Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Bushcraft Show 2016 - part 2

After getting my fab gingerbread latte from the fab Camperccino van it was time to get to class!!

10.45 Maasia lessons
This was a really interesting talk given by Jason Ingamells of Woodland Ways who's Family Survival Course we did 4 years ago. Having indulged in the wonderful chapatis made my Maasai lady Anne yesterday, I wanted to know a bit more about the work that Woodland Ways does with the Maasai. Jason sensitively explained firstly how long it took the woodland ways team to be trusted by the Maasai people and then what he has learnt from all the trips he has taken out there over the years. One of the interesting points was about the ill conceived ideas implemented by NGOs who have no forward thinking about what happens when funding runs out or how easy it is to get ripped off if you aren't actually over in Africa overseeing the work. Jason showed up a derelict hospital and a water tower which is no longer used because it is full of salt. He also explained that one of the Maasai elders predicted that within 20 years the Maasai culture will be lost. In an endeavour to stop this sort of thing happening and to support the Maasai in other ways the Woodland Ways Bushcraft Foundation is recording elder stories.

After a bit of perusing of the stalls to see the work of the talented leather workers and carvers it was time for more learning.

13.00 Small game preparation
On the Woodlands Way course mentioned above dh, ds and myself prepared a pigeon for our evening meal whilst dd watched. It was very tasty but we have never needed to use that skill since. However a few years ago we were lucky enough to buy a portion of woodland through so dh in particular wanted to go and see how to prepare rabbits for eating. I managed to watch a bit of the talk before I had to return to the tent to get my poor ds painkillers due to him overheating in the blistering 20 degree heat. Dh said it was a fab demonstration though and he was reminded how to prepare a pigeon as well.

14.00 Basic Leatherwork
Another fantastic display given by Lois (Ben and Lois Orford mentioned in part 1) but this time showing how to make a sheath for a knife. I have always wanted to have a go at leatherwork so it was great to actually watch someone go through all the steps. I am a very visual learner so I got lots of pictures.

What was great about Ben and Lois was that their passion for their work really came through every time they gave a talk even if it was the 3rd or 4th time they were doing the same talk.

Dh attended their bushcraft tool demo earlier in the day and said that again it was fantastic.

I feel inspired to have a go at leatherwork at some time but what I did notice was the amount of equipment Lois had to make this sheath so it might be a while before I get around to it. However at least I now know what DOES go into making beautiful leather goods and that is always a good perspective to have when looking at leather goods and the prices.

14.40 Off Grid spoon whittler
Having visited Giles Newman's stall walking around the show and marvelled at the intricate work he does I had to go and listen to his story. His spoons are amazing!!!! And all made without power tools. In fact the only tools he uses to make these amazing spoons are:
1. a small forest axe - not even a carving axe
2. a Mora 120 knife
3. a Hans Karlson hook knife
That's it. Those are the tools he uses to make the spoons pictured above. He is self-taught and optimises the permaculture principles of:
work with nature not against it - he works gently around the knots found in wood
small and slow solutions - understand the wood and work slowly around knots, the end grain, etc
using biological resources - he works with any wood he finds and deals with the character of that wood as he goes
and probably many others. I am definitely going to have a go at spoon carving and so is dh. We bought the Mora 120 and a hook knife and are awaiting the axe's arrival any minute. Then we just need to go to the woods and start having a go.

15.30 Bushcraft - How to improve your health and well-being
I had to go to this talk because it was by the wonderful Dr Surita Robinson. 'Dr Survival' had the following things to say:
1. stress is now the number 1 cause of staff absence
2. teenagers get stressed - touching on the relatively new surge in self-poisoning amongst teenagers as a form of self-harm
3. stress still has a stigma attached to it thereby meaning people don't talk about it
4. she showed some groovy graphs showing how the cumulative strain on the body (allostatic load) is damaging
5. psychoneuroimmunology shows that there is conclusively that there is a link between stress and health
6. how do we go about stressing less

  1. exercise - 3x30 minutes per week
  2. get good sleep - 8 hours ish
  3. eat a healthy diet
  4. do relaxing things

7. our environment does not help us - offices with no windows and air conditioning & in the Western world we tend to live indoors and are physically inactive
8. having more green spaces around leads us to exercise more - more exercise means we increase the number of brain cells we have (neurogenesis) and anxiety is reduced
9. bushcraft provides exercise in green spaces
10. sleep disruption is a problem - light bulbs, 24/7 phones and tablets affect melatonin = bad
11. multi-tasking is not great and can be mentally draining / mono tasking is better but needs practice
12. bushcraft encourages mono-tasking e.g.. lighting a fire, building a shelter, knife work, natural navigation
13. eating healthy decreases anxiety
14. gut-brain axis -> healthy gut flora is helpful for mental as well as physical health e.g.. probiotics shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression
15. bushcraft can reconnect us with natural food - foraging
16. social support is good for mental and physical health
17. bushcraft allows for time with friends around the fire or working together
18. bushcraft builds confidence and self-esteem

Dr Robinson thinks that more peer-reviewed research needs to be done into the long term benefits of bushcraft for children and adults and looking at the comments in bold above you can see why.

That evening we watched a fantastic sunset and then enjoyed a great fire show. I also tried a bison burger which I loved. I will definitely be getting bison in the future from Bouverie Lodge.

10.00 Many faces of Bushcraft
Dave Watson gave a really informative talk about the benefits of bushcraft:

  1.  it can cut across language and cultural barriers e.g.. wild food, making fire, making natural cord is the same anywhere
  2.  it gives you a good set of values (as opposed to culture which can give a very skewed set of values) - "we can hide in society - we cannot hide in the woods"
  3.  it makes you face up to reality in that it  is your skill or lack of it which makes all the difference to your situation
  4. the competition is against yourself in the wilderness
  5. it can be used to teach science such as pot hangers using fulcrums and levers or water filtration
He also pointed out that treating everyone the same is not treating them equally. His analogy was that of logs looking similar on the outside but having totally different uses and being useful for totally different tasks. It is the same with children: they have different skills even though they look similar - they are not all the same.

12.15 Happiness through Wilderness Living
 A common theme through all the talks over the weekend was the fact that the mental health of adults and children alike in this country is not great (and is getting worse if my previous blog post on mental health is anything to go by). Andrew Price recognised that there is a poverty of self-esteem and happiness, especially in young people. He then told the story of some of the people he has helped through his buschcraft company Dryad Bushcraft on the Gower Pennisula. Just the plain fact that people are learning through movement, using their hands and only need 2-3 hours to make rope, identity some trees: just that achievement makes people feel better and improves their self-esteem.

Bushcraft also has a greater chance of reducing anxiety because doing bushcraft can use all the senses - a lot easier to do outdoors. I learnt this at a talk I went to a while ago about mental health. When you are anxious or stressed it helps to engage your senses to calm down (How to Use All 5 Senses to Beat Stress.) This is a lot easier to do in the great outdoors where their are sights, smells, wind blowing through your hair, the sun warming your face, trees to hug, twigs to whittle, fire to feel the warmth of and the many noises of nature. All the senses can be used to help calm the parasympathetic nervous system.

It is only having written these 2 posts that I have realised how much I have learnt from my few days at the Bushcraft Show. I am inspired to look further into leatherwork, spoon making, cord making, different techniques for fire lighting and constructing cooking facilities in the woods. It has reassured me that the education that I am allowing my children to have means they encounter less stress and anxiety whilst improving their self-confidence and general survival skills. All in all the Bushcraft Show was a thorough success!!!!

As a bonus for me alone during the weekend I managed to walk over 250 steps for every hour from 10am up to and including 11pm.

It was a relatively new feature added to the fitbit app and the best I had managed up until May 29th was 13 of 14 hours.

I was so thrilled to get 14 of 14 hours!!!!

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