Sunday, 14 April 2013

Frontier Bushcraft 3 Day Taster Course 31st May-1st June.

I recall seeing a post on BCUK simply titled ‘Paul Kirtley’ and clicked on the link and thought ‘Hmm, I’ll keep an eye out for this chap’. Well this Kirtley chap didn’t need watching because he’s worked hard to build his presence in the wider world of bushcraft.
I was pleased that in this build up he sent me a friend request on Facebook and after a few posts I decided to ask him if he’d be happy to do a spoof email for me to use at Cubs to get them to see that knots aren’t boring, he was only too happy to help and along with one from Bushcraft & Survival Skills editor Simon Ellar and they ultimately became part of an article in Scouting magazine’s Cub supplement which in turn led to me doing articles for future issues. Paul has also done (and is indeed still doing) articles of his own for Scouting magazine and did not one but two articles for the recent Scouting book The Outdoor Manual.

The reason for this prolonged passage is to explain why I wanted to do a Frontier Bushcraft course; Paul’s former prominent position at Woodlore was one factor, the other being to meet the guy who had agreed to help The Scout Association with articles when a middle aged hobbyist bushcrafter asked him across the internet (that strange thing of getting to know someone without actually meeting them).
This happened on the Frontier 3-day taster course in late May/ early June. I’m doing a limited blog about it because I’ve done a course review article for Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine due out at the end of June and I’ve made it more personal, as opposed to a more factual article and covered some bits that I didn’t include.
The course is in East Sussex and booking is easy and directions good. The rainy half term weekdays gave way to a sunny cloudy end of the week…it can rain on a course (of course!) and you just have to get on with it, but sunny/ cloudy is good. 

I finally met with Paul on a grassy area outside a pub (the easy to find meeting place) and Henry, who folk may recall did a fantastic blog tutorial on a folding bucksaw  (I told him that I hold it against him because it’s *too good*). Also I attendance was assistant Stuart.
The cold spring did give us the bonus of a late, and frankly stunning, display of bluebells in our corner of the 500 acre estate that we were on; the only problem was trying not to inflict excessive damage on them! Luckily there were well worn paths which helped, and when I had chosen my spot to pitch my tarp (I was a bit choosy) I found a small pathway through them to the main camp area which I stuck to.
One advantage was that there was only one other individual who had a real interest in bushcraft which meant that I could chat to the instructors without having to share too much, one disadvantage was that there was only one other individual who had a real interest in bushcraft which meant that there wasn’t much bouncing of ideas around between attendees.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds a big fresh air appetite well fear not, you won't go hungry on the course. I go into more detail in the article but there's plenty for everyone and it's by and large prepped by the attendees. I'm absolutely no fan of mushrooms (except alcohol soaked chocolate covered Judas Ear!) but a vegetarian had some Porcini mushrooms in a stew and I tried one...It must be the fresh air as I rather liked it as it had soaked up some stock.

This course is really three days…three full days of tutoring so expect early starts and late ends to cram everything in. It is also worth noting that nearly all the stuff taught is linked up; fire started with one match fire lighting, lighting then cooking on fire, ferro rod usage, then flint and steel with a tinder bundle as a good example.
I felt that Paul and Henry dovetailed well when presenting a topic, ably assisted by Stuart and if I had to pick a favourite topic from each I think that Henry’s rabbit prep was great, and Paul’s  sharpening demo was very useful to someone whose sharpening needed sharpening (*groan*)…It actually was mostly about sharpening, rather than just a knife porn session. It was a good session anyway on a subject that I needed to improve upon but Paul also looked at my custom made knife which I’d got into problems with and not only talked me through the problem and how to sort it, but also had an initial crack at it to help me on my way! I have a waterstone set at home but I've purchased an oil stone as I seemed to get on well with it…I’ll have a go at the waterstones too because it could be that I am a little more proficient in my action.

On the last day just before we broke to go home (after the stated time, it finished when it was done rather than when the clock said so), Paul called us over and said that he'd spotted some rubbish that had been carelessly dumped and asked for a sweep of the area where we had been; good for him, it's only manners to deal with rubbish properly and I'm glad he did so.
If your aim is to visit different bushcraft schools to experience different locations, styles etc then make sure Frontier bushcraft are on that list…they’ll be the ones to beat in the next Best in Bushcraft awards. I put up a selection of pictures in a public gallery on Facebook if anyone wishes to see them here


Just one final point to make; Paul explained that he spends about half the year outside so if you ever message him be patient!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Steve the Cardboard Rabbit

 So this is Steve the rabbit, I’ve given life to him (a slightly oxymoronic statement given that it’s a painted cardboard image)…I’m guessing you are ahead of me now! I’ve looked on the net at the colouring of a wild rabbit and it’s actually quite hard to nail and the pics you see here are Steve mk1 because I’ve pencilled in some darker flecks. I’ve looked at him from my bedroom window and I’d swoop down to investigate that’s for sure. 

It’s early days (and the suggestion of purchasing a trail cam has fallen on deaf wifey ears), but almost literally the moment Steve hit my back lawn I’ve hardly seen the kites overhead which doesn’t help. I’ve found what I think is the ideal spot for Steve and if I have washing out I use it as impromptu screens. It’s vaguely encouraging that flies have landed on him but I’m crossing fingers that a kite comes down to have a look.

I will need them to come back over on a regular basis and have to be in when I put Steve out, but I was encouraged by the red kite piece on the recent Springwatch and the fact that one family has them nesting in a tall conifer in their garden, and the camera that was hauled up to the nest revealed that they had come into the garden and taken a small cuddly toy and used it to line the nest!
I’ve persevered and made Steve mkII

Wheat Free Drop Scones

Recently there has been a recipe idea for flour free banana drop scones circulating in pictorial form on Facebook, and about the same time I noticed a suggested site suggestion for a Vegan page which curiosity took me to and blow me down if there wasn’t a similar recipe on there but with peanut butter in. With the three basic ingredients of bananas, egg and peanut butter grabbed I set to work and decided to not only try the ‘mk I’ and mk II’ versions, but to also try variants along the way. I was interested to try it anyway, but the wheat free angle made me think that it was worth trying in case we had a cub with such an allergy as it means they can enjoy drop scones on a backwoods night.

The mk I mix suggested a banana to egg ratio of 1:2 but I decided to try 2:2 as it seemed a bit egg heavy. With the mixture blitzed I decided to use an old saucepan that I am chucking out just in case this mixture decided to spot weld itself during cooking. I oiled the bottom and set a medium gas heat and spooned the mixture in much like a usual drop scone.

The first one had bubbles coming through, again much like a normal scone, at which point I flipped it over and found that the heat was a tad high (although it had held together well). I reduced the heat for subsequent ones to between low and medium which was about right.

After some more originals I tried a cinnamon and wheat germ one (not bad and hmm) and then decided to add some self raising flour to the original mix in a ratio of 4:3 as a comparison and they worked really well with the banana taste coming through.
So back to the original mix but with the peanut butter in. I went for a mix/ peanut butter in a 4:2 ratio and it made a deeper coloured drop scone and to be honest the two spoons of peanut butter, whilst adding a good flavour, dominated a bit too much and might have benefitted from being crunchy as opposed to smooth.
So predictably it’s the original mix, with peanut butter in and self raising flour added for a comparison. I kept the 4:2 ratio of the peanut butter mix and added three parts flour. Again these were very similar in size and texture to standard drop scones and  the added flour helped to take some of the peanut butter’s dominance away. Remember if you try any of these versions for someone with an allergy to use the cooking utensils first, or use separate ones.
Clockwise from the top: The mk I, two more mk Is, with cinnamon, with wheatgerm, mk I and flour, mk II with peanut butter, mk II with flour.