Plant Installation and Propagation

With spring here, I figured I’d share with you a booklet I made about Planting and Propagation. It’s great for a beginner and has some information that some gardeners might have forgotten or never heard about.  I hope you like it.

Plant installation would seem to be so easy that instructions shouldn’t be needed.  Just dig a hole, plop in the plant, and water.  Unfortunately, this process causes more problems for owners than they know.  By focusing on the how, they forget the where, when, and the why behind it.  This leads to trees being planted right next to the house, roots invading plumbing, or the plant simply dying “mysteriously”.

Before planting anything, some questions need to be answered:

  • What are the soil requirements?
  • How much sun does it need?
  • How is the drainage in the area?
  • How big will the plant be when fully grown?
  • How will this plant affect other plants around it?
  • What obstacles are in the way?

All of these factor in how well the plant will survive after installation.

Soil requirements:  The PH of the soil needs to match he needs of the plant.  If it doesn’t the plant will not produce the flowers or fruit you want, become weak, have sickly yellow leaves instead of green, and be more susceptible to pests and diseases.

 

Indicator-Color-pH-Scale

Most plants prefer a neutral PH but some (Azalea, Gardenia, Blueberry) prefer acidic soil while others (Juniper, Austrailian Pine, Iris) prefer alkaline soils.

To acidify the soil, add sulfur.  Add lime to make it more alkaline.

Sun requirements:  It’s important to make sure that the sunlight hitting the area matches the needs of the plant.  Too much sunlight can wash out the leaves, giving them a faded/whitish look.  Too little can mute the colors of variegated leaves.  Luckily, plants come with tags that point out how much sun they need.

Drainage:  The soils ability to drain excess water can help or kill a plant.  Too much drainage will raise the maintenance level of the plant and reduce the effects of liquid fertilizer, while too little drainage will drown the plant.  The average amount of time for water to drain in good soil is roughly a half hour.

You can add clay to soil that drains too fast and sand to soil that drains too slow.

You can also install a plant half way in the ground and mound up soil around it to counter act poor drainage.

Size aka The Clifford syndrome:  One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is a huge plant in a tiny spot.   I call this “The Clifford Syndrome”.  People see a young plant at the garden center, think it’s cute, and bring it home without realizing that the plant is going to grow into a giant.  (This is why you see Plumbago growing up against the walls of houses.)

Clifford

When deciding on where to plant you need to take into account not only the height when fully grown, but the spread, and the depth and width of the root system.  (As seen by all the cracked and raised sidewalks around town.)

Effects on other plants:  The new plant can affect the lives of other plants around it by limiting their exposure to sunlight, changing the PH of the soil through leaf drop, and stealing the nutrients through over aggressive root systems.  Some plants are so extreme they can choke out a plant by reproducing offspring that clumps around them.

Obstacles:  Buried electrical lines can ruin you day as well buried gas and water lines.  You should always have the utility company mark where these lines are if you aren’t sure.  Also keep in mind of past hardscapes that became buried.  Nothing’s worse than digging three inches into the ground and hitting a slab of concrete.

Once all of these are taken into consideration, its dig time!

When it comes to digging, you don’t want the hole to evenly match the shape of the pot.  No.  You want the hole twice as wide as the pot holding the plant and about a quarter deeper that the height of the pot.  This will give the plant loose soil to grow into as it establishes itself into the landscape.  After digging to the proper depth, fill in the bottom until the top of the root ball is even with the ground around it.

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The extra width of the hole also allows you to mix the good nursery/potting soil with the native soil.  This helps the roots transition into the native soil.  You also get more room for roots after teasing them from the ball.

Teasing is the term used when unwrapping tight roots that have grown around the inner circumference of the pot.  If left alone the roots will girdle and stunt the growth of the plant.  The girdled roots will also severely limit the plants ability to anchor itself against wind and storms as well as limit the area it can get food from.

To tease the roots, you pull them away from the ring shape they grew into.  Sometimes there are so many roots that the plant has become pot bound.  At this point, cutting the roots is required to encourage proper spreading.

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After teasing the roots, and setting the plant in its bed, its best if you add a layer of soil around it, water it thoroughly, add more soil, and water again, like a layer cake until the soil reaches the level of the ground around it.  Planting this way will eliminate air pockets that will damage the roots system.

planting-perennials

After all this is done, you can add encapsulated, slow release fertilizer if you want.  Any other fertilizer is not recommended until the plant is established because the root ends are tender and the plant itself is stressed from all the teasing, and moving, and soil change.  Regular fertilizer should be added after the plant is established firmly in the bed.

After the installation, the plant needs to be watered every day for the first two weeks, every other day for the next week, every third day for the week after, and so on until it reaches the standard once a week rule.  Building a ring around the plant will help retain the water where the roots are while this happens.  The ring can then be broken and blended in with the top of the soil after a month.

It may seem like a lot of extra work, but following these steps will ensure a healthy, long lived plant in your yard.

 Propagation

You can propagate plants through seed, or cloning.  Seed will give you offspring similar to the parent plant while cloning will give you the exact same plant.

Planting a seed is like planting a plant, but on a smaller scale.

Cloning can be done in many different ways.

Division:  Plants such as areca palms, ginger, mother-in-law tongue, and aloe can all be reproduced just by digging them up, cutting them in half between clumps and then replanting or repotting.  It’s one of the easiest ways to clone.

dividing

Layering:  This is done with plants that have long, flexible branches. You scrape off the outer layer of the branch revealing the cambium layer (The light green area sometimes called the inner bark)and bury it under a mound of soil.  By watering this mound you are encouraging roots to grow.  After the roots are formed, you can cut the baby off the parent plant, creating a clone.  (Using rooting hormone – Rootone- helps)

layering

Air layering:  This is done when the branches are too stiff or too high to bend into the ground.  As in layering, you cut the bark or outer layer off the branch to be cloned, you then dust the cambium layer with rooting hormone, take roughly a one liter bottle sized amount of sphagnum peat moss that has been soaked in water and wrap it around the branch. Finally, take some cling wrap or saran wrap and wrap the moss firmly around the moss and the ends of the parent plant and cone to be.  You want the wrap to be tight enough so that air doesn’t escape, but not so tight that you crush the mound of moss.  Once you see roots growing around on the inside of the wrap, you can cut it off the parent plant, unwrap it, and plant in a pot until the roots are strong enough for the outdoors.

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Gardening is a great way to get outdoors and help something grow.  It can be both fun and challenging. I hope these steps inspire you to try it out for yourself.

The Last Joy Ride – Part 1

A young boy bursts into the room, yelling with enthusiasm as he swipes at the wall.  “Come on! You’re gonna miss it!”

The wall glows bright blue before filling up with multiple rectangles, each showing a different channel.

“Hurry up!”  The boy whines as he waves his arm dramatically causing the channels to scroll up.

Seeing what he wants, the child pushes his hand forward and the rectangle fills the wall.

The boy squeals with delight as an image of a helmet slides into the center of a rotating tire.  “It’s on!  It’s on!”

An announcer speaks over the exciting background music.  “Tonight on ‘Road and Driver’, we bring to you the most historic road trip ever!  It is the last time a car shall be legally driven by a person across the United States!  So buckle up and stay tuned.”

A different announcer chimes in immediately. “Tonight’s episode of ‘Road and Driver’ is brought to you by ‘Cathose’; a new kind of car for a new kind of mind.”

The wall turns fades before glowing into a new scene.  A man and a woman are sitting next to each other on a couch. Latin and in their early thirties; they are crisp, clean, healthy, and radiant.  The couch is white and the accessories have just the right amount of color without taking attention away from the actors.  The scene had a feeling of warmth, safety, and security.

            “Imagine Seneca,” The man says as he smiles to the camera. “The last driven road trip.  It’s so exciting.”

            “Yes.”  She replies.  “I’m glad we’re watching it, but I’m even more glad we’re not driving it!”

            “You’re right.”  Her imaginary husband agrees.  “Driving is so dangerous now days.  I’m glad we have the new ‘Cathose’ to do it for us.”

            Seneca nods her head.  “The new ‘Cathose’ has all the safety and conveniences we need to get us where we want to go.”

            The fake husband leans in.  “Piece of mind.  It’s a new kind of mind.”

            “Oh look!”  Seneca declares, pointing at the camera.  “The show’s back on.”

            The man quickly adjusts his position and leans forward with feign interest.

The scene dissolves and is replaced by two men book-ending a map on a screen between them.  Canned applause fills the background and fades as the man on the left begins to speak.  “Thank you!  I am your host, Patrick ‘Sherman’ Phillips and this is my co-host, Brock Peter Williams.”

The canned applause rises as Brock bows and gestures slightly to the camera.

Sherman gives a serious look as he opens his monologue.  “Tonight is a poignant night for us here at Road and Driver. Tonight we witness the last time a car will be legally driven across the country by a person.”

Brock nods in solemn agreement. “Yes, yes.  It is a bitter-sweet time for us. A new era of transportation is upon us and we must say goodbye to a rite of passage and a way of life.”

Sherman claps his hands in a soft prayer and continues.  “And we are saying goodbye in a way only Road and Driver can do.  We have listened to you, our viewers and have teamed up your perfect driver with your perfect car.  Let’s take a look.”

The map on the screen gives way to show a man in his fifties standing next to a car.  The car is low and sleek and the man is surprisingly fit.

“Nathan!”  Brock cheers.  “How are you doing?”

The African-American smiles brightly.  “It’s been a blessing, Brock.  I have been humbled and honored by the people’s choice to be their ambassador on this last great trip across America.”

“What do you think of the car?”  Sherman asks.

“They picked a wonderful choice, Sherm.”  Nathan replies.  “The Chevrolet Corvette is the top of the line American sports car.  With its hybrid technology and mid-engine design, this Corvette is the smoothest, strongest, and most agile Corvette to date.  It’s America’s first sports car and carries with it the embodiment of driving passion.  There is no better car to take this trip with.”

“And what a trip it is.”  Brock interjects.  “This adventure loops the countryside.  Starting in Los Angeles, it moves upward through California, hitting Seattle before heading east, and visiting Sturgis, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, D.C., Charlotte, Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas before crossing the checkered flag in front of the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles.  A true lap of America.”

The camera cuts to Sherman.  “Now since we have been given only three hours to present this historic event.  Most of the trip has already been completed.  Nathan, where are you now?”

Nathan smiles and answers, “I am in wild Las Vegas and getting ready to throttle down to L.A..”

To which Sherman replies, “We will be bringing it to you live along with highlights of the journey taken.”

“Roll on!”  Nathan shouts as he jumps into the seat of the Corvette and hits the start button.

The Conversation

(Just a little fun every author has.)

“Don’t do it.”  The voice whispers as I rub my bleary eyes with the heels of my palms.

“Why shouldn’t I?”  I ask “It seems like a fun way to get a story going.”

“Because of the ramifications.” The voice warns.  “Strong, very strong ramifications.”

Sadie, my yellow lab starts bouncing around and running to the door.  She had just been out less than twenty minutes ago, but she acting like she hasn’t been out in a decade.  Reluctantly I get up and follow her out the door.

“It’s been years since I’ve had this idea.” I state as Sadie waters the lawn.  “Why won’t you let this one grow?”

“It’s too soon.”  The voice calls back.  “The world is not ready for it.”

I follow Sadie back in and close the door behind me.  “Too soon?”  I ask.  “When is it too soon for Sci-Fi to be written?”

“When it can compel others to act upon the ideas before they are mature enough.”

“Oh now you’re grasping at straws.”  I snap back.  “Comic books have been out since the Fifties and nobody’s trying to grow claws or bond metal to their skeleton.”

“No but they have mixed animal DNA with plants just to see what happens.”   The voice counters.

“Yeah.” I agree, relenting on this point. “”But it was going to happen eventually.”

“Yes, but we made sure it happened at the right time.”  The voice comments.  “It’s what we do.”

“Sure you did.”  I chuckle.  “Like you’re not a manifestation of too much Pepsi and too little sleep cause by the time change this week.”

“Are you so sure?”  The voice asks.  “Maybe I’m from the future communicating to you through your own thoughts inside your mind.”

I take another sip of Pepsi.  “Right.  Uh-huh.  Sure you are.  And I’m the Flamenco King of Zaire.”

“I see the Theta waves are getting to you.”  The voice replies dryly.

“Theta waves. Yeah sure.”

The voice explains, “Theta waves are what we use to communicate across both time and space.  It’s how we can observe different species in different places at different moments in history without interfering with the timeline.”

“Ah.”  I comment, “The almighty ‘Time Directive’.  Just like in Star Trek.   But one thing.  You’re breaking that directive by talking to me.  In essence, you are changing the timeline.  That is, if you were real and not a figment of my imagination.  Overactive imagination.”

“Interesting that you would bring up Star Trek” The voice says. “The Star Trek era of exploration only happens after the population of Earth comes joins together over their political, economic, and religious differences.”

“Yeah.”  I counter. “But that only happens after a nuclear war and the influence of Vulcans.”

“Imagine what would happen if that unification never happened.”  The voice offers.  “What untold misery would it bring onto others?  Disease?  War? Genocide?  The wholesale slaughter done to innocents by the thoughtless acts of humans too immature to even conceive of the risks they pose just by stepping onto alien soil? Is this what you would have?”

My mouth tightens before I swig down more Pepsi.  “Dude.  Lighten up.  They’re just stories.”

“Yes they are.  But they can inspire people with degrees or dreams to build the platforms to leave without humanity being ready for it.  That is why you must stop before doing this.”

“Is this why you had Windows do an ungodly long service package to my computer tonight?  Because if that is so, it was not cool!  That damn thing took a half hour out of my writing time.  I hated that!”

The voice rises a little in my head; instinctively I know that’s the best it can do to yell.  “Listen!  If this goes forth, whole planets will die out including Earth.”

“Why would the Earth die?”  I ask.

“In retaliation to all the deaths and suffering  on other planets caused by humans.”  The voice replies.  “Surely you didn’t think our actions wouldn’t have consequences.”

I sit blankly at this.

The voice implores. “You must wait until humanity has evolved before sharing your ideas.  They must lay dormant for now.  Let your treasures lie buried until discovered at the proper time.”

I lean back in my chair and take a deep breath.

“Nah.”  I decide.  “I’m going to go through with this.  It’s going to be fun.  It would happen eventually anyway.   Besides you forgot the biggest Star Trek theory of all.  There is a dimension for every choice to be made or not made.  A dimension for when I turned left and one when I turned right.  For all I know this dimension is the one where I write these stories and nothing happens other than entertaining people.  Beside, for all I know, you’re just a creative play of words used to aid in me filling this story.”

My head is silent as I post this up to Word Press and go to bed.

The hunt for Wolverines

Ice coated the lenses of my glasses as the wind buffeted my body, forcing me to lean into it like a reluctant lover.

It was only early October, but this was Sault Ste. Marie and winter was here.  I should’ve known it was coming when I saw utility workers attaching orange bicycle flags to the top of fire hydrants around campus.  The flags were six feet tall.  There was no way they needed to be that high.  Or so I thought.

I had walked around town dozens of times now. Being a student in a new area was exciting.   It was as far away from Detroit as I could think of at the time while still being in the state. There was familiarity in the bridge to Canada, the gas stations, Mc Donald’s, and I-75; and yet it was so different.  Smaller, quieter, cleaner. Geese waddled in the large field next to the school parking.  Rust from the slag in the cement gave the roads a reddish hue that matched the metal roofs of the college. It was almost exotic.

All of that escaped me as I trudged forward. The only thing that mattered was getting some boots.  Some good boots.  I was wearing my new winter coat and was amazed at how well it fought the weather.  It was made from a then new material called “thinsulite” and kept you warm without having all the bulk of traditional winter coats.  I could twist and move freely as I walked up the road without doing my best impression of the Michelin man. I loved it and I wanted boots that could match.

The wind was there when I started the journey.  Lake Superior State University (Lake State) sits on top of a hill and has two sides of it open to the river and a bay which brings an almost constant breeze.  (Sometimes, something more.)  It’s something you get used to.  What I didn’t expect was the sleet.  The wind drove the sleet forcefully down Ashmund street and into the opening of my hood.  My cheeks, already burning red from the winds and cold temps flared against the pelting.  Ice droplets the size of salt grains blasted against my skin while frosting my glasses and caking the front of my jeans.

I turned around and pulled out a bandana to wipe my lenses. Shoving it my pocket, I turned again to continue on. I made it about a block.  This started a curious dance.  Fight the wind and sleet for a block, turn and clean so I could see.  Walk, stop, turn, clean.  Walk, stop turn, clean. Somewhere along the way I gave up using the soaked and half frozen bandana to wipe my glasses and instead wrapped around my half frozen face to keep the stinging of the sleet down.  It took me twice as long, but I reached the store.

“What are you doing?  Dressing for Halloween?” Came the greeting from the store owner.

I smiled as I shook off my hood and pulled the bandana from my face.   I knew I looked ridiculous, especially to the natives, but didn’t care.  I didn’t see anyone else walking on the streets, native or not.  I proved my toughness, now I was going to get my reward.

Walking up and down the aisles, I unzipped my coat.  It was hot inside in comparison to the outside and I was beginning to sweat. Finding the boots, I looked at my choices. One had caught my eye.  It was a nice tan color with rubber  around the base of it and flowing over the toe area.  Being five inches tall, it reminded me of high-top basketball shoes. I searched for my size.  None were to be had.  I was disappointed.  They would’ve been perfect.  They were small but rugged, and they even had thinsulite in them.  Damn the luck!

Gazing to my right was another pair of boots.  Same brand, same features, but not as nice.  They were taller and had a dull, dark brown color instead of the bright yellow tan of the ones I really wanted.  Still they were well built and had a tongue that featured sewn in sides to keep the snow out.  They would work.

Throwing off my soaked sneakers, I pulled on the boots.  They seemed comfortable if heavy.  Tucking in my jean cuffs, I laced them and tied them tight.  With my sneakers in the box I paid the forty dollars plus tax, zipped up, and headed back to the dorm.  The three mile walk was easier with the wind at my back and new boots on my feet.  I almost enjoyed it.  That was, until I turned on Easterday Avenue and the wind changed to hit me square in the face.

Finding a guide: Three books of wildcraft and survival

Bushcraft books

“I’d love to hike in the wilds of Alaska.”

“I can help you with that.”

“You can”

“Absolutely.  Just one question.”

“What is it?”

“Do you want a guide or do you just want to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere?”

This opportunity was offered to me years ago.  As much as I wanted to go, I turned it down.  I didn’t think my wife would like me “camping” for six months without helping out with the bills, among other things.  The other reason was, I didn’t think I was skilled enough to last that long in the wild without support.

Oddly enough, I never considered the use of a guide, even though that was an option.  Hunters and explorers use guides all the time.  Their knowledge of the area is something I would not have going in.  It is an advantage that should not be ignored.

But what if you want to go it alone?  How do you go about learning the skills needed?  You could take some lessons.  There are schools that teach bushcraft or wilderness survival.  The classes aren’t cheap though.  They can start from $350 and go to $800 for a one week class.  (And that doesn’t include the destination cost, or the costs of food, hotel, and gear.)  Your class might cost more than your dream adventure.

You could check out Youtube for lessons, but what if the person you’d prefer doesn’t make videos?

You can educate yourself by reading their books.  This gives you the opportunity to learn new skills and work on them at your pace with a substantially lower out of pocket cost.  The downside is that you don’t have the instructor there to show you what you are doing wrong if you can’t get that specific exercise down.  (This is where having videos help.  More on that later.)

I currently have three “Wilderness survival” handbooks in my library and while there are similarities, the authors who write them had distinctly different styles.  This is both good and bad.  A person you might like from TV or Youtube might be too dry or too, “out there” in book form.  On the other hand, if you go in with no perceived notions, you will easily pick out the book that fits your personality.  This is a great advantage and will help inspire you to succeed.

Of the authors, two are widely known and the third is somewhat known.  They are Dave Cantebury, Cody Lundin, and Tom Brown Jr.  I’m going to start with Tom first

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Tom Brown Jr is the first person I heard about who was into Wilderness Survival.  It is the title of his handbook, but to say he is a survivalist would be wrong.  In the book, Tom talks about the lessons he learned from his adoptive grandfather and all the time he spends in the eastern pines of New Jersey.  His book teaches Native American skills for living in the wilderness while being a conservationist.  Tom spends many pages explaining the different shelters you can build, but goes further by describing where they should be built and what mistakes he made along the way.

 

 

 

Tom Brown Jr’s book is also the only book of the three to have a section on edible and medicinal plants.  Each plant listed has its common name, scientific name, a plate drawing, description, general habitat, (Don’t expect to read what zone or climate here) range, food, medicine, and other uses.  I’m very leery of any medicinal qualities of plants until they are cross checked for truth. The points of other uses for these plants, though, is worth the price of the book alone.   Knowing what plant is best for making a specific tool, helpful for fire, or an insect repellent is worth its weight in my opinion.

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Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival also talks about attitude, water, fire, shelter, hunting, trapping, fishing, cooking, preserving, tools and crafts.  All written as if the author is talking to you one on one.

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This is my first book on wilderness skills and is still one of my favorites.  I do recommend pairing it with a good tree/plant identification book with full photographs so you can better identify the plants he describes in his book.

 

Cody Lundin’s 98.6 Degrees (The art of keeping your ass alive) is very different from Tom’s and Dave’s book.  There are no plant descriptions here, no primitive shelter instructions, no animal track guidelines, and definitely no hunting skills.  Cody focuses on only one thing in this book, how to survive until rescued.

With such a singular focus, you’d think his book would be rather thin.  Nope.  It’s 215 pages long and is the only book of the three to have color photos in it.

 

Cody goes through the entire process of being lost to being found.  With a large amount of paper being spent on mind set.  He hammers home the fact that your outlook and attitude go a long way towards your survival when lost in the wild.  Cody brings up the truth about fear, how it affects the body, and how to control it. He talks about weather, hypothermia, starvation, dehydration, and how to avoid these problems.

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Cody guides you in making your own personal survival kit.  He keeps it basic and doesn’t include anything that a novice couldn’t figure out how to use.  It gives you the basics without breaking the bank.  (Or your back)

98.6 degrees is also the only book that mentions to not only tell someone where you are going and how long you will be, but also describe what you are driving, the gear you have with you and other ways of identifying yourself and your direction if you are lost.

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Cody writes his book in the same fashion as John Muir did when he wrote his famous VW repair guide for the complete idiot.  (John Muir the VW fan, not Muir the conservationist.)  His book is full of lush cartoon panels and interesting characters.  It fits perfectly with his Hippie image.

 

The last book is Dave Cantebury’s Bushcraft 101 – A field guide to the art of wilderness survival.  Dave’s book falls in between Tom’s and Cody’s.  It leans heavily towards early camping and long term living in the woods than it does survival.

Early camping, sometimes called bushcrafting, takes its roots back in the late 1890’s to 1910’s era of camping.  It was the first version of light camping though carrying a small amount of equipment and making what you need along the way.  Dave brings up the early eastern camping pioneers of Horace Kephart and George Nessmuk Sears and updates their philosophies to our modern times.

Dave divides his book into two parts:  Gear and camping.

In the Gear sections he defines what are the 5 C’s and ways of using the tools need for each category.  He talks about what was carried back in the day and how they can be used in today’s world. Dave shows you shelters made from tarp or branches, various useful knots, and how to make a stove stand.

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In the camping section, Dave talks about set up, hygiene, the different types of fire kays, navigation by compass, measuring distances, figuring time by daylight, tree identification and uses, trapping and processing game.

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Bushcraft 101 also comes with an appendix on edible and medicinal plants.  It is very basic.  There are no pictures or drawing of the plants, no scientific names or areas found, but it does have a wonderful description of poultice, infusion, decoction, and ash.  Something I wish Tom had done in his book.

Dave also throws in some camp recipes for your adventurous spirit.

If you want the textbook on Bushcraft/Woodcraft/Wildcraft, this is it.  If you’re hoping for a personal conversation with Dave, look elsewhere.  Dave wrote this book like speaking at a lecture.  Just the facts. Personally, I was disappointed by this.  I was hoping to have a little more one on one story time with Dave, like I did with Tom.  I wasn’t looking for what he learned from his father per say, but his lessons would hit home better if he attached a few camp stories with them.

The bright side is that all of Dave’s chapter and subchapter items can be supplemented by his videos on you tube.  You will have to search his channel to find them, but it’s a benefit that can’t be overstated.  Reading the book and seeing how he does it brings you as close to the classroom as possible without being there.

So there you go.  Three different books by three different authors with three different styles.

All bring up the basic survival needs:

  • Attitiude
  • Knife
  • Shelter
  • Water container
  • Rope
  • Lighter or other fire starter

Two talk about plants (one in depth, one extremely basic)

One talks about the proper communication needed before venturing out your door as well as having a way to communicate to others if needed for a rescue.

All will help you stay safer than you would without their knowledge.

All will give you more confidence in yourself as you practice the skills taught and the kits built.

All will make your time in the bush a little more enjoyable.

Anyone of them is worth the money.  All you have to do is choose which is best for you.

See you on the trail.

Smoking in the backyard.

I’ve recently found out about a old style of minimalist camping called Bushcraft.  It was created in the late 1800s and focuses on using skills to replace equipment so you don’t need to carry as much and keep your negative impact on the land as low as possible.  (It also is a great way for those with a very low budget to get into the hobby.)

Wanting to learn more, I discovered Bushcraft USA, a website that has tons of information on the subject.  In the forum section, there is a section called Bushclass that is chock full of lessons and exercises to motivate you.  (You have to join the forums to see this section.) It’s like scouting but at your own pace.  There are pictures or videos of how to do the exercise and a section to post your attempt at it.  The guy, Sgt Mac, who created the class broke it down into three sections:  Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced.  I dove in deep and so far have done ten of the thirteen required exercises along with completing three of five electives.  I just finished an exercise of making a twig fire. You’d think it would be easy, but I figured out a way to complicate it.

Here’s how I reported it.

First, normally I would just use palm frond stalks and be done with it, but since this is a twig fire, I wanted to do it right.  I collected small oak branches three weeks to a month ago for this exercise, then I piled them up nicely by my firewood to let them age/dry. Surprisingly, its been a moist month. Lot’s of heavy fog in the morning and three showers, one two nights ago. Yep. The wood was still wet. You could bend it almost in half before seeing a split. (No cracking sound whatsoever.)

It took roughly an hour to cut up the twigs using hand pruners. (The wood had dried enough to the point of being hard to cut with the pruners)

Since I was doing this, I figured I’d try and use some Spanish moss as fire starter. Grabbed a bunch and pulled it apart until I found some that felt dry to the touch. I placed the old, half burned wood in a platform and rested the moss there as I continued to work on the twigs.

Three sizes stacked up in separate piles along with a starter set, I was ready to go.

Try out the ol’ ferro rod and…

Nothing.

I was getting enough spark. No problem there, but it just wasn’t catching on the moss. Maybe it’s too wet or needs air. I pulled at it and fluffed it a little.

Again, nothing.

Sweat was dripping off my brow. (It was 80 something which is overly hot for this time of year, even in Florida.)

“That’s it! Time for the big guns.” I went to my pack and pulled out my fire bag. Inside was the starter I knew would work. Pompous grass heads. These things are like pulled cotton and roughly six inches in size. They take a spark quick and burn hot! I took a quarter of it and shoved it under the Spanish moss.

-Skritch!- The striker scratched along the ferro rod.

-Whoomp!- The fluff lit up instantly.

The moss over it didn’t light! It must’ve been wetter than I thought. Disgusted with it, I tossed it aside.

Pulling out more pomp grass fluff, I tried again. Again it lit beautifully, but the twigs would not catch. They must be too wet and too smooth on the outside.

So I took a few that I knew to be the driest (They actually snapped when I bent them by hand.) and feather sticked them.

I pushed the twig pile aside, noticed some unburned pompous grass and hit is with the rod. As it burned I set the feather sticks on it one by one. Yay! The took! I rolled the twig pile back over the burning tinder.

-Sssssss.- The twigs sizzled. Wow. Those twigs were really wet! But they caught and man did they smoke. I’ve made many fires in this pit and this was undoubtedly the smokiest one ever. But it held and it grew.

Time for some pictures.

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That should be roughly knee high.

Pictures done, I took the rest of the twigs and threw them on. After all that work, I was damned if I was not going to use them. The flame got really high. Higher than I like to be honest. It settled down quickly enough though and I threw in my new cup and a tin of cloth for some other experiments.

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I wanted to see how quickly the cup would boil the water and make some char-cloth for my fire starter kit.  (Char-cloth is a fabric version of charcoal.  It’s made of cotton, and lights easily with a spark so if you don’t have a lighter, you can still start a camp fire fairly easy. It also burns slower than the Pompous grass puff I used so the twigs would have a better chance of igniting.)

After those were done and the twigs pretty reduced to ash, I put out the fire. Again smoke billowed from the pit as water poured onto the wood and coals.

It took a bit of work, but I got my twig fire going. I was happy.

Ten minutes after I cleaned up a siren howled outside. Gee. I hope it wasn’t for me.

Dreams under the tree

Truimph Brown 2

Two cars sit unwanted.  One in the garage, one on the driveway.  Memories of times gone by shone through the wear.  Jaunty stripes, dual pipes, and a wooden wheel recall the carefree days of the sixties while the awkward bumpers, overly large side markers, and plastic wheel are scars born from the imposed commands of the late seventies.

Triumph Blue 1

Triumph Brown 1

Through the age, past the wear, both peer out on the road as an elderly dog in the kennel; silently yearning for someone to take them home and give them a chance to run just one more time.

The roads are full of younger pups now.  Fashion and culture dictate a new king and the Miata is it.  His reign has lasted decades and seemingly will last forever.

The old cars can’t compete.  There times, even when new, were more than double those of the Miata.  Even a Honda Fit would leave them in the dust.  The braking isn’t that much better.  Drums against disks.  Pedal modulation vs. Antilock Systems.  Dark ages against modern times.

Triumph Blue 2

But the gems still shine from underneath.  There are rewards to be had.  Two cars from a time when owning meant more than just driving.  It was a time of familiarity, of courtships and relations.  Understanding the car, knowing what it can do, what it needs, how to take care of it.  A perfect primer for getting married and raising children.  Patience, loyalty, and sometimes, even hardships, would be rewarded with joy, thrills, accomplishment, contentment, and even serenity.  They’ll never be as fast as the newer cars, but no new car will ever be as intimate as these two.

There is soul buried deep within these sheets of metal.

Will someone try to find it?