One of the most important ways I connect with history is just simply trying to do it. Every day that I go into the woods I will make an entry in this Journal describing my experiences, though I am not able to go every day. I will not make a great effort to thoroughly edit the text, as it is really just a field report of my journey into the history of America’s early frontier. I hope the reader will both enjoy and maybe learn from my experiments and mistakes, as well as successes. Please note that these entries are just as I wrote them and not edited in the same manner that I would when writing an article.
April 6, 2016
I have been so busy preparing for the ride coming up in May, I have not been able to spend time researching in the woods like I normally do. This will probably be the case until June, when I return from the American Frontier History Expedition. I am still going out in the woods every day, just not in period clothing. However, I did find this interesting. Nature gives us gifts if we will only look for them.
Friday, February 26, 2016
This whole week has been focused on the upcoming ride in May. Still no firm bid from our horse supplier, which is really frustrating. Today, I was out at Mike Brown’s riding, which felt really good and I think it went well also. I have still been going out in the woods on snow shoes, but not in period gear. There is so much to be done for the upcoming ride that my time has become very limited. Still the ride will be something very special.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
I have been on the run here lately, in Chicago and working on the American Frontier History Expedition. So I will need to change direction a bit in what I write. My focus now will be getting ready for “the ride” which will start next May. There is so much to do! However, this is also a great opportunity for me to expand my experimental archeological research. My focus has been horses, saddles and tack. Frontiersmen like Daniel Boone did not ride cowboy, roping style saddles. Rather, they used something that looks like a modern English saddle, which has no horn at all and looks quite different that the western saddle. Even the girth attachment is different. Here is a picture or two of the saddle I am going to use.
I have ridden this saddle one time and found it comfortable, but it does need some modifications, so I sent it to a man named Clay Landry who is well versed in building historical saddles and tack. Though I have owned and ridden horses before, this will be something new, different and exciting. The length of the trip is over 200 miles and the preparation is very taxing on me, but I think that the end result will be worth it. I want to see both the places were Daniel Boone and other longhunters traveled, as well as interact with the public, especially schools.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Today is a perfect winter day. The sky is blue and the temperature is ranging in the twenties. I was in a hurry to get food out to the deer as we have been gone a few days visiting our daughter Beth in Chicago for a few days. What a time to reflect about history! It was not that long ago when the land the city of Chicago lies on was the frontier and Indian people lived there. Now it is all tar and cement, strip malls and impressive, but man-made skyscrapers. It is crowded with people who are stacked together like cord wood, with some bad drivers and with risky area to be alone at in the evening. I have to say that I loved being with our family but I disliked the city. It stressed me out, especially the driving part. That is why I need to get out into nature every day–it balances me and gives me perspective. One of the things I saw while walking was the moon, in its quarter phase, clearly visible in the eastern sky. Seeing the moon during daylight hours reminds me that it (along with the stars) are always there, faithful companions to me forays into nature, whether I can see them or not. This somehow give me a good feeling, as if they were somehow watching me with the intent of being my appointed group of guardians. Indian people seem to see some wonderful things in the sky. I am still awed by what I see also.
Friday, February 12, 2016
I have been sick a few days and busy, no daily woods time. But I was out Wednesday morining and saw blood on my snowshoe trail. I had seen blood–drips that is–for over two weeks and I wondered if this was from a wounded deer. There was not a lot, but if it is from and injury, then it is taking a long time to heal. And the weather has been cold, bleow zero, but the woods have been very pretty. I am in Chicago now with Cindy to see the kids, but I will be back Monday evening, so Tuesday I will be back in the woods.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
More gray skies today. Temperatures are a little cooler than yesterday. No snowshoes needed, trails packed down. I wore only one shirt and my white blanket coat—no issues with being cold. Today I tried tying my sash in the front in a bow. I had no problems, but it did not feel right. I like what I did yesterday better, that is, tying the sash in a bow, but with the bow on my right hip area. Also, I like having my fire kit pouch on my right side, rather than the left. I think that is because with the belt pouch there, it loads up that side of the belt area, mainly because that is where I put my knife and hawk.
On another note: on the back part of our trail walk all of a sudden Missy stopped, put her nose into the snow and pulled out a dead mouse. It occurred to me that there is a whole world underneath the surface of the white stuff. I don’t know what killed this mouse; it had been partly eaten and was frozen solid. But I do know that mice tunnel underneath the snow and build cozy nests, protected from the wind and cold by inches, sometime a foot or two of snow. I also found a number of snowshoe rabbit tracks. Snowshoes are good eating, but I have not seen one now for years and I probably will not as long as the dogs are with me.
Monday, February 1, 2016
The skies are gray and though the temperatures are mild, the humidity is high. There is a feeling of dampness in the air. The snowshoe trails have hardened to the point I can just walk on them with my mukluks. I am now experimenting with how to tie my sash. There are a number of ways. Today, I tried tying it in a bow and positioning the bow on my right hip. The bow is good, because one can cinch up the sash, tie it in a bow and if need be unite the bow quickly.
Also, I went back and investigated further the pile of feathers I saw on the snow. The feathers are actually from a blue jay. I still have no clue as to what animal killed this bird. The feathers sure are pretty, though.
Sunday, January, 31, 2016
I went out to feed the deer around 2:00 this afternoon. Another beautiful day with warm temperatures and mostly sunny skies. I noticed that the birds were out and singing. I was dressed with only one shirt and my white blanket coat and was almost two warm–I should have thought a bit more before going out. It was warm enough that the snow was melting slightly—something that can cause problems for snowshoes in that the snow can cling to the webbing of the shoes and “ball up” underneath the foot. But it was not bad today, as it was the day before. I so enjoy this weather, but I know that it will change, winter is not over and the bone chilling cold will return. On another note: while walking south from our house, I saw our white dog Lilly with her nose sniffing on the packed down trail up ahead. As I got closer, I noticed it was blood. The blood came from a deer, as I could see from the lone track that crossed the trail. I followed the track for a while, but there was not a lot of blood, just some flecks that had frozen on top of the snow. However this deer was wounded, I don’t think that that it is a serious wound. Maybe it got poked with a stick or cut on a barb wire fence—still it was interesting. Then, a while later our other dog Missy went off the trail and was sniffing at something. So, curious, I went to investigate. What I saw was a pile of feathers and some blood. It looked like it was from a crow or maybe a raven. I could not ascertain how this bird died, though I am guessing it might have been a hawk or eagle. I could see no animal tracks, so it remains a mystery. But what is see ist that no matter how focused modern man is in his technological, material world, there is a whole other word out there that most people never see or experience and that is the world of nature. There is drama here and beauty and it was the world our ancestors were so familiar with.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Gray skies and snow flurries, but the temperatures are in the high teens with just a little wind. I have not been able to get out the last couple of days, so it was good to put on my period cloths, strap on the snowshoes and travel into the woods. Some more snow had fallen, maybe two or three inches and now my packed down trails will need to be packed down again, though those couple of inches do not pose a problem as far as travel goes. My wide woven belt is working well without tying it in place. And the ole toque is becoming my favorite hat. The Canadian Cap has a tail in the back that can get in the way at times, so the toque is more practical, plus if it gets really cold outside, I can tie a scarf around my head. Funny, I haven’t seen any grouse lately. I did come across some snowshoe rabbit droppings, but have not seen any actual rabbits—yet. Strangely, not far from the house, in a sheltered area, I came across five places where deer had bedded down. It is amazing to me how God has equipped these fleet animals with the ability to lie in the snow and keep warm. Often, when the snow is not too deep, the ground is bare under where they have laid down, revealing dead leaves and twigs. But when the snow is deep, there is only a depression left in the snow. I have spent a great deal of time this winter concentrating on keeping the upper part of my body warm, now I must add to that, the lower part. I will start by using wool leggings. On another note: the repair of my Type G smoothbore has been a great success. I fired it on Sunday and there were no problems at all whatsoever with the repair, the glued, pegged and brass shrouded work held and I think will hold.
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Today was like yesterday. Temps were in the low twenties—but there was wind and wind makes a difference. I dressed like I did yesterday and was surprised that I did just fine. I did try a new sash. It is a very fine, hand woven one, wide with beads woven right in. I did not tie it in place, but rather wrapped it around my waist layer over layer and tucked the end under the layers. I was surprised how well it held considering I had a knife, belt axe and my fire starting kit tucked into my belt. That is, I tied my fire starting pouch onto the belt. Every improvement I have made this winter has worked out but I have more to experiment with. I need to spend more time in the woods and go more distance and maybe go out overnight. I hope to do so soon. Further, I finished the repair on my smoothbore. I was nervous with this final stage of the repair–which was to fit a piece of sheet brass over the broken area of the wrist. It makes me feel good that I could do that repair, it was not an easy one. But it is a period repair. That is I glued the wrist back together, then drilled a hole in the wrist and glued a hickory peg in to help strengthen the wrist. Finally, I wrapped the broken area with a piece of sheet brass and nailed it into place. Now the gun has real, frontier character. I look forward to using for years to come–God willing.
Friday, January 22, 2016
Today is one of those days in winter that just makes you smile inside. Temps were in the twenties, the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. I only needed my white blanket coat and two shirts (one wool, one linen) on underneath to keep warm. There had been some snow the day before and it was the light, flaky kind and that new snow sparkled in the sunlight. It was almost two bright at times. I have heard of people suffering from snow blindness and I could see why—especially on the plains or prairies where there would be no structures to obstruct the sunlight. However, the trees that are all around us helped me. Also; I wore my leather belt again because I wanted to include a bag with my fire starting kit. I have neglected bringing the bag with me up until now because I was not in a situation where I would need it—I was only going outside for an hour or so. However, no person would travel on the frontier without means to make fire. My fire kit includes a fire steel, attached to my bag with a leather thong so as not to lose it. Also, flint shards, birchbark, tow, a magnifying glass to start fires in sunny conditions and a small tin for making char. But that is not all. After supper I went outside and was blessed to see a full moon that was lighting up the landscape. There was light cloud cover in the sky that was causing a small, rainbow-like ring around the moon. I thought to myself, “this looks like the eye of God with the moon being the pupil and the rainbow-like ring the outside of the eye. It was almost like God Himself was peering down from heaven, looking at the beautiful winter landscape. Nature sure has its extremes. Last weekend it was bitter cold and hard to be outside—this weekend it is a joy.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Once again the sun was out in full force, but at least today’s temperature was better than yesterday, around 1 degree, with no wind chill. I saw something that is a mystery to me. There was a dead grouse sticking out of the snow head first towards the ground. I know that grouse stay warm by diving under the snow and burrowing down and that sometimes they hit their head and break their necks. That is the second grouse I have found dead this year. Maybe that poor bird knocked itself out and froze to death before it came to. Nature seems cruel at times. Getting back to the temperature: that difference made my time out in the woods more pleasant than yesterday. My hands were much warmer. Also, I went back to wearing the hood on my white blanket coat folded back a bit and tying my scarf around the hood, going around the neck. That helps it stay in place. The difference may have been that the wind was blowing and gusting yesterday, pushing the cool air into my garments. All in all, I have learned some good things this winter about what works and what doesn’t in different weather conditions.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Another very cold day, -5, wind chill of -18, NW wind around 4-10 mph. Sunny too, no clouds—beautiful but cold. I spent part of yesterday adding one top layer to my mittens, but my hands still got a bit cold. I even had my spare scrap of white blanket over my white wool coat and they still were a bit cold. Carrying my gun in one hand and a bucket of corn in the other—well, maybe that cuts circulation a bit in the hands—I don’t know. The big news is that I have begun to repair my English smoothbore that broke at the wrist the other day. Yesterday I glued the wood parts together with Tite Bond glue and clamped them. This afternoon I drilled a hole for a dowel rod through the wrist area where the break occurred. I was sure nervous, afraid I would make a mistake, but I took my time, thought things through step by step, checked and rechecked every measurement and worked patiently. The result was everything that I had hoped for. I will post all the pictures when the project is done, but here is one of them of the stock pieces glued together and the dowel rod glued in place. I will trim it to the stock tomorrow and finish the repair.
This is what I had to start with
Next step: glue and clap–takes patience
The stock well glued, a hole drilled through the wrist and a dowel rod glued and inserted into the hole–helps strengthen the repair
January 16, 2016
Today was a day of useless sunshine. That is, the sun was out and bright, but the temperature out side was very cold—useless sunshine. The wind did not cooperate either. -9 degrees F with a wind chill factor of -28. This time of the year is very hard on deer and other animals. How do birds survive I wondered? But right away this morning, when I looked out the window I saw chickadees on the suet bags, seemingly oblivious to the brutal temperature. God has equipped His creatures well when it comes to dealing with the elements. Even the deer have hair that is hollow, helping to insulate and trap heat. My time out in the woods went well. I used snow shoes once again to help firm up the trails. Once a trail is packed down, one can travel quite fast on snowshoes. When were snowshoes invented?– no one knows for sure, but travel is all but impossible in deep snow without them. I made my own a number of years ago and laced them up with rawhide. Ojibway people used the intestines of moose for this purpose. Moving on: the gloves I reworked did quite well in the cold. I am glad I took the time to cover both of the thumbs. I am even thinking of adding one more layer of wool on the top side of the mittens, but I have not quite made up my mind. I wore my white blanket coat with the hood up over a toque, and the scrap of blanket as sort of makeshift cape. This worked so well. I could put front part of the blanket over my shoulders to the back when I needed to freely move my hands, or I could let the blanket hang down in front. This helped protect my hands and arms against the wind. That wind was abrasive! I could feel frostbite on my nose, but that was short-lived because the trail turned in a different direction that led me through a thick stand of trees that blocked the wind. Deer do that—the find a cedar swamp or something to break that awful wind. Wind drives cold into the body like a hammer drives a nail into wood. All in all, this was a good day in the woods. I feel that I am reaping some benefits from my experimentation and my willingness to change both my opinions and methods. I have to say, all this leads me to have a great admiration for our forefathers, both Indian and European. Its humbling at times seeing how little I really know about surviving in the wild. But I am much better today than I was when I first started this journey.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Today the skies were grey in the morning, but later they cleared and were scattered. In fact, by 3:00 the sun was out, but it was cold. We had about 5 inches of snow last night, so I had to wear my snowshoes. Saw 3 or 4 deer while walking on the south part of our property. Cold air will be moving in so that we will be well below zero for the next few days. This should be a good test of my equipment. I had a pair of wool mittens that were not keeping my hands warm, so I sewed another layer of wool over the existing mittens—all except the thumb. The extra layer of wool did keep my hands warm, but my thumbs were still cold. I fixed that today by sewing an extra layer of wool over both thumbs. It doesn’t look pretty, but it will work.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The temperature is around 9 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind is light. The humidity is 81% and light snow is falling. I suppose there is a little over an inch of snow on the ground compared with yesterday. No problem yet walking on top of trails packed down by snowshoes. The skies are overcast enough and the humidity high enough that I think it could snow more. Today, I wore my red blanket coat. The blanket is a Hudson Bay one and belonged to my grandfather, Dr. L.A. Block. It was passed to me when he died back in the Spring of 1971. I bet it is at least 50 years old. My wife Cindy made this into a coat back in the early eighties and I have worn it on a number of hunts and historical events over the years. I was bummed to see that mice had eaten a hole or two in it, but I was able to patch those holes and in fact I wore the coat during the whole deer season—which was warm. I like this coat and it had done a good job keeping me warm over the years. I wore my toque again without the hood and did fine. So now, as I consider what to wear, I factor in the outside temperature, wind and humidity. Of course our ancestors did that as a matter of course. They could read the weather better that people in this modern age. I made an adjustment to the toggle system I use on my knife sheath and I like it. I left an extra amount of leather thong on the toggle, in case I might need to tie something else down. It is always good to be prepared. I will have pictures of the blanket coat tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
-2, with a wind chill of -16, skies are mostly clear. Today, I again wore the white capote with the hood up. I also wore a toque under the hood. More importantly, I experimented with different ways to utilize the wool blanket scrap. It can be worn as a makeshift cape, covering both the front and back of the body. This is nice, because it covers the front of the arms and chest area—plus one can put their hands underneath. Even with the wind blowing a bit, I was totally comfortable. This coat and blanket is a nice option in colder weather.
Next, it both sides of the blanket can be flipped back over the shoulders freeing up the arms and hands. Good for shooting.
It can also can be worn covering one side front and back and the other side can have the blanket flipped back over the shoulder. Again, good for shooting.
Monday, January 11, 2016
It is snowing out and the temperature is -1 degree Fahrenheit. Feels cold! Strange, but I felt cold even before I went out—or chilled is perhaps a better word. In any case, I wore pretty much what I did yesterday, which was the white wool blanket, tuque, chopper mittens, hood up on the capote, and an extra light blanket draped over my shoulders like a cape. That combination worked well again—but I wonder how well it would have performed if the wind had kicked up. I do have a heavier blanket I could use and probably will if the weather goes downhill. Tomorrow I will take some more pictures to illustrate what I am talking about. The more I do this, the more I am in awe of the survival skills of our early forefathers.
Saturday, January 09, 2016
Today it was considerably colder than the past few. It was overcast, windy and the temperature was in the single digits. I dress with two lined shirts, a wool vest, my white blanket coat and used the wool mittens that were made out of a blanket and were double layered. I knew that covering my head properly would be important. So, I decided to utilize my toque and then tie it onto my head with my large scarf. I have found that an extra scarf carried along can make a big difference in comfort. This combination worked really well. The scarf kept the toque in place and also helped cover my ears. Further I could turn my head at just about any angle easily. I went back to using my leather belt. Sash or leather belt; both have their advantages. The leather belt goes off and on quickly and easily, but is not as comfortable as the sash, plus the sash can be used for other tying needs in an emergency. On the trail today I saw one really fat red squirrel and many mouse trails. I could see where they would walk on top of the snow and then sort of burrow down, making a tunnel, presumably to their nest. That made me wonder, just how warm is a mouse’s nest in wintertime. Snow is insulation, but they must have places where they have made warm littler areas lined with dry grass, leaves and anything else they can find for insulation. I wondered also if a mouse ever gets bored. I mean, what in the world does a mouse think about in the dead of winter? No grouse today, but plenty of deer tracks. More experimenting tomorrow.
Friday, January 08, 2016
Today was a busy one. Another day of overcast skies and warm weather. The snow has hardened so that I do not have to wear snowshoes—as long as I stay on the snowshoe packed trails. It has been warm enough that I have note even been using my various wool capotes. Instead, I have been wearing two linen shirts and one wool over shirt for the past two days. I have been completely comfortable the whole time I have been out. This is just another option I have to wear, depending on the weather conditions outside. Also, the dogs have kicked up a few grouse, which I love to see busting out of the snow. I have posted the pictures below.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
In a situation that seem very ironical to me, the stock on one of my favorite hunting rifles broke at the wrist today. It is a very close copy of a mid-seventeen hundreds, English, smoothbore, flintlock longarm known today as a Carolina Gun. Some call it a Type G. Two things are ironic here. 1. I am in the process of writing about an original Carolina Gun for Muzzleloader magazine and 2. it has a similar break in the wrist area as mine now does. The original was repaired and put back into use and I will do the same with mine. I will glue, pin and clamp the wrist area back together and when the glue has set up and cured I will either wrap the wrist in wet rawhide and sew it together—or I will make a repair using a piece of copper or brass sheeting, forming it around the wrist and securing it with small nails. This gun, like the many original ones I have examined will be put back into use—just with a bit more character. I will keep a thorough record of this repair process.
Monday, January 04, 2016
The weather was in the twenties today with a little wind and the sky was mostly clear. Another great day in the woods. Worked with a new toggle system for my belt knife. It uses a toggle and a leather strap that is better illustrated in a photo than trying to explain. However I will try. Tuck the toggle under the belt and then wrap the other end of the leather string around the toggle a couple of times, finishing by putting the end of the leather string under the part of the leather string that goes over the belt. I am convinced that people of old survived because of their ingenuity and adoptability. A knife was a very important part of a man or woman’s tools. A knife can do so much, shape wood, cut up game, help prepare a meal, perform surgery, be a weapon, and do so many other useful duties. It has to be accessible, should be sharp and kept in a proper sheath—and above all, not lost. But I also like convenience, which means that I don’t like to take a long time to tie and untie the knife and sheath to my belt. That is why I have been experimenting with the toggle system. Modern man rarely carries anything other than a pocket knife, which also existed back 2000+ years ago, but the modern knife is only used a bit here and there. It is no longer a tool of survival. We, of course, still use knives to prepare food, but they are not worn on our person. It was common for men and women both to carry a knife around their waist is some fashion or another. Moving on; the blanket coat is working out well. So far, I have learned what clothing to wear with it down to about 5 degrees. I will learn more as winter progresses.
The wool blanket coat I have been writing about. I am carrying a flintlock smoothbore firearm. Every piece of period clothing I am wearing has been hand made.
Saturday, January 02, 2016
It is a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining in full force and there is not a cloud in the sky. Temps are in the mid-twenties and the wind is around 15 mph coming from the WNW. Well, this is the second day of sunshine after many days of grey skies. Tracks are everywhere on the snow. As if the animals are out celebrating the change in weather. Mouse tracks, deer tracks, squirrel tracks and grouse tracks. The dogs, in fact, kicked up two or three grouse. I always carry my flintlock, 20 gauge smoothbore with me, but the grouse were too far away and when they took off, they went quite a distance. I feel like I am getting a handle on this whole issue of winter clothing. I wore two period shirts, covered by my white wool blanket coat. I have grown rather found of my hand-knitted toque for a head covering and a woven sash for a belt. I have been refining the simple things in my gear. For instance, my belt knife: I wear it tucked under by sash, tied into a knot with a leather thong. That works out well, but when I remove the sash, I have to untie the knot and that takes time—also if my fingers are cold it makes it hard—believe me I know. So, I devised a very simple method to secure my belt knife and sheath to my body. I use a length of leather and a toggle, made out of a small sapling. This works out well. It goes under the sash easily and stays there. Conversely, it can easily be removed. I have taken to wrapping the sash twice around my body and tying it behind my back in a square knot. I have included a picture of this with this entry. Next step: do some refining work on my blanket coat—more on that later. Note the pictures below:
Monday, December 28, 2015
Yesterday the clouds were gone and the sun was out—but it was colder—around 12 degrees with a NW wind. Today the clouds are back. It is not quite as cold and the winds are somewhat diminished. I went to bed Saturday evening and saw a beautiful, clear sky with a bright moon shining enough to create shadows in the snow. I think about primitive man or man with less technology and knowledge than we have. People that knew weather patterns and followed the cycles of the moon and the seasons. How far are we alienated from their way of life! The difference between Saturday and Sunday’s temperature was enough to make me notice. The toque I war Saturday was not quite adequate for Sunday’s temperature and wind. The wind seemed to drive the cold right through the wool in my cap. I wished I had brought a scarf to wrap around my head and ears. I thought about it before leaving the house, but then thought better of it. See, I wasn’t thinking like someone should who lives out in the woods. I should be prepared for different contingencies of temperature, humidity and wind. Also, the wool mittens I was wearing did not keep my hands a warm as I normally like them. They are pieced together out of an old blanket. Blankets were used for clothing—especially the scraps. I think I will need to sew another layer of wool on them. Today, I used modern choppers. That is an inner glove of wool and an outer glove of leather. These worked well, but are not correct for the 18th century. I will add wool to the mittens I own from more blanket material and see how that works. Further, I did not time my sash on, but rather just did a sort ow wrap around and tuck in thing. That worked, but I worried that the sash would work itself loose and my knife and belt axe drop in the snow to be lost—bad news if a person lived 200 years ago and had no way to quickly replenish his or her tools. I did remember today to bring an extra scarf along, but did not need it. I tied it around one of the straps of my haversack, ready to be used if needed. Tonight there might be snow—good for snowshoeing if it happens. In the meantime, I will plan for a longer outage in the woods. Maybe I will snowshoe somewhere, stop and make a fire and boil some water for tea. I used to do that sometimes and I need to get back into the habit. Though my excursions into the woods and the 18th century are short in nature (no pun intended) I find them enormously interesting and informative. So glad I have this avocation to occupy my mind and time.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
It was still grey outside today, but the sun was trying hard to shine through. It was like looking at the sun through a hazy filter, a filter of light clouds and fine snowflakes. I heard birds also, something that I had not the last few days. As if the sun’s muted appearance was building home in the animal kingdom. Not so for a mouse. Lilly, our white Germen Sheppard saw a mouse and was on it immediately. We used to have a white dog named Kavic. He had some Sheppard, Lab and Wolf in him. He was an amazing dog. He could hear mice in deep snow and would rear up like a horse and dive nose first into the snow to retrieve his prey. He would chomp them down with one gulp and then trot away with his tail up in the air, displaying an attitude of triumph. Otherwise, I used mittens today hand sewn from a wool blanket. They worked ok, but it was not very cold either. I tried another sash today, one I bought in Boonesbourough at the first Sam Brady conference back in 1999. I suppose I have four sashes in my possession. I like wearing them because they feel softer than a belt. Also, they are wider and offer more support for my back. This sash I tied in a square knot. The knot was it the back, not on the side. There are many ways to tie a sash and a sash can be used for other things also—anything to do with tying up. Most of the sashes I have wrap two times around the middle and are then tied. Into the sash goes a belt knife and a belt axe. Both worn on the left side and are retrieved by a cross draw motion. I am right-handed, so I use that had to grab the knife or axe from my left side. I got by with using two period shirts, no wool vest, my white blanket coat, tuque, red silk scarf, wool mittens, wool sash and mukluks. Wool is the way to go in the part of the country. It is nice and warm.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
There is something so therapeutic about being in the woods. It is good for my body, soul and spirit. It somehow heals the scars this modern world leaves on me, bringing me into a more balanced, quiet place. Today the skies are still grey and the temps warm. I spent extra time looking at deer tracks just to try and ascertain the size and sex of the deer that made them. I was both amused and touched at seeing a set of mouse tracks in the snow. Of course the prints were not very deep, but they went right across the snowshoe trail I made the other day and disappeared under a log and some debris. I wondered what a mouse’s world looked like, everything so big. I wondered what a mouse’s house looked like, what it smelled like. Was it really warm? Living under the snow is a good idea for some critters because the snow offers some protection from the cold. This is true for grouse also. Many times I have started grouse that have literally dove into the snow for cover. When surprised, they fairly burst out of the snow, jolting me and the dogs and head for safer territory. Today I noticed an absence of birds. Maybe they are depressed because of the absence of sunshine for so many days. Today I went back to wearing two linen shirts and my white blanket coat—no vest or weskit. I also used a sash instead of my leather belt and that seemed to work fine. I have three different hand-woven sashes and I will try all three of them. My favorite one is the one Cindy made for me. It has lasted many years. Much of what I wear today, Cindy made. I should mention that I am wearing mukluks—moose hide bottoms and canvas tops and they are working just fine—however they are modern made. I have a pair of buffalo hide boots with bear hide upper that I use, but I have to be careful because they are slippery. So far my experimentation is going well, but it will be interesting to see how my gear works when colder weather gets here.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
More grey skies today with temps again in the twenties. My excursion in the woods today was different than yesterday because there was a bit more wind. I only wore one shirt under my blanket coat today and that was a heavy wool one—no wool vest—just the shirt. I found that my arm movement was ok, but after about a half an hour of walking on snowshoes, in some places breaking trails, that I started to warm up to the point I stopped to cool down a bit. I think that most of us tend to overdress when we go outdoors in the cold, because we just do not spend enough time in the elements to know how to dress. I could have gotten by with just one linen shirt and my blanket coat for what I was doing, but what if I was going to be out for a couple of day? I would definitely want more cloths so that I could stay warm and dry under a variety of weather conditions and physical exertion s. I again used my wool voyageur toque for headgear and I found it worked just fine, but if the weather go colder and more blustery, I think I would have to incorporate the hood over my head. Now, I need to consider how to better tie the hood to my head. I will think on this.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Yesterday was cold, but not as windy as the day before. I went out to feed the deer in period cloth, carrying my smoothbore in case I saw any grouse. I decided to try out my plains style blanket capote and have been in fact experimenting with three different ones. I finally repaired my red, Hudson Bay blanket coat that Cindy made for me in the eighties. The blanket once belonged to my grandfather block and has special meaning to me. Mice had gotten into it and chewed some holes. I patched the holes with some old wool I had and used the coat during deer season and found that it worked well. Of course deer season was really warm this year, but I like the fit of this coat. It is big enough that I can layer up under it a bit if I need to. This coat passes the test. Next, I have a wool blanket coat that was made for me by a very talent artisan. It is well made and historically very accurate, but feels too tight in the sleeve and underarm area. I have considered altering the coat, because I like it, but I have had further thoughts on this. If I purchased the coat in historic times, what would I have done? Yes, I could alter the coat, but maybe I would leave it as is and instead of layering from the inside out, I could layer from the outside in. I could make a simple cape that would be removable and that would help. I do like this coat and have worn it on a number of occasions and it is appropriate for this area and also the time I like in history. Finally, the plains coat; it is longer in cut, made out of a Whitney blanket and is nicely trimmed. This coat is also cut large and it works great. Because the coat is longer in length, it feels sometimes like my leg movements might be hampered a bit, but I experienced none of that yesterday. By the way, I used my home-made snowshoes and they worked just great, I am very satisfied with the bindings (I researched this carefully) and overall, give them a high rating. They are Ojibway or pointed toe style. Now, here are two issues I have been thinking about: mittens and hats. When I wore those blanket coats, I wore no hats, but instead used the hoods. The Hudson Bay and Whitney coat did ok, but the wind was not an issue. With the white wool coat, there was an issue. The hood fit loosely around my head and some cold air was able to get in. I wasn’t freezing, but I was not toasty warm. The white blanket coat’s hood design, although historically correct, is strange. It comes up to a point, much like a KKK hood looks like—the other two coats have hoods that are more rounded. In every case, I think a wool scarf is a must, it keeps the neck area protected, yet it can be adjusted to let the body breath if necessary. I will probably add a wool hat to the mix and see how that works in the future.
January 21, 2015 Wednesday afternoon
The skies are gray again temperature is around 26, when is around 10 miles an hour. Went out this afternoon to feed the deer this is what I wore: my Canadian Cap, my wool coat made by Isaac Walters, my short scarf, my hand woven belt made by Irene Rogers with beads on it, and my wool mittens. Even though the snow was not too deep I took my Ojibway snowshoes out and use them and they work well. I wore a linen shirt and a linen vest underneath the wool coat. My knife and tomahawk and it stayed secure the whole time I was out. I did one other thing, I took wool gun case and brought it with me and wrapped it around my neck like a scarf. I thought I might want to try this because there are times when I’m not hunting I use the case to cover the gun. So what do I do when I’m not using the case to cover the gun? I use it as a scarf or as an extra belt or maybe I put it on the branch of a tree when I’m using the branch as a rest to shoot, that will soften the noise of my gun barrel on the branch. So, even something simple as a wool rifle case can be important to carry with the woods. In fact, I have used my gun case as a rest at different times when I’ve been hunting in the past. Over all I was very comfortable, but I do think I should’ve brought an extra scarf with me. This would be used just in case it got cold and I needed to wrap the scarf around my Canadian Cap to keep my ears warm. I think when the temperatures are in the 20s, and the wind is very slight, that a person could get by for hours wearing what I was wearing today. The question is what would I used to carry extra gear. Right now the best that seems to be using my pack basket which is made of woven Basswood. My friend gene and I are working on making some. Toboggans and when those are done I can see the carry a lot of them, established trails, or on flat lakes.
January 23, 2015, Friday 11:48 AM
The moon is in its waxing crescent phase. Took the dogs out the interview earlier today. I did not wear historical clothes because I was in a hurry. But yesterday I did wear my historical clothing, and had a very pleasant time in very mild weather. This is what I wore: my white wool blanket coat, the hand woven belt that some be made for me, my brown Canadian cap, wool mittens, short grey scarf, and in my belt I tucked a knife, a belt ax, and tied the belt the way that did Dick Gillman showed me. For some reason I didn’t do it quite right because the belt started to loosen up. I think it’s because the ends both met behind my back right the ax in. In the future, I will consider high tying my belt different ways. It’s important to have my belt secure so as not to lose your tools, because loss of tools could put the person into a political survival situation in the woods. Also, I retied the snowshoe bindings on my Ojibway snowshoes and that has been working well. Further, I saw two grouse at two different times while on the woods, but I just could not get a shot. Both of them flew up into pine trees and as hard as I looked I could not find them. The dogs were very good, were patient, and enthusiastic hunting game. Just came up short. I carried my gun case and various other sundry in my haversack, including my shot pouch. That was good because I did not have one other thing hanging around my neck as I was walking and that is good.
January 19, 2015 Monday evening
The temperature today was right around 28°F and it was windy. There are around four or 5 inches of snow on the ground and I used my Indian snowshoes today to walk around in the woods and all went well. In fact, we scared up two grouse but I wasn’t able to take a shot. The moon-phase is waning crescent. I was not wearing period clothing, but I did carry my Indian trade gun and shot pouch and Powder horn.
January 17, 2014, Saturday
It was warmer today, but it snowed outside. The snow was wet and it was windy. Took the dogs outside today to feed the deer. Saw no grouse or rabbits. The sky was grey. I carried my English trade gun, and I used a wool cover. And I used my snowshoes. My time went fast. I apologize for this sentence structure. I am still learning my voice command software.
January 14, 2014, Wednesday
I learn by doing. Every day that I go into the woods I will make an entry in this Journal describing my experiences. They the temperatures were in the 20s. I took the dogs out and my English trade gun. I saw no game to shoot. Sky was grey. The dogs behave well. I went on my new path. It is looking good.