We’ve had a fabulous weekend. On Friday night we arrived at a farm in Kent ready for a Nordic Crafts Course. A long awaited Christmas present I’d bought for my husband Phil. We try to buy each other experiences rather than things, to keep life interesting!
We were slightly early so took time to say hello to the goats and lambs on the farm, including a sheep with rabbit ears.
From the barn swallows swooped and soared while across the meadow that the goats grazed sparrows and robins flitted about.
In the farm drive I whole group of sparrows enjoyed a dust bath, wonderful to watch. It’s so sad to think how much sparrows have declined, that something that used to be common place, a group of sparrows, brought such a thrill to me.
A group slowly gathered, and then two of our hosts for the weekend, Gary and Nicola from Jack Raven Bushcraft arrived, to take us to our home for the weekend.Bags were loaded into a 4×4 and then Gary walked us up through the farm and across the fields to a small woodland on top of a hill. Inside, a woodland camp awaited. The camp was well set up, with a kitchen area, a parachute hanging from the trees for shelter, a dining area, a composting loo and an area for camping. We were shown around and soon our tents, shelters and hammocks were set up for our places to sleep for the weekend.
Shelters for the weekend set up, it was time for dinner. The food for the weekend was fantastic, and most was in line with the Nordic theme, starting with Swedish split pea soup on Friday night. Saturday morning started with a breakfast of Danish pastries and cereal, lunch was smoked fish, rollmops, sliced meats and cheeses, salads and pressed cucumbers. Saturday night saw us filling up with meatballs and mash potato, a delicious and warming meal on a wild, wet evening. Sunday’s food broke with the nordic theme, with two meals that we’ll be adding to our repertoire- eggy crumpets for breakfast with bacon and a lunch of Mexican wraps, bread wraps filled with a choice of cheese, meats, tuna, olives, peppers then folded over and baked over the fire. We certainly didn’t go hungry!
Under our tarp and in bivvy bags we slept well on Friday night. I woke briefly in the night to hear owls hooting nearby. In the morning we were woken by bird song and the morning air on our faces. After coffee and breakfast the course was split into two groups, our group worked with Ross of Kaos Blacksmiths for the day. We gathered round the woodland forge and got started. We were making Viking knives. Starting from a piece of metal, almost like a thick metal ruler, we warmed the metal over the fire and started to thin one end of the metal to form a tang. This was to become the handle of our knives.
Once the tangs were bashed out to an appropriate length and the ends were pointed it was time to add a twist to the end and then bend the end back round to make the handles.
The next step was to cut the knife blade into shape, we marked the blades onto the metal with chalk, then Ross cut them for us. Finally the knives had to be hardened and then tempered. To harden them we heated them in the fire, then dipped the blades into oil. The oil was wiped off on a cloth and once cooled, the blackened blades were cleaned back to silver, so that the metal could be heated to just the right temperature to temper, when the temperature is just right the metal turns straw coloured. Once at this temperature the whole knife was plunged into water to be tempered.
And with that, our knives were complete. We spent the afternoon cutting leather, puching holes and sewing up sheaths for our knives, which were then strung with paracord to make them into neck knives. I’m really pleased with mine, it’s great to have things you’ve made yourself.
Just as we were finishing off the sky darkened and very soon the rain started, along with thunder echoing above the camp and lightning flashing. The rain really came down, threatening to flood the fire at one point, but saved by a quick ditch being dug. Thank goodness for the gore-tex bivvy bags that kept our bedding dry. The evening was spent under the parachute, chatting and whittling. Fortunately the rain had stopped by mid evening and we were dry in bed that night.
The next morning I was awake early and took a walk through the wood. Gusts of wind were blowing the raindrops from the trees in sudden showers, the sun struggling to emerge from the clouds, the wood was damp, green and fresh, the earth soft below my feet, bird song all around me, a great start to the day.
Sunday was a day of spoon carving. We started with a log of freshly cut birch, which we cut into smaller lengths and then split into planks using a hatchet and mallet. A spoon pattern was then drawn onto the wood, taking the shape from one of the beautiful spoons carved by Jack Raven Bushcraft. Hatchet back in hand, the basic shape of the spoon emerged from the wood.
Jack Raven Bushcraft also run foraging and wild food courses, and during the morning we tried a wild tea, brewing ground ivy and nettle leaves to make a tea to help with hayfever. It tasted fresh, slightly sweet and a touch minty and was delicious.
The basic shape of the spoon having been made with the hatchet, a knife was then used to refine the outer shape.
After this the side profile of the spoon was marked on to the wood, and hatchet back in hand, the curves of the back of the handle and bowl were shaped, again refined with a knife, and then a finer carving knife, before finally a scorp was used to shape the bowl of the spoon.
During the day, the heavens again opened, so carving was moved under the parachute. Conversations flowed, encompassing rewilding, garden wildlife, other courses run by the company and more. By mid afternoon everyone had a spoon and knife with sheaf made to take home with them. At around 4pm we said goodbye to the camp and headed back down to the farm to make our way home, weary but happy after a great weekend.
Information about the weekend:
The Nordic Crafts course was run by Jack Raven Bushcraft, working with Kaos Blacksmiths. It was amazing, friendly people, great instruction, tasty food, beautiful woodland. Even with the wild weather there’s nowhere I would rather have been this weekend.
Jack Raven Bushcraft run lots of courses from bushcraft to wild foods and foraging and even mindfulness, more information can be found on their website: http://www.jackravenbushcraft.co.uk/
Ross of Kaos Blacksmiths runs blacksmith courses at his forge, which are great, Phil and I joined him for the day earlier in the year and thoroughly recommend that you do too. Information can be found on his website: http://www.kaosblacksmiths.com/