Hugh S |
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holding a prize crayfish
I hope to do this soon

Ditchmonkey’s diary – part 2…..Mission Improbable HQ is, for now, a caravan in the grounds of a seventeenth century farm house set deep in the Catalan mountains of northern Spain. The farm belongs to a friend of mine and I am in residence to provide assistance with the renovation, the work is getting me fit and living the rural idyll is proving to be deeply rewarding. The first three weeks that I was here were quite full on, long days spent working in the sun with a pick and shovel, building walls, digging foundations and leveling land. My fitness level rose quickly. I have now settled into the routine of getting up with the light and working until dusk with lunch of cheese, olives, tomatoes, bread and juice taken in the shade of an orange tree. It is, as Joe, the owner says, “living, really living”.

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Having been making such good headway with the work on the house the last few days have been much more relaxed this provided the perfect opportunity to start learning some survival skills. Yesterday morning at about 8am I found myself mooching around the peach orchard with little to do, the sun was yet to rise above the mountains so it was cold down in the valley and a light mist had risen from the river adding a slightly damp feel to the day.

I decided to have a go at making a crayfish trap, the challenge being to figure out the best design based only on scant knowledge and then making something that actually works. From what I understand Crayfish are similar to lobster in behaviour and appearance so it made sense to design the trap on lobster pot.

My decision was aided by the discovery of an old battered wicker hanging basket that was shaped very like a lobster pot. I decided to adapt it for my purposes. Now the purists amongst you might question my using a hanging basket as part of my jungle survival training — unless I happen across the lost Hanging Gardens of Babylon deep in the Amazon, I’m unlikely to have access to household accessories. This is a good point, but anyone who has visited my home in the woods will attest to the fact that when it comes to weaving table tops, chairs or in fact anything. I figured that if I start with something already made and add to it then I will get used to the techniques involved slowly without risking the whole thing collapsing. To make things more realistic I used bamboo from the water’s edge as I hear it is prolific in the jungle.

It took about an hour of annoying fiddly work to build adapt the basket into the shape of a lobster pot and a further half hour to weave bamboo leaves around the frame I made to create a solid structure. This task would have been far easier had I not been battling with Antonio the dog who seemed to think that every piece of bamboo I picked was hers. By the time I was finished it was time to get to work putting the finishing touches to the composting sewage system (more digging). As we worked Joe and I discussed what we could use as bait, in the jungle one would use fish guts or any smelly waste food but lacking such delicacies we decided to use some dried dog food soaked in cooking oil as crayfish are apparently attracted to oily foods. The bait was left in the sun to moulder in a freezer bag for the day, Antonio was most distressed to witness this. It was dark by the time we downed tools, I headed to the river as Joe went to the house to light a fire.

Having found a likely looking place to catch crayfish, not knowing what a likely looking place to catch crayfish is I had settled on the first place I came to, and attached a length of rope to the top of the trap I took aim, swung the thing out and watched as it curved gracefully through the air, landed exactly where intended with a satisfying splash. There it stayed, floating. Not even encouragement from a stick would persuade it to sink. It is remarkable how long it takes to find a stone that is heavy enough to sink a crayfish trap yet small enough to fit through the hole in the top. It is also perhaps worthy of mention that it is nigh on impossible to put that stone in the trap in such a way as to ensure the trap sinks evenly and not over on one side so as to allow any prey to escape the trap. After many attempts and muttering under the breath the trap finally sank evenly in the right place. I held my breath for a moment, only the sound of a fisherman on the far distant bank casting out a line broke the silence; I let out my breath and as I did so the bag of bait floated to the surface. I hauled the trap in, fished out the bait, and resolved to work on the design by daylight.

When I got to the house the fire was blazing, Joe was sat in front of it staring into the flames.
“Did you remember to weigh it down?” he asked without looking up

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