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Saturday, February 27, 2021

More Thomas Elpel links and Information

 Here are some links to Thomas Elpel videos and his wildflower photos. He is the author of several great books on primitive skills, survival, foraging and plants.

You Tube videos:

Wildflower Photos:


Plant Books

 I've noticed over the years that plant books can be great or they can be mediocre. One of the things that makes a great plant book is the illustrations. I find that drawings are best. Granted, its nice to have color photographs, but sometimes the plant details just don't show that well. Therefore my take on drawings. A good drawing can show the minute details of the plant in question. Things such as the flowers, leaf scars, outline and shape of the leafs, etc. Have you ever noticed how the Peterson guides are all drawings? They use photos in some of the newest ones, but, the older editions have drawings and a few have a nice little section of photos which I consider eye candy. I have quite a digital collection of 19th century botany and herb books and the only color in them is hand painted plates and almost all the illustrations are drawings in black and white. I recall a book put out in 1905 about wildflowers and it had some of the first photos of flowers used for every plant described. The photos were in black and white and some few were hand colorized. They were not very useful. The saving grace for this book; there were drawings of the plants.

As you become more familiar with botany you develop a natural quickness in going right to the section of the books when you can distinguish certain botanical traits. Things such as number of flower petals, lanceolate versus heart shaped leaves, paired, opposite, smooth edges versus toothed, etc. These things can only be learned from drawings in my opinion.

This is a small list of some of my books on plants and the information contained whether drawings or photographs.

Peterson Field Guides:

1 Edible Wild Plants-Eastern US = drawings and a small section of photographs

2 Medicinal Plants-Eastern US = drawings and a small section of photographs

3 Trees & Shrubs-Eastern US = drawings only both 1958 and 1986 editions

4 Ferns = drawings only

Wild Edible Plants of the Western US by Kirk  = drawings and a small section of photographs

Edible Wild Plants Eastern US  Fernald & Kinsey = drawings only

The Illustrated Book of Wildflowers & Shrubs Grimm = drawings only

Botany in a Day Elpel = drawings only

The above list shows the importance of clarity in a plant description. I haven't seen too many photo's that can show such clarity in details unless they are high quality closeups.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Pocket Bushman continued

 This is a short post to show the work I did on the Cold Steel pocket bushman. The first photo shows the knife with the lock removed. When i have to work on a knife with the blade still attached such as this one I double the masking tape on the cutting edge. This makes it fairly safe but caution is still important. I use the little antique soap dish for my parts holder. In it are the stud and screw for the lock along with the spring.

This next photo shows the lock bar after I stoned the edges that were dragging against the inside of the handle. It shows as a mirror polish in the photo. The edges of the long cutout were stoned, too. This removed any wire edge or roughness from the manufacturing process. I ran green rouge on a felt wheel over everything with the Dremel tool after I cleaned off the oil and left over stone material. After I got everything back together (a real chore in itself! That little spring is strong and you have to put it all back together a certain way) the knife opened and closed a bit easier. I had to tighten the screw on the blade as it was a tiny bit wobbly. That took care of it.


This last photo shows some of my coarser stones. These are from machinist supply companies. I use them to smooth up and polish knife and gun parts. If you know what you're doing you can make a revolver work so smooth it sings!

Friday, February 12, 2021

An old friend returns

 I bought my first Cold Steel Pocket Bushman in 2008. I think it had just come on the market. I was looking for a good sized folder that would withstand the elements. The pocket bushman has one of the toughest locks known to knifedom (is that a word? it is now) and I wanted something that would not let go and cause a serious accident. Its hard to do firstaid on yourself one handed in the woods when your good hand is bleeding like a stuck pig.  The locking system is called Ram Safe lock and was designed by Andrew Demko. I know of no better lock. The scandi grind of the blade was another selling point with me since I was a Mora fan and built several knives with Finnish Lauri blades. The steel was an unknown when this first appeared. Now you can find good info on the net about it. It is Thyssen-Krupp 4116 stainless which has been cryogenic tempered. This process slowly takes the hot blade blank down to -300 degrees F in liquid nitrogen and keeps it there for a bit. What this does is converts the austinite in the steel to martinsite. This makes for a tougher, longer lasting steel. Do a Wikipedia search of "cryogenic treatment of steel" if you want to learn more.

Anyway, I had this knife for a long time and one day I was closing it and the spring broke inside the handle. The knife became way too dangerous to use because that extremely sharp blade just flopped around. No good! I contacted the good folks at Cold Steel and they sent me a pack of 5 springs. I guess they figured this problem would require a lot of replacements. I sold the knife with the extra 4 springs and told the buyer about the breakage possibility and how to change out the spring. I was very sad because I especially liked this knife. It sharpened up to razor edge and held it for a long time and it was sturdy. I owned and carried it daily for about 5 years before the spring incident and had heard Cold Steel remedied the problem. However, I never got around to getting one of the newer versions.

Well, a few months ago I was watching a You Tube video featuring the pocket bushman.The video showed the old version and why it was breaking springs and how it was remedied. In the old  lock bar there was an indent that the spring could bend down into and weaken it till it snapped. Cold Steel simply did away with this and made it a straight piece of steel. So far there have been no problems and this has been the case for about 10 years or so.

So, I went to my favorite store and low and behold there's a brand new sealed in the box Cold Steel Pocket Bushman with my name on it! All for the princely sum of $21.00! I got it home and took it apart. The first thing I noticed was the straight locking bar. Good. I stoned the bar where it felt like it was rubbing against the inside of the handle. Then I got out the Dremel and some felt wheels and green chromium rouge. This did a fine polish on the places I stoned (I use extra fine Scotch machinist stones down to 1000 grit). I did some minor stoning on the edges of the handle to remove and sharpness. The first thing to be left off was that useless thumb stud. Why? This is a hard opening knife and a thumb stud is just plain useless. I realize some folks like to flick their Bics and knives but save it for the smaller blades, boys. I got everything back together and tightened the star screws down and away we went. The RamSafe lock was a lot easier to pull back. Now, this knife is big. 4 1/2" blade, 10 3/8" overall when open, the 420 stainless handle is one piece construction and is 5 7/8" long. The knife is lite for its size coming in at 6.6 ounces. It has a reversible belt clip and is surprisingly slim and hardly noticeable in the pocket. Noticeable as far as feeling any bulge in your pocket-the top of the knife extends a good inch above the end of the pocket clip and the paracord lock assistant is sure to draw questions. Now I can retire my poor old worn out G-96 folder. It is so loose I'm half afraid to open it.

Monday, February 8, 2021

A new cordage plant and a new species for Wakulla county, Florida

Desmodium marilandicum or small-leaf tick trefoil is a plant I found in a corner of my property. I was weeding dog fennel, horse mint and goldenrod when I came across a small patch of this plant. As I pulled the long (4 feet +) stems I noticed how much the bark resembled dog bane. Since it was dead and fairly dry I processed a stem like I would dog bane and found it has very strong fibers. The outer bark came off like dried dog bane as I rolled some cordage. I made a string about 4 foot long, S twist, and did a test on my hanging scale. It held at 30 pounds and for a string about a 16th inch in diameter that is pretty good.

The plant has lite brown bark and the leaves are in 3's, thus the name trefoil. Its flowers are small purple and pea like. The seed pods are covered with tiny barbs and attach easily to your pets and clothing helping the plant to spread. Here are a few links to give you an idea of what it looks like: 

 This  hasn't been reported from Wakulla county where I live so come next summer I'll be sending a specimen off to the University of South Florida. The reason I pull a lot of tall weeds by hand is I save the straight stems for hand drills. goldenrod and dog fennel work great and I have a few other species I haven't tried yet but they are drying out in the shop. These will be reported on in a future article. Stay tuned.....

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Condor Village Parang, Using the Fire Tube, and Wild Edible Plants

 The Condor Village Parang is a hit! I've been working along the fenceline for last few days and it has done a sterling job. I will have to work on the handle to make it a hair smaller-a 4-in-hand file will do the trick and a finish up with sandpaper. My only complaint about the blade is it is convex grind and I will have to remedy that. It still cuts great but I love a flat grind. I've made knives so I have the confidence that I won't wreck this fine tool. I have no complaints about the sheath. It looks like Condor has fixed the problems they had years ago. I see online where some folks have a problem with it being a slow draw blade. Well, this is a tool and not anything near a self defense knife. If you're worried about that then you sure as hell better be packing. My choice is my .357 magnum with 4 inch barrel and target sights. In my opinion you can't beat a revolver.

I've had a few questions about the fire tube. Here's how it works. You get a nice red glowing tip on the cotton with a spark from your ferro rod/sparker/flint and steel. Blow on the glowing ember and put the whole deal into your already prepared birdsnest of tinder. Blow on the nest and when you see thick smoke you should be close to combustion. Keep blowing gently until you see fire. All done. Now pull the rope/wick back into the tube and leave an empty space at least 1/4 inch. Put your finger over the end of the tube and in seconds the ember dies. Let it cool of for a bit and wrap everything backup and put it away. I am careful not to damage the charred end too much so that I can get a good light the next time I put steel to it.

I notice everything going on here at the farm and be it birds, critters or plants I have an idea of whats happening. This week I found several edible wild plants that are coming up. Its been a not so typical north Florida winter so far. We've had more than the usual freezing nights and frost. We've also had a lot of rain. The days are getting longer and it can get up to 70 during the day. This is bringing a lot of stuff to the surface. Here's what I've spotted so far:

shepherds purse  Capsella bursa-pastoris

cleavers Galium sp.

chickweed Stellaria media

henbit Lamium amplexicaule

Florida betony Stachys Floridana

 These two photos show shepherds purse. It gets its name from the shape of the heart shaped seed pods. Note long narrow leaves and tiny white flowers. The whole plant is edible. The lower photo also shows henbit, cranesbill geranium and chickweed.

 These two photos show cleavers. It has a square stem and gets its name from the tiny hooks all along the stem which make the plant stick or cleave to your clothing. Entire plant is edible but its best when young and tender. Older plants can be boiled.


 These two photos shoe chickweed. The first photo has chickweed and henbit and the second two species of chickweed. The whole plant can be eaten.



These two photos show henbit. In the first it is associated with chickweed and cranesbill geranium. The henbit has the tall square stems. The second photo has a good example of how easy it is to confuse plants. The cranesbill geranium has deep grooves in the leaves and small stems whereas the henbit has rounded scalloped leaves and bigger square stems. Henbit is edible raw when young and the older plants need to be boiled and rinsed.


 These three photos show Florida betony. It has square stems and is in the mint family. The first two photos show the plant structure and the leaves while the third photo shows immature roots and tubers. Its also called rattlesnake radish for obvious reasons. In the mid to late summer these tubers get up to five inch's long and its easy to gather a latge quantity. The roots and tubers are eaten raw and have a unique taste, some say like celery. The only problem with this plant is the fact that it is one of the most fast spreading and invasive plants in Florida. It ranks right up there with wandering jew, mexican poinsetta, and Bidens alba or spanish needles. I've batted them all. They're winning.


Standard cautionary notice!!! Never eat a plant you find in the wild without 100% positive identification. The wrong plant can kill you. Period. There are a ton of books out there these days that will lead you in the right direction. Here are the ones I use:

Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel-super good book to teach you plants identification!

Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America by Fernald and Kinsey-excellent book with drawings and uses.

Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants Eastern/Central North America by Peterson-one of the best with excellent illustrations and photos as well as uses.

Wild Edible Plants of Western North America by Kirk. I depended on this book when I lived and traveled in the western US. It has great drawings and descriptions as well as habitat and uses. Most of the plants are also found nation wide.

Of course there are a number of great books that I haven't mentioned but you can check them out on Amazon and see if its something you think you can use. Just do a search for "edible wild plants, foraging, wildcrafting".