the gatherer

If ‘bushcraft’ has taught me anything then it is that there is a world of potential standing around us just waiting to be unlocked. Some of this potential is easy to spot, some of it takes a keen eye, a bit of imagination or a bit of knowledge or skill to release. But it’s there. There is no mistaking it. And it’s all around us. You just have to learn to see.

Being a Gatherer (as in Hunter-Gatherer) is not something you are necessarily born with but it is most definitely something that can be nutured. As I stroll along I am subconsciously casting about and cataloguing everything – this stone, that plant, this bit of wood, that bit of bone…all can be potentially used, re-used and made into something else…something more useful. Sometimes I make note of something to go back to, to check out again. Sometimes I walk past, ponder and circle back to mull the options of the resource sitting, jutting out of the embankment. Is it a new knife handle? A stave for a bow? Is it a future hearth for my bowdrill set, a length of fibre for cordage, a pressure flaker for knapping or is it a branch destined to be a  spoon?

Yesterday I was walking through the Forest. It was at the end of a five hour walk and I was toying with the idea of doing some ‘poor visibility’ forest navigation practice, when I walked across a geological strata that bisected the fire-trail. This is granite country but here was a rich seam of sedimentary rock of the finest kaolin-like shale. It was in big and small blocks all across the hillside. It was wet and I saw the puddles full of fine, pale suspension. Wow…I thought, this rock makes a slurry like a nagura does on a japanese waterstone. Then the penny dropped…as did my rucksack: to fill with a new set of sharpening stones for my knives. Free.

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