Monday, 29 June 2009

Esplorazione For Beginners Pt2

Finally, the kind of finally you only feel after thirty four hours in the car, we make it to the farm.
I want to tell you how steep the hillsides are, but steep just aint gonna do it, the hillside is at 45 degrees!
That's right, for every meter you go forward, you go up a meter. Brutal.

As the glassiers crawled eastwards their surfaces were split again and again as water rose by capillary action, then due to a changeable climate, chilled and expanded, just by 4%, but it was enough to chip off more of the main mass. These huge piles of rock slowly got covered in soil, trees grew, died and rotted. Trees grew, died and rotted. After a while the soil became super fertile. It was watered by the springs that forced water up through the bed rock before it diffused though the loose rocks. Sweet Chestnut trees that root deep and need a lot of water found a home and proliferated.

A couple of hundred years ago the demand for Chestnut flour was great enough to make it worth living up there. By Pollarding and coppicing the crop could be dramatically increased, by terracing the ground became a little more accessible and was protected form the worst of the storm erosion. The crop was harvested from the ground by hand. 'backbreaking' doesn't do it justice. It was a very hard life. No one wants to do it now.
The nuts were then stacked in special barns where fires burned for forty days and forty nights. Once the nuts were dehydrated they were taken first on foot and then by donkey, to a nearby mill to be ground into flour. All on ground that crumbles under your feet and is as steep as your roof.It was a very hard life. No one wants to do it now.

On one of the neighboring farms CHJ met a woman who could remember playing with the grandchildren of the last inhabitant of the farm some forty years ago. The winter snows, tumbling rocks, and ancient trees uprooted and cast aside by landslides have taken their toll on the hillside and the farm house.

More soon

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Esplorazione For Beginners Pt1

Well I've made it back in one piece, although sadly I must report that's more by luck than judgement.

A week ago I met up with CHJ in the south London suburbs and we drove to the coast, just in time to miss the boarding of the ferry, so after a delightful two hour nap on the quayside we go on board. Fortunately CMJ is a frequent traveler on this crossing and marched us strait to the only bit of the ship with couches big enough to sleep on and I didn't wake up until we were already docked in France.

France soon passed and we were treated to an insight into the Belgian plan for European supremacy. Not for them the subjugation of their neighbors by force or even economic might. No their plan is far more fiendish. They welcome you to their little country and all roads take you through their capital, a place where war and a town planning department staffed by Ferrari owners have left them with the strangest mix of architecture.
Once you're there, there you'll stay. There is no escape.
Signage to Brussels is everywhere, clues as to how to leave are non existent. Those fiendish Ferrari owners are so contemptuous of escape attempts that at a T junction they frequently present you with two opposite choices of direction to the same destination. Being six in the morning there were no locals in sight, just angry foreigners driving every more erratically in their desperation to leave. Brussels has become the capital of Europe, not through superior fire power, force of arms or political machination, but by holding visitors hostage on their labyrinth system of ring roads. After two hours in the vortex we did achieve escape velocity and had crossed belgium in less time than we'd spent trying to leave Brussels.

The first good omen of the trip was in Luxembourg, a small country that i could easily have passed through with out noticing.

Feeling a little weary and compelled by natures call. We pulled into a lay by and watched a succession of well dressed women announce their embarrassment by using a strangely exaggerated gait to cross the picnic area in search of the relative privacy of the forest. There is a great French tradition, (I'm using 'great' in it's sense of 'often' rather than 'fantastic') of littering the countryside with unburied toilet paper, fast food packaging, broken drinks bottles and the scat of truckers.

CHJ had elected to have a nap in the car so I took a wander away from the murderous looking truckers, and desperate holiday makers and found my self at the top of a scree looking out over a small marsh that abutted some planted pine forest. As I sat on the scree and scanning the forest's edge, I just 'knew' that I was in the vicinity of deer. I cant tell you how I knew but I was suddenly sure if I sat still a deer would show up. Amazingly it only took a few moments, sitting clam and still with my eyes holding a relaxed focus on the middle distance, before my peripheral vision flashed up a movement in the bushes. A Roe Deer with 6-8 inches of antler was making his way from bush to bush in search of some tasty tips. The whoosh of traffic didn't seem to spook him, the wind varied blowing towards me of across the space between us. He kept feeding. After about five minutes I lifted one butt cheek and farted. He Looked right at me, I held still. An expression of 'I'm sure I heard something' flashed across his face and he went back to nibbling. I thought of you dear reader, and in the light of his unspookability, I thought I'd get get the camera from the car and take a picture to show you. As soon as I stood and silhouetted he was off.

More Soon - stay tuned it gets better
Your pal
The Bushwacker

Friday, 12 June 2009

I want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt11

How bushcraft is this!
The site is well worth having a look at, lots of cool ideas.
Your pal
The bushwacker

Thursday, 11 June 2009

European Bowhunting

As the about me section for this blog says I'm going to turn myself into a bow weilding elk hunter I can't blame any of you who are tapping your fingers and demanding "enough of the kit collecting and distractions, get with the hunting already".

So in the interests of getting on with it I thought a review of the european options for the hunting toxophile would be in order. As you can see from the map, bowhunting is really starting to gain popularity in southern Europe, the summer before last the French hunting magazines all had bowhunting sections and CHJ has found severl Italian bowhunting sites. The European Bowhunting Association has some useful information, if you're thinking of making the trip.

I'm off to Italy in a few days to do some outdoor plumbing and some scouting for big pigs in a chestnut forest.

Frankly any pointers would be much appreciated

Your Pal

Friday, 5 June 2009

I want One - A Not So Occasional Series Pt10

This time it's a boat! And what a boat. The Alpacka Raft is a fantastic idea, a boat that you can backpack with.
The boats weigh only 3.1 to 5.5 lbs. (1.5 to 2.5 kg) each, plus paddles and bits and pieces. I was rather taken with their 'Moose boat' the Fjord Explorer not the smallest of their output but big enough to take a friend, or transport that moose you've invited to dinner!

Beats taking the lift (elevator)

I doubt my (or your) weekend will be this exiting, but here's a-hopein' an a dreamin'
Your Pal
The SUBURBAN Bushwacker
Picture credit Alpacka Raft & Tom Evans

Monday, 1 June 2009

Can We Keep Him?

But muuumm he followed us home, Can we keep him?