Mittwoch, 3. Juli 2013

After work bimble into the green, green woods...

 On Tuesday I had to decompress somewhat. I am currently having a very tight schedule, and it starts to wear me out a bit, but it´s all my fault really. And what to do? RIGHT! Get out of town and simply have some rest for my soul. It always works. The sun was not exactly shining, but glaring with a strange and milky light, and alongside a grain field I trod my path into the green twilight looming ahead.
 The grass was growing wildly, and on the banks of the nearly unintelligible path grew plantain, woundwort, chamomile, common yarrow, sorrel and many more. I could have filled my pack, but there is still so much left from last year that I do not need any at the moment. So I simply stopped and took in the lovely colours and the air of a flourishing nature, even if this year seems to be a bad one for the harvest.
 I have thought about telling you of the properties of those plants again, but I thought about it and came to aconclusion: So much we do is just because someone or something has properties and is good for this or that. I have done so in other posts, and you can refer to those, but I realized I simply wanted not to forget the beauty behind it all. The beauty of the plant itself, just growing there and being there, not for me, but just being.
 I am grateful that the woods are there, the flowers grow, and the deer chant in the twilight. I am grateful for the fox, and for the hare. Just because they are. Of course, I love to find something, and I like to have a tea, or find a bone for a knife handle, or even some antler. I would hunt for food, of course, and maybe some day I can afford a hunting license and a decent gun, or maybe, when all breaks down, use a sling, spear and bow and arrow. I practice their use after all.  But that´s not all. Everything being is not being there exclusively for our use. We can make use from it, but we have to learn, and especially western civilization has to, that there is a very delicate balance in it all. This can have a soothing effect; we are not the centre of the universe. We are beings like the deer, like fox and hare and bird, a part of it all, and maybe we could still fulfill our part. Of course, we are the most aggressive raptor on earth, but even we could still have a place.
 Deeper into the woods I went, and stillness came over me with every step I took, with the sound of the songs of birds, of creek and stream and the gentle rustling of the wind in the leaves.

 Beside the stream I sat on a rock and simply listened to the song of the water, the voice that constantly murmurs without a message I could understand, but tales it told nonetheless from and of the circles of life and death, of rebirth and growing. Of tales of fancy and imagination as well as of life and death, of fights and defeats and survival. Above me flew my friend, the bussard, and uttered his cries that are so full of yearning and hunger, not only the concrete hunger, but also a sensation of flight and gravity, of force and power, and freedom in the playing of the forces. The creek sang its song of the water, and the earth thrummed with a deep sonore hum that few can hear, but the song of the soil is there, if you live and listen intently. Then some day you might hear it and listen in awe... and there will be nothing gained or lost by it, but being.
When my bimble came towards an end, I found this gift not given from a friend that is not a friend.

And home I went, into the enmeshments and involvements that harass our everyday life, but with a deep breath thrumming in me.

Just being alive.

Dienstag, 2. Juli 2013

Schedule change on the upcoming blacksmithing events

I was informed by Volker that the schedule of the upcoming blacksmithing events has to be changed.

The summer fair at the Bethaus smithy will now take place on

13. and 14th of July.

On 6th of July I will be at the Bethaus smithy also, but only on a regular basis. Come over, get a coffee cheap and have a chat!

The Hammer - In on 7th of July at the industrial museum is not touched by this change, as well as my presence on the highland games in Wuppertal!

New blogs on the roll

I stumbled across some new blogs to follow, which might be of interest to all you bushcrafters out there. Having read the book by Eric  Valli: Rencontres hors du temps, which inspired me in a BIG way, I came across Lynx´ site and blog. Now Lynx certainly is what qualifies as a "wild woman of the woods", extremely skilled and close to the song of nature. This here is her blog:

A bit different is Gerd´s blog. Gerd is a tribal knifemaker from Germany I have the privilege to be acquainted to now. He makes some knives that are really appealing to me, and I look forward to meet in person and maybe have a ball with fire and steel together:

is his blog. He makes wire damascus and traditional damascus as well as spring steel knives and loves to recycle and reuse valuable materials to create beautiful tools.

DeNOOBing ourselves-Technical training in the rock garden

 On Monday evening it was that time of the week again... a rookie and even some experienced riders came together beneath the legendary sculpture of the whirlwind brides and the sun in the "Felsengarten" Hagen (the rock garden). We exchanged some friendly talk, and then it was "shred mode on". We did some static and dynamic off-bike muscular exercises to warm up, and then we did some riding exercises.
 The defined surrounding of the location is ideal for beginners to slowly and controlledly try out bigger tasks. I had shown Andrea to ride a staircase and stopping on it, balancing on the staircase, beforehand, and she did it very well. I had made a schedule for the training, but only Andrea showed up who needed tutoring, and she already was farther than I intended the program, so we did something else: I tutored her how to lift front and rear wheel, which  ultimately led to her first bunny hop.
 Andrea also rode the stair up and learned how to lift the rear wheel out of harm´s way.
 Soon the formal training part was over, and we simply did some shredding, having fun with the unusual architecture. By the way, it was Hartwig, the father of my ex - girl - friend and all-time-best friend Anna, who designed part of it all as an ARRRchitect.;-) Thanks, Hartwig, those rollers are greatly appreciated!;-)
 This is Bear Lee catching some air. We were actually quite finished, even if riding on one spot only, but the exercises fatigue you out quite soon, especially the jumping, turning in the air, hopping and the like wear you out fast, for there´s a big amount of body tension involved. Bear Lee had been sick the whole week, and this was his first time riding. He did extremely well for that!

 I was most pleased to meet Toto again. Toto´s a really laidback and friendly guy, a competition pistol shooter, and I learned he broke the German record with the ordonnance pistol. Congratulations on that! he has a calm and friendly air about him and is always ready to help weaker riders. He knows quite a bit on pharmaceutics, medicine and anatomy, too, and his knowledge of the martial arts is frightening!;-)

Being older and having seen his share of events, both good and extremely bad in his life, he has always offered me valuable counsil, and I value his opinion above many others. Thanks, Toto!

 And, if you keep in mind, he misses half  a biceps on one side and a shoulder blade on the other which he somehow lost ;-) in a frightening crash at a downhill race, and his body is mincemeat due to ...wait.. is that twenty years???... of hardcore riding, it is a right miracle that guy rides the way he does!
We had a lot of fun, the weather kept stable for a change, we had some great chats and the right balance of jokes, mischief and serious and interesting conversation, and, last but in no way least, we did some serious shredding and gained much more self-confidence and riding skills.

Thank you, folks, it was a great evening!

Montag, 1. Juli 2013

Children´s birthday party at the Bethaus smithy - and the birth of a Nessie

 Hope I am not getting on your nerves;-), for this is another children´s birthday party post, and, while they tend to look all the same, and chance is, they do for onlookers, rest assured, there is no one alike the other one. It´s often kids that tend to be motorically impaired (But being tauted as "normal". Many so-called handicapped persons tend to be more capable than average "normal" kids.) Many of them arrive drugged with Ritalin or the like, and if they don´t, you usually have a problem. (Kai-Torben, NO! You WON´t stick your finger into the forge, Kevin- Dennis, NO! Do NOT poke Dennis-Kevin´s eye out with that bar of steel!*ggg* Schankktal-Schakkeline, put that knife away, you WON´t cut your forearm again...;-))

It´s often arduous work, but this time it has been a right pleasure. The kids were accompagnied by parents who actually had fun organizing the event for the kids, the kids had fun playing games (playing games! Remember that time when children actually used to play actual games? Not sitting paralyzed before the great one-eyed snake box?), the adults had fun playing games with the kids, they were actually around and seemed to enjoy themselves because the kids did. Okay, I admit it... they bribed me into writing this by offering chocolate brownie cookies;-), but me, being above being bribed, declined;-), while Volker gladly accepted, that old sweet-tooth;-).
 It was a very relaxed atmosphere. That was not to say there was no work to be done! But the kids being creative, capable of concentrating, and enjoying themselves, it was real fun. The adults, however, were laid-back and friendly people. Perfect!
 Here Volker putting the kids´ tools on the desk...blimey, that guy was moving so fast, the picture is blurred! Even with this high - end, completely functional *g*camera, I did not manage to get the picture right!*ggg* Imagine that!*ggg*
 Here Volker explains the history of the Bethaus. The miner´s chapel house was built in 1830 as a meeting point of miners before their shift, and was the site of a miner´s worship of St. Barbara, the patroness of miner´s, smelters, artillerymen, and black- and weaponsmiths. Before the shift, miners came together for a prayer to the saint for a happy return. A great and amtospherically dense novel to transport the terror of the subterranean, but also the hope for riches and prosperity the miners were confronted with in those days is "The Mines Of Falun" (Die Bergwerke zu Falun) by E.T.A. Hoffmann.

After the shift, the miners hopefully returned to have their tools repaired for the next day. For that purpose, there always had been a smithy at the chapel, too. There picks, shovels and hammers were repaired or made anew, later on the chisels of power hammers and other power tools were repaired. And the best thing about all that is - we still do that!;-) The kids were enthused to be smith´s apprentices, and we did our best to let the old times revive for them, even our skills still are not up to par to those of those ancient miner´s blacksmiths. But that´s not our purpose in the first.
 We are here to let the kids have some fun and to keep the flame burning.
 The kids were enthusiastic about the work, and many of them took a great deal of time polishing their works. We made pendants, snakes, small knifelookalikes;-) from mild steel which I tried to work-harden by coldforging. A bit hard on the ears, and I fear my hearing is already impaired a bit... blimey, have to get some ear plugs... but it´s hard to communicate with the kids when you wear plugs.
 And yes, it´s pictures like this that keep me going, even when it´s sometimes tough. It simply feels good to pass on the enthusiasm for the next generation.

Let me give a more personal take on that. We live in a very, very strange and estranged world. We tend to blabber about freedom all the time, and when we get it, we use it to simply kill time and refine our boredom. We are not free, for we work to earn money we believe we need, because we believe we need a fifth laptop or the latest smartphone, a third car or, yap, a fifth mountainbike or surfboard. Mountainbiking is a great example. Many of the people I know who ride mountainbikes call themselves "freeriders". To do this sport, you need at least 1.500 € worth of bike, plus some 700€ worth of equipment, protection, gear, clothing, and you have to spend at least 1.400€ worth on holidays. Maybe a bit exaggerated, for most of the people I know would not be able to afford this,  but that´s what the magazines keep telling you. All this you "need" to ride free. To ride "free", a person with an income not exactly middle management thusly would have to work 1-3 months just for the tools of the trade;-) and a holiday. I therefore very much doubt that he or she then is "free". We are told so, but we are not. The examples are legion. You can be free by buying deodorants, insurances, cigarettes. Interestingly I read an ad about a deodorant named "obsession"  that transported the message of freedom some years ago, which is outright ridiculous in my book.

But then, how can one be free? Is there anything like freedom?

I have a maxim I try to live by: "As long as I do not harm anyone and the world benefits from it in any way, I do whatever I want." This is sometimes very, very hard, for the world generally does not care a runny shit about me or anyone else doing anything for its benefit, for its surface is designed by mammonists. Those are glad if anyone does anything "for free", for he or she can be exploited much easier that way. You do not get any money equals you cannot buy symbols of status equals you have no status. But we are talking surface here. I learned for myself, that in-depth, the world is a beautiful place. If you do not value money that much, if you simply regard it as a tool, not a toy, there is much to discover; a flower growing through the concrete, the grain of some burly wood, the pattern of damascus steel. Your own body, aside from the advertisment-hysteria and the beauty- and wellness-hype. Your power, of body, mind and soul. The beauty and terror of the actual world. The terror and greatness and the overwhelming beauty of actual life.

Blacksmithing has done one thing for me: It made me realize I could shape my own world. From junk and scrap and ashes I have learned, the hard way sometimes, to shape whatever I desire, or at least, to be capable of learning it-potentially at least. It means, while I often have a tight schedule with little or no room for toodling about, and sometimes work 70 h a week with an income that´s not worth mentioning and amounts to 30 % less than the minimum dole would sum up to, I have a freedom that I need for the sanity of my soul. I might not be the best of blacksmiths, but a blacksmith I am.

But what does that mean? In Volundar - saga it is said that Wayland the smith was taken captive by some king named Nidung. He cut his tendons to keep him captive and demanded he forged for him wondrous armour and weapons. Wayland escaped. He forged himself wings and flew away. In the bronze - age smiths of the Unetice culture are said to have had prince status. The metallurg was master of the elements, and legend has it he or she was also master of fate. Smiths have made this world, and those who know this blog know that there lays a hope for me, for the world has gone mad and false.

Genetic manipulation is not evil, but we simply do not understand enough of the whole to do it-and yet, corporations like Monsanto monopolize on bringing out manipulated seeds on the market, and there are little options left for the common man. There only but recently was an attempt to illegalize self- harvested seeds, even in private gardens. It might have been another attempt of corporations like Monsanto to get a monopol on victualies and seeds.
Capitalism is not evil, and it has secured peace for a long period of time. But it bears strange fruits. Ecologism is not evil, either, but to burn down acres of rainforest to plant rapeseed (genetically manipulized, of course), exclusively for CAR FUEL, while the inhabitants starve, is mad. Mammonism is not evil, either, if Mammon gets assigned his place in the pantheon he actually had ages ago. It´s all a system, and this system is the reason we not only cannot be free, but are subject to tyranny. But who are the tyrants? Can we hang them?

Bit difficult, could do that just if you feel so inclined to commit suicide. The enemy is within, within the gates. It´s us. We can´t escape.

Can´t we, really?

I used to buy a lot of knives and other tools in my time. I learned to forge, now I do not buy them anymore (that frequently, okay, I admit;-)). I had no money for a decent pair of reenactment shoes. I made them myself. While not exactly perfect, I wore them for one year and used them very hard, for I used them for hiking also, because they were just so comfy, now there´s a hole in one sole, but no harm done, I can repair that. I  wanted a Sarouel pants, and I made one. I want a kuksa... what will I do? I make my own mead, I brew my own birch sap beer, kwass and sloe champagne, cure my cough with herbs I collected, treat my wood with resin I found, drink my tea made from leaves I collected.

I am realistic: Not everyone can make his or her gear all by themselves. I can´t, myself. But that´s not the culprit. It´s not about making these things, but about understanding again THAT these are made in the first place. That they transport the time and energy put into them, that they rely on natural resources, and to understand that everything we claim has its consequences, and that our behaviour has consequences, too, and not because someone tells us so. It is easy to even work with difficult kids at the forge, because you can easily illustrate why one should obey the rules. They are made by iron, fire and water, not by the smith. 1.200 degrees Celsius will be dangerous, and anyone possessed of the ability to feel pain will recognize that without further ado.

The world will not be saved by that. We will still have to endure the consequences of the exploit we did to the planet, and chance is, few will survive the breakdown of western civilization that will come. We are in the middle of it, in fact. It´s not the punishment of God or the Gods. It´s just the consequences of our false behaviour. And it is a chance to learn how it´s done properly.

I hope that with my blacksmithing an tutoring, I achieve one thing: To get minds to think for themselves, if only one out of thousand. I might not be free, and I am not Wayland for sure, but I hope to one day look back on my life and to be able to say that it was okay.

That´s all I can say.

By the way, I just wanted a Nessmuk. Willy is doing these all of the time, and I did not want to stay off the back, so I made one from a piece of spring steel: 

 It came along quite nicely, done with a forge, tongs, hammer, two files and that´s it. I drilled two holes near the back of the tang for balance, but I might add more of them, depending on what scales to fit. I recently found a block of Pertinax in the woods, which looks very beautiful, but I learned it is toxic due to the Formaldehyde and Phenolic contents. Guess I´d rather get rid of it.... and fit some stag or ramshorn scales. We´ll see how it goes, but the choice of scales will have an influence on the drillings, for I like to have my centre of gravity on the index finger to make for more nimble handling of the knife. I also choose an edge line in line with the handle outline (does that make sense to you?;-))to make for more acurate carving ability and a somewhat milder S-form of the knife in general. Having played a lot with it already, I can say that I really like the feel of it, and as there´s still this ominous crane bag / ditty bag project on the bench for some, wait, is that two years??? I rather say, this might find its way in... but talk is cheap, and there are too many options as far as this bag is concerned, and I daresay I rather stitch this thing together any which way. I simply have too many ideas that in the end I follow none of them... so I guess I´ll rather put the rubber on the road soon. But, this knife first.;-) Or that cleaver. Or that bush knife, oh, and the damascus blades and and and...

Anyaway, I´ll keep you informed!

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