School Life

Forging Ahead

The past month has seen a lot of metal forging activity at EWL. The first forge the boys made with Drew was coal-burning - Drew found some anthracite on the Old Berkshire North Railroad in New Milford. They broke up the coal then dug a hole deep into the side of zombie volcano and punched out an air vent. As a group they worked on a knife blade.

In the midst of the volcano-forging frenzy, former EWL students Connor and Ender dropped in for an afternoon to play games and check out our latest project. March also saw the return of Forest Camper Teddy who brought his younger sister Kaitlin along with him for some productive days of fun and learning. Teddy really enjoyed filing and sharpening the blade.

Using the pellet stove in our tent, Silas heated, shaped, quenched, filed, sanded, and sharpened a neck knife for himself over the course of several days. He also made a lovely pouch for it from deer skin.

Meanwhile his brothers worked on shaping sheet metal and pounding coins.

Clearly forging is an activity that everyone enjoys, so Drew and the boys created a more permanent forge outside with the old pellet stove.

We will have to wait and see what else they decide to make when the weather improves later this spring.

Winter Tracking with Elizabeth

Click on images to enlarge

The boys and I tracked this bobcat through brush and briars, crawling on our bellies throughout the property. We ended up in a place we'd never seen before and were even slightly lost. So much fun! Thanks, Bobcat!

Bobcat pauses on haunches

Bobcat crosses skunk tracks.

Warming early in the winter brought the chipmunks out of their burrows and into the snow.
 

We haven't seen chipmunk tracks in deep snow here in previous years. Usually they are still in their burrows when the snow is this deep.

During the early February warming the raccoons got super active and left tracks everywhere along the trails throughout the property.

Possum party in Late February.
 

This very large raptor (likely a red tailed hawk) took out a hippity hopper (mouse or chipmunk) right below Big Velvet (a beautiful oak tree close to the tent).

 

When snow is deep and the tracks are obscured, making an ID can be tough. The boys and I followed one such trail for a good distance until we encountered a urine mark. They got down to sniff and immediately declared "fox!". Once you learn the skunky odor of fox urine, it's a definitive clue.

Kunsang had no difficulty identifying these tracks as belonging to a fisher (there's one bobcat track, too). The boy's tracking skills have come a long way!

Choose Your Weapon

Plains Gun Stock Club c. 1875, 36" long

Our students recently finished a months-long project - making gun stock war clubs. While not made from actual gun stocks, Eastern Woodland and Plains Indians derived the club's shape from European muskets that in combat were used as deadly clubs once they ran out of ammunition. Adding a sharp spear or blade point near the elbow of the club only made it more lethal.

Several months ago the boys ventured into the woods with purpose as they searched for proper-shaped branches from which to carve and shape their clubs. They then spent several weeks getting the shape just right and sanding to a smooth finish. Dave brought in a set of throwing knives and with a drill press created holes to receive the blades. Both Dave and Drew contributed pine pitch to secure the blades in the holes, and we hope to add leather wrapping in the coming weeks ensure that the blades are stable. (click to enlarge photos)

The gun stock clubs were just one of the Eastern Woodland weapons that Dave introduced the boys to. He has reproduced many of them himself and brought his collection in for show and tell.

Looking to the future, our students also wanted to process deer bones for future tool and weapon making. Each one started with his own deer leg.

He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration.
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Projects, Projects, and More Projects

The weather has been crazy around these parts with unseasonably warm days, sleet, rain, and not much snow. Nonetheless, our handmade snowshoes are complete! To be more specific, Silas and Kunsang each completed one snowshoe, so now they have a pair to share.

After converting the sap stove into a meat smoker our students spent a day making delicious beef jerky.

Mjolnir pendants were next. The boys chiseled molds, melted metal, and poured small replicas of Thor's hammer to wear around their necks.

Winter is the season of projects, and I'm sure we'll have more of them to share before Spring arrives.

Winter in the Woods

Even when temperatures dip in winter, nature continues to provide rich content for our students' young minds to soak up. Our teachers come prepared with project ideas as well. Here's a sampling of what we've been up to:

As winter approached, the wildlife scurried about to store up food and prepare for the cold. Sadly, there was a noticeable uptick in roadkill. Dave found both a squirrel and rabbit that he brought in for our students to skin, roast, and eat.

They took a field trip to White Memorial in mid-December where they found a dead, very smelly garter snake in the water as well as a wasp nest.

With the arrival of snow, animal tracking was even more fun! There were lots of squirrel tracks.

A vole and a coyote.

Drew has been helping the boys bend frames to make their own snowshoes. First they tried on Drew's pair.

At Mohawk Mountain State Forest the boys found a cool shelter under the roots of a tree. Inside were some neat ice crystals emerging out of the ground.

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And finally - good ol' fun in the snow. Introducing "Big John", the man-sized snowman. We are still searching for Silas buried under all that snow ;)