Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Repair

Living "green" is all about the four R's: Recycle, Reuse, Reduce and Repair.

Today, I used a trick learned last year in Yellowstone. I had this really great jacket but the zipper was getting stuck and wouldn't separate at the bottom allowing me to get it off without pulling it over my head.

Some friends suggested I just throw it away. Then, one savvy gal suggested I rub some wax, like from lip balm, over the teeth of the zipper. I did that, and slowly but surely the zipper slid open.

I also became aware of how important for the life of the zipper it was to align it properly , seating the metal prongs all the way into the slide before attempting to zip it up. Voila!

So, this jacket in the photo above was likewise rescued from the junk pile, or zipper replacement by some simple lubricant.

This works on many other things. Some WD40 will unstick lots of things as well. Just when I'm about to give up on a bolt or screw, I bring out the WD40.

Some machine oil on hinges or sewing machine moving parts goes a long ways. It doesn't take much.

Reducing the way we consume is important for a sustainable planet. Instead of thinking of things as disposable, we can think of them as repairable.

When all else fails, recycling is a great way to help the environment. The free magazines that come my way are shredded to make bedding for local animals at our local recycle center. That in turn reduces the amount of straw that must be purchased and trucked over long distances.

I love it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gathering and Harvesting-Food Alternatives

I've really gotten into the wild edibles, both gathering and harvesting for long term use.
The acorn has been foremost in this hobby, replacing mushrooms as a viable, safe wild food. The problem with mushrooms is that so many are poisonous in even small quantities. Plus mushrooms just don't have enough calories to merit the risks involved.
Acorns, on the other hand, have both fat and protein. One ounce of raw acorns have 7 grams of fat. Serious stuff.
for recipes, processing tips, and ongoing reviews of food stuffs.
When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail I ate wild onions, nettles (cook first to remove the stickers) berries and tasted some wild grasses which seemed way out of control. There were tons of wild blackberries, just dripping with goodness on the way into Seiad Valley. I wondered that the locals weren't picking them for jam.

Coming around the bend early one morning on the Eagles Creek trail just south of Cascade Lock, I had my closest bear encounter ever. I never saw the bear family while I was munching berries along the narrow trail bordered by a cliff and a mountain, until the cub brushed my pack on its way up a tree. Momma bear stood upon her hind legs, huffing and threatening as I backed away, calling to my partner a warning.
Things were tense while Rainmaker continued into the fray, and momma bear wanted no part of him. She dropped to all fours and galloped down the steep slope, baby following soon afterward.

Eventually, we just ate berries, mostly because there isn't time to gather food along the way. Miles are important if a person wants to finish before snow. But, once we got to the Cascades in northern Washington, and only a few more weeks remained, we enjoyed the berries in season. I could always tell when Paw Bunion was ahead of us: all the berries were gone.

The Appalachian Trail had nice berries too, but there were many more hikers around to compete with the bounty. Towns are much closer, and there are hostels, trail magic and goodies of all sorts in trail shelters left by well meaning day hikers.

Sometimes people will ask if you hike and live off the land. Thinking the earth has so much to offer, they imagine while walking through the woods it would be a natural approach.
But, if you do much wild edibles , you know it actually takes time and energy, and much of the time not enough calories are available.

For now, its a great hobby, a winter past time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Panning For Gold

Gold is selling at over $1200 per ounce. That's astounding. What's also astounding is that panning for gold is a cheap hobby. All you need is a pan, similar to a pie pan and a creek not on private property. Or else, permission.
I tried it yesterday while on a backpacking trip with my partner. It was warm, and I had a pan, and we camped in the National Forest.
I'd watched a couple YouTube videos showing the technique of swirling and shaking to settle whatever gold flecks might be in the mass of sediment in the stream bed (now in my pan).
It looked like fun, and easily fits any one's budget.
But, as you can see at the top of this page, I found a lot of very cool looking stones instead. I saved them, who knows? This area is also known for its gems as well as being in the gold belt of early 1800's, before gold was discovered in California.
Its not necessary to find anything to sell. Its just good to have an outdoor hobby which doesn't pollute or destroy anything. Its good to learn new skills, and pass on any learning to others.
I also played with acorns as survival food. You can read more about that on
Tonight I sauted some acorns which were prepared by boiling, dehusking, then rinsing. With canola oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder in a frying pan, until crisp, they were fantastic as a roasted garnish on salads for supper.
The earth is good to us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All Things End

They're telling us the recession ended last June, in 2009.
Not a soul I've talked to in my travels agrees with this assessment by the "experts".
As we look back on this recession, the one still in progress, we see that the experts didn't even recognize it was in progress for nearly a year. We knew something was up when art quit selling, jobs were unavailable, foreclosures snowballing across the country.

Seems they are telling us it started in December of 2007. Oh, so that would make it while the Republicans were in office.
Now, they tell us it actually ended while the Democrats had control.

Tell me this is not politically motivated. That would mean, come this November, we could vote with confidence for the party that solved this economic crisis?

But enough politics.
I visited my girlfriends today up at the art center in Tallulah Falls. I hadn't seen them in two years. My Yellowstone and Zion adventures sort of took up the time.
But, it was fun and as girlfriends do, we caught up on gossip, projects, stories, t-v reviews and food exchanges. The gallery is closing end of this year. Its sad because for years it was a non profit center to support and encourage Georgia Artists. I spent many a Thursday there working on my mica projects, hiking the gorge, doing some plein air art sketches and paintings.
All things end.
As we look to our futures, some will get a "real job" if one is available. Some will reduce expenditures ,if that is possible, to get by. Some will move to another location where they rent the space by the square foot. Some will sell personal possessions they hardly ever used for next to nothing.
All things end. A bitter sweet time of reflection and promises to stay in touch.

If this recession were over a year already, wouldn't somebody, a real person, notice?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Goodwill Online Auction

Goodwill is the first nonprofit organization to create an online auction site. I was pretty amazed how well the site is organized and how much good stuff they have available.

This is much like e-bay in the bidding process, and all the information is easily available for those who want to shop where their money will go to a good cause: training handicapped individuals to lead a productive happy life.

And, there are deals. I was browsing through the art section and there's some good stuff for very little money.

Goodwills from around the country participate in gleaning the best donations for this auction.

This is a great way to recycle antiques and second hand items with little overhead. Very earth friendly.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Liquid Nails for the Survivalist

The new blog I'm doing deals with gear, survivalism, and lessons learned on the trail.

is where you'll find today's post about repairing things using liquid nails.
If you've never used the stuff, you'll be amazed by how inexpensive it is, how versatile and how strong! I've even used it on my car rather than pay an expensive mechanic to reattach my passenger side mirror. The car has nearly 120,000 miles on it and the main focus at this point is the engine. The body is showing the wear that tried and true things do.

Kinda like my trail shoes. When you really love something, its hard to give it up, dumpsters are a sad way to part, yet I don't want to get buried alive in stuff.
I've dejunked my life and love it.
Just keep the really good stuff and not buying junk from China.

But, back to liquid nails. Check out the post at the above link.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


How did you commemorate Nine Eleven?
I didn't do anything special. Seems like no one in town did either.
Instead, it was a regular rainy day at the Saturday Flee Market.
People are trying to make a living somehow. Produce, books, diabetic sock wear. If you can put a name to what you're looking for, you'll probably find it at the market.
Then, along the edge of the curb were signs promoting the Kudzu Factory.
Here in the southeast its almost a fantasy of Kudzu taking over trees, roads and power lines. If you cut it back, it grows faster. If you spray it with herbicide it increases foliage. I read some folks were renting out their goats as nature's only cure. Its said if they eat a field long enough, the roots of the kudzu will actually be eaten eventually. This is the long term solution. One guy in Tennessee makes ethanol from it: Kudzuleene. That's my favorite idea. I wish him well. After all, kudzu is high in cellulose and protein, a great crop for fattening livestock as well.
Some talented basket weavers have created beautiful work with the kudzu vine and are selling them at a new shop opened on Highway 441 in Mountain City, Georgia. I stopped in and there is space for rent in this building, called the Promenade, for more artists.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. That's the place I am in right now.
So, I guess I did commemorate Nine Eleven with networking and a look at new opportunities. Not a bad way to spend one of our Nation's worse days in history.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Modifying Gear

This stuff sack is on its way to a new life. As a compression sack, I just don't use it, never have. Too many straps, too much extra weight (about 3 ounces in straps). So, by removing the straps, I get a good ultralight sack for future use, and some good tie down straps for my external frame pack.

For more information, see my other blog at

I love to modify the things I already have. Its a good skill which saves the budget, keeps things out of thrift stores or landfills and adds to the creative energy that must be fed on a regular basis.

Some people think we are Mini Gods, created in the image of our heavenly father. If that be the case, creations and innovations are necessary to happiness because that would be a core characteristic of a child of god.

I'm more into philosophy than "religion" though. Just my few cents.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Playing To Win and Such

I subscribe to a few YouTube channels, among them Christine Kane.
She is a life coach and does some really good presentations. The one I watched today is 5.43 minutes long and deals with Playing to Win versus Trying Not to Lose.

Its an interesting take on how we deal with criticism and praise. She gives an example of how we compromise our visions, especially after first facing initial negative feedback. If we are uncertain or have unrealistic expectations, inner voices may raise up to agree with the critics.

Never losing sight of the journey or goals is very important. Building skills and confidence is a worthy task, no matter what the undertaking. Practice, practice and more practice will bring the results we seek.

Her videos are worthy of several views, and I hear she even has a blog:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Backpacking to the Haunted Gem Mine

Last night we hiked to our favorite campsite. Across the wilderness stream is an abandoned gem mine. We slept pretty decent, and visited this haunted mine the next morning. Rainmaker took these photos with my camera. When I downloaded it, the face, peering to the back of the cave, became visible.

Now, I'm not superstitious and I don't even go to church. But, the photos on his camera as well as mine show sets of swirls. The cave is empty except for just a few water logged boards, some rocks, and about 3 feet of water.
I dug out a trench of sorts to help drain the mine. Right now, my adventurous spirit is loath to wade thigh deep into this darkness.
If it were drier, who knows.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In A Class By Themselves

I'm in a class of one: a self taught Culinary Arts Project.

My text book, On Cooking-Techniques from Expert Chefs second edition, by Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause is 1079 pages of delightful information. Its six pounds of highlight-able glossy pages.

For a long time cook, baker and etcetera, it has tons of information and makes sense . I can see a person new to the kitchen scene being a bit overwhelmed, but its a great reference too. It doesn't have to be read all at once.
I found this wonderful book at
You can put your subject in the search engine there, then read the reviews posted by others who have bought the book you have in mind.
Many culinary students said this text was the one they were using in their classes at their universities. Chefs reported they found it a great resource.
Foodies said they learned a great deal and wouldn't be without it.

My total investment was $6.88. I've assigned myself 5 pages a day, to be read, explored, and practiced whenever possible.

Sometimes this type of undertaking is called Independent Study. Take a topic you love and dive in. See where it takes you. On trail, at home, on the job, its all good.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Find Your Voice

As an artist (I dabble in food, fabric, paint, authorship) I'm told to find my voice.
Expected to have a point of view, something unique to say to the world, artists are a misunderstood breed.
Aren't we all artists in life? We search to find the things that are meaningful to us, then experiment, elaborate, and pursue it. Sometimes a person can't do it full time. The bills must be paid.

I was reading something in an old Oprah magazine I picked up free at the thrift store.

Published in March 2008, just as the real estate bubble was bursting, but before economists and federal officials would admit to the recession that we're now told started in December 2007, an expert wrote that in order to plan for retirement we had to know where we expected, or more importantly, wanted to go.

As I do with all concise and particularly meaningful articles, I clip the best part and tape it in my a notebook for future reference.

It said you should ask yourself these three questions:
1-If you had all the money you'd ever need, how would you spend your time?
2-If you had only five years to live, how would you live your life?
3-If you found out you life was over tomorrow, what would you regret?

The article said most people were disturbed by the inconsistancies they found in their actions compared to the desired outcomes.

It will take me some serious thought to begin to answer even one of those questions. I find my most productive thought occurs in the morning on my daily hike. I take a pocket notebook and pen to jot down these thoughts.

I hope to find the answers, perhaps they will even change over time.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gear Modification

I'm planning an insanely ultralight backpacking trip but just had to modify the Brooks-Range tarp before heading out.

The "through hole" place right in the smack dab middle of the tarp has issues. First, as a structure support, too much tension caused the reinforced patch to start ripping loose from the ultralight fabric. That's understandable.
Second, my testing showed that as a guy out point it was great, but a "washer" had to be used to keep the line from pulling through the hole. A guying loop would be much better.
So, this morning, I inserted a silnylon fabric loop (a person can use gross grain ribbon, or a section of heat sealed nylon webbing to form this loop).
I stitched it on my sewing machine.
It added no measurable weight, but increased its usefulness greatly.
I feel very strongly that all gear sent out to a tester must first be used and tested in its original state. Otherwise, anyone else buying that item would not have similar results.
But, after reasonable testing, gear modifications can improve the usefulness of that item.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Huge Tarp

My 10 x 12 tarp is huge. Its very versatile and weighs only 21 ounces. The pitches below use trees as the main support, and 4 stakes. In high winds, more stakes would provide better protection and stability.

This pitch is so basic and offers a great deal of room for two people. Of course, you'd want a ground cloth inside so the sleeping pad and sleeping bag wouldn't pick up any moisture. I like a black tarp because its not transparent like other silnylon colors are. Studies have shown that it actually provides better shade for this very reason.

This pitch is great for base camping. The height is 6 feet. It could be pitched above a picnic table or hammock.

There's always been a debate what is the optimal size for a flat tarp. Some swear by the square tarp, either 8 x 8 , 9 x 9 or 10 x 10. I made this tarp this size so that tarp-tent structures could also be used where the floor is actually part of the canopy, so that a ground cloth would not be needed.

Stay tuned for those pitches to be posted tomorrow.