Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bushcraft Manifesto

Hello all. Hope you are enjoying this unseasonally cool summer as much as I am. My summer was extremely busy and it just now starting to wind down. I am looking forward to fall, hunting season, and most importantly our new baby! In the meantime I have been asked to give a presentation on bushcraft to naturalists from across the state and I decided to put together a little outline.

Well the outline has turned into more of a mini-manual for beginners and I thought I'd share it on here, section-by-section, as I complete them. I am hoping for some constructive critisim from fellow practitoners so feel free to share your opinions (be gentle though, I'm sensitive...)

The Foundations

The foundations upon which bushcraft stands are knowledge and the knife. The skills that are used in bushcraft are nothing new; many predate recorded history. Of the two foundations, knowledge is the most important. With knowledge a person can fashion a cutting tool from stone (chert, flint, basalt, etc…) or a blade can be fashioned from discarded steel or iron in the woods, all it takes is a little knowledge of lithics and metallurgy. By combining together a base knowledge with the skillful use of a knife it is very possible for you to not only survive in the wilds, but to thrive. That is the major difference between survival and bushcraft for me. I think of survival as fighting nature to live and bushcraft as working cooperativley with nature for mutual benefit.

The knowledge needed to get a start in bushcraft I have broken down into 4 basic skill sets of:

  • Bladecraft- the use and care of blades (knives, saws, axes, etc…).
  • Bindcraft- the use and care of bindings (cordage, ropes, wythes, etc…).
  • Firecraft- the use and care of fire and fire lighting techniques (fire-by-friction, flint and steel, ferrocerium rods, etc…).
  • Fieldcraft- the combined use of the above skills and ecology to utilize the landscape to thrive while leaving it better than you found it (shelter building, green woodworking, observation/journaling, etc...).

Because bushcraft goes against some of the seven principles of leave-no-trace (LNT) camping it is crucial to have a strong working knowledge of ecology to ethically practice bushcraft. For example, if you want to build a shelter and need to cut down shrubs or saplings what can you ethically cut? By knowing what trees and shrubs sucker strongly (shoot up new growth from downed trees) you can harvest them while doing no long term harm. Better yet learn what trees or shrubs are non-native and invasive to the area. Removing them will help the native vegetation and help to restore ever shrinking habitats.

Also it is important to be aware of rules and regulations while using public land, and to respect private property. In most cases on public land it is against regulations to cut or remove living plants, so you have to work with dead and down materials. However, as a land manger myself I would be more than happy to let someone collect invasive plants like buckthorn for wood carving or honeysuckle for shelter building so long as they could prove to me their ability to ID the plants. Not every land manager will be so accommodating, but it wouldn't hurt to ask. More on this will be discussed in the Fieldcraft section.


wandering owl said...

This seems like a great start to me. I can't wait to read more.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the positive comment! I am close to publishing the next installment. I have to have th whole thing done my Saturday the 29th because I'm teaching a course.