American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Monday, April 09, 2007

Harvesting Birch Bark

On outings I make it a habit to harvest some birch bark. I don't peel it from live standing trees but rather from blowdown (dead branches, twigs, etc.) and standing deadwood. In this way I have the smallest impact on the woods.

Birch is an especially handy tree as it can be used for so many things. You can make syrup from the sap, containers from the bark, and spoons from the wood. These, of course, are just three examples of the many things the birch gives us.

There is also the polypore which can be used in place of bandages and the tinder fungus which can be used in our firestarting endeavors.

Once I've gathered a handful of bark, I stuff it in my shirt pocket and try not to smash it to bits. As I gather it from smaller branches and twigs it is usually curled up in the shape of the branch. Once I get home I lay it flat under a weight and it'll dry to flat sheets. A couple of these flat sheets will go back into my pocket for the next outing. If I need it to get a fire started I'll just scrape up the inside of the bark, strike my firesteel with the spine of my Mini Canadian (or the awl on my Swisstool) and that should be enough to get me going.

Taking five minutes on every outing and another half a minute upon returning home seems like a small investment to provide me with a constant supply of birch bark tinder.

Thanks for reading,



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