'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Traditional Skills in Rhydymwyn

It’s Saturday, the weather’s grim, perfect for staying in and watching the rugby.  But Me and my Dad are busy turning a deer’s shin bone into a needle.  We select a bone, score it with a piece of flint, hit it with a stone to break it into shards then pick one to file into a needle.  Real cavemen would’ve used sandstone to file their bone bits, we haven’t got all day so we cheat with metal files.  The workroom is filled with the sound of rasping files and thirteen people concentrating hard, not even stopping for tea when Dan shouts; ‘the kettle’s boiled.’  It’s very meditative, filing.  Your mind is focused on the job in hand, the rain, the rugby, the chores are far away.
In the middle of it all, Naomi throws out a question:  ‘The weight of all the insects on the planet would be more than the weight of all the humans, true or false?’   Quick as a flash, someone shouts out, ‘True,’ and is rewarded with a parcel wrapped in Rudolph the Reindeer paper - a selection box!  The rest of the day is punctuated with sudden random questions and winners are rewarded with more chocolate. 
Deer Bone needles and awls

Naomi and Dan are www.outback2basics.co.uk from Shropshire.  They've been invited by North East Wales Wildlife (www.newwildlife.org.ukto teach us some traditional skills. They’re brilliant, passionate, but most of all, fun.  They went to America and re-lived the Stone Age for 4 months, making their own clothes, shoes, shelter, fire, food.  We saw the photos, they obviously didn’t have showers in the Stone Age.

After lunch, we go outside for some fresh air and learn how to tap a birch tree to get the sap.  ‘It makes a lovely drink,’ Dan says.  ‘Pine cones make great scrubbing brushes,’ adds Naomi,  ‘and those Leylandii we all hate in our neighbour’s gardens, their bark makes great containers, but get permission first before you go stripping the bark of your neighbour’s trees, or any trees.’ 
            On our way back to the workroom, we stand under a dripping birch tree and study its branches.  ‘How can you use a tree to find your way?’ asks Dan.
 ‘Er, we give up.’  Dan explains that the branches on the south side of the tree are more horizontal, pointing towards the sun, the branches on the north side have to find the light so they point up, towards the sky.  Easy!

Bark Containers

Back inside, we begin making bark containers, sort of Stone Age handbags.  And we use the needles and awls we made during the morning session.  By the end of the afternoon, we’ve made an amazing variety of bark ‘bags.’  Better than Louis Vuitton any day.

Me and Dad walk home proud as punch with our bone needles, bark containers and chocolate prizes.  We stop by a particularly fine silver birch tree; ‘Nice bit of bark,’ says Dad.
            ‘Hmmm,’ I reply, stroking the trunk and picturing my next rustic creation.

(This was a free course provided by NEW Wildlife based in Rhydymwyn)

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