Thursday, 7 July 2016

Two Strings

Location: the foot of Moel Famau and the Clwydian Range
Terrain: Spruce Woodland
Instructor: Richard Prideaux, Original Outdoors
Date: 28/06-30/06/16
Purpose: to explore outdoor-living possibilities
Skills: Shelter-building, Fire-making, Cordage ( readymade and processing)

Two Strings

String One
Instructions for making twine and rope from nettles. From memory.

  1. Collect nettles - look for the tallest strongest types as this will offer the most twine material. Remember to wear gloves.
  2. Remove leaves - with one gloved hand, hold the nettle stalk at its tip, and run your other gloved hand from thin tip of stalk to broad foot. The leaves will come away easily. Save the leaves for later.
  3. Repeat with each nettle stalk collected.
  4. Remove gloves - the leaves are the stinging part of the nettle. 
  5. Take one bare stalk, and with a blunt heavy object, such as a medium sized log (diameter approx 10cm) or wooden mallet, gently bash the stalk from top to bottom, creating a split in the stalk.
  6. Once done, gently open and flatten out the stalk.
  7. At the wide end, carefully start to separate the outer skin of the stalk, from the pithy inner. Once completed, discard the pithy inner matter and hang the 'skin' to dry.
  8. Repeat Process no. 7 with each nettle stalk.
  9. Once completely dried, separate each length of nettle 'skin' into strips. They should separate easily along the length of the 'veins'.
  10. Take one strip and, holding close to the centre between hand, start to twist in opposite directions between opposing fingers and thumbs. Once the 'twist' gains sufficient tension, you will create a twined loop and two long strands.
  11. From here, keeping the 'twist' taught, start to plait/overlap in alternate overlaps, until the two strands have disappeared.
  12. To make longer twine, towards the end of Process no. 11,  add in two new dried 'strands' to the plaiting action.
  13. to make thicker cord at the end of Process no. 11, repeat Process no. 10.

Other common plants used for cordage - Bindweed (Richard Mabey, in Plants With A Purpose says that bindweed is the only climbing plant he knows which can take a tight reef knot without breaking). Bramble - most frequently used as a natural twine, especially for broom and basket making. The barks of ash, hazel, lime, oak and sweet chestnut. 

String Two
Nettle Tea

Take the discarded leaves and place in a pan. Simply add water and  heat to a near boil. Use about two cups of water for a cup of leaves; there's no need to measure. You can make the tea stronger by steeping longer, or weaker by adding more water. Once the water is near boiling, reduce heat and simmer for a couple minutes.

Nettle Tea has been used for millennia as cure or aid for a variety of conditions such as - rheumatism, gout, muscle weakness and exczema - but mostly, recently as a diuretic in the treatment of urinary complaints.

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