I just posted the last batch of photos from this year’s Earth Skills Semester Program, which ended on Saturday. We’re planning some exciting changes for next year, expanding the program into a year-long experience. More about that soon. For now, enjoy the photos.
Jack Mountain Bushcraft Blog
Yesterday, as they were packing up their things and preparing to move on, one of the students mentioned something that stuck with me overnight. He was talking about the simplicity of our humanure composting system, and exclaimed, “I can’t believe that we didn’t flush anything for the past ten weeks. This system is so simple [...]
Thursday morning and two days until the Earth Skills Symposium. It’s a raw, rainy morning, and the only critters I’ve heard are the rain calls of the blue jays. Except for the beeches and oaks, who sometime keep their leaves through the winter, all the leaves are down. Today we work on finishing final projects [...]
We’re in the middle of week 10, our final week in the fall Earth Skills Semester Program. Students are working diligently on bushcraft projects such as brown ash pack baskets and lacing snowshoes, as well as preparing for the symposium. It’s a great time because everyone knows the routine and things move quickly and efficiently. [...]
This coming weekend is our town’s annual ski and skate sale, where you can pick up used skis very inexpensively. For those of you live in snow country and want to make a winter sled for hauling gear in the bush, you can do so without having to boil and bend wood for a toboggan. [...]
I just heard from my friends Kevin and Polly at Mahoosuc Guide Service. They’ll be offering a winter guide training course December 14-17 in the Lake Umbagog area. It will be offered through the Maine Wilderness Guides Organization. From the MWGO website: This workshop is designed to cover the skills needed to safely guide in [...]
The topic of alcohol stoves comes up from time to time in winter survival and bushcraft workshops. This simple homemade alcohol stove comes from the newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog International, and is especially useful north of the treeline.
I’ll be presenting at the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous at Hulbert Outdoor Center in Vermont again this year. The rendezvous takes place November 10-12 and is a great opportunity to learn from people who spend most, or all, of the winter in the northern bush. David and Anna Bosum, from the Cree community of Oujé-Bougoumou, Quebec, [...]
Our semester students are working on debris shelters today. Although effective in certain conditions, the debris shelter is often promoted as the do all, end all of shelters. While I teach and have used them successfully on many occasions, I wholeheartedly disagree with it being the most important shelter. It isn’t practical to build in [...]
We had a great day at the coast yesterday gathering wild foods, identifying plants and tracking on sandy beach at low tide. We covered the basics of pattern and clear-print tracking, then experimented with pressure releases and tracking games for several hours before our beach was retaken by the sea as the tide came in. [...]
Braintanning takes a significant amount of physical labor for the scraping process, let alone pulling or staking the hide as it goes from damp to dry. I’m reminded of this aspect of tanning each year during tanning workshops when I hear talk of sore muscles and blisters. At the end of the day yesterday all [...]
Today we start braintanning deer hides, or using brains to dress and soften the hides resulting in a chamois-like finished product. Each year I get a bunch of hides from a friend and fellow guide who butchers deer for hunters. The hides we’ll be working on today were fleshed and mostly dehaired last fall, then [...]
Teaching is tiring. Learning is even more so. Teaching can be practiced until it becomes an art. After years of doing it you occasionally get thrown by a student’s question, but for the most part you get better the more you do it (this refers to teaching, not content knowledge). Learning is the act of [...]
We’ve finalized the information on prices and dates for the Winter Bushcraft and Survival courses taking place with Jeff Butler of Northwoods Survival in New Brunswick in February. Information on the courses is located here.
My friend and colleague David Cronenwett of Montana emailed me with a link to an article about the incomparable Mors Kochanski and his philosophy of outdoor education, or what he prefers to call “tangible education”. It’s a short article, and you can read it here.
We’re off in the morning on our 12-day Allagash canoe trip. Packing is done and most of the gear is loaded. Everyone is excited and it’s sure to be a great trip.
Group size for our 12-day bushcraft and guide training canoe trip on the Allagash river has swelled to 11. In addition to the students who will be here for the entire semester, we’ve got people coming from Canada, Scotland, and even Japan for the trip. It’s pretty exciting, but planning and prepping for the group [...]
Last night the ESSP students and I attended a talk given by Tom Wessels, the author of Reading the Forested Landscape and other books. The talk focused on reading and understanding the history of the woods of New England for signs of farming and logging. Having heard him speak before I was prepared for the [...]
Last night we had rain, and on every wet morning we start with one match fires. This morning was no different. The ESSP students have made amazing progress with this in the short time we’ve been together. We moved onto making cordgage by hand, then making rope with spinners, and finally making rope with a [...]
The wood around the eye of an axe can get brittle and the head can get loose. To solve the problem of a loose head, some authors have advised to soak it in water to swell the wood. But when it dries out, the head is loose again, and more brittle, often more than when [...]
We had lot of rain come through over the weekend, which will be good for the lettuce planted last week. It will also put some water into the Allagash for our trip next week. Lastly, it will help with the bumper crop of mushrooms that are growing in the surrounding woods. We’ll be spending several [...]
Do you know much about where you live? Can you answer 30 questions about your knowledge of place and home from www.biohabit.org? Give it a try.
In preparation for the semester class I spent yesterday cutting dead wood and making the bases for several shelter frames. I used an axe to fell the tress, all dead, and a saw to cut them to length. Using a saw instead of an axe to section trees I can get more useable wood since [...]
There are several large wilderness survival schools that have big reputations and have hundreds of people participate in workshops each year. We’re not one of them. Instead we serve a small number of people each year and really get to know them, since I see this as a vital step in learning how best to [...]
In preparing for the Earth Skills Semester Program, I’ve updated and rewritten much of our nature study curriculum, including updating the lists of birds, plants, and mammals that are in this area. I’ll be posting the updated lists as they’re written, starting with a list of birds seen in and around Rust Pond.
Today I reposted a bunch of blog entries that were lost when our site got hacked. I also added a “Past Favorites” section with links to the posts that have been the most commented about. If you have a post you’d like to see listed there let me know.
Gear sales drive the outdoor industry, not small guide services or outdoor schools. Years ago outdoor gear manufacturers and retailers learned that they needed to create a desire to buy among people in order to make money. They advertised aggressively and convinced people that the outdoors could be a fun and rewarding place to recreate, [...]
There are endless discussions as to what makes a good knife. Everyone has their opinion, and some people seem to be willing to defend theirs for hours. I’ve found that knives are kind of like dogs – everyone thinks that their dog is the greatest, and no matter how bad or poorly behaved it is [...]
Becoming competent at lighting fires with a hand drill or bow drill takes time, sweat and blisters. But it can be done. There’s a difference between trying to get a coal and trying to master the techniques. Decide what your goals are before you proceed. If you want to get a coal, then drill until [...]
If you work as a guide or teach wilderness survival for any length of time, someone, or more often lots of people, are going to ask your opinion of those individuals who have elevated themselves to celebrity status in this type of work. I duck these questions and avoid these types of conversations, if only [...]
The Earth Skills Semester Program starts next week, and I’ve been busy getting prepared. This morning I put a coat of varnish on four canoe paddles, set up a new composting bin, and laid out where several new shelters will go. I’ve also rewritten our nature knowledge curriculum and have included common species of plants, [...]
I was in western Massachusetts this past weekend working with Frank Grindrod and a group of youngsters for a shelter-building class. They were focusing on debris shelters, building them during the day and sleeping in them that night. It was a warm, overcast day, with the sky foretelling the coming rain. With this type of [...]
We’ve got our new blog up and running, but it will take a few days to get it set up and customized.
Right after I left on my recent trip to Alaska our site was hacked and all 140 of my blog posts, stretching back several years were deleted. As such I’m looking into alternative methods of blogging since the previous software package obviously wasn’t secure enough. As soon as I get something up and running I’ll [...]
Yesterday I did some weeding in the vegetable garden and enjoyed mid-July in New Hampshire by picking and eating raspberries, blueberries, and juneberries I’ve got growing. Today I’m off to Valdez, Alaska, where for two weeks I’ll be working as a consultant for a Discovery Channel tv show on survival. It’s been about five years [...]
Today is the first day of our bushcraft day camp pilot program. I’ve worked exclusively with college students and adults in the past, so it’s sure to be exciting. Today we’ll be focusing on the five stages of fire, fire ecology and several ignition strategies. We’ll also study the edible and medicinal wild plants of [...]
I’ve always enjoyed fishing. I fished every inch of the small New Hampshire town where I grew up, as well as surrounding areas that were within biking distance. When my friends began getting their driver’s licenses, I was incredibly excited because now all of the rivers and lakes around the state were within reach. It [...]
Yesterday I sent out our final email newsletter. We ran it for a number of years, but with the growth of spam and the associated hassles we’re going to focus on this blog and the associated RSS feed. If people want to read what we’re up to we’re only a click away.
Our town has a big July 4th celebration every year with a parade, a brass band by the town docks, and fireworks at dusk. Our family participated in all of the festivities and had a great time. There is a small bookstore in town and my wife and I know the owner and some of [...]
Yesterday morning I was able to get away for a few hours of canoeing and fishing on the Bearcamp river. I was up and out the door early and spent a few pleasant hours poling upstream from where I put in, then drifting and fishing my way back down. When I got home I finished [...]