Sunday, August 31, 2014


we're not so fancy, humans. we used to say that we were the only species on the planet that used tools, and then we learned that a number of species use tools so then we modified our opinion to say we're the only species that MAKES tools but it's been discovered that a fair number of animals make simple tools as well.

i'm still going to say that we're the only species that uses a smelter, but we weren't always so fancy. we used to make simple tools like digging sticks and pounding rocks and if you're out in the woods or in a pinch you can still make and use primitive tools.

when i'm camping i habitually do not make a fire unless i need heat, and i carry a small stove for cooking purposes.

i have campcraft skills, though. lashing, flintknapping, the whole deal. you never know when you're going to need a little table or an extra roasting fork or if you'll come across a wild patch of jerusalem artichokes you'll want to roast later.

maybe you don't NEED to make your own cordage or containers, but isn't it nice to know you can?

with small modifications birch bark can be turned into funnels, bowls, baskets. do not ever strip bark from live trees. you can sew sides together with grasses and seal holes with pine pitch. you need a little primitive hole punch in a hurry? find a buckthorn tree.

one of the items on the (you knew this was coming, right?) venture vermont challenge is to make a camp cooking utensil using natural materials. i made a simple roasting fork. it's a little more advanced than a marshmallow stick, but it works just fine, is easy to do, and i think there's kind of a primal pleasure in making even simple tools you can use.

because i was not making a fire to cook with and making this particular fork for demonstration purposes, i found some deadwood so i didn't need to needlessly damage a living tree. if i'd been cooking, i would have used green wood because it doesn't burn so much. alternately, if you've got time, you can soak a dry wood item in clean water. you want to use a hardwood, like maple or applewood or hickory. conifers have resins that won't taste good on your food, and their sap is flammable. if you're in doubt about what kind of wood to use, smell it. if you can imagine that smell on your food it'll probably be good for your roasting fork.

1 comment:

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Have you ever heard of Ray Mears? He's a bushcraft expert from the U.K.--not a gimmicky one, just a real one--who has traveled all over the world learning about survival in different environments from native people. He's a big advocate of making your own tools, too. I think every episode he ever did is on YouTube. My older son is particularly fond of the Arizona desert one; I liked the one in Alaska.


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