Bushcraft

I added bushcraft as a category because it’s one of my interests, but I haven’t posted about it any more than I’ve practiced it. I end up being more armchair and wishful thinking than practitioner. I watch videos of others. I wish I’d known to take advantage of the opportunity I had when I lived in the middle of the woods when I was a kid. It was some of my early YouTube viewing that led me to Alone when the show was new. I found Mitch Mitchell’s videos and was intrigued because he was obviously local. I could tell by the appearance of the woods where he shot videos, and then one day he had Market Basket matches.

This goes hand in hand with a prepper mindset. That’s something I grew up with. There were the grandparents who’d survived extreme poverty and acted accordingly the rest of their lives. Cue the importance of rotating your canned food and such. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been through extreme poverty and, by some standards, still am. Then there’s the Cold War mentality that never went away and had terrorism thrown on top of it. It really marks your psyche to grow up with the threat and even the assumption of the nukes raining down any time. As far as we knew there were no prime targets right around us. My grandfather’s employer’s munitions business was a thing of the past. The local testing grounds, secret at the time, were WW2 vintage. Boston and the route 128 region would have been a big target, though, so close enough.

I’m decidedly haphazard about these things. At any given time, as long as water and natural gas or other means of cooking were not an issue, depending on how we rationed it, five of us could go weeks on the food in the house. Take away electricity and we’d end up gorging on what’s in the freezer before rationing through the cabinets, but hey. There are useful things in the vehicles, but perhaps not complete or ideal sets of useful things. I could set up a pretty good camp out of the trunk of the car, for as many people as the car holds, but we’d pretty much be in the clothes on our backs and lacking things like blankets. The truck has less room and I’m less free to stuff things in behind the seats. It’s her baby. Otherwise it might have been replaced by something more practical years ago. Still. I had a scheme to equip it with a survival pack of sorts and just haven’t completed the task yet. A lot of the stuff I have that should be available to do that, or to grab and go from the house, is in “where did I put that” limbo.

That overlaps the set of things I take camping because they’ll be needed or just in case. Some of it’s sitting here in an undersized backpack that’s perfectly nice, but is a lesson in looking at specs when contemplating an Amazon purchase, and figuring out just what those dimensions it list will mean in person. I took it last summer to a friend’s cabin in Maine. I camped in the yard. It’s back up in the woods and on enough land to have been perfect for messing around. Build this or that type of natural shelter. That sort of thing. It was like 100 degrees The Whole Week and nobody wanted to do anything. Except go out to eat and go in the local pond repeatedly, giving myself a great opportunity to get severe swimmer’s ear. The same pond was the location of the July 4 fireworks and a little carnival, which was cool. Kids went on a few rides. Ironic, since we never go to the little carnival that finances the fireworks in our own town. Too expensive. Probably not far removed in cost from the one in Maine. But vacation! In Maine! So that’s different?

I don’t intend to go to the cabin again, even in the unlikely event the chance arises.. I haven’t put in for the vacation time I often take the week of the 4th, and have made no specific plans. It’s been a few years since I took the kids camping at the state forest. Last time it was pretty awful due to an invasion of what you might call city folk. For the kids camping = swimming. I might try going myself for 1-2 night outings just for away time. I may have talked about this when I grumbled about my difficulty focusing. Try doing some writing. Use paper. Otherwise I’d say do a bunch of reading, but reading isn’t as much of a problem. Anyway, the kids are getting old enough to have stronger opinions about going or not, and to be able to stay home if they choose. The youngest doesn’t like camping the way the other two do, and of course the wife simply doesn’t camp. The kids wouldn’t eat the campfire food I made that one time. We end up eating a lot of junk/convenience food or going to the local fast food. Sad.

Rambling aside, I’ve had ideas for a while now about incorporating bushcraft, or simply camping, into fiction. For that matter, the beta of the portion of a book that I started did just that. Kids are about to go camping with their dad when they find themselves in an alternate past, so they have backpacks and a couple things they’re carrying. They find themselves in a swampy woods and make themselves a shelter to sleep in the first night, after some initial exploration and finding a good spot. Complete with a nearby outhouse that existed in real life in that time and place. In our timeline, anyway.

One of the things I think about sometimes is incorporating a “survival” scenario, inspired by my own half-assed prepping and randomness, where you’re stuck getting by with what’s on you, or what’s in your vehicle, rather than with the ideal supplies. Shades of one of the periodic YouTuber scenarios. Lost hunter, all you have is a pocket knife (if that), for instance. Overnight with $10 in supplies picked from a dollar store or Walmart is always fun, but contrived. If I found myself off the road in my car and through hand waving a scenario wasn’t disabled but also couldn’t leave the area by much or get help, I wouldn’t have food and water. I wouldn’t have a pot for boiling water. I’d have more than one tarp and, last I knew, a tent. I’d have a tiny first aid kit and there might be a lighter or matches somewhere. I’d have no spare clothing, blanket or sleeping bag. I’d have a bunch of tools and odd junk. I’d have a folding saw, the key knife in my pocket, a self-lighting Coleman 2 burner propane stove and probably a small thing of propane, and an old propane lantern. There’d be at least two flashlights, some rope and twine, some duct tape, and a bunch of empty soda bottles and cans.  There’d be a dull hatchet. Empty, never used 2.5 gallon gas jug. It’d be downright cushy, entirely aside from any scenario in which you have an intact vehicle meaning you have instant shelter, and an anchor for extending shelter around it given things like tarps.

Then there’s the scenario where I am on foot. I have my keys and the tiny but sharp key knife. I have a pen or two, some pieces of paper towel, the contents of my wallet, and whatever I am wearing. That gets much more rustic.

In the truck there’s a small bag packed with tools, a tiny first aid kit that has a crappy folding knife and some matches tucked in it, maybe a tarp, maybe a trash bag, some rope, some empty bottles and cans, a flashlight or two, and not much else. It’s less roomy to shelter in. Given enough of a tarp, the bed could be covered for an off the ground sleeping shelter. Stuff in some dead leaves?

I’m rambling. It’ll be interesting to see what Alone does with a more northerly location this year. Some of it depends just how late in the year they started filming. I amuse myself sometimes by chastising the contestants, who know and have practiced a lot more than me, for doing silly things, or failing to do things, when I probably wouldn’t make it as far as them. There’s another element of the not fully prepared scenario: Writing it as someone who only has academic knowledge of survival skills.

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