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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Dreamsnatcher Blog Tour: The Tribe’s Guide to Not Dying in the Forest by Abi Elphinstone



The Tribe’s Guide to Not Dying in the Forest

I thought about having a go at writing this blog post but then Moll told me to shut up because I’m not technically in The Tribe so there’s no way I could know anything of real importance about forest survival. I tried to point out to Moll that in a way I created The Tribe but she was having none of it, and so before she had a chance to set Gryff on me, I decided to hand over to her…


Introducing Moll – outside her wagon

MOLL: If you haven’t already formed a gang or a club or a secret society, you probably should – especially if you’re planning on Not Dying in the forest. We invented The Tribe a few years ago. At first it was just me, Sid and Gryff – then when we let another member in coz he proved good at picking locks and riding cobs. Most of the time we break rules, avoid chores, tell lies on Tuesdays and Thursdays and do brave things like rescuing trapped otters and mending owl wings. But the first thing we did was to learn how to get by in the forest – how to build shelter and hunt for food – so if you’re keen on staying alive when you’re out in the woods, it’s probably worth listening to us.

First thing: the den. This is VERY important – for meetings, sleeping and generally keeping out of the way of camp chores and witchdoctor chants. The Tribe has a tree house (we call it a tree fort coz Sid says it sounds better) and it’s perched half way up a yew tree – coz every gypsy knows the spirit of the yew grants protection against evil spirits.


Abi’s brother in their childhood den (not as good as The Tribe’s Tree Fort)


Oak, the head of our camp, helped us make the tree fort, and this is how we did it:
  1. Gathered up as many planks and slats of wood as we could find 
  2. Found a big old yew tree that had a space large enough for a tree house in the middle of its branches. I also checked there was a good swooping branch for Gryff so that he could hang out near us but keep a bit of distance to be all wild and free  
  3. Hauled the planks up into the tree (this was the hardest part, mostly coz Sid kept giggling half way up about Porridge The Second, his earthworm, tickling him inside his pocket)
  4. Hammered nails into the biggest planks to fix the base to the tree first. Then we made the sides and the roof with the smaller slats. We left a hole for a window (so we can spy on stuff down in the glade), and Mooshie, that’s Oak’s wife, leant us some fancy lace to hang over it as a curtain
  5. Collected old jam jars to go in the fort and filled them with funny-looking mushrooms, weird ferns, giant nettles (we tried to pick ALL of these so Mooshie won’t use them to make her disgusting nettle soup) and smooth pebbles for catapulting annoying people
  6. Hung wind chimes from the branch under the fort to ward off evil spirits (then I added a dreamcatcher coz I figured the bright feathers might put the evil spirit in a better mood if it did chance on passing our way). We also hung some other good luck charms to help protect our fort from witchdoctor badness: nails dangling from string, bits of mirror stuck into branches, lemon peel tucked into the hollows and a fox tooth in a jam jar by the trunk of the tree

Abi’s Dad cutting down hazel in a Scottish wood for Moll’s catapult

After we built the tree fort, Oak taught us how to hunt. And it’s a good job he did – coz recently Mooshie and me worked out that most of my bad decisions happen when I’m hungry. So to avoid bad decisions, here are The Tribe’s key tips to finding food in the forest:
  1. Know how to make a fire. Find a flat area in the forest, dig a circle a few centimetres deep and round enough for your fire (about 75cm). Surround the area with dry rocks to box in the fire. Gather dry twigs, leaves and kindling from fallen branches – birch bark is a good fire starter. Build a small, loose pile of kindling inside the stones and make sure there’s space for the air to feed the fire. Make an inwards tepee of dry twigs and small sticks around and above the kindling pile. Then add to your fire with bigger logs to keep it burning. Remember to put the fire out after you’re finished with it as that can lead to all sorts of annoying problems 
  2. Make a catapult. Find a Y-shaped piece of wood (hazel or ash is usually the best as it’s strong), carve it down to shape so that the central base fits into the palm of your hand, use a penknife to make a grove round each of the Y prongs, bake it in an oven for 15 minutes to make the wood stronger, coat it in varnish then fit a strip of strong, thick elastic with a leather pouch in the middle of it over the prongs. Then just find a stone and you’re good to go. I reckon I’m probably the best in The Tribe at catapulting, but Sid’s not bad, and I suppose Gryff is pretty good at hunting and he doesn’t even need a catapult. We get pigeons and rabbits mostly – then we cook them on the fire
  3. Tickle a trout. Wade up the river feeling underneath the banks for resting trout. Using one hand, work your fingers from the trout’s tail upwards, gently rubbing its belly with the tips of your fingers so that it goes all still and trance-like. Once you reach the head, grip hard, lift fish out of the water, cook it on the fire. YUM
  4. Munch some berries and nuts. Look out for blackberries late summer/early autumn as well as plums, damsons, wild strawberries and raspberries which you’ll find growing in hedgerows. And you can’t go wrong with chestnuts – gather a handful from the ground in Autumn, use a penknife to cut away the shell then roast them over the fire. They taste good dipped in salt
Moll’s catapult (carved by Abi – not that Moll said thank you…)

You should be all right in the wild. I mean, sheltering from the rain and finding food is a walk in the park compared to what I got landed with. Annoyingly there aren’t that many rules on how to avoid witchdoctors and their deadly Dream Snatch. But still, I’ve got my catapult – and that’s a start…

~~~

Big, big thanks to Moll (and Abi) for guesting on The Book Zone today. The Dreamsnatcher is published on 26th February and you can follow Abi on Twitter where she goes by the name of @moontrug.








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