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Bushcraft Blog... page 2

Wicker Fish Trap

I have crafted this fish trap from Willow growing in the local fields. The construction is started like an average basket with a spoke layout, although far more spokes constantly need to be added in. A twine weave is used throughout the construction. On its own the willow structure would be quite flimsy so I have integrated several wooden hoops on the inside to give it rigidity, they are bound into place using Lime bark fibres.

I have been trying to use the trap in a lake, for bait I suspend bread and sardines in the centre of the basket structure. You can put the bait inside a sock to keep it all together. So far I have only caught 3 small Rudd but hoping for some bigger catches soon.

If you wish to have a go at basket making you can follow my inspirational guide here


Seed Gathering

Most recently I have been collecting as many types of edible seed as possible from the local fields and woodland, then working out how to process them to use as food. I started out with Collecting Soft Brome Grass seed, then Yorkshire Fog grass seed, Cocks Foot grass, Ribwort Plantain seeds and also Pendulous Sedge seed. As you can see below I have managed to collect quite a large quantity of the Soft Brome Grass seed. Using a coil basket made from sedges and badminton racket I was able to collect 16kg in just 3 and a half hours! Some of this seed was still a little green but I dried it off in the sun on a large cotton sheet.

Some types of seed are harder to process than others. With grass, each seed is encased in a husk which needs removing before the seed can be eaten or ground into flour. The brome seed first of all seemed impossible to de-husk efficiently, with most seeds you can parch them, rub them and then winnow the chaff away but this did not work with the Brome. The processes I worked out are far too in-depth to write about here so I may be writing an article on the subject soon.

I should mention that if you decide to collect grass seed to use as a food, you must research Black Ergot fungus first! This grows on some of the seed and if eaten it can potentially be fatal. It is to be taken seriously.

So far I can say that Pendulous sedge and Yorkshire fog have been the most successful seed I have gathered. Particularly the Yorkshire Fog seed which tastes like sesame once parched. Fantastic! Pendulous sedge doesn't suffer from the Ergot fungus so you'll be safe if you stick to this seed for now.


Sacks of Soft Brome seed and gathering equipment


Soft Brome seed (some still a little green)



Drying the seed on a sheet in the sun


Gathering method



Parching Yorkshire Fog seed ready for rubbing and winnowing


Example of Pendulous Sedge seed after parching, rubbing between hands and then winnowing



Grinding seed into flour using a Metate and Muller. Flour can now be used to make bush biscuits or added into bread etc.


Muntjack Moccasins

I recently got hold of a couple of fresh Muntjack skins. To make raw skin into a workable leather takes considerable time and effort. Firstly I decided to remove the fur from the skins using a wood ash lye solution that I mixed myself, then I vegetable tanned them using shredded Alder bark as the source of tannin. I followed the great bark tanning guide here: http://www.braintan.com/barktan/index.htm

After making the leather I cut the pattern out according to an E-Book made by Torjus Gaaren at www.livingprimitively.com
Unfortunately my moccasins do not reflect the quality of his article, I could have done a much better job on the stitching etc. Torjus from Norway makes far better quality moccasins which he uses on a daily basis, his E-Book is recommended.

Mortar and Pestle

One way to grind up food, seeds and grain is to use a mortar and pestle, I made these three over the past few weeks from Oak logs. They are all made by burning the bowl out with hot coals from the fire. Using a hollow plant stem as a straw you can blow air directly at the coals to promote the burning. For the large Mortar I made a pair of bellows as progress was way too slow with just a straw. After a while of burning the charcoal is scraped out and the burning is started again. This process is repeated until the mortar cup is the desired depth. The largest is 9 inches deep. A flat bottomed mortar helps to stop the seed jumping up the sides of the mortar and escaping.


As always I continue to make more baskets. this is a display of some of my best basketry.

Some recent additions... If you wish to have a go at making a basket you can follow my new basketry tutorial here


Wild Salad

I made this salad up today (30th March) from as many things as I could find. in total there are 12 different plants used in the salad which are:
Red Dead Nettle
Cleavers (the tips)
Wood Bitter-cress
Nettle (tops)
Alternate leaved golden Saxifrage
Wood Sorrel (small quantity)
Ground ivy (very small quantity)
Common sorrel
Garlic Mustard
Primrose (flowers and very young leaves)
Dandelion leaves

Hopefully you can see what an abundance of salad there is around even this early in the year... there were more plants I could have used too. I ate the salad with an omelette, a great combination!

Have fun and take care, make sure you know what you are picking! If in any doubt; leave it out... and its good to learn the other plants that could be mistaken for the edible ones for example, Common Chickweed could be confused with Scarlet Pimpernel to the untrained eye; which is poisonous. Do your research properly and the rewards will be amazing.

The 'Ray Mears Wild Food' book has been a real inspiration to me... I have learnt a lot from the book that is not included in the DVD. If you only have the DVD it might be worth buying the book too.

(I take no responsibility for people picking and eating incorrect plants... do your own research and be thorough)



latest basketry...

I have learnt a new technique called 'French Randing'. I used this type of weave to build up the main sides of the basket. To do this, finish off the base and turn up the stakes etc. Then basically add a weaver at the side of each stake, you weave each weaver one at a time, working your way around the basket in clockwise motion. Take one of the weavers to start and take it in front of the stake to the right, then behind the next stake and then out to the front again. Then you take the next weaver from the left and do the same; Always taking the next weaver from the left. Things will look a bit complicated when you come back around to the point where you started because the first one you wove will be over the top of the two last weavers... but its not as complicated as it looks, just weave those ones from underneath as you did for all the others. (this will all make sense if you actually try it... you'll work it out) Continue to weave until you've woven all the weavers out to the tips.

I understand that for a lot of people this will not really make sense but for you basket loving folk out there hopefully it is of some interest and help for those just getting started with basketry.

This basket at the bottom is called a 'Melon basket'

If you wish to get into basketry I strongly suggest you buy some books.

Shelter building

I built this small shelter recently. In this part of the woods there is a lot of old Hazel trees. In my opinion hazel has to be one of the best building materials for the Bushcrafter. Nearly the whole structure of this shelter is made from Hazel. Living hazel is used to start with to make the main framework, then dead wood can be woven into the structure to create a 'mesh' of sticks and twigs which will hold the covering of leaves. A covering as thick as from my fist to my elbow seems to be weather proof. To cover the top layers of the shelter I take only the top layer of leaf litter from the ground as this sheds the rain better than the lower leaf mould which would act as a sponge.

Before building a shelter look above the site into the canopy, check for dead branches that could fall onto you and the shelter, even small dead wood can cause harm. Also when locating a shelter think about what resources are about... is there going to be enough leaf litter in this area to cover the shelter? is there enough fire wood nearby? do you need water during your stay at your shelter? Will your shelter be in the way of other human activity?

My igloo in England!

This was one of my winter projects. There was only about 4 or 5 inches of snow on the ground but I piled it up and then compacted it with a shovel, then let the snow settle and re-freeze for about 30mins or so. I could then cut blocks from this pile of snow with a hand saw.

For more pictures see this forum thread: here

Quinze Snow Shelter

I made this 'Quinze' snow during the winter, I never thought it would turn out this good. Surprising what you can do in Britain...

To make the shelter I just kept on piling up the snow into a big domed mound. I didn't have a snow shovel so I had to use a kids sled to shift the snow. Once the mound was big enough and shaped correctly I let the snow rest and freeze for probably about an hour. Then I cut lots of sticks to about 30cm long and stuck them into the outside at 90 degrees to the surface. Then when you dig out the inside you know when to stop removing snow when your shovel hits the tips of the sticks; this way you get a wall of even thickness and there is no danger of creating any thin areas that could make the structure unstable. There is room enough for 2 people to sleep inside this one. It took a long time to shift the snow to make the mound because we only have about 4 inches of snow here. If you were ever going to make one just be careful the walls don't collapse in onto you, it could be dangerous... Read up on the proper way to construct these shelters first, I haven't covered everything in this description... Its not rocket science though. an air hole should be made and a burning candle offers light, some heat and a warning if carbon monoxide is building up.

A good layer of spruce boughs on the floor inside provide excellent insulation from the cold.



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