Archive for October, 2007

Oct 31 2007

Braintanning Fox

Published by under Animal Materials

Thank you very much for your donation and all of your comments Marc!

This is the first pelt I have ever braintanned, and to be honest, I am quite pleased with the results. The fox is a cub, shot in early autumn. Fur isn’t all that great and the skin was so thin that the danger of ripping the skin was evident, but it worked. It was case skinned and was kept like that all the way until completion.

Fleshing a fox isn’t the most lovely task in the world to put it mildly, fox stinks! You will get used to the smell though. Flesh it over something, use a smooth surface so not to poke any holes through the skin or rip off hair. Use a chopping motion. Try to get off all the flesh, fat and membrane. With as thin a skin as this, it was nervewrecking though, since only the hair roots seemed to be left on the back. If you get too scared, don’t mind some membrane. If you use a staking post or similar later during softening, it will break up.

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Next, smear the solution you want to tan it with on the hide. I first applied some smashed eggs. I know I should have mixed them with a little temperate water for better penetration, but I was too lazy to boil any… I then softened the skin by stretching it between my hands and across the knee. I didn’t bother too much with the parts of the skin with little use, like the legs, tail and face. Some spots didn’t soften up well, so I took a second application on those places, with trout brains. That softened things up very nicely! I hope you don’t bother too much that the hide being softened in the pic is the roe deer hide. The process is the same.

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I didn’t smoke the skin more than absolutely required to achieve the advantages of this process. Not of any particular reason, just that I ran out of punk wood bits to smoke it with. Make a fire, take out some embers and mix them with the punk. I made this skirt out of birch bark.

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Tie up the tail and feet to make sure they aren’t scorched. You’ll have to monitor the embers closely, so that they don’t flare up or set fire to the skirt. If you can see the embers growing strong or that holding above it is too hot for comfort, sprinkle a little more punk wood ontop of it to smolder it.

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That’s pretty much the process. The back being almost all hair roots will not become of a “tanned” colour when it is this thin, but remain black. The belly skin on the other hand, got a nice, light colour.

3 responses so far

Oct 30 2007

Long Term Storage

Published by under Fire and Camplife

Thank you for your great donation Survival Acres!

In a camp you are planning on staying for an extended period of time or return to later, you might want to store some food. Even if you don’t expect to return, store any surplus food so you have something to turn to if famine strikes. In addition, all equipment you make and need can usually not be carried with you at any given time.

Equipment, like fishing traps, nets, empty containers, sledges and similar, don’t need to be stored particulary protected. A overhanging rock, to keep it dry is enough. The indicator to look for is no vegetation whatsoever. Make sure there is enough space, so that no snow comes in. Things of hide, raw or tanned, can be left, but not indefinitely. Keep it as elevated as possible. A common way of storing things away from mice, is to keep it suspended from the roof. This will at least reduce the amount of chewing on winter garnments, hides or whatever you should be storing. Bigger animals will come in and can destroy the hides, so if you are going to store animal matters, close the rockshelter with a wall. If there is no fat or meat on the hides, during the snowfree season you can store hides and similar without any damage to it. During the winter, when things are at a pinch for the animals, nothing is safe. Photo: I left a fishing trap, some knapping rock and a few containers in a natural cache on the site, for later use.

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Any foods must be protected. Rodents and moisture are your worst enemies in this regard. You can’t store any food on the ground, where both of these factors are too great. The exception seems to be this particular type of storing fat for later consumption. Marrow will go bad when stored in bone, but within a year’s time frame or so, the fat will not be leached out. When you have shot a great animal, you have consumed and/or dried the meat and want to move on, take the remaining bones that you have not cracked open. Every bone, even if there is tissue on it, make a pile of them and pile rocks on top. The rocks will keep the larger scavengers at bay and the smaller ones can’t get through the bones. When you need the fat (usually in winter time), you go to the location, crush the bones and render off the fat. This method of piling food down can also be used for short time storage of meat, if you are coming back in a day or two only. I have not tried this method, but it makes perfect sense. It was appearantly used by Paleo-Indian hunters in America.

For regular storage of food, conserved in whatever method appropriate, needs to be stored in a raised cache built in a tree or between several trees. The Native Americans often took off all of the bark and branches of these trees, to make it more difficult for the bear to enter the cache. Food should be stored in relatively air tight containers (raw hide or birch bark for instance) regardlessly though, since any moisture from the air can destroy the food. Hazelnuts and other nuts are exceptions, since they have their own air-tight containers. Any containers will become wet and loose their protecting properties (rawhide in particular) if not protected from rain or snow. You will need a perfectly waterproof roof, of for instance bark, fully enclosed to the floor of the cache to prevent any birds or squirrels from entering. I have yet not had the need for making and utilising such caches, but the principle is the same as with the traditional storage houses in Norway (bur or stabbur).

5 responses so far

Oct 29 2007

Water

Published by under Fire and Camplife

While most people don’t believe this is safe, I have never filtered or boiled the water I have been drinking at ant point in my life. And I have drunk a lot of stream water. There are a few factors which I believe make this safe in some parts of Norway, that may not be present everywhere else:

  • Few people in the mountains, few people to leave litter and pollution.
  • No cattle and little livestock in general. Animals can pollute the water if they are kept in an area in high concentrations.
  • Large rainfall and fast flowing water. The water doesn’t usually have time to gather pathogens.

There are a few guidelines though, which I always follow:

  • I don’t ever drink water that is miscoloured, foul tasting or smelling. Some bog taste can live with.
  • I rarely drink from wide rivers, since chances are that human interference above will pollute the water. If I know there is no such interference, I do drink it and prefer it. This is because a potential carcass upstream will have the washed out bacteria dilluted in a greater river than in a larger stream.
  • For lakes, the rule is as for rivers.
  • Take the water where it flows with the greatest speed (within very reasonable walking distance of course) to avoid buildups of pathogens. Water with some air in will also taste fresher.
  • Do not drink from lakes with very large beaver influence or immediately beneath them.

There will always be bacteria in the water, but when in low concentrations, your immune system will take care of it. I know a very few incidents of giardia in Norway, keep in mind that the European variety of giardia is less than 5% lethal if infected. Below: Streams such as these are usually safe.

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3 responses so far

Oct 28 2007

Berries

Published by under Foods

First, thank you very much for your donation Ian!

There isn’t a lot of plants suitable for human consumption in the Boreal forest. In the area we are talking about, which is at around 600 metres above sea level in the interior of Telemark county, Norway, various berries is pretty much the only plant worth paying any attention to.

The berries of this region are:

  • Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus): Very good, and extremely abundant. Stores well dried.
  • Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea): A bit tart, sweeter when dried, very abundant.

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  • Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum): Not as sweet as blueberry, but bigger, very abundant.
  • Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum): Fairly sweet, but the skins are acrid, contains a lot of fluid, so I usually just suck them dry when thirsty and spit out the skins. Very abundant on the higher elevations.

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  • Juniper (Juniperus communis): Strong and spicy taste, only good in small portions or as seasoning on meat or fish. Very common some years
  • Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): Bland in taste, fairly abundant on higher elevations.
  • Alpine Bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina): Bland taste. Not so abundant, but found on high elevations.
  • Raspberry (Rubus idaeus): Very, very sweet. Very abundant on the lower elevations.
  • Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus): An aquired taste, sweet but also lightly sour. Some years very abundant on the higher elevations.
  • Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca): Very sweet, not abundant, but exists on the lower elevations.
  • Bird cherry (Prunus padus): Extremely acrid, unfit for human consumption, but according to Ray Mears’ Wild Food they can be processed.
  • Wild Rose (Rosa sp): Difficult to eat because of the seeds. Better to use for tea. Found on lower elevations.

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  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia): Very tart, better if dried. Very common.
  • Small Cranberry (Oxycoccus palustris): Fairly sweet and good tasting after the first frost. Quite abundant on lower elevations.
  • Mezereon (Daphne mezereum): Only found rarely at lower elevation. Poisonous.

There are at least two additionaly types of berries, of which I unfortunately can’t remember either the Norwegian or the English name of. They are not abundant enough to be of much interest though. Also, there is one type of berry which remain unidentified. But this berry only grows at one specific location. Please help me with identifying it. Photos below:

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One response so far

Oct 27 2007

Skinning an Ear

Published by under Animal Materials

Ears is yet another of those resources with great potential, that people invariably overlook. The ear is a ready made pouch, you just have to remove the cartilage inside it. This may sound really simple, but the skin on the ear is really thin, so you will need to be extremely careful not to rip or pierce the skin. I have tried doing this with an ordinary metal knife and it will actually be slower than if you use a fairly blunt bone knife.

Depending on how large you want the pouch to be, cut the ear off as close to the skull as you want. If you cut it right next to the skull, the initial skinning will be difficult, since the membranes are looser there and some meat will be attached. To start the skinning, poke the bone knife into the membrane and start cutting the membrane along the skin. Try to leave any flesh on the cartilage. Skin on both sides, before you free the edges.

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The edges sit a little better, cut with a sharp edge, knife or flake to free it, before you roll the skin down the cartilage. Continue skinning down. Free the edges from carefully as you work your way down. Rippage happens most easily there. I don’t leave any cartilage on the skin at all, but if you do, that isn’t a problem.

When you have skinned it, you an either tan it or use it in a rawhide state.

4 responses so far

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