Bushcrafter or Urban Outdoorsman, is gardening a legitimate pastime?

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Laurentius

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 13, 2009
2,045
326
Knowhere
I have been thinking. There are many people living in different environments on this forum, and if I have to look towards the lifestyle I would hanker after, were it not for the infirmities of ageing, I would be a homesteader, however reality marks me out as an urban dweller, a flat dweller, who like to camp, hike and garden, in other words I simply prefer being out of doors rather than in, except for when the weather is really inclement and hiking or gardening is a bit of a chore. I suspect that the only true "bushcrafters" are those who make a living from teaching the skills, the rest of us just like to do things in a particular way whenever we get the opportunity. Gardening for me, is not a matter of going out and mowing the lawn, because I don't have one to begin with, but something I do on my allotment to provide vegetables, and wooden staves amongst other things, but it is also what I do on my balcony, windowsills and landing, to bring as much as the natural world as close to me as I can being otherwise forced like the majority of the population into high density living. I do not see, especially during these lockdown times, why anyone should look down on anyone who only ever practices bushcraft skills in their garden, I also think people who have limited space could create "bushcraft gardens. If you only have space for one tree, then grow one, and coppice it, or become a guerilla gardener, planting things where they might have a good chance of surviving the Council mower.
 

Wander

Settler
Jan 6, 2017
721
895
Here There & Everywhere
There are three things I can't abide (well, there are more than that, but on a day-to-day basis, we'll make do with three).
They are:
DIY
Painting and decorating
Gardening

But if any of those give anyone else pleasure then I say, good for them!
To hell with what other people think. To hell with judgmental people.
If doing gardening is what brings you closer to...well, to whatever it is, whether it's in a suburban garden, a cottage garden, or window boxes, then good for you - it doesn't mean a damn thing what others say.
There are lots of people out there who never find out what it is they like doing or where they can find peace and contentment, so don't ever feel the need to justify what you enjoy and what it means to you, just carry on enjoying it.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,155
964
Lancashire
I used to do conservation volunteering. It's like gardening in a variety of locations and generally more large scale too? Cutting trees down, clearances and thinning out. Also fencing, hedgelaying under supervision, dry stone walling under supervision. Tree planting even planting out new ponds and pond edges.

I've helped my dad with his bigger jobs too.

I've never had my own garden only backyard. Now we're about to move to a house with a decent sized garden. Probably bigger than any family member has had except for possibly one set of my grandparents. So we're about to put together the skills I've learnt, such as they are, on a garden that's got a lot of trees and very little lawn space or many of the traditional suburban garden features. It's the benefits of living in the edge of a village at the end of all roads in. There will be some trees needing felling and others being cut back a bit. Shrubs to be cut back. Sitting areas to be recovered from vegetation that's taken over. Basically similar to conservation work I've done in the past. Fencing too. Although we're probably going to get the pros in for a few things. I really don't want to do the large tree felling or fencing.

So whilst gardening isn't bushcraft so much but it can have elements shared with conservation work. Gardens in rural areas can be made to suit nature too. Even suburban gardens can become useful for nature. Where there's nature there's possibilities to track or observe nature. That's a part of bushcraft for some. It's just a range of skills afterall. Skills can be useful in the most unexpected ways of times.
 
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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,113
4,460
Mid Wales
I have been thinking. There are many people living in different environments on this forum, and if I have to look towards the lifestyle I would hanker after, were it not for the infirmities of ageing, I would be a homesteader, however reality marks me out as an urban dweller, a flat dweller, who like to camp, hike and garden, in other words I simply prefer being out of doors rather than in, except for when the weather is really inclement and hiking or gardening is a bit of a chore. I suspect that the only true "bushcrafters" are those who make a living from teaching the skills, the rest of us just like to do things in a particular way whenever we get the opportunity. Gardening for me, is not a matter of going out and mowing the lawn, because I don't have one to begin with, but something I do on my allotment to provide vegetables, and wooden staves amongst other things, but it is also what I do on my balcony, windowsills and landing, to bring as much as the natural world as close to me as I can being otherwise forced like the majority of the population into high density living. I do not see, especially during these lockdown times, why anyone should look down on anyone who only ever practices bushcraft skills in their garden, I also think people who have limited space could create "bushcraft gardens. If you only have space for one tree, then grow one, and coppice it, or become a guerilla gardener, planting things where they might have a good chance of surviving the Council mower.

I agree. All those gardens, whether wild or manicured, are now a vital habitat for people and wildlife to enjoy. Any aerial view of urban environments shows the value of gardens really well. Even small gardens can have untrodden hidden corners that become miniature wildernesses. After all, most of Britain is just one big garden after all.

I'm not sure about the only true "bushcrafters" being the teachers though - many of us that work in the woods practice skills currently labelled as "bushcraft". Although, having said that, I don't believe there is such a thing as a "bushcrafter" other than in the slightly false environment of a "bushcraft school" so, maybe, on reflection, I agree with you :)
 

Woody girl

Full Member
Mar 31, 2018
3,251
2,318
63
Exmoor
I garden and grow veg, I also forage, preserve and cook with my gains, I use my bushcraft skills all the time both when out and when I'm home.
Firelighting and collecting and processing firewood, for the wood burner for instance.
Foraging has brought certain wild edibles into the garden, such as wild strawberries and garlic. This year I'm looking at getting wild raspberries and blueberries into the garden too.
Blackberries and wild mushrooms too can often be found in my garden, along with nettle and dandelion which is used in jam and wine making, soups and omelettes.
I've brought these wild edibles into my garden, but I could just as easily find them in the wild, it's just handier, and improves my micro environment. I could do all this in the woods, I just choose also to do it at home, and if relying on foraging alone living in a flat, could still do so. If I had a balcony, it would be turned into a pot garden, so I could still be sat in nature.
Bushcraft is just another element of living as naturally and lightly upon the earth, as I can.
Personaly I call it living naturally or living with nature, but a lot of what I do, and have done for many years, work wise, aswell as otherwise, has been given the name bushcraft, as if it was a totaly different thing that is done in a specialised way, with specific equipment.
 
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Fadcode

Full Member
Feb 13, 2016
2,707
739
Cornwall
As there is no clear definition of "Bushcrafters" then it is probably debatable whether everyone is a Bushcrafter in one sense or the other.

The early Homesteaders who basically survived on what they grew, built their own homes using basically their wits, are true bush crafters, in todays world it would be quite hard to duplicate the environment they faced, starvation, drought, etc,but we can still use our wits, and be Bushcrafters,

People who grow their own food, even if limited to vegetables, people who manage woodland, taking into account the need of the animals that roam there, even people who simply go out for a walk sit down and carve a spoon, are bushcrafters, to me being in nature, being aware of nature and enjoying nature are the basics of Bushcraft,

Sometimes we get carried away by TV programs that point out the dangers, making in some instances Bushcrafting to be dangerous, yet we forget that these TV Programmes are staged, usually scripted, basically not real, although a joy to watch, I once watched Bear Grills jump out of a helicopter in the desert, immediately start running saying he had to find water ...........Drama..........stupidity.

To me Bushcrafting is being able to adapt your surroundings to meet your needs, and make you feel safe and secure, no drama, just feel right, and if that means growing spuds on balcony, or in your back garden, that ok with me........and of course enjoying doing it.
one other good thing about Bushcraft as we know it is, it hasn't been overtaken by technology it still relies on us.
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,017
1,182
Berlin
I learned a lot about nature in my garden.
And because I don't clean up every corner and the forest isn't so far away, I got a lot of wildlife in it, fox, racoon, squirrels, and a lot of different birds and insects of course, amphibians too, different mice, rats, shrew mice too. Al that nearly in the middle of Berlin!

Because they are used to me they become pretty domesticated, the shrew mouse even came into my bed.

So near I never came in touch with wild animals when I was hiking or wild camping.
Growing plants is very interesting too of course, but less funny then the little beasts.
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,155
964
Lancashire
As there is no clear definition of "Bushcrafters" then it is probably debatable whether everyone is a Bushcrafter in one sense or the other.

The early Homesteaders who basically survived on what they grew, built their own homes using basically their wits, are true bush crafters, in todays world it would be quite hard to duplicate the environment they faced, starvation, drought, etc,but we can still use our wits, and be Bushcrafters,

People who grow their own food, even if limited to vegetables, people who manage woodland, taking into account the need of the animals that roam there, even people who simply go out for a walk sit down and carve a spoon, are bushcrafters, to me being in nature, being aware of nature and enjoying nature are the basics of Bushcraft,

Sometimes we get carried away by TV programs that point out the dangers, making in some instances Bushcrafting to be dangerous, yet we forget that these TV Programmes are staged, usually scripted, basically not real, although a joy to watch, I once watched Bear Grills jump out of a helicopter in the desert, immediately start running saying he had to find water ...........Drama..........stupidity.

To me Bushcrafting is being able to adapt your surroundings to meet your needs, and make you feel safe and secure, no drama, just feel right, and if that means growing spuds on balcony, or in your back garden, that ok with me........and of course enjoying doing it.
one other good thing about Bushcraft as we know it is, it hasn't been overtaken by technology it still relies on us.
Unfortunately bushcraft has been slightly overtaken by technology. We're discussing it on a forum based on technology. We watch online videos and TV shows about bushcraft to learn new skills. We read books too, the latest technology of their day. There's very little direct person to person training compared to online or distance learning. Bushmoot is important I reckon to maintain the natural progression of bushcraft knowledge direct from person to person without technology.

If technology hasn't overtaken bushcraft then you'd never get a thread from a young man asking where he could live completely off grid without legal consequences when he has no skills to speak of even the most basic ones. A period of technology based bushcraft was probably his choice for information and probably dodgy sources too.
 
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John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
22,281
1,790
64
Pembrokeshire
My garden IS a wilderness!
But in there there are crops of food - both wild and cultivated - a source of fuel for our house, a place to practice skills from making "hurdle" fences to making fishing nets, whittling to metal casting.
It is a place to watch wildlife, from pheasants to rats, badgers to hedgehogs, toads to squirrels. It is a place to relax under a tree in the sun or build a snowman ...
Not bad for less than 1/8th of an acre, right on a busy B road....
The "Gardening" I leave to my wife....
 
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Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,017
1,182
Berlin
Oh. How could I forget the hedgehog?
Sorry, my dear, should you follow this thread!

As I assume, that my hedgehog already owns a smartphone, I disagree about the opinion that bushcraft was overtaken by technology and electronics replaced the person to person training.

We play a lot in this forum here.
But that isn't the real world!

I don't know the real British circumstances but several thousand current German boy and girl scouts don't use the bushcraft forums, even don't use the German boy scout forum.
And millions of former German boy scouts teach the skills directly to their children.

I assume that it is worldwide the same and the internet bushcraft has in fact just a very little fracture of users compared with the the actual outdoor life.

We mainly discuss here equipment because the skills usually take a different way of communication.

And yes, the privat garden is also the usual bushcraft kindergarten.
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,155
964
Lancashire
Bushcraft is taught face to face but if this forum it's remotely close to being representative of people doing activities called bushcraft then technology is used a lot. How many threads about online videos? How many come here for advice on techniques, where to go, etc? BCUK is a bushcraft resource and it's based on technology. If you really wanted to be pedantic then even stone age techniques are actually technology. Then how many discussions of kit? All technology.

However purely electronic technology plays a part. There's plenty discussion and imparting knowledge on here, a forum supplied by technology.

As to boy or girl scouts. It's not the same with that organisation everywhere. Even in the UK there's variation. I grew up where nobody knew bushcraft skills who had got involved with scouting. The leaders used fire lighters and cigarette lighters to light fires. Heck they use petrol to get camp fires going. And do not get me on to how many times I had to correct my leaders on basic knots. That was in Cubs and scouts.

Even now our sons scout groups spend more time learning about social and environmental matters than bushcraft matters. Activities outside revolve around outdoor activities like mountain biking, climbing (they've got an indoor climbing wall too) and watersports. It's about fun activities for the kids not bushcraft. That's the attitude coming from area and national too.

That leaves other sources to find out about bushcraft. Often bear grylls then other online experts. I guess we'll never agree that technology is now a bigger part of bushcraft and learning about bushcraft
 
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Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
36,684
2,611
S. Lanarkshire
I'll not post them again, but the first photos on this thread are of my front garden and the overhanging trees from the burn path.


People change environments to suit themselves. We've been at it for beyond millennia.
My garden is both my 'big room' and a vibrant part of a wildlife corridor. I grow not only food and herbs, but useful plants too. Willow, flax, mugwort, meadowsweet, happily grow in among the roses, the tulips and the rhubarb.

The wildlife that visits my now very suburban garden include badgers, foxes, squirrels, weasels, every variety of little bird from wrens to buntings, from wood pigeons to herons and moorhens...and the occasional passing kestrel.
There's a fascinating range of insects too, huge irridescent beetles to hawk moths. I have three small ponds, ( you can grow mini reedmace in a big bucket) and they're all infested with newts, and again a huge range of insects. I grow native water plants in and around them. I use the rushes and the irises for basket making and cordage.
I use the mugwort for firelighting, the meadowsweet as a painkiller, the willow for basketry, the flax for spinning.....and the list goes on and on and on.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, right now I can 'just' walk to the end of the street and back and not want to cry. It'll ease as the warmer weather comes in, but our cold damp climate plays hell on my joints.
My garden is literally but a step away. There is always something living out there, something to see, something to use, something to just be green and seasonal.

Our last house had a tiny garden, but even there I managed to create a space for things to live, a space for the seasons to actually exist.

If all you have are a few windowsills, it's still very do-able :)
If you're limited in size, well, I have a mini woodland of willow, cherry, olive, fig and conifers, all dwarf plants grown in big planters, and have my eye on similarly dwarf (patio they call these) sized apple and plum trees.

As for the bushcraft, very few are priviledged to work outdoors among the wild bits of our world every day. For most earning a living and keeping the family fed, etc., take precedence.
Doesn't mean that time spent close to home being in touch with the seasons and how things grow isn't possible.
Enjoy what you have, make it as vibrantly alive and rich in resources as you can :)

It's healthy :cool:
 
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Laurentius

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 13, 2009
2,045
326
Knowhere
I learned a lot about nature in my garden.
And because I don't clean up every corner and the forest isn't so far away, I got a lot of wildlife in it, fox, racoon, squirrels, and a lot of different birds and insects of course, amphibians too, different mice, rats, shrew mice too. Al that nearly in the middle of Berlin!

Because they are used to me they become pretty domesticated, the shrew mouse even came into my bed.

So near I never came in touch with wild animals when I was hiking or wild camping.
Growing plants is very interesting too of course, but less funny then the little beasts.
FWIW I had a squirell on my fourth floor balcony the other day.
 
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oldtimer

Full Member
Sep 27, 2005
2,650
1,188
79
Oxfordshire and Pyrenees-Orientales, France
I feel truly sorry for folk stuck in totally urban environments during these lockdowns. I know my grandson is really feeling it because he can no longer do his voluntary nature reserve research.

We are fortunate to live by the side of a water meadow adjacent to a river that flows through a large nature reserve upstream from us. As a consequence, we get a lot of migrating birds using the river to navigate to it. Situated as we are, on the edge of the village, we benefit from a woodland and mixed farming environment and the wildlife that goes with it. Our garden is not huge, but includes a vegetable plot.

I am thus able to practice bushcraft skills such as observation of wildlife, feeling the rhythm of the seasons, and constructing garden frames and fencing from what I can gather from my boundary hedgerow, without leaving home. If I get desperate enough, I could emulate the example cited across the road of an overnight camp in the garden to hone the skills!

So, OP, I count my blessings, but I do miss my other life where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean!
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,155
964
Lancashire
We're living on a road with a canal running two houses away from us. Apart from noise from the canal side pub when it's allowed to be open, barge engines running most the night for heat or energy, incredibly noisy ducks, swans and especially Morgan and finally the smell of pot being smoked. Apart from all that it's a nice place to live.

Canals are conduits for so many users. On the other side there's space for wildlife because mostly us humans keep to this side. I've seen deer, otters, water voles. Well apart from the water voles our border terrier pointed to on the edge of the field that was totally chilled out chewing the grass, we don't see them just hear the plop as they drop into the water. Usually the same with others except you often catch their tail.

We have no garden just back yard but we have plants. During lockdown last year we strictly followed the hour exercise outside of the house and yard. Even that was nice. As things opened up we went further from the house but always walking. Until they said were could travel. Then we traveled up to 5 miles away for walks.

Now we're moving house to be further into the countryside. It'll have a garden too, a decent sized one albeit steeply sloping and tree covered for a greater part. The greatest thing about it is the outdoor space for future lockdowns. Whether that's the garden or the local area's many walking routes. Add in a garage for a home gym it's lockdown proof almost.

Bushcraft? Unfortunately I'm not sure I'll do much other than gardening and observing wildlife during a lockdown. I'll possibly use rods from a few trees to make frames.i intend to add a hedge too. Native thorn species. If I can of course.

I think it'll be a success if we see wildlife visiting us. Whether we do or not they will be around.

It's actually become a popular place to move to as people change their outlook due to covid. People want that garden space, want that outdoor life, want to be in the countryside but in a village too. It meant houses were increasing last year in prices and sold before the details were out without a viewing. Always full asking price too.
 

Erbswurst

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
3,017
1,182
Berlin
Ducks tend to a bad behaviour as far as I see.
Even my brother's domesticated ducks don't accept that it is strictly forbidden to land on cars and tractors. Fortunately the race he owns doesn't tend to sing in the night though.
 
Oh. How could I forget the hedgehog?
Sorry, my dear, should you follow this thread!

As I assume, that my hedgehog already owns a smartphone, I disagree about the opinion that bushcraft was overtaken by technology and electronics replaced the person to person training.
..... great... so even your hedgehog is more tech savvy than me :(
i've done a lot of gardening and farming related jobs during my walkabout (and before) -- sometimes it was hard work and/or boring (not to mention some bad bosses...) but it was often interesting, too (one guy i worked with for a few weeks in Darwin was either good at fooling everyone or really a grandson of the captain of the "Bismarck" )
in a lot of places where i stayed longer i made (or utilized) a small garden bed for some vegies -- on an 8ft x 2ft x 2ft bed on a balcony in korea i managed to grow over 6different species...
 
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Cobweb

Full Member
Aug 30, 2007
1,149
21
South Shropshire
We do what we can, where we can. For some, it's living in the woods as often as possible, or sharpening their sharps, or making kit and bits out of leather, herbalism, wild food, etc etc...

Our outdoor spaces, whether its acres of land or a balcony on a flat, is all outside. A box of dirt on a balcony that grows either chosen plants or weeds is still useful to both you and wildlife.

Never feel 'bad' that you have only a small space. With the rapid urbanization of the little spaces we have left, we could never truly live fully off the grid.

I, myself, have mobility issues so I can't get out into the woods any longer, I struggle to get to the local corner shop these days so my garden is my pocket of nature. The neighbors are fully in the camp of green wasteland gardens and mow their lawn once a week. I have native trees and I let the weeds grow and the amount of wildlife that visits is incredible.
It's not the largest garden in the world, only about 10 x 6 m but it's big enough for a couple of trees and we grow enough food for the summer and autumn (We could grow more, but I struggle)

I'm planning on adding a brick fire pit and a pond soon. I know I'm lucky to have such a space, but you can still have a similar set up on a balcony, just add a barrel pond and away you go!
 

henchy3rd

Full Member
Apr 16, 2012
415
270
Derby
The micro climate is where it all happens in the garden.. near fences or under the canopy off plants.
it’s like another world down there(use a magnifying glass).
I used to have a keen interest in entomology & I still grovel around if given a chance.
where ever we have an intrest or just passing by..if it brings joy & happiness then that’s all that counts.
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,155
964
Lancashire
Our new house has a garden on a slope. I doubt we'd be able to have a pond without major digging to create a level space for one! It's always good to have a wet habitat for wildlife if you can. At one stage we looked at a house with a smaller garden but it had a small pond that was slightly raised, surrounded by weather worn limestone and had one end tapering into a boggy pond margin too. The garden's best feature but needed a but of TLC.

I think it I could I would put a pond into any garden I could with an extended pond liner to allow for the pond to merge into a mini wetland margin.

My partner does want a swim pond put into our sloping garden if we could. We stayed at a guesthouse on our last overseas, family holiday that had a large pond with vertical walls, plant and wildlife in it. They even used it to breed a rare, local fish species to later release back into local rivers to repopulate them. They're part of an official breeding program in conjunction with official bodies.

The best bit for guests at the place was the sauna at one end and steps into the pond. It was a plunge pool come swimming pool come wildlife habitat. We didn't use it and the sauna was out of use too.
 

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