Monthly Archives: August 2014

In The Weeds

Cattail is one of the easiest plants to identify in the wild

Cattail is one of the easiest plants to identify in the wild

So on my Facebook page I was recently asked about being lost and needing to eat wild. Not game- more specifically about green stuff. Stuff that grows on trees, bushes, and shrubs. Stuff that starts out as a seed and blossoms. The stuff herbivore’s love.

First let me point out a few things. You cannot and should not ever learn from a book, video or guide on the right plants to eat. There are certain plants, berries, and other shoots that can be poisonous and kill you. You should really learn from an experienced guide who will teach and mentor you one on one. You need to not only learn what you can eat but also what can harm you. A book, guide or video download is a great place to start, but for me when working an area, I try to find a local expert to teach me. A solid resource for a starting point is a website called “Eat the Weeds” and he has very informative videos, but again, learn from a local, not a book or video. On the site you will find great guidelines to use ONCE you learn to identify the plant and understand its seasonal behaviors.

Second- it’s all about liability and responsibility. As a practitioner in outdoor science and skills for close to 30 years I cannot and will not administer a menu of edibles in the wild and not expose myself to risk. At the same time, you really should not follow what some guy on the internet tells you what you can and cannot eat. I could be making this up for all you know.

Is it safe to eat? If you're not 100% sure don't take a chance on it. You're already in a survival situation, don't make it worse by consuming something toxic

Is it safe to eat? If you’re not 100% sure don’t take a chance on it. You’re already in a survival situation, don’t make it worse by consuming something toxic

Fortunately, there are a few things you can eat that are easy to identify and not produce any difficulties. These are things you can go to the woods with confidence.

Cattails, parts of the Pine Tree, and certain grasses can be foraged. Cattail is often my go to since the head can be made into a paste and baked. The shoots in the spring are also an option. Pine gives us among other things, needles to be used as tea and nuts from the cones. Last, specific grasses can be foraged as well and placed in a soup or broth.

One thing to remember is that with any of these, not only proper identification, but also knowing what it is growing in and there have not been pesticides or herbicides dumped on them.

Watch videos, grab a few guide books, but most important- find a local mentor. Until then— Happy Eating!

AIQ Lewis and Clark Challenge


The expedition of the newly acquired territory took a great deal of skill and tenacity. American scouts relied on little equipment to discover the America we know now.

For many of us, these men have been an inspiration, so I thought that a challenge would be a good homage to them.

The AIQ challenge is with the following generic kit list spend two consecutive nights out in the woods. You must construct at least one camp tool while out (spoon, cup, tongs, etc)

You need to video it to be successful and tell the story on the AIQ Facebook Page.

The Kit

2 wool blankets or one bedroll.
waterproof tarp.
axe or saw.
flint and steel/ ferro rod and striker
tinder box
water bottle
hobo can.
lighting preferably candle but flashlight is ok
basic water filter
rucksack to carry items in, kudos if you carry it in a haversack

If fire bans or common sense dictates and you cannot have an open fire either a stove or fire box is fine.
If water is not readily available at usual site then an extra two gallons is permitted but you must still boil it to “purify”

NO big prizes just t-shirts, stickers, and bandanas….oh and huge bush cred for completing the challenge

Please consider personal safety at all times doing this challenge – we are not responsible (legal stuff you know)

4 Skills to Perfect in Fort Backyard

So you’ve been reading our articles, went to one of our camps, or maybe just looking for something fun to do with the family. Here are four skills you can perfect in your back yard before you have to use them for real.

Fire Craft

The single greatest skill for both confidence and usefulness is mastering fire craft. But don’t play with matches; work on two paths of mastery. The first is using a sparking device like the Light My Fire from Industrial Revolution. The second is learning a primitive technique such as the bow-drill.612

Once you begin to master- push yourselves to experiment with various tools and harder conditions. A great activity for gaining experience is to tie natural fiber rope to two stakes or rods in the ground about 18 inches high and time yourselves on how long it takes to bundle materials, get a flame, and then burn the rope down.

The ability to start a fire is key to staying alive in the wilderness. This means fire starting is a priority in the list of bushcraft skills.

Some residential zones may restrict fire to specified enclosures. If restricted then use a homemade or purchased fire-pit for containment. We built a pit using 8”x12”concreate pavers to create a pit to practice in.

Gimme’ Shelter

Many backyards don’t have ready-sized trees to practice with. Still, there are many things you can do to create shelter. You can use t-post stakes purchased from local farm and feed stores to create anchor points that simulate trees and common tent stakes to represent natural wood stakes you would normally make in the back country. Just know where water, electric, and sprinkler lines lay.

Experiment with tarps, ponchos, and even a few discarded pieces of lumber. You kids will love that you are building a fort with them.

Learn a few knots, get some decent 550- cord and get to it!

Wood Splitting- Knife Skills

608Wood splitting with a survival knife- also known as batoning can add a valuable wilderness survival skill to your toolbox. This is useful because it helps you in creating smaller- easier to ignite pieces of wood even when the wood is wet. Learn with a full blade survival knife and work your way to using a small axe or hatchet.

Bushcraft Cooking

You’re getting the hang of fire building so might as well use it to try your cooking over an open fire. You can choose to use a grate in the beginning- but move yourself into experimenting with cooking with Dutch Ovens, #10 cans, and wooden spits.

Try making a “survival stew (anything you find in the fridge) in a coffee can or pick up a Cornish hen and cook it over open coals. Be sure to follow all safe food handling protocols- and it’s okay to use a meat thermometer to help you learn.

We still use Fort Backyard to master skills, and these four will get you on a path to perfecting skills before you have to use them.