In the search for ultra simple winter clothing I have researched Japan quite extensively. Like here the winters are characterised by relatively mild weather with lots of snow. The terrain is also quite similar and walking will make you sweat in either of them.
The Matagi is probably an assimilated Ainu population in northern Honshu. A few of their clothing solutions interests me because of their sheer simplicity.
I have not yet extensively tested this cloak as it has a drawback compared to the parka; it does not cover the front, giving limited cold protection.
My belief is that the main advantages of this garment is that it sheds snow off your back and provides camouflage when sneaking up on animals.
The design has been derived from photos and chances are it doesn’t fully represent how a Matagi cloak would look like or work. The cross attachment in the front I have observed on several photos and has the advantage of the cloak attaching more tightly to your back and it doesn’t strangle you as a neck attachment might.
The Matagi used serow skins, but since I’m in rather short supply of those I’ve used a reindeer calf skin.
For more cold protection it would be better to use a skin large enough to overlap in front. I believe this design might be the precursor to the open front parka.
Some skins can be very hard to work efficiently. In particular leg skins of various deer animals. The breaker helps you break open the membrane of the flesh side, before scraping them, making the scraping easier and more complete.
The breaker can also be used on small buckskin and grain on hides for the same purpose. Body skins of deers with fur on have too brittle hairs. There are better ways of dealing with them.
The procedure for initial softening plus breaking up the membrane is as follows: The skin is oiled on the flesh side with any kind of fat available. Thicker hides must also be slightly dampened with moss. After leaving overnight the skins are folded and broken in all directions in the breaker. When complete, the skin is scraped and can be made ready for the final softening by hand. I will not cover the details of this here.
I have been using this tool for over a year now and it has cut the time I spend on leg or headskins drastically.
Some detail photos:
Although the formerly mentioned method works fairly well, it only works for a day or so. These small wounds heal over fairly fast and stop providing any sap at all. A much more long lasting and productive method is to drill a hole at an upwards angle of the tree and plug the hole with another birch stick with a V cut going along its length. The sap will collect in the cut and drip into your container. When you have tapped one particular birch for a few days you can plug the hole again with a whole birch plug.
A few other points to tapping sap:
– When the ground is very dry, birches doesn’t provide much. In persistent dry weather, tap birches close to water sources or wet ground.
– The sap subsides during the night. If you have only one container, you can use it for something else then.
– Insects will be attracted to your sap. If possible it’s best to elevate your container from the ground to reduce the amount of ants falling in. You will still get some moskitos and flies falling in. I just scoop those out before drinking.
The Red-breasted merganser is a duck that specialises in fishing. We frequently see them in spring and autumn, but they rarely seem to breed here. Considering that our lakes are highly overpopulated and any effort to cull the population has been largely unsuccessful, we decided to set up two artificial nesting sites for these birds.
Such nests were made traditionally in northern Sweden for collecting eggs. Our purpose is solely to lure them into thinning our fish lakes though. According to research a breeding couple can take 20000 small trout in a season!
Now, if the otter could return as well, we’d have high quality fish in no time at all.
My brother Arne (in picture) and I built the nests using moss, rocks and planks. We set them up on two small islands so land-based predators like foxes and badgers will have a hard time getting to them.
The ice is gone from the lakes and we’re in the best time for catching trout with nets. Set two nets yesterday and caught 161 trout. The good fishing will probably go on until late may, after which it’ll get poorer and poorer.
More details around net fishing and other techniques can be found in my book about traditional trout fishing.