Fire by hand drill

Fire by hand drill

Monday, 13 August 2012

3 days in the woods with a knife and a cup

HI,



Just back from a great experience with two friends, Donal and Paul from N.I Survival School. We decided many months ago to enter the woods on a Friday with nothing but a knife, a metal cup and the clothes on your back. For me this meant a Mora companion knife, a metal crusader cup. Clothes included a t-shirt, fleece and water proof jacket, trousers, socks and boots. In an emergency bag I had a first-aid kit but I intended to treat what i could with what nature could provide. I had further emergency kit in the car but it would be very stupid not too.

It went very well. All 3 people on the challenge were knowledgeable and had plenty of hands on experience of the skills we would need to survive. Lets be clear. A person in good health will not starve to death in 3 days but there are a number of concerns, the provision of good shelter and water being uppermost.

The weather on Friday was sunny but humid within the wood. Donal arrived before i did and put together an excellent lean to shelter with fire pit and reflector for warmth.


When I arrived we got on with the task of making fire. First we went about gathering the materials for a hand drill set. I selected a straight piece of Elder and Donal prepared a hearth of Ivy.

We quickly set to work and produced plenty of heat and smoke but the humidity beat us the first few attempts. We then decided that it would be a better use of our energy to make a bow drill set to use mechanical advantage to overcome the issues with damp. We used Donal’s shoe lace as a string for the bow.

We gathered a number of different drills, Ivy, Sycamore and Lime and a few different boards too. Paul had arrived and we set about the task as a team, everyone playing a crucial role.

 3 hours later we produced fire from a set of Lime drill and Ivy hearth. The final few attempts where made in pitch darkness which was a challenge in itself.


 During breaks in the preparation myself and Paul set about improving or building our shelters. Again in the dark. This was by choice as I wanted to see what could be done with little light. You do not always arrive at your destination in the day light after all.


 Myself and Paul decided to sleep in our shelters without fire due to limited space. We covered ourselves with bracken(not ideal) and debris.

The fire was now going well and we decided to turn in.

I awoke in the night just before first light and re-stoked our main fire. Then i went for a wonder. I was treated to the sight of young foxes practising pouncing in the adjacent field.

The morning brought rumbling stomachs and thirst.

First came water. I went out into the field with my jumper as a sponge and gathered about half a pint of dew from the fields. I then wrung it out into my cup and boiled it before drinking. It tasted quite fresh and was slightly flavoured by the grass.


We then went to the nearby river and using an old litre vodka bottle we found (with a teaspoon of vodka in it), and our cups collected about 2 litres of water. This we boiled in the bottle and the cups. We made tea from Doug Fir needles which was good and refreshing.

We went out and foraged for our breakfast. The land was surprisingly forthcoming and we managed to gather Burdock roots, Cat tails roots and stems, Wild Raspberries, cleavers, thistle hearts, Meadowsweet among other plants.

The roots were roasted and tasted great with a boost of energy soon following from the carbohydrates. The raspberries were small but delicious.


Donal put together a vegetable stew using everything he had found and it was surprisingly good indeed.


My feet were getting cold and damp due to a hole in my shoe somewhere. I dried my feet and socks by the fire, which was a good boost to the comfort rating.


The rest of the day was spent roaming around looking for food, tending the fire. We then decided to rebuild the shelter to incorporate a fire for warm and improve water proofing.


Donal did the same with his shelter too.

We then went out at dusk and attempted to hunt a few rabbits. Unfortunately there was very little cover and we could not get close enough to hurl throwing sticks. The rabbits in this area were constantly hunted and were wise. If we had more time we would have caught them I think.

That night we sat by the fire, drank tea and laughed until it was bed time.

In the night it rained very heavily and I awoke to the creeping cold. The fire had been extinguished in the last down pour.

We tried to get an ember to rekindle but there was nothing left after the rain storm. The crown of the tree overhangs well not the first time I have been a bit cold and wet. The sun would be soon up and we went out for a dander to see what was about.

An experience like this is not something a person has to do, it’s a challenge plain and simple. You like challenges or you don’t. Personaly I like to see what I can do under difficult conditions. I am lucky that I have two friends who feel the same way.

One thing that I did notice is that we had great moral through the whole adventure. There was no bickering. Fair enough as time went on we could feel our bodies start to metabolise fats and blood sugar was low but we were fine.

All 3 of us worked well as a team. We were all independent in our way and there was no leader. No one had to tell someone else to do something which helps a massive amount. If the fire needed wood you went and got it and you often found one of the other guys bringing some back too.
Anyway I look forward to part two which will be in the depths of our winter.

Donal is part of the Irish bushcraft Club IBC

Cheers




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