Bushcraft has gone from a fringe hobby to a hugely popular way to connect with nature ( and ourselves) in the space of a couple of decades. There's an approach to appeal to everyone, from people looking to enhance family camping experiences or day-hikes, to fans of multi day ‘ fast and light’ expeditions to true ‘off grid’ wilderness living as a lifestyle. For me the draw has always been using ancient skills to enable long periods ‘out’. As I've got more involved in the ‘Prim tech’ side of things, I’ve found modern camping gear seems more and more intrusive by comparison; the noise of rustling plastic sticks out like a sore thumb when most of your kit is leather or wood or wool.
The mindset it encourages is so incredibly liberating; nothing is really a ‘problem- Need to fix something? Fine... need to find some food? Not a problem... medicine? Sorted. It fosters a deep feeling of peace, with a wide-awakeness; A wide eyed awareness of what nature can provide, and how rich our relationship with it can be, unencumbered by modern kit.
Weekend 1 on the winter course; Each weekend was packed with learning; in one weekend we talked in depth about clothing and different skins for different jobs, started Quilliqs, built several different specialist fires, worked on skins for veg tan, and rawhide processes, and The next we started horsehair fishing lines, moccasins, felted liners etc- I had to make sure I had enough rucksack space to get each weekends 'homework back to the UK!
The First Living by nature Year course starts this spring with myself, Jamie Dakota ( Howl Bushcraft) and Adam logan. Click HERE to find out more
I hadn’t heard of living by Nature until about 7 years ago, but very quickly felt a strong draw towards the unique approach- courses running over an extended period of time, covering a huge range of exquisite crafts and real practical skills, crystallising over time into an extended trip. It was the kind of experience that was beyond the scope of all the courses I'd looked at in my teens in fact beyond anything I've seen on offer to date.
The final afternoon together at the end of nearly 20 days together
Thijmens posts about the winter course kicked me into something like a fever when I realised it was only a few weeks until it started. I knew I when I messaged Thijmen to ask if there were any spaces left I wasn't even sure that it was feasible for me to get to the Netherlands for the weekends, but I felt with absolute certainty that I NEEDED to be part of that course.
I remember an incredible feeling of relief once I was actually booked on, that some ducks were definitely settling into a row. The fixed solid, exciting thread of the next two years of my life was in place. I had moments of feeling shocked at myself; was it insane to have committing to two years of travel to Holland, to tanning an ever increasing list of hides for making my kit?... but the internal questions only cemented my decision, it felt right, it was right and that was that- I would make it work.
Each weekend brought a new craft to work on, a new ongoing project, but with the ultimate goal of the trip on the distant horizon it was easier to work purposefully. My ideas for clothing were evolving constantly as we produced different finishes of skins and furs. The quilliq lamp spawned a whole gamut of other things- a box for wick materials, frankly pyromaniacal experiments to test out different wicks and fats. It re-energised my whole mindset, and the impact spread into other aspects of my life. Even though the course was disrupted by Covid it was still the overriding focus of those two years and helped me get through those strange strange months quite happily.The Winter Course Expedition itself was very different in many ways from the classic “Year Course” finale, but still had the balance of outward exploration, being in a new place, experiencing new things, learning new things, and the inward journey of understanding myself better, discovering new limits and pushing them during the hours of hauling toboggans and the steady tramp of snowshoes.
It was in many ways a continuation of the journey I began when I did the Woodlore journeyman. My main wish at the end of that was that it could have gone on longer, and that it could have taken us further away from modern clothing, modern tools, and that i could have done it with people I had more of a connection to. If the Living by Nature Year Course had existed I the UK 10 years ago, if I’d have been aware of it even....It would have been THE COURSE for me. There's something wonderfully ‘complete’ about coming full circle and being part of the team delivering the course to a whole new group of people. I very much hope the group who will be starting shortly find the experience as profoundly fulfilling, exciting and inspiring as I did.
The first UK LBN Year course kicks off in march. There are a few spaces left, but there isn't long at all until we start. I hope to meet you round the fire one of these days!