A Chaga New Year
So its 2017 and with winter being held at arm’s length I took the opportunity this week to get out in the woods and collect some materials for later on in the year as I am about to depart for much more humid climes!
I am blessed that I am surrounded by coniferous and deciduous woods on the Moray coast and only a few minutes’ walk from my house is a nice handy birch wood interspersed with scots pine, and marshes. My aim was to collect some birch bark from some windblown trees and anything naturally peeling. I was not to be disappointed. Within minutes of entering the wood line I happened across a nice big old silver birch that was snapped at the top due to the winds but still living and it was covered in “Inonotus obliquus” growths or more commonly referred to as “Birch Chaga” or “True Tinder Fungus”.
Its appearance looks like a burnt section of wood that has erupted from the bark (as shown above) with hard black nodules that when you break them off uncovers a cork like substance in texture which is the best for tinder that will take a good spark to produce a really hot coal. It must though be from a living tree to be usable and most importantly dry! This can be achieved by simply putting a piece in your pocket to stay dry until required. As you can see below there is always enough to last a long time once harvested.
Slice it up or keeping it in chunks it will take a spark from flint or from a firesteel and start to smoulder pretty much straight away. A little bit of assistance by blowing on it and adding it to a tinder bundle you will not be disappointed. It can also be used as a method of transporting an ember if you wish to move location.
Now some may ask why not just use a lighter to light your tinder? Well as Brad mentioned earlier this month what if you have lost it, it has run out of fuel or you are injured? A lighter on a chunk of this will produce a really hot coal that you can coax with a good tinder bundle with ease even in the rain. There are lots of natural resources out there it is just a matter of knowing what works best for a survival situation as well as trying them in different environments which I would suggest that you try out before you are in the mire!
So as well as the Chaga you will also have loads of birch bark available but further searching will uncover “Birch polypore” (above left) or more commonly known as razor strop fungus which when dry will carry a coal very well as well as being used for emergency plaster or as its name says stropping your blade and of course “Fomes fomentarius” (above right) or more commonly known as good old horse’s hoof fungus which has a shammy like trama under the hard exterior which when sliced off will take a spark but works best when treated by boiling for twenty four hours then pounded. This can also be scraped with your knife to produce a mass of fibre that will also take a spark.
So there you have it a very fortuitous venture in to the woods that also bagged me a 35 litre daysack full of dry marsh grass, honeysuckle and pine resin. Happy hunting.