Thursday, December 31, 2009

Exactly what are we trying to do here?

I tend to hang out in a few forums that concentrate on things I'm interested in. Most of the time, forum members are very friendly and helpful. But there is something I see happening kind of frequently that rather irritates me. It's not something purposefully mean or unhelpful, but it turns out that way. Here's an example...

A couple days ago a fellow on a traditional archery forum asked for information on using water-based acrylic craft paints for crowns and cresting on wood arrows. As I write this he has gotten seventeen responses to his question. Exactly one of those responses has addressed his question... ONE! All the other responses are from those individuals who use different materials for crowns or cresting and are essentially trying to talk him into using what the responder thinks is better.

Now, I can understand this kind of response when someone is seeking information on what they can or should use. If what he'd decided to use was dangerous or obviously won't work, I can see how that would also justify the kind of responses he got. But this fellow has already decided on something and just needs information. Yet only one person saw fit to help him with information applicable to his search.
I've seen this same phenomenon in other posts, too. Let's say someone asks what epoxy they can use for gluing on tips. He'll get a few posts with good information but he'll also get a whole bunch essentially castigating him for the decision to use epoxy and extolling the virtues of various other glues. But that wasn't the question!
Are people just naturally superior about how they do things and feel they need to convert the world to their particular path? Or do people just like to see their writing on the internet for no better reason than to increase the number of their posts?

Okay. That's my soapbox for the day. If you read this and are offended by it, I essentially offer no apologies because you're likely one of those individuals I'm ranting about. But if this has made you sit back with a thoughtful look on your face, that's a good thing (to my mind).

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pasadena Trad Shoot - It was a great day!

The long anticipated traditional shoot at Pasadena Roving Archers has now passed us.
I'm sorry to say that I did not get to actually do the shoot. I've found that when I set up my booth to sell I am better off not doing the shoot. When I've tried to do both I do neither very well. Too bad, the reviews I heard about the targets were universally good.
I didn't speak with anyone who didn't have a good time. The weather was great. The food the club had available for purchase was great. The target set-up was great. We didn't even get bothered by the big U2 concert that was held at the Rose Bowl that evening. Good thing, too. The concert was sold out at 95,000 tickets (!). The shoot was over and we were long gone before the traffic really got bad.
If you'd like to see some pictures Fayme took during the day you can go to this PaleoPlanet thread. Scroll down a bit to get to the pictures. You can also see them at Fayme's Flickr group for Pasadena Roving Archers.

Ron Buehler of the PRA has been trying to get the club to have a traditional shoot for some time. They finally got tired of listening to him and gave the go-ahead.
Ron, you did a great job putting the shoot together and running it. The club should be proud of you.
You can be assured that I'll be at the next traditional shoot the club has.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to see my work and chat for a bit. And many thanks to those of you who purchased something. I got a lot of great comments on the arrow sets I displayed. One of the most common was, "those are too pretty to shoot."
Folks, pretty arrows fly just as good as ugly ones and they cost the same. Arrows are made to be in the sun and the wind. Let's get them out there where they can fulfill their destiny.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mario, your arrows are ready...

I'll have them at Pasadena tomorrow.

No sooner did I put down the cloth to take the above picture and I had a subject...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Arrows for Richard

I just finished these arrows for Richard Saffold of Richard's Bowyery.
Rather than a whole set of arrows all the same, Richard needs a variety of arrows so he can test the bows he makes to see what works best with each bow. When needed he includes a couple of these arrows with the bow when it goes to a new home so the new owner has an idea on what to get when they purchase arrows.
For Richard I typically make two arrow sets in a mix of spines and total weights. That little grey area of cresting is where I write the spine and physical weight of the arrow.

I tried some new colors on these arrows. The two greens turned out really nice as did the green metallic. The purple is exceptional and I'm still amazed at how good a purple arrow looks. I wish someone would order a set so I could make more purple arrows.
Do you remember Julian, the 85 year old fellow in New York state who shoots my arrows with one of Richard's bows? Richard just told me that he heard from him recently and he's headed for England for some longbow competition. He's still very pleased with Richard's bow and my arrows. Best of luck to you, Julian!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pasadena Traditional 3D Shoot - October 25

The Pasadena traditional 3D shoot is coming up soon on October 25.
This will be a good shoot to attend. Ron is a dedicated traditional shooter and he's been bugging the Pasadena Roving Archers to put on a trad only shoot. Since he's the one running it, we can be assured it will be fun and well run.
I'll have the Greenman Archery booth set up to sell custom wood arrows, gourd art from both Fayme and I, and knitted and crocheted products Fayme makes. She's been making some great caps and tams from 100% wool in colors that are good for the outdoorsman. I think she'll also have some of the jewelry she makes. I'll also have some killer gourd drums that I've been making. You won't want to miss those!
Richard Saffold is getting some of his bows to me so I'll have them available, too. Richard was one of the first bowyers to use ipe, a tropical hardwood that makes incredible bows. He's written a couple articles for traditional archery magazines regarding these bows and they are being used all over the world by happy archers.
Sagittarius Archery should be there as well. If you need feathers, points, shafts, or other archery supplies be sure to see them. I know I'll be dropping a pile of money on their table as I'm running low on a few things. They're great folks to deal with.

Be sure to stop by to say hello to me. I'd love to meet you and get some feedback on the blog.

Happy shooting!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Blogs in the Greenman Woods

Since I started the Greenman Archery blog it has become a repository for my custom arrow making, gourd art, and lately my passion for cooking. All these things are fun to do, write about, and share with my readers but some of the content hasn't had a lot to do with archery or custom arrows, the original subject of this blog.
Consequently, I've decided to branch out a bit. I've opened up two new blogs: Greenman Gourds and Greenman Cooking.
These two new blogs will give me a place to focus on gourd art and cooking. Greenman Archery will get back to... you guessed it: Archery!
I want to thank everyone for their support and I hope you enjoy reading all my blogs


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sauerkraut Update

Earlier this week I visited my friend, David Brunetta, at his studio in Laguna Canyon to do some work with him. I'd been bragging to David about how good the sauerkraut was and brought a little bit down for him to try.
Tonight I got an email from David that contained nothing but this picture:

I think I could ask for no greater accolade.  Thanks, David!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Something Fun That Tastes Good

About a year ago I was buying some sauerkraut at the store when I suddenly wondered how easy it would be to make it myself. I figured it couldn't be too difficult. After all, sauerkraut is one of those primitive food preservation methods that has been done for a few centuries. Now, folks growing up in the midwest or those who remember Grandpa making sauerkraut may think this is no big deal. But for a California boy this project was sounding like something great!
I did some web searching and found a great recipe site with complete instructions at Kitchen Gardeners International.
That first batch of sauerkraut is long gone but I got the yearning for another batch the other day and bought three heads of cabbage at the store. For those of you who have never tried this I thought I'd document my progress. Having just started it tonight, the cabbage isn't sauerkraut yet. I'll do additional posts as it matures.

First, we get some cabbages. After cutting them in half I remove most of the core. It's supposed to be ok to eat but tough. I declined to keep it.

Next, the cabbage gets sliced. I went for pretty thin cuts.
After slicing some salt is mixed into the cabbage. Since I had three heads to do and my bowl wasn't big enough for all three at once, I did this step one head at a time.

After the salt is mixed in the cabbage is put into the fermenting container. I'm using a clean bucket. The cabbage should be pushed in pretty tight and thoroughly. Since I couldn't get the potatoe masher at a good angle I decided to just punch the cabbage down with my hand. This packs the cabbage and aids the salt in pushing the moisture out.

Here you can see how much three heads makes. These were fairly small heads, not those really big ones when cabbage is really in season.

Something needs to be placed on top of the cabbage to keep it beneath the liquid that will start to develop. If you're using a round crock then a plate works well. With a square bucket I cut the lid down so it will fit into the bucket.

While the cabbage should make enough liquid to cover itself, it may take a day or so. I generally add a few cups of salt water to raise the liquid level so it covers the cabbage right from the start.

To keep the lid beneath the liquid level I put a gallon jar full of water on top. I'll check tomorrow to be sure the liquid level is right.

It's appropriate that I used this particular jar. It's from kimchee, the Korean version of sauerkraut. Many times I've had to explain to someone what kimchee is and I've fallen back on saying it's the Korean version of sauerkraut. One time I had to explain to a young Vietnamese woman what sauerkraut was, "um... it's German kimchee." That worked for her!

The bucket of salted cabbage now rests in a corner of our kitchen with a clean towel over it to keep out debris, dropped spoons, and curious cats. As the batch progresses I'll do updates to the blog. If you like sauerkraut, I can just about guarantee that you'll be jealous.

Day 2 update: When I looked in the bucket this morning there was more liquid and the bucket definitely smelled like sauerkraut. Pressing down on the bottle brought bubbles out from under the bucket lid. All these are signs that the fermentation process has begun and I'm well on the way to having great home made sauerkraut.

Day 3 update: Things are looking good today. The fermentation process can make a bit of a bloom appear on the liquid's surface so I took the jar out and washed it off, there didn't appear to be anything on the surface that needed to be skimmed off. I pulled the lid up off the cabbage and tried a little fingerfull. It's getting there but it's not yet at the "sour" point. Another day or two should be good.

Day 4 update: Things are looking good! When I looked this morning the liquid has taken on a darker color and the smell is definately getting to that special sauerkraut aroma. As yesterday, I rinsed off the bottle and pried up the lid to take a taste. Eureka! We have sauerkraut! I'd like it a little more sour so I'll leave it about another day before I pack it into that big jar and put it into the 'fridge; but right now it is definately sauerkraut.

Day 5, final update: "If you like sauerkraut, I can just about guarantee that you'll be jealous."   Here it is! It tastes great, looks good, smells good (although, that may be a matter of opinion for some folks), and was simplicity itself to make. Give it a try, the link at the beginning of the post has great instructions and there is nothing like eating food you've grown or made yourself. Besides, anyone can grow tomatoes, but not everyone makes their own sauerkraut.

Thanks for reading!

New Arrows for Sale

So, just finished up some new arrows that are available for immediate delivery. These three sets are all Port Orford cedar and all three have a dark brown dye on the shaft. All these sets have 12 arrows; it's easier to take a picture with just 6 of them.
As always, the price includes cutting the arrows to the desired length, tapering for points, and field points glued on. The arrows are ready to shoot as soon as you can open the box and run to the backyard. Shipping is extra; with priority mail it is typically about $8.oo, depending upon where you live in the US.

These arrows are for the archer who doesn't want to spend a lot of time behind the target looking for errant arrows. Between the bright crown and fletching, and the fluorescent nocks, these will be easy to track into the target and easy to find downrange. Spine for this set is 45/49#, price is $80.00.
These arrows are a good mixture of bright and classic. I did a little bit of a trick finish on these so the blue crown isn't completely opaque. You can see the dark stain through the blue very slightly for a kind of "antiquish" look. These are great arrows for a beginning archer shooting a light bow. They look great and will be easy to find. Spine is 30/34#, price is $80.00.
These arrows also have the antique sort of look, it turned out very nice and rather classy. Spine is 45/49#, price is $80.00.
Update: these arrows were donated to Pasadena Roving Archers as a raffle prize on their traditional shoot in October. They now have a new home.

As always, if you're interested in any of the arrows I have for sale just drop me an email and we'll get your questions answered. You can reach me at
Thanks for looking and happy archery!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cliff's Arrows

These arrows went into the mail today headed for Richard's Bowery.
Richard makes some incredible wood bows, primarily from ipe, a tropical hardwood frequently used in the US for decking.
Richard was a pioneer in the use of ipe and has had a couple articles regarding its use for bows printed in a leading traditional archery magazine. You should definitely take a look at his site.
These arrows are for Cliff, who recently purchased an ipe/bamboo bow from Richard.

As you can see, I did something a little different with the cresting on these arrows. The flecks of gold give a nice splash of color to offset the green and black.

I've had the pleasure to work with a few of Richard's customers to get them arrows for their new bows. One gentleman who had rather stringent requirements was Julian in New York state. Julian is 85 years old and shoots the longbow Richard made for him in competition. He needed arrows very closely matched in spine and weight as he's a rather serious competitor. He was very happy with what he got.

Shoot safe!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Recent Work

Here are some arrows recently finished for some folks.
The first three sets are for a family who have been shooting for some time. The daughter has recently become involved with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and needed additional arrows as the set I made for her a few years ago had finally dwindled down.
These arrows are proof positive that not all my arrows have a kitchen sink's worth of art thrown at them. Sometimes relatively plain is what the archer wants, and that's what they get. All the quality is still there, just not the same amount of art.

This first picture has given me all sorts of grief. It shows properly on my computer but as soon as I upload it to the blog it falls on its side. After a dozen attempts to get it right I'm giving up and posting it as is.

Almost everyone has something nice to say about well executed purple arrows, but hardly any men will shoot them. I think it's a great color to work with and the results are something I'd be happy to have in my quiver.
These two sets are for an old friend who I lost track of for a while. He's now recovered from a divorce and leading a happy life with a new partner.

These arrows for Gary's partner have just a tiny bit of gold paint fading out from under the cresting. It's just a little bit extra to really set them apart from other arrows.

Thanks for looking!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thank you!

It happened sometime yesterday, and unfortunately I don't have any way to discover the party responsible for it or I'd thank them specifically - this little blog of mine passed the 2,000 hits mark! In the grand scheme of things that's a tiny little number, especially compared to many other blogs that are out there. But I'm pretty chuffed about it.
I'd like to thank everyone who reads this. There are only three actual followers, and only one of them is unrelated to me. The other two are my ex wife and my lovely significant other. But there are obviously a lot more people looking, reading, and possibly even enjoying the blog. My sincere thanks to all of you!
The blog has gone through a bit of a metamorphosis over time. It started out solely as a showcase for the custom arrows I make. Then came some posts about things I do or small trips we take. The gourd work got added in and I've had a lot of fun with that. The most recent addition has been two short works of fiction that I really enjoyed writing. Throught it all people have been very supportive of everything and I have enjoyed communicating with those who have left comments in various areas.
Going forward we'll have more of the same: arrows, gourds, trip accounts, and maybe some additional writing when I get some done.
Just so you know, if you've been thinking of getting a set of custom arrows, this is a good time for me to do some. My daytime job ended about a month ago and, unfortunately, I have some time on my hands. This is a good time to order arrows!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We Happy Few - a work of fiction

We Happy Few…

Henry V, by William Shakespeare; Act 4, Scene 3
A portion of Henry's Eve of St. Crispin's Day speech:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Years have passed since that famous speech:

We saw the smoke when the sun came up.

Most of us had been up and working for some time already. Fields need sun light to be worked, cows can be milked by lamplight.

We could tell from the smoke that the village in the next valley would have precious little to eat this winter… if there was anyone left to do the eating.

We’d been expecting this for a while. But just as with mortal man knowing that death would someday come, we had hoped it would somehow pass us by. That hope was lost when we saw the smoke and soon thereafter saw Geoff come charging up the road. He flung himself off his horse in the square of our small village. The horse was lathered, gasping, and barely able to stand; Geoff was little better, “They’re here.”

We sent the women and children into the hills where we had prepared a place for them. As many of the animals as possible went, too. The marks of their passage could not be hidden. But if it wasn’t us coming to get them the women had already made it clear that their lives would come neither cheap nor easy.

We weren’t always farmers and herdsmen. Each man went to his home to prepare for what lay ahead. Dusty sheaths were brought from under beds but there was nothing dusty about the honed and oiled steel within them. Longbows were brought down from rafters where they had lain idle, but not forgotten. Sheafs of arrows with clean gray fletching and bright steel piles were pulled from chests. Brown chain mail sighed softly as it was pulled over heads, as if it knew what lay ahead. What passersby had thought an odd assortment of low rock walls outside the village became bulwarks to blunt charges. What our old men had been whittling in the evenings as they told stories to the children became caltrops spread in the long grass before our walls. We weren’t always farmers and herdsmen.

Their scouts hung back to await the main body when they saw us. They weren’t sure what to do when they came upon a village that seemed to be protected by something other than farmers with pitchforks. Still, they were proud and fierce men who had not known defeat. Not since they left the steppes of their people.

What I remember most is the smell. A smell that I never have forgotten since I first laid sense to it so many years ago. A smell of bright blood and dark bowels loosened by steel or death. A smell of sweat and fear. There is noise in a battle, screams of horse and man as well as the clash of steel and the thud of blows. But ears become deafened to the din and ring for days afterwards. The nose never forgets the smell of battle. It lingers for days afterwards and richens as the sun rises and wild animals glean the fields of dead.

I finally became aware that it was over when no foe stood before me. Perhaps we had resisted unexpectedly. Perhaps they had decided it was not our day to die. Not a one of us had escaped wounds of some kind. Here and there were wounds that would overwhelm their bearer in the hours and days to come. Some wounds would bring limps or shortened limbs to remind us of the day. Some of us lay in quiet heaps in the torn and bloody grass, never to rise again. But more of us stood than lay in the grass, and more of them lay in the grass than rode away.

Perhaps we won because of our resistance; perhaps we won because it was not our day to die. But perhaps we won for the day, St. Crispian’s day. It was a day that marked another day, before we settled here in our retirement. Another Crispian’s day, when we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, had stood against another foe, and carried the day there, too.
We few, we happy few… We weren’t always farmers and herdsmen.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Pirate's Lament

It’s a sad thing, it is.
Sad to be a pirate on the beach.
With no ship to call home, no berth of me own.
No horizon to beckon the eyes.
I sailed with the best:
Stede Bonnet, John Rackham, and the worst of all, Edward Teach, known to you as Blackbeard.
My luck ran out. When I lost a leg I took the King’s Pardon.
Better to be a crippled former pirate remembering the days that were than a one-legged corpse floating on the tide.
Now I sit in the sand and drink to stay drunk.
When I’m drunk I remember the glory. I remember the thrill of the chase, the blue sea and the blue sky. I remember the willing wenches in the taverns of Port Royal, and the gold… I remember the gold.
When I’m sober I see only the one shoe before me in the sand.
So I sip grog from this gourd to stay on that smooth edge of drunk. The smooth edge where the one lonely shoe fades into the blue sea and the glitter of gold coins.

The gourd is about 8 1/4” high, 6 ½” wide, and holds ½ gallon.
Due to the weight of ½ gallon of liquid, this would best serve as a tabletop drink server.
The inside of the gourd is finished with brewer’s pitch, a waterproofing and sealing agent in use for a very long time in drinking and storage vessels of various materials.
The pyrographed design on the gourd shows the flags of the pirates Bonney, Rackham, and Teach outlined with anchor chain and rope borders. The lanyard is 7-strand French sennit held under a 5-strand, 3-pass Turk’s head. The lanyard is tight, but don’t be swinging this gourd about your head to repel borders, the lanyard could pull loose if abused.
This is a one-of-a-kind design. Hand wash only, this piece is not dishwasher safe.
Buy this piece of unique art for $60 and bring the romance of the pirates to your feast table. I’ll pay shipping to the lower 48.

Update: In response to a question from Garith, here is a link to see brewer's pitch on the Jas Townsend & Son web pages.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Gourd Art

This piece is something of a departure for me.
Typically I do gourd art that has a use, a purpose, something you can do with it.
Canteens, cups, bowls, jugs... that sort of thing.

Well, this one is absolutely useless as a functional gourd. It's art. At least, I think it's art.

My Heart is Locked for You is 3 1/2" high and 5" in diameter.

The heart on the lid is imitation gold leaf outlined by acrylic paint. The body of the gourd has been stained with leather dye and the whole thing has been sealed with lacquer.

The lid is fastened down by 4 brass straps. I guess you could unscrew the straps to find out what is inside the heart... but then the heart wouldn't be locked any longer.
And that's the point: My Heart is Locked for You.

What do you think? Have I wasted a perfectly good gourd or am I an artistic visionary with a devious mind?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Great Day at the Gourd Farm

Last Friday the company where I have my day job was closed for the 4th of July but my department was open (and it was busy! what was everyone doing calling us instead of enjoying the holiday?). It was my turn to work the holiday so I didn't get the day off. But I got to make up for that by taking this Friday off!

Fayme and I have been having so much fun with gourds again that we decided to take a safari down to Temecula, CA to visit the Welburn Gourd Farm to re-stock on gourds for particular projects we've been thinking of. At least, that was my plan. Fayme tends to wander around, get interesting gourds, and only decide later what to do with them. I usually pick mine with a particular use or end in mind.
Fayme took a few photos while we were there:

If you live close enough or happen to be passing through the area, I can't recommend visiting Welburn highly enough. You'll find great folks who will be happy to answer all your questions about this fascinating and versatile art medium. As you can see, their selection is vast. In that little building in the background you can purchase all the tools and supplies you could want to make great art.

Update: Garith had a question about pricing for Welburn gourds so I thought I'd post a link to that particular page of the Welburn site. Wholesale at the farm is definately the way to go if you're in the area. Also, I suggest buying un-cleaned gourds. They are way cheaper than already cleaned gourds and I think half the fun is seeing the gourds character emerge from beneath the field dirt. Cleaning the gourds isn't at all difficult.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are these beautiful, or what?

A few months ago a gentleman left a message here on the blog asking how I did the faux finish on arrows. I wrote up a good reply and sent it off to him. His question prompted me to also put together a post here on how to do the finish.

He wrote back to me today and included a picture of some arrows he made for a woman. I think she's one lucky archer because these arrows turned out beautiful!

Thanks, Craig! I'm glad I was able to help get you started on these.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gourd Drums

I started these two gourd drums some time ago but put them aside when I ripped the rawhide when trying to fasten a head on the brown gourd. Fayme rekindled my interest in the project recently and this time I had a bit better success.
The blue gourd got a different fastening method and I definately like that method better. Both drums sound great to my untrained ear.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Something a little different...

I wrote this with the intention of submitting it to one of the primitive magazines but never got around to doing that. Rather than let this stagnate on my computer's hard drive, I'll post it here. I hope you enjoy it.
(edit) I've gotten some great feedback on this story. I feel it's only fair to let you folks know that this is a work of fiction. I'm not nearly as good an outdoorsman as the man in the story, or his mysterious visitor.

Vision Trip

I sat in my truck having a last soda before putting my gear together. Even though I had prepared for this by taking “survival” classes and learning about how to survive in the wilderness, this was still a big jump and I was a little apprehensive.

My plan was to hike into the mountains for three days and two nights, and to live solely on what I had with me or could find in the land: food, tools, and shelter. Doesn’t sound that hard, does it? Your average granola eating backpacker does it every weekend. But I was throwing a big wrench into the works by having with me only what I would have had as a primitive resident of this land: buckskin clothes, leather pouches, dried meat and berries, and a bow and arrows I had made myself. I did make a couple anachronistic additions; I had a wool blanket and some aspirin. And since I’m a less than competent knapper, I also had a forged steel knife, primitive style, of course. I still have my standards.

I finally decided that this wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t get my rear in gear. There wasn’t anyone else around at the trail head so I changed into my buckskins at the tailgate of the truck. I double checked all my gear, rolled up my blanket, hung it over one shoulder, and hung my quiver over the other. For the time being I would leave my bow in its case on the quiver. I needed to make some miles to get to my campsite and having a strung bow would be too much of a temptation so slow down and creep.

It took a little while to wear the cobwebs off my city muscles and get into the rhythm of trail walking. I was glad that I had taken the precaution of gluing thin rubber soles to my moccasins. I know rubber soles aren’t primitive but a lifetime of wearing shoes had left my feet somewhat tender to the trail. Besides, the rubber helped with traction on slick rocks and I didn’t relish ending my trip with a sprained ankle, or worse.
All my other trips had been with light hiking boots and I was surprised at how much quieter the moccasins were. I was seeing birds and squirrels that normally would have had plenty of warning that I was coming up the trail. One turn of the trail brought me upon a bobcat with a chipmunk under its paw. I don’t know who was more surprised, me for walking up on one of the forest’s best hunters, the bobcat for having been surprised, or the chipmunk for his sudden reprieve as the bobcat sprang into the bushes.
When I stopped to rest I thought about how this trip was going so far. I felt more in tune with my surroundings than I had on any other foray into the woods. I don’t know if it was the spiritual feel of my (mostly) primitive kit or the way in which I blended into my surroundings better, but the forest seemed to accept me more readily than in the past.
It took a couple hours of walking and a hot spot trying to turn into a blister on one toe, but I finally got to my projected campsite. While this spot wasn’t completely unknown, it was a little off the beaten path. Besides valuing my seclusion, I didn’t want to have to explain how I was dressed or what I was doing to a Girl Scout troop or a Sierra Club hiker. For some reason I just didn’t think they’d understand. My campsite was up against a big boulder that was set just slightly back into the tree line. The site overlooked a meadow with a small lake about two hundred yards away. A clear stream came out of the trees a few yards to one side of the boulder and chuckled across the meadow to empty into the lake. One side of the boulder offered a natural campsite that must have been catching traveler’s eyes for a few hundred years. Soot stains on a small overhang in the ancient stone bore evidence of many fires preceding mine. When I was here a couple years ago I found an arrowhead deep inside a lightning split tree while I was gathering firewood. There was no telling how long ago the arrow had missed its intended target and struck the tree but it was one of those big grandfather trees that were here when Lewis and Clark were in diapers. Workmanship on the head was incredible, far surpassing my own pitiful creations. My own knapping has been in a “learning” stage for quite some time. The arrows I’d brought on this trip were tipped with my best efforts. I reasoned that if they weren’t beautiful or weight matched, at least they were sharp and they may give a lethal blow to a rabbit or squirrel.

I took off my various pouches and bags as well as the blanket and quiver and set everything on the grass. A few minutes wandering through the woods at the back of the campsite gave me enough firewood to last the weekend. I wouldn’t be needing a big blaze, just enough to give warmth and to cook with. Building my fire against the boulder would reflect much of its warmth back to me. I also took the time to gather a couple armfuls of long grass and dry pine needles for my bed. After gathering firewood and bed materials I switched to gathering food. I took my bow out of its case and strung it. Hanging the quiver at my side had me ready to go shopping for dinner. Deer season wasn’t open but I had been seeing plenty of squirrels and even a couple rabbits and marmots during the walk in. Past trips told me that the edge of the forest line would be good for rabbits but squirrels would be just a little deeper into the trees. If I turned to marmots I’d find them near boulders and stumps out in the meadow.

Two hours of hunting netted me one broken arrow, a lost arrow, and the realization that the jerky and dried fruit I’d brought would be dinner, and probably breakfast the next day. I consoled myself with that ancient saying known to all hunters regardless of time and culture: “That’s why they call it hunting and not catching.”

I had elected to bring a flint and steel rather than my wood fire starting tools. While I could make fire with the wood tools I was more confident in flint and steel. This was my first primitive trip and I didn’t want to push my bubble too far until I was more comfortable in my skills. I got a small fire going and set some rocks in it to heat while I went to the stream to get water in my gourd bowl. Using my knife I shaved a generous serving of jerky into the water and decided to add some dried fruit as well. When the stones had been in the fire long enough I used some sticks to lift them one at a time into my bowl. I’d done this before at home and it always surprised me how well it worked to boil water. When a stone cooled I placed it back into the fire and put another hot one in the bowl. It wasn’t too long before I had a fairly serviceable stew steaming in my bowl and I leaned back against the rock to enjoy it.

By the time I finished dinner the sun was just about down. I rinsed my bowl in the stream and refilled it with water in case I got thirsty in the night. I have a hard enough time getting to the kitchen at home for a midnight glass of water without killing myself, a trip to the stream for a drink didn’t seem advisable.

With the setting sun the temperature began to drop and I wrapped the blanket around my shoulders as I sat next to my little fire. I looked out over the darkening meadow and thought about the trip so far. I had felt very in tune with my surroundings during the walk in. While my hunting results didn’t show it, I’d seen more game than on any other trip to the area. Walking up on the bobcat and its disturbed lunch had been completely unexpected and would be in my memory for many years to come. Did this “mind meld” with the forest happen because I was quieter, was it because I was wearing earth toned leather clothes, or was it simply because I was acting more as one with my surroundings? I couldn’t tell, but I was willing to accept it as it was. I get a little philosophical when I get tired so this line of reasoning was my clue to fluff up my debris bed, roll up in the blanket and lay down. I made sure the firewood was within easy reach so I could replenish my fire through the night and closed my eyes.

I awoke the next morning to a gray dawn. The sun hadn’t yet come up over the eastern mountains so I put an arm out into the chill air and prodded the fire with a stick. A few coals glowed red in the bed of ashes so I dropped a handful of pine needles from my bed on them and then lay some sticks over those. The pine needles caught pretty quickly so I put on a couple bigger sticks and then pulled the blanket over my head and went back to sleep.
I came awake again when the sun hit me. Temperatures can change quickly in the mountains and I was soon too warm to stay wrapped up. I sat up on my pile of grass and pine needles and looked around. As I blinked the sleep from my eyes I became aware of a slight sore throat and I reasoned that the dry mountain air may have irritated it as I breathed deeply the day before during my walk in. I picked a couple drowned bugs out of my water bowl and drank a deep draught of cold water. I immediately became aware that my throat was sorer than I first thought. Rummaging through my bags I took two aspirin and figured that would be that.
Within a couple hours I realized that was not going to be that. I was sick. Even sitting in the cool shade I could tell that I was getting a pretty good fever. You know how when you have a fever you’re cold so you wrap up in blankets but you’re also sweating and too hot to be wrapped up? I had it with a vengeance. No doubt aspirin would help bring down a fever but I really hadn’t expected to get sick on this trip and had only brought a few. They were quickly consumed to no effect. I knew I’d be in this one until it was over so I filled up with water and then made sure my bowl and cup were both full. I gathered a little more firewood, made sure all my food was within reach, and settled down to get sick, cursing that salesman in my office who’d come to work while he was sick. I was sure this was his fault as he’d wandered around all day coughing and sneezing on everyone in sight.

It must have been some time in mid afternoon that I felt something wonderfully cool on my face and I kind of swam to the surface of consciousness. I was mildly surprised to see the silhouette of a person bending over me but in my fevered state of mind it seemed ok. Whoever it was had a wet rag and was gently washing my face with it. I felt a little cool water trickle into my mouth and I swallowed, wincing as it went past my sore throat. I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
I don’t think too much time had passed before I woke again. I looked around for my new companion and saw him sitting on the other side of the fire watching me. I remember thinking, “I’ll be damned, there’s two of us nuts loose in the world.” He was dressed as I was, in leather buckskins. But he had taken things a little further and had a shaved head. In itself that isn’t uncommon these days but the red and black paint on his face and head was. He nodded to me and I nodded back. Somehow it seemed right that we should communicate silently. Once he saw I was awake and mildly functional he reached to a pile of leather next to him and drew a wood bow from its case. He stood up, strung the bow, and hung a quiver over his shoulder. Taking a last look at me he strode into the forest and was quickly lost to me view.
Kind of a freaky guy, I thought as I struggled upright to sit crosslegged. Then I thought, look at me, if a hiker were to come across me I’d look pretty much the same. I wondered what the odds were that two re-enactor type people would be in the same place at the same time like this; pretty slim, if you ask me. But I wasn’t going to complain, it was obvious that I was pretty sick and his brief presence had cheered me considerably. I was suddenly startled when he stepped around the boulder. Do I walk that quietly? I was also startled to see a rabbit in his hand. Either he had a freezer back there in the trees or he’s a heck of a lot better shot than I am, he’s hardly been gone 15 minutes! I walked for two hours the day before and we know what kind of results I had. Carrying his quiver and strung bow with him he walked out into the meadow a few yards and quickly skinned and gutted the animal. He then walked to the stream to rinse the meat briefly and returned to the little camp. I slept some more while rabbit stew was cooking. I was happy to see that he cooked the same way I had the previous night.

As I lay there in my fever I thought I saw my companion draw my arrows from their quiver. While he nodded approvingly over the nocks and fletching my crudely knapped points earned a grimace. Putting the arrows back into the quiver he opened one of his pouches and pulled out some antler knapping tools and small obsidian pre-forms. I drifted off to sleep lulled by the steady snick and tink of his knapping.
When I awoke the next day my fever was gone and I felt as if I may just survive the ordeal I had put myself through. I sat up from my bed and looked around for my new friend. He was nowhere to be seen. I glanced around my little campsite to see if his things were still there against the rock and they were also gone. In fact, the closer I looked the less I saw: there was no depressed grass where he had sat and lain, my gourd bowl was at my side full of water, not rabbit bones, and there was no pile of obsidian flakes from his knapping. I looked closely where he had sat and the debitage just wasn’t there.
I felt it pretty odd that he had left but I guess there’s no accounting for some folks. It wasn’t like we had shared life stories. I was feeling pretty good so I went ahead and packed my things back up and prepared for the walk back to my truck. I knew I’d be weak from my illness so I wanted plenty of time to take things slow and easy for the walk back.
Four hours later I was back to my truck and really starting to doubt whether someone had shared my campsite with me at all. After a nap across the front seat of my truck, I headed home. On the drive home I turned things over in my mind:
I’d been pretty sick with a high fever.
I had no evidence of anyone else being there with me.
Had I hallucinated the whole thing?
By the time I pulled into my driveway I decided that was exactly what I had done. My mind had taken my buckskin clothes, primitive gear, and desire to “get away from it all” and created a companion for me while I was sick. Well, I think this is something I’ll just keep to myself. My wife knows I have an eccentric side and the people I work with suspect it. No sense in confirming everyone’s suspicions. I racked the weekend up to an interesting trip that could have gone pretty badly, but didn’t. I was a few days recovering my strength but overall it was a weekend well worth the experience.

Epilogue: Three weeks after my camping trip my son asked me to show my primitive gear to his Boy Scout troop. No way could I pass that up so I gathered everything together and went to his meeting with him.
The kids were pretty excited to see what I had so we sat in a circle as I showed them each part of my kit. My handiwork on sewing the buckskins and pouches has never been the best but the kids were impressed; they even liked my crude attempts at beadwork. I strung the bow for them and after threatening dire consequences for dry firing the bow I passed it around the circle. Not wanting to let the kids have arrows at the same time as a strung bow I waited until it came back around the circle to me and I unstrung it before picking up my quiver. I pulled the arrows from the quiver and looked at them with some confusion. Then the hair on the back of my neck bristled and stood on end. At the end of the arrows my crudely knapped points had been replaced with the most beautifully knapped points I have even seen. Without having to compare them I knew that they would match perfectly the arrowhead I had found deep inside that lightning struck tree.
No matter how many times I have re-visited the spot, I have never again seen the quiet man who sat with me when I was sick. But I always wonder just how long he’s been camping there.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Richard's Arrows

I got these mostly finished yesterday while Curtis was here. The final touches went on today and they'll be headed to Richard's Monday morning.
Richard Saffold is a bowmaker in Goleta, California. You can see his website here: Richard's Bowyery. While he's accomplished in many materials and a number of designs, Richard particularly likes working with ipe, a Brazilian hardwood normally used in the US for decks. Richard was one of the pioneers of working with this wood and he really turns out an incredible bow.
When necessary, Richard likes to send out a matched arrow with a bow. That way the customer has an idea of what to get when he orders or makes his arrows. This bunch of arrows I've made have the spine and weight written on that white strip right in front of the cresting.
Not a lot of art on these arrows. Richard will be using them for test shooting and some may go out with various bows as they get shipped to their new homes. It's been a little while since I used stains or dyes on the crown so I thought this bunch would be a good opportunity to reacquaint myself with the beauty of still seeing the wood grain in the crown.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

And a fun time was had by all...

Had a great time today. A gentleman from PaleoPlanet came over to learn a little more about building arrows. Yotman on PaleoPlanet, Curtis in real life, seemed to have a good time visiting. I was in the middle of making some arrows for Richard Saffold so Curtis got to see a little of the process and get a lot of questions answered.
You know, all the information is out there on the web and in books and magazines but for the most part it’s spread all over the countryside and it can really take some time getting it all together. It’s not always easy to decipher terms or determine what tools are needed and what tools are just nice to have.
Fayme took a couple pictures today but nothing planned or with any particular purpose. Unfortunately, Curtis isn’t even in them, just my grey head and fat fingers.

Funny how small the world is sometimes. Turns out that Curtis is a current member of a predator hunting club that I was very active in a number of years ago. It was great to hear some familiar names and find that we had so much in common.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

18th Annual Pacific Coast Traditional Challenge

This past weekend found the gang up at Conejo Valley Archers in Simi Valley, CA to participate in one of the best traditional archery shoots of the year. I may get disagreement from some people but I find this to be *the* best trad shoot of the year.

This is a two day shoot over Saturday and Sunday. The club has been able to make arrangements for special camping fees at a county park right next to the range. This year little miss ranger must have gotten the word because we didn't seem to have any problems with her. Last year her supervisors neglected to tell her of the special prices and she was about ready to lock us all up before a CVA officer saved the day.

Over the years this shoot's format has changed a bit as the club tries different things. This year it was 50 3D targets. There were also some novelty shoots with a seperate entry fee but the opportunity to win part of your fee back if you shoot well. On the regular targets we shot 30 targets on Saturday and the remaining 20 on Sunday. There was a smoker round on Saturday that drew a pretty good crowd.

I shot with a great bunch of folks and everyone had a great time. Tom Mills got permission to use his atlatl and darts in place of a bow and as I predicted, he threw his 7' bamboo and cane darts better than I shot with my bow and matched arrows.

Here is Ken getting ready to rain doom on a hapless foam animal. Ken likes heavier bows and it's fun to see his big arrows rock the target back.

Salvador lets one fly as Aimee, Phil, and bit of Ken look on. Salvador is a great person to spend time with. I am forever in his debt for the things he has taught me. Things like, "You'll shoot better if you come to full draw and anchor before loosing the arrow..."

Here's Tom on that same target, getting ready to show us all how it's done.

This is a fun shot. All you have to do is shoot under the rope. You can lay on your back, your stomach, or try to kneel low enough to get an arrow under the rope and into the target. Phil elected to lay on his back and he did pretty well.

Yeah, here's Tom again showing off his form. Carl looks like he's about to tip over with the amazement of it all.

This is a really fun target. One of the club members hides behind a piece of plywood and tosses up foam disks for us to shoot at. Guess how Tom did...

I didn't get any pictures the second day. Fayme took a few while she manned a craft and face painting booth she put up. Here is the link to her Flickr pictures for Conejo Traditional Archery Shoot.

Thanks for a great shoot, CVA. I'm ready for next year!