Monday, February 27, 2012

The Late Afternoon Walk

We take walks in the late afternoon, my five blue heelers and I. Well, sometimes it’s only three of my heelers since two of them are 16 years old and don’t always feel like walking long distances. It’s a quiet time, a time for contemplation and solitude.  In fact, woods roaming is perhaps the one activity I look forward to all day long. A day without being in the woods is more than merely a day lost: It is a day without meaning. For the late afternoon walk allows me time to do a hundred different things all at once, as if every second compresses every feature of who I am into a single reality. Yes, two to four miles of walking at least five times a week is good exercise. And yes, it gives me a chance to occasionally use some of my bushcraft skills. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m not going out to impress myself with my abilities to make bow-drills or feather sticks or fashion a primitive campsite. Instead, I am walking in order to be.  Yes, it’s that simple. I am who I am when I am in the woods.  A man of modest pleasures perhaps, but in my life the sight of a great-horned owl sitting atop a mesquite near sunset, or listening to the silence while watching clouds following their own trails across the skies is enough to bring happiness.  I do not seek the approval of others by living my life through their eyes. For me it is only the woods. And when I am gone perhaps someone will say about my life, “He loved the woods.” That will suffice. For in those four words the facts of my life, whether good or bad, will have been distilled into one simple fact.

“He loved the woods.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

South Texas Wildflowers

Spring is officially several weeks away.  But in South Texas things don’t often follow the rules.  Here, the spring wildflowers have emerged and the days are warming fast.  Over the next few weeks the color combinations will change and predominantly yellow and white landscapes will turn blue, red, orange, lavender and other assorted shades.  Meadows and clearings will take on a kaleidoscope of evolving hues.  And, for a few weeks at least, the temperature will be tolerable, perhaps even pleasant.

Last summer I resolved not to spend anymore summers in the region.  With rising temperatures seen yearly for the last decade, (over twenty years, in fact) and with predictions of increasing droughts, blazing summers, chaotic winters and all the other ills associated with what every reputable scientist around the world has said are indicators of growing climatic pandemonium, I’ve decided to spend my summers in cooler climes.

Last year there were few wildflowers.  A seemingly interminable drought reduced the foliage to nothing more than withered stems.  Monstrous fires, some stretching across tens of thousands of acres, ravaged the landscape and turned the skies a murky brown.  In some areas you could drive for miles and never leave the smell of smoke.  Only the mesquite, brasil, granjeno, chaparro prieto, lotebush, junco, huisache, anacua and another couple dozen hardwoods seemed to survive.  In fact, those hardwoods (some growing no more than a few meters high while others grow tall enough to provide a meaningful and critical shade) have been the great salvation for the region.  Ironically, some people have indulged in all out attempts to eradicate the brushlands.  Their folly has been brutal for both wildlife and the land itself.  It seems that greed and narcissism play continually bigger hands in a country that embraces a predatory economic system.  In the end not only humans suffer but the land itself.

But for now in this isolated world where I live, the flowers survive as well.  Yes, there are those who would destroy even the flowers if given the chance.  Their minds are as far from mine as Earth from Pluto. 

For those of you who take pleasure in bushcraft or woodcraft, I hope you always keep in mind that without nature your enjoyment is impossible.  Every real woodcrafter is at heart…..Let me see, what is that phrase?  Oh yes, a “tree hugger.”  And damn proud of it too!

Enjoy the flowers, my friends.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rawhide that Tomahawk

Some people complain about tomahawk heads working loose. So here’s a quick tip on securing a tomahawk head onto the handle. Wrap a piece of wet rawhide around the base of the tomahawk head and then allow it to dry. Make sure you wrap it tightly. I secure the wrap by looping each subsequent wrap under the loop that preceded it and then using my Swiss Army Knife screwdriver to push the remaining strand under the wrap. I usually get my rawhide from dog chews purchased at the grocery store and then cut the chew into strands from 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. You’d best cut it to the quarter inch mark for the wrap that should be at least 30 inches long. Once the rawhide has thoroughly dried it will be hard and will have shrunk considerably thus creating a strong hold that should keep the tomahawk head in place. Of course, the main thing is to make sure your tomahawk handle is properly contoured to form a proper fit. I've seen tomahawk handles that were much too loose and that is frustrating because the heads keep sliding down. So give the rawhide wrap a try. You can keep a small roll of rawhide in your possibles bag and use it for other things as well like wrapping your crooked knife blade to a handle. And one more note: Keep a tube of bees wax lip balm in your bag. Besides using it to keep your lips from becoming chapped, you can also use it to coat the rawhide to keep it waterproof. You can use it to coat the ends of a bow stave to prevent checking. The list goes on and on.