Freitag, 29. April 2011

Blindworm sighting

On a recent stroll to my mother´s I came across this blindworm (anguis fragilis, in German: Blindschleiche) in the rain. I know now why it´s also called slow worm.... I sat there and watched, but it would not do much...;-). Don´t know of its nutritional value ;-) but it seems to be cinch to catch...;-).

Look, I found a fiver!

 On a recent stroll in the woods I came across this heap of beer cans. I am normally not amused finding crap like this, but it was somewhat different this time.

For, in Germany, for this sign, you get a deposit fee of 0,25 €. All the cans on the pile added up to a fiver. I usually take home the crap I can take back to get rid of it in the woods, making things from it, if I can. This time I didn´t, got me some quality food and enjoyed the evening!

New Mora bush knife with a modified clipper sheath- A reality chock!

I had this Mora laminate blade lying around, and some ebony for a handle, so I did this to that blade. The bolster is brass, the tang is riveted against the handle. Took an old clipper sheath I had lying around, too, and heated it some with a hairdryer. With a piece of stag antler I fitted the sheath warm to the knife. Not beautiful, for sure, but dead functional. I took it for a walk, and what can I say?

Why do I still forge?;-) I mean, I go to ends and edges with steel. I make damascus, I use ever new steels to try it out to get a better knife. And Mora simply produces something like that. Okay, my question is easily answered: I forge, because I want an individual knife. I forge, because I love to play with fire and steel.

But if I am honest, I am hard pressed to find knives better than this. Amongst my own there are maybe ten.


I love this knife, and am tempted to take it to bed with me;-).

Another Foraging Hike

On Tuesday I packed my things and made for the hill to get some edibles into my bag, for I was running short of green, and thusly of vitamins. Came across this plant, which I took for great burdock (arctium lappa, in German: Große Klette). Did the old boyscout stunt, nibbled a tiny bit of the root, waited half an hour, had no adverse effects, ate double of the dose I ate before, waited for another half of an hour, had no adverse effects, and ate the entire root. It tasted like a sweeter version of cabbage turnip (brassica olearacea gongylodes, in German: Kohlrabi), and I took home three more of them to cook them as such. I do not recommend you try this stunt at home. If you are not sure, obstain from the plants in doubt, it might have fatal effects. It depends on your own feeling of responsibility, however. I only had a tiny moment of doubt, and I know the taste of the adverse partner plant, and it stings. My grandmother used the tip of her tongue when in doubt, and if it tasted sharp or stinged she spat it out. But then my grandmother actually sucked the poison of a common viper bite out with her mouth when she was a young woman (she grew up in East Prussia), rinsing her mouth with milk or water afterwards, and was quite the different story! I actually walked a bit while testing;-), over those old hills and far away. It was quite some funny weather, sometimes bright and gay, but with mist arising
 from the deeper forests. They said in ancient times that the "Nibelungen" (Niflungar, Nevelungen) where on their way. Took some dandelion for dandelion honey with me, too.

 Ribwort in blossom (plantago lanceolata, in German: Spitzwegerich). I use this as a medicinal against bronchitis. I use the leaves and the flower. The leaves may also be used in wound treatment.
 In the middle of the woods I saw this totem pole made by someone with a chainsaw gone off his rocker. Getting a bit nosy, I followed the small footpath, and what did I come across?
 This very sturdy earth shelter, complete with camouflage and all the kit.

A campsite, built by apparently loving hands!

This is pennyroyal ( mentha pulegia, in German: Poleiminze). Good against witches;-). But be careful, it contains a poison, pulegon, and should be used sparsely. It might lead to cramps, skin irritations, acidosis or colics. In ancient times it was used as a medicinal as a rinsing solution, as a tea to promote digestion, as a spice in kitchen and as an insecticide in straw beds.

Came across this fairie, and we had sort of a chat.;-)...Niflungar coming out in the sunshine, a rare sighting indeed...;-)

Carla´s garden and the Easter bonfires

 On Saturday before Easter Sunday it is traditional in our region that bonfires are lit on every hill. In pagan times this was a custom to fend off the forces and spirits of winter and to light the fires of spring. This year I was especially looking forward to it, because Anna, an ex-girlfriend of mine and now one of the very best, if not the best friend I have was in my hometown to visit her parents. She now lives in Berlin and makes a living "ne´er do well" as a designer. We decided we´d visit her father and go to the fires with him. His partner, Carla, has one of the greatest locations for a house garden I have seen over here so far. It´s quite a big piece of land behind an old worker´s house. Hartwig, Anna ´s father is an architect and going frankly insane with that house.
 Does digging a cellar in while the house still stands by hand qualify;-)? In my book it certainly does... They are quite bushcrafty people, too, although the´d never admit it, living on herbs and edibles from the woods they planted in the garden. They have an area devoted entirely to wild plants, and they use them reularily. Carla taught me how to make dandelion honey in no time, and she is learning herblore by herself from ancient books, such as Hildegard von Bingen´s lore and Konrad von Megenberg´s herbarium. This is her kitchen herbs´spiral Hartwig set for her, with rosemary, thyme and many other herbs for the kitchen and for tea. I was quite amazed.
 This is a piece of garden after Carolus Magnus, with three kinds of salad. Also there´s a garden for potatoes and carrots, quite the paradise. They both are very selfmade people, doing all this by themselves, and this I very much respect.
 We had some very quality talk, and a drink of champagne, before making off to the site of the fire in the countryside. There were tents built up, and we had some curry sausage and french fries along with a beer or two or three...;-). The fire itself was built somewhat at a distance, for it had not rained for some weeks, and the authorities were taking care that no wildfires were set. After having our sausages and fries and beer and beer, and beer;-) we walked over to the fire. Met a strange crowd there, quite an interesting lot, the farmer himself whom the site belonged to, a guy from the Baltic Republic whom I talked for two hours with about bushlore, hunting and how it is in his home country. We heard some songs or at least some noise by the drunkards
 around the place and kept silent;-) ourselves, looking into the flames, seeing things and talking about how great this was. Man, it was everything at once! Silent and noisy, cozy and loud, good friends and strangers, all peacefully united by looking into the flames. Life can be so great, and sometimes it is greatest when it´s simplest.

When the cinders burned down, we went back to Hartwig´s and Carla´s place, and had some real great food and some tea. Carla and Hartwig simply  would not let us go without another meal.
After some very late night dinner, which was plainly delicious and consisted of two kinds of bread, cheese, butter, and cream with herbs from the garden, wild garlic and all;-), Anna and myself made for home.

We had some very deep talk, and I know she is a kind of sister to me, one person of those few closest to my heart. I am grateful she loves me that way, and I love her that way too.

It was a very healing experience for me, and I will dwell on that evening at least another year;-).

Donnerstag, 21. April 2011

After-work bimble with fox puppy sighting

 So, the last two days I got into the woods directly after work. I took the bus and went into the underbrush without further ado. Collected some sweet woodruff, blueberry flower and leaves and garlic mustard. Oh, and this stick...;-) that already got a woodspirit carved into it. I was being a bit stressed out, but putting off the white collar worked wonders for me... Sat on  a stump a bit, nothing new here, and let my thoughts wander, and carving, and contemplating.
 That´s the start of the new hiking staff. It´s a length of good and dry maple I found along the trail.
 Into the sunny underbrush I went, swift and silent and with an attitude of plainly and simply belonging there. One of those days, when noone is on the way, but me... great.
 Through this ancient mine walked.
 And found some wild garlic, delicious!!!!

 Alongside this field some strange tracks led. I was quite submerged in thought, when I heard an even stranger barking, like a dog´s, but pitched somewhat higher. Looking closer and freezing in my tracks, I saw this fox´s den with some puppies before it. I stood still for a quarter of an hour, rarely breathing. It was quite funny to watch them, all thumbs and all, playing and barking at each other.
The den again. They went in and out.Iwas standing so still, a squirrell passed by me in some 50 cm distance, looked at me and went on its way, and this I am a bit proud of... it simply felt good.
When the puppies where in, I noticed this ladybeetle sitting before me.

Oh, and today I made this video, nothing fancy, just puppies passing in the distance. Was all shaky from excitement, so no Hollywood here;-)

Montag, 18. April 2011

6th Hiking Annual at the Industriemuseum Ennepetal

On Sunday I worked for the industrial museum Ennepetal again, for the second time this year. This time it was the site of one of the biggest hiking events of the region, with many smiths, historical automobiles, tractors, bushheads, environmentalists, craftsmen, artisans and quality food to boot. I was there with Willy, a long-time friend of mine, quite a funny chap with a hat grown to his head and never less than two axes, seven knives and a very strange sense of humour on his person;-). Apologies for the blurred photos, but the light in the smithy´s absolute crap for shooting them.
 Those are some works of Willi´s, two hatchets, a foraging sickle, a gouge for woodworking and some knives. I will do a better feature on his doings in the near future, but I wanted to give an impression.

That´s the foraging sickle up close, Japanese white paper steel, mammoth ivory and cocobolo wood.

The dragon breath forge (gas forge) roaring at the top of its lungs;-). You get all crap at forging with a coal forge if you constantly forge with one of these, it´s so comfy! No meddling, no constant attention, but no partial heating either. Not good for bigger projects, too, but comfortable and serviceable like nothing else.

That´s a blurred photo of two of Willi´s knives, the top one in the sheath is one of Schneewittchen´s seven dwarves (Willi made a series of seven two-finger knives and one bigger EDC with an ivory handle, strange guy as he is;-)), the one below is file steel, bone and cocobolo wood. Willi loves cocobolo wood and makes some really fine handles from it.

That´s a hatchet he forged and tempered on Sunday. It shaves, as it should. All of his hatchets could easily double as an Ulu! 

Those two are two blades I forged myself. After annealing, I let them cool on the anvil. The top one is file steel with a high-set tang for something Scagel-esque, the one below is an integral with a rat-tail-tang from silver steel.

While the knives were cooling, I had sort of a lunchtime break and took a bimble across the expo area. This is Rainer working with kids during a casting / founding demo. The casting is done with some sand forms which are modelled and then compressed. The  the liquid iron is cast into them. Rainer makes boar statues, lizards, foxes (a regional fairy-tale symbol) and the like.

That´s Wilfried, another friend of mine, owner of one of the last tool smithys of Germany, forging hammers, tongs, prybars, axes, woodsplitting tools, and the Krenzer bushcraft mini-hatchet. He is a very laid-back and friendly guy, a practising Christian, and a total loss when marketing is concerned;-), which is a real treat;-).
He is a great craftsman, and very calm and maybe even wise. I have learned a lot from him.
This is Mrs. Krenzer, a very engaged person, doing a very great job with children. She forges herself and does some real great artwork. She also works as a teacher for motorically, mentally  and physically impaired children, and is the mother of seven children. She also organizes the sponsoring club for the Krenzer Hammer, Wilfried´s smithy and the "Schmiedefest" (smithing fair) held each September..

 The famed Krenzer bushcraft mini-hatchet.
 Fine art by Ms. Krenzer.
 My achievement for the day;-). Filed the integral part, edge quenched, and tempered.

The other blade, yet to be tempered. Watch this space!

Playing around at Volker´s smithy

 On Saturday I got in some quality singletrail riding and did some real hammering, pedal-to-the-metal mountainbike riding in the morning and got out to Volker´s smithy after lunchtime. There were little traffic and no kids, so we just played around a bit at the forge. Volker forged a big kitchen knife from an old file, quite a thin blade in the spine, so it will be quite a beast when cutting is concerned.
 Volker doing some straightening. That anvil´s one of my favourites. Viktor annealed and then ground it (!) from a piece of railroad section, drilled and filed a hardy hole in, and tempered it.... that guy is MAD!
 The coming to birth of two blades, and what might become of the second?
 This is a twining rod for the garden Volker forged. These are very popular with passers-by, a very popular gift! (How come?;-))
 The birth of a dragon... I tried out another dragon head with spiralling horns, but it was quite the fragile task. I made this one from spring steel, and could have used five hands, and I was all thumbs. Tell me a tale of flying, burning steel!;-) Have a scar on the belly now, and one intact bike jersey less. (Ever heard Polyester burns excellently?;-))
 That´s the finished one. I ground it with a new roto-grinder Viktor (again that madman!;-)) built from crap.
The head in detail... not as bad as I thought, but not as good either.

We forged for some three hours, cleaned up and had some really great asparagus soup, Jochen, the cook made. That guy is another great craftsman I have the privilege to know. He teaches me to have respect for food, and even love it. To be grateful plants and animals gave their lives, not (only) out of  some religious impulse, but simply because it makes sense. He treats the food he prepares with a deep love, and relishes in his work and the fruits of his work. He only uses materials of high quality, and the result tastes as great as they come. We had some great talk along the meal, had a cuppa coffee afterwards, and I rode home, again with the deep feeling of fullfilment I always have when hanging out with these folks. For this, I am grateful, too.

Loooooonnng foraging ride

It´s been a while ago now that I saddled my steed to get in some herbs for tea, as medicine and for soup, and I figured it wouldn´t hurt to get in some real mountainbike riding along the way;-). I started quite early and made for the hills with some eight mousseline bags I prefer to carry that foliage;-). Some hour of quality riding away from home I came across this light and cozy oak, beech and birch wood, carpeted with loads of sweet woodruff, some nettles and mustard garlic.  I collected a lot of herbs of great quality, and had a very peaceful time doing so.As usual, the birds were singing, and there was a gentle breeze rustling in the new and freshly green leaves. Silent it was, too, and that´s something in this mad world.
I find I relish in the silence of the woods ever more so the older I get. It is like lifeblood for me sometimes to get out and sit on a stump or do something simple, and just feel my breath go in and out. Everything is sprouting now like wildfire. But inside my heart I know, this will pass. It is nothing to be feared. This fact, plain and simple, is life. There is death, and there is life. There is winter, and there is spring. And spring bears the seed of winter, and winter the seed of spring, as long as there is something green to flourish. I love spring as much as I love the darkness and solitude and contemplation of winter. Without a winter, there would not be dreams, without spring, winter would convey not meaning, as would spring, as would life without death.
I find myself entangled in this net of life and death, and the more that is coming to be, the more I find I am lost for words, for he who talks, knows not, he who knows, talks not.;-) I believe that only poetry and mathematics are capable of  a description, but what for? There is the sun. There is the snow. And that over there is coltsfoot ;-) (Tussilago farfara), in German "Huflattich". It´s good against a cough, if taken as tea. Tastes spicy in a salad, too. 
 Strawberry (Fragaria vesca, in German: (Wald-  Erdbeere) in blossom. You can obviously eat the fruit, and from the leaves and flowers you can make a very sweet tea with a mildly calming effect. Good for brokers;-) may prevent them from nervously buying Yen like mad and thusly prevent them from being smashed in the face by a Fimbulmyrk fist, I am kidding!!!!!;-) I´d never hit a broker buying Yen like mad in the face. Because that wouldn´t change anything. Instead I´d counsil them to try some mildly calming tea.;-) Might render them less nervous, and thusly less greedy, rant over and out;-). 
 One of my favourites, sweet woodruff (galium odoratum, in German: Waldmeister). Collect them before blossom and dry or make syrup from them. Sweet woodruff can be used against cramps, against wound infections (inside and outside), as a wound desinfection, and has a vasodiletary effect. Sweet woodruff contains Cumarin, and you have to be a bit careful, because it is mildly toxic. When making spiced wine with sweet woodruff, you should not take more than 3 g per 1 litre white wine. If you take vasodiletary medications as Marcumar, ACC or else, you should consult your doctor beforehand or obstain from using it, for it can have a very serious effect up to a heart attack when used with those medications. Do not frequently use high doses of sweet woodruff, for it is supposed to be carcinogenic. Nevertheless, if you are careful, it makes for a very tasty and spicy drink. In ancient times it was either used by witches to fend off demons or to fend off witches with a mixture of woodruff,St.John´s wort, and mentha pulegium (pennyroyal, in German: Poleiminze). I will give you a recipe for "Maibowle" soon, just watch this space! 

 This is hederacea glechoma (in German: Gundermann, no clue what it´s called in English). While it is poisonous for many vertebrates, including horses, a toxic effect on man is not known, and it is used as a spice. Be a bit careful with the dose in the salad, it might get a bit bitter. It tastes a bit like mint, but with a sharper note. You can also use it as a tea against lung disease, headache and plain old cough. Cooked as a detergent it is antiseptic. In ancient times it was used in beer storage, to preserve milk and cheese, against Hepatitis, pain in the hip, as an aphrodisiacum, and as a protective charm against demons and witchcraft.
 Buds from the European spruce (picea abies, in German: Fichte). They are rich with Vitamin C and etherical oils. I use them as a syrup against the cold, as an antiseptic, and I make a liquor from it. Take one handful of buds, five teaspoons of wood honey, add the juice of one lemon, cover with sugar and let rest for three days. Fill up with some pint of gin, schnapps or other clear, hard booze (min 35% alcohol). Let it rest for at least three weeks. Strain through and fill with some quality fruit schnapps (Obstler) until the colour is a light red. In ancient times they were used against bronchitis, to clean the blood circuit, against articular gout, rheumatism, chronical fatigue and stomach cramps. Taste a bit bitter, but are healthy to boot. Take them also as tea. No witches here, though, for a change;-).

 Pine (pinus, in German: Kiefer) buds. You can treat them as fir buds, with similar results. Have to do some research on them, though, might do for the moment that they don´t do you any harm, are rich with Vitamin C, good against bronchitis, to clean the blood circuit, and that you can make an even better schnapps with them;-). Prosit! (Cheers!)
 I rode for hours on end through the hills, fireroads, singletrails, long, long, arduous climbs and quite some funny downhills, with beautiful scenery all the while, and I met two other persons, a girl and a hunter, with both of whom I had some quality time chatting. Seems people tend to appreciate and respect each other more when they are not as abundant;-).

Got some blueberry leaves (vaccinium myrtillus).
 Taste great as a tea and as spice in syrup and have sort of a blood-cleaning effect, too.
 Along a hillside roadside I had to cross I found some steel, too. Perfect!!!!

The sun was already sinking as I rode home. On the map it said I did a circuit of some 110 km, and boy sid I feel it! But it was a greatgreatgreatgreatgreat day out in the not-so-wild with quite a loot to carry home.

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