Thursday, September 24, 2009

Weekend Workshop 9/09

Basic Workshop 9/20/09

In spite of rain on Saturday, and I’m talking frog floating, snake choking, gully washing torrents of rain our Basic Weekend Workshop was loads of fun. (actually the rain and cloud cover was a welcome respite from the Florida heat) We were a little short on the number of people that attended. Three people had to cancel due to work schedules but I tend to prefer small classes anyway.

One thing the rain did provide was a challenge. The students were given a very real demonstration of how difficult it can be to start a fire when everything around you is wet. Not only was it difficult to find dry tinder, even dry kindling and squaw wood was hard to come by.  We had to resort to tricks of the trade like whittling away the outer bark of limbs and making little sticks out of big sticks to get to dry wood.

Finding dry tinder that would catch a spark from our fire steels was the biggest challenge. There were no cattail punks left around the ponds ( too late in the season)  most all the palm tree bark and leaf fibers were damp and even digging under piles of pine needles produced nothing suitable. It took a lot of poking around but eventually one of the students found some dry Palm Tree trunk fibers at the base of a jack. With that little bit of dry tinder we were then able to get our fires going.

The rain and super high humidity  also taught some of the students another valuable lesson: keep your sleeping bags dry. Although warned, a couple of guys didn’t pay attention and ended up getting very little sleep that night due to wet sleeping bags and water in their tent. This time of year with night time temperatures in the upper 70’s, there’s not much danger of hypothermia but under different circumstances and if the temperature had dropped even 10 or 15 degrees  you can bet they would have been cold. Another lesson learned the hard way.

While doing our nature walk I did my usual combination of basic navigation skills, lost proofing, scouting for natural shelters and materials, foraging for food and collecting any and all natural or discarded man made items that might prove useful for survival. Along the borders of some of the more heavily timbered areas we were able to find several Wild Plum Trees with enough ripe fruit for several meals.   Fox Grape vines were very plentiful, they grow all over the area,  but we could find no ripe grapes. I’ve noticed this to be somewhat true for most of the South East region. Last year it seems almost every vine had grapes, this year there are very few. Of course we found many of the familiar -  and can almost always be counted on - local edibles: small plots of Prickly Pear, center sprouts of the Palmetto, Pond Lilies and one Persimmon Tree – which I totally forgot to point out.

Our shelter building session went very well - excellent as a matter of fact. This group of students made some of the best natural shelters I’ve seen in a while. And that was with very little instruction or input from me. One student in particular, a 15 year old, made a free standing shelter entirely from natural materials. All the material was either already dead and basically dry. No cutting or breaking of live plants what-so-ever. Just the way I like it.

So to wrap up – it was a great class and I’m hoping my students had as much fun as I. I certainly hope they  will remember and practice some of the skills I taught and as always – I too learned a great deal.

No comments:

Post a Comment