Archive for May, 2010

May 25 2010

Scapulas

Yesterday I was travelling and didn’t get much done. This far today I have been experimenting a bit with tools of scapulas. Both of these are from young moose. One I made into a hide scraper, to be used in a special way that I will not disclose at this time.

The other one is a squash knife after native american model. Would definitely work well on squash, but I also found it to work very well on cabbage and carrots. Why buy ceramic knives for your salad, when one can make one out of bone?

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May 23 2010

Dehairing Skins

I usually don’t mess about with bucking skins, especially mouse eaten skins like these. They will be used as rawhide, probably for snowshoe lacings.

There are many ways to dehair hides. What I normally do is to leave them floating hairside up in a stream until the hairs can be rubbed off with the back of your hand. Remember to tie them up for obvious reasons. The skin soaking here was caught in a flood and looks like a mess, so in some spots it still have hairs clinging to it.

The dehaired skin is preserved by drying.

Finally there is also a photo of a new fish trap in the making. My willow is not great, but it works, with some broken stands here and there. The trap only lacks the funnel to work. Because of the distance between the rods this one will be cached by one of the mountain lakes sporting bigger, fatter fish.

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May 22 2010

To The Other Side

I need to cross the lake to get some stuff I have stored there. Since our boat is in another lake at the moment and I need it for fishing anyway I decided to build a raft. The timber was cut last year in the forest garden and is thoroughly dry now. Most of the trees are birch though, which is not optimal, spruce has much better bouyancy.

The raft is made with three layers, the main floats in the bottom, three connecting poles in the middle and a semi dry floor on top. Everything was bound together with split spruce roots.

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May 21 2010

Hunting the Trout

Fishing with nets in summer is rarely very productive. In June and July the water is so warm that the trout doesn’t move about much. Except in severe weather the nights are so bright that they also see the nets. In June the fish still takes bait, but in July they usually don’t.

During this time, cruising the shores with a bow or a spear in mornings and evenings can be quite productive. The fish is often close to the bank then and by carefully sneaking up you can get close enough to hit it. Move silently in the shade. If the trout sees movements on shore they will usually swim out into deeper water.

This spear is a quickly made one based on a Saami design. Being all wood it is easy to sharpen or replace when the tips are broken on rocks. The spear prongs are juniper, which is exceptionally dry even when fresh and sharpens well. It is bound to a birch shaft with willow bark.

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May 20 2010

The Forest and Us

Since I have lived most of my life on a very remote mountain farm I know a thing or two about forest management. This is not very important to primitive lifeway as such, but is offered as an insight into ecology and it carries relevance to forest gardening. The way I see it, there is but a small step from realising that you have an impact on nature to consciously directing that influence.

For the last couple of centuries up until about 70 years ago, this valley was largely deforested and heavily overgrazed by cattle, goats and sheep. Since agriculture became less profitable in marginal regions about 95% of the valley is yet again forested. However much of the orginal fertility and diversity has probably been depleted. Some of that original diversity can be found in the least accessible parts of the mountain slopes. Here elm and hazel usually dominates.

Only since I was a child I have observed the forest gardening area closing up and a new set of plants emerging in the enriching soil. The birch, aspen and alder is slowly being replaced by maple, rowan, bird cherry, hazel, ash and spruce. Despite the name Norway spruce, it is a recent invader, filling the gap left by the abandoned fields. It would probably newer have reached the kind of dominating position it has today if it wasn’t for the deforestation.

If your goal is high firewood or large craftswood production don’t clearcut, but cut the majority of the birch or whatever decidous tree you’re harvesting. Keep enough trees to keep a fairly closed canopy. We usually save the biggest and most desirable ones plus a few stong saplings for every stump. This will prevent a million of saplings sprouting. These millions will grow very slowly and weed themselves thinner at a rate which isn’t interesting to most landowners. Despite the disadvantages I see several neighbours mowing down all of their sapling thickets every 5 years or so. What do they get out of it? A few wrist thick firewood pieces and dry, infertile soil.

An intermediate solution is to keep a few trees and let sheep graze freely in there.

For my forest garden I am going for a different regime. Firewood and materials are here byproducts and food the primary goal. I can not afford to buy plants so I have moved semi-domesticated plums, cherries, viburnum and currants to supplement the hazels and wild strawberries already there. I have also moved a few alders for nitrogen fixation. I am lacking greatly in the herbal layer, I need a few very low maintainance and vigorously spreading ones. That is the “theme” for this garden: Very low maintainance, moderate production and high ecological value.

In order to further build the soil, especially on dry slopes, most of the felled trees are left to rot on the ground. The rest is taken for firewood.

We usually leave the trees until fall with their foilage on so they will evaporate most of their moisture through the leaves. Some of these were left from last year. Any good birch bark is skinned while fresh.

In not so long the plan is to (re-)introduce oak, chestnut, walnut and linden as well as helping to spread the elm which produces excellent food (I’ll tell you about it later). And after then maintain the forest garden with fires every few years. Any trees that are not utilized, but needs removing are ringmarked to die standing, providing more habitation nieches.

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