Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend skills

I think being able to travel on foot quickly and for long distances is an important survival skill to have. It is more important than being strong so I have stopped lifting weights and started running. I am also in a basketball league so I'm trying to get in shape for that. So far I can barely make 2 miles without stopping.

I ran at the park Sunday and afterwards sneaked into my sit spot. It was a little after noon, and I was sweaty so I figured there wouldn't be much activity. Noon is one of the less active times of day as animals are often avoiding the mid day heat. Animals also pick up on human scent so extra sweat wasn't doing me any good.

Yet after 10-15 minutes a muskrat came swimming by and never looked in my direction. He was literally 8 yards in front of me. I had never really seen anything besides birds and squirrels there so it was a very pleasant surprise. Right after the muskrat swam by I looked upstream from where he came and saw a family of mallards. Soon after that a pair of American goldfinches, birds I'd never seen there, flew in and played in the tree to my left for awhile. As soon as they left I looked up to see two mallards flying overhead. They crossed the stream and then made a tight descending circle and landed in the stream to my left.

It all happened in a 10 minute time span. It was pretty unexpected and pleasant as if a reward for getting myself in shape.


I've been meaning to experience eating wild plants. While at the park I tried some young spruce needles as I was running. I think they are edible however I haven't seen them in any wild edible book I've read. They tasted pretty good and the texture was enjoyable. I also grabbed some chives that grow with the grass. There's something cool about being able to just grab plants and eat them as your walking by.

When I got home it was time to mow the lawn. Our lawn as most has dandelions. These are unacceptable weeds to most people. Since I'm trying to sell my house, I figured it would be a good idea to remove them. To kill two birds with one stone, I decided to remove them and eat them.

Below is a dandelion. Notice the size and length of the root.

I referenced "Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants" to find out which parts were edible. The leaves and flower heads can be eaten raw so I tried that.

I've eaten the leaves in the past and I think the key is to make sure they are young leaves. Anything old or big enough to have fuzz is too woody. I also tried to boiling the leaves for five minutes. This did get rid of some of the bitterness but the texture isn't as nice as when they're raw.

Finally, I dried the roots in the sun and then baked them in the oven for 3-4 hours. The now brittle roots will be ground up to make tea. I haven't tried this yet but look forward to it.

For another look at eating from the yard, check out Rix's blog here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Easter Flintknapping

Over Easter weekend my brother and I worked on a chunk of obsidian he brought. Also with him were many antler billets he made. We took turns spalling. It was my first time using antler so it was a learning experience. I wasn't used to striking so hard. As we are both still beginners we didn't really end up with a meaningful piece although we knocked of many nice spalls.

In the picture below I (left) am holding the best spall I knocked off. After we finished with the big rock, we both worked on smaller pieces.

I continued the work on my piece last night. I was pretty happy with the overall shape of the piece. I had a good center line and the piece was pretty symmetrical. There was however a stack of mass I wanted to remove. There were step fractures protecting the stack from three sides so I had one angle to attack from.

I was worried that if I didn't push hard enough, I would make another step fracture and then I'd be totally screwed so I pushed really hard. It turns out that I pushed too hard and flaked all the way across the point and up towards the tip.

In the picture below, the flake was pushed from the bottom left to the middle right. The path of the flake is the glossy area. Also notice how the stone is convex on the upper right. This was concave before I took the flake.

What I learned:
  • First experience with antler and stone billets and an ishi stick
  • Be more aggressive with thinning during percussion flaking. Strike harder than I'm used to.
  • Got the feel for how much pressure is need to take the flake I want with out leaving a stack (too little pressure) or overshooting (too much pressure).
This was my best point to date so I know I'm improving.