Friday, June 13, 2014

COMPLEAT BUSHCRAFT X: Knives and Hardwood

A KNIFE IN THE HANDS of a working man, will become an extension of his hand. By his proper handling and dexterity on a piece of wood, it diminishes the common perception that it is a weapon. The aggressive appearance wears out and, what has been considered as an instrument of physical harm, metamorphoses and mellows into a useful tool.

The knife is a tool, first and foremost. If used irresponsibly, it will cause harm just like fire. Prehistoric man invented the knife for the purpose of surviving and to convert complicated work into very simple chores. Later, the knife took on different shapes and length and had been used as an instrument of early warfare and aggression. Since then, the knife had not shelved the gruesome image of its past.

Carrying of knives are now regulated to protect people even to the extent of limiting its length and the taking away of the tactical look of its edge. Visit the ports of entry and the malls and I am sure your blades do not get past the sentry - almost. The knife then gets relegated to certain workplaces, inside homes and the wide outdoors. These are the last frontiers by which knives are carried openly.

I am an advocate of the carrying of a knife outdoors and I carry not one or two but three or more. Not for self-defense please but for carrying out tests and for using certain knives for certain tasks. Today, November 3, 2013, I carry my tomahawk, my William Rodgers, my Victorinox SAK Trailmaster, my Case XX folding knife, my Puffin Magnum rip-off and four Seseblade Sinalung. Quite an array, isn’t it?

Perhaps you might squirm why I carry so much excess baggage with which items and functions are redundant. You know what, redundancy is security ensured. But, primarily, I am on a bushcraft lecture today and that is to teach people how to make a wooden spoon. Carving a spoon from wood is one of the methods by which you train yourself how to use the knife as a tool. It is one of the many ways to create a bond between knife and user.

I provide the tools in case people do not bring one but I doubt it. I know, for sure, that Glenn Pestaño carry a lot blades. He is a true-blue member of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Others like Chad Bacolod, Johnas Obina, Bogs Belga and Xerxes Alcordo might not be the least of them who carry knives. I am also sure that they have aces inside their respective bags.

After meeting all of them inside the Cebu South Bus Terminal, Cebu City, we leave for Ocaña, Carcar at 7:00 AM. We start our hike at 8:50 AM to the campsite located at Lower Sayao, Sibonga after securing the ingredients for our noontime meal. It is not the best time to walk the road at that hour but I cannot do something about it. It is a fact of life and I believe I have the stamina to overcome the extreme heat.

Glenn carried his bug-out bag and it is very heavy. He should know that BOBs can kill. He did not last halfway and he passed that burden to a passing motorcycle of whose driver he knows very well. Chad, Xerxes and Johnas lagged behind trying to adapt to the situation and continued walking without complaint while hugging to shades offered along the route.

It is 10:30 AM when we arrive at the campsite. I have no water in my bottle since the time I left the bus terminal and, yes, I am very thirsty but not dying. Endurance and self-discipline kept me going without water. The others have also used up their supply of water during the hike owing to heat and the rigors of walking an ascending terrain. I assure them we will get water but we need to rest first and cool down our body.

We leave our things and down we go to a small valley and up into a small hill and down again into another hidden valley where there is a small ricefield. Nearby is a clear-water spring where there is a lone woman washing clothes. The spring provides irrigation to the rice paddies and it will fill up our water bottles soon. Once done, we go back to our campsite to prepare our meal and to rejoin Bogs who stayed behind to prepare a fire.

Bogs finished the coffee and it returned our sanity. Picking up three long sticks from the ground, I lashed a cord and made a tripod which I will use to hang a pot to cook rice. I place the contraption above the fire and adjusted the rope holding the pot so heat could cook the rice efficiently. Then the blades gets its chance to break away from their hiding places.

On a tarpaulin, the blade porn starts rolling and I join them. Cameras flashed as everyone try to make something out of these rare moment. The blade porn is a valued tradition among bushcrafters and it is a feast for the eyes as well as the chance to keep camaraderie close. There it is, an event that is worth mentioning at coffee table conversations.

Suddenly, by twist of fate, the participants of this spoon carving session will get the chance to test all the knives on display. Glenn provided a local hardwood variety for all to shape by chopping, whittling, cutting, scraping and by gouging. Folding saws and multi-tool sets gets its test on the hardwood as well. I brought pieces of broken glass and this is a very efficient alternative to a crooked knife, which is rare in these parts.

I am the cook and I am busy slicing potatoes, carrots, sponge gourds, squash, eggplants, gumbos, bell peppers, string beans, onions, spring onion bulbs, green peppers and tomatoes and crushing garlic. I fry the garlic, onions, green pepper and tomatoes in oil, before I mix the rest on a frying pan over a fire fed by firewood. Adding water, I stirred the ingredients until it boiled before adding two teaspoons of salt. Then I sprinkle fresh spring onions and Malabar nightshades and let it settle.

I have achieved a good taste by just these without using monosodium glutamate or its derivatives disguised as “magic mixes”. What made this very engrossing is that it was done outdoors without the assurance of a comfortable environment and supplies usually found in kitchens. Truly, outdoor cooking is an art where taste could be achieved by the right frame of mind instead of relying on artificial flavors.

By 1:30 PM, we start our lunch, although late but never too late. Everyone take several refills for their plates. Water is abundant but it gets used up until a few ounces are left. After the meal, I return to the water source to fetch water for drinking and washing. The boys continued what they started. By now, the general outline of their spoons begins to take shape.

All the blades had been used and tested, in one way or another, and the carvers had clearly understood the differences and characteristics of each blade and, somehow, one or two blades found itself as mainstays on their ongoing tasks. While all concentrate on their work, exchange of ideas and observations work freely amongst themselves and that is the essence why bushcraft is so different from the rest of the outdoor interests.

Bushcraft includes hiking and climbing mountains just like conventional outdoors activity, but the learning of skills is its greatest attribute and wholly encouraged, where ideas are tested and used each time. Real knives are carried, not cutie knives for closet queens, and we promote open carrying while outdoors nor wince at the prospect of exposing the knife to extreme use.

Warm food just off the fire are always eaten and there is always a campfire everytime the activity goes overnight. We do not abide the principles of LNT but we know what is that for and we know what we do. We accept criticisms from all conventional outdoors people but we are so different from them by a wide league that it is not worth the time to think about and talk sense into it.

We leave Lower Sayao at 3:30 PM, walking down to Ocaña on the same route we took in the morning. At the highway, we found it difficult to catch a bus for there are a lot of people wanting to go back to the city at the same time after spending a long weekend vacation. I failed to consider the effect of All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

We improvise instead and ride different tricycles from one town to another. It may be not the most efficient form of mass transport yet the tricycle brought us nearer to the city by “town hopping”. I reach home at 7:30 PM and I am quite satisfied of my recent activity. I am hungry but the memory of the noontime meal last long in my innards.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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