Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day in the woods

I filled up my gourd canteen and took it with me into the woods today. I've found it doesn't change the taste of the water and works quite well, though it still needs a stopper.
I've decided this summer is the time to make a good hunting bow. I've learned alot about what to do with an animal once you've taken it, and I hope to begin hunting my own animals. Up until now I have been relying on others to provide me with meat, hides, bones, sinew, etc.
There is a hickory tree I have been aware of for a number of years and it appears to be the perfect size for a bow. I want to get to know it before I cut it, so I'll visit it for a while until I feel its the right time to cut. For something like a bow, where so much goes into the making of the tools and hunting of the animals, I feel like this should be done right, and not rushed.

A Box Elder (Ash leaf Maple) fell near my old debris hut, which I am very grateful for since it it one of my favorite friction fire woods around here. I try not to ever cut live branches, and to come across an entire tree like this is an appreciated gift. Some of the upper branches are very straight so I've made a hand drill set. I tested it out but produced only white wood dust. I'll make a video so I can explain it easier. This is the first time I've made a handrill set with a wood other than yucca, cotton wood root or mullein.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sit-spot and getting to know your enviroment

Something that I'm beginning to learn is that it is a good thing to know these skills, but they can seem arbitrary and disconnected when not applied. Especially so because the materials use to make many of the things I talk about on my blog rely heavily on what your particular environment provides, and so an understanding and knowledge of your environment is desirable if you want these skills to be more than just a passing hobby or interest. When it comes to making bow drill sets, for example, you will want to know what trees in your area work best. You'll also want to know where they grow, how they grow, what animals rely on them, etc. The point I'm trying to make is all these skills and technologies stem from a deep understanding of the natural world that surrounds you.

The best way I have found to increase your awareness and knowledge of an area is Sit-Spot. This technique is done by simply finding somewhere within 5 minutes (preferably) of where you live. The reason for 5 minutes is that you should be able to go there easily so you can visit it daily.
Now if you want to implement this technique and benefit from it, it should be a daily, or at the very least a routine task, and you will want to do this at varying times of day and weather.

Now onto what sit-spot is. You find a place that is close by, and you sit. Thats right, sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how difficult it can be to just sit and take in your surroundings sometimes. You should strive for atleast a 20 minutes minimum at your sit spot, because it generally takes about 20 minutes from bird alarm calls to stop. You will also want to use wide angle vision at this time, if you are familiar with wide angle vision.
To supplement your sit-spot experience it might also be advantageous to keep a journal and write down things you see or notice. When I do sit spot one of the first things I do is take note of the surrounding trees and plants, and try to get to know them and what they are over time. Sit-spot isn't something you rush, and it is an ongoing thing. The longer you do it, the more you begin to know and understand your area.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Southeastern Style Blowgun

At MAPS Meet 2005 I took a class taught by Mac Maness on making rivercane blowguns. This weapon was used by many Southeastern tribes (Catwaba, Chocktaw, Cherokee, etc) to hunt small game. Blowguns have always been an interest of mine, its simplicity and the fact that you can shoot something lethal with your breath is has always appealed to me. They're also not entirly difficult to make and under Mac's expert instruction I had a function blowgun and dart in only a few hours. Unlike most ranged weapons of any great effect or accuracy which require special tools or time to prepare the material, the river cane blowgun can be field crafted on the spot if need be.
I still have my blowgun and pick it up from time to time, and its fast becoming a favorite weapon to practice with. I have been using the same dart I made in 2005 and the thistle down is starting to wear off, so I decided it was time to make a new one. I still had a thistle blossom I picked up from Mac's class, so I went about fletching a new dark. It's not very paleo, but I use skewers for the dart shafts. The real fun of making the darts is not the wooden shafts however, applying the thistle fletching is where it gets tricky. I would have liked to get some pictures of the process, but sadly I possess only two hands, and I was using both to hold the whole assembly together. However I do plan on photographing the entire process when I get the chance to collect more thistle blossoms.
The blowgun itself is about 4'7 while the darts are approx. 6 inchs. On average blowguns fromt he southwest range from 6-8 feet in length.
The Cherokee Heritage Center website has a good section on how blowguns and darts were made and their significance in Cherokee culture. I found this passage that describes the process fairly well as well as providing the common name for the thistle used:

"It's made with Scottish thistle, which, like the river cane, grows locally. You pick it in the late summer, August being the best month. You want to pick the thistle after it has bloomed, opened up, and then reclosed. After picking as many flowers as you can, they need to be stacked and the pressed between two pieces of wood to keep the thistle flower from breaking open and dispersing the fluff.

Once the thistle is dried, you pick off the purple flower casing and keep the white down of the thistle. You pinch the entire bundle of fluff between your fingers, brush off the seeds, and tie a piece of sinew or string to the end of the shaft, hold the string in your mouth, and then roll the shaft into the down so that it naturally builds around the shaft into a large, round stabilizer for the dart. Then you tie the sinew to keep the thistle mounted on the shaft." (1)

There is also an article written by Douglas S. Meyer in Spring 2005 issue No. 29 of the Bulletin of Primitive Technology on fletching Choctaw darts with cotton, as well as pictures detailing how to do so. ("Choctaw Blowgun Darts", pp.69-73)

Practicing with the blowgun about two summers ago, showing dart exiting the blowgun