Thursday, July 26, 2007

Leather Projects

I have made other leather projects in the past but I have never been so personally involved as with my nutria bag. This was the first road kill that I followed through and made something out of it.

I am hoping to add projects as they are completed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Mt. Tum Tum

I first heard of Mt. Tum Tum through a local flute circle here in Portland. We get together once a month to play Native style flutes. I decided that it would be worth checking out over the weekend. I didn't really know what to expect. As you can see here, most of the people at the gathering were camped by their cars in the field.

I have some pictures to try and give a good idea of what was going on.

Here is my camp. Yes, I know it looks like my tent is ready to come down. I was able to eat my lunch in the shade and try to stay cool.

Here are some of the vendor booths. Naturally, being and Indian encampment, there were lots of traditional crafts, bulk leather, drums, and jewry for sale.

There was a stage for performances. Here is a singing and drumming group. They would play for hour and deep into the night. I have no idea how they were able to sing that long without losing their voices.

This was an Aztec dance that was done on Saturday.

This is one of two booths of flutes. This one is the Stellar flutes and the other booth was the Quiet Bear flutes. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend. Talking about and playing flutes. Dwight (Quiet Bear) live really close to where I am at so I am hoping to see him in action sometime in his workshop.

After a day or more of drumming, singing, shopping, and everything else that was going on, I really felt drown away from the camp. I made my way down some trails that I hoped let to a creek. When I did find it I was swept away by its beauty. I sat on a rock with my feet in the water for a long time just absorbing it all in.


I really need to carry my camera with me all the time because I have so many animals living near me. I have a family of birds living in the roof of my kitchen. The babies are so cute.

Here are just a few of the animals around me. I will keep adding pictures as I can.

This plant lives just off the path were I come and go. I have really come to reliey on it for medicen. It is the biggest of the Plantain I have ever seen. Its location and its size brings to mind a very old wise elder watching over the field where the rest of his people are living. For those of you that would like to know what medice planains are good for here you go. Their leaves have very powerful drawing properties when made into a poltice. I have used the leaves whenever I get a scratch that starts to get infected.

Grass Mat

I have been wanting to do something with grass this summer because I live so close to a field full of it. I was really wanting to make lots of grass mats and take them to another location for a thatch hut I have been planning. Unfortunately, I was not able to cut and weave enough grass even for a full size mat. The process was very educational for me and I am glad I tried this project. I really think that grass is a great material with many applications. The pictures I have here are just of the first part of the mat. I will take a picture of the finished mat soon and post it. I have no idea if this weaving method was actually used by Natives for matting but it worked for me pretty well. If anyone has any input on making mats I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Spoon Lamp

I had been running low on candles so I was playing around with some ideas for lighting. I was amazed that my spoon lamp worked and that it gave off a lot of light. The wick was just some natural fiber twine. I soaked in vegietable oil. The flame stayed alive for about 15 minutes with just about half a spoonful of oil. I do realize that this could be very messy if the oil spilled, however, I plan on making some real lamps with clay sometime.

Road Kill

Now that I am feeling really settled where I am,
I have been really wanting to do some projects with tanning. I have been doing a lot of thinking about making a robe or blanket out of tanned hide. The problem is that it is illegal to pick up road kill in most casses and I really don't do very much hunting. Last summer I found out that it is
possible to collect road kill if you call the bioligist and take in the animal or hide to be tagged and recorded. In this case the hide will never belong to you because the state claims it as theirs. You will, however, be able to have possesion of it. I really don't like that idea.

Anyways, I have decided that I am going to help keep the roads clean of road kill and in the process have some nice fur. If I get caught then I will just say that I am planning to take in the
animal on Monday to be tagged. Hopefully, that
will work.

Mud Oven

Here is my first attempt at an outdoor oven. I am really excited about being able to cook with it. The pictures pretty much tell how I made the oven. I would like to describe the mud I used. It is called survival cement because it can be made very easily and is very durable. Just make a thick mud and add grass, pine needles, ferns, or whatever is around. This will act as a binder for the mud. Another thought is about the water. Made sure you add it a little bit at a time because it is really easy to add to much.

This is made from acorn flour that I made last fall. It is soooo good!!

This style of bread is really an ash cake. It is called and ash cake because it layes on the hot ashes while cooking. When it is ready to come out, just dust off the ashes and eat.

Very tasty!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Q & A

I really enjoy reading the comments left and have been frustrated because I can not respond directly back. I will from time to time use a posting to answer some questions.

Q: Is that a cat near the shelter?

A: Yes, his name is Spaz. He really enjoyed living out in nature with me for a couple of months. He has since disappeared and visits me in my dreams to check in on me. He was a really good friend and I miss him a lot.

Q: Can the digging tool be used for other plants besides dandelions?

A: Yes, the tool can be used for lots of different plants. However, do not expect good results unless you either take the time to find really hard wood like yew wood. Some soils are very rocky and when in the dry season can be very hard on the tool. Most people I have seen make or buy one made of metal.

Q: Can I come see your place?

A: If anyone wants to come over and share a meal with me or are more than welcome. E-mail me at so we can talk about it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Catching Fire (Part 3)

Fire by Friction
Before I get into the different parts and technique of the friction fire, I would like to just say a few words about this amazing skill.
I have seen stong people fail at this skill and weak people succeed. The real skill here is the knowlege of the parts and how everything comes together. Having respect for the wood in your hands that your cutting away at to make every part perfect.

"Strive toward perfect part's & form and the bow drill will come with ease & delight."
-Tom Brown III-


Bow & String-

The length of the bow should be as long as from your armpit to wrist with a little curve. The bow should be strurdy and a little flexible. The string can be made from natural plant fibers, sinew, rawhide, or any modern string. I have not used natural cordage yet because I need to make a flex bow for that skill. Lets just stick with modern string for the beginner.

Hand Hold

Find a piece of wood that fits comfortably in your hand. This wood should be the same or harder than the spindle. After the hole is burned, put some soap, fat, or even pitch in the hole to stop the friction.


The hardness of the spindle and the fireboard should be the same. This will allow even wear on both the board and spindle. Spindles should be no bigger than your thumb and should be as long
as from the tip of your pinky to the tip of your

thumb. As you can see in the picture, one side comes to a long point and the other side comes to
a shallow point. This is to control the friction. We want alot of friction where the spindle meets the fireboard so there is a shallow point with more surface area in contact with the board.

Fireboard and Notch

Fire boards should be thumb thick or less with a

flat top and bottom and with squarred off sides. My fireboard here is really just a bit to wide. Fireboards should be two spindles wide. That way I can use both sides without having a bunch of wood in the middle that won't ever be used.

When burning in the hole on the fire board, make sure that the rim of the hole is not quite out to the edge of

the fire board. As you can see the hole was burned until it was the same size as the spindle.

To get the perfect notch we need to carve out 1/8 of the hole. Make sure that the center of the notch is not quite the center of the hole. The walls of the notch should come straight down and b e smooth. If the walls of the notch are not smooth, the dust will have a harder time forming a coal at the bottom.

Tender Bundle

The tinder bundle can be as simple as dried grass or layered. Here I have some plant fiber twine and some cedar bark in the middle.
Some ideas for good tinder: dry grass, mosses, leaves, inner bark, milk weed/cat tail down.

Make sure that your wrist locks into your leg so that the spindle will have support.

Other ideas for a fire board

A complete set made from just one branch.

Catching Fire (Part 2)

Fire Structure


The first part of the construction process is finding a good location. Find a spot that is safe from getting other dead branches hanging from trees on fire. Clear the Ground of debris. If you already have a shelter built or know where it is going to be, make sure you have your fire 4-6 feet away from your shelter.

Now that we have a good location, dig a small depression in the ground. Make sure that there are not any pitches roots near the fire pit. (Fire can spread easily through pine roots and other types of trees) Finish the pit off with a ring of dry stone to contain the fire.

Collecting wood:

Like with anything else, location is a very important element to consider when gathering fire wood and also for the fire itself. The best place to find dry wood is off the ground. Even if is is raining, there can still be dry wood found this way. I look for a broken branch that is still connected to the tree. This picture shows dry wood off the ground. Also, with this type of gathering there is a wide variety of sizes in the branches all in one place.


Pencil lead size
Types of wood:

Soft wood- pines, fire, hemlock, cedar
Burns hot, fast, and gives off lots of light.
Medium wood- cotton wood, aspen, poplar, willow
These make good cooking fires.
Hard wood- oak, walnut, hickory, maple, ash
Burns slowest, good heat, and great coals.
Wet wood burns 3-4 times longer that dry wood.
Green wood burns 8 times longer than dry wood.

Tee pee Fire
The great thing about the tee pee fire is that it is good for just about everything you would need for a basic camp. It gives off lots of light and sheds the rain. When lighting a tee pee fire, every layer lights the layer on top of it. So instead of adding wood to a small flame and building it up, get the structure built first and it will take care of itself!

The first layer is the tender bundle layer. This can be made for anything that is really small and really dry. Examples would be: dry grass, leaves, inner bark, or cat tail down.

Here I have some dry plant fiber I got from a natural twine. ( I know my fire pit should have been clean up more from the debris)

Here I have my pencil lead thick twigs on top of my tender. (There really are dry even thought they look green)

If I really wanted to make sure that my flame lasted a bit longer in wet conditions, I have some pitch gathered on a leaf.

Now, the next layer.

Notice that I have left a door in my fire. This way I still have access to my first layer.

I have some wood off to the side to fill in the door once I light the structure.

There are lots more that can be covered about fire structure. Always be safe and think about what you are doing but also experiment.
I can not take credit for this knowledge. Most of what I have learn, I learn at the Tracker School.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Catching Fire (Part 1)

I have thought about this subject a lot since starting this blog. I never thought that I would write about it because it is just about the first if not only thing that other people write about when adding their thoughts on survival. The more I read and watch people with their methods of starting a fire with a bow, the more I feel there is much being left out. I feel that there should really be two parts when talking about fire by friction (and every Earth based skill). I feel that all the information is very important, so just bare with me.

Giving Thanks:

Before we can give thanks for fire we first need to reflect on fire itself for a moment.
Up until recently, fire has been a significant part of the human experience. Fire purified our water and cooked our food. Fire has been the catalyst for story telling and passing down traditions to the next generation. There have been few friends like fire throughout time. It comforts and protects the lone traveler out on his own.
By taking solid sunshine, water, wind, and soil in the form of wood to create fire we are in fact connecting ourselves to the Earth and stepping into a very sacred act that has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. It is not strength that will bring forth fire but careful preparation and a thankful heart. Approaching this gift of fire as a sacred act will not only allow you to have fire more consistently but will become a very powerful part of the creation and enjoyment of the fire.
I like to get everything ready including the fire setup with plenty of wood near by so I can take care of the fire. I then get my tender bundle laid out beside my bow, spindle, handhold, and fire board. I like to take a moment to reflect on all the different aspects before me that will bring forth my fire. Giving thanks that I can be here taking part in this living tradition, I start forming the coal over the tender bundle.
When the coal is formed, I take the tender bundle and hold it out and above my head blowing gently. As the smoke raises to the heavens, I give thanks. Soon, I see the glowing center getting stronger and hotter. With one last breath, I breath from deep within myself and watch the birth of a flame come to life in my hands. I cannot write the joy and emotion of that moment. It can only be experienced. As I add the flame to the fire frame and feel the warmth grow in front of me, I give thanks.
To many of you I know you may be thinking that you could get a fire with out all the "giving thanks" and you would be right. It is possible but listen to my words now...all the times that you have practiced and given up without fire, you could have had it if only you asked for the fire with a grateful heart. I know because I have felt the difference in my own practice.

*Many thoughts and aspects of fire I learned at the Tracker School*

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dandelion Coffee

I was very excited when I opened my email to find notice of an up coming "wild foods" potluck. I really wanted to be able to contribute something but my knowledge and resources are limited. I finally decided on dandelion coffee. To hard core coffee drinkers I apologise for the term 'coffee' but it truly is a very nice substitute for the real thing. Not only does it taste similar, it is really good for you body! Dandelions of lots of nutrition depending on what part you use. It is my understanding that the roots are a good source of minerals. Dandelions are also very good at cleansing the liver.

Before the plants can be gathered, proper care should be taken to make sure that you have the right tool for the job. The picture below is an example of such a tool. I can probe the soil around the roots with out making a large disturbance in the ground.

Normally, this tool is made with a very hard wood. I did not have the time to find a proper piece of wood so I hardened the tip is fire.
This is cleaned dandelion root. I was able to get some good sized roots only because I had my digging tool. If you were to try and pull them out of the ground, the root would break off at the base and all you would get is the leaves.

Cut and roasts the roots. This is where you get to decide how dark you want you coffee to be. I have made coffee light and more like a tea or very dark. It is really whatever you want.

Don't throw away the greens!!! This makes a great side dish like spinach or an addition to a salad. If you really wanted to have fun with dandelions, make a pesto out of it. Just replace basil with the leaves of the dandelion. You will be surprised with the results.