Tuesday, 11 March 2014

My Homemade Birch Sap Collector

It's that period in early to mid March when bushcrafters of all experience and skill will look to the birch tree and it's rising sap with the view to harvesting some.

There variations on a theme when it comes to collecting it,everything from a simple wooden sliver suspended over a vessel to a small section of clear tube into a bottle. Mine is more the latter, but more tan the latter too.

Ray Mears said in one of his programmes that he likes to consume some birch sap as a sort of ritual, I have tapped into that (sorry, fully intended pun!). I have future designs on trying to make some into wine, but for the moment I just like to draw alittle off for the family and I to have a drink. Let me take you through my design which is essentially a pimped up water bottle. 

This is a 75cl water bottle with a sports cap that I have attached a small length of clear tubing to using an old disposable ball point barrel. I cut it in half and secured the two ends onto the length of tube (which is about six inches long). I use the bottom bit to insert into the birch tree because the slight taper is perfect for engaging in the hole. 

I put a hot skewer through the hole in the bottle's sports top and then wedged the top part of of the pen barrel in it. I put the bottle near the tree and position the pen section to a natural position on the tree (to keep the pipe from bending). The upturned appendage is a neck section of water bottle which was from a previous version of this collecting kit before I left the bottle lid on.

Using a size 7 drill bit I make the hole and then insert to tapered pen lid end and leave it to it's own devices. The above shot shows the bottle and pipe full but seeing as it's a wedge fit into a sealed bottle it doesn't spill or go anywhere.

To seal the hole I use a small wooden peg and once I've sawn off the excess I put  a small amount of petroleum jelly around it. as you can just about make out one full bottle, just enough for a taste of spring and handily the tube is removable so I can stick it in the fridge. It always comes out cool bit not cold whatever the weather. 'Cheers', or with the properties that are claimed of this liquid spring offering, perhaps saying 'Good health is more appropriate?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Acorn Cup Whistle (and its Urban Equivalent)

Whilst it is possible to occasionally find acorn cups on the forest floor to use for a whistle at any time of the year, outside of autumn they can often be a bit manky. If you can source one great, if not there is an everyday substitute.

The short stem of the leaf and the long stem of the acorn tell us that this is a Pendunculate Oak (think of a pendulum). It's latin name is Quercus robur. The stalk arrangements of Sessile Oaks (Quercus petraea) are the other way round.

Pull the acorn from the cup. I aim for a fairly deep one as I find them easier to hold as a whistle, small ones are a bit bothersome.

 The 'Urban acorn cup', or one litre fresh juice carton lid. Actually pretty much any plastic lid will do as long as you can get a seal on it, but more later. Metal lids tend to be a bit sharp around the the rim for use as a whistle.

Place the cup/ lid between index finger and thumb as shown. 

Place the other index finger and thumb (as shown) and postition your digits until you have left a small inverted triangular gap at the top between your thumbs whilst making sure that the rest of the cup/ lid is sealed and airtight. You may have a bit of trouble with the last detail of the lid is too big.

Place this arrangement to your pursed lips so that your thumb knuckles are to your mouth (as shown) but with a slight gap at the top so that you can blow air towards the inverted triangular hole. You may find that you need to re-adjust your thumbs but it is quite shrill when you get it right.

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