Monday, March 1, 2010

Man's best friend

Bob Jones 2000-2010
He was my shadow, the most handsome dog in the world and today after fighting hard for life he passed on to the meadow's in the sky to forever run in long grass and play in the brooks as long as he wants.

The title at the top of the blog talks about the trials and tribulations well Bob certainly had his own trials and this last week was the worst yet, he finally succumbed to a large growth on his liver.

He was my constant companion and at times could be a pest especially when I was trying to do a fiddly job he would nudge my arm constantly to play or throw the ball or just give him a stroke. I would try to be angry with him but it would be fleeting as he would smile back at me and wag his tail furiously.

He kept me fit by walking me at every opportunity and always just ahead checking the way and investigating every sniff and sound. He was my best friend asking nothing of me other than time and company, leaning into my legs as he sat by me and emitting a happy rumble deep in his chest as I rubbed his flanks.

He leaves behind two very sad people and his protege Erik who will miss him as he has this last week but dogs are stronger than people, I know it will take a long time to get over his passing but eventually I'll look back with love and affection and remember only the good times.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Maple syrup

Last year I missed out on making Maple syrup, I left it too long, this year I made sure I was going to reap the harvest.
The big Maple at the front of the house was one of four trees selected for sap collection.
I drilled a two inch hole and used Elder stems which had been de-barked and the pith taken out as taps, they seem to work ok.
Approx 40 litres of sap was collected and this gave me enough to get approx 1 litre of syrup.

A tripod was set up to boil the syrup over an open fire, I tried making some on the kitchen stove the day before and you could almost hear Nova Scotia Power flicking the switch on the extra turbine to fulfill my power needs so I cut some dead standing apple which gave a high heat and long burn with no sparks or spitting embers.The pot was filled twice in small increments to try and keep the boil going and eventually the water content was brought down and a litre of syrup was obtained.

 A pilliated woodpecker sat on top of the big Maple, I managed to get this photo while waiting for the sap to evaporate, I never seem to get a decent photo of these, the size of these bird  amazes me their twice the size of any woodpecker in the U.K.

As you can see in the photo the syrup has darkened considerably  and is very near to the end product.This took around four hours of constant boiling The syrup was filtered twice to remove any foreign bodies and canned.
After leaving to cool the syrup was still a bit too runny, not quite thick enough but certainly sweet enough, I'll keep the heat up a little longer at the end for the next batch to ensure a thicker consistency.

Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating and these tasted very good, pancakes and maple syrup, life doesn't get any better.

Monday, February 8, 2010


The hand hauled toboggan, ever since reading A Snow Walkers Companion I've wanted to make one of these and with Nick over from the U.K. it seemed a good project to do while we were waiting for the snow.

Cutting the planks, ordinarily the planks would be split from the log but I wanted to get the most out of this tree so I used my Alaskan sawmill attatchment to cut the planks.
The planks needed to be 14 inches wide but this tree was the best of a poor bunch and the plank averaged 10-12inches, not quite wide enough but we made do.

Planks were marked out with a chalk string and cut to shape.
The planks were cut approx 3/8inch thick

A steamer box was made and the plank left in for 2 hours.
Our first plank was left at 3/8inch thick at the head and when we tried to bend it broke across the width.

The next plank had the same response so we needed to go back to the drawing board.

The third plank was planed down to 14inch or less at the head and instead of trying to get the bend in one go we learnt a lesson from bow making and tillered it (bending in small degrees until the wood took the curve, where the curve was flat we sanded down until the curve was flowing.

After each sanding we wet the plank down and cinched the restraining cords a little more until the curve was to our liking.
We left the toboggan to dry for a few days, added cross bars, running and hauling lines and waxed the running surface.

We then tested it by pulling the toboggan to our camp site, it tracked quite well in our snowshoe tracks but did have a tendency to side slip and topple when traversing slopes.
On flat ground it runs like a dream, just need the rivers to freeze up and away we go.

Winter camping

First I must apologise for the lack of bloggage over the last few months, ordinary life seems to take over at times.

Well I finally got to spend some time camping this winter along with a friend of mine and fellow bushcraft instructor Nick Gallup -(
When Nick flew out from the U.K. I think he left more snow behind than he found here, it's been a very strange start to the winter, we had snow early on and then it completely disappeared until the last weeks of January when it snowed heavily and stayed due to a good cold snap.

The original aim of the trip was to shake down the gear close to home and then get up in the Cape Breton highlands, with the lack of snow the first week and a half was spent in my work shop making toboggans, a moose sled and mukluks, another blog will go into more detail on the process of making the basics of winter travel.

What changed the plan?
Pulling toboggans on frozen rivers is a whole different ball game to pulling over hills and through wooded land. I need to give up the smokes and get fitter.

Weather- a storm blew in over Cape Breton with 100km + winds, so discretion was the order of the day and we camped on the bottom land after the storm moved through.

The shake down highlighted my lack of experience in winter camping and gave us lots of food for thought not least is the planning that is required, it's not like camping in the U.K. where you are pretty much within walking distance of help and succour, get into trouble in the highlands and you are many many miles from help.

So at the end of the day the right decisions were made and trouble was avoided, lets face it we do this for fun, not to endanger ourselves and others.

The really interesting part of the 3 weeks for me personally was the making of our kit, learning how to get that graceful curve on the front of the toboggan, marvelling at the warmth and comfort of mukluks, using the snowshoes that I made and talking things through with a like minded friend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Well Fall is definitely here the colours are magnificent, the nights are getting crispy and the days are quite sunny which are ideal conditions for good fall colours.

I've been helping Chuck a Friend of mine cutting next years fuel wood, it's great working in the woods now as there are no black fly and it's not too hot, most of what we're cutting is maple that has grown from the stumps of a previous cut 40-50 years ago so they are not too big a tree to handle. Some of the stumps are massive they must have been magnificent trees in their time.

The chickens have finally produced their first egg and what an egg, a double yoker, well straight in the frying pan this morning and it tasted very good, they just need to up the production rate now.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bow making

I've been bow making for the last few days, at first I tried to make a self bow of Elm but I had major problems with string follow (that is where the bow bends too much towards the string before it has been strung) the main reason for this is pulling too much when tillering the bow (thanks John) and wood that hasn't seasoned enough. So I laminated Elm to Maple and had much better success. The bow on the tillering jig is a long bow style and pulls 55lb @ 28 inches.

This Bald Eagle decided to stop by, not sure if he was eyeing the chickens or mary the cat as a meal, either way they all made themselves scarce.
He stayed for quite a while but eventually got mobbed by crows so he moved on.

The bear is still down on the meadow every now and again we smell him and see his faeces or sick, but still no sightings.

Winter is getting close I need to start making some snowshoes, I made a deal with a neighbour who weaves, one pair of shoes for a woven sash(Metis style) cool.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I took a leaf out of the bears diet and have been making choke cherry jelly and crab apple jelly, Whole small crabs in syrup and my favourite marmalade with whisky (not that the bears eat this). I'm new to this preserving lark and even though I say it myself they have turned out very edible. The basement is looking quite healthy now with 400lb potatoes, 50lb carrots, 40lb onions and preserves, it will be interesting to see how they fair through the winter down there.