Craft. Noun: An activity involving skill in making things by hand.
Wait! I thought this was a knitting and crochet blog! Why the blade and little wooden tree? I have a little secret to share. I love to knit and I adore crocheting (and sometimes sewing makes me somewhat pleased) and I have a new obsession with camp crafts.
As you may have noticed from earlier posts chronicling journeys up Pleasant Mountain or when I first learned how to make a feather stick, the bearded fellow and I have deep appreciation for all things outdoors. Be it hiking, cross-country skiing, sailing or canoeing, most weekends we can be found exploring Maine’s backcountry.
I have not always had an interest in
bug bites and blisters outdoor adventures. It was not until I met the bearded fellow that I learned how much fun you can have outside. My first-ever backpacking trip was in Desolation Wilderness, just southwest of Lake Tahoe, in 2007. We covered fourteen miles in two days (it seemed like a lot back then but he was being nice). Since then, especially once we moved to Maine, we have made a concerted effort to spend as much time enjoying the natural world as possible.
As for the bearded fellow, you know what they say. Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout. He grew up spending his weekends backpacking and hiking throughout the Sierras while working at a remote Boy Scout camp each summer. His love for nature has always inspired me and I am thankful that we can share the experience together.
Back to camp crafts. The bearded fellow recently gifted the both of us with original Mora knives (Morakniv), the wooden handles of which originally featured their iconic red stain. To increase their durability and longevity (and to make them look super cool) he tied knotwork around the handles and then covered them in waterproof goop. The blade above is his, along with a feather stick he made for fire staring. Which brings up another topic related to outdoor-ness: bushcraft.
Bushcraft is the art and practice of wilderness skills, popularized by legends such as Mors Kochanski and Ray Mears. It is about surviving and thriving in the natural environment, and acquiring the skills to do so. All while making as little impact on the natural world as possible. Leave no Trace. Come on, Bigfoot has been doing it for years. One of those skills is fire building, which the bearded fellow excels at. I’m still learning (how not to light my face on fire). Before firewood can be assembled, there is housekeeping to be done.
The knife above is the smaller of the two, perfect for my grip. I ended up making an entire tiny forest in one sitting. It is surprisingly easy to get as invested in carving a piece of wood as it is to sit and knit, sew or crochet. You really lose yourself in the slow, patient motion of the knife making delicate, careful cuts on the wood. It helps when you are sitting in the middle of the woods, near a lake, with loons calling in the distance…
We left my forest on the table for the next campers – a common bushcraft practice. Providing a few feather sticks for the person to follow you provides a sense of camaraderie and comfort. Especially if the next campers arrive in a storm and need to start a fire, and quick.
Once fire supplies have been chopped, carved, and assembled, it is time to set up the wood. In the foreground you can see firesteel for casting embers into the cotton ball and pine needles on the right. In the background are feather sticks in the center with split wood kindling in a conical shape. Underneath are larger split logs which can be slowly pushed into the fire as they burn, making for a longer, more complete combustion, fire.
Once ignited, the burning ember is tucked under the feather stick arrangement. The fire then has a chance to burn through each layer, lightest to heaviest, so that it can generate enough heat to light the larger logs. It is important to use only the wood that you need, and to keep the fire in control. Think happy Smokey Bear thoughts. You only need a small fire to keep warm. It will last longer and burn more efficiently this way.
Other than feather sticks to start fires, there is another bushcraft skill that the bearded fellow also excels at: whittling. This past glamping* trip we arrived only to realize that I forgot cooking utensils. No big deal when you can use a stick of wood to flip pancakes.
*Glamping = camping, with glamor. And amenities. Like a table. And a percolator.
Even better when the bearded fellow whittles said piece of wood into a proper spatula. Complete with my first initial! Important for when other bushcraft spatula users get confused about which piece of wood is theirs. D is for dopey camper who forgets utensils.