a person can carry with a good frame.

Attached to the frame in the pictures is my poncho, a wool blanket, and three pairs of wool socks. The space above the poncho is where I lash my shoulder bag that I use as a day pack.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Buck Saw

This is a bucksaw that I put together recently for a improvised equipment class I taught. I had never mad one before this and it worked REALLY well! I tested it out by felling a 6" diameter Ironwood tree/Eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) and it worked as well as a store bought model.

The uprights and cross braces are made from Gray dogwoods (Cornus racemosa) . The blade is from a local hardware store and it set me back $2.99. The turnbuckle at the top is jute twine wrapped six times before it was twisted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More Green Woodworking

I was given a Frost spoon knife for Fathers Day. Prior to getting a real spoon knife I had been using a hoof knife usually used to clean horse hooves. The kuksa, bowl, and spoon pictured hear were carved using the hoof knife. The ladel was carved using my new spoon knife.




Ladel top

Ladel side

I still carry the hoof knife in the field because it packs better than the spoon knife, but the spoon knife make the finishing work much smoother. Stay tuned for some more DIY projects!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Been a while

I haven't posted in while so I have a backlog of things to talk about.

A few weeks back my family and i spent most of our time hunting morel mushrooms. We found about two pounds worth in ther 2-3 weeks that we went looking. We had our best luck in an are the had been burned off last fall. We at most of the with a shrimp scampi, and pesto pasta.

Besides these tasty fungi we aslo found some great spring prairie wildflowers like:

Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum canescens)

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium montanum)

and Prairie Violet (Viola pedatifida)

My daughter and I stumbled upon a good sized Fox snake (Elaphe vulpina) on a ridge near our home. Fox snakes have a nasty habit of vibrating their tails in dry leaves etc. when alarmed. This one did and almost met the wrath of my walking staff. I deal with a snake of the same species a lot in my work and I was able to quickly figure out that it wasn't a rattle snake. (I would never go out of my way to kill a snake, but I thought I was going to step on a rattler while carrying my little girl).

My wife found a Sharp-shinned hawk while of hiking a few days later. It was sitting on a branch near cut-bank that some Northern rough-winged swallows use for nesting.

A few nights later my wife went into the kitchen and discovered a Little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) flying around the kitchen. It eventually got tired and landed behind our wall clock, so she opened the window and removed the screen and I held the clock outside and off it flew.

This past weekend I taught a mini Bushcraft course at the Loess Hills Praire Seminar. I had a great time, and good attendance. I had a real ego boost when a woman told me I should write a book on the subject, and another asked me if I would come present at a big wetlands festival in north central Iowa.

On Saturday I will be teaching a class on wild edibles for a local community college. I hopefully will remeber my camera and post on the things we find.

Sorry I have been so slow in posting!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Outings

My wife, little girl, and I went for a picnic and walk at a nearby city park on Monday. After a very cool and windy picnic we walked the trails at the north end of the lake and on our way back to the car we spotted a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) near the waters edge.

While we were out I took a few ‘experimental” pictures using the cameras macro feature, and later using my binoculars as a telephoto lens.

The first photo is of one of our first spring wildflowers called Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). I love the unique shape of these flowers that lend them quite well to their name.

This next photo is of the Gooseberry (Ribes missouriense). Later on in the summer the berries of this plant will form and turn from a “watermelon” green to a deep burgandy to purple. The darker they become the sweeter they are. The best ones appear almost black.

The third plant photo I took is of Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica). The leaves of this plant are edible this time of year, but as the plant matures they develop tiny hairs that cause a burning sensation when the come in contact with your skin. The nettles grow in a dense stand usually in distubed areas. You can see some of the dried stalks from last years plants. I collected some of these stalks and took them home. Later on I am going to make some cordage out of the thin skin that is found on the dried stalks.

Near where we spotted the Prothonotary Warbler we spotted some Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) sunning them selves on a log. They we about 4o yards away, which is far out of range for our camera’s puny lens. To get this picture I focused on the turtles with my Nikon Monarch 8x42 binoculars then I lined the eyepiece up with the lens of the camera. A poor man’s telephoto lens!

Yesterday while I was leading a hike with some local 1st graders we spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) below on the trail near the nature center I work at. Last night when my little girl couldn't sleep my wife and I hiked her up on the ridge to the west of my house. We sat there watching the sun set, the Eastern Towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) forage, and the male Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) display, a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) swooped just over our heads.

A great couple of days in my opinion.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Backyard Visitor

We have been having a visitor to our discarded table scraps fairly frequently this winter and spring. The Virginia opossum(Didelphis virginiana) is unlike any other North American mammal. For starters it is a marsupial; meaning that the female carries the young in a pouch on her stomach. Other unique features of the opossum are, it has more teeth than any other land mammal in North America, it has a prehensile tail, the females have two vaginas, and the males have a bifurcated penis. Amazing little creatures.

Opossums are typically nocturnal; however we see them around our place during the day fairly regularly. My theory is that with limited diurnal predators (I never see or hear any signs of coyotes here) the Opossums come out during the day to avoid our many nocturnal avian predators. If anyone else has any other theories I would love to hear them.

I would like to thank my wife and daughter for taking the picture. They informed me that she is named Ms. Kinky Tail (she has a kink in her tail).

Wax Stove Field Test

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, time gets away from me sometimes.

It is a BEAUTIFUL spring day here in the Loess Hills. Clear blue skys, and temps in the low 60's. I decided to go out and check the trails for any downed timber today. It was a perfect day for a hike. When I stopped for lunch I boiled up some tea using my DIY wax stove, and it worked really well. I boiled half a quart of water in about 8 minutes. I think if I had a windscreen of some sort that I would have shaved a couple of minutes off the boil time.

While I waiting for my water to boil I called three turkeys in using a stir stick (from a cup of coffee). I also spotted a breeding pair of Coopers hawks making their way north. On my way back to my office I spotted a small flock of Fox sparrows. All in all it was about as close to a perfect day at work as one could hope for.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Carving my first spoon

Basswood Spoon
This is the first spoon that I have ever made. I made it for my wife tonight while she was at work. I carved it from piece of dry Basswood (Tilia americana) left over from making a bow-drill for a survival class I had taught a while back.

I started by splitting off a section from the large piece of wood that you can see my puukko’s stuck into. I used my larger puukko like a froe with and I used a piece of pine like a mallet to drive it through. Then I used the smaller puukko to rough out the spoons general shape. I carved the depression of the “business end” of the spoon with a hoof knife. I was very pleased with the way that it turned, but more importantly so was my wife!

The finale on the spoons handle is carved in the shape of a morel mushroom. It is a fitting totem because my wife is highly adept at finding the elusive fungus.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wax Stove

Making a “DIY” Wax Stove
I had wanted to make a wax stove since I first saw on at the Bushcraft Living forum a couple of months ago. The biggest stumbling block was finding a tin that I thought was suitable. After checking several craft stores unsuccessfully I stumbled across a perfect tin for .35 cents at a local thrift store.

To make the stove I gathered together a piece of corrugated cardboard, a carpenters square to use a straight edge, beeswax ingots a small puukko knife and the tin.

While I melted the beeswax using a tin can and a Swedish Army surplus Trangia alcohol stove. I started to measure and cut the cardboard to fit.

I cut two long pieces that I cut center slits in about half their width that allowed them to be put together to form a cross. I can be seen in the photo on the right hand side. Next I cut four smaller pieces that I used to insert into the open spaces created by the center cross piece.

Once I had all the pieces inserted and the wax was melted I poured the wax slowly into the tin. I was careful to be sure that I filled each of the chambers created by the cardboard wick equally.

Here you can see the stove in use. I knew from article I had read that lighting the wax stove can be difficult so in order to light it I laid the lit paper match right on the center of the wick and left it there; allowing it to completely burn up. Keep checking back for a future field trial on my new wax stove.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I am an outdoor educator from the Loess Hills of Iowa. I teach people of all ages natural history by relating it to cultural history. I have found that by teaching people how to use elements of nature with bushcraft/woodcraft skills they tend to be more respectful of our natural resources.

I have learned a lot of what I know from my father and grandfather who kept me out of the house and in the woods growing up (I could never thank them enough for that). I have learned from other teachers along the way, and through A LOT of trial and error. I have worked in the natural resources field since 2001. I worked as a farm hand, in a wire harness factory, in a major sporting goods warehouse, as a restaurant manager, as a wilderness ranger, a park aide, and a naturalist.

Al those jobs are pretty varied, but I learned a lot from each of them that I use when teaching bushcraft courses. The most important thing they have taught me is to be adaptable. My philosophy on bushcraft and life can be summed up with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."-T.R.

My hope is that as I learn new skills, and perfect old ones, I will be able to record and share them on this site. So please keep checking back, and feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or advice!