Thursday, 31 January 2013

Pine Needle Tea

While out on a bimble today in some new woods with my good mate Rockmonkey, we decided that at one of of our brew stops, we should take advantage of the Piney woods and make some pine needle tea, so that's exactly what what we did.

We stripped the needles from a couple of small branches, crushed them & placed them in our respective cups and added hot water, what did it taste like, well absolute piss actually or as as RM said "it tastes like toilet cleaner", i cant disagree, it wasn't totally unpleasant, but it wouldn't be my first choice either if i had other things available to me to drink, i can understand though, that if you were out and about in the wilds for some period of time, that any flavour would be a welcome addition, i will give it one thing though, it beats Nettle tea hands down.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Silky F180

"Forget your Bahco Laplander, get a Silky F180", that's what i was told a little while ago, and having seen one of these in operation and being allowed to use it, i did just that and got one, and now, im the one saying "Get a Silky F180". 

I have used Silky saws for some time and as anyone who uses them will tell you, they are the mutts nuts and this one is no exception, this saw makes a brand new Laplander look as blunt as a block of butter in all honesty.

The best bit about the F180, it doesn't cost any more than the Laplander does, but it is ten times the saw, it's comfortable to use, has a rubberised non slip grip, it's not green which makes it easier to find if you drop it, the blade locks in two positions and the area around the pivot is reinforced with steel and it cuts like you would not believe, ive seen these take out a one inch thick branch in three strokes, the only things this doesn't have that the Laplander does, is the ability to lock in the closed position, a cult following and of course a celebrity endorsement.

Mini Alcohol Burner

I've been playing around with meths burners over the past couple of days, in particular trying to make a workable, small burner to go in my lightweight brew kit and my Crusader cooker unit.

The two burners/stoves pictured are both made from small 150ml fizzy drinks cans, the smaller one of the two i made to go in my Crusader cooker unit, as the distance between the base of the unit and the support for the cup is limited, so it demanded a small burner, up until now ive used the ever popular Monkey Boy burner as that fitted the bill perfectly, but we boys do have to play, don't we?, the small burner i made you would think would work perfectly, and that it does, it worked perfectly at spitting burning fuel everywhere, the reason being, as the burner gets hot, the fuel expands, and there is not enough room for it expand and it spits out of the jets, sure, i could add less fuel, but then you don't get a boil, so, in this instance, im going to stick to the Monkey Boy burner.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Willow Spoon

Making a few spoons yesterday has certainly renewed my enthusiasm to carve a few more,  that and the fact that i need to rebuild my stock of them for some shows i have coming up.

The spoon pictured is one of four i made earlier today, but only one of two that im going to keep, the other two are firewood, on one of the ones that are now discarded, i held the bowl just a little bit too tightly and split it as i finished carving the handle, my fault entirely, the other one knackered one, had a hidden inclusion that was, as you would expect right where you didn't want or need it, there was no sign of it on the exterior of the wood and the grain looked nice and even, but there it was waiting for me, no point in getting angry or frustrated by it, it's there and there is nothing you can do about it, so move on and make another one, it's all part of the joy of spoon carving.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sunday Spoonage

It's been a little while since i carved a spoon, so i rectified that today and sat down for a few hours and carved some spoons, the three pictured took me about thee and half hours to do, as per normal the spoon blanks are rough shaped using the axe and then refined using a sheath knife initially and then one of my Ben Orford Sloyd and Pick knives.

The top and bottom spoons are from Willow and are  opposing sides of the same small log, the middle spoon is from a piece of Magnolia, all of the wood was carved green, the Willow being very green, to the point that you could see moisture pooling front of the blade as it went through the wood, when the spoons have dried off, I'll get them finished off properly and refine the shape and smooth out the rough spots with the small pick knife.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


These small birds have to be one of my favourite birds, i took this photo this morning while i was undertaking a small survey of the birds in the area as part of the RSPB Birdwatch event.

It seemed a shame not to take full advantage of the number of birds around this morning and of course the sunshine, which shone down and served to highlight the intense colours of the Goldfinches as well, so armed with notebook and my SLR, i perched myself at the end of garden and enjoyed watching the bird life that surrounds us.

Over the course of an hour, i noted twelve different species, these being Fieldfare, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Robin, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Wood Pigeon, Collard Dove, Pied Wagtail and Starlings, not a bad mix of species for an hours observation.

Friday, 25 January 2013


Was out earlier with the camera trying to get some half decent shots of the Fieldfares and Lapwings out in the back field and as per normal, as soon as you appear, they go up the field to a point that is just a little bit too far away to get a good shot, even with a 300mm lens on the camera, even though i didn't succeed in getting the shots i wanted, when i turned around i saw three or four Greenfinches on next doors feeders and i managed to get this photo of a Greenfinch just as it left the feeder, the photo is one of those "more luck than judgement" shots, but im pretty pleased with it, i never did get the Fieldfare & Lapwing photo's i wanted either.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Sit Mat

Made myself a nice new sit mat this morning, the mat measure thirteen inches tall by eighteen inches wide and has a depth of about half an inch.  

Up until now ive always used a piece of blue plastic to sit on, but during the winter, even using it when sitting on a log, it's cold, so this one is modelled on the sit mat that my good mate Hugo uses, and i have to extend my thanks to Hugo for the canvas used in this project as he supplied it.

The mat utilises a piece of closed celled foam on the inside of what is effectively a large canvas envelope, but unlike Hugo's mat where the foam sits inside a sealed off jacket of canvas, I have incorporated a flap on the underside of the mat, that will allow me to replace the foam in the future should i need to and to remove the cover and wash it, should it become encrusted with dirt and general woods muck over time.

The flap is secured in place using Velcro that runs the entire width of the mat to stop leaves and twigs getting inside, all of the seams are turned and double stitched.

This mat is not going to be as lightweight to carry or have the small pack size of the plastic i have used, but it will be a whole lot warmer to sit on and will also double as a kneeling mat, which, if i remember to use it as such, will also save the knees on my trousers.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Snowy Bimble

Had a really good bimble over the Downs today with Hugo & Rockmonkey, when we left home this morning, the snow had all but gone, but when we got the other side of the hill, it was still a wonderful wintry  landscape, and as we don't get snow that often, we of course took full advantage of the day.

So what did we do, well, lots of tracking as the snow revealed a whole mass of wildlife and their habits, in some areas, you had Badger, Fox, Deer & Pheasant tracks all within a square foot, so masses of wildlife.

We threw a few snow balls around - as you do, we found some broken sledges that had just been dumped up on top of the hill waiting for the magic fairies to remove them, shame they were all broken though as i think we would all have had a go if we had found even half of one that was serviceable.

Most of all though, we just enjoyed being out in the countryside in the snow and enjoying our surroundings and the good company as we always do.

As great man once said "you have to be out there in all weathers and all times of year, to really understand the way the environment works", i couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Winter is finally here, well it is for me anyway, as yesterday saw the first big flock of Fieldfares arrive out in the back field, and the arrival of these migrants, means winter has finally arrived.

Many people seem to forget that in the UK we don't just get summer migrant birds, we also get a huge number of winter migrants too, and the Fieldfare has to be one of the finest of our cold weather visitors, unfortunately over the past few decades, the numbers of Fieldfares has declined dramatically and they are now a Red List species.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Gone Tracking

Wing print
One of the things ive really enjoyed over the past few days is tracking the animals and birds in the snow. 

For a start, ive been able to track and note the route the Fox takes for future reference, so i can set up a camera trap, i had a fair idea of it's route along the back field, through the observations i had previously carried out, but now i have thee nights of foot prints in the snow, that confirm most of my previous observations and it has also thrown up some interesting route diversions that i wasn't  aware of before, that i can now investigate further and try to establish what Charlie is up to and map the full route he takes each night in the back field.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Playing In The Snow

Well, we are in to day three of the snow fall here in Southern England and as i write this it's still snowing and due to continue until mid to late afternoon, so what better opportunity than to get out and have some fun, so i did just that.

I figured today was the perfect day to test out my lightweight brew kit, after all, what better conditions to test it in, sub zero temps, with frozen snow on the ground and snow falling - lovely.

So i found a spot in the snow, filled up the home made pop can stove and put a bit of water in the bottom of the pot, i also deliberately didnt put down a barrier between the burner and ground, so conditions were as about bad as they could be for the burner.

As the water warmed up i added fresh snow to the pot, melted that down, added some more, and kept this process up until i had what i considered to be enough for a quick brew, as per normal i didn't time the boil, i never do, im here to enjoy my surroundings and the environment, not set speed records to boil water, i was already well hydrated having carried a full water bottle with me and if i was on really long trip out, i wouldn't be relying on this set to boil water, id have a multi-fuel stove with me as it's more reliable, but hey, it's fun to play.

After what really didn't seem like long, i had a full on rolling boil and certainly enough water for a good cuppa.

I was pretty impressed with the set up, it was stable in the snow and ice and would have been even more stable if i had used a barrier under the burner to reflect some of the heat back, and considering the only thing ive actually purchased to make this kit was the Ti cup, it's performed well above my expectations.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snow - Other Uses

The uses of snow are of course well documented, fresh drinking water, building materials, insulation,  food preservation are just a few of the many uses the white stuff has.

One of my favourite uses though is as a beer cooler, well why take up valuable space in the fridge, when mother nature has provided the perfect beer cooler for you?.


Snow - I Love It

As many people are aware, the UK got a bit of a covering of snow yesterday, where i live we got a light covering of about two to three inches and by last night it had already started to thaw, well before it froze again with the sub zero overnight temperatures.

This morning, i thought id spend some time out back, seeing what had visited the garden over night, the only obvious tracks i could find, apart from mine, where a few from the local Fox, the Fox had obviously walked on the back wall while the snow was still wet as the track is frozen solid, even the side walls are hard, indicating the track was made before everything froze solid again.

I'm going to check out there again later and see what types of tracks the local bird and hopefully, animal population leave during the day, before they all get covered over with the next band of, apparently heavy snow fall, that is due to hit us tomorrow.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Under Quilt

Today dawned with a mass of snow being dumped on the south of England, but thankfully the postman managed to make all of his deliveries prior to the worst of the weather setting in and delivered a package containing 5m of rip stop nylon, so at least i knew what i was doing today, it's not what i had planned, but the weather put paid to that and rather than mope around, it was time to make my long awaited under-quilt.

The quilt is 45 inches wide and 60 inches long and is filled with duck down from an old duvet that i have been hanging on to for just this purpose, so armed with a fresh supply of ripstop, some tape to make the channels on the ends and a good supply of tea & coffee, i set to and got the thing made.

The funniest bit was filling the channels i had sewn in to the quilt with the duck down, just a word of advice peeps, don't do this job in the dining room where there is a deep pile carpet, i had piles of feathers everywhere and a covering of down lay on almost every surface, including me, still it was nothing the hoover couldn't deal with, the quilt ended up with a loft of approx three inches.

Since i took the picture above, i have added the suspension tapes to each corner, but i still have to add a few loops on each side to take a cord, should i wish to use the quilt as a free sliding version, rather than the fixed position im going to try first.

It was great fun making it, and i suppose from start to finish, including a lunch break it took seven hours to make, i know one thing though, i shouldn't be cold at all with this underneath my hammock.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Cold Weather Alcohol Stove

I've been messing around today with one of my side burning alcohol stoves that i made last year, in particular ive been using one of the side burners that i made from an aluminium cider bottle and have been using it in conjunction with a 10cm Zebra billy, as this is the size of billy we use the most when we go on our weekly bimbles over the South Downs.

Now i knew the stove would boil a litre of water in the Zebra and i have no interest whatsoever in how long this takes, as im out there to enjoy my surroundings and as i have posted before i don't care if it takes three minutes or ten, but i did want to find out roughly how much fuel it took to do the job in the sub zero temps we had today and also with the stove itself uninsulated from the block i had it on, which when i started was frozen solid and icy, so basically, it was probably one of the worst possible climatic environments for an alcohol stove to operate in, sub zero temps on frozen ground, which would have initially acted as a huge heat sink.

So having had a play and getting a full on rolling boil, i now know where to fill the stove to and have marked this point on the interior of the stove and no, i have no idea how much fuel this level equates to at the moment as i didn't measure it, fuel is cheap enough and all i needed to know was where to fill the stove to in order to get a good boil, without having loads of fuel left over once a boil had been achieved,and well, playing with alcohol stoves is just great fun. I've also placed a short video of the stove in action on YouTube for anyone who might be interested in watching 20 seconds of flame.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Good Company

Went for a really nice long walk in the cold and ice today with my two best buddies Hugo & Rockmonkey from BCUK, well i say a  'long' walk, it was only just under eight miles in reality, but man alive was it chilly, mind you when it's this cold and you are up on top of the South Downs, it really does make you feel alive. Still you don't mind the cold and ice or the never ending supply of bad jokes, innuendo, mickey taking & wind ups when you have such great mates around you.

We tried to do some carving on one of our brew stops, but all three of us gave up as the wood was frozen solid, we did see some great wildlife though, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk, Greater Spotted Woodpecker and loads of little birds like Wrens, Blue Tits & Robins, we also found a Periwinkle in full bloom in the winter sunshine.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Low Stool - Upholstered

Worked some more on the foot stool/low stool ive been making today.

The stool has now been upholstered using some gloriously tactile jute webbing that looks absolutely superb one the stool, i personally think it looks better than the sisal rope seats i have woven in the past, the jute is certainly less labour intensive, but as per many things, each has it's place.

The webbing has a double weave effect, one being the large weave that is immediately evident, the other being the weave within the webbing itself, which, when caught under the right lighting condition, gives a secondary textural  effect.

In addition to being woven on both the upper & lower surfaces of the seat, it also features an insert of RX39 upholstery foam to pad the webbing out and make the seat feel better.

I still have to finish the stool off, ie trim the legs down slightly so it sits squarely on the ground and then tidy up the saw cuts so it both looks and feels nice and then i guess it's done.

Strap Clamps

Following my post yesterday about the new build Hazel stool im making, ive had a couple of people get in touch with questions about the corner clamp i was using in the photo.  

The question i was asked more than any other was "How did you make them?", simple, as im a tight git, i refuse to pay, what i consider, silly money for a proper set of corner clamps, so i went on to Ebay and bought myself four Ratchet Straps of the type that are designed for securing cargo etc..

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Low Stool

Small stool that is in the process of being built, the entire stool is made from Hazel and as you can see from the photo, is currently in the process of being glued up and kept square using some homemade strap clamps.

The legs of the stool are from riven wood which was worked into cylindrical section using a draw knife and rounding plane, the stretchers are again from Hazel and are located in the legs using a round mortice and tenon joint. 

The upper level of stretchers, where the woven seat will eventually go, have been reduced in size to 3/4" again using a rounding plane and the lower level have been left in the round with the bark on to contrast with the light coloured Hazel legs, all being well i will be able to get the wood work tidied up and then get it finished off later in the week, with the addition of a woven and padded Jute seat.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Look Up - It's Beautiful

One of my other interests that i really enjoy is amateur Astronomy, particularly Lunar and Planetary observing, although i also do some deep sky stuff as well, such as Nebulae and Binary stars.

Ive always had a fascination with the night sky and being that i love being in the outdoors, it fits my life style perfectly, so after a day in the woods or up over the South Downs,  it's not uncommon to find me out after dark, either with a pair of binoculars for a short observing session or if the weather allows, with one of my telescopes looking skywards.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Pocket Stove

Went for the first bimble of 2013 today with my old muckers Rockmonkey & Hugo, we decided that for a change we would take our wood burning stoves with us to make brews on, i took my Pocket Stove, RM took his Hobo stove and Hugo took his gas burner (good man) as it took us an age to get a decent fire going in the Pocket Stove, as everything was sopping wet, not surprising considering the amount of rain we have had, but we got there in the end, although, it was a good job Hugo did take his gas burner, as without it i think the number of brews today would have been limited.

The Pocket Stove is not a bad little stove, sure it's heavy compared to what else is available on the market such as the very popular Honey Stove, but i cant afford a Honey Stove at the moment and therefore use the Pocket Stove (PS), what i do like about the PS is it folds up and can be set up really quickly thanks to it's hinged construction, the weight of the unit for some will be a major issue, but it doesn't bother me that much, i have to admit that the stove doesn't get the use it deserves as it can be a bit fiddly to use, but i guess until such time that i can afford a Honey Stove or lay my hands on a second hand one, the PS will get used for those times when we/I decide to have a wood fired cuppa.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Early Colour

Went for a short walk up the lane earlier as i needed to stretch my legs and clear the old mind after doing some paperwork, and there in the hedgerows, are wild Violets in full bloom, but knowing that we have Viola's, Primulas and Daffodils in the garden either in bloom or just about to flower, it's not really a surprise, even though they are early and probably just about to be destroyed by a cold snap, it's a reminder that Spring really isnt that far away now.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Hawthorn Spoon

Latest Hawthorn spoon, carved from the opposing piece of wood to the First Spoon of 2013.

The spoon was roughed out with the axe and then finished off with a tooled finish using my Ben Orford Pick knives, the spoon is currently drying off as the wood was incredibly wet, once it's dried off a bit i may add some embellishments to it, or i may just leave it as is and let time and tide embellish the wood naturally.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

What To Make......

With this lovely bit of Hawthorn?.

No, i didn't fell the tree just to get this, it was a tree that had been previously taken down for no apparent reason by a load of yobs and left where it fell, so, i figured id save as much of the timber as i could and make something good out of their idiocy. 

Any ideas what to make from it though?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Target Practice

While i was up in the woods today i figured id have a bit of target practice with my catapults, my quarry being a piece of wood stuck in the ground, it's been a while since i last shot these and it didn't take many raps on the knuckles from the recoiling leather pouch to remember to flick my wrist forward when you shoot, the piece of wood i used as a target, im afraid it didn't stand a chance.

First One

Well, having made a post about my last spoon of 2012, it's only fitting i make a post about my first spoon of 2013 i suppose?.

I roughed this out from a piece of Hawthorn with the axe whilst on a day out in woods today, i still have a fair way to go with it as it's still very thick in places, still, it was nice being back out in the woods after Christmas, sitting by a slow burning fire, with a fresh brew and doing a bit of carving.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Rake Tines

Had a really enjoyable, if, noisy day making tines for some traditional style rakes ive been commissioned to make for a local charitable organisation, so i figured, heck, if im making those, i might as well also get a load made to hold 'in stock' while im at it.

I lost count of the number of tines i made, but i know i spent over 90 minutes hammering them out, the photo shows just a small cross section of the ones i made.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Competition Winner

Time to announce the winner of the "Give a little something back" competition that ive been running since the 15th December 2012.

The winning number was 109 as produced by a random number generator, counting through the members list, this number equates to SURVIVALMOM.

Congratulations Survivalmom, please get in touch with me before midnight GMT on the 7th January 2013, my email address can be found via the Contact Me tab above, and we can discuss the build options for the sheath set and the address i will need to send it to.