Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bushcrafting Afternoon - In search of fomes fomentarius

Today I had a nice pleasant 4km hike with my family around Richmond Nature Park.  Since we have a lot of paper birch growing naturally in our local boggy areas, I thought it might be a great place to look for Chaga, or False Tinder/Horsehoof fungus(fomes fomentarius).

The trail was very wet in spots but it was good practice for my ocean beach trail hikes .

While I didn't find and Chaga, I did find some Horsehoof fungus right where I would expect to find it.

Now that you are curious as to what I want it for, there is a very soft layer between the hard outside skin and the spongy interior of the fungus which makes excellent tinder.  It is called "amadou".  Amadou can also be used to carry an ember for a long time, it makes an excellent strop for knife sharpening, and first nations people used to fashion clothing out of it.  I think I need a little practice harvesting it as the best mine will ever be for is as tinder.

False Tinder/Horsehoof Fungus (fomes fomentarius) 
Now I just need to dry it out a little and put it in my fire/tinder box.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Bushcrafting, my new old interest

     I have recently  rediscovered a passion for bushcrafting.  It is an activity which brings back fond memories from my childhood of carrying my Dad's old canvas rucksack on hunting trips with him or the fun I had as a boy scout.  Bushcrafting is essentially learning to coexist in the wilderness by using the skills and knowledge passed down to us by our ancestors, who used them out of necessity.  Bushcrafting is not about survival. It is about living in harmony with your natural surroundings.  Watching youtube videos and old TV programs featuring outdoor gurus like Ray Mears  
Picture from
 rekindled the desire for what I was missing in backpacking and hiking activities.   Don't get me wrong, I love backpacking and hiking but I felt more like a visitor lacking any real connection to the environment through which I was travelling.  I also found that quite a few of my hiking or backpacking adventures often began to focus more on the distance or elevation gain numbers rather than experience of the trip itself.  This would lead to unwanted stress which was the antithesis of why I was getting out in the first place.

    Some of my fellow hikers might see bushcrafting  as being exploitive because it is an activity that relies on using the resources one finds rather than just depending on what one carries, however,  I see it differently.  Both interests share the "Leave no trace" ethic and in bushcrafting one must be respectful not to overuse what one finds in an area and to do one's best to replace what is used.  In hiking/backpacking, the gear we carry in our kit may be harvested and produced in a manner that is just as harmful if not more so than what is used in bushcrafting.

Anyone who knows me fairly well, knows that I am gear obsessed.  There is gear specific to bushcrafting but it tends to be more related to tools for creating what you might need.

 I love making my own gear and always have enjoyed do it yourself (DIY) projects with my other interests.  At home, my bushcrafting might include, fashioning leather lanyards or assembing a fire/tinder kit (making char cloth out of old cotton T shirts) and in the woods it might include carving wooden tent pegs, making a cook fire, or catching a fish.

  Even my style of clothing has changed.  I now use clothing made from natural fabrics, such as wool and cotton, rather than synthetics for my bushcrafting trips.
 Synthetics are more suited to backpacking where one is concerned about weight and volume.  In my experience, clothing made from natural fibers is more resistant to errant sparks from campfires and is more durable for activities where one is crafting with bladed tools.

     In future blog entries, I'd like to share some trips and techniques that I have experienced.