Mushroom, Myth and Magic - the Fly Agaric Field prep a Fallow Deer Enjoy the Fat of the Land Pick up some carving skills
plus Star Lore,Weather Lore and more...
Book in for a weekend of courses and a chance for bushcrafters and adventurous families to share skills, and swap stories. Camp overnight from Friday for a full programme of activities over the weekend and Bank Holiday Monday; events, tutorials and demonstrations for all the family and levels of skill. Gather round the fire in the evening for storytelling and, weather permitting, star-gazing afterwards. Bring your own food or make use of our on-site catering . Pitch a tent or a tarp and hammock in the woods. Camping included in the ticket price plus access to every available course.
Venue: Egerton, nr. Ashford, Kent. Keep up to date or book online at
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Volume 9 Number 3 Autumn 2013 The Bushcraft Magazine is published by:
The Bushcraft MagazineTM .
Egerton House Cottage, Egerton, Ashford, KENT TN27 9BD Founder: Huw Woodman Editor: Steve Kirk Advertising: Matthew Selfe Webmaster: Paul Bradley Soup Dragon: Cathy Hill E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising: email@example.com
CONTENTS 6 THE FAT OF THE LAND Carol Hunt Cooks Wild with it. 10 CARVING CUTS Paul Bradley knows and shows how to wield a blade. 14 “FOR HE‟S A JOLLY GOOD FALLOW!” Nick Misson praises a deer friend. 18 MUSHROOM, MYTH AND MAGIC Steve Kirk. You’ll believe an agaric can fly. 23 FORAGING FOR AMANITAS Steve Friedrich steers you round the minefield. 24 ‟CRAFTY YOUNG FOXES Taylor Peek and Arctic fox, Kevin Warrington. 26 IMPROVING YOUR AMADOU Mark Hordon has some amadous and don’ts. 29 THE DIFFERENCE A HOLE MAKES Michael Pennock thinks it makes a hole lot. 33 HANG „EM HIGH Phil Ireland with something to stop the pot calling the kettle black. 35 THE LAST WORD rests with Lloyd Hooper. REGULARS 2 COURSES 4 CAMO PAGES 12 WEATHER LORE 30 STAR LORE
EDITORIAL From time to time we’ve all experienced how the unreal world of work and other commitments, impinge upon the real world of bushcraft and being outdoors. So, too, with this magazine. As a consequence it is ready a month later than usual, for which I can only apologise. Coincidentally, the whole of Nature has been about the same amount out of synch all season, running late; though, undoubtedly she will catch up at some point. There should still be time this year, to make use of this issue and the knowledge it contains, and in any case it will apply equally well to next Autumn too. If you are a subscriber, I would hope that the last seven Autumn issues are still as relevant now as the first time. For our ancestors, the Ancient Britons, darkness was a beginning. Their day began at sunset and new year started on the eve of the dark half of the year, Samhain, now known as Hallowe’en. Then the veil between this world and the Otherworld was at its thinnest, so the Celts celebrated and communicated with their ancestors. It was a time of abundance, of stocking up for the forthcoming Winter and of feasting. It was a time to set aside conflict, to make things and play games. Not by chance, this particular issue of the Bushcraft Magazine has articles on making the most of the seasonal cornucopia, with recipes for cooking with fungi and acorns, amongst other things; how to dress a deer, and foraging tips. To light those bonfires we have ways of improving your tinder and your bow drill and a suggestion as to how to cheaply make your own tripod. As for the Otherworld, we look at how some Siberian shamans get there. While the Celts played board-games whose rules have since been lost in the mists of time, our youngest writer to date, ten year old Taylor Peek, reminds us how to play the time-honoured but almost forgotten game of conkers. Steve Kirk. firstname.lastname@example.org Cover photo by Steve Kirk
Photo © the author
Truffle Aperitif, Anyone? The concept of the apéritif, a predinner drink to get the gastric juices flowing, is somewhat alien to us Brits (unless you count the classic 12 pints of lager with a curry follow-up), but the French make a virtuous habit of it. As a consequence they produce a wide range of regional drinks, often with a wild element to the ingredients. Whilst on holiday in the Dordogne, which is part of of the Périgord region, I discovered this unusual flavoured appetiser. Avid mycophiles will know that this part of France is famous for its truffles, and they can be seen on sale in local markets, as can the Apéritif aux truffes, a delicious drink infused with the flavour of these fungi. Granted, being a wine eau de vie based spirit drink, it is sweeter than the typical apéritif – they are usually somewhat bitter (in a good way) – but with an added 0.5-1.8% truffle juice and aroma (depending on the producer), it has the indescribable and seductive earthy truffle allure. If it is too sweet to drink then it makes a superb addition to cooking. My only doubt is the word aroma, among the ingredients. There exists only a synthetic truffle smell that is incorporated into culinary truffle oil. This has been known to enrage purist chefs into smashing the oil bottles against a wall.
My Favourite Bit of Kit Along with my basket and cloth foraging bags, I am rarely to be found without my trusty stick. I actually have two types, which I cut for myself and routinely use, and each has its own particular shape, season and usefulness. The first, my thumbstick, is a great tool. Cut to the right height, it's perfect for that little bit of added support when you're traversing steep or slippery ground. It is also ideal for pushing back undergrowth and I use the 'y' section at the top to lift low hanging branches up and out of my way when I'm in more densely wooded areas. It has also acted as my protection on occasions when I've come across less than friendly dogs (I'd rather they chewed at my stick than me!). I can use it to investigate and turn things over without having to bend, and pop it up over my shoulder to help me carry heavily laden bags or baskets.
Some are available here: http://www.truffefrance.com/aperitifs-a-la-truffe.htm
Conker Your Fears
But come the summer and autumn, and I'll change to what I call my 'cruck' stick. This is one cut so that the top of the stick has a hook with a short knop above that to hold onto or lean on, as needed. Again, it must be cut to the perfect height for the user and I favour something that comes up to the height of my elbow, or just a little higher. It is the hook that is especially important for these times of year, because it can effectively double my reach, allowing me to pull high branches down so that I can gather fruits and nuts. Used carefully, the cruck stick is an invaluable tool that can allow you to harvest without disturbing or damaging trees.
The old wives’ tale that scattering conkers on window ledges, under the sofa and elsewhere on the floor is going to fall under the scrutiny of science. The Royal Society of Chemistry has launched a project to find out if there is any basis of truth to this popular superstition. It is surmised that if it does work, and we know people who swear by it, it is likely to be chemical by nature and found particularly in fresh conkers.
Living a nemoral life? Nemophilist n. One who is fond of forest or forest scenery; a haunter of the woods.
Nemoral a. Of or pertaining to a wood or grove.
Two definitions from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913
In response to a query as to why he recommends using an ash drill with a hearth of different wood, in this case birch (The Botany of the Bow Drill Vol. 9 No. 2 Summer 2013), author Keith Boseley had this to say “The advantages of using a hard wood (ash, acacia, hornbeam) drill is that the bearing block point does not break down so quickly as a soft wood drill, ensuring that the friction is in the hearth, not in the bearing block, so the drill lasts longer and takes less effort.
Hard wood v Soft wood
Using the ash drill also allows the use of a “punky” hard wood hearth that is on the soft side but still can make an ember. If the same “punky” hard wood is used for the drill it will collapse. The disadvantage is that the drill can go though the hearth quicker and less embers will be made as a soft wood drill forms part of the ember. Soft wood drills are best used with a hard wood bearing block.” The terms soft and hard wood are here being used descriptively rather than to denote the difference between coniferous (softwood) and deciduous wood (hardwood).
Photo credit: S. Kirk
The camo pattern on these pages is based on one in use in Finland since the 1960s. The three colour pattern is nicknamed kurkkusalaatti (cucumber relish) in Finnish.
If the Mushroom Cap Fits...
Photo © Shark Designs
I’ve occasionally found mushrooms as big as my hat – specimens of the Parasol Macrolepiota procera and Agaricus urinascens (a.k.a. macrosporus) – but wearing mushrooms as hats, I’ve always thought belonged to the twee realm of picture book fairies. However, when I discovered that in Romania, Bohemia (part of the Czech Republic) and Bulgaria amadou is used to fashion a variety of headgear, my immediate reaction was “I want one of those!” Placemats, bags and purses are also made from the same felt-like material. How far the tradition goes back is not clear, but it is another fascinating interaction between folk and their natural environment. They are unlikely to be rainproof and a fire hazard? Well, possibly; but I think they are stylish, (mostly). Finding the right outfit to go with them might be a challenge. Shark Designs has some over here www.sharktinderbox.co.uk (call 01634 241 049 to order) and, believe it or not, amadou products has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amadou-Products-FomesFomentarius/117438031677324?
Bay Bolete Boletus badius
Acorn Hummus and Oatcakes
Acorn, Bean and Fungi Soup
Fungi Crostini with Poached Egg and Pesto
The Fat of the Land
I love Autumn. It's a season full of potential and promise and in a good year provides the perfect excuse to spend time making use of any abundance, which is rarely uniform across all species. This year the oak trees have been laden with acorns and while you might regard their preparation as a bit of a faff, they can be a remarkably versatile ingredient, making anything from flour to coarse 'grits' and used diversely in such things as cakes, soups, noodles, jellies (Korean Dotorimuk) and of course, traditional acorn coffee (see TBM Vol. 8. No.3 Autumn 2012). You might think otherwise given their high tannin content but, once this has been leached away, acorns are surprisingly tasty and nutritious, containing 42% carbohydrate, 52% Fats and 6% Protein. They are low in cholesterol and sodium but provide a good source of Manganese. As well as being the favourite forage of pigs, (a.k.a. pannage), they are a reliable source of food for cultures all across the globe and have been for many thousands of years. Add some inevitable mushrooms to the mix and it is most definitely a harvest from the Fat of the Land.
Fungi Crostini with Poached Egg and Pesto
Ingredients 1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced 1 French stick/baguette Olive oil 3 cloves of garlic Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to season 200g of Fungi - Ceps are particularly good, but on this occasion we had a small, mixed haul of Slender Parasols (Macrolepiota mastoidea), Glistening Ink Caps (Coprinus micaceus), Amethyst Deceivers (Laccaria amethystea) and Boletes (Boletus badius, Leccinum scabrum, Boletus edulis) 200g fresh wild rocket leaves (Perennial Wall Rocket Diplotaxis tenuifolia), washed and trimmed 1 egg 150ml white wine or cider vinegar 100ml water 2 tablespoons pesto, thinned with a little olive oil 1 Kabanos or Pepperoni sausage, thinly sliced (this is optional) Method Make the crostini in advance: Slice the French stick/baguette into rounds and rub a peeled and halved garlic clove over each side. Arrange the slices on a baking tray and drizzle them with a little oil, then sprinkle them with a little sea salt and black pepper. Place the baking tray in a medium oven and leave
Acorn, Bean and Fungi Soup
Ingredients 1 onion, finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic, crushed 2 tins of cannellini beans
Beefsteak Carpaccio Marinade
1 Bay leaf 1 sprig of fresh sage 1 glass of dry white wine (I used some rosehip country wine) 200g freshly leached & coarsely chopped acorn meat 200g Porcini (or whatever appropriate fungi you find, such as parasols, wood mushrooms, field mushrooms etc.) Salt and pepper to season 1 to 2 ltrs vegetable stock
Ingredients Method Heat a little oil in a pan and gently sauté the onion and garlic together until they become transparent and soft. Add the drained beans along with the acorn meat, bay leaf and sage, vegetable stock and wine. Simmer together for around 10 minutes or so, and then season to taste. Remove the sage and bay leaf and blitz the soup mixture in a blender until smooth.
Trim and clean the fungi. Add a little oil to a clean pan and gently sauté the fungi pieces until they are just tender and cooked. Add the sautéed fungi pieces to the blended soup and re-heat everything thoroughly.
Serve piping hot.
1 medium sized fresh young beefsteak fungi, cleaned and trimmed The soft pulp from inside 3 or 4 slow roasted garlic cloves, Half a medium heat chilli, very finely chopped Juice and zest of 1 lime 3 or 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar 6 to 8 tablespoons of light olive oil Salt and pepper to season
un bo th
Pu a Yo st
M re un sl us al an ho
Pi th to is cr
Meanwhile, in another pan, gently sautĂŠ the onion and remaining garlic cloves (crushed) in a little oil over a low heat until they are transparent and softened. Add the cleaned and sliced fungi (along with the kabanos/pepperoni if you are using them) and the remaining vinegar (approx. a tablespoon) along with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn up the heat and stir everything well so that the fungi is cooked and piping hot. Pile the washed rocket leaves on a serving pate and spoon the hot fungi mixture on top. Place the soft poached egg on top and gently split it open with a knife so that the runny yolk is exposed. Drizzle everything with the pesto and arrange the crostini on the side of the plate.
Serve at once. Ingredients Makes enough for approximately 4 people.
100g acorn meat, freshly leached Oil to moisten (your choice of type) 2 tbsp tahini (you may substitute 2 tablespoons of peanut butter if you have no tahini, but it will slightly alter the flavour) 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed (you may substitute the more mellow flavoured slow roasted garlic cloves if you prefer but you may need to up the amount as they are milder) Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon Salt to season Chili powder to season (1 or more pinches to taste) Method Coarsely chop the acorns and place them into a blender along with the tahini, lemon, garlic and chilli powder.
Method Clean and very thinly slice the fungi and place all the slices into a lidded dish. Mix all of the remaining ingredients together, mashing the garlic well with a fork and making sure it is well distributed throughout the marinade. Pour the marinade over the sliced fungi, cover the dish and leave it in a fridge overnight. Serve chilled.
Blitz everything together until you achieve a grainy, soft and slightly dry looking paste. Running the blender on a slow setting, slowly drizzle oil onto the hummus to moisten it and loosen the texture. Scrape the side of the blender jug down frequently so that the paste is even in consistency. When you are happy with the consistency, check the flavour and season as required. Serve the finished hummus with some crisp oatcakes or warm pitta bread.
Put the water and 100ml of the vinegar into a small pan over a low heat and break the egg into it. Poach the egg gently. You want it cooked so that the white is just set but the yolk is still just runny on the inside.
Photo credit: S. Kirk
until they are crisped and golden. Turn them once, so that both sides are equally toasted, then remove the crostini from the oven and set them aside to cool.
Carving Cuts Paul Bradley
There are only five main cuts that I use when carving spoons, three power cuts and two detail cuts. Most other cuts are variations or combinations of these main cuts. When doing a power cut it is important to use the portion of the cutting edge as close to the handle and your hand as possible to minimise the pivoting action of the wood against the blade. Power cut one This has the most power but least control of the power cuts, and so is less used. It’s good for stripping bark, or for bulk removal of wood. The knife is held like a hammer with the blade in line with the forearm, edge pointing away. Both the work and blade are held to one side of the body, and it can help to rest the end of the work on a suitable block. Lock the shoulder and elbow so all the power is transferred to the blade, and tilt the blade tip upwards slightly to make a slicing cut rather than a push cut, which is more efficient and requires less strength. Be aware that the knife will go straight down the wood and off the end. Power cut one
Power cut two This is the most versatile of the power cuts, as it can be used to remove anything from long lengths to small chips.
Power cut two
It’s a reverse-hammer grip, with the blade in line with the forearm but this time with the edge pointing up the arm, rather than away. With elbows tucked in, place the base of the knife against the sternum with the tip pointing directly away. The work is placed underneath the blade, and the shoulders are drawn back to create a slicing motion across the wood; strength is provided by the back muscles. (This is often called the “chicken wing cut” because the action resembles the flapping of a chicken’s wings!)
Power cut three This cut is useful for curving cuts where you need to remove reasonable amounts of wood, for example at the back of a spoon bowl.
Photos © the author
This is a modified reverse-hammer grip. Instead of the blade in line with the angle of the thumb and the forearm, it’s turned inwards a little to line up with the thumb knuckle. Lift the thumb so that it lies along the blade on the opposite side from the fingers and grip the blade between fingers and thumb – this isn’t essential but stops the thumb interfering with the blade or the underside of the work. The work – for
example, a spoon blank – is held lengthways against the sternum. (A chest protector is good here to prevent bruising.) Holding the knife upright, with the tip pointed slightly away (to provide a slicing action), draw the blade down the blank towards yourself. Despite this, it’s one of the safest of the cuts – because the tendency is for the work to pivot the tip of the knife away from you.
The detailed cuts are variations of the power cuts. But, instead of the power being supplied by the gross muscles of the knife arm, the power and control are provided by the fingers of the hand holding the work. Power cut three
Detail cut two This is similar to power cut three. The knife hand maintains the same position, knife upright against the side of the work, with the tip pointed slightly away. The thumb and forefinger of the non-knife hand hold the work, and the rest of the hand cradles the knife hand. The fingers of the non-knife hand press against the back of the fingers of the knife hand, providing fine control of power, while the knife hand controls the direction of the cut. This is a “push” movement by the non-knife hand, in contrast to the knife hand providing a “pull” force in power cut three.
Detail cut one
Detail cut two
Detail cut one This is a modification of the chest-lever (“chicken wing”) cut, but instead of the back muscles pivoting the hands apart, the fingers provide the power and control. The starting position for body and work are the same, but the non-knife thumb is placed on the back of the knife handle, just below the blade. There are two variations of the cut; in the first, the thumb pushes the blade along, and the knife hand holds the knife still; in the second, the thumb pushes, but both hands move to provide a pivoting action. Often the two are used in combination. Only the hands move in this cut, not the whole arms!
CLOUD VARIETIES: LACUNOSUS
NOVEMBER 17 15:18
Lacunosus is a cloud variety (see; Cloud Varieties TBM Vol. 9 no.1 Spring 2013) that I only see once every couple of years. It can appear with three cloud types; Stratocumulus – layer forming , heaped low-level clouds; Altocumulus – mid-level, heaped patch or layer forming clouds and Cirrocumulus – high level, heaped, patch-forming clouds. Lacunosus seems to occur in the decaying stages of a cloud formation or sometimes a weather system, after rain, or it can sometimes precede it. There are a number of other beautiful and distinctive formations that are associated with this variety, which probably contribute to its genesis. The subtle effects of localised air masses of different temperature and humidity are involved, not simply the large-scale collisions that occur with frontal weather systems.
A hybrid annular and total eclipse of the sun will occur on November 03. None of this one will be visible from Britain though if holidaying in Spain a partial eclipse will be visible from there.
For lower and mid-level lacunosus to be visible, the sky is generally grey but will have multiple layers and lacunosus signifies the break up of one of the layers. It may be accompanied by either pendulous mammatus formations or wavy undulatus, both are suggestive of rising and sinking of air. Gradually, holes begin to appear in the ridges and at the edges of a layer where bubbles of warm,
October 20 November 30
Quadrantids January 01-06
NOV 1 07.20 07.05 07.20 07.26
NOV 1 16.34 16.46 16.32 16.47
07:44 07:56 08:19 08:23 2014
15:55 16:07 15:44 16:03 2014
08:06 08:18 08:44 08:46
16:02 16:15 15:49 16:09
07:39 07:51 08:08 08:13
16:50 17:02 16:46 17:02
Note that all times are Universal Coordinated Time UTC /GMT. Winter Solstice occurs at 17:11 December21 , 2013
Photos © S. Kirk
Stratocumulus stratiformis undulatus in decay, with the lighter coloured parts of the cloud beginning to perforate.
Photos S. Kirk
Stratocumulus lacunosus looking like a net made of cloud dry air are pushing through. The whole formation takes on a honeycomb appearance, with often regular-sized holes with fringed edges â€“ the negative of typical Altocumulus formation. Other parts of the sky may be showing irregular rising or descending clouds. Gradually, the holes widen and the net splits apart. If this has already occurred by the time it reaches you, you can still get a sense of what has been going on by the shapes of widely separated cloud elements.
common cloud species and is often associated with wave clouds. In wave clouds air is rising and descending, usually producing regularly spaced strips of cloud that condense on the rise and evaporate on the descending undulation, hence the gap. In unsteady wave clouds, bubbles of compressed warmer air may rise again to punch holes through the cloud layer, or perhaps cold, dry air sinks downwards.
Irregular holes in a Cirrocumulus lacunosus formation, decaying along the line of the ripples.
From the ground it is not always possible to determine the exact forces at work, though in the Altocumulus and Stratocumulus undulatus lacunosus it looks very much like the air is punching upwards rather than downwards. Whatever the mechanism, they are beautiful, haunting and worth looking out for.
A lacunosus formation where the threads of the net have dissolved. The undulations are still visible and the holes have occurred where the cloud curves upwards again.
Cirrocumulus lacunosus is probably more frequent but being at a far greater height the elements are much smaller, so may be best appreciated through binoculars or by photographing and enlarging what you see. This pattern forms against a background of blue sky, though often with high-level clouds the contrast is low, making it harder to discern features. In this case the Cirrocumulus cloud is formed of ice crystals. Cirrocumulus is one of the less
―For He‘s a Jolly G I am a deerstalker with 25 years experience. I work on an estate of 22,500 acres (10,000 hectares, new money) with an estimated cull per annum of 400-500 deer. We have four species of deer – Red, Fallow, Roe and Muntjac, ranging from 180kg to 10kg dead weight. As a good friend of Will Lord, I was asked to quarter and skin a fallow deer for his Prehistoric Event in April 2013;which is where these photos were taken. At work, rules of best practice are always rigidly observed but these photos give an idea of what is achievable using primitive tools and a basic insight into deer skinning and rough preparation for the table. The Fallow in the photos is a buck, roughly 3 years old and approx.50kg dead weight i.e. after the head, legs and internal organs (the gralloch) have been removed. Knowledge of reportable diseases and symptoms is vital before letting a deer carcass enter the human food chain.
Using a freshly knapped blade, prepared by Will, we cut all the way around the back knee joint – avoiding cutting the major tendon. Photo credit: S. Kirk
Slide the blade down from the knee to the scrotal area on the inside leg, trying not to cut the haunch.
From the front knee joint cut upwards towards the cavity of the stomach on the inside of the leg. Once done on both sides the process of skinning begins.
y Good Fallowâ€–
Keep pulling downwards in an even manner towards the neck where a bit of knife work may be required depending on the sex/age of beast.
If it is a older buck/stag (male) and in the mid-end of rut it is normally a bit tougher, because it has probably been fighting and quite often, you will find some bad bruising under the skin.
Once down to the base of the skull, cut into the atlas joint (the dimple we have at the bottom of our heads/top of spine). A few simple circular cuts around the neck and the head will come away with the hide.
WILDERNESS LIVING SKILLS
The use of the knife is not so important but the ability to pull and manipulate the skin around the muscles is more involved. However, as you pull down on the skin there is a chance that it will tear a little of the haunch (back leg) and around the tail, so a bit of knife work may be needed
Itâ€˜s worth remembering that you can pick up a tick from the carcass any time during this process, so check yourself over afterwards.
In our case here, we used a flint cleaver to open the sternum (chest/rib) cavity.
To remove the bottom front legs, we cut in and around the elbow joint and twist horizontally.
To remove the front legs, which is much easier than expected, we cut around the shape of the shoulder blade. There are no bone joints, unlike ourselves.
Now for the good stuff, the saddle fillets. From the waist down cut either side of the spine and gently cut along the ribs in a vertical manner towards the belly. Slice off around the nape of the neck. You should have two lovely lengths of meat, but you still need to remove the opaque back straps from them, using a filleting technique; otherwise they will be tougher than boot leather! You might like to save these for a sinew project.
Do not forget the two little fillets (tenderloins) on the inside of the carcass, parallel to the larger fillets (known as the deerstalkers treat).
The removal of the back legs (haunch) from the remaining carcass needs a cut to follow the shape of the sacrum (tail) to the aitch bone. Letting the blade do the work, follow the division and the haunch will fall away. Repeat on the other side. Proceed to light a fire, get it up to wood mark 4 and enjoy a taste of our countryside. (I highly recommend the use of goose fat to keep it moist).
Good fieldcraft is everything .
Fallow Buck Photo ÂŠDavid Butcher
Mushroom, Myth a
That this emblematic mushroom has a mystique about it is undeniable. Throughout its vast range â€“ from North America to Japan via Europe and increasingly scattered about the southern hemisphere as an accidental introduction â€“ Amanita muscaria is greatly admired for its striking attire. The scarlet and white cap makes it the mushroom of choice for a simple graphic,
wood carving or decorative ornament and is a gift to the illustrator of fairy stories. Other than this, thanks in great part to its inner nature, it has enjoyed only a small role in the lives of the many nations in which it is found. Unfortunately, the truth about this amazing mushroom is obscured by a fog of modern myth and folklore that has little or no basis in fact or history.
h and Magic
way is to boil the Fly Agaric in three changes of water or use a similar technique to the Japanese. In Mexico, the cap is peeled prior to cooking (and scientific analysis corroborates that this is where most of the psychoactive compounds are concentrated) in addition to boiling and discarding the water.
Certainly if you endeavoured to eat Amanita muscaria and failed to remove all the toxins, then unpleasant symptoms could result. Mycologist, Christal Whelan, visiting the Kinoko Pension in Nagano, in 1991, found to her surprise that the proprietor there had stopped serving the dish that had gained him celebrity, when, after eating A fully open cap may be between 8 and 20cm in one he had fallen into a deep sleep that lasted fourteen diameter, sometimes larger. The crowded gills are white hours. Before eating a meal of Fly Agaric you would and are attached only to the cap and not the stem. They have to be certain you had prepared it properly or could turn pale yellow as the fruitbody matures. The fibrous, cope with the consequences, if you had not – which is slightly brittle white stem may be 20cm high, depending why it is not more widely preferred as a food source. on the cap size. It tapers elegantly upwards from a bulbous base and flares again slightly at the very top. The Effects of Ingesting Fly Agaric Just below the narrow neck there is a large thin, floppy At least the Fly Amanita‘s distinctive appearance ring, white or yellow in colour. The bulb at the base has ensures that it is not eaten ‗by accident‘, although, of a series of three or four crumbly stepped rims where it course, there may be other reasons for ingesting a was once joined to the universal veil. ‗Buttons‘ and mid- mushroom. In this particular case, some of the toxins stages are often found. If sliced top to bottom, a narrow contained therein, particularly Ibotenic Acid and hollow strip down the middle of the stem is revealed. Muscimol, are known to produce effects on the brain of the consumer. As a consequence it is sometimes sought In Britain this mushroom is commonly found in the out as a ‗magic‘ mushroom. This, coupled with the company of birch trees, with which it has a mutually widely disseminated knowledge that the fungus is used beneficial mycorrhizal association, from woods to a lone by some shamans in Siberia to commune with the spirit birch on a lawn. Elsewhere in Europe, Asia and North world, sometimes leads people to try to emulate the America it can be found with conifers and a small experience. Here is a first hand account from Fiona: variety of other trees, and these may reflect differences among the actual fungi. ―I met a woman years ago who was an amazing herbalist and healer, she was very charismatic and I would go to her house and listen to her stories. She was very knowlIs the Fly Agaric Poisonous or Edible? The answer to this depends to some extent on your own edgeable and I felt safe in her company. One time we ate definition of those two terms. The field guides tell us some, dried. (She put a pinch or two in my palm, I‘m that Fly Agaric is ‗Poisonous‘ and many people I meet guessing a couple of grams? I mixed it with honey and think it is deadly, as evidenced by its bright warning ate it.) colours; but fungi flout the rules of the other life Kingdoms, and do not display danger signals. Initially I got a buzz, a really nice relaxed, warm feeling. I had very profound lasting experiences, including After thorough and particular preparation, it is tradition- diving into the space between my thoughts and being ally consumed as food in a few places, most notably in held completely in that stillness. Some of the others were the Nagano prefecture of Japan, where it generates a laughing and dancing but my experience was mostly certain amount of tourism, but also locally in parts of stillness with an amazing out of body flight thrown in for Austria, Russia, Italy and France. The Japanese method good measure. My experiences included tasting words of preparation is as follows: the Amanitas are boiled, and colours and a massive, quite painful clarity of packed round with salt in storage jars and left for 3-4 thought. I remember my mouth dribbling and feeling months. Before being eaten they must be washed repeat- sick. I was assured that the sickness is actually part of edly until the water becomes clear and their appearance the journey and to side step it. I assumed by steaming or is alabaster white. This method both preserves the drinking or smoking it, meant that the journey was fungus and leaches out the toxins, and is also employed incomplete. by some Japanese on Amanita pantherina. An Italian
Photos © the author
Once seen, never forgotten? The iconic Fly Agaric – Amanita muscaria, is instantly recognisable and unmistakeable. Well, not quite. Red-capped Russulas (recently called Brittlegills) with white spots caused by slug damage may fool a beginner from a distance. However, the ‗spots‘ on the Fly Agaric are raised, white or yellowish pyramidal warts. They are in fact the remnants of a thick pasty covering, known as a universal veil or volva, that once enclosed the whole of the developing cap. As the bright red or orange head of the growing mushroom expands, the crumbs separate into concentric rings. By the time it has reached full size the pattern may be largely lost, having been rubbed off on obstructions or washed away by rain, and the colour may be faded also.
It was very powerful, a potent mix of arduous sickness and perception shifting wonderfulness. The whole ritual felt sacred. The mushroom protected its valuable insights through sickness so it would never easily be abused for recreational purposes. It is not an easy journey but full of insight and challenges. I was very, very sick for the rest of the night though, and being assured that this was 'part of the journey' never made me want to take that particular trip again.‖
physical, mental, or spiritual ailment, or the site of a successful hunt, it is used by the lay people as both a sleepingdraught and a daytime tonic for their elderly, and as an intoxicant at feasts and celebrations. However, this move away from the spiritual focus of the tribe, the shaman, is somewhat undermining of his or her role and could be viewed as a decadence. Stories of urine-drinking certainly are.
It is true that the psychoactive compounds of this mushroom Other experiences may be less spiritual, but are described as are not metabolised but pass out of the body in the urine, ―intense‖ and ―more unreliable than normal magic mushrooms for the effect ; ―often, regular white fleecy Panther Cap vomiting is involved and ―your guts don‘t feel veil scales on cap Amanita that great afterward‖. Also the person may simply fall into a deep sleep from which they pantherina cannot be roused. The effects pass after 24 hours and a full recovery is made without lingering after-effects. The toxins affect the cap margin central nervous system in a variety of ways, incurved at first, which may include confusion, irregular finely striated, cap shades of brown, heartbeat, dizziness, (often with nausea and flattening or convex usually paler towards vomiting), euphoria resembling drunkenness, with age edge illusions, or manic excitement usually followed by extreme drowsiness – to the point of a deep irregular, smooth, floppy coma-like sleep. The only related deaths in the ring without grooves last one hundred years or so have been a camper in the United States who froze to death during the deep sleep phase and the Italian American diplomat, Count de Vecchj who intentionally dined on ―a considerable number‖ as an experiment that seems to have gone wrong (or, it is also speculated that he mistook them for the deliciously edible Amanita caesarea). It has been estimated that 15 caps gills would prove fatal. bulbous stem base milk-white, with a gutter-like stem pure Fly Agaric and Siberian Shamans beaded rim and white As our primary informant makes clear, the sometimes extra journey, compared with some so-called ‗magic‘ bracelets on the mushrooms, is tough and unpredictable and not stem above to be undertaken lightly or with casual intent. Which is why, after all, the shaman puts himor herself in that position – to suffer for the acquisition of knowledge, for inspiration and healing power, so that the ordinary people do not have to. Shamans often collapse and are usually exhausted at the end of their exertions. This is true whatever technique the shaman may use, and in Siberia an ecstatic or trance-like state is enabling users to have a second ‗hit‘, should they so desire, mostly induced by drumming. There is a long tradition, that by drinking their pee. This was witnessed by early travellers still continues today in a diminished form, of gathering in scenes of outrageous intoxication, not befitting of any Amanita muscaria by Ostyak and Vogul tribes in western spiritual practice but akin to the degeneration of displaced Siberia, and Kamchadal, Koryak and Chukchi tribes in eastpeoples in the way that many Native Americans and ern Siberia for use in shamanistic rites. Some reports indicate Australian Aboriginals are known to suffer from alcohol that in the hands of the shaman it is also used externally as a abuse. Writing in 1870, explorer and employee of poultice to treat wounds, and also as a painkiller and antithe Russian American Telegraph Company, George Kennan, inflammatory, though its medical efficacy has not been had this to say in Tent Life in Siberia; ―Its habitual use, confirmed by clinical trials. however, completely shatters the nervous system, and its sale by Russian traders to the natives has consequently been made The Koryaks of the Kamchatka Peninsula use the fungus a penal offence by Russian law. In spite of all prohibitions, more extensively. As well as a means to allow the shaman to the trade is still secretly carried on, and I have seen twenty visit the spirit world to procure such things as the cure for a dollars' worth of furs bought with a single fungus. The
Koraks would gather it for themselves, but it requires the shelter of timber for its growth, and is not to be found on the barren steppes over which they wander; so that they are obliged for the most part to buy it, at enormous prices, from the Russian traders. As the supply of these toadstools is by no means equal to the demand, Korak ingenuity has been greatly exercised in the endeavour to economise the precious stimulant, and make it go as far as possible. Sometimes, in the course of human events, it becomes imperatively necessary that a whole band shall get drunk
The single documented case among the Saami, is by mushroom authority, Andy Letcher, who met a reindeer herder at the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance who had participated in such a thing at the behest of his Saami hosts, but it is far from usual practise.
Gordon and Valentina Wasson A man called Gordon Wasson, an American author and ethnomycologist (studying the interaction between humans and fungi) and his wife, Valentina, a Russian, are largely responsible for mythologising the Fly Agaric in modern times. The writings of Wasson Fly Agaric and Wasson are considered and eloquent, deep scarlet cap covered with white to and well worth a read – enough to be taken Amanita yellowish pyramidal-shaped warts, may seriously by academics – but they are highly muscaria turn orange and yellow with age and speculative, even by the authors‘ own admislose scales sion. They are, in fact, more tempered than his readers (or proponents who have simply cap convex with ‗heard about‘ Wasson‘s ideas). Take the age though influence that Fly Agarics have credited to rounded at the writings of Lewis Carroll, for instance. first In his endeavour to find the influence of fungi permeating all aspects of culture and white gills society, Wasson builds a tentative circumstantial case that Carroll might have had this stem gently tapers upwards mushroom‘s influences on those Siberian shamans in mind when he wrote Alice in scaly edge to Wonderland, because a popular mushroom pendulous, book by M.C. Cooke, that mentioned the creamy ring Siberian use was published round about the edged with same time and Carrol might have read it. yellow The Wassons summarise their speculation as follows;‖ If on balance we incline to the view that Cooke inspired the mushroom white to creamyepisode in Alice, this is because Cooke's white scaly stem influence is clearly felt in Charles Kingsley's famous novel, Hereward, the Last of the English, published in 1866‖. Unfortunately, nowadays, all-too-willing minds treat it as fact.
Viking Berserkers There are more beliefs circulating about the historical usage of the Fly Agaric that treat a theory as the truth. None more so than the idea that the notorious berserk shock troops of the Vikings ingested the mushroom to induce a murderous frenzy upon themselves. together, and they have only one toadstool to do it with. A Swede, Samuel Ödman, writing in 1786, advanced the For a description of the manner in which this band gets proposition in a book called 'An attempt to explain the drunk collectively and individually upon one fungus, and berserk-raging of ancient Nordic warriors through natural keeps drunk for a week, the curious reader is referred to history', based on the observations of Siberian shamans by Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, Letter 32. (Goldsmith his compatriot von Strahlberg. Something as shallow as describes the practice of drinking urine – Ed.) It is but just that somehow gained credence for a while, even appearing to say, however, that this horrible practice is almost in that country‘s school text books, but the theory does not entirely confined to the settled Koraks of Penzhinsk Gulf— stand up to close scrutiny, for it is not supported by one the lowest, most degraded portion of the whole tribe. It single piece of historical evidence. Since then a number of may prevail to a limited extent among the wandering naacademics have challenged the proposition, pointing out tives, but I never heard of more than one such instance out- that nowhere in the sagas or the other early Nordic sources side of the Penzhinsk Gulf settlements.‖ is there a reference to the Fly Agaric. The berserks were unruly and eventually outlawed by their own kind. WhatAs for drinking reindeer urine, this is unheard of in Siberia. ever the source of their blood-lust (and the consensus
bulbous base ringed with layers of thick scales
seems to be that it was alcohol) the unpredictable nature of the mushroom‘s constituents and its effects, particularly, the more debilitating ones render it an unsuitable motivator for war. Timing would be critical; imagine your ultimate weapon going off too soon, or your most fearsome warriors vomiting or lying comatose. While alcohol can do those things they are usually reserved for the celebrations afterwards. Even the ever-willing Wassons were hard-pressed to accept this particular assertion. The Jolly Chap in Red and White How can I put this? Santa is definitely not a shaman. This is one of the most idiotic ideas associated with the Fly Agaric, one aided and abetted by the media. It was the medium of advertising that first stitched Santa inextricably into his red and white suit. Before the Coca Cola campaigns from the 1930s, his garb (and even his general form) was whatever took the illustrator‘s fancy – pagan greens, tartan, tan and yes, even red and white, but there was no prior connection with a certain toadstool. The spurious link was suggested by an American ethnobotanist, Jonathan Ott, who seemed completely unaware that Christmas traditions differ all over Europe and who was under the impression that Siberian shamans climb down through the smoke hole of their yurts distributing gifts of intoxicating mushroom. As impossible and ridiculous as this is, it is now widely believed, partly because Ott‘s theories were reported, uncritically, at different times in the New Scientist and the Sunday Times. I have read claims by people who must at least doubt the likelihood of climbing up the outside of a yurt‘s domed structure and descending down the central pole, who twist the idea so that the shaman goes up from the inside and pretends to be entering from outside. Siberian tribes have no tradition of travelling by reindeer driven sleigh but are conveniently confounded with the Saami; after all Santa‘s home is in Lapland.
a slight variant thereof, will stupefy and kill flies. The names in various languages tell us the same story: Amanite tuemouche (Fly-killer Amanita) in French; Fliegenpilz (Fly mushroom) in German; Mukhomor (Fly-killer) in Russian; moscario in Italian (mosca=fly) and hongo matamoscas (Fly killer fungus) in Spanish. In English it was also known as the Bug Agaric (meaning bedbugs!) The great Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus, describes the method that he learned from an acquaintance for using this fungus to eradicate them: ―One takes in the autumn fresh specimens of the fly amanita, pounds them with a pestle quite small in a jar, lets them stand well closed until they become slimy or like gruel. Then one takes a feather or brush and smears all the cracks and corners where they [the bedbugs] keep themselves, and this procedure is repeated several times at monthly intervals. The room stinks for two or three days, but then the smell disappears. These nasty creatures die of it as if the plague had come amidst them, and whole bug-families perish as if from the Black Death. Although this remedy is simple, it is surer than anything else hitherto invented, and with its aid several houses in Upsala have now become free of bugs.‖
Over the last couple of centuries various scientists (most notably the man who named the Cep, the French mycologist, Bulliard) have put the mushroom‘s fly-killing abilities to the test – without, it has to be said, a convincing amount of success. I‘ve tried it too. Flies are scarce in October and those that weren‘t did not seem particularly troubled. This is despite a world-wide folk use, from Sweden to Japan, for this mushroom, which would lead one to suppose independent discoveries of its insecticidal properties. Gordon and Valentina Wasson suggest an alternative origin for the name. In the Middle Ages flies in the head were supposed to represent a form of drunkenness or insanity. Words or expressions to this effect still persist in many cultures and While the Fly Agaric is a symbol of good luck in some cul- the Wassons make an intriguing case for a link with this tures and makes a very pretty decoration, it is most definitely mushroom based on language. not the origin of Christmas. I would like to put the Fly Agaric to the test a few more times before I give up on its supposed ability to banish the The Fly Killing Mushroom Agaric is an old word for mushroom. It does not imply any bluebottle. And then...well, the Wassons put it charmingly; relationship between species; the Fly Agaric and the ― if it should develop that the fly amanita never harmed a fly, Clouded Agaric are about as different as you can get, for we should find ourselves confronted with a new question: example. But what of the Fly part? Almost everywhere it how do we explain the legend? ― occurs the scarlet and white toadstool has an associated tradition as an insecticidal agent. It has been said, since at least the 13th century, that the dried cap crumbled in milk, or
Mixed pan with edible Amanitas
Amanitas Amanita vaginata Grisette
I was fortunate to have been taught in my teen years by my Grandmother‘s neighbour in the former East Germany, where mushroom collecting was, and still is, much more popular than in the UK. The lady in question was the local government accredited ‗expert ‗, who people could visit with their haul to make sure they didn‘t have any Nasties among the Goodies – all free of charge! On our forages I was taught about the Amanita family, which are a group of extremes in that they contain some of the tastiest and deadliest fungi known – so it‘s a very good idea to really get to know this group. It is important to get some experience under your belt and be confident in your identification skills before collecting these fungi. I want to say a few words about the easier species and their doubles.
No Amanitas today!
Amanita rubescens The Blusher
Europe. The same goes for Honey Fungus – Armillaria mellea. The only real danger of misidentification is Amanita pantherina, the Panther Cap. This has very similar properties to Amanita muscaria, but is more toxic, so take great care not to confuse them. Both A. rubescens and A. excelsa have bulbs at the base, and if you look carefully at the ring on the stem, it is striated. Amanita pantherina has no striations, the bulb has a thick, sac-like, beaded rim and there are pure white, rather than grey, woolly scales on the cap.
Other Amanitas I collect frequently are the Grisettes (common, and easily recognisable), and I occasionally collect the False Death Cap, A.citrina. Recognisable by its strong smell of raw potato, this species isn‘t one of the tastiest, and due to its similarity to its deadly namesake, best avoided unless Probably the most frequently you‘re 100% sure of what you‘re doing. encountered Amanitas are The Blusher – It also has a pure white form – A. citrina Amanita rubescens, and Amanita var. alba, which can be easily confused excels (=A. spissa). These are two of with the Destroying Angel – A. virosa, the earliest woodland fungi to appear, or the WHITE Death Cap – Amanita and I always look on them as the phalloides var. alba. The bottom line is: ‗heralds‘ of the new season. They can NEVER COLLECT UNLESS YOU also be quite abundant. Easy to ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE! recognise with their reddish to grey caps and bulb at the base, the important thing All of the edible Amanita varieties can to remember is that they are poisonous be prepared by any usual method, and when raw! The toxins they contain can they also keep well if blanched and cause severe anaemia but are destroyed frozen. They are common, tasty and by cooking. However, it might be provide a welcome addition to a mixed prudent to pre-boil them and discard the bag throughout the season – just don‘t water before using them, just to be sure, ever use them raw! and this is what many people do in
Mixed bag with edible Amanitas
Amanita rubescens ‘The Blusher’
Amanita phalloides Death Cap
Amanita rubescens The Blusher
Amanita fulva Tawny Grisette
Amanita citrina var alba
Obblyobblyonkers Taylor Peek The Horse Chestnut Tree apparently got its name because its seeds were used to help cure coughs and help breathing problems in horses. The seeds are commonly knows as conkers. You can make soap out of the conkers. First you chop a whole load of them up, and then put them into a bowl of cold water. But it has to be soft water; it can’t come from a bottle, it’s got to be rainwater or stream. Then you froth it up with your hands. Then you leave it a while then strain it and it goes a milky white. It is now ready to use to clean clothes and wash hands. The game Conkers originates from the game played long ago called Conquerors. Here is how you play it: First you need to choose your conker. Make sure it is nice and firm has no cracks and is as symmetrical as possible and then either use a metal skewer or a drill head to puncture a hole through the conker. Then get a piece of string, preferably about 25cm long (a shoe lace would be perfect), and thread the string through the hole you made and tie a knot in one end (with the light/soft patch of the conker facing up).
Now your conkers are ready, let’s play. You and your opponent should both have your conkers hanging down on the string. If your opponent is the striker first, you must hold your conker out to the side, as high or as low as your opponent wishes. Then the striker must wrap the string around his hand and position the conker string between his middle and index finger with his palm facing him (conker facing). The striker then pulls back the conker string, lets his front hand go and releases the conker in an attempt to strike the opponent’s conker. You take it in turns until either your opponent’s conker breaks or drops and even comes off the string. If your opponent’s conker breaks and falls to the floor, you win. Or if it drops on the ground and your opponent does not shout “No stamps!” then you get to stamp on it and claim victory.
Also if both strings get tangled during play, the first player to shout “Strings!”, gets an extra go. If the striker manages to make the opponents conker go right round in a full circle, the player gets another go. Each striker has up to three goes at hitting the opponent’s conker.
If you are going to score your matches, this is what you have to do. If an opponent comes in and he has for instance already won two matches with the same conker then that would make his conker a two-er. If the opponent that he plays next also has a two-er and won, he would take both your points and put them onto his score, as well as the win in the third game, so that would make his conker a five-er. You may think I’m a bit crazy to give this piece of work the title I have but at the start of autumn, it is tradition that the first conker you find you must say, “Obblyobblyonker, my first conker” it is said that this will give you luck in the new seasons conker playing!
Photo credit: S. Kirk
I have written this to revive the game ‘Conkers’. Schools have banned it, because it was too dangerous but that is the school’s opinion and you guys can still play it out of school. It’s a fun game, don’t let it be forgotten. Who knows, maybe your kids would like it?
“Strings!” Bushcraft Magazine
Making a whistle out of a drinks can with Kevin Warrington This is a great activity for children and it was taught to me by Mors Kochanski when I worked with him in Canada.
2] Bend the short piece into the shape of a hill and place across the longer piece a few millimetres from one end forming the mouthpiece.
3] Fold one end of the long piece and both ends of the short piece to secure in place as shown above.
4] Now bend the long piece at a ninety degree angle to the mouth piece and then curl it around to form the air chamber and you should have a shape rather like a question mark.
Photos ÂŠ the author
1] Cut a strip from the side of the can about 20mm wide and break off one third of this strip as shown above.
5] Place your thumb over one side of the air chamber to form a seal and your index finger to seal the other side, just leaving the narrow opening immediately after the mouth piece. Ensure the gap at the front of the mouth piece is wider than that at the back (this will take some adjustment and experimentation to get right), then blow.
Improving your Amadou (or not)
Mark hordon By Boiling There are several ways to enhance and improve your newly acquired amadou as tinder. The first method involves boiling the amadou.
that, unless your raw amadou was obtained in areas like Scotland, where the trama layer of the brackets that grow there tend to be of the light brown colour variety, this process is not as quick nor simple as the process implies. I am often asked how long you should boil the amadou for? â€•When the stone goes soft, the amadou is ready!â€– I reply. Okay, facetious maybe, but you get the point that the process is quite drawn out and it does indicate the sort of time frame you may be looking at.
Boiling does not harm the structure of the amadou, so it is completely safe to do so. The principle of the process is to remove the proteins and other impurities that are incorporated in the structure of the trama layer; these proteins and impurities act as a sort of fire retardant which lessens the quality of the amadou for If you are using the light brown Scottish variety of fire lighting. amadou, the liquid will probably be a pale tan/brown colour much like tea and it may be at this point that To do this you will need to obtain the largest pan you this first boiling has done the trick and the amadou is can find, and then get a bigger one with a lid. The free of impurities. However, if you are using the dark greater the ratio of water to amadou, the more the brown, south of the wall variety the water will most impurities will leach out of the material into the water likely be a very dark coffee colour. Whichever colour in the shortest possible time. Fill the pan with water you have, the resulting infusion is believed to have and drop in your raw amadou pieces, at the same time medicinal properties that may help in stomach include an egg-sized stone; the reason for the stone illnesses. I have also heard that this infusion has a will become clear a bit later on. Place a lid on the pan strong purgative action, so it not advisable to imbibe it to prevent the water from boiling away, and place the unless you are clear about the full implications of pan on the fire, or stove, and bring to a rolling boil. doing so! After that, let it gently simmer away for at least an hour or two, then check the liquid. Refill the pan with fresh water; boil then simmer the
contents for another hour or two. Again you might While this may sound simple enough, I can assure you want to change the water after this period, as you
please, but be assured that the water will be just as dark as the first batch you brewed. The theory is that if you keep changing the water it should become clearer and clearer but with southen amadou if you repeat this process several more times you will be astonished at just how much colour will actually come out of it. Now, it might be that I have always been flogging a dead horse and all of the impurities have been removed at this stage, but if the colour of the leaching water is anything to go by, your troubles are far from over. Having spent several days boiling and simmering a single batch of amadou in many changes of water I can assure you that your only course of action will be to eventually give up, since the colour just keeps leaching out.
You will need to collect about a gallon or so of your strongest. Bear in mind that it needs to have lots of nitrates in it like ammonia, which happen to increase with meat consumption, so, for best results the deeper its colour the stronger it will be. Don‘t use your wee if you are drinking beer as the resulting liquid will be overly diluted and therefore take that much longer to evaporate off the unwanted water content. Once you have sufficient urine you will need to give it time to mature, best done in the open air, but under cover out of the rain. Leave it for a week or two to give the bacteria time to decompose the nitrates and then hopefully convert them to KNO3. Once done you can then begin the unpleasant urine therapy process. The idea of urine therapy is to boil the amadou in the matured urine in the expectation that nitrate salts will penetrate the amadou and thereby improve it as a form of tinder. Even the very crude form of Saltpetre (KNO3) that may be present in the wee, will affect the quality of the amadou. The nitrate salt we are after is Saltpetre, since it is not hydroscopic unlike Sodium Nitrate, which is. This means that Potassium Nitrate does not readily absorb atmospheric moisture as does Sodium Nitrate, which will make it permanently damp and therefore useless to us as a fire lighting aid. After I was quietly cooking my own evil brew for a couple of hours, the wind decided to changed direction and blow the odours emanating from the concentrated concoction directly into my face. The smell hit me like a bullet between the eyes, and it was all I could do to extricate myself from the vicinity of the brew before I threw up.
When you bear in mind that saltpetre is a chemical that is relatively easy to make and can be made from chemicals that are derived purely from animals, or for that matter from one‘s own body, it does not seem like you would be cheating, if you were to use it in your amadou, even if you are a diehard bushcraft purist.
Urine Therapy As I have already mentioned Potassium Nitrate (Saltpetre) can be made from a simple bodily fluid, one that is common to us all – namely urine. During the Napoleonic Wars when black powder was in high demand, urine was collected from the doorsteps of peo-
Photos © the author
A word of caution though; you don‘t want to add so much saltpetre that you end up making a flash fuse out of the amadou! You just need enough to encourage it to accept a spark more readily and then smoulder away like it is meant to. With this in mind, you should only ever experiment with the strength of a saltpetre solution that goes from a weak one to a stronger one, never the other way around. I have found that about 1 teaspoon per litre of water works quite well, making your Amadou able to ignite readily from the sparks from a flint and steel, without it burning too quickly afterwards. Another very important point to remember, when drying out any amadou that has been soaked in a saltpetre solution is to always dry it on a flat (i.e. horizontal), surface. Under no circumstance should it ever be dried vertically or at an inclined angle, because as we all know, water pools under gravity, and this will cause the excess saltpetre solution to concentrate at one end of the amadou. As it dries it will significantly increase the concentration of saltpetre in that area – be assured that this will have a dire effect on the amadou when ignited, and could cause a serious burn.
This being the case, the use of urine, as a weak source of nitrates, was an option that I needed to explore. My advice to you however, is not to undertake it lightly – it is not for the squeamish.
LOVE ME, TINDER
A simple way to improve your amadou as a form of tinder, is to add a small amount of a common enough chemical, called Saltpetre, or Potassium Nitrate (KNO3), to some water and then add the raw amadou to this solution.
ple‘s homes, on a daily basis. This urine was then processed, with the aid of bacteria, to make crude Potassium Nitrate, which was then purified and used to create the gunpowder.
Not really wanting to touch the amadou, when I had finished my urine therapy, I poured the contents onto the grass and picked up the amadou pieces with a couple of sticks, placed them on a piece of cardboard and put them in the shed to dry. A week or so later, gingerly handling the pieces with tissue paper, I attempted to ignite one of them with a flint and steel but without much luck. It may have been that the amadou was still a little damp, or it may have been that the proteins and other contaminants in the concentrated solution I had used was acting as some kind of fire retardant; either way, the amadou stank and was nasty to be near. This batch was certainly going to be one that no-one else would ever want to handle or use.
With these issues at the forefront of my mind, I reasoned that all of my urine therapy efforts were in vain. Not wanting to waste the amadou, I decided that the only real cause of action was to thoroughly wash the pieces in clean water to remove all traces of the contaminants. Once washed and dried the Amadou did take a spark, and better than I remembered before the treatment, in fact it smouldered away like a jolly one. Perhaps, urine therapy does have some merit, but I personally wonâ€˜t be trying it again in a hurry.
Making Your Amadou Pliable and Soft Once you have made your Amadou you will want to finish it to a soft, pliable, velvet Chamois-like texture, which is always the hallmark of quality amadou. One way to achieve this is to keep bending and teasing at the fibres when it is still slightly damp, plying it until the heat from your hands actually dries it out. Once again I would like to point out to you that whilst this process produces lovely velvet smooth Amadou, worthy of inclusion in any tinderbox, it also takes some time to achieve. My preferred method, however, being somewhat lazy, is to allow the amadou to dry out completely before gently begin beating with the smooth surface of a wooden mallet or stick, on a smooth wooden board, folding and rolling it as I gently strike it with the mallet until it is soft, pliable and velvety smooth.
The Difference a Michael L H le Makes Pennock
But there was one problem I could not seem to find an answer to, how to stop that spindle from shooting off into the thorny bush or onto the wet floor. That is until one day I noticed an ancient Egyptian papyrus that showed two men; one using a bow drill to drill what looked like jewellery, and the other man carrying his one. It was how he was carrying his spindle that caught my attention – it was attached to his bow string. Later that day I went home grabbed a spindle and drilled a hole through it with a piece of flint. Then figured out the length of cord needed and put my first true Egyptian bow drill together. Since that day I have used and taught this method to many folk as the first method of bow drill. After all, beginners lack technique, which can be learned using this version and the constant pinging of spindles takes away valuable learning time and can upset and sometimes put off a person from learning fire by friction. This eliminates that problem, plus there are benefits to having your spindle attached to your bow via the string. You are less likely to lose it, it is easy to carry and less likely to touch the floor and absorb water.
My bow drill kit is made from a bison rib for the bow, has a cow knee bone for the bearing block, a hearth board of wood and a wooden spindle with hole in.
Photos © the author
Why not try it yourself and see the difference a hole makes?
Most of you, no doubt, will be familiar with the bow drill. You will have seen countless demonstrations and always the same; a bow, hearth board, spindle and bearing block. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this method but it does have its drawbacks, especially if you are young or lack strength or technique. To overcome this, I searched for a variation that would be easy to master and eventually discovered the following. First, as long as you kept your bow drill kit dry, it was a fairly reliable way to light a fire, provided you had prepared a place to light your fire and have tinder and wood of varying sizes ready to light. Preparation is everything in fire lighting. Secondly, placing a limpet shell or polishing the inside of your bearing block with grass improved the spinning speed of the spindle. Thirdly some combinations of wood work better than others. But most important of all, if you wrapped the string round the spindle a few times you got more rotations per saw.
THE WONDERFUL STAR
The Whale is a large, usually low-hanging, body of stars that sometimes beaches on the horizon. As a consequence it can be washed out by haze or light pollution. Its shapes are distinctive but not especially bright and the star that links the head to the tail sometimes disappears from the night sky altogether.
Cetus is easy to find however, signposted by starlit arrow shapes that point straight to it. The brightest is the ‘V’ shape of Taurus. Follow the line from where the horns converge to the orange star that is the front foot of the Bull, for this lies just in front of the head of the Whale. The alignment of the marine monster is the same as the celestial steer, so that when the Bull’s head is upright the Whale is standing on its tail. Another, much fainter stellar ‘V’ thrusts into the Whale’s back like a harpoon. This is the band that links the two fishes of Pisces. In addition to those you can use the faint, but easily spotted, hexagon of the westernmost fish’s head, located above and just beyond the Whale’s tail, to help you then backtrack to the also hexagonal head of Cetus. On its way down to the belly of the Whale is a priceless piece of astronomy, the star Mira – meaning wonderful in Latin. The faint ‘V’ of Pisces points to it. Every 331 days or so this star brightens to being one of the brightest in this region of the sky and it then slowly dims again – to invisibility without a telescope. In doing so, it effectively cuts the Whale in half. It was, in fact, the first variable star to be discovered, in 1596. This seems surprisingly late, to me, giving the dark skies and sharp powers of observation of the ancient Greeks and other earlier peoples, especially as it is a linking star that joins what otherwise might be construed as separate star groupings. Perhaps its oscillations are a relatively recent phenomenon? In the 16th century it was first believed to be a nova but 42 years later its cyclic nature was realised, earning the amazement and admiration of astronomers, and its name. It does not wax and wane by being eclipsed but by physically swelling and shrinking, which, frankly, is pretty mindboggling, given the distances involved. Many other stars that do the same, all red giants, have been discovered since but none so clear to the naked eye. Although it is a periodic variable it is occasionally subject to extreme irregularities – with very bright and very faint maximum and minimum brightness and even disappearing for several years at a time, during the period that it has been under close observation! When I took the photo, below, in September 2011, Mira was bright. In November 2013, she is at the limits of visibility with the naked eye, duller than all her companions in the Whale! Modern astronomy has revealed a further surprise relating to this maverick star. It has a comet-like tail, unique among stars, 13 light years in length! Like a number of other secrets of the universe, this was discovered by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) space telescope (which has since been turned off) whilst scanning the sky in ultraviolet light.
The names by which the stars are known commemorate earlier layers of astronomy, parts of former constellations of other
Star map: S. Kirk
Above Pisces is the winged horse, Pegasus, who sprang from the neck of the Gorgon, Medusa, when Perseus cut her head off! Conjoined with this constellation is Andromeda, the very maiden whom Perseus rescued from the sea-monster, Cetus, later the Whale. She, in turn, clasps the eponymous hero and is flanked by Cepheus, Andromeda’s weak father, the king of Æthiopia, and by Cassiopeia, his vain, boastful queen who so angered Poseidon with her claims that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, the sea-god’s daughters, that she caused her own daughter to be chained to a rock as sacrifice to Cetus; that is until Perseus happened along to save the day.
cultures. In this sea creature’s head, for instance, Kaffaljidhma, is derived from the Arabic Al Kaff al Jidhmah, meaning “the part of the hand” or “the cut-short hand” and once referred to the whole of this upper grouping, while at the opposite end Diphda is derived from Aḍ-ḍafdaʿ aṯ-ṯānī meaning “the second frog” and was once one of a pair. It is marginally, the brightest star of the constellation. Most of the rest, Arabic derived, map out the plan of the sea monster from the Perseus myth, usually depicted as more seallike than whale-like in old renditions but who is to say how we should visualise it? Thus Menkhar meaning “the nose” or “nostril”, is to be found in the head, though in a position usually overlaid by the jaw. Baten Kaitos, from Al Baṭn al Ḳaiṭos, “the belly of the whale”, precedes the stars that begin with Deneb, that denote the tail. Deneb Kaitos comes from the Arabic phrase Al Dhanab al Ḳaiṭos al Janūbīyy, which means “the southern tail of the whale,” and Deneb Kaitos Shemali is the northern fluke.
Photo credit: S. Kirk
This section of the sky is dominated by the cast of the Perseus myth, which in itself has more elements commemorated in the constellations than any other story (see The Perseus Myth TBM Vol. 4 No.3, Autumn 2008).
Hang â€˜Em High Phil Ireland
I have employed three temporary fencing road pins which nest together perfectly but for added stability it is quite easy to join them. Unfortunately, I was unable to procure any discarded pins from my local laybys, and reluctantly had to purchase these from a local agricultural merchant at a cost of ÂŁ1.20 each. For the added stability I did manage to salvage three split rings from a derelict tent and use these to connect the eyelets of the
road pins. If you do not share the joys of extracting burnt out tents from your land, no doubt these are available from tent suppliers or your local hardware shop. A short length of chain with one end modified as a hook completed the set up, obviously make sure that your chain fits over the end of the road pin before you buy. If you intend to carry your pot hanger any distance, I would strongly advise that you fashion a couple of Velcro or paracord straps to hold it tightly together as the pins do have an annoying tendency to trap your flesh. Photo credit: Phil Ireland
Tripod pot hangers are readily available from many bushcraft suppliers. Whilst mine may not be as elegant as these, it was far cheaper to make.
D. I. Y.
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The Deck of Cards
John Thatsatenna is a lovable little character that dwells somewhere in Wales. Some say he is related to the troll that Billy Goat Gruff butted into the river; some say he inspired the Mountain King in Lord of the Rings; all I know is he wanders the hills and woods of darkest Wales, plying his trade.
When I see the Joker, I think of the producer who makes B Grylls eat all that awful food.
But he has a dark past, and one day I heard the story of when he got caught lighting the campfire with a Bic lighter and was summoned to the office of Saint Raymondo. After he had emptied his backpack and there was neither the R.M.Survival Handbook nor the M.K. Bushcraft Handbook, only a pack of cards, he was asked "What have you got to say for yourself, little man?
When I see the clubs, I think blackberries and collecting them in the autumn.
"Much." he replied: ―Whilst sitting under the tarp in the drizzle with no other pearls of wisdom, I rely on these cards for inspiration.‖ (Then spreading out the cards, explains:) ―When I see the Ace, I remember there is only one God, who created this wonderful world.
When I see the four suits, I think of the four seasons . When I see the Diamonds, I think of clear skies and staring up from a woodland clearing.
When I see the Spades, I think of what I need after eating the blackberries. When I see the Hearts, I think of how my heartbeat quickens, when I first enter the woods. There are 52 cards in the pack so there are 52 weekend opportunities to get out in the woods. When I count the spots, there are 365, the number of days in the year that could be spent on bushcrafting; (now I really am pushing my luck).
When I see the deuce, I think of the two bushcraft legends The cards are made out of natural fibres and, as you‘ve seen, can be eaten in an emergency, sewn together to who appear on T.V. Mr. Mears, uuhm... and the other make a shelter, or poncho – their uses are endless. one. When I see the three, I think of the three elements that are So you see, they are a most important part of my kit.‖ required for fire. This story is true, I know, I heard it around the campfire (after some sloe gin). When I see the four, I think of the four issues of my favourite Bushcraft Magazine. I see the shape of the 5 and I imagine the shape of a swan, and how I long to be able to afford the famous shirt.
The Last Word
I see the six and I remember the old rhyme to pick up sticks, because you can never have enough firewood. The 7, 8 and 9, I think of a weekend away when I found out that a twenty-four hour ration pack didn‘t last me twenty-four hours, so I‘m afraid I ate them. When I see the ten, I think of how many threads per square inch there are in Ventile and the happy hours spent counting them to make sure I had them all in my favourite garment. When I see the Jack, I think of "Pike", and the "Realtree" camo jacket I bought and the day I spent looking for it in the woods after I had put it down. When I see the Queen, I think of our Majesty, who one day I hope will bestow on me the MBE.. the Mears Bushcraft Empire medal.
When I see the King, I think of the lion, the King of the Beasts and the one I saw in Africa and the echos of "Tinga Tinga Tales of Africa" every time I repeat the story.
Published on Feb 10, 2014
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