Foldable saw out of greenwood

Some years ago I made my own Bo Weslien style model of a foldable outdoor saw at Sjövik Folkhögskola. Having no machines at hand back home for high precision wood engineering I was thinking of making a copy of it out of green wood and traditional tools: a froe for splitting a small log to get both handles; axe, shavehorse and drawknife for shaping the handles, carving knife for making the peg, tenon cutter for cutting both tenons at the end of the cross brace that goes into both handles.

Tools from front to back: Japanese saw, froe, carving knife, drawknife, axe, tenon cutter

Freshly cut maple wood was at hand. The two slots for taking up the sawblade I did with a Japanese saw. The exact position of the holes for the sawblade are given on the packing. Holes need to be only slighthly smaller than the fullthread screws to avoid splitting! Before screwing them in, fix the sawblade with a bolt or a nail opposite where the screw goes in, otherwise it might not meet the exact position in the slot which can result in splitting the handle. While screwing the handle part with the slot needs to be clamped to avoid splitting. Two more holes to take up the Paracord and the sawblade can be tightened. Sawing with it is light work and great fun.

Sjövik´s Model (in the back) and first non-foldable greenwood version in the front
Splitting
Shaving
Carving the peg with an axe

A good project with children or youths. Once you have gone through the tricky bits it might only take about 3 hours to make such a saw out of greenwood.

Making it foldable…

meant a bit of measuring and calculating for a shorter crossbar. I shaved a log of Robinia wood one side to take up the tenons. I also shaved the tips of the crossbar for which I used a log of maple. Then I cut the tenons and did the slots for the blade. To protect the blade when folding the saw I needed to cut a slot all along the back of the handle (last picture). I used a Japanese whaleback saw for that. Handles could have been a tad longer and I should have sticked to the position of the holes as in my first try. Next time.

All in all it is quite compact now but it feels a bit heavy for taking it on tour. I might get rid of some of the material by shaving the crossbar and handles. But in that case it would loose some of its rustic charme.

Animal Forms for pre-schoolers – Bird family

Let the children team up as bird parents or eggs/chicks. Help the “bird parents” build a makeshift nest from twigs, grass, or pillows, whatever you have available. Then place the “eggs” into the nest, have the children kneel there and make themselves very small.

Instruct the bird parents to warm the eggs with their wings (arms) and to include all the eggs (stroke over their backs). Tell them to listen very carefully, maybe the chicks inside the eggs will start chirping at some point. Time to hatch!

Newly hatched chicks must stretch their bodies after all this time cramped up in an eggshell. And now it´s feeding time for busy bird parents! The chicks are chirping and demanding food. You could provide some peanuts, raisins, or the like, but children can play make-believe even without those helpers.

After some feeding rounds you should encourage the chicks to try their own wings and fly about with the parents.

To calm all the excited birdies down, announce nightfall, when chicks and parents come back to their nest and sleep cuddled up, warm and safe.

My kindergarten group couldn´t get enough of this idea and we had to play bird family several days in a row! CT

Unravelling the mystery

On a walk near some flooded meadows and reeds I found an eggshell. I´m not sure if it´s from a swan or a goose, both are known to breed there and both the size and colour of the eggs can be almost alike.

But the time of year and surrounding tracks presented a nice puzzle – it was much too early in spring to be hatched already. More likely a predator had snatched it from the nest.

I´m actually quite frustrated with the pandemic and accompanying restrictions due to which my urban kindergarden group couldn´t go on a trip to the forest for more than a year.

But why not bring the mystery inside?

I thought this could prove an excellent opportunity to introduce field guides to the children. So, I took some pictures of the tracks and the egg and the next morning found my little trackers and me engrossed in a field guide and wondering what might have happened out there.

Our best guess is a racoon stealing and eating the egg. Maybe you can come up with a better idea? CT

Weaving a basket

For a nature reconnection day with our course we had the idea to weave little baskets for collecting herbs with our mentees.  

We were trying different materials. Blackberry vines seemed rather suitable after getting rid of the stings. For that we were using an empty tin in which we had drilled a 5mm hole into the base. We cut long blackberry vines and pulled them through the hole. While doing so we had to move the vine into all directions and the stings fell off.

Now we could bind the vines into a ring (wreath like shape). Then 4 rods were pulled from one edge to the other edge of the ring. They later formed the base for the grid. Start the next vine from outside crosswise to the 4 base stems and weave it in turns (alternating) over and under the base stems. At the edge just wind it around the wreath and secure the end within the wreath. Go on witn this until the whole base is covered. At the beginning you can define the shape dy moving the basic framework.

It was similarly by using hop vines whereas even here the more sturdy blackberry vines made the base grid.

Stinging nettle is a good material for weaving small baskets. I picked some taller grown nettles with gloves and took off the leaves. They can later be used for tea or soup. After that I beat up the stems with a stone until they got soft. Hence the fibres broke and the stems could be bent or woven more easily without breaking. Again a ring was shaped and here I included a little handle. As for the other baskets put stems from one edge to the other edge of the ring and hide the ends. SG

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Seize the opportunity! Or: Tracking for youngsters

Usually we get very little snow in my region during the winter. So when we found ourselves in a snow-covered world last week, the children in my kindergarten group were really  excited and we decided to go for a walk to a park in our neighbourhood. 
Under normal conditions this park is  quite dull but snow has some magical abilities. 
We found lots of tracks and the questions just bubbled up – who left them and where did they go? We had a good look at the tracks, noticing the balls, toes and claws – a wolf? A cat? More likely a dog. And these smaller tracks? Surely they were made by a cat? But look, there are claw marks, too… 
Soon I had a group of 3 and 4 year olds tracking first one dog across the lawn, then another, gaining insights and confidence along the way. What a joy to watch the little trackers with their red cheeks and bright eyes! CT

Teaching Idea: Meditation on the elements

When we were planning a pedagogic programme some of our course members sometimes had a hard time to focus on the task at hand. The pedagogic programme had the 4 elements for a central theme, so I came up with a corresponding meditation sequence to try and help with grounding and focussing our awareness and energy. Due to our season (autumn, late October) and rather chilly weather conditions I would suggest doing this outdoors standing upright in a circle facing inwards:

After an opening sequence of slow breathing, closing your eyes, centring your attention to your body and a short body-scan from head to toe, first focus on the element Earth. Feel your feet on the ground, feel the firmness and strength of the earth carrying and supporting you. Imagine the soles of your feet sprouting roots, extending downwards and anchoring your feet in the ground. Feel the power of the Earth flow from the tips of your roots up to your feet, your legs and further up to your whole body. Envision yourself strong and firm like a tree, rooted in the soil, sustained by mother Earth. Then let your roots go very gently.

Shift your attention to the Air and become aware of the air as you are simply breathing. Feel your chest and abdomen expand with inhalation and deflate with exhalation. Sense the air streaming in and out of your nose, throat and lungs. Smell whatever the air can tell you about your surroundings. With the next inhale envision the fresh energy of the air filling you and reaching far into your lungs, floating along the blood vessels through your body. When you exhale, envision your breath to carry not only the used air but distracting and interfering thoughts, too. Let them go and inhale again the fresh energy with a deep breath.

When you feel refreshed and filled with oxygen, shift your attention to Water. Maybe water is surrounding you in the form of rain, snow, mist, clouds, a brook or a lake nearby. Maybe water is not visible in itself, but abundant in plants, trees and even yourself. Depending on your easiest available water source focus on the sound of the water – a murmuring brook, rolling waves, trickling rain, rustling trees or grasses, maybe even your own pulse. Or feel the water in humid air around you, on your bare skin, under your feet. If those don´t work for you, put your fingers on the pulse point at your neck and feel your own blood pumping. This too is water. Focus on whichever sensation water is giving you and envision the power of flowing water washing over you and cleaning your mind.

Maybe at this point you will feel a little cold, so it is a good moment to focus on the element Fire. The sun is our biggest fire and always there to warm and energize us. Shift your attention to the middle of your chest and envision a narrow ray of sunlight shining exactly on this spot. Feel this tiny spot warming up und expanding to a larger spot, covering soon your whole chest and expanding further – up to your neck and head, down to your abdomen and hips, your legs and your feet, sideways to your arms, your hands and fingers. Savour the warmth covering and permeating your body and let it spread outwards to the people next to you, until you are forming a joint circle of warmth and light.

Keep some of that light and warmth inside your chest and gently let go of the intense focus. Take some deep breaths and let go, just be. Feel the earth beneath your feet, the air around you, the water flowing and the sun shining. Allow your senses to fill your mind slowly with sensations of your surroundings – the sounds, the smell, the feeling of your body. And when you feel ready, just gently open your eyes again. Stay for a moment and familiarize yourself with your group and your place before you proceed to the rest of your day.

Update: I offered this meditation in our last course lesson after the opening circle and all attendants were game. My, 18 people in a circle outdoors are a lot! We were standing in a meadow surrounded by forest, but near a clearly audible highway. Surely this would be easier in a quieter landscape or in smaller groups, I really had to remind myself to speak louder than I usually would. Some people experienced difficulties to engage deeply, but listened nonetheless and all were able to relax to some degree. Most appreciated at least part of the sequence and a few felt the energy of the elements intensively. Afterwards I perceived the group as quite eager to start their scheduled tasks and maybe even a little more focused. Thanks to all for being open and engaging! CT

Sustainability – use and re-use of broken things

This is the story of my first self-made spoon – or actually spork. It took me 2 days to finish it and I felt quite proud. Sure, it was a little crooked, but I had put some effort in it and let the texture of the wood be my guide.

I used this spoon to cook meals on open fire and it worked really well, so I was sad when it broke one day right at a knothole. But then I fetched my carving knives and found a way to re-use the broken pieces. Now I have a cooking fork and a tiny cup. CT

Think twice before you bin something!

Teaching Idea: Taste of the place – sensory connection to nature

If we want to deepen our connection to nature and our surroundings, we have to engage all senses. We use our visual sense nearly all the time and often even remember to listen and to feel, but to really address our reptilian brain and embed a place in our sensory memory, taste and smell are crucial aspects. Fortunately, there are always our plant friends coming to the rescue!

Boil some water, infuse a bunch of the local edible or medicinal plants and you can have a taste of the place which is unique in every place and time of year. Try a different mixture every day, get a feeling for the changing seasons and the natural abundance of flavours throughout the year. Blossoms, leaves, stems, roots, needles, fruits, seeds, seaweeds, mosses, lichens – let your curiosity be your guide.

Just take good care to avoid poisonous species! Gather only species well-known to you or cross-check for safety with naturalist guides. And of course, be extra careful regarding any handicaps or medical conditions in yourself or your companions which could be negatively affected by medicinal plants. CT

Teaching Idea: Black Tea Surrogate – exercise in self sufficiency

One of the aspects in wilderness pedagogics is self-sufficiency, the ability to make do with whatever your surrounding environment can provide.

Gathering and dispensing of various herbs for tea can go a long way to give you steaming cups of delicious herbal infusions, but some of us prefer some Assam or Darjeeling once in a while… Very little effort can help you transform a tasty herbal to something quite similar to black tea. Fermentation is the key!

Look out for Smallflower hairy willowherb (Epilobium parviflorum) or Rosebay willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium) and gather young leaves. There are no poisonous lookalikes in Europe, so this is a safe choice even for beginners.

For other purposes (medicinal or food) the whole plant can be used, but for substitute tea it is best to stick to leaves. Shred and crush the leaves a little to allow the sap to leak out. Keep the leaves for about 5 days in a closed plastic bag or glass jar in the sun to ferment and afterwards dry them in a shady place. Store dry or bring some water to a boil and enjoy your first cuppa! CT

Wilderness Training: Winter Friluftsliv

In January 2020 five Romanian Outward Bound instructors, five German future childcare practitioners specialising to be Coyote Mentors and seven Swedish QVF Mentors in training went on a winter Friluftsliv Färd to Northern Dalarna. When we left the Campus of Sjovik Folkhögskola in Folkärna it was not until we had arrived to Särna after about 4 hours up North to see the first snow. Unusual as they were telling us. The next 10 days we all would live a simple life outside at the cabin camp Nysätersvallen. All activities like fetching water from the frozen well or even toiletting needed to be done on skies. A good fire was our permanent company: it crackled in the tent oven of the tipi, our gathering place, it provided us with good food on our day tours. The Swedish showed us how we can use it for bending spruce stags to make traditional snow shoes or how to prepare a log fire to slightly heat up the open baker tents where we slept in during our nights out. A signal fire even guided two of our teachers to find their way home in the darkness. In mixed international groups we needed to discuss where to find the best place to set up camp for our nights out. For some of us it was the first time of sleeping outside in rough wintery conditions. We would not have believed that it can be so comfortable sleeping on a bed of spruce, the Swedish way.

Getting to know our differing approaches and backgrounds as outdoor mentors opened up the opportunity to start questioning our own practices. Watch our trailer on that 10 day LTTA in Sweden. AP

Participant´s voices:

Dorina (RO):

The Swedish experience from January, for me, was great from every aspect: the people, the experiences, the nature. And from these come the highlights and the learnings. I absolutely enjoyed spending that week in the  wooden cabins without electricity. I feel it has helped us connect in a very natural way with ourselves and the others. I had an amazing experience when we slept outside one night and  that’s where the main learning comes from: we can be very comfortable being and sleeping outside in wintertime, if we know how to plan and prepare the whole experience. If you know how to do that, then you can find the beauty of the more harsh and difficult conditions.  I cannot wait for the first opportunity when I can implement those things that I’ve learned on that occasion!

 I’ve met in Sweden people who respect nature in a deep and profound way and you can see this in the way they act and behave when they are outside. 

After this course, I’ve become more open to the idea of doing winter programs and together with other colleagues we have submitted a project to get Erasmus+ funds in order to organize a winter training and youth exchange in 2022. 

Thank you for an amazing experience!

Ted (SE):

It created a memory deep in my mind. Wonderful time with all the fantastic people, both Germans and Romanians. Great for me to be a mentor in the arctic winter. I had forgotten how hard it can be to go skiing.

Think we all got connected to nature in an amazing way.

Réka (RO):

The best experience for me was the last day trip to the waterfalls, with nice study skiing on a longer trail, being able to use the skills we’ve acquired until that day, going down and then back up again without taking off the skies, being very comfortable, having nature very close: beautiful landscape, waterfall, a hermelin coming down from a tree, snowing magically, animal tracks in the snow. It was like a nice summing up of everything what happened during the week, the friluftsliv life-feeling.

The last day back in Sjövik Folks Highschool was also very interesting, we had a chance to work on wood in the workshop-cabin.

I’ve learned new skills, like skiing, going on winter expedition on skies, new ways of cutting/chopping wood, orienteering in that kind of environment (also practicing my previous orienteering skills), new knots, I didn’t know before, eating advices for winter expedition, things about wool clothing and about outdoor equipment, how to stay warm.

I got an eye on another kind of logistics, ideas of organizing.

The entire program brought me much closer to winter outdoor environment, gave for me the motivation of wanting to be more outside in the wintertime.

All the above makes me more comfortable in my work with the groups as an instructor at OB.

Yvonne (D):

The two incidents, which come first to my mind, when I think about the ten days in Nysättervallen in Winter: I chopped a tree for the first time in my life and I witnessed the rare phenomenon of the mother of pearl clouds.

But of course there have been many more things I learned and experienced.

It has been a very intense ten days because I learned so many different things like: how to find firewood in the snow, how to build up a camp to be warm and cozy during a night outside, how to ski off the beaten track, how to navigate with nothing but a compass and a map, how to build snowshoes.

It was an interesting and illuminating experience to be able to stay outside in the snow in winter day and  night  long without getting cold. Now I know how easy it can be to live outdoors if you have the appropriate knowledge, equipment and techniques.

Apart from this practical learning we also had a great and deep exchange of ideas and knowledge.  People from three different countries shared one big issue: how to get back to nature, how to reconnect with it. It was interesting to learn about the different approaches to this topic and to discuss different ways. That also widened my horizon immensely.

And I am still thinking about my first tree I chopped: how grateful I felt for the firewood the tree provided, how satisfied I felt at the warm campfire, where we shared our stories of the day.

Sitting there looking at the happy faces of the people of the group illuminated by the campfire: it makes something with you. At least it made something with me: It was a mixture of feeling humble and grateful, and of feeling connected to nature.

I realised during the night outside in the snow that nature is not against me but with me, and that I am a part of it. What I need is the knowledge of how to use the treasures nature offers me and to be aware and sensitive of what nature needs from me. 

And that is what I would like to teach the children I work with. I want them to regard nature as part of their life. I would like to aid them finding their way to nature and not to see it as something strange and dangerous. Nature should become something worth to be protected and not to be destroyed. I see it as a part of my job to make the kids understanding this.

Emőke (RO):

I experienced an other attitude towards the concept of comfort: in Friluftsliv we take time to prepare good food, cozy camping place (we dedicated half a day for setting the camp with all the details: in the middle the fireplace, with our skis as benches, wood for our whole stay, a baker tent and a tarp, pathways in the knee high snow till the toilet place, bringing water from the nearest creek etc.), to take time to sleep 7-8 hours per night. They aim to create comfort in natural settings, in wilderness, and this was inspiring for me.

I learnt:

  • Alpine cross country skiing
  • Setting a camp in the thigh-high snow: creating fireplace in the snow, anchoring the tent/tipi in the snow, cutting wood in the snow
  • Emergency signaling with smoke
  • How to make snowshoes
  • Carving
  • Techniques and tips for winter expeditions and proper clothing
  • Becoming more familiar with cold weather
  • New ideas in outdoor cooking
  • The concept of Friluftsliv

Christiane (RO):

There was more than one highlight of the course for me. One was to spend the evening and night outside in winter in a comfortable way without getting cold. But I also liked a lot the sociable evenings in the cabin with talking and singing. One of the best experiences was the last daytrip to a frozen waterfall, where everybody was already skiing confidently and securely and I could enjoy the beautiful Swedish winter landscape.

I knew how to ski in cross-country style before, but it was very interesting for me to practice it with hand-made, traditional wooden ski and also to pull a sledge with them. New to me were the methods and small tricks that we learned for setting up a winter camp, for example digging out the fire place, making snow benches using the ski, lighting a fire with collected material and constructing different types of campfires. I learned more about dressing up in winter, e. g. with wool clothes, and staying warm in the sleeping bag. But I also had a chance to practice and get new ideas about cooking on fire and navigation.

Anna (D):

Snow, amazing sunsets, crackling fire and pure nature.

We shared our knowledge about nature, outdoor skills and different traditions.

I learned how to set up a camp in winter, how to build snowshoes, many different kinds of knots, to make a log fire  and to be fine with the cold. We experienced nice gatherings and had fun during the day and overnight trip. I enjoyed being outside the whole time and was really sad when we left. It was the second time for me in Sweden with the Friluftsliv course. Now I decided to apply for that course in 2021.