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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Greg Haugh Custom F1

Wow! To say this is nice is an understatement. I received a custom handled Fallkniven F1 in today's mail just as I was headed to the woods and I had to make a quick trip back inside to re-gear before leaving so I could take along my newest piece of steel.

The handles were done by Greg Haugh of Lone Rider Custom Grips. He even supplied the blade blank. The handles are a black and green micarta and have a palm swell and a very comfortable "coke bottle" contour.

The sheath is one of JRE Industries' new Fallkniven sheaths and fits the F1 like a glove. The lower firesteel loop is a clever modification and the contours of the sheath really locked the firesteel in place.

I'm truly impressed with how much of an improvement this provides over the factory Thermorun handle--good in its own right. The sheath from the Fallkniven factory is also good but the JRE sheath is an exponential improvement. The knife is easy in and easy out. It's secure without being hard to remove and the brown leather is, in my opinion, an improvement over the black leather on the factory model. Of course the boys at JRE will do one in black if you want one.

Is this the ultimate modern bushcraft kit? Maybe. I'll have to carry it, use it, and form an opinion over many many months.

It looks to be a real pleasure.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 27, 2007

What a Moon!

The moon was full last night and the sky was crystal clear. It was the kind of night where you just sit out, enjoying the chill, while watching everything that happens under cover of night as though the nightlight has been left on.

Raccoons played in the back yard, squirrels and chipmunks continued to gather nuts to carry them through the winter, and a lone coyote skulked along the berm. It was awesome to have a front row seat.

Fantastic stuff.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Getting Ready!

Cooler days and colder nights. That's the forecast for the next few days.

Perfect bug-free weather for some time out.

I've got my basha and bedroll out, my wool blankets ready to go, my knife and axe sharpened, and my billycan is topped off with a muslin bag of parched corn and muscovado and another of jerky.

The weather's's going to be hunting season soon. The animals know it and I know it.

We're heading into my absolute favorite time of year. Waking up and needing the Swanndri Ranger only to take it off once the sun's burned off some of the morning fog, hiking and building a campsite but not getting so gross and sweaty, and tucking in nice and snug at night with a good wool blanket, a warm cup of tea, and my favorite stocking cap. Magic.

I can't wait.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Plant Videos

I've been sick since Saturday and have spent my time indoors instead of in the woods and I've spent that time watching a couple of edible/medicinal plant DVDs.

The first is by Marty Simon of the Wilderness Learning Center in Upstate New York and is called "Wild Food and Herb Nature Walk with Marty Simon." I think I've talked a bit about this video previously but having a better understanding of some plants now I can look at this video with a new set of eyes.

I still have a hard time trying to keep up with Marty's pace but that's because of my particular learning style and the distractions that come with being a stay at home dad. In the video he covers more than 50 plants in about 90 minutes and I find the video easy to watch over and over--that's important with all the distractions. He covers the plant identification, edible and medicinal uses, and offers a closeup shot of the plant before moving on to the next specimen.

You can get more information on Marty's video here.

The second video I've been watching is Mors Kochanski's "A Plant Walk with Mors Kochanski Volume 1."

I've just started the Kochanski video but I think he covers some 30 plants and I don't know just how long the video is but, like Marty, he covers the plant identification, herbal and medicinal uses, and offers a still shot of the plant against a piece of braintan for more detailed viewing. His video also offers some review questions to help the viewer more quickly learn the material.

I find Mors' teaching style to be good and he's clearly well-read on his material. I'll be able to give a more thorough opinion on the overall video once I've gotten all the way through it at least once.

Mors' videos can be found here.

If you want to learn about edible and medicinal plants and you simply can't afford to go out and take a class with a subject matter expert then the DVD/Video approach may well be your best bet. You won't get the interaction with the instructor but you'll still get more information than is available in most plant books. I'd strongly encourage you to check out these videos and give one or both of them a look. I'm glad I've got them both and will eventually pick up the rest of Mors' Plant Walk series.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 24, 2007

Welcome Marley Moore Rich

We were greeted this morning with the news that our new niece was born. My sister-in-law and her husband welcomed Marley Moore Rich into the world sometime before breakfast.

Congratulations MEM and Neal and welcome to MMR.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Tipi

I'm thinking about buying a tipi like this one on eBay.

It's no lightweight but should hold up a bit better to a traditional fire pit better than some of the ultralight versions on the market today.

The folks at Briar Patch have a large Lakota style tipi and, having spent some time in it as both rain shelter and classroom I can attest to the comfort afforded by the design. Having the small fire pit in the center allows the heat and smoke to dry out the walls and, set up properly, the smoke rises through the hole at the top rather than billowing around inside choking the occupants.

There is a liner available that improves air flow and ventilation in both summer and winter--an option I'd think seriously about getting.

It'll be a while before I can set aside the money for a larger and heavier shelter (especially after swearing to go smaller and lighter) but I think a well-made tipi could easily last decades.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 22, 2007


Is Bamboo the ultimate firestarter?

It can be split with a Swiss Army Knife, shaved down into tinder, carved into kindling, and then laid over the fire to burn to length effectively doubling your fuel every couple of minutes. It can be had cheaply at your local home improvement store and is as dry as can be.

The downside? It does seem to burn fairly quickly.

However, a walking stick made of bamboo would provide you with more than ample firebuilding materials to get other found wood to burn. That could make a huge difference in a situation where you and everything around you is wet and the cold is setting in.

There's so much more bamboo can do as a natural resource but using it to build a fire was my objective yesterday and, at that, it passed with flying colors.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dozier Knives at Vintage Knives

Pup just got in some new knives from Bob Dozier's shop.

Several years ago I approached Bob to make a Pro Guide (one of his larger models) with a different tip as I wasn't a huge fan of the clip point he'd been using. He agreed and the modified Pro Guide was born. In a fit of madness, I gave that knife to a friend and then desperately tried to get another made. My friend Billy "Pup" Cochrane of Vintage Knives is a Dozier Knives Dealer and I convinced him to order up a few at the Chicago Show a few years back. He got in a batch, sold them all, and then ordered some more. Here they are:
Drop Point Pro Guide with tan canvas Micarta handles
Drop Point Pro Guidewith green canvas Micarta handles

Bob makes the Arkansas Traveller as a sort of everyday carry/utility blade and Pup had the brilliant idea to up-size the whole package a bit so this:
Arkansas Traveller
became this:
Delta Traveller

and I had another favorite design from a fantastic maker.

If you've been around here a while you've read my posts on the Delta Traveller (DT) in the past and you'll know that I think it's one heck of a knife. I'm tempted to get my hands on one of the Arkansas Travellers just to determine whether or not the design loses anything in translation either up or down in size. I can't imagine it does but this is the excuse I'll have to give myself...

If these knives appeal to you I'd suggest you jump on them pretty quickly. Doziers don't last long and you're hearing about it here first.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Goldenrod Gall Grub

See the ball midway down the stem on this goldenrod? It contains a tiny grub which can be used as bait if you find yourself with a hook and a fishing hole.

The gall is created by a moth larva according to Dean's Wild Flowers and confirmed by George Hedgepeth of Briar Patch during the Primitive Skills Class.

Cutting open the gall reveals a tiny grub which, as mentioned, can be used as fish bait or *gulp* food if you're hungry and need some protein. The gall is quite woody but is still cut easily with a sharp knife. I suppose you could break it open if you didn't have a knife handy but that's a situation with which I don't imagine myself ever presented.

Here you can see the grub just peeking out of the center of the gall. I could pull the grub out with a small stick or the tip of my pocket knife blade and then thread it onto a hook before going looking for a fish.

This is the first of these galls I've seen since being back from the Primitive Skills Class and the only one I saw during my hike. I suspect if you found some of these that you could cut the goldenrod below the gall and transport the grub still protected by the plant stem safely for some time.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Went for a Hike

There is a wooded preserve behind the new house that has plenty of paths but not much foot traffic. I've hiked here several times and have never seen so much as a sign that someone else has been out.

The temperatures had been cool most of last week but started to warm again on Sunday and was as high as 80 degrees again yesterday. The warmer temperatures bring back the mosquitoes and the preserve has enough ponds and streams to make the mozzies a constant nuisance. Interestingly, since starting my daily routine of Vitamin B1 and Garlic Oil I've been harassed by the mosquitoes but rarely bitten and when I do get a bite it just doesn't itch. Still, I look for wild plantain whenever I have a chance.

Following on my new methodology of less gear I took a camera, a knife, and my tree ID books. I was specifically looking for those hard to find trees like birch and cedar. Both trees are used by landscapers but neither seems to occur naturally in our woods.

Wildlife was a bit hard to come by. I heard the occasional squirrel or chipmunk running through the brush but nothing much to speak of in the way of deer, coyote, or even snakes. I did, however, manage to catch this butterfly taking a break. He wasn't in any hurry to take off once I got down next to him with my camera. I suppose he thought I deserved the shot as I was being swarmed by mosquitoes as I held still enough to snap the picture.

I did have a bit of a run-in with a young deer later but that's a story for another day...

I'm finding myself falling back on what I learned from George on the plant walk quite a bit and it's nice to find myself familiar with various edible and medicinal plants that grow like weeds all over my woods. Too bad I missed the wild strawberries before the animals picked the plants clean.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 17, 2007

Tree Identification: Hawthorn

The tree I so long thought to be Osage turns out to be Hawthorn. I've checked and double checked my reference books and talked with the Environmental Educator on-site before posting and we're of the same opinion.

Strangely, this isn't a tree with which I'm terribly familiar. I found this information on the Internet while looking up pictures to cross-reference mine:

Culinary and Medicinal Uses

Both ancient and modern herbalists have successfully used hawthorn for its food and health benefits. Modern science shows that hawthorne contains chemical components which are sedative, anti-spasmodic and diuretic. If you intend to use it for medicinal purposes, look for C. laevigata, C. monogyna, or C. pinnatifida, as these hybrids are known best for their medicinal uses. Read how to make a tincture or an infusion using hawthorne flowers or berries.

The hawthorne berry is one of the best cardiac tonics available, and is often used to treat high blood pressure.

Hawthorne berries are used to treat childhood diabetes. See Cautions.

Hawthorne flower tea is a safe diuretic.

Hawthorne berries, dried and crushed and made into a decoction, eases diarrhea and dysentery, kidney inflammations and disorders. See Cautions.

The young hawthorne leaves can be used as a safe, and non-nicotine tobacco substitute for those who desire to quite smoking. Enhance the flavor and help heal the throat by adding yarrow, mint, coltsfoot or mullein.

Chewing the hawthorne leaf has been known for centuries as a safe way to give nourishment, revive energy, and a feeling of well-being. That is why it can be used to treat those who have problems with apprehension, insomnia and despondency. Chewing hawthorne leaves takes away that "tummy grumble" when you"re hungry. That is why the hawthorne became known as the "bread and cheese" tree, giving as much sustenance as a plate of bread and cheese.

The hawthorne leaf-buds are good cooked (10 to 20 minutes) and have a similar taste to lima beans. They make a great addition to chilis and soups.

You can make jellies and fruit sauces from the berries, just make sure you strain the sauce. Hawthorne berries contain their own pectin so the sauce or jelly will thicken nicely.

Hawthorne flowers are edible and make an attractive addition to salads and other dishes.

Hawthorne seeds can be roasted and used in a manner similar to coffee.

Garden Guides Hawthorn Page

Interestingly, like Osage, Hawthorn was widely used as a hedge in the UK. I suppose there's a legitimate reason to confuse the two from an initial inspection.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Stick Carving

I've been working on three new hiking sticks this weekend.

We toured the new house and there was a pile of freshly cut hornbeam laying out by the deck so I helped myself to a few nice straight-ish pieces and limbed and cut them to length for my son, daughter, and my Dad.

When we got home I pulled out the work table and clamped up the biggest piece of hornbeam to cut off the bark and then debarked the two smaller sticks. This left me with a big pile of shavings and a need to get rid of them. My first thought was to just leave them there and allow the winds to scatter them back to nature but my wife just didn't think that a viable idea. So, I made a hole right in the center of the pile, prepped some tinder, and hit that tinder with a couple of sparks from a firesteel and had a nice little fire going.

When the fire burned down it was just a matter of spreading out the ashes to cool, sweeping them into the flower bed, and then watering the whole area to make sure there are no late night flare-ups.

It occurred to me last night (late last night) that this was a pretty good test for a knife as you're working on some of the most abrasive parts of the tree--knots and bark. You're also working a variety of grips in order to get the bark off and to shape the tips. Adding in the firesteel striking you've really got quite a thorough test of a knife--not the be-all end-all test but a good one nonetheless.

These sticks turned out so nice that I'm thinking about running back over there today to grab some more before it makes its way to the chipper/shredder.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 14, 2007

How Embarassing

Well, I've learned something this morning.

The tree I've been taught was an Osage is, in fact, NOT an Osage. I don't yet know what it IS but I've been assured by the local forester and the folks at Ryerson Woods that there are NO Osage trees growing on the property.

This is a bit embarassing as I've written up this tree in the past and always believed it to be Osage.

So, tree identification is going to be put off for a day or so until I can first identify this particular species and then to get some pictures of known Osage trees.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Learn your Trees

Tree identification is a skill that comes in handy while out in the woods.

Learning how to differentiate a maple from an oak from a hickory from a basswood can not only give you a greater sense of comfort in the woods but it also allows you to selectively harvest trees for specific tasks.

I think I'll spend some time going over some of the trees locally and include pictures of bark, leaves, seeds, etc. to give you some idea of the process I use.

I've recently lost all of my online images from a former gallery and will now have to rebuild with new images so it will take me a few days to get things going.

Once we're up and running though I'll make it a regular part of the blog. I'll also include some popular uses for the tree, the wood, the seeds and/or fruit, the bark, and/or the roots. You'll quickly see just how extensive a toolbox nature provides for you.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Upside Over

I received an email this morning from Upside Over and considered it to be simply Spam that didn't get caught by the filters. Then I read the email...

Upside Over is a store, like OutdoorKids, which specializes in clothing and gear for infants, toddlers, and kids.

Right on the homepage they've got a quote:
LIFE IS ADVENTURE! Explore the world as a Family.

I think that really sums up what they're about. Getting out is great, getting out with your kids is even better, and getting out with properly attired and kitted kids is even better still.

It's a good time of year to receive this email as my kids are starting to outgrow the gear we picked up last year and Jake just doesn't want hand-me-downs from his sister who will only wear something if it's pink or purple.

If you've got little ones that like to get into the woods with you I'd encourage you to check this site out. I'm going to go and examine it more fully as soon as I've got this posted.

Thanks for reading,


JRE Bark River Blowout Sale!

For those of you who haven't yet discovered it, JRE Industries is having a big sale on their inventory of Bark River knives here.

They've got some killer prices on some great blades and I just picked up a couple myself tonight.

Take a look.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Mary Ellen!

Today is my sister-in-law's birthday.

I'm fairly certain she doesn't read the blog but let's all send her Happy Birthday thoughts anyway.

Hope you have a great one today MEM!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Chicago Custom Knife Show

This past weekend was the Chicago Custom Knife Show down in Arlington Heights and I went down to pick up a piece from Rick Nowland, to meet Christine Simonich of Simonich Knives, and to say hello to Dan and Spen of JRE Industries.

While I was there I had an opportunity to talk with several makers who I've been watching including Robert Rossdeutscher of RNR Knives, J.P. Miller, and Daniel Winkler who hasn't yet made a knife or tomahawk that I didn't like.

I placed an order for another piece from Rick Nowland to go with my new Two-Blade Dogleg Jack, convinced Daniel Winkler to make me something this year, and will probably be back in touch with Robert Rossdeutscher in the VERY near future to finish working on some designs we hashed out during the show. Yeah, it was an expensive weekend...

One other maker who deserves a mention here is Jim Krause. He's a guy I've talked about in the past and will continue to talk about. He's relatively new to the knifemaking scene but he's an accomplished woodcarver and that artistic skill comes through in his knifemaking. He made me a linerlock folder last year that's been all over and in all kinds of messes and it still looks fantastic. He was happy to see it and I was happy to show it to him.

I'm really looking forward to next year's show already!!!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, September 07, 2007

TinderLite Fire Piston Pen

Talk about a clever idea...

The TinderLite Fire Piston Pen - By Wilderness Solutions is, indeed, a clever idea.

Take a compression firestarting tool like the fire piston, combine it with the spark-based ferrocerium rod, and you've got quite a combination for getting a fire started. Add some charcloth to your gear and you should have almost certain success.

There are even videos posted at the link above.

Check it out and decide for yourself whether or not it's worth the $72 pricetag (plus $5 shipping and handling.) Personally I think the guy deserves a few bucks just for coming up with such a novel approach to one of man's oldest skills and tools.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Out of My Element

Well, this is a strange day indeed!

Both of my kids are in full-day school for the first time ever and I just don't know what to do with myself.

The problem is that I have too many options. I can go for a long day-hike, I can take a long bike ride, I could go to the gym, the grocery, and the gas station and have time left over...

Maybe I should get a job, maybe I should go for a hike, maybe I should become a professional cyclist, maybe I need another kid, maybe...I don't know.

This uncertainty will pass quickly but for today I'm really feeling a bit swamped by the possibilities.

I went gear shopping for hours today and found NOTHING worth noting. That says a ton about the Primitive Skills class George, Kerri, and Kevin taught...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Deer Mountain Forge

(Photo courtesy of Craig Barr)
Craig Barr, owner of Deer Mountain Forge, spent some time talking with me yesterday evening about his damascus billets, his amazing tomahawks, and other miscellany related to the "heat and beat" method of knife and tool manufacture.

I first found Craig while searching for tomahawks on eBay. He's got a store here and currently has several Carbon Steel and damascus tomahawk heads listed. After a series of emails back and forth I've finally tossed down a bid on one of his 'hawk heads and hope to get it or one like it.

The nature of the forging business allows for slight variation which means you can most likely find something that suits you from the various models Craig makes. He's got heads that are longer, shorter, heavier, lighter, have longer cutting edges, and shorter cutting edges. Heck, he's got spike polls and hammer polls too.

Looking through his website it appears he makes (or has made) knives also. He's also had his damascus billets turned into award-winning knives.

Check out his eBay store and you'll see just why I think Craig is worth giving a look. I hope to give you a 'hawk evaluation within the next couple of weeks. Wish me luck.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ron's Primitive Skills

I found another primitive skills blog this morning. It's called Ron's Primitive Skills and contains some really nice pieces of primitive kit made by the author including some flint tools and antler needles.

Check it out,


Monday, September 03, 2007

Hiking with Jake

It was a beautiful day for a hike and Jake and I took full advantage by heading for the local woods intending to just knock around for a couple of hours before coming home to dinner with my in-laws.

The mosquitoes had a different idea entirely.

We never even made the treeline. They mossies were so thick that we lasted nearly 15 minutes before throwing in the towel. I must have chased away dozens from poor Jake--he's got that sweet blood they like so much. Even I got bitten a few times.

We really tested the broadleaf plantain's ability to reduce the swelling and itchiness of mosquito bites and it does work quite well. I just pluck up a leaf, chew it for a few seconds, and then rub it on the bite...a few seconds later the swelling goes down, the itch goes away, and all is well...

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Beans72's Buckwheat Pillows

Wow! I got one a king-size buckwheat pillow from Beans72's eBay Store and slept on it for the first time last night.

I had heard about her from Kevin Finney at the Briar Patch class. He was using one inside the conical bark house and it was dramatically better than the rolled up fleece I was using.

My pillow weighs 15 pounds and is absolutely wonderful. It is both hard and soft all at the same time. After sleeping funny on my down pillow the night before last the new "harder" pillow was most welcome.

The literature I got with my pillow claims that the buckwheat will "break-in" at approximately one year and the more polished hulls with better comform to my contours. That sounds great.

Anyway, give them a look. I don't know if buckwheat pillows are for everyone but the one I just received is certainly an improvement over the broken-down down pillow I've been using.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Nomad of Soul

Nomad of Soul has been compiling an exhaustive reference list of magazines, books, DVDs, etc. pertaining to bushcraft and wilderness skills.

Check it out here.

Fantastic stuff.


New Links ------->

Look to the right and you'll see I've added a couple of new links.

Torjus is doing some really amazing things with primitive skills and, finally understanding more what kind of effort goes into them, I've been really enjoying his writing more and more lately and the projects he's undertaking are truly amazing.

Suburban Bushwacker is, like me, NOT living deep in the wilderness. He's planning on training for and executing the elk hunt of a lifetime and he's going to do it all in front of us on his blog. Fantastic.

The Panday's Gazette is a blog belonging to Stephen Renico, a knifemaker up in Michigan who is also interested in Pekiti Tirsia--a martial art. Interesting stuff. Check him out.

If you're not already reading their blogs you should pop over and give them a look.

Thanks for reading,