Monday, November 29, 2010

Jack London's To Build A Fire

Jack London, an author whose classics include Call of the Wild and White Fang, can make you feel the cold down to your toes. Read more about him at:
To Build a Fire, a short story I read today, taught me several lessons as well as caused me to turn up the heat.
The man is traveling through the snow with his husky, and knowing its bitterly cold, takes his precautions. Plenty of matches, some food, dressed warm. Yet, even though an old timer has warned him, he travels without another human in sub 50 below temps. At first it goes well, and he inwardly brags he is the Real man, wimps need companions.
Eventually, he breaks through to a random spring water outlet, becomes wet to the knees, and must build a fire to thaw out. He builds it under a pine tree, laden with snow. Yes, the snow decides to fall and put out the fire just when its finally roaring. Note to self, don't build fires in winter where snow can fall on top of it.
Pitifully, we "watch" as the drama unfolds to tragedy and all his matches are used up. He sees the dog in fine shape, and decides to kill him for his temporary warmth. Happily, he can not accomplish this task because he is too frozen to grasp a knife or strangle him.
In the end, he dies, the dog lives.
Check out Jack London's works if you get a chance. Good winter reading.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Richard Harry Graves Online Book Link

Richard Harry Graves wrote books on bushcraft. The following link will take you to the site where you can read for free.
There's a lot of information in his online book, about building shelters, tying knots, water, food and many other techniques.
There are also illustrations and a biography just in case you wonder how skilled he is.
There's also a link where you can choose the language to read the page in.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Video Review of South Col Tent

This video was filmed to show you the South Col Tent, made by

A four season tent, it seems to have all the best features, especially the double door on each end. Anyone who has hiked with a partner for any length of time will tell you how sweet it is to each have their own door and vestibule for those cold rainy days. The double doors also provide flow through ventilation.

Its really nice not having to climb over your partner and sleeping parallel to your own vestibule is much better than the tunnel type configuration where you crawl out at the head or foot end.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dome Tent Repair Sleeves From Old Hiking Pole

I made some pole repair sleeves for a dome tent today. My hiking pole was busted and not worth repairing. When the pole for the dome tent broke, I sawed the saved middle section of my old hiking pole into a 4.5 inch length, and sanded it with steel wool.

Making sure there were no sharp edges on my repair sleeve, I threaded it onto the pole and over the break. I then eased the pole back into a dome configuration. Back in business.

I seldom carry dome tents. The one I'm working with now is a winter tent, sent to me for gear testing. It is a South Col,by High Peak, and other than the broken pole, I am quite impressed with the size and features. A full initial report will be posted at:

I cut 3 more lengths of repair sleeves while I had my tools out, sanded them to perfection and am adding them to the stake bag of this tent.

Just in case.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turn Off the Phone

Watching a news story about a woman whose mother was killed by a distracted driver using a cell phone, brings to mind the simple request:
Please turn off your phone while you're driving.
Studies show that driving and talking on the phone is as dangerous as driving drunk. It doesn't even matter if its a hands free phone.
So please, don't try to use your phone, or text, or twitter. Turn it off.
It won't ring, you won't be tempted to answer it, you won't be tempted to check messages.
I've always held this view. I'd get a call from my daughter, and we'd be talking fine. Suddenly, she'd be upset, and say, Someone just cut me off!
I'd tell her, call me back when you get home. I love talking to my people, but not when either of us is on the road.
Save a life, a limb, your future.
Please turn off your phone.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Burn Time Home Made Fuel Sticks

A burn test of these fuel cubes I made yesterday gave me an astonishing 23.5 minutes.
For camping or survival, this is fine. As an ultra lighters cooking fuel, its overkill. Today I made another tray of cubes, a little smaller.
Other notes from this burn test:
Use the bottom of a soda can stove, with enough clearance to your cooking pot. These cubes were a little tall for my initial arrangement, which meant my pot smothered it a little. That eventually righted itself when the cube burned down.
I will cut a soda can down for this sole purpose, and can burn it inside a single layer aluminum can. One inch tall should be about right.
Take care the wax doesn't melt and overflow the well, which can put a burnable substance on the shelter floor or your camping area. For that reason, I'd move dry leaves, grasses or duff away from this stove as well as any other stove.
Several sizes of cubes would come in handy depending on the needs. I haven't tried to extinguish one and then relight it, but that should work if necessary, if enough wax is left to hold the cube together.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Do It Yourself Page by Frank Ross

I found this great page which has tons of links to information on how to do it yourself, things you'd never think of. Check it out for never ending ideas to explore.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we've tested using an ice cube tray as a mold for forming home made fuel sticks, which really should be called cubes. I love them. Easy to remove after allowing to fully cool overnight, they are solid, compact, and of uniform consistency. Easy to make too.

Check out the video on the Hobo Series Page connected to this blog.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Armed for Anything

Today I was getting ready for my morning hike. Planning on some bushwacking, some sitting around enjoying views, listening to my mp3 player.
But, suddenly, a uproarious barking was heard, at least three different positions. Unusual. It is Saturday, hunting season, and we are surrounded by National Forest. OK, there's bound to be hunters out today, with dogs. There's a least one momma bear and her rolly polly cub, one Daddy bear, one doe and her fawn, and a couple coyotes in these woods. Maybe those dogs have scared something up.
I put my bear spray in my possibles bag and slung it over my shoulder, grabbed my two solid hiking poles, donned plenty of bright red clothing, and headed out.
No signs of life other than a discarded fast food breakfast wrapper, a couple dislodged rocks.
I practiced climbing a pine tree, just in case a crazy bunch of dogs or coyotes came round the bend. Last thing you want to do is fall with that endeavor and end up on the ground. Chose your tree carefully.
Its good to feel a measure of power, or capablity of self defense. Too much bad news lately, wild animal attacks, people getting desperate.
I practiced my defense moves, and enjoyed my adventure.
I read that no one can give you security, you do that for yourself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Free Center Piece for the Holidays

This Thanksgiving Center Piece is Free for the making. Take one vase. If you don't have one, visit your local thrift store and choose an appropriate vase. I found this one for ten cents.
Next, take a walk in the woods. I choose five different naturally occurring plants, all of which had different textures and varying heights.
I loved the feathery lightness of this "weed" with its long thin leaves. A good color base for the warmth of harvest time. Then, blackberry vine changing colors gave the red highlight to complement the green in the mountain laurel clipping and one sprig of pine.
This is a wonderful family project, refreshing and earth friendly.
I was watching the evening news last night and they did a story on "affordable" decorations for the holidays. A $40 center piece was touted as a great deal.
Make your center piece, and give thanks for health, family, and love.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Make Camp Fuel Sticks

New Video on Youtube : how to make your own fuel sticks. I think this qualifies as a hobo skill, so am also adding it to the Hobo Series Page.

To Cruise or Not To Cruise

I've never been on a cruise.

Weird, hunh, with all the traveling I like to do. But, then I ran across this new YouTube video and he kinda says it all. I like my freedom. I like food, but not all the greasy stuff. I like entertainment, which usually falls into the Wilderness Variety. Crowds make me nervous. I get sea sick.

Looking for information, real life videos of the last cruise mishap brought insight into why I have never been on a cruise. Like the guy in the video above, That's just me.

No amount of screaming will make that fun.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Possibles Bag

Today I grabbed my "possibles " bag and headed out for a morning of bushwhacking and exploration. Knowing I'd be passing a good stream, I left the water bottle at home and used this silnylon bag on a silnylon strap as my possibles bag.

Its easy when day hiking to find something of interest. It could be acorns to taste, mica for my art sculptures, or dry rotted log for alternative fuel sticks.

As I dry out these wood scraps I plan how to shape these into fuel sticks, much like those made of wood chips and paraffin and sold as solid campfire sticks at backpacking or gear stores.

While hiking on the Colorado Trail, we came to a small trail town and I could not find any fuel for my soda can stove. I've used denatured alcohol, 90% rubbing alcohol, 70% rubbing alcohol, and HEET. To burn solid fuel tablets like Hexamine or Esbit, I've turned it over and burned them on the bottom side.

None of these potential fuels were available in town. However, I found a package of Coghlan's Fire Sticks. I broke them into 3-4 inch pieces and used them as solid fuel on the bottom of the stove. Hint, never use a solid fuel in the soda can stove well, which is designed for liquids only. It will clog up the uptake holes in the bottom of the well.

If you must, cut off a soda can and use it that way for burning all kinds of fuels, both liquid and solid.
It won't be as efficient with liquid fuels because there is no pressurization going on, but it is readily available.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Women Who Run With the Wolves

Food for thought:
"For instance, women who are raised in families that are not accepting of their gifts often set off on tremendously big quests-over and over, and they do not know why. They feel they must have three Ph.Ds, or that they have to hang upside down from Mt. Everest, or that they must execute all manner of dangerous, time-consuming and money-eating endeavors to try to prove to their families that they have worth".

I found this quote when sorting books to sell on my sellers account. Never wanting to get buried by Stuff, I sell, recycle, give away, or refurbish things I'm done with. I had this book marker with the quote from the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Its food for thought. Not all women who are driven to crazy endeavors or extremes were raised in such judgemental environments. Yet, those that were hate to admit that is what drives them.
I recommend this book to all women, though, and it can get fairly heavy in telling fairy tales and legends.

Today I found three more books to add to my collection:

The Best Western Stories (22 stories by various renown authors)

10 Rules to Break & 10 Rules to Make, by Bill Quain, PH.D.

When Battered Women Kill, by Angela Browne

All three books cost me a total of $1.00. Yup, just one buck, for all three and they are in excellent shape. Visit your local thrift store and see what you can find! Happy Reading.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Can We Just Eat, Already?

There's a lot of press right now about obesity. Seems no matter how many new diets, medications, reality shows or make overs, we Americans are just getting fatter. There are many illnesses linked directly to obesity.
I watched a news story about the calories in a Fun Meal at leading fast food restaurants. A kid's Happy Meal had over 500 calories. It was full of sugar, fat and came with a free toy. Then there's the free play ground. Is it any wonder that obesity is threatening to over take us?
Food is the focus of the holidays as well. The huge Thanksgiving glut fest, the Christmas goodies shipped to family and friends, and mountains of candy surrounding every given holiday is coming back to haunt us.
I fear we're getting sicker by the day from our food.
I think its time to just have wholesome meals. No big fan fare or appetite stimulants like added sugars and fats. No special decorations or eating contests.
Holidays should be celebrated with dancing, music, art festivals. With family gatherings and story telling.
Lets get back to good sound eating, simple, short and sweet. We don't need to make it the center of our lives.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Low Fat Latte Recipe I Love

Every morning I get up and make a "power" drink. Some call it a Latte, its so simple and inexpensive, anyone can enjoy it.
It makes a great low call breakfast, actually.
Start the tea kettle with at least 16 ounces of water.
While that's coming to a boil, measure into a 16 ounce coffee mug
2 Teaspoons instant coffee
2 Teaspoons cocoa powder (I use the dark Hershey's blend)
1/3 cup powdered non fat milk
dash of salt
2 packages artificial sweetener
Stir those ingredients a bit, add the super hot water, and stir well.
This concoction has 90 calories, 9 grams of protein, 30% of recommended daily calcium, and a lot of caffeine (high source of fiber and anti-oxidants from cocoa powder and coffee).
If you like, add a dash of almond extract, vanilla extract, or even peppermint extract, found in the baking aisle. This gives it a very gourmet taste.
Of course, you could start with a mug of brewed coffee, and add the cocoa, sweetener, and milk to it at home. The above recipe can be used on the trail as a great backpacking drink as well.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stupid White Men-A Book Review

I went to our public library looking for something by Michael Moore.
He's quite interesting to read and listen to, a bit to the left of most politically, but that's genius in my book. Every once in awhile we need to hear something outrageously challenging to wake up.
"If you're not living life on the edge, you're taking up too much space. "Not sure where I read that, but its one of my favorite quotes.
Back to Michael. Stupid White Men was published in 2001, before our disaster on 9-11-01. Its about the Presidential Election of 2000 and how it was manipulated so that we ended up with George Bush Jr. in office. I kept looking to be sure it was written Before these last eight years of mismanagement were endured by our country. Almost prophetical, Michael makes one mistake: he was sure we'd kick Bush to the curb in 2004.
Not so. The list of stupid white men include those in the cabinet, the advisors and various other "cronies". Now that the eight, second generation, Bush years are over, I'm inclined to be philosophical. Not that things are good, and merit such detachment. Our economy is still in the toilet, there are no real jobs (unless you're willing to travel), and serious desperation is leading to more crime.
Michael Moore makes me laugh, he's talented, and has many more books and documentaries under his belt. If you haven't, check out his stuff. His work will challenge the way you view corporations and our role as middle and lower class Americans.
We've gone through some rough times as a nation. As I read this book, I keep reminding myself that we are on the other side, have passed through the eight years, and are on the way to recovery, one way or another. Americans are known for creativity and resourcefulness. Creating green lifestyles and living spaces, providing education, health and services, and achieving national energy independence are all areas our nation can grow jobs that are not subject to outsourcing.
I've read that we humans don't actually make the enormous impact upon the earth as we credit ourselves with. We actually are just destroying ourselves: the planet will fight back. Like a bad cold, the planet will recover, and we the "parasites" the bad virus, will die off.
Hopefully we have a brighter future than that. We'll start living with rather than trying to conquer the planet.
I'm not even half way through this book. Its the type of thing a person can put down and digest for awhile. We can wonder what direction our country would be in had Al Gore been in office 2000-2008, but that is only conjecture.
Time to pick up the pieces, thank god we still have resources and brilliant Americans who will work on these issues.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Make Cordage Free

I just updated the Hobo Series page at this blog. Five videos are embedded now on this page from my YouTube channel.
They are:
The Cook set, The Ultralight Packless System, the Backpacking Hobo Stove, the Slow Burning Soda Can Stove, and now, Making Free Cordage.
Seems like there are always an abundance of plastic bags floating around. Things get shipped in them, we carry out groceries in them, we line our packs with them. They get holes in them, we use them for packaging materials when shipping things in boxes across the country.
Every once in awhile a person wants a craft project. Or just need some cordage to stake out a tarp, guy out a tent, tie down a trunk when hauling an over sized purchase. I created this video after making a bunch of cordage from plastic bags because it was so successful and free.
Winter projects are good ways to keep busy without spending too much time in front of t-v, searching for something of value.
Its impossible to watch the Real Housewives shows. Don't get me started on that nonsense!

Monday, November 1, 2010

More of Who You Are

There's a fascination with Make Overs.
Whether its a midlife woman, an aging man, a career, or a home, somehow it seems to free the person or thing to start over, start new.
Unless its more of who your core self is, it can not be sustainable.
I could never be made over to live in New York City. It just wouldn't work, because the core me is not a city person. I've tried cities, they are fun to visit, but are way too noisy.
A city person trying to live in the forest and doing natural things would be unrealistic and impossible. The quietness, lack of constant human interaction, and unavailablity of immediate goods and services would be very stressful.
When I see make overs on t-v, I always wonder if the person will continue with the new look and maintain the new style. Is it their nature, or a designers vision only?
I read about people giving up college degrees to follow dreams. Somehow the person got onto a college track, studying law or business. Yet they had always dreamed of owning horses, or maybe running a bakery. Now, with some age and wisdom, or perhaps a glimpse of how short life is with a near death experience, the Make Over has been self initiated.
Being part of a make over should always bring you closer to your core self, and it should feel that way. If the path seems brighter, makes inner sense, regardless of money or emotional support, that is the road to follow.
I read three questions posed by a retirement planner:
1-If you had all the money you ever needed, how would you spend your life?
2-If you had just five years left to live, what would you do?
3-If you died tomorow, what would you regret?
These are good questions. I think the answers change as we age.