Saturday, October 30, 2010

Finding Campgrounds Across America

Looking for campgrounds when planning a cross country trip seems daunting at first. I don't like to drive way out of the way especially not knowing what they have or what they'll charge.
So, surfing the web I found this link:
It seems to have everything a person would need, in one place, with a handy search tool. You can sign up to create your own account, and elect whether to receive e-mails or promotions.
There are maps, phone numbers, and photos too.
As the prices of motels go up, and the bedbug epidemic continues to make news, camping looks better. A person wants to be careful not to get into an expensive site, however. Sometimes a campground can be nearly as much as a low budget motel. State campgrounds seem to have the best deals. This website also shows how many sites each location has, and although I haven't tried it yet, has a "reserve now" option.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Veggies as a Cancer Cure

I was researching cabbage because it gets so little press. Here's what I found:
proved to be a very good link, with a lengthy article about healthy life style choices. They wrote
"Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are all cancer-fighting stars in the produce department, and several studies have linked them to a lower risk for colorectal, lung and stomach cancers, says Lawrence Kushi, Sc.D., associate director for epidemiology at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California. Plus, research from Michigan State University in East Lansing found that those who ate raw or lightly cooked cabbage and sauerkraut more than three times a week were 72 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who had 1.5 or fewer servings. Experts suspect vegetables such as cabbage contain chemicals that turn on your body's natural detoxifying enzymes, Kushi explains.
How much to eat. You can't have too much, but five weekly half-cup servings is a reasonable goal. "
Then, I saw the link for 13 ways to prevent cancer, some I had never read before, like don't top off the gas tank! They wrote:
"Java lovers who drank 5 or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 40% decreased risk of brain cancer, compared with people who drank the least in a 2010 British study. A 5-cup-a-day coffee habit reduces risks of cancers of the pharynx and mouth almost as much..."

You gotta love that information!
There is a lot of information, widely accessible on the Internet now, which points to life style modification as real ways to lower, fight, and kill actual existing cancers in the body.
As Doctor Oz says, its never too late to start, start today.
I buy a head of green or purple cabbage, wash and cut up. Then I store it in a zip lock bag for easy access. When vegetables are prepped and ready to eat, you'll find yourself able to do it even on those busy days.
Make Cole slaw, eat raw with salt, saute with other veggies for a side dish, add to soups, make a sandwhich with drained sauerkraut, cheese and toasted whole wheat bread.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Google Earth

I watched as my friend plugged in a street address to the free downloaded
Google Earth site. The cursor flew to a home address over 800 miles away, and I could see the streets and town layout from the comfort of home.
If that isn't amazing enough, you can then request driving directions to that place from your home, and scan the highways along the route.
A person's gotta love this technology. Granted some of the photos and buildings are a few years old. The dates are given in the corner. You can click on icons and bring up photos added by others.
We had fun locating key places in Zion National Park where I worked this summer.
Check it out and feel the earth fly beneath your feet. Hang on to your chair. This rapid movement is so real you feel like you're flying, or at the very least, at an I-Max theater.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hoarding-Buried Alive Review

If you've ever watched the reality show " Hoarding, Buried Alive" you start to wonder how such huge amounts of Stuff came to be in one place.
At what point did people need to start stepping over Stuff to get from one side of the room to another, and why did that ever seem normal.
I figure it was one little thing at a time. No one just dumped a couple boxes of Stuff in the living room and left it there. One shirt, one book, one newspaper at a time. That's how people gain all this weight, one pound at a time.
If you've ever lifted a 20 pound rock and carried it up a hill, you can't wait until you can finally set it down. That's what 20 pounds of fat feels like.
Its little by little we de-junk, loose weight, change habits.
Lots of backpackers planning a long hike start out with a mass of gear they feel is necessary to get them down the trail. The longer they hike, the more they get rid of. Little by little they learn what they need to haul down the trail. One of my favorite Thoreau quote is "My greatest skill is to need but little".
Tuckerizing is a term Appalachian Trail hikers use to describe paring down the contents of their pack. Using an ultra lighter's gear list helps with this, even if they don't want to go that extreme. It gives you a starting point. Visit, or my home page for gear list links
As I watch these Hoarding Reality shows, I'm amazed at how difficult it is for owners to part with their goods in spite of the bad condition of most of the stuff. There's a lot of emotionalism. Therapists and family members reason with the owners, not always succeeding in bringing rational thought.
I remember loving a jean skirt and thinking it was so cool. A friend came over to my house and needed to borrow it. Seeing it on her made me realize how worn out it had become. I had been blinded with emotionalism. Needless to say, it hit the rag bag when she was done borrowing it.
If a person finds themselves in a cluttered condition, they can downsize by just working on one drawer or one closet each day. Really Tuckerize, put emotionalism aside and call a moratorium on shopping or spending until the house has been finished.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why I Don't Walk for the Cure

There is so much research and evidence to support the theory that life style changes radically reduce cancer risk.
One of many, including
Studies Link Veggie Consumption to Lower Breast Cancer Rates tell us that simply eating more carrots can reduce our risk by 17%.

Experts tell us that we must stop smoking, exercise, maintain an acceptable weight, eat some fruits and vegetables, limit alcohol consumption, reduce stress and get some sunshine.

These are all free, easy things to do.

Yet, 45 million Americans still smoke. Untold millions are exposed to second hand smoke. Third hand smoke, the chemicals that remain on clothing and hair, is now raising concerns.

Exercise is a natural way to reduce stress. Our muscles need to move, our bones can't stay strong without movement and sunshine. Muscles built by good old fashioned exercise burn calories, maintain core strength, increase balance and longevity.

Its embarrassing that as a nation we continue to grow fatter. Sixty percent are over weight or even obese. Studies prove that this fat is killing us with heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes. Experts predict by 2050 one in three Americans will be diabetic.

Eating some fruits and vegetables, especially carrots and cruciferous vegetables -- collard greens, cabbage, broccoli -- is not expensive or hard to do. Gardening should be taught to every school child. I love the fact the White House is into gardening. Gardening gives us our vitamin D through sunshine. Just 15 minutes a day, without sunscreen is all we need. Maybe some classes on how to prepare vegetables would be in order too.

Limit alcohol. A glass of wine is good, some say. Excess kills.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are asked to fund research, go on marches, wear pink.
I'm sorry. I have many friends who are survivors, so its not like I haven't witnessed the trauma.
But, when are we going to start doing the things we already have proof works? Instead of looking for a pill (that many of us probably couldn't afford anyways) or a vaccination (that years down the road may be found to cause heart attacks) couldn't we start living the Cure?

Pills are not the answer. HRT, hormone replacement therapy was touted as a safe way to deal with menopausal symptoms. Some of us were talked into getting on them. Now, HRT is shown to be instrumental in breast cancers.
How many drugs have we seen pulled off the shelves due to long term negative and deadly side affects? New evidence shows phony drugs hitting the shelves, so that even if you thought you were buying the Cure, it could be just cellulose imitation.

I believe in drugs, as a last resort. I am all for science and medical advancements.
However, in our search for the Cure, what are we looking for? An easy answer, a drug we can pop in our mouths while ignoring all the research that has shown us the way to a healthy lifestyle?

Right now is the time to reduce our cancer risks. One day at a time, little by little. Or, go whole hog and get on the Cure Train. Eat right, exercise, don't smoke or drink, stop stressing and get some fresh air.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Perfect October Day

I'm loving the fall colors. Today I drove into town to get my muffler fixed. Last week, it fell half way off and I drove home with it dragging. This 96 Geo is getting old, but so worth fixing. Still getting 45 plus miles to the gallon.

I had the mechanic take a look at the fan which moves the air in the heating and cooling system. It just wasn't putting out like it used to. The dealership had quoted me some serious hundreds of dollars to replace it. But first, check to be sure it wasn't just some leaves or debris that got stuck up in there, they advised.

So after the muffler was done, my mechanic took off the fan motor and brought it to me. All this pink stuff was jammed up in the fan wheel. An acorn shell dropped to the ground as he spoke. "There's more insulation the box", he said. House insulation, rated 13R. I know cause its the stuff my studio is insulated with.
But, that was years ago. I had thought the fan was slowing down due to old age.
A mouse built its house under the hood of the Geo, but he was no where to be found. I foreclosed on him; we threw the nest away.

Everything is cleaned, repaired and purring.

The wind is bringing these gorgeous leaves to the ground. I shall celebrate my Geo's new wind with a walk in the woods.

I took this inside clip of my studio to be sure the lighting was good enough to shoot a video for YouTube last week. The art on the wall I made with mic, wood, canvas and found objects. The sewing machine is my trusty Brother brand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Packless System Packed

We've completed our external frame conversion.

This short clip above shows how I have placed all my gear on my ultralight frame and utilized the bags we've been making this week.

As you can see, I have a sleeping pad and tent sack of nearly the same length, cinched on at the bottom. My main bag is placed above it. It provides a nice ledge for the top sack to rest upon. Still, that in itself is not enough security for the top food bag. This bag is the one we added the bottom loop to, and have a brand name tag serving as a cinching loop as well.

If you have trouble at first getting a stable load, readjust your bags and remember that silnylon is quite slippery. The bags need to be longer rather than fatter to allow for ample purchase of the cinching strap.

All of the footage is being edited for my YouTube channel and will be available by Friday.

Thanks for following. If you have any questions, please write.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Packless System-Day Three

Today we'll make a large stuff sack, a main bag.

I cut a piece of silnylon 20 inches wide by 40 inches long. This allowed me to have two side seams which will have gross grain ribbon inserted into the sides at four locations, forming loops to serve as anchor points to the external frame.

If you want a gear pocket for water bottles, maps, etc, sew that on the front first. I had some mesh and constructed a pocket that was sewn to the outside of my main bag before sewing the side seams.

After the pocket was firmly attached, I laid right sides together, cut and placed my fabric loops , and sewed the side seams. I always double stitch (two rows of stitching) for reinforcement. Back stitching will secure the stitch, much like making a knot when hand sewing.

Square off the bottom corners. See the video at

for a step by step demo on making stuff sacks.I also have it uploaded on yesterday's blog.
After the bag was completed, I tested it on my frame to be sure it hung well. Then I added the casing for the drawcord closure.

Check out
for more information on how to add anchor points to your existing stuff sacks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Packless System-Part Two

Today we are analyzing all our available stuff sacks, the gear we plan to use, and taking measurements.

Because none of my available stuff sacks are very large, I'm going to make one tomorrow.

My pack is 14 inches wide, and I would like to have one central bag about 14 inches long by 4.5 inches deep. On that sack I will sew a mesh pocket for water bottles.

This video was made about a year ago showing how to make stuff sacks. Its really pretty easy and like all other skills, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I'm writing details on

as well.

If you have an external frame pack that you are converting to a packless system, but do not want to sew bags, simply buy some large stuff sacks and be prepared to modify them with a little hand sewing of anchor points. We will show you how to do that tomorrow.

has a trail tested review and results from my Pacific Crest Trail hike where I used this system for over 1500 miles.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Packless System-Day One

Today we stripped the external frame pack. We took off the silnylon pack that was large enough to accommodate a Garcia bear canister. We removed extra straps, padding and clips. It weighed just under 2 pounds. If you are converting your external frame pack to the packless system, prepare by stripping your pack, and placing all the hardware in a secure place.

All the pins and rings were kept in our "found objects and hardware" box.

External frames have many excellent features: the ability to adjust straps and hip belt to the owners needs, renewable and sustainable functions by remaking sacks to cinch on, long life expectancy, ultralight, inexpensive, versatile, and comfortable.

One perk of an external frame is the ability to lean it up against a tree for a back rest on breaks or in camp. Its also very easy to pack when it stays upright.

Assemble all the possible stuff sacks you may own for possible use with the packless system. We will discuss using them, or sewing the Main Bag tomorrow.


for more details.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Site For Hikers Connecting

I found a copy of Sierra, a magazine put out by the Sierra Club free at our local thrift store. It is the July/August 2009 issue and I found it amazing, full of great articles, and a full page promo for
I expected the site to cater mostly to west coast folks, but it didn't. There is a whole section just on How-To articles. There are Groups, and if you don't see one to join, you can create your own. Granted, most of these groups don't have a lot of members yet, probably because they were just created.
There are forums, and places to create your own blog, add and write about your favorite trail, connect with community, check out upcoming activities.
I bookmarked it for my future enjoyment.

Friday, October 15, 2010

All In One Map Tool Kit-First Impressions

Brooks-Range is primarily a mountaineering equipment company. They also do map tool kits, complete with waterproof paper, a fabric organizing wallet, and several measuring, orienting tools.
I received a sample product for testing which was designed and labeled
"Backcountry Toolkit".
The kit weighs 4.5 ounces which all fits into a fabric wallet that is yellow with red accents. I was impressed with the workmanship and compartments for organizing paper and maps. Its water resistant and measures 4.5 x 7.75 inches. It has a secure Velcro closure system, and you can see the loops designed to hold pen or pencil is on the outside.
There is plastic card which contains a system of mapping scales and a compass rose. It is not a magnetic compass with a needle or adjustable dial. The methods for using the mapping scales and markings on the card well described in the booklet inclosed.
With practice and patience, these are useful skills for the adventurous soul to develop. For instance, you can plot a point on any map right down to the second.
However, a typical stay on the trail backpacker would love the waterproof paper and organizer, but the helicopter rescue information card might be overkill or paper scaling ruler unexciting.
Of course, the disclaimer for this product is understandable. "Any person using this equipment in any manner assumes all risks and accepts full responsibility for any and all damages or injuries....It remains the responsibility of you, the user to act safely and to educate yourself in propler use of all gear"
I'll practice with these tools and use my forest service map in conjuntion with the rulers provided.
Visit for more map tool kits.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Personal Quote Book

I've been collecting jokes, good quotes, cartoons and inspirational writings for a couple years now. This little book is easy to carry anywhere. When the day gets rough, I read a good joke, and feel much better.

One day we were chatting with a friend in Cozumel. It seemed to digress into a one upmanship, each successive story had to top the last.

Finally, our friend said, "I respect your need to piss on the hydrant."

It broke up the competition with laughter.

We were watching Six Feet Under and one of the key characters, a teenage redhead told her friends in exasperation, "In hell it must be Christmas everyday!"

There are profound ones, like from the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: " When was the last time I ran free?" and from a Shaolin Buddist the verse: Never sit when you can stand, Never ride when you can walk, Never lean.

Simple lines like this remembered at the right moment can turn everything around. No way can I remember them all. Hence, the book.

Sometimes people will collect books, magazines and newspapers because they contain a few memorable paragraphs. Cut them out, add to the little book, and recycle the rest. You'll be able to find it when you need it with this organizational tool.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fabric Resourses and Links

My External Frame Pack

This pack was used in Montana on the Continental Divide Trail and sewn to accommodate a Garcia bear canister. Next week, I will reconfigure it to the Packless System. Read more about this at Trailquest's Packless System. I used this system on the Pacific Crest Trail. Testing, and results are posted on that page.
My home page
has gear lists, trail journals and more I hope will inspire your efforts.

Starting next week, I will blog daily about how to do this yourself.

You will need an external frame pack, some silnylon fabric, a sewing machine, and some simple hardware. If you'd rather modify what you have around home, choose some larger stuff sacks and be prepared to do a little hand sewing.

Any external frame will work. I got mine at a thrift store for $5. You can find them at garage sales, church basement sales, a hiking buddy, your relatives, up in the garage. Look around and you're sure to come up with one. They are nearly indestructible and designed for easy adjustments. Don't worry if the pack on the external frame is shot. We're going to replace that anyways. You can order new sholder straps or hip belts from Campmor.

I love my external frame pack. Stripped down it weighs under 2 pounds and will carry anything I need. Sherpas use them all the time for carrying heavy loads into the mountains. If you only need a few things, you can strip off the extra bags and carry just one sack.


So where do you get some fabric? You can order fabric, Velcro, hardware, Cuban fiber, zippers, fleece, just about anything you'd ever want from the links posted below. I've worked with each of these companies and would highly recommend them. 800-359-6931 208-402-0110, orders:800-693-7467 These people mainly do fabric.

I'll post these links on the Favorite Links page attached to my BrawnyView blog for easy reference.

See you here next week.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Video Is Live on Acorns

My complete video on processing and cooking with Acorns is now uploaded to

I'm pretty happy with it. I took all the footage myself, holding the camera while doing stuff, so its real.


site also has recipes.

I've found some wild acorns, much smaller, which taste great without processing to remove tannins. Those I will keep for raw eating, adding to baked goods, like muffins and banana bread.

are three sites where you can find more facts about acorn nutritional data.

Thanks to all my friends for their continued encouragement.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Make a Gear Loft-Alternative Gear

I made this gear loft with an onion sack bought with 3 pounds of onions in it.
I cut it open sideways to maintain the metal staples at each end. Knowing its strong enough to carry 3 pounds of onions I feel its a good piece of alternative gear for the ultralighter. It only weighs 6 grams (less than 1/4 ounce) when fully constructed as you see in this photo.
To make your onion sack gear loft you'll need:
*light cordage or elastic
( I recommend elastic so that it will fit a variety of tarps and tents).
*mitten clips
( shown in photo, or other clips to attach gear loft to structure)
*onion sack
(cut length wise, metal to metal, heat seal carefully so there are no frayed edges around opening)
The gear loft above is 18 inches long, clip to clip. It will stretch to over 24 inches, allowing me to use it in a variety of places. I used 5 feet of cord elastic to create this loft.
Beginning at the center of one long side of the onion sack, thread the elastic through the mesh around the opening.
Once you get to one end, thread the clip onto the elastic, about 6 inches away from sack.
Make a knot to keep clip in place right at the end.
Now bring elastic parallel to itself, and thread around the other side of the opening all the way to the other end.
Proceed to add another mitten hook or clip the same length away so it matches the other end. See photo for example.
Make the knot to keep hook in place. Bring elastic parallel to itself, back to the opening and finish threading it around the opening. Tie knot, so that the circle of elastic is complete.
Of course, this is my first onion sack loft and future ones could be longer, or use a larger onion sack.
Alternative gear ideas are fun to play with. They cost very little and are customized to the indiviguals needs.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Self Reliance Via Sustainable Edibles

I pruned some wild muscadine vines, placed the clippings in jars of water. I plan to plant the clippings when roots have formed. I planted some fruit with their seeds as nature would do earlier this week. Hopefully one of these methods of propagation will work. Muscadines can be eaten raw, made into jam and jelly, or fermented to produce red wine.

This butternut squash has a bounty of seeds which will be dried and saved for next years garden. I bought heritage seeds, not hybrid. Plants grown from heritage seeds can produce year after year. This is the way old timers grew gardens. Pioneers brought seeds with them from the previous year's crop as they moved west.
I believe in self reliance. The more skills we can develop the less dependant we are on the economy. Learning to sew, bake, garden, hunt, gather and harvest wild foods is empowering. These are skills that can be lost much like Native Americans lost their heritage skills when the white man moved them on to reservations, giving them canvas for tepees and cattle for the fall hunt. When they adopted the rifle and stopped making spears, brain-tanning hides and teaching these skills to their young, civilization as a whole suffered.
Its important to maintain the entire base of knowledge from civilizations, not just in writing, but in practice.
My acorn studies are coming along wonderfully. We actually enjoyed acorn burgers for supper, complete with mushroom gravy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Acorn Project

This fall I'm collecting acorns. I'm calling this whole thing "The Acorn Project". My cooking skills will help as I prepare various dishes using this high fat, good protein source that literally falls from the sky. Free for the taking.

Ok, its a bumper-crop year. The wildlife around here won't suffer, and I'm discarding anything with worm holes in it.

A girls got to have something to do. I'm not working this winter; taking sometime to explore options like writing, sewing, visiting family, and sharing stuff with my online friends.

Check out my

blog for crazy happenings, gear reviews, book reviews, alternative gear projects and more.

I'm really into the acorn project as a sustainable food source. I've read about Native Americans collecting enough acorns for two years during "masting" seasons such as we are experiencing this year. They also used to burn off areas of forest to kill bugs that invade acorns. Happily, oak trees are very tolerant of quick moving fires, making them the survivors in these burns. This gives them the advantage in the forest, providing future generations with acorns as well.

After the shell, or husk is removed, there are several options for preparing and storing the acorn meat which has the tannin removed.

We hear about acorn flour much more than simply using the nut as a salad garnish. I find the grinding of acorns and then shaping them into cakes a little more time consuming. Hence the exploration of chopping and mincing for preparation. Note: the processed dried acorn meat can break teeth. Rehydrate as you would any dried food by pouring boiling water over the nut meats and letting them soak up the water before using.

You can also dry the acorns in the shell for storage. Several websites mentioned that acorns can become rancid if left in warm or bright light because of their high fat content.

The Acorn Project will explore various ways to remove tannins, remove the husks, recipes which are cost effective and "green", and culminate in a video posted to my Youtube channel. In keeping with my low carbon footprint, minimalistic lifestyle, all these methods will be easy to duplicate by the triftiest of people.

Stay tunned. Happy Hunting and Gathering.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sticky Back Velcro, a product Review

I tried using sticky back Velcro this week on a friends tent. This was a modification for some screening so not only was the product tested with ultralight fabric, silnylon, it was tested on no-see-um netting.
Not sure why its getting so hard to find Velcro for sewing projects, Velcro which has no self adhesive glue covering the entire back of it. I guess people just don't sew anymore.
If you're lucky enough to have a sewing store near you, one that carries Velcro for sewing, then you're quite lucky. I tried a local fabric store and no luck. Gorgeous fabric and notions, no Velcro. I asked.
So, back to Walmart, and a 20 foot box of Velcro later, I headed home.
Its nice that the stickiness helped initially in placing the stuff at the right location on the screening. In no way would it stick to the silnylon. Then, wanting to fold back on itself it became nearly impossible to straighten out again. A small stapler was brought into service. Stapling the Velcro to the silnylon at the seam allowed me to cut to the correct length and match with the screening Velcro.
Always treat pins, needles and stables like razor blades on silnylon. It will score it and cause a tear or shear it right away.
Sewing this stuff was a balance act of cleaning needles, patience, rethreading and coffee breaks. Its done now.
Just a warning to you all before buying it. I imagine it does have applications where it works. I still have 4 feet left over from the original 20 feet purchased and I'll let you know if I find a cool way to use it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Secret Ingredient

"A secret ingredient is one that mysteriously improves the flavor of a dish without calling attention to itself"--from Secret Ingredients, by Chef Michael Roberts
He mentions unlikely combinations such as vanilla and lobster, anise with tarragon chicken.
I love this quote that is part of an essay found in the Culinary Arts book I'm working through. On Cooking, Techniques from Expert Chefs by Sarah Lavensky and Alan Hause is 1100 pages of pure delight for the serious cook. Granted, it would probably deliver way more information that your typical heat-and-serve institutional cook planned on dealing with, but I'm enthralled by the photos, glossy pages and incredible information.
Anyways, back to the quote. Chef Michael goes on to explain how flavors are enhanced by combining secondary flavors with primary ones, and notes that "each ingredient has its own particular character, which is altered by every other ingredient it encounters."
This is so true for people as well. Every person has his/her own particular character, and is altered by every other person he/she encounters.
Every person is also altered by each activity or adventure they undertake.
And, as noted, it gives more depth to the food, to the person. We must interact to grow. The Internet, reading or watching television, causes us to encounter different flavors from around the world and we are altered.
Ah, but the Secret Ingredient! The one that mysteriously improves the flavor without calling attention to itself.
That's food for thought.
Lets be the secret ingredient in someone's life, helping to improve their life experience without calling attention to ourselves.